Category Archives: Humor

A Teacher’s Breakup Letter to Summer

Dear Summer,
It pains me to tell you this, but we’re through. Finished, like the bottle of sunscreen I just tossed into the trash.
“but why?” you’ll ask. “We always have so much fun together.” You’re right; we do, but I can’t take this anymore—can’t take your fair-weather flirtations, here today, gone tomorrow. You do this to me every year, and every year I swear I’m not going to fall for your warmth and charm, but your warmth and charm are like Hugh Grant’s smiles; they get me into trouble every time.

You stroll into my life with your flip-flops and your trendy sunglasses, smelling of sea-spray and sand, and I hear the ocean lapping against the shore when you whisper promises of endless devotion; the world is ours. Time is ours. No one and nothing can come between us—just you and me, together.

Picture of cocktails and ice drinks (image credit Stokpic)
Wasting away in Margaritaville

Remember? Remember the heat? The passion? Remember when you said it would never end? I thought you meant it; I believed you when you said it. I thought I was the only girl you said that too, forgetting that when you pick up and head off around the world, you probably feed the same lies to the Southern Hemisphere. Don’t believe it, Southern Hemisphere! It’s all a lie! Summer is the relationship commitment-phobe of seasons! It’s all fun for a while, but just when it’s getting serious, just when you start to say that you could get used to this, you’re alone, with nothing left of your time together but sand in your socks and an unfinished Netflix queue that you’ll never watch, because you just can’t face it alone.

I trusted you, Summer. I let you into my life and into my heart; I tried on swimsuits for you! Think about that! The horror of communal changing rooms, molding, massaging, and mashing myself into a slip of fabric that displays everything except my dignity (because I no longer have any) just to look good for you.

First, there was the bliss of having you near and knowing that I could have my way with you, because the best part of being with you was that I made the rules; whatever I wanted to do, wherever I wanted to go, you just smiled and said, “I’m yours, baby.” So we slept in and cuddled up in bed in the mornings with a cup of coffee and a favorite book, because we had nowhere to be—no appointments, no classes to teach, no papers to grade, just an endless canvass of time to fill with our dreams. We visited friends, talked late into the night, drank wine, and ate more ice-cream than my mild lactose intolerance permitted, but that’s the other thing about you; you convince me to live dangerously.

Sometimes we’d look at the clock after an evening of binge-watching Netflix, realize it was 3:00 in the morning, and I’d suggest calling it a night, but you’d pull me down onto the sofa and whisper seductively in my ear, “Just one more episode. Don’t you want to find out if Kimmy’s boyfriend will be deported? I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. Live in the moment.”

Remember when I’d wake up at 4:00 in the morning to the sound of rain pounding against my window? Remember how you’d let me snuggle back down beneath the covers and murmur as I drifted back to sleep that it was okay, because I didn’t have to get up in an hour to commute to work in that wet mess? Remember that, Summer? Remember those mornings when you’d wake me with a smile made of sunshine, pull back the covers, and ask me how I wanted to spend the day? I always loved that about you, how you were totally cool with me taking control of the relationship…at least in the beginning.

But now you’ve started to pull away. When I wanted to stay up late the other night to finish reading my book, you reminded me that I need to start easing my body clock back onto “school time.” When I wanted to spend a rainy weekend watching TV and playing word games on my iPhone, you said I should probably start using my time more productively to work on my syllabus. When I wanted to sleep in, you dragged me out of bed so that I could run errands on campus.

Okay, Summer, I can take a hint. You don’t want me anymore. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that in a relationship, but when you say it, it hurts so much more, because you always come crawling back, and every time, you promise me that this time will be different. This time, you won’t leave. This time, we’ll be together forever, and every time, like a fool, I fall for it. Well, I’ve got news for you. I’m done falling for it. I’m telling you to leave now, before you have the chance to quietly pack up your things and slip away suddenly, because it always feels so sudden. I brace myself for it every time; you’ve left me before, and I know you’re going to do it again, but I always allow myself to forget—to just bask in your presence, because if you’ve taught me one valuable lesson, it’s the importance of living in the moment and savoring life’s little pleasures.

So, I thank you for that, Summer, but it’s time for you to go…until you show up next time and remind me how much fun we had last year, and I fall for you all over again.

What Do Your Google Alerts Say About You?

I smell cookies. How is a person supposed to write while smelling cookies? I think one of my neighbors is baking, and I’d venture a guess that they have no intention of sharing, even though I’m sure not sharing cookies with anyone within smelling distance of said cookies violates the Geneva Convention…or the International Declaration of Human Rights…or something.

Colorful bright icing cookies with sprinkles and candy.
Colorful bright icing cookies with sprinkles and candy.

Not my neighbor’s cookies, obviously, but if I’m going to pretend I have cookies, they might as well be pretty cookies.

So we’d talk about that if we were having coffee. Then I’d spend the next ten minutes worrying about the fact that I might have inadvertently turned my parents into Netflix addicts.
“There’s actually a lot of stuff on here,” Dad said after I’d shown him how to log in and browse the content.
“There really is.”
“And how much does it cost?”
“$9.99 a month.”
“And how many movies can I watch for that price?”
“It’s unlimited; you can watch as much as you want, as many times as you want, for as long as you want.”
“Really?”

You’d have thought I told them Narnia is an actual place. Netflix is the new Narnia, except with snacks and WIFI. The problem is, they can’t find their way out.

It’s been roughly a week, and my parents have already mastered the fine art of binge-watching, casually throwing around phrases like “We’re going to make dinner. Then we’re going to Netflix and chill.” I did warn them that Netflix is dangerously habit-forming, and I granted them access to my account with the caveat that I expected them to view responsibly. In their defense, though, the autoplay feature does tend to rob one of any autonomy, and even the strangest shows become morbidly addictive—like black Mirror, for instance. What happens when technology allows you to replay your own memories? Can that guy really return from the dead? Is the Prime Minister really going to do that to the pig? (Spoiler alert: it almost never ends well). It’s like rubbernecking on the highway; you know you should look away, but you just can’t.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you what you think a person’s Google Alerts reveal about their priorities in life. Mine are full of dead authors, my favorite TV shows, and my imaginary celebrity boyfriends. What do the president’s latest Twitter tantrums matter as long as I got to watch Colin Firth complimenting Halle Berry on her ability to hold her whiskey at Comic Con? (Judgement-free zone here, remember?)

A person’s Google Alerts reveal a lot about how they prioritize information. Why isn’t this a Buzzfeed quiz yet? “What do your Google alerts say about you?” Maybe No one else has ever equated Google Alerts with character assessment, and I’ve just unnecessarily outed myself as stranger than you already thought I was. Besides, I don’t vouch for the accuracy of any of those online character quizzes—except for those Hogwarts Sorting Hat quizzes that tell me I’m a Ravenclaw. Those are the real deal. You can’t take that away from me. Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure!

So, now it’s your turn; what have you been binge-watching on Netflix this week? What do your Google Alerts say about you? There’s still coffee left in my mug.

Making a New Start: or, How I Discovered the Wisdom of Bridget Jones in a Fortune Cookie

Several weeks ago, I met a few friends for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, and as usual, at the end of the meal, each of us broke open our fortune cookies to read aloud, between crunches, the nuggets of wisdom tucked inside. I generally put about as much faith in fortune cookies as I do in my weekly horoscope; neither have ever contained phrases like “A million dollars,” “You’ve won an all-expenses paid trip to England,” or “full time employment.” They’re slips of paper baked into a hard pastry shell, after all, not the Amazing Kreskin. This time turned out much the same. “Welcome the good change coming into your life soon,” my cookie prophesied.
“How suitably vague,” I mused. “That could involve anything from winning the lottery to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ returning to Thursday nights and thus restoring order in my universe.”

On the drive home, I found myself chatting with my friends teenage daughter about relationships. In a mojito-inspired burst of Bridget Jonseian wisdom, I suddenly heard myself declaring, “Never settle for someone who makes you want to do everything they want to do. Don’t sacrifice your identity for anyone. (unless he’s 6’1 and English. Then maybe you can negotiate, but just a bit). Nobody makes you whole. You’re an individual with or without anyone else. You don’t need anyone to make you a whole person.”

“Why,” I wondered as I got ready for bed, “is it so easy to give advice to others and not follow it ourselves?” Everything I told my friend’s daughter I’ve learned from my own experiences. My bruised, battle-scarred heart tells a story of resilience. I’m proud of those bruises. They remind me that I’m brave enough to fall in love and strong enough to survive and climb out from beneath the rubble of crushed dreams. I thought again of my flimsy fortune and suddenly recalled that this month, I will celebrate what I’ve affectionately termed my “Bridget Birthday.”

Anyone who’s seen the 2001 film adaptation of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary knows that it all began for her in her 32nd year, and by “it,” she means everything. Between losing and gaining a job, losing and gaining a boyfriend, and learning how not to climb a fireman’s pole, Bridget learns that being a woman of substance doesn’t mean getting it right all the time; rather, it means learning how to fall, and how to brush yourself off when you do so you can try again and maybe, or maybe not, land on your feet the next time.

Bridget Jones writing in her diary
“It is a universally acknowledged truth that when one area of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”- Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), image credit Miramax

As I thought about Bridget’s story and how much I’ve learned from her about how to be a woman in a world that seems full of wrong turns and roadblocks, I made a resolution to make this year, my 32nd, the year of Bridget. So, to start things off right, I’ve made a list—not exhaustively long because I’m nothing if not practical—of my Bridget year resolutions.

1. Stop obsessing about your job

You have one. Many people don’t. It will lead to bigger and better opportunities in its own time. Life is a marathon, not a 50-yard dash.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others

When you set other peoples’ lives up as the gold standard for your own, you set yourself up for disappointment. Tell your own story. Live your own life.

3. Stop obsessing about being single

Just because you haven’t gotten married, bought a house, or had a baby, you’re no less of an adult than anyone who has. (Re: stop comparing).

4. Stop thinking of your heart as broken

Your heart may be bruised, but it beats, and it feels, and it remembers how to love, if you’ll let it. You’ve been hurt, yes—badly. So have a lot of other people. Your heart is whole, beautiful, and full of love. Your love is a gift; give it where you know it will be treasured.

Before you offer your heart to someone, check to see if he’s holding out his hand, ready to take it. If he’s not, it doesn’t mean you’re unworthy; it just means he’s not ready to hold something that precious and cherish it the way it deserves to be cherished. Don’t stand there thinking one day he’ll decide to hold out his hand and take it. When and if he’s ready, he will come to you and ask you to share it with him. If he never does, someone else will, because you’re worth it. Your heart is a one-of-a-kind, limitted edition jewel. It deserves to be treated as such.

5. At least once a day, tell yourself that you’re a strong, confident, woman of substance, comfortable with who you are, just as you are

Tell yourself this as many times as you need to until you believe it, and even when you do believe it.

Question

Do you make birthday resolutions? What have you resolved to do this year?

5 Times We Fell in Love with Colin Firth

He’s left audiences spellbound with his Academy Award-winning portrayal of King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” He’s displayed a surprisingly impressive set of stunt skills in Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: the Secret Service.” He carved a permanent place for himself in the hearts of women the world over with his tenderly authentic portrayal of Mark Darcy in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” But there’s a bit more to Colin Firth than a dive into a lake and the fact that thanks to him no one else can ever win an ugly sweater contest ever again. Ever.

Photo of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy wearing his reindeer jumper in Bridget Jones's Diary
Colin Firth as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), image credit Miramax

In honor of his birthday today, here’s a look at 5 times the world fell in love with Colin Firth.

1. His 2011 Golden Globes acceptance speech

When he scooped up his Best Actor award at the Golden Globes in 2011 for “The King’s Speech,” the first of many accolades, it was easy to forget for 50 seconds that Firth was drawing on the talent for which he was being awarded. Nonetheless, post-gameshow press recaps praised him for essentially showing showbiz how it’s done.

Go home, Hollywood. Colin’s got this one covered.

2. His moment of gallantry at the 2012 BAFTA Awards

Colin Firth doesn’t break the Internet very often, but we all remember flailing when Meryl Streep, in an adorable if inadvertent Cinderella impression, lost a shoe while mounting the stage to accept an award, and Firth, in true Prince Charming mode, retrieved it for her while his wife Livia looked on with an expression that clearly said, “Sorry, ladies. This one’s mine.”

On a side note, reenacting this scene in the rain while running to teach a class doesn’t conjure Colin from the shadows to save you, as I discovered, to my acute embarrassment. But that’s another story.

3. His jab at Ricky Gervais at the 2012 Golden Globes

Colin Firth is the king of deadpan, and that is all. When Ricky Gervais, albeit jokingly, called him a racist kitten-puncher at the 2012 Golden Globes, this was Firth’s response.

Colin Firth 1, Ricky Gervais 0.

4. His moment of appreciation for Jane Austen

In a 2006 interview, when asked to name the women in his life, Firth replied, “my wife, my mother, and Jane Austen.” While some of us have since speculated that this was largely a tongue-in-cheek jab at the fact that his role in the BBC’s wildly popular adaptation of Pride and Prejudice forever entrenched him in Darcy mania, I have to confess that despite my healthy skepticism, I allowed a tiny piece of my heart to drop into his hand at that moment. You’ve said it, Mr. Firth, and you can’t take it back.

5. His flawless improvisation as Mark Darcy

We’ve all seen “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” We all remember that fateful snowy kiss that was likely the primary catalyst for my decision to drag my last boyfriend with me to a wedding in Wisconsin in the dead of winter in the hope that he might be similarly inspired. (He wasn’t. Because you were wondering. And he’s not my boyfriend any more, for entirely unrelated reasons. Let’s be clear on that). But many people don’t know that Firth ad-libbed Mark Darcys forever classic line at the conclusion of that snowy kiss scene.

Pro tip, nice boys: that’s how it’s done.

So, Happy Birthday, Mr. Firth!

Question

What are your favorite Firth moments?

Fictional Fragrances: or, What If Yankee Candle Created Scents from Classic Novels?

Confession: I’m addicted to Yankee Candles. From Butter Cream and Blueberry Scone to Pumpkin Pie and Pineapple Cilantro, you name it, I own it. I cannot walk past a Yankee Candle store without rushing inside to catch a whiff of the fragrant fun. I can spend hours losing myself in the scents, and walking out of the store empty-handed works about as well as trying to defy the laws of gravity.

Since I often work from home, my focus depends on maintaining an atmosphere of peace and productivity, and I’ve found that I achieve this balance with fragrance. One whiff of Fresh Cut Rose instantly transports me to an English country garden reminiscent of a scene you might encounter in a Jane Austen novel. For those days when I long for nothing more than a margarita and a massage, Pineapple Cilantro sends me on a mental trip to the tropics. During a recent trip to Bed Bath and Beyond with a friend, I attempted, bravely and ultimately unsuccessfully, to resist the temptation to browse their Yankee Candle selection. After several minutes of sniffing, savoring, and sighing, my friend shoved a jar at me, declaring “Smell this! Girl Scout Cookie!” I wanted to respond, but I was in the throes of an olfactory orgasm.

My fondness for fragrance and the images I associate with various scents has resulted in a number of amusing conversations, the most recent of which involving a debate about what literary characters, like Mr. Darcy, might smell like. The exercise is a bit like that scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Professor Slughorn explains that the love potion Amortensia has a distinctive fragrance for each person, based on what attracts him or her. When I think of Mr. Darcy, I imagine pine trees, a hint of pipe tobacco, and the well-worn smell of saddle and boot leather familiar to anyone who’s grown up around horses. Combining this with my love of scented candles, I’ve hit upon a brilliant marketing concept that will probably rocket me to the apex of affluence, and I’ll be able to spend the remainder of my days sitting on a beach somewhere, sipping margaritas and reading all of the books on the BBC’s “Big Read” list that there haven’t been enough hours in my day to tackle. Fictional fragrances!

Seriously, just run with me here. The concept is scented candles inspired by classic novels that booklovers everywhere will bury their noses in. Here are just a few examples:

1. Donwell Strawberry

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, this delicious scent that replicates freshly picked strawberries will instantly transport you to Donwell Abbey. One whiff, and you’ll be strolling through the strawberry fields, arm in arm with Mr. Knightley, chatting comfortably about the latest Highbury gossip while occasionally slipping a succulent berry between his laughing lips. Who knows? He might even find a sunny spot perfect for enlightening you with his knowledge of crop rotation.

Cover image of Jane Austen's Emma, image credit Penguin Classics
Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

2. Passion of Pemberley

Another Austen-inspired fragrance (because of course) this candle will envelop you in the comforting smell of a crackling fire combined with well-worn leather. Close your eyes, and when you reopen them, you’ve been magically whisked away to the library of Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. And there’s Mr. Darcy, alluringly, Austenianly handsome from the crisp collar of his ruffled shirt and impeccably tailored waistcoat to the tips of his perfectly polished boots. He glances up from the volume in his hands, and his dark eyes fix you with a smoldering gaze to rival the blaze of the fire at your back.

Cover image of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, image credit Penguin Classics
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

3. Thornfield Summer

Enter the world of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre with the smell of haymaking and the strawberries Adele has spent the afternoon gathering. As you stroll the grounds of Thornfield Hall with Mr. Rochester, admiring the gloss of his dark hair in the setting sun and the light of love in his eyes, you want nothing more than to pass through life at his side.

cover image of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, image credit Penguin Classics
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)

4. Springtime on the Moors

Set your spirit free with the scent of fresh, spring rain, running wild, barefoot and free across Emily Brontë’s moors in Wuthering Heights with Cathy and Heathcliff, chainless souls swept up in the whirlwind of their passionate, boundless love.

Cover image of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, image credit Penguin Classics
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1846)

5. In the Garden

Bury your face in a bouquet of roses picked straight from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden. If you close your eyes, you can feel their silky petals tickling your nose and hear Mary and Colin giggling at Dicken’s Yorkshire accent, with Captain the Fox curled in Mary’s lap and Soot the Crow occasionally interjecting a wise comment from his perch on Dicken’s shoulder.

Cover image of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, image credit Puffin Classics
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)

So, there you have it. Fictional fragrances: available wherever imaginations are sold.

Got any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments!