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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 


You deserve better but this is all I have.

Yesterday, probably still reeling from the psychic trauma of Thanksgiving Weekend With Every Living Relative, I forgot to take some Very Special Medication that Mommy Takes Because of Something You Did. I’m such a delicate wee thing that my dosage is extra-extra-low because that is all my willowy frame requires, but the bad thing about being on the teensy-weensy dosage is that once it leaves my body I’m WHOOPSY DAISY paddling around in a sloppy hell of withdrawal. So today I woke up soaked in sweat, reeling around my suddenly tilt-y apartment. When I saw two Henrys reaching for me from their two cribs, I knew I was in trouble. Fortunately the Husband is working nights this week, so once I roused him from his slumber, which I did by gently calling “GET UP I’M DYING OH CHRIST,” I quickly medicated myself and returned to bed, where I had dreams that I was Buffy the Vampire Slayer (how sad am I, still dreaming about a show that ended years ago? Quite sad) and a Herbie-the-Love-Bug-type car was roaming the streets of Brooklyn, announcing that it was the harbinger of the apocalypse. (If I wrote the script to this movie, I would title it DOOM BUGGY. That is an excellent title, and you, privileged reader, can take it. There, it’s yours. Don’t say I never do anything for you.) And I was all “bring it on” and I was tossing my pretty pretty hair this-a-ward and that-a-ward because I was Buffy and my hair was so blonde! So blonde and so pretty!

When I woke up, it was 1 p.m. This pretty much set the tone for the day.

Another thing that happened yesterday is that I went for a physical. I haven’t had a physical since the 80s—I remember the nurse instructing me to remove my shoulder pads and leg warmers before putting on the day-glo gown--so it seemed time. I didn’t realize I was getting the extra-vigilant doctor who would alert me to every possible thing that could ever be wrong with me, so I left there a little freaked. Extra-enthused doctor informed me that I have a GOITER (well, okay, “enlarged thyroid,” but isn’t that a goiter? Isn’t it? Oh, why didn’t I buy the iodized salt?) and HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (okay, just a high reading, but my reading usually peak at 90/70, usually they’re so low that by all rights I should need to do a handstand to get the blood away from my ankles before I’m conscious enough to sign a check) and also several other things that I can’t mention here. Oh, and apparently because there’s so much cancer in my family, I’m a fool for not seeing a genetic counselor because I’m a ticking time bomb, people! Tick tick! So I’m scheduled to get all kinds of tests and she gave me the name of this counselor with the words “FAMILIAL CANCER SYNDROME” underlined next to it.

I called my mother looking for more specifics on the dead in our family, hoping that perhaps I had overstated the cancer running amok throughout the generations. It was a mistake, because my mom distrusts doctors and their voodoo practices. She truly believes that if you have something wrong with you and you don’t know about it, it will simply vanish. Poof! But if you make the mistake of going to a doctor and getting it treated, you, my friend, are doomed. Not just doomed. Doooomed.

So there I was just trying to get the facts and my mom is on the other end shrieking YOU’RE NOT GETTING CANCER! STOP IT! And then the rest of the conversation went like this (facts have been altered not to protect anyone but because I am simply too lazy to rise from my chair and find my notes):

Me: So how many brothers and sisters did grandma have?

Mom: 8? Wait, let me think. 12. No. No, 8. 6 brothers, 2 sisters. Including her. So she had 7 brothers and sisters.

Me: And did they all die of cancer, or…?

Mom: They were so old! When you’re old it doesn’t count. That’s what my doctor said. It’s not genetic if you’re old. They weren’t 35! They were OLD!

Me: What were their ages?

Mom: So let’s see, there was Mama, she was 74; there was, hmm, Salvatore, Uncle Sally, he was 62…

Me: Cancer?

Mom: Oh, cancer, yeah. Terrible. Colon cancer. Because all he ate was sausage. Seriously, it was all he ate.

Me: [Making a note never to eat sausage again]

Mom: Uncle Maddy, 60s, also colon cancer.

Me: Let me guess--sausage eater?

Mom: [dreamily] Uncle Maddy loved the sausage.

It went on like this for a while. Apparently my family is evenly spit between lovers of sausage and lovers of booze and/or cigarettes—or, hell, all of the above! Italians are fun!

Do you know what else is fun? Talking about dead people! There are so many of them! Think about it--they outnumber us. They could totally rise again and they would so kick our asses. And in reality my slaying power is minimal and my hair is short and brown. We are so screwed.


It’s possible this is just a stage and he’ll grow out of it, but there are no guarantees in life, after all.

Scene: our dining room. Thanksgiving. The year 2034. Alice and Scott are sitting at the table. Alice is attending to a Siamese cat whom she is dressing in a teensy tiny sailor suit.

Scott: So I said to him, what are you saying, just lumbago? I’ll have you know this hurts like a mofo, and what’s more…what’s more, I’m…oh, crap, what was I talking about?

Alice: All set, Chairman Meow! All ready for the high seas!

The cat leaps off of her and heads straight for the open window. Alice laughs insanely. Scott continues shaking his head as if he didn’t hear a word she uttered—or didn’t want to hear.

The door opens. A balding man in his 30s bounds in wearing Gap overalls and a red turtleneck. On his forehead is half an Elmo sticker. It is Henry. Alice and Scott hobble toward him for kisses. He applies raspberries to their necks.

They sit back down to table, where we see that their Thanksgiving dinner consists of turkey cold cuts and half-thawed dinner rolls.

Henry: Sorry I’m late, but did you see that frontloader outside? It was so cool the it went VROOM WOOSH and the dump track went rrrrr rrrr rrrrr and the guys were all hey you, get out of the way!

Alice: Speaking of which, where did you park?

Henry: The articulated crash-rescue vehicle? I had to put it in a garage five blocks down.

Scott: Articulated CRV? I thought you were driving a giant excavator these days.

Henry: Well, I was, but the giant excavator just didn’t have the cool lights like the articulated CRV has that go FLASH FLASH FLASH, you know? Plus I rammed into an overpass the other day and took the whole thing down.

Alice [concerned]: You were okay?

Henry [shrugging]: Small boo-boo on my left shoulder. The doctor woman put in a few stitches, kissed it for me. No biggie.

Scott: How’s your job, son?

Henry [suddenly furious]: NO!

Alice: He doesn’t want to talk about it, dear. Henry, pass me—

Henry: NO! DON’T LOOK AT ME! [Covers his eyes with his hands]

Scott: Where’d Henry go?

Alice: Henry? Henry?

Henry [uncovering his eyes, smiling]: Hi Mom! Hi Dad!

They all laugh.

Alice: Here you go, dear.

She places one dinner roll and two turkey slices on his Chinet plate.

Henry stares at the turkey, murmurs “no, no” while his parents try not to pay attention, and finally tosses it to the ground. He picks at his dinner roll.

Alice: Seriously, we read the review of your last performance, “The Round and Round Until You Get Dizzy Fall Down Dance Revue” and it looks like it was a big—

She stares at Henry, who seems to be exerting effort in some way.

Henry: Yeah?

Alice: Honey? Are you, um, are you doing something?

Henry [red-faced]: No. Go away.

Awkward silence ensues.

Scott: So anyway, this lumbago—

Henry: Hey, want to hear something funny? When I said “No, go away”— before? When I said that? I totally crapped my pants.

There is a moment of silence, and then all three laugh uproariously for way longer than is appropriate, pausing every few minutes for Henry to add, “No, really, I did” and the laughter to start anew.


Luckily, he's not the target audience.

My parents took Henry for the weekend, bless their grandparently hearts. Today I got to hear my dad expressing his utter disdain for Noggin. You might have to know my father to be amused by the idea of him watching a channel for preschoolers. My dad is a certified smart guy, an MIT grad who reads probably 37 books a day (I exaggerate, but only a little), a man blessed with the intellect of, say, a Lewis Lapham, but without the liver-spotted cranium. The charm of a Walter Cronkite, but with a sliver less good-Lord-is-he-still-alive-ness. The hair of a Phil Donahue, only less so. So anyway. Here he is in our living room, fresh from a Noggin-packed morning with Henry.

Dad: I can’t watch it for more than five seconds without screaming.

Me: What were you watching, exactly?

Dad: [grimacing] Some kind of “big, bigger, biggest” puzzle. Involving a cow.

Me: You realize these puzzles aren’t meant for you?

Dad: And then there was a Spanish-speaking girl.

Me: That would be Dora.

Dad: And her nitwit monkey. He wore boots.

Me: That would be Boots.

Dad: [frowning] And Boots loses his lunchbox by throwing it off a bridge. He’s such a mindless dope that this monkey swings his box around and WAAAIOO there goes his lunchbox!

Me: You really took this personally.

Dad: And then Dora fishes it out with a reel, like that would work. Even if the fishhook could grab the lunchbox, like it wouldn’t tip over and its contents would not simply fall out into the water…

Me: Wow.

Dad: [Shaking his head and downing the rest of his scotch] I tried explaining this to Henry but I don't think he was listening.


Like Canada, but sexier--much sexier.

Everyone’s so down on the red states for, well, being red, but no one has talked about the other great schism in our country: the men vs. the women. The majority of men voted for Bush, while more women went for Kerry. What can we conclude from this statistic?

Isn’t it obvious? The men must go.

Sorry, guys, you had your chance. You could have voted for Kerry, but Bush reminded you of that bully from junior high who sent you notes in class that read “meat me after school so I can kick yur ass”and who invited everyone but you to his pool parties; you secretly always wanted him to like you and now he does because you voted for him hooray! You are totally going to his pool parties now! You can play Marco Polo with Dick and Karl! And then George will be all, “Dick, heh heh,” and you’ll laugh, “Good one, George,” and you’ll put up your hand for a high-five and he will totally high-five you!

“But I didn’t vote for Bush,” I’m sure some of you will protest. Well, neither did I, and I’m stuck with him. If you had talked more of your men-friends into voting for Kerry, we wouldn’t be in this mess. If, just once, you had turned down the volume on your porn rental and said to your friends, “Dude, we have to make sure Bush doesn’t get reelected. He will send this country straight into the toilet, bro. Right? Dude,” you could have changed the course of history. But no! You had to find out why those lady plumbers helping Amber with her faulty massaging showerhead were so erotically dressed! And what were they doing to her with that plumbing snake? Wow!

So here’s what I suggest: we come up with some equitable division of the states—I don’t care how we split it up, as long as I don’t have to move. The men get to live in Circle-Jerkania or Enormous Penisland or whatever the hell they want to call it. Bush will be their leader, and as such will rationalize getting into all kinds of cool wars where tanks can shoot buildings and go BOOM and SCRROOOSH and he can illustrate his reasoning with his Hot Wheels collection. As for the women, we will live in our country, Gynomerica, where Kerry will lead his people (he will call us his “Angels” and we will get all red-faced and giggly) into a future of untold peace and prosperity. We will have four-day work weeks, because working is good, but let’s not get crazy about it. The women can marry each other, if they so choose. The ones who don’t lean that way can visit the men whenever they want, and then drive back in their electric cars to their clean and quiet neighborhoods. And when our male neighbors from the South (or wherever) attempt, as they undoubtedly will, to invade and occupy our great land, we’ll unleash our military, whose finely honed powers of Shaming will emotionally devastate the enemy and cause them to retreat, weeping, back to their lean-tos*. Who's with me?

(*In my imagination, men can’t even get their acts together enough to build houses.)