Why They Don’t “Just Say What They Want”

It goes much deeper than “playing coy”


I recently found a post that asked,

“What’s the most annoying thing your partner does?”

One of the top comments was:

“When they don’t tell me what they want! I have to all but sit them down and force them!”

I get it. It’s annoying.

My partner and I are both the “I don’t care where we eat” sort — and to make matters worse, we’re both the type to sort of neglect to eat altogether, especially if nothing is jumping out at us (it just kinda isn’t worth the hassle sometimes.) So I hear you.

Not everyone struggles with what they want, but those who do do it across their lives

They don’t know where they want to eat. They don’t know what they want to drink. They don’t know what they want in a relationship. They don’t know what they want regarding a lot of shit.


I see this as a bartender all the time — people come in, sit down, and then look around dumbfounded like they’ve never seen a bar before. Maybe they’ll reach for a cocktail list only to flip it over a few times like they can’t read. They’ll look at the draft list like it’s a work of abstract art. They’ll scan the bottles too fast to actually be registering what’s there.

“What can I get for you?” I’ll ask, already dreading the answer that comes with this stupefied thing they’re doing.

“I don’t know,” they’ll say, then ask: “What do you recommend?” Or: “what’s good?” Or, simply: “surprise me!”

And I think to myself, “I recommend that you make your own decisions. That’s ‘what’s good.’ How’s that for a surprise?”

People who do this aren’t doing it to be coy. And they’re not doing it because they’re afraid of being seen as “wanting a drink.” Like, I know you want a drink — you’re in a bar. It’s a deeper problem, of:

  • Literally not knowing what we want, and
  • Not wanting to figure it out and choose

WHY people “can’t decide”

Sometimes people don’t seem to understand: we are not machines with missing instructions. Things aren’t always black and white.

Maybe they’re out of touch with options

Maybe they don’t categorize experiences as a series of fool-proof “if, then’s.

Or maybe they’re out of touch with themselves.

Highly likely; almost always part of the problem. But this isn’t something that’s settled by shouting or demanding an answer (of ourselves or others.)

“Want” is a complicated thing, because many decisions have at least two variables — short vs. long term satisfaction.

Here’s everything that goes through my head when I’m deciding on what to eat: I like salads — good salads. I’m craving something cheesy, but “tomorrow me” doesn’t want something cheesy. “Want” isn’t black and white.

To the loved ones of “people who can’t decide:”

You have a few options:

  • Mill about trying to “force” them to choose
  • Choose for or without them
  • Reframe the decision to help them to choose

If it doesn’t matter that much, just decide. If you’re getting hangry, just decide. If you’re short on time, just decide. If it’s what color to paint the guest bedroom walls, just decide.

My mother’s idea of a “perfect vacation” is one where she plans and decides absolutely nothing, and gets to enjoy it passively like a child in a little red wagon, tugged along and fed snack packs at regular intervals. I know this, so I just decide. If I didn’t, she’d just go ask Rick Steves what she should want to do. So I save us both time by just deciding.

When it comes to something that only involves them, however, I will often force them to choose. At the bar, I will very rarely pick for someone, unless they’re “playing the game” (i.e., “I’m curious to see what you recommend, as a fellow whiskey drinker” rather than “I’m too overwhelmed.”) But other than that, if someone isn’t picking, I’ll leave and come back as many times as it takes for them to get their shit together and live their own lives. (And buddy, I’ve got all night.)

And sometimes, I just move on. I have one friend in particular who is notorious for being unable to decide what she wants to eat. When we go out and I get hungry, I just get food — something quick. I don’t pussyfoot or get hangry waiting for her to decide, like it’s The Last Meal She’ll Ever Have. I feed myself, and she doesn’t get offended. And when she’s finally ready to decide, we simply stop again.

With my partner, we have two tools that work 99% of the time for us:

  • Rank options -5 to 5, -5 being “I will die if I have to do this,” 0 being “I literally do not care,” and 5 being “I will die if I don’t.” If we’re sort of wishy washy on something but both our scores together are positive, and lower than other immediate options, that’s the winner.
  • Take turns picking. You know that old parenting trick to keep kids from fighting over “what’s fair” — one kid divides something (a sandwich, whatever) into half, and the other kid gets to choose which “half” he or she wants. Done. Here’s how it works for deciding: one person throws out 3 options. Usually as they’re saying them, they’ve already eliminated one, or picked a favorite. Great. But say 3.) Make the other person either eliminate one, or rank them (see above — does this sound convoluted? It probably does. BUT IT GOES MUCH FASTER THAN THE “I DON’T KNOW” GAME IRL.) Once they’ve eliminated one and/or ranked them, the other person picks from those two, or ranks in response. So easy. So fast.

To “people who can’t decide:”

Start living your life, babe.

We spend all this time pinning inspirational and aspirational shit, but then we can’t even commit to where to eat or what to drink. I know it’s nice to dream of a world where everything’s handled and Prince Charming or some other hero makes all of our decisions in exactly the way we want them made, but the reality is that we are responsible for our own emotional wellbeing, and our own everyday lives.

Pick a drink. Pick a meal. Pick a partner. Pick a vocation.

Take some level of accountability. And start living your own life.

Los Angeles Is For Lovers

I’m in California right now, so here are my thoughts on LA


Okay, huge disclaimer: I have spent about 1 week total in LA in my life. Between this trip and the trip previously, both of which together reflect the entirely of my time here, I understand that I’m not the most qualified reviewer. That being said, it’s just, like, my opinion, man.

TL;DR — I could live in LA, pretty sure. Maybe everyone says that but I doubt it, because even though my mom seemed to think so when I told her this, I have a hard time believing that everyone (and their mom) is cut out for any kind of “city,” LA or not. (Maybe she thought I meant “California?” No idea.)

That all aside: I dig LA okay. There are pros and cons, of course — things I like and things I don’t — but for the most part, I certainly like it more than lame-ass Chicago (which I hated from the very first weekend I ever spent there, after which I boarded my plane home thinking, “I could never, ever live here” — even though I later went on to do just that for five years.)

Here’s my breakdown:

The LA I like:

“LA Weather”

I mean, duh. Unless you’re one of those sad souls who prefers wet overcast weather or year-round winters, you obviously like southern California weather. And no, it’s no humidity (which I love), but clearly it’s nice enough, and I’m pretty sure this is 99% of what my mom meant when she said “everyone wants to live there.”

“Fresh AF LA”

I’ve never lived in NYC, but I’ve been to both cities. And while I could live in either one (especially since it seems every writer somehow lives in NY), NY always has this sad, obsolete feel to it, like everyone’s still pretending it’s the 70s or 90s (fashion or banking, respectively), and nobody’s ready to move on.

LA has not only moved on, but they’re compulsively “rightthefucknow.”

“Day Trip LA”

Not that I’ve taken any, but I can Google Maps.

“Motorcycle LA”

I mean, of course. As a “commuter rider” myself, who rides daily back and forth to work and whose only vehicle is my bike, these people are my people.

“Hipster health food LA”

Awww yiss… mothafukkin health food! As I’ve said, I could easily eat a salad twice a day for the rest of my life and be so happy, and if you can keep me ever-impressed with new salad shit, I definitely wouldn’t tell you no.

“Gritty-ass LA”

I stayed in the Arts District last night and went full “privileged romanticization” on that shit — all the industrial lofts and street art (duh.) I want to eat the Arts District, and my airbnb was the stuff of grittiness dreams.

And again, maybe everyone says that, but I doubt it, because if half the reviews left on the airbnb are any indication, it’s clear not everyone is “down home” with “rough around the edges.”

“Creativity LA”

Hells yeah, lemme see what you can do.

I’d never want to be a visual artist / designer myself, and I like to keep my time with them to strict, pre-defined 10-minute blcoks, but I’d be lying if I said they don’t manage to put out the coolest shit. (Of course.)

“Latin LA”

Oh, the laid-back masculinity of the Latin influence! Not just Mexican food (which I’m sure is fantastic, if I ate it) but an overall cultural and architectural influence that’s thoroughly delightful.

“Little Ethiopia LA”

Dudes, I love me some Ethiopian food — the way it tastes; the way it’s eaten; its simplicity and consistency around the world. 100% my jam, and definitely my favorite of “the world’s” cuisines options.

The LA I’m neutral on:

“LA Traffic”

Call me crazy, but idgaf about traffic — in fact, I find it kinda zen. (And I know, I know — true lunatic over here. Clearly I wasn’t hugged enough as a child or something. I don’t know.)

“Sprawl LA”

Where does LA even end, bro? No idea. Not even sure LA knows. It’s all LA.

“The Beach (?)”

Imma be real honest — I don’t really care. You’ll never see this chick fighting you for space on the sand or chugging salt water or whatever it is you people do out there.

The LA I could do without:

“Tourism LA”

One of my favorite parts about living where I do in the south is the utterly laughable lack of tourist options. (Seriously, they have “the airport” listed in the top five hot spots for visitors, and when my mom came to visit I had to drive her several hours to find something halfway interesting for her besides the mall.) And I love this. I love the “boringness” of the area. Keep away, everyone — nothing to see here!

And the opposite was true when I lived in Chicago — some days, it was just so clean and sparkly and checklisty and lame.

I bet if I lived here, I’d never once make it to see Hollywood, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be caught dead on some “celebrity sighting” tourbus like a twat.

“Superficiality LA”

I mean, not just Beverly Hills or whatnot, but the overall prissiness of it sometimes.

Yesterday I saw a porcelain-skinned chick (I mean, #skingoals, obvs, but that aside) with primped fingernails that were so long she could scarcely eat, and I thought “you’re probably wonderful, but I’m sorry, we could never be friends.”

Related: “Sensor LA”

On the Myers Briggs scales, LA is, overall, so loudly and unapologetically “sensor” (ATTRACTIVE!! FILM!! SPORTS!! SPORTS CARS!!!! MONEYS!!) that it goes full circle and is sort of adorable

“Old-Bro LA”

Dude, the amount of west coast skater bros (with long unwashed hair, big ole bro sunglasses and saggy pants) who are pushing 40 (or more??) is too damn high.

To be fair, this dude ain’t my type regardless of age. But it’s eerie and makes me feel sad a little.

“Elitist hipster LA”

I wish I could just eat all their food without enduring their stupid menu item names and overall way of life’ing.

“Asian Food LA”

Does this make me a dick? I don’t know why it should. I don’t think the Asian food industry is so hard-up for validation that they can’t afford an alternative opinion.

I’m just not that into Asian food. I don’t eat fish and all pasta / noodles bores me to tears. So…

“Donut LA”

Apparently they’re a thing here? Sadly, I think I’ve thrown down on like 3 donuts my entire life, and definitely never any of these overly-sugared monstrosities that all the cool kids are noshing on these days.

I’m not moving to LA

Mostly because I live in the South, have a good thing going, and have no real reason to leave.

But hypothetically. I like it more than most other US cities.


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Food Is Hard, Man

Here’s a post you never asked for


Like most all people in western society, sometimes I get onto these “food kicks” where I amp up my already-not-that-shitty diet and try to be more mindful of what I’m eating.

The first challenge is always deciding which “flavor of crazy” sounds best — there are more diets and plans than I care to keep track of (and you should feel the same.)

You start digging into one diet and it contradicts another diet you follow. You like some elements of this diet, or hate some elements of that one (and all of this is outside of the issue of “willpower” — don’t come at me with that. That ain’t what we’re here for today) and every time I think I’ve found something, I have to bump it up against everything else and why can’t someone just organize this for me already?

Here are my “always” rules:

Totally non-negotiable

Vegetarian

No, Saaandra, I don’t eat fish. Yes, eggs and cheese are okay. (Do you even know what “vegetarian” means?!)

As a total aside, even though I eat both eggs and dairy and we love to group them together, I don’t see them as the same. I love eggs like a crazy person (sometimes eating a dozen a day) and while I like cheese, I’m fully aware that the fat:protein ratio just ain’t all that.

(And DYK there are other terms for both vegetarians who eat eggs but not dairy, and those eat dairy but not eggs, but let’s quit while we’re ahead, shall we??!)

I AIN’T COOKIN SHIT!!!

Seriously, the minute one of these diets starts getting into “Delicious Recipes,” complete with photo albums of glistening glazes and garlic cloves spread about the counter just so, I click out of that shit faster than your Mormon mom tripping onto porn at the public library. I don’t care that it’s only 41 ingredients and only takes half my life. I am not here for it.

Because in case it wasn’t already clear when I mentioned “several things I do not want,” I. Do. Not. Cook.

It’s not that I’m bad at it — any dickhead can read and follow directions on enough “easy peasy” recipes to fill a calendar year.

It’s more a… “better things to do with my time” thing? A “holy shit why do we need 18 ways to heat some cauliflower?!” thing. A “why would I spend all this time fucking with my food and primping it like a poodle when I could just eat it??” thing.

Ain’t nobody got time for this!

I have nothing in common with people who “love cooking.” Every time someone says this to me, I’m already eyes-narrowed and sizing them up, because all I hear is “I have no idea what to do with my day, and I need novel ways to make a basic necessity take as long as humanly possible.” (I’m looking at you, Sandra!)

Even shit like French presses seriously piss me off. I once dated a dude who only had a French press and [the one that goes on the stove] at his place, and my sheer annoyance at having to work a damn farm and mill impatiently about the stove for 22 minutes just to make coffee in the morning was literally near-dealbreaker.

My threshold for “cooking” is heating water for tea or boiling eggs (because I don’t eat them raw — I’m not an animal!) And I have been known to make a decent frittata, but purely as a show of my love for eggs, and only during a strict “courtship” period with a new love interest, after which any mention of “frittata” is received with sworn ignorance of ever having heard of such a thing. (I’m kidding. I make them periodically. And by that I mean once a year.)

Also, I will not “meal prep”

I mean, that should probably go without saying after the above, but it might be worth calling out separately. These people who take selfies with all their carefully-portioned glass containers lined up like little soldiers for the week have a screw loose.

Here are my “often” rules

Unprocessed

I went vegan for approximately 18 minutes (read: 2 weeks) back in my mid 20s, and the only thing that convinced me to give a try it was when I realized “raw vegan” was a thing.

Because the biggest downside of being vegan? (Even worse than having to eat socks and losing all your friends?) All the bad, fake food. Some of it is both bad and fake (see: meat substitutes), and some of it is just bad (the sheer amount of fat and sugar in most vegan products; also, fries are vegan…) But then I heard about raw vegan and was like “oh now this is my jam!”

Pro: no scary star-shaped “chikken” cutlets made out of repurposed Barbie bodies (because for as weird as these people are about processed meats, it’s amazing how fast they wrestle to get their mitts on the vegan equivalent.)

Con: I was traveling as a consultant at the time and literally couldn’t eat anything (even roasted nuts are off-limits), trying to subside on mealy airport apples that had been thoroughly palmed by the general public until I finally lost it.

Real food please!

Not the same as “unproccesed,” because to me “real food” is also about cream over skim milk and eating the damn yolks. (No, Sandra, not all 12 a day (ffs), but 1 or 2? Hells yeah.)

Look, I’m not here to lie to anyone: I definitely eat some processed food from time to time. But given my preference, I freaking love fresh food. Like, I could eat a salad twice a day for the rest of my life and be so happy.

Problem? Most salads you find out in the wild are total garbage. I’m convinced that one of the major reasons most people think they hate salads is because most salads are sad sacks of sorrow, either all-styrofoam or half-wilt, the obvious “check the box” afterthought of a dildo chef / manager.

But good fresh foods are the shit, ride or die.

And thank god someone came up with some clever marketing for this!

So, paleo. Great. Seems simple on the surface, but then you dig in and… apparently no legumes? No black beans, peas or peanuts… No dairy (they didn’t have milk back then? How in the actual… just kidding, I get the logic — don’t @ me with it.)

Pro: finally having others rallied behind my personal disdain for corn and potato. (Those two poseurs are by far my least favorite “vegetables.”)

Cons: being the kind of person “doing paleo.” Go sit with the gluten-free fucks and vegans and think about what you’ve done.

Dude, that’s a lot of sugar…

Nobody should be eating that much sugar. Sugar should be called out — even the kind from fruit. (Do you guys realize how much sugar is in a single apple?? If not, look that shit up. I’ll wait.)

Paleo allows for honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, and coconut. Does anybody mention that these are all sugar? Not to mention fruit! My god, people! You all need bumpers on the bowling lane!

There’s plenty out there to read on sugar detoxes if you’re interested. Lots of mom blogs, but some legit ones too. In short: sugar is bad. It’s not even sort of bad, it’s always bad. There’s no nutritional value and, unlike fat, it can’t even aid the body in any way. It’s addictive, it causes all kinds of health problems, and part of the reason fat was made out to be the bad guy was because sugar had louder lobbyists.

Keto, technically. Great.

Pro: dat low-shuhgs lyf.

Con: keto breath is real. (Source: I dated someone who periodically did keto and it was pure roadkill within two feet of his face each time.) Also, the meat thing. Because, see requirement numero uno: I don’t eat it.

And that’s pretty much where I am for right now

No meat, no cooking, no processed shit, no legumes (?!), low sugar. Keeping booze to a minimum, passing on cookies, and only having a serious, for-real ugly-eat binge on a salad with dried cranberries like once in the last week. (Good on me, right?!)

I’m eating a ton of almonds (ideally raw, but I’ll take roasted), largely because they are widely available — i.e., every Starbucks has some.

And here’s where else I’m at right now…

Everything is sweet

The almonds are sweet. The dried cranberries I inhaled smelled sweet in passing for sure. The idea of beer sounds like drinking straight up syrup. And some greens taste “buttery.”

Coffee, however, is more fucking delicious than ever.

WATER OMG!

Nobody tells you (yes they do) that you will get insanely thirsty when you eliminate sugar (including or even limited to alcohol) from your diet.

I don’t drink alcohol for the first part of every year, and one of the biggest parts of that experience is how insanely thirsty I become.

Same with any kind of sugar, apparently. I am stupid thirsty. Like “pound an entire bottle of water and immediately feel like I want to down another” thirsty. Every day.

Also, cigarettes smell amazing (?)

I don’t smoke. I mean, I’ve smoked before, but I haven’t smoked for years, and even then it was that “social” bullshit so many of us do for funsies, at two different periods:

  • Once between sophomore and junior year of college, spanning from late spring (when I was also dating this hippie dude who was mediocre at both guitar and poetry but excellent at spending too much money on stupid shit, and went on to be a pro ski bum) to that fall, when I was studying abroad.
  • And another during the summer I got my first bike. (Damn. I should write about that summer I got my first bike…)

I definitely bought a pack or two of my own on occasion during those times, but I also carried them so irregularly that I had to buy a new pack and lighter any time I wanted to smoke one, so by the time I got over the smoking thing like three months later, I had like 27 lighters in my junk drawer. (Boyfriend at the time found them and was like, “can’t we throw some of these away?!” And I was like “not really, son — they all work.” But then we did anyway. Because we live in the western world, as I noted, and we do shit like that.)

Anyway, it’s been years since I’ve smoked — or even wanted to! And yet here I am as recently as today, for no discernible reason, cozying up to smokers outside buildings and striking up friendly conversation, busying myself with being positioned downwind and standing as close as possible without triggering “stranger danger” alarms.

Now, full confession: I like the smell of cigarette smoke, especially on a good summer afternoon. The reason for this is because my first experience with the smell was standing in line for rides at the amusement park, where my brother and I had season passes (and thus were, to my recollection, devout weekly park-goers.) I guess you could smoke in line (which seems crazy, right?) and now I associate the smell with that childhood bliss.

Oh, and what do “cigarettes” have to do with food? I don’t know — you tell me, bud! But the craving strikes a similar feeling as food.

Our relationship with food is fascinating

It’s amazing how infrequently I’m actually hungry when I go for something — “I’m here,” or “well, if everyone else is ordering” or everybody’s favorite go-to, the emotional eating “fuck you, crackers, get in my face!”

And maybe I’m the one with the screw loose, but I just don’t want to make food into this big that we love making it into. I don’t want to “love food.” I don’t want to poodle it up. I want to make it boring AF, because when it is, I can discern between actually wanting it and amusing myself with it.

It’s part of the reason I prefer “bad” coffee over fancy, “better-tasting” shit. I don’t want to ruin my palate for boring coffee. I don’t want to chase. I just want my coffee and I want to move on.

It’s become a game, if I’m being totally honest, breaking down appetite and desire; understanding what’s real — heyo! — and what’s not; understanding what I really want to eat.

Several Things I Do Not Want

And some I just do not care about


Fancy-ass kitchen and liquor shit

Real talk: one of my top reasons — not the top reason, because I’m not a lunatic — for not wanting to get married and have a big blow-out wedding (behind bigger, real reasons like a.) seems dumb, b.) seems real dumb, c.) I don’t wanna pay for this dumb shit, and d.) not even sure I wanna get married!) is that I think wedding registries are some of the tackiest-ass impediments to our modern society.

I know I could do the whole “your presence in our present” shit on the wedding site (tacky in and of itself, tbh — both the site and the statement), but I don’t trust people, and just thinking about the fact that many people in my life (i.e., my mother) would “lol” at my request for “no gifts” and then blow up my whole life with stupid “well, I had to get you something!” shit regardless of our request makes me want to throw a poodle at the wall.

My mom is a compulsive gifter. I feel for her kind of, because the woman’s love language is deffffinitely “gifts,” and she’s just trying to do what she can to show us she cares. But every time she gifts me something after I’ve made it clear for like 20 fucking years that I. don’t. want. anything., the message of “I love you!” starts to read a little like “I love myself.”

I’m just not into shit.

You know those “I’m trying so hard to be an adult; look at me over here Adulting so hard” motherfuckers, who use their first real paycheck to buy fucking throw pillows and multi-colored ceramic measuring spoons and then, inexplicably, the queer little liquor cart decked out with shakers, strainers, jiggers, muddlers, and daddy’s fucking crystal decanters? Yeah, I am not them. I’m not saying they can’t fuck with their house how they want — you do you, boo boo — but I have never once, ever, in my entire life eyed shit like that and been all, “you know what my life’s been missing? Some fancy-ass way to drink the cocktails I don’t even enjoy.” And it’s not enough just to have them — no, by jove, let’s put it all on display!

Nah. Pour me a beer and let’s move on.

A yoga studio

Dudes, call me a traitor to my generation, but I have no idea where this BIG DREAM of owning a yoga studio came from for so many of my peers. The idea of brick and mortar scares me — and actually, so does the whole thing with most yoga classes. Bitches be weird.

A brewery

I mean, I like beer and all, but I’ll be the first to admit that I have no place in a brewery, for several reasons:

One: it takes a hygienic, engineer type to brew. It’s all chemistry and process and malts and temperature and I’ve been on like 92 brewery tours and I still couldn’t tell you much more than the word “mash.” Moving on.

Two: lol, when I say “I like beer,” I mean I order beers by asking for something “drinkable.” (And I am totally delighted every time the bartender knows what I mean and pours it without judgment.) I don’t want an “experiential” beer; I’m not looking for a relationship here (and if I were, I’m not into “complicated,” needy shit.) I like my beer boring. I’ll drink the same shit day after day and not care. I only recently got into IPA, and even then I like the ones that taste halfway “lagered.” (No, that’s not real. I made it up.)

Three: I make beer terms up.

To run a marathon

I am convinced that 99.999% of people who run marathons just do it because they got off on saying “I’ve run a marathon” (or, more specifically: “I’m training for a marathon.”) I once worked with a girl, real post-sorority chick (not that there’s anything wrong with sororities but I think you know what I’m saying), who, to my great misfortune, decided to train for a marathon. Now, mind you, this girl was not a Runner. I think she mostly did it for the apps and new shoes. That, and the chance to tell me every. single. day. what route she ran, her distance, her time, updates on her injury (it was a toe), and days left until the race.

I don’t think I could have anticipated that marathon more if I’d been running it myself. (Just 27, 26, 25 more days of this blabber in my ear.)

When I was later in consulting, I had a year-long client in Boston, and had the life-altering experience of being there for The Marathon. The Boston Marathon is no longer a running event. “Getting into” The Boston Marathon is treated like getting into Harvard. Running it is received with Much Applause.

When people are genuine about something, they don’t go around needing to tell everyone about it. I’m not even sure they need sanctioned events (I mean, you people realize that you can run 26.2 miles whenever you damn well please, right?) And I know tons of people want to talk about all the fundraising and whatnot, but again: you realize you can donate whenever you want, right?

Also, as a total aside: I do not like running. And not only that, but I am terrible at it. I run like Big Bird. I once signed up for a 5K — at my friend’s urging, who swore up and down that the “Couch to 5K” was a program of easy-peasy bodily miracles — and even though I stuck to the program damnit, walk-running every day like I was prompted, about two weeks into it, I was like “yeah no — I’m walking that 5K.”

A massive closet

Totally silly and superfluous. I love living a life in which all of my clothing can fit in one suitcase (sans my five pairs of shoes, because boots and wedge heels are bulky, man.) If I had a massive closet, I think I’d probably go in there periodically and just stare at it with a combination of anxiety and anger, like “I’m paying $50 a month for you, you square footage money suck. Make yourself useful.”

Granted, I feel this way with most superfluously large spaces. I once lived in one of those massive renovated warehouse lofts with a big, cavernous “foyer” that ran more than halfway down its length until you finally got to the kitchen / living room area, and it truly unnerved me. I was never at ease in that space. I like my living spaces tight — my favorite place so far was 200 sq. feet, and I’ll happily live in places under 1,000 with a partner.

A drink or food menu item named after me

Oh dear. Excuse me while I slide down the front of this chair and army-crawl out the door. I didn’t realize you’d noticed I came here that much, and now I have to quietly amend this by never, ever coming back ever.

It’s weird AF. Like, are they still handing out Field Day ribbons somewhere, too? Maybe some adult-ass toys with meals? “I am special” star stickers? Please no.

Also, what if it’s something lame? What if it’s some stupid sugary concoction?

Or what if it’s meatloaf? What if it’s bad meatloaf?

Norah Ephron had a meatloaf named after her at Graydon Carter’s restaurant, the Monkey Bar. Because Ephron was a decidedly normal type of gal, she was obviously flattered, like most people would be — and immediately went to the place to try it out. I think it was good at first. I don’t remember. But either way, come a few months (and maybe a manager change or something?) Ephron comes back for her meatloaf again and realizes they’ve changed the recipe and it’s total garbage. She writes to them. Maybe they change it; I don’t recall — obviously I wasn’t that invested in this meatloaf story, even though I’m retelling it to you here — but I don’t think they did. And they finally just took it off the menu.

Dude. What if that happened?

Writing Is Never “The Thing”

Stop trying to pretend it is and it’ll go better


Sometimes I have these moments where writing suddenly feels like total bullshit

And I sort of “forget how to write” — or rather, have to re-decide how I want to do it.

There are two high-level ways to write:

  • Second person, i.e., “you, the reader.” This is the way most top writers in the most popular tags write (not excluding me.)
  • First person, i.e., “I” — and not even “I, the writer,” ideally, but rather “I, a person.” Some writers do a better job of this than others, while others don’t seem to realize they have a voice at all, writing like they’re some amorphous “person behind the curtain” willing you to accept them as a face projected on a screen.

And yes, there is also technically “third person,” but you’ll just have to believe me when I say: beneath the surface, it’s still really one of the two above.

All third-person writing is either for the reader’s knowledge (second person) — including most nonfiction — or for the writer’s own amusement and intrinsic joy (first person) — including most (good) fiction.

“Content” writing, written simply to get information across, is second person. “Craft” writing, which is actually written beautifully regardless of information, is intrinsic and first person.

And maybe you want to argue that there are nonfiction or informative writers out there doing it “intrinsically” or for the sheer craft of it, and sometimes that is true. But for the most part, I find it hard to believe that someone could be writing intrinsically while simultaneously neglecting to include their own voice. If they’re so “authentically” charged, where are they? And I don’t mean the inclusion of their marital status or the phrase “my kids” in their posts — get out of here with that simple shit. I mean their actual voice — their fears, aspirations, failures, etc. Their living and breathing experience.

I write a lot of content. And by that I mean “content” writing. I get all “insight” on that shit and churn it out, and sometimes I prioritize the articulation of these “universal truths” like it’s the thing, but the irony is that it’s not. Insights aren’t stand-alone, and insight are not craft. Craft is craft.

Experience is craft. And creating something is definitely craft, but only if it’s a unique expression, not a summary or insight. Art — and creative writing — is craft. But only if you’re actually in it. (And no, not a story “about you,” ffs. Again, voice. Experience. Emotion.)

And either way, writing is simply a tool. That’s all it ever is, all it ever will be, and all it should be regarded as — and I say this as someone who’s loved writing since I was like 7.

Writing is a medium.

And it’s either a medium for sharing information (marketing, even) or it’s a creative medium in the same sense that a canvas and paintbrush are. Writing is a tool — for transporting (external) information around, or for expressing our (internal) selves. That’s it.

And only one of those should even be regarded as true craft.

Writing is not stand-alone

Even the “craft” kind.

Recently a reader emailed me and asked if my goal was to eventually drop out of software. My answer was no — one, because I enjoy it, and two, because:

Writing is nothing in a vacuum.

I’m not sure I’d ever want a life where I sit down and write in a void. From where would this writing come? And based on what? My writing is based on my life, which means: I need to actually have one.

Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote some of her earliest essays based on her day jobs at the time — a ranch hand in Wyoming (The Last American Man); a bartender at a rowdy dive bar (Coyote Ugly.) Clearly, these “day jobs” were much more than income. And not only do I understand her approach to her work (and do it myself), but I have like a million times more respect for it than treating the work as something preciously to be coddled and fawned over.

That being said: does that mean I end up with more “insight” than “craft?” How do you blend the two? How do you decide which “person” (first or second) to take? Because sometimes I’m perched on a stool facing the reader; other times I’m talking to/for myself, only to look up 1,000 words in, like “oh shit, does that even make sense to someone else?” (This post, in case it’s not clear, is more the latter — but even then you can see where I make efforts at insight all the same.)

And best I can do is offer a bit of both, maybe because “my experience” is, to be honest, one in the same as “my insight.” I do the latter so naturally, it’s hard for me to draw the line. And when it comes to writing, it’s hard not to let the thing solidify as I get it down.

And maybe that’s where I hold my work — at least for now.

But the point is: it’s never about the writing. Writing is never the thing. The thing is either how you feel, or how you make the reader feel.

And maybe if you’re lucky, you get to nail both.

There Are Only A Few Types of People

And they fall on only a few binary spectrums

S Khan

Let me just walk you through two high-level binary scales, the second of which is broken out into four sub-groups.

1.) YOU ARE EITHER GOOD AT “PEOPLE” OR YOU ARE GOOD AT “THINGS” (or you’re good at LOGIC or FEELING)

We’ll get to the last two in a second.

THINGS are tangible objects. Things are also systems.

Science, engineering, mechanics, and medicine are all things. Art, perhaps surprisingly, is also a thing.

What’s not a “thing:”

“Logic” is not a thing. “Ideas” are not a thing. “Organization” is not a thing (or system.) “Philosophy” and “theory” are not things. “Action” is not a thing. “Business” is not a thing. This article isn’t even a “thing.” These fall under other categories. We’ll get to that.

PEOPLE are, of course, people.

They are individuals or groups. They are friends, family, clients, customers, colleagues, teams. “The market” is people, and unless you’re heads down on product or establishing / maintaining systems, “business” is people. Creating something within the direct context of someone else consuming it is “people.” (Conversely: creating something simply for the sake of creating it, regardless of whether anybody likes it, is “thing.”) “The human experience” is people.

What’s not “people:”

“Extroversion” is not people — it’s just extroversion.“Sensitivity” is not people. It is “feeling.”

If you’re best at LOGIC

Good on you! But even if this is true, you still secondarily fall under people or systems/things — and it’s probably not the one you think.

If you get off on playing devil’s advocate or debating just for the fuck of debating, I know this is going to fire up your defensive engines and piss you right off, but: logic is, even if only secondarily, “people,” not “things.”

True “things” people don’t care enough about people to even debate shit with them or get angry over logic.

And I say this as one of you. For years I didn’t think I was “people” oriented because a.) I am an introvert, b.) people are not as important to me as what’s in my head, and c.) I would keep them at arm’s length with “logic.” But what do we feel compelled to do with logic? And how do we feel when people don’t “get it?” Wanting to articulate logic is “people.” Wanting to debate with people is “people.” Being affected — or angered — by people’s “lack of logic” is “people.” “Things” people don’t care.

Regardless of your field, if your focus is primarily client or prospect-facing, or “market-driven,” then you are “people,” not things. And I say this as someone who has a degree in finance and started my career in private equity and corporate banking. My focus was always more logic and people than systems.

Note that this also includes people who just like tinkering for the sake of tinkering — even when it’s tangible shit, like mechanics. They touch things, but their real drive is “understanding,” and they are still primarily logic (people.)

Aren’t “systems” logical?

Yes, but “systems” people are still primarily motivated by the systems themselves — getting them into place, maintaining them, using them to achieve specific goals — and the “logic” behind systems is simply a means to an ends. “Logic” people don’t really care about systems — they love “logic” in and of itself.

Systems are exacting, specific, singular, and meant to achieve something. 
Logic is stand-alone.

If you‘re best at FEELING

If you are sensitive, self-expressive, authentic, and unique; someone who speaks their truth or loves adventure etc.—then make your art and have your journey, because you are “things.” (It’s just that your “things” are not science and engineering, but objets d’art or expressions.)

True “people” people don’t really care about art (or poetry or performance or crafts, etc) — and they don’t care that much about being unique — as much as they just want people.

IMPORTANT: WHY “LOGIC” or “FEELING” should still align with people or things

Look, if you’re happy with where you’re at, and have all you want, then that’s all you have to have! Go for it. You don’t need to align with people or things.

But for people who want more:

The reason to embrace either “people” or “things” is because nothing happens in your head!

Statistically speaking, the highest-earning people are those whose primary, driving focus is one of those two. (The lowest earners are those who don’t.)

If you have less than you want, it’s because you spend too much time mulling over your thoughts or emotions and not enough time putting shit out into the real world. So when you’re ready, that’s where it has to happen: people or things. If you’re logical, apply it to people (“the market,” a team, or open debate.) If you love your individuality and experience, apply it to “things” (or art, adventure, or performance.)

Can’t I be JUST “logic” or “feelings?”

No. They’re always paired — logic and people, feelings and things. You’re just stronger in one than the other.

Can’t I be “logic + systems” and “feelings + people?”

Not technically. I know that seems the most logical (lol), but it’s not the way cognitive functions work, for all of the reasons I explained above.

Well. I still think I am!

You’re still technically not. But okay.

Plenty of “feelings” people make more headway with people than physical expressions, and plenty of “logic” people are more comfortable with tangible things. You do you.

If you feel like you’re not on this list

First of all: you are. Everyone is either people, things, logic or feeling (either primarily or secondarily.)

But if you prefer insights, ideas, organization, action, etc. — we’ll get to that.

How this plays out…

In business: you have to love the product — or you have to love the people.

“Things” people will double-down on the product or system. They’re obsessed with it, consumed with knowing its in and outs, digging all the way to the depths of what it is or what it could be (though rarely both), knowing it front and back, in a linear fashion, or developed in a multitude of ways.

“People” people love: taking care of and coaching their teams — or being cared for by their manager. They love their clients or customers. They love their market.

As leaders: you have to develop and invest in people — or you have to develop and invest in product and systems.

Mediocre managers are lukewarm on both. Great leaders are obsessed with one of the two (and too few fall in this category.)

On a team: You have to be competent or you have to be likeable.

(And yes, Janice, because I know you’re just dying to ask — of course you can be both. But most people are more one than the other, and being successful at work means leaning into the right one, and having the right job.)

Job security depends on one of these. I once read that employees are either good, likeable, or deliver on time, and that you have to be at least two of them. (The point was that you could slip on the third and nobody would care.) And sure, that’s true, but it’s also true that you have to be either great at what you do or personable, regardless of whether or not shit’s done on time. (And, it goes without saying, you have to be at least decent at the other one in most workplaces.)

If you want to build a business: you have to be a builder, or you have to be a seller.

Obviously builders are “things” people; sellers are “people” people.

And it’s worth noting:

Builders don’t need permission to build. They don’t care about whether or not anybody wants to buy it, because all they care about is building it.

Sellers don’t need to sell their own product. They don’t care what they sell, so long as it’s good, and they don’t give a fuck if its “their” sweet baby product or not. They’d rather work for someone else, selling a better product, than work alone selling something mediocre that they hobbled together.

Pretty much every business ever starts with two founders — one who knows the product and one who sells it. If you want to be a founder, you’d better figure out which you are. (And if you don’t know which you are, knowing whether you are “people” (or logic) or “things” (or feelings) helps out a lot.)

And with only a few exceptions (one being Sam Walton at Walmart (systems/thing), another being Zuck at facebook (thing)), most all of the great founders we think of were “sales” people, with the “builders” tucked away somewhere in the back — the public-facing “founders” of McDonalds, Starbucks, Apple, and Nike were all built by “sellers” who just knew how to throw down on a good product when they saw one — and communicate the right feedback to the “builders.”

If you wanted to start a business but weren’t sure what to do — or actually thought you could get away with being the “ideas” person (lolol) — you should realize by now that it’s only one of these two. “Ideas vs. execution” is a thing, but only later. Early on, it’s everyone’s job to have ideas. And it’s everyone’s job to actually execute on more than coming up with them — i.e., doing either product or sales.

There are many entrepreneurs who get away with both building and selling — I certainly did when I had my business — but they either cap themselves out as a “lifestyle” business, burn themselves out, or eventually hire for whichever of the two they’re not as good at.

If you’re still just internally screaming, “neither people nor things are my favorite!”

(And presumably neither is “logic” or “emotion” — because, like, dawg, we covered that.)

If you’re thinking, “I love ideas the most!” Or “I just want to experience things!” Or “I get off on insight!” or “whatever — I just want things clearly-defined, organized, planned-out and stable” then I will say: yes, chickadee. I see you. And we’re getting to that right now:

2:) YOU EITHER LIKE IT ABSTRACT OR YOU LIKE IT CLEARLY-DEFINED

What?! KG, this is literally not at all what I am thinking or just said!…

I know, bud. Hang with me here…

“Abstract” people

Like living in the fray, existing at the outer edges of society and doing what they want to do regardless of what other people are doing.

They don’t just have a high tolerance for ambiguity — they actively seek it. They don’t plan for the future — they live there, in their heads. They don’t just “think outside the box” — they often don’t even care about it.

There are two sub-types of “abstract” people:

  • “Ideas” types: never-ending brainstorming; a constant stream of expansive options, opportunities, adventures, experiences. They want “everything.”
  • “Insight” types: they don’t want “everything;” they just want singular, universal truths. This is me.

“Abstract + People/Logic:”

  • + “Ideas:” like “logic” more than “people;” often master debators, theorists, inventors, “idea person” entrepreneurs. (Also love leaving “logical” rage-comments and/or troll.)
  • + “Insights:” philosophers, writers, humanitarians, and coaches.

“Abstract + Things/Feeling:”

  • + “Ideas:” poets, artists, adventurers, motivated by their own experience.
  • + “Insights:” discrete systems (i.e., engineering) or expansive ones (i.e., conventional corporations.)

“Concrete” people

Want things literal, clear, and black and white. And even if they are more adventurous or less conventional or more well-traveled than their peers, they fundamentally do not want to live in the fray. They like things simple, and succinct. They almost always like history.

There are two sub-types of “concrete” people:

  • “Organization.” Like planning and structure. Might also enjoy “brainstorming,” but only as it fuels “the plan.” They don’t live and breathe brainstorming above their need for specifics.
  • “Action.” Those who just mothafuckin love action, regardless of “a plan”

“Concrete + People/Logic:”

  • + “Organization:” teachers, project managers, etc.
  • + “Action:” they’re, well, active — high energy levels and usually athletic. They often like “logic” over “people,” yet are almost always in professions involving others (sports teams, sales, etc.)

“Concrete + Things/Feeling:”

  • + “Organization:” systems, system admin, accounting, insurance, risk mitigation, security
  • + “Action:” often performers or crafters, channeling their emotions towards creative outlets


The people most comfortable with change: the “expansive abstracts” and the action-oriented “concrete” types — both “things” and “people” oriented.

The people most comfortable with this post: the “abstract” ones

The people most pissed off by this post: the “logical” and “emotional” ones (who, to be clear, are still totally different people, Bob!) even though we already went through it.

Why should I care?

If you’re happy, then you do you, boo boo.

But if you’re not happy, I’d be willing to bet it’s because you’re caught up in your head. You’re hung up on wanting to do “everything” (ideas), or rejecting everything, or being hyper-critical, or caring more about debating shit and “winning at logic,” or doing “what’s right,” and you aren’t getting shit out into the real world. Not “plans” or “organization” or “on paper/in my head” shit, but real shit — either people or products/systems.

If you want to see things happen, you have to make externalized efforts.

And knowing which type of person you are helps to direct those in the most meaningful and impactful ways. Throwing ourselves at “insights” or “logic” in our head will only end in circle-jerking, but conversations or tangibles + action triggers meaningful results.

Everything Is Marketing

Especially all of our food


Anything that involves our emotions has marketing.

And it always involves our emotions.

Orange Juice

Oranges have less vitamin C per mg than many other foods, including fruits such as strawberries, pineapple, and kiwi, but also a whole slew of vegetables like chili peppers, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

Oranges just had the biggest marketing budget — and a big ole surplus after World War II, during which we’d been shipping them over to American soldiers.

Vitamin C

Does almost nothing to fight colds.

Not surprising, the “vitamin C” push came just after the “orange juice” push, during the 1970s.

And vitamin C may support protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and skin wrinkling. But ain’t none of that got anything to do with your common cold.

The Orange Slice in Blue Moons

This is the last one on oranges — I promise.

Blue Moon denies that this was a marketing ploy, of course — they’ve written all kinds of pieces about how the orange “brings out the flavors.” And maybe that’s true. But whether it is or isn’t, what we know for sure is that customers saw “the beer with the orange” and ordered it on basis of looks, not flavor.

And as a bartender, I can assure you: the most popular drink will always be the one that gets the most attention. The single signature drink we light on fire probably makes up half our cocktail sales.

Moscow Mules (and their copper cups)

Copper cups were a thing before Moscow Mules — they use them in India all the time, because it makes the drink feel colder in your hand. But the reason they’re used in mules is literally: two drink reps — one for vodka; one for ginger beer — were at the same bar, trying to dream up ways to sell more. Vodka guy needed an edge; ginger beer guy needed an edge — together a drink was born. But then they needed a cool cup to put it in, and one of them knew about copper cups in India, and voila — marketing magic.

Cake

1.) Molasses and the original boxed cake mix

A lot of people think boxed cake mixes were invented after WWII when companies had too much flour, but actually they were developed in the 1930s when a Pittsburgh company, P. Duff and Sons, had too much molasses. It developed a dehydrated gingerbread mix and sold enough to deplete its excess supply.

2.) “The egg”

By now most of you have heard, but in case you haven’t: we actually have the chemistry that wouldn’t require you to add an egg to cake mix. But the 1950s housewives to whom cake mix was marketed liked the product a lot better when they could contribute a bit more — and it turns out “the egg” was the perfect amount.

3.) Red velvet cake

Was a ploy to sell red food coloring.

Yes, red velvet was a thing before that, and originally got its name from the chemical reaction between the cocoa powder (which contains anthocyanin, a pH-sensitive antioxidant that reacts to acids) and the vinegar and buttermilk, which turned the cake reddish brown.

Sure. But mostly it was the Adams Extract company, in a ploy to sell more red food dye, who made the “red velvet” we know today.

The way Guinness is poured

See: “Blue Moon,” above.

Right down to the arguments that it’s about “taste” or “head,” and sure, if you say so. But it’s also about making Guinness seem special.

Pomegranates

Wanna know why pomegranates hit us out of seemingly nowhere in the early 2000s?

Because Lynda Resnick and her food empire:

“According to her memoir, she acquired a pistachio orchard that also contained some Wonderful variety pomegranate trees in California’s San Joaquin Valley. In 1996, intrigued by folklore, she began to sponsor medical research regarding the pomegranate’s health effects. By 2000 there was research published with findings regarding effects of regular pomegranate consumption.”

Dog Food

Pro tip: skip this one if you’d just rather not with how the sausage is made.

Dog food has pretty much always been a way to sell by-products of other industries. For the most part, this was commercialized (human) food production (which is why most dog food companies have always been owned by people-food corporations.)

That being said, the dark and dirty catalyst for commercialized dog food in the U.S. came just after World War I — when we needed a way to dispose of dead horses from the war.

Apples

If you thought apples were safe from this post, you thought wrong.

The “Red Delicious,” for example, is so notoriously disgusting (rubbery on the outside and almost universally mealy on the inside) because it was bastardized for looks, not taste, over the years. (The only reason it’s still so common is because the orchards went in before other varieties came along to offer our faces a much-needed reprieve.)

And the “Pink Lady,” alternatively, was the first apple with a trademark. It is described as having “pink skin,” “white flesh,” and an “attractive pink blush.” It’s also “real,” “authentic,” “the only truly pink apple,” and “considered to be one of the best.” (Even better, buying one supports programs “fighting things such as child obesity and breast cancer!”)

I’ll let you guess which demographic it was explicitly designed for and marketed to.

The Food Pyramid

The FDA won’t admit to this, but anyone with half a brain and even a basic understanding of human nutritional needs (and the US lobby system) can take one look at the food pyramid and put two and two together.

Multivitamins

As several Johns Hopkins doctors published a few years ago, “multivitamins are, at best, a waste of money.”


Alright, KG! Enough with the food! We GET IT! What else you got?

Oh, you want more? I got more…

The Pledge of Allegiance

And the Smithsonian Mag wrote about it, so it’s gotta be true.

It all started with Youth’s Companion, the country’s largest circulation magazine. In a marketing gimmick, the Companion offered U.S. flags to readers who sold subscriptions — and not only that, but they proposed a flag in “every Public School from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” and that children salute it with an oath.

Francis Bellamy, a writer and publicist at the Companion, wrote that “pledging allegiance to the flag” would ensure “that the distinctive principles of true Americanism will not perish as long as free, public education endures.”

Santa Clause

Dude, Coca Cola stole / created him.

The Chicago Cubs

I was still living in Chicago after the Cubs won the World Series, and one night was grabbing a beer with a fellow biker / art director who works on campaigns for one of the major sporting goods companies that supplies the team.

So I asked him the obvious: “Who’s your favorite Cub?”

And he said, “Joe Maddon.”

I laughed. Because Joe Maddon, for those (like pre-World Series me) who are not in the know, is the Cubbies’ Coach.

“Why??” I asked.

And he said, “because that guy created that team. Everything they do, on and off the field, is totally deliberate and by design.”

And that’s when I realized everything I’d seen on the Cubs —pitcher Jake Arrieta being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated body issue in 2016, Kris Bryant’s pranks as a “college transfer” and Lyft driver, his bromance with first baseman (and my personal favorite) Anthony Rizzo (or, as I affectionately call him, “Rizzie.”)

I’m not sayin that Rizzie and Bryant aren’t buds IRL. They probably are. I’m just saying their bromance didn’t hit Youtube and Chicago Tribune by accident.

And it’s probably true for all teams. If it’s not, it certainly should be, because whatever they’re doing over there is working.

The NFL

The NFL pushed real hard over the last 50+ years to get us to associate “football” with “patriotism.” (And now, of course, that’s causing some problems.)

Barnes and Noble

I hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot here, but… lol, guys… there are oodles more books published each year than whatever is sitting on those tables at Barnes and Noble. And sure, it’s lots of peoples’ jobs to weed through it all and make sure what’s sitting there is “the best out there,” but some of what’s “the best” is marketing too.

“Gift Guides”

lololol I pity all you sad fools still using these — just like I pitied myself when I finally realized (mostly because of how long it took…)

I didn’t realize these were marketing until I started a business and, come mid-fall, got several emails in my inbox citing prices to be included in their publication’s “gift guide.”

Guys, these things aren’t editors sitting at their dimly-lit, midnight-oil desks mulling over every product option, pros and cons, to decide which is best. This is — for the most part — people pushing their product on both sides.

Maybe this was obvious to everyone. Maybe it should’ve been obvious to me. Maybe you’re thinking “but they still vet them!” and the answer is no, not really — just so long as your product fits their audience. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Featured and Recommended Products

I already wrote about this when I wrote that “top three things I know about consumers I learned from bartending.”

“You can ‘create’ a ‘most popular’ item simply by telling people that it’s the most popular. This is sometimes the truth behind ‘featured products’ lists. Social proof is a powerful thing.”

Actually, pretty much anything you read online

Probably including this post.