It Happened in Real Life

It’s April in New England, which means the solid crust of exhaust stained ice/snow has finally given way to brown grass. And, like good northeasterners, we pull out our sandals and rejoice.

Me, especially. This year’s winter — with its months of below-zero temperatures and comical snowfall totals — wreaked havoc on my usually-manageable seasonal depression. What started out as a normal case of the winter blues segued into a deep, relentless fog that stretched on for months. It was Bad.

I didn’t feel like doing any of my usual hobbies (or much of anything). At some point, I developed a trace of interest in baking a cake. Then I laid on my couch for a few weeks. Then I bought some butter. Another few weeks went by. You get the idea.

Eventually I made the cake. Something about the distraction of following directions, or the smell of sweets baking… whatever it was, it got me off the couch. So i went with the flow, stocked up on flour, and baked through the tears.

Co-author Lena Webb had a similar relationship with crossword puzzles during a recent rough spell, and her essay describes it far better than I could so I’ll just link to it here. Go read it.

Some photos from my winter of baking:

One of many loaves of crusty peasant bread.

A classic apple bundt.

My home State cookie. I dropped the first batch in the oven and they burst into flames spectacularly, but I stayed the course (read: and also cried) and started over. I’m glad I did.

Lemon custard cakes.

Bavarian Pretzel.

Lastly, vanilla cream filled dark chocolates made with my (new) antique mold.

(Sorry these are mostly crummy iPhone pictures. My DSLR camera was in a closet and I didn’t have the energy to take it out for a few months. People who get depressed will understand this.)

The other thing I did this winter was watch a ton of stuff on Hallmark. Yeah, I’m admitting it. The Hallmark Channel is great for mildly depressed people because everything they air is harmless and therefore Safe For All Moods. While Lifetime movies can occasionally go dark and rape-y, Hallmark movies are both 1) watchable and 2) completely free of conflict. Even when it’s a romance and the protagonist has to choose between two men, she always breaks up with the loser guy in a totally amicable way where everyone hugs and learns from the experience.

Speaking of watchable corniness, you should probably start watching Younger. It airs on the sounds-like-it’s-made-up TV Land network and stars the actress who was in that ballet show by the Gilmore Girls writer that didn’t last very long. It follows a woman who’s 40 and recently divorced, but pretends to be in her mid-twenties to get a job. People believe it because she’s got long hair and highlights. She has all kinds of inoffensive adventures and starts dating this young tattoo artist dude and it’s all very silly and forgettable (and therefore depression-approved!).

Hillary Duff is also in it which will remind you that she exists.

P.S. My mood has improved significantly, lest you worry.

P.P.S Antique chocolate molds are amazing, and you should buy one here.

Remember Fire in the Sky? You know, the based-on-a-true-story-maybe alien abduction movie from the 90s? The really freaking scary one?

When I was ten years old, I saw it exactly once and it was so crap-your-pants terrifying that for YEARS I skipped past HBO while channel-surfing just to avoid catching a glimpse of it. (HBO owned like 5 movies in the early 90s, so they repeated the same things endlessly. I’m fairly sure I saw Gremlins 2 about 65 times.)

Now, after 20 years, Fire in the Sky is on Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Mr. Max is curious and thinks we should watch it. I’m still unsure (and somewhat traumatized), so I’m turning to you, Internet, to vote on what we should do.

Arguments For (via Mr. Max):

  • If something is really scary, it’s probably very effective filmmaking and worth seeing for artistic reasons
  • We’ve seen much scarier things on the news/documentaries
  • Aren’t you curious?

Arguments Against (mine):

  • Seriously, just look at this image from the actual movie

So my birthday is tomorrow and I’m turning 30.

I mostly don’t care, but every so often I feel an irrational flash of terror.

It’s hard to describe, but it’s sort of like this:

(I’m contemplating making this an e-card.)

To cope with this important turning point, I watched Ghost World, my favorite movie of all time.

It’s about two friends who have recently graduated from high school: Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson, who was about twelve years old when they filmed it) and Enid (Thora Birch). Enid, who isn’t sure what to do with her life, strikes up a friendship with Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a lonely record collector and general misanthrope.

If you’ve never seen it, it 1) is the best coming-of-age movie ever 2) is a movie about teenage girls that doesn’t insult you with how stupid it is 3) will give you an appreciation for ragtime music (really, it will).

If you have seen it and you don’t like it, you’re dead to me.

No offense.

Even though the main character is a teenager, this movie actually contains some optimistic messages regarding the aging process. Behold, my fellow 29.99-year-olds:

Three Reassuring Truths About Getting Older From Ghost World

#1: Outsiders Are Ageless

Enid’s a punky teenage girl. Seymour’s a middle-aged assistant manager at a fried chicken restaurant. But, as Enid gushes, “”He’s the exact opposite of everything I hate!”

In actuality, Seymour and Enid have a lot in common — they’re both outsiders. Artsy Enid doesn’t fit in with her peers or the creative phonies in her summer art class. Seymour fills his free time collecting blues and ragtime ‘78s and admits that he “can’t relate to 99% of humanity.” Even though they’re about a generation apart, they relate to each other.

I think aging is probably harder to stomach if you had the whole traditional young person experience – dating, bars, being part of a big “normal” social clique. But us weirdos, we’re basically old people when we’re young. So we don’t really age. Boom.

I knew there would be a benefit eventually.

#2: Being Young Doesn’t Make You Cool

There’s a reason Enid isn’t hanging around people her own age. They’re mostly, in her words, “extroverted, obnoxious, pseudo-bohemian losers.” Yup.

#3: The Whole Boundless Potential of Youth Thing is a Myth

It’s tempting to look back on your teens and twenties as a time of boundless freedom and opportunity and get depressed that it’s over. But you’re probably forgetting that high school was less like this:

and more like this:

I’m pretty sure the idea that youth = ultimate freedom is the biggest line of b.s. ever.

My own memories of high school (and many others, I suspect) exist against the backdrop of the following “uplifting” messages:  “If you don’t take AP History, your life is OVER,” “If you go to the wrong college, your life is OVER,” “You didn’t belong to any clubs? Your life is OVER.” Watching Enid and Rebecca struggle to find their way, I realize how much freer I feel now than I did then.

And hey, at least I’m not turning 40. That would suck.