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The Fun Future: Babies and Sex

Two things women love are babies and sex. It’s built into their genetic codes, something not every man understands: there is not a woman alive who doesn’t want to have lots of sex with just about anybody, even if she says “no thanks” when you put the moves on her, and likewise there is not a woman alive who would not immediately recognize the mistake of having a pregnancy terminated, even if the pregnancy endangered her health or was the product of what silly liberals call rape — you know, the stuff that happens after that dumb cow says “no thanks” and you put your penis inside her anyway. And it’s really great that there are laws being created that address these immutable truths! Women are just so in denial, so blind to their own wants and desires. It’s a good idea to come up with legislature that prevents women from doing what they think they want, and forces them to do what you know they want.

Here’s a situation that I’ve never, ever heard of: you’re in a frat house and an acquaintance asks if you’d like to leave your parka in his room, before locking the door behind you and taking off his pants; I’ve also never heard of anyone going to a bar and having three sips of a vodka soda before passing out cold under a stool because the creepy guy who works at the gas station dropped sedatives in her drink. I have never known anyone who’s said “Don’t do this,” and had it happen anyway, leaving them with bruises and consequences and misplaced guilt and nightmares. And if those things happened, which they never have and never will, well, there’s an obvious solution: women should be denied the rights to do the things that men do like drinking, attending parties, going to bars, being alone in a room with someone they don’t know well or do know well and shouldn’t trust (use your famous intuition, ladies, or just call a psychic for crying out loud! Why isn’t your psychic on speed dial? That’s irresponsible right there). Women would be stupid to put their faith in the legal system to protect their human rights; I mean, are they even human? The clever new HR 3 Act knows what’s in their best interest: just shut up and let the magic happen. Just try to enjoy it, this sex with someone you don’t think you want to have sex with. If you’re really lucky, you could end up with a beautiful-smelling baby that’s half you and half that creep from the gas station, a living token to remind you of all the fun you had that night!

Think of how inconsequential your career is, your education, your happiness, next to nine pounds of new human! Although you might not have health care, may in fact become bankrupt due to the cost of getting prenatal check-ups and delivering your child in a hospital, you have a responsibility, as a woman, to always subvert your own needs and practical concerns for someone else’s. Even if the decision to become pregnant wasn’t yours to make, you have to accept the fact that your gender means that your role on planet earth is to be taken advantage of and deserted by the government. Being pregnant is a wonderful thing, I know all about it from movies: you feel wonderful, you “glow,” you can continue to work until you are culturally obliged to give all of that silliness up for full-time caretaking of the weed planted inside of you by your sleazy uncle or the boyfriend who beat you senseless before you broke up and changed your phone number — I write that as if it’s a reality, but of course it isn’t! Those scenarios are just the kind of dumb thing thought up by crazy liberals who love to go on baby-murdering sprees, right? 

And look, girls: if you really have to, you can perform your own abortions at home by drinking poison or tossing yourself down the stairs. Let’s be honest here, that’s what you deserve for going with your friends to the mall and getting abducted by a criminal for six hours. How was it that you couldn’t see the danger inherent in that scenario? All of those men wandering around, sniffing at the lustful emissions coming out of your vagina, and you didn’t think one of them would give you what you’d been asking for? How did we remain naive for so long to the fact that the word “no” only means anything if it comes out of a man’s mouth? Women just don’t have a clue. I’m really glad that we’re here to inform them of how beautiful life can be.


At one point, it sailed across the flat green plain, and the man caught it, for just a moment. When he spun around, the ball tumbled out of his hands like a wet dancing salmon, and everyone later agreed that he had never actually caught the ball at all.

Occasionally, when I was ghost-writing, someone would send me something — an email,  a letter c/o my agent, or once, notably, a card attached to an edible arrangement — some hate mail, some gripe to be aired out. It never stung until one day when someone accused me of doing nothing with my life: nothing. What a horrible thing to say, especially since, as a ghost writer, part of my job was to never prove what I did for a living; I was left livid, long ago, and even now a little bit of lividity creeps into what is otherwise a fairly happy mental space. Why is it that a little distance, a pixellated screen or postage stamp, allows us to be horrible to other people?

I was reminded of it today. I try to forget it, but since I passed it along to some friends looking for reassurance that I did things, it sometimes comes up in conversation. It sometimes comes up even not during conversations, even as I am now sitting in my grandfather’s basement on the eve of his 101st birthday it arrives, uninvited, to remind me of how awful it was. I had forgotten it for a few hours today, which was nice, after it was brought up I dismissed it with a lie about how one becomes accustomed, one braces oneself, etc etc. No matter: I am a human and it hurt me badly, and still does.

Today I saw a man sitting at an intersection with a sandwich board and a table. The sandwich board bore the face of our president with a little Hitler mustache attached to his lip, and the word underneath his image said IMPEACH. First of all, this guy was in the wrong neighborhood: we’re mostly liberals and every Ron Paul bumper sticker at the grocery parking lot has been etched over with a key. Second of all, no matter how you dislike the president, let’s be real: he isn’t Hitler, or anywhere near. But it’s interesting to have people air their discomforts and opinions, of course, it’s legal and admirable at times and a good right to have. It also gives us license to be cruel, to hurt other people’s feelings while using the old fourth-grade adage “no offense, but,” and to explode in type, CAPS LOCKING out of anger, and give ourselves permission to state our opinions in ways we would never do to the subject’s face. The president is not Hitler and I do not do nothing: should we bother to chime in? No. No, absolutely not, because it never ends, and it doesn’t matter. There is always something impeachable about a person’s life, isn’t there, the time you, in the heat of a romantic battle, spit in your partner’s face or screamed I hate you with the tone that says “and I mean it,” the time you rear-ended someone because you were adjusting the radio or the time you broke your mother’s finger when you were monkeying around as she emptied the dishwasher. Mistakes and also on-purpose blunders, the difference between manslaughter and murder (premeditation, intent) being slight here, all of the moments of which you are least proud and also the times you were misunderstood just enough to give grounds to an argument against you: be it the president or the person at the window at McDonald’s, if you try hard enough, you could obliterate their insides. 

The general consensus is that acquiring a hater means you’ve arrived. A hater means that you are doing well enough that it’s starting to get under other people’s skin. And so the accepted response to a hater, or the response we’re told to give, is “Cute neg, keep going,” but this is unrealistic for a few reasons. First of all, it’s false: sometimes a neg is cute, and other times a neg is you-shattering. It depends on the day, the person, the mood, and it’s impossible to tell what organ the insults will pierce: just the skin, or perhaps the heart, or perhaps it will sail right through and the hole will heal over like a superhero’s skin might. I wonder which of these scenarios the person who aims the weapon hopes for? Is the goal to debilitate, maim, murder? Is the point to have a little fun? What would happen if we reacted to these things honestly and said how much it sucked to have a stranger defame you, insult you for little or no reason? Does that — reacting with honesty — mean that you’re letting them win? 

And if they win, what then? Have you necessarily lost? Do you think the people who run websites like Reblogging Julia ever wonder what they’ve done, like maybe late at night when they’ve had an extra-horrible day themselves and are lonely, turning out the light and taking a last sip from the bedside water glass, do you think they stop to say, “I called a person a donkey. I called her fat and insecure, worthless and old, psychotic and unworthy of a relationship. I have never met her. I have done something that is so malevolent as to make me almost less than human.” Do you think that they then dismiss that with a shrug and think, “She deserves it,” and if they do, how on earth could they justify their actions without acknowledging themselves to be hypocrites because all we’re all doing is creating content for the internet, for bored people at desks to read, for our friends and associates and other strangers to peruse, so similar that to a person who had never much browsed the internet we would all appear the same?

Grandpa Dave is 101 years old today and knows nothing about the internet. I tried to explain about haters earlier, but he just kept suggesting I punch them in the nose next time I saw them. “Grandpa,” I said, “I’ll never see them. They’re on the internet.”

"Then why the hell do you care?" he asked loudly (he has again misplaced his hearing aid), "Do you think you’d care if you could see them now, sitting at a Formica table, spooning sludge into their dirty gaping mouths?"

I don’t know what he thought I was talking about, or why they would be eating sludge, but it resonated with me, and as I crept down to the basement where I now sit, I feel that maybe he was right, even though he’s quite doddering in general and usually not to be trusted.

Nobody Knows How To Feel About This Particular Perfume

Snippets of reviews of Lucto et Emergo at LuckyScent, a perfume able to nauseate and captivate with a single Play Doh-infused nose-punch:

"This is the closest thing to an addictive drug…"

"It clings, it gives me a headache, it is terrible terrible, not a fragrance but a state of mind! And for all that I don’t loathe it, but I am deeply puzzled by it."

part one: “Wow, it’s true: salty playdoh. Not terrible by any means … kind of nostalgic, as others have pointed out.[…] Meh.” part two: “OK, I have to revise my previous post. It has been about a week since I first sampled this perfume and, in that time, I have CONSTANTLY returned to it.”

"It also made me have creepy feelings like creepy-man aftershave."

"I still feel nauseous just thinking about it."

"awful moldy muffin/old crayon"

" Can’t stop smelling myself to see what has changed! Today I have a cold and I am getting a really nice incense-y smell."

" I don’t like it…..but not in a bad way. It’s like I WANT to not like it. I WANT a fragrance that keeps me thinking about whether or not I should have purchased it. I WANT people to say "What the heck is that odd smell". I WANT to to experience how it smells good in the afternoon, but not in the morning."

"very much like an expensive bag with a comic book printed on it: good quality, but silly and almost cannily cheap, in essence: POST MODERN. Ok, so i’ll cut the crap. It smells EXACTLY like red hots (you know, the candy?) and baby powder. My boyfriend LOVES it. I love it too."

"This isn’t a princess’ scent, but that of a sorceress."

"Is there morphine in this? I hate it and love it at the same time, and THIS MAKES NO SENSE! It’s true that the scent takes you all over the place! Mostly a modernist box of a building made entirely of white granite, on stilts overlooking white sands and dried grasses, the sweetness and warmth of book bindings and minwaxed floors, an almond tart next to a pub fire…jeez. I really thought I’d hated this until I gave it another chance. WHAT IS IT??"

I quit smoking cigarettes today around 2 PM. By 6 PM, I was lying in bed, in my clothes, under the coverlet but above the sheets, that pathetic position, and thought (and then allowed myself to say, out loud), I am so miserable.

It’s that time again: thinking about quitting smoking time. I hate this time. Right now I am smoking an American Spirit. I heard that that can work as an opposite-Pavlovian reaction: cigarettes that are unashamed to be disgusting truly are disgusting. I tried to get the gist of The Easy Way to Stop Smoking and the gist I got was this: your withdrawal symptoms start as soon as you stub out that smoky friend you’ve got in your death grip. That’s unnerving. Besides that, one cigarette no longer does the trick. I wish I could smoke eleven at once. It’s gross. My mouth is gross. My health, etc. You know. It’s just such a massive bummer.

Of course I am not miserable. I am only miserable thinking how miserable I was last time I quit. Other things were happening at the time to make me miserable: I got food poisoning from a burger and it nearly ruined burgers too; I got a tattoo of Oregon when I was drunk for no reason, that was a mistake. But the biggest misery of all was when my dog Anthony died last spring.

Here’s some background on Anthony: your dog is nothing next to the shadow of his memory. Anthony loved me so much he cried with tears when I left the room. Anthony perked up his ears whenever I whistled. Anthony walked off the leash and crossed his legs when he had to whizz. I’m still obliterated over Anthony. I still have what we (Anthony and I) jokingly referred to as his Kuma’s Bear because he used to enjoy watching me play Katamari Damacy. I tried to throw it away and ended up a mess, crying into the dumpster. Why quit smoking, when Anthony only got eleven years on planet earth and was able to make such an impression?

Anthony would have loved his Kuma’s Bear more for being in a dumpster for five horrible minutes. It would have told his nose stories about chicken insides and even better garbage. But Anthony has nothing to do with smoking. Anthony had no opinion on smoking, he was just a dog. And another point The Easy Way to Stop Smoking reviews refer to is the point that you will not be sad when you give up cigarettes the easy way, because you will have realized that the emotions you think you’re feeling with regards to not smoking are mental tricks you play on yourself to justify the fact that you’re doing something dumb.

I don’t see how that’s easy, but then again, I haven’t read the book.

Your Improv Show

A few weekends ago I went to your improv show.

You might be curious how I felt while I was at home, preparing to leave the house, so let me tell you: I felt dread. This dread has a color and a location and a scent: it lives in the gut, it’s a dark maroon, and it smells like fear. If the dread could talk, the dread would cry out, “Please, I would rather die than go to this improv show.” And the dread really believes it would rather kill you from inside than allow you to go sit in a theater and watch fifteen actor/comedians standing around clapping their hands, sans plan, vampiring energy from you and everyone else sitting in uncomfortable seats preparing to watch people try to be silly. The dread knew what was up before I did. The car ride over offered views of alternate plans: a bar due north, a house party southwest, and home — with its video games, its better entertainment — behind me. I forked over $20 for a ticket to see you fall off a chair and explain, “Tostitos is not the government!”

I like to see your plays. Plays give me some indication of what you’re going to be doing. Plays run during a certain, pre-defined amount of time. Perhaps it’s a slow night and you’re five minutes over: fine. There will be a story. I also like to see your band, sometimes, I like to drink a beer and have a conversation while supporting your Pixies covers and your new bassist. I celebrate these things with you because I care. But when I see you socially, I see you suck out the funny and store it in your head. For your improv show. I see you interrupt a funny story to insert a less-funny line: your improv coach told you to be bold in this way. And as I found a seat toward the back of the theater, I thought to myself: improv has made you a less-good person than you were, Diana.

The first bit was called World’s Worst. You stood in a half circle and asked for audience suggestions. Someone said “doctor.” Someone else said “chicken.” I said “penis” and you ignored me, Diana. Doesn’t improv disallow you to ignore things that are happening? But you did. You took “chicken” and decided to be a sexy chicken. Nobody laughed, not even me. And why? Why didn’t I laugh? Because it wasn’t funny, Diana. The next sketch was long and involved a location (Dubai), an historical figure (Nelson Mandela), and a food (asparagus). I don’t know what happened after you set the scene, an underwater motel, because that one fat guy kept trying to hit the joke of humming “Under the Sea” and my own ego was ashamed to be in the same room as his. I went outside to smoke. And who did I find outside but a famous stand-up comic?

"The problem with improv," the stand-up comic said to me, "is that it should be done in private by non-professionals. How many relationships have ended because the one person has to support the other’s improv shows? Is there anything worse than sitting there, watching your boyfriend or girlfriend in this vulnerable position, trying to be funny and versatile but just actually embodying these stereotypes about people who are desperate to entertain? Does it ever remind you of a disc jockey calling out into the nighttime signal tower, ‘Is anyone listening? Is anyone there?’"

I heard clapping so I went back inside. You were saddled with playing Madeleine Albright, but I could see by your googly eyes and pallor that you weren’t 100% on who Madeleine Albright is. Someone onstage had taken the suggestion, had chained you to the role, and you were floundering. Someone made a joke you didn’t get. There was silence in the theater. You made yourself fall down. Everyone laughed.

Diana, I can’t do it anymore. I’m sorry. The dread has spoken. I don’t want to go out with you anymore, unless you’re scripted.

I am re-watching the first season of Survivor. You know. Richard Hatch and Borneo. The skin diseases. Susan and the thing about rats and snakes, and the actual rats and snakes shown through the night-vision camera. In something like episode two, Richard Hatch explains that he knows he’s going to win (and watching it now, one knows that in fact he does win), and spouts all sorts of premonitory stuff with what back then looked a lot like buffoonery and what every reality show castmember says in the confessional booth, but now looks just downright psychic.

I do not actually think that Richard Hatch is a psychic; I actually just think that Richard Hatch had a plan. I admit that recently I’ve found myself in what could be called a professional slump: I feel lazy, stale, old, and often as though I’ve already thought of everything I will think of for the rest of my life. Already I’m repeating stories. I’m not thirty and everyone’s already heard every story I have four hundred times. Is this because I have stopped caring about my existence because I’m so preoccupied with noticing interesting things and being imaginative? Did Richard Hatch, with his corporate-training communication skills, focus himself so intently on being able to adapt to a shifting emotional environment that he was able to win a difficult game? One doesn’t have to become Richard Hatch (a “snake,” a sneak) to learn from Richard Hatch. All he did was look around, listen, and adjust himself accordingly. Perhaps that’s both easier and better than shouting over the din.

A person must have felt very driven, out in Borneo, away from the internet, back in 1999. To win a million dollars, to write the Great American Novel, to record a concept album, to catch a fish, to find a coconut, etc etc. It would be exhausting (bugs, tropical storms, lack of reliable protein, despair, malaise) but also a good time for razor-focus reflection. No ideas floating around sounding a lot like the idea you had three months ago and making you feel discouraged. The best thing would be to have elements of the existence of a cast member of Survivor: Borneo in 1999 incorporated into your human form, the one that’s now sitting in a room with walls and a floor and indoor plumbing and MTV and hardcover books. It can’t be impossible, if certain people can bend spoons with their minds.

It's Over by Electric Light Orchestra from the album: Out of The Blue


“It’s Over” by Electric Light Orchestra from Out of The Blue (1977).

Out of The Blue


A Thousand Words in Ten Minutes

When I was very young I had seven brothers and sisters and a mother and father and we lived on a big ranch in the middle-southern United States. We farmed and all of my brothers and sisters helped out and so did I, for a time, until I grew rebellious and struck out on my own at the age of fourteen to go live in rural Massachusetts. I found a small one-bedroom house, like a cottage, in a place where the speed limit was fifteen and there was a really great grocery store nearby but I didn’t know how to use it properly because I was so used to eating farmed vegetables and meat and milk and brushing my teeth with clay and all of that nutty stuff that one does when one is raised with seven siblings on an old-fashioned farm by a couple of pilgrim-like middle-aged people. I got a pot and a pan and some carrots the first night and ate them with butter sitting on my bare floor in my empty apartment, and then I took a long shower with water that got so hot but had forgotten towels, obviously, I didn’t own anything, so I had to dry myself off with clothes from my suitcase, most of which were dirty because you don’t ask your parents to do your laundry the day before you run away from them forever. I got odd jobs and made a good friend in Mr. Aberdeen who lived three miles down and took pity on me when I was playing my banjo outside the hardware store the first Sunday after I moved in. Mr. Aberdeen dropped off twenty dollars here and there, which I paid him back after I got my first ghostwriting check, with interest (the interest was pumpkins; I had grown them successfully by my driveway and a few weighed over fifteen pounds). My family couldn’t write me. I didn’t know if they’d even have wanted to. Who was going to brush the old cranky mare who once bit Anna-Louise’s middle finger almost clean off? Who was going to gather eggs when nobody felt like confronting the smell; oh, and maybe that was why little Warren ran away, after all. I was hired at a bait-and-tackle store and eventually worked my way up to assistant manager, I got a vision plan, I listened to Fred Armisen’s punk band and wore jeans and took mushrooms with Mr. Aberdeen in his study, while his wife worked on her dissertation, and he showed me the neighbor’s pool through his telescope. I got bronchitis. I accumulated a television and a futon — the futon was quilted, it was beautiful, I have it still, the rings from ghosts of sweating drinks on its wooden arms — and watched Red Sox games, glowing, there was no other light yet, except the built-in bathroom light which cast cozy shadows into the kitchen. Mr. Aberdeen let me bum his cigarettes, I learned which bars would let me in without any ID and gradually could not remember the smell of the chickens or the crunchy, milky undercooked corn or my sibling’s names or my parent’s names. And there was no price in forgetting them, other than fourteen years of pre-existence and if nobody else mourns their pre-existing years, why should I? The bartender asked where I was from and I told her that I was from here, and it may as well have been the truth: Mr. Aberdeen and his wife my dutiful modern parents, the loose hand with the firm grasp, the snow drifts every February and the occasional trip to Chestnut Hill mall at Christmas time, the lunch at Legal Seafoods, the Santa’s lap and store-bought tree. I had just to say “Chestnut Hill Mall” to know that I had been to Chestnut Hill Mall: the slick escalator and the polished floors, the bright corridors and ambient illumination of Restoration Hardware, which I imagined sold screws and hammers, but which in fact does sell screws and hammers, in a way.

Mr. Aberdeen passed away two months before my twentieth birthday. He choked on a steaming piece of brie en croute served at a bridge party. There weren’t as many mourners as I would have thought. The service left me disturbed. I accepted a ride to the T station after eating the requisite scone and offering my condolences, and rode it back and forth all day until I was stranded in Harvard square while the train was put to sleep for the night. The young people were hanging out by the doors of an Au Bon Pain and the old people were plopped on the stairs by the entrance to the T with guitars or cups or just a sad downcast to them, and I realized how lucky I was to be one of the young instead of one of the old. That was all that divided them, their only preexisting conditions. I could hang out outside the Au Bon Pain or otherwise assume their rightful-placeness, their familiarity with the slice of the world they were inhabiting, and so I did. And where on my ghostwriting resume it said “BA, Harvard University,” that was just me asserting my youthful vim, my young hum, and of course it was simple for me to rattle off the places I had enjoyed drinking during my years in Cambridge and my favorite famous professors and of course you could not forget the notable architecture and that one lady in physics who had the affectation of wearing feather boas to lecture (I had watched her enter the lecture hall, doodling in my spiral notebook from a damp perch under a tree). It was so easy, I wondered why everybody didn’t do it: but then again, perhaps it was just because everybody wasn’t doing it that I was allowed to sneak by. Which is excellent; I have no compunction about this particular lie. There are far worse lies. One could tell one’s spouse “You’re beautiful” and not mean it and that would be an example of something far worse.

ROB: And just so you know, that poster really freaks girls out.

ROB: And just so you know, that poster really freaks girls out.


ROB: Warren. Warren, man.

WARREN: Yeah, okay.

ROB: Warren, shit, am I going to be okay?

WARREN: I don’t know. Are we?

ROB: I don’t know.

WARREN: Check out the walls.

ROB: Oh my God!

WARREN: Check out the bathroom.



WARREN: Yeah, stick your head in the toilet, isn’t that fucked up?

ROB: Oh my God! Oh my God! I’m at the bottom of the ocean!

WARREN: Now go turn the faucet on and stick your head under the tap upside-down.

ROB: Guuuuuuu ——!

WARREN: That’s a waterfall.

ROB: Ju—guuust li—guuuhh-ke a waterfa—-guuuu

WARREN: Check out inside the fridge. Wait, hit it again. Okay, now go check it out.

ROB: What the fuck is this cheese doing!

WARREN: Better ask it.

ROB: Hello?

WARREN: It’s answering you. “Hi Rob.”

ROB: We have to throw away this can of green beans.

WARREN: Don’t harsh me, Rob. Get back to being high.

ROB: Are you sure this light goes off when we shut the door?

WARREN: No, I’m not sure. Nobody is.

ROB: Could that be why our electric bill is always —

WARREN: Rob, stop it. We’re straight chilling right now.

ROB: Do you hear a drip?


ROB: Did you hear a noise outside?


ROB: I can’t wait to stop being high so I can go outside and take a look and make sure we’re safe.

WARREN: You should enjoy this time. Five minutes. Of enjoyment.

ROB: Okay. I’m just going to sit here, worrying, until then.

WARREN: Okay, fine. I’ll be rolling around on the shag carpet listening to Led Zeppelin and it’s your giant loss.

ROB: Okay.


I woke up in the morning excited because in my refrigerator were English muffins, a carton of orange juice, eggs, cheese and bacon. I fixed myself a breakfast sandwich and enjoyed it while staring out the window, drinking juice, thinking that this was a very good way to begin any day. I put the dishes in the dishwasher and left the kitchen, going into my study where I worked for approximately forty-five minutes. The sun was high in the sky and it was time for lunch, which was thrilling, because also in my refrigerator was a hunk of burrata the size of a kitten, floating in murky water, and one large vine-ripened tomato. I took my lunch sitting at the table, looking out the window again, this time at the lake. What a beautiful lake. I put my dishes in the sink because I was too sated and heavy to bother with the dishwasher again. I laid down for a quick nap. It was very restful. When I woke up it was nearly time for dinner, but not quite time for dinner. Would I have spicy pumpkin ravioli? Would I bother to make a brown-butter-sage sauce? Should I grill the bread? Grilled bread is nice. Too bad it’s not time for dinner yet. Time seems to be moving at an excruciatingly slow pace. I can barely wait. And I can barely wait for dessert. And I will go to bed, much later, after dinner, sometime in the future, and I will put my brain on hold until it surges to life in the morning thinking of French toast.




gladys knight & the pips: midnight train to georgia

I am reading a Norman Mailer book from 1965 called An American Dream. I don’t find it hard to believe that he stabbed his wife Adele with a penknife at a party. I misheard it sometime in the past as being a pen, not a penknife, and used to think he was just a wiseacre, but now I think he was more of a violent lady-hater. Never mind. Joan Didion praised An American Dream, but I’ve just put down the book after a chapter wherein the protagonist performs things on the maid that even, like, Lil Wayne would never sign off on.

I would never do those things to a maid. The maid’s response was not very realistic either: she fell madly in love with the protagonist even as he ignored her pleas (in German) (the maid was German) to not do the horrible things he then proceeded to do anyway. I think this was a rumination on the concept of hired help, but maybe that’s just because I can’t believe anyone would put a character through those kind of shenanigans unless it was a device to explain social hierarchy. If it were a device, Norman Mailer would still just be a wiseacre.

But it’s not. On Valentine’s Day 2001, I made crab cakes for a young woman whom I’d been dating for two years. Did I bake some pre-frozen crab cakes? No. Did I buy the crab in the plastic tub with the metal lid? Wrong again. I bought crabs, kept them for a week in a spacious aquarium and fed them only kelp, murdered them, cleaned them, picked the cartilage from the flesh and with my own only somewhat-competent hands I formed them into little patties with organic cage-free eggs and Old Bay. I presented my girlfriend with these vittles and a cheap bottle of Chardonnay and sat back and waited for the praise, the creamy mayonnaise-like affections to which I am so addicted in general but back then particularly.

She did not care for the crab cakes. In her opinion, they tasted not like crab but like clams, “fishy,” not like the crab cakes her mother had shipped her for her birthday that were the showdogs of sea-burgers, no, these were inferior. She took one bite and not another. The floor swallowed me. I look back on this instance now with icy certainty: Norman Mailer would have killed her; not only that, but according to Norman Mailer, she would have loved it.

I think it’s called An American Dream ironically.