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We Kept Our Kids’ Baby Teeth And It Was Weird

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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 next book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about soft cookies, sex on Thanksgiving, lingering pandemic angst, difficult last names, and more.

Before I dig into the ‘bag, just wanted to remind you that you still have a chance to win a care package from Penguin of three of my books, including The Night The Lights Went Out. But hurry! The deadline to enter is Friday. After that, your luck runs out and you DIE.

Your letters:

Matt:

My 10-year-old daughter is still losing her last few baby teeth. She’s known for a while now that the tooth fairy is a lie, but would still pocket the cash left behind. This week she lost another one and the money has been sitting on the counter all week to the point I might as well take it back. However, I still have the tooth hidden in my nightstand and can’t bring myself to throw it away. At what point did you give up on the tooth fairy charade and did you ditch the teeth at the same time or keep them out of some weird nostalgia for your kid(s) growing up?

I can’t pinpoint the date the jig was up in our house, just as I can’t remember the day I, as a child, realized that the Tooth Fairy was a lie. I think my mom just flat out told me, but that’s not a lock. The Tooth Fairy is always the first domino to fall in the childhood myth genre. First you learn the truth about the Tooth Fairy, then the Easter Bunny, then Santa, and then you learn that American history was all a lie. That’s the usual order of events.

The 9-year-old lost a tooth a year ago and I said, “Now put it under your pillow!” and he laughed at me. He knew I was full of shit. My wife and I have been unreliable tooth fairies over the years, forgetting to put money under the pillow or trying to slip it under without waking them up, only to fail. We didn’t do a good job keeping up the charade, which is why it’s fallen with such relative speed. The stakes with the Tooth Fairy are much, much lower than they are with Christmas. I’m pretty sure the youngest kid also knows that Santa is imaginary as well, but he enjoy the fat man’s payload way too much to bother openly debunking it. He wants the loot. Our oldest kid now helps put out the gifts and stuff the stockings on Christmas Eve now, so we’re already making the transition to them assuming the mantle of Santa for themselves, and in many ways that’s more rewarding than their earlier beliefs.

Now here’s the funny part. I assumed that we had thrown all of the kids’ teeth away. I was wrong. My wife actually kept them all in a single plastic container. She opened it up for me and the kids the other day and we were all, including my wife, totally creeped out by the sight of all those little teeth. The statute of limitations of their cuteness had long since evaporated and what remained looked like souvenirs that H. H. Holmes kept of his victims. Throw the teeth away. It’s not like your kids will ever need to chew with them again. They lose one, and then you marvel at it for a few seconds (“Oh wow look at the blood on the root!”), and then it becomes garbage.

Tom:

My wife and I went to a small, live music venue for the first time in nearly two years. You had to show your vaccination card at the door, which made it seem safer than it probably was. Early in the show, a bro jams himself in front of us and is immediately chatted up by another guy (they don’t know each other). Five minutes later the chatty guy pulls out an e-cig of some type and offers it to the bro, who takes a drag! What the fuck! Regardless if everyone in the place was vaccinated, this was nuts. Or am I wrong?

Let it slide. Everyone is coming out of the pandemic at their own speed. If you’re a Floridian, you spent the entirety of 2020 in a hot tub with 19 strangers and voted for Ron DeSantis to cut off the state’s water supply. If you’re me and your youngest still isn’t vaccinated, you cut loose after you yourself got vaccinated and then got stuffed back into a toothpaste tube after the stupid Delta variant hit. And then there are people stationed somewhere in the middle of those two poles, or people who hid in the fruit cellar in March 2020 and still refuse to come out.

All I can control is what I choose to do. I can’t make other people be exactly as cautious as I demand they be, and neither can you. So my days of being a rona cop are long over. If two bros wanna split a vape at a concert, that’s fine. Maybe they get each other sick for a week or, and this is more likely, they have a good time and nothing else happens. If you’re freaked out that these two will somehow prove responsible for the pandemic lasting into infinity, I got bad news for you about how tens of millions of other Americans have comported themselves over the past two years.

I can’t gnash my teeth over Americans being selfish assholes anymore. It does me no good, and it won’t change anything. And I’m not gonna cry out THIS IS CRAZY! whenever I see two (vaccinated!) people dare to enjoy a normal social interaction. That’s what everyone has been craving since the pandemic began. The thought of being able to live again is what kept a lot of people getting up in the morning. So handle your own shit and let it go.

By the way, the Delta variant is on the wane as we speak. It could come back, or there could be a new Double Crunchwrap Supreme Variant that emerges and resets the clock all over again. But as it stands now, cases are going down, all kids are back in school, young kids (including my own) are about to be vaccinated, and mask mandates are slowly being lifted in places that were never politically opposed to them. I even took my 12-year-old to a D.C. United game on Saturday night. We didn’t wear masks in the stands. No one did (except in the bathrooms, where they were mandatory). It was a great night. I don’t regret it. There’s good shit happening all around you, but it’s easy to get stuck on, like, Nick Rolovich firing himself for Takes instead. I’m probably guilty of steering you in that direction, and I apologize. But appreciate the progress where you can find it.

Steve:

Who would be impacted the most? Giannis playing an entire game wearing his championship ring, Aaron Rogers playing an entire game wearing his, or Clayton Kershaw pitching an entire game wearing his? 

Kershaw. I know QBs and basketball players sometimes have to play with their fingers all fucked up, but their tactile needs still pale in comparison to the average pitcher’s. You just saw Major League Baseball spend an entire season frantically trying to end years and years of gunk innovation. Those pitchers wouldn’t have bought/used gunk if they didn’t prize the right feel for the ball above everything else. Fuck with that feel by a single degree and a pitcher notices. Especially if that pitcher is a big fat chokeboy like Kershaw.

Charles:

What is the worst thing Nick Saban could do and still keep his job? If he had Gruden-level emails, they just make him do an apology and PR tour, right?

It’s Bama, so I would assume he’d be automatically installed as governor if that happened.

Matt:

At the beginning of Home Alone, Uncle Frank mentions that, “We’re leaving the house early. At 8:00am!” I feel like whoever wrote this script never had kids, because 8:00am is fucking late by any remotely normal parenting standards. I can’t recall the last time I ever slept remotely close to 8:00am.

Your instincts betray you, Matt. John Hughes, who wrote Home Alone, fathered two kids. But also, John Hughes was a remarkably wealthy man who built his career making successful comedies about rich Chicago suburbanites being mildly inconvenienced. So it’s entirely possible that A) he spent his entire adulthood resentful of his children forcing him to wake up at a grown-up hour, B) he made his wife do everything, or C) he and his wife hired a nanny to do all that shit. He, perhaps, was Uncle Frank: an oblivious, anachronistic dickhead.

Or I can be more charitable and note that Uncle Frank says they have to LEAVE the house at 8:00 a.m. Not get up at 8:00 a.m. Leave at 8:00 a.m. Now I am my mother’s son, which means that if I have to leave the house at 8:00 a.m. to go to the airport, I’m getting up WAY before then. I have to shower, get dressed, make breakfast, deal with the kids, check my phone, have some coffee, turn off everything in the house, jerk off, make sure everything is packed, and stare out at the driveway for an hour to make sure the airport shuttle arrives on time. That means I’m up before 7 easily, and I’m making that fact plain to the kids the night before. If you’re my age and you still wanna be Mister Daredevil and wake up 10 minutes before that ride, don’t expect me to be awed. Get your shit together.

Two more fun John Hughes facts before I move on. First, my daughter thought his last name was pronounced HOO-guhs until I corrected her a week ago. Secondly, Hughes was friends with P.J. O’Rourke. If you’re my age, you might remember P.J. O’Rourke as a political “humorist” back when humorist was a word people actually used. And what humor!

John and I never bothered to talk much about our politics. What we did talk about was the 20th century’s dominant scrambled egghead bien pensant buttinski parlor pinko righty-tighty lefty-loosey nutfudge notion that middle-class American culture was junk, that middle-class Americans were passive dimbulbs, that America itself was a flop and that America’s suburbs were a living hell almost beyond the power of John Cheever’s words to describe.

Jesus Christ this guy couldn’t write for SHIT.

JJ:

People should not be using the word “commentating.” Commentary as a noun is what is done by reporters who comment on the action. “Commentate” is to my ear an analogue to the word “declarate” – you don’t “declarate” something, you declare it. But at some point, people have verb-ed nouns, and now instead of mocking John Smoltz’s commentary, I have to hear people say how annoying he is when he’s “commentating.” Now both Smoltz and those people are annoying!

I’m certain I’ve used commentating before. Probably because, in my mind, that’s what I envision a TV commentator doing. Anyone can comment anywhere, but commenting for a live television audience? That’s commentation, baby. My personal favorite writer, A.J. Daulerio, just used that word in his newsletter a month ago. I barely even noticed. But now, JJ, I will notice. And I will rage out whenever I see it.

John:

If an NFL defensive back makes a great play and he looks down at the receiver on the ground and just starts talking shit as long as he puts his hand out like he’s going to help him up he can’t be called for taunting right?

Not if the ref is Carl Cheffers, he can’t.

HALFTIME!

Joe:

Is Thanksgiving the night of the year when the fewest number of Americans have sex? You’ve been eating heavy, rich food all day, you’re in a turkey coma, you’ve had six drinks and now have a same day hangover, plus you have to clean up or, God forbid, drive home. If you’re single, you’re likely staying at your parents’ house and no one goes out on Thanksgiving night anyway. If you’re with someone, it’s harder to come up with a less sexy scenario than getting up off the couch after your third piece of pie. Are there even any other contenders for the title? I bet more people, by far, bone on a random Monday in March than on Thanksgiving night.

Thanks to Joe, I just realized that I myself have never gotten laid on Thanksgiving. WELL THAT CHANGES THIS YEAR, MY FRIENDS. This year, I’m gonna cook Thanksgiving dinner wearing an apron and NOTHING else. I’m gonna massage the raw turkey seductively in front of my wife. Then I’m gonna hold up its raw neck and ask her, “Remind you of anything else that tastes delicious?” Then I’m gonna insist that we watch NO football. Instead, I’m gonna leave the TV off and play nothing but Jodeci on a continuous loop. I’ll banish the kids to living underneath the trampoline. Then I’ll ask my wife if she wants me “scattered and smothered,” then cover myself in gravy and cream of mushroom soup. And then it’s go time. Gonna be the most erotic Turkey Day you’ve ever seen.

Matt:

I get that Ben Roethlisberger is a long name with many syllables, but he’s been in our sports lives for close to 20 years now, and even the more competent talking heads and announcers still use the term “Big Ben” as if that was a good nickname, but we all know they reason they do it is because they are lazy and don’t want to trip over the syllables. Is Roethlisberger really that hard, is Big Ben is somehow a really compelling nickname, or is it a combination of the two that makes sports media professionals unable to say his stupid name?

It’s laziness. Give or take that first syllable, “Roethlisberger” is pronounced phonetically. It’s not a difficult last name to master. No sports name is. I can say Giannis Antetokounmpo’s full name without much difficulty now, even though I put off learning it WAY longer than I should have. Ditto Tua Tagovailoa. I’ve called Tagovailoa “Tua” years now because “Tua” is a cool first name, but also because it’s a cheap stall tactic to learn a last name that, again, isn’t hard to master. Tung-oh-Vie-LOH-ah. Say it like, three times in a row and you’ve got it. I didn’t bother to do that until far too recently. Treating name pronunciations—especially non-Anglo ones—as an insurmountable challenge is lazy and racist. You gotta put in the work, and even then it’s barely any work at all.

Ryan:

Does the current Joe Manchin situation in the Senate basically prove that politics is not as dirty a business as House of Cards and other fictions would have us believe? Every time I hear that the Democrats can’t pass anything or remove the filibuster or whatever because of this one guy standing in the way, I want to slap Chuck Schumer and scream, “Fucking bribe him! Set him up with a dead hooker! Dangle him out a window! THREATEN HIS CHILDREN, YOU AMATEUR!” Am I wrong? If those kinds of tactics are ever used, surely this is the moment they were made for, right?

Well, Republicans use those tactics, which is of course why they win things. I remember I was working for GQ once and I pitched my editor on a post on a take where I would say that Obama, who was president at the time, should threaten other legislators to do as they were told or else he’d sic the FBI on them. My editor then reminded me that this would be “illegal” and “evil,” but I still think Obama should have broken at least a FEW kneecaps.

That said, I think less violently about politics than I used to. During the Trump administration, I wrote angry and thought angrier. I absolutely daydreamed about Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the rest all dying hideous deaths, preferably with their loved ones bearing witness. Those people all still deserve the guillotine, but it does me little good to try to make that happen. When I was younger, I fantasized about a shit-talking outsider pulling a Bulworth and becoming president. That actually happened and it was so, so, so much worse than I thought it would be. I also fantasized about Americans storming the Capitol steps to revolutionize the government. Again, that actually happened. Again, much worse than I’d hoped. I didn’t want THOSE people to storm the Capitol. But they did. I can be on the correct moral side of any imagined war and it’ll still be what war has always been.

As for Joe Manchin and his accomplice Kyrsten Sinema, I try to keep the rage at bay. These are undeniably shitty people who enjoy both the lobbyist money and the undue attention they receive from thwarting progress. I would love to hock a loogie at both of them. But I should be old enough now to know that this is how it’s always gone. The government has always been a mess, politicians (even the ones on my side) have always let their constituents down, and progress never happens in an instant. There’s also evidence, according to the Washington Post, that ratio-ing all of these fuckers ends up producing the opposite effect of what’s intended. When I pile on a shitty Manchin tweet, my goal is to be like HEY EVERYONE LOOK AT THIS GUY! WHAT A CORRUPT REDNECK FUCKHEAD WHO DESERVES TO GO TO PRISON, AMIRITE?! Data-wise, most people absorb that first sentence when I do that, but not the second. No such thing as bad publicity, etc.

Also, all of the news building up to Biden’s infrastructure bill has essentially been the news equivalent of pre-draft smokescreens. There’s lots of bullshit posturing, and the political press is all too happy to serve up that posturing as actual news. The final bill will be watered down from its rough draft, because that’s what happens when things are negotiated, but it’ll have some decent shit in it if/when it finally passes. And then everyone can freak the fuck out about whatever bill comes next.

Again, the best thing I can do here is vote, donate, and live my values, no matter how corny that last part sounds. If I overreach, I’ll just end up with a politics-induced form of bipolar disorder, which is easy to contract when you have access to every single news item about every painful step that fucking bill has had to take toward its final form. If the only news I got about Build Back Better was its passage, I’d be ELATED. I’d be like OH SHIT THEY DID SOME SHIT, and I’d be content. Instead, I’m compelled to watch the sausage get made in real time and cry war any time an ingredient I deem vital gets left on the kitchen floor because Thrift Shop Karen from Arizona thought it would be super girlboss to swap in a thimbleful of human bile instead. I’m better off not looking TOO closely at how America works. Life is better with my head in the sand.

Cory:

I am a soft cookie guy. Fresh out of the oven, store bakery, packaged doesn’t matter as long as it’s soft. Therefore, I’ve never been that into Oreos. But as Oreos get stale, they get soft and I like them better that way. Not sure if anyone can relate to this specific take but can you think of other foods you enjoy more the less fresh they become? 

I’ll eat stale Oreos. I have no fear. I also enjoy stale cereal more than the average bear. And then there’s the entire culinary cinematic universe of stale bread products: croutons, bread pudding, ribollita, and on and on. Bread is the king of all stale foods. There’s a difference between stale and rotten. True foodheads (just coined that) know this intimately.

By the way, I’m like Cory here in that I prefer a soft cookie. My wife likes ‘em thin and crispy, but I need those shits soft and chewy. When Keebler introduced their Soft Batch cookies eons ago, I got a little fat kid boner, even though I knew that those cookies weren’t soft because they were fresh. Keebler definitely uses a chemical softening agent with traces of uranium waste in it. I am not deterred.

I also need my cookies warm. Why bother eating a cookie cold when all you have to do is nuke it for 10 seconds to get a whole new cookie? I will wake up WAY before 8:00 a.m. to make this effort. I’m just that brave.

Mike:

Why is it that, when it comes to the Olympics and other international sporting events, the US is always identified as “Team USA”? This has always bugged the crap out of me. You certainly wouldn’t call them “Team Ireland” or “Team Nigeria.” I feel like this moniker makes them sound Disney-fied or cutesy or something. I’ve hated this for years. Please tell me I’m not alone.

It’s never angered me, although if someone COMMENTATED one of their games and said it, I might get pissy. But in general, I’ve accepted the Team USA moniker for pretty much every American international competition. It’s generic, and it brainlessly fills the American need to give every team a proper name, even if it’s a stupid one. If you tell me that “Team USA” is playing on Channel 6969, I’ll be like OH WOW OUR BOYS ARE ON THE TEEVEE! And then it turns out to be an ultimate Frisbee friendly with New Zealand that we’re losing 87-4. I have no one to blame but myself in such instances. As you can see, there are so many things about this country I need to stop paying attention to.

Sean:

I’m a Leafs fan, and live in Toronto. It’s the worst. They’re good but useless, and they have hurt me to the point where if I ever saw them raise the Cup it would just be relief. I’m just in a perpetual state of being owned in the most embarrassing ways by my direct and most hated rivals. Can I just say fuck it and cheer for the Kraken instead? 

You already know I’m gonna say no, so no. You picked the Leafs, you gotta live with them. I have to live with MY asshole team, so I don’t see why you should get a break. Besides, the Kraken aren’t even good yet. Imagine if I had ditched the Vikings for the Houston Texans. Would that have been an improvement? Against all odds, it would not.

Email of the week!

Christopher:

My maternal grandpa was a real piss and vinegar type. Born in a single room homesteader cabin in Montana. Never even entered a hospital for any reason until his late 70s. Stitched up his own wounds with a needle and thread. Once beat up a man in an alley because he blocked my mom’s view of a parade. But he was also a talented tinkerer and inventor, as well as an amazing artist. He’d build me crazy contraptions that would distribute me dollar bills every Christmas, and his landscape sketches were quite beautiful. Overall, a pretty interesting guy!

But as happens to every man, old age caught up, and by the time he was 90, he had mellowed considerably, far more (legitimately) concerned with making it to the bathroom on time than just about anything else. Well, I happened to be graduating from law school at this time (shout out to the lawyer commentariat!) which was a momentous occasion in the family. Mom wanted Grandpa to fly with my parents to attend my graduation. He didn’t want to do it, but Mom harangued him enough that he finally, reluctantly, agreed. 

And so, the old man’s thoughts immediately turned to the whens and hows of where he would be peeing (frequently) during this journey. He was not happy at the idea of having to stand up on the plane, scootch into the isle, walk to the restroom, wait until available, pee, walk back to the seat, and then repeat as needed during the flight. Not happy at all. So, he came up with an idea. 

He designed and constructed a special pair of “shorts” that he could wear under his pants. No, this was not any kind of diaper. These “shorts” were made from heavy-duty plastic (cut from plastic bags), along with strong elastic installed at the waist-band and upper thighs. It was water-tight. No absorption at all. Any pee released in there would just sit and slosh against the skin for as long as the device was on. Well, clearly Grandpa didn’t want to sit (for too long) in his own piss so he also attached with industrial sealant and stitching some clear rubber tubing the length of his leg and affixed it at the crotch of the shorts. You have the mental picture yet? Yes, Grandpa’s plan was to stay in his seat, piss into the water-tight plastic shorts, and then just have the piss flow down the rubber tube running down one of his legs, and onto the airplane floor, where I guess it would just sit, or flow all over the place, or who gives a fuck because Grandpa sure didn’t!

He was quite thrilled with his handiwork. Apparently the shorts had been “field-tested” and functioned as intended. His plan was only discovered because he was so excited about it, that he invited my mother over a few days before the flight and proudly showed her the completed shorts and gave her an explanation as to how they would work. Well, as you can imagine, Mom freaked the fuck out, gave Grandpa a dressing-down lecture, and confiscated the offending invention. For whatever reason, Grandpa clearly was not expecting that reaction from Mom. Well, he sulked for a few days like a chastised preschooler but Grandpa did end up attending my graduation. I don’t really remember how he and my mother ended up handling his bathroom needs during the trip. 

But since then, my family has on many occasions joked as to what would have happened if Grandpa had never showed my mom the shorts and ended up wearing them on the flight. Oh my god, what a fucking scene and disaster that would have been! (Obviously better it didn’t actually happen. Post 9-11 — probably would have all been arrested.) Grandpa ended up making it until a few days before his 95th birthday. RIP ya old bastard.