Thirty: The New Awkward Age

And I thought my teenage years were weird.

So I finally passed the threshold. The big 3. The age of reason, the age of unrest. And honestly? It’s completely the same? What?

Maybe I’m too influenced by television, but I was always under the impression that you hit thirty and you’re old, fucking old, no one will love you ’cause you’re old. Supposedly your twenties are for finding yourself. Personally I’ve given that up at 21, I’ve no idea where that bitch got to. Finding myself? How about myself finds me for a change? I feel like I’m always doing the heavy lifting in this relationship! But at thirty, you’re officially an old woman.

But why? In reality, it just means back pain. The rest is exactly the same as it was at 29. The world will piss on your birthday cake and tell you it’s raining.

I never had a clear picture of being thirty. Mostly because I never thought I’d get this far. I’ve procrastinated on my suicide so much, by the time I’ll finally get around to it I’m probably gonna be in my 300s. Anyway, when I was a kid I thought (or feared) I’d be like my mother, married, nice flat, one bratty child. I had some vague idea of working somewhere where I’d wear a suit. I didn’t get the thirties. I had all these questions! Do I do anything different? Do I have to lie about my age? Do I need to go to a hairdresser? I haven’t been there since I was twelve! Do I do different make-up? Do I have to buy a car? Do I have to like wine? Or coffee? Do I have to get a stock portfolio? Then in my twenties I just thought, eh, thirty’s the new twenty, and the twenties suck anyway, no way to go but up!

I don’t mind being thirty, except for the soul-crushing despair at having achieved basically nothing in the first third of my life. But hey, I can still be a great bad example. I can be the woman who parents point out to their highschool aged spawn to say, “Study economics and apply for all unpaid internships or you’ll end up like her!” No, what really bothers me is that people react all weird to this innocent number. Like I’ve just revealed I’m a human-shaped ticking time bomb, about to explode into a frenzy of home decor, pregnancy stories, rosé and The Bachelor. Now kids, remember that time is an illusion, invented by humans to press our lives into neat little segments so we know how long we have to wait for the blissful embrace of death. Other than that, it doesn’t mean anything.

And I’ve always been a late bloomer. So the big 3 actually feels okay. I haven’t had a nervous breakdown all year! Okay, the year’s barely a month old, but that counts! I think I’m even growing into my face. I’ve looked at pictures of me at twenty recently and, as the kids say, the cringe was real. I always had an odd moon-face, all round and pale and weird looking, but somehow my lips were the exact same shape as my face. My lips have changed so much it’s like I’ve had work done, only I’ve always been too poor. It’s like someone broke in while I was sleeping and got me new lips, over a period of ten years, a cosmetic fairy godmother. And I have a jaw line now. I thought I’d never see the day.

So, I’m thirty, I’m unmarried, I’m unchildren-ed, I live in the same tiny apartment, I’m starting a new career. Somewhere in the distance, someone’s going “Aw, poor thing”. No, you guys, this is good!

Certainly doesn’t mean I’m old. As long as I’m not at an age where it is socially acceptable to wear a bathrobe all day, call loud annoying kids half-monkeys, mutter obscenities under my breath, and beat people with my walking cane I won’t consider myself old. I’m in for a looong time, baby!


Ice Cream at the End of the Universe

You know that feeling when you’re working two jobs and you start seeing the numbers on your bank account climb? That’s a great feeling, yeah? Right before you realise you gotta pay rent. Again. Why do you have to pay rent every month? Who came up with that system?

In other news, I’ve had my period anniversary and I celebrated… by having my period. But I mean, how often do you get your period on the same day you got your first period? I think it’s significant. I also can’t believe I’ve been bleeding every month for years. Years as in decades. Okay… one decade and a bit. Still. That’s a lot of blood. I think someone on tumblr once worked out that over your lifetime you spend seven years bleeding. Seven years of blood! That’s a lot of blood. I wonder if you could forge a sword from the iron of seven years’ worth of blood.

Also, it was long museum night again here in our lovely little town and what better way to blow my hard earned cash than by gaining even more useless knowledge with some trusty smarty-pants friends.

Everyone flaked out on me. Okay, so they didn’t flake… Boyfriend’s sick (got the sniffles), friend one is sick (got a worse case of the sniffles), friend two is not sick but otherwise engaged (presents at a motherfucking conference, go friend, that’s my friend!), friend three does not live here… So what’s an ‘ardworking independent modern woman to do but go on her fucking own. Which I did.

It’s glorious and I don’t understand why I don’t do things alone more often.

I mean… for one I could pick the museums I wanted to visit without any regard whatsoever for someone else. Then I could go at my own pace. Get absolutely lost and be in no hurry. Talk to literally no one except the customary “Hello, one ticket please.” Hang out longer in one section and breeze past another one that didn’t interest me. Wonderful, elating selfishness!

This year’s museums were Technological, Film, and observatory. Bit disappointed about the observatory because the waiting time for the telescope was over an hour and I was already too tired to sit it out, but oh well. Just have to come here some other time when there’s not the entire supply of the city’s school-age children on the loose. Also, the guy doing the usual astrophysics presentation was getting on my nerves. I mean… you’re watching the ocean from the point of view of a grain of sand. You have no more but a snapshot of the universe and you try to stuff it into a corset of numbers. Don’t tell me the universe will just end in 22 billion years, according to everything you know right now, and then that’s it because entropy. We’ve had thermodynamics for less than two hundred years, you don’t know jack! I’d be surprised if you guys even got the age of the universe right. And you didn’t even go over multiverse theory!

“According to the laws of…” Well, have you ever considered changing the definitions of these laws, because the universe doesn’t seem to give two shits. Look, science is good, science is great, but when it comes to the cosmos I’ll always pick the theory that makes the best story. So neener-neener-neener to your eternal end. Just wait what your successors will discover in the next only thousand years, and I’ll come back from the grave and laugh. If I’m still sitting here in 22 billion years and listen to how people believed it was the end of the world, I will absolutely point and laugh.

Technological was great, though little did I know that they had renovated the entire thing and I got a bit lost somewhere between an 1851 summer train carriage and the last surviving WW1 fighter jet. Big topic this year: urban studies. Yes, that’s a thing. Everything about the city, and let’s be real, city life is fascinating. I’m a big fan of the everyday section because… this is how people lived! Actual people! Who are now dead! Who used incredibly big and unwieldy vacuum cleaners and giant toothbrushes! And flat irons with coals in them! What I like the most about museums is the sense of epiphany they give me, the feeling of connectedness to entire generations of humans I never knew and who never knew me, and we’re all just trying to make a living and make life comfortable, and we’ll never know if someday the things we used every day without a second thought will be displayed so someone else can take their child to see it like “Look, little human, this is your history.” Hell, in fifty years I’ll probably see the make and model of the laptop I’m typing on right now in one of those glass cases, and all the future wide-eyed whippersnappers laughing at our way of life back then. Wait until you see our ergonomic chairs.

Exit through the gift shop.

I’m a grown adult, I tell myself slowly and mercilessly as I make my way to the exit. I’m an adult, I tell myself through clenched teeth as I force myself to put down the grow-your-own-crystal set and the archaeological kit for kids. I’m a motherfucking adult, I tell myself as I put the mini planetarium back on the shelf and return the plasma globe to its place, and I don’t need to overcompensate now for my lack of scientific toys in childhood. I realise I’ll be one of those parents one day who buys unholy amounts of stuff ‘for the kids’ and uses it all herself. Because I’m an adult. And I want to dig out my own dinosaur bone and look at it through the microscope!

So to console myself I bought an ice cream cone somewhere in the inner city. Yes, it is October. Yes, it’s a tad chilly. Yes, it was roughly 10 pm. And I still wanted nougat and coconut flavoured ice cream. Have I mentioned I’m an adult? Well, fucking adults can buy fucking ice cream in fucking autumn if they fucking want to! There must be some upside to this whole paying bills and cooking your own meals thing.

Anyway, this whole night had me thinking… why don’t I do things alone anymore? I did all the time when I was a teenager, I went to the movies alone because no one had told me it was weird, and I took walks alone and bike rides alone… granted I had no friends and now I do. Somewhere and somehow everything I did became a couple’s thing. Why is that? Why this push towards sociality? Why is being alone seen as something to be pitied? I think it does a body good to be away from people for a bit. Like, fuckers, how can I miss you if you’re never away from me? Seems like a healthy thing to do.

At least this way no one stops you from buying ice cream in October in the middle of the night. Apparently that’s frowned upon by most people. As if there was a bad time for ice cream. Hell, I’d eat ice cream while the universe was ending. According to thermodynamics, it’s going to be cold anyway.

I’m not doing anything in particular, you wanna hear about it?

Updates from my life.

I’ve been at my new job for a month now and I think I’m doing pretty okay. At least no one’s complained about me so far, so that’s good, right? Still a bit confused about some of the administration-esque stuff but that’s just a matter of time. I suppose I might be confusing my boss a little, she keeps asking if I like it there. I’m like yeah, I like it, please keep me. Is it so weird for someone to like working? My colleagues probably think it is. I mean, we have these phases during the day when there is literally nothing to do, like nothing’s coming in, and they just go on facebook and stuff while I’m bored. And they keep telling me to be happy that there’s not much to do. I think I’m still suffering from newbie motivation.

It’s just like with the weather, I’m overjoyed that it’s raining again while everyone around me is tolling the death bell for summer already. I can’t wait for summer to be over. If summer was equipped with an agreeable temperature I wouldn’t mind so much. But the 30C and over nonsense? Keep that. Who actually likes sweating?

I suppose if this job thing takes off and I can find something full-time later on it’s gonna be time to move, I’m apparently not made for extreme climates. Is there a place on this planet that’s constantly within the 20-25C zone? No? Damn.

It’s like I came to Earth with a “Keep at room temperature” sticker attached. I’m like a fucking potted plant with feelings.

In other news I handed in the theory chapter of my thesis and as luck would have it, exactly two minutes before submitting my work I stumbled across more literature. That could be useful. Which somehow didn’t show its sorry face before that exact moment.

Speaking of thesis, how often can you use ‘disregard’ and ‘thus’ in 20 pages without sounding like you don’t give a fuck anymore? There really aren’t that many synonyms, though.

And then there’s the whole business of signing up to half a dozen scientific networks just so you can get access to ONE paper that looks promising and then you don’t get it because the author can’t be arsed to give you access and meanwhile you get notifications that your profile has been viewed, like no, don’t, stop looking at me! I’m just here to quote your shit, get off!

This might be the last academic thing I’ll ever write and I’m not sure if that thought should scare me.

And other than that… I’m doing nothing. I’ve never felt so lazy in my life. Sports? Nah. Computer? Still a month until Legion. Friends? Eh, every couple of weeks is fine. Family? They went to Greece and I haven’t seen anyone in over a month. Boyfriend? Lost that one to Pokemon Go.

I still have the sneaking suspicion that Pokemon Go is a cunning plan to get our overweight generation of children moving again. It’s damn more effective than any school programs, that’s for sure. Remember how old people used to complain that kids these days don’t play outside any more? Fixed that for ya! Everyone is playing this stupid game! If this was a Doctor Who episode it would be a plot by disgruntled aliens to take over the world. It’d work, too.

So I’m meeting a friend for coffee and we have coffee and then she says, hey, wanna take a walk in the park, weather’s so nice, so I’m like, sure. One minute in she pulls out her phone to just “quickly check” if there are any of those pesky little things about. Another minute and she joins the walking braindead. Half the city’s in the park. Almost no one’s moving. Everyone is staring intently at their phone. And I know I’ve lost.

I’m meeting some other friends a week later at my place. Everybody on their phone catching things I didn’t even know were in my flat. Also, apparently I live near a Pokestop. Hot?

Meanwhile I’m over here like… you fuckers laughed at my WoW pet collection and now you’re wasting precious cell phone space on this? You suck!

I mean, it’s not even like there’s a feature that projects a hologram of those things so it looks like they’re running along with you. You know? That would be nice, just having a little computer generated animal following you all day. It’d be cute! But no. Just run around like an idiot and get hit by a car trying to catch some fucking flappy ass bat thing.

And now suddenly, my reclusive shut-in semi-hermit of a boyfriend has the urge to take walks. Hey, let’s take a walk in the park! Flashback to when I said things like that last year and it was like… nah, gotta finish this Hearthstone game. Nah, I wanna play Hero League. Nah, Diablo season. Nah, people I don’t know are livestreaming their Heroes of the Storm games, don’t wanna miss it. Nah, don’t feel like going out, sick of people, I have to see people all day, I wanna stay home!

But give him some virtual Japanese clone failures and he’s all systems go! Need to walk 10 km to hatch this egg!

What’s happening to the world? Is this some sort of anti-terror strategy? Get everyone hooked on Pokemon so the suicide bombers and religious nuts are too distracted to blow something up because they found a Pikachu? I mean, whatever it takes, I guess.

Or is it exactly the other way round because I swear I could transport a dead body through the city on public transport and absolutely no one would notice. Hell, I’d probably make it to the cemetery (wha? where do you hide your dead bodies?), start digging, hide the body, cover grave, get rid of evidence, and saunter out of the cemetery. If there’s any witnesses all I’d have to do is get out my phone and scream “Oh my god, is that a Mewtew?!” or “Pokestop by the entrance, way at the other end of the graveyard!”

And I had this great idea for a zombie movie. Picture this: the sun is setting as a lone Pokemon trainer wanders into the graveyard without even noticing his surroundings. He sees a rare Pokemon. He aims his phone! Doesn’t notice the scuffling of feet behind him! Shoots pokeball after pokeball and misses as a grey hand reaches for him…

A blood curdling scream.

And then a cut, and we see a blood spattered phone falling to the ground. The Pokemon is still uncaught. Screen fade to black, next scene.

Or just, the zombie apocalypse has happened, but it’s less an apocalypse and more a bit of an inconvenience as a band of brave Pokemon trainers arms themselves with shotguns because a bunch of lurching corpses is no excuse to not Catch Them All.

Look, I think it’s funny, okay?

And yes, I will always and forever make fun of all the new and cool things the world can throw at me. I’m a contrary bastard and proud of it.

My Life as a Colour TV Stuck Forever in Fast Forward (Long Ass Post Ahead)

It’s been pretty quiet on here for, what, a month? How did that happen? And in my defense… I was busy. Yes, I know, everyone always says that, but… I’ve really been busy and when I wasn’t busy I was depressed. So there. Let me count the ways!

The following things happened (not necessarily in that order): The Abominable Blatherer got his ass fired and is now threatening to sue everything that moves. I got the green light from my supervisor to start the theory part of my thesis. I went to a requiem mass. I had a lot of meetings. I planned an event. I took care of my aunt. I had a presentation. I spent unimaginably little time in the library because now my thesis topic is registered I can just take books home with me for weeks on end. I’m also starting a new job.

Okay, move the camera, rewind.

This is me, a month ago, bitching about my co-worker who in actuality is a volunteer, I just call everyone a co-worker who works with me. Now fast forward juuust a little. It became completely impossible to work with him, for reasons I’m not at liberty to disclose (I mean… any more than what I already disclosed) so it was decided he had to leave.

I thought Nero had no chill when he burned down Rome. It’s generally agreed that Hannibal was fairly un-chill when he dragged elephants up the mountains and dissolved boulders with vinegar. Attila the Hun, my possible ancestor, possessed exactly zero chill, as is established by historians across the globe. Davros, creator of the Daleks, was at his un-chillest when his creation turned against him.

And then there’s this guy. The Grand Poobah of No Chill What-So-Fucking-Ever.

First he lets one of his weird friends send us a letter to tell us to take him back again or else…! Yah, or else what, you and what army? Then he writes long-ass rants to the office e-mail account. Then he threatens to sue everyone in the team for… lies and slander unless we take him back? Huh? Then he writes e-mails to individual people. Then he calls people under different numbers. Then he refuses to hand back the office key. Then he finds some higher-up and says we’re bullying him. Then…

Do I really need to go on? So because of this nonsense we’re busy for close to a month with damage control and emotional breakdowns. We check in twice with an actual lawyer to confirm he can’t actually do anything in terms of suing or pressing charges or whatever. And all this on top of the usual office stuff. Needless to say, we’re a team of nervous wrecks. Talks are to be had. Talks with mediators and moderators and god knows what else. While there is a barrage of e-mails coming in every second day about how he’s going to sue us. To which I would just love to reply, “Bring it, you useless paperclip”, but I’m not allowed to do that. So now I just have to sit and wait alongside the rest of the office for things to cool down, quietly singing DMX songs to myself, because as the great poet used to say: “Suck my dick.”

Forward a bit. The mediator talk was had and even the mediators were at their wit’s end with this guy. He’s just unable to listen to what people are saying without automatically hearing what he wants to hear. Seriously. Says it’s out of the goodness of his heart he won’t sue us. Whoop-di-fucking-do, jerkface, sue for what? I could tell a joke about your mom, you gon’ sue me for that? No, please do, I’d love to see a judge try to keep a straight face. “You said what to the plaintiff?” – “His momma so hairy only language she speaks is Wookiee!” – “*pffffffrrr* Yes, uh, you shouldn’t *pffffrrr* you shouldn’t say things like that, but that’s not actually a crime.”

I’d just love to fast forward twenty years to see him lose job after job after job for the same bullshit and hear him say how it’s all the employer’s/colleagues’/country’s/aliens’/disgruntled Ewoks’ fault.

ANYWAY. Halt the camera, close up of my annoyed face, change scene. I finally developed a theoretical concept that more or less makes sense for my thesis. Lotsa working definitions. Definitely lotsa working definitions needed. In writing this, I have misspelled definitions twice because by now it no longer looks like a proper word. Why do some words have so many i’s in them anyway?

Fast forward to three months from now and my inevitable nervous breakdown.

Rewind to my presentation when a colleague actually tells me they’re angry they did not come up with my topic idea themself. Cut to me doing a winning gesture in front of my entire class. The entire presentation went really well, actually. I really nailed the self-depreciating humour presentation style that’s informative and academic as well as light-hearted. Go me!

Rewind to last week when an acquaintance tells me about this friend of hers who’s working for a place who’re looking for someone to proofread, part-time like. My time at sort-of job is coming to an end anyway so this looks very much like destiny. Close-up of my brain, jumping in the air and clicking its heels together. One quick communication later I hold some contact details in my hand. I’m so going to write them, like, right now!

Stop camera, enter crushing self-doubt. But what do I write? Do I just jot down a quick note? Do I go with a full-blown cover letter? But those are always so over the top and fake because I can’t write to save my life! Do I attach my CV and credentials or is that too forward? What do I do?

I could sleep on it, I guess. But it’s like 10:30 in the morning and if I don’t act now maybe my acquaintance will have given that contact to twenty other people! I can’t wait! But what if I don’t have the skills? I mean, I have a certificate, but still. What if I don’t have enough work experience? I mean, I basically don’t have any. In this field. I mean, none that counts. You know how it is when you’re a student and your friends’ friends start paying you to read their papers, that hardly counts as experience, right? What do I do?



Write now!



Oh, fucking alright!

Fast forward to literally ten minutes later and I close my eyes as I hit send on a very short e-mail that is expressing my interest and is also offering to send my CV if the interest is mutual.

Fast forward even more to me finding out this is not the right person and they’re forwarding my mail to someone who’s the actual right person. Fuck!

Fast forward a day. Actual Right Person has written back with some details about the position and asks me to call them.

Fuck! Phone! I hate phones! I hate people! I hate communication! And telecommunication in particular!

Okay, forward one last time. I have stalked this person’s linkedin profile, I have prepared my lines, I’m making a phone call. Elevator music greets my ears. I prepare myself for a five minute wait. The five minute wait is actually only 30 seconds, which was enough time for me to forget everything I wanted to say. I sort of stumble to the call, sounding probably like the escaped village idiot trying to make a living in the big city.

Fast forward to three days later when I’m having the probably shortest job interview of my life and get the job.

First I’m like, yes! Job! Money! I am employed and therefore special!

But it’s part-time. Still not bad, I can join the ranks of the walking underemployed!

Gee, that was pretty fast of them to decide to take me on. They must be really desperate for someone to fill in.

Shit, they would have just taken anyone, wouldn’t they? I thought I was special!

Then I remember that in a capitalist free market economy a few years after a recession no one is special. And I feel even worse, because society.

Rewind to beginning of June and it’s funeral time. Only there’s nothing to bury because grandmother decided to do the nice thing and leave her body to science. Considering the rare spinal deformation she had that’s actually pretty sensible of her. So all we have is a mass somewhere in a village at the ass end of nowhere, which is closes to where she lived, which was the other cheek of the ass end of nowhere. Priest is wearing Nike’s. I’m having an allergic reaction to frankincense. The family and me are in the first rows. The crowd isn’t huge. Actually, it’s only us, some of grandma’s neighbours, and the evening regulars.

The awkwardness hits hard. We’re all heathens and haven’t got a clue of what to do, because apparently you don’t just sit in church, you do things. We’re nervously watching the old lady three rows back because she’s an absolute church pro. Standing up, sitting down, kneeling, standing up, she’s doing great! Such vigour and she’s at least 80! Total champ at this Catholic cardio the priest is making us do! And singing along! I don’t know what you want me to say! What’s going on? Can’t you have one of those statues hold an electronic sign, or a prompter, that tells you what to do and when, and your lines? Do it for Jesus! I’m sure he’s shaking his head at my incompetence!

And I can’t stop laughing! I’m trying to keep it in, but it’s just so funny! And I can tell my aunt’s trying hard not to laugh as well! Did this guy even know my grandmother? He’s being much too nice. And what’s this anecdote? You know the one. The one about a young boy with a terminal illness and he’s dying and the doctors get him back to life for like two days, and he’s waking up like “Hey, why’d you bring me back, it was so nice there”? I read that story about a hundred times on the internet, with varying names and places. I don’t buy that you, priesty boy, have witnessed this first hand and it inspired you to become a man of the cloth.

And then he goes on a tangent. Yes, if you have no faith you have no hope for a life after death, which means you have to do everything in this life, you have to have every bit of fun and indulgence while in this life because after that you’ll be gone forever… I look over at my dad and my boyfriend and we all exchange a glance of “Sounds like a pretty sweet deal”.

And then there’s this weird food ritual. Any christians out there who can tell me if it’s normal for the priest to mix water into the wine? Or are they just on a budget out there in the sticks? I mean, I get the waffle part. But sweeping the leftover crumbs in the cup and washing that down? That seems weird. Can anyone confirm that this is how it’s done?

So we leave the service somewhat elated and no one wants to join us for dinner, so we set out to go eat, just the family. And we have a blast. Does any other country have the concept of “schöne Leich”? Because we do. It basically means a very good funeral. This was a very funny funeral. A true funeral feast. One might assume we put the fun in funeral. Both my mother and my aunt had a very good time discussing shapely men and looking at pictures of Brock O’Hurn and Lasse Matberg on my phone. Why I have pictures of those people on my phone is of course entirely beside the point. It’s much more important that you know how my father put his head in his hands in defeat and the Boyfriend asked, with his brows so high they vanished in his ample hair, if I’m going to be like that when I’m older.

Spoiler alert: Yes.

Also, yah, we’re heathens. Really easily amused heathens.

Fast forward to tomorrow when I have my first day at work. Cut to a close up of my terrified face.

Halt camera. Cut to ‘To be continued’ sign.

So James Joyce, a Burnt Out Grad Student, and a Pair of Black Socks Walk Into a Bar…

Literally, my stat connection for this year so far reads like the beginning of a beer-fuelled joke. One that ends in something stupid, too, like “And then he says, ‘That’s not a duck’!”

Why were they successful, comparatively? Well, one thing: timing. Tuesdays are popular, somehow? Second: my tag game getting stronger.

Anything else? I dunno, topics? It’s not every day you see the late, not-so-great James Joyce getting slut-shamed by a big-mouthed grad student who’s in the midst of a slight breakdown after the umpteenth Joyce lecture complete with an interpretation of Ulysses. Actually, in hindsight, maybe the prof was just making all of it up on the spot because he secretly hates Joyce too and wants to discourage all the hopeful bright-eyed students from ever reading the damn thing. Certainly worked for me, kudos to you, sir.

Also… I just imagine I was not the only student struggling with a paper deadline in January and lengthily venting my frustrations, so I guess that’s why. Seriously, is there anything worse than writing a paper you don’t really want to write?

Actually, yes, there is. Writing a paper to impress your future thesis supervisor is definitely worse.

And the last one was a daily prompt that had nothing whatsoever to do with black socks despite that being the title, in which I wax less than poetically about my inability to communicate like a basic human. Again. But daily prompts have a large audience, so duh, numbers game.

Also, people keep clicking on my Tale of Two Titties post even thought it’s at least two years old by now. Which was also a daily prompt. With a pandering eye-catching, attention-grabbing, market-research-approved title. I dare you NOT to click. It’s not very good, anyway. Okay, so it has a couple of tits in it, but that’s REALLY NOT that interesting. Seriously, don’t click.

… you just clicked it, didn’t you? Bad reader!

Soul What?

Leaving aside for a moment the pressing question of whether or not a thing like the soul even exists in any scientifically tangible way…

How do I define soulmate? What kind of tired TV trope even is this ‘soulmate’ business?

Okay, so as far as my understanding goes, cultivated by abundant amounts of American movies, a soulmate is That One Person who just ‘Gets’ You (or anyway the person you end up with in act three of every romantic comedy after the Big Terrible Misunderstanding has been cleared up with minimal to zero effort). You know, that instant connection, something-meaningful-to-connect-two-people-for-the-rest-of-their-lives-and-no-one-else-can-ever-be-this-special kind of tired ass bullshit. It’s bullshit because every kind of media would have you believe that your soulmate absolutely has to also be your One True Love.

I like to call this the soulmate romance fallacy. Let’s try an example: Imagine you know this absolutely wonderful person, you’ve known each other for years, you just click, you can talk for hours, if you are apart for a while you fall right back into your old habits when you’re reunited, you have so many things in common, you’re a comfort to each other, you complement and complete each other, you stick to each other’s side in good times and bad alike. But you can’t be in a romantic relationship because you’re both women and heterosexual. Now what? Back to square one?

This obsessive tying of soulmateship and romance is what I see as the principle problem of the entire damn concept. Nothing about the suggestion that a soulmate is the person you like best and that you have the most in common with and that you get along with the best suggests an automatic romantic or sexual connection, yet this is probably the only kind ever to be portrayed in media. So, because I’m notoriously unromantic, I’ll give you some other possible scenarios:

1)Soulmate + Romance

a) You and your soulmate are in a romantic relationship. Everything’s fine, roll the credits.

b) You and your soulmate are in a romantic relationship, but it’s not going well. Despite your many similarities, your sleep schedules crash, you have different ideas what a commitment is due to your upbringing, and your levels of OCD when it comes to household cleanliness are not the same. So what do you do? Break it off like every other relationship that is not working out or stick with it because you feel obligated because after all, this is your soulmate and you’ve seen all the movies and know how it’s supposed to go? Are you still soulmates if you’re not together?

2) Soulmate + Unrequited Love

a) You found your soulmate. For whatever reason, however, you can’t be together. They’re in a relationship. You’re in a relationship. Maybe they’re gay. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you live half a planet away and only communicate online while both of you are happily coupled with someone else. Maybe you live next door but there just is no sexual attraction for any number of reasons. What do you do? Become romantically involved anyway, even though it will not work out?

b) You found your soulmate. You’re in love with your soulmate. They very much do not feel the same for you, even if you are their most important person, they just don’t feel that way about you. So now what? Do you remain friends? Do you get over it? Do you do the awkward fade out? Do you obsessively try to make them fall for you because after all, you’re soulmates? Maybe they are in a relationship with someone else, would you sabotage that so you can be together?

3) Soulmateship vs. The Infinite Irony of the Universe

a) You found your soulmate. But you are not this person’s soulmate. No one ever said soulmateship had to be a mutual thing.

b) Your soulmate was born in a different time than yours, either having died before you two could meet or they are yet to be born, probably when you’re dead.

c) What if your soulmate is not even a human being, but, say, a cat? One of the twenty five you own because you’re convinced you never met your soulmate and opted for the next best thing, namely dying a crazy cat lady/man death? Or maybe it’s a place, or an occupation, or a book, or a culture, or, dunno, horticulture?

d) Your soulmate was born in a different part of the planet, or even on a different planet, and you’ll never meet.

e) Your soulmate is a giant squiggly ten-eyed tentacled alien from planet Zoon but you’ll never find out because you two have absolutely no way of communicating with each other even if you do meet. Star-cross’d lovers indeed.

4) Soulmates and Numbers

a) Where is it set in stone that everyone gets only one soulmate? Who decided this? First door on the right, one soulmate each? I don’t think so. So you have one and then they die, then what? You can never have a soulmate again? You spend the rest of your live in sub-par relationships because, after all, they’re not your soulmates but merely props to fill the void in your sad trampled heeeeaaaarrrrrt, so they can’t possibly be as meaningful?

b) What if you have multiple soulmates at the same time? But not all of them are mutual? And not all of them are in your time or your planet? This is getting pretty confusing.

5) Extra Credit

You’re your own soulmate. Boom!

And that, in a nutshell, is why the entire idea of a soulmate is doomed from birth. Too many variables. Too damn complicated. Also, too damn clichéd, go back to watching The Notebook if that’s what you’re into. Your soulmate sure as hell isn’t.

House Warming, Literally, or So Someone Set Fire to the Cellar

So I live in a city owned apartment building. It was built in 1930. I rent here. I’m fucking poor, deal with it.

It’s Friday night and someone set fire to the basement.

Someone also set fire to the pharmacy down the street. Two weeks ago someone set fire to the front yard waste bins in almost every building along the street. So my question is…


I’ve never been in a house fire. I didn’t even know that still existed, outside of the classic smoked-in-bed-and-fell-asleep. And now I need to vent.

Sometime in the evening I quip that someone’s barbecuing because it smells burnt. I could kick myself for that. Shortly after 8 p.m. someone rings the intercom. This happens, someone always forgets their key, or is trying to get into the house for less than legal reasons. So I usually play dead if I’m not expecting anyone. But then it rings again. And again. So I answer. It’s a neighbour I’ve never met, ringing absolutely everyone that there’s smoke coming out of the cellar. So, off I go, tell Boyfriend to get a move on, throw on some pants and shoes, grab my handbag, knock next door, lock my own door and high tail it outta there like I’m running on auto pilot while phoning the fire brigade because I’m not sure if anyone called them yet and hey, better one time too many than not enough, right?

Apparently not. So the man at the end of the line is really rude. I’m at the edge of panic, telling the exact address, saying there’s smoke coming out of the basement. “Really? I got a call it’s in the yard.” At this point I’m already on the ground floor and can’t see anything anymore because hey, lotsa smoke, bro ain’t never lied. “But I got a call it’s in the yard”, the man says. “No, it’s in the basement, that’s what all my neighbours say and there’s really a lot of smoke.” The man on the phone is getting audibly annoyed: “Now you listen to me! I got a call it’s from the yard. Are you there in front of the fire, do you see the fire?” Sure bro, I’m roasting marshmallows. I step out into the yard, inhale a lung of smoke on my way, and surprise, no fire. Because it’s very clearly coming from the basement. So I say no, it’s not, it’s from the basement. Dude asks me to check again. I say I can’t, there’s such a lot of smoke, I can’t see in the house, but I can tell you there’s nothing at all whatsoever in the yard! So finally he grudgingly says they’ll be right over.

Okay. I get that your job is stressful. I get that you’re annoyed because unbeknownst to me five different people called your department. But seriously, who goes into the smoke to check for its source without some protection? Do you really think I own a gas mask? Am I your colleague? Do I work for you? No! I’m a civilian, there’s smoke, come save me! That’s how it’s supposed to go! Spiderman wouldn’t ask me a million questions before swinging over!

So some guys are trying to get the garden hose going but it’s not long enough. The fire brigade takes some time to arrive, but there’s nothing productive I can do so I slowly venture away from the smoke and towards the sidewalk. I sit down for a minute and grab for my inhaler because I inhaled some smoke while on the phone and even for a non-asthmatic, that ain’t exactly pleasant. My lungs are sending me a warning sign already. Must be it, no one else is coughing. My asthma has been fine for years but little things like this remind me it’s still there. A woman I’ve never met before asks me if I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m the queen of okay. I’m just not happy with my lungs. But my faith in humanity is restoring itself for a minute.

The police come, one neighbour I don’t know wearing a neon orange shirt launches himself into a fit of rage about the rent, the construction work, the police, house management and the world in general. I sit on the other side of the street with Boyfriend and the woman from downstairs. I’m suddenly painfully aware that I’m not wearing any make-up. Not even my BB cream. How long was it since I left the house without make-up on? But that’s a stupid thought, so I shove it away.

Soon there’s a word drifting from police to neighbours to me: arson. I can’t quite believe it at first. I’m theorising about cables fire, it’s been hot these past two weeks, and the construction workers aren’t exactly careful.

Turns out I’m an optimistic idiot.

I notice for the first time we have no fire extinguisher in the entire building. No smoke alarm. Shouldn’t we have that? Shouldn’t that be in every building? I mean, it’s an old house but still. Aren’t there regulations? I make a mental note.

I’m paranoid someone will use the fire as a distraction to climb the scaffold and rob everyone. We all had our windows wide open because of the heat, no one closed them. Unfortunately I say this out loud. The woman from downstairs looks at me with eyes like saucers. I can scare people with a single comment.

They tell us we won’t be able to go back in for two hours. It’s a quarter to nine. Quite a wait for a Friday night. I suggest ice cream. The woman from downstairs suggests the bakery and off we trot. A few other neighbours had the same idea, we see as we approach. A rushed looking young woman is running herself ragged with all the new customers. My lungs feel fine by now.

So we eat. And chat. I marvel at how catastrophe can bring people together in such a way. People in Vienna suffer from a kind of cultural autism. We don’t talk. Not to strangers. Among neighbours we only exchange pleasantries. We gossip like a horde of washerwomen in the office. But we don’t say anything of substance. That’s reserved for close friends and alcoholic nights. I never talked to the woman before apart from the customary hellos in the hallway. And I will probably never talk to her again. She’s about sixty. What do we have to talk about besides chitchat and gossip about our other neighbours, some of which are admittedly very weird? (Especially the guy who robs the fuse box and glues the front door shut. No, seriously.)

We can go back an hour sooner than we thought. Stop to chat with a policeman who gives me a hint about fire safety regulations. Once I’m home I soon find the right paragraph on the internet. I’m no lawyer, but still, if this was America I could sue someone’s pants right off.

We say goodbye to the woman-from-downstairs and happily we still have power in the flat. So I set myself to writing an angry e-mail to house management. Only house management has no e-mail, just some notifying system where you can type 500 characters. So I send two messages urging them to give us some goddamn fire extinguishers and maybe an alarm system. If they’re going to renovate the whole house might as well get to it. Screw ’em. I want them to know about fire safety regulations. I’m going to regret this in the morning. My conditioning wants me to not make a fuss, to keep quiet, to be thankful it wasn’t anything worse. Nothing bad happened after all. Just a spot of trouble. Nothing serious. SCREW THAT, I say. I want to make things better. I want prevention.

And now that things have calmed down I’m back to thinking about myself. I was calm. Not running around like a headless chicken. Not scared. No screaming. Just practical and controlled. Not taking any risks. That’s good, right? But now I feel guilty in a way. I think I could have done more. I could have been more perceptive and noticed it smelled like smoke, not like someone cooking. I could have gone upstairs to check if really everyone was out. I could have gone and checked for the fire source. I could have gone around being comforting, even though in the wall of stone-faced strangers no one seemed to need comforting. I could have tried to calm down orange shirt guy who was screaming loud enough to be heard from two blocks away. Why do I feel the need to do that? Is not being trouble not enough? Do I have some kind of saviour complex?

Mostly I feel on edge. And angry. Angry like I let this happen. Maybe I’m just a control freak.

The fire was only in the cellar. Nothing ruined, just kinda smoky. Definitely arson, the police say. We’ve had a few of those recently. Who the hell does this? Why would you do this? Teenagers being bored, Boyfriend says, it’s the summer holidays after all. If that’s true, whatever happened to just getting drunk somewhere or chilling with friends, possibly while being drunk? That’s what I did when I was a bored kid.

Someone on the ground floor already has their music turned up to maximum again. Panic time over and we’re back to being cultural autists again. No talking to neighbours for a long while.

And if I catch the asshole who’s been doing this he’s going to be so dead he won’t even know it.

Random Thought Tuesday, July 14

Y’know, I’ve been thinking…

Piece of advice: If you’re going to wear men’s boxer shorts or boxer briefs as a girl make sure you don’t wear them under skinny jeans, the legs on those fuckers ride up like hell. You gonna be fine with leggings, though.

Now, do you want to know how I know that? I give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

Long Live Evadne Pauley

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Mom says Mrs Pauley had always lived here. She says always like it’s an actual eternity, but the records say forty years. Mom also says I’m not supposed to dig around the Altersgate Community records, but it’s not my fault they don’t have decent ICE around them.

I’ve seen Mrs Pauley for as long as I can remember and she was always pretty annoying, bustling around at baking sales, harassing people to join the community crafting circle, babysitting pretty much every child in the neighbourhood, never being quiet in the library, because her hearing was going and she didn’t have the money for implants, and generally she was just there, so much I thought she didn’t have a home at first, and then I thought she didn’t want to go home because she was just never in there. She was there like the trees along main road, just sort of there like Henrik’s Waffles, you don’t notice until they’re not there anymore.

But I’ve only ever really met her twice, once when I was seven and she patted me on the head and called me a “strange little thing”, and three months ago when mom and dad dragged me along to give our condolences. I had only known Mr Pauley as the slightly grumpy old man smoking like it was the last of days every time you saw him. Mom told me to keep away from him. Because of the smoke, she always said, smoking’s bad. Apparently, he didn’t trust the new cancer meds and then it was too late. So he died. Kind of like grandpa, only Mr Pauley was cremated. I think he would have liked that, old Mr Pauley.

They’ve been standing there arguing for a good ten minutes now and it’s getting heated. Mom always says not to shout when I’m angry. You shout, you lose. Adults shout all the time. They’re probably going to shout all weekend long.

Mom and dad pass me on the steps and tell me to go inside, they’ll see what they can do. They always try to see what they can do, sometimes I think they need glasses. I hurry upstairs because I can get a better look from the hallway window anyway. I hear the front door lock automatically. Mom and dad do that sometimes because they’re afraid I’ll run off and do something stupid. That’s what they say, anyway. So I just watch. The landlord is red in the face, a face like beetroot. I snap a picture. His face is funny. The police officer is just sort of standing there, like he doesn’t want to drag a little old lady into his car, hovering by the sidewalk. Mrs Pauley is really kinda small, about as tall as I am now. Her hair is all grey, like she has no time to dye it like Mom. I see mom and dad getting nearer now. The police officer seems very relieved somehow. The landlord is going to explode.

I sleep in the living room today so Mrs Pauley can sleep in my room. I knew mom and dad would do this. I already took my computer and a spare blanket downstairs before they even came in. Mrs Pauley is in the kitchen sobbing into her tea. I hear mom shushing the teamaker because it’s asking if the tea is really that bad. Mom is trying to comfort Mrs Pauley. Dad is pacing, asking a million questions. What about her boys, he asks. Isn’t there anyone she can ask for help? Why is she not eligible for benefits anyway? She should at the very least be receiving a widow’s pension. There must be something wrong with the automatic system, he says. He’s going to call the bureau in the morning, he says.

Mrs Pauley doesn’t know. All addresses are in her computer and she doesn’t know how to use it, it has a password, her husband used to do all the computer stuff, and now she can’t get in her house anyway and it’s in there. A grown woman who can’t use a computer, I think, sighing. They teach us that since preschool. But Mrs Pauley really is old. Mom says when she was my age her computer only had about 8 GB RAM, and Mrs Pauley is even older.

I’m in the living room doing the maths exercises mom uploaded to my laptop before she went to make tea. Sometimes I wonder if mom thinks I’m stupid. Like the exercises somehow stop me from hearing. Like she doesn’t want me to hear. Like she thinks I don’t understand, but I’m not a child anymore, I’ve had my period last fall, I’m practically grown up. What I don’t understand is why no one does anything useful. Adults just don’t think right.

They all trudge to bed, finally. They don’t know I’m still up, and I don’t want them to. I throw the blankets off and reach for the laptop. Audio mute, going around the security protocols mom and dad had installed. They still run this child safety program on my laptop like I’m five, no access after 9 pm, no access to adult content websites, no this, no that. Any idiot can disable it, and I’m not half an idiot despite what Mr Hodgins, our computer science teacher, thinks. I just don’t want to let him know what I can do because he’ll go blabbing and then they won’t let me do anything.

Getting into the city records is so easy they should be sued. Mrs Pauley actually has a first name, it’s Evadne, and she had a lot of children, six of them, all boys. I don’t know how she could stand that. The youngest is twenty-four, twice as old as I am. I find him first because he moved last. Two of them are still in the city, the other four moved across the country. I can find four of them. That’s enough, I guess. They stopped all contact with their parents when they moved out. I’m guessing it was because of Mr Pauley. Mr Pauley wasn’t very nice, and not just because of the smoking. Not sure I can convince the boys to contact their mother again, but I’ll try anyway.

Four mails later, all with the picture of the semi-exploding landlord in front of Mrs Pauley’s house, I go to sleep. It’s up to the adults now. That’s what’s wrong with the world.

We’re having lunch with Mrs Pauley when the door announces we have unidentified visitors. Mom goes to see. Mrs Pauley hears their voices and rushes out. Dad follows. I give it a few seconds, stealing some of dad’s lasagne, then go to see.

It’s two of them, and both are hugging their mom. They came by magnetic rail as soon as they got the message. Mrs Pauley cries, people do that a lot when they’re happy, it’s really kind of confusing. Mom starts hugging me, because mom gets emotional like that. Dad is baffled, but that’s his usual state. How did they know, he asks, he was trying to find their numbers. One of them shrugs. This is the slightly-not-so-youngest, I think, he looks like late twenties. The youngest son looks at him, then at me. He looks almost exactly like Corey Nover in Lost in Time, all sparkly eyes and wild hair, just missing the spacesuit. He has three days worth of hair on his face and looks at dad and says, the community board e-mailed them. Then he looks at me again and winks. At least I think he winks. I blush. Why am I blushing? He was probably just blinking. I don’t think he knows, I hid the IP trace. It should have looked like the community board. My face is burning.

The adults go to the kitchen, the situation is under control, and I can probably have my room back tonight or tomorrow. I trail behind. They’re doing conversation now, dad is prepping more lasagne and mom does the usual so-what-do-you-do with Mrs Pauley’s sons. The Corey Nover clone looks at me for a split second before he says applied informatics. He winks, this time he definitely winks.

I excuse myself smoothly and run upstairs and hide in the bathroom. My face is red as beetroot. I can never leave this room again. Not even to see how these idiot grown-ups are going to sort out Mrs Pauley’s housing problem. I’ll just stay in here until my face goes back to normal, which is never, so I’ll just stay in here until I die.

Mom knocks and says to stop being rude and come downstairs again. I leave the bathroom but my face is still glowing like a traffic light. Mom asks what’s the matter with me like she doesn’t know.

I pass the rest of the day in silence, which mom comments on and I hate her for it. They boys are going to look for a hotel and come back in the morning to help Mrs Pauley with the bureaucracy stuff, they say. They thank my parents about a thousand times, and so does Mrs Pauley.

I sleep on the sofa again. When mom and dad finally leave, I switch on my computer. I’m sure I did a good job on the IP erasure. No way Mrs Pauley’s Corey Nover could have known. There’s one new mail in my inbox. Probably Kate from English class, she always asks me a million stupid things because she can’t get any assignments right. But it’s not Kate. It’s a mail telling me in detail where I went wrong and how to completely mask an e-mail. He covered the trace for me and won’t tell anyone I hacked myself into the community board but next time I’m on my own, he writes. I should consider computer science when I’m done with school, he writes. There’s no name, but I know it’s Informatics Corey Nover. I already hate him, thinking he’s so smart with his computer science degrees and his eyes twinkling like stars and his gorgeous hair.

I switch the computer off and hide under the blanket. I’ll just stay under here until I die.