Salty Lemonade

Don't settle for it.

Silent 47

My spouse woke me up at midnight.

The tornado siren was singing.

We grabbed our kid and shuffled our emergency gear into the bathroom, just like we did less than a year ago when an F3 tornado ripped through our neighborhood, barely a block away from us.

It's been a hard few weeks.

We've been keeping our kid home when it's too cold and wet for outdoor class, so she doesn't catch the virus that destroys every organ in your body. We needed rest. Instead, we got three hours snoozing in the bathroom and checking for updates during the tornado watch. Today was hard, because it's clear we're going to be living like this from now on. We're in the preface to the dystopian novels we read. When you wonder, "How did things get that bad?" This is the part where things got that bad.

There's no normal to go back to. It's pandemics and tornadoes in January, followed by record snow dumps. It's heatwaves in the summer with temperatures shooting toward 120F and above.

We're not going to get a break.

That's the future.

Today I was reading a piece by Katie Jgln that talks about sexism and double standards. It hit home. She starts off by describing an incident with Taylor Swift, but ends up talking about a study. Girls and boys were given salty lemonade. The boys spat it out immediately. They complained. What did the girls do? They pretended to like it. They were more concerned about the other person's feelings. They wanted to be nice.

I don't know about you, but that resonates.

I don't care about Taylor Swift. She's put more carbon into the sky than I could in a hundred lifetimes. I bet she makes that same face when people dare to mention her private jet. So, she can go to hell. I feel bad for the girls who felt like they had to pretend to like shitty lemonade.

I've been pretending to like bad lemonade my entire life.

It's even worse than that.

I've spent an entire life hearing how my lemonade isn't good enough. And when it is good enough, I obviously didn't make it myself. If I did, then I don't deserve to get paid for it. Everyone should get to drink my amazing lemonade for free. Meanwhile, I should just shut up and drink salty lemonade and pretend to like it. And if I do manage to make a living from my lemonade for a while, it makes people angry. They start talking about how privileged and entitled I am. Apparently, I have to apologize for that too.

Katie Jgln deals with the same problem I do. She's a smart, outspoken woman who writes what she thinks. Every day, she and thousands of other smart, talented women incur penalties and punishment for doing the exact same things that other people are rewarded for.

We just do them better.

Of course, the problem extends beyond gender. You're penalized and punished if you're different in any way, especially if you're neuroatypical. It doesn't matter how great your lemonade is.

In fact, the better your lemonade...

The more it seems to work against you.

Nobody wants to pay you for it. Nobody wants to give you credit for it. Still, everyone wants to drink it. Everyone wants to act like Frasier. "It was a perfect meal, with one small flaw we can pick at all night."

That's me.

I'm the chef who cooks that meal.

Some days, I honestly don't know how much more of this shit I can take. It seems to get worse every year. It's the reason I left Medium. Then I had to leave Substack because they started a turf war with Twitter, the lifeblood of every content creator, whether they want to admit it or not. Then Substack got busted not only for platforming Nazis but bankrolling them. So they started that turf war and sabotaged my newsletter for nothing. They're just as bad as every other social media platform, if not worse. Of course, we always knew they were a playground for alt-right trolls.

I've tried to make this clear, but I lived in poverty for most of my adult life. I was a teacher who made somewhere around $20,000 a year. I didn't have things. I didn't have reliable heat or air conditioning. I got a PhD. I got a tenure-track job. I still lived in apartments with leaks and bugs. I lived in apartments where you were lucky to get the indoor temperature above 50F. I couldn't afford my doctoral regalia. I couldn't afford to frame my diploma.

I didn't even care.

Without support, I go right back to that. Except this time I also get to deal with pandemics and tornadoes in January.

Some people seem to think I deserve a life of poverty.

Well, I'm tired of arguing against that.

Maybe I do.

Maybe I should've sold out back in my 20s. I should've learned how to write algorithms instead of heartfelt articles and academic books. If I had, maybe I wouldn't be here selling lemonade.

I'll never forget this one night during my last year teaching before the pandemic. I was recruiting new teachers from a graduate class. One of my students started snickering and cracking jokes with the people sitting next to him. He was making fun of me. He was talking about how little teachers here got paid. Why on earth would anyone want my job? That guy went on to work in the administration. Now he gets to decide how much teachers make. Instead, he just sits around making jokes about it. He makes a nice living selling salty lemonade.

This is why I read so much psychology.

It explains all this bullshit.

Last year, I said I needed 3,000 subscribers to keep my lemonade stand going. We missed that by a fairly wide margin. I'm still here. People tell me maybe there's a problem with my lemonade. I make too much. I don't make enough. Maybe I should sell girl scout cookies with my lemonade. Maybe I should try to get more celebrities to endorse my lemonade. Maybe I should try to get my lemonade mentioned in The Atlantic.

A few weeks ago, someone who alleged to be a fan called me Jennifer and told me my problems were my fault. I was being flighty by leaving platforms that exploit women and fund Nazis. They criticized me for not immediately responding and accepting every single piece of advice I got to improve my lemonade or make it easier to donate. Look, I know these people are trying to help.


These are not good ideas, at least not for me. Some of these things are entirely outside of my control. Here's the thing:

I run a lemonade stand.

I sell lemonade.

In fact, it's more accurate to say I run a nonprofit lemonade stand that relies on financial contributions to keep going.

That's what I'm good at.

I can't make anything else. I can only offer you this: My lemonade is made from real lemons, and it's good. I know I risk offending people by saying that, but that's the deal. We do lemonade here.

Thanks to Katie, I have a way to frame my problem now. The problem is not my lemonade. The problem is that I pretend to like salty lemonade. I live in a society that forces salty lemonade on me all the time. I live in a society that constantly encourages everyone to praise my lemonade until it's time to pay for it, then all of a sudden it's not good enough.

I also have unrealistic expectations.

I want to give my lemonade to people who can't afford it. I've always believed that. It's why I focused on developmental education. I think they deserve good lemonade. They need good lemonade. I want to trust the people who can afford lemonade to contribute something.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't do that.

Instead, they go out of their way to find reasons to stop. They nitpick my lemonade to death. They wait until I do something they don't like. Then they say, "Your lemonade offended me. I'm outta here."

They say, "I love your lemonade but you're wrong about ice cubes. So I'm withdrawing my support."

That's life.

I'm grateful to the people who've simply supported my lemonade stand. You're the reason I'm still here at all. You've supported me without any deeper expectations or unsolicited advice. Thank you.

It's because of you that I'm still trying.

It kills me that someone like Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, or Emily Oster make fortunes selling toxic lemonade. Meanwhile, I can barely afford a mortgage. And if I complain about my lemonade, I'm called jealous. Some people have admitted they can't wait to critique my lemonade. They feel some deep impulse to judge it. The better the lemonade, the bigger the impulse.

Go figure.

So if you want my lemonade, support my lemonade stand. Oh, and if you possibly can, maybe you can help Katie's.

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