Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Not-So-Hot Pursuit: When No Means No

I was on my way back from lunch with a coworker, reminiscing about our teenage interests. We talked about television shows, movies, and books (she always assumes that because I am a huge Buffy fan, that I therefore like everything vampire--which is a gross overstatement).

While telling her that no, I hadn’t seen The Vampire Diaries and that I didn’t know the first thing about True Blood, I admitted that I did used to like Twilight. I remember being 16 and proudly carrying around the poorly written saga, as visible as the embroidered "Hollister" across my chest. I held the books high while reading during study hall, like a man in a tan trench coat running his eyes over a newspaper on a park bench. I placed it on the corner of my desk in each class. “Oh Jordan, what book are you on? I haven’t gotten that far yet!” I’d smile, feeling smug, desperate to finish the series but not wanting it to end. I wanted everyone to know that I was definitely in on the hype and totally eating up the sexiest book series that any of us had probably ever read up to that point. I knew what was cool.

My coworker responded with how she always found Edward super hot, but I told her that he never really did it for me. I thought he was weird as hell, to be honest (although I would love to know what kind of vampire-hair product he uses). I went on to say that if  I had to choose, then I would have to say that I liked Jacob better. "I was kind of rooting for the underdog, and he just seemed more likable," I reasoned.

And here is where this 2009 conversation finally gained some validity. My coworker surprised me when she said: "Yeah, but Jacob always pissed me off. Bella wasn't interested in him, and it didn't matter how many times she kept telling him no, he just kept trying to get with her. Even when I was younger I was like, "Dude. Get over it. Leave her alone. Move on.""

A cartoon light bulb went on over my head. “I never really thought of it that way,” I started, “And I am embarrassed that I thought his aggressiveness was endearing. I kind of wanted them to end up together, mostly because he was trying so hard and obviously cared about her enough to not give up.”

But is pursuing a person when they clearly have said that they weren’t interested an attractive quality? Of course not! Gross! Then why is it that men characters can relentlessly go after women characters and we see it as romantic? Women are taught that they should be worth the chase, and well, men are taught that they should chase. If a guy stays casual and distant, then he isn’t interested. If a woman is as straightforward and is always the one starting the conversation or making the moves, then she is seen as overbearing. Fictional men that tirelessly and inappropriately pine over women are seen as sweet. If a woman were to make many of the same advances, or try to kiss a guy while he was in a committed relationship, then she would not be seen as romantic, but as crazy.

But okay, let’s not base all of this societal commentary off of Twilight. I have already given it enough attention. We can move on to something that many of us have seen and love: The Office. I feel like an angry mob might chase me down after I make my next case, but please know that The Office is one of my favorite television shows and I am heavily emotionally invested in every character. I love them all, but no one is perfect.

We have seen the Buzzfeed articles, memes, and gifs showing how seemingly flawless Jim is. Jim is sweetly devoted and loyal to Pam, making most of us swoon and think of how we wanted an office romance half as thrilling and adorable. While in middle school, high school, and the beginning of college, I eagerly watched each episode of The Office as it aired on TV. After getting over the initial heartbreak of it ending, I rewatched the show in its entirety on Netflix, like most of us have done once, twice, or ten times. However, while I watched it again, I found myself being a little weirded out by Jim’s persistence. Yes, of course I wanted him to be with Pam. It was also clear that Pam did have feelings for Jim, and flirted with Jim while she was engaged to someone else, but these actions do not make a person obligated to be with someone. I know that Pam quickly kissed Jim while drunk once (don’t throw that in my face), but Jim was very sober, and very aware through the entirety of their friendship when he claimed that he “knew” that he was “waiting for his wife”.

Okay, I am sure that a lot of you think that I am dissecting one of the greatest television romances of all time, but I am just being honest. In real life, Jim’s actions would have been pretty inappropriate (as were Pam’s to some extent, to be fair). But if a woman says no, then she means no. If the roles were switched, then Pam would have looked desperate, or would have been pitied like a wounded, fragile bird. Instead, we rallied for Jim, and got angry at Pam when it took her so long to agree to be with him. Do you see what I’m getting at here? We commended Jim for his determination to win Pam over, when in reality, Pam was engaged to someone else. You can’t help if you have feelings for someone, and it can be important to be honest, but we can’t let a character’s charm cover up the fact that what he did was a little creepy.

There, I said it. In the off chance that Mindy Kaling, who I love and adore, ever reads this, she may or may not decide not to offer me the chance to write for her show, which I have been waiting for. Sorry Mindy. Please forgive me.

While I am destroying classics, I guess that I can bring up The Notebook as another example. I first saw The Notebook my freshman year of college, so I missed the initial waves of tears and beating adolescent hearts with Ryan Gosling’s picture in the middle. I decided that I would watch it, thinking that it would make me cry, but I annoyingly predicted most of the movie within the first ten minutes. I am one of those horrible people, rolling my eyes with “Oh they are totally gonna get together,” or “He’s not really dead. Just wait, he’ll come back.” I’m gross, and sometimes I hate myself.

Anyway, it was obvious that Noah and Allie were going to end up together, whatever. But in the beginning, when Noah was trying to ask Allie out, I was totally annoyed. I didn’t think that his multiple childish attempts at winning her affection were cute, but psychotic and off-putting. Like, she said no! Maybe she was being coy, or hard to get, but Rachel McAdams is super hot and can pick whoever she wants. (Oh, so I think that being really attractive gives you the right to be shallow and not give a nice person a chance? No, of course not. Shut up.)

The scene that I am thinking of in particular is when Noah HANGS from a ferris wheel, threatening to kill himself if Allie doesn’t say yes to him. Um, hello? That is insane, and if a woman had done the same thing (especially in that time period), then she would have been put away, deemed unfit to take care of herself or be around others. Yet, we giggled and gasped at his persistence, wondering why Allie was being such a bitch. No, Allie just wasn’t feeling it. And that’s fine.

So let’s flip the situation a little. If any of you haven’t seen Twin Peaks, then sorry that I am about to drop a couple of spoilers. So you can skip this part, or read on knowing that enough weird stuff happens in that show that will cover up or make you forget what I’m about to talk about. But, if you’re not interested, then know that I am about to talk about a persistent woman character. (To skip, go down to the next *)

I love Twin Peaks. I would date Agent Cooper and Audrey Horne in two seconds. In the series, Audrey Horne was seen as clever and sexy (did you know that she was only 18 when they filmed?). Agent Cooper was equally smart and attractive, therefore they were inevitably a little into each other. However, Cooper knew that he was older, and because of a previous experience, was not interested in Audrey. Audrey romanticized Cooper, and continued to pursue him after he told her over and over that he wasn’t interested. The audience saw Cooper as being responsible and reasonable (although naturally we wanted them to be together), and Audrey as being a little embarrassing and needing to listen to him and move on. When Cooper walks into his bedroom and finds Audrey naked in his bed, I remember covering my face like “Oh my gaawwdd why is she doing this?!”. Cooper turns her down, and we think of how respectful he is, and physically hurt for a now mortified and rejected Audrey.

This relationship is an example of the woman being pitied, or encouraged to stop, because we respect Agent Cooper’s opinion and wants more than Audrey’s, as a man. If it were the other way around, then Agent Cooper would be desirable and handsome, and Audrey would be irritating because she wouldn’t give into him. There is totally something wrong with this.

*The biggest thing that I can reiterate is to please, to any person of any gender, do not be woo-ed by someone who is inappropriately persistent. When you say no, please know that it is valid. You do not owe anyone anything. I personally have made two mistakes in my life where I gave into guys that I thought were being romantic, “like a movie”, that I wish I could take back. Things I am still not over. Someone pushing you into a wall and kissing you after you’ve said no and tried to walk away isn’t charming and breathtaking. Movies, television shows, and books can create unhealthy expectations and tolerance when it comes to dating or staying in a committed relationship.

Never be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
I know that these things are for entertainment value, but realizing why they are problematic is an early step to fixing societal expectations and stereotypes.

So I will still watch these things (well, some of them), falling in love with the characters all over again. There is value in talking about double standards when it comes to sex and personal space, or any type of relationship between people. We can learn from it.

I wish that at 16, I would’ve realized that Jacob just needed to take a hint. That he was not what a potential significant other should be. It could’ve saved me some trouble later.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Things To Think About For 2016

A little over two years ago, I began this silly, little blog. I started it with the hopes of being the next Carrie Bradshaw, and well, sometimes I wear overalls like she does I guess. One time, I was even subtweeted for wearing overalls. And in that moment, I became immortal.

Now I am mentally celebrating my ~*Blog-iversary*~ as my insides buzz under my skin, feeling alive and luminescent, existing in this world. This week is Christmas and I get to see the new Star Wars and a lot of people that I really care about. I’m glowing. You could see me from space.

I think about all that I have learned as a writer over the past couple of years. In the spring, I wrote my senior writing project/thesis about my trip to Ireland and how it related to me as a tourist and a third generation Irish-American. I grew as an artist through that process, and continue to expand post grad. I currently write for my job. The fact that I get paid to be creative is a privilege and a dream, and makes me want to bully everyone that told me I would be working in a coffee shop. *(see number 3 on my resolutions list)

I think about my space as an artist, and how a new year is just on the outskirts. To be honest, I never have really cared for New Year’s. I am always jazzed about eating good food and hanging with cool people, but New Year's is often disappointing. We plan for awesome parties and envision our hair sprinkled with snowflakes as we kiss the one person that we have always wanted to, but probably never will.

New Year’s also symbolizes another year of my life that has flown by, and I wonder what have I really done, and how much time I have left? (You know, cute, fun things)

But this year seems to be different. Perhaps it is the slight bit of wisdom that I have cultivated from my few months past graduating college, but I am actually kind of excited for the New Year. I even have resolutions, which I have previously thought were silly, since most people forget about them once February rolls around.

I mean, think about it, have you ever been talking to someone in like, October, and they say “Well, my News Year resolution was X, so here I am!”

Maybe it’s because I have nothing else to look forward to. Classes aren’t starting up again, I am in week infinity of the work-world, and when you are on your own and in charge of making your own goals and fun without anyone else pushing you along and petting your head, you have to do something.

And here are mine:

  1. GET MY WEBSITE UP. I NEED TO STOP DRAGGING MY FEET AND COMMIT ALREADY! (Elf reference, because it is almost Christmas)
  2. Be published in a literary magazine (and not beat myself up that this hasn’t happened already)
  3. Stop trying to be right all of the time. I am horrible with this. If I am right about something, I want to make sure that everyone knows it, even subtly, and I need to quit being so obnoxious, even if it isn’t in an obvious way. This is totally a way that I totally suck.
  4. Um..I would like to stop holding grudges! If someone wronged me in kindergarten, like Michael who tore my Arthur backpack and Nick who called me a “fat pig”, I remember it. I have gotten better at being less sensitive and letting go of things, but I really need to remove some gross unpleasantries that have lodged themselves in my brain and stop new ones from developing. Unfortunately, as for Michael and Nick, well, you’re pretty deep in there so you probably won’t come out. At least I didn’t add your last names, you little monsters.
  5. *insert eat healthy and be fit ~goals~* I played competitive travel softball for 15 years. I went from strong and in shape to a hot potato in .2 seconds. A potato with lipstick, and lots of bacon and sour creme.
  6. Find some way to get music back into my life because I really miss the choirs I was involved in during college. Yeah, I definitely jam out in my car but I need the challenge of some sort of musical collaboration.

I also want to put down a few things that I have learned about being an artist:

  1. Do not compare yourself to others. You can look at other work to learn, or think, “I kind of like how they do this” but putting another person on a pedestal will only make you feel lesser and discouraged. In the writing community specifically, there are so many ways to share your ideas. It isn’t fair to look at someone else’s piece and make yourself feel bad. Creating art comes from passion, not wanting to prove something or be better than someone else.
  2. Establish an audience. Not everyone is going to be well liked. So don’t curve your work in a way that is appealing to the masses. Know who you want to focus on, and don’t be afraid/change your ideas because you are scared that it won’t appeal to “everyone”. This is impossible. There is not one, single thing that every single person is on board with except for like, breathing. Even then, there is probably someone that is like “Ugh I really hate this having to breathe thing. Can we just, not?”
  3. Look back at old work. It can be cringe-worthy. I have poems from my first creative writing class in college and wow, are they awful! But they can be adapted. You can learn from yourself, and feel good about how far you’ve come. I never get rid of anything. Yes, I am a complete packrat but I have writing from high school that I still look at for inspiration. You brought your thoughts to life once, and they deserve to keep on existing.
  4. Form a community. I miss being able to switch work with other creative people in school. It is harder now, but make it happen. I give my coworker friends some of my writing, I communicate with classmates that live elsewhere and are still willing to swap work, and I reach out to friends that I have made from other interests and ask if they would be willing to see a bit of what I like to do. Think outside the box, but never stop the conversation.
  5. Be inspired by other forms. Visit an art museum with a journal or a sketchpad. Bring a notebook to a concert. Attend theater productions. Walk down the street and notice torn posters and bits of chalk or graffiti and realize how lucky we are to exist not only in this physical world, but the universes of infinite possibilities inside of our heads.
  6. Compliment one another. It feels so awesome to receive a message or text saying “Hey, you really made my day with this. It spoke to me when I needed it. It made me feel something.” Because isn’t that why we make anything? To feel. To help others feel. To find those that are like “HEY YEAH I THINK THIS TOO” and feel less alone. It’s essential. There is nothing wrong with being too nice and making someone’s day.
  7. Be brave. It’s easy to say “Who cares what other people think?” because we all do, at least a little bit. But you don’t need validation to create. If you want to do something, you better do it because a month will go past, and then a year, and you think “I really should have done that..is it too late now?” No, it isn’t. But the sooner the better, you know?
  8. Finally, pursue what you love. Right now I am not balancing my interest. I have been working on my writing and my career, but singing has taken a back seat. You shouldn’t have to pick and choose between two passions. Make it work. We only have one chance to do what we love. And it’s hard to really love something. If you do, then it needs your attention.

So there is my incredible, earth-shattering advice. And if anyone ever wants to send me anything that they are working on, I would be completely elated to view at it. We need to support each other. 

2016 is coming, and for once, I think I’m ready for it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Messy-Roomed Mantra

I will clean this up. I will be motivated and won't put it off any longer. I will have a spotless room.

It doesn't matter how many times I repeat encouraging lies to myself, I know that I will never pick up my shit.

I have always thrived in mess, surrounding myself by papers and sticky notes clinging to multiple books cracked like an open-faced sandwich. Where is my draft of this poem? In the pile of stuff to my right, near the bottom because I haven't looked at it in a while. Where is this text book? Under my bed because I needed somewhere specific to place it so I wouldn't forget where it was! I have a system.

There is a distinct difference between messiness and filth. I am in no way dirty, just unorganized. I attempt to sound deep and say that it reflects how my brain works, but in all reality it is probably some combination of comfort and laziness. Filth is when there is trash, dirty dishes, crusty tissues, food crumbs, and moldy smelling towels piled on top of a brush that badly needs to be cleaned of broken hairs. Messy is the innocence of being ignorant of organization. Things, although clean, exist in piles and cracks. You constantly surprise yourself by finding a knick knack that has been tucked away under your mattress or in a shoe. Every day is a treasure hunt, finding notes from a middle school friend that you haven't talked to in eight years, or being frustrated because you can't find the new hair accessory that you JUST bought the day before and would look awesome with your work outfit--but you are five minutes late and five minutes can mean fifteen minutes late with traffic. Life becomes a live-action I-Spy book that you never quite finish.

Besides the normal stuff that one usually keeps in a room, my mess is mostly comprised of small "collections" of things that I find interesting. For example, I have specific places where I store tags from clothes. If a tag is super cool, or happens to have an awesome sticker of a sassy looking girl with pink pigtails and bell-bottom jeans surrounded by flames, then I want to save it. I might use it someday, or an archaeologist could be searching my room 200 years from now and learn about how clothes were priced before society all magically got dressed like in The Jetsons or Cher in Clueless. Early 2000s "junior's" departments from JC Penney and Kohls shouldn't be forgotten. And so they live strongly, in my jewelry box.

I also have a rock collection, coin collection, a quarter-specific collection (which totally differs from my coin collection because it has a portfolio where I can collect a quarter from each state), a glass doll collection (that I actually tucked away because they were actually scary as hell), a pez dispenser collection (I didn't even mean to start collecting these, like, I am not that kind of collector. I think that people just assumed that I would be the type of person to have pez dispensers and began giving me Disney Princess and Star Wars themed ones), a Wizard-Of-Oz novelty item collection complete with the Madame Alexander dolls that McDonalds gave out in happy meals, all of my Pokemon cards, puppets (hand, marionette, and finger), well over one hundred Beanie Babies, and a playbill collection--which seems pretty normal overall. I have also been recently acquiring pictures of scenes with anthropomorphic dogs and tacky holiday decorations. I'm still open to expanding with whatever else piques my interest. I have the room.

While sitting wrapped in my bed comforter and staring at my kingdom of junk, I am reassured by what I have. It shows that there is life here, that there is life in me. During my senior year of college, there was a period of three nights where I slept with a McDonald's bag full of empty trash. Okay, I know that sounds like it is spilling over onto the filthy side, but I was elated that I had driven to the fast-food restaurant by myself and gotten food when I had been scared to drive anywhere alone or even leave my bed just a few days before. It was a reminder that I could do things, and plus it became so hilarious to me that I felt that I couldn't part with my McDouble cheeseburger wrapper that had become my new teddy bear.

I have tried to clean my room. To label boxes and shelves, to neatly fold and color coordinate, to throw away things that I no longer need. Every time that I try, I am surged with panic, or sadness, like I am throwing away parts of my life. Parts that I will never live again, and the only things left over are in the backs of nightstand drawers and mason jars on closet floors. I regularly donate my clothes, but when it comes to the tiny bits of the mosaic that has become my life, I am hesitant. As I packed up my stuff to move out of my childhood home into my first apartment, I cried. I saw things that I had, things that should not have been transported, organized, or thrown away, because they have their space in my old room. They co-exist, breathing and insulating any fear or wisp of hope that I had ever had by nightlight. If a human body can be so compact with guts and muscle and bone, then why can't a space that is just as alive?

I am slowly starting to become "cleaner". My work desk functions well, and my apartment is coming together hesitantly but surely. I have gotten rid of many items and also have learned to let things go. But I want you to understand that it has never been a matter of having physical things, for I am not a materialistic person, but rather holding onto them and having control over the nest that I have built. An actual sculpture and interactive scrapbook of a life that can be hard to live, but a smile that will be brought on by a craft that you made in the first grade that still hangs over your bedroom mirror.

I will clean this up. I will be motivated and won't put it off any longer. I will have a spotless room.

Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Call Of The Void

See this on Stigma Fighters at  http://stigmafighters.com/stigma-fighters-jordan-abbruzzese/

"You know when you have so much stuff to do, but thinking about it makes you stressed out, and then that stress keeps you from doing anything? Well you have anxiety, you know what I'm talking about right?" my coworker asked me while leaning against the beige wall of my cubicle. Her big eyes were swimming with possibilities, while I was thinking about how to get through the rest of my day without feeling sad.

 "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean." I smiled back.

This same coworker spent time teaching English in Latin America and Malaysia. At 18, she ran away to Canada for a weekend. Somewhat recently, she dated a boy from Australia. A boy that she still video chats. A couple of weeks ago she convinced me to play pool in the middle of a semi-crowded bar. That was my equivalent. My Malaysia.

It's not that I am not spontaneous. I like to do things, I have done cool things--I don't even need to justify my small yearning for adventure that is sometimes poked here and there. But I live inside of my head and the worlds there. I see my imagination, while she has seen the actual world.

I laugh when I think of how she looks at me and my interests. We have little in common, and my twitter followers like to see when/how she hilariously and accidentally insults me next. She sees me as someone that sits around in cosplay licking Star Wars VHS tapes that I hold in one hand and playing a RPG with the other while Sailor Moon plays in the background. I like this visual. At least it's interesting.

Talking to her allows me to reflect. What have I done? More importantly, what am I going to do? It is easy to entertain the idea of traveling, or "at least trying something once". When I was a freshman in college I convinced myself that by my senior year I was going to have interned in Disney World, living out my childhood dream. I graduated 6 months ago, and haven't been to Disney World in five years. I ask myself if I regret not trying, and I am not sure if I do. By staying at my school I was able to go to Ireland, and have a memorable senior year with friends that I love. It could be a fair trade.

I always have thought that I don't want to be on my death bed asking, "What if?" (although honestly, I contemplate three different ways daily that I could end up in this position sooner than expected, and I have a few things that I would like to do if it were to happen, well, now). I have sent out a few pieces to be published since I graduated college, and they were rejected, which is expected. I want to be published by May of next year (one year out of school), so I need to keep trying. I also have a website in the works that I haven't officially launched or paid for. There are small goals. Stepping stones to my new dreams.

"You know when you have so much stuff to do, but thinking about it makes you stressed out, and then that stress keeps you from doing anything? Well you have anxiety, you know what I'm talking about right?"

I think about it every day.

In the spring, I went hiking with my boyfriend. We had tried to go to a different park every weekend, and successfully did this for a little over a month before the rain started, or we became too tired to think of new places to go. While in Hocking Hills, we paused at a cliff. We were alone on the trail, with the type of silence that you can hear if you listen closely, and I was feeling an ocean in my stomach while looking at the ground below.

"What happens if I jump?" I asked him. "You couldn't stop me. Part of me even wants to, though I know that sounds completely crazy."

He laughed, knowing that I wouldn't do it. "I was thinking the same thing," he said. "It's called "The Call of the Void". I read about it recently on reddit."

He went on to explain that it is an unexplained psychological phenomena that almost everyone experiences. When we are driving, we could briefly think "What if I ran my car into oncoming traffic?" or while holding a knife "I could hurt myself or someone else right now if I really wanted to". These thoughts are fleeting, and as long as you don't dwell on them or contemplate seriously acting them out, then they are not a problem. The weird impulses are merely a fun little part of the weirdness that is being a human.

I often think about the conversation, about how it felt to look into the open air, and wonder if maybe I could've flown if I really jumped. Maybe people really can fly and I could've been the first one. My boyfriend would have been scared at first, but then would have seen me soaring upward, and smiled, thinking Wow, she looks really happy, and eventually the other hikers would have seen me and been glad for me too. I could have looped through the trees, and took off to see elsewhere, creating ripples in the ocean with my fingertips and then zooming back toward the sun because unlike Icarius, I wouldn't have had melted wings. I would have flown around the world, and yelled below to my coworker's ex-boyfriend, telling him that she asks me questions in my cubicle and makes me play pool in bars. I could have if I tried.

But here I am, on the ground, thinking of the opportunity that this void has given me to speculate metaphorically. What if I send things off to be published? What if I just finish my stupid website so that people can see the work that I love to do? What if I plan a trip somewhere, or run off to Canada too? I can't let the amount of exciting things that I want to accomplish paralyze me. I need to try flying, We all need to take a deep breath, and try flying.

So we can start now. We can form plans, set goals, or at least talk about dreams. We can speak of fake dreams, ones that will never come true, but realizing them will be just enough. We can get through the day without being sad, because for each chance that we lose out on, we have an infinite selection of more.

Basically, The Void is calling.
And you might as well jump.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Words By The Wise, For the Wiser (Basically I Wrote Some Proverbs)

You can take the hedgehog out of the girl,
but you can't take the girl out of the hedgehog.
Especially if he is a mutant and hungry.

If you give a mouse a cookie,
and it accidentally bites your finger,
then it now knows the taste of human
flesh--and you should relocate.

Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill,
for some mole worked really hard on that hill
and its feelings will be hurt.

You can lead a hedgehog to water,
but all he will do is swim around in it.

Look left and right before you cross the street.
Or up and down, if you happen to be hovering
horizontally, facing the west.

Don't look a gift hedgehog in the mouth.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks,
because he probably already knows them all.
Dogs are smarter than us, and only grow
more ominous with age.

Don't spoil your dinner with dessert,
because next thing you know, your dinner
will want a later bed time, and more
television privileges.

Reach for the stars,
if you feel like looking like an imbecile,
because the closest star is 93 million miles away
and you are not that tall.

Don't hold your breath,
because if you do for too long,
you will probably pass out.

Always say your p's and q's,
or else you will only recite 24
letters of the alphabet.

The grass is always greener on the other side
if the other side waters it and uses proper fertilizer.

Sometimes less is more,
on opposite day.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

(My) Absolute Truth About Anxiety

I rarely talk about any struggles that I have with anxiety and mild depression, and only recently began to write about it. I usually keep any thoughts about psychological stress in my head (they kind of fly around, similar to the spirits at the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark if you would like a visual). I had an essay discussing my anxiety and fears published in my college's literary magazine during my senior year, and thought "Wow, okay..people are reading this. People might think differently of me, or be scared of how I think--but that is fine." I needed an audience outside of a few close, select friends to know, for at least one person to identify and know that perhaps they aren't alone.

I feel that mental disorders are often glamorized, especially in the art fields. There is a strange allure to the whole "tortured artist" thing, so writers/artists/musicians often try to emulate that, trivializing anyone that actually struggles with anxiety, depression, etc. There is nothing "cool" about the way that we feel, or knowing that you sometimes have trouble going to the grocery store or filling your car up with gas. These people will relish in their pretend darkness, or continuously say "I'm crazy! I'm so insane!", to which we ask "Oh really? Are you?" because most people that deal with this weight do not realize that they are in fact, "crazy", or would not broadcast it for attention.

A second example comes from those that are very organized and particular about their cleanliness or the way their work is arranged. You can often hear these people claiming "Haha, oh, I am SO OCD!", while I think of anyone that actually has OCD being embarrassed, ashamed, or brought down by society thinking that OCD is something as simple as being overly particular about your room or notebook. OCD isn't cute, or funny, and I feel sorry for anyone that has to go through life hearing these things said over and over.

As I step off my pedestal (careful not to fall because I have tiny appendages), I am about to take my reflections in a completely different direction. I do this not to make fun of anyone in the same little rowboat as me, but mostly as an actual, relatable to a response to the articles that I constantly see being shared via social media:

"What It Is Like To Love Someone With Anxiety", "Things No One Ever Told You About Dating Someone With Anxiety", "An Open Letter To Everyone About What Anxiety Is Like" *throws up*

I am sure some of these articles floating around are brave confessions from those that have an anxiety disorder, but I personally have not been able to identify with even one of these pieces. It is as if they were written by someone who is merely imagining what anxiety feels like, and then exploiting these peoples to get shares and likes online. Furthermore, although sometimes I may be frustrating with my irrational fears, times when I can't get out of bed, or crying without knowing why, something that I have never felt is apologetic. Or like I couldn't be loved. We can educate others so that the stigma against mental illness in America is erased, but we should never feel like we have to be sorry or justify anything that we feel to our families or loved ones. It is not heroic to love or "deal" with us.

So finally, 10 Things That Anxiety ACTUALLY Feels Like:

1. Like every embarrassing moment or small conflict you have had from the time you were in kindergarten until your present life are ingredients in a soup that is constantly cooking in your brain that you are also being forced to eat nonstop, every day.

2. Like the scared or bad thoughts are a song that you can't get out of your head no matter how hard you try, or want to think of a better song. One time when I was younger, I went to my mom crying in the middle of the night because I couldn't get the Winnie the Pooh theme song out of my head. She rolled over, sleepily, and said "Just think of something else". I eventually fell asleep, only to wake up two hours later with "Here in the hundred acre wood.." being the first thought I had. Irrational feelings can be like that.

3. Like there is a super intense game of "Would You Rather?" going on in the back of your mind all the time. The players are too loud, and won't be quiet no matter how many times you ask them to. Some of the best questions are, "Would you rather die in a car accident or get a phone call in the middle of the night that your family all died in a car accident?" and "Would you rather someone break into your house and kill you while you sleep or be in a mass shooting in public?"

4. Like the episode of Spongebob when he has the ability to walk into other people's dreams. You think of five alternative, horrible situations, and feel out of your body as you are able to vividly experience each one.

5. Like you are in a game of "Telephone", with everyone whispering and the phrase changing, but you have to sit in the middle of the circle and aren't allowed to play or hear what is being said. You see people laughing and participating together in a functional way, but you are upset and confused by what they are saying, and frustrated because you are left out. You assume that it is about you.

6. Like your ENTIRE Twitter feed is full of subtweets, that all vaguely describe or relate to you, even from people that you haven't met, or celebrities. You think "What could I have done to make everyone dislike me so much?"

7. Like you are trying to listen to your favorite childhood CD in your car but it keeps skipping and stopping when you are just trying to move forward with "Oops I Did It Again". You are frustrated and stuck and want to just break the CD in half since it is junk but know that you would regret that and are disappointed because you just wanted to hear the damn song and then overwhelmed with how fast your life is passing you by that this CD even appears as being "old" to you.

8. Like you are casually walking through the shallow end of an unfamiliar swimming pool and suddenly it slopes to the deep end. Everything was fine and relaxed while you enjoyed the water kissing your shoulders and the sun warming your head, but you are now accidentally under water, scraping your toes across the floor to find the shallow end again, while swallowing water and trying to tread so that you don't drown.

9. Like your boss, professor, or any other authority figure is speaking to you in code as if they want to trick you. "We really appreciate your efforts here" seems like it has to have a double meaning, and absolutely anything they say to you is a test so that you should work harder.

10. Like you are standing by the window of a huge skyscraper. You feel the vertigo and your pulse quickens as you look at the cars below, scared of the height but then also wondering what it is like to fall, with only the clear glass separating you from a vast world and space that goes on for longer than you can comprehend. Except you experience this while on the couch, in the shower, or in bed, realizing that you aren't in a tall building at all.

I smile subtly as I finish this, for it feels like I have taken a chunk of words out of my chest and spread them in front of me for other people to sniff and poke. It feels good, and I kind of feel good. I hope that, like my essay I was so scared to put in the open before, someone can read this and think "Yes, I get this! Do you get this? It's going to be okay." And it is.

I hope that we all avoid the deep end of the pool as much as possible today,

Sunday, August 9, 2015

(Better) Questions To Ask Your Significant Other

A few weeks ago, I noticed a somewhat viral "copy and paste" questionnaire that women were putting in their Facebook status updates. The rules were simple, you had to ask your significant other questions about yourself, and put their answers. The list was long, awkward, and honestly unintentionally hysterical. You had to type exactly what your S.O. said, answering questions like "What is my wife/girlfriend's biggest fear" or "favorite thing to do?" The only thing weirder than this strange ~relationship test~ was the fact that I willingly and creepily read the bizarre results of each participator that I could find.

I was mostly blown away by some of the conceited responses from the boyfriends' end. For example, to the "favorite thing to do" question that I previously mentioned, one boyfriend stated "Spending time with me". I laughed out loud, wondering if the girl blushed and batted her eyelashes as she typed those words into the little white box at the top of her Facebook feed, thinking Oh, he knows me so well. I highly doubt that ANY person's favorite hobby is spending time with another person. It does not matter if they are the love of your life, or make you extremely happy-- but jeez, no one is that great. My favorite thing to do? Eating cookie dough in my bed while watching multiple episodes of "Sex And The City". (I mean, someone else could be there if they wanted, but the situation is far more religious if I am by myself)

I took all of these questions into consideration and decided to come up with a more effective list. I have even asked my poor boyfriend some of these questions, to his dismay, because he is often caught off guard by my abstract thought balloons that pop in his face while he is just trying to eat mini donuts and watch Jeopardy. However, no matter who you are currently dating, I think that these questions will give you the results that you were hoping for.

Questions To Ask Your Significant Other

1. If you found out that I was missing, how exactly would you describe my physical appearance to the police?
(To this one, my boyfriend said "Short and curvy with long wavy hair and blue eyes". I was hoping for more of an answer like "A sprite-like face with a sprinkling of freckles, beachy waves of dark brown hair that cascade down her hour-glass figure, small feet and hands that appear childlike, reflecting her wondrous spirit and demeanor, and two slightly crooked teeth that add to her character and make her seem easy to relate to")

2. If I randomly and magically turned into a puppy, would you keep me as a pet?
(He said "No, because that would never happen". I, however, am still not ruling it out.)

3. How about a fish? Would you buy me all of those tank decorations, like the small castles and mermaids and stuff because it would probably make me happier since I have to be a fish now?

4. If I was a mythical creature, what would I be and why?

5. Does my singing voice sound like a famous person's singing voice?
(He said no and I was not happy because the right answer is obviously "A Christina Aguilera/Idina Menzel hybrid")

6. If I died would you try to contact with my ghost by any means possible and forever mourn my death and probably never date anyone again?

7. If you could see me existing and thriving in any television series universe, what would it be?

8. Do you think that I would survive during a zombie apocalypse? Would you kill me if I was a zombie or put me in a cage and keep me as your zombie girlfriend/boyfriend/partner?
(He said "No. And no, I would kill you." UH I WOULD TOTALLY SURVIVE because I am already paranoid/cautious as hell and great at hiding. And I would make a cute zombie girlfriend with like a skull bow or something.)

9. If you could be a cartoon and marry any other cartoon, which one would you pick?
(Mine would totally be Dean McCoppin from The Iron Giant.)

~And finally~

10. In a Neverending Story situation, if  I was your horse Artax would you actually let me die in the Swamp of Sadness or would you risk your life to save me instead of just staring and crying about it like Atreyu did?


Don't raise your expectations too high,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

3 Reasons That My Childhood Basement Is Haunted (Or That Toy Story Is Real)

My eighteen-year-old sister has an averagely nice boyfriend, who takes her on averagely nice dates and buys her averagely nice gifts for her birthday and just-because. My family decidedly likes him, and I have therefore recently made more of an effort to hang out with them both. We chat, and they tell stories of their technological woes, instagram drama, snapchat stories, etc, while I continously sound like I am 80 with remarks like "Just think, when I was just a little younger than you I had to go to the public library to print off my school work!" or "I used to have a flip phone with limited texting, and it only texted in capital letters so I looked like I was angry all the time!"

Why do I say these things? It makes my sister and averagely nice boyfriend feel slightly uncomfortable (because they don't know why I am saying them either), and somehow makes me feel ~more than~ slightly wise, or like I have a chiseled character because I didn't have a printer in my house or internet until middle school. Perhaps this is why the generations before me have said similar things to people my age, about party-line phones or playing jacks down by the soda fountain--to feel better about themselves that things used to be a little more inconvenient. (Knowing that I had to beg my parents to take me to the library and then pay ten cents to print off a book-report made me the person that I am today, probably). However, the type of satisfaction that we really get is saying in an underlying way, "You don't know how easy you have it, you little shits." 
And I know, I know, I really had it easy too. But it's still fun.

These conversations eventually lead to me talking about the dinosaur of AIM instant messaging, and how I would spend hours in the basement talking to up to seven different friends. My heart would leap when the creaking, opening door sound was made, and I saw that my crush was now online. I would spend hours trying to make my profile super cool with ambiguous and angsty alternative rock lyrics, or a sprinkle of inside jokes to make anyone else reading it think "She is so interesting and random, wow!" And then the away message--that was another ball game entirely.

Honestly, I still think that instant messenger should exist as a primary form of communication. It was awesome.

With the instant messenger, I inevitably also start talking about our creepy basement, mostly at my sister's request. Our childhood computer was located downstairs in the "play room". Outside of the playroom was a saloon style restroom (thanks to my mother and her interior design creativity) that goes against a full stocked bar. The bar proceeds a foosball table and pinball machine, which leads to a Speed Racer slot machine, big screen T.V. (with surround sound, ~ooooh~), and a "music room" that has a keyboard, drum set, and boxes of records and cassette tapes mixed with a plethora of holiday decorations and an old work-out stationary bike. So basically, our basement is in fact not creepy at all. It was finished with a blue-grey carpet, there are leather couches and a red velvet love-seat, and enough Ohio-State novelty items to make Woody Hayes blush.

However, a basement is a basement, no matter how nice, and when seventh grade me sat downstairs feverishly typing in chat rooms and listening to Panic! At The Disco, it could be terrifying. To conserve electricity, I would often only have the playroom light on, and leave the door to that room open so that our internet could stay connected to my father's work computer upstairs. I'd make an effort to stare straight ahead at the screen, and not turn to the right to look out into the black abyss, or think about a scaly hand reaching from the wall beside my head and grabbing my face (like I saw in a horrible movie that I rented from Blockbuster years prior, RIP Blockbuster).

So here I would be, at ages 13 and 14 (the reign of the AOL instant messenger), scared out of my wits while "typin lyk dis" to all of my friends--which is honestly scarier than anything that I am about to tell you. But, my little sister delights in hearing the following tales, dealing with children's toys, that indeed confirm that my childhood basement is haunted (or that Toy Story is real).

Reason One: Mommy, please!
To the left of the computer desk was a large, Fisher-Price toy chest that contained beanie babies, McDonald's happy meal plush toys, and multiple baby dolls. While taking a break from the screen, I decided to open up the chest one evening, while in the basement alone, and view toys that I had not played with in years. On top, was who used to be my favorite doll, Sally. Sally once wore cute patterned overalls and had pigtails in ringlet curls, but now was naked, only wearing the weird white leotard looking things that naked dolls often do, and had matted hair that had apparently fallen out in parts. I noticed also, to my dismay, that part of her mouth and nose had been chewed off by a mouse. Essentially, she looked horrifying, which stirred my pity and nostalgia even more. "Oh, Sally," I whispered, "What happened to you?"
Another fun thing about Sally is that if you squeezed her abdomen hard enough, she would say in an adorable voice: "Mommy, please! Let's play house!" with a surprising amount of colorful intonation. I smiled at remembering this, feeling like there was a spotlight on me and my childhood friend, as I gave her rough-body a squeeze.
"Mommy please," she began, with half a face and less than a full head of hair, "LETS PLAY HOUSE" her voice contorted, in a rumbling, statically, deep way that made me throw her and run upstairs screaming. I realized later that her motor simply had gone bad, and she sounded so from a lack of use, but I am also not ruling out the possibility that it was a demon speaking to me from my doll. You know, just maybe.

Reason Two: Go Buckeyes!
I previously mentioned the bar and Ohio-State decor, and included in that was a little Brutus The Buckeye that cutely yelled "Go Buckeyes!" or played the OSU fight song when thrown on the ground. He sat at the bar, next to a series of bobbleheads, and was exclusively used during games. During a dark night of messaging and working on my Myspace top friends list, I was interrupted by an abrupt "Go Buckeyes!"
My heart felt like it had been electrocuted, and my fingers began to sweat against the keys. I figured it was a fluke, or that I imagined Brutus cheering after hearing him so many times before. About a minute later, I could hear, loud and proud, the OSU fight song piercing the dark air of the basement. I slowly got up, switched on the lights leading to the bar, and walked over to see if my sister was playing a trick on me. But there was Brutus, smiling, looking straight into my soul with his embroidered eyes. Again, I ran upstairs screaming.
Like the doll, it is certainly possible that his motor was glitching and went off without being pounded on the ground. OR, Brutus was evil and should be burned in the fire place. I haven't touched him since.

Reason Three: Yuuuum!
Behind the computer desk is a wall divider that has a built-in puppet window (for shows and the like). On top of the divider sits simple art projects, and two old Furbies. Both Furtbies had the batteries removed, because we once ago decided that there was no other way to keep them quiet. They had laid dormant for years, staring at the back of my head as I typed away.
Until one evening, when I head a mechanical creak, like a tiny machine was moving. I turned in my chair slowly to notice that one of the Furby's ears were moving up and down. I thought I imagined it, but they kept going, until the Furby let out a ferocious "Yuuuuummm!!!" LIKE IT WANTED TO BE FED.
And, like the times before, I ran upstairs screaming. I later checked, and there were still no batteries inside the toy. I have no explanation for this one.


Now, I can finally go into our basement without feeling as scared (10 years later), but still avoid looking at the Furbies, or opening my toy chest. In fact, I usually stay away from the play room all together, and my sister tends to do the same after my stories.

And everything that I have said is true. I can play the moments in my head over and over, sometimes laughing and other times getting seriously freaked out.

And well, that's my story.
Believe it, or not.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Geography Lesson One: Ohio and Pennsylvania Are Neighboring States

The Thursday before Independence Day weekend, my boyfriend and myself drove the seven and a half hours to Philadelphia to visit a close friend. I had been to Pennsylvania a handful of times in the past, and even to Pittsburgh (which I consider a larger city), but had never been to Philadelphia. Our friend, Orey, had lived in the city for a little over a year, working as a supervisor for a tourism company and taking graduate classes, working toward his Masters in Creative Writing.

We were thrilled to visit Philadelphia, one of the most populated cities in the United States, and also nervous about how we would fit in. Orey had previously warned us that Philadelphia natives can easily identify people that are tourists, especially midwesterners. He had been outed as an Ohioan on a few occasions, once after saying "Bless you" to a complete stranger after they sneezed, and other times for starting a friendly conversation in public. In Philadelphia, small-talk does not exist, and sneezing is apparently a private matter.
"Where are you from?" they would ask him.
"I live in West Philly." he'd reply.
"Yeah, but you're not from here." they'd insist.

The week before we left, Orey requested that we each send him a wish-list of things we wanted to do. The first two things on my list were "TACO BELL" and "LIBERTY BELL". (In college, the three of us frequented Taco Bell more times then I care to admit, and I am a sucker for any historical landmarks). Orey excitedly showed his co-workers our wish lists, which warranted a response of skepticism and judgment. "Do all people in Ohio like Taco Bell?" one asked. "They really like to eat, just like you" said another. Orey later reported to me that many of his coworkers had never experienced Taco Bell in their lives. What do they eat? Are they rich or something? were the first two questions that I blurted, to which he responded "I just don't know. People are different here. A lot of them that I met don't even realize that Ohio is right next to Pennsylvania." (I later spoke with a little girl while getting a Philly cheese steak who didn't know what Ohio was, and thought it was a suburb of Philadelphia)

Not that I use fast-food as a major component my identity, but I was certainly taken aback. When we first got to the city, we drove to pick Orey up at his place of work.
"Here we go..." I said to my boyfriend teasingly. "You are just a country boy and I am a dough-eyed midwestern girl, taking on the big city."
"Uh, I am not a country boy." he replied, scanning his eyes across the narrow roads.
"Living in Columbus for four years doesn't count, you are still from the middle of nowhere" I replied smuggly, attempting to see the tops of the skyscrapers that ran past the car windows.

Early on in our trip, we met Orey's co-workers and friends. He introduced us as his "Ohio friends", but I decided to ham it up anyway. I was overly friendly, super smiley, and tried to sneak in as many "bless you"s and "excuse me"s as I could. Outside of meeting his coworkers, when I waited in lines at the bathroom, I attempted to start conversations with the women standing next to me. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. At other times, I walked aggressively past others on the city streets, grazing shoulders or bumping handbags without an apology. I didn't smile or nod to children or the elderly that shuffled on by, attempting to blend in.

When I previously traveled to France and Ireland, I desperately tried to appear European. I wore darker colors, didn't carry a map, and turned my insides while trying to keep my face calm and neutral while walking through an exciting, beautiful new place. I didn't want to stick out. However, in Philly, I found that it was easier to be cheerful than to blend in. Of course, I should clarify that Philadelphians are not rude, horrible, or unfriendly. I met wonderful people who were helpful and enjoyable to be around, but the difference in culture between the midwest and the east coast is notable. Nevertheless, in Philly, in America, I no longer wished to mesh with what was around me. I wanted everyone to know that I was from Columbus, Ohio, where we sell cow novelty items and John Deere hats in our airports. Let Orey's coworkers know that I love imitation Mexican Food, and that I have never seen the Liberty Bell in my life but dreamed of the moment when I would lay my eyes upon its cracked glory.

So, I wore a hot air balloon patterned dress and ran to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Steps..AKA, THE ROCKY STAIRS!
I repeatedly asked "What is the difference between a Water Ice and Italian Ice? I don't get it?"
I cried during a 3D informational film at Orey's work that was narrated by a Benjamin Franklin impersonator.
And then again at Al Calpone's cell at Eastern State Penitentiary.
And when I saw Independence Hall.
And finally when we found a cute baby bird on a porch in Society Hill.

By the end of the weekend, I loved it. The history, the architecture, but mostly experiencing how another sect of America lives and functions in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. Plus, it was way cool to experience the Fourth of July in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. I also got to wait for an Uber by the real Benjamin Franklin's grave.

We had an awesome time.

Bless you, Philadelphia,

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

14 Things You Need To Know About Girls Who Primarily Own Animal Sweaters

1. Yes, she mostly owns animal sweaters. Take a look in her closet. You will most likely see a variation of three different types of hedgehog sweaters, a nice blue and black terrier print, and maybe a french bulldog or cute elephant face thrown in the mix. If you want her to dress up, be prepared for the sweaters to be paired with overalls or patterned shorts. It is all that she knows.

2. She might have a puppet collection. From marionettes to hand-puppets to finger-puppets, she will have them all. Be prepared to patiently watch as she puts on shows for you, or hold her hand when she cries during Jim Henson's Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. Humor her by stopping to watch Sesame Street while flipping through channels.
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3. She will expect you to get all of her sci-fi references. She has more Star Wars novelty items than she knows what to do with, including Mad Lib books and hand sanitizer. She will want you to watch the annual viewing of Firefly's Serenity on the big screen in her hometown, listen to her repeatedly explain how Dollhouse is Joss Whedon's darkest work, and not mind that she likes to sleep with a two and a half foot tall E.T. plush toy and the book "At The Earth's Core" under her pillow.

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4. She may be gluten intolerant. Don't worry, she isn't pretending. You will eventually defend her to people who question it because they think they are an expert after reading articles on the internet. You have lived it with her, and it isn't pretty.

5. She makes up songs for everything. If you put bacon and pickles into your shopping cart, prepare for her to sing about how "the bacon and the pickles are friends".

6. Puppy butts make her world-go-round. You might not get it, but she will have her friends to talk about it with. They will whimper in public over how cute little puppy behinds are, especially when they waddle while walking on their tiny paws.

7. She could have hoarding tendencies. There might be a box of cool clothes tags in her room that she is convinced that a museum may want one day, or a pile of historical-fiction themed crafts that she got in the mail throughout elementary school. Yes, she still plans on doing all of them.

8. Antiques pique her interest. Know that she will take you to countless community garage sales, and that you may have to talk her out of buying 90s work-out tapes or duplicate beanie babies because the wiener dog beanie baby that she already has needs an identical friend. Smile and nod as she purchases old furniture that she will paint and distribute as gifts.

9. She could be a book-smeller. One of her favorite smells is old books. As long as she doesn't start eating them, it should be fine.

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10. She thinks she lives in Animal Crossing. She still plays the original GameCube version, and will sometimes talk about how she wishes she could decorate from Tom Nook's store or how many "bells" a real-life item might be worth. She has friends to converse with, however, that have played on the DS or wii. They will compare similarities and differences, leaving you off the hook for things you might not know. She also most likely still plays neopets and gets emotional over her childhood memories of playing Toon Town.

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11. She loves cartoons, animated films, and Pixar. If you don't, you are a monster.

12. Her favorite hobby is watching poorly made (preferably scary) movies. You will become very familiar with IMDb's lowest rated films.

13. She has spooky tendencies. Her idea of a perfect date is going to an old cemetery to do grave rubbings and then looking up creepy urban legends on reddit. She also could end up being irrationally neurotic and has to sleep with a night light or lava lamp at night.

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14. She almost exclusively drinks Yoohoos. Surprising her isn't hard. All you need is a gas station.

Next: 14 Things You Need To Know About Girls Who Write 14 Things You Need To Know Blogs


Time for a Yoohoo,

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A List Of Alternative Lives That I Sometimes Wish I Had

Post-grad life is in full spin, and I am doing what I tend to do best--winging it; flying through the air on a magic carpet, or actually just tumbling down the stairs while riding a bath towel. I just started an internship at an art gallery, complete with all of the obscure-nature I could hope for. Things are unsure, bizarre, and really quite fitting.

While formerly applying for jobs, walking my sweet dog, or merely staring at the shapes in my ceiling while trying to fall asleep, I have been doing a lot of imagining. Such and such research says that we continue to develop until we are 25, which is only a couple of years away for me. I am thinking about the person I have become, or the person I may want to be. I also have spent a pretty large amount of time (especially while on the elliptical at the local YMCA) daydreaming of made-up pasts that aren't mine, but could have been in another place and time. These fantastical versions of me are what help get me through the mundane, Feel free to place yourselves in them, for these templates are fun for all ages.

A List Of Alternative Lives That I Sometimes Wish I Had

The Connecticut Sweetheart: I grew up in a white, modest house (with columns on either side of the front steps) , accompanied by matching white, modest furniture and carpet. My father worked at a local law firm, while my mother served as the head of the PTA or the school-board or something of the like. I went to an ivy-league school, coming home on the summers to my full-sized bed with a quilted mattress, with the light from my bay-window dancing across the top, warming it for when I lay down after traveling. I primarily wear pastel skirt and sweater combos, sometimes sneaking in a pair of saddle shoes for an eccentricity. My parents own a lakehouse that I spent much of my childhood exploring, making it my "safe, happy place" that I drive to when I am upset. Whenever my boyfriend or best friend and I would get in a fight, they could find me standing on the wooden porch of the lakehouse at sunset, wrapped in the same quilt from my bed, the wind blowing my hair (they would only ever find me this way from behind or from the side, watching my profile against the lowering sun ). My father would also own a boat, I would be part of a tea-party club with my childhood friends, and have a glass doll in Victorian dress cleverly named "Dolly" that I received at birth and feel very sentimental towards.

The Beach Babe: I had lived in a beachhouse in the Floridian heat my hole life. Even now that I am in college, my dad still recreationally surfs with me (he taught me how as soon as I could walk), and my mom wears loose white tops and bright flowing skirts while making homemade wind chimes to sell to the tourists in town from our local sea-shells and driftwood. I am tanned from the hours I had spent in the sun since birth, and toned from my active life of swimming and surfing. We also own a couple of jet skis, and I have gone parasailing with my friends more times that I can count. I usually walk around in a bikini top and long,loose skirt like my mother's, and always barefooted. Even though it is hot, I wear my messy hair down, damp from the salty ocean and sprinkled with sand (we have an outdoor shower behind our house that I prefer to use). The house is wooden, and seems to be falling apart with the crooked boards nailed across the outside, but it will withstand time. The shutters and porch are painted light blue and salmon, chipping from the wind and occasional storms that shake the foundation. I spend most of my days on the beach, or reading on my porch hammock. I am the kind of person you would see sitting on her board close to the water, the waves licking her toes, as she uses a shell to carve out a fallen coconut and eat the meat, muscular arms rippling in the beating sun. I have also named all of the usual dolphins that play in the shallow water close to sunrise and sunset.

Everglades/Wilderness Woman: Both of my parents work as biologists in the everglades region, and have done so since before I was born. We live in the heart of the swamp, in between two other houses of biologists and their children close to my age. I grew up playing with these children, with our only rule being "be home by the time we ring the dinner bell". As a young girl, I would wake early and eat my father's homemade pancakes while my mom read the paper at the table. I knew that I wanted to study the everglades some day, just like them, and figured I would get a start as soon as possible. After eating, I would meet my neighbor friends outside, and we would be off catching snakes and small alligators. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I would learn everything about the various everglades ecosystems, and would have seen multiple gators and manatees by the time I became an adult. Everyone at my small town's school would have thought that I was untamed and weird,but one day when I went off to study biology in college, I would be seen as really interesting and unattainable. As a young adult, I only wear work boots, khaki shorts, and earth-tone colored button up sleeveless shirts.

New Orleans Artist: I live in the heart of the city, groomed to love the bright colors and the wet heat. My parents are both musicians, and taught me jazz at an early age. I can play the piano, the sax, the guitar, and can sing. I grew up with them performing in the streets, not even for tips, but to form a comradery with their friends and the locals or visitors. When I was younger, I would sing along with them, or dance between the instrumentalists with a little tambourine. After I graduated high school, I decided to study music. Whenever I came home during the summers or over holiday breaks, I would play in the streets with friends like my parents, and sometimes with my parents because that is a nice tradition that we share together. I excel in my jazz studies at the collegiate level, hanging out in coffee shops with my classmates saying things like "You don't know real jazz". Eventually I land a job playing at a blues bar, and teach piano and sax lessons on the side.

New Yorker Italian: (This is kind similar to my actual childhood and life). My whole, big, Italian family lives outside of New York city, all on the same block. I can walk next door to my grandparent's, or around the corner to my aunt's and uncle's. I grew up playing kickball and hockey in the street with my cousins, or working at the family-owned Italian restaurant that I can see from my bedroom window on the second floor of my house. Abbruzzo's has been in my family for generations, and we have always all worked together mixing sauces, tossing pizza, and pouring wine. I knew one day that I want to own the restaurant, even though I went to school and got a degree anyway. Abbruzzo's and my family will always be my true love, and they both have my back even if they are sometimes overbearing. When I talk, I speak in Italian whenever I get really mad, or use Italian terms of endearment when comforting little ones or close friends. Whenever I am dating anyone, he has to pass a series of tests but eventually loves that I have a big family too. However, I will probably never completely settle down because I love working at the restaurant, even though my parents pressure me daily to give them grandbabies.

Good luck, daydreamers,

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A (Most Likely Too Elaborate) Caricature Of My Recent Vacation

A week after my college graduation, my mother and I flew south to Marco Island, Florida, a beautiful place that my parents have owned time-share in since 1990. For two weeks a year, we have the opportunity to relax, while I hiss at the sun that my skin is not used to being exposed to. Our resort, The Surf Club, lines the private beach on the west side of the island along with other condos and hotels. It has 54 units total, a hot tub and pool, some shuffle board and tennis courts, a boardwalk across the extensive vegetation to the beach, and most importantly: is painted a sweet, powdery pink. Every year when we park our rental car and sweat while pulling out our suitcases from the too-small trunk, I feel like I am taking a delightful trip back into the 90s, complete with a weekly horse shoe tournament and hilarious posters advertising the Surf Club sponsored "Beach Family Portraits", featuring a frightening family of four in all white smiling dead-eyed at the camera while the sun melts into a watercolor sky behind them. I do not think that they have changed these posters for at least ten years.

For the past three years, my mom and I have just made the trip because it has become more difficult for my dad to leave work, or my little sister to miss high school classes. For the most part, the same people have owned the same weeks as us for as long as I can remember, so we can expect to see the same families each May. My mom and I will chat with these people in the pool, on the beach, or in the small gym located by the lobby, for we all form a strange week-long sense of community and understanding of what it means to be at the tiny Surf Club on Marco Island. I do not always remember the names of these groups of people, but instead have developed a series of coded nicknames that my mother and myself solely understand.

The Surf Club Community:

Timon and Pumba: Timon and Pumba are the names of two older men that are inseparable best friends. We never see one without the other. The taller man is thin with grey hair, and often wears a speedo (he can be referred to individually as Speedo when the occasion calls for it). His shorter friend is very round with similar grey hair and expensive sport sunglasses that he never takes off, even at night. The two can often be seen playing cards by the pool, standing in the shallow end talking, or taking walks together along the beach. Their wives are often left behind, but they are all four very close and stay in the same unit together.

Let It Go: Although the resort is primarily filled with older people, there are sometimes young grandchildren that come along. A particularly cute little girl has been spotted the past couple of years by loudly singing Frozen's "Let It Go" at the top of her lungs while walking around the pool in her floaties. She exclusively wears Disney princess bathing suits, and likes to swim up and talk to me while I am reading my dirty smut novels on the pool steps.

New Jersey: A very friendly blonde woman from New Jersey comes yearly with her husband. She works at a doctor's office as a secretary, and spends most of the day on her beach chair that she rents from the hotel, or floating in the pool on one of the noodles from the public pool toy box. We tend to talk to her about which restaurants are "happening" that week (Marco only has select places to eat), or listen to her tell us about really private, tragic things that have happened in her life. She can often be seen with her brandy (she ships it to the resort prior to flying) in the hot tub around 8pm, where she alternately sits in the jets and then gets up to walk to the pool, and repeats.

Laps: This older woman was completely new to our knowledge this year, but wins the award for the most irritating. The pool's prime time is around 3pm, when most people tire from the beach and are trying to still catch some sun before they have to get ready for dinner. This is also the most popular time for the few children to be in the pool, for they have mostly woken up from their afternoon naps. Like clockwork, Laps would come down to the pool, put on her goggles, and slowly make her way to the middle of the pool to unhook the rope that separated the shallow end from the deep end. She would then swim back and forth recreationally, forcing everyone else in the pool to get out of the way and shuffle to one side. We think that perhaps she did this for show, because the morning or evening would have been more considerate, and her freestyle form was absolutely terrible, like she decided that this week was the week she was going to start swimming for exercise.

Small Talkers: A group of three women that are all work friends make themselves known each week by forming a triangle in the ocean or pool and loudly talking about the most pointless things I have ever heard in my life. They discuss their friend Susie's furniture arrangement, or who went to what restaurant on the island the night before and what they thought about it. These women are all very nice despite their boring nature, and will hang on every single word that you say to them in passing, no matter how irrelevant. We also eventually deemed them "The Trivolous Ones", a neat word that my mom created combining trivial with frivolous. The worst part is, by the end of the week, I was interested in Susie's furniture.

Ducky: Perhaps the worst of the bunch, Ducky is an old man with large lips and thick, plastic glasses that works the front desk. He is a stickler for the rules, and often very unpleasant. Ducky thinks he IS the Surf Club. My mother, never afraid to speak her mind, has gotten into it with him after he treated us rudely during previous years. To me, he looks like a cartoon duck wearing maroon and emerald colored suspenders and large glasses. This year, he was so nice that is was suspicious. He casually asked us, "Is this your first time here?" when we have owned for 25 years. I will probably never forget this man. Each year when I sign the waiver to work out in the facility, he asks "Are you over 18? You look like you could be 16." when in reality I literally just graduated from college. He also makes sly sexist comments when we have questions, like "I am a man, I don't do the grocery shopping." I am convinced that he decided to act like he didn't know who we were this year, figuring that we would pity his poor memory and think he was a swell guy after all. I didn't buy it for a second, Ducky.

Fort Lauderdale: There is always a Floridian native that decides to rent or buy an owner's week and spend a few days on the island. This person is interchangeable, for they can come from Miami or Key Largo, but this year, we met a man from Fort Lauderdale. He made his first and only appearance one morning while my mom and I were working out, when he came into the rec area with an awkward "Sorry I am interrupting you ladies", when in fact we were clearly lifting little five pound weights in the middle of the 20x20 foot work out room, so I am not sure what he thought he was intruding on? We gave the usual polite "Oh, you're fine, no problem", and he continued to ask the basic questions, like where we were from, if we owned, etc. The topic of the weather came up, and he enlightened us that if Florida does not get a frost, then the invasive species of two feet long iguanas won't die out and will continue eating the vegetation and being a general nuisance, although not aggressive. Intrigued by this problem, I continued thinking about these large lizards while he told my mom that a lot of the immigrants that have moved to Florida will catch and eat the iguanas, which slightly helps with the population control. I picked this opportune moment to ask, "Do they eat any native birds or upset the eco-system in any way?", referring to the iguanas that I was currently taken with. The man scrunched his face, jutting his neck forward slightly, responding with: "Uh..who? The immigrants?" "Oh god no!" I said, probably too defensively, "The iguanas!". I panicked, unintentionally sounding racist and ignorant "Oh those immigrants, they'll eat anything!" *studio audience laughs*.
Turns out the iguanas pretty much only eat plants and bugs.

When we aren't interacting with other visitors, my mom and I spend a lot of time walking on the beach or reading by the pool. At night, we usually watch movies or reruns from canceled sitcoms. I have always had a good relationship with my mother, but we have our differences which can be exhausting. My mom also goes into a "Vacation Mode", where her usually personality traits spike.

Things My Mother Does While On Vacation:

While I stay on the beach reading, my mom will often take her book and wander into the ocean, flipping pages while the waves lap at her lower thighs. After about ten minutes of being separated from her, I will hear a faint "Jordan!", and look out to see my mom waving her arms and miming to me what she wants me to bring her. I don't understand why she can't verbally tell me, because she did just yell my name after all, but these "Guess What My Mom Wants" sessions usually result in her pointing at me and hitting herself, trying to describe what she needs. One of my favorites was when he repeatedly pointed to her bag and hit her left hip over and over again, forcefully. It turned out that she wanted her pedometer to count her steps--while in the ocean.

My mom likes to stay up late, as do I, but also likes to wake up really early while in Marco. At home, she does not sleep in terribly late, but never wakes up around sunrise. She tells me "Oh Jordan, we are on vacation, you can stay up late and watch E News with me" but then comes and wakes me up passive aggressively at an early time the next morning, when I usually wake up by myself around 9:30. I can't do the staying up late and waking up early thing, but somehow managed it all week begrudgingly while my mom delegated my precious sleep schedule.

Out of an excuse to engage in friendly small talk, my mom will ask strangers questions that she already knows the answers to. Furthermore, once she has received an answer, she will wander over to another group of people and ask the same question to see what they say. If we drive close to the bridge to get off the island, there is a small fishing town called Goodland. Goodland has a restaurant called The Olde Marco Inn that serves a delicious Grouper Sandwich. We have had this sandwich previously, and know exactly where to find it, yet for the first couple of days my mom insisted on asking everyone what they thought of Goodland and where could we find good grouper. I followed her around, smiling at everyone's responses, fighting my natural response to answer her question myself. This is just one example.

All in all, I have a great time with my mom. She likes to shop and run errands (even on vacation) more than I do, but we always end up having a stronger relationship when we leave. This year, we even endured a seven hour flight delay on the way down from Delta Airlines, and U.S. Airways losing our luggage on our way back to Columbus. Next year I might walk, I don't know. Marco also has the most gorgeous sunset that I have and will probably ever see, that brings out hordes of people to the beach every night facing the water in silence, like a strange religious experience. Half of the time, I expect Cthulu to show up. I often hope that he does. Maybe he could eat Ducky.

Other highlights are: I got to hold a two year old and a five year old baby alligator that were both super adorable and had cute, chubby little bellies like puppies. I saw a shark in the ocean, while I was in it, but wasn't afraid because I was too in shock to think of anything else other than SHARK. I no longer look like a latex glove, but am now sort of a nice pancake color.

I actually never got that grouper sandwich,