a note from the sub

the things i forgot to tell you today, because i was too busy botching all of your quiz scores.

Month: May, 2016

toast

Dear kids,

Greetings, from Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again’s small and poorly air-conditioned studio apartment, here in the resplendent Slums of Beverly Hills. As we rapidly approach summer vacation, that means way more time spent in my house, watching YouTube videos and reading Facebook-linked HuffPost articles, trying to expend the least amount of energy and money as possible. Currently, I am watching a video compilation of people receiving puppies for Christmas and crying, as I hold my dog Toast who, typically, appears deeply disturbed by the sudden and intense onslaught of emotion.

Whenever anyone tells me they’re getting a dog, I feel the overwhelming urge to warn them, which already sounds absurd because dogs are the best, right? But dogs are complicated, also. In ways I could never have possibly fathomed when I drove my adorable, small-yet-durable-looking new pup home from the shelter. And it’s not that I don’t love him, don’t mistake me, because I do. But how can I explain to you the real-life complexities of having a dog in your life?

You’ve already heard about my dog, Toast. I’ve perhaps used him a few too many times as an allegory for the way in which I interact with you, but that’s probably merely a small piece of a much larger conversation we can have another day. As you may or may not have already gathered, he and I have a very complicated relationship, the sort of dog-owner thing you don’t read about in Buzzfeed articles or memes about the mythically-proportioned loyalty of rescue pets. My dog is fiercely independent, stubborn and temperamental. We don’t spend time together in a traditional dog-owner sense; he doesn’t care to sit with me or even near me, mostly preferring the privacy of his crate or his little bed. Some days are low days for him; sometimes he won’t let me touch him all day and instead he just slinks around the house moodily, glaring at me from various positions in our small apartment, lunging at me aggressively, suddenly and with no provocation. And other days he is my vibrant, charming best friend, playing with the sleeve of my sweater, tangling himself in my shoelaces as I endeavor to tie them, sashaying around the mall with me like he’s the mayor of Century City. You know it’s bad when your exceedingly kind vet tells you he’s “… Just a difficult dog, and it’s a very long road ahead.”

For a long time, I blamed myself for Toast’s shortcomings as a companion. If I only loved him better somehow, I told myself, if I was home more, if I spent more money or time on him maybe he would love me the way dogs are supposed to love their owners. There are some moments where my only saving grace is that he is small enough that I can physically overpower him when he is out of control; it is in these moments I understand that, if he was a larger dog, I could certainly not keep him. If I had a family, I absolutely could not keep him, and it is very likely he would need to be put down. It is on these days, when I have to lock him in his crate so that he can’t hurt me, that I still curl up in a little ball on my bed and just sob, over how disappointed I am with him, how much responsibility he is and how little equipped I am to handle it all on my own, how I might bear it better if I felt like I got more from him in return.

When people say that dogs have personalities, usually they mean it in a charming sense— dogs are allowed to have a personality when it’s a cute and quirky one. But Toast came to me with a full set of very real baggage, and sometimes it is cute and charming, and other times it’s dark and heavy and terrifying. He doesn’t understand the social contract under which dogs and humans are supposed to coexist because he can’t read. And, more importantly, I have no right to ask it of him because, well, he’s just a fucking dog. He is a creature of independent will and spirit for whose wellbeing I have made myself solely and entirely responsible.  Whose wellbeing I am required to ensure even when he is shitty to me, when he refuses to hold up his end of our imaginary bargain, on those days (and of which there are many) when the heartbreak and disappointment and massive financial burden far outweigh the joy he brings to me.

I know my experience with Toast is not typical, but it happened; he exists. And the thing I want you to know is that I still wouldn’t trade him for the world; for everything that he is, he’s mine and we are family. I want you to know that, at some point, I began to no longer look at him through the lens of what I wish he was, or what I thought having a dog would be. I began instead to understand our relationship not as a contract in which he has systematically failed to uphold his end, but as a unilateral promise I made when I drove my adorable and small-yet-durable-looking new pup from the shelter, to love him for who he is, and often in spite of who he is, to put a roof over his head and food in his bowl, to be available for a snuggle when he wants it, to never give up on him just because he didn’t turn out to be who I was hoping he would. In the end, having a dog has truly been all about unconditional love, it was just my love that would be called upon to be unconditional. And Toast has taught me that my capacity to love is infinite.

Anyway, this is all a bit heavy for you. I want you to keep watching your dog videos (especially peep that one where a bunch of dogs fail to catch things… fucking hysterical.) Snuggle up with your stuffed pooch at night, let him ward off the baddies for you.  And, as a place in your heart continues to be carved out for the dogs of the world, really make sure it’s a place for them, for everything they are, good and bad. There is always more room.

Except in my apartment, if you ask Toast. He’d like his own.

the best policy

Oh my kiddos.

I did need you to tell the truth today. I needed to know the truth about who had thrown the first punch; I did need to know the truth in order to determine who should offer a miserably conciliatory handshake first. I needed to know so very much that, after I forced you to handshake-bro hug it out, I asked you if you understood why it mattered to tell the truth. You told me because honesty is the best policy, of course. I looked you straight in your sweet, precocious eyes, grimaced, and lied when I told you, “yup.”

Don’t get me wrong. Honesty is good. Honesty is fine. Honesty is the kid who somehow got invited to everyone’s birthday parties until we realized he was kind of a shit stirrer and no one could figure out who was actually friends with him. The problem with honesty is that it gets presented as a sort of catch-all, a when in doubt…, when it is, in reality, an extremely niche solution that is ONLY appropriate in instances for which it is specifically requested, and people so very rarely ask for what they really want.

There was a time in my life where I was really into being honest; it was a phase I went through in college, akin to my passing obsession with faux fur, Adam Levine, and the period of time during which I wore three inch stilettos everywhere, including while riding my bicycle, which may have been related to the considerable number of times I crashed my bicycle. I remember turning to a crush-of-the-moment once and saying (and this is both real and specific, I remember it as though it were yesterday… for reasons that will become obvious,) “I don’t know if it’s what’s going on with your hair, or what, but I am like super into you these days.” He looked at me with what could only be described as “…” I eventually said, “Okay bye,” and teetered off in my heels. We never spoke of it again.

Here are some things I’ve learned about honesty.

  1. People don’t really expect honesty; hitting people with some unexpected truth is literally that, you hit them with it; you punch them in the face. And they don’t react like they do in the movies, for the most part, unless they cry, and if they are crying it’s because that’s sometimes how people react when they get punched in the face.
  1. You will almost always instantly regret it. You will continue to regret it until enough time has passed that it becomes a hilarious story to tell your friends, about what a dumbass you are. Like the time over spring break when I told a treasured friend that I was in love with him and he reacted in the sort of bewildered way you do when you get punched in the face by a treasured friend, and I really went balls to the wall Nicholas Sparks style and told him I would move to another country for him and boy was that stupid and ha ha ha and hardy har har and excuse me while I go throw myself out the window.
  1. You will not be thanked for it. People will say that they respect you but, in truth, they fear you, and contrary to what you may have come to believe in your school life so far, fear and respect are sort of the same but also not really. People get afraid to be subjected to your truth bombs, wincing as they praise your candor and silently try and figure out how they can get as far away from you as possible before that happens again.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should all run around telling big fat lies to each other all the live long day. But please take it from someone who knows; honesty should come with a warning label. Apply sparingly. Dime-sized amount. If symptoms persist, discontinue use, for fuck’s sake. You don’t need to be a truth-wielding knight of the round table every single second of your life. Tell someone it will be fine, even if you’re not sure it will. Tell them he will be back, even if he won’t. Tell Miss Park you like her hair, instead of letting her know she looks like she didn’t brush it (I didn’t, that’s truth.) Punch someone with your fists for a change. Wait, don’t do that. That was the whole point of… Oh never mind.