Love Day, Actually

“The first thing one notices about this piece is the juxtaposition of the smooth curves of the truncated spheroid with the hard lines of its central Platonic solid.”

Chantel put both hands on the table to interrogate the candle at eye level. Diametrically opposite, her boyfriend was making the same face he made when they watched a documentary about the Antarctic last week, an expression that tried to look like intense intellectual focus but came off more as James Bond catching yet another new female love interest in a game of eye-contact chicken across a crowded room. “An all-encompassing heavenly dome encases a playfully minimalist rendition of a stucco dot on the Tuscan countryside.” Shu snorted from behind his tented fingers. “But what it really juxtaposes is the illusion of stasis with the constancy of change. From the core of the cream-colored figure, a wick gives life to a tuft of flame. Making it like a mother figure, signifying the connection between life and pain, slowly melting as its load burns. Yet the flame only travels upward, ignorant of the harm it causes its source. The sole window between its prison and the outside world is placed in the path of ascendance, signifying hope, escape. It flickers upward, forever yearning, even as it is tethered by its very source of nourishment. But the opening is so small, and the flame’s will for survival so great, it would take an object merely the size of a quarter to suffocate the reacher in the smoke of its own hubris, and with it, extinguishing all light, all hope. In conclusion, given the usage of combustible mixed media in this piece, this is meant to evoke the story of the flame’s destruction on a larger scale: the consequences of global warming.”

“Well?” She looked to Shu for approval, who couldn’t answer because he was nearly shoving his napkin into his mouth to muffle his laughter.

“You’re done?”

“Yep.”

Given that human flirting is organic and subtle, anytime these guys perform one of their whack-’em-with-a-giant-cartoon-hammer interactions like “Compliment Appearance,” I think of the hours spent poring over the perfect combination of words to capture the viewer’s appreciation of Nicki Minaj’s secondary sexual characteristics

“You’re not going to go on an eight-minute rant about global warming? Because that’s what my dad would do here.”

“Nope.”

“Holy crap that was too real.” Chantel beamed at Shu’s praise. “Maybe not the opening; he doesn’t really mix the flowery speech with the technical speech, he’s good at keeping that separate. After that? I think I need to go home because I’m on a date with my actual freaking dad.”

“Nah-no. Tell me what was good about it.”

“Tuscany was spot-on. I think it’s in his contract to mention one random-ass rustic town in literally everything.”

“Yeah! I had to bust that out early so I wouldn’t forget it.”

“And the eight leaps of logic it took to get to global warming. Like, it’s already hot. It’s a fucking candle.”

“True.” Chantel watched Shu scanning the room for the next mundane object to get the Xiyuan treatment; they’d have time for maybe one more before their food arrived. She noticed his jacket tightening around his biceps as he stabilized himself on the chair, the shape of his fully lengthened neck as he twisted himself to pick something in her field of vision. She loved when he stretched out to look at something behind him. If today were the day she thought it would be, she needed to remember every detail in order to consolidate the most romantic and timeless ones in the announcement to their families. Family. This, she wanted to remember for herself. The game they played to pass the time at restaurants, though not intended as mean-spirited, also probably wouldn’t make the cut.

“It smells so good in here,” she said, “it looks like the restaurant scene in Legally Blonde.” Shu turned back around, officially puzzled. “This had better not turn out like the restaurant scene in Legally Blonde.”

Shu, whose knowledge of Legally Blonde barely extended beyond major plot elements and the lead actress’s name, and that if he needed information beyond those two things, like in a trivia contest, he could ask Chantel; she had the storyboards and hundreds of lines of dialogue down cold, referenced them in conversations that flew over his head even, anyway he realized the scene she was referencing was the one where Reese Witherspoon put on a hot pink dress jizzed all over with black silly string, a look he felt wasn’t commensurate to the implied effort put into choosing it, and broke down in a restaurant because she was expecting a proposal and was broken up with instead. At a fancy restaurant. Where her boyfriend took her to break up. He chose to do that.

“No, of course not.” He took both her hands. “I would never leave you. You know I’m here for good.” And if he weren’t, he still avoided doing stupid shit like airing out his personal drama in public.

That wasn’t the part she’d meant.

Shu sensed that another moment of silence would send his girlfriend into a doubt spiral. He pulled out his backup distraction. “You wanna know what happened the last time I was here?”

“Uh, sure?”

“Ok, it’s funny. The last time I was here, I saw Claudia. Ok so first of all she shows up in her normal sweater, realizes this is a fancy restaurant and all, and just like spin-changes. In the hallway.”

“Yeah?”

“Then, and I shit you not, she sat down with Charlie and Jo and Jasper and, I shit you not, took out a plate of empanadas. And then she started eating that before the food even came out.”

“The heck? What did the restaurant do?”

Behind Chantel and to her right, the waitress descended the steps, balancing on one hand a tray of what could plausibly be their food. Shu gave her a brief nod of acknowledgement before turning back to his girlfriend.

“They had to ask her to clear the table before they could bring out anyone’s food. Not just her’s, anyone’s. Then after the meal was done, and again for the last time I shit you not, she took a second empanada out of her bag and started eating that.”

“Actually?”

“No shit she actually did that.*”

Chantel could have gone on for a few more rounds of this—justified, since Shu couldn’t substantiate his claim—but noticed someone else was drawing his attention. It was the waitress, who’d almost managed to put Chantel’s plate directly in front of her before she knew what was happening.

“For the lady, the Savory Bacon Love Petals. What an excellent choice to celebrate this romantic holiday! Paired with a Simsmapolitan. For the gentleman, the Vanilla Sea Shells and Chocolate Caviar, one of our signature molecular gastronomy dishes. We use liquid nitrogen to make the chocolate caviar, and yes, the glitter is edible. Paired with the house white.” She looked over her shoulder. “And Sir, I ask you to please refrain from swearing. There are children present.”

There was one child, ten feet out of earshot and singularly focused on picking her water glass up and putting it down in different places to create rings of condensation on the tablecloth. Shu waved to her. She didn’t look up from twisting the glass. “He’s really good with kids,” Chantel told the waitress, who didn’t ask. “We have names picked out and everything.”

“That’s fantastic,” the waitress said, pulling a word out of the mental bag of adjectives she used to describe information she had no use remembering. “Have a wonderful Love Day dinner.” No sooner had she turned away that her plastered-on work smile broke to reveal the relaxed-facial-muscle frown of Love Day exhaustion.

“Ah, this looks too pretty to eat,” said Chantel, readjusting the napkin on her lap. “I knew when I read the name, that I had to get it.”

Either this is half a second before Chantel’s Simsmapolitan splashed all over her face, or gravity isn’t a thing here. Sim physicists are stuck studying at most three fundamental forces and making ray guns, and Sim elementary school students have a slightly harder time coming up with science fair projects.

Taking the first bite at Chez Llama was impossible without first convincing oneself the art on one’s plate was actually food to begin with, then making peace with oneself for having the gall to destroy it. It was a process which, for most Sims, took several minutes. Chantel was the first to break her bacon petals—was the bacon the meat-stick-looking thing, or the petals?—and the object-focused meditation. “So why’d you get dessert for dinner?”

“I don’t fucking know. They only let me order one thing at a time, and it looked good.”

She played with the garnish. “So. Remember the first day we met?” Into her mouth it went. Damned if she was letting any of this meal go to waste. “I’ll never forget it. I was at the park when I heard this gorgeous, transcendent violin music. And I followed it straight to you.”

“Yeah, thank my dad for that. I was really into violin at the time.” Shu was trying to figure out whether it was only the glitter that was edible, or if the beglittered tombstones holding the chocolate caviar in place were also edible. “And how could I forget? You were the first person I’d seen react to my playing like that. You were so passionate, I can see it in your eyes even now.” He wiped some of the glitter on the tablecloth, which would never be the same again. Glitter is eternal.

“And you’d been kind of shy around girls before, right?”

“I couldn’t figure out what to do. You made things easy, that’s for sure.”

“And you asked me to go to the Spice Festival, and I was freaking out. It was so perfect.” Chantel used ‘freaking out’ here to convey her state of euphoria at finally getting her own love story, but her partner interpreted it as describing her reaction, which was shutting down like she was in front of a firing squad and forcing out a multisyllabic “yesssss” after several very stressful seconds. The pillow-grabbing leg-kicking excitement only came out at Marielle’s sleepover party. Marielle pouted through most of the boy talk; she was hoping they would stay up all night playing retro games instead.

“That’s when I asked you to be my girlfriend. Babe, you’re amazing. I love you.”

“I love you too. And after that, I didn’t see you for a couple days. I kept going back to the basketball court, hoping you would be there. Then one day, you were.”

This was new information to Shu, who thought it was a coincidence. “Yeah, and I had to take you out then, didn’t I? That’s when you busted out the promise rings.”

“I knew. By that time, I knew.”

“That’s one of the reasons I love you. You have excellent taste.” And Charlie had been concerned they were moving too fast. If he needed evidence against it being a rash teenage decision, it was in front of his face. Eight years** and they were still together. What then? It was possible he just didn’t like Chantel. He’d called her a stalker. Why? It was plausible for them to run into each other sometimes. She lived in Spice Market, and she only started showing up in Newcrest after they started dating. If someone at the club used the words Charlie did to describe her, words like ‘codependent’ and ‘obsessive’ and ‘Borderline,’ Shu would have punched them in the face with the next beat drop. And let’s not forget that this is Charlie, for whom codependency probably meant talking to your wife more than once every three days. True love is intense. He’d never get it.

“That’s about when you started sleeping with everyone.”

“Yep! And thank you again for the permission.”

“It’s so those other girls know what they’re missing,” she said, cradling her glass in her hand. “I have what everyone wants.”

“Body, mind, and soul.” A spectator had taken Shu’s unfinished plate and was eating it as they watched the conversation. Shu didn’t react. “So I’m skipping ahead to when we moved in together after the stuff with my dads didn’t work out. That’s when you started getting serious about becoming a musician.”

“And you started teaching me. I love the way you teach. You’re so intense when you get into it. Plus, I’m getting good. Do you hear how good I’m getting?”

“You’re doing amazing, babe,” he responded, wondering if Chantel noticed he always stopped working by the time she got home. Unless she was out of the house, she could request lessons at any time of day. She often did. Shu sometimes wondered if she’d love him less if he cut back on his office hours, like if he set a rule that she wasn’t allowed to interrupt him while he was showering, or sleeping, or eating, but then Charlie’s words would echo through his head and he’d think of anything else to push them out. Wouldn’t that ruin Love Day? Hey Chantel, while I was crashing my doctor friend’s Winterfest party, he gave you an informal diagnosis based on practically no information, then said nothing would get better until I left you. Let’s talk about that. Let’s fucking talk about that.

“Well,” Chantel drew out, “are we going to finish what we started when we were teenagers? Are we going to start the next chapter of our lives?”

“Uh.” Ok, so Love Day didn’t need third-party involvement to be ruined.

“Is,” Chantel interrupted herself by briefly poking through her food, her drink, under the tablecloth, checking to see if the waiters had congregated somewhere, “is it here?” This was rhetorical. Not only was ‘here’ ill-defined given the number of places she’d just indicated, she’d already clearly discovered that it wasn’t.

“Again?” If they were in an environment where conflict was acceptable, like at home on the couch or screaming at each other while eating cake with a spoon on an Arts District park bench, his next sentence would be along the lines of ‘we talked about this.’ Instead, he was thanking the stars that Charisma Points existed and that having enough of them meant he could dodge the issue entirely. “You’ve known me for how long, and you thought I would do something that cliché? I mean, you deserve something bigger, more creative. At least we should be able to celebrate the proposal as our own special anniversary, not some catch-all holiday shared by everyone else.”

“That’s true,” she agreed, allowing Shu to relax and stop identifying the nearest exits, some of which may be behind him, “but you could have done it any time in the past couple of weeks.” Shit. “What’s the real reason you’re waiting?”

“You want to do this here?”

“Answer the damn question.”

“Uh.” The man could talk anyone into bed within a matter of hours, but Chantel’s forceful glare was a warning to choose these next few words carefully. “I, uh.” She was unpredictable at the best of times. “Ok, let me start this over.” He made a show of inhaling and exhaling, complete with hand gestures that followed the flow of breath.

“I think you’re so in love with me, you made your whole identity about this relationship. I think if I propose to you now, you’re never really going to get the chance to discover who you are on your own.”

“You’re breaking up with me?” Which would be rude; she specifically told him to not do that.

“No! Please don’t take this the wrong way. I love you, and that means loving you for who you are. But even you don’t know what that fully means yet.”

“That’s ridiculous. Tell me the real reason.”

“That is the real reason.”

“No it isn’t. It’s because I’m not talented enough for you, isn’t it?”

“Chantel, that’s not—“

“You think you’re so much better than me just because you got an early start.”

“You know I think you’re amazing, that’s why I’m with you, that’s why I spend all my time training you—“

“Then what? Is it that my belly sticks out? Is it that I don’t go to the gym as much as your other girlfriends? Is it my eyebrows?” Chantel’s raised voice was the only audible sound in the restaurant, but the kid could have punted her glass directly into their table and neither of them would have noticed. Even the couple in fedoras, i.e. the couple with no situational awareness, picked up on the repetition and was listening in. Shu caught the waitress’s eye and made the ‘check’ gesture.

“I don’t care about any of those things. I have all these options, and I’m choosing to stay with you. Do you know how much you mean to me?”

Background, ginger Minnie Mouse about to get eaten by a green-finned shark

Chantel was sobbing into her napkin. The waitress rushed to drop the check on the table, then vanished without wishing them a happy Love Day or even a good night. Shu was still waiting for Chantel’s response. A couple otherwise silent minutes passed before Chantel removed the napkin from her face, examined it, and dabbed a clean corner under her eyes. She looked up at her boyfriend with eyes slightly less mascara-smudged than before, but more mascara-smudged than the beginning of the date. Somewhere in the middle.

“Just tell me what to fix,” she whispered. “Tell me what to fix and I’ll do it. Please. I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Chantel, please,” he begged back. “This is the wrong reason. You have to be willing to change for yourself.” She started sobbing again. “Do you think I’d be going through all this trouble if I really didn’t want to marry you someday?”

She sighed. “I didn’t tell you this.”

“What?”

“Every night, I go to bed and I just lie awake wondering what I did wrong, I look over at you and wonder if you really care enough to make me stop suffering like this. I can’t take this much longer. Please just tell me what to fix.”

“I’m still trying to figure that out myself. If I knew how to fix this, it would be done already.”

“Fine. A timeframe, then.”

“How am I supposed to know that?”

“You have to give me something to work with. I can’t go on like this.”

“You know what, Chantel?” He tucked some simoleons into the check. He tipped the waitress double, and scribbled ‘Sorry~! <3’ in the signature line. “Your job. Focus on developing your voice as a musician. Really throw yourself into it. Then we’ll talk.”

“So you’d better be planning something pretty spectacular, right?”

“Mid-tour, onstage at the Grammys, whatever. I’m trying to do this right because I care about you. I don’t want to mess it up. Believe me, I’m doing everything I can to make the ‘right time’ as soon as possible.” He stood up and extended his hand toward her. “Now may I escort the lady home?”

They stepped from the artificially cool restaurant into a breeze of warm air in dusk-lit Newcrest. Shu felt a twinge in his gut as he realized the implications of his promise. There was one thing he still hadn’t tried, one sure way to singlehandedly break the cycle of stalling and explaining and placating her after breakdowns. If he wasn’t willing to consider it, he’d be a liar; he wasn’t doing everything he could. But if he went through, it meant Chantel would be miserable and it would be his fault.

Worse, it meant admitting that maybe Charlie was right.


*She actually did. Autonomously.
**(The Sim equivalent of eight years, which is slightly over four weeks)

BONUS: Rejected Chantel glamour shot. Killing it /r/prettygirlsuglyfaces

Option 3

(TW: depression and suicidal ideation)

Enlightenment as described in the yoga sutras isn’t a state of eternal bliss, it’s the ability to decouple the self from all external influence, and, as a result, feel nothing. You’re aiming for no karma, not good karma. Only then can the cycle of reincarnation be broken.

If that idea of enlightenment held any water, given that she couldn’t come up with a way to definitively prove reaching enlightenment is possible, Aileen figured she was close.

She barely felt anything anymore.

Right now, her focus was on the bannister, which although light-colored, had begun to collect individual flecks of dust she could see if she brought her eyes to hand-level and squinted hard enough. It had accumulated to where she couldn’t make out individual particles inside the acute crevice where the handrail met the post. She disturbed them with a sharp puff of breath. The largest dislodged particle was helical, and although it would have been satisfying to see it move like a tiny spring, it instead shot up three times its height and floated an unimpressive half-inch away from its initial position. Blowing it again wouldn’t be worth the effort. The measly half-inch was still probably the most exciting thing to happen to that slinky-looking piece of fluff since her son moved out; a couple weeks ago, it may have been shaken loose by shockwaves of thumping feet or caught in a fingerprint, but now it and thousands of its barely macroscopic peers had taken up permanent residence all up and down the handrail where hands didn’t touch.

It didn’t register to Aileen that the presence of a staircase implied her house had a second story. Her domain had been the porch and study, where the upstairs was used primarily as an art room, then later for toys and toddler beds and dollhouses, later still for homework desks and chemistry sets, places for her son and most of the neighborhood’s teenage girls to sleep, and on one occasion a makeshift bedroom for her closeted spouse during a week she’d rather forget. Nowadays, she made a round through the seven downstairs rooms at least once per day, making sure to use both bathrooms equally so they’d dirty at the same rate. She learned that the echo of her footsteps felt less empty if she stayed on rugs and carpet or wore socks. Sometimes she’d imagine a time-lapse of her cleaning the apartment, so it looked like there were dozens of busy Aileens in every room, but the fantasy always stopped before she ran out of tchotchkes to inspect and planted herself at her writing desk for hours. Doing nothing.

She would tell herself she was going to write and then sit down and pick at her skin and at times her eyes would wander searching for new imperfections on her body or the desk. Sometimes there was something interesting to look at, like a collection of Khalil Gibran poems, but lately she’d had to move all books to the living room. The sight of a book reminded her of a time when she used to be productive, when she could absolutely just beam positivity and preach self-love and self-care to an audience of people who’d maybe gotten out of worse situations than the one Aileen found herself in right now. And then those same people stopped her on the street to rave about how much her book helped them realize it was their fault they were upset, how they couldn’t change the world but they could change the way they saw the world, and that doing so made them happier, better, more productive people in general. She couldn’t understand why she’d felt okay putting her face on those fucking books.

Visualizing what you wanted was one of the ten or so concepts Aileen had made a living off of, one she had spent as many late nights rewording for various target demographics so that the message reached as many people as possible. So what she was trying to do was to take this message to heart, something she thought she’d done in the past but apparently could go further with, anyway she was trying to sit down and have a Ritual in Ceremony Space in which she imagined the directions her life could go and set an intention to direct the flow of her energy towards taking the one that spoke to her the most from fantasy to reality. Option 1 was to spend her adulthood and final days sitting alone at her desk in her clean-but-empty house having a Ceremony Space as she tried to figure out what to do. Option 2 was to marry either Matt or Derrick; Josh was out of the question, even though with that union she’d get back some of the art he stole.

Option 2 seemed to be just outside the peripherals of Aileen’s mind’s eye. She would always start with the wedding, and the wedding went alright, just some sort of basic shit with jars and twine and some fairy lights, foolproof and preplanned so she didn’t have to spend what little energy she had these days on something so transient. Then either Derrick would come home every day and tell Aileen what happened at crossfit or Matt would come home and not tell her what he was thinking. This is where the thought experiment kept turning into an anxiety hypothesis. Certainly there was no shortage of dead men for either suitor to run off into a fated perfect romance with, but she had no problem envisioning several hundred other ways she could ruin the relationship. Best case, she’d be stuck watching them slowly wither away to nothing.

One good thing had come out of her first marriage—she was confident in her ability to express what love meant for her. She knew enough to know it was nothing like what she felt for Matt or Derrick.

Option 1 or Option 2. Die in a loveless marriage, or die alone.

Aileen had written enough fiction to know where she was in the story: the low point right before the God of the Machine spits out an Option 3, hopefully centered around a tattooed Fabio who hated dust as much as he loved middle-aged single mothers. Option 3 was the one she’d been working on before she realized the same hundred-odd people lived in her world. Of those hundred-odd people, only two were single and remotely dateable. Matt and Derrick. So this Option 3 wasn’t possible in Aileen’s small world, her speck of dust. But there was another Option 3, one she thought about more than Options 1 and 2 combined.

She had the cowplant berries and a monthly pass to a spa with a sauna. Whether these were less painful, or electrocution, or one of the emotional deaths, or being exhausted in the 2×3 swimming pool she had installed to quiet her whims, she hadn’t been able to figure out yet. And it wasn’t like acknowledging it made it go away. She’d be brushing her teeth in the morning and it would pop into her head. Like Kramer. Like clockwork. Option 3.

Another one of Aileen’s golden self-help tips was to always surround yourself with a fantastic support system that Brings You Up instead of Puts You Down. The people that Brought Aileen Up were as impeccably trained in self-help and self-love as Aileen herself, with inhuman natural positivity to boot, and always had time to remind Aileen of the solution she already knew in her heart. The solution was to keep waiting. The solution was to keep waiting, keep envisioning, keep running her fingernail through the microscratches in the glass desk and the wrinkles around her knuckles, keep busy and get out of bed and do cardio and stay hydrated and go outside so you can meet your Fabio, he has to come eventually, he has to, because you have to have faith it’s going to happen.

But there’s not a man alive I haven’t talked to.

You have to keep searching, and if you give up searching, it’ll never happen.

But what if he just doesn’t exist?

You have to have faith that he does and it’ll just happen someday.

Instead of confronting her wonderful support system with people who Bring Her Up with the sad reality that they don’t have any proof this is going to happen, the number of times Option 3, the real one, pops into her head while she’s carrying out the blindingly obvious strategy of waiting and having faith, so simple a kindergartener could come up with it and it’s a miracle that someone experienced like Aileen couldn’t do it on her own, the fact that maybe no one, not even a perfectly executed support system whose Bringing-People-Up abilities have been compared to a genuine stairway to heaven, could come up with a solution because there is none. There’s no Deus Ex. There’s no happy ending. Aileen was a problem who couldn’t be solved.

But it clicked once for Aileen, in the middle of a lecture on how important it is to have hope from a woman who wore harem pants and ear cuffs, the latter of which could double as dread beads in a pinch, who had tan lines from toe rings and whose turquoise jewelry was charmingly, effortlessly authentic and not at all like the mass-produced baubles people bought to look like her, that the message wasn’t for Aileen herself. It was for them. It was for them to believe there’s no problem that couldn’t be fixed through a positive gung-ho attitude, which made it possible for they themselves to sustain that selfsame attitude and continue making the world a brighter place. Aileen’s negative thinking wasn’t serving her, she was a false Scotsman, a downer, she needed to do a training in India, she needed to learn true patience, she needed to let go of her expectations and separate herself from everything.

So she did, the first thing to go being the group whose onslaught of positivity was Putting Her Down. Claudia she kept. Claudia repeated the same platitudes as much as the rest of them combined, which only suggested to Aileen how thin the veneer was, that if Claudia really needed to hear “it gets better” that often, she at least had to be doing as poorly as Aileen. Claudia had a husband who was a Joke Star, besides, she could make it look like an accident and no one would be the wiser.

That’s the other half of why Aileen’s house is empty so often. Some information can’t be communicated by talking, or at all, because it has to be realized by each person individually. Often these are the simplest statements. Be yourself. Empty, until the person who the command is directed at understands what that means. It can take years to know what that means, to be yourself. Understanding that you’re going to die—not intellectually, actually coming to terms with your own death—no matter how knowledgable or virtuous one’s life was, is another such bit of information. Aileen knew her friends weren’t ready to hear that. She didn’t need to remind them that for someone who didn’t believe in reincarnation, the only easy way out was a hard restart, and if she tried that, she wasn’t coming back. She was the unresolvable problem, and she was Putting People Down.

And Aileen knew that, compared to Claudia’s shaky veneer held together with tequila and a prayer, these friends had self-helped themselves into an impenetrable barricade. A whole forest of positivity. A forest that would either be brought down, toothpick by toothpick, or blackened in one spectacular inferno, or perhaps a combination of both, until the beautiful greenery of regeneration and hope vanished and one truth remained. The pain of shared existence.

“Joy bonds people for an instant. Pain bonds them for a lifetime.”

Except as soon as the words appeared in Aileen’s mind, she knew they weren’t true. There was no guarantee. What if two people experience a traumatic event together, but the trauma was the only thing they had in common, and they can barely stand each other when it ends? What if the pain causes irreparable neurological damage?

Aileen spread the sebum around on her face and considered that, maybe, she had been the problem all along. The inevitability of death, of suffering, of uncertainty—words every child knows, like the mandate to Be Yourself, meaningless until given individual meaning—these are universal. So why can’t she go about her day like everyone else?

There was a time she could, as a self-help author. She’d been happier when she was pretending to have the answers. She’d been happier sharing her truth, stomping around in her own barricade with her face on the fucking back cover, again why’d she do that, possibly alienating the people who, like she did now, needed it most and knew none of it was real. That guilt alone made her cringe on a good day, on a bad day sent her back to bed bawling and needing to rid the world of the one self-help author she’d feel no remorse about culling, telling herself to do it before she recovers to spread more divisive mistruths.

But then she had been chosen as the poet of a truth where the action of forming a narrative perverts it. Aileen had tapped into a pain shared by all living beings, marinated in the River Styx. Doomed by a feeling she couldn’t ignore or communicate. She understood the prophet Cassandra, the prophet cursed to deliver prophecies no one would believe, understood that the people who wouldn’t believe Cassandra weren’t fools, and yet Aileen was spared even the smug satisfaction of believing herself.

And yet.

“Joy bonds people for an instant. Pain bonds them for a lifetime.”

And yet it was untrue, and yet Aileen could point to her baptism in suffering as the one thing she loved about herself. She felt the pain of the calf being lead to slaughter, the butterfly limping at the end of its lifespan, the grass crushed beneath the sole of a shoe. She felt the smoke in the lungs of San Myshuno residents, the bleaching of the Sulani corals, the horror of a Strangervillian losing control of their body. She walked by tombstones and neither ignored nor wept, but nodded in acknowledgment. She understood the people in her support group were connected to the same pain, just as she was to the flora, fauna, and people, no matter how sterilized their lives are, no matter how hard they work to fight it.

There would come a day where it would bubble under the surface no longer, and overflow, making a wretch of the deniers. And then Aileen would listen as she wanted to be listened to, and feel what the speaker felt, and share what she couldn’t.

The thoughts were still there. They were there, but now Aileen thought them with the weeds and the rabbits and the mourners and the lost and the oppressed and the oppressors and her friend in the yellow sweater, and was driven by gratitude, pure artistic compulsion, to awaken this connection when it was needed most. She couldn’t envision fixing the unfixable, but would die trying to express the inexpressible.

But as much as she hated to admit it, it was too empty, the old house. It would be poetic to live alone, but honest to acknowledge her physiological needs, being that having another person around would make her just content enough to keep going.

She pocketed her old engagement ring, went to a bar, pinned two names to a dartboard and took a shot.

Matt it was.


Wallbreaking Epilogue: Matt rejected Aileen’s first proposal. You know something’s fucked when even the NPCs know it’s fucked.

Aileen’s real wedding (not the staged one in Grey Wedding) was as low-effort as possible, and it actually did rain. She picked out the eyeball ring herself.

Here’s the link to Grey Wedding if you want to see how some of the lines read with the new context.

Eyebleach with the Shallot-Lius

San Myshuno’s favorite necrophiliac is here to step in before things get too real.

The Small Onion & Destroy family

A week before Jasper found his nemesis in a multi-thousand-year-old snow demon, Xiyuan and his husband forego preparing for Winterfest in favor of a monomaniacal adherence to routine that rivals Groundhog Day—but here with the opposite message of Groundhog Day, since learning to love another person creates a loop, not breaks one.

That several k is in Sim years, so it represents several hundred k in human years under the current aging settings

The holidays promise to be low-key. There are no children showing up at the penthouse door begging for sugar for Bernard to jump-scare. Not even the most contrived situation could get Xiyuan and his not-hostile-but-not-too-enthused coparent in the same room. Everyone’s in-laws are overseas or rotting. Shu’s going to visit at some point, but the family-oriented spirit of the holiday is going to preclude any real discussion about what the hell he thinks he’s doing.

Xiyuan moves 5 feet from his perch and pushes the dual combination branch-fountain, a real double-threat, flush with the wall, creating just enough space to assemble the artificial tree. The needles are done up in an ombre increasing in saturation from their white tips to whichever plastic imitation branch they belong to, the deepest hue being an equal combination of forest and avocado greens. Like 60’s bathroom or diner green. The color seen draped over RVs with fake wood panels and in polished jukebox enamel and soulmated with burnt orange. Perhaps as a nod to the color’s history, or as an aesthetic challenge, or a symbol of rebirthing things that should have been dead for a long time, the pair have decided to revive the tradition by draping the tree in more than a pop of orange.

This is before Dolly figured out how to hold down the ‘Option’ key, ignorance of basic building controls being the single biggest strike against any claim to omniscience she may have had in this universe

In fall or summer the hubbub in the Arts Quarter courtyard would be partly audible from the gallery’s fourth floor. Today, the pro- and anti-capitalist sentiments being hawked by the street vendors and protesters, respectively, are caught in the porous blanket of snow before they can reach Xiyuan’s ears, and the layer of frost on the windowpane distorts the figures below into collections of refracted dots. He keeps his head still to distinguish the living, moving dots from the streetlight and plant dots. He visits daily to brush snow off the koi mural and sip his coffee on the south side of Casbah Gallery’s top floor. If he stands one foot away from the floor-to-ceiling glass panes, the chill of the air on his face and the vents warming his backside cancel out to the perfect temperature for enjoying a hot beverage.

The other mural is a testament to semiotic overload: whether the vandal is making a nihilistic statement about the future of the planet, rejecting the idea of diversity, or communicating the magnitude of their own toughness by superimposing a self-portrait on the blue dot itself, he can’t tell. He wanders downstairs to try and make sense of the stylized Simlish message repeated across the mural’s lower border.

He wanders deep enough in the courtyard to make out the protesters’ signs, which strike him as ambiguous in almost exactly the same way. The choice to pair the Earth with a reaper’s scythe—what does it mean? A warning for inevitable doomsday, a rant in favor of population culling? The woman with a megaphone yells out statements that no one in their right mind would disagree with, barring any prejudice against those who actually care about politics, or against the concept of protesting itself, passionate and just vague enough to deter opposition. It reminds him of a horoscope. The reader gets a prompt, the reader fills in the blanks; the less information provided, the more accurate the prediction will be.

Xiyuan comes out in favor of rainbow people to the surprise of no one.

Why yes, he does have a moment to talk about the environment

Two minutes after Xiyuan leaves, another Sim grabs the megaphone to deliver a monologue about the rent being too damn high. Passerby stop and nod in agreement.

Sims don’t pay taxes and have a plethora of options available for beating death. The colloquial phrase “nothing’s certain except death and taxes” couldn’t hold water in a kiddie pool, ladders or none. Either Sims have a parallel saying or the above is parsed as “nothing’s certain,” which trades cheekiness for accuracy.

He stops to pull the ends of his gloves further under his coat sleeves, which tenses the fabric against the webbing of his fingers. It’s unpleasant, freezing actually, but wandering the courtyard is Xiyuan’s preferred way of biding time. He examines the compressed snow on and between the cracks of his boots. White, he thought of the snow, a blank page or canvas, echoing the musical bookends that got stuck in his head every time, no matter how many white pages or canvases he saw, or any vast expanse of white, for that matter. In a day, the courtyard’s page or canvas would hardly be blank, mixing with dirt and heat from boots to create a sort of brown sludge with garnishes of dog piss near the edges of plant beds. But currently, it symbolized cleansing, healing. Rebirth.

He’d almost forgotten the dread he felt at having to meet his son that night. It was the first time he’d felt it. He needed to believe this was transient, too.

It wasn’t a front; he actually did already celebrate with his dads.

If Shu had any similar feelings about the disastrous failure in familial cohabitation, he was refusing to play his hand. He was steering the conversation clear of anything heavy, offering and soliciting only empty-calorie informational nuggets like what anyone did today or was hoping to receive from Father Winter. Things Xiyuan barely had to think about to answer. The quarter of a day, along with the months between his son moving out and him remembering that family-oriented holidays exist, at any rate, the quarter of a day he’d spent choosing which points to make or gloss over seemed like a waste. The sketches he’d spent hours erasing and revising looked like shit next to the strokes that flowed out as natural as the one-word expected response to how his day was. Such a conversation was best left to the pros. Losing his train of thought in the effortless, ceaseless flow of anecdotes, he’d forgotten that was an option.

Windenburg’s former ghost lord/San Myshuno’s current face of #relationshipgoals understands something is bugging his husband, but can’t get any information beyond the occasional sigh, the half-start of a sentence promising to express what exactly is wrong this time, the unsolicited remark on what activities his progeny used to enjoy. Part of Xiyuan can’t reconcile current Shu with the kid who once licked a block of resin to see what it would taste like, but to Bernard, Shu is Lord Byron but less of a dick. He’s like having a child without the unpleasant experience of being around a child. Their feet are both too big and too small, don’t you know? It’s creepy.

No gift exchange occurs during the meeting. Shu’d insisted on it. That was one of the things Xiyuan tried to analyze in his downtime in the months and quarter-day leading up to the meeting—was he planning a surprise, a welcome one this time, a gesture Xiyuan would have to refuse to be blindsided by and match with his own? His solution was to keep an envelope in his jacket pocket, just in case, and if not now he’d give it to his son on New Year’s. Another small relief; it was a genuine, no-nonsense request for lack of gifts. The young man prepared nothing beyond some pun on the word presents/presence.

Maybe he’d underestimated Shu’s ability to be genuine. It wasn’t like he tried to hide anything before.

The exchange, instead, occurred next morning and involved only two participants. It wasn’t an event foreshadowed by any fanfare, or any mention that it was happening. The couple had long eradicated the need for conversational filler. One displayed emotion with the precision of a character actor and transparency of an anime character and the other retained the aristocratic tendency to narrate what he was doing at any given time. It wasn’t like he didn’t expect his husband to swivel his head without moving any other part of his body, last of all the brush from the canvas, to check what he was doing. It was a reassurance. I’m here, everything’s okay. The gift he received was a reflection of that sentiment. I’m here, nothing’s changed, nothing’s going to change, I’ll always be here, and everything’s okay.

An easel. It was an easel.

Then they left (with a mild nod and a “Shall we?”) to try something they’d been meaning to all winter.

In human years, Bernard is in his mid-40s and Xiyuan is at least 50. Give them a minute.

If there is a soul reading this, a single soul, who thinks Bernard is a heartless bastard, was responsible for his own and Mimsy’s death, was put in the game as an irredeemable antagonist to scare children, cackled as his livelihood was reduced to ash, look at this. Please.

At least a couple people have declared this “the gayest thing they’ve ever seen.” As the frogs in a conspiracy theorist’s water supply.
And of those people, a couple still have amended their previous statement with “nope, that’s even better.”

A ride into the freaking sunset, is what these two are.


So we’re almost up to the present day, but have one more story to knock out before that can happen. Consider it a season finale. It’s heavy enough for the author to need to provide preemptive eyebleach. You’ve been warned.

Before we hit the wall/fall off a cliff/other vertical metaphor signifying the point of no return, here are links to download CC-less versions of these guys in their current state and give them some hope of a stable life in at least one timeline. Enjoy.

All Catastrophe Theory characters

If your trash cans are full, your spirit is empty, and you need an ascetic to take care of both: Ana Asteya

If your female Sims are bored or need someone to enthuse to about rom-coms: Chantel Lucas, Xishu “Shu” Liu, Genevieve Haskins

If your lesbian Pagan club needs another member: Kendra Espinosa and her dog Yuggoth

If you want Charlie to avoid talking to your Sims too, and apparently Jo’s Maxis-curated, oh well, she’s stuck in this mess now: Charlie, Josephine and Jasper Jeong-Espinosa

If you want to give Aileen a happy ending: Aileen Jensen (Grey Wedding actually happens slightly later)

If you need a couple heavy-hitters, including the lush legend herself, and also Hector: Mike Jeong, Claudia Espinosa; Hector, Mona and Perry Jeong-Espinosa

And, finally, Xiyuan and Bernard Shallot-Liu are a requirement. Highly recommended for anyone who’s ever had a bad day.

The Grey Wedding

“I can’t believe this,” Aileen said, to her son and to her own wedding invitation, propped up with a twine-wrapped baby food jar, sporting a mockingly pastoral Seven-Brides-for-Seven-Brothers scene even as the droplets splattering her window at 220 bpm threatened an ambience closer to that Alanis Morissette song. Aileen, having enough writing skill points to recognize misuse of its eponymous adjective, hated that song.

“Aw, Mom, the sky’s so happy you’re getting married, it’s crying.” Shu had been his mother’s sole confidant for a decade after his father jumped ship and married a dead painter. (It was a whole thing.) He’d since moved out, but still dropped everything and showed up at 8 A.M. today to arbitrate her happiness.

“Then tell the sky to get my vows laminated at the print shop. This is a logistical nightmare.”

“Look, your job today is to enjoy yourself. Leave the worrying to me, and I’ll make sure your wedding with Matt goes off without a hitch.”

“I wish I could believe that. It’s too late to do anything.”

“Mom, nothing is too much for me today. Above and beyond is SOP. I’ll make it work.” Shu couldn’t talk without flailing around like an inflatable tube man. Grand gestures were his specialty.

“Shu, don’t—“

Her son was already texting his handiest friend and Simsterest-junkie girlfriend, the latter of whose wedding binder was on his head when he woke up.

The door closed, leaving Aileen alone to contemplate the differences between her own experience and the perpetually smiling couple on the front of her invitations. They’d stay in rosy-cheeked stasis even if she ripped it down the center. Marriage was more of a new beginning than a happy ending, she wanted to scream at the greeting card manufacturer, and she understood as well as anyone how heartbreaking its real ending could be.


Aileen regarded her pre-nuptial reflection like a thalassophobe at the beach. Her formalwear, contacts and extensions and itchy lace and all, felt more ingenuine than special. That, and flimsy enough to fall apart without a tacky clear plastic poncho.

“Guess whommmm?” Based on the drawn-out correction of one of her pet peeves, someone who would stand in the doorway with an open umbrella to avoid dripping on the floor or exposing his borrowed tux to the downpour for even a second.

“Just sit down, Shu, I’ll deal with the puddles later.”

“Whatever the bride wants.” Aileen stepped into the foyer just as Shu finished de-puddling the floor with a microfiber cloth. He did a double-take at her presence and scrambled for the doorknob. “You look stunning as usual. Vámonos?”

Shu guarded the threshold with his umbrella as Aileen gathered her train above the knees, revealing her galoshes. “Still Myshuno Meadows?”

“Yeah, it’s too late to change the location. But just trust me.”

Ascending M.M.’s stairs with the sub-knee portion of the dress draped over her forearm, Aileen raised an eyebrow at the state of the park. “Ok, so the fact that there’s no wedding arch or seating doesn’t inspire confidence.”

“Well, it should,” Shu replied, holding open the door to the visitor’s center.

It usually looked like it smelled like mothballs, but had been slapped over with the design sense that made Aileen the butt of many an E.L. James joke: sharp, clean, and desaturated, with hints of silver, charcoal, gunmetal, slate grey, stone grey, good old regular grey itself. Aileen caught a whiff of chlorine from waterfalls glittering in cold light like the sky above.

“See? Now the rain looks totally intentional. Besides, it’s more ‘you’ now.” He gestured in roughly the direction of Newcrest. “It matches, y’know, your entire house and everything you own.”

That’s when Aileen’s June wedding fantasy started to fall as flat as the card it was printed on. The bride was just a prop stuck in a generic setting with no one who truly understood her. And here Aileen stood, mortal and flawed and special to someone, ideal marriage or not.

“Thank you, Shu. This is far better than what I was thinking.”

She held back the saltwater building in her eyes enough to make out Matt’s figure at the altar. She remembered how loved she was, letting it wash over her, overflowing with joy. Her tears came in torrents.

“Look, Mom, it wasn’t gonna be perfect anyway.” Shu offered his arm. “You got this. As long as you love Matt, everything will be fine.”

Aileen took a deep belly inhale. “You know what? Fine is all I could hope for.”

She pictured the rain carrying her doubt, her inhibitions, her past, her dread, her expectations, good and bad, leading them into the gutter with the other sewage, back into the earth, dissolving everything it touched until there was only her fiancé, the path forward, and her son walking her down the aisle.

The Lucas/Liu/Haskins Conglomerate: To Being an ‘Us’ for Once

The smell of lobster cooked on a cheap stove and the sound of technical drills performed at a steadily increasing tempo clash for sensory dominance directly outside the 12th story window of an Arts District apartment.

Their progenitor pauses to admire the acoustics of his living room; the partially tiled floor had a wonderful effect on his tone, in contrast to the carpeted rooms of his A.(I./A.)B.s, counterproductive to soundproofing as it was. So that was one plus to leaving his dads with a two-finger salute and recruiting ~15% of his girlfriends to live in this semi-shitty apartment. Worrying about money counted as another, giving him just enough of a boundary to work with while preserving his mental freedom. Shu wrote an essay in high school, not that long ago, about the irony of restrictions being needed to maintain freedom, so he didn’t have the fantasies of limitlessness that some men his age do. But lately paradoxes like this are out-prioritized by the thesis statement of Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M.

Any excitement shown by our protagonist is negligible compared to that of Chantel Lucas (i.e., Girlfriend Zero; i.e., Don’t Look Now Shu She’s Behind You Again). Getting her boyfriend’s attention is almost trivial now. He sleeps in her room a solid three-fifths of the time.

Chantel had ambitions to become a great musician someday, likely inspired by her sole hobby as a teenager. Said hobby prevented her from taking any positive steps in this direction—if not the consensual stalking, then the lack of understanding of cause and effect characteristic of her species—but it wasn’t a complete wash, since she can feed two birds with one birdfeeder here and barge into the bathroom while Shu is showering to ask for lessons. Here she is at some party, being taught the B♭ minor scale on one of Xiyuan’s obnoxiously expensive heirlooms.

She also enjoys screaming at inanimate objects.

The other ~7.5% of girlfriends, Genevieve Haskins (i.e., Two! Common! Traits!), shares her boyfriend’s YOLO attitude. She and Shu have an unspoken agreement to let the other know if any parties are going on, and to drop everything and attend if so. But party animal isn’t a job, and recall Method Man et al.’s statement up there, so Gen works on her pro gaming career between pole dancing classes and passing out on benches. Here she is pwning Trace Beam for the world to see.

She also enjoys watching Chantel scream at inanimate objects.
Shannon Bheeda is Shu’s actual second-favorite girlfriend, but she was vetoed by the other two due to being awful.

For this particular disconnected thruple, the drama is nonexistent. The Player reward would make things one-sided if Gen or Chantel had interest in dating anyone else, but one is just here for S&G and one is Chantel, respectively. Having to explain the situation is more annoying. “Shu” is generally regarded as either a sarcastic or obvious response to “who are you dating?”, depending on which social groups the asker frequents, so both women have gotten used to explaining that yes, they actually do live with him. Like in the same house. Gen invented a system to illustrate the hierarchy using tonal variation: there are “girlfriends,” girlfriends (also Max. That’s still going on), and GIRLFRIEND-girlfriends, where the latter group has only three people.

And so they bonded over having their shared dating life questioned so many times the explanation itself becomes a standup routine.

Gen gets to do the voices, Chantel jumps in with “also Max”

This would potentially be where a fourth party enters to create drama, fifth if we include Shannon, but surprising these guys in their space is risky. A Kramer type bursts through the front door without knocking. Never again.

We now rely on interjectory repetition for humor. BAMBOZOWIEEEE!

After a couple weeks, the conglomerate settles into what could be considered a normal groove for them. Observe.


Shu’s daily routine is predictable: after brushing and flossing, a five-step morning skincare ritual, and a thorough shower, he discusses the latest sports game with his girlfriends, sends them both off to work with a kiss, and heads to one of San Myshuno’s or Windenburg’s swankiest establishments to collect date rewards.

This woman (name and traits lost to time, ehh) hasn’t met him yet. Now she has. Kendra, left, texts Charlie something close to “oh god, he’s doing it again,” where “oh god” is meant to convey wry amusement more than surprise.

It’s going to jump between Seasons and not-Seasons for the next couple entries, folks, and I do apologize for that. Please enjoy Shu’s hat. He’s not looking forward to the holidays but he does have a ‘Naughty’ list.

He chats her up, inviting her to a date at this exact club. She agrees.

Part of Shu’s job success involves exploiting a certain phenomenon where, on top of there being no good men in this town (Aileen’s Theorem), a certain mod defaults the straight-to-gay marriage ratio at 50% and only considers male Sims as marriage candidates for a selected single person. Hence, this universe currently has 50% straight couples, 50% gay male couples, no lesbian couples (a tragedy!), and loads of single women his mom’s age, all of who are dealing with the same central conflict as his mom. Best not to read into that too closely.

Piss off, Mom

He earns gold for performing ten social interactions plus randomized additional goals (sit down! You have to), chooses not to make use of the closet for this particular date, and immediately asks to end the flirtationship.

Usually they take it well, but this lady was peeved. She seemed to like him given what is ostensibly a heart in that bubble there.

He then heads to the bar to pitch his presence/purpose to another woman.

Piss off, EVERYONE

Such are the hazards of the job—Shu keeps track of his relationships and doesn’t have a scorched-earth policy, but if two clients in the same place have a similar build, outfit, haircut, and earrings, it can be hard to remember who you’re dating at the moment. Red Jacket 1 complicated things by continuing to pursue Shu while he was on his other date.

You know; standard stuff.

Nighttime is when Shu checks Plumbook for parties, then either turns that mother out with Gen or performs chores/emotional labor at home. Do note that Shu is too unstructured to stick to even this routine, so the above only covers half his week. It’s safe to assume a couple days are spent playing instruments in several locations with or without Chantel and the rest is a mystery.


Chantel is beginning to question Shu’s ability to commit.

She’s steadily climbing the ranks at her music job, all right, but occasionally loses the ability to focus as Shu-centric thoughts dominate her attention. Basketball wasn’t helping. The healthy solution—bringing him to work—was something she tried to implement by cartoonishly insisting he join the music career at times s.t. cutting the interactions down to the prompt/response and piecing them together would produce an amusing montage. And he tried. For a whole week! But putting Shu in a rabbit-hole job is like putting a fish on a bicycle in a barrel and shooting it.

Or like holding him underwater, if you prefer your similes coherent

More distressingly, he hasn’t proposed yet. Her wedding binder sits in a very conspicuous spot in the middle of the floor of her room, or on the bed pillow she prefers less, or attached to the mop handle with hair ties, so he knows what’s expected. She’s taken to curating a mental list of times he could have asked her to marry him, but didn’t, and going through it at regular intervals. The Romance Festival is an example—the one she left fiancé-less and on fire.

This is Chantel’s debut album cover

But the alternative solution of “dump the bastard” is hellish. She would never leave Shu. He hasn’t shown any desire to end the relationship, and he consistently stuck by her all this time, but the fear’s still there, operating in the background despite her best efforts to quash it. And she swears though it might seem like she’s complaining, this is the happiest she’s ever been.

He could be leading up to something special. Maybe next week.


Tech enthusiast Gen has a documented hatred of rules to the point that she doesn’t conform to other rebels, so no one can tell if she’s cool or not; and an undocumented hatred of the word “guru” to describe those in the middle two groups of S.T.E.M., both for its cultural appropriative undertones and because she feels it oversells those types of skills in a damaging way. Especially if you’re calling yourself a guru—for fuck’s sakes, people, show, don’t tell. Real gurus don’t have to go around telling people they’re gurus. They just exist.

(If Gen had spoken to Aileen or Ana more, she may have realized the next step is Tech Enlightenment, and people who are enlightened have no desire to teach others, because all their desires are gone. They are decoupled from the outside world. Hence, it is impossible for any of the information we have on the process of becoming enlightened to be written by an actual enlightened person. So maybe the evolution of a tech guru is someone who has rid themselves of all desire to work and hates documenting their code.)

Gen’s top priorities are keeping in good cardiovascular shape so she can do sick dance moves and there is no second priority.

Background, Shu goes on a date with Jo’s best friend
“Very Awkward”? Ya think? Note Morgan’s intriguing decision to wear tights in the shower.

Forearm exercises, in particular, help her to avoid wrist strain from her competitive gaming career. The VR booths at GeekCon blew her mind—real life is dex-broken, giving her a huge advantage, and the technology could be used for some dancing or rhythm games in the future. She’d play the heck out of those.

Don’t worry, Shu found something to do at GeekCon. Center right, Gen interrogates a townie about her daring fashion-foward yellow helmet and goth wedding dress combo.

But the highlight of Gen’s day is when one of either her or Shu’s friends tells them about a party zero minutes in advance, upon which she covers her sternum and collarbone area in two different colors of body glitter (guess which two. No, go on, guess) and dances until she dissolves into the synaesthetic blend of pulsing beats and lights. She lived for that; the strength of the stimuli meant she was feeling nearly the same thing as the person beside her. Give her enough time and the boundaries would blur. That’s what made her feel close to others, especially Shu, not words or opinions or actions. That visceral experience.

Then she and her dude pass out on adjacent benches. She’s getting pretty good at it.

S&G = Shu ‘n’ Gen

If any deities are reading this, please make sleep a skill that can be improved instead of something millions of people can’t do and then they’re screwed forever. That would be great.

The Shallot-Liu Family: Shallot-Liu vs. Shu

Some Sims belong in certain places. Charlie needs to live near a fishing hole. Hector has a 98% chance of ending up in Selvadorada. Shu’s heart was always in San Myshuno, and, in what is arguably the only silver lining to his parents’ divorce, can temporarily stay with relatives.

Relatives he’ll talk to when Chantel’s done.

Xiyuan hasn’t lived with Shu since he groomed his son to be the next San Myshuno Orchestra concertmaster/leader of the eponymous Mr. Liu’s PB&J. The man whose arrival caused the guest room to instantaneously self-crimsonify was a far cry from the toddler learning his circle of fifths: Xiyuan’s training had taken root, and Shu had mastered every possible visual and performing art in under two decades. Both dads had spent his high school graduation enthusing about the sheer breadth of possibilities. They mused as the valedictorian read an oft-misinterpreted poem of Robert Frost’s—why two roads diverging in a yellow wood? Why not eight?

As 30 ex-high-schoolers applauded the end of the reading, each believing themselves to be taking the “road less traveled” in the poem’s penultimate line, something in Shu snapped. He saw himself at a crossroads, all right, but with the folksy hiking trails replaced by these paved monstrosities, each split into regular sections, each section with its own rest stop and Carl’s Jr., each culminating in a different definition of success, each so linear that the finish line was visible from where he was standing. He saw his father by his side, holding his goddamn hand. The hard part had already been done: all he had to do was wait, and he would be shuttled to whatever single achievement he decided represents his legacy.

Shu realized nothing was forcing him to decide. He could refuse to move. He could bash his skull against the pavement until some bystander called an ambulance. He could turn around and go back to where he came, although Shu admitted that implementation was easier in the context of the metaphor than in his life. He could extend the metaphor with another phrase beloved by teenagers, and forge his own path. But how can one do that when they’re incapable of truly creating anything new?

The unique solution appeared to him. Redefine “path.” A job, Shu decided, is any activity that adds to the household funds.

Shortly after moving in, Shu has the opportunity to protect his dads’ symbolic mural from scum-of-the-earth Urlike Faust (and Urlike Faust from his dads’ fans).

You’re fucking with the wrong fish painting, Urlike

He introduces himself in his usual style.

Girl, are you “Cheerleader” by OMI? Because you keep getting stuck in my head at pivotal times in my life.

Urlike, beguiled, returns her cans of spray paint to her gigantic invisible dress pocket, her back to the PDA mural. Shu asks her on a date to the art gallery. While Urlike fantasizes about what she’ll be doing three hours in the future, her date’s watching the—oh, come on.

This is what you spray paint if you want to look tough in front of your friends: lily pads

Shu rolls his eyes. Before cleaning up the top level of paint, he asks Urlike to just be friends and ends the date early.

Another realization hits Shu. At the end of each date, an unidentified source sends his household a trinket, like a bucket of champagne. These buckets of champagne are worth §245 each. So if, hypothetically, one were to go on 1-3 dates per day with assorted people, they could earn as much as their mid-career peers.

Shu imagines drenching the octopath of his nightmares in leftover acetone, watching the layers wash away like the lily pads. He watches until only broken bottles and poison ivy remain. He looks into the undeveloped wasteland. He smiles.

Of course, one or more of Shu’s parents is chaperoning the date. §245 says they’re talking shit about Xiyuan.

“Did you hear him ask the plants if they wanted bottled or tap?”

Shu refuses to disclose his line of work to his parents. But when you’re expected to continue the creative legacy of one of the world’s most prolific living artists, said artist is probably going to notice when you don’t get a job in the arts. Bernard eats his cereal loops every morning to a sharp conversation half-yelled across the stairs; every other sentence is in a language he doesn’t understand. From what he can catch, Shu should probably be taking commissions or talking to one of Xiyuan’s contacts, while Xiyuan should stay out of it. Also, Shu’s going out. Bye.

The door slams. Xiyuan sighs and props himself against the wall with his forearm. He’s exhausted from trying to convince himself there’s only Chantel and Shannon, Bernard suspects.

Every time Shu leaves the house, he faces his father’s shrine to a boy he hardly remembers. (There’s also Toast Cat, worth over §10,000, and the same painting twice.) Every time, he scoffs. A parent’s love shouldn’t be conditional.

Shu chooses to stay home on Xiyuan’s birthday, but not without inviting Gen for a sleepover. Carlie Feng is watching from her apartment. Lily Feng gave birth to twin daughters shortly after learning Xiyuan had a son, and although the Shallot-Lius could prove no connection between the two events, they had their suspicions. In any case, Shu often finds himself in yet another imbalanced conversation where he knows basically nothing and Carlie/Charlie (yes, they actually named the twins that) can correct him on stories about his own childhood.

Get in line.

At the party’s center, Shu puts on a shirt and takes care of catering. He prefers to do all the cooking. Bernard left crumbs on the counter once, you see, and is now not allowed in the kitchen without Shu and his wet rag.

Carlie was ordered to pick the lock. The overlap between skills related to being the heir of an organized crime syndicate and skills required to crash a neighbor’s birthday party is quite high.

The birthday boy airs his grievances upstairs with Bernard, Victor and Claudia.

Not about losing in cards; the group has silently accepted that the heat death of the universe will occur before Xiyuan wins a round. He has a few tells. If he draws a card and dramatically recoils, he has a bad hand. If he announces how optimistic he is about finally winning for once, he has a good hand. If you listen carefully, you can hear him quietly mumbling the numbers and suits to himself. His friends are trying their best to help him come in second-to-last on his birthday.

“I have no idea what he’s doing.” Xiyuan places three of his cards in a face-down pile on the table. This isn’t part of the game, rather an attempt to sort his hand into important and non-important piles. “He doesn’t have time to come with me to gallery openings anymore, but almost every morning I go downstairs and he’s making pancakes for a different random woman.”

“And Chantel,” Bernard points out.

“Yes, and poor Chantel,” he agreed, drawing another card. “Ouch. He’s clearly getting money from somewhere, but I don’t know how he has time to do that anymore.”

“Look on the bright side,” Claudia predictably recommends, “at least you won’t have to worry about grandchildren.”

Victor’s eyes light up just as Xiyuan signals his husband across the table. Bernard, catching the difference between his ‘I’m one card away from a royal flush’ and ‘Please make {Victor/Lily} stop talking about my {son/son’s relationship status/future half-Feng grandchildren} by any means necessary’ faces, stands up hard enough to push his chair backwards. “I think it’s time for cake. Who wants cake?”

Later, Xiyuan catches Bernard on the stairs and pantomimes choking himself.

Another crisis has been averted. Every guest simultaneously thinks about how pleased they are with the catering, except the caterer himself. He has work to do.

Xiyuan’s birthday inspires the family to reflect back on the past, and in doing so, they realize something that seems obvious in retrospect: there are no conditions under which two post-pubescent Lius should be in the same house. Xiyuan finds it hard to stick to his two-girlfriend theory in the face of evidence sneaking through the front door every morning. Shu’s not comfortable with the arrangement either, and, by the way, he’s going to vomit the next time he hears the words “my lord.” Bernard would prefer conversations in his apartment to be less aggressive and monolingual. If there were an extraneous fourth party capable of communing with all three, she may get overwhelmed with keeping track of two to four WooHooing sessions per day. No one is happy. Time has separated the Liu family into one group that attributes the “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” sentiment to Nietzsche and a second to West, and the effects are irreversible.

Shu moves out the next day. He won’t be lonely; two of his favorite girlfriends have agreed to be roommates.

Aileen belongs to neither group. She attributes the saying to Clarkson.
(Red tank top is Genevieve, post-makeover.)

Shu would rather survive in this crappy apartment with two roommates than use his dad’s money. Besides, no one can control his job if he doesn’t have a real job. The strings of parental control have been cut. All Xiyuan can do now is show up on like all of Shu’s dates.

Without progeny to distract them, Xiyuan and Bernard return to their normal course of action, suppressing the narrative by being adorable.

CUUUTE
CUUUUUUTE
See, this looks like more of an actual tag than fucking lily pads
he’s really not a T-shirt guy but CUUUUUUUTE

Yes—since Shu has been reduced to a headless busker in the background, the Shallot-Liu apartment is once again occupied only by the posh couple, the keyholders,

I don’t remember how, when or why she got into the apartment. There’s no event timer. No one is home. She just came here to drink.

and the Fengs. Here, Victor re-enacts his rock opera outside the door to get their attention.

Welcome to San Myshuno, where the benches are cheerful and the Chinese Mafia is desperate

With twice as many Fengs trying to get temporary access to the apartment, Bernard and Xiyuan have taken to leaving a note on the door claiming they’re not home. They often come back from an event to find the note in the trash, as if removing it would somehow negate the message.

All he wants to do is get back to his husband. It’s like this every time they aren’t in the same room.

It’s unclear what relationship Charlie and Carlie want with the Shallot-Lius. They may have been pressured by their parents to befriend the neighbors, but for what? Cultural reasons? Money? Power? But no, they both do the same thing their parents do, which is begging to be let in so they can use the computer. It’s possible they’re money-laundering.

It’s not like the neighbors would notice anything suspicious.

And yet, they can be even more oblivious.

Should we tell him?

“Honey?”

“Dear, is something wrong? Why are you calling me at work?”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. What’s wrong?”

“Please remember that I love you. Don’t be mad.”

“What did you do.”

“I may have impulse bought an art gallery.”

In lieu of an actual baby, here’s The Koi Pond Art Gallery, a small business in Newcrest featuring the work of two prominent artists. The K.P.A.G. can’t disappoint its parents.

This is one of the only contexts in which hanging the painting of Bernard from Buy Mode makes sense

The Koi Pond is sparsely decorated so as to not distract from the paintings, featuring only a few fish-related things and plaques around the gallery commemorating the romance between its owners. One fishy detail is the iconic mural at the entrance, recreated by the actual disappointment himself.

To get into the store, you have to trample a symbol of eternal love.

-7 paintings and upwards of §8,500 later, the Koi Pond closes. Bernard and Xiyuan celebrate by making everyone in San Myshuno dry heave.

Anaya’s like, shit, it’s the ghost dudes again

Unfortunately for this half-reanimated power couple, a lack of conflict makes for a poor story. But they’re great for raising the spirits!

(Get it? Get it?)


(Thanks to all the custom content creators! I know it’s bad form to not give proper credit, but have a lot of CC and no way to keep track of it. I’ll gladly credit people when I figure out how to sort my stuff.)

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

As it says on the tin. We learned in the previous chapter that Chantel (new readers: girlfriend #1 out of ???) is about to lose bone plasticity and start slowly accumulating hyperlordosis-induced back pain as she prepares for the next step in her switchlike aging process. So, off we go to her birthday party, where she has invited Shu.

And no one else.

Chantel’s birthday party activities, or activity in this case, consist of awkwardly watching romantic comedies with her parents, boyfriend and boyfriend’s mother. She’s delighted! But while Colten and Angela Lucas have already been repeatedly filled in on biographical (and useless re. dreaminess) data about Shu, Chantel didn’t bother reversing her flow of knowledge. He’s left posing simple introductory questions—where did you grow up? Do you prefer cats or dogs? When did you move into this house? Angela/Colten, on the other hand, go for the jugular. What does being in love with someone mean for you? How did the divorce affect your psyche? How’s your relationship with your infamous undead stepfather? Just as the rom-com hero says something that could maybe possibly be interpreted as mildly offensive and the heroine storms off in a tiffy, the conversation reaches the point of sharing personal traumas, which for Shu are mostly book-induced.

The lot traits help with learning social skills. Too bad Shu has already has the max amount of social skills, a slightly unsettling concept—implying no additional personal evolution can happen—so the shinies are just that. Shinies.

Shu was stuck making the birthday cake after the caterer walked into a conversation about sperm count and backed the fuck out before the front door could even close. Sugarless, joyless carob coconut. Chantel doesn’t even balk at this disgusting offering before sacrificing its candles in the commonplace explosive ritual magic aging process.

Hahaha, why would they be asking about something Chantel already measured?

Yes; not even the threat of carob can dampen Chantel’s spirits. She admires the promise ring on her finger, using the other hand to browse Simstagram for its upgrade. Something marquise-cut with rose gold and leaf motifs.

Exercise: Find Chantel’s high school binder (marked Mrs. Xishu Liu so many times that the ink ran out of her pen) and determine where she and Shu are going to live, how many kids they’re going to have, what breezy modern gender-neutral names they’ll be assigned, where the family burial plots are, etc.

Chantel and Aileen have already seen each other in their jammies, freeing the birthday girl to skip introductions and bond with her future in-law over common interests.

While Chantel’s parents bring out a notebook and ask Aileen if she’s a carrier for any recessive genetic disorders, Shu sneaks up to Chantel’s childhood room. It’s spotless, soft blue with warm purple accents, with two dim lamps failing to replicate the daytime effect of sun streaming through her floor-to-ceiling picture windows. He takes out his violin and plays a cheerful tune for her perfectly color-matched unicorn. He renames the unicorn Dick Pasta. Maybe she’ll notice.

(Romeo and Juliet laws apparently don’t apply to controlled characters but do apply to non-controlled characters. That is, Chantel was able to kiss Shu on the cheek but, due to the age difference, he couldn’t reciprocate. The fuck?)

Aileen and Shu are shooed out of the house precisely five hours after their arrival. Once the door is closed, and Chantel has stopped waving through the window, Aileen starts whispering to her son about the general weirdness of it all. Did you see her mouthing along with the speech in A Week in Windenburg? And what were those questions? Aileen doesn’t even know what age-related macular degeneration is.

Shu shrugs it off and continues being Shu.

He has a high enough body count for the Kinsey score formula ceil(num_same_sex_partners/num_partners*6) to be somewhat accurate.

He’s had a crush ever since watching Max kick over a trash can stirred up some uncomfortable feelings. If we can take away anything from Shu’s experience with Shannon, it’s that he has a type.

Across the river, Aileen tries to keep a low profile on her date with the hot astronaut, quickly switching her queued ballad with a cheesy 60’s duet as the yoga hypocrite meanders in her direction. She would try to beat Shu at his own game, she would. It’s not her fault there are only two decent single guys. It’s not her fault she doesn’t click with either of them well enough to not wonder what it would be like to sleep with her yoga instructor.

Yet, thanks to her three-step plan for distraction, she’s forgiven Xiyuan,

and is now gym buddies with his husband.

Exercise: Someone please explain what the fuck Bernard is trying to say. Mimsy knew she was going to die when she went up to the bedroom? Why didn’t she run out of the house? Why does realizing she’s going to die in a fire make her extraordinary? What data is Bernard basing his final conclusion on? And, lastly, what the fresh hell is any of this supposed to mean?

Aileen is a believer in the rule of three. Derrick, Josh, Matt. Since Aileen saw the other two last night, she senses Matt’s presence through walls, a dozen yards away, and decides to make out with him. Girl, you’re covered. But! In an unexpected turn of events, Shu brings a girl home.

That’s right—Sleepover Standoff 4!

Two enter.
One leaves.

(Marielle Beam, by the way. Glutton. Neat. You should have seen her before the makeover.)

Shu’s date was interrupted by a text from his romantic interest, congratulating him for getting a new girlfriend. He’s also a fan of the rule of three.

Exercise: Is this more shamey and passive-aggressive than Elsa’s text, or less? Discuss.

Despite looking like he has the personality of Mark from RENT, Mark from the museum is also an astronaut. Aileen can only hope him and Derrick aren’t in space when they start comparing their sex lives. And yet, do you see Derrick anywhere? Aileen doesn’t. She should know; she can sense boyfriends through walls.

If you have to summarize the current story line to a friend, just show them this image. Then explain how the author didn’t expect to go public with her stories, so the game controls show up in every screenshot and she can’t crop them sometimes. Then watch in anticipation as they reluctantly scroll through the entry without laughing.

Marielle is having a good time, but forgot item 17 of “45 Ways To Make Your Date Great” in last month’s Simsmapolitan: don’t sleep in your date’s mom’s bed. She’s promptly banished to the A.I.B. as Aileen prepares to consummate her new relationship.

Age-Inappropriate Boudoir, in case you forgot the callback joke

Post-coitus, Matt remembers he needs to pick up his dry cleaning (or check stocks, or some other slipshod adult excuse clarifying why this never happens to Shu), and yeets out of the house.

0-4, hahaha mom suck it but metaphorically

Exercise: Can you break The Sims 4 by being a slut?

No shaming here, he identifies as a slut.

Observe the lack of timer on this moodlet. Shu has become the Flirty singularity, and is now permanently horny. (Exercise: Does this change any aspect of his life whatsoever?) Similar to how the frog prince needs to be rescued by a kiss, the only way to save him from this curse is for him to hit on someone, which resets the timer and cures him after four hours. Seduction has become a necessity.

But Shu, refusing to do anything/one halfway, discovers how seduction can become a matter of life and death.

It begins with Shu challenging himself to break a personal record. He’d compete with a friend, if he could, but locker room talk is hardly that if you’re supplying all the stories; by that point it’s locker room monologuing, and he’d rather just spin-change and use the extra 15 minutes to make out with Max. Today, he’s aiming to complete three consecutive dates on a school night. Tomorrow, optimizing his outfit for standing in Magnolia Promenade with a guitar and looking cute.

This challenge is refereed by Shu’s father, future father-in-law, and best friend’s mom/mom’s best friend. None of them agreed to carry scorecards.

Like any reader of last month’s Simsmapolitan, Shu is a master of successful date construction. First: sit down. You have to sit down and talk. If you don’t sit down and talk, be prepared for the bartender to kick you out on your keister with a pack of crayons and a coloring book illustrating your failure, because it’s not a fucking date. You must socialize with your date at least ten times. Experienced daters recommend hiding one’s hands under the table and raising a finger for each successful interaction. You must continue to initiate a discrete set of at minimum one and at maximum three predetermined platonic or romantic interactions. You cannot initiate either only platonic or either only romantic interactions; you have to do both. Four total. Only then can you claim to have enjoyed spending time with another Sim.

Billie’s single required platonic interaction is to get into the playful spirit. Thinking quickly, Shu scours facebook for ironic minion memes. They stumble upon the PlumbBook page of an elder Sim with a love of the yellow tic-tacs and teen-like preoccupation with self-serving politics. Opinions, compression artifacts, and hasty edits overflow from his phone screen.

All too suddenly, Shu finds himself in danger of choking on his own spit from laughing too hard.

He excuses himself to calm down in the mirror, but it doesn’t work. (One of the minions had similar glasses.) Plan B is to flirt with Billie like his life depends on it; it’s his only hope.

And, damn it, it works. Shu thanks Billie for saving his life, escorts her out of the club, walks back in, and starts texting the next girl.

Elsa seems to have accepted Shu for who he is, not the best long-term option but cheaper than a movie ticket.

Don’t worry, father of the year! They sat down and talked first.

Alright, Elsa, that was fun, but—nope, he’s thinking about minions again.

Minions: Not even once

Shu leaves the date early in shame. His challenge was failed, his night is ruined. While he’s sleeping off the side effects of combining “things Boomers criticize Gen Z for” with “things Gen Z criticize Boomers for,” Aileen chills with the Jeong-Espinosas. (Come to think of it, everyone except Bernard is Gen Z, if Gen Z lived in a state of cultural stasis. They also did technically experience climate change.)

Aileen had barely walked through the door when this popped up:

Aw, shucks, thanks. Aileen couldn’t have done this without the help of her supportive friends, Mike and Claudia. Where’s Claudia?

Claudia, you silly goose! Come downstairs and celebrate with your friends!

You know what, close enough.

Claudia will always provide an optimistic take on Aileen’s existential crisis du jour. She’s excited to vicariously experience the whole three-boyfriend thing, and Aileen’s having a stable enough day to face Claudia’s brand of slurred positivity head-on, so dish they do. (The other dish is just watching.) After two hours of active listening to pros & cons/compulsive cocktail-crafting, Claudia presents her final verdict of “they all sound woooooonderful, my dear.” Even Josh? “There’s a little something special in everyone.” But what will Aileen do? “Don’t worry, everything always works itself out in the end.” Aileen knows no one can make this decision for her, and, internally rolling her eyes at the lack of productive input, prompts Claudia to list Hector’s activities this month. Temporal order, alphabetical, random, just knock yourself out.

A recently recovered Shu goes back to the nightclub to parade yet another romantic interest in front of his heavily pregnant future mother-in-law.

At least there are no books in the nightclub, someone could leave one on a table and then where would we be?

Genevieve Haskins isn’t afraid to power-clash or make a young boy’s dreams come true.

‘Player’ is one of the most reasonable aspiration rewards, based on the premise that if you make your way through romantic partners like creampuffs at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the community is eventually going to realize you’re making your way through romantic partners like creampuffs at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Congratulations! Your reward is sleeping with more people. Now, when one of Shu’s dozens of girlfriends witnesses him making out in public with someone else, they’ll shrug it off, the same way they do when they learn of his indiscretions over text.

Exercise: Two trains move toward each other starting at 800 miles apart. One train is moving at 110 mph, the other is moving at 160 mph. How many times is Shu going to take advantage of his hard-earned reputation before the trains meet?

Aileen, as addressed earlier, has no such enhanced reputation.

Where’s the social interaction “have honest, ethical discussion about opening the relationship?”

She continues to simultaneously ignore Claudia’s advice while doing exactly what Claudia suggested—waiting it out. Of Aileen’s partners, Derrick seems to care about her the most. No one else invites her out. This should be a non-issue, shouldn’t it? But Aileen isn’t worried about choosing between three suitors; rather, she’s disturbed by her lack of connection with any of them. The longer this conflict draws out, the harder it is for Aileen to believe she’ll get her happy ending. She finds herself spacing off during the date to escape into the two-dimensional duochrome world of Chantel’s rom-coms.

On the bright side, there won’t be a Sleepover Showdown for once! She wins by default! She—

Exercise: Compute the odds of this bullshit happening

By the looks of it, Derrick missed the abduction because a hummingbird moth was buzzing around the hydrangeas, and left for a nice jog around the park. She’ll be fine! ‘Aileen’ and ‘alien’ kind of sound similar, anyway.

Aileen is returned to Earth—eventually—but makes it back in time to ignore her son at the Romance Festival. They both bring dates: Josh,

Rule! Of! Three!

and some teenage girl Shu met earlier that day at a PB&J meeting.

Seema (two awful traits) probably goes to a different school, otherwise she’d know getting within video-showing range of Shu is a bad idea
Welcome to Shu. Please keep your arms and legs outside your clothes at all times. Audience in the first two rows may get wet.

Seduction is a well-documented art. In fact, it’s a bizarre interpretive dance in which one waves their body like a flag and makes these vile misophonia-triggering noises. (Exercise: Actually try to “Attempt to Seduce” someone. See how that goes.)

Aileen wins the Sleepover Standoff for once, and takes full advantage.

1-4! She’s still thinking about Derrick!

And yet, even when she wins, she loses. Note the painting of the woman behind the mirror. It’s there—

—and then it’s gone. That painting was worth a couple hundred dollars. Aileen hasn’t noticed and she’s ready for a second round, so, eh.

Aileen has some personal issues to work out, and she’s about to start living in her head a lot more. Today, she completes one of the most useful, challenging, and visually uninteresting life goals.

Forget lack of jealousy! She controls life itself! Petty squabbles mean nothing to a woman who just developed godlike powers! Why, the motivation boost from spitting in death’s face is enough for one to be the bad parent and give Shu the WooHoo talk.

“Young man, correct me one more time and you’re grounded from sleepovers.”

Shu learns he will get pregnant and die just in time for his birthday.

Shu made his own birthday cake, then he made his real birthday cake because some piece of fuck decided his first cake was up for grabs. We’re not looking at anyone in particular here.

Before the last candle is extinguished, Shu presses ‘Send’ on a PlumbBook status that should really be read as a warning to adult Sim women. Four of his closest girlfriends mingle with each other and close family friends. (Xiyuan’s outside with the plants again.) All things considered, it’s significantly less awkward than his last birthday party.

Shu doesn’t need a third trait—he’s already a pretty strong character—but is now a Dance Machine. This way, he gets a little extra enjoyment out of doing what he do.

Shu the overachiever entered adulthood with nine girlfriends and eight maxed skills. Yes, neither of those are typos: nine girlfriends and eight maxed skills. (Also Max.) In reverse order: Charisma, Cooking, Fitness, all 3 instruments, Painting, Singing, barely missed Gourmet Cooking with a 9; and Chantel Lucas, Shannon Bheeda, Elsa Bjergsen, Genevieve Haskins, Olivia Spencer-Kim-Lewis, Billie Jang, and three other Sims. For reference, Claudia (MVP) also has eight maxed skills. His dad only has five.

Since Shu’s rather more of a Parallel than a Serial romantic, collecting several favorite girlfriends in the same room is used here to help him determine whether he has a favorite.

Exercise: Guess whom?

Awwwww!

Yeah, it’s heartwarming, isn’t it? Despite her insistence on indoor sunglasses, and his on seeing everyone naked, there may actually be something to Chantel and Shu’s relationship.

The official party hasn’t ended before an unofficial party starts in the A.A.B.

fridge horror, they can’t change the sheets

For those of you prepared to scoff at the “Break out the candles, and make it romantic…” message, “Mess Around” totally counts.

times kissed > meals eaten

For generational parting gifts, Aileen gave Shu the Book of Life, and Shu gave Aileen a painting to replace the one Josh stole.

Exercise: Who invited Shu to the musical? Ok, it was Xiyuan. That one’s too easy.

They engage in one last Sleepover Standoff, which Aileen won.

Final score: 2-4

Releasing Shu from captivity is like throwing a pig into a pit of starving wolves, but one obstacle remains before we can see the fallout from this disaster.

Yes, it’s the dreaded

FINAL EXAM

1. Is Shu a counterexample to Aileen’s Theorem; that is, is he a good man?

(a) Yes

(b) No

(c) Hahahahahaha

2. Who will Aileen end up with?

(a) Derrick

(b) Matt

(c) Josh

(a) Herself

3. What career is Shu going to enter?

(a) Musician

(b) Escort

(c) Screw your stupid rules

(a) All of the above

Good luck.

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:

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.

The Shallot-Liu Family: It Exists Now!

It’s these guys again! Everyone try not to freak out!

We last left the Jeong-Espinosa household, where Claudia prepared an early wedding gift worth… THIRTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. HOLY SMOKES.

Claudia (upper right): hmmkggrfffhhg oh hi guys, ambrosia’s on the table, bye

Ambrosia is a dish best served with your lover. Bernard receives some sandwich-based emotional support as he prepares to take the first bite of the heavenly dish,

Claudia: hmmmbllfbmm another drink

and KAPLOOIE ZOW FLOATIES

He’s alive! He’s really alive!

Thanks to Claudia and her magic cooking hands, or Charlie and his normal fishing hands, Xiyuan and Bernard can be a somewhat outwardly normal-looking couple.

Claudia: hmmmmlfrgrbl don’t put anything in the dishwasher, it’s running

The first thing Bernard wants to do is test-drive his new corporeal body. They’re also going to test-drive a spaceship, because neither of these men have actually driven a spaceship before.

Does one really drive a spaceship?

It takes a lot to shake Sims in San Myshuno (they have homeless people! And BOHEMIANS. And oh. My! So! Much! Cultural! Diversity!), but being a floating green ghost occasionally does it. Now these two could sit at the bar and have a completely routine flirty couple conversation and no one would bat an eye.

“It was more fun when you were dead.”

Being rematerialized is only novel for so long, and when your choices are playing out a 10th grade essay about why immortality is bad or avoiding the finality of death by doing the aforementioned while monochromatic and transparent, one has to focus on the here and now. Treasure the moments where you can have a normal conversation with your partner about housework and—hold on. How is the yellow star one staying in his hand? Did they glue these cards together? What game is this?

The adoring look in Xiyuan’s eye is just his inability to poker face. Bernard, on the other hand, is lucky in love, unlucky in cards.

Hence it is with few regrets that Xiyuan and Bernard return to the same thing they do every day: try to take over the art world.

Their relationship is the real work of art—they have shown the rare ability to inspire others to be creative inside and outside their universe. Victor Feng, for example, has yet to pay his respects to the happy couple, and commemorates the occasion with a little ditty he wrote for them.

Said ditty may or may not be an 11-hour improvised a cappella rock opera.

He left at 10 AM. The only thing that could have made this better would be if Lily came banging down the door to get him to stop singing.

Shu is still visiting his father for weekends (which places him fifth for amount of time spent in this apartment). Thankfully, Bernard forgot about the bathroom incident and is now able to have a relationship with a taller, friskier Shu.

Shown: a thousand-word treatise on why Sims should not be allowed to dress themselves.

Right now, they’re just exchanging pleasantries, but will hopefully soon have someone to vent to about how Xiyuan refuses to drink tea if it was picked more than 2 months ago, etc., etc. Well, the joke’s on Shu—he did pick up some habits from his dad. Hello, plants!

Fascinating! Is there a genetic component to Sim idiosyncrasies?

All of this only distracts from the main event: wedding planning. With two swanky grooms and a love story of this volume, the pressure Xiyuan and Bernard are under to plan the perfect wedding is far from ideal. It’s enough to induce a sympathetic reflex with their actual wedding planner.

He knows whatever I’m planning isn’t good enough.

This is the third Sim out of three total marriages I’ve seen catch a cold right before his wedding. He somehow also passed the cold to the entire wedding party, pushing the date back an entire day. This isn’t going to be easy, is it?

The sun rises on the betrotheds for the final time. Both grooms use the morning to steady their nerves in the studio; either the wedding has to start after 6 PM so Claudia can attend (she who saves the day has the final say), or has to be pushed back to Saturday. These two are getting antsy—they’d get married in front of the elevator if they could—so 6 PM it is.

Bernard is hardly the same person who inadvertently BBQ-ed himself and his wife. Decades of practice have honed his technical ability beyond that of any other living artist, and Xiyuan’s continual presence has had a calming effect. Yes; the long sleepless nights spent talking about failure, the tireless efforts to shield Bernard from open flame, the removal from the incendiary estate that so haunted his memories; all of it had paid off, and he was finally in a position to realize his dreams.

So it would be unsurprising if his final masterpiece, completing the aspiration he died trying to achieve, were of his partner.

And with an hour until the wedding!

So sweet.

This is how the wedding begins: by finishing the business of a restless spirit. Bernard scrubs the paint off his hands and yells upstairs to ask Xiyuan where he left the garment bag with his tux. It’s on the dresser, Xiyuan replies, choosing a white tailcoat from his tailcoat closet and removing his white gloves from their case. Everyone in the bridal party who didn’t de-ghost a groom changes into their matching pink-and-white outfits. Kendra, (yes, you, Kendra), also has to change into a matching pink-and-white outfit. Claudia stares into her closet for 15 minutes contemplating whether she should wear the dress from her quinceañera or just throw on some leggings and use a brooch to fashion a cape out of leftover curtain chiffon; no one would dare criticize her. Victor and Lily watch the limo leave from their east window, cursing the 8-guest limit. Aileen weaves in her extensions and pops a Xanax.

This guy can stay. They paid this guy 5 simoleons to play “Somewhere Only We Know” as they walk down the aisle.

The guests arrive at a crystal tower specifically designed for this wedding. The setting sun is reflected by the six congruent facets of a crystal spire, which umbrellas out into a waterfall of glass encasing a pristine white ceremony space. White rose petals have been carefully moved from their natural disorder into a boundary with only right angles, possibly by Xiyuan himself. Floor-to-ceiling infinity mirrors stand proud as a symbol for the eternality of the concept of love. Dolly restarts the wedding 3 or 4 times to make sure everything is perfect.

The chessboard makes it a park

Xiyuan’s eye twitches as a curious Max casually strolls down the aisle during their impeccably drafted, written, edited, re-drafted, and re-written vows. Shu gives him a jovial little wave.

(Don’t be silly, guys. Max doesn’t ruin your wedding by doing something unplanned—I ruin your wedding by doing something planned. People familiar with the game mechanics have already spotted what.)

At long last, meet Xiyuan and Bernard Shallot-Liu!

They’re too dignified to smash cake on each other’s faces.

Two of our patriarchs kick off the reception with some appropriate familial bonding, symmetrically hugging their respective sons.

As if the vows weren’t saccharine enough, Xiyuan debuted a song he wrote for Bernard.

Now everyone is allowed to eat cak—wait, no, Bernard is performing a song he wrote for Xiyuan.

This is what I had in mind for over-the-top!

Alright, now everyone can have some cake.

Just as time almost prevented this relationship, time would be the undoing of their wedding. Let’s review some important figures. The wedding had to be started after 6 PM for Claudia to be able to attend. Sim weddings last 8 hours. If you’re better at arithmetic than I am, apparently, you would have been able to see this coming.

No one can shame you for power napping if no one else is awake. Well, there’s Mike, but he rarely notices anyone other than himself.

Look at the above picture again. Can you tell who’s missing?

It was Shu!

Shu chose to sleep in his own bed, then changed into his hoodie and came back to play the violin. Charlie and Kendra, excited that the reception was 80% napping and they didn’t have to entertain their parents’ friends, kept the party going well after 4 AM.

This is where the wedding ends: sleeping in the sky, in tails.

Luckily, the grooms would have a honeymoon to look forward to when they woke up. Kidding! They both had work, so Xiyuan’s friends came over and trashed the everloving heck out of the place.

Counting seems to be a hidden theme for this chapter. Here, you can count the glasses for a unique educational experience. Ah! Ah! Ah!

Oh, hey. Lily was also there the entire time.
Thirteen glasses and a broken stereo! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Xiyuan and Bernard have a maid. She comes every day. Unfortunately for Xiyuan, he’s the type to think “I have to clean my house before the person I paid to clean my house gets here, so they don’t get mad at me.” He may also be the victim of a benevolent, but imperfect, creator, who may or may not have been laughing hysterically as he picked up each individual glass, making the stack higher and higher.

What are a few extra dishes when the Romance Festival is tonight, anyway?

Recall Xiyuan’s last two Romance Festivals. Festival one, he sat at a table alone and stared at people. Festival two, he gave painting lessons to his son while his ex-wife stood directly in front of him to make out with her new boyfriend look at how happy she is now, no thanks to you.

Festival three, he’s with the love of his life and everyone is wearing his favorite colors. Everything’s good.

I think the man in the background speaks for everyone.

The next time we see these guys, they’ll probably doing something else that mocks the very concept of probability itself. Or painting.