Here For It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #93
Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: The most fire gender reveal party! Can we just talk about UB40 for a sec? And may these men never get another moment's peace.
Ah, another Sunday morning. Very excited to wake up earlier than my weekday alarm for no reason whatsoever and go about my day. My usual Sunday routine involves staring at the gym which I can literally see from my window but cannot figure out how to reach and then rolling over and spending two hours catching up on my favorite show: The Instagram Stories of Friends, Old Acquaintances, and Mostly Strangers. When Instagram Stories, those short videos where people put content that's not good enough to Instagram, were first introduced, I poo-poo'd it something fierce. I generally do that with new innovations because technology is objectively bad. I think I have reached that point in adulthood where my technological development has arrested. Like rings on a tree tell its age, future generations will be able to place me in history by the fact that I never felt any desire to learn how to SnapChat (or which of the letters therein are capitalized. sNapchAt? Perhaps.) Side note: if you are a single archeologist, your Tinder headline should be "Carbon date me." You're welcome.
I wasn't into Instagram stories because there are a dozen ways to get nonsensical social media content fed directly into our brain (to which our brains respond "CAN I GET A VEGETABLE OR A BOOK OR SOMETHING? READ THE BACK OF A CEREAL BOX. WHAT IS BABY SHARK?!!") But, obviously, I have seen the error of my ways because I now spend the majority of my time staring into my phone watching small videos of the children of friends walking around their living rooms and grainy concert footage of artists I have heard of. I'm obsessed.
I think my obsession with Instagram stories will, to my kids, be like the way my parents always have the TV on is to me. In place of my mother texting me to let me know she's DVR'd Big Bang Theory for me, it'll be me space-thinking to my kids "Cecelia's daughter got married! It'll only be on Insta-Story for another four hours. You have to watch!" To which my child will be like, "I don't know Cecelia's daughter." And I'll respond, "I don't know Cecelia! But I've been following her life since we had a nice chat in the lobby of the DMV 20 years ago and I really feel obligated at this point. They're registered at Crate & Barrel. I'll sign your name on the card, too."
This is a very likely scenario.
This summer at Rehoboth Beach, I had a couple of margaritas and treated my housemates to a very long monologue about this dude who's life I have been following for years and it reached full Conspiracy Board levels. I don't remember why I started following him actually; he used to be studying to be a vet in Chile so maybe it was for animals. Maybe he commented on my Instagram. I have NO IDEA. Anyway, the longer the following goes on, the more confused about his life I become. First of all, his primary language is Spanish so much of what he posts is a mystery to me. Sometimes I have a tab open in Google translate so I can follow along. But, get this gurl, he's not in Chile anymore! He's in New York! And I don't think he's studying to be a vet anymore. There are no animals! Just a lot of nightclubs. And shots of him walking down the street smiling at the camera (an Instagram staple) and images of food with a GIF that reads "SAVAGE" and I'm just like, "WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO MAKE OF THIS, CARLOS?!"
And he has a boyfriend who maybe lives in South America but is making frequent trips to the US. And then they travel all over the US together and I just want some answers. Like, what is his job now and where does this travel budget come from and where are the animals?! I told all this to my friends at the beach and they were like, "You should get a hobby." And I was like "Carlos' life is my hobby!"
This week, a bunch of NYC gays I have met maybe a handful of times (and one I have never met) Insta-storied from Baltimore's Fleet Week and I felt betrayed watching them. I was like "I have watched every vacation you took last year, I watched the 40 videos you posted from your trip to the succulent museum, I voted on the poll you ran deciding between two different beige pairs of shorts and you have the nerve to come to my town and do 360 view of some buildings I see once a week on the way to therapy! HOW DARE YOU?!"
Of course, I didn't write that. I just commented "SAVAGE!" Modernity! What a treat!
Random Thing On the Internet...
Before I get to the things I wrote this week, I have to highly, effusively recommend Rebecca Traister's book Good and Mad and her interview on the Longform podcast. You can listen to the whole thing here. The following bit comes from the end of the interview and is also included, in a different form, in the book. I can't get it out of my head, so I transcribed it, in part:
"In my head, I have stories of periods that preceded this one where that kind of defeat was every day. And people kept going... Those are the people who did gain victories that in turn created conditions that meant that the people that we're writing about now can continue the fight from a place that's further along the road... [Congresswoman] Barbara Lee is brought into electoral politics by the presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm... She's a person who started fighting for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal insurance funds to pay for abortion, effectively making abortion inaccessible to poor women. Barbara Lee started fighting for that with something called the Each Woman Act in 2015... Barack Obama had called [Hyde] a tradition, you couldn't get rid of Hyde. Barbara Lee started fighting for it. It winds up in the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton... Barbara Lee winds up on the platform committee; opposition to Hyde winds up on the Democratic platform in 2016. Hillary Clinton loses. She loses. That's a defeat. But what's happened since? There are record numbers of women who are candidates for office. These are not silver lining questions. It would have been better if Shirley Chisholm had won the presidency... Anita Hill lost; they didn't believe her. Clarence Thomas is on the Supreme Court today and he helped to decide Citizen's United and the Voting Rights Act which led to the election of Donald Trump. But in the wake of Anita Hill's loss and her horrendous treatment by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a record number of women were elected the next year, including the first ever black woman ever to be elected to the United States Senate, Carol Moseley Braun. In a seat that later would be won by Barack Obama... Barbara Boxer was elected in that next year; her seat is now filled by Kamala Harris, who is the second African-American woman ever to be elected to the United States Senate... Defeat doesn't just have to just be defeat. It can contain the seed of future victory."
This week: A tribute to UB40, poopy prez board planes with paper trail, and RIP to the Scary Time For Men. But first...
What To Expect When Your Child's Gender Is Fire
Greetings expectant parents, eccentric aunts and guncles, grandparents currently watching reboots of every show you watched as parents, and various well-intentioned coworkers of pregnant people who are just here for the free cake! Once again, gender reveal parties are in the news and I—a childless person with a lot of opinions—am here to answer all of your questions about parties, gender, revelations, and easily avoidable disasters. This weekend, news spread of a gender reveal party at which an off-duty border patrol agent fired a highly combustible substance from a gun, meant to produce a colorful explosion: blue if it's a boy, pink if it's a girl. Instead, the explosion triggered a wildfire that burned 47,000 acres of forest. In the grand scheme of gender reveal parties, this was both a highly unusual and yet a totally expected result. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Of Course No One Wanted to Tell Trump He Had Toilet Paper Stuck to His Shoe
Breaking news: a strange man who inherited a massive amount of wealth and has fallen up his entire life despite a very bad personality and a propensity for doing crimes embarrassed himself publicly. Again. While boarding Air Force One to travel to Rochester for his weekly dose of yelling at white people in a stadium, President Trump seemed to have a piece of toilet paper stuck to his shoe, like a character in a '70s sitcom. Perhaps one called Eight Pages of Tax Fraud Reporting In the New York Times Should Be Enough And Yet. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Finally, A News Cycle That Allows Me To Talk About My Love For the Band UB40
Beloveds, I need you to process that America’s chillest very angry calendar-keeping future judge decided to throw hands after taking in the melodic sounds of Britain’s preeminent reggae pop band fronted by a white Englishman. Whomst among us hasn't gone completely aggro when running into celebrities out and about? This is what happens when keeping it real goes delightfully wrong. While Kavanaugh's diminishing reputation is, by this time, nothing new, this particular episode allows me to finally write the article I've been pitching to no avail for seven years: An Appreciation of UB40's Best Song, "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" From the Soundtrack to the Movie Sliver Starring Sharon Stone and Billy Baldwin [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Senate Frying Pan (?) Makes Kavanaugh Nomination A Literal Farce
Senators must solemnly swear that they are up to no good (quite clear from all evidence) before being pushed through a bookcase into a secret room containing the report, which according to my sources at the FBI, is four pages long, has three inch margins, is double-spaced, and has a size 16 font. Nothing says a thorough, unfettered investigation like being given a week, finishing three days early, and not interviewing anyone involved. When pressed for an explanation, the FBI claimed that they read the SparkNotes on Kavanaugh's background and also rented the movie, so it was just the same. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
RIP to the Scary Time To Be A Man (2018–2018)
These men are trying to co-opt the language of resistance. They are trying to use the tactics that oppressed people—women, in particular—use to liberate themselves. They declare that this is a Scary Time for them in an attempt to claim a monopoly on fear and inure themselves from criticism, even as they build a culture that incites terror in the lives and on the bodies of women and other oppressed people.
If a Scary Time for Men existed at all, it was only deep in the minds of these craven leaders, in the small space that they allow themselves to acknowledge the reality that, though they legislate against it, the destiny of this nation is against them. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]
I mentioned a while back that ELLE.com was starting it's own Eric newsletter, which comes out on Fridays and has some ruminations on pop culture, a Snack of the Week feature, products I bought that I can't afford, and a couple jokes about the news. Well, it's finally live. Read the first week here and sign up to receive it Fridays at 2pm here.
Congratulations to Cecelia's daughter!