Failing September

What made it slightly more embarrassing that I wasn’t prepared for our Committee Meeting at my house was the fact that they showed up while I was still wearing teeny tiny pajamas.

I thought I had all morning to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting. Plenty of time to drain the coffee pot, type the agenda, send the reminder email, and make the muffins. Look at ALL OF THIS TIME! But first I’ll make the beds. It’s easier to be productive in a house with made beds.

Ding Dong. 

After a summer of carb-eschewing and spinning, my bits are higher and tighter. I’m sure our new interim director didn’t expect to see them, though. The remainder of the committee arrived after I found pants. And maybe they didn’t notice that hospital-corner bed-making after a breakfast of Tamoxifen and coffee meant I was legitimately feverish. Ding Dong, welcome to the Lee’s! Watch me glisten with hospitality.

I hate being busy. I’ll never be one of those moms tethered to her SUV and a slave to an impossible schedule of overlapping practice times at fields in different towns. It’s not that I refuse to let my boys drag me around because I prefer evenings on the couch. Like most moms, I’d give up all mid week drinking to shuttle them to sports. I’d spend my entire shoe budget on cleats and guards and pads and helmets. Lucky for me, we Lees aren’t traveling team material.

On any given school night, you’ll find us at home. Of course, there is some stuff on the calendar. Asian law requires piano lessons. And my boys are on a just-sign-up flag football team that plays for a handful of weekends in the fall. My days are plenty full with a part-timey job, oodles of volunteer meetings, and the usual mom stuff. And I take pride in my commitment to the mom stuff. Currently there is not a single item in any of the laundry bins. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Sorting and separating.

But September’s calendar requires even the Lees to be busy. September heaps BACK TO SCHOOL and WELCOME BACK and FIRSTS OF THE YEAR functions onto doctor’s appointments, multiple trips to get vital sporting equipment for one season, and your 43rd party at the trampoline paint ball rock climbing venue because (better/annoying) moms insist on birthday parties for their kids. I still use a paper calendar, and this Thursday’s box is too small for all of the things I need to do but will probably forget because they are written too tiny and I KNOW, BERNIE, I KNOW THAT I NEED TO USE THE GOOGLE CALENDAR.

How’s your September going? Are you greeting the Chair of the Board of your nonprofit and its interim director wearing skivvies? Maybe you haven’t missed a single meeting, or shown up to one without pants and sweaty half moons of yesterday’s mascara heralding your competence. Me, I’m ready for this Sept-embarrassment of a month to be over.

Middle school dinner is tonight and I’m totally going to be on time, definitely not in jammies. It’s in my phone marked “don’t forget to go” with three alarms. I plan to be entirely un-embarrassing. Until at least tomorrow. (Tomorrow’s not on the Google calendar yet.)

 

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I still use these. I’ve missed three meetings this month, but I still use these.

In Defense of Journalists… by Steve Safran

Journalists know they are doing a good job when they get hate mail from both sides of a story. By that metric, most political journalists have been doing an excellent job this political season. While I no longer cover news, I write about television and social media. I did produce coverage of the New Hampshire primaries for an online news organization earlier this year, but that’s been the extent of my official reporting. And, since we’re in an era of everyone crying “Bias!” you should know my bias right up front:

People have to shut the fuck up about how journalists are covering this election. Now.

Let’s get this right out of the way: Journalists lean liberal. They don’t deny it. They go into the profession with the idea of changing the world, taking on government and speaking truth to power. They do that, knowing the job does not come with a lucrative salary. Those are not the personality types of a conservative.

Having said that, I am a conservative in a liberal profession. I am a conservative who does not like Donald Trump. There are my biases.

If I had to distill the biggest complaint people have about “The Media” this campaign it is this: The media created Donald Trump in an effort to get ratings, and now they have to expose him as a fraud.

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard that Donald Trump tells lies? For that matter, is there anyone who thinks the media has gone easy on Hillary Clinton? And does anyone think that a person who has decided to vote for either candidate would change their mind if they were to read, in “The New York Times,” that their candidate lied?

It is not the job of the news to call news subjects names. Journalists are supposed to tell you what happened, and leave it to you to decide how you feel about the topic. You’re not going to see “Hillary Clinton (D): Hides Emails” and “Donald Trump (R): Lies a Lot” as their titles on TV.

Reporters are operating under unprecedented conditions. One candidate puts them in a pen, calls them names on Twitter, mocks them on live TV and even has them arrested. The other candidate won’t even speak to reporters in a formal setting. So we have a campaign in which neither candidate wants anything to do with the media, and yet the media is called irresponsible. Face it: the candidates are the reason their own coverage sucks.

When you heard there was an explosion in Manhattan Saturday night, you may have first found out about it on Twitter or Facebook. What did you do then? You went to cable news. And you saw great coverage. On Twitter, people were screaming about terrorism and ISIS and all sorts of as-yet unfounded theories. Good journalists don’t do that. They report the facts. They tell you what they know and what they don’t. We need these people on the street– people who are willing to go where a bomb just exploded and tell you what they found out.

Journalism as a profession is a skeleton of what it used to be. Newsrooms are decimated. Newspapers have either gone out of business or drastically cut staff. Reporters are asked to write, tweet, shoot video, post on Facebook, use Instagram and still file a complete version for the web and the next day’s newspaper. Bias? They’re biased toward getting six hours of sleep.

They do this in an industry where the median salary is $38,095. Oh– and it’s a job that CareerCast ranks as the worst job in America, right below pest control.

A word about “The Media.” There is no “The Media.” There aren’t daily meetings to decide how to advance the liberal agenda. There is no consensus. There are conventions, and they are full of seminars on how to improve coverage, have good relations in the community and other ways to improve your skills. There are also free drinks (…but fewer than there were 15 years ago).

Did TV give too much coverage to Donald Trump early on? Yes. He made for good TV. And because he was on TV so much, the newspapers couldn’t ignore him. As for the accusation that TV news put Trump on because he was good for ratings: Guilty. These are businesses. People demand high-quality coverage, but aren’t willing to pay for a newspaper or website. You have to get ad money somehow. I love it when people razz us with, “So– trying to sell more newspapers?” Yes, yes of course we are. We make $18 an hour. We could use the extra $1.25.

But nobody forced people to vote for the man. CNN could have aired a five-knife juggler cracking jokes as a Presidential candidate, and it would have been great TV. I don’t think the juggler would have received many votes, though. Don’t blame reporters for not asking Trump the tough questions. They ask. He doesn’t answer. Or he answers with outrageous statements that used to get candidates disqualified– and he gets more support. This is asynchronous warfare now. I would argue that showing Trump’s press conferences did a world of good by showing people exactly the kind of person he is. It just turned out that he is the kind of person those voters want.

Hillary Clinton gets away with plenty, too. Her supporters should really demand more of her. She is running a campaign not to lose. She isn’t running to win. I can tell you five of Trump’s plans off the top of my head. I can’t tell you what Hillary plans on doing, because it keeps changing and because she answers questions on substance with a “We’re going to look into that.” You should really want more from her. The Clintons don’t answer so much as put together pre-tested words and hope a sentence comes out.

So, with all of these problems– candidates that don’t talk, jobs that don’t pay, reporters hoping they’re not fired tomorrow– miraculously, the news still goes on. Media bashing is a fine political tradition. But when it becomes a habit of the public, it is dangerous. Hold the media accountable, by all means. But consider the alternative. These guys hate the Republicans. Those guys hate the Democrats. Everyone hates the media. The alternative is a one-party state with no press.

And in those places… you’re not allowed to complain at all.

 

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Cancer, Facebook, and Harley Quinn’s Ass

Dear Facebook Love Your Spouse Challenge,

It’s not you; it’s me. Typically happy to over-share and post flattering photos of my beloved and me holding cocktails on decks and beaches, I’m not going to do this competitively. Like many, I am exhausted of arguments that we can’t do anything if it alienates, triggers, ignores, belittles, or otherwise doesn’t include everyone on the planet. But your recent “challenge” made me mindful of how my newly widowed, freshly divorced, or not perennially-euphoric-about-her-spouse friend might dry heave at seven separate updates of Bernie and me being, well, Bernie and Me. Also, if you’ve ever read EMB (now B&B), the early years are more a tribute to my husband than Suicide Squad is a 2-hour homage to Margot Robbie’s ass.

I realize I just compared Bernie to a perfect posterior. And though he’ll appreciate that, it’s probably not what your Challenges intend us to do. Seven days of Prove You Love Your Spouse means posting pictures holding Solo cups in dorm rooms, cutting the wedding cake, blissfully unflattering moments with the first baby, and then finally the whole family at the beach/on the boat/in front of the Eiffel Tower. I don’t have any of these (where I look fantastic). So forgive me if I don’t play.

Truth be told, I avoid anything that smacks of audience participation. I ignored the Ice Bucket Challenge. I have zero interest in riding a bike from P-town to kingdom come– even in the name of Cancer. I won’t come up on stage or whoo hoo. I will raise one limp arm for The Wave. When asked to high five my neighbor in spin class, I’ll give an enthusiastic slap… but secretly I’m irritated to be pulled into her endorphin moment and peer pressured to touch her gross, sweaty hand.

It’s not you. It’s me. I’m outwardly sunny, inwardly a little bit awful. Recently, a beautiful friend who I honestly enjoy introduced me as “the nicest mean person I know.” And I started wondering when that happened. Thing is, Facebook, Cancer made me kind of a jerk. Touched with scary disease at a young-ish age, I was launched prematurely into that personality given to older, barely-tolerating-you characters (Dowager Countess, Emily Gilmore, most of the cast of Steel Magnolias). Breast cancer knows no “remission” and so there is a might-be-dead-next-year slogan stamped in the darkest parts of my psyche no matter how favorable my five-year statistics. So I do not pretend to like or join in or ride or run or care if I don’t.

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A sweet neighbor keeps offering up inventive ideas for Family Fun. My consistent answer: “That sounds tiring.” Others might promise to visit that lighthouse, take that cooking class, or brave that water park teeming with Pseudomonas, even if they never would. But like the Dowager, I won’t feign enthusiasm for their exhausting activities for entertainment and betterment. The Olympics are on! And someone needs to hold down this couch.

And so, Facebook, when you playfully challenge me to Prove My Love for My Husband, my answer is, “Nope.” I wonder if other Cancer victims have adopted this gave-at-the-office sort of approach to peer pressured pursuits, no matter how silly or innocuous or feel-good they might be. And I honestly adore seeing Kodak moments of the people I love as they post seven days of lovey doviness. But my inner Cancer bitch (is this a thing?) prefers me on the sidelines, even if a teeny part of me knows that if I enter any Love Your Spouse Challenge… I. WILL. WIN. Because it’s Bernie, a husband lovelier than Margot Robbie’s butt.

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They’re probably asking her if she does SoulCycle…

 

 

Sing, instead

On Wednesday, one of my loveliest friends invited my boys and me for an evening of… song. Not music. Not a concert. But song. We had only a few details, but even my smallish boys didn’t balk at the idea. Maybe smallish boys also wanted to escape the ALL CAPS political discourse of angry adults? Hmmm. But the Lees were immediately down for this.

The venue was a Quaker meetinghouse. The group: strangers. The leader was a television actress my kids knew well, having recently Netflix binge-watched ten seasons of her oh-my-Gods. Her workshop is based on the truth that everyone can sing. Her workshop is magic because she can direct a room full of strangers to sing in four part harmony within minutes. Want to feel good about your fellow citizens? Hold hands and a melody with them.

We floated out of that room in an entirely different mood. Immediately I knew I needed the Olympics to begin already. I want triumph stories and personal bests and schlocky theme music that’ll make you want to buy a new pair of sneaks, or get back in the pool. I want to see strong bodies from all corners of the planet inspiring and challenging each other to do impossible things. Side by side. Together. High-five-ing. I need a good lump-in-your-throat National Anthem singing moment. I want our shouts of U-S-A to feel like a unifying chant of victory rather than a fear-mongering dirge of exclusion.

We are all suffering from Don-illary/Trump-ton fatigue. My (mostly lefty liberal) social media threads are like protests from petulant children making 11th hour arguments for a later bedtime. But why? But why? Are all of these articles—there’s, like, one every hour– kind, necessary, and true (dear friend Lisa’s criteria for gossip-spreading or reposting)? Who knows? What I do know is that we already have plenty of reasons to find Trump repellent. And everyone already knows that oodles of people who wouldn’t break bread with him, trust him in a business deal, or believe his handicap at Mar-a-Lago are voting for him anyway. And the but why? but why? protestations land on the same ears as the SAHM holding her ground and her Chardonnay.

Friday, August 5th, friends. Opening ceremonies. No Hillary. No Trump. Nothing but strong bodies from all corners of the planet. And us: staring in the same direction shouting U-S-A in spite of a media maelstrom that bombards us with angry opinions insisting we couldn’t possibly agree about anything. When, duh, we can. Even people voting for Trump agree that he might be the most odiously orange pseudo-politician in our shared history.

Olympics, people! And until then, let’s swap out the umpteenth post about why your candidate is just the worst for unlikely animal friend videos and people bumping into stuff playing Pokémon Go. We keep promising ourselves (and we promised Nancy) that we’d do better than this. We demand that our politicians engage in bipartisan discourse, we applaud leaders who encourage us to listen to each other, and then we go back to our little screens and shout into the echo chamber.

Let’s sing with each other, instead.

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(Relieved Teddy didn’t ask her why she cheated on Chandler.) 

Vampire Cycling

Last night’s insomnia was sponsored by Moth in the Bedroom, Cousins Who Could Not Catch Moth in the Bedroom, and Necessary Confirmation of Death for Moth in the Bedroom. Coffee will be my best friend today as I help Zealot Sister’s kids shove ten days of accumulated summertime ephemera into too-small suitcases and drive from the Cape to Logan airport. Today is my last day making sure four kids have three squares. Today is my last chance to create memories that will outlast the stretches of time these cousins don’t see each other. Today is my third day of spinning.

I’m at it again: the loathsome exercise I burn more calories complaining about than doing. This is my first experience at one of these boutique cycling torture classes and so far I’ve learned that the price of spinning is directly proportional to the volume of the dance track. It’s also darker than a nightclub. A physically perfect, fast-pedaling lunatic guides us up and down simulated hills, encouraging us to risk certain facial trauma to include arm exercises. I fake my turns on the resistance knob.

“Woo fucking hoo, you crazy batch of minivan moms. You just cycled absolutely no where in Dracula’s exercise studio,” I scream-think as I dismount early, too pooped to stay for the cool down set accompanied by base-heavy Beyoncé orgasm riffs. I’ve seen you Soul Cycle sisters on Facebook all sweat-dreamy and thankful. That’ll never be me. And honestly, I wonder what the hell is in your water bottles. Almost always chipper and annoyingly upbeat, at the 43rd minute of group exercise I hate everyone. Replacing venomous retorts to, “HOW WAS YOUR RIDE?” with normal responses requires the strongest level of verbal Spanx for me.

It’s also possible I’m tired. Graduation season with late night parties, umpteen speeches, and too many Chardonnays was followed by a whirlwind trip to the Poconos for Taiwanese Family Camp. Which is totally a thing. A thing that we did. Bernie was their keynote speaker and somehow managed to give a lecture about Plastic Surgery that included only two sets of boobs and one severed arm. Our kids got to see their Dad at his bow-tied, smartypants best, and then we raced to the Cape where Grandparents were waiting with Zealot Sister’s kids for fireworks. It’s been three squares for dozens of people since then, and the occasional wee hour insect hunt and murder.

After this round trip to Logan, summer really begins for me. Theme: get your own damn sandwich. Also, naps. And let’s be honest, more spinning at Dracula’s Rave. Because all of us should aspire to the physique of these fast pedaling lunatics. Left right left right left right left right.

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But where would a VAMPIRE want to cycle? — B/Spoke studio designers, apparently

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming

In the dream, Joe picks me up like a little girl… high over his head… beaming at me with an imp grin like he might toss me up to the ceiling.

“Put me down,” I tell him. “You’re going to pop my implants.”

Joe laughter. Loud, unbridled joy guffaws from Joe. I’ll miss that the most.

Joe’s last will and testament directed The Stockpeople to join the extensive Burke clan and other good friends to celebrate his life. So we did just that, meeting in gorgeous Shoreham, his childhood home. We came from all four corners of the country to live like nuclear Stocktons before there were any husbands or babies or faraway jobs. The only thing missing was a golden retriever. It was exhilarating and exhausting, full of giggles and tears, ocean panoramas and pink skies. It was perfect.

My favorite eulogy was from Nancy. With classic Burke humor and love, she reminded us that Joe’s bigger-than-life persona included a larger-than-human ego. Joe was quite aware of his handsomeness, seductiveness, magnetism, and crowd-wowing abilities. He wasn’t perfect (who is?), but we adored everything about him. I read The Joy Vacuum out loud. I couldn’t get through that without ugly, gasping tears. But Joe appreciated things that were real… even if they were messy. So there was that.

I miss them already: Erin’s not-aware-how-stunning-they-are daughters, the overtall boys, the staggering beauty that accompanies the Burke genes. Why didn’t we do this sooner? We kept asking ourselves that. Joe probably had, too, as he traveled thousands of miles to visit everyone– one last time. Did he know we’d do it? Did he know we’d quit work early, board planes and ferries, rent houses, and buy cases and cases of wine? Maybe not. But if he knew we did (and we think he knew), it was just what he had imagined. We loved each other all over again and for the first time.

It was supposed to rain. Instead: this.

Joe's Sunset

One thing Joe did beautifully in his later years was to live soberly, with purpose, mindfulness, awareness, and kindness. In the past five years, Joe had introduced me to a handful of people I now call friends. If Joe thought you should probably know so-and-so, he’d broker the introduction, and then watch with great satisfaction as it all played out the way he knew it would. At his own memorial service, we could feel him mayonnaise-smearing his joyful love all over us, forcing us into a huge Dagwood sandwich of piled up people—messy and delicious.

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At least an hour late, the Burke family pulls up to the Stockton home, noisily spilling out of the family car. Joe’s body fills the frame of the doorway, and announcing in his made-for-radio voice he bellows, “THE LOUD FAMILY IS HERE.” I’m 11. He picks me up, beaming at me with an imp grin like he might toss me to the ceiling.

I don’t want him to put me down.

YOU’RE NEVER TOO FAT FOR YOUR REUNION… by Steve Safran

I’ve heard there are some people who won’t attend our high school’s 30th reunion because they are “too fat.”

Ridiculous.

I am plainly twice the man I was in high school. I am heavy and balding and need glasses and look absurd next to the high school graduation picture of myself (which was always, and remains absurd). Anyone not attending the reunion because they are fat– and I suspect few are– should just take a look at the rest of us.

Hi. We’re 48. We’re doughy and dowdy and victims of the ‘80s. We were On a Road to Nowhere while busy Not Starting the Fire and being In Your Eyes. While we Just Said No, Frankie Said Yes. We Rocked the Casbah, at least as much as one could in suburban Boston before 11pm. Now we’re achy, and our feet hurt, and it’s not because of the Diamonds on the Soles of our Shoes, either.

At first blush the 30th reunion seems like one you might skip. Surely the 25th is a more widely acceptable marker of time. But the 25th wasn’t that big a deal, with all of us loosely connected by social media. Here’s why the 30th is so interesting: many of us are the age our parents were when we smeared soapy SENIORS 1986! on the back of the family station wagon.

It’s 2016. We have become our parents. (And at least two of us have become grandparents.) Sure, there are those in my class who have younger kids. A couple even have toddlers, God bless ‘em. My goal was to be “40 and diaper free” and I beat the mark handily. But the bulk of us are parenting teenagers.

To me, the 30th reunion is where it’s at. It’s life affirming. All the pretty girls who dated the jocks arrive on the arms of far nerdier husbands. They look at those guys, shake their heads and chuckle: “What was I on?” Successful men and woman happily discuss life, not caring a fig for those who used to tease them. There are guys who peaked in Junior year, doing shots with beer chasers, the ones who never left, the ones who won’t shut up about LA, and the ones who got fat/skinny/rich/lucky/weird/cool. It all just sort of worked out.

You don’t believe in karma? Go to your reunion.

You’re not the success you hoped to be? So what? We’re Generation X. There are books dedicated to our underachieving. Downplay it if you’ve got it, commiserate if you don’t. We don’t care. Are you healthy? Kids good? Sox win today? Great. Let’s get a drink.

You’re fat. I’m bald and farsighted. She lost her job. I got cancer. He didn’t make it on Wall Street. That guy? You don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter. We’re here. Our kids? It’s their time now. Their graduation pictures are on Facebook, and they look young and pretty and perfect. We’re soft and wrinkling. We’re carrying the weight of the world, a mortgage, tuition payments, fantastic and failing relationships, and nearly two decades of Dunkin’ Donuts.

I’m fine with that. You should be, too. Let’s get a drink.

Happy 30th Reunion.

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Moderation

I’ve been drinking too much. Or too often. Either way, this hangover is telling me I need to cool it. This hangover is also suggesting a Bloody Mary.

Starting with a weekend jaunt to New York and culminating with last night’s police assistance to find my iPhone right where I left it (in the Uber), I’ve been ping ponging to events that include maybe one too many drinks in formalwear. Bernie and I have also been doing this low carb thing, so although we look fabulous, we have all of the tolerance of a sophomore at a field party.

It’s Gala Season, y’all. And when your dearest friend has been planning an event for, like, a year… and then 800 people attend and donate nearly $200K to champion homeless children, that’s cause for some school night celebratory drinking! So that’s what we did. And with a renewed devotion to the Home for Little Wanderers and vows to be better, more generous humans we toasted and clinked and gibber gabbered until my best babysitter was texting, “um… ETA?”

Tom was kind enough not to make me do babysitter math in my wine-infused, iPhone-less stupor. And really, not even the vat of Chardonnay I drank last night left me feeling as adrift as losing my phone. Thankfully, the Uber driver answered my 27th call this morning and just returned it to me—with the blank check, ID, and credit cards untouched. I gave him $100, five stars for his Uber rating, and a hug (which might have boosted mine).

When we were newly marrieds, Bernie lost his money clip… twice. Each time, it was right before the holidays and canceling the credit cards meant an unpredictable batch of online Christmas purchases was, too. His absent-mindedness had less to do with wine, and everything to do busyness. Both times, losing his money clip was a little nudge from The Universe telling us that we were trying to do too much all at once, forcing us to sit down, retrace steps, and spend umpteen on hold hours with customer service to protect our checking account from criminals. To this day, whenever I misplace something important, I take an inventory of the calendar items that seem so necessary, but aren’t.

So, I hear you, Universe. “No more mid-week drinking!” might be a hollow promise for a Thursday afternoon, especially after you returned my phone and valuables. And I should have learned this lesson with Ran so many summers ago when I realized I didn’t actually have the stamina to celebrate with gallons of Prosecco every time I greeted an old friend with my new hair. Even Dad and I made a hungover vow nearly twenty years ago that No Wine Shall Be Uncorked After 3am. Of course the corollary rule is that Uncorked Wine Must Be Finished, and the Stocktons are better known for that one.

Because Graduation Cere-mania follows closely on the heels of Gala-palooza, I’m thinking Moderation needs to be a bigger part of my party persona. Or I’m going to need one of you to whip up some Bloody Marys. Extra horseradish.

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My Twitter Followers Love Cheese… by @steviesaf and @mewhinney

We haven’t done a back and forth in quite a while. Steve tells me Twitter is having a birthday, so we got all data nerdy about it.

Twitter turns 10 this week, and I’ve been on it for eight of those years @steviesaf. Twitter Analytics shows you lots of data about your audience, and I’ve find out some very interesting facts. Like how big I am among people who buy cheese.

I have about 1,200 followers and Tweet 2-3 times a day. My “engagement rate,” that is to say “people who vaguely care about what I tweeted” runs between 1-3%. This sounds awful, but is actually not bad and probably is as interesting as people find me in real life. I get about 2 “likes” a day.

That’s some good raw data. But Twitter Analytics is a real gift. You can find out a lot more about your followers. For example: 30% of mine claim an income of $250,000+ a year. Still another 30% claim $175K+ a year. And 20% of my audience admits a net worth of more than one million dollars.

So, as we can see, I have an audience of total liars.

Not surprising for a tech and news guy, around 80% of my followers like tech, business, politics and general news. But two-thirds like comedy! So I have a pretty good lock on the funny tech guys. And if you’ve ever met an engineer, you know finding 800 of them who think you’re funny is pretty good. (Or a lot of movie quotes, ed. note)

59% of my followers are guys. No surprise there. Pants humor skews male. I’m biggest in Massachusetts, New York and California (what’s up Silicon Valley!), but I rate in Texas, Florida and Illinois. Political campaigns should consider courting my endorsement.

Best of all, Twitter Analytics knows a frightening amount about what you buy. My followers’ biggest purchase is cheese (65%) and I love them for it. 87% of my audience, my top category, is into buying “premium brands.” So, my biggest takeaway is that @steviesaf is synonymous with “overspending on crap.”

Let’s see Britt (@mewhinney) top that.

 

Given it’s my blog, and I have ultimate editorial power and last word privileges, you’d think I could totally top that. But I can’t. Twitter Analytics did the loser-cough thing when I opened the program. I’ve only lured 527 followers to @mewhinney since I first logged on in 2009. Admittedly, I’ve only been active since I found @OhNoSheTwitnt and developed a GoT-themed girl crush that hasn’t subsided. People who stop by really don’t “like” me very much at all. Though I’ve had silly Facebook threads run over 100 comments long, I’ll only earn a “heart” or two a day on this harder-to-crack site. My meager 2.6% engagement rate is probably inflated by other weirdoes with insomnia (e.g., @steviesaf).

72% of my followers love comedy, writing, and music, and their income is equally stratified among levels quite south of the 1%-ers. And though a very small percentage of them own fancy homes, most of them wouldn’t scoff at a Chanel bag. Only 9% are vegetarian, which may have something to do with me constantly bashing liquefied salad diets and yoga.

Twitter Analytics can help you combine all of your demographic data into an amalgam of your typical follower. Mine is a California apartment-dwelling, dairy-loving comic with great taste. @13spencer should be hanging on my every word.

Every once in a while a huge account, like @CulturedRuffian, will post a dollar value that correlates with the worth of his Twitter-ing. Mine amounted to little less than one Jimmy Choo. And not even a boot, to boot. I’d love to know how someone with thousands and thousands of followers is surprised, delighted, disheartened, or aided by this demographic data. I’d also love to know who is buying all of this cheese on line.

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The Joy Vacuum

Every photo picks at the wound. Every memory aches. Every time I think of you, gone, I stop breathing. But then I smile. And then I cry. And then I go back to Facebook to find your community—your ministry of fun and kindness—to pick at the scab some more. This is where we are today, Joe. Scab picking.

You’d want me to write about it. That I know. You told me some of your best writing flowed through tears. Where you are now is beyond the effects of flattery and clever words conceding your awesomeness. But here on our little island home, we still need them. I want to fill this huge hole, this joy vacuum, with thousands of words that say, “Me, too! I loved him, too! He was the best, most human of humans.”

You were one of Dad’s best friends. The two of you, so different except for the irreverent joy you brought to every room. The two of you, so smart and loyal and hilarious. The two of you, holding court, poking fun, quick to hug, slow to end the party. Booming voices, huge laughter, enormous personalities… the Heroes of my Youth.

It’s so quiet, Joe. Jay and Heather told us about your perfect day. The best haircut, the promise of Spring, and the choice to walk home. (You’re Home now.) That helps us. So does your manifesto from July, presciently outlining this exact moment. There was no “glide path” for you. Neither fear nor anger at Nature’s timetable, you planned the ultimate road trip. I’m happy I was on one of the stops. Reading one of your essays feels like a visit with you, but actually pressing Burke flesh is food.

We’re a little bit more like you today. We’re making plans to be with each other and do the things we say we want to do… or at least figure out if we really want to do those things. We’re reaching out to everyone in your joy orbit to grieve together and marvel at the girth of your Spirit, the enormity of your Love. I think you’d like that.

Before I was born, you promised Dad to help paint my nursery. There was so much discussion about the wall paint, Chris thought that was my name. I’ve been WallPaint since birth. Except when I was Mewhinney. Or Blondie. Or whatever popped into that clever, fun-loving noggin of yours… and usually stuck. We could fill pages with the silly monikers you gave us. We’ll probably do that. We’ll do lots of things to make you feel closer. Anything to make the joy vacuum suck less.

I miss you viscerally, Joe. Though you had made peace with moving on, I wasn’t ready. But we’ll get there. Just a few more scabs, Joe. And then we promise to get to the hugs and giggles and some sort of serenity. Benny is going to help. Look at this kid so obviously infused with Joe-ness.

Benny

Me too! I loved him, too! He was the best, most human of humans!

I love you in that forever kind of way… your admirer, your friend, your Mewhinney, your WallPaint.

 

 

Grief, the sixth sense.