(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!
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.
Or they may not, due to a sudden onset case of Gas & Giggles.
(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.)
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.
Here is another instance of the former. Observe these data (n=2) and extrapolate from it his ultimate fate:
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:
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.
“That’s our Hector,” Claudia thinks to herself,
“achieving the impossible.”
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, the O.G. Jeong-Espinosas are too busy being adorable to remind Charlie to shower. Even Mike is acting remotely redeemable!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next time: how many Simstagram followers will Mike get for filling Hector’s closet with cream cheese?