Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Five-Year Plan

 "Oh, I have a five-year plan," my friend Rachel said. It was a few years ago, and we were probably making some of our patented Bad Life Decisions™(of which I will spare you the details, but rest assured most of them involved the intersection of men and alcohol in a spectacular way). The topic of life plans came up, and as we slurrily discussed them, it dawned on me that planning was not my strong suit.

I had vague images in mind when I thought about my future: I'd like a subscription to The New Yorker, please, and enough free time to read every issue cover to cover. I'd like a house full of plants and books, and a partner and some kids to share it with. I'd like to be able to visit my work on a bookstore shelf, and I'd to eat food that makes me feel amazing. But I was lacking in the specifics: did I want that house to be in Toronto, where I live now? Or some yet-to-be-determined smaller town, preferably one with a decent arts scene and only a small drug problem? Did I want to live in a condo, a low-rise, or a house? Did I want to pursue my passion for non-profits and produce a how-to for co-op housing, or write the Great North American Novel? Did I want to experiment with vegan food, or get really into ribs and kombucha as part of the paleo diet? Things were fuzzy.

A few years ago, I set up a Google Doc called "Five-year plan." I added to it every now and then, after a brain session with myself, and thought I had a decent overview of where I wanted my life to go. When I looked at it a few months ago, it was mostly target weight goals and saving 10% of my paycheque. Planning fail.

I do think it's important to set goals. I use spreadsheets to keep track of my writing targets and my travel budget savings, and I use to-do lists to makes sure I get my weekly stuff done. But the big-picture stuff can be elusive. Does anyone ever really follow them? Telling myself I want to have a novel published by the time I'm thirty-two doesn't make that happen; sitting down and finding an agent (or deciding to get into e-publishing) does.

But since this blog can often be a dreamy place, here are some things I'd like to have happen by the time I turn thirty-five. I'm not sure how to get there, exactly, but being able to come back and look over this list might be the first step to accomplishing some goals.

Travel: Earlier this week, I realized that Mike and I have taken at least one trip together since we started dating. Some of these have been big-ass trips, and some have been weekend trips to New York City, but we've busted out our passports at least once per calendar cycle, and I think we can keep that schedule up. California this fall, and then in the next couple years, we have our eye on Scandinavia, Hawaii, and a return trip to NYC; the big-ticket trip is going to be Japan, which is a dream and seven thousand dollars away.

Work: Finishing my novel was a great first step; the next is going to be revising it and then finding a buyer. I want to at least have an agent by my next birthday. The long-game is definitely publishing a damn book, though. In the meantime, my day job is teaching me a lot, and I want to learn as much as I can about small businesses and non-profits while I'm there.

Family: Mike and I are making some big changes, which is really exciting! And we're starting to talk about what those changes could bring. I don't want to spoil/jinx anything, so I'll just say that we're in the negotiation stages of The Future.

Home: I want to find a great place that isn't above a bowling alley and below another bowling alley. Since we're making wishes, not plans, it should have outdoor space, in-house laundry, and a second bedroom. It should also be downtown, not in a condo building, and cost $800/month. Make it so, Toronto housing market! I just know you have some hidden gem! Oh, and if could not be infested with various insects or rodents, that would be terrific.

There are plenty of other categories I could make goals in—Friends, Siblings and Parents, Finances, The General Amount of Stuff I Have in my Home (I'm deliberate ignoring Target Weigh in favour of Target Amount of Desserts, which seems decadent until you realize that my target is two, on the weekends, and they'd better be chocolate)—but this seems like a good place to start. Putting these out there into the universe means that people can ask me about them ("Hey, how's your apartment hunt going?") and I can come back to this post and strike stuff out when it gets done. It also looks like a previously undiscovered territories on the map of the Republic of Kaitlyn's Life, and that's license to bust out the compass and go exploring.

Image via Congostudio

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nest Eggs

This morning, we pulled out the futon from a couch into a bed, piled the pillows on top, and snuggled in with bowls full of potato hash, guacamole, and a poached egg. I had a bottle of kombucha by my side, a blanket from Cambie, and Andy Samberg on the TV. It was the coziest I've been in a long time, and I take my coziness seriously.

It sound silly, but after a year of denying myself material things in the name of, oh, you know, unemployment, being able to surround myself with beautiful things feels pretty wonderful. Like, for example: my wallet, which was a beaded coin purse emblazoned with an unabashedly knock-off Chanel logo, had been slowly disintegrating for the last eight months. It had been shedding beads, and the lining had come apart. It was pretty sad. So being able to treat myself to a new Bookhou wallet—one that has a fully functional zipper, even!—felt special. Like a treat.

It's not that shopping is a panacea, but I'd been feeling strapped for cash for a really long time. I've spent the last year browsing online and sighing over things I can't afford (which was pretty much everything), deciding which body wash I was going to buy based solely on which brand was on sale, and skipping expensive monthly magazines in favour of the expensive quarterly ones. I realize that is the highest and most obnoxous brand of "my diamond shoes are too tight" complaining—I can't afford Harper's every month, you guys—but when it came at a stage in my life when I started to see several of my friends motor through a tax bracket or two, it made me feel...young. Like my shit wasn't quite together. It also frustrated me to no end. What was wrong with me that I couldn't afford nice things? I should be more on top of my game, &tc.

Creature comforts have power. Buying a nice bottle of wine for a housewarming party, being able to afford a dim sum brunch, or treating myself to a bunch of just-because tulips? That's allowing yourself an existence beyond mere subsistence. But that can be tough to develop. I struggle with spending real money (I agonized for months before plunking down the cash for a pair of super-cute clogs), and I likely always will. A pile of student debt (by most accounts, it's a foothill, but still, it's there), a pathological need for a savings account, and the knowledge that buying things doesn't really change anything about a person, have combined to make me leery of spending cash. But that leeriness is a luxury of someone who has money; when there's no steady income, you stop asking yourself if you should this party dress or that pair of shoes, and start comparing prices between grocery stores. Buying a house? Out of the question. Traveling? That's for people with paycheques.

EI carried me for nearly a year, and it was supplemented with a small but not-insignificant freelance income. My family is generous, and my boyfriend is the type of person who can sense when I'm feeling especially broke and treat me to something small but thoughtful: flowers, maybe, or even a can of Fresca. Just a token that says, "hey, you deserve nice things." He's a good role model in that way.

Now that I've landed a job (hurray!), and I have a couple special events coming up, I'm feeling more wiggle room in my spending habits. That's not to say it's a free-for-all—I don't understand why wedding dresses are, like, thousands of dollars, and I'm still light-years away from home ownership. But I bought the cute clogs. I'm cuddling under the blanket. My fridge is stocked with kombucha. I'm working down my student debt and saving up again. And having a nest egg, abd being able to make my nest beautiful at the same time, feels really good.

Image via Aubrey Jo via Pinterest.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

King Among Monsters

 Forty years ago this weekend, the reading public was introduced to a shy, bullied girl with an overbearing mother and the eerie ability to control objects around her with her mind. Her story, first told in Stephen King's novel Carrie, would eventually become a movie, a musical, and a TV movie. It's a terse novel, under 200 pages—a rarity for King, whose work tends towards the "doorstop" end of the size spectrum—told in newspaper clippings, interviews, and flashbacks. We all know Carrie's story: she's pelted with menstrual pads in the shower, locked in a closet by her deranged mother, has her breasts called dirty pillows (?!), and, after one last bloody prank, eventually goes berserk at the prom. It's delicious, gory stuff! While it's one of the most commonly banned of his books, it really should be required reading for anyone who's ever mean-girled someone.

My first experience with Stephen King came when I was thirteen. We had just moved to Stratford, and while my mom washed the walls of our new rented house and cried (people who smoke inside rental units are bad, bad people), I rifled through my dad's boxed-up paperbacks, looking for something to read. I had only recently graduated from Sweet Valley high books, and I was ravenous for something that felt dangerous and adult. Even though the cover featured a pint-seized, snotty-looking Drew Barrymore on the cover, picking up his copy of Firestarter gave me a thrill. Stephen King. He was, the cover proclaimed, the master of horror. Despite the fact that even browsing the VHS boxes of the local video store's horror movie section (guys, I'm old) sometimes gave me nightmares—thanks a bunch, Wes Craven—I devoured Firestarter in a few days. I was hungry for more.

Thankfully, my dad, being a dad, was required by law to have a shelf full of yellowing King paperbacks at both the cottage and our now-clean house. I read a bunch of the mid-'80s blockbusters in quick succession: Salem's Lot, which was genuinely scary; Christine, which I understood on an intellectual level to be pretty silly (it's about a, but still managed to give me a memorable nightmare (the car was under my bed! Trying to eat me!); It, whose reputation was solidly in place as one of the scariest books of all time, and which is responsible for two generations of clown phobias; Gerald's Game and The Tommyknockers, both of which were just strange; and a host of other books. I read the third book of The Dark Tower series without realizing that it was part of a larger story, I dug up my dad's copy of the Bachman books, featuring the pre-Columbine shooting novella "Rage," and I read The Stand, which I read upwards of a dozen times over the next decade. My sister once casually mentioned reading a King story—"Strawberry Spring"—and that surprised me, because she's always been a little more highbrow that me; then again, it's awfully hard to resist King's pull. (We bonded over how freaky that story is, and still reference it. His stories leave a mark.)

If Stephen King was a doctor, he would be a battlefield medic. His stories are brutal, thumping pieces of prose—they often feature evil sentient rats, or distraught ex-priests who fight vampires—and they lack fine delicacy. He sews stories together with big, looping threads, but those stitches are tight. He's no plastic surgeon, that's for damn sure. His books aren't pretty, either in content or style, but when you're relying on someone to assemble a real kick-ass story, he's unmatched. Even after he won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Awards, he was dismissed by snobbish publishing poobahs, but frankly, they don't know what they're talking about. King is fascinated by the fascia of life, sure—the gutty parts, the sharpened teeth, the ragged fingernails and the slitted eye—but he's also a top-notch storyteller.

I will refer anyone who doubts me to his best book, The Stand. This book is a monster. It's a thousand pages long, featuring roughly one million different characters, and takes place during and immediately after a super-flu that kills, oh, just about everyone. The handful of people who remain begin having strange dreams about a scary man in a denim jacket and a old black lady in a shack. It is, of course, the story of good and evil, of humanity in the face of great despair, of love's survival in the wilderness, and of free choice and destiny. It's also scary, heart-breaking, superbly characterized, about 200 pages too long (most King books are), nuanced, fractured, and gloriously alive. I read it a lot in my teens and 20s, because—and I know how this sounds, trust me—those characters were my friends. I loved Frannie and Stu and Nick and Dayna, and I hated (hated!) Harold Lauder and rooted for poor Larry and was appropriately freaked out by The Walkin' Dude. Anyone who finds themselves drawn into the intrigue of Game of Thrones, the ethical devolution of Breaking Bad, or the splatter of The Walking Dead will find themselves right at home in The Stand, and have absolutely no leg to stand on for being sniffy. Just read it.

Carrie was King's first, his supernoval debut. It sold four million copies. The movie adaptation earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar nomination. And it launched King's career, basically giving him carte blanche to write whatever he wanted for the rest of his life. He's been remarkably experimental in his work—epic series, e-books, non-fiction musings on baseball, literally hundreds of short stories—and even though his life-threatening car accident might have slowed him down for a while in the early 2000s (and, I believe, led to some very bad novels—did anyone actually read Duma Key?), he deserves to be celebrated as a publishing and, dare say, literary force.

This anniversary, I'll take down my copy of Everything's Eventual, a short story collection published in the middle of last decade. I'll turn to "1408," a haunted-house story set in a very bad hotel room. King probably doesn't even remember writing it, but, like the first and second and third time I read it, I'll get an actual chill when I reach the story's climax. It's a very scary little story. You should read it. Turn all the lights on, but that won't help. You'll get that same chill too. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Five Years

Five years ago tomorrow, I sat down at a computer and wrote my first blog entry. Not my first ever—I had been on Diaryland since 2002, and had a brief dalliance with LiveJournal (don't judge me, we all did it)—but in the spring of 2009, I put fingers to keyboard and began Hipsters Are Boring.

If my blog was a person, it would be in kindergarten. If it was a wedding anniversary, I would be getting myself a big wooden platter (that's not a bad idea, actually). Five years ago, David Miller was still the mayor of Toronto, Lost was still on the air, and Chuck Klosterman had not yet started doling out terrifically off-base advice as "The Ethicist" for The NY Times Magazine. Five years ago, I still ate bread, I hadn't graduated from university, and I still had both ovaries.

 Fast forward five years. Now, I've gone through two or three meaningful jobs—one left an impression because of how horrible it was, and one because of how not-horrible it was (revelatory!). I've gone from single to living with my partner. I've seen friends plan weddings, get married, have kids, go back to school, break up, move away, and come back (this is obviously more than one friend). I've gained and lost forty pounds, I've started eating healthier, I've started sleeping better, and I've gone through three different therapists.

I've started freelance writing, written a novel, and continued giving love to this unchanging, reliable, solid old blog. I'll always think of this as my home on the internet: the place where I grew up, so to speak, as a writer. I gave myself permission to write about anything here. Myself, my friends, my family, my weird fascination with Scandinavia. Feelings, emotions, difficult behaviours, friendships that needed course-correction, inspiration, hopes, dreams. The future and the past. The only rule was that I had to do it every week, regardless of whether or not I wanted to. You don't complete a marathon by thinking about running; I didn't really become a writer until I started actually writing, real words, structured paragraphs, things with a point, day in and day out, over a period of weeks and months and, now, years.

My friend L and I were chatting about finances the other day, and she asked if I was a planner. "I've always been a 'leap and the net will form' kind of person when it comes to money," I admitted, and the same thing holds true for creative work. I had to not look too closely at the act of doing it; otherwise, I tend to get all panicky and red. "What if I'm not a real writer?" becomes much less important when I'm too busy, y'know, writing, to really consider the question.

Writing is an act of faith: that one can do it, and that, once done, it will be good. Without this place to cut my teeth, I doubt I would have had the cojones to start pitching to Real Publications. I used a blog post to shoulder my way in Spacing magazine, and I referred to it again when I pitched my first story to The Grid. It was a great place to balance myself when I was armpit-deep in my novel's first draft, and a good place to keep my momentum up once that draft was sent around to friends for feedback. I've used it as a place to reflect on my life when things aren't going so well/things are being amazing; I've also used it as a distraction when things were so terrible I didn't know how I was going to get through.

In short, I owe a debt of gratitude to this homely little blog. I wouldn't be the person I am today without it, and it's challenged me and kept me fresh in ways I couldn't even really conceive of when I started. Snarky and personal, plaintive and talky, reflective and funny: this is like me, but with an archive. So happy birthday, Hipsters Are Boring.

Friday, March 21, 2014


At the end of a long week, there's nothing like a little bit of gratitude. Here's my latest roundup.
  • My parents. I moved home for a week, ostensibly to work a six-week contract at an accounting firm. My mom and dad were hella stoked: they committed to following a paleo diet, they wanted to watch DVDs with me, they cooked and brought home food I like, they met me for coffee and hung out with me at the gym. They were ripe peaches, and I love them for being so excited at a chance to take care of me.

  • My boyfriend. I wrote a book recently, and M tore through it, gave me thoughtful feedback, and cheered for me even though it was flawed. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a good partner right there. With him, I feel both more settled and more free to be myself. He is my safe harbour, and even though he often has to tell me to listen (I'm not a great listener sometimes, you guys!), he loves me so hard I could feel his hugs in a different area code.

  • Job overload. So, I got a job—a six-week contract in Stratford, making coffee and delivering files around a busy accounting firm. On my third day there, I got another job: this one in Toronto, being the national office manager at an anti-hunger organization. After over a year of thready employment, I was suddenly awash in work. This both terrifies me and thrills me, but mostly I'm excited to be having a new adventure and drawing an actual, honest-to-god salary again.

  • Chocolate. Sometimes, a girl just needs a little bit of dark chocolate with sea salt. Right? Right.

  • Stratford restaurants. My parents and I went out to a downtown joint I had frequented in my muddy university days, and it's the kind of place that will do a cheap date night menu inspired by food trucks, or offer six-dollar margaritas. I love the Toronto food scene, but sometimes I get tired of everyone constantly talking about the artisan bitters in my $14 cocktail, or if ramen is the new tacos, or whatever else we're supposed to be talking about. But in a small town, where there are only a couple hip places to go, it's easy to just show up and get a little Tarzan about the whole thing: "Me hungry. You bring Thai noodles."

  • Friendly offices. My first job out of university was a nightmare. I was a bright young bunny eager to make a name for myself in non-profit housing, and when I showed up at...let's just call it Choices...I was asked to be the administrative assistant. Awesome! Plum job! And then things got weird. I was asked to work Saturdays, and my promised lieu time never materialized. I started working with clients, but didn't receive a pay bump to reflect my new responsibilities. Worst of all were my two bosses: one was a bitch, straight-up, and mean to everyone who crossed her path; the other was conniving and a vicious gossip. I was privy to some nasty stuff: she would roll her eyes and talk about which clients were frogs (Frenchmen) as my queer coworkers cowered before her inevitable snap. I went from being a bright little bunny to one of those dogs that shivers in the corner whenever its owner lumbers out of his Lay-Z-Boy to kick it. I had panic attacks and anxiety-related hallucinations during meetings. I cried a lot.

    In short: it broke me. I lasted six months, and by the end, I was a wreck.

    Since then, I've been leery of office work. I know this is crazy, like having a run-in with one streetcar track and then being afraid of cycling over them every time since (although, fact, I do this). By and large, I've been lucky in my subsequent jobs. My bosses have been lovely to work for, the offices have been relaxed and welcoming, and the work has been manageable. But something still lingers: a fear that someday, it will all turn gnarly.

    But this week at the accounting firm, and the job interviews I had with my new boss, have all been super. I made myself a promise at the beginning of the week that I wouldn't be ashamed of asking questions—to me, a question is an admission of imperfection, since I'm pretty much saying, "I don't know that, and therefor, I don't know everything, and I have failed you"—and the result of all these questions was a more confident and well-rounded experience. It boost my confidence in a big way. Moral of the story? Ask the questions.

  • Homecomings. After a week of sleeping with M's teeshirt, I'm excited to cuddle up to the real man on Sunday night. He is, after all, my home.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

In Praise of Endings

 My favourite graphic novel series is Y: The Last Man. My favourite book is (or was, for many years) The Stand. My favourite movies are by Wes Anderson, and my favourite board game is Pandemic. To me, each of these represents a certain pinnacle of their form, and I could watch, read, or play them over and over again. Each offers a lush and fully realized universe that connects with other parts of itself—how easy would it be to imagine the kids from The Royal Tenenbaums attending the same Khaki Scout camp as Sam in Moonrise Kingdom, or to see Richie Tenenbaum moping around the lobby of the Grand Budapest Hotel? And anyone who's read The Stand knows that, in those thousand-plus pages, the cast of characters becomes woven together in gratifying and unexpected ways.

I want to talk about True Detective. HBO's eight-part miniseries focus on two detectives, played impeccably by Matthew McConaughey (!) and Woody Harrelson (!!) who are trying to piece together a series of murders ranging from 1995 to 2012. It's moody: obsessed with the occult and the meaning of death and darkness and humanity, punctuated only by the driest, most occasional humor. But it is a masterpiece. The actors are perfect: McConaughey's Rust Cohle is a prickly sumbitch, more interested in solving the case than paying even cursory lip service to human kindness; Harrelson's Marty Hart is a flaccid, flabby cop happy to chase extramarital tail (at first I was like, "Woody Harrelson, who are you trying to fool?" but by the end my eyes would fill with tears every time his did). The boggy swamp of Louisiana bayou is the perfect hiding place for a monster's dark heart, and the good ol' boys who police it are more than happy to cover up whatever messes they find.

While I would gladly watch Hart and Cohle banter blackly at each other for days, going into the series knowing that it didn't have its eye on a second season gave it such an interesting texture. I felt genuinely scared for the detectives, because they might have been killed at any moment. The case might have gone unsolved. The killer might still roam free (the thought of that makes me feel penny-mouthed with fear; this was a very scary killer). But it also felt luxurious. This wasn't Game of Thrones, with approximately one billion different characters, all of whose lives are in danger 24/7. Nor did it feel like a Netflix show, which are designed to be binge-watched and whose "episodes" often just serve as breaks to remind you to eat. This was proper television: self-contained episodes that both carried themselves and built on the season-long story. Eight hours over two months was the perfect amount of time to dig deep on this sprawling story, bring it to life, and then—most importantly—end it.

An ending is one of the greatest gifts a story can it can give itself. It gives the author purpose: there, that's my finish line. It gives the audience peace: there, now I know as much as there is to know. And it gives the story form: there, this is what we've been building towards. Without an ending, there is no form. It's only long, meandering series of events. And if I want a long boring story with no point to it, as Seinfeld would say, I have my life.

When I first started reading The Walking Dead, I was captivated. In a post-zombie existence, good and evil were thrown into stark and palpable relief. But more than a hundred issues in, my interest started to wane. Without a clear narrative arc, it's just a soap opera, albeit a very dark and nihilistic one. I'm so glad the anthology format is become more prevalent among TV productions. Having a one-season purpose, even more than once, means that the writers and directors know their boundaries. We all know the TV shows that should have wrapped up long before they were actually done—your Dexters, your How I Met Your Mothers—and when they finally reach their finales, it feels more like a mercy-killing than a satisfying end. As it turns out, all the shit in the middle clogs a story up.

To serve the story is a noble cause, and it's one that more television shows should remember. I know the whole point of TV is to make money, but there's something to be said about the integrity of the story. Not padding it with fifth-season wedding plots, or giving a 24-episode season to a story that only needs thirteen to get itself told, ultimately makes for better TV. And better TV means that more people watch. It's a win-win situation, folks.

Personally, I can't wait for True Detective to come out on DVD. I want to know more about Cohle and Hart's story—not more story, per se, but more about the mechanics of how it got told. From episode four's now-legendary six-minute long shot, to deep background on the real-life occultists that helped inspire the madness, I want more to think about. But I also know that, for now, what I've already gotten is damned fine entertainment.

[Image via Vimeo]

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Simpsons

Bigger than the Beatles, probably. Via Rolling Stone

Growing up, I was an easily impressionable kid. Whatever the TV presented me with, I soaked up like a sponge. I remember the first time I had the quintessential "water cooler" experience of Must-See TV: third grade, Full House, the episode where the monkey gets loose and everyone freaks right out. My classmates and I talked about it the next day, reciting the jokes and acting out the monkey shenanigans; it was also, embarrassingly, the first time I really realized that television had a schedule—it wasn't just randomly showing whatever the whimsy of the gods required in that moment. I made a mental note to start tuning in to Full House, because it seemed to do good things for me, socially.

Shortly after that—a primal, connective episode in my young life—I was banned from watching Full House because it made me "too snarky."

It will come as no surprise to hear that The Simpsons were completely of bounds. I was six when it premiered, eight when it started becoming a cultural juggernaut, and by the time I began high school, it saturated the atmosphere. Television is an easy way to create bonds—"You see that episode last night?"—and in the last decade before streaming, dowloading, TiVo, and Netflix made scheduled broadcasts completely irrelevant, it was the glue that held some friendships together. You know exactly what I'm talking about: friendships between teen boys that were comprised 100% of quoting The Simpsons at each other while they ate Pop-Tarts and played video games on the couch. Some of those boys worked Simpsons quotes into their best man speeches at each others' weddings.

My mother was skeptical of the Simpson family: they're low-brow, crude, and their treatment of each other can be ugly. Bart, who was the show's breakout star, was often on the receiving end of Homer's choking rage; Bart himself was a prank-calling, sister-tormenting, detention-getting agitator. Homer was stupid, Marge was deluded, Lisa was bossy; hell, even the baby had shot somebody. We were emphatically not allowed to watch it, and even well into my teens, I felt uneasy when my babysitting charges would tune into CBC at five o'clock to catch the iconic opening credits.

Now, over five hundred episodes later, I've seen The Simpsons. Not as much as my boyfriend, who could probably recite entire seasons in his sleep, but enough that I know Johnny Cash's immortal lines to Homer, or get excited when the Simpsons visit a place I've been—Iceland! Er, Toronto!—or work a Simpsons quote into regular conversation. This is par for the course in 21st century pop culture: the expectation that, if you're between the ages of 25 and 40, you're well-versed in The Simpsons golden seasons (three through nine, by most accounts), and have a favourite character, a few favourite lines, and will be excited by Simpsons-inspired fashion. It's just how the world works these days.

Watching the show now, I can see where my parents grew thin-lipped. Itchy and Scratchy are terribly violent, and Bart is a trickster on par with Loki or Puck (the Shakespeare character, not the Real World doofus). But! The Simpsons turned out to be kind of a really great family role model. They go to church. They work—not too hard, but enough to provide for their families. They have friends, and complicated relationships with their parents and employers. They love each other when it gets hard to even like each other. Homer and Marge have been together for decades, and they still find passion and love for each other. They forgive each other.

Unlike the paper-thin characters on Full House (sorry, Uncle Joey, but it's true), the Simpson family has developed some real heft. Characters have died. Divorce papers were signed. Babies—many, many babies— were born. They've also inspired some of the best animated series out there: South Park, which is raunchy and practically clairvoyant in their satire; Archer's crystalline animation; the family focus of Bob's Burgers.

While I would argue that, despite Bart and Lisa's ages, the show is not, and never has been, a kids' show (you were right, Mom), the skewering of American family values and 21st century living is perfect for a bright pre-teen of any era. Those constant send-ups of wealth, of religion, of masculinity, of small-town life, are the best kind of gateway drug for people who will eventually end up guffawing over The Onion and performing in execrable sketch comedy troupes; they're also perfect for people who will end up poring over Harper's and writing detailed analyses of David Foster Wallace short stories. There's something in The Simpsons for everyone.

Including, as much as she would hate to admit it, my mom. Hey, at least it's not Bob Saget.