The Wrap, Bill Cosby, & Everyone Is Still The Worst.

About ten thousand years ago, when I was just out of college and struggling to find my niche in LA, I worked a lot of jobs in the backyard offices of wealthy, important people. (Apparently, that is a thing.) One of these people was Sharon Waxman, entertainment journalist, who, at the time, had just published her book Loot, and was starting to conceptualize The Wrap, now a fairly large entertainment site. I was hired on as an assistant, and spent a lot of my time organizing business lunch receipts for expense reports. Sometimes, I think that if I were more enterprising (or less totally terrified of Sharon – or, let’s face it, interested in entertainment journalism AT ALL), I might have been able swing a small job on the fledgling Wrap, which I could have parlayed into a nice writing career in Los Angeles, where I might have one day hired a 21-year-old idiot to shuffle receipt paper around in accordion folders.

Alas, I was not that enterprising or that interested in entertainment journalism (I was an anthropologist!), and I was pretty goddamn terrified of Sharon Waxman, so instead, what happened is that I worked for her in her home office for a few months over a summer and then got another job and started my MA and got married and then hated everything for a long time and then went to Ireland and finished my MA and got divorced and moved to the UK.

To each their own, I suppose.

Anyway, there are still sometimes when I see The Wrap mentioned on other sites and blogs and it reminds of the time when I really could have made it happen. (Real talk: there was no way in hell I was ever going to get hired as a writer for that website. I blew that on my very first day, when I expressed more interest in the subject of Loot, which was about the acquisition of historical art from around the world, than in the process of writing that kind of book.)

Today, however, on Jezebel, my favorite internet rant watering hole, I saw The Wrap mentioned for a reason that made me think less of what a networking failure I am, and more about how terribly gross people can be.

Over the weekend, The Wrap published an op-ed that was originally titled, “The Rape of Bill Cosby.” The first few paragraphs of the op-ed, written by Richard Stellar, are:

Bill Cosby raped me.

Now that I have your attention, consider this: the allegations of sexual misadventure and impropriety that have pummeled the Cos over the last few weeks is not the issue. The issue is the scurrilous environment where media outlets and journalists lie in wait, like aging corpulent prostitutes, their hair dyed flame red and their nails like elongated daggers — waiting to blow any John who dares to topple those who may be kings. It’s once again an example of the TMZ-isation of journalism.

The prized real estate that is the first screen view of news websites, or the much vied for leading news story content on the evening news has been hijacked for reports of the latest Cosby detractor, while issues like Ferguson, IS, immigration reform, and 46 abducted students in Mexico receive a momentary lapse of attention. Our focus shifts when a celebrity falls, and like extras in “Walking Dead,” our direction sharply turns, and our attention shifts to the exposed flesh of the fallen, and we grunt and drool, waiting to feast.

The concept of justice is disregarded. The statute of limitations is ignored. The recollections of events that happened as long as fifty years ago are dredged up by aging actresses who have one eye on the CNN camera, and the other on a book or reality show deal. If the statute of limitations was as long as the 15 minutes of fame that these lost souls are trying to recapture, then our prisons would be as vacant as the Holiday Inn in Acapulco (you probably have no idea what that means because you’re not used to real news). Thankfully, the statute of limitations was written to avoid exactly what this blog is about. There is no legitimacy to justice if there is no real evidence, and evidence has a way of vanishing as memories dim with the marching of time. A DNA swab on most of Cosby’s detractors if done today would most likely come up exceedingly dry.

I’m not saying that what these woman claim happened, didn’t happen. I get it — Cos was the campfire that parents would sit at with their children, and chuckle at his homespun humor and life lessons. When we all retreated back to our tents with our tummys full of S’mores and toasted marshmallows, Cos was back in his tent, banging the camp counselor after doping her with quaaludes. Yes, that could well have happened, and once those women realized the violation that they endured at the hands of Cosby, then they should have reported it then — not a generation later.

This piece has a lot of issues, including but not limited to: opening with “Bill Cosby raped me” only to immediately state that the very serious and very numerous rape allegations are “not the issue”; referring to Bill Cosby as “the Cos,” which makes this sound like it was written by Zack Morris in 1992; being super sensitive to the issue of rape by comparing it to “the Cos…banging the camp counselor after doping her with quaaludes”; and finally, shaming the alleged victims by saying that if they were truly victims worthy of our concern, they wouldn’t have waited to report (which willfully ignores all the myriad reasons rape victims don’t report these crimes, most specifically those reasons relating to power, wealth, and fame).

Taken as a whole, Stellar’s post is a poorly written piece of absolute shit – and as someone who occasionally sits down with my laptop to fire off poorly written pieces of shit that I then post to the internet, I am a veritable expert in this field.

However, all its many, many problems aside, the most entirely disgusting thing about that op-ed is the last line of the fourth paragraph:

A DNA SWAB ON MOST OF COSBY’S DETRACTORS IF DONE TODAY WOULD MOST LIKELY COME UP EXCEEDINGLY DRY.

A DNA SWAB ON MOST OF COSBY’S DETRACTORS IF DONE TODAY WOULD MOST LIKELY COME UP EXCEEDINGLY DRY.

(Repetition and emphasis mine).

Because, you know, the best way to approach your argument condemning the media’s willingness to jump at any grim story, rocketing any old fame hound into celebrity, is to mock the age and dryness of the vaginas of alleged rape victims.

What a totally respectable, really professional piece of work, Richard Stellar. Super impressed.

This is what Sharon Waxman had to say about the ensuing shitstorm associated with the publication of Stellar’s descent into madness:

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I’m all for free speech too, but you can’t write (or edit or host or publish) misogynistic, victim-blaming, total idiocy and dress it up as some fancy, reasoned, thoughtful indictment of the media. As part of his apology tour, Richard Stellar updated his original post, changing the title and adding, “As Sharon Waxman so eloquently defended me — the purpose of the blog was to bring damnation down on the media.”

Hey, guess what, Richard Stellar? If that was the purpose of your post, you are a terrible writer.

If this is the kind of atrocious bullshit that is considered a “legit contrarian view” on The Wrap, I can happily put away my regrets about blowing my big break and content myself with not being associated with this kind of garbage.

 

On Being Pathetic & Growing Up

I missed my ten-year high school reunion this year, because it was held over the summer, precisely one month before I flew home for a two-week vacation (a breakdown of that is coming, I promise). I was a little sad to miss it, because it’s such a milestone, but in today’s world, I can keep up with those I want to talk to and spy on those I don’t want to talk to pretty easily, so the night I missed the reunion, I just ate a bunch of cookies and spent some time on Facebook.

However, the idea of a high school (or college) reunion speaks to me. Long, long ago, I was an oppressively awkward, totally self-conscious, acne-ridden teenager, surrounded by people I thought were better looking, more hilarious, more intelligent, and destined for bigger, better things. Every person I knew had qualities I felt I didn’t possess, and every day, I walked the gauntlet, recognizing only good things in others and only terrible things in myself. (Look, I know how that sounds, and I would have edited it so that it wasn’t so pathetic, but you all know about my horrible divorce, so I figure things have been worse around here.) As a teenager and young adult, I was too convinced that I was ugly or incompetent to really take any chances, so I ended up being a small, judgmental, self-satisfied little Puritan weirdo, who longed for the freedom other young people had. (I was basically the worst.)

Now that I am a (more) fully-formed adult, with life experience practically bursting out of me, it would have been nice to see people from ten years ago, because I am cool now. Yes, I said it. I AM COOL. Deal with it.

There are a lot of people I knew who were fabulous. However, in hindsight, I don’t feel like I ever had real relationships with them, because I was always so concerned with what they were thinking of me that I couldn’t ever be truly present. One of these people was a guy who lived on my dorm floor my second year, a guy for whom I harbored a year-long, painfully obvious obsession.

He was tall and great looking and funny and effortlessly cool and looked at people in the way you only read about in books – he made every person he spoke to feel like they were the only person in the world. Now, as a grizzled, jaded, 28-year-old monster, I would say that he is just a very proficient active listener, but then, when I was 19 and a living, breathing sad-face emoticon, the fact that this glowing, gorgeous specimen of male youth ever looked at me with such intensity (much less that he did it every time we spoke) was just beyond me. I could not get enough.

I adored him and was eventually heartbroken by him, as he had relationships with other people and then moved out of the country and then I never saw him again.

You know, the usual.

As it turns out, this person is now also living in England, and last week, we met up for the first time in eight years. We shared a bottle of wine and went out in London and basically tried to jam the discussion of nearly a decade of life experience into a few hours. It was really wonderful.

One hundred years ago, when we were undergraduates, we often had long, wandering conversations about music, relationships, and life, during which I would mostly just smile and nod, because what did I know about relationships or life? I would talk about things in the abstract or discuss things I always wanted to do or experience, but never had. Last week, when we saw each other again, we had the same kind of conversation – hours long, punctuated by gross jokes and references to our personal neuroses – but I could offer actual advice, real, true, hard-won universal truths about what it means to be a person in the world, because I’ve done it. I’ve opened myself up to things and done really well and have also failed spectacularly and have lived to tell the tales in dark, loud comedy clubs in England on Tuesday nights (which, by the by, are places I never thought I’d ever be).

I have lived, the good stuff and the bad, and seeing this old friend was an incredible barometer upon which I could measure my personal growth. I am both hugely different and totally the same. I have always been funny, smart, cool, interesting, worthy of being looked at like I’m the only person in the world.

The difference is: now I know.

The Love Vitamin.

Hello there! Look whose stupid mug is on the home page of the new TheLoveVitamin.com webpage!

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CAN YOU SEE ME UP THERE? If you are suffering from hormonal acne, I highly recommend The Love Vitamin. (I said so right there on the website!) I stumbled across it one day when frantically looking for natural ways to clear my cystic acne, and it literally changed the way I’d thought about acne for my entire adult life. I’m getting zero kick backs from promoting the site, other than the joy of being super impressed with having my dumb face featured on it. And because I am the opposite of a paid Love Vitamin employee, I can tell you with sincerity that I got all the information I used to change my skin through the free blog posts on the site. I didn’t pay for any e-books or enroll in any online classes or groups. The free resources on the website are fabulous, so if you’re dealing with aggravating, persistent acne, go to there immediately!

Privacy, Rape Culture, and Being Female.

Last week, I told a male friend about a time recently when I was followed for three blocks by a man whistling and commenting on my body. I’d left my house on a whim because I wanted a small bag of almonds and some chocolate. A pleasant trip that should have taken ten minutes ended up taking over a half hour and enraging me, because this guy followed me into the store and hung around creeping on me while I ignored him until he went away.

My friend asked me why I didn’t say anything to him. “Just tell him to fuck off!” is a refrain I hear a lot when I tell dudes about experiences like this. This makes it clear that dudes, no matter how well meaning or adorable or kind or progressive or honest or lovely, have basically no idea what it’s like to be a woman in the world.

I didn’t say anything to him because I’d said nothing to this person to begin with and never made eye contact with him and kept my head down for 30 minutes and did not acknowledge him once, and yet he walked a few paces behind me for blocks and then stood near me making gross noises for an obscenely long time.

Obviously, he gave no shits how I was feeling about the situation. This had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with what he thought he could get away with. He committed to making me uncomfortable for his personal gain. That is gross and unsettling.

At the most basic level, I don’t respond to men who catcall me on the street because when I’m just outside existing in my own life, I don’t want to talk to some stranger about how he feels about my ass. Engaging with a toolbag  really cuts into my doing anything else really.

At a more serious level, I don’t respond to catcallers because I don’t know them.  I am annoyed by the idea of engaging with a stranger. I am scared of confronting a stranger. In general, these people are taller and heavier than me and could, for all I know, be total psychopaths. They have already proven that they can’t read (or that they will gleefully ignore) social cues. I’m just on my way for chocolate. I’m not willing to find out what other social mores he might be ready to dismiss. His ego may be so bruised that he might punch me in the face, which is what happened to Mary Brandon when she told a man at a festival to stop grabbing her ass.

Sadly, in terms of sexual violence against women, dealing with someone just yelling something at you as you go for a run or licking their lips as you walk by, which is uncomfortable, upsetting, and unnerving bullshit, is actually the best case scenario.

We could have our personal computers hacked and all our private photos stolen and shared all over the internet, only to be told that we were to blame for having taken those photos in the first place. This is the logical equivalent of my taking your laptop out of your computer bag and saying it is mine now, because you had the audacity to put it somewhere I could reach it.

We could be raped by our friends or by strangers, not be taken seriously by our college or by the police, and then make huge, intelligent, thoughtful statements about this, only to have people tell us that “regret sex is not rape” or that by speaking out, we are “attention whores” or are using “rape as self-promotion.”

We could be assaulted and nearly beaten to death, only to be told we deserved it because of our relationship status or our chosen profession.

The simple truth is that women are victims of huge invasions of privacy all the time, every day of our lives. These invasions are not always physical and they are not always devastating, but they are there, lurking, always.

In addition, the responsibility for these attacks always falls on us. If I am harassed (or grabbed or beaten or raped) and I do not say anything, it is my fault because I did not vocalize my distress. If I am harassed (or grabbed or beaten or raped) while I am out at night while wearing a skirt or having a vagina, it is my fault because I was asking for it (or, in the case of the stolen celebrity photos, the fault lies with the women for having something worth stealing). If I am harassed (or grabbed or beaten or raped) and I say something and the situation escalates (as it did for Mary Brandon), it is my fault because I should not have provoked him.

If it’s not already painfully obvious, women are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

I once had an argument about this catch-22 of sexual violence facing women with a man who told me that all this focus on violence against women is unfair, because men are also victims of violence. Okay, guy. Sure. Men are often victims of war and aggression and physical violence. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re talking about. We can talk about sexual violence against women (and men) without talking physical violence against men, in much the same way we can ask people to donate to cancer research without also asking them to recycle. It is possible to seek justice for one group without minimizing or negating the suffering of another group. In fact, the only people I know who actually do that are people like you.

There is an enormous difference between saying that you don’t see something and denying its existence. In the first case, you are admitting that you are privileged enough not to experience something 50% of the population of the world faces, in varying degrees, every day. In the second, you are proving that you are a moron who takes breaks from reality.

Rape culture is a thing, people. There are men who feel entitled to look at nude photos of women without their consent, to yell uncomfortable and obscene things at women who are simply taking their bodies out of their houses, and to touch, grab, and all too often, sexually assault women against their will. This happens.

Arguing against this, calling it “feminist propaganda,” or, worst of all, extolling it as your personal right because you have a penis that likes things makes you at best an idiot and at worst a violator of the human rights of the women around you.

 

Existential Crises.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been having super deep thoughts about the world. In fact, I’ve been wrestling with some mighty big questions about life.

Things like:

1) How many shortbread cookies are acceptable for breakfast? (4.)

2) How many breakfast shortbread cookies is too many breakfast shortbread cookies? (5.)

3) Should I wash my hair this morning? (No.)

4) If I only wore these socks for an hour last night, can I wear them again today? (Yes.)

5) If I’m allergic to the aluminum in my deodorant, and I am, and the natural stuff is disgusting, which it is, is it okay for me to just not wear deodorant? (Yes.)

6) I’ve stumbled across photographic evidence that I’ve had the same tube of lip gloss for two years. Is it safe for me to keep using it? (Yes.)

7) How often? (Every day.)

8) I need new socks/underwear/shirts/sweaters, but I’m going to the US in a few weeks and everything will be much cheaper there. Is it alright for me to look like a total mess for months before I leave? (Yes. Obviously.)

9) Do I have to wait until lunch time to eat the food I brought to work? (No. Helllllllo, 10 am burrito!)

10) I keep spilling saucy foods on my sheets. Does this mean I have to stop eating dinner in bed? (No. Just buy new sheets.)

Missing The Beast.

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“You’re such a spazz, Auntie Sarah.”

I’m planning a trip back to the States soon, and I could not be more excited to see this beast again. You know I mean business when I say that I miss that three-year-old creep more than I miss burritos. I haven’t seen her in SEVEN MONTHS, which is just unacceptable. That’s like one hundred years in toddler years. I feel sick just thinking about it.

Last night, Fertile Myrtle and I had our weekly Skype date, and yet again, I had to bribe The Beast to speak to me by threatening to withhold her English chocolate gifts. It’s a super effective tactic, but it also makes me feel gross and sad. I want her to remember how awesome and fun I am, and just live to speak to me for five minutes every Sunday morning. Unfortunately, she’s still too little.

As I was falling asleep a few hours after the call, I had this moment of feeling present in Fertile Myrtle’s house, just standing by the kitchen island where I’ve eaten my feelings a thousand times. And that one second of teleporting home was tragic. It is really, truly, deeply devastating to be separated by distance from the things you love. As much as the move was my choice (and a huge opportunity), if I could have everything at once, I would be home surrounded by my people, showing The Beast how to stick salty pretzels to her wet arms in person instead of having to do over the internet.

I apologize in advance to everyone else who thinks they are going to see me when I’m home. I’ll be really busy for the full two weeks teaching a child how to make her mother insane.

Death Becomes Her.

Untitled*Provided I don’t get hit by a bus or choke on a cashew, two things that almost killed me this week.

This post is going to read like I have psychological problems, so I’m going to come right out and say that I am totally content with my life as it is and there is no cause for alarm.

Good. I’m glad we got that out of the way.

Because: I think about death a lot. Like, probably far more than your average bear. I’m not sure if that’s a symptom of being a little bit older or wiser, or because I worked with dead people for a long time as a forensic anthropologist, or because I spend my work days looking up mortality rates and life expectancy calculations, or because I am just by nature a morose and sad-sacky creep who often matter-of-factly mourns that eventually my beautiful hands will be skeletons.

I don’t know why, but I think about death at least once a day.

When I tell people that, their first reaction is usually some comment about how grim and unsettling that is. This is acceptable, because these people are right: thinking about how eventually you and everyone you know is going to cease to exist in any form you’ve come to associate with existence is pretty grim and unsettling.

However, underneath all that troubling unknown, there is something beautiful about there being an end (although hopefully far, far in the future). Because my gross, morbid brain reminds me on the regular that I will be dead one day, I am constantly reminded to live in the present. This doesn’t always work – I am by nature a hypochondriac worrier who gives herself stress hives – but most of the time, it motivates me to do everything I can while I can and to tell all the people I love that I love them so often that it makes them nuts. It can’t be all bad.

Am I alone in this? Do any of you other freak shows think about this all the time?

Spain!

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Just last night, I flew back from Madrid, after spending a few days traveling around with my parents, whom I hadn’t seen in six months. It was so, so, so wonderful to see them, most especially because we had a lot of long discussions about what has happened in my life in the past year. Seeing as I dropped a huge bomb on them on their summer vacation last August and then proceeded to move immediately into their house, stop eating food, refuse to leave my room for five months, and then move across the world, it was high time we had stable, sane, normal-people conversations about What Happened. After nearly a year of thinking they resented me, and being convinced that they didn’t understand what had inspired all the change, I am finally confident that they get it. And that they support me. And that they are happy that I am happy.

It is such a weight off, I can’t even describe. As I moved through the stages of grief and crazy last fall, I was incredibly lucky with my friends, who were nothing if not absolute saints, pushing me through the worst time of my life with margaritas and root beer floats. At the same time, I was distant from my parents, because they were reeling and I was in no place to articulate my feelings to them in a way they’d understand. I stopped speaking to them almost entirely, only beginning to talk to my mom more frequently on Facebook after I moved to England. (I guess we both benefited from the physical distance.)

Knowing now that everyone has stabilized is priceless.

In addition, I ate a ton of paella, drank liters of sangria, and got to see tons of history, so the trip was a win-win.

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Churros with hot chocolate dipping sauce. (Sadly, these churros were not rolled in cinnamon sugar.)

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Roman aqueduct in Segovia. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

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Aqueduct again.

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View of Segovia from the small cafe where I ate a late afternoon snack of fries and green tea, because I’m disgusting.

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The view from our hotel. Doesn’t get any more European than this.

The Hive.

When I was a kid, I was sometimes referred to as “Princess,” as in the frustrating, difficult young lady from “The Princess and the Pea,” because I have always been an overly sensitive, supernaturally delicate flower. (In my defense, my parents did this to themselves. The Biblical meaning of the name Sarah is “Princess.”) I have always been very particular about temperatures, foods, clothing tags, and hair brushing. I have a lot of feelings about a lot of different things. I crave balance in all things, and can be a little bit of a cranky nightmare when I am: too hot, too cold, too sweaty, too tangly, too hungry, too full, too itchy, too lotion-y, too dry.

Every part of my body falls victim to this intense longing to spend every day eating a perfectly-sized burrito and some soft sugar cookies in 72 degrees with a slight breeze while wearing clothes with all the tags cut out. I get moody and irritated most of the time. However, one part is more sensitive and therefore, more obnoxious, than all the others combined; that part is, obviously, my skin.

My skin has rebelled against me for my entire life. My insane allergy to plated metals was discovered in my infancy, when I would break out in little metal-button-shaped rashes where the snaps of my onesies touched my body. By the age of 20, I’d had several subcutaneous cysts and discovered at least two hernias. I made the mistake once of wearing a new t-shirt from a big-box store without washing it first, and my back erupted in a horrible, itching rash in reaction to whatever terrible preservative shit they spray on clothing before it’s loaded on cargo ships. Things like heat rash, poison oak, and ring worm have haunted me always. That’s to say nothing of the acne, which is just always, always lurking. If there is a non-life threatening skin condition to be had, I’ve had it.

This brings me to yesterday, when I spent the whole day wandering around an outlet mall on a gorgeous, albeit hot, humid, and sweaty English Saturday. I made out like a bandit, finally buying a bikini that does not make me look like a sausage exploding out of its casing, as well as stocking up on the Crabtree & Evelyn Sweet Almond Oil lotion I’d been told had been discontinued in the US, and choosing a short, pink and orange woven-wool skirt that serves as the latest milestone in my ever-excelerating journey toward becoming my Birenstock-wearing, straw-tote carrying hippie mother. I was very pleased with myself and had a really great day, aside from the fact that I was pouring sweat for four hours as I moved in and out of crowded, tropical stores that had no air conditioning.

It wasn’t until we’d sat down in a local pub waiting for a bus that I felt it coming. Sometimes, I can sense the doom. In the amount of time it took me to drink half a pint of Stella, it had grown from a small, dense promise of misery to a full blown hive, forged in the fires of disgusting humidity and born right onto the middle of my chin. Oddly enough, if it isn’t a pimple, weird swollen crap on my face doesn’t bother me. Besides, while this heat-welt experience is rare, I am not a stranger to having my skin throw up its proverbial hands to the weather and say, “Enough already. I am done.” So, I proudly walked around for the rest of the evening with this welt on my face, confident that it wouldn’t be the size of a quarter when I woke up in the morning.

And guess what? I was right! It wasn’t enormous and swollen anymore when I woke up this morning. The swelling had gone down and it wasn’t nearly as red – because it had become a blister. I have a pea-sized blister on my face because I spent too much time in the elements yesterday. This is akin to the fabled photosensitivity blister, something I’d been warned about when I was taking Accutane, because that medication turns human beings into vampires who burst into flames in the sun.

It is the worst. THE WORST.

I’m happy I got out yesterday, because I am not leaving the house today.

Second Blogiversary!

Yesterday, WordPress told me it was my blogiversary: I’ve been doing this nonsense for two years. In July 2012, I could not have, even in my wildest, fever-fueled hallucinations, imagined where I would be in July 2014. In these two years, the subject matter and the characters have changed dramatically, and most importantly, I do not have the whiny baby I was so laser-focused on when I created this space.  I am also not a blogging mastermind, sitting on a pile of endorsement money like the Scrooge McDuck of internet diaries, because after taking a massive hiatus just after being Freshly Pressed last spring, I’ve squandered all the good will and interest that glorious week gave this blog (yes, I’m talking to you, 1,500 robot computer program followers).

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I gave him brown hair and pimples so you’d all know it was me. (I am available for freelance graphic design. Information upon request.)

However, despite failing on pretty much all counts in terms of all the lofty goals I had set for myself when I started blogging, I succeeded in a way I didn’t even consider: I’ve worked through some enormously difficult things with the support of people I’ve connected with through the blog. And for that, I must thank you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you, you unsung heroes of the internet. I promise to be much better about keeping up with your writing and posting comments that manage to make it all about me. It’s the very least I can do.

But wait! There’s more! That’s not my only internet resolution! Oh no! I’m also attempting to join the 21st century and use twitter @asarahcarter more regularly, so follow me if you’re into witnessing a 27-year-old elderly woman stumble around social media.