The Quote That Won't Make You Cry

Sarah Kane did not say this.

I found this quote while trying to look up a quote I remembered from theater school, which I somehow associated with Sarah Kane. I had to stop for a second when I saw this. I know quotes get attributed to the wrong people all the time, but the wrongness of this overwhelmed me.

If you don’t know who Sarah Kane is, I DO NOT recommend you go looking her up. Kane was a young, talented, very controversial British playwright, who wrote some of the most explicit and brutal plays of contemporary drama. Her work is full of cruelty, violence, and pain; war and mental illness were some of her favorite subjects, and she left NO taboo unbroken. But there’s also a lot of love and empathy for humanity in her work. Still, I would not go looking for her work unless you want to be disgusted and horrified by the worst of humanity, which was kind of what she was going for.

I have only read two of her plays. But I am very sure that a queer woman who wrote plays where people get their eyeballs sucked out did not ever say anything about crying over a boy.

I don’t know how I feel about this quote, really. It’s a nice sentiment, I think, but nearly every relationship will have tears at some point. There’s a difference between someone deliberately being cruel and disregarding your feelings, and tears coming out in a fight, of course, but there’s no nuance in platitudes.

I remember my friend Maria insisting, “A girl can’t cry over a man!” when I was brokenhearted over Steven not wanting to dance with me at the sixth grade Halloween dance. It struck me as an odd thing to say, maybe a truncated version of something she’d heard her mother or sisters say. Or maybe she’d read it on the internet. In the years after that, the late ‘90s, I saw that “no man is worth your quotes” hundreds of times. There were a lot of Chicken Soup for the Soul-esque platitudes (I will definitely be writing about my complicated relationship with Chicken Soup for the Soul at some point) floating around the late-early internet. Every generation has their trite sayings that young people believe in, but I feel like this was probably the first time you could really feel them on a global level.

We were sort of the first generation of Internet Memes, when “memes” still existed in the Selfish Gene sense of the word. (Remember when Richard Dawkins died suddenly after publishing that book and never said anything about anything that wasn’t about biology, ever again?) We had just escaped the days of faxlore. Now we had AOL profiles and Away Messages! The internet was this new, cool thing, we had this sudden interconnection with the rest of the world, and how would we use it? To tell people that “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best,” “A BITCH = A Babe In Total Control of Herself!” and “Dance like nobody is watching.” They were always written in AlTeRnAtInG CaSeS, with little tildes and asterisks to make it look like a rose garden: ~*~DoN’t CrY BeCaUsE iT’s OvEr, sMiLe BeCaUsE iT hApPeNeD!~*~ (I know that’s hard to read, and I’m sorry. Honestly, just typing it nearly gave me a migraine.)

I never knew where any of the quotes came from. Many were attributed to Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, or Coco Chanel — really, anyone most young girls saw as “classy.” But where do they come from? How do platitudes become platitudes? Dorothy Parker had that bit about how she never sought credit for an epigram, because “We all assume Oscar [Wilde] said it.” But was there an actual author for this quote? There had to have been, at some point.

I didn’t find one, which is probably no surprise. But what most interests me are the people this is wrongly attributed to.

First off, we have Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is a great writer, although I’ve never actually finished one of his books. Love in the Time of Cholera is all about love and pain, but I didn’t care for it when I read it at twenty-one, newly brokenhearted and cynical about any kind of love. I know, though, that it is about love and the way it tricks and deceives people, and the way we see it versus the way it actually is. Gabriel Garcia Marquez took hundreds of pages to explain how love is complicated. He very likely did not say this. (Interesting, too, that it is not about men being worth your tears, but anyone.)

Next we have Paulo Coelho. I don’t know much about him except that he wrote The Alchemist, which I have never read, but some of my friends found it inspirational and beautiful and some of my friends found it hokey and trite. I can’t remember which friends of mine it was. (I wish I could remember which friends of mine also hated Life of Pi. Man, I really hated that book.) I do not think he said this, but he did say a lot about tears. “Words are tears that have been written down. Tears are words that need to be shed…” seems to be a quote from his book Aleph, referenced on his actual blog. I guess it’s a bit more plausible that he could have said it, but I feel like if he had, it would have been a bit more poetic, and he probably would have taken credit for it on his blog.

Ah, yes, famously stoic Courtney Love! I have a friend who met her once when she was recording at a studio and apparently she was going through a phase where she “just didn’t wear clothes.” My friend, whose father worked at the studio, was a huge fan and was a little surprised when Courtney Love emerged fully nude and asked if she could have a slice of her pizza. Somehow, I don’t think she said this.

Google also suggested this quote came from Mary Oliver. That didn’t yield too many results, and seemed an odd fit to me, for many reasons, not the least of which is that Mary Oliver was a lesbian poet. She didn’t just write about being a lesbian, but, from what I know about her poetry, she didn’t write that much about men. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about lesbians is that they hate men. Most lesbians I know feel relatively indifferent about men. I remember asking a lesbian friend if she ever looked at men when she saw them walking down the street, and she said, “I just don’t notice them.” I’ve heard the same thing from some gay men, that women tend to blend into the background for them. It’s just not where their attention is. That said, I do feel like “No man is worth your tears,” could be a very lesbian thing to say (it’s not worth crying over something or someone you’re indifferent to), but I think “And the one who is won’t make you cry” assumes heterosexuality and gender norms in a way a lesbian poet probably wouldn’t.

Interestingly, I haven’t seen this quote attributed to any gay or bisexual men. Well, unless you count the show Merlin.

If you haven’t seen the show, you should, it’s adorable, it’s Arthurian legend told from Merlin’s point of view, Merlin as a young man working for Arthur and trying to hide his forbidden magic powers. The Merlin and Arthur of the show have a close, love-hate, often tempestuous relationship, and there’s definitely a lot of tension that could be romantic. Arthur tells Merlin “No man is worth your tears” right before he rushes off to be heroic and face certain death. The whole point of the quote, as it’s used here, is that a true friend or partner is worth your tears. Arthur has been raised to put duty above emotion… but he and Merlin do cry over each other. So it gives us a little bit of dramatic irony.

The full quote apparently appears in a heterosexual context in Jillian Dodd’s romance book, That Wedding. I haven’t read it, but since it was published in 2014, and I first encountered this in probably about 1999, I’m guessing she just borrowed it. That didn’t bother me — something borrowed for a book about a wedding, seems appropriate! — although I did find it frustrating that Goodreads also attributes “Do any human beings ever realize life, while they live it — every, every minute?” to her. This is a line from Our Town, and I am a drama nerd to the core and I will always defend Our Town, especially after seeing David Cromer’s production in 2010. Life-changing. It’s a shame so many high schools and community theaters have made it into a folksy little play when it’s actually an extremely painful and beautiful play about death and loss and being forgotten. It’s dark as hell. Anyway, I have nothing against Jillian Dodd and her book and her use of this quote, I just want to make sure Our Town gets its due credit.

To my surprise and my delight, the most common attribution of the quote, by far, is this one.

IKE. FUCKING. EISENHOWER.

The man who made the 1950s what they were. The man who created the Interstate system and popularized the term “Military-Industrial Complex” also wanted you to know you shouldn’t cry over a man. When could he have said this? When did he have the time, between considering whether or not to use nuclear weapons to end the war in Korea, and giving the go-ahead for the Bay of Pigs invasion? Who could he have possibly said this to?

I honestly couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this. I’m sure this started as a troll, and honestly, I salute whoever did it. Congratulations, you have made your way onto thousands of Pinterest boards and Instagram posts, and what are they but the AOL Profiles and Away messages of today?

(Also, the quote I thought was from Sarah Kane was actually from a Washington Post article. So at least I got that sorted out.)


Stuff I Did Recently: I did an interview with the American Jewish Historical Society! We had a great time, and I really do hope I can go there next time I’m in New York! And here is an interview I did with BBC News’s Cut Through the Noise, talking about Britney Spears and stardom!


Fake BBC Show of the Week:
Pissed in Purley

Midnight Confessions #36: Baby Ish

  
0:00
-0:44

Another installment of my embarrassing stories, told through audio.

One of the girls I used to nanny for graduated from college last month. She’s now headed to grad school. I’m really trying not to let this make me feel old. I’m trying to remind myself that she was already in middle school when I met her, and I was mostly there for her younger siblings. I guess that isn’t really nannying, and not really babysitting — none of them were babies. Caregiving?

Anyway, I’d like to think I was good at it. I know that once a month, I wasn’t: I had no interest in playing soccer in the hallway or walking to the park, I would keep suggesting activities that were very low-key and didn’t involve much movement and involved lots of Double Stuf Oreos. But most of the time, I was good. We played games and talked and I sang songs to the girls before they went to sleep (their brother wouldn’t stand for such things.) I wanted to be the kind of adult that had answers to kids’ questions. Usually, though, it was me asking the questions, and me leading the lessons, even when they weren’t particularly interested. Once I noticed Holden, the middle child, had given himself the name “H-Bomb” on a multiplayer game, and asked him if he knew what that meant. We got into talking about the Cold War, and I ending up trying to explain communism to him.

“That’s gross,” he said, when I was done. I had expected “That’s a dumb idea” or maybe, “That’s a good idea,” but I had not expected to hear the word “gross.” I was baffled until I realized he had taken the “sharing” part literally. As if the Communist Party were an actual party where strangers shared toothbrushes and double-dipped their chips.

Sometimes I just made dumb mistakes, though. Like all kids, they were big into whatever was on the radio at the time, and I spent a lot of time worrying about what their mom wouldn’t want them to hear. Every other song in the early 2010s was built around some terrible, belabored double entendre — “Peacock”, “Whistle”, “Animals”, all of that. One day Holden wouldn’t stop singing The Wanted’s “Glad You Came" and I told him to stop, because it wasn’t appropriate.

“What’s inappropriate about ‘I’m glad you came’?” he said, all innocence, and I couldn’t come up with an answer. Shit, I thought. I’d just inadvertently taught a nine-year-old euphemism. (It could have been worse. At my job teaching kids to wall paint in public schools, one of the middle schoolers had put a piece of painter’s tape on his chin and yelled, “Look! I have a flavor-saver!” And before I could think, I said “What’s that?” One of the high schoolers laughed at me.)

Probably the thing I’m proudest of, though not without a twinge of guilt, is the phrase I taught the youngest daughter. She, like her older siblings, was very smart, but she had a wry, dark sense of humor from a young age. She once asked me, “How do you be goth? I want to be goth!” She also said being the youngest “rocks, because I’ll be the last to die!” She spoke little a little adult, and could tell when adults were talking down to her, and hated it. That’s why I taught her to tell them, “Don’t be so condescending.”

Is this the best thing I did as a babysitter, or the worst? I’m still not sure.

Stuff I Did This Month: Yes, sorry, it’s been a month. First of all, I appeared in Newfest Pride’s all LGBTQ table read of Legally Blonde! I played two VERY different characters.

I talked about mental health and mental illness on Adult ISH, Merk and Nyge were FANTASTIC hosts, and listened to me talk about how medication changed the way I perceive time. I also got to give out advice with Matt Braunger on This Might Help, and we talked about the benefits of playing a character much smarter — or much stupider — than you are.

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Nan’s at Bingo (also, please enjoy this weird list of Bingo nicknames)

Midnight Confession #35: Class Villains and Mr. Parker

  
0:00
-1:23

Another installment of my anecdotes told aurally!

My friends Anna Drezen and Andrew Farmer talked about the concept of the “Party Villain” on their podcast: it’s the person who, knowingly or unknowingly, brings down the mood of the party and makes everyone uncomfortable. I think there’s such a thing as the Class Villain, too. They throw off the rhythm and the mood of the classroom, and everyone shifts uncomfortably and makes panicked eye contact when the instructor calls on them. Are they going to mention the Rothschilds controlling everything again? Are they going to name-drop Truffaut for no reason, again? Are they going to snort and say, “Excuse me, what?” and “Yeah, right!” after every single break in the Sociology professor’s lecture again?

Class villains aren’t just annoying, they’re reckless. And I’ll admit I’ve been the class villain before. Probably most in high school, though high school students get a little leeway, I think, because everyone is annoying and reckless then. But I was definitely the villain of ninth grade English.

Mr. Parker was my teacher. I’d been worried I would get the very strict Mr. Campbell, who made his students memorize lists of Greek and Latin roots, and measured essay margins with a ruler. Instead, I got self-described “sensitive man” Mr. Parker, who gave us Meyers-Briggs tests on our first week, let us write short stories, and had us bring in song lyrics to analyze (I think I did Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So”, which is a pretty straightforward song about alcoholism, and I remember pitying the flustered girl who chose a Bjork song). We talked about poetry and psychology, and I wrote a paper on a biography of Sigmund Freud that he put up on his wall as a “nearly perfect” paper.

It should have been a great experience for me, but it wasn’t. I really liked Mr. Parker, but the feeling was not mutual. If anything, he seemed a little scared of me. I was loud and obnoxious, constantly blurting things out and making snide comments. My friend Lana and I were constantly passing notes, and Steven and I were constantly getting into arguments. I monopolized every class discussion and constantly went off-topic (that’s when Steven started calling me “Tangent Woman”). I even got into a fight with my best friend Melissa at one point. Everyone in that class was annoyed with me.

But every villain has a backstory. Fourteen was a hard year for me, and I was acting out. I had lost my grandfather, gained a new stepmother, and moved in the same year. Puberty had brought my film career, one of the few constants in my life, to a screeching halt. My friend group and splintered, and I was struggling with my mental health and sexuality. You’d think that with my constant fidgeting, writing romantic short stories about girls saving each other’s lives, and sometimes having to leave class early so I could go to psychiatrist appointments, he might have gathered that I was going through some stuff. But Mr. Parker never asked what was going on. Sometimes he even made snide comments back at me, like this was The Breakfast Club and I was the John Bender to his Principal Vernon. Finally, when I interrupted a fellow student’s analysis of an optical illusion to say I thought it looked like Elvis, Mr. Parker took me outside and said, “Has anyone ever told you that you rub them the wrong way?”

That hit me hard. By ninth grade, I’d been called all kinds of names, and had all kinds of teachers insult me, but something about this hit me hard. If he had called me a brat, I could have written him off. If he had just told me I needed to behave better, I would have listened. What he had told felt personal, and damning. It not only meant that he didn’t like me, but that there was nothing I could do about it, that I was beyond hope. I stayed outside of class for the rest of the period, sobbing.

I don’t know if I behaved better in Mr. Parker’s class after that, but I never saw him the same way. Still, I kept my grades up, and I do remember asking if I could give him a hug on the last day. He agreed, but when he hugged me, he said, “Well, Mara, you kept me on my toes.”

Villainy is relative. Mr. Parker saw me as Judd Nelson when I was really Ally Sheedy (although isn’t the whole point that they are all a little Ally and all a little Judd?) I saw the woman in my sketch class as the villain, but she had tons of friends. I never saw her again, and no one has told me, before or since, that I “rub them the wrong way.” Not in those words. Maybe I should have had Mr. Campbell after all. Although Mr. Parker did teach me something very important: the “sensitive” ones can be the most insensitive.

Stuff I Did Recently: I talked about cicadas, turtles, coral, and the invertebrate I’m most creeped out by on Creature Feature! And speaking of my teenage self, I also recorded the 100th episode of Come On Fhqwhpods, a podcast about my adolescent obsession, Homestar Runner! It will be out soon!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: All Out of Ice Lollies

Passover Whines

Or, Why Does This Night Suck More Than Any Other Night?

I hate Passover.

I’ve hated it for as far back as I could remember. I actually remember telling someone how much I hated it when I was about ten, and hastily adding a half-serious “Sorry, Hashem!” after, with a quick glance up at the sky. It’s been surprising to me to learn that most Jewish adults I know actually like Passover (offically known as “Pesach”). They look forward to it. They have happy memories of it.

I just can’t understand this. Are they celebrating the same holiday I’m celebrating? Here are my reasons for hating Passover.

The Food Sucks

When I ask people why they like Passover, they always say the most baffling thing: “It’s the food!” It’s true that there’s a lot of food on Passover. It’s also true that nearly all of it sucks.

I was a big carb-eater when I was a kid. I still am: bread, rice, and baked goods are some of my favorite foods. But while I eat carbs and sugar much more sparingly now, as a kid in the ‘90s, I fully bought into the Food Pyramid propaganda of six to eleven servings of grain a day. Carb-heavy foods also tend to be easier to prepare — pasta takes ten minutes, a bowl of cereal or a sandwich takes two — so they were the basis of a lot of our single father meals. Going without wheat, oat, or corn products meant going without a lot of the food we usually had in the house.

One of my earliest Passover memories is sadly eating a bowl of Kosher for Passover Cheerios, and honestly, I don’t think much has changed since then. You would think with advances in gluten-free cooking, we would have figured out how to improve Kosher for Passover foods by now. We have not. They still all taste like wet cardboard. The cereals, the baked goods, even the macaroons suck. You can’t help but compare it to the food you’re not eating; a mouthful of some good charoset does not make up for all we are missing. I imagine Passover food sucks a little less for Sephardic Jews, who still get to eat the good stuff — kitinyot! Rice and beans, Passover-style? Yes please. But we Ashkenazis are determined to make things worse for ourselves. We can’t even have hummus!

“But matzoh ball soup!” I hear you cry. Look, if you’re Ashkenazi, and Pesach is the only time you eat matzoh ball soup, what kind of horrible life are you living? Besides, matzoh meal is one thing, and matzoh itself is another. Somehow, I don’t know how or why, but matzoh itself tastes a thousand times better when it’s not Passover. I’ve eaten it other times of the year and it’s been edible, but even on the first day of Passover, it tastes like wallpaper paste.

Passover is just not good for food. The far superior big food Jewish holidays are, of course, Purim, and Sukkot. On one, you are obligated to party, and on the other, you eat lots of great fall foods and get to feel like you’re camping. Even Yom Kippur is better than Passover: it’s one day of fasting, sandwiched between one pre-fast meal and one post-past feast. Passover is seven days of eating wall paste and cardboard. It’s worse both in quality and quantity.

The Story and the Company

I should love this part. I tell a lot of long, rambling stories, and I think a lot about bad things happening to my enemies. Besides, my name literally comes from Exodus! I get a shout-out every Seder! Yes, it hurt my feelings a little as a child to be compared to horseradish, but I’ve come to appreciate my bitterness for what it is.

The Exodus story is disturbing on several levels, though. There are a lot of modern attempts to tie it to contemporary tales of justice and human rights, and I appreciate that, but to me it just feels like a rather dramatic, elaborate revenge narrative. Although, while most of the plagues seemed to me when I was a kid, but are they really any different than what’s happened in the past year? Or past few decades? Disease, death, fire… maybe not plagues of frogs, although Australia’s had them before, and they had plagues of mice this year.

The story also drags on and on, for hours. Though this is also likely due to the way I was raised: I grew up sort of on the brink of Conservative and Orthodox — “Conservadox,” as some say. We worked our way through the whole Haggadah, and our seders felt like they took all night. I have many memories of falling asleep in my chair long before they over, sometimes even before we ate. Seder conversations were mostly about the holiday, and about family; secular topics seemed to be actively discouraged, at least until the adults had a few glasses of wine. Passover was never supposed to be fun for us.

Every time I talk to someone who grew up less observant, their seder descriptions are very different. For them, it’s just a dinner with people they haven’t seen in a while. They used an abridged version of the Haggadah, sing Dayenu, eat matzoh ball soup, and have fun conversations. I even remember someone I dated calling me the day after a seder, telling me how all the Boomers had gotten drunk and said embarrassing things. When someone brought up the summer camp they all used to go to, an uncle’s friend told the table that it was the first place he ever got to second and third base with a girl, except he didn’t use the terms “second and third base.”

I’m not sure that’s really how I’d like to spend a seder, either. Consider it a fifth question: which is worse, a boring seder or an awkward seder?

Finding the Afikomen Inevitably Disappoints

As you can see, much (if not all) of my frustration and resentment against Passover goes back to my childhood. Even the attempts to make it more child-friendly backfired on me. In theory, finding the Afikomen seems like the best part, right? Give the kids some time to escape from boredom. Let them go on their very own treasure hunt! They’ll get a dollar bill or some fruit gummies if they win! But I found very quickly there is no way to win this game if you have a big family.

I have exactly two memories of playing Find the Afikomen. One is from when I was about five, when my preteen brother Jon lifted up a painting and yelled “Here it is!” approximately ten seconds into a hunt. (So much for giving the kids some time.) The second is when I was about nine, visiting East Coast cousins, none of whom were older than three. I found the afikomen in a light fixture after about two minutes, but as soon as I made eye contact with the adults, I knew that it wasn’t mine to win. Resigned, I asked my toddler cousin, “Maybe it’s up on the ceiling! Have you tried looking up?” She found it five minutes later. You’re always either too young or too old to win, I concluded.

I remember someone (I think it might have actually been Rhea Perlman) telling me once that her family had their own spin on finding the afikomen, one the kids found particularly frustrating. “Every year, my father hides the afikomen in the same place,” she told me, “Under his butt.” Every year, the kids would stare at him, expectantly, and he’d stare right back at them, arms folded, and absolutely refuse to get up off his chair. That’s so unfair, I remember thinking on their behalf. As an adult, though, I have to admit it’s really funny.

Elijah Also Disappoints

Speaking of things supposedly fun for kids, there’s also Elijah the Prophet. You leave a glass of wine out for him, and he allegedly comes by, and maybe drinks it. Being visited by Elijah should be fun for kids, but it isn’t, unless you like staring at a glass of wine to see if it looks like a ghost is drinking it. (I once had a teacher who said the adults in his family used to kick the table so it would look like the wine was moving, and yell “Look! It’s Elijah!”) You can’t explain to kids the whole complicated story behind Elijah’s cup, that the cup actually symbolizes the coming of the messiah. So Elijah, to kids, is just Santa without the presents, the Easter Bunny without the chocolate, the Tooth Fairy without the money. What’s the point?

You’re also not actually supposed to know what Elijah looks like, he could come in the guise of anyone, anywhere. There’s a cute story about Elijah in the All of a Kind Family books, a series about a Jewish family at the turn of the 20th century. They explain to their youngest brother Charlie that Elijah could look like anyone, and may be unkempt and dressed in rags. So Charlie goes out on Passover and comes back to their apartment announcing that he’s found Elijah, in the guise of Tony, the guy who sells ice on their block. Tony bemusedly drinks his glass of wine, thanks everyone, and leaves. The rest of the family is forced to admit that well, Tony the Ice Man very well could be Elijah.

Why Does This Night Suck More Than Any Other Night?

I put a poll out on Twitter the other day, asking fellow Jews if they actively enjoyed Pesach. Two-thirds of the answerers said they did, and one-third said they didn’t. Most of the people who said they didn’t shared my reasons: they didn’t like the food, found the story disturbing, and didn’t like having to spend time with extended relatives they didn’t like. I’m not as alone as I thought.

But many more people love it. They have happy memories of it. So it all comes back to personal experience, I suppose. I don’t remember fun times with relatives, because we had to spend it with relatives we didn’t like. I don’t remember good food, because I don’t come from a family of good cooks. I don’t remember a sense of community, I remember my first grade teacher explaining that Ancient Jews put blood above their doorways, and all the other kids in my class saying “Ewww!” in response. Would it have been different if I had grown up somewhere with more Jewish people, if I came from a line of people that embraced the spirituality of Judaism, rather than using it as a cudgel for their own holier-than-thou narcissism? If I actually fully believed in a God?

I’m not sure. But I know I like the idea to have a Pesach my way. To make good food, including kitinyot. To plan an actually fun collaborative scavenger hunt to find the afikomen, one that doesn’t end in ten seconds. To try to tie the story of Exodus into actual social action needed today. I just haven’t done it yet.

But there’s always next year. B'Yerushalayim.

Stuff I Did This Week: On a completely secular note, I had a great time hanging out with Irish drag queens Kiki Saint Clair and Candy Warhol on the Friends of Dorothy podcast! I talked about which county in Ireland my grandmother is from, Derry Girls, and my preteen crush on Mira Sorvino, which feels a bit awkward now that I know she follows me on Twitter.

I also had a great time with my friend Christy Carlson Romano on her YouTube channel! We watched some of my old commercials and movie clips and ate sour things! I love sour things, and Christy’s always fun, so it was a lot of fun!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: It’s Got Me in Bits

Midnight Confession #34: Peer Ears

  
0:00
-0:35

Another installment of my embarrassing stories, told through audio!

Probably the day that I noticed something was up was when we had to demonstrate that the best way to listen was “to be like a ball, not a sponge or a wall” and I noticed my scene partner, who had recently been suspended for getting caught smoking, wasn’t taking it as seriously as I was. I think I might have thought he was just there for the food, which was usually better than the dining hall’s food. We also got caffeinated sodas, which were all but banned on campus, since we were living at high altitude and dehydration was taken very seriously.

There were definitely a few others who were as devoted as I was to Peer Counselors — or “Peer Ears,” as we called it. One was Jamie, the valedictorian, another was an opera singing major named Ashley who later came back to the school to work as an administrator, another was an interdisciplinary arts student from Japan who designed our club hoodies. One of them said “Our Ears Don’t Talk. They’re Here to Listen!” and the other said “We Listen to the Voice of Your Heart.” I wore mine at least once a week, but the thing is, I don’t think anybody ever once came to me for advice. Sometimes my friends would confide in me, but that was about it.

Not that we could ever even keep secrets at boarding school, anyway. Everyone gossiped at boarding school. At my public high school, if you asked someone what was going on with so-and-so, or why someone broke up with someone, you’d get told to mind your own business. But at Idyllwild, we all gossiped about everyone and everything. Maybe it was just because I had more friends there, but I think it was because we all lived together and we were all going to find out about everything, anyway. We knew when teachers were pregnant long before they announced it, we knew who secretly smoked or drank, who was cheating on whom. There just weren’t enough places to hide.

It was still nice to have a place to open up, though. Our school psychologist was a great guy, and I learned a lot about people I’d never really understood or never thought I could be friends with. We mostly talked about personal experiences with mental health and mental illness, but sometimes we’d submit anonymous suggestions for topics. One day the school psychologist announced that we would be talking about sex and relationships, and the girl whose suggestion it was immediately got flustered and said it was her idea, but that she hadn’t really thought we should talk about sex, she’d meant it as a joke. This was the same girl who wore a Neopets shirt sometimes, and when I asked her about it, always said, “Oh, I don’t know what it means, I got it at a thrift store.” Ironically cutesy T-shirts were something of a fad in those days, so it took me years to realize she had actually lied. I wonder what she would have said if I’d told her that I also played Neopets.

This is what I think about when people talk about having had sex in high school, by the way. I think about how I had Peer Ears and Neopets instead.

Stuff I Did This Week—uh, Month: Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? There’s been a lot! First of all, if you missed it, I had a piece in The New York Times about Britney Spears and growing up in the public eye. Then I did interviews with NPR Weekend Edition and Christiane Amanpour about that article!

I also got to surprise Daisy Ridley, who is absolutely adorable and a HUGE fan of Matilda, on Comedy Central’s Stir Crazy!

On the podcast front, I was on Out with Suzi Ruffell, who was absolutely lovely. I’m also going to be on the fantastic American Hysteria (talking about my life and my article and moral panics) and the equally fantastic Low Culture Boil podcast (talking about groupie memoirs?!) very soon!

Fake BBC Show of the Week: Stuff It, Simon! (From the people who brought you Up Your Arse, Alistair!)

Loading more posts…