What Now?: Eric Reads the Week #53

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

This week: winning the War on Christmas, the Grinch calls from Mar-a-Lago, Kylie's pregnancy announcement, and Track Changes shade.

In December 2016, David told me he was going to take a social media break in 2017. He said the internet was becoming a non-stop barrage of crisis and stress; he needed a break for his peace of mind. I understood the impetus for this but nonetheless I took it as a personal affront.

I was like "Uh, hello. I exist exclusively on the internet. I am basically a Black Mirror character. I am a composite of bits, GIFs, and retweets. I care about your mental health, but honestly, how dare you?" He was like, "You're being dramatic" (NEVER) "You do realize we live together. You can just make jokes to me about the news in person."

This was me:

I didn't even respond. I just walked to the next room, grabbed my phone, and posted "See you in the future." on his Facebook wall. Then I posted "Do you want to order out for dinner or cook?" Then I posted "Did you hear that? Is there a bird in the house? I think there's a bird in the house. Wait, never mind. It's on TV. There was a bird on TV." Then I posted "I'm watching a show about birds."

I'm exhausting.

I went to my plotting suite and decided to start a mailing list so that I could get my husband's attention. And, well, that's why you're reading this right now.

I'm only 34% kidding. I had hemmed and hawed about starting a mailing list for a while. Who wants to hear from me? I thought. What an intrusion! As if I was going to be lifting people's thumbs from under their pillows while they slept, opening their email programs, signing them up for my mailing list, confirming that they weren't a robot, failing to confirm that they weren't a robot by missing one of the images that, apparently, contained a sign in it, trying again, wondering where these images even come from and if there's the pole of a sign in the image but not the sign itself do they want me to select that too or just full signs? Why is the Robot Detector equivocating? Why can't I just submit a DNA sample or something? And (confidential between me and you) I don't even care if robots sign up for my mailing list. You think malicious sentient Palm Pilots aren't interested in pop culture commentary? Rude.

Anyway, I started this list because the winter of last year was a little bleak and the internet was exhausting and I could totally sympathize with people who wanted to be off of it, but it occurred to me that maybe they'd be interested in getting a digest of funny things once a week without having to scroll through 1,000 Tweets from the president complaining about, literally, everything. I was surprised that people signed up, tbh, and I was surprised, and touched, that people responded. I think it's easy to forget that someone is listening, someone wants to hear what you have to say, no matter who you are. I just couldn't imagine it.

I think of myself as someone with a big enough imagination. I mean, it's not the wildest in the world. It's a solid B+ imagination. Is there a scale? Is there a Master Class I can take. Is there some sort of exercise I can do? Would I rank in the imagination Olympics?

My plays tend to be pretty solidly based in reality. Every time I try to get myself to add a dragon in a dream ballet or something I always end up deleting everything and rewriting it as a mid-year performance evaluation at a mid-sized non-profit. All my plays are about motivational conversations between two people who in an open floor plan workspace with no HR manager.

That's not true.

But sometimes I wonder what's beyond the things that I can imagine. I wonder what's the dream I don't even know I'm not having. Last year this time it was simply sending an email out. Not all dreams have dragons in toe shoes.

I guess I say all that to say, thanks for reading this. Thanks for responding with your thoughts about Oprah's GIF of the year or the food and the elevator at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture or the conspiracy about Viola Swamp. Thanks for reminding me that a lack of imagination about the possible world does not mean it doesn't exist. Perhaps everything exists potentially, every stimulating conversation, every life-changing connection, every hopeful world, every unlikely pairing, every song, every note, every word. Maybe they just have to be reached for, blindly, without a clear plan, like Indiana Jones walking across the invisible bridge.

I don't make New Year's resolutions, which is kind of out-of-character considering how much I love lying to myself. I just think January is too cold to be making all kind of promises about doing crunches or learning to knit or whatnot. Who has the body-heat for all of that? Instead, this year I think I'm asking "What now?" Every season of Idris Elba's brilliant series Luther ended with his character asking that question and I was obsessed with it. It wasn't a weary refrain or an exhausted declaration, but rather a spell of anticipation. An invitation to possibility, for the unknown, for the thing you can't (yet) imagine.

This was such a weird news week. With so many people on vacation (including the president, but don't tell the president because he's convinced he was working), the news was sometimes sparse. But when stories did burble up they definitely had the air of "Oh, what is this now?" Sometimes good, as is the case with the thrilling conclusion of the Dern-naissance, sometimes it's terrifying like the Trumps' calls to kids on Christmas Eve, but first... ugh, Milo:

Milo's Book Edits Are a Reading Masterpiece

Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart staffer who is often referred to as a provocateur as if that is an actual job one can put on a 1040-EZ form and not just a nice way of saying "trash-talker," is suing publisher Simon & Schuster for $10 million after the cancellation of a book deal. Simon & Schuster has entered into evidence the manuscript Yiannopoulous submitted, complete with scathing notes from editor Mitchell Ivers and, honey, it is a wild ride. Ivers fired up his Microsoft Word and proceeded to read Milo for filth and then some. I imagine at some point Clippy showed up with a bowl of popcorn and just cackled. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Despite What Trump Says, Mariah Carey Won the War on Christmas Years Ago

Happy Boxing Day! Or, as we say in America: "Merry Christmas 2!" Despite what those defiantly un-American Canadians may say, today is the sequel to Christmas—call it Christmas: With a Vengeance, call it 2 Christ 2 Mas, call it The Baby Jesus Strikes Back. Call it whatever you want, because we now have freedom of holiday-related speech thanks to our president, Mariah Angela Carey. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

This Is Just To Say "Good for You, Laura Dern"

How would you rate your 2017 on a scale from raccoon attack to dumpster fire? If you're feeling weirdsies about your year in review, just think about the year that Laura Dern is having. Upset about politics? Sports? Entertainment? Your T-zone? Don't worry about it. Laura Dern absolutely dominated this year and we need to just marinate in our gratitude about that. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Greetings From Our Giant Terrifying Gold Room!

Nothing says America like posting up in Vegas Versailles, facing away from your spouse, making empty promises to children. The calls came from kids who were trying to reach the Santa Tracker run by NORAD—North American Aerospace Defense Command, an agency that seems unaware of how acronyms work. Redirecting some children's Santa calls to the First Family is a long-standing tradition, but you have to admit that this particular deviation is especially cruel. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Imagined Scenarios in Which Kylie Jenner Finally Announces Her Pregnancy

We have endured months of speculation about whether Kylie Jenner is, indeed, with child. It seems that a full decade has past since an angel appeared to a group of shepherds in a field one night and said "TELL TMZ THAT KYLIE JENNER IS HAVING A BABY, Y'ALL!" We have waited, with baited Twitter fingers for confirmation from the notoriously press savvy Kardashian-Jenner clan, to no avail. Khloe abruptly dropped the news of her own pregnancy last week and showed up to the family's annual Khristmas party in a bump-revealing body suit. (PS, why don't they spell it like this? I mean, are they about branding or not? If the Kardashians can't monetize the holidays, what are we even doing here?) We sat through 25 days of GAP ads on Kim's Instagram, waiting for a big reveal from her sister. No dice. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Favorite thing I wrote this year?

I don't know, y'all. I wrote a lot of things. Like, literally hundreds of ELLE.com columns, plus a dozen recaps on ManRepeller, four NYTimes articles, a third of a book (!), two and a half plays, and a lot of tweets about that time a someone hacked my AT&T account and sent an iPhone X to a Holiday Inn Express in New Hampshire. BUT... without doing a deep dive, the piece that pops into my mind first is this one, about a lost-standing beef between two diva icons. It's absurd, it's nonsensical, it's Whitney Houston-adjacent: it's all the things I want in life.

Aretha Franklin Resurrects 5-Year-Old Beef With Dionne Warwick Via Fax

You may have drama in life; you may be getting into it with your little friends on Twitter, you may have had a very terse conversation with a barista about why the almond milk wasn't on the counter; you may be blithely walking through the world side-eying children and puppies and especially flowery trees. Your friends may call you TNT because "you know drama," but you have never known drama the way Aretha Franklin knows drama. I'm going to try to explain to you what happened. You're not going to understand. That's okay. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

A lot of things happened in the past! Presumably some more things will happen in the future! I am excited about change. But also about sameness! Always remember to keep not forgetting! Here's to tomorrow! And yesterday! And other days, too!

What now?