Smoking in the girls’ room, sneaking a drink, napping
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When our sixth-grade class went to confession each Friday before early-morning Mass, I always had trouble thinking of any sins to confide to the priest. My religion teacher, however, insisted that we all committed sins and urged me to think harder. In frustration, I took to inventing two or three serious ones in advance. I kept this up for two and a half years — until I found drugs and stopped going to Mass altogether.
By the time I got to college, drugs were my sin of choice — and crack exclusively, from the moment I first tried it in 1979. That day, I sat at a friend’s coffee table and smoked from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon, getting up only a couple of times to go to the bathroom, and stopping only when I’d smoked all I had. Afterward, I paced around my dorm room, fists clenched, taking deep breaths, drinking beer, and watching late-show reruns until sunrise.
The first hit was always the best, like being slowly submerged feet first into the warm liquid safety of your mother’s womb, and becoming a quiet, throbbing bundle of happiness and well-being. From there on, every hit was a futile effort to recapture that initial bliss, until you were smoking continuously with no perceivable sensation, just a numbness of the mind and body that would turn into an insatiable hunger when the drug ran out, sending you looking for another stash. The cycle would end only when the body shut itself off a few days later in exhaustion and disgust.
Four months after I started smoking crack, my wife had a miscarriage and had to stay overnight in the hospital. That night, I put our four-year-old son to bed upstairs, glad for the opportunity to smoke in the peace and quiet of our home. When he’d wake up and ask when I was going to bed, I’d shuffle him back upstairs and lie by his side a few minutes, then go downstairs for just one more hit.
Still a student, I would leave home at eight and go to a friend’s place instead of class. I’d smoke until midafternoon, take a shower, and return to my house when classes would normally have been over. It was my last semester, and I had already interviewed with several corporate recruiters. A man from one company spent three days looking for me in my classes to offer me a job, but I wasn’t there.
In 1980, while my wife and son were away, I stayed locked inside our town house for a week, smoking continually. I didn’t wear any clothes because I felt bugs crawling on my skin. With the lights off, I peered out through the blinds, convinced somebody was outside watching me. I heard voices whispering in other rooms, just out of earshot, as I patrolled the house naked, my glass pipe in one hand and my .357 Magnum in the other. I put them down only to masturbate to a Penthouse magazine. When I was arrested later that year, I weighed only 140 pounds.
Today I wake up at 5 A.M., silently fold my blanket four times into a rectangle, and sit cross-legged in the top bunk of my cell to meditate. At six I put on my shoes, first the right, then the left, and walk to the dining hall, where I chew my food slowly and thoroughly. Afterward, I brush my teeth — the top ones first, six strokes each always in the same order — then use the john at 6:45. It takes me exactly five minutes to walk to the recreation yard, where I sit in the empty baseball-field bleachers to chant for forty-five minutes as the sun comes up.
I no longer have any shortage of sins, but now I have no one to confess them to, either.
I’m a picker, I’ve been one all my life. When I’d fall and skin my knee as a girl, a detached part of me would examine the wound for picking potential. A scrape was good: lots of thin, shallow scabs to scratch off over the next day or two. A deeper wound would need several days to heal before I could slide a fingernail under the crispy edge and slowly peel back the scab. Sure, it stung a little, but it was a satisfying kind of pain.
When I was ten, my parents tried to break me of my picking habit. At the time, I desperately wanted to be like Tracy Partridge, of the singing Partridge Family, so they bribed me with a tambourine just like hers, made of real pigskin with two rows of tiny gold cymbals. Shaking this prize in front of me, they said that if I avoided picking for an entire month, it was mine.
That month, once a week, Mom would bring the tambourine out from its secret hiding place and let me play it for an hour. I’d select a Partridge Family album from my stack, cue it up on the hi-fi in the family room, then hop up onto the brick hearth (my stage) and blissfully play along. I didn’t stop picking entirely, but I did pick less. I got the tambourine.
San Jose, California
To give up a habit, Krishnamurti says, one must observe it in detail. Nothing is gained by willpower, for buried impulses only gather strength and, in time, erupt — inwardly or outwardly.
Let nothing about a habit escape notice, Krishnamurti instructs. Do you smoke? Then watch yourself open the pack of cigarettes; hear the scratch of the match; smell the sulfur, the contact of flame with tobacco and paper; feel the smoke as you draw it into your lungs, that slight, pleasant sensation near your heart, like an emotion, only smaller and tighter.
Watch closely the exhaled smoke, now stale, spreading out under your nose. Feel your lips shaping the smoke into circles and observe how the circles disintegrate as they enlarge into the room. Notice how people react to your smoke with flared nostrils and dirty looks. Observe also yourself: how you are embarrassed to be seen as a person who smokes, an addict who leaves a trail of ashes behind, whose mouth would taste of cigarettes if kissed.
If you give a habit your entire attention, Krishnamurti says, it dissolves without further effort. Not only that: look unblinkingly at one habit, and you will see an inevitable link with a whole universe of other habits you possess — nail biting, masturbating, repeating the same old stories again and again, daydreaming your life away instead of living consciously.
To observe even one habit fully is to see all habits, and thus to end them. Habits are maintained because you choose not to see yourself. That is why you smoke. That is why you bite your nails. That is why you can’t stop talking.
Petersburg, West Virginia
I used to think I was born under a bad sign. When I was a kid, my baby sister died, and then my parents got divorced. Mom and I moved to Oregon, and my best friend there was killed in a hunting accident. As a teen, I started using drugs and causing trouble, so my mom sent me to live with my dad, who beat me up and called me names. I took more drugs, dropped out of school, and went to work. Then another friend — whom I wanted to marry someday — committed suicide. I kept taking drugs, and started drinking a lot, too. I thought I had a decent life, as long as I could stay numb and detached. I had learned how to stay high all day at work, and not get sloppy until I was safely home at night.
Then I got a new job that required me to get up very early in the morning. It forced me out of my intoxication routine, and led me to start taking naps in the afternoon.
One day, I woke from my afterwork nap, turned on the TV, and stumbled across a rerun of Gilligan’s Island. Somehow I’d never seen a complete episode of the show before, and I was transfixed. The premise was preposterous, yet the actors played it so frantically, hilariously straight. I couldn’t stop laughing, and made plans to watch the show again the next day. Studying the TV listings, I found that I could catch three episodes of Gilligan’s Island each afternoon. I soon arranged my schedule around the show. If friends came over while I was watching, they had to shut up and watch, too. Soon they quit coming over, and the transition was complete: I’d traded my drug habit for a Gilligan habit.
I know it seems a stretch to claim that a goofy TV show cured my drug habit, but I was lucky — my dependency was psychological, not chemical. I thought I needed drugs to fight off depression, but all I really needed was to laugh.
Eighteen years later, I still watch Gilligan’s Island religiously, and have every episode on tape. My daughter watches with me, and loves the show as much as I do. My wife watches, too, but mostly laughs at us, not the TV. I relate to Gilligan’s jinx-riddled haplessness, and try to adopt his gift for being perfectly happy, wherever he is. No matter what he’s lost, he’s glad for what he has. That’s a pretty good lesson to come out of a corny old comedy.
Sedro Woolley, Washington
At a young age, I became obsessed with dieting. When I was thirteen, I decided I could no longer starve myself. After a week of nothing but Diet Coke and grapes, I would salivate at the mere mention of food. So I began eating as much as I wanted, then throwing up.
It was messy at first, but I soon learned the tricks of the trade: I discovered that pasta and ice cream were the easiest foods to throw up, and that one small swallow of water with each bite helped everything to slide up easily. I disguised the retching sounds by playing the radio loud, and kept myself reasonably clean by removing my shirt and tying my hair back. When I was through, I brushed my teeth and put scented lotion on my hands. These careful precautions, however, eventually became the clues that alerted my mother. She found me help.
In the two years since then, I have relapsed five times. I am still unable to eat without taking a gulp of water after every bite, or to go to the bathroom without turning on the radio.
Oak Park, Illinois
I have this habit of patting my gut, a habit born of self-loathing, and the recognition that I will never have a washboard stomach. Sometimes it’s a kind of checking in with myself: “Yep, there’s my gut; it hasn’t gone away while I slept.” Other times it’s malicious: “Bad gut! Nasty, flabby, ugly, nondisappearing gut!” I don’t actually hit it to the point of causing pain, but the slap I give lies somewhere between a pat and a whack. Often, when my wife, Kathleen, and I are walking through the park, she’ll catch me patting it almost unconsciously and say, “Stop it!” — not because it annoys her, but because she’s aware of the self-hatred involved.
I wonder if I’ll ever be at peace with my gut. New-age publications say I should honor it and not be at war with it. The gastrointestinal pains I often suffer are more than likely related to my loathing for my gut. I think of all the time and energy I’ve wasted dieting, doing sit-ups, pumping up and down on the Stairmaster, pondering, obsessing, patting, whacking. I know there are much better things I could be doing.
Today, my polarity therapist tells me that I should relax and think more expansively about that area of my body, that all the stress I’m feeling is compressing my organs. We laugh together about how crazy our culture is regarding our bodies, particularly our stomachs. Once, she says, she caught herself obsessing about her weight so much that she stopped and thought, For God’s sake, it’s not like you’re a murderer — you’re just fat! We laugh some more. I go home after the session and have one of the beers I keep tucked away in the back of the fridge for when I’m really weak or just deserve it. I eat crackers with hummus, cook dinner for Kathleen and me, and even have a small dish of ice cream for dessert. The whole time, I think expansive and relax, and I don’t pat my gut once.
My family was Southern Baptist, and when I was a child, going to church was a big part of my life. I went to Sunday school and preaching on Sunday morning, to training union and preaching on Sunday night, and to choir practice, church supper, girls’ auxiliary, and prayer meeting on Wednesday evening.
Once in a while, when I or someone else in my family was sick, I wouldn’t go to church. It was exciting to be at home on Sunday evening because I got to watch The Wonderful World of Disney on TV. I would look forward to the program with a mixture of enthusiasm and guilt. The opening of the show was so beautiful and promising: fireworks going off behind Snow White’s Castle, and Tinkerbell flitting about with her sparkling wand to the tune of “When You Wish upon a Star.” I remember wondering if God believed I had a good enough reason not to be in church. Shouldn’t I be studying the Bible instead of watching Disney?
That night, I would go to bed worrying what God thought of me. I felt lost in a nebulous area where my virtue was uncertain. Sometimes it would take me days to find my way back.
Now I never go to church.
L. C. F. Shaw
When I was growing up in the fifties, every adult I knew, including my schoolteachers, smoked. In those days, you just “picked up the habit” when you were in high school; of course, some bad kids picked it up earlier, smoking in the woods behind the middle school, or back of the barn, where Mom and Pop couldn’t see.
Even as a teenager with both parents and an older brother who smoked, I could think of nothing more idiotic than puffing on a cigarette. (I had tried it once and gotten sick.) The house smelled bad, the ashtrays were always full, and once in a while my brother would fall asleep in bed with a lit cigarette and start a fire. I vowed never to smoke and looked with considerable scorn on those who did.
At the age of nineteen, I got a summer job on the ferry between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Muskegon, Michigan. I was one of the very few among the crew who didn’t smoke. We worked twelve-hour shifts, and were discouraged from going ashore during our two-hour layovers in port. Everyone slept in a bunk room below water level, where steam pipes ran within inches of our heads and the temperature never dropped below ninety degrees. Federal law prohibited alcohol in crew quarters, but we stashed cases of booze all over the place, and getting drunk was our primary recreation. After a week or so of this, the outside world gradually blurred, receded from consciousness, and eventually ceased to exist in any practical way.
During one of our illicit drinking parties, my six bunkmates took it upon themselves to teach me how to smoke, “like a normal person.” Drunk on the dreadful combination of Pepsi and Southern Comfort, I offered little resistance. With careful instructions and advice, they patiently showed me how to light a cigarette, how to hold it like a man, how to inhale without coughing, how to flick the ashes off, and how to blow smoke rings. One or two such bleary-eyed training sessions later, I was a pro. I was one of the guys. I was normal.
At the end of the summer, I wasn’t yet seriously hooked, and planned to quit as soon as I finished the last pack I brought with me from the ship. But then something happened to change my mind. A day or two later, I went to visit my mother. When we sat down at the table to talk and drink coffee, I lit a cigarette to relax, and as we sat there smoking and talking, I felt for the first time like her equal, like an adult. This was something far more powerful than peer pressure. That one fateful cigarette in my mom’s presence transformed me. I was hooked for real.
Now middle-aged and deeply addicted, I look back on that day with sorrow, not quite believing how gullible and innocent I was, despite my burgeoning street smarts, and shaking my head at my ability to fool myself, then and now.
For most of my life, I had the insidious habit of apologizing incessantly. “I’m sorry” came to my lips at the slightest pang of guilt or inadequacy. Despite the efforts of a no-nonsense high-school history teacher whose creed was “Never apologize, never explain,” I kept my habit all through college and for many years afterward.
One day, while living in a small spiritual community in India, I asked a friend to help me transplant a Bodhi tree. As it turned out, he ended up doing most of the work. I felt powerless and stupid, like a child who could only watch the adults work, and I apologized for not being of more help.
“Why do you apologize so much?” my friend said to me. “It’s as if you’re apologizing for existing.”
It was a ruthlessly perceptive observation, though he made it gently, without annoyance, as if pointing out a flower or the new moon. Since then, I have apologized less and less, and no longer feel so sorry for myself.
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Years ago, my father discovered Enzo, the Italian barber, and thought that, since I had once lived in Italy, Enzo and I would have something in common. We didn’t. I didn’t even like the haircuts he gave me. But since then, every six weeks, I go back for a trim.
Each time, I step into the shop, pick up an old issue of People, and sink into the barber’s chair. “A little treem?” Enzo always asks. “Not too short,” I invariably reply, and after these initial pleasantries are exchanged, I escape into my reading, interrupted now and then by Enzo’s rapid-fire Italian.
“Please, Enzo,” I eventually implore, “my Italian is not so good.”
He takes a step back in wide-eyed amazement. “But your father says-a you must-a practice.” I shrug my shoulders, and he finishes off the haircut in dead silence.
When he is done, Enzo loosens my collar, brushes my neck with talcum, and holds up the mirror for my inspection. I retrieve my glasses and, without fail, am startled by the unfamiliar reflection: too short again.
“Perfect,” I say, and smile weakly as Enzo, ever watchful, nods in agreement. Then I plod home, knowing that my wife will once again reel in horror when she sees me.
Why do I continue going to Enzo? Is it out of respect for my father? Am I too lazy to look for someone else? Perhaps I’m afraid of hurting Enzo’s feelings. What I know is this: when recently, after seven years, I decided to try a new barber, who stocked different magazines and gave better haircuts, I felt as if I had cheated on my wife.
J. H. Korda
We eat in silence at the meditation retreat, seeing in each grain of rice the sun, the rain, the soil, and the human effort that brought this food to our bowls. Before lifting the fork to my mouth, I breathe deeply, and when my bowl is half empty I am already full. I appreciate the regular meals, the unavailability of snacks. (When I crave sugar or bread, I can usually ride it out — or else beg an energy bar from the woman who brought a month’s supply. ) I relearn what it is to enjoy food without trying unsuccessfully to use it as an escape from suffering. I hope to bring this lesson home with me.
And I do, for a few days. But before the week is out, anxiety drives me to the refrigerator, and I stand in front of it with the door open. Realizing what is happening, I take a deep breath and walk back upstairs. Fifteen minutes later, I am back in the kitchen. Screw mindfulness, I think, and eat some of my roommate’s chocolate.
Is it hopeless? Does three weeks of practice stand a chance against years of habit? Or is it that my will is too weak?
Thankfully, I learned something else at the retreat: if mindful eating is impermanent, so, too, are anger and despair. Knowing this, I can call these feelings by name and wait for them to pass, confident that mindful eating will be possible again.
When I was eight years old, my brother and I got spankings almost every other day. The situations varied, but this is how it happened most:
I am lying on my bed upstairs reading a book when I hear my father’s footsteps as he enters the house. “Keeeeyaaaads!” he calls out, his tenor voice even higher than usual. (When you get spanked often, you become sensitive to the slight changes in tone of voice that indicate an impending spanking. )
My heart pounds as I answer, “Yes?”
I walk shakily down the stairs.
“I was out there in the shop thinking about you,” Daddy says to my brother and me. “I was thinking about all your sassy talk and your arrogance, and how so many times I have asked you to come out and say, ‘Daddy, can I do anything to help?’ and how you have never, not once, said those words.” He is practically shaking with anger, his eyes filled with hatred, his voice approaching falsetto. “I think I owe you a gooood spanking!”
My brother and I start to cry. (I don’t remember if the spankings were all that painful in themselves — they never left bruises — but combined with his screaming, they were quite traumatic.) Then he pulls up my dress, pulls down my underwear, and hits me with whatever implement he is currently using: his bare hand, his leather slipper, a switch that whistles as it comes whipping through the air, or the paddle he carved and hung on the living-room wall. He yells in rhythm with the whacks, in a tight, high, angry voice, “Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy! . . .” My brother and I scream and cry and call out to our mother for help, but Daddy won’t tolerate being challenged by her. (She tried to get him to join her in reading child-rearing books, but he told her he had to follow his “instincts.”)
Now, more than twenty-five years later, my father and I have actually become quite friendly. A year or so ago, though, he had a rare recurrence of his angry episodes, and, flashing back to the painful past, I screamed at him for all the beatings he’d given me.
“I thought I was a good father,” he said, raising his eyebrows over wounded, but still reproachful, eyes.
My habits are a mirror image of my father’s. He wore a necktie from the moment he emerged from the bedroom in the morning, to the time he retired there at night, even on weekends; I wear a tie only to weddings and funerals. He liked classical music exclusively; I listen to R & B. He liked his eggs sunny side up; I eat them over hard. My father was temperamentally pessimistic; I tend to see the silver lining even when it isn’t there. (When my father saw the German Army marching into our village in Yugoslavia, he predicted they would conquer the world. Only seven years old at the time, I kicked him in the shin and shouted, “Never!”)
So much of who I am today is defined by my contempt and hatred for my father. Now that he’s dead, and I’m at the brink of old age myself, I understand him a lot better, and have forgiven him for his frequent rages and his perpetual aura of misery. I am even thankful to him for saving my life from the Nazis. But to a large extent I still identify myself as Not My Father.
“Psst. Psst! You awake?” Every morning at 4 A.M., it was the same: Grandpa would come to my door, looking for company. I’d scramble out of bed and meet him at the kitchen table, where he’d sit in the dark, his cigarette glowing and crackling as he inhaled, smoke whistling back out through his teeth. Together, we’d watch the sun come up over the fields he’d been unable to farm for fifteen years.
Grandpa had fallen off his tractor in his forties, and dislocated his hip. He’d refused to see a doctor, and it had never healed quite right. I always thought the accident happened because, deep down, my grandfather hated farming. As a young man, he’d wanted to play professional baseball. But he was the oldest son, and so had taken over the family farm, found a wife, and raised a family. By the time I was born, his life revolved around the kitchen table, where he stained the ceiling brown with his smoking, and the recliner, where he sat to watch ballgames, yelling at anyone foolish enough to come near — anyone but me.
Grandpa and I spoke a silly private language only we could understand. He taught me how to throw a curveball. When we went fishing, he’d buy me beef jerky at the bait shop and let me bait the hook with leeches. In winter, he’d plow all the snow up against the side of the barn so I could climb to the roof and slide down on my sled. When I was ten, he taught me how to drive his old pickup out in the field behind the silo. After he died, when I was twelve, I taught myself to smoke like him — coughing and hacking in the woods up on the mountain, rubbing juniper needles on my fingers so they wouldn’t smell like smoke.
Grandpa has been dead for twenty years. I live in Brooklyn now, far from those wheat fields. I gave up smoking five years ago, but I still wake up early and sit by the window; only now I am alone.
Brooklyn, New York
My husband and I live side by side daily, but once or twice a year, for a week or so, I find I can’t stand his habits. I watch him meticulously cutting his potatoes into perfect squares, as if about to build a block wall, and I want to scream, “Just eat them, for God’s sake!” Or I see him scratch inside his ear with his car keys, and I mumble, “Start yourself up and drive out of here.” And when he sits in front of the TV with his fingers permanently curled around the remote, watching ten minutes of every movie ever made, I wonder what possessed me to marry him.
Gradually, as time passes, I appreciate how he greets the old dog he loves, or pats a child on the back, or massages my callused feet, and his bad habits fall back into their usual unimportance.
Mary Jackson Krauter
I got one of my bad habits — drinking coffee — from my father. I take it the same way he did: cream, no sugar. The first time we had a cup together was the summer before my senior year of high school. We were having an early breakfast at a small, homey New England restaurant while on a car trip to visit top Northeastern colleges. Later in the morning, we were both to be interviewed at Yale University.
Drinking coffee was the least of my father’s bad habits, which also included smoking unfiltered Camel cigarettes. On this trip, it seemed he always had a cigarette in his mouth, which made him even less communicative than usual. You’d think he might have expressed some excitement about the possibility of my becoming the first person in our family to go to college — but, no, he was his usual sullen self. On some level, though, he must have been pleased, for my winning a scholarship to college would be consistent with his lifelong quest to get something for nothing. You see, my father was also a habitual gambler, playing poker with his used-car-salesmen buddies, placing wagers on sporting events, and, most of all, betting at the racetrack.
Having little formal education himself, my father was extremely uncomfortable with the preppy admissions officers we encountered on our college tour. He dealt with his anxiety (and, I suppose, justified the expense of the trip) by visiting racetracks as much as possible. We ended up seeing almost as many tracks as colleges, going to Princeton in the morning and Monmouth Park in the afternoon; or Amherst College in the afternoon and Green Mountain Park in the evening. At the track, my father showed more emotion; he shouted encouragement at horses, cursed at jockeys, and pounded his racing program against the rail.
My father died a few years ago of cancer, most likely caused by his smoking. I never actually applied to Princeton or Yale; I was too intimidated. I was wait-listed at Amherst, and, too insecure to wait, I fled to a school in the Midwest, sight unseen. Had I been more sophisticated, I would have realized that when an Ivy League admissions counselor tells you, “There’s a school for every applicant,” he means his school is not for you.
It’s 1964, I’m eleven years old, and I still suck my thumb. But I’ve resolved to give it up for Lent. Being the guilt-ridden Catholic child that I am, I see this as the ultimate sacrifice that will guarantee my entry into heaven. Nobody knows about my vow; such sacrifices don’t work if you go around bragging about them. But I know God is taking note. I spend many sleepless nights waiting for the desire to suck my thumb to subside, waiting to feel like a saint.
Eventually, I get through withdrawal, but every now and then I sneak my thumb back in, just to remember how it feels. I pull it out quickly and wonder if heaven is worth it.
“You must crowd out bad habits by cultivating good habits.” These words, by the Indian guru Paramhansa Yogananda, stirred something deep within me when I first read them. I became obsessed with ridding myself of all bad habits. I would follow his instructions, crowding them out of my life, filling my time with good habits instead. First, I wanted to stop cursing, so I started imposing on myself full days of silence. Second, there was nail biting; I took up beadwork to keep my hands busy. Finally, I wanted to give up sugar, which I was sure caused my depression, and dairy products, which made me fat and gave me stomachaches, and which I was morally opposed to eating.
This last pair, however, proved much more difficult than the others. I quit dairy products and sugar and went back to them approximately ten times in two years. Once, I quit for three months straight; then, during a Thanksgiving fast, I went crazy and ate brownies smothered with ice cream. After that, I set up a devotional altar with Yogananda’s picture next to my bed. Every night before sleep, I would light candles and ask him to help me. I did cleaning and walking meditations, prayed and read spiritual books daily, practiced yoga, made jewelry, and even washed my clothes by hand. But I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Finally, one night, I had a dream in which Yogananda showed me a big lake and said I would have to walk around it to get to the other side. He said he would walk with me, and assured me I would make it. I awoke in the morning convinced I had been visited by this long-dead man.
Within a month, I had quit both sugar and dairy products. I lost forty pounds, my skin cleared up, and I had more energy than ever before. It’s been four years since then, and, much to my amazement (and everyone else’s), I have never eaten sugar or dairy products again.
High Falls, New York
Everybody in my family has bad habits, some worse than others. I eat too slowly, my mom nags too much, and my dad never uses his blinker. But it’s my sister’s bad habit that really bugs me: she won’t stop singing to me. No matter what I am doing, she finds me and starts singing a song that she made up, like this one:
Here comes that little cuddle machine.
It’s coming to cuddle you.
So be prepared, because the little cuddle machine
may just come to you.
Here comes that little cuddle machine.
It’s coming to cuddle you.
So be prepared, because the little cuddle machine
may just come to you.
I have asked her repeatedly to stop this. Sometimes I say, in a rather annoyed and loud tone, “Go sing somewhere else.” But she never seems to get it through her head that I don’t want to hear her songs, especially when I’m doing homework. (As a matter of fact, she just walked in and started singing while I am typing this — I’m not kidding!)
My parents actually encourage her. They think she doesn’t sing that much, but that’s only because she always sings to me.