Dedicated to schadenfreude and fremdschämen

- - -

1. The form of disappointment that accompanies realizing that the snowy egret that you have fleetingly but passionately admired from your Volvo on the highway is really a plastic bag snagged on a tree.

2. The specific frustration experienced when a tattoo of a punctuation mark that one got years ago becomes a trendy tattoo to get as part of an Awareness Campaign, and the Awareness Campaign is about so sensitive a topic that one feels it would be callous to dismiss association with it out of hand, and therefore one ends up sort of letting people think that one, too, has suffered to a greater extent than one really has out of something like solidarity, but it’s also accompanied by frustration that one’s own tattoo has become less defining and singular to the extent that one starts wearing shirts that always cover it, rather that just wearing shirts that cover it most of the time.

3. That wistful wondering that occurs when one’s social media feed offers a crowdsourcing request for a man who one once made out with in Chicago on Presidents’ Day but decided not to go all the way with, who has been in a boating accident, and one wonders whether, had one gone all the way, one would now be in the position to own a boat, and also whether the accident would have happened at all if one had been there, oneself, instead of the woman in the picture.

4. The form of regret that one has when one’s dog participates in a skirmish with another dog at the dog park, and one does not get the opportunity to apologize to the other dog’s owner because they just immediately leave, looking huffy, and one feels unsettled even though the other dog kind of started it.

5. Not exactly guilt but more of like a “what do I do now” feeling when the neighbor who has the Tibetan prayer flags on his porch and spearheads the sustainable block party every year and has all kinds of other markers of his commitment to social justice and environmental responsibility invites you to his potluck and you bring a lovely pureed cauliflower soup about which he says, “this is vegetarian, right?” and you say “of course!” and he’s really enjoying it when it occurs to you that your having added chicken stock to thin it at the end makes it really not vegetarian — what purpose would telling him now serve?

6. The lingering sense of personal failure that descends when you wash the towels with the washer set on “hot,” which is really the one situation for which you reserve the “hot” setting, and you get distracted by contemporary politics and forget to transfer the towels to the dryer before they get mildewy, and you have to wash them a second time, also on “hot” because now mildew, and then you forget to transfer them a second time.

7. When the dog bites; when the bee stings; when I’m feeling sad.

8. The sense of spiritual homelessness that happens when you have looked forward all day to a calming, relaxing bath with a good book, and the book ends up having a fascinating premise but poor execution and the bath is somewhat calming but insufficiently relaxing.

9. Two steps forward, one step back.

10. When I have gazed at you lovingly between five and seven times over a period of two days, or perhaps over a three-day holiday weekend, and you have only gazed back one time out of all of those times, keeping in mind that per the nature and limitations of adoring gazes, it is entirely possible that you also did some gazing that went unnoticed, and so there’s not really full self-righteous energy behind the resentment but more of a broader questioning about what constitutes a successful long-term relationship.

11. You suspect that you could have been a better parent, but you also know from experience that you could have been a far, far, far worse parent, as in you really did okay with your handling of early-onset puberty, specifically, when you went along with your pre-adolescent daughter’s story that it was a spider bite and not acne and didn’t adopt the time-honored family tradition of mining puberty for comic gold in front of friends, family, and also strangers. Yay, you!

12. The type of creative project that provides a modicum of personal satisfaction but cannot be really presented to others, such as washing clothes of just one color and drying them to see what the lint filter looks like at the end; the word isn’t for the project, but for the uncanny mix of pleasure and dismay as you privately admire and question what you have done.