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Funbag

Help! My Spouse Sucks At Wrapping Presents

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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about softball, pet surnames, chili, and more. Drew’s off this week.

Hi! I’m not Drew, and I’m sorry about that. I’m the housesitter. I’m a food writer from Kansas City, and I have a newsletter, Haterade, where I do things like taste rodent-repelling automotive tape and make Cheetos out of packing peanuts. It has very few subscribers besides Drew. Come in, come in!

I don’t know why I’m here, either—I’m banking on ”administrative error”—but do me a solid and pretend like this is very cool and above-board, OK? I may not know much about sports, but what I lack in competence I can more than offset with the manic enthusiasm of an infomercial salesman. 

Anyway, LIZ COOK HERE WITH ANOTHER FANTASTIC FUNBAG. 

Your emails:

Jared:

I was wrapping presents for the kids with my wife, grinding my teeth at her poor application of tape and fold execution. I realized that a requirement of obtaining a marriage license should be to spend at least an hour apiece working jointly on the following tasks:

Loading the dishwasher
Wrapping presents 
Folding laundry
Parallel parking

Dealing with someone who performs these things differently from you (the WRONG way) will drive you both insane as the years go by. Many divorces would be avoided by working through these issues early. What say you, and what other items should be added?

Jared, my man, you’ve got to let the gift wrapping go. Do you think your kids give a shit about the neatness of your wife’s envelope folds? They’re just trying to get to their Beyblades or scooters or peanut butter Krampuses as fast as possible. If there are people out there who will look a gift horse in the mouth to see if it’s sufficiently taped, I don’t want to meet them. 

I should confess here that I don’t have strong feelings about how to perform most of the tasks you listed because I am the spouse who does them the “wrong” way. My husband passive-aggressively unloads and reloads the dishwasher whenever I leave the kitchen. At first, I found this deeply annoying, but then I realized that this behavior really only inconveniences him, not me.

When it comes to mundane household chores, your motto should be: “Do I want to do this alone, or do I want to let this go?” If you have strong, unshakeable opinions about how a chore should be done, that’s fine! You own that chore now. It’s OK to specialize in the parts of domestic life you’re best at or care most about. The goal is a 50/50 split of the total, not the individual tasks. 

I’m not sure a prenuptial dishwasher class is going to help avoid divorce, but talking about how you want to divide up domestic tasks in advance might. I’ve met—and lived with—people who seemed constantly aggrieved by their domestic burdens but never satisfied with help when it was tendered. If you try to scold people when they’re trying to help, they probably won’t get better at helping: They’ll just resent you. 

That doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence while someone ruins your shit. But it does mean you have to be sensitive to the vast gulf between “dangerous” and “suboptimal.” If your wife’s way of loading the dishwasher is going to break your fancy wine glasses or flood the kitchen, then by all means, step in and correct her. But if her loading job is inefficient or sloppy or just different? Grit your teeth and grab the soap. 

Kyle:

NCAA Softball was a big hit in our house this year. As a 36 year old Dad, I found myself really enjoying it, way more than baseball. It’s faster-paced and generally more exciting. My question – what would need to happen to increase the overall footprint and exposure of softball. I legit think people would enjoy it if they watched it.  

The obvious/lazy answer is “make the players men,” but I don’t think it’s helpful to be fatalistic about sexism in sports.

In that vein, though, I do think we’re going to have to change the name. “Softball” tacitly implies that the sport and its players are soft, which couldn’t be further from the truth. So engrained are these connotations that we use “softball” as a euphemism for ease—as evidenced by me asking Defector subscribers on Twitter to send me “softball questions” and receiving literal softball questions in response. (In hindsight, this was predictable and entirely my fault.)

The Women’s Pro Softball League tried to get around that baggage by rebranding as National Pro Fastpitch (RIP), but they lacked the courage to change the name of the game. 

The solution is obvious: largeball. 

When professional women’s largeball returns, it should return with some new, batshit crazy traditions. Trying to compete with baseball is a losing proposition; no other sport has a firmer chokehold on American nostalgia. Baseball is less a sport at this point than an exercise in sensory free association: Field of Dreams, organ music, peanut shells under your sneakers. Largeball is going to have to carve its own stadium-lit path. That starts with the new name, which embraces the pace and less self-serious culture of the sport. Largeball is metal. Largeball doesn’t need “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” it needs a bleacher of sousaphones playing the bass line of Thundercat’s “Them Changes.” It needs goofy-ass stadiums and a concession stand that sells nothing but vodka and fried bologna sandwiches. It needs dugout dances that turn into lyrical West Side Story–grade fights. Kyle is right. Softball deserves to be big—large. 

Ross:

I am planning to not eat any bread or sweets in January (and maybe February too).  Clichéd- I know.  But the pandemic and the holidays and the existential dread of everyday life have led to me just eating whatever trash I can get my hands on and it’s got me feeling like a blob. HOWEVER, I came across your Substack post on the Sandwich Lasagne. Should I make this before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve? Or will I die of a heart attack?

First of all, you should not take any health advice from me, a highly active 32-year-old with the cholesterol of Andy Reid. But you should definitely make the sandwich lasagne, which is a Faustian bargain of processed Italian meats, giardiniera, hot peppers, and cheeses stuffed between layers of horizontally sliced, mayonnaise-toasted bread. And you should eat it AT midnight. Take it out of the oven at 11:45 p.m. so that it has time to cool and take a big, ecstatic bite as soon as the clock strikes 12. Worst-case scenario: You die of a heart attack and don’t have to follow through on giving up bread. 

Meghan:

Would you like to have your consciousness uploaded to a robot if you had the chance? 

I’m going to put some parameters on this question and assume you mean now instead of after my death, from complications related to sandwich lasagne. If I’m dead, all bets are off: Put me on a flash drive and thrust it into the dongle-hole of the nearest available Roomba. I want to suck for the rest of time. 

But would I choose a robot body over my own in the present? No way. I might pay to give one a go for an afternoon the way some people pay to go skydiving. But the thing I like about my body is that it changes. Some years, I’ll try to get stronger and I’ll spend more time hiking in cool parks or running through neighborhoods that I’d only ever glanced at from a moving car. Some years, I’ll get bored with that shit and literally go soft, relishing more time to sleep, to read, to cook and eat new things. 

That probably makes me sound more enlightened than I am. I don’t always love the ways my body changes. I know I’ll get older and fatter and wrinkle-feathered and will probably feel bad about those things against my better judgment because I grew up inundated with messages about how I should look like a Bratz doll until I’m 55 and then die so that no one has to see me when I don’t. 

But the body I’m in has always shaped my consciousness—the things I notice, the environments I put myself in or have to take myself out of—and I don’t want to lose that connection. 

Also, robots don’t get to eat potato chips. 

Chris:

I went viral last week in a TikTok my student made of her teachers dancing. It has over 20 million views. At first I was mad because 1) she didnt tell me it was going on the internet and 2) the influx of online teens seeking out my social media and contacting me through my work email. 

Now that the craze has died down and I’m not mad anymore, how do I make money off of this?

I notice you didn’t include a link to the TikTok, Chris. I tried to track it down, but you have a very popular last name and I’m no Ashley Feinberg, so I’m just going to assume the video is of you and the rest of the math department at Dampwood High School (Go Slugs!) going all Michael Flatley on an oversized calculator mat.  

The grim news: You’ll never be able to make money off of something that wasn’t designed to make you money in the first place. With few exceptions, you have <24 hours to capitalize on a scrap of fame before everyone moves on to the next thing. Prepare your “DANCE LIKE CHRIS IS WATCHING” sweatshirts for the future and use your newfound clout to convince your students to film you on your own terms next time. 

HALFTIME!

Matt:

On a recent visit to the vet, the assistant called us into the exam room by our dog’s full name, Fozzy [our last name], which got me thinking-in addition to whether that was a violation of whatever the non-human version of HIPAA is—would vets honor any pet name and call it out like this? Like what if the pet’s name were something horribly offensive like Hitler? Would they still call it out so publicly like that? 

Even if HIPAA applied to animals, I’m pretty sure just bellowing a dog’s full name into the waiting room wouldn’t be a violation. Your vet assistant would have to charge into the waiting room withs something like “Hi, we’re ready to see Fozzy Cook, the schnauzer with acute anal seepage.”

The reason they have to do first and last names is because pet names, like human names, follow trends. You think any pediatricians are walking into a packed waiting room in 2021 and asking for “Grayson,” full stop? They’d have 20 kids jockeying for that blood pressure cuff. “Fozzy” might not crack the most common pet names, but what if your dog was named something like “Max” or “Sadie”? Gotta have a surname. 

As to the question of offense: People name their pets all kind of dopey things, and I doubt even “Hitler” would merit censoring by the vet unless you’re in San Francisco. I live in Kansas City, where this year a local news station put photos of a mustachioed cat named “Kitler” on the evening news for a cooing “Caturday” segment. He’s a fuzzy little fascist, yes he IS.  

Luke:

I just saw my first NHL 3 on 3 overtime in person the other day and it was some of the most exciting sports action (regular season) that I have ever watched.  It got me thinking if other pro sports would be improved by following the NHL’s lead with overtime. Basketball with 3 on 3 would be fun, but what if instead of starting with a runner on second, each team played with one less outfielder and one less infielder. Or if in the NFL they played an overtime quarter of 7 on 7. Would this be awesome or terrible?

Can we get MLS behind this? I’ve harbored a hatred for soccer’s overtime rules since the 2013 MLS Cup, which went into extra time and 10 rounds of PKs on one of the coldest days of the year. I should remember that game fondly, because my team won. Instead, I just remember fighting with a friend over which one of us got to warm our feet by standing on a little square of cardboard I found in the trash. I resent suffering for 30 minutes of uninspiring soccer and a long string of penalties, which I consider only marginally more meaningful than a coin toss. 

I think we can make soccer overtime more exciting by tweaking Luke’s suggestion. Keep the extra time, but reduce the size of each squad by one outfield player every three minutes. If both teams are scoreless after 30 minutes and down to just the goalies, it’s sudden death: Toss each goalie a ball and have them start in their own goal. When the whistle blows, they race to see who can sprint across the pitch and score first. Fans get more excitement (and a little more skill), goalies get some offensive glory. No one has to freeze in vain. 

Jeff:

Hi Liz, As a food blogger, how would you critique Drew’s chili recipe, even though you’ve never tasted it yourself (or maybe you have, what do I know)? 

PS here’s the recipe in question.

Nice try, Jeff, but I’m not about to criticize the man responsible for my only Defector byline. By His grace alone do I venture into the Funbag. Drew’s the Daddy Warbucks to my Large Adult Annie. There’s no way you or anyone else could possibly goad me into—corn, Magary? Are you fucking kidding me? 

I grew up in rural Iowa, and even I don’t put corn in my chili. The only reason to put corn in a chili is so that the chili will look the same coming out of your guests as it did going in. Corn’s singular, feverish mission is reminding you that you ate corn. 

For what it’s worth, I also disagree with Drew on shallots, which are delicious but wasted in a chili. Shallots are sweeter and subtler and more delicate than onions, and you will be able to appreciate exactly none of those qualities in a big pot of SPICY ACID MEAT SOUP. It’d be like throwing a Prius into a demolition derby. 

The rest of the recipe seems fine. Given that this is likely my last Funbag guest spot, though, I may as well just go in. For my money, the optimal chili deploys bacon (for a little smokiness) and two kinds of ground meat (I like an even mix of pork and 80/20 beef). How many and what kinds of fresh chiles to use are negotiable, as are the quantities of tomato to beer to broth. You’re making a stew, not puff pastry: Flexibility is fine. There are only two fussy, faffy steps that I think are really worth it:

1. Make your own chile powder from dried chiles. This is admittedly a pain in the ass, but when it’s the titular spice in a recipe, it should probably taste like something. If you like a smoky chili, throw a dried chipotle in the mix. Note that the fresh stuff is a lot more potent: If you’re following a recipe, start with about half of the amount of chile powder called for and work your way up from there.

2. Use two different kinds of beans. Ideally, you want one small, thin-skinned, creamy bean that practically dissolves into the pot (mantequilla beans are great for this) and one larger, firmer bean that will hold its own (scarlet runners or red kidneys). If you can’t find these, email me and I will hook you up. I belong to a highly exclusive Bean Club and have many Bean Opinions.

Earl:

I know the NFL has been changing for awhile, but this is absurd. Watching the Chiefs-Chargers game, an important game-changing element is missing: The Big Man. This porous Chiefs defense could probably use a 350 pounder clogging up the middle. Not those tall dudes wearing big pads (no offense to Drew). I know we’re never going to see something like Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams in the middle again. But it would really warm my heart just to see that one immovable object take a snap at fullback and scare the hell out of everyone. If anything maybe a new rule like every team is required to have at least one 350 pound man. That’s it. Just some big dude. No other criteria. Let the big dudes cook…

I’m not particularly well versed in the NFL (past or present), but I thought I’d take a stab at this question both as a casual Chiefs fan and as someone who grew up and went to school in Iowa, a state that has pasture-raised and grain-finished our nation’s offensive linemen for decades. 

First, I agree that our Big Men need to be protected and preserved at all costs. There’s something entrancing and beautiful about watching a human floodwall explode off the line in slow motion. It’s like witnessing the movement of tectonic plates.  

But I keep hearing NFL fans say things like “no one runs the ball anymore,” so I’m going to hazard a guess that that’s part of the reason the league has shifted away from “immovable objects” and toward more agile players. Plus, it’s almost certainly better for the players, who don’t need an increased risk of heart disease on top of their CTE. 

If a tight end wants to spend the off season being gavage-fed corn like a goose at a foie gras farm, more power (literally) to him. But for humanitarian reasons, I must reject the suggestion that we mandate a Big Man on every roster. A designated sin eater seems cruel and dystopian—which is, I suppose, on brand for the NFL.

Justice for our meat shields.

Email of the week!

Matthew:

I have been reading for a long time but have never asked a question. I have hundreds of stupid questions in my mind; however, this more to thank and damn you and your Deadspin/ Defector collegues for condemning me to a life of misery as “liberal.” I started reading Deadspin towards the end of my college years, then continued to read it religiously since. I was already left leaning and I think I would have gotten there on my own but I do credit your writing and Deadspin for continuing to pull me to now being a Democratic Socialist. So thanks but also fuck you because I could simply lived a blissfully stupid life as an independent or moderate Democrat. Now every morning I wake up and get angrier and angrier at the news and bleakness of the world around us. This certainly isn’t helped by the fact that I am a resident physician who works 70 hours a week in the midst of a seemingly never-ending pandemic that is being prolonged by people who think that vaccines are bad because Trump said so. Anyway, what is the most overrated fruit? I say watermelon.

I used to think pears were the most overrated fruit. Turns out, I’d just never had a truly ripe one. You ever had a ripe pear, Matthew? A truly tender, plump, juices-dripping-down-your arm-when you-take-a-bite pear? They’re incredible. Underrated, if anything. 

I forget about that, sometimes. The odds of me finding one at the Regular People grocery store and remembering to eat it in the tiny window between “perfect” and rotten” are low. But they’re non-zero. And the really good ones are worth all the trouble. 

I find that comforting.