The Instant Next

That time I got NEXTED

HELLO everyone happy June 4. My book came out ON THIS DAY in 2019! (It is also the birthday of a friend I sneakily referenced in the introduction, so, love you, you definitely don’t read my newsletter though.)

To harken back to the old days I’m giving you some old content, yep, but also adding a very select number of hand painted tote-bags (if you know, you know) to the Etsy shop each week. I’ve been using my alt account “wifeguy” as a place to update people on drops, feel free to follow!

Also to celebrate this very important holiday, here is the first chapter of my book and some assorted shenanigans. Thank you all so much for reading and laughing along with me all these years! This book, like all my work, would not be possible without you—not only as readers but as collaborators, thought-provokers, endless sources of wisdom and humor. Thank you for your enthusiastic support of my dog! For your incredible dating stories that have become canon on the page and in my mind, will we ever solve the sheep shearing mystery? Will we ever know why someone brought their father to a date, dressed as a gnome? Thank you for seeing me at a time I struggled to see myself, for sharing how my work helped you feel less alone—it’s a gloriously weird feedback loop of strangers helping each other feel grounded in a world that is tilting at all times. Weird and incredible and I can’t put it into words.

Thank you for spreading the AFGB way across the world and on your bodies—TLDR I love you, you freaks!

ID: a photo of a British newspaper with missed connections. This one describes a “posh boy” who is reading Awards for Good Boys - she accosted him? It’s amazing and confusing.

Okay as promised, the first chapter. Enjoy!

The Instant-Next

MTV used to have a brutal dating show called NEXT. The show (compared, to, say, The Bachelor) didn’t even gesture at future romance between the contestants, as was evident in the very premise. It was speed dating of a grim variety: eligible dates waited in a tour bus that trailed behind the “NEXTER” who could, at any minute, say-slash-scream the titular phrase to someone they were, at that moment, on a dating with, sending the reject back to the tour bus as another person seamlessly emerged for their own hellish debutante date entrance, complete with freeze-frame “fun facts” that seemed to be written by a bot.

ID: a photo from Awards for Good Boys of a character called “Candace.” underneath are her bot facts on NEXT including 1) can fart 2) once set her pet hamster loose in petco and told management there was a roaming hamster loose and 3) loves the sun.

If the tour bus date wasn’t NEXTED, they were offered a second date or the option to take the money—oh yeah, they’ve been counting this whole time, you get a dollar per minute spent on the date, everyone really wants to be here—and run.

There was no great way to say “NEXT” to the person you were, at that moment, on a date with.

But there was a particularly bad way: the instant-Next. In these tragic instances, the date would barely make it down the steps before a bellowed “NEXT” forced them back inside. It was the public version of swiping left on someone via Tinder. The performance of (likely arbitrary) judgement—and rejection—that we are usually, blessedly, spared from.

I was instant-nexted once, just short of hearing the words themselves, resulting in the shortest date I’ve ever been on: thirty seconds or ten minutes, depending on when you stop counting. If I were a NEXT contestant I would’ve received two quarters.

ID: a photo from Awards for Good Boys with a fake version of me at 22. My facts are “recently dumped, still thinks it was mutual, allergic to dairy but often tempts fate.”

It was my first date “back on the market” after “mutually” breaking up with my “first love” (he sucked.) I set up the date with “Thane,” someone on Tinder who seemed artsy and mundane. I anticipated getting anxiously overcaffeinated and oversharing when the conversation I was desperately fueling like a fire on the cusp of going out lulled, even a bit, and then happily heading home alone. I arrived first to the coffee shop. It was summer in NYC, so I grabbed a seat outside with my “we don’t sell iced coffee it’s cold brew” that I regretted buying before my date arrived.

Soon enough I saw a beige blob approaching. The boy himself. We shook hands, perfunctorily. He put his backpack down by my feet and went inside to get coffee. He returned seconds later, explaining he’d left his wallet, which was inside the backpack. Curiously, he then slung the entire backpack over his (very) narrow shoulders and ventured back inside.

Two minutes passed.

Five minutes passed, my “cold brew” sweating in the sun.

A nervous poop perhaps? I made a silent blessing for his digestive tract.

Six minutes.

I am an extremely patient person and also loathe moving. I would wait forever.

Eight minutes.

One reason it took me so long to grasp what was happening—that Thane had instant-Nexted me, without even the clarifying courtesy of saying “NEXT”—was because it didn’t seem possible.

It’s not that I am somehow unleavable, immune to the ever-shitty impulses of dudes you’ve just met on Tinder. It’s that I was sitting in front of the only entrance and exit. How could he leave without me noticing, logistically?

At the ten-minute mark, I knew. I started laughing, texted him “what in the world is happening” and got no response. He never answered my texts after that and unmatched me on Tinder.

I suppose I’ll never have answers: how he got out of the coffee shop, what he was doing in the meantime. It if was to do with oat milk at all. Why he felt entitled to my time, and worse, left me saddled with the horribly mundane mystery of why (and how?!) he’d done it.

I’ve told this story to many people, right after it happened and in the years since. I find it hilarious because it’s absurd. Because it’s so clearly not how dates are supposed to go down. But mostly I tell it because it’s an easy story to tell. He left, it was funny, I have cosmically bad timing, woe is me but not really. The end.

The stories that were harder to turn into comedy were the more mundane ones, so stubbornly frequent that such repetition made them disappear into normalcy. How could I begin to summarize the lengthy history of not-terrible-but-not-great interactions I’d had with men, romantic and not, the roles so many of us are cornered into without even realizing we’re playing them?

In investigating this, I realized my own tendency—many of our tendencies—to put men on a pedestal when they get it right. Or, more realistically, when they don’t explicitly fuck it up. When he responds to a text within forty-eight hours or wears a condom with “everyone but you so don’t worry,” or when he sort of stands up for you in front of his friends: we praise them, myself and many women I’ve known. We praised the men who didn’t leave us on a date after thirty seconds as if, somehow, those with basic human decency should be elevated to sainthood.

It’s not just that our standards for boys are low. They are. But it’s more than that. The world uplifts men when they do something “brave” like “apologizing” for sexual harassment. It’s an ethos that is in the very air we breathe, the way we’re socialized, advertised to, educated. It took me a long time to figure out how to use humor and my cosmically bad timing to turn shitty-but-expected narratives on their heads and, alchemy-like, into content. But hey! You’re holding the result. Welcome to Awards for Good Boys.

Thanks for reading! If you like my writing but don’t want to/can’t read my book right now or have already read it and are waiting for me to write the next one (yes, same) there is 1) the newsletter you are reading right now! and 2) the most recent piece I published was about love in the pandemic, and my most recent cartoon was on Awry. Check it out if you missed!

If you want to get real sexy and listen to me drone on about the same shit over and over (JK I wouldn’t know I can’t actually listen to interviews I’ve done)—here are some good ones: It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, This Must Be the Place, Polyester Zine.

Also I think about when this happened a lot:

As a treat, here is the full image of what my Instagram icon has been for years. Surprise!

ID: a photo of the classic awards for good boys screaming face. Above and below are text that reads: everything will be (crossed out to read “is” instead) okay. A short story by denial.

Her is my dog and her very tiny tongue. Last month was my three year anniversary with her! If you’d like to read about my relationship with my dog—the healthiest one I’ve ever had—here you go. Dogs, right.

With love and gratitude,

Shelby and Clem