Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Can I Play Too?: Misogyny In Nerd Culture

“Girls shouldn’t like video games, that’s boy stuff! That would just be, I don’t know..weird.”

I was in my second summer as an outdoor educator at the local Audubon Center. Brock was ten years old and often had more energy than I could handle. He was at our camp every day, and had so far acted out this season by shoving me into a door, and pretending to slit my throat from behind with an imaginary knife, or shoot me with a pretend machine gun. He thought it was hilarious. I had multiple talks with him about how his allusions to violence were inappropriate and actually scared me to some degree.

I had found out that the best way to have a calm conversation with Brock was to let him talk about videogames. He was primarily a PC gamer, and had advanced intelligence for his age. I listened to him talk about MineCraft for hours, and how he would purposefully try to kill other players on a PVP (Player vs Player) server because they were least expecting it. He also found joy in rounding up the MineCraft villagers and killing them all at once, in a sort of genocide. When he was feeling less destructive, he loved Club Penguin.

“Brock,” I started, “girls can play video games. I like and play video games. Girls can like anything that boys like.” I was trying to be as simple and direct as possible. “Don’t ever think that certain genders can do things that others can’t. Anyone can like or participate in anything that they want. Please remember that for me. It’s important.”

He nodded his head and looked confused, but sat in the corner with a book anyway. He had finally calmed down, and I hoped that I had gotten through to him, at least a little bit.

A few years previous, I was in my senior year of high school. It was Spirit Week before homecoming, and I had gone all out with the themes and my costumes every single day. Spirit Week was like Halloween for five days in a row, and I wanted to take full advantage. The last day of the week was “Superhero Day” or something of the like, and my boyfriend at the time wanted to both wear costumes from the Batman universe, or really just wanted an excuse to dress as The Joker. I figured that I could be Catwoman, because I found her character interesting anyway, and began to assemble my outfit.

This boyfriend was obsessed with superheros, and also pretty manipulative and controlling. I knew that if I was going to pull this off, then I had to know everything that there was to know about Catwoman. I spent hours researching and reading everything that I could on her, and decided that I would wear a black, very 1990’s outfit that my mom had worn to see ZZ Top. I also grabbed a black eye mask, and cat ears for the top of my head. I couldn’t find a cheap version of mask that took up half of Catwoman’s head, with the ears and the face covering all in one piece. Besides, it was Spirit Week, and I had already put way too much thought into this.

I came to school that Friday, feeling fierce. I was thrilled with how my outfit had come together. I saw my boyfriend in the hallway, and ran up to him, hoping that he would be as excited about my costume as I was. He turned and looked at me, his face twisting into disgust.

“Why don’t you have her correct mask on? That looks so stupid. You might as well take it off or just not be Catwoman.” He said, eyeing the ears on top of my head.

I felt like someone had shocked me in the chest. “Actually,” I began, my voice a little weak, “Catwoman’s style evolved. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, her costume looked more like this, so I figured that it would be okay.”

He continued to give me a dirty look, and I could see that he was irritated that at that moment, I knew more about Catwoman than he did. He never responded, and walked away to talk to some of his friends. I continued to receive compliments on my outfit all day. I left the ears on. At that point, I never wanted to take them off.

Fast-forward to college a couple of years later. I was hanging out with some of my friends between classes in the afternoon, watching Attack on Titan. The topic of party themes came up, and one of my guy friends stressed that he hated “Nerd” or “Superhero” themes.

He began to rant. “All girls do at those parties is wear Superman or Spider-Man shirts, suspenders, and fake glasses. It’s stupid. It’s like when a girl takes a selfie on Facebook with a Batman shirt and her glasses with the caption “I’m so nerdy.” No, you’re not nerdy, you’re just a slut in glasses trying to get guy’s attention. If I see a girl wearing a Marvel t-shirt, I automatically start asking her as many things as I can about the Marvel universe. And you know what? They never know as much as me. If you are going to say that you like something, you should know everything about it and not just try to come off as some “nerdy girl”.”

At that point in my life, I didn’t have a voice to tell him that he was saying was completely offensive. Instead, I felt embarrassed. I quietly thought of the two Spider-Man shirts that I had in my closet, and the light-up Spider-Man shoes that I had bought in the little boy’s department (My feet are that small, and it is awesome. I have Toy Story shoes too). I grew up watching the animated Spider-Man series with my dad. We would sing the song together, laughing,

Is he strong? Listen bud--he’s got radioactive blood.”

It was something that we shared. I had seen the films countless times, and spent a week terrified to sleep alone after first seeing Willem Dafoe’s performance as The Green Goblin. I had only read a handful of Spider-Man comic books and certainly didn’t know everything that there was to know about Spider-Man and never claimed to, but I felt ashamed. He was my favorite superhero, but maybe this friend was right. Spider-Man wasn’t for me anymore. I wasn’t allowed to like him.

In the same group a few weeks later, I was going on and on about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sensing that I was boring those around me, I digressed, enthusiastically saying “I’m sorry! I get super nerdy about Buffy.”

One of my other guy friends snapped his head up from his computer, where he was playing League, and met my eyes. “I hate when girls say that. When girls say they are nerdy. You are not nerdy. Do you know what that means? It means that no one wants to talk to you. That you are greasy from staying up late at night playing on your computer and have acne. It’s not cute to be a nerd. You have to know everything about all things in nerd culture. Girls like to pretend to be nerds to get attention but most of the time, they are not.”

Again, I was offended, but instead thought that my comment had offended him. I didn’t mean anything by it. I liked all of the same things that this friend did. I felt fake. Like he thought that I tried hard for attention. It was awful. I began to question all of my interests and if I was “allowed” to talk about them in certain company or if I really was some sort of “pretend nerd”.

During my last semester of my senior year of college, I ended up at a local bar with some of my classmates after our night poetry class. Mondays were long, and we had an awesome time writing in a barn and petting baby goats for inspiration, and wanted to continue the conversation and hang out before going home. We started talking about video games, when one of my classmates and friends told me that men were awful to her when she played her games online. She said they were mean because she was a girl, and we agreed how horrible and unfounded it was. I brought up my childhood best friend who would often play games on her brother’s Xbox under his Gamertag. She would leave the headset on, but wouldn’t talk or reveal that she was a girl because the boys would relentlessly tease her and make her feel uncomfortable. The best part is, she would always beat them. The worst part is, if she did decide to talk, it would be met with comments like “Dude, you so just got beat by a girl!”

“It’s messed up.” my classmate responded. I took a drink and cleared my throat. “Yeah. It really is.”

Women are sexualized at conventions. We are quizzed and challenged on anything geeky that we may like to prove that we are qualified to be a part of that fandom. Last time I checked, Star Wars is mainstream anyway. Me dressing up with my best friend to watch the movies and trying to memorize everything that is canon but not in the films, maybe not so much. But I enjoy it and that is no one else’s concern.

I introduced one of my girl friends at a party to guy that I was also friends with, knowing that they both loved Zelda. My girl friend knows more about Zelda than any person that I have ever met, but instead of bonding over it, the guy asked her tons of questions, so she could “prove” that she actually had played all of the games. He even asked her about the musical score. She knew every answer, but wasn’t really interested in talking to him ever again after that. Who could blame her?

To a certain extent, I get being protective of things that you like. I am completely guilty of being obnoxious with anything Joss Whedon, especially Buffy. When you like something so much, it becomes a competition. You can see others that share the same interest but hardly know anything about it as being fake, and it is totally evil of me to have this mindset. At one point in time, the things that I love now were new to me too. Fandoms are supposed to be a great place for discussion, shared love, and celebration. Not to prove who knows the most. I am constantly working on this.

But this superior and judgmental attitude should never come into play because a girl likes comic books or videogames, or anything else that men in nerd culture have claimed for themselves. Women in nerd culture should not be talked down to, disrespected, or sexualized. Men cannot police what they wear. If I want to wear my Spider-Man light up shoes, or a sexy costume as cosplay, then it is for me--and my right. I struggled to write this because I was worried that some of the friends that I mentioned would read and be offended. But they didn’t worry when they offended me, we are still friends, and they might have even forgotten about these conversations all together. Men can have the privilege of forgetting. Due to my anxiety and my gender, I hardly can.

Furthermore, a nerdy girl isn’t a novelty. A girl that likes superheros shouldn’t be painted as some wildcard, or objectified. She is a person that simply loves a thing. We can connect over that love and share our common passions. Don’t tear people down, no matter what their gender is, but instead, work together to promote what makes you happy. Then, we can all play together.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Sadness Game

The death of a coworker. The evening news covering head on collision fatalities and violence against children. Listening to the Spring Awakening soundtrack on repeat thanks to a new interest in 2008’s 90210 remake.

I spend my days in a small square, looking at the bamboo plant that I am struggling to keep alive and the stale Star Wars themed graham crackers that sit by my office phone. I think about walking by his office, and wonder if anything has been touched. Are his used pens as he left them? Are traces of his fingertips still atop his black keyboard? I think that if I look straight ahead, maybe I will see him standing blurrily in the corner of my eye. If I listen carefully enough, I’ll hear him breathily cackling at the front desk. I can still picture his eyes, wet and shining.

My ears echo with each click of my mouse. I shift my weight and pull a sticky note off of the pad, detaching it from the rest. The paper and adhesive block will never be the same as it was, no matter how carefully I go to place the paper back with the others.

To only know someone for 6 months and to lose them is a reminder that we cannot control who impacts our lives. That a card or a phone call could have been the one thing saving us from inevitable guilt. The words I should have visited will forever cling to my shoulders, reminding me of the present and hard truth.

“If you didn’t give me this recipe, I was going to send all of the feral cats in my neighborhood after you.”

“We have to stop meeting like this.”

“For Thanksgiving, I am going to go home, open a bag of chips and a can of coke, make a bologna sandwich, turn off my phone, lock my doors, and watch football. And that is how I like it.”

And now we’re left. Before having a full time job, we don’t realize just how much working can consume us. I see my coworkers more than my friends and family. I am in close proximity to them, for 40 hours a day. I hear them laugh, clear their throats, sneeze, have heated phone calls with loved ones, staple papers, and roll their office chairs into their desks, shaking desk decorations and computer monitors. I recognize their shoes in the bathroom stalls, and know who is moving by the outside of my cubicle by how heavily they walk.

We tell each other about our successes and grievances, because we are just close enough. When someone hurts, we all feel it, like a hand pushing in the center of our chest. But when someone is gone, the denial and essence of their body wandering through the building is stronger than the realization and grief that follows. We move as one entity, swelling and spreading, but coming back together to nod our heads at one another as we walk to our cars at 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. This is our ever moving, symbiotic relationship. The turning of a hourglass at the beginning of each week. A crack in the glass and a loss of sand doesn’t make the time and pattern run as smoothly.

In realizing all of this, I feel sadness and fear, soft on my skin like a familiar blanket. My anxieties warm my face like the sun coming through the front windows of my childhood home and painting the stairs, running down to the hardwood floor. I want to lay in it. To close my eyes and accept what I know best. I remember the comfort of hopelessness and worry, and feel safer when I am mentally treading water, sitting on my couch in the dark from 2:00am-4:00am during the week, unable to sleep.

With optimism comes heartbreak. Happiness leads to vulnerability. Pessimism can go hand-in-hand with reality, and the furrow of our brows as we whisper I told you so.

And thus, we play The Sadness Game. It is easier to slip into tears and the feeling of your core physically sinking. This is what we know, this is what we turn back to. But is isn’t right, and it isn’t what we deserve.

We try to be positive. We Google advice and reach out to friends, look at pictures of baby animals and do yoga in the small amount of clean carpet space that we have for the week. It’s a fleeting struggle, grasping at the breeze that moves tree branches and backyard windchimes, only for it to stop and leave us in the still. It’s hard, and it’s walking uphill, when it’s simpler just to fall to our knees and roll backwards, staining our jeans and palms with green grass and crashing at the bottom.

But easier doesn’t mean better.

There is no winning with The Sadness Game. In the face of hurt, there is the perspective that we will one day, be okay. This ideal may seem like a picture book, an unattainable dream. But imagining it means that it exists, and is out there somewhere, floating. And when that breeze comes by again, we can catch it, put it in our pockets, and hold on to it for a little bit longer.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stories From France

During my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Paris, Provence, Monaco, and Nice. I had taken French all four years of high school, was hesitant about speaking with ease with any native French speaker, and nervously elated to travel abroad with a group of my classmates and chaperones.

As much as I would love to be like David Sedaris, who has written hilarious and insightful essays on his time spent in France, I was 18, and only there for 11 days. The whole time I carried around a hot-pink satchel with a picture of the EIFFEL TOWER on it that my mom bought me from JC Penney’s.

However, I remember important moments of this adventure, how I was able to briefly experience another place, and how I really believe (at the risk of sounding dramatic) that it helped influence and change my life. So, here are some short stories.

Note: I tried an embarrassingly long time to put in all of the proper accents for the French words, and could seriously not figure out how to add them. So, hopefully this doesn’t offend anyone, or make anybody flench who speaks French. I am truly sorry and yes, it bugs me too.

2 Days Before Departure

My dad, like other dads before him, loves action films. You know, the ones where a white collar business man goes rogue and sets out to avenge the random, violent deaths of his wife and children? Add some explosions, car chases, and a banana in a tailpipe, and you have his dream movie.

A couple of nights before I left for France, he asked me if I wanted to watch Taken. I shrugged, always down to hang out with my dad and watch a movie on his prized big-screen TV, and hobbled down to the basement in pajama pants and a too-big t-shirt to sit cross legged on the same green leather couch we’ve had for 18 years and watch it with him. I knew nothing about the movie.

For those of us who missed 2009, Taken, starring Liam Neeson, is about a retired CIA agent who travels across Europe to rescue his daughter, who was kidnapped in Paris and became a victim of human trafficking. Neeson uses his “special skills” to retrieve her in a horrifying and traumatic movie that basically scared young women into never wanting to travel to Europe.

As the ending credits rolled, I sat wide-eyed.

“Now you know that you have to be careful” my dad nodded to me. “Don’t talk to anyone. Even if it is a cute boy. Don’t go out anywhere with your friends at night. Stay with the group. Don’t trust anybody.”

I slid off of the couch until my bare feet touched the carpet, and went upstairs to finish packing.

The Flashmob

I had an awesome French teacher that really focused on French pop culture. We watched classic French movies, musicals, and listened to current French musicians. I learned that French people love Aretha Franklin, and became obsessed with Edith Piaf after watching La Vie en rose.

During class while listening to popular French music, our teacher played a timeless French song called Cette Annee La, by Claude Francois. Claude Francois was a vocalist who took popular American melodies and changed the words to create French hits. Cette Annee La, translated to “That Year”, used the song “Oh What A Night” by The Four Seasons. The 1976 video was iconic, featuring Claude and a group of women doing a boppy little dance while they sang. According to our teacher, the dance was super popular in France, like Americans moving their arms to Y-M-C-A.

“For those of us going to France,” my teacher began, “We will be doing a flashmob to Cette Annee La.” The class purred with excitement.

“They will LOVE it,” he continued. “They will appreciate that we took the time to learn their culture. This will be really fun.”

So, for months, we had lunchtime and afternoon practices to learn the dance moves to Cette Annee La. We were a group of 30, very white and happy high schoolers grape-vining in the choir room with the door closed and Claude Francois’ voice echoing off the padded walls. We were going to rock it.

Joe’s Shoulder

There weren’t any direct flights from Columbus to Europe, so on the day that we left, we took a four hour bus ride to Detroit. From Detroit, we could fly to Frankfurt, Germany. From Frankfurt, it would be another shorter flight to Paris.

The flight from Detroit to Germany was long, with a fair amount of turbulence. I was impressed because the seats in front of us had little televisions on them, so that each seat could watch whatever they wanted. My friends luckily sat together on another part of the plane, while I was placed next to my classmate, Joe.

Joe had always been genial, but we never really hung out. Throughout the flight, we exchanged small talk when we weren’t watching movies on the small screens or listening to music, but mostly just sat in silence. We didn’t have much to say.

As we flew across the Atlantic and the sun was beginning to set, the flight staff decided that it was time for us to go to sleep. They turned off the lights, instructed us to shut our windows, and a calm voice came over the PA system to gently tell us “Goodnight and sleep well”.

It was honestly really weird.

Others surrounding us put on eye masks and pulled out small pillows for sleep. Well this is strange, I thought, feeling like I was in the television show Dollhouse, but snuggled up with a blanket that I packed anyway.

A few hours later, I stirred awake, realizing that we were still on the plane. I also noticed that I had been accidentally sleeping on Joe’s shoulder. I shot up, embarrassed and my neck cramping (although probably not as bad as it could have been, thanks to my impromptu pillow).

“Oh, wow, I am really sorry!” I started.
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” Joe smiled. “I was asleep anyway.”

Joe and I didn’t really speak for the rest of the trip or in years since, but I will always remember how cool he was to let me sleep on him. Thanks, Joe. What a guy.

The Rue de la Place Man

I cannot even accurately describe the beauty of Paris at night time. Some things are so lovely, and so breathtaking, that they should only be detailed through poetry.

Our group had migrated back to the Eiffel Tower, after having seen it earlier in the daylight for ample photo opportunities. This time, we had the chance to go all the way to the top of the tower if we wished. After having an actual panic attack from riding The Tower of Terror about a year earlier (It ended with my mom pulling me into the nearest restroom and dunking my head under a sink to calm me down..I was 17 years old) I didn’t think that I would be too keen on experiencing Paris from up above.

My friends wanted to climb to the top, and I said that I would wait for them to be finished. However, a familiar little voice in my brain told me But what if you regret it? and the adrenaline convinced me to give it a shot. (A friend later described this as a symptom of FOMO-Fear Of Missing Out. I have really strong FOMO. I am not sure who coined this but whoever you are, thank you).

So, we waited in line and purchased our tickets. Then, we began to climb the tower (This sounds like we tackled it King Kong style, which actually would have been hilarious and really awesome. We also would have a cool “Hey, I got arrested in Paris” story.) with a combination of stairs and elevators as my extremities began to feel like they were weightless and being pricked by small needles.

At The Eiffel Tower, there are technically two tops. You can go to the top of the tower, and then you can also take a small stairway to the VERY top, where you truly cannot go much higher, unless you like, climb the pointy thing that sticks out the top. (Again, King Konging it).

We were waiting to get to the first top, which required an elevator. I was standing in the line to board, trying not to think about The Tower of Terror, when I heard a loud, booming voice coming from an American man in front of us.

“Okay, okay listen. We are staying on this street,” he held up a map for his wife and two daughters to see. The man was wearing a pale blue button up shirt, khaki shorts, and a fishing hat. His family was dressed similarly.

“So we just gotta get out of here, and walk this way, and look for Roo day law Playce and our hotel” he continued to speak way too loud. It was obvious at this point that he wanted to sound like he knew what he was talking about to impress Parisians, fellow tourists, and his eager family.

I shuddered at his gross mispronunciation. My French accent was far from perfect, but he was so confident and obnoxious in his want for everyone to think that he was important, intelligent, and in charge, that I couldn’t help but be embarrassed.

Oh great, I thought, trying to make myself smaller and blend in with my friends. I pulled my hot pink satchel close, hiding the obvious Francophile imagery. No wonder Europeans aren’t fans of Americans. People like him, who feel the need to establish themselves and be big in a culture that isn’t their own, made us look ignorant and obnoxious. You don’t have to command attention and take up space to be important.

The elevator finally arrived as we all started ushering in close. And what do you know, we ended up on the same trip as Roo day law Playce man and his family.
“Girls! Look at that!” he pointed an exaggerated hand at the metal gears that turned the elevator, allowing it to be pulled upward. “Here we go!” he bellowed, like a man on a rickety state fair roller coaster. His family was eating it up. I was clenching my teeth and hoping that I could pass as being a Parisian who liked to go to the top of The Eiffel Tower for kicks on the weekend.

Thankfully, once the elevator arrived, we filed out and lost Rue day law Playce in the crowd. I didn’t see him again for the remainder of my time in The Eiffel Tower, but I always knew that one day I would write about him.

Oh, and the view from the top? Gorgeous. You could feel your insides all rising to your throat, and the wind was cold and dangerous, but the dancing of lights and toy cars below made it worth it. To become a piece of the structure withstanding time and breathing in the art and music from hundreds of years from the highest place that you have ever stood. I would do it all again, many times.

The First Flashmob

It was our second day in Paris, and we were ready to spring our well rehearsed flashmob on anyone who was lucky enough to be around. Our tour guide coincidentally directed and taped documentaries, so he was on board to film us any time we did the flashmob.

We all stood around a popular open area that was a prime place for taking pictures of the surrounding infrastructure. We talked amongst ourselves, acting like it was any normal day hanging out by the Eiffel Tower.

The music started from a small boombox that our teacher brought with us, and Ezra, our classmate and leader of the flashmob, walked around mouthing the beginning words of Cette Annee La in an animated way. Onlookers stared in confusion, and gave him some space.

Row by row, we filled in, also mouthing the words and dancing along. The crowd laughed and cheered, taking pictures and videos of our efforts. My heart was heavily beating, but it was exhilarating.

Thinking back on it now, as silly and entertaining as it was, I laugh at the humor of it all. That I can be one of those people who sits back in a conversation, crosses their arms, draws in their breath and says “Eh, I was in a flashmob once”.

And the lights dim as the curtain closes.

The Mona Lisa?

I absolutely loved the Louvre. We learned that it could take 75 days to get through the whole museum if you look at each piece of art for 60 seconds, during 8 hour periods. I sincerely wish that we had 75 days.
After wandering through the galleries and halls, my friends and I finally approached the room that housed the Mona Lisa. I could think back to elementary school, when we first learned about Leonardo da Vinci and tried to replicate the Mona Lisa’s likeness for a grade while watching Sesame Street’s Don’t Eat The Pictures. (Elementary school art class totally shaped me as a person.)

My palms were sweating as I ran my fingers through my bag for my camera. As we finally got through the hordes of tourists who were walking inch by inch on tiptoe, I saw her. Or did I? It was sort of hard to tell.

The Mona Lisa was small. Very small. There is ample space surrounding her, and ropes in front so that people couldn’t get too close. I could only manage to see her from about 20 feet away. My pictures came out blurry, but at least I have the mental image..and know that I am probably three times bigger than the famous Mona Lisa.

Ca va Jordan? Ca va?

While taking a lunch break in between our sight-seeing, our chaperones granted us permission to walk around the area without supervision. My friends and I took off down a side street, and soon saw a cafe that offered pizza.

I wasn’t going to eat, so after the three others ordered their food and went to grab a seat, I stood alone at the counter, eyeing the hot chocolate on the menu.

The man taking the orders was probably close to 40, and had dark features. Tan skin that had seen a lot of sunlight, black hair, a prominent nose and knitted eyebrows that made small x’s across his forehead.

I requested a hot chocolate while fishing for my money, and he continued to speak to me in French and English.
“What is your name?” he asked. “Comment t’appelles-tu?”
I smiled, figuring he was being friendly. “Je m’appelle Jordan,” I answered confidently, looking forward to the opportunity to practice my French.

“You are very beautiful,” he began, “Tu es tres belle. I wish I had a camera right now, you know why?” he asked playfully.

I was slightly flattered at the nice compliment, for Europeans do tend to be more affectionate, and I thought that he was going to make a joke, like a sweet uncle that tried really hard to be your friend. “Pourqoui?” I lifted my eyebrows. “Why?”

“So that I could take your picture. And then when I wake up every day, I could look at it and be reminded of how beautiful you are.”

My smile dropped. I became nervous. Certainly that wasn’t a normal thing to say to someone. Was he hitting on me, or was I being paranoid?

“Where are you staying?” he asked again, sensing my hesitation. I told him that I didn’t remember, even though I definitely did. “How long are you here?” he asked again. I lied and said we were leaving that day, when we were really staying another two days. I thought of Taken. I thought of Liam Neeson’s character’s daughter, and I began to shake.

“What’s wrong Jordan, do you not like me?” he chuckled as he got my hot chocolate and set it down in front of me. I could see his smirk through the steam.

I gave him a small smile and walked to the table with my friends, spilling hot liquid over the side of the cup and onto my hands as I hurried. I sat down next to them, and they instantly asked what was wrong with me. My face was white and trembling. I began to cry.

My friends hugged me as I whispered what happened. They assured me that I wasn’t overreacting, and quickly ate their pizza so that we could leave.

As we attempted to finish, the man came back, sweeping around our small table, watching me cry and shake. He laughed.

“Ca va, Jordan?” he sang while I avoided his eyes. Are you okay, Jordan? How is it going? He walked behind me, paused, and went away again. “Ca va?”

A Picnic In Provence

As we moved to Provence (the most beautiful and wonderful place that I have ever been in my life), we stopped at a supermarche to pick out lunch items for a roadside picnic.

We had limited time, and were busy trying to navigate through the store and collect our items, so our spoils ended up being some crackers, fruit, and a giant jar of Nutella.

Our bus pulled up to a countryside, overlooking a more attractive stretch of grass and hills down below. It was the most green that I had ever seen all in one place. We all sat on the ground in our groups, and ate with our hands. We dipped our fingers into the nutella and looked toward the sun, smiling at the thousands of swaying blades of grass below.

That moment will forever be one of my favorite memories, and the first picnic that I didn’t totally hate (because bugs ruin everything).

N(ice) Cream

“I want to warn you ladies to stay in groups, and try not to talk to anyone at night when you walk around” my French teacher warned us on the bus intercom. “Men here are more aggressive, and I don’t want anything to happen to any of you, or for anyone to get pickpocketed.”

I thought back to the man at the cafe in Paris and shuddered. We all silently agreed to be careful, and when night came, most of us headed out in a large group. Our tour guide had told us of a wonderful gelato place (Nice is comprised of French and Italian influences) and we were curious.

We walked up to the gelato stand in a small courtyard, surrounded by colorful buildings, the moon and streetlights glinting off the top of the icy treats. From what I can remember, there were about 60 different flavors. I excitedly ordered dark chocolate and nutella, and it was amazing. Another friend of mine got lavendar, and it surprisingly tasted like lace and afternoon naps with candles. It truly was the best gelato I had ever, and probably will ever, have.

We were in Nice for three nights. And we went to the gelato stand three times. I would honestly go every day for the rest of my life if I could. Each night, we would sit on the ground laughing and taking pictures. We even met a stray dog that joined in our inevitable flashmob.

Skinny Dipping In The Mediterranean

During our last night in Nice, a group of seniors planned to sneak out of the hotel and go skinny dipping in the Mediterranean Sea. We had a strict curfew, but they figured that they could sneak out and in without anyone ever knowing.

They told me and my other friend about it in case we wanted to join. I was embarrassingly good in high school and absolutely refused, assuming that they would get caught.

The night came and gone, and we asked them about their adventure the next morning. They told us that they went down to the beach (which was actually full of rocks, and not was cruel and horrible) and jumped into the water, but it was so cold that they ran out and went back to the hotel.

Years later, I brought it up to my mom. “And you didn’t go?” she asked. I was taken aback. “You only get to be young and crazy once” she told me.

And honestly, I have regretted it ever since. It would have made a much cooler story than me telling you about a group of cool kids that took off their clothes in the middle of the night and jumped in the sea.


Monaco was a soothing palette of pastel paints. I am convinced that it is a real-life combination of any tropical themed postcard that has ever existed.

Upon arrival, we went to the cathedral to see where Grace Kelly was buried.

And well, they had moved her. She definitely wasn’t there. But a sign was, apologizing for Grace temporarily being removed for renovations. So, we are still not sure where they were keeping her.

We tried to do the flashmob in front of the cathedral, but the police stopped us and told our whole group that we had to leave.

The Orange

Almost all of our meals were prearranged. The restaraunts knew beforehand that we were coming, and had prepared three course dinners for us to eat together.

For a confusing 6 years of my life, I thought that I had Celiac Disease. Yes, I know that it is rare, and yes, I am very educated on it because I was told that I HAD it from a doctor, but it turns out after a later blood test that I am Celiac Free. So, during this trip, I didn’t eat gluten, and all of the restaraunts knew that previously. They were aware of all of the group’s dietary needs.

When it came time for dessert, a delicious looking piece of chocolate cake was set before me. I sighed, wanting it so badly, but told the server that I could not eat the cake.

He apologized, and told me that they made a mistake and that they had something for me. I patiently waited, hoping for ice cream or a creme brulee.

My server came back, and set in front of me a small plate with an orange in the middle. He smiled, and swiftly walked away, leaving me with my produce surprise.


For anyone who wants to see the spectacle of our brilliant flashmob, please see the video below.

Can you spot me? Bonus if you notice the cute stray dog that we made friends with in Nice by the gelato stand.