Adjective

Scholeric: (adj.)

Irritability and cantankerous one experiences while talking to the 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, forced to share his painstakingly hoarded minutiae with a room full of yawning, boozy teenagers day after day after day…

Every class would begin the same – with him as fresh and buoyant as warm laundry. “This time will be different,” his posture seemed to say. “This time they’ll see why this stuff is so 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 made this… he wrote it hundreds of years ago. And it’s still just as true now as it was then. Do you see how magical that is? That there are experiences that transcend culture, time, language, 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 our heart and our mind are a set of rubix cubes that we jumble and solve, jumble and solve over and 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 enthusiasm. 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 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 limbs 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 there you are, sprawled in a ballcap and sweatpants, checking your Facebook on your iPhone 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 much it reminds you of so many books you read with passion when you were young.

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Adjective

Unentendrenal: (adj.)

A statement, phrase, or description that sounds like innuendo, but you honestly didn’t mean it that way. You swear.

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Once, while at a backyard barbecue, I was offered a wiener by a Lutheran youth minister.

He was a jolly chap – a human pastel – who assured me with an earnest smile that I could have as many wieners as I liked. He directed me toward the buns for my wiener. And the condiments to put on my wiener. All I had to do was say so, and he would cook me up a wiener right away.

This was back in my early teens, during the brief summer when I was a Lutheran.

By which, of course, I mean I had a crush on a girl in a Lutheran youth group, and thus  feigned faith in her god in order to linger on the periphery, too afraid to introduce myself.

She had scarlet hair and freckles and was a full foot taller than me, and I adored her.

Ah, youth.

Anyway…

So, look… if we’re being totally honest here, I’m embellishing a little bit about the wiener thing. But ONLY a little bit. I swear. He really did offer to cook up my wiener. Straight face. Big smile. Wiener. And then he put his hand on my shoulder and aimed me toward the buns. Whatever other embellishment I added was done A. for comedy, and B. to highlight what I love about, if not all Lutherans, then at least the Lutherans I knew while pretending to be a Lutheran.

This is it: Lutherans are nice.

Like, really nice. All of them. Even the mean ones. The whole of the Lutheran community is a pathologically pleasant congregation of sweater-vested avuncularity. Every one I’ve ever known has been tall, polite, and at least partly (mostly) Scandinavian. They invert my every expectation of theological zeal – Where others worship, Lutherans praise. Rather than preach, they share. The drama and severity of Martin Luther’s rigid, teutonic theses notwithstanding, the world to a modern Lutheran seems one big rumpus room… a place to take a load off, strum an acoustic guitar, and tell you a thing or two about their friend Jesus.

All this niceness. It’s… just so… nice. And ya know what? I don’t trust it. On some basic level, down in my bones, I find it all alien and suspicious… because I was raised in the brambled bosom of the Catholic church… and there’s nothing nice about Catholicism, let me tell you. Oh, sure… Pope Francis has overseen a heroic rebranding effort these past few years. He’s the kinda pope you could hug, maybe. But Catholicism itself? Would you hug Catholicism? Hell no. Because we all know – down in its bones – there’s nothing nice about it. All that blood ritual? The obsession with violence and torture mythology, and submissive dogma? From Mitre to slipper, the whole ordeal is a gilded, monarchical terror pageant. And that shit sticks with you.

Which is why, all those years ago, standing in that lovely back yard and politely accepting that youth minister’s wiener, I smoldered with guilt and fidgets. Because I’m trained to look for the creeps in any situation. I’m programmed to find the darkest timeline.

It makes life complicated.

Fun! Hilarious! Worthy of note!

But woof. Ya know?

 

 

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Adjective

Autocowrecked: (adj.)

When the text or message you intended to send is ruined by the intrusiveness of your smartphone’s autocorrect function.

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I received a photo of my newborn niece this morning.

Okay, hold up. I’m lying a bit. Full disclosure: she’s not my niece.

I have no siblings. I’m an only child. Hence the catastrophe of my personality. But still!

She’s my cousin’s daughter. But my cousin and I were born six-weeks apart and raised in social proximity, plus we’re Italian-American so we’re basically brothers. I’m claiming him as a brother. I’ve abropriated him. Boom. New word. Abropriated. Be impressed. In lieu of flowers, send flours. I’m into baking these days.

Puns.

Anyway.

So he sends me a photo of the little peepin’ spud… and she’s a cutie. A feat, considering that she’s a newborn caucasian… and not to make it a race thing… but white babies newborns are… rough. Mottled. Lizardish.

But she’s cute! So I texted him as much:

what a cutie

But that dreaded autocorrect function took that text, and interpreted its subtext:

what a chore

Words cannot capture the restraint it took not to send that message to him. Because… comeon. Imagine how funny that would be. Those would literally be the first words I’ve ever spoken about this child… to anyone, let alone to her father. That poor bastard, all sleep-deprived and proud of his most recent contribution to overpopulation… he sends over a salvo of pictures of his 10-pound-boucin-baby and what does he get? What a chore. That’s friggin hilarious!

But I didn’t send it. I corrected the autocowreckt. Because I’m an adult. And because sincerity is the order of the day.

So ducking annoying.

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Adjective

Invoterbrate: (adj.)

One who only stands for that which will get them elected.

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This week, Donald Trump sided with Vladimir Putin against the American people.

Whether or not he or his administration were associated with the hacking in question isn’t really the point right now. It is evident that a crime was perpetrated against the citizens of this country by Russian agents… a crime that the Trump administration has failed to address in any meaningful way… until Monday… when he sided with Putin – himself a despot and a murderer – against our own intelligence agencies and the FBI.

As far as I’m concerned, Donald Trump now complicit after the fact.

The responses among Republicans ranged from tepid to salty – most notably John McCain (about whom I have harbored many conflicting opinions for decades) who came out swinging. He deserves credit for his rhetoric – it’s a strong statement. But that’s all it is. A statement. And when Republicans finally took action, they blocked an attempt to subpoena the interpreter who sat with Trump and Putin.

All their bluster this week. All their talk of patriotism. All their portrayals of love and fidelity to the country, and its laws, and its people – it’s all nonsense. They had an opportunity to hold Trump and Putin accountable to the people… and they didn’t. They chose political expediency over justice. Again.

Just as Trump is an accessory after the fact, so too is the Republican party. Every time they choose politics over the law, they reveal the truth of what they’ve become: a crime syndicate. They stand for absolutely nothing beyond the furtherance of their own power. They will do anything – ANYTHING – to keep it. However grotesque. However illegal. However false.

Time to go.

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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

Blandsome (adj.)

  1. The quality of being generically, inoffensively, broadly, boringly attractive.
  2. When one looks good enough.

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Turning 30 meant a lot of things for me. It marked the end of my long (too-long) youth. The first shaky step on my path toward middle age. A growing waistline; a wasting hairline.

The crack of a starter’s pistol, marking the beginning of a long, tiresome race I’m absolutely certain to lose.

It’s grim shit. But there’s an upside. A remarkable upside.

Now, when I wake up and look at my face, one day pudgier… one or two more lines hiding around my eyes… I realize that this is the best I’m going to look.

I’m as handsome as I’m gonna get – every single day.

When you think about it that way… it’s kinda great.

So up yours, 30s.

I look alright.

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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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