Thoughts on 37

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According to the calendar and math, I just turned 37 years old. This meets most definitions of adulthood. I’m a parent, and a wife. I have a professional portfolio with 15 years worth of stuff in it. I’m employable and pretty much have my shit together. Of course, none of this means a thing. I’m the same dumbass I was in college.

As I’m constantly reminding my daughter (who is 2 and concerned with such things) we get a little bigger every day until we grow up. For her, that’s enough. For me, growing up is an ongoing campaign.

After childhood, an extensive support network surrounding the products we buy encourages us to spend our energy trying to look and act like the people we briefly were in our early 20s. The desire to grow up is subsumed by a need to stop growing or changing.

I started dying my hair to cover up grey when I was 24. My fair skin and fear of the sun got me a brief reprieve from wrinkles. General immaturity and bad impulse control made me seem younger than my age. Postponing motherhood helped as well. I put myself on pause.

When I became pregnant, I stopped dying my hair. Weight gain and bloat changed my face, and I was too damned tired to indulge in any silly nonsense. Everything hurt and I aged ten years in a few months. I was still the same dumbass, but without the honors and privileges awarded to youth. There was some mitigating churn around “oh look a pregnant lady how sweet” but it didn’t kick in for six months and was offset by vomiting and crippling depression.

Some time has passed, and I’m suddenly 37. Parenthood has reshaped my priorities. I have become Erica’s Earning Potential, Erica’s Ability to Absorb Interruption, Erica’s Immune System, and Erica’s Ability to Feed Her Family.

Endless undignified tasks arise when you’ve chosen to subsume personal ambition to create an environment where a potentially decent interesting child can grow and exist. There are no awards, there is no press coverage, and everyone involved forgets the details.

This isn’t the narcissism of Midwestern modesty (“Oh it’s nothing, here let me get that. Well maybe someday when I’m rich.”) or a perversion of patriarchal beauty standards. My sudden need for mid-afternoon naps and my enduring relationship with Ibuprofen and the heating pad argue against anything so energetic. Being punk rock is a lot of work. This is different. This is mom jeans and uncombed hair.

This is some organic freerange not-giving-a-shit.

I don’t try to look younger unless it assists the new priorities which are focused around people other than myself. I clean up ok, and I’ll do the thing where I get into lady drag when I go to job interviews or meetings with people who aren’t my work bros. I brush my teeth so my husband will kiss me, and I continue to fool him into thinking I’m pinup-hot.

But seriously? That food stain on my shirt is going to stay there. And I’m going to look right at you and talk anyway. I’m going to have opinions and expect a response even though I’m not wearing a particularly coordinated outfit because that’s what I’ve gained by becoming my own age. I’m not on pause anymore, and I didn’t lose anything of value.

I’m still the same dumbass I was in college, so why shouldn’t I claim the column of space around my body and fill it with something useful? I’m not here to be decorative. I don’t have to be, and neither do you.

So here’s to 37 and the freedom it brings. Here’s to being alive for no particular reason and not mattering much. Here’s to reeling around doing your best. And here’s to writing about it, because questioning that urge doesn’t help much either.

Good to be here, everyone. Hope you are well.

On Graduating from School and Getting a Job

I was crawling through my archives this morning and came across this little rant that I wrote years ago, during my first, horrible, post-grad school job at the Cornell University Library. I know several of you Gentle Readers are in school right now, and I thought you might enjoy the sentiment:

First of all, and lets just get this out of the way: a full-time job is actually a pretty shoddy reward for 2.5 years of graduate school stress.

Yes, I’m grateful and all, glad to be here, nice to meet ya, etc. but frankly, I think I was looking for something along the lines of “congratulations on your degree, here’s your houseboat, now get out of here you scamp.”

I suppose having a stable schedule and slightly-more-realistic paychecks is reward enough, but lately I’ve had to face what seems to happen any time you put enormous effort into something. Which is, a rather slow transition into something different that requires enormous effort.

Like learning not to scream when someone suggests you attend the Metadata Working Group Meeting.

Decrypting the Cat

lace.jpg We had a breakthrough this week in human-cat relations. Plover, our newest cat, was adopted from the pound, and came with a bit of post-traumatic-stress disorder. He had a rough time in cat jail, and has been on edge for the last six months.

Then we got him a shoelace.

We tried everything to get him to play: catnip, stuffed mice, balls, rattling things. He would try, but he always remained a bit reserved. The shoelace changed everything. He instantly recognized it as a toy, and jumped on it with a joyous fury.

He is a changed cat. He carries the shoelace around the house, lays on it, chases it wherever we drag it (even to previously scary parts of the house), and has generally blossomed into a fun-loving, easy-going guy.

This kitty was a mystery, and all it took was a shoelace to decrypt his code and get him functioning. Kittyhack!!!

Librarian vs. influenza: day you have got to be kidding

You guys rule. Thanks for the comments and updates. I’m still sick. Here’s some replies to the kind souls who wrote yesterday…

Carisse: Hook ’em horns! From what I hear, the philosophy department had one heck of a softball team.

nycejo.jpg Catrina:
I totally agree. I’ve beendrinking pints of DeTox and Breathe Easy, with a side of Echinacia and Chamomile mint. Stupid Ralph left for the day, but his friend Vertiginous Vinnie stopped by this morning. Which means I’m typing this with my eyes closed as the keyboard spins rather disturbingly otherwise.

Cute Overload is the best. I refreshmonkey their feed regularly. Bunnies cure all.

Steve: Thanks! This flu is like a writing exercise. My lit professors always said that constraints catalyze creativity. I’d like to add that vomit volumizes verbosity.

Has your son experienced a traumatic event? His DVD behavior sounds like a cry for help. But then, I’m a girl. It could just be a call for boxing gloves and a little brother.

Meg: Eggs? Org. Perhaps I should rethink my question.

Seriously though, the new kitty nurses. Like, he sucks on things. Schlurp schlurp schlurp. He’s a big snoring baby with hairballs. Schlurp.

Also, hooray to your librarian destiny! Mine got beat up by my better-pay-as-a-user-advocate destiny. But librarianship is an identity, it’s larger than a single profession.

Linda: I have no idea what movie this is. The only thing I really miss by not having cable is the movie previews. Sometimes I remember to check the apple site, but mostly I just rely on word of mouth and This was good? I should watch it? Better than Ang Lee’s finest? Will I require insulin? Will they even play it here in the cinematic desert of Ithaca, NY?

All: My friend Kara has put up some of our photos from NYC and Paris on flickr if you wish to travel vicariously.

Librarian vs. influenza: day twelve

How did you spend your holiday vacation? For the last two weeks I’ve had the flu! I got better for awhile, then right before my future in-laws came for a visit, virus.pngI reverted to what has become my default state: slumped on the couch, cat snoring on my shoulder.

I met a new symptom yesterday (let’s call him “Ralph”) who requires me to consume only miso soup and saltines.

In other news, um, nothing. I’m becoming a connoisseur of Ze Frank’s The Show, which is hilarious and requires only that I summon the energy to press play once in awhile.

I messed around with View Erica Olsen's profile on LinkedInthis morning for a bit before passing out. My cat nurses in his sleep.

How are you? Please write comments and make me feel like I’m part of the world. Anything will do. What did you have for lunch? Heard any good jokes? Movies? Adventures? Accidents? News? Alien invasions? Alan invasions?

Does anyone have cable? Can you tell me what is on tv?


Librarian vs. influenza: day seven, Christmas edition

Today’s theme was “relapse!” (imagine a glittery song-and-dance number) with special guests Seal Cough, Bleary Confusion, and starring Blissful Unconsciousness.

brut.jpgI didn’t travel this year, so my tragic demise will only be witnessed by the Cats (who couldn’t care less and will cheerfully sleep on my head, living or not). I’m done for. Save yourselves.

My favorite gift was an Audubon bat house, courtesy of my parents. They know me well.

Happy holidays everyone, and get your flu shots.

Librarian vs. influenza: day six

Amid the body pain, sore throat, fever, and seal coughs, I’ve managed to keep myself entertained. Here’s how to beat a week-long flu using only a laptop, broadband, and some good over-the-counter drugs.


  • South Park character maker Version Two. Yes, I said version two. spark2.pngWith even more hairstyles, weird hats, and weapons. Waste your holiday break the new-fashioned way!
  • Download obscure mp3s from, a DRM-free site that gives away 50 free downloads to get you hooked. Quite successfully, I might add. They have the entire Alternative Tentacles catalog, so you no longer have to fill out the little form in the back of your Dead Kennedys cassette tape.
  • Facebook – Stalky stalky!
  • Shoe sale at Ann Klein boots are 65% off. I’m powerless against low-priced yet stylish footware.
  • E-tarot cards. It’s so much more meaningful when you shuffle them with your mouse.
  • My dad’s blog (caution: ham radio geekery)


  • New Universal – The latest comic by transmetropolitan genius Warren Ellis. The premise? In a slightly alternate world where Paul was killed instead of John and China owns the moon, individuals begin to spontaneously develop superpowers. Often with unhappy results.
  • White Oleander – I grabbed this from the library book sale because it wasbmag.png well-reviewed, and I enjoyed it despite my friend Kara’s warnings. She has a point, the characters can be less than sympathetic. Still, I enjoyed the book’s authentic voice, and the author’s willingness to describe a young woman’s reaction to desperation and loneliness.
  • Bitch Magazine – I’ve got a subscription. You should too. Give this to smart female patrons who haven’t yet tapped into the vibrant young feminist culture out there.


  • Invader ZimFind and watch this. Kill if you must.
  • The Tick – Mighty! I love Bi-Polar Bear.
  • Battlestar Galactica – There is good acting and directing here, if you don’t mind the occasional robot army and Deus ex machina. zim.pngHere’s a 44 minute recap to get caught up on the plot.
  • Thank you for Smoking – I haven’t watched this yet, but I’ve got the Netflix envelope sitting on the coffee table. I’ll letcha know.
  • Creature Comforts – Not sure if you know this or not but, the Wallace & Grommet folks have a show on the BBC called Creature Comforts. They interview people in Britain about random topics, and overlay their voices onto claymation animals. It’s rather wonderful.
  • Loose Change – an independently-produced video exploring many of the unanswered questions about the events of 9/11. An interesting topic, and less frothing than most. (warning: do not watch while taking cold medicine, as you will be especially vulnerable to sad footage and will probably need to stop the film several times to blow your nose and cry)


  • Cats – Preferably in a large pile, nesting around your head. Include one that doesn’t mind being used as a pillow.
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  • French cold medicine. Seriously? This stuff is fun. I can see my house from here.