“The Children of the Dirt” by Simon Rich

20 08 2015

I first heard the following story on NPR’s awesome podcast Invisibilia.

“The Children of the Dirt” by Simon Rich

According to Aristodemus, there were originally 3 sexes. The children of the moon, who were half male and half female. The children of the sun, who were fully male, and the children of the earth, who were fully female. Everyone had four arms, four legs, and two heads, and spent their days in blissful contentment.

Zeus became jealous of the humans’ joy, so he decided to split them all in two. Aristodemus called this punishment “The Origin of Love”, because ever since the children of the earth, moon, and sun have been searching the globe in a desperate bid to find their other halves.

Aristodemus’ story though isn’t complete, because there was also a fourth sex, the children of the dirt. Unlike the other three sexes, the children of the dirt consisted of just one half. Some were male and some were female, and each had just two arms, two legs, and one head. The children of the dirt found the children of the earth, moon, and sun to be completely insufferable. Whenever they saw a two-headed creature walking by, talking to itself in baby talk voices, it made them want to vomit. They hated going to parties. When there was no way to get out of one they simply sat in the corner, too bitter and depressed to talk to anyone. The children of the dirt were so miserable that they invented wine and art to dull their pain. It helped a little, but not really. When Zeus went on his rampage, he decided to leave the children of the dirt alone. “They’re already fucked” he explained.

Happy gay couples descend from the children of the sun. Happy lesbian couples descend from the children of the earth. And happy straight couples descend from the children of the moon. But the vast majority of humans are descendants of children of the dirt, and no matter how long they search the earth they’ll never find what they’re looking for. Because there’s nobody for them, not anybody in the world.

It’s August. It’s not hot, but it’s still August. I feel stuck. I feel restless. It’s a Thursday night and I’m facing a Friday that won’t be very TGIF because it just means a whole weekend with no one to see and nowhere to go. I’m alone tonight, just like all every night. But I remembered this story and smiled, because I’m a child of the dirt. and, apparently, so are lots of other people.

Just ten days until September.



1 03 2014

I’ll probably never post this, but I’m writing it here just in case. I suppose I could just write it in a word document, but I think I need to feel like someone’s reading it.

I’m really lonely. I moved to a new city about 2 months ago. I like my job and I’m living in a pretty neat apartment in a cool location. The problem is that I don’t know anybody. It’s weird that I now live in the state where I grew up, an hour away from my hometown, but I have fewer friends and less of a social life here than I did when I lived halfway around the world in Prague.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to meet people and make friends. It feels really pathetic to google search “how to make friends,” but that’s where I am. It’s just so different from being in school. I don’t have that day-to-day interaction. I can go days without speaking to people now. And in Prague I started out taking a class that had a huge alumni network, so not only did I have my 15 classmates, but I had a built-in social group of around 100 people. There was always stuff going on and I was always free to join or not join as I wanted. I tended to not join, but I at least had my roommates (one of whom was wonderful, one of whom was awful) to talk to and hang out with, and I had a couple other close-ish friends I could hit up if I wanted to go for a drink or hang out.

Here there’s nothing. I work in a windowless room with a scanner. By myself. There are people around who I talk to sometimes, but I’m by far the youngest. The next-youngest is the same age as my mother. The others are all retired volunteers. I don’t work for the same company as them, I just happen to be using their space, so there’s not really a built-in conversation. And since I have to have the light off when I’m scanning, I spend all day by myself in the dark, and they don’t really do much more than wave at me from the doorway occasionally. Meeting people in my building is even worse. It’s practically a retirement home. The average age of the residents is around 58. There are a couple families with young kids, but for the most part it’s retirees. If you want an idea of my building’s demographic, I’m given to understand that the junk mail most people get is stuff like takeout menus or coupon sheets. I get fliers for assisted living communities and AARP mailers. I’m told I’m the youngest person living in the building. Not exactly going to find people willing to go out for a drink or play Card Against Humanity with me here.

So between work and home, my odds of meeting anyone even within a decade or two of my age are pretty much nil. And I don’t go anywhere besides work and home. Sometimes the grocery store or a coffee shop.

I’m lonely. I’m a homebody and an introvert and I like keeping to myself. I enjoy spending evenings alone reading, watching TV, or playing video games (I got hooked on the Assassin’s Creed games). But on occasion it’s nice to have people to hang out with. If I’m alone too much, I tend to get stuck inside my own head. I need to hang out with people who aren’t me at least every once in awhile. Plus, it’s just fun to hang out and be around people sometimes. Even for a crazy homebody introvert.

The trouble is that I don’t have anybody. And I don’t really have any tools for meeting people who can become friends. All the resources I’ve read are like, “Talk to people at work, ask them out for a drink!” or “Join a club!” I will address these things.

1. I’ve already talked about the people at work. There’s Dale, who’s in his 60s and married; there’s Gloria, who’s also in her late 60s and married; there’s Diana, who’s in her 50s; and then there are the volunteers, the youngest of whom is 78. I don’t think any of them are going to want to go to happy hour with me after work. I’ve chatted with all of them a bit at work, but we probably aren’t ever going to hang out outside my dark, windowless room.

2. I’ve googled clubs, classes, and social groups ad nauseam. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right spot, but I’m having a lot of trouble finding clubs and classes to join. Most of the stuff I have found is mid-session right now, and a lot of the stuff I’ve found involves intramural sports. That’s fine, but to even sign up, you need a team. We’re right back to the problem of I DON’T KNOW ANYONE. Most of the stuff I find, too, doesn’t really interest me. I found ballroom classes that seemed cool, but you had to sign up with a partner.

I know that meetup.com is a thing, and I have an account on there. I’ve looked at social groups in my area. Most of them are either “Party girls!” or for moms or “foodies” or the like. I’m not ever interested in partying, I’m not a mom, and I’m not a foodie (or at least not one who has any cooking skills, which is what that group is about). I found a couple groups that looked interesting and joined. But the problem is still that I’m very introverted. Just walking into a meetup by myself, without knowing anybody isn’t in my nature. I’ve tried that once, and I wound up standing in a corner hoping someone would approach me. I just can’t go into a group full of people I don’t know, strike up a conversation, and get to know people. It’s just not the way I operate.

You may as well put me on the diving board of an Olympic pool and say, “Go win the gold medal.” I can swim and technically know how to do all the strokes, but no way can I just jump in and win a medal. It’s not going to happen.

I’ve looked up advice on how to meet people when you’re an introvert. Most of it says something to the effect of, “Grow up and learn to be more outgoing,” or “Get over it and learn to be an extravert.”

The trouble is that I can’t really. It’s not who I am. I don’t thrive in situations where I’m thrown into a big group and have to just talk to people. It’s just a no go. It’s pathetic, but in Prague the only way I could EVER go to a party or gathering with more than, say, 10 people is if I knew that my roommate or one of my other close friends was going to be there. That way I’d know that there was at least someone I could talk to if mingling got overwhelming. The situation in Prague was pretty extreme, since I had little to nothing in common with most of the people there and had nothing to contribute to their favorite conversation topics – sex and drugs. But still. I can’t just go to a gathering without knowing anybody and strike up conversations. No amount of “getting over it” or “growing up” or “learning to be outgoing” is going to change it. For me, “getting over it” or “being outgoing” is just GOING there and hoping that maybe someone will approach me.

I don’t want to make myself out to be totally socially awkward. I’m a bit awkward, but I’m capable of talking to people and meeting people. I just prefer it to be in smaller settings or, if we’re in a bigger group, I like to be approached first. It’s just easier.

The other piece of advice that less judgmental people tend to give is “learn to be your own best friend.”

I’ve got that down. Believe me. I love all the friends I’ve made up to this point, but there is no one I’d rather hang out with than myself. Sometimes I wish that I could literally be two people so I could be friends with myself (I guess that’s why I’m so lucky to have my Twins, because that’s pretty much like being friends with myself).

When I lived in Prague, I liked to sometimes take a day and go into the city to a cafe none of my friends knew and read and hang out, all by myself. I enjoyed taking weekend trips to different cities alone and spending the days wandering around on my own pace, with my own thoughts, doing what I wanted and not worrying about anyone else. It was refreshing. Once when I was talking to Nica, I told her it felt like hitting the reset button. Teaching and living in Prague was stressful and weird. it was nice to have times where I got to be alone and hang out with myself. It helped me rediscover my center, remember who I was and what I wanted, and feel better about life. When I went back to Prague after those trips, it was way easier to socialize with the big group and stay relaxed.

The trouble is that I’ve pretty much been hanging out solely with myself for two months now. It’s been a week since I even talked to anybody who wasn’t on the other side of a cash register. I’m starting to think too much and get upset and I really need to get away from myself. I’m having a lot of thoughts that I’d rather not have and starting to get quite upset quite often. I’d love to call up a friend and go for a drink and talk. Not about what’s upsetting me or how lonely I am or anything like that. I’d just like to talk and have a conversation besides, “Paper or plastic?” or “Do you want the receipt with you or in the bag?” But I don’t have anybody to ask to hang out.

I know two people in this city. One of them has been a friend for as long as I can remember. We grew up together but drifted apart in high school and, even though we went to the same college, we never really hung out that much. When we had lunch last month, it was the first time we’d seen each other in 3 or 4 years. She’s in med school and really busy with that, and any free time she has is devoted to her boyfriend. It’s totally understandable and I’m not mad or anything. It’s just a bummer and I’m hoping that maybe in the summer she’ll have more free time.

The other person is someone I know from college. We used to be very close, but we aren’t anymore. I think I’ve mentioned the Great Friend Breakup on this blog. She is the friend from the Great Friend Breakup, and it looks like she’d prefer to stay “broken up.” Although we’ve hung out once and texted a few times, it’s obvious that she has no interest in reconnecting or spending time together. This is slightly more upsetting and less understandable than Med School Friend, but it’s still not breaking my heart or ruining my life.

It’s clear that I need to make new friends and find my own social group. The trouble is that my ideal friend likes to stay in and watch movies, play games, or occasionally go to a bar for a quiet drink or pub quiz night. I can’t very well find these people, because they’re all at their own apartments, watching movies or playing games.

I wish there was a way to meet new people where it was just a group of 3 or 4 other people, and you knew they were going to be there and willing to talk, but you didn’t have to just throw yourself into a room full of people and hope you somehow found yourself in a conversation.

At some point, I’m going to probably give in and try to go to another meetup or gathering, and hopefully someone will start talking to me or I’ll find it in myself to go and talk, but until then, this has been me, getting away from myself in the only way I can at the moment, by whining on a blog.

I Think They Call This The Feels

9 04 2013

Someone I know died.

I saw the news on facebook and I’ve been in complete shock ever since.

But it’s weird, see, because I didn’t know her that well. She was three years older than me. I didn’t really talk to her that often. We weren’t facebook friends. I was aware of her existence and she was aware of mine, but that was it. She was an active member of my church’s sister church, so we were at a lot of the same youth group and church events.

But now she’s dead and it came out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting it and I shouldn’t be upset but for some reason I am. Maybe it was just because it was so sudden. Like, one day you’re not thinking about a person at all, barely even aware of the fact that they exist, and the next day you’re reminded of them by hearing that they don’t exist. It just…I don’t know. It’s weird. That’s weird, right?

It’s like when I was in seventh grade. I was hanging out in my room after church when my dad came downstairs. He knocked on my door.

“You know [name], right?”


“He committed suicide today.”

And then he just turned around and went back to whatever he was doing. I feel like he MUST have watched me for a reaction or something, but that’s what I remember. I wasn’t friends with this kid. Actually, I barely knew him at all. We went to the same church so I’d gone to some youth group things with him. But for the rest of the day, he was all I could think about. That night we watched this compilation of the best School House Rock songs. I had to leave the room because the one about the skeletons made me think about how this he was going to be a skeleton. I couldn’t get him out of my mind.

That’s how I feel right now. I keep picturing her and then I think about how my great grandma died and she was in a coffin and this girl I knew is in a coffin and just…I don’t know. You know?

But it’s weird because like I said, I didn’t know her that well. You probably couldn’t even call us friends in the loosest definition of the world. She was just someone who was there, then we went our separate ways. So I’m not sure why this is affecting me so much.

But it’s just so strange to me because I keep checking my local news websites expecting this person’s death to be front page news. But it’s not. And it’s not going to be. There’s no reason for it to be: there was no shooting or crazy accident or anything like that. She just died. But why, then, does it feel like it should be front page news? I imagine this is how it must feel when someone really important to you dies. And if I’m this upset that it’s not front page news when someone I barely even knew died, what in the world is it going to be like if someone important to me dies?


Empty Spaces

1 06 2012

“If all of your friends were hanging off a cliff and you could only save four of them, which four would you save?” my sister asked me yesterday.

I looked up from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, shocked. “What?”

“If all of your friends were hanging off a cliff, and all of them would die unless you saved four, who would you save?”

“I’m not going to answer that. It’s ridiculous.”

“All your friends are gonna die, then.”

“They are not. That’s ridiculous. I can’t just pick four of my friends to save. These kinds of things just make you feel like crap. Just shut up and let me read.”

“It’s not real. Just answer.”

“Shut up, Pie!” I snapped, “I’m not even going to think about it.” But I was thinking about it.

Last night I was kind of down. I’d just gotten home from my second day of work and there was no one to see, nowhere to go, and nothing fun to do to unwind. Wasting hours on the internet just isn’t fun when you’ve already spent eight hours looking at a computer screen. And reading isn’t even that great, even for fun, when you’ve spent the better part of eight hours reading technical, jargon-filled articles, tutorials, and case studies about building digital libraries and research databases. I went from having a best friend next door, from whom I was virtually inseparable, and many other friends only five or ten minutes away, available at a text message’s notice, to this: With the exception of three hours at my brother’s graduation party, I have not talked to anyone who isn’t related for me (except for work) for 11 days.

I’ve managed to restrain myself from posting several really despairing, pathetic messages. Last night I actually typed a whining, sniveling plea for someone,anyone to please, please, PLEASE hang out with me, because I couldn’t take it anymore. Thankfully, I came to my (pathetic) senses before I posted it and embarrassed myself more than I already have (a facebook post suggesting plans, with NO ONE to even LIKE it? Come on.).

I just need a social life. I’m a fairly introverted person. Ten times out of ten, I will choose going to a coffee shop or quiet bistro over going to a loud bar or club with dancing and nowhere to sit and talk (except that one time the last weekend of college, and all the karaoke nights last summer). Most days, I’d much rather sit and read a book or watch a movie than be surrounded by a group of people. There are plenty of times where I have to force myself to go be with people. In fact, most of the time I would probably prefer to be alone than with people.

I like being able to sit in complete silence with someone while we both read our books, surf the Web, or do our homework. There’s something really, really comforting about being so comfortable with someone that you can sit and not talk to them for a long time. It’s really the whole having someone there that matters. It’s knowing that if youdid want to go somewhere or do something, you could find people to do it with. That’s what  I miss. That’s what I need.

“Just do it” Pie pushed.

“I don’t want to.”

“I did it. I think it’s cool to think about.”

“Well, I don’t.”

“Is it because you don’t have any friends?”

“I have friends,” I retorted. “They’re just not here.” That girl enjoys picking at me more than anyone I’ve ever met. I tried to get back to reading. It was the part where Ron refuses to talk to Harry after his name came out of the Goblet of Fire and Harry is sad because he’s really lonely.

I miss my friends so much it hurts. There are some people who haven’t been around as much that I’m used to missing. I don’t talk to them much since we graduated from high school, or we didn’t really hang out much after we stopped having class together, or once everybody came back from J-Term and the weird little pseudo-social world we built abroad/in the absence of our usual friends dissolves back into the usual world. Or they graduated and left to go somewhere else, or had an internship or field work or student teaching. Or I just stopped seeing them all the time because of reasons.

It’s kind of like losing a tooth. It hurts really bad to pull it out. You toy with it for awhile. You push your tongue against it, move it back and forth, and consider how different your mouth will feel without it. Sometimes, your dad gets sick of you always messing with it and forces you to let him yank it. Other times, you’ll be idly wiggling it with your tongue and it’ll just come loose. Sometimes, if you’re me, your brother will hit you in the face with a giant shampoo bottle and you’ll swallow it; you won’t even realize it’s missing until like half an hour later when you go to eat some peanuts and actually say, “Hey, where’s my tooth?”

Missing friends is like that, minus the saliva (usually). When you first lose a tooth, you keep running your tongue over the opening. Smooth rows of teeth are interrupted by this one, gaping opening, and your tongue automatically focuses on that spot. When friends leave, or friendships change I keep coming back to the spot they used to fill. They leave a hole and, at first, you’re super aware of it:

Who’s going to get us for dinner and motivate us to go out and do things now that Kristi’s gone? We’re never going to have plans, or we’re going to make plans but never actually follow through because no one’s there to show up at 9:18 on the dot to shepherd us out the door. Who am I going to tease, needle, and give crap all the time because it’s so fun to get her riled up, and I know just where the line is, so I can drive her endlessly crazy, but never do enough to get her really mad? Sometimes, dinner is filled with long, empty pauses without her to fill them with stories and observations.

Who am I going to talk to when I’m feeling philosophical or pseudo-intellectual? Who is going to understand, or at least not think I’m really freaking weird (or at the very, very least, not say anything) and go along with me when, after reading William Blake, I want to go and look for angels in the tops of trees? And now I have to do crosswords alone as I sit by myself and sip my coffee. The space next to me on the couch is empty. Also, when I drunkenly speak German, there’s no one to answer in drunken Russian.

And what about Polski? I live alone, now. I realize that I will probably never be as completely and casually comfortable with someone as I am with her. You don’t live in such close quarters for so long without feeling like they’re a sort of extension of yourself. In some ways, I guess everybody I know and miss is like that. But it’s just different when they live with you. There is no oddly calming voice to tell me stories at night and talk me to sleep. I don’t really here any detailed stories about other people’s lives anymore. In the first weeks after she leaves, when I look at her empty half of the room, I feel strangely isolated.

I have no “bro” anymore. Sure, I call other friends bro, and we do bro things, but it isn’t the same and it never will be. I don’t have anyone to drink beer with, or clap me on the shoulder and steer me back to the bar for more. I don’t have anyone to outdrink me or laugh at me or torture Arta with me. I didn’t realize how important these things were until they were gone.

When all of these people left, I missed them so ridiculously much. I love them all. Some of them left relatively painlessly, but I felt the gap they left. With others, it hurt just a bit more. In the lead-ups to these goodbyes, I wondered how I was going to carry on without them. But I did somehow. The world kept spinning after Twin drove away. Life didn’t stop because Kristi wasn’t there to get us for dinner. I didn’t fall to pieces without my roommate. Life went on and I carried on as normal. But I kept running up against these empty spaces. When someone important to you leaves, you can’t help but feel their absence. But, just like with missing teeth, eventually you get used to the gaps. You learn to chew differently if you have to, you stop feeling the hole so much, and, of course, another tooth eventually replaces it. Of course, I’m ignoring this part of the metaphor, because I refuse to completely replace and discard any of these people. It’s just that I’ve gradually gotten used to missing them.

I think that’s why leaving college and the friends who were still here this last semester has been so hard. I’m not used to missing them, and it happened all at once. At least the people who have been gone awhile staggered their exits a bit. Leaving the rest, all at once, was kind of like getting punched in the face and losing all your teeth at once.

I can’t even pretend to ignore the empty spaces anymore. Even the ones I was getting used to are hard to ignore, now that I have nothing to distract me.

I want Arta to show up and announce that she’s bored of homework and we should watch How I Met Your Mother. I want to watch Deep Space Nine and horrify her by having a crush on space Hitler. I haven’t gotten used to that empty space yet. I haven’t acclimated to not having her there to be sarcastic and snarky all the time or to read bad fanfiction with, or to annoy endlessly with pictures of my dog (though I do text them to her, occasionally). I don’t have anyone to listen to all of my stories, or sit in something resembling silence with. It’s so weird, to go from being with someone ALL THE TIME to never getting to see them. It’s very, very much not cool.

And I need Liz, Ben, Stephanie, and all the others that I didn’t hang out with that much, but still saw all the time. There’s no one to mingle with at Mystery Beer, no Dani to be all writerly, no Aimee to snark with in Seminar, no Paideia Capstone classmates to be loud and English-majory with. It’s all empty spaces that I haven’t adjusted to yet.

So, here I am, waiting for something to fill the empty spaces. Like I said before, at least teeth grow back. You wind up with better, stronger teeth (I’m assuming, or why else would you need to lose one set and get new ones?). That doesn’t work with friends. Some people might show up and fill the voids left by old friends, but they never replace them. Friends just aren’t replaced. I think you just have to learn to live with the spaces and do the best you can to make sure that they don’t hurt so bad.

I know from experience that long-distance friendships kind of suck, and a lot of times you miss the hell out of everybody, but they work. You find new ways to be friends. You can still have those conversations about the world that really make you think. You can still annoy people with pictures of your dog via text messages. You can write, chat, send links, and text until you can almost pretend that there’s something in the space they all left behind. And, if you’re REALLY missing them, there’s always Skype drinks. It’s almost as good as the real thing.

“Just pick four,” my sister kept saying, “It’s not like they’re gonna know. It’s not like it’s gonna happen.”

But it has happened, in a way. None of my friends have actually been dangling from cliffs, THANK GOD, but we’re flung all over the place. It’s almost like they’re falling, and I’m going to have to pick which empty space I want to try to fill as best I can, and which I want to leave empty, because nothing can even come close to replacing the people who used to be there. Those are the spaces I will keep for them, through email, chat, Skype, and visits as often as possible, until we find a new way to be.

I always feel awful when I’m faced with one of these “Which of these people would you save?” hypotheticals. It makes me face the fact that there are just some people I love more than others, and I have to come to terms with the fact that there are some of my friends that I would save above others, though losing any of them would be absolutely terrible.

I picked four people. And instantly, I thought of another two that I wanted to save, and then people I hadn’t even considered in the scenario at all.

“That’s how you know who your best friends are,” Pie told me. “The first ones you thought of are the ones you care about the most.

And my god, that annoying little demon teen was kind of right. Obviously I don’t have to pick just four friendships to maintain, and I could adjust to not having, if I had to. I know the friendships I’m going to work hard to save, and the ones I am going to let go and adjust to being different and, sadly, diminished. So, I’m going into this new, weird, toothless postgrad life, hoping that I adjust, find new friends, and keep spaces for the old.

And if that’s not cheesy enough to end this really long post in which I basically talked about the same things I’ve been talking about for weeks, I don’t know what is.

[Also, don’t worry guys. I’d save you. Especially if you read to the end of this and didn’t think I was a sappy loser ;)]