Excerpts from "The Origin of Witches: Self-Help for the Precariat Spinster"

On Callers

You don't have a butler, you don't have a maid, you don't have a spouse, child, or other staff. You live alone, with no human shield. Therefore you may ban all stop-bys, or simply not come to a doorbell or unexpected phone call summons. It's fun to hear later how flustered someone became when your car was in the driveway and your knickers on the line and they knocked and rang and you never appeared.

On the other hand, you are perfectly entitled to respond in your pajamas and invite your unheralded guest into a messy kitchen with a look of friendly insolence on your face. It's their fault for knocking. Or answer the phone, "Spinster Poison House. How may I direct your call?"

You could also get very, very rich by eating a bland diet and investing wisely all the money other people spend making their life presentable. Then hire a staff.

On Holidays

Christmas is for Christians and families. Don't go to a Christmas Eve service at the Congregational Church with your mother who wishes you'd given her grandchildren and your brother who is unhappily single to sit among the multipliers in their jewel-tone velvet and tartan flinging themselves and their accoutrements about like self-satisfied jesters. You will just end up weeping and crampy and possibly drinking too much wine out of a box from the gas station because nothing else is open.

On Cooking for One

You can eat the same thing every day, à la Hetty Green. You can eat packaged foods. You can eat fast food (the quality is going up). Cooking for one, other than slow-cooker recipes for a week of leftovers, can be wasteful of time, energy, bandwidth, and, for fuck's sake, food. Look up online how many calories you need to eat for your target weight and get yourself a case of KIND bars and frozen Indian dinners. Science matters. So does online shopping.

Do not feel obligated to throw dinner parties just because you have nice appliances and money left over (or at least relative to those whose relatives force them to buy boxed cereals and orange juice) or just because you can theoretically take a week to clean up because that stack in the sink isn't bothering anyone else. I suggest, instead, that you be the one who can be relied on to bring the actually good bottle of wine, the rare chocolates, the state-of-the-art-gadget house gift that will ease a tad the life of the poor group-living dinner-party-throwing friend.

 

Things I Say to My Cats, or Why I Do Not Have a Dog

No one cares about your problems.

You're the prettiest kitty that ever lived in the whole world.

You are covered in hair.

Stop doing the thing that you are doing.

No one likes that. No one thinks it's good.

Everyone loves you.

You have to eat the food that is there, even though you hate it.

I'm going to call the Health Department on you.

God cried when you were born.

You could just sit still and be petted. But instead you are terrible.

Do not touch my eye with your foot please.

Why do you do these things.

Stop crying. No one cares.

Do not punch the bunny.

You're bad, and no one likes you.

Child Protective Services is coming.

[To hypothetical or real other person or animal] Look, there goes ______. She wears the same thing every day.

You could be outside in the snow but instead you are here complaining like a little bitch.

You cannot do this horrible thing you are doing in my office.

OK, that's enough murder for now. You're done. Thank you. Thank you. Good kitty.

Old Lady Learning from 2016

As part of my annual Year in Review process, which I give myself till Chinese Lunar New Year to complete, I am providing the following wisdom free to you, my public. Wisdom appears in no particular order.

Don’t make to-do lists. Make did lists.

Except for appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, and deadlines (and these too are just to ease your mind, because you should remember them with your brain) do not write down any future events or lists of tasks to complete in your calendar or agenda. If it’s important to do, you will remember to do it. If you can’t remember what you think you are supposed to do, you are either doing too many things, or you don't want to do the thing, or the task is unnatural to your current lifestyle—if you make larger adjustments, that task will proceed easily. For posterity and for the sense of satisfaction it brings, write down what you accomplish each day, even if it is “nothing.” Also take note of historical events, animal and plant sightings, new people met, major purchases, and weather oddities. These will all be of use to your biographer. I learned this from looking through my great aunt's 1972 datebook. She bought a very nice color television.

Make a good-faith effort to speak the language of any creature, and you will have a peaceful, affectionate relationship.

Strong drink is a scourge of the globe.

Alcohol should be used only as a cleanser, a flea killer, or an anaesthetic during otherwise unmediated medical procedures. I have been dry since August 21. Get ready for some Woman’s Temperance–style testifying on here. Religion isn't the opiate of the people: The opiate of the people is alcohol and opiates. They are both effectively used by their producers and consumers to hide the fact that there are too many people, we live in an unjust world, we have outgrown our resources, and it's all going to shit. Bottom's up.

Put regular sugar in the blender to make powdered (confectioner’s) sugar.

Christmas is for children and Christians.

Facebook doesn’t have to be a huge waste of time and a problem, but see “Strong drink.”

And it doesn’t even kill fleas.

Baking solves many problems.

Meaning, like, using the oven to cook things.

Hormonal imbalance is real. And treatable.

Citrus Dawn kills fleas.

It's very hectic and time consuming for, in this case, the rabbit, but it does work. As I soaped and rinsed and flea combed away at Jane Heyre in the warm roasting pan bathtub-within-a-bathtub, it was very hard not to imagine I was picking off Americans storming the beach at Normandy. Goddamn those little fuckers. Which made the fleas the Allies and me the Axis powers. Fleas are very impressive animals. I spent an hour at it before calling it a storming, and it was exhausting, but I killed a lot of fleas. They would probably have won the war, though. If you can afford it, 9lb.-and-under Vectra also works, and a couple of weeks after application the fleas are gone and the rabbit is still here.

 

Tip of the Day

Low-impact toilet cleaning Dump a splash (maybe 1/4 cup max) of one part vinegar, one part 3% hydrogen peroxide mixture in the bowl after you flush and just let it sit till...next time. You can get fancy and add lavender drops or whatever to the mix. Pretty much eliminates the need ever to buy or use anything harsher. Especially good for hard-water areas.