Don't wait for it.

There are pictures of me, my brother, and my two cousins, as high school kids, where you can easily tell which of these things is not like the other. We were pretty close to each other growing up, and I burned with shame when we were all together with our parents in the room and the talk turned to sports. Specifically, their achievements, which were honestly impressive as hell. Whatever gene was involved in producing all this athletic talent must have missed me. I played on teams that didn’t cut anyone, and only because it was not optional. Every sports practice I attended in high school filled me with anxiety, so strong was my sense that I did not belong there. No one in my family was ever anything but kind to me about my figurative participation trophies, but I always assumed they thought less of me, or worse, pitied me. Was I wrong to hope that running a marathon might impress them?

Read More

The sex on Hulu's Shrill isn't just good, it's life-affirming.

Today, I feel optimistic about the future, and that’s because of the sex Aidy Bryant is having on TV.

Sex on TV has changed a lot in my lifetime alone. For one thing, we are regularly seeing male frontal nudity on HBO - thank you, High Maintenance! Even more importantly, Issa Rae’s Insecure celebrates the sexiness of black women through its (frequent, hot) sex scenes without any kind of white mediation or approval. I didn’t even realize until I found myself in the thrall of that show how rarely - if ever - I had seen black people having sex onscreen, especially emotionally satisfying sex. And now, thanks to Hulu’s Shrill, we get to see a fat woman have good and fulfilling sex onscreen, and no matter what you think of the rest of the show, that all by itself is a really big deal.

Read More

A farewell to Crashing

Pete has wanted to belong here ever since we first met him. One of the central questions the show has confronted is precisely that of belonging. What is comedy now, and who belongs in it? What do we owe guys like Pete, who might be very talented but who might also, in truth, not be talented enough to be essential? In the words of Estee Adoram (playing herself), the holder of the Comedy Cellar keys: “who are you, why are you, and why now? I’ve got a lot of white guys up here talking about nothing.” She has a point, and even though Pete is understandably crushed, Crashing isn’t asking us to feel that he’s been denied some kind of rightful place.

Read More

To me, you are the CITGO sign

It’s easy to miss the things that only get big when you’re right up close to them. If you need a reminder of how big and bright you really are, then listen to today’s episode of today’s Morning Mantra podcast by Coach MK, featuring me, you and the CITGO sign. You do a lot of things that no one else notices (call it an educated guess). You don’t want to make a big deal out of all the things you do or make them hugely visible from far away, because you don’t want to come across as self-congratulatory, self-indulgent, or any of those other terms that begin with “self-“ that we use in judgment of others. But sometimes you think to yourself, does anyone see this work I do? Will anyone care? Does it still matter if I am the only one who really knows what went into it?

Read More

Go ahead and love something an embarrassing amount: PEN15 and best friends

Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and the writing of Tina Fey gave us the expression “mean girls” in the early 00s, and we have so internalized it that we barely even think about it when we use it. Without a doubt, Mean Girls was a huge phenomenon for a reason: it speaks some real truth (and it holds up extremely well 15 years later). Middle-school and high-school girls have the ability to behave in horrifying ways to each other. PEN15 doesn’t hesitate to show us how, nor does it exempt its two main characters from the pettiness and cruelty that we so commonly associate with tween girls. But what you will remember of this show if you watch the whole season is the unbridled generosity and fierce love of their friendship.

Read More

I am not like other mothers

Even when I’m not thinking directly about motherhood and its claim over my identity, whatever course of thought I am pursuing often brings me back to it somehow. It seems to seep into my reading and viewing choices, fiction and non: the book I just finished, Angelika Schrobsdorff’s You Are Not Like Other Mothers. The Canadian TV show Workin’ Moms on Netflix. The news coverage of highly consequential court cases regarding abortion access. Unless you live in total isolation from society, you, a mother, are going to be getting some feedback from the world about how you’re doing in the mothering department. Maybe you’re not leaning in enough at work or maybe you’re not sacrificing enough of yourself to your children; from the moment your embryo is detectable, people are going to have thoughts for you. Your motherhood cannot fail to make its mark on every other part of your identity, even if it is one of the few characteristics you share with over 2 billion other humans living on Earth, or as Katherine Goldstein put it during a guest appearance on Mom and Dad Are Fighting, “literally the least interesting thing about [you.]”

Read More

I just want to.

This is running at its best, for me. It is the thing that I don’t really even need to think about that hard because I just want to do it, so I do. At a time in my life when I feel somewhat less than free to prioritize myself over the needs of my family, particularly my three-year-old who still needs the kind of constant parenting that takes over one’s life, I spend most of my parenting chits on running because it is what I want to do. A long run with my coach tomorrow morning at 5 AM is my spa day.

Read More

Beale Street didn't have to make me cry

I am a consistent crier at movies. I somehow cried all the way through Moana even the third time I watched it - as in, starting at minute one! There are, no doubt, explanations for this. I am overly empathetic, my emotions lie too close to the surface, and motherhood has likely exacerbated both things. I tell you this because a piece of media making me cry, whether it’s Oscar bait or a Superbowl commercial, tells you nothing about its quality or its emotional honesty. My tears are not a standing ovation; they’re more like the polite applause you get from golf spectators even when it takes you seven strokes to sink your putt (not that I would know anything about that).

Maybe it’s not so strange, then, that the standout movie of my recent past is the one that has lodged itself in my brain without making me shed a single tear. That movie is Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, which I’m tempted to say should have been nominated for Best Picture, but given how that race turned out, I’m almost glad it didn’t run.

Read More