Tag: Review

2020 in review: January – June

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When I put together my annual travel reflections for 2020, I did not expect such a massive post, but somehow, despite a global pandemic, this year was anything but boring. In March, when I returned to the U.S. from Australia, my first big trip of the year, just in time to see New York City shut down completely, I assumed that it would also be my last trip of the year. However, I ended up traveling quite a bit – and even ticked a major item of off my travel bucket list (you’ll have to wait until the second part of my 2020 round-up to see what that was) – something that I did not foresee at all.

While I did have some amazing travel experiences this year, I want to keep things real here though and also mention the darker moments – of which there were many. I lost almost all of my income, my tour business came to a halt, I witnessed Covid-19 first-hand and had a rough time in self-isolation for nearly three months. I am sharing my highs and lows of each month below, so read on to find out what I got up to from January till June 2020:

January: New York City, California and Australia

I started 2020 in a techno club in Bushwick, which I left around 9.30am on 1 January, and slept pretty much through all of the first day of 2020. This was the longest I’ve stayed out in a very long time. Since January is low season in New York and it tends to be very cold, I had scheduled only a few tours and spent the rest of the time working from cafes until it was time to leave New York for my first big trip of the year in mid-January.

I started my Australia trip with a little detour – knowing that I’d have to fly through LAX, I added a weekend in Southern California to my trip, visiting friends who live just south of L.A. After a low key weekend with some hiking, workouts, good food and lots of catching up, it was time for my first new country of the year: Australia!

A whole new continent. Considering that Australia was on the original itinerary for the Round-the-world trip that I left on in 2010, but for some reason never made it there, it was a pretty special moment when I finally landed in “Down Under” ten years later than expected.

I started my trip with a few days in Melbourne and a weekend in St Kilda by the beach, took a day trip to Phillip Island during which I got to get up, close & personal with wallabies, kangaroos and koalas (and declared that this had already made the trip for me!) and drove the Great Ocean Road.

Sydney was my second stop, and I immediately fell for Australia’s largest city – I cannot wait to go back and spend more time there.

Best Moments:

Spending time in Southern California

I hadn’t seen my friends Jen & Chris since 2016, when I looked after their adorable pooch Henry for almost a month. I still have fond memories of my time with Henry during that month (September 2016) and was excited to spend a long weekend with them during an extended layover on my way to Australia. Jen showed me a few spots in Orange County I hadn’t been to yet, took me to my first ever kickboxing class, we went hiking, and made pizza in their wood-fired pizza oven. All of that, plus Henry snuggles, made this a fantastic weekend.

Driving the Great Ocean Road

I had to give myself a little pep talk to convince me I’d be fine driving not only on the “wrong” side of the road, but to also have the steering wheel on the right side of the car, which feels foreign to me. Because we’re not talking about driving just any road – we’re talking about driving a narrow, winding road with so.many.curves. But I knew that taking an organized tour of the Great Ocean Road instead of driving it myself wouldn’t cut it for me, and so I overcame my hesitation and rented a car in Melbourne. I hadn’t driven on the left side since I lived in England – I’d guess the last time I drove there must have been around 2009 – but it came back quickly to me and I gained back my confidence after only a few short kilometers. I would’ve never been able to experience the Great Ocean Road the way I did on this drive, and I’m glad I did it. The rock formations in the ocean were spectacular, the sweeping views never got old, and seeing the Twelve Apostels at sunset was incredibly beautiful.

Every moment spent in Sydney

I purposely chose to start my Australia trip in Melbourne and not in Sydney – I just had a feeling that from what I’d heard and read about Melbourne, it was “my kind of city”: lots of street art, a thriving coffee culture (the coffee capital of Australia!), and interesting neighborhoods, some of which had a similar feel to my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn. And yes, I did enjoy my time in Melbourne. But when I arrived in Sydney, I fell for the city instantly.

There was just something about Sydney that Melbourne didn’t have. The weather was better, the beaches were nicer, the neighborhoods were just as eclectic and diverse as Melbourne’s, and there was so much to see and do! I started my visit with a scenic coastal walk in Manly (thanks for the recommendation, Katie!), visited a flea market in Paddington, had amazing food, had superb coffee, and replaced the hat that I assume was lost at LAX (see below).

Worst Moments:

Arriving at the airport to check in for my flight to Australia and finding out I don’t have a ticket

When I arrived at the airport to check in for my flight to Melbourne, I was told that I only had a reservation, but not a ticket. My jaw dropped. “What do you mean I don’t have a ticket???”. The agent explained that apparently, the booking had never been confirmed.

A few weeks before my departure date, I had in fact noticed that my credit card was never charged for the flight and contacted Qantas. I usually call an airline when I have a question or problem with my booking, but I saw that Qantas had a SMS chat option to contact customer service and decided to use that instead of calling, because then I’d have everything in writing. Well, I am glad I did! I pulled up the conversation with the Qantas agent on my phone, in which I was reassured that I had a valid booking and my payment had gone through, and the check-in agent was able to get me on the flight that I had booked. Crisis averted! I also want to mention that Qantas was absolutely amazing to fly with, from customer service to meals on the plane to comfort, and every communication ever since.

When this headline was published on 23 January 2020, Australia was still hurting from an extraordinarily harsh bush fire season. Nobody could’ve foreseen that Australia would experience another terrible tourism season – along with the rest of the world.

Losing my hat on the way to Australia (before even leaving the US)

This wasn’t a big deal, but it was annoying. I’d traveled to L.A. with my beloved travel fedora, and by the time I arrived in Melbourne, I noticed that the hat was gone. I assume that I left it at the airport in LA while I was waiting to board my flight to Melbourne.

February 2020: Australia

February was amazing. I started the month in Sydney, where I packed in so much in my week there that I was grateful for the break the Whitsunday Islands gave me afterwards. There, I snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef – definitely a bucket list item! I also signed up for a skydive on a whim, which turned out to be a highlight, despite my huge fear of heights. I then flew down to Brisbane from the Whitsunday Coast and ended up loving the city much more than I thought I would. It made up for the rained out days in Byron Bay. From Brisbane, I flew to the West Coast – which I’d been deliberating over for a long time. Should I include Western Australia in my itinerary? Australia is such a huge country, I quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to fit everything into my trip, but eventually I chose Western Australia over the Outback for one simple reason: the quokkas! (see below in Best Moments). I also got to look after two adorable Rottweilers just south of Perth which was a welcome break after four weeks of fast-paced travels.

There were so many highlights in February, from celebrating my 10th “quitversary” (I walked out of my corporate job in London on 1 February 2010) with some bubbly and new friends outside Sydney’s Opera House, to touring vineyards in the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia to falling in love with Fremantle, a port city just south of Perth. I also saw some amazing art: the art museums in Sydney and Brisbane were world-class, and I saw a Keith Haring & Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit in Melbourne that wowed me. And let’s not forget the wildlife: seeing kangaroos in the wild in Western Australia was a travel dream come true, and snorkeling with turtles in the Whitsundays was as amazing as all my other turtle experiences.

Best Moments

Taking quokka selfies on Rottnest Island

Ever since seeing articles filled with funny and adorable quokka selfies, I knew I had to go get a quokka selfie when I’d finally make it to Australia. One of the first things I did after booking my flight to Oz was researching where these elusive quokkas live. Rottnest Island. A quick look at GoogleMaps revealed that these unique little mammals lived on a small island off the coast of Western Australia. Waaaaaay out of the way of any of the places I had tentatively put on my itinerary! The detour would include a six-hour flight and a 1-hour ferry ride from any place I had on my itinerary. And it’d be an expensive detour.

But it had to happen, and it was so worth it! My visit to Rottnest Island ended up being one of the highlights of my Australia trip and not only did I fall hard for the quokkas – I also fell in love with this tiny island, which is just 7.3 sq miles (19 sq kilometers) big. Rottnest Island was one of the most beautiful places I saw in all of Australia.Quokka selfies

Overcoming my fear of heights and skydive

I have a huge fear of heights, and skydiving was a thing that I always listed as something “I’d never do”. Well, never say never! I signed up for a skydive on a whim in Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast simply because the photograph outside the skydiving operator’s office looked so pretty and because it was fairly cheap, especially with the conversion rate to U.S. Dollars.

I am so glad that I took myself out of my comfort zone, because the skydive was incredible. The flight up to our jump height was already worth the money – the view over the Whitsunday Islands was breathtaking – and I gladly admit that I would’ve been happy to just go back down in the plane instead of throwing myself out of it, but my instructor made me feel so safe that I felt positive about surviving the jump. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect that day, and the feeling of jumping out of a plane is something I won’t forget anytime soon.Skydiving in Airlie Beach

Visiting the Whitsunday Islands

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef was a “must do” item on my Australia wish list, but it turned out that visiting the Whitsundays is quite pricey. I absolutely don’t regret splurging on the experience – it was a perfect mini vacation during my travels around Australia, and I loved swimming with sea turtles again and seeing a beautiful Maori Wrasse close-up for the very first time.

I had a difficult time deciding if I wanted to sail around the Whitsunday Islands, base myself on one of the islands, or base myself on the mainland and take a trip from there. Basing myself on the islands was the most expensive option, so I decided against it, and sailing seemed to be quite intense (uncomfortable bunks and a lot of time on a small boat). I think I ended up with the best option: a resort from which we took boat trips to several snorkeling spots and of the course the stunning White Haven Beach.Whitsunday Islands

Worst Moments

Not having a debit card

My debit card for my “travel funds” bank account expired on 31 January, and my new card did not arrive before I left on my trip. That meant I had to use my credit card for my entire trip – something I didn’t necessarily want to do (it took money out of my “day to day expenses in New York” account instead of my “travel account”). But I managed, and luckily I had enough money saved in that account that it wasn’t the end of the world.

Falling out of a boat and killing almost all my electronics

Yup, I fell out of a boat. When we arrived at the Paradise Grove Resort in the Whitsundays, we were transported from our speedboat to the resort in a small dinghy, and somehow I lost my balance when we hopped out of the dinghy into the shallow water, so that I ended up falling into the water. I would’ve just laughed it off, had my tote bag not gotten wet. Even though I reacted quickly and got it out of the water within seconds, my electronics all got wet and not all of them survived: my Kindle Fire, my portable charger, some of my charger cords – they all died.

I don’t have any photos of my mishaps, but I took a couple of screenshots when the first COVID-19 articles appeared in the paper. The first article was published on 1 Februrary 2020. I had a bad feeling about Covid from the beginning.

March: Melbourne and New York City and NOT Guatemala

I began the month in Melbourne and I ended the month in New York City – and not in Guatemala, as I had originally planned. I was going to return to New York City for a quick job and two conferences and was supposed to fly to Guatemala mid-March. This was going to be my anniversary trip – the trip to celebrate a huge milestone: 10 years of Globetrottergirls.

I don’t need to tell you what happened: COVID-19 brought the world to a halt. I had monitored the spread of the virus while traveling Australia, fearful that it would shut down New York City the way that it had shut down Wuhan in January, but my friends back in New York told me I was being paranoid and dramatic when I left them panicky voicemails from the other side of the globe (Australia). New York City wouldn’t be shut down, I shouldn’t be worried, they assured me. Of course I was worried though, because my tour business is very much reliant on tourists coming to New York. And my fears turned out to be not unfounded: New York City did shut down. Guatemala closed its borders. My business died. My travel blog traffic tanked. My income took a huge hit.

Let’s look at the best and worst moments of the month:

Best moments:

A special visitor in New York City

I was scheduled to be in New York for less than two weeks and had quite a hectic schedule during that time (two conferences, meet-ups, work) but when a good friend told me she could schedule her visit to NYC to coincide with my extended “layover” in New York, I didn’t have to think about it: YES! COVID-19 was starting to spiral out of control, but we were still able to enjoy some fun New York moments: we visited the Vessel, which she hadn’t seen yet, and took a spring stroll around Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery. We had NY-style pizza slices and a yummy dinner at TimeOut Market and we indulged in Levain’s Cookies and Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding, trying to suppress the bad feeling we were both had about COVID-19. For me it was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to go to Guatemala, for her it was the fear of not making it down to Florida and getting back to Europe. Read on for what happened next in Worst Moments below.

I indulged in as much of NYC’s great food as humanly possibly before all the restaurants, cafes and bakeries closed on 17 March 2020.

Worst moments:

COVID-19 bringing the world to a halt

Three days before my scheduled flight to Guatemala, one of the hotel owners in Guatemala, who kept me up-to-date about COVID-19 related travel restrictions in Guatemala, informed me that the government had extended their travel ban for foreign visitors to US residents. The next day, American Airlines canceled my flight. For a moment I had considered trying to bump up my flight to arrive in Guatemala before the travel restrictions went into effect, but in the end, I decided not to tempt my luck. What if I got stuck in Guatemala? (Side note: That’s what happened to hundreds of travelers, and in retrospect, I am glad I got stuck in my lovely apartment in Brooklyn instead!)

My friend was able to get out of New York City, but she never made it down to Florida to visit family and friends there. Instead, she flew back to Europe earlier than planned, on a crowded flight with people scrambling to get back home.

April: Stuck in New York City

April was a difficult month. New York City was hit hard by the Coronavirus, and watching the infection rates and growing death numbers every day was challenging for my mental health. Being thousands of miles away from my family was also not easy. Seeing friends contract COVID-19 (including some severe cases) and two people die from the disease was anxiety-inducing. I spent 22 to 23 hours a day self-isolating in my apartment, only leaving the house for grocery hauls, exercise, and to delivery groceries to my friend who had fallen very ill with COVID-19. My income had dried up almost entirely. The blog only makes me money when people read it, and nobody wanted to read about travel while stuck at home, not knowing when we’d be able to travel again. Almost nobody was paying to have travel content written. And my Brooklyn tours? Well obviously they only make me money when I can run them. I felt completely crushed. What I had hoped was going to be my financially most lucrative year yet was shaping up to bring me close to bankruptcy.

Best moments:

A care package from Germany

This one goes into the category “kindness of strangers”: A follower of my blog and Instagram had seen that I was running out of my international chocolate supply (I am not a big fan of American chocolate) and decided to send me a huge package filled with all of my favorite chocolates: different kinds of Ritter Sport, all sorts of Kinder chocolates– it felt like it was Christmas and my birthday on one and the same day! I would’ve appreciated a care package like this at any time, but during these trying times, it felt particularly special and I was grateful every single day for the sweet treats that gave me comfort. Looking back, I am still amazed by the kindness someone who barely knew me showed me.

A care package from Germany!

Worst moments:

The uncertainty of COVID-19

My mind was constantly racing in April, with thoughts like: Would I be able to keep my apartment? How many more months would I be able to pay rent? When would I run out of my savings? When would tourists be able to return to New York City? When would people start reading travel blogs again? Would I end up in one of the makeshift hospitals that the city had set up? Would I die from Coronavirus if I got it?

There was a lot of fear and a lot of worry. The uncertainty was dreadful.

Witnessing COVID-19 firsthand

As I already mentioned, several friends and people I knew got sick with Coronavirus and two people died from it. It was an emotional time with lots of tears.

Seeing New York City during COVID-19

I love New York City so much, and I was devastated to see “my” city hurt so much. Restaurants closed, theaters closed, shops closed – basically, all life had disappeared from the streets. Seeing a vibrant city like New York so silent, literally shut down, was heartbreaking. Instead of chatter in the streets you’d hear sirens all the time. Seeing “morgue trucks” outside the hospitals, hearing about people having their lives destroyed – it was devastating. I wrote about what it was like to live in New York City during COVID-19 here.

May: Still stuck in New York City

We started May with over 162,000 cases of Coronavirus in New York City, and over 13,000 deaths. Looking at the numbers every day was mind-boggling, especially since so many other countries had managed to contain the virus. New York City, however, had more cases than 190 countries. The good news was that it finally looked like case numbers were slowly declining – NYC seemed to have passed the peak. This month, nobody I knew got sick.

After a long and difficult April, May was also much easier for me personally. I had gotten into a good routine of working, exercising, and socializing either online or with the folks in my “COVID pod”. I didn’t feel lonely, I kept myself busy with work (mainly going through the roughly 1,500 articles on Globetrottergirls, deleting irrelevant articles and updating outdated content, but I also managed to get a few freelance projects). I got used to this “new normal” and kept myself entertained with Online Experiences and cooking and baking – including a 3-week sugar detox after indulging a bit too much in sugar in April thanks to the above-mentioned care package. I had excellent pizza several times this month (pre- and post-detox), I went to my friend’s house for a dinner after she recovered from COVID-19, I met another friend for socially distant runs, I took a virtual coffee experience, I had picnics in the park, I watched a couple of TV shows that I enjoyed (Derry Girls made me laugh, and Normal People made me cry a few times). I went on long bike rides around Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens and even made it to Staten Island once. It felt amazing to have the ferry almost to myself (no tourists!).

I also made the decision to spend the summer with my family in Germany, which meant this was going to be my last full month in NYC for a while.

Best moments:

Making it through a 21-day sugar detox

Even though I’ve done this detox several times in the past, I still find it incredibly hard to cut out sugar and carbs completely for a full three weeks. But challenging myself to do it and seeing that I am able to function without sugar feels like a huge achievement every single time. Plus:

Finishing a half marathon in Coney Island

The Brooklyn Half Marathon was supposed to happen mid-May, but due to COVID-19, it had to be canceled. The organizers set up a virtual half marathon instead, which means anyone can run 13.1 miles, no matter where in the world they are. Not only did I sign up for the half marathon, but I challenged myself to run a half marathon while on the sugar detox, during which I usually don’t have a lot of energy because I exist almost entirely on vegetables. I ran all the way down to Coney Island, and admittedly, I didn’t run very fast, but I finished.

Coney Island, 14 May 2020

Seeing friends IRL

After not seeing any of my friends for what felt like YEARS, I slowly started to see a few close friends in May. Having actual face-to-face hangouts instead of just Facetime and WhatsApp video calls felt amazing. I consider myself a social person and not being able to socialize was the hardest aspect of the shelter-in-place order for me.

Worst moments:

I can’t think of a single horrible moment. I think I put things in perspective in May: I (still) have money, I have a nice apartment, I have access to delicious food, I am healthy, I have people in my life who care about me – I honestly have nothing to complain about.

June: New York City and Germany

After nearly 90 days of self-isolation in New York City, I was more than ready for a change of scenery. My family had already asked me back in April to come to Germany and stay with them, and I thought about it for a long time before I agreed to it. The most important thing for me was not to put them at risk, which is why I decided to wait out the peak of the infection rate in NYC. It was announced that the city would loosen quarantine restrictions in June, and I was hoping that by the time I’d fly out, travel restrictions would be eased.

Unfortunately, by early June, not much had changed in New York City. The city began its reopening, which would slowly roll out in four phases, on 8 June, with wholesale, manufacturing and construction work being resumed, but everyone else was still under shelter-at-home order. Germany, on the other hand, was much further ahead already, with life being almost back to normal (except for face coverings being required inside stores and restaurants). Travel restrictions were still in place, which means US citizens were still not allowed to enter the EU, but since I have a German passport and my trip was considered essential, I was able to leave the U.S.

Traveling! My first time on a plane since March, my first coffee in a cafe since March, my first meal in a restaurant since March, and seeing my family and Odie for the first time in 9 months

Just before I left for Germany, the protests following the George Floyd killing started to go full force in New York and in other cities around the U.S.. It was an interesting time – on the one hand, I was excited to see so many people get involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and speak up against systemic racism and police brutality, on the other hand I felt extremely anxious about crowds gathering and a possible new spike in COVID-19 infections, after months of shutdown and the city just starting to reopen. Knowing that I’d put my family back in Germany in danger by exposing myself to the virus, I was only able to watch the protests from the sideline.

Every time things like this happen – another black person dying unjustified, people taking to the streets and making their outrage known, but things normalizing eventually and people seeming to forget about the horrible injustice in this country.. until the next terrible thing occurs – I feel so hopeless about the state of the world and my adopted home country: America. Nobody should feel discriminated against because of their race or the color of their skin. Nobody should experience violence because of their race or the color of their skin. Nobody should be killed because of their race or the color of their skin. And yet, it is happening again and again.

I truly hope that time around, things will change for the better. I hope that white people become more introspective and face their own racism, often ingrained through upbringing and societal norms. I hope that white people will educate themselves on the issue of racism and that police departments around the U.S. will restructure their training process and the way they handle arrests. This will not be a quick change, but if the protests of June 2020 lead to long lasting changes, it’d make me happy.

Best moments:

Reuniting with my family

Easily the best moment of the month! After months of uncertainty about when I’d be able to see my family again, it was such a relief to arrive at my sister’s house. An even bigger relief was to make it through 14 days of obligatory quarantine upon arrival in Germany without developing any symptoms of COVID-19. I’d worried I may have been exposed to the virus on my plane ride to Europe – see below for why.

Worst moments:

The flight from NYC to FRA

After the first flight I booked was canceled by the airline on short notice (less than two weeks before the departure date!), I decided to pay a little more and book a flight with Delta Airlines, mainly because they promised “extra safety” on their flights and social distancing measures. The flight was via Atlanta, a big Delta hub. The first flight was okay – the middle seat was left empty so that I had some distance between me and the other passenger in my row.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport was a sad sight

On the 9-hour flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, however, I was shocked to discover to have someone sitting right next to me. When you book a flight thinking social distancing isn’t going to be a problem but then find yourself so close to someone that your legs and arms touch frequently on an overnight flight – not great. I convinced myself that I picked up COVID-19 on the flight – after I’d been so careful the weeks prior to my flight, so that I wouldn’t get anyone in my family sick. I was extremely frustrated about this, and spent the entire flight stressing about bringing coronavirus to a part of Germany that had only seen a couple of COVID cases and zero deaths. I was so relieved when I finished my 2-week quarantine without having developed any symptoms.

What’s next

Stay tuned for the second part of my year in review.. The second half of 2020 included some travels around Europe in the summer, and my return to the U.S., which included an unexpected trip to a new-to-me destination.

2020 LGBTQ Parenting Year in Review

2020 LGBTQ Parenting Year in Review

In a year like no other, LGBTQ families, like all others, struggled with the physical, mental, and economic challenges of the pandemic. And with children of LGBTQ parents much more likely to live in poverty than those with non-LGBTQ parents, the pandemic may have hit many LGBTQ families, like those of other marginalized groups, particularly hard. Pandemic aside, there were many political and legal challenges—and a few victories—directly related to LGBTQ parents and our children this year. Here are the highlights, good and bad.

2020

The Trump Administration

In May, National Foster Care Month, the Trump administration stopped collecting data on the sexual orientation of youth in foster care and of foster and adoptive parents. The data is used to make decisions and track outcomes for youth in care.

The administration in June finalized a rule that says health care anti-discrimination protections do not cover discrimination based on LGBTQ identities.

In December, it finalized a rule that will allow federal contractors to cite religious or moral beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ workers.

On the positive side, the U.S. State Department in October backed down in two cases where it had been denying the citizenship of children born abroad to married two-dad couples who were U.S. citizens. Two other similar cases are still pending.

The Biden Administration

The Biden administration has promised to push for Congress to pass the Equality Act during his first 100 days in office, and to reverse Trump’s anti-LGBTQ actions.

Additionally, two lesbian moms of color in November were named to Joe Biden’s all-women White House communications team. Karine Jean-Pierre, who was senior advisor to President-Elect Biden and chief of staff to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris during the campaign, will become principal deputy press secretary. Pili Tobar, who was the communications director for coalitions on the campaign, will become deputy White House communications director. And in December, two gay dads were also appointed: Guatan Raghavan, deputy head of presidential appointments for the Biden-Harris transition team, will become deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, and Stuart Delery, who was acting associate attorney general of the United States in the Obama administration, will become deputy counsel to the president.

The U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court surprised many in June with a landmark 6-3 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, written by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, stating that people cannot be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Supreme Court in December refused to hear an appeal in Box v. Henderson, in which Indiana was trying to deny nonbiological mothers in married same-sex couples the right to be put on their children’s birth certificates. A 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in January said the state must allow nonbiological mothers to be on the birth certificates; the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means that decision stands.

In July, the court upheld the Trump administration’s desire to allow almost any employer, even for-profit ones, to cite religious or moral beliefs as a reason to refuse to cover birth control for its employees. This is a queer issue because many LGBTQ people do have sex that can result in pregnancy and because birth control is sometimes used in fertility procedures even for same-sex couples (as was the case for my spouse and me).

The court in November heard Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case to determine whether taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies—and possibly any provider of government-contracted services—can cite religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others.

The court in December declined an appeal from Oregon parents who sought to prevent transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms aligned with their gender identities.

State Happenings

New Jersey in January enacted a law allowing married/civil unioned LGBTQ couples using assisted reproduction to avoid the intrusive, expensive, second-parent adoption process and simply file a few documents in order to get a court judgment confirming the nonbiological parent’s legal parentage.

In July, New Hampshire enacted a law clarifying that LGBTQ couples have access to second-parent adoptions but do not need home studies; expanding access to adoption by unmarried couples; and updating the state’s parentage laws in gender-neutral and inclusive terms.

The same month, Rhode Island also updated its parentage laws to provide stronger, more equitable protections for families formed via assisted reproduction. Among other things, parents using assisted reproduction can now establish legal parentage for the nonbiological or nongestational parent simply by filling out a simple, free a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form.

A South Carolina law banning any discussion of same-sex relationships in public school health classes (except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases) is unconstitutional, a federal district court said in March.

The State of New York passed the Child-Parent Security Act in April, legalizing gestational surrogacy and simplifying and strengthening the laws recognizing nonbiological parents and single parents in all families formed through reproductive technologies.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in November that nonbiological mothers may be recognized as parents simply by acknowledging maternity at the time a child is born and showing that the birth mother consented to shared parenting.

Addressing Systemic Racism

The widespread attention to addressing systemic racism, sparked by the tragic killing of George Floyd in May, is as much an issue for LGBTQ families as for any others. Not only do we come in all colors, but Black and Latino same-sex couples are roughly twice as likely as White same-sex couples to be raising a child, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute. And 50 percent of children under 18 living with same-sex couples are non-White compared to 41 percent of children living with different-sex couples. (Statistics were not available for other LGBTQ identities) The numbers underscore just how many LGBTQ families are impacted by ongoing racism in our country, and one of the reasons that actively working to stop it remains a task for us all in the coming year.

Originally published with slight variation as my Mombian newspaper column.

“To L and Back” Podcast Holiday Special: Two Jews Review a Lesbian Christmas Movie

"To L and Back" Podcast Holiday Special: Two Jews Review

Calling all heterosexual orphan shoplifters, it’s time for a “To L and Back” holiday special in which, by request, we recap the classic controversial holiday film, “Happiest Season,” starring our very own Kristen Stewart and Dan Levy and directed by Clea Duvall. Join two unpopular Jews as we traverse territory similar to The L Word’s: the collective psychological meltdown of a group comprised almost entirely of wealthy white people!

The usual:


Riese:
Hi, I’m Riese.

Carly:
And I’m Carly.

Riese:
And this is.

Riese and Carly:
To L And Back.

Riese:
Holiday edition!

Carly:
It’s the first ever To L And Back holiday spectacular. That’s what you’re listening to right now. Welcome.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, it’s been so long since we’ve listened to ourselves talk. I haven’t had any podcasts to listen to, now that I haven’t had our podcast to listen to, which a real bummer.

Carly:
My Spotify wrap of the year, my number one podcast was this podcast.

Riese:
I honestly think that, because I didn’t drive that much this year because I wasn’t going anywhere.

Carly:
Yeah same.

Riese:
So really, whenever I was in the car, like, my most played song on Spotify, I only played it 15 times. I think I used all of my car time just listening to my own podcasts, but that was on iTunes so it didn’t show up on Spotify. And I’m sure this is fascinating to everyone.

Carly:
I like to listen to podcasts when I do the dishes and when I fold laundry because I’m not driving as much, so. Yeah, this is really scintillating stuff.

Riese:
Yeah. This is really important stuff.

Carly:
This is crucial.

Riese:
Okay, so we’re doing a holiday special because we’re just not ready yet to start season six, we’re just not ready.

Carly:
We’re really not.

Riese:
Everything in our lives right now is a little bit chaotic and overwhelming, and we want to be sure that season six… Even though they did a bad job with the show, that we do a good job with the podcast.

Carly:
An excellent job.

Riese:
An excellent job with our show.

Carly:
We’re going to go above and beyond, basically.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, we’re going to go above and beyond, yeah. I was like-

Carly:
We have big plans for season six.

Riese:
We do.

Carly:
We just need a little time to be ready to do it.

Riese:
Honestly. It’s bananas that we will be starting recapping season six, probably exactly to the date that it premiered, however many years ago. Because it premiered in January 2009 and we’re going to be starting in January 2021. Which means that this time in 2008, we were being interviewed by Showtime on the street.

Carly:
Oh my God. Outside of my office at Logo in Times Square.

Riese:
Yeah, the “Who Killed Jenny” special.

Carly:
Yep. I remember that.

Riese:
And that’s on my-

Carly:
Is that video still online? We got to look for it.

Riese:
No. But obviously, I recapped it on my blog, so there is some recording of it, but that’s when my family finally thought I was a cool and important person because it was a promo that played on Showtime and I was like on TV, so it was a really big deal.

Carly:
My friend made that video for Showtime. And so, it’s possible that I had her send me a copy of it and I would just need to look through all 47 hard drives I have to find it, which shouldn’t take long.

Riese:
Right. It was basically just our friends answering the question, who do we think killed Jenny. Because they had already been rolling out that Jenny is going to die, like floating sheet in the dark room promos and all of this. Like, this winter.

Carly:
Yeah. It was the promos about the season. It was like, “Someone, specifically Jenny, is dead in the pool at Bette and Tina’s house.” Nothing was left to the imagination.

Riese:
No. And then they did all those promos where they were in the black dresses, including Kate Moennig who looked visibly uncomfortable.

Carly:
Deeply uncomfortable, yes.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Oh my God.

Riese:
And Kit looked incredible. I remember that specifically.

Carly:
Of course.

Riese:
I think season six was also the licking promo where they’re all half naked and licking each other.

Carly:
Was that’s season six for real?

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Oh God.

Riese:
I mean, they really got their design, it was really solid, but the show itself had disintegrated into a shell of its former self, which was not a very strong shell to begin with, I think.

Carly:
No, they didn’t have too far to go to disintegrate it.

Riese:
No. No. So we really want to be prepared.

Carly:
Absolutely. We want to be prepared, but we also didn’t want to leave our listeners in the lurch for two whole months. We know you’ve written to us. You comment on Instagram and Twitter and you tell us how this podcast really makes your Monday mornings. And I cry every time I read about that because I forget that people actually listen to this. And to me, it’s just me and Riese talking shit. But apparently, people listen, which is wild. And we didn’t want to just end the year on such a, “End of season five. We’ll be back eventually.” No, we wanted to do something different.

Riese:
Yeah we did. Because we miss you. You miss us, we hope. And-

Carly:
You might not, and that’s fine. You can choose. It’s a voluntary thing, listening to the show.

Riese:
We just set up expectations with this podcast like almost every project I’ve ever fucking done in my entire goddam life. In the beginning, I am like Gung Ho! Like, “Yes, I’m writing this column twice a week. Yes. I’m doing this every day,” dah, dah, dah. And then I start to be like, “Oh my God.” Like when we were like, “We’re done with season three, when should we start season four?” “Next week.” We took zero breaks except for the break that we took so that I could recap Gen Q.

Carly:
Right. We took the Gen Q break.

Riese:
And so, we just went seasons… So you guys have become accustomed to us actually taking… We took a little break before season five, but I think this is our longest this break.

Carly:
This is our longest break. And I would blame the pandemic for a lot of this, and also, just our own lives becoming occasionally chaotic. You know, life sometimes does that.

Riese:
Yeah. My whole life right now is in boxes because I’m moving and that’s part of the reason why I’m so busy.

Carly:
And I’m so stressed out with work that I started having anxiety dreams about showing up to work and not having a face mask and no one had one. And so, I’m just there without a mask and everyone’s screaming at me. And then I wake up and it feels really good. (silence).

Riese:
So the holidays are upon us.

Carly:
The holidays are upon us. Riese, as a fellow Jewish person, do you know when Hanukkah starts this year?

Riese:
December 10th.

Carly:
Correct.

Riese:
You told me that last week.

Carly:
I googled it several days ago and then I told you it.

Riese:
Yeah. Hanukkah is great. I love Hanukkah.

Carly:
Big fan.

Riese:
Big fan of Hanukkah. It’s not a very important holiday though in that calendar of Jewish holidays.

Carly:
It is not. In Judaism, it is a pretty insignificant day. It is not a Holy day in comparison to many of the other holidays.

Riese:
Yeah. But it’s good. In America, it’s a big deal because then the Jews can get presents too.

Carly:
Yeah. Now I don’t know about your upbringing, but I was one of only two Jewish families in a small Catholic town in New Jersey, growing up. So it was a really interesting time.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think I usually had two or three other Jews in my class depending on where I was in school. There was three, we had a Reform, and a Conservative and an Orthodox in our town.

Carly:
Oh, you had one of each?

Riese:
I think so. I don’t know if we had… Did we have… Oh, and we also had, what’s the other one? Maybe it was Reconstructionists. The ones who don’t believe in God specifically, but it’s cultural.

Carly:
I don’t know what that’s called.

Riese:
I lived in a college town that was founded by hippies. We had the most liberal marijuana laws in the world. It’s a special, specific place that I grew up.

Carly:
Sounds delightful.

Riese:
Yeah. In fact, I grew up thinking that Jews we’re all hippies. And then I went to college and found out they were all rich people from New Jersey, which I say with love, those were my friends and they let stay in their nice houses.

Carly:
No, I’m from New Jersey and parts of our family are the rich Jews from New Jersey, but not my parents and not my immediate family. It’s the other parts of the family were the rich Jews in New Jersey or Florida.

Riese:
So both of your parents are Jewish?

Carly:
Both of my parents are Jewish. Everyone who is married into my family that I know of is, for the most part, Jewish as well. Except of course my wife, Robin, who is the mayor of Christmas. That’s her official title. And I’ve always been a person who does not care about Christmas, but due to being with Robin, I have. And again, her position, being the mayor of Christmas is a pretty big deal, so that makes me the first Muppet of Christmas and I take it seriously. I’ve gotten into it.

Riese:
I fucking love Christmas so much.

Carly:
I love that. I love that for you.

Riese:
I love it. I love it. I fucking love it. I love everything about it. I love it. And I’m sad that Christmas will be different this year.

Carly:
I know.

Riese:
But we have gathered here today for this holiday special because a film debuted on the channel Hulu. It was a lesbian rom-com Christmas film. Everybody was very excited about it, so excited that it shattered all of Hulu’s records for movie viewership, which just shows you the power of the lesbian market, and the power of our loneliness and also the power of Kristen Stewart if we’re being honest.

Carly:
And maybe the power of Christmas.

Riese:
And Carly, I think you’re right. I think that it has something to do with the power of Christmas.

Carly:
They’re talking about a War on Christmas. I don’t see a War on Christmas here except the one I’ve waged personally since my birth.

Riese:
My dad’s side of the family is Christian. So when I was a kid, we would go there for Christmas and stuff, so I could get my feel of Christmas. But it’s not something that we celebrated in our own home at all.

Carly:
Okay. So this is crazy. Again, both sides of my family are Jewish. When we were kids, and again, we were one of two Jewish families in our small town, my parents fully had us celebrate Christmas. My mom had a white artificial tree that she had color-coded ornaments that matched the living room. She got really into the aesthetics of it. And we celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah every single year. And I remember-

Riese:
That is actually really super weird.

Carly:
It’s so weird. And I didn’t realize it was weird until I was older. And then one day I was like, “Wait a minute. Why the fuck were we celebrating Christmas this whole time?” And I asked my mom that once and she was like, “Oh, we didn’t want you to feel left out with all the other kids.” And I was like, “Aw, but still weird though.”

Riese:
I told my mom that I feel left out from all the other kids. And she was like-

Carly:
“That is the story of our people.”

Riese:
Yeah. “That is the story of our people. Get used to it, girl.” She did not give a shit. I tried to make up Christmas Carols with Hanukkah words and she was like, “Stop that right now.” We were like “there was no Christmas. “No Christmas in the house! Because we were supposed to be proud of being Jewish. But I wanted one thing, Carly, and that was to be popular. And all of the popular kids were Christian. So-

Carly:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I see it.

Riese:
Yikes.

Carly:
I had no chance of being popular at that age. So as a person who was routinely bullied, I had given up on that. And instead of just leaning into it, like getting into Christmas at school to try to blend in, instead, my mother contacted the principal and complained that there was a Christmas tree in the cafeteria, but no menorah. So then she made a construction paper menorah, laminated it, came to school, installed it on the wall. And by installed, I mean, attached it with masking tape with a little envelope next to it, with little laminated flames, one for each candle for each day. And then it was my job, as her child and the Jew in the school, that every day at lunch, I had to light the menorah in front of the entire school.

Riese:
Oh Carly. I’m so sorry that this happened to you.

Carly:
So yeah, while we were celebrating Christmas at home, I was also being further ostracized at school by my-

Riese:
Having to represent all of the Maccabi warriors.

Carly:
Yeah. The crazy thing is that the other Jewish family in town totally had a brick thrown through their window once that had a swastika or something on it, something horrifying, but we didn’t. And I also think that could be because we were poor and no one knew where our house was. They were on a main drag in a really nice house, and I think that that has something to do with it. Anyway, I don’t know what the point is that I’m trying to make here, but we all have a lot of feelings about this time of year.

Riese:
It is complicated. Yeah, it is a complicated situation to be a Jew during the Christmas season.

Carly:
Which is why we are, today, hosting a holiday episode.

Riese:
A Christmas special.

Carly:
A Christmas special of our podcast, despite both being Jews.

Riese:
And despite one other thing, which is that The L Word itself never had a Christmas special, despite my personally calling for one every year. And as you know, they always listen to my calls.

Carly:
They always do.

Riese:
Every year. They’re always like, “What does Riese think about The L word? Let’s not do it.” And every year I say, “What? Where is the Christmas special? Where is that?”

Carly:
Every year.

Riese:
And one year I decided I was going to write one, this was recently. This was after the reboot had been announced, yes.

Carly:
Famously, Riese, you wrote an L Word Christmas special.

Riese:
Yeah. I can’t open it on my computer, which is a whole other story that I won’t get into, but it has to do with Final Draft. But what’s interesting is I did find the treatment and I had set it right at this period of time. I didn’t realize they were bringing in new characters and stuff because it had just been announced. So I set it to take place three days after season five ended, because all I did know was that they were going to pretend like season six never happened, which turned out to not be true.

Carly:
That was a lie.

Riese:
But it was going to… Because Christmas movies… The one we’re going to talk about today doesn’t involve this… but Christmas movies usually involve a small business underdog story as well as a romance. And so, part of it was like, Helena had this new girlfriend who worked at GLAAD, who was also this wealthy… I think I had her as a trans woman because I was like, “Come on, let’s fucking have a trans woman in the show, finally.”

Carly:
Love it.

Riese:
And they’re at her chateau in Tahoe or whatever, and Jenny’s upset about the movie

Carly:
A chateau in Tahoe?

Riese:
Alice uses her platform and woman from GLAAD to fight back against The Man who wants to take of all the gay parts out of the movie and then get it produced. And then it’s like everyone can actually enjoy Christmas. And then I forget what I had with all the romantic storylines and stuff, but it was going to be really good. And-

Carly:
It sounds incredible.

Riese:
Yeah, doesn’t it sound really good?

Carly:
Yeah, I would love to watch that.

Riese:
Thank you so much. But in lieu of an L word having an actual Christmas special-

Carly:
Which would be great.

Riese:
Which would be great. Some people from, basically the same, I guess, social web, as many of the L Word women made one of their own.

Carly:
They sure did. That film is called Happiest Season and it just premiered on Hulu recently.

Riese:
Yeah. And many of you asked us if we would do an episode about the film and we said, “Okay.” Then we’ll see how that goes. And here we are doing it.

Carly:
We’re doing it.

Riese:
Are you’re ready?

Carly:
Who else was going to do it?

Riese:
You’re ready to get into it?

Carly:
I’m ready to get into it.

Riese:
So we open in an oil painting montage?

Carly:
We open trapped in an oil painting.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Carly:
Yeah. This is to try to give us some backstory on the characters through illustrations.

Riese:
Oil paintings.

Carly:
Oil paintings that we are trapped in.

Riese:
Yeah. And you know what? They really did look like the characters. They were really good oil paintings, I think. Dan Levy stuffed a Turkey. There was a picnic in the park. They had necklaces, they exchanged necklaces. So this is big character building stuff here. You’re really getting to know these people because these are very specific actions done by very specific people.

Carly:
Very specific. Yeah.

Riese:
Which I think is thorough. And then we barrel into a walking tour.

Carly:
A walking tour. It’s like a candy cane lane situation.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And my friends, this is a real event. It is a real event that takes place in Duboistown, Pennsylvania. It’s been an annual tradition since 1957. And Santa is usually there, although we did not see Santa in this film.

Carly:
Wow. You know what? Santa is nowhere to be found in this whole film.

Riese:
That’s true. Maybe because of like-

Carly:
Santa is homophobic.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Carly:
Yeah. That’s what it is.

Riese:
And we meet our women, our ladies in love.

Carly:
Our ladies in love.

Riese:
One is tall and one is shorter. The tall one is-

Carly:
Which is already a great dynamic. This is already an excellent lesbian pairing. One tall, one less tall.

Riese:
We have Harper who loves Christmas.

Carly:
She loves it so much.

Riese:
And we have Abby who doesn’t love Christmas.

Carly:
Doesn’t love Christmas. And I immediately was like, “Abby, you’re my girl.” I also don’t really care about Christmas very much. And so, I-

Riese:
And Robin is tall.

Carly:
And Robin is taller than me, yes. So I really bought into it immediately. I was like, “Yes, I’m right there. This is real, absolutely real.

Riese:
Yeah really. This is real.

Carly:
Yeah.

Riese:
Yeah. They climb up on a roof. It’s hijinks.

Carly:
I did not like the hijinks.

Riese:
I mean, hijinks for five minutes. They look at the lights, it’s beautiful.

Carly:
I think looking at the lights is one thing, but I think climbing on the roof is very dangerous.

Riese:
The roof climbing?

Carly:
Yeah. I thought that was so dangerous. I would never be able to be a part of this.

Riese:
Well, I think that’s what’s set this couple apart is that they are risk takers.

Carly:
Interesting. Interesting.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Okay. Yeah. I did not like the roof climbing because it looked very dangerous and trespassing really. And I wasn’t a fan. I’m not a risk taker, I guess. So they had me and then they lost me.

Riese:
I thought it was a little bit contrived. However, when I first saw this film, I saw it at the drive in premiere.

Carly:
That’s right.

Riese:
Yes. Which was nice because they gave us a snack box, two snack boxes actually. We got two snack boxes and then we were in our car, and this was just before the surge began, like three days before.

Carly:
Sure.

Riese:
So we were in our car in a parking lot filled with other cars, and then who appeared on the stage 10,000 miles away, but Kristen Stewart herself.

Carly:
Oh my God.

Riese:
And I was like, “Oh my God!” They were all there. All the women of the film were there. I think, I don’t remember. I remember very much though that I think I had probably already taken an edible. And Kristen Stewart was there and she said that she wished there’d been a movie like this when she was growing up. And I thought, “That’s very cute and I love this.” And here we are, sharing… We’re not sharing air because everyone has a mask on and we were in a car, but we’re sharing the idea of it.

Carly:
Exactly. And I like that sentiment. When I make things, especially when I make things geared at younger audiences, I always think about it in terms of like, “What would I have wanted to see when I was younger?” And that’s even how I think about stuff now is like, “What do I want to see now,” when I actually get to make queer things. So I think that’s beautiful.

Riese:
It is. It’s beautiful. And that’s what Christmas brings out in people.

Carly:
Oh my God. Wow.

Riese:
Harper is so turned on by the light display that she loses her mind and invites Abby to come home with her for the holidays, even though Abby already has commitments, pet-sitting. And the next day Abby wakes up and she’s very excited about going, and Harper is suddenly a little lukewarm. She’s not sure if she wants to go anymore.

Carly:
Yeah. And we, the audience were like, “What’s going on here, ladies? What’s going on? What happened?”

Riese:
Yeah, “What’s this dynamic?”

Carly:
Yeah.

Riese:
I mean, we know because we already saw the trailer, but…

Carly:
Of course.

Riese:
Then we go to a restaurant in Pittsburgh called the Vandal where we meet John, played by Carly.

Carly:
John, played by me, AKA Dan Levy, of Schitt’s Creek Fame. Is he playing a version of himself/a version of David Rose? Maybe? Does it matter? No, it doesn’t because he is so funny and so wonderful that he can do whatever he wants.

Riese:
He lights up the screen. I read a fashion article where they said that they had him dress more like plaids and more like rustic type, because they wanted to show that it was a departure from David.

Carly:
That makes sense.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Carly:
I mean, David had a very, very specific wardrobe. So this definitely is different than that, which is great.

Riese:
So they seem to be best friends and you know what? I think that’s cute because we don’t have enough gay men, lesbian best friendships in the media, even though they’re all over the world.

Carly:
Absolutely. My best friend of over 20 years is a gay man.

Riese:
Correct.

Carly:
And I think there needs to be more representation of those types of queer family, chosen family type relationships on film and television. I love that.

Riese:
Absolutely. I love that too. Then we go to the jewelry store where Abby, for some reason, is buying a ring.

Carly:
Have they told us how long this couple has been together?

Riese:
I feel like they moved in like; six, eight months ago. I feel like it’s no more than a year?

Carly:
Ooh. That’s tough. Also, the longer they’ve been together, what we’re about to learn about Harper becomes even more ridiculous, the longer they’ve been together too. So on the one hand, it’s like I want them to have been together a long enough time where a proposal feels super earned and the next logical step for them and their journey. But at the same time, the longer they have been together at this point, the more completely ridiculous it is what Harper’s about to tell her.

Riese:
Yeah. Actually, I think we do determine it’s a year, because later John says, “I knew you couldn’t be with someone for a year and not have met their parents,” or whatever. Remember?

Carly:
Oh okay, yeah.

Riese:
So they’ve been together for about a year and Abby is ready to propose, which is absolutely bananas. And I would recommend against it as someone who did get engaged a year after dating. And as you can tell, my friends, I’m not married, so.

Carly:
As a person who has been married for many years, I can tell you that we did not move in together until two years and we didn’t get married until five. I’m not saying everyone needs to do that, but I am saying it’s good to really give things time and there’s no reason to rush these things. But this is also a movie, it’s a rom-com. We need the drama, we need the excitement, so here we go.

Riese:
Yeah, here we go. Here we go. White people wanting to get engaged. What a treat for the world. Beautiful white people in all of their beanies. And then we go out into the street and John is expressing that he believes this is a heteronormative, terrible idea.

John: Abby, you and Harper have a perfect relationship. Why do you want to ruin that by engaging in one of the most archaic institutions in the history of the human race?
Abby: Because I want to marry her.
John: Okay. You say that, but what you’re actually doing is tricking the woman you claim to love by trapping her in a box of heteronormativity and trying to make her your property. She is not a rice cooker or a cake plate. She’s a human being.

Riese:
Abby says that she’s her person, and she wants everyone to know that and she wants to build a life together, which you can do. Which you could do without getting married, just saying, and she’s going to ask Harper’s dad for his blessing. And John’s like…

John: Way to stick to the patriarchy, really well done.

Riese:
… which is really funny.

Carly:
His dialogue is great and his delivery of set dialogue is great.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Carly:
Yeah. He makes some valid points.

Riese:
He does.

Carly:
Points were made.

Riese:
Then we hop, jump, skip and ride into their car to grandmother’s house, except there’s no grandmother. We go. But you know the song, where the rain… Yeah.

Carly:
Over the river, through the woods, et cetera. Yeah.

Riese:
Yeah. And then grandma gets run over by the reindeer. That’s how that turns out.

Carly:
Famously, yes. That is what happens to her.

Riese:
Abby is excited. Abby says she’s great with parents, but… She’s not. But-

Carly:
Which we will learn is a lie.

Riese:
I mean, I am pretty sure that Kristen Stewart is also bad with parents. I think her worst qualities remind me of my worst qualities. But I’m good with parents, I think. Yeah, I am good with parents.

Carly:
I pretty great with parents. I am.

Riese:
Yeah, I bet you are.

Carly:
I can turn on the parent charm. I can do it really fast.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Usually parents think I’m really smart. They’re like, “Wow, my daughter or son is dating someone really smart.” And then I can get away with a lot from there.

Carly:
That’s good to do that. People just think I’m completely ridiculous. It’s because of how I carry myself in a very ridiculous manner. So we see here that Harper seems to be a little anxious.

Riese:
Harper is HARBORING a little secret.

Carly:
Oh, did you just come up with that?

Riese:
I did. I did that on the spot.

Carly:
Oh my God.

Riese:
So apparently, Harper went home this summer, came back, told her girlfriend, Abby, which by the way, was my fiancee’s name.

Carly:
Mmhm.

Riese:
I just need to get that out there.

Carly:
It’s also my aunt’s name. Not that that has anything to do with anything, but it is a name that is in my life.

Riese:
Yeah. So we’re all dealing with our own stuff here, okay? We’re all dealing with our own stuff. She went home this summer, and she came back, and she told Abby that she came out to her parents and it went really well. And it turns out that’s a lie, complete lie. She didn’t go home this summer. She did not come out to her parents.

Carly:
So the nothing she did probably did go very well.

Riese:
Uh-huh (affirmative), yeah. She did nothing and it went swimmingly.

Carly:
Swimmingly. It went great.

Riese:
And her dad, he’s running for mayor. And everyone knows in 2020, you can’t run for mayor with a lesbian daughter.

Riese:

Carly:
You sure can’t.

Riese:
Doesn’t Dick Cheney have a lesbian daughter?

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
Or something like that, right? Yeah?

Carly:
Yep.

Riese:
Wasn’t he Vice President?

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
Of the United States for the Republican party?

Carly:
And a war criminal, yes.

Riese:
So… What?

Carly:
Oh yeah, I think we could also safely say here that her family is Republicans. It’s pretty obvious immediately, which is not a character flaw of Harper. It’s not her fault that she comes from Republicans. Many people come from Republicans.

Riese:
Yeah, like Fitz in the show Scandal.

Carly:
Scandal, famously.

Riese:
is a Republican. And Olivia Pope loved him.

Carly:
Exactly. And then he guest-starred on The L Word before that.

Riese:
He did. He did. Yeah, so it all comes back around to lesbians.

Carly:
Exactly.

Riese:
I categorically reject the idea that her sexual orientation would have any impact on his ability to run for Mayor. All I’m saying is I do think that they should have set this in the ’90s.

Carly:
I think that is a really interesting point. And I do think that some of the storyline would have felt a little more realistic, set in the ’90s. I don’t want to say that people in our current reality would not have this experience, but I just think that I agree. I feel like if this had been more of a ’90s period piece. First of all, the fashions would have been incredible.

Riese:
Yes, I like-

Carly:
The soundtrack would have also been incredible. Although the soundtrack is pretty great-

Riese:
The soundtrack is incredible, yeah.

Carly:
We will get to that. But that would have been a really interesting take. But-

Riese:
Although I did … one of my friends who I saw this with is also not out to her family, who hopefully aren’t listening to this.

Carly:
Wooh.

Riese:
So, that was an interesting perspective to have.

Carly:
Well, we didn’t say her name so it should be fine.

Riese:
Yeah. I didn’t say her name, but, so that was an interesting perspective to have in the car of someone who isn’t out. Her family will probably be fine with it. She just doesn’t feel ready yet.

Carly:
Can I ask how old is she?

Riese:
Early 30s?

Carly:
Okay. Interesting.

Riese:
But just had her first girlfriend this year.

Carly:
Ah, Okay. Yeah.

Riese:
So it’s sort of brand new.

Carly:
Yeah. There’s also that thing of people who aren’t out and then they have this idea that, “Oh, I’ll come out to them when I’m like in a long-term relationship. And I want them to meet this person.” And then it feels like that’s a thing they’re going to aim for. And I get the sense that maybe Harper is like that too, but there’s also this, dad’s political career kind of thing with it, that has complicated it in her mind.

Riese:
Yeah. And the thing is obviously Harper has a lot of internalized homophobia and she’s dealing with a lot and there’s not a problem with her not being out to her family.

Carly:
No.

Riese:
There is a problem with her fucking lying to her girlfriend about not being out to her family and not telling her until they’re already in the road there, when Kristen Stewart has obviously already packed all of the most homosexual clothing that she could find in the entire city of Pittsburgh, that’s already-

Carly:
She really does.

Riese:
All in her suitcase. She has pressed her suit and her ribbon tie. She’s ready to be gay in the home. And she is just now finding this out that her girlfriend isn’t out, but more importantly, is a liar. And that sucks.

Carly:
Yeah. I think if you find yourself in this situation where you’re the Harper, what I would recommend doing is telling your partner the truth so that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they actually want to make that trip with you home for the holidays.

Carly:
Just that’s … but again, this is a romantic comedy. It is a film. And we need the drama.

Riese:
Yeah, and this is the conceit of the film.

Carly:
And we need the drama.

Riese:
This is the point.

Carly:
This is why we’re here.

Riese:
This is the point of contention. This is the setup for the film. We need it. So it’s preposterous, but we’re accepting it because it’s the whole point of the film. And it’s funny because like at first Abby’s like, “Ah,” obviously is not wanting to go. And then Harper very quickly talks her into it, which I found very convincing because I feel you’re like, “Oh my God, this is bad. I’m out.” And then it just takes a little prod because as soon as you say that, you’re like, “Oh God, we have to break up and then I have to move out and then this and this and everything’s…”

Carly:
It’s a whole thing!

Riese:
And then they-

Carly:
You spiral.

Riese:
Say just the smallest nice thing you’re like, okay. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I’ll just go along with it. That’s easier—

Carly:
It’s going to be fine, it’s gonna be fine. It’s-

Riese:
It’s going to be fine-

Carly:
How hard could it bt

Riese:
How hard could it be, they’ll fall in love with her and they won’t somehow know that she’s also gay-

Carly:
Even though she is very gay.

Riese:
Even though she is very gay…

Carly:
Obviously gay-

Riese:
Obviously gay, yeah. And maybe they’ll recognize her from the films?

Carly:
From the films! The Twilight films.

Riese:
The Twilight films. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And they’ll know she dated Robert Patives — Pattis? — noted pasta aficionado, Robert Patterson—

Carly:
Robert Pasta Visual.

Riese:
Robert Patterson? Paddington? Paddinton.

Carly:
Paddington bear, the star of the film Paddington bear.

Riese:
The film Paddington Bear starring Bella Swan. We arrive at the home, the giant pristine home in the mysterious town outside of Pittsburgh that is never named-

Carly:
Never named.

Riese:
Mom is played by Mary St— I cannot pronounce a single word today!

Carly:
Mary Steenburgen.

Riese:
Exactly.

Carly:
Who we love.

Riese:
We love her.

Carly:
She’s a legend, she’s wonderful. She has a great performance in this film and we are greeted right away by her iPad, which is such a funny little runner throughout the film where she’s always taking photos on an iPad for her husband’s social media account.

Tipper: I started an Instagram feed for your father to give voters a peek behind the curtain. Your mother’s going viral!

Carly:
Yeah. I found that to be very cute.

Riese:
We meet Jane who is Harper’s sister and —

Carly:
Harper’s sister-

Riese:
And just a real delight.

Carly:
The whole thing I was just like, just protect Jane at all costs, protect her.

Harper: Oh Jane! I told you not to do that!
Jane: Oh I know I didn’t listen.
Harper: Oh, I didn’t think you’d be here, but here you are.
Jane: I didn’t want to wait one more second to see my little sis, Oh, I was changing the air filters.
Tipper: Thank you, Jane.

Carly:
So Jane Is played by Mary Holland, who also Wrote this film with Clea DuVall and she is very, very funny and actually has a kind of connection to The L Word if you think about it because she is in the comedy group, Wild Horses with Stephanie Allyne. So you know, it all leads back to The L Word. Interconnectivity, the chart, oooo—

Riese:
Wait, is she gay?

Carly:
She is straight.

Riese:
Oh, interesting. Well, so it turns out that Harper has sold Abby as her orphan friend—

Carly:
Orphaned friend roommate, and everyone acts as if she was orphaned yesterday and her parents died tragically hours ago and it’s… I actually thought it was very funny.

Riese:
I did too. And also, it happened when she was 19 and also even as someone who just lost one parent — people handle it in a very — in a way like you have this tragedy, like just radiating out of your body as soon as they find out other parents find out and it’s a pretty intense dynamic. So being like a bonafide orphan, which is a funny term for them to use. So yeah, they think she has nowhere to go. And so she’s here.

Carly:
And that they’re doing something really generous by taking her-

Riese:
Into their palace. So we get a little tour of the home. We see the oldest sister, I think, right. Sloane is the eldest?

Carly:
I think so, I think so…

Riese:
We see a Sloane’s room full of trophies-

Carly:
Overachiever,

Riese:
Overachiever, her mother laments that Sloane changed careers from lawyer to make gift baskets.

Carly:
She and her husband were lawyers. Now they make gift baskets and we know that we are setting up this character, we’re going to meet her later but we… That’s all we get right now.

Riese:
We go to Harper’s childhood room where we see Harper and Connor, her high school boyfriend’s prom photo.

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
It’s still prominently displayed in the room, along with her Josh Hartnett posters-

Carly:
Which I thought was a wonderful touch considering Clea DuVall and Josh Hartnett were in the film, The Faculty together…

Riese:
Interconnectivity.

Carly:
Interconnectivity once again, the chart, our chart, the chart-

Riese:
Our chart, our chart.com. And then we find out that Abby will not be staying in Harper’s bedchambers.

Carly:
She will not, she is staying in a room in the basement. She’s in the basement in Jane’s former childhood bedroom that looks like it’s also been converted into some storage.

Riese:
Yeah, it looks like they store some arts and crafts down there.

Carly:
Which is all relatable.

Riese:
Uh-huh (affirmative) Yeah, absolutely. I buy every minute of this.

Carly:
All of this.

Riese:
There’s something funny who says it? Who’s like, Oh, well I’m sure that at least this is better than the orphanage and she is like, “well, I was 19. So…” And she’s like, “Oh, you’re one of the lucky ones” and then she tells her the lock doesn’t work.

Carly:
Well, that’s what we like to call in the biz “foreshadowing.”

Riese:
That’s every time you come to my mom’s house, you get a little bit of foreshadowing because somehow every room she puts me in, the door doesn’t close all the way.

Carly:
We love to see it.

Riese:
Let alone lock. We go to a restaurant, do you think that this is… It’s not the Olive Garden.

Carly:
I was hoping it was the Olive Garden, but I didn’t feel like they were a family when they were there.

Riese:
No, I didn’t feel like that either. I felt like they were royalty.

Carly:
and that’s not their slogan, that’s not how they operate at the Olive garden. Would have been a really great tie in and make it more relatable to you and me specifically.

Riese:
Yeah. If they’d had endless pasta,

Carly:
Endless salad and breadsticks-

Riese:
breadsticks.

Carly:
That would be wonderful.

Riese:
So first of all, Abby has to sit in the child, like in this tiny chair-

Carly:
They pull up this very small chair where she is like a foot lower than everyone else, which is very funny and then the mother is like, “Oh, we need one more chair” and before you can even say, who did she invite? Wouldn’t you know, it,

Conner: Hey guys how’s it going?
Tipper: Connor, how funny to see you here.
Conner: you told me to be here at seven, right?

Riese:
It’s Connor, and who’s Connor?!?!

Carly:
Harper’s high school boyfriend, ex boyfriend.

Riese:
Right.

Carly:
And mom just thinks they’re going to rekindle things because they’re both single.

Riese:
Yeah, Jane starts to explain that the plot of her book, which-

Carly:
Sounds great.

Riese:
I would like to pre-order the entire series. Then we transition into a story about Harper getting her chicken pox at their house in Jackson Hole because of course they have a house in Jackson Hole.

Carly:
Of course they do.

Riese:
And we find out that Connor was part of the chickenpox story, but left out of the chickenpox story when Harper relayed this story to Abby so now we have lie number two. What is wrong with having your boyfriend In a story? How many stories have I told about my boyfriends on this podcast? Probably 75 that no one wanted to hear. And yet I did them anyway. And yet she could not even mention the truth

Carly:
To her family, she has internalized homophobia and to her gay partner, she has internalized heterophobia.

Riese:
God it’s complicated to be gay.

Carly:
It’s complicated, it’s complicated to be Harper. Also, we haven’t talked about her wig.

Riese:
Right, okay. Mackenzie Davis is a very attractive woman-

Carly:
Extremely attractive woman.

Riese:
Star of my favorite show, Halt and Catch Fire. She switches hair cuts four times, one once for every season of Halt and Catch Fire and every time it looks good.

Carly:
This wig was not my favorite. It almost looks like whoever did the hair was mad at her a little bit. They were like, “yeah, you look great”.

Riese:
When they were looking at Molly, the American girl doll and were like, how can I do this?

Carly:
But on you.

Riese:
This is not her best haircut.

Carly:
It’s not, it’s a bummer but I found it to be very funny. So it made me laugh a lot but I don’t know if that was intentional.

Riese:
Ha ha ha Her wig.

Carly:
Ha ha ha wigs.

Riese:
So they go to the bathroom as heterosexual women often do together.

Carly:
Together, yes they do.

Riese:
And it’s sort of cute, they’re kissing and Harper’s like, “it’s so hard to like, not kiss you all the time”. And Abby’s like (weird noises)

Carly:
Whoa. Yeah. That’s totally what it’s like.

Riese:
And then was like, “I’ll talk to my mom so that no more whatever happens”, which obviously she does not do.

Carly:
That’s a lie. Third lie, number three

Riese:
Lie number three, ding on the lie-o-meter and then HEY-0

Carly:
Guess who’s here.

Riese:
It’s Riley.

Carly:
It’s a new character.

Riese:
It’s a top off.

Carly:
It’s a top off.

Riese:
It’s the top off. Riley wins, just telling you ahead of time—

Carly:
Riley wins every…Riley dominates every scene she’s in, by virtue of being Aubrey Plaza, being dressed very well and being extremely attractive.

Riese:
And as soon as you see her you know this is Harper’s ex-girlfriend.

Carly:
Oh yeah. You know it right away.

Riese:
And Abby’s like, “is this the Riley?” And she’s like, “yeah”. And it’s super awkward. And Abby makes up a bad lie about who she is, but she’s like her roommate.

Carly:
Which she sees through instantly.

Riese:
Immediately, because I think Riley has seen a lesbian.

Carly:
I think Riley is aware of what lesbians look like and sometimes they look like Kristen Stewart.

Riese:
And then Abby is like “who knows maybe, maybe another one of your exes will bring up dessert”, which I thought was funny.

Carly:
That would have been great if that had happened too.

Riese:
Back at the table, we find out that dad went to Paris for a month and saw museums.

Carly:
Rich people things.

Riese:
Paris is always a snooze, please. All of my fun little writers at home, pick a more revealing detail than Paris. Paris is a meaningless detail. It illuminates nothing, nothing. It’s a throw away. Okay?

Carly:
This is a Public service announcement from Riese Bernard.

Riese:
It’s a public Service announcement. I’m sure I’ve discussed this on the podcast before, because it’s one of my campaigns is to stop having trips to Paris be presented as major character information, they’re not. So Abby goes to Carnegie Mellon and she’s studying art history and that is, I believe the beginning and the end of what we learned about her.

Carly:
Correct. Dad is impressed. Something we’ve learned about this family right away is that they care about a lot of things like status and they definitely seem to favor certain children over others.

Riese:
They don’t favor jane.

Carly:
They do not, this is really a bummer. Jane is so wonderful, I just want-

Riese:
She is so wonderful.

Carly:
I just want the best things for Jane and you know what? She’s going to be fine in the end, but it’s a rocky road to get there.

Riese:
It sure is. We go to Abby’s bedroom at night and mom checks on Abby, Harper shows up. She says that her parents love her and she’s like, do they love you as much as Connor? And she’s like, “no but they don’t really like me that much” and that’s funny. Things are still cute at this point.

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
Then we cut to a phone call with John. Thank God.

Carly:
Thank God. We were missing some John. We were like, what? We need an infusion of excitement and then here comes John on the phone

Riese:
When he’s like, “have you managed to get a man’s permission to take ownership of an adult human woman yet?”.

Carly:
That’s great.

Riese:
And then she is like, so plot twist-

Carly:
She’s not out.

Riese:
She’s not out.

Carly:
So we can’t be together here and she also told… Didn’t tell them that I’m gay and he has this great line from the trailer which is, “have they ever seen a lesbian?”,

Riese:
Right, or have they ever seen Kristen Stewart? You know what’s interesting though about this family?

Carly:
tell me.

Riese:
they have given their children, I would argue, homosexual names, and then they’re expecting them to turn out heterosexual.

Carly:
I’m really glad we’re talking about this. Sloan.

Riese:
Sloan, Even Jane is low key gay.

Carly:
Riley Is an extremely gay name, but obviously it’s a different family.

Riese:
Riley is gay as hell but we all know Abby… Abbys are always gay and Harper is a gay name.

Carly:
Harper is 1000% a gay name.

Riese:
Oh, we forgot to say that her parents spoke disparagingly of Riley’s lifestyle choices at dinner so that’s when we finally find out that they are openly homophobic despite Kristen Stewart being right there and everyone knows that she’s dating that girl, Sarah, whatever her name is, Dylan. I don’t even know who she’s dating, but she’s dating someone-

Carly:
Someone with a gay name probably.

Riese:
Yep. Okay. So wake up Sloan’s children are there, they’re staring at her. We meet Sloan, she’s very uptight. We go to the kitchen…

Carly:
Sloan is played by Alison Brie.

Riese:
Oh yeah.

Carly:
I love her.

Riese:
Star of that recently canceled program Glow-

Carly:
But she still has the Glow muscles on her arms from her Glow workouts,

Riese:
She’s a glow worm.

Carly:
She is still a wrestler. She has all the might of a wrestler.

Riese:
All the might of a wrestler. We go to the kitchen there… It’s in a little Christmasy breakfast. This made me miss going to rich people’s houses and having breakfast—

Carly:
Oh my god, they had another Christmas tree just in the kitchen.

Riese:
I know.

Carly:
I was like, Oh my god, this is a level of wealth I cannot comprehend.

Riese:
I have been to houses like this and it just made me nostalgic for them. In addition to wanting a pool, I also like going to rich people’s houses.

Carly:
The kitchens I think are really key.

Riese:
She meets Sloan’s husband, Eric. He recommends coconut oil for Abby’s hands. Jane is so excited to go ice skating. We find out that Harper’s a journalist and her dad is like, seems to be pretty proud of her being a journalist. And he’s so excited to have all of his daughters here. And then we find out the big… This is the part of the episode that Carly likes best is that we find out there’s a big event that evening.

Carly:
There are several big events that happened over the course of this trip that they are on and this is the first.

Riese:
And their major donor will be there

Riese:
Their major, major, major donor. And its time to go ice skating. We drive to the ice rink and we have some very funny banter about the curated gift experiences that are provided by Sloan and her husband.

Carly:
I laughed very hard at all that, I enjoyed that very much.

Riese:
I like a gift experience in a reclaimed log.

Carly:
Of course, it’s not a gift BASKET — It’s an experience.

Riese:
Gwennie liked it too. Exactly it’s an experience. You’re like, this is what it’s like to be Tom Sawyer who had a raft logs, logs on a raft.

Carly:
Exactly. This is what it’s like to be on a raft, a log raft, but smaller and you’re a gift, you’re in the gift, you are part of the gift.

Riese:
Exactly that’s special and you need to go to law school if you want to do something like that.

Carly:
It’s important to have that background.

Riese:
We go to the skating rink and it turns out that Sloan and Harper are very competitive with one another.

Carly:
Oh gosh, they sure are. They decide to race.

Riese:
I got scared for everyone.

Carly:
I was terrified for everyone. Not just everyone in the family, but just all the innocent bystanders. Several people were knocked over that we saw-

Riese:
It was a brawl.

Carly:
it was a bloodbath.

Riese:
Exactly what I was looking for. It was a blood bath-

Carly:
an absolute blood bath. The banter between the rest of the family while they’re doing that is very funny.

Eric: What are they doing?
Jane: They are racing.
Eric: Oh yeah.
Harper: Jane, time?!
Jane: Oh, I forgot to press start.
Eric: Don’t tell them that.
Abby: Should we stop them?
Eric: No, they’ll tire themselves out eventually.
Jane: I love you guys!

Carly:
Which ends with them beating the crap out of each other.

Riese:
And that’s therapeutic.

Carly:
I guess, sure.

Riese:
As represented in the film Fight Club.

Carly:
Ah yes, famously.

Riese:
We go to the house… Anyway it’s all a leading to go to the big party-

Carly:
Big party with the donor.

Riese:
The campaign woman.Jane is ready, is single and ready to mingle.

Carly:
And there’s that great shot where she and Abby are standing up on the second floor and they lookvdown and they see Riley and there’s great eye contact and everyone made a gif out of it and I was really grateful to the internet for that gif, it was cute.

Riese:
Here’s Riley, just amongst the crowd-

Carly:
Just Rileying.

Riese:
Speaking of gay names, the donor woman is named Harry.

Carly:
And she’s played by Ana Gasteyer who’s wonderful. Is that really her name? That’s so funny.

Riese:
And the campaign manager who is played by the mom from Blockers?

Carly:
Her characters name is Carolyn and she’s… Carolyn was in blockers.

Riese:
I love her, what’s the actress’s name?

Carly:
Sarayu Blue.

Riese:
Yes, I love her. I think she’s so good. When I saw her, I was like, oh my god I’m so excited.

Carly:
I know me too. I’m like Cast her in more things.

Riese:
We meet Harper’s friends, they suck-

Carly:
Oh god they are terrible.

Riese:
They are terrible and the Connor’s there.

Carly:
Of course he is. There’s too much Connor in this movie, there I said it.

Riese:
No, it had to be said. Connor pulls Harper aside, asks her out and then John… Luckily John calls saving Abby from this horrible party, which honestly… This is what? Night one? Since they got in yesterday.

Carly:
Well the first night they went to dinner. So this is the second night.

Riese:
Okay, so this is night two. I believe that Harper still has an obligation to more or less stick with Abby.

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
But she doesn’t, John calls to let Abby know that she is at a country club that forbade women until very recently, because of course he has been tracking her, which is funny.

Carly:
Yes, and that is another little runner throughout the film that will pay off later.

Riese:
This says a lot because he’s known them as a couple for a while now, but he is not excited about this, her not being out thing, and he is judging her choices.

Carly:
Yes.

Carly:
He also might have killed the fish.

Riese:
Correct.

Carly:
I mean he did.

Riese:
He did.

Carly:
But this is the moment where we are learning that it might’ve happened.

Riese:
Then we go to the house at night where we… Abby receives the most lukewarm sext in the history of sexting.

Carly:
Absolutely.

Riese:
Which is, I guess it’s sort of a picture from… It’s like Harper from like her chin down and you can kind of see her bra?

Carly:
Almost.

Riese:
Almost.

Carly:
You can almost see her bra.

Riese:
This honestly reminds me of when I was a sex worker and we would do pictures for the website. And you obviously had to have your clothes on in the picture, but just a bra and you couldn’t have your face in it. Cause obviously no one’s face could be in it. So they would literally be these chin down pictures with just a little bit showing. They’d be hotter than this one. But I was like, this is exactly what those looked like and Abby pretends to be excited about it and that’s cute for them.

Carly:
That’s cute.

Riese:
That they’re still feeling the love for each other and Abby is just going to sneak on upstairs and get a little of that clavicle in her mouth.

Carly:
Maybe a sternum is involved.

Riese:
Maybe a sternum.

Carly:
Does she go upstairs or do they both go downstairs?, Because then there’s the whole bit with the door the next morning. Right?

Riese:
I think Abby is going upstairs to Harper, but then after the hullabaloo, Harper ends up going downstairs with Abby.

Carly:
Right, I forgot about that. You’re right.

Riese:
Because in the hullabaloo is that Abby is walking upstairs and then mom is awake.

Carly:
So she has to hide in the closet.

Riese:
Literally in the closet!

Carly:
Literally in the closet.

Riese:
She gets caught in the closet because the Roomba starts busting around even though they have no pets.

Carly:
Crazy ass roomba.

Riese:
And Oh, and then the mom was like,

Tipper: Abby what are you doing in the closet?

Riese:
Get it?!! Abby goes back downstairs, Harper sneaks downstairs and makes out with her and that was cute.

Carly:
Yeah and then it’s the next morning because they fell asleep in bed together in a room with a door that doesn’t lock.

Riese:
And Harper luckily fell asleep with her bra on, which is exactly a normal way to sleep.

Carly:
Always, always normal.

Riese:
They wake up together to everyone busting into their room, into their little love nest where we were going to see a cute little morning of Kristen Stewart in a white tank top and she says, why did you lock the door? I thought the door didn’t lock.

Carly:
There was something blocking the door, she put something heavy in front of it to block it. It sounds like lock, but it’s different.

Riese:
Like Blockers.

Carly:
The film Blockers, which is a very good film.

Riese:
And the twins do spy Harper hiding behind the door through a crack.

Carly:
Oh, do they ever! Those twins.

Riese:
But do they even know what they’re looking at?

Carly:
They’re not sure, but probably.

Riese:
Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart’s wearing a white tank top with no bra, so that’s a moment that she’s sharing now with, with the mother.

Carly:
With the whole family, which is beautiful and that’s really what Christmas is all about.

Riese:
It is, the human body. Isn’t it great?

Carly:
In its splendor.

Riese:
In its splendor, holiday splendor. So then in the kitchen, everybody is making Christmas cookies and they start talking about the white elephant gift exchange, which Abby has never heard of white elephant.

Carly:
That seemed suspicious. Actually, you know what? I take that back. I didn’t know what white elephant was, for a very long time.

Riese:
In my family it wasn’t this, it was like you don’t buy a gift for white elephant. You bring a gift that sucks and then three people will bring a gift that’s good. Usually the guests, usually the boyfriend or the fiancee or someone is going to come with a good gift, wanting to impress everyone.

Carly:
Try to impress everybody, yeah.

Riese:
Whereas my cousin Glen is going to try to pass off the same California Raisins figurine that sings when you touch it.

Carly:
Oh.

Riese:
For the fourth year in a row. There’s also a roll of toilet paper that ends up resurfacing year after year.

Carly:
Classic.

Riese:
Really bad CDs. It’s mostly a comedy show. It’s mostly an opportunity for me and my dad’s side of the family to share our ongoing bits.

Carly:
Everyone wants to do bits.

Riese:
Everyone has a bit, and we’re all doing them.

Carly:
And we’re all doing it.

Riese:
I started doing Autostraddle merch, you know?

Carly:
That’s something that the family loves.

Riese:
It is, because I’m successful.

Carly:
My hot take is that I hate White Elephant.

Riese:
Okay.

Carly:
I barely am okay with Secret Santa. I can get on board with Secret Santa, because at least you know who you’re buying a gift for. I just hate getting joke gifts because then what do I do with it?

Riese:
You leave it at the house of the person who’s hosting Christmas.

Carly:
Oh, but what if I’m hosting it?

Riese:
Then you are really up shit creek without a paddle.

Carly:
Schitt’s Creek. Again, a show that is connected to this film.

Riese:
Interconnectivity The Chart Dot Com.

Carly:
Backslash Our Chart.

Riese:
So Abby is going to go to the mall with Sloane. And this was a bold… Again, they are now on day three of the visit and Harper is fully sending her secret girlfriend to the mall with her terrible sister and her children.

Carly:
This is out of line. This is the — don’t do this. This is only day three. And you know your sister is mean.

Riese:
Yeah. And also you’re leaving… She has no material. What is Abby suppoesd to talk about…

Carly:
What are they going to talk about?

Riese:
When everything is a lie?

Carly:
Yeah.

Riese:
And she’s a bad liar.

Carly:
Terrible liar.

Riese:
So then, and what does happen? Disaster is what happens.

Carly:
Oh, I didn’t like this. You know what? I’m going to say it.

Riese:
I hated this.

Carly:
I didn’t like this at all.

Riese:
You know what it was? It was people taking action on a misinterpretation of an event. And I-

Carly:
If there’s one thing I hate, it is people taking action on the misinterpretation of an event. Did it lead to a funny mall security interrogation scene? Yes it did.

Riese:
So we go to the mall. There are Williams-Sonoma or Pier 1 or something. Whatever. And she’s trying to figure out what to buy for this gift exchange and the twins slip a little necklace into Abby’s tote bag. Yeah. I didn’t really understand what they were doing. So of course the alarm goes off. Carolyn is that at the store? So she witnesses Abby—

Carly:
When Kristen Stewart goes up to Carolyn and is like, “Oh my God, hi, it’s me from the other night.” I was like, “this is psychotic. This is actually psychotic.” If I am anywhere, and I see anyone I know, 99% of the time I will hide. This is just a true fact about me.

Riese:
She was trying to be, I related to her because I was like, t”his is exactly the kind of mistake I made because I’d be like, I really need to impress everyone in this orbit. What do normal people do? They don’t hide behind the pillows. They go up and say hello. And then I would go up and it would flop.

Carly:
Carolyn hardly remembered that she existed. Oh, it was painful. Was so painful to watch.

Riese:
And then it was followed up with the alarm going off because Abby has this thing in her bag. And then we go to the security baseline, which is fun because now we have Jonah, and also Jonah —

Carly:
And Lauren Lapkiss, another member of Wild Horses. And the two of them are really fucking funny. Yeah. I like that. We just call him Jonah. I just want to call him Jonah.

Riese:
Yeah, of course.

Carly:
Yeah. We know. Everyone knows.

Riese:
Jonah, from Veep.

Carly:
Yeah. And again, Clea DuVall also on Veep.

Riese:
Oh yeah. Also Lauren Lapkus. You may recognize her from Orange Is The New Black, which also had a lot of gay things on it. Because, it’s all connected. Taylor Schilling dated Carrie Brownstein who dated someone in this orbit, right?

Carly:
Yes. St. Vincent who dated Kristen Stewart.

Riese:
Right. There we go.

Carly:
Yeah, we did it. All the queer women are connected specifically by this film.

Riese:
Yeah. So this is so funny. Then we all arrived back at the homestead and they basically really believe that Abby tried to steal a fucking necklace from Williams-Sonoma, Pier 1 Pottery Barn.

Carly:
They don’t sell necklaces at any of those stores—

Riese:
At Target, at the-

Carly:
It looked like maybe a J.Crew…

Riese:
A bougie store? J.Crew?

Carly:
Banana Republic? I don’t know—

Riese:
Banana Pub.

Carly:
The B-Pub.

Riese:
At the B-Pub. Not to be confused with B-Dubs.

Carly:
At B-Pubs?

Riese:
Yeah. Yeah. And everyone seems to just think that she did it. And-

Carly:
Yeah, that sucks.

Riese:
Harper is not defending her strongly enough This is the thing that pissed me off the most more than anything else, honestly. I was like, “Girl, you’re just going to let your family believe that?”

Carly:
This is what, four strikes against Harper at this point?

Riese:
Five.

Carly:
Right? Where are we at on our meter?

Riese:
See the necklace and think like, “This is the necklace that the twins were looking at earlier. Interesting. So Harper is going to… What’s she doing that night? She’s going somewhere. She… Going to a thing with her dad?

Carly:
Harper has to do a thing for the dad’s campaign or something. And so Abby gets out of having to do it.

Riese:
Which means Abby is now on her own. I would actually probably love this if I was sent out on my own to take a break.

Carly:
Yes, absolutely. I will just go by myself, don’t worry about me. I’ll will figure it out. I love to walk around alone. This is a pre COVID world, a non COVID world. So it’s a little different, where you can actually go places and bump into people and then drink alcohol with them with drag queens, which is exactly what happens and is wonderful.

Riese:
Yeah. So she takes herself out to dinner and then she runs into Riley and she’s like, “I’d really love to drink some alcohol.” And so Riley takes her to the bar that has drag queens that you probably recognized and I did not.

Carly:
Yeah. It’s Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme.

Riese:
No idea who that is.

Carly:
Well, it’s funny because this takes place in Pittsburgh, but they’re both from Seattle, but whatever. But they’re delightful and they instantly light up the screen and I had the movie is better for their inclusion.

Riese:
I agree with you, even though I didn’t know who they were.

Carly:
They were great. Jinkx Monsoon on season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and BenDeLa placed in the top three in season six and then came back and should have won All Stars season three, I want to say, but then she just dropped out despite the fact that she won every maxi challenge. And then she was like, “I’m good.” And just peaced, which was like kind of a baller move. Totally. Don’t worry about it.

Riese:
Absolutely. And Abby, surprised, tells Riley, “Yeah. I think that your assumption about my relationship with Harper was accurate.”

Carly:
Was correct.

Riese:
Mm-hm (affirmative). She knows that Riley was Harper’s first girlfriend, but she doesn’t know much more than that.

Carly:
Oh, she’s about to.

Riese:
She’s about to. Turns out that Riley and Harper began dating in the beginning of high school. They left love letters in each other’s locker. And then when they were discovered, Harper said that Riley was a lesbian who was in love with her.

Carly:
I feel like I’ve seen this movie.

Riese:
Yeah. This has, I mean actually—

Carly:
Several movies from the nineties.

Riese:
Uh-huh (affirmative) Yeah.

Carly:
This is literally the storyline of Lost and Delirious.

Riese:
But that has more birds. It is also when that happens in real life. This does happen in real life. It has happened to people in real life. And when you do that to somebody…

Carly:
Woo! You fuck them up.

Riese:
You fuck them up. That’s fucking a choice. And it’s a bad-

Carly:
It sucks. It sucks.

Riese:
Yeah. So Riley says she can relate to being in love with someone who’s afraid to tell the world who they are, and the chemistry between these two women is palpable. It’s great. One might think are they make out?

Carly:
I was actually at this point, shouting at the TV, “Make out!”

Riese:
Then there’s a big drag queen sing along.

Carly:
Who doesn’t love that. That’s great.

Riese:
And then my friend Lucy, her brother was in the bar scene that comes next.

Carly:
Oh my God. And then Riley goes and sits next to Abby, which I was like, “Good job Riley.” I was like, “Yes, there she goes. She’s got a plan.” And I was like, “Here we go, it’s happening.” Just slid into that other side of the booth.

Riese:
Sliding Into her booth.

Carly:
DMs of the booth. We’re old.

Riese:
I don’t slide into anything.

Carly:
I tried to slide once when I played softball and I got terribly injured.

Riese:
This episode of the podcast is called Embarrassing Things That Happened To Carly In Their Childhood.

Carly:
Yeah. Lauren, make sure you leave in all of the embarrassing things I disclose in this episode. Don’t take them out. I want the world to know. It’s time for me to come clean about how deeply embarrassing my childhood was.

Riese:
Everybody needs to know what happened to them. It’s important. I think it’s important. Then we meet up with Harper and her insufferable friends at a nearby bar.

Carly:
And they’re like doing shotskis, and doing shotskis and tequila skis. And ah, it’s just very hetero and very insufferable.

Riese:
It’s also sad because Abby jumps up to join her at the bar.

Carly:
She left the drag bar and Riley-

Riese:
It was a nice time.

Carly:
Where she was having a wonderful time. They were definitely going to make out if she had stuck around. I think we all know that’s where it was going. And she went to go be with straight people, doing straight people things. And after she gets there almost immediately, Harper’s like, “Whatever. I’m just going to stay out late with my friends.”

Riese:
My friends who listen to this podcast. This is a terrible thing.

Carly:
This was upsetting to me.

Riese:
She sends Abby home to her home with her family who think that Abby is an orphan shoplifter. Like Winona Ryder–

Carly:
Heterosexual orphan-

Riese:
A heterosexual orphan shoplifter which is just just the worst kind of shoplifters. Sends her home. And the reason is that she wants to stay at the bar and do tequila shots with her ex-boyfriend, Conner, with whom she has honestly spent more time than she has to with Abby on this vacation.

Carly:
Yup.

Riese:
You can’t do that. Once you are friends with your partner’s family. Yeah. You can do whatever. You can go your own ways, but you can’t send-

Carly:
Just like Fleetwod Mac —

Riese:
Yeah, exactly. You can’t send your secret girlfriend home so that you… Why? Just leave the bar. And I am as anyone who listens to this podcast know, a big fan of partners living their very independent lives and separating whenever possible.

Carly:
I’m also a big proponent of this, for sure.

Riese:
There’s an exception to that rule that is on the very first time you meet your partner’s family, you should not go your own way.

Carly:
That is not a time to go your own way. That is a time of much planning and discussions. Yeah. I tend to agree with that as well. Yeah.

Riese:
And I think that they kind of brushed over that.

Carly:
This happens, which is she tricks her in the car about the lie, about the coming out. And then suddenly she’s like, “I’m going to get wasted with Connor over here,” fucking Connor and sends her home. Now, if I was K Stew, I would have gone right back to that gay bar in the hopes that Riley was still there. Though I feel like Riley probably was just like, “I guess I’m going to go home.” But you know what, part of me wants to think that she hung out with the drag queens.

Riese:
I would text Riley and be like “you up?”

Carly:
Yeah, exactly.

Riese:
Exactly.

Carly:
Are you still at the gay bar…? Because?

Riese:
I would come back incensed with rage against and ready to make a mistake.

Carly:
And ready to fuck up.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Ready to ruin my relationship.

Riese:
Yes. I would be full of the spirit of ruin and ready to share it.

Carly:
Which is not Christmas spirit, but it is kind of related.

Riese:
It is related. Then we add insult to this injury with Abby sending texts to Harper that she literally just ignores while she’s at the bar with her ex-boyfriend.

Carly:
And then finally, after it’s past 2:00 AM, she’s like, “Mom, can I see you in the morning?”

Riese:
Yeah. And obviously-

Carly:
Like rude.

Riese:
And nothing makes you feel more psychotic than sending texts to somebody who’s out with their ex who is not responding to the texts.

Carly:
That is psychologically a way to ruin somebody. Yeah.

Riese:
And meanwhile, of course, Conner tells Harper that he misses her, they hug goodnight and he’s like…

Conner: Okay, Harper, was there someone else?
Harper: What do you mean?
Conner: Is that why we broke up?
Harper: No, no. I told you that the long distance just got too hard and –
Conner: The distance. Yeah, no, I know. I know. I don’t know. Just always felt like there was something you weren’t telling me.

Riese:
And this is what I realized she was dating Riley and Connor at the same time.

Carly:
Yep. This is the moment where that becomes very clear.

Riese:
And clearly this conversation is about more like, “”what were you hiding?” And the thing she was hiding was that she was gay.

Carly:
Wait, wait, sorry. She was dating Riley at the beginning. Remember that they were freshmen and they started dating, but didn’t wasn’t she dating him at the end? The later years of high school—

Riese:
Maybe it didn’t overlap.

Carly:
Yeah. I guess it’s like, it could have overlapped. It didn’t necessarily have to overlap. But the point was that she was hiding her sexuality.

Riese:
The point is that she was hiding her sexual orientation, but this was in my head when I thought, “Oh my God, wait, were they..” Not because he said, “was there someone else?” But just because I was thinking about their relationships in high school. And I was like, “I think they probably overlapped.”

Carly:
It’s very possible.

Riese:
But Harper was like, “No.” And I think though that in this scene you did see that Harper was just really… Does have a lot of internalized homophobia and it has completely destroyed her whole inner narrative about all of this and does not know how to find her way back.

Carly:
No.

Riese:
And it’s really sad.

Carly:
I think that’s probably something that audiences can relate to. It wasn’t my journey, but I’m sure it was someone’s and that’s what sucks.

Riese:
Yeah. I wanted her to be like, “Well actually Connor I’m gay.”

Carly:
I was hoping that she would say that.

Riese:
Instead to add an injury to the insult that we already added to an injury, when Abby comes to check on Harper in the morning and is like, “I didn’t know where you were.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. She’s like, “I didn’t know I had a curfew.”

Carly:
Oh, then she just gets angry. Oh-oh. She is just doubling down on all of her bad decisions at this point. Not good. Not good.

Riese:
She says, “I’m feeling suffocated. Why are you keeping tabs on me?” I know why: because you’re at her parents’ house!!!That’s why.

Carly:
It’s such a uncalled for outburst from Harper in this moment. What the fuck?

Riese:
And she’s like, “You agreed to this.” And it’s like, no, she was already in the car on her way there. She did not agree to this. She agreed to a very different circumstance.

Carly:
Indeed.

Riese:
And then she says that she needs some space at her parents’ house.

Carly:
Where they both are.

Riese:
And her parents think that Abby is a heterosexual orphan shoplifter. And this is terrible.

Carly:
It’s very upsetting.

Riese:
It’s really fucked up. She’s making Abby feel like her reaction is… Yes, it’s true, you’re not out, but that means you have to still make space for how Abby is going to feel about you staying out with your ex-boyfriend. Yes, you *do* have a curfew because you’re staying at your family’s house. So, yeah. There’s an expectation that you’re going to be home.

Carly:
And you brought her on this trip with you and then sent her home to go to sleep, after you asked her to meet you at a bar. Where she was already at a different bar and she should have just stayed there.

Riese:
And she says, she’s feeling suffocated on a trip to her family’s house, which is which again is aforementioned as a time for suffocation. That is a suffocation event.

Carly:
You go into that knowing you will be suffocated by your family. Therefore you can’t turn around and make it Kristen Stewart’s fault.

Riese:
You can’t. And Abby looks up a Rideshare app and discovers, it would cost over $1,000 to get a ride home.

Carly:
Goodness, gracious.

Riese:
John calls. John calls? Or she calls John.

Carly:
I don’t remember, but I would have been like, “Bitch, come get.”

Riese:
I think John calls. And he says that he apologizes for judging her.

Carly:
Yes. And she is like, “You know what, actually, you are correct.”

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And she says, “This is why I avoid Christmas. It always brings out the worst in people.” And I’m like, “ah, don’t blame Christmas for this. Come on.”

Carly:
Yeah. I would blame Christmas, but that’s my cynical Jewish side.

Riese:
Call me crazy. I would blame Harper.

Carly:
It does seem that the line of blame here would be a very direct straight line just to Harper. Yes.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). She’s sad and she’s crying. She doesn’t know she can stick it out or not. Also John was at the pet store, buying new fish.

Carly:
In the previous scene when he asks her where you would go to get fish, that was very funny. [

Riese:
And he was like, “I like these fish so much.”

Carly:
“So much that I wanted some of the same fish of my own.” I was like, “A pet store.” It’s so funny that he doesn’t know.

Riese:
It’s so funny. His reaction to this is where he’s just like, “I need to give this a think or whatever.” And so Abby still doesn’t know what to do. And then she makes a strong, strong move, which is calling Riley.

Abby:
Hey. Hey, it’s Abby. Are you doing anything right now?

Carly:
I mean, first of all, great. As a person who wants to watch chaos happen in a film.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
Well, my thought during this was like, that is exactly what I would do. Once more. So she goes white elephant gift shopping with Riley, which is, I love this.

Carly:
We’re doing local shops. We’re on a walk. We are not at the mall.

Riese:
We are supporting small businesses.

Carly:
We are supporting absolutely, Small Business Saturday, we were doing it up. Love it. Love everything that’s happening.

Riese:
And then Harper is also shopping and she sees Abby and Riley walking by and I was like…HAHAHA

Carly:
I also had the same reaction.

Riese:
You asked her for space, you monster bitch!

Carly:
Yeah. This is your own fault. You’re the architect of your own demise.

Riese:
Feeling a little suffocated now, are you? Huh?

Carly:
Who’s suffocated now?

Riese:
Why don’t you call Connor? Harper sees them walk by and then Harper like drops a case of wine.

Carly:
Yes. Yes. She does. The whole thing just breaks. HEH-HEH. And it looked like she was shopping at Rose Apothecary too, which I thought was great.

Riese:
She was.

Carly:
Patrick’s in there. Could you imagine that-

Riese:
I know. I did feel like all of those little shops had a Rose Apothecary vibe.

Carly:
I know it was so cute.

Riese:
We go back to the glorious house and home of the illustrious Harper family where… She gets home, her mom is a total to bitch to Abby because Abby’s like, “Where’d I put the gifts.” She’s like, “Under the tree. Where do you think?” And then she’s like, “I’m so sorry. And then she says she can’t find her Christmas broach and clearly-

Carly:
And then accuses her of stealing it.

Riese:
She’s like, “if it should magically appear, that would be okay.”

Carly:
“I won’t ask any questions.”

Riese:
I’m like, “Oh my God, you need to like-”

Carly:
Fix it.

Riese:
Fix it. Abby tells Ted the dad that she didn’t shoplift. And he clearly doesn’t believe her.

Carly:
Oh, he doesn’t believe her at all. He’s also like, not really paying attention to her.

Riese:
No, he’s in his own little… Whatever happens in the brain of a white man.

Carly:
There’s no way of knowing.

Riese:
He’s thinking about money. And then Harper comes down and she — I think that it looks… Abby thinks she looks nice. And then Harper is like, “So what were you doing all day?” And she’s obviously being a bitch about it because she saw Abby with Riley. And I love the pettiness that Abby is just like, “Oh, I was just alone…”

Carly:
I appreciated that. Yeah, I really did.

Riese:
But before they can really get into it, mom interrupts or dad interrupts. Someone interrupts — it’s time for the Christmas party in full bloom.

Carly:
It’s here. It’s happening. Get out of the way. If you don’t want to be a part of this party because it is it’s happening.

Riese:
This is the main event of the year of the season of the show of this movie, of the film, of cinema history.

Carly:
This is the container for the big climax of this film.

Riese:
Yeah. And not a sex climax, because this is a Christmas movie for children and teenagers and grown-ups.

Carly:
No.

Riese:
The kiddos are singing. Dad introduces Jane as “the only reason their internet works.”

Carly:
Ooh, that’s brutal.

Riese:
Abby looks incredible.

Carly:
Abby looks like she thought to herself, “What is the gayest outfit I have with me on this trip?”

Riese:
“Yeah, let me return it and get something gayer.”

Carly:
I’m going to get a gayer outfit than that. And this was that outfit and you know what? She looks amazing. And it’s a really nice FUCK YOU you to all the conservativism that’s happening around her.

Riese:
I don’t know what it is — it looks like she’s just sort of wearing, it’s not a tie, whatever it is. I love it.

Carly:
It’s perfect.

Riese:
Her hair looks great. Her face looks great. Everything looks great. I don’t know how Harper could be. Like, “I’m still not ready.”

Carly:
Oh my God. I know.

Riese:
She looks incredible.

Carly:
She looks amazing. Good for her. This is a real vengeance look, which I love.

Riese:
Yes. She’s up. She’s dressed to kill.

Carly:
Indeed.

Riese:
And Riley saddles up for a spiced alcoholic beverage.

Carly:
That was a great moment. Loved that moment.

Riese:
They’re party friends.

Carly:
And you know who catches that? Harper, Harper, Harper, Harper catches that.

Riese:
And Abby is like…

Abby: Yesterday I’d never felt closer to another person in my entire life, and now I don’t know her. I thought she loved me and was happy, but I see her here and she’s so terrified of what everyone thinks. It’s just making me wonder who the real Harper is.

Riese:
Very wise Riley says like, maybe both of these versions of Harper are the real Harper. This is just… Because we tend to do that, be like, “That’s not really her.” And it’s like, “That is her too.”

Carly:
We contain multitudes, all of us. And sometimes you are one person in a certain environment and a different person in a different environment, whether that’s for safety reasons or big relying reason or whatever. More than one thing can be true at once. There are two Harpers in this case.

Riese:
There are. And Harper—

Carly:
At least two that we know of-

Riese:
So it’s been an entire day. And as far as I know, Harper has not yet apologized for asking Abby for space in her own home.

Carly:
No. She has not apologized at all. No, she has not.

Riese:
So that’s great. Again. It’s okay for Harper to not be out, but it’s not okay for her to be a shit head.

Carly:
Exactly.

Riese:
Although it’s obvious also that she’s struggling with a lot of things. We just don’t know that much about her. So it’s hard.

Carly:
We don’t really get her internal-

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Stuff happening.

Riese:
I mean we can project and we can guess based on people we’ve known, and situations we’re familiar with, but I would imagine the layperson watching this would not be able to understand that. I do think a lot of her behavior, which is emotionally abusive at times, is coming from this complicated, fucked up place, which doesn’t excuse it.

Carly:
Right. It doesn’t excuse it. But it does do some work at explaining some of her internal workings.

Riese:
And then who should show up at the door? It’s not Santa Claus. It’s not Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer. Also not, it’s not Jack Frost. It’s not Father Time. It’s not Jenny Schecter or Ilene Chaiken—

Carly:
It’s none of the above.

Riese:
It’s John.

John: Abby!

Carly:
It’s John. Because as we recall it from earlier, he has been tracking Abby’s whereabouts. He has brought himself to this party, which I was personally thrilled.

Riese:
Delighted.

Carly:
Delighted. He shows up and immediately is cast as Abby’s ex-boyfriend John. And he has to pretend to be straight. And it is very funny.

John: Yes I am John, Abby’s heterosexual ex-boyfriend and I have come to get her back.
Tipper: I see. It would have been nice to have known you were coming, but since you are here, enjoy.
John: Thank you so much. (turns to Abby) Okay. I nailed that — and she is fabulous.
Abby: What are you doing?

Riese:
That’s so funny. It’s so funny. Because also … they both look so gay. These two people like.

Carly:
They could not look gayer.

Riese:
Abby could not get gayer. They’re both just standing there and they’re full gayness and it’s like, have these people ever… The drag queen bar is down the street.

Carly:
Oh. Just leave this boring Republican party and go hang out with Jinks and BenDeLa. Come on. It’s so obvious.

Riese:
It’s obvious.

Carly:
Take Riley with you, have a blast. Oh.

Riese:
Yeah. Go get some shots.

Carly:
Take Jane too. You know what Jane needs to get out of here.

Riese:
Jane needs to get out of here and I have a feeling she’d be —

Carly:
She’d experiment. Sure. We already know she’s an ally. We’re about to find out that she’s an ally

Carly:
We already know she’s an ally. Well, we’re about to find out that she is an ally.

Riese:
Oh, yeah, we are about to find out. Yeah. Spoiler.

Carly:
One of my favorite lines in the movie.

Riese:
Yes, absolutely. So, I think Abby looks over, and Harper is sort of flirty with Conner or something.

Carly:
Yeah. Yeah. She is. And then Abby is like, “You know what?”

Abby: “Harper, it’s over. We’re done.”

Riese:
Oh, it’s devastating.

Carly:
It is devastating. But I was so righteously angry on her behalf. So I was like, “Yeah, yeah, vengeance!”

Riese:
Yeah, and again, because she looks so amazing.

Carly:
Because I am a chaos demon when it comes to films, and she looks so good.

Riese:
I’m just like, to be told that from that person in that moment. Oooh.

Carly:
From that person in that outfit. Oooh.

Riese:
Oosh. The stabbing.

Carly:
You fucked up. You fucked up, Harper.

Riese:
You fucked up.

Carly:
You fucked up, Harper.

Riese:
And then Harper chases her downstairs so that they can fight about it. And Harper, of course, is like, “Why are you huddled in a corner with Riley?” And this is textbook toxic behavior.

Carly:
Oh, yeah.

Riese:
You’re being the jerk. They try to live their own life, and you—

Carly:
You’re deflecting your shit onto me.

Riese:
Yeah. And then you blame them for their reaction to your shittiness.

Carly:
Exactly.

Riese:
Which is completely fine when she’s with whatever. And then we have the line that Abby says she doesn’t like being hidden, dah, dah, dah, dah. And Harper says-

Harper: I am not hiding you. I am hiding me.

Carly:
That’s Harper’s whole deal, and what I wish we got a little more of throughout the film, but it definitely is a pretty devastating moment here.

Riese:
Yeah. It’s like she’s so concentrated on hiding herself that she is not paying attention to the fact that Abby also has feelings. But honestly, this fight bothered me… I thought that was a really good line, but this fight bothered me because I do feel like Abby’s argument was really focused on like, “You’re not out, and you’re hiding me, and that’s not okay,” when I feel like the real problem was just that she was being an asshole. I wish that they had actually addressed that because I felt like that was a little bit toxic to not kind of make clear to the audience.

Carly:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Riese:
And then finally, finally someone walks in on them.

Carly:
And it’s Sloane.

Riese:
And it’s Sloane.

Carly:
Of course, it is.

Riese:
And I think at this point, Abby has just like started to forgive Harper already, which I’m like, “Oh, God.” And she walks in, and she’s like, “Oh my God.” And then we cut to upstairs, where John is asking Conner about pumping weights and how much he pumps or whatever.

Carly:
Oh, my God. Him trying to be, trying to talk to Conner and pretend to be straight and talk about muscles is so good. It’s so funny.

Riese:
And then while upstairs, Sloane and Harper are having this huge drag-out, knock-down, literally fight where they’re like-

Carly:
Literally. This is the second one of the film.

Riese:
Uh-huh (affirmative). Yeah, like, “Please don’t tell Mom and Dad yet.” And it’s complete chaos. And then-

Carly:
Oh my God.

Riese:
In the middle of the cast, they fling open the door and find Sloane’s husband is in the closet hooking up with Carolyn, who again I love.

Carly:
Yes. We love.

Riese:
And I love this for both of them.

Carly:
Yeah.

Riese:
Get it together and leave the family. You deserve better.

Carly:
Yep.

Riese:
Take your children. And she’s like, “Oh my God, we weren’t going to tell them.” So then that’s when we realized that… At first, I thought they were ethically non-monogamous, but then I realized they were about to get a divorce.

Carly:
Exactly. I was wondering the same thing. And then I was like, “Got it.”

Riese:
Right. And meanwhile downstairs, Jane cannot pick a white elephant gift. She just doesn’t know which one she wants.

Carly:
She doesn’t know.

Riese:
Maybe she’s a Libra, like me.

Carly:
Oh, I could see that for her.

Riese:
And I think, and then back upstairs, Abby kind of tries to intervene in some way. And Sloane yells, “You stay out of this, Sappho.” It’s perfect. That’s perfect.

Carly:
Incredible.

Riese:
Downstairs, Harry has selected Jane’s white elephant. She unveils the painting. It’s a painting that Jane did.

Carly:
It’s a beautiful painting of Main Street, and she goes, “What the fuck is this?” And I’m like, “What do you think it is? It’s a painting of Main Street.”

Riese:
And John is like, “I love that,” because he has good taste.

Carly:
John is perfect.

Riese:
The fight from upstairs tumbles into the downstairs, and Sloane is like, she’s not so innocent..

Sloane: All of this is happening because Harper… Harper is a lesbian. Abby’s her girlfriend.

Riese:
First of all, lesbians can be very innocent too, just for the record.

Carly:
True.

Riese:
They’re not all shoplifters.

Carly:
Yeah.

Riese:
Or shoplifting, heterosexual shoplifting orphans. I did notice in this point, because Harper is yelling back, and she’s at full-throttle anger mode. But the music they have is very slowed down and sad, which I thought was like a really nice-

Carly:
Yeah. It was a nice contrast.

Riese:
Yeah, because it showed that Harper’s intense, overwhelming, loud emotions were really just… were just sad.

Carly:
Yeah.

Riese:
Like the music was like, “Errrrrrrrrr.”

Carly:
Yeah, it was like, “Ooonnnnon.”

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Which I thought was a very nice touch.

Riese:
Yeah, I agree. And so when Harper immediately is like, “No. No, no, she’s not. That’s not true.” And Abby is like, “All right, bye.”

Carly:
She’s like, “I’m not a lesbian.” That’s awful to hear your partner shouting that in front of their family. Oh, it’s brutal.

Riese:
And Riley shakes her head like, “Oh, God, this bitch.”

Carly:
Yeah. Riley’s like, “Here we go again.”

Riese:
And then Harper smashes Jane’s painting.

Jane: I put 100 hours into that painting, and you just destroyed it like it was nothing!

Carly:
That broke my heart truly. I was like-

Riese:
I think about it sometimes and feel sad.

Carly:
What does Jane’s painting have to do with this?

Riese:
Yeah. She’s just collateral damage. She smashes Jane’s painting over Sloane, which is a nice visual gag. But Jane put a hundred hours into that painting.

Carly:
I feel so bad for Jane. Get out of this family, Jane. They don’t appreciate you.

Riese:
And she likes herself, she says.

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
And I like her too.

Carly:
I like Jane.

Riese:
Justice for Jane. Outside, Abby’s outside. John shows up with coats, and Abby talks about how her parents really loved Christmas, and she thought this year… I feel like they’re trying to shoehorn Christmas in here, and okay, that’s fine.

Carly:
It’s fine. It’s a Christmas movie.

Riese:
It’s a Christmas movie. Yeah. This year would be different. And John, even though they’re best friends, this is, for some reason, the first time they’re talking about their coming-out experiences.

Carly:
Sure.

Riese:
Sure.

Carly:
Sure, sure, sure.

Riese:
Sure. Yeah. Abby says that her parents were really accepting. And John… I actually cried during this conversation because I’m very easily-

Carly:
This is a really beautiful scene.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
And also Dan is so good at delivering this kind of shit. I mean, he just like killed it.

Riese:
Yeah. And he was like, “My dad kicked me out and didn’t talk to me for 13 years after I came out.” And he talks about the terrifying part right before you come out. It’s very moving. I was very emotional, even though I don’t have any strong coming-out stories of my own. And that was nice. Back inside, Riley tells Harper it was a great party, and Harper apologizes to Riley. And then Dad yells at everyone, including Sloane, for lying. And finally Harper says, “Sloane wasn’t lying. I’m gay.”

Carly:
Dun, dun, dun. And I’m in love with Abby. Da, da, da. Who isn’t in the room anymore. Where did Abby go?

Riese:
And she let herself hurt Riley because she was scared, and she doesn’t want to do that to Abby. And I wrote, “I cry.” I think Abby’s standing there at this point, right?

Carly:
I honestly don’t remember. Probably. Maybe.

Riese:
Yeah, I think Abby’s standing here at this point, and then Sloane says, “I’m getting divorced, but I didn’t tell you because I felt like I would be worthless without my family.” These are all like rich-people feelings that I couldn’t relate to.

Carly:
Same. These are super-rich white-people things that I couldn’t relate to any of these rich problems at all. But there was some emotional catharsis and some good acting, so…

Riese:
And honestly, everyone’s life is their own life, and their struggles are relative to whatever has happened to them before. And these are very real painful feelings that everybody’s dealing with here, even though I can’t, don’t really connect to any of them personally.

Carly:
Yes. And then we get the beautiful moment from Jane, where she says my favorite line in the film.

Jane: I don’t have any secrets, but I am an ally.

Riese:
But Abby is still like… Harper’s like, “I did it.” And Abby’s like, “It was too late.” Dun, dun, dun.

Carly:
Dun, dun, dun.

Riese:
And in Dad’s office, Mom comes in and tells Dad that she wants to do karate.

Carly:
Fucking good. Go do some fucking karate.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
Like good for her.

Riese:
And she didn’t want to be open and honest about that. And everyone is trying to be perfect for him, and they’re not. “And the only reason Jane is okay is because we gave up on her when she wouldn’t stop biting in preschool.”

Carly:
You know? Oh my God.

Riese:
Then we go back to the kitchen. So everyone… So this moment, as you can see, a gay person coming out fixes everyone’s problems. Now they all realize that everyone’s imperfect because some people are gay, and now they can all join hands in the kitchen and be together as sisters. If I were Sloane, I would be like, “So Riley was your girlfriend, right?” Like I would have 10,000 questions about Riley.

Carly:
Oh my God, I know.

Riese:
I’d want to talk about Riley all fucking night. I was like, “Why is no one asking Riley questions?”

Carly:
I think that’s what we all need to have more information about.

Riese:
Yeah. I need a spin-off that’s just like a Riley interrogation, starring Jonah and Sloane.

Carly:
Yep.

Riese:
That’d be a good cast.

Carly:
That would be great. I would be into that.

Riese:
We cut to a Love’s gas station, which they have a lot of things in those gas stations. John is reading the ingredients of Cheetos.

Carly:
You know what? Don’t do that to yourself. Just enjoy them.

Riese:
Just eat them.

Carly:
Don’t… Just enjoy them.

Riese:
He says something about the fish because on his way out, he’s like, “Let me preface this by saying no one would disagree that fish belong in the ocean.”

Carly:
Yeah.

Riese:
He’s just so good.

Carly:
He’s so funny.

Riese:
Then Harper rolls up in her little jalopy and says that Abby is the love of her life, and she will spend the rest of her life making it up to her. Okay. Tall order there, tall girl.

Carly:
Not to be confused with the Netflix show, Tall Girl.

Riese:
There’s a Netflix show called Tall Girl?

Carly:
Yeah, it’s about this white girl who’s so impressed because she’s tall.

Riese:
I can relate to that.

Carly:
I didn’t watch it, but the trailer —

Riese:
As a white tall girl myself. It’s hard up here. Carol is, I barely even can see her.

Carly:
Because she’s so small and low to the ground.

Riese:
She’s so small, and she keeps hiding inside piles of blankets. And you know what? I’ll allow it. I’ll allow her to allow Harper to try to redeem herself. I don’t prefer it.

Carly:
I think if you… If their foundation of their relationship is strong enough, then they can work on it. But we didn’t really get to see that aside from the oil paintings. So we don’t really have a way of knowing, but you know.

Riese:
And it’s-

Carly:
It’s a Christmas romantic comedy. This is what’s going to happen.

Riese:
Yeah. It is. It’s a Christmas romantic comedy, so of course, they’re going to get back together, even though we all know that Riley and Abby would have-

Carly:
Riley and Abby are supposed-

Riese:
… a hot little relationship.

Carly:
Yeah. They’re supposed to get together, for sure.

Riese:
Yeah. We wake up on Christmas morning, and now John and Jane are best friends.

Carly:
Everyone in the family loves each other.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Dad says he sunk all of their savings into his campaign and-

Carly:
Yeah, that… I thought that was like… I was like, “Wait. What?”

Riese:
Good thing you still own this house with all of this jewelry, brooches or whatever. You’ve got a Roomba. That’s worth 500 bucks. Sell that on eBay. I’ll sell it for you. I’ll take a percentage. Sloane and Eric make cute faces. I don’t know what I was talking about there.

Carly:
All right.

Riese:
Harry calls, and she says that she will support his candidacy if they’d have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy with Harper because, again, it is 2008 here, 2010. I don’t know when that is.

Carly:
1995. Like what’s-

Riese:
It’s not this era.

Carly:
It’s a bummer. But also they’re Republicans, so maybe we just assume that’s what she would say. I don’t know.

Riese:
Who knows? I mean, there’s tons of Republican lesbians and gay people. They’re called Log Cabin-

Carly:
There are gays for Trump. Yeah.

Riese:
They exist. They exist.

Carly:
They’re real.

Riese:
We don’t care for them.

Carly:
No, we don’t.

Riese:
Then they do a big family picture, and David takes it, and that’s cute. And then we fast forward in time. It’s one year later.

Carly:
Oh, my God.

Riese:
One year later, and they’re at a book store.

Carly:
They’re at a bookstore for Jane, because you might’ve forgotten, but John is a book agent. Jane is an author in waiting. John works with authors. He’s a lit agent. And guess what? This happened, her fantasy. A crazy story series, whatever, has begun, and it is a huge hit.

Riese:
And the bookstore is packed with fans-

Carly:
Packed with fans.

Riese:
… for her story. And I could not love this more for either of them.

Carly:
It’s wonderful.

Riese:
And I guess Harper and Abby are engaged.

Carly:
Sure.

Riese:
Okay.

Carly:
Oh, God, I forgot. They all go to the movies. That’s right.

Riese:
Yeah. And then we have the Tegan and Sara special song. And then during the closing credits, they have this cute little Instagram feed. Did you see that?

Carly:
Yeah, that was super cute.

Riese:
Yeah. So it sort of shows the last year, and you see Mom being very accepting of her daughter and her daughter-in-law, future daughter-in-law.

Carly:
And she gets into karate.

Riese:
Yes. Yes.

Carly:
So excited for her.

Riese:
She lives her dreams. We also see Aubrey Plaza and Clea DuVall in one of the pictures on the Instafeed. A little Easter egg.

Carly:
Right. So the idea is that this is… Little Riley has a new girlfriend, and it’s Clea DuVall in the photograph.

Riese:
Yes. I love this.

Carly:
Pretty great.

Riese:
I love that. Especially since it’s Clea DuVall—

Carly:
If I was the director of this film, I would have done the exact same thing.

Riese:
Especially because I feel like Clea DuVall has been like “the girlfriend who has three episodes” in Veep, in the Handmaid’s Tale, in American Horse. Right? Like, this is her role, is like the one who walks onto the stage, everyone clocks she’s gay, and the girlfriend. And then she has a bit part. And I guess that’s the episode?

Carly:
That’s the episode. There’s been a whole lot of chatter on the internet about this film.

Riese:
It’s almost as if we have nothing else going on.

Carly:
One could say that. One could say we are all in our homes doing very little and are depressed, and there’s a lot of discourse. We’ll say discourse.

Riese:
I’ll say discourse. Yeah. There were parts, like the way that Harper was acting, that I think definitely summoned unfortunate memories for those of us who have been in relationships that were toxic. But I also feel like they did frame it in a certain way. I don’t know. I think you can like the movie without liking Harper.

Carly:
Exactly. I liked the movie, and I didn’t love Harper.

Riese:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). It was mostly the wig for me.

Carly:
So both things can be true. What?

Riese:
Mostly the wig.

Carly:
The wig also. Yeah, the wig, it was tough.

Riese:
Because I love Mackenzie Davis, but-

Carly:
I know.

Riese:
Also some people were like “there was no chemistry between them,” and I think there was chemistry between them, but the relationship obviously sucked. It was built on a foundation of lies.

Carly:
Right.

Riese:
And ultimately, it’s just like a… I mean, I’d just like to, if we could go back to my least favorite Christmas movie of all time that I hate publicly more than any other movie in the world besides Lost and Delirious, which is Love Actually. And every fucking relationship in that film that many of you dare to like is-

Carly:
Not just like.

Riese:
Love.

Carly:
But love.

Riese:
Is completely fucked up!!!!

Carly:
Completely. I think that this is a very specific genre. This is a holiday-themed romantic comedy. I think that adhering to the laws of the genre, this film is a success. I think that this is a genre about rich-white-people problems, a trip home, and lies.

Riese:
And a heterosexual shoplifting orphan.

Carly:
And it delivered on all… Exactly. And it delivered on all of those fronts. I think that the unfortunate thing is that this is kind of the only film of its kind that has such a mainstream platform. And so of course, it’s going to get a lot of attention, whether it’s good or bad.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
I’ve seen a lot of great reviews. And as we know, it set huge, huge records for Hulu, which is massive. To me, that’s a really good thing because I want to make queer rom-coms, and I know a lot of people that want to make them and people that want to see them. And there is absolutely an audience for it, and it’s not just a queer audience. It is a big audience that includes straight people, and that’s pretty awesome, I think. That’s how we get our stories told to the widest possible platform, is things like this, is things like Happiest Season succeeding beyond Hulu’s wildest dreams, I’d say.

Riese:
Yeah, absolutely.

Carly:
And is the cast really white? Yes. Are there some problematic characters? Yeah. But that’s the genre too. So I think that it’s less about whatever you want to say about this film and more about celebrating that it happened and now being excited for what it opened the door for.

Riese:
Yeah, which is hopefully a much more diverse and-

Carly:
Yeah. And maybe even a queering of the genre and of the type of storytelling that happens in this type of world. Like, maybe it doesn’t need to be that formula anymore. Maybe there’s something different that could be done in the future. But I think in order to show that there’s potential for that, which is something that no one wants to… No studio wants to take a risk on. Nobody wants to throw a ton of money at that. You need to prove that there is an audience first, which we did right here. We, like I’m part of it. That we proved there is an audience.

Riese:
Good job, team.

Carly:
A massive audience. Great job, us. Riese and I obviously take a lot of the credit.

Riese:
Thank you.

Carly:
You need to prove there’s an audience. You need to prove that there’s storytelling that can be told, that there’s like… It did all the things. It checked every box it needed to check. And I think that that’s fantastic.

Riese:
I agree.

Carly:
And I love that.

Riese:
Yeah. And in many ways, it’s like the L Word in that way. It was completely white. It was a very limited type of person. And that’s kind of where we started.

Carly:
And I know there’s a lot that can be said, and I get just as frustrated as everyone else that progress happens so slowly, and so many things are done in such a backwards fashion, but I also am a kind of… The way I approach my career is I know what the rules are. I know how to play in that sandbox in order to do the subversive shit I want to do. And I think that someone like Clea DuVall, I think, understands that as well.

Riese:
Yeah, for sure. And it was also like, as far as Christmas movies go, because I’m a big fan of the genre—

Carly:
You sure are.

Riese:
It was very smart. Like, you could tell it was written by smart people. The humor was elevated. You know what I mean? It was much smarter than we’re used to seeing from a Christmas film, and I liked that too. Awesome.

Carly:
Me too. Yes. I enjoyed that.

Riese:
And I think that… The sad thing is, yes, this relationship was toxic, but so are a lot of our relationships.

Carly:
There’s lots of toxic relationships in a lot of other movies and TV shows, but man.

Riese:
And this is our first really big, like you were saying, our big-budget thing, and there are some smaller ones. There’s that movie Let It Snow that I didn’t see that came out last year, I want to say. And then there’s also on Netflix, there’s a movie called A New York Christmas Wedding, which obviously did not get the same budget or attention that this one did.

Carly:
Or marketing. Yeah.

Riese:
Or marketing. They didn’t even tell us it existed.

Carly:
They did not.

Riese:
Whereas I have been informed of every step of this film’s development.

Carly:
Every step of the way, we’ve been informed.

Riese:
Yeah, it was not even on netflix’s list of queer movies for the month, even though Dolly Parton’s Christmas special was. And I know that she’s like a queer icon, but she’s not gay.

Carly:
Right. Yeah, allegedly. What?

Riese:
But anyway, so… And that is a more racially diverse story. So that’s a cute… It’s not like an award-winning, amazing film, but if you like this and you like Christmas movies, you should definitely watch that, because it has a lot of things that this film does not. And it’s a fun little Christmas romp as well.

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
And I hate the title of it.

Carly:
Well, yeah, that’s fair.

Riese:
So in conclusion-

Carly:
In conclusion-

Riese:
I probably will now be lighting the cardboard-

Carly:
I will now light the cardboard menorah that is attached to the wall with the cardboard flames. We will celebrate Clea DuVall and the cast of this film. We will celebrate Tegan and Sara, who wrote a very catchy Christmas song for the soundtrack.

Riese:
Yeah, and Shea Diamond had a song on this too-

Carly:
Yes.

Riese:
Which was awesome. She’s a black trans musician, and she’s wonderful.

Carly:
Love her.

Riese:
And she had a song like [crosstalk 00:20:53].

Carly:
Justin Tranter, who’s queer, did the whole soundtrack, which is awesome.

Riese:
So yeah, and congratulations to everybody. I look forward to finding out if we had the right opinions or not.

Carly:
Yeah. You know I love reading internet comments more than anything famously. We hope you enjoyed this very special holiday episode of To L and Back.

Riese:
To L and Back.

Carly:
We spent very little time talking about The L Word, though I do think we brought up enough interconnectivity that I think this qualifies.

Riese:
Yeah, we did.

Carly:
And yeah, hopefully, this will tide everyone over with our glowing personalities and voices for a few more weeks before we get our act together and start recording season six of this incredible podcast, the most listened-to podcast-

Riese:
In the world.

Carly:
… in my Spotify account.

Riese:
And probably in the world. Some people are like, “Oh, everyone listens to This American Life.” Okay. Yeah. All right. In 2006.

Carly:
Actually, they’re all listening to us.

Riese:
Everyone’s listening to us.

Carly:
And we have some hot takes.

Riese:
We have some very hot takes, some hot toddies for this holiday season, hot takies.

Carly:
Hot takies.

Riese:
I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore.

Carly:
I don’t either.

Riese:
Anyway, we’ve been talking for over two hours, so we have to get back to our lives now.

Carly:
Yeah. Stay safe out there. Try to have a relaxing couple of weeks if you can.

Riese:
Yeah.

Carly:
We’re not, but if you can, try to be chill and lay low and stay safe and stay home, if you can.

Riese:
A Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah to yours and yours and mine and hers and his and theirs.

Carly:
And theirs. We did it.

Riese:
I love life. The end of Christmas and love. Okay. Bye.

Carly:
Bye. (singing).

Just got my first pair of TomboyX underwear and here’s my review of them that no one asked for :) : butchlesbians

Just got my first pair of TomboyX underwear and here’s

Okay so for starters here’s what I got

I’m 5’6 and 125 pounds and got the size small.

When they first arrived I was worried they would be too big because I’m so used to buying boys boxers which visually look much smaller than these. These looked bigger than what I’m used to BUT when I tried them on they were a perfect fit. I probably could have fit into an XS because of the stretchy material these are made out of but the small is pretty damn close to a perfect fit. They are tight around my body but not in an uncomfortable way, it’s almost like you can’t even feel them there. The material is also very breathable.

Because I’m so skinny, men’s boxers don’t really fit me so I usually would buy boys XL. The difference in fit between boys boxers vs these that are actually made for adult bodies is amazing. It’s crazy that for the first time I am wearing underwear that is actually designed for bodies like mine.

Another thing to note is not having that extra fabric pocket in the groin area that you find with men’s underwear while at the same time maintaining a masculine feel with TomboyX is nice.

Something else I noticed in the difference between these vs men’s/boys underwear is the extra layer of fabric in the crotch area (similar to how regular women’s underwear has the extra fabric there for leaks during period/while ovulating etc) TomboyX has that extra layer of fabric, I know that with boys underwear there would be times where I would leak through them while ovulating so it’s also great that I won’t be having that problem with TomboyX.

The overall quality and design of the underwear is also great! The specific pair that I got has a very soft spandex/cotton feel, I’m not exactly sure what type of material they actually used thats just what they feel like to me lol

I will mention however that I feel that the price point is pretty expensive. Do I feel like these underwear are above average? Yes! But do I also feel that they’re kind of pricey? Yes. Ideally I’d love for every single pair of underwear I own to be made for bodies like mine, so specifically from brands like TomboyX. But if I’m going to get 10 pairs of underwear to replace my old underwear I’d be spending over $300 and that’s a lot of money for just underwear. I don’t blame TomboyX for their prices though, I feel that once the market catches up and more brands like TomboyX appear that all prices for this specialty type of underwear will eventually go down.

Another possible con to these underwear is that I wish the waistband was just a little bit thicker. I’m a thick waistband type of gal, like you know when your shirt rises up and you get a lil peek of the waistband, I like that. BUT this is all just personal preference and it’s not like the waistband is tiny or anything, just a pretty standard size.

Overall I’m very pleased with my purchase and highly recommend them to anyone who’s looking for underwear made with masculine women in mind 🙂

B4B Butch is Not a Dirty Word (Flutter App Review) : butchlesbians

B4B Butch is Not a Dirty Word (Flutter App Review)

Hey butches and those looking to meet them, I tried out that Butch is Not a Dirty Word online dating event. The app that hosted it is called Flutter, and they make an attempt to have it feel organic, like you’re scoping the room at an in-person event looking for cool people to approach. Events take place at a certain time of day. When the event first opens, you’ll only be able to look at profiles and swipe. After a certain amount of time, chatting opens and you can talk to people but at midnight all your matches disappear, to encourage you to move conversations off the app.

Neat setup, right? Here’s how it broke down:

Profile detail: 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈❌

I don’t think I saw anyone who straight up did not have a bio. Hallelujah! You can select up to three prompts to respond to (I liked the prompts!) but the character limits are pretty strict and I felt like I had to leave out important stuff. Other than the fact that this app may not be for me because I tend to get wordy, I like people to know upfront that I’d prefer to have more than one life partner. There wasn’t an option to indicate polyamory or other potential dealbreakers, just the three prompts. Maybe I’m just spoiled from Lex, but it also didn’t seem like you could write very much?

Queer inclusiveness: 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈❌❌

How do you have a butch-focused anything in 2020 without a quality nonbinary option? Not sure, but Flutter did it. The initial gender options are men, women, and other. I clicked other, it then prompted me to select man or woman after. (That part is pretty common for apps, so they know whether to show you to someone seeking men or seeking women.) So I went with woman, because I’m woman-adjacent/part-time girl/whatever. However, my profile didn’t show “other/woman,” or “other,” or even a space to write in “none gender with left sapphic.” It just showed “woman” which was kind of icky, but the field where you type your name allows parentheses and slashes so I and a few others that I saw put (they/them) behind our names.

Dating pool: 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈❌

The other events are pretty concentrated to major cities, so if you live in NYC this might be great. Otherwise, people were pretty spread out – I saw some from Canada and I’m in the US – which might be an issue for some of you. I’m trying to leave my current town for grad school anyway so I didn’t care much, but if you’re looking to find someone local, this app may not work for you unless you’re in NYC. I didn’t see any straight girls looking for friends or lesbian-fetish het dudes, so maybe they haven’t invaded WLW Flutter yet. But I did get messaged first a few times, right at 7PM Central when chatting opened. Also, butches hot.

Filters: 🏳️‍🌈❌❌❌❌

The only two I was able to find were age range and the gender you’re seeking. And I only figured out how to get to those because the page prompted me to loosen my filters after I went through the whole stack :/ (more points off from UI). It allows you to list your occupation, but you can’t filter profiles by it, nor for location, faith, smoking status, type of relationship, or other criteria.

User Interface: 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈❌❌❌

The timed events idea is intriguing, and since everyone was on at once I tended to get responses fairly quickly. Whenever I tried to add a sixth picture it would delete the fifth one and trying to drag them into the right order was kind of buggy too. But you could just scroll down to see the profile, you didn’t have to pull it up in a new window or press and hold or anything, which is nice. But how do you find the filters? Before the event, the homepage had an “expired matches” section, but afterwards it disappeared?

Tl;dr

If you’re in a major US city, you might have TONS of events (I saw one for ex-Mormons, NYC law students, etc). This might also be a good app for you if you keep forgetting to check your phone, want a break from always messaging first, or if you’re constantly on apps and want to tone it down to just one night a week. Your photos have to do a lot of the work of representing you since that character limit is so tight, so make sure you have some action shots of you baking/playing with your dog/rock climbing/etc. I might check in again if they hold another butch-focused event but overall, it didn’t quite work for me.

The Ultimate Contiki Review: Do Contiki Tours Live Up to the Hype? – DOPES ON THE ROAD

The Ultimate Contiki Review: Do Contiki Tours Live Up to

Before I started this blog, long before I ever had stamps in my passport or had traveled internationally, I used to stalk Contiki on social media. For years, I thought of international travel as an unattainable desire that only became a reality for those with rich parents or much older people who’d landed big bucks jobs. The Contiki tours were different. The photos were packed with young smiling people in places I’d always dreamed of exploring. While the trips weren’t free, they weren’t millions of dollars or out of the realm of possibility. Contiki was a brand I felt like I could trust because it was relatable to my reality in ways other travel companies just weren’t and had to experience on my own – which is why we headed to Africa the first time around for our Contiki Egypt and the Nile Adventure. Once we had our first taste, we couldn’t get enough. Which is why we signed on to be Contiki’s LGBT ambassadors.

We’ve been brand ambassador’s for Contiki for the last six months and every time I mention them on social media I get an avalanche of questions about the Contiki experience. We work with Contiki because we believe in their product as an ideal gateway to traveling the world. Particularly when you’re visiting areas that are harder to get to or more risky for women and LGBT travelers. In this post, I’ll be taking some time to deep dive into all things Contiki. I’ll be discussing all your questions and will cover everything from accommodations, types of travelers, food, activities, tipping, transportation, and more.

What is Contiki?

Contiki is a powerhouse tour company that takes 18 to 35-year-olds on 350 trips to 60 countries across six continents, with 300 different itineraries and eight different types of tours. Contiki makes travel easier and more social for young people. Contiki travelers have been able to explore remote towns in Peru, spot the big five on safari in Tanzania, explore the Californian Old West, circle around southern India, visit ancient cities in Japan, and go trekking in the jungles of Guatemala. 

Contiki Africa Reviews:

Lesbian couple on camels together in Egypt.

Is Contiki Right for you?

How well you know yourself often impacts how well you choose your travel style. There are hundreds of variables that impact travel preferences. With that, I’ll go through some of the pros and cons of Contiki tours. 

Pros of Contiki 

Contiki is Cheap 

While travel is rarely truly cheap, traveling with Contiki is a more affordable option than many others. They always have last minute booking deals, regularly have sales, and have a variety of budget travel options. Plus they always have lower prices than many of their competitors. 

Great way to make friends 

One of the biggest differences between Contiki and some of the other major group travel brands is the emphasis on creating a Contiki family. In the beginning of the tour, there are usually mixers, ice breakers, and other group activities to really bond the group together. Connecting with like-minded people is one of my favorite parts of the Contiki experience. You get to meet people of a similar age with a shared passion from all over the world which not only opens your social networks but also opens your world view and helps you see from other perspectives. 

LGBT SAFARI

Everything is done for you

One of the hardest parts of travel planning is working out all the logistics. Contiki does all of the annoying details on your behalf. You don’t need to know how much public transit from the airport to your hotel will cost or what the schedule of the local train is because they pick you up from the airport. You also don’t need to pick your accommodations or figure out how to get from point A to point B or know the best times of day to go to your favorite attractions. You just have to show up and they’ve got it figured out. 

Perfect for harder to visit destinations 

There are some destinations that are difficult for independent travel. With a group you’re able to blend into a small crowd, you have help navigating difficult physical and cultural terrains, and you always have a translator on hand should you need one. 

Traveling with a similar age group

While intergenerational travel can be amazing, sometimes you want to see the world with a group of people around your age and life experience. Chances are you’ll have more in common with folks in your age group than say a family of 5 on holiday or a set of retirees. 

Contiki East Africa

Helpful in a bind 

Shit happens when you’re on the road lost luggage, wrong visa form, medical issues – I’ve seen it all. When something goes wrong it’s always nice to have someone on the ground to help you in a bind. Especially when they speak the local language and understand the local culture.

 

Cons of Contiki 

Don’t control your schedule 

While this is a pro for some people, it’s a con for others. Contiki does have some flexibility with their “Me Time Options” but they’re a group tour and thus have a set itinerary. For those with long term flexible travel plans, it can be hard to leave a place you’re having a great time exploring before you’re ready. 

Waiting for other people 

With a group tour, comes group mentality. You’ll inevitably end up waiting for someone or something in a long line. 

Tanzania

Less local food options 

During the tour experience, some of your meals are included. Some tours have more than others included. On both of our Contiki experiences, most of the meals were included but they were mostly buffet-style meals with very few local dishes to choose from. While this makes sense in a Safari camp with no restaurants for hours around us – it’s one of our favorite parts of travel that we really missed on our Contiki tours. 

Contiki Styles of Travel

No two people are exactly the same, which means no two travelers will ever be the same. Which is why Contiki offers different travel styles help you find the perfect experience for you. Some travelers want to see as many different places as possible and some want to explore one location really in-depth. The styles are broken down by the length of trip, speed of travel, number of countries visited, and budget. Ultimately the choice is yours but with 350 different trips to choose from, you can be sure they have something that fits your travel style, budget, and time available. Here are a few of the styles to choose from. 

Contiki Discoverer

The Contiki Discoverer is for adventurers who want to see it all and do it all. These trips are fast-paced and hit lots of destinations in a short period of time. This trip is perfect for those short on vacation days who really want to explore. The Discoverer trips offer more options included in the trip price and visit lots of different locations. 

See Contiki’s Discoverer Trips

In-Depth Explorer

The In-Depth Explorer traveler is for the traveler who wants to spend more time in one region or country and really get under the skin through local explorations. The In-depth trips are culturally rich and really take a deep dive into the destination. 

See Contiki’s In-Depth Explorer Trips 

Iconic Essentials

The Essentials tours are available exclusively in Europe but allow travelers to stretch their budgets. Every day will have planned activities but will also include “Free Time Add-On” activities for those who’d like to purchase additional tours and activities. This leaves the choice up to the traveler and allows you to customize your trip while keeping costs low. 

See Contiki’s Iconic Essentials Trips

Sailing & Cruises 

Want to explore Croatia by land, sea, and surf? The sailing cruises are available in Australia, Asia, and Europe and are a great way to set sail for alternate waters. 

See Contiki’s Sailing and Cruises Trips

Short Trips & Festivals

Short trips and festivals are all about holidays and events. Ever wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in New York City? There’s a short trip for that. Want to experience Octoberfest first hand? There’s a short trip for that. The short trips are for life’s moments and memories and are the perfect add ons to longer trips. 

See Contiki’s Short Trip & Festivals Trips

Ski & Snowboard

Keep it cozy all winter long. The fun doesn’t have to stop during the winter months. Make new pals to ski the slopes with or apre all day. Either way, the choice is yours. 

See Contiki’s Ski and Snowboard Trips

Camping

Sleep under the stars and really cut back on costs with Contiki’s camping tours in Europe and North America. Choose the Original for 46 days of European adventures or visit Alaska and experiences the great arctic north. 

See Contiki’s Camping Trips

Why Go On A Guided Tour?

Group tours are undeniably and easier way to travel. If you’re traveling with friends, all you need to do is pick a tour and then tell everyone else that’s what you’re doing. They can settle payments directly with Contiki and your itinerary is set so there’s no debate on what hotel to stay at and no-nonsense around collecting payments for each aspect of the trip. If you’re traveling solo it’s a great way to meet new people and split costs. It’s also safer in some regions of the world and offers you insight into the lives of people from other countries. 

Contiki Kenya

Who is The Contiki Traveler?

Contiki has a bit of a reputation for being a party bus galavanting around Europe. In some destinations, that’s true. The Contiki Original, for example, is not for the faint of heart. It’s 46 days of camping around 22 countries in Europe. It’s a whirlwind trip where you get to experience a huge chunk of the continent but are doing so at breakneck speeds. During the Original, you’d expect to see most of the travelers in their late teens and early twenties from mostly English speaking countries around the world. 

The age varies based on your destination and style of travel. Both of our trips to Africa were skewed much older. The youngest was 25 and the oldest 35 with the average age hovering around 30. There are a few reasons for that. One safari travel is more expensive than hopping on a bus around Europe. But also, people who are interested in experiencing cultural destinations like Egypt or India are more likely to be visiting because they want to experience the history and attractions more than partying. Don’t get me wrong, folks on both of our trips enjoyed more than a few cocktails but on these trips, nightlife wasn’t the focal point of the adventures.

Contiki Safari

Both of our trips had a solid mixture of introverts and extroverts but some trips are better suited for folks who need more downtime from social interactions. If you’re an introvert try to find a smaller group trip with lots of “Me Time Optionals” so you can choose to allocate your time more effectively. 

Generally speaking, you’ll find more women on the trips than men but the breakdown is somewhere between 60/40 or 70/30 so it’s not as dramatic as you may think. Contiki is an Australian based company so you’ll meet tons of Aussies but also Brits, South Africans, Kiwis, Canadians, and Americans. 

Contiki for Solo Travelers 

One of the beautiful parts of Contiki is the group bonding and togetherness that they emphasize on this trip. For our most recent tour, we had 13 travelers and only two groups of two people came with someone they knew. If you’re traveling by yourself odds are there will be at least half the group on their own or only traveling with one other friend. People go on Contiki tours to make friends and connect with people around the globe. 

Contiki for LGBT travelers 

Contiki has gone out of their way to improve the experiences of LGBT travelers on their trips. They’ve hired an LGBT professional development company to conduct trainings with their national-level staff. They’ve created content centered around the LGBT experience and have worked with tons of LGBT content creators. Contiki is a safe and welcoming option for LGBT people looking to experience group tours but also a great way to explore anti-LGBT destinations or regions of the world that are less welcoming and affirming. 

Contiki Africa

What Are the Activities Like on a Contiki Trip?

Each Contiki trip is a bit different because each destination is a bit different but for the newly added African tours offer a wide variety of activities. Contiki has four new trips to take travelers to South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, and Kenya, and there will be five extension trips to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, visit the beaches of Zanzibar or see the gorillas in Uganda. The tours feature iconic African adventures like spotting the Big Five, witnessing the Great Migration in the Serengeti or Masai Mara, visiting Victoria Falls, river rafting on the Zambezi River, bungee jumping off the bridge linking Zimbabwe and Zambia. As you can see, the adventures vary widely from beach lounging to adventure sports to nature spots. 

Contiki Kenya

Accommodations 

The accommodations vary widely depending on which trip you’re doing. Most Contiki trips will be booked at 3-star hotels, but some trips will be at hostels or camping if you’re doing a budget trip. For both of our Contiki adventures, we had incredible lodging options. We stayed on a Nile river cruise boat for three nights, had an adventure on a sleeper train car that converted into a hotel room, and stayed at several beautiful resorts. On the East African Safari, we stayed at several gorgeous luxury tented camps and had the opportunity to sleep side in the Savannah side by side with African Safari animals. 

contiki east africa

Transportation

Transportation is always included in the price of the Contiki tour. Generally speaking, you’ll be on a bus between locations. On the upside, you’ll have lots of time to get to know your fellow travelers and you’ll be able to cover a lot of space in a short period of time. On the downside, there is usually lots of bus time. Contiki trips are fast-paced, action-packed trips that do a great job showing the highlights of a destination or region. While the ground transportation is included, the flights to and from your destination are generally not included.  

Food 

Each Contiki adventure is a bit different when it comes to food so you’ll want to read the trip information thoroughly to see what’s included. On both our Contiki adventures, the vast majority of the food was included. Which makes sense when you think about the destinations. There aren’t any restaurants in the middle of the Serengeti. On both trips, the majority of the food was served buffet style and was catering to a western audience. While each buffet had one or two local dishes they seemed to be toned down for the western pallet. This is one area where we’d like to see Contiki improve. We love trying local foods and experiencing the flavors of a destination. 

Contiki Ethics 

Today, we live in a world where climate change is no longer a threat but a reality, communities and ancient traditions are being lost and over-tourism is negatively impacting some of the planet’s best-loved destinations, your travel choices have never been more important. Where we travel, the activities we participate in, and how we treat the locals have dramatic impacts. Giving travelers the chance to make their travels matter is at the very heart of the Contiki experience, which is why they have a range of sustainable travel experiences built into trips across the world. Contiki Cares focuses on supporting people, wildlife, and the planet through their effort to support local organizations of marginalized people, animal welfare projects, and environmentally friendly initiatives. By 2022 Contiki has pledged to rid their supply chain of all single-use plastics. In partnership with ME to WE, Contiki also offers ethical volunteer activities alongside a local community in Latin America or India. Click here to read more about the Contiki Cares initiatives

Tour Managers & Contiki Staff 

On every Contiki adventure, you’ll be partnered with a Tour Manager. Their job is to ride along with you for the entirety of your stay and make sure everything runs smoothly. They act as a tour guide, impromptu translator, and handle all things bureaucratic. From helping you exchange currency to buying SIM cards to getting you through immigration – they’ve got you covered on all the pesky details that come with travel.

In Europe, the guides are from all over the world, but on both of our African Contiki’s we had local guides and local drivers who were able to help us learn more about our destinations. We loved being able to connect with them to learn about the more personal experiences they had growing up in the area and what it’s like for them and their families. 

Contiki East Africa

Cost & Payment Options 

Contiki is well known for its flexible deposit, flexible payment options, no change fees – which is very different than most tour providers. The majority of their trips only require a $200 per person per trip deposit. It varies based on destination though so make sure you read the trip description information when booking. You don’t have to pay for everything all at once. Once you have paid a deposit for your trip, you will be able to pay part or all your outstanding balance through their online portal called “ Manage My Booking”. Contiki accepts all major credit card and debit cards from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. 

Tipping & Extra Costs 

While Contiki never has any hidden fees, the trip price listed on the website will have detailed information on what is covered. Keep in mind that you’ll need to book your own airfare in advance and that you’ll want to budget in money for visas, vaccinations, souvenirs, drinks, tips, and other personal expenses while on the road. In your Manage My Booking section on the Contiki website, you’ll find all the details for which visas you might need, shots required for the destination, your itinerary, and all the extra booking options for additional activities. In most destinations, you’ll be encouraged to tip your Trip Manager, drivers, servers, and other staff. This varies widely depending on your trip so be sure to ask what’s appropriate for your destination before departure. 

This post was created in partnership with Contiki, as always – all opinions are our own.