Say No to Fear

Even typing this piece feels a little scary, a little close to the vest for me. It’s less scary to write about topics that are not controversial. But I don’t want fear to guide me. And I don’t want it to guide you either.

If you say the line “be not afraid” in a room that contains at least one Catholic or recovering Catholic, expect that person to burst into song. If you say it in a room full of Catholic school kids, current or former, you’ll get a chorus. I dare you to try. Be not afraid.


Throwing these in to soften a tough subject. Why not?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

I first heard the above line from Marianne Williamson’s poem in the movie Akeelah and the Beea movie that’s much more about spelling than it is about fear. I saw Akeelah in the theatre and I remember going home to google the source of those lines. I don’t think I fully understood Williamson’s message at the time but I knew I felt it in some deep way in my heart. I honestly, and this will sound melodramatic, didn’t start to stand in my own greatness until very recently. And the cause? I would say that it was fear. Fear of rejection, of looking weird, of being perceived in some way I didn’t want to be perceived, of not being taken seriously, of being taken too seriously. Just fear. Amanda four years ago wouldn’t have taught yoga or written her own job description or driven all over Baltimore City to take kids to birthday parties or sung karaoke or written a blog or done a lot of things I’ve leapt into recently. So fuck fear.

More than ever, I am now realizing just how much humans are driven by fear and I don’t exempt myself from that. But I’m working on it, and this isn’t about me, for once. No, this is about Mitch McConnell. Kidding–sort of.

Lately our nation and our world have seemed utterly obsessed with what haunts us. Maybe “lately” isn’t even right. But fear feels like it’s running higher than usual. This fear bubble, and that could be a hopeful way of seeing it, feels sweaty and hot and there are mosquitoes inside and and we’re trapped. Rather than the people in power in our country recognizing that they are being driven by fear and that they’re playing on the fears of constituents when they campaign, they’re pretending that their decisions are based on ration and logic and law.

When we hear the cries of the children ripped from their parents at the Mexican-American border, when we see Trump’s random and polarized (both ends) tweets about nuclear war, when we hear Mitch McConnell say…anything, all we’re hearing is fear, fear, fear. When we block human beings pleading for asylum from entering our country because a tiny faction of them are potentially dangerous, when we say “Nope, not you” to those fleeing war and things we cannot fathom here, when we look in the eyes of someone saying “My husband is beating me” or “A gang is trying to kill my family,” and say, “Nah, maybe some other time,” this is fear, fear, fear.

So that’s the macro level. I could write dissertations on the fear that is driving our country and our world in 2018. But on the slightly more micro level, fear is powerful here too.

I found this from Psychology Today: “In 1971, George Johnson, a New York City policeman, arrested a man who was in a Times Square office building rifling through coats looking for money. Rather than call a paddy wagon, Johnson walked the man ten blocks across town to his precinct. The suspect accompanied him peacefully. As they walked, they smoked cigarettes and talked amiably. When they arrived at the station, Johnson learned that his arrestee was a wanted criminal with a history of attacking police officers. When asked by fellow officers how he managed to get the man there, he attributed the perp’s placidity to having been treated with respect.”

The author says he can’t imagine that happening today. And frankly, can you? Imagine the decline in police involved shootings if cops were able to take a beat and just talk it out with the person before shooting. In almost all of the cases I’ve heard about, fear is the officer’s reason for shooting. Some may have been legitimate threats–albeit no judge, no jury, no due process, no weapon–but overall is it fair to let one’s personal fear drive a decision? Whether or not that fear is grounded in reality, people are dead. Cops are sometimes shot for the same reason, but the fear’s on the other end.

One of the podcasts I’ve been listening to lately is Embedded. The host, Kelly McEvers, has been featuring police officer body cam videos recently. In this episode, a patient in a mental health facility is sitting in the middle of a street in Miami holding a toy truck. His caretaker, a black man, is trying to get him to return to the facility and get out of the street. Why on earth would that end in a shooting? Well, it did. I’ll let you guess, or just listen.

Some of the stories we hear about over and over again are the exception, right? So they’re broadcast and repeated and analyzed by talking heads because they’re rare or they’re “out there” rendering them interesting and useful for the news cycle. But let’s admit that these exceptions are becoming pretty freaking common.

Well, here’s another exception. In Toronto a police officer is face to face with a perpetrator he believes is holding a gun. And he talks him down. Peacefully. He takes his fear, just guessing, and prioritizes life.

On more micro level, how often does fear guide our lives, even our daily lives? Does it guide where we live, whom we befriend? Does it guide the interactions we have, the people we greet, whom we’ll let in?

Sure, there are times when fear is important. Maybe a security system is a smart buy, a car with certain safety features, avoiding suspicious people, not walking alone at night. Fear is part of our biological make up for many reasons. Our fight or flight response is part of the sympathetic nervous system because we need it to be. We needed it when we were hunters and gatherers dodging lions or any range of now extinct creatures with sharp teeth. And now we’ve taken that physiological need and applied it to one another–yes, sometimes for good reason.


I think it’s worth stopping and thinking: Am I avoiding this person because he/she/they is different from me and that scares me? Am I saying no to this opportunity because it’s not something I’m used to and that’s freaky? Have I said no to a tough conversation because I’m afraid of what I might find out? What am I missing out on because of fear? What power is there inside of me that I keep there because I’m afraid to let it out?

From the perspective of humanity and being a member of the community of planet earth, I think fear serves us much less often than compassion and love do. But it’s up to us which to listen to.

Why I Love Women

When Aubrey was little she had a large collection of stuffed animals and gave them all names. They each deserved her love, equally (except for Simba and one of the Ernies, they were slightly more special). She made a list of the animals because she found that she was unable to snuggle with all of them in her bed at the same time–not enough room and I’m sure she didn’t want to risk someone falling out of bed and then feeling even worse. The list was the order in which she’d snuggle with her animals so she could keep track and make it fair. Aubrey’s the most empathic person I know and she was already at it when she was a tiny little thing. When I’m staring at and cooing to my one month old niece who looks like a tiny doll version of Aubs, I half expect her to look at me with those Aubrey doe eyes and say, “And how are you?” 


Empathy is obviously not limited to women. Nothing is. None of the traits and wonderful things I will discuss are. And I’m not trying to make some statement about gender roles imposed by society or not imposed by society. I just wanna tell you about the reasons I love the people I know who identify as women. And really because my women blow me away so often, this blog is limited to those I interacted with in just the last week.

Last Friday I cried in a room full of women (and just one man who has seen me cry countless times). To the room, my tears were probably a little confusing, maybe a little much or strange. But that afternoon, two of the women in that room came to take my yoga class and checked on me. Three texted me to check to see if I was okay and coach me through my bizarre episode. And I had one wine-assisted emotional conversation that evening with another. Women don’t shy away from feelings. They face them, embrace them, and then follow up later on.

Last Saturday I happened upon a post online announcing Houndmouth‘s tour and that very night they’d be in downtown Baltimore. Impulsively I went for it and bought three tickets. Within two hours I had Sierra and Emily to attend with me and they’d already Venmo-ed me for their tickets. The show was fantastic and all hovering just above five feet tall and tiny-footed, we were able to wiggle up right in front of the stage. Women say “yes,” pay you back right away, and then easily wiggle up to the second row.

On Sunday I got to see Emma’s great grandmother, Chris’s Nan, cradle her and was able to take a four generation photo. Longevity.

Four Generations

Monday was Chas’s and my two year anniversary. Almost all of my female relatives and several of my girlfriends wished us a Happy Anniversary. I have male friends and male relatives and while I find pretty much all “Happy _________” pretty meaningless and I appreciate people remembering, I do not judge people based on remembering wedding anniversaries. Still, women are thoughtful, have great memories, and want you to have a “Happy ______________.”

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On Tuesday I met with the Education Committee of the Baltimore City Women’s Commission. Six of us maximized 90 minutes, totaling three pages of minutes that plan out our goals for the next two years. We deferred to one another, spoke openly, explained things when someone had a question, complimented one another, laughed, and created a list of 9 priorities that quite frankly, if carried out (when), Baltimore will actually change. The meeting was invigorating.

NPR once aired a fictional radio drama in which all of the world leaders were women (can’t find it online). In it, the leaders go around the table and say things like, “China, how’s everything going?” A female voice says something like “Peace and prosperity over here.” This repeats throughout the entire group. And the point is made. Women know how to get things done.

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After my meeting, my mom, Pilar and Diana came over for beers and conversation. In two hours we covered the world, each of our lives from Baltimore to Colorado to South Dakota and back again. We covered love and procreation and school and I went to bed with the fullest heart. We build each other up.

On Wednesday I taught two women-filled yoga classes and then hosted the 38th Street Book Club. Six of my neighbors came over. We tackled I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and the murderer and his ripple effects. We talked about the problems in our city and our world. We gracefully discussed and emoted and didn’t shy away from tough conversations. Women have real talk.

Thursday morning began with a “Women on the Run” run. Becky and I started our day off on the pavement and beginning my day with exercise and conversation sets me up for three things: feeling energized, an awake brain, and a promise of a nap later on. We support one another.

After work, a pretty boring first stint at campaigning for a state senate candidate, and my pre-destined nap, I headed to the meeting of my other book club: The Book Blub. Now it’s not typical to have two book club meetings in a row but that’s how things shook out. Book Blub is comprised of essential women in my life. We typically spend about 12 minutes on the book that some of us have read some portion of, 1:37 on life, and 11 minutes selecting the next book. There’s wine and there are snacks and bodily issues and love conundrums and immigration issues and the most laughter. And this time, there was Emma.


Another highlight of this meeting was following Erin Drew’s journey to find true love via video. Erin tried out for The Bachelor last night. To learn more and hear her marvel at the 22 year olds who “have so much hope,” follow her on Instagram @eedrew. One of the best parts about being a woman is that we laugh with one another.

This is a very incomplete list, because it’s really just seven days of being a woman among women and it doesn’t include all of the incredible women in my life. But in just seven days, I can see my good fortune in being born female and being surrounded by a set of strong, intelligent, caring, and hilarious other females.




What’s in a name? (by my dad, Dick Doran)

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In my 14 months of writing this blog, this is a welcome first. My dad has been asking to “guest blog” for months–I won’t reveal which one of us procrastinated until this week, not important–so here we are. I am particularly excited about this because my dad comments on my blog faithfully and many people tell me that they look forward to reading his commentary. 

My dad is one of those really instantly likable people and that seems to bleed through his comments too. He’s friendly, kind, thoughtful, incredibly smart, and as you’re about to read, quite funny. As I am typing this, I am just remembering that this weekend is Fathers’ Day, making this a very appropriate time to force one’s father to write one’s weekly blog in her stead. 

Take it away, Dick…


Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiickie Dickie dambo,

Oh so Rambo,

Air air buschke,

Mische mische pom pom…

-Anonymous singsongy chant*, possibly a Detroit/Michigan anomaly (spelling entirely a guess).

OK, let’s get this out on the table right away…I was not born a dick.  Some of you, hopefully not all, may choose to disagree but my full given name is RICHARD Patrick Edward Doran.  Don’t ask me how Richard birthed the nickname “Dick” but it’s a tradition that is at least 64 years old, since I’ve been called Dick all my life.

Two exceptions.  When Mom was mad at me it loudly became “RICHARD P!!!!”.  Confession: sometimes I did, because she was fierce when in anger mode.  And when I went to college I told the first people I met that my name was Rick.  I’d just spent high school enduring every dick joke ever conceived and thought I could avoid that ignominy.  Rick didn’t stick, although there are a few old college buddies who still call me that.

Let’s go back even further to three famous Dicks.  Search for “Richard Tracy comics” and what shows up is all about Dick Tracy, a comic strip launched in 1931 by Chester Gould.



Talk about your heroic visage!  Tracy couldn’t have a squarer jaw if Chester had used a T-square to draw it.  On the other hand, ski-slope nose Richard “Tricky Dick” Milhouse Nixon is infamous and in my view, hugely responsible for the negative connotations of Dick.  He took the 800+ years of the 12th century noble name of Richard the Lionhearted and dragged it down the toilet.  I do have to admit I’m stretching things a bit there.  It’s unlikely anyone called the latter Richard “Dick.” He was the king after all and his subjects would never risk the wrath of Dick!

By the way, did you know detectives were called “dicks”?  Maybe some still are but certainly not as a name when they catch the culprit.  The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang traces the noun “dick” in the detective sense to the 19th century (around 1864) criminal underworld slang verb “to dick,” meaning “to watch.” This “dick” came in turn from the Romany (the language of the Gypsies) word “dik,” meaning “to look, to see.”  Give me lionhearted over being a creepy watcher.

These days I often try to confront the issue head on.  When I introduce myself, depending on the social situation and participants, I say to people “Dick Doran, or if you that makes you uncomfortable you can call me Richard.” If I’ve read the situation correctly I’ll get a few chuckles and sly glances.  That’s when I add, “No worries, I’ve heard every dick joke ever uttered”.  If I get it wrong the conversation gets stilted and ends quickly.  The latter happens most often when I inadvertently meet Christian conservatives.  They have no sense of humor when it comes to body parts.

And there’s my own family.  Nancy, my lovely wife, bless her heart, never uses either Dick or Richard.  She just starts talking to me and then complains that I don’t listen to her.  So I tell her that if she starts with my name I’ll listen better because that will draw my attention and immediately open my ears.  Thirty-two years and we’re still having the same discussion/argument.  When forced, she will use Richard though.  Does that mean she doesn’t use Dick because it makes her uncomfortable?  Or more worrisome, does the person who knows me best harbor secret thoughts about the relationship between my nickname and my personality?  We’re still married so I’m left to guess.

My male siblings use Richard when talking directly to me unless they introduce me to someone.  Then it’s Dick.  Are they sending a subtle message to the introductees?  Whereas my sisters only use Richard when they are flabbergasted by something I’ve said to them.  Which happens quite often since we have widely differing views on many things.

Thankfully my daughters call me Dad, Pops or Popsicle (don’t even go there!).

What’s in a name?  From my point of view certainly not inherent personal characteristics.  However, many nicknames are descriptors.  Think Squinty, Four Eyes, Scarface, Big Man, etc., etc., etc.  Others are anti-descriptors such as the seven-footer who is called Shorty or the XXXXL guy called Slim.  And some people do look and/or act like their name/nickname.

For anyone named Richard/Dick though, please do not make the obvious association.  All the Dicks I know are great, kind, hard-working people with a well-developed sense of humor.  We’ve learned to laugh with you and at ourselves.  We cultivate those qualities by choosing to believe people calling us Dick are using it in the anti-descriptor sense.  In fact, I have yet to meet a Dick who is also a dick (I never personally met Nixon).  The truth is the rest of you with less pejorative names are much more likely fall into that category than those of us who have thrived despite the potentially negative associations of our name.  It’s a little-studied but well-known survival mechanism.

Now I’m wondering.  What if all parents gave their kids names that have humorously negative connotations?  I think we might be able to achieve world peace because everyone would learn to laugh at himself or herself.  Do I dare hope…?

*The longer you drag out the first Dickie the happier you are to see me.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete (Dear Young Lady…again)

I told you to be patient
I told you to be fine
I told you to be balanced
I told you to be kind

– “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver

Dear Young Lady,

Here we are. It’s June. And you’re in 8th grade. This is the bottom of the 9th inning. The 18th hole. Fourth quarter with two minutes on the clock. The last horrah. Farewell is Tuesday and there will be music and laughter and words and hugs and tears and final remarks. And we’ll say bye for now and maybe you’ll say, “Thanksss” like you do with more than one S and it’ll bother me because I will want you to say so much more. But I will take it and I might watch you walk away just to torture myself a little because I’m extra like that.

Yesterday when I overheard that mean thing you said about me, it felt you’d taken a sword through my chest. And then I cried the whole way back in from the fire drill and after that too even. You apologized but I still don’t know if I believe you. I think it hurt so much more because this is it. This is really it. I’ve had my chance to lift you up and to teach you not to say mean things about people, especially not when they can hear you and especially not when they care about you. I’ve had three years to show you how to be and how to act and how to get to school on time. I’ve been able to model forgiveness for you and also how to apologize because I do it all the time. And with all of this time, it’s not enough. But I don’t know if it ever would be enough.

Part of me wonders if you wanted me to hear, “Fuck, Ms. Eby,” because then you get to push me away and maybe get me to back off, get me to care less, get me to ask less questions, expect less answers. Deep down, though, I don’t think you want that at all. What a piece of work is a [young lady], how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals– and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? (Don’t worry, you’ll learn that play someday and you’ll probably hate it.)

Today when I watched you leave the school building and you left crying after the conversation we had, I wanted to rip my heart out of my chest and toss it to you and say “Here take this one, it’s much more whole, and you need it more than I do.” I wanted to run after you and keep giving you advice, keep telling you it would be okay, even though I don’t know if it will. I wanted to remind you of everything you’ve been through and we’ve been through in three years and assure you of your resilience and your support system and your inner light. But instead I just watched you walk to the bus stop and it felt like you were walking away from me for always.

The other day when we talked about your sister’s boyfriend and how he’s in the Rollin’ 60s Crips, I said like a privileged idiot, “Aren’t there other things he can do? And his mom knows? Can’t he find something better that would help the world?”

Then so quickly, I knew we both realized it. So I beat you to the punchline, “I know, that’s not fair to say because I was born with opportunities.”

“Right,” you said. Like you were being interviewed on 60 Minutes and I’d fed you an answer you already had and you knew absolutely everything but you didn’t want to make me feel bad. Because in just 14 years, you’ve lived 100. But at the same time, you’ve lived maybe four or five of the life you’ve actually deserved.

So when I ask you if you’re worried he could get shot or she could or something could happen to the baby, you answer like a 100 year old and tell me, “Of course.”

But I stop there. I don’t tell you that I’m so worried about that for you, too.

It was crushing to watch you be sad today because your future is so uncertain. And I can’t help pointing a finger at myself, even when I don’t know what else I could have done. When I saw your tears, I thought, this is what it must feel like to be a mother and to watch your baby hurt. Because although you’ve got 9 inches on me and the equivalent of 70 years, I can’t help but feel maternal.

So I will just hope you know in your head all the things I’ve been saying for three years–I hope my annoying voice is your inner broken record. I will hope you know I’m here even if I’m not there. I will hope you still call me, even if it’s just because you need a ride from one place to another. I will hope that it all clicks and that you “get it” one day soon. I will hope with my whole heart that you keep holding your head up and stay out of the mess our city tends to pull people into. I will hope you get through high school with your degree and college credits to boot, and your intact dignity and an empty uterus, with a smile, and with a “look what I just fucking did” attitude. And I really hope you invite me to see it. I really hope you invite me to see you bloom fully as that rose that grew from concrete. Because even if you don’t see yourself as that yet, that’s who you’ve always been to me. The rose that grew from concrete.


Ms. Eby

Honestly, Just Be Honest

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What could be more honest than a candid photo of a grandfather and his 8 day old granddaughter? This is THE Emma Lou Doran Loughlin, my NIECE (no longer a niecephew)!

Last weekend Chas and I went car-browsing. The whole experience feels like one giant cliche. You walk in, some guy with comb lines in his hair slinks over to you to ask if you’ve been helped. You, convinced he’s Satan in a shinier form, don’t return his smile in favor of raising one eyebrow and pursing your lips to allow “No” to escape. He says something about “________________ taking care of you” and you think, Oh I’m sure he’ll take care of us.

This continues to a desk and a crowded parking lot and a car and an “I really like you guys” and, “You’re so funny together.”

You test drive a couple of cars the salesperson plays tough about a lot of things and makes a few jokes that fit neatly into gender roles. You hear several acronyms that are meaningless (well, not to Chas) and when you’re spinning from the GLT and the TDL and BSP and LTD and the DSL, you’re back at that desk again. Then come the “figures” written down on paper–aloud will not do. “Are you a nurse? Are you a firefighter? Did you serve in the military prior to 1954? Are you the type of person who dresses up as a banana on occasion?”

Of course, you’re none of those things but somehow when the salesperson returns from “the back,” you qualify for four thousand dollars worth of “discounts.” She or he assures you that you haven’t yet seen what Tavon can do when he “sharpens his pencil.” Yes, this is the number we can give you before Tavon “sharpens his pencil.” So maybe you will return when the pencil has its pointiest point. Maybe, you say, “I will come back after I send an email to another dealership.” And you both keep your eyeballs still and locked as your heads make circles like you’re drawing mutual lines around one another’s skulls with your noses. And then you leave your information and say that you’re headed for Subaru. Gotta see how sharp their pencils are.

These types of exchanges are hilarious to me for their predictability and for the use of meaningless language. I actually hate/love this kind of thing, maybe I just love to hate it. This silly turn of phrase “sharpen a pencil” is more than just a cliche. It’s code. It’s silly to me because the salesperson could have just said what she meant. She meant that he could get more of a discount for us. So just say it. And then just do it.

One of my all time favorite Seinfeld episodes is “The Dealership.” George plays me.

GEORGE: Look at these salesmen. The only thing these guys fear is the walk-out. No matter what they say, you say, “I’ll walk out of here right now!”

(A salesman approaches)

SALESMAN: Can I help you with something?

GEORGE: (Threatening) Hold it! One more step and we’re walkin’!

The entire episode plays into my lunatic thinking via George Costanza and he believes nothing. I’m actually surprised the phrase “sharpen a pencil” doesn’t pop up.

These weird little unspoken agreements we have in order to be vague and unclear to one another are so odd. In Morocco, we (Chas) learned through research that there, bargaining is welcome. But you have to play the game. The seller gives a price. You counter with a price that is low but not insulting. If the seller counters again, then he/she will make a deal with you. If he/she says “Nope” on that first offer, then just go. It’s not worth it. The seller does not like you and feels disrespected by you. This version of “pencil sharpening” I respect more than these weird American versions, though, because they seem more agreed upon. Like we all get it. And by “we” I mean those of us who read Lonely Planet and also Moroccan nationals.

But wouldn’t it be funny to look at a leather handbag that’s labeled at the equivalent of $30 American and hear from the seller, “I am willing to sell you this for $10 but I labeled it at $30 in case you’re a sucker”? Or if I approached the seller and in broken Arabic/French said, “I want this badly and it would cost about $200 in the US but I would pay no more than $12 here, so what’s your limit?”

Maybe at the car dealership we’d say, “Hey, we’re really cheap. We want a GTI manual transmission and we ideally want to pay no more than $22K.” Then the salesperson could say, “Listen, we get a gajillion dollar bonus if you add to our total of 129 cars by the end of the month so we’ll actually give you the GTI you want for $21K if you just shell out the cash and then just get the hell out of here so we can have a celebratory beer with the mechanics in peace.” The best view into this world is here. Literally (and I mean this for real) one of my favorite podcast episodes ever. In this episode the line “Buyers are liars” is said to be a catchphrase in the “bizness.” I think the line should be “Everyone is a liar.”

There are plenty of things we say in the U.S. that we don’t really mean, and I’m not even talking about “I literally died” or “I can’t even” or “That’s hilarious!” (but with a straight face). I’m talking about “How are you?” or “How have you been?” and other meaningless pleasantries that people spew out just because they think they’re supposed to say them.

What do you think the percentage of “How are yous?” you receive is genuine? I’d bet it’s pretty low. So I propose, you answer it, no matter the asker, honestly. Someone in the grocery store says “How are you?” Launch into the truth about the clogged toilet in the basement leveled out by the fact that someone at work shouted you out in front of the group this morning. Skip the “fine” or the “well” and go right for the jugular. Hey, if someone asked it, doesn’t that person deserve the real truth? That’ll make that person think twice before a insincere question!

Another one is “It’s nice to meet you.” But is it? Is it nice to meet me? Did I make your life better in this awkward 30 second, obligatory interaction? Will you remember my name? Or my face? Or my aura? Did you even realize that I believe firmly in “No dead fish” for a handshake? Do me a favor, if you meet me, and it’s not “nice” to meet me, just don’t say it. Or tell me that it’s been “mediocre” to meet me. That kind of honesty would really impress me, and then it would be nice to meet you. 

I think what I’m realizing is that 30 is too old to be playing along. I want to speak the truth in all circles and I don’t really care who’s around the perimeter. It’s a waste of time to play along and life is just too damn short. Leave the acting for the actors and be straight up.

Honestly, just be honest. It’s legitimately refreshing. And if you’re going to comb your hair like Christian Bale in American Psycho, don’t expect me to trust anything you say, especially if it involves pencil sharpening.