* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the last refuge of boomer humor. Were your parents baby boomers? Were they, by any chance, hippies? Are you (God help you!) a hippie? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you need the help of a certified expert, Amy York Rubin.

What Have You Become? The Do-It-Yourself Quiz That Maybe If Your Hippie Parents Had Taken You Wouldn’t Have To

By: Amy York Rubin

There was a time in your life when the only thing that made you angrier than finding chicken bits in the communal, vegan wok was when certain aspiring writers who might name John Irving as their idol refused to replace “he/she” with “s/he.” But then you failed to internalize Cornell West. Cornell West started showing up on Bill Maher. And BAM! “charter schools” joined “professional athlete” on certain children’s “your only way out” list. And somehow you were fine with that.

At this point it is indisputable that you are indeed going through that change. I am talking about that change that is capable of taking a perfectly stubborn individual and turning her into a star pupil in the patriarch’s school of sociopolitical norms. It’s the same change that once transformed flower children into champions of privatization and quiet critics of the public option.

But it’s not too late. You don’t have to buy from the registry just yet. No one is forcing you to agree that the woman in the corner office is indeed the perfect baby-bearing age. In fact, regardless of the unwelcome appearance of your first few grays and genetically inevitable saddlebags, it is still possible to be a firm believer in the dogma of social constructs and creed of ant-hegemonies. However, if you don’t stop and look at the monster you’re poised to become today, it could be too late tomorrow.

All you need to do is take a moment, answer these six, simple multiple choice questions and find out just how close you are to waking up in a Pottery Barn-furnished McMansion.

1. During casual discussions of the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus package you:

a. Regurgitate Krugman or Gibbs. If it’s not in your morning talking points (ie: The New York Times) then it’s not a viable option.

b. Are unable to contribute to the discussion because frequency with which the word “package” is used in such close proximity to “stimulus” keeps you too internally amused.

c. Never engage in the conversation because you do not want to validate the label “Administration” because that would suggest your complicity with a two-party system.

2. When your twenty-two year old niece incessantly insists that one out of every two thousand births is indeed an intersexed baby you:

a. Balk and remind her that if she stops defining herself as “gender queer” on her law school applications you’ll introduce her to the Dean at Georgetown.

b. Offer her another Jack and Coke as a means of demonstrating your acceptance of her obvious sexuality.

c. Pull out the diagram that you keep in your wallet that illustrates how “reconstructive” infant genital surgery is in fact drastically under reported.

3. During the Miss California USA gay marriage bruhaha you:

a. Agreed with Jon Stewart’s “leave the slut alone” rant because Jon Stewart is always right on the money. ALWAYS.

b. You don’t understand this question because you’re still watching Miss South Carolina’s 2007 comments on “U.S. Americans.'”

c. Can barely get the words “Loving v. Virginia” and “miscegenation” out fast enough to explain what would have happened had Miss California expressed her personal view that blacks should refrain from marrying whites.

4. When Netanyahu won you:

a. Were bummed the Livni didn’t pull through but renewed your AIPAC membership just to be on the safe side.

b. Were too immersed in Purim party pre-planning to even try and identify the 157 billion candidates that ran.

c. Spent the following three months mass-emailing Yoni Goodman’s “Closed Zone” video and signing up for Audre Lorde’s Israel boycott.

5. At your sister’s bridal shower you:

a. Made one of your most impressive bouquets yet using a paper plate and ribbons.

b. Played air hockey with her fourteen year-old cousin in the basement the entire time. Your mother was not amused.

c. Staged a sit-in on the front lawn with the catering service. If the sex workers unionized than so can caterers.

6. Obama is:

a. Black.

b. Mixed

c. Obviously this is a trap.

Scoring Key & Recovery Recommendations:

Mostly As: You’re practically your mother. After, long after, Woodstock. Not before.

Look, I’m not going to sugar coat this. You have a lot of work to do. You have handed the steering wheel of your life over to a proverbial culture validation admissions team. Regaining control will not be easy. I suggest immediately employing the Chicago Boys approach. You will need to shock yourself into a suitable state of numbness from which you can then begin the rebuilding process. Your shock therapy might include a long lunch at the Cheescake Factory and of course some type of ‘tini with the girls. Keep this up and soon enough you’ll be ready to revisit the Scum Manifesto with highlighter in hand.

Mostly Bs: You’re practically your mother. At Woodstock. Perpetually.

You have certainly veered off track but luckily your sensory receptors seem to have absorbed very little over the last ten years so it’s really not that big of a deal. At this juncture in your life my only recommendation is to treat yourself a little. Splurge. Cancel your Jdate subscription and put the money into something that you know will make you happy, instead of something that can only ever fulfill you in theory.

Mostly Cs: You’re practically your mother. Had she decided to move west instead of southeast after Woodstock.

Not bad, C, not bad. You have managed to stay focused in spite of a full-fledged multi-lateral attack by an army of culturally normative soldiers. You are a true warrior. You are also exhausted. You don’t know how much longer you can keep up the fight. Lately, you are even starting to wonder why fight at all. Why not just surrender to the masses and bathe yourself in the societal approvals that will inevitably flow like the sangria at your bff’s engagement party. You are experiencing these impulses not because surrender is imminent but because you’re alone in this thankless cultural battle. You need to get out of the line of fire, change it up a little and find a support team. Don’t waste any more time. Stop staring at the onesies in the window. It’s a mirage. And for god’s sake, don’t let the public service debt-repayment plans lure you into their grip — it’s a trap. Turn and run. You will find others eventually. But for now, just run.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where America shops for literary humor and seldom gets a discount. This week we'd like to introduce Summer Block, a young woman whose relationship with IKEA may be just a tad too intimate and meaningful.

Our Bodies, Our Shelves: An Emotional Mapping of IKEA

By: Summer Block

Welcome to IKEA, where sleek modern design is married to cost-cutting ingenuity and presented in the calmly cheerful spirit of Swedish social democracy. Please take the escalator upstairs to begin your harrowing emotional journey.

ENTRYWAY: Bafflement, Optimism

Take a deep breath. Enjoy the bright colors, the smell of lingonberry, and the perplexing but strangely persuasive signage. Give yourself over to the arrows painted on the floor. Grab a tape measure and a big yellow bag — let’s get shopping!

Look for: Golf pencils. Tealights.

Avoid: Weekend crowds.

LIVING ROOM: Seduction, Hesitation

Come on, that’s a great price for a real leather sofa. One that isn’t redolent with your last girlfriend’s perfume. But how will you get it into your car? And who exactly will help you move that thing upstairs? A sofa seems like a big commitment. Maybe another day.

Look for: Futon covers. Fabric cleaner. TV trays. Maybe a POÄNG chair.


STORAGE: Commitment, Resolve

Isn’t it time you had a place to put two and a half years’ worth of Baudrillard? $39.99 is very reasonable. Who ever looks at the back of a bookcase anyway?

Look for: BILLY. OMAR. CD towers.

Avoid: TV units. Custom shelving. LACK tables.

DINING ROOM: Admiration, Self-Doubt

You can’t be serious. You’re practically forty. Will you ever be the kind of person who has a sideboard?

Look for: Drop-leaf tables. Kitchen carts. Cork trivets.


OFFICE: Disbelief, Envy

Slowly circle a standing draftsmen desk with an etched glass top. Imagine a lifestyle where you’d actually use this desk. This office furniture was designed for the kind of jobs people have in Sweden, jobs like coding first-person-shooter video games and designing clever plastic clothes hangers. Buy a clever plastic hanger for your barista apron.

Look for: Magazine racks. Magnets. Mousepads. A bewildering series of brackets.

Avoid: Integrated lighting. VIKA.

BEDROOM: Nostalgia, Remorse

Remember when you had that awesome bunk bed? Whatever happened to that anyway? Remember when you were still buying sheets for two? The chiropractor warned you about that futon.

Look for: Orthopedic pillows. A throw blanket. A shoe cubby.

Avoid: Mirrors. Duvet covers. The PAX system.

KIDS: Indecision, Resentment

If you’re still buying items for yourself, you aren’t ready. You are too old for the ball pit. You won’t change his mind by showing him that adorable rocking horse. He already knows you’re hiding a bag full of bibs in the shoe cubby.

Look for: Puppets. Bed canopies. Finger paint.

Avoid: Lingering.

CAFE: Respite, Estrangement

Take a break and enjoy a coffee in front of a jewel-green mural of a family reindeer farm. Wonder why all the other couples look so happy. How long has that gravlax been sitting out?

Look for: Meatballs.

Avoid: Eye contact.


Okay, maybe it’s too soon to invest in a sofa or floor-to-ceiling CD rack. Maybe you two aren’t ready. Our downstairs Marketplace is filled with small, affordable items that can be easily shipped, sold, traded, or shoved tearfully into a duffel bag.

KITCHENWARES: Celebration, Deflation

Who needs kids? Be happy you’re a single, sophisticated adult! Why not host a dinner party? Invite everyone over for sushi. Do you really need place settings for twelve? Whatever happened to all your old friends?

Look for: Martini shakers. Ashtrays. Things with sharp metal edges.

Avoid: Cookie sheets. Plasticware.

TEXTILES: Comfort, Self-sufficiency

Snuggle up with some new sheets and pillows. No one is going to argue about pillows! A rug, on the other hand, is a big commitment. Maybe you want to buy some fabric by the yard and make your own curtains? Now is the time to embark on new projects. You probably know someone who has a sewing machine — now is the time to read that copy of MAKE you’ve been using as a coaster.

Look for: Floor pillows. Roman blinds. Sheep skins. Throw rugs.

Avoid: Area rugs. FLOKATI. FÅBORG.

BATHROOM: Despair, Renewal

Have a quick cry. Wipe it off on a bath towel. Pick up a new shower curtain — your new life begins today!

Look for: Toothbrush holders. Soap dispensers. Bath mats. Small metal boxes.

Avoid: Soiled bath towels.

LIGHTING: Creativity, Defensiveness

What about track lighting? Nothing says “grown up” like track lighting. Or maybe a touch of whimsy in the form of a glowing plastic orb? A person’s home sends a message, and right now you’d gladly pay $200 for any lamp that says, “Seriously, I’m glad I got that MFA.”

Look for: Compact fluorescent light bulbs. Batteries. Flammable paper lanterns.

Avoid: Novelty lighting. Incandescents.

DECORATION: Exuberance, Self-expression

Today is the day you start anew. How about filling one whole window with tiny prisms? Or a series of red aluminum mobiles? Remember those decorative rattan balls you used to have on the coffee table? What were you thinking?

Look for: Posters of the San Francisco skyline. Very narrow vases. Tealights. Tealight holders.

Avoid: Fake flowers. GESTALTA.

PETS AND PLANTS: Postponement, Failure

Let’s be frank. Why not just get a plant? Can’t be trusted with a plant? Get a plastic one. Or a $70 chaise lounge for your dachsund. What exactly are you saving up for?

Look for: Lint rollers. Bamboo. Squeak toys.

Avoid: Bags of decorative pebbles. Macramé.

STOCK ROOM: Breathlessness, Scapular Dislocation

Six years ago you were on the rugby team and now you can’t lift a disassembled ottoman? What happened to you?

Avoid: Lifting with your back.

Look for: Help.

CASH REGISTERS: Vacillation, Recklessness

I thought you were on a budget. Is that credit card still okay? How did you wind up spending a thousand dollars? What the hell is an EKTORP? Why do you have so many tealights?

Avoid: Collection agency.

Look for: More tealights.

GROCERY: Morbid curiosity, National pride

It’s not all clean water and nationalized health care. Let the grocery aisles remind you exactly why you don’t want to live in Scandinavia.

Look for: Knäckebröd. Herring. Aquavit.

Avoid: All of it.

PARKING LOT: Relief, Exhaustion

Why is a thirty-six-year-old college graduate still driving his mother’s old Volvo? Should you have just gone to law school?

Look for: Allen wrenches. Twine.

Avoid: Crying.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where old memories go to be laughed to death. This week one of our own associate editors, Tyler Smith, does his best Marcel Proust impersonation.

À la Recherche du Texas Temps Perdu

By: Tyler Smith

Austin, Lauren’s driveway, 2009: “I’m wildly attracted to you,” I say, moving closer. “You smell like prime rib plus Jolly Ranchers,” she says. I lose heart. There will be no kiss. They don’t kiss at Exposé Gentleman’s Club. But those kittens play close. And do not judge.

Laredo, 1983: A man wrestles on a street corner with a giant squid. On closer inspection, it’s not a squid, it’s a hemorrhoid.

Marfa, 4:00 a.m., 2007: I pass a nude man carrying a box of donuts. He gives me a thumbs-up. I wonder why. Turns out, I’m nude, too, but I have no donuts. The next day I will go to AA.

Galveston, 2000: There’s something on my line! I reel it in. It’s a decaying corpse. I never catch anything good. The next day, I catch crabs from a toilet in Surfside.

Nuevo Laredo, 1999: I am an expatriate! I’ve done it — made the move. I read Les Miserables in one sitting. I drink wine out of a box, internationally. My friends argue that even though I’m an American, there’s no excuse for emptying my bowels into a box of wine. Also, it seems we haven’t yet crossed the border.

Houston, Buffalo Bayou, 1985: “Pick it up, Adam — let’s make it our friend or our mascot or something!” Later, at Ben Taub hospital, “He’s lucky he’s not dead.” A water moccasin should have a different name. They don’t work like shoes do. And a moccasin is a stupid kind of shoe.

San Antonio, The Alamo, 2001: I bribe the guard with pesetas, then pounds, then Euros. “Where can we find Pancho Villa’s bunker,” I ask. “Huh,” he says. Alas, the Starbucks is closed. Where can I find a latte? Drugs and Texas history do not mix.

Archer City, 2004: The Lonesome Dove Inn is teeming with culture. I espy Gabriel García Márquez, a little tipsy, asking passers-by for money. “Maestro!” I shout. “Mange d’la marde!” he replies, then punches me in the nose. Larry McMurtry is a douche bag. So is the hobo that punched me.

Houston, TX, 1986: The Challenger has exploded. Channel 11 News has come to our school to interview students — gauge our reactions. “What does this mean to you?” asks the comely reporter. “No school tomorrow?” I reply, hopefully. They edit out my spot and that uppity 4th grade bitch, Laurie, makes the news.

Amarillo, 1984: The Civic Center is going wild. “Ama-effin-rillo!!” shouts Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. Then cops, then show’s over, with nary a chord struck. Then my brother and his roommate in the parking lot eating whipped cream. They loved whipped cream. Now they’re acting funny and I feel like maybe I’m in control.

Dallas, 1982: “Hey kid, you want a cigarette?” asks the man at the hotel bar. “Yes!” I exclaim. “Hey, don’t you dare do that” barks my father. A right cross, then a thud. I wish my Dad were a better fighter.

Nuevo Laredo, 1999: They say there are two kinds of herpes, but only one kind makes your girlfriend break up with you. Again, it appears we have yet to cross the border. I’m getting fed up with Laredo.

Austin, 2009: I have gazed at the art of grief. The margarita machine is broken. I won’t laugh again until I smell like Jolly Ranchers and prime rib.

Welcome to The Big Jewel, now Bigger and Jewel-eyer than ever! It's only the second week of our redesigned site. Can you stand the excitement? Well, we can't. In fact, we think we're having a heart attack. And that's not too far from what's happening to this week's author, Ralph Gamelli...

Don’t Make Me Angry (You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry)

By: Ralph Gamelli

Take this as a warning: when I lose my temper, I transform into something not entirely human.

One thing I’ll do in this state is stomp all around the place. You might find this amusing for a few moments, even boyishly charming. But after an hour and a half? Not so much.

I’ll also break stuff — easily breakable things for the most part. So if you’re doing a crossword, it might be wise to hide an extra pencil in your pocket and take it out only after I’ve left the room.

You should know that I’ll furiously drum my fingers against the nearest available surface — a table top, a desk, your face, whatever.

They say I get an enraged expression that really distorts my features. You’ll be tempted to laugh, but don’t. This will get me even angrier, distorting my features all the more, and before you know it, we’ll be locked in an escalating cycle of rage, laughter, rage, laughter, until one of us has an aneurism.

If someone has asked me to feed their fish while they’re away, and then I fly off the handle, there’s a good chance I’ll forget to feed them. Keep that in mind before you ask me.

Undoubtedly I’ll grind my teeth. If we’re someplace quiet, you’ll hear this repetitive _click click click_ sound which I’m told can be incredibly annoying, especially if you’re trying to read.

During particularly bad episodes I’ve been known to call my therapist and tell her all about it, including the name of the person who set me off, even if he or she is right there in the room. If that person is you, it can be pretty awkward.

If there’s a snowman nearby, I’ll knock it over and trample it into a fine powder.

Same thing with a sand castle. Total decimation.

I won’t topple a house of cards, though. Those things take forever to build and, as ferocious as I get during these times, I retain just enough of my humanity to prevent me from going that one step too far.

Don’t be surprised if you hear a grating series of impatient sighs or, if you’re exceptionally unlucky, very loud, sarcastic humming. It won’t even be a real song.

Occasionally, and this is a weird one, I’ll take off my shoe and start pounding the heel into my palm. It hurts like hell and I have no idea why I do it or what it signifies, but I do it anyway.

Once, I got so mad I bit my lip and drew blood. Needless to say, if you’ve got a light-colored carpet, you really don’t want to get on my bad side.

Eventually, of course, I’ll calm down and become just an ordinary, average man again. As I regain control of my senses, I’ll be momentarily disoriented. This is the best time to hit me up for a loan or ask me to feed your fish while you’re away.