Reading List: Yes, I Know That Driving An Electric Vehicle Isn't a Personality. I Am Also Loud.

Dearests! No time for pleasantries this morning, I have a morning of meetings and need to go put on my face before the doggy dictator yells at me to take her out. Well, except for, I THINK YOU LOOK LOVELY TODAY! Go get ‘em!

TO THE LONGREADS!

Daniela Santamariña, What abortion laws would look like if Roe v. Wade were overturned (The Washington Post) - I wish I could muster the righteous fury to write something brilliant about how the dread of knowing reproductive rights are about to be gutted by the Supreme Court has converted my normally-present optimism into a nihilism of epic proportions, but I’m exhausted. So instead, I’m going to share a tweet from local Bay Area journo Stuart Schuffman and go wrap myself in a blanket burrito while those who would have identified as fathers consider which abortion fund to donate to. (FYI, an abortion fund is “an on-the-ground organization that helps arrange and pay for abortion care for patients who need it.”) 

David French, The New Right’s Strange and Dangerous Cult of Toughness (The Atlantic) - Speaking of, whenever anyone asks about why I yell about how the cult of patriarchy and toxic masculinity harms as all, no matter what gender, I’m going to point them to this article - this poison has wide-reaching tentacles and metastasizing political impacts. 

Felicity Barringer, Car batteries are the goal. Lithium is the quickest way to make them. Does a global good require local sacrifice in the Southwest? (& the West) - I am an EV driver, and a smug one at that. I love that I can fuel my car while shopping for groceries, that the only reason I’ve had to go near a gas station in years is for a car wash or to put air in my tires, and that I am contributing less carbon emissions to the atmosphere than I did before. But, as I am often asked when someone skeptical finds out that I drive an EV, what about the other environmental impacts of the technology I use to road trip around the Bay Area? Friend of the Missive Felicity Barringer wrote a brilliant overview of what goes into making the batteries that make my vehicle roll and, like so many things that power our consumptive society, how that environmental burden will have its own ripple effects.

Cade Metz, Can a Machine Learn Morality? (The New York Times) - Haven’t read yet, but can’t wait to because Cade Metz is such a great writer AND especially since I’ve been known to yell about how technology comes from flawed humans and biases, and therefore will embody the spectrum of human goodness and awfulness, within the ten minutes of the start of a first date (if this surprises you, read again why I’m “too much”.) 

Jennifer Szalai, ‘Looking for the Good War’ Says Our Nostalgia for World War II Has Done Real Harm (The New York Times) - I love when book reviews make me reconsider how I’ve approached history for the last fifteen years. I haven’t read this book yet, but will certainly now to consider how, “Glib treatments of World War II have done real harm… distorting our understanding of the past and consequently shaping how we approach the future,” especially since my time period of historical fascination is exactly that.

Honoring Those Lost to the Ghost Ship Fire (KQED) - (CONTENT WARNING) And finally, five years ago, the Bay Area was rocked by a warehouse fire in Oakland that killed 36 people attending a concert hosted in an artist collective. On this awful anniversary, KQED does a beautiful job of putting faces and stories to everyone who died that night.

Thank you for being you. Be kind to yourself, fill up that water bottle to stay hydrated, and take one moment this weekend to notice something beautiful around you. You’ve got this.

Xoxo Amy

There Is No Such Thing As A Latke Recipe For One, And Other Crushing Holiday Realities.

My darlings! It’s been nearly two weeks since I last spoke to you, and the pre-holiday work crunch on top of a whirlwind work trip (first in nearly two years…) that started with a Sunday redeye flight meant I didn’t know what time zone it is, let alone anything in the news that might give me fodder for this here Missive. But I’m back home in SF, I have a cup of coffee that isn’t from a hotel room Keurig, and I’m ready to bust skulls and read the news. 

Also, it’s December and I’m trying to decide whether I give in to my impulse to purchase my dog a holiday sweater. Because of the recent travel, I haven’t lit a single Hanukkah candle yet, so maybe I can assuage my guilt about that by buying Orca a dreidel sweater or something. And yes. They exist.

So let’s hope we can get back on this horse and find some gems, so I can get to work to earn money for my dog’s sartorial adventures. 

TO THE INTERNET!

You’ve go this, y’all. Drink that water, get outside, take a deep breath, be kind to yourself. And do me a favor: if you want to, tell that person how much you care about them. The holidays can be lonely, and we can all spread a little more cheer over the next month.

xoxo Amy

Reading List: I’m Taking A Mental Health Day And At Some Point, You Should Too.

My dearests, today I am taking a much needed self-care day (thank goodness I have an employer that recognizes that these days are needed and allows us to use sick days to do so) so this one is going to be relatively brief - I’m taking the puppy princess to Crissy Field for the first time for a walk near the Bay and I am really looking forward to unplugging a bit. So if this Missive if even less edited than usual (like that’s possible), please take the above as my excuse.

TO THE INTERNET

Matthew Cantor, Cryptographers are not happy with how you’re using the word ‘crypto’ (The Guardian) - Let the record reflect that I am 100 percent Team Map Nerds in this war over the use of the term “crypto.” And yes, that is a hill I am willing to die on. 

Peter-Astrid Kane, ‘It’s like a cemetery’: the trend turning San Francisco’s colorful houses ‘gentrification gray’ (The Guardian) - Not to share another Guardian article this morning, but their recommendation engine suggested I read this and OMG it has everything - a battle between maximalist and minimalist, San Francisco housing politics, and trend-following manifested in trim debates. So, um, well done Guardian algorithm?

Ben Smith, His Reasons for Opposing Trump Were Biblical. Now a Top Christian Editor Is Out. (The New York Times) - As someone who attended evangelical Christian summer camps growing up but ended up converting to Judaism in her mid-twenties, watching so-called “christians” prostrate themselves at the altar of Cheeto Jesus has been very, VERY disconcerting. So reading about a Christian leader—with many beliefs I absolutely do not agree with and frankly abhor, mind you—BUT has been absolutely consistent in those beliefs by highlighting the many sins of Trump and his cronies is… somewhat comforting? That intellectual honesty sits lives somewhere? I dunno.

Jeremy O. Harris, Lil Nas X Is In the Right Place at the Right Time (GQ) - SUCH an interesting interview that only compounds my fascination with this man and his music.

Yair Rosenberg, The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew (The Atlantic) - Haven’t read this yet, but reading that headline AND finding out it’s about Firefly? I’m in.

David Freedlander, The Bonnie and Clyde of MAGA World (POLITICO) - Also haven’t read this one yet, but ready to grit my teeth and devour this zoom-in on one couple who’ve ridden the conservative wave of the last decade to become... what exactly? After all, grifters gonna grift…

That’s it, that’s all. Don’t forget to hydrate, get outside for a wee bit, and take care of yourself, won’t you?

Xoxo Amy

Just Realized I Have Four Pieces Of Moose Decor In My Living Room, Which Seems A Little Too On The Nose, Don’t You Think?

Fabulous humans, thank you all for your kind notes and stories you’ve shared over the last few days, the response to my Monday essay was unexpected and oh so heartwarming. Unsurprisingly, many of you—across all genders—consider yourself “too much” and sent me anecdotes, stories and links to other stories on that very topic. Thank you for sending them. In particular, I wanted to share a beautiful piece that Friend of the Missive Alex Wilhelm “On being too much”, where he describes being told to slow down, to stay in the lines, to “be less” to better fit in. As Alex points out in the piece, part of the reason we are close is that ours is a friendship where all of those rough and loud and big traits are not just accepted, they are encouraged and nurtured.

So let it be known, dear readers, that you shall never be shushed in this house - here at Chez Missive we encourage big feelings. And for all the newbies who signed up over the last couple of days, be forewarned: this daily(ish) newsletter is messy, inconsistent, but has a whole lot of heart. Welcome, take your shoes off, wrap yourself in a blanket burrito, and face the day with steely reserve and healthy optimism.

Also, to kick your morning off right, here’s a groomer photo of my puppy wherein she looks like she’s sitting for her Grade 1 portraits.

To the internet!

  • Here at the Missive, we are massive fans of the WSJ’s technology columnist Christopher Mims, and we are also massive fans of solving the unseen logistical problems that plague our metropolitan areas with cool new technology (humans are messy, y’all.) Which is why I’m basically obsessed with this piece, Robots vs. Fatbergs: High-Tech Approaches to America’s Sewer Problem (WSJ), and you should be too. Also “Robots vs. Fatbergs” seems like a perfect Mystery Science 3000 flick, don’t you think?

  • You love to see it: Investment group purchases Trump hotel in DC and is expected to remove Trump name (CNN). Schadenfreude isn’t the healthiest of feelings to keep in your heart, but my goodness it feels good to know that the DC hotel property that served as a royal court for the Trump administration actually “lost $70 million while he was in office.” Also, as an historic hotel nerd, I am so excited to get to stay at a place like that without reservation (well, I’ll need a reservation of course HA HA, THAT’S A HOTEL JOKE, oy I need my coffee).

  • Speaking of awful humans, Trump allies pressed Defense Department to help overturn election, new book says (ABC News). Insert “This Is Fine” meme while I find a bag to hyperventilate into. 

  • This is from May, but I think we all need to read it: Why do we buy into the 'cult' of overwork? (BBC). For instance, “But millions of us overwork because somehow we think it’s exciting – a status symbol that puts us on the path to success, whether we define that by wealth or an Instagram post that makes it seem like we're living a dream life with a dream job.” Jeez, BBC, didn’t you read above that I haven’t had my coffee yet? The gall of coming at us like that…

  • And finally, Mum of the Missive sent this history of the song to me on Monday after reading my essay: Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well’ and the Weaponization of Memory (NYT). I especially appreciate looking at the tune through the lens of the last ten years, both from a personal perspective (“…a young woman’s attempt to find retroactive equilibrium in a relationship that was based on a power imbalance that she was not at first able to perceive”) and a societal one (the song representing “the emotional work that many women have been privately undertaking in the wake of the #MeToo movement.”)

You’re all fabulous. Thank you for your friendly notes, and for giving me some of your time in the morning. So don’t forget to drink some water, get outside for a bit if you can, and be kind to yourself, ok?

Xoxo Amy

In Praise Of The “Too Much” Woman

I’ve told these stories before. How my high school best friend’s boyfriend hissed at me to “shut the fuck up” in AP History class because I raised my hand too many times for his liking. How I was often quieted as a kid because I have a big voice and even bigger opinions. How I’ve been told I’m “too much” by various humans, throughout various phases, of my life.

What I haven’t told you as much about is how after that kid hissed at me, I stopped raising my hand as much, in that class and others. How I became hyper-cognizant of the volume of my voice and am now crippled with anxiety if I’m ever shushed or told to be quiet. How I learned to mirror other people’s best versions of themselves back at them instead of shining on my own - not to be manipulative, but because it was easier than being my big ol’ huge self. How I’ve learned to make myself smaller while also absorbing whatever emotional maelstrom swirls around me, becoming a people-pleaser who has spent more time in toxic relationships than I should have because maybe, just maybe, if I improve, they’ll love me again.

I ask myself a lot: when did I morph from a fearless teenager into a grappling and awkward 20-something hellbent on making herself blend into the beige-boho macrame walls of the early 2010s, an inoffensive ornament next to the spider plant in an Instagram photo?

Which is why I want to talk about Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ right now (whoever started reading this and predicted this was the road I was going down, pat yourself on the back.)

And I’ve got thoughts. Not well-formed, or sophisticated thoughts. I’m not going to expound on how the production nuances elevate decade-old songs without changing their essential energy. How Swift’s voice has deepened, and softened, and gained texture and confidence that bring out elements of these tunes that none of us ever heard because. How the 10-minute-long “All Too Well” is somehow bigger and more epic while burrowing into tiny moments etched in a young woman’s brain, with such specificity it somehow makes it universal. Although allllllll of that is true (seriously, it is SUCH an accomplishment).

What I’m going to talk about is the size of the emotions. ‘Red’ has always been a larger-than-life tour of heartbreak and the devastation of the end of young love. We’ve known that, it’s not new. But I’d never truly felt that depth as a listener, that well of longing and anxiety and wounded pride and desire to both want to reconcile AND burn it all down and spit on the ashes.

There’s a Tik Tok I saw yesterday that I cannot for the life of me find despite the fact I commented on it (stupid algorithm) that talks about how when ‘Red’ originally came out, some of us didn’t listen because we were “cool girls” who didn’t like “girly stuff”, and so not listening to artists like Taylor Swift became a personality trait. 

That Tik Tok hit me square in the face, because I was that “cool girl.” If you’re not familiar with the cool girl trope, it’s best captured in this monologue from Gone Girl (huge excerpt ahead, you’ve been warned): 

Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer… Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want… (Cool Girls are) not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.

And yes, I am including this because I was that cool girl. I was that girl who proudly had “more guy friends than girlfriends,” who eschewed anything that was remotely feminine or “girly”, because to me…. that was weak. And I wasn’t weak. [CONTENT WARNING: discussion of drinking alcohol, skip to the next graf if you need to] I remember at one of the start-ups I worked at being recruited to take a couple of engineers to a whiskey bar in the Mission to convince them to join the company, wherein I proceeded to wow them with my knowledge of obscure high-test scotches I knew because my ex-husband liked them. Did I like scotch? Well, technically as an alcoholic, there wasn’t any booze I didn’t  like. But the answer is no, I didn’t like scotch, I would have much preferred sparkling rose in a coupe glass because it tasted good and made me happy. But did I order scotch and get on with the night? Yes, yes I did, and I was proud I was able to do so.

‘Red’ is the antithesis of Cool Girl. It is a big album of gut-wrenching pain. It’s an album screamed out during that very last fight when both party says the things that cannot be unsaid. It’s crying in a stairwell after a boy kisses you one day and ignores you the next. It’s the hurt while still raw, that first moment you’re cut open. It’s the sobs before the crying hangover. it’s unmediated rage and sadness and betrayal and regret set to super catchy ear worms in an album that spans country to dub step to hyper-pop. It’s uneven and disjointed, but it’s also straight to the veins.

Taylor Swift isn’t a Cool Girl, she’s the girl every Cool Girl specifically contrasts herself against, because she takes up space, is inconvenient, calls out her exes on their shit (while making great music) and dares to name her emotions for exactly what they are. And there is something so undeniably seductive about how she can write exactly what we do our best to tamp down, to not express. 

And I want us channel some of that righteous energy. It’s OK to feel and mourn and laugh. It’s not like we should start going off the handle when a relationship ends, or we lose a job, or someone talks over us in a meeting. But maybe we shouldn’t put too much of our self-worth into always having the stiff upper lip, always being polite and forgiving, always laughing off everything from broken hearts to broken bones. Maybe we should all get to scream-sing about it sometimes.

Because being the “cool girl” is an artifice, it’s a defense mechanism, it’s a form of people pleasing that attempts to manipulate those around you so you fit in. And it creates a false reality, as Swift sings about in her monumental 10-minute all too well, singing,

The idea you had of me, who was she?
A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you
Not weeping in a party bathroom

And while we are discussing this Too Much Girl energy, isn’t that the biggest enthusiastic accomplishment, to re-record your own work as a giant middle finger to those who wronged you, only to discover that the words you wrote a decade ago when you were dissected in the press for the number of partners you had, as everyone hated you for being too perky, too enthusiastic, too in-your-face, before the larger recognition and societal discussion of the power differential in relational age gaps.

So here’s to “Too Much” Women of any age: may we take up space, sing loudly, fall hard, and feel everything.

Be kind to yourself,

Amy

PS: And I hear some of you now rolling your eyes through the screen, because it’s not fucking Proust, or Joyce, or Hemingway. But this is what I’ve talking about - it’s ok to love something fiercely that isn’t clever for the sake of being clever. TMI time: I went on a first date yesterday and at some point referenced the ‘Red’ release and the man tilted his head and said “Oh, you’re a Taylor Swift fan?” My first reaction was to say “oh, not that much,” but I stopped myself and said I was. And while I realize the above 1,500 words (oy) brings me, a 37-year-old-woman, firmly into Swiftie territory, I don’t care. I’m going to throw on a turtleneck and get that pumpkin spice latte today because I wanna get autumnal up in this joint. And I shall do so unabashedly. 

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