And-a Karen-in-Nah

Following is a letter I submitted to the fine folks of The Atlantic in response to their request for feedback on their app. I had fun. Judge as you will.

As much as I love reading The Atlantic through the very well designed app, I just don’t know how much longer I can deal with the passive-aggressive greetings before I lose what little sanity and self worth I’ve been able to hold onto in these pandemic times! It’s midnight here in New Mexico and I wish to relax with 30 minutes of reading, but my app — shall we call her Karen? — chooses to admonish me with, “Still awake?” Oh no, I’ve been caught! I’ve done something wrong! I can feel the shame in my body, face burning, chest tight, stomach — I don’t know how to describe the stomach thing. Then I think, “Obviously I’m awake, Karen. Unless there’s such a thing as sleep-phoning? Sleep-tabletting? Sleep-smart-thinging?” I gird up my loins (figuratively, as my actual loins aren’t much for the girding) and scroll through the highlights for Today like the desperate, late-night addict I apparently am, my interest piqued here and there, my mood lifting with anticipation of some satisfying reading, only to have Karen emerge at the end to shout at me, “Go to bed!” I’m left feeling small and wanting. I was looking forward to this. But Karen knows best. Or does she? I start negotiating with her. “It’s only a little after midnight, not 3:00 a.m.” “You know I’m on prednisone again for the lupus and I’m just not going to go right to sleep?”

Wait a minute, who the hell put Karen in charge of my schedule? Shouldn’t I be in charge of Karen’s schedule? Why can’t Karen tell me what a great reader I am or show a groovy graphic or really anything that doesn’t make me feel like a piece of crap for wanting to enjoy the reading room after hours? My private reading room, at that. Nothing would also work. I’ve looked in Settings more than once to see if there was a way to simply turn off the “Greetings” but no joy.

Please help. Please.

Sincerely, Debra Landau, Abashed Late-Night Reader (formerly Unabashed)