Bad days happen, and despite the pitfalls of consumerism, sometimes you've just got to treat yourself. The experts maintain that spending money on experiences is more gratifying than buying things, but when you're at your desk mopping exploded yogurt out of your purse after arriving late because of traffic, you can't exactly pop out for a hot air balloon ride at lunch. That's why tantric shopping is the perfect solution. Combining the dirty thrill of Facebook stalking with the delayed gratification of Sting-like sex, tantric shopping will ensure you get the most pleasure out of your unnecessary purchasing experience so that you can satisfy your materialistic urges and your spiritual sense of buying only what you need.
It starts harmlessly enough: go to your favorite shopping site and browse. Something will catch your eye: a color-block ruana, a pair of tasseled earrings. Realize that you deserve something nice and then decide what that nice thing should be. The amount of time you take to do this will probably calm your nerves without requiring you to pull the trigger on purchasing. Even so, put these treasures in your shopping cart, admire them, take them back out, and get back to work.
If you feel better, congratulate yourself on your ability to self-soothe and save money. But if you find yourself back in your shopping cart an hour later during your coffee break, that's when you know you're in trouble. This thing you were going to buy yourself on a whim has now taken root and is on the verge of becoming a necessity. Even minimalists will agree: you need these things. Imagine the drafts you'll ward off, the way the light will dance off your earlobes at cocktail parties. Your mouse hovers over the BUY NOW button, but wait until tomorrow, sensibly. If you still want them tomorrow, you can buy them.
The next morning, go on a Google odyssey. Research the history of ruanas. (Are you culturally appropriating by wanting one? How are they different from ponchos?) Explore the accessories trends for fall. Read the reviews, check out the Instagrams, the fashion blogs, the places that will teach you how to optimize the imaginary accessories that will change your life the moment you buy them. Tomorrow. The fact that these things aren't terribly expensive is not relevant: the point is that you don't need them, but you want them, so you wait as long as possible to possess them, to ride the fever as high as you can go until it breaks or you go insane. You're playing chicken with yourself. Do you want the earrings in red or blue? Should you get two wraps so you can leave one in your car? At your desk? At your mom's house? OMG: THEY'VE GONE ON SALE!
Let this last for at least a week. Visit your potential purchases every day as if they were in prison. Make sure you want them--really want them. Do they spark joy? If you are not fully possessed, then do not buy. It is only when you've been driven to the brink of madness by your lust yes, that you plunge your hand into your wallet yes, breathlessly rip out the credit card yes, and BUY THOSE THINGS. Free shipping? Coupon codes? Oh, god! OH GOD!
And it's done. You're panting. You're sweating. You're waiting... a whole week for them to arrive.
The agony, it burns! How will you cope? The minimalists were right: you don't own these earrings, they own you. Track the package: rerouted to Denver? Google frantically. Fantasize about how you'll look on dinner dates, when you get that promotion. Picture yourself breezing through the office on time, yogurt intact, looking effortlessly capable. It's not just possible: it's probable the minute the package arrives.
Hopeless, you come home from another battered day at work, and there it is on the doorstep like a lover returned from war: a box. You tear it open, and all the possibilities of the world are yours. Thanks to tantric shopping, you've turned a five minute shopping blip into a two-week love affair, all for cheaper than the cost of a hot air balloon. Now don't you feel better?
Tornado season in Kentucky is nothing to fuck with. Should you find yourself under a tornado watch, here are some simple tips to help you "weather" the storm.
Step 1: Extend your right arm to your side at a ninety degree angle from your body. If you are in Kentucky, there will undoubtedly be a bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon there. Pour yourself a liberal amount over ice to steel your nerves. DO NOT MIX IT WITH COKE. Mixing with Coke will only dilute the bourbon's effects and prove troublesome in the future, like taking antibiotics with your birth control.
Step 2: Take stock of everything you know about tornadoes. Know what to expect. You could see a bemused cow drifting by your window. Your home might be transported to a technicolor dream land. Reflect on the tornado-related damage, injuries and deaths you've seen on the news. Have a moment of silence as you contemplate the fragility of life and realize this is serious.
Step 3: Panic. The weatherman on TV will tell you not to, but go ahead and come completely unglued. Call your mother to say goodbye. Text ex-boyfriends and tell them you're sorry for everything. Open the front door and let your dogs out to fend for themselves, screaming, "Run, my darlings! You are finally free!" Eat a pint of ice cream because it deserves to die nobly in your mouth and not whizzing through the air alone.
Step 4: If you are in your home, find a duffel bag. Fill it with items that cannot be replaced in the event your house is destroyed: heirlooms, family photos, passports, birth certificates, computers, favorite shoes, that dress you bought on sale at J. Crew even though it was too small because you promised yourself you'd fit into it one day, etc. Take this along with your grandmother's china, mementos from your babyhood, all six of your dining room chairs and your wedding dress to the basement.
Note: If your house does not have a basement, either find one that does or nestle a cyanide capsule between your gum and cheek just in case. More Maker's Mark can be substituted if cyanide is unavailable.
Step 5: Watch the weatherman on TV for hours. He will show you the angry red radar like a rash across Illinois, but he will have no updates other than "There might be a tornado later." He will be checking his Facebook on air. He will be calling his second cousin in Indiana on the phone to ask if she has a tornado at her house ("Nope, not yet"). He will cut to the live camera on top of the tallest building downtown, which will show you a beautiful blue sky. He will say you are safe for the next two hours and that you can probably watch the episode of House Hunters you have on DVR. This is just another of his weatherman games. Whatever you do: don't change the channel. Stay tuned at all times.
Step 6: Press your nose against the single leaded-glass panes of your 1920s home and watch the clouds start gathering like no-good kids outside a convenience store. Squeal a little every time you see lightning.
Step 7: By now it will be raining. Hard. When the force of the rain has reached biblical proportions, make your husband go outside to chain the barbecue in the backyard to the drainpipe with a bicycle lock so it doesn't blow away. He will protest. Make him do it anyway. "Why didn't you think of this sooner?" he'll ask. Get angry when you tell him you were too busy making sure the Kitchen Aid mixer made it to the basement.
Step 8: Watch more TV with the lights off for maximum fear factor. Freak out again at your husband when the satellite TV he just HAD to have because it offered seventeen fishing channels craps out, leaving you without a weatherman. If you had cable, this wouldn't have happened. This tornado is all his fault.
Step 9: Apologize. Turn on a radio. Have more bourbon.
Step 10: By now you will hear sirens that mean someone may or may not have seen a tornado, and it might or might not be coming your way. You're could be in danger, but there's no way to know for sure. To be safe, grab the bottle of Maker's (which, by now, should be the only thing left on the ground level of your house besides dust bunnies and discolored squares on the wall where your photos used to be) and retreat to the basement.
Step 11: Wait.
Step 12: Drink more bourbon. Tell your husband you love him. Thank him for a grand life. Cry a little if the mood strikes.
Step 13: Wait some more.
Step 14: Wake up when your husband shakes your shoulder. You will either find yourself riding an airborne cow toward Virginia or totally fine. If the latter, try not to feel disappointed that all your preparations were for nothing. Try not to feel sheepish; finishing the bourbon will help. Stumble upstairs to bedroom. Realize you moved bed to basement. Curse the weatherman and go back downstairs. Review best practices of your weather plan: are there any things you could have done better? Done without? Contemplate this as you pass out on whatever is handy, cuddling the wax-topped bottle under your arm like a teddy bear.
NOTE: This plan can also be used in cases of predicted rapture.
My uncle is currently in Eastern Europe trying to dig up our Russian roots. This is on my paternal side: my dad's father can trace his lineage back to the Mayflower, but my dad's mother was born under the tsars. Her father was an officer in the royal navy, the story goes, and when the Bolsheviks took power, he and his wife and their two small daughters had to flee the country. When I was young, I always imagined their living in Moscow, with the onion domes and red brick and desperate, gray winters. I imagine my great-grandmother burning my great-grandfather's white uniforms with the fringed epaulets and acquiring for them peasants' clothes. This I know for sure: she sewed rubels behind the buttons of her wool coat and into the linings of her clothes; she stuffed my grandmother's teddy bear with coins wrapped in cloth so they would not jingle. At the border, they were stopped by revolutionists and separated for interrogation: my great-grandfather in one room, my great-grandmother in another. If their stories didn't match, they would be taken outside, where whole, trembling families were being shot against the wall with rifles. I think of the rubels pouring from the holes in their clothes like blood. My grandmother told me she could still remember the screaming, the noise, the nosehair-singing smell of gunpowder.
My grandmother's Russia was full of stories like this: hard, tragic, romantic, terrifying stories, like the one about Uncle Fedot, an orthodox priest who owned a stable of much beloved horses. One night the stable caught fire, killing every one of them. Uncle Fedot went mad--legitimately mad, a madness that never left him for the rest of his silent, haunted years. I imagine him that night as one might picture Rasputin: a tall, thin, cooked, with a long beard. His mouth hangs open in horror, allowing bits of ash to land unnoticed on his tongue made useless now by the deaths of his horses. My grandmother told me Uncle Fedot never spoke again.
So as children, we were Russian. Growing up in Louisville, KY, in a town full of O'Donnells and Kurzendoerfers, this was special, different, exotic. And then another revolution came in 1989, and suddenly we were no longer Russian but... Azerbaijani.
It turns out my great-grandparents never lived in Moscow at all but in Baku, a city on the Black Sea, the capital of the recently minted Azerbaijan--a country that borders Iran, which makes it technically in the Middle East. In Baku there are no candy-striped onion domes, but stone-colored mosques and minarets. Is it cold there? I didn't know, but I pictured sand dunes stretching long into the horizon. My great-grandfather buries his turban and scimitar; my great-grandmother sews dinars to the edge of her veil that clink below her nose. Her great dark eyes--like Princess Jasmine's--are barely visible above her nose and below her brow. My grandmother had a toy camel stuffed with rubies, and she went with her mother into a small checkpoint, where she could see people whose stories didn't match up having their throats cut, the blood pouring into the sand, which clumped like kitty litter.
I imagine Uncle Fedot now, a bare-chested, open-vested, fez-wearing Imam screaming before a flaming stable of haughty Arabians, their eyes bulging, veins straining in panic as they tried to break free. The desert wind only encouraged the fire, until there was nothing else to see.
So my uncle is in Eastern Europe researching all these stories. Russian stories. Stories with heritage, haunting and gruesome. My uncle called my father last night to let him know what he had found: While my great-grand-people lived in Baku, apparently their great-grand-people lived in Poland. Which makes us now...
I know nothing of the Polish other than everyone seems to enjoy making fun of them for some reason, and that I am fond of their sausages at the state fair. I have no problem being Polish; nor do the hundreds of other people I know with Polish heritage. That I know hundreds of people with Polish heritage, though, makes me no longer feel exotic.
Now re-imagining my heritage as a movie for the third time, I picture the Polish to look a lot like the Germans for some reason. I'm sure the Polish would object terribly to this, but hey: it's my movie. Great-grandfather dons his most humble-looking lederhosen while my great-grandmother weaves sausages into her long, blond braids. My grandmother has a stein filled with sauerkraut, and they are taken to a checkpoint, which is for some reason made of gingerbread. Outside, people in puffy sleeves are bayoneted with candy-cane spears.
Uncle Fedot, no longer thin and haunted but a ruddy-faced man with a substantial paunch and auburn mustache, sees his stable catch fire and, sipping from a beer, turns and goes out for wurst.
For some reason, the addition of Poland into this memory drama just makes these stories seem less... Russian. Am I overreacting? Is it possible that these stories are interesting no matter where they take place, or am I just too hung up on the scenery? I don't even know what Poland looks like: it could be as beautiful as a silver Moscow winter or as tan as a Middle Eastern desert. Perhaps I should do some research and re-re-imagine, for the fourth time, what my people looked like and did. Alternatively, I could just wait a few more years. By then I'm sure I'll have become Chinese, my grandmother with a stuffed dragon full of noodles, my Uncle Chin in his thin mustache weeping before a pile of ashes along a lonely, smoke-scorched stretch of the Great Wall.