Let me introduce you to the undecided voters who are about to decide your fate.

Purple sunset over a cornfield
Purple sunset over a cornfield
Photo by Toby Wong courtesy of Unsplash

When you live somewhere like Iowa, you learn to speak two languages. I can feel a shift in my demeanor when I’m talking to someone I perceive (or know) to be a republican. I can’t avoid them — the houses on my street are practically red/blue/red/blue — but I put up my guard and choose my words a little more carefully. The masters of this, though, are the purple people. The people who ride out elections in the middle, never overtly expressing any political beliefs. …


Britney might not be free today, but she inspired me to test my limits.

Woman in a crop top leans against a wall
Woman in a crop top leans against a wall
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

The purpose of clothing in the late ’90s and early 2000s, as far as I was concerned, was to accentuate the midsection, which was to be left bare whenever possible.

This was in the era of Britney Spears’s bare midriff. Britney might not be free, but her belly sure was.

Image host: giphy.com

When my family would head to the (now demolished) mall, my sister would pick out jean shorts that started at her belly button and ended at the cusp of her kneecap, turning her into 60% denim. As a budding horse girl, this was her required uniform, and my mom enthusiastically approved. …


I’m baking cookies and putting them directly into the freezer — the same thing I’ve always teased my mom for doing.

Baked cookies on a pan
Baked cookies on a pan
Photo courtesy of Unsplah

Crack. Whisk. Add sugar, maybe.

I’m looking up freezing instructions for foods, like eggs, I never thought I’d freeze. I hardly froze anything before — it was a little rebellion against my Midwest upbringing. In Iowa, practicality usually wins over sex appeal when it comes to food, and pulling years-old casserole out of the freezer for dinner is commonplace. I preferred frequent trips to the store where I bought mostly fresh veggies and small quantities of meat (also a mini-rebellion in my meat-loving state). …


Mural of Woody Guthrie holding a guitar that says, “This machine kills fascists.”
Mural of Woody Guthrie holding a guitar that says, “This machine kills fascists.”
Mural of Woody Guthrie, photo courtesy of Unsplash

My dad never fully left the 1960s — his formative years. “Come listen to this song,” he’ll say, and I’ll know he’s about to play me something from his favorite era. Recently, he called me in to listen to an instrumental version of “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles, arguably the most memorable track by the quietest member. “It’s such a good song that it works without the vocals,” he said, letting the music flood the room.

“Think for Yourself” has been the Harrison-led Beatles song stuck in my head lately. It’s what my dad did when he went to the Republican caucus to cast his vote for Bill Weld, who won about 1% of the votes in Iowa, and only one vote in my dad’s precinct. …


People watching a concert
People watching a concert
Photo by Aditya Chinchure courtesy of Unsplash.

“He pointed at me, and I know he wanted me to come up on stage,” said an attractive, drunk, 30ish-year-old woman at Nelly’s concert. As the event manager for the arena, it was my job to kick people out, especially if they tried to rush the stage. Even though I was escorting her out with help from my security staff, she decided that she liked me. “You get it. …


Searching for clues and comfort after suicide.

Picture of a foggy road.
Picture of a foggy road.
Photo by Annie Splatt courtesy of Unsplash

I’ve been searching the Facebook page of my friend Sam, who recently died by suicide, to try to find a hint of what she was about to do — a certain look in her eyes, a sad post — anything that might help me bridge the gap between thinking it wasn’t a possibility and understanding that it actually happened. I suppose I already knew that there wouldn’t be some obvious sign, waiting just a click away. What does a suicidal glint in the eye look like, anyway? Instead, I find myself calling up happy moments of her sharing a drink with friends or laughing with her sisters. I pull them up on demand, knowing the smile or funny moment will appear faithfully every time. …

About

Jessica Carney

Writer of (mostly) humorous creative nonfiction essays. Attempting to write a book. jessicacarneywriter.com

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