Can it be doubted that three-kilogramme brains were once a nearly fatal defect in the evolution of the human race?"

Econ Nerd Review: Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos and Your Big Brain

This post discusses depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, and self-harm. I think it does so in a pretty constructive and helpful way? But I wrote it, so here are some large grains of kosher salt.

Boy howdy do I love this gif.

Reading! It’s just like they said it would be! “I can go anywhere. Friends to know. Ways to grow.”

Today I want to share with you my favorite book about mental health. It’s not a memoir or a self-help book. It’s not even nonfiction! No, it’s a little ditty from 1985 about evolution, ghosts, Armageddon, and nubbins. Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos is a brilliant satire on the evolutionary advantages and disadvantages of the human brain. And it completely changed the way I think about mental health, including my own depression.

The opening scene follows a woman as she attempts suicide, and it’s narrated by the dispassionate ghost of a Richard Attenborough nature documentarian type. Here’s a brief excerpt, with a few plot things trimmed out:

“Mary taught that the human brain was the most admirable survival device yet produced by evolution. But now her own big brain was urging her to take the polyethylene garment bag from around a red evening dress in her closet, and to wrap it around her head, thus depriving her cells of oxygen.

“Before that, her wonderful brain had entrusted a thief at the airport with a suitcase containing all her toilet articles and clothes which would have been suitable for the hotel.

“Her colossal thinking machine could be so petty, too. It would not let her go downstairs in her combat fatigues on the grounds that everybody, even though there was practically nobody in the hotel, would find her comical in such a costume. Her brain told her: ‘They’ll laugh at you behind your back, and think you’re crazy and pitiful, and your life is over anyway. You’ve lost your husband and your teaching job, and you don’t have any children or anything else to live for, so just put yourself out of your misery with the garment bag. What could be easier? What could be more painless? What could make more sense?’

“Just about every adult human being back then had a brain weighing about three kilogrammes! There was no end to the evil schemes that a thought machine that oversized couldn’t imagine and execute. 

“So I raise this question, although there is nobody around to answer it: Can it be doubted that three-kilogramme brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?”

Yeah. This novel completely changed the way I thought about the human mind.

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If you think houses are money pits, try having a fucked-up childhood!

Stop Recommending Therapy Like It’s a Magic Bean That’ll Grow Me a Beanstalk to Neurotypicaltown

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes this an excellent time to talk more about our beautiful broken brains!

(Ahem. Because I am an honest chap, I feel compelled to stress that we did not plan this in advance. We are not nearly organized enough to do that. It was purely coincidental.)

I’m an advice column junkie. My regs right now are Where Should We Begin?, Dear Prudence, Dear Sugars, Savage Love, Care and Feeding, Captain Awkward, Ask a Manager, My Brother My Brother and Me, and the collective wisdom (?) of r/relationships. Yeah… it’s a problem.

When the subject of mental health arises, I’m perennially dismayed to see a very narrow, circumscribed answer appear again and again and again. It goes something like this:

“Go see a therapist; get counseling; find a psychologist; get into therapy; go see your school’s counselor; go to a mental health clinic; you need to be in therapy; find a support group; have you talked to your therapist; have you tried group therapy; talk to your doctor; therapy, therapy, counseling, therapy…” 

And this really bothers me.

It’s not that this advice is bad. It’s not bad! All things being equal, most people would probably benefit from therapy. I have no doubt that the net benefit of professional mental healthcare is incalculably vast.

But it pains me to see therapy described as a one-size-fits-all solution for every person in every situation. I’m someone who experiences intermittent depression. Like half of all mentally ill people in the United States, I’m not currently receiving medical care for it. This doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible or helpless. There are a lot of very understandable reasons why people can’t or won’t seek professional help. Let’s talk about a few of them.

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WHICH. IS. THE. BEST. CHEESE. CRACKER?

The Ultimate Showdown: Cheese Crackers, Ranked

There is an ancient and terrible blood feud between the Bitches.

It is a grudge as old as Jörmungandr. And like the World Serpent, it bides its time in wrathful slumber, awaiting the three cock crows that announce the great battle to end the world.

The first, the crimson rooster Fjalar crowed on January 22 of 2018 when Piggy wrote this:

Hit your local grocery store the day before a flight and stock up on cheap, filling snacks to take with you: granola bars, almonds, dried fruit, white cheddar Cheez-Its with the extra cheese dust. (BGR’s dark secret is that Kitty and I have an ongoing feud concerning the best cheese-based cracker snack: Cheez-Its or Cheese Nips. If you prefer somewhat less delicious cheese crackers, I guess you can substitute Cheese Nips here. But we all know I’m right.)

The second, the golden rooster Gullinkambi, crowed on March 19 of 2018 when Piggy wrote this:

Shopping with the smaller cart prevents me from filling it with impulse buys. If I feel tempted to buy a box of Cheez-Its (The Superior Cheese Cracker™), but my mini cart is getting full… it goes back on the shelf.

And today, the nameless black cock of Hel calls the dishonorable dead to rise, rise, RISE, and take arms. The Twilight of the Gods is here. Ho thunder, ho lightning! Ragnarok is come!

With spears and magic helmets provided by our extremely awesome Patreon donors, it is time to shake the foundations of the earth with the mighty clash and clatter of our fate-ordained mutual destruction.

WHICH

IS

THE

BEST

CHEESE

CRACKERRRRR?

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As best I can tell, there are two likely reasons for the prevalence of this misconception. Sadly, they both link back to perfectly true, but often misunderstood, facts about how credit works.

Let’s End This Damaging Misconception About Credit Cards

I don’t know who started the rumor that carrying a balance on credit cards is good for your credit score, but I think they should be drawn and quartered.

You shut your pie hole, Poppins. This is serious.

Of all the damaging misconceptions about personal finance we’ve had to correct over the course of running Bitches Get Riches, this is by far my least favorite. And it keeps popping up again and again in questions from our followers! Why? How? Who is teaching all of our darling kangaroo babies such a terrible way of handling their credit cards?

Until I can find the culprit and give them their just desserts (hot oil? The rack?), I have made it my mission to set the record straight.

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Hold your lectures, bikevangelists.

The Joys of Getting Around Without a Damn Car

Loyal citizens of Bitch Nation, I have a confession to make.

I fucking hate driving.

It’s tedious and boring. It takes up time I could spend in other ways. It raises my blood pressure because everyone else is a really fucking bad driver but definitely not me I’m perfect. Cars are noisy, dirty, and expensive. And I’m expected to follow the rules of the road when I just wanna be all

So yeah. Me and cars? We don’t get a long.

And I’m not alone. Haunt the halls of lifestyle blogs and personal finance advice long enough and you’ll run into people who have gone to great lengths to go without driving.

Living a carless lifestyle is entirely possible for a lot of us, and the joys and benefits are many. Getting around without a car saves you a trunkload of cash (see what I did there?), it’s better for your health, and it’s better for the environment. It can even save you time, in certain circumstances.

Below I examine the joys and practicalities of carless modes of transportation. It’s by no means a complete list, so I encourage class participation! Tell me all about your car-free mobility in a comment.

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I said I wanted to be a horse when I grew up.

The Actually Helpful, Nuanced, Non-Bullshit Way to Choose a Future Career

I waded into a lot of “career advice” as part of my research for this article. It was so universally bad that I feel stirred to apologize for it, even though I didn’t write it.

I am so, so sorry. 

We haven’t improved on any of it over the last few decades. In fact, it may have gotten worse since I was a student, back during the Polk administration.

This article is my apology to you. It contains all of the best and wisest advice I have for teenagers and young adults trying to choose which career is right for them. It may also be helpful to fellow olds who have a vague feeling that they’re ready for a change.

The key isn’t to rely on experiences. Instead you must identify and follow where the immutable parts of your deeper personality.

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Piggy and I are both card-carrying members of the Highly-Educated Older Millennials Making a Liberal Arts Degree Work Come Hell or High Water Club.

High School Students Have No Way of Knowing What Career to Choose. Why Do We Make Them Do It Anyway?

We have a favorite reader demographic. And no, it’s not fellow personal-finance-slash-chicken enthusiasts, though they’re a damn close second!

It’s the Younglings. The sweet children of winter who live in the wild, welcoming woods of Tumblr. They are wise beyond their years, eager for our advice, and willing to politely overlook the old-ass pop cultural references they don’t understand.

Crying Native American man, Geocities, “fingerprints,” carrying no more than exactly 2,000 pounds of meat, the shoeing of George W. Bush, and Pogs, Pogs, Pogs!

A very frequent question we get from them concerns the choosing of a future career path. For high-school-age kids, there’s a lot of pressure to articulate some kind of plan for what you want to study, and how you’d like to translate that into a job. It’s appallingly weird that we would set such questions to fifteen-year-olds! Especially given all the ways that we as a society fail to help them find the answer.

But seriously, though: Pogs.

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I’ve Succeeded at Every New Year’s Resolution I’ve Ever Made. Here’s How.

Ah, January. The time when everyone bravely makes a super ambitious New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight(™), Get Better At Money(™), and Stop Stalking Exes on Facebook(™). And then, before the Ides of February, quietly shelving said resolution and wallowing in nihilistic self-loathing. “Nothing ever changes, so why bother?” millions ask as they wipe Cheeto dust from their fingers to scroll through the Facebook profile of ex-boyfriend Doug Jackson and wonder how he can look so happy and fit now that he’s dating what’s-her-face.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could make a New Year’s Resolution and actually keep it?

According to Kitty, I am the only person in America who ever completes a New Year’s Resolution. I therefore consider myself a bit of an authority on the topic.

For the past five years, I have made a New Year’s Resolution. And every single year, I have succeeded at my resolution. Here’s a quick tally:

2013  Read a book a week (52 in all)
2014  Run a 5k comfortably by the end of the year
2015  Write 100,000 words by the end of the year
2016  Save $10,000 by the end of the year
2017  Do a good deed every week (52 in all)

Every one of these goals was made in the spirit of self-improvement and creating a life I love. They were rewarding, challenging, fun, and empowering. I am #livingmytruth and a dozen other inane platitudes AND SO CAN YOU!

Below, I’ll use each of my goals from the past five years as an example of effective New Year’s Resolutioning. Buckle up.
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Our society is deeply invested in upholding a cultural myth that all mothers know instinctively how to nurture and love. They don't.

Ask the Bitches: I Was Guilted Into Caring for a Sick, Abusive Parent for Years. Now What?

We’ve been talking a lot recently about unequal circumstances. Some people, through no fault of their own, have a harder time achieving financial independence than others. This is why the “anyone can do it,” one-size-fits-all success narrative is harmful and exclusionary.

This question is a good example of one such set of circumstances. This came to us from an anonymous Tumblr follower.

“Bitches I need advice, I have never had a job because I was guilted into caring for an emotionaly abusive sick mother right out of high school. I am twenty three and have no idea what to go into now that I am free. I’m mostly afraid of going to school because I don’t have any money, but I have no idea what jobs I can get without an education! I don’t want to work in fast food and retail until I’m thirty, please tell me you can advise this poor bitch :(“

A poor bitch indeed. Oh, my sweet child of winter.

My poor child of winter.

You have opened the door to my heart, and also my memories. Because I, too, spent a precious chunk of my young adulthood doing the exact same thing.

I ask myself why I did it all the time. The only real answer is that there is immense social pressure on children to care for their ill parents—particularly daughters. Friends and family members I hadn’t spoken with in years (or ever) tracked me down. They got my phone number from my mother, or found me on social media, and twisted my arm until it broke. I was too young and inexperienced to tell them to fuck off.

I share these details because I want you to know that you are not alone, and you will never be alone. Abusive and toxic people are very good at turning illness to their advantage. Their greedy hearts are fed by the sympathy and attention, and they will manipulate the situation to get what they want from you.

And the people who were absent? Who enabled them? Looked the other way? They’re tumbling out of the woodwork like termites to volunteer you for the job they don’t want to perform themselves.

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How do you like me now, Dotty?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Financial Math

I fucking hated math in high school.

It was torture. Though I did ok throughout Algebra I and Geometry, once I got to Algebra II the wheels came off the bus. I listened to entire lectures on logarithms delivered in the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher. I didn’t understand why it mattered, its practical application, why I needed it.

And to this day I’m convinced my teacher was a sociopath who derived great joy from my confusion. Let’s call her Dorothy Ball because her fucking name was Dorothy Ball (HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, DOTTY?). She was one of those teachers who, instead of motivating students to give it their all, slowly crushed the joy of learning out of me and convinced me that I was a feeble-minded and frivolous girl for not picking up what she put down.

Clearly I wanted to learn math—or I at least cared about my academic standing—because I remember sitting through a meeting with my mom and Ms. Ball to come up with a strategy for improving. I’ll never forget that meeting.

With great pity in her eyes, she said, “It’s ok that you’re not good at math. You’re good at other things. So let’s just shoot for passing, ok?”

The callous harridan was right: I was good at other things. Like mentally eviscerating those who dared to condescend to me.

But, as we all know, I still needed math to survive.

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