How To Do What You Have To Do

12 Mar

1500907987594My dears, I need to tell you: there’s too much in my life right now. There’s too much to read, to watch, to think, to do. I was unable to get around to posting last month simply because I had too much on my plate and only a salad fork to eat it with. I would offer my apologies, but I just don’t have the time.

Of course, I’m not the only one currently in this predicament. From the way your leg is bouncing on your chair, I assume you are as well. Although I’ve clearly not mastered managing my time just yet, I am trying, and I thought I could pass some suggestions on to you as I am always keen to share what I’ve learned (plus now I can cross ‘help readers improve their lives’ off my to-do list).

The first two step is to prioritize. Naturally, keeping yourself and friends/family/pets alive has to be most important. Make sure you eat, sleep, and wash obviously, but you also need time to relax — reading a book, watching a film, staring off into the distance where the ceiling meets the wall —  whatever does it for you. If you don’t look after your body and mind, you’re not going to be able to accomplish anything else.

Now, you may have seen tweets or blog posts about how you need to spend your time only on things that bring you joy or about how you should walk away things that cause you stress. These are tempting policies but utterly unworkable. There are many things in life which are joyless and stressful and still required. It’s useful to remember that the people who post that shite make their money by selling posters and mugs to schmucks before selling their email addresses to telemarketers. You’re better than that — you know you are.

So prioritizing is also important when it comes to the bullshit tasks you have to do. Are you legally or morally obliged to do the thing? Will anyone die if you don’t do the thing? If so, complete those tasks first. Will ignoring or delaying the tasks really negatively affect you? I don’t just mean will you have to accept that you may not be perfect in every single way — that’s something you should be over by now. I just mean, will you lose your home, your income, access to your children, etc? It’s good to avoid those negative  consequences by bumping those tasks up your to-do list, regardless of how bullshit they may be.

It’s also important to get help where you can. I appreciate that not everyone has the luxury of hiring a handsome young man of the homosexual persuasion to do difficult things around the household, like I have. However, perhaps there are some tasks you could afford to outsource. You could get a cleaner or hire a gardener. Remember, local teenagers are always looking for extra money to buy their marijuana — offer them some (money, I mean) in exchange for painting your fence or walking your dog. If you don’t have any extra cash, take advantage of cost-less timesavers like automatic bill payment. Ask your friends who don’t bounce their legs constantly what they do and take on some of their advice. If you’re still working through your not-perfect-in-every-single-way issues, pretend you’re asking for a relative whose doctor is worried about their blood pressure.

(Note: add check blood pressure to your to-do list.)

The final suggestion I’d like to share is to say no when you can. If you’ve seen Christopher around town recently, you’ll notice his cheeks and chin are sporting stubble. Why? Because over the last week, I’ve had to say no each time he’s asked to be shaved. Yes, his sad little face was hard to look at, but I took care of that by simply looking the other way. I cannot do everything; that’s just a simple fact. You can’t either. Sometimes you just have to say no.

Well, I feel I’ve helped you at least a little, so now I can move on to my next task. Let me check my list . . . a nap’s up next and then I need to finish the crossword. If I can get those done in the next three hours, I may, just may, have time to take a straight razor to Christopher’s soapy face.

Our Past, Present, and Future

12 Jan

You are never going to believe the familiar face I bumped into today: Mr Rupert Stanley Quim.

It’s been years since I’d seen my most significant employer. He and I left on relatively friendly terms (thanks to the effective counsel of my lawyer), but we’ve not spoken since (thanks to his now-expired restraining order).

I cannot deny the influence he had on my professional life. He taught me valuable lessons about deals, details, and deadlines. We spent many hours together, hunched over the desk in his messy office, discussing and debating. He was a formidable friend and foe. He could drink me under a table, but I always won when we arm wrestled.

I didn’t offer to fight him today, though, as it was obvious that time had taken its toll on dear Rupert. The voice that had once boomed threats at me over a busy publishing office was now much weaker, barely a whisper. He was smaller, too; I mean this literally — I could have easily pinned him against a wall and stolen his wallet and wristwatch (I didn’t, but I could have). In fact, he confessed that the tattoo of my face which used to be on his thigh has now dropped down to his shin, which didn’t make sense to me but whatever. Otherwise, his wit was still with him, and we enjoyed a short talk, bad mouthing the same enemies we’d criticized so many years ago. God rest their souls.

Seeing Rupert made me reflect on the various ways people move through our lives, and how the crucial relationships — whether good or bad — stay with us forever. Despite today’s nice chat, I’ll be absolutely fine if Mr Quim and I never meet again. I know that something will happen almost every day that will remind me of his influence on my work. And I know he’ll think of me just as frequently, or at least every time he reaches down to tie his shoes while also wearing short trousers.


Happy New Year

31 Dec


Happy Holidays

25 Dec

Well, here we are, Christmas Day. The world has not ended (yet).

Christopher and I have finished opening our gifts and are now toasting our tootsies in front of the fire as we sip our mimosas and nibble our special Christmas cookies (made with Granny Carmichael’s secret recipe). We’re looking forward to a pretty low key day, which is just what the doctor ordered.

I hope Santa made you very happy this morning!

On Top Of The World

29 Nov

0I’m often asked how I can simultaneously be on top of things in both the United States and Great Britain, as well as get involved in developments in other less important countries. I will confess, it can really take it out of a person to be the go-to-girl about current political and cultural events all over the globe. However, it’s the burden I’m expected to bear as an international mover-and-shaker, and I carry it with pride in my handy canvas totebag.

However, even less extraordinary people can easily spread their impact quite far. It only takes a bit of effort. If you’re a regular reader here, I presume that you are already involved in your local community (since all members of my fan club are required to sign a “I am not a lazy tosspot” clause), but you shouldn’t stop there. With the Internet, it’s possible to extend your reach, keeping your finger on the pulse of (and your nose poked into) whatever is going down wherever it is going down. Even those not technologically advanced enough to get online can still get knee-deep into issues via the good old fashioned post. You’d be surprised at the effect a serious letter writing campaign can have: did you know, for example, that Winston Churchill’s first became well known through his persistent letters to the editor of The Times, promoting leg o’ mutton sleeves as a viable fashion statement? Look at the influence he ended up having!  Basically, you just want to learn everything you can about as much as you can and then get all up in the world’s business.

Perhaps the most obvious way to be gain influence, though, is to ensure that you hold a place in all people’s hearts. I’m afraid there’s no guaranteed route to this. The best I can suggest is to be good, be wise and, if all else fails, die young in a suspicious car accident. It’s quite a sacrifice, but it’s one surefire way to win the world’s affections.

A World of Tears

29 Oct

In this day and age, it’s difficult for small businesses to survive. Everyday a small shop or local service closes down because large corporations are taking over. Upsettingly, in the US, corporation personhood exists, where essential corporations have “rights,” and if Trump has anything to do with it, those who aren’t millionaires will find life even harder. This is crazy. When I was a child, we were taught to respect those people who set up their own little businesses—we bought our produce from a farmers’ market, we bought our dresses from a local seamstress and the very first cocktail I ever drank was produced by a neighbourhood bootlegger. Small businesses were at the heart of economy and the community, and I stand behind any campaign that supports them during this difficult time.

That said, if the man who runs the news agent’s at the end of my road does not change his attitude sharpish, I will do everything in my power to have his shop shuttered for good.

I am a reasonable woman and a reasonable consumer. I do not make ridiculous demands, and I accept that accidents do happen. I have visited the shop when his stock of Parma Violets was low. Occasionally, the clerk has given me imprecise change. Once, I had to wait nearly a quarter of an hour until the shop re-opened, even though the sign clearly said “Back in 10 minutes.” I have never complained about any of these things. Unfortunately, the owner has now taken things too far.

When I woke this morning, I came downstairs to enjoy my cup of tea, boiled eggs and wheat soldiers—lovingly prepared by Christopher—as I do every Sunday morning. As he had gone for a boys-only night out last evening, Christopher began to tell me of his adventures. I quickly grew bored and interrupted him to ask for my Sunday papers. This is when Christopher shared with me the devastating news: they had not been delivered. After recovering from the initial shock, I dressed and walked up to the news agent’s to see whatever could have been the problem. To be honest, I could only presume that some horrible disaster had occurred. What else could cause the man to have let down a loyal and lovely customer whom he knows relies so much on her daily newspapers?

A horrible disaster had occurred but it wasn’t a flood, fire or foul play, but an injustice beyond belief. I was told that the shopkeeper had not received my cheque; therefore, he told the paperboy to cease my delivery. Anyone with any sense knows that I always pay my debts. In fact, this man knows: I have been paying for newspaper delivery the 1st and 15th of every month for as long as I have lived in this village. However, despite my reputation of responsibility, when my payment was not there in his grubby little hands by the end of the day, he simply crossed my name off the list, as if I weren’t a person with hopes and dreams, as if I didn’t matter at all. And to add salt to the wound, I had visited the shop yesterday and had chatted with said man. Never once did he utter a word about the state of affairs. Had he done so, it would have taken just a matter of moments to explain that when I realised that I was out of sealing wax, I put a note on the table asking Christopher to purchase some when he dropped by the news agent’s to settle my account.  When he found out that they did not carry my preferred shade, he went on to another store, neglecting to pay the man.

Perhaps one could argue that Christopher was in the wrong. However, could one not also argue that the shopkeeper’s poor selection of sealing wax was ultimately to blame? Regardless, if this man’s conduct is indicative of the way other small businesses are run, it’s no wonder the world’s gone to hell in a handbasket.

Temporary Respite

25 Sep

Christopher and I have recently returned from our September holiday. It’s always good to get out of the comfort zone of one’s home from time to time, especially when that home is being entirely repainted and you don’t want to deal with fumes from the workers and/or their work.

Quite frankly, as much as I love the Whitt-Wellington homestead (especially now that the walls have been given a fresh lick — lilac in the bedroom is even more perfect than I’d predicted), our trip away was a real respite from the grind our daily lives had become. Often, travel in and of itself can be exhausting, but with a combination of good planning and a little luck, ours was quite rejuvenating.

A few flights were required, but we were able to reduce our carbon footprint by primarily traveling by boat and on foot. I don’t know what the legal definition of jungle is, so to avoid prosecution I won’t use the term here, but I will say that most of our journey was hot as fuck. It’s good to know that this old girl still has enough strength and energy to get herself around, even in high temperatures. I did not ask Christopher to carry me once, even though I’d assumed he’d at least offer to. (He did not.)

EvergladesBoardwalkGatorVintageSmoothThe scenery was breathtaking, and I was intrigued by the new species of wildlife we saw. Christopher, on the other hand, was scared up a tree when he stumbled across a rather large snake — as you know, he’s quite a sensitive boy. The fact that the snake was clearly dead reminded me he’s also quite dim, but this time, his stupidity was both charming and funny.

However, my favourite part of our vacation spot was the biggest surprise: a local law banning all internet use. Initially, I naively assumed this was some thought-control act by a freedom-hating dictator. It turns out, though, the policy was democratically approved by the entire village’s population. Before we were given the keys to our small cabin, we had to sign a sheet, promising to respect the reason behind their unusual choice: to keep the region bujando-free.

There’s no precise English word that reflects the full meaning of their word bujando; the nearest translation is “bullshit.” I was 100% behind the policy (and took full advantage of it by asking Christopher questions I knew he’d have to answer honestly, and it was truly enlightening). However, even on vacation I like staying up-to-date with the news, and I worried I’d be unable to without the internet. This was not the case. The villagers were very knowledgeable about things going on outside their own borders. News updates were delivered each morning, and the cocosplitnu (their current events group) translated them immediately to be distributed throughout the village. We all gathered around a fire each evening, smoking something that would probably be illegal here while discussing the best ways to solve the moral challenges today’s world faces. The conversations were insightful: it turns out the lack of bujando meant people were clear in their points and open to listening to others’ (and no one cited the Denver Guardian once).

There was one detail, though, of which they were ignorant, and that was the name of the current US President. I suspect they knew — it couldn’t be a coincidence that their no-internet law was passed on 17 June 2015 — but neither Christopher nor I mentioned him, and I have to say it was liberating. We hadn’t forgotten, of course; I was hoping that whatever we were smoking might’ve destroyed that part of our memories, but all it did was give Christopher a twitch (which we were assured would disappear by Christmas). But God, did it feel good not to see Trump’s face or hear his name.

Alas, coming home has meant we are back to the full painful reality of 45. We hadn’t expected him to act like a reasonable, grown up politician while we were gone, but when we watched the president’s horrifying UN speech, we were both left speechless. Just as mind-blowing is the fact that he decided to take time from bringing the world closer to nuclear war to urge the NFL to fire Americans who express their First Amendment rights — all in the name of ‘ratings’ (which I believe is his misspelling of the word ‘racism’). He sure has been a busy and embarrassing boy.

Clearly, being back means our lives are no longer bujando-free; however, Christopher and I have both promised to limit the bullshit that invades our newly beautifully-hued space. We are back on the internet (obviously), and so in closing, I’d like to thank those of you who flooded my Inbox with autographs requests while I was away. They mean a lot to me.

However, in the spirit of honest and open communication, I can tell you right now: I’m probably not going to get to sending those out anytime soon.

So You’ve Become The US President and It’s All Gone Horribly Wrong

30 Aug

Have you recently become president because, despite not having an understanding of the job or the ability to do it, you really get off on people cheering your name?

Sure, we all have.

But being an idiot who is also a racist and the president of the United States can be stressful and have a damaging effect on your hair and skin, so it’s good you’ve decided to pick up this pamphlet. Like all information available in a doctor’s office waiting area, it primarily contains common sense ideas that you or the grown ups around you should already be aware of, but keep reading as it’s a better use of your time than getting stumped by the partially completed crossword puzzle in that 2010 issue of Highlights magazine.

Back when you were 69½ , it probably seemed like a good idea to run for president. You could shout whatever you want into a microphone and people would cheer and, of course, you could gets lots of attention on television. Those are some of your favourite things, so it makes sense you’d consider a full time gig. But after seven months in the job, you’re suffering weight gain, lethargy, and mockery from reasonable people all over the world. Is this normal? Is the damage reversible? Is there anything you can do to keep things from getting worse?

First off, you need to know that this is not normal. Nothing about this is normal.

However, the good news is things can change. Obviously our first suggestion is to drink more water. Staying hydrated seems to be the go-to suggestion in any and all lazily written medical advice pieces, so be sure to get at least eight glasses of water a day.

Otherwise, there is really only one option: stop being the president. Stop talking and threatening and lying and embarrassing yourself and your country.

Seems simple enough, but we all know that making healthy choices is often easier said than done. You might be asking, “How do I get out? Before I even got elected, I mocked a disabled person and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy and tried to ban Muslims and called Mexicans rapists. Still people cheered. I lie about literally everything and continually contradict myself — for Christ’s sake, I defended Nazis! I’m trapped in a wicked cycle: yes, I despise my growing waistline, irregular pulse, and the complete lack of movement in my bowels, but god, do I love seeing my face on television. Every time I do something stupid, it becomes breaking news — how could I possibly turn my back on that?”

We knew you were going to say that, but sorry, the answer is still to stop.

However, stopping doesn’t mean your life will be unsatisfying. All of the urges, desires, and emotions that are parts of your shamed presidency you can still get with your new healthier lifestyle.

Clearly you fear abandonment and losing the love you receive at your rallies, but do you have a partner and/or children between the ages of 39 and 11? They are probably willing to accept your love and give some in return. Why not try buying them something shiny? You may be surprised, but love from members of your own family can be just as fulfilling as the monosyllabic chants of thousands of racists waving misspelled placards.

Are you familiar with the game Risk? It’s a great and safe way to fulfill your power fantasies, but unlike what you’re doing now, no one ends up dead. You can make alliances with the baddies and you can control any entire continent if you’d like. In fact, you can even command an army and ban whomever you want from serving because everything’s imaginary and you’re not destroying real people’s lives.

Once you do stop, it’ll be important to remember that what you’re really craving is just a feeling. Feelings pass, so you may find that after a week, your desires have evaporated.  If they haven’t, though, you have the option of turning to memories to relive some of the more positive emotions. You should be able to find footage of your lies and irresponsible behaviour literally all over the fucking internet, so if you need an ego boost, watch a couple of your videos and bask in them. You’ll get some satisfaction but without doing  any more damage to your country’s reputation. (Note: damaging a country’s reputation is the number one cause of digestion problems in 71-year-old jackasses.)

Speaking of poor digestion: eat fibre.

If your presidency has gone horribly wrong, it may feel like there’s nothing you can do to change it. But there is: you can stop. It takes stamina, but you’ve got that, right? You’re a big boy, aren’t you?

It may be difficult in the first few days, but you can always hold tight to the fact that you are really rich. You are. You’re really rich. Let that give you hope. Some experts suggests creating visual reminders of the things that make you happy — small images displayed in prominent places to reinforce the fact that even if you’ve stopped being president, you’ll still really rich. Perhaps you could rig up something like that?

So your plans for your presidency didn’t really pan out . . . there are worse things in the world.

Things can change for you.

Now is the time to stop.


Challenging White Privilege

25 Jul

So you’ve heard the phrase white privilege (possibly with the words ‘check your’ or ‘thank Christ for’ preceding it), and you’re wondering what’s going on and why those kids keep egging your house.

I’m here to help you, but you should know from the start that my goal will be to encourage you to challenge white privilege. So if you’d rather stay blissfully ignorant, stop reading right now. Here’s a short film to keep you entertained while the grown ups are talking.

Okay, now first, let me clarify something.

I’m speaking to white people here. Why? Because in many places, just being a person of colour is in itself a challenge to white privilege. What do I mean by that? Did you know that in some parts of Mississippi the police have added ‘driving while black’ to their official list of misdemeanors? Of course, they haven’t, but for a moment, you wondered. The experience of people of colour is different than white people’s in many arenas of life. If you want to know more about what their lives are like, you really shouldn’t be asking me. Instead, you could try listening to them. Here are some you could listen to right now.

So it’s whitey to whom I’m writing. I don’t intend to blame you for slavery or call you a racist. Acknowledging white privilege is not a slur on your character, any more than it is on mine (and we all know that my character is entirely slur-proof, unless my promiscuity is the topic and quite frankly you should praising, not criticising, me for that). Nor does it mean that everything about your life is perfect and carefree. I’m sure it’s not. Lastly, it doesn’t mean that you’ve not experienced inequality yourself. You probably have, because sadly, there’s plenty of bigotry to go round (I’ll address how to destroy the patriarchy and win the class war in future posts).

White privilege is just a fact. If you look at the historical context of either of my home countries, you’ll see that being white has had quite a few benefits. Or maybe you don’t see that. Let me show you what I mean.

I come from a wealthy, white family. We got that way because my great-great-great-great-great grandfather was involved in what was, in retrospect, a somewhat dodgy deal involving China and a shitload of opium, through a contact he had made in college. He died a very, very rich man, which meant my great-great-great-great grandfather was a very, very rich son of, let’s call him what he was, a dead drug dealer. That grandfather fattened his bank book through his work as a physician. His son, thanks to his inheritance, trained in Europe as a pianist and once played for the President, and his son was able to travel as an archeologist and dug up something which he earned him big dollars. Basically, my whole family has done pretty damn well for itself money-wise; even when they’ve been failures (my great-great grandfather’s young adult sci-fi novel went nowhere fast), they’ve been frugal failures, and as a result, I’ve never been without a penny or two in my pocketbook.

Why does this matter? Well, besides being an interesting historical tale, thank you, it matters because hundreds of Whitt-Wellingtons have reaped the benefits of one man’s successful networking during his college years. Years in which the great-great-great-great-great grandfathers of African Americans were slaves, and thus unable to set up shop with a classmate who had ties to the Chinese opium market.

Now, stop yourself for a moment if you’re thinking, Agatha, my white family has never had the financial benefits of yours. I appreciate that. Many haven’t. Yet I’m guessing that your white family has done a variety of things that, at the time, your black neighbours’ families were not able to do. Those freedoms have their consequences, and many of those consequences have meant good things for your family or for your community, either directly or indirectly.

And if the benefits of those freedoms are still being felt today, it makes sense that the lack of those freedoms still has repercussions. You don’t have to feel personally responsible for that. But you do kinda gotta acknowledge it.

And we also can’t pretend inequality is a thing of the past. When I drive through a town in America and a cop pulls my car over, I don’t worry the event will end with my being dead. I don’t. Because, although I’ve been pulled over a few times, I’ve never once been shot dead — not even the time I was holding Truman Capote’s gun in my lap (long story, remind me to tell you another time). I have received one $20 ticket and zero police bullets.

So white privilege exists. What should we do about it?

If you’re really interested in making substantial change to the current system, perhaps you should be reaching out to more appropriate and less sarcastic sources. There are plenty to choose from. Visit your local library, check out some websites, and get involved in political action.

However, if you’re looking for some starter suggestions delivered simply by a charming international mover-and-shaker, you’ve come to the right place.

There are three easy instructions: think, decide, own. Let’s break those steps down a little.

This guideline should come as no surprise to regular readers; there’s very little in life that wouldn’t benefit from thinking carefully first (Russian Roulette is one exception: with that, always go with your gut). Consider the situation in which you find yourself and think about what role white privilege may have played in getting you there. Sometimes its impact is large (you are able to vote despite not having your ID on you); sometimes its impact is negligent (you’ve tripped over a crack in the pavement). Think carefully, and beyond that precise moment in time.

If white privilege hasn’t played a role in your current quandary, your decision is probably quite simple. Brush yourself off, get up, and pay more attention as you walk down the street. If white privilege is involved, though, you have an important choice to make. One reason white privilege still exists is because white people benefit from it. Are you going to play even a small role in perpetuating inequality? I can’t tell you what to do in any situation (however, I don’t recommend that you ever voluntarily try to get shot by police, just to prove a point). Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself.

Whatever you decide, own that decision. If you make a choice that feels like a bit of sacrifice, it’s okay to feel good about yourself (but for fuck’s sake, don’t post on Facebook trying to prove how woke you are). If you make a choice that takes advantage of white privilege, own that, too. Even if someone challenges you. Own it. Promise yourself you’ll keep thinking and questioning.

Let’s look at a few practice scenarios:

  1. You and a black man exit a store simultaneously as an alarm goes off. The clerk stops the black man but waves you away. Do you walk off?
  2. You are a white woman who has thoughts about Beyoncé’s twins that you’re sure the world needs to hear. Do you write a blog post?
  3. You’re at a business event where a colleague makes a racist comment you do not agree with. How do you respond?

What did you think about? If you’d really been in these situations, would have been able to own whatever decisions you made?

Please do not misinterpret my confident tone and excellent taste in eyeglass frames as evidence that I have perfected the three step programme. There are times when I don’t think enough until it’s too late, and there are times when I regret my decisions. However, I do try and you can, too.

Making it all the way to the end of this post is a good start, but let’s face it, it ain’t your good deed for the week. It’d probably wise now to continue learning and thinking and challenging.

It’s all right if you need to eat something first. Are you hungry? You look hungry. I worry about you, you know. Eat first.  And then go from there.


Why You Must Vote on June 8

7 Jun

Trump Collage.jpgTrump HeadlinesIn November 2016, 60.2 percent of eligible Americans voted in the presidential election. Yes, some did vote for Trump, but many who did not vote at all could have changed the result, had they exercised the right that so many people have fought for.

Of course, those who voted for someone other than Trump still ended up with him as president. That is undeniably true and undeniably heartbreaking. But at least those people tried to avoid the disaster that has now befallen America (and the world).

You should try, too.

Don’t give away your rights: make the choice that you think might lead to a better world.