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Thirteen Ways to Lose Your Innocence

February 26, 2012 6 comments

(Note: This is part of a series I write from time to time. Here are the first three: Thirteen Ways to Handle Love or Repair a Broken Heart, Thirteen Ways to Forget Him or Her, and Thirteen Ways to Forget.)

 

  1. Follow the path until it bends. Then, step from it. Do not look back.
  2. Fall in love. Fall in lust. Mistake one for the other.
  3. Strike a match. Do not heed what, or whom, you set aflame.
  4. Fail to read the warnings signs, even the ones you wrote yourself.
  5.  Peek behind the curtain, find the person waiting there.
  6. Prick your finger on the spindle. Forget to feel the pain.
  7. Lie about where you’ve been. Lie too well.
  8. Regret everything, even the things you did not do.
  9. Stop asking questions. When answers are given anyway, don’t listen.
  10. Turn off the light. This applies to more than just bedrooms and smiles.
  11. Given credence to the bullies. Then, join them.
  12. Walk away. Do not hesitate.
  13. Make promises you do not intend to keep. Swear you never made them.
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Categories: thirteen ways

Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Prince Charming

February 22, 2012 11 comments

There are two worlds: one of fairytales, with Evil Queens, happy endings, and magic – the other a slightly more real place, where love is messy and people are muddling through. There are times where everyone wishes that life were a fairytale, that evil was easy to spot and defend against. Where love, though occasionally tumultuous, is epic and grand. The stuff of legends. In that world, people are heroes. Good triumphs. Obstacles are overcome. True love’s kiss is a panacea.

But the real world? It’s not that easy. Things are complicated. Nothing is black or white. Grey is worn like battle armor. And love, though beautiful and real, is never easy. In this world, mistakes happen. Words are swallowed. Love isn’t easily captured. Even when it’s true and you fight like hell. Even if you try. Sometimes, in this world, it is not enough. Pain happens. People get hurt. Tequila is consumed. Hearts get broken. Damage is done.

Shakespeare said, the course of true love ne’er did run smooth. To that, I’d add: sometimes, you careen off a waterfall, darlings. Sometimes, you drown in the consequences. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or rare it is. In the real world, we fumble around – because life isn’t easily parsed out. The heart certainly isn’t.

Consider, then, for a moment – a person living in both these worlds. Okay, a character. Yes, I’m referring to Prince Charming/David from ABC’s Once Upon a Time. (Basic premise: The Evil Queen put a curse on everyone in Fairytale Land, transporting them to the Storybrook in the Real World. No one can leave.) This show has quickly become my favorite, because it’s wonderfully written, full of layers, and the acting is so divine. I admire the whole production greatly, because nothing is what it seems – even when you think you understand. (A lesson for life, that.)

Take Prince Charming and Snow White – even in Fairytale Land, they’ve got it rough. They both nearly die. One nearly marries someone else. And in a desperate moment, Snow takes a magic draught that does an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because of how the show began, we know, of course, that they end up together. But that knowledge doesn’t make watching their trials any easier.

In the Real World, there’s David and Mary Margaret (Charming and Snow). He wakes up from a coma. They fall in the best kind of crazy, stupid love. The kind that makes you forget yourself, and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ cease being words. They’re just letters without meaning. David and Mary Margaret have the kind of passion that tears people apart. And it does, slowly, bit by bit. They love each other in such a palpable way; it almost doesn’t matter that he’s married to Kathryn who he feels suspiciously little for. It almost doesn’t matter, but it does. Week after week, they dance around, half in pleasure and half in pain. It might just be tv, but the portrayal is dead on. Ask anyone who has ever loved in the wrong direction. Small looks. Waiting in coffee shops. Little moments, gobbled up in order to get through the day. Because what you feel is a consuming, whirling passion born of the very best madness.

Eventually, David says he’s going to leave his wife; Mary Maragert can’t take the lies and sneaking around. She wants to be honest, because in love – that’s what you DO. You want to be able to hold hands in public, not sneak off into dark corners (although, to be fair, dark corners can be fun). While he’s explaining things to his wife, he hesitates in his confession. An expression of conflict and fear blanket his face. In that moment, you can feel him waver, waffling because the conversation is freakin’ HARD. How easy is it to tell someone that you love someone else? It’s not. In the real world that we live in, it takes balls of steel. But I digress. David takes the easy road and doesn’t tell her there’s someone else, despite the fact that he promised. The wife finds out, Mary Margaret finds out he lied – and things go very wrong, very fast. David and Mary Margaret break up, and she’s been labeled the town slut. (Okay, that was a little Pleasantville, but I get it.)

Here’s the thing: people who watch the show were OUTRAGED. They were aghast that Prince Charming would fail to do the right thing, that he’d choke like that. Because he’s Prince Freakin’ Charming. Except…he’s not. Not really. This the Real World Charming, aka David.

And David? He’s human. He’s flawed. He makes mistakes, like we all do. Who hasn’t punked out of a difficult confession, skirting around the bombshell of an admission? Who hasn’t, at some point, taken the easy road? No one can say they’ve NEVER done that, especially in a situation like that. It’s not like missing a phone call or a lunch date. It’s “honey, I’m so totally head over heels for someone else. I can’t see straight.”

The course of true love ne’er did run smooth. In the case of David and Mary Margaret, it is a run full of rapids and rough waters. From a storytelling perspective, it can’t be easy. If they just got together and things were awesome, we (as an audience) would probably get bored. The twists and turns, the ups and downs, the moments of shouting at the television (come on, I’m not the only one who does that) are what makes a great story worth it. It keeps the tale dynamic.

And, in all honesty, I think that David’s fumbling were so very human. Withholding that information from Kathryn wasn’t just a character doing something stupid; that was a real life moment, where things don’t go as planned and a person doesn’t do what he should. It also served to illustrate the difference between Fairytale Land and the Real World. Because while each character has retained basic traits, they’ve also lived two lives. And it’s our experiences who help make us who we are.

Sometimes, we chicken out. Sometimes, we don’t show up or step up. Sometimes, we’re all a little bit like David – even in the name of love, even for the sake of love. What he did (omitting the fact of Mary Margaret) was cowardly. But I also think he had good intentions; he was trying to spare her pain. She was, after all, leaving anyway. She seemed almost relieved to be able to go off on her own adventure. It was almost a kindness.

Yes, the decision blew up in David’s face. It resulted in a loss, one that is probably temporary. Because as an audience, we’re pulling for them to get together. (And if you’re not – what’s wrong with you? You probably have a concussion. Seek medical attention.) If Sam and Diane immediately got together on Cheers, it would’ve gone the way of Moonlighting. Anticipation makes a lot of things better; storytelling is one of them. The hard parts, the tough times, they allow the wonderful moments to dance and shine. If things were perfect, if everything happened as it should, the story would suffer. And this is a story, just like real life is sometimes a little bit like a fairytale. Like all stories, it all depends on how you look at things.

Above all else, one must honor the story.

Rebel with a Crayon: The Witch and the Fear

February 21, 2012 8 comments

 

When I was in first grade, I was terrified of my teacher. Absolutely terrified. If I was able to, I would’ve hid under my desk for the duration of each day. Of course, on the first day of school, I was excited. I was the dorky kid who LIKED school. I was totally prepared, too – I had a Batman lunchbox. My lunchbox was AWESOME. Nevermind that I was the only girl who carried a supposed boy’s lunchbox. I rocked. I was a rebel.

Until, that is, I set foot into the classroom, and The Panic set in. (Not to be confused with the pain. I still have all of my appendages.) My pulse went insane. I wanted to FLEE, and I briefly considered running full tilt out of the room.

You see, my teacher was a witch.

Or, at least, I thought she was. One of my favorite movies at the time was The Witches, starring Angelica Huston. And my teacher, who I’ll call Mrs. X, looked just like her. Dark hair, plum colored eyeshadow, and I was fairly certain she was wearing a skin suit. Here is the 20th anniversary trailer:

 

It was horrifying. I couldn’t wait to get home. I told my mom. (Who, to her credit, did not laugh in my face.) To this day, there are a few scenes (the painting scene) from that movie that STILL creep me out. Eventually, my mom convinced me that my teacher was not Angelica Huston or an actual evil witch, capable of turning children into mice. There was no painting she could trap me in. I was going to be okay.

By the middle of the year, I almost wish she had. There were two things I remember getting in trouble for in her class. One was my inability to cut along the lines. (I still cannot do that. It is my arts and crafts SHAME.) The other thing I remember being chastised for was a) coloring outside the lines (slightly) and b) coloring a sheep purple. Purple is, and was, my favorite color. As far as I was concerned, everything in the world SHOULD be purple. My teacher, though, did not believe in creative coloring.

Due to other circumstances, I did not have to endure her classroom for the entire year. But that Purple Sheep incident stuck with me. It did not, however, stifle me. I’m still more likely to color a sheep purple than white. That’s just boring. I don’t do boring (unless you count crocheting in front of the tv, because I’m secretly a 90 year old woman).

Fast forward to seventh grade, I encountered Mrs. X again. It was as if the universe had decided to recall my traumatized state, hurling me unwittingly back into her classroom. (Dramatic? ME? Shush.) This time, it was not as her student – but to read to those unsuspecting pupils within her care. In seventh grade, one of our units was to write and illustrate a children’s book. Mine, dear gods, was about a stuffed bear. It was terrible. I am fairly certain it was cheesy and made no logic sense. But I colored it pretty. And you know what? Part were colored in PURPLE. Don’t think I’d forgotten the offending Sheep Incident.

As fate would have it, I was assigned to Mrs. X’s classroom. As soon as I found that out (what were the odds?), I felt an old panic explode in my throat, like a rabid baby bird trying to escape. It was as if I was back in first grade again, standing in the doorway, wondering if the Witch was going to eat my soul.

This time, I was braver. I was nervous as a newborn on ice skates, but I marched up to her, smiled – and asked if she remembered me. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps I wanted to prove that I would stomach terror that would’ve felled an elephant.

She smiled, and it was a dreadful thing, nodded. Yes, of course she remembered me. How was I? How were my parents?

I did not ask her why she hadn’t aged a DAY. I did not ask her how she was still torturing the masses. I did not comment on the fact that the classroom pet was a freakin’ mouse. I smiled, stuck it out, read my book – and fled as soon as I was able.

But here’s the thing: sometimes, our fears don’t change. Sometimes, we push them aside, forget them, shove them under other memories. We bury our fears in the hope that they’ll disappate or disappear. It’s almost as if they’re gone. Until, that is, they’re not.

What is important, then, is what we do with fear. How it’s handled. Do we run, acting as if we aren’t different than we once were? Or do we say, screw it, I can face this?

When given the option, screw it, I can face this wins every.single.time. Facing a fear means staring it down. Not giving up. Not running. So much is lost in that moment where one decides fight or flight. If you run, you’re losing every single scrape of potential inherent in that possible decision. But if you fight? Sure, you might lose. You might screw up. You might look like the uncouth fool.

But at least you tried. And least you did something. At least you stared at the Witch, without looking away. That, in itself, means you won.

Top Twelve Reasons Why You’ll Never Be a Writer

February 15, 2012 24 comments
  1. You are, currently, wearing pants. (See Sean Ferrell and Jeffrey Somers — or Janet Reid’s post on the subject.)
  2. You regularly eat balanced meals; they do not include bacon or chocolate as a food group.
  3. You are not in the habit of mainlining either COFFEE or TEA.
  4. You think books belong on bookshelves, and you do not have them stashed EVERYWHERE.
  5. You say things like, “I’ll write a book someday” or “I started a novel, but then I couldn’t find the time to finish it.” (Inspiration for this one comes from Chuck Wendig.)
  6. You have never had entire conversations about the merits of gin, tequila, and scotch. Also, you’ve never had scotch.
  7. You believe that inspiration arrives at the whim of a Muse. If there WAS such a thing as a Muse, she’d bitch slap you for that.
  8. You think editing is for chumps and spit out word-vomit, without ever reading it over. But it’s cool, because your mom LOVES it. (PS. She’s LYING to you.)
  9. You have never done an ounce of research. Not even via Google or *gasp* Wikipedia. Additionally, you think research is for morons with no imagination. The Muse will bitch slap you for that, too.
  10. You have no idea who Neil Gaiman is. Stop. Just stop right there. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go read Twilight. That’s what you deserve. *hugs Neverwhere*
  11. You’ve never had one of the following:
    1. Streaked hair
    2. A hangover so bad you started speaking in tongues
    3. A tattoo
    4. A conversation about the finer points of baking, chocolate, and/or the best way to get rid of a body

    12. Lastly, you haven’t written a really, bad thinly veiled story about an ex – in which he/she was eviscerated by rabid wolverines OR honey badgers. Because, my friends, honey badgers don’t give a shit.

Categories: Humor, Random Musings

Don’t Blame the Victim: Or, Why I’m in a Complete Rage

February 13, 2012 9 comments

A little while ago, I read this article in the Huffington Post, and it made me want to strangle kittens. KITTENS, people. Poor innocent little furballs. But don’t worry – no kittens were harmed in the writing of this blog. Why? Because I’m not a kitten-strangler OR a serial killer. Moving on…

Let’s get this out in the open, ok? Rape is NEVER a victim’s fault. (Man or woman. And yes, it happens to men, too.) Rape is NEVER something someone asks for. And, lastly, if you put a woman in a room with a non-rapist? NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN. You see, there’s no causation related to mere proximity. For the sake of this post, I’m going to use the man-woman dynamic; it save me the trouble of having to write things two different ways.

Rape is not a crime of passion. Rape is not a crime of sex. It is a crime of aggression, anger, and power.

No one asks for it. No one wearing a short skirt is “asking for it.” No one in the military is asking for it, either. That means women serving in the military enlist with the notion that the people they’re serving with aren’t rapists. Unfortunately, in Liz Trotta’s article (NO RELATION, people. NONE.), she incorrectly implies that close quarters + men and women = RAPE.

Think about that for a second. That means if you toss two people in a room for an undetermined amount of time, the end result will be rape. That assumption means two things: 1) rape is somehow unavoidable and 2) the rapist bears no responsibility.

You hear that sound? That’s my blood pressure erupting like some kind of cartoon volcano.

NO. No, no, no, no. That is the most unintelligent, uninformed, callous thing I’ve heard in a while. That demonstrates a basic lack of understanding about rape as a crime and about humanity in general. This is not Lord of the Flies, and we’re not all either the crazed mob or Piggy.

Furthermore, in the Huffington Post piece, Liz Trotta is quoted taking several jabs at “feminists” (which seems to be flung about like an insult, lately, when someone disagrees with a woman. Why?) – one of which is that women want to be “to be warriors and victims at the same time.”

Oh, sweet mother of coffee and chocolate, that is a shitstorm of cracktacular crazy. Claiming that women WANT to be victims is outrageous and appalling. No one wants to be a victim. If someone gets mugged at an ATM, do people rush to fault him/her for BEING at that ATM? Wrong place, wrong time. Wrong shoes, wrong day of the week. No? Then it’s not okay in the instance of rape.

Women should be able to feel safe in the military. A woman shouldn’t have to worry about her fellow officer abusing and assaulting her. When it happens, it’s a crime. The victim didn’t cause it. And as a woman – and a feminist – I am utterly shocked that you used the phrase “raped too much.” ONCE is too much. Like all crimes, it doesn’t have to happen. I think, perhaps, the rational solution is to remove the RAPISTS from the military. Not bash the women who are proudly trying to serve it.

No one asks to be abused. No one asks to be hurt and violated. No one.

ETA: Here’s a piece that Jezebel did on this, complete with a video of the segment where the comments were made.

ETA2: Jon Stewart is, as always, AWESOME. Watch him shatter the crapshow HERE.

Childhood Memories, Whitney Houston, and Respect

February 12, 2012 2 comments

When I was around ten years old, my best friend Mandy and I had a handful of games we used to play. One of them was Jem and the Holograms (I STILL want sparkly, pink star earrings, btw). We’d put on some cassette tape (yes, tape) and either sing to the song of lip-sync. One of the tapes we used the most was a Whitney Houston tape that I’m 99% sure belonged to Mandy’s sister.

“I Will Always Love You” was the song we used most often. I was too little to know that Dolly Parton had written it. I was too young to be allowed to see the Bodyguard, but I was not too young to be astounded by her voice. To watch her sing, she made it look effortless. She sang with everything she had. This was back in the day when MTV actually PLAYED music videos, TRL was still a thing (Carson, I miss you!), and CDs seemed like a faraway, Jetsons’s future.

Houston’s talent was astounding. Like Amy Winehouse, I was always pulling for her to overcome her struggles, to leave addiction behind. She was always a superstar. Sometimes, her light shined a little dimmer than it should have. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t hoping she was going to be okay. Just like, say, I hoped that Britney Spears would be alright, when she went off the rails, shaved her head, and threw umbrellas around.

Celebrity is a funny thing. We’re never so connected, and yet disconnected from a person. What we glimpse of a celebrity is just that: a glimpse. It’s never the whole picture, not even close. The danger, I suppose, is assuming that what we see is all there is. We forget, perhaps too easily, that there’s a person behind the makeup, the pose, the smile. We forget the Norma Jean behind the Marilyn Monroe. We fail to realize that Rita Hayworth’s real name was Margarita. Or that Harry Houdini was actually Ehrich Weiss. The spotlight, for better or worse and to varying degrees, casts a person in a different light. I suspect that it’s a tough thing to navigate, to decide not who to be, but how to be. When people are chasing you around, constantly commenting on SOME aspect of your life (whether you will get married, get divorced, by a house, retire, go to rehab, relapse, have children etc etc), it makes BEING yourself kind of difficult. Because, I think, people stop treating you like YOU, and start treating you like less of a person.

And yes, I know: that is the “price” of fame. But that doesn’t mean that I think it’s right. I love the age we live it, where I can go on Twitter and talk to people I wouldn’t normally bump into on the street. We’re no longer limited by geography. But it also has devolved into a world where the media is constantly rabid, salivating for a story. The media isn’t discreet anymore; as a whole, the heart has gone out of it. There’s an almost gleeful attitude when reporting a comeback gone wrong or the latest SNL snafu. Yes, stories are meant to be reported, but unless someone’s been found a crack den slaughtering babies, perhaps a measure of common decency should be exercised.

This brings us back to Whitney Houston. She passed away. It doesn’t matter why. What matters is that she’s gone. Her talent is lost. Her family is grieving. My heart goes out to her daughter, who deserved better than to lose her mother so young. A light just went out in the world. What will YOU focus on: it’s absence, or how many times the match was struck before it was set aflame?

 

Go listen to this. Houston’s vocals on “How Will I Know?” isolated. It’s stunning.

Horses and Love: There’s No Trick Riding Without Trust

February 10, 2012 7 comments

 

I grew up around horses. When I was three years old, my parents got me a pony. Well, two ponies. They were, in fact, rescue ponies. Their original owner decided that he simply didn’t want them anymore, and he just…let them out. They were found by someone who knew my mother. And by ‘found,’ I mean they were grazing on her lawn. So, there are pictures of my third birthday where I’m unwrapping a small saddle, insisting I can carry it – even though it weighed more than I did. (I was a peanut.) There’s a video, too, and I distinctly remember holding the saddle, asking my dad, “Where’s the pony?” I was too smart for my own good, sometimes.

They were two of the best ponies, ever (if I can dig up a picture, I’ll add it later). Sweet, gentle, and loving. Once, *someone* forgot to tighten the girth (the belt that holds that saddle in place); I ended up hanging upside down, with the pony staring at me through his legs. He was smart enough to stop moving, once he realized I was slipping. He knew that something was amiss. If he had a different disposition, he could’ve killed me. But he didn’t. A few seconds later, my mom rescued me – but I will never let her live that down. Some things just are too good to let go of.

There are days where I think I understand horses better than people. Sure, they can’t throw up. And yes, they can’t talk. But most of them want two things: food and love. Who can argue with that? Not me. Most of the time, I want the same damn things – except coffee, too. Without the Coffee, I cease to function. Or I run into walls. It’s not pretty.

When I was in high school, long after my two ponies had passed on, I attached myself to a damn crazy horse. He wasn’t mean. He had energy and spirit. I was, in short, determined to ride him. I harassed my mother for a good long time, until she finally agreed. I think she was either trying to shut me up or get rid of me. You see, this horse? He was gorgeous. He was a dark bay, which is close to black; his muzzle (nose) had brown on it, which mean he wasn’t a true black horse. He would bleach lighter in the sun. But in my eyes? He was Black Beauty.

His previous owner was a very heavy woman who mistreated him. Due to her errors, he flipped over a cross-country jump (made of telephone poles). She was injured, though not seriously. He ended up laid up, and developed scars on his back. By some miracle, he healed fine. But the woman resented him, stopped going by to see him and stopped paying his board. The barn repossessed him for back board. He then spent at least a year being tortured by people who pulled on his face. They rode him roughly, which meant shouting and kicking. He’d jump ANYTHING you put in front of him. It didn’t matter that he was a midsize horse, and he SHOULDN’T be able to jump that high. He had heart. He was ridden in Hunter Jumpers, and by the time we got him, he was damn near nuts.

He didn’t know what a carrot was. He didn’t understand petting. He was an ex-racehorse, too, which meant if you didn’t pay attention – he’d run. (I know some people like that. I’ve loved them, too, even when I wanted to punch them.) It took a YEAR of patience, of starting at square one, of walking and trotting – nothing else – to get him to understand that not everyone was going to hurt him. Not everyone was going to abuse him. It took three years before my mom agreed to let me on him. In that time, he ran away with at least two people who couldn’t handle him.

Here he is, although it’s not the best picture. It’s what I have on hand:

 

But I knew. And he knew, too. That I loved him. And we trusted each other, implicitly. There was nothing I’d ask of him that he’d refuse, and I knew he’d get me through it safely. Jump grids, trail rides, and bits of dressage (leg yields, turn of the forehands etc). Sure, there were times he’d toss his head and want to RUN. But it wasn’t bad behavior. It was that he just wanted to have fun.

I used to sing to him whenever he needed calming down. It worked like a charm. I taught him to bow on command. If I laid myself sideways across his saddle and said, “Go home,” he’d take me into the barn and stop. On him, I taught myself a little bit of trick riding (backwards, sideways etc). There was complete faith between us, and it was something miraculous.

When he died, it broke my heart. To be honest, I haven’t felt the same about a horse since. I know that I’ll never feel quite the same thing again; after all, no two loves are alike. But I do know that they require the same things: trust, understanding, and faith. Love should allow you to task risks, without having to fret about the consequences. Love makes you braver, although it occasionally makes you stupid. (What sane person would’ve ridden that horse? Or dated that boy? Or been that trusting? Yeah, that’d be me. Always.)

Being around animals can teach you a lot about who you are and what you want. It doesn’t matter if things look scary. It doesn’t matter if things aren’t entirely safe. It doesn’t matter if people look at you like you are a lunatic. They don’t matter. What’s in your heart? What you know in your marrow? That’s what counts.