In this post-we’ve-elected-a-sociopath-to-our-presidency world, I’ve struggled with writing, creating, general, how do you say… happiness. Much like many of you, I know. The one thing that has brought me joy in the last year? Cold, hard capitalism. Buying shit. Massive, rampant consumerism. Closing my eyes, clicking the purchase button on a thing I absolutely, in no way shape or form, actually need. The order histories of my accounts at Amazon.com and Sephora are so long they have their own footnotes. Each new delivery at my doorstep feels like a tiny puppy wriggling in my arms. Sweet, sweet release.
I have felt great shame at this reality. While the world suffers for our commander-in-diapers, and vulnerable people of color, immigrants, and others face real fears, all I’m doing is convincing my condo neighbors that I’m running some sort of illegal import-export business at my place.
But you know what? I’m starting to be okay with that. I volunteer, I give money, I speak up when I see things that are going wrong, and then I also try to buy my own happiness. It’s like, I’m not Mandela, you know? (I know.) I’m a small person out here doing a few things, and also dropping enough money on skincare and clothing to rival the GDP of a small nation.
So why not combine my consumerism habits with my love of writing to bring a small amount of joy to my friends in the best way I know how: recommending worthy products and things to buy in a manner that is incredibly self-deprecating and shows you the daily humiliations I cause myself?
So here I am, straight up stealing from Mindy Kaling’s concept/blog from a long time ago, her Things I’ve Bought That I Love. I will write about stuff I can wholeheartedly recommend, that I’ve tried, that I’ve worn, that I’ve spackled on my face, that I’ve placed in my apartment, things that have brought me a small measure of joy in today’s lava-filled horror show of a universe, in the hopes that it will make you a little bit happier, too. Because, as not-Mandela, this is really what I think I have to offer this world.
First up: pharmaceutical grade drugs.
This is sort of a bad place to start the premise of this series, since this wasn’t a thing I “bought”. This was a “thing” I was “given” by a “friend.” Man, I love scare quotes. Okay, but for serious, I’m talking about the sleeping pill Ambien. I tried it, I loved it, you should buy it.
We need some background here on my experimentation with Ambien, first. Now, I realize that many of you have probably already used Ambien and it’s no big deal, but to me, I am extremely nervous about powerful drugs, especially ones that are supposed to make you sleep. In my experience, those are the kind of drugs that promise “sleep,” but end up with “being jailed for sleepwalking naked and also killing a man without realizing it.”
I don’t do drugs. I mean, I do a daily anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug. This is 2017, after all. But I stay away from the sleep stuff, the painkillers, etc. I have an extremely addictive personality and enough personal problems already, nobody needs to be adding a drug addiction up in here.
However: I used to have an extreme phobia about flying. This has been tempered by meditation, small doses of Xanax, and a growing desire after 2016 to please, just let it all end already. I don’t have much of a problem getting on planes anymore. But I was getting a little nervous about returning home from a recent vacation to South Africa — a flight plan that had me spending 22 hours in the air (8 hours from Johannesburg to Dubai, 14 hours from Dubai to DC). Do you know how long 22 hours is? That’s right, it’s almost as long as it takes the earth to rotate just once. I just googled that and it’s real. That’s crazy! And do you know how long 22 hours is without sleep? 22 hours without sleep is actually 172 hours! It’s true! Science proved it! (Source to come.)
I don’t sleep well or at all on planes, especially since I’ve never once in my life been able to afford first class, so this one time, I said, darn it… bring me the drugs.
So my “friend” gave me Ambien (look, I have to protect all names of the innocent here). Part of me was going to see if I could just make it through the 14 hour flight brute force with the Ambien in my purse pocket as a security blanket. (I think some of this is the instinct that may drive some women to try natural birth… just like, why are we doing this to ourselves; side note read this column by Jessi Klein, Get the Epidural).
But this self-hating instinct to try to make myself as miserable as possible was quickly eroded after I spent the majority of the 8-hour flight to Dubai from Johannesburg avoiding the come ons and drinks pushed on me by my seat neighbor, you guessed it, a “harmless” man. Nothing like being hit on in an enclosed space for eight hours!
So you can be sure after that experience, I was like, give me all the drugs, I don’t care if I end up naked banging on the cockpit singing Whitney Houston tunes and I have to be deplaned in Greenland and live out the rest of my days in a CIA jail there. (Honestly this is exactly where my head always went when thinking about taking Ambien during a flight.) But this time, I said, let’s do this thing.
So four hours into the flight, one glass of wine, a not-bad meal of chicken curry (thanks, Emirates) and a reclined economy class seat later, I popped the tiny tablet. Then I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, put on a face mask, got back in my seat, and waited for the magic to happen.
Next thing I knew I was waking up, just under three hours outside of DC, with breakfast being served. The older Korean gentleman sitting next to me (who had earlier called me “an angel” for helping him fill out his customs form, that’s right, I’m a diplomat in my spare time) was looking at me with concern. OH MY GOD DID I KILL A FLIGHT ATTENDANT WITH A BUTTER KNIFE?! I screamed internally. But he merely said, “Wow! You slept a long time!”
And that’s it. One Ambien and I had slept a record-setting seven hours on a flight, something I have never once managed to do on any flight in my 37 years. And I felt fine, not even groggy. Best of all, I had not A. Danced naked up and down the aisles B. Killed a person C. Gotten arrested D. Apparently done anything even remotely embarrassing or black-out-y except drool on myself a little bit.
So consider me an Ambien convert. My “friend” actually gave me several tablets, which I’ve hidden away in a secret location in my tiny condo (okay they’re in my nightstand drawer). You can bet the next long-haul flight I’ll be popping one, but otherwise they shall remain untouched… except possibly come election night 2020.