This is the problem with modern comedy in a nutshell.
It happens to everyone. Someone we were dating disappears, and we want to know what to do about it. In a 40’s detective novel, we’d throw on a dirty overcoat and hit the streets and track them down, but now we just want to know…what happened?
Maybe they came on strong, pouring on the charm. But then, you stopped hearing from them, and you can’t stop wondering about it.
The first time I was ghosted, it shocked me. I had been seeing the person for nine months, and I thought if they weren’t responding to me, they must be in prison or in rehab. Honestly, either one would have been a great idea for that person. Finally, a close friend had to tell me- dude, he’s okay. He’s just gone. And she was right.
Years later, the same friend asks me- I met this guy at the airport, we had crazy chemistry, we went on some dates, but now he’s gone silent- how do I get him to write me back?
I gave it to her plain- you gotta stop talking to him.
Exasperated, she told me, “No, you don’t understand, he’s already stopped talking to ME. Not talking to him is, at best, a moot point.”
“What everyone tells me”, she continued, “is to sit back and play it cool, and to let him pursue me. But what if I don’t want to play it cool? What if I want to reach out? Why can’t I do that? Shouldn’t I be able to do what I want? I don’t like playing games.”
“You absolutely can do that”, I assure her. “And you might see him again. But he’ll disappear again, and you’ll be back in this same spot. You can’t change him or his behavior.”
I see people finding my dating articles online with the same search terms again and again- how to respond to breadcrumbing. What to do if you’re ghosted. How to reconnect. Just about everyone has had a moment when they wanted to hear from someone that they weren’t hearing from. I’ve finally figured out the solution, and that is to forget them!
The truth is this: everyone wants to know how to change someone’s mind. If anyone had the answers on how to get someone back, they’d be a multi kajillionaire. They’d be hiring Jeff Bezos to shine their shoes. Turning someone towards you who has turned away- that’s the one thing nobody can really do, despite what the cosmetics, fitness, and apparel industries advertise. They pad their margins based on the hope that we can control something we can’t- “I can’t seem to forget you, your Wind Song stays on my mind!”
Think about it. How many times have you heard the story: “We met online. He came on strong, told me I was beautiful. We went out a few times and it was really great. Then, he stopped responding to my messages. But I waited it out and really played it cool, and then one day I sent him just the right cat meme, and now we’re getting married at Disneyland.”
Oh that’s right, you’ve never heard it.
I told her, the thing is, you’re not playing it cool for this guy. He’s gone. He’s in the wind. You’ll run into him later at one of those bars that looks like a laundromat until you press the soap dispenser and a dryer door opens into the main room.
You’re playing it cool so he won’t waste more of your time.
You’re not going to get good results from him. You’re just moving him aside so you can keep looking for the person that will pursue you, who will be consistent, who will be as interested in you as you are in them.
A few days pass and my friend calls me again. She reached out and got a couple of texts from the guy, was exuberant for a minute, but then he was gone again. At this point, he’s a sunk cost- she can pour more time and emotion into it, but she’s not getting anything back.
So much of dating is editing. Our grandparents, great-grandparents, might have courted, or been courted by, fewer than a handful of people before they got married. Modern singles can meet that many people in a weekend. Most of those people won’t be the one.
So, all the advice about hanging back and being aloof- it isn’t meant to change the person who has already let you down. It’s to free you up and find the person who won’t.
White Americans: Wow, Black Lives Matter. I can’t believe all you’ve been through. How can we help?
Black Americans: Wow, that’s great, you can march with us, you can donate to #BLM and charities that help with legal fees and bail money, and you can make a habit of supporting Black businesses.
White Americans: Great. What else?
Black Americans: Well, you could amplify Black voices and also petition to local government representatives on behalf of Black people who have died at the hands of police.
White Americans: Happy to do that. And we will also post teary eyed videos about how we regret racism and we will get in fights with strangers on Facebook!
Black Americans: Uhhh if you want to
White Americans: Yes, we will seek out people on Facebook who we don’t know well and unfriend them if they don’t support #BLM!
Black Americans: Well, you can talk with your friends and family about systematic racism, that would be great
White Americans: Not enough! We will track down people we don’t know who are posting about all lives matter on Facebook and we will try to get them fired from their jobs! We will call other white women Karen, the worst thing you can call a person!
Black Americans: Uh you don’t have to do that
White Americans: STAND BACK AND WATCH US SHINE!
My career as a Covid delivery scumbag is on hiatus. I’m too scared to risk Covid for you not to tip me! Still, here’s the series of short videos I made about the world outside while you’re stuck inside!
Q: What’s Good?
Well, hey, to determine what’s good, we first have to define it, right?
Good can mean morally good: that is, what a society decides is moral. Right now, in this moment – on a Tuesday in March- it is good to sit inside by yourself. It is bad to go outside in large groups. Usually, the opposite is true. It’s good to help others and bad to hoard toilet paper.
We think that being a good person is to be of service to others. To do what is moral, which we pretend is a constant and not something we made up.
500 years ago, it was good to follow church doctrine and bad to question it, as Martin Luther found out. It was also good to give virgin brides away to strange monarchs, but which someone would probably ask about today.
1000 years ago, it was good to burn heretics at the stake, and it was good to be strong. The whole world was amassing armies and conquering land. China invented paper printed money, which is what power is based on now.
A second meaning of good is the aesthetic meaning. This can either mean something that you personally enjoy, or something of superior quality. The first meaning is subjective. The second is a societal construct, but we confuse them with each other, and with the moral meaning of good.
To say that something is aesthetically good is to say that based on my background, life experiences, and context, I value it. My peers, who might have similar background and life experiences, may also value it, which makes me value it more.
The Last Man On Earth and The Good Place
In The Last Man On Earth and in the Good Place, characters value objects that nobody else appreciates. Phil’s hoard of art in his mansion, or Eleanor’s excitement over a bedpan from a wrestling match: they have to explain to the people around them what makes these things good. That means they’re not.
The second meaning of aesthetically good is that something is well-made, as in: is the new Avengers movie any good? Well, does it have a bunch of characters in shiny outfits and a scary CGI monster? Is Robert Downey Jr. snarky in it? Does Thor not understand something about Earth despite and we all laugh at him, even though he’s handsome? Do the Avengers get mad at each other but then they fight the CGI monster and they’re friends in the end? Is there a rock song in it that was expensive to get, but which is played a little too loudly during a very exciting scene? Well, then, that’s what we expect, and it’s good.
When you say an Avengers movie is bad- what were your expectations? Did you hope that a character would arrive at a universal truth about human suffering, and that the actor portraying that character would get an important award? That’s not the yardstick we measure Avengers movies by.
In performance, to be good is to conform to the current fashion. A hundred years ago, a good singer would sing in a high, reedy voice, and now we like a wide tone and someone who does a lot of vocal switches, which we used to call yodeling.
Good acting in Shakespeare’s time was planting your feet at shoulder width and yelling your lines as loudly as you could.
Sometimes we get confused about the two meanings of “good” in art. This is idea that because you did not personally enjoy something, it’s not good- but in the surfer relativism of The Big Lebowski, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. Your thoughts on a thing does not really affect its value. If people ever really understand that, Twitter will wither and die.
What’s Good In Fine Art?
Most art needs context of some sort to be judged- Jackson Pollock paintings are considered good because they were the first really well-known abstract paintings, and because he died only a few years after his best work was made. The value of the paintings his widow was selling to MOMA shot up because, as she pointed out, there wouldn’t be any more, and that sale created the market for modern art in America, and his peers got rich.
If we showed the paintings to an alien or a Maori tribesman, they probably would not consider them good, because they don’t look like anything in particular, but sort of look like lots of things, and why are you putting colors on a fabric square anyway?
The last episode of the Good Place finds every character trying to achieve their definition of good: Tahani believes that being able to do everything beautifully is good. Chidi thinks understanding everything is good. Eleanor determines that being good is helping others.
Jason achieves his definition of good the earliest, as he gets the perfect score in Madden, but reaches yet another level of perfection years later, through achieving inner peace and oneness with nature.
I’m a middle-class white woman raised in the South with religion and MTV, so things I think are good are:
The musty smell of clothing in vintage shops, and the smell of old bookshops.
The moment in a song where the drums syncopate with the guitar, and it sounds like a little machine.
Black clothing and shiny things, because my visual aesthetic was made by 80’s postpunk music videos.
Cookies n’ cream milkshakes.
Petting a dog who has just dried off from a bath and he’s very soft, that’s good. He’s still unhappy that he got the bath, but being petted afterwards makes it worth the bath, sort of.
They’re not universal, except maybe the dog one, but to me, they’re good.
POSTSCRIPT: I am returning to this essay years later with a new, depressing perspective that I couldn’t really put into words until now- that this quote specifically:
“I could walk into The Improv, close my eyes, and I can’t tell one girl’s act apart from another,” she said. “That’s not saying that 30-something white guys don’t all sound the same sometimes, but I’m banging my head against the wall because women want to be treated as equals, and we want feminism to be a thing, but it’s really difficult when every woman makes the same point about her vagina, over and over. I think I’m the only woman out there that has a joke about World War II in my set.”- Iliza Schlessinger
Is actually the industry’s fault. There are all kinds of women comics and non-binary comics talking about all kinds of things in all kinds of ways- but the comics who progress through the system JUST HAPPEN to be model-hot comics talking about their vaginas. So, Iliza is right, and Iliza is wrong, like we all are. 10/16/21
Before this week, if anyone ever asked me what I thought about a woman comic whose jokes I don’t personally care for, I would always say, she’s making her space in this business and I respect her for that. This is a hard gig. Then Iliza Schlesinger let us know in an interview for Deadline that lots of women comics are bad for talking about sex or sexuality, and that we should be SMART- like her.
“I could walk into The Improv, close my eyes, and I can’t tell one girl’s act apart from another,” she said. “That’s not saying that 30-something white guys don’t all sound the same sometimes, but I’m banging my head against the wall because women want to be treated as equals, and we want feminism to be a thing, but it’s really difficult when every woman makes the same point about her vagina, over and over. I think I’m the only woman out there that has a joke about World War II in my set.”
Since I’m a woman comic who plays the Improv, this annoyed me.
So I did a selfless thing.
I watched Iliza’s newest special, Confirmed Kills.
I wanted to see how a truly original comedy mind works.
SPOILER ALERT-it’s not even a WWII joke, it’s about a baby boomer coming home from the war to fuck and be racist. THANKS, GENIUS.
Here are my notes.
1. Dog walks across stage in a long ballgown. This is the best.
2. Establish that this is Chicago.
3. There is a Party Goblin in the back of your head and it is your Id. This is a more animated rehash of Larry Miller’s Ten Stages of Drinking from the 80’s. Five-six minutes. She uses a D&D voice and then a sorority girl voice. Those are the two. There is a lot of kicking, I guess so she can fit another workout into her day.
4. Instagram joke
5. People like to talk when they’re drunk.
6. She’s the alpha in her group of friends. OBVIOUSLY.
7. Racist joke about being in Chinatown.
8. Tag from Calgon commercial from before she was born
9. Dudes need to pick girls up on time or else we’ll put on body glitter
10. Not trashy, just doing trashy things
11. One of the difficult things about being a woman is everything
12. There’s four minutes a night where a woman feels comfortable in her own skin
13. Talks about lip-liner, refers to self as a Chola
14. Joke about balls
15. Needed to find lip-liner in a big bag
16. Joke about method of finding lip-liner in bag
17. This is essentially women be shoppin’
18. Oh lord this is about the shit in the bottom of your purse
19. I think Erma Bombeck covered this in 1968
20. If you use an open tampon, you’ll die on the Oregon Trail
21. Dumps out bag on dance floor, makes Helen Keller joke
22. Door guy has to be described as good-looking because she said he’s black, so she doesn’t get in trouble with the PC police
23. Door guy leaves her alone because she’s “white girl crazy”
24. She felt vulnerable bent over on the floor in public
25. Gets an applause break by saying “nay” in fake D&D nerd voice
26. Women feel vulnerable because they are not as physically strong as men, if we were strong, we would never have waited for the right to vote, weakness is why women have to be scared of rape
27. Does an extended and very appreciated series of poses to show off her extremely toned body
28. CrossFit is a cult
29. CrossFit exercises are weird.
30. Women are strong in childbirth
31. Act out of delivery, when your child is in danger you can draw on mother’s strength
32. Second reference to single women being afraid of rape
33. That’s why sexual harassment is a big deal: you can wear whatever you want, it doesn’t give the right for someone to harass you- and it’s about the underlying notion that he could rape you if he wanted
34. Hard to be a woman: when men sexually harass you and you find them unattractive. This is a great message. If he’s hot, it’s just flirting. Super funny and brave and smart. It’s OK for men to comment on your body if they’re hot
35. Women and men shop differently
36. Does a bit mocking women who are trying to be creative or find themselves
37. Personal body goals: never thin enough, wants to look like the starved child on the Les Miz flyer, and other weird ana-positive stuff.
38. Women have to be thin to be vulnerable so men will love us
39. Strong women are told to tone it down- wear high heels so you can’t run from your attacker, smoky eyes look like you’ve been choking on a dick
40. Men aren’t allowed to be vulnerable but too bad (Agree)
41. Some women die trying to be thin
42. You have to be the thinnest in your group of friends, pose-off between women. You want to be the kind of thin where your friends are worried for you. “I wear a youth large” Makes a weird joke about R. Crumb comics but thinner, has never seen a woman in an R. Crumb comic
43. It’s only the last 40 years that women of color have made it OK to have an adult body
44. It’s OK to bully and fat shame white women on Facebook (?) Is it?
45. WASP jokes
46. Black women have good self esteem (three women in the audience of a thousand respond)
47. She said “a black”, OK.
48. Iliza’s “Lean In” moment: you have to take respect, not wait for it
49. Iliza shares that whatever your body is like is OK, while she has spent the whole set demonstrating that it’s not, over and fucking over again. But be proud of your body! Even if it’s not as good as hers!
50. Commanding respect through the way that you speak
51. It’s not OK to talk about sex or sexual stuff and it’s not where your power comes from. If we talk about sex, it lets people know it’s OK to sexualize us (see 34)
52. Mermaid shaming
53. Fourth rape joke at 42 minutes in
54. Fifth rape joke and a joke about how the Japanese would eat mermaids
55. Little mermaid was a liar and a hoarder
56. Five minutes talking about how mermaids would have dreadlocks
57. More mermaid shaming #nomermaids
58. Mermaid anal prostitution
59. Jesus Christ, are we still talking about mermaids? This has been ten minutes
60. WW2 joke: what made America great was military men returning home and growing up, making families, not trying to find themselves
61. Pandering pro military statement gets lots of applause
62. Back to talking about white grandparents, baby boomers, rock and roll, Millennials showed up and invented Instagram
63. People are mean to women when they like themselves on Instagram, only fat girls can be on Instagram
64. Talks about how dumb her ex-boyfriend was
65. Men can date dumber and women can’t. Men will date a Popsicle stick in a wig
66. Makes fun of ugly girlfriend who rescues animals and has a great personality
67. “You want to be a feminist, but we have to get attention”
68. I’ve dated ugly guys who were funny and smart. YOU’RE A HERO ILIZA!
69. Women are chastised for talking a lot, this comes from caveman hunter and gatherer times and sharing of information
70. She will be a feminist and clarify: it means you want to be treated fairly and a lot of women don’t like to say that they’re feminists because it’s not attractive
71. Portrait of an unattractive woman feminist
72. Wage gap: gotta close it-but let’s start with porn, where a woman kicks in a door and demands oral sex. Sure
73. (She says that’s so gross, OMG that’s awful, that’s so off brand)
74. Have you ever been having sex with your boyfriend and gotten excited because it’s almost done and you can go to the farmer’s market?
75. Don’t talk to your boyfriend after sex
76. Goblin impression callback
77. What women think about during sex (lavender, food, your mom)
78. If you’re not happy, don’t stay in a relationship out of fear of being alone
79. We like to label single women negatively and we have to be kinder to women
80. #fuckbitchesgetmoney (I don’t know what this means)
81. Women spend so much time hating themselves and trying to meet someone and men can relax because they don’t have eggs
82. Shark Tank: I want a live episode of Shark Tank. (Giant act out closer)
OK, all in all- I respect her ability to churn twenty minutes of animated stand up out of a premise better suited as a tag.
She refers to herself as a feminist many times while mocking unattractive women, fat women, and letting women know it’s not OK to be sexual. (She keeps saying this word, feminism. I don’t think it means what she thinks it means.) She’s a pick-me girl. She’s the antithesis of feminism.
However, in this special, it’s true that she only mentions a vagina a couple of times.
Buckle in for some magical ride oversharing.
Like many Angelenos, I write and act and drive rideshare. I meet all kinds of people with all kinds of love lives, which they tell me about. Here’s a selection of lessons I have learned from my passengers.
The Ride With The Puppy
Dude gets in the car holding a pink box and a puppy, looking sad.
Me: Oh wow! Donuts and a puppy! Are you gonna make someone’s morning or what?
Sad dude: well, I wanted to, but she threw the donuts back in my face.
Sad dude: And the puppy. She also threw the puppy in my face.
Me: I’m sorry, man.
Puppy whines slightly.
Lesson: Sometimes even donuts and a puppy won’t save you. You’ve tried the nuclear option and it’s time to move on, but do raise that puppy.
The Ride With Nicole
Picked up a drunk couple from a bar, they were on a Lyft Line so I headed to pick up the next person.
Girl: You’re going the wrong way.
Me: Oh, we’re gonna go pick up Nicole real quick!
Girl: Who is Nicole?
Guy: Oh, honey, I did Lyft Line.
Girl: What’s Lyft Line?
Guy: It’s like Uber Pool.
Me: Save a couple bucks, reduce traffic!
Girl: You cheap F**K.
Guy: Hon, are you really mad? We’re not in a hurry…A few moments pass, she seems to forget about it, we talk about other stuff.
Girl: Why are you going east?
Me: We’re…gonna pick up Nicole real quick?
Girl: Who the f**k is Nicole?
Me: She’s… The next rider on the Lyft line?
Girl: What’s Lyft Line? She sounds, sorry to say this, like a c*nt.
Guy: Um… don’t say c*nt?
Girl: And you can ignore him. He’s never even been in a three-way. I’ve been in like 30.
Me: That sounds like a real calling!
Girl: Plus, he’s the only dude I’ve dated who hasn’t wanted to move in after six months! What the f**k is that?
Me: (Trying to lighten the mood) Well, I’ve dated guys for six months before I put their names in my phone!
Girl: WHAT are you SAYING I want to GET OUT.
Me: Oh, here’s Nicole!
Part 3: We Meet Nicole
Girl: Hi Nicole, where are you going?
Nicole: To No Vacancy!
Girl: Oh cool that’s a cool place to go to get f**ked by a 27-year-old white guy with no job.
Me: Ok, you guys are almost to your destination!
Girl: I don’t wanna go to his house. Can you drop me at my house (gives address)
Me: Well… I can’t change destination on Lyft line, because, you know, we have to head near where Nicole is going.
Girl: You cheap f**k!
Me: (Last attempt at humor)No fighting in the cab!
Girl: I don’t want to go to his house EVER AGAIN!
Guy: (whispering) are you serious right now?
Girl: AND NICOLE THERE’S BAR LUBITSCH IT’S A GREAT PLACE TO GET F**KED BY A RUSSIAN DUDE.
Me: (screeching brakes) OK here you are! Thanks so much!
(They get out, fighting because she wants to break up with him)
Nicole: What was that
Me: Sorry, I know!
Lesson: If you’re a nice guy and she walks all over you, she’s not worth being with. If she loves you, she’s gotta love your spendthrift ways!
The Ride With The Valentine
My first ride of the day was a lady who grumbled a little when I told her happy Valentine’s day.
Lady: Sheesh. Not for me. I just broke up with my dude of three years.
Me: That sucks, man. I’m sorry.
Lady: Yeah, my girlfriend banged him, so they both suck.
Me: They do, they suck. That sucks.
Lady: And the incredible thing is, this is her second time pulling this shit! Like, there are so many dudes, why can’t she stop screwing my dudes?
Me: You still kept being her friend after the first time?
Lady: Yeah, well, she said she was sorry and that she wouldn’t do it again.
Lesson: If your girlfriend bangs your boyfriend once, it could be an accident. Twice, it’s a hobby.
The Ride With The Late Night Romancers
I pick up a cute, fairly drunk guy at 2 a.m. in downtown Pasadena, and he gave me an address. We pick 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 2 a.m.
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) Sure.
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?
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?
Lesson: If dude was in love with you, why is he hitting you up after the bars close?
The Ride With The Family Man
I pick up a dude who is holding a Starbucks coffee and a phone and looks shell-shocked. He gets into my car and says, “man, you’re gonna hear a conversation that’s kind of intense but I have to have it right now.”
Me: No problem!
Dude: (on phone) Hey, baby, it’s me! You’re pregnant?! I’m so stoked! I mean it, I want to have a baby with you! You didn’t want to tell me? Come on, I’m your man! I’m your DUDE, I’m WITH you!
Do you wanna get married, I mean, what’s your mama gonna say? Are you excited? Are you scared? Baby, I love you, I want to get married, I want to have a baby with you. You know, I’m 40, what the fuck else am I gonna do? I mean it. I’m coming over. Yeah, my driver is getting an earful. Yeah, it’s magic and it’s real and I can’t wait! I’ll see you soon!
Me: Wow, congratulations man!
Dude: God, I can’t believe it, but man, we were just at my friend’s house and he has this two year old girl and she’s so perfect and we were saying, man, we can do this, and then she finds out she’s pregnant a week later, I mean, it’s magic time, man!
Me: How long have you guys been dating?
Dude: Six months, but I know, I KNOW this is my lady. But she’s a passionate lady, and we were together this afternoon but she flipped out on me and left, and now I know it’s because she was scared to have this talk.
She just found out this morning.
Me: And when did you find out?
Dude: (Crying) She texted me that she was pregnant, and then I called you. I found out literally a minute before you got there.
Me: You can do this, man. This is sometimes how babies come. You can do it. (Also crying)
Dude: Yeah, I mean, I always wanted to be a dad and now we’re gonna do it! I’m scared shitless but I know we’re gonna be great!Me: Good luck. Be good. Here’s some tissues.
Dude: Five starrrrrs!
Lesson: Sometimes amazing things happen by accident. If you’re with the right person, look in your heart and see if you’re ready to roll with it.