What Makes Us Feel Better When We’re Sad?

Everyone has a favourite activity for when they’re mildly depressed. For some, it’s huddling in bed with a comforter pulled up around their ears to shield against this cruel world; for others, it’s donning neon underwear and blasting “Deceptacon” for an impromptu bedroom dancing party.

My own ministrations involve watching old episodes of Freaks and Geeks I’ve already seen at least four times, soothing myself with the familiarity. (If I need a quick hit of joy, it’s straight to Youtube to watch a 47-second clip of Bill Haverchuck stutter “You cut me off mid funk!”) When that’s not working, I go watch videos of Michael Clark. For the unitiated who may not share my interest in post-punk and wacky outfits—Michael Clark is the apotheosis of the two combined. He was the enfant terrible of 1980s contemporary dance and you can watch old videos of him leaping gracefully along to the jagged guitar screeches of The Fall in ass-baring leotards or polka dot face paint. And now that it’s November, I’ll surrender to the sweeping melancholy of the Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs and let the music seep into my listless limbs.

The point is, no one is immune to getting the mean reds, the SADs, the abject paralyzing fear of continuing to live your own life. No matter what you want to call it we all have our own unique ways of coping with the world when everything turns to shit, and I’ve made it my mission to collect some of the “sadness routines” of some of my favourite people on the Internet and IRL.

So here’s to buying an entire box of Hallowe’en candy for yourself and eating it while watching The Craft. Here’s to buying overpriced essential oils and pouring them in the bath. Here’s to putting your socks in the microwave to warm your feet. And most of all, here’s to allowing ourselves to wallow and assuage our guilt with the knowledge that hopefully soon we’ll feel temporarily a little bit better.

Black Girls Don’t Read Sylvia Plath

It was another muggy summer, the summer I discovered Plath. If I had discovered her legacy later in life, it may have served as a calming revelation, the meat of hindsight. Wonderment not as thorny and beloved.

I discovered Plath through the typical girlhood grapevine: a slumber party. A friend who looked like Stevie Nicks circa Rumors but had suited up in detail-heavy riot girrl gear mentioned Sylvia Plath. She had just finished The Bell Jar. She wanted to know if I had read it. She casually said, like a cowboy flicking a cigarette stub to the side, I think you’d like it.

A Really Bad Month

A Reasonable Conversation About Taylor Swift’s New Album, Which Is The Best Album Ever

JEN VAFIDIS: HI JANE. There is a new Taylor Swift album out today, and it is already totally undeniable. The first single is a #1 hit, the second single was #1 on iTunes within 10 minutes of its release, and Taylor has been teasing us via Instagram about these new songs for what seems like years. It’s only been a few weeks, but still. I love her, you love her, let’s talk about her.

JANE HU: When I tell people that 1989 is going to get me through the rest of 2014, I’m 100% not exaggerating. Even though the three pre-releases have really sent some MIXED SIGNALS about the feel of the album, T-Swift has never let me down before. I adore this album, but the leading track actually had me a little worried for a moment!

VAF: I hate the first song on this album, and I have a feeling you also don’t love it. But maybe I am wrong?

Reviews of Store Catalogs

The J. Peterman Company: Owner’s Manual No. 121 By John Peterman The J. Peterman Company, 74 pp., $0.00

Not long ago, I spent an afternoon in a sparsely populated cafe on the bank of the Seine with an older gentleman, an Ernest Hemingway-type in rolled-up sleeves. His chief claim to fame was that he’d successfully wooed Audrey and Marilyn in the 1960s, but while the glamor of his private life eclipsed his public travails, he’d been busying accomplishing more than his fair share of success in life—or should I say exactly his fair share; when you meet the man it becomes immediately clear that he runs on only a dash of luck generously greased by a certain European charm and personality—and today his résumé includes climbing Mount Everest wearing only a motorcycle jacket and adopting a coterie of displaced polar bears from southern Alaska, which he raised as his own children. We’d been talking for three hours before I realized I wasn’t in a weathered cafe off the Seine at all: I was in a small room in my own home—my bathroom—reading a J. Peterman catalog.

Self-Care, in Theory and Practice

This column has a singular purpose: to talk to single women about navigating a world where they are their own savior.

I’ve fluctuated between dating a few men after the end of a fairly significant relationship. After sleeping with people who, I learned, were ultimately uninterested in me (and generally incapable of thinking of anything other than themselves) I realized I desperately needed to focus on me. All me. All the time. I had never done that. I was scared, as a lot of women often are, to explore what existed in the great abyss—me. I realized how much I relied on others telling me that I was pretty, so I began to depend, a surfeit amount, on other people’s opinions of myself in general, putting emphasis on their assumptions over mine.

After months of self hate and destruction, I knew I needed to learn how to be better. But self-love was this weird concept. I was aware of what it meant but had never interacted with it; I thought it too audacious a commitment. Then I began reading: Susan Sontag, Eartha Kitt, Ruth Asawa—all of these women who I admired, who had also battled with self-care. One of my favorite writers, Jean Rhys, was a raging alcoholic. I used them as examples to be and not be at the same time. I wanted to tap into whatever greatness I knew existed inside of me so I could be happy with myself. Self-love can mean whatever, to whoever.

The Best Time “I” “Climbed” Kurt Cobain’s Fence

People raised in East Coast cities often ask me what it was like growing up up in Idaho, a state they incorrectly perceive to be part of the Midwest and correctly perceive to be rural, fresh-smelling, and home to a populace as white as peeled potatoes. Sometimes I tell a story about the first week of seventh grade, when a middle school neo-Nazi student threw a chair at me. He was assigned to a seat across the table from where Ben and I sat in art class and slashed large graphite swastikas onto his drawing pad for our benefit. Ben, who was Jewish, and therefore the only other person in our class not descended from solid-limbed Rocky Mountain Protestant stock, was a friend of sorts; we rode the same bus. It was through Ben that I began eating lunch with a group of punks, and it was these punks who, upon learning of the art class assault, would arrange to beat up the Nazi in the soccer field after school.

Ghosts Of My Youth

The first ghost story I ever heard was from my mother. She described how once, while sleeping in an upstairs bedroom in her sister’s house, she woke to the feeling of twin icicles curling around her ankles. They were hands, but she didn’t see a body, exactly. More like an abstract interpretation of a body, female, crouched at the foot of the bed. It yanked once, hard, and she opened her pink teenaged mouth and screamed, causing it to let go and vanish. The details shift uneasily when she retells this story—sometimes there is a horrible, unseasonal rainstorm beating the roof, sometimes she is 15, or 17. But these two details remain the same: The bed belonged a dead woman and she never went into that portion of the house again.

There’s a lot of paranormal activity in my family. Whether it is more than most other families is hard to say, but we seem to have more than most. During holidays and family events, after the adults wander into the kitchen to drink coffee or head off to bed, us cousins gather in some remote part of the house and talk about the things that go bump in the night. These are our heirlooms, a series of signals and omens that help us make sense of each other and our shared family history, which is by turns strange, mysterious and murky. These stories open up a portal to the parts of life that don’t seem to make much sense but as still just as real as the rest of it. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that sometimes a ghost isn’t always a ghost. Sometimes, telling a ghost story is a way to talk about something else present in the air, taking up space beside you. It can also be a manifestation of intuition, or something you’ve known in your bones but haven’t yet been able to accept. But sometimes a ghost is exactly what it is—a seriously fucking scary spirit.

How to Have a Dinner Party

1. Invite people who believe in food. A dinner party will be much more successful if everyone there believes that food really exists. Remember, it just takes one food skeptic to ruin the party. Also, don’t invite anyone who is afraid of food.

2. Ask your guests to prepare questions. Preparing questions in advance will give the dinner party more structure. However, guests should not expect to receive clear, straightforward answers to their questions since food does not communicate in the same way that people communicate. Also, you may want to ask your guests to bring photographs of their own food – it helps to make connections.

3. Create a food-friendly atmosphere. Choose a quiet, dimly-lit room with a round or oval shaped table. Light candles, since food is attracted to heat and light. Begin your dinner party near midnight.

4. Ask your guests if they’re ready to participate in the dinner party. It’s normal for people to giggle nervously, but if anyone looks genuinely afraid, you may want to ask them to leave. Encourage your guests to relax and hold hands. Soft chanting can help.

5. Summon the food.

Do You Have Impostor Syndrome?

Last week, I had a piece published in the New Yorker. Aside from getting my first job and meeting Nora Ephron’s editor (he said I had a “very similar spirit” to her), seeing my name in the New Yorker was, easily, the happiest moment of my life.

But it wasn’t until the second or third draft of this post that I actually wrote all of that—”I had a piece published in the New Yorker“— out; I didn’t “do a thing” or “have something weird happen to me,” as I wrote in previous versions of the sentence. People would ask how it happened, and I’d shrug and say, “I just got very lucky.” Nope!!! I worked hard. I wrote a piece that I’m really proud of, and I should own it. I should be proud of it. I should SAY it. Why was I so hesitant to do that?

Texts from Mallory Ortberg

Whenever I have an idea for something funny to write on the Internet, I have to make sure that it isn’t just something I’ve subconsciously ripped off from writer/webmistress Mallory Ortberg. If there is a joke to be made about anything, chances are Mallory’s already made it, in a both subtle and absurd way that will seep into your brain and stick with you for months.

On November 4th, Henry Holt is publishing Texts from Jane Eyre—a collection based on the series in which Mallory sums up the entire canon of Western literature in a few textual exchanges with great accuracy and even greater lols. Believe it or not, Texts From was spawned on THIS VERY HERE SITE. Buy a copy, then read this interview. Or read this interview and buy a copy. Buy a copy, read this interview, then buy another copy for best results. Anything else you were planning to do today can wait. It was probably dumb anyway.

Mallory! Hi hi hi!

Are you READY? For some harrowing questions that will make you look deep within yourself? Let’s DO THIS. I’m ready to get controversial.