I have followed the BYU Title IX fiasco, i.e. story, with interest. That’s about the most neutral way I can put it.

I should probably make two things clear from the outset. The first thing is that I’m not a fan of using Title IX to adjudicate sexual assault cases on college campuses. There’s a reason rape is a crime, and there’s also a reason criminals have rights. Does this mean that rapists sometimes go unpunished? Yes. Burglars, muggers, drug dealers, and even murderers also sometimes go unpunished. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when citizens have rights and governments have the burden of proving that you committed a crime before they throw you in prison or otherwise ruin your life. Private institutions can do what they like, of course—but Title IX isn’t a private institution. It’s the law. That’s worth remembering. I believe that sexual assault cases should be handled by the criminal justice system. But I also believe that BYU has moral obligations to its students who are victims of sexual assault. If its failure to fulfill these obligations happens to violate Title IX, that is one thing. We could argue all day about Title IX. But that’s not on my list of things to do today.

The second thing I’m going to admit is that I’m not a fan of BYU’s Honor Code. It’s not that I think the standards are too high. To be sure, I think some of them—e.g. the prohibition on beards and the micromanagement of students’ sartorial choices—are too silly, but BYU is a private institution and can do what it likes. (I’m a big fan of private institutions being allowed to do what they like.) My argument is not with the standards themselves but with the perverse incentives and disincentives that strict enforcement of the Honor Code creates. If you need an ecclesiastical endorsement signed by your bishop to remain in school, it can discourage you from seeking pastoral care when you may need it most. And if you’ve been sexually assaulted and the story of your sexual assault involves an Honor Code violation on your part (even tangentially), or if a violation may be inferred from the circumstances (even without evidence), it can put you in the position of choosing to press charges against your rapist or to stay in school. That’s not a position anyone should have to be in. It’s reasonable to argue that a student signs a contract and should be expected to live up to the contract. I can’t argue with that. My argument is with the terms of the contract itself.

I agree that a lot of the discussion around this topic has been unproductive, due to people’s visceral instincts to slam BYU (and by extension the church) or to defend BYU (and by extension the church). And as many feelings and thoughts as I have on this issue, I’ve not been eager to talk about it publicly because I don’t have any desire to contribute to unproductive discussions. (Lately, I mean.) I understand the reluctance to alter BYU’s Honor Code, which appears to have served BYU and most of its students just fine for decades, and specifically reluctance to make exceptions, even for alleged victims. But there are two arguments against making such exceptions that need to be addressed.

It is interesting how many people argue that the Honor Code dramatically reduces a BYU student’s risk of being raped. (A representative example can be found here.) It is true that there are some high-risk situations that a person following the Honor Code would be unlikely to find themselves in. I’m the first person to advise young women—or anyone, really—against deliberately intoxicating themselves. You cannot argue that remaining sober does not put you at a distinct advantage in life; you are at far lower risk of being a victim of anything if you aren’t unconscious or similarly impaired. As victim-blamey as some people think that is, I will say that all day long and not apologize for it. (If that sounds familiar, I learned from the best.) However, no one should be under the illusion that refraining from alcohol or other mind-altering substances—or following any aspect of the Honor Code whatsoever–keeps you “safe” from sexual assault. Plenty of people are raped while sober, in their own apartments, in the middle of the day, in places and at times and under circumstances where they “should” have been perfectly safe. The Honor Code is in no way a protection against being raped, nor is it intended to be. The Honor Code is designed to discourage you from doing x, y, z (and probably a-k and m, p, t & w) and to cultivate a wholesome environment and image for BYU. Period. That is a fine goal in and of itself. But it was not intended nor designed to protect anyone from sexual assault—and it won’t.

What is really interesting is that many of the same people who argue that the Honor Code makes BYU students safe(r) from rape also argue that giving rape victims Honor Code immunity will encourage people to make false accusations of rape in order to avoid punishment for consensual sex. Unlike the risk of being raped—which isn’t particularly affected by the Honor Code—the risk of being falsely accused of rape actually is significantly reduced by following the Honor Code. If you never have consensual sex with someone, it is highly unlikely someone will claim that your non-existent consensual sex was rape in order to avoid getting punished for something that never happened. But what are people worried about, if rape victims receive Honor Code immunity? False accusations against students who engaged in consensual sex. So what happened to the ”safety” of the Honor Code? It is hard not to infer that rape prevention is meant to be primarily a burden on women.

Rape, of course, is not explicitly mentioned in the Honor Code. But people take what is mentioned in the Honor Code and apply it exclusively in terms of a woman’s responsibility to avoid her own rape. Imagine if the well-intentioned advice about preventing rape went like this:

Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol consumption is highly correlated with sexual assault. You are more likely to rape someone if your judgment has been impaired by alcohol. Your inhibitions will be lowered, and you may not be able to tell if your partner is fully willing or not.

Don’t be alone with a woman. Whether in your own apartment or hers, or in the back of a car in a secluded location, it is never safe to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. You are much more likely to rape someone when there aren’t any witnesses.

Be aware of the signals you are sending. Are you communicating clearly with your partner that you intend to have sex with her, regardless of what her personal wishes are? Or are you giving her the impression, even inadvertently, that you care about her feelings and that she can trust you? Be clear about your expectations. Don’t act like you’re not going to rape her and then change your mind halfway through.

If you’re thinking, “This is ridiculous. Rapists aren’t going to pay any attention to this advice,” you’re beginning to see my point, even if you don’t know it yet.

The Honor Code shouldn’t be seen as a “safety” issue at all. Whether or not it was “smart” or “showed good judgment” to drink or do drugs has no bearing on whether or not someone was in fact raped. I would advise everyone I know to do what they can to stay out of prison, as there’s no question that staying out of prison significantly reduces your chances of being sexually assaulted. However, being raped isn’t something that you should just “expect” to happen when you are incarcerated because hey, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. I don’t care what you’re in prison for, or whether you’re guilty or innocent: other people don’t get to rape you because you’re in prison. Rape is a crime, and it’s evil. It is not a “natural consequence” of your own poor choices, even if your “poor choices” include felonies. Your risk of sexual assault is directly related not to your compliance with the Honor Code but your proximity to someone who is willing to rape you. People should always be safe from sexual assault because sexual assault should never happen.

But of course it does. Not because victims do something wrong or stupid or inadvisable, but because rapists do something wrong, i.e. they rape people. In a perfect world, people should be able to go anywhere or do anything without fear of being assaulted, robbed, murdered, or harmed in any way, but that is not the world we live in. So does it make sense to take precautions in an imperfect world? Yes. Please do take precautions, by all means. Don’t tattoo your Social Security number on your forehead. Don’t give your credit card numbers to Nigerian royalty. Keep your drink in sight at all times. Avoid driving at night after the bars close. Never follow a hippie to a second location. But negotiating risk—deciding for oneself which risks one is willing to take under what circumstances–is not the same as being responsible for creating risk. People have the right to walk alone at night, even in a bad part of town, without being assaulted. That is a right because assault is a crime. We think differently about rape than we do about other crimes because of the emotions and vulnerabilities associated with sex. In some ways this is proper; rape is an especially heinous crime because of the emotions and vulnerabilities associated with sex. However, we must not let our treatment of rape victims be influenced by cultural attitudes and beliefs about sex that may be false, unhealthy, or otherwise harmful. Unfortunately, women are more likely to be victims both of rape and of harmful cultural attitudes about sex. And that is especially bad news for Mormon women at BYU.

So about two years ago I thought I would jump-start my mostly-dead blog by answering The 36 Questions That Lead to Love. Not for any reasons related to love, but because I needed writing prompts, and usually I enjoy answering questions about myself. Unfortunately, I have not enjoyed many of the Questions That Lead to Love. This may explain why I have historically had difficulty getting people to fall in love with me. It’s okay because I really only needed one person to fall in love with me, and he did it without me having to answer any of these pesky questions, but now I’m getting off topic. Where was I? Oh, yes. I felt like jump-starting the blog again–really, this is getting ridiculous, but I’m slowly making peace with the fact that I’m a ridiculous person–so I looked up where I left off on the 36 Questions, and I’m on #15:

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Of all the questions I have hated, I may hate this question the most. Actually, the question I hate the most is “What’s for dinner?” Something about that question just sends me into a rage spiral. I can’t explain it. Why does anyone need to know what’s for dinner? Why can’t we treat it like Christmas or your birthday? Why spoil the surprise? Do you have alternate plans? Have you received other offers? But I’m getting off topic again. Aside from “What’s for dinner?” the question I hate the most is “What is your greatest accomplishment?” Is it really fair to ask this question before one is on one’s death bed? Do I really have to contemplate at the tender age of almost-45 how puny and pathetic my accomplishments thusfar have been?

I think it’s not so bad to have to answer this question at, say, 25 (or almost-25). A 25-year-old isn’t expected to have too many accomplishments. You could say, “I graduated college” or “I got a job,” and that’d be fine. You’re just starting out in life, after all. You have plenty of time to look forward to greater accomplishments. At almost-45, your life is, let’s face it, probably more than half over. (Obviously, your life could be more than half over at any age, since death is usually unpredictable, but for the sake of argument, let’s just assume most of us will live until 70- or 80-something, at the most.) (Of course, I may well live to be 90-something. It seems to be how the ladies in my family tree roll, with the obvious exception of my mother, who only made it to 52 1/2. If I’m not destined to put up more years than my mother, I’m certainly on my last legs here, but just this once we’ll go with a more optimistic estimate.) (Someday I will tire of parenthetical asides, but today is not that day!) This is not the best time to do an assessment. It is both too early and too late. Too early to say, “Oh, well, I did my best,” and too late to say, “Dude, I really need to get going on those accomplishments!” because at 45 (or almost), you are busy with a lot of stuff that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, and far too busy to re-think your grand scheme strategy.

At church, the ladies’ auxiliary has been doing a weekly spotlight on individual ladies, to help us get to know each other better, and one of the questions, regrettably, is “What is your greatest accomplishment?” Almost everyone says, “My children” or “my family.” I think that there is nothing wrong with that answer. It just isn’t the right answer for me. For one thing, I don’t feel that I have “accomplished” my family. I mean, I gave birth to four people. That’s a thing. I don’t disparage that thing. On the other hand, pregnancies have a natural tendency to end in birth, requiring no special skills on my part. But more to the point, aside from giving birth to them and taking care of them, which is not a small thing–I don’t mean to suggest that it is small–a) they’re not finished yet, and b) even if they were, I can’t take credit for what they are. I mean, I refuse to take credit for it. (Especially since I don’t even know what they’ll end up being yet. You can’t pin this thing on me! I won’t have it!) So I can’t say that my family is my greatest accomplishment. That doesn’t mean anything to me. To say my family is my greatest joy is something different. I could say that, probably, without laughing. (Not sure I could say it without my family laughing at me, but that’s a separate issue.) Greatest “accomplishment,” no.

But what have I accomplished? In 45 years of living, what have I accomplished? I graduated from college. I got a job (that was in no way related to my college education). I gave birth to four people. I learned to tap dance. Learning to tap dance may have been my greatest accomplishment. I’m not sure what that says about me, considering that I’m not a great tap dancer. I mean, I’m fine. I’m as good as one can expect to be when one takes up tap dancing at 33 and also isn’t terribly coordinated. I enjoy my ability to tap dance. What does it mean to me that I’ve learned to tap dance? What does it mean that I’ve learned to tap dance and yet it isn’t enough?

I guess this question just seems especially cruel after Question #14: “Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?” I answered that question in November. The answer hasn’t gotten less depressing. I give some version of this answer every time someone asks me if I’m “still writing.” Really, that question ought to be right up there with “Are you still married?” If you don’t know, don’t ask! It just brings up painful feelings!

It’s mainly that I had great hopes for my accomplishments, back when I was 15, 25, 35, and even as late as 40 or 41. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve thought I should probably make a new game plan for accomplishing stuff. I should go back to college, but this time major in something useful, and get a job that will be useful and that I will be good at. I’m not about to waste tens of thousands of dollars more on educating myself, though, until I know what it is that I would be good at that would also be useful. So far I’ve got nothing. I really have a very limited skill set. For one thing, my people skills are terrible. You’d be surprised at how many careers this eliminates right off the bat. And yes, it is too late for me to become a doctor.

I spent far too many years expecting my greatest accomplishments to be in the writing arena, but it turns out I’m not nearly as good at writing as I am at reading. I tell myself that I would be better at writing if I read less and wrote more, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Do you know how many hours I spent reading Don Quixote last month? I didn’t even enjoy it all that much (although I have an intellectual appreciation for it). The only reason I read Don Quixote instead of writing was that I knew that if I kept reading, I would eventually finish Don Quixote. I know how to keep reading. I don’t know how to keep writing, and I haven’t finished writing anything apart from posts on this blog for about five years. (I think. I don’t know. It depresses me to count. Although I know how to count. I’m just afraid to keep counting.)

At this point I am waiting for someone to say, “Don’t you see, Mad? Your greatest accomplishment is this blog!” Followed immediately by “WHICH YOU ALLOWED TO DIE!!!”

Just remember, I said it first.

 

We’ve covered the non-fiction and the high-brow fiction. Now it’s time to talk about the kind of books I mostly read.

Psycho-killer

A genre devoted to solving crimes committed by psychos.

Rage against the Dying by Becky Masterman
Brigid Quinn is a retired FBI agent who has worked hard to leave her former life of psycho-crime-fighting behind. More than anything, she’s afraid of it infecting the peaceful, happy life she’s found with her new husband, the gentle professor, who knows that she’s former FBI but thinks that she investigated fraud, not psycho-killing. Alas, fate has other plans for Brigid because a body turns up, and it looks just like the work of the Psycho Killer Who Got Away–a case that led to the death of Brigid’s young protégé and effectively ended Brigid’s career. Brigid doesn’t want anything to do with it–except of course she has to have something to do with it because it looks like this psycho will now be targeting Brigid, and she’s got to protect the people around her. Man oh man oh man, did I ever enjoy this book. Mainly because Brigid is awesome. Also because I like books about people catching the psychos and BRINGING THEM TO JUSTICE. This was a very exciting book (although content warning: rape and other horrible things), and I look forward to reading the further adventures of Brigid Quinn, sixty-year-old-lady badass. 5/5 stars

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
I pretty much read all of the Karin Slaughter books. There is only one Karin Slaughter book I have not read, and will not read, because it contains the death of a character I was not and probably never will be ready to watch die. (I have, however, read subsequent books where the deadness of aforementioned character is a sad fact of life, but that is okay. I accept that it happened. I just can’t watch it happening. It’s too sad. This from a woman who reads serial-killer books for diversion. I never said my brain made sense.) This book is a stand-alone (not part of her Grant County or Will Trent series, although a new Will Trent is set to come out later this year AND I AM SO THERE), and as I said on Goodreads, I thought it was remarkably good–an intriguing mystery and a poignant portrait of grief–up until about the 60% mark, where there’s this crazy, crazy plot twist–CRAZY plot twist. Like Gone Girl crazy, only much, much crazier. Jason springing out of the lake crazy. The kind that makes you go, “What? WHAT? Oh, come ON!” I kept reading, because a) I can’t help myself and b) there was still a psycho-killer to catch and bring to justice and ONE CANNOT REST, but I confess that I grumbled a little while I was reading. “This is all very exciting, but are you freaking kidding me?” Eventually, though, I just decided to go with it. And it did make for a very exciting third act. Also, a very satisfying bringing-to-justice. (Content warning: rape and torture of women. What kind of sick human being am I?) 4/5 stars

Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane
Apparently this is the fourth book featuring the main characters, two ex-cops (a man and a woman) who are private investigators. Like, you know, a team. A private investigation team, I guess you would say. Anyway, I haven’t read the other books, but I would say this stands alone just fine. Previous events are alluded to, but you understand all you need to know from context. On the other hand, if you’re planning to read the other three books at some point, this book would contain spoilers. On the other hand, if you’re like me, by the time you get around to reading the other books, you’ll forget everything you learned about them from this book, and it’ll be just like starting with a clean slate. Anyway, enough small talk. The story of this book is a child abduction. A four-year-old girl is taken from her immature, irresponsible, and occasionally-drug-using mother’s home one night (while the mother is out doing whatever), and the girl’s concerned aunt asks Kenzie and Gennaro (aforementioned private eyes) to take on the case because she thinks the police aren’t doing enough. K & G are reluctant, but soon become intrigued by all the weird things they uncover (in the course of convincing the aunt and themselves that their services are not really required) and end up fully entangled in a case that is much more than simple abduction (if abduction is ever simple). Drug dealers! Blackmail! Police corruption! Meanwhile, there’s still a kid missing and time is running out. Stuff happens, K & G have to decide who they can trust and whatnot–it’s an interesting story, and it raises some interesting questions about what constitutes justice. (Content warning: violence, gross crime scenes and some mentions of crimes against children, although aforementioned mentions are isolated and not graphic in nature.) 4/5 stars

Romance

Because a life without love is…something.

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer
If there was a TV channel that showed nothing but BBC adaptations of Georgette Heyer novels, that is where I would be every day of my life. I don’t know that BBC has ever done an adaptation of any Georgette Heyer novel, but they ought to. They ought to do all of them! Georgette Heyer is like Jane Austen, if Jane Austen were sillier. The dialogue is always very witty, and there are many eccentric characters to provide actors with ample opportunities to chew the scenery (if they were so inclined). This is a comic romance about Sir Waldo, a much-admired Corinthian (the “Nonesuch”) who travels to a village in Yorkshire to inspect the ramshackle property he has just inherited, which leads to much gossip among the villagers as to his intentions (regarding both the estate and the eligible females neighboring it). Sir Waldo is accompanied by his nephew, a charming, fun-loving young man who becomes infatuated with the most beautiful girl in town (who is unfortunately a spoiled brat who ought to be punched in the face, but I don’t want to give away the whole plot). Meanwhile Sir Waldo takes up a flirtation with the girl’s lovely (and much more sensible) companion, a gently bred spinster (you know, about 24 years old) who has been forced by circumstances to take this paid position (because no one would do it for free). This isn’t my favorite Heyer, but it was still very enjoyable. The hero is pretty much perfect, which ought to be boring, but at least he has a sense of humor about it, which is what matters. Besides, if we can’t have perfection in our fictional heroes, where can we have it? 4/5 stars

Silk Is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
Marcelline Noirot is a gently-bred lady who has been forced by circumstances to go into trade as a dressmaker. She works with her two sisters, each of whom has a special talent that is essential to the success of this family business. Marcelline is the designer, and she’s pretty much a fashion genius. She is determined to get the business of the finest (and wealthiest) members of the ton, and her latest strategy is to convince the Duke of Clevedon that she must provide his (intended) fiancée’s wardrobe. Clevedon could not care less about dresses; he just wants to sleep with this gorgeous and provoking woman (as one does). It’s kind of complicated, i.e. too complex to bother explaining, but Marcelline ends up getting the commission for the dresses but also finds herself becoming enchanted by the handsome and provoking duke, blah blah, whatever. This was a fine enough story as this type of thing goes, but I have to say I loved Marcelline as a character. She’s smart and determined and self-confident and doesn’t have hang-ups that need to be solved by a hot aristocrat’s sex-skillz. That alone placed this book above the average romance novel. (I guess–it’s the only reason I can remember for the rating I gave it.) (Content warning: There is sex. Performed with skillz.) 4/5 stars

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
I’ve read quite a few Kristan Higgins books (mostly her Blue Heron series), and heretofore they have all been more or less the same. Which is not to say that they were not enjoyable. I am generally not a fan of contemporary romance, as the stakes tend to be lower than in historical romance and the heroines more neurotic (which is actually rarely loveable–it’s like everyone wants to be the next Bridget Jones, but I didn’t really like Bridget Jones). I do like Higgins’ books, even though the heroines do tend to be neurotic (as we know all modern women are), because her writing is clever and her characters are interesting, even when she’s writing the same plot over and over again. (Modern neurotic woman who has been hung up on a guy who broke her heart or didn’t return her interest for years finally meets a new dude, who has issues, but is exactly right for her–but wait! the dude she loved for years suddenly decides she’s the one for him and misunderstandings ensue. I don’t think I’m giving anything away, even though I’ve told you everything but the resolution, which I’m sure you can guess. It’s a tried-and-true formula: it’s all about the journey.) This book is slightly different in that it’s more chick lit than romance (although there is romance, so I’m including it here because I don’t want to make a separate chick lit category for one book). It tells the stories of two sisters–one who is divorced and looking for someone to settle down and have kids with (but is unfortunately attracted to the unsuitable dude who lives in the apartment beneath hers), and one who has the perfect marriage and family that includes a set of triplets and everything. Only wait! Is everything really as perfect as it seems?? SPOILER ALERT: No. Also, there are deep, dark secrets about their parents’ marriage, which one of them knows but the other doesn’t. Deep, dark secrets abound, really. But there is also humor, so it’s not that dark. It is a book about marriage but also about families. I think this is Higgins’ best book (of the ones I’ve read), hands down. (Content warning: Not really a lot of sex, mainly allusions to sex, but a frank discussion thereof at times.) 4/5 stars

Act Like It by Lucy Parker
This is a Kindle exclusive, and I got it on the cheap (even cheaper than its regular cheap price), so that may have influenced my feelings about it considerably–I do love a bargain–but I am prone to hate things I read for $1.99 as much as things I read for $11.99 and for free, so I will just go ahead and say that I thought this romance was pretty darn good for what it was. Another contemporary, set in the London theatre world. Elaine is an up-and-coming actress working in a play that needs to do well at the box office (for the same reason all plays need to do well), but ticket sales are flagging because the star of the show, an arrogant (but talented) diva named Richard Troy, is acting like a jerk in public and getting bad press all over town. The play’s producer and the theatre manager and Richard’s agent all conspire to persuade Elaine, England’s sweetheart (insofar as the theatre world is concerned), into faking a romantic relationship with Richard in the hopes that some of her good press will rub off on him. It sounds ridiculous, and it is, but that’s the premise. Take it or leave it. Elaine agrees to the charade because the producer also promises to give x percentage of ticket sales to Elaine’s favorite charity, which is important to her for personal reasons. It’s a common romance trope–two, actually: fake relationship and enemies-to-lovers. Here’s what I liked about the book: Richard really is a jerk. He really is arrogant, and he is often rude. He is not a loveable guy. He does not undergo a radical personality change over the course of the book (although he changes a little–for the better! because that is what romance heroes do, unless they’re Georgette Heyer heroes, who are perfect to begin with). But like Shrek and all ogres, he has layers. As you get to know him, you start to see his good qualities and how Elaine could fall in love with him without getting a lobotomy first. It’s not Shakespeare (ha ha, see what I did there), but it’s clever and more imaginative than the average. I also liked that the characters acted like grown-ups (most of the time), rather than adults who were psychologically still in high school (or whatever they call it in England). I was diverted. (Content warning: There is sex. Not oodles, but some. Can’t really recall the level of detail. Sorry.) 4/5 stars

Before We Kiss by Susan Mallery
I don’t know why I read so many contemporaries during February. It’s most unusual for me. I also don’t know why I picked up another Susan Mallery, when the last Susan Mallery I read was decidedly meh. I think that once upon a time I must have read a Susan Mallery I liked and have assumed there must be another one out there I would also like. Well. This wasn’t it. Sam  is an ex-NFL player who has a business with some NFL buddies of his–I forget what the business is, but it’s thriving but they also need to have an EVENT because that’s what successful businesses like theirs do, and Sam is in charge of the event, so he needs to hire the services of an event planner. Unfortunately, the only event planner in town (it’s a small town, which nevertheless has many thriving business–it’s like a 27 book series where everyone in town finds love and professional fulfillment) is Dellina, a woman he had a one-night stand with and freaked out on when he stumbled into a spare room where she was storing a bunch of wedding dresses for a friend (who also has a thriving business in this very small town, but not a lot of extra storage space). Because a woman who keeps a dozen wedding dresses in her spare room is clearly PSYCHO. Well, Dellina’s not actually psycho (as I explained), and Sam gets that NOW, but it’s still kind of awkward now that they have to work together on this event thing, especially since they’re still very attracted to each other. Shall I go on? No, I should not. I should have stopped reading long before this, but I actually finished the whole thing (sort of–I skimmed a lot). This book sort of exemplifies everything I don’t like about contemporaries: the stakes are low and the details are mundane. Will the event go as planned? WHO CARES? Will Sam learn to trust women again (I forgot to mention he has trust issues)? WHO CARES? How does the story end? I DON’T REMEMBER. There are a few funny bits here and there, mostly involving Sam’s mother, who is a sex therapist and has never met a personal boundary she didn’t want to cross, but that’s neither here nor there. As a whole it was more tedious than diverting, and that’s not okay. I don’t like books that make me feel like I’ve really wasted my time as opposed to only sort of wasting my time. (Content warning: IT’S BORING.) 2/5 stars

Scandalous by Jenna Petersen
Well, here we have a historical romance, which is more my speed. Miss Katherine Fleming, who was orphaned as a young woman and subsequently made the ward of some awful family, is engaged to be married to a widowed nobleman of some consequence. She isn’t in love with him; she’s a practical sort, and she’s determined to make a pleasant but practical marriage. Uno problemo: Turns out aforementioned nobleman’s dead wife is not so dead after all. It happens. Unfortunately, this is the olden days, when you couldn’t just say, “Oopsy, turns out my fiancé is still married to a live woman,” and everyone would just understand. No, this will be a huge scandal that will ruin Katherine unless she agrees to marry the un-widower’s black sheep of a brother, whose name I think is Dominic. Yes, Dominic. Dominic is technically, from a biological point of view, the un-widower’s half-brother, being the product of an affair his mother had back in the day. Nobody outside the family knows this, but within the family things have been awkward, which is why Dominic has been off making his fortune and only come home to try to talk his half-bro into selling him one of the family properties for reasons which are very important to him personally, i.e. he knows Mom was residing there when he was conceived and therefore believes the house holds some clue as to his true parentage, of which he is ignorant because Mom refuses to say. It is so important to him that he agrees to marry Katherine in exchange for the property, and did I forget to mention that the reason the Un-widower is so concerned about saving Katherine from scandal by marrying her off to his brother is that he’s already spent her dowry. Oopsy again! Katherine, meanwhile, knows nothing of these family intrigues and believes Dominic is marrying her because he has nothing better to do just now. Honestly, I don’t remember why she thought he might be so willing to marry a woman he just met unless it was because he found her sexually exciting. Because that’s what’s really troubling Katherine–not that her fiancé has an undead wife and that she will now be marrying a complete stranger, but that the complete stranger MAKES HER FEEL THINGS SHE DOES NOT WANT TO FEEL. I told you that she was a practical sort. She wants a comfortable marriage to someone she likes, not someone she could fall in love with, because TO FALL IN LOVE WOULD BE DISASTER.

Okay. Yes, this blurb has to be longer than one paragraph, because I, like Katherine, have feelings. Okay, so far, so good. I mean, this is a pretty typical premise for a romance novel. People getting thrown together with people they’re sexually attracted to but not wanting to RISK THEIR HEARTS. I don’t know how often it happens in real life, but in the romance genre it happens all the time. It is also very common in romance novels for characters to have Deep, Dark Secrets that they are afraid to reveal to their beloved because aforementioned beloved Might Not Understand. This is often pure stupidity on the part of the characters, but you know, people are imperfect. They don’t always act in their best interests. Dominic’s secret is known to the reader from the outset: he’s of questionable parentage and he’s just made a gross deal to marry his (half!) brother’s fiancée in exchange for a freaking house. Of course Katherine Might Not Understand, so even though he knows he ought to tell her–especially since he’s FALLING IN LOVE WITH HER–he procrastinates. Katherine’s motivations, on the other hand, are not at all clear to the reader. You know that she is afraid to fall in love with Dominic, but you don’t really get why. Hers must be a TRULY Deep, Dark Secret, if not even the reader gets to know it. This is the thing, though, about romance authors keeping Deep, Dark Secrets from their readers: if you’re going to hold off on the reveal until the book is practically over, that secret had better be pretty damned deep and dark, or someone’s going to be pissed. And by “someone,” I mean me. When Katherine reveals why she cannot possibly live with a husband she loves but whom she believes does not (TRULY!) love her in return, even though she’s a woman in the nineteenth century with no money or social position and wouldn’t last a freaking second without the advantages of marriage, it turns out the reason is a) neither deep nor dark, and b) pretty damn stupid, actually. Then she commits the cardinal sin of romance heroines everywhere, which I find always annoying but basically unforgiveable when my eyes are already rolled so far back in my head from the Deep, Dark Secret That Wasn’t, and she does something THAT ONLY A CRAZY PERSON WOULD DO. And by “crazy person,” I mean someone ENTIRELY WITHOUT WITS OR REASON. This from a character who has heretofore shown every indication that she has intelligence and mental wellness. It angered me so much that I couldn’t get past it and focus on the fact that the love story itself was actually rather compelling. DO NOT ANGER ME WITH YOUR CRAZY-ASS NONSENSE, ROMANCE AUTHORS, or you too will find your book receiving 2.5/5 stars.

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Well, that does it for the January-February edition of Mad’s Book Club, which is good because we’re almost all the way through March. That means that the next time we meet, we shall be discussing the books I read in March, which will probably not be nearly so many because a) I’m reading Don Quixote, and it’s freaking long, and b) other reasons I don’t care to get into just now, but don’t worry–it’s not a Deep, Dark Secret! I’ve just way-overstayed my welcome on this post. Gentle readers, adieu.

 

 

I’m not actually excited to be on spring break, although I do enjoy not having to wake up and make lunches and drive people to school. That’s always cool.

What would be cooler is if I were no longer on this low-carb diet. I’ve sort of gotten used to it, in a way. Except for the part where I am always full and never satisfied. Who knew that bread was so important to me? Well, I did, actually. I did know that bread was very important to me. Hence my instinctive recoil when my husband first suggested this low-carb diet. But I guess some things just have to be experienced despite the fact that we don’t need to learn our lesson. What’s the lesson here, really? That high protein and low carbs make me hate everyone? Apparently so.

It’s not as bad as when I was recovering from the jaw surgery and I was always hungry yet had lost the will to eat. That was incredibly depressing. This is less depressing (although still depressing) and more…I don’t know. It’s just this pervasive sense of discontent. I am irritable. And lonely. I mean, I was lonely before, but before, I at least had peanut butter sandwiches to keep me company. I haven’t had a peanut butter sandwich since February. It’s like being in Japan, only with much less rice.

Today, in my ongoing quest to eschew carbs, I ate tofu spaghetti for dinner. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Well, the texture is revolting (albeit very Japanese). But mind over matter, the taste is not bad. It’s not much of anything, really. It’s like eating rice noodles, only with a crap-ton of protein and no carbs. It’s like 15 calories a serving or something. The amusing thing is that on the packaging it says that the noodles have a “mild, earthy aroma” that goes away after you rinse them. Indeed. Well, I didn’t notice, frankly (although I did rinse them, of course). I was less concerned about that than the possibility that they would touch my tongue and my gag reflex would kick in. And I’ll have you know that I like tofu. I just like actual pasta that much more. But whatever. As I said, it wasn’t bad. Plus, there were meatballs.

There has been a lot of meat on this diet. I downloaded a calorie counting app mainly for the purpose of making sure that I would actually lose weight on this diet–and also so that I would know how much wiggle room I had in the event that I snapped and found myself eating a cheeseburger out of pure instinct. The calorie counting app is both very useful and very annoying. It tells me that in order to meet my weight loss goal, I need to take in no more than 1,400 net calories per day, and also that 20% of the calories should be from protein, 30% from fats, and 50% from carbs. Well, if 50% of my calories were from carbs, I would be hungry all day long. I exceed my protein goal every single day. I also exceed my fat goal (pretty much) every day. And my sodium goal. All of those things are off the charts. I’ve never thought of myself as a high-sodium-diet type of gal, but apparently sodium lurks in the most unexpected places. The calorie app will pick the oddest moments to chastise me. Like, I eat a banana and it tells me to watch my sodium intake. I don’t know if bananas actually have sodium in them, but I can’t remember the exact (fresh, unadulterated) fruit or vegetable I was eating when it reminded me of my goal to stay under (some obnoxiously low number) grams of sodium.

Conversely, when I record eating a snack food that is obviously a substitute for something more unhealthy (because no one in their right mind would eat it for fun), it extolls said diet food for being rich in niacin or whatever. (I’m just picking nutrients at random. As long as the calorie app is full of crap, I feel like I can be too.) This is another part of being on a diet that is affecting my lifestyle. I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time in grocery stores looking for low-carb snacks that will distract me from my actual cravings. Needless to say, this is time spent in vain.

The one pleasant discovery I have made is that Dannon’s Triple Zero yogurt is both low in carbs and totally worth eating. In fact, I prefer it to regular yogurt because regular yogurt is really too sweet for my taste. I will continue to eat Triple Zero yogurt even after I’ve given up on not (eventually) becoming fat because I like it. Either I have forgotten what real food tastes like, or it is a miracle of science. Another possibility: it is secretly giving me cancer. But it’s the only thing making this diet bearable, so I don’t really care at this point.

I’ve had a couple days where the calorie app tells me I’m not eating enough, and it’s not going to cooperate with me until I stop making like I have an eating disorder. The trouble is that it’s so easy to go from 999 calories to 1,700. Really, all you have to do is eat a slice of pizza and a couple wings. That’s what’s so aggravating about calories. They’re so easy to consume and so difficult to burn. I could do 60 minutes of high-impact aerobics and only burn the equivalent of, like, 10 french fries. It’s not remotely just or right. Mother Nature really is a bitch.

I’ve never believed the old slogan “nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” I can think of 1,000 things off the top of my head that taste infinitely better than thin feels. Now, I imagine that nothing tastes as good as not having heart disease feels, or as good as being able to tie your own shoes feels, but merely being thin does not actually feel that good. I’ve been thin. I mean, I would describe my figure now as “relatively slender” (everything being relative, of course), but I am not currently what I would call objectively “thin.” I have been thin before, though–it was right after I weaned Mister Bubby and before I got pregnant with Elvis. It was the thinnest I had been since before puberty, probably, but a) I didn’t look good, and b) I did not feel good. Well, I might have looked good in clothes, but when I stepped out of the shower and saw myself in the mirror, I would think, “Ugh. That’s not okay.” And it was during a time of my life when I was very unhappy, so I have no fond memories of being thin. I have fond memories of when I was 24 and my breasts were still firm, but that is another story. All I can tell you is that a whole lot of things taste better than being thin feels. And I would love to be eating any of them right now.

The good news (I guess) is that the diet has worked. In the sense that I have met my weight loss goal. I would take more satisfaction in that if a) most of the weight hadn’t come from my (already small) bosom, and b) I didn’t know that I am destined to gain it all back as soon as I start eating peanut butter sandwiches again. I mean, I’m 45 years old. (Very close to it, anyway.) Menopause grows ever closer. I will never be able to eat like a pro wrestler with impunity again. And I really don’t want to spend what’s left of my life never having the super nachos. (Especially if this delicious low carb yogurt is giving me cancer.) So yes, I think it is just a matter of time before I gain it all back. And probably not a matter of all that much time.

The other good news is that this summer we’ll be in Japan for four weeks, and I will probably be able to lose it all over again. But that’s another blog post for another day. Gentle readers, adieu.

So now it’s time to move on to fiction. Since most of what I read is fiction, and I read a lot, I’m going to organize it (sort of) by genre. This edition will feature all the fiction that isn’t mystery/suspense or romance. Some titles are more highbrow than others, of course, but this is just what I’m doing. Try to roll with it.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
This is a book of short stories, all about Indian immigrants and their children in the United States. (At least I think they’re all in the United States. Well, one is in England. They’re not in India, that much I can tell you.) I really don’t have that much to say about it except that the writing is beautiful and the stories are interesting. (Not all beautifully written stories are interesting.) If you enjoyed Lahiri’s The Namesake (which I did), you will enjoy these stories too. 5/5 stars

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
I think one reviewer called this book The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club. Actually, that’s what it says on Amazon. I knew I’d seen it somewhere. Anyway, they had me at “nineteenth century lady pugilist.” The story begins with young Ruth, who is plucked from the obscurity of her mother’s brothel to enter the glamorous world of professional boxing. The story is narrated by several characters, who seem only tangentially related to each other at first, but over the course of the book, their stories all come together. I found this book very difficult to put down, and I loved the two main female characters. The fight scenes and the brothel scenes got a little gnarly, but if that sort of thing doesn’t bother you, I highly recommend this one. 5/5 stars

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
I was not particularly interested in this Pulitzer Prize winner until I learned the story behind it, which intrigued me. Toole died young and unpublished; his mother found this manuscript, written out longhand, among his effects, and asked a publisher friend (Walker Percy, actually) to look at it. Percy reluctantly agreed, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a brilliant novel. So it got published and eventually won the Pulitzer Prize. How crazy is that? So I read it, and I agree that the author’s mom did the right thing. The main character is not loveable. He’s a pompous, gluttonous, inconsiderate, slothful guy in his thirties who lives with his mother and is forced by life’s circumstances to finally seek employment. As he goes from one job to the next, he meets a number of unsavory and/or crazy characters. It’s an absurd story, but a hilarious one. 5/5 stars

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
I saw The Exorcist, years ago, and I have to say that at the time, my reaction was “meh.” I realize it should not have been “meh,” that The Exorcist is a film classic and super freaky and whatnot, but nevertheless, that was how I felt about it. Maybe I’d been jaded by too many horror films. I don’t know. With the book, I think, I got a better sense of the themes of evil and faith and the nature thereof. It’s kind of slow-paced, as I remember the movie being, but not in a bad way. It definitely held my interest. But in case you’ve never seen the movie, I’ll warn you: it gets absolutely revolting. In case you have seen the movie but haven’t read the book, I’ll warn you: it’s even worse than the movie. I think Blatty overdid it in that department, frankly, but it’s still a good story. Not one to be read over breakfast, though. 4/5 stars

Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
This is another Pulitzer Prize-winner, though I probably would never have picked it up if it hadn’t been on sale for $1.99 on the Kindle. It’s about two American professors, a woman (Vinnie) and a man (Fred) from the same university who each take a sabbatical to England to work on their scholarly pursuits and end up having love affairs. (Affairs, separately, not an affair together. Despite being colleagues, they don’t know each other well, and though their paths seldom cross during the story, the rare crossing thereof is consequential to the story.) Its Pulitzer-Prizeness notwithstanding, this book is fairly understated. I don’t imagine it will change anyone’s life, but I enjoyed it quite a lot. There was humor, but also pathos. I found Vinnie’s story more compelling than Fred’s, but Fred’s was sort of a necessary contrast. The ending is poignant. 4/5 stars

After Dark by Wilkie Collins
I’d read Collins’ The Woman in White and also Basil, both of which I greatly enjoyed, so I expected somewhat more from this book of stories, some of which were interesting and entertaining, and some of which were “meh.” I read the free Kindle edition, and I’m pretty sure that the first story was missing a few pages in the middle–like the part where something happens to somebody. Kind of important. That story might have been awesome, for all I know, but heavily abridged as it was, it was worse than “meh.” So if you decide to read this one, spring for the non-free edition, as I assume it probably has all the words. 3/5 stars

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carole Rifka Brunt
Fourteen-year-old June, who is mourning the passing of favorite uncle (possibly her only uncle, but nevertheless, her favorite) from AIDS, strikes up an unlikely friendship with the uncle’s surviving boyfriend, who had heretofore been kept a secret. Not that the uncle’s gayness was secret, but the boyfriend’s existence was hidden from June because June’s mother, sister of the aforementioned uncle, hated him (the boyfriend) and would only let her brother see her daughters on the condition that they never, ever meet the boyfriend. But June does meet him and embarks on a secret friendship with him. It has to be a secret because June’s mother would freak out if she knew. So–intrigue. It sounds like something of an after-school special, the way I describe it, but it’s much better than that. (More of an Oprah’s Book Club type book, only also better than that. Actually, it looks like it was an Oprah selection. Well, so were Song of Solomon and A Prayer for Owen Meany. Not that this is necessarily in that category. NOT THAT IT’S NOT. I’m just saying.) It’s a coming of age story for June, but it’s also about her relationship with her family, particularly her sister (who is going through her own crap). I liked it mucho. 4/5 stars

Native Son by Richard Wright
So I’d never read Native Son before this (obvs, or I wouldn’t be including it in my January-February 2016 edition), nor Black Boy. No Richard Wright whatsoever, as far as I know. I probably would not have gotten around to it, except that–wait for it–it was $1.99 on the Kindle. Still, I was sort of putting off reading it because last year I went through a period where I was reading The Souls of Black Folk, Up from Slavery, and Invisible Man, all in maybe a two week period, and I sort of overdosed on black oppression. I know, that’s quite a confession for a middle-aged white woman from the suburbs to make, but there it is. (All three of the aforementioned books are quite good, incidentally, though Invisible Man is long and sort of an acquired taste. I think it helps to have read T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.) Anyway, I enjoyed Native Son much more than I expected to. If you don’t know the story, it’s about a young black man who accidentally kills a young white woman (the daughter of his new employer, as it happens–long story), and let’s just say it gets more complicated from there. The main character is not especially sympathetic. In fact, he’s kind of a brute. Despite that, his story is very compelling (I had a hard time putting the book down, actually–I know I say that a lot, but it happens to me a lot, okay?), and in the end I did end up sympathizing with him, despite everything. A very thought-provoking book. (High praise from a middle-aged white woman from the suburbs. I’m sure Richard Wright is posthumously flattered.) 5/5 stars

And that wraps it up for the highbrow portion of Mad’s Book Club: Multi-Episodic Edition. Next time: genre novels, including some fairly trashy ones. Stay tuned!

I know I promise fiction tomorrow (which is today, so in other words, I promised fiction today), but two days ago I said I’d talk about my stupid low-carb diet and that’s what I’m in the mood to talk about today, so that’s what I’m doing.

I know I said, after my restrictive jaw surgery recovery diet was finally over, that I would never go on another diet again as long as I lived, that I would rather be fat, but I changed my mind. Not that I’m fat (yet). That’s the problem. It’s not that I’m fat (unless you’re looking for a runway model, in which case, sure, I’m a whale); it’s that I have a fear of becoming fat. Which sounds very fat-shaming, now that I actually type it out loud. I don’t think I have unrealistic expectations for how my body should look. I know I’m 45 years old and I will never have tight abs (or any abs) and my butt will always be big. I know I’m not going to be 130 lbs. again in this lifetime, and that’s okay. I had four kids, my husband still finds me attractive, and I’m not planning to have a second career in Hollywood. But I have put on about ten pounds in the last year (which is my net gain–not my Bridget Jones losing-and-gaining-back gain), which is not a big deal, except that the last time I weighed this much, I was pregnant (which was ten years ago), and I don’t want to gain ten pounds every year. That means if I live another 20 years, I will gain 200 more pounds, which will put me at a weight I’ve never been, even while pregnant. Unacceptable!

I think you are probably starting to see now what I’m about. It isn’t rational to fear that because one is four pounds over the most she said she would ever allow herself to weigh, one must necessarily be on track to gain 200 pounds in 20 years. In fact, my metabolism is probably overdue for slowing down. Aforementioned metabolism was pretty darn awesome for the first 35 years of life, which encouraged some unfortunate dietary habits, which have continued unabated even as the metabolism has decided that it’s had enough of the rat race and will now retire to a beach in Tahiti where it will lie in the sun and drink the drinks with the little umbrellas in them, now and forever. If only my body could enjoy my metabolism’s retirement, which sounds pretty dreamy, if you like the beach, but also very fattening. My metabolism doesn’t have to buy new clothes, because it’s not literally an anthropomorphic entity literally residing on a beach, which is probably clothing-optional anyway because why not? The metaphor itself is probably what needs to be retired at this point.

So, yes, it is normal to put on weight at my age, and I am not obese, despite what the BMI charts expect me to believe. I have eyes; I can see I am not obese. I can also see that there are lots of women out there who weigh at least as much as I do and look just fine, feel just fine, and lead happy and productive lives. Perhaps if I led a happy and productive life, I would not feel the need to weigh less than a particular number. I can still wear most of my clothes. The only clothes I can’t wear anymore are clothes I’ve had since my early twenties, and yes, I probably should just get rid of them, but I have a sentimental attachment to my plaid skirt and cannot face the possibility–strikeout–reality that I will never wear it again. Especially since I’ve never seen another plaid skirt of its kind in my size. Maybe when I do, I will let go of the dream and allow some other, thinner person at the Goodwill to know the joy of this particular garment. I can see Marie Kondo shaking her head and rolling her eyes at me, but you know what? Until Marie Kondo figures out a way I can get everyone else in my household to toss the items that don’t spark my joy, I am keeping my too-small-but-fabulous plaid skirt and she can kiss my big toe. (A humorous reference to my considerable butt was too obvious.)

Have I spent all this time trying to justify going on a diet or trying to justify going off my diet? This is only day 5 of the diet, mind you. I’m not starving. It’s not a stupid diet. It’s a very reasonable diet and will probably make me healthier. I want to be healthier because that is the main reason I don’t want to get fat. I am not a fit person. I’ve been tap dancing and clogging for more than a decade, and I still can’t run up the stairs inside my own house without my legs screaming at me afterwards. I can’t run on level ground for more than probably 30 seconds without stopping to catch my breath–and then I can’t start again. I’m old and everything hurts, and all I can think is that the more I weigh, the harder it will be to do all the things I really shouldn’t have this much trouble doing. I hurt my back in December and finally went to the doctor a couple weeks ago. She sent me to the physical therapist, who has assigned me some simple, very low-impact core-strengthening exercises. I used to joke that my abdominal muscles just disappeared with my last pregnancy, but I’m beginning to think that is actually what happened because these simple, very low-impact core-strengthening exercises are murdering me. I feel like I should get an x-ray or something and see if the abdominal muscles are really still there and make sure they haven’t become empty husks or something. I can still suck in my gut, so in theory I must have some abdominal muscles, yes? I just don’t get it.

I just want a peanut butter sandwich. I want a peanut butter sandwich because I’m sad and I’m more sad that I can’t have a peanut butter sandwich. I wouldn’t even need jelly, just peanut butter. I wouldn’t even need two slices of bread, just one. And a glass of milk. Not skim milk, real milk. But that would be one-third of my allotted calories for the day and the calorie-counting app I downloaded for my phone would scold me in red letters about my fat intake. It just isn’t worth it. (I hate being scolded, especially in red letters! It’s a pretty useful app otherwise, if you like that sort of thing.) And I need to get off my butt and exercise now if I want to be in the black at the end of the day, so I will quit typing now, as typing doesn’t burn calories (unfortunately).

You know what else ought to burn calories but doesn’t? Making salads. What a time suck. But I digress. Gentle readers, adieu.

I stopped doing book reviews a long time ago because a) I find them very time-consuming (mainly because I feel obligated to provide links to every book I review–it seems only right) and b) I read a lot of books, and I’d rather read than write book reviews, even short ones. Even blurbs. But I happen to be in the mood today, so here goes.

These are all the books I’ve read so far this year. I’ve decided to divide them by genres, just for the sake of showing off how organized I can be.

Non-fiction

Non-fiction comes first because the first book I read this year was a non-fiction book.

Children of Monsters: An Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators by Jay Nordlinger
I have often wondered about the families of individuals who do evil things. I remember the Jonesboro school shooting, which happened when Princess Zurg was just a baby. My first thought was about the parents–not of the victims, but of the shooters, who were only 11 or 12 years old. Specifically, my thought was, How horrifying to learn that your baby is a monster. Whenever I hear about some horrible thing like a school shooting or other mass murder, my heart goes out to the victims’ families, obviously, but I can’t help thinking about the people who have to live with what their son or brother or husband did. These were the people who knew the monsters as something other than monsters. In the case of this book, it’s all about the children, of course. Some of the stories are more interesting than others, but Jay Nordlinger could probably write a new edition of the phone book and I would enjoy reading it, so there’s that. 4/5 stars

What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton
I got this on a whim because it was free. Never read G.K. Chesterton before. This is a series of essays on social problems. He was very anti-feminist, and I disagree with him strongly on that front, but his writing is consistently entertaining, and I felt edified by his perspective. Humorous and thought-provoking (if occasionally full of crap–it was a hundred years ago). 4/5 stars

A Train of Powder by Rebecca West
This book contains the series of long New Yorker articles she did about the Nuremberg Trials, which were interesting–the articles, that is–but I was actually more fascinated by the shorter pieces on other, less notorious trials (all murder cases, as I recall). She tells a story from all different points of view. One piece focuses a lot on a fisherman who discovered the victim’s body, and how the experience affected him. Interesting ruminations on crime and justice. 4/5 stars

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews
Generally, I’m not big on celebrity memoirs. I’m just not interested in most celebrities’ lives, even the ones I like. (Two exceptions: I couldn’t help picking up Alison Arngrim’s Confessions of a Prairie Bitch–because come on, Nellie Olsen–and Neil Patrick Harris’s Choose Your Own Autobiography–because Choose-Your-Own-Autobiography. Both very good if you don’t absolutely hate memoirs and refuse to read them on principle–although I’m usually in that category myself.) I wouldn’t have read this book–even though I like Julie Andrews very much–except that it was chosen for a book group I’m in. I actually didn’t end up attending that meeting, which makes me wonder if it was truly worth reading this book–but I can’t say it was a bad memoir. If Julie Andrews interests you, it’s a very good memoir. She talks about her life growing up–her mother was a hot mess–and the beginning of her career, and the chapters tend to be on the short side, so it’s easy to pick up and put down. If Julie Andrews doesn’t interest you, there’s nothing here to make you think she’s more interesting than you thought she was. 3/5 stars

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai  
Another memoir I read for the same book group mentioned above. (That meeting hasn’t taken place yet, but I requested the book from the library early, thinking I might have a lengthy wait, which turned out not to be the case. I know it’s kind of an old book at this point, but this was the digital edition we’re talking about, and I’ve waited months for books older than this one.) Malala’s story is very compelling, and I was fascinated by her parents, particularly her father. Not to give all the attention to the man in the story, but Malala couldn’t have become the remarkable and courageous young woman she is without the influence and support of her father, who was equally courageous and perhaps even more remarkable, considering that he didn’t have a similar role model of his own and that he was raised in an extremely patriarchal society. But Malala is, of course, awesome. She is also ordinary, which is charming. (She likes Justin Bieber, which just goes to show that it takes all kinds to change the world.) That said, the book is sort of uneven in quality–but, you know, she is a teenage girl. I’m 45 years old and still haven’t written a book, and also haven’t gotten shot for trying to learn (or for any reason), so I can probably just go to hell. 3.5/5 stars

That’s all I’ve got time for today. We’ll move on to fiction tomorrow. Or, you know, whenever I get around to it.

So apparently the whole world’s gone crazy. Just kidding, it’s only about a third of Republican voters across America who have gone crazy, and I’m not sure “gone” is the appropriate word. They are just revealing the full extent of their crazy, letting their freak flag fly at full staff. Do you know how difficult it is to say “freak flag fly”? I even say it wrong in my brain as I’m typing. But that’s not the point. The point is that a third of Republican voters are a) straight up racists, b) complete loony toons, or c) racist loony toons. I mean, I always knew there was a faction of racist loony toons in the GOP, but I always figured that the percentage of genuine loony toons in either of the two major parties couldn’t be above 15 percent, and I reckoned that the Republican platform was too wussified to satisfy most racists, especially the loony toon variety. That’s what third parties are for. I mean, if I were a racist (who was also a little cuckoo), I would not settle for some pansy Republican, even if he did work for Pat Buchanan once. I guess that just shows what I know about American racists—or rather, what I knew about American racists. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, I know a lot more. Thanks a lot, Donald Trump. Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with democracy!

So. There’s that. It’s an interesting time we live in, isn’t it? I didn’t think I could be more depressed than I was on Election Day 2012, but oh my goodness, how wrong I was. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy this second Obama administration more because January 2017 is looking more and more like a f***ing nightmare.

To tell you the truth, I am not really afraid that Donald Trump will actually become President. I find that highly unlikely. As I was telling some friends the other day, elections are decided by people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean. I realize that Hillary is not popular, but she does have a couple things going for her: a) she probably isn’t a racist and b) she doesn’t send out drunk tweets at 3 a.m. insulting whoever pissed her off that day. I’d say that’s enough to give her an edge in the general election, even if she is a chick. In fairness, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump isn’t actually a racist but just plays one on TV (and radio and Twitter and all public platforms). Also, he might not actually be drunk when he’s on Twitter. It’s probably just his personality, which I think has its own entry in the DSM-V. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here and also there is that Donald Trump is an unstable narcissist and a bully with stronger-than-average totalitarian instincts. He’s wholly unsuitable to be President in terms of both character and temperament, not to mention being deficient in relevant experience—unless he’s planning to bribe two-thirds of Congress just like he’s been bribing politicians his whole career. Which might actually be his plan. It would not surprise me. But only because I’m completely incapable of being surprised anymore. Not after Chris Christie endorsed Trump the other day. Put a fork in me, America, because I’m done. As Jar-Jar Binks used to say, MY GIVE UP. What more can happen?

My son, who’s been very interested in this election, kept asking me who I’d vote for if Trump and Clinton were the nominees. At first I just said, “I hope it will not come to that (please, God).” But since it’s started looking more and more like that’s exactly what it will come to, I’ve said I will either vote for nobody or I’ll vote Libertarian, WHICH I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, mainly because third parties are for loony toons and dreamers, and a dreamer I am not. (I take it back—partly. I did vote for a Libertarian once, for state senate, I think. He didn’t win, so whatever. Voting in Oregon is sort of pointless.) That answer is most disappointing for Mister Bubby because he knows as well as I do that voting third party is a waste of franchise—poor-spirited and not a little bit masturbatory (though I don’t use the word “masturbatory” in front of my fifteen-year-old son—I’m genteel that way). But I don’t know what else to do. I won’t vote for Donald Trump, and I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I am physiologically incapable of doing either. It makes my soul hurt to think about it.

I know what you all are thinking—well, the Democratic portion of y’all, anyway: What’s so bad about Hillary? Well, I’d like to say she’s not that bad. Compared to Donald Trump, she seems downright Reaganesque. But she’s not actually Reaganesque. She’s actually Clintonesque, which is not a recommendation. Might she be the lesser of two evils? Well, worst case scenario, door #1 or door #2, maybe Hillary is the lesser of two evils, but here’s the thing about Hillary: while she is neither a racist nor suffering from a form of mental illness—two of the more underrated virtues in our time—she is still nakedly corrupt and a congenital liar and should probably be in prison. No, we won’t argue about it. To tell you the truth, I have always kind of liked Hillary, on a personal level—never enough to vote for her, naturally, because her politics do not align with mine, but I’ve always believed (and continue to believe) that a lot of the animosity toward her is born (at least in part) of old-fashioned misogyny. She doesn’t have her husband’s charisma, but I kind of find her lack of charisma charming in itself. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of one’s more-charismatic husband. (Not that I would ever compare my husband to Hillary’s husband because my husband is not an incontinent creep.) So I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Hillary. Even after all I’ve learned about her over the years, I still have a lingering fondness for her. I can’t help it. (Just as I can’t spend five minutes watching Bill Clinton work a room and not find him perversely charming, in a ya-big-galoot kind of way. Certainly not in any other way. ::shudder:: ) If I’d had my druthers in 2008, Hillary would have been the nominee, and not because I thought McCain could beat her (although I think he probably could have), but because I thought she would make a better President than Barack Obama. (A low bar, to be sure, but without low bars, how much would I be able to achieve in my own life? Low bars are underrated.)

But after all these years, I think I know Hillary pretty well. I know what she is. I don’t trust her not to do things that are unethical and/or illegal. If I voted for her, I wouldn’t be able to complain about her later (almost inevitably) abusing her power (as 99.98% of politicians are wont to do, but especially the ones whose last name is Clinton) because I knew what she was when I voted for her and I was basically asking her to abuse my trust. Not to pre-blame the victim (that would be me), but I like to fancy myself cleverer than that.

I know many of you gentle readers are Hillary supporters, and I don’t begrudge you your Hillary support. We see the world differently. When Hillary abuses your trust, I will not blame you. I know that’s a real load off your mind. You’re welcome. I’m hardly under the illusion that the Republicans I’ve voted for have never abused my trust. I just didn’t know beforehand that they would do so. That would be the difference. At the risk of sounding like a self-indulgent third-party loony toon, it’s the principle of the thing. You shouldn’t be upset with me. At least I’m doing my part to siphon votes away from the Donald. For that you should be eternally grateful (if you’re not a racist loony toon).

Interestingly enough, I do not feel a great deal of animosity toward Donald Trump. He sickens me, but a lot of people do that. I’m not angry with Donald Trump, who’s just being himself. I’m angry with everyone who voted for him. Because seriously, what the hell, people? WHAT. THE EVERLOVING. CRAP. This isn’t the freaking circus. For the first few months, before the voting started, when it was just polls telling us Donald Trump was the Republican front runner (mostly because every Republican and his/her dog decided to run for President this year, so the basically-sane, non-racist vote was split 37 ways), I was merely confused. Baffled, that is. I did not get it. I assumed Trump supporters were just, I dunno, deluded, or possibly not very smart. (That may well be the case.) But I’m of a different mind now. I think Trump supporters are less stupid than they are destructive. They’re pissed off at any number of things—immigrants particularly, but also the bad economy and stagnant wages and whatnot–and they want to watch the world burn. They can vicariously live out their worst fantasies via this racist-blowhard-slash-dirtbag. It feels good to them. (It is also not a little bit masturbatory, not that you’ll catch me saying as much to my fifteen-year-old son.) But that doesn’t make it less gross.

Well, that was a load off my chest. I hardly know where it came from. After four years of political apathy, this post has been quite an emotional workout. And possibly very offensive. I’d blame Obama, but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Actually, I think I should blame the low-carb diet my husband talked me into doing with him this month. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say, I’m on Day 3 and I pretty much hate everyone now. Everyone, but especially salad. (You know what else I hate about Trump voters? THEY ARE PROBABLY EATING BREAD RIGHT NOW.) It’s not as bad as the liquid diet I was on after the jaw surgery. I’m not hungry, just extremely unfulfilled. I have a lot more to say about that, but it’s getting late and I’m just going to pull the trigger on this thing, even if it’s wrong. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. If you don’t see me tomorrow, possibly I have died inside. Died a lonely, bitter (and probably still ten pounds over my ideal weight but nevertheless probably not racist) Republican. Gentle readers, adieu.

So apparently the Iowa caucus was on Monday, and yesterday Rand Paul dropped out of the race. That surprised me, since I understood he was expected to do well in New Hampshire. Well, now we’ll never know, will we? Rand Paul has never been my guy, despite the internet quizzes that tell me we are very much in alignment on several issues. I appreciate that Rand Paul is the only Republican candidate with a robust understanding of the Fourth Amendment, but on the other hand, well, it’s difficult to take him seriously. That might be a personal failing of mine, but that’s neither here nor there, since we won’t have Rand Paul to kick around the rest of this primary. Maybe he ran out of money. Or maybe he just has better things to do. He is a senator, after all.

And this morning I read that Rick Santorum is also calling it quits. It came as something of a shock, like when Yogi Berra died–up ’til then I’d had no idea the cat was still alive. It’s good news, though (Santorum quitting, not the demise of Mr. Berra), since we could use fewer Republicans running for president. I appreciate his contribution to this cause. If only more of them would follow suit.

I have not been paying a great deal of attention to this race because a) I haven’t been paying much attention to the world in general since 2012, and b) nothing interesting ever happens anyway. Well, with the exception of Donald Trump’s campaign, which has been not so much interesting as horrifying. But it’s too easy to sit here and make snide remarks about Donald Trump. I prefer to work on pretending he isn’t there. If I ignore him long enough, do you think he’ll go away?

Historically, I have advocated that we choose presidents based on who would win in a fistfight. I thought Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were rather evenly matched in that regard, so I can’t say this method would have served me any better than the traditional one in 2012. This year is a little easier. For the Democrats, Hillary would win, hands down. Probably with both hands tied behind her back (with handcuffs, as they probably should be). For the Republicans, it’s a much closer call. For one thing, there are about 47 of these guys in the ring (plus Carly Fiorina). I didn’t even realize Rick Santorum was there until he wasn’t anymore. One thing’s for sure: Trump would be knocked out fairly early. He acts like he’s all ruthless and crap, but push comes to shove, he’s just another multi-millionaire who probably can’t be bothered to pick up his own socks, plus he whines whenever he doesn’t get his way, and that’s when someone–probably Jeb Bush–is going to sucker punch him. Jeb Bush doesn’t look like a tough guy, but I find it hard to believe he could grow up with W and not learn how to hold his own in a brawl. But he would probably get knocked out by Chris Christie.

Speaking of Chris Christie, I remember when he was a conservative favorite and people actually wanted him to run for president. Was it only four years ago? That part I don’t remember. What I do remember was Frank J. Fleming’s assertion that Chris Christie “would eat your candidate for lunch. Then he would eat his normal lunch.” Presently, Gov. Christie does not appear to be eating anyone’s lunch, normal or otherwise, but that’s just in the real presidential race. In the hypothetical take-it-to-the-octagon presidential race, Chris Christie would acquit himself rather well. Size matters in the octagon. But I reckon we’d find him surprisingly agile for a candidate of size. He’d probably dominate for a good portion of the contest. Lost opportunities.

But that’s not actually what I meant to talk about. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted this thing on the Facebook. For those of you too lazy to click, it’s the Presidents of the United States ranked by hotness. Oh, sure, now you click. Anyway, I could quibble here and there–Bill Clinton is ranked way too high, and there’s no way Jimmy Carter is hotter than Gerald Ford–but it seems more or less legit. So I wondered, what if we chose presidents on the basis of hotness? It’s an interesting question because a) what is hotness, really? and b) it’s pretty slim pickings in the political realm, as far as hotness goes, so you really have to use your imagination.

Again, I think it’s easy to decide the winner of the Democratic primary: it’s Martin O’Malley. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with me there.

I mean, come on.

Martin O’Malley

Right? I mean, before I looked him up on the internet, I would have said Hillary was a shoo-in. Because seriously.

Bernie Sanders

Right.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary looks great for 70, or whatever she is, but she’s no Martin O’Malley–sorry, girlfriend. I say he wins the primary and the general, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Republican primary is much, much trickier to judge. It’s a shame Rand Paul dropped out because he’s probably the best looking of the Republican candidates. (Believe me, I was surprised as you.) But let’s be scientific about this, i.e. gather some data.

Jim Gilmore

Yes, Jim Gilmore is still running for president. I checked. Not a bad-looking guy, by any stretch. Definitely doing better in this poll than in others. But what’s the competition like?

John Kasich

Also still running. You know, he has decent features, but something about him reminds me of the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files. It may be clouding my judgment.

Jeb Bush

Say what you will about the Bushes, but you can’t argue with the DNA. They’re an attractive family. Jeb’s looks have improved with age, and fortunately he’s not competing with his brother here (or his father, for that matter). I see a lot of Bar in him, actually. Overall, not too shabby. Don’t count Jeb out.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson is also a reasonably handsome fellow, though the glasses give him kind of a nerdy, mild-mannered look.

But while I was looking up photos of him on the internet, I came across this younger, smoother version of Dr. Carson.

Hello, ladies! Too bad this contest wasn’t being held 30 years ago, amirite?

Chris Christie

When you’re looking for “small” images of Chris Christie, the pickings are pretty slim (no pun or particular irony intended). Gov. Christie is an imposing figure, and he does have that teddy bear thing going for him, but I can’t pretend he’s in my top three.

Ted Cruz

I have tried and tried and tried to like Ted Cruz, mainly because a) he seems to be Trump’s main competition and b) he’s Jay Nordlinger’s guy, and I love Jay Nordlinger and want to love his guy, but I find I just can’t. There’s something about him that just rubs me the wrong way. He gives the impression that he finds a significant percentage of the electorate to be morons, and at the same time he keeps pandering to said morons (cynically, and I don’t mean that in a good way). There’s something slippery, almost Clintonesque about him. I’m probably being unfair. I can’t claim to be paying the closest of attention to everything that’s gone on in this race, and to call a Republican “Clintonesque” is pretty rude. At least he’s better-looking than Clinton, but admittedly, that’s not saying much. Most of the time he looks kind of goofy to me.

But this picture I find very flattering. I like his nose. He reminds me a bit of Jeremy Northam here. If he could just always be shown from this angle, he’d make a very fine President indeed.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina has either an advantage or a disadvantage being the only woman in the group. Male hotness and female hotness are such different balls of string, if you know what I’m saying. (I’m not sure I do.) Carly’s an attractive woman, but can she go head-to-head with Martin O’Malley? I just don’t know.

Marco Rubio

Then there’s Marco Rubio, who is exactly eleven days younger than I am, but I always think he looks about fourteen years old. (It seems weird to vote for someone younger than me, even if it’s only by eleven days. It seems especially weird when I could probably pass for his mother.) Aesthetically, he appeals to me more than Ted Cruz does, most of the time, and unlike Ted Cruz, there is no angle or lighting that is especially beneficial to him. He pretty much always looks exactly like this. Does that make him more trustworthy, or just sort of a freak?

After eight years in the White House, he might finally look as old as I do. He will either have matured into greater handsomeness, or we will find a portrait of his withered visage in his attic. Meanwhile, I just can’t decide how I feel about him.

And then there’s this guy.

Donald Trump

Yes, that is the most flattering photograph I could find of him. I’m just going to say he looks very wealthy here.

Frankly, I just can’t decide. In the nice-guy-with-glasses category, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are about even, with maybe a slight edge to Ben Carson because he makes that goatee look good. Personally, I have to say I’m partial to Jim Gilmore. I can’t explain why. But for someone to compete with Martin O’Malley, I may have to go with Carly Fiorina or Marco Rubio (his youth has to count for something), or possibly a cardboard cutout of Ted Cruz from that very flattering angle. But I’m not confident about any of these choices.

What do you think, gentle readers? How would you rate the presidential candidates, according to hotness? Feel free to offer your assessment of historical presidential hotness as well. Could Walter Mondale have beaten Ronald Reagan? Of course he couldn’t have. But what about Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson? That’s a much tougher call.

So it’s January. Crazy, huh? 2016. The year my oldest child graduates from high school (knock on wood). Hard to believe, especially considering that when I was her age, I thought for sure the world would have come to an end before now. Funny how life works.

I believe that when last we spoke—I use the term “spoke” loosely—I had just come from an appointment with the doctor who had bloodied my toe and prescribed me an antibiotic that I had to take for three months to kill a fungal infection in said toe (and wherever else it might lurk). Three months is actually a rather long time. I’m on the third month now. I was supposed to get my liver function checked once a month while I was on this antibiotic. Guess how many times I’ve had it checked. That’s right, zero. I would probably know if my liver were failing, wouldn’t I? I mean, by now I certainly would. If it were failing. Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe on the day I take my last pill, I will just keel over from liver failure. I suppose that’s not the worst way I could go. But I reckon that won’t happen. I really enjoy not having a fungal infection. At least I hope the fungal infection’s gone. My toenail hasn’t really grown back yet, or really grown at all, frankly, but the doctor did say it would take about a year. In the meantime I have a somewhat awkward pedicure. Good thing I do my own pedicuring.

Anyway, that was November. Let me tell you what happened in December. First I got my braces off. No, I’m not kidding. It actually happened. That makes my time in braces a mere 4 years and 10 months, rather than the 576 I was afraid it was going to be. It was a Christmas surprise. I went in for an adjustment and my orthodontist said, “Well, you still have this one millimeter space that hasn’t closed yet. I’ve tried everything I can think of, but I can keep trying, if it’s bothering you.” I said, “Of course a one millimeter space bothers me. How could it not? It’s a whole FREAKING MILLIMETER. What the hell am I paying you for?” Just kidding, I didn’t say that at all. I told him the truth, which was that I wouldn’t know a one millimeter space from a half-millimeter space, and in fact I had not noticed this gaping chasm at all. So in that case, he said, we could go ahead and take the brackets off and make my retainer that very day. America!

I was hoping I’d look different when the braces came off, but it turns out I don’t really. I look pretty much the same. That’s okay. Better than looking worse, I guess.

Well, the second thing that happened in December was I got in a car accident. That’s neither here nor there except that it means we had to get a new minivan. Yes, I totaled another car, but I swear it wasn’t on purpose. Of course, if I’d known what a nice minivan my husband was going to buy… Just kidding. I totally wouldn’t have totaled the car on purpose. Car accidents are horrible. I’m beginning to feel like I just shouldn’t drive anymore. I’m sure my insurance company agrees. On the other hand, if I have to drive—which I do—I don’t mind doing it in a new minivan. (Except for that crippling paranoia I feel every time I go out on the road.) It’s much fancier than our old minivan. For one thing, the windows roll up and down, and all the doors open. Not only do the doors open, but they are automatic doors. I even have one of those fancy key fobs that will open the doors remotely. Of course, I am constantly opening the wrong side of the car because I can never remember which simple diagram represents what, but I figure I’ll get the hang of it eventually.

The bad news is that the check engine light went on about a week and a half ago. The good news is that the car’s still under warranty. The bad news is that the part that has to be replaced is hard to find, so the car’s been in the shop since Monday and will probably stay there for a while. In the meantime, we are making do with Sugar Daddy’s car, which, I have to say, does not seem nearly so fancy anymore next to the new minivan. It does have heated seats, though, which the fancy new minivan does not. SD’s always depriving me of these little things so I don’t get too spoiled. Speaking of spoiled, we are not really making do with just SD’s car, but we are relying heavily on my mother-in-law being willing to drive him to and from work. Proximity has its privileges, that is fo shizzle.

I said “fo shizzle” the other day and Princess Zurg thought it was really lame. Well, duh. Of course it’s lame. I’m 44 years old, obviously I am saying it IRONICALLY. Also, because it’s kind of fun. Because I’m 44 years old and I don’t give a crap anymore about sounding lame.

Or being lame, for that matter. You might say that I have finally embraced lameness as a way of life. I wouldn’t say that I endorse lameness as a way of life, but I probably could fool a lot of people into thinking I do, what with how intimate an embrace lameness and I are currently entangled in. So maybe the “fo shizzle” isn’t ironic. Maybe it’s whatever it has to be.

Currently, I feel like a day has been a success if I didn’t take a nap during it. By that standard, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have all been successes. I think. I don’t remember taking a nap yesterday. If I don’t remember it, it probably didn’t happen. No, I’m sure it didn’t. So, yes. Unmitigated successes, all three days. Can I make it four? Only tomorrow will tell.

I used to feel like a day was a success if I’d a) not taken a nap, b) exercised, c) did enough housework to make myself upset, and d) taken a shower. Showering can seem like such a burden sometimes, although in the end I’m always glad I did it. I have never regretted taking a shower, as far as I can remember. I have oft regretted the shower not taken. Let this be a lesson to you, kids: there is no substitute for personal hygiene. This paragraph has inspired me to slightly raise the bar for a successful day: a) no nap and b) at least one shower. Actually, (b) can compensate for want of (a) in a pinch, as far as I’m concerned. But by this standard, two of the last three days have been double successes.

It occurred to me the other day that I am probably depressed. I’m not sure what to do about it. My depression is sort of like my teeth—it used to be horrible and untreated. Now it is treated, but there’s still this one millimeter space I can’t seem to close no matter what I do. Actually, it’s more like a three or four millimeter space because I do notice it. I notice that I don’t write anymore, and I don’t have aspirations or plans, and I don’t have any close friends. If I wanted to be social, who would I call? If something wonderful happened to me, who would I tell?

I don’t like to complain about these things because it seems pretty douche-like to have a comfortable lifestyle and a minivan I don’t deserve and say that it’s not enough. I’m sure 95 percent of the world would like to be as unhappy as I am. There’s an old Far Side cartoon where two cows are in a sitting room or parlor or whatever; Mr. Cow is reading the newspaper and Mrs. Cow (wearing pearls, as I recall) is holding a martini and she says, “Wendell, I’m not content.” That is me. That has always been me, actually. I used to expect more from myself—or rather, I expected that eventually I would produce more, or contribute more—to my family, to my community, to humanity in general. But I seem to lack a certain essential quality—the quality that causes people to accomplish things.

I’ve tried to look at myself in a more charitable light. My mother, for example, was not a person of great accomplishments—I mean, most people aren’t, when you come right down to it—but you wouldn’t call her life a failure because what really matters in life, I think, is relationships, and she was a people person. I am not a people person. Even when it comes to my kids, whom I love—and who I think love me, most of the time—I feel like I don’t measure up. I mean, I’m not a failure as a mother. I’m not ridiculous enough to think that. Although I might be a failure on some level—I’m afraid I haven’t instilled the value of work in them, and it’s probably too late to make a difference on that front now. My credibility is completely shot. The ladies at my church have a book group, and every year they get together and pick the books they want to read that year, and there are always tons of suggestions in the self-help genre. This is where I differ from most Mormon women, I think. Self-help books don’t inspire me, they just depress me. Really, is there any hope for a woman who is depressed by good advice?

Well, this blog took a turn for the dark at some point, didn’t it? It’s a good thing I don’t have anything to prove. That I have embraced my lameness, as it were, because this post is lame. On the other hand, I did not have to take a nap in the middle of it, so SUCCESS.

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