Why I Refuse To Get A Smartphone


At a bachelorette party earlier this year, I pulled out my mobile device: a hunk of a Verizon LG Cosmos slide dumb-phone with a two-inch display and a single megapixel camera. (Eat your heart out, Zack Morris.) The guest beside me stared, a bit bewildered. When it finally registered that, no, I couldn’t possibly be typing on a Hershey bar, she asked, “Is that a joke?”

From her sincerity, you would think I’d made a lifestyle choice more extreme than simply opting not to carry the Internet in my pocket, like taking a vow of silence or joining the anti-shampoo movement. But I suppose some smartphone devotees would rather be mute or forgo Herbal Essences than lose their constant access. And so, it seems, I’ve become a case study.

“But how do you get around without a smartphone?”

I have a GPS in my car, but if I’m traveling on-foot I print directions and train schedules beforehand and carry them in my purse.

“What do you do during idle moments, like when you’re standing in line?”

I think—sometimes about my to-do list, sometimes about the great mysteries of the universe, but mainly about National Enquirer headlines.

“What do you do when you’re around people you don’t want to talk to and you want to look busy?”

I… talk to them. Aside from the occasional crazy, a handful of duds, and the French, most people are worth talking to—at least for a few minutes.

“How do you take pictures?”

I use a camera. And no, it isn’t a Kodak disposable.

But the most common question I get is also the simplest, and it goes something like this: “But…just…why?”

Here’s why:

My 24-year-old brother sits at the family dinner table, and his concentration drifts down to the palm of his hand. I prompt him to join our memory making and he mutters an excuse about work, but we all recognize those left and right swipes as the gestures of Tinder. While we bond and chew, he assesses and sorts the local talent. It’s undeniable. Worst of all, there is no endgame to his categorizing because, after dinner, he will be returning home, to an apartment outside that particular Tinder radius. His task is purposeless. It’s Solitaire, but with breasts.

Or the middle-aged woman who dines at the booth beside ours, Facetiming a relative back home while ignoring the person perched across from her, a young lady who drains her margarita and glances around the restaurant, perhaps concluding it would have been more social to stay at home with her iPad.

Or the room full of lonely freshmen who stew in insecure silence before class begins, shoulders slouched forward, eyes directed at their laps—scrolling, swiping, tapping, typing—completely unaware that the strangers beside them are ripe with potential for friendship. It’s all I can do not to walk in and shout: Pick up your stare! Make eye contact with one another. Look around; you already have so much in common, you antisocial T-Swift twerps!

I refuse to get a smartphone because I don’t judge the people who are entranced by their devices; I understand them. I too am guilty of such detachment, of the tendency to disconnect from reality in exchange for virtual reality. I’ve been on the other side of the screen, eyes glazed over, scrolling through Facebook, not reading people’s statuses so much as simply becoming more and more dazed by the dance of the pretty bright lights. Really, I’m no more sophisticated than a moth. There I am, pupils constricted, caressing the track pad, my precious, while my husband recounts his day, or while my puppy poses before me with her baleful eyes and perked hound ears. And I miss it. I slip into the gray haze that hums between the here-and-now and cyberspace, and I fumble these small moments, these little drops of grace. I pretend to be present, nodding when I sense I should nod and grunting when I sense I should grunt (I can be quite convincing), while my consciousness flits in and out.

That drone in the ethers is hypnotic, time-consuming, and easy to slip into, but it’s far from fulfilling. I never emerge from my circuit of email checks, Facebook, Youtube, and Yahoo headlines with a satisfied sigh. I never think to myself, “By golly, that was a fine investment of my time! Given the choice, I’d do it all over again.” I typically feel more of an ick factor, like the hollowness of a hangover or the greasy film after indulging more than one serving of French fries. It makes me want to shower my brain.

And for what? What did I gain by clicking a tantalizing headline (a crucial lesson to learn: the more tempting the headline, the more likely the article is to disappoint) or by catching an Instagram photo of the eggs benedict a high school acquaintance enjoyed for brunch, the most over-photographed meal?

The real-life realm that exists behind my laptop screen—light refracting through a glass of water, my dog trotting around the living room with my sock in her mouth, my husband unknowingly singing “Any Way You Want It” because it’s playing in his ear buds—is riddled with observations sure to make me feel more content than even the most adorable Youtube video of a kitten swatting a pit-bull. But what tender moment I don’t witness—and I mean fully witness—I can’t appreciate. And if I get a smartphone, I’ll overlook more than just the divinity inside my living room. I’ll neglect priceless experiences on the train, over dinner, at the airport—wherever. I’ll be the doofus at the Grand Canyon reading tweets from Mindy Kaling. And sure, her musings are cute and clever, but I’m at the Grand Canyon for cripes sake! I’ll be the fool reading, “The Kitchen Hack That Can Cut Cooking Time In Half!” while my brother cracks a joke that won’t be half as funny the second time around. I’ll be the dead-eyed moron chuckling at a gif of a puppy while failing to notice the playful pounce of my actual flesh and blood puppy.

So I can’t get a smartphone; I know I couldn’t resist its gravitational pull, and I would forever live divided between the now and the infinite (and infinitely meaningless) cosmos inside my device. I’d never tune out of that domain so that I could fully tune into this one. I’d never again delight in the stuff so small you really have to pay attention to appreciate. I’d miss so much: The happy meanderings of the mind. The serendipity of uninformed wanderings without the shrewd assistance of Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google Maps. And, most importantly, I’d miss the simple repose of my mind having nowhere else to be. No way, I’d miss too much.


Seasons Greetings! And All That


Big news! Just in time for the holidays, I THOUGHT WE AGREED TO PEE IN THE OCEAN is available as an audiobook, narrated by the incomparable Julia Maggiola.

To celebrate, I’m launching a weeklong Kindle Countdown, as well as an Audible giveaway (an $18 value).

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Have someone on your list you don’t really want to spend money on? This is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

Republicans Call ShareACoke Campaign Obama’s Latest Move Toward Socialism


This summer, Coca-Cola launched the second season of its ShareACoke campaign, in which all of their labels were imprinted, not with the iconic logo of this all-American brand, but with a stranger’s name: Zach, Brandon, Makayla, and, more than likely, Hussein. The message here was clear: Although it was your hard earned $1.25 that purchased twenty ounces of that fizzing pop, although you broke your back to make that cash, although that patriotic one-dollar bill and that precious quarter are composed of paper, metal alloy, and your blood, sweat, and tears, it now belongs to someone else. In fact, it has their name written all over it. Who is the lucky recipient of your involuntary charity? Who is this individual with their hand out and their mouth ever so slightly ajar? Maybe an immigrant. Maybe a Muslim. Maybe even a Muslim immigrant. And guess what? That Muslim immigrant is making you thirsty.

Republicans demand to know who was behind this communist scheme, and they demand to know it was President Obama.

It’s no secret that President Obama is a slow-talking Marxist (and that he has big ears). What remains to be seen is how he got his socialist meat-hooks into this nationalistic corporation. What was once a chemical beverage emblem for the United States of America now promotes the very cyanide of our beloved capitalism: compulsory donation. These labels are not a suggestion. There are no question marks following those needy names. No ellipsis. It isn’t “Mom?” Or “Mom…” These labels are a firm declaration of false ownership. It’s welfare, personalized and carbonated.

They might as well follow the names with exclamation points.

The Killer Lambs: And Other Norwegian Truths


When we arrived in Norway, nobody told us to beware of the sheep.

The fjord region of Norway is a magical land; a combination of Ireland’s rolling green hills, Switzerland’s picturesque red houses, and Canada’s snow-capped rockies, all situated along endless weaving water inlets. Pick any spot at random, and from there you can admire at least two waterfalls. Sure, it’s cold. So cold there is a Norwegian saying: We don’t have a summer– only two months of poor ski conditions. So cold the setting of Disney’s Frozen is based on a real fjord village (Undredal: population 112). So cold, when we switched trains in the mountains, hail beat down on our faces– in the middle of June. But damn, was it beautiful.

We arrived by ferry in Aurland at 4pm. It was the first partly cloudy day after a series of wholly cloudy and rainy days, so we decided to take advantage of the rare peak of sunlight by going for a hike. We chose a short-ish route, estimated to take about an hour and a half. Although it doesn’t get dark in Norway until midnight, there was no need to be heroes. An hour and half was about all I wanted to invest before hunkering down with a $16 beer. (Oh yeah, dollars are about as valuable as Monopoly money in Scandinavia.)

The route took us along the shoreline, straight up the mountain, along a ridge, and back down the mountain to our bed and breakfast. A no brainer.

We nailed the shoreline walk. Not one mistake made.


But after two and half hours of wandering the mountain forest, we accepted that we maybe-possibly-probably-okay definitely were lost. We made this decision after our makeshift trail ended at a fence so tall and wide we couldn’t circumvent it without serious Spidey skills.

We turned to assess our options, and that’s when we saw them.

The blood thirsty momma sheep, and her two creepy lambs.

They approached us directly, with intention, as if they knew us. As if we had slighted them. As if, in a previous life, we were shady car salesmen who sold them a lemon whose brakes failed and sent them over a cliff, and they’d waited two-hundred years for this opportunity for revenge. As if they were the wolves and we were the lambs.

The sheep charged. You might be thinking– what’s the big deal? They’re sheep. Just kick them away. But sheep are animals. Big(ish) animals. They have teeth, and cloven hooves for boxing gloves. At 250 pounds, they are pretty much Anderson Silvas on four legs. We froze. When the ewe was within eight feet, she growled. And when I say growl, I don’t mean a cute little baa-baa-black-sheep croon. I mean a wild dog growl.

(Don’t bother googling “sheep growl” in order to see what I’m talking about. You won’t find it. I’ve tried. The Internet will surface a video of an amenable woman getting shot in the butt with a hot dog gun (true and horrifying story), but it is completely devoid of any authentic sheep growl. I blame it on some underground mastermind sheep PR campaign. The same campaign responsible for the definition of the word “sheepish”. Lack of self-confidence, my potential-hot-dog-target ass!)

With small, hesitant steps–no sudden movements!– we skirted past them, leery of the drop at our backs and the possessed mammals at our fronts. But once we eased by them, they followed us– and snarled. So we retreated, and they cornered us against the fence.

“Are sheep dangerous?” I asked Phil from the side of my mouth.

“I didn’t think so,” he said, in a tone that implied he was now rethinking all his previously held beliefs about farmyard animals.

“What do we do?”

“We make a run for it.”

And we did. We sprinted past the sheep, up the very steep hill, aiming toward what appeared to be a road in the distance. I felt the breath of the brutes on my heels, and I couldn’t help but notice that Phil never once looked back to confirm I was not being torn to pieces by those woolly beasts (are we sure they aren’t descendants of woolly mammoths?).

Fearing the monsters at our backs, we never expected what lay beyond the hill crest.


The monsters’ homestead.

“We have to hop the farm fence and get to the road,” Phil said.

“But what about the sheep??!” I cried.

He gripped my shoulders. “We have no choice!”

Phil cut himself hopping the barbed wire fence, and helped me over. Then we climbed up a hill so steep we had to claw at it with our hands. We fled with the ferocity of Dr. Grant running from the Gallimimus.


The exertion triggered my asthma.

“I can’t make it!” I cried between wheezes. “I need help.”

The sheep were closing in. Phil extended his hand. “Come on!”

Since I am here to tell the tale, you already know we made it out of there alive. We did, and saturated with relief and gratitude for our escape.


But the experience left us changed. For instance, I now wonder if, all these years, we’ve misunderstood that notorious childhood rhyme. Everyone talks about Mary and her little lamb like the animal was her faithful friend. Everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go. It followed her to school one day, etc. After this experience, I’m pretty confident that lamb was stalking that poor girl, and when the children laughed and played, that was just an example of nobody taking Mary– the victim –seriously.

It’s time we finally listened.

Why Tina Fey Should Be The New Face Of The Twenty-Dollar Bill


There are rumblings over Andrew Jackson’s impending termination as the face of our twenty-dollar bill, and I don’t blame America. I mean, as another Jackson so astutely questioned—what has he done for us lately (aside from having gloriously windblown hair and a forehead that goes on for days)? Since the Civil War, he’s barely offered his two cents, never mind twenty big ones.

So as we ponder his replacement, and as we consider tossing his ass aside for a profile with a little less Adam’s apple, let me state the obvious choice on all our minds.

Tina Fey.

Why Tina Fey for the twenty-dollar bill? Why not her? (Sit down, that was a rhetorical question.)

Tina is of Greek descent—born of the creators of mathematics and culture, and of a country whose economic state actually makes the United States look good. She is a native of Pennsylvania which, along with sounding like Dracula’s stateside address, is also one of the original thirteen colonies. This paragraph is about Tina’s patriotism.

As a renowned author, feminist, actress, producer, writer, award winner, philanthropist, and funny-bone tickler, she proves girls don’t have to go wild to be wildly successful. She is a woman who isn’t afraid of making strange sounds, or of wearing glasses even when contacts are a fairly easy alternative. She looks as stunning in a sequined gown as she does when proclaiming, “I can have it all,” around a mouthful of sandwich. She is an inspiration; a bra-wearing leader of men and women alike.

Was Andrew Jackson the mother of two? Was he the three-time co-host of the Golden Globes, alongside gal-pal Amy Poehler? Did he conquer a male-dominated profession? Okay, maybe he did that last one, but did he do it while having a uterus?

I want to slap Tina Fey’s face down on the counter the next time I purchase a tub of cheese puffs from that pimply judgmental kid behind the CVS counter. I want that coy smile tucked inside my purse the next time I interview for a position I wonder if I deserve. I want to see her image when my husband hands me a twenty from his wallet, because I didn’t get the aforementioned job and I’m a little short on cash.

And, as a bonus, if we photograph Tina Fey in a suit jacket, half of the country will assume it’s Sarah Palin and be happy. It’s a win-win.

So if you watch(ed) SNL, 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Date Night, Megamind, or This Is Where I Leave You; if you read Bossypants; if you’re a mother, a sister, or a friend; if you, too, are from Upper Darby, PA: Join me in a united, “Tina for the twenty!”

I suppose Harriet Tubman is a close second choice.


Take advantage of the Kindle Countdown Deal this week for I Thought We Agreed To Pee In The Ocean!

Graduation Swan Song: An Ode to Long Island

After five years of yearning, hoping, praying, and begging, we are finally wiggling free from the acrylic-tipped grasp of Long Island. And as we gear up for our next adventure, this time in the north shore of Boston (yes, swapping south shore for north shore and one infamous accent for another), I take a breath and prepare for the excitement to surge forth and wash over my outstretched arms. But just as unbridled enthusiasm approaches, and my fingertips begin to tingle, another, more unexpected, sensation sparks in my stomach.
I try to identify the foreign feeling spreading across my middle and reaching up to tickle my heart. It reminds me of the last day of summer camp, or the closing credits of a series finale.

Then I recoil.

It’s nostalgia.

For Long Island?

I’m experiencing the graduation effect, discussed in such shows as How I Met Your Mother and capitalized upon by such musicians as Vitamin C. Now that our departure is imminent, I’m becoming sentimental and, against all odds, developing a fondness for that which I so recently found distasteful. I suddenly admire the tenacity of the shirtless man who screams on our corner, the holiday cheer of the house decorated for Christmas all year long, the earthy scent of dog poo from the lawns of our eight immediate neighbors. I applaud the convenience of nearby highways and strip mall offerings. I discover that relentless traffic affords us time to contemplate life’s great mysteries, and I find the excessive honking of impatient drivers is not a symptom rage, but of passion.

I decide that the carrot glow of a fake tan in February is an iconic cultural beauty.

And why not award the word “dog” two syllables? It’s a good word; let it last!

If I’m applying such a sheen to the aspects of Long Island I once spurned, you can imagine how I feel about the parts I’ve always appreciated:

Pizza sauce has never been tangier, and its cheese is the perfect creamy compliment to the light salt and yeast of the dough. The ideal marriage of fat, carbs, and pureed tomato. Yum.

The untouched dunes of Robert Moses State Park are a natural wonder; I marvel at the landscape: plumes of sea grass sprout from the sands, the cobalt sea rushes against the shore in frothy licks and sparkles beneath the sun, as if its surface is encrusted with diamonds. All this, beneath an endless cerulean sky.

When we attend a Billy Joel cover band concert, I feel united with the crowd as we sway to the crooning of “Piano Man” or bounce to the beat of “You May Be Right.” The ‘sweet romantic nights’ he refers to in “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” occurred just thirty minutes away from where we stand! We are so proud of our Billy, an accomplished product of this paved island. He, along with so many other entertainment treasures, are our exalted alumni: Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield, the Baldwin brothers, Mariah Carey, Billy Crystal, Kevin James, Eddie Murphy, Pat Benatar, and Francis Ford Coppola. These artists are our graduated peers, the upperclassmen whose legends echo in the aisles of King Kullen, ping off the concrete of the expressway overpasses, and reverberate in the train cars of the Long Island Railroad. Their creative genius was nurtured on the very grounds on which we honk, and they left the island inspired.

Now that we, too, are departing, I can only hope that maybe, just maybe, so can we.