Welcome to Issue 51.2 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
Today’s news, fermented:
There is plenty of research on the numbness that has set in; the late-breaking seasonal slump, the ~pandemic fatigue~ that nobody can define but seems to be the reason for all remaining feelings.
In the year since I stopped seeing people for reasons other than to transact, in their places of work or mine, I have wondered if it is the work-based nature of our remaining human interactions that has brought this heavy sheet of dullness over the day-to-day. What was it like to have options, spontaneity, once?
This of course is an oversimplification; beyond this frame, other relationships have persevered (except for all the ones that haven’t, per this piece that made the rounds a few months ago).
The Nation just published a special issue dedicated to parenting as a radical act of love. In the last year, parent-child relationships have become either full-time (smalls at home with the larges while everyone attends to their zoom realities, or adult children moving home in droves) or very very part time (limited by the inaccessibility of travel and the vulnerability of older adults).
Intro questions in my work zooms of late, regardless of the prompt, often yield conversations about home—home food, a home space or ecosystem. While all many of us do is stay home, there are also the homes we cannot get back to, across oceans, or requiring high-risk travel, or the ones that don’t exist anymore.
Asam Ahmad writes about how growing things in a new home can make that place feel like home for real. At this point, just reading the list of vegetables in this article wrecked me (pandemic fatigue, perhaps?), but the power of bringing about life in a place is undeniable. Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing, talks about the power of learning how to be in your place in her book, and on this episode of Outside/In.
But even in this time of staying home and rooting deeply in your place, even if it isn’t your place, is threatened by something Vandana Shiva calls the enclosure of the commons. She writes about the air, water, earth, and the food they produce as a commons, and about our obligation to reestablish these ‘resources’ as shared, rather than enclosed.
Perhaps it is the enclosure of this last year—of the things that keep us alive (food, water, medicine) and the things that let us live (relationships, home)—that has brought about this numbness.
Here are some honeyeaters who are feeling the disconnect.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
Ah, Spring. A season of returning warmth, of rebirth, of new beginnings -- a vibe I am certainly noticing swirling in the air around me now that people are getting Covid-19 vaccinations and the latest season of The Bachelor has ended.
Look, I know not all my readers are invested in this show, so I'm really sorry that this has become a fixture of my column these last few weeks. I certainly hadn't intended for that to happen but between all the shit that went down with Armie Hammer and the Sussexes, I had to keep it lighthearted somewhere. So if it makes you feel better, this will probably be the last you'll hear of The Bachelor for some time, given that the latest season concluded on Monday night with just... the most predictable of whimpers.
Some important context before we dive into the finale: First, Matt James, the current Bachelor, is the franchise's first ever Black Bachelor -- a fact that was very much hyped up prior to the start of the season, with lots of expectations resting on Matt's shoulders not only for being the first, but also potentially the most physically attractive Bachelor ever. Ever. Ya'll, just go and look at all the Bachelors that have appeared on this show up until Matt came onto the scene. At least five in a row looked like the same square-headed, white man at different stages of life. Second, the recently concluded season was marred by a racism scandal that started when photos and past social media posts by contestant Rachael Kirkconnell surfaced online that then snowballed into a larger controversy ensnaring everyone from host Chris Harrison to past Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants.
So of course, Rachael naturally became the frontrunner of the competition, further evidenced by the fact that Matt was only ever comfortable giving and receiving overt affection from her and looked pained anytime any other woman on the show mentioned the L-word to him. To be fair to Matt, none of Rachael's past transgressions were probably known to him at the time of filming. So it wasn't such a shock that in the finale, Matt chose to continue his relationship with Rachael. Here's what I've been struggling to understand all season-long: How is it that a man who has admitted to never having been in a long-term and/or serious relationship thought that going on a nationally televised dating competition would be the answer to his questions on love, commitment, and partnerships? At least Matt had the presence of mind to not propose to Rachael at the end of the episode, suggesting instead that they continue exploring their relationship with each other off-air as they had been on-air. Rachael, who is convinced that this zucchini with abs and legs is the love of her life, happily agrees.
But in the After the Final Rose special, we learnt that Matt broke up with Rachael some time after the racist photos surfaced. I have to say, Matt looked genuinely pained by this outcome. But he ultimately made the decision after Rachael took, cough, some time to understand why her actions were hurtful to Matt, which made him realize that Rachael "doesn't know what it's like to be a Black man in America." I mean, yes Matthew, she does not, you are quite right about that. And when host Emmanuel Acho asked her about the concrete steps she's taking to "do the work" of becoming a better person, Rachael failed to give a solid answer. So really, who knows what she's taken away from this experience other than a couple thousand followers and potentially some brand deals down the line if she lays low enough for the next few months until people forget about this scandal?
Look, I'm not saying people can't grow and learn from their mistakes. Everybody deserves a second chance, sure, I guess so. But also, Rachael doesn't seem to really understand why her actions were as troublesome and as menacing as they were. She explained her thought process of attending an Antebellum South-themed costume party as "taking photos with friends." Oh, not to mention all the other racist things that were unearthed by social media sleuths that did not and have not gotten the same amount of airtime in terms of discussion as the party has. And here is where I do feel really bad for Matt. Ultimately, it's not his job to be there for Rachael while she goes through whatever self-education and awareness journey she's embarking on, especially when he tried and she seemed reluctant? still confused? about what the problem was. Matt couldn't even bring himself to look at her during their conversation together nor give her a final embrace. Which, whewwwww, given how this man has treated her all season, is a big deal folks.
Anyway, I think the biggest takeaway from this trainwreck of a season is that if you were given the option of healing your unaddressed childhood trauma by either going to therapy or going on The Bachelor, you should always pick The Bachelor so I'll have something to write about for ~*Hot Goss*~. Then, after adding even more discombobulation and chaos to your life by revealing to the world that you kiss with your eyes open, you can finally go to therapy and make the most of counseling and hopefully come out the other side a better, more fully realized person who is actually ready for a marriage, if you so choose.
And finally, MVP of the season goes to runner-up Michelle, who left Matt with these last words at the After the Final Rose finale special: "I hope you find your happiness. I hope you move on with kissing with your eyes closed and I hope you come up with more phrases than ‘Thanks for sharing.’" And that's THAT on that!!!