The following first appeared in Stephinitely, a weekly newsletter from columnist Stephanie Hayes featuring a bonus column and behind-the-scenes chatter. To get it in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.
Maybe you heard, or maybe you didn’t, that extraterrestrial life is back in the terrestrial spotlight. Anyone could be forgiven if the news went overhead like a Balloon Boy who was never there. This TikToker said it best when he explained that, at this juncture in the daily news cycle, he is better able to process the recipe for Texas Roadhouse’s honey butter than the possible presence of UFOs.
Sorry, UAPs. “Unidentified Flying Objects” have been rebranded as “Unidentified Anomalous/Aerial Phenomena,” similar to how Dunkin’ Donuts is now just Dunkin’ and associated with Ben Affleck. The word “extraterrestrial” has also been replaced by the broader “nonhuman,” which is what I call my laundry jabberwocky.
On Wednesday, a former U.S. intelligence officer and other military members testified under oath that, if I may attempt to translate, none of our *&^% matters and no one cares about our little dramas and opinions and thoughts about podcasts and the fact that it’s hard to find pants that fit right because THERE ARE ALIENS, YOU GUYS, AND THE GOVERNMENT IS HIDING IT. The hearings are the result of a frankly surprising bipartisan House effort led, in part, by Floridians. Because if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that we’d all like another option besides Earth.
Do I believe? I try to live my life at the border of skeptical and and open-minded, so, sure, anything is possible. I appreciate the emphasis on removing the stigma from reporting weird stuff in the sky, because I would also like to be taken seriously should I one day look up and see some unknown being staring lasciviously from a floating disco ball and trying to get my iPhone passcode.
So, aliens: I don’t know if you’re reading this or not, but in case you have selected a preferred digital news and entertainment source in the many times you’ve apparently visited Earth, I want to share some tips about our kind:
For starters, we are pretty decent to each other in person, for the most part. We hold doors and smile at strangers and try not to cause a lot of scenes. But online, under a protective blanket of anonymity, is where we really make the most of the vocabulary we started learning in school at a young age, mostly phrases gathered outside the classroom on bathroom walls.
We often coexist in family units inside houses or small, grouped dwellings called apartments. For some reason, in 2023, everyone seems to want laminate floors that look like wood but come in a deeply unnatural shade of gray. Recently, although our technology has advanced in terms of hinges, humans have reverted to hanging old-fashioned barn doors inside their homes, doors that leave a distressing 2-inch gap of space between the bathroom and the bedroom.
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Related: The divorce rate is high.
You may be confused by our many species of living things. Americans like dogs more than we like people. We give our dogs birthday parties. Our dogs have their own fluffy beds, insurance policies and social media accounts. Dogs are not allowed in most restaurants for sanitary reasons, unless someone either has a legitimate need for assistance or orders a small red vest on Amazon.
Amazon, by the way, is a commerce website. It started as a place to order books, but now it’s a place to, within the span of 36 hours, get toilet paper, a salad spinner, a retrofitted Toyota headlight and a pair of leggings made by a brand named HDYTEFV or IYEGDDY or YESTFRT. Can you translate?
Many of us are bipedal, but we spend the majority of our time in our own earthcrafts in a forced sitting position propelling ourselves down paved thoroughfares while burning fossil fuels as temperatures climb to record levels. In these vessels, we listen to our Earth music and believe, wrongly, that we can sing, or more specifically, that we can rap.
There is much to learn, nonhuman friends. We have not even approached the topics of Taylor Swift, grain bowls, Diet Coke, keto, cancel culture or the skinny jeans debate. I would love to sit down with you and tell you more, if you decided wrongheadedly to spend more time on this planet. Let me know, preferably in a way that can be clearly photographed and does not end up looking like a floating Winn-Dixie bag when enlarged on the screen. And please come in peace.
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