Six Ways I'm Like a Pirate / by alix clyburn

The world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket… carried by a mean old man with a small yellow dog on his head…  But instead of my rants about gun control, climate change, sexual assault, and nuclear Armageddon—rants I think many of you share—I give you this: 

This is called a Molly Roger. Get it? hahahah

This is called a Molly Roger. Get it? hahahah



1. I’ve been gone

I've been at sea, incommunicado, out of touch. This is how things go when you’re a pirate, but now I’m back and glad to be on solid ground. For months, I think I was trapped in the doldrums—that spot on the equator where the winds can’t push you out. (Did you know the doldrums aren’t just a state of mind, but an actual place? It’s true.)

Right here in New Jersey, I had the same doldrums-like inertia. It settled on me in the summer and I’ve only just recently emerged. In retrospect I think it was a little depression. A petit mal depression, if there is such a thing.

I sort of worship Tracee Ellis Ross (of Blackish and Diana Ross). She’s one of the few people on Instagram who don’t bore me (well, sometimes she does bore me, but it’s Instagram. It’s boring.) The apex of her Instagram content is when she posted a mini-video of an interview she gave for Teen Vogue that is far too wise to share only with teens.

The whole 3-minute video is marvelous; I love her metaphor about how a woman is like a tree (that sounds so vapid here, but watch it, you’ll agree.)

If you can’t watch it, here’s the quote that I need printed above my bathroom mirror:

“You can’t feel your way into feeling better. But you can act your way into feeling better.”

So true. So so true. Inertia is never the answer.

2. My crew has scurvy.

Nobody eats any vegetables here and scant fruit. Maybe I’m overstating it. Naomi has strawberries sometimes, and the other night my boys nibbled a few pomegranate seeds. My children definitely eat more sour patch kids than vegetables.

I’m just saying this is one way I’m like a pirate.



3. I need an eye patch

My eyeball is inflamed. I can’t wear contacts, my glasses bug me, bright sunlight is blinding, and my eye is itchy and blinky. It’s driving me mental. I now understand why pirates are so cranky.

(Editors’ Note: At press time the steroid eye drops seem to be helping and maybe I won’t need an eye patch after all. One way I’m not like a pirate or like millions of unfortunate Americans, is that I have good health insurance, so I saw a doctor.)

4. I’m in search of treasure

I’ve majorly got my hustle on. This summer, I decided that all I want now is lots and lots of US Currency. True, 'freelance writer' is not really the fastest way to do that, but I want my own giant pile of precious gems and gold doubloons. We have made some serious sacrifices to ensure that one of us was mostly home for these three mini-pirates and I think in most ways it’s been worth it. But I’m tired of being broke all the time. I want work, and lots of it.

My other two, Naomi (l) and Dexter (r) are mad because Julius got a slurpee.

My other two, Naomi (l) and Dexter (r) are mad because Julius got a slurpee.

5.  I engage in savage rituals around earrings

This summer Naomi and one of her besties had an epic trip to the mall to get their ears pierced. About a month later, one of Naomi’s ears was puffy and the earring seemed to have disappeared. The backing was still in, but no earring.

I called Claire’s to complain about their cheap-ass jewelry. Stupid gem front popped off the post. I figured just the backing and the stick the gem was on remained in her ear. The ear seemed a little infected. I needed to pull it out. It’d hurt a little, sure, but nothing Jeff and I couldn’t pin her down and force her to endure. (Pirates, remember.)

Naomi’s ear-splitting caterwauls, her horrified screams indicated that I was wrong. On many levels. She screamed in terror and anger as her pirate mother did this to her, because she didn’t quite understand, I suppose, that this is what pirate life is all about. Sometimes it hurts, ok?

The earring was not smoothly pulling out, and my first mate (Jeff) was really not at all down with this procedure. In these moments, usually involving anger or profound impatience, Jeff unconsciously slips into his father’s soft South Carolina accent. “What exactly are we doing here?” he drawled. “I think this requires a little more prior planning,” then he chuckled softly in that way that says, “I’m done with this shit. You are on your own.”

Further investigation determined that the entire earring was still in her ear. Her incredible X-men like superpower skin growth had rapidly generated new skin, absorbed the foreign body in her ear, and grown over the earring overnight. Overnight.

So turns out when I pulled on her earring backing what she was feeling was her little emerald earring boring a big hole backward in her sweet little earlobe. I may be like a pirate, but I’m not really a pirate, or a physically abusive parent.

Thus you and the people at Child Protective Services of New Jersey will be pleased to learn that I lost my nerve and took her to a kind ENT who arranged for her to be fully anesthetized to remove the foreign body in her earlobe. (Again, thank you fabulous employer health insurance).

Fun postscript: After the first surgery, her other earlobe skin grew over the other earring and we did the whole surgery thing again a few weeks later. Naomi has grown so accustomed to general anesthesia I use it most nights to get her to sleep on time.

6. I disavow our current leadership.

I’m not an anarchist, but anarchy is starting to look more reasonable than letting this band of fools run things. Trump and his gang of greedy white men are so catastrophically wrong on every front. They are dismantling the EPA, they are rolling back women’s rights, they are peeling apart health care and public education. Trump is engaging in dangerous games of name-calling with an equally unstable leader, and—of course—they are all laying waste to our reputation and standing as a nation.

When he was elected, Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit became the book all the liberals recommended to give balm to the anxiety. I bought it and it sat on my nightstand when I opted instead to escape to Hogwarts.

After the hurricanes, the brush fires, and the horror in Las Vegas compounded my sense of imminent doom, I decided to pick it back up. I’m not all the way through it, but here’s a paragraph that I’ve found helpful:

I want to illuminate a past that is too seldom recognized, one in which the power of individuals and unarmed people is colossal, in which the scale of change in the world and the collective imagination over the past few decades is staggering, in which the astonishing things that have taken place can brace us for entering that dark future with boldness. To recognize the momentousness of what has happened is to apprehend what might happen. Inside the word emergency is emerge; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.”

Maybe we’ve forced ourselves into a state of emergency and something better will emerge? We’re definitely in danger. Is its sister, possibility, somewhere out there? Hard to tell…

So I escape. Instead of rum, I’m a pirate who reads to forget my troubles. The New Yorker’s David Remnick recently raved about the books of Jason Matthews, a former CIA agent who now writes spy thrillers. Remnick lauded the authenticity, and loved the sex scenes. I don’t usually read spy novels, but something about this interview piqued my interest. Truth is, as a gal who reads lots of literary fiction and classics, I don’t get many sex scenes in my books.

So I picked up Red Sparrow, the first of Jason Matthews trilogy about the CIA and Russian double agents. I loved it, but let me say that the sex in this book wouldn’t qualify as sexy to me. It’s no Eligible. Worse, a feminist friend of mine put it down because the whole premise of Sparrow School—some Russian thing where they send female agents to learn sexpionage—was understandably too offensive. When she told me she couldn’t get through it I felt sort of guilty because I devoured this book and the sequel, Palace of Treason.

It’s definitely not for everyone. It’s genre fiction, so it gets a little hokey sometimes. But, the plot is terrifically complex, the characters are incredibly smart, wonderfully venal, or just plain demented, and a Putin like kleptocrat is played by … Putin! I found it delightful escapism, but not so escapist that I didn’t employ the Kindle dictionary at least once every few pages.

Every chapter finished with a casual recipe for some dish the characters eat in the story. I suppose it’s intended to humanize these super-nerd spies who forsake any semblance of a normal home life, except for food maybe?

I recommend both books … if you can set aside your feminist sensibilities, that is.

I cannot set aside my feminist sensibilities, however, for Harvey Weinstein. Initially I found the whole uproar very “dog bites man”—is anyone really surprised to hear that this guy is a lecherous bully? What’s man bites dog about this story is the response. For decades these women kept quiet because they feared no one would believe it, that their careers would be jeopardized, that they would be punished (and they were right on all three counts. The New York Times quashed the same story ten years ago). Today, things are different. This gives me hope in the dark.

And this … this makes me laugh out loud. Samantha Bee, FTW.