Why Do I Say So Little?

Sometimes, the parents of my kids' friends are horrifying.

14 May 2019 | 4 Minutes

Yesterday I found out that some mother or other has been telling their 5-year-old daughter that nobody will like them if they’re not pretty. And if anyone has any tips on how to deal gracefully with parents like that, send me an email. I’m out of ideas.

By the way, hello - this is my first newsletter. I’ve been wanting to write to you all for several months, but I kept getting pulled away into this new novel I’ve been writing about a hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional bobcat.

You probably subscribed to my newsletter after stumbling across Wrongcards, an ecards website I created about 11 years ago. I’ve had the subscribe form for this newsletter set up at my website,, since early 2018. I’m sorry you’re only hearing from me via this newsletter for the first time today.

But it is also not uncharacteristic of me to let the launches of my two novels, The Harvard Skull Fiasco and Rise of the Blue Bandicoot, go by without my sending out a newsletter about them.

Because that would resemble marketing. And I’m semi-phobic of marketing. I don’t even own a television.

I’m also an unrepentant introvert. Not a misanthrope, mind you; I like people in general. I feel enthusiastic about them. Consider them badly misrepresented in the media and all that.

But I don’t feel good about myself unless I’m creating and making things. If it’s suddenly ten o’clock at night and I haven’t written an outstanding ten pages or so, then the world starts to look squalid, and matters soon begin to feel a bit itchy.

The certainty of that experience, and knowing that I must make good use of time, makes me likely to avoid even the most wholesome of social activities. And the aversion is strong. It takes silly amounts of willpower to just … show up at the expected time and place, etcetera.

I also avoid close friends for months at a time, on the grounds that I’m writing a book! or I have all this work to do! or It’ll be just you there, right? No other people? Because you’re not staging an intervention, not this time! I’m onto your tricks!

And as a parent, it’s harder because most parents are generally bored out of their minds and want to talk to you. They’re sleep-deprived, bewildered, exasperated, and justifiably resentful at how demanding their lives have become. Parents like to stand around together in clumps and say ironic things to each other, like, ‘I got three hours of sleep last night, so that was good.’

There is usually - and ideally - a cynical camaraderie between parents. A sense that our lives are falling apart pervades the edges of the playground. Disaster is looming, in a clear-cut, non-alarmist way because, after all, now we have to think about melting permafrost. Meanwhile, the future of the kids’ school is a matter of universal unease and concern. Plus, there’s talk of another recession. Tariffs, trade-wars, tin-pot presidents, and you’ve got to make dinner in an hour and a half, and you have no idea what to make.

This is a normal, best case scenario. And then there are the mothers who tell their little girls that nobody will like them if they’re not pretty … Look, I know we’re supposed to nod and look the other way in situations like that, but what if you don’t want to?

Because why not? Some mistakes are good mistakes, right? Even when you’re offending someone?

Of course, as you know, in this day-and-age being recreationally offended is not merely a popular sport but a lucrative vocation for tens-of-thousands of professionally outraged bobbleheads. So, because of my cheerful tendency to say what I think in a forthright and direct way, I’ve cultivated the habit of saying as little as possible on the internet.

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