A Little Cheer Never Killed Anyone

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There are some things I can see being angry about if they came early. A dentist appointment, for instance… or a physics exam. Things like these require a certain amount of preparation and mental fortitude; a need to harden your heart just the slightest bit, even. Honestly, I’d be pretty upset if I walked in to class one day and my professor said “Guess what! Your final has been moved from 2 months from today to… Today. Good luck.” Just the thought fills me with a sort of stomach sinking dread, and I can almost imagine turning to the kid next to me and spitting out a biting and unsolicited tirade.

“Can you believe this crap?” I might grumble. “Every year they move the final up earlier and earlier. Before you know it, the final’s going to be on the first day of class.”

Thankfully, this doesn’t happen. Finals are pretty consistently situated toward the very end of the quarter, and no matter how much it might seem like it comes faster every year, it doesn’t. And it never will.

Then there’s Christmas.

I’m not sure why anyone would feel the need to be angry at Christmas, but there’s definitely a discernible amount of bitterness toward the holiday. Especially this time of year when Thanksgiving has yet to pass, and Target’s been selling fake Douglas Firs for two months already.

Anger’s fine, though. It may leave me a bit puzzled, but who am I to look inside someone’s soul and tell them that what they think is hatred toward Christmas is really just a way to hide the fact that they’re mourning their lost childhood? I’m no one. However, I don’t particularly want to hear about it. I especially don’t want to be told that, in getting in to the spirit, I’m feeding in to some kind of corporate commercialistic gang bang. Because that’s just inappropriate. As it is, though, everyone has an opinion.

Today a man said to me “Happy Not-Thanksgiving-Because-It-Doesn’t-Matter-Anymore-Since-Christmas-Decorations-Are-Already-Up-Holidays!”

He really said that.

I kind of “heh”d in an effort at humoring him, but I’m not completely sure I was able to keep the confusion from showing on my face. Was his comment necessary? Did he absolutely need me to know that a few twinkle lights and snowman stickers had the power to ruin his day? I don’t know. Maybe that’s the case, but if it is, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Firstly, I don’t think that putting my tree up in November is going to lessen Thanksgiving for me or anyone else. I’m still going to spend time with my family. I’m still going to eat an impossibly large meal that I have no business having dessert after. My sister’s still going to suggest holding hands at the table and taking turns saying what we’re thankful for, and my dad, for reasons unknown to me, is still going to think that it’s an excellent idea. Walmart displaying advent calendars in November, October, or even July isn’t going to change that.

In any case, I have some doubts as to whether or not maintaining the sanctity of Thanksgiving even has anything to do with some people’s strange attitude toward the most festive holiday of the year. The other day I heard a woman actually claim to “hate” Christmas. When the person she was addressing responded with “Oh, well, I don’t hate Christmas. I just don’t see why it has to be pushed down our throats so early in the year”, she back pedaled a bit.

“Oh, well, right…” She said. “I don’t hate it. I just hate the commercialism.”

That right there is a really popular sentiment masquerading as radical. In other words, people like to think that it makes them seem cool or edgy to look with scorn upon something as harmless as having a flat screen TV advertised more aggressively in the newspaper, but it’s actually incredibly commonplace. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Starbucks is going to try to sell you a gift card this time of year. It does, however, take someone with real independence of thought to be able to look past all that and form their own opinion. If you don’t like commercialism, find a unique way to celebrate, and let other people enjoy their tree and hallmark cards. No one can force you to do it their way, so there’s really no sense in “bah humbugging” your way through the season.

And anyway, when it comes down to it, who doesn’t like getting gifts? You might say you don’t (I’m looking at you, Mom), but you do. Everyone does. Most people like giving them as well, because surprise! It feels good. So, I mean, I honestly don’t see a problem with a day centered around people giving other people things. Unless you’re a character in a Nicholas Hornby novel, you have no excuse to disdain christmas with the kind of raw enthusiasm that I’ve been seeing as of late.

So, this Thanksgiving, I want you to sit back and relax with a big plate of turkey and stuffing, and sing Jingle Bells louder than anyone else in the room. Or don’t… but at least smile.

A little cheer never killed anyone.

Over the Rainbow

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Over the Rainbow

I was born in LA.

I didn’t move here to pursue a dream. I’m not a waitress waiting to be discovered. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t think of this place as the center of the movie industry.

To me, Los Angeles is just home.

Recently, I watched a music video for a song called “The City of Angels”, by 30 Seconds to Mars. I think I’ve heard the song in passing a few times before this, and it never really struck any kind of chord with me. I probably even vaguely noted that it was most likely another one of those homage-to-LA songs without really having to stop to listen to it. There are plenty of those, at least a third of which being written by the Chili Peppers, and the rest being divided up between Sublime, West Coast rappers, and maybe Greenday, I don’t know. The point is, I’ve heard the “I love you in spite of your imperfections, LA” song. We all have.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the city, too… In fact, I ironically even happen to love it in spite of its flaws. That’s all well and good, and if someone wants to write a song reflecting those well meaning if clichéd feelings, I’m all for it. At the very least, not listening to music I don’t like has always been a relatively easy task for me.

But then, there’s this “music video” (an 11 minute long movie patting Hollywood on its back), and what I don’t understand, is the near complete lack of representation from anyone who actually lives here (outside of the bad Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson impersonators, of course, but you’ll forgive me if I feel that those don’t exactly count). Was this video supposed to tear me up with pride? It wasn’t even talking to or about people like me. The super rich and famous experience a part of this place that is so completely removed from what the majority of us will experience that, for all intents and purposes, they are talking about a different world.

Of course, having said all that, I might be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that, yeah… the video did almost, almost, choke me up a little. Which is irritating and, I imagine, as confusing to you as it was to me.

Perhaps getting emotional is the kneejerk reaction of being proud to see someone praise something I love. Maybe, in some weird way, I feel a kind of lame kinship with anyone willing to claim my city as his own. However, I don’t appreciate the glaringly obvious acting for the camera with such gems as Ashley Olsen’s “Fame is an illusion,” and Lindsay Lohan’s pregnant pause before stating “No one’s perfect.”

Really? I mean… really?

Also… I’m pretty sure that Ashley Olsen lives in New York. Why does she even get a say?

In any case, the video isn’t really the problem. Even the commercial for California is laden with shots of celebrities doing very out of the ordinary things. The Olsen twin was wrong. Fame is real. Hollywood is an illusion. Now, before you go and roll your eyes at that particular bit of absurdity, I don’t mean Hollywood the town; I mean Hollywood the idea. There is an image of LA that is perpetuated by the media and by those who have come here to “live the dream”, and that’s kind of all people see. They see the so-called glitz and glamour, and what’s more, they see a culture of superficiality.

No one sees me getting up at 3:30 in the morning to get to work on time. No one sees my fiancé wading through traffic for 3 hours a day. No one sees the first dates, or the broken hearts, or the skinned knees, or the high school graduations, or the birthday parties at the park, or the beach picnics, or… well, any of it. And as much as I’d love Olivia Wilde’s view of LA as “the promised land” to have anything to do with me, it doesn’t. And, unless you’re one of the very few extremely lucky people, it doesn’t have anything to do with you either. That place, Olivia Wilde’s Promised Land, doesn’t really exist.

LA is just a place where people live. Hollywood, however, is somewhere over the rainbow, where much different rules apply.

I’m not saying the spray tans and fake body parts don’t run rampant here, but I am saying there’s a lot more to The City of Angels than the Hollywood sign and Sunset Boulevard.

Disneyland, for instance.

You Say Nerd, I Say Who Cares?

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"If we let him call us a nerd, he'll leave us alone..."

“If we let him call us a nerd, he’ll leave us alone…”

So, maybe I’m a nerd.

I say “maybe”, because I’m honestly not sure. It used to be that I would be called a nerd against my will, and then I would have to be sad about it. If I wasn’t sad about it, people would be angry, and then they would progress to calling me worse things. It’s like how a bear might want to eat you until he thinks you’re dead, because then you’re no good to him. Unless it’s a California black bear, in which case he will eat you no matter what (Unfortunately for us, “smarter than the average bear” doesn’t mean he wants your pick-a-nick basket; it means he knows your little opossum act is BS).

Things have changed a little bit since I was younger, though, and now people all over are applying the title “nerd” to themselves of their own volition. At first I was confused and afraid. What did this mean? Not only for myself, but for my younger siblings. Was this some kind of trap? Were the pretty and popular kids trying to lull all the nerds in to a false sense of security?

“Wear your nerd badge proud!” They’d say… but maybe it was all some cruel rouse to get the geeks to come out of the word work and identify themselves. From there, the massacre would begin.

It seems, for now at least, that my fears were mostly unfounded. So far, no nerd lynchings have occurred. Not in public, anyway. I can’t vouch for what goes on during pep rallies and home coming games. Mostly because I never went to those. I can only hope that my fellow unpopular brethren that managed to find themselves there, behind enemy lines, made it out okay and with a story to tell. In any case, I still do find it strange how the social climate has changed. Suddenly, thick framed glasses and video gaming are cool again. Or, maybe, for the first time. I’m not sure I remember a time when they were cool before. I don’t necessarily remember a time when they weren’t cool, to be honest, but I know some old school nerd proponents who would beg to differ.

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where people could just like the things they like, and not worry about other people liking it, or not liking it, or not liking them, or wanting to slam them in to lockers.

What I think, and this may not be a popular opinion, is that there’s a very strange territory war going on these days. We have the original nerds in one corner, the new nerds in another, and a slightly overlooked group of people who probably are nerds but don’t want to be called that in the last corner. The original nerds associate their childhoods with lots of being bullied and having to nurture their WoW obsessions in dark closets. These were the people that other people called nerds. Naturally, they harbor some animosity toward “new nerds” who failed to establish their nerd credentials early on in life, and therefore escaped the hell that was growing up an outcast. And make no mistake; growing up an outcast is, in fact, hell. Where I think this opinion might get unpopular is right about here: Everyone’s fighting over something that no one really wants to be.

I think what a lot of people are failing to understand, is that there is a disconnect between what people are associating with what being a nerd is, and what a nerd actually is. It’s just a word. The meaning behind the word has evolved, but the status of people who once had this term forced upon them has not. PC gaming is still made fun of, skinny kids are still pushed around, brainy quiet kids are still excluded. That hasn’t changed. Life is still a popularity contest, and some people are still losing it. The kids who were called geeks in high school are now flocking to defend their status, because they had to suffer for it. If you can’t beat something, you learn to be proud of it, or it’ll end up controlling you in the end. Nerds learned to be proud of being the outcasts, the subverts, the unique ones. It doesn’t hurt so bad to be pushed away when you decide that you want it that way. Or, at the very least, pretend to. These people, like anyone else, are wary of new comers being insincere or trivializing their experiences.

This, while understandable, is pointless.

Why pointless, you ask? Look, who cares if the Victoria Secret model wants to put on a pocket protector and broadcast the fact that she plays TF2 on the weekends? Who cares if your local neighborhood hipster wants to wear pony shirts and rattle on and on about his favorite Dostoevsky quotes? Who cares if people like saying “LOL I’m such a nerd!” It’s not hurting anyone.

My beautiful nerds, in trying to exclude someone from taking an interest in the things you like, however noble an endeavor you think it is, you’re doing exactly what was done to you. All this is going to serve to accomplish is creating more bitterness and animosity in the world… When there really should be more hugs and Doctor Who? balls. They exist. I’ve been to one.

The point is, I think it’s a waste of time to worry about what other people are doing. Labels are for suckers.

5 Reasons No One Likes You

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You know, I find that most people are actually pretty easy to like. It’s easy, because I want to like everyone. I like to think of myself as extremely friendly. If there was one thing people say about me, my hope is it would be that… Actually, my hope is that they’d say I’m funny and incredibly intelligent, but closely after that I’d like them to think I was really nice. It’s such a waste of time and energy to hate or dislike someone, so you could say this writer is too lazy to be choosey about people. Every once in a while, though, I encounter a person who wants to make me work to think well of them… and that cuts in to my me time. If you make me have to work to like you, if you make anyone have to work to like you, you’re doing it wrong.

Everyone’s different, and everyone finds different things irritating, but the following 5 things are personality traits that are more or less deal breakers for me when it comes to wanting to be around someone. Maybe you’ll agree, or maybe you won’t… but at the very least, please tell me I’m funny and incredibly intelligent.

1. You’re rude.
You may think that this is common sense, but it’s not really. Maybe having a bad day can lead you to being short with any kind of service staff you come in to contact with, even if you’re usually a nice person… but, really, that’s not an excuse. Rudeness is rudeness no matter what day of the week it is, or how many texts your boyfriend got from Suzie. Also, if you look at it from the other side, the person you’re being rude to doesn’t know that you spend your weekends nursing sick baby dolphins back to health. All they know is that you are unusually angry that your latte wasn’t exactly 143 degrees, and had one crystal too much of sugar in it. Nope, they will dislike you with reckless abandon now, and you have no one to blame but yourself. Everyone has a bad time every so often, but not everyone chooses to take it out on the world, or especially on people who really can’t fight back. That’s just mean and kind of cowardly.

2. You’re a serious pedant.
Being educated is great, and you should be proud… but you shouldn’t be pretentious. No one other than you and your book club is really going to care that you spent your weekend reading War and Peace, or Les Miserables for fun. I had a roommate who loved to get in to weird pissing contests with his girlfriend over who knew more about obscure historic details. It was always under a thin guise of trying to have an interesting conversation, but usually just came off as two freshman college students talking about everything they just learned in the first session of their Introduction to Facts course. A freshman will assume they know everything now (because they have not yet learned the golden rule of “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”), and assume everyone else knows nothing. Some people don’t needlessly lord their intelligence over others… and it’s probably because they’re too smart for that.

3. You complain too much (you’re negative).
You have to be a special kind of person to delight in Mondays, and yeah, traffic kind of sucks. The thing about it is, if something is bothering you, you can probably bet you’re not the first person it’s bothered. If you’ve studied psychology at any point in your college career (which, as it turns out, is most everyone), you’ve learned about something similar the Fourfold Table of Life, wherein people tend to have selective memory and perception in recalling instances in their life. It often leads to thinking stuff like “I always end up choosing the slow line in the bank”, or “crazy people always come out during full moons.” It’s easy to remember when crappy things happen as it’s more significant to you than when they don’t. This is relatively normal… But when a person convinces themselves that bad things constantly happen to them and only them, and that they somehow have it worse than everyone else, they become very difficult to be around.

At any given moment, if pressed, I’m sure everyone could count things not going right for them off on their fingers, but they probably weren’t forcing you to listen to them hate their lives. Voicing concerns, looking for support, and needing to vent are all perfectly acceptable, and everyone needs to do it sometimes. If you’re the kind of person who adopts a “poor me!” kind of attitude, however, you suck the life out of everyone around you. Not everyone deserves to be miserable just because you are, and you’re going to earn yourself the reputation of being an emotional tyrant: No one gets to be happy if you’re not.

4. You’re dramatic.
This one really needs to stop, guys. You know something’s irritating when even a 16-year-old boy thinks it’s immature. For some reason, there are those who like to make a show of their problems. Everything is made to seem like a much bigger deal than it actually is, and eventually everyone involved is exhausted. We all have someone in our lives who can’t enjoy themselves unless everything is revolving around them. Let’s not mince words here, friends. If you’re one of these people, please rest assured that people think you are nuts. They think this, because you probably are… or at the very least, you seriously come off that way. If you’re passed a certain age, there’s no excuse for drama. It’s manipulative, and it’s childish.

As a personal aside: PMS is not an excuse to be a terrible human being.

5. You’re kind of a fun killer.
If fun was painful, the “fun killer” would be called Tylenol.

One night, some friends of mine and I headed out for some good old-fashioned drunken karaoke. I decided to invite a coworker to come along with us. Now, karaoke isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Making an ass of yourself in front of strangers is kind of an acquired taste. I made it very clear to her what kind of people we were and that we were going to be getting in to it. She still agreed to go. Unfortunately, from the moment she sat down in the car and realized the level of eccentric she was dealing with, she made it relatively clear that she was not going to be having fun that night. What’s more is that she wasn’t even going to bother trying.

The whole night, no matter what anyone did or said, she just sat there with her head in the palm of her hands. We danced, we sang, we laughed… and she refused to have any of it. To this moment, I have no clue what was going through her head or why she took it upon herself to go on a Crusade for Fun Killers United, but she all but sucked the energy out of the table.

The honest truth, though, is that the girl is very sweet and pretty easy to be around. So, I think the lesson we can learn from this is that even if you’re a relatively cool person, you can come off as a Fun Hater 2000. Which will make it hard for people to like you. No one wants to be around you if you’re going to make it hobby to be bored. So, you know, knock it off.

Of course… there are probably exceptions to all that. I’m pretty sure if you suddenly pulled the plug on all the electricity everywhere, and the world was suddenly plunged in to darkness, people would probably cut you some slack if you were stressed out and unhappy for the rest of your life. Of course, everyone would probably hate you anyway, so I suppose it wouldn’t make a difference to you one way or the other.

I think, at the very least, we can all be glad that there isn’t a Great Big Plug to Everything. Until there is, try to make it hard for people to dislike you, and be cool, Ringo.

Be cool.

Through the Crazy Looking Glass

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Alice realizes she doesn't quite feel safe in the company of The Hatter...

Alice realizes she doesn’t quite feel safe in the company of The Hatter…

I’m afraid of a lot of things.

I think that’s fair. A lot of things are scary. When someone recently asked me what the scariest thing I could think of was, however… an odd thought occurred to me. It wasn’t my debilitating fear of worms. It wasn’t my ironic fear of the ocean. It wasn’t even my childhood fear of teletubbies. Nope. My worst fear? The absolute most terrifying thing to me? It was a paragraph in the Stephen King novel “The Shining”; the character Danny’s description of The Lady in the Bathtub’s thoughts. He said that all he could see when he looked in to her head was blackness and anger, and all she wanted to do was hurt him. There was nothing beyond that. Just thinking about that kind of makes me go cold.

This is sort of a two pronged fear. I guess, firstly, you could say that I have an irrational fear of irrational things.

Oompa Loompas, for instance, are evil. I don’t like that they’re short and orange, and that they sing weird little sadistic songs every time something potentially life threatening happens to a child, while everyone else just kind of stands around and says “well, I guess this is just how they do things in the candy factory.” Why would that be how things are done in a candy factory, and furthermore, why is everyone so nonchalant about a race of orange faced, green haired trolls that they didn’t know existed before? It doesn’t work in the real world. Along that same idea, Tim Burton movies are like hell to me. All his characters are thin and sallow, and no one stops to think “you know, these under eye circles sure are getting out of hand…”

If I tried to sit there and have a talk with an Oompa Loompa, I’d be terrified that they were going to completely ignore what I was saying and end up breaking out in to song about something bad that was inevitably going to happen to me. Meanwhile, all that is probably going on inside their heads is a fiendish desire to harvest children. Alice in Wonderland bothers me for the same reason. Alice drops down through that weird hole in the world, or steps through her crazy looking glass, and suddenly she’s in a land full of things that can’t give her a straight answer to save their lives. They’re all running around being insane, and nothing has any real reason or rhyme, and what the hell is up with the crazy hat guy and his bunny being able to slice cups of tea in half? Tea doesn’t slice! That’s just physics. What’s just as bad, though, is that Alice doesn’t seem to mind it so very much. Why doesn’t Alice flip out? Why don’t Charlie and his grandpa sneak out the back way of that damn chocolate factory and alert the proper authorities? It’s creepy, and it’s wrong.

Now, I say most of this with a tongue in cheek kind of amusement at myself. The root of this fear, though, is very real, very simple, and goes deeper than just being disturbed by movies and fictional characters. The second part of the two pronged fear: The idea that there is nothing behind a facade.

I feel like, living so close to Hollywood these past few months, I have come face to face with this fear quite a lot.

I meet a lot of famous people, for instance. Just today I was confronted with an actor from HBO’s True Blood. I know him only by face, and not by name, and I couldn’t have cared less about him… But he hid underneath his hat and too big sunglasses, and whispered to people around him so as not to call attention to himself. That’s weird. People shouldn’t live like that. I know everyone thinks the world revolves around them to some extent, but feeling a certainty about it seems like too big a responsibility to bother with. I feel that being famous for too long can have a profound impact on a person’s psyche. The normal part of them seems slowly to start to recede in to the shadow that is deep self involvement, and then I can’t imagine there is any kind of living with them. Talking to a famous person, who no longer knows what it’s like to be unknown, who, for all intents and purposes, has forgotten what it’s like to want things, makes me uneasy. When a public image is no longer discernible from an actual sense of self, it dehumanizes a person in my eyes. All I can see is a mask.

If The Shining’s Danny could look in to their heads… I wonder what he would see.

On a more relatable level, this is also how I feel about younger generations. There is a marked disconnect between me, and anyone who is anything more than 3 years younger than me. They use words and wear clothes that I don’t get. What the hell are jeggings? Dammit, they’re awful. I was invited to a birthday party for a girl who was turning 24 and I thought to myself, “I’m too old to hang out with you.” I could only imagine sitting quietly in a booth while they talked about setting the world on fire for fun or… I don’t know, planking or something. Not that I have anything against her for being younger than me; I just can’t relate to her. When you say something and look in to someone’s eyes, you can tell when it goes completely over their head. Not because they don’t understand it, but because they don’t understand you.

I get this often when I attempt to talk to people about my tea parties, or my weird tendency to name all my stuffed animals Thomas after my big brother. Some people can only manage blank stares as they vaguely try to register what it is I’m going on about. I can’t blame anyone for this. I don’t blame anyone for this. That doesn’t change the fact that it almost leaves me feeling like I’m not talking to anyone at all. There’s nothing beyond their present, there’s nothing more than what they emote on their faces. I’m not saying everyone is like this; I’m not even saying most people are like this… But, to me, it comes off as empty.

It’s funny. Hollywood’s an interesting place to be for someone who doesn’t like masks and facades. You know what they say, though…

Something, I’m sure.

Dance Like Everyone Is Watching

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Drink tea like no one is watching...

Drink tea like no one is watching…

You know, it occurs to me that I never found the time to grow out of the things I loved as a child. I say “never found the time”, because it seems to me that a lot of people make a special kind of effort to leave their childhood behind. I’ve seen a lot of little girls get to a point where they don’t want to wear pink because it’s “too girly”, or they don’t want to wear shirts with care bears on them anymore, because Care Bears are… Well, I can’t blame them for that. Care Bears are scary. Putting that aside, I hope my point is clear. As we get older, through television, the media, our culture, etc… we are talked out of loving the things we love.

In fact, I have to feel a bit sorry for people who were pressured in to giving up their beloved hobbies/interests before they had a job and therefore money to explore that hobby to its real and full potential. When I was little, I was obsessed with tea parties and the beautiful dresses women wore in times long passed. Now that I have the funds, I throw elaborate tea parties (sometimes for gaming events, but mostly for no reason at all), and am able to buy museum quality replicas of antebellum attire. You can judge me if you like, and you can call it a waste of time and money, but someone once said that time you enjoy wasting is not wasted… And I agree emphatically.

I’m lucky that I ended up in a circle of friends, including Dan, who seem to understand my stance. I’ve been asked more than a few times if Dan’s heavy video gaming bothers me, usually followed by a statement a long the lines of “it would drive me crazy.” I mean, I get it. I do understand why people can’t, or don’t think they would be able to, handle a significant other immersing themselves in a hobby that takes so much of their time. Me? I’m solitary by nature, so his long bouts of PC gaming would never bother me for that reason. After I give that answer, however, people go on to the next question: “But… I mean, games are for kids, aren’t they?”

If enjoying what you love is for kids, then give Dan and me a bowl of Trix.

… Get it? Because Trix are for kids. Selfish sociopathic kids who can’t spare one measly box for that poor pathetic rabbit who, from the looks of it, is one scheme away from landing himself in a men’s correctional facility. General Mills knows what it’s like to still have their childhood interests close to heart. Either that, or they might possibly be trying to make a point about the potential hazards of drug addiction, but I digress.

There’s nothing wrong with doing whatever you want with your free time, or your life. I feel like we’re supposed to believe that if you don’t wear the right things, or if you spend Friday nights inside reading or watching TV, you’ve messed up somewhere along the way. We’re supposed to go out and spend time with people that we probably don’t even really like that much just so that when someone asks us what we did over the weekend we can give them an interesting answer. How did that ever become a measure of self-worth? No one should feel bad for not enjoying what everyone else does, and no one should feel bad for enjoying what everyone else doesn’t. Unless it’s illegal and egregiously immoral, but I’m not here to preach. In any case, I believe this spills over in to other facets of life. People don’t wear what they want to wear, they don’t say what they want to say, and they don’t do what they want to do. Everyone’s so terrified of being judged or not fitting in, that they’ll do just about anything to avoid it.

What’s really troubling, is a paranoid idea I have that a lot of people just want everyone else to like and do the same things as them, except they don’t want anyone else to be as good at it. People don’t like when a heavy girl wears clothes that don’t flatter her, because… why? Because it hurts them to have to look at her? No. It’s because, in a way, they begrudge her the confidence it takes to put herself out there like that. Confidence, that maybe, they don’t possess themselves, and therefore can’t understand in anyone else. It confuses and annoys people, and so they feel like it’s necessary to tear her apart… When, really, that kind of confidence is amazing. The older I get, the more I think that the people who actively dislike others for being different from them really just can’t stand the fact that someone is better at something than they are. Otherwise, I’m convinced, they just wouldn’t care.

Basically it’s like your mom and dad always said: If people don’t like you, it’s probably because they’re jealous.

Either that or you’re kind of a jerk and might need to work on your personality a little. Even then, though… Maybe it’s more important to be yourself than to mindlessly be nice to people when you don’t want to be. I don’t think that radically, but I can still see the logic.

In the end, who cares what anyone else thinks? Who cares what everyone else does? Don’t dance like no one is watching; dance like everyone is. The only person you have to be with 100% of the time is yourself, and if you like you and the things you do… no one else should matter.

So, pour yourself a cup of tea and bowl of Trix, beat Half-Life 2 on Expert, and live life on Awesome.

… Er, unless you don’t want to.

Does Growing Up Mean Having to Grow Apart… From Health Insurance?

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Let's save our money for when I lose both eyes...

Let’s save our money for when I lose both eyes…

I sometimes find very interesting notes to myself when I decide to look through my phone, or my sketchbooks, or my blog outlines. More often than not, they’re very ambiguous and puzzling. For instance, I’ve found “the end of the world will be nothing more than the ending of a narration to a story” scrawled in one of my notepads. I have no idea what I could have meant by that. I’m sure it was all very profound at the time, but reading it over all I can think is “…What?” I’ve also found little notes like “become a teapot.” I feel like I might be trying to tell myself something, but I’m not quite sure what that something could be. Furthermore, I’m not sure that “becoming a teapot” has ever been an option for me.

Sometimes, however, I’ll find little notes that actually make sense:

“I have come to the conclusion recently that the scariest thing about growing up is losing Mom and Dad’s health insurance.”

I don’t remember writing that, but the fact that I still agree with it wholeheartedly was unfettered by this point. Growing up is scary. Losing health insurance is terrifying. If you don’t think so, you either have never been without it, or you have lots and lots of money. As for me? I’ve seen a kid with putty for a face get turned away from an urgent care because he didn’t have proof of insurance. I sat, eyes wide, as the young man begged for them to do something for him and the woman at the front desk shook her head repeatedly. My mother and another good Samaritan in the room took it upon themselves to get him transported to an emergency room where, presumably, they’d have to at least give the kid a band-aid and a sucker.

What happens to me now if I decide to ram my face in to some pavement? Whereas I could have done that to my heart’s content a year ago, I now have to keep my precious face at least 3 feet away from any pavement and pavement like substitutes at all times. What kind of life is that? It’s a half-life at best.

It’s got to tell you something that when my mother informed my primary care physician that I am recently engaged, the woman was so happy for me… because getting married means I can be on my husband’s health insurance plan. I told my mom to thank her for her well-meaning, but misplaced sentiment. I’m not marrying Dan for his wonderful insurance possibilities. If I married for anything other than love it would be for tea accessories, followed closely by “lulz” (an indication, similar to “likes” on Facebook, of how funny any given post is in an internet community I’m a part of). Marrying for health insurance, however, is just outrageous.

I’d like to get in to the politics of it all, and the obvious greed and corruption running rampant throughout the healthcare system, but I can’t. I can’t, because I just don’t know enough on the subject. Up until very recently it was never on my radar, given that I was very well taken care of and never had to worry about it. Ironically, that’s one of the biggest problems insurance reform faces; complacency. In fact, I think that’s one of the biggest problems any kind of reform or progress faces.

Not a novel thought, I’ll grant you, but at least I arrived at it on my own. Sort of. I mean, I arrived at it by having security viciously ripped from my hands, but that’s kind of like doing it on my own.

I’ll tell you one thing, though. That degree that I scoffed at a year ago sure is seeming like a better and better idea. But that’s just the fear of accidentally losing an eye talking. In any case, I’m sure the hospital would do something for me at that point.

… Right?

Well, whatever. I won’t be bullied or terrified in to doing something that isn’t going to make me happy. You can dangle wealth and insurance in front of me like a doughnut on a stick in front of someone on a treadmill, but it won’t work. You see, I’m too young and stupid to think anything bad is ever really going to happen to me, and so I win by default.

To all those models posing for healthcare stock photos, though… Stop smiling. No one believes you.

Let Them Eat Cake… and Also Whatever Else They Want

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You are what you eat...

Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve finally realized that the world doesn’t want vegetarians to exist. I’ve fought this fact for a while. I didn’t want it to be true. After all, I live in Southern California, the land of vegetarian restaurants (mostly hipster-vegan). Food chains all over the country are adding their cute little “grain patties” to menus. It just seemed like progress was slow, though constant.

But then, of course, there’s always the internet, isn’t there?

I don’t understand people very well. I like people, sure. Where would I be without them? Doesn’t change the fact that I just. Don’t. Get. It.

A friend of mine linked to a video (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/news-video/video-famous-vegan-alex-jamieson-eating-meat-after-12-years/article11708573) on Facebook. It’s about a famous vegan who’s deciding to eat meat again for her health’s sake. That’s fair. I’ve written a lot myself on how dangerous vegetarianism can be. I thought, wow… cool for her. I couldn’t force myself to eat meat even if I really tried. In fact, I’m terribly afraid of ever being stranded in a life or death situation for just this reason. Well, for a lot of reasons I suppose, but it should still say something that this is one of them. My point is, I still don’t care what other people eat. I’m happy when people make decisions for themselves based on what they know is best. Live and let eat and all that.

Then this comment happened: “Vegan-ism is a cult (or an eating disorder). Hence the massive negative backlash EVERY TIME someone leaves the fold. Vegans are a viscous[sic] lot; but I guess I would be too if my brain was starved for essential animal-based saturated fats.”

I mean… Come on.

What is that? Is that someone just messing around? Because it’s certainly not an informed opinion. People take what they hear from different media outlets, I think, and regurgitate it in what I like to call “Band Wagon Rhetoric.” It’s popular to make fun of vegans, and unfortunately this has progressed to the point of a weird unfounded kind of hatred. Why, oh why, would someone be so upset about something that, by all appearances at least, has nothing to do with him?

I can only tell you what I think about this. What I think, is that people love to be a part of something. They love to think that they stand for something… And if they can’t stand for something, if it’s not part of their personal dogma, they have to stand against it. I commented politely to this man and, among some other things, I pointed out that a broad generalization of any group of people is wrong and backwards. Things are not black and white, and as my favorite Jedi once said: “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.” Except for that absolute. That one’s okay.

To be honest, though, if it had just been a generalization, I probably would have passed over it. I’ve learned to pick my fights over the years, and in any case, I can entertain another person’s opinion without necessarily holding it true myself. What really baffles me here, is the outright anger this man displayed. I feel, in this case, that anger is just a way to mask a fundamental lack of knowledge on the subject. After all, if he is so up in arms about it, he must have good reason, right? This is our cultural hive mind at its best… and it’s ridiculous.

When you get right down to it, this person has probably met several vegans who never came out and said they were vegans. Maybe he got on with them, maybe he didn’t, but in the end it had nothing to do with whether or not they ate meat. Why? Because he didn’t know it about them. Just as your gay friend Charlie shouldn’t be referred to as your “gay friend Charlie”, because maybe Charlie has something far more interesting and relevant to his personality to be described as, vegans shouldn’t be defined by their diet. Their diet of all things. That someone could possibly get so heated over what someone is putting in their mouths during snack time, is bordering on comical.

Having said that, since I am a fairly reasonable person, I do understand that vegans can be preachy and annoying. I understand that PETA has done almost everything it can to ruin the face of veganism for most people… But honestly, it’s just like any other stereotype. There will be those among us who fit the bill of any stereotype you can name, and when you’re looking for it you’re going to find it. Confirmation bias is a real thing, and a big problem. If you are already inclined to believe something (say, for instance, that vegansim is a cult just because it’s something you don’t happen to understand for yourself), then any source of proof you get that can serve to solidify your opinion will serve to solidify your opinion. Never mind the quiet vegan who just wants to have a damn salad for lunch, and be done with it. That person can be easily ignored. Just like every time it doesn’t rain after you’ve just washed your car can be ignored in favor of lamenting over the one or two days it does, just so that you can cry, “Why does this always happen to me?!”

But… it doesn’t always happen to you. It sometimes happens to everyone.

Most everyone has enough on their plate to worry about without also worrying about… well, what’s on someone’s plate. Do we really need one more reason to divide people? With such heated topics as religion, politics, and musical preferences, there are plenty of things already seeing to it that no one will ever settle down and see eye to eye on anything. If you really stop to think about it, though, I think any intelligent person can see that a difference in opinion is no reason to vilify a person or group of people.

I mean, unless you think coffee is better than tea. In that case you are evil and contributing largely to the downfall of society.

I’m mostly kidding about that last part.

Band of Roommates

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So. In my long awaited return to blogging, I offer an amusing tale of triumph in the face of almost assured defeat.

To say the least of it, Dan, Robby and I had a roommate that none of us quite meshed with. It progressed in to full on dislike in the couple weeks prior to his departure, which culminated in a celebratory easter/the-jerk-roommate-is-gone dinner. The shadow had been lifted. Ding Dong… the witch was dead.

That’s what we thought, anyway.

Recently, Dan was going through his things, and happened to notice that a few bottles of his more expensive liquor, and a nice cocktail shaker that his sister had gifted him for his birthday had oddly gone missing.

Dan sends a friendly non threatening message to our ex roommate asking if he’d happened to have seen these things, or if he’d accidentally taken them in the maelstrom that is moving. Dan gets a response: “I don’t know. Will check when get home. Can’t stop by this week.”

Two days go by.

Dan sends another message, asking for a verdict. Had the guy seen the stuff? No answer.

Two more days go by. Still no answer.

Then, on the guy’s crappy band page… an ambiguous status update. A song lyric? An inside joke, perhaps? Openly mocking a man merely asking for his belongings back? You be the judge: “Gimme my alcohol back.”

At this point, Dan was at work, and I was alone at the apartment with my awesome roommates, Joe and Robby. We were all more or less agreed. The guy was being a jerk… and what’s worse, he was being a coward. Posting behind the semi anonymity of his band, and on a page that Dan never would have looked at was, in so many words, a verbal sucker punch.

I thought about responding in kind. After a few minutes of mulling over the contents of this response with my roommates, we decided that the best course of action would be to set our wrath aside and think. If I were to post something as scathingly angry as I felt, Dan’s things were all but lost to him.

We went a different route.

A few minutes of Robby’s amateur sleuthing, and we had an address.

There was no hesitation. It was either showing up at this guy’s doorstep, or accepting insult and injury… and defeat. Not tonight, my friends. Not. Tonight. From this day to the ending of the world, we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few… we band of brothers. For he who shall accompany me in the middle of the night to an ex roommate’s apartment to retrieve stolen goods, is truly my brother.

We pumped ourselves up on the way there by listening to “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. We danced, we sang, we applauded ourselves on our overall cleverness… though victory had yet to be secured.

It wasn’t too long before the GPS alerted us to the fact that we had arrived at our destination 50 feet too late. This led to not a little confusion, and we parked in a nearby Wendy’s lot. We got out of the car. We walked across the street and began searching; Robby and I pulling our hoods up, Joe lamenting the fact that he didn’t have one. My heart was racing.

This was crazy. Even for me.

After a short search, we found the address. After a shorter search, we saw that his car was there – the best indication of said jerk ex roommate actually being home. I approached the apartment on my own. Robby and Joe stayed back. This was my fight. I called the guy. The phone was allowed two rings before being unceremoniously sent to voicemail. Even the dullest among us could infer that he had pointedly decided not to answer my call.

I texted. A warning shot, if you will.

I told him I was there. That I was just around to pick up Dan’s things, and that I would be on my way after that. Those of you familiar with iPhones will be also familiar with the fact that you can see if someone has read your text or not. He read it. He did not answer. Ten minutes went by, and he did not answer.

So, I let myself in to the apartment complex… and rang his doorbell.

His roommate answered.

“Hello?” He asked. There was no going back now. For better or for worse, this was the direction my night had irrevocably gone.

“Hi. Does ______ live here?” I responded.

“Yes. Who’s asking?” He didn’t seem to know of the silent war that raged.

“I’m Terin. I’m his ex roommate. Just came to pick up some of my boyfriend’s things.”

“Oh, okay.” He said kindly. No. He didn’t know. “Would you like to come in?”

No. The last thing I wanted was to be behind enemy lines with no line of sight to my friends – across the street, hidden in the shadows, their fists raised in quiet camaraderie.

“No, I’m good out here. Just passing through.”

He nodded. A moment later, my seemingly befuddled ex roommate was walking toward me. As though he didn’t know I had been there for quite some time, or what’s more… why.

“Hey.” He said uncertainly. A liar to the last.

“Hey, there. I just happened to be in the neighborhood. Just thought I’d make things easier for you and come by to get Dan’s things.”

He took an affected and untrusting step back.

“Okay, first of all… that’s really weird.” He said with the kind of indignation one could only muster as a last ditch effort to seem in the right. “I don’t like that at all.”

It was clearer to me then than it had been all night, or in the days leading up to this debacle. He was going to forgo being a gentleman in combat, forgo gracefully admitting to his own fault, and put on a show for me. He was playing the part of the confused victim, and painting me as the villain. As fate would have it, he cannot act. I can.

I smiled.

“Okay.” I said cheerfully. “Can I get Dan’s things back?”

He took a few more steps back.

“What was it again?” He asked, still affecting annoyance and indignation.

“A very expensive bottle of Grand Marnier, and a cocktail shaker that his sister had given to him.” I listed only two of the many things that were missing, because I had quickly surmised that choosing the most important of the lot and then cutting my losses was the best and surest course of action.

“Oh, okay.” He said with a roll of his eyes, and just before he was out of sight, “Pretty sure that shaker’s mine and a friend gave it to me, but whatever. I’m not going to argue.”

“Okay, great!” I responded sweetly.

This, and this only, was his admittance of fault. Making up a quick and half hearted story as to why he would have taken something that clearly did not belong to him, and then making it seem like he, again, was the victim by deciding to give it up. If he had, indeed, believed it to be his… he should have, and most certainly would have, fought for it. He gave it up, because he knew he was wrong.

A few moments later, he returned with Dan’s belongings.

“How did you find out where I lived?” He asked as he begrudgingly handed me over the prize.

“Robby saw a flyer for your housewarming party.” Was all I said.

He stood silent for a moment.

“… Okay.” He finally responded… put out, and defeated. I smiled again.

“Thanks, ______!” I exclaimed, and was off to join my brothers across the street. We cheered together as we raced toward the car.

We had won. The night was ours.

We returned home to Dan, showing him the fruits of our efforts. There were hugs and cheers aplenty… and then there was a subdued Denny’s celebration.

As I write this, me and my fellow veterans enjoy delicious cocktails… made all the more sweet by the fact that they were shaken in a newly retrieved cocktail shaker, and by its rightful owner.

Hey, I’ve Never Met You, And This Is Crazy, But Can We Be Friends Maybe?

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A friend died in a car accident.

The first night was the hardest. I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote a blog post about it. The next few days were particularly difficult as well, as there wasn’t a lot of time spent not thinking about it. It was strange and surreal, and most of all it was terrible. This man that I’d only met a couple times, who lived across the country from me, who I only knew for a year… his death upset my whole life. Even now, when I really stop to think about it, the sadness can be overwhelming.

At first, though, my family didn’t understand why it affected me the way it did.

“Yeah, but I mean… you only knew him online, right?” My brother asked me.

“No, I’ve met this guy a few times. We just interacted a lot online.” Was my answer.

There was a general shift in the room as everyone more or less seemed to empathize a little better with my feelings on the subject. I see. They thought I only knew Spencer online. And why would I ever be so upset over someone who I didn’t “really” know?

Gather round, friends… because this, I believe, is a very relevant topic to our generation.

What if I had only known Spencer online?

I’ve given some thought to the idea. Mostly I’ve come to the conclusion that it all comes down to what your personal definition of what a “friend” is. When does someone stop being just an acquaintance and become someone that you could see yourself regularly chatting with over a beer at the local pub? And is there even a real difference between those two things? Is the real measure of friendship how much you care about a person, or how many times you’ve hung out with them? Because if it’s the latter, then a lot of the people who I consider my “friends” are, well, not.

So, really, the idea that friendships can only be marked by a physical presence is completely ridiculous to me.

It’s already a blurry line to begin with. I mean, what constitutes a “physical” presence anyway? If I’ve met you once, does that mean I’m allowed to call you my friend for now on? If I’ve met you twice, does that mean I’m now given leave to cry when we lose you? If I’ve never met you at all, am I really not allowed to be sad? Am I, indeed, seen as weird for being sad? I can think of one person in particular who I’ve only ever talked to online, but I know I would be devastated if something happened to him. He’s my friend. I know his interests, I know his humor, I know his personality. I know he’s a great guy. I was happy for him when he entered in to a relationship with his new girlfriend; I feel bad for him when something doesn’t go his way. In effect, I care for him. I didn’t need to first look at his face and shake his hand to form those emotions; I only needed to know what kind of person he was. And, wouldn’t you know it, when physical avenues are taken out of the equation… it’s actually very easy to get to know someone. I, myself, knew I was falling in love my my boyfriend before I ever set eyes on him in person.

Funny how that works.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for bonding over a cup of tea and then skipping merrily through a field of wildflowers with your friends, because physicality does have its place… But it’s not the only place.

The world is changing. There still seems to be a stigma surrounding online friendships, dating, gaming, etc., but I can’t help but feel like this is nothing but opposition to the change. Some people don’t want to accept the idea that you can form real relationships with people you’ve never technically “met”, simply because it’s different from how things have traditionally been done. Which is fair, because it certainly is. Look around you. With social networking sites like Facebook and twitter, our online presences are becoming a big part of who we are.

This is all just part of the so called ebb and flow of life. Things constantly change, progress runs up against opposition, people cling to what they know. There are certainly cons to beginning to live so much of our lives online, but opening our worlds up to new people that we never would have met otherwise is not one of them.

And I, for one, welcome our new online overlords friends.