Archive for May, 2013

the lost girl


her heart is a compass. her eyes are a map, a plotted course to places she has never been. her past is a constellation of broken stars, a winding path through the woods, a slightly crooked train track. right now, her life is curiosity on a mountain cliff – the updraft of air during a freefall. Chaos invited with precision and purpose – outcome, unknown. she is always where she needs to be, destination unnecessary.

if being in love means being lost, she’s a gone girl. past the point of the no return, beyond the last mile marker for reason, far away from the fog of doubt. she wanders out in the morning light, never unsure. always searching. there are no traffic lights to hold her back. no yield signs. where is the no road, she creates one. where there is no light, she makes one. where there is no hope, she conjures it. some things are beyond sense – and everything about her is magic: her clockwork grace, her unfailing certainty, the way she can tell time by the shadow of a smile. some people search the sky the for true north. she holds it in her heart, no questions. no boundaries. no more going back.

her heart is a compass. she is perfectly, irrevocably lost.

Categories: prose poem

you — I just want you

the only way up is believing in never looking down.

~Sara Bareilles, I Just Want You

I hate fighting. Hell, I hate even arguing – even when it’s a civil argument. Sometimes, it makes my hands shake. Sometimes, my words don’t come out right. Sometimes, it’s like dragging a boulder up through my throat. Fighting for what you want – for what you believe – it’s not for the faint of heart. It leaves no space for weakness. There’s no quarter for fear.

When I am certain about something, I fight. When I believe, I fight. And when I love, I love. This can be an epic disaster. I learn the taste of my own foot. (Needs salt!) I learn the depth of my own heart. (Endless.) I learn the ways in which I am brave. (Infinitely.) I have no excuses, only reasons. I have no lies, only the truth.

There’s a time – there’s always a point – where you just need to stop thinking. You need to stop weighing out life on a made-up scale. You have to live it. You have to live. Don’t get me wrong – thinking is a necessary part of life. But it is only one component. Feeling – what you feel – is important. And above all else, you have to be true to who you are and what you feel. Anything less than that isn’t living. It sure as hell isn’t fighting for what you want/need either.

But here is what I know. I’m a little left of the middle. I always honor my own heart. I don’t fall in love easily, but when I do, it’s like coming home. I am the person who will make you soup when you’re sick. I will hold a boombox up outside of your window to tell you that I love you. I will dance on a table, drink tequila shots, and laugh unless my face hurts. I am the woman who can’t fix everything – but I’ll be damned if I can’t do something to make it better. I sing all the time. I love deeply, possibly insanely, but in the truest way. I believe in risking everything to gain everything. I believe in risking, when I know that everything may explode.

I am my own person. I am not always easily understood. But I am true to myself. I am true to my own heart. I am a creature made of words, but those words are made out of feelings. I never fight dirty, but when I have to, I will go to war. Sometimes, being true to oneself means saying things you never thought you’d say out loud. Things that are honest, but not easily divulged. I’m not perfect, but I am wholly myself. Flaws and all. Wounds and all. Wishes and all.

Can you say the same?

Categories: Uncategorized

the returns

When doubt rallies
like a desperate wind,
reckless and ruthless –
breathe and think of me,
loving you.

When fear seizes
your hope by the throat,
or lifts it by the back of its neck,
dance and remember me,
loving you.

When someone speaks the word
or tries to pull the moon
gracelessly from your sky –
hold fast to me
(I love you).

When rage seeks to raise the dead,
salting a miracle for spite
and selfish sorrow –
do not explain its uselessness,
instead, love me.

When belief is met with derision,
a grief born of jealousy
and small, incapable hearts –
do not argue or pity; return here,
instead, love me.

When satisfaction
begins with an untied knot, a laugh
that you find, again and again –
do not look away; you are strong enough
for this
(Because you love me).

When our lips meet in a kiss,
and a miracle is measured by fingers,
someone will ask you
do you love her
which way is home
you will nod, and point here:
our love tells its own story.

Categories: Poetry

Thirteen Ways to Believe



  1. When you are surrounded by wolves. They are hungry, and the fire has gone out.
  2. You are told no to a question that you haven’t even asked yet. Then, you ask it, anyway.
  3. In the middle of a battle, when everything seems lost, and even your soul feels bloody.
  4. Tentatively, as if the rug’s about to vanish underneath your feet. Only, there is no rug. Only, those aren’t your feet.
  5. With everything that you have – and a few things that you’ve borrowed from someone else’s smile.
  6. The pronouns are all wrong and the syntax is broken – but you write the sentence nevertheless.
  7. You are walking a tightrope, blindfolded. Then, someone sets it on fire.
  8. You find yourself a desert. It is nighttime. All the monsters have come out.
  9. Immaculately, while are your sins are blazing.
  10. After all the words have become weapons, after the silence feels like a bomb inside your chest, after all the dull things have turned sharp – and it hurts to breathe or smile.
  11. Between I love you and a separation. Between hi and everything else.
  12. When everyone doubts you loudly, like ghosts wailing at the night. You say nothing in return. You do not need to.
  13. Quietly, as a fire that builds, unconcerned with the world or the wind. Perfectly, because some things are as true you almost never dared to think.
Categories: thirteen ways

baby steps


Sometimes, life is all about baby steps. It’s falling in love at the worst possible time, but there you are, anyway. It’s having a thousand reasons to run and only one reason to stay. It’s every kiss you’ve ever dared. Even laugh you’ve ever shared over a crackling phone line, at 1 am, or first thing before your coffee. It’s drawing a card and placing a bet with your eyes closed.

Life is full of moments. Some are stolen. All, honestly, are stolen – just in different ways. These are things stitched out of fate, fabricated by faith and happenstance. Moments that are contingent upon so many other thing that the chances of them happening are slim. And yet, they do. And yet, they are.

Sometimes, you just have to take a chance. Sometimes, you know what you know. It is important to learn to trust ourselves, to heed our intuition, and to act on it. If someone doesn’t want to be in your life, they walk out of it. I’m not interested in people like that. I want those who are bloody and fierce and battle-scarred. I want real hearts that are laughing and aching. I want truth. I want to choose and be chosen.

But sometimes, everything is baby steps. Heartbeats. The first blue sky of summer, and the way the spring air smells like a prayer. These things are an ordinary magic, but even ordinary magic is a miracle.

Coming Apart to Come Back Together: Loyalty, Devotion, and Revelation

May 19, 2013 2 comments

In life, there are people who we’d take a bullet for, figurative or otherwise. People we risk for – people who we want, and need, to protect. More than, perhaps, we want to protect ourselves. We’ll go to great lengths just to do that. We take risks. We go over a cliff. Not just because we’re loyal. No, there’s something grander than that. It’s called devotion. You cannot be devoted to someone without being loyal to them, as well – but you can be loyal to someone without being devoted to them. It’s a distinction worth noting.

In the Scandal finale (White Hat’s Back On – SOMEONE please buy me that hat, btw. It’s perfect. Although, I’d adore it in grey, because I’m not fooling anyone with white.), loyalties were tested. Motivations were revealed. And we saw, exactly, who was devoted to whom. So much happened that I’m not sure where to begin, but let’s start with the Cabal Meeting in what I presume is the White House kitchen.

It’s revealed that the Cytron card is the issue, that Billy is the motherfrakkin’ mole, and Mellie nearly flees the table – until Fitz shows up. Fitz is involved. Fitz is present. Fitz isn’t pristine. We, as the audience, know that – because Verna. But his presence at the meeting signifies two things. The first is that he’s done letting people choose his fate for him, and he’s done being distanced from the dirty work. There’s something admirable about his Let’s FIX This attitude – and his swagger didn’t hurt either. In this scene, the conspiratorial, pleased glances that Liv and Fitz shared? Those were hints at the kind of power couple they’d be, if they’re ever given the chance. They’re perfectly in sync. They’re got each other’s back. They’re on the same page. (Never understand the power in that.) Plus, we got that whole Super Power scene, and good freakin’ grief. I needed a MOMENT to recover from that.

Next, let’s talk about Cyrus Beene. He’s not a bad guy. He does bad, questionable, murder-y things. But he’s not inhuman. He cares about Liv. He doesn’t want her hurt. He is utterly devoted to Fitz – which is basically why he always does what he does. Now, we saw him talking to head of B613, the covert ops group that frakked up Huck and that Jake is a part of. He was, basically, ordered to show Fitz the tape of Liv and Jake. Which…ew. There’s a whole level of creepy, there, that we’ll get to later. And yet, when Liv’s name is mentioned, he’s scared for Liv. He has feelings.

And then, Cyrus has a heart attack – just after Liv reveals that Governor Reston (from whom the election was stolen) is in contact with Billy, who supposedly has the Cytron card. Now, Cyrus’s entire scene in the ambulance was the most perfect thing ever. Cyrus is a like a perfect attack dog. His LEG could be hanging by a ligament, and he’d still being intent on what matter: Fitz. He is fiercely devoted to Fitz, and yet the moment he reveals that Liv slept with Jake, he’s not motivated out of friendship. His motivation is two-fold. First, the head of B613 told him to do it. We have to question what their relationship is, because we don’t know. Second, he is (in his twisted messed up way) trying his best to get Fitz reelected. It’s easier to win the election with Mellie, and while Liv came up with a brilliant plan to circumvent that problem, the audience still gets the feeling that Cy is not sold.

There is, of course, Fitz’s declaration to Mellie of how, exactly, she will be moved out of the White House. And Fitz, dammmmn, is not messing around. He’s clear. He’s forceful. He’s got a backbone. Mellie, visiting Cyrus in the hospital, is really blindsided by this monologue. You could tell, as her face falls, that she was still full of hope. She thought that they’d come back together, probably because of what Cyrus had told her – and the fake reports leaked to the media. It was, of course, a political angle that she was working. It wasn’t an emotional plea on her part. It was about approval ratings. To me, that harkened back to Fitz’s whole “you’re ornamental, not functional!” tirade way back.

I did LOVE the interaction between Cyrus and James, after the heart attack. Two people, in love, can be so mad at each other – but when the chips are down, man, that shows you a lot. It’s okay to fight. It’s okay to still be mad. But that doesn’t mean they love each other any less. It’s one thing to be pissed. It’s another to want the person you love dead. I absolutely adore them as a couple, and I want more Cyrus and James. Because they are such a REAL couple. They fight. They bicker. But dammmmn, if they aren’t totally devoted to each other, flaws and all.

Cyrus, completing his batshit craziness, check himself out of the hospital – tells Liv about Fitz killing Verna. Why? Because he’s had it with Liv and Fitz. They won’t get in line. They won’t do as he commands. And Cy likes his power. Cy likes people to take his advice. Fitz needs things to work out with Fitz, so that he can stay in the White House. You have to wonder, then, if Cyrus’ motivations are entirely…pure. Because if Fitz stays, he stays. Regardless, Liv nearly has an emotional cow, because this revelation isn’t tiny one. This is a big deal. And Cyrus knows that some things are impossible to forgive. But that isn’t exactly true. More on that later.

Jake protects Liv from an B613 assassin, which – um, not COOL on a certain person trying to kill Liv. We can, potentially, assume that Jake’s loyalty was being tested. Perhaps choosing Liv over B613 was a test. And he failed it. There are so many parallels to Huck and his family, there. Because any kind of deviation is seen as a weakness. As such, Jake is tossed in the Huck Hole, and that is going to leave all kinds of emotional scars. We can only hope that, next season, Olivia saves him. It’s only fair, since he saved her. He is, honestly, one of the good guys.

There is the matter of Huckleberry Quinn. Huck repeatedly admits to being worried about Quinn. She’s taking a little too well to the covert assassin lifestyle. It’s easy for her. She is, as Huck has previously said, a natural. And then when Huck’s hands are shaking while he’s about to torture Billy for information, she steps in – without so much as a hand tremor – and goes a bit all work and no play on Billy Chambers. It was flawlessly portrayed by Katie Lowes. There was a mad abandon in it, an enjoyment. And you have to wonder if a person can come back from that kind of wild joy, given its source (torture). Huck has a hard time grappling with it. And she’s acting like a kid on her first trip to Disneyland. I…*backs away slowly* would not want to push her.

We come to find that David Rosen is a brilliant manipulator – but he is not without loyalty. All this time, he’s been working with Billy Chambers who, oh my god, was perfectly insane. Wonderfully played. David stole the Cytron card, but gave a fake card to Billy. David taped Billy confessing to alllllll the murders pretty much ever. And yet, while he could’ve wrecked Olivia and OPA, he didn’t. He has loyalty for the Gladiators. Because you know what? He HANDLED that shit. David eventually hands over the Cytron card to Cyrus, gets a great job, and his name is cleared on national television by the mothereffin’ president. If that isn’t perfectly executed redemption, I don’t know what is.

Now, the Liv and Fitz of it all. Fitz is prepared to forgive Liv for Jake. Which, honestly, is kind of ridiculous. I mean, what did he expect? Liv to be some kind of nun? Um, dude. You’re married. You don’t get to be all Judge-y McJudgerson. Or, to quote Meredith Grey, “I make no apologies for how I chose to repair what you broke.” Liv keeps her physical distance in this scene, and you’ll notice that Fitz deliberately walks behind his desk, creating a barrier between himself and Liv. He can see what’s coming – the breakup – but not why.

The dialogue in this scene is well done. Liv doesn’t say that she can’t forgive him about Verna. She doesn’t say that it affected her love for him at all. She doesn’t say that. She says that she cannot leave her Gladiators. She cannot abandon them, because that’s what would happen if she was really with Fitz. She would have to be First Lady. She would become that role. And then what happens to the off-kilter, ragtag Scooby gang?

I think that Liv comes to this realization because of everything OPA does to get that Cytron card back. They all go over a cliff for Liv, without blinking. That’s devotion. It’s not just loyalty. Those are the people who would take a bullet for you. In that scene with Fitz, she took a bullet for them. Sure, Liv gave him the excuse that he needs to run with Mellie. Because, from a political standpoint, she is right. Cyrus is right. But Liv is very careful not to address her feeling for Fitz. It isn’t about loving him any less. That’s not a question.

Fitz goes back to Mellie. She’s sitting on a couch. And he lays his head in her lap. His heart is broken, again. Because he was willing to give up everything to be with Liv, and she walked away. Except, he wasn’t really willing to do that, was he? He was ready to obliterate his marriage, yes. But he expected Liv to fit into his life. Not a mutual melding of lives. He expected her to become, perhaps, more ornamental than functional. And that would’ve been a disservice to them both. Two people can only truly be together as partners with an even power dynamic. If Liv became First Lady, the balance would’ve been a bit skewed.

So, he goes to Mellie. There’s absolutely nothing romantic about that scene. It’s more like a child who is hurt, running to his mother. He wants comfort. It’s not about Mellie herself. It’s about Fitz and his pain, his rejection. He goes to Mellie because he has nowhere else to go, no other choice. Mellie accepts this. She sees it for what it is. A reunion of political allies, not two people in love. She is, you can tell by Bellamy Young’s brilliantly subtle facial expressions, relieved. And she treats him just as a mother would a wounded child, stroking his hair. That, guys, isn’t a marriage.

Of course, after that moment, Olivia’s world explodes. She is ready to go out for a run, steps outside of her apartment building all dressed in white – to a crowd of reporters asking her about her relationship with Fitz – asking if she is the president’s mistress. Holy HUCKING SHIT, people. WHAT? My jaw dropped on the floor. Because very few people knew about the relationship. Those who did? Are loyal to either Fitz or Liv, so they wouldn’t have leaked it to the press. So, the question becomes: who did?

Of course, my first thought is that it’s Liv’s dad. Oh, yeah. Liv’s dad is the head of B613. Liv’s dad possibly tried to have her murdered. Liv’s dad is kind of an asshole. But he does have her pulled out of the crowd and hidden away in his car. This raises a lot of questions. SO MANY. And, as you probably already know, the answers won’t be straightforward. And we have to WAIT for them.

But here’s what I think. I think that Sally Langston leaked the information about Fitz and Liv, because unlike Hank (the president’s dog) she isn’t loyal to Fitz at all. And if Fitz is disgraced, she can swoop in and run for president. She can, at least, vie for the Republican party’s bid. I think Sally has the clearest motivation here.

I’m curious, though, about what Liv really knows about her dad. Does she know what his job is? Does she know who he is, that he broke Huck? Talk about a potentially awkward family dinner. I can’t imagine Huck’s face if he sees Liv’s dad. Or his reaction.

Yes, things were completely blown up in the finale. But I’m looking forward to exactly how things will be reassembled. In a way, each character got a blank slate. All the chips are on the table. Fitz knows about Jake and Liv. Liv knows about Verna. They have no more secrets from each other. And that, honestly, is important. Because that kind of thing would’ve come back to bite them in the ass, later. It would’ve bred resentment. It would’ve bred mistrust. Now, yes, they’re apart. But as anyone knows, for two people in love? No matter what, that doesn’t last for long.

And the white hat’s back on, folks.

Categories: Scandal

an old story

May 17, 2013 2 comments

This morning, I woke up at went outside. This is not an usual thing. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon. The air was soft like the promise of a kiss. There’s something very pure about the light on morning like this one. It is all earnestness and gold, a reflecting hope.

But the odd thing was the smell in the air. A distinct smell, one of fire – like the first whiff of someone’s burning fireplace on the first cold day of fall. Only, it isn’t fall. Only, no one was burning a fire. Only, there was no sign of fire at all. The sky was a pure, pale blue – the lightest shade of Caribbean.

There was no smoke, only a smell. It made me wonder, nearly out loud, about the things we cannot see – but that we still know to be true. The evidence of feeling and possibilities left to, and on, the wind. It is a kind of faith, I suppose. A belief in what cannot be seen, measured, or otherwise quantified.

Hope is like that. Hope is the smell of fire on the wind, on a day where it should not be possible. There’s the old adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” I’d take that a step sideways: where there’s the smell of fire, there’s potential. Not just in the ways that burn, not in the ways we twist up inside ourselves. A real, true hope.

The reality is that change sometimes comes in the form of burnt bridged, an engulfing blazing, and complete destruction. Sometimes, this is necessary. You cannot move forward as you are, as things are, and so you must light a match – and let the bad things burn. Sometimes, the only way to truly get away is to leave nothing behind.

And yet, there are instances where the fire is a subtler sort, a slow and steady hearth. A thing the signifies home. A light, a thing of welcoming that promises love and shelter. Fire isn’t inherently good or bad. It destroys in the hands of malice. It gives warmth and sanctity in the hands of someone who loves.

The slow, steady burn. The building and nurturing of a fire. To me, that is the lesson here. It isn’t one of beginnings, but of tending that which is already there. You can walk away from a campfire, and return to find the ashes still hot. Tended right, a fire never dies. And that is often the key to so many things: tend to things with skill and patience. Offer whatever you can. Nurture instead of destroy. Love and wait.

Patience brings many things. And, darlings, fire is often one of them. You cannot rush it or will it to be. But you can care for it just the same.

“I am a few years older now and I know this: There are tastes of mouths I could not have lived without; there are times I’ve pretended it was just about the sex because I couldn’t stand the way my heart was about to burst with happiness and awe and I couldn’t be that vulnerable, not again, not with this one.  That waiting to have someone’s stolen seconds can burn you alive. That the shittiest thing you can do in the world is lie to someone you love; also that there are certain times you have no other choice – not honoring this fascination, this car crash of desire, is also a lie. [cliché]That there is power in having someone risk everything for you. That there is nothing more frightening than being willing to take this freefall. That it is not as simple as we were always promised.” ~Daphne Gottlieb, Homewrecker

Once Upon a Time: What’s in Store?

May 14, 2013 2 comments


So, I’ve been thinking about the season finale of Once Upon a Time. And, personally, I’ve had some issues with the last half of the season. However, the finale combined several of my favorite things: heartfelt conversations, a charming pirate, a very wise Grumpy, and enough Rumbelle to warm my heart before snapping it in half. I mean, the whole “I’m sorry I woke you up to die, but I needed you” line just reached into my chest and…well, you get the picture. I was absolutely gutted when they had to part – but, as the Bard said, the course of true love ne’er did run smooth.

Now, I’m curious. In the play/movie etc, Peter Pan’s shadow was mischievous, not evil. But he really couldn’t control it (it’s been a long time since I’ve read the play, so…). I’m wondering if Peter Pan, as we recognize him, will be a character. I think it’d be rather awesome if Henry was Peter Pan, but that’s just an off-the-cuff thought.

Thankfully, Neal isn’t dead. Because I really like him. He has obvious, and earned, issues with trust. I feel like he’s a complicated character and an interesting match for Emma – although, Emma has a subtle hint of something going on with Hook.


Of course, in season three, there are possibilities. We’ve got the Gang off searching for Henry. We’ve got Neal in Fairytale Land. And we’ve got Storybrook. Now, the finding Henry part of the adventure will obviously focus on Neverland. I need mermaids, people. They have to happen. And Tinkerbell. May I suggest Kristin Chenowith? Because she’s delightful.

For Neal, obviously, that’s going to be a hard time for him. Because he’s done everything possible to avoid the place he’s found himself in. At least he’s found friends, assuming that they don’t mind the Dark One’s son hanging around. I am interesting in seeing the conversation between him and the three who found him on the beach.

Lastly, we’ve got Storybrooke. Personally, I want to see Belle take charge. She was pretty badass when she went on her adventure in Fairytale Land. I’d like to see more of that. Because yes, she is  the perfect match for Gold. And I love everything about their relationship. But she deserves a chance to blossom.

So do the dwarves. Sneezy FINALLY has his memory back. I cannot wait to see him be someone other than Clark. But who is going to be Sheriff? Mayor? I think Grumpy is generally wise and levelheaded in tough situations. Why not elect him Sheriff? The dwarves would make excellent deputies. And you KNOW that cloaking spell that Gold gave Belle will not go smoothly. It’s too easy. “Do this, and no one will bother you!” Pffft. Where’s the fun in that? Plus, she’s going to need help managing an entire nation of people. The town’s going to need guidance.

To me, Once is a twisted fairytale, like Into the Woods. The possibilities are endless. We shall see what season three brings, but I’m hoping for some Belle. I’m hoping that Emma gets to be a badass. And I need Team Seven. Because they’re awesome.

From a storytelling point of view, I want to see character arcs. I want redemption. I want risk. I want complications and catastrophes. I want the characters of FTL et al to be given a chance to grow. In season one, Mary Margaret and David had this epic, complicated love story. They struggled. I want more of that. I want Grumpy and Nova, because I love them – and I feel like they were great together. There was growth and hope, disappointment and sacrifice. And man, those fireflies. I want to know more about Granny. I want Red to go on a date – with Dr. Whale. Those two are interesting, together. They provide a nice symmetry.

Of course, these stories are not mine to tell. I have thoughts and ideas of how I’d handle things, but I am a not a tv person. I’m curious to see how these tales as old as time develop – how the characters develop. I’ll see the cast on Once in the fall. How about you?

Categories: Once Upon a Time

advice for you, who is afraid


Strange for a girl
who was once made of Air
to become Fire – but,
it happens. Strange, how one cannot live
without the other,
how one nourishes what it cannot
understand –
this, this
I know. This is every secret
splintered beyond collection,
this is every fight,
every bit of wreckage
hid by a smile –
yes, I am afraid of tomorrow;
yes, I danced with the ghost of yesterday;
no, I was not afraid.

(This love is a river.
You are an open door.
Your laugh is whiskey, and three am,
and the first real rain of spring
soaking into the earth.)

Your heart is a dogpile of convictions,
a brilliant blaze of what-ifs
tangled in someone else’s decisions;
this is your in case of emergency
moment, the prompting to push
the button you’ve been afraid
to push.
Put the lifejacket on if you want it,
lock the door,
close the blinds,
and pretend
that no one’s looking,
that not being seen
will keep you safe –
it will not. And everything is gasoline.

Find the blaze. Find the passion
that changes life to living; grasp
and swallow, strip and fling, talk
and give and take; offer
an exchange, at once beautiful and absurd,
make a sacrifice of things
old and out of use,
what does not fit your life:
the excuses, the emptiness, the cold
sheets, the hollow looks, the debt
that has for too long decided who you are.
Find the fire, and the let the ocean go.

Once, I watched the glass melt.
Once, it was something else.
Now, it’s shaped, a vessel.
It holds only what it can hold –
the heart, though, is nothing like that.

Once, I was a girl made of air.
Once, I was a girl turned into fire.
Strange, how one cannot live without the other.

Categories: Poetry

Was I Not Smiling Enough?

May 6, 2013 7 comments


Sometimes, people ask questions that make us uncomfortable. Inherently, the question isn’t good or bad. It’s not motivated by judgment or snark. It’s just a question. And yet, there are questions that imply things – things that may, or may not, be meant. Things that make you stop, take stock, and question yourself. There are instances where this is a good thing, a bit of introspection that snaps you awake, stirs you from yourself. Then there are those instances that seem to imply that you’re not walking in the lines, that you’re doing something less than you are supposed to.

Recently, someone asked me if I was okay – because I looked a little sad. I wasn’t sad. I was busy. I was feeling a little overwhelmed. But I wasn’t sad. You see, if you’ve spent three seconds in my presence, you’ll realize that I like to smile. I like to laugh. I will tease you if I like you. And I can be a bit of a goofball. I’m friendly. I always say hello, and I’m very rarely anything less than pleasant.

On this particular day, I wasn’t sad. But that question was enough to make me wonder some things. Why did that person think I was sad? Was it something I did or said? Was I not smiling enough?

Was I not smiling enough?

There is the problem. I, ridiculous, felt as if I wasn’t smiling enough – because surely, if I had been smiling more, no one would think I was sad. It was a bizarre halt that I came screeching to. (That sentence is grammatically wretched, but I’m leaving it.) I can’t help but ask: would a man question himself the same way? I cannot help but think the answer isn’t just no, but hell no. No one should ever wonder if she’s smiling ‘enough.’ There is no measure for that. It’s a thing that you do, not a quota you have to meet.

But this whole thing made me start to think. This is something we’re told, isn’t it? To be this, or that. Happiness is conveyed by smiling, yes — but unhappiness really isn’t shown by the absence of a smile. There are a million other emotions. There are a million other reasons for a lack of a smile. It can simply be an indication of concentrations. An insufficient coffee intake. A hunger pain. Whatever. Yet, the first assumption was unhappiness.

This made me curious. As a lit major, you have to take lit theory at least once. At some point, you read Judith Butler, who writes about gender theory. (Yes, Rachel – this reference is for you.) And Butler assert that gender is performative. Sex, of course, is biological. I’m not talking about the dance-with-no-pants. I’m talking male/female. Gender is boy/girl. It is expected that if you identify with a female gender, wearing makeup broadcasts your gender. It is, essentially, an act we put on. A show. To an extent, this is true. Personally, I don’t think of myself as less of a girl when I’m wearing sweatpants, a bandana in my hair, and absolutely no makeup. But to the rest of the world? I’m not performing.

Is happiness the same thing? Do we perform our happiness? Are you smiling just to meet expectations? Are we pressured to appear happier than we are – or even to exaggerate the happiness we do feel, lest our emotions be misconstrued or misread?

I don’t know that I have the answers, but I’m certainly entertaining the questions. Feelings shouldn’t be performative. A person can be demonstrative. If I’m happy to see you, I’ll smile. I’ll probably hug you. But that isn’t me performing my feelings. It’s not a show to indicate something to the world. It’s expressing a feeling. There is, I believe, a difference.