Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about cheez balls, siblings with the same first initial, pancakes, unwanted Zoom traditions, and more.
Why do hoodies still come with strings for the hood? I’m assuming that, at some point, hoodies were a functional garment and people needed to cinch the hood for some reason, but now the strings are just a nuisance. Isn’t it time we break free from BIG STRING and start making hoodies without strings?
Sir, you make a fine point. I never cinch my hood. I don’t even know why I would. The only time I fuck with my hoodie strings is when they’re uneven and I gotta pull one side out a little bit to get the lengths to match. It’s an aesthetic thing and nothing more. Really I should just remove the drawstring entirely, but I guess I’m subconsciously waiting to cinch my hoodie while traversing the Pamir Mountains on my way to the road to Dushanbe. Then it’ll really come in handy.
This gets to a bigger issue, which is that I’ve become hoodie dependent. I never wear sweaters. I never wear dress shirts. I never wear regular sweatshirts. I only wear hoodies. I have SUMMER hoodies I wear, even when it’s 90 outside. Without a hoodie on, I feel naked. What’s more, I like having a crumpled hood to rest my neck on when I’m watching TV. It’s a hood AND a support pillow in my extended universe.
A few months ago, I thought to myself, This is it. There is no more perfect garment than a hoodie. It cannot be improved upon. Meanwhile I’m a 45-year-old man walking around looking like I just came out of social studies class. And I don’t go to an office for work, so I always look like this. There’s little variance in my day-to-day attire. There’s just me wearing a hoodie, over and over. I’ve tried exploring new forms of outerwear—comfortable ones!—only to go running back to my hoodie collection after mere days. I need an intervention. This much hoodieing can’t be good for you.
What is one snack that you can’t have in the house because you have no self-control with it and will eat it all in one setting?
Cheez balls. I have a thing for cheez balls, and it’s quite serious. Whenever we go to the beach, I always make a point of buying one of those giant barrels of Utz cheez balls at the grocery store. The kids and I will fist that barrel until, a few short days later, the whole thing is gone. My wife is disgusted by this and even tried to ban the practice last year. I pretended not to hear her, which is very easy for me because I’m deaf. Vacation cheez balls are a family tradition, as far as I’m concerned. Sacred. Also, I have to remand them to Vacation Food status because if I had them in the house regularly, I would weigh 7,000 pounds.
My late grandma lived in northwest Connecticut, in a house she designed herself (she was an architect) that my parents now live in. This house had one TV, black and white. The upstairs bathroom had sundries in the cabinet that were from the 1960s at the latest: Ivory soap flakes, steel razors, tawny Listerine. The kind of shit you might win as a parting gift on You Bet Your Life. In the living room was a felt table where Betty would teach us old card games like Russian Bank while she drank bourbon and served us Planter’s cheez balls out of a wooden bowl. So when I eat cheez balls now, I think of Betty and it makes me happy. But mostly, I just fucking love cheez balls. They’re not safe when I am around, nor am I.
For my senior year in high school (over 15 years ago) I participated in indoor track. Specifically, I was doing indoor shot put. I was pretty good at it! Now I’m in my mid 30s, waxing nostalgic for shot put. So here’s my question: Is this something I can take up again? Are there adult track & field leagues? Can I buy an outdoor shot put and go to a field and just start hucking it? Will this be frowned upon?
If adults can play kickball, and they do, then I see no reason why you can’t get back to putting shot. There are indeed grownup track and field clubs to join if you do a cursory Google search for one in your area. Fucking get after it, baby. Buy a shot put online (they’re available!), bust out your old Sweet Valley High track singlet, grab a six-pack, and then head over to the local park after work to huck some shot puts with three of your newest and oddest friends. There’s no shame in that. You’re in your 30s now, which means you’re about to enter the stage of life where truly you don’t give a fuck what other people think. I’m there right now. I’ve got the summer hoodie collection to prove it. You can’t tell me SHIT.
I did the run/jog for a couple steps across the road and the car didn’t go quickly after I had gotten out of the way. Sat there idle for three seconds. What level of animosity is justifiable for me to be feeling at this point?
You earn a “the fuck?” for that before going on about your day. That’s a fair level of animosity. But of course, you shouldn’t be surprised by anything a driver does. You picked up your gait because you expected them to honk at you and/or run you over if you failed to get out of the way in time. That’s a fair expectation.
But it’s also fair to expect that the driver is too busy staring at their phone to even notice that you were in the crosswalk to the begin with. In 2022, it’s safer to assume that every driver is staring at a screen than not staring at one. Sometimes I check my phone at a light and then get a courtesy honk because the light turned green without me noticing. Sometimes I’m the one to give the courtesy honk. I never look at my phone while the car is in motion, but I do have Apple CarPlay reading texts to me out loud, plus all kind of other display goodies to keep me distracted from pedestrians, speed bumps, and oncoming fuel tankers. Everyone on the road is either looking at a screen or high as balls, or both. I only trust myself on the road, and I’m not even a good driver myself! I see someone texting while they’re doing 85 on the Beltway and I’m like, “That is simply outrageous,” all while I’m trying to find my 80s Spotify playlist on the console screen. I see zero hypocrisy in this.
Parents who make sure their kids all have the same first initial… Are they twee fuckheads, or do they exist in the realm of cutesy dipshits? God, how I hate them…
Hey! My siblings and I all have the same initial, BOB. How’s that foot tasting in your mouth right now, buddy?
My parents claim that we all have A names by accident. Those were just the names they liked, and I believe them because if they really had planned it that way, we would have heard about it 56 million times. My parents are not shy about such things. As such, I have no real antipathy toward uniform initials for children, with one notable exception:
Fuck Roger Clemens and fuck them kids.
There are around eight billion people on this planet: how many toilets? For every dozen three-bed one-bath home, there’s a 10-bed 17-bath Hamptons monstrosity, and that’s before we get into office buildings, airports, etc. But is all that enough to compensate for the broad swaths of the world that don’t have access to indoor plumbing? PS: Urinals don’t count.
Given that this column is essentially a home for glorified Quora inquiries, I figured I could Google Jesse’s question and get a definitive answer. I could not. I then tried searching 2021 toilet sales but that led me to, you know, SALES on toilets. This is convenient for me, as my wife and I bought a toilet five years ago that, unbeknownst to us, has virtually no access to its seat mount screws. Hence, I have had to sit on a crooked toilet seat for YEARS now, because the mounts came loose but I have no way to access them. So I could use a new toilet.
But that doesn’t answer Jesse’s question now, does it? The answer is 10 billion. There are 10 billion toilets on Earth, and I am never close enough to any of them when I leave my home.
Pancakes. They are like.. a thing in my family, and we all eat pancakes in a circular fashion. Just work your way around the outside, making your way to the middle. I realized not everybody does this when I was a kid. Some people just cut them all up immediately into small bites (makes no sense to me). My wife just works basically from the front to the back of her plate. And she thinks I’m a psycho (along with everyone in my family) for eating pancakes like we do. I argue that while you can do whatever you want, the correct way is circular, because it keeps all the warmth in the middle longer (the outsides cool faster), and that is where most of the butter melts into the pancake. So you’re saving your most delicious bites for last, instead of leaving the cold, butterless back of the pancake for your last bite. I’m not looking for you to say SHE’S the psycho, but at least clear my name here and that my way is a perfectly cromulent way to eat them.
No. I will not do that. Eating pancakes that way is fucking weird. Do you see me eating a burger that way? No. If I did that, I’d be arrested. More important, I use so much maple syrup on my pancakes that no one bite is different/superior to the other. No matter where I attack—I eat pancakes back to front like pretty much everyone else—there is a 500-calorie mouthful for the taking. If I’m eating blueberry or chocolate chip pancakes, I might aim for a highly concentrated area of goodies, but that’s about it. If you wanna quibble over crispy edges and/or butter saturation, be my guest. But these are pancakes here. They’re not exactly the most nuanced of foods. Eating them like they’re sitting on top of a very slow turntable isn’t necessary.
Do you think we’ll ever have Shazam, but for narrating? Whenever I’m watching a show and there’s good narration I gotta know who it is.
I noted this on Twitter a while back, but Amazon’s X-Ray feature is extremely clutch for this sort of thing. If you watch a movie on Amazon and pause it, it tells you the name of every cast member in that scene, narrators included. Meanwhile, I’m watching HBOMax and if I make one false move with the remote, suddenly I’m fast forwarding at 50x speed. It’s very annoying—the only bad thing about HBOMax, if I’m being honest. Perhaps, in the future, HBOMax and every other streaming service will have X-Ray, and then I will no longer sit there tortured, asking myself, “That’s Liev Schreiber, right?”
Which current NBA player is most likely to be a closeted MAGA redass? Baseball and football have their share, but the NBA as a whole is much more conscious of racial equality and the current social culture. Still, and especially in light of John Stockton stepping on his dick, you know there are a handful of players who were spiritually in DC on Jan. 6. Who are they?
You’ve met Enes Kanter Freedom, yeah? Oh wait I’m sorry you meant ACTUAL NBA players and not currently unemployed fenceposts. My bad.
But the point stands. There’s no such thing as a closeted MAGA redass. Even the cushy suburbanites who voted for Trump en masse two election cycles in a row will gladly offer their wingnut bonafides to you if you ask them. They’re all out in the open. That’s the point of Trumpism. Trumpism is 75 million assholes all going, “I can finally speak my mind about the gays and blacks!” in unison. Just as with their standard bearer, the loudness is the point. You amplify your stupidity so much that others have no choice but to hear it, and to give it far more credence than it deserves. It’s all idiot protests and shitty bumper stickers and Instagram photos of you giving your kids an AR-15 hidden inside a birthday cake. Anything more subtle than that betrays the movement. You need to be so brash and obnoxious that you render nuance obsolete.
Therefore, you don’t need a good Trumpdar to sift out any wingnuts in the NBA. Michael Porter Jr. is available to take all of your questions on President Brandon right now.
Like you, I have a kid who just turned 16 and has been set loose on the world with a car. My wife and I have been discussing whether or not to use the tools available to keep an eye on him, and I was curious about your take. We’ve all seen Taken, or Room, or the news, and know that the possibility exists for bad stuff to happen to a kid who maybe doesn’t have the experience of an adult. But I also want him to have independence and receive trust from us so that he grows up and doesn’t feel too sheltered or smothered. We’ve asked him to share his location on his phone, but we could go further with AirTag trackers, the Life360 app, or a million other options available. What do you think?
My wife and I have location sharing turned on for our daughter. This was at my wife’s behest, and also, despite my being the IT general of this household, she was the only one between the two of us who knew how to turn it on. It’s been a useful accessory, but not because I’m terrified that our kid will sneak off to buy crack when we don’t know where she is. It’s because she still only has her permit, so I still have to pick her up for shit. Before I had location tracking turned on, here is how that picking-up process usually played out.
- I get in my car at 10 p.m. on a Saturday, grumpy that I have to get in my car at 10 p.m. on a Saturday.
- I drive to pick up my kid at X spot.
- I arrive.
- I check my phone and there’s a text from her two minutes earlier asking if I can pick her up at a McDonald’s that’s like two miles away.
- I go to the fucking McDonald’s and she’s not there either because she got bored and walked over to a nearby Panera instead.
- I call her to yell at her and she doesn’t pick up. Her voicemail greeting is REALLY annoying, too.
- I text her to pick up the phone. She never reads this text.
- I drive around searching for her, like I’m a goddamn serial killer or something.
- I find her and ask her if she had fun.
Location sharing eliminates all of that nonsense. I have no interest in tracking my daughter any further than that. We parented our kid for 16 years specifically to arrive at this level of trust with her. It’s not a flawless relationship. We’ve had rocky moments, as every parent does with every teenager. But in general, the more trust we’ve shown her, the more she’s been eager to pay that trust back.
If I pulled a Tony Danza and slapped a fucking transponder onto the poor girl, I’d basically be telling her that I don’t trust her, that she’s a lousy kid, and that she doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. As Jack notes above, you want your kids to be independent, but they can’t be if you don’t let them. So whenever our daughter finally gets her license and can drive on her own—it’s not like when I turned 16 and could instantly do that; state laws around first-time drivers have gotten a lot more ornate since then—my wife and I will give her a bit more rope and see how she handles it. She’ll still complain about having to be home by 10, though.
In a recent Funbag, you mentioned that now you’re off Twitter, you spend your mornings staring out the window at your backyard. You got any bird feeders / birdbaths out there? Seems like you could do some really great casual birding! (Trade in that bird app for the real thing, eh?) I don’t know your exact backyard situation, but I slapped a feeder on my rusty NYC fire escape and I get three different kinds of woodpeckers daily, so I’m guessing you can do pretty well with what I imagine is more space and greenery to work with. If you need any help down this path, I’m sure the Bird Sickos at Defector got you covered.
I’ve been considering this. After I read Matt Ufford’s post on being a Bird Dad, I was like, “You know what? I’mma get a pair of those binoculars.” Did I? No. Should I? Yes. Will I? Uhhhh … lemme play The Room 3 one more time before I make a final decision.
I know I’d enjoy birding. When I was a kid we lived on a lake, and anytime my old man saw a heron, he’d crow about it—pun intended—to the rest of the house. He’d yell, “THERE’S A HERON OUT BACK!” and I’d be playing Sega and be like, “Pfft. It’s a bird. Who cares.” Sure as shit, if I see a heron loitering around the nearby creek these days, I point at it and scream to my kids, “LOOGIT THE PRETTY BIRD!” So I am primed to be a Bird Dad. It’s the next logical step for me.
Except … I don’t wanna deal with bird feeders, or bird food, or any of that shit. If I see a fat cardinal milling about on our deck railing, I’ll stop to gaze. But that’s the maximum amount of work I care to do. And I know every commenter will be like, “Drew, setting up a bird feeder is so easy,” but I will ignore all of that because A) You should never believe people on the internet when they tell you something is easy, and B) Even if it were truly easy to set up a feeder, that’s STILL more work than I want to do. I am a strategically lazy man. I’ll turn around a 1,000-word blog post for you on a dime. But once I’ve done that, I’m not doing fuck all else.
I should still probably spring for those binocs, though.
I have no doubt that history will judge our era in an extremely poor light. Rightfully so. But I just want to make sure that my descendants, especially three-to-five (or more) generations from now know that I’m staunchly opposed to all this (Trump-induced, anti-intellect) foolishness that we are collectively having to live through. How can I secure my legacy that I’m on the right side of history? I mean it’s an admittedly low bar but when I’m dead and basically nothing but an ethereal apparition to my descendants, or at best that I’m just some really delectable compost, I want them to know that I got it right. That will be my, and I suspect many of ours, legacy. Not much, but not nothing!
Don’t bother. First of all, your descendants won’t give a rat’s ass if you, Matt, were on the right side of history. You’ll be a name to them and nothing more. Secondly, there are a million thirsty-ass jocks on social media who are hellbent on this “right side of history” shit. I know because I was one of them. Am one of them. It’s all egotistical and performative. In the end, I’ll be too dead to care whether or not Drew IV thinks highly of me, and you will be too. More important, all that legacy posturing takes away from time that you and me could use to make an ACTUAL difference in terms of volunteering, writing letters, getting out the vote, and all of the other ground-level shit that matters far more than securing some bullshit legacy that means nothing to anyone outside of the legacy holder.
Also, no one deserves to escape blame for the state of the future. Every generation has shit to answer for. Even Gen Z will, I promise you. I vote right and say all the right things. But I also drive a gas-fueled car. I used disposable diapers for all my kids. I sometimes throw out plastic wrappers instead of putting them in our family’s designated plastic recycling bag. I use a SHITLOAD of electricity and water. And I’m a capitalist. So, in the long run, do I really deserve to be exempted from blame when my descendants find themselves living in a perpetual ash storm? Nope. I have to take the hit, and I have to accept that fact. Because I’m not donating all of my stuff and going to live out in the woods. I’m part of all this whether I like it or not, and I clearly like some of it. I can insist I got it right all I like. Ultimately, no one will hear me.
Why do you think a bee has never made it as a pro sports team mascot?
Well look, when you have the opportunity to name your team the Commanders, you have to take it. You wouldn’t drive past a pot of gold sitting alongside the highway, would you?
Email of the week!
Early on during the pandemic, my wife and I got into Love Island. It was, for us, a perfect way to escape the realities of the moment. We could stop work at the end of the day and immerse ourselves in the personal problems of a group of bikini-clad Brits whose only worry was getting “mugged off.” We watched the show during a Zoom chat with a group of grad school friends in May of 2020 (For background, we’re all now in our late 30s, most with kids, and none of us live in the same city). One of the chat members suggested that we get together again that Sunday evening and watch an episode. We did, and it was, admittedly, a good time.
The only problem, Drew, is that the Sunday hangs have not stopped. Week after week, Sunday after Sunday, the group has continued to meet through births, marriages, major surgeries, it doesn’t matter. We’ve watched seasons of Love Island, The Circle, The Bachelor, more Love Island and on, and on, and on. I am losing my goddamn mind. I told myself for a long time that the group meetings would peter out and I would be free. I can’t lie to myself anymore. I am staring down the barrel of spending the next 40 years sourly, but dutifully, logging on to Zoom every Sunday to watch British youths try to hookup with each other. I’m not looking for a solution, I just need an outsider’s perspective. Is this normal? Has the pandemic broken these people? What the fuck is going on?
We’re all handling the pandemic and the after-pandemic in our own ways. So if people wanna keep having Zoom parties, that’s fine and normal. But you can bail. It’s all right. What are they gonna do, drive to your city to kick your ass?