… 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.
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.
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. Several 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. My husband must occasionally wonder if he did, in fact, marry an awkward, chubby, 12-year-old, as he comes in the living room 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, in a multi-season TV show, 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 penny. Here are my thoughts, 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. 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. That being said, who was in charge of procuring the cats and why couldn’t they find enough black ones? Black kittens are literally some of the easiest to find, because they’re the least popular. 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, this school needs some serious oversight. Why doesn’t Miss Cackle take this awful woman 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 also 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? I kind of want to put another check in the dumbest witch column, 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 fucking 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 could 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::
I, like everyone else, was determined to be productive when Covid-19 hit my country and the lockdown was implemented, in various stages. I was going to do yoga and all sorts of crafts and read all the books and workout and write and, and, and…
I did do some of those things. I walked a lot and on those walks, I listened to audiobooks. I hand-painted a cartoon portrait of my dogs in a bathtub. I painted and decorated the hall bathroom. I… bought a yoga mat and blocks. Mostly… I watched a lot of TV shows, old and new, good and bad. Here are my thoughts, limited to very mild spoilers only.
Lizzie McGuire: I loved this show as a young teen. It was less about relating to Lizzie, herself, and more about wishing I could relate to her very wholesome experiences, at school and at home. As an adult, I realize that this was a pretty sugarcoated version of the middle school years, though, and I’m thrilled that the reboot fell through. Duff wanted an “honest” depiction of life in your 30’s, claiming that the original show portrayed an honest depiction of middle school and I call shenanigans on that. Not once did one of Lizzie’s classmates fear pregnancy, because she swallowed after her first blowie… and that’s a big part of the appeal for me. Even today, I retroactively envy Lizzie’s home life, with her supportive parents and annoying, poorly disciplined little brother. It’s delightful to see that this is one of those shows you can watch as an adult and realize you now relate to the parents just as much as you once did the kids. They weren’t written as clueless or naïve and I’d say this is still a wonderfully hokey watch, that I can’t wait to share with my girls.
The Mandalorian: I’m not gonna lie. I far prefer Star Trek to Star Wars and have picked many a fight with my husband over who would win in a battle, Spock or Obi Wan… because I am cool. The newest installments to the latter have left me cold and viciously hating Rey, because women can be strong and independent, without being ungrateful assholes. So, I had little interest in The Mandalorian, beyond the cuteness of Baby Yoda, but my husband was really excited about it, as were my library teens… and Baby Yoda was still the primary appeal for me. I watched every episode of this series and I couldn’t tell you much about the plot, past “save the child.” One of my teens recently told me that the reason he loves it so much, is that it’s the closest thing to Firefly that isn’t Firefly. I disagree. Sure, the setting is similar, but the heroes aren’t warm or funny or even attractive and the villains are relatively bland. If you’re a diehard Star Wars fan, you’ll likely love The Mandalorian, but if you can take it or leave it, you’re unlikely to feel any differently about this installment. Baby Yoda is adorable, though.
Once Upon a Time: This Disney/ABC family show is objectively terrible, overall. The CGI sets are laughably bad in the first season and the child actor gets progressively worse as his cuteness wears off. The storylines are engaging and clever in the beginning, but quickly become more about participation trophies and honorary mentions, as the writers work to include every Disney character ever throughout the seasons. Honestly, though, it’s still a really fun watch. It’s nice to enjoy a fantasy story that truly appeals to all ages, including fight scenes and love stories in equal measure, with absolutely no penis. Game of Thrones and True Blood have their appeal, but there is definitely a point where I feel like nurses see less dick. Once Upon a Time is not what I’d call good. It’s campy at times and goes on for far too long. I haven’t finished the show, but I’m absolutely certain that it jumps the shark, probably specifically the one from Finding Nemo, if the reviews are any indication. Still, it keeps me engaged, when I want some harmless drama and excitement… and can stomach the heroes repeatedly releasing the villains and being absolutely shocked when they do something evil, once again.
Big Bang Theory: Originally, BBT was a clever sitcom portraying a demographic often ignored… even if some thought the jokes just made dumb people feel smart. The show truly jumped the shark, however, when all of the relationships and female characters became its central focus. Penny was always a plot device, the Xander, a character to whom the audience could relate, as she asked questions on their behalf. She normalized the nerds and acted as the inevitable love interest. She had a purpose. Bernadette was an entertaining representation of how women can be smart and beautiful, though she received little depth as anything beyond Howard’s gal. Then, Amy Farrah Fowler joined the show, lighting the fuse that was its inevitable explosion. Amy was an offensive stereotype of female intellectuals: frumpy, socially clueless, and boring. She had to “fix” Sheldon, who didn’t need fixing as an asexual character, and refused to respect his boundaries… or those of anyone else on the show. While she did get progressively worse, it wasn’t just her. The jokes became formulaic and the focus entirely shifted, as happens to many sitcoms that run too long. What was once a tale of geeky men exploring their post-college years, became a failed attempt at a nerdy Everybody Loves Raymond with jokes about marriage and parenting dominating the predictable dialogue of literally every single character, including the no-longer-asexual Sheldon… because that’s how sexuality works. If I ever rewatch BBT, I’ll stop before the first wedding and recommend the same.
Friends: David Schwimmer carried this show. Whether you like his character or not, the actor was the best at physical comedy and delivery. From the first episode, Schwimmer sold Ross as the awkward, nerdy, doormat. Did everything about his character age well? No, but neither did a lot of things, so I’m willing to look at Ross through the lens of 1999, too. Not only did I enjoy Ross more, I found myself hating Rachel, especially past the “we were on a break” drama. She left a man at the altar and slept with him after he got engaged, slept with an ex after he groped her friend, was always a terrible employee, slept with her assistant, took advantage of her friends, treated Ross like a sweater she neither wanted to wear nor donate by stringing him along for years and sabotaging his every new relationship, and gave the father of her baby no actual say in his daughter’s well-being while simultaneously expecting him to do all of the husbandly things without the title. I shipped Chandler and Monica at one time, with their friends-to-lovers trope and enjoyed their storyline again, but now realize that Phoebe and Mike were the couple to beat. They had an adorable meet-cute with real chemistry. Mike accepted Phoebe for all of her history and annoying quirks, with zero embarrassment. Best of all, their relationship never had time to drag. Schwimmer might have been the comedic lead, but Paul Rudd was the real romantic MVP.
It’s a Sin: I thought this miniseries had six episodes. When I realized it was only five, I was relieved, because it was absolutely heartbreaking. When it comes to movies and TV, I’m basically a robot. Nothing but dead animals and babies makes me cry. The Notebook?Titanic? Schindler’s List? Nope. That being said, I cried during every episode of It’s a Sin and I mean tears streaming down my face. It’s such a compelling tale of a group of mostly gay friends, living in 1980s London, during the AIDS epidemic. The protagonists aren’t caricatures and neither are the villains, really, as the leads each leave home and make their way to London, where they can live their lives freely… until they start to fall ill, one by one. Surprisingly, religion is rarely addressed as the reason for the stigma against homosexuality (and AIDS by extension), which I appreciated, because it’s not necessarily as historically accurate in the 80’s UK as it would be in the US South. This show infuriated me as a librarian, as the main characters struggled to find any information on the mysterious illness killing people they loved. I’ve never been happier for such an amazing show to end. I have read criticism that the one (seemingly straight) character was the Token Straight Friend, but I consider that to be a horrible way to talk about allies. Plenty of straight people lost friends and loved ones to AIDS and this show did a great job portraying that, as well.
7th Heaven: At 10 years old, I wanted to be Mary Camden. All of my friends were slender, athletic, and had parents who made sure they bathed and their clothes fit. I never could seem to master any of those. I realize now, depressingly enough, that my mother wanted to be Annie Camden: wanted by her husband, respected by her community, with children who looked up to her, able to keep all the balls in the air… and she never could master any of those, herself. So, watching this show as an adult was bittersweet for me, as I recognized how far my mother’s life veered from what she wanted. While 7th Heaven might have hit a soft spot for me, though, it has probably aged worse than anything in the history of time. Every negative thing about the 90s is encapsulated in this show, from the most oppressive purity culture to low-key racism thought progressive. The Camdens controlled their children’s sexuality with an iron first, from first kisses to first times. They knew one black family, a most accurate example of Token Black Characters, as nearly every episode featuring them was themed around race… which was also true for all other non-white character mentions. It also went on for way too long. By season 8, all but a handful of the original actors had given up, and so did I. Nostalgia aside, there’s only so much time I can spend with early 00s churchy people, without having flashbacks of my own.
Roswell: At age 12, I was obsessed with Roswell. I mean that I would be concerned if my child were so fixated on something. I work with teenagers, so that’s saying something. Having reached my adult height by sixth grade and still a few years out from my breast reduction, I remember watching Liz Parker stand in front of her mirror in her matching bra and panties, knowing I could never wear something like that, because the cute stuff didn’t come in my size. If I wanted to be utterly mortified, I could dig up the diaries where I introduced myself with my full name in every entry, just like Liz. Still, I think I’d have preferred to be Isabel, beautiful and in possession of alien powers, with two brother figures who wanted to protect her. Middle school Belle had issues and this show is a lot of what got her through them, so for that reason, Roswell will always have a place in my heart. Objectively speaking, though, it isn’t much different than many early 00s shows, featuring gorgeous actors far too old to play the dramatic and angsty parts assigned. It does, however, lack the clever wit of its more iconic competitors, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and doesn’t measure up in the sci-fi world to shows like Firefly, with a plot riddled with holes. It’s unsurprising that Roswell never made it past three seasons, but I don’t care, because those came at just the right time for me.
Smallville: I never intended for Smallville to be a good rewatch. I just wanted something mindless and campy and Tom Welling’s Clark Kent seemed like a good fit. I’d argue that this show is, overall, one of the worst in the Superman franchise. For starters, if Tom Welling can pass for 15 in season one, I can pass for Betty White now. Clark is supposed to be this gawky and awkward teenager, but no amount of stumbling or sputtering from Welling makes up for his age and build. Any teenage boy who looked like that would be the crush of every girl and invited to every party… once people realized he wasn’t a substitute teacher. It’s not that Welling does a bad job portraying Clark, it’s just that it’s utterly unconvincing at age 25. The mostly Monster of the Week plot doesn’t really redeem Smallville either. While Michael Rosenbaum is my all time favorite Lex Luthor, we barely get to see his dark side for several seasons and the supporting characters leave something to be desired, especially Lana. I don’t remember hating this character. Chloe annoyed me until she got over her Clark crush and started acting like a real friend, but I loathe Lana. She’s self-absorbed and whiney and thinks everyone in her life owes her their every secret. Regardless of its other flaws, Lana is what makes me not want to watch, as an adult. The rest, however, is more or less what I wanted: mindless, campy fun.
Gilmore Girls: Gilmore Girls has been quite the comfort watch for me, over the years. Lorelai always had money for the things she and Rory needed and wanted, despite the insistence that she had to get by on hard work and grit. If ever that wasn’t true, The Bank of Gilmore was happy to write a check, in exchange for company only. The heroines were effortlessly beautiful, universally loved, and were handed the world on a silver platter that they mocked for its pretention. They were best friends and adored by all men and their snowglobe town. It was the ultimate fantasy. I tried to rewatch in 2020, though, and just couldn’t get over how ungrateful these two were for their obscene privilege. Sure, you have a complicated relationship with your parents… so do a lot of people whose parents aren’t willing to write them checks or buy them lavish gifts. The Poor Little Rich Girl plot just didn’t hold up for me after the last year and Lorelai’s insistence on being a friend, rather than a mom, was extremely grating when I work with teens in this situation, was a teen in this situation, and prepare to have daughters of my own. Perhaps Reddit just ruined this one for me by villainizing literally every character, claiming abuse all around and scrutinizing the entire show through a 2020 lens. Maybe I just need to come back in another time of life, but this one was a surprising pandemic no-go for me.
Stranger Things: Oh, Stranger Things, the leading title in shows that didn’t need subsequent seasons. My favorite thing about ST is the hilariously spot-on portrayal of teenagers and the amazing acting that accomplishes it. I love me some teen dramas, but working with the age group has me hyperaware that they are almost never portrayed as a day younger than 19 and always by actors older than that. ST breaks the mold with its nerdy 80s middle schoolers and unique sci-fi plot… in the first season. Unlike many, I never felt that ST needed a second, and definitely not a third, season. I didn’t need to be introduced to Billy and Max, who completely lifted out of the story. I didn’t need the audience-pandering reveal of a Steve who’s scooping ice cream and a Jonathan with a successful career, when the opposite is totally what would have happened, considering Steve’s privilege and charm and Johnathan’s poverty and general creepiness. I didn’t need a love story between the single mom and the drunken, incompetent chief of police. I didn’t need to watch Genius Elle stumble over the English language for three years. I didn’t need to see Mike’s mom become a cheating whore. Mostly, I didn’t need all of the sci-fi plot explained, in detail, ultimately removing any and all mystery from the storyline. Sometimes, less really is more and I don’t care if I’m entirely alone in saying that ST would have been far better as a miniseries with a dark and open ending.
Vampire Diaries: VD started off alright, for teen angst played by beautiful twenty-somethings, a favorite genre of mine. Admittedly, Ian Somerholder carried the show, only slightly aided when the original vampires arrived in season four, but it was still a fun watch… at first. My earliest problem with VD was that all affection for Elena dissipated by season three, seemingly a trope of vampire dramas, as Sookie Stackhouse suffered the same fate. It made for a rough watch when I loathed the main character everyone loved. VD didn’t even have True Blood’s handy backup of engaging support characters, either… just Damon and occasionally Caroline. As with most CW shows, Vampire Diaries’ greatest sin was that it went on far too long. Nina Dobrev (Elena) wasn’t even in the last two seasons and it wasn’t not the saving grace it sounds, because VD was the TV show that most obviously revealed it was never intended to be binged. I’ve never seen anything more redundant. Even reminding myself that the story was supposed to span eight years, I couldn’t get past the fact that every character died multiple times. I’m not exaggerating. A Google search reveals that the only character who didn’t die was Klaus, who left the show for his own spin-off. By season five, character death had zero impact, because supernatural loopholes would just allow for their return. After that, I wished for the ability to watch at double speed. At least True Blood had Alcide Herveaux.
Bewitched: At age nine, as my parents were growing less and less interested in me, TV was my best friend. Nick at Nite’s Block Party Summer was the best thing ever and Bewitched night was my favorite. I suppose I just never grew out of my desire to live in a world with magic and Bewitched painted a picture of a grown-up existence where that was possible. On my rewatch, I realized the magic is still there. I still love the 60s aesthetic, even knowing the absolute hogwash that was the decade’s representation. I still wish Endora were my mother and consider her way ahead of her time. I still adore the shenanigans that came with a magical, meddling family. I just have one complaint: Darrin Stephens. Darrin was, at best, a bully with no redeeming qualities. Not only did he not allow Samantha to use her magic, due to his own insecurities, he insisted she hide who she truly was, because he was ashamed of her… unless he directly benefited. Their marriage was a wonderful representation of the oppression of the mid-century housewife. I’d like to think that someone magical and immortal was only with him as some form of social experiment. In my mind, 2021 Samantha is as young and hot as ever, raising her two magical children, her late husband nearly forgotten. This conclusion makes for a much better watch, because of all the shows I rewatched during the pandemic, I think this is one I’ll never outgrow.
Mad Men: I got Jake to watch the first episode of this one two years ago, only for him to rage quit, insisting Don Draper was a representation of how men can’t be successful and good. Not until recently could I convince him to try again, after explaining that Don isn’t supposed to be a hero and pointing out that if he can cheer for any of the characters in Game of Thrones, he can get off his soap box. So, I purchased the entire show on Vudu and I’m enjoying it more than I did the first time, as is Jake. Mad Men is generally one of those shows that gets better when you know the ending, as you recognize the growth of the characters through the years, in direct correlation to the shifting political and social times. Not only do I see the intention behind Don’s character changing according to what society thinks he’s supposed to be, but his older counterpart, Roger, goes through later stages of the same, even without a secret identity. In contrast, from episode one, we see Peggy’s battle with who she’s supposed to be and who she wants to be, while Betty and Joan cling to roles they were raised to fill… one with success and the other without. We even get to see how these dilemmas impact their children, growing up in such a volatile decade, all with astounding wit and impeccable taste. I’m definitely not sorry to own Mad Men.
The Office: Jake and I watched The Office for the first time, during the summer of 2019. When my manual laborer landed a promotion placing him in an office setting, though, I insisted we rewatch from episode one, so he could experience the business casual shenanigans in a new perspective. I bought the DVDs on Amazon and The Office has been even more enjoyable the second time. Originally, I found Jim to be somewhat spineless, pining for Pam for years without action, while seeing Pam as a bit cruel for stringing along both him and Roy. This time, I was able to better recognize the nuance, knowing how things ended up for the couple. Not only did the two work together, but Pam’s live-in fiancé also worked downstairs. There’s no scenario where she leaves her fiancé and dates her coworker and everyone is happy. I also figured out what exactly I don’t like about Pam and can get past it as a very human flaw: she is an utter doormat. While I could never relate to being that much of a pushover, that trait makes her transgressions a lot more forgivable. As for Michael, while I love Steve Carrell, I find him to be a much more abhorrent person than I first did. I place intentions higher than most and they still don’t carry that much weight. Holly was just as dorky, while being a much better person, and I’m a bit sad that she doesn’t get someone better.
One downside to keeping my pregnancy a secret from my blog for the first 21 weeks, was missing out on sharing some of the milestones, like the positive pregnancy test, learning both babies were boys, buying a family car, learning both babies wereactually girls, and choosing names.
Y’all, naming humans is hard. I spent six years substitute teaching and have worked in public libraries for ten. I have heard someobjectively terrible names. I have met all of the following:
Merlin Zeus Corona Stetson Talladega Suthern Princess I’munique Imunique (no apostrophe) Sir…
… and my personal favorite Ecstassi, followed closely by my second favorite, Tyranny. Even our own family members have occasionally shown poor judgement choosing names. I have a cousin who gave her daughter a city name, but chose one of the murder capitals of the U.S. That’s far better than Jake’s cousin who named her son after a popular beer and brand of gun, resulting in his family’s refusal to call him by anything other than his initials. To this day, Jake insists we’re naming our first Budweiser Browning, a joke I’ve forbidden him to share with his cousin.
Ridiculous names aside, there are also the ones that just aren’t to our taste, but won’t get a resume thrown in the trash for sounding like a joke. Personally, I hate gender neutral names, traditionally male names for girls, or traditionally female names for boys. While Elliot might give someone pause, when a woman walks into an interview, I find this popular trend harmless enough, but don’t like it, myself. Jake’s name is actually far more common on women and to this day, I think our wedding invitations look like they’re for a lesbian wedding, which is fine, but inaccurate. The same goes for the modern names I liked to call Suburb Names, like Kinley, Zaiden, Amberly, and any other name that wasn’t a name twenty years ago. My own name is the1987 version of these and while I don’t hate it, I’d prefer something more traditional, myself.
That was actually the one thing Jake and I could agree on, traditional baby names. We wanted something classic, preferably not in the top 10, but not too bizarre or hipsterish. For girls, we didn’t want the names shortened to male nicknames, the reason we ultimately vetoed Charlotte. Although we loved Lottie, there’s no telling whether or not she’d be called Charlie or decide for herself that she preferred it one day. Since we both hated that very common nickname and couldn’t decide on anything that sounded good with it for Baby B, we nixed what was once my favorite baby girl name.
Twins threw us for another loop. Not only did we have to name one baby, but two. We wanted classic names that sounded good together, without a theme, meaning no color or flower or jewel names in pairs. That took Violet and Scarlett off the table, though we both loved the latter, we just couldn’t think of anything that sounded good with it.
Jake: “What about Charlotte and Scarlett?” Me: “I want a divorce.”
Rhyming names were absolutely off the table.
At one point, I had a list of over 30 baby names and Jake suddenly seemed to hate all of the names ever, though many were ones he’d agreed on previously. If he did like one, he didn’t like anything I thought went with it. He liked Maeve, but noped all of the one syllable names I suggested for the other baby, like Blair and Pearl. If he liked a longer name, he hated all of the inevitable nicknames, such as Josephine, Susannah, Gwendolyn, Eleanor, or Evelyn. He’d suggest that we not nickname them at all, and I had to insist that that’s not really how that happens. If we chose a long name and didn’t choose a shortened version, ourselves, other people would. No one is going to say Josephine in its entirety, when they can call her Jo… which we both hated.
Having just finished The Mandalorian, I had been calling the babies Mando and Grogu at work, since I hadn’t shared the genders. I began calling them the same at home, just to have some way to refer to them and had started to wonder if that might end up on their birth certificates, as Jake nixed every option. Even if we both liked a name, we often couldn’t come up with a good mate, such as with Alice. I couldn’t quite define what I thought made a good pair, but I think it came down to syllables and time period. Blair and Genevieve just sounded odd together. Jake’s inability to get excited about any names actually started to upset me and make me think that he was angry they were both girls. It became a real source of contention between the two of us.
Me: “Poor Mando and Grogu.” Jake: “Stop calling them that!” Me: “Stop vetoing everything else!”
One name had actually been on the table a year ago, but Jake had decided he didn’t like the nickname I suggested. It was four syllables long and not common enough to have an obvious nickname, but I wanted to choose one for ourselves, knowing that no one was going to consistently say the whole name. Not only was it a classically feminine name not in the top 1000, without being too weird, it was also the name of the town where my family originated. I’d really grown fond of it. When my good friend Sarah, one of the few who knows the names we ultimately chose, suggested an alternative shortening, I looked it up and realized it was actually an official nickname for our uncommon choice. Jake loved it. Now we just needed something that went with it, which likely meant another four syllable name.
Naming twins is exhausting.
For years, I’ve had an old name I loved, that no one has ever liked, as it’s virtually unheard of, today. It’s the name of the heroine in my favorite classic horror novel and I’ve suggested it several times to Jake, always receiving a hard next. It does, however, have four syllables. While the name we’d chosen is more common, they are both classic and Southern, from about the same time period. After tentatively settling on the first name, on the condition that we could come up with a good match, I suggested this one, once again, assuming I’d get the same response. Whether it was to shut me up or because he was actually starting to come around, I’ll never know, but this time Jake was willing to consider it. He asked that I give him a week to think about it, since he didn’t really care for the nickname I suggested and it didn’t have any obvious other one, save for the one from the horror novel and he hated that one. I agreed.
Over the next week, I began to think of our girls by these names and their nicknames. Consistently worried that I’d never grow attached to my babies, out of fear that something would happen before they were born, I was attempting to develop a connection by thinking of them as individual little people… and it was working, despite the fact that we hadn’t officially settled on the names. No more than one week later, I demanded a decision from Jake.
Me: “I’m starting to think of them by these names. I can’t help it. It’s the only way I feel connected to them . So, if you don’t like them, then tell me and we’ll start that fight. Don’t just let me continue thinking of them by names you’re going to veto, though.” Jake: “If I agree to that one, then when we have a boy…?” Me: “I’ll give you preference on boy names. I get veto rights, but you can ultimately choose.” Jake: “Okay. We can do those.”
I don’t even care if I just somehow wore down the most stubborn man alive or if he was afraid I might be serious when I shifted from Mando and Grogu to Elsa and Anna (the more likely scenario). Our babies have names. I ordered customized wooden cutouts of them the next day and since Jake is far too cheap to change his mind after spending that money, they’re official. In the last few months, I’ve been able to connect far more to the little girls growing in my belly, now that I can better think of them as individual humans. Everyone thinks we won’t want more children after twins, because of the stress and expense, but if anything, it’ll be due to the necessity that we name them.
The pandemic hit at an all time low for me. Jake and I had just found out that we were going to have to go through IVF over the summer and I… wasn’t handling it well.
… more than once, I called in late, because I couldn’t pull it together.
Even during the month before Covid-19 hit my state, the only reason I bothered to dress nicely and do my hair and makeup, was that it made me feel more capable and put together, at a time when I desperately needed it. So, when the library closed for an indeterminate amount of time, my sole goal, in regards to appearance, was to maintain my weight and basic hygiene. During those six weeks, my daily uniform consisted of athletic shorts, tank tops, and ponytails… not even cute, perky ponytails, but the Founding Father kind that’s worn at the base of the neck.
Indeed, I did look like a young Mr. Feeny for most of 2020.
When the library reopened, I felt little motivation to achieve more than the bare minimum summer dress code of denim capris and t-shirts… and a mask. Whereas I might have considered applying concealer and mascara before, I saw no point while revealing barely an inch between bangs and mask. Makeup is expensive and we were about to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. Furthermore, customers weren’t even allowed in the building and Jake was just happy that I could get out of bed in the morning. Who was I trying to impress?
I began my first IVF cycle in July and was far more concerned with taking my temperature thirteen times a day than I was with not wearing Crocs to the doctor’s office. Makeup was literally the furthest thing from my mind, at this point in time, and it sort of became habit. Even a year later, no one can see my face, unless it’s during a Zoom call from home, and that usually means a remote program or staff meeting. My teens don’t give two figs how I look, as long as I entertain them with elaborate D&D battles, and my coworkers see me in all my barefaced glory every day, when I’m allowed to remove my mask at my workstation. When customers are allowed in the building, all they can see is eyes.
Humans, circa 2020
Sure, I apply some concealer, when I look especially exhausted… because it has been an exhausting year, but I never see anyone outside of basic grocery shopping and Amazon returns. Jake and I literally entered a restaurant less than five times last year. Date nights consisted of s’mores in the backyard and Netflix. We didn’t even see our families more than once or twice. Halloween came with an ice storm and record-breaking power outages. I didn’t even get to wear a costume, because a) I had an ultrasound and didn’t want to receive bad news while dressed like Darkwing Duck and b) everyone had hunkered down in preparation for the storm, so the library was even more empty than usual, on a pandemic Saturday. Thanksgiving consisted of sweet potato pancakes and turkey sausage with my grandparents on Black Friday, all of us in jammies. New Year’s was just the two of us at home. Christmas was close family only. We were even snowed in on Valentine’s Day and spent the time painting the babies’ room, sewing quilts, and making stuffed waffles.
Now, here I am, fully vaccinated in a state where anyone who wants one can get their Covid-19 vaccine, able to enter the world again and y’all… I’ve forgotten how to apply makeup.
Not having taught myself to use eyeliner until 23, I’ve always been something of a minimalist, when it comes to makeup, only truly investing in decent products in preparation for my wedding at 29. Before that, all of my makeup was from the drugstore and I was fine with it. I’ll never forget marveling over how Jake could choose me, when I met his friends’ wives, who took two hours to get ready for Wal-Mart, when every bit of Maybelline and Revlon I owned was in my purse.
Even now, I only wear Bare Minerals foundation and eyeshadow, buy my mascara and eyeliner in black or brown at Sephora, and almost never wear lipstick. I have clear skin, easy hair, and I’m cheap. I’ve just never felt the desire to spend the time or money on perfecting tips from YouTube tutorials; and although I married a cowboy, who’s used to women with big hair and glitzy jewelry and bright eyeshadow, fortunately for me, he prefers the low maintenance look, along with the attitude and budget that comes with it.
All that being said, I do like to dress in feminine clothing, despite my inability to tell you any trendy brand names or styles. Years after the cancellation of The New Girl, I still tend toward Jessica Day style dresses, long hair, and bangs… though I do cut them myself. Now that I spend my mornings nursing pregnancy headaches, instead of screaming on the bathroom floor, I once again have the energy to dress up in cheap Amazon maternity dresses and accessorize with the jewelry I’ve accumulated over the last 15 years. I even straighten my hair, the one style technique I’ve mastered… before donning my mask.
Now, here we are, able to see our vaccinated friends and family once again, sans masks, according to CDC guidelines. In fact, this weekend, Jake and I are visiting the family ranch for the first time, since we begged for money for fertility treatments last March. I look like a tabloid snapshot of myself! This ranch is located in the land of big hair, turquoise, and people who haven’t been wearing masks for the last year, and I don’t even know how to look human anymore.
I must admit that, after all the ways that Covid-19 has kicked our collective butts, this threw me for a loop. I’ve been alternately praying for normalcy and breaking down because we’ll never see it again, so it never occurred to me how awkward readjusting to it would be, when Earth began to reopen. I have to say, though, it’s a good problem to have and maybe it means there’s an end in sight, if we can start to worry about dressing appropriately and forgetting how to wear makeup.
Right now, I have a firm grasp on positivity… which of course means that later, I’ll have a firm grasp on a bottle of whiskey. My highs are really high and my lows are really low. I half-ass nothing.
So, in my latest up moment, I’ve been considering all the ways that I’m at an advantage during this pandemic, either by good decisions I’ve made that have ultimately prepared me for disaster, or the more likely scenario of pure chance. I’m a firm believer that where liberals tend to underestimate the role of moxy and self-determination, conservatives tend to underestimate the role of luck. So here’s a mix of both.
We’re used to eating at home.
Zetus lapetus, I don’t know how you people eat out all the time. Jake and I split a McDonald’s burger and fries (no drink) to celebrate Easter, since it was already the lamest holiday ever and it cost $7.26. That’s why we never eat out and y’all are crazy. Fortunately for us, this means we’ve got quite the cache of recipes, because we’re used to cooking. We’re not eating pasta night after night, but instead we’re eating soups, stew, salmon, enchiladas, salads, burgers, garlic green beans, battered fish, fries and tots, coconut haystacks, chocolate chip cookies, cake mix cookies… We’ve developed a lengthy menu over the years. Since we come home for lunch, that includes lunches. We are not scrambling for meal planning ideas.
I’ve been cutting our hair for years.
Zetus lapetus, I don’t know how you people get your hair cut all the time. A few years ago, I decided I wanted bangs, but I knew they’d need more upkeep than my twice annual haircut, so I bought some hair sheers on Amazon for $15 and started doing it myself, with tips from YouTube. A year ago, Jake asked me to cut his hair, so we could save the $20 every couple of months. For the cost of one of those haircuts, I bought a trimmer on Amazon and have been doing it ever since. Despite all salons being closed, there are no shaggy folks in the Granger household.
I own walking shoes and workout equipment.
I’ve had an elliptical for years and purchased my rowing machine about a month before the pandemic really hit. I also bought a good pair of walking shoes about six months ago and live in an older neighborhood with large lots and wide streets, so walks are a great way to get out of the house.
We don’t have kids. We want to do the baby thing soon, but we haven’t gotten around to it just yet and I’ve gotta say, what a time to be childless. I cannot imagine going through the highs and lows I hit in one day with small children in tow. I miss my job and the days feel long and meaningless, while I’m constantly terrified that I’ll get news that there won’t be any paychecks after a certain date. I can’t sleep, because I wake up and remember we’re in the middle of the apocalypse. It’s exhausting and I’m so glad I’m not solely responsible for another human’s health and well-being at this very moment of my life.
We have stable(ish) jobs.
They’re furloughing nurses and doctors in my state, during a pandemic. No job is 100% safe. Jake and I, however, have been lucky enough to keep our jobs and pay thus far. While I’m home, I am doing three remote programs a week with my homeschool kids, to justify that pay and none of my managers seem worried that we’ll lose it, let alone our jobs. Jake is essential, if people want to continue getting water in their homes, and he goes to work every day, as per usual.
I have a contingency plan.
If the bottom falls out, I just passed my school media certification test to add another subject area to my teaching certificate, which I’ve kept going all these years. They will always need teachers and I can always teach… even if that means eventually relocating to Jake’s home state, where teachers are better compensated.
We already bought a house.
Realizing that Cherokee property values were soaring and recognizing that if we waited to buy until we had a 20% down payment, we’d price ourselves out of the market, we purchased our 2,300 square foot, 1980’s flip on over an acre, for $210,000 with 5% down in 2018. Since I have no idea what Covid-19 is going to do to the housing market or mortgages as a whole, I’m really glad we’ve already bought a home that we plan to stay in for at least the next 15 years.
I just refinanced that house.
Literally, two weeks after the lock down, we signed the paperwork on a lower fixed interest rate and a lower monthly payment, which stated that we’d already earned 10% equity. We won’t have to make a mortgage payment until June and can use those payments to secure our financial position.
We’ve paid off a lot of debt and are now nearing an ideal financial situation.
I married a man with a nest egg and that is pure luck. Do any of y’all remember my rants about Fifty Shades of Grey and how I’d let a man hang me upside down and gut me like a deer if he’d only pay off my student loans? That happened!
Not that part… the part about the student loans. While I still owe on my federal student loans, they’re on an income based repayment program that only counts my income and comes out to about $220 a month, while the remainder is due for public service student loan forgiveness in 2024. My private student loans, however, were killing us. We were paying $300 a month just to keep the phone calls at bay, because we weren’t even touching the principal… that is, until my romantic hero swept in and paid them all off, along with my car and credit card, ultimately lowering our overhead by quite a bit. We’ve also paid off multiple credit cards since then and managed to secure a car payment of about $200 per month, while maintaining a sizable emergency fund.
I like my husband… and for some reason, he likes me. I’ve seen a lot of memes and articles citing the stress that this pandemic is putting on marriages. Maybe it’s because Jake is still going to work each day or because we have a lot of space to offer each other, but I just don’t feel that way. I have thought a hundred times how much worse this pandemic would be if I were single. I could barely handle getting iced in all alone during Southern snowstorms in my twenties, and those only lasted a few days. I would go crazy with no one but my pets, sitting around 24/7 reading articles about the end times.
During Armageddon, Jake gives me a reason to be in a good mood, to be sober, to keep a clean house, to make healthy meals, as opposed to my famous single girl dining experience of Lotso Snack Foods. Marshmallows and maraschino cherries for dinner anyone? Jake provides comfort and company and someone to share sad McDonald’s burgers as we celebrate Isolation Holidays with video games and drinking. For some reason, he’s grateful to have me around too and I’m beginning to think that’s it’s just his provider instincts. When crisis hits, he needs something to take care of… enter me.
Three weeks ago, I got the news that my library would be closing for two weeks, in the face of Covid-19. One week ago, I got the news that my library would be closing for two more weeks. Last Thursday… I think, the days are beginning to run together… I got the news that my library would be closed for the month of April.
Text to My Boss: Can we just stage a coup and go back anyway? Open the library, welcome people inside. I’m tired of being a part of the solution. Let’s be part of the problem.
In that first week, I posted an adorably ambitious list of pandemic goals. In hindsight, I now realize, of course, that this is the equivalent to a Google search for the most popular New Year’s resolutions. So I’m here to revise…
Goal 1: Do Everything I Can to Keep My Job
I am being paid, in full, while still accruing leave. I have a paycheck and health insurance through the end of the month, guaranteed. None of my managers are concerned about our jobs. We have a very secure funding model, similar to that of teachers. That being said, my state is on the list of potentials for the next Covid-19 hot spot and the president is about to advise that everyone wear masks in public. I bought gas for .99 cents a gallon yesterday. Sam’s Club doesn’t have meat. It’s the apocalypse, yo. Anyone who thinks their job is totally secure isn’t paying attention.
There aren’t a lot of ways to librarian from home, folks. I’m doing remote programming with my teens two days a week, listening to classics and reading YA novels, researching programming ideas for fall. I’m jumping at every chance for a video conference, internally and externally and planning to do some some software training on YouTube. I’m writing bi-weekly reports of all of my contributions and sending them in unsolicited. I’m obsessively checking my email, even though it’s been mostly crickets from management, all in the hopes that if this goes on long enough to require tough decisions, they’ll layoff anyone else.
Goal 2: Don’t Get Fat
Call me vain, I don’t care, but directly below keeping my job comes the goal of not getting fat in isolation. Y’all, I am literally holed up all day, with all of the food ever. There’s almost nothing I could want to eat, that I couldn’t eat. I have ice cream and cookies and Easter candy and fried chicken strips and frozen pizza and very little to do, beyond cry because the world is ending.
Forget yoga. Forget zumba. Forget healthy eating. Methodology no longer matters to me. If maintaining my weight means I walk around the neighborhood listening to audiobooks for two hours a day, so I can’t raid the fridge, so be it. What else am I going to do with my time? If it means drinking nothing but coffee until 1:00 in the afternoon, while doing an impression of Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka, fine. As long as they don’t have to roll me out of isolation, like Violet Beauregarde I’m happy.
Goal 3: Be Nice to My Husband
As essential personnel, my husband is still going to work every day. If anyone is going to get me sick, it’s him. If anyone is going to take care of me, it’s him. If anyone is going to keep me from feeling totally isolated, it’s him. It’s not his fault that I’m home, all day, theorizing that the evangelicals might be right and this could be the Rapture… at least beyond the point that he married me. He has to live in this incredibly stressful world, too… and he has to actually venture out into it. I don’t have to be the perfect housewife, but the least I can do is keep home pleasant.
Goal 4: Don’t Destroy the House
I am a homebody, y’all. I love my house. There’s no place I’d rather be… except maybe work these days. This house is 2,300 square feet, though, including the converted garage and it sits on over an acre. If not properly cared for, that becomes a huge chore. So, while Jake takes care of the lawn, it is my goal to keep our home comfortable… since we’re possibly going to die in it.
Goal 5: Don’t Destroy the Pets
Jake deserves 100% of the credit for the fact that our pets are not insufferable. He has trained them quite well, not to beg or get on the furniture without permission. They’re not allowed in the kitchen when we’re in there and they’re just generally much nicer to be around than many other people’s pets. Thackery Binx will meow at me first thing in the morning, because he wants me to hurry up and sit down with my coffee, so I can snuggle him. He seems to understand, however, that these snuggles have a time limit, because I have to go to work… until now. Now, I am home 100% of the time, to respond to everyone’s every whim, so I’m making it a goal to be slightly more emotionless, so as not to utterly destroy my pets in the time I’m home, however long that may be.
Goal 6: Don’t Spend Money
Times are simply too uncertain for retail therapy. Jake and I were quite fortunate to have started a refinance on our home six weeks ago, and to have finalized it just Wednesday, which means we’ve saved $300 on our mortgage and now have a 3.375% interest rate. We actually had to send in our most recent pay stubs, again, just to prove we still had jobs, the day before we signed, though. The economy has tanked and while I do still have my teaching certificate, because I love contingency plans, we don’t know what the future holds. So, spending less money is important right now. The mortgage payments we don’t have to make, the stimulus checks that are on their way, the extra paychecks we’re expecting in a few months… these are all going to securing our financial future, so that if things get bad, they’re not as bad.
Goal 7: Read Books
I have no more goals about what I should read, simply that I should read something that isn’t the news. It can be a romance novel I’ve read three times, as long as it’s not staring at a screen, crying over the end times. It probably shouldn’t be the next Left Behind novel or anything else that’s actually about the end times, but I’m not going to be that specific in my parameters.
So there we have it, my minimalist, realistic goals. If I can make it through this apocalypse employed, human sized, married, with a home and pets that don’t suck, without wasting all of the money we’ve saved, and without driving myself crazy by reading about Armageddon all day, I will be in a better place than most. They aren’t stimulating goals, but they’re goals all the same.