Once upon a time, only a generation or so ago, the most popular names for girls were Mary, Susan, and Linda. Top boys names included David, John, and James. Nowadays, the variety in baby naming is mind-boggling. Of course, the infamous celebrity baby names stand out as a prime example of the shift in naming trends from subdued to hyper unique - Apple, Blue Ivy, Zuma, Pilot Inspektor, and Blanket - but the sheer lack of consistency in naming and, of course, uniformity of spelling is really awe-inspiring. Parents (and I will likely be one of these) seem to think that the name they bestow upon their child indicates their (the parents’, I mean) creativity, intelligence, and socioeconomic status and guarantees certain life outcomes for said child - pretty, skinny, talented, successful, driven, high-achieving, smart. As such, names just keep getting more and more “inventive” (“wacky” may be a better descriptor).
Yet we all know that. We also know that names like Ashley, Courtney, Tammy, and Kimberly may very well be spelled 14 different ways from those that I just laid out. And let’s not even get started on truly ethnic names (particularly those inexplicably given to WASP children). These days, due to creative naming trends, there can’t be any comfort in sending a letter or email without being sure of the spelling of the recipient’s name. Thankfully, if you already have an email from the person with the complicated name, the spelling issue is easily resolved with a little Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V action. Even if he or she hasn’t yet e-mailed you, business cards, Facebook, LinkedIn, or simply knowing his or her email address can often resolve the issue. So how can people just go about misspelling others’ names willy nilly?
It’s usually the hold-outs with the “average” names that are the biggest offenders. No one ever misspells their names, so either they don’t think to take a closer look at anyone else’s, or they just feel some weird sense of superiority over having an “easy” name and, thus, don’t feel the need to go out of their way to accommodate those of us with “hard” names. First time offenders - you guys are fine. We all make mistakes. But if you don’t learn from them, well then you’re an asshole. If I regularly correspond with you, if you’ve spelled my name right 60% of the time, if we’re sorority sisters, if we work together (particularly in the same group), if we’ve made out on more than one occasion, if you are responding to an email I’ve just sent that has my name in the “From:” field and at the bottom of my note - you have no excuse to misspell my name.
But what does one do with these offenders? In Sloane Crosby’s book, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, she suggests that, in response to others regularly excluding the “e” from the end of her first name, she should drop the final letter from the first names of all offenders. But that seems awfully passive aggressive, especially if these “offenders” are clients or co-workers. Do you just tell the other person directly? Or would that make them feel uncomfortable and/or make you come across as being anal and uppity? Should you try to create some humorous story about someone else’s name being misspelled and then casually mention that people do that to you all the time?
Frankly, why am I even pondering these various ideas? Why do I have any anxiety over this issue? I have a legal name, given to me by my parents and on record with the Social Security Administration, and I should feel fully entitled to ensure that others use it properly. When job applicants misspell a name, whether it be that of the company they are applying to work for or the person with whom they met with / are meeting with, they automatically get tossed out - so why should anyone get a pass for not caring or paying enough attention to the spelling of another’s name?
Yes, the crazy names popular in our society today are a bit absurd, but it looks like this trend is here to stay. We don’t live in the 1960s, and we’re going to actually have to care about getting others’ names right. So, one of these days, I’m just going to have to say to a couple of you - “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that it’s actually spelled with an -ar, not an -or.”
In the fifth grade, my class of roughly eighteen students sat down with our school’s guidance counselor for what I believe was a download on the death of someone in the school community. Frankly, I can’t quite recall what the intended topic that day was because it ultimately turned into an opportunity for the other seventeen students (barring a few who were truly close to me) to go around the room, one-by-one, and say why they hated me. One girl said she hated me (hated!) because I consistently got the top grades on the weekly spelling tests and was therefore the one who got to, every other week, read out the test words instead of actually taking the test – an “honor” she had always strived for. One boy said he hated me because I had too many shoes (though this could certainly be said about me today, at that time, I owned no more than ten pairs of shoes). I remember that hour of my life vividly. Where I was sitting in the room. The rage on that girl’s face as she described the spelling test issue. That situation will never leave my memory. Probably because it represented a poignant turning point in my life. From that point onward, my interactions with my peers never seemed good or healthy again. I never really recovered from that one day in fifth grade – and it’s not because I was so upset that someone I’ll never see again hated my shoes. Rather, it’s because ever since that one day in fifth grade, those overarching feelings of hatred toward me have only snowballed. I’ve had so many days like that day in fifth grade that I no longer even know how to meet new people or make friends, at least not without the aid of alcohol. I’m so absolutely terrified of the hatred people seem to always develop toward me and the judgement and ridicule that I’m often subjected to that I’ve more or less perfected the art of shutting myself down around people. Although, and I’ll address this later, that particular approach/defense mechanism is just as harmful; it simply produces a different kind of negative rhetoric.
Until the fifth grade, I was an incredibly happy-go-lucky, extroverted child. I loved to meet new people, spent all of my time with at least one other person my age, and loved to put on shows for anyone and everyone – whether they were piano performances or plays with my best friend and her brother attended only by our drunken parents. I don’t think anything dramatic changed in me between first and fifth grade, at least with respect to the way in which I interacted with my friends and peers, but when people hit fifth grade and that penchant for bullying and social posturing began to emerge, I suddenly found myself the target for most people’s negative attention. Over the years, the way this bullying affected my personality, namely making me aloof and distant and sometimes even prickly, only served to broaden my target. By the end of college, I think most people who knew me had found something to hate about me, had found something about me that allowed them to heap all of their aggression and negativity on me.
Fifth grade was hard. After that group meeting with the school counselor, I felt increasingly ostracized by my classmates, as if the criticisms I received put such a powerful dark mark on me that even my former friends and supporters became wary of me. At one point, my best friend’s mother even told my mom that their family wished I’d move or change schools. And they got their wish. Before I could see how this “uprising” against me would have played out as we got older and my classmates grew snarkier and developed a better ability to cut with their words, my parents’ marriage ended and I was uprooted to a new city.
I knew no one. I was the black sheep with the divorced parents and the gay father. Compared to my classmates at my new school, I was poor. And to top it all off, I was going through an incredibly awkward phase, physically – I had a terrible haircut, hadn’t yet learned how to use makeup, I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs, and I had an abundance of unflattering clothing and training bras. It’s hard enough being the new kid, but coming to the acute realization that you’re nothing like your peers and don’t fit in at all is daunting. Immediately, I found myself being bullied by my female classmates; they were harsher than the boys, though the guys had their moments too. Quickly, I learned to keep my head down and I tried to do my work and not be noticed; nonetheless, people found every possible way to taunt and humiliate me. At one point, a whole pack of girls went so far as to confront me on the playground and start screaming at me about how I should go back to where I came from or die (this being the byproduct of one girl trying to pass a note to her friend in class and it being intercepted by a teacher as it went by where I was sitting).
My diary entries from that time comment on the bullying, but in a way that now reflects my standard mode of dealing with my emotions – as if I’m discussing toasting bread. I wrote that girls were calling me duck face and chicken lips (what?), that they suggested I was a lesbian, that they compared me to a stupid dog peeing on the floor (again, what?), and that they were actively trying to convince the few girls who did try to befriend me to, instead, ostracize me. I began to retreat into a shell that had started to develop after that group counseling session in fifth grade. And from that point onward, the shell just got tougher and tougher. By the time I entered college, it was a full suit of armor - but, of course, covered in floral filigree - if you will - such as to make it seem more natural from an outsider’s perspective.
After the eighth grade, I switched schools – partially to get a better academic experience and partially to have a fresh start away from the senseless bullying I experienced at my middle school. But nothing really changed once I got there. Again, I was the new kid – one of only a few (people don’t tend to move around too much in the private school world) – and I was still pretty awkward looking. Things were improving looks wise, but I had horribly overtweezed eyebrows, braces, and cheap clothing (though my mom worked really hard to help out with the latter so that I would fit in more). Girls didn’t embrace me at my new school, but they weren’t outright cruel either. Instead, it was the boys who made me their punching bag. That’s the age when guys finally start to pay attention to their female classmates - and that either means “falling in love” with them or heaping insults on them. I fell into the latter category of girls given my appearance, socioeconomic status, and somewhat shy/awkward behavior that had developed as a result of my middle school bullying. And because I was new, I was even more of a target.
I had boys call me the jolly green giant for wearing a pair of olive green khakis – and not just on that one day. I had boys start rumors that I wore a wig. I was ridiculed for having big teeth, a crooked nose, and a mustache. Boys made fun of the way I talked and my laugh. I was terrified to speak in class. I felt uncomfortable in pretty much every setting – and I mean even those in which I was around only people who were my “friends.” I had been bullied so much by my junior year that I willingly cut myself off from everyone but three people. I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone. I felt like everyone hated me and thought I was disgusting. Even my best friend turned on me during our senior year for the “cool crowd” – or what she thought was the cool crowd back then.
Finally, it came time for college. I was thrilled that I’d finally be in a setting where everyone was new. I wouldn’t be the odd one out. In addition, I spent the summer before my freshman year trying to improve my appearance and wardrobe so that I’d have fewer reasons for people to ridicule me. Nonetheless, my freshman year didn’t end up going so well. A lot of it was my fault. Having essentially never drank before going to college, I did plenty of stupid things during my first term – embarrassing, offensive, idiotic – under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. Furthermore, inside, I was deeply afraid of not being liked and of being made fun of. This combination of actual, self-inflicted embarrassing moments with my awkwardness generated by the all-consuming fear and paranoia I felt (and often still feel) inside gave people plenty of reasons to talk badly about me. I fully understand why the guys and girls who I befriended in those first few months of college aren’t on my radar anymore. But when I was initiated into my sorority during the second term of my freshman year, I thought things would change. For the first time, I’d have a group of girls ready-made to be friends with. I’d have a whole host of people to wear matching outfits with and eat meals with and go to parties with and do all the things I’d always wanted to do with a group of girl friends since probably the eighth grade. That, unfortunately, did not happen.
In a pledge class of 35 and a sorority of around 120, girls are bound to dislike each other. And it’s in the female nature to be somewhat backstabby and gossipy, even about one’s closest friends/future bridesmaids. However, I somehow wound up in a category of my own wherein I was pretty much universally hated. For a while, I thought that perhaps this sense I had that everyone hated me was a little dramatic. But now, I think I was fairly spot-on. No one wanted to live with me – a point which one of my junior year roommates made painfully clear as she screamed this at me in front of everyone else in the house (explaining that their decision to let me live in the house was “charity”). No one wanted to invite me places, although they often did to be polite. Everyone looked at me like I had five heads when I walked in a room or spoke. My small mistakes became earth shattering errors (if I didn’t clean a bowl after breakfast because I was late for class, well then I might as well have killed a puppy). I was never elected to a sorority position and was never (in 3.5 years) given any of the little gifts they passed around in chapter (like the support bra, which is meant for sisters going through tough times, even though I was literally breaking and drowning by the end of college). Girls said they disliked me because I was “anorexic” (I wasn’t, but even if I was, isn’t that a reason to try and help me rather than hate on me?). There was even one day where several girls confronted me about how much they disliked me for having expensive things and “flaunting them,” i.e. daring to carry the designer handbag that I was so excited to have received as a gift from my mother – this has always struck me as being funny, both because in middle and high school people mocked me for being poor and having “cheap clothing,” and also because the girls who confronted me also had many nice things, were debutantes, travelled the world, etc.
I felt like no matter what I did, I couldn’t win. Either I went out with these girls and was ignored or had my presence scoffed at, or I stayed home to avoid the awkwardness and then had the same girls talking behind my back (and sometimes to my face) about how boring and unsisterly I was and how I didn’t care to be a part of the group. Either I tried to hang out with and talk to people and I was obviously unwanted, or I didn’t talk and kept to myself and people said I was haughty and thought I was too good for everyone. And that last criticism was probably the most pervasive and damning one of all. People thought I was snobby and too cool for school, and they successfully propagated those labels far and wide such that it became my overarching image, even in the minds of people who never interacted with me. Some people cited my “bitchy face” as support for these rumors of my snobbishness. Sorry that my face looks bitchy. It’s just my face. I even heard of guys saying they wanted to “hate fuck” me - guys who had never even spoken to me and, thus, could not have truly hated me.
Funny thing is, I’ve never once felt awesome or superior, certainly not enough to drive haughtiness. Since fifth grade, I’ve perpetually felt like the outcast and the ugly duckling. Stupid and awkward and unwanted. Some people could look at a picture of me today and say, “Shut up, you’re pretty,” or see my resume and say, “Shut up, you have lots of great things going for you.” To which I’d say – I look in the mirror and I still see the girl that everyone ridiculed in middle school, the girl that got picked on in high school, the girl who never fit in or found her “home” in college. So many times I’ve wanted to run away from it all. Not to be dramatic, but legitimately because of this sense that things would never improve, that no one in my world would ever really like me, and that I would never be anyone’s best friend. And the latter is likely true because, at this point, I’m terrified to get remotely close enough to anyone to ever have a best friend. Because I have never understood the seemingly universal hatred people have for me – even before I was the person I am now, back when the hatred was over spelling tests and shoes – I don’t know how to make things better.
It never mattered how hard I tried to be liked or how hard I tried to be ignored. People always had issues with me, no matter what I did or what the nature of our interactions were. But I’m really not sure what I did to provoke this. I never made out with a friend’s boyfriend or gave someone the silent treatment for a year or cussed a “friend” out in front of the entire sorority. I’m not perfect and I’ve certainly been rude and mean and thoughtless to people at times. But I really don’t think I’ve ever done anything egregious to anyone. And yet I think the girls who’ve spent the most time with me and would appear to outsiders to be my friends would happily never speak to me again.
There were times in college when I thought things were improving. But, really, they were just glimpses of sunlight peeking through the clouds. Although the members of my “friend group” seemed to be united in hatred toward me, something strange would happen when issues arose between them. Suddenly, I’d have many more close friends. They would all come to me to talk and hang out with, as if they suddenly felt this kinship with me and understood what I was going through pretty much every day. But when their problems were resolved, it was back to hatred, dislike, and/or disregard. In other situations, girls would have moments of legitimate shock as words like these came out of their mouths: “Wow, you’re actually a really good friend,” or “Gosh, you were the only one who actually cared enough to email me while I was abroad.” Things like that. And, yet, as soon as those shocked expressions faded and the words had left their lips, it was as if it never happened. The labels people had applied to me and this myth that had been created about what kind of person I was were so strong that even when people would have moments when they realized I’m not actually awful, those realizations weren’t strong enough to change my image.
One day in college, sitting in the family room of my junior year house, one of my closest friends said, “You know, there’s always a Karen in every friend group.” At that moment, everyone looked at me – either overtly with heads spinning or awkwardly out of the corners of their eyes. I had never heard that expression. She then explained that Karen is “that friend” that people keep around but no one actually likes (this is from a Dane Cook stand–up routine). That was devastating. So many times since that day, this mantra of “I’m Karen” has played on loop in my mind when I’ve found myself in social settings. It never fully fades. And it keeps me in this place where I’m afraid to make new friends for fear of being their “Karen.”
I just wish I understood how I became Karen for so many people.
All my life, I have been an unabashed carnivore. Growing up in the Deep South, and specifically spending most of my young adult life in New Orleans, food has been as much a means for survival as it has been a tool for understanding my culture, bonding with others, and generally “having fun.” When I travel, I base my itinerary around restaurant reservations and local delicacies rather than shopping, visiting museums, or seeing “the sights.” As such, the idea of not eating meat – a term that I use to encompass beef, pork, poultry, fish, etcetera – has always been untenable. How would I interact with family and friends? From what would I derive pleasure? How would I truly understand and embrace a particular community or culture without allowing myself to eat anything and everything? Though I was always made to eat my vegetables as a child and love certain vegetables and vegetable-based dishes – broccoli au gratin, spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, creamy lima beans, and so forth – my favorite dishes all contain meat. Some of those favorites are highly personal and deeply linked to happy family memories – my grandma’s gumbo, my dad’s beef daube, my mom’s chicken and lima bean stew. Others are important to the culture in which I was raised – red beans and rice with sausage, shrimp creole, crawfish étouffée, spicy Natchitoches meat pies. And still others have been a part of my romantic relationship – the meatballs with yogurt sauce that my boyfriend is so proud of, his amazing experimental scallops dish, our late-night snack of steak and eggs. Because of all of this, taking meat out of my diet has always seemed like it would be a major obstacle to my most important human relationships and to my very identity. When friends, relatives, and co-workers have gone down the vegetarian path, I’ve always scoffed at them. You don’t actually like frozen veggie burgers and rice with beans. You can’t actually be satisfied by a mixed veggie plate or a salad. Even after watching Food, Inc., reading Fast Food Nation and The End of Food, and hearing my friends’ passionate arguments about forsaking flesh, nothing moved me. That is, until very recently.
I’ve never had a problem with vegetarian or vegan foods. Although I’ve never been compelled to go out of my way for them or adopt them 100%, I’ve had plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes that I quite enjoy. Furthermore, I regularly eat meals that don’t contain meat without making a concerted effort to avoid it. In fact, I was recently introduced to a restaurant in Manhattan called Terri that’s all vegan, and in a quest for a healthy meal one Saturday after a trip to the gym, I popped in for a smoothie. I ended up ordering one of its vegan sandwiches, and it was actually delicious. In the past two months, I’ve returned four or so times. I’ve waxed poetic about it on Yelp. I’ve recommended it to my friends. During one of my visits, I noticed a few paperback books for sale on a shelf to the left of the register. One was The China Study, which I had zero interest in. A few health zealots (including one close friend) have told me about it in the past year, and what I’ve heard has not struck a chord with me. What one scientist says doesn’t really bother me, and effects on my cholesterol and “health,” generally, as a result of eating meat are not a concern, as I appear to be healthy (at the moment). However, the book displayed next to it caught my eye. Titled Eating Animals, it’s written by Jonathan Safran Foer, who I know to be a pretty good, contemporary novelist – maybe Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close wasn’t so critically acclaimed, but his other works have gotten fairly high praise. I read the back of the book and was intrigued – it represents his first foray into nonfiction, but is written from a novelist’s perspective. Nonetheless, I walked out with just a smoothie that day. A few weeks ago, however, while casually browsing a bookstore in Chelsea, I remembered Eating Animals. I asked the gentleman working the register if they had a copy, and since they did, I decided to purchase it. I wasn’t expecting much. Maybe a few salient points to turn the wheels in my brain, but nothing earth shattering – like I said, other books with a similar, anti-meat, anti-factory farming angle didn’t move me tremendously.
I went home and started reading that day. What immediately captured my attention was how much more readable and relatable this book is as compared to The End of Food, which had presented such a deluge of statistics and facts that I found it hard to digest and, thus, really care. Foer draws upon his own experience debating between a lifestyle as carnivore or omnivore to frame his research into the factory farming industry. He also touches on fishing/shrimping practices, but his focus is certainly on land animals (a category in which I include poultry, as they - by and large - cannot fly nowadays). The way he combined hard facts with anecdotal evidence, testimonies from insiders on both sides of the argument, and his own moral and practical struggles made it impossible to put down. He brought up facts that I had read and seen in documentaries, but the presentation was so much more striking.
Not only did it move me on an emotional level, but it also got me thinking actively about my eating choices and the impact that they have on the environment, economy, human health, and general way of life in the U.S. Sure, his opening bit comparing eating certain animals to eating other animals - cows versus dogs - and comparing animals more broadly to humans - what’s the real difference? - seemed like the same old silly schtick that people, including myself, tend to chalk up to sensationalism. However, once he really got going - started layering facts over top of interviews, explorations, personal memories, and so forth - I was completely engrossed. I can’t do the 267 pages of text justice in a blog post, but I’ll try to recap some of the more poignant facts and comments from the book here (everything below is a direct quote from the book unless bracketed). I’ve more or less ignored all of the moving discussions regarding animal cruelty because, though I find those points critical to my own stance on eating animals, they can be more subjective, whereas I’ve tried to focus on important objective points. Still though, everyone should read the book themselves to draw their own conclusions, find the parts that speak to them, and understand the message holistically.
- Common Farming Exemptions make legal any method of raising farmed animals so long as it is commonly practiced within the industry. In other words, farmers - corporations is the right word - have the power to define cruelty. If the industry adopts a practice - hacking off unwanted appendages with no painkillers, for example… - it automatically becomes legal.
- To be considered free-range, chickens raised for meat must have “access to outdoors,” which, if you take those words literally, means nothing. (Imagine a shed containing thirty thousand chickens, with a small door at one end that opens to a five-by-five dirt patch…) The USDA doesn’t even have a definition of free-range for laying hens and instead relies on producer testimonials to support the accuracy of these claims.
- My note: Based on the wealth of shocking undercover footage we’ve seen from factory farms where conditions differ vastly and in the most horrific ways from factory reports and even “independent auditor” reports, I would think that this guarantees us nothing.
- According to the USDA, “fresh” poultry has never had an internal temperature below 26 degrees or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Fresh chicken can be frozen…and there is no time component to food freshness. Pathogen-infested, feces-splattered chicken can technically be fresh, cage-free, and free-range, and sold in the supermarket legally (the shit does not need to be rinsed off first).
- My note: Further below is an explanation as to how “pathogen-infested, feces-splattered chicken” could possibly be sold legally.
- At a slaughterhouse in West Virginia that supplies KFC, workers were documented tearing the heads off live birds, spitting tobacco into their eyes, spray-painting their faces, and violently stomping on them. These acts were witnessed dozens of times. This slaughterhouse was not a “bad apple,” but a “Supplier of the Year.” Imagine what happens at the bad apples when no one is looking.
- Why is taste, the crudest of our senses, exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses? If you stop and think about it, it’s crazy. Why doesn’t a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to killing and eating it? It’s easy to dismiss that question but hard to respond to it. And how would you judge an artist who mutilated animals in a gallery because it was visually arresting?…Try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals.
- My note: I think it’s fair to make this point about killing animals in order to satisfy “taste,” as humans do not need to eat animals for survival. There are plenty of other ways to get fat and protein - as the ADA pointed out in a 2009 study, vegetarians and vegans “meet and exceed requirements” for protein - even athletes. And, to raise enough animals to feed the world’s population, we will have to dramatically deplete our grain resources in order to feed the animals.
- On average, Americans eat the equivalent of 21,000 entire animals in a lifetime [based on USDA statistics].
- Scientific studies and government records suggest that virtually all (upwards of 95 percent of) chickens become infected with E. coli (an indicator of fecal contamination) and between 39 and 75 percent of chickens in retail stores are still infected. Around 8 percent of birds become infected with salmonella…seventy to 90 percent are infected with another potentially deadly pathogen, campylobacter. Chlorine baths are commonly used to remove slime, odor, and bacteria. Of course, consumers might notice that their chickens don’t taste quite right…but the birds will be injected…with “broths” and salty solutions to give them what we have come to think of as the chicken look, smell, and taste. (A recent study by Consumer Reports found that chicken and turkey products, many labeled as natural, “ballooned with 10 to 30 percent of their weight as broth, flavoring, or water.”)
- Once upon a time, USDA inspectors had to condemn any bird with…fecal contamination. But about thirty years ago, the poultry industry convinced the USDA to reclassify feces so that it could continue to use…automatic eviscerators. Once a dangerous contaminant, feces are now classified as a “cosmetic blemish.”
- [After slaughter and processing,] chickens go to a massive refrigerated tank of water, where thousands of [dead] birds are communally cooled…By immersing clean, healthy birds in the same tank with dirty ones, you’re practically assuring cross-contamination. While a significant number of European and Canadian poultry processors employ air-chilling systems, 99 percent of US poultry producers have stayed with water-immersion systems and fought lawsuits from both consumers and the beef industry to continue the outmoded use of water-chilling. It’s not hard to figure out why. Air-chilling reduces the weight of a bird’s carcass.
- …in 1995, when the [FDA] approved fluoroquinolones - such as Cipro - for use in chickens against the protest of the [CDC], the percentage of bacteria resistant to this powerful new class of antibiotics rose from almost zero to 18 perfect by 2002. A broader study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed an eightfold increase in antimicrobial resistance from 1992 to 1997, and, using molecular subtyping, linked this increase to the use of antimicrobials in farmed chickens.
- The primary ancestor of the recent H1N1 swine flu outbreak originated at a hog factory farm in…North Carolina, and then quickly spread throughout the Americas.
- The typical pig factory farm will produce 7.2 million pounds of manure annually, a typical broiler [poultry] facility will produce 6.6 million pounds, and a typical cattle feedlot 344 million pounds. The GAO reports that individual farms “can generate more raw waste than the populations of some U.S. cities.” All told, farmed animals in the United States produce 130 times as much waste as the human population - roughly 87,000 pounds of shit per second. The polluting strength of this shit is 160 times greater than raw municipal sewage. And yet there is almost no waste-treatment infrastructure for farmed animals…no sewage pipes, no one hauling it away from treatment, and almost no federal guidelines regulating what happens to it.
- Smithfield alone annually kills more individuals hogs than the combined human populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Fort Worth, and Memphis - some 31 million animals. According to conservative EPA figures, each hog produces two to four times as much shit for each American citizen. That means that Smithfield - a single legal entity - produces at least as much fecal waste as the entire human population of the states of California and Texas combined.
- …list of shit typically found in the shit of factory-farmed hogs [includes]: “ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanid, phosphorus, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can make humans sick, including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptococci and giardia”…The impression the pig industry wishes to give is that fields can absorb the toxins in the hog feces, but we know this isn’t true. Run-off creeps into waterways, and poisonous gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide evaporate into the air. When the football field-sized cesspools are approaching overflowing, Smithfield, like others in the industry, spray the liquefied manure onto fields.
- My note: Why are people not thinking more about this when we see salmonella and E. coli outbreaks in lettuce and other produce? There are really few other ways to explain how produce becomes infected with E. coli.
- …in 1995, Smithfield spilled more than twenty million gallons of lagoon waste into the New River in North Carolina. The spill remains the largest environmental disaster of its kind…The spill released enough liquid manure to fill 250 Olympic-size swimming pools…Smithfield was fined $12.6 million…[the] company that now grosses $12.6 million every ten hours. Smithfield’s former CEO Joseph Luter III received $12.6 million in stock options in 2001.”
- My note: How is it possible that Americans are so up in arms about banking executives making large bonuses or getting attractive stock compensation packages because of the mortgage crisis and the growing income gap, but no one gives a shit (accidental but not unwelcomed pun) about these factory farming executives getting massive compensation packages when their companies are destroying the very earth we live on, making us sick, and abusing millions and million of animals each year? Do we really care that much more about our bank accounts or the square footage of our homes than we do about our health, the health of our children and loves ones, and the well-being of innocent animals?
There are very interesting discussions throughout the book about the rise of factory farming and the process of genetically modifying animals over time to make them “ideal” for consumption (ideal only if you ignore huge externalities like environmental destruction - both through waste run-off and global warming - human sickness brought on by filthy factory conditions, and growing human resistance to antibiotics due to those found in meat). These passages, however, are too long to be repeated here, but are very much worth the read. There is also quite a bit written about the intelligence of pigs, about the type of communities pigs form, about the changes in the nature of formerly pet-like pigs through rise of the factory farming industry, and about pig slaughter - again, too lengthy to repeat here and, also, sad for me to revisit.
The big question this book created in my mind was this: How have I been aware of all of these facts (and by facts I mean atrocities) on some level for most of my young adult and adult life and not acted on this awareness? Also, how is it that my peers, friends, family members, and so forth demonstrate the same apathy? Frankly, none of us are poor. In fact, most of the people in my life are upper middle class or above. Certainly, we have no need to purchase cheap meat from factory farms. Furthermore, most of us are well-educated and exposed to these issues and facts. So why are we all acting as though these facts don’t matter, that they don’t affect our lives, that we can buy $5 steaks from Kroger and call it a day? Certainly, one can make the argument that one person changing his or her diet won’t change an incredibly broad and powerful industry like the factory farming industry - but that’s just like saying one person’s vote doesn’t count in the presidential election. If we all make that same assumption, no one will vote and, similarly, no one will change his or her eating behavior. In addition, one person’s decision to change or to act can influence those around him or her. So a decision to forgo meat or exclusively eat meat from local, sustainable farms could result in one, two, three, or more people in one’s circle making the same decision. And then it’s a domino effect. Look at, for example, the swift action taken by general consumers in response to the “pink slime” debacle uncovered by The Wall Street Journal on March 15th. By March 22nd, all of the major grocery stores had responded to consumer outcry and either banned meat containing “pink slime,” i.e. lean finely textured beef, or implemented new policies wherein consumers would be able to find out which meat contains “pink slime” and which meat does not. If consumers can force the hands of nearly every major U.S. grocery chain in a matter of one week – including the notoriously stubborn Wal-Mart – think what we can accomplish if we rally against the truly awful, perverse system that is factory farming.
Some people may also make the argument that the factory farming industry is so large and powerful that to try and topple it would be nearly impossible, and even if it were feasible, there would be nothing to replace it with. However, I think it’s important to remember that factory farming as we know it is an incredibly contemporary development. Even 40 years ago, a large percentage of meat came from your local farm – raised, slaughtered, and sold by a member of your own community without any kind of corporate oversight. Returning to that system is not impossible. There are plenty of “family farms” out there - they are just essentially contractors for companies like Tyson (poultry), Smithfield Foods (pork), and National Beef (self evident). In fact, many farmers would be financially better off if they were not being strangled by huge factory farming conglomerates that outsource to them and force them to always cut costs and lower prices – usually at the cost of their livelihoods, the well-being of their workers, and certainly the health and well-being of their animals.
For the past month or so, I have gone primarily vegetarian – though that’s more of a byproduct of not being able to discern where my meat is coming from, as I would eat meat if it was local/sustainable/ethical, etcetera (although Foer points out that there isn’t even enough “…nonfactory chicken produced in America to feed the population of Staten Island and not enough non factory pork to serve New York City, let alone the country.”). I have however, eaten fish and shellfish on a handful of occasions - Foer makes very good points as to why we should either avoid fish/shellfish or select only those that are sustainable, but I’ve found myself in several travel/work dining situations that were prohibitive to vegetarianism. In terms of veganism - that is a lifestyle I don’t think I’d ever be able to conquer. And, anyway, I think (maybe incorrectly) that I’d have an easier time finding dairy and eggs that come from animals that have been treated ethically than I could with meat.
Though I feel that this foray into vegetarianism (maybe I have to say pescetarianism to be fair) has been relatively simple and painless, I fear that much of my sentiment toward this “lifestyle change” is due to the very nature of my current lifestyle. I work 13 plus hours a day. I have worked nearly every weekend since the start of the year. I haven’t seen my parents or any of my family since October/November. I only see my boyfriend every six weeks or so (and that might be generous). So I’m living in a pretty siloed environment in which eating is not a part of my interactions with others. There is no one around with whom food is part of the very fabric of our relationship. When I’m with my boyfriend, or when I go home to New Orleans, or when I’m with my family for holidays, this “lifestyle change” becomes much more challenging. While I’m fully open to eating meat if it is local/sustainable/ethical, that’s not always an option. It’s a realistic option with my mother, but with my father, this demand might produce more of a negative reaction than the simple refusal to eat meat – though that would undoubtedly also result in a heated argument (nevermind that I’m a self-supporting adult). With my boyfriend, though he also likes the idea of eating the type of meat I’d like to restrict my diet to, his budget and generous gifts of Omaha Steaks from his parents don’t make the purchase of local/sustainable/ethical meat possible even half of the time.
So what do I do? Do I inconvenience everyone around me for the sake of the ideals presented in Eating Animals? Do I limit my travel experiences and enjoyment of life, or at least as I’ve defined that for 23 years? Foer agrees that this is where the challenge comes into play. When I’m alone in New York, my “lifestyle change” is not at all problematic. If I had more vegetarians/vegans in my life, it would also be made simpler. But as it stands, I don’t know how successfully I can stick to these seemingly optimistic/romanticized ideals about my diet. I mean, my lord, I’ve even raved to the bf (strangely enough, I always pronounce that as “beef”) about Taco Bell’s new Doritos-shell taco and how much I want to try it – even though the meat found in Taco Bell’s food is one of the best representations of everything that is wrong with factory farming. It’s cheap, low quality, regularly (enough) plagued by E. coli – and by purchasing it, I would only be feeding into the factory farm system and reinforcing the idea that everyone just wants cheap, cheap, cheap meat regardless of environmental impacts, health implications, or animal abuse. Which, interestingly enough, has never been proven to be the case. In fact, the best studies we have indicate that people would willingly sacrifice cheap meat for more ethical and sustainable production.
In 2007, an Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics nationwide telephone survey found that 76% of Americans believe that animal welfare is more important than low meat prices. A 2003 Gallup News Service poll reported that 96% of Americans said that animals deserve legal protection and roughly two-thirds advocated passing “strict laws” regarding animal cruelty in factory farms. Nonetheless, most Americans still happily live as carnivores, and most do not go out of their way to buy meat from sources other than factory farms. In fact, most don’t consider the source of their meat, even if they are implicitly giving their consent to the factory farming industry by purchasing its products.
But to take this stance is to ignore a vast library of research and statistics regarding the externalities of the factory farming industry - the way in which its practices pollute our water and our produce, harm workers and take advantage of the poor and/or of immigrants, bulk up our children with hormones, make us more resistant to critical antibiotics. It is not tremendously hard to change your eating habits when you examine your lifestyle in a box - there are numerous non-meat sources of daily nutritional requirements, even if you don’t live in a big city or have access to organic stores like Whole Foods. And when you examine a vegetarian or humane meat-eating lifestyle in the context of interactions with others - even if it seems difficult at first, your changing ways may inspire those who are close to you and, thus, make it a community movement.
We should all care about this issue - it should rank up there with the budget and with women’s rights. Because even if we balance our budget and ensure that women get the care they need to avoid cancer, complicated pregnancies, and the like - if our world becomes overwhelmed with animal waste, if our food is contaminated, if we can no longer fight off illnesses with antibiotics, and if factory farms give rise to massive epidemics and pandemics, well then the other issues that our government is fighting over won’t mean a thing.
It’s by a brand called Development - I got it about 6 years ago, but maybe they still produce it?
As they say - all good things must come to an end. As must horrible, soul-crushing, cornea-searing travesties.
The outcome of the finale was so utterly unsurprising yet disgusting that I see no need to write a recap. We all knew how the story would end, and yet we’re all saddened by it. No reason to relive it any further. What I do want to relive, however, is The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special that followed the sappy, “You are my forever” proposal. Because where it began and where it ended a mere 43 minutes later was truly mind-boggling. Much more so than any of the other shenanigans in all the years I’ve watched this show (in my view, except perhaps for when that squirrelly little dude dumped one contestant after proposing to her for the other girl that he had jilted).
The Q&A starts off with just Chris Harrison and Ben, who could not be more glib. He must be in the running for Matt Lauer’s spot on Today. Despite his artificially chipper / saccharin behavior, he does at least demonstrate how much more aware he now is of Courtney’s black-heartedness after watching the season. Sadly, his trip down memory lane did not provide him with any awareness as to how tragic his hair is. Instead, it somehow resulted in the decision to grow a patchy, shit-stain beard (okay, JK, I love beards, including Ben’s dirt face). In this Q&A, Ben also reveals how self-involved, immature, and perhaps even sociopathic he truly is. There were glimmers of this all season long, but his responses last night to challenging situations that would otherwise be fraught with complex human emotions were shockingly cold and, well, inhuman. As Lisa Hanawalt put it in a NYMag Vulture post,
Ben behaves like the creepiest camp counselor; he makes out with everyone, tries to keep the peace in the most detached way possible, and women who aren’t 100 percent in love with him by the fifth episode are eliminated…In his interviews Ben says “I could really see myself with this woman,” or “I’m falling in love with this woman.” It sounds like he’s talking about different sandwiches he could see himself ordering…He’s such a blank slate, it’s hard to imagine him having any kind of internal life or off-camera existence.
Ben clearly doesn’t care about how Courtney’s behavior affected the other women and, instead, only talks about how it made things harder for him; he describes how he gave Courney the silent treatment with no shred of emotion, let alone regret or remorse; he shows zero emotions over their break-up; etcetera. And back to the point about him coming across as a sociopath. When confronted with the rumors of his cheating - which were splashed across every tabloid in the past couple of weeks, complete with explicit, photographic evidence - Ben wholeheartedly denied them without even batting an eye. There was certainly no issue with the common, “Methinks thou doth protest too much” scenario that usually arises when someone attempts to deny an obvious truth. He simply closed the book on the idea that he cheated in a matter of seconds, even though there is no way a normal person could deny that they made out with three women when the photos are right in front of them. That’s like when I found a freshly used condom in my sociopathic ex-boyfriend’s room and he stated that he never used it - “It isn’t used, darling!”
Chris Harrison quickly became bored with Ben’s lies and sociopathic tendencies and, thus, within a matter of minutes brought a comparatively hysterical Courtney out to chat. I sort of loved Courtney’s dress - it was like an angelic dominatrix costume. Best of both worlds. Courtney repeats a lot of the self-pittying sentiments from last week, but goes into more detail on the deterioration of her relationship with Ben - which is the first time I’ve ever felt that her emotions were genuine. She was very clipped at first, hiding the tears and general deluge of emotions that soon followed. (I’m obviously describing her outpouring of emotions on a comparative basis with her typical witchiness.)
After no more than five minutes, Chris Harrison summons Ben back on stage - he was all over the place! For once, I found myself actually preferring Courtney to Ben. I don’t care how well he might be able to compartmentalize his feelings. His faux gay attitude was awful and really not becoming on someone with such filthy hair. Similarly, Courtney’s unexpected pandering to Ben was shocking and not becoming on someone who’s typically so headstrong, vocal, etcetera.
Wow. Courtney and Ben’s hair looked very similar. Similarly flippy. So, so weird. Sorry, moving on.
Strangely, I actually think Ben’s lack of emotions may allow them to stay together. Nothing seems to impact him in a meaningful way. So I feel like he could just “be with her,” even if the relationship isn’t fully “right” or “good.” And I think she just needs to save face now by making things work.
When we returned, I’m pretty sure I saw a 20-something-year-old dude wiping away tears. This show does crazy things to people, and not just the participants. Anyway. Chris Harrison cuts to a video of the proposal, which was awful. I want to block Courtney’s awful elbow-length, black day-time gloves out of my memory forever (really forever, not Ben’s version of “forever”). Also. It just reminded me of the emphasis Courtney put on the ring over the proposal / Ben. Which in turn reminded me how horrible and fake she is. God. I’m sorry. I really don’t want to / said I wouldn’t recap the episode / proposal. Back to After the Final Rose.
Ben and Courtney both start crying. Ben is an ugly crier. To lift their spirits, Chris Harrison makes his own proposal. He pulls the gorgeous finale engagement ring out of his pocket, which ABC had confiscated when Ben and Courtney broke up (I adore the corporate element of this love story), and offers it to Ben. I really wanted Chris Harrison to propose to Courtney at that moment. That would have been the most dank ending ever. Scandal! But no. Ben says that he still loves Courtney, and he slips the ring back on her finger. So, in 43 minutes, they’ve gone from semi broken up to engaged again. She responds to this move with a “Thanks, honey,” as if he had just handed her a can of soup she couldn’t reach.
After this touching moment, ABC brought out Ashley and that bald dude from the last Bachelorette to provide the kind of sage relationship advice that only a couple brought together by reality TV could. I hate Ashley’s overly animated, little girl ways. So I turned off the TV.
And, thus, this concludes my recaps of The Bachelor, Season 16. It’s been a ton of fun, even when I wanted to gouge my own eyes out. Thank you all for reading. Hopefully I’ll have a new TV obsession to share in the not-so-distant future.
Let me start by asking a couple of questions. First, since when do a bunch of grown women raise their hands to speak? To be fair, this probably makes since, as most of these rejects aren’t actually grown women - they’re more like PMS-ing middle schoolers whose parents make questionable choices and, thus, allow them to get breast implants at age 14. In any event, this hand raising thing happened about 400 times during last night’s episode, The Bachelor: The Women Tell All. Well, they didn’t really tell all because, apparently, they only spoke when Chris Harrison was so kind as to call on them (ok, let’s be real, they all wound up shouting over each other, but at least they attempted to be “orderly” and “polite” at the beginning).
Second, what in the world was ABC thinking showing us a preview of Bachelor Pad 3 at the outset of this episode? Was the network just trying to send us a message that this season’s “winning couple” will ultimately be a failure? And an epic failure, at that. One that winds up overly botoxed, squeezed into sateen minidresses and Express Men skinny pants, and tonguing strangers’ mouths in Las Vegas. Even Ali is bewildered by this nonsense, and she’s typically eating this kind of publicity shit up (probably given that she lost the chance to get valuable Facebook stock by choosing to pursue an egomaniacal pilot instead of working and, therefore, is likely now broke).
Also - I recognized one of the ex-Bachelor contestants and soon-to-be Bachelor Pad cast member, Erica, from that disastrous VH1 show You’re Cut Off! (this girl always wore a tiara, so she was memorable), but I don’t remember her from The Bachelor. She’s clearly addicted to reality TV. By the way, which season was Lorenzo’s, which she was apparently a contestant on? I obviously have not had a lifelong
addiction to love for The Bachelor (thank god, or else I’d probably be single forever).
Now, on to the real show, The Bachelor: The Women Tell All. Because this show in and of itself is a recap, I pondered what the best way to recap it would be. What I came up with was this - a top
ten eleven quotes list. For each quote, I’ve noted who the speaker is and to whom he or she was directing his or her comment. And, I’ve provided everyone’s real names (with nicknames in parentheses, of course). I just thought that, since this would be the last time I ever write about most of these people, they deserve to be represented by the names their mamas gave ‘em. So, without further ado:
1) Collection of voice-over clips: “Ben is gorgeous…Ben is amazing…Ben is absolutely adorable, his hair is so cute, you just want to eat him up.”
- When Chris Harrison provided an introduction to this montage, himself describing Ben as the “sexy Bachelor,” he looked as though he might actually vomit on stage. Perfectly sums up my reaction to these nonsensical descriptions of Ben’s appearance.
2) Brittney to Chris Harrison: “The first reason why I left was there was no attraction towards Ben, whatsoever.”
- Thank you, Brittney. You are the one honest girl on this show, on Ashley’s season of The Bachelorette, at every gossip magazine and early evening syndicated news program. Now, I sort of wish you hadn’t left so soon because, if not, perhaps we would have gotten more of this delightful candor. By the way, did anyone else notice the girl in the audience reacting to this admission with an incredibly exaggerated display of shock and disgust? Hi-larious.
3) Brittney to Samantha (Beauty Queen): “First of all, you are like the chihuahua of the house. You just don’t stop talking. You just don’t stop talking! Shut up. God, she is so annoying. Just shut up.”
- Ok, now I’m really impressed. How does the girl who bailed on episode three get two of the best lines of the night? She’s honest, ballsy, and unfiltered. I love it. Good for her that she had the guts and self-awareness to get off of this train before it crashed and burst into a ball of fire (like most other Bachelor seasons do).
4) Shawntel to Chris Harrison: “That was only the second time I’ve watched it. I muted it a lot when I watched it the first time.”
- Only the second time you watched it? I bet. Also, she says that as if it would be perfectly normal to just watch this on a loop for days. If I were her, I would have watched it once but with my eyes closed instead of on mute. I wouldn’t want to see my own, tragic, scrunched-up face and smeared eyeliner.
5) Emily (PhD) to Chris Harrison: “You’re clouding your own mind because you’re just thinking about sex, you’re not thinking about a relationship anymore.” - to which Chris Harrison responded, “I think you have figured out men…the secret is out.”
- Emily also had some great lines tonight. She’s obviously the most confident, intelligent, and well-educated one in the group. Makes me wonder why she ever signed on for this show. Perhaps it was some secret research for her doctoral program. In any case, thank you for coming out and saying what we’ve all been thinking - Ben and Courtney have a connection based on sex. To be fair though, studies have shown that the chemicals released in our brains through sexual contact and/or orgasm give us the feeling of being “in love,” so Ben’s deeper emotions for Courtney as compared to the other girls - even if totally a byproduct of sex - are not actually surprising or unreasonable.
6) Emily (PhD) to Chris Harrison: “Does Courtney know love? Does she have a heart? I don’t think so. It could have been Joe Schmo sitting in the seat and Courtney would have done her damnedest to make sure she got a rose.”
- Another very accurate assertion by Emily. I appreciate how nicely she did last night in clearly articulating what is on everyone else’s minds. Even the other girls get that she is their figurehead. She knows how to represent “the people.” She’s like the Obama of The Bachelor.
7) Chris Harrison to Courtney: “The women are understandably pissed. I mean pissed. At you.”
- Yihhhhh, Chris Harrison. You tell her want a cunty cunt she is. I’m not sure why Chris Harrison even pretends to be an unbiased observer; he’s so much more entertaining when he lets his true feelings shine through. Like when he called Casey out on her back-home boyfriend.
8) Courtney to, well, no one in particular: “I’m going through real emotions and I don’t like being torn apart, my family, my friends in the tabloids…I’m sorry for hurting Ben.”
- Straight from the horse’s mouth (and, no, not Lindzi’s mouth, to be clear). Everything I said last week about her apologies to Ben being hollow have just been proven. While “apologizing” to the girls, all she actually did was feel sorry for herself and her family and halfheartedly apologize to Ben, who never actually experienced her cruelty and heinousness (at least not during filming, anyway).
9) Ben to Chris Harrison: “Welcome to my nightmare.”
- How did this not scare you away from doing the show at all? You are an idiot man-child.
10) Jennifer (Accountant) to Chris Harrison: “I go home and I’m like, really? Like, I went home and he’s considering taking Blakeley home to his mom? Like, no offense [Blakeley].”
- This is a prime example of why saying “No offense” at the end of a ridiculously offensive statement is just unnecessary. It’s not as though once you say, “But no offense,” anyone forgets about everything you said preceding that.
11) Nicki (Southern Alcoholic) to Ben: “I will back that you are the best man I’ve ever met in my life. 100% until I die.”
- Nicki needs to get out more. That’s all I can say to this one.
As a parting note - more potential Bachelors should watch this episode each season. It will turn them off to the show, and perhaps to women, forever.
I’m so glad I finally found the perfect dress for my macabre / Tombstone / fetish-themed dream wedding.
Last week, I took an inadvertent vacation from The Bachelor (not as exciting as any of their vacations, sadly) due to Time Warner Cable’s utter incompetence. However, it ended up being a blessing in disguise. With my job keeping me awake literally 24-hours a day, I didn’t need the added stress that is brought on by watching The Bachelor. This week, however, my workload has begun to lighten a bit, so I figured I might as well supplant my newfound shortage of work-related stress with Bachelor stress.
I did, actually, watch last week’s episode - or some of it - and I have to say that I am just shocked that Ben sent Kacie B. home. Sure, she acted totally crazy in her post-rejection, backseat interview (“What the fuck happened?!”), but she was still the prettiest contestant and the one who most genuinely cared for him. Yes, her family was unsure of the situation. But that was a good and very normal stance. Ben should have respected that. But, no, he kept Horsey, who literally said at one point last week, “Vulnerable - that’s such a big word for me!” And don’t even get me started on Courtney. If Ben wasn’t scared away by the fact that Khloe Kardashian is her sister - meaning that he and Courtney will likely have hilarious but utterly trollicious children together - then he’s far more idiotic than I gave him credit for previously.
So tonight, we’re down to our last three ladies. I love this episode, as the dates involve a trip to the “Fantasy Suite” - which is made even more entertaining by the nonsensical notion that the Bachelor has to give each woman an invitation to this suite. As if he won’t jump on the chance to take each woman back to his room (ha, pun). I have to imagine the producers had a big chuckle when they threw out that idea - they probably didn’t think it would actually get used on the show. It’s one of those situations where intelligent, snarky people make a joke that, sadly, the more “dense” folks around them, such as those who they cast on this show, take seriously.
I am incredibly thankful that this episode takes place in Switzerland, as I imagine the weather might be better for Ben’s hair than that in the tropical nations in which they’ve been spending their time up until now. But, no matter, Ben already ruined his image in the opening sequence with his stupid, jenky bow tie. At the end of the episode overview, we get a preview of the upcoming Bachelorette season. This dumb bitch. She must be the worst mother ever. She left her daughter once to “find love,” and now she’s leaving her again? This poor little girl is going to have the worst separation anxiety and fears of abandonment as she gets older.
In any case, back to the real show. It struck me that, at this point, I actually know all of these remaining girls’ names. But I like their nicknames better, so I’ll stick with those. Even though Lindzi with a “z” is so ridiculous that it practically nullifies the need for a nickname.
In his opening interview, Ben explains when he started falling for the girls:
1) Southern Alcoholic - On the date where she described not only the failure of her first marriage, but also, her mixed feelings about her ex and about marriage in general
2) Horsey - The hometown date, where Ben awkwardly attempted to ride a horse
3) Courtney - When she
gave him genital lice fucked him
Ben also continues to describe Courtney as being “weird” and “nerdy.” Let’s not forget that this is the girl who (A) earns a living modeling and (B) is openly disdainful of people who are “book smart.” Ben is “worried” about the way Courtney may or may not treat the other women. Yeah right. There won’t be other women around to whine about her when his p is in her v, so I doubt he really cares. Well, unless shelets him act out his full teenage boy fantasies - then there might be some other girls around.
A commercial for The Titanic comes on. I can’t help but think this will be how Ben’s relationship works out if he chooses Courtney. Except, unlike Rose, she won’t even try to keep him from drowning. She’ll just hold his head under water and then keep the door to herself for survival.
Anyway, the first date is with Southern Alcoholic - and there’s a helicopter ride! I can’t even be upset about this anymore. I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship with the helicopter. I’m just so numb to its ways. Okay, I’m sorry, but does this girl not know how much more attractive she is than Ben? She could literally do so much better. And, honestly, this good ole Southern girl isn’t going to be happy with the nerdy, faux-hipster winemaker. She’s just looking to fill the gap that her failed marriage left and get some sort of reassurance that, even though she lost a husband, she can literally win a new one. She says she doesn’t just love Ben, but can also see a life with him. Come on, honey, all of us can imagine playing house. I’m pretty sure studies have proven that most women fantasize about getting married to a guy on their first date.
These conversations between Ben and Southern Alcoholic are getting too serious. I’m bored. Southern Alcoholic does make a funny comment, however, about how she can’t believe they were just in Sonoma and San Fran - that’s because it was, like, 3 weeks ago. Also, she says she doesn’t want to get too serious with him - to which he says, “Well, you already dropped the l-bomb.” So that should be reassuring. They start talking about kids. Blechk. Fast forward. As I did so, I found myself saying, “You’re stupid. You’re so stupid,” over and over again to the TV. This girl’s pathetic, head-over-heels behavior and open willingness to make innumerous compromises for Ben without asking for literally anything in return makes me embarrassed to be a woman. Ben says she exudes confidence, even though all she’s doing is trying to placate him in any way possible. Which means his comment is clearly in reference to her ginormous, shirt-escaping breasts.
I then fast forwarded through the hot tub scene. Where I found myself saying to the TV, “Stop talking! Just bone!” Southern Alcoholic never shuts up.
Okay, time for the date with Horsey! Her hair looks like shit. I’m sorry. Those highlights are just atrocious. It’s one color on top of a dark base. No variation. No highlights and lowlights. Just garish yellow stripes on dark brown hair. Sick. They are practically neon, especially in the sunlight. Oh, and their date involves something with heights and facing fears. Neat. I guess they couldn’t arrange jumping from a helicopter in straitjackets with ten-pound weights chained to their ankles on such short notice.
There are some sheep and a hot tub. Horsey keeps saying the word “vulnerable.” She clearly invested in a dictionary since last week (or, since yesterday, if we’re going by Bachelor time). Again, stop fucking talking and just hook up. Ben does not care about what you want to say. He doesn’t want to hear about your emotions. No guy does. Just give him a little handy. It’s so clear what exactly Ben is thinking about slash what he actually wants from Horsey given that he immediately starts talking about wanting to give her an invitation to the Fantasy Suite (in his voice-over, to be clear) - but he says he fears that they won’t reach the “vulnerable state” they need to in order to get there. Don’t worry, dolly, those horse tranquilizers you packed will probably be sufficient.
Time for dinner. Horsey looks like a 37-year-old hooker from Arkansas. Ben’s bow tie is just too much for me to put into words. I’d need another day or so to fully articulate how fucking awful and stupid he looks at this moment. Serious chats. Blah blah blah. Fast forward. Oh! She wants to give Ben “all of [her].” Annnnnd, Fantasy Suite invite! Cha-ching! God damn, the embarrassing admissions on this show make me wish this was filmed during Prohibition - giving these bitches alcohol is like bringing crack cocaine into Promises. Once in the hotel room, we get a quick shot of Ben mounting Horsey (god, I’m so full of puns tonight) and doing things to her. We also see her butt, which was strange for cable TV. Those horse tranquilizers must have worked better than Ben expected!
Finally, time for the third date - and it’s the Courtney show! She recaps last week’s mock wedding and vows. How that shit didn’t get her sent home, I’ll never know. Reminds me of Ashley on The Bachelorette last season. Didn’t Ben learn anything from watching that? I fast forwarded through the “intimate train ride” - has this guy never travelled via New Jersey Transit? Not so intimate. Ben and Courtney play “Hey cow!” Which is actually kind of cute. I don’t like that someone as demonic as Courtney gets invited to play a cute little game with cows. I wish they would have charged her.
Ben and Courtney have a serious and much needed talk about what a pernicious bitch Courtney is. Not even worth recapping. You could all have scripted it yourselves. Afterward, Courtney acts remorseful - but really, she just doesn’t want to lose. It’s like what Rhett Butler said to Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind: “You’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he stole but is terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.”
Courtney sucks up hard core at dinner, and we all know some literal sucking is going to follow. She plays the victim and talks so much that Ben has no room to get a word in - so he can’t challenge her or pose any difficult questions and is generally forced to just accept whatever bullshit she’s spoon-feeding him. She says she’d do things differently from the start if given the opportunity - but we all know that is just a crock of shit. Also, giving Ben an apology is meaningless - you have to apologize to the person or people you directly hurt, not to some third party. Her apologize is hollow and cowardly.
Fantasy suite time! There’s a hot tub made out of a barrel and some dry humping. Fast forward.
Ohmahgawd - preview for The Bachelorette. I own Emily’s trench coat! This will be the highlight of the episode for me - and I can’t even understand why that is. Bitch says that her daughter is her world, but I can’t imagine that’s true given that she’s left her for two extremely long periods of time just to hook up and go on dates.
Anyway. Back to The Bachelor. Ben is all happy and gleeful - especially after his night with Courtney - and he feels like he’s nearing a decision. But then, uh oh, drama!!! Of. Course. The Bachelor brings Kacie B. back to have a sit down with Ben. Or did she just do this of her own volition. Either way, I’m excited. I hope she’s coming to tell him she’s pregnant with his child. LOL. That would be too much drama, even for The Bachelor. I absolutely love that Ben is dressed in a denim-ish shirt and skinny tie - like a high school chemistry teacher - while just hanging out in his room. Kacie B. says she’s come all this way just for answers. Um, isn’t that what texting and email is for? Ben explains that they are just worlds apart - which is completely true of both Kacie B. and Southern Alcoholic. They will both be happy at the end of the day when they aren’t with Ben. He isn’t right for either of them. But it’s hard to see that through the veil of rejection. It isn’t heartbreak they’re dealing with. It’s the resulting loss of confidence and the self-doubt associated with a break-up. Kacie B. needs to not start trying to compromise the elements of herself and her life that made Ben send her home in the first place, but I know that’s what’s about to happen. It’s what girls do. It’s probably just generally what people do when they’re broken up with. I know. I’ve lived through it. Although I will say, part of growing up is realizing that you should never compromise (in a life-altering way, at least) for a relationship - because the right one won’t require that. Real love won’t force you to change yourself or your life dramatically just to “fit” with the other person. Kacie B. is just about my age, so I understand why she hasn’t figured this out yet, or at least begun to live by these truths.
Then, Kacie B. starts harping on Courtney. So, that’s maybe one way to play this. I mean, she has nothing to lose at this point - so why not. She pretends to be doing this for noble reasons, though she must know that Ben and everyone else can see right through that (she doesn’t even seem convinced that she’s saying this to “protect” Ben). Because I already know this conversation isn’t going to go in her favor and isn’t going to change the fact that Ben picks Courtney, I almost don’t need to watch this.
Finally, Ben kicks Kacie B. out. She collapses on the floor. Didn’t your mother ever teach you that you never lay on hotel floors? They are filthy. As are the remote controls, according to my boyfriend, who actually washes them before use - as I recently discovered.
Rose ceremony! So, so excited. Mostly because it means this dumb fucking show is almost done for the year - I don’t watch The Bachelorette. Ben whines to Chris about how confused he is after the arrival of Kacie B. He’s mostly upset because it’s forcing him to use a larger portion of his brain than normal in order to make a decision. And - what the fucking shit? How do you pick Horsey over Southern Alcoholic? Horsey has an IQ of roughly 97 and looks like she was ridden hard and put away wet - fitting, I suppose, given her nickname. I mean, none of these women are really “marriage material,” but at least Southern Alcoholic was attractive. Wow. Ben is going to feel really stupid once he watches the full season and realizes what a huge mistake he made with Courtney.
The end. Thank goodness I have a two week break until the finale. I’m excited that, instead of a helicopter, there’s going to be some kind of snow tram. And the ring Ben picked is insanely gorgeous. Super jelly. Maybe I could cope with his hair for that bad boy. Ha, just kidding. We’d have to have our marriage annulled due to failure to consummate. He’s gross.
Regularly, Time Warner Cable chooses not to record the shows I’ve asked it to, or it shuffles through an entire episode in a matter of minutes, or it records something I’ve never heard of (such as “I Just Want my Pants Back,” which has happened more than once). Today, it choose to record a marathon of the Jersey Shore instead of The Bachelor. I’m actually devastated. I have no outlet for my anger and snark. At least until it becomes available online or On Demand. Damn you to hell, Time Warner Cable! I hope everyone will come back in a few days for the recap.
There are few cities more deserving of the description “cosmopolitan” than New York (Manhattan, specifically). Why, wasn’t it Sex and the City, which was based here in Manhattan, that popularized the drink of that same name? In a nominal sense, the adjective “cosmopolitan” is meant to represent a person or place that has “…worldwide rather than limited or provincial scope or bearing” or “…wide international sophistication,” or is “composed of persons, constituents, or elements from all or many parts of the world.” Certainly, New York fits those descriptions. In my opinion, there is no other city in the U.S. where you can eat whatever you’ve ever craved, drink whatever has ever tickled your fancy, or do whatever you could have ever imagined doing (to be fair, I haven’t spent a great deal of time in Chicago or Los Angeles - to name just two competitors). New York can offer you every cuisine, every form of the arts and humanities, every professional sport, and much, much more. It may be lacking in the nature department – unless, of course, you find Central Park, the High Line, and other outdoor areas to be sufficient – but it provides easy access by plane, train, bus, or boat to many nearby areas that couldn’t feel less urban and yet are no more than an hour away.
However, the above may represent a superficial examination of how “cosmopolitan” New York truly is – one that a visitor or newcomer might make. Once you spend more time here in the city, you realize that it doesn’t actually offer everything for everyone and, frankly, isn’t always as “ahead of the curve” as one would expect it to be. I love living here, don’t get me wrong, and I very much appreciate all that New York has to offer, even when I am forced to “accept” many of its “quirks” (please read a friend’s hilarious description of the real estate scene, for example). Still though, there are moments where I just cannot understand why things are the way they are here. As such, I’d like to detail some of my “What the fuck, New York?” moments. This list is constantly growing and thus is by no means comprehensive, but I just felt it prudent to point out some of these things now as a way of (A) ranting and keeping myself from murdering someone when they happen and (B) letting others considering moving here know about some of the city’s drawbacks (not including the rodents, bed bugs, and general filthiness):
1) Why does it take 200 years for taxi receipts to print? The speed at which this rather pithy receipt is printed leads me to believe that inside of the “printer” is actually a tiny little elf pounding out letters on a miniature typewriter. Every time I have to ask for a receipt, I literally feel my anxiety level increase ten-fold.
2) Why doesn’t Seamless let me input my own tip amount on my order right down to the exact penny I’d like to give? This is not a New York-specific problem, but given that Seamless was founded and is headquarted here, I’ll make it one. Really, I don’t want to be forced to give someone $2.00 or $2.25. I want to be able to give $2.13, for example. When I use Seamless at work, this is a particularly annoying drawback. I often have to give the delivery man $0.25 less in tip to meet my $25.00 cut off when I’m actually only $0.02 over the limit.
3) Why is there no wireless internet access on the subway? I know the MTA is trying to roll this out, but really, I can’t understand how it’s taking so long. Most of the subways aren’t even that far underground. By the time they get WiFi access in the subways, the world will probably have moved on to some other internet connectivity technology, like tiny satellites implanted in our brains.
4) Why is the city becoming so stingy with taxi medallions? Once upon a time, I could get a taxi anywhere, anytime. Except maybe in the rain. Now, it can be 7:30pm on Friday in Murray Hill and I’ll be standing on the street corner looking like I’m hooking for a solid 10 minutes. Often times, I have to walk all the way to First Avenue in order to catch a taxi coming into the city from Queens.
5) Why can’t I find more “unhealthy” foods? Yes, I get it, everyone in New York has a mild to severe eating disorder. Stores practically don’t stock any sizes above a 6. I mean, really, New York is a great place to shop if you’re skinny because stores probably have extra stock in your size – as opposed to in other cities, where it’s a one-and-done king of deal in sizes 0-4. In any case, sometimes, I just want to buy a frozen pie. Or Hostess snack cakes. And if I want to do that, I more or less have to leave Manhattan and go to another borough.
6) Why can’t I drink before noon on Sundays? Sure, I’ll admit that New York’s liquor laws aren’t terrible (unless, of course, you compare them to the laws in my wonderful home state of Louisiana), but that puts many brunch-goers in an awkward position. If you want to have brunch at a real brunch time, let’s say 11:00 or 11:30, instead of at a hungover, half-the-day-is-already gone time, you’ll be at least halfway through your meal before you can get your mimosa (or, as I like to order, champagne with a splash of orange juice).
7) Why are there so many Irish bars? I just can’t understand why there aren’t more chill hang out spots or sports bars that don’t have a “Mc__” or “O’__” in the name. I know there was a pretty strong Irish immigrant presence in New York back in the day – but, in those times, the Irish neighborhoods were not centered around modern-day Midtown. So why is there a dearth of non-Irish bars around my home and office?
8) Why are there so few good, middle-of-the-road boutiques? I don’t get to go shopping as much as I would like, but from what shopping I have done, I’d have to say that there is an unacceptably large gap in price and quality in the spectrum of boutiques here. Of course, you have your extremely high-end designer stores – both mainstream and “up and coming.” Then, you have the cheesy boutiques that carry no-name clothing that’s barely a notch above Forever 21 quality. I need a boutique with a selection of brands like Yumi Kim, Parker, Equipment, mason by Michelle Mason, Milly, Rory Beca, and the like – somewhere that I can find cute going-out and date dresses/outfits that I won’t be bankrupted by or ashamed of in two months. Bloomingdales or the 5th Floor at Saks can usually do the trick, but those stores are just too big and make me feel overwhelmed (especially when perfume salespeople literally chase me down and spray crap on me).
Despite these gripes, I have no problem admitting how happy I am to be living in New York. I wholeheartedly believe that there is no better city in which one can learn to be a “real adult.” So, if I have to spend an extra 25 seconds in a cab or wait until 1:00pm to have brunch, well then that’s OK. Maybe not forever, but certainly for a while longer.
I actually hope that more people make the choice to put up with the oftentimes ridiculousness of Manhattan - the overpriced rent, the surly people, the hyper-trendy restaurant and bar scene - to reap the rewards of living here. So much so, in fact, that I hope my future daughter (if I’m so lucky) chooses to come here, too. And then I can crash on her couch, go shopping, eat delicious food, and so forth. Ha, who am I kidding. I’m staying at a hotel.