Tips from The Universal Household Assistant | Forcing the Beard—liquid for.—

Tips from The Universal Household Assistant | Forcing the Beard—liquid for.—

Cologne, two ounces; liquid hartshorn, one dram; tincture cantharides, two drams; oil rosemary, twelve drops; lavender, twelve drops.
— The Universal Household Assistant, a Cyclopedia of Practical Information, compiled and arranged by S. H. Burt, published by A. L. Burt, 1884. From an entry on "Forcing the Beard—liquid for.—," page 159.

I have finally figured out my brother Joe! Yes, I accept that he has depression and anxiety in higher concentrations than most people, probably exacerbated by insomnia which is possibly brought on by temporal lobe epilepsy. But there's always been a piece to his puzzle that didn't fit.

When our mom died, he packed a moving truck full of things from our parents’ house, some of which was usable like the nice green chair from the living room, but also boxes of beanie babies and ballpoint pens and magnifying glasses. He took it all back to fill a full bay of his family's three-car garage in Colorado. I know the sight of it irked his wife. I remember her sighing over it when my husband and I came to visit six years later, this big eyesore in the garage, an unwieldy symbol of MAN UNABLE TO MOVE ON.

And see, here's where my new theory comes in. It’s the root problem that is keeping Joe from solving his other problems, which now include trying to get through a divorce. It’s also the reason he was genuinely surprised when I told him —okay, yelled at him — that continuing to send his wife letters and emails begging her to give him just one more chance, after she has told him repeatedly not to, is harassment. “Don’t you get it? She could take out a restraining order.”  

“No,” he said, “She's not mean like that.” Maybe he’s a narcissist, you ask? But he's kind and thoughtful in a lot of ways people wouldn’t even notice. He stops for people who are having car trouble.

Why are we not all collecting forest leaves?

Why are we not all collecting forest leaves?

He’s even a decent listener, if you give him enough time. Yesterday we were driving to the Social Security office so we could get him an access code so he could get an online social security account, which you need to file for disability, which he didn’t want to do this because he said he was too disabled to apply for disability. Plus, it's demeaning and demoralizing. But I said, “You've paid into the system, and you deserve to see if it can help you get out through this tough time. And I'm only here for a few days, so we have to do it now.”

So we get in my rental car, and I've already plugged the address into Google Maps, so when I start the engine the directions magically come up on the screen. This is my first experience with Apple Car Play and I’m in love with it. It might even help me to not hate driving so much. Except as soon as Google Maps Lady says, “In 500 feet turn left,” Joe says, “You don’t need that, I know where the place is.”

I say, “I like having it on.”

“I've lived in this town for thirty years,” he says. “You don’t need it.”  

“But I like how I can see the route ahead of time.”

“I’ll tell you the route.”

“I like seeing it.”

His voice breaks. “It’s an insult.”

“You’re insulted by me liking Google maps?”

“Yes. Please turn it off.”

“But, Joe—”

“Please, Mar. Please. Please.”

I pull the cord out and explode, “Can't you see that this isn't about you? I am not a confident driver. This is about me doing what I need to do to feel comfortable driving.”  

“Oh.” He pauses. “When you put it like that, I guess I understand. You can plug it back in.” 

But I can’t do that while I’m driving, because I suck at driving, so I let him guide me the rest of the way, which he actually does a good job of, but I'm so angry I can’t speak.  

“Apply to the face daily and await results.”
— The Universal Household Assistant

We park and go in. And as I’m sitting across from him in the waiting room, watching him make small talk with the other people who also don't want to be in the Social Security office, I see again what a nice guy he is. And I suddenly see the problem. It’s so simple.

He never grew up! Yes his hair is turning gray, but inside he is still a seven-year-old kid who has no emotional sense of the wider world around him. It explains everything from his inability to understand why he can’t keep writing letters to his wife, to not being able to throw out beanie babies, to having his feelings hurt by Apple Car play. So, to get out of this, all he needs to do it out what halted his emotional growth at age seven, and then he can work through it and be fine!

“Said to be reliable.”
— The Universal Household Assistant

I am about to tell him this, but then a beautiful woman walks in, with black hair, and he notices her. Everybody notices her. And I suddenly start trying to figure out how we can start a conversation with her. Because if she’s in the social security office, maybe she’s been beaten down enough by life that she’d appreciate what a nice guy my brother is, and he could forget about his soon-to-be-ex-wife and latch onto this person.

Then I realize that even if I’m right, hearing that you are an emotional seven-year-old while you’re sitting in the Social Security waiting room might not be very helpful. Because growing up is hard enough when you’re a kid. How are you supposed to start when you’re already an adult?

Humans are Scum

Humans are Scum

I Believe... [Video Games do not Cause Terrorism]

I Believe... [Video Games do not Cause Terrorism]