I kept finding tiny bits of white string all over the house and it was driving me crazy. I’m sure it was something Riley tore up, John shrugged, and I agreed: of the two kids, Riley’s the one prone to worrying off pieces of whatever he’s holding or eating. Paper, crumbs, plastic, he leaves a little trail wherever he goes. The strings appeared in greater numbers until I finally figured it out: the cat had been peeing on a bathmat, then ripping at the fabric in a half-assed effort to bury her deposits. It was like solving the world’s lamest mystery. A brief flash of self-satisfaction — by jove, I think I’ve got it! — then UGH.

:::

A new friend of mine is wading through the murky waters of online dating. She sent me a screenshot of a man who had messaged her that he was 19 and looking for someone who could show him a thing or two. It’s every woman’s dream, I texted her. A man who has no idea what he’s doing and is sure to last all of two seconds. You can’t make this shit up, she says.

:::

I managed to lose the weight I wanted to lose all summer and I will tell you what that looks like at 44: it looks like a candle that has been burned in the middle. Tapered on the top and bottom, a slurry Videodrome disaster from armpit to pubic bone. Putting on a bra is like trying to shove a half-melted sno-cone into an inadequate cage of fabric, those elusive skinny jeans finally fit but my torso looks like the forehead of a hairless cat. I’m trying to be kind and loving to this aging skinsuit of mine but jesus.

:::

The gym I go to used to have two separate workout areas for men and women but they have finally conceded to modern times and have combined everything. Everyone is having a hard time getting used to the new locations for various machines and I must say, the men are by and large much LOUDER than the women when it comes to vocalizing their complaints. I’m sure it will all become routine soon enough but for now it is like being in a room filled with angry toddlers with access to heavy pieces of metal.

:::

I was in Walmart today — I needed a bathmat, you know — and I saw a guy whose face was absolutely covered in tattoos. There wasn’t a theme or any kind of cohesive design, it was just a bunch of blurry blue scribbles that looked pretty old and maybe the DIY variety. You wonder about a person like that, whether they are filled with regrets and if they could do it all over again, if they wouldn’t let an ink-stained needle come anywhere near their smooth unmarked flesh. Then again, maybe we’re all a bunch of scribbled-on collection of wrong turns and what-could-have-beens, just pushing our carts at Walmart.

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My favorite podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking started a writing club, and this is the first prompt:

Let’s start with the obvious: HOW ARE YOU, REALLY? Journal honestly, about how you feel today.

Right now, today, I’m doing pretty well. That for sure was not the case last week but I made it through some hard days to the post-crisis-mode land of Whew, That’s Better and I mostly feel like things are going to be okay even though I need a flashlight at 4 PM and that is very depressing.

It’s funny how conditioned we are to respond to that question. I met up with a new friend last week who was privy to all the crap I was struggling with and the first thing she asked when she saw me was “How are you doing?” My reply came out as mechanically as a paper parking garage ticket: “GOOD.”

It was such a ridiculous non-answer I actually corrected myself, despite all the social politeness warning bells going off in my brain: “Well, I’ve had better weeks.”

Being honest when things aren’t going well means being vulnerable, which is, I don’t know, the hardest thing in the entire fucking world? Especially when you’re still getting to know someone and it would be a lot less scary to just say “I’m fine!” and keep it light, keep it breezy, ask about after-school sports and manicure salon recommendations, don’t just be like “PLEASE ENJOY THE WEEPY DISASTER THAT IS ME,” oh my god.

I have to remind myself that real human connections require me to be brave enough to undo the padlock around my terrified inner self, the one deploying every safety measure possible in a flurry of avoidance techniques. We don’t find our ride or die people by sticking to the script.

Here’s to real answers to the polite questions.

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