A Man For All Seasons

patio-furniture-setsIt does not escape my attention that I may occasionally say things about Jim that are perhaps less than positive, if not so much here on this blog, then certainly in real life. It probably does not escape his attention either. Which is why today, I am going to write something very nice about him, namely, that he would be really, really good in an apocalypse.  Because he would.  I am not even making this up.

I mean, sure, he likes his nightly shower and morning cup of coffee as much as the next person. He might miss his K-Cups for a while, but give him a way to boil water and he’d be all set. He’d be fine; he really would. I, on the other hand, would not.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The truth is, I would not only not be fine, I’d be terrible. Worse than terrible. I’d be useless, a burden which our marriage vows would force him to drag along behind him. Like a gangrenous leg.

Incidentally, I used to think that no one could survive an apocalypse; I thought that was kind of part of the definition, but young adult fiction has shown me otherwise. So, say there’s an apocalypse, and we survive. Jim would say, “Let’s go, no time to waste! We need to find shelter and a source of water!”

Several yards away, I would be saying, “Children, please stop your whining for FIVE SECONDS and help Mommy find her sparkly owl earrings. This is an awful lot of rubble, isn’t it?”

Jim would be in the woods, crossbow slung across his back, gutting a deer and preparing the hide for tanning while I was out looting ULTA, making sure I’d never run out of key cosmetic items.

Jim would forage for plants and berries that were safe to eat; I would undoubtedly make mojitos with muddled poison oak.

Jim would teach our kids all sorts of useful survival skills. I would use up all the juice of our solar-powered emergency radio charging my Kindle. And my e-cig. And my cell phone, because even though there’d be no cell towers and no internet, I am sure that somehow there would still be Facebook.

I guess the good thing about an apocalypse is the availability of things, if you think about it. At least for a while. I mean, assuming there weren’t too many survivors, I could probably get all the propane I ever needed for our little gas fire pit, which is good, because God knows our kids like s’mores. The library books would be free for the taking, which I realize they already are, but, no overdue fines. That’s nice. Plus, no more lines at the grocery store. Or the DMV, or really anywhere, I guess. You just go and get what you need and be on your way.

I think what I’d like to do most, in an apocalypse, is set up camp in a Target. It’d be good if it happened in summer, because their patio furniture section always has a nice selection of seating arrangements for any occasion. Plus, they have lots of other stuff you might need, like sleeping bags and screwdrivers and Lego sets. They have tons of non-perishable food, bicycles for the kids (also helmets, which are of course required by law; just because we’ve survived the world’s end doesn’t mean we should turn into a bunch of lawless hooligans). They have books, arts and crafts, even birthday party decorations. Face it, we’re going to need stuff like that to keep our spirits up. Plus, our Target happens to be pretty near to our ULTA. Double bonus for me. Less so for Jim.

I think hands down the worst thing about an apocalypse would be the lack of electricity. I mean, aside from all the death and destruction, of course. OF COURSE that is really the worst thing, but let’s be real for a minute. Death is a part of life. Power outages, though – well, in this day and age, I just feel they should be totally avoidable, global cataclysm or not. I get kind of clammy and nauseated when I think of all we’d have to do without: soft lighting and laundry facilities, television and toasters. All our blowup snowman and Santa Claus decorations. Word processing programs. Microwaves. Perhaps most horrifying of all, hair dryers.

I am sure Jim could rig up something using daisy-chained car batteries and a diesel something-or-other, and he would do that for me, I know he would. He would roll his eyes and complain a lot because believe me, there is nothing Jim likes better than a good cause for complaint. And I would allow him to complain about it because quite frankly, that is just how we roll. Jim complaining, me beating him over the head with my relentless insistence on optimism. “Look on the bright side,” I will tell him, when the devastation goes down. “The ozone layer may have burned up in a fiery inferno (as opposed to a watery inferno? I don’t know), but, all the free sunscreen you could want is right there in aisle A47!”

And Jim will say, “Please stop talking and just go measure the kids for their groundhog-fur ponchos.” And I will do that, and I guess that is why we’re still together. Because though he would know that my demands for hair drying capabilities were ridiculous, he’d humor me anyway, even, I believe, in an apocalypse. Because he would let me choose whichever pillows I wanted for our Target patio furniture. And I would let him dress our kids in groundhogs.

And if you ask me, that is what true love is all about.


So, pets.  In a nutshell:  I am afraid of them.  Very afraid, which is difficult for several reasons, the first being that there are ANIMALS EVERYWHERE.  My backyard butts up against a patch of woods; at any moment you might turn around to find a bunny sizing you up from across the lawn.  There are the hamsters in elementary school classrooms, the petting zoos, the friend’s new puppy.  The neighbor who doesn’t like leashes.  Pigeons.  I am telling you it is a minefield out there for people like me, and animal lovers will never truly understand it.

And I mean, they really don’t.  Some go so far as to hate me, if not blatantly and outright, then at least covertly and on the internet.  In their minds, “she is afraid of animals” gets translated to “she hates animals,” and from there it’s only a small leap to “she is a cold and heartless individual with no love for anything adorable.”  This is not me being paranoid.  I submit as evidence Exhibit A:


And Exhibit B:


In the haters’ defense, I guess it does seem kind of weird to be like, “Back the fuck off with your precious fluffy kitten!”  But, I don’t know.  I am forty-four years old and it is what it is, at this point.

Which I guess is what I really need to tell the rest of the pet owners out there.  Not the ones who know me well enough to just deal with me, and not the ones who hate me.  I speak here of the ones who believe they can cure my fear in much the same way as those Christian Fundamentalists aim to “cure” homosexuality.  Following are some of the things they might say, with the best of intentions but always, always with the worst of results.

“He won’t hurt you.”  It is as if these words get scrambled on their way into my brain, so that what I actually hear is, “He hasn’t bitten or viciously mauled anyone yet today.”  I mean, look up the word “animal” on thesaurus.com.  Some synonyms:  beastly, brute, feral, wild, untamed.  Antonyms:  gentle.  Mild.


“They can smell fear.”  Oh, well that’s fucking perfect.  Let me just take my fear off and stick it in my purse, then.  Or better yet, I’ll run out and leave it in the car.  I can’t imagine why I brought it in with me in the first place!

Listen, I am perfectly aware that animals can smell fear and why do you not understand that this makes me even more afraid?

“Just pet him!”  This one usually only comes from dog owners, and I hate it because either way, no one wins.  If I don’t pet the dog, then I am snubbing the person’s four-legged baby, which I do understand is just as offensive as snubbing a person’s human baby.  Not only that, but I have also shown myself to be inflexible and uncooperative and generally no fun.

On the other hand, if I do pet the damn dog I risk offending its owner just as much as if I’d refused.  Mainly because of the way I look while petting a domestic animal, which is similar to the way anyone else looks while petting a pterodactyl, which is to say, hesitant and with absolutely no trace of affection.  Plus, I have heart palpitations, plus, I have now led the animal to believe I want to be its friend; that further petting might ensue at any moment.  And now little Spike or Sammy or Sunshine will not leave my side.  It gets awkward very quickly.

“You’ll like my dog.”  I feel bad about this, I do, but – no.  I will not ever like any dog.  Still, it also makes me kind of mad.  Because, I wouldn’t find out you are violently afraid of heights and immediately say, no, no, no, you’ll like the rooftop terrace of my skyscraper!  Oh, you say you’re agoraphobic?  Come on, what’s to be afraid of, you’ll have fun at my party.  Terrified of clowns?  That’s just because you haven’t met the ones at my circus!

Which leads me to David Sedaris, and yes I know this doesn’t really follow, but stick with me anyway because what the heck, you’ve come this far and I’m almost done.  David Sedaris has long been one of my idols, but he reached new heights at a 2014 book signing in Pittsburgh.  Here, I will share with you the most important part of our conversation.  It went as follows:

David Sedaris:                Do you have pets?

Me:                                    Oh, no.  No pets.

David Sedaris:                Good for you.  Who needs pets?  We have nature; that should be enough.

Me:                                    You are my idol.

David Sedaris:                Oh, well, thank you for that.

No, thank you, David Sedaris.  THANK YOU.