my shoulders and my back hurt. i need a massage. i need to learn to meditate. to chomp on green apples without adopting their bitter attitude. red apples remind me of hearts and sometimes they’re mealy and sometimes they taste like nothing at all. the green ones are always immaculate, ingrown so as to never be spoiled by ungrateful teeth. i stick feelings where they don’t belong, clip on mustache feelings.
it is getting to the point in the year at which i wake in the middle of the night several times to shed layers of clothing. often by morning i’m chilling in my underwear, sticky and inside out. my dreams are the color of honey mustard. i try to stick pieces together but none stay down for long. my construction paper city remains flat and floating. i listen to ted talks that motivate me not to dream. dreams are for kids, adults do things. take your disappointments, make them into action plans. cast lists, SATs, pictures of happy people in other worlds dancing tangos and feeding each other cake. bake your action plans into pies or fold them into paper airplanes and toss them off the tops of tall buildings. i’m not unhappy, just it’s may and i’m shaky. i have no idea what i want to do with the rest of my life and every time i go out for lunch with my dad he tells me to start thinking about it. reporting? you can write, you can certainly write. teacher? well, why not? you could teach kids. psychologist? advertising? you need a plan. you need a back up plan. it’s coming up sooner than you think.
so i say i’ll think about it and maybe i’ll work at the UN helping countries get along, because if i can never attain my own peace at least i’ll help other people find it. or maybe i’ll be an anthropologist digging up the bones of cultures, sticking stories and faces and names where, before, there were only skeletons. but to do any of this i’ll need to go to college, and that topic raises its own lunchtime debates.
city or country? public or private? large, medium or small? artsy? sporty? are you smart or dumb? how hard did you work? who are you? if you could take it all back, would you? all girls? if not, why not? so much is guided by instinct and everybody’s instincts are hurled at you at once, just when you finally realize you haven’t outgrown overalls and razor scooters. right when all you want is a popsicle and a nap.
we went to the paper store to make copies of my grandparents’ will and the man who worked there told me i could take a look at any of the newspapers in his display up front. one was called “the christian quarterly”. there were two articles on the front page. one about how obama is a secret muslim and therefore it is a sin to vote for him, and one about how you can pray the gay away, make homosexuals see the light. at first i thought it was a satire but upon further examination i realized that these people really believe in what they print. no citations. no corroborations. obama, the secret muslim, and the wild pack of sinners on his side.
the man at the paper store with the scruffy beard and the st. lucia’s t-shirt found out how old i am and started asking me what schools i want to apply to. i smiled and said, “i’m not sure, there are just so many. i haven’t really narrowed it down yet!”
he said, “but if you had to choose?”
i said, “i don’t know. a liberal arts college probably.”
"but what school specifically?"
"i don’t know…"
He shut up right away, and said, “good for you! aiming high.”
In the car I told my dad I wish people would stop pestering me, and he said, “yeah, i was going to tell him to shut up.”
Bagels and lox are the greatest food combination i’ve ever tasted. smoked salmon and coffee in bed. threading jewelry out of dandelion stems, dreaming instead of doing. allergies, tired eyes, deodorant. washing dishes, putting off homework, waiting for summer to wrap its pealing, freckled arms around and breathe roses in my face. i’m hoping it’ll find me in red shorts, laughing, no knots.
a hendricken ranty rant
Human beings will never be in possession of complete objectivity. We are permanently stained with scraps of bias. Particularly on the subject of our passions, our faith, and the things we have been indoctrinated from an early age to either love or despise. We are shaped by our experience, and that’s what it is to be human.
So how do we back up what we believe? How do we justify blind faith after coming to terms with our complete human cluelessness in a universe bigger than anything we could possibly imagine?
In light of these questions, I’m astounded by how many people think they know how God feels. The president of Hendricken assures us in this delightful editorial that God isn’t happy. Perhaps the lord blows messages in his ears on a lute before he falls asleep at night, or arranges the letters in his alphabet soup to convey those holy opinions. I don’t mean to be glib but I’m frustrated by the shades of hypocrisy in this article, especially in the infusion of personal opinions dressed up to look like godly premonitions of some impending moral underworld brought about by homosexuality. It’s bewildering that an establishment like the church thinks they can stamp out allegedly undesirable practices like nuns that snatch trading cards from little boys and lipstick from little girls. The threat of damnation and hellfire. Forget about pedophile priests and perpetrators of genocide. At least they weren’t contributing to this “moral decay.”
As you can probably deduce, I’m personally in favor of gay marriage but I also believe that issues like this are complex. I acknowledge the validity of different positions on the issue. This is essentially because I’m trying to teach myself to view things from other people’s perspectives. I would like to learn why different people, presented with the same brain and body pieces and the same faith in a higher being, can come to radically opposed positions. From the moment we’re born, we are struck in winds of rapid cognition, creating unconscious opinions on subjects we barely understand. Our parents teach us what they believe about life and these words make fingerprints in our memory. We are molded like clay by society, by education, and yes, by the religions we have not so much chosen for ourselves but been born into. If President John A. Jackson had been spawned by a sperm donor and raised by loving gay parents, I wonder how his current perspectives would change. In regards to the article, it is not so much the homophobic position that I buck at, (because, sadly, that is scarcely a rarity in the church) but rather the unending confidence with which it is delivered. I don’t think God blows in anybody’s ears and therefore most of us aren’t completely sure of his positions on current events.
I do know that Jesus was a friend to outcasts. I know that his opinions were often controversial and shocking to the hoity toity holy officials, and I know that he told God to forgive us, we don’t know what we’re doing. There it is, smack on the head like a truth whack-a-mole. We do not know what we’re doing, not any one of us, including a human contrived hierarchy like the church. The most religion can do is try and help people. The worst it can do is really hurt people.
Furthermore, I think that attacks on Obama’s choice to voice his personal opinions are ludicrous. Constitutionally, he has every right to say what he thinks, and whether or not the church declares homosexuality to be immoral is irrelevant in a society that separates church and state. It doesn’t make sense that the president of a catholic school speak out about it because he has no clout and it’s only going to make him lose funding for his school. But I digress into practicalities.
I usually try not to get publicly involved with political issues because I don’t know what I’m doing either, but to me this is beginning to transcend politics. It is a human rights issue, and restricting another person’s right to love and sex and fulfillment, reek, to me, of corruption and fear. So many people are afraid of change, acceptance, and others whose choices do not resemble their own in some way or another. So many people use God as a masthead for their own fear. We should possess some elastic pull, some willingness to give, to consider, to “evolve” like Obama “evolved” in a manner with which John A. Jackson has found so much fault. Otherwise I fear the same collapse of civilization through moral decay. Moral decay that is driven by a fear of the future, a lack of wisdom, a lack of humility.
an irish blessing
May the road rise to meet you. May the wind fall shrilly from your hair dryer but not so much so that it feels like your scalp’s being sucked off by shrieky aliens. May your shoes never get soggy through the toes, and may the snack gods never grant you lukewarm string cheese as a sole snack option. May you prosper, and God grant you the courage to turn off the TV in the middle of a reality TV marathon because you are an important person, dammit, and you have things to do. May your walks be peaceable and may you find money on the sidewalk and in your old pants pockets. May you never be stranded in a dentist’s chair with nothing to enter your ears but Nickelback and mundane questions. May the good lord grant you with funny friends and family members to laugh at or mock your lame jokes and who are unafraid to bust out a few of their own. May you laugh heartily at yourself, for a guffaw at one’s own expense can lighten any awkward situation. May you view the world through the eyes of a baby giraffe chasing butterflies or else an eccentric, adorable old man whose face lights up every time he hears the same piece of good news. May the quest for love never distract you from whatever it is you were put on this earth to do. May you sing in the shower, and in other people’s showers, and in doing so may your riffs detail the wildest fancies of your heart. May you tip generously and resist the urge to punch the occasional total asshole in the face and then shit on their most prized possessions. Instead may you exhibit the noblest of self control and laud your maturity in adversaries’ smug faces.
May you read books always. May you never snort or spit food out of your mouth in front of a potential romantic interest, and if you do, may it be while their back is conveniently turned. May you always say good things about the people you love behind their backs, and may they do the same for you because it is our shining moments of un-bitchiness that unite us. May you never get struck down with cholera, killed by gangs of lions, or caught up in a drug cartel. If you owe money to a member of the Mafia, may you figure that out in a timely fashion. May you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. May you daaaaaaaance. May you crowd your life with things that make you feel super, and may you be super to the people that have crowded in your life, even when they are being annoying jerks who won’t even let you have a bite of their food, I mean GOD.
kathryn sleeps soundly beside me. she has continued her steady streak of falling asleep during every movie we have ever viewed. we were watching an episode of season 5 kids in the hall. it was quite loud and the studio audience gave textbook examples of ROFL. i don’t know how she manages sleep amidst all that.
her breaths sound like little boats.
she’s going to wake up, read this and be creeped out that i tumbled about her sleep. c’est la vie.
i say “c’est la vie” semi-frequently despite the fact that i’ve always kind of hated it as an expression. what is “that’s life” supposed to mean? of course it’s life. what else would it be? a generic yet all-encompassing sentiment.
did you jam your toe into a door? c’est la vie. did you meet your soul mate on the L-train right after barfing on her shoes? c’est la vie. were you tortured in someone’s sex dungeon? c’est la freaking vie.
see? it’s a cold form of pseudo-intellectualism that precludes a thoughtful, warranted response that’s been cultivated with due amounts of empathy. when people share an experience they know already that it took place within the overarching setting of “life.” there’s no need to deliver constant reminders, and in french no less. yet i have started saying it because i suck, and because french syllables jive with the tongue’s inklings like a chocolate crepe with raspberries.
we saw cabaret today. now, technically, it was yesterday, but i believe days don’t end until you’ve slipped into sleep. sleep’s like the white cement between bricks, separating one day from another. cabaret is for me like the sistine chapel in the morning, light streaming through the stained glass and refracting in colored crystals. it makes me feel like my heart’s been opened with a monkey wrench, but all the sweet and salty feelings swim below clairvoyance. this nostalgia isn’t jarring because cabaret was constructed with the goal of compelling people to melt into sap buckets. by curtain call, you could squeeze maple syrup out of the whole audience.
what’s weird is how nostalgic i get about public bathrooms. sinks i used to wash my hands in, blue scuffed floors i slid on barefoot. flashes of middle school and ninth grade. spring car rides, empty pizza boxes, parched throat. as if my brain is a satellite camera snapping shots of old terrain. pulling into the parking lot sent the silver still of a rainstorm in March. ninth grade, blue tights, walking out of the double doors laughing, hoping to impress one of the upperclassmen with some comment or marked display of wit. headed to rehearsal at hendricken. its green doors and sweet smell. jumping in puddles and hearing someone say, “you’re just like summer!”
she meant the character in 500 days of summer. and maybe then, for a blink in a rainstorm in march, i was. now it’s been over 6210 days of kathleen, a name i hope i’ll figure out soon.
i am amazed by how the scores of people we hang out with changes from year to year. from the missing front teeth, want to be batman days, we are imagining ourselves married to someone with kids. we’ll fly home to gotham at 8pm, hang up our cape, chill with the mystery spouse and mini-bat kids.
but who the fuck would ever live in gotham?
steadily older, day brick stacked upon day brick. makes me realize how the buildings shift. i don’t have much faith in buildings. i’m not sure what will last and what won’t. the outcomes are often unpredictable. no one thought the leaning tower of pisa would stay up. no one thought the titanic would sink.
but i guess it only hurts your head to think things raw. i call c’est la vie on this one.
the unbearable lightness of beanies
4 beanies explore life under the regime of the soviet union —a party that dons much less stylish hats than beanies anyway.
They also look like they might hurt your head.
Anyway, the black beanie is married to the white beanie but he is obviously cheating on her with all the other girl beanies in town — even the animal ones.
The overworked womanizer beanie eventually finds his heart belongs with his wife and they spend the rest of their days in marital bliss, caring for their offspring on a remote cattle farm, tending to their flocks.
meanwhile, the other beanies sit there, being unbearably light and also cozy.
i’m wearing mens’ deodorant left on from this morning. i took a shower in the middle of the afternoon and still the damn stuff remains. it’s making me want to bench press.
i close my eyes and hear crickets. they’re floating through my head like little log drifters. my grandpa had a heart attack. my dad and sister drove to new jersey to see him in the hospital. they came back two days later, quiet and sad, strained as meat in a blender and they’ve been that way ever since. dinner tonight was tense. i pulled a cartilage out of my crab.
heart attacks. incredibly frightening that we might be running on ticking time bombs. wish we had extra hearts in our pockets, hearts on file, emergency floatation hearts. all the hearts that have been squeezed out of my pens to bleed through notebook paper next to lyrics or names. four chambered organs attached to pipes that spill cold songs into empty rooms.
last night. tight brown t-shirt. blue skirt. the sequined pumps that i don’t know how to walk in. i always end up ambling like a baby deer through darkening streets and bright red coke machines. falling asleep with cotton in my eyes on an air mattress next to your despicable futon.
you’re like the IDEA of communism, you said over cold eggplant parmesan.
i’m worried about my grandpa. i keep getting distracted by lemons at the bottoms of garbage disposals and imaginary conversations overheard from the bottoms of imaginary stairwells.
d@ting t!pz from an expert
I’m pretty sure I’m an expert on just about everything so don’t doubt me! I know what I’m talking about.
D@ting T!p #1: On a first date, make sure to cry at least once.
This goes for both men and women. Nothing screams i’m a keeper like a couple jags of well-timed sobbing. It works well for men because it shows you’re in touch with your emotions and willing to work through them literally anywhere. It works for women because there is truly nothing men find more attractive than drama. So many experts say they wish they had known this years ago. (Other flirting tactics in this vein include flipping tables and brandishing your knife if you are at a restaurant. If you are at the movies you can always try the age old move of standing up in the middle of the film and screaming YOURE NOT THE CHILDRENS’ FATHER and then rushing out.)
Subjects You Are Encouraged To Sob About:
-deep seated childhood issues
Subjects You are Not Encouraged to Sob About:
-religion unless you are in some sort of a fun cult… if you are you should always mention it right away and do not cease until you have converted them!
alright people, i am accepting applications for prom dates. the only requirements are that you be bowlegged, half of a conjoined twin, a pisces, hypo-allergenic, and listen only to phil collins music. i’m looking for someone who enjoys long walks through dark tunnels blindfolded, someone who’s not afraid to kick back on weekends and breed the occasional guppy in your sink. it helps if you have a curly mustache. it also helps if you are bilingual. if you are excessively muscular or in line for some sort of a royal throne, i’m not interested. i will tolerate illiteracy, but if you can’t recite all the past winners of America’s Next Top Model off the top of your head, you are out of the running. I will require that you wear this:
i’m looking for a prom date who understands me, one who is willing to share everything from laughs to social security information. someone who doesn’t mind being constantly berated. someone who lights up and is filled with candy that i can hit with a baseball bat.
the saga of the rolly backpack kids
Rolly backpack kids. Some may think of them as an offshoot of our species — a weird little casserole dish full of peculiar mobility. But the rolly backpack kids are kids just like any others. They dream, they eat bacon, they experience disgust with the rest of the world. It’s just that their pains are amplified every time they try to open doors or walk down stairs. Their war cry is the telltale clunk of their loaded wheels against roadblock after roadblock. Their every day is a fierce competition: rolly backpack versus the world. And as these poor souls soon realize, the world will beat you down every time.
They are turtles that carry their shells in hand, caravans of their own accord. The obvious question to ask is… why? Why choose the tragic life of a rolly backback kid? Are they punishing themselves for some misdeed committed in a past life? If so, whatever it was, it must have been bad. They must have killed someone. Why else would one elect to tote their goods around inside the most cumbersome receptacle known to all that are woman born?
Kid, I may be a hunch back someday, but still I think you have borne the greater yoke. Your social life, rolly backpack kid. Your social life.
I see you there with your scared rodent eyes, afraid to accept my humble offer of door-holding. What is it you’re afraid of, kid? At the height of a triple stair case, your tiny visage trembles in animal response to the strenuous task before you. I know you can do it. Rock those wheels, kid. I will be an activist for your cause! Ride that backpack to your wheely nirvana, be bold for rolly backpack kids everywhere. I believe in you, kid. In a world of turmoil, your clunky determination can be a messenger bag of hope.
So many artists commit suicide or pop magic beans because they want to climb bean stocks and the bean stocks stretch and plummet and kill them. The statistics are terrifying. Kurt Cobain ODed and so did Amy Winehouse. Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven. My english teacher said that Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath felt like they were in a contest to see who would die first, that each other’s names kept showing up in later poems. Vincent Van Gogh cut off his own ear, and according to this Wiki page, even Claude Monet made a suicide attempt in 1868, which is something we never hear about. Poor Monet was less depressed than all his colleagues and thus his was not the legendary sort of end. I don’t like to dwell in sad things, but looking at this painting makes me sad. The flowers are so pretty. I’d like to wade through them bare legged or wear one to prom as a fragrant corsage. But my eye can’t help but travel tonight to the dark swirls underneath the lilies.
I think I recall seeing this in some museum sometime, but Google tells me the original is in Paris, which is a city I’ve never been to. So maybe what I think I saw was a replica, like the Mona Lisa that hangs in the bar near my grandparents’ house that made me certain I’d seen the real thing up until the embarrassing age of 12. But in this memory that I think is a memory but can’t possibly be, my mom is pointing to this picture as it hangs on a white wall and saying, “Oh, I love Monet. Look at that one. Isn’t it cool?”
And I say, “Yeah, I like the way he does his colors.”
And she says, “That’s called impressionism!”
Which is something I remember from studying Starry Night, and believing Starry Night to be the most beautiful painting in the world, I say, “Impressionism is my favorite.”
I used to have an art teacher who believed she heard an omnipotent voice that instructed her which color to use next and what order to paint things in. She told me when she did something that opposed the voice’s teaching, she had to start all over. New paints, new canvas. When I asked about it further she told me that the voice kept whispering, “Adrian, keep painting, or else I’m going to die.”
I was never sure whether the voice meant that she would die or it would. Both options struck my fancy, particularly the latter. In any case, when I told my mom about it she got kind of serious and after that incident, I didn’t go back to the studio often.
I painted so much back then. I forget it used to be one of my primary hobbies. What I miss most about it is the smell of turpentine and the oily feel of it, slickery on my fingers. I miss washing my brushes, and how like flying it feels when you slip a first sheath of paint over stark white. Especially red. I liked to paint red things with a carving knife even when they had nothing to do with the magazine clipping I was instructed to recreate. One time I painted a seaside city and then painted it on fire. Claiming it to be a mistake, I was left no choice but to siphon in yellows and oranges, feeding the flames that I had singlehandedly set upon my city. I’m pretty sure I’m not a psychopath but remembering this is making me nervous… At least I never killed bugs for fun and I definitely haven’t wet the bed in years.
What I’m wondering is what made Monet change his mind about wanting to die. Wikipedia claims that after his little-known suicide attempt, he met a woman and married her and the depression did not surface again. He died peacefully in his old age. It must be stressful when all the world wants you to do is make more beautiful things like a human jukebox. It’s hard for Monet, you can see it in the way he does the water. Or maybe I’m reading paintings too much like tea leaves and he’s actually just very competent in his craft.
Whether or not I saw the waterlilies in person is blurry but to me it doesn’t really matter. Adrian always said I’ve got the mind of an impressionist. No celestial voice has ever told me that I’ll die in the absence of action, of constantly being in the process of making something. But I told myself that, and according to Kurt Vonnegut (who did not suffer from depression* but was alive during the Great one, which must count for something) we are what we pretend to be, and so we must be careful what we pretend to be. Rock on, Kurt.
*JK it has been brought to my attention that Kurt Vonnegut actually did suffer from depression. So there you have it folks.
a story with one vowel
An Alabama aardvark, Carl, charts stars, stamps ants and barks at all rad pants.
Cara, a lady aardvark, calls as Carl parks at a carwash. ”Can a daft badass aardvark part a day and bang a sharp lady at a bar?!!!”
"What?" says Carl. "That’s scary."
"Arg!!" Cara nags. "What a man. Carl’s bad karma anyway."
Sadly, Carl can’t stand Cara — a hag and a shady braggart. Carl snarls at stars, as happy as a madman. A lark plays a harp and Carl acts gnarly, as always.
in the wake of my not being able to sleep, i give you my only KONY rant
Lots of things in this world don’t make sense to me. For example, babies on leashes, dogs that get to run free in big cities like a mile ahead of their owners, why we send people into wars instead of just using robots, and Sarah Palin’s rise to reality TV fame. I guess you could say that I am in a permanent state of vague befuddlement toward the rolodex of ridiculous things that just keep occurring. But of all these legitimate reasons for confusion, for me human compassion has never been one of them.
It makes sense why the KONY campaign went so viral so fast. Young American humans are rarely confronted with accessible global injustice stories via social networking, and when there is a cause that is so apolitical and so relatable — these are child soldiers relatively close in age to many of the causes’ ardent enthusiasts — it seems inevitable that so many people should spawn a sense of emotional involvement.
At first after seeing the propaganda video, I was compelled with a similar sense of indignant outrage. These are kids being kidnapped and trafficked. That sends off warning bells in pretty much anyone. The further I looked into the cause, however, the more I realized that sending money to an organization that
a.) uses only 32% of its proceeds for aiding victims
b.) supports a military that is ineffective and kind of corrupt-ish, and
c.) is gunning for action from a military that isn’t even present in the countries that the LRA currently inhabits
cannot be the smartest idea. Also, the troops that Obama has already planted in Uganda are special cases, most likely very capable, and well equipped with tracking technology. Ergo, money will not be of much help to them, and it will not be of much help at this point to the child soldiers. Either they will catch Kony or they won’t, and who knows whether catching him will even fix the problem. He’s been completely vilified by the campaign, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying invite him to your birthday party, but logically can he be the only person waging a war? Can arresting one man really resolve a regional security issue? Nothing is simple.
But nobody wants to accept being aware of an event going on in the world that seriously offends our highly democratic, highly pruned and condoned sense of what is right without being able to do anything to fix it. So KONY turned into an “awareness campaign” — a term that, like so many other things, befuddles me.
On the one hand, I think it’s wonderful that people my age have been awakened to something even more terrifying than Snooki’s imminent motherhood. I think it’s beautiful that a sense of unity and unrest and perspective seem to be developing, even if there is a lot of ego involved in publicly affirming your own “goodness.” Because at least it provides a Uturn awry from the typical mishmash of Gen-Z apathy that stares me down every time I log into Facebook or listen to myself talk before 10 am.
On the other hand, I’m sensing that there’s danger in an awareness campaign that almost hilariously oversimplifies a decidedly brambly, complicated issue.
KONY = BAD. TELL YO FRIENDS.
And so they do, and everyone feels this tremendous white man’s burden, which isn’t bad necessarily because it does mean that there’s still some vague moral compass for the nation. But I think there’s also a deficit in critical thinking skills. There are so many causes that could use a giant gadgety “awareness campaign.” Violence is everywhere. Syria, and Israel, and the Gaza strip, and child soldiers working with blood diamonds. This is going to sound preachy, and I apologize, but there are people in your homeroom who might not have food tonight, and in my opinion those are better places for your money and attention.
Not that we need to pick and choose our causes. It is possible to care about everything, but to do that you need to think about everything. Awareness makes you crazy, though. It is an extremely frustrating thing to have. Which is why I won’t blame most people once they return to their happy bubble of pretending the world doesn’t exist as soon as this KONY thing dies down.
batman is always current
When my dad tells stories about his childhood memories, in my mind they are black and white, distinctly leave it to Beaverish. And who can blame me — a child of Lizzie McGwire, a sign on a telephone pole declaring “9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB,” a half torn bumper sticker on a neighbors’ car urging me to “Peach Bush” — how could I possibly picture the year 1958? As far as I can tell, color hadn’t been invented yet. The TVs were tiny and still had rabbit ears sticking out of the top. People went to sock hops — an enticing yet totally foreign world to the one in which I have grown into a person.
In one story my dad describes how, every August, just before school began, my Grandma would take him to buy a new lunch box. They went to a huge bargain store and he was allowed to browse the aisles and select the proverbial lunch receptacle of his dreams. His family wasn’t very well-off and there wasn’t a lot of breathing room in the budget, so imagine this seven year old’s excitement. He used to try and predict exactly what lunch box would be cool that year, deciding the summer before second grade on a Batman themed one. You can’t go wrong with Batman, or so he thought.
He strutted into school that first day bearing his Batbox with pride and eagerly anticipating the envy of his classmates. When lunch rolled around, he remembers taking it out of his cubby, knowing it would be a hit.
"Oh," said someone who sat nearby. "You have Batman. That was last years’ lunch box."
Last years’ lunch box. Impossible. How had this escaped him?
The other kids reacted pretty similarly — voices flat and uninterested.
"Oh, Batman? That’s cool. My little brother has that one. It was a hand-me-down."
"Hey man, I can’t believe you didn’t know that was last years’!"
He felt utterly crushed as the slow and bitter realization of his inevitable uncoolness sunk in. As he walked home that day, he paused near the front yard of the school and looked back at a statue of the Virgin Mary. He says he could’ve sworn he saw her shake her head and whisper, “I can’t believe you didn’t know about that lunch box thing.”
This story seems pretty much like run of the mill kid stuff, except that he still remembers it so many decades later. In full technicolor, not black and white. All the disappointment and disbelief.
I don’t know what I’ll remember in fifty years but I’m sure a few things will stick out. One or two boyfriends I’ll tell my kids about when they’re planted face-down on their space beds listening to sad music. Maybe a couple of memories will appear in vivid technicolor: vanilla yogurt, sunburns, bus rides, a dazzling person whose pants don’t fit right. Laughing in sleeping bags, reading books, lots of clinging to possibilities. Late night grilled cheeses. Tumblr. A crystallized memory of imaginary and real friends and kisses and gigabytes of inhibitions. How much of it will stay? Already I’m worried that there aren’t enough words in all the languages in the whole world to describe every facet and flavor of living. I’m really worried about this. Cause I feel new feelings every day and ninety eight percent of the time I flap words around like a moron, completely unable to articulate them.
I don’t know if this was less of a problem in 1958, or whether the process of being human was always more than anyone could put into words. All I know is I wish Batman had been the lunchbox of the year that year if only to spare one person a bad day, but since it was not, I have a story, a little shred of history. Amazing how that works.
My dad and I were talking over some poems once and I wondered out loud to him why the most famous, publishable kind of poem always seemed parched and dried out.
"Yours are too sentimental." he said. "too nostalgic, too seeped in your own emotions. It’s considered an undesirable quality in the literary world."
I read him a poem by Anne Sexton, the kind that screams every word straight from the expansion of the writers lungs — the kind of poem that’s full of guts and love and hurt.
"Theres sentiment in that, isn’t there?" I asked him.
He said, “it’s full of feeling. Powerful feeling, but it isn’t at all sentimental.”
I searched the spidery heart-gut-words that I’d grown so attached to, looking for a dead giveaway. Like staring at a perfect lawn in order to discern why your own is all full of weeds.
"What does it mean, sentimental? What’s the definition? How can I get rid of mine?"
My father studied the insides of his spectacles, the beginnings of his cuticles, and some football players punting on TV. “Its certainly your age in part. Everything is so dramatic when you’re sixteen. But I suppose sentimental is trite. When your writing becomes self indulgent and seeped in glorified events of the past. I don’t always think you should get rid of it. I think it’s kind of nice.”
But you know how my mind works like a coffee grinder. Ever since that conversation I have examined everything I do — not only my writing but day to day encounters as well, that could turn me self indulgent and unpublishable. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously, I think.
If sentimental is crying at YouTube videos of precocious kids and reminiscing frequently within the safety of your own poems and occasionally writing sappy, sleep-deprived letters to friends in order to express how grateful and lucky you feel to have them then I am, by all accounts, a sentimental maniac. I try not to trigger any gag reflexes or roll any eyes but if I do, all it means is that there’s someone in the world who’s feeling more cynical than me.
I’ve forayed into cynicism and decided that I’d much prefer to be the crazy emoting chick than a person who feels cold and parched on the inside, stripped bare as a meaningless poem. So many people try to keep up appearances through means of eliminating all real, genuine emotion from their dialect. Which, at risk of digging myself further into my literary grave, I find sad.
disney and the media schpeel
Disney princesses and fairy tales receive a lot of flack for distorting kids’ views on the world and tampering with their young, malleable kid-minds. As in, grah grah grah, princesses are unrealistically disproportionate! They talk to singing rodents, they act bashful and submissive and they each have a brawny manly counterpart, thus they must be spreading the wrong message to our impressionable spawn! While there may be a grain of truth to these allegations, I do not hold Ariel and Sebastian at fault for an appearance-obsessed society or an influx of sixteen year old girls who constantly weep along with Taylor Swift songs. Hey, it happens to the best of us. The media didn’t create human expectations. Humans created the media. And it seems to me that the majority of the time we are blaming our resident evil geniuses, entertainers and advertisers for a problem that has existed since back when people were eating rocks in front of their TVs. We, and I mean all people — even those allegedly heartless steak-eaters with Y chromosomes who are not supposed to have feelings at all, have at some point fallen victim to unmet expectations, distorted hopes, disillusionment and youthful fantasies that the world would someday be perfect for us.
Personally, I am tired of the feminista brigade against shows created for tiny tots. I may have been a child with strange interests (talking to a fake plant named Harold, crouching behind the couch with a magnifying glass pretending to be Jane Goodall, dreaming of becoming a mail man or an al falfa sprout, et al…) but I saw all the normal kid shows too, and I would like to say that I blame my current angsty imbalance and occasional misanthropy on something else entirely! I saw every Disney princess movie known to man, and although I didn’t take a particular liking to any of them, I managed to muster a primal and brainless enjoyment for each and every one. Not once do I recall feeling that my six-year-old body was unworthy in comparison with the cartoons in front of me. Not once did the thought ever even enter my head. Why? Because in my humble opinion, six year olds are just not thinking about that stuff. When you’re young you’re mostly influenced by real-life things that happen to you, because so many of them are entirely new. Media literacy takes on a secondary importance because, well, these are little kids with other things to occupy their constantly bombarded minds.
I think that we should pay more attention instead to the signals we send to twelve, sixteen, twenty-four, fifty-six year olds… Adults are just as easily influenced by the programs and ads that reach them, and it’s only after an initial insecurity has meandered its way into your head on its own that a TV program can then go and validate it. Sex and the City is just as at fault for skewing our society’s views on healthy relationships as Sleeping Beauty. I mean, tell me you’ve never channeled a fictional person while interacting with someone in real life. So many adults take cues from TV and movies that it has become impossible to say what a “real” person would even do anymore. The media has muddied the brush strokes of typical human behavior, and for that I do not blame children’s movies. In a way, children are better at distinguishing screen life from real life. Not all the time. (See my Jane Goodall fantasy.) But sometimes. And often, where it counts.
I’m not saying this primal and subliminal signaling is a bad thing, and I’m not saying it’s a good thing either. As a fully immersed native of the technology populace, I can say with confidence that a world in which I am constantly looking at ads and shows and story lines is all that I have ever known. I think that perhaps a more painful perspective on love and romance has been delivered via literature and life experience — that people are complicated, and in real life the world does not revolve around one definitive hero. Bad guys and good guys are often interchangeable, and usually good people hurt each other simply because they want different things. If your brain is too big for your heart, you will definitely think your way out of happiness, and if you make a million wishes on shooting stars but you’re lazy and don’t work hard, you will end up in the refrigerator box of your dreams. Perhaps it’s criminal to misrepresent these truths in kids’ movies because it is sort of a shock once they kick in later on in life. But honestly, an understanding of psychological complexity and mature relationships is not what I was looking for in kindergarten either. I wanted — expected — a happy ending, and I wanted to color. And maybe find some apes and document their behavior. But only if it was a good day. And seriously, back then, that was good enough for me.