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Good morning to you and your eye microbiome,
Sorry to start on that note, just thought you should know! This week I’m taking a slightly different approach to the newsletter. My original essay idea essentially failed to launch, and I realized, after trying over and over to save it, that I’m just feeling a little emotionally tender about everything, and the internet exposure week after week is making me feel a bit vulnerable. So this week, instead of a peek inside my soul, I’ve decided to bring you something us denizens of the online community know & love: an article that is actually a list, otherwise uncharitably known as a listicle. Below you’ll find my version—a list of five lists, one of which contains another list of lists, just to bring it home. If you have a list of your own, please to drop it in the comments. A list within a list? Even better.
1. 13 things I’ve done since arriving back in New York
1. Get home from the airport and notice that my cat Bug does not greet me at the door, thus confirming my theory that he has either forgotten me while I was gone or that our relationship was always fueled by unrequited obsession. Wake up the next morning to him jumping on the bed and snuggling me like I’m his long-lost cat mom.
2. Start building the shoe rack that got delivered while I was gone—the consolation prize I was focused on the entire time I was away, as in: I’m not ready to leave my family, but at least when I get back, there will be the shoe rack!
3. Finish the shoe rack. Wish I had saved finishing the shoe rack for a more pressing emotional moment.
4. Try to write this newsletter. Fail unequivocally. Tell Avi that maybe this whole writing jig is up, and then realize a few hours later that I’m just mildly depressed.
5. Walk to the grocery store and remember that I’m in New York, that I love New York, and that everyone on the street looks more relaxed than they did a month ago, and maybe things are going to be okay. Buy a nonsensical haul of groceries in a rush, including cheese with no crackers, and milk with no cereal. Scurry home shamefully.
6. Think about the way my nieces would raise their arms toward me with pained expressions, so desperate to be picked up I felt like the most critical asset humankind had ever seen for 0.5 seconds.
7. Want to cry. Eat 4 p.m. ice cream instead.
8. Feel existentially and physically lethargic. Drive to Chinatown with Avi to water Andy’s plants, buy a slice of pizza for dinner through a window at Scarr’s, and eat it on the street under our masks. Walk by an outdoor comedy show with cars driving between the comedian and the audience, like nothing we’ve ever seen. Laugh at a bit about whether squirt is pee, remember, in an untimely sense, that we’re in New York and that we love New York. Walk away. Discuss death, boyhood, and whether squirt is pee.
9. Wake up the next day and get dressed with a better attitude. Pair a puff-sleeve button-down shirt with workout shorts and loafers. Feel gratuitous and ridiculous in a way that is good and also foreign.
10. Drink my one weekly iced coffee under a tree swishing in the temperate air. Feel like things are almost normal. Tell my friend Paige, “I was dreading coming back here, but then I got here and remembered I love it,” to which she said, “That’s New York!”
11. Have to pee so bad on my walk home that I become convinced I’m going to pee in my running shorts. Think about all the times I’ve been in this position since I read that public restrooms are common vectors, and how humbling it is to have a bladder and digestive tract, like two internal alarm clocks on how far you can get from home. Pass a stylish older gentleman getting photographed in the middle of Atlantic Ave. A gray beard, a three-piece suit, his chin up. Forget my body for one blissful second.
12. Get home and pee for three minutes. Make plans for when I’m done isolating: a distant drink, a distant picnic, a distant coffee. The new social order. Text the food relief program about resuming my drop-off route. Put on Bunk Beds by Dori Valentine. Pet my cat. Watch the kids playing basketball across the street. Remember, one more time, that I’m in New York and that I love New York.
13. Start writing this list.
2. Five frequently used notes I keep pinned to the top of my Notes app
1. “Therapy Notes”: A running (and incriminating) list of things I want to discuss in therapy.
2. “Books”: A running list of every book I’ve read, by year, which my sister resents me for keeping because why can’t I just use GoodReads?, with the following rating system:
No asterisks: Wouldn’t recommend.
1 asterisk (*): Would recommend if asked.
2 asterisks (**): Would recommend unsolicited.
3 asterisks (***): Fuck I loved this book and would reread.
3. “To-Dos”: A running list of things I need to do, by day, formatted as a checklist, obviously.
4. “Big Note of All Things I Want to Remember”: A list of lists, referenced often, updated as needed, and including the following:
-What I need to buy
-Where I put that thing
-New York recs
5. “Newsletter”: A note of all the thoughts, observations, and ideas that pass through me like a ghost, separated by week.
3. One unused anecdote from my “Newsletter” note
1. In 2018 I was hanging out alone in Avi’s apartment and I wanted to make rice krispie treats for when he got back. I looked up a recipe that was slightly fancier than the one on the cereal box and, in an act I simply cannot defend nor justify today, proceeded to use ¼ cup of salt instead of ¼ teaspoon. That is, a cup versus a teaspoon. I didn’t realize this until I took the first bite and nearly choked on the saltiness. They were so inedible I had to throw the entire batch away. Avi found this so funny he dubbed them my “rice krispie punishments.”
4. Three recommendations from my “Books” note
1. If you want to disappear for three days: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
2. If you want to laugh and maybe cry: Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
3. If you want to read the book before it’s a movie: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
5. 15 things I consumed this week
1. This week’s Small Good Thing is this moving 3-minute dance video and poem by Patricia Zhou, recommended by a reader.
2. This light blue shoe rack from Open Spaces, now holding all the shoes we insist on keeping “accessible” and therefore never put away (trash sandals, bodega sneakers, errand slides, etc).
3. “The Art of Running Late: A Love Letter,” by Raven Smith in Vogue, which actually made me miss being late for things (I hate being late/I love Raven Smith).
4. This evergreen-incredible photo of Frida Kahlo and its riveting accompanying anecdote about a letter she once wrote to Diego Rivera.
Nearly 30 years later, in 1953, she writes a letter to Diego Rivera as she awaits surgery to amputate one of her legs.
"I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.
I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you?"
"...Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?"
The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine..."
"...I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.
That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.
Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,
5. The definition for “solastalgia,” care of a commenter from last week’s newsletter: “A form of emotional or existential distress caused by environmental change. It is best described as the lived experience of negatively perceived environmental change.”
6. “When Black People Appear on Seinfeld,” by Lauren Michelle Jackson in Vulture about the strange phenomenon of Black cameos on white sitcoms:
“The conceit of Seinfeld resides in its middle-class sympathies; its normcore aesthetic invites the assumption that its characters are conventional, living and moving about in a world held together by the titular character’s observational joke style. In truth, the group is selfish and deranged, delicious micromenaces to normalcy and etiquette who nonetheless enter and leave each episode with their worlds intact. When white characters run wild on Seinfeld, Black people are cops. They exist as agents of public decency next to whom our main characters appear all the more indecent.”
7. Three Sparkling Lime Lagers on three separate occasions, a beverage I didn’t know existed two weeks ago.
8. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (finally), which I loved so much. It looks like a painting, sounds like an ASMR dream, and feels emotionally dense despite being otherwise sparse. I’d watch it again right now.
9. “How to Be an Anti-Capitalist,” by Erik Olin Wright in Jacobin about capitalism and the four different ways of responding to its ills (and whether they’ve historically worked). A thorough and useful piece that addresses many of the debates happening online right now about “the system.”
10. The Instagram account @wantshowasyoung, which features 83-year-old Chang Wan-ji and 84-year-old Hsu Sho-er modeling clothes left behind at their Taiwanese laundromat, captured and posted by their grandson during the Covid lull in business. The account has blown up in the last month and they were recently profiled in the New York Times.
11. Several Brooklyn apartments on StreetEasy with more space and bigger windows than mine, for no other reason than to make myself feel bad.
12. “Love in a Cold Climate,” the infamous 2011 Vanity Fair profile of Courtney Love by Nancy Jo Sales, shared with me by a reader. It has a zany-tragic momentum to it that feels distinctly of another era (though it did remind me a tiny bit of the only Robert Pattison profile that matters). Maybe most importantly, it made me realize that I had personally interviewed Courtney Love’s mom multiple times (she’s a therapist I used to use as a source, and did not know the relation). Lol…
13. The newsletter “Feed Me,” by Emily Sundberg, recommended to me by my brother, and which inspired me to think more about ease when writing my own newsletter (I’m always overworking it).
14. A piece I wrote in April for Anxiety Empire about the internet and mental health, which I strangely don’t remember writing (early quarantine blackout) but which just came out! You can order the whole magazine for free here. It looks beautiful and thoughtfully done.
#internet #mentalhealth #print #magazine #whippetsofinstagram #printmagazine
15. The following line from the book The Chairs Are Where the People Go, by Misha Glouberman and Sheila Heti, which I picked up for thoughtful levity: “Art is communication made in the hope that interesting miscommunications will arise.”
That’s all for this week, see you next!
P.s. Here are some organizations that could use your help following the explosion in Lebanon:
-Red Cross Lebanon—sending ambulance and emergency medical service
-Impact Lebanon and Life Emergency Relief Fund—disbursing funds to vetted NGOs focused on the most pressing needs following the disaster: shelter, food, medical support, rehabilitation, and environmental repair
-Humanity & Inclusion—providing rehabilitative and psychosocial support
This month a portion of all subscriber proceeds will be split between The Okra Project, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and the Black Trans Travel Fund, three organizations that honor, protect, and advocate for Black trans people.
I've noticed comments on your instagram can get pretty brutal so it must be hard to make yourself vulnerable like this once a week.
Though if it helps, from an outside perspective, a lot of those comments aren't fair and barely come across in good faith. But I can appreciate they'd be hard to disregard and probably would play on your mind. The internet tends to treat women as quarrelsome teenage daughters to be scolded, until it starts treating them as reactionary grandmas.
It's also tough to go from writing as a representative of an organisation or your place of work, to just writing as a representative of yourself. You're doing great though, and these newsletters are genuinely enjoyable and thought-provoking. I always remember I have something to look forward to on Sundays, even if I forget what it is until the email hits my inbox.
Just a quick note to chime in and say so many of us love your writing so much Haley. I appreciate that you make yourself vulnerable for us, but remember to take a break if you need to! We can always go back and re-read the newsletters that bring such warmth to all our Sunday’s. Take care, you’re very appreciated!