The Next Delusion

Seeing Reality and Looking the Other Way

Head First into the Pool of Contestants

Ok, ok. You guys (and Momus, and my kids, and my mom) convinced me. I’m going to go for it. Friday I accepted my invitation to audition for Jeopardy. And let the games begin.

Saturday I received the email with the full details (and contestant questionnaire) of my audition. Then the panic attack really commenced. I am outside of my comfort zone in pretty much every realm:


Just Doing It

Maybe it’s not too late…


1) The amount of information I now have to cram (or re-cram) into my head is epic. I spent Saturday memorizing all of the capitals of Europe, Asia, and South America. Africa and Oceania still to come. Miraculously, I still knew most of my state capitals. And I was able to teach myself all of the state flags in just a couple of hours (we’ll see if they stick). But oh, my goodness. I have to brush up on my Shakespeare, learn a few composers (and operas!), and I know way too little about the Bible. Help! I think I’m going to spend the next month reading nothing but The World Book Encyclopedia.

2) Thursday I called my mom and told her the news. She’s an avid Jeopardy fan, so she was very excited. Of course, her first question was “What are you going to wear?” Because that’s how my mom rolls. She also knows that I have about as much chance of dressing myself like a grownup as Momus does of making it through a day without cracking a joke. So I’ve been given marching orders to go out and try on a bunch of tops and take selfies (have I mentioned that I hate a selfie?) so that she can tell me what I should buy. This should be fun. If only I weren’t completely mall phobic, I might be able to pull it off.

I am the least interesting person you have ever met Click To Tweet

3) Sunday my daughter pointed out “you have a lot of grey hair, mom.” So I marched myself to the woman who cuts my hair, who also knows that I am completely incompetent as an adult human being, and asked for her advice. She’s going to give me something called a “partial foil” (sounds like something you do to a baked potato) a week ahead of time. She says that it will cover the grey, but that when I inevitably fail to renew it, I won’t have a big fat line across my head where the dye is growing out. Ok, I guess I can do that. Hopefully I won’t have the kind of freak-out I had the one time that I got a facial.

4) Did I mention that I don’t really wear makeup? Lord, help me.

5) And then there’s the questionnaire. I have to come up with five “brief bits” about myself to supply Alex with interview fodder should I make the show. You know the part of the show where Alex asks the contestants about their porcelain cat collection or the fact that they spent a year crossing Greenland on a dog sled? I got nothing. No, really. I am the least interesting person you have ever met. The most interesting thing about me is probably the fact that I write this blog. And that’s a secret from everyone I know in “real life”. So I can’t even tell them that!

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…

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Throwdown Thursday: In Jeopardy?

This week I got an email inviting me to go to New York to audition for Jeopardy. Momus and I are avid Jeopardy watchers and trivia buffs in general. We even started our own trivia company once (spoiler: it did not end well). A few months ago, we both took the annual online test to see if we could qualify for the Jeopardy audition. Well, amazingly, apparently I qualified. And of course now I am completely terrified and coming up with a million reasons to blow it off. Momus says that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have to do it. Oh, and I only have 48 hours to decide before they give my slot to the next person on the list. Help!

Throwdown Thursday: In Jeopardy?

Am I in Jeopardy?


Momus: Why in the world did we take the screening test – except for personal bragging rights that is – if we are not going to go to the next phase? By the way, as far as that personal bragging rights thing goes, it is possible that they only take a random sample of the people who pass the screener you know. Not that my fragile ego can’t take being outscored by you in trivia, but I’m really thinking it is the random sample issue.

Cassandra: Absolutely. It is probably random sampling. Not at all that I just am a little quicker with that trivia knowledge than you are. Never.

You have a point about why did we take the screener. I know that I really should take the next step.  But the idea of traveling all the way to NYC all by my little self to go audition for this thing terrifies me. What if they think I’m as interesting as a dishrag? What if I panic and look like an idiot? What if I actually pass and have to freaking go on TV?! And do math in my head in front of people?!


Momus: And the answer is “What is ‘you will never see these people again in your life’?”  It’s not like Alex Trebek journeys to every site to provide his special form of dry, smug condescension. These lower level Jeopardy admins are not going to openly mock you or say “you have a face for written exams.” They’ll be kind, neutral, and say “thank you very much” and then bellow “Next!” as you slink out.  And you can deal with the next phase if the time comes because it is hard to even get past the selection, so no reason to get all anxious without that reality facing you.

Cassandra: You’re right, you’re right. I likely won’t make it beyond the audition phase in any case (although my son yelled at me last night for saying that “you’ve got to think positive, mom!”  I’m suspicious that he hasn’t met me…)

So now I just have to lose 20 pounds, find an outfit that doesn’t scream “I work from home!” and learn all of the state and world capitals (and order of the Presidents) in a month.  No sweat, right?

This is insane.

Momus: Hey, you’ll gain some knowledge, confront some fears, and if you dodge the panic induced aneurysm, all in all it will be a memorable and positive life experience.  For the readers: I can not accompany Cassandra to her audition to provide palliative care because I am taking my daughter to a Paul Simon concert the night before. Otherwise, I’d be right there at the ready with smelling salts and tequila shots.

Cassandra: Yes, and in a strange twist of fate, they assigned me a morning when I am going to be less than two hours from NY by train with nothing to do until late afternoon (I am taking my daughter out to a cooking class that day).

Oh jeez. I gotta do this, don’t I? Crap.

You have a face for written exams Click To Tweet

Momus: Yeah, don’t fight it, just get crackin’ on brushing up on: music and bad television in the last 20 years; all music before 1950; names of all dog breeds, automobile brands, and social media sites; all of sports history; Asian, African and South American history; and the Old and New Testament.  Piece of cake, no reason to fret.

Cassandra: Breathe, breathe.

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Throwdown Thursday: A Key Takeaway?

Cassandra and her ex-husband have an extremely pleasant and cooperative post-marriage relationship. We’re very thankful for this, as we also experience the other end of the spectrum where my ex and I, although we manage around the kids’ needs and try to avoid conflict, would prefer never to hear the dulcet tones of the other ever again. Cassandra manages her ex’s finances, sometimes helps with vacation plans, and has even given him advice. The modern uncoupling experience played out with pleasant perfection.

One aspect of Cassandra’s positive ex-filiation is that her son, Hector, has keys and can freely enter either house if he forgot something in the midweek custody shuffle. Cassandra’s ex-husband is free to come in and chat, or if we are not home, they have blanket permission enter. Not quite a Big Love scenario, but a heretofore relaxed and functional arrangement.

Last Saturday we had our first fly in the ointment moment of our current configuration. Cassandra’s ex texted her that he needed to come by with Hector to pick up a textbook. However, Cassandra and I had returned upstairs after breakfast for some morning meanderings with sexual highlights (just trying to find a phrase that won’t cause Cassandra to immediately delete this post). Suffice it to say, we never saw the text, and with no pressing activities ahead, we took our time upstairs.

Horrifyingly, within seconds of Cassandra and I vocally expressing our hearty approval for the final climatic moment of our morning (Cassandra move away from that delete button!), we heard boots on the stairs right outside our fortunately closed bedroom door. I uttered a plaintive “hello?” and Hector’s puberty-transitioning voice returned a simple “Hey, getting my book” followed by a quick shuffle into his bedroom and back downstairs.

Throwdown Thursday: A Key Takeaway?

This means you.

When there was no sound of the exterior door shutting, Cassandra dressed quickly and went downstairs to find her ex-husband and son reviewing his math homework. She made some casual conversation with them while looking for signs of awkwardness or horror to assess exactly what may have been overheard. I stayed put, cowering under several layers of sheets and blankets trying to time travel to a moment when I was possibly ever going to have sex again.

After 10 minutes the outside door finally shut and Cassandra returned, announcing that, from what she could tell, neither her ex nor her son seemed cognizant of our morning calisthenics. They seemed to buy her hastily constructed cover story that we had stayed up very late and just slept in on the rare Saturday morning without a child’s basketball or hockey game to attend.

Phew! It appears we dodged that moment of “can’t look Hector in the eye for 3 years.” But it does make me wonder whether we want to establish some different norms around the laissez-faire domestic policy we’ve constructed. So, Cassandra what’s your take on moving forward?

Cassandra: Other than develop bat-like hearing and drawing a trip-wire across the front porch? And, by the way, only you would compound this trauma by sharing it with the world.

Momus: Blogging is my way of establishing mastery over my post-coital PTSD.

Granted it’s a delicate conversation, but I’m wondering if there is a way to communicate with your ex to wait to get some confirmation back before entering our love palace. I guess we could just take our phones to the bedroom with us at all times, but the first time we’re in a crucial moment and one of our phones buzzes with a Trivia Crack invite, we’ll be regretting that decision.

Cassandra: No phones in the bedroom. That’s the rule and we’re not changing it.

This has happened all of once in five years. It was traumatic, I admit, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen again.  And since they didn’t appear to notice anything was amiss, what is my excuse for telling him to keep out? I am so NOT going there.

Momus: Thank goodness the Chernobyl investigators just didn’t go “Eh, what are the odds it happens again?” We need to learn from our near misses as well as our full meltdown moments because if that bedroom door had been open and Hector up those stairs 7 seconds earlier, let’s just say he would have had a more complete view of his mother.

Blogging is my way of establishing mastery over my post-coital PTSD. Click To Tweet

Yeah, I’m stuck for exactly how to broach this, but so far the trip wire is winning. Maybe we change the locks and just forget to give anyone a key.  Maybe a deadbolt.  But seems like the adult thing to do is have a discussion with your ex – OK, with some creative lying mixed in – and say “Hey, just in case Momus and I are embroiled in an argument and missed the text, probably would be good to wait to hear back from me before you head over.”  He’s lived with you and knows me, he’ll buy that.

Cassandra: I think I’ll go invest in a deadbolt.

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Self-Serve Self-Esteem

My 16-year-old daughter Persephone is cynical like Bernie Sanders is unkempt: extreme, but she wears it as a badge of honor. She doesn’t suffer fools easily and is especially suspicious of the pop psychology exercises her school has designed to address the socio-emotional growth of students.

Persephone’s current bête noire is her weekly “advisory” group where she has to get together with a random group of students, none of whom she knows well, and meet with a counselor to do  a variety of exercises. Her favorites have been meditation (generally when she starts a new Trivia Crack game with me), making a list of things that are interfering with her happiness (whereupon she listed “this advisory group” as #1 before she discovered they had to turn in), and developing 10 “I” statements that are her defining qualities (you guessed it, right at the top before “I like to sing” and “I like to play basketball” was “I don’t like to talk about my feelings”).

Self-Serve Self-Esteem

ALL Roads Lead To…Wait I Have No Idea Where I’m Going

To say I admire my daughter’s jaundiced views and no nonsense approach to expressing them is an understatement. I know that’s probably not the correct attitude as a parent, and I should feel some shame for contributing the DNA and role modeling for this behavior, but I just don’t. She’s generally polite, patient, and kind to others, except those shoving bullshit at her. Then the trust fall voodoo doll comes out.

Last week I got a text photo from her with the note “this is what I am currently being forced to read” as if she was being held hostage by the rogue social work wing of ISIS. The picture was a list of 12 “powerful” tips to improving your self-esteem developed by Henrik Edberg, who I thought had once beaten John McEnroe in the French Open. Apparently he is some 34-year-old shut-in “journalism major” from Sweden who has something called The Positivity Blog. He describes himself as “a work in progress.” No shit Henrik.

Of course Henrik has 70,000 blog subscribers, so fuck me I guess.

Rather than continuing to sit in judgment of someone who is infinitely more Blogcessful than I’ll ever be, I’ll use this as an opportunity for self-growth and see how I’m doing with Henrik’s 12 steps.

  1. Say stop to your inner critic: My inner critic and I have yet to agree on a safe word; we are comfortable with our mutually abusive relationship.
  2. Use healthier motivation habits. (refocus on doing what YOU really, really like to do). Motivation? Healthy? I need an Oxford English dictionary or Google translator because this is Greek to me. Unless chasing chips and onion dip with a bottle of Rioja counts, I’m really at sea on this one.
  3. Take a 2 minute self-appreciation break. OK. There’s one I do at least once a day!  Oh wait…I thought he was talking about some other self-hyphen-5-syllable-ation behavior. Never mind.
  4. Write down 3 things in the evening that you can appreciate about yourself. I’m pretty sure I have never liked anyone who could actually do this task, so odds are I’d have a seizure trying to get past #1 for myself.
  5. Do the right thing. Does watching the movie 6 times count? Fight the Power Mookie! Throwing a trash can through some racist dude’s window has great appeal. Thanks Henrik, I’ll take it from here.
  6. Replace the perfectionism (go for good enough). Close on this one, as “good enough” is my third most commonly used phrase next to “she must have gotten that (fill in negative attribute) from my ex-wife” and “I promise Cassandra, I was working not surfing the Internet.” But I imagine you’re not supposed to enter into limitless self-loathing after settling for good enough. 1 out of 2, not bad at all.
  7. Handle mistakes and failures in a more positive way (be you’re own best friend; find the upside). So going Opus Dei on my back after a day of underachievement and broken promises doesn’t fit the bill I guess? If I was my own best friend, there would be a lifetime of mutual restraining orders.
  8. Be kinder towards other people. Sounds nice in theory, but I’m much more at home threatening Croatian waitresses with deportation if they don’t remove the drunk hitting on Cassandra at the bar. Let’s call this: last Saturday night. It’s a little troubling that now when anyone calls me an “asshole” it doesn’t remotely feel ego dystonic.
  9. Try something new. I switched cable providers this year. Is that good enough?  How about drinking more cinnamon tea? Otherwise the couch and cupboard full of crunchy snacks are working just fine for me.
  10. Stop falling into the comparison trap.  Stop sending that fucking bimonthly alumni report then. Reading another bio about the classmate who could never seem to locate his dining hall card becoming a top surgeon at a prestigious hospital makes it a bit hard to not look at the holes in my socks (and life plan) and not feel a bit inferior.
  11. Spend more time with supportive people (and less time with destructive people). Witness protection is likely my only hope here, or perhaps a time machine that allows infant Momus to be switched at birth. Maybe a capital crime that leads to solitary confinement. Short those, I’m screwed.
  12. Remember the whys of high self-esteem. Nothing coming to mind. Can we go over those again, so I can waste both of our time? See now that feels rewarding.
If I was my own best friend, there would be a lifetime of mutual restraining orders. Click To Tweet

Unsurprisingly not a bang up report card. Luckily, Persephone’s not looking to me for an improved world view in which she embraces intimacy, open-mindedness and an appreciation for the sensitive souls among us. Hopefully, she’ll resonate more with “The Complete Works of Louis C.K.” that I got her for her birthday.

Once the horse is out of the barn, you might as well self-actualize the pathlogy.

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