A Day In The Life Of A Smartphone Addict

7 am: I wake up, turn off my phone alarm, and go back to sleep.

I restlessly turn over in bed, my body ready to get up but my brain unable to bear the thought.

8 am: My anxiety gets bad enough that I finally sit up and check my phone to see if there’s a notification from work.

There isn’t.

Thank God! My anxiety is abated for a blessed three minutes.

830 am: I lay on the couch. I’m supposed to be meditating, but instead I’m scrolling through Instagram’s explore feed and looking at pictures of dogs.

These dogs are really long.

These dogs are also long, only they are smaller as well.

This cat is crying.

930 am: I put down my phone and start writing my morning pages.

I forget the date, so I pick my phone back up and check it.

I put the phone back down. I write for half a page.

Without thinking, I set the pen down and pick up my phone. What’s the weather outside? Interesting.

I wonder what it is in Virginia Beach. I was just there, after all.

Huh. It’s raining today.

10 am: I should be writing. Instead, I open up the Washington Post and read the advice column. God, these people really need a therapist.

I read until I reach the advice articles from 2018. Those were such simpler times.

11 am: I go for my pre-workout walk. It’s a sunny day, but I’ve done this walk a million times, so I ignore it.

I go through my Amazon subscribe-and-save instead. Is there anything else I need delivered this month?

Oh no, I’ve walked into a tree branch. That’s going to leave a mark.

12 pm: I begin my workout. It’s leg day, so I take the rock that my ex-boyfriend rescued for me from the top of a mountain and I do squats in my bedroom.

I watch the X-Files while working out. While I rest in between sets, I pause the X-Files to check Instagram. How many views has my Insta story gotten?

1 pm: I make my smoothie and steel cut oats and sit down to watch more X-Files.

I pause the X-Files and instead open up a web page to browse through horror movies of the early 2000s.

Did I ever see the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Did I ever see the original?

Whoops, my oats have burned.

2 pm: I finish lunch and sit on the couch. It’s time to meditate again, but I just remembered that Facebook existed.

I go through the “On this day” memories and look at old photos. I wonder what these guys are up to nowadays?

Wow, how did he get so old?

I can’t believe she already has another baby.

Before I know it 2 hours have gone by. I meditate, scolding myself while I chant my mantra in my head.

5 pm: I chop up a sweet potato and put it into the oven to roast. Maybe I should spend the next 30 minutes being productive!

I open up my phone and check every dating app I have.

He’s cute, but he lives in Pasadena, so he might as well be across the planet.

I love validation.

Whoops, my sweet potato burned.

7 pm: I relax and watch some TV while playing a video game. I can’t believe I still do this multitasking time waster from when I was a kid!

I pause the game to take out my phone and see if there any messages on any of my dating apps.

Hey, that guy’s cute. “Woof!”

I pause the X files and spend the next 30 minutes scrolling through profiles. “I really need to put my phone down and concentrate on the TV and video game,” I think.

Before I know it, my lights start to automatically dim. It must be getting close to bedtime. Those smart light bulbs were so worth it.

10 pm: I take a shower and get into bed. I’d like to do some reading before I go to sleep, but instead I take out my phone and scroll through Instagram again.

I haven’t checked it for hours, so there’s about 10 new posts I haven’t seen. I congratulate myself for my discipline.

Sometimes I’m so disciplined it scares me.

I peruse Reels videos until midnight.

I really need to get to sleep! I put the phone down and turn the light off.

Why can’t I fall asleep?

-Theodore Dandy

Things I Miss Doing When The World Isn’t Ending

When quarantine first started, I thought, “Hey! This isn’t so bad. It’ll be a chance to reset, take some time for myself, and then reemerge into the world like a less anxious butterfly. Thank God I live alone!”

Now I look back at myself as I was then and think, “You stupid bitch.” We’ve been stuck in our homes for months now, and even the most introverted among us are starting to long for physical contact with another human. While I have no plans to go out and about until quarantine is officially lifted, I have officially reached my “restless, irritable and discontent” quota for the year.

I miss doing things! I miss so many things. So, until a vaccine provides us with the freedom we so desperately crave, I’ll just go ahead and list out all of the things I miss doing when the world isn’t ending:

  • Going to the gym. God, remember how fun that was? Actually, my gym owner is probably a Trump supporter and constantly harangues everybody to put their weights back (which of course I do every time because I’m not a mallard). But he’s also a silver fox, so I forgive him for his bad attitude because have you seen his arms? Also he has a weirdly hot nephew as well who seems to be affiliated with the gym in some way…? It’s a mystery, but one that I’ll have to wait until things reopen to solve.
  • Going to coffee shops. Ugh, remember lattes? The taste and the texture and the way that you always forgot to say you wanted it iced (whoops!). They were such a divine treat. Sure, the cafe on the end of my street is open for to go lattes, but it’s not the same. Drinking a latte in a to-go cup on my couch while I stare at the fresh flowers I just bought for myself (because my mom bought me that vase and told me to “freshen things up”) is totally not the same as sitting and drinking it in the cafe (mom was right about the flowers, though).
  • Hanging out with friends. I miss going into the cafe I used to work at to see my old friends and delight at the fact that Victoria got new bangs. Now I just have to settle for seeing the bangs on Zoom! Those bangs don’t sparkle nearly as much as they do when you’re going to late night Canter’s dinners and eating those tasteless yet weirdly spicy pickles and trying Matzo ball soup for the first time and pretending that you actually liked it. Now I just eat delicious food that I cooked myself, sit on my couch and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is nice, but Sarah Michelle Geller isn’t really my friend. Yet.)
  • Kissing boys. Boys! Remember them? Me neither! It’s been forever since I’ve indulged in romance. Sure, we’ve all made eyes with that stranger from beneath our mask on our daily quarantine walk (those lashes spoke a thousand words). But romance is put on hold while we’re all staying six feet apart (I would rather forego men altogether than go on a Zoom date with a stranger). I’ll just have to settle for Instagram flirtations and drooling over Sarah Michelle Gellar’s boyfriends in Buffy (to quote my mother, “Buffy’s a little ho!”)
  • Touching your face. Who am I kidding? I still do this.
  • Going out to eat. Okay, so maybe I didn’t go out to eat all that often even when the world wasn’t shut down. But still, there was that occasional time my friend Jess would invite me out to dinner and we would get pasta. God, those were good times. Pasta just doesn’t taste the same when I cook it for myself (speaking of Jess, I need to call her, she’s such a good friend… she’d probably be down to order takeout pasta and eat it over zoom… but it won’t compare to eating it in the restaurant… they bring it out piping hot and the restaurant is also super dark, which means that you can’t see the menu, but then Jess can’t see that I spilled spaghetti sauce on my shirt, so everyone’s a winner).

One day I will do these things again. Until then, I will write about them and continue to make my way through television shows from the late 90’s.

-Theodore Dandy

The Death Of Television

Nothing compares to the grief that comes after you finish a TV show.  If you’ve followed it all the way since the beginning, you’re saying goodbye to characters you may have spent the last 6+ years of your life falling in love with.  The hours you’ve spent getting to know this wonderful world filled with interesting and dynamic characters has left you with a hole in your heart that you can’t possibly fill with something as inane as nature or human connection.

If you’re finishing a show that you’ve only just recently discovered and binged, it’s like meeting your soulmate only to find out he’s dying of terminal cancer.  Or, it’s the same feeling you get when you make a new best friend in school who decides to up and move halfway across the world just because her family is moving and she doesn’t think moving in with you is a very good option.  Suffice it to say, it sucks.

It’s a hidden kind of grief that you can’t exactly share with your family and friends.  Sure, everyone sympathizes with you when a loved one dies.  But when you’re grieving the loss of a television show, it’s pretty safe to say that no one really cares.  You can cry all you want, but you better keep it to yourself if you don’t want to meet with some pretty heavy eye-rolling.

For me, the sense of loss is like a weight in the air.  It makes me feel like I’m walking through some kind of absurdist dream.  Everything slows down, and the thoughts and cares I had before seem immaterial now.  What do deadlines matter when I’ll never again get to explore the fantastical world of The Magicians?  What’s the point of getting in my workout for the day when Lost ended 10 years ago?  How can I care about anything you have to say when all I can think about is why Hannibal didn’t get picked up for a fourth season by NBC?

I wish I knew the perfect way to move on.  You can always watch the show again, I know, but it never feels the same.  It’s tainted with this painful sense of longing, like going through old photos of you and your ex.  Sure, you had some wonderful memories together, but that time is done now.  Like all grief, the only thing that can lessen it is time.

I do know that I never start another show right away that I know I’ll really enjoy.  My experience of something new will only be clouded by my grief at the loss of the old.  The only way I can truly reset and learn to love again is by watching something I know will be mediocre.  It acts like a palate cleanser, a rebound relationship with something that captures my interest but deep down I know I’ll never truly become emotionally invested in (like Scandal, or Homecoming season 2).

I also find it comforting to start an older show that’s already come and gone.  There’s a certain nostalgic feel to it, like going to visit grandpa and listening to his stories about when milk was cheaper and nobody had any rights.  My latest rebound is Fringe, JJ Abrams’ follow up to Lost that aired for 5 seasons from 2008 to 2013.  It’s just the right mixture of quality television and outdated hairstyles that makes me feel like maybe it’s safe to open my heart again.  Already I can feel myself getting drawn into this next show.  Maybe I’ll start an Instagram account posting Fringe memes that will go viral and cause the show to experience an unexpected resurgence.  Anything is possible in the world of television.

-Theodore Dandy

Coronavirus Cured My Anxiety

It’s an anxious time right now.  Not only are people dealing with the fear of getting sick, but they’re also dealing with the financial insecurity that comes with getting laid off and the economy shutting down.  Self-help articles abound on the NY Times and the Washington Post featuring relaxation tips and tools for managing stress.  For someone with chronic anxiety, the current state of the world should be like a shot of adrenaline right to my brain.  And yet, for the first time in my life, I am calm.


I am an anxious person.  I was put on this earth for one reason and one reason only—to be anxious.  My earliest memory is from when I was in preschool, having just told my friend Lauren how to spell the F word.  We sat together on the ground in class, my hand cupped around her ear as I whispered the forbidden knowledge.

The next day Lauren came into class with a letter addressed to the teacher from Lauren’s mother.  This letter detailed just exactly what I had done.  In this letter Lauren’s mother laid out all of the horrible details of the sin that I had committed and, for good measure, she threw in what she thought my punishment should be: instant and merciless execution.

Or so I had convinced myself.  In reality, the letter had nothing to do with me, but that didn’t stop me from interrogating Lauren.

“Did you tell your mother?” I asked her, breathing heavily through my mouth.

“Did I tell my mother what?” she replied.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” I said.

We had a field trip to a museum scheduled for later that day, which was fate’s malicious plan to slowly torture me.  As we walked through the museum, I shot nervous glances at my teacher.  I knew she was simply waiting for me to let down my guard before she pulled me aside to inform me of my punishment and potential incarceration.


As I got older, my anxiety did not go away.  It began to shift forms, settling just long enough for me to become aware that it was my anxiety that I was feeling and not something else.  Then it would dissipate, drifting through my fingers before it would take on another form to torment me with.

When I was 11, it took the form of nighttime panic attacks.  I felt like I was going to die, paralyzed with the thought of me as an 18-year-old lying in bed at night in my college dorm having just found out my parents were dead.  These nighttime anxiety attacks always featured two intermingling scenarios: I was in college, and my parents were dead.  It became hard not to link the two together from now on.

When I was in my late teens, anxiety took the form of quicksand, pulling me down into the floor and suffocating me every morning.  Usually this was because I was hungover, the aftereffects of alcohol triggering my panicked “fight-or-flight” response every single morning.  I would always choose flight (if by flight you meant avoiding going to class and letting my anxiety build to a breaking point).

Then my anxiety felt like a blanket.  But not a comforting blanket; it was a suffocating blanket, one that made my breath shallower and shallower until I felt my lungs screaming for oxygen.

Next, it was a fist slowly squeezing my heart.  It felt like my chest was getting tighter and tighter as I became lightheaded and didn’t know why.

Then it was a cup of water in my lungs, slowly pouring itself out.  The water would dribble out of the cup, run along my fingers and then down my wrist.  It would continue down the length of my arm and into my sleeve, making its way down my body before hitting the ground.  There it would slowly build until it drowned me from the inside out.

After I got sober, my anxiety settled a bit.  Now, gratefully, it confined itself to a single moment each day.  Every day, the moment that I woke up, I felt as if I was going to die.  My anxiety was a spear that pinned me to the bed, waking me up as though an ancient warrior had thrust his javelin right through my chest and left me to choke on my own blood.  It was unpleasant, to say the least.

I decided to stop taking anti-anxiety medication 3 years ago.  My anxiety had become a lot more manageable thanks to the fact that I was no longer binge drinking nor obese.  But although my anxiety became milder, it did not go away altogether.  My anxiety became a shadow, tormenting me with pokes, prods, and pinches that I wasn’t sure were really real or if I’d simply made them up.


Then the coronavirus happened.  Everyone lost their minds, buying up food and water for a good reason and toilet paper for no reason.  Hand washing became the newest craze, and “social distancing” entered the lexicon as the latest buzzword.  And I became calm.  Something in me switched off.

Maybe the coronavirus put into perspective the fact that everything I normally feel anxious about didn’t matter.  I think another part of it is that it took away a lot of the daily social pressures to perform and to be productive, which are the usual sources of my anxiety.  I’m not the person to think, “God sent a pandemic to teach me how to chill out.”  But I am grateful that, as an anxious person, I am not anxious now.

Now don’t get me wrong: I definitely take the coronavirus seriously.  I’m social distancing, I’ve stocked up on my groceries, and I’m washing my hands with the best of them.  But I’m not worried.  Not in the slightest.  Maybe I should be.  Maybe I should be freaking out about food shortages and scores of people dying and being stuck indoors for the next few weeks or months or years.  But my question to that is: why?  What would I accomplish by worrying about any of that?  It’s all out of my control.  I’m doing my part to slow the spread of this disease, and I’m checking in with my family and loved ones to make sure that we’re all being safe and smart.

I have no power over the rest of it.  I can’t stop people in Florida from going to Disney World or Republicans from going to the Golden Corral.  And I don’t need to.  Coronavirus taught me that 99% of the things I spend my time worrying about don’t matter, and for the things that do matter, worrying isn’t going to help.  All I can do is focus on doing my best, taking care of myself, and being of service.

Coronavirus got rid of my anxiety.  Maybe it’ll be back; maybe next time it will feel like a slug nibbling on my left toe.  But I’ll be able to look back at the time when it felt like the whole world was falling apart and I’ll remember that sense of calm I felt.  And I know that I can feel this way anytime I want.

-Theodore Dandy

How To One-Up Your Ex-Boyfriend At The Driving Range

So your boyfriend dumps you but then, a month later, suggests a casual get-together at the driving range? This has happened to all of us. Don’t worry that you don’t know the first thing about golf. Use the following simple tips to show him your life is way better without him:

First, do not rent your golf clubs. Ex-bae is going to think you’re weak if you have to rely on other people (i.e. men) to provide for you. Avoid this problem by bringing that club you picked up on the street the time you got lost in K-town (the one you carried around drunkenly for several hours for no clear reason); it’ll do.

Second, remember at all times to keep in mind why you are here: it is not to be good at golf, it is to look as though you are good at golf. So, dress super-cute, and super-impractical.  Hopefully he won’t notice whether you successfully hit the ball, as long as you keep smiling and laughing (at him, or so he thinks).

Don’t forget to document every single waking moment of it all on Instagram. It’s crucial that everyone believes there is no bad blood between the two of you, so make a post with the caption: “So glad we can still be friends!” (Feel free to block him so he cannot see you have done this).

Most importantly of all, when the game is over, do not go home with him. I know you’ll be tempted (after all the aphrodisiacal golf), but it is only going to make things more complicated. At the same time, however, life is life, and it’s important to have fun with it. So to hell with it, go home and sleep with him if you must. As long as you’re being true to yourself, you can’t go wrong!

-Theodore Dandy

How Stella Got Her Libido Back

My first crush was Zac Efron in High School Musical.  I was a 13-year-old boy at the time, which meant I knew to keep this to myself.  Still, my love for High School Musical had to be expressed somehow, so I told everyone I was in love with Zac’s co-star, Vanessa Hudgens.  I even painted a portrait of her in art class to demonstrate my heterosexuality.  (Of course, I did love her as well, but in a girl crush kind of way; what Zac and I had was different).

Later, when I was a sophomore in high school, I fell in love.  His name was Adam Lambert and he was a contestant on American Idol.  My explosion from the closet (helloooooooooooo!) occurred on the same night that he tragically lost the competition.  It was a queer whirlwind of emotion; leaving me devastated for his loss, but thrilled at my newfound freedom.  I kept our dream alive by purchasing an abundance of Adam Lambert merchandise and boycotting American Idol.

The next year, Adam Lambert had become a stranger to me.  I tossed him aside like an old, dusty portrait of Vanessa Hudgens, in favor of my brand new crush: Darren Criss.  My new love had just begun starring on the TV show Glee (a show which premiered the day I came out – truly a day for the gay history books!)  I loved Darren’s voice and his cute outfits, with their whimsical bowties.  I attempted to copy this look, with only minor success.  I suppose this is a question that plagues every gay man regarding their crush: do I want to be with you, or be you?  Perhaps both.  (I’ll let you know when I figure this out).

When I got to college, the male-objects of my attraction grew from fantasy to reality (for the most part).  I began dating boys and hooking up, which for most people starts in high school.  For gays, it’s often delayed by a few years while we come to terms with our identity.  My early dating experience can perhaps best be summarized by the Taylor Swift lyric, “when all you wanted was to be wanted”.   Whereas, after a few years, I like to think it transitioned to, “takes me home, lights are off, he’s taking off his coat (Hm yeah)”.

After I got sober, it took me a while to develop the confidence required to refine my dating palette.  I had grown up with the subconscious thought, “you might as well date whoever’s interested, because who’s really going to love you?” (self-esteem not being my strong suit).  But I began dating men I actually liked and was attracted to— the temerity!

When I lost my virginity, the flood gates were truly opened.  I could do whatever I liked.  I wasn’t bound by arbitrary rules attaching moral stigma to sex or relationships. What freedom!  My wild, free-loving 60s phase lasted about a month, until I got into a new, long-term relationship – this one lasting over a year.  It was my first real relationship; full of love and lust, fighting and loss.  By the time it ended, I was ready to take a break.  I needed some space just for me, to focus on improving myself, rather than singularly devoting my attention to another.


A few months passed.  Then a year. “Are you dating anyone?” people would ask me. “No, I’m just focused on my writing,” I’d say. But the truth was, I had no interest in dating anyone.  I hadn’t thought about sex in months.  In the brief time following my break-up, I figured this was normal. But a year and a half later, I was starting to get worried.  When would I regain my interest?  I started to get in my head about it.

I have always had a healthy libido, even when I was at my most unhealthy with food and alcohol.  But now here I was – healthier than I’d ever been, mentally and physically – and yet I felt nothing.  I was a eunuch.  Who had I become?

It wasn’t so much the lack of interest in dating that worried me, it was the lack of interest in men at all.  I hadn’t felt attracted to one in months, not even handsome men at the gym, or those passing on the street.  I felt like a different person; as though this part of myself I had always carried was gone.  Most of the time I forgot about sex entirely.  But when I did think about it, it felt like a gaping chasm I had no idea how to cross.

I felt the irony suddenly of all the hours I had spent researching ex-gays and celibacy for my writing, only to now inadvertently become celibate myself.  The ex-gay community would finally love me!  But I was devastated; I was pretty much gay in theory only.  I remained grateful for the free life I had created, but lamented my lack of physical desire. Desire is a part of what makes us human.  Regardless of whether it’s a healthy desire or an unhealthy one; everyone wants something.  Whether it’s food, sex, money, connection… everyone has desires they try and fulfill.  To walk around with one of the most fundamental of these gone, left me feeling like a shell of a person.

I agonized over what could be the cause of my low libido.  Was it low testosterone?  I had no other symptoms. Was I depressed?  I didn’t feel depressed.  Was I working too much?  Maybe I was stressed?  I tried a variety of natural supplements to help bring my mojo back.  Some were more successful than others, but none could ultimately make me want something I apparently no longer desired. I felt lost and ashamed to talk about it.  How do you tell friends and family you’ve lost interest in sex?  It’s not exactly something you share on Facebook.  But at the same time, what was I supposed to say when people asked me about dating?  How was I supposed to explain the emptiness I felt about something so intimate and personal?


One day a beloved friend of mine suggested I might be low in iodine.  There is a history of thyroid autoimmunity in my family, and a natural iodine supplement (from sea kelp) could be helpful.  So I started taking it.  Slowly but surely I felt myself coming back.  It was subtle at first – a naughty thought here, a suggestive glance there.  But then it came flooding, like a repressed memory I had recovered and unleashed.

I felt like I had awakened from a dream, and come back to life.  “I’m in my prime,” I suddenly thought, “what am I doing?”  I need to get out there, meet new people, date and experience life on its own terms again.  I needed to find Zac Efron and see what he’d been up to.  I dusted off the portrait of Vanessa Hudgens, threw on an Adam Lambert t-shirt and watched an old episode of Glee with Darren Criss crooning.

The difference was like night and day.  I had gone almost two years without this vital part of myself, and now that I had it back, I swore never to let go of it again.

Sea kelp had saved me.  It gave an integral part of my life back – my desire.

That little boy, who fell in love with every attractive man with the voice of an angel, had returned, and he was here to stay.

I still don’t know exactly what happened to me, but it taught me something important.  Even if it’s embarrassing or personal, there’s no reason to suffer alone.  Asking for help has invariably led me to the solution to almost every problem in my life.  Shame only prolonged my suffering, but pushing through that shame and becoming willing to talk about it was the key to recovery.

-Theodore Dandy

8 Dogs You Didn’t Know Existed But Sure Are Glad You Do Now

  1. Borzoi

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Also known as a Russian Wolfhound, the Borzoi was originally used by the Russian Aristocracy for hunting wolves.  It was common to see a hundred of these long bois engaged in the hunt.  I imagine this is the sight that will greet me when I enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Nowadays they seem to always be photographed galavanting around the forest like giant woodland nymphs (perhaps harkening to their long-forgotten past).

 

  1. Whippet

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Nicknamed the “Poor man’s racehorse”, the Whippet originated in England.  They were used for racing as a cheaper alternative to a traditional greyhound, from which they decend.  Hence why this boi is smol, but still long.  Like tiny Martians, these goblins are almost always trembling, probably because they’re so excited to meet you.  They may also tremble because of the cold, which makes sense since they’re almost always photographed in tiny sweaters.

 

  1. Pekingese

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Known as lion dogs for their resemblance to Chinese guardian lions, these little emperors were bred to live in palaces.  You can most clearly see this by the dignified way they waddle when you pass them on the sidewalk. They are one of the oldest breed of dogs and, surprisingly, one of the least genetically diverged from the wolf.   So be careful around these little guys, because there may be darkness hidden behind those calculating black orbs.

 

  1. Bergamasco Sheepdog

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Originated from the Italian Alps, this breed of dog was used for herding sheep.  The Bergamasco Sheepdog is known for its trademark matted hair, which served as protection from the cold as well as predators.  These dogs are often mistaken for giant mops roaming the Italian countryside.  Buca Di beppo, that’s no mop!  That’s a pupper.

 

  1. Xoloitzcuintli

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Also known as a Mexican hairless dog, this dog is the ancient Aztec dog of the gods.  They are characterized by the developmental absence of one or more of their teeth, as well as being almost completely hairless except for the small tuft on the head.  All of this means you might mistake them for that old man at your gym who keeps bringing you DVD’s of old movies even though you told him you don’t have a DVD player.  Just take them and say thank you, he’s lonely.

 

  1. Afghan Hound

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Some authorities believe the Afghan hound is the oldest breed of purebred dogs.  In fact, an ancient myth states they were the dogs on Noah’s Ark.  You might recognize this dog as the “Cher” dog, in that every single one of these beautiful hounds looks exactly like the singer Cher.  The Afghan hound is aloof and dignified but isn’t without its silly streak (also like Cher).

 

  1. Bedlington Terrier

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Known for its pear-shaped head and sheep-like fur, this terrier is surprisingly a relative of the Whippet (though with significantly less trembling).  The Bedlington Terrier earned the nickname “Gypsy Dog” for its use as a poaching partner by Romanies.  Known interests include lace, flowers, and Stevie Nicks.  The one above is a patriot, but not all necessarily are.

 

  1. Catalburun

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These dogs are one of only three dog breeds with split noses, basically making it look like a dog split in half.  Vaguely reminiscent of the creature from the movie Splice, something about this dog stares directly into your soul.  Luckily for you, however, they are virtually unheard of outside of Turkey.  So you’re safe.  For now.

A Note To The Dancing Man At My Gym

Dear Dancing Man,

Why do you dance?

I see you almost every day, with your large over-the-ear headphones and your sleeveless muscle tee. You work out alone, while I work out with a partner. During our exercise, my friend and I chat about television, art, and our own existential angst. You, on the other hand, dance.

I’m not sure which of us enjoys ourselves more. A part of me wishes I could be that free, to shake my hips the way you do and sashay around the gym like it’s my own personal club.

Why do you dance?

Do you feel compelled to?

What are you listening to? I like to imagine that you listen to nothing, that the noise-canceling headphones on your head allow you to block out the rest of the world so that you can truly connect with the Holy Spirit. The dance comes from within, so that it is less a reaction to something external than it is the inevitable expression of your soul.

I look at my own soul, and I wonder when I stopped dancing.

Why do you dance?

It was fun at first, an interesting quirk you had. We would always call you “The Dancing Man”. We thought you were fun and carefree. But now your dancing seems different. Your body language has turned condescending; the sway of your hips has become a mocking criticism of my own failings.

Do you think you’re better than me? How dare you dance? This is a public gym after all. Show some class and behave yourself.

And just what are you listening to?

Why do you dance?

I’ve never heard you speak, although something about the way you look leads me to believe you may be foreign, possibly Russian. Your shaved head and beard are surprisingly masculine compared to your delicate moves and your campy tank tops. You are a walking contradiction, an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a gay Jaime Dornan.

Sometimes I wonder that if you did speak, I would hear nothing but the sound of my own deepest fears.

Please don’t speak. Just dance.

Why do you dance?

Do you ever think of me? How must I appear to you, with my signature gym shorts and my collection of tank tops?

Or perhaps you don’t see me at all; you just see your own reflection staring back at you.

I’ve never met anyone as self-obsessed as you. Last week you stole all of the 10-pound weights to do a barbell row. I needed those weights.

How can you dance with the guilt of what you’ve done to me?

Why won’t you notice me?

Why do you dance?

Can I dance with you?

-Theodore Dandy

My War On HAIM

I’m declaring war on the band HAIM.

HAIM, a musical trio of sisters, are known for their casual rock/pop sound and similarity to Fleetwood Mac.  I used to love them.  A part of me still does.  But I’m killing that part of myself. Because I know what needs to be done.


On July 31st, 2019, HAIM released their new single, “Summer Girl”.  The song was an instant hit, with soothing saxophone vibes throughout and lyrics that speak of hope and inspiration.

They released a music video for the song in which the three sisters walk through various neighborhoods of Los Angeles wearing multiple layers of clothing that, one by one, they proceed to remove.  My friend Victoria sent me the video and I loved it.  We were hooked.  We were summer girls.

As part of the song’s promotion, HAIM launched their #summergirlchallenge on August 8th, 2019.  I was at work at the coffee shop when Victoria showed me the band’s Instagram post in which they challenged fans to create a short video of their own, in the style of “Summer Girl”.  The winner of the challenge would receive a “Summer Girl” t-shirt and box of merchandise.

The rules were breathtakingly simple:

  1. Put on “Summer Girl”.
  2. Put on layers.
  3. Record yourself taking them off.
  4. Post the video on Instagram with the hashtag #summergirlchallenge.

Sounds innocent enough, right?

Wrong. 

I had no idea of the chaos this was going to usher into my life, nor of the bitter tears of disillusionment that awaited me at the end of this dark tunnel of despair.

Naive nymph that I was, I asked Victoria to immediately retrieve the clothes from the Lost and Found, which I wasted no time adorning myself in.  We put on the song “Summer Girl” and she filmed me making a cappuccino while I successively discarded the layers.

It took several tries to get it right – partly, because we kept getting interrupted by customers rudely wanting us to make them drinks.  But after a couple of false starts, we got the perfect video.  I posted it to Instagram a mere two hours (TWO HOURS) after they had launched the challenge, and we waited to see what would happen.

The next day, I was overjoyed to discover HAIM had reposted *my* video to their InstaStory!  In fact, they had mistakenly posted it twice!  Surely I would be named the winner now.

Surely this wouldn’t all be for naught…


Days went by.

Then weeks.

Would they even choose the winner?  When?  Would I get that box of merch that was rightfully mine, or would I be inhumanly denied it in a cruel twist of fate?

Eventually they posted an update to the #summergirlchallenge.  The winner would be announced on September 1st.  Perfect!  All I had to do was wait.  Surely even I could do that.

But the closer September 1st drew, the more nervous I became.  What if they forgot about me?  Maybe I shouldn’t have rushed to post so soon, or waited until the end for maximum effect.  Oh, well.  It would do no good worrying about it now.  All I could do was wait.

When September 1st came, I could hardly breathe.  My entire life depended on the whims of three sisters from the San Fernando Valley.  I checked Instagram obsessively, refreshing the band’s page in a fever whirl.

Nothing.  As the sun began to go down, a terrible fear crept in: what if they never choose a winner?  I banished this chilling thought from my mind.

As I lay down, bitterly, to sleep, I checked Instagram one final time: still nothing.  Sure enough, I had been betrayed.

More days and weeks passed. Still no word on the winner of the HAIM #summergirlchallenge.  Cruelly (and perhaps intentionally), the band continued to post on their Instagram about other things.  But no update on the promises they’d made (and broken), or the endless lies they’d told. Our hopes had been built up only for HAIM to hack them to pieces with a machete of indifference, while laughing cruelly.

Then one day, a ray of light.  I was with Victoria and checked my Instagram to find the band had finally posted about the #summergirlchallenge.  They announced they were just about to choose a winner.  In fact, they were going to choose three winners!  I was ecstatic.  My chances of winning had tripled! Was this so I could win three times?  I was sure to nail a prize.

The first winner was announced.  It wasn’t me.  Victoria and I clung to one another, our fingers crossed and our lips moving in silent prayer.

The second winner was announced. Still not me. Strike two.  I began to feel desperate.  Victoria tried to calm me with her useless words.

The final post appeared, announcing the third winner…


Hindsight is a funny thing.

It’s crazy to think you can go from being a happy, innocent, young gay man with the whole world at his feet to the human embodiment of malice, putridity and loathing.

A seed of hatred had been planted inside me, and the buoyant young man I once was faded now into the whisper of a shadow.  I became a shell.

And so, I declare war.

I declare a war on HAIM.

Because, really, my video was the best.  It deserved to win.  Do you know how hard it is to try and make a cappuccino while wearing four jackets, none of which are yours?  You don’t, and you never will.  No one will ever understand my pain. But that’s fine.  I’m resigned to walking this highway alone.

From hereon I shall banish every HAIM song from my phone.  I will plug my ears when they come on the radio.  I will take the CD that I made for my mother (which included a whole two HAIM songs) and I will burn it in front of her.

No… wait. That CD has a lot of other really good songs, so I won’t do that.  But I will forbid her from listening to those two tracks.

HAIM will rue the day they decided not to name me their Summer Girl.

Every tear I shed will be on their hands.  They will have to live with what they did to me. And that is the worst punishment I can think of.

As for me?

I’ll have to settle for Taylor Swift.

-Theodore Dandy

 

Silence Of The Moths

It began with a single moth, fluttering around my kitchen. 

I killed it instantly, intoxicated by power.

I marveled at my ability to snuff out the life of such a small creature without a single feeling of remorse.  But then, the next night, there was another moth; this time in my bedroom.  Then another appeared in my bathroom, and another in the living room. I killed them all.  Pretty soon, my murderous routine became monotonous, and I longed for the same sweet release of death that I so eagerly provided the moths.

I looked around my apartment for the source of all these moths.  Why did they plague me so?

I had just paid for the annual cleaning of my apartment – surely they couldn’t survive in such a pristine environment? And yet here they were. And I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, I would become the Elizabeth Báthory of moth-killing.

So I did the one thing I swore to myself I would never do: I opened my closet.

Stillness.  But I was not deceived.  I pushed aside an old cardigan from Forever 21.  Wings fluttered.  My heart sank.  The killing began anew.

I spent the rest of the night clearing out my closet, taking out cardigans and jackets, towels and sheets, and killing every single moth I stumbled upon.  I vacuumed the closet, wiped down the shelves, and went through my clothes to see what I had to toss and what I could salvage.

Luckily there wasn’t any major moth damage, although I did find a nest on the sleeve of a corduroy dinner jacket I’d bought in high school.  (Man, I have a lot from Forever 21).

I decided I’d rather toss most of the clothes than wash them, since they were mostly old sweaters that didn’t fit anymore, and quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered.  I took four loads of laundry to the laundromat on the corner and prayed that the worst was over.  I’m still itching just thinking about the nest.

The next day, I put everything back in my closet, which was now perfectly clean and organized.  I went around the apartment, wiping down underneath my furniture to ensure they didn’t try and recolonize.

No more moths.  The coast was clear.

The next night, as I made dinner, a solitary moth-soldier took flight.  But how? I’d eradicated them, or so I thought.  I went back to the closet, going through my jackets.  No moths there.  Where did this one straggler spawn from?  I went back to my kitchen, looking through my cabinets.  Were they pantry moths? Was I dealing with an entirely different specimen?  I didn’t have any unsealed food and I certainly didn’t have any grains.  Did I even have a pantry? What were these creatures?

I looked through the kitchen cabinet where I keep bowls and plates, and was surprised to find what appeared to be coffee grounds on the third shelf.  How did they get there?  They didn’t.  Upon closer inspection, it dawned on me they were tiny little bits of round wood. Now I also had termites.


Apparently when drywood termites are ready to reproduce, they send out swarmer termites to fly around and find a new America for them to eat.  The kitchen “moths” I’d been killing were in fact winged termites, completely unrelated to my closet-moth infestation.  I took everything out of my cabinet and wiped it down completely with orange oil, hoping to kill the termites.

There were a few tiny holes in my shelves, but to be honest they were almost unnoticeable.  My biggest fear was just that I’d have to share my apartment with a colony of termites, when for years I had told people I lived alone.

In a week or two, I’ll check and see if there are any more wooden termite droppings, but in the meantime local nuns are taking shifts to ensure that someone is always praying for me and my insect-colony apartment.  I just hope I’ll be able to give up this life of violence and make amends for the souls of the dozens of insects whose lives have been lost so casually by my hand.

But more importantly, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from all of this: Being an adult involves taking care of yourself and your possessions, and a home requires care just like anything else does.  When you live alone, you can’t take for granted the things you had when you lived with your parents.  Nothing will get dusted unless you dust it.  Pests will get in if you don’t keep things clean and vigilantly inspect your home.  No one is going to come and clean your apartment (unless you pay them to).

In the meantime, I have decided my annual cleaning will now be a bi-annual event.

Take that, pests!

-Theodore Dandy