Category Archives: Women

I believe you.

I am angry.

I am tired.

I am sad.

But mostly, I am angry.

All week I’ve been glued to social media, watching how people are reacting to the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. And realizing just how far we haven’t come.

I’ve also been watching as my female friends and family have come out with their own horrific sexual assault stories in the wake of this news cycle. And realizing just how many people quietly carry these scars in a world that refuses to believe them.

And I find myself left with nothing left to say. Nothing that hasn’t already been said. Nothing that will matter. Nothing that can make this world a place where men don’t rape women and children on a regular basis and never get punished for it.

So instead, I’m only going to write the two following things.

The first is this brief message: To all the women, men and children who have been sexually assaulted, I believe you, I love you and I am here for you if you need anything.

And the second is this list of resources should you ever want or need it:

The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org

The National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-2253

National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline: www.loveisrespect.org

GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project: 1-800-832-1901, www.glbtqdvp.org

Take Back The Night Foundation: 1-866-966-9013, https://takebackthenight.org

For further resources, call RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE or go to www.rainn.org.

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen

It never ceases to amaze me how similar talking about raising kids sounds to the plotlines of horror movies.

“I woke up, disoriented, only to discover his face was mere inches from mine, his milky breath washing over me. I screamed while his face twisted into an evil smile.”

“I slammed shut the bathroom door but when I looked down I saw two pairs of sticky hands slowly reaching out for me from underneath.”

“It was a dark and stormy night. I grasped for a diaper but my hand met with nothing but air. With dawning horror, I realized we were out. My terrified eyes met hers and that’s when she unleashed hell from below.”

“The restaurant only had white milk, no chocolate, and there, right before our very eyes, they transformed. Their bodies and faces contorting into inhuman angles and expressions. Where once small children had been were now hideous monsters, their banshee screams filling the night air.”

But that’s the devil’s bargain you make when you create life. In exchange for building a creature of pure adorableness, that adorableness is wrapped around the brain of a psychopath.

This is also why, once you reproduce, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide anymore. They will FIND you. Thinking of having kids? Forget reading parenting books. Start with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

Homegirl tried to warn us.

Just like in any good horror movie, among the nooks and crannies of my own haunted house, there is now only one small corner I can retreat to when the monsters get too terrifying. Thanks to a heavily fortified baby gate, the kids are barred from entering the kitchen. However, from the vantage point of the baby gate, they can see pretty much the entire kitchen. Which is why, of course, they hang out right there by said baby gate, moaning and growling and straining to get in like zombies if zombies wore duck-covered footie pajamas.

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But there’s that ONE corner in the kitchen. It’s dark and dingy and usually dirty BUT they can’t see me.

The first time I discovered the power of this secret corner, I was trying to make dinner. The kids were tired and cranky and out for blood. I was at the end of my rope but couldn’t escape. Or so it seemed.

I reached for something in the fridge, their high-pitched cries making the blood in my veins turn to ice, when one of them shouted “Momma! Where are you? I can’t see you!”

I crouched down and froze. They can’t see me, I thought to myself. Holy crap, they can’t see me. Maybe they’ll stop hunting me if I ignore them long enough. Stop breathing so hard, you idiot! They’ll hear you. Just don’t move. Don’t blink. Don’t exist.

And IT WORKED. Soon enough they got bored and actually started playing with their toys, their devious plans to drive me insane momentarily forgotten. 

Because that’s the thing with kids. Or at least my kids. Out of sight, out of mind. If they can’t see me, they start to function like actual humans, able to do things without my immediate presence or assistance. However, if I am in the room, they magically forget how to do even the most basic of things, like operate a blanket and stack blocks on top of each other and hold a book.

Better yet, if I hide out in my dirty little kitchen nook long enough, they’ll eventually get bored enough that they’ll attempt to interact…WITH EACH OTHER.

Which is why I now leave a book or magazine in my corner. I also leave small adults-only snacks back there, like the secret expensive chocolate and Doritos, because Doritos are only for people who can eat ketchup without getting it in their hair. I’m also thinking of having my husband build me a little wet bar back there. I know a recliner won’t fit but maybe a small chaise lounge or something.

Who says horror stories can’t have happy endings?

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There will be blood

Welcome to my very first guest post! This week my hilarious and wildly talented writer friend, Melissa McCue-McGrath, has taken over and shares her experience of all the super fun shenanigans that can ensue when you’re a woman just casually bleeding in a field. 

The most woman-thing-to-ever-woman happen to me happened at the “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” taping at Tanglewood a few weeks ago. For the uninitiated, “Wait Wait” is NPR’s weekly news quiz and, as of 2016, a necessary spoonful of sugar to help the news-medicine go down.

My husband and I were enjoying a date night, our first in nearly a full year. We were planning on going out for drinks with some friends after the show taping and then go home to take advantage of the whole kid-is-sleeping-over-at-a-friends-house situation. We were very much looking forward to the entire evening until I went to the bathroom and discovered that my period started a week early. This wasn’t a uterus version of, “Knock-knock, is anyone home?” with a little light spotting. This was Kramer from “Seinfeld” bursting through the door. It was go-time. This was not a drill.

Instead of going to the bar to meet up with some friends and hopefully run into the panelists, including Mo Rocca and his amazing mom (girl can rock a pair of cat eye glasses like WOAH!), we had to first find a way to a 24-hour anything so I could handle my bleed-mergency.  There is no cell service or WiFi out in Lenox, MA, which made it impossible to know which direction to drive for supplies. None of this mattered yet, however, because we first needed to locate the car in one of several field parking lots.

I was doing the “play it cool but try not to bleed everywhere” shuffle. Ladies, you know this doesn’t work. Men, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We don’t have control over how this works. It’s basically a faucet that once is switched on, you wait 5-7 days until someone in maintenance hits the menstruate switch to off.

Thank you to whatever Gods are in charge of keeping Meghna Chakrabarti’s voice on point (pun intended) and Terry Gross’s line of questioning unparalleled, we found the car in the second multi-acre field we looked.

Still shuffling in the direction of our car, I noticed a group of women giggling near a blue all-wheel-drive Subaru, the official car of every New England state (and Wisconsin). I instructed my beloved to stay put, which he did.

With a hushed voice, a lowered head, and a lot of stiff gesticulations, I uttered the only thing I could: “Um, I need a little help.”

One woman grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the center of the circle.  They all circled around, laser beam eyes at my husband, and dropped their voices.   Woman #1 asked, quite seriously, “Do you need help?”

“No – he’s good.”

It was at this point, the curtain dropped, and we all laughed. The woman still holding my wrist from pulling me into the sacred coven pointed to the woman directly across from me and said, “Oh, Michelle can help.”

Michelle then pulled out her Sherpani purse, opened it like one of Howie Mandel’s boxes from “Deal or No Deal,”  and casually blurted out, “I have them all, sweetie. What kind? Super? Plus? Regular? Do you prefer a pad or a tampon? Pink or yellow?”

“Give me the biggest one you got. We have a long ride home.”

“Here, Hon. Take two.”

My eyes had finally adjusted to the greyish-black that can only occur when the night sky is blanketed with a light cloud cover. I looked around and saw five women…

…and a dude. His eyes were as big as saucers.

I then rewound the tape in my brain. From his perspective, he saw a woman briskly walking away from a quiet, small-framed blonde man, asking for help, communicating, “No, I’m not getting murdered” and his friend opening a purse with a million feminine products. That purse must of looked like the Weasley’s car in Harry Potter – much bigger on the inside than on the outside because the only explanation all those products could fit is wizard magic.

He was so quiet, so dumbfounded, so in awe of what goes on behind the curtain of womanhood. There were no questions asked, no actual language about my “condition” – it just happened. We must be telekinetic! Women can just speak with their minds.

Because here’s the reality about being a woman in 2018. If a woman walks up to a group of women she doesn’t know in the middle of the night, there is a 50% chance that she thinks she is in serious trouble and needs you to call the police NOW. There is also a 50% chance she needs a tampon. There is a zero percent chance of any other option.

Since it was so dark, I couldn’t see if his face turned as red as…well, let’s leave that analogy alone. I could only assume it did. I then did what I would do in any situation when meeting someone first time and it’s uncomfortable: Immediately make it worse for the other party.

I grabbed his hand and said, “I’m Melissa.”

“Greg.”

“Hi, Greg. Yes, I got my period tonight. It sucks. So very nice to meet you.”

It’s not on me to be uncomfortable for getting my period. It happens. Monthly. It’s supposed to. So, if he’s uncomfortable, fine. He’s around literally five other women. Hell, because of me, they all likely started to instantly cycle. His night was going to get a lot more descriptive. As a woman, we have to protect our own, and find a way to be powerful, and not be ashamed of our actual bodies. It starts here. In a field parking lot after an NPR news quiz.

This must look quite strange to a dude in the circle, the coven, but there’s nothing like telling your husband, “Yes, dear, they wanted to call the cops on you. Once it was clear we didn’t have a code blue but literally a code red, you were no longer on their shit list. They thought you were cute, once they realized you weren’t trying anything illegal or unconsented.”

Both these men got a glimpse of what it’s like to be a woman in 2018. My husband totally understood it, but poor Greg. He must think women are inSANE for jumping to the immediate conclusion that the other dude was perhaps going to cause great harm, but I, for one, am glad they did. I’m glad women will often take care of their own in exactly the way we are trained to, that we’ve learned to, that we sadly still have to. Because once the onus is on men to not rape instead of the woman to not dress in a way that’s theoretically “asking for it,” or once men can hear the word “period” or “vagina” without feeling taboo, then we’ll be in much better shape. In order to get there, we women have to handle our shit, use our language, and let men see all of it. Maybe they’ll see why we jump to the very real conclusions we must to stay safe and powder fresh.

Maybe next time I’ll get to meet Mo, Faith or Alonzo. Until then, I’ll keep a few extra supplies in my bag in case a woman approaches me. I’ll keep one hand on the emergency call button on her behalf, one on the Tampax Super Fit. I’m ready to help her whenever she needs it.

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA is a certified professional dog trainer living outside of Boston. In addition to dog training and writing books about living with urban dogs (Considerations for the City Dog, 2015), Melissa keeps a blog, Letters to Little, where she writes letters to her daughter, Aislyn, with the intention to share it in 20 years. It starts off with a lot of poo, (as these things often do) and wades into deeper waters including inadvertently introducing her Kindergartener to The Mariner’s Revenge Song (a dark and grisly revenge-murder song on the high seas), school lockdowns, and explaining the song Get Lucky as a song about watching a meteor shower instead of staying up all night getting stoned and boned.

Everything can be found at melissamccuemcgrath.com.

 

Meatballs for breakfast

One day, not long ago, my daughter went down a slide and rammed right into the back of an older child who had gone down the slide before her. It really hurt, the boy was quick to tell me, and my daughter should probably apologize for it. I agreed and turned to her, saying “Mae, can you say you’re sorry?”

Her response? To stare defiantly at both of us. She stared so long, in fact, that it got down right uncomfortable. So, feeling the need to avoid confrontation at all costs like the good born-and-bred midwesterner that I am, I told the boy, “she’s pretty young, she probably doesn’t understand, but I’m sure she’s very sorry.”

The incident was soon forgotten by the kids and they went back to playing because, ah, youth. But it stayed with me. This wasn’t the first time she had reacted this way when asked to apologize for something. It was then that I realized my 2-year-old daughter refuses to say she’s sorry. For anything.

And part of me doesn’t want that to change.

Last week for dinner, we had spaghetti and meatballs. Every morning since then, whenever I ask her what she wants for breakfast, she yells “meatballs!”

“Meatballs? Really?” I respond.

“MEATBALLS!”

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I don’t want this to change either.

Now that my kids are two and four, life has pretty much devolved into one long WWE match occasionally interrupted by baths and trips to the library. When her brother hits her, my daughter does a feral growl and hits him right back. When they argue, she doesn’t back down. When he gets angry, she doesn’t demur or try to smooth over the volatile situation. If someone is pushing her or pulling her or tickling her in a way she doesn’t like, she loudly screams “NO!” and “STOP!”

Minus the hitting, I hope to God none of that ever changes.

At 2-years-old, she cares nothing for your opinion. Or mine. At 2-years-old, there is no piece of furniture, no piece of playground equipment, no object in nature (including large, slow-moving animals) that is too high to climb and conquer and then jump off of. If it were up to her, she’d be naked all the time. Because at 2-years-old, her body is her own wonderland.

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As her mother, this is all pretty exhausting to deal with on a day-to-day basis. As a woman, however, it’s exhilarating to watch.

All too soon, despite my best interventions, the world is likely to teach her that she needs to change these things about herself. That she should apologize for taking up space. For getting angry. For even daring to have an opinion.

The world will start whispering to her that her body is not her own anymore. That those mountains are not hers to climb and conquer anymore. That being pretty and nice is better than being loud and fearless and strong and curious.

That yogurt is an acceptable breakfast. Not huge chunks of meat.  

Then again, maybe not. Because I’m watching. I’m taking notes. My young daughter is teaching me how to be a female in this world, the kind of female I want to be. And my hope is that I learn enough so that I can return the favor. That when she’s a young woman and the world is trying to crush her into some shape, some role, she doesn’t fit into, I’ll be there to remind her who she really is.  

And then when some poor soul makes the mistake of telling her “stop being so bossy” or “hey, smile!” or “you know, you could be prettier if only you’d…” she laughs so hard in their face that she almost chokes on her breakfast meatball hoagie.

The last days of nowhere to be

I think there’s something wrong with my calendar. I looked at it this morning and it said it was the end of July in the year of our Lord 2018.

Which is practically August.

Which is basically pre-autumn.  

And that can’t possibly be right.

Because if that is right, that means my family is swiftly approaching the last golden-tinged days of childhood where we have nothing to do and nowhere to be. That our light-hearted existence of pure autonomy is coming to an end. So, clearly, whoever is in charge of calendars (the Mayans, or those arrogant Gregorian folks, or even the Moon in all her lunar wisdom) messed up somewhere.

Because according to my internal calendar, my baby is still a baby and preschool is still starting sometime in “the future,” and most definitely not on the concrete date of September 4th. Which is why it simply makes more sense that literally everything else in the world is wrong and I am right.

Because I am not ready for this.

Seriously, I’ve known that preschool would be starting for only four and a half years. What kind of psychopath can mentally and emotionally prepare for that kind of thing in only half a decade? I mean, sure, I’m assuming moms with names like Karen who have actual first aid kits in their bathrooms probably can, but what about the rest of us normal moms who use maxipads and duct tape in a pinch?

In my defense, it’s everyone else’s fault. They just let me leave the hospital with a BABY.

TWICE.

And then, a few weeks later, my husband went back to work, both grandmothers went back to their respective midwestern states, and we were pretty much left to our own devices. My kids and I have been so poorly supervised for so long, we basically live like old-timey hobos, free to tramp around and come and go as we please, gleefully ignoring the fundamental rules of society. Bathing, pants and normal voice volume all optional.

But now we’re expected to suddenly adhere to someone else’s schedule? To be somewhere? On time? More than once? Like, a whole crap ton of onces?

So, what? I’m now expected to wake my 4-year-old up every day to achieve this Herculean task? Wake up the kid who, if he doesn’t get a solid 11 hours every night, turns into a tiny Hulk? Ok, yeah, sure. I’ll just amble on in there with a helmet and a plastic Captain America shield and hope for the best then.

Oh god, and so I guess this means I also have to pack him a lunch or something? Like, a normal all-American lunch? But he only eats beige food. Plus, it takes him roughly 97 minutes to eat three beige-colored crackers. And do I make him a well-rounded lunch full of fruits and protein and, I don’t know, avocado toast, knowing full well this will cause him to starve to death? Or do I pack him things I know he will eat (animal crackers and tiny packets of butter I stole from semi-fancy restaurants) but will probably result in some concerned phone calls?

BREAKFAST. I forgot about breakfast. Don’t get me wrong. I love making breakfast. Big, full, diner-style breakfasts. Which, again, I’m happy to make. Whenever the hell I get around to it.

Oof. Clothes. He’ll probably need to wear clothes, huh? Best case scenario, they even match. At the very least, not pajamas. At the very least least, not pajamas worn with cowboy boots and my bright pink aviator sunglasses.

I suppose I’ll also be expected to wipe off the Groucho Marx eyebrows I drew on his little sister with a marker for an absolutely perfect Instagram photo before we drop him off.

Yeah, no. The calendar must be wrong. I’m not ready for real life. For responsibility. For really loud alarm clocks.

For pants.

Looks like it’s time to start Googling train schedules so us three hobos can find a decent one to hop on.

The swimming pool incident

Guys, it took me a long time but I finally found…hang on…sorry, I need a moment. I just get so choked up about it, you know? But I finally found…sigh…a friend with a pool. Like, a legit pool. In-ground and everything.

Better yet, I found this friend with a pool in time for the FOURTH OF JULY. She had a cookout BY THE POOL. I have pictures. We all look like we belong in a fancy beer commercial.

And when I think back on all those dreadful Independence Day celebrations I had to sweatily endure. YEARS of them. Just sitting there in the hot sun, water-less, hating all my stupid family and friends gathered around me with their non-pool-having asses. Yay, America or whatever. Sure, I’d love to have another beer so I can immediately leak it out of my pores, leaving me sober but with belly bloat and a slight headache, thanks.

But now…well, now, as I might have mentioned, I have a friend with a pool. And I ain’t letting her go. I mean, I wouldn’t anyway because she’s a great person, as are her husband and kids, and blah, blah, blah. But, yeah, the pool. I could find out she likes to go on Arctic cruises and club baby seals for fun while on vacation and I’d be like, cool, cool. You’re clearly an awful human being and I have every intention of stopping being your friend…in October. Mid-October at the very latest if it’s one of those really warm autumns.

There was only one drawback to this otherwise amazing, life-changing, event. Which, if you’re a parent, I’m sure you can relate. I mean, don’t you guys hate that awkward moment when your kid tries to kill your other kid? In public, no less?

We were all having such a good time too. Before, you know, the attempted murder and all. Laughing and splashing and screaming at everyone to stop splashing. My 2-year-old daughter was standing right next to my 4-year-old son on the steps leading into the pool. Then I blinked, like an idiot, and BOOM. The little one was facedown in the water.

Luckily there were multiple other parents in the pool and since every parent is a low key superhero, roughly six of them immediately dove toward her and she was scooped out of the water within mere seconds.

Still, she was hysterical. Because drowning isn’t fun at any age but especially at the age of 2. She was fine though. Everything was fine. I was cuddling and cooing and comforting and ready to chalk the whole thing up to childhood shenanigans…

…when, lo and behold, I heard one of the other kids say “he pushed her” and I instantly knew who that “he” was. Which is how I went immediately from feeling grateful that my one child was alive to worried that my other child wouldn’t be for long.

Because I was going to kill him.

It’s an interesting feeling, that one. As a mom, you’ll do pretty much anything to protect your family. Until that moment comes when you have to protect your family from your family and then you’re just angry and confused, a panting Momma Bear who is growling at everything because you’re no longer sure who to strike out at.

I’m happy to report that there were no casualties that day. Mostly because my husband took one look at my face and then quickly removed my son from the scene so as to have a chat with him about why we don’t drown our sister under any circumstances.

And within an hour we were all back playing in the pool. Because, let’s face it, you can’t let a little thing like sororicide get in the way of a good time.

If I sound a bit callous, or a bit too casual about the whole thing, it’s probably because I am. Even I was a bit shocked at how quickly I shook it off. But I learned three very important lessons that day.

One, drinking sangria your friends made that would put most frat houses to shame helps blunt the edges off the never-ending stress of being a parent.

Two, being surrounded by other parents when something like that happens, parents who have been in the trenches, parents who are hardened veterans, parents who have seen things, man, helps you realize you are not alone and that your kids aren’t the only kids who have ever tried to kill each other.

And three, in order to survive these precious but clearly hazardous child-rearing years, you have to learn how to brush things like this off. Like, oh, ha! Baby’s first attempted assassination. How adorable. Did anyone get a photo?

Because when it comes down to it, we are all raising tiny psychopaths.

They’re learning. You hear that a lot as a parent. You tell yourself that a lot as a parent. These kids, they hit and bite, they throw stuff and spill stuff, they can’t control their emotions. Because, hey, they’re learning. How to human. How to handle. How not to murder.

Which was clear the next day when my two kids were happily playing together again, no thought of murder on either of their minds. Just lots and lots of thrilling suicide attempts while seeing if they could fly by jumping off the kitchen table.

 

37 things I’ve learned in 37 years

Decluttering your life only works if you refuse to allow your family back into the house.

You should do one thing every day that scares you, like skydiving, or answering your phone when it rings even though this will likely result in having to talk to another human being.

When you’re a mom, children turn into gremlins the minute they find out it is your birthday.

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After a certain age, every musical guest on Saturday Night Live makes you squint and say “who the hell is that?”

Always do the voices when reading books to your kids.

If an entire drawer in your fridge isn’t devoted solely to cheese, are you even really living?

Nazis are bad. Always. No exceptions.

Saving the planet is good. Always. No exceptions.

If you cook Thanksgiving dinner, apologize for nothing. I don’t care if the turkey tastes like hot garbage and the mashed potatoes are on fire. You just spent 16 hours in the kitchen. Apologize. For. Nothing.

Everyone talks about how important it is to drink water but it is equally important to know that if you do start drinking water, you’ll have to keep doing it forever because now you notice how dehydrated and awful and death-ish you feel when you don’t drink water. You’ve been warned.

If you take your dog on a walk, he will poop exactly one more time than the amount of plastic baggies you brought with you.

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Don’t say maybe when you want to say no.

After a certain age, you wake up in pain for no discernible reason. Maybe it’s from your three-mile run. Maybe it’s from when your toddler was practicing WWE moves on you while you tried to make dinner. Maybe it’s because you sneezed too hard. Who knows?

Pillow fights are fun for exactly 24 seconds before it all devolves into attempted mass murder via fluff.

Parenting gets easier the day you realize that the food will never be eaten, the laundry will never be done and the term “clean” is now highly malleable.

Don’t just be nice. Strive to be kind.

Camping is always a great idea. At first. Then nature happens. A lot of it.

Never feed small children spaghetti unless it’s their bath night.

Never feed old dogs leftover spaghetti unless it’s their bath night.

No matter how many times you threaten them, someone is going to eventually poop in the tub on bath night.

Wine.

After a certain age, people start looking too young to be your doctor.

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Remember to have fun.

You can never own too many books. You can definitely own too many cheese slicers. (Seven. SEVEN.)

Make friends with people who understand you when you say things like “I’m having a really good boob day.”

Screw it. Just order pizza for dinner.

Let your loved one know you care. Pinch their butt more.

Resist the urge to buy your children finger paints. They’ll play with them for five minutes and it will take you roughly the rest of your life to clean up the mess.

After a certain age, no matter how positive you are that you’re right, you are definitely not using that Internet slang term correctly. Trust me. I’m Netflix and chill AF.   

Don’t let your kids “win” at board games. That’s how those insufferable people who say “well, actually” are created. Crush them at Candyland. Crush them hard. Society will thank you.

Making the bed in the morning seems so pointless. Until you go to bed.

Kids are resilient. So are you.

Your partner cannot read your mind. When they make you angry, tell them how you feel right into their big, dumb, stupid face.

For those of you wondering, a nice Kentucky whiskey pairs best with dinnertime temper tantrums.

After a certain age, you’ll start yelling at people to stop wasting paper towels. Do not panic. This is a natural part of the aging process.

Slow down. The only thing waiting for you at the end of all this is death.

I’m 37 now and I can officially declare that there are no grown-ups. We’re all faking it.