Aunt Maureen had strawberry blonde hair that existed as a pile of soft curls on the top of her head. She might have worn things other than pullover sweaters and jeans but I couldn’t testify to that. When memories of people are burned into your brain when you’re tiny, things get oddly specific.
She lived with Uncle Ron and my cousin Dana in an apartment in one of the neighborhoods in the city. The apartment had yellow wallpaper and brown furniture because it was the 70s/80s and any other palette was frowned upon. She had small, dark eyes that she squinched up whenever she smiled. She smiled at me a lot.
Aunt Maureen was my babysitter on numerous occasions. Dana was a few years older than me and I think she must have been too old to play with such a little kid. Aunt Maureen wasn’t, though. She and I would spend hours playing with the Little People castle. Our favorite thing to do was to send all of the Little People down through the trap door.
When it was time to take a break, Aunt Maureen would let me get a cigarette for her. If her smoking habit was relatively light before she began babysitting me, I certainly contributed at least a little bit to its escalation. She kept her cigarettes in a dispenser that looked like an odd little bookcase. When I pushed the button on the front, a tune played and a little wooden dog appeared out of the top of the dispenser holding a cigarette. She was silly and gasped every time the dog appeared, which cracked me up.
Aunt Maureen would smoke as many cigarettes as I would fetch for her. I think we did this a million times and we had fun every time.
Her dog, Jasper, was small with curly, dingy white fur that was perpetually wet and stringy around his mouth. Maureen would imitate Jasper by crawling up to me and then brushing the top of her head against my legs. I would squeal because it tickled and because if I closed my eyes, I couldn’t tell the difference between Jasper’s soft fur and Maureen’s fluffy curls.
If Maureen was ever sad then she hid it from me. Or perhaps spending a few hours with me gave her some relief. I was always quiet and uncomfortable around most people and I think she was, too. Maybe seeing me relax and allow the goofy part of me out for an afternoon helped her to do the same. Perhaps, then, that it’s not so surprising that she grew sadder and sadder years later until she couldn’t be here anymore.
Jasper died at some point and I don’t know what ever happened to the cigarette dispenser.
See that guy up there on the left? Recognize him at all? That’s my son, the guy I’ve often referred to as “the baby” on these here internets. That’s “the baby” at his 13th birthday party on Saturday. Yes. Thirteen. THIRTEEN! For reference, when I first started blogging on LiveJournal back in 2002, he and I looked like this:
He had his party at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association in Oakland. He and his friends had fun but the whole experience was a little weird. The PAA is this very old school institution, established back at the beginning of the 20th century when Pittsburgh was lousy with titans of industry. My grandparents have been members for many years and I spent many special occasions there. It was always very exciting, since most of the time if we were going there, we had to be dressed up. I remember being enamored with the grand lobby and its huge fireplace. Above that fireplace was a huge painting of a Roman bath scene. I can imagine how slick I must have looked trying to sneak peeks of the naked guys. I was also impressed with the ladies room because it had a separate lounge area with some couches and vanity. “Wow! You can pee and then hang out for awhile! So fancy!” Also, I met Mister Rogers there one time when I was maybe four years old and it remains one of my most vivid memories. The building deserves its landmark status for that reason alone, in my opinion. If the club was at all run down back then, I never noticed it.
Since then, membership has declined and the facilities are looking really shabby in places. There are plans for the club to enter into a partnership with a new hotel coming to Oakland across the street, which will help them with repairs and a new revenue stream. One really sad effect of this agreement is that the bowling alley, which is a perfect mid-century time capsule will be demolished to make room for a parking garage.
I wonder if they would let me take these funky pendant lights?
While the kids were bowling, I remembered that he had his sixth birthday party there back in 2007, when he looked like this:
Because I always like to draw parallels and blah blah blah symbolism, I thought about how I would have (and did) meticulously documented his 2007 birthday, but haven’t been doing much meticulous documentation the last few years. Part of that is because his life is increasingly becoming his own and I want to respect that. But the bigger part is that I’ve let this part of myself (and several other parts) go and it bums me out. I feel comfortable telling you that he’s as challenging and wonderful as ever. He does some things that I’m really proud of and others that I’m not so proud of. But he’s a thoughtful individual and still very much my buddy. I’m pretty pleased with us so far.
I think it’s safe to say that summer 2014 is finally coming to a close. My kid has been in 7th grade for a few weeks and today the weather had that familiar cool crispness to it. I was initially a little sad to see summer go. We had a hectic-at-times summer but a good one. (Highlights are behind the “Read more” via photo essay.)
I’ve been busy with work/tired from being busy with work. I’ve never been comfortable posting too much about my job (any job) but I’m involved in some Big Things. This is simultaneously enthralling (“I’ve always wanted to be involved in Big Things!”) and terrifying. After particularly stressful days, I find myself thinking/saying things like, “I just want to go be a sister wife somewhere and take care of babies and make jam.” I feel terrible about this. For one, it’s not like that line of work is easier. (Plus, I would manage to turn it into The Most High Stakes Sister-Wifeing Ever We’re All Gonna Die Fail Which Is Worse I Don’t Know.) Also, I’ve never even made jam so I have no idea if this would even be a viable option.
The husband has been busy with music. His group, Pittsburgh Track Authority, has been doing really well, along with other related projects that he’s involved with/heading up. They’ve been getting a lot of press coverage, locally and nationally, and they’ve been DJing all over the place. It’s all very exciting.
The kid has been busy hanging out with friends, hanging out with grandparents, etc. I was upset the last week or so of summer vacation because I felt like I had barely seen him and it’s not like he’s going to be looking to spend less time with friends and more time with me as he gets older. I’ve been pushing our Great Race training because it’s 40 or so minutes that are just for us. It’s just unfortunate that we spend them huffing and puffing and figuring out how to avoid running up this one horrible hill by our house.
This was all kind of exacerbated when we went to see Boyhood a few weeks ago, which I loved. Richard Linklater gets a pass from me on certain aspects of movies that would otherwise bother me. I don’t know. He does the meandering-thoughts-and-experiences-of-not-extraordinary-people thing so well. It was very striking to watch a story unfold over time with the same people, especially, of course, the boy at the center of it.
My kid is still very much a kid, but he’s really looking forward to growing up and experiencing all of the failures and successes of becoming an adult. I get that and I don’t immediately tell him to just enjoy being a kid, “because being an adult is so much harder.” I don’t really believe that. Being a kid is easier only in mechanical ways that mostly have to do with money and being a candidate for blame. He seems to really be looking forward to the experiences that he’ll have, though I’ve cautioned him not to set his expectations too high. Parties and whatnot are never as epic as they are in the movies. “You’ll have fun, I promise,” I tell him. “But nobody has the time or energy for a drunken odyssey.”
We were at my mother-in-law’s house three times over last weekend: on Friday for her 4th of July party, on Saturday to eat 4th of July leftovers, and on Sunday to eat more 4th of July leftovers. She keeps a radio on in the backyard tuned to the oldies station and during our leftover stops, the station played “Cecilia” a number of times. It also played that “In the Summertime” song by Mungo Jerry, which sounds awesome and is a classic summer song, but that line, “If her daddy’s poor you can do what you feel,” makes me uncomfortable. Bother. Let’s put all these deep thoughts aside and sing along to a traditional hymn.
Speaking of 4th of July, it was a nice and low-key affair. I was sitting and talking with the husband’s cousin about some aspect of living in the city, but added that Pittsburgh is pretty country. As if on cue, my mother-in-law’s cat emerged from the small wooded area behind her house with a snake in its mouth.
After the snake got passed around to all who wanted to play with it, we went past the swimmin hole and got us some sodypops yeehaw.
Speaking of that guy in the picture/video above, I heard him tell one of his Little League teammates the other day that he’ll turn 13 in December, which brings me to my next point: ASAK&@(&(&@@%)(*AUP87(*&)(%#hijokl?
A teenager. I’m going to have a TEENAGER. As I (far too) often joke, I don’t see how he can be 13, since I’m 13.
(Aside for those of you reading along: these recent posts feel very awkward to write and I imagine they’re awkward to read. Much like the huffing and puffing that I’m having to do with running as I get back into a habit/routine, these sound out of breath and wheezing to me as I get back into writing shape. Just getting into WordPress and putting some thoughts down is a challenge. Thanks for your patience and I sincerely appreciate it if you’re stopping by.)
Oh my god, this post. I wrote it about two weeks ago in Notepad because reasons. Notepad crashed. I whined about my stupidity on Facebook and got a lot of smug suggestions that maybe I should try being less stupid. (“Have you considered saving your work? Are you aware of things like Gmail and Google Docs?”) Related: I hate everyone. (Kidding.)
This is long and rambling and not interesting. Now that I’ve sold the hell out of it, read on.
Anyway, I mentioned in my last post that one of the main items on my MUST DO list was re-establishing an exercise routine/schedule. In my previous position, I was able to go to the gym pretty much everyday during my lunch break. This was perfect for me. I didn’t have to scramble to work out in the morning in the midst of getting the kid ready for school or in the evening which is prime Do Nothing time. When I started in my new position, my new boss was perfectly fine with me working out during the day, but it quickly became evident that I wouldn’t always have time to do so. I still made an effort, but five days a week quickly dropped to three and then two and then here and there and for long stretches not at all.
The results of this are what you would expect. I’ve had less energy. I’ve had more, uh, ME. But perhaps worst of all is that my anxiety has gone through the roof. I am this odd mixture of lazy and high-strung. When I really let those two behaviors loose, I end up doing nothing while panicking about it. Without going into too much detail, I have to say that the last eight months or so without regular activity have been pretty tough for me. I feel kind of crazy is the thing and I feel less so when I take an hour a day and kick my own ass.
But without a regular chunk of the middle of the day for ass-kicking, I didn’t know what to do. I could maybe exercise some evenings, but really I’d just rather hang out with the dudes and make dinner and relax. The other obvious candidate was the morning. That was a far from perfect option because:
1a) I’m terrible at getting up early. I love sleeping. I love being in bed. It’s comfortable and warm and there’s usually a husband and maybe a cat or two to snuggle with. Who in their right mind would leave such an awesome environment? Besides that, during the school year, I’m the one in charge of getting the kid up and out the door. Before you chime in with, “Why don’t you make the husband do that sometimes?” let me tell you that HAHAHAHA. He’s even worse at getting out of bed than I am and has way less patience for the kid’s morning antics, which are plentiful. So until the kid is capable of handling himself in the morning, it’s on me to keep him from becoming truant.
1b) I’m terrible at going to bed early. Part of the reason that I’m terrible at getting out of bed early is because most mornings I haven’t spent enough time there. I like being up late and goofing off. Plus this is usually when the husband and I do the bulk of our hanging out. And that’s important, you know? We’re both busy and have a kid and we need to have a good chunk of awake time just for us.
2) I’m kind of a wuss. For a good portion of the year, Pittsburgh is freezing. I hate running in the cold. HATE. IT. I’ve done it multiple times thinking I just need to get used to it. But no. It sucks. I know there are plenty of people who don’t mind it or even like it and I think they’re on rocks. I have a very basic treadmill that I got off of someone during their move, but I don’t really know if our old house can withstand me running on a treadmill anywhere but the basement. Our basement is kind of terrifying. Oh, look, here’s some footage of my last trip down there:
3) I’m kind of insane. I get “all or nothing” about things to a stupid degree and especially during the school year would say to myself, “I don’t have time/energy to get up and run three miles in the morning so I guess it’s just not happening.”
I lay all this out not as a list of excuses but because I think it’s important to be honest about what I will realistically do and what I will realistically make an effort to change. I can maybe tackle most of those things but I’m pretty sure running in the cold is not happening ever. So I’ll have to figure something out for the cold days but let’s table that part for now.
Keeping the above in mind, I decided to wait until the kid was out of school to attempt a new routine. And I decided that I would set a low bar: 25 – 30 minutes, leaving at 6:30ish on Tuesday and Thursday. No distance or speed goal, especially since I knew that those would not be where they once were some months back. Just sheer “getting it done.” So that’s my advice: figure out the easiest possible way to start something and go with it. There are no rewards for conquering some arbitrarily difficult task that matters to no one but you.
Other things that I resolved:
I didn’t disqualify myself based on my lack of skills. Another summer resolution that I might add is taking up yoga again. I used to do it fairly regularly but stopped, mostly because I really liked this one particular class that didn’t fit in my schedule anymore. (Again with this all or nothing nonsense.) But I would always recommend it to people for various reasons and the response that would always piss me off was, “But I’m not flexible.” Like…UGH. Do you only do things that you’re already good at? Really? Wow, life must be awesome for you. Or completely horrible if you’re one of those super rare people who have to work and develop abilities. While I’m not starting from Square One with running and working out (more like Square 12.5 or something…how many Squares are there? I’ve always had a rough time with math) it can kind of feel that way, especially since I can clearly remember how much better I was doing not that long ago. So I had to smack myself out of the, “Well, I’m back at a 12-minute mile so might as well just put my eatin’ dress on and get started on all this canned frosting,” mindset. It’s fine. I’m slow and starting over to some degree. I’ll get back to where I was. Or maybe I won’t. It doesn’t really matter. But sitting her whining certainly isn’t making me any healthier.
I gently kicked my ass. At some point, I have to cut the shit and do what needs to be done. So, one morning, about two weeks ago, I drooped out of bed at the ungodly (to me) time of 6:30 and drooped into running clothes and drooped out the door. The main force behind that momentous achievement being that I knew I had done the bare minimum to make it happen and quitting before I even started would just be stupid.
I have a goal in sight…that I paid cash money for. The kid and I are going to be running the Great Race 10k in September. We’re already signed up and paid. I’m a cheapskate and hate wasting money so we’ll be there no matter what shape we’re in. I just think it would be a nicer experience for everyone if I’m not crying the whole time because ugggghhhhh how did I let this happen?
September 2012, when I had things ON LOCK
I’ve come to realize that people are full of shit. A very valid roadblock to this kind of activity is worrying what other people think of you. Real talk: there will be some people who think you have no business being at the gym/at the race/at whatever. They think you’re fat, you’re disgusting, you’re terrible, you probably won’t commit to health and fitness, etc. They only have time to think about what business you have being there because they’re not focusing on themselves. Also, you’re not going to risk bumping into any elite athletes who actively care what you’re doing. So any turd who thinks that about you would look equally foolish mingling with people who are actually good at this stuff. They only get access to judge you up close and personal because they’re down here in the muck with the rest of us. Ignore them. Or antagonize them by, like, eating a doughnut on the elliptical just to make their heads explode.
My next hurdle will be doing this twice a week. I got up early once last week and it was okay. But I gave myself a pass every other morning. The kid and I did get out for a few afternoon/evening runs so that’s good. But this morning, for example, it was NOT happening. It could have, though, which is frustrating. I didn’t suck it up enough. Oh, well. Tomorrow!
Consider this an awkward throat-clearing on a dreary Monday. I want to write again so I’m just going to…begin.
I’m dropping back in here after a generally insignificant weekend that somehow feels momentous. Perhaps the actual nothingness of it is what makes it feel so important. Our spring seasons always experience a hard shift into fifth gear near the end, with school, work, sports, and music colliding into a breathless combination of activities and obligations. Not having to really go anywhere these last few days and actually seeing each other for more than 10-minute bursts at a time almost felt odd.
But this weekend contained a lot of the activities that I’m hoping will make up most of our Saturdays and Sundays these next few precious months.
The husband and I slept in to a somewhat vulgar degree on Saturday. I always feel guilty for not getting a somewhat early start, but we needed the sleep and the time together. We’ve both been going pretty hard the last few weeks and are both still battling the lingering side effects of a nasty head cold.
After getting up, I worked on some laundry, which is an area of my life that is just thoroughly out of control. There’s just so much of it all over the house and I don’t understand how three people can have so much clothing. I also did a really half-assed job of putting away winter clothing and bringing out summer clothing. (Read: both types of clothing are sitting in piles all over the place.) We also have a large cabinet sitting in the middle of our bedroom that was displaced when we got a new washer and dryer and actually you know what let’s stop discussing laundry.
The kid and I have danced around encouraging each other to be more active. I have increasingly become a slug over the past year and it’s pretty upsetting. In my previous job, I was fortunate enough to be able to work out during my lunchtime. My new job, while being wonderful in many ways, does not really have the flexibility to duck out for an hour in the middle of the day. Not regularly, anyways. So, I’ve really struggled to figure out how to get back into a good routine. Aside from the obvious physical, uh, softening that has accompanied this new schedule awkwardness, I’ve noticed that my anxiety has gone way up. Not getting that 30-45 minutes a day to wear myself down means that I get wound up and stay that way.
I’ll come back to this because there’s a lot of unpacking that I want to do about it. But for now I just wanted to mention that the kid and I took two really nice, long walks on Saturday and Sunday. During those walks, I kept thinking about how ten years ago I would take him for a walk in his stroller everyday when the weather was nice. Then one day I started working and that more or less stopped altogether. Back then, I would narrate our walk to him and he would babble back at me and point excitedly at school buses and construction vehicles. This weekend, we discussed how he felt about his now completed sixth grade year and paradoxes. Yes, paradoxes. We’ve cautiously allowed him to venture more onto the internet the past year and he finds some interesting stuff. We had a pretty in-depth discussion about the omnipotence of God which…what? Weren’t you just a squealing toddler who subsisted solely on PediaSure a few hours ago?
Goals for the summer (to be discussed further in later posts):
– Work on establishing a new workout schedule
– Incorporating the kid in this schedule as much as possible
– Reading a book (I’ll come back to this, but any time someone mentions a statistic about how some depressingly high percentage of Americans haven’t read a book in the past year, I get pretty red.)
– Get this blog fixed (something became borked with WordPress on here like two years ago and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Help?)
Facebook has a handy little year in review for users. Looking through mine and one that you can generate for InstaGram, I found them a little dissatisfying. They didn’t really seem to capture all that was good and bad and huge about 2013. The big things were included, like my new job, but as I’ve pulled away from the internet more and more, I have less of a record of what has happened. I’m not particularly happy about this. It’s not necessary to document everything. There are, after all, only so many memories that you can truly cherish. But I’ve always liked being able to look back on an ultimately inconsequential moment.
There are also constant hums that I’ve become more aware of this year that are impossible to condense and articulate into a tweet or a stats update or even a blog post. My anxiety about basically everything has been pretty tough to contend with. I have really complicated feelings about key people in my life and I can’t tell if they’re valid or not. My kid is undeniably growing up now and I feel hyper-aware of the time that he still spends in childhood. Any time he cuddles with me or drops the front of tough adolescent that he tries on here and there, I breathe a sigh of relief that I haven’t missed it all yet.
Anyway, neither the Facebook or InstaGram reviews contained any moments from July, and I realized that that month contained one of my favorite nights of this year, one that I think/hope that I’ll always remember. Just in case, I don’t, though…
On July 11th, there was a brief but significant thunderstorm in the very early evening. The power went out and we went through the normal stages of reaction: sitting very still for a minute, sighing when it becomes clear that it wasn’t a momentary outage, pacing carefully.
Since it was still light out, the three of us sat on the porch and admired the pretty, midsummer sunset.
We could hear our neighbors shouting their theories about the power outage at each other. So-and-so a few blocks away still has power. Did a transformer blow? What did Duquesne Light say? Have you seen one of their trucks go by? How much stuff do you have in the freezer?
I wanted a popsicle and got some to cool us all down.
It started to get really dark and we needed some source of light. I gathered an odd assortment of scented candles and clustered them on the porch. They were mostly Christmas-related scents. It was odd to smell cedar and sugar cookies mixed with summer stickiness and rain.
After a few hours, we were getting hungry and frustrated. An alert chimed on my phone letting me know that the Pirates game had finally started after being delayed for the power outage. “We could go to the Pirate game,” I suggested half-jokingly. But the husband pointed out that at least there would be power and we could get something to eat.
“Let’s do it.”
We rushed over to the park and purchased bleacher seats. The crowd was pretty sparse since it was a weeknight and the game was just starting at 11 p.m.
I held our seats as the husband and the kid went to the bathroom. A girl coming up the aisle in a sequined skull shirt caught my eye. I quickly noticed that her date was Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
The game turned out to be great. The Pirates added one more win to what would ultimately be their best season in 20 years. And the three of us did something spontaneous. We went on a tiny adventure and escaped life for awhile.
This is an awkward reentry into writing here, since there’s plenty of other stuff to talk about, but let’s start with this:
BuzzFeed ripped off one of my MamaPop posts.
Note: What makes this whole thing kind of directionless is that MamaPop shut down for good a few weeks ago so the original post is no longer up. But I grabbed it before Tracey and Amalah turned off the lights and am reposting it here for the purposes of this little manifesto. I’m also reposting it for posterity, because it was one of my favorite things I’ve written.
So, anyway, here’s what happened.
A year ago, I had an idea to write a post about all of the turtlenecks in Love Actually. I was excited about the idea, but knew that it was so specific that I needed to research it first. I Googled it pretty extensively, resolving that if someone else had already written about it, I would figure out how to either reference it and take a new spin, or scrap the idea entirely. Because how many posts about turtlenecks in Love Actually could there be, right? So if someone had already covered it, writing it again would seem stupid at best, and a total rip-off at worst.
I didn’t come across anything and set to work on the laborious task of watching the movie and screencapping each turtleneck. That activity plus actually writing the post took quite a bit of time. But the post turned out great and when it went live on December 20, 2012 it got a huge response. (Well, huge for me.) I watched excitedly as the Facebook shares soared past 1,000. I entertained fantasies that I had written something that people would return to every holiday season, that it would make the rounds again every year. As someone who has written on the internet for a long time, this was the idea of creating something immortal, a goofy contribution to the weird and separate culture of what we discuss in this space.
Cut to a few weeks ago. I was scrolling through BuzzFeed and came across a post called “The Definitive Ranking of All of the Turtlenecks in Love Actually” by one of their writers named Erica Futterman. Stunned, I read through the post that was alarmingly similar to mine and contained a great number of the exact same screencaps. I could only assume that I had been ripped off and all of the dark stories that I’d heard about BuzzFeed’s practices were thrust into my face.
I would never assert that no one else could ever have the same goofy idea for a post. But I imagine that what happened next is that the writer of the BuzzFeed post did one of the following things:
a) Googled the idea, came across my post, and jacked it
b) Googled the idea, made it “original” by putting it through the BuzzFeed ordered list machine or
c) Wrote it without Googling it first
The first two scenarios make the writer close to, if not very much sitting in the lap of being a plagiarizer. Though that accusation seems strong since there’s not a lot of writing in her post. The best-case scenario is c), which means she didn’t do any research, which makes her a sloppy writer.
Aside from the brain-drippings that make up a lot of BuzzFeed posts, I’d heard of a few other examples of their writers taking liberties with the content of others. While I hadn’t been too offended by all of the stupid lists, having a fairly concrete example of their blatant pilfering was really jarring.
In the days immediately after the BuzzFeed post went up, two things happened: my grandfather’s funeral and MamaPop’s demise. Both of these pushed any outrage or urge to action way back in my brain and by the time I’d started to feel capable of thinking about it again, a few weeks had passed and MamaPop was gone. So the window for doing something (though I don’t really know what) seemed to have closed.
I’ve not been able to stomach the sight of BuzzFeed since, which quickly made me realize just how much content that site spews out daily. Basically every third item that I see shared on Facebook is from BuzzFeed and it still makes me cringe. I think we’re already aware that they tend to write about the same inane things over and over (37 Things 90s Kids Love, 15.7 Problems People with Glasses Have, 6 Things 90s Kids with Glasses Regurgitate), seemingly because they just churn posts out at a crazy pace. Original content must be close to impossible to generate between the constant deadlines so I have to imagine that the swiping and repackaging of topics is at least a somewhat significant problem. It kind of seems like an unstoppable machine at this point. It seems like their services as an aggregator are becoming blurred and want to serve as some kind of Reader’s Digest for the 18-30 demographic.
But, even if it’s just screaming into the void, here’s what I have to say to that writer, to BuzzFeed, and to writers in general as we navigate this shifting terrain and the internet muddles the rules. I know you’re busy. I know writing as a job, especially on the internet, is a Herculean task these days. But I think we all need to agree that a combination of the big standard rules of writing (like NO PLAGIARISM OF ANY KIND EVER) and basic internet etiquette (“here’s this cool thing that I saw here,” just a totally minimal acknowledgment of where you found it) is reasonable even in this frenzy.
Seeing something that I worked really hard on just pared down and posted was really upsetting. And now that a behemoth like BuzzFeed took that idea and made it its own, it’s completely gone from me now. It really just…it really hurt my feelings, is what it comes down to.
This post originally appeared on MamaPop on December 20, 2012. MamaPop is no more, so I am reposting it here. I took the opportunity to fix a few typos, but the post is what I published a year ago.
I watched Love Actually last Friday night. This marked the third or fourth time since Halloween that I had watched it and my reasons for doing so were mostly therapeutic. I had been crying off and on through most of the day and I needed something that would just make me feel good. Love Actually is one of my favorite Christmas-time movies, and watching it helped. Plus, I got to do my research for this post, which I had been planning for a few weeks.
See, the last time I watched it, I suddenly noticed how many turtlenecks were worn in the movie. It was pretty remarkable. I mean, I realize that it’s set in London in December, so obviously warmer clothing is called for. And turtlenecks are not unreasonable. But when you think about the interwoven characters in this movie, and if they were your social circle, you might wonder, “Hey guys…why are we collectively so big on turtlenecks?”
Those particular shirts showed up in almost every scene. Being a sane person, I decided to take note of each one and see if I could reconstruct the story of Love Actually through its turtlenecks.
Opening Montage Turtleneck
First we have the opening montage of the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. And Hugh Grant’s monologue about messages of love coming from the phone calls during the September 11th attacks and whoa, why is my face all wet?
Cheating Wife Turtleneck
We meet Colin Firth’s character, Jamie, whose wife skips out on a wedding because she has a cold. Really, she’s just using the time alone to diddle Jamie’s brother…who apparently has a thing for babes with red noses and chest congestion who mouthe-breathe during sex. Hawt.
Liam Neeson’s (Daniel) wife has died after a long illness. People mourn her with warm necks.
Funeral Montage Turtleneck
Daniel’s wife had specific wants for her funeral, including this picture of these turtlenecks.
Vaguely Creepy Boss Turtleneck
Snape plays Harry, the owner of some hip, early 2000s company that probably has something to do with graphic design judging by the looks of it. He’s weirdly invested in both Sarah’s (Laura Linney) crush on Karl and his assistant’s lady bits.
“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over all of this sexual tension.”
That’s Not a Turtleneck, It’s a Red Flag
Mia is maybe 25 and shockingly hot. But she doesn’t have a boyfriend, is attracted to her old, married boss, and her eyes get really wide sometimes. Keep the pet rabbits away from her. She cray.
Concerned Stepfather Turtleneck
Daniel is worried about how his stepson, Sam, is handling his grief. He’s vaguely concerned that the 11-year-old is injecting heroin into his eyeballs. He starts crying because dead wives will make you do that and Emma Thompson helpfully responds, “Ew, stop.”
Saying Good Night to Karl Turtleneck
Sarah stays late and refreshes her makeup all for the two seconds at the end of the day where she gets to say good night to Carl. This has been going on for 2.5 years. I think maybe it’s time to step up your efforts, Sarah. Also, the word “burden” is right above the picture of Sarah’s mentally ill brother. I see what you did there, Love Actually.
Saying Good Night Does Not Lead to Sex with Karl, Boss
But thanks for sitting on my desk and grilling me about it. It’s not weird or anything.
Jamie doesn’t know Portuguese, but he knows he loves the new housekeeper that’s helping him out while he recuperates from heartbreak and writes a terrible novel at his French country home.
The Most Reckless Writer Alive Turtleneck
Jamie also doesn’t know about computers or writing your novel not right next to a body of water or even just leaving the rest of the pages inside instead of precariously secured under a small rock.
If Only We Could See Our Subtitles Turtleneck
They’re saying almost the exact same things to each other! Awww! Granted, Jamie appears to have one turtleneck that is his writing-in-the-French-countryside turtleneck, but it’s pretty versatile.
The Turtleneck that I Wear When I Show My Best Friend’s Wife My Creepy Video of Her
Amazingly, Keira Knightley does not frantically try to find the nearest exit when she sees Mark’s collection of close-ups and slow motion shots of her licking icing off of her fingers. Mark takes a walk and his zip-up cardigan becomes the turtleneck of broken-hearted embarrassment.
Thank the Lord Turtleneck
Sam was not injecting heroin into his eyeballs or having a hard time dealing with his mother’s death. Rather, he’s hopelessly in love and will learn to play drums in two weeks so that he can participate in his school’s Christmas pageant and await his crush’s declaration of love. Daniel signs off on this because he knows girls love it when you aren’t just honest with them.
Buy Me Something Pretty Turtleneck
Mia gets increasingly inappropriate with Snape and demands that he buy her something pretty while he’s out Christmas shopping with his wife. Hawt. Snape gets increasingly inappropriate back.
I’m a Douche Turtleneck
“I spent 270 pounds on a necklace for my assistant but you think I bought it for you. No, you get a $15 CD. Merry Christmas.”
Language School Turtlenecks
I Just Realized My Husband Is Cheating on Me Turtleneck
I’m Just Judy and I’m Not Really Sure How Our Plot Line Fits In Turtleneck
These two are adorable, and they know a bunch of people in this movie. But Judy shows up later at the Christmas pageant wearing this same outfit and the timing gets lost on me. Is this a flashfoward? Did they go to the pageant and then kiss on Judy’s doorstep afterward? When is this? I don’t understand.
Sam’s Learning How to Play Drums Turtleneck
We’re the Cutest Turtleneck
The Prime Minister is looking for Natalie by going door to door instead of just calling, I don’t know, anyone and getting Natalie’s address. Because he doesn’t have any resources? Or wants to do this the more difficult way because it will be more rewarding? I don’t know. But he and his companion sing “Good King Wenceslas” to these three and it’s great.
I’m an Extra and I Get to Overhear this Awkward Conversation Turtleneck
Always sort out your marital issues at the kids’ Christmas pageant. What could go wrong?
I’m Claudia Schiffer Turtleneck
It’s so funny that I’m Claudia Schiffer but I’m supposed to be someone else (I think) because Claudia Schiffer was mentioned a few times as Daniel’s potential new mate earlier in the movie!
Whoa, It’s Weird that Everyone at the Arrivals Gate Knows Each Other Somehow Turtleneck
Jamie must have finished his book so he gets to wear a different shirt.
I’m Liam Neeson and I Own a Turtleneck for Every Occasion
There were other turtlenecks that I spotted in crowd shots but I didn’t want to appear too obsessive. And good luck not noticing this whenever you watch this movie from now on.