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.