Here For It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #106

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

This week: AOC is the dancing queen of the former United States, I tried to fix my life with weighted blankets, and we celebrate a congresswoman's dabbing kids.

I noticed I'd missed a call from one of my younger brothers so I called him back. No answer. Then he called me back. "Hey," he said and then paused like it was my turn to speak. "Uh, I saw that you called and I called you back," I replied, giving the sort of unnecessary exposition that is usually only allowed on medical procedurals and crime dramas you watch in the lobby of the car dealership. One of the things I love (do not love) about modern technology is that it makes it easier for us to connect but somehow we're still always having to narrate what we're doing and why, as if every other person is a time traveller who is thoroughly shewk by everything around them. "Hello, this is a telephone and this is my voice coming through the telephone. Do not be alarmed; I am not near. I have called to speak with you on matters which we previously agreed I would speak to you. Now I will discuss those matters." This happens all the time with work conversations, particularly with people you call for work that you don't know very well. You go back and forth for roughly 16 weeks trying to find a mutually agreeable time to have a call on a subject, someone sends out a calendar invite, you call when the invite says to call, and then everyone's like Deborah Cox at the beginning of the song "Same Script, Different Cast" when she's like "So, what's this about Whitney?" YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS ABOUT, DEBORAH. IT WAS ON THE CALENDAR INVITE.

Earlier this week I met one of our across-the-hall neighbors and we had a good conversation and then I literally said to her, "I'm desperate for friends" because I left all my give-a-damn in 2018. She was like, "we should exchange numbers." And my brain went, "Wow, I did not see that coming and I am totally unprepared to execute this task." This always happens to me. I'm like, "you want to take this human interaction and codify it by making it easier for us to technologically connect? Can't relate! Call Deborah, maybe she can help you!" Out loud I said, "I'll give you my number." Most of the time, when someone gives me their number I put it in my Notes app, which is definitely not the place it goes, but what can I say, I'm a time traveller and I am stymied by everything since the printing press. (Trees into books? Now I've heard everything!) She put my number into her contacts and then texted me so I had her number, which is what you're supposed to do. I love those little "We're standing together but maybe at some future point we won't be standing together texts." They, like the work conference call in which no one is aware of how to speak, are little delights of awkward explanation that read like apologies for being a person. I always imagine them with question marks at the end. "This is Janeen? Neighbor? We should hang out?" Okay, Deborah, whatever you say. Anyway, now I have this person's number and eventually I need to text them so that perhaps we can be friends which is, honestly, the heaviest lift in our modern world. "Hey? It's Eric? Neighbor? Do you want to get a drink? I'm not trying to die of loneliness? This is a text message?"

Anyway, back to my brother's phone call. I explained to him that we were both born of the same parents but at separate points in history and that I was using my cellular phone to reach him using Space Magic. He got exasperated, "Didn't you listen to the long message I left you?" Oh, honey, I haven't listened to a voicemail since Al Gore was elected president. Also, I did not have a voicemail notification. Another great thing about technology is that it does not seem at all interested in helping you not appear totally bonkers when you use it. We joke about our parents misunderstanding the basic premise of some tech we use every day ("Just yell at the remote; tell it what you want! It'll come on the TV. It's like praying. Yell at it!" we say to them as they cower on the loveseat eyeing the Remote God warily). But the fact is all of us are constantly caught looking wild-eyed and unprepared by tech that seems just out of our grasp. It's like when I call people and they complain that they can't hear me very well and I'm reply, "Well, I have full bars." And they're like "I still can't really hear you, though." And I'm like, "I have no further information for you. Were this a TV in the 1980s I would wrap the antenna with aluminum foil and convince myself that I was a scientist, but at this point my only recourse is to move closer to a window to get more of the Space Magic."

My brother launched into the what he wanted to tell me. About a minute in, a voicemail notification popped up on my screen. A taunt! I was tempted to tell him to stop so I could listen to the message and then call him back, but I figured I'd already exhausted his patience. In the background, I could hear what sounded like hammering. Construction, I thought, on the Lord's day! What suburb does he live in, Heathen Acres? I asked him what the noise was. He was like, "Uh, my son is playing basketball." What I mistook for hammering was the dribbling of a sports contraption. Can't relate. I hung up and left him to his afternoon of engaging with humanity while I attempted to figure out how to find a voicemail. Help me lift, Remote God!

This week, a dabbing in Congress! A heavy blanket for the feelings! A huge backpack?! But first: AOC!

I, Personally, Will Never Recover From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Dancing Video

Today a tempest in a tea party erupted after some conservative Twitter trolls posted a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing to a Phoenix song during college. The video, which features moves taken from The Breakfast Club, is about as earnest and exuberant as they come, and somehow someone thought a video that made the new Congressperson look fun and young was a takedown. Conservatives have accused AOC of being many things, most of which she is not, yet somehow they failed to call her out for what she actually is: Lea Michele on Glee. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Rep. Rashida Tlaib's Kids, Heroes, Dabbed on the Floor of Congress

Let's take a second to appreciate their different dabbing styles. The younger kid goes for a less showy dab, with straight arms and a tucked head like an Olympic figure skater in a spin. The older child is giving us a full jazz hands dab, with one arm reaching sky-high like a chorus member in Chicago. It's a stunning study in contrasts and one of the best things that has happened in Congress since the last time Maxine Waters spoke. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

I Swaddled My Shambles Life in Weighted Blankets to Fix It

The inside of its box lid reads “Sleep better. Stress less. Be happy.” This blanket is promising me all the things that I thought only came from having abs. These commands are a tall order. Like, I don’t think I thought this assignment through. Honestly, these blankets are coming for my neck. I have to change! And improve! Through rest and relaxation?! I don’t know about all this, baby. Complaints are my personal brand. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Finally There's a Backpack Big Enough for All Your Emotional Baggage

According to the bag's makers, this is an ideal accessory for camping, presuming you camp by bringing your entire wardrobe, a twin bed, a couple of throw pillows, and a humidifier. This is, actually, my idea of roughing it, so I'm potentially on board. But are you really going to be hiking the Adirondacks with literally your entire life on your back? It just doesn't seem realistic. This model looks like me when I tell my therapist I don't have a lot of baggage. If you buy this backpack, you have to give it its own room in your house. It will not pay rent. It will just sit there like a giant Jonas-sized ghost. Better just to stay home; camping is too much trouble. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Let's Hang Out

Returning to host The Moth in Philadelphia, TOMORROW, at World Cafe Live
The Moth in DC, Monday January 20
Telling a story at The Moth x SundanceTV in UTAH, Monday January 28

Random Thing from the Internet

It is always a good time to revisit the video for "Same Script, Different Cast" which was the "The Boy is Mine" for grown and sexy folk.

May the Remote God grant you a blessed week,