My wife and I let an old foreign man live in our apartment with us. We give him food and water, and he pretty much just sits around the apartment all day. And when he does get up, it’s usually just to walk in a small circle and then sit down several inches away from his original spot. He’s usually pretty quiet, unless we have friends over. Then he starts pacing around, stopping in front of each of us—often inches away from our faces—and stares at us. After he’s satisfied with the stare, he’ll let out a monosyllabic noise and then walk away.

He’s pretty low key, though. He sleeps on the couch or even sometimes sprawled out on the bathroom floor. He’s tried to sleep on our bed near our feet, but this has proved a little disruptive. In the middle of the night, he’ll hear a noise and then immediately bolt upright and sprint down the hallway to see what caused it. We’ve given him his own bathroom, but he refuses to clean it. But when we clean it, he seems a little put off, like we’ve ruined some sort of life’s work he’d been planning.

The foreign man’s name is Molly, and he is a cat.

I find it very interesting that the preceding paragraphs sound very odd to me, but for some reason they sound perfectly normal if I change their subject to “tiny obese mammal covered in fur” or “cat.” My brain does some kind of instant translation that says, “of course you let a tiny obese mammal covered in fur poop in a sand toilet in your apartment. Why wouldn’t you?”

I had a messenger bag that I very much enjoyed. We had a lot of good times, that messenger bag and I. I loved putting things into it, and I loved taking things out of it, and I loved the way that it contained those things while I traveled from one place to another. But one day, Molly the Cat sprayed her urine all over that messenger bag to let me know that she wasn’t pleased with something that I had done or neglected to do. And yet for some reason, my brain decided that it made sense that Molly the Cat should stay and the pee-stained-yet-innocent messenger bag that should go. And it also made sense for me to create an elaborate ritual of hanging my replacement bag precariously out of reach of Molly the Cat rather than to let Molly the Cat explore other housing options.

It seems that Molly the Cat and my brain are in league with one another, which is very unfortunate, because I rely on my brain to accomplish a lot of things for me. So I’ve been forced into a truce with Molly the Cat. And I’ve had to learn to accept the reality that some days I may be wearing a very respectable collared shirt and chinos and at the same time be extracting hardened chunks of poop out of a small sandy landscape—the world’s crappiest archaeologist.


Haircuts, Part 2: Acceptable Sams

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child … but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

The day came when my parents decided that I had outgrown the Maddens and that I needed to get haircuts in a more adult environment. (What I believe actually happened was that Lisa Madden raised her prices from “maybe worth the emotional damage” to “definitely not worth the emotional damage.” I think they sold it to me as a growing-up coming-of-age thing to give the pitch a little more zazz.) The adult environment they chose was a place called “Fantastic Sams,” which featured adult accouterments like a television constantly playing Winnie the Pooh and a magical machine that transformed children’s hair clippings into cheap toys. Well, toys really isn’t the word; “toy-adjacents” is probably more appropriate. If you already had a toy, these items could maybe make the existing toy more fun, but no one’s had fun with a standalone rubber ball since the Great Depression.

But I was an adult, and I was ready to get my hair cut like an adult. So I, an adult 10 year old, chatted amicably with my Sams-appointed stylist Hyo about how she liked her job and how her son was doing. Y’know, because that’s what you do when you’re an adult–politely pretend to care about each other’s lives. All this took place while Hyo was styling my hair into a combover that could best be described as “severe, even by Hitler’s standards.” A completely undoctored photo of this combover appears attached to this post.

I kept this combover hairstyle for a very long time. From about, the womb until I was 15. No one ever told me “hey Kevin, it’s time for you to change up that hair” or even asked me, “have you ever thought about doing literally anything else with your hair?” I figured if it was that crucial, somebody would fill me in. No one ever did, ergo, I kept combin’ it over. Using a colossal amount of gel. I imagine that Hyo assumed that if I wanted to change up my hair, I would have asked about it. It’s a good assumption. I was laboring under the idea that telling an adult hairstylist how to style hair was kind of like telling da Vinci to maybe think about tossing a hat on the Mona Lisa or informing Michelangelo that he might want to definitely have his David statue be circumcised because that was kind of a big deal to the Jewish people historically. I came to discover, however, that holding a beautician’s license from the state of Ohio and being one of the fathers of Western art are somewhat different and come with different expectations about critiquing one’s work.

In my freshman year of high school, I somehow realized that the 1940s Dutch Schoolboy haircut had lost a bit of its cultural panache among my fellows. I honestly don’t remember how I came to this realization. The nearest that I can remember was that I was walking through the hallways at my school and realizing, “a lot of people have haircuts that don’t look remotely similar to mine. That may be a problem.” So I went to Hyo, and I said (paraphrased), “Hyo, I really respect your craft and artistry, but I think I may need to style my hair forward from here on out.” (This is definitely a paraphrase because I didn’t learn the word “style” could be a verb until late college.) I threw away my comb and only styled my hair with my fingers, and I completely ditched the gel. I was as unadorned as possible. Hyo still always asked me if I wanted her to put some gel in my hair after she cut it. Because of our past history, I always, always said yes, I guess because I was an adult, and that’s what you do when you’re an adult–lie out of anxiety and fear. But I had learned a valuable adult lesson–you can change your hairstyle. I learned this lesson so well that I kept the brushed-forward hairstyle until I was 23.

Sweaty Boy

I’d like to start this post off by admitting something–I am a sweaty, sweaty boy. And I’m not just sweaty because I’m hot blooded check it and see (I’ve got a fever of 100 and 3), I sweat more when I realize that I’m sweating. Because sweating leads to odor and odor leads to no friends. So I get nervous because I’m sweating, so I start sweating because I’m nervous, which makes me nervous because I’m sweating, so I start sweating because I’m nervous that I’m sweating–you get the idea: it’s a sweaty snake eating its own sweaty tail.

Thankfully, most of my stankwater was isolated to my armpits, so I did what any red-blooded American would do and shoved tiny pieces of aluminum into my armpits (applied antiperspirant). Problem solved: armpits + aluminum = friends. “Not so fast,” my body replied. “What am I supposed to do with all this stankwater?” And before I could reply, my body began spraying stankwater out of literally every other pore in my body except for my armpits. Which makes sense, I guess: Snake Pliskin’s going to Escape from New York even if you break his stealth glider. The end result was that Snake rescued the president, and I got to experience a lot of sweat around my neck and face.

The neck sweat had the bonus of creating a disgusting halo on any collared shirt that I wore so that you couldn’t tell whether I had sweated through the collar or covered it in Dijon mustard. The face sweat made me look like I was constantly committing perjury and was, at any given moment, three seconds away from my own personal Watergate scandal and impeachment.

Then, I had a transformation. I was looking for techniques on how to apply antiperspirant onto my whole body (because if you’re covered in aluminum, there’s nowhere for the sweat to escape) when I learned from a very helpful Internet message board that this might lead to unintended side effects such as death. I realized that there had to be a better way than dying from clogged pores. That’s when I saw ads for deodorant, deodorant without antiperspirant. The deodorant invited me to come forward, surrender my stank at the foot of the stick, and join in the chorus of freshness!

Oh, and I also made an effort to stop getting cripplingly anxious when I noticed myself sweating. It’s amazing how much better I feel just by trying to remain calm and not rub metal on my body. And that’s a joy I have that robots never will. Take that, robots.