Adjective

Smörgåsbored: (adj.)

Existential angst brought on by an overabundance of options.

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My first job after college was at a book store. I worked at a Borders (RIP) as one of those drowsy book snots who stood behind the center kiosk and directed you to the authors you just mispronounced.

This was in a reasonably wealthy suburb of south jersey – developments, soccer fields, landscaping trucks always parked against the curb. There was money and safety and all the dreary trappings of ideal suburban life.

One day, while rooting around in my manager’s office (I would snoop when bored), I came across some sales figures.

The most popular section in the store? In that nice, air-conditioned store peopled with pretty moms whose shiny bracelets rattled as they browsed, and powerdads who’d pop by to flirt with the baristas before heading to their next meeting?

Self help.

By a country mile: self help.

So much wealth and opportunity… and nobody’s happy.

Blew my mind.

Makes sense, of course. Western Civilization has reached endgame. And now it’s run out of things to do. I mean, it could commit itself to the principles it espouses, and work toward a just and free society… it could actively try to end poverty, racism, misogyny and hate… commit itself to solving the immense climate crisis that’s going to bake us right off the goddamn planet. We could tinker and invent our way out of oblivion. But instead, I think we’re going to just eat and fuck and play until we die.

Prove me wrong, Humanity. Prove me wrong.

 

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Adjective

Aquard: (adj.)

When a former president, infamous for illegally imprisoning and waterboarding detainees, has a bucket of water dumped on his head for charity.

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Here’s the thing, George.

Your administration was a little while ago now. And I’m not going to start making a fuss over how, in eight measly years, you and your cohort of shitty devils managed to break the entire goddamn world.

Sure, we’re still cleaning up your mess… and will most likely be doing so for the next, oh, I dunno, fifty years or so. But that’s okay. That was then. This is now. And one shouldn’t dwell on the past. This is now.

This is now.

You can paint your paintings and hold art shows in your library. I’m actually quite a fan of your work, albeit in an infantile, elbow macaroni self portrait kinda way.

I’m cool sharing the present with you. Because that was then. And this is now. And yes, now is a terrible, violent and so so scary disaster. But we can all deal with that. So long as you don’t bring up the past and remind us what now could have been.

So please, George. Tread lightly. For once in your life, bub… be mindful.

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Adjective

Inspirrational: (adj.)

Displaying a cloying and incoherent positivity.

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Once, while in a conversation with some impending school chums, a woman told me in utter seriousness that, “… life isn’t measured by the amount of breaths you take. It’s measured by the number of moments that take your breath away.”

She said this without a touch of irony – she just sat there radiating with shallow, dopey optimism like a Thomas Kinkade painting.

“So, death then?” I joked, hoping to change the mood.

Half the table laughed. The woman smacked her teeth and told me I was gross. And I learned who my friends were going to be.

Look…

I’m not saying good things don’t happen. They do. Every day. All around the world. People exhibit acts of pure love, kindness, and selfless altruism. People are beautiful and good and warm and glorious to one another… probably with the same frequency that others shoot, stab, or strangle one another.

Good things are… well… good.

Our planet is a remarkable little pearl, stuffed to the gills with the awesome, the beautiful and majestic.

I get just as choked up at images of galaxies and nebulae as the next guy… maybe even moreso…

The world is not a cold, dead place. And in the face of hardship, sure – hope’s an essential tonic.

But for the love of Jeff, that doesn’t justify some of the bullshit people say when trying to be inspirational.

In fact, could there be anything less inspiring than someone trying to inspire you?

The half-knowing looks. The huckstery, broad smiles and honeyhallowed voices, and the awful, awful catchphrases.

Life is far too complicated… more rich, remarkable, nuanced, and complex a thing to be summed up in such a bland little chirp of philosophy.

And thank god for that.

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Adjective

Precarryous: (adj.)

The piled instability brought on by trying to lug everything all at once.

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You could just take two trips.

But you know this already.

You could even use the exercise, if you’re being honest with yourself.

But of course you know that, too.

You spent so much money on all of those groceries. Money you worked hard to earn. You took time out of your day and braved the throng and din of a grocery store on a Saturday afternoon… all so you could get everything you need to carefully prepare a meal for your partner.

If you were to add up every stitch of time that brought you to this moment… the work, the travel, the careful and conscious preparation… you’d have to measure it in hours.

But you wanted to save yourself the time of making that second trip.

And that’s the reason you dropped your fucking eggs.

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Adjective

Underwary: (adj.)

The unease experienced while undressing in front of another person.

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It’s easy to be alluring when you’re wearing clothes.

You can be stylish, funny, urbane… anything you want, really.

But once you charm your way into someone’s bedroom, you’ve got to shed, layer by layer, the fiction been telling.

Everyone experiences it, regardless of what side of the mattress you’re on. That sudden, hideous panic.. the remembrance that our bodies often horrify us. How they have more folds and furrows than we’d like. A patch of hair… a nasty little mole or skin tag. Our bodies are a landscape of uglies… uglies we forget about while wooing. But all of which our partners are certain to discover the first time we drop trow.

Soon enough you’ll both be flopping atop one another… each of you making stupid noises and hopefully twisting your faces into grotesque displays of delight.

Sex is nothing if not ludicrous.

But in the moments that fall between the before and after, in the molting of one’s manicured persona into the doughy realities of our nakedness, one must silently confront this terrible moment of anxiety when we decide to just swallow our pride, give in to our yearning, and let ourselves be ugly.

Or… to put it another way:

It’s easier to look sexy while looking at your watch, than it is to tell a joke when you’re naked.

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Adjective

Scholeric: (adj.)

Cantankerousness and irascibility one experiences when talking to the less-learned or academically disinclined.

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I had a professor back in college who absolutely despised his students. You could just tell. There he was, a man who had spent decades of his life dedicated to study and scholarship… sharing his painstaking minutiae with a room full of yawning, boozy teenagers.

Every class would begin the same – with him fresh and buoyant. “This time will be different,” his posture seemed to say. “This time they’ll see why this stuff is important.”

And, of course, each time we’d shrug and drowse and stare back at him with wide, bovine eyes. By the end of class, he’d be stalking around in front of the room, red-faced and burbling with a tepid, cerebral rage like a leopard in a sport coat. And still we’d just sit there and watch him rant. 

In the next year or so, I’d wake up. I’d start to give a shit. I’d come to class ready to discuss. But I wouldn’t fully understand the extent of his frustration until ten years later… when I’d be the one pacing in front of a room like that (in some cases, the same exact room… as I taught classes at the same college I’d myself attended)… flailing my arms around, trying to summon even a flicker of excitement in my students.

“Here, look at this,” I’d say to my kids, “some writer wrote this… he wrote it hundreds of years ago. And it’s still just as true now as it was then. See how magical that is? That there can be experiences that transcend cultures, time, language, fucking oceans… that there’s some seething undercurrent to existence that touches every human life? See how some play from the Renaissance, or some poem from the 1950s can both be about the same thing, and yet be totally different? That the heart and the mind are a set of rubix cubes that we jumble and solve, jumble and solve over and over again? See how everything matters? Even thought it doesn’t? Surely you can see how this could move someone. Surely you can understand why I’m up here talking about this to you, despite the fact that I can barely afford my rent while doing it. Because this language has affected me so profoundly that I want to be close to it. Share it with you. Because it matters. (and also, I’m allowed to wear slippers to work)”

Sometimes they’d get it. I was a decent teacher… hardly a scholar (I find pushing commas around a thesis to be soul-crushingly dull)… but I was good at infecting others with my excitement. I was good at making people care. Even if it was just for 50 minutes.

But boy howdy… there were times. Students – usually boys, because boys are without question not less-intelligent, but far better at stupid than girls could ever hope to be – who wore their apathy like a badge. Who’d roll their eyes and smirk and stretch their arms disdainfully, “See that buddy? This is how bored I am. This is how few fucks I give.” These are the kids you hate. I mean hate-hate. That black, tarry muck hate that you can’t hide, no matter how hard you try. Some over-valued, under-challenged, mean, suburban puke of a kid who looked at college as a beer pong tournament rather than a place to learn… whose dad – totally – owns this dealership.

You look at that kid and think… someone isn’t in college because of you. Someone’s raking leaves, or salting french fries… and you’re there in a white ballcap, checking your Facebook on your smartphone for $22,000 a year.

And then you remember that you were probably more like that kid than you’d ever want to admit. And you remember that poor, wan professor from ten years before… that poor schmucky guy with the widening belly and dwindling hairline who capered around the room at the start of every class trying desperately to show you why it all mattered… all while you doodled in your notebook, and tried to catch the eye of the girl you liked.

And you realize that you’ve been both those people. That they’re both so different, and they’re both the same… because they’re both you. And you wonder if anyone would want to sit and talk about that, and how it reminds you of so many books you read when you were in college.

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