How long ago did I write that thing about how saying “Happy holidays” meant you were a child of Satan? It’s been a few years, but we’re still dealing with people who take some kind of personal offense to being greeted that way rather than with “Merry Christmas.” Now, Donald Trump is being hailed as a hero for giving the country permission to say “Merry Christmas” again. Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more weird.
My new book, Chicken Soup for the Fuck You: Inspirations, Observations, and Character Assassinations is now available in print and Kindle format via Amazon.
Here’s a little about the book:
“Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is spit straight from the hyperactive brain of a lifelong oddball who has, to put it simply, seen some shit. In the process of finding her voice after a decade and a half of quiet, April Fox puts a wry spin on politics, religion, and the weird and wonderful aspects of everyday life, including parenting a herd of eclectic children. In between, there are periods of darkness, and those are reflected here too.
In short, “Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is a feel-good book for people who hate feel-good books.
April’s work has been described as “Intoxicating… Awesome, inspiring, and resonating all the way.”
“…a huge dose of reality.”
“Enigmatic and thought-provoking, but still touching.”
Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is a collection of essays (some previously published here) in line with Jon Stewart’s Naked Pictures of Famous People, interspersed with brief one-liners and a few lines of verse. It runs the gamut from Barbie’s role model status to evangelist Pat Robertson’s readiness to come out of the closet to why kids with autism don’t make the best survey subjects sometimes. One early reader said he was laughing on one page, raging on the next, and on the verge of tears with the one after that; another, before reading, hoped the book came with “a piece of the author’s brain.” Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is exactly that: a slice of my brain, stuffed inside a paperback cover and served straight to you, ready to be enjoyed.
Every time legislation is passed that has anything to do with civil rights, things like being allowed to marry or use the bathroom in peace or whatever, people start using children as proxies for their fear and lack of understanding. It spreads like a rash across social media, this epidemic of made-up conversations kids are having with the adults in their lives and the resulting deep and moving concern about what to tell the children. “What am I supposed to say when little Khloweei asks about the gay couple in the produce section? How am I supposed to explain transsexuals in the bathroom? My child is too young to be talking about sex!”
Spoiler alert, in case you don’t want to read this whole super-long thing: You don’t have to talk about sex. It isn’t about sex, even. Not at all. I know, it’s shocking, what with the gays and the trannies humping each other all over the bus stop and the amusement parks and shit like that. I know they look like normal people doing normal things with their normal lives, but underneath, totally humping, willy-nilly everywhere.
But really, I’m sorry if you’re confused about how to address your kids’ questions. I’m not belittling that, at all. My kids have asked some things that have made me wish for a time machine so that I could go back and hide in the bathroom five minutes before they decided to ask. Kids ask some intense questions, and some very serious questions, and those should without a doubt be answered. But. (You know me, there’s always a but.)
Here’s what’s really important to remember: children don’t think like adults.
To a small child, everything is new and different. They don’t have decades of experience and context to which they can relate their everyday lives and observations, like we do. Their points of reference are self-centered. I don’t mean that in the negative way it’s often used, but literally: their experience centers around themselves.
And so when you’re standing at a crosswalk beside two men holding hands, you’re taking in everything: They’re adults. They’re smiling at each other, leaning into each other, laughing quietly. One has a take-out box from that fancy candle-lit restaurant up the street; clearly, they’re on a date, and if they only got one box for leftovers, they must be going home together. One man has a bottle of wine tucked into his elbow. They’re going home to drink wine. It’s going to be romantic. They’ll probably end up having sex. That’s what’s running through your head when your child says, “Mommy, why are those boys holding hands?”
You know what’s going through your kid’s head, most likely? Why do those boys have to hold hands to cross the street? They’re grown-ups. Grown-ups can go by themselves. That’s weird. So how do you answer that question? Try something like, “Sometimes people hold hands when they like each other. I guess they must like each other.” Chances are, your kid is going to give you a really insightful response, probably something along the lines of, “Oh. Look, there’s a squashed caterpillar on the sidewalk. Can I touch it?”
When your child asks why Auntie has a girlfriend, he’s probably not wondering why she prefers women to men. It’s probably just the same question kids ask roughly eleven million times a day: Why? Why are my socks blue? Why is that spaghetti? Why is that lady’s butt so big? Why can’t I touch that squashed caterpillar? Why does Auntie have a girlfriend?
And just like above, it’s a pretty simple answer: “They must like each other.”
If your child is old enough that he’s beginning to understand what kind of relationships are more common than others and to notice when things look a little different than what he’s used to, and his question really is about why Auntie likes girls and not boys, that’s an easy answer too: “Some girls like other girls.” If they ask for more, you can give that information without making everything about sex. I’m pretty sure when your kid asked you why you and Daddy got married, for example, you didn’t say, “Well, Snugglemuffin, we just wanted to make sure your daddy would be able to stick his pecker in me every night for the rest of his life.” You probably talked about love and happiness and friendship — and those are the same things you talk about when you’re talking about Auntie and her girlfriend. Easy peasy, man. You don’t even have to learn anything new.
Of course, the big thing now is transgender. Everybody’s freaking out about the transgenders in the bathrooms and Oh…my… Gawwwwwwd what if my precious little snowflake Mhaddisynne Claire goes in the bathroom and sees a person who looks like a man in a dress? WHAT DO I TELL HER?”
Well first off, tell her potty time is privacy time, which is what you should have been telling her since she was old enough to start having a decent grasp of receptive language.
If it does come up, if your little one sees someone with masculine-appearing features in traditionally feminine clothing and says (at the top of her lungs, at that piercing pitch children only hit when they’re saying something that makes you want to crawl into the toilet and die) “Why is that man wearing a dress?” what the heck do you say?
I’ll tell you. If that happens, then you go, like, “That’s a lady.”
And then if your kid is like, “That looks like a man,” then you go, “People look all different ways. She’s just trying to use the restroom, like you are. Go wash your hands. Go. Use soap. Not that much soap.” (Because that’s how bathroom conversations always end, I don’t care if there’s a band of Civil War reenacting drag queens in there, you’re going to say the soap thing. And also, you really don’t know, do you? Unless you’re the weirdo peeking up her skirt, you don’t know that that lady isn’t a biological woman with stronger features than most.)
I’m not saying not to have conversations about gender and sexuality with your kids. These are issues they’re going to face, if not personally, than as witnesses as their family and friends deal with them. But it’s ridiculous to think these conversations have to center around what people do in their private bedrooms or wardrobes. If you wouldn’t talk about the sex lives or genitalia of straight, cisgendered people, then it’s not appropriate conversation-period. As your child gets older, your conversations can become more comprehensive, but when your child is small, your answers about sexuality and gender should be as simple and gentle as conversations about love and death and anything else that you have a responsibility to explain. Don’t complicate it. Teach love, compassion, respect and inclusion, and your simple answers will grow into understanding soon enough.
We are all God’s children, black
No, not black, not white
certainly not brown; those are the ones with the bombs
even though they are the ones
who most closely resemble
on a cross; we are all
wrapped in His loving arms
unless your loving arms are a woman’s arms, wrapped around
another, palm cupped against her
for comfort while you sleep
We are all God’s children
sending you fags
We are all God’s children; suffer the little ones
except the tired ones, the hungry ones, the ones
with holes in their socks and underwear worn thin as tissue, handed down
from older siblings
gunned down in the street
Those are nobody’s children, and they should have
their heads impaled
on the steps of the social service building
as reminders to their parents
who forgot to pursue the
We are all God’s children, created in
plastic breasts and silicone lips and limbs torn from bodies
in the desert
[the sins of man for power for the almighty]
your country, protecting
Blessed are the meek
for they shall inherit
In their tiny cells
with the paper-thin walls
they ask their gods for favors
supplicant and pale, shivering in the heat,
painting pictures of the dollar signs
that fill their heroes’ heads
shackled to their plastic smiles
the ass chases the carrot.
In their tiny cells
with the paper-thin walls,
poking holes in the barriers
with sharpened sticks and crayons
taping over them
praying to get out
They bite their tongues
and swallow them
they are washed in the blood of the christ.
In their tiny cells
with the paper-thin walls
they strip their clothes and wait
palms up face down,
in the corner
with candy floss and threads of spiderwebs
bound by the belief
that they cannot save themselves.
There are ghosts in every corner
Tapping holes into their faces with their
This is a place where when the stars come down
They change their course and keep
The sideways dark
Look out the light
Will make you blind
And the holes keep growing bigger
The skin around the edges chapped and raw
The mouths below grotesque with screaming
Never and regret
The hands of god are softly, sweetly
Masturbating to the sight.
a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
- conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence –Merriam Webster.
There seems to be some confusion lately about the importance of beliefs. We have people running around spouting all kinds of cruel, nasty, ugly, misinformed shit that makes no sense at all, and another group of people (often overlapping) running around spouting all kinds of shit about how it’s okay to spout the crazy shit because we have to respect everyone’s beliefs. It’s okay to want to marginalize and demonize and actually physically harm people because your beliefs say it’s okay, right?
Except the reality is, we don’t really have to respect anyone’s beliefs, unless by “respect” you mean “ignore,” because BELIEFS DON’T MATTER.
Beliefs are opinions. They’re feelings. They don’t make a darn bit of difference because they live inside your head and nobody else is in there but you. Now, beliefs can influence behavior, and that’s something you have to worry about.
For example, let’s say you believe you’re a rottweiler. You believe this because you like to try and chew on your feet, and you chased a cat once, and you have black hair and cute little brown eyebrows. Or just because someone told you when you were a kid that if you didn’t believe you were a rottweiler, you were going to burn up in a fiery pit for ever and ever and ever. It doesn’t matter why you believe it, you just do, and that’s cool. You can post pictures of your Kibbles n’ Bits dinner all over social media, people might think it’s kind of strange, but you’re not hurting anyone. If someone asks why you believe you’re a rottweiler, you can tell them, and share that belief with anyone you like. You can choose to wear a spiked collar because they look cool as shit on a rottweiler (and also on some people, although I haven’t worn mine in years). You can even bark when someone knocks on the door, if you want. You might scare away the pizza guy, but then again, he might just drop the box and run, and free pizza is awesome, even when you’re a dog.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
You believe that you’re a rottweiler, and you start trying to force restaurants to stop serving things like soysage souffle (soysage is a thing, I’m not even kidding) and serve Kibbles n’ Bits instead because Kibbles n’ Bits is the only good thing to eat. You want to close down the cathouses and terrariums and turn everything into a dog park because you’re a rottweiler and rottweilers are better than other animals. You start humping people’s legs and pissing on their tires and all of a sudden your beliefs are making you act batballs motherfucking crazy and it’s not about respecting your beliefs at all, it’s about get your red rocket off my leg, you fucking asshole.
And so now imagine that scenario applied to people. That’s what’s happening all over America right now: people are letting their beliefs, to which they are one hundred percent entitled, turn them into raging leg-humping tire-pissing jackholes, and we’re all sitting around going “no no, it’s just my leg, it’ll wash off, because we have to respect everyone’s beliefs.”
Respecting other people’s beliefs has not a single goddamn thing to do with letting people be mean to each other, letting them be racist or xenophobic or homophobic or any other fucking euphemism you want to use to sugarcoat the reality which is that some people are fucking mean-spirited jerks and you don’t get to use your beliefs to get away with that shit.
Mutual respect is always good. Being considerate of others is wonderful. We live in a huge, diverse community, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s lovely to be supportive and understanding of things that are important to the people around us, including their systems of belief. But it is just as important to make sure people know that it is not okay to use your beliefs as launchpads for your prejudice and hate.
Now go fetch my slippers and quit humping my leg, you fucking nut.
I used to work with children at the local Jewish Community Center. When I first started there, a little guy who was especially, let’s say, spirited, was leaving at the end of a particularly challenging Friday. He was a smart, sweet little boy, intent on testing his boundaries with the new teacher, and had given me a pretty killer headache by the time his mom picked him up. He had just gone out the door, the last kid to leave, when he poked his head back in the room and said, “Shabbat Shalom, Miss April!” Twenty minutes earlier he had been calling me a poop and refusing to put the scissors away. And now here he was, wishing me well, even though I was undoubtedly a great big meanie scissors-controlling poop.
I’m not Jewish. I don’t celebrate the Jewish Sabbath, or any Sabbath. The words “Shabbat Shalom” by themselves mean little to me. They are words from a language I don’t understand. But when they were spoken by a little boy in the spirit of love and friendship, they were priceless. When my coworkers said those words at the end of the week, I returned them, because I meant them: Have a safe weekend. Have a happy Friday. Peace. Love. I wish you well.
All of this Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas nonsense is a matter of pride and semantics, nothing more. There is no war on Christmas. Nobody is trying to snatch the Christmas tree out of your front window, or waiting by the mailbox with a Sharpie, ready to steal your Christmas cards and replace your greeting with “Happy Holidays.” Santa’s not going to put coal in your stocking if you smile at someone and return their greeting, even if they didn’t phrase it just the way you would.
The world is a really big place, with a lot of really cool people in it. Some of them celebrate the same holidays you do. Some of them have the same skin tone you do. Some of them call their God by the same name you call yours. And some of them don’t. That doesn’t make their words of love, peace, and hope into something malicious and ugly.
When someone chooses to use their words to share a message of joy with you and you take offense to the words rather than appreciating the message, when you slap away a hand held out in friendship because of a minor linguistic difference, you are the offensive thing. You are the one spreading a message of ugliness and despair. As long as the words are given with love, it’s one message with dozens of beautiful translations.
So with that being said-Happy holidays to you, from your favorite great big meanie scissors-controlling poop. It’s been a beautiful year.
In my nightmares, there are children playing in a field of tall grass, so tall that the only way I know the children are there is by the sound of their voices and the way the grass moves as they run. Then there are men, impossibly tall men, dressed all in camouflage, with guns strapped to their chests and their sides. They tower above the grass as if they’re on stilts. They look as if they weigh a thousand pounds. They are wearing high pointed hoods that cover their faces, like the KKK, but these too are camouflage. The grass and sky seem almost fluorescent against the dull shades of the uniforms. The men are walking through the field, swinging heavy sticks from side to side, like chasing rodents from the grain. When the children’s laughter stops, the soldiers’ begins.
I’m half-awake and dreaming this, vaguely aware of my husband’s hand moving to smooth my hair, hearing his voice from far away, but unable to wake up. It’s been like this since Paris happened. I wonder if Paris is going to become one of those ominous things we say, the meaning changed forever, like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor: no further explanation necessary.
Normally I use Facebook as kind of an escape, a place to share photos with friends and family, to share in their lives from a distance, to grumble about waking up early or the wheels falling off of my quirky old Beetle. I get angry and political sometimes, and when I see things that make me roll my eyes or groan in disgust, I remind myself why I don’t scroll through my newsfeed much. But after Paris, I had to stop checking in at all. Every time I logged in, there was more and more ugliness. I tried to counter it at first, tried sharing my own thoughts there and was met with the usual words of agreement from the people who usually agree with me, but this wasn’t one of those times I needed to just vent and get it out of my system. This was a kind of ugliness that I hadn’t seen before in such massive force. There were people everywhere, everywhere, directing their words of hate and violence toward people who were lost and suffering, not toward terrorists or soldiers but toward families, men and women who were trying to keep their children safe. They were throwing hate and promises of harm at children running away in fear. Children, like mine and yours and the ones next door and across the globe who didn’t have the geographical misfortune to be born inside a war zone. Children whose brown faces are streaked with tears and whose parents call their Abrahamic god by a different name than those who make the threats.
I think about the times that me and mine have been given refuge. I think about the times that people who didn’t have to help did, not because of shared religion or ethnicity but because of shared humanity. I think about the people who could look at a child, any child, anywhere, and see anything but promise. And then I just can’t think anymore. I can’t think, I can’t write, I can’t answer the phone, I get through the day one autopilot step at a time, only really coming to life when I’m teaching or with my children. Guilt for all the things I screwed up with my own kids has come back with a vengeance, and I turn those things over and over in my head with the images of the refugees, the smallest ones. I don’t understand how a parent can think about any child and want to turn them away. I don’t understand how a parent could want to teach their own children that that’s the right thing to do, at all.
I wrote this next bit a couple months ago, but it sums up how I feel now pretty well. Haven’t we all sought refuge from something, sometime?
This has been a trying week, with a lot of scary things happening close to home and around the world. I’ve been simultaneously trying to wrap my head around it all and to pretend that I don’t see the ugliness, and I keep coming back to this one thing that I simply cannot understand. With all the things that you can teach a child:
To paint a picture
To hula hoop
To identify birds by their songs
To play an instrument
To speak another language
To write in cursive
To grow tomatoes
To tie their shoes
To write their name
To play hopscotch
-or Go Fish
-or Mario Kart
To bake a cake
To care for a pet
To wash their hands
To tell a joke
To practice gratitude
Why would anyone want to teach them how to hate?
They are laughing in the sand,
their high-pitched voices crossing over and under each other and up
into the sky
into the clouds
dirty hands reaching for each other,
singing songs whose words we cannot recognize
but the tune is universal;
nursery rhymes are all the same.
They are smaller than the dogs who bark behind them
they are larger than the biggest men who wake up in the morning
ready for the hunt
they are oblivious to war
because war is all they know.
In the dark, their voices quiet
they are every child alive
they are sewer rats, princesses
trailer trash and debutantes
reaching for the shore
they are holding hands and dancing,
singing in the light
while the righteous and the holy scream in outrage:
Kill the children.