Judge Judy Never Lets Things Go
Sarah Carson

Judge Judy thinks I should be harder on my freshman composition students. "They don't even know how to make a counterargument," she's always saying during the daily debrief on the wrap-around couch in our living room.

"For goodness sakes," she says. "You don't even make them read."

"I make them I read," I tell her in that defensive way guilty people are always defensive.

"You let them watch movies," she replies, and she's right.

She's not exactly like she is on television, of course. Most days she's a perfect sweetheart, telling funny stories about raising her children or the first time she met George W. Bush. She'll wipe down the counter/breakfast bar in our cozy galley kitchen and just laugh and laugh about something some kid from Delaware said while suing his cousin for four months back rent.

She's always telling me, "You know if it doesn't sound true, it probably isn't"—which is pretty great advice if you think about it. I consider it often at my freelance job writing speeches for other people, though if Judge Judy knew I used her advice to be a better liar, she'd go ballistic.

"Do you know how much time I spent in school?" I can hear her saying already. "Do you think this is what my parents spent their hard earned money paying for me to do?"

It's the same speech she gives me when she insists I break up with the guy I'm seeing, who is always masturbating in the bathroom during his lunch breaks. I can't even look at her when she insists on talking about it, the way she squints the corners of her eyes, then tries to wave the thoughts away from her face.

"We can't all just spend decades working in the family court hoping to land a daytime television gig!" I'll eventually end up yelling through her closed bedroom door, but when she gets in her moods, she just doesn't listen. God knows what she does in there all night.

In the morning she'll act like it never happened, emerging from the hall bathroom with her curls sprayed perfectly in place and her robe creased just so. She'll wave goodbye from the street as she hops into the studio's towncar, and I'll try to stay mad for awhile before turning to other things.

Sarah Carson is the author of two collections, POEMS IN WHICH YOU DIE and BUICK CITY. She lives in Chicago.

See more of her work in the archive.

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