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Happy Bloomsday!

June 16, 2014

Happy Bloomsday!

To commemorate the day, here’s something I wrote a few months ago for a series on Tumblr called “…Is My Thing,”

The “…Is My Thing” series asks people to write guest posts about the book that was the starting point, or the source of their field of interest within literature.

For mine, I chose… you guessed it, Ulysses.

Hope you enjoy!

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Think about an aspect of your life story and rewrite it, telling the tale from another angle or perspective. For example, if your family always considered you to be a difficult teenager, write about other interpretations of your behavior. Or if you’ve always been considered successful, write about the fear of failure that lurks beneath the facade. Find a way to reconstruct an aspect of your personal narrative that explores the complexity of who you are.

 

“She’s nice and all…but she’s really quiet.” That’s what they would write in the 5th grade slam book about me. If there were a slam book, that is. Those are the words that would float around in the theoretical slam book of life. I was in the double digits, dammit, and I didn’t even have a good slam against me. What would that say about me? Other girls had “Cool” and “Hot” and “Sporty” and other Spice Girl-alias like terms to describe them, along with a list of guys they’ve kissed during rousing parent-in-the-other-room-monitored games of spin the bottle played at family super bowl parties. I had never even been to a party before—my time instead being holed up in my room reading the Michelle Tanner novel series. I squealed with delight when I noticed that Mary Kate and/or Ashley donned a pink dress that I owned on the cover. In this particular issue, Michelle is bummed because all it said in her class’s slam book was that she was a good speller. She was in the double digits, dammit, and all her classmates could say about her was that she was a good speller?!  I think I’m a good speller too, but not enough for that to be my only quality but at least it’s descriptive! “Quiet” means nothing, and that pesky “nice” is outright insulting. How dare they think that about me?!  I’ll make my mark in that book of life one day, and that day begins today…

 

“Jamie buys all her clothes at the flea market,” Stephanie whispered behind my back. I looked down at my pea-green leggings and green striped sweater. I distinctly remember my mom purchasing those leggings in the clearance section at Kids R’ Us and the sweater I got as a gift for Christmas. My outfit was not only NOT purchased at a cheap flea market, but was much nicer than what she had on. In a Catholic school, dress down days came once in a blue moon, and you always wanted to make sure you wore your coolest, most in-style outfit you begged your mom to buy for you. Being a rather poor kid in a private school located in one of the richest towns in Westchester made that a little difficult, but I made do with what I had. Who was Stephanie to talk, anyway? Last year during the big children’s Easter mass I had on a beautiful Easter Parade-esque dress and bonnet from Lord & Taylor while she showed up in a tie-dye shirt and jeans and picked her nose for 40% of the mass. At least I knew when to dress up and how to do it in style.

 

“Yeah, she said all of your clothes are from there because your family’s too poor to go shopping anywhere else,” my friend Julia confirmed that what I heard was true. Anger coursed over my body. I thought of going over there and setting her straight and letting her know exactly where my outfit was from, and about the Abercrombie and Fitch shirt I purchased over the summer. (Sure, it was an irregular-sized A&F shirt from the flea market, but she didn’t have to know that.) Maybe a good portion of my clothes were from the flea market, but at least I had style. I gathered my thoughts and turned to Julia, “I should punch her in her stupid face!” I said, as I made a fist with my tiny, weak hand. Then the bell rang and break was over, and it was time to study vocabulary. The battle was soon forgotten when Stephanie would be last in line behind me during the spelling bee, rooting me on…  “She kept touching me, and made me nervous. That’s why we lost,” I’d explain to my friends later when I blanked during the last round. “She didn’t win either, so whatever.”

 

I realized that it would be hard for people to think of me any other way than “quiet,” but it didn’t matter, and “nice” wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe “buys all her clothes at the flea market” would be my description in the slam book of life, but at least that means I’m resourceful. And if anyone complemented my style and found out where my clothing came from, I could be a fashion trailblazer for the lower middle class. At least they couldn’t have me down as “a good speller,” maybe “kind-of good,” but that would be downright silly. I could rest easy knowing that I had once again had something in common with Michelle Tanner, and this time, I may have even had something better.

Blast from the Past

November 28, 2012

Hello, people of the internet! It’s been a while, but I’m here for your blog-viewing pleasure once again. Crazy weather out there, amiright? Fortunately, I’ve been spared any bad damage from both the hurricane and the Nor’easter (I live on the East Coast). Unfortunately, I can’t use either of those as an excuse for why I haven’t been writing as much as I should have been. Ok, wait, I can come up with an excuse, here it goes: I wanted to write a lot this past month, but because of the storms I got super lethargic and decided to just be immobile in my bed, eating leftover Halloween candy and watching marathons of 30 Rock and Law & Order: SVU on Netflix. Ok, that’s not really an excuse, that’s just the God’s honest truth. But, I will say that I’ve learned something from this: leftover Twizzlers really aren’t all that bad. Sure, they’re stale and tougher to eat, but they still taste pretty damn good.
Anyway, I hope everyone out there, especially on the East Coast, has been staying safe, warm, and dry. And if you are, I hope that you’re doing everything within your means to help out with those who aren’t as lucky. It’s tough out there for a lot of people, but if you have even any inkling of ability to help in any capacity, it doesn’t hurt. We’re all here for each other, and as long as we remember that, we can make it easier to weather any storm–figuratively and literally.
Ok, so I got a little mushy there, but the message still rings true. And now to the point of this entry: this year I’ve finally decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. (So the procrastinating on writing has hit me even harder than usual–woowee!) But it’s a really interesting venture and I hope to at very least make some progress in my work. I usually stick to writing short stories and non-fiction, so this is a challenge for me. I’ve decided to amp up the challenge aspect a bit even more by writing a YA novel. I have a ton of ideas, it’s just now down to the point of getting them all out eloquently and really visualizing how I imagine it all playing out. I’ve been reading through on all of the amazingly helpful and handy info and hints on the NaNoWriMo website and a few have really helped me flesh out my main character and her life.
Basically, it’s through the eyes/mind of a socially awkward high school Freshman, who has difficulty making friends. One of the writing exercises I came across was to have a journal in which you write in the voice of your character. I decided that was perfect, and resurrected my old Xanga for just that purpose. Then I realized, while I’m there, maybe I should go back years and years ago and take a look at what I was writing when I was a socially awkward 15-16 year old, to get an even firmer grasp on how my character views the world.
Oh, boy, did I find a treasure chest of awkward embarrassing gold. Allow me, in one of possibly many posts, to introduce you to 15 year old, high school sophomore Jamie. I briefly have alluded to her in a prior post, but in this you’ll get to the heart of the seedy world that was my online journal and all of the deep, dark, personal secrets kept there for random online people to see.
So, without further ado……
saturday, august 16, 2003
anywho, thursday night was the big blackout–that wasn’t fun. but yesterday was pretty cool. first, the power came back on at our house at 7:45 am–so i was extremely happy lol. then i went 2 cc w/ my mommy. we went at 11:30 and there was like, no one there lol. and i bought the movie “the ref” which made me very happy. i’m sorry but i think denis leary is sexy . there’s something about the whole attitude/leather jacket thing that attracts me to him lol. plus he’s really funny.anywho, i’ll write more later. now i hafta tape denis leary’s roast, and go in the other room and try 2 see some of the beginning of snl, since it’s the one w/ brittany murphey and adam sandler sings the chanukah song part 3 in the beginning–ahh adam sandler, my love . oh well even if i can’t see it i taped it the last time it was on anyway lol. well, that’s all for now–buh bye.
What 15 year old girl in the year 2003 DIDN’T have crushes on either Denis Leary or Adam Sandler? Oh, all the 15 year old girls, you say? Oh. Anywho…. Oh, I should also mention that “cc” = “Cross County,” a local outdoor mall. At this same exact time countless other teenagers, most of which were my peers and the like, were at the same mall–except hanging out behind the movie theater drinking, smoking weed and doing ecstasy  I took pleasure in going out with my “mommy” to Sam Goody. I felt bad ass roaming the aisles, looking for  the new Las Ketchup CD. Then I’d go over to Suncoast and stare at the VHS section for what seemed like hours, before finally ending up in the YA section of Waldenbooks. How I miss those rebellious years.
friday, august 22, 2003ehh…today was pretty boring. i slept like, almost the whole day lol. oooh but i asked larry to be my fake fiance!!! we’re gonna get married in vegas in one of those elvis chapels on april 5th!! lol and katie’s gonna be my maid of honor. i always wanted to pretend i had a fiance lol. i’m such a dork. ttyl. ~jamie
Larry & I stopped talking not long after this took place. Not for any reason other than we weren’t actually friends to begin with. He was the friend of my friend’s boyfriend at the time. They also broke up not long after this, putting the nail in our fake-engagement coffin. I think I was supposed to be “set up” with this Larry fellow, but I didn’t actually know much about him or what he looked like, and I never really left my house outside on my own anyway.  I’ve seen him a few times working in the grooming station at PetSmart. He has no clue who I am, which is probably for the best so he can judge me just as a stranger staring through the glass pane at all of the cute puppies who are not mine since I don’t even have a pet, as opposed to judging me as the girl who lost all of her faculties after her fake fiance stopped talking to her (I think there’s a series of ABC Family movies on that topic.)
tuesday, august 19, 2003omg today i bought the ice age dvd…dude i thought that movie was gonna be really funny…it made me cry!!! the baby’s mom and the mammoth’s family, and diego , dude that was not cool!! i was sitting there bawling. i hate crying during movies lol. and i bought the dvd to see the behind the scenes stuff, so i could see denis leary–and they only showed him for like 1 minute!!!!! loland i looked all over sam goody again for the comedy section, and they definitley got rid of it. where the comedy cds were is all techno crap now. techno????? who the hell buys techno cds??? lol. anyway i hope fye still has their comedy section. even though it’s kinda expensive there i don’t care lol.what’s up with that ataris song? “boys of summer” or whatever. am i the only person who doesn’t like it?? lol they play it everywhere and it really annoys me. oooh i wanna try to make a cool neopets guild layout. hehe neopets…i’m such a dork lol. well, that’s all for now. i’m out.ok i just re-read this and i really have to stop saying “dude” before i annoy myself lol.~jamie

I still don’t like that Ataris cover. And I still say “dude” too much.

friday, august 29, 2003 
i’ve got bangs again! well sort of, they’re kinda half bangs, lol. anyway, when they’re not fixed up and stuff they get kinda weird but that’s ok b/c i can just clip them back. yah. well…that’s my big update for today lol. now i’m going to eat my hot apple pie, listen to the radio, and wait for someone to come on lol. oooh yay the colin quinn forum is back up–woop woop!!! ttyl  ~jamie

“yay the Colin Quinn forum is back up.” Also, I still have messed up bangs. Except now they’re messed up cuz I clumsily took a kitchen scissor to them on Halloween. Which sounds more like something that should have happened then, not now.

saturday, august 30, 2003
I got “two if by sea” on dvd today!!! woop woop!! lol despite what people have said, i liked it. i dunno i’mweird. i think denis looked soo hot in it lol. and sandra bullock is my favorite actress. oooh speaking of him, i mentioned about his celebrity hat trick event thing to my grandma…and she was like, seriously considering ways for me to go. i love my grammy!! but i’ll probably end up not going though . but if i did that would be so freakin cool.yah i didn’t see the whole vmas yet. but i saw the ending twice, which is ok since that was when sandler was on (hysterical) and the metallica performance when they played all the classic mtv songs. that was really cool. that whole britney/madonna/christina thing was soooo nasty. i didn’t even see it but the pictures alone are just….ugh. and she’s like, old enough to be their mom. sick.but it’s not even “shocking” anymore. they’re just doing anything to get attention. they’ve gone so over the line, what’s left? the only way what britney and christina do could be considered “shocking” is if they did just the opposite. and actually stayed fully clothed through a whole performance. or be really shocking and like, i dunno, have a duet and wear amish type clothes and sing air supply or something.now that would be good quality entertainment. i’d watch that lol.or the most shocking thing of all: stay fully clothed and actually show talent. that would be very jaw-dropping.well, that’s all for now. ttyl~jamie.
I can’t believe there was ever a time in my life where I said that something Metallica did was “cool,” but here it is–and in writing, nonetheless. Then again, this was from the same girl who searched tirelessly for one of the worst movies ever made, and then actually “enjoyed” it. Also my little cultural rant at the end is pretty intense. Kind of wrong on a lot of levels, but you still have to love the veracity of it! (I was very passionate about keeping things child-friendly. I once told a classmate that he must not love Jesus if he likes Marilyn Manson. At the same time I was also actively participating on the Cringe Humor forums. I was a girl of complex standards and ideologies, something I still pride myself on to this day.
time jump!
saturday, february 14, 2004

lets see, nuthin too interesting has been happening today. umm i attempted to make a valentine cake for my family. that failed miserably. it was fine until i had to put the eggs in. i put one egg in, and everything was fine. then when i tried to crack open the other egg, it wasn’t like, opening lol. then it cracked open a little bit, and it like oozed out (from the top i might add) all black and blue and bubbly. i almost vomited it was so nasty. and the smell was soooo horrible. luckily, it didn’t get in the batter, however some of it may have dripped in. the batter didn’t smell that good, so i wasn’t sure if any of that satanic egg got in, or the batter itself was just bad. anywho, my grandpa flushed the batter down the toilet and threw the garbage with the evil egg in it in the incinerator,so no one got any cake, obviously lol, and all of my mixing went to waste. oh well, maybe some other time. it was gonna have pink icing and i had that stuff where you can write stuff and make designs too . whatever maybe i’ll make it tomorrow, as long as i buy eggs that aren’t spawns of hell and batter that’s not possibly rotten. ooh, and on another note: i have no school next week!!!!! yayness!!!!!!!!! k, that’s it for now. buh bye. jamie

This is what happens when you’re 16 and you  have no Valentines nor any prospect of a Valentine. You make cakes for your family that are really just for yourself, then end up sacrificing a tiny baby chicken in the process. Oh, I remember this event clearly, and that’s something I didn’t include in the entry: when I initially saw that blue bubbly stuff, I immediately thought it was a baby bird’s brains and freaked out as well as almost started crying. I guess I didn’t want anyone who read my Xanga (two of my friends) to think I was that uncool. This was when I started transitioning into being a bit more witty and funny in my journal, but I’ll spare you those entries. Mainly so you don’t see how much more interesting I was then than I am now.
But basically, I could go back and comment on my old journal entries forever. So, I’m probably not going to base my character off myself entirely (are teenage girls into Colin Quinn? Do you think they’d relate?) but at least I know where I’m going with my character now. And no, she won’t be saying “dude” all that much…

Edit: Ok, so I had the idea brewing for this post for a while now, if you couldn’t tell. I started writing it about 3 or 4 weeks ago, but a couple of events stopped me from writing altogether for a short while. I recently had some self-reflection kinda thing going on and reading through all of this made me aware of some things about myself.

Despite all the awkwardness, childishness, silliness, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I remember at the time wishing I were “edgier” had more guys around and did cooler stuff. I remember being 16 and reading other girls’  livejournals, deadjournals, and xangas and just envying how much more interesting their lives were. Drugs, sex, alcohol, parties, mischief… it all intrigued me though I knew I myself would never be that girl. I’d lament then, and again later, at how little life experiences I had and then eventually wonder–how could I possibly be a writer while I never myself tried anything that most “writers” had tried and experienced? It took a while before I realized that I’d be fine doing what I’d been doing all along, writing a mix of what I know as well as what I’ve learned and picked up from others. Remembering every story told to me, every journal surreptitiously read, every AIM away message, every overheard school locker conversation. I keep all of that in mind, and keep my in-brain knowledge base forever expanding with every new person I meet and story I read.

I’m glad I didn’t have a lot of those experiences because if I did… I don’t know where I’d be right now. I’ m by no means trying to paint myself as a perfect person here, and more so than that I’m not trying to make villains out of anyone based on the choices they’ve made. But I am happy with the choices I have made, even if I thought I’d never say that. When you look around you and realize that you’re in the middle of a waste(d)land, with so few people boasting any sort of promising futures because of decisions they made in high school, it hurts. To see people who you knew could have been great if maybe they just never gave up the fight. And, the worst, people whose past choices and actions have contributed in taking their lives from them years down the line, when they were just starting to figure things out.

This isn’t an anti-drugs PSA. Nor an anti-alcohol PSA. Hell, it’s not even an anti-bad decisions PSA. Screw it, we all make ’em. It’s not a PSA for anything–I’m no good at telling others what to do. But I do believe that there’s merit in revisiting the past from time to time, even if it’s only to mock it. Retracing your steps and seeing what led you to where you are today; whether it’s for a do-over, or to be grateful.  And there’s nothing wrong with taking in the experiences of all those around you. When their stories are ended, someone’s gotta be there to put all the pages together.

Sometimes the people who made the hairiest choices and decisions will create the most beautiful words and images ever known. Sometimes it’s that girl who sat at her computer, trolling comedy message boards and eating one too many McDonald’s Hot Apple Pies (that’s a story for another time). Who knows? But if there’s a story you want to tell, yours or someone else’s, don’t be afraid to go for it; sometimes it’s all we have.

And if anyone else’s looking for good material to write about an awkward, goofy teenage girl, I’m more than willing to share embarrassing journal entries from yesteryear at any given time. Maybe I can even dig up some pictures to accompany them…

PS: If you are participating in NaNoWriMo–friend me! I know there’s only like, 3 days left in the month but there’s always enough time for friendship! Also, with that last tiny bit of rainbowponymush you’re completely allowed to strangle me 🙂

Politeness Politics

September 19, 2012

I consider myself to be a very polite person. I always say “thank you” when someone holds the door for me, or picks up something I’ve dropped. I greet everyone with a friendly smile and a “hello” or a wave. I’m always sure to apologize if I ever bump into someone. Basically, I consider myself adept at following the customs of everyday niceties. There are people out there who are quite inept at these simple things, but I’ll save that for another discussion.

What I’m here today to discuss is this: what are the barriers of politeness? I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s been in situations where it’s hard to discern when your politeness has gone too far–when you’ve held your smile for just a moment too long, you’ve laughed just a little too obviously loud at a not-funny joke, or when–and this is the absolute worst of all–other people don’t actually SEE your niceness.

My whole life I’ve worked 9-5 jobs. (Ok, that’s not true, I haven’t worked 9-5 jobs my ENTIRE life, don’t allow me to trick you into thinking that, as an infant, I sat behind a desk and made Excel spreadsheets and took phone calls for presidents and treasurer. See how polite I am? Who else would have pointed that out?) Since I’ve been in the “workforce” I’ve held 9-5 jobs. (That’s better!) Most people’s blood would curdle at the mere thought of that, but I’ve managed pretty well. If anything the hard part, more than the mundane aspect of most of them, was the having to exchange niceties with people to an almost painful degree. Now, I must mention, that at my current job I’m surrounded by co-workers who are not only ridiculously nice and polite, but are also genuinely hilarious and fun to be around. So, every topic presented from this point forth is in regards to prior jobs and prior employers. (And no, this isn’t just a nicety to save face, but the actual, God’s honest truth.)

For example, at all prior jobs there was always the “funny guy,” the “comedian,” the “jokester” who was there to intervene and bring some fun and exuberance to the otherwise stuffy atmosphere–usually of some high rank, who was, more often than not, not very funny. For example, when I was younger I would occasionally accompany my mom to her job.  As I got older, I’d help with different tasks here and there, filing, watering plants–you know, the important stuff. But early on I would usually sit by her desk with some pencils and highlighters and create art. My “art” during this time frame was mainly comprised of poorly drawn fictitious pop music groups that I would create. I’d mainly base them off of the Spice Girls, but with new bands like S Club 7 out, I realized that there was no limit to how many members my music groups could have! Spice Girls have five members, S Club 7 has seven (if you really wanted to count the dudes in the group, that is) but GIRLZ has eight! Every member would have a different outfit that would accentuate her individual personality, all would have fun names and nicknames, and they would all be British. And they’d have songs too, I guess, I never really got around to that aspect of it. Actually, I’d never really get around to completing most of those drawings since I’d usually only be working with about five highlighters and wouldn’t have different colors for the other members. Eventually, I grew out of the girl group phase and, having hardly any artistic skill, the time had come for me to start helping out at work with more important tasks. And so, I was upgraded from pop music artisan to data entry. Once proficiently skilled at this, I found myself part-time employed at my mom’s job dealing with scanning and even more data entry with the occasional bonus of stuffing envelopes. It didn’t bother me–it was busy work but for a sixteen year old with a new cash flow, it was a joy. Well, the work aspect of it, that is…

Something that I’ve noticed in time is that if an old Italian man thinks a joke is funny, you will hear that same joke every time you see that man for as long as possible. When I’d join my mother at work occasionally after school as a child her boss would come over to me and say “heh, I see you brought your mother to work today.” I, as a girl of about 9 or 10, found this joke pretty funny, and so, I laughed both heartily and politely. And it was because of this that I heard that same joke every time I would see this man, right up to and including when I was 16 and working there every day. I would hear it every. single. day. This was one of those moments where I really had to sit down and start thinking things over. Do I keep laughing every time he says it? Do I allow him to think it’s still funny after all these years? Do I tone down my laughter ever so much each day so he finally gets the hint and we can walk away from this without ever mentioning it again? Do I just not laugh at all anymore and stop it abruptly? Something needs to be done–but what? I eventually decided to keep laughing every time because he was the one who was in charge of my paycheck.

I’d run into this situation plenty more times in my life, and I still occasionally find myself holding a laugh or a smile for just a pinch too long (ever turn away from someone and have to re-adjust your facial muscles to stop the polite grin from expanding further so you don’t end up looking like an even more demented Cheshire Cat? It’s not as fun as it sounds, trust me.) But I’ve also run into another predicament: when people don’t see your random acts of politeness and how to handle it accordingly. Ok, I’m not saying I act nice just to get people to notice, nor is that the only reason anyone should be polite. However, there are moments when the other person seeing your kindness or generosity is that dividing line between being cool with them, and them thinking you’re a complete and total asshat. Like if you tip a bartender or barista (a substantial tip, too) right as they turn their backs so they don’t notice and you then you have to hope they won’t take it out on you the fact that they just spent five minutes making your extra-foamy latte or Harvey Wallbanger when they could have been flirting with a much more attractive patron or customer because hey, college is expensive and you try getting up at 5 am or working until 5 am before or after classes just for money to spend on books you’d need sexual release sometime, too.

So, to avoid a spitty drink further down the road (that ain’t just foam on that latte, bub) you WANT them to notice your kindness. Because a job well done deserves a tip, and only people without souls or spare change would not leave one. But now you’ve left them the last of your change and they didn’t notice. What do you do?  Do you try to get their attention and let them know? Do you wait until their looking and hover your hand over their tip cup so they see? Do you George Costanza it and actually TAKE the money out just to put it back in? I don’t know, it’s up to you. I don’t really know the answer to any of these questions that I’ve posed, because I still run into these problems daily which is why I don’t like going out much.

Basically, I’m no good at social interactions, is what I’m saying. But hey–BLOG!

Though, there is one thing I DO know: if things don’t pan out in my life and current work situation, I’ll be more than willing to fake laughter for money. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again!

There will never again be a party quite like that of an S Club party.

As my last post stated, I was part of this awesome thing called The Worst! That the fine, fine author of Fine Fine Music, Cassie J. Sneider, put together. (For more information on that, well, check out my last post!) It was the first time I had ever done anything quite like it, and it was one of the coolest experiences in my life. I got to share the stage with some amazingly talented people and put myself out there in ways I hadn’t thought possible before. Of course, I was overly nervous, read to fast and stammered over most of my words, as to be expected, but I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with that. So, I thought I’d share the story I read for all of you fine, fine readers out there. Hope you enjoy, and don’t worry–I’m fully aware of how weird I am. So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Worst: Bad Habits a.k.a. The Worst New Millennium i.e. Puberty & Paranoia.

As an only child living in an apartment building devoid of any (normal) children my age, I was often left to my own devices to create entertainment. My building consisted mainly of older women, who I greatly enjoyed the company of, and actually preferred to any of the kids that lived nearby. There was only one girl around my age who lived in the next apartment over who I would occasionally play with. Her name was Nicole – at least that’s what we’ll call her for the sake of this story because I can’t recall her real name. I never really liked or trusted Nicole. My last straw was when we were at our complex’s park and she persuaded me to play on the tire swing with her. I, at the tender age of seven, had a love/hate relationship with the mythical tire swing. I appreciated the use of found items to create a fun, spinny ride. However, on the flip side, I was afraid of being stuck in one, forever slowly spinning until I would inevitably slide through the middle and drown in my own pool of tears.

So anyway, we’re in this tire swing and I asked her not to leave me alone in there. She rolled her eyes and told me she wouldn’t. The next thing I know, we’re spinning wildly with reckless abandon, when I notice her slip under my legs and through the hole in the middle. Once out, she laughed at me and ran off to undoubtedly cause more mischief on the monkey bars. I cried out to my grandmother for help, but she was unable to get away from Nicole’s mother, who was listing all of the health benefits of chain-smoking and her total adoration of Camel cigarettes (a list she was still exploring five minutes later when I finally, slowly wriggled myself out of the tire swing to safety.) If there’s one thing I will remember for the rest of my life about that woman, it was her penchant for chain-smoking, often blowing smoke in mine, her own children, and anyone she happened to be talking to’s faces. Also, I vividly remember her awesomely ‘80s Farah Fawcett meets Hulk Hogan winged mullet. And her love of windbreakers. Ok, so maybe I actually remember more about her than her daughter, but again, I had more exposure to adults than children at this point in time. But this isn’t about the worst childhood friends or neighbors; it’s about what happens when you isolate yourself in your own, private world. This tire swing incident was just the moment when I decided that the best company to keep was my own.

For the next few years, my time would usually be spent playing with Barbies, reading Cam Jansen novels, watching TV or doing chores with my grandmother. My favorite of the latter was laundry day. A trip to the Laundromat always felt like an adventure. On a summer day I’d marvel at the clothes spinning round and round, wishing I could be in there with them as if it were some kind of crazy water park ride. However, I hated the drying process. It took far too long for my liking and wasn’t nearly as fun to watch. So, while waiting for clothes to dry, I would occupy myself the way any kid my age would:  by fully immersing myself in every tabloid the Laundromat’s seated waiting area had to offer. Star and the National Enquirer were not only idle fodder to pass time with, but instead became required reading material. I mean, how could I NOT want to know about the Dixie Chicks Divorce Shocker?  Just waiting for laundry day wasn’t enough, I had to go out and buy them, too. But every time I reached for an issue of Star on the CVS magazine rack, I couldn’t help but notice the more eye-catching headlines staring back at me: “BAT BOY ON THE LOOSE!” “LIZARD HORROR” “GIANT CLAM KILLS WOMAN!” My mind yearned to know more. I picked up the Sun magazine and set out for answers.

It also happened to be a great time for the “suspend disbelief” tabloids (a phrase I did not yet understand), what with the year 2000 quickly approaching and all of the Y2K madness. Tabloid covers depicted various archaic prophecies, along with new-found Nostradamus warnings: “Year 2000 computer bug will turn machine against man!” “Hundreds of planes will fall out of the sky!” “Cars will stop dead in their tracks!” “Nuclear missiles will launch themselves!” Who cared about the everyday freaks and mutant animals when the end times were upon us? I couldn’t buy a pack of cherry pull & peel Twizzlers from the supermarket without being swarmed by images of the apocalypse. With even the regular news mentioning computer doom, I began to question whether or not I would ever live to see my 12th year. I decided it was time to get some answers, and maybe even find solace in something, and so I looked to the Bible. The Good Book itself. I opened up to an arbitrary page in the Book of Revelation and read:

“I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black sackcloth made of hair and the whole moon became like blood; and the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

I slammed the holy book shut and hid it behind our collection of Mark Twain books we had on display on our TV stand, above all the Disney and rom-com VHS tapes. Thoughts of every image of Armageddon ever depicted in those tabloids flooded my mind. What if they were right? Maybe that Nostradamus guy is on to something. It’s exactly like the Good Book says, the year 2000 will hit, all the computers of the world will reset back to the year 1900, and instead of blasting us back in time on a whirlwind adventure through history, the moon and stars will explode and the world will be set ablaze by earthquakes everywhere. Suddenly, nothing and nowhere felt safe to me anymore. I dreaded my 6th grade religion class, for fear the class would veer into the territory of discussing Judgment Day. I couldn’t enjoy a grilled cheese and bacon at the diner without thinking of the street outside splitting apart. A trip to the circus in the city was overshadowed by thoughts of buildings tumbling and elephants losing it and trampling everyone in their midst. Even when New Year’s Eve came and went without the world exploding all around us, I was still suddenly made aware of an inevitable end I had not ever thought of before. Not just the world’s end, but my own mortality as well; and so came the nights of sleeplessness and 3 AM panic attacks.

I started to think of ways my own body could betray me. I couldn’t understand the tickle in my throat that would cause me to dry heave and panic every night. Suddenly, I felt everything else going wrong with my body, too. I became worried that my blinking was not up to snuff, and so I’d over-blink to ensure that my eyelids were in fact still functional. In my manic, eye-fluttering bouts, I’d cause some of my longer eyelashes to fold in on themselves in the corner of my eye, which just led to yet more paranoia. What if all my eyelashes follow suit and I’m left an eyelash-less freak? I’d make the cover of Sun: “GIRL WITH NO EYELASHES TERRORIZES SUBURBAN NY CITY!” Other young, lonely, panic-stricken girls would follow my lead until we’d form some eyelash-lacking gang of miscreants, wreaking havoc all over Westchester County. Which might have actually been pretty cool, but highly improbable. No, I’d probably just be the weird girl in my class (even more so than I already was), staring longingly at everyone without any eye protection from dirt and debris, which would then just gather in my eyeballs until I’d eventually lose those, too.

So, to prevent any eyelash-related incidents from occurring, I’d find myself playing with my lashes, often resulting in pulling many out, to which I’d then wish upon for no end times in sight. And more eyelashes. And to maybe meet Matthew Lawrence (this was when he was more popular than Joey because of Boy Meets World and all). I’d then make my way up and pick at my eyebrows, too, because, why not? I became obsessed with the minute, utterly fascinated by hair and skin follicles. The eczema I’d developed between my fingers became a playground. I’d pick and chip away at the skin until my desk was covered with dead, white skin. Then, I’d move on to my head, picking away at my scalp, flooding my black top science class desk with a snowstorm of dandruff or dry skin. On a particularly balmy day, I’d have a cascade of both. Then, I’d press my finger over the scattered white pieces, clumping them all together, just to release them and see them fall upon the black again. I neither knew nor cared if people were looking. When I was doing it, it allowed me to spend a few minutes in my own dead-skin bubble; my own private snow globe of dandruff and dry skin.

As much care as I had of how everyone viewed me at every point in the day vanished. My brain was shut off to everything but my own obsession. The end of the world, war, why my crush refused to dance with me at the most recent birthday party at the Girl Scout cabin – I was numb to all of it for just those few moments of the day. The years following would throw at both myself and the world some hurdles that would have seemed impossible to get through before. But I did it. And as time went on, and I found myself entering my teenage years, as awkward as I still was, I found different ways to cope with intimidating situations. I would occupy my time with other people, and going different places and encountering those ever-dreaded high school problems that every teenager must face. And so, I started to slowly leave those little quirks behind. Interpersonal relationships, music, reading, writing…they all became better stress relievers for me. And even when some of those, namely the first, became stress-inducers, I still managed to avoid resorting to picking.

My skin started to heal even on the coldest or driest of days. I found myself looking for adventure and travel as opposed to dreading it. It wasn’t until junior year of high school when an emotionally disturbed new student with no eyebrows or eyelashes who was perpetually laughed at will only be there for a few months until she’s kicked out for threatening another student. And it won’t be until years later when I find out that those “habits” I had may have had more to them than I thought. A few months ago I watched an episode of a show on TLC called “Obsessed.” In this one particular episode, a girl nervously and obsessively picked out the roots of her hair until she was completely bald on one side of her head. In another, a woman feared earthquakes and death and would exhibit signs of paranoia every evening.  It’s not until this point that I realize that all of those compulsions I displayed could have in my later years classified me as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Sure, I’m probably trivializing the term in even stating this, but whether or not I had OCD, I definitely had fears inside me that I couldn’t outright tackle. I also realize that for many, these compulsions aren’t something that can just be “kicked” without professional help, especially in adults. And I’m also not saying that I’m completely devoid of any worry now, or that every time the news reminds us of war, violence, natural disasters, Lindsay Lohan or all of those signs of the end times that my stomach doesn’t sink even the tiniest bit. Nor am I saying that when I sit at my all-black desk at work I don’t have to fight the urge to flood it with white—but I have gotten better at repressing those urges. What I have realized, though, is that the world is always going to remind you of the worst. But it’s up to you to not let it get the best of you. There’s a life to be lived instead of just an end to be feared. I’ve also realized that as long as I have a good dandruff shampoo, a luscious-lash mascara and bottle of Cortizone, I’m going to be just fine. At least until December 20th of this year, then all bets are off.

The Worst! Tomorrow!

August 5, 2012

The Worst! Tomorrow!

Are your Mondays just feeling a little too Monday-ish? Well allow us to change that by starting your work week off by coming to The Worst! tomorrow night at Goodbye Blue Monday!

What’s The Worst!? You might be asking, and why would I want to attend anything that’s already telling me it’s The Worst!? Well cool your jets, little buddy, and stop jumping to conclusions. Here’s a little info on The Worst!:

The Worst! is a hilarious evening of writers, musicians, and other weirdos telling stories about the worst jobs, roommates, and dates they’ve ever had. The Worst! started on March 29, 2012 in California by Cassie J. Sneider, author of Fine Fine Music, storyteller, and dare I say it, rock and roll legend. It’s back this time in good ole New York, with even more stories from even more stellar people:

Cassie J. Sneider (the adorable author of Fine Fine Music)
Andy Animal (the heavenly voice of Stalkers)
William Benton (guitarist for The Phantom Family Halo)
Topher Gross (stylist to the stars)
and….ME?!!!

That’s right, I’ll be joining this lineup of talented, beautiful people (no, I’m not sure how I managed to wriggle my way into this one) for a night of laughter, love and, hopefully not but maybe just a little lice. Come, listen! Laugh! Enjoy! What’s The Worst! that could happen?!

The Worst! is taking place at Goodbye Blue Monday, 1087 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York 112211 tomorrow night (Monday, 8/6 at 8 PM. For any further info, feel free to message me.)