7 May 2013

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

Yesterday while Enzo and I were reading books, it rained big, fat, fast drops, loud on the pavement and the roof. In only a few minutes the rain gutters were gushing. There was thunder and it was warm, strange and tropical. I rushed outside to see if there was a rainbow in the sideways evening light, thinking that if there was I’d go back and get Enzo. Across the street a man was standing in the downpour, looking around too.

“Where’s the rainbow?” I shouted over the din of rain.

“You’re the rainbow!” he called back. (I was wearing a deep-pink shirt and brown skirt.)

Even though there was no rainbow, I went back to get Enzo, the hell with his dry pajamas. We ended up going outside in the rain three times during our reading. We couldn’t get enough.


I heard on the radio that children whose mothers (it’s always mothers, where are the fathers?) anyway, whose mothers cleaned their pacifiers by putting them in their mouths (that is the mothers’ mouths) ended up having fewer allergies than babies whose moms ran off and boiled the fucking things. This adds to the growing body of evidence that a too-clean world makes for a weak and confused immune system. Allergies are the immune system kicking in when there’s no need, so it seems likely that asthma and eczema are skyrocketing because the world has gotten too sterile.

Of course I adore every fresh proof that squalor is good for children. Enzo never used a pacifier, but I’m sure we provided plenty of germs in other forms. And maybe it’s not too late to start spitting in his Cheerios.

Enzo does have a touch of eczema. We’ve been to the doctor for it twice, and the doctor thinks we’re crazy because it’s just this one tiny spot. But Enzo has said a couple of times that it’s never going to get better and we need to get a pair of scissors and cut it off. It really bothers him. Anyway, we have medicine for it, and Enzo keeps saying it’s not working, and he may be right. If it is working, it’s working very slowly. Maybe we should ditch the medicine and just start licking it.

It made me think that another way the developed world has gotten more sterile is the food. Remember those idiot brussels sprouts I got for the Pillsbury Bake-Off? Besides being expensive, I’ll bet they were perfectly, depressingly clean. Making food at home by hand must surely pass along lots of delicious and beneficial microbes. You have more chances to sneeze in the fettuccini if you make it yourself.

Probably the most depressing Pillsbury ingredients are the bread dough and pizza crust, which don’t even have yeast, and this seems to me a rejection of life. And an abomination. Because yeast is a living thing and you can’t keep it for years sealed in a can. The bread and pizza dough are leavened with baking soda, which is nice, but it’s not exactly bread, is it? It’s biscuit dough.

I hope no one imagines I’m dropping out of the Bake-Off. On the contrary, I’m planning to crush it. The key is to use Pillsbury’s many honest ingredients, like all-purpose flour or marmalade, a store-bought food that can’t be improved on.

But there’s something else I wanted to get to, and it keeps receding—another thing I heard on the radio. Researchers were trying to figure out why girls score higher than boys on standardized tests and concluded that it’s because they’re better at sitting still, so parents tend to do sitting-still type activities with them like letters and numbers. (I want a job where I can get grants to prove the obvious.) Anyway, the radio segment went on to suggest ways that parents of boys could help their kids catch up with the girls. Why? The boys probably catch up eventually, when their boy brains are good and ready, and even if they don’t, fuck the fucking tests.

It made me think of how even writing is tested nowadays, and to make it scorable it’s reduced to a formula with about as much life in it a can of yeast-free pizza dough.

School is dangerous.