How To Sell Songs Online: A Beginner’s Guide to Licensing Cover Songs

So, last time we talked about distributing your music online. But if you’re doing cover songs (like this one here that I did, looky looky, buy buy buy) you gotta make it all legal and shit. So let’s talk licensing!

I’ve talked previously about PROs here, here, and here, and the thing is, if you’re doing a cover song, the songwriter has to get paid. I hadn’t the faintest clue how that mysterious process could take place until I listened to an interview given by (guess what, it’s someone I’ve never mentioned before! and certainly not here on Pyragraph) Pomplamoose’s Nataly Dawn, wherein she says, “People think that all of these things have to be done by geniuses behind huge desks or at the top of skyscrapers, but you can just go online and do it yourself.”

The site you’ll want to visit, in order to do this thing—license your cover song—that could previously only be done by geniuses with expensive furniture, is HarryFox.com. Or LimeLight. There are doubtless more mechanical license clearing companies out there that I don’t know about.

So, now what? Which licenses am I supposed buy? If you are, like me, doing a purely digital release, you’ll probably want to go for “Interactive Streaming,” and “Digital Downloads (DPDs).”

These categories are pretty self-explanatory. “Interactive Streaming” refers to your YouTube and Spotify-type plays. Your license-facilitating-company will ask you how many times you think your video will be streamed over the next twelve months. Here’s the part where you estimate low, because you’re going to pay a certain percentage of a penny or something for every stream you estimate. If people end up playing your song more than you expected, you can renew your license later.

Oh, and why should you do this? YouTube is plastered with unlicensed cover songs, so why should you bother paying the fees? Everyone and their mother’s cat has covered songs in their bathroom, in their bathrobes, on their ukulele, and posted them to YouTube. Seems like people (YouTube regulators and the copyright holders themselves) are usually pretty lax on all this, but they could still take your video down at any time if, for example, the copyright holder complains.

Onward! You still have one more type of license to pay for. Your “Digital Download” license is for the iTunes-type music store. Again, you’ll want to estimate low on how many you might sell, and you can renew later on if you need to.

And at this point, I’ve got a question for you, intergalactic-hive-mind-interweb-brain. Who polices this whole licensing thang? Is it mainly the copyright holders? Their PROs? Some other strange, mysterious shadow entity? If you know, please enlighten me (like, comment below).

The only thing that (cheap-o me) wants to mention about this whole process is the $15-$16 fee they’ll charge you per type of license, per song. It feels weird paying a bunch o’ fees that significantly outweigh the actual license, i.e. the mulah that’ll eventually make it to the songwriter you’re so in musical love with. I paid over $30 in fees and about $6 or so in licenses. Cognitive dissonance.

On the other hand, I’m happy to know how this process works. I’m finally modeling my music self after Pomplamoose, which I’ve been wanting to do for ever so long. I’m just glad I’ve finally done it. This is just the beginning, friends, just the beginning.

Originally published at Pyragraph.

On Maggots and Music Boxes, Among Other Things

Chickens, maggot-destroyers - Sage Harrington

A few of the heartless creatures that committed unimaginable atrocities against helpless swathes of compost-pile maggots.

Here at the Happy Gland Ranch, things are getting interesting in the compost pile. We’ve been feeding chickens obscenely disgusting (or exceedingly delicious, depending upon whose perspective we’re dealing with) maggots from the compost pile. We draw them out with halves of (sadly) rotten melons (yes, we’ve had more than one of those, recently, sigh), which we think are obscenely disgusting, but the maggots think are exceedingly delicious. Then it’s a simple process of scooping the intensely wriggling, obscenely disgusting, exceedingly delicious maggot-melon-pile out of the metal cage in which the compost lives, at which time the chickens attack each maggot with extreme precision.

I like to sit and imagine their chicken bellies filled with almost-wriggling maggots, don’t you?

Here’s something really cool. If you stick your face next to the compost pile in the dark, quiet evening time, you can hear the delightful wettish wrigglings of about a bajillion quadrillion grubby creatures sliming through dead leaves, our rotten food and their own shit. What a life, what a life.

In other news, I spent the better part of the day, a few days ago, slaving over a hot music box. Something that occurred to me only after said music box arrived in the mail was that I had signed myself up for an extremely tedious task. You gotta take this really long strip of cardstock and punch about a gajillion holes in it, paying attention to the grid printed on the card, knowing about notes (which are, of course, written on the card as being a fifth above the note you actually hear—because of infallible reasons, I am sure), being aware of the meter, and just generally being on top of things, which is sometimes a problem for me.

I used approximately a mile of tape to cover holes that I wish I hadn’t punched. This is interesting because once you apply a certain amount of shiny tape to this cardstock, it won’t feed though the box nicely. It can’t get enough traction. There are also the teensiest tiniest circles of cardstock all over the floor and the piano, and tiny scotch tape circles stuck to my hands. What a life, what a life.

A word to the wise: start off with a song that maybe isn’t in a blues shuffle. Or, know what measures and notes are and how they might appear on the cardstock before you begin. Oh, and definitely do this rather than washing the dishes or investigating that suspicious odor emanating from the fridge.

Thankfully, I found that there is, in fact, an app to cure almost all of my box-related woes. Hurrah! Though I can’t say for certain that this eliminates the need for scotch tape, I wlil say that it makes the experimentation phase much less messy.

In other, other news, we have recently invited yet another creature to reside with us here at the Happy Gland Ranch. This is an exceptionally snuggly four year old cat who has spent some of his time here digging with unabashed exuberance in the kitty litter (provided for his use in a thrift-store baking pan with slighty-too-low sides, sigh). Last evening he went for to explore our vast (aka, teensy) front yard through the window Jared had opened in order to listen in on an exciting argument a couple of our charming neighbors were engaged in. But, really, the cat has spent the majority of his first week here sleeping inside our futon. I believe it is very secluded and cozy in there.

And, in closing, let me share with you something completely different: a way to make phunky musak online, my friends. Yes, it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. An online keyboard you can play with your keyboard. It’s very intuitive to people who actually play the piano. Wait. It’s actually really not intuitive to people who play the piano. I spent an inordinate amount of time the other night composing a story, and by extension, a pretty badass (bad? assinine?) atonal creation.

It made me feel really artsy.

How to Sell Songs Online: A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Distribution

iTunes artwork - Sage Harrington

Look, that’s your album. Over there. On that person’s computer screen. Courtesy of Brett Jordan.

I just released my first digital single (looky, looky! buy buy buy!) and I am very excited. I am so waiting for all that sweet cash to roll in. (Yeah, mostly still waiting.) I had never released a song online until just recently. This was a huge mental hurdle for me; I had no idea how to get it done. Since I figured I couldn’t be the only one wandering through the foggy land of confusion, I wanted to share what I learned. As you’ll notice, both my first and second albums, which exist in physical CD format, also exist on the internet (hence the links). This is because the people who made my CDs have magical powers. Not only do they poke tiny holes in plastic discs that make noise when placed in the correct receptacles, they can also change the pixels—change the internet—by merely thinking their thoughts. 

At least, I think that’s how they do it. Lacking this kind of magical prowess, I had a few questions: What if I wanted to go the Pomplamoose route, and not press any discs? Pomplamoose (a band I love for both their music and their business model) has never pressed a disc. So, how did they do this? They probably used a service like this. I resisted the idea of using a service like this for a long time, being the cheap-o (er, not cheap-o, frugal-o!) that I am. I was willing to do a little extra work to avoid extra costs! Sadly, I learned that a company like iTunes won’t even talk to you about selling your music unless you’ve got 20 albums or more in your repertoire, and even then they make no promises to sell your music.

But lucky for us, a bunch of companies have worked out secret, perhaps dark deals with companies like iTunes, so we indies have an in! Seems like we gotta go with the middleman on this one. Obviously, these middlemen are going to charge you money. Which one will get you the best deal? Ari will tell you. This seems to be the general pattern: Some places take a cut of your sales when you make them. Other places charge an annual fee. Depending on the volume of music you’re selling, one or the other might be a better deal for you. The not-annual-fee variety is definitely the better deal for me, cause at this point I ain’t selling much.

Alternatively, if you didn’t feel like your songs had to be on evvvvery single damn online music platform (although someone like Ari Herstand would say you should) for whatever reason, you could just simply upload your tunes to a site like Bandcamp for no money down at all. This is what Jonathan Mann does. He’s got a really interesting process: He writes a song a day and posts it to YouTube. Seems he uploads every single song to Bandcamp but saves digital distribution for his full albums and EPs.

Musicians like Ari Herstand and Pomplamoose, who, you know, don’t have as giant a raft of music to be selling, seem to have all of their songs available on all platforms. But if you don’t feel like you need your shit on iTunes (like, if it would be prohibitively expensive to pay for digital distribution for each and every one of your 365 songs a year) then don’t. That’s the cool thing about this career. Do what makes sense; you don’t have to waste your time on things that seem like a waste of time. Yay! If you’re only interested in releasing original songs, you can stop reading here. But if you wanna do covers, you’re not done yet.

Next time we’ll talk licensing.

News Roundup: the latest from Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band

I wanted to collect some of our latest videos together in case you’d missed ‘em.

Walking: a new video from the Happy Gland Band

Buy this song on iTunes!

We at the Happy Gland Band are proud to announce the release of our latest blockbuster video hit, Walking. Starring my glue-stick-encrusted hands, construction paper, and the highest quality posterboad known to mankind. Intrigued? Read the “true” story of the video’s creation here.

If I Had You: another new video from the Happy Gland Band

Buy this song online!

We also decided to finally record If I Had You, the prettiest song in our repertoire that was written, interestingly enough, by someone else (three someone elses, rather: James Campbell, Reginald Connelly, and Ted Shapiro, who went collectively by “Irving King,” who is not Irving Berlin—confused yet? I am!) in 1928.

Plus, I been blogging!

I have been blogging about many things lately. I am very proud of myself for writing stuff down and hitting “publish.” I wrote about reading a badass book about racism and buying eyeglasses I don’t need. I wrote about learning some circus skills this summer. As I previously mentioned, I wrote about the “real” behind-the-scenes action of our latest video.

I’m currently writing a blog post about compost-pile maggots and their relationship to chickens, a new cat that has taken up residency in our futon, and a thousand tiny cardstock circles, marking the death of my dreams in this whole make-your-own-music-box-tune charade.

September shows:

Sunday, September 7, 4:30pm, Animales Animados, Tiguex Park, Albuquerque, NM
***This is a circus thing! You should come to it! It’ll be super fun!

Friday, September 12, 7:00pm, Charlie’s Spic and Span, Las Vegas, NM
a Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band show

Sunday, September 14, 11:00-noon, Urban Farm and Harvest Fest at Open Space Visitor’s Center, Albuquerque, NM
a Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band show

Sunday, September 28, 3:00-4:00pm, Old Town Gazebo, Albuquerque, NM
Walkingly yours,
Sage

Walking: a new video from the Happy Gland Band

Buy this song here!

The Happy Gland Band coffers have been stretched to the breaking point with the production costs of this, our moste recente videoe creatione, soaring to nearly twenty dollars. Times are tight, so we had to cut away a bit of the retro avocado green fabric from the walls of the Happy Gland dirigible, revealing a panel that we carefully prised away, revealing our glowing stash of emegency nickels. After carefully counting the coins, we took them to a vast and horrible climate controlled building with flourescent lighting, in the center of which laid a  monstrous machine that chewed our coins, swallowed them, and spat them out in a suprizingly neat and tidy, altogether mostly unrumpled paper form. It’s a marvelous beast, really.

After that we were able to purchase with ease the appropriate materials: the posterboard in colorful colors, the archival quality construction paper, the dinosaur-like birds, the cat-like doggish creature, the horse tranquilizers, the mold farm; all from a vast, horrible, climate controlled building run by a multinational corporate conglomerate. (Because we here at the Happy Gland Band deal with quality, and quality alone. Except when we’re dealing with a pile of nickels that have been spat out into a smaller pile of paper bills, which somehow function as “money.”)

What came next? The excrutiating process of set-building, of construction-paper-cutting, of coffee-drinking, of glue-sticking. Of making one of these out of legos. Of turning the camera on and turning it off. Of noodling one’s fingers in an enticing way. A repulsive way. A jaunty way. A shashaying way. A Fosse way! Of charging the camera, exhausted by such noodlings, jauntings, and shashayings. Of climbing onto to the table and jumping off of the table.

Of making a music video, in other words, for goodness’ sake. We are musicians, here in the Happy Gland Band. Music is what we do. Watch us, doing that music. Doing it hard.

But not until we carefully place the secret panel back in the walls of the Happy Gland Dirigible and cover it with the fastidiously repaired avocado green upholstery, securing the rest of our Happy Gland Savings in safety. For use in the making of our next blockbuster Oscar-winning video performance.

Walking - Sage Harrington

Buy this song here!

A Blather-Free Tutorial for Wildwood Flower

This here is my first foray into the world of YouTube tutorials—a realm where people, often with middling competency of their instruments and feelings of musical superiority, blather on and on about how to finger a C chord on the ukulele, over and over and over again. The internet only needs so many explanations of this.

This tutorial is inspired by the spare video tutorial stylings of Ukulelezaza, who I love love love.

Maybe it’s unfair to call this a tutorial. It’s really just a camera pointed at my hands on a uke, but I think it’s plenty. It’s what I want in a tutorial. Monkey see, monkey do.

So, my monkeys. Get out your ukuleles. You know what to do.

Another Ranty Rant on How Music Is Undervalued

My cheerful optimism - Sage Harrington

My cheerful optimism (still not pictured). Photo courtesy of Lucie Provencher.

So after writing a ranty rant on how music is undervalued I really wanted to write something else to kind of bring everything around to a more positive space. I want to talk about good things, about feelings of renewal and optimism—but really, I’m not in the mood yet.

I’m still in a funk.

This. This, y’alls:

Rude Music Fan - Sage Harrignton

Exhibit A: The RudeMusicFan.

This is a Twitter feed that one of my (need I spell it out? full-time working, touring, song-writing) musician friends created as an outlet for all the weird, gross, misdirected things people say at shows.

People say shit like this. And they mean it. And they just don’t get it. People can be really ignorant about art and music and not realize what they’re doing hurtful or sexist or racist or just plain asinine.

Rude Music Fan - Sage Harringotn

Exhibit B: A a friend of mine (need I spell it out? an incredibly beautiful, lovely, surreally talented person), mentioned doubting that doing music is worth it. That doing music is the right choice. The right life choice.

At first I was confused. Like, are you for reals? Of course it is! How could you let anyone tell you otherwise?

Then I remembered what the world is constantly telling us: you can’t make a living doing music.

As in:

Can you play for our thing? We can’t really pay you.

This gig doesn’t pay, but you can get exposure and can sell CDs and stuff.

The 3-hour-long sets your band is supposed to play for $125 where you’re basically background noise and no one gives a shit. Focus: Music? No. Beer sales? Yes.

I remembered that, and I understood what she was saying.

Rude Music Fan - Sage Harrington

It’s also weird because the world is simultaneously telling us the opposite: that it’s really, really important to be a famous, supertalented pop star, and that you’re gotta work really hard to get to the point where millions of people adore you and you can sell out stadiums. People don’t seem to get it—you can be a successful musician without being famous. You can also be a “successful” musician without even making enough for rent. The cultural narrative is really fucking schizo in that way, and it’s totes annoying.

Yeah, we musicians are all a little bit counterculture. We don’t wanna do the prescribed thing, probably because that would be boring. And stifling. We wanna be out on our own. We want to do things the wrong way, the not-standard way.

But there’s a time when you just gotta call it bullshit.

Originally posted at Pyragraph.com.

A Ranty Rant on How Music Is Undervalued

My cheerful optimism - Sage Harrington

My cheerful optimism (not pictured). Courtesy of Daniel Zedda.

It’s been a weird year, in some ways. About while ago this happened and a Happy Gland Band video went sort of fungal. No, bacterial. No, virulent. No, viral. And I spent a bunch of energy trying to ride that wave as hard as I could, which led pretty swiftly to the fresh, warm spring wave of Gotta Get Outside And Plant Some Plants, rather than the rip tide of Oh Shit Look At All The Various Ways I Could Spend Hours In Front Of My Laptop I was getting sucked into.

Sometimes a girl just can’t deal with the idea of tweeting every goddamned thing that enters her brain. Okay, if we’re talking about me, it’s all the time. Awllll the timmme.

Things happen in waves (to further bludgeon you with this metaphor), and a bunch of stuff has happened lately that’s pushed me into this really private-feeling space. I don’t want to always be thinking about presenting myself to the world. I don’t want to be visible, all the time.

Social media is all about constructing this version of yourself that’s supposed to be attractive to people, and that pressure can just be exhausting. (By the way, maybe I should compartmentalize social media stuff more, the way Danielle Vincent does. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel the horrible weight of guilty avoidance weighing down on me at all times.)

Then, more things happened.

This ohsohilarious April Fool’s joke, for instance. Yes, you’re hearing the bitterness of one upon whom the joke was played and she was got and she talked about it publicly on social media and spent a really really long time drafting up a blog post about it before she realized that, hey, it’s April first and…shit. I mostly felt angry that I had spent over an hour wasting precious time in front of the computer screen, after I had so recently renewed this sense of Learning To Prioritize and Using Computer Time Wisely So That I Don’t Become a Cranky Musician Who Never Practices Or Enjoys Life!

But seriously, I wanna talk about why this April Fool’s joke is so funny. Because isn’t it hilarious to think that working musicians would be paid a wage comparable to that of people who have real jobs? Isn’t is just dandy that we’re basically expected to scrape by? Isn’t it awesome that what we do is so undervalued?

I met some amazing musicians recently who played their songs and performed beautifully and broke my heart and brought me to tears when I listened to their music and thought about what they had told about ageism, about needing to keep side jobs, about trying and trying and trying to make this career work.

These amazingly talented, lovely players, these two people who have spent so much to become such beautiful artists, these people who are reservoirs of beauty who, by doing their art, can open us up to the truths of life—we don’t even have the dignity as a society to make sure that they are modestly taken care of.

TRANSCENDENT BEAUTY—THAT’S NOT ENOUGH FOR US. We’ve gotta make sure that on top of doing their heartbreakingly beautiful things, they’re also serving the masses their faux-Italian-sized lattes, answering tech support calls, stocking groceries on the shelf. THESE are the things that are really valuable to us. Not education, not music, not art. Not people’s emotional well-being. It just feels so arbitrary and sad.

Clearly, it’s more than just the fact music is undervalued. This is a systemic problem that affects a whole hell of people harder than educated middle-class white chicks who play the ukulele (hey, that’s me). We could talk about the need for universal single-payer healthcare, about grave income inequality, about racism, about sexism. Inga, wanna chat sometime?

Ah, you guys, I feel so ranty and whiny and complainy, and I’m sorry for being such a bummer, but I just really needed to talk about this.

Also, April Fool’s Day is a stupid holiday.

Originally published at Pyragraph.com.

The Joy of Taking Breaks and Learning Something New

Sage Harrington, red nose clown

Me and my circus pals, Callie and Tasha.

Due to the crappy way I’ve been feeling lately (as discussed previously) I needed, just needed, to do something real. Something, er, analog. Something that did not involve pixels. Something that did not involve booking underpaying shows that I would struggle to get through.

I wanted to do real things with my real muscles, so I signed up for a circus intensive. Besides, I didn’t have any shows booked (I was tired of the pixels, remember?) so what else was I gonna do with myself? It was perfect timing.

What can I say about it? It was so much fun. It was beyond liberating to do something so new, so exciting, so beyond my brain’s normal functioning patterns. It was a six-week intensive with classes in all sorts of disciplines: aerials (fabrics and trapeze), clowning, physical theater, stilts, acrobalance.

There’s this thing that happens when you’re taking a fabrics class, for example, and you’re a beginner. The teacher shows you how to do something (and usually they show you about three different things you can do once you’re all twisted up in there), and you go, “Oh, cool, okay, I could totally swing that, that looks super do-able,” then you get up there, you reach for the apparatus, and you’re like, “…uhh…”

Everything’s gone.

You have no idea what to do, and feel totally lost.

This is really refreshing. I’m loving being a beginner. Not to say that I don’t feel like a beginner at music in a lot of ways—I totally do!–but it’s so exciting being at the very start (like, three months and counting!) of this aerial thing. What’s exciting about being at the very beginning is seeing your own progress. Because during one class you’re hanging upside-down, inexplicably not knowing which way is up (note to self: the ceiling is up), and the next you’ve totally got it: What seemed like an interminably long sequence of impossibly complicated tasks has somehow solidified. Understanding has come to the fore from a dark, foggy netherworld of confusion.

And when that happens, it is beautiful. It looks like this, but in your mind.

Rainbow, clouds parting - Pyragraph

Courtesy of kansasphoto.

I’ve got circus muscles now. I have upper body strength, which is something that I’ve never had any reason to develop before. Flashback to Sage’s early teens: At a summer dance intensive I attended, a yoga instructor referred to all us ballerinas as having “weak little dancer arms.” So, that’s been the image of my upper body strength I’ve carried for all these years. Until now.

Surrounded by wonderful women at this wonderful studio (by the way, I am totally going to keep taking classes up there—the atmosphere is just so dang warm and supportive), I’ve become stronger, more confident, and totally jazzed to keep learning the aerial arts.

The workshop concluded with a series of performances. I performed in a clown act (hence, the nose you see in the above photo) and a trapeze act. And, ironically enough, we choreographed our trapeze act to this steampunk song about the evils of the man who invented digital clocks. (It’s ironic because I didn’t choose the song—my trapeze partner did. Remember how I said I was tired of the pixels?)

And now I feel like a strong, tricked-out trapeze badass.

I took a fabrics class the other night and climbed all the way to the fuckin’ top—although I think it was maybe a little shorter than the ones I’ve become accustomed to climbing—I MEAN, it was the longest fabric ever and I just feel so confident, strong, and totally refreshed.

I’m so excited to keep going with this.

Originally published at Pyragraph.com.

White Imperialist Racism And Eyeglasses I Do Not Need

This is a blog post wherein I attempt to deconstruct the anxiety I feel about white imperialist racism and the purchase of new eyeglasses I do not need.

I recently finished up reading Inga Muscio’s Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society. I think everyone should read this book. It is a book about racism, yes. White imperialist racism. A book about how white imperialist racist ideology bleeds into pretty much everything we do and see. It’s a book about genocide, a book about sexism, a book about ecocide.

Oh Inga, how I love you. You give voice to the parts of me that our racist, imperialist society has tamped down over the years. There were so many moments in the book where I felt this keen recognition—this feeling of ah, that’s me. That’s a more badass, eloquent, educated me. Those are the thoughts I would be writing about if I were braver. Those are the kinds of critical skills I so wish I’d already been developing, but I hadn’t because I’ve allowed our, you know, racist, imperialist society to hack away at some of the more just wishes of my heart and soul. I’m talking about wishes of equality, wishes that I’d had the bravery to call BULLSHIT, for example, when my mom told me that yes, I had to go to college because there were just some hoops that you needed to jump through, or when the gross ex-boyfriend (soon to have a restraining order set against him, so I guess my family and I did have the bravery to call BULLSHIT) dragged me across his dorm room by the ankles.

But, Inga, you exposed those ideas in your lovely book, which uncovered the germs of similar ideas in me, and there they are! Now, to just read the entire bibliography of Cunt, Blue-Eyed Devil, whichever book of yours I read next, and l shall watch those ideas fully germinate, growing into a veritable forest of pinko commie convictions within my heart! Mom will be so proud. (Maybe not.)

After I finished Inga’s book I got the summer flu. I suspect I got the summer flu due to some antibiotics I was on for bacterial vaginosis. Kill all the good bugs in my gut in the process of killing all the “bad” bugs in my cunt, and destroy my immune system. Western medicine at its best.

While convalescing, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder in three feverish hazed days. (Such a race through a book is unusual for me. Busy life and no time to hang out sniffling on the couch enjoying yourself, see.) Incidentally, especially after reading Inga, Barbara Kingsolver’s eco-friendly-motivated garden growing, left-wing leaning political essays seem positively tame.

So this is the fevered brain-space I was swimming in for days and days. White imperialist racism, bad! And it’s everywhere! It’s means government-endorsed autogenocide, ecocide, climate change. These things are caused by ignorance and greed! Shit is hitting the fan! And what can we do? What can I do?

Here’s what I did. I went about my business.

I went to the eye doctor, because I’m turning 26 in a week, at which time my parent’s insurance plan will no longer cover me. But, yay, Obamacare! for extending that timeline from age—what was it, 24?—to 26. You gotta use that shit while you still can. I had the exam. Then funneled me in from room to room and performed their tasks and deemed my eyes in almost the exact same condition they had been last year (and the previous year).

Then for some reason I put a pair of those fancy trial frames on anyway, and sat down with the salesperson. And then bought the glasses that I DO NOT NEED, because the glasses that I currently wear are of almost exactly the same prescription.

This is the state that I am in. Because I am a white, privileged, middle class person, I am in a state where I am able to agonize over how much waste will go into to the production of the glasses I will purchase even though I DO NOT NEED them. I can agonize over what the longer-term costs may be for the environment based on said unknown waste. I can agonize about what the workers conditions are like where the glasses are made, I can agonize about what toxins may or may not be leached into my face from the plastic of the frames or the anti-reflective coating of the lenses. I am able to agonize over whether or not they should put the slightly creepy dilation drops in my eyes (which temporarily paralyze the muscles surrounding your pupils so that the pupils remain open, with I-don’t-know-what-other-known-or-unknown-long-term-side-affects). I am in a state where I can agonize about what it will do to my bank account in the long term to spend $160 on a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED that would have cost over three times that much without the coverage of the happy insurance of my parents.

I should probably mention that it has taken me up to this point in my early adult life to not feel a deep, cringing sense of remorse and fear for my future each time even the smallest amount of money is emptied from my wallet.

I can agonize about all the waste that goes on within the office itself—all the paper used, all the tiny little disinfectant wipes wiped on all the elaborate optometry equipment, I can agonize about gender equality in the offices—on why my doctor is male, but everyone else who works there is female. I can agonize about their respective salaries. I can agonize about race, too—on why, for the three years I’ve been going to this office, I have only seen one black woman working there, just this last time. I can agonize over how much energy is used to keep that place at frigid temperatures during the warmest summer months.

I can agonize about a hell of a lot of things in a very short period of time, realize I am a ignorant of the answers to basically all of my questions, and then go ahead anyway and buy the glasses I DO NOT NEED.

I am incredibly fortunate to have the luxury to worry about these things instead of the many other perils plaguing people around the world, often at the hand of our gross government (see Inga for more details).

My glasses saleslady could sense my agonizings, I suspect, and told me that I was merely spending 43 cents a day on them for the next year. But you don’t understand… I moaned internally, there’s so much more to it than that. The earth, you know. The waste. The labor. The money. Plus, if I’m gonna make an investment in something for 43 cents a day for the next year, it might as well be something that has a better chance of improving life for me and everyone else than a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED. Like some fund for pandas. Or zooplankton. Or a fund that would make sewing machine repair free to this badass self-employed cool-things-making woman.

Instead, I was handed my receipt, told the dilation drops had only worked for around twenty minutes, rather than the four to eight hours they should have, and had this extremely pointless conversation about those “disposable,” “one-use” sunglasses things you’re supposed to slip in behind your eyeglass lenses after you get your dilation drops. See, I DID NOT NEED to waste the resources involved in taking this little sheet of tinted plastic shaped charmingly like some fifties style glasses, because I had a pair of prescription sunglasses in my purse, and, as you might remember, the damned dilation drops had stopped working anyway. (My eyes, just like my heart, shall be paralyzed by ignorance no longer!)

We were almost at the end of our pointless negotiation, the glasses saleslady and me (I didn’t want to take the one-use sunglasses because it’s a waste of resources, and she had already taken them out of their little plastic sleeve and wanted to hand them off to me and be done with it), when she finally said, “You can just take them and if you don’t need them, you can throw them in the trash.”

I took them.

I did not need them.

I threw them in the trash.

And, clearly, I am still agonizing over it.