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Written for Jonathan Bradley Welch’s amazing A Very Special Episode show!  Theme: BFF’s!

I met my best friend, as so many of us do, the first week of college.  She was looking for someone on my Hall, in Bruce Hall, which was the dorm where all the art students lived, because it had art studios on the top floor and also because it was the cheapest.  It didn’t have air conditioning and it was supposed to be haunted.  I don’t know if it was haunted, but a kid did die elevator surfing, where you get into an elevator shaft and ride on an elevator until someone takes it to the top floor and you fucking die.  Instead of getting a haunted elevator, we got the elevator closed the rest of the year and everybody had to take the fucking stairs.  Don’t pity him.  Pity me.

Melissa walked past my door, which was open because there was no a/c, and I went out and said, hi, it’s nice to meet another goth.  She said, what’s a goth?  And I shook my head and said, it’s us.  It’s what we are.

Sidebar: this story is before your Edward Scissorhands and your Hot Topic and your mainstreaming of goth, before the Craft, before the 2000’s when everyone was wearing vinyl pants and talking about how they partied like a rockstar.  Mel was from a small town in Texas called Palestine, which had the same population as my high school.  Word of goth had not gotten there yet, and she may have believed she was the only person who read tarot and listened to sad music for hours.  She was not.

Mel had long black hair and little round silver glasses and dark lipstick and many layers of black lace on, and in general looked like someone who maybe someday would get a Sylvia Plath tattoo.  I had short red hair and a nose ring and looked like someone who might have prepared a monologue from Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar for an audition for a film called Teen Witch, because she did not understand auditions.  That is something that I did do, and they managed to make the film without me.

I asked her, what do you think you are?  What do your high school friends call you? And she shrugged and said, spooky kid.  We started hanging out right away.  Our main hobbies were: taking acid and seeing the Rocky Horror Picture Show, then coming home and watching Singin’ in the Rain, getting dressed up and taking dramatic portraits of each other in the stairwells at school, drinking terrible dorm coffee with ice cream bars melted into them, drinking Bailey’s irish cream, and wondering why we were getting fat.

We were inseparable, we dated briefly until we remembered we were probably primarily straight, we went to New Orleans for spring break and hung out in front of Anne Rice’s house, we went to goth clubs, we sat in the back of rooms and complained together, and in general we had fun.

Our friendship wasn’t perfect.  One time, when Tank Girl came out, based on a comic book series I liked a lot, I shaved my head into a skinhead girl Chelsea haircut and wore tutus and combat boots a lot, and felt like I was really working an edgy look.  She took a photograph of me from the back that when we got developed- developed, kids- it demonstrated that my head was a bad one for shaving.  My head is long and H.R. Geiger-like in the back, and there is a shelf.  I asked her why she hadn’t told me my head was bad and she shrugged and said she figured it was too late.

One time she wouldn’t stop puking, and I took her to the emergency room and waited with her for ten hours.

One time, she was my confidant and best friend and support system and she understood me, and that was all the time.

One time, we drove to Oklahoma city in the middle of the night because we wanted a box of boo-berry cereal, which was not available in Texas, and we ate it in the dorm cafeteria as the sun came up and it wasn’t very good.

We were a really good match.  I was a little too tall and she was a little bit short.  I was an emotionally needy extrovert who met everyone and remembered no-one and she was sometimes shy, but she could remember everyone we’d met and told me.

After college, I moved to Portland, OR to date a boy I’d met in Dallas.  She followed soon after and we took back up together, doing exciting things like going to a goth club owned by the Russian mob, drinking lots and dancing to Britpop and in general complaining that things weren’t the same as they had been in Dallas, Texas.  What they were was much better.

I got married to a guy and I think she liked him okay.  She asked for a key to my house, and she would give me the key to her house, for emergencies but also so she could come over whenever, like we had always done.  I said I don’t think I can do that anymore, it’s as much his house as it is mine, and also sometimes we’re having sex in it.  She was maybe hurt but said it was OK.

I became aware that she had found another girl to hang out with named Caroline.  Caroline was also a little too tall and wore high heels all the time and I thought she was loud, even though I am also sometimes loud.

We still liked each other.  We still saw each other.  But Caroline was usually there too.  It was stupid to complain that I was jealous.  Why should I be jealous?  I was jealous.

Our friendship wasn’t really over until she and my husband had a disagreement about plans that they’d made.  I expected her to pick us up for a DJ gig and she didn’t, but she showed up hours later, drunk and with Caroline, talking in circles about how fun and fucked up their evening had been.  I told her I was pretty done with not being able to depend on her, and she was furious.

It was her word against his, and I felt like I had to side with my husband.  It was a small thing.  Looking back, it didn’t matter, but everyone was very angry.

Two years later, my marriage ended, because he was sleeping with another friend of mine, which I didn’t like very much.  That friend was surprised that I didn’t like her anymore, which no matter how many times it happens, always surprises me.

I went to Melissa’s wedding, to a tall blonde Swede, within the month of my divorce, because I loved her and it was important.  It was a beautiful wedding in an art library, with favors made from antique books and a cake in the shape of a gilded beehive.  I sat with our friends and cried a little harder than everyone else, because I wasn’t just happy for her, I was also sorry for myself.  She had fallen out with Caroline over something.

We are still facebook friends.  We leave each other likes and comments.  I am happy to be to see her happy. She is happily married and so is my ex-husband.  But I still miss my very best friend.


Looking for Love on a Trail of Breadcrumbs

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 I had a really great first date with a curly-haired breadcrumber who kept in sporadic touch with me, which made me sad because I really had fun on our date and wanted to see him again.

There are lots of ways that technology has changed the way we interact with each other.   A few years ago, if you’d been dating someone and you didn’t want to anymore, you had to say “hey, thanks for dating me, but I don’t want to anymore.”  Now we ghost, fade, or breadcrumb our way out of hard situations.

Ghosting has been well documented: you’ve gone on a not-insignificant number of dates with someone, more than two or three, and then you Keyser Soze them like in Usual Suspects- you’re just in the wind.  No text, no call.  Everyone hates it, but everyone does it, because we feel that having been ghosted implicitly gives you permission to ghost, like being bitten by a werewolf makes you one yourself.

The first time I was ghosted, it really took me by surprise.  I assumed that the person I had been dating for nine months was in rehab or prison (either one would have been a pretty good idea), and when, after two weeks of silence, I saw him tagged in a photo of just hanging out in his favorite bar, I was pretty amazed.  I didn’t call it ghosting, I called it “being dumped by a sociopath”, which is in many ways more accurate.

Ghosting happens because it’s the easiest option, there’s no confrontation, and sometimes, ghosting happens because it never really closes the door- in the ghoster’s mind, they’ve never really broken it off with you, so there’s still a possibility of dating you in case what they’re pursuing also peters out, and also the thing after that, or if they someday reach the end of Tinder and it’s just a picture of a cat with a colander on its head.  Breadcrumbing is the same- they might not want to date you now, but they maybe want to later?  Or not?

Fading is a slow ghost.  Responses just get shorter and less committal until they’re gone, but by the time it’s done, you’ve gotten used to not hearing from them, like when you taper down from smoking or eating carbs.

Monday after a date: You say “That was fun!”  Three hours later they say, “Ya!”  You say “Have a great night!”, they say nothing!

Tuesday: Still nothing

Wednesday: You ask about plans, three hours later they say “rly busy, talk later”

Thursday: Nothing

Friday: You ask, “Hey!  Good week? Weekend plans?”

Saturday:  No word back at all!  Spooky, they’re a ghost!

In many ways, breadcrumbing is even more infuriating than ghosting or fading, and this is how it goes:

They don’t make plans with you for months, but sometimes you’ll get a text out of nowhere that says, “TGIF!” or “Happy 4th!” or “Hope ur gr8!”  The two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s are filled with enough breadcrumbs to fill a bakery, as people who’ve been on two dates with you have a little free time and think “I guess there’s worse things than going out with that girl again.”  They never have a long conversation, they just drop a three syllable text from time to time.  They’re just dropping tiny bits of attention your way to keep you from forgetting about them.

If you respond, they might say something back and they might not.  You might get a picture with a caption that feels generic/out of context, and this is because they’re sending it to a bunch of people.

If you’re Facebook or Insta friends with them, they might wordlessly “like” a particularly nice selfie or adventure photo, just pressing a button and changing the color of a thumb or a heart somewhere in the virtual universe, to remind you that they still exist and on some distant star, they might still like you.  You get just enough interaction to remember that they’re out there, sometimes thinking about you.

I had a really great first date with a curly-haired breadcrumber who kept in sporadic touch with me, which made me sad because I really had fun on our date and wanted to see him again.  I ran into him six months later and he asked me out again, and when I told him no, he was really surprised.

Me: “I have a two-three week test period on first dates.  Your window of opportunity to ask me out again has long since expired.”  (This is fancier than how I really said it, I think the f-word was in my original response.)

Him: “Oh!  I wish I’d known that was a requirement.” (That’s what he really said)

Me: “I think it’s pretty normal.  If I see you every six months, that’s less often than my parole officer or my hairdresser.  That’s not dating.  I don’t know what it is.”

If the ghoster is keeping you in cold storage, the breadcrumber is just keeping you on the bench.  They might get back to you.  They might not.  They’re “keeping in touch.”  It’s infuriating.  It’s insulting.  And it’s a tiny, gradual waste of your life.

What are they after?

They’re either just a player and they like to have lots of people in rotation or else, and this is the sadder option: they really think this is what dating is, that if they keep meeting people eventually one will be the right one, and until they’re sure you’re not the right one, they’d better keep you on the line.

What’s hard to explain to a breadcrumber is that romantic attachment doesn’t happen like in the movies, where you both reach for the last box of brown cinnamon Pop-Tarts at Von’s and your eyes lock and you fall hard.  Romantic attachment and feeling is something two compatible people who like each other build, with communication and intention, not with breadcrumbs but out of whole slices of bread.

What do you do if you’re being breadcrumbed?

The only way to stop it is to be clear about what you want from the other person: to say, “Hey, I’m interested in you.  Do you want to make plans with me?”  If they respond, great, go out with that person and be honest and open and look for the same.  If they don’t respond with plans, block the breadcrumber and cross them off your list of prospects.  Now, you can spend all the time you spent waiting to hear back from them talking to people who want to date you, and put that emotional energy into people who’ll give it back!

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Lyft in Love!

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Busy weekend on Lyft! Last night’s lessons:
-stop driving at three or you’ll wind up in
Compton at 5:30 AM
– exotic dancers will sometimes rob you in your sleep in Thousand Oaks and scale a gate to get in my Lyft and complain about not being able to smoke in my car

Lyft Adventure Part 1:In Love in Lyft

I picked up a cute, fairly drunk guy at 2AM in downtown Pasadena, and he was texting someone while he gave me an address. We picked up a cute, fairly drunk girl and the magic began.

Guy: Let’s go to (name of bar)
Me: Uh, I think they’re closed, it’s 2am.
Guy: I think it’s open?
Girl: I just think I’m a…real easy going person.
Guy: I know, I know. I try to live in the moment.
Girl: You just..have to.
Me: Guys, this bar is closed.
Guy: (to me) oh! Let’s go to (restaurant.) Have you ever had a conversation this amazing happen in your cab before?
Me: (dryly) A Tinder date? Sure.
Guy: Noooo we met at a club.
Girl: You just came up to me and asked me to dance, and I couldn’t turn you down!
Me: OK, I’m sorry to say this restaurant is also closed.
Girl: I don’t even need to eat. I’m good.
Guy: OK, we’ll just go to In n Out and get a shake.
Girl: It’s like, you just…you took down all my roadblocks.
Guy: I know, I know. You told me.
Girl: All my defenses, just gone.
We get to In n Out. It is also closed.
Girl: OK, I guess…take me back to my place?
Me: OK.
Guy: Naw, we can get out here.
Girl: Oh…OK?
Guy: My house is right over there. We can hang for a little while and get another car later.
Me: OK, here we are then.
Guy: Isn’t she just so cute?
Me: Yup. Here we are!
Girl: I just can’t believe how strong we vibe on each other.
(Moments pass. They’re just sitting in my car talking)
Me: You guys…can you go fall in love in someone else’s Lyft?
(I find this hilarious. Nobody thinks it’s as funny as I do.)

Remember, kids: Love is embarrassing but it’s ok if you’re both doing it, it’s like wearing white pants or doing the hokey pokey- but nobody thinks it’s as great as you do. Please be safe and use rideshare when you’ve been drinking and you want to pick up your after-bars-close date. Also, get the fuck out of my car.

Lyft Adventure Part 2: at 2:30 AM I picked up another call in downtown Pasadena. I waited at the address for a few minutes and saw no one, and a bar was emptying out across the street so I cruised it to see if my fare was there. After another minute, he walked across from the first spot, waving at me and pointing at his phone and making an angry “you’re an IDIOT” face about having to cross the street and I just thought “fuck this”, cancelled his ride and peeled out. He was a big douchey bro with black ink sleeves and a backwards baseball hat. I did not want to drive him to Azusa. Felt so good.

Tokyo and the Death of Sexy: From LOVE.TV

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To the outside world, Japan is known for being sexy and even a little kinky. The women of Japan are considered some of the world’s most beautiful, and it’s the home of crazy Harajuku street fashion, host bars, and Hentai anime pornography. However, 25% of Japanese men are still virgins at 30, so many that a new word has emerged for them- yaramiso, which means “30 years old and haven’t done it”, because if there’s anything the Japanese believe in, it’s being on the nose with slang. Even men with prior sexual experience aren’t having much sex- 50% of Japanese men who’ve had sex before haven’t had it in a year or more. Women’s numbers aren’t far behind.

This has deep repercussions throughout society, with the population dropping by 1 million people since 2008 and raising concerns about society’s ability to support their aging population.

What seems stranger to us might be that for the most part, polls report that many Japanese people don’t want to have more sex- 1 in 5 men cite extreme dislike for sex, and 46% of Japanese women 16-24 want no sexual contact at all.

It’s worth pointing out that Japan also has the third-highest suicide rate in the world, with 100 people taking their lives each day.

So- what’s killing the Japanese sex drive?

1. Money.

Reports are that in the money-flush 80’s and early 90’s, there was plenty of dating and premarital sex, but the economy took a sharp downturn in 1995 and that changed. How does that affect getting it on? When young people can’t afford to live on their own, sharing a small apartment with your parents can really put a damper on your dating life. In Tokyo, most teens don’t even have cars to make out in! Chew on that, America! This means that courting couples must visit love hotels, hourly hotels of varying levels of cleanliness and quality, just to have somewhere to be alone.

2. Social Shame.

Men whose careers don’t produce enough money to raise a family are shamed and emasculated, even as being single is normalized in Tokyo, with single-serving meals and single tables at restaurants everywhere. The Japanese also have a cultural fear of failure, and would sometimes prefer not to try to pursue relationships for fear that they won’t work out or they’ll be rejected.

3. Work.

Driven by financial fears, the Japanese are working harder than ever, with 22% of people putting in more than 50 hours a week, and 200 people per year dying of karōshi, or overwork: dying of strokes or heart attacks on the train to work, or on the job.
Married people get home too tired to have sex with their partners, and with personal time at a premium, many single people prefer not to, in their perception, “waste” time on relationships with others when they could be working on their hobbies or pursuing other interests.

4. Replacement.

Some of the quirky inventions of Japan designed as substitutes for human contact could be contributing to the problem: virtual girlfriend games, pillows with women printed on them, sex dolls, and pornography- all options where one’s sexual and emotional needs are met on your own schedule, and leaving you free to work or study or pursue other interests, and without having to open yourself up to rejection or pain. Some men have married their pillows and dolls, saying goodbye to human relationships forever.

What can we in the West learn from our brothers and sisters of Nippon, and how can we do better?

Americans are getting married later (27 for women, up from 21 in 1964) but losing our virginity around 17, on average, and we aren’t worried about having sex before marriage. We’re having lots of sex, even if we’re not always having lots of relationships, with over 50% of New York single year after year. Japan’s overworked, solitary citizens make our phone-spawned hookups seem warm, old-fashioned and romantic by comparison.

My advice on not turning Japanese, I really think so:

Stay connected. Stay empathetic. Keep up with friendships, with family, with current and ex-lovers.  Use technology to get and stay connected- but not to replace connections with people.  What is life for, but for connecting and communicating and sharing with other human beings? We may be embroiled in a divisive election year, we may have social problems, but please- let’s not start marrying pillows.

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James and Julian: A Writing Exercise

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5 minute writing exercise based on a tweet from Julian McCullough to James Urbaniak:

@julezmac- @jamesurbaniak hey James your creep radar is terrible I’ve been staring at you for 10 minutes at gate 51A
(view is of James Urbaniak wandering through his kitchen in a bathrobe, as seen through a slit in a wall panel)

Hey James

Hey  James

Can you see me

I can see you  

Can you feel my eyes on you

Are you ignoring me

How dare you ignore me

(muffled noise)


No Radiohead songs are about romance, do you ever notice, James?  They’re about failed romance.

Maybe that’s why Thom can’t keep anything together.  What would a happy Thom Yorke sound like?  I’ll bet he’s never happy.  Just manic.

Sometimes failed romance is the best kind, though- it protects you from disappointment.  Never had a start to begin with, just a doomed thing.  I’m keeping my last unexpressed crush safe in a Mason jar.  It can’t breathe but it’s safe and it’ll never get old.

James.  Psst.  James.  You got earbuds in man?  Earbuds in your own house, nobody’s got a record player so nobody bothers having a stereo. We never listen to each other.  You’re staring right at me but you can’t see me.  You’re listening to a podcast where famous people talk about when they weren’t famous yet, making everyone listening feel like being famous is inevitable.  Famous people used to not be famous, I’m not famous but one day I will be.  That’s the progression.  That’s the way it goes.
James.  You’ve gotta get better than this, man.  You’ve gotta get better than this.