Crewtastrophe

Did you know, and you probably do, that muscle weighs more than fat? I mean you probably know it, but do you know it in the way a 5’4” girl who has to stay under 135 lbs while working out two hours a day, six days a week knows it?

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It takes a lot of strength to wrangle these bangs every day.

Also, in this situation, you have no friends and are dating a Republican and hate yourself.

When I moved from NC to DC for college, I really didn’t know how much I didn’t know. E.G., I had never seen a ‘bro’ before. I didn’t know what bow ties signify (still not sure, but I’m picking up a Nantuckety, conservativey thing now). And I had never to my knowledge seen a rowing team, possibly not even in the Olympics, until I crossed a bridge to visit this nameless Big East school and saw, down what seemed incredibly far below and away in the mighty Nameless River, the yellow water-skimmer outline of a boat that I would learn to call an Eight, and loathsome.

It looks fun, doesn’t it? Kind of fun in that hard-work, proud-of-yourself way, like you have to dedicate yourself but it’s all worth it because, because, because. I’d never been on a sports team of any kind before (OK, well, yes, YMCA soccer in 4th grade).

 

My head was full of all of this stuff about college being a time for experimentation and stepping outside of your comfort zone and, like, dying your hair. Plus the coach told me at the clubs fair that I ‘looked athletic’ (my big upper arms can confuse people that way) and I was so flattered that I signed up right there.

So I joined the (first division NCAA) rowing team.

Let me give you a quick rundown of the schedule:

5:30 a.m.: Wake up, even though you promised yourself that after high school you would never do something that made you wake up before the sun ever again.

5:35 a.m.: Put on all of the clothes you own and ride bike downhill all the way in the frigid cold to boathouse.

5:45 a.m.: Peel off layers in the locker room. Let other girl tell you that you’re ruining all of your nice sweaters by rowing in them.

6:15 a.m.: Running. Assistant coach on bike, meant to bring up the rear, does huge lazy loops behind you as you tearfully jog a few steps and fall horribly behind the pack and then collapse and walk and just generally turn into the worst blubbery mess in the world. No wonder you have no friends.

6:45 a.m.: Back at the boathouse, everyone is waiting for you, and then at last finally you can just go out on the water already.

6:50 a.m.: On the water. Worst pain imaginable.

7:30 a.m.: Experience fleeting transcendent moment of looking out over water at the rising sun and thinking shit, that’s beautiful, this is so beautiful. Then more pain though.

8:00 a.m.: Ride bike home (all uphill now, bitch) with legs like huge disagreeable rubber snakes and go to class at 8:30.

I had never jogged more than a couple blocks in my life, let alone actually run in a pack of thoroughbred boarding-school girls who knew things; it was infuriating the things they knew, like just how to braid your hair so it wouldn’t come out while you were running, and where to get just the right kind of fucking spandex shorts that everybody had (Lululemon, probably, in retrospect), and also did I mention that I don’t shave my legs or underarms? How do you think that went over? Guess.

I’m torn between describing myself as the most reviled or pitied team member. Probably the reality is that these girls didn’t even think about me enough to do either. There was no supportive network to speak of, and no one was dying to keep me on the team, probably because they could tell I wasn’t taking it seriously and didn’t even really have the capacity to take it seriously.

The only thing, the only thing keeping me on the team was pure stubbornness.* I wasn’t even losing weight, because remember that muscle thing? I was gaining weight. I started at 129 and ended at 134, 135 being the cutoff between the weight classes. In my dreams, I still see the little absent frown on the coach’s face when I stepped off of the scale at the last weighing.

Also, wonderfully illustrative side note, for men’s teams the weight classes are called lightweight and heavyweight. For women, they’re called lightweight and…..wait for it….openweight. Because calling us heavy would hurt our feelings.

I stuck with it for three grueling, awful months, often coming right up to the line of quitting. I was not doing any better at anything that I could see. I was still straggling way behind and huffing and puffing with the running, and there was zero improvement. I was the suckiest on the rowing machines. I didn’t feel any better about myself. I was the worst, and all of the other girls were obviously just waiting for me to quit, which just fueled my rage and made me want to prove them wrong, but then I didn’t prove them wrong because I continued to suck.

We only had about three real races during my time on the team. I honestly don’t remember where we placed. I do remember one race (sorry, “regatta”) on the Schuylkill (Philadelphia) because I scratched my leg on a boat as we lifted it above our heads and bled for the rest of the day. It was also the Schuylkill one where I realized that rowing is like 99.9% white, which made me feel just extremely uncomfortable and weird.

I don’t really remember much about the day that I quit except that the coach had this facial tic where she never looked right into your eyes when she was talking to you, and instead like rolled her eyes up to the ceiling and talked to the ceiling. She did that when I told her that really I had to quit because it just wasn’t working and I think I made up some bullshit about getting a second job, which then I actually did get a second job the next semester so I guess I wasn’t straight up lying.

When I quit rowing, I was of course immensely relieved and comforted, and I walked out of the gym and looked up at the night sky and breathed deep the clean, crisp air and felt…

I almost turned around and went back in, and said I’d made a mistake and I would work harder and I’d really make rowing and running and all of this awful stuff part of my identity, really build it into who I was, because I just am not a quitter.

I have this thing that I do in situations like these where I think about Ask Amy. But not what would Ask Amy tell me to do in this situation—how pathetic would it sound if this were phrased in the form of an advice letter.

Dear Ask Amy-

I’ve been heavily involved with a very intense sport for three months now, but I’m really not a very athletic person. I don’t want to do it anymore, but I don’t want to give up either and look like a pathetic loser. Also I don’t want to get fat(ter).

Pret-ty bad.

The thing is that I probably could have done it, if I had actually been willing to sacrifice everything else, including my identity and the things I enjoyed and people I liked, and actually really physically commit my body and my time to crew. People can run, many of them for long distances, and I could run if I really wanted to. If there were a lion chasing me, for example.

Nobody likes to hear the sports story of “I tried it and I hated it and I quit,” they want to hear “I tried it and it was hard but I persevered and now my life is like 100% different and so much better and I learned to love and have a dog now.”

I don’t have a dog. I have a cat. I’m a cat person, and a person who quits.

*And also OK maybe possibly there were some cute guys on the men’s team, but then they would open their mouths and you’d realize they were the Winklevoss twins

Drunk Book Review: The Girl on the Train

I’m excited for the future if this is the kind of pulpy horror-show vomit-filled drunksploitation lit that passes for book club-appropriate reading nowadays.

Was it Gone Girl that opened the floodgates for this? Whatever it was, I’m grateful. I read this book in three hours and I don’t think I blinked.

Proof.
Absorbing culture.

Everyone is reading this book. Your mom, my mom, your fun aunt, your weird aunt, your boss, my boss. The head of my department at work stopped by my desk, tapped the cover, and said “Everyone at the resort where I was vacationing was reading this.” So jam on a floppy hat and pour your poolside mojito: this is “The Girl on The Train.” INTENSE SPOILERS AHEAD.

Rachel is an alcoholic, and her drink of choice is gin and tonic from a can.* She’s been dumped by her husband because a) she can’t conceive, b) she gets blackout drunk a bunch and hits people (OR DOES SHE??). There was cheating, he traded her in for a younger model, and now Rachel is forced to live with a roommate and she’s the saddest possible sack about it. (Come on, Rach. Literally every millennial is living with at least a dozen people and assorted unwelcome wildlife.) Then, a stranger she routinely spies on from the train gets murdered, and her life develops meaning again as she obsesses over solving the crime.

In many ways, it’s the same old drunk private eye story, but with a woman instead. And I don’t say that disparagingly; I love a good detective tale, and this offers the refreshing spin of a lady detective who is also a complete mess, which I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else. When she pukes on the carpet, I think “Oh god, I’ve been there” instead of “That’s so gross.” Is that sexist of me? Discuss.

I’m going to ruin this book for you. Are you ready? The husband did it. Rachel’s ex-husband, who is currently married to Anna and sleeping with/murdered Megan. Write it on your hand if you need to: divorced Rachel, married to Anna, killed Megan.

It had me guessing up until maybe the last 20 pages, so it’s nothing if not compelling, but it did leave me ever-so-faintly disappointed; I guess I was kinda hoping for milquetoast Anna to turn out to be a murderous monster, or for the ghost of Megan’s dead baby (oh yeah: Megan has a dead baby, write that down) to have come back for revenge, because those are the kind of books I like best. But all in all, this is a very tightly composed little mystery, hard to put down but easy to never pick up again once you’re finished. To describe it in one word: Satisfying.

If you totally meant to read this one but your busy social schedule is preventing you from getting to it any time over the next month, I’ve got your talking points covered. Your book club friends will never know you didn’t even buy a copy. (It still isn’t in paperback, and who has $23 to spend on something that takes less than a day to read? Please.)

 -The husband did it, of course. Then he gets a corkscrew to the neck. Who in your life would you like to stick a corkscrew into?

-He was gaslighting her into thinking she was a violent drunk, but he was actually the violent one and she just got blackout drunk a lot. Talk about times that you’ve been gaslighted/blackout drunk/both.

-The therapist was a red herring. Is your therapist a red herring?

– The book is told from the point of view of a series of unreliable narrators. If you were your own unreliable narrator, what parts of your life would you leave out? (I’ll share mine: that bullshit Pret a Manger breakfast sandwich I ate yesterday. That sweaty excuse for a brioche cost a larcenous five dollars and I’m ashamed of it. Also I would have gone to a different college.)

Et voila, you are the star of book group. The above should be enough for fifteen minutes or so of intelligent conversation, at which point you can spread conspiracy theories about the Boston Olympics bid and “accidentally” open a bottle of wine your hostess was saving for a special occasion.

*No one in my book club had heard of this. Have you heard of this?

Roommate O’Clock

Let me just talk about my roommates for a second, because they are literal saints.

They are so saintly that I decided I should draw icons of them, Byzantine style, so you all can fully appreciate their sainthood. These dudes:

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Cid is the saint of gluttony/pigging the eff out. He totes carried my mattress up the stairs.

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Christian, Cid’s boyfriend, is the saint of a close shave + hard liquor. He carried my other mattress that I accidentally stole from IKEA up the stairs, and also taught me how to play Ascension.

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Mike is the patron saint of busted ACLs everywhere. He is in the process of hooking me up with all of his hot male friends.

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Alex, Mike’s girlfriend who does not technically live with us but you know how it is, is the spicy saint of the salsa. She took me out to a club where I nearly let some dreadlocked dude make out with me on the dance floor but I stepped back from the ledge just in time. Thanks gurl.

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Oakley, the doggy saint of tug toys. I got to dogsit her and people are hella nice to you when you have a dog. Strangers in the street will just start conversations with you, which in Boston is basically a miracle.

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And the cat, patron saint of the nameless. Though it does have a name now (Colonel Mustard), it was just The Cat for like a year.

I really, REALLY LIKE MY ROOMMATES. Start praying to them and saying rosaries to them and stuff. Kthxbai.

Lifesplosion!!

So for those of you not in the know, it’s time to inform you that my life has exploded over the last couple of weeks.

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First, Sam dumped me out of the blue the day before New Year’s Eve, after four years. So I’m kind of pissed about that. Then I immediately moved into a new apartment with brand new people and pets (I hit the jackpot with my new roommates, more on them later). Then I started my new job.

Everything is so new it’s like a horrible roller coaster ride of newness. In fact:

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I want to extend some particular thank-yous to my mom and Marnie for talking me down off of the ledge, mentally speaking:

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And the two loveliest ladies who ever helped a bitch move, Ashley and Chelsea you’re definitely going to get Raptured any day now so get ready:

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And all y’all who helped distract me during the bleak moments, too many to draw, you know who you are.

As a token of how much I am just moving the fuck on right now, I made a list of the Top Seven Celebrities I Would Share My Life With, to remind me that there are good people who I’m 99% sure would treat me right out there in the world.

1. John Green

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John, the tragedy is that there can’t be more than one of you. Everyone needs a John Green in their lives.

2. Richard Ayoade

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I’m pretty sure that I would die a happy woman if Richard Ayoade would coyly wink at me just once.

3. Hannah Hart

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Come cook in my kitchen. I have an immersion blender and I will support every single one of your life choices.

4. DFW (posthumous)

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Clearly and tragically, David Foster Wallace is a pretty dead guy right now, but if he were somehow reanimated I would jump his bones.

5. Spencer Krug

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No one knows my soul like you do, Spence. Let’s make beautiful music together. Or, like, arrhythmic and difficult music.

6. Mike Birbiglia

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Tell me your stories, Mike. Tell them to me late into the night, when the world sleeps.

7. Chris Ware

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Chris Ware, you already hold my heart in your hands like a smooth river stone. You have only to close your fingers around it.

 

Your New Favorite Holiday Playlist

Once upon a time, I used to have a college radio show. The only thing I really remember about it is that a group of tweens once requested that I play “Hey There Delilah” three times in a row. (I only played it twice, I’m not a total whore.) But I mean to say that I am a professional. Allow a professional to provide you with the TOP TEN holiday tunes you need.

Warning: It turns out that most of the Christmas songs I like are basically the old-school, scary-sounding, dark and sort of bleak ones. Cuz that’s what winter sounds like.

Also, you are required to bake while listening.

1. “O Come All Ye Faithful,” Twisted Sister, on their xmas album Twisted Christmas. Self-explanatory.

My mom loves this album. Not kidding.
My mom loves this album. Not kidding.

2. Louis Armstrong’s “Christmastime in New Orleans,” for the trumpet solo.

Love them glasses, Satchmo.

3. Johnny Cash twangily singing “What Child Is This” is basically perfect and makes me almost cry every time, even though I really have no emotions about Jesus.

murderface
Johnny Cash has this unfortunate thing where he always looks like he’s about to haul off and murder you.

4. I am freaking picky about “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” The pauses have to be just right, the “Rejoice” has to have a real punch, and there shall be no tricky vocalizations showing off anybody’s voice. Even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version I’ve heard does not satisfy me, as it is not sufficiently minor. I do like Sixpence None The Richer’s version quite a bit.

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Everyone who does this song should have to STICK TO THIS.

5. Mannheim Steamroller doing Carol of the Bells is the soundtrack of my childhood Christmases. It’s like a Blade Runner Christmas.

Chip Davis used to be a dreamboat. Love the lapels.
Chip Davis used to be a dreamboat. Love the lapels.

6. “Lo, How A Rose” is a song that I used to think only my crazy family sang, but turns out that Feist knows it too!

Feist is the boredest little angel.
Feist is the boredest little angel.

7. The lyrics for “In The Bleak Midwinter” are by Christina Rossetti, so it should be sung by a lady. The “Our God, Heav’n Cannot Hold Him” part in this Annie Lennox version is why I listen to music

I love you, Annie.
I love you, Annie.

8. “Carolina Christmas,” Squirrel Nut Zippers, off of their album Christmas Caravan. Appropriately, I will be heading back to North Carolina for xmas this year, my point of origin.

I want footie pajamas.
I want footie pajamas.

9. Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel’s “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” on the Elf soundtrack. As rape-y and weird as this song is, Redbone’s voice makes my icy heart melt.

I'd love to jingle his bells, if you know what I meeeaaannn
I’d love to jingle his bells, if you know what I meeeaaannn

10. Frank Sinatra’s “White Christmas,” cuz you just kind of have to.

Honorable mention goes to the Sufjan Stevens Christmas album, which you should just listen to the whole thing of. It’s a bit twee, but he gets a pass, seeing as he is basically the great grandfather of twee.

What are other people listening to? Do not link to any Feliz Navidad, Frosty, or Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree type of shit pls.