Both Sides: Eric Reads the Week, #34

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

The morning I discovered I could order two brunches was probably the high point of my adult life. If Oprah ever asked me what my "Aha Moment" was I'd immediately answer "Ordering two brunches!" and then I'd go on to tell a very inspirational story and I'd cry during it and we'd hold hands and at the end I'd wipe tears from my eyes and lean back and let out a deep breath, like a soul-cleansing breath, the kind that you didn't know you had shut up in you, the kind that feels like every molecule in your body stepping into the light and really living, you know?

Anyway, I'd exhale (shoop, shoop) and I'd turn to Oprah and I'd say "You have to ask yourself, do you want to live life like you're having one brunch or like you're having all of the brunch?"

Years ago I was out to brunch in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore with my friends Saher, Aurora and Stephen. The restaurant was in an old garage or something; the kind of place where the walls are distressed half-artfully, half-lazily and the big garage door that makes up one wall lets in the air from the Chesapeake Bay because it's nice out and also, you suspect, because if it was closed everyone would suffocate. I'm obsessed with restaurants in spaces that are clearly not restaurants. I feel like eating out should be a transgressive act. (I haven't really thought this through, so please do not ask me any follow up questions. No questions, please!)

I also think that eating out should be a competition. I don't go out to just satisfy my hunger; I go out to conquer a menu. 90% of the regret I feel in life relates to making the wrong choice on a menu. There's this one restaurant David and I go to fairly frequently, a homey South Philly Italian place. I'm pretty basic when it comes to Italian food. I like everything but if I had my druthers, I'd always eat lasagna. Or lobster ravioli (because I have Instagram star taste with MySpace star money). David always get the lasagna when we go to this place but somehow I managed to convince myself that I'd gotten it on one of our early visits and hadn't loved it. For months, we'd go to this place and I'd hem and haw and my heart would whisper, "Lasagna" but my mind would shout "No! Like Shania Twain, it didn't impress you. Much. Get something else." But every time, I'd order something that was okay but not great and then I'd try David's lasagna and it would always be exactly what I wanted and I'd be confounded by the mystery of it all. I'd spend the whole meal trying to slyly steal bites of David's lasagna while my eggplant parm got cold and David inched his plate closer to himself to avoid my roving fork.

I'm just kidding about that last part. David always lets me eat as much as I want from his plate. But I never eat too much because we're both obsessed with food equity. When we split a dessert he pulls out a ruler and a mini-scale. Eating is a justice issue.

And it was in the NAME of JUSTICE that I, with Aurora, Steve and Saher, asked our server to bring me the huevos rancheros AND the waffles, all those years ago. The server blanched, the wind stopped blowing in off of the Bay. Somewhere someone dropped a margarita. A crow cah-cah'd in the distance. "We can't do that," the server replied.

I replied, "Sure, you can! Believe in yourself!" The server insisted. The meal, you see, was a package deal. You paid, like, $13 for an an entree, coffee and a mimosa. They couldn't just charge me for another entree. It would break the system. I was basically the Tyler Durden of this brunch shift. I stewed for a moment and ranted to my friends about how I always want a sweet option and a savory option and this was AMERICA dammit and my tastebuds didn't sit on the back of that bus to NOT get fair-to-middling Mexican breakfast food and a waffle that has the temerity to call itself Belgian. When the server returned and inquired whether I'd regained my sanity, I replied "No. Actually. Please bring me both meals. I will pay for two packages. Because I am an American citizen and that means I believe in freedom and gluttony and spending money I don't have and the sweet and the savory all at once!"

Everyone in the restaurant leapt to their feet. And ever since, whenever I can't decided between two brunch options, I just order both. For the country.

And, Lord, this country needs it. This country needs all of the brunch it can get. This week has been a DUMPSTER FIRE honey. And we have to talk about it.

I started at full-time so there are a few more articles than usual--the regular Eric Reads the News columns plus a couple of serious opinion pieces. Oh, yes, she is giving you both sides, honey. She has the range!

We have to talk about Dean from Bachelor in Paradise, Maxine Waters' birthday, Princess Di's wedding cake, and not being nice to white supremacists. But first! The Pumpkin Spice-sistance.

We Are Powerless Against the Return of Pumpkin Spice Everything

I walked into my local Dunking Doughnuts (It's an off-brand chain run by persnickety grammar snobs) and they asked me if I wanted a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I gasped and knocked a whole display of Keurig pods off the counter. "How dare you? It's still August," I cried. A Pumpkin teamster popped out from behind the Coolatta machine and growled at me "It's fall." I stumbled backwards, aghast. "It's objectively not," I howled. The Pumpkin teamster lept over the counter in a single, deft bound (impressive, considering his bobbly pumpkin head) and grabbed me by my collar "It's fall when we say it's fall." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

There's a New Boss on Dance Moms and I'm Hooked

Full disclosure: I've never seen Dance Moms before, and I kind of assumed it was a Nancy Meyers movie about empty-nesters getting into Zumba. It's not, unfortunately, but it's almost as good. It's sort of like Whiplash meets Bring It On meets So You Think You Can Dance. I don't know how I managed to sleep on this show, because my primary areas of interest include: watching dance but never participating, rival gangs of high schoolers, and people yelling at other people about art (preferably if those people are J.K. Simmons.) [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Happy 79th Birthday, Rep. Maxine Waters

You're a force and anyone who gets in your way is a fool. That's why I'm writing you this letter—to let you know that I'm not getting in your way. I'm no fool. And this not-fool also wants to sing your praises once again. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

A Man Has Been Holding On to a Piece of Princess Di's Wedding Cake for 36 Years

Apparently, slices of the multi-tiered fruit cake, by David Avery, the head baker at the Royal Naval cooking school, were made available as keepsake souvenir that you could eat but would not eat, which is an option I had never once considered until this very moment. If you give me anything edible to take home from anywhere, it's gone before the Lyft even pulls up. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Zendaya's Pajamas as Formal Wear Are Getting Me Through the Day

I am obsessed with this soporific sartorial style. Yes, they are pajamas and yes, they are evening wear. Yes to this. Yes to everything. Yes to dressing for the job you want (I think we can all admit that the job we want is mattress tester.) It's literally the outfit of my dreams. If you invite me to your formal event, I am 100% showing up in a sequined Snuggie. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Dean Is Definitely the Surprise Heartthrob of Bachelor in Paradise

I mean, hello?! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

News commentary...

Paradise Lost: Can Bachelor in Paradise Escape Controversy?

For the entire time that Lee was on The Bachelorette, the show teased drama and, shockingly, suggested bloody violence. It played a scenario that would be damaging and dangerous in the real world as tantalizing television and, in so doing, drained the life out of its venerable rom-com. Then, soon after Lee was given the boot on The Bachelorette, producers cleared DeMario of wrongdoing and announced that filming on Bachelor in Paradise would resume, potentially with DeMario and Corinne returning. While the network did its due diligence with an investigation, it allowed the cast to take a photo at the airport after filming was halted—strategically excluding Dean and other Bachelorette season 13 contestants who hadn't yet been eliminated. It was a move that seemed to preserve surprises for both series, leading any fan to question whether the Paradise season was ever in real jeopardy. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]

What I'm Not Going to Do Is Befriend A White Supremacist

We do not need to make any more room in our conversation or in this country for white supremacy. This country was built on the tenets of white supremacy; there is room aplenty. Identifying a person who appears, unmasked, at a white nationalist rally does not create the same tear in the fabric of American society that actually showing up to that rally does. It is not neighborly, but that man does not want to be my neighbor. He wants to be my oppressor. If he can't handle someone putting an iPhone in his face and asking him to defend his actions, he should put the hood back on. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]

Random thing from the internet...

Writing about the four decade-old royal wedding cake sent me down a rabbit hole of information-gathering around British wedding traditions. I was surprised that the cake was a fruit cake and had written some pithy lines about that choice when a small voice inside my head (and also in the legal department at Hearst) said "Do you due diligence..." Even though I, mostly, write hyperbolic comedy, I do try to have some idea of what I'm talking about . That pursuit, however futile, led me to this very interesting Canadian article that explains the choice of fruit cake and details other fancypants British wedding ephemera. See what happens when you do a little research in order to avoid people angrily tweeting at you?

Here's to another week spent on the right side of history,