The Great Depression: Meg vs. Chris

As mentioned yesterday, I spent the better part of this past weekend and the first half of this week in Philadelphia with Chris, wrapping up the first round of editing our book and finessing another project we've got in the works. We got a lot of good work done, but we also got in our first fight. That's right, we fought. But like, for realizes fought. Don't get me wrong, it's not like Chris and I get along all of the time; we actually fight a lot. We fight about everything from the pronunciation of the word "cashew" to whether or not we're even friends, but it's always done in a cheeky "HA HA, YOU," kind of way. Monday night, however, was a different story. It was the first time we fought about something and actually meant it. So, what was it about? Was it a disagreement about editing the book? No. Was it about the direction of our new project? No. Was it even related to our writing at all? No. It was about catfish noodling. After five years of knowing each other, Chris and I got in our first real-live fight about catfish noodling.

Looking back, I'm not even entirely sure how it all started. I think I wrote a joke about crawfish that Chris rejected because it quote, "sounded too delicious." This opened up a whole can of worms about Chris' southern roots and their culture of eating all sorts of disgusting river creatures for pleasure, and I believe 
that led to an anecdote about how during the Great Depression, Chris' grandfather's brothers would go down to the crick and catfish noodle. 

"Uh, excuse me, but what exactly is catfish noodling?"

"You don't know what catfish noodling is?!"




"Well, you know how catfish are bottom-dwellers who swim with their mouths open?"

"a.) You just said 'bottom-dwellers' and b.) Yes, I do. Proceed."

"Well when you catfish noodle, a spotter finds a catfish hole, and the noodler reaches in and either shoves his hand into the catfish's mouth and through the gills, then pulls him out, or uses himself as bait by letting the catfish clamp down on him, and then pulls him out."

Not to sound like a big city Yankee, walking around a-snappin' my suspenders and calling the shots, but I was
horrified. Catfish are some straight-up voodoo shit:
Look at that. Horrifying. The only thing more horrifying than catfish is the concept of shoving my fist down one's throat, letting it sink all of its teeth into me, and pulling it out and into my boat. And yet, noodling is a real thing! A real thing done by real people other than Chris' backwoods southern relatives during lean times! At present, noodling is legal in 11 out of 50 states (all in the Southshocking, I know), and the biggest catfish ever noodled (Christ...) weighed 60 pounds. Apparently the worst a catfish can really do to you is give you some superficial cuts and minor wounds, but OH, watch out for the alligators, snakes, beavers, muskrats, and snapping turtles who adopt abandoned catfish holes as their new homes.

Here's the thing: for being such a
absurdly attractive woman, I'm actually not that much of a girly-girl. I'm not saying I walk around in a sports bra and mesh basketball shorts all day, but, you know, I like to camp. I spent the majority of the summers in my youth at a lake in Western Maryland redneck country. If you've been to my apartment, you know from some key pieces of artwork that I have a thing for rats; I had a pet chameleon in Elementary Schoolbasically, I'm not constantly concerned that your newfangled motorcar is going to splash my perfectly pressed petticoats. That being said, I have to draw the line somewhere. And that line is square down the middle of catfish noodling. The very concept makes my skin crawl, which is exactly what I told Chris.

"You'd make a horrible poor person," Chris said. But he didn't just
say it. He obnoxiously scoffed at me first, and then said it in a tone that was unbelievably patronizing and dripping in judgement. Oozing, really. And I love Chris dearly, but you know what? Fuck you, buddy. Because who are you to tell me that I'd make a horrible poor person? While I fully acknowledge that the concept of two middle-class white kids sitting around talking about who'd make the better poor person is so obnoxious the world might explode, it still pissed me off. Because although I'm not exactly living in a cardboard box on the steps of the post office, I'm also not walking around town with grillz on my teeth that spell "AWK-WARD" in diamonds, with a couple of high-class hookers on each arm. I make a small amount of money each month, but I make it work. And again, I know that's an obnoxious statement because if I'm ever out of money and literally starving, I can always call up my sister and she'll take me out for fajitas and I can dump two bowls of tortilla chips into my purse and put a spare flan in my pocket, but still! I consolidate three meals a day into one super meal I call "Breaklinner" because it's cheaper than eating thrice a day, and have recently adopted a Robin Hood-like approach to acquiring things like toilet paper and coffee. While I'm not saying that qualifies me as ghetto superstar, I am saying that I'm not a total princess.

"Excuse you, why would I be a horrible poor person?" I asked him.

"Because you're not willing to do what it takes to survive."

"Yes I am! I'm just not willing to catfish noodle!"

"Well, I think that proves that you don't have the skills it would take to survive a depression."

"There are other means of surviving a depression besides catfish noodling."

And that's when Chris literally pushed the computer off his lap, whipped around, and bellowed at me, "NAME SIX!"

Shit. Got. Real. And I know just reading that, you're probably like, "HA HA, old Meg and Chris got into an argument about catfish noodling and think that constitutes a real fight! LOL!!" But the argument really was void of any joking tone whatsoever and was oddly seriou

"This is stupid and we have work to do, let's just forget it," I said. Mostly because I couldn't come up with six ways of surviving a depression other than catfish noodling, as my mind was too busy trying to wrap itself around the concept that catfish noodling was even an option to
begin with. 

We went back to work, but distracted, I started looking for noodling videos on YouTube and found this little gem:

Not only does this video offend me for obvious catfish-based reasons, I'm also enraged that these "fishermen" refer to the practice of noodling as "hand-grabbin'". I'm not saying Wordsworth would give a of tip his hat to whoever came up with the term "catfish noodling", but at least it's not the circle jerk of hillbilly redundancy that is "hand-grabbin'". Maybe if Mr. Mott did a little more brain-thinkin' he could have come up with something slightly more creative...

I went out to dinner with my parents tonight and asked them what 
my grandparents were doing during the Great Depression, thinking it would provide me a few concrete noodling-free depression alternatives. This turned out to be an extremely poor decision on my part. My great-grandfather was the buyer for Gimball's department store in New York, so apparently my grandmother "didn't even know there was a depression going on", and nobody really knows what my grandfather was doing for work at the time, just that he was in Chicago and then New York. I held out hope that my father's sidethe scrappy Irish sidewould give me a little more grit cred.

"So what did Grandpa Bern do during the Depression, Dad?"

"He worked on Wall Street."

"Oh man, he must have been pretty fucked after the market crashed, huh?"

"Hmm? Oh no, he was fine."

"What do you mean, he was fine?"

"I mean he was fine. He probably lived with his parents, if that helps?"

"[Sigh] What about Grandma Catherine?"

"Well, her family owned a pig farm outside the city in New Jersey, right around where Giant's stadium is today."

"Ooo! So she was a lowly pig farmer during the Depression?"

"No. She was a secretary in Manhattan."

"GOD DAMNIT! So what you're saying is, nobody in our family ever catfish noodled to get by?"

My parent's exchanged a sideways glance at each other, resulting in my father deciding to take this one. "Meghan, you come from a long line of hardened city people who wouldn't know a catfish if it crawled up the toilet and bit them on the ass. We know how to shop, drink, and go out to eat."

"This isn't helping my point in the slightest."

"I don't know why Chris is acting so high-and-mighty," my mom added, "He's the one with a hyphenated last name!"

So my relative theory was a bust and might actually make me sound
more like an asshole, if that's even possible, but I still think I'd survive a depression just fine, thank you. I'm not saying that if you held a gun to my head and said, "Noodle this catfish or I'm going to shoot you," I'd say goodnight and that would be thatI'd noodle the god damn catfish, I'm just saying I'd prefer to explore other options first if given the opportunity. And I don't think that reflects negatively on my survival skills at all. In fact, I think in a Darwinian sense, that makes me even more likely to survive! Because when the chips are down and the well runs dry, I wouldn't be the one shoving my dick into a catfish or a beehive all willy-nilly; I'd probably be looking for some sort of berry alternative or something that doesn't involve sticking my extremeties directly into sharp. BUT, OOOOOO! Don't listen to me; I'm such an East-Coast Liberal Elitist! Run the other direction if you see me during an emergency because my Robert Frost anthology and menorah certainly aren't going to point us in the right direction!

Although we had decided to drop it, about an hour after our initial fight, I made the mistake of bringing it up again.

"I can't believe you don't think I have the survival skills it takes to survive a depression," I said to Chris.

"I definately did before tonight..." he replied, but with so much smugness and so much passive-aggression that afterwards, we both just kind of stared at each other in that distinct Mexican standoff where one person has just taken it slightly too far and the other can't decide if they should go deeper down the rabbit hole or just let it go entirely and you're both kind of shocked and confused how you got there, until Chris finally said, "I don't think either of us have the emotional energy to go where this conversation is gonna take us tonight."


"Wanna go to the sports bar around the corner and get burgers and beer?"

"Yes. Yes, I do."

And that was the end of that. I think every couple (romantic or otherwise) has that one dumb thing that they disagree on and decide to never talk about with each other for the sake of the relationship. For my sister and her husband, it's "The Daily Show"; for Chris and Ex-Co Blogger Eddie, it's Chloƫ Sevigny; and apparently for Chris and me, it's catfish noodling. To test that theory, I asked my parents if they have a That Thing they can't agree on and don't bring up around each other.

"You mean besides Bavarian sex acts?" my dad responded.

"Yeah! Like, you know, just something stupid that you both always...wait...I GE
T THAT. And that is disgusting."

Damn sassy, entitled East Coast brats...where's the humbling mouth of a trout when you need one?


Eric said...

The wife of a friend of mine believes that the moon landing was staged and they got into several heated arguments about it until finally deciding to never discuss it again. Naturally I broach the subject as often as possible because I'm a dick.

Andrea said...

I think I saw catfish noodling on Dirty Jobs or something else Discovery Channelly and was equally weirded out. I didn't grow up in the south, but I did grow up in the country, and we had plenty of catfish roaming around. And we caught them with a fishing rod and canned corn. Not limbs.

Brandon said...

There's so much innuendo it's painful...

Anonymous said...

Re: western maryland redneck country...were you talking about Deep Creek Lake? If you are, please tell me you've been to the Garrett county agricultural fair - you would love it.

Patrick said...

Noodling is fantastic. Catfish don't really have "teeth". It's more of like getting your finger pinched between two pieces of sandpaper.

I will not go noodling in water that I do not know or in a body of water that is all cloudy and muddy though. Screw that, I'm not getting my hand bitten by some damn snake.

Everyone survives hard times in different ways. I'm sure you'd survive.

I do not appreciate your smug pug attitude toward all things below DC, though.

2b1b: The sardonic voice of 20-somethings everywhere, Monday through Friday. said...

I love things below DC! It was ribbing! Gentle, gentle, semi-erotic ribbing.

Anonymous said...

wellll for one of your "depression survival ideas" you could like, go REAL fishing. for a fish you'd actually want to eat, like trout or something. because let's be honest, aside from it's southern charm, catfish is NOT delicious. it's greasy and iridescent inside and tastes like river slime. yum.

you could also scoope out where the fruit trees in your neighborhood are and pilfer their sweet plums all summer long. ohhhh yeah.

Rachel said...

Eric and I cant talk about Missy Elliott, because we almost got divorced when he called her a one hit wonder...it still makes me mad to even type this.

Also, there is some movie that has Owen Wilson and Felicity in it where she noodles.... I'll find out

thirdly, knowing the McBlogger family well, I highly enjoyed the family history. hahaha

Rachel said...

Ok its not owen wilson and I can't believe I made the mistake of mixing him up in my mind with ED NORTON, who I LOVE. anyway, the movie was called Leaves Of Grass and Eric made me watch it because Ed Norton plays twins. and like I said...i love him. there is a lot of noodleing. While watching this, I asked Eric if it was a real thing....

Anonymous said...

You should netflix Okie Noodling to learn more about this alarming southern tradition. It's a documentary that is equally disturbing as it is hilarious. I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

you love all things western maryland!

The Genius Savant said...

I don't remember where I first saw noodling but I remember having a similar reaction to Meg's

P.S. Your book deal seems to have done wonders for your self-confidence. Decribing yourself as "absurdly attractive"? This is a whole new Meggles ;-)

Now I'm even *more* disappointed you rebuffed my advances!

Anonymous said...

As if the South doesn't have enough ridiculous redneck things going on (i.e. cousin marrying and not wearing shoes and an extremely high amount of meth cooking) let's add Catfish Noodling to the list. Awesome- Woo Pig Sooie!

Honey said...

oh my God, it really pains me to say this, but I've been catfish noodling before! Meg, it's not so bad. if you can manage to avoid looking deep into the terrifying face of the catfish, it's not bad at all. they aren't toothy.

and, in other news, I am a secret redneck.

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend and I can't talk about dishwashers. He can't understand how I can live without one in my apartment, and no amount of fighting has made him understand that I would PREFER a dishwasher, I am just not willing to give up the cabinet space to acquire one. Things have been broken. Tears have been cried. Doors slammed.

We don't talk about dishwashers anymore.

Anonymous said...

This post made me lol. Brain-thinkin'...

My Netflix guilty-redneck-pleasures are River Monsters and BIlly the Exterminator. Maybe you could pick up some depression survival techniques to impress Chris with.

Anonymous said...

Bahahah I haven't finished the post yet but had to comment. I don't know anyone who DOESN'T know what catfish noodling is, and this just further clarified for me the AMAZING differences that make up American culture.

So far, good post Meg!

2b1b: The sardonic voice of 20-somethings everywhere, Monday through Friday. said...

My Netflix guilty-redneck-pleasures are River Monsters and BIlly the Exterminator.

Check out The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia as soon as humanly possible. It's available on Netflix instant view.

erin said...

I'm surprised you haven't heard of noodling, only bc it comes up on Cougar Town periodically, and I think you would love Cougar Town.

On another note, what ARE these bavarian sex acts...? I would google, but I'm at work, and don't need to be raising any red flags with my search terms. Please share!

John said...

So bizarre. I had never heard of Catfish Noodling until at dinner the other night with some of my more "hick" co-workers. And then I read this today.

The stars are aligned.

And I imagine you could sell your body to make it thru a depression. So you have that.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

I HIGHLY suggest the podcast "How Stuff Works" which did an awesome episode on Catfish Noodling a good ways back (its free!).

Also "Stuff Mom Never Told You"... did you know the vibrator was the 4th home appliance to be made electric? The stuff I now know.

Anonymous said...

i know you don't believe me, but my father, your wonderful grandpa blogstein, was quite poor during the depression. he did what other people trying to make it in chicago did...he worked at a myriad of crappy jobs. my sister remembers him talking about working at a movie theater, among other things. o.k., my mother barely felt a ripple, but while she was japping it up on long island, my father was doing the city version of cat fish noodling.

Katherine said...


it was ridiculous. people doing lines in front of their grandma.... women losing their babies to child services... cousins doing time... drugs and death by 15... wowzers

Anonymous said...

Tulane Chris is an asshole.

Anonymous said...

Last Anon: YOU'RE an asshole.

Kt said...

Wait, what's wrong with not wearing any shoes?! Screw you and the pansie soles of your feet, anonymous 12:12!

Sarah said...

I think toilet paper theft is a valid strategy for surviving the Depression.

My grandparents were teens, and they were never homeless during the Depression, but it was tough.

My grandfather was on the cover of Young Hustler magazine during that time, but it's not as exciting as it sounds. It was a magazine about boys who sold newspapers and magazines.

My grandmother was really thin, so her Irish mother made her drink the head off the Guinness.

Times were hard.

Kevin said...

I think "circle jerk of hillbilly redundancy" is my new favorite phrase. I do the 3-meals-in-1 thing too, but I call it brelunner and I do it more on account of shiftlessness than thriftiness.

Amber said...

A friend of my ex who lives in Kansas catfish noodles regularly. I was first informed of this activity in 2007. I don't think I have been the same since. I would love to give his name on here because there are some insane pictures on his fully public facebook. I'll refrain though, unless of course you would like to see them. :)

Anonymous said...

a) noodling is weird. i'm with meg. but i might also be a quasi northeastern liberal elitist, so theres that. b) speaking of strange, out of curiosity i hit "next blog" on the tool bar and that shwag might be stranger than noodling. if you are lacking something to chat about, i highly recommend you check out "monologue" asap. because nothing says normal like a poem written in foreign tongue save for the words toothbrush (and teethbrush)...right.

Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of noodling til I saw a preview for a special on PBS called Oakie Noodling. I was super excited and tweeted about it, and got a reply from the Oakie Noodling official twitter account. It was weird, and I told them it was like seeing crocodile dundee on an iPhone. I can't believe Oakie Noodling has an official twitter.

pook555 said...

Okay, I watch River Monsters too and there are giant catfish that eat people as seen here:

So, um, no catfish noodling (why is this even called "noodling" anyways?).

As for survival during a depression, that's what Ramen noodles are for (<-- aha, see what I did there with "noodles").

Yiz said...

cat fish are TERRIFYING- do you know they BREATHE THROUGH THEIR SKIN? so, if you touch a catfish, it's breathing you, tasting you, while you touch it.

It's a completely pervy fish that I don't want to think about or have anything to do with.

That being said, I LOVE all things south and would like nothing more than to end my days in Georgia surrounded by jasmine, spanish moss, and fried okra.

Sarah said...

So... Hillbilly Handfishin' sounds like something YOU made up. And I mean that in the best possible way.


Ro said...

Ok, ok. So I only came upon this blog today, but I've already read many an entry and am enjoying it thoroughly. I'm also an awkward weirdo who second-guesses things all the time, blah blah.

Anyway, I'm from the south. Not particularly entrenched in stereotypical southern mannerisms and if I have a southern accent, it's barely discernable to most. But whereas I originally tried to suppress any southern accent I had when I was growing up because I knew people would interpret it as me being "stupid," it offends me that so many people still talk about the south in general as if we're all rednecks/hillbillies/hicks, etc. Or, without paying attention to what someone is saying, figures a person must be dumb because of having a heavy accent. It's just prejudiced.

So, anyway, the majority of people "down here" do not subscribe to "cousin marrying and not wearing shoes and an extremely high amount of meth cooking."

Also, the goonch/human-eater catfish is in India. Honestly, I don't see how this is worse for the fish than traditional fishing (which is boring as fuck anyway).

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