I have a fish.
This is a secret I’ve been keeping for almost two months. Well, it’s kind of a secret, and I think it’s almost been two months. It must make me a terrible mother if I don’t remember my fish’s ‘birthday.’ I’m putting ‘birthday’ in quotes because my fish obviously was not born the day I got him.
When I came home from college for the first time, I walked into my dining room and saw eight – I kid you not, eight – separate fish bowls, each with its own beta fish inside. Some people’s parents replace them with a dog, or a fun apartment in the city, or a new book club and social life. Maybe even with a new flat screen TV. My parents replaced me with eight beta fish.
Aside from my two dogs, fish and hermit crabs are the only pets I grew up with. For some reason, my brothers’ hermit crabs always lived like normal hermit crabs do and mine died after a week, MAX. I eventually became too frustrated with whatever opposite of a green thumb for tending hermit crabs I had and told my parents they no longer had to get me replacements for the goners.
The fish, on the other hand, were always taken care of by my parents. While I was encouraged to walk the dog and face my fear of its shit, I was never asked to feed the fish nor was I bothered to clean its bowl. At Thanksgiving, I was telling my twelve-year-old cousin about my fish and how it’s a whole new responsibility for me. She told me that she feeds and cleans her own fish, and my uncle insisted that I was privileged and spoiled.
Two months ago, I stumbled across a guy selling bonsai, cactus, and beta fish (all twenty-something-proof responsibilities) under a little tent. This is not as strange as it sounds. I was having a rough week, maybe a rough month – who can even keep track anymore – and decided it would be really great for me to have a fish. I felt like it was the kind of thing that I would have done if I were a character on a TV show. Even if the fish didn’t solve my problems, it would be funny if I had a glimmer of hope that it would. And to tell you the truth, I think I kind of did.
I chose the fish that I felt spoke to me the most. He is blue, I’ve used gender stereotypes to declare that he is a boy, and he has beautiful bright magenta rocks in his little glass bowl. The blue and the magenta complement each other really well. I named him Ziggy (Ziggy Stardust in full, because he looks so darn jazzy) and put him on my desk because I was instructed not to keep him in sunlight.
I really like Ziggy. I talk to him when I come home and he dances when I play fun music. And that detail is not one I’ve added just to suit the plot of my mental TV show.
I had Ziggy for about a week when my best friend came over and realized I had a fish, to which she asked, “When did you get a fish…?” and to which I said, “Um, last week I think?” This is when I realized I hadn’t told a soul about Ziggy.
This is strange, because I tell everyone everything. I’m the kind of girl who goes to her mom for boy advice, yet I unintentionally withheld the milestone moment in which I had my very own fish for the very first time. And then I realized things were even weirder than I’d imagined: I hadn’t Instagrammed Ziggy a birth announcement, I didn’t Snapchat or Snapstory him, I didn’t mupload him to Facebook, and while my roommate and I spoke about a family photo, I never was aggressive enough to make it happen. It wasn’t that I had kept Ziggy a secret, but it was that for the first time in a long time, I hadn’t indulgently overshared something that had oversharing potential.
When my friends asked me why I didn’t tell them I got a fish, I told them I simply didn’t think of it. I didn’t consciously keep Ziggy to myself in protest of my digital identity. I really just kind of forgot.
Let’s be real – getting a fish is a great posting opportunity. Ziggy’s sapphire scales in contrast with the rocks in his bowl have infinite VSCOcam possiblities. Part of the incentive to get a fish today could justifiably be ‘for the story.’ You’re much more inclined to do something, like order a 2,000-calorie brunch, if you imagine the end goal not as a food coma, but as 200 likes.
My natural inclination is to say that we exploit the little things. But then I reconsider the fact that your digital you is really you, and is not another you or a different you, so ‘exploit’ might not be the perfect word. If I get a fish, and no one likes my pic of it, did I really get a fish at all? It depends how you classify ‘getting a fish.’ If you got a fish, but it bothers you that no one else knows or cares, then you probably feel fishless. You probably have a fishy feeling about your fish.
At the end of the day, I believe that this is why Ziggy likes me so much. I think Ziggy really feels loved, and it is partially because we have a special bond that stays in the bedroom (as opposed to being on an iPhone screen) and partially because I overfeed him. Ziggy and I get along so well because we’d both choose the food coma over the likes any day.
Last week, I decided that Thanksgiving should become a little more Thanks-getting. I value the importance of setting aside a day each year to recognize and appreciate what we normally overlook. But wouldn’t it be funny to think about what you want on Thanksgiving? I mean, there is never a day of the year, maybe even a second of the day, when you don’t want something. Let’s be real–you always want something, big or small. You want to receive a text (that’s why you’re always checking your phone). You want to go to the bathroom. You want to eat a bagel. You want to nap. You want to take off your heels. We always, always want something. So, I wrote a thing about this for The Rib, and it is a shit you should read.
Let’s hear our endless wanting out. Let that freedom ring. What do you really, really want this Thanksgiving? Here are some things I put on my list:
1. To meet an attractive, very distant cousin at dinner who I can legally hook up with.
2. A fish course. Because I’m a pescatarian, you know?
3. An infinite supply of wine. You can decide on the red vs. white. I’m not mature enough to understand which would complement the meal better.
4. Precautionary Gas-X.
5. To match on Tinder with every high school boy I fantasized about in the seventh grade. Ain’t nothing like being home for the holidays, eh?
6. To get over 100 likes on my Instagram of the Thanksgiving spread. (Duh.)
You can read the rest of my list here. On a more serious note, however, I’m thankful to be spending Thanksgiving with my entire extended family (two aunts, two uncles, two first cousins, one great aunt, one great uncle, three first cousins once removed, two second cousins, my mom, my dad, and my two brothers) in a Midwestern suburb. I’m thankful that it took us ten and a half hours to drive here through a snowstorm. I’m thankful that this material is top-notch to one day include in my memoir. I’m also thankful for hangover shits, laptops, my cool family, my education, well-fitting denim, and the sweet liberation of chopping off my hair. Chic-ly, though. Not Britney style.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Or, if it’s more fun to answer, what do you want?
(Side note: If you didn’t catch my Mr. Bean GIF reference, then we cannot be friends.)
Each Thanksgiving, we’re supposed to think about what we’re thankful for. You might praise the based gods for the new convenient location of a juice bar, for fiber gummy vitamins, for the trendiness of brunch, or even for your tendency to only buy stretchy jeans, which has probably saved you a thousand dollars in denim purchases over a three year period of fluctuating thigh size/your on and off relationship with Soul Cycle.
In addition to these small yet important subtleties, we’re thankful for what I like to call the bigger picture: family, friends, a home, an education, and love. If you haven’t started ruminating upon what you’re going to offer thanks for when it’s your turn to speak at the Thanksgiving table, then I figured I could help you start. So, in order to make you thankful for shit you aren’t usually appreciative of, I thought it would be wonderfully cynical to talk about bad friends.
There are numerous telltale signs of a bad friend, and they aren’t always the classics: talking badly about you behind your back, ditching you for the cool kids, and ignoring your self-indulgent texts about whatever happened last night when clearly OMG IT’S AN EMERGENCY!! It’s actually similar to the small things we give thanks for on Thanksgiving. For example, you might not think you’re thankful for leggings, but you probably are. Imagine being hungover in 2003, pre-leggings trend. You’d have to wear jeans on a Sunday. How horrific.
So just like leggings, there are more covert qualities of a bad friend. And these, really, are the ways you’ll know a bad friend is a bad friend. Let’s be real — everyone talks shit once in a while. Yet it’s the girl who never tells you when there’s a giant piece of massaged kale stuck in between your two front teeth who is really stabbing you in the back.
Here’s some more food for thought to make you second guess every friendship you have. So just remember: deep breaths & we still can be thankful for leggings!!!
As aforementioned: a bad friend never tells you when there’s food in your teeth. She will tell you if you ask her. A real friend, though, would tell you as soon as she notices. The point of friendship is to have someone else keeping a check on how dumb you’re making yourself look 24/7. Kale in the teeth? Not a good move. Then everyone would think you don’t know how to eat kale properly, and a good friend would never want you giving off that impression. This one’s similar to the friend who doesn’t think your outfit is flattering but lets you leave the house in it anyway.
Another one that hits home: you know when you write something on a friend’s Facebook wall, or comment on her Instagram? Like, referring to an inside joke or trying to be funny? A bad friend will offer up the sad, sad comment in return: haha wait what?? The point of public web interaction with someone you obviously speak to privately — like a best friend — is to convey a sense of camaraderie, one of odd humor between the two of you. If she doesn’t make herself in on the joke, and publically humiliates you just to make you look unfunny, then she’s a bad friend. She’s a great friend if she has no idea WTF you’re trying to say but plays along anyway. That’s what friends are for. even if she truly has no clue what you’re trying to say. Being ignorant and rude on Facebook requires a sufficient amount of ill intentioned effort.
I, on the other hand, am guilty of Bad Friend Shopping. Bad Friend Shopping doesn’t mean I shop for friends. That would be too much. But I make friends come shopping with me just so I don’t get lonely in the dressing room. That isn’t the worst of it, though. Shopping with my mom for my mom usually turns into shopping with my mom for me. This is a pattern I’ve come to recognize and exploit, like one does with the ability to edit captions on Facebook. I’m an even worse friend to my mom when she tries something on and I tell her, “OMG Mom you have to buy it, it’s amazing!!!!!” knowing that I will probably borrow it. I admit it. I’m guilty. I’m a bad friend. (Sorry, Mom. I promise — this isn’t the case every time we shop.)
These signs of a bad friend become as rampant as a plague. They’re so embedded in normalities like Facebook interactions and shopping trips with Mom that we don’t necessarily see them as warnings but instead as quirks. Don’t let yourself be fooled, though. Letting kale linger in your teeth is never okay. And if you find that kale’s in between your teeth three hours after lunch, then you better find yourself some new friends. Real quick.