The Jensen-Liu Family: Aileen and Shu Rack Up the Partner Count Until Everyone is Uncomfortable, Pt. I

(Yes—the partner count is so high, this had to be split into two parts. In fact, it comes with its own practice problems. The midterm is in two weeks. Good luck!)

There are moments that change who we think we are. There are moments we lose countless hours of sleep reliving, and when our body finally passes out, we awake screaming, red-eyed, in a cold sweat, unable to escape as our subconscious melds our physical and mental experience together into a surreal fabrication, a simulacrum derived from our rawest emotions, a dream that seems as real as the day it happened. There are moments where tragedy hits on a scale for which most people have no frame of reference, no understanding of what it was like to be in the epicenter. And as each I’m-sorry-that-happened-to-you or have-you-tried-valerian oft-repeated silver bullet fails to temporarily lessen the pain, those at the heart of such tragedy start to doubt their ability to connect with anyone blind to this unspeakable suffering.

Aileen had dragged herself out of her comfort zone that day, settling at the local café to browse books/dudes and bemoan the nonexistence of laptops.

Owing to the lack of college courses, sketchbooks, caffeine addiction, or blind dates, few Sims choose to spend their free time at the café. (Contrast this with the gym.) A prominent counterexample is the barista, who, upon Aileen’s entry, immediately leaves his post for a cheesecake break. His coworker arrives half an hour later to cover the bar. This is the fourth time she’d been called on short notice this week for this exact reason. As word spreads that it’s now possible for one to actually order espresso and pastries from the café, passersby trickle in from the plaza, giving Aileen her desperately needed people-watching time. Shu gets her text and drops in to do his homework.

Aileen’s body is a temple and it requests a sacrifice of pastries. Not wanting to seem blasphemous, she heads to the display case to identify the most virtuous offering. If there had been a different set of people in the café, if Aileen had responded to her hunger an hour earlier, if something had interrupted her blithe stroll towards the counter to make this simple request to a justifiably surly barista, things may not have turned out the way they did.

But there wasn’t, and she didn’t, and it didn’t, so here we are, witnessing Aileen’s second life-defining calamity from above. There was, in that café that day, something so abhorrent that Aileen felt every pixel in her body tense up and fall apart at once.

Someone left a book on the floor.

NO

Aileen is trapped within a couple feet of the book and waits for death to take her. Shu approaches to help, but starts grimacing as soon as he is within some unseen radius of the book, pleading to the heavens in a gesture that asks why, why would a benevolent god allow this to happen. Both are trapped in a space where each passing second amplifies their discomfort into an uncontrollable inferno destined to immolate their very souls.

At the last moment, they regain enough clarity to walk away from the book, and everything is fine again! Outwardly.

Exercise: Come up with a way to prevent this. Too many have suffered already.

Exercise: Compute how many hours of basketball Aileen and Shu will have to play to end the night terrors in which they are consumed by bound paper as tessellated planks of wood silently watch their demise.

Shu bravely refuses to let his status as Floor Book Survivor distract him from his life’s work. So, in the spirit of healing, he invites Chantel on their second real date. It’s going to be uneventful compared to their first real date. Chantel can’t propose on this one.

So that’s where his hoodie went! In retrospect, the fact that it went missing is unsurprising. So is this:

Shu enjoys several benefits from experimenting with polyamory as a teenager. Not in the sense of objectifying his partners, more in that most other teens don’t frequent nightclubs or late parties as often as he does, so his chance of being caught by one of his n-1 other partners at these venues is negligible. But Shu is still a kid, and sometimes kids have very bad days at school.

proving he somehow still has a sense of shame

Magnolia Promenade is the diametric opposite: to invite a date there would be foolish, but it’s the optimal place to stand around with a guitar and look cute.

Experiments performed in triplicate, p=0.01, the club is the control

Marielle Bloom eventually takes the bait. (She’s still figuring out her fashion sense. No shade.) Shu politely introduces himself, and—

To those of you just tuning in, welcome! He’s dating Shannon, the girl on the left.

—gets three words in before being interrupted by his second girlfriend. He greets her only once he knows the coast is clear.

Safety tip: look both ways before you kiss someone

However, when your ride-or-die has the documented ability to teleport, the eyeball test can only do so much. This doesn’t stop Shu from excusing himself from Shannon mid-makeout to give Elsa a smooch.

To those of you just tuning in: he’s also dating both outermost girls. Chantel you knew about already.

Shu’s common sense kicks in at the last minute—rather than dodging three girlfriends at once, couldn’t he move someplace else while they’re contained? He sneaks off under the cover of darkness, seizing the opportunity to take Genevieve on a date to the library while his mom works on her book.

If Shu’s idea of a good date involves having someone take off running right after he kisses them, it’s going very well already!

As Gen vanishes into the distance for her compulsive nighttime jog, she is replaced by Billie Jang. Shu pulls his hand sanitizer out of his pocket in preparation for a date-within-a-date. Billie doesn’t know who he is, but isn’t every stranger just a FWB you haven’t met?

Exercise: Determine how many ways this could go wrong. Using your understanding of Shu, determine how many actually happened.

Answer: 2. He had the good sense to stop as soon as Elsa was in range, so 1 is also acceptable.

Two interlopers appear post-introduction. Billie’s friends’ name is Yasmin, and her standard M.O. may very well be to clam-jam Billie. Not without reason—she’s heard the rumors about this one, and is only trying to protect her friend from becoming the fifth casualty of this fuckboy. Shu makes a mental note never to date her.

Shu, having performed several maneuvers equivalent to drifting four lanes over a major road and stopping intact in the last available street parking spot, smiles wistfully to himself for a job well done. He waits until all three romantic interests leave before finishing his homework at an open desk.

I mean, one that was open before he started occupying it

Exercise: Do Shu’s actions represent male or female sexual fantasy? Discuss. Yes, this is an inclusive ‘or.’

After waking up at 4 AM on Saturday, making breakfast, and cleaning the kitchen, Shu hides his disappointment at the lack of school by inviting Billie over.

Whoa! She’s the main character in a rom-com.

While Shu is in desperate need of parental supervision re. dating, Aileen continues to strategize. His hypersexual behavior started after the divorce, so the first parent to ask him to tone it down will forever be known as the bad parent, while turning a blind eye to his strictly monotonic body count is something the cool parent would do—in this Mexican standoff, Aileen’s safest move is to shadow him. Whatever. At least he’s doing it in the house.

During the date, Billie strikes a nerve with her teasing and is too embarrassed to recover. She jogs out of the house in shame. Shu improvises, directing his affection at a passing stranger.

Hi, I’m who your dad warned you about. I’ll call you in 5 years ok byeeeee

Before noon, Shu invites Marielle to be his +1 at PB&J’s nightclub party.

Marielle refuses to be distracted by the flashing lights, loud music, and presence of the prestigious local music group. Shu’s reputation precedes him, such that weeks of internalizing gossip have primed Marielle for this moment. She’s here to send a message: if Shu wants to date her, he needs to step it up. No scrubs, etc. Marielle earns a spot in the high school pantheon as the first person to turn Shu down.

He reacts to rejection by respecting Marielle’s boundaries, choosing instead to use his world’s second-smallest violin to riff off the pulsing club electronica. They end up having a pleasant conversation sharing stories in which PB&J members played music on top of other music in socially inappropriate scenarios. So pleasant, in fact, that Shu invites her to the Romance Festival later that night. No pressure.

Suspicious Aileen follows him, only to take a sip of special drink and look left to realize her coparent had the same concern.

This brief moment of awkward eye contact revives all the memories Aileen thought she had repressed after Floor Book—the brief moment of connection had left her feeling more alone than ever, despite all the effort she went through to be satisfied with her own company. She couldn’t be feeling insecurity, she reasoned, because she wasn’t the type of person to be jealous. Jealousy isn’t the yoga way of doing things. She must have been reacting to something else: something undefined, unlabelled, and, therefore, unaddressed.

Whatever happened, Aileen’s motivation for flirting with Josh Schofield (Kleptomaniac, Hates Kids, Third Trait), her yoga instructor, had more to do with her own enjoyment of life than her futile desire to keep her head above water.

A+ for accuracy. I was with an ass man once, and heard this specific comment 4x/day.

And yet, who cares? This is the Romance Festival! Do whomever you want.

Shu, meanwhile, has been challenged by Alexander Goth to kiss someone at the romance festival. It takes him two hours to cycle through boy band tropes until he finds one that jibes with Marina.

In increasing order of apathy, the bystander reactions included inappropriate arousal, a celebratory fist pump (thx Mike), wondering why one spot on the pavement is a different color than the other spots, and putting on blinders so he can live in a dream world where his son only has two girlfriends. Alex was banking on Shu understanding the subtext behind “I’ll go to the Romance Festival with you, I dare you to kiss someone,” and is in denial about whether Shu is just that dense or chose to ignore it. It’s the latter, of course. Get in line.

Josh wanders off before the festival ends, so Shu wins the Sleepover Standoff by default.

Aileen reveals her intention to stare at a blank wall
Take that, Mom! 0-2

Only one parent of a high school child remains unaware of Shu’s whirlwind sexual deviancy, and it’s exactly who you’d expect.

He’s four love interests behind. Yikes.

Sunday can be used for quiet personal time, or for making your fourth girlfriend French toast and politely waiting for her to leave before inviting a different girl over, then greeting Girl 2 with a normal amount of subtlety.

i.e. none

Exercise: Will Billie make it through the door?

Answer: No.
Answer: Wait, yes.

While Billie excuses herself to go home, secretly delighted at her lack of faux pas, Shu has already invited Shannon over.

Remember, kids: always wash your hands between partners!

Aileen’s writing has started to slip backwards in the linear, universal, totally-true stages of grief from acceptance to depression. Every time she meets a new person, the divorce inevitably comes up, and every time it does, she receives some variation of “don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” But she has, and none of those someones feel right. If there’s one thing she’s learned from the sum total of well-meaning but self-conflicting advice defining her single life, it’s that any common problem has a clear resolution that seems obvious to those on the outside, and if she has trouble implementing any of the requisite steps, the fault lies with her and not the failure of the advice to accurately consider the reality of her situation. Seeing these thoughts written out helps her blame herself less—but while she’s tied to her computer writing her next bestseller, Shu sets a personal record by sleeping with three Sims in less than 24 hours.

Should Aileen give up her one source of self-actualization to put her son on a damn leash? She doesn’t know. It would be easy for someone else to say so, and even easier for that someone else to roll their eyes when Aileen breaks down and pose the trivial solution of devoting her time to self-care and finding a creative outlet, spiraling into an infinite loop of everyone else knowing exactly what to do. She hasn’t yet figured out whether her friends overestimate the naivety of whatever unreliable facsimile of Aileen exists in their heads, composed of surface-level facts and emotional projections, or whether she is truly that incompetent and unaware. And yet, to accuse someone else of being wrong would be mean. Arrogant, even.

While Aileen tries to resolve the magnitudes of factors with no well-defined measure, Shu adds to the confusion by making French toast for the girl his mom didn’t know slept over, then doing extra credit work of his own volition.

Aileen attempts to get out of her own head by getting out of her house, choosing again to patronize the café in hope that some stunning bookish stranger will leave his art-cave in search of legal stimulants. Anything to distract her from spiraling into loneliness. Anything positive—she couldn’t handle someone leaving a book on a flat surface in a public place, not in this mental state.

Not again.

IT’S ON THE TABLE NOW. GOD IS DEAD

Aileen is so consumed by rage, she allows herself to complain to Shu about the unspeakable horror she has now had to witness twice, in a space she thought was safe. He agrees! They spend a few minutes cleaning together, avoiding glares from bystanders wondering what they’re even on about this time. He reduces their shared trauma into an elaborate pun; she laughs. For the first time in eight years, Aileen begins to recognize a part of herself in her son.

Said son burns off the residual shock of witnessing another misplaced tome by throwing himself at the first teenage girl to wander towards guitar sounds.

“Have you ever had your life flash before your eyes?”

He can learn from past mistakes. Olivia Spencer-Kim-Lewis (Goofball, Geek) receives only a brief introduction, before he stealthily vanishes. On the same road she is using, in the same direction. Always check your 6.

Alpha girlfriend Chantel invites herself over the next day, demonstrating a baffling phenomenon.

When Shu initiates a kiss, he moves his hand towards Chantel’s butt, a move which she denies by grabbing his forearm and yanking it upwards. When Chantel initiates the kiss, same deal; this time Shu is the one who doesn’t want his glutes squeezed. This happens every time. So to recap, one of the participants went ham on eternal commitment after the first date, and the other is Shu. It makes no sense. Just touch the butt.

Exercise: How much baggage can Chantel and Shu fit into one relationship?

Exercise: What is the most efficient way for Aileen to wind down after a long day at work?

Answer: SLEEPOVER. STANDOFF. This is for the second question. We’re not touching the first.

Josh sneaks out of the house for a mid-date run as his competitors deal with a mild case of bedroom confusion.

0-3
If you must know, he did come back to destroy the dollhouse, but it was already too late.

It’s Wednesday. Another school day, another girl seduced at the club, blah blah blah.

yep, more of this

Shu’s ineffective guardian angel allows him to sneak out of sight as she ponders, hey, that dude with the microbraids and a suit-vest-loafer combo no one else would dare wear, what’s his deal? (Exercise: What is his deal?) No amount of casual chit-chat could explain such a character, but this mysterious gentleman does seem used to middle-aged women coming up to pet his head.

With each new girlfriend Shu accumulates, it becomes exponentially harder to stall the gossip train at the station: the conductor has noticed some jagoff standing in the automatic doors, and the other passengers are starting to revolt. One small push, and Shu would be faced with the consequences of committing the high-school-drama cardinal sin.

Don’t fuck with Elsa.

Exercise: Name the shade queen of this universe.

Unfortunately, Shu’s reign of lust gets its Robespierre exactly at the halfway point of this long tale. Here’s a teaser for part II:

Charlie J.E.: Charlie in Charge

The last we saw of Charlie, he was chipping away at the remnants of the metaphorical umbilical cord, only to discover it was the belay keeping him from freefalling into polite society. Polite society is dreadful. You have to talk to people you’re not related to, and who aren’t Cruz, in polite society. You have to meet certain expectations in polite society. You’re not sure whether they’re more or less restrictive than parental expectations, because you don’t know what exactly they are.

Charlie moved to the neighborhood with the big park, which is Willow Creek or something like that. Some mashup of a tree and a body of water or some other nature thing. It suits him.

Charlie wakes up each morning to the sun on his face through UVB/C-protective-coated glass. Can’t be too careful with melanoma, you see. He then waves goodbye to his fishies, walks into his earthy open-air living room, and has a breakfast of whichever fishy died most recently while staring at a Day of the Dead statue. Charlie can’t get any privacy or throw any stones in this house, but it’s very him.

Each of Charlie’s family members gave him a parting gift before he left. Mike gave him the signed guitar Charlie kept noodling with as a teenager. Hector gave him a picture of fish and a picture of outside, because Charlie likes both of those things. Kendra gave him a nice painting she made. Claudia made him enough seafood meals to last an entire month and—what’s that? Oh yeah, also a hundred thousand dollars from orchid farming. Gracias madre indeed.

The other residents of Aspen Lake are confused, both by Charlie’s arrival and the layout of his house. To welcome him, they walk through his front arch, enter the studio, and knock on the studio door to be let back into the living room.

He actually wants to be romantic now. Maybe he just didn’t want to sleep with anyone in his parents’ house.

Charlie’s neighbors include police lady (nice), ponytail man (asshole), lady who skips arm day (self-explanatory), and Summer Holiday (very intrigued).

Unfortunately for her, Summer Holiday is a Bad Name.

Greeting your neighbors is something one is supposed to do in polite society. Mr. J.-E. recalls a time when Kendra couldn’t get a laugh out of him, so she pushed the corners of his mouth upward with her pointer fingers. That’s what he’s trying to emulate here. Do people smile at the same time they talk? He’s watching his guests to figure it out. He remembers from his one successful conversation with Elsa that most people don’t want to talk about organelles or space, and settles instead on one of the most vanilla topics: cupcakes.

During the exhausting social effort, Charlie goes outside to decompress by shooting some hoops or catching some fish.

The Cruz obsession continues into adulthood

The heavy users of the fishing spot behind Charlie’s house are Charlie himself and Chantel’s mom Angela, who drives from San Myshuno to fish behind Charlie’s house at least twice a week. Angela and Charlie don’t interact aside from a slight head nod or non-mutual eye contact.

In case Charlie’s presence wasn’t interesting enough to the single women of Willow Creek (Aileen’s Theorem), he is now gainfully employed.

Doesn’t this job require a Bachelors? Naaaaah. He’ll be fine! It’s not as if medical staff require special training or nights spent cramming with a bloodstream full of legal stimulants to make the points go higher, just a pinch of gung-ho and a go-getter attitude. Male Elle Woods here skips the experience of being a pre-med sophomore who blames failing grades on his Ochem professor for not personally showing up on his doorstep to tell him exactly what would be on the test, then grabbing his hand and taking the entire exam for him, Ghost-style. Compare with the Science career, a preposterous amalgamation of like eight different fields, plus ALIENS, where the first job level does not require locking oneself in a windowless basement for five years to write a 130-page document no one will read. Maybe your advisor if you’re lucky. You also never have to be the aforementioned unfair Ochem professor. You’re just Jimmy fucking Neutron, and then when you meet a real-life scientist, you have to hide your disappointment as they describe locking themselves in a windowless basement for months writing grant proposals.

Throwing a fresh high school grad into a fast-paced career comes with consequences. For example, dealing with stress caused by wrapping one’s head around open questions in the field of medicine.

This is Case Su, he has hit on literally everyone, most recently Charlie, right now

Alien and human physiology are similar enough for the two species (?) to interbreed, but Charlie is having trouble keeping track of the literature. Genes have different names in humans, mice, C. elegans, Drosophila, Chinese hamsters, and zebrafish, and now he has to memorize another set for aliens? Did the clinical trials for this medication include alien participants in both the control and experimental groups? Was there a statistically significant difference between alien and human responses? How about side effects? These are questions Charlie shoves behind his perma-etched awkward work smile, lest he be accused of discrimination based on skin tone/planetary origin.

Enabling societal alien-erasure is just one of the areas where Charlie’s bedside manner needs work. He avoids eye contact, he mumbles, his handwriting is legible, he interrupts conversations to do sit-ups, and he has, on more than one occasion, been observed doing a heel-turn in the middle of the hallway to run for the treadmill. But he has a preternatural ability to diagnose patients based on symptoms displayed when he was in another room, so his performance skyrockets.

Plus, no one can focus on what he’s saying anyway with that gun show. Woof!

the medicine is fake, but this pipette is TOO REAL

Charlie spends most of his time diagnosing the same 3 hypochondriacs and 5 people who are close enough to toddlers to get their mouth sneezed into on a daily basis. One such hypochondriac is Aileen’s best girlfriend, Layla Beam, a mixologist who is pretty sure she got some crud at the bar last night. It’s different from last week, ok? It’s a different one. Charlie tries to diagnose her infectious illness by collecting samples, taking X-rays, running her on the treadmill, and asking about the last five things she ate, but not even the joy of symmetrical tiny cacti can distract him from the grim reality of the job: sometimes nothing you do works out, and he’s split between two diagnoses after running all possible tests. More than once he’s had to gamble Layla’s health on a coin toss, and the coin seems to be landing on the wrong side every time.

Layla’s growing to hate the poor boy.

Later that week, Charlie gets asked whether he plays videogames. He does? Good. The godlike effect videogames have on hand-eye coordination—it says so right here, on this gaming website—makes him ideal for the next career level: surgeon. Here’s your scalpel. Remember your R.E.F.U.G.E. training, but try to apply it in a context where you’re not supposed to kill anyone.

All the stress of habitually misdiagnosing Layla has been forcing Charlie out of the house. Not only has dealing with patients has improved Charlie’s social skills by orders of magnitude, it’s motivated him to interact with other Sims beyond “have you been abducted lately?” or “could you repeat what you did with the pencil one more time?” or “here, let me inoculate you against the disease you already have.” A natural starting point for Dr. Basketball here is his home base. The Sim who finally teaches him to love is somewhere out there, sweating through her sports bra on the treadmill while she tips her REI metal bottle upside down to catch the last few drops of lukewarm gym-fountain water.

Or is she meditating in the woods?

Anyone recognize her? No, not Layla in the background.

Hmm.

Meanwhile, Summer Holiday is steaming some hams, and definitely not focusing on her workout.

Summer Holiday is too fucking stupid a name for anyone to deal with. This is coming from the person who names main characters in roleplaying games Plasenta and Sleeve, and whose closest childhood friend names things Wonka-Jhardley and Riceississucrississussississucriss (sp? Simister, help me out here).

In the 15 minutes Summer spends fixing her fishtail braid in the bathroom, she mentally chants her plan: start leaving, look downright surprised to see her neighbor in the same gym, fire off an “oh hello, Charlie, I didn’t see you there,” and casually mention either calcium channels or black holes, the two topics she landed on after a multi-day social media stalking binge. But as Charlie interrupts his conversation with the personal trainer to enthuse about action potentials, Summer realizes her lack of a fifth step. Maybe something like, haha, I didn’t know that about the lipid bilayer, want to discuss it over coffee sometime? She deliberates on what exact word choices would make her segue seem perfectly natural. Meanwhile, Charlie has already run off to make Ana smell worse.

Charlie approaches his confusion about adult relationships the same way he’s been taught to approach concepts in school: research. Simpedia returns no answers for the query “is there anyone out there for me,” but it does teach Charlie the concept of a meet-cute, which seems as good an experiment design as any.

According to Simpedia’s “List of Romantic Comedies,” 43% of meet-cutes happen in cafés. Of those 43%, 76% of those are in cafés which serve brunch. The closest brunch-serving café, a train ride to Windenburg away, is deserted on Charlie’s day off—so much so that the barista leaves his post to keep Charlie company.

According to Scrubs, which Charlie keeps hearing is the most realistic depiction of his job, he should be dating gorgeous actress number four by now. Yet the only people who show up to his promotion celebrations are either elderly, married, or Don Lothario, who is impeded by neither of those things.

According to Charlie’s mom, he’ll find someone, darling, don’t woooorrry, don’t rush it. How did she know the exact combination of words to make him even more impatient? With a sigh, he picks up the phone and texts his last resort. Not five minutes pass before his phone vibrates and a message from Shu appears, confidently stating THE CLUB DUMBASS.

Charlie ignores Shu’s twelve-text follow-up manifesto advising him to show his forearms, check to see who watches when he applies lip balm, and keep his expectations low so as not to seem desperate, and pulls the classiest thing he has out of his closet. What follows is a confusing night of not talking to anyone in particular. In the bright lights and loud noises, Charlie can’t even keep track of his own mood: is he confident about discovering aliens, or angry? Is he refreshed from the nap he took downstairs on the sofa, away from the pounding bass, or still exhausted? At least the vegetables he took from his mom’s garden were tasty.

This is why he didn’t want to listen, Shu

It took a few terrifying days for Charlie to realize that, ultimately, he lives at the gym. There’s only one other person who lives at the gym.

Anyone recognize her? No, not Layla in the background.

Of course! Crushed by the pressure to overachieve, Charlie had always been fascinated with (and a little jealous of) Ana’s ability to drop everything and run around barefoot in the woods. She was an enthralling conversational partner, perhaps the only person who experienced that sudden loss of breath, that weightless feeling when he stood alone in nature—and he realized that maybe, over time, this fascination had turned into a crush.

(Ana’s totally okay with this. Her high sex drive makes it difficult for her to detach from the physical world.)

There was something calming in the familiarity of her smell—earthy, probably from actual dirt—and Charlie realizes he didn’t have to try to connect with her at all.

Ana helps herself to the comfort of a real bed, UVB/C protection, and Claudia’s cooking before humming a mantra and vanishing into the trees.

But as alluring as Ana is, she’d never give up her principles for him. She prefers passively lurking in tall grass, leaving only to offer spiritual guidance when the opportunity presents itself, to traditional life milestones like marrying a doctor or living in a house.

So Charlie tries to distract himself by slipping into the monotony of treating the same 3 hypochondriacs and 5 people who let toddlers eat sand and cough on their faces.

Do alien ear canals have a different shape? Case is in here every other day, so Charlie should know by now, but he still keeps his anatomy book open to the Aliens section.

Over time, Charlie realizes he is beginning to internalize the intersection of his mom’s and Shu’s advice: stop trying to force things and just be. He just needed a nonzero amount of experience with dating to understood what that meant.

This is the context in which he finds himself at the karaoke bar in front of this uncomfortably-close-standing maiden.

Charlie’s butt might as well be a magnet

She introduces herself as Josephine Liu (no relation. There are other families with the last name Liu, y’know), advice columnist, but her real passion is gardening—she just loves feeling the wind in her hair—and spends most of her down time jogging around various parks. Charlie can’t believe his luck; he arrives home satisfied from going out for once, heart still pounding.

Joey-L was created by mcheng123, added to town years ago to, you guessed it, counteract Aileen’s Theorem.

He floats through the next day of treating the same eight people, seizing the next randomly generated party at his uncle’s husband’s former house as an opportunity to invite Josephine out again. Are they too similar? Who cares!

Aw, Claudia’s proud of him. Layla’s actually also here, as the bottom-right torso in the black tank top, glaring at this incompetent doctor who keeps wasting her time.

Jo returns Charlie’s interest, asking him out the next day on a date to Myshuno Meadows. The feeling to see each other again as soon as possible was apparently mutual, since both of them are enjoying the date, but complaining about how late it is, and keep going for the coffee. Charlie’s completely lost: he has feelings about Jo that he never had with Ana, and he’s known Jo for less than a week.

Years of hiking alone, fishing alone, crafting alone, social anxiety, doubts about his romantic future, whether a romantic future is truly what he wants: ignored. Overwritten.

Are they moving too fast? Who cares! Jo’s his girlfriend now, and she’s moving in!

Coincidentally, moving too fast is the theme of this week’s advice column.

Joey is a sweet, easygoing lady with infinite levels of chill. It’s easy to make her laugh, and easy to keep her entertained; though she does have the habit of yelping at odd times, which is off-putting at best. She has two brothers, one of whom is married to a man, and the other is likely possibly also married to a man. Charlie expands the garden for her, but doesn’t change much else: she’s already down with easy-to-clean ceramic tile and falling asleep under the stars. She even stares at the same Day of the Dead statue during meals. Charlie’s overjoyed to finally have someone around, and showers her with affection at every opportunity.

Charlie travels to his temporary lover’s gym-home to break the news about adorable Josephine. Ana’s good at living in the moment, so she should be able to take it lightly.

Like a champ. Except not really, because yoga is a noncompetitive personal spiritual practice.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s phone keeps blowing up with people who sound downright surprised he’s living with an actual Sim woman with whom he shares no relation.

“Is that the same message I sent you last week?”
“yeah i noticed u just started copy-pasting after elsa”

Such a miracle warrants a visit from The Patriarch. Mike walks into his son’s house with no greeting, no advance warning, not even a knock on the inside of the study door. Usually there’s a preamble before these sorts of things happen—but not for Mike, who shows up and has the rest of the world rearrange itself around him.

They’re both equally confused.

He vets out his oldest child’s date over a symbolic game of chess. Jo takes this as a casual game and keeps giggling when she loses pieces, while Mike is matching the intensity of a pseudo-intellectual using chess as a metaphor for how strategically ahead he is of every mindless sheep in existence. Everything looks easy when you can only perceive things in your favor. Mike, having based a non-negligible portion of his self-worth on being good at chess, wins handily, and likes her more for it. Success! Aside from the undertones of weirdass droit du seigneur garbage, you did good.

yeesh

Does this have to go catastrophically wrong in one of at least three different ways? Perhaps not yet. Charlie and Jo can stay in their honeymoon phase for now. Whatever happens when it ends, that’s anyone’s guess.

The Jeong-Espinosa Family: Everyone Gets Older Again, Which is a Vacuously True Statement Due to the Linear Passage of Time

(Shout-out to all the armchair physicists: throw your best title-inspired bastardization-of-Sturm-Liouville-Eigenvalue-Problems-or-generalized-coordinate-system Danger Zone “actually” theory at me in the comments. Aim to beat the current title-holder, a donation collector in front of a grocery store who responded to “I’m sorry; I don’t have the time right now,” with “Actually, Einstein proved time doesn’t exist.” Come on, it’ll be fun!)

We return from the anachronistic interlude (which was just ambiguous enough to avoid spoilers) to the Jeong-Espinosas as they were… seven months ago? There’s a bit of a backlog situation up in here.

Consider ‘The Lobster’:

If you encounter any problems, any tensions, any arguing, that you cannot resolve yourselves, you will be assigned children. That usually helps, a lot.

The Lobster

Haha! What a terrible idea!

Hector is a toddler, he looks just like every other toddler, dewy and unsullied by the trauma of being one of my Sims

Oh.

If you’re going to do something verboten like having a favorite child, you might as well be obvious about it

Before Hector was born, Claudia was wandering around in a juice-driven fugue state, incapable of distinguishing between her emotions or if she was having them at all. 0 A.H., everything is all gumdrops and lollipops in the Jeong-Espinosa household. The trauma of Charlie and Kendra has been washed away—and with it, the only source of conflict that was making the story interesting. Just look at the little angel!

If letting go of that which no longer serves you is self-care, Hector’s looking like a brand-spanking-new kombucha microbrewing kit and accompanying diverse array of bulk spices displayed in mason jars, Charlie a set of sweat-stained bedlinens lost in the crevice of a hallway closet, Kendra the packed, moved, re-packed, and unopened remnants of a long-forgotten hobby. (Mike is a deck boat taking up so much space in the garage that the car must be stored outside, exposed to the elements; the boat whose comprehensive two-item list of responsibilities is sitting under its $235 cover and gestating a diverse array of dust/rust patterns; the boat which might be useful someday, that it would be a shame to throw out. Claudia is the fridge.) In Hector, Claudia sees an opportunity to vicariously re-discover her own culture and passions, a Xiyuan : Shu relationship. Hector is the only one of his siblings to have been exposed to Spanish at a young age; the elder two can understand maybe 10%, mainly interjections and words that appear in ‘Despacito,’ of his conversations with Claudia.

Charlie and Kendra have each other, at least.

Charlie is reading Simister’s stories heyoooo

Or they may not, due to a sudden onset case of Gas & Giggles.

Why is ‘there, there’ a common idiom? Where did it come from? Who decided 2*there=comforting? These are the questions he is asking.

(For context, yes, Charlie was having a near-death encounter within the first few seconds of me opening the game. Claudia doesn’t know one of her sons almost died because she was too busy teaching the other to pee.)

#carpetpotty

Little Hector has little choice in osmosing his projected role, partly by repeated/consistent exposure to cooking-themed stimuli and partly because he already likes food, a universal character trait on par with enjoying music.

Liking The Office is a third. Someone please mod a personality trait that makes Sims speak only in Office references!

Here is another instance of the former. Observe these data (n=2) and extrapolate from it his ultimate fate:

The IRL version of that pan is 7 ft (2.1336 m) from me

We’re one step closer to figuring it out, because today’s his birthday!

Hector is designated Cheerful, because traits have so little effect on literally anything that he might as well get the most innocuous one. (Ex: Does anyone actually remember Claudia’s traits? But we do remember her nationality, destructive habits, fatal flaws and raison d’être.) Cheerful seems analogous to Claudia’s Goofball trait (that’s one!) but less annoying. He blossoms from his nondescript pudgy form to a stunning physical being, yet another example of how AI trying in earnest is much funnier than whatever visual joke a human could construct:

Kendra can only look on in envy.

He wants to be a goofy mama’s boy with an intentionally incoherent fashion sense? I’ll take it!

We’ve already established Hector as the only child who didn’t ruin Claudia’s life, but the relationship dynamic with his siblings is still up in the air. He has to find a place to exist between perfect mind, perfect body, perfectly normal Charlie and bizarre, obsessive Kendra: neither of them really seem to care about the special attention he gets from Mom, because they’re respectively living at the gym/drawing monsters at the art table nonstop.

This is a question to be answered later. First, Hector has to get acclimated to the irrational bureaucratic decisions made by the public school system. I didn’t even know it was possible to get an F grade on the first day.

Sim Congress has been working on this for five years. They’re holding a fourth meeting on Friday to establish what grades to assign directly after a child ages up.

“That’s our Hector,” Claudia thinks to herself,

(drinks from glass 1)

“achieving the impossible.”

(drinks from glass 2)

Charlie confronts his own version of the impossible, which involves putting poor Elsa in cringe’s way a third time.

With a RAM full of cell physiology and astronomy funfacts, and less in the way of applied talking-to-people skills, Charlie falls into the inevitable teenage-boy deathtrap of trying to assert his knowledge once Elsa reveals she’s already versed in said topics. (Just kidding! I’ve talked to men in their thirties, forties, fifties, who do this.) He launches into a textbook-perfect description of the mitochondrion before Elsa reminds him they were in the same biology class; in fact, they share every class together because there are like 30 people in the entire school. Unfazed, he starts explaining facts about his uniquely determined alternate topic of conversation before Elsa reveals she’s watched the same fucking Carl Sagan mini-series as he did, and 7 of the under-washed guys in A.V. club recently spent three grueling hours trying to convince her time doesn’t exist (a result of Einstein), mistaking her horror at this butchering of relativity/the act of classifying a function as time-reversible or time-invariant/the meaning of the word ‘existence’ for awe at the implications of their deep theories, so could he just not. Elsa isn’t afraid to bite back. That’s why she’s dating Shu!

whoa, Shu doesn’t count

We’re left playing dice with Charles’ romantic future—but that’s okay, because he’s redonk ahead in skilling. Charlie has already completed the Nerd Brain, maxing out both Logic (which is separate from Reason but excludes rhetoric, according to people on the internet) and Handiness, and somehow also Cooking and Fitness. Scooby skills say he was constantly hitting the gym while Asteya lived there, and has a propensity for autonomous cookbook reading.

ok, so she’s a bit older than you, but at least has a chance of having forgotten high school biology, so go about your usual approach
There’s nothing in this image that definitively proves this is the case, but this is a cookbook and he did start reading it on his own, trust me

Next, Kendra! Kendra isn’t falling victim to Middle Child Syndrome, because although Charlie is Mike’s favorite and Hector is (aggressively) Claudia’s favorite, Kendra is my favorite. She’s the coolest member of this family by several orders of magnitude. Kendra has no need or desire to adhere to the finite set of goals laid out for her, nor the core game mechanics, and is instead hacking her own path through bougie monotony and haunted underbrush. She mastered androgynous fashion, and spends all day drawing monsters on her table and talking to crunchy women who live in the forest, and that’s enough.

The implication they are seeing the same monster inspired some Sim psychologist’s dissertation

Here she is frying her little brain out with excitement (THE MONSTER IS BACK!!!) while Hector flips the eff out and goes to sleep in bed with Mommy. She sacrificed some dolls and shared a brief spiritual connection to/with the monster before falling asleep on the couch.

Then came the day when every other family in Newcrest was like, oh shit, it’s happening. Get in the fucking bunker, kids!

she didn’t age up until she drew enough monsters

Kenny J.E. evolves her obsession with monsters into an obsession for things that make people uncomfortable in general, and develops the default Espinosa aspiration, Master Mixologist. Not a single one of these aspirations is appropriate for her.

It’s difficult to find content (even custom content) that fits Kendra’s contemporary non-sexualizing pagan-punk aesthetic (did you know that at the time this was written, The Sims Resource has zero hits for ‘monsters’?). She’s settling for an eclectic mix of items that hints at something cohesive. In an ideal world? Skeletons. Tentacles. Torn shirts with fake glitter bloodstains. Cutting-edge shin-length tweed trenchcoats. Pewter rings made to take a man’s eyes out. Coffee tables made with vintage diving gear. On top: the Necronomicon. Underneath: stuffed animals, by Cyriak. Everything either looks like it’s concealing an abomination or melting.

Here’s what we did instead.

Let’s examine this outfit from the top down. On her head, a curly mohawk/beanie combo, followed by a milquetoast attempt at statement earrings (no hits for ‘earrings, deeply unsettling’ either) and the bold but time-consuming and error-prone half-purple, half-green everyday lipstick look. Moving inferior, the Socially Acceptable Cape outfit rounded out by a pre-CC-spree attempt at Docs w/o socks. Her Party outfit features Día de Muertos makeup; her formalwear, metallic black lipstick.

Now the room.

Unfinished and unwelcoming walls and floors, except for the one post-bed section of wall begging to be fed some hands! Sculptures! Inexplicable knife displays! Mysterious chests! Year-round Halloween decorations! Skull bedding! Statement curtains! Her own minibar! Giant steampunk cat growing dungeon candles out of its forehead! A bit vampire-y, but please recall my documented decorating/prose aptitude ratio. It is low. Only one person’s opinion matters here, and it appears to be generally pro-. That swagger!

Two teens in the household means two identities to establish; Charlie and Kendra know who they are, and we know who they are, but the neighborhood may not. There’s also the issue of sexual identity. The Sims 4 does this bizarre thing with sexual identity where, instead of being fixed, everyone starts out as attracted to 100% male and 100% female, s.t. the sum of male and female attraction percentage is not preserved, but takes on an integer value in the range 0-200. The percentages change if the Sim has romantic interactions with one gender or the other, you know, how it works in real life.

I’d put an \s at the end of that last statement, but trust anyone with the patience to get through this fucking thing to pick up on that. Also, that any young’uns reading are exposed to 30 SAT-ass words before the first “fuck” drops.

So to fix this, we head out to pluck regularly-distributed individuals from the conveyer belt sushi spread that is the dirt path adjacent to Magnolia Promenade. Here, Charlie and Kendra demonstrate two diametrically opposite interpretations of the phrase ‘acing it.’ C’mon, Charlie, this is Cruz! Cruuuuuz!

Usually the mere mention of Cruz is enough rile him up. It’s unclear what’s happening.

In fact, Kendra is acclimating well to puberty, and is splattering hormones all over the place. She’s not the worst offender; that honor belongs to the boy under the douchey shades. It’ll be a tough couple of weeks keeping her out of his basin of attraction.

Note also that she got her 4th Charisma skill point shortly after Charlie’s 5th.

Kendra’s other childhood friend, Wyatt, is at the opposite end of the steezy scale, but remains one of her closest confidants. He’s weird-weird instead of cool-weird, and she respects that. He invites her and crew to his birthday party—

—which is being held at an empty lot. Fabulous. Kendra’s handler spends some quality time with Buy/Build mode to slap together this effortlessly planned, in the sense of putting zero effort, kid’s birthday utopia.

nahhhh don’t make an attempt to align things, it’ll be fine

Wyatt wanted to have a postmodern “possibility”-themed birthday party; what screams endless possibility better than an empty lot? By the time Kendra et al. roll in, it is ruined with fridges, and bathrooms, and arcade machines, and things. The symbolism died so the party could live. Why Wyatt’s parents hired a caterer to show up to what they expected to be an empty lot, I’m not sure.

Post-meddling, the birthday boy immediately shoots up 2 feet and drops as many vocal octaves as his military haircut balloons into magnificent curls. He retains his Childishness, and aptly opts for Kleptomaniac as his second trait, explaining why he stole 30 minutes of my life to make his party not suck. Jerk. Let’s find our inner David Attenborough voices and use this as a learning experience.

Open-air. Pink. Haphazard. What seems to be a formerly empty lot is grounds for a ritual of the First-World Teenager, a ritual that occurs at the same time every year. Half-dozens of Teenagers gather at this once-plain site in a celebration of welcoming one of their own.

The newly inducted Teenager halts his participation in the ritual as he surveys his domain. He has yet to develop the characteristics that distinguish his subspecies: ennui, B.O., snark, and indiscriminate infatuation. This is a treasured moment: the entrance into a new stage of life, a stage he shall leave in only three weeks’ time.

The female decorated in floral patterns appears to be a friend of his. And yet, after the ritual happens, something has changed. His bright red boots have caught her eye, perhaps, and she is now aware of the possibility to initiate courtship. However, she abandons this thought almost immediately, turning her attention instead to the rousing stimulus known as an ‘arcade machine.’ Better luck next time, little Teenager.

A stray Child, marked by his carefree obliviousness and bright plumage, has wandered into this gathering of Teenagers unnoticed. The Child is a nuisance to the Teenagers, a drain on their resources, both material and social, and a source of unwanted noise. Yet this particular Child, camouflaged as a particularly enthusiastic participant in the dance portion of the ritual, escapes unnoticed by even the most watchful eye.

A lone orange straggler wanders away to arrange some nearby sticks. Why, even the Child is better integrated into this pack! One can only hope this individual has withdrawn himself by choice, and is not the victim of the social isolation often enforced by his peers.

And finally, a rare display of conscientiousness. The Teenager can often be distinguished from similar groups by their lack of forethought, so the sight of one such act in the wild of is a riveting sight indeed. And so concludes our brief glimpse into the life of the Teenager.

Enough of that!

The party ends, presumably with Hector still on the dance floor and Shu stuck in an infinite loop of picking the Don’t Wake the Llama sticks off the floor as Charlie knocks them over, and Kendra unable to decide whether she has a crush on anyone and, if so, whom. Wyatt shows about the amount of gratitude you’d expect.

Can just one of you have good taste in friends? Please?

Meanwhile, the O.G. Jeong-Espinosas are too busy being adorable to remind Charlie to shower. Even Mike is acting remotely redeemable!

He’s real stoked to be hugging his wife! How cute!

If not a bit swirly and competitive. Still! Cute!

Before everything changes, in preparation for future nostalgia, we experience one last normal morning in the Jeong-Espinosa household.

Claudia wakes up at 3 AM and heads for the drinks that Kendra stayed up late making. New blood develops skills. Old blood keeps the juice from spoiling.

Fun game: find the totally unintentional feature of this screenshot that scared the shit out of me

Charlie, Kendra and Hector wake up at around 5-6 AM and graze on the 40 plates of food their mom just leaves around the house. Hector demonstrates an Elsa-esque dearth of fucks.

Breakfast: glitter cake

The children leave for school; Claudia leaves Kendra’s bar for the downstairs bar. Mike astounds everybody with his enthralling ability to work out, listen to music and look at a room divider at the same time.

Why this morning? Why now?

The eldest is now ready to move on! Charlie aged less violently than Wyatt, but was secretly hoping to immediately shoot through the ceiling with foot-long dreads. Instead, he realizes his Athleticism and continues on his search for answers.

At the time of aging up, Charlie had 6 skills maxed out: Cooking, Fishing, Fitness, Handiness, Logic, and Rocket Science; he had 0 romantic interests. He tends to use the microscope more often than other Sims. His favorite colors are green and orange.

we just accepted this is how claudia is now

Charlie has changed in the few minutes since becoming an adult. Maybe it was because Don’t Wake the Llama was hidden in the family inventory, or excitement from being recognized for something out of his control, but he isn’t running at the threat of human contact this time. He also inherited his dad’s pecs.

Wyatt leaves early. Whatever, he was only invited to witness the merits of holding a party on a lot with actual stuff on it.

Mornings like the ones we just saw will never happen again, Charlie is moving on, yada yada, other writers have captured this bittersweetness in more detail and not on a Sims blog. Sunrise, sunset! So we end on a surprisingly optimistic note, wondering how a sans-Charlie J.E. household will operate, and—

—nah, Mike made a 90 degree turn away from the fridge to go outside before getting a glass of water and got abducted.

His first action upon his return to Earth is to brag about being abducted on social media. Classic Mike.

got probed again!!!!!! lol

Next time: how many Simstagram followers will Mike get for filling Hector’s closet with cream cheese?

Claudia! Duck!

“Dad, you’re sure messing with Mom’s kitchen is a good idea?”

“We’re not going to mess with her kitchen,” Mike justified, “she is.”

Mike had been planning his 35th anniversary prank for ages. Charlie was lured under the guise of installing pressure sensors on the robot vacuum, but he was really the bait: Claudia wouldn’t let him leave without ten containers of empanadas. And when she finished—wham! Glitter and duckies everywhere.

He made one last attempt to assuage Charlie. “Besides, it’s reversible. We’ll have a good laugh and help her clean up.” The front door creaked. “Oh! She’s coming inside. Act natural!”

Claudia, still humming, headed to the bar for her post-gardening juice. Mike had set up after her post-exercise, post-shower, and pre-gardening juices, and it paid off: she didn’t notice the elaborate setup in her kitchen, even the gigantic tub of duckies. She only noticed Charlie.

“Mijo!!’ she emoted, trapping him in an affectionate hug.

“Mom—“

“Let me make you some food. Now tell me: to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Mom—“

“No, no, no, no, let me feed you. It’s my job,” Claudia interrupted, punctuating the end of her sentence by throwing wide the fridge door.

The holiday lights fell, pushing a toy truck into the crates, transferring momentum to an angle bar.

“Fine, mom.”

“I want to hear all about your beautiful new job,” she enthused, knife in hand, “and your beautiful new house…”

While Claudia kept prefacing potential conversation topics with the same two modifiers, Mike gave Charlie an encouraging nod: keep letting her love you. It’s distracting!

The bar nudged a hanging display of pans, the last of which hid a small weight. It fell into the scale, knocking over the menus like dominoes.

Charlie’s younger brother Hector walked by. “Hey, guys, I’m going to my room to do my homework,” he announced, heading to his room to do his homework.

The menus dislodged a precariously balanced tray, one corner of which was lodged in a spice rack.

“Willow Creek is wonderful. It’s peaceful out there.”

“How nice!!”

The spice rack spun counterclockwise, pulling a string connected to the sink tap. Mike’s plan had reached its antepenultimate step. Charlie stalled as he waited for the sink to fill and drop more duckies in the bucket. “How about you? How’s Hector?”

“Hector has been looovely, helping me cook,” here she emphasized the word ‘lovely’ by pirouetting across to the kitchen island near Charlie. As she turned, her arm knocked the wooden mallard too early, releasing the string around its neck from a tarp on the ceiling. Glitter and duckies rained over Claudia’s kitchen. Mike could only watch his brilliant contraption being ruined by the one factor he couldn’t control.

“Ahhhhhh!!!!” Claudia squealed. “Pranking! I love it! I love it!”

Mike tried to hide his annoyance. “Hun,” he pleaded, “I spent days engineering this, and you just wrecked it in two seconds.”

Claudia sank as the joy left her body.

“Sorry, love,” she mumbled, brushing glitter off the countertop with her arm.

“Mom, c’mon,” Charlie pleaded. “Let me get that.”

Mike kept venting. “It was going to be so good! When the mallard dropped, I was going to yell ‘Claudia! Duck!'” Claudia kept her head down. The robot vacuum hit her in the foot. “You always do this.”

Just then, Hector reappeared, stifling giggles. “Surprise, Mom and Dad! I said I was going to do homework, but I was actually texting my friends! Psyche!”

He beamed at his family members, who were clearly caught speechless by his ruse.

That’s how you pull off a prank, folks.”


So! Now that the contest is over, I can reveal who the fool in this story really was. If you’ve spent enough time trying to figure it out for yourself, feel free to read the explanation here. Thanks to everyone who read and voted! And hey—if you enjoyed this, and can tolerate black humor/profanity/Yoga-Sutra-and-math-inspired philosophy/an author who maybe admires David Foster Wallace’s style a bit too much, please consider giving Catastrophe Theory a shot. Enjoy your day, y’all.

The Creation of A Legend

Small children are claiming to see a woman wandering the parks at night.

Some say she lives in Sylvan Glade. They say her clothes, mat, and stool are her sole possessions, and she only takes from nature what she needs to survive. They say she devotes 16 hours each day to burning off tapas. They say she’s incapable of anger. Regulars at the Perfect Balance speak of her personal practice in hushed whispers.

There are a few Sims who know her better. They say she sleeps at the gym, smells funky, and has one pair of Sanuks that she breaks out at formal events.

Others compare her to another Sim, Nicolette Fenton, who went missing after completing an Ayurveda training in Sim-dney. These people also say things like “Have you seen her?” and “Is she still alive? Oh god, Nicolette!” We don’t listen to those people because they’re not fun.

We can confirm only a handful of details about this mysterious figure.

She’s picturesque!

She’s particularly fond of Kendra!

Kendra loves the smelly forest lady

She’s not interested in being celibate.

Definitely not!

She spits in the face of propriety.

Also, some of her spit is probably on the toilet.

And lastly, she is acquainted with—holy hell, who is that absolute unit?

Is that Charlie?

Although, as pictured, she really does prefer Kendra.

Above all, she is a Sim whose devotion drove her to reject even agriculture, that first great separation of man from nature, to fight the injustice she herself has caused.

If you focus long enough, enough to quiet the gossip, the speculation, the lies and untruths, you may learn a name, filtered through the roots and grass, carried by each grain of pollen, vibrating with the nitrogen in the air, from a non-space that exists outside of space itself,

(or, if that’s inaccessible, by asking someone at Perfect Balance,)

Ana Asteya.

And that which is holy in her recognizes that which is holy in you.

The Jensen-Liu Family: The One Habit of Highly Permissive Parents

When we last visited Aileen and Shu, they were both on a quest for self-discovery, and ended up discovering other people along the way.

In fact, this mother-son duo plays a certain game-within-a-game so often, we named it: the Sleepover Standoff. The rules are simple. Sim families can only have one additional partner stay overnight at a time. Should there, hypothetically, be two Sims with extrafamilial romantic interests, it can come down to the wire on whomever asks first, or whose date interrupts the conversation for a pleasant jog around the neighborhood. Thankfully, this implementation only has two players.

Player One: beautiful, successful, invigorated Aileen—she of sound body, mind, and spirit—is recovering spectacularly, thankyouverymuch. She has reinvented herself thrice over; everything that does not serve her is gone, and everything remaining is an act of self-love. She can even have a civil conversation with Bernard. Sometimes, in the few moments between running between the office and the gym, thoughts surface like no one ever loved you or you’re going to die alone, but once Aileen’s brain gets something to focus on—poof! Gone. If she gets enough juicy endorphins during the day, she can quiet them long enough to pass out. Even so, it’s better than not sleeping at all.

In addition, while Aileen’s working pec minor, receiving critical acclaim for her Middle Earth romance novel series, giving TED Talks on how to be a motivational speaker, and experiencing samadhi, there’s something she’s not doing.

Watching Shu. (Player Two.)

In all fairness, Shu is a model kid. He comes home, does his homework right away, cooks, cleans, practices instruments, and goes to bed. There’s no harm in leaving himself to fend for himself for a couple hours while Aileen goes to the gym, or works on her next novel. It’s a bit worrying that he has a girlfriend—


*chanteleports behind you*

—who wasn’t there a second ago. Chantel just materialized next to Shu, and, judging by the look in her eyes, he’s on the Popcorn setting and should be done in 1 minute 39 seconds.

Fine; you get your date.

What’s up with her dress, though

Aileen takes the opportunity to chaperone. Nothing inappropriate can happen when Mom’s around!

Maybe it’s cute he has a little girlfriend already. What does Aileen have to worry about? They’re young and inexperienced. They’re probably going to send each other kiss emojis, or share a milkshake at the sock hop. It’s not like—

CHANTEL. GIRL. CHEESE ENCRUSTED RICE.

Let’s review the story so far. Three days, two dates, and Chantel decides “yep, he’s the one.” This is a crap idea for non-simulated humans. Chantel, though, she’s a Sim, and thus subject to Aileen’s Theorem.

Theorem 1 (Aileen’s Theorem): Let T be a town; there are no good men in T. (Proof outline: Take your best girlfriends to brunch and order a lot of mimosas.)

From Chantel’s perspective, Shu’s looking like a counterexample. She lives in a world where unlimited fame and fortune hang mere inches from the ground, ready to be plucked by anyone with an iota of motivation, but most people prefer to watch their opportunities fall and rot. Place yourself, a teenage girl, in this world, and suppose you run into a cute boy who dares follow this linear path to success. He is closer than anyone you have ever met to achieving the dreams everyone has, but that no one bothers to pursue. He has done more as a young teenager than most Sims will before they’re taken by the Reaper. He has the answer. He is the answer. What do you do? Lock him down. Immediately.

In short, he may turn out to be a polyamorous disaster, but she saw him first.

Her parents also don’t ask a lot of questions when she doesn’t come home.

During the course of a normal day, Aileen usually exercises and works on a book, Shu goes to school, and one or both of them do something else. Today’s something else is Xiyuan suddenly remembering he has shared custody and Shu enthusing about trains over cards with his recently-resurrected new stepfather.

Xiyuan can’t poker face for shit

Shu uses these visits to make sure his dads are properly sanitizing the bathroom cabinet handles and doorknobs. Also, all the crevices on the mirror are so fun to polish!

ugh, square-toed shoes, what was i thinking

We can at least clear up one mystery about Xiyuan and Bernard, which is why they have a second bedroom in their apartment. It’s Shu’s room.

The painters wandered the house while Shu slept, demonstrating the stark contrast between the painstakingly crafted actions dictated by a type-A supernerd creator who considers time management a hobby and the “does anyone know how to adulting lol” impulses of the AI. In case anyone reading this still demonizes Bernard and/or makes fan content implying he abused Mimsy or killed her on purpose, here he is eating cereal-O’s:

This is not the face of a man who cackled while his wife burned in a fire. This is the face of a man who wandered downstairs at 3 AM to fix himself a bowl of cereal-O’s.

Luckily for these disasters, Shu fixed the sink and cooked them a proper breakfast before he left for school.

The bubble blower is an odd object. If someone uses the bubble blower, all Sims in a 10-foot radius drop everything to denounce them for using it, even if they are using it themselves at the exact same moment. Shu knows public shaming goes best with a snack. That, or he’s very curious about blowing bubbles himself.

Pretend the curry is popcorn. Come to think of it, why does this universe have a bubble blower hookah AND bubble solution for kids? What are we teaching our youth?!

Charlie is also at this outing, because it’s Shu’s job to get Charlie out of the house. Shannon is here for obvious reasons. Aileen wasn’t invited, but she came anyway because this outing could turn into a date, and she definitely needs to be there for that.

Only one thing to do!

Ooh, shiny! A multistep moodlet!

Ultimately, this turned out to be a friendly outing, and nothing interesting happened besides basketballs refusing to obey the laws of matter. Shu took Chantel out the next day on a pool date.

I like to think of random outfits like this: it’s 2012, and “Thrift Shop” just came out. Anyone want some used swim trunks?

He doesn’t typically go to the pool, and the autonomous demographic choices might help explain why. Today we have one normal guy, one kid, one alien, two teenagers, and five old ladies with the same haircut.

Chantel at least got the attention she deserved.

After she finally left, Shu took the opportunity to fix something that was bothering him.

Now the real fun can start!

Meanwhile, Aileen’s mind-grapes are working full throttle on the Bestselling Author aspiration. Working on the Bestselling Author aspiration looks like this:

friend died, but that was a pretty good meal

At least she doesn’t have a blog. There’s something uniquely dystopian about watching a Sim playing a computer game, or watching a Sim blog while you, yourself, are gathering content for your own Sims blog. If my escapist fantasy were watching someone use a computer for 8 hours, I would have secret cameras in my office and bedroom.

The sharp Xiyuan-mincing edges of Aileen’s writing had dulled. Rather than grinding the axe, her essays focused on the little joys of life (look at how shiny this handcrafted axe is!), about living in the moment, about the benefits of stopping to just BREATHE. She led by example, waking up each day to a perfect balance of exercise, creative work, socialization, outdoor time, macronutrients, and gratitude for the universe.

To make up for the lack of Aileen pictures, she appears here twice

Balance. What is balance? If you want to balance on your right leg, you first become aware of the right foot, distributing your body weight evenly along the heel, ball, arch, and outer foot. You then connect the muscles in your foot to your center of gravity, activating a line of connective tissue that travels through the calf, knee, quadricep, hamstring, to the muscles of the low back, the spine, the core. You then allow your left toes to lift off the ground, shifting the small muscles in your right foot to counteract small perturbations in your stance, never drawing awareness away from the connection between the right side of the body and the ground. Balancing is rewarding, invigorating, one of the best ways to hone mental focus—and the best part is, anyone can learn it.

Except if they’re missing a right leg.

What if someone were missing a right leg, and no one noticed? What if everyone around them were acutely aware of their failure to balance, and kept feeding them platitudes based on inapplicable experience? (“Just balance, it’s easy, watch!”) What if they saw other people who were crashing slowly start to get better, until their posture was indistinguishable from the naturals, while they continued to fall every time? What if, despite their best efforts, they were still missing something fundamental, something everyone assumed they already had? What if they had deeply internalized the idea that anyone can learn to balance, so it became a part of themselves, and became convinced that their failure to learn was, in fact, their fault?

So how do we tell who can learn to balance and who can’t?

Here’s someone who can’t answer that question. Derrick.

If there’s one thing we do know, it’s that people who spend decades practicing balance can claim expertise. Legless or not.

What’s that lil’ rascal up to?

Shannon has the second-most chemistry with Shu. Her traits are Vegetarian and Hot-Headed: not ideal, but the Vegetarian one gives her frequent gas, which is at least accurate. Hot-Headed is a fantastic trait for one of your girlfriends to have if you’re planning on dating several people at once.

Whatever! Teenagerhood isn’t the time for measured sexual decisions.

Shu politely asked Shannon if she wanted to mess around, which she responded to by grabbing him and fucking slamming him against the closet with a tremendous thud. So, uh, enthusiastic consent, check! The door closes, the half-ton coat house is ripped from its wall reinforcements as it shakes uncontrollably, and, at one point, enough force is applied to leave a Shu-shaped dent in the wooden doors. Ten minutes of hearts and fireworks (so many fireworks!) was little reassurance after 50 minutes of Shu being flung around like a ragdoll. Which suggests, oh god, Hot-Headed people are his type.

This will end well.

In what is possibly the dirtiest, most explicit thing I have seen in a Sims game, Shu left the closet and immediately washed his hands.

We’re going to visit Shannon at her house, because she, uh, she seems fun.

I don’t understand the Bheeda household. It’s a premade playable household claiming “Jesminder and Arun Bheeda have a baby on the way… something something wacky hijinks that can ensue as a result.” So if they knew they were having a baby why do they have only one fucking bed

Why does she wear glasses when she sleeps, but not when she’s awake?

A red relationship-minus-minus sign appeared over Shu’s head while he was sleeping. It might have been from Shannon’s dad, who seems to not like Shu for some reason.

Shu eventually returns home to his first love. Homework never really left his to-do list, it just took a backseat to several people.

Shu’s current outfit is a conservative cardigan rolled up to reveal his tattoo sleeves, and he’s outwardly charismatic but just wants to do homework when he’s alone. Business on the outside, party on the inside! But also secretly business on the inside! Party in the middle! Everyone’s invited.
Elsa is a Genius. She knows exactly what she’s doing.

Elsa was the first girl Shu tried to flirt with, and he just… didn’t. He stared off into space for O(10) minutes before walking two steps away and cancelling the interaction.

Seven Charisma points, two girlfriends, the Great Kisser reward trait, and two surprisingly violent hookups later, he is barely recognizable as the same person and puts the moves on her right away.

Derrick’s also here. Know what that means? It’s time for the inaugural…

SLEEPOVER STANDOFF!!!

Aileen and Derrick take the early lead, or they would if the Sleepover Standoff were an actual race, which it isn’t.

It’s always a good sign if your partner leaves your house during a date to jog around the neighborhood.

Aileen has the advantage of being able to ground Shu, which—oh wait, nope.

Player One: 0. Player Two: 1.

Derrick is showing his true colors. We know he never misses leg day, because that’s what he does instead of talking to Aileen. When he remembers his girlfriend exists, crossfit funfacts surge endlessly from the protein-shake-hole on his smug punchable face. He traded in his sexy uniform for size XXS Bikram yoga shorts and a backwards hat from the 90’s.

I’m so sorry, Aileen.

She also wears glasses while sleeping! What is this?

Maybe Shu actually does have the answer. By this point, Aileen is out of everyone’s league. She can’t get what she wants without doing some juggling of her own.

There wasn’t a table near Elsa, so Shu sat on the floor to do his homework near her. Awwww.

Props to Elsa, though. Shu got up early to make her pancakes, and her reaction was “why would I want pancakes when there’s a perfectly good lava cake right here?” So Shu ate his pancakes while Elsa had chocolate cake for breakfast. She’s a genius.

“Dad, you’re one girlfriend behind.”

This installment ends at the biannual meeting of community instrumentalist club Mr. Liu’s Play Big and Jam (PB&J). Shu was invited to take the last available slot (BECAUSE NEPOTISM) and starting a club gathering will stop everyone from whining, so here we are.

While Shu engages with an actual line of adult women waiting to talk to him (are there any police in this town? Hello? Hello?), Aileen has a coincidental stroke of luck.

It’s Matt Stevenson! Matt (Romantic, Bookworm, … something), created by emmajayne72, is another soul who moved to town long ago to counteract the effects of Aileen’s Theorem. Aileen went on one date with him, but he was kind of salty, so she gave up and moved to Derrick.

Maybe Aileen’s “soulmate” hinges on an appreciation of variety, an assorted set of men whose strengths and weaknesses balance each other out in a beautiful rainbow of diversity.

Or maybe she’s hopping around on one leg.

Next: Aileen and Shu rack up the partner count until everyone is uncomfortable.