A Survey: Is This Book for You?
Here’s how it works: If you answer yes to ten or more questions, then you should read this book. If you don’t, then buy it anyway and give it to the coolest person you know. This author needs money to eat her feelings.
- Does your college degree hang over your head like a rain cloud made of student loans, false hopes, and rapidly fading dreams?
- Is feeling enormous panic when you think about your life a normal, everyday occurrence? Is this panic heightened by the smell of Axe body spray when you enter a bar? The thought of people asking about your future? The fear of missing your favorite television show?
- Do you handle this panic by drinking?
- Not heavily, just a bottle of wine on Wednesday? You might as well finish the whole bottle because you opened it with your teeth?
- Would you rather feast on hummus or cheese than have sex with somebody who doesn’t read books, drinks protein shakes, or has a goatee?
- Can you name at least twelve to fifteen of the Real Housewives with great pride and organized by the kind of medication they take?
- But can you still remain up-to-date on the news and current events?
- Have you had more imaginary relationships with celebrities, text relationships, or relationships with common house cats than relationships with real people?
- If I were to sing “Everybody (yeah),” would you automatically respond with “Rock your body?”
- Do late-night Food Network television shows put you in a lifeless trance?
- Have you thought about the Internet longingly when you were not near it today?
- Jon Hamm?
- Are you very, very afraid to walk in heels?
- Have you been wearing dirty sweatpants this whole time?
- Would you like to burn all the magazines that use the word member or johnson as synonyms for penis?
- Have you sorted yourself into a Hogwarts house yet?
- Liz Lemon?
- Is your greatest battle with your hair?
- If you’re single, is that okay?
- Do you ever feel like you’re the last girl in the world who is the way she is?
Thank you! If you haven’t closed this book yet, I’m assuming you have passed this test and are worthy of reading it. Good! It’s the last test you’ll ever take.
Because I am being forced to talk about myself throughout this whole book, you might as well get to know the basics about me. My name is Alida, which I hope you have discerned by now. I am not famous, I am not photogenic, I am not dating a celebrity, I am not the child of a celebrity, and I am not on television. I’m also not very good at closing blinds or opening jars without assistance. I am a human being who likes writing and puppies and sandwiches. In fact, I’m also a twentysomething who finds some Justin Bieber songs rather catchy. So how did I get here, writing a book on real paper and not just in my head full of pipe dreams? Short answer: dumb luck. Another short answer: my feverish love for the World Wide Web and writing and my postcollege joblessness compelled me to start a blog called The Frenemy. That blog became popular on Tumblr, just enough for me to write this book, where I talk about a lot of the things I love, a lot of the things I hate, and all of the things I want. I like to make fun of myself in this book.You’ll see why. I’m a big ole weirdo who enjoys the finer things in life: staying home on Saturday nights watching basic cable, molding boyfriends out of ice cream, and painting my nails and smearing them within minutes. I assume you understand.
A few years ago, I graduated college, diploma in one hand, margarita in the other, completely oblivious to the shit storm that was coming my way. Here’s a preview: becoming a living, breathing, job-having, bill-paying, responsible adult? Really fucking difficult. I know every old person you ever meet says it’s so easy to be in your twenties now, what with our lack of world wars and easy access to Jamba Juice and our constant stream of devilish rock music. But I beg to differ. For some people, being in your twenties is a time of exploration and sex and going on millions of dates and having your parents pay for shit. I don’t see it that way. For me, it’s a time of rolling around and watching my life moments get devoured whole by the Internet, all while hoping I eventually figure out both my future and how to make my hair look nice. It’s hard, but not in a way that you feel like you have any right to complain about it, which makes it even harder.
I’m going to level with you here. I am not going to give you one of those speeches where I say “I am you” because that always has a creepy “the call is coming from the house” horror movie vibe and I don’t like that. I am not you. Sure, we all put on our pajamas the same way—one leg at a time and in front of our televisions with chips pouring out of our mouth—but that doesn’t mean we are all similar organisms. However, I know that I can’t be the only one out there trying to figure out how to navigate the choppy waters of adulthood. In fact, to give you another nautical analogy . . . being in your twenties is like being on a nice boat, but instead of drinking champagne and hanging out with cast members of the Real World, you’re on the deck underneath a tarp, rocking back and forth and drooling. I want to lift that tarp for myself, and for you, too. All I can do is share some of my experiences with you and hope you relate to them, laugh at them, feel pity for them, whatever. Really, I want you to finish this book feeling like we could become friends, if the timing was right. That’s it.
Oh, and by the way, you should drink while you’re reading this book. If you want to play a drinking game, I suggest you take a shot when you feel like I am abusing commas. Or when I reference a reality show you like to watch. Or when I make a joke you particularly like. Or whenever you want to take a shot, really. No judgment.
So that’s me. keep on readin’ if you want to hear about stuff you might already be experiencing. Is that cool? Are you busy? You wanna hang out for a bit?
Once I Was a Baby
If you ever find yourself in possession of a time machine, do yourself a favor and go back in time and punch your childhood self between one and thirty times in the face. All right, I actually hate it when people say, “If you had a time machine,” because, like, what, where, how? Do you realize what a serious responsibility that would be? You’d have to weigh all of the options of how you could alter the fabric of history and time. It’s great power and great responsibility, a burden only previously given to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Mans. You’d also have to say that you would go back and kill Hitler. Fine. Go ahead and shoot that asshole in the neck, and then fulfill your other mission: punching your childhood self in the face.
All right, I know it sounds cruel that I’m advocating violence and also maybe violence to kids, but hear me out. This is a self-preservation tactic. You’re gonna punch your kid-self in the face to straighten ’em out, so that he or she doesn’t grow up to be a person with insane ambitions, which, if you’re like me, you definitely had as a child. Nothing good can come from having lofty dreams as a kid. It’s the first step to becoming something truly awful, like a person who thinks everybody cares about your vacation photographs or the type who wants to be a motivational speaker. You gotta nip this in the bud. You gotta hit yourself and say, “Kid-self, I demand you to decrease the size of your dreams, and I demand you to take note that your shit stinks, and I demand you to say no when Benjamin Carpenter asks you out in high school.” Punch the kid again, then give ’em a stern finger point. “CONTROL YOUR DREAMS.” Poof. You’re gone. Back in time to go fuck up some slave owners.
In this day and age, big dreams are the first step down a long, lonely path to disappointment and everybody hating you. Medium-size dreams are okay. Small dreams are fine. Big dreams? Big dreams are for people who eventually wear Sperry Top-siders and refer to themselves as “the Future Spielberg.” If my lame little cereal-eating monster-self didn’t grow up thinking life was all Cheerios and cuddles, I might have done something sensible, like become a stockbroker or an economist or, at the very least, a person who reads the newspaper or works out in the morning. Instead, I grew up thinking I could make money by telling jokes and writing them down. If that isn’t a straight shot to poverty, I don’t know what it is. Big dreams for Alida “the Dumbass” Baby.
Whenever someone brings up the traits associated with being a functional human otherwise known as an “adult,” I think, is this even possible for me? Probably not, is what I conclude. I mean, I’ll eventually pay off my college loans at the age of forty-five by selling what’s left of my liver, and I’ll probably manage to find sustenance and remember to breathe oxygen constantly. I’ll survive. However, for people like me, it’s going to be a long, hard road of playing “How much dip can go on this chip,”“How many minutes have gone listlessly by,” “HOW SAD IS TOO SAD?!” There will be years of struggling to keep myself afloat. I’m sure I will have to murder between one and fifty bill collectors. I’m certain I’ll have to go to Vegas to turn tricks. (I’m sorry, illusions, Gob!) All for what? Stupid jokes? A burning desire to be a writer? Congratulations on your feelings, delicate little Emily Dickinson Jr. You know, she was a recluse because she smelled bad and couldn’t afford to be anything else. Great role model.
My lofty ambitions are partially due to the fact that I’m a member of Generation “Yes You Can, I Guess: How about I throw a combination of money, attention, and prescription medication at the problem?” Anyone born during the years 1983–1990 is screwed right along with me. Our generation didn’t get to experience all the fun and joy of the 1980s. We didn’t get the huge cell phones, the suspender-wearing yuppie greediness, or the mixed tapes. We got the aftermath of people being so exhausted by a decade filled with cocaine and assassinations and Ronald Reagan that they forgot to say, “Oh yeah, we should keep our children in line and guide them to have realistic expectations of life.” The pop culture of the time even proves it:
How the 1980s Screwed Over This Generation
- The Cosby Show: The Cosby Show showed parents that they should start paying attention to their kids and be really, really supportive of them all of the time. If we were born in the ’60s or ’70s, our parents would be too busy smoking weed or discoing to even notice whether we were still alive. But the Cosbys put on some comfy fucking sweaters and lovingly parented the shit out of their brood, and so your parents did, too. They also taught parents that their kids could be really alternative and against the grain and feminist like Lisa Bonet’s character, and they would still find a way to love them anyway.
- Pretty in Pink: This movie showed parents that it was totally cool for their girls to be socially maladjusted weirdos. Molly Ringwald made dresses out of curtains, for Christ’s sake, and she still ended up with what looked like the most stable, rich seventeen-year-old in America. Apparently, all parents had to do was allow their kids to do what they were passionate about, and, in turn, they could be drunk and unemployed like the father in that movie. It would all work out!
- Madonna: Hey, it’s totally okay with your daughter being sort of skanky because it will make her millions of dollars!
- MTV: Just another ideal for your kids to aspire to, parents! Now that they have constant access to rock stars and their glamorous, drugged-out sex lives, your children will want to become one more than ever! All this constant exposure will lead them to become part of a band that will never make it, or to have sex with someone in a band that will never make it. Doesn’t that make you feel good for exposing your kids to Music Television at an early age?
- Dallas: The show that your parents watched instead of watching you—meanwhile, we were learning air guitar and fashioning cone breasts out of paper plates and smoking pretzel sticks like cigarettes.
SUMMARY: Parents should be supportive of their weird, slutty kids, because even if they don’t end up okay, they’ll probably get their own television shows.
Let’s face it: Parents have gotten too soft, too sensitive, too unwilling to let their kid know they just might fail. Every parent these days cheers their offspring on like they’re the only kid on the middle school honor roll. Gone are the days of adolescents being pressured by their parents to take over the family business. (“But, Dad, I don’t want to be like you!”) Gone are the days of girls dressing conservatively and choosing to become secretaries or typists. Gone are the good ole days of promised, unsatisfactory employment! (Well, not the good ole days in terms of the overt racism and the poodle skirts and the shock therapy, but you know what I’m sayin’.)
Now the prevailing parenting philosophy is that you should let your kids do what makes them happy. Guess what, parents? Happiness doesn’t buy shit, and, one day, your kids are gonna want some shit. What you need to do is say, “Hey, offspring, you might not be able to fly, but you’re going to make excellent middle management someday.” That’s better encouragement!
How in the world did I ever get the idea that I should follow my dreams in the first place? Sorry to say, but you gotta point your finger at my parents. I love my parents, I really do, but sometimes I have to question why they raised me to believe in myself. Simply put, they gave me too much self-esteem. I was a dumb kid, but a grand old cheer erupted whenever I managed to grasp a simple concept without fucking up the whole thing. I gave all the ladies in my coloring books purple skin, and my parents were ecstatic when I didn’t shit out a crayon at the end of the day. I thought that I would have absolutely no problem conquering the world on a dinosaur as the first firefighting ballerina; I watched Lamb Chop and thought it was perfectly reasonable that a crazy ginger lived in the forest with a bunch of socks that she put false eyelashes on; I’d run around finger painting and watching princess movies and was told all the time, “You can, you can!” Not once did anybody say that I was out of my tiny fucking mind. My parents thought it was adorable that I ran around screaming, which is pretty much the only reason why performance art exists in the first place.
I mean, really. Look at some of my childhood dreams, and see whether you can spot “a lifetime of stability and happiness.” (Spoiler alert: you won’t.)
A Comprehensive List of My Childhood Dreams
Comedian: The other day, I found a joke book I wrote in when I was six and in it, it said, “JOKES: How did the elephant climb the ladder? With great difficulty.” That’s. Not. Funny. Yet my parents laughed their checkbooks away.
Writer: In fourth grade, we had to write fables for our final projects. I wrote one entitled “How the Chow Chow Got Its Blue Tongue.” Chow chows are fat dogs that have blue tongues, in case you didn’t know. I knew, as a kid, because I had a magazine subscription to Dog Fancy. The story I so carefully crafted was a tale of terrible child abuse—a cruel dog-father who, when his son “acted out,” would shove him in a freezer. One day, when the dog-child did something that I don’t remember but probably was something like “protecting his mother,” the dad left him there to freeze. The dog emerged with a blue tongue and became an expensive toy for very rich people.
That story is pretty fucked up. What is more fucked up is that I named the puppy’s father after my dad, because I couldn’t think of another name. My dad has never laid a hand on me, which is something that my fourth-grade teacher could never quite believe.
Hallmark card girl: You know those jokey birthday cards that wives give their husbands when they secretly hate them? The ones with the picture of a “hot” girl on the front that says something like, “This girl wants a BIG part of you on your birthday,” or whatever else insinuates that this lady wants a penis, and then when you open the card it says, “Kidding, you’re a fat, disgusting slob,” or whatever else insinuates that the lady who gave you the card wants a divorce? I remember being a kid and looking at one with my mother while she was looking for a card for hopefully not my father. On it was a girl who had a white one-piece bathing suit, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen hair, and harlotlike makeup. I wanted to be her so badly, because she looked very worldly and special to me. I thought I would look good on those kinds of cards, helping a husband and wife continue down their dark road of marital hell. I went home and smeared makeup on my face like Buffalo Bill.
Witch: This is pretty self-explanatory, but I wanted to be a witch when I was younger. I was never sure which side I was on. Good-witch-wise, I wanted to be Sabrina and travel through linen closets and date a guy with one earring and talk to a cat all day. Bad-witch-wise, I would have enjoyed being Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus and killing children all day.
Can we say, “Headed toward a liberal arts degree and also writing a sign about how I have a degree as I beg for change on the subway”? Yet, throughout the years of these absurd dreams,my parents were incredibly supportive. They liked my “little stories.” They liked them so much they gave me the chutzpah to like those stories, too, and to chase that dream of becoming a writer. Screw you, Mom and Dad! (I love you, Mom and Dad.)
When I got older and realized that my life was built around the idea that my career would be something I wanted to love, to strive for, to be proud of, I was scared. I know I’m not the only one. A lot of my friends had passions, too—they wanted to be filmmakers or brain surgeons or fashion designers, and all because nobody told them no. Well, friends, here goes a whole lot of years of trouble. There’s no time machine to go back and make us into reasonable creatures. We’re romantic. We’re hopeful. We’re done for. The worst part of this all? The idea of struggle and compromise seems exciting to us—that’s how stupid we are. There’s no stopping fools, I say. We’re still kids at heart. Those dreams are still there. Now we just have to go chase them.
And now, we’ve started running.