An effort to stay afloat while determining which way is up

Ever Aloft

I was drifting, yes, but I had a trajectory.  My mind was full of grids and vectors, my heart cautiously lightened with the hope of obtaining a new plan.  I knew of a landing point where I might find that plan.  It had been a deceptively short journey fueled only by the blind mechanical movements of my courageous legs, who brought me to the aircraft as I continued to assure myself that this time, I’d be able to figure it all out.  A tangled swath of lank hair streamed away from my wind-burned face as I descended toward that world I had aimed for, the knuckles of my fingers dry and gnarled from clutching tight the whole way to my pathetic bursting bundles wrapped up in twine, those value-less yet indispensible things I must always carry with me.  Cities jumped in and out of the mist as I descended.  I held tight with numb hands to my bundles as the wind buffeted past and I descended.  My mind inactive, everything on auto-pilot, ever in transit.

Upon touching down, I looked around to find a jumbled, empty version of the places I left, like a ransom note constructed of an entire town.  Where I expected discovery, I find repetition .  Where I expected challenge, I find tedium.  I set myself afloat to find some slot in which to fit myself, but touching down here I find I’m just as confused as ever about which direction to take.

Welcome to Calais.

It’s not that I don’t like this town.  There are some truly lovely parts of it, and it is filled to the brim with welcoming people and interesting history.  My job is going fairly well.  The teachers and students are nice enough to me, and to tell the truth they require a ludicrously small amount of work from me in exchange for my salary.

And it’s not that this place isn’t beautiful.  The beauty of it is simply superficial when you are experiencing it alone.  It all seems pointless when there’s no one to share it with.    This whole time I’ve known that outside of songs, love is not all you need.  I’ve known that women who depend on their relationships are weak, and that unless I want to be one of those weak women and regress the population, I’d better get independent, fast.  And yet, coming here alone has made me realize how much of my new concept of “home” lives with Mark, and how much I want to return to that home.  All I know about what I want to do with my life is that it involves him, which rules out a lot of possibilities I had previously considered.  How annoying.  I had expected more strength from myself.   What bitter disappointment, then, to find that all this time I have been taking part in some dull, predictable love story.

The whole point of this “adventure” of mine was to stall for time.  Time to figure out where my life should be going and experience to point me in the right direction.  I was stalling for time in my job last year.  I was stalling for time in the Peace Corps.  I was stalling for time in college.  My entire adult life is essentially one titanic effort to dodge that stupid, age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  And so, with these new developments in what I do and don’t want in my life, I drift as aimlessly in France as I did in America, always subject to the whims and inconsistencies of the wind.

I don’t know what I should be or what I want to be.  I don’t know what to do with this life that I’ve got.  My only idea is to sit in tree tops and catch more of the thin, lacey sunlight that strains to find this city.  You see, the sunlight you find here is not the same character you see in other parts of the world.  In  Phoenix, the sunlight hammers on you as you step outside, a solid presence binding you in a comforting, near-mummification of heat.  In Denver, it dances and whirls elegantly around you, sparkling off lakes and city structures.  But in Calais, it flutters down insubstantially, occasionally draping over the gray and forest green color palette of the city, only to slide off seconds later having warmed nothing at all.  I want to sit on the highest branches of the tallest trees and gather it around me like gauze, like tule, so I can finally make something substantial of it.  I want to forge the watery sunlight here into something brilliant and useful.  I want to gather it all to make a bright and shining craft light enough to lift me back off the ground.


Separate Footing

This is my second time trying my hand at fiction.  I was thinking of a story by Hemmingway called “Hills Like White Elephants” and how during the most important moments of our lives, we still are compelled to hold the most mundane of conversations.  So I thought I’d try my hand at some dialogue. It’s not very long, but I’m new at this.

Additionally, you’re always told to write what you know, and if there’s one thing I know well, it’s having to say goodbye.  So here’s my story.  For now I’ll call it “Separate Footing.”



“Nice day.”

The stone bench and its immediate surroundings are inappropriately radiant and saturated in color.  Exotic potted plants border the boundary of the platform.  A light breeze settles the scents of the nearby medina gently on us.  Dried fruits and spices; leather and textiles; the salt of the Atlantic.


“Just said it’s a nice day today.”

“Oh.  Yeah.”

“How are you feeling?”


“Slept okay?”


“My neck hurts a little.  Hell, maybe that bed was too soft.”

“Anything I can do?”

“No.  I’ll be fine.”

In situations like these, shoes always seem to become disproportionately interesting.  I direct all my focus to the fifty-cent plastic flip-flops dangling from the balls of my feet as they involuntarily twitch and spasm back and forth.  The gaudy blue-and-red floral print of the soles flash in and out of view.  Most interesting are the markings on the tops of my feet left by a layer of dirt that a week of hot showers seems to have diminished only slightly.  My legs are outstretched on top of my overstuffed and mostly broken suitcase; my wrist is tangled in the handle of my duffle bag.  This is my insurance against the imagined riff-raff tampering with my last possessions.  I don’t have the energy to keep the world out any other way.

“Déjà vu”


“Just feels like we’ve been here before.”

“I’m pretty sure we haven’t”

“I know.  It just feels familiar.  Like we’ve been sitting here before.”

There’s a clock on the wall.  Five minutes give or take until the train arrives.  I wonder how I’ll carry the weight of the bags by myself across these continents.  I’ll find a way.  I always seem to figure something out.

“Five minutes left.”

“Looks like it.  You can never tell if these things will be on time though.”


“Do you ever stop moving?”


“Your feet.  It’s just funny.  You never stop fidgeting.”

“I know.  It’s a pain in the ass.  You’ll be able to sleep better.”

“Eh.  I don’t mind it that much.”

We spend our time watching the other people waiting for the 10:30.  The passengers here all look far too purposeful.  I feel much more like flotsam than anything with a specific trajectory.  I’m sure I look it, too.  I’m sure I look like hell.

“It doesn’t all happen in a line, you know.”


“The time.  It looks like a line to us, but that’s not how it really happens.  It’s like a great big 3D painting of everything, everywhere, all the time.  Every feeling, every color, every sound.  It all exists at once, constantly.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

“So we’re still where we were.”

“In theory.”

“In theory.”

The train is approaching now, exuding all kinds of mechanical grunts and groans as it slows to pause on the platform.  The improper sun is gleaming off of its brilliant metallic shell.  We rise up as I fully slide my darkened feet back into the shoes.  After a brief struggle, I shoulder the weight of both bags.  I might as well start learning how to move with them now.

“Well, you’ve got a long way to go.”

It’s a short ten feet from the bench to the train, and one foot upwards as I rise into the threshold of the cabin, pulling my possessions behind me as they try to burst from the seams of my luggage.  I turn around.   We are on separate footing; there might as well be the entire gulf of time and space between us now.

“This was fun.  We should do it again sometime.”

The joke falls flat.  There is a whistle from the front of the train; everyone has boarded.  The train begins its slow heave forward to the tunnel north of the platform, and beyond that the shantytowns of this windswept city and whatever else lies on this vector.  All of it has to be said now.

“It’s all still happening.  We’re still there.”

“I know.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“Don’t come after me.”

“I won’t.”

Thunder and Confusion

My arms and legs are now positively spotted like some cat of the Serengeti, though my unusual coloring is the result of bruises rather than the need for camouflage.  Last Thursday was an unending hell of lifting and carrying more furniture and boxes and trash bags than I believed could possibly fit into the 500 square feet that I was permanently moving out of.  Given that I won’t be starting my menial summer job until next week (god willing), our new house has managed to unpack itself and turn itself aright rather quickly; one thing I cannot tolerate in my life is idleness, so my days have been filled with cleaning and arranging those small items that somehow, when combined, constitute home.

My dive into domesticity here has once again jumbled the state of affairs in my mind.  You see, normally my thoughts inhabit one of two mutually exclusive spheres to maintain a shaky cease-fire between two possible lives.  One sphere sits firm in the foundational knowledge that this relationship of mine is ultimately doomed.  Mark and I simply want different things out of life, and it will be eventually necessary to sacrifice him (and a part of myself) to achieve the adventures I crave.  All of my long-term thoughts about my life are colored by this sad but inevitable truth.  The other sphere grows from the knowledge that living here with the man I think I love makes me happy.  Anything pertaining to the short term rests comfortably within this realm.  These two incompatible mind frames have sat and functioned uneasy but inert, side by side in my mind since I returned to Denver last November with the goal of continuing our relationship for however long it could be maintained.

And yet, while embodying the ultimate housewife this week as I furnished this once empty space with all the comforts of home, my long-term thoughts began displacing themselves into the short-term sphere.  It has struck me that, in essence, I could live this very same day for the rest of my life if I choose to.  I could become the housewife, cleaning and arranging and gardening and watching the empty wasteland of daytime television to fill the silence well into old age.  Comfortably numb, to borrow and old phrase.  In fact, the longer I stay here, the more likely that is to happen.  At the thought of this my mind freezes into the dumb inactivity of terror.

And yet, despite myself, there was a moment of confusion and complication last night. Thunderstorms and tornado warnings have been rolling their way across the north-eastern part of Colorado for the past two days, utterly confusing and frightening me, as I have no idea of the behavior patterns of tornados, let alone what I should do if such a situation would arise.  Luckily, the Denver area has seen nothing more severe than rain and hail.  Last night, a slow, steady storm sat over our new house for the duration of the night, delivering the kind of constant, rumbling thunder that becomes a comforting, James Earl Jones-esque presence in the room, as opposed to the loud, crashing thunder which takes on a more staccato, Gilbert Godfried tone.  We were both laying on our new mattress beneath an old feather-comforter, simply watching the distant flicker of lightning and listening to the symphony of rain and thunder.  My only thought was, why does life have to mean any more than this?  What’s so wrong with letting this kind of comfort be your existence?

The shocking truth, which descended upon me in the brief pauses between the tympani thunder, is that this kind of life—one where you live simply with the goal of comfort, stability, and an accepted place in our society of affluence—isn’t as horrific as I thought.  While it appears empty and void of any true meaning, it can actually feel downright lovely sometimes.

I do not want to don the blinders, worn by so many Americans, which hide from us the great adventure of the world at large.  And yet, it is so easy to picture myself getting seduced into that kind of life if I let my guard down here.  That possibility shoots ice-cold dread into my heart and rattles me more than any Midwest twister ever could.

Wrenched by Toto

Well, I had been sleeping, finally sunk down into the body surrounding me and floating on the darkness, until I was reawakened rudely by some inconsiderate explosions from the computer screen, these directed at Mark and his need for constant entertainment.  I turned to my other side, wiping small amounts of drool off of my face, to eventually see an episode of Family Guy come into sleep-blurred focus on the screen across from the bed.

Now, I tend to enjoy humor rooted in intelligence, rather than jokes created for shock-value and in-jokes that make people feel special because they remember obscure bits of pop culture from the 1980’s, so it’s safe to assume that I do not enjoy this show very much;  however, on this night I had been jarred out of the complex sequence of launch codes required to fully journey my way into dreamland, so while the gears and switches were being reset to hopefully restart the process, I had no choice but to listen to this episode.

There was some kind of flashback scene in the episode requiring a cheesy, dated feel, so of course the writers choose to play that staple of 1983, Toto’s “Africa” to get the right atmosphere as well as some cheap nostalgic laughs.  I, of course, couldn’t laugh because the moment the song started I wasn’t in my bed anymore; I had been wrenched out of my bedroom and my country and time itself, back a year and a half ago to an open-air dance party celebration in Hamdallaye, Niger.  Cement below our feet and thatched roof above, we milled around the chair-encircled courtyard, swimming in the yellow incandescent light of the night with sodas in hand as we talked and joked and celebrated our achievement: we had all survived three months of training to become Peace Corps volunteers.  Prior to this night I had never even heard of the song “Africa”, but standing then on the red soil of the continent it sings of, that was soon about to change.

Our silly American dance party was fast becoming a silly American karaoke party as ipods were whipped out and hooked up to the stereo.  Performances were typically over-dramatic and chock full of nutty fun as my friends sang off-key and gesticulated wildly to songs like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “She Wolf”.  Then Heather stepped up to the microphone and did what she always does best: with bravery, skill, and honesty, she told a story.  She had talked about how long ago at some college party, she had heard and been inspired by this next song, and knew that one day she would come to the place it spoke of, and maybe take some time to do the things we never have.  Cue Toto.

It was cheesy.  It was also true.  Most importantly, it meant something, damn it.  It meant something to Heather then, and upon hearing the song again on an unremarkable night in my unremarkable bed, it means something to me now.

One of the few consistent lessons I’ve learned in my life is that most of the experiences you think will be the great, meaningful monuments set in stone in your life’s timeline will come without pomp and ceremony, and they will fall disappointingly flat, while other more inconspicuous moments will in retrospect come to mean more to you than you ever thought they would; these moments are almost always inextricably intertwined with cheese.  Hearing that song again, laying on my side forced to endure a cheesy 80’s montage on a sub-par TV show in place of my own fantastic dreams, I felt the same thing Heather felt those years ago.  I don’t care what it takes, I have to go back someday.  Call it the thirst for adventure, or maybe affluent American naivety, or something as cliche as “trying to find myself”.  The simple truth is that I saw too many beautiful places and  met too many beautiful people to let that world rest unexperienced and unexplored in my life.

I know its cheesy to listen to that song and find inspiration in it, but I won’t let fear of sentiment stop me because on that night it became meaningful to me.  All things meaningful are by nature cringe-inducingly cheesy; I have come to embrace this fact, as I would rather lead a meaningful life than a cynical one.    I will have to wait until after this year’s France program, but, harnessing the power of as many cheesy cliches as possible, with god (and Toto) as my witness, I vow to return one day to that place, to once again see my sneakers stained by its ancient red soil.

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”


It appears to me that there is an epidemic sweeping my fine nation which no one is willing to address head-on, and for once in our lives, it has zero to do with obesity.


I know its hard to look at.  Just remember to keep breathing in and out and go to a calm place in your mind.This, caring reader, is a morph suit, and according to Party City ads, its the new big thing to wear to all of your social gatherings.  All of them.

It started innocently enough with Halloween.  The commercials showed them in line with all their other costumes and Halloween garb on display at low low prices.  It was new and strange and even welcome then.  I’m all for anything that can get us away from the costume genre of “slutty-insert random noun”  And hey, I can’t imagine meeting anyone creepier or scarier at a Halloween party than the man inside that suit, more than likely asking all the ladies to put the lotion on their skin.  He belongs in Halloween.

But as usual, the problem with terror is keeping it from bleeding into the rest of the world.  A mere two months after Halloween, while caught totally off guard, we meet this guy:

The Gimp moonlights as Santa for extra cash.

There’s little to no chance that this image is not haunting children’s nightmares as we speak.  I’m pretty sure if you asked anyone what the absolute worst rendition of Santa would be they would mention the following three things:  1) his package is out on display; 2) he’s in head-to-toe skin-tight lycra; and 3) he looks like he crawled out of the most violent and disturbing scene in Pulp Fiction.  On a side note, I’m pretty sure that trash bag is filled with severed limbs and the screams of children.

Then we came to Valentines Day…

“Hey, sometimes ladies’ kidneys just go missing. It’s nobody’s fault, really…”

And St. Patrick’s Day…

I would be much more impressed if this was what he had driven out of Ireland.

And now, graduation parties!

The girls appear to be frozen in screams, whereas the boy is currently bargaining with his god for a few extra minutes of life with all his limbs and appendages.

This picture is from the Party City website, whose ad on television promotes these for graduations “from kindergarten to college.”  Really, Party City?  We want the giant anthropomorphic condom to be congratulating our kids on learning their shapes and colors?  The only reason I can see for this is to teach children early on in their academic career that the real world is a freaky, twisted place, so you’d better get used to it now.  Let this terror haunt and motivate you.  Happy graduation Jimmy.

It doesn’t look like this trend will be stopping anytime soon.  They’re already putting out American flag suits for Fourth of July horrors.  My only option to escape the grasp of this face-less, gender-less mass of creepy is to defect to the UK and…

Well, shit.

“You have five seconds to be facing forward and silent!”

I was screaming into the churning, belching, giggling herd of Mr. R.’s  Spanish-English class getting ready to return to class from the cafeteria.  I’ve found that turning every task into a countdown usually elicits the response you need from even the most stubborn students.  My arm was raised in such a way that the upper arm formed a right angle at the shoulder with the rest of my body as I confirmed the disappearance of time counting down on my fingers.  All was going according to plan until, in the space between two and one, the line leader pointed up in horror at the dark inner-reaches of my arm-pit and uttered an expression of sheer disgust far too audible to be mistaken for anything else by the front half of that line.

I did my champion move of shame where I pretend not to hear what just happened, although my raging inner-monologue was giving this 9-year-old an hours-long tongue lashing divided between 1) how women trying to look perfect all the time are just surrendering to society’s ridiculous expectations; and 2) how she shouldn’t judge because one day she and all her little friends will have to deal with stubble and sweat and mustaches and all the embarrassing joys of adulthood.  For the rest of the day I tried to forget it all, just kids saying the darndest things, but several times throughout the day I simply had to go to the dankly lit staff-bathroom mirror, return my arm to that angle, and try to recreate the horrific image she saw to determine if it could have really been all that bad.  The fact that a 9-year-old could trigger such an intense fear of looking ugly for even one moment was deeply disturbing to me.

Anti-Self-Portrait #1
Hairless and with breasts that defy physics.

I feel no little shame in admitting that, like any modern western woman, I do worry about my appearance.  I draw on my eyes with crayon almost every morning.  I have developed entire differential equations to determine which combinations of clothing will minimize my mid-section. I’ve been counting calories and exercising daily under the authoritarian gaze of my swimsuit.  Taking all these facts into consideration, I begin to wonder, can I still be considered a feminist?  I support as many feminist causes as I can get my hands on (as it is simply the correct, ethical, logical thing to do), but this episode has made me worry that the way I live out my life makes me a hypocrite.  What if my fear of looking bad undermines any message I can give my students about becoming great contributing members of our world.  Have I been making excuses for not practicing what I preach?

Anti-Self-Portrait #2
Women can do anything, as long as a majority of it involves accessorizing.

This fear of hypocrisy goes beyond succumbing to the beauty myth.  In my domestic life, I seem to be the only force able to accomplish the cooking, cleaning, and other household chores.  If not for my efforts and constant prodding, these 5oo square feet of ours would resemble a mold-infested wasteland.  Mark will only assist me with such household tasks after a great deal of nagging and occasional threats.  While I’m at work (a traditional women’s school-marm job), I try my hardest to emphasize to my students the equality between sexes, only to come home and slip into the June Cleaver skin that’s been waiting for me since the mid-century.  Can I truly still be a feminist if I don’t walk the walk?

Anti-Self-Portrait #3
Repetitive, menial work disguised as a fulfilling life.

Of course Mark is rarely sympathetic to any gender-equality issues I ever bring up.  He honestly can’t understand why non-vagina related products (like soap or yogurt or anything pink)  marketed exclusively to women frustrate me.  He doesn’t see how a laundromat named WIFE SAVR is making insulting assumptions.  He fails to notice that anyone who addresses us when we’re together speaks primarily to him, as if he is automatically and at all times the head of this unit.  Whenever I try to discuss these things, he tells me I’m over-analyzing or being plain dumb.  Sometimes I feel like college-me would have kicked him to the curb long ago.

Anti-Self-Portrait #4
It’s ok, we’ve got her under control.

So what does it actually mean to be a feminist?  Is it a betrayal to try to contort myself into the expected role of a woman for the sake of ease, even when my heart is in the right place with the kick-ass sisters of the world?  I have tried before to abandon the comfort of my personal, unrevolutionary life in order to achieve the life that my high inner-standards require, but these attempts have never been met with success.  Sooner or later I come back to rest in the unchallenging, no-surprises life of  a traditional western woman.  I fear I simply don’t have the bravery needed to truly turn the personal into the political like so many before me.  I may be too timid to lead by example, and that more than anything nurtures the disappointment that’s been growing in me for years.

Anti-Self-Portrait #5
Life as a decoration.

On the other hand, could feminism be simply living your life in a way that makes you happy regardless of the outside world and its expectations (or lack thereof) for women?  Would rebelling against stereotypes simply for the sake of rebellion be giving them just as much power as conforming to them?  After all, in either case you’re letting others’ expectations and not your own wants dictate who you are.

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions.  I only find small parcels of strength where I can then and keep on running, always stumbling and often in the wrong direction.  I want to be an inspiration in this world.  I also want to be happy. Right now happiness grows in the soil enriched by the ease of not having to defend my choices against daily scrutiny from the status quo; it comes from long hair and skirts and doing dishes because they sure as hell won’t get done by anyone else.  This stance could be laziness.  It could be surrender.  My hope is that this is merely a time in my life to gather strength and force of will like a rumbling thunderhead in the distance; to collect the courage and experience to set fire to the world when the time is right.

Self Portrait

“_____ you Ernie, you _________ ________ ___________”

I can’t understand why society frowns on my urge to scream profanities at elves.

I was sitting,  tired-numb in the stagnant air of my morning commute, paused at the crossing of Broadway and Evans when my path was crossed by the likeness of this Keebler Elf plastered on the side of a semi-truck, hand upraised in the friendliest posture with that smug smile of his, as if inviting me to give up on the spot.  After all, it would be so easy, and it would feel so good.  Given that it was too early for my mental filtration unit to be put into place for the day, my first and only reaction was to scream profanities at Ernie until he went away, sort of like a terrier barking at a mailman.  You can easily fill in the blanks above.  This was the first time I realized that I am having some serious chocolate withdrawal.

Mark and I decided on a whim to embark upon a home exercise program called “Insanity”, after an embarrassing weekend when we tried to kick a soccer ball around and wound up stumbling around after ten minutes like a couple of asthmatic hedgehogs.   While Mark has dropped out after a day-five tantrum sighting foot-pain as the cause, I am determined to finish this project 100% and feel as good about myself as I did in Africa before I leave for France.  While I am happy to be getting back into a healthier lifestyle, I have discovered that exercising six days a week and counting calories religiously has produced some unexpected side effects.

First of all, I have clearly become a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.  I have developed an uncanny attachment to Sean T., the hairless, booming, muscle-bound purveyor of the Insanity program which is holding me captive each afternoon (Sundays excluded).  In any other arena of life, if I met Sean T. I would find him to be obnoxious, overconfident, overzealous, vain, and a little mean.  Like many of the permanent human installations you find in gyms, he has a bit of an overbearing, macho persona.  He pours water over his head with little to no regard for the people around him who could slip on his puddles.  He screams at unnecessary times.  Despite all these traits which I eschew in the real world, in the twelve square feet of my allotted living-room work-out space, I find these annoyances motivating, and even endearing.  I have been manipulated into thinking that this man can lead me into the promised land, if only I try hard enough.  “PUSH HARDER,” he yells at me with no regard for the acoustics of the room, and instead of retorting that he is not my supervisor, I do, in fact, find myself pushing just a bit harder.  I even miss him on Sundays when I should be enjoying the day off.  This, however, is not the strangest of consequences I have discovered after beginning my healthier lifestyle.

Almost every night now, I dream of eating something horribly unhealthy.  When I was living away from Mark, I had fairly frequent sex dreams to compensate for that lack in my reality; just like those times, I am now having graphic eating dreams to compensate for the lack of horrible, disgusting, delicious food in my life.  The odd part about it is that, similar to the sex dreams, these food dreams are usually good enough to stave off the cravings I’ve been having for the day.  When I dream about pizza on Thursday night, I won’t even think about it again until Saturday.

There’s a plaaaace for uuuuus…

The need for food has not only conquered my unconscious thoughts, but has invaded my waking mind as well.  At least once a day now, I find myself drifting into odd, food-centered daydreams.  Yesterday, pulling out of the driveway on my way to work again, as my brain began its usual routine of thinking of the places I would rather be going than my school, I began fantasizing about an amusement park similar to Six Flags, but made entirely of chocolate frosting.  All roller-coaster cars and attractions completely covered in frosting.  Mascots of hollowed-out chocolate like those weird and slightly gruesome Easter bunny statues.  When I shared this fantasy with Mark, he seemed disproportionately shocked, but is it really that strange to combine the two loves of my life into one glorious chocolate Mecca?  On another day, while accomplishing some menial task, I began construing my life as a version of West Side Story where I was Tony and Maria was cake.  I was singing the songs out loud before I thought about what this could look like to an outsider.  This daydream I have prudently kept to myself, although the songs have remained stuck in my head for days.

I’m two weeks into this routine, and taking bets on whether this will get easier, or just weirder.  All I know is that, like Lon Chaney Jr. on a full moon night, people should keep their children away from me because, for now, I can’t promise 100% to keep my chocolate-triggered profanity in check.