Good and Mean

The day that Willow aged up elder, Poplar aged up mean.


“Let’s see. Have I accomplished all I wanted to in adulthood? I think so.”


“Ah, yes! Being the center of the known universe feels divine!”

Poplar rolled the computer nerd aspiration–an aspiration which would suit her geek sister Aspen much better, while Aspen’s Public Enemy aspiration seems perfect for Poplar. But these three girls are limbs of the same tree, so switched aspirations is just part of sisterhood for them.


“Are you looking at me?”

When Saturday rolled around, it was time for one of those twice-in-a-lifetiime visits to the park. Chances are good that Aspen will be our next heir, so it’s not too early for her to find a man to have children with. She won’t need a husband or even a boyfriend, unless she wants one. And she can certainly have a wife or a girlfriend, if she chooses. Either way, however, if she’s the heir, she is going to need somebody to help her make a baby.

Madrona and Poplar came along because it never hurts to get out and socialize. At least, with mishievous Madrona and mean Poplar, it doesn’t hurt them–I’m not vouching that those they socialize with will have pain-free encounters.

The girls gravitated towards the chess tables. While Madrona played against her second-cousin Kamden, Aspen played a match with Ms. Presley, the mother of one of the wiener-head boys.

A new guy in town was drawn to watch. Aspen nick-named him Blue Skullhead, and somehow, the name stuck.


“How have I never noticed her around town before?”

Aspen found herself playing especially well, as if the little buzz of excitement she felt from having a spectator made her mind that much sharper.


“Beautiful day for an outdoor chess game, amiright?”

She started thinking that maybe this guy could end up being somebody special to her. It was as if she could read his thoughts, or so she felt.

But then, as soon as the chess game ended, Ms. Presley stood up, said a few words to Blue, and next thing Aspen knew, her friend’s mom and Blue Skullhead were lying on the ground together, right there, watching clouds.

Cloud watching

“That one looks a little like a freezer bunny.”

As if she weren’t even there.


When they got home, Ironwood asked Poplar and Madrona how things went at the park.

“It was great!” answered Madrona.

“Yeah,” said Poplar, “just like staying home. We saw the wiener heads. We saw Kamden. Same folks we would have seen if we’d spent the afternoon here.”


“Not really sure why we bothered braving the load screens. We could’ve seen all those same people if we’d stayed home.”

But they wouldn’t have seen Blue Skullhead if they’d stayed home. The next day, because I was wondering about that heart in his thought bubble, I had Aspen invite him over.

He arrived flirty, which is one of my key signals that there’s interest!


“Blue! Glad you could drop by!”

Ironwood, always keeping an eye out for his girls, made sure to get to know Blue.


“Not really sure I like that smile on this guy’s face. Is he looking at Aspen?”

The wiener head boys kept coming around, too, chatting it up with Madrona, Poplar, and even Cousin Kourtney. Soon enough, these boys would join Aspen in young adulthood, so it didn’t hurt to keep up the friendships. Plus Madrona genuinely likes them, even if Poplar thinks they’re dweebs.

Other boys

“I can tell you seven reasons that blic-block is better than Space Invaders!”

When the boys did become young men, we found more meanness. At least two of them joined Poplar in aging up mean, and one of them aged up mad, as in Insane.

Madrona is not intimidated by their meanness–she’ll cheat them at chess regardless.


“Look! Is that Acacia’s ghost finally showing herself?”

While the young Boughs explored what it means to be young women, Willow and Linda enjoyed the satisfactions of accomplishment.

Willow, at the top of the comedian career, continued writing amazing postmodern comedy routines.They still didn’t make anyone laugh, but the “ah-ha” moments they delivered kept the house full at every performance.


“What is the sound of a stringless violin?”

And Linda completed the body-builder aspiration, her second aspiration. Now, I-dub likes to joke that she has cupcakes of steel.


“It feels so good to know my body is as strong as it can be.”

The two women keep their friendship evergreen, which is a nice thing for sister-in-laws to enjoy.



And Willow and Aspen remain best friends.


“Don’t let anyone tell you that life after 50 sucks, ok, Aspen? It just gets sweeter and sweeter, like that cake!”

Like Willow, Aspen feels the most satisfaction in focusing on excelling in her career and being exactly the person that she wants to be.


“Oh, yeah! I’m outta the Llama costume, and soon I’ll be outta this dancer skirt into something entirely ME!”

Poplar, no longer the baby in the family, looks angelic, but inside, she’s planning the many ways that she can be joyfully mean.


“I’ve identified twenty-five vulnerabilities of Madrona that I can exploit anytime I want!”

We can’t control how others express themselves. For whatever reasons–shifting hormones, whacky biochemistry, or bad luck with the random trait generator–sometimes, others enjoy expressing cruelty. We can’t always prevent it, but we can do our best to learn how to respond to it in a way that keeps us from being a victim while diffusing the meanness to the best of our ability. Or so I coach myself, whenever I encounter meanness on this side of the screen.