Questions On Georgia’s HB 481, The Heartbeat Bill

It’s been a long time since I blogged, mostly because I have a lot of strong feelings about politics, but didn’t want to share them here, so I said nothing. But this is my breaking point. Sorry, not sorry.

I’ve wanted to have a baby for some time now. Husband and I have been married for over six years and have been together for nearly a decade. We are in our early thirties and are finally financially and, I believe, emotionally stable and mature enough to handle bringing another human into this world. Because that’s what having a baby is: it’s not being gifted with something cute you get to dress up, or a little kid you get to turn into a mini-you, it’s choosing to take on the responsibility of raising the next generation of humans that will inherit the earth and all the creatures on it. It’s kind of a big deal.

But because we have waited so long, the risks have gone up. The older you are, the more likely you are to have an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, a congenital defect in the fetus, or a medical complication for the mother that will affect future fertility, mobility, and could lead to straight up death (though, to be fair, all pregnancy comes with these risks: it’s an experience that is not a walk in the park for anyone). All of these things are enhanced when you’re having your first pregnancy at an “older” age, and in my personal case, I have struggled with a small host of reproductive issues that don’t make conception look like it’s going to go smoothly at all.

So, with this in mind, and of course my already staunch support for access to legal and safe abortion for all, I have a lot of question about Georgia’s HB 481, or the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act which, at its most base level, outlaws abortions after a heartbeat can be found (with a handful of exceptions) which is typically around 6 weeks of gestation. I’ve read the whole thing multiple times, I majored in English and consider myself of an intelligence that usually “gets” most things, but I had trouble with plenty of this act, and without any kind of background in law, extrapolating what a lot of these things mean legally. But I damn well tried.

Here is what I’ve gleaned this LIFE act means, and how the legislators who wrote it have twisted things to satisfy their desire to punish women. They have cited the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in order to extend its protections from U.S. citizens to embryos, starting as early as 6 weeks of gestation (39). Now, from my reading of the 14th Amendment, there isn’t an argument here, as it states that it covers “all persons born or naturalized,” emphasis mine, and an embryo isn’t born, nor could it be and survive. There’s also kind of a poetic irony in using an amendment that was specifically written to give former slaves and freed blacks the rights of an American citizen in order to take away the rights of anyone who might become pregnant and essentially make them a slave to the new human inside them, so that’s at least…poignant.

I’d also like to take a closer look at lines 43 through 46 specifically:

Modern medical science, not available decades ago, demonstrates that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons and more expansive state recognition of unborn children as persons did not exist when Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Roe v. Wade (1973) established abortion related precedents.

Mentioning Roe w. Wade specifically is horrifying in and of itself, but that’s the point of the whole act, I believe–they want to challenge that ruling at the federal level now that the supreme court is stacked against women. The whole country should shiver, as this new, dark dawn approaches us.

But where’s the modern medical science that has come about in the last 27 years that have redefined the words embryo (about weeks 4 through 11) and fetus (week 11 through to the end of pregnancy)? It’s confusing to me that these kind of statements can be made sans citation of the actual science by people who are not only not scientists or physicians, but are very frequently people who have not bothered to understand anything about the processes that they’re making up laws over. I’d like to sit down with any of the representatives (all Republican but one) who voted yea on this thing and have them explain to me anything about fertility or women’s reproduction. I can’t imagine most of them can even say the word “vagina” without looking squeamish or just flat out refusing because their god thinks it’s a curse word.

The act also states the makers are “applying reasoned judgment to the full body of modern medical science” (47-80) but again that full body isn’t cited or really even referred to, and here’s the thing: a neurosurgeon, a gastroenterologist, an optometrist, a dentist, a podiatrist, these people know a whole lot of modern medical science, but none of them know the “full body of modern medical science,” and I wouldn’t pick any of them to be present at my birth over an obstetrician who would know the most science about this bill, not that a single one was consulted. And just a side note, the Medical Association of Georgia flat out opposes HB 481, but I guess legislators know the science better than them.

“I know more than you.”

So, with all that explanation out of the way, I guess I’ll just ask my questions.

First of all, how is this tax stuff gonna work? Per the text, “an unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat is a dependent minor for income tax purposes” (21-22). Does this just apply to only Georgia or is the federal government gonna let us all get in on this too? Or will our state taxes, which can only be filed based on what you file to the federal government, be completely overhauled to compensate for the difference between how many dependents will be listed on each the forms? That sounds like it’d be pretty expensive for the state, honestly, and we’ve only got 7 more months to implement something, so we better get on that.

And how is any of this possible without a social security number? If a woman is 6 weeks pregnant on December 31st, the child will be born sometimes in July and it will take an additional week (in Georgia) to get that new baby’s social security card, so would the mother have to file an extension? You can get six months with an extension form which will cover you til October, which I guess is helpful? But if the point they’re trying to make here is that your embryo is a whole-ass human and you should be able to claim them for a refund, how does pushing that refund out so far actually help?

But maybe Georgia will somehow change the entire federal social security program and get numbers handed out early for embryos now? But if that embryo with a social security number dies at any point going forward, will the parents have to file for a true death certificate going forward? (On top of their grief of miscarrying and, you know, being investigated for murder? (We’ll get to that later.)) It seems to me that having so many more social security numbers floating around tied to people who never actually existed outside of the womb opens the door for a lot more fraud, so how will this be countered? This also means every embryo will have to be named and, when they “die” the parents will have to contact a number of agencies to protect that baby’s identity and prevent more fraud, and I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an awesome distraction from mourning the loss of your pregnancy!

And wait, what about multiples who can’t typically be detected until 10 weeks, at the very earliest? Is it tax fraud to only account for one if you can’t see the others right away? And what about Vanishing Twin Syndrome which accounts for 21-30% of multifetal pregnancies? Will a number be issued for each one as they show up and then a death certificate issued as they disappear? This is getting very confusing, guys, and seems like a lot of paperwork, but you know, the government is great at paperwork, so maybe it will be just fine. I mean, it only took me three different written requests over the course of six months to get the title for my car from the state of Florida only to hand it over immediately to the state of Georgia back in July of 2018, and even though I am still waiting on Georgia to finish stuff up, I’m hopeful!

And perhaps most importantly, will this extend to any child conceived in Georgia? So can we legally no longer deport anyone carrying an embryo or a fetus that was conceived here? Or is it that the embryo has to have their first instance of a heartbeat on American soil? How will that be figured out? Because the embryo has the rights of a citizen, according to HB 481, that is unless the mother’s foreign body is considered an embassy of her home country? But what if I, as an American, go to New Hampshire on vacation and that’s where my embryo has their first heartbeat? Or what if a Californian is visiting the World of Coke when their embryo has their first heartbeat? Is that embryo now a whole ass human, subject to Georgian law but mine is subject to New Hampshire law? If I go to another state to get an abortion, does the district attorney have the right to request my medical records from another state and prosecute me here? I mean, everyone knows that gambling at a casino is illegal in Georgia, so if you cross the state line and gamble in Florida or Nevada, you are immediately arrested when you come home. Right? Wait, no, that’s not right. This is befuddling to me.

Fetuses will also be “included in population based determinations” (68) which kind of sounds like they’ll be taken into consideration for where money is allocated by the government and how precincts will be drawn. I’m not sure how they will be counted, again perhaps Social Security numbers are needed for embryos, but this all sounds like just another really lovely way for the state of Georgia to commit even more election fraud by gerrymandering districts to include all the unaccounted for “unborn” citizens.

Perhaps the actual the solution is to make every woman in Georgia’s medical records public information at all times and to subject them to mandatory pregnancy tests every month at the onset of puberty just to make sure we don’t have any more or fewer people than we think? Making a monthly trip down to my state’s pregnancy check office where I’ll share information on my last period, maybe present my used tampons for proof, and then piss in a cup in front of a government worker sounds like a fabulous way to spend a day and, frankly, a fucking magical way to learn I’m pregnant! And I definitely would have loved it at 10 years old when I was blessed with my first period in elementary school!

Ah, I’m sorry for all the hyperbole…but

Fucking, is it???

Line 94 tells us that removing an ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo doesn’t implant itself in the uterus) is not considered an abortion, by legal definition, nor is “removing a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion” which is removing an embryo or fetus once it is no longer viable, or has “died” in the womb. An embryo that is no longer growing can cause a whole lot of problems for a woman, up to and including death, so I guess it’s nice of Georgia to not turn women into walking cemeteries. I mean, I’m glad we don’t consider dead people to be people. Actually, that’s great news in general, right? That means we should immediately be able to harvest organs from bodies as soon as they die, right? Oh wait, no, dead people still actually have complete control over their bodies in Georgia…which is more than living women now.

But my bigger question here is about that embryo that attached itself to a fallopian tube by mistake, the ectopic one, the one that’s typically discoverable as ectopic around week eight. That is NOT a person under the 14th Amendment according to this act despite having a heartbeat because of its placement. I mean, don’t get me wrong here, I know an ectopic pregnancy isn’t viable. It does not have a chance of survival and will most likely kill the mother (and then itself) if left to grow where it not ought be, but according to the scientific definition legislators made up in this law, it IS a person. So how do we morally and legally handle this? Well, it seems to be that we are saying the mother’s life is more important in this and a few other instances, which is refreshing, albeit not consistent.

Lines 119-120 state that an abortion CAN be performed if a medical professional considers it a “medical emergency” which is defined as “necessary in order to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” (97-99) but this does NOT include mental health, specifically outlined in lines 99-103, including if the pregnant woman is suicidal. No, no, we’d rather two deaths, not just the one, thank you very much!

Now, the existence of one thing (danger to the mother’s life) does not confirm the negative outcome to be true (definite death of the mother), so I don’t know how doctors are going to feel when this thing goes live in 2020 (unless you count that pesky letter from the Medical Association of Georgia). Basically, if you have a woman who might die due to pregnancy, but you’re not, like 100% sure, this is no longer something the mother and her physician can discuss, she can’t be given the odds and decide for herself what she wants (unlike basically any other person suffering from any disease being able to choose to treat said diseases and how), the doctor can only put abortion on the table if they believe “in reasonable medical judgment” that the pregnancy will kill her.

But with the threat of being accused of literal murder hanging over their heads, I feel like lots of physicians are going to be incredibly wary of performing abortions at all, especially when “health records shall be available to the district attorney of the judicial circuit in which the act of abortion occurs or the woman upon whom an abortion is performed resides” (152-4) (so fuck your privacy, if you have an abortion, it is a legal matter). If there’s a question about how legitimately the mother’s life was in peril, who’s going to pour over those records? There’s nothing here saying it will be other medical professions, and even if it is, who gets to choose them? Is it completely to the district attorney’s discretion to say whether an abortion needed to be performed to save a life or if the abortion was, in fact, murder? How does that make sense?

This wording will also make doctors even more afraid to treat women for anything if they’re pregnant, like women who have other existing conditions and need medication or treatment that carry any kind of risk to an embryo or fetus. None of this leads to better healthcare for mothers or babies, especially in Georgia where we already have the highest rate of maternal death in the entire fucking country. And even if a doctor is willing to treat a pregnant woman, can she actually be treated if she is diagnosed with, say, cancer? Since it’s not the embryo that’s threatening your life but the cancer, you can’t have an abortion, but the cancer treatment will likely cause a miscarriage, which would be construed as murder under this new law as:

‘Abortion’ means the act of using, prescribing, or administering any instrument, substance, device, or other means with the purpose to terminate a pregnancy with knowledge that termination will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of an unborn child (88-91)

So, what’s the solution here? Do we just hope the fetus out grows the tumor and hope the baby still has its mom afterwards?

Here is also where it gets really weird, and you’re going to have to bear with me while I try to understand the cognitive dissonance of your average anti-abortion-er. An abortion CAN be performed before 20 weeks if the pregnancy is the “result of rape or incest in which an official police report has been filed alleging the offense of rape or incest” (122-3). (Quick digression here: The fact that a police report has to be filed is its own dilemma because that requires the police to cooperate and believe you, which we know is a huge problem, especially for certain groups in this country, women included, and it also requires the woman to have access to the police and the courage to go to them which isn’t super likely if you’re in an incest situation. It’s a fucking mess.) So it’s ultimately good we have this exception, of course, but it is also completely mind boggling that a group of people who claim to believe that a 6 week old embryo is an entire human being and is susceptible to the 14th Amendment and deserves all the rights of a human, but they simultaneously believe that if an embryo is the result of rape or incest, somehow it’s either A) NOT a human and no longer deserves those rights or B) is IS a human, but we’re choosing to take away those rights.

Since the claim that 6 week embryos are full humans is being made due to “applying reasoned judgment to the full body of modern medical science,” it can’t possibly be A, right? Because it wouldn’t be a scientific stance that if I consensually have sex and get pregnant that that is medically different than if I am raped and get pregnant or even if I consensually (or not) am impregnated by a biological family member. These all result in the “same” embryo with a possible heartbeat at 6 weeks. So it must be B, that the embryo is human, but the state of Georgia has decided to deny those rights to a specific group of people. It probably sounds like I’m making a real good argument to ban abortions in cases of rape and incest, but trust me, that is not what I want. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy here. How is this abortion okay, but the abortion of any embryo or fetus under 20 weeks that was conceived in any other way not okay? If it is okay in this instance, it should be okay in all instances, shouldn’t it?

And where do things like statutory rape and underage pregnancy of unable to consent teenagers and, sadly, children fit in?

And I have a bigger, more pressing question to ask: If an embryo that is the result of rape or incest CAN be aborted, but the pregnant woman decides NOT to abort it and carry it to term, when does it become a human? 20 weeks? Birth? Never? How else does this human actually earn personhood? Do they get to be claimed as a dependent for the time, however long, they spend in the womb if they’re never born due to a legally chosen abortion? Do they actually have a right to life once they’ve exited the womb? Or will we have a whole new subclass of people that don’t have any rights based on the status of their conception? Should these people wear arm bands of some sort?

In a SHOCKING turn of events, men are actually affected directly by this law. Section 5 speaks very briefly about pregnant women recovering medical and pregnancy expenses from the father. Wow. I am amazed. In fact, I am almost pleased, except that in reality I don’t want anyone to be hurt in any way by laws, so of course I don’t want men to suffer, but I sure as shit don’t want women to suffer either! And I have questions even about this!

I don’t know how paternity would be established here as paternity is typically established by the name on the birth certificate. Paternity tests can be performed as early as 9 weeks (notably AFTER the heartbeat can be established). If the embryo or fetus is also considered a child, and if the father has become financially responsible for it, is there also a custody agreement for the “child?” Will we be transferring the fetus from womb to…testicle for shared custody? Is the father responsible for keeping the embryo or fetus safe? If they, say, smoke around the fetus, can they be charged with child endangerment? (Can anyone who smokes around the fetus be charged?) Will the mother be ordered to spend x amount of hours a week in the presence of the father? Are certain holidays completely at the father’s discretion? Must the father sign off on any of the mother’s medical treatments that affect the fetus or on any travel the mother does? Will the birthing process no longer solely be at the discretion of the woman experiencing it? Can a father deny a mother pain medications during birth if he is afraid it may affect his child? Should we give women collars with their fetus’s sperm donor’s phone numbers on them so they can truly be marked as the property that they are?

“Hello, yes, I saw your incubator walking past the sushi display at Kroger and just thought you should know. And she was headed for the soft cheeses and deli meat!”

So the scariest thing in the entirety of this act is the implication (or lack of any wording) that talks about what a newly illegal termination of a pregnancy means for the woman. If an abortion, purposefully sought out in a medical facility in Georgia, in another state, in another country, or purposefully performed at home with medication, or if “performed” on accident (that’s a miscarriage or “spontaneous abortion” in accordance with the text), we must be considering it murder since that embryo or fetus is considered a human with 14th Amendment rights. Georgia carries the death penalty by lethal injection (by the way, check out this on lethal injection if you want to ruin your day further) for certain types murder, specifically malice murder which is what this would be considered, or just regular old prison time, up to 30 years. I mean, I guess you couldn’t get pregnant again at least if you went to jail? Well, maybe. Is this what pregnant women have to look forward to? A legal battle on the horizon of every doctor’s visit?

I’m not even talking about people who accidentally get pregnant, however incredibly valid I think their desire for an abortion is (and this is coming from an “oops baby” to an unwed, abandoned mother who could have very easily been aborted). I am talking, in a completely solipsistic way here, about my own damn self. If I manage to get pregnant with a very much-wanted baby, but then develop placental separation, fetal membrane rupture, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension, renal disease, preeclampsia, cancer, an intrauterine infection, diabetes, a whole host of blood disorders, Marfan’s syndrome, Eisenmanger’s syndrome, or any other life-threatening illness, do I get to discuss the option for abortion with my doctor to save my life just to then go to trial for my life again? Will a doctor even be willing to entertain an abortion with the threat of legal action over their heads? How much distress do I need to be in before abortion is feasible? How close to death must I be pushed for my medical records to be enough of a defense to keep a jury from convicting me of murder? Or to just stay out of a courtroom at all?

And what if I end up miscarrying (which, by the way, is how 10-25% of all pregnancies end)? Do I have a legal battle to face once my once-private medical records are sent to the district attorney? Is every aspect of my life going to be scrutinized to see if I messed up somewhere and spontaneously aborted the legal human in my womb? How far back will these records go? Should women, in general, be extra careful about what they disclose to their doctors now lest some past reported depression or knowledge of sickness be used against us later? Will my husband be held accountable in some way as well for letting me endanger and then kill our child? Will this very blog be used against me in court if I mention somewhere during my pregnancy that I had, say, a Diet Coke or went on a jog? What about a Facebook photo of me with a friend at dinner who decided to indulge in a cocktail? Or that time my neighbor saw me almost trip down my front steps?

And remember that Vanishing Twin Syndrome I mentioned? Will…will the fetus that survives be held accountable for the murder of their sibling? When will the trial be held? In the womb? Will the mother be jailed waiting for the trial? (And can pregnant women be jailed at all since that would affect the 14th Amendment rights to freedom of the embryo?) If found guilty, do we wait for the fetus to be born and then put it to death via lethal injection (because that’s what the “pro-life” government in Georgia does–we kill people)? Or do we put it to death in the womb with say…an abortion?

Or should we just kill the mother before she can unleash a new murderer into the world? I mean, technically it’s her fault, probably, somehow. And maybe her doctor’s too. Because after all, the only solution for murder is…more murder, of course, and we are talking about the most precious thing on this planet: life.

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It’s Getting Dark

Oh, Dear Reader, I have made a grievous mistake. Today is Valentine’s Day, and I should be happy, but alas and alack, I am not and it is all for this: I’ve anthropomorphized a robot.

The Mars rover Opportunity is probably something you’ve heard of, but don’t know a whole lot about. I know I didn’t know a whole lot about it until yesterday. I knew it sent us some great photos, and I thought it sang “Happy Birthday” to itself every year, but then I learned that that is actually Curiosity. Yeah, there are two little roving robots up on Mars right now (well, technically only one is left roving, and actually we’ve sent up seven total).

But Opportunity lasted the longest, landing on Mars 15 years ago. It was only meant to last for 90 days, but it proved to be much more resilient than that. Opportunity traveled just 28 miles in its lifetime, but those 28 miles have never been covered by anything else from Earth, so maybe don’t be a dick about it, okay?

On June 10th, 2018, Opportunity entered into hibernation to reserve its
solar-powered battery. Dust storms blotted out the sun, and it shut down with hopes it would boot up again when the dust settled and it could be charged once more. The end of Opportunity’s watch was called yesterday, February 13th, 2019, when, after six months of sending signals out to it, it had failed to answer. Its mission has been officially declared complete.

Its final message was:

My battery is low and it’s getting dark.

Mars Exploration Rover – B aka Oppy

I’ve struggled so far to not call Opportunity “him” for a number of reasons, mostly because he says “my” so the little dude comes off as sentient, but also, well, just look at him!

This is technically an artist’s rendering, but you get the idea.

For goodness sake, he looks like Wall-E!

Anyway, it’s not just me who’s humanizing this poor, little, lonely sentinel out in space, and undoubtedly all these sad-as-fuck tributes are aiding in the over-abundance of feelings I’m having for a hunk of metal:

The only source I can find on this is the signature, “blindwire.”

So, basically, I’m wondering: what the fuck? I have cried about this more times than I can count on one hand in the last 24 hours. For a little bit I wondered if I was suffering from depression, and it’s just coming out like this, but the truth is I’ve kind of always been incredibly weepy. I cry over the smallest things, especially if they are manufacture like a well-timed song or a commercial about forest creatures, but this seems extra bad. Something about this little machine is fucking me up hard.

The logician in me understands this: Opportunity is not a living creature, it does not have sentience, it doesn’t know what’s happened to it (at least I’m on board with those sentiments 99%). And yet…AND YET…I feel bad for it. I’m sad it’s all alone, I’m sad it doesn’t get to know how much it did for us, I’m sad it doesn’t get to come home. But maybe what I’m really sad about is what it appears to represent: the end of space exploration. Of course, this isn’t the case at all, NASA still exists, Curiosity is still out there, and we have a whole future ahead of us in which we’re bound to eventually get into some Star Trek shit. But seeing as we’ve entered the darkest timeline here on Earth, specifically in the USA, the future just doesn’t quite seem that bright, and the death of something so good from a time when things seemed possible (I was 16 when this guy shot off into space) just feels so heavy.

And maybe someday we’ll actually get to Mars, we’ll collect him, and we’ll set him up in the Smithsonian with a nice little plaque that humans can wonder over and appreciate. That’ll be a really nice day, and I guess it’s really something to look forward to, it’s just so hard to imagine as a possibility right now in the face of everything else our nation is going through. We seem so doomed to repeat ourselves, to stop dead, and–worst of all–to regress, and it’s terrifying and disheartening. But, on the other hand…

We’re not quite broken yet, are we? I mean, if we’re sad about it, at least we’re not apathetic. The 24 hour news cycle is so in your face that you can become numb to all the bullshit deluging out of it, but this little dude, sitting alone in a crater, covered in red dust, can still illicit real feelings (in me, at least). And maybe that’s a sign that the future’s not going to be so bad after all.

Steady

Clouding up my mind today has been the people who, and the ways in which those people, made fun of me when I was younger. See, I ordered a laser hair remover from Costco, and it just arrived. Don’t get me wrong, I am fucking PUMPED this thing is here–it’s something I’ve wanted since I learned laser hair removal is a thing–but I’m also having a little bit of post-traumatic stress from thinking about why I want to epilate so badly.

So here’s a story for nothing more than my own catharsis. Let me guarantee you this upfront, Dear Reader, there’s nothing to be learned by reading farther other than a deeper look into my psyche.

I, like a lot of people who grew up to have a shred of empathy in their shriveled little hearts, was made fun of a lot growing up. I was a kill ’em with kindness kinda kid in elementary school, and when these other kids recognized that I was just genuinely nice and smart (they very often thought I was mentally challenged because I had a lazy eye and a droopy face–not that that would have justified cruelty) some of them stopped being too awful to me.

Case in point: in 7th grade I had terrible acne (I hit puberty a few years before most of the other kids, so I got to experience the face explosions first) and there was this boy who called me “pizzaface” or just “pizza” because I was Italian, greasy, and, well, I suppose it looked like I was covered in pepperoni. I didn’t even like pepperoni! It was so unfair! I felt all the shitty feelings about it, but I found a way to kind of laugh it off. Then that kid became one of my best friends, and even when I moved away, we still talked and saw each other for a few years after that. So yeah, basically I had a shining, win-em-over personality.

But once I was a teenager, my personality didn’t matter so much anymore, and kids were into playing the long game. Also, enough of that bullshit really wears you down. Teen-aged angst buoyed by being made fun of for things way out of your control and a huge dash of social anxiety is a pretty good recipe for character-killing-serum, but I do still vividly remember the first time I was essentially bullied when I went to a new school in the 8th grade.

I was in some sort of computer class. This was the very early 00s and most of us knew more than the teacher, but “keyboarding” was still inexplicably on the curriculum. I was sitting next to this girl who was very sweet, very pretty, and also very, very dumb. She was a cheerleader and seemed to be one of the happiest people around (ignorance truly is bliss), so even though I thought I should feel bad for her, there seemed to be little to feel bad for. Anyway, this story isn’t really about her–she was actually one of those rare people who was really popular, but also really nice. No, no, this story is about Jeremy.

And yes, Jeremy is his real name.

Jeremy was, and I assume still is, human fucking garbage. I know you can’t know this for sure, you only have my words here to go off of, and at the time I didn’t know this either–I was new to the school and didn’t really have any friends yet–but I hope I can sway you with this anecdote upon which you will judge the whole of Jeremy’s worthless, POS character.

So prettydumbnice girl needs help, and the instructor has already written her off as a moron, so I’m happy to oblige because I’m not an asshole. I’m leaning forward in my chair to look over her shoulder, and she’s actually getting it. I love when you show someone something and then they do the thing and their face lights up with realization. That’s such a good feeling! And here comes Jeremy to ruin it.

I’m tapped on the shoulder, turn, and there’s his stupid fucking face, but at the time I didn’t know what a stupid fuckface he was, so when he goes, “Can I tell you something?” in this incredibly serious tone, I think something sincere is going to come out of his mouth. No idea what, but to 13-year-old, kind, helpful, empathetic me, I am thinking, Oh, this person might also need help, what can I do? and I tell him, “Of course!”

“You have the hairiest back I have ever seen. I mean, seriously, just the hairiest. It’s like you’re a monkey.”

He delivered this in the same sincere, flat tone, staring right into my eyes like I wasn’t even human. Like he was just practicing being mean. So since this was the 00s, low-rise jeans were hardcore in, and as I was leaning forward, my lower back was exposed. At the time I had no idea how hairy my back was–I mean, I’d never seen it, obviously–but it suddenly became the center of my goddamned universe. I had known my eyebrows were way too bushy thanks to previous teasing, but quickly discovered so much more of me was hairy–too hairy–and all thanks to that comment.

And don’t worry, I’m not writing off Jeremy because he just said one mean thing to me. I watched him be an utter dickface over the next five years to a plethora of people. He’s earned every shitty name I’ve called him here plus about a thousand more.

With the rise of body positivity, women have been embracing natural things about themselves, including hirsutism and even just normal hairiness (we are mammals,after all, despite what every razor commercial and post-apocalyptic movie armpit would have you believe) and I think that’s great. But I’ll never get over that feeling when I was 13, and even though I can openly talk about it now, it still hurts me. I’ve spent almost 20 years trying to remove unwanted hair, I’ve irritated the fuck out of my skin, I’ve bled, I’ve given myself chemical burns, all in the pursuit of hairlessness. Maybe now I’ll get there, or at least a little closer.

What did today’s yoga have to do with all this? Well, not a lot, or maybe everything. Adriene’s letter for today talks quite a bit about loving what you see in the mirror, working for yourself instead of on yourself, and I appreciate that, but part of conditioning your mind is often changing the physical things around you. This is part of my effort to do that.

And I realize it’s not a fuck you to the people who bullied me. Looking the way they thought I should isn’t a fuck you at all, “glowing up” doesn’t absolve me of feeling like crap back then or teach them a lesson. In fact, I’m sure nothing I do now or ever will affect the Jeremies of the world. Like I said, Dear Reader, there’s nothing to be learned from reading this blog, it just is what it is.

Where Did December And 2018 Go?

In a word, this year has been weird, and in another word, December specifically has been busy. So it all just WENT and here I am, on the brink of January, both glad and sad to see it go.

Moving, in general, was the theme. In fact, “Moving” might be my title for the year. Leaving Florida was especially strange. Husband and I have spent the majority of our relationship and, frankly, the majority of our adult lives in Tampa Bay, and to leave was just so, so odd. It was also exciting and fun, and carved out a very different life for the both of us here in Atlanta which has very much been about moving–into a house, out of our comfort zones. forward on our career and creative paths.

As I’m sure pretty much everyone reading this can attest to, 2018 was full of both bummers and wonders (it took a long time for me to figure out what nouns to use there, and I think I actually nailed it, so you’re welcome), and since it’s about to be a new year, I am feeling that familiar sense of “NEW YEAR, NEW ME” that is also, I think, pretty communal. I watched a couple videos to make 2019 THE BEST YEAR EVER, and a common thread in them is to look back at the previous year to figure out how to be productive in the coming year, and after a little more random googling, I came upon this: YearCompass.

I downloaded the booklet and filled it out this evening, and I have to say, it really felt good, my dudes. Like totally cathartic to let go. I thought the booklet would be more structured and focused on actual goals and hard concepts, but it was softer than that, and while there’s definitely room for planning out your year with concrete ideas, I was pleasantly surprised at how emotional and motivated it made me.

But this isn’t a commercial for that site, I’m just saying it’s what I used, and turned out to be exactly what I needed. I have a lot of plans for 2019, including bringing back this beast. I don’t know what will happen to Vacancy, but I do know there’s a lot of writing in my future. I proved to myself it’s possible to do, now I just need to do it in abundance.

Last night while I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about two different, very old stories I really loved. Past me would just sigh and wistfully remember then and hope someday I could bring them back, but current me realizes I can write them–both of them–COMPLETELY–this year. Like, I can fucking DO THAT, I just have to plan it and execute it! WOAH!

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to bring the blog back alongside everything else, but I really want to get back to blogging about daily things, trying to be funny, and explaining why really stupid, insignificant things piss me the fuck off. So here’s to 2019 being a word-filled, creatively-abundant year. I know the only way forward is to actually plan things, so that’s what January is going to be all about, and that’s where it will go: all down in a planner.

Blogoween Day 32? A Wrap Up

Well that kinda went to pot at the end, didn’t it?

Happy Post-Halloween Depression, everybody!

I hope whatever you did to make yesterday special was awesome. I got up at about 4:30am so that I could do Husband’s makeup for work. I think it was worth it:

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He was a corporate demon with Terms of Service contracts and business cards for Beel Z. Bub. He also had a briefcase that, when opened, lit up with a red light and he played a crackling hellscape on his phone in his pocket throughout the day. If only we could have got smoke to come off him.

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Once he got home he changed into something more casual, just your average demon dad:

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You’ll notice in these shots our house is still messy as fuck. We’ll never be done unpacking.

I was a witch, which is pretty much the same as the other 364 days of the year, I just showed it on the outside:

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I did like a galaxy thing on my face because that never fell out of style with me, but I didn’t get a good picture of it til a lot of it wore off at the end of the night. My eyes are still rimmed in black today because I wear makeup so infrequently, that I have no makeup remover:

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I wanted a cute picture with Rutherford, but he was a vampire for Halloween:

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So now the season is over, and what did I learn from Blogoween? Don’t try and do it while you move! Seriously, though, it was a lot of fun, I think I pooped out at least a couple good posts, and I can carry this momentum on into NaNo for sure! Which starts…RIGHT NOW!

I’ll be tracking just like during Camp NaNo and hopefully get out ahead of myself these first couple days since November promises to be quite busy. Good luck to all you writers, out there!

Blogoween Day 7 – An Introspection or Why Do I Love Spooky Stuff?

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“Hey, kid, why are you so into all this macabre shit?”

That’s what my uncle asked me two years ago just about this, the spookiest, time of year. It really struck me for two reasons: 1) it’s a very funny combination of words, and 2) wtf, for real @me “Why??”

Mostly people don’t ask me why I like spooky things, they just accept it when we meet. But my uncle’s known me my entire life, albeit on an off, so when we saw one another for the first time in many, many years, and I expressed so much excitement about ghosts and witches and the undead, he actually asked. And I didn’t have an answer.

So I’ve been thinking about it since then–yes, actually for two years–and I still don’t really have a good answer. I thought maybe there would be some triggering moment in my childhood or one aspect of Halloween that really dug its claws into me, but there seems to be no one thing. I’ve attempted an intro-spook-tion, if you will, but don’t get excited for a conclusion.

Halloween is, in many ways, the last bastion of imagination for adults. As an only child, I used my imagination a lot when I was kid.

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Don’t worry, I enjoy it immensely.

And I didn’t really let it go when I grew up. I’m a big fan of “what if” now. It’s not a particularly useful characteristic when you’ve got anxiety (it actually might be a core component), but it does make life more interesting. My what ifs aren’t always “what if I trip in front of these strangers and am then forced to relive that moment of embarrassment every night before falling asleep for the rest of my life?” sometimes they’re “what if my pharmacist with the long blond hair and pronounced canines who always works evenings shifts is a vampire and is developing a pill to replace the vampiric need for blood?” or “what if when I go into this completely empty public restroom and all the sound is shut out I really have entered into another dimension and when I go back out I’m in a different *timeline?”

Halloween makes those what ifs not exactly possible but more people seem to entertain them in their own minds. So ultimately, I’m less weird for a short time every year, and that feels kinda nice.

Speaking of being a kid and also a total fucking weirdo, I’ve always had a strange relationship with my own emotions. I guess, really, everyone does, so maybe this isn’t unique, but I feel like I’ve been on this roller coaster my whole life where for a few months or years I was a complete slave to whatever my tiny mammal brain decided I was going to feel, and then there would be a span of time that I was so in control of my feelings that I would barely be able to experience them at all. I’ve come to find that throughout all that, fear has been the only constant. I can’t step back from it and analyze it. I can reason with myself when I’m feeling almost every other emotion, but fear happens to you in a way that the others don’t. Fear is sudden and, frankly, reliable.

And fear makes you forget everything else. You can’t worry about the distant future when you’re concerned with surviving the next ten seconds as you run up the stairs from the basement, you know?

But why ghosts and goblins and zombies and skellies? Honestly, no fucking clue, dude. The supernatural has always been such a draw to me. I guess I look at the world, and it’s so damn boring and like, I KNOW it’s just like how it is, right? I believe in science, I would like to believe there’s a cool place you go when you die or you get another chance at life, but I know logically that probably not (don’t get me wrong, I’m holding out hope, Dear Reader, I’m just sadly able to rationalize a lot of it away). But having these fun concepts and these things that people have believed in a feared across cultures and millennia as an active part of my life just feels…right?

Modern American life is so sterile. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, it’s actually great that things are clean, and we’re very aware of the way the world around us works, and yes I am incredibly privileged and lucky to be safe and healthy and surrounded by opportunity. But doesn’t that just all lend itself to a longing for something…mysterious? Something dark?

Something…spooky?

 

*I used to think I should come up with a code phrase to use with Husband for the timeline situation; however, I’ve figured that it’s quite likely the code word would be the same across most dimensions because if I am in an instance where I think I’ve fucked off into the wrong dimension, but it’s only a feeling and everything else appears to be the same, it would be INCREDIBLY coincidental that the only difference would be the code word which ultimately nullifies the code word.

A Short Story About Misplaced Nostalgia

Sometimes, because the human brain is imperfect and possibly glitchy due to some kinks in the simulation, we get songs stuck in our heads. And some of those sometimes, we get not a whole song, but a snippet of a song stuck on repeat indeed like a broken record. And even fewer times than all that, the snippet is unidentifiable. At least that’s my experience which I assume is shared by every other human because uniqueness is theoretical only. Usually this passes, the song is identified or forgotten, but if I had a story about one of those times, I wouldn’t write about it.

This is about the unidentifiable snipped I’ve had stuck in my head FOR LITERAL YEARS.

I have been singing the following to myself for at least a decade anytime 1) someone says I can’t do something, or 2) I get excited about taking on something new:

I can do that
how hard can that be
I can be
anything I wanna be
wanna sail the seas
just like a sailor

I knew the melody to this, and I knew that the voice behind it was male and poppy, but for the life of me I could not remember from where I’d heard the song.

But the theme of the song and the admitted silliness of the lyrics lead me to believe (correctly) that I’d first heard it when I was much younger and that it was possibly on a children’s show only, here’s the thing: I didn’t watch a lot of kids’ TV. I legit watched Friends and Seinfeld and Xena when I was a kid. And while, yes, I know all the little songs to Blue’s Clues and Eureka’s Castle, the problem there is I know those songs. And I know none of them had the melody or the lyrics that plagued my mind.

I consider myself pretty good at The Internet, and also pretty good at remembering specific things. Husband can feed me a line or two where every word is wrong and the melody is nonexistent, and I can get the song correct 90% of the time, but this case was just mind boggling.

I have tried on many occasions to find this stupid fucking song, Dear Reader. Believe you me, I’ve googled that stupid line a hundred times. You know what comes up? NOT THE SONG.

So in the last few years I became kind of content in my lack of knowledge. Ignorance is bliss, they say, and while “they” are usually very wrong, I forced myself to accept this. I even got a little delusional for a while and thought I may have made the song and melody up myself, but that seemed pretty crazy since I have attached a very specific memory of listening to this song, instruments, and a different voice to it.

Well, Dear Reader, I am happy to report that this day, September 13, 2018, I FOUND THE SONG.

I was peeing as I am wont to do quite frequently resulting in lots of good ideas, and the song popped into my head because, I guess, water, and I got the sudden very strong feeling that Len was the musician. Detour: Len is that band known for the incomprehensible “Steal My Sunshine,” the anthem of every late 90s, early 00s summer. If you do not click that link, I’d really like to tell you that you are missing out on an incredibly awkward music video where you see the camera reflected in every fucking pair of sunglasses and they do that thing where they filmed with the song at double speed then slowed the video down to sync it up (but only for the first half) to get a “cool slow mo” feel which is completely out of place, and also if you look closely at 1:28 you will see the girl screw up and VERY CLEARLY say “fuck” and that gives me life. (I wonder what that baby the tat’d preggo woman was carrying is doing now.) Anyway, all that’s to say, I thought Len probably had a second song, and it was that sailor song, but it didn’t get very popular.

Dear Reader, it wasn’t Len. I didn’t even bother to google it because I knew in my soul it wasn’t them. But it did make me think: I had this song on CD, but I didn’t own the band’s actual CD because if I did I would have for sure known them, so that left only one option: it was on a soundtrack.

THE POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK.

That absolutely had to be it. Now, you have to understand, the Pokemon: The First Movie soundtrack is…a whole thing. To be clear: I didn’t buy it as a kid because I liked Pokemon, I bought it because I liked the musicians. That’s the kinda fan I was. I needed everything Britney had her name on even though “Soda Pop” was exactly the same on Baby…One More Time. It’s kinda the perfect snapshot of where pop music was at the cusp of the millennium: a handful of really big names that pumped out a lot of soulless shit (no shade, I LOVE soulless shit) for years, a larger handful of one-hit-wonder types, and a couple pseudo alternative but not really edgy enough acts that actually played their own instruments. It’s amazing. I’m fairly certain the songs have almost nothing to do with the movie, and the soundtrack was just a marketing tool for Sony to test out new artists, but I think most of the 90s/00s was just a marketing tool for Sony, so that’s fine.

Anyway I perused these songs for a good while on Wikipedia, but I knew from the titles alone (because I could recall how almost every song went just from the title *sigh*) that none of them were it! How? Did I own some Japanese bonus tracks not listed? Did I accidentally see the movie and remember the one song that didn’t make it on the soundtrack? Did I actually just make the damn thing up?

No, Dear Reader, the song exists. And I knew that in my heart of hearts. The song exists on a CD I owned and on a soundtrack. And that soundtrack could only be to the absolute pinnacle of 90s teen high school movie: Drive Me Crazy. (I was 12 in 1999, by the way, so not in high school. I don’t know what was wrong with me.)

Bonus: The webpage made for this movie still exists thanks to the Wayback Machine and holy fucking shit. I’d show you the boyfriend I made on the Interactive page, but sadly that bit of code fails now. Alas and alack, I suppose Husband will have to do.

So I perused those songs and had so many punches right in the nostalgia feels. But sadly, none of them stuck out to me as the song, and, Dear Reader, I am ashamed to say that I almost gave up. I would never know, it would forever be a mystery, but then I saw a song listed that I just didn’t really remember, and thought I needed to hear it because why not? And, well, I’ll let it speak for itself:

None of the rest of this song would come into my head when those lines I wrote out above would, but as soon as I heard this thing I instantly knew all the words. I also instantly knew I’d HAD THE FUCKING WORDS WRONG ALL ALONG.

Wish I could be
Anything I wanna be
Wanna be a fireman
Wanna be an astronaut
Wanna sail the sea
Just like a sailor
But it’s not the end of the world
So baby don’t get upset
It’s just a little regret

And that’s a fuckload more depressing than my version.

So, Dear Reader, you’re probably wondering why I’ve committed to writing this blog especially after such a long silence, but that’s precisely it. I wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to for the past two months. Research. Now that we have this all clear, we can return to regularly scheduled programming.

Where Have I Been?

I’m not even sure myself, so I can’t answer that, but I’m having trouble getting back to wherever I used to be. I feel guilty leaving this space empty, and I miss it. I’m sure my need to produce will ultimately win over, it’s just how long will the struggle last, ya know?

Thoughts On Turning 31

Somehow it’s theoretically worse in my head than turning 30. That “1” is solid.

All I want for my birthday now is to eat.

Did you know up until recently becoming pregnant at or after 35 was called “geriatric pregnancy?” They now use the term “advanced maternal age” which is…better?

Adult birthdays are horseshit not because they’re not fun anymore–you can make any day fun–but because the government makes too much shit expire on your birthday. I do not enjoy walking to the post office to mail off a third request for something from the state of Florida on any day, least of all my birthday.

People my age are grandmothers in some parts of the world (and the US). That’s a lot.

My mom always calls me at the time that I was born every year, and I always say “thanks for pushing me out of you.” That’s just a fact you should know.

If I were born today I would be a Cancer which I’m on the cusp of anyway, though I do identify more with Leo because cats, obviously.

I heard Tom Petty on the radio at lunch, and I really had to hold back the tears. What the frickle frack, man?

My cats don’t know what day it is. To them I am eternally their caretaker/slave. I have always existed and always will, my sole purpose to bring them food, scoop their poop, and give them scritchy scratches when and only when they are feeling it. My birth, age, and death are barely concepts that register with them: all that matters is this moment, providing a leg to lean up against or an ice cube to chase across the floor. We should all be more like cats.

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Defining Albums

I’ve got this top five albums that I carry around in my heart. They aren’t necessarily my top five desert island albums or the top five albums I think are the pinnacle of what music should be. These are if, say, I needed to explain to someone how the fuck I got this way without my own words, I would just hand them these CDs. That’s a situation I’ll never be in, but guess what, Dear Reader? You’re on my blog, so technically you’re in that situation right now.

These are meaningful to me because of the times in my life when I fell in love with them, and the fact that they can so easily transport me back to how I exactly felt during a listening session. To be fair, Mandy Moore’s “Candy” can do that too, but I’m pretty sure that’s universal.

wallflowersbringingdownthehorseThe Wallflowers, Bringing Down The Horse, 1996

If there’s a theme going forward, it might be “depression.” I don’t know that I was ever clinically depressed, but sadness plays a big role in these picks, and pretty much every song on Bringing Down The Horse is, in a word, bleak. I was eight when it came out, and I think I got the CD when I was nine or ten. That may sound weird, but I grew up watching adult sitcoms and listening to both alternative/pop radio and classic 70s/80s rock, so The Wallflowers, The Verve Pipe, Matchbox Twenty, these were all sort of the backdrop to my childhood alongside Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, and Queen. I used to make up supernatural stories to the songs on Bringing Down The Horse, pretty easy when Jakob Dylan’s lyrics are already so prose-y and fantastical, and it sort of paved the way for me to really get into writing more dark and somber stuff. I mean, a pre-teen is probably already on the verge of that anyway, and the images of a boy living in a tower, a girl dying of a broken heart, and a man who can survive disconnecting the wires in his own heart just push you over the edge. Every song is magic, and if you didn’t before, you will absolutely appreciate the existence of the slide guitar after one listen, but of the non-singles, I’d suggest “Josephine” to get a feel for the album as a whole. (Please keep in mind that to a nine year old, the schoolgirl imagery was not weird. As an adult, I find this song…odd, but I don’t think that escaped the band.)

 

green_day_-_american_idiot_coverGreen Day, American Idiot, 2004

The first time I was old enough to cast a ballot for the President of the United States, I had the privilege and the honor to vote for Barack Obama. Everything I felt about this country could be summed up with the title track on this album when I was a teenager, and consequently, it’s probably more accurate now than it was 14 years ago. Beyond a punky middle finger to George W (remember the good ole days when Bush was the bad guy? Now the dude who infamously said well, I can’t pick just one, is the voice of reason!), there’s this sad, angry, trippy story about finding yourself and your place in a fucked up world on this album, and that’s what a lot of teenagers deal with. Sadly, the story itself ends with the protagonist giving up, so I was never keen on the last couple parts, but I like to think that just because he gives up on Whatshername doesn’t mean that Whatshername ever gave up fighting the good fight. The album is also incredibly theatrical (they did adapt it for the stage, after all) and loud and in your face. Basically a lot of things I wasn’t but desperately wanted to be. “St Jimmy” is one of the most fun, scream at the top of your lungs with your tongue sticking out songs:

 

the_killers_-_sam27s_townThe Killers, Sam’s Town, 2006

I used to say The Killers was my favorite band, but I realized that it’s actually just that they made one of my favorite records because they change pretty drastically from album to album. There are a lot of songs on their B-sides release, Sawdust, that I really like, but you can tell those songs were the ones that didn’t make it onto Hot Fuss because they belonged on Sam’s Town but ended up on Sam’s Town‘s cutting room floor. (A little detour here, but “All These Things That I’ve Done” is probably The Killers’ best song, but it’s weirdly on Hot Fuss despite the very clear Sam’s Town vibes it gives off, though it might be too hopeful and cymbal-crash-y for the latter. Okay, I’m done!) Again, there are a lot of story-telling songs, but the focus here is faith and in the mid 2000s that’s what I was struggling with too. Who am I, what’s my role in the world, what does God (yeah, big G) want me to do? All that bullshit. I also got interested in my mom’s life when she was growing up as I got closer to the age she was when she had me, thinking “I could never have a baby right now,” and curious about my biological father, and Brandon Flowers explores similar ideas in a lot of these tracks. “For Reasons Unknown” spoke to me on a primal level, and “Read My Mind” was basically the soundtrack to my struggle with sexuality. I don’t know if everyone has experienced this, but you know that thought when you’re driving over the speed limit toward a sharp curve on a country road and you’re like, “You know what, self? You don’t have to turn, you could just, like…keep going straight.” Well, “Why Do I Keep Counting” basically kept me wondering enough about mortality and God and the future to stay out of the ditch and keep my feet on the ground throughout 2008:

 

bat_out_of_hellMeat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell, 1977

If there’s one album that doesn’t fit in…except it totally does! It’s a rock opera, it tells a story, it’s about finding yourself (though admittedly finding yourself half naked in the backseat, dry-humping a cheerleader), and it’s epic. I think my mom got this on CD when I was around eight, and I’ve been listening to it since. It was always fun, even when it was about heartbreak and death, and it might be what introduced me to the idea of the devil being a pretty cool guy. Like with Bringing Down The Horse, I wrote supernatural stories in my head to this one too, only these were cheesier and self-aware. There were vampires and werewolves and demons and blood pacts and necromancy and, of course, motorcycles, but with bat wings. And all before Twilight! I’m not going to offer you a non-single suggestion because “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” is literal perfection and Ellen Foley is a goddess (that’s not her in the video though):

 

blackparadecoverMy Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, 2006

The Black Parade is a desert island album for me. In fact, if I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life, just one set of songs, it would be this. Why? I wish I fucking knew, honestly. It’s super dramatic, it’s sad and self-loathing, it romanticizes war and cancer and abuse all of which are absolutely not romantic, but it’s also loud, clever, thoughtful, uses “fuck” unabashedly, it is just so much fun. Of course, My Chemical Romance’s popularity wasn’t born out of fun, they rode a wave of emo tears to the top of their genre. I wasn’t a huge fan of their first two albums (but “I’m Not Okay” always does it for me), and I never had scene hair or a lip piercing, but I felt a lot of the things expressed in these songs. Yes, they’re self indulgent, but I don’t think you can really feel an emotion without wallowing in it for at least a little bit. On top of all that, The Black Parade presents music in some of my favorite ways: broadway-esque with vocals that are full of emotion (and also ENUNCIATION), borrowing from other cultures and sounds but making those things sound borderline poppy, orchestral sounds, and lyrics that are angry but also humorous and kinda grotesque and demonic. Or maybe I’m over-analyzing it and it’s all shit, but it doesn’t matter because I love it. So on that note I’ll leave you with one of, if not the, most fucked up songs on the album.