I Think I Want to Be Old: How to Know if *You* Have Turned Old

A fundamental rule of the universe is that old age happens overnight. One day you are young and can handily stay up past eleven, the next you have nose hair and don’t understand the plot of any Avengers movie and you think a Kardashian is a meal delivery service.

All old people are different, of course, so one can’t generalize about them as a group. But it is a fact that all old people are marked by one universal trait: They no longer care who hears them fart.

Here are six more differences between the non-old and old:

1.  Old people understand that personal comfort is a human right. Non-old people worry about how they’ll be perceived by others, which is why they do not wear elasticized pants to work.

2. Old people do not care about your party. Old people will send a note that says something along the lines of I didn’t realize you were under the impression that I liked you. I do not. I’m staying home to watch MSNBC and eat Chicken in a Bisket crackers with grape jelly.

Non-old people will attend events with people they do not like because they think social harmony is a virtue. In a pinch, they’ll make up a believable excuse: “Oh, gosh. I so wish I could attend your CrossFit themed birthday party, but I’ve agreed to bottle-feed shelter otters that day.”

3. Old people will gladly and loudly point out that nobody actually knows what a blockchain is.  They know that Twitter is an elaborate social hoax propagated by Silicon Valley.

The non-old do not question stupid things, such as raw milk, mustache pomade, and Pete Davidson, even when they suspect they are being punked.

4. The old are guided by constant low-level outrage by all of the ways the world simply makes no sense. Whoever heard of putting fake desserts on a tray at a restaurant? Whoever heard of going camping in the winter? Why isn’t there a salad bar at every restaurant? Who needs that many tattoos? Why are there holes in brand-new jeans? Whoever heard of brunch? Eat breakfast or lunch. Pick one. Why do they keep letting Tom Cruise be in movies?

The non-old will go with the flow, even if it means doing goat yoga at dawn.

5. Old people waste nothing and save everything. If they have leftovers, they will eat them even if there’s a layer of mold growing on top. The old will spend an afternoon test-driving a car to get a free set of barbecue tools. They will watch all the shows on Netflix to get their money’s worth. They will re-carpet the all-season porch with leftover carpet from the bowling alley. It will glow in the dark. And feature dancing bowling pins.

The non-old are happy to throw things away in a quest for minimalism. Old people think Marie Kondo sells frozen pies.

6. The old expect to have at least one aching body part at all times. They don’t know what mindfulness is, but they do doze sitting up while eating an ice cream cone.

The non-old practice self-care to maintain health, wellness, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s empire.

If you have discovered you are old, don’t panic. Being old is not determined by chronological age. It’s a state of mind.

As it turns out, there is great power in recognizing that the world is off its rocker. The old have seized the right to feel sure of themselves, content with their life, and at peace with the fact that they just listened to an entire audiobook on shuffle and were no more confused than if they had listened to the chapters in order.

The old have seen the most glorious and beautiful aspect of aging, something you simply cannot know until you reach the summit for yourself: When you are old, you don’t have to pretend anymore.

The truth is that brunch is stupid. Now you can say it out loud.

Romance Trope: Characters Who Hate (and Then Love) Each Other

I’m not a big romance reader, but when I do read it, I absolutely love books where the romantic leads begin by disliking each other–either because of some misunderstanding or because of a first impression that leaves one or both cold. I can’t explain why I like this storyline, but I’m sure there’s an explanation that will reveal a lot about my psyche.

Here are my top four favorite books with a hate/love romance trope:

The UnhoneymoonersI read this one after a trusted reader friend recommended it. She told me it was hilarious, and she wasn’t wrong.

Olive and Ethan take a fake honeymoon to Hawaii after her sister and his brother get married and can’t go on the trip. While in Hawaii, they realize they may not hate each other as much as they’d always believe.

The dialogue crackles in this one. Bonus points to the authors (Christina Lauren is a pen name for a writing duo) for featuring a Mexican-American protagonist.

 

The Hating GameLucy Hutton is really nice. Joshua Templeman is ruthless. They both want the same job, and are forced to work just inches from each other as they compete to win the attention of their shared boss.

Lucy and Joshua absolutely despise each other until Lucy gets a chance to see Joshua in a different light. Her grumpy co-worker is suddenly way more interesting.

Sally Thorne  really gives her characters a lot of dimension. She’s great at dropping them in situations and letting them fight their way out of it.

 

Bridget Jones's Diary (Bridget Jones, #1)I admit to not being a fan of the movies, but I loved the first book. Bridget’s relationship with Mark Darcy is funny in part because she’s so awkwardly clueless and he’s so tightly wound.

Fielding brilliantly writes Bridget’s voice in such a narrow and limited space (her diary), but that’s part of this book’s charm. Bridget has her head so far up her own butt that she can’t see what we readers can see: Mark doesn’t hate her. Mark is infatuated with her.

 

 

I've Got Your NumberPoppy loses her engagement ring, right before she’s about to marry the perfect man, Magnus Tavish. On top of losing her ring, somebody has stolen her phone. But the universe taketh away and the universe giveth back. She finds a phone in a garbage can and takes it. She needs it in case someone finds her ring.

Before long, Poppy and the phone’s rightful owner, are embroiled in each other’s lives in all the best and worst ways.

Nobody writes comic romance better and more consistently than Sophie Kinsella.

 

More Inappropriate Children’s Books

Not all of these books are children’s books, but I found them all in rare or out-of-print book collections that were marked as children’s or young adult. Enjoy!

circus                                    I feel like circuses are best left to the professionals.

 

bongAm I wrong that the “bottle” looks like a bong?

 

EnemiesNot bragging, but I don’t even need this book.

 

donkeyOne guy, one donkey. No cup.

 

Tom AssTom Ass

 

baby operaIt’s opera! But with babies!

 

teacherHold on. What’s she wearing on her face? I’m confused.

 

 

 

What I Read: September 2019

I can’t believe September is over already, but here we are. It was a good reading month for me. I read eight books and I liked all of them. Here they are:

The Nickel Boys

 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is one of those books that isn’t easy to read (because of the subject matter), but that is necessary to read. It’s about a “reform school” in Jim-Crow-era Florida and the boys who survived it (and don’t). I think understanding the profound and lasting effects of Jim Crow is a responsibility for white Americans.

 

 

The Other Mrs. Miller

 

 

I can’t get enough of family-based drama books like The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson. When a new family movies into the house across the street, reclusive Phoebe Miller gets a little too involved in their lives (and vice versa). 

 

 

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters

 

I vehemently disagreed with Tom Nichols’ chapter on higher education because it showed a real lack of familiarity with the kind of colleges he criticizes. But the rest of the book is important. We are in a crisis because we don’t just reject expertise; we are proud of rejecting it.

 

 

The Turn of the Key

 

The Turn of the Key is a very clever riff on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. It’s about a nanny in remote Scotland who starts to believe, for very good reasons, that someone–or something–is after her. It’s very gothic, slow-moving, and spooky. Great Halloween read.

 

 

 

Home Fire

 

Home Fire is a brilliant retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone. In this version, the players are Londoners and Pakistani immigrants trying to live in Bush-Blair’s post-9/11 world. This novel presents deep characters and a propulsive plot; it also isn’t afraid to call out the ways in which xenophobia quickly becomes status quo. Kudos to my friend Carly for suggesting it.

 

 

The Swallows

 

I’ll read any book set in a boarding school. The Swallows did not disappoint me. It’s about a reluctant creative writing teacher who stumbles upon a school secret that’s been well-hidden and protected for years. Plucky and interesting students plot to take down the patriarchy. I thought this book was hilarious and poignant.

 

 

Ask Again, Yes

Sweeping generational family dramas are definitely my literary jam. Ask Again, Yes is beautifully written and presents two families that I deeply cared about. This is one where it’s better to go in cold. In terms of plot, I’ll just say it’s about two families, living next door to each other, who are linked together for years by people, events, mistakes, hate, and love. This is my first book by Mary Beth Keane and I plan to read more.

 

Counterproductive: Time Management in the Knowledge Economy

 

I have been waiting to read a treatise that calls out productivity and time management as a form of colonialism. This book was perfect. My only complaint is it’s the kind of academic analysis I wanted to write while on research leave. I’m glad someone beat me to it because this is better than what I would have written. I wouldn’t recommend this to casual readers, but it’s a good read for anyone who is studying the cultural and rhetorical hegemony that is productivity.

 

Picking my favorite this month is tough. It’s like choosing among my own children. I think Home Fire is the book that will stick with me the longest. So that’s my pick.

Happy reading in October. Time to cover up in a soft quilt and drink tea while reading. It’s my favorite time of year!

Totally Inappropriate Children’s Books

I love searching through out-of-print books and finding those that have aged particularly poorly. Here are my recent favorites. I found all of them on out-of-print booksellers’ sites.

Electricity experiments

 

The description of the book reassures readers that all experiments are perfectly “safe.” But really?

 

 

 

 

Adam and eve children

 

This is supposed to be a kids’ version of Adam and Eve. I know the image is blurry, but if you look closely, they are naked. What could possibly go wrong with putting nude cartoon kids on a book cover? And since when did Adam and Eve have a Dalmatian?

 

 

 

Creepy children's crafts

 

Instructions for children’s crafts to totally freak out ginger kids.

 

 

 

 

 

when nature eats you

 

 

There is no good way to explain to the kid reading this book what’s going to happen to that bird.

 

 

 

 

Messing with an old lady

 

Subtitle: How to mess with a poor old lady who, until she met you, didn’t think she was losing her marbles.

 

 

 

 

 

Sit in my lap

 

Ah, something seems terribly wrong here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pants off first

 

 

Why are we taking our pants off again? Don’t get me wrong, I hate pants, but a book on how to take them off seems unnecessary.

 

 

 

Guy in a van

 

Do not get in the van, Matthew!

 

 

 

 

 

Homunculus

 

 

What do all kids love? Homunculi. Full disclosure: I kind of want to read this one.

 

 

 

Weird Wayne

 

 

This is 100% what happens when Mom reads Twilight.  Also, given that the kid seems to be wearing a dragon suit, I’m not sure why Wayne is the weird one.

 

 

 

 

Something is growing

 

I prefer to leave this one with no comment.

 

 

 

 

 

Dad and me

 

Dad is the world’s best driver. Seatbelts and car seats are for losers.

 

 

 

 

Kids and tacos

 

Easy steps for cooking your kid and making him into a taco.  Billy hasn’t seen his brother for a while…

What I Read: August 2019

August 2019

This the better late than never edition.

I read 7 books this month.

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella–Fixie Farr can fix everyone’s life but her own. When she saves the laptop of a successful investment manager, he repays her with an IOU. Fixie decides to use it to help her loser high school crush get a job. As in all Sophie Kinsella books, nothing goes right but everything ends well. Just as cute and funny as all of Kinsella’s books.

Snap by Belinda Bauer–Jack has been in charge of his sisters ever since their mother disappeared when he was only eleven. Years later, a pregnant woman discovers a chilling note and a knife on her bed. The two stories are interwoven in interesting and satisfying ways.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell–Doing nothing is an act of social resistance that has economic and political consequences. Of course, Odell isn’t advocating doing literally nothing, but she’s suggesting that refusing to engage in things that sap your energy and time is a revolutionary act.

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman–In the mid-60s, a married woman abandons her cushy role as a wife and mother and takes up a job as a cub reporter for a Baltimore paper. In that job, she searches for the murderer of a young black woman.

Conversations with Friends by Caroline Rooney–Two college students in Dublin, Bobbi and Frances, navigate a world of irony while they work on relationships, including their own on-again-off-again romance. This is one of those rare books that doesn’t have much of a plot, but the writing and characterizations are so stunning that it doesn’t need anything else. It’s simply about what it means to put up with yourself in a world that expects so much from everyone and cares so little about what happens to us.

Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing by Kerrie Flanagan–If you want to publish in magazines, start with this book. Next time I teach a class about magazine writing, I’ll definitely use this.

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton–This is a very satisfying (and clever) homage to The Talented Mr. Ripley. Set in New York City in the age of social media, one woman pulls off the perfect transformation.

I can’t pick just one favorite for the month because I really liked all of these. I would say that Social Creature and Conversations with Friends are the two that have stuck with me the longest.

September is almost over, but there’s still plenty of time for reading!