Good morning! This week was truly tough for me. It almost ended in hospitalization (what a great way to miss family Easter that would have been). Oh yeah, it’s Easter, so enjoy that if Christianity is something you do. I’ll just be buying discount candy tomorrow.
Donate to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. Sure, there are a few great options for 2020 but Warren has been out here in these streets putting out progressive policy and being an unequivocal badass every damn day. A donation to her is a small way of saying that policy matters. Lol, remember how, 4 years ago, every bro said that they’d totally vote for a progressive like Warren, just not Hillary? They lied (duh) and it’s gonna be a long fight.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I go back and forth about alcohol, but this is a fun little list if you want to impress at your next dinner party.
And last but certainly not least, I was heartbroken to learn about the Notre Dame fire this week. I was so fortunate to be able to see it last summer, even if I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time admiring it as I may have liked. It’s breathtaking, living history, and I’m so glad to know that much of the art, artifacts, and relics were saved.
I am a deeply pain-averse person. I generally go to great lengths to avoid feeling discomfort of any sort, including but not limited to having my husband fetch me glasses of water so I don’t have to remove myself from our couch after a long day’s work. But there are some experiences of pain that I have walked into willingly, with clear eyes and full hearts, assuming I could not possibly lose. Since I was eighteen, I have submitted willingly to the needle—that is, I’ve gotten pierced and tattooed countless times.
Off the top of my head, I can say that I’ve had my earlobes pierced 5 times (each), my left tragus, rook, and conch (twice), my right anti-tragus, my right cartilage and industrial, and my left cartilage, both sides of my nose (the left twice), my navel, and my Monroe done on the left. That’s 24 needles, at least, that I have gleefully allowed gruff, tattooed men (and one wonderful woman) to plunge into my skin, for no medical purpose. Tattoos are much the same. I only have six, all of which are fairly small, but typically within 30 minutes of leaving the parlor, I’m ready for more ink. Ten years into this behavior, I still couldn’t tell you why any of this still interests me. Why I’d risk infection and scarring to adorn myself in surgical steel.
I imagine I’ll feel much the same way about childbirth as I do about piercings. In the moment, when a burly dude is shoving a piece of metal into an open wound, one thinks, “Why have I chosen this path? Could the end result possibly be worth the agony of being ripped apart by pliers?” I’m not 100% sure it is, but it sure looks cute.
A friend and I had planned to go to Lucky’s in Cambridge (the offshoot of a favorite Northampton parlor) today after work, but since work of any kind was not in the cards for me today, I took it upon myself to get pierced prior to our lunch date (pho!) I ended up at Body Xtremes in Quincy, which doubles as a museum for bizarre skulls and snakes in jars and shit. The owner used to travel the world, bringing back jungle artifacts. I can’t say I entirely recommend the experience (I was having my conch repierced and something kept slipping out, prolonging what should have been a 5-minute job), but I have to say that I admire a person who stands so strong in his aesthetic. I mean, I stand pretty strong in my aesthetic, but my aesthetic is “lifestyle blogger with an active Pinterest account,” so it’s considerably less of a statement.
I have to wonder if my fascination with these minor pains, this willingness to occasionally be pricked and scraped, has anything to do with my big pains—the pains of mental illness. Thursday night, I very nearly ended up in the hospital. I started writing down the phone numbers of my closest friends so that I’d have them in the ward when they took my phone away. I got a Hail Mary call from my psychiatrist that rerouted my course to the ER, but that sort of treatment remains a possibility in the future. We’re trying a new mood stabilizer with an as-needed anxiety medication to supplement. I’m feeling optimistic for the first time in a while. But the spectre of hospitalization, “the darkness,” looms large.
So Friday I stayed home from work. I slept a solid eight hours for the first time in…months? My life? I relaxed and watched my favorite show, Catastrophe. I went to the psychiatrist and started the new mood stabilizer. I’m feeling optimistic. Today, I’m going to yoga. Working out is a discomfort I typically like to avoid, but if I’ll let a man shove steel through my literal ear, I think I can sweat a little bit today.
This piece about who should win the game of thrones. Especially this section, by Katie Rife:
Yes, Daenerys Targaryen is the neoliberal of the A Song Of Ice And Fire universe, a charismatic but mostly policy-free figure who preaches peace and practices war. More specifically, she’s the Hillary Clinton of ASOIAF, riding her previous accomplishments on a wave of perceived inevitability into Westeros to claim the title she sees as rightfully hers. But you know what? Let her have it. Underneath her grand rhetoric about breaking chains and adopting entire populations, Daenerys is a practical leader, one who sees the virtue in surrounding herself with people who know what they’re talking about. She’s not one for feminine niceties, but what good will flattery do up against the likes of Cersei Lannister, let alone the Night King and his undead horde? She’s got advisors for that—like Tyrion Lannister, who makes a better Hand than he would a king, and would probably tell you as much if you asked him. Whether her promises of a lasting peace after all her enemies have been destroyed are real, well—that remains to be seen. But wouldn’t Jon Snow make a handsome king? Maybe he could take up baking cookies.
Just found out about this and I couldn’t be more excited!
I’m dreading having to do my laundry today (the worst chore), but this banger from Shakira’s 2001 album Laundry Service should help! This whole album is just about having small boobs, btw. Representation matters.
I’m going to see Phoebe Robinson at The Wilbur on her “Sorry, Harriet Tubman” tour and I’m stoked! Never seen her live!
I chopped all of my hair off, and I hate it, but the ends were like a bottle brush and it needed to be done. I’ll be obsessively searching Pinterest for growth tips. I’m going to try this—I’ll report back if I think it’s working!
Not to be a total downer, but you can text the Samaritans. You’re NEVER alone.
*Spoilers abound, but bear in mind I’m only on season 5.
I wanted to be too cool for Game of Thrones. I envisioned Game of Thrones the way I envisioned Dungeons & Dragons—sweaty nerds circle-jerking to a DVD of the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring. It even has some of the same dudes*! And besides, some of the media that I relate to (like the incomparable Sutton Foster-led Younger), openly mocks it, its hypersexualization of women, its rape fetish. I’m not out in these streets trying to watch dozens of rapes, gleefully and exploitatively filmed.
I was nineteen when Game of Thrones began its eight-season run on HBO, and at the time, becoming deeply invested in a fantasy series was fairly low on my list of priorities**. When GoT first came out, it seemed beautiful, but boring. There’s no denying that the sweeping shots of Northern Ireland, et al are stunning—the series is beautifully filmed, elegant. But I barely remembered who half of the characters in Harry Potter were (Slughorn? Is that a guy?); there was only so much room in my brain. Plus, as the series progressed, the common refrain was, “Don’t get attached to any of the characters! Everyone dies!” Everyone bloody dies? So you’re going to kill off the hot dad, Ned, his hot son, Robb, his hot son, Jon (everyone on this show is very hot, fwiw) and expect me to take that lying down? No!
Eventually, I caved and watched the first season, maybe a year or two late. I liked it fine, but it was a distracted viewing—I’d put it on in the background as I sketched, or fiddled with a guitar. When I started season two, it didn’t grab me, and I abandoned the pursuit. Sure, that scene where Daenerys doms Jason Momoa was ferociously sexy, but I mean, the show kills Khal Drogo immediately, so what was my incentive to keep watching?***
Soon, my knowledge of GoT came purely from Tumblr and Twitter—screengrabs of Joffrey’s bloated, purple face, OMG reactions to the Red Wedding. I thought, with all these spoilers, I already know what happens. No need to devote tens of hours of my life to this, a thing that seemingly everyone likes. How mainstream.
Fast forward several years—for me, a move, two degrees, a marriage, a few garbage jobs and one good one—I’m in a very different place in my life. For years, my husband and I have kept a running list of TV shows we’ve watched together, are watching, and plan to watch. Game of Thrones has been sitting atop it, since its inception. We’ve made it through countless series, but, due to my predilections and my title of Foremost Comedy Scholar in the Greater Boston Area, alarmingly few have been dramas. Six Feet Under, Dexter (because Michael C. Hall is *bites lip and closes eyes*), Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, Twin Peaks (we are…white). That’s in nearly 6 years, at a rate of at least an episode every day. Every time we finished a series, my husband would timidly ask, “Game of Thrones next?” And one day in March 2019, I finally said, “You know what? Sure.”
And I kept my promise! I figured it was this or he’d force me to sit through a movie^,so I’d better strap in for the ride. We’ve watched nearly 5 full seasons in *checks watch* three weeks? We’re clocking about 2 hours of Thrones time a day. I have always been very comfortable admitting when I’m wrong, and boy was I wrong about GoT. As of this writing, we’re almost through season five, and every episode has me yearning for more.
It is hard, though, watching human beings get torn to pieces by zombies and watching characters you’ve grown to love being sexually abused. Watching a little girl get burned alive. This is not a light-hearted show! But it’s thought-provoking, beyond such thoughts as, “If an American wrote these books, and two Americans adapted the series for television, then why is everyone on the show British except Dinklage++?” I think it provides a stunning (and deeply negative!) commentary on religion, particularly the separation of church and state (turns out—it’s important!). Moreover, in an era where the political circus distracts us from far more pressing issues (the Flint water crisis isn’t exactly the same as an undead army bent on world domination, but it’s still fucking important), it’s a mirror, as all good art should be. Even the worst part of this series, the aforementioned “gleeful” depictions of rape, the incessant violence and cruelty, serve as barometer of just how much we want to see; they expose the inherent (dangerous?) voyeurism of American media culture.
Ultimately, I’m as much of a voyeur as anyone else, and I love the show. I might even go so far as to avoid eighth season spoilers when it premieres on Sunday. I’m glad that my husband gently nudged me in the Thrones direction. And, as much as I love Daenerys, Sansa better win the Game.
Okay, so I do have some grievances:
The entire Greyjoy family, and I guess, by extension, the Boltons. Cancel it. Reshoot the series without them. Labored, boring nonsense. Sorry, Alfie+.
Real casual attitudes about incest.
Not enough dark-haired women. Representation matters!
Stop showing me battles! The best part of the show was that we saw the aftermath of fighting, not the fighting itself! I don’t want to waste twenty precious minutes of screen time watching skeletons kill people. I want to see the strategical conversation between Jon Snow and Tormund! You know nothing, David Benioff & DB Weiss!
Arya’s whole journey is boring. I truly don’t understand why people like her. Maisie Williams is iconic, don’t get me wrong, but this whole Faceless Man shit better get interesting soon, or, honey, I’m cancelling Braavos.
*Sean Bean is zaddy.
**Admittedly, I did get into Doctor Who shortly thereafter, but you can’t choose who you love, man.
***I made an honest effort to read the books, since I’ve always been a book-first bitch, but I found the writing intolerable. It’s been a minute now, I’m going to give them another try. I mean, I read The Hunger Games series with zero irony—I’m hardly a literary scholar, despite what my literal Master’s degree in literature would have you believe.
^I hate the medium! 2 hours is simultaneously too long and too short a time for a story to be told! Everything should be in a serialized format, television is better than movies, redo movies as miniseries.
++I’ve been playing a game called Guess The Accent with all of the actors to see if I can tell where exactly they’re from. I’m, no brags, amazing at it, although I never would have guessed that Varys is from Northern Ireland. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Northern Irish accents, but they’re…specific! The Scots are pretty easy to pick out, the real treat is pinpointing exactly where in England most of the cast is from (Emilia Clarke is from Oxford, holla). Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Scandinavian accent is, well, hot, and Peter Dinklage, clearly, is from New Jersey. Sidebar: I always knew Dinklage was a fine actor, but I didn’t know he was THE FINEST ACTOR OF OUR TIME. His British accent is so truly awful, and yet it doesn’t matter because he acts his face off in every scene. Tyrion is, in my opinion, by far the best character on the show. I’m borderline upset that my brain hasn’t started cranking out Tyrion Lannister sex dreams. No wonder he has top billing—he’s a goddamn revelation and I think if I’d known just how central he becomes, I’d have stanned this show much, much sooner.
It is becoming increasingly apparently that my foremost skill in life is starting these posts prior to Sunday, forgetting about them, and then on the following Saturday, cobbling together an end so that I can schedule them to come out when they’re supposed to. I’m really consistent! I think I can officially stop wondering why no one in their right mind would pay me to write.
This week’s round-up is very on brand for me—media-heavy and a bit too late to be relevant. But I mean, if you’d only just given yourself the gift of listening to Demi Adejuyigbe talk about pop songs for an hour and a half at a time, you’d probably brag about it too.
I just read Shrillbecause I watched Shrill and Lindy and Aidy are perfect and everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
I joined Bumble BFF and I have no regrets. I felt like a complete loser about it but we all deserve a rich social life that shouldn’t have to die just because we move or graduate.
I really tried with Pen15, but I can’t get into it. It’s too authentic. The writing and acting are so convincingly tween. If you’re into nostalgia (the girls on the show are almost the exact age I was back in the early ’00s), you’ll love it. 12-year-olds just make me cringe. Note: I will still probably watch the entire series.
A Quiet Place is on Hulu now and I might have to break my no-horror-movies-ever rule to watch it.
WERS (the local cool radio station, from Emerson College) keeps advertising a music festival in Reykjavik and it’s making me want to visit Iceland so bad! It’s such a stunningly gorgeous country, and it will be a great way to kick off seeing Scandinavia!
I finally started listening to Punch Up The Jam and it’s my new favorite podcast. I highly recommend starting with the “Wannabe” episode. This week is Shania Twain!
I (very deliberately) don’t remember a ton about my childhood, but one thing I do remember with painful and decade-eliminating clarity is that when I was little I wrote stories and people praised me for it. I doubt the praise was the result of a preternatural and precocious talent for writing; rather, I’m sure that, on the eve of the digital age, adults were just astonished that I actively sought to read books and use my imagination in my spare time. This sounds like a brag. It’s not. I’m grateful for my youthful yen for the literary, but there’s nothing magical about it. It didn’t serve me. If anything, it amplified l’appel du vide to a deafening decibel level. In 2014, Gwyneth Paltrow notoriously called her separation with Chris Martin a “conscious uncoupling;” perhaps this turn of phrase deserved the scorn it received, but I find it enormously apt to describe my own relationship with reality. I spent so much of my youth interacting with stories, in books, on screen, in my mind, that I, at some point, just decided to stop interacting with my own life. To this day, I have trouble making friends and being social—not because I’m shy or nerdy*, but because life, real life, is disappointing. No conversation with an acquaintance could ever match the witty banter of Stars Hollow, no speech the gravitas of Westeros. Reality is…boring. Why not opt out?
This “opt out” mentality is, in my opinion, why many people with pOTenTiAL [see Spongebob meme] underperform. When school is boring, when friends are boring, when family is excruciatingly boring, what incentive does a child have to engage? It’s very nice of you, seventh grade teacher, to tell me that I’m smart and talented, but I’m a kid! I don’t know how to parlay that into something meaningful! When you’re Gifted and Talented™, you kind of just expect things to happen. No one would watch a movie about someone working really diligently for ten years before they found success. Entertainment is all about chance encounters, lucky breaks, high drama! There’s no blueprint for achieving success in a reasonable way. It is an immense privilege to have the resources to do so. A loving, supportive family, therapy, SAT tutors, money—these are the trappings of privilege. It never occurred to me that, of my own accord, I could go to a college I actually wanted to go to, that I could audition for the plays I so desperately wanted to be in, that I could get the fuck out of the Boston suburbs and make something of my wretched life. Instead, I just waited for something to happen, ignoring the parts of my brain that were sick, sabotaging me at every turn. I’m, honestly, still waiting.
Eventually, despite the praise of teachers re: my writing, I just stopped altogether. The act of writing, the act of creation, was an acknowledgment that I had to create at all. That the dismal conditions of life necessitated invention and amendment. It made me sad. It makes me sad. What are you supposed to do with your life when the thing you’re good at doing upsets you? Here’s what I did:
Halt all creative effort and stagnate for over a decade as you become increasingly bitter and resentful of those around you building lives for themselves. You take demeaning service jobs that drain you physically and emotionally because you don’t think you deserve better. After all, it never happened for you. It’s not going to happen for you. You go back to college, and then on to grad school (even though you can’t afford either), because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? And anyway, try as you might to deny this particular allure, it keeps you reading and writing. And thinking. School forces you to be in that sad space constantly. And to fight it you drink, you act out. You endanger friendships, your relationship, yourself, because you never learned how to exist in the sad space. When you leave, you ache with longing for it because even if it tortured you, it made you feel alive. You disgust yourself, a straight-sized, able-bodied, white cis-woman complaining into the void that is the internet.
It would be pretty easy to die on the hill that, because you didn’t grow up with a lot of money and your family life was garbage, you never made anything of your life. It would be even easier to blame your mental illness (spoiler alert: it’s severe!) for your underperformance. But both of those hollow justifications for the fact that you’re in your late 20s and deeply unfulfilled miss the sickest part of all of it: youlove it! You love feeling like you’re in on the joke, that you’re somehow hovering above everyone else scurrying through their lives like lab mice, unaware of anything greater. Being sarcastic is easier than being vulnerable, certainly—tuning out is so much easier than trying and failing.
So now, here you are, nearly 28 years old, with absolutely nothing to show for your life except a barely-deserved Master’s degree in English. In a suburb a stone’s throw from the shitty one where you grew up, where you opted out of participating in your own life. While your friends are getting promoted, having babies, attending conferences—you have to try to find your way back to writing stories. You have to convince your sick brain that the words that come out of it aren’t despicable wretches of things, too weird to live. And hardest of all, you have to face the fact that you…kind of** suck. You’re not ugly, unlovable, unintelligent, untalented. You’re just lazy and afraid. At every turn, you could have asked the questions, made the efforts, shot the shots, but you didn’t, because simmering in a stew of diseased, misplaced resentment was easy. Dismissing the successes of others by jealously sneering at them is easy. You have to start all over again, because you were too busy being an imperious cunt when starting was more appropriate, when you could do it without back pain and with a functioning metabolism. Welcome to your life, all 28 years of it: it’s about fucking time you made its acquaintance.
It’s amazing, the impulse to seek attention and praise. We will, time and time again, peel back layers of our own skin, expose our darkest parts, all in the hopes that someone will tell us we matter. That we not only write stories, but that we’re good at it. All I’ve ever wanted is attention (the good kind), but I’ve settled for conflict (the bad kind), internally, externally. All press is good press—any attention is better than none at all.
There’s a solid chance that, even though I undressed myself here and laid bare my dysfunction, that I may never write a good story. There is an oppressive, overwhelming likelihood that no one of sound mind will ever pay me to write a story, that I’ll never get up on a stage and tell a story, that I’ll remain in this bizarre, tortured stasis for the rest of my life. But, I fucking hope not. You, dear reader, you who know so well the nature of my soul, have had the displeasure of reading this—imagine living inside this mind. It’s no way to live at all. We all know the idiom, “Familiarity breeds contempt:” Reader, I am intimately familiar with myself, and the climate is contemptuous at best. It’s clear by now that my lazy attempts at avoiding failure by avoiding living haven’t panned out.
I guess today marks day one of a kind of sobriety—I’m trying to kick the habit of, well, disassociating from reality. Of not living. I’ve been high as a kite for twenty years. I’m sure the comedown will be a bitch, but if twenty years of rolling around in my own mental and emotional filth has taught me anything, it’s that I have the ability to tolerate a world of pain. If I really am as smart as I’d love to give myself credit for being, the actual world has nothing on the pain I can inflict upon myself. I’m going to finally try, and if I do indeed die trying, please make sure my tombstone reads: Here lies Chelsea. She died as she lived, straining to be pithy and adorable for the pleasure of exactly no one but herself. And play Beyoncé at my funeral.
*I do cop to be insufferable—exhibit A: this piece.
I’ve been MIA for a minute, for which I apologize profusely. I’m going to try to get back into the swing of writing, but ask any writer—it’s the hardest thing on earth.
My husband and I went to Syracuse last weekend to see a Bowie tribute show, which is exciting—Syracuse is a really cool city! Every time we visit, we hit up my favorite restaurant, Strong Hearts Café, which is totally vegan! The best part is that they have a huge menu of different vegan milkshakes which are soooo delicious. I mean, it’s always exciting to see our Syracuse friends, but Strong Hearts, tho.
My No-Spend Year is still going strong! The No-Spend has been such an amazing, eye-opening experience. I am so much happier than I was when I was spending frivolously, and I appreciate the things that I do buy so much more. I’ve managed to knock out over $2,000 in debt in less than a month! I honestly don’t even know how that’s even possible since that’s more than I bring home in income! It’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you’re on a mission.
Okay, without further ado, here’s the week in Chelsea:
After years and years I finally caved and started watching Game of Thrones with my husband, and I regret to inform you that I love it. I know enough about the series to not get attached to most of the characters, so I feel very prepared to take it on. We’re at the start of season three. I do have some issues with the show (they’re way too exploitative and gleeful about rape, for instance), but it is indeed very entertaining television.
I started the Neapolitan novels! I borrowed My Brilliant Friend while I was in Florida last month and I loved it! I bought the second one on Kindle because I couldn’t wait, but I’m going to check my local library for the other two.
Barry on HBO is back March 31! This is seriously the best new show I’ve seen in years. Bill Hader is truly one of our finest actors. If you haven’t watched it, steal someone’s hbogo password and get on it!
I watched The Feels on Netflix this weekend, and while it’s very poorly rated, it also stars Constance Wu as a lesbian so how could I not have watched it?
I want to watch Leaving Neverland but I’m also afraid that if I do I’ll never sleep at night? I remember, as a kid, when all the Michael Jackson allegations were going on, I found it so completely distressing and disgusting. So many abusers are protected from consequences by their fame or money and it’s a disgrace. Anyone who’d jump to Michael Jackson’s defense can moonwalk the fuck out of here.
This nursery tour is everything. I feel like my whole life has just become a countdown clock to having a baby of my own!