How the Fuck to be an Adult: A Syllabus

HUM101
Topics in Aesthetic and Humanistic Inquiry—Real World Expressionisms:
How the fuck to be an Adult?
Section 1, Course #6408
MoTuWeTh 2:30-3:35
LA 205
Fall 2017
3 credit hours

Professor: To be determined
Contact Information: See weeks seven/eight in course schedule

Course Requirements:
All first semester freshmen

Course Description:
How, exactly, does one “grow the fuck up?” This phrase has come to permeate contemporary culture (and, perhaps, every culture preceding this one dating back to whenever humans went the route of not just being born knowing how to walk like, say, a motherfucking deer would) through its malicious ability to effectively punctuate the end of whatever argument in which it is employed. I’m breaking up with you. You killed my cat. You didn’t pay your bills. You let Grandpa go to the grocery store unsupervised and now all we have to eat are these tiny sausages that make him feel like he’s having tea with the queen, you fucking child. And yet the very commonality of this phrase has dulled its meaning to the point of cliché and, subsequently, led to a lack of clarity that leaves us to wonder what exactly is being insinuated by the vague implications of “growing up.”

This course, Humanities 101 “How the fuck to be an Adult?,” will teach the basics of what the fuck it means to grow up and how the fuck to do it yourself. This class will focus on how to successfully complete the everyday banalities of adulthood that are not sexy enough or are perhaps just too useful to be taught in a normal public school environment. The structure of this class consists of weekly readings and written responses that accompany required in-class discussion. You will learn how to read, write, and discuss texts and topics critically, as well as how to emotionally support your peers in the designated “cry and hug” periods allocated at the end of each class.

Methods of Assessment:
Grading will be based on the following:

  • 40% of total grade: papers and/or creative projects totaling 15-35 pages of writing;
  • 15% of total grade: one researched essay totaling 8-12 pages;
  • 5% of total grade: one 2-5 page annotated bibliography on a topic, book, or issue related to the course;
  • 10% of total grade: oral reports, debates, group presentations;
  • 15% of total grade: participation. This portion of your grade will include some or all of the following: class attendance, active and informed class discussions, ability to express emotion in a healthy, but definitely noticeable, in-class manner, individual hugs, group hugs, back-pats, “I feel you, man”s, and human pyramids;
  • 15% of total grade: one portfolio documenting various aspects of an average week in your life at the conclusion of the class, including but not limited to finances, meals, schedules, relationships that have lost their luster, small talk, and daydreams, all working in tandem to create a general sense of both success and ennui;
  • Total: 100%

Course Schedule/Outline:
Subject to Change

Weeks One and Two:

FINANCES

Topics:

  • How to pay taxes
  • How to take out loans
  • How to make a budget
  • How to get a mortgage
  • How to get a good price from the devil for your achin’ soul

Activites:

  • Ice breakers
  • Power Points
  • Spread Sheets (with pictures)

Homework:

  • Negotiate the price of your soul with said devil. Make sure to bring in said price to class for discussion and comparison. Habituate yourself to said comparison, as this is a dominating factor in choice-making in the oncoming adult world.

 

Weeks Three and Four:

COOKING

Topics:

  • How to boil water
  • How to boil pasta
  • How to heat pasta sauce
  • How to uncork wine

Activities:

  • Boiling water
  • Boiling pasta
  • Heating pasta sauce
  • Don’t drink in class, you dumbass

Homework:

  • Invite your parents over for dinner and treat them to your newfound cooking delights. Record their reactions to the meal. Bring in for discussion/comparison.

 

Weeks Five and Six:

CLEANING

Topics:

  • How to do the dishes
  • How to do laundry
  • How to clean a kitchen
  • How to clean a bathroom
  • How to clean everything else
  • How to manipulate roommates/significant others/family members/passers-by on the street to clean your residence for you

Activities:

  • Power Points
  • Spread Sheets (sans pictures)

Homework:

  • Clean your dorm, you Lazy Freshman. You have mushrooms growing in the corner of your bathroom and you can’t ignore that shit forever. It is not healthy, and you are embarrassing your parents, which you should, also, habituate yourself to by the way. Remember the pasta incident last week? Remember that sound your mother made when she looked at what you made, like she wanted to be proud but it got caught up in disappointment’s arms and could only squeeze out so much? Remember that that sound will haunt you in your sleep for the rest of your life. This, like competition, will constitute a significant aspect of your coming adult life.
  1. Whichever students get passers-by to clean their dorms for them will get the “Tom Sawyer Award,” which is, actually, chocolate.

 

Weeks Seven and Eight:

COMMUNICATION

Topics:

  • How to conduct charming small talk
  • How to fake a smile/laugh
  • How to talk on the phone
  • How to write an effective email
  • How to find contact information online and through the yellow pages
  • How to tell your grandpa that he can’t live off of tiny sausages forever despite the whole royalty thing, considering
  1. They are, in fact, tiny and, therefore, not enough calories to subsist on alone, and
  2. He already has high cholesterol for crying out loud, and doesn’t he want to meet the grandkids someday? You’re not going to have them for nothing.
  • How to effectively/ineffectively navigate significant others from initial flirting/honeymooning to the banal process of “grooving” and “being comfortable,” and, for when comfort has finally stifled all will for excitement and living, vocabulary for how to end things in an adult-like manner that will give you the proper high-ground for calling the other out on “growing the fuck up” and the propagation of this contemporary cultural cliché to help you through the break up. How to navigate the conversation of children in order to provide Grandpa with those grandkids he keeps asking about, assuming that the tiny sausages don’t get to him first.

Activities:

  • Talking to each other
  • The Weather
  • Game: “It’s not you, it’s me”

Homework:

  • Conduct a successful social interaction. Record. Bring in for comparison.

 

Weeks Nine and Ten:

POLITICS

Topics:

  • How to vote
  • How to read the news
  • How to protest and/or be complacent
  • How to keep a responsible social media presence representing your views

Activities:

  • Power Points (with pictures)
  • Spreadsheets (without pictures)

Homework:

  • Read the news

 

Weeks Eleven and Twelve:

Group presentations on The American Dream and how to individually interpret it for your personal goals as well as the contemporary socio-economic standpoint of America right now.

 

Week Thirteen:

THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving lasts all week here, motherfucker. Go boil some pasta.

 

Weeks Fourteen and Fifteen:

FINAL PAPERS

Requirements:

  • Critical reflection on topics covered in this class, including both original research and the topics’ place in your everyday life on a personal level;
  • Documentation of your average week, exhibiting the tools covered over the course of HUM101;
  • Letter from your parents about what they think;
  • Letter from your peers about how they feel compared to you;
  • Letter of thanks to your professor;
  • Final evaluation of the phrase “growing the fuck up,” and how you feel you fit into its narrative after HUM101 in conjunction with your first semester of college. Please answer: How much have you grown from the class itself? How much have you grown from personal experience? Which is more painful? Which is more effective?

 

A Guide to Resting your Tired Dogs whilst doing the Self-Discovery Thing: or, my February Vacation Travels to Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Brussels

[S]leeping can be a form of emotional escape and can with sustained effort be abused…[G]ambling can be an abusable escape, too, and work, shopping, and shoplifting, and sex, and masturbation, and food, and exercise…[A]nonymous generosity, too, can be abused. Having sex with someone you do not care for feels lonelier than not having sex in the first place afterward. It is permissible to want.

Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace

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Brussels, Belgium

If, at some point, you find yourself in a position where you are Twenty-Two-Years-Old and Fresh-Out-Of-College and, on top of all that, say, an English teaching assistant in Middle of Nowhere, France, you may find yourself perpetually on two-week vacations from the usual grueling Twelve-Hour Work Week you normally have to endure of miming the English language at classrooms of bored French students while pretending you Didn’t Know You Weren’t Supposed to Give Political Standpoints in the French school system because your Académie never actually gave you any formal training anyway. Luckily, in Middle of Nowhere, France, you may also be that One Lucky Bastard in your Académie who lives in a high school without rent, and, since you are Young and wanting to do the whole Self Discovery Thing, you are now afforded to leave said high school in order to Travel Europe for the two week “Winter Break” period in February that is a thinly laïc-veiled disguise for Lent.

Because, I mean, the apartment in the high school in the Middle of Nowhere is great, and probably the best place you’ll get for some time, but you really have to ask yourself sometimes what the history of your current fucking mattress could be. How it could possibly be as lumpy and painfully uncomfortable as it is. Why there’s that one perfect, lipped canyon running right down its middle that, if you accidentally roll into, has you suddenly touching its back side. Why, if you put too much weight on one end, the whole thing completely flips over and throws you out. It smells bad; you know why, but it’s still disconcerting.

You want to escape from this mattress.

You want to escape from this Middle of Nowhere. Even if just for a little.

You start by escaping to Stockholm, Sweden where one of your friends from the aforementioned recently-left college back in the US has recently moved to start an internship. In Sweden, you may sleep on a twin-sized mattress that is more comfortable than a piggy-back ride on God’s fecklessly smooth back-skin. The sun is gone most of the time up there too, and your friend and yours’s version of tourism mostly consists of large consumptions of alcohol over gossip and bitching and, later, when you are both reasonably comfortable being bad tourists, The Bachelor. These factors help foster the deepest cocoon of sleep you’ve had in ages, and help you trudge around Sweden’s dark, snowy cold to look at palaces and fjords and squares that you’re sure must be quite pleasant in the summer. You will try to buy food in Swedish, but spoken with a Danish accent that makes them just give you meat regardless of what you tried to ask for. As a vegetarian, this will make you uncomfortable in an accepting, polite kind of way that rips apart your digestive system. Sweden will make you miss the year you studied abroad in Denmark. Not the country of Denmark itself, but the time itself. Europe is teaching you, this time around, that your obsession with place is a misconstrued projection of experience, and that the two are not necessarily the same.

Afterwards, you will go to Amsterdam, specifically for the Vincent van Gogh Museum, because you bought a book of his letters in London and they really fucking spoke to you, man. In trying to get to your Dutch mattress late the first night, you will realize that you booked a hostel an hour outside of Amsterdam itself and struggle to follow its directions to “go to the lighthouse” in a country whose language sounds like a Sims dialect. You will wander around in the snow for an hour with all your luggage until somebody at the gas station gives you directions. You will find that the tourists in the Netherlands really like their mattresses too: in an All Day Long kind of way that makes it so you don’t really make the normal hostel friends that you might otherwise. The beds, to be fair, are terribly comfortable, if a little smelly and rattled by club music all night long. But you are exhausted from Amsterdam anyway. You will lose your first day in the van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum in an engrossing, inspiring way that makes you forget that you only have two days there. Van Gogh will be crowded, and you will be more into watching the security guards fight the tourists to stop taking Selfies and try to teach them that Technology is an Affront to Art (actual security guard comments) than perhaps the paintings themselves, even if you cry at the crows (which you clearly remember described in the letters as “vast stretches of wheat under troubled skies, and I didn’t have to put myself out very much in order to try and express sadness and extreme loneliness.”) The second day, you will go on a walking tour in the pouring snow and feel ashamed for not being able to take anything away from it save the memory of being desperately cold and fighting off the advances of an Australian who really wanted to go on a canal tour with you. Afterwards, you will think about buying drugs, but go and read in the library where it is warm for hours and hours instead. In the end, Jean Tinguely from the Stedelijk is This Trip’s Discovery: an artist who focuses on machines, movement, and modernism. His letters, in French, are on display about how love is an act of movement, how life is an act of movement, and they are moving in a way that stays with you, even as you say Goodbye to Another City That Must Be Lovely In The Summer and move on to Brussels.

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Snow on the beach in Noordwijk, The Netherlands

Whose mattress is also quite nice, but whose pillow is of lesser quality than Amsterdam’s or Stockholm’s. You like Brussels immediately for being beautiful in a way you can tell doesn’t take itself too seriously. You will go to a Lenten church service in German for some familiar, High Mass Smells. You will be told “vous êtes belle” by a stranger who seemed sincere– and not drunk– on its steps outside. You will get film developed in what turns out to be a man’s living room. You will drink beer and eat chocolate. You will gawk at the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture everywhere. You will figure out why \it is an Art Nouveau City on a walking tour that teaches you that Belgium earned its wealth by killing half the population of The Congo at the turn of the century, when Art Nouveau was at its height. You will go to a Musical Instrument Museum that is actually not as good as the one in Phoenix. You will go to the Magritte Museum on surrealist painter René Magritte and realize that surrealism makes so much more sense when you read poetry, like you recently started regularly practicing. You will spend Valentine’s Day drinking alone, nostalgically, on the cold, hard cobblestones of Le Grand Place, and make a brief cameo on Brussels News for doing so.

In the Netherlands, you will subsist on Dutch Chocolate when you get hungry.

In Belgium, you will subsist on Belgian Waffles when you get hungry.

You will not feel very well.

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Brussels, Belgium

You will, most importantly, take a wide and varying combination of planes, trains, and God Awful Overnight Buses to traverse Europe, and will fall deeply asleep on every single one of them. You will practice finagling your body into contortions your mattress in Middle of Nowhere, France does not ask of you in order to sleep, and your Morning Body will come to grips with an ache it almost never knows. It will just want to get to a hostel’s bed, or, even, back to the Familiar Discomfort nestled in the Middle of Nowhere’s lumpy mattress.

You will learn, here, what it means to Rest. Learn what it means to live in this Work of Escaping from Work and Adulthood, from the Real World and Home and the USA, you Twenty-Two-Year-Old Self-Discovery Stuffer.  Learn that Escape gives you that ache that only comes with travel, the kind that wants nothing but Arrival.

If, at some point, you find yourself in this position, where you are Twenty-Two-Years-Old and Fresh-Out-Of-College doing the Whole Self-Discovery Thing, remember that life is an Act in Movement. When you are tired from travelling, ask what Rest you really get from your bed at home? The comfort you chose to leave because it was meant for leaving. Go. Travel.  Get Away from it. All of it. When you get tired, lay down. And see where you got.

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Stockholm, Sweden

Big Muddy

In light of discovering Frank Lima (who is brilliant beyond words) and resistance.

Always remember that you were formed on top of those mountains
you see spindling up from the once flat earth in want
of open air’s weathered
love,
like infant fingers learning to reach up towards a clasp,
or tiny lungs learning to grip
air into hungry screams.

That sky, who answers want with
the cold beauty of snow, will watch
you wear your days away, my dear,

under the tender heat of a risen sun — touch:
a verb meant to melt.
Think lover melting skin smooth
underneath a goosebump’s forgotten breath —
in order to fall down and run with the river
eager to fill the shape of its given banks,

the banks that will dump dirt into your soft arms
until you are plump and heavy and called something like
“Big Muddy.”

Rivers do not run back upstream, Big Muddy,
but down
down
down
down
down
the length of the vein
(or scar)
running across the country’s face all
the way to the once flat ocean, where you will remember
those mountains where you were once snow
and climb up into a wave
reaching for the storming sky heaving with water
to take back what you need in order to feel

full.

In Defense of Discomfort/In Defense of the News

I have not read the news in a week.

I watched Donald Trump get inaugurated on Friday and got so upset by his speech (and, later, the fact that the administration removed numerous parts of the White House website including information about Americans with disabilities, climate change, LGBTQIA rights, and the option to read the website in Spanish) that I came close to breaking a door going home only to start a nasty fight with someone and then cry.

And, since Friday, I have happily let myself retreat back into my cute little French life that is so easily distanced from the United States, even if I did participate in Montpellier’s Women’s March on Saturday. I’ve been watching a lot of The Bachelorette, spending a lot of time with the significant other, and occasionally reading election memes on my Facebook page. And while there is, of course, nothing wrong with continuing to have a life in light of Donald Trump’s unfortunate existence, any protest I have engaged in since the inauguration has been extremely comfortable for me. This post-inauguration weekend activism has very much been on the conditions of my privilege, if not only as a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, abled woman from the upper-middle class, but as an ex-patriot who doesn’t even have to live in the US right now. Where I am right now makes comfort easy, but I have made the conscious decision to keep it so by removing myself from what is happening and choosing to not read the news.

The news is fucking upsetting right now. I got an email from my mom this morning that said she has to stop reading it because it makes her physically sick. When I (guiltily) told her she had to keep at it, I went to go look for myself for the first time in said week and was unable to even click on any of the articles past their headlines because the stories scared me so much.

But the thing is, this is a scary, upsetting, uncomfortable time, and it has to affect people in positions of privilege so, even if what it reports on does not impact the cushion of that privilege directly. The news, if reading good sources, is (I would argue) always a little upsetting, and this is probably a large factor in why it is not terribly popular.

From my experience, though, the most common resistance that I experience as a privileged person is through being informed. Everybody has real, valid problems, and I don’t mean to diminish these by any means, but the news helps put them in perspective with other, real, valid problems that do not necessarily resemble one’s own. I would argue that a large factor behind the election of Donald Trump was a bigotry bred from this exact focus on one’s own issues and failing to recognize the scope of the world outside what feels familiar.

So let’s be upset. Let’s be mad. Let’s read the fucking news, and stay informed in ways that will not let us be comfortable. Let’s make sure we are prepared to have well-informed, concretely evidenced arguments ready when confronting bigotry and ignorance in our everyday lives, and not allow others to be comfortable either. Let’s have our days ruined by events that may not personally involve us by making the fight against those events something we consider personally important.


I know all news is, on some level, biased, but so is any media whether it be digital, printed, or through conversation. Everything is up to the individual to challenge and interpret themselves, and this, certainly, does not exclude the news. Anyway, my point is, my personal favorite news sources are:

  1. Al Jazeera
  2. BBC News
  3. Democracy Now
  4. NPR
  5. Last Week Tonight (comedy, yes, but actually extremely well researched, and brings up stories you don’t hear everywhere.)

Happy New Year from the Hangover

I got to have New Year’s Eve with some lovely Americans running through the streets of Paris in the snow, and here’s a poem that just wants to say happy new year to everybody.

The last time I had a hang
over this bad must have been six months ago in Portland.
When the summer camp counselors gathered together
in that beautiful craftsman home to hang
socks on each other
like wintertime Christmas trees under the blanket
of a slow summer’s night in the thick of the year, and I
woke up under the dining table with a stack of poetry
journals for a pillow, face
to face with a couple spooning against the china.

But poetry is more column than cuddle, a stack of sentences
divided, apart, one atop the other instead
of hooked up side by side.
A book is but a stack of pages bound together for strength.
A year is just a pile of days.
A tree a collection of rings
chasing renewal’s possibilities one year at a time.
Forests an anthology of trunks dizzying themselves with
growing fat round and round and around again the past
until man presses them skinny again
to stamp their faces with his poetry.

and all I see on Paris’s face are circles,
an agglomeration of arrondissements pirouetting around
each other to make a city in Spirograph,
one that is perfect for stumbling through, overjoyed
by the lightest of snows while the minute and second hand
circle around the watch’s face toward midnight to divide
one day from the next
in this business of making new, to say then
and there. Here
and now.

Those were socks
and this is snow.

 

WWOOFing in Ardèche for Christmas

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I am pleased enough with surfaces — in fact they alone seem to me to be of much importance. Such things for example as the grasp of a child’s hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of friend or lover, the silk of a girl’s thigh, the sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind — what else is there? What else do we need?

Edward Abbey, “Desert Solitaire”

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Here are some surfaces from my incredible week WWOOFing with a (very) French family in the countryside at their chèverie (goat farm/butcher). The cast is: V, the goat farmer, T, her husband and the butcher, t, their three-year-old son, and M, my fellow WWOOFer originally from Lyon.

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  • Showing up nervous about letting the family know that I’m vegetarian only to be greeted by a pig cut in half and hanging from a tree with three grown men laughing around it. Unwittingly showing up on the traditional “tueaille,” or annual pig-killing/eating day/festival, and immediately deciding to tough it out and eat meat for the week
  • Being plagued with abdominal pain from said meat every afternoonimg_1808
  • Walking through the forest alone singing to myself and taking pictures all afternoon/ every afternoon while listening to the birds sing and the church bell from the village below keep time until V calls in the goats and their bells mean to go to the chèverie for the evening’s workimg_1661
  • t clasping my hand to take him back to the house at the end of a day and, after nearly 24 hours of hitting me and throwing caprices, saying “je t’aime
  • t farting on my lap while I read him storiesimg_1797
  • Petting Miel (“honey” in french) first thing every morning until, by the end of the week, he recognizes me and comes running and squealing for me every time he sees meimg_1669
  • One of the farm’s workers bringing a month-old puppy to the farm to play with a living-room baby goat and letting him lie on my chest to nap
  • Passing the time just after every lunch with bowls of coffee and reading the quotes about happiness from chocolate wrappers to each otherimg_1870
  • A baby goat being born and forgotten in the snow. Rubbing him with a towel for two hours to heat him up. Getting to feel life slowly creep into his small and lifeless body, starting with his humongous ears perking upimg_1835
  • The sadness on Christmas Day when, while babysitting the farm alone while everybody is away visiting family, the same baby goat dies after having just spent the afternoon cuddling my lap like a cat
  • Watching a baby goat take its first breath. Also on Christmas Day
  • The acute boredom that comes with only understanding and expressing the surface of conversation in a foreign language day in and day out with little to no perception of nuance or depth
  • Getting to see the Alpes from afarimg_1862
  • Giving a cat a piggy back ride along a country road
  • The smell of the wood-burning heater img_1815
  • Whittling away the scraps of meat and fat (in the end, 1.2kg’s worth) left on the remains of a pig carcass all evening with T and M, talking about how caring about cooking is a metaphor for enjoying the road to the greater ends in life
  • Taking long sunset walks with Laslo the dogimg_1715
  • Staying up till midnight on M’s last day on the farm talking about how to find happiness in the world (and how crazy it’s becoming) through groups of people that give us a sense of community and remind us that we are not aloneimg_1908