It probably sounds strange to say that a cruise ship with over 3,000 people onboard is a great place to get away from it all — I mean, yes, it’s more like you’re plunged into a teeming mass of humanity, and despite the truly jaw-dropping size of the ship you’re constantly darting through crowds and lining up in great Purell-drenched droves for meals — but I think there’s a comforting sort of anonymity that comes with the bustle. At least if you’re an antisocial creeper like I am, who greatly prefers to hole up with a book and surreptitiously observe the activity rather than participate in any of it.

Also comforting is the gentle rocking movement of the ship, at least I think it is. The popularity of Sea-Bands tells me not everyone feels this way, but this was my fourth cruise and I’ve always been pleasantly lulled by the sway and churn, even on bumpier nights when everyone’s footsteps take on a comical avoiding-the-sandworm stagger-pattern.

I am blessed with not only a crippling inability to make small talk, but also no sense of direction whatsoever, which makes for a double whammy on a ginormous ocean liner filled with 1) friendly people looking for sparkling conversation, and 2) a stateroom that’s approximately 278 nautical miles from, say, the nearest deck chair. You know that awkward moment when you’re the only person in a hallway with someone heading your direction, and you’re never sure when to start smiling at them? Too early and you’re forced to hold a maniacal toothy grin for a horrific amount of time, too late and you’re a standoffish shitweasel. Probably the most stressful part of the trip were my many scurries along a hall with no end in sight, clenching bloody crescents into my palms as I desperately tried to calculate juuuuuuust the right moment to look up and arrange my features into some sort of confident ahoy-there expression that conveyed “Warm greetings” rather than “Please baby Jesus let’s just smile and not actually speak because if I have to expend one more iota of effort I’m just going to hurl myself off the lido deck, while stopping at the dessert table for another plate of brownies of course because I paid to gain ten pounds, by god, not five.”

Gosh, am I making cruising sounding fun and relaxing yet? Oh, I swear, it really is. And I’m sure you’re much better at humaning than I am.

I passed on the plethora of origami classes, scrapbooking seminars, and karaoke performances, but I did make my way onto the ship’s ice rink at one point, because come on, there was an ice rink. I love the idea of the Royal Caribbean execs sitting around brainstorming the most WTF feature to add. “Bull riding …? NASCAR. No, wait, a Costco. Or how about Frisbee golf? No no no, I’ve got it — ICE SKATING. Haaaaa, just picture these buffet-fattened fools careening around the rink on formal night.” I was exactly as awesome at ice skating as I figured I’d be, which is to say I wobbled violently along the wall for about two and half minutes before my legs went all Bambi, but I can now mark that particular experience off the Bad Idea Bucket List I don’t actually have, which is to say if I ever am forced to make such a list, I can immediately pencil in “ice skate on a moving cruise ship within a matter of months after breaking my tibia” and check it with a flourish.

(Hmm, I realize I’ve missed some commentary here. Short story: I fractured a bone back in May and spent quite a bit of time in an impressive Robocop-like brace. I’m pretty much all healed up, although I suspect my right leg may always be a little gimpy compared to the left. “Well, it’s just shitty now,” as Louis C.K. says in his bit about seeing a doctor after you’ve turned forty.)

A week with my mom and aunt was an absolute gift — oh, they are wonderful to be around, and conversation is particularly stress-free with them since we’re all on the same side of the political fence, which is, ah, a bit of a novelty for me these days — and I also enjoyed all the opportunities I had to strike out on my own, whether that was hopping on a boat in Victoria or simply lolling on my balcony and watching the waves go by. A true highlight was the private tour the three of us went on in San Francisco, hosted by an unforgettable gentleman named Holger. He not only drove us to a delightful number of sites, including a few stops I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought of on my own (the cable car museum and Lucasfilm HQ were equally great), he kept up a running German-accented chatter that charmed us silly, while all the while a music compilation he’d made ahead of time somehow magically narrated every twist and turn. “Now you know,” he said at one point as his van climbed a hill so steep I felt my eyeballs crash into the back of my skull, “Vat goes up … must come down!” before stomping on the gas and flying nose-down over the top as we shrieked in terror/delight, the gorgeous city tilted all around us, and the speakers dramatically swelled with some perfectly-chosen orchestral piece — Carl Orff’s “O My Loosening Bowels,” perhaps.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen San Fransisco when it wasn’t draped in fog, and we lucked out with two perfectly sunny days. Victoria was also cheery and blue-skied and impossibly quaint, and even the fact that I ended up canvassing pretty much the entire city on a repeated search for my return shuttle to the ship (“Just look for the bus at the same place we dropped you off!” turned out to be something of a polite pile of maple-scented mooseshit) was fine, because it was so nice to be walking in such a pretty locale and having multiple excuses to stop back in the Lush store I kept passing.

All in all, it was a wonderful vacation, and a rare treat to get away from my children long enough to miss every single thing about them, even the Nerf darts, cast-off socks, and cracker crumbs they leave wherever they go. Life has returned to its usual unglamorous cycle of laundry and homework-helping, but I came home with so many happy memories. A+++, would cruise again.

sunrise from my balcony

(PS: If you’re still seeing spammy dick-pill links, I am so sorry, a tech-savvy Good Samaritan is working on it for me and it should be fixed soon.)

Have you seen those articles about how crappy clothes are piling up in landfills? Apparently a whopping 10.5 million tons gets thrown away every year, probably because of places like H&M and Old Navy where you can a massive tub of sorta-trendy mostly-shitty stuff and feel like you saved money, even though it would have made more sense to buy one decent shirt instead of seventy-eight ill-fitting mostly transparent tops with a halfhearted blort of glitter dumped down the front to make it seem dressy.

I am absolutely to blame for at least a third of the landfill problem, I’m certain of it. I tell myself over and over and OVER again: don’t buy clothes at any place with pumped-in music that sounds vaguely familiar because it’s been run through some sort of algorithm that makes every song appealing to harried moms who are just throwing things over their arms willy-nilly, not even bothering to try it on because we all want to delay the magical hope that the $4.99 dress is going to be flattering and not, in fact, look like a moth-eaten barley sack that’s been blasted by a crew of vision-impaired burros trained to stomp on fabric dye dispensers, don’t DO it. If the place selling clothes also sells cat litter and novelty yogurt flavors like “Chunks N’ Flecks: Birthday Cake Batter Surprise!” or “XTREME BERRY D-STROYR,” don’t ALSO buy the leggings designed to look like they have belt loops as if anything called a “jegging” is going to look like anything other than a half-chewed denim sausage casing once you haul it over your shocked, recoiling midsection.

But I never listen to my own self. I have this thing coming up — a cruise! I’m going on a BOAT, you guys! — and I am inappropriately excited about the chance to swan around the deck on formal night pretending like we’re not all terrified of getting norovirus or attacked by pirates or being forced to shit in a bucket for half the journey. And of course I’ve been like, I have NOTHING for a cruise, so I’d better do some shopping! Which is why I’m bringing a suitcase full of Bedazzled t-shirts with necklines that are supposed to be on trend but really just expose one nipple while cutting off circulation in the opposite armpit, along with at least five pairs of cheap pants that promised to do amazing things to my ass but in fact just channel Jessica Simpson’s infamous Mom Jeans look, complete with gapping pockets and a butt crack that rivals the Grand Canyon.

Afterwards, I’ll consider donating everything, but it will have fallen apart/self-immolated out of shame, and thus: LANDFILL WASTE. I am everything wrong with America, including the fact that I figured the best place to complain about this was on my long-defunct blog, which may or may not send out spammy notifications once I hit publish, sorry in advance if you got a penis pill link from me, I promise I am not trying to increase your penis size, I’m sure your penis is just fine the way it is, and if not there’s surely an Old Navy solution to hide your micro-dong, for only $3, plus you can buy makeup in the checkout line as long as you figure an ingredient list that includes freaky synthetic petrochemicals is fine, which I totally do because dude, it’s ON SALE.