Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cracked Preview: Foreshadowing in "Game of Thrones"

I was going to write out a bunch of these but then I realized I really only liked this one, and it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind. Suck it.

Game of Thrones

The twist:

Insufferable shithead Viserys Targaryen got what was coming to him when he was killed by his sister Daenerys’s husband after threatening their unborn child with an impromptu Caesarian by sword. The Khal repaid his incessant sniveling by pouring molten metal over his head, giving him the golden crown he sought but ending his quest for the Iron Throne when he is burnt to a crisp. Millions cheered, because oh sweet Christ Viserys finally shut up.

Thing is, Targaryens are supposed to be invincible to heat. Daenerys (who we see all season handling scalding hot dragon eggs, stepping into a bath of boiling water, and walking through a funeral pyre unscathed) comes right out and says so, reacting to her loved one’s death with little more than a “Huh. That’s weird.”

"Eh. Add 'im to the pile."

Why we should have seen it coming:

In a scene from episode four of that season, Viserys engages in some light S&M with one of his sister’s handmaidens in the bathtub, including dripping some hot candle wax onto his chest. Check out what happens when she does.

He’s visibly and audibly pained. At this point, we all should have gone “OH SHIT HE’S NOT IMMUNE TO HEAT” and known exactly what was coming. You know what they say, the sadomasochism in the first act must always end in fiery death in the third.

I'm pretty sure that's how that goes.

The whole show is just lousy with foreshadowing. When the Stark children find the direwolf cubs, did you notice what Ned pulled out of the mother wolf’s throat – her apparent cause of death? It's the antler of a stag. Wanna guess what the sigils are of House Stark and House Baratheon, the latter belonging to the family who relieved Ned Stark of his head? Yep. The direwolf and the stag.

For his part, Jamie Lannister ended up with quite a lot of egg on his face when he stated in the second episode, "Even if the boy lives, he would be a cripple, a grotesque. Give me a good, clean death any day." Finally, any time a character tells Jon Snow that they’ll talk about something the next time they see each other, as Ned and Benjamin Stark both do, it’s a pretty safe bet that they ‘bout to get capped.

Now he'll never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

Friday, October 11, 2013

4 Fictional Characters We All Wanna Bang (But Feel Kinda Weird About It)

I wanna start this blog with a disclaimer that I’m deliriously feverish and obviously dying of the consumption, i.e. I have a cold. Dramatic exaggeration aside, I’m so out of it that I just debated whether that should be ‘’i.e.’’ or ‘’e.g.’’ and fixed it three times, and I never confuse i.e. and e.g., so this is some serious fucking business.

It seemed like the perfect time to get some shame crushes off my chest.

I know I’m not alone here – I personally know several women, who shall remain anonymous because they have presumably have an adorable shred of dignity left, who share my feelings on these guys – so I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that we’re all in need of some self-reflection here. Maybe I’m wrong, and now you think I’m weird, but if that comes as any huge surprise to you you’re clearly not paying attention.

4. Abed, Community 

Why we love him:

Because he is Batman.

Abed is a strange duck, in the best way. He always seems to see what is so simple and obvious but nobody else does because they’re so wrapped up in their own complicated minutiae. He’s genuine, and recklessly vulnerable, in addition to being sharp and hilarious. He ended up being quite a ladykiller as well, but in awesome Abed fashion, it turns out he just doesn’t use it because he’s not terribly interested. Tell me this scene doesn’t melt your panties a little.

Why I feel kinda weird about it:

So, we’re all pretty much in agreement that Abed is autistic, and barely functioning at that, yeah? Like, there’s no argument here, kid has developmental issues. It’s all there: not understanding social cues, obsessive and single-minded interests, etc. Even that suave persona he adopts in the scene above, rather than displaying a previously unseen electric sexuality, is just an impression of Don Draper – an exact, pitch-perfect mimicry.

So that introduces some complications. Is it exploitive that I kinda wanna bang him? Or is denying the sexuality of the developmentally disabled actually more morally wrong? Does my attraction speak to some sinister nature within myself? Am I a predator? Or is my lack of prejudice a virtue? Or should I just not worry about it?

I don’t like these questions, Abed. Take off that Batsuit right the hell now. No, not like—dammit.

3. Dexter Morgan, Dexter

Why we love him:

Well, obviously.

No one rocks the white t-shirt quite like Michael C. Hall.

Aside from being just unreasonably gorgeous, the suave psychopath is a well-worn trope. Face it, ladies, you love dominance. But Dexter isn’t hurting innocent people: he does have a moral code, and his sociopathic inability to relate to people results in a sort of charming bumbling. He’s uniquely relatable among serial killer characters.

Oh, and do you remember that scene in season one when he overcomes his neuroses about sex and just attacks Rita? Too bad if you don’t, because it was TOO HOT FOR YOUTUBE.


Why I feel kinda weird about it:


It’s not even that Dexter is hot despite being a violent psychopath – he’s hot almost entirely because he’s a violent psychopath. Real Life Dexter, the personality he’s developed in everyday interactions to cover his true nature, doesn’t hold a candle to Kill Room Dexter as far as shaggability goes. When he’s got someone Saran Wrapped to a table, that’s when he comes alive, swaggering around, decrying injustice, every mild-mannered characteristic replaced by naked domination. He’s in complete control, and he loves it. So do we. Way too much.

I am not okay with how much this turns me on.
2. Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

Why we love him:

Because I’m pretty sure Neil Patrick Harris is physically incapable of not being devilishly charming. Barney is the ultimate unlikely alpha male, and lovably neurotic about it.

Confession time: I shipped Barney and Robin from day one, because I’m in love with Barney and identify with Robin to an unhealthy degree. I NEEDED THEM TO WORK, you guys. I needed them to work because if they can work, there is hope for me. A ridiculous proportion of my ego was invested in the outcome of that relationship, and if it hadn’t worked out, it might have killed me.

Why I feel kinda weird about it:

Did you know that rape by fraud is a thing? It sure is a thing, and Barney is guilty of it every damn day. He’s a master of inventing ruses to get women into bed, sometimes assuming completely different identities. That’s sociopathic, you guys. He intentionally targets na├»ve and gullible women, because dumb people aren’t really people, right? It’s okay to take advantage of them and laugh about it because they don’t really count. They’re just pit stops on the way to more interesting women, and therefore obviously don’t have feelings. And are we just gonna forget about the time he admitted that he was once involved with human trafficking? Barney is a predator, no less than Dexter is.

1. Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

Why we love him:

Everyone loves Tyrion. He’s an unlikely hero. He’s a Lannister, so he’s automatically evil, and he does make some morally questionable decisions. And he’s loyal to his evil family to a fault. (Until next season, anyway.) But he’s different. He’s clever, and simply out of fucks to give. He’s the only one willing to smack Joffrey around. And Peter Dinklage is really quite good-looking.

Why I feel kinda weird about it:

It’s similar to the problem with Abed, but on an entirely new level, because I’m pretty sure that Tyrion is awesome chiefly because he’s a dwarf, not in spite of it. In that way it's like the Dexter problem, too, if I wanna compare the differently abled to serial killers, which apparently I do. Like, imagine Tyrion as a normal-sized dude. How much less interesting did he just get? All of his back story, his motivations, all that something-to-proviness just vanished. He may still be heroic, and well-read, but now he’s just Kingslayer 2.0. He’s no longer damaged, which is what makes him interesting.

So now I feel like I need to reflect in on myself. Does this make me a devotee‎? Am I dehumanizing an entire group of people because Tyrion is awesome and I wanna touch his wiener? Is thinking someone is awesome and wanting to touch their wiener actually dehumanizing? It’s all just ridiculously complicated.

What I’m saying is, thank you, George R.R. Martin, for making me realize I have a dwarf fetish.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

3 Holidays Only the Worst Kinds of People Seem to Hate

The year is coming to a close, which means the holiday season is advancing upon us like that giant wall of ocean in The Perfect Storm. Soon your mother's phone calls will start coming at shorter and shorter intervals, department stores will be covered in tinsel*, and, yes, the killjoys in your life will start reminding everyone how edgy and nonconformist they are by rhapsodizing, at great length and to anyone who will listen, how much they hate the holidays

*They do it earlier every year!!! What’s with that?!? I demand peace on Earth and good will towards man in bursts as short as possible and should go fuck myself!

It’s a little known fact that the colder weather produces in some people an overabundance of the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of not wanting to be part of your system, maaaaaan, compelling them to shit on everyone within the city limits who might be daring to have a good time. Here are the worst offenders, and why the haters are full of shit.

3. Valentine’s Day

Single people, I get it. I’m one of you. Yeah, an officially sanctioned day specifically for the world to remind us that we’re alone is a shitty thing. But the only thing we can do is ignore it. It’s so easy for you to walk past that display of heart-shaped candy boxes and go about your business. You know what’s not easy to ignore? You posting on Facebook every day for the first half of February how stupid Valentine’s Day is. I can’t exactly walk past my Facebook feed, and also I need it to live, so do me a favor and allow me to ignore the holiday.

The people who hate Valentine’s Day who do have a partner are even weirder, for obvious reasons. I know a fully grown woman who insisted that her boyfriend wish her a “Happy Tuesday!” with his gifts. That is clinically fucking insane.

What, it’s too commercialized? Look, if you’re the type who’s okay with home-printed coupons for snuggle time, more power to you, but most of the time, doing something nice for someone you love is going to involve money, whether it’s a meal at his/her favorite restaurant or a massage or a Lambourghini. Why wouldn’t businesses take advantage of this? Do you know how business works?

What else? You want someone to do nice things for you just because, not when the calendar tells them to? Do you throw a fit about people buying you presents for your birthday, too?

Seriously, if you get all mad about having someone in your life who loves you enough to make a big effort to shower you with affection, no matter what day it is, I don’t mean to alarm you, but you may have severe problem deficiency. (SPD, we call it, in the industry.) It’s okay, I run a charity for people with SPD. I have an overabundance of problems I can donate to you, no strings attached. Don’t worry. Help is on the way.

2. Thanksgiving

I run with a fairly liberal crowd, which is great because I don’t have to worry about anyone casually dropping racial slurs that make my heart hurt, but some people do have an adorable tendency to be a little too sensitive and aware. The problem here, of course, is the Native Americans. You know, those people whose land we stole and systematically killed off after breaking what we swore was our good word, which we now celebrate with gluttony and football.

So that’s kind of awkward. I get that. I know everybody says this, but I seriously have a fraction of Native blood. It’s not a huge amount, but no joke, my Navajo great-grandmother married a man named John Smith. Check me out.

Seen here as Hermione on Halloween, the only acceptable holiday even though it involves the same gluttony and greed because Satan.
Squaw as shit. As well as the sort of person who uses terms like squaw affectionately, so you can probably see where this is heading.

As the living aftermath of the Disney version of Pocahontas, I am telling you right now, it’s okay for you to eat turkey. I understand, as everyone should, that when you’re shoving pumpkin pie down your gullet, you’re not thinking about how awesome genocide is. You’re thinking about how long the button on your pants can hold out and after how many glasses of wine Uncle Jerry is going to need to be put to bed before he can start reminiscing about the war. I give you permission. It’s okay.

This is the real reason lots of people hate Thanksgiving: they can’t stand their stupid family. I get that, too. I don’t have parents anymore, and one perk of that is that I have an excuse not to deal with their brothers and sisters too much, but even though they are awful, it was a small price to pay for my grandma’s awesome stuffing. I mean, my whole thing is that I don’t really buy into the meaning of the holiday, but when you think about it, being bummed about spending time with your family on a day that is supposed to be all about gratitude is kind of insulting to people like me who don’t even have them. Yeah, I’m laying the orphan guilt on you. Suck it up and stop bitching about getting the day off to eat pie.

1. Christmas

I understand people who hate Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving, even if I think they’re assholes, but seriously, how could you possibly have a problem with stuffing your face and getting presents? It’s literally every good thing in the world wrapped up like some kind of item that you give to someone for a special occasion.

Seriously, what’s your problem? It’s too commercial? Again, this is how business works. If we decide on a day when we’re all going to be really nice to each other and show it partially by buying each other things, people are going to cater to that. Why are you so mad about that? What’s the problem with business making it really convenient for us to reach our goal of being nice to each other? The meaning of the holiday has shifted in America for most people. You might lament the replacement of Jesus with Santa, but we’re left with a rad celebration of hedonism, kindness, and capitalism, and I’m just wondering why you HATE AMERICA, that’s all.

The most weirdly specific complaint about Christmas is the music. Where are you even fucking going where they play Christmas music? You’ve clearly heard of the Internet and therefore probably do a lot of your shopping there. If you hate it that much, would it be such a problem to make a mental note to ramp up the proportion of business you do online in December and move on with your life? I mean, I never hear it played in grocery stores or places we really need to go. It’s the same Fergie Bieber bullshit we hear year round. It’s almost as if you’re going out of your way to have something to complain about, but of course, nobody would do that, because that would be insane, right?

You’re not Christian? Wait, weren’t we just complaining that we’ve taken Jesus out of it? Again, like Thanksgiving, the holiday has sort of lost its meaning. The good news is that, unless you’re from a super religious family who demands that you spend the entire week at mass, you’re free to celebrate it however you want. Get drunk and watch Silent Night, Deadly Night. Sit down with the family you’ve been free to create for yourself at this point in your life for an elaborate dinner you finally had the excuse to prepare in your tiny kitchen. Go to the strip club and find out how many different varieties of ornamental tassles they make, whatever, but literally the entire point is to celebrate and have fun, and I worked REALLY HARD ON THESE COOKIES, OKAY, AND YOU ARE GOING TO EAT THEM. DO IT!

You are excused from this one if you are of a contradictory faith, but I would be equally excited to make you Hannukah cookies, or whatever. Just say the word, you will be so cookied it ain’t even a thang.

I think a lot of this is, again, people having horrible families, and I don’t doubt that there’s a lot of Christmas-related trauma going on out there. Not everyone had mothers like I did, who ran around wearing a different Santa hat every day and crushed you under the sheer weight of gifts she’d bought. But you’re an adult now. By not owning the spirit of the season and making it whatever you want it to be, you’re just letting your shitty family win. You had no choice in letting them steal the happy memories you were owed as a child, but you don’t need to let them steal the ones you could be making for yourself as an adult, too.

The choice is yours. Like the wave in The Perfect Storm, you can flail and rage and let yourself be consumed by it, or you can go to town on that bitch and ride it out on a boat of cake and happiness. (Or at least shut up and stop hassling the people who are trying to.)

I’ve never actually seen that movie, but I’m pretty sure that was how it worked.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stop Moving to Portland

With the surging popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon, irony, and IFC's "Portlandia," there's a very good chance that you are, at this very moment, making plans to join the 15 new residents who arrive in my beautiful hometown every day. But before you embark on the adventure to realize your dream of the ninet—blarglharflclar (sorry, factually inaccurate songs make me puke a little), there are a few things you should know.

5. The economy is in the shitter

If you want to move here because you want to live where the PBR flows like rainwater, chances are you are poor. If you're a trust fund baby or something, this won't apply to you, but you should still not move here because I hate you and I will punch you when I hear you yelling at the bartender for not having single-malt Scotch in a goddamn dive bar that you came to for its "realness" but which you every intention of ruining with your trendy bullshit and where am I supposed to go for karaoke now, you prick.

Luckily, I figured out how to get paid for the only thing I'm good at – poop jokes – but before I did, I was studying computer programming. It's recession-proof, right? Not when your city is holding steady at 8% unemployment. And particularly not when your city is a mecca for tech-savvy youth, every single one of whom I have to believe is better than I am, because I shot my resume around like a particularly well-hydrated porn star for months with no luck.

Well, in these tough times, sometimes we have to lower the bar of what is acceptable employment, right? You're going to have an even tougher time there: jobs requiring lower skill levels will necessarily mean more competition, and nobody at McDonald's cares that you can translate binary if your lily ass has never touched a deep fryer when the kid behind you has seven years' experience at the drive-thru window. If you're counting on a sweet gig at the local organic co-op coffee house, you're going to find yourself at the end of a very long line of other low-skilled, artistic-minded recent transplants, plus a few very resentful natives. It may be best to stay home in Lincoln or Fargo, where unemployment is about half of what it is here.

4. It's getting expensive

“Portland is where young people go to retire!” Shut the fuck up.

Even if you landed that coffee house job, don’t count on getting anywhere close to by on 20 hours a week of minimum wage unless you’re planning to live with 7 other people in a rundown farmhouse in Felony Flats. (More on that later.)

Often touted as the cheapest major city on the west coast, which allowed for all the shiftless weirdos to make this place what it is, population booms do tricky things. Despite its floundering economy, Portland saw its real estate prices rise 8.3% last year, up to a median price of $269,000. Compare that to Washington, DC, who only saw a 5.9% growth, and even New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world, saw a fraction of that growth, at 0.6%. Again, staying in that unfashionable town may be a better idea, as Columbia, Missouri saw its real estate prices fall 8.57% the same year, while maintaining an unemployment rate of 4.3%. 

3. You won't live in a trendy neighborhood – and if you do, you'll probably see a lot of bum fights

Portland is just like any other city: it has fashionable enclaves for the wealthy elite, they're just more spread out than most cities' designated "downtowns." It's these tiny pockets that you see on "Portlandia" – the rest of the city is dirty, decidedly blue-collar, and far less colorful. That iconic feminist bookstore? Yeah, it's situated right next to one of the poorest, crime-ridden areas of the city. Gentrification enthusiasts built themselves a nice little barricade of co-ops to insulate themselves from all the icky brown people. The hipsters who populate them all have trust funds or drug-deal operations, but you, sir or madame, are an honest, independent person. And that's why you're going to end up somewhere like North Portland or across the river in Vancouver, Washington. These are both far cheaper options than the city center, with North Portland's median home price clocking in at $220,000 and Vancouver's at a shocking $194,000, but they're also not what you would call desirable.

In North Portland, residents have long been experiencing what earnest white people call an institutional system of poverty and the residents call a bunch of trifling assholes ruining shit for good people who are just trying to get by. Statistics from the Portland Police Bureau as of January 2013 show an overall crime rate in the North precinct more than 20% higher than in the Central precinct. What that means for you, prospective resident, is that your car is going to get jacked within minutes of crossing Willamette Boulevard.

Vancouver, meanwhile, has the opposite problem. People in Vancouver are statistically likely to be whiter, under eighteen or over 65, significantly less educated, but earn about the same amount of money as the average household in Portland. It’s no surprise, then, that while a Google Image Search for Portland's trendy Hawthorne district comes up with photos that look like this…

… the first result for "Vancouver, Washington" is this:

Meanwhile, search for North Portland, and you get images like this:

But let's say you've scored a sweet little flat in the Pearl, probably through means that could be considered ethically questionable at best. While the private housing market downtown is the most expensive in the city, the vast array of social service agencies that share the area also make it a central gathering place for the city’s exploding homeless population. (A group you may soon join if you’ve ignored the previous two points on this list.) The panhandling and general mayhem has gotten so out of control that business owners are actually campaigning to stop building shelters in the area.

2. It's not as progressive as you think

If you're under the prevailing impression that all Portlanders are gay married to their bongs, I hope to God you never venture outside of the city limits, where you'll find residents who, on average, have more cows than teeth. Again, even within the city, the dirty hippies tend to stay in their own tiny little drum circles, which the rest of us thank them for – it smells bad enough downtown as it is – but when they're all you see on the national news, gives off the wrong impression.

While other states are repealing marijuana prohibition and legalizing same-sex marriage, Oregon has repeatedly voted down similar bills. In 2004, Portland residents approved Measure 36, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, with 60% in favor. In 2010 and again in 2012, measures to decriminalize marijuana in various ways were met with only slightly less crushing defeat. These laws are totally enforced, too: a local police vault contains thousands of pounds of confiscated marijuana

Of course, when the leftists do manage to get their way, it ends up being something completely fucking stupid, like when we recently voted to ban flouride in our water supply, ensuring our continued legacy as the only major city in the country to be all like "Yeah, fuck poor kids, they're messing up our tin foil hats." Way to make Portland liberals look not even a little reasonable, guys.

1. No one wants you here – and the feeling might be mutual

Given the city's repuatation as quirky and friendly, many transplants are shocked to find that residents tend to be unwelcoming and rude. Some douchebag recently went viral with an article about how much Portland sucks for single men, complaining that the weather that keeps residents indoors and nobody gives a shit that he hitchhiked cross country to get there, apparently unaware that half of the residents been there, done that. This is a frustratingly common but important cultural misunderstanding: Portlanders value privacy. It's considered impolite to hassle someone who's just minding their own business and trying to get to work or whatever. You think we're rude for barely responding to your friendly overtures, but we think you're rude for interrupting our book. We don't understand why you're trying to make idle chit-chat with a complete stranger on the bus; that shit might fly in the midwest, but it's just not how we do things here. Especially if you're trying to brag to some poor woman about your hitchhiking adventures: she's going to take one look at your neckbeard and take in your awkward intrusions and roll her eyes right out of her ears. Please leave her alone, she's got shit to do.

But the gray skies and unsmiling faces aren't the only difference between Portland and, say, Miami or Los Angeles, that jerkoff goes on to say: the women are all pasty, overweight, and covered in excessive body modifications. While that's obviously an exaggeration and he's obviously a misogynistic asshole, Portland was recently declared one of the least attractive cities in the country. Additionally, in 2009 Portland was named the unhappiest city in the country. We're ugly, we're miserable, and we just want you to leave us alone.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

4 Kinds of People We Need to Stop Judging

I used to be a teenager, which means I used to be a huge asshole. I was perfect, obviously, and anyone who fell short of my standards was clearly defective. People who took their kids on the city bus: why would you even have kids if you can't afford a car? People who type in textspeak: ugh, don't get me started. People who sing along with their iPods in public: okay, I still hate those people.

But for the most part, I grew out of it. Usually, that involved finding myself in a position wherein doing the things I looked down upon was the only option. If you've been lucky enough to avoid such situations, it's possible that you still harbor some seriously unfair prejudices. I'm here to tell you that you need to stop, right the fuck now, passing judgment upon...

4. Fake Geek Girls

I'm not talking about girls who go around taking duckfaced selfies wearing thick-framed glasses, showing off flawless bodies in R2D2 swimsuits, although those people should still probably be shot on sight just for being annoying. That girl, however, isn't necessarily a phony. I mean, you don't know that. This is basic stuff: you don't know that the booth babe with a Superman t-shirt just barely hanging onto her perfect tits doesn't actually love comics just because she's attractive. We obviously know not to leap to judgment about that girl, or if we don't, we need to take a hard look at our attitudes about women.

No, I'm talking about the girls who really are faking it, because they know how guys drool over girls who like geeky things. You know they exist, and I know they exist. How could I possibly know that? Because I was one. I've made “achievement unlocked” and “leveling up” jokes even though I haven't been able to afford to play video games since I was eight years old. I nodded appreciatively at your Star Wars references, even though, while I love the mythology and you will never see someone squeal quite so stupidly as me when I get to play with lightsabers, I didn't see a single entire installment of the trilogy until last year because I have a rare form of narcolepsy that causes me to fall asleep whenever George Lucas is involved.

Why did I do it? Because I like you. Is that such a bad thing? And I want you to like me, and you seem to dismiss anyone who doesn't share your narrow and frankly pretty boring set of interests. Hey, maybe you should knock that off, huh? 'Cause it's kind of an incredibly immature and shortsighted criterion by which to evaluate potential relationships. This is something that really bothers me about the kids these days, although, again, I try not to be too judgmental about it because I used to be the same way. There are more important things to look for in friends and partners than a shared knowledge of Joss Whedon quotes. Not many, but a few.

Let's just call a truce: I'll try not to fall asleep when you need to talk to someone about your latest campaign, if you'll do the same when I need to talk about what I should do with my hair.

3. Bad Parents

This is one of my favorite Louis CK bits, and there are a lot of good ones to choose form.

Obviously, that's an exaggeration. Anyone who would say such cruel things to a child probably has some issues. But there's a kernel of truth to it: nobody's perfect, and children will – not can, but will – drive you literally, clinically insane.

I remember a day perfectly in 2011, sometime around Christmas. I had just gone shopping with my daughter, and after getting off the train at the station two blocks away from our apartment, she decided she couldn't walk anymore. I attempted to carry her, down the stairs, halfway home, before my puny arms gave out under the weight of two full oversized grocery totes and my 40-lb. toddler. I explained that I couldn't carry her anymore and begged her to walk the rest of the way. She sat down. I lost it.


She just stared blankly, unperturbed by my pleas and perfectly content to just chill on the sidewalk for a while. Just when I was starting to look around for someone punchable, he materialized. It was a Christmas miracle!

"Hey, don't talk to her like that!" said the guy idling in his car at the stoplight.

Stunned by the intrusion and having a deep-seated need for the approval of total strangers, I attempted to explain. "She's three years old, she's perfectly capable of walking two blocks."

He continued as if I hadn't said anything. "She's a little girl, you can't talk to her like that. I should call the cops!"

I don't remember what I said next, probably something about minding his own business, but I remember very clearly that, as the light turned green, he sarcastically offered "Merry Christmas!" to which I responded, "Yeah, thanks for the compassion!"

At that, he stared at me with a mixture of horror and confusion as if I'd suggested that he defile his own mother in a particularly violent manner, before shaking his head in disbelief and driving off. To him, I was a monster, asking the unthinkable.

If he could see inside my mind, he would have seen a raging battlefield. He would have seen that my babysitter had accidentally left my stroller outside recently and allowed it to get stolen, and that I hated myself for being unable to afford a new one and for taking the easy way out by not allowing my daughter to get used to walking. He would have seen me think to myself that, if I had the financial wherewithal to drive a car, I wouldn't even be in this situation. He would have seen how worried I was about paying rent next month, having spent all of my money on gifts for the baby and my employer starting to resent me for being unable to pick up last-minute shifts because my babysitter can't work on such short notice. He would have seen that I hated myself for getting mixed up with a guy who would abandon me with this responsibility, even if I wouldn't trade the end result for the world. He would have seen bottomless pit of grief and anxiety about the late-stage cancer diagnosis my mother had received that morning. He would have seen that, more than anything in the world, all I wanted, at that moment, was to be in the relative safety and privacy of my own home, and goddammit, I couldn't even have that.

And maybe he would have had some compassion.

People, there are few parents in the world who wouldn't take a bullet for their child. Sure, there are some horrific cases of abuse out there, but they are exceptionally rare. What there is, in abundance, is terrified, overwhelmed people who do the absolute best they can, and sometimes fall short. Should I have lost my temper like that? Absolutely not. Have you always maintained perfect control over your emotions in times of suffocating stress?

So next time you see a parent get frustrated and start to lose control, or give the kid the sugary treat they're whining about to shut them the hell up, or any one of the things we judge parents for doing, realize that you have zero idea what kind of day they've had or how they usually behave, and try to be a little understanding. Better yet: try to help. If, instead of seeing an ogre who needs her child taken away, that guy had seen a tiny woman with an uncooperative child and some heavy groceries on the verge of a breakdown and offered to drive us the block we needed to travel, I would have kissed him. I can't count the number of times I've lent a hand to a frazzled stranger trying to corral the kids, or even just offered a "Hey, it's okay. You're doing fine." Those six words can mean the difference between relieved laughter and justifiable homicide.

Have some compassion.

2. Poor People

We all know a guy who knows a guy who gave change to a bum only to see him later drive off in a Cadillac. We've all seen the grocery store receipt showing steak and lobster purchased with food stamps. We all want to think that we hard-working people are being swindled by freeloaders living the high life on our dime, because then we don't have to feel bad that we allow our fellow human beings to live in soul-crushing poverty.

For sure, there are people who abuse the system. Much larger in number are the people who truly need help, but maybe don't always spend their money wisely. Maybe they indulge themselves in – gasp – things they don't need. Hey, just checking, when was the last time you bought something that wasn't vital to your survival? And exactly how big was your tax return last year?

A few months after that Christmas story, I was, again, going grocery shopping. (Man, I gotta outsource that shit, it seems like sad stories only happen when I need food.) I had unloaded my items at the checkout counter, including, among other assorted things, a pre-packaged cheesecake. The guy in front of me was paying for his groceries, glanced over at my purchases, and sneered when he noticed the EBT card (a government-issued debit card for food-only purchases you get when you receive food benefits) in my hand. He said to the cashier, "I don’t think they should let those people buy things like cheesecake with food stamps."

I was so stunned. He was talking about me – "those people" – like I wasn't even there. The cashier, carefully avoiding eye contact with either of us, said quietly, "I don't know, I suppose not." The guy continued, "I mean, I could probably qualify for food stamps, but I wouldn't take them. I work, and I get by on what I have. And you can bet I sure as hell can't afford cheesecake." The cashier just repeated, "I don't know," and the guy left, without looked me in the eye even once, although I'm sure I could have burned a hole in his face if given a few more seconds. The cashier smiled apologetically at me, seeing how devastated I was.

What he didn't know was that I wasn't even buying the cheesecake for myself. I was headed to the hospital to see my mother, where she was recovering from surgery to remove a tumor. She had complained about the quality of the food, and I wanted to surprise her with some of her favorite treats. I guess that brightening a dying loved one's day, just a teeny bit, is a luxury that should be forbidden to us bottomfeeders.

For the record, I was working at the time. I was, in fact, trying to feed a child on 24 hours a week of nursing assistant wages (couldn't get more hours due to childcare limitations), spending more than half of my income on rent, and whatever was left on bills and the train. Without food stamps, we would have starved. There's no two ways about it, we would have.

But anyway, so what if it was a treat for my dying mother? Even if it was for myself, what's wrong with that? I mean, I'm kind of a wizard when it comes to preparing fresh, healthy food on a budget, but I will absolutely treat myself to some goodies occasionally. Okay, more than occasionally. Who cares? If a cheesecake is my only consolation in an otherwise austere existence, or if I'm so tired after a long day of wiping asses that a frozen pizza is the only option that won't leave me just awake enough to cry, why on Earth would you deny someone that?

If you take one thing away here, let it be this: never, ever assume that you know what someone's life is like.

1. People Who Can't Spell

Okay, I will never understand these people. I don't know how people can misplace apostrophes and whimsically confuse homonyms without hating themselves. I have a friend who theorizes that I'm so hypercritical of myself and others in this respect because I'm terrified of anyone thinking I'm not smart, and there is probably some truth to that. I imagine it's probably the same way people feel when they see my house and wonder how I can live in such a cluttered mess, but I maintain that that particular personality flaw has an eccentric, overgrown-child charm to it. I tend towards bewilderment at any brain that doesn't work the same as my brain, though, and it's up for debate whether my brain is even a good one.

And I used to be that asshole who incessantly corrects people, too. I avoid it these days, but it's so hard to resist, especially if I immediately think of a funny way to do it. Funny is my thing, I can't turn it off, and sometimes "funny" translates to "dickish." This goes back to how I don't consider that other brains work different from mine: I feel like I would be a good sport about it on the unthinkable occasion that I made a mistake, so they should, too. That, or stop being so stupid.

Then I met a dude who is really, just ridiculously smart. He's an alumnus of a fancy pants private college, he's traveled all over the world, and he can run logical circles around me, leaving me feeling like I woke up in a cold, dark room, unsure how I got there or where my clothes are. And the poor thing can't string an error-free sentence together to save his life.

He told me one day that it really bothered him when I teased him about his spelling. It's something he was just never able to get the hang of, he explained, and the amount of effort it would take to correct himself was vastly disproportionate to how important he considered it to be. Okay, I still don't get that – how can any amount of effort be too much effort? – but I never want to make this guy feel like I think he's dumb. I don't want to make anyone feel like that.

Obviously, there are times when these things are objectively important. You should mercilessly proofread your resume, and there will probably be a writing test involved as part of the admissions process to my underpants region. But depending on who you are, I'm now grading on a curve.

But seriously, there is no excuse for singing in public. Pipe the fuck down with that shit.