… the musings of a thirty-something, married, Southern teen librarian turned Stay-At-Home-Mom with a 14-year-old's sense of humor, an awkward spirit, and a stubborn, mouthy, redheaded country boy to accompany her through life.
One year ago, on May 5th, I was worried that my five year anniversary with Jake and my first real Mother’s Day would be ruined. I’d been feeling sick for several days. Jake and I were planning an embryo transfer for the next month and I was supposed to call with cycle day one. With 10 month old twins, though, my period hadn’t regulated yet and I was a week late. When the nurse at the fertility clinic had asked if I could be pregnant, I assured her that Jake could not get me pregnant. We’d accepted it. It was fine, but I wasn’t taking a test. She understood, but said I’d need to come in to check for cysts if I didn’t get my period in the next couple of weeks.
Two more weeks had gone by at this point and, concerned that I might have some severe feminine problems, I decided to make an appointment for the next week. Whatever scary news I received would come after our special weekend. I knew, however, that they’d insist on a pregnancy test. I figured I’d cope with any difficult emotional response at home and take one myself. Off to Dollar General I went, grabbing a can of chicken noodle soup along with my one dollar test, just to feel like the trip wasn’t a total waste.
As I sat on the toilet lid, waiting for my negative test result, I Googled reasons for a late period. I hypothesized everything from PCOS to ovarian cancer, anything other than the obvious. I glanced at the test, assuming I’d immediately be throwing it away. Much to my surprise, however, I saw not one line, but two.
I took two more tests, both of which also came up positive and called my OBGYN.
Me: “False positives, though… that’s not really a thing, right? That’s just a plot device from romance novels and teen movies?” Nurse: “I mean, yeah, basically. If you have three positive tests, you’re pregnant.”
Pregnant. After Jake had been told by his urologist that “miracles happen” in regards to our chances of natural conception… after spending $30,000 on back-to-back rounds of pandemic IVF… after having been cautioned against more children while fighting pneumonia, heart complications, and sepsis following the girls’ birth… I was pregnant.
So it was, that our sixth year of marriage passed in a whirlwind of minivan shopping, home improvements, and continued toddler joy. We celebrated a first birthday, first steps, and first words, all while preparing for the arrival of our baby boy. With no complications and zero drama, on December 6th our Thomas came into the world. The romcoms were half right, y’all. I’ve never believed in love at first sight, but I just hadn’t met the right man.
I adore my daughters. I love being home with them, hearing every giggle, witnessing every new milestone, soothing every tantrum, kissing every owie. I look forward to a future where I have two precious little girls to guide. We’ll do crafts, dance to bad pop music, watch princess movies, go shopping, do our nails. I love that I get the chance to be the mother mine wanted so very much to be to her daughter but couldn’t. Our relationship is truly everything I’d hoped. The bond I have with Thomas is not stronger, but it is… more unexpected. Whenever I envisioned having children one day, I was so focused on the idea of giving girls what I never had, that I never really imagined how I’d feel about a son. I even worried that I couldn’t be as close to a boy, no matter how I loved him.
Our sixth year was an utter surprise. It was the year Jake got his future hunting buddy and Lord of the Rings fan. It was the year his parents met their first grandson. It was the year my Gramma finally got her redheaded great grandbaby. Though I love my girls just as much, perhaps I relate to them more, understand their ornery motivations too clearly, because it’s my sweet Thomas who will rarely do anything wrong in his mother’s eyes. With his Daddy’s laidback charm, at just five months, this little guy could sell me ocean front property in Arizona.
After battling infertility and the drama of the girls’ birth, year six was the one where we welcomed a naturally conceived baby into the world without fear or heartache. While I jest that my children are in any way competing with their father, this was the year when I gave a piece of my heart to another man… one who looks just like him. Often having accused Jake of being a literal robot in his extreme stoicism, I’ve found it particularly swoon-worthy watching him fulfill the tough cowboy stereotype as his girls have carefully wrapped him around their little fingers over the last two years. Perhaps one day, I’ll feel he’s too hard on Thomas, just as I’m sure he’ll consider me to be too easy. In the meantime, however, seeing Jake snuggle and kiss the mirror image that is his baby boy…
If I still had my whole heart to give, it would be all his once again. Alas, I don’t think he minds sharing it.
I am a reader, y’all. I don’t mean that in an insufferably pretentious way, suggesting I read nothing but classics and historical non-fiction about World War I. I just mean I read… like all the time. I read news articles, empirical studies, classic novels, Wikipedia articles on any number of random subjects. I thought Jake might break his jaw from yawning the night I attempted to regale him with facts about the Hollywood sign. I was giddy the day he admitted that my Pablo Escobar/hippo anecdote had helped him in an online quiz. I read horror, fantasy, and even bestsellers, though I rarely enjoy the latter. I’m currently rereading a favorite young adult series and a classic. At any given time, I’m also making my way through any number of romance novels.
I discovered the romance genre with paranormal romance, when I was around 24. I had always loved fantasy and supernatural TV shows, specifically obsessing over the relationships in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Roswell, Angel, Charmed, and Vampire Diaries. I just felt like the intensity and drama of the pairings were more justified in a world with fewer limitations. Imagine my overwhelming joy when I discovered a literary genre in which the romance was the primary focus and the plot was secondary. In the last 10 years, I’ve branched out to other genres, but romance remains a favorite comfort read. There’s just something so cozy about knowing that no matter what a couple goes through, ranging from a crazy ex-boyfriend to a supernatural apocalypse, they’ll live happily ever after. What can I say? I grew up on 90s Disney.
As comforting as I find my romance novels, I do admit that the suspension of disbelief is high in the genre… so high, in fact, that many romance readers refer to the world in which these stories take place as Romancelandia. In the Real World, the men of history rarely cleared 5’10”, likely had an assortment of venereal diseases, and considered women property. In Romancelandia, Renaissance men admired sass and wit. A Scottish brogue was simply accented modern English peppered with a few archaic phrases. Contemporary men are all ambiguously wealthy 6’4″ powerhouses who love curvy girls. Indeed, Romancelandia is a delightful place, where even some fairly severe ailments can be cured by The Pene, such as…
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – as featured in Dark Desires After Dusk, by Kresley Cole and Beard in Mind, by Penny Reid
Obsessive compulsive disorder is like a gluten allergy, in that for every one hundred self-diagnosed victims, you will find one legitimate sufferer. This one person is easily identifiable, because if left untreated, their symptoms are utterly crippling. While this particular mental illness has not touched my life, I do find it pretty eyeroll-inducing when I read about a heroine who can’t even exist in society if her surroundings aren’t perfectly grouped into sections of threes… that is until she gets some of that dick. While I haven’t heavily researched OCD, it’s my understanding that treatment involves a relentless combination of behavioral therapy and medication, not a prescription of The Proper Schlong.
Anxiety/PTSD/Sleep Disorders – as featured in When a Scot Ties the Knot, by Tessa Dare and The Viscount Who Loved Me, by Julia Quinn
I actually have struggled with anxiety and PTSD. During Covid-19, I had so much trouble sleeping for more than an hour at a time, I ended up having a mental breakdown. While I wouldn’t say my husband has acted as a cure, he’s certainly been a balm. In Romancelandia, however, heroes act as a miracle remedy for an entire range of mental illnesses. Women who can’t even function in crowds can suddenly tour the world! Those suffering from horrific flashbacks at the sound of rain, can dance in it without fear! The once exhausted victims of frustrating and even debilitating sleep disorders are refreshed and have a bounce in their step! No lie, the Magic Member is better than the very best medical marijuana.
Infertility – as featured in Until July, by Aurora Rose Reynolds, The Friend Zone, by Abby Jimenez, Virgin River, by Robyn Carr, Beautiful Sacrifice, by Jamie McGuire
The titles I’m citing are not meant to comprise an exhaustive list. The romance genre is liberally peppered with all of these, none so much as penile infertility cures. Having suffered through the devastation of infertility, myself, I understand why this one upsets readers so much. Personally, I find this to be a more accurate representation of my perfect fantasy; going so far as to include Free Babies when the heroines previously thought they’d either never have children or would have to pursue medical intervention. Regardless, there’s no denying that fertility issues are rarely cured by Supernatural Semen, let alone at the rate they are in romance novels.
Sexual Trauma – as featured in Rock Chick Regret, by Kristen Ashley, Pleasure Unbound, by Larissa Ione, and Shadow Flight, by Christine Feehan
These hyperbolic romance blunders don’t usuallybother me all that much. I just don’t personally believe that an author is responsible for assigning every tough topic exactly the weight it deserves as a societal issue, when the primary plot is romance. In fact, I’ve read books where that’s clearly been the intent and they’re not really romance anymore, focusing instead on the issue in question. Even I admit, however, that sexual traumas are probably one of the most disturbing ailments for even fictional penises to heal. Sexual assault victims can struggle for years before they can comfortably be intimate with another person, if they ever get to that point. Wrapping that recovery up over the course of a few failed attempts spanning six weeks is… insensitive, to say the least. I have read novels where the recovery takes place over the course of years, montage style, as seen in Shadow Flight, by Christine Feehan. If the intent is to give a happily every after to someone who’s experienced such horrific trauma, I think this might be the best way to go.
Childhood Trauma – as featured in The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn and Dream Spinner, by Kristen Ashley
Childhood trauma is another recurring theme amongst romance novel heroes and heroines, likely because so many readers relate on some level, even if it isn’t personally. I find this plot device far less repellent than sexual traumas, however, since the characters have usually already dealt with the damage, to some extent. Sure, Simon didn’t want children in The Duke and I, because of his father’s abuse, but he’d overcome his developmental issues and made quite a name for himself in society. This trope mostly veers into the obnoxious when the problems persist in a way that impacts the characters’ day-to-day life. We often see women with abusive mothers or fathers, who interfere and disrupt their lives on a regular basis… that is until the hero swoops in to save the day with a stern talking to and a therapeutic orgasm. Suddenly Mom and Dad are on their best behavior and all those insecurities and unhealthy coping mechanisms have been replaced with a new self-care regimen and some yoga.
Physical Injuries – as featured in Rock Chick Redemption, by Kristen Ashley, Lucian, by Bethany Kris, and Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Of all the afflictions I’ve seen cured by phallic means in romance novels, actual physical injuries are probably the ones that take me out of the story the most… yes, even more than sexual trauma. Theoretically, I suppose the root source of someone’s OCD, anxiety, PTSD, or personal traumas could be improved by the addition of True Love. It’s eyeroll-inducing, sure, but it doesn’t completely take me out of the story. While fertility can’t be restored with a fantasy phallus, people do get pregnant when they’ve been told it could never happen. My son is proof. Under no circumstances, however, can you have sex a few days after getting a major head injury, Anastasia Steel. You can’t have sex after someone’s cut a tattoo from your body. You can’t have sex with freshly broken ribs. You can’t have sex right after childbirth, no matter how glorious the dick. I don’t care who’s responsible. That is some bad damn writing. Your happily ever after could have just as easily taken place three weeks later!
Once upon a time, I was an active Facebook user… very active. I was constantly scrolling, posting, checking for notifications from people I didn’t even know, and just generally pausing real life for a digital world that didn’t matter. After some insufferable Girl Drama with some insufferable girls, I decided I needed to take a break. I deleted my account, certain that I’d cave and return in a few days… except I didn’t. The next day, there was a shooting at a church in Texas and I actually had the emotional and mental energy to discuss it with, of all people, my husband. When Jake shared that he’d felt like I never wanted to talk to him about world events, because I’d worn myself out arguing with virtual strangers, I realized that social media was harmful for me on levels I’d never even acknowledged. As time went on, I felt less stress, less frustration, and like I had so much more time without it. Suddenly, my family called to inform me when someone was having a baby, getting married, or admitted to the hospital. While I felt less connected from those for whom I felt little, I felt more connected to the ones who mattered. That was six years ago and although I do use Jake’s old account to sell things on Marketplace, I’ve deleted anyone we actually know from his friends list. In my mind, Facebook has just become a place where moms go to compete and old people go to fight. I want no part of it. Instagram, however…
I became an active user of Instagram when I found out I was pregnant with my girls. I knew my Gramma would want to see pictures, but I wasn’t willing to rejoin Facebook. It took years for my family to accept that I’d left and would never return. As far as I knew, Instagram was strictly comprised of photos and videos, with little opportunity to argue with my great uncle about whether or not it was appropriate to use the n-word on someone else’s account… or at all. It seemed the obvious choice for sharing family photos, one universal enough that I wouldn’t need everyone to download something new. That was two years ago and I feel that Instagram is the one social media forum with which I can manage a truly healthy relationship. Still, there are several Instagram trends with which I want no part, such as…
Becoming a Momfluencer
I takea lotof pictures and the number increased exponentially once I had some babies. Having spent years working as a teen librarian, however, I am hyperaware of the presence I give my family on social media. My children are not only my children. They are people with feelings, who will one day have relationships, goals, and an image they want to cultivate for themselves. They don’t need to know about the times Mama sat in the living room floor and cried as they screamed, while somehow managing to look gorgeous for that carefully filtered photo. They don’t need to read about any of the negative feelings they’ve inspired, be they stress, frustration, or anger. They don’t need to be constantly dressed in uncomfortable designer toddler wear, that occasionally veers into disturbingly suggestive territory. While it’s easy enough to decide what’s appropriate to share and what’s not, now, just as I have never shared nude baby photos, I’ll never tell tales of bathroom accidents, school punishments, or private puberty moments. I limit both the types of photos and videos I share, in addition to who can see them and will likely become even more discerning as my kids grow older and more aware.
It’s not just my children who I don’t want living under a microscope, though. I have zero desire for feedback on my every parenting decision, from snack time to forward-facing carseats, to whether or not I do Santa. Moms can be the worst, most judgmental, hateful individuals. Just as I won’t allow my children’s middle school friends to dig through the archives for humiliating family song and dance videos, I won’t expose myself to the relentless scrutiny of women who know nothing about me or my children’s needs. My Gramma loves seeing photos and videos of her great grandbabies, but her ability to do so does not include the general public. There’s a reason this blog is anonymous and I’ve given my own family pseudonyms. We all deserve privacy. I will not give that up for theremote possibility that I’ll gain the kind of popularity that could lead to ad revenue. Which leads me to my next undesirable craze…
Creating Amazon Storefronts
Naturally, the above opinions mean I don’t follow a lot of influencers. My feed is largely comprised of complex cooking, cake decorating, and crafting videos, which I harshly judge with full awareness of my inability to replicate them. Still, the occasional influencer has crossed my path with her Amazon Storefront.
Folks, even a cursory glance at my most recent Amazon orders leads me to call shenanigans on these influencers and their carefully curated shopping history. At least half of my last twenty purchases were different brands of earbuds, because keep your Lilysilk hair scrunchie for overnight curls, what a stay-at-home-mom really needsis excellent earbuds. Were I to share my Amazon purchases, it would only result in an Amazon Storefront for the insane. In the last three months, I’ve purchased:
8 different styles of leather pouches
14 different pairs of earbuds
8 pairs of women’s shoes
1 curling iron
4 different infant hats
3 jacks-in-the-box (yes, I need to know the plural)
1 high-end XBOX gaming controller
4 different lamps
3 pack of acrylic double-sided picture frames
40 pack of slap bracelets
8 pack of hand puppets
4 rolling blackout curtains
Sure, I returned most of the duplicates. I even bought more popular mom items, such as face wash, fabric softener, and hairbands. Regardless, my Amazon Storefront could only appear as a cross between that of Peewee Herman and one of the Desperate Housewives. I never have excelled at trendy, which brings me to…
Tiny Home and Van Living
It’s rare that I throw around the word “privilege.” Initially coined to call attention to legitimate social and economic advantages, our bored and hyperbolic society has wielded this term to create greater division and attach a sense of moral superiority to what often boils down to simple jealousy. In the truest sense of the word, however, there is nothing more privilegedthan glorifying minimal square footage. A component of the more widespread minimalist movement, tiny home living exalts the wealthy for having less, when so many people in this world havelittle choice in the matter. I, myself, have lived in “tiny homes” at different times in life. They just went by different names, like “trailer,” “motel room,” and “low-income housing.” My “capsule wardrobe” was a collection of Goodwill finds. The dishes I once displayed on an open shelf were a design choice resulting from my apartment’s roach problem. My simplistic décor and limited belongings were due to a lack of funding. I wasn’t chic. I was poor.
As a white, middle class, suburban mom, I am now exposed to every Marie Kondo-style fad as it arises. Each time it’s presented as a new and innovative way for people to dispose of all the junk they’ve had the privilege to buy in the first place, before painting everything in their house “natural cotton,” and filling it with overpriced houseplants. Each time, I roll my eyes so hard they’re in danger of getting stuck. While it is, of course, fine to love the color “oatmeal,” limit your dishes to four individual place settings, and decorate with copious amounts of macrame, I cannot stomach the sanctimonious attitude that accompanies this movement. I grew up in a hoarder’s home. I’ve been donating and throwing out the things that don’t “bring joy” for the entirety of my adult life. Have less if you want less, but don’t act like it somehow makes you a better human to spend $50,000 refitting a shed or van that you plan to park on someone else’s property rent free. Don’t even get me started on shipping container homes. I’ve gone without out of necessity. My three bed, three bath, 2,300 square foot home (converted garage included), on over an acre brings me joy. If living with less is your jam, excellent, but I’ve lived in 400 square feet and it was far from Instagrammable, so the champions of this movement can hold the self-righteousness. At least van and RV living have the benefit of mobility, which can’t be replicated by just buying a smaller house. That, however, reminds me how much I don’t want to…
Travel with Children
I have previously written that I am the only Millennial who hates travel. As much as I want to see something new or something old, the process of doing so is exhausting. I cannot wait for The OASIS of Ready Player One, so I can tour the pyramids from my own home. I am apparently all alone, however, because according to Instagram, travel is the bees knees. I’ve never related to the wealth of reels raving about the adventure that is spending hours in a car or on a plane… to sleep on a comforter that’s only washed twice a year… so that I can wake up and spend hundreds of dollars on basics that would cost me tens of dollars at home. In 2019, I declared that I’d rather do porn and I stand by that. Now my feed is flooded with articles celebrating travel with children and while I’m not quite willing to joke that I’d rather do porn with children, I would do some pretty degrading stuff.
Last summer, Jake and I had to bow out of a family trip to Colorado. We were a single income household with one-year-old twins, expecting a baby in December. We had to buy a minivan, decorate the spare bedroom for the girls, and redecorate their old bedroom for Thomas. As much as I wanted to spend a week in a luxury cabin with my family, it just wasn’t possible. Instead, we took a day trip to a nearby lake and watched The Hills Have Eyes in a hyperbolic reminder that vacations aren’t always fun. Meanwhile, while they weren’t dealing with mutant cannibals, my parents and step-siblings were decidedly not enjoying their Labor Day getaway. What began with an all-ages airport floor slumber party, shifted to group altitude sickness, followed by mass food poisoning, a family IV hydration therapy session, and finally, a return trip with Covid-19. The only thing that sounds worse than sleeping in an airport lobby and being several different kinds of violently ill, is doing so away from home, surrounded by other people, while caring for children.
While all of this reads like the screenplay for a bad family comedy, even normal travel involves navigating airport terminals, extended car or plane rides with changing air pressure, hotel rooms without the routine of home, and sourcing food and fun for everyone involved. This week, I had the privilege of telling Violet that she couldn’t eat the beanbag filling, Scarlett that it was time to leave the park, and the opportunity to try out the baby leash on both of them. If those every day events have been any indicator as to how a family vacation with three in diapers would go, I think I might prefer the cannibals. No amount of painter’s tape, snack tackleboxes, or a toddler travel bed from your “Amazon Storefront” is going to make a family trip any more enjoyable or worth the money than planning a family fun weekend in our comfortable home while our children are this small. Speaking of which, there is one final Instagram obsession that I wholeheartedly want to never tag.
When Jake and I bought this house, we had a short list of improvements we wanted to make. Having rented my entire adult life, I was eager to paint every room in the house. We needed a fence for our dogs. Jake had to clear some brush so we could get full use of our backyard. Over the years, the list grew. While we immediately refinished our converted garage into our bedroom; we eventually had to redo it as a family space where we could pull back the furniture and carpet when it rained heavily. That meant we had to finish the master bedroom in a way that would fit our furniture, requiring a pocket door and 360° shelves. Next, we blew insulation into the walls of the adjacent spare bedrooms, in preparation for the day they would be made into nurseries. Somewhere in there, we needed a storm shelter, a water softener, and a carport. The roof has been replaced, but now we need a new front door, a few new windows, and exterior paint. Our laundry list of little luxuries has become a chore list of necessities for a finished home built in 1980. I cannot imagine the burden that is flipping a house.
I’ve previously detailed my disdain for HGTV and how every single house looks the same. Nowhere is that more apparent than the #flipperhome hashtag. Whether you’re staring at a red brick townhome from 1960 or a Frank Lloyd Wright-style bungalow form the early 1900s, it’s going to be painted white with black trim and doors. The kitchen will have exposed wooden beams, a backsplash of subway tile, and dark green cabinets with gold finishings. The bathrooms will have free-standing oval tubs and showers built entirely of transparent glass. It’ll be staged with jewel-toned minimalist 60s mod furniture. The finished product will be homogeneously gorgeous in a feed with all the other #flipperhomes and it will have been miserably expensive, time consuming, and tedious to make it so.
HGTV presents every disaster as a hilarious adventure, complete with dialogue reminiscent of a middle school play. As a homeowner, though, I’m aware of the actual financial obligation that is a flooded garage turned bedroom, the disgusting chore of a septic system that needs tending, and the relentless hassle that is a roof replacement. I don’t even want to replicate the furniture remodels on my Instagram feed, let alone take on an entire house. As it is, Jake and I both insist on decorating our own home in classic styles and fashions we love, so we don’t have to take on the physical, emotional, or economic burden again any time soon. Our home may not be Instagram feed worthy, but that just might save me the trouble of getting all dolled up for that mental breakdown photoshoot.
Once I completed my self-assigned project to read 26 classics, I was pretty burnt out on heavy literature. While I genuinely enjoyed all but two of the titles I chose, I realized that there’s a reason why people don’t typically read classics for fun. The pacing is far slower, the world-building is more involved, the themes are less obvious, and in many cases, the dialect can be quite difficult to follow. Reading a classic is enjoyable in the way reading a PEW Research Center study is enjoyable. It’s work. So, as a balm to my somewhat raw senses, I decided to try a modern and lighthearted take on classics, with Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, following the prolific family of the same name in Regency era Britain, which officially spans the years 1811-1820.
In our modern world, where everyone is watching something different, there are few titles that everyone recognizes. While others lament that fact, I’m just relieved that finally, I can rewatch the original Roswell for the 87th time in peace, without being subjected to the absolute horror that I haven’t seen Yellowstone. Bridgerton, however, is one of the rare shows that seems to have gained household notoriety, even if not everyone has actually watched it. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise and have perhaps just had it on your Netflix list, it’s about a family of eight children, the Bridgertons, sequentially named for the first eight letters of the alphabet and their adventures in love. Each Bridgerton gets their own book and, I would assume, Netflix season. Though historical romance has never been my jam, I made my way through the entire Bridgerton series, complete with lengthy epilogues, and figured it would be a complete waste not to review them.
As with my previous “I read… so you don’t have to” serial, there will be unavoidable spoilers, because… well that’s the “you don’t have to” part. I will not, however, share every detail of the plot or resolution, completely ruining the story or show for those who intend to read or watch. The show has already veered a great deal, so I suspect reading my reviews will spoil very little, but reader beware. I will be updating and reposting my reviews as the series continues, to include my assessments of each season.
1. The Duke and I – Daphne and Simon – Rank: 3
The Duke and I tells the tale of Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, and Daphne, the oldest Bridgerton daughter in the summer of 1813. Simon is a rake (Regency era playboy) and the best friend of Anthony Bridgerton, Daphne’s oldest brother. Having been abused by his own father, Simon has vowed never to marry or have children. Meanwhile, Daphne longs for marriage and motherhood, but finds that she’s so easy to get along with that men tend to see her as a strictly friendly or even sisterly companion, much to her despair during her first season on the marriage market.
Simon first meets Daphne when she’s being harassed by a suitor. Before he can save the day, Daphne punches the drunk herself and Simon finds himself immediately attracted to her… that is until he discovers that she’s the little sister of his best friend. Regardless, Simon and Daphne hatch a plan to convince high society, or the ton, that they’re courting. Mothers eager to marry their daughters will leave the disinterested, yet extremely eligible, Simon alone; and Daphne will attract the attention of far better suitors when they see she’s caught the eye of a Duke. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t go as planned and the two begin to truly fall in love.
Through Regency era shenanigans, Simon and Daphne find themselves forced to marry, despite their differing plans for life. Simon informs Daphne that he can’t have children and she accepts him regardless. When innocent Daphne’s mother, Violet, explains sex to her, she’s left confused at the mechanics and goes into marriage blind. In time, Daphne realizes that Simon hasn’t been truthful with her and feels betrayed by what she realizes are his deliberate efforts to mislead her and avoid conception. Through drama and heartache, the two reconcile and babies are born into a happy marriage, some of them through the epilogues of other books.
I’ve never been a connoisseur of historical romance, finding it difficult to suspend my disbelief to accommodate these charming, young, handsome, tall rakes of the Regency era. I can never forget that the average male height in this time period was 5’6″, baths occurred on a weekly or monthly basis, and toothbrushes hardly existed. Still, I obviously enjoyed The Duke and I enough to continue the series, but I did notice a glaring issue with the show. While Bridgerton has been relentlessly praised for its diverse casting, it didn’t take long to realize that most of the Black characters in the show don’t exist in the books. There is no sassy Black queen. Marina is an off-page bit character in book five. Will, Alice, and MadameDelacroix aren’t in the series at all. Simon is the only prominent character from The Duke and I played by a person of color. Lady Danbury does become an important character, but she’s barely in the first book. It’s as if the writers wanted to appear progressive without “ruining” the image of the main characters and that’s… gross. The Bridgertons are one of two main families in their story and there’s no reason why the Featheringtons couldn’t have been portrayed by people of color as well, if historical accuracy was moot.
Despite the books souring me on the show’s faux diversity, I quite enjoyed Simon and Daphne’s story. I’ve never been drawn to the Brother’s Best Friend or Fake Dating tropes, but it was fun to read such a contemporary take on this time period. The show did a fair job of depicting the characters and their story in season one, with an appropriate touch of gloss on some scenes the didn’t age well. While fans of the show didn’t ignore the dubious nature of Daphne’s attempt to conceive against Simon’s wishes, the scene in the book was substantially more rapey. I won’t ruin it, but I will warn that it might color the character in a pretty negative light for some readers.
As with all romance, the guaranteed HEA, or happily ever after, takes much of the stress out of the story. The odds for the couple are seemingly insurmountable, but it’s always in the back of your mind that everything will work out and it does. This is not a time period about which I fantasize, but I can see how some would after reading this book. The realities of history are replaced with a story about wealthy, beautiful people, surrounded by loving and accepting families. Whether watching the show or reading the book, you’ll want to be a Bridgerton and why are we reading books such as these if not for escapism? Ultimately, Daphne and Simon rank as my third favorite Bridgerton couple.
2. The Viscount Who Loved Me – Anthony and Kate – Rank: 2
In the summer of 1814, Anthony, the eldest of the Bridgerton children, has decided that it’s time to set aside his rakish ways and marry. Traumatized by the untimely death of his father from a bee sting, however, he’s determined never to love and deliberately seeks a match that will incite no truly deep feelings. Enter, Edwina Sheffield, the shy and proper younger sister of fiery Kate. Nearing spinsterhood at age 20, Kate’s sole concern is finding a decent match for her beloved Edwina. While Anthony has decided the younger of the Sheffield women fits his requirements precisely, Kate disapproves of the match, convinced that the Viscount has not given up his rakish ways. Despite the growing friction between the two, neither Anthony nor Kate can deny their attraction to each other. Caught in a precarious position when Kate is stung by a bee, the two have no choice but to marry and reconcile their differences, eventually growing in love throughout the rest of the story.
Anthony and Kate were my second favorite of the Bridgerton couples. Just typing this makes me want to reread, though I’ve never cared for the Enemies to Lovers trope. I appreciate the concept in theory. I just always find it somewhat uneven. The conflict between the two either tips into hostile and abusive territory or exaggerates what is simply good-natured ribbing. In an attempt to avoid sullying the swoon-worthy hero, the author often writes only the heroine as truly antagonistic, inadvertently coloring her as an unlikable shrew. Anthony and Kate had the perfect balance. I’m talking chef’s kiss here. They’re both assholes to each other and it is Chuck and Blair delicious. While Anthony’s absolute conviction of his early demise seems a wee bit overwrought, the animosity and attraction he shares with Kate are simultaneously quite convincing, which I find rare among these stories. I would say my favorite thing about this book, is that the couple spends basically the last half of it together. In my opinion, it is absolutely vital in this trope, that the reader experience the couple happy after all that conflict and most authors fail here.
On screen, Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley did a fantastic job portraying Anthony and Kate’s chemistry. The switch-up with Indian culture felt fun and natural. The costumes were gorgeous. That said, Netflix ruined the story of The Viscount Who Loved Me. Y’all, I am not a purist when it comes to adaptations. I love a good twist on an old tale, but Anthony and Kate’s season of Bridgerton was utter crap. In The Viscount Who Loved Me, Edwina is simply looking for a husband, nearly as pragmatically as Anthony. She never loves the eldest Bridgerton. She barely has a chance to get to know him, before he’s forced to marry Kate after he’s caught scandalously examining her bee sting. What follows is a delightful forced marriage story, as the couple comes to love and respect one another for their equally strong wills, a concept I appreciate considering my prideful, stubborn, pushy husband.
Bridgerton, however, drags out Anthony and Kate’s courtship up to the humiliation and devastation of Edwina. This unavoidably paints the leads as complete assholes, not to each other but the sister Kate adores and whom Anthony respects, regardless of his lack of romantic affection. By the time the two unite, I can’t even root for them anymore, because they’re dicks, which I suppose is a minor consolation for the fact that we’re robbed of their growing love for one another. All of this was entirely unnecessary, as the original story included a great deal of drama that could have been easily adapted for the screen, such as Anthony’s conviction that he won’t live past 38, Kate’s absolute terror of thunderstorms, and a carriage crash that nearly killed the heroine. The fabricated drama of the show hurt the story and its characters, so while this was my second favorite book, I can only hope it’s my least favorite season of Bridgerton.
After conceiving twin girls through back-to-back pandemic rounds of IVF and nearly dying in childbirth, I wasn’t exactly ready to get pregnant again this past spring. Although Jake and I had already begun the early stages of transferring a frozen embryo over the summer, I was still on the fence, myself. I’ve always wanted four children and still found that to be the case, even with twins under a year. I wanted my girls to have more siblings. I wanted Jake to have a son. I wanted a son. I wanted more noise, more chaos, more fun, bigger holidays, crazier family vacations… what I’ve never had with the brother I see once a year on Christmas. I also wanted to be alive to enjoy all of these things, so I was still erratically swinging between the insistence that the girls were enough and the idea that I was potentially up for two more pregnancies, assuming the next went smoothly.
It was on May 5th, the day before Jake and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, that I was officially no longer able to file another pregnancy under Future Belle’s Problem. I had been waiting for day one of my cycle to begin the FET process and assumed that it hadn’t come, because I wasn’t even a year post-partum. Begrudgingly, I took a pregnancy test, annoyed at having to waste the dollar, but knowing the clinic would insist. Following a few minutes of Googling early menopause and uterine cancer symptoms as possibilities for my missing period, I glanced at the test before tossing it, only to see that it was, indeed, positive. After Jake was told, verbatim, that “miracles happen” when he asked the urologist if he could get me pregnant, after spending 2020 imagining a future without children, after thirty thousand dollars worth of baby girls, I was… pregnant.
In so many ways, I am that annoying anecdote your coworker shares about her friend, whose niece got pregnant despite all odds… the woman who had severe complications the first time around, only for it all to go smoothly the second… the mother of three under two who’d contemplated a forced childfree existence just two years earlier. With all of it behind me, I can honestly say that, despite a few tearful outbursts about how I didn’t want to die, I had an easy pregnancy and a complication-free birth by scheduled C-section at 37 weeks to the day.
I now have three babies under 18 months and I love it. I love watching the girls forget they’re mid-tantrum when they start giggling as they spin in circles of protestation. I love watching them wrestle like little bear cubs until someone cries. I love seeing Scarlet run to the front door arms extended, at the sound of Jake’s keys turning. I love Violet’s contradictory stubbornness and clingy Mama’s girl status. Now, my Thomas is here and he is a dream. After months of insisting the newborn phase is boring, I adore the snuggles. Having started with twins, I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity to dote on just one, cherishing everything from feedings to sponge baths. I rarely sleep more than four hours at a time, am weeks from being able to have sex and months from even discussing an embryo transfer, still have visible bruising around my incision, and I’m already trying to talk Jake into our fourth and final.
Just the other day, Jake announced that raising kids with me was the best thing that’s ever happened to him and the feeling is utterly mutual. Watching my husband go from the rough and tumble toddler girl dad he’s become to the sweet and gentle (for him) father of a newborn boy is absolutely precious. After years of declaring mid-spat that he’s an unfeeling robot, there’s nothing quite so dear as watching my cowboy husband hold his tiny son in his callused hands and talk sweetly to him.
I spent a lifetime anticipating being the career woman and the working mom, went to college for seven years including graduate school, threw myself into my career as a librarian for another ten. I never planned to stay home with my children, scoffed at the very idea, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. While I fully intend to reenter the professional world one day, simply put, I just love being a mom… and I still don’t like kids.
Growing up in the South, I was raised to understand that women like children. Little girls love dolls. Teenaged girls eagerly jump at the chance to babysit. Baby fever becomes rampant in a woman’s early twenties. Any gal who doesn’t want to die alone had better start having kids by 25. Those are some Southern facts, right there, so imagine my confusion when I realized none of them applied to me.
Having lived on ten acres until age 11, I didn’t really grow up around other kids at all, let alone little ones. I had a couple of younger cousins, who I babysat once or twice, but I largely considered them nuisances who got us older kids in trouble. I never spent time with young children with any regularity. My first job was at a car lot, not a daycare. In fact, when I did get a job at a daycare in college, I made it two days before quitting. An education major in my undergrad, I still considered specializing in early childhood/elementary and even arranged to shadow my second grade teacher. That was the day, y’all. Despite my religious Southern upbringing, a childhood surrounded by suburban girls who wanted to be teachers and stay-at-home moms, a degree program that pedestalized anyone who worked with kids… the day I spent time in a well-managed second grade classroom was the day I realized that I just don’t like children.
Over the following years, I honed my affinity for teenagers, having initially assumed I only favored them due to their closer proximity in age. During grad school, I substitute taught nearly every day of the week, preferring high school, but happy to take middle school jobs when they were all that was available. More often than not, however, if elementary openings were all I could find, I’d take the opportunity for a rare day off, unless I desperately needed the money. As time passed and I moved further from my own teenage years, I loved working with teens just as much… and dreaded spending any time with children at all.
It wasn’t that I hated kids… at least not well-behaved ones. I just didn’t find them especially interesting. They couldn’t share compelling opinions or stories. Their senses of humor were undeveloped and generally revolved around the obnoxious and immature, but rarely clever. They were often oversensitive and whiney. Regardless, their parents considered them absolutely brilliant and wholly infallible. I frequently worked with children as a librarian and nearly every single reader’s advisory question posed by a parent, came with the insistence that their child’s reading level was two to three higher than their grade. I can count on one hand how many times that was actually true. When they misbehaved, in ways that were entirely developmentally appropriate, their parents wouldn’t hear it, whether they were screaming and running in the library or bullying others in programs. Teenagers, however, warranted scorn and contempt if any attention at all. When the societal blind spot for an age group I didn’t particularly enjoy was coupled with the overall disdain for the one I did, I struggled to even imagine myself as a mother in the distant future. Clearly, I didn’t feel the way everyone else felt about children. Maybe they weren’t for me after all.
A few months before Jake proposed, I became increasingly concerned. I knew Jake wanted kids and, in theory, so did I. I just… really didn’t like ’em.
With genuine distress, I shared as much with a coworker in her 50s, who had two young adult children and two still in Catholic school. If anyone could shed some light on my situation, it was a woman living exactly the life I thought I wanted.
Me: “I don’t think I like children.” Coworker: “Of course you don’t. It’s the end of Summer Reading.” Me: “What if I don’t at all? Jake wants kids. I thought I wanted them. I’m not sure I like them, though.” Coworker: “I don’t especially like other people’s children, either. I like mine, but I never really cared much for their friends. You’ll be fine.”
I didn’t know that was allowed!
In the nearly five years that followed this moment of enlightenment, I met a few others who shared this thought process. A friend at the Northside Library had little to no patience for… well, most humans, but she loved being a mother. At the same branch, a friend living with her parents had more of a sisterly relationship with her young son, yet doted on him all the same. A coworker at the Cherokee library had a surprise baby just before 40, after having accepted a childfree existence. A veteran who named Sarah Connor her hero, she’d never really considered herself maternal… until her son arrived. She still had little feeling toward children in a random sample, but adored being a mother. I’ll admit, it still isn’t a common sentiment among suburban and rural Southern women, but evidently it happens… such as in my case.
Apparently my robot husband and I are quite the pair, because I find myself in the company of Other People’s Children far more frequently these days and I feel little on a personal level… neither disdain nor joy. As with other random folks, I passively wish them health and wellness and go about my day. I do my best not to judge other parents, while still generally finding most small children grating. Yet, somehow, I seem to have endless patience for my own. Objectively speaking, I’ve no illusions about my offspring somehow being superior to others’… except that they’re mine, so they’re naturally cuter, smarter, funnier, and less disgusting by my incredibly biased assessment.
I, of course, still smile encouragingly and affectionately at little ones during storytime, just as I’d expect others to do with mine. I’d never intentionally hurt a child’s feelings and that’s all I really ask of others. I love my nieces and nephews out of necessity, whether I feel much connection to them at this age or not. I do try, but it still doesn’t come naturally to me to snuggle someone else’s baby, tickle their toddler, or get down in the floor and play with their kids. As utterly smitten as I am with my own babies, as I attempt to cajole Jake into our #fourthandfinal while still being on lift restrictions, Other People’s Children… they still don’t really do it for me. I still don’t like kids.
When I was little, the 1986 film The Worst Witch was one of my favorite Halloween movies. I could never catch it when it was on TV, though, and eventually forgot all about it, replacing it with cinematic classics such as Halloweentown and Twitches, both of which could probably win Oscars when compared with the former. Ten years ago, I remembered this old favorite of mine, bought it on DVD, and now watch it a weird number of times throughout the month of October… and sometimes, like… March. Jake must occasionally wonder if he did, in fact, marry an awkward, chubby, 12-year-old, as he comes home for lunch to see me singing along to this terrible children’s movie, eating “candy salad” from a ramakin.
While Netflix has recently produced a much more polished version of The Worst Witch, based on the 1970’s book series, there’s something about Tim Curry passionately singing “Has anyone seen my tambourine?” that can’t be beat. Don’t you worry, though! You don’t have to buy this gem on Amazon. It’s free on YouTube, in its entirety, and it is worth every c. cent. Here are my thoughts, approximately 25 years after my first magical viewing.
Why does Mildred get all of the blame when she and Maud make the wrong potion? Maud was the one caught trying to sneak her spell book in, so she could cheat. Both girls were equally cavalier about the amount of each ingredient used. Why was Mildred the only one sent to Miss Cackle’s office?
As a kid, I really empathized with Mildred, but as an adult, I realize she’s kind of a mess… even for her age. She insists that she tries and can’t help the fact that things always go wrong, but she also admits to blatantly ignoring simple instructions, like gathering pondweed at midnight. How hard is it to read a clock, Mildred? These problems are of your own making…
… and yet, nothing excuses an educator speaking to a student like this: “Oh dear, Mildred. Oh Mildred, oh dear. You must be the worst witch in the entire school.”
Seriously?!?! She’s twelve. The conversation even ends with a playful “Was I nasty enough for you?” You mean when you told her that she ranked last in thewhole school, because she made a potion incorrectly? How much room for error is allowed? Is not the punishment for failing a test a bad grade? This wasn’t even supposed to be the cruel teacher! Speaking of which…
… when Mildred and Maud are gossiping about Miss Hardbroom and she appears in their room to yell at only Mildred, did she curse her name like Lord Voldemort or is she always watching this child? That’s disturbing and I don’t think she should be allowed within 300 yards of a school.
I understand that the girls are awarded their cats in order of excellence, meaning the lowest performers get their cats last, but they still get cats. I don’t actually think this is a bad system. We coddle weakness too much, today. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding high performers and I am decidedly anti-participation trophy. That being said, who was in charge of procuring the cats and why couldn’t they find enough black ones? Black kittens are literally the most common color put up for adoption. Even if they couldn’t find a black cat for the lowest performer, why couldn’t they change the color in a world where humans can be turned into animals?
Ethel Hallow is one of the villains of this story. She’s a bully and deserves the criticism she gets for it. That being said, much of Mildred’s distaste for her is voiced in regards to her successes, getting upset at how often she does well in class or is chosen first for games. “Just like her to be the first one to get her kitten to ride.” Well, Mildred, if you actually made the effort you keep claiming you’re making in a high-pitched whine, perhaps you’d be more successful in school, too.
These villains are fabulous. I love that they plot their evil moves in song and dance, while wearing multi-colored robes, that match their hair. Once again, I am Team Villain.
Miss Hardbroom is clearly the Severus Snape of this tale and just like Snape, she never redeems herself. “Ethel Hallow shows promise, Mildred Hubble, anything but. Mark my words, Mildred Hubble will never graduate as a witch from this academy!” “That’s very good. Who’s that? Oh. Mildred Hubble. Four.” What are the professional standards for educators in the wizarding world?!?! What does the interview process look like? Do they require teachers to hold vendettas against their least favorite students? Just as the Dursley’s made me cautious of British CPS, Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches makes me pretty wary of their education system. Why doesn’t Miss Cackle take this Miss Hardbroom down a peg and remind her that her role is to support Mildred and build her up? Then again, why didn’t Dumbledore intervene in Snape’s abuse?
How did Mildred think ketchup was blood? She might not be the worst witch, but she might be the dumbest.
Mildred didn’t just scream in terror at the sight of ketchup, she screamed literally 21 times when Ethel came out of the bathroom wearing a mask. Why do these witches scare more easily than humans?
Why wasn’t Mildred suspicious of Ethel for being so generous as to loan her a broom, especially with the pointed and sinister comment “It’ll take very good care of you”? It wasn’t just Mildred, though. No one raised a brow to the school bully loaning a costly piece of equipment to the spaz who bested her in front of the whole school. Now that I mention it, are there not school brooms? My schools always had optional communal equipment, even if it wasn’t as high of quality as something you might buy personally. Hogwarts had school brooms and I have a hard time believing that an almost 400 years old international academy for witches wouldn’t. Is there a school-wide conspiracy to humiliate Mildred?
Why do these girls want huge, sexy noses if no one else in their world has them? This seems like an offensive stereotype of witches, when even the young and attractive ones, like Miss Spellbinder and Miss Cackle’s niece, Donna, don’t have them.
What frigging crossroads demon did Tim Curry make a bargain with and how many years are left in his deal? This man is a household name and has starred, almost exclusively, in movies that can only be described as fabulously terrible. You have not lived until you see Tim Curry’s disturbingly sensual music video cutaway from The Worst Witch, as he flies around in a cape singing about how gremlins are going to mess up every cassette from London to Idaho.
“Oh Miss Hardbroom, your girls? … I love it, Miss Hardroom. Let’s get this show on the road.” Iwant to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, here, and assume they were going for flirty towards Miss Hardbroom, a consenting adult, but the Grand Wizard might be a sex trafficker.
“I was a fool to trust you! You abominable child, Mildred! Get out of my sight!” “Go to bed without supper and I’ll see you in my office, tomorrow at noon.” “If these are the witches of the future, I hate to think what the future will bring. What is this generation coming to? I’ve got to split. I’ve got another gig.”
It was a performance put on by children. It’s like a flashback to my years of softball… and basketball… and volleyball… and just gym class.
Why does “turn these witches into snails” turn witches in to snails, but “Ethel Hallow is now a frog” turns Ethel Hallow into a pig? Why does no one believe the former, when they saw the latter? I don’t understand the rules of magic in this world.
Why would Ethel confess to Maud, Mildred’s best friend, that she bewitched her broom, humiliating not just Mildred, but the entire school, in front of their Celebrity Rockstar King? Furthermore, why wasn’t she expelled for this, when Mildred is repeatedly threatened with expulsion for innocuous mistakes? Are there actual guidelines for expulsion or is this just the 80s?
“Once in a purple moon, there is a special young witch, who shines above the rest. Often, she goes unnoticed, because she’s out of step. I have seen this girl trying to fly. Oh, yes, I have. I’ve watched her at play and seen how her friends treated her. The best witch isn’t always the girl who comes out on top of tests. A true witch has witchcraft in her at all times… and this is what you have, Mildred Hubble.”
I… I don’t even know where to begin, folks. First of all, these are bold words from a man who cut his visit short, blowing off a feast that was prepared for him and dismissing an entire generation, because a child made a mistake in what amounted to a school play. Second, on what is he basing his praise of Mildred? He’s never even met her, which brings me to my third point. When was he watching her?!?! The Grand Wizard visits for the first time on Halloween night, but he’s “watched her at play and seen how her friends treat her”? I once had a man show up on my doorstep in a hoodie at 9:00 at night and tell me that he was a Mormon and wanted to come inside and speak to me about Jesus Christ… and I didn’t piece together the fact that that probably wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up for years. Y’all, even I can tell that the Grand Wizard is 100% buying children.
“Now, Mildred, have you made any plans for this unexpected holiday?” “No, Grand Wizard. I suppose I’d better practice my flying.” “Would you like to practice with me?” “With you?!?” “Oh, absolutely.” ::he said seductively::
Having grown up the fat, frumpy, awkward girl from a dysfunctional home, it has essentially been my life’s goal to be a cliché Basic White Girl. I jest, but sprung from an unstable foundation, I have genuinely always aspired to be an unremarkable suburbanite. At first, I aimed to be the working mom with an ideal career for a family. When life… shifted those plans, my new ideal became the stay-at-home mom and wife, who returns to work as a teacher or librarian, when her children reach school age. I want to spend my thirties and forties sitting in school drop-off lines, chaperoning field trips, having family game nights, hosting fantastic slumber parties, and embarking on family road trips, all without pretense.
While I’m well on my way to this hard-won life, there are a few trends that will forever expose me for the convert I ultimately am. I do love me some printed leggings, Converse shoes, Friends reruns, avocado toast, and romance novels; however I consider Starbucks and iPhones to be for shmucks, bestsellers virtually unreadable, reality television completely unwatchable, social media an utter waste of time, and wine reminiscent of Mass. Most of all, what keeps me on the outside of all Basic White Girl social circles, is my absolute hatred for HGTV.
Aside from a handful of shows about families with over a dozen children, I’ve never been a fan of reality TV – a fact that will forever contribute to my inability to converse with my family at holiday celebrations. It’s not an elitist viewpoint, by any means. I watch plenty of trash television. I just prefer even slightly better acting and production values. While I wouldn’t cite that as a main reason for my HGTV loathing, it is a contributing factor. The disasters are just so telegraphed, the drama so rehearsed, and even a cursory Google search on the experiences of those who’ve actually been on the show will reveal that the “makeovers” are falsified in many ways. This is an issue with all reality TV, though. It’s not unique to HGTV. However…
HGTV is fantasy fuel, but these things are fantasies for a reason. Living in spaces as formal, as loud, as stuffed to the brim with furniture would be overwhelming for most people. A couple of statement rooms and pieces, like a green kitchen, a deep blue velvet reading chair, or a plant corner, are enough of a “pop” for the average human, without lowering resale value. Of course, no one wants to watch a show where an average looking home is transformed into a slightly less average home with the addition of a single colorful accent wall, a patterned rug, or some new light fixtures. Unless you’re Pee Wee Herman, though, that’s likely going to be enough for your senses. I just don’t have the suspension of disbelief to look at the after photos of an HGTV room without a headache coming on at the very idea of spending every day there.
On the same topic, a common criticism of HGTV is the careers and corresponding budgets of their chosen contestants. Why does no one have a real job? Why is the budget always $900k?!? Is living in the state with the third lowest cost of living blinding me to real finances? No, actually. I just checked and it’s not. The average cost of a home in the United States is $354,649. The average in my state is $181,574. Jake and I paid $210,000 for a flip from 1980 with 2,300 square feet, counting the converted garage. It sits on 1.13 acres and has no HOA, because we’re not communists. Were we contestants with our budget on House Hunters, we’d be looking for garage apartments in Flint, Michigan.
Everyone’s house looks the same.
Somehow, while simultaneously looking down on average home décor, HGTV also manages to define the concept. When I was a kid, my mother refused to paint any room in the house any color other than white, insisting that it “makes the room smaller.” When I asked how that was possible, she conceded that while the room would still be the same size, colored walls would create the appearance of a smaller space. In hindsight, I understand her reasoning. It was the 90s, after all, and the average person knew very little about decorating and color theory.
In our modern world, this is no longer the case, as anyone who’s ever shopped for curtains or throw pillows can see from the targeted ads directing them to numerous interior design articles Yet, somehow, everyone’s living room is still painted a ridiculous shade of white called “gilded linen,” accented with “minimalist” furniture and light fixtures of wicker, bamboo, and rattan. The entire house is fitted with light colored wood, subway tile, shiplap, or marble, depending on the year it was decorated. The “eye-catching” features comprise a couple of plants, a gold-trimmed mirror, a neutral patterned rug, a wall of crosses and/or a sign declaring this .13 acre dwelling to be a “Farmhouse“. Chip and Joanna Gaines seem like lovely people, really, but my stars have they leached all the color from the world.
While the above accurately describes the varying degrees of Farmhouse Chic in the quintessential suburban/rural home, the trendy urban dwelling is positively bursting with retro 70’s colors and mod style art and furniture. Bonus points are awarded based on the number of thrifted, antique, or locally commissioned finds. Emerald green velvets, tropical patterned wallpaper à la my parents’ prom backdrop, yellow gold light fixtures, and so muchwicker positively overwhelms the senses in these homes. One can’t decide if they should look at the vaguely pornographic statuary, the funky red velvet sofa, or the geometrically patterned accent wall.
None of these individual trends are bad things. A white room with light-colored wood can feel airy and light. A thrifted retro chair and brightly colored shelf or desk can draw the eye to a nice reading corner or home office space. The problem arises when normal folks in normal homes attempt to perfectly copy the spaces they see on HGTV shows, forgetting that humans will actually be occupying these showrooms. Perhaps in some cases, this look is truly what these individuals love, and it’s just not to my taste. I know people who detest color and others who abhor what they consider the mundane. If that’s the case, more power to them! I have seen so many variations of both of these extremes, though, from people who’ve visited Waco or the art museum one too many times, that I’d wager in many cases, it has more to do with getting the “right” look than the right look for them, whatever that might be… and I blame HGTV.
The choices are often impractical.
A researcher at heart and once by trade, I have actually taken quite a bit of care to avoid biased searches for this post, keeping my inquiries as general as possible, such as “interior design trends HGTV.” Still, I’ve found numerous examples of recommendations that are just completely and utterly pointless and/or impractical. The pointless ranges from a wall of clocks, to a fake mantel, to mounted decorative wooden doors, to words on the wall, my foremost detested popular décor since the first time I read the words “live, laugh, love.”
While I can ascribe what I see as pointless to a matter of personal taste, I simply cannot forgive the impractical, such as a chalkboard wall anywhere but a children’s space. Who is going to take the time to clear those shelves and counters to etch out cutesy diner drawings and phrases? How quickly is it going to get smudged? How thoroughly is it going to have to be cleaned to avoid that 1980s second grade classroom look? Who is going to dust all those knickknacks on that open shelf? What books are in those decorative stacks? Is that giant fig real? If so, what are the care instructions? If not, does it look fake up close? Why is the fireplace in the middle of the room, taking up so much space? Is it functional? If so, how does the room not fill with smoke when there are no doors? If not, why isn’t this space being occupied by something more useful or, at the very least, less structurally permanent?
Jake and I moved to our almost rural suburb of Cherokee, on the outskirts of the county, five and a half years ago. Do you know how many brick houses were painted whitein 2017? Zero, because we live in a state known for it’s wind andred dirt.
What in the actual Hell, y’all? How do people not realize that these homes are going to be pink in five years? No amount of power washing is going to fix that and you can’t unpaint brick.
Why, oh why, would anyone want marble countertops? They’re more costly. They stain and are prone to etching if exposed to acid. They’re not especially heat resistant. They need to be sealed annually. There are arguably better options, but according to my research, right behind painted brick, marble is the trend of 2022, along with subway tiles. Just as with the chevron printed walls of 2010 and the grey on grey of 2015, these fads will also fade, only this time, it’ll be far more expensive to remodel.
Trendiness is expensive.
As you can see, the issues I have with HGTV all fall under the umbrella of their constant promotion of trendiness. I got a few of my examples for this post from an article titled Interior Designers Forecast 2022 Design Trends. It opens with a paragraph on the environmental impact of fleeting interior design choices and the importance of developing a long lasting personal style, before going on to push in vogue furniture, “more marble,” and even tiny homes. Other HGTV articles recommend contemporary furnishings, brightly colored chandeliers, and gold-touched wallpaper. Unless these things specifically appeal to you, they are going to get old fast, as they become just as dated as the Tuscan style décor of the early 2000s. They aren’t going to be cheap to replace, either.
When Jake and I bought our home, open floorplans were all the rage and had been for quite some time. While this is still a prominent layout in new construction, in a post-Covid world, people often find themselves working from home alongside their spouse and children. In time, open floorplans might become less popular… and that’s okay with me. Jake and I love the spacious feel of our great room, just as we love our granite countertops. We’ve no desire to erect walls or install marble to keep up with the times.
If you love your loud dining room wallpaper and furniture as much as I love the papasan chair in my red reading space full of plants, everyone else can go kick rocks. If you’re prying off your shiplap to put up subway tile, because you’ve heard that shiplap is on it’s way out, you need to turn off the TV. While it can be fun to play around with throw pillows, floor lamps, and wall art, as HGTV does encourage, the larger furniture purchases and makeovers really should be built around genuine personal preference. While I’ve seen numerous homeowners pushed to make pricey, fleeting, or impractical decisions, I have never seen personal taste come before modern style on any HGTV show… and as much I detest it, I’ve watched a lot of HGTV these last few years, which brings me to my final point.
HGTV gives me wartime flashbacks.
While all of the above reasons for my HGTV hatred are true, I’ll admit that I do possess a certain level of bias that has thrown that general distaste into flat-out loathing. Folks, I confess that I cannot watch HGTV without having flashbacks to Covid-19 infertility appointments. That chipper over voice plays, those preppy Urban White People costumes flash across the screen, someone says the words “open concept”… and suddenly I’m sitting alone in a waiting room, next to a chair with an ‘X’ taped on it, wearing a medical mask, Googling adoption horror stories to take my mind off the news.
There’s something about HGTV that is just so totally innocuous, that it has apparently been endorsed by the American Medical Association for it’s calming effect on anxious, primarily female, patients… because I rarely see it playing in any gender neutral office, such as the dentist. I get it. There’s simply nothing truly objectionable about the programming, in a broader sense. What could possibly be less threatening than home décor? Most certainly, in a year when every news story was about the number of deaths in various cities, it was the obvious choice. I suppose it worked in my favor, after all, that this experience didn’t ruin something I truly enjoy, like reruns of Friends or Bewitched… because even before it gave me flashbacks to one of the most difficult times in my life, I hated HGTV.
From the time Jake and I started dating, I knew that we would always have some interests we just don’t share. Jake listens to political podcasts throughout the day. I love reading so much that I have an audiobook playing in my earbuds nearly constantly. He likes to work outside. I like to do crafts. He likes playing video games. I like watching the nostalgic TV shows of my youth… which are objectively bad. For example…
1999’s Roswell tells the story of Liz, a high school sophomore who works at the alien themed restaurant her parents own in Roswell, New Mexico, alongside her best friend Maria. In episode one, Liz’s and Maria’s lives are forever changed when Liz is shot and healed by Max, a 16-year-old alien played by 26-year-old Jason Behr. Seriously, if y’all thought Riverdale was bad, just check out some of these early 00’s shows.
Everyone complains about unrealistic physical standards for teenage girls, but this was what they told us high school sophomore boys should look like in the year 2000.
I’ll only briefly mention Roswell’s primary lovers, Max and Liz, the16-year-old “soulmates,” when discussing it’s greatest transgressions. Today, media seems to understand that most teenagers are too young to make lifelong commitments to one another, particularly when the basis of their relationship is life-threatening drama. While half of us in the South might still be divorced by 25, the cinematic era of Noah and Ally has mostly passed. However, in the year 2000, it was just beginning and Max and Liz were pretty standard representatives. Also not entirely unique, the level of romance from Max defined unattainable as he literally risked his life for Liz on loop, professed his undying love in flowery, swoon-worthy language, and even refused to accept her rejection of him, because he knew she loved him. What can I say? We all thought low-level stalking was hot in the early 00s.
It was Maria and Michael who fans insisted provided the most realistic depiction of high school dating. If that’s true, millennials all needed massive amounts of therapy. Only recently have I noticed how absolutely horrible this 22-year-old teenage boy is to his romantic interest. Maria repeatedly risks her car, her relationship with her mother, her job, her academic standing, and her heart for Michael and he walks all over her. Nearly every episode features Michael telling Maria that he doesn’t care about her or their relationship, as she begs for his affection and support for the first two seasons. Only in the final season does Michael gain any modicum of decency as a boyfriend and Maria isn’t the only one who thinks it’s too little too late. Of all the criticisms I’ve seen of unhealthy romance in young adult media, I honestly think this one is the worst depictions.
As much as I adore Roswell, despite it’s damaging relationships, I must admit that the real failing is in the terribly inconsistent and indecisive writing. First and foremost, there’s a confusing amount of longingly staring through windows for a show with a “they’re among us” primary plot… as in so much that you’re not really sure if you’re watching a science fiction show at all, sometimes. Additionally, there’s definitely an element of “Where are their parents?!?!”, specifically with Max and Isabel, who play siblings who were adopted by the perfect upper-middle class family and Liz, whose parents own and literally live in the restaurant that serves as their hangout. These teenagers take off for days and even weeks at a time, with little to no explanation, and no one notices. While there is a weak effort to address this by assigning Maria a free-spirited former teen mother who somewhat “gets” her daughter’s behavior and Michael being an emancipated minor, parents in Roswell only really exist to further the storyline. I cannot understand why these shows still star teenage characters. Why not tell the same story starring characters the age of the actors portraying them, in their late teens and early twenties? They’d still be relatable, but the parents that are so lazily written out would no longer be an obstacle.
There’s also the origins and powers of the aliens to address. Historically, the alleged spaceship crash occurred in 1947, which Roswell acknowledges by stating that the four aliens were incubated in a form of cocoon for 42 years before emerging as six-year-olds, who were discovered walking naked and alone in the dessert. It’s quickly noted, though, as a major and recurring plot point, that the aliens don’t have human blood and any sampling of their DNA risks exposure. I’m not a social worker, but I’m pretty sure any child found abandoned in the dessert is undergoing extensive medical testing to verify health and potentially track down parents. Yet Max, Isabel, and Michael have gone ten years without a single blood draw.
As for their powers, it’s explained that the aliens can “manipulate molecular structures.” Well, isn’t that… insanely broad. Despite these seemingly limitless powers, we see the aliens struggle constantly, even declaring that they don’t all have certain abilities, such as healing wounds, which would fall decidedly under manipulating molecular structures. Ultimately, it’s revealed that the aliens are actually alien/human hybrids who have been engineered to use the full capacity of the human brain and that that’s where the powers originate. I’ll ignore the flawed science there and note that later in the show, we find out that with the help of a mysterious structure called the Granolith, the aliens can actually time travel or even return to their home planet where even humans can apparently survive just fine. The scope of these alien powers fluctuates endlessly throughout the show, with some new ones developing while old ones are simultaneously forgotten. For example, two characters rob a store without bothering to change anything about their appearance, which would not only fall under manipulation of molecular structures, but also buying a wig.
Overall, the plots of Roswell are just inconsistent and baffling, with the local police acting as the first enemy, before the sheriff joins the team when the FBI becomes the primary enemy until they… just lose interest? The main villain then shifts to an alien race serving the ruler of the alien’s home planet, who they defeat… with essentially no trouble at all.
A major and unresolved plot point occurs in season two, when Liz finds out from Future Max that she must end her relationship with him before Tess leaves, leading to the destruction of the world in 2014, Liz feigns cheating to turn Max away from her… even though Tess ultimately leaves anyway, pregnant with his child, after she betrays the group and the world is… fine. Perhaps the enemies Tess helped kill so easily were the only real threat and simply took their sweet time attacking over the course of 14 years.
In season three, with other aliens as a whole conveniently a threat of the past, Max searches for a way to retrieve his son and faces a much less impressive variety of villains, such as an old lady who wants him to heal her husband, municipal law enforcement, and eventually the FBI, a seemingly far less threatening force at this point in the show.
Roswell isjust generally all over the place, fraught with manufactured and often inconclusive drama, starring actors who are of a completely inappropriate age for the roles they play… and I love it. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen this show, but maintain every confidence that the number will triple over the course of my life. I know it’s crap and I just don’t care. Thirty-four-year old Belle might not obsess over this show as much as 12-year-old Belle did, but it will forever maintain a place in my heart as one of the only real bits of solace I had during middle school.
1999, what a time to be alive. Gilmore Girls also premiered the year I started the sixth grade and quickly became one of my mother’s and my favorite shows. Lorelai Gilmore was the star of this dramedy about a mother who had her 16-year-old daughter, Rory, when she, herself, was 16. As the only child of an upper-middle class family, Lorelai felt stifled and railroaded toward a life she didn’t want. To gain her independence, she ran away to a small, quirky Connecticut village, taking her one-year-old daughter with her, maintaining as little contact as possible with her parents. That is, until the pilot episode, when she needs money for Rory’s tuition to attend a prestigious private school. Antics and tantrums ensue.
This show has a cult-like following and I’m not gonna mince words here… it is toxic as fuck. Not even in my Roswellian obsessed middle school days have I ever been as aggressive in my love of fiction. So, while I once thought it would be fun to participate in this surprisingly active fandom…
… I no longer do.
My inclusion of Gilmore Girls on this list would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how poorly it’s aged, from the occasionally homophobic and fat-shaming humor to the “Not Like Other Girls” stereotype. While other girls starved themselves to fit into skimpy tops, listened to Avril Levigne, and obsessed over romantic comedies,Lorelai and Rory ate junk food, wore quirky but trendy outfits, listened to The Bangles, and watched classics like The Godfather. While this garners criticism from newer fans, it’s important to consider what it was liketo actually be a young woman in the early 2000’s. It sucked. There was a much more particular mold that women were expected to fit. They were supposed to be blonde, overly tanned, scantily clad, adorably stupid, and very hungry. Watching fair-skinned brunettes wear tasteful but fashionable clothing, discuss classic literature alongside obscure pop culture, and eat whatever they wanted actually was progressive in a time when Abercrombie & Fitch literally sold clothing through nudity.
Another modern critique of Gilmore Girls is Rory’s love interests, particularly Dean, her first boyfriend, who is universally loathed by new fans. In the year 1999, though, Dean was the perfect boyfriend, according to the creators of the show. He was handsome in that Classic White Boy way, understood Rory’s humor and intellect, was protective and attentive, and absolutely adored her. Today, Dean doesn’t quite hold up. What was considered protective 20 years ago, now comes across as controlling, while attentive and adoring is easily interpreted as domineering and obsessive. Even Rory’s second boyfriend, Jess, who embodied the Broody Bad Boy stereotype is often seen as abusive, because we just had much lower standards back then. In fact, many fans hate all of Rory’s love interests, including the Old Money Charmer, who I personally still adore, because what’s not to love about money and charm? What can I say? We were all a little broken in the early 00s and had whopping consent issues.
All in all, I think the above criticisms are valid, though often taken far too seriously by newer fans for a twenty-year-old WB dramedy. Gilmore Girls was never intended to be looked at through a 2022 microscope. Emily Gilmore wasn’t written as a thinly veiled version of The Grandmother from Flowers in the Attic. Lorelai wasn’t the star of Netflix’s The Maid. Rory wasn’t Anna Karenina, though it is a bit prophetic that she claims this was her favorite novel. No, this show was simply meant to be cozy fun and that’s how I choose to take it… despite it’s other issues, because aging isn’t the reason I include Gilmore Girls on a list I’ve labeled as “crap.” No, it’s earned this title from me for the glaring writing flaws. While Gilmore Girls has an undeniably cozy and charming aesthetic, it is honestly one of the most inconsistently written shows I have ever watched. From major plot points to characterization, it’s obvious that the writers of this series were just flying by the seat of their pants for the full seven seasons.
I’ll start with money, which most TV shows address poorly. In Gilmore Girls, however, money is central to the plot of the show, as Lorelai has eschewed her parents’ privileged lifestyle to raise her daughter as a single mom… where she owns her own home in a town that would have exorbitant property taxes for all the festivals it holds. Additionally, Lorelai simply doesn’t live her life as a single mom, ordering take-out nightly, taking impromptu road trips, and going on wild shopping sprees. Only when it’s plot-relevant is Lorelai impeded by her finances, such as when she needs tuition for Rory or her house has a termite problem. Throughout the rest of the series, she has plenty of money for All the Things, despite the entire premise of the show being her escape from wealth and her insistence on being a strong, independent, single mom.
I’m not sure if I’d consider characterization inconsistencies a secondary issue, simply because they’re so egregious in Gilmore Girls. In the beginning of the show, we’re introduced to Dean, the smart, witty new boy in town, who understands all of Rory’s obscure references, enjoys her books, and can build a car… who by season three isn’t sure if he can get into junior college. Lorelai’s eventual love interest, Luke, goes from the title of casual acquaintance in season one to Rory’s lifelong father figure by season six. He starts out as a health nut and an avid fisherman, who hates red meat, but eventually claims he’s disgusted by vegan food and has never had lobster. Lorelai opens the show having spent the last 16 years doing everything she could to be a different kind of mother than Emily, but cuts Rory out of her life completely when she decides to take a semester off from college. Luke’s sister and Jess’s mother is described as a neglectful addict in the beginning of the series, but is later portrayed as just a quirky flake who loves her son. Even Sookie begins the show as the klutzy chef, but seems to get her bearings by the end of the first season, because she never struggles with her recurring injuries again.
It’s not just money and character inconsistencies that plague Gilmore Girls, but entire plot points that are just… dropped, such as when Rory joins a sorority at school and it’s never again mentioned. When Lorelai discovers that her boyfriend is suing her father, it’s a big enough deal to end the relationship, but we never hear about it again. An entire episode centers around Jess visiting his dad in California, but after the proposed spinoff is ultimately nixed, we never get a resolution to that incredibly dull storyline we had to endure. Jackson takes on Taylor to become town selectman, wins, and Taylor has the title again after just a few episodes. When Rory takes time off from Yale and is magically able to graduate on time, she demands and receives a writing job at the Stamford-Eagle Gazette and never again mentions it.
Beyond the financial, character, and plot inconsistencies, Gilmore Girls is a cozy story starring some pretty crummy people. Emily gets all the grief from modern fans and she certainly has her flaws, but Lorelai isn’t exactly a better human. Her relationship with Rory is arguably no greater than Emily’s with Lorelai, as she fosters extreme co-dependency and refuses to act as the adult in the relationship. Furthermore, despite constantly complaining about her mother’s controlling and manipulative nature, she spends most of a season refusing to speak to her daughter, even to share her engagement with her, because Rory hasn’t made the exact choices in life Lorelai wanted. Rory, who starts off a little sassy and very driven, goes on to cheat on or with every boyfriend she ever has and ultimately defines entitlement. And yet… I fully intend to start another rewatch this fall, as I cozy up and enjoy the fake fall leaves of Calif-Connecticut. For all its flaws, there’s just something about Gilmore Girls that keeps me coming back, be it the aesthetic or the What Not to Do guide to motherhood.
Smallville first aired when I was 14, just one year younger than Clark Kent, high school freshman.
Had anyone working for the WB ever actually met a teenager?
Smallville had a pretty simple premise, as a Superman origin story focusing on Clark Kent’s teenage years. As in all Superman renditions, Clark is written as a gawky, awkward teenage boy, who lives and works on his parents’ Kansas farm. Unique to Smallville, however, Clark is played by a literal construction worker/male model, making this description less than believable. While his co-stars are standard fare for the early 00’s WB, meaning far too attractive and stylish, they’re also more appropriately cast for their roles. Simply put, while his classmates walk the halls of Smallville High looking like Seventeen magazine models, Clark Kent looks more like a substitute teacher or the foreman of a construction crew.
Jake and I have actually been making our way through Smallville since the summer of 2020 and it’s been a fun, if absurd, ride. Even for a superhero show, Smallville, while entertaining, is nonsensical in basically every way, such as overall characterization, the teen romances, Clark maintaining his Secret, and everything about the properties of WB kryptonite.
The characters of Smallville aren’t particularly distinctive for an early 00s teen show, initially comprised of beautiful, stylish teens who are, for some reason, considered unpopular. Clark begins his freshman year alongside friends, Chloe and Pete. Chloe is obviously Smallville’s resident Lois Lane until the creators decide to write in the actual Lois Lane in season four. She’s passionate about journalism to the point that she will destroy every relationship she has to get a story for the high school paper, The Torch, over which she seems to have absolute control. It makes perfect sense that Chloe would be in charge of the school paper, though, because she has a ridiculous number of vague professional connections, including someone at the medical examiner’s office, the mental institution, and multiple sources at the Daily Planet. It helps that she has advanced computer programming skills and can hack into literally any database without getting caught, at the age of 15. For the first three seasons, Chloe is in love with Clark, because that’s why female side characters existed in the early 00s. By far her most annoying trait, however, is her complete inability to speak in normal human sentences. Literally every line she has is such an overblown attempt to sound clever that you wonder if she’s ever actually heard people talk.
“Your online horoscope suggests that you try not to flaunt your excitement which I know will be hard since you’ve been waiting for this date since, like your first growth spurt.”
“Clark Kent at the keyboard? Have I been downsized in the bureaucratic world of superheroes?”
“Canary, you are caught in a virtual cage and you don’t even know it, but I can help you fly the coop.”
This goes on for entire episodes. As for Pete, it’s been 20 years and he did not age well. While Chloe eventually has an entire in-depth backstory, having little to do with Clark, Pete’s character revolves solely around protecting Clark’s secret… even though he sucks at it, taking every chance and excuse he gets to try to out Clark. Regardless, it’s not a good look in 2022 to have such a cliché Token Black Character as Pete Ross. Considering other POC characters, such as Jesse from Roswell, Lane from Gilmore Girls, Skills from One Tree Hill, and Gunn from Angel, it wasn’t a great look for 2001, either.
A Superman origin story would be incomplete without Lex Luthor, of course, and Michael Rosenbaum is still considered by many to have portrayed him best of all. Smallville didn’t only present a young, handsome, successful Lex Luthor, but a sympathetic one. Lex starts out as a something of a local benefactor, befriending Clark, his family, and even his friends out of genuine kindness and interest, despite their continual distrust in him because of his father, the initial villain of the story. At times, it comes off as creepy that he’s 26 and hanging out with a bunch of teenagers, but it wasn’t intended as such when the show was written. Over the seasons, Lex starts to feel hurt, then angry, and even betrayed by Clark for refusing to confide in him and the two have a falling out amidst Lex’s gradual rise to arch-nemesis. If there is any reason to watch this campy show, it is Lex Luthor’s descent into madness and, for a teen show, the WB does not disappoint in how very evil he becomes, from trying to kill Johnathan Kent, to essentially having groomed Lana to be his lover, to committing war crimes.
Finally, there are Clark’s love interests, Lana and then Lois. Lana is Clark’s first love in Smallville and she is absolutely insufferable. I’ll give this show credit for the fact that the majority of the relationships are relatively healthy… except for Clark and Lana who spend far more time having angsty conversations about why they can’t be together than they ever actually spend together. This is primarily because Lana demands that Clark share all of his secrets with her from the very beginning, eventually even teaming up with Lex to investigate him, despite being quite secretive herself. As the show goes on, Lana gets progressively worse, as do the storylines surrounding her, from her sleeping with a teacher, to becoming a witch, to hooking up with Lex. Despite the writers’ insistence that she’s a deep, interesting, sympathetic character, she’s continually proven to be quite the opposite as the show goes on, eventually going toe-to-toe with Lex in corruption.
On the bright side, though Lois definitely fits the Mysterious Gorgeous Bitch trope of the early 00s, when compared to Lana, she’s America’s sweetheart. Lois isn’t a bad character, so much as she’s a bit too abrasive for the iconic role. In the early 00s, strong women were often written as physically beautiful, but closed-off and overtly rude. This is definitely on display in Smallville as Lois repeatedly mocks and insults Clark, despite his and his family’s every kindness. The animosity doesn’t destroy the chemistry between the two, but it’s also never been the case for Lois in any other version of Superman, to be this hateful to Clark, when she just considered Clark to be somewhat dorky, at worst.
Perhaps one of the biggest failings of the writing in Smallville is around Clark’s “secret.” I use quotes, because eventually everyone in Clark’s life knows about his powers, and if they don’t, they should, because he uses them in public constantly. In nearly every episode of this show, there’s a scene where Clark uses his super speed on a public street, yet when his cousin Kara does the same, he throws a tantrum about the importance of subtlety. The only characters kept in the dark for any real length of time are Lana, Lex, and Lois, solely for purposes of plot and overwrought drama. Even guest stars are frequently let in on this secret that isn’t, to the point that there is just no way that it’s not public knowledge by the end of season three.
Finally, the biggest flaw in Smallville: Kryptonite. It’s comic book canon that Kryptonite comes in multiple forms and Clark is impacted in a variety of ways. The problemis that there’s so much Kryptonite in Smallville and it’s affects vary so wildly. For the first several seasons, this show is pretty Monster of the Week with a new kid at school developing miraculous powers that are usually only dangerous because they’re being used in the wrong way. There are two students who can control bugs, one who can turn people into mannequins, another who can freeze people, a young Amy Adams who can suck the fat out of people until they die, several with various forms of telekinesis, a reporter who can turn into water, a few different seductresses… and the list continues. For some reason, however, the Luthors are the only individuals in the world who are interested in studying and experimenting with this magic rock, even though it’s all over town. You’d think that would pose a problem for Clark. Well, sometimes it does… and a lot of times it doesn’t, like when he can’t see it’s in the same room with him yet, while other times, it’s just too hard to roll away from it. Different kinds of Kryptonite require different levels of exposure too, as red Kryptonite appears to be topical, while silver has to be embedded in the skin. The aliens of Roswell have more consistent powers than Clark’s and everyone else’s response to Kryptonite. It’s just a persistent and glaring plot hole in every other episode.
Despite all these issues, Smallville seems to have been the beginning of the the current superhero TV saga and, as consistently ridiculous as it is, there’s something comforting about its camp. Like many shows of the time, it of course ran for far too long, so it may be another two years before Jake and I finish it, but we have both enjoyed it, even if it’s half in mockery.
One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill started my sophomore year of high school and ended my first year of grad school. It told the story of two brothers in their junior year, who shared only a father, Dan. Lucas, was raised by his father’s high school sweetheart, Karen, who he abandoned when he discovered she was pregnant, and his brother Keith. Dan immediately impregnated another woman, Deb, who came from money and could help him become the wealthy businessman he was in the show. Naturally, he married Deb and raised his second son, Nathan while neglecting Lucas. The two grew up as rivals in the town of Tree Hill, only for their relationship to come to a head when they found themselves on the same high school basketball team.
Y’all, the only thing I hated more than sports in high school were the popular kids who bullied me. I have no idea why I enjoyed this show. I think I felt some kinship toward Haley, Luke’s nerdy best friend, though she was far more poised and adorable than I have ever been. Perhaps it was just the depiction of the outcasts becoming accepted that I enjoyed, because in One Tree Hill, even the losers were eventually included to some degree. There was also the romantic element, which received far more screen time than the basketball plot, since everyone slept with everyone in this incestuous little town. I was particularly invested in the love story of Nathan and Haley, who married and had a baby as teenagers, the pinnacle of early 00’s Don’t Try This At Home teenage girl fantasies. Despite my enduring affection for this terrible show, basically every single thing about it is beyond problematic.
I’ve mentioned the relationships of both Roswell and Gilmore Girls, intentionally avoiding the word “toxic,” as I consider it hyperbolic and overused… unless one is describing the Gilmore Girls fandom. That being said, basically every relationship in One Tree Hill, outside of Nathan’s and Haley’s could only be described as toxic. Lucas opens the show utterly obsessed with Peyton, Nathan’s girlfriend and the absolute embodiment of the Mysterious Gorgeous Bitch trope. In Peyton’s case, the mystery for her atrocious personality was the fact that her mother had died while she was young, her father worked out of town, and her boyfriend was absolutely horrible to her. She wasn’t alone in this title, however. Nope. That moniker was shared with Lucas’s other romantic partner, Brooke, Peyton’s best friend.
This is what teenage girls were supposed to look like in 2004.
Throughout several seasons of the show, Lucas plays Peyton and Brooke off of one-another, frequently cheating on Brooke with Peyton, yet never concerned with the fact that he and his brother are wiener buddies twice over… because the teenagers in this town are apparently in the porn industry. Literally every relationship depicted in this show is horribly unhealthy and sets a terrible example for teenage girls. Even Nathan and Haley are only a dim light in the dark when she kisses another guy before going on tour with him. Yes, Haley goes on tour, because aside from the toxic relationships, the plot points in this show are ludicrous.
It’s been awhile since my last rewatch of One Tree Hill, but I do recall that over the course of this show, the following storylines take place:
Nathan becomes an emancipated minor to escape his insane parents and marries Haley at 16.
Haley leaves Nathan to go on tour with Chris Keller, played by up-and-coming singer Tyler Hilton, who played Elvis in Walk the Line, but otherwise never made it.
Bullied teen, Jimmy, from the first few episodes brings a gun to school and holds a classroom full of students hostage, eventually shooting himself alone in a hall with Dan and Keith. Dan takes advantage of the opportunity to shoot his brother and blames Jimmy.
Peyton meets the brother she’s never heard of, but discovers he’s really an obsessed stalker who wants to rape her.
Nathan gets involved with small town gangsters who are really into betting on high school basketball (is that even a thing?) and gets caught throwing games.
Haley gets pregnant and intends to renew her vows with Nathan, but gets in a car accident on the way and nearly dies.
A witness comes forward and puts Dan in prison for the murder of Keith.
Four years pass and we find Nathan in a wheelchair after getting in a fight at a bar and ruining his chances at playing professional basketball for a team that just signed him.
Nathan and Haley’s crazy nanny tries to seduce Nathan and takes Dan hostage, posing as a nurse.
I’ll stop there, even though there are way more ridiculous plot points to note, because I want to mention one of the biggest issues that makes this show complete trash, and that is the insane level of success that every single character reaches after college. While the first four seasons of One Tree Hill tell the story of the characters’ junior and senior year of high school, even writers for the WB/CW seemed to realize that these actors were just getting too old for these roles. So, instead of writing a story where everyone went to college together, they chose to skip ahead four years to age 22, wheneveryone has their shit together.
I don’t know where you folks were at 22, but I was married to a psychopath and substitute teaching while working at a rec center for minimum wage, driving around with my valuables in my trunk so my ex wouldn’t pawn them. I certainly wasn’t married to an almost professional basketball player, down on his luck but still rolling in it from his sign-on deal, raising an adorable four-year-old, and reaching troubled teens with my love of literature. I knew zero published authors working as a high school basketball coach for their love of the game. I also didn’t have any friends who’d started luxury clothing lines or become successful sportscasters. I certainly didn’t know any22-year-old record producers/club owners the year I graduated college. I’d buy the plot point that a stoner’s dog ate Dan’s heart before I’d buy that anyone is that successful right out of college…
No really, I’m not making this up.
… and still, I find myself trying to figure out if I can finish Roswell in time to start One Tree Hill with enough time to start Gilmore Girls in the fall, while Jake and I continue to truck along on Smallville, because there’s just something so comforting about the shows I watched as a teenager, no matter how ridiculous. Perhaps it’s the stress of soaring gas prices and inflation and the threat of a world war that leads me to seek solace in pure nostalgia. Perhaps I just take comfort in the fact that Jake will never impregnate my alien rival… I’ll never not know who the father of my baby is… my former best friend won’t attempt to assassinate my father… and a dog will probably never eat my heart… but what can I say? When it comes to 00s shows, I just have terrible taste.
When I was a little kid, Christmas seemed to last for weeks. Every year, my brother and I celebrated with my paternal grandma and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, then again with my maternal Gramma, my mom, and dad, then again on Christmas morning with just the four of us, then again with my dad’s extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on) and finally, we had Christmas with my paternal grandfather, since my dad’s parents were divorced.
As a child, I was closest to my Gramma, but my only cousins were on my dad’s side. Playing with them was the number one appeal of his family’s Christmas parties. We had a blast, dressing up in our parents’ old prom clothes, piling everyone into a plastic wagon and running down the hallway as fast as we could, trying to quiet the cries of the youngest when they inevitably got hurt. I loved these moments almost more than my Gramma’s over-the-top Christmas gifts. Those celebrations with all of my cousins are some of the holiday memories I cherish the most… but that was over twenty-five years ago.
Things have changed, y’all. I’m married to a man who has his own family and now we have two baby girls. It’s our turn to make memories with our children and I don’t intend to do so while spreading ourselves so impossibly thin over a half dozen family celebrations. More importantly it’s our girls’ turn to make magical Christmas memories. That’s a lot more difficult to do if we’re always leaving parties early to make other parties and mom and dad are stressed out and fighting on the way. I want us all to enjoy the holidays, so as much fun as I had with my weeks of Christmas as a child, a couple of these gatherings just don’t make the cut anymore. So, how do I decide which ones to nix?
I don’t want to talk about my body.
Growing up, I was the fat kid… and with my family, that apparently means that my body is up for discussion for the rest of my life. Having lost around 100 pounds in my early twenties, I’ve kept to a relatively healthy weight since and it is still my family’s favorite subject. Like many people, I put on ten pounds of Pandemic Pudge last year, but uniquely me, I also had twins this year. I cannot stress enough how little I want to talk about my weight six months post-partum with twins. I have spent the entirety of 2021 listening to dehumanizing remarks about my body. I am baffled at how there are so many people who still think this is okay and how I happen to be related to all of them. While the occasional vague compliment is appreciated, I was asked point blank if I had lost all of my baby weight at my girls’ baptism celebration, three months post-partum.
I cannot think of any social interaction I would enjoy less on Christmas day, than one focused on my weight. In fact, as Jake and I pulled out of the neighborhood on the way to our first family party, he asked me what was wrong, noticing I’d gone quiet. I immediately burst into tears, “There are just so many people who are going to be so happy that I’m fat again!” So, when it came time to decide which gatherings to skip, it was the ones that would make me feel the worst about my own body at this sensitive time of life.
I don’t want to discuss Covid-19.
Nearly two years into this pandemic, it seems everyone has been radicalized to one extreme or the other and my family is a microcosm of this effect. At the beginning of the pandemic, I actually missed social media for a brief moment, having been isolated to my own home. That feeling was fleeting, however, when a few family members relayed the drama surrounding the discussions of Covid-19, vaccines, and various mandates that were taking place on Facebook. I’ve been exposed to so many different viewpoints, from one extreme to the other and I’ve come to a simple conclusion: you’re all fucking crazy.
Even the family members who insist they want none of this drama do so by finishing with their own dramatic and polarizing opinions. Well, my mother died of heart problems after a battle with Covid-19 put her on a ventilator for a week, before the vaccine was readily available. I was then diagnosed with heart complications during pregnancy and told by my cardiologist that the vaccine might have played a part. We all have our own complicated feelings to sort through in regards to the pandemic, so how about we all just shut the fuck up about it for one day of the year?!? I chose to attend the Christmas parties where this was likeliest to happen.
I don’t want to spend Christmas with people I don’t particularly like.
As kids, my cousins and I were able to bond over the shared experience of being children at the same time and that was enough. We played with the same toys and watched the same shows and shared the same childlike sense of humor. As adults, I’m willing to admit that we have virtually nothing in common.
I’m neither far left, nor far right, and am uninterested in any discussion of either that’s fueled by feelings over research. Politics are off the table. I cannot fathom the appeal of reality TV, preferring to spend my binges on teenage melodramas, while occasionally branching out toward high fantasy and dated fandoms. Bonding over our favorite shows is a no go. My girls are only six months old, so I’m hesitant to make broad declarations about my future parenting, but I can guarantee that the antagonistic style employed by much of my family is not for me. This means we can’t even really connect as parents. I have little to no desire to gossip about the people who aren’t present, which is their self-proclaimed basis for entire social events, while I have more than one DnD group where we pretend to be sorcerers and paladins. I’m definitely not interested in being a part of anyone’s round robin of apologies after they’ve had too much to drink… again.
It’s not that I don’t love my family. I do. I just don’t particularly like them,en masse. Whereas one-on-one, we might be able to find some common ground, my status as The Weird Smart Cousin is never more apparent than when facing the collective. That’s when my aunts battle it out in Dirty Santa for the ugliest purse/home decor/stemless wine glasses. That’s when my cousin makes a racist/homophobic joke that will surprise my redneck, cowboy, cattle rancher of a husband. That’s when everyone gets drunk and makes fart/sex/rape jokes. It takes a lot of energy to be just the right amount of excluded, so as to not come across as fake or preachy with my family.
Objectively speaking, I get that many people would think my extended family is a blast. I can appreciate that as an outsider aware of social trends. We just don’t really click and that’s fine. They’re not wrong (racism and homophobia excepted) and I’m not wrong. It took me years to come to terms with that, but I have. Truly, our only common ground is shared history and that’s become nearly as distant as our bloodlines. So, I chose to spend my holiday where I felt like I might more easily connect with some of the guests, because some relationships just aren’t worth the effort they take.
If I don’t have the bandwidth for seven Christmas parties, my baby girls really don’t.
Oh, family. It can be so wonderful to spend time in their company, while simultaneously taking so much work. I loathe the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” almost as much as “ambivert.” People aren’t that simple, nor are their needs, and the definition of “ambivert” is to be both an introvert and an extrovert, which literally just makes you human. That being said, I’ve realized in the last few years that while I love the holiday season, the gatherings themselves stress me out. Knowing how little I fit in with my own family, how socially inept both of my parents could be, makes me hyperaware of social interactions. I spend the majority of holiday gatherings worrying that I’ve said the wrong thing, that my parenting is being judged, that someone overheard me snap at the child who just ran past the infant on the floor. It takes a lot of work to talk to that many people, accept that many hugs, watch that many people pass my babies back and forth.
It is, of course, my hope that my girls will never feel this uncomfortable around family when they’re older, but right now they’re babies. They spend the majority of their time at home with mama, broken up by the occasional visit to Great Gramma’s and snuggling with our DnD pals. One day, maybe they’ll look forward to their numerous Christmases as much as I did as a child, but right now, it’s a lot of work for them to be talked to by that many people, accept that many hugs, and be passed between that many humans. It’s a break in a very predictable routine, a lot of stimulation, and a lot of germs, so we chose to skip the largest of the gatherings. After nearly a week, they’re still worn out and one of them is actually sick. When they get older, even with fortified immune systems, those gatherings will still be made up of a lot of names and faces my girls don’t remember, because I barely do. I’d rather spend our energy and time at smaller, more intimate get-togethers.
We’re setting a precedent.
This year, my baby girls’ first Christmas, was the start of many new traditions. We chose our tree and decorated it as a family, hung the stockings I made myself, opened a door on the new advent calendar every evening, read Christmas books, sang Christmas songs, watched Christmas movies, opened gifts fitting the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” theme, wore our Christmas jammy jams and listened to daddy read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
We also set a precedent for future Christmases, stating quite plainly, that we will not sacrifice the enjoyment of our holiday for perfect attendance at everyone else’s. My girls will not be forced to end their play with their cousins so we can rush off to visit more distant relatives. I will not bake seven different dishes for seven different parties. We will not buy gifts for people we barely know, just because I once shared a great grandparent with them. I will not listen to hateful remarks about my body or heated political arguments for one day of the year. Boundaries are best set firmly and early on and I refuse to make the holiday season something to dread… so I skipped your Christmas party.
It’s that time of year, y’all: The Holidays. I love the last quarter of the year… exhaustively. I don’t even know that it’s accurate to limit my affection to the holidays. I just love fall and winter, as a whole. When everyone else is overwhelmed or depressed because Christmas is over, I’ve still got neutral winter decorations up and a list of non-Christmas seasonal movies from Frozen to The Thing to The Shining to Little Women. When an ice storm inevitably blows through, I’ll sit cozily inside drinking hot chocolate, secure in the knowledge that the generator will keep me that way. Now that life is returning to normal after the utter trauma that was 2020 and I don’t have to spend this time of year isolated and wondering if I’ll ever be a mom, I am even more enthusiastic. In fact, I scheduled our Christmas card photoshoot in September and am thrilled to send out the most basic middle class white people card ever! Oh, the things that excite infertility survivors. Now, to dress my family…
Still donning my postpartum twin mama body, I’m not thrilled with the way I look in any of my old dresses. I’ve been searching for something in my style that’s a bit more forgiving in the mid-section, while simultaneously trying to find clothes for Jake and the girls that coordinate. While my girls look cute in literally everything, I can’t seem to feel that way about my own body, so I’ve purchased a good half dozen items from Amazon in the hopes that at least one of them won’t make me cry.
Oh, to see myself through the same lens as my precious Violet, who literally looks exactly like me. Ideally, I could go to one of my favorite mid-range/budget stores and try things on in person, but I’ve tried, y’all, and I’ve come to a simple conclusion: all clothes are jammies now!
I’ve never been one to require sharp lines and stiff collars to look put together. I barely style my hair. My iron is strictly used for crafting. In the full year I spent trying to wear heels, I looked like a newborn giraffe learning to walk every single time. I’m also aware that our standards for dress changed during the height of the pandemic. I’ve mentioned how I, myself, forgot how to apply makeup after spending the year 2020 in athletic shorts, tank tops, and a founding father’s ponytail. As we approach our “new normal,” though…
– raise your hand if you’re weary of that phrase –
… it would be nice if we could bridge the gap between Life As We Knew It and The End Times. Covid-19 is here to stay and even if I’m alone in my line of thinking, I’m ready to resume dressing like a member of civilized society, instead of an Olsen Twin pajama party guest. I don’t feel like I’m setting the bar too incredibly high in my flats and simple dresses, either. I wear a lot of comfy cardigans, y’all. However, literally every store I’ve visited, from Target and Ross to Old Navy and Kohl’s has exclusively dealt in jammy-jams.
Throughout my adulthood, there has consistently been one or two trends targeting comfort over style, like maxi dresses and jeggings. I concede that these have their place, but it’s not just comfy pants and oversized crop tops anymore. Even the dresses are made of sweatpants material and old nightgowns.
It’s not just the baggy cuts, either. It’s the fabrics and the prints. I recognize a matronly nightgown when I see it, folks. I wore a lot of them to sleepovers in high school… because I was cool. Call it a maxi dress all you want, but whereas the same print might look feminine and cheery on a sundress, when you use classic florals without clean lines, it’s a nightgown.
It seems that pandemic trends have bled into the worst of 90s fashion, too. Instead of bringing back the tailored styles of blazers and pleated skirts, à la Cher Horowitz and Ashley Banks, or the bright youthful colors of Romy and Michelle, we’ve brought back the grunge of the cast of Clerks. Is there a way to wear earth-toned stripes and not look like you just rolled out of bed and smoked a bowl? Sure! It’s not with baggy drawstring-waisted cargo pants, though. Can lots of denim work? I frequently visit cowboy country, so I’m gonna say yes. Is there a time and a place for camouflage? Of course! It’s in a deer stand. Is there a way to wear tie-dye without looking like a 90’s mom at a theme park? I just Googled it and I’m going to have to say no. If that’s your thing, though, go for it, but perhaps choose a tie-dyed shirt, some fitted jeans, and brightly colored Converse, instead of a dress made of old sweats.
There’s a reason the models above are all hot, y’all. It’s because when normal people dress like the mannequins at Target and Old Navy and Kohl’s in 2021, they look like they’re about to take a nap, go work in the yard, or sell you a dime bag. The exact same prints and fabricslook just fine when they’re not so shapeless or paired with something equally baggy and ratty.
Look! I even found something flattering in tie-dye and there is a way to wear plaid without looking like Jay and Silent Bob. I’m afraid you’re on your own for camouflage.
I have never been one for fashion. Keeping up with trends is not only expensive, but as you can tell, I rarely find them to my taste. My wardrobe could be called a “capsule wardrobe,” not because of the modern minimalist movement, but because I’m cheap and grew up in a hoarder’s household, so I like to throw things away. I buy basic styles that I appreciate and find flattering, regardless of what’s in style, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go kick rocks. If I follow only one rule of fashion, it’s that loose on top requires fitted on bottom and vice versa. Modern trends, however, seem to have thrown this classic concept out the window to the point that we may as well all be wearing Snuggies on our nights out. I can’t find simple, flattering pieces anymore. You’d think that, even during this time of athleisure and 90s grunge, I’d be able to find some soft A-line t-shirt dresses or cute cotton fit-and-flares, but no! My only options are the costumes from She’s All That, before she gets hot.
I suppose, if I don’t want to look like an extra from Mall Rats, I have no choice but to buy the same three dresses in every color on Amazon until I like my body enough to wear all of the cute clothes I bought before we all collectively decided to let ourselves go. With as low as I rank fashion in my priorities, of all the reasons I am so ready for this pandemic to end, I never thought it would be one of them or that I’d scorn pajamas to this extent.