Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Bad things happened this year. Most recently, 27 families lost Christmases and birthdays for now and the rest of their lives with loved ones who were far too young, and died in a manner far too violent. Tomorrow, which is already today for some of my readers, I will spend eight hours at work with people who can't spend Christmas with their families this year.

And then I'll go home, and spend the day with my family, eating my dad's amazing Beef Stroganoff and laughing together. I'll hear the voices of my friends on the other end of the phone when I call to wish them a Merry Christmas. Sunday night was the first of several mini-celebrations I'll share with various loved ones. And that is no small thing. Good things happened this year, to me, and to the world, and the existence of bad things cannot change that.

Christmas comes at the end of the year. This time next week we'll be wrapped in the excitement of New Year's, which will soon segue into the romance of Valentine's Day, the bawdy cheer of St. Patrick's Day, Easter and the awakening of spring, the hot, sticky, beach and barbecue days of summer, the excitement of fall, the thrills of Halloween, the warmth of Thanksgiving, and back again to Christmas. It's a constant in a world of unreliables. This year it even conquered the apocalypse.

So this year, and every year, to one and all, honor your losses, embrace your memories, kiss your loved ones, and revel in the good cheer of the season.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gilmore Girls > Philadelphia Football

Today I was folding laundry while watching a trifecta of Gilmore Girls reruns, because I'm glamourous like that, when my dad happened upon me in between the innings/quarters/periods/eras of the Eagles vs. Whoever Beat the Eagles This Time game. I don't know from sports, but I do know that Andy Reid has done the same thing to the team this season as he's done to his cardiovascular system over his lifetime. In fact, I'm fairly certain that there's a secret city statute that forces my parents to watch the game week after frustrating week during the season upon penalty of giving our dog away to Michael Vick. It's the only reason I can ascertain as to why they would force themselves through such miserable disappointment from September (probably?) to January (I think?).

We wouldn't risk Dude for anything.

In any case, my dad wanted to know why I was watching an episode (or three), that I'd already seen, in his estimation, eighty four thousand times before.

He suffers from a mild case of exaggeration.

And the reason I was watching Gilmore Girls for the eighty four thousandth time was that, in addition to the fact that there's precious little available on a Sunday afternoon in December that is both new to me and at all interesting to watch, and isn't the Eagles, is that Gilmore Girls starts when it says it will, ends when it says it will, and reliably, Lorelai will be snarky, Rory will make oblique pop culture references, the boys will be cute if somewhat milquetoast, Sookie will knock something over, and the coffee will be consumed in greater quantities than Starbucks does annually. I get exactly what I want, and I won't be screaming or throwing pillows at the tv at the end of it all.

Suck it, Reid.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's Today

I live in fear of the phrase "Back in my day,". Not because I have a secret terror of hearing a nostalgia laced story that I've almost certainly heard before, but because of what the phrase represents. Unlike its cousins "When I was a kid," "When I was in college," "Back when my kids were little," the phrase is some amorphous indicator of a bygone time when the speaker felt relevant--and a sure sign that they no longer feel so.

At some point, people seem to feel that they are guests in a world that no longer belongs to them. Some feel it after some random age that they've ascribed for themselves--30 used to be the popular choice, although it's been recently taken over by 40. Others feel it when they have kids or grandkids. Still others walk past the display of People and US Weekly, fail to recognize anyone on the cover, and decide that they've passed the point of the target audience, and therefore, have seceded their "day".

When you relegate your "day" to the past, you're letting go of the world. If the "day" belongs to someone else, it means you know longer are an active participant in the world. You're as much a relic as the giant statue of Ben in the Franklin Institute, nothing more than a slightly chattier testament to history.

Here's the true story though: Today is your day. If you are alive to read this, then you are as relevant as you choose to be. Deciding to cut ties with the events and technologies of the world is relegating yourself to a supporting role at best. Human beings get a measly amount of time for a "day" before we go into that good night, so there's no point on embracing the sunset before we have to. Fight to be a part of the world today.

Because it's yours.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pants and Masculinity

Today, I was innocently wasting several hours of my time on Pinterest as a reward for not out and out murdering my family, when I had the misfortune of beholding this:

Once Upon a Time, Men Wore Pants

There is so much wrong with this ad that I've decided to address it in four points:

1. I don't believe in a feminist fairy tale where the world would be a utopia if women had been in charge. The closest humanity will ever come to the best version of ourselves is when there is an equal distribution of opportunity, and people contribute to society in the way that suits their individual talents and desires, heavy emphasis on the INDIVIDUAL. That said, this mystical time has not ever happened, and despite the sorry state of current affairs, this is as close as we, the human race, has ever been. Whoever created this ad, nostalgic for days when men were in charge, must also admit that the worst of humanity: the invention of the atomic bomb, pollution, slavery, the Holocaust, witch hunts, et al, all happened when everyone sitting in the hot seat was also sporting wood. So whomever created/agrees with this ad can have all the credit of chivalry and progress if and only if they're willing to take the blame for all the bad stuff.

2. If eating a salad or drinking a latte is corrupting your masculinity, you don't have enough masculinity to bother mentioning it at all. A real man is not threatened by the equality of women, a real man does not dwell in the fictional past, and a real man is not impugned by his beverage.

3. Opening the damn door does not make you a hero. It cures no disease, eases no worry, halts no war. Let go of the idea that a polite gesture should net you a medal and a parade. Women have always been able to open their own damn doors. It's not that hard. Aim higher if you want the title of hero. The men AND women of our armed forces are heroes. Our police, our firefighters, our EMTs are heroes. Our nurses and doctors are heroes. Teachers and librarians are heroes. Parents who make the tough calls and actually discipline their kids are heroes. The world is not in short supply for heroes.

This is the most important point of all, which is why I've saved it for last:

4. NO ONE TOOK YOUR FUCKING PANTS! We simply noticed that your pants were nice, and allowed for greater freedom of movement, and thought, Hey! We want some. Women are wearing our own pants (which are cuter, and have a greater variety of styles, for the record). Nobody took men's pants away. Nobody left them locked in the kitchen shivering and naked from the waist down. Pants have not gone anywhere. Men have not gone anywhere. Real men have been here all along, eating steak and salad, drinking beer and lattes, being partners and friends to each other and to women. While the milquetoast and mundane men have been ballyhooing that the era that truly appreciated them is long past and baying for its return, real men have been growing and learning the whole time.

And they kept their pants.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Four Anti-Feminist Disney Princesses....and Why They Deserve a Break

Modern audiences have advocated feisty, role-model worthy female protagonists for films directed at little girls, citing the Disney Classic Princess canon as examples of female passivity on film, exacerbating being pretty, getting married, and waiting for a prince to rescue them from their admittedly crappy lives as worthy female goals. Starting with Beauty and the Beast in 1991, the female heroines of Disney films became more proactive, with Belle assisting in her own rescue, followed by Jasmine doing the same in 1992's Aladdin, Pocahontas (1995) and Mulan (1998), where the heroines serve as the actual action girls, rounding out with Tianna (The Princess and the Frog, 2009), Rapunzel (Tangled, 2010), and Pixar's Merida (Brave, 2012) being the most active, fully-rounded characters in the pantheon of Disney heroines. However, the trend starters for Disney's Princess films were stronger and more vivacious characters than modern audiences give them credit for, and deserve some recognition for their more admirable qualities:

1. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, 1959)

Sleeping Beauty is criticized most often for "First Guy Wins", in that, having been rescued from the evil sorceress/ dragon Maleficent by Prince Phillipe, Princess Aurora marries him, despite the fact that he's a total stranger and perpetuates the idea that women are prizes earned for acts of bravery.

Why She Deserves a Break
Phillip isn't a total stranger to Aurora. Back when she was still known as Briar Rose, he showed up in the forest while she was waxing poetic about the prospect of meeting a prince and falling in love, and the two of them had a brief flirtation:

Once Upon A Dream

Granted, it's no leading an army or single-handedly defeating the Big Bad, but at least Aurora was in puppy love for the guy, which is a sight better than the original fairy tale, wherein the prince wins the princess just for the kiss, her feelings be damned. Aurora and Phillip are also betrothed to marry anyway, to unite their kingdoms, which again seems way too close to the idea of "Free Princess with Purchase" before acknowledging that Phillip is also being used as a political pawn, and has to marry her regardless of his feelings on the subject. He has to work for it too, as Sleeping Beauty apparently doesn't deem a kiss as sufficiently heroic and requires that Phillip be imprisoned, fight through a thorn maze, and slay a dragon, which at least has him do more to earn his happy ending than his spiritual predecessor Prince NoName from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Speaking of...

2. Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937)
Poor Snow White. It really is a curse to be so beautiful. Her stepmother is all set to kill her over her delicate, unwrinkled features, leaving her running for her life in the harsh wilderness of an untamed forest in an imminently impractical ball gown. The huntsman does spare her life because she's so pretty, which must be why she's so cheerfully singing with woodland creatures while she does free menial labor for a house full of strange men, because women, if they're not making babies, are only good for cooking and cleaning.

Why She Deserves a Break
First of all, it's not free menial labor. She's paying for room and board using her specific skill set, which given that she's royalty, it's amazing she has even basic cleaning skills. Plus, take a look at the dwarves' cottage:

Whistle While You Work

That place is NASTY! She's not rearranging a stack of books and putting away laundry, she's making a sticky, unhygienic hole into a livable, healthy home. That's a basic survival skill, finding or creating a serviceable shelter when you're lost. And, she's assembled a workforce, dictating tasks according to each animal's abilities and showcasing impressive managerial skills, which is more than can be said for another princess who talks to animals...

3. Cinderella (Cinderella, 1950)
Cinderella has no ambitions except one night of fancy fun at the prince's ball. It's the only thing she looks forward to in her life, and she will gladly work as a slave in her own home without benefit of a decent bed or food just for the possibility of attending. Yank away that one shining dream, and be prepared for her to....accept defeat tearfully but quietly. Cinderella does literally nothing for herself. Without the intervention of her fairy godmother and her animal friends, she wouldn't have even had the chance at the ball she so desperately wants to attend, and only the prince getting smitten over her rescues her from a life of drudgery, which apart from that one night, she never even aspired to escape.

Why She Deserves a Break
Cinderella is basically a victim of psychological abuse. She's completely at the mercy of her stepmother, and has been since the death of her father when she was very young. She works as a slave in her own household (watch Downton Abbey sometime to get a scope of how many people are needed to clean and maintain a house that size. The movie makes it clear that, with the exception of mice and birds, Cinderella is taking on that load herself), and has no ambition for freedom and escape because it's the only life she knows. And despite outward appearances, Cinderella is no candy- coated personification of sugar-sweetness:

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Pay attention to the lyrics. She's clearly miserable about her lot in life, but so dejected and beaten down that the fight has gone out of her, and her dreams are all she has to keep her on the healthy side of sane. Having a fanciful dream to fantasize about is her coping mechanism, a device employed by abuse victims the world over. It's hard to aspire to great things when getting through the day is a monumental physical and mental chore. She should be applauded for getting out of bed every day in her position, unlike other heroines who have a stronger foundation for ambition...

4. Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989)
The youngest daughter of the Sea King has all the powers and privileges of the ruling family of the ocean, giving up her culture, power, exploratory freedom, and species to join an alien world to be with a man who loves her so much he can't tell the difference between her and a nominally similar looking sorceress who doesn't even have the same hair color. In the ocean, she's even free to pursue research on a foreign creature, with the caveat that she not directly fraternize with the seemingly dangerous subject of her study, a privilege that is rescinded when she breaks that rule. On land, she can't talk and she brushes her hair with a fork, showing once again that having a man is paramount.

Why She Deserves a Break
Ariel is truthfully the bravest princess in the Disney pantheon. The movie makes it clear that her fascination with human culture predates the events of the film, and she is the most knowledgable merperson on the subject of humanity's qualities, for good and ill. She has the bravery to defy her father specifically because she knows better what the dangers of being near humans are. She wanted to join the human world before she even met Prince Eric:

Part of Your World

She's intellectually and scientifically curious about events and ephemera that she simply cannot experience under water. Further, she doesn't actually attempt to join humanity until her father destroys all of her artifacts, research, and laboratory, giving her the option to "go native", or forever give up her dream to understand the human world. Given the opportunity to do hands on research, she was willing to physically maim herself to achieve her goal. Jane Goodall would consider her a badass, without even factoring in the idea that her pioneering mission to join humanity was a radical step towards eradicating racism between merfolk and people, and broadening the horizons of both groups. Ariel is not a fantasy princess, but a political one. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Defending Geekiness

I was recently the subject of some (friendly--at least I hope so) ribbing by some family members for my alleged "geekiness", which I put in quotation marks because their definition of being a geek is the fact that I was incredibly excited for the latest episode of The Walking Dead, which if you have to read that link to know what it is, I'm sorry, but I am just baffled as to how you even found this blog, but I digress. In any case, the plebeians don't know just how deep the geek goes, but in any case, one of the words thrown around was "pathetic", which just for context you should know that this family event took place during the Eagles' bi-week, which means our home team wasn't playing that day, and it was specifically set up that way, and also the cousin who called me pathetic didn't know that Italy was shaped like a boot.

I internalize damn near everything I hear, which yes, I know I shouldn't, but it stuck in my craw, this allegation of being "pathetic". Sometimes I think the only things that stick are the ones I suspect, or fear, are true. Society has long regarded the attendees of Comic-Con as geeks who live in their mothers' basements and lost their virginity somewhere around never. Even though superhero movies, comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, and other media and genres of that ilk are enjoying a mainstream run right now, and a non-too-shabby take at the box office, there's a definite line in the sand between the regular audiences, who are enjoying what's being presented to them, and the geeks, who seek out the new, the cool, the weird, and who take to message boards to pick apart the lastest episode or installment of whatever it is that they love best. Geekdom is enjoying a heyday, and heydays, as they are wont to do, end. Don't know when or why, but being a geek will fall out of fashion as swiftly as it fell in. Most people will move on to whatever the next cool thing is, and the geeks will still be blogging about who would win in a fight between Batman and Iron Man. It's what we do.

So, is the fact that we still mourn Firefly a testament to our tenacity or evidence that we can't move on from something as inconsequential as a tv show? Are we above the mainstream who follow trends like sheep, or are we stubbornly refusing to evolve? Are geeks pathetic?

I've thought long and hard over that question and the answer I came up with is a resounding maybe. Maybe the fact that I took a day off work to meet my favorite author and drove all the way to the great back ass of nowhere because God forbid he do a reading in an easily accessible place in a major city does smack of sadness, even if I don't regret doing it for one second and I got his autograph TWICE, so that makes the harrowing drive on a highway that terrifies me totally worth it. Maybe the fact that a new album, or a new movie, or hell, even a new episode of something I love gets me excited to the point that my squealing hurts my dog's ears makes me a sad sack.

But I don't care. Maybe a new book or upcoming concert is a stupid reason to get myself excited, but I have something to look forward to almost every day. There is always something to be excited about, and even after I've seen/heard/experienced it, I can go over and over the nuances ad infinitum. I'm proud that I can keep the entire cast of Game of Thrones straight without double checking or referring to the complicated addenda in the books (which I did read anyway). While everyone in my house is half-watching the latest episodes, I'm fully engaged in a medieval world that has fucking dragons. While my cousins roll their eyes and tell me I'm pathetic, they're bored out of their skulls and I'm gleefully anticipating how Daryl and Merle are going to reunite, and I'm loving every minute of it. And unlike the Eagles, who are frankly a source of near-constant disappointment, nothing in my geek menagerie topples my good mood, even when favorite characters die or story lines bulldoze through previously established plots.

Maybe I'm weird and maybe I have a distorted sense of reality, but I'm also damn happy, and I think I speak for all geeks, whether they love movies, comics, TV, books, social media, music, tech, or some combination thereof, when I say I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't get wildly enthusiastic as regularly as we do.

Life's too short to be disaffected.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Seeking Myself

I like to pride myself on being highly self-aware, and if I actually were, that would be a hell of a thing to take pride in. But, I'm not. The only way I know of to gauge how I'm feeling is open an extra tab on my laptop while I'm working and search for songs. I don't know what kind of mood I'm in until I hear what I've selected for myself.

Something Corporate or New Found Glory: nostalgic for my teen years

My Chemical Romance or Green Day: either melancholy or exuberant--they have a wide range

The Beatles or Queen: nostalgic for my childhood

Beyonce/Lady Gaga/P!nk/Katy Perry: amped up and vaguely pissed at the male gender. Tends to occur once a month.

Broadway tunes: highly energetic. Often involves dancing. It's rarely, if ever, pretty

Avenged Sevenfold: angry

Celtic Woman: Irish (yes, Irish is a mood)

As special as I like to believe I am, I wonder if I'm the only one who gauges their own mood by the choices they subconsciously make. Feel free to comment if you do the same, and with what.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why "The Walking Dead" is Different from Other Shows

What I do in preparation for other season premiers:
Rewatch the previous season's finale
(Re)read the source material, if it exists
Set my DVR

And that's pretty much it. If I could, I'd organize a watch party with my friends, but since all my favorite shows air on Sunday nights and I have to wake at the ass-crack of dawn to go to work, I generally watch alone and text my friends during the show. And then we get on with our lives. Which we have, despite all evidence to the contrary.

What I do to prepare for the Walking Dead
Gas up and change the oil in my car
Go to the drugstore and refill my first aid kit
Target shooting with my dad
Rewatch both previous seasons in their entirety (Don't judge me! AMC was running a marathon and my pajamas are really comfortable)
Reread the comic
Watched about a dozen interviews
Set my DVR
Reread my first aid manual

Now, in all fairness, I am retaking my CPR certification for work this week, and I've had to change my oil since about May, so this weekend was not only an exercise in anticipation for more zombie-killing goodness (and Michonne! Yay, Michonne!), but also shit I had to get done anyway.

Doesn't change the fact that I know how far I have to drive to find redneck country (half an hour north and half an hour east. The joys of living in suburban Pennsylvania!). Rednecks, as TWD has taught me, are primed to handle the apocalypse. I doubt any of the real life rednecks I'll have to team up with will look like Daryl Dixon, but in the event of a national disaster I'll take my chances with the uggos.

Also doesn't change the fact that I know where the nearest prison is located and three different ways to get there.

As for going shooting with my dad?

That's just fun.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vampire Sex Novels

I'm currently reading about 16 different books, one of which is Deborah Harkness' Shadow of Night. It's basically Twilight for people who don't congratulate themselves on knowing who Shakespeare is but are overwhelmingly impressed with their knowledge of Christopher Marlowe's existence. For the purposes of this post knowing that the female protagonist, Diana Bishop, is an author insert if ever there was one and the love interest is Matthew, a millenia-old vampire of unspeakable beauty who is hopelessly smitten with said protagonist due to....reasons, is already more than you need to know.

It isn't my place or right to criticize another writer, especially one who can, you know, finish a book, which already makes her way more talented and accomplished than me, but I do have a question for anyone, Harkness, Meyer, all their ilk who write romance novels with a vampire as the hero. Exactly why must they all have cold skin?

Every vampire romance novel I've heard of in recent years has made a point of describing the vampires as having skin as cold and pale as snow. They linger lovingly over this detail, and remind the reader of it at least once per chapter, lest we forget how ethereally unhuman they are. And that's fine. I get why a creature who avoids sunlight and is essentially a perfectly preserved corpse is cold and white. There's a logic in that. And if those descriptions went only that far, I could live with it. But these are romance novels, so we know at one point in the series, if not the individual story, we are getting a sex scene. And at some point, that scene is going to mention again how cold a vampire's skin is.

It doesn't take a discerning reader to realize that these sex scenes are blatant culminations of a fantasy wherein a gorgeous man/rakish bad boy who has dodged love and commitment for centuries consummates his love with the self-appointed Plain Jane who has reformed him from his wicked ways because she and her love are just so indefinably "special". Clearly they are designed to titillate the reader, who is at this point picturing herself as the heroine, having wild, biologically impossible, endlessly thrilling sex.

With a dicksicle.

The most egregious thing is that these novels are written, for the most part, by women. Women, who are tapping out their fantasy sex lives on gorgeous antique typewriters like real authors use, and the thing they apparently all crave in bed is a popsicle shoved up their hoo-has.

I must ask all female readers and writers alike, when did this become a thing? These books sell like hotcakes and 99 times out of a hundred it's not due to the elegant prose or rich plots, so am I now in the minority because I don't want to flash freeze my lady parts?

I'm not saying I don't get the appeal of ice cubes during funtimes...especially in the summer when the air conditioner is broken. But they are supposed to stay out of the main event. I don't know what woman went to the gynecologist for her annual check-up and decided she wanted to enjoy the fun an icy speculum brings to the party on a regular basis, but I do want to know why she decided to tell the world that she was not alone in her frozen fetish.

And I'd also like to point out that she's a liar and a gross minority before the trend escalates and guys start taking ice showers before sex in a sweet but wildly misguided attempt to please their partners. Please don't do that.

At least not without asking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Recently The Bloggess posted a blog about how you should not meet your heroes, except you should, because meeting Neil Gaiman was as awesome as she'd built it up to be in her head. She then demanded to know who all of our (the readers) heroes were, whether we wanted to meet them, if we already had, and was it good for us (heh heh). I started to respond, but then realized I was at work, and am not paid to blog (I know, I think I should be too). In any case, that was several days ago, and now not only does she have almost 1,500 replies, but I've missed the contest she was running, although since she already autographed her book for me, in person, I don't really care. Also, I've met a lot of people, and I want to meet a lot more, so this post is gonna be long. I felt she should have the option of ignoring it, although I'm tweeting it to her as soon as I'm done (because she follows me on Twitter, y'all), and also because she is a hero of mine, and I did meet her.

She was AWESOME! She was as funny and self-deprecating in person as she is on her blog, she totally fangirled over Rosie O'Donnell, even though she brought her, who introduced her to all of us salivating fans. Incidentally, Rosie likes my metal chicken. At this point I will point out that Ke$ha (the chicken) was a gift from ArchaeoloChick, because she's awesome and if I don't mention it, she'll give Guinea Pig a box of firecrackers and tell him to throw them at me when I take him to school, and his aim is painfully good. But back to the Bloggess, whose real name is Jenny Lawson. She delightedly signed both my book and my chicken, and she loved the rooster-shaped martini shaker ArchaeoloChick  and I gave her. The reason she's a hero is her ability to see the funny side of life, even when life is profoundly unfunny. She never makes it look effortless, either. She's frank and honest about the things she struggles with, which makes her even more heroic, because someone who has to pick themselves up time and again and keeps on doing so is made of stronger stuff than the one who never falters.

Other Heroes I've Met:
My Chemical Romance
Specifically, Gerard Way, Mikey Way, Ray Toro, and Frank Iero. I got to meet them last time they were in Philadelphia. They did a studio session for a small group of fans, during which they were unfailingly polite (Ray even tossed out a humble "aw, thanks guys" in between songs), each member of the band made a point to shake hands with and greet everyone after the set, despite the radio station employees hustling everyone out like the place was on fire. I managed to babble to Gerard a very strangled, high-pitched, English/howler monkey language hybrid how grateful I'd been to the band for writing the song "Helena", a tribute to the Way brothers' late grandmother, which was released during the same time my own grandmother was living with me during the final stages of a terminal illness. That song may have been the one thing that helped me cope during that time, and Gerard's response was (in non-strangled, low-pitched, fully decipherable English) "I'm glad we were able to help you." Then our brief interaction was over, with Frank reaching out to shake my hand because he hadn't had the chance to do so when I'd said hello to Ray, Mikey, and Gerard (see, polite). They've been my favorite band for a long time, and I don't see that changing--ever, really--but "Helena" is the one thing they've done that I'm beyond fangirling and appreciation for. The gratitude hasn't faltered at all, and I'm lucky that I got the chance to thank them in person.

Christopher Moore
I've done something for Christopher Moore that I've not done before or since. The closest he came to my neck of the woods on his most recent book tour was West Chester, PA, which if you're familiar at all with Pennsylvania, you'll know is located in the great back-ass of fucking nowhere! And since the whole of the state has a public transit system that covers about five miles, the only way to get there was by highway, upon which driving is my second-favorite activity, assuming my favorite is stumbling into a three-story wasps' nest and being stung to a puffy death. I will do almost anything on Earth to avoid driving on a highway, yet if I wanted to meet Mr. Moore, the highway was the only way to go. An hour out and an hour back, the most petrifying two hours of my life (and I've seen From Justin to Kelly). He held court for over an hour, telling us his inspiration and fielding questions with all manner of respect and courtesy, even though some of them were quite frankly stupid, all in all giving everyone present a night of grace and humor. He even staggered the autograph line so that those who had the longest to travel were the first to get autographs and go (note, AnthropoloChick and I were not even close to being the weariest travelers). The first book I ever read that I truly laughed out loud at was Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, a copy I'd found by accident at a closeout sale. I was inspired to learn more and research more through his absurdist humor in all of his novels about such varied subjects as Shakespeare, religion, cargo cults, and marine biology, than I was ever taught as a kid.

Heroes I'd like to meet:
Tom Hiddleston, who may literally be not only the nicest actor on the planet, but the nicest person
Jessicka Addams, wildly gifted artist and thought-provoking feminist
Brianna Karp, writer and homeless advocate, who lived her subject with dignity and strength
Temple Grandin, animal husbandry expert and autism advocate, who used her autism to revolutionize her industry
Daniel Tammet, linguist, mathematician, certified genius, who takes a unique approach to expanding the human mind

Hero I'd have liked to meet:
Maeve Binchy, recently deceased writer who made modern Ireland come alive for me with just words on a page. Even if I never get to go, I can still see it in my eyes, brimming with rich history and characters.

Favorite Heroes:

Stop reading now.

Seriously, it's nauseating.

You don't want to read what I'm about to say, it's cloying and cliche and trite.

You're gonna hurl all over your keyboard. Or your phone. Or your tablet. I don't really know what you're reading this on. Except you. Yeah, you. We both know you're procrastinating, so quit wasting time on this and get your shit done.

Why are you still reading? Do you like to puke?

I fully absolve myself of any up-chucking that may result from reading this.

Fine. You asked for it.

My parents are my heroes. I told you it was cliche and nauseating. But it's a cliche for a reason. I firmly believe that everyone should consider their parents heroes. If you don't, there's something either very wrong with you or with them. If the former, seek help, if the latter, I'm truly sorry that you missed out. And before anyone goes accusing me of currying favor with them by adding them, you should know that if it's not bloopers on YouTube on my dad's iPad, my mom can't find it online. My dad is slightly more proficient, because he can check his email and download the Big Bang Theory whip app onto his phone. It's safe to say they won't read this anytime soon, possibly ever. But despite their flaws in understanding the technology that they can't blame on their age because they are the exact same age as Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs, and William Shatner is 81 and knows how to use fucking Twitter, seriously why can't they ever remember their passwords?!, I find the ability to live with someone for almost thirty years and still be in love with each other (not just loving each other, which is important, but being honest to god in love) pretty heroic. There are places in my life where I always have to be something, some little pieces of me that I have to display and others that I have to hide. At home I can be whatever. I can be tired, or bitchy, or ditzy, or geeky, without fear of censure. Making a safe place for your kids is pretty damn heroic. Dealing with life in general is heroic, and it's more heroic when you have to deal with it in front of someone, day in, day out, letting them see all the cracks and failures. Our public heroes can serve as inspirations and guides, but just like anyone else, we only see what they allow us to see. Even when they discourse about their failings, it's after the fact, once the storm has passed. It's brave and honest to do that, but it's even braver when you let people see you in the middle. It's a silent, suffering way to show the people who idolize you that as bad as it is right now, as bad as it will be again, this is life, and this is how you deal with it. And it will get better.

Moral of the story: Meet the shit out of your heroes. You run the risk that they will disappoint you, but the giddy feeling that you get when they prove themselves worthy of the title is unbelievably good. Like wine without the hangover or chocolate without the weight gain.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Science Corner with Todd Akin, or Why You're a Rapist

According to Todd Akin, women do not get pregnant from "legitimate rape" because our vaginas, ovaries, thingermabobs, whatchacallits, pupillary sphincters, or whatever all that mess we have down there has a barrier that distinguishes between good guy welcome sperm and bad guy rapist sperm, so women can only get pregnant when they want to (which is good news for women suffering from infertility--more on that later)

Akin, of course, is attempting to claim that abortion isn't "justified" in cases of rape, because from what he knows from doctors, not only is pregnancy from rape rare, but the female body has ways to shut that down.

It's at this point I'd wonder if these doctor friends of Akin, assuming they live in this universe and outside the funhouse in his head, are actually eccentrics whose parents gave them the first name "Doctor" and raised them on a commune in the desert before releasing them into the mainstream world, having them stumble into the sci-fi section of a local bookstore and taking what they found as fact, but I've never read sci-fi about magic, rape-rejecting vaginas, so presumably these are real doctors, and the general public has been kept in the dark about the all-encompassing power of lady parts.

Since this discovery, the shocking and tragic fact is, due to the discriminatory nature of girly whozeewhatsis, we the general public are forced to acknowledge that any sperm deposited in an unprotected hoo-ha (one without a condom, birth control pill, or enchanted copper tree blocking the womb from achieving it's natural pregnant state) that doesn't yield a baby was left there by a foul, dirty rapist.

This dismaying news that every man who hooked up with a girl without a condom, every guy who had an oopsie with his girlfriend that didn't bear fruit, every man who took more than one try to impregnate his wife is a rapist, while devastating, is great news for our legal system. No longer will judges and juries be burdened with things like "testimony", "evidence of assault or intoxication", "victims who said 'no'", they can simply haul every instance of unprotected sex in front of the judge, give the girl a bottle of water and a pee stick, and three minutes later extend a hearty congratulations to the parents-to-be, or toss a young man in prison and ship the protesting woman off to counseling to deal with the trauma she doesn't even know she's experiencing.

Thanks for the salvation, Representative Akin. Our women, our legal system, and society at large are eternally grateful.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thank You, Gabrielle Donnelly

Occasionally, when I'm nostalgic for my youth, I will pull out one of the three Little Women novels, and lose myself in it. Louisa May Alcott shaped the literary landscape of my childhood, and I was a more voracious reader in those days, devouring what she'd written so I could move on to the next one.

I learned temperance as an adult. I remember trying to pace myself when I read the seventh Harry Potter book, losing myself in the story while fully conscious of the fact that it was the last time I'd ever read a new Harry Potter for the first time--ever.

I wish I'd had the wherewithal to temper myself when I was younger. I sped through Alcott's work with ferocity, and while I can't ever get tired of reading those beloved stories, it has the value of thumbing through old photographs, reminiscing about the past, watching Jo grow from a fifteen-year-old girl to a wife, mother, writer, and teacher over and over and over. It is comforting, alluring, and satisfying, but it isn't fresh, and I wish I'd savored the story more when it was.

So I have a debt of gratitude to author Gabrielle Donnelly, who wrote the charming Little Women Letters. I normally don't like updated adaptations of classics, neither do I typically write reviews of other writer's work (mainly because I'm afraid it won't be flattering and I will get karmically bitch-slapped for being a snot-nosed critic before I've summoned the gumption to write something of my own), however Donnelly's work is so incredibly worthy of being a successor to Alcott's that I can't view as separate from the canon.

The setting is modern-day London, the characters the great-great-granddaughters of Josephine March Bhaer and the various friends and relations that turn up during the slice of their lives that Donnelly shares with us (I was waiting for the girls to realize that their Grandma Jo is the Jo March, until it dawned on me that within the frame of the story, Louisa May Alcott and her iconic characters don't exist--rather, the characters are people. However, there's a brief mention of Anne of Green Gables, aka, the Canadian counterpart to Little Women, which made me smile), and the letters are missives between Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy that are accidentally discovered in the attic.

The best thing about Donnelly's work is that though her characters are expies of the three surviving March sisters (I appreciated not having a modern-day counterpart to Beth. I felt her death as keenly as a real person's when I first read Little Women, and would be unprepared to watch her descendant suffer the same fate.), the storyline twists and veers enough that the reader can't predict the ending point for each girl. Rather, the spirit of the March sisters is alive and well in the characters conceived by Donnelly, the language is lush and descriptive (having the characters be the daughters of an ex-pat American allows for delightful English idiom to complement the perfectly pitched histrionics of the New England letters, something that would've sounded stilted and old-fashioned had the story been set in the States), and the daily intricacies of modern life are woven beautifully and tied up neatly in an ending worthy of Alcott herself.

Little Women Letters functions less as an adaptation and more as equal parts homage and continuation. I  bought it thinking it would be cute, and instead fell in love with a new generation of Little Women. And for a moment, I was 11 again.

And I savored it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chronic "That Girl" Syndrome

In every great story or event, somewhere on the periphery lurks "That Girl". She's awkward, bordering on socially incompetent, and everyone involved is really happy they aren't her. Perhaps the story is about her dancing to Maroon 5's Payphone so hard she dislocated her shoulder (she's not a good dancer. Not ever.) Perhaps she's merely tertiary to the story, the lone voice laughing in the audience when everyone else is settled down, eventually causing a ruckus when she falls down from her giggle fit. Whatever the case, no great story exists without her.

Hello. My name is The Hopeless Writer Chick. And I am "That Girl". You're welcome.

I'd like to refer you to the story about my inner weirdo so that you'll understand that my innate shyness (shut up ArchaeoloChick if you're reading this, I AM shy) contributes to my varied instances of "That Girl" ness in ways that make total sense when you read them from "That Girl"'s perspective. And really, perspective is what it's all about.

For instance, during the times that my peers were snorting cocaine off of toilet seats and letting it fuel massive orgies (this is a typical high school experience, right? I'm just spitballing here.), what was I doing? Rereading the Brothers Grimm and borrowing DVDs from other members of my Japanese Culture Club (because I was cool in high school, is why).  Now, logically, there were boys somewhere in that mix. But if they wanted to date me or I them, well, that went uncommunicated. Awkward people cannot teach other awkward people how to not be awkward. That would be like me trying to teach someone Calculus (I don't know from calculus. I'm not even sure if it's supposed to be capitalized. So one of each. Because I'm thoughtful.)

Hence, when someone is flirting with me, I tend to not notice. Actually, I tend to need a third party who possesses no tact to slap me in the face and say "That man is interested in you! And also, you're dumb." Case in point, when I was twenty-two, I went to a My Chemical Romance concert with Blanche. We were in front of a cluster of teenagers. We were chatting with them because we were gonna be in line for about 4 hours so we figured we should make friends. One of the guys asked what we did for a living, and at the time I taught preschool, so I told him so. The conversation went as follows:

Random Kid: What do preschool teachers teach?

THWC: Oh, color recognition, numbers, handwriting, letters, shapes, songs, characteristics of pets and farm animals, so on.

Random Kid: Damn (Note: he said it more like "Da-yum" and it's worth mentioning that I'm not a person who is typically on the receiving end of two-syllable "Damn"s) Wish you'd been my preschool teacher.

THWC: (utterly bewildered) Why? What did your teacher teach you?

Random Kid: (suddenly embarrassed) The same things....




THWC: Oh. Oh. Ohhhhhhhhh. You're hitting on me.

Random Kid: Um, yeah

THWC:, well, thank you (He was still in high school, what was I supposed to say? Seriously, what was I supposed to say? Because I think that embarrassed him even more. He disappeared after that. He went further down the line for a concert that was standing room only, first come first serve, seriously, what was I supposed to say?)

I should also point out that me realizing that flirting was happening without somebody else telling me so is personal growth.

I am also unable to flirt with anyone who catches my fancy (that's up to date terminology, right?). I usually end up drinking until I'm in love with anyone and everyone around and hope that does the trick.  In other news, I've been single for 3 years .

Even worse is when I accidentally flirt with someone without realizing it. Today a security guard came in to the store I work at to pass along some new codes and phone numbers, and while he was talking to my boss, he gave me a truly bugged-out look. I turned to her when he left to ask her a) if she'd seen that and b) What. The. Fuck? She informed me that while he was in the store I'd been gazing at him with naked, glassy-eyed adoration and she'd been about to pass me a napkin to wipe up the drool. Apparently, that freaked him out, because evidently he scares easy, hence the bugged-out look.

Take a moment to absorb that, people. I can't control my own face. I can't. Control. My. Own. Face. I have no idea how often I've stared at total strangers like they were Neil Patrick Harris on a unicorn, but I'm willing to bet this wasn't the first time.

Lest anyone be led to believe that I'm only awkward when dating is involved, I went to the bar with Dragon Queen on Saturday. I pounded 5 Vodka Collins in fifteen minutes, which left me a little tipsy. Dragon Queen brought up a conversation we'd had at work earlier that day, which I evidently felt like re-hashing. I am a loud person in general. Drinking exacerbates it. So the whole bar heard me announce  that my stubborn Irish hymen won't leave despite the fact that I've done virtually everything short of give birth to get rid of it.

My stubborn Irish hymen.

I can't make this shit up.

Except I did make that shit up. But no one was listening but Dragon Queen the first time I said it. So obviously I had to remedy that by yelling it in a bar.

I should point out that in both instances Dragon Queen initiated the hymen conversations, so the whole "That Girl" thing is not entirely my fault.

Also, my hymen is Irish because I'm Irish. I don't think that my hymen has a different nationality. I mean, I'm Irish-American, but that sounds clunky, so I usually just use Irish to describe myself. And my hymen.

Also, I didn't ask anyone else about their hymens. And I'm pretty sure that I didn't spin it into a whole conversation, just one awkward announcement. Sadly, that again is personal growth.

So the next time you dance when like no one is watching but it turns out a whole lot of people are, remember me. Remember that I discussed my hymen in a crowded bar. Remember that even though you're now "That Girl" to whomever is watching, I'm still "That Girl" to you.

You win.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dear Dad

I had a pretty conventional childhood. People like to mock conventional upbringings, as they are somewhat lacking in the type of dysfunctional hilarity that growing up with circus folk or living in a tree for a year provides, but convention has merits. Childhood, despite the common romanticization of such, is a shitstorm, even a great one like mine, so having some structure to get you through the foggy mess of uncertainty and utter crap is a big ol' plus. Besides, conventionality breeds commonality, and bonding over common backgrounds and interests is what turns strangers into friends. I can bond with almost anyone over hating math, learning to jump rope, or having a crush on Taylor Hanson when I was eleven. Few would be likely to empathize with me if I were to discuss my year of performing mime on the streets of Paris for wine and cheese (note for the slow students: didn't happen).

Of course, I did have enough anomalies in my childhood to keep things interesting. Just because one wants structure doesn't mean they don't also want color.

I grew up in a rowhouse, an architectural staple specific to my cozy corner of the woods, which isn't in and of itself very interesting, but it is slightly off the beaten path. That rowhouse was located in Philadelphia, a major city that lent me a very specific and well-known culture that made me more special than someone raised in Anytown, Anystate, USA.

I attended Catholic school, which was typical of a good Irish girl in the city, but has a certain mystique for my friends who didn't attend Friday morning mass, learn algebra from nuns, or get graded on how well they knew the life and times of Jesus.

Most of the color in my childhood came, however, from my father's job. Unlike the other kids in the neighborhood, my father didn't do the 9 to 5 shuffle in an office, pushing paper. The umpteen and a half ties I gifted him for various Fathers' Days and birthdays were special occasion only, never for daily work use. MY dad was an OR nurse.

He would tell stories about work during dinner that had nothing to do with Roger from accounting or the typo on page four of the Henderson brief and more to do with arterial spray, engorged ventricles, and myocardial infarctions. I'd like to say that I listened with rapt fascination to his lessons on the inner workings of the human body, but really, like any dad recounting his day, at a certain point, his stories became rote. I only half-listened unless the incident was truly fantastic or weird, even for him (the ones I paid the greatest attention to usually involved either bullets or poop. I'm not wholly proud of this fact).

I, of course, got some of my own stories through his work. Over twenty years, I've heard the same story about my three-year-old self, during a visit to my dad at the hospital, informing a world famous cardiothoracic surgeon, with utter confidence in my certitude, that he was "not a real doctor", because he lacked a stethoscope. Despite being overwhelmingly impressed with my unstumbling command of the word stethoscope (yeah, a world famous surgeon was impressed with my intellect. Suck it.), the doctor in question attempted to engage me in an argument about the legitimacy of his title before my dad stepped in to remind him I was three and therefore right.

More than once, during "Take Your Daughter to Work Day", while other girls were playing file folder and stapling random objects together, I was bearing witness to the repair of a deep vein thrombosis, a triple bypass, or something regarding prostate surgery--which I found particularly salacious because I was old enough to know that prostate was somewhere in the neighborhood of "naughty bits".

My dad is damn near impossible to watch an episode of Nurse Jackie (or Scrubs...or ER...or really any episode of any show that ever featured a hospital ever) with, because of his fondness for editorial commentary during each scene re: its veracity in the real world of medicine.

However, during a time of fear and crisis, one of which took place just after midnight today, my dad is the calm voice guiding his family through the uncertainties, using his experience and knowledge to explain the landscape of illness and injury in a reassuring way.

So, on this Fathers' Day, thanks to my dad, for the structure, for the color, and for the calm.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Careful, it's loaded


There, I expect to be banned from Senate any minute now.

For those who are unaware, State Rep Lisa Brown was silenced on the Senate floor for saying the dirty, dirty word "vagina" while discussing her opposition to an anti-abortion bill the Michigan State Senate was proposing.

Now, regardless of political leanings, opinions on abortion, etc., presumably we (we, for the purposes of this essay, refers to all rational, intelligent adults) can all agree that use of the word "vagina"--a word which, by the way, is entirely appropriate to refer to the female sex organ, a word used clinically between doctors and patients--is a perfectly acceptable word to use when discussing a law concerning female reproductive health. After all, if the Senate were trying to pass a law about rhinoplasty, someone would certainly say the word "nose".

Here's what a google search "laws about rhinoplasty" turns up:

Lesson: Fuck with your nose all you want, it's your business. No one is going to pass a law about rhinoplasty. But we can tell you EXACTLY what to do with your vagina. God help you if you actually say the word, however.

I've heard speculation that if Rep Brown had said "penis", she wouldn't have gotten such an excessive retribution. We'll probably never know however, as a penis, like a nose, is a body part that our society seems to think can be wholly under it's owner's control without anyone being the worse for it. Public scrutiny seems to be completely the vagina's domain.

This whole debacle makes me feel impressively brave, as I am apparently in the minority regarding a pathological fear of the word "vagina". I'm not scared either of the word, or the body part it refers to. I'm scared of zombies, spiders, heights, being stabbed, driving on the highway, and stepping on a crack needle in bare feet, but somehow my vagina, and the knowledge that half the people on the planet also have one, presumably similar to mine, don't know, didn't check, their business, not mine, is not the least bit scary to me.

I can't be alone in my fearlessness. I implore my fellow bravehearts, to whom vaginas strike no fear, to rally together. We are a small group, but we are mighty.

Here are the numbers for Rep Jim Stamas' office in Michigan: 517-373-1791 and 800-626-8887. If you are among the "we" who believe that women should call the shots regarding their own vaginas, or if you believe that the word vagina is inoffensive and those that believe otherwise are sexist douches who need to be reamed out, call those numbers and tell Rep Stamas that his policy is sexist and his punishment of Rep Brown was uncalled for.

Or you can just yell "Vagina!" over and over until he scurries under his desk to cry and wait for the storm to pass.

Either way, win.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Passions, Pleasures, and Pains: an Examination of Aunthood

I've mentioned before that I don't have children. The pre-Mommy years are rife with wonderful benefits, like lady parts that still maintain structural integrity, sleeping until work or social decency demand I get up without having to concern myself with anyone else's nightmares or poop, and of course, the only vomit I ever need to concern myself with is my own (okay, sometimes Dragon Queen's. Sometimes. It's rare, however, and she gives fair warning).

I'm sure I'll be a good mom someday--at least, I'm reasonably certain I'll remember to feed my kids and keep them out of crack dens. And I'm sure the benefits of parenthood will far outweigh the costs--or that's just some shit my parents told me in the hopes that I'll one day have children and they will have their sweet, sweet revenge, which if that's the case, I'll be paying that lesson forward as well.

But enough of my prospective, hypothetical motherhood. Blogs are filled with odes to parenthood, because parents think spawning makes them so very, very special, as though it's a unique condition that so very few experience. So I'm writing about aunthood (and by extension, unclehood. There's no unisex term. Also, according to Google, aunthood is a word, unclehood is not. Dear English language, you are sexist.)

Aunthood is not a unique condition, but it is rarely examined, mainly because it just sort of happens to a person, whether or not they are ready or willing to commit to the role. Also, a kid whose mom or dad is out of commission is playing with a disadvantage. An aunt can be a positive influence in a child's life, but the absence of one is unlikely to damage anybody.

If you do commit to being an aunt, there's a world of quasi-parent/siblinghood that has unique terrors and joys, which so far, in my estimation, is totally worth it and a shitload of fun, discussions of farts notwithstanding (Guinea Pig is fond of discussing farts).

For one thing, all the joys of parenting are present. Guinea Pig visited Niagara Falls with me last year to attend Canadian Baker's wedding. It was his first time seeing them, so when we arrived, I covered his eyes and walked him over to the railing, positioning myself so I could see his little face when he beheld the wonders of the falls for the first time.

The first time I saw them, I was in my teens. It was magnificent, but I never saw them through a child's eyes until that day. The look of awe on his face was overwhelming. I've never seen him so stricken, so moved, in my life. He stood still and open-mouthed, drinking it in with an aura of silent reverence before breathing a soft "Wow". And while he was experiencing one of the world's wonders, I was living it through him.

His ups are usually a high for me, although sometimes his accomplishments leave me weepy. I spent his first day of kindergarten ducking into the bathroom at work to cry, and I was teary last September on his first day of first grade. And one night a few years ago, I burst into tears when I was babysitting, and he, for the first time, didn't need my help getting into his little footie pj's, a melancholy he remedied by curling into my lap and telling me he still needed me for bedtime stories. He's smart enough to read people, loving enough to give them what they need. I can brag about that without shame, because the former, at least, he doesn't get from me.

There are some disadvantages as well, like when he's being a snot. It's nice, however, because when he's being a little shit, which he is more than capable of, I can call his parents and say "Ok, he's not cute right now, you may return him when he's suitably adorable again." Similarly, unless I do something deliberately and magnificently stupid, like testing his elasticity by trying to turn him into a human slingshot, any major gaffes regarding his development aren't my fault.

However, when he's in my care, it's doubly important that his limbs remain intact and in their proper place. Not only am I charged with health, safety, and happiness while I'm with him, but if I fail to provide/maintain those three basic necessities, I've not only failed him, but I have to answer to his parents, an added pressure that gnaws at me whenever he climbs into a slide on the playground or wanders behind a shelf at the library, disappearing however momentarily from my sight. And there's no autonomy like with parents. When he wants to do something, I'm not only worrying if I think he should do it, how many limitations I should impose if I allow it, what the ramifications will be if I don't, I'm also wondering if his dad or his mom or his stepmom would allow it, what their limitations would be, whether this would be something they'd even concern themselves with, etc until my head hurts.

A dusty hug and a sticky kiss when I bring him home aren't enough to mitigate those concerns, but they are enough to make me override them so I can spend time with him again.

The most important thing about aunthood is what it isn't. It isn't glorified babysitting, it isn't a practice test for motherhood with a test baby, it's a unique relationship that exists wholly unto itself. This is a wonderful little boy's life, and I am so lucky as to play a part in it.

Even if I do have to talk about farts.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Embracing Your Inner Weirdo

Once Upon A Time a painfully shy little girl who was afraid to talk to her classmates (hint: she grew up to be me) stuck her face into a book whenever the opportunity to interact with others came up. She brought a book out to the parking lot that her school managed to convince her was a playground during recess, she pulled out a book after she finished lunch at her desk because despite the fact that her parents paid thousands of dollars in tuition to attend a Catholic school, they could not only not spring for a real playground but also not a cafeteria at all, and when she got home from school she would read outside if it was nice weather and inside if it wasn't, and her three best friends growing up were Anne Shirley, Jo March, and Nancy Drew.

And it was the best fucking thing to ever happen to her.

I don't know if you know this, but reading makes you terribly interesting. People want to talk to you because you actually have an arsenal of opinions formed, and if you can manage to not throw up from the terror of initiating a conversation (responding never bothered me, just starting), you can actually be friends with some people who also adore reading.

Somewhere in the hell of junior high, when I was struggling to connect with others while simultaneously trying to remember to de-fuzz my legs and de-stinkify my underarms, because adolescence isn't hell unless you're hairy and stinky in addition to being awkward, I realized that all that self-imposed isolation and hours of imagined play had made me irrevocably weird.

In high school, (quick shout out to AnthropoloChick and Canadian Baker, who've stuck by my weird little side since those awful days) I slowly realized the dirty little secret of life.

Are you ready?

You sure?


Here it is...

Everyone is fucking weird.

Everyone is weird about something. Not about the same things, obviously. But scratch the surface of literally anyone in the world, you'll find something they overanalyze, fangirl (fangirl is a unisex term, btw), obsess, and/or squeal over. The Big Bang Theory, the Philadelphia Phillies, the inherent superiority of Apple over Windows, the art of the perfect cupcake, religion, doorknobs, candles, animal husbandry, whatever it is, someone is absolutely nuts over it. And once you embrace your own weirdness, you gain a real appreciation for everyone else's

There's a fine line between assaulting people with your weirdness and being open with it. If you're ringing doorbells to tell someone all about the thing you think is awesome, it's the former. If you compliment someone on that t-shirt, because seriously Boondock Saints is such an awesome movie, you're probably the latter.

When you hit the right balance, you can actually make some truly incredible friends and find your own weird little community (at this point I need to shout out to friends I've made since embracing my own inner weirdness, like Dragon Queen, ArchaeoloChick, IronMac, and his wife, Crafty Lady) and sometimes, you get to attend events in another state while carrying a substantial metal chicken, and total strangers/your new best friends will ask to take your picture, because you're weird, they're weird, and everyone involved is awesome and embracing their weirdness.

The Bloggess is one of those people who learned the secret of life, and what made her insanely awesome beyond the ordinary embracing of her inner weirdo is the fact that she created and fosters a community of people who need to hear the one thing I wished I'd known sooner: You are not alone. It's amazing, because even though she's awesomely weird, some things beyond her control, which are decidedly not awesome, in fact awesome's polar opposite, have disrupted her life, yet she keeps popping up again and reaching out, and refusing to be beaten. That's all I'll say on that, because it's her story to tell and even if it wasn't, she'd tell it better than I can anyway, and if you're interested in learning her story you should buy her book. If you're not interested in learning her story, you and I probably aren't going to be friends. Also, I strongly suspect you are the nun who wanted me to put down the book and play with the other children at recess. Well, Sister Sourpuss, I didn't like your anti-literacy attitude then and I don't have to take it now. And the other children were snots. Who were smoking behind the rectory. So there.

This may be the longest-winded post I've ever made, and some of it may not even make sense. The point is, last night I had the privilege of embracing my metal chicken and realized I was also embracing my inner weirdo. I'd come full circle, because I was there initiating conversations and having the time of my life, using a book to bond with people instead of hide from them. So thanks to Anne, Jo, and Nancy for being my friends and for helping me make new ones. Thanks to Jenny Lawson for giving me a place to bond with others of a like mind. And most of all, thanks to my inner weirdo just for being you.

Come here and give me a hug.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Do It For Johnny!

Based on a conversation with Dragon Queen:

Every couple in the world falls into one of two categories: Both partners are equally good looking or the woman is more attractive.

Now, this is based on objectivity. In individual couples, you will find that the woman thinks her man is crazy gorgeous, even though to the world he looks like Zach Galifianakis (I would totally date Zach Galifianakis, for the record.)

Every rule has an exception, and of course we all know who is the exception here. I'm speaking, of course, of Johnny Depp, Lord God Supreme of Unfathomable Pretty Pretty Hotness (I apologize for the title, but for issues of length and readability, I had to shorten it. Also, readability is an actual word, as evidenced by the lack of squiggly red line underneath it. Who knew? Not me. Totally me. Because I'm a writer. And we know things like that.)

Johnny Depp is in a long term relationship with French singer Vanessa Paradis. If you click on the link, you can see the most unspeakably lucky woman in all creation the mother of his children is actually quite beautiful. But she's not Johnny Depp beautiful. Because she's not Johnny Depp.

And that brings me to the subject of this post: Human cloning.

Johnny deserves a partner as beautiful as he is (don't worry about Vanessa. She'll understand) So we need to rally our scientists, our biologists, our geneticists on this most important issue. Johnny needs to stare deeply into his own eyes and tell himself how beautiful he is, while softly stroking his cheek and thinking about how much he loves him.

Also, there will be another Johnny Depp in the world.

So do it for Johnny, scientists.

And do it for us.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Conversations Part 4

Out to dinner with my nephew Guinea Pig and his stepmom, ArchaeoloChick.

THWC: You know, when we were your age, we didn't have Siri. Or iPhones and Androids at all.

Guinea Pig: Why not?

THWC:  Because they hadn't been invented yet.

ArchaeoloChick: In fact, we didn't have a lot of the stuff you had. No internet.

THWC: And you know how you can go OnDemand and watch your favorite shows when you want? Or watch a movie?

Guinea Pig: Yeah.

THWC: Nope. 

ArchaeoloChick: We had to wait until it came on Nickelodeon. And Nickelodeon was over at seven. Then it switched to Nick at Nite.

Guinea Pig: And that stuff's not 'propriate for kids?

THWC: Actually, it was old shows we could all watch. I Love Lucy...

ArchaeoloChick: Bewitched...

THWC/ArchaeoloChick: I Dream of Jeannie...

Guinea Pig: Did they have computers?

THWC: Yes, but most people didn't have one at home.

Guinea Pig: Did they have phones?

ArchaeoloChick: Yeah, with wires. We had to stay in one place when we were on the phone!

Guinea Pig: Did they have saws?

THWC: We're not that old, buddy.

Guinea Pig: How about cars?

ArchaeoloChick: We're not old at all. Times move fast.

Guinea Pig: How about giant saws? Or tiny saws? Or itty bitty saws?

ArchaeoloChick: Aaaaaaaaannnd we lost him.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Parenting Advice (from a Non-Parent)

I know, I know, I haven't shot a squirming, crying watermelon out of my lady place, so I don't know the incredible joys, wonder, sorrow, and depths of childrearing (although I will point out, fewer people will be President of the United States than will be parents, yet we are forever telling the President how to do his job). I do however, work in both education and retail, the two professions upon which the spawn of the stupid are most frequently inflicted, and I do feel it is my duty to point out some things to modern parents that are apparently (frighteningly) not obvious.

  • It is actually not the most precious thing in the world when Turdface Jr. takes an $80 candlestick and sword fights with it. Yes, I will charge you if it breaks, and yes, I will laugh if he hurts himself with it.
  • Your 16 month old cannot use the big girl potty, because she's fucking 16 months old. Whatever dipshit thing you read on the internet doesn't change that.
  • Conversely, excepting special cases re: ability, your child doesn't need praise for using the potty after age 3. That's when it should just be a given.
  • If you don't want kids to know who's winning or losing a game (which is a great life lesson, by the way), don't teach them how to count.
  • Martha Stewart did not design motherhood. When you do crafts/projects with your kids, they will look messy, sloppy, and if it's baking, they'll probably taste god-awful. Embrace the ugly reality.
  • Spare a thought for your kid's teacher. Just because you want your darling angel to know the wonder of how babies are really made, doesn't mean the 19 other sets of parents at preschool are going to be thrilled when Little Booger-breath demonstrates the art of conception by smooshing Raggedy Ann and Andy* together on the playground while their kids look on in horrified wonder. And upon whom will they turn their displeasure? The woefully underpaid teacher--should she have kept a better eye on the kids? Maybe. Could you have just locked the damn door during sexy-time and avoided this whole mess? Definitely.
And finally (for now)
  • Poop is funny. Farts are funny. There is nothing about butts that is not inherently hilarious. Accept it and move on. They will never not laugh at butts.
One last piece of advice for the dads. The second you find out your lady love is pregnant, start putting on a cup as part of your daily routine. You can take it off when your youngest graduates high school. Because at some point during their childhood, each one of your kids is gonna nail you right in the groin.

*Yes, I know, Raggedy Ann and Andy are brother and sister. But Little Booger-breath doesn't.

Monday, May 28, 2012

In Remembrance

Today, I had to work. Working on a holiday sucks. It's a universal truth, right up there with blue skies and Catholic popes.

But there are undeniable advantages to my job. I had a specific start time and end time. I could sit. I could go two doors down in the shopping center and get something to eat or drink. There was air conditioning. The most dangerous thing I had to worry about was an irate customer or stubbing my toe on a table. When I finished out my shift I knew I'd go home to my family and sleep in my own bed.

Across the globe our servicemen and women are at work, and they will have none of the advantages I just listed, ones I and countless others take for granted every day.

Today is a day to remember those who've paid the ultimate sacrifice, securing our freedom with their lives. It is also time to remember those who were prepared to do so, simultaneously sacrificing their comfort, safety, and the time to spend with their loved ones in service to our country.

To all of our Military and Veterans: I salute you, and hope that the appreciation of a grateful nation brings you some comfort until you can go home. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Taking Responsibility

I wrote before about the current/impending paradigm shift in our culture, one where those who do not fit the default mode of straight, white, Christian man are clamoring for their place. It's not happening soon enough. The relegation of those who are perceived as "Other" to the sidelines is problematic in and of itself. But it also perpetuates greater problems.

On Friday, May 25, the wonderful and talented Jessicka Addams asked her followers on twitter: "I have a question (open to men too). Why do so many girls hate other girls? Why does our gender turn on each other?" I spent the rest of the day thinking about why we do so, and again turned back to the default view in which we as a society subconsciously view the world. Despite the progress we've made and are continuing to make, we live very much in a man's world, where women are sidelined into supporting roles in men's story. We jockey for a place in a world that relegates us to second-class, and even when we've carved out a niche for ourselves, the post is precarious at best. We are fighting for the respect and recognition that are automatically granted men, and that constant state of struggle leaves us, as a group, insecure and fearful of our place in the world. When the space is so limited, we view other women as the enemy of our own success: "If her, then not me." We lash out against each other, and we need to take deliberate steps to abolish this thinking while simultaneously working together to create footholds in a society that is just as much ours as men's.

Note: This is not men's fault. This is not women's problem. Sidelining each other and playing the blame game leads to circling the drain and nothing gets done. This is a social issue we all have to take responsibility for.

Our Government
...needs to stop treating breasts and vaginas as things possessed by alien life forms. Lactation and gestation are two of the five characteristics that define an animal as a mammal, scientifically rendering the body parts that enable them as both natural, and fundamentally essential. Women's health is just health. We can't expect our girls and women to feel comfortable in their own skin when we treat what makes them women as public property instead of body parts. Parts that occasionally have medical issues that need to be treated in a timely, private manner that places paramount the needs of the patient, without the need for legislation and rallies to protect our basic rights.

Our Media
...needs to showcase women in all areas that display a rich variety of the human experience, allowing for weakness, strength, doubt, ugliness, beauty, and a host of other opposites, so no matter what woman is watching, she will not only see a representation of herself and her experience, but vicariously experience other women as well. A rich variety, incidentally, is not the same as a token variety. The beautiful badass in an otherwise  all-man team (Avengers) is not enough. It's merely one woman who broke into the boys' club, and it encourages jealousy instead of stomping it out. Our films, our music, our stories are reflective of our times, yet the primary voices are men's. Even Pixar, a studio that gave us such a rich tapestry of female characters as Jessie, Mrs. Potato Head, Barbie, Bonnie, Boo, Ellie, EVE, and Sally Carrera, waited until 2012 to tell a story where the female character's arc isn't just informing the male hero's role. The most successful female driven film of last year was Bridesmaids, a film centered around what is traditionally called "the most important day of a girl's life", the transition from Miss to Mrs. Not the most important day of a couple's life, a man's, or a person's. Just a woman's. When we continually only tell women that there are only certain roles they can play, and only certain stories in their lives worth telling, it limits their perspective, and creates unhealthy competition for those roles, on film and off it, furthering our insecurity and jealousy.

Most of all, we
...need to stop acting as though "Society" is some nameless, faceless entity that is forcing us to dwell in the shadows. We are society, and we control what it wants, how it works, and what values it holds dear. If we want to curb female jealousy, we need to a) stop giving it so much room to grow, and b) stop rewarding it when it occurs. We want stories that showcase women? We need to write them, we need to finance them, we need to produce them and share them. We want women's health to be afforded respect, funding, the basic accordances that every other division of healthcare is afforded? We need to take it, uncompromisingly, and with a no-nonsense attitude.

The day our culture views women (as a whole) living complete, full lives, regardless of where we are in relation to men, is the day women will feel as secure as men that they have an important, irreplaceable hold in our society.

And that is the day when female jealousy loses the battle it's instigated in our gender.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pizza and Prime Rib

It's a common thought that sex is like pizza. Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. Hell, Domino's managed to spread ketchup on cardboard for years and still turn a profit based on the idea that there really is no such thing as bad pizza, and consequently, no such thing as bad sex.


Sex is like pizza alright--for men.

For women, sex is like prime rib. Everything has to be perfectly timed in the perfect environment. One fuck-up, no matter how seemingly minor, and sex becomes "Fuck it, no, it's gross now. Get it away from me, I don't even want the fucking thing anymore. The whole night is ruined, I'm putting on sweats and grabbing some french fries and eating them alone. Don't come near me."

French fries are masturbation, by the way. You don't always want them, but sometimes they are all that's gonna satisfy that craving.

And no one wants to share.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Immortality from an Atheist Perspective

On Monday I attended a funeral. I wasn't well-acquainted with the deceased, but she was the grandmother of a beloved friend and I wanted to show my support. It was a Catholic Mass, which I, being raised as such, am accustomed to. The service reminded me of all the losses I've faced in life, the times I've said goodbye to my loved ones within the doors of a beautifully appointed church.

However, I'm an atheist, and have been for almost all of my adult life. So while people who believe in God(s) can be comforted by the idea that they will one day again see their dearly departed, when I lose someone it's a supremely unhelpful platitude, one that I nonetheless bear with a grateful smile, because I know the speaker means well, and the time and place for refuting life views is not in the midst of dealing with a loss. And hell, having never been dead personally, I can't say for sure if any part of the human consciousness survives death. It doesn't seem likely to me, but I'm not so arrogant to say I've got the universe figured out. I'm sure that will take me until at least 40.

What I do know, however, is that there is immortality. And we are all living examples of it.

Human beings are social creatures. We've evolved many times over in our existence, but the fact remains that we continue to live interdependently of each other. We live in family units, which make up communities, cities, countries, and finally the planet itself. We write, we make art, we leave imprints of our thoughts and philosophies for those left behind. That is a minor example of immortality.

Those left behind is the major example.

We are none of us absent from the influence of our fellow man. People affect us, sometimes without us even being aware of it. Children change us, parents raise us, friends influence us, strangers offer new perspective. And all of those people have been influenced in their own way as well. Reading this will influence whomever is on the receiving end, in however minor a way. I've had students, neighbors, a nephew, people I may not even remember. Like the ripple effect, they've been influenced by me and I by them. And I am the product of the inspirations of people who came before me, in ways they probably couldn't even fathom in life. This is true for everyone in the world.

The really beautiful part of this truth is that it takes nothing away from those who are religiously or spiritually inclined. You can enjoy the beauty of it while still hoping for Heaven or Nirvana, or whatever you believe death holds for you.

And when you think about it, it makes the idea that "He/she will always be with you." a universal truth rather than an worn-out cliche. A comforting truth is the most beautiful thing in a time of grief.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Belated Note on Mothers' Day

It's been exactly one week since Mothers' Day, and since I only started this blog six days ago, I missed it. So a quick word of thanks to my mother:

My mother was a wonderful mom, a tradition she continues to this day. Looking back on my childhood, she gave me a lifelong love of the shore, exhibited endless patience with me when I was cranky and tired, invested time and energy into my weird interests, worked a job she hated at nights so that I'd always have a parent home with me and was the source of comfort I ran to when I had a nightmare.

But at the time, the thing I noticed most about her was the frequency with which she said "No". No, I could not skip my Girl Scout meeting. No, I could not play in the pool unsupervised. No, I could not watch The Simpsons (animated =/= kid-friendly, people). No, I could not watch tv at all before my homework was done.

The "No"s got even more frequent during my teen years. No, I could not wear makeup. No, I would not be attending an all-day concert in Jersey unsupervised. No to this, no to that, it was her favorite word, and she wielded it like a weapon.

To say the least, I was not her biggest fan whenever she pulled out her favorite weapon. I spent more hours than I care to remember bitching about her on the phone with my friends, probably at the same time she was on the phone to hers for the exact same reason.

I was a big fan of Gilmore Girls at the time, insanely jealous of Rory and Lorelai's relationship, wishing I had a cool mom who shared my CDs and clothes instead of a suburban mom who didn't want me out late on school nights.

The thing is, we have that relationship now. We trade dirty jokes, share each others' books, gossip, laugh, antagonize each other teasingly into doing various chores around the house. And the reason we can do that now, is because our relationship slowly morphed to friendship as I grew up. Maybe as a kid I would've had a cooler childhood with a more free-wheeling mom, but I doubt it would've given me half of what I learned from being told "No" by my stricter mother. And childhood ends. Adulthood is eternal. I'd rather have a mother as a kid and a friend as an adult than a friend as a kid and an obligation now, because in reality Rory would've wearied of having to be the center of her mother's social life and yearned to branch out in a way that was denied her as a kid. So thanks Mom, for not always being the mother I wanted but being exactly the mother I needed.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Of Playgrounds and Vaginas

Playground: A super fun place to hang out. It is public property, anyone can be there, and everyone has a say as to what is done there.

Vagina: A super fun place to hang out. It is private property, the only people who can be there are at the owner's request, and only the owner has a say in what is done there.

No one can deny that our United States Congressmen and women are hard workers who need a break. Well, plenty can deny it. And they'd be totally right. After all, serving one term in Congress earns a person lifelong financial and medical security. But that's a post for a different day. Let's say for argument's sake, that the U.S. Congress is greatly in need of a rest, and went looking for a super fun place to hang out. So far, all well and good.

It seems however, that Congress has accidentally confused the definitions of playground and vagina. Given that both share the same first sentence in their definition, and taking into consideration the collective intelligence of Congress, it was an easy mistake to make.

So bearing that in mind, I'm willing to give Congress the benefit of doubt. Clearly this is a matter of confusion, and it's incumbent upon us to point out their mistake.

Dear Congress:
You are in the wrong place. Throwing your weight around, declaring yourselves kings of the hill, making up new rules as you go along, and punishing people who don't play the same game as you are behaviors completely appropriate to a playground, but entirely unwelcome in a vagina. In fact, showing up in someone's vagina without their consent, and refusing to leave when you are told to is commonly referred to as rape. It is considered a very bad thing. Signed, Everyone who reads beyond the first sentence.

Incidentally, I think we can all agree that the literal playgrounds across this country would contain far less crack pipes and graffiti if Congress spent more time on sustainable economic growth and improvement of educational resources instead of hanging around other people's vaginas.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Comparative Definitions

Default: Straight White Christian Man

Other: Gay White Christian Man, Gay White Christian Woman, Gay Black Christian Woman, Gay Black Atheist Woman, Straight Black Christian Man, Straight Black Muslim Woman, Gay Asian Buddhist Woman, Straight Hispanic Christian Woman, Bisexual Hispanic Jewish Woman, Straight Asian Atheist Man, Bisexual Hispanic Pagan Man, Asexual White Buddhist Man, etc...

Society likes to compartmentalize people, attach labels and put them in boxes. This isn't news. And it isn't even necessarily a bad thing, so long as how we remember to move beyond the label when we relate to each other. The real problem is the prism through which those labels are viewed. Our society is so steeped in heternormativity, caucasian majority, and Christian patriarchy, which are not in and of themselves bad, that the people who fall into those categories tend to view those who don't less as gay, black, Jewish, women etc. and more as Not!Straight, Not!White, Not!Christian, Not!Male and so on. And that's the problem. It was the problem when people resisted giving women the right to vote, the Civil Rights movement, it's the problem with the current opposition to same-sex marriage, because we treat that which is Other as a satellite to the planet of our own experience--and it's hard to care about the solar storms sandblasting the surface of the moon when Earth is dealing with tsunamis.

Not to say the moon isn't important. It affects life on Earth and we do need to be mindful of it as it revolves around us, its experiences informing our lives.

But human beings aren't the fucking moon.

Women don't exist to inform the experiences of men, those who are LGBT aren't the foils to straight people, and Black/Hispanic/Asian/Multi-Racial people are that race simply because they are, not that race because they aren't White.

Humans are countries that exist independently of each other, each with its own culture and experience, but anchored to the others by a basic sameness, and working together, if we are smart, because not only is it mutually beneficial, but because we are stuck with each other and we may as well make the most of it.

It's hard to shift the paradigm when the people who benefit the most from it are so resistant--who wants to give up a whole planet just for a piece, just because everybody vaulted down from the Sea of Tranquility and started demanding their fair share? But it's happening, and those who've gotten cozy in the heteronormative patriarchy have only one choice to make: Friendly Merger or Hostile Takeover. Want a third option?

I hear the moon's available.