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My Life in TV

March 12, 2011

I’ve been rewatching “My So-Called Life” on Netflix lately, because it became available streaming. Watching it again…wow. It’s like taking a time machine back to high school.

I had a love-hate relationship with this show when it came out. I was exactly the same age as Angela, the main character. This show, paradoxically, was so completely my life, yet it was the fantasy of what I wished my life was like. I loved that I could relate, but hated that I did. I hated that some TV writer out there knew my experience and could put it up there on TV for every single person to see. I felt exposed by that show. It spoke to me, but it also revealed to everyone else in the world just what was running through my head. At the time, I was still caught in my web of adolescent egocentrism–there was no way anyone else could ever truly understand me or my experience. Yet, there it was, on the screen for an hour, one episode at a time.

Angela Chase was a cooler version of me. For one, I never had a Jordan Catalano. I mean, I did, in the way that I had that guy who I pined for and he totally ignored me 90% of the time. My crushes were never reciprocated in any way, shape or form. Her friends were also cooler than mine. I hung out with the band geeks (despite not being in band myself) and there were never clubs or shows to go to. We hung out in school and then went back to our tame home lives at the last bell, studying in our rooms and not out having adventures like Angela, Rayanne, and Ricky. I didn’t live near anyone I went to school with or have former friends from elementary school hanging around, so there were no Sharon Cherskis or Brian Krakows constantly popping up in unexpected places when I was at home. Despite the intrusion, I would have really liked that, though.

I also have never owned a single thing that was made of plaid flannel. I failed at the 90s.

I suppose I could keep up the nostalgia by following this up with a review of “Felicity”, which pretty much summed up college. I don’t think there’s anything that corresponds to grad school, adulthood and beyond. Or wait–“How I Met Your Mother” does this pretty well. Sigh. Art imitates my life far too well sometimes.



January 7, 2011

So I had this plan to watch the new season of “The Bachelor”, that terrible, awful, disgusting mockery of relationships that airs weekly on ABC. I was going to watch it because this guy, Brad Womack, was previously on the show and (spoiler alert!) didn’t wind up proposing to either of the girls who made it to the final round of this mess. Apparently America had its collective panties in a bunch because of this. I mean, how could it be that a guy could not fall in love and want to propose to a vapid girl after having cameras document them in a series of carefully orchestrated interactions over a mere 6 weeks? HOW??? Brad Womack, WTF is wrong with you?

As is revealed in the opening minutes of this new season that just started airing, and once again starring Mr. Womack, he’s been in therapy. Not for the stress of a bunch of people who don’t know him saying negative things about him because he seems to have more sense than the average brainless hunk they put on this show, but because he had “relationship issues”. *eye roll* Anyway, now he’s “fixed” and ready to do the whole thing again. I was thinking I’d watch this debacle and see if his relative amount of sense would prevail through a round 2.

I got through 13 minutes of this crap before I had to turn it off. I just can’t hang. I’m sorry. This show is infuriating in its stupidity. These women make me sad. I’m sure they’re lovely people, but I just can’t watch them with their man-hungry eyes and single-minded patheticness patheticism pathetitude absurdity.

I pretty much just added a day to my life. Even if I spend it surfing Reddit, it’ll be time better spent than watching this show.

First rule of the subway: Do not talk on the subway

September 9, 2010

I had this IM conversation with a friend a few months ago, sometime near the end of March. I was telling him about a ride home from practice the night before:

me: first, N was all fucked out of Astoria
so i got off at Queensboro onto the 7 and then to GCT to the 6
I get on the 6, and i have my ipod on and stuff
and i sit down and this guy near me says something to me
but i didn’t hear it so i take my earbuds out and say, “excuse me?”
and he’s like, “Do you like punk music?”
mothra: ew
me: And i’m like. Um…yeah
which is kind of a lie
cause i don’t really know much punk music
mothra: oh good, u were about to surprise me
me: i can hum a few Clash and Ramones songs
but that’s it
i don’t mind punk
so then he’s like, what’s your favorite band
and for some reason the Dictators is the only band i can think of
mothra: uggg
i’m cringing
me: and I’m like, “Why do you ask?”
mothra: i hate the “so what kind of music do you listen to” line of questioning
me: and he’s like, “I just like to know about people”
mothra: k..
me: and I kind of nod like, “You’re a freak” and put my ipod back on
being like WTF and awkward that a nearly full train had to witness that exchange
but who the fuck does that?
the ipod means “DO NOT TALK TO ME”
mothra: no it really doesn’t
i have earplugs in my ears alla time
to some
it means
me: earplugs or earphones?
mothra: ask me about my day
me: ah, see, that’s hard to tell tho
mothra: they’re bright orange and stick out
me: the white earbuds are clear
still harder
that’s so old man of you
mothra: ha
it makes the subway more peaceful
the screeching sounds are muffled
me: m
i guess my ipod serves some of the purpose of blocking that
but still
what a fucking random question
mothra: was he hitting on u
me: i got home and i was like, “Do i look like i like punk music?”
i dunno
it failed
mothra: that’s what i’d think
i mean he’s not asking everyone whether they like punk music
me: i think he did comment on some other girl’s boots at one point
so my guess: new New Yorker
mothra: wow
me: just moved here and eager to make friends
mothra: or unhinged
me: doesn’t know any better
no, he didn’t seem unhinged
he seemed normal otherwise
young, mentally all there, just sort of random
or random for NYC
in Indiana people talk to each other all the time
mothra: sure but on the subway
me: you’re in line at the bank and people start talking to you and stuff
mothra: that’s a particularly odd spot
lines at banks, sure
me: yeah, the first rule of the subway is you do not talk on the subway
mothra: totally
me: it was totally awkward
i was like, i’m just ignoring him from here on out
thankfully, he got off at Union Square
mothra: sigh

That incident bothered me for a few days, but I was never able to put my finger on why. Tonight I’ve been reading a few old threads on Metafilter regarding street harassment and the like. Obviously, being female, I’m quite familiar with the phenomenon. It’s upsetting when a random guy comments on my clothes or looks when I’m just trying to walk down the street minding my own business. In that genre of harassment, it’s about power and privilege, not to mention the implicit assumption that by being female, I’m constantly fodder for the male gaze. Grr patriarchy.

But this incident on the train wasn’t that kind of thing. So I thought, “Wow, am I really that thin-skinned, or that much of a hardened New Yorker? Can I really not handle some random guy trying to talk to me on the train?” And then I read this comment in a Metafilter thread, and combined with some others, I realized, yeah, it’s OK to be upset about that. Because even though I clearly was not wanting to talk to anyone, this guy thought he could overstep that boundary. While he might have been completely innocuous in his intentions, when someone oversteps a simple boundary, it’s a warning. Sometimes it’s a false alarm, and sometimes it’s not. But when we’ve been conditioned to feel a bit of fear (and often, rightfully so!) when someone crosses those boundaries, it makes even these innocuous interactions a little scary. Either way, it’s disrespectful to disturb someone who obviously does not want to have a conversation with a stranger. It’s hugely self-entitled for a guy to think he has the right to disturb some girl because he thinks she’s pretty or thinks she might be interesting. Let her decide for herself if she wants to engage you in conversation. If she’s wearing headphones, she’s already made that decision and you need to respect that.

So yes, someone talking to me on the train when I clearly don’t want to talk is as much of an intrusion as a random catcall, and perhaps even more so, considering that we’re both stuck in a metal tube hurtling through underground caverns with nowhere else to go. At least when someone catcalls me I can walk away. But in this situation, I was stuck, which likely compounded the feeling of helplessness that made this interaction rub me the wrong way.

Sigh. The only downside of being a feminist is that it’s hard not to see patriarchy everywhere, which is upsetting. Although, I suspect I’d probably still not like the whole thing even if I didn’t identify as a feminist, but at least now I know the reasons behind it. And as G.I. Joe taught me, knowing is half the battle.

Making Like-Like Happen

August 24, 2010

I consider it a great failing of the English language that there are not many commonly-used words to describe the feelings that fall between “like” and “love.”

The closest thing I can think of goes back to elementary school. There’s “like”, “like-like” and “love.” You like your friends. That cute boy who cheered for you during kickball in gym class? Like-like. Your parents, chocolate ice cream, and purple? Love. It may seem a subtle difference between like-like and love, but kids know. Like-like doesn’t imply commitment, but love does. As every kid will utter at some point, “if you love something, why don’t you marry it?”. Nobody says, “if you like-like him, why don’t you marry him?”. There’s a tacit understanding that like-like is somewhere in between like and love. I find it frustrating that we’re more nuanced in our language regarding close relationships when we’re kids than when we’re adults.

In a quick poll of my friends, “adore” came up as possible vocabulary on the like-love spectrum. I do think this might be our most acceptable word available; in “West Side Story” Maria tells Tony, “Te adoro,” or, “I adore you,” in Spanish. But I’m not sure I like the word “adore.” To me, it sounds like worshiping the ground someone walks on. It’s one-sided, a bit like adulation. I looked both “adore” and “adulation” up in the dictionary, expecting them to share a root word. Surprisingly, they don’t. Adore comes from the Latin roots of ad and orare, meaning “to speak or pray.” Indeed, the first definition according to Merriam-Webster is “to worship or honor as a deity or as divine,” so my thoughts on this word are not entirely off-base. But the more common usage is in the third definition, “to be very fond of.” That tempers adore to a more appropriate level. Adulation, on the other hand, is a Latin word meaning “to fawn on (of dogs) [I have no idea what dogs have to do with fawning, unless it’s something to do with deer hunting], to flatter,” and is formally defined as “excessive or slavish admiration or flattery.” It falls only on the worshipful side, and sounds a bit more shallow than adoration. So, they are somewhat related in meaning, but are not the same.

Back to Tony and Maria. Adore makes sense for them, as they definitely have feelings stronger than like and they aren’t just about simply worshiping each other, which takes adulation out of the picture. But they haven’t spent the time together required to make the leap to love. Modern romances portrayed on stage, screen, and the page don’t show the same discretion. In far too many romantic comedies, our protagonists jump from introducing themselves to each other to dropping the L-word in record time. It’s one of the many things that ring untrue in these 21st century fairy tales, and I wonder if it’s propping up yet another unrealistic expectation for people’s romantic relationships. I’ve had friends who angsted long and hard over the fact that their boyfriends hadn’t said the three little words, even though it hadn’t been that long into the relationship. When we first anchor the word “love” to one end of a binary and then show people bandying it about like a meaningless phrase, confusion and angst result. Maybe having more “in-between” words to describe all the things leading up to the ultimate emotional goal of love would diffuse the tension.

So what are we to do? Should we accept adore as an official intermediate between like and love? Are there better words out there? It’s a sad artifact of our culture when the average person can come up with 10 terms for sex right off the top of his or her head, yet struggle to name more than one or two terms for romantic feelings between people. The urban myth is that Inuits have so many words for snow because it’s important to them. What’s more important to us, according to our common language?

Things I’ve accidentally dropped in my cats’ water bowl

July 27, 2010
tags: , ,
  • Can of cat food
  • Jar of peanut butter
  • My keys
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • M&Ms
  • Silverware
  • Sunglasses
  • Jar of Nutella
  • Pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
  • Credit card
  • Clif bar
  • Metal whisk ball for my protein shaker bottle
  • Sugar cubes
  • Ice cubes
  • Roku remote
  • DVD remote
  • Roll of tape
  • Cherries
  • Tennis ball
  • Screwdriver

I believe there is some kind of magnetic force that pulls anything dropped within a 3 foot radius into the wet clutches of the bowl. A mystery of the not-so-deep.

Wrong, try again

July 22, 2010

In 7th grade we had a sex ed unit in my health class (heh heh, unit). My teacher started off by giving us a short true-or-false quiz, which addressed facts and fiction regarding sex and pregnancy. After we took it, we went over the answers, scoring our own sheets.

I distinctly remember that one of the questions was “One way a woman can avoid getting pregnant is to jump up and down, turn around three times clockwise and stand on her head after sex.” I almost laughed out loud when I read this because it was so utterly ridiculous, and as I wrote a big capital F next to it I couldn’t even fathom how anyone could believe it was true. When we got to that question, my friend who was in my class looked disappointed as she put a slash mark on her paper.

“You got that wrong?” I asked, a little too incredulous.

She looked at me with wide eyes. “Any of those things could work!” I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. A year later, this same friend told me that I was going to get cancer for shaving my legs above the knee.

OK, so maybe I was a little too well-informed and precocious when I was 12, but my mom had been very proactive in giving me the sex talk during an airing of “Jaws” on TV when I was six (true story, and now I always associate “Jaws” with the facts of life). We had a set of Childcraft books that I’d read cover-to-cover multiple times, one of which addressed the issue of human egg fertilization all the way up to birth. When she started telling me about how the sperm and the egg get together, I jumped up and said, “I know what you’re talking about!” and ran to get the book and I told her how it went. Maybe it took me a little longer to get an idea of the actual mechanics together, but I knew the basic process. And my elementary school had a very progressive stance on sex ed, so by 7th grade, I knew about puberty, contraception, and all of that. As I quickly learned, however, my junior high peers (who had all gone to public school) didn’t quite get all that yet.

Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a hugely popular comment thread on Metafilter about the things that you were doing wrong. I’m not the only one who found it entertaining to read about what kinds of misconceptions people held well into adulthood. I think part of it was an aspect of downward social comparison. There were a lot of things in there that the average person could read and think, “Ha! Well, at least I am not that clueless. I am smart!”

Then last night I was with some people and the conversation turned to deodorants, of all things (well, get a car full of post-practice derby girls together and eventually someone will say something about the smell). One person mentioned not using antiperspirant because it causes breast cancer. Cue an (inner) reaction not unlike the one I had to my seventh-grade friend. I guess even though it’s been thoroughly debunked, not everyone’s gotten that information yet. Sometimes I forget that not everyone has seen the entire internet like I have (reminded of that again a few days ago when I saw a guy dressed like Pedobear on a train platform on my way to practice, yet nobody at practice had any clue what I was talking about when I mentioned it).

I also have a friend who forwards me all kinds of “woman in danger” emails about women being raped in Wal-Mart parking lots by men offering perfume samples or people getting stuck with syringes while pumping their gas. I stopped sending her links to Snopes a long time ago, because it didn’t deter her one bit. It’s kind of amazing to me what people will believe without any actual information. The thing is, how do you know unless someone tells you? There are so many things that we float through life believing, because we don’t have anything or anyone telling us it’s not so.

It makes me wonder if there are things I’m still getting wrong just because I don’t have anyone to tell me otherwise.

What’s your theme song?

June 16, 2010

Most people are pretty familiar with the idea of a personal theme song. It’s that song you listen to when you need to rev up or feel good about yourself. It’s your musical comfort food. Hearing it boosts your confidence and the lyrics sum up just exactly how you feel or want to feel. You hear it come on and instantly you want to dance around the room and in front of the mirror because it just makes you feel that good.

I never watched Ally McBeal that much past the first season, but I do remember this great example of a theme song:

My theme song for the past couple of years has been Feist, “I Feel It All.” I remember hearing this song for the first time and completely relating to the lyrics. It’s catchy, too, and totally danceable. The dancing Feist does throughout the video is remarkably similar to what I was doing to this song before I ever saw the video:

My iTunes knows I love this song. It comes up on random more than it ever should and I love that surprise when it happens. I listen to it whenever I’m feeling doubtful. I love the self-affirmation in the lyrics, it’s about being the one with the control in your life:

Ooh I’ll be the one who’ll break my
Heart, I’ll be the one to hold the gun

I once told an ex that there was no way he could break my heart, because I’d never let him hold it. It was in my hands the whole time, and therefore I knew I would be OK. When I heard this it was like someone finally wrote the song I had inside me the entire time.

There’s also an element of defiance. I love the defiant “ha!”s in the second half of the song. It flies in the face of uncertainty:

I don’t know what I knew before
But now I know I wanna win the war

Overall the lyrics don’t address the happiest situation, but it’s about taking control, owning your emotions, and being responsible for yourself in the end. I like the element of empowerment.

Lately I’ve added another theme song to my personal playlist. I like that this also has a huge empowerment aspect to it. Also, the dancing is pretty awesome:

All of the lyrics to this song are fantastic. The first verse is pretty much just “F*** the haters,”  and I love it. But the beginning of the third verse is my favorite:

I tip on alligators and little rattle snakers
But I’m another flavor
Something like a terminator
Ain’t no equivocating
I fight for what I believe
Why you talkin’ bout it

With so many songs about relationships or complicated situations, it’s refreshing to hear something that’s just a general “Hey, I’m awesome, and you can believe or not, but I don’t give a f*** if you do.” There’s that defiant independence again, not more of the “oh baby, I love you and need you to complete me” b.s. we get from a lot of other songwriters.

I bought Janelle Monáe’s entire album (and the Metropolis EP) and it’s so, so great. I love her concept, message, voice, and dancing. Because I can’t sing, write songs or dance worth a damn myself, it’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who can put a good message out there that I can get behind. And when I hear the song, I feel like there’s someone who is getting behind me and what I believe in too. Few things feel better than that.