This Is Us

It’s an alternative to waste—but also proof of life

Shelves of books in a quaint New England thrift store.
Shelves of books in a quaint New England thrift store.
Photo: Catherine McQueen/Moment/Getty Images

“Need a vibrator?” I received this text from a neighbor after moving into my new apartment in downtown Manhattan last summer. Attached was a screenshot of a Facebook post advertising a free, unopened vibrator for pickup on my block.

“Omg, what FB group is this?!” I texted back.

“Only the most important thing ever,” she said. “Added you.”

The feed was completely baffling to me; people gave away everything from a single roll of toilet paper to flat-screen TVs. “Two of my avocados are ripe early,” someone wrote. “Any takers?” Nothing went unclaimed. This was our neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group…

Getting Over Heathcliff

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Young Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights was my first crush. He had this hot, mysterious, bad boy vibe, kind of Joel Madden-y in like, an 1840s way. Eleven-year-old me absolutely swooned over that little prince of the moors. When I found out he was also Heath Ledger’s namesake…well it was over for my hormones.

This crush was short-lived, though, and contained to the early chapters of Heathcliff’s youthful self; my guy needed some serious therapy in adulthood, and probably a few restraining orders.

But literary love interests aside, Wuthering Heights has always been my favorite classic. I’ve re-read…

This Is Us

An ode to the meditative power of train travel

Snowy Amtrak platform.
Snowy Amtrak platform.
Photo: Dipanjan Chatterjee/Unsplash

After one horrific Megabus experience in 2012, I began taking the Amtrak everywhere instead. What’s better than staring longingly out of a train window, Sufjan in your earbuds, a vast landscape stretched before you? It never mattered where I was going, Lollapalooza 2015 or a wholesome coastal town — I was A Mysterious Traveler with Grand Intentions. I was on a journey to Find Myself and Get Into Mischief along the way! (Of course, this was the BC, Before Covid, times.)

Back then, there was always that specific vibe of taking the train. Perhaps it has something to do with…

To my fifteen-year anniversary with internet misogyny

‘Being Human In Public;’ Jessie Reyez’s Album Art

I used to log on to AIM on my family’s basement desktop to see what boys really thought of me.

I’d stack phone books on the chair because I was too small to see the screen, and wait for the pings that told me my worth. If the pings didn’t come, I messaged SmarterChild and asked if they thought I was pretty. I was 10 years old and careful, so careful, because I heard the internet was forever. Who knew how long forever really was? …

A few weeks ago, I watched a friend scroll Instagram until she settled on a low-gradient image. She stared intently at the photo, eyes wide, one hand over her mouth. “What is it?!” I asked. She passed me the phone. My hand, too, went immediately to my mouth.

The image was her ex at a family island reunion. Each person is swaddled in blindingly neon Lilly Pulitzer. One wears a Bumpit. All of their smiles show both the dental work and smugness of WASPy Connecticut finance folk. …

Reckoning with Abstinence Education’s Shame Culture

My childhood in a billboard | Photo: Shutterstock

It often feels as if I’ve reverted to my high school self this year, minus the feather hair extensions and Death Cab for Cutie obsession. I’d thought I’d grown out of the angsty, insecure phase of my youth — but when March 2020 came around, and I went back to my Missouri hometown, I felt myself becoming a huge fucking asshole again.

Why couldn’t my parents knock before interrupting Zoom school? Why were mayo and butter piled on literally every food? Never mind the fact my family was generously cooking for me; I grimaced…

This Year, Dystopian Fiction became my Refuge from Dystopian Reality

I’ve become a masochistic reader — the more fucked up a tale, the better. After a long day of doomscrolling through news outlets, I’d ask myself: Could things get any worse? Then I’d sink into bed and open a new novel of horrors. Yes, I’d sigh in relief. They really could.

In March, I raced through Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation from my own tiny, windowless apartment in New York City. I savored the book’s claustrophobic vibe, feeling the protagonist’s anxiety as she took prescription meds to…

Yet another bureaucratic fumble by leadership

Northern Virginia healthcare workers told me their hospitals throw away COVID-19 vaccines at 5 p.m., when the clinics close.

Here’s why.

There are multiple vaccine doses in one refrigerated vial; when a vial thaws, it must be used within a matter of hours. If a clinic has no-shows or scheduling errors, the extra doses end up tossed. Two sources told me they were vaccinated simply for being near hospital premises at closing time. (Wondering if I should tell my elderly nun friends to mill about Walgreens at dusk?).

Another issue:

While staggering target groups according to supposed need seems optimal, this strategy might not…

Photo: NBC Washington 4

This week’s been bursting with politicians’ tired takes claiming “this isn’t who we are.” Oh, that cliched phrase of American exceptionalism. It seems to surface monthly at this point, so I wonder: if it must be said so frequently, doesn’t it make the opposite true? This is exactly who we are and who a country founded on imperialism has always been.

As white nationalists stormed the hallowed halls of democracy on Wednesday, an act incited by the president who then hid behind his keyboard, the public worried if we should be working during the coup. And noting the fact that…

I seem to be permanently online lately — I type all day in this hellscape, and I also can not and do not want to abstain from memes. So the past year, I’ve worked on making this a more livable space, one that has actually become a place of refuge instead of a necessary evil of the modern world. Here’s my advice if you’re in a similar predicament.

if you can’t do this, that is

Stop the morning doomscroll.

One way to feel like shit for the entire day is waking up and immediately scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. My apparently-masochistic self made this mistake today (Monday after the holidays). Everyone…

Meghan Gunn

Meghan Gunn is a writer. tweeting @95gunn

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