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Human Parts
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This Is Us

It’s an alternative to waste—but also proof of life

Shelves of books in a quaint New England thrift store.
Shelves of books in a quaint New England thrift store.

“Need a vibrator?” I received this text from a neighbor after moving into my new apartment in downtown Manhattan last summer. Attached was a screenshot of a Facebook post advertising a free, unopened vibrator for pickup on my block.

“Omg, what FB group is this?!” I texted back.

“Only the most important thing ever,” she said. “Added you.”

The feed was completely baffling to me; people gave away everything from a single roll of toilet paper to flat-screen TVs. “Two of my avocados are ripe early,” someone wrote. “Any takers?” Nothing went unclaimed. This was our neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group…


This Is Us

My son’s curiosity prompted a Facebook survey — followed by a personal reckoning

I have two kids, both boys. One seems offended by the idea of mealtime as a general concept. The only exceptions that make him perk up at the table are 1) Swiss chard pancakes; 2) mac and cheese; or 3) dal and rice. No carb-fanatic stereotypes happening there, clearly.

My other son eats pretty much everything and appreciates food like it’s his full-time job. On the rare occasion he doesn’t enjoy a meal, he worries about hurting the chef’s feelings — mostly me, now that restaurant outings are a rarity — so the only way he’ll indicate his lukewarm sentiment…


Express Yourself

How to launch a writing group that inspires and motivates you (and your friends)

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth in words.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

Should I join a writing group, or maybe start one?

Signed,
Misery Loves Company

Dear Miz,

Writing groups can go sour in so many ways, you wonder why anyone would join one. If your groupmates start as your BFFs, they might go too easy on your manuscripts. But an overly harsh critique could…


Blind to the trauma causing mental health issues, we’re leaving the most vulnerable on their own

Iam eating myself again. I started with the fingernails, then the cuticles. Now the mind. I am miserable with need. I hate myself, and that hatred makes me all the needier.

I’m staring at my phone, thumb poised to send a text to 17 people. How much is too much to ask? Who is safe to include in this list? If nobody responds, or if they all say they’re already busy and care for me and hope for the best, what will I do? Should I share more, tell them I’m starting to wonder if I should kill myself? …


Spending all my energy on the bottom tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy has given me new appreciation for what’s at the top

Two years ago, my wife and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. We had full-time corporate jobs, a car, and a busy life full of friends and work.

Today, we live on a sailboat. For the past 18 months, we’ve been sailing and traveling in Central America. We’re fully responsible for our health, safety, and comfort. If we don’t feel like cooking dinner, we can’t grab a phone and order delivery. Instead of a paycheck, we live off our investments, supplemented by income from writing and other projects.

A lot of big stuff hasn’t changed. Michelle and…


Lonely, depressed, and newly single, a writer finds refuge in the comment section

I’ve always found comfort in camp. I used to hurry home after school to watch the last few minutes of General Hospital with my mom before she switched the channel to Inside Edition. Melodrama was the base of my media food pyramid. It’s no mystery, then, how I later came to be a fan of the ABC musical drama Nashville. It’s not a very good show, but it was delightful country camp — a bedazzled rabbit hole that I dove into on Wednesday nights in 2012 as an escape from the melancholia that crept in every time I returned to…


What I learned when I knocked on the front door of the house around the corner

This is a story about how I met my neighbor. It happened on a Sunday in 2011. I had just bought the home of my dreams; an old house with hard wood floors in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

I spent that first hot summer in my new house mostly out of town. At the time I was unsettled, unmarried and without children. During the week, I worked. On the weekends I would flee to higher elevations. My boyfriend and most of my friends still lived 6,000 feet above me in the High Sierra.

One sunny day in September…


Life would be incomplete without the accidental rituals we form with friends

It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m feeling a little restless and wistful because, right around now, across the country in New York, the Wednesday night gang will be convening without me. It’s not a big deal, missing one Wednesday, but when I miss enough of them it starts to affect me on some deep level, like a deficiency in some crucial nutrient or going off your meds. If you’re lucky, you may have fallen into one of these groups or routines at some point; if you’re very lucky, you may have found a few of them over the course of…


It was early August and it had begun to grow dark as I stood on the elevated platform of Avenue U, set in what some consider the backwater of Brooklyn, but which a great many who are not editors or television writers, much less mutual fund managers, do not. It had now been several months since I broke my left arm, and broke it badly, trying to run on the icy, unfamiliar streets of my new neighborhood in the early morning hours. Now, returning from another session of physical therapy, I stared at the scene around me: The…


“You like cats, right?” V asked me, as a black Siamese clawed at my ankle.

“Oh, totally,” I said, terrified. I had just moved to Boston and V was showing me around her home, which had been in her family for years. The Craigslist ad for the house hadn’t been too promising — “12 tenants, 5 cats, 2 giant turtles and a depressed dog” — but I was too debt-ridden and cash-thin to care. As I watched V’s cat spew up orange-yellow puke onto the kitchen counter, I just shrugged and told myself, “It’s fine. …

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