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I’ve been doing several a day since I arrived in California on Thursday morning. My iPhone says it’s 65 degrees out, but it’s been in the late 70s this whole time, and I forgot how much I miss the intensity of the west coast sun. Not just the heat, but the friendliness of the people, the quality Mexican food, the beach, the gelato, the way no one seems to go by any particular schedule or look at the clock. Why did it take so long for my mom to move from suburbia to the beach? This is truly incredible, and I fall asleep right away because we’re right by the water.
Since moving back east, where the weather always sucks, I’ve really grown to appreciate how easy I had it growing up in northern California. Sure the mornings were chilly, but the sun came up before noon everyday and I never owned a jacket. Now I live in ugly, cock blocking, totally disgusting clothes six months out of the year to avoid freezing to death. At least winter is over, but few things pain me more than looking like an Eskimo from November to April. I’m seriously thinking about just refusing to put on a coat next winter. Life is too short to resemble the kid from “A Christmas Story.”
Anyway, being home has been awesome, and tomorrow, I get to see my childhood best buddies, Nikita, Crystal, and Lauren, and I can already hear the much-needed laugh attacks.
Speaking of laugh attacks, I had one last night when I read one of my diaries from junior year of high school. I look back on a lot of my teenage journals and want to smack younger me for taking something the wrong way or being overdramatic about a situation that didn’t go in my favor, and I’ll probably react similarly when I read this blog in five years. Here’s my response to my high school boyfriend “ditching” me for his friends toward the end of my junior year and his senior year. It’s quite entertaining, and I just wish I could tell 16-year-old me to chill out and leave the poor guy alone. That said, he did end up breaking up with me soon after his graduation, so I think my intense reaction stemmed from the fact that I knew deep down he was investing less and less in me with each passing day. Still, epic LOLs:
“Yesterday I was kind of mean to Kevin because he was with his friends. He didn’t walk up to me or say hi at all during recess, so I approached him and he just continued talking to his friends about knives [LOL!] and didn’t listen when I asked a question. Then I walked away for a bit and he eventually came by for a second, but he didn’t walk me to class, so I left in tears [LOLX2]. Then during lunch, he briefly talked to me and then left to go hang out with his friends in Santa Cruz. Oh, and get this: he didn’t even say goodbye when I walked after him. I spent the rest of lunch moping to my friends. In history class, I sent him a text message, to which he didn’t reply, so I sent another saying, ‘Fine, don’t talk to me ALL DAY.’ Then the class watched ‘Pearl Harbor,’ which made me cry even more [LOLs].
After school was track practice, where Kevin and I talked things over. I admitted I was upset because he seemed to be ignoring me and he just said he hadn’t seen his friends in a long time and wanted to visit with them. Then he reminded me, ‘I would never ignore you. I love you.’
I guess I was being selfish, but it just made me sad because he’s always with me and suddenly he wasn’t. But he’s done a lot for me, so the least I can do is back off.”
It’s funny how little it took to make me turn on the waterworks back then. I can’t really cry over a member of the opposite sex anymore. Believe me, I’ve tried, but more often than not, I’m angry/irritated, not so much heartbroken. You can only cry about boys so many times before your default move is to resent one when he lets you down in some way. The point is, these days I just get annoyed and walk away rather than sob and yell, “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME MORE?!”
In the same diary, I chronicled my first big NYC trip, which I took with my drama class since I was big into theater back then. It’s fascinating to read now that I’m actually living there:
“Wow, what an experience. I just finished my Drama trip to New York City, and it was totally unforgettable. I was highly inspired by the end of it to pursue my dream of writing. I know I’ll get there, but writing is such a strange goal when you’re in high school because it’s tough to act on. I’ve tried getting a few internships at The Banner and wrote a couple of columns for The Last Weekend, and that’s about as much as I can find right now. Scotts Valley just doesn’t have the opportunities I need, but New York does.
Monday was hectic because the group flew as a unit and spent the whole day traveling. I was stressed, and I wanted to see Kevin. I kept looking at his photos throughout the trip, and the others with boyfriends and girlfriends did the same. We went to a restaurant called Carnegie’s that’s supposedly pretty famous in New York. That was my first taste of NYC overpricing. A single grilled cheese sandwich cost me $9.25, a bottle of lemonade was $1.25, and I paid $7.95 for a gross piece of chocolate cheesecake. Yikes. That was when I learned I really needed to manage my $180 for the week.”
Little did I know, that was only the beginning! Hello, upper east side rent.
Anyone who keeps up with me in even the smallest capacity knows I’ve spent a lot of time writing about creepers over the past few years. I’ll admit I get a little carried away sometimes, but even those who disagree with my efforts have laughed at some of the things I’ve done. I started a creeper documentation blog back in college, and even Anderson Coop made fun of me for it a while back.
Jokes aside, I think street harassment should be illegal or at least acknowledged by lawmakers, as women find themselves being verbally and/or visually undressed multiple times a day by disgusting pigs. Some of us simply aim to get from A to B without being sexually harassed, and unfortunately this is an unrealistic thing to want in our culture.
The Hollaback! movement is doing a fabulous job holding creepers accountable, and while I’ve definitely called men out for their chauvinistic, violating behavior before, I have a new approach I prefer: I get weird on these guys.
Like many ladies in NYC, I’ve been catcalled more times than I can count. Some have told me to quit “bragging” about being creeped on, but as creeper victims know firsthand, there is NOTHING flattering or boast-worthy about attention of this kind, and I’m often approached when I look and feel repulsive (post-gym/post-work, when I’m most irritable). So when I’ve encountered it and been in a sour mood, I’ve lost my shit on these creepers. I’ve threatened to post their pictures on the internet, told them to fuck their mothers (rude, I know, but so is demanding a random girl on the sidewalk to blow what is undoubtedly your underwhelming cock), and, in some cases, said, “Is this how you’d like someone to talk to your mother, your daughter, or your sister? You’re perpetuating a hostile and unsafe environment for women. Shame on you.”
More often than not, they cower in embarrassment, and while this means I’ve technically “won” the absurd war that shouldn’t exist in the first place, I never feel better afterward. I feel a rage burning in my chest, and my day has been poisoned because I chose to be malicious to some creeper who is not worth an ounce of my energy.
So what do I do now when creepers bug me? I bring out my daffy sense of humor and make faces.
Take last night, for example. On a subway ride to midtown, this old guy would not stop staring in my direction. Once I was certain he was looking at me and not just zoning out, I began making blowfish faces and sticking out my tongue. He didn’t stop staring, but his look morphed from predatory to downright disturbed. I successfully turned the tables on him and he didn’t know what to do. Objectifying me, however, was no longer an option.
Something similar happened on the subway platform last week. When one guy wouldn’t look away from me, I popped my jaw out of place, sounding off the room with an ear-piercing crack. That’s another thing: I have a bum jaw and can take it out of its socket at any given time, which frightens a lot of folks. I’m technically never supposed to do this, but I do when it’s especially tight or I want to fuck with people. So I did it the other night, and unfortunately, the guy seemed to find it cute, as he popped his jaw out of place moments later. I can’t help it if others are nuttier than I am, but I am off to a good start with this creeper prevention strategy.
I know what you’re thinking: Laura, how old are you? Twenty years younger than my actual age (that would make me around 5), but that’s not the point.
The truth is, I don’t like the negative mood I’m in after I call men out for bothering me, but I don’t want them to think it’s OK to look at me like a piece of meat they plan on ripping to shreds, so I make myself as hideous and silly as possible. Hey, I’m not on the subway to pick up guys, and I actually enjoy being ridiculously goofy. I grew up watching Jim Carrey and other slapstick comedians, so funny faces suit me. If these creepers get to creep on me, I get to be weird and ugly. Believe it or not, it’s quite therapeutic to make fugly expressions. I’m the queen of them, and once creepshows realize that, they’re like, “What the hell?” How’s that for a gamechanger?
It’s kind of a genius plan. Nobody’s feelings are hurt. No one runs away livid. No one tells anyone to go fuck their mother. No one receives a sexism lecture. I get to channel my inner elementary school student/wannabe comedian and creepers get a funny story to share with their other creeper friends. I’ve only done this three times since last night, but the results have all been amazing. I have one more thing to laugh about each day and don’t need to blow up on someone to reach that point.
Call me insane, disrespectful, whatever works best for you, but I like this method, and I’m sad I didn’t think of it earlier.
When it comes to writers, I’m not the best out there. I’ve earned most of my editorial/writing positions based on stamina and persistence, not talent (as joyless commenters at my college newspaper loved to remind me). I never stop practicing, but I’ll never be on par with gems such as Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace. I don’t aspire to have careers like theirs, and that’s fine.
That said, I do become sad and even a little disappointed when people fail to use commas. I don’t go crazy with commas, but I do use them every time there’s a break in one of my lines. I find myself advising new writers all the time, “If you hear a pause, insert a comma.” Not everyone wants to honor the comma, and this brings out the worst in me. Don’t you want to give your readers the extra second or two to process your phrase? Don’t you want to split up your thoughts to give each of them the time they deserve?
I don’t mean to complain or criticize. Really, to each his own. There are plenty of writing rules I break on a regular basis, but for some reason, it physically pains me when writers overlook the value of a comma.
Do you have any writing pet peeves? Share with me in the comments section. I’d love to hear all about them, even if I rub you the wrong way with my own preferences I rarely capitalize anything on Twitter, and boy, does that bug some of my followers!
Remember when I was taunted by centipedes last fall? It’s happening again. A giant, long-legged centipede just stormed into my room like he owned the place and ran into my closet, surely making himself at home in one of my pairs of boots. Imagine slipping on your shoes before work only to step on a venomous, hideous bug. That’s not how I like to start my days, and I certainly don’t like to end them worrying about evil centipedes.
Lord knows I’m not getting any sleep tonight. Any advice on how to take on these multi-legged demons? How can I find, better yet, kill him when he moves so quickly? Knowing my luck, he’ll creep up on me just as I’m settling into bed, tip toe across my skin, and assault.
So, experts: How do I exterminate this dude and his hidden cronies? They roam in packs, so I know he isn’t the only one of his kind in this apartment.
This isn’t going to be a fun night for me. As the old adage goes, “[I]f you enjoy frightening others, you will be reborn as a centipede.”
My mom found an old journal of mine a couple of months back and scanned a few pages onto the internet for kicks. Everything about the notebook is funny, but the “P.S.” line on this sheet of paper sticks out to me most:
“P.S. I will write interesting stories.” Can I do it, folks? Have I at least gotten close in the decade and a half since I documented my commitment? I sure hope so, otherwise there’s really no hope for me at all. This diary (or journal … apparently I was battling with what to call it) chronicles my 1997 relocation from Los Angeles to nor Cal, a major transition time for me and my family. Here’s what else I had to say about 9-year-old life:
Never underestimate the confidence of someone who is still in the single digits. Should we all go back to our elementary school personas every once in a while to gain some perspective? My work ethic would take a dip, but I’d be a lot more outspoken!
Cheers to our younger selves:
Remember that time I wrote a book?
People ask me about it all the time, and more often than not, I don’t really want to talk about it. The fact is, I spent six years straight with this story, so by the time I finally chose to share it with the world, I was ready to put everything associated with it behind me, at least mentally. When you write a roman a clef based on the most difficult experience of your life, you want a little bit of separation when you can finally get it.
Anyway, May 12 feels like a good day to draw attention to the story, which I miss every once in a while. As most of you know, the main character Molly is 17-year-old me, and as great as it feels to no longer have to think about that period of my life anymore as I did while I was writing about it, sometimes I want to revisit the character, who Sami Gardner describes as “so earnestly eighteen as she tries to navigate those first torturous steps into adulthood. Donovan creates a sympathetic character in Molly who grounds the story. She feels like a real girl so you can’t help but root for her.” I get caught up in a lot of weirdness here in NYC, and while having a terminally ill parent in high school certainly isn’t normal, I’m nostalgic about my youth on occasion, as I only concerned myself with one thing at a time then, and that felt simple. There’s a great deal of innocence and naivete in “Molly” that is completely gone, so I reread certain passages of “The Wingmen” today, the 7-year anniversary of the death of the person I loved most in this world.
You can hear more about “The Wingmen” through my old podcast with Matt Lewis, who remains one of my biggest champions and cheerleaders for reasons I’ll never fully understand.
Here are some of the intro scenes in “The Wingmen,” if you’re so inclined to check it out:
April 27, 2006
From the doorway, I could see his pill bottle. The transparent orange tube, which should have been empty, was half-full and sealed shut on my father’s nightstand. I sighed, knowing he’d refuse to take cancer medication from his 17-year-old daughter. The last time I’d told him to swallow his pills, he accused me of conspiring against him with “the others” (our family members) and throwing him under the bus, an ultimate betrayal.
Stepping into my parents’ room, I called his name several times. It wasn’t until I started singing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” that he jolted back to consciousness and acknowledged my presence.
“I want to wake up in that city that never sleeps,” he crooned, waiting for me to cut in and chant the rest of the lyrics.
And find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap. I longed to belt out the entire song, an incomparable homage to the place where he spent his college years and 20s, a tourist hotspot I desperately wanted to explore, but medicine time didn’t lend itself to jovial renditions of tunes about the greatest city in the world.
“Dad, you need your pills,” I said, picking up the container.
For a while, he merely stared in my direction, his cataracts making my skin crawl. His washed-out gaze reminded me of our late cat Cuddles, who had passed away from kidney failure a year earlier, so I tried to focus on another part of his body. I had no interest in stealing even a glimpse of his legs, which had shrunk to the size of chicken limbs. His cheekbones looked ready to poke through his jaundiced skin, which was sprinkled with brown liver spots resembling bruises. There was nothing good to see, so I reluctantly went back to his filmy eyes, both of which had been identical to my own just a month earlier.
“No,” he said.
A loose cannon, I lacked the patience for any kind of defiance. Was I going to have to pry open the lips of my own dad, who was 40 years my senior? Was I even capable of exerting such force and aggression on the person I loved most in the world? I wasn’t sure, but I did know he was beginning to frighten me.
“Please just listen to me, okay?” I begged, my heart rate through the roof. “If you don’t take these, you’ll die.”
“Good. I’m too exhausted to do anything,” he said.
“You can wash them down with water. It’ll be over before you know it and you can go back to bed.”
“Why are you so hard on me nowadays, Molly?” he asked. “You used to be on my side. I was your favorite person in this whole family. When did that change? What did I do to you?”
He couldn’t see it, but there were no “sides” and I wasn’t ganging up on him. Before I could explain that I simply wanted him to watch me get married someday (but not escort me down the aisle, as I found the tradition archaic and creepy), detect unfit romantic suitors, ask my future kids to be his wingmen before taking them to Baskin-Robbins as he’d done with me my entire life, and coach me through adulthood—his eyes shut. It was unclear whether he had fallen asleep or was putting on an act to scare me away, but he didn’t answer when I started pleading with him to stay awake.
“Great,” I mumbled, shaking his shoulders back and forth. When he wouldn’t budge, my panting intensified and several possible explanations came to mind. What if I’d waited too long to give him his meds? What if my biggest fear—that he would pass away in front of me—had finally become a reality?
Clutching my dad’s prescription bottle, I rushed to the kitchen to find my silver Samsung flip phone. Skimming my contact list, I wondered whether there was anyone I could call, other than my mother. She had meetings all day, and because I’d inherited her workaholic tendencies, I knew better than anyone did that she needed her professional life to escape from the bleakness of our home situation every once in a while. My 24-year-old brother Chase was accompanying his pregnant wife Amy to a doctor appointment. Somewhere in Newport Beach, his twin Chris was working tirelessly and running on no sleep. In Los Angeles, my rebellious 22-year-old sister Marissa was managing her new bohemian clothing store, which was taking longer to become a hit than she’d expected. For once, my siblings and parents couldn’t come to my rescue. It was all on me.
I need Jon, I thought, but resisted phoning my first love and ex-boyfriend for emergency advice. Chances were, he’d see an incoming call from me and hit the “Ignore” button. I didn’t have time for pettiness and lamented that he was among the few people I knew who could actually be of some help in that particular scenario. A seasoned camper with a love for all things outdoors, he could provide information on all sorts of remedies for sicknesses, wounds, and health conditions. But I didn’t dare reach out to him. He had been ignoring me for four months, long after he had learned of my dad’s diagnosis, and that wasn’t about to change. I may not have been an adult, but I knew one thing: fear and rejection are not a good combination.
After tossing my phone onto the blue couch, I charged back upstairs, naively hoping to return to a better situation than I’d left behind.
“She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time; but alas! Alas! She must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.” – Jane Austen, “Persuasion”
August 25, 2005
Scotts Valley, California
The first surprise that night was the humidity. There are many perks to my California hometown, among the best being its dryness, so I was perplexed by the suffocating heat sweeping across the Bay Area so late in the summer. I tried not to think about it as I waited outside my house for Jon, my boyfriend of seven months, to arrive.
It was actually our seven-month anniversary, which felt like an epic milestone, so I was a little surprised that he hadn’t said a word about it all day or responded to my late afternoon “happy seven-month anniversary” text message. Was it something I said? What did I do?, my 17-year-old self wondered, willing him to love me as much as I loved him, as usual.
Though we definitely had an unbalanced relationship, he’d always done nice things for me. During previous anniversaries, he’d showered me with roses, boxes of See’s chocolates, and dog-themed Hallmark cards that featured Pomeranians, as I had one of my own and loved her very much. With the exception of the flowers, I presented him with similar gifts and my famous chocolate chip cookies—the only thing I could bake. Given his flair for romantic gestures and ability to outdo himself pretty much every month, his tardiness and general unresponsiveness were out of character.
An hour earlier, Jon had asked whether he could come to the house. I’d said yes and ended our short exchange with “I love you,” my default response. Rather than reflexively say it back, he hung up the phone. Something wasn’t right.
When 9 o’clock rolled around and there was still no sign of Jon or his Prius, I began to pace my front porch, which was still damp from an unexpected afternoon downpour. The dark sky reminded me of my dad’s detailed explanation of the summer solstice sun cycle, which had been a major talking point in our household for as long as I could remember.
On June 21 of each year, my dad told us the story of summer solstice, and one of the things I never forgot was that nighttime begins a minute earlier every day after that. The early nightfall made me think about something else, too—that summer was ending.
Unlike most people about to start their final year of high school, I had no desire to be a senior. My boyfriend had just finished up at Scotts Valley High, making him my “high school sweetheart,” a title connoting a memorable chapter in life that inevitably ends, and often badly.
A driven young man with out-of-this-world ambition, my significant other had good reason to be excited for his future. Since birth, he’d wanted to attend Harvard and obtain a law degree. Before turning 18, Jon had acquired his pilot’s license, become a star wrestler and debate team champion, won chess championships, and become a junior wilderness guide. Each accomplishment, he said, would boost his chances of going to school in Massachusetts, his birthplace. He’d lived in Cambridge until Kindergarten, when he moved across the country with his father and stepmom. Though primarily raised in California, Jon felt pretty misplaced among laidback west coast residents, especially since he preferred Lacoste shirts and peacoats to the sandals and shorts look. That evening, I reflected on the first time he gushed about his Harvard dream, which governed his every move.
“I’ve wanted to be an Ivy Leaguer since I was this tall,” he’d said, lowering his hand down to his hips. “I remember saying it at age seven. I was sitting on the couch watching a movie when I promised myself I’d find my way back to Massachusetts. And I’ve wanted it for myself ever since.”
I was impressed by his drive, which drew me to him in the first place. After all, I dreamed of becoming a famous author, the “next J.K. Rowling,” so to speak. I doubted I could pull it off, as fantasy writing wasn’t my thing, but aimed high regardless. Jon appreciated that I wanted the world for myself. Even so, he’d recently used his own goals to distance himself from me, implying that our days together were numbered and that our relationship had always had an expiration date.
Luckily for him, his dreams were about to come true: he was just days away from leaving for Harvard. Though I’d hoped to maintain a long distance relationship, at least during his first few months in college, Jon wasn’t keen on this plan of action. He said what we had was never meant to last beyond his high school years. And because I was a year behind him, well, it sucked to be me.
I first noticed the headlights, but as the car drove past a few more homes, I recognized the curvy shape of Jon’s green Prius. Though I assumed he wasn’t paying attention to me, I smiled and waved as he parked in my driveway.
Jon put the engine to rest, but stayed in his seat a moment to end a phone call. Moments later, he stepped out of the vehicle without so much as a “hello.” I greeted him with a hug, curious as to why neither of us had said anything—and why he hadn’t shown up in his trademark North Face zip-up, boat shoes, or crimson scarf. It was super hot and all, but he never went anywhere without his preppy attire, not even in the summer.
Pushing past me, Jon climbed the steps of my porch. In our unusual silence, I heard my mom’s shrill, frantic voice coming from inside the house. She was worried about my severely ill brother Chase, who had gotten a bug on his trip to Brazil.
“Happy seven-month anniversary,” I said, forcing a grin.
“Yeah,” he replied with a swift move across the porch.
“I have an anniversary gift for you upstairs,” I said, alluding to the “Molly and Jon” photo album I’d spent several days putting together. “I’ll go get it.”
He sighed, briefly looking over his shoulder. “Want to sit outside for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” I replied, wounded.
Wrapping an arm around my bare neck, he walked me over to my mom’s bench. Once we were seated, Jon rested his head on my shoulder.
“So my brother, Chase contracted some kind of virus in Rio,” I said, hoping to ease the tension with normal conversation.
“That’s no good. It happens when you go to corrupt countries.”
I placed my hand on Jon’s leg, but he didn’t reach for me.
“I love you,” I whispered, hoping to kill the awkward vibes once and for all.
For the first time since I’d know him, Jon mirrored his stoic California motorcycle license mug shot. He didn’t smile or frown, but his blank expression was uninviting and indicative of terrible news. Sliding one hand out of his jean pocket, he rubbed the bottom of my chin. I never liked when people did that. I fought the urge to swat his hand away.
Jon leaned into my face, leading me to believe he was going to kiss my cheek. Instead, he went for my ear and began to speak in a hushed tone.
“We have to go our separate ways now.”
My heart sank. Grabbing his hand, I yanked him up from the bench with me.
“Now?” I asked. “You’re not leaving for Harvard for another two days.”
“It’s time,” he said, offering me a hug. Glancing over Jon’s shoulder, I spotted one of our neighbors shutting his car door. I wondered whether he’d overheard our exchange. Even if he hadn’t, the whole neighborhood would still learn of the breakup within 24 hours.
“Can I write to you?”
“That would be too painful for me,” he mumbled against my tangled, frizzy blond hair, which hadn’t yet adapted to the unexpected humidity.
“Yeah, right,” I whispered, fuming.
By the rehearsed nature of his line, I knew he’d repeated it to himself over and over again before showing up on my doorstep—perhaps even on the drive to my house, as many aspiring actors do before auditions.
“Look, I just want to be your friend,” I spat, equally guilty on the dishonesty front. “I don’t see why we can’t talk while you’re gone, if we keep it platonic.”
“That’s not the best way for you to move on.”
I swallowed. He glanced back at his Prius, which was still tingling from the 10-minute journey to my neighborhood.
“All right, see you later then,” I said, before Jon could tell me he had to get going.
He stared at me again, so I leaned in to kiss him goodbye. He returned the gesture for a few seconds, which I thought meant he hadn’t totally checked out of our relationship. That was the first of many wrong assumptions I’d make. Wanting our final encounter to last for memory’s sake, I intensified the kiss and pulled his hips up to my own. Once we’d moved beyond peck territory, Jon released my embrace.
“Enough. Goodbye, Molly.”
I entered the house shocked and unwilling to explain the details of the split to my overly curious mom and dad. Before either of them could corner me, I sprinted up our flight of stairs and ran into my unlit bedroom, shutting the door to the concerned shouts of my mother.
I slid to the floor with my back pressed against my bedroom door, weeping silently, hoping my parents would assume I was just moody from hosting the high school freshman orientation all day, and too drained to socialize. But sleep didn’t come easily that night, nor would it for most of my senior year.
Copyright © Laura Donovan 2013
If you’ve already read it, please add your review to my Amazon page! I don’t care if you loved or hated it. I’m open to all your thoughts.
So, weird story: In fifth grade, I was obsessed with “Ally McBeal,” which is not a kid’s show, to say the least. My parents loved it, and because I could never sleep at night, they allowed me to watch the program with them, hoping I’d be more willing to go to bed afterward. I never was, though. The “Ally McBeal” plot kept me thinking for hours every Sunday.
The 90s TV drama follows the professional and personal life of tireless lawyer Ally McBeal, a lonely modern working woman who has never fully recovered from breaking up with her childhood sweetheart Billy in law school. You wouldn’t think a 10-year-old would love a story line about a law firm and heartbreak, but I did, perhaps because I could tell even then that I would be a lot like Ally early in my career: driven, power and success-hungry, unlucky with relationships, in love with big cities and going out with friends, and both secretly jealous of and sad for people who’ve settled down. I didn’t realize then that Ally McBeal was somewhat of a feminist character, and I’m glad I grew up watching strong female leads on TV.
That said, I recently re-watched some of the show’s episodes on Netflix and am surprised I loved it so much back in the day. My only explanation is that I was ten years old. How great could my taste have been? Though soft and accessible, the program doesn’t have impressive dialogue or very much chemistry among its characters. At one point in season one, Ally says, “You don’t kiss on the first date.” Now we say it’s taboo to have sex on the first date, and I know adults of the 90s weren’t just a bunch of prudes. Ally’s character isn’t, either. More than anything, it wouldn’t survive in today’s TV lineup, as it lacks the weirdness and drama that the current crop of successful shows have. Look at the kind of programs that are doing well right now: “Scandal,” “Revenge,” “Mad Men,” etc., and all those shows don’t hold back or skimp on drama. There’s an unexpected death at the end of “Ally McBeal,” but most of the turmoil surrounds Ally and Billy. Even that feels boring, and the same goes for Ally’s complicated dynamic with his rightfully suspicious wife Georgia.
Fifth grade me knew a character like Ally was awesome, but I wasn’t grown up enough to question the show’s structure. What I especially dislike now are the scenes Ally imagines in her head when she’s upset. We cut right over to a false reaction, which can catch you off guard and in my opinion brings down the quality of the show. The returning singer felt a little out of place too, and I doubt all of this would be well-received in 2013.
So, “Ally McBeal,” I’ll continue falling asleep to you late at night when I’m feeling bad about something trivial, because that’s really what you’re good at highlighting.
I lost my cool a few days ago. I had a “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment, which in retrospect probably shouldn’t have been enough to really upset me, but was, as my buddy Nikki put it, another negative experience with the opposite sex to add to my growing list of horror stories. So I snapped and made accusations. I became upset and went on one of my famous ginger rampages in the presence of my amused friends, one of which sat me down and asked why I continuously find myself swimming in romantic mishaps and, to quote Florence Welch, “living on such sweet nothing.”
“I think a part of you enjoys being unhappy,” one of the girls chimed in.
A while back, I would have agreed, but that’s not the case anymore. Really. Believe it or not, I don’t like being blown off and treated like garbage by anybody. I keep meeting people who are totally pleasant upfront and merciless later on. Not everyone is a complete douchebag though, and I’m ready to truly see that for myself and have an excuse to gush, not commiserate, for once. Because I’m sick of me and these ridiculous stories.
“Decide right here and now that you’re not going to let these guys who don’t call you back get to you ever again,” one of my friends said. “You may not be better tomorrow or even in a year from now, but each day is another day you’ve spent away from them.”
Though I do like laughing at the audacity of some of the candid assholes I’ve had the misfortune of meeting over the past few years, sometimes I want more than just a funny story to share about guys who go months without speaking to me only to pop up when they think I’ve forgotten them, reel me back in, and say in so many words, “Well now that I’ve got you here, just thought I’d say JK! I don’t really want to date you. I was just trying to see whether I could still get with you, and now that I know I totes could, I’m moving on for reals. Peace.” Of course, no one has actually said this to me, because that’s not what men do when they want to cut you off. They don’t.do.anything.
As Joan Hollaway says on Mad Men, “Men don’t take time to end things. They ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate.” And you know what? I don’t have time to declare war on anyone. It’s silly and petty and draining, and I shouldn’t be spending my non-work hours wondering why, why, why I wasn’t worthy of this person’s time anymore.
I know what you’re thinking. Drama Queen. Oh, I know. That doesn’t invalidate my frustrations, though. Nikki said the minor incident this weekend seemed so unbelievably disastrous and outrageous to me because I only have negative dating experiences to draw from, so while some told me I should have just taken the apathetic route and not cared, this was just one more burn I really didn’t need. I keep piling on the bad stories and toxic relationships, and though I’m supposedly going to “learn from them” someday, it doesn’t do me any good to have nothing happy to look back on prior to 2007, the last time I said I love you and really felt loved by a member of the opposite sex, not to mention worth fighting for.
Joan’s quote pretty much encapsulates every bad dating experience I’ve had since college. Sure I’ve been the one to turn guys down before, but there’s a difference between stringing folks along when you’re not interested and saying this simply isn’t for you. I’m tired of coasting off the short-lived, deceptive thrill of hearing from someone (usually via text) once a week if that. I’m exhausted from jumping through hoops to get a guy to actually respond to my occasional attempts at conversation. I’m tired of feeling like I have to make these encounters all about the other person and get nothing in return. I may not be a model, but I’m also not an ogre with puss oozing out my ears. I don’t think I’m asking for much by wanting somebody responsive or at least aware of the fact that I’m a person with needs and not some on-call entity to be carelessly jerked around. Better yet, I need someone who takes initiative and asks me to do something fun, and that does not include late night hooking up. I’m not opposed to that, but you don’t have a right to contact me after midnight if you’ve never once tried chatting with me during the day. Or, ya know, blatantly ignored me. Don’t be that fucking guy.
Now that I’ve successfully ranted about the plight of the 20-something dating scene, I may as well address the headline of this post. Recent events have influenced me to finally start an online dating account. The stigma against online dating is mostly gone, as young people in big cities often work too much to meet like-minded folks on a regular basis. There’s always the bar circuit, but look where that got me. One could argue online dating sites are full of creepers, but I live in NYC: I bump into creepers all the time, whether on the subway, at a bar, in a grocery store aisle, or walking home. No matter where I go, weirdos abound, so I may as well weed them out online, where I actually have the tools to be selective.
I went with HowAboutWe because it fosters activities among users for a reasonable fee. You post a date idea (i.e., going to a stand-up comedy show in the east village, playing cards in Central Park), and if someone thinks you might be a cool person to spend time with, he/she will message you. You don’t have to respond to all inquiries, of course, and the beauty of it all is that there are hundreds of people listed. You won’t take rejection on the site personally. I’m taking it slow, but I also like the fact that someone is inviting me to do something cool. There aren’t any games, just plans. If it works out, great. If not, HowAboutWe has plenty of others who could work for you. It’s awesome.
So wish me luck this year, because I’m actually making an effort to pick better and keep trouble out of my life. I’m not saying there aren’t any bad seeds on this site, but to paraphrase the great Serena Van Der Woodsen, they can’t be worse than the guys I do know (cue to 2:00).
For most of my life, I’ve been a one trick pony: all writing, all the time. I’ve lived in journals since second grade, and when I’m not writing and editing for work, I’m writing for fun. I honestly can’t imagine ever giving it up professionally, and whenever I’m scared, I can write about it until I calm down enough to sleep.
It’s always been number one to me, but now I’m trying to understand another art as well: performance.
I have prior experience in acting, but as I noted in previous blog posts, my skills are rusty if at all usable. I’m basically starting from scratch in my improv class, and so far, I’m doing all right, but I do have to wonder whether I’ll ever get to a point with acting that I’ve achieved with writing. The answer is probably no, and while I’d like to think I can balance the two with grace, writing is always going to come first, because if I were to stop, I would “be in jail or perhaps even dead. Or maybe just insane,” as Jamaica Kincaid says.
I’m going to try to tackle acting full-on again though, and maybe it’ll lead me somewhere awesome in the future. Regardless, I had this conversation with a classmate over the weekend, and I still don’t know the answer to my own question: How many things can you really excel at?
My classmate suspected you can only master up to two at once, possibly three if you sacrifice sleep, and I agree even though I think one thing will always override the other in importance. At least in my world.
What does your plate look like? Do you have lots of little things on it or something large taking up most of the real estate?