Naked Lunch

nakedlunchAbout a month ago I founded my own book club. It all happened so fast, but I’m (so far) really pleased with it. Aside from the fact that we all absolutely hated the first book. Woops?

It all began with This American Life’s William S. Burroughs podcast. I never cared for Burroughs or his writing, but the podcast had me enticed—because what’s not fascinating about some drug addicted pervert’s musings? My friend Nuala and I talked about the podcast together and both said we wanted to read a few of his pieces afterwards. From there I moved on to talking to other people about how we missed reading/discussing literature in general and are always craving new books recommendations. (Seriously, always. Send me all of your recommendations immediately!) So I decided that maybe we could read Burroughs’ most acclaimed work together, Naked Lunch. And thus my baby book club was born.

It’s worth mentioning that I tried to read Naked Lunch once before and that I fucking hated it. I read the entire thing because I can never begin a book without finishing it. It was torture for me, though. I had no idea what was going on, hated the content, and forced myself through it without retaining a single thing aside from my intense dislike of it. So obviously a great first choice for our club.

I figured maybe I was just too young or immature to understand the novel, and now that I’m older, it should be a lot more enjoyable/interesting. WRONG. WRONG. YOU WERE WRONG, NICOLE. AND IF YOU’RE READING THIS POST IN THE FUTURE AND CONSIDERING READING NAKED LUNCH AGAIN, YOU WILL MOST DEFINITELY HATE IT AND YOU SHOULD STOP. JUST STOP IT.

I got about 95 pages and for about the third time ever, I stopped reading a book. I can rest easy knowing that at one point in time I finished this book, but not this time. And never again. I had no idea what was going on and suddenly found myself in the thick of a 30 page description of suicidal orgies. I gave up. I have no idea who any of the characters are, where they ever were, what they were ever doing (aside from the painfully obvious), or what they wanted to be doing.

No one in the book club was able to finish it—in fact, I made it the farthest out of anyone. I’ve heard his other, shorter works are more enjoyable, such as Junkie or Queer. I’ll never find out because I’m done trying. Beatnik era writing is simply not for me (I also hated On the Road in the past and will not make the mistake of trying that one again).

The only other time I can really remember beginning a book—multiple times, actually—and not being able to finish it was with Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. And just guess what our second book club novel is…

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Hit & Run

In the past three years, I’ve gotten really into cycling—I get such a rush from it and feel so liberated. Nothing wakes me up better than an hour long bike ride from Brooklyn into Manhattan in the morning, and nothing ends my work day on a more positive note than great music in my ears and the wind streaking through my helmet. Long tours are my favorite: Exploring new areas is a passion of mine, and getting to do so from my saddle only enhances the experience.

Yesterday I participated for the first time (and possibly the last) in the Tour de Staten Island with my riding buddy/shark pal, Angela. We were really bummed that we missed out on the ride last year and were so excited to start off the season with a 55-mile ride through a borough that we don’t really ever go to. Before this I’ve only briefly driven through Staten Island, but yesterday I had the opportunity to explore the developing Freshkills Park and the island’s many MANY hills. Yesterday I also got hit by a car for the first time.

Part of me knew this sort of thing was inevitable, but there was also a naive part of me that thought that it just wouldn’t happen to me. It makes sense, though. They never shut the roads down for these long tours because it’d be completely impractical, and drivers would probably riot through the streets and push us off our bikes anyway. Almost every cyclist I know in lower New York has been hit by a car, in either a minor or extreme way, or at least doored. I figured the culprit would either be some irresponsible cab or bus driver, but instead it was an older Eastern European woman.

I was riding along the road entering a park and heading to our 40-mile rest stop, the last one before we completed our final 15 miles. I felt great. I had just oiled up my gears and chain, my legs were feeling the familiar aches that I’ve come to love from riding a lot of miles in one day, and I was excited to rejuvenate with some fruit and Kind bars. It happened so suddenly, and I know everyone says that, but I didn’t understand just how quickly something could really happen. She was way too close to the line and if it wasn’t me, she would have hit someone else. There was no shoulder, just gravel, and I hit her car two or three times before crashing to the ground with my bike flipping over behind me. I braced myself for the fall, shielding my head/face, and dragged my bike with me to the side of the road in case the drivers behind us didn’t see the crash and kept going. The tears were immediate and I was surrounded by witnesses who were jogging or driving nearby. No one from the ride was close unfortunately except for another girl Angela and I were riding with, and I asked her to find a marshal and Angela at the rest stop. She said she didn’t really see what happened, another witness to just how quickly these sorts of things occur. People were trying to get me to calm my breathing, stop crying, and move my limbs to make sure I wasn’t seriously injured (Spoiler: I’m not, just a sprained wrist and lots of bruises). I was overwhelmed by the help while trying to contact my friend and find some familiarity for comfort. The woman who hit me got out of her car briefly then drove away. No one saw her license plate number or where she went. EMTs arrived shortly
after and I took my first ambulance ride to a nearby hospital.

Every time I tell someone what happened, they seem disappointed and dumbfounded when I tell them I didn’t get her plate number. That is one of the most annoying things that I’ve dealt with in the last 24 hours. When I’ve thought of possible scenarios where I could have gotten hit in the past, I always imagined that I’d chase the person down if necessary to make sure they stayed in the area. Now I’m just relieved that my instincts were to protect my face and head then drag myself to safety. Unfortunately there’s probably no chance that this woman will be found, but I hope she at least feels horrible for hitting someone and then leaving. I hope that guilt plagues her for the rest of her life.

I’m going to pick my bike up from the Transportation Alternatives office on Wednesday, pay the probably high price to get it fixed up, and continue to ride every day that I can. I’ll be more paranoid than I was before, but let’s face it—generally, I’m a pretty paranoid girl anyway. I won’t let this deter me and will continue to find my inspiration and happiness from the saddle of my Schwinn. I’ll just be hyper aware of my surroundings and risks that I’m taking while doing so now.

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Analysis of Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book

804192989_origAn essay I wrote in undergrad comparing Dante’s Inferno, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Margery Kempe’s Book. 

—–

In Dante’s Inferno, Christianity was the main focus of the epic; Dante explored the underworld showing his opinion of what was sinful and what would qualify someone for Hell. In Margery Kempe’s Book, all of her stories were also written about Christianity, however, she created a sexual relationship between herself and God who was also a character in her book. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the gods and goddesses also had active roles in the storyline and helped the plot progress. Although the time periods when The Aeneid, The Inferno, and Margery Kempe’s Book were written have drastically different religious views, they all incorporated their beliefs into their writing.

Roman gods had dialogue and actively participated in the story; they were an ever-present force in The Aeneid. The gods were able to control situations depending on what they wanted, even if that was not the way that things were supposed to work out. Throughout the epic, Juno tormented the Trojans and created unnecessary problems for them even though she knew that they would settle eventually and Rome would start; she held a grudge against them which was why she incessantly tortured them. Robert Coleman said, “Divine interventions were a traditional staple of epic, conferring status upon human events portrayed and evoking a world where gods and men were closer to one another” (143). In Roman epics, the gods usually played a major role in the storyline and their over exaggerated emotions would create problems for the humans. Their intentions to create some sort of drama usually conflicted with fate, but the gods still interfered and fate worked its way around their intrusions. The Roman religion was something that became apparent in all epics, especially The Aeneid because of how it was portrayed. Religion was a major theme in that epic, threading its way throughout the plot. It was obviously a main value of the Roman people as well because of the huge part that it played within the storyline. Fate and the god’s influence would conflict with one another causing the majority of problems throughout the epic. “Gods intervene in two general ways: by manipulating the external world and by influencing human reactions and decisions internally.” The gods were real characters in the epic and interacted with other characters, showing the importance of religion in ancient Rome.

Dante’s story had mention of religion and made the rules of Christianity clear, but God was not a character. Dante also made it known what would or would not get you put in Hell, showing how strongly influenced he was by religion. Although God was not actually in The Inferno, His will was still made known by Dante and His influence was apparent throughout the entire epic. Dante the Pilgrim was positive that he was heaven-bound and went around Hell from a spectator’s perspective. However, since Dante was also the writer, he was not the innocent bystander that he appeared to be in the epic; he felt that God was merciless and that if you sinned, there was a slim chance that you could repent and avoid going to Hell. “In Dante, there is no ‘development’ properly speaking: the soul itself continues to exist without change while the life of the body is utterly destroyed” (Spitzer 82). One of Dante’s beliefs about how the Christian afterlife was that the soul could exist but the body would be destroyed. He made a lot of assertions without actually using God to say what he believed, creating an experience that showed his opinions about Christian afterlife.

Margery Kempe was controlled by religion and her stories were entirely about her interactions with God and Jesus with both acting as main characters as well. Margery sacrificed having a normal life to be entirely dedicated to Jesus; she refused to have sex with her husband, she cried out and annoyed people around her—all so that she could be pure and entirely dedicated. “Margery demonstrated her mind’s kinship with spiritual realities” (Glenn 541). Margery’s entire book is based on “her divine visions,” and how Jesus or God would talk to her and tell her how much they loved her (Glenn 541). She was known for crying hysterically all the time because of how deeply she was affected by her visions. She would be in church, for instance, and have a vision of Christ being nailed violently to the cross as if she were there watching. “By associating her own development with incidents in Jesus’s life, Margery blurs her theology with her autobiography” (Glenn 544). Margery was seen as a nuisance but could also be considered special by some because of these visions. Her writing was entirely dedicated to Christianity and her level of infatuation with God. Margery showed her views in her writing by including her crazy visions, her supposed conversations with God and Jesus, and her overall commitment to Christianity.

The similarity between them all was that they lived in times when religion (no matter what kind) strongly influenced them and they made sure to bring it into their stories. There were many reasons why these writers would incorporate religion into their pieces. In their times, making religion a main theme of their stories or epics showed the values of the society and it was a way for the writers to appease to readers then. In each society, people would only want to read about stories that they could find a way to apply to themselves, and being able to relate to the religious aspects was a good way for the authors to appeal. Life during their times were usually centered on religion, which was another reason why it was a good way for the writers to get publicity for their works. There were also trends in literature with religion threaded throughout stories. Before Virgil and Dante’s epics, Homer and other epic writers also incorporated their religious beliefs into stories. Greek and Roman writers made the gods into characters, which is a trend that Virgil kept with, and although Dante deviated from the trend of keeping God as a character, he was also dealing with a new type of epic poem and a new type of religion. Aside from having similar messages due to the fact that religion was so strongly incorporated, there were similar characterizations and plots as well. Margery Kempe was inspired by God enough to feel His presence and see Him all the time, and Dante was inspired enough to create a version of Hell appropriate to what he believed. Similarly, Virgil used religion in the way that he and other ancient Romans believed, although he himself was not entirely embodied by the beliefs. He used what he believed in his storyline, but it was not a part of him as much as it was part of the story. All three authors were able to somehow incorporate their different beliefs into their stories in a way so that they told an interesting story while utilizing what they believed. For Virgil, it was a minor point to include the gods and just something that he did as a tradition in epic poems. However for Dante, it was more of a small focal point for him to branch off from. Margery used religion as the entirety of her book and made her beliefs into part of her autobiography. In different ways, they were able to show the varying strength of religious influence in their lives.

Dante, Virgil, and Margery Kempe all integrated their religious beliefs into their writing, whether it was the main focus of the piece or just a small part of the larger story. Kempe and Dante’s stories were more focused around religion while Virgil was more focused on the creation of Rome with the gods mixed in. Regardless of their approach to writing, they were all able to show their beliefs. Margery used her visions and conversations with God to show her dedication to Christianity, Dante used his decisions as to what made a person a sinner to show his devotion, and Virgil mentioned the gods and goddesses as characters to show his views.

Works Cited

Coleman, Robert. “The Gods in the ‘Aeneid’. “Greece & Rome. Vol. 29, No. 2.

Cambridge University Press, 1982. 143-168.

Glenn, Cheryl. “Author, Audience, and Autobiography: Rhetorical Technique in the Book

of Margery Kempe.” College English Vol. 54, No. 5. National Council of Teachers

of English, 1992. 540-553.

Spitzer, Leo. “Speech and Language in Inferno XIII.” Italica Vol. 19, No. American

Association of Teachers of Italian, 1942. 381-104.

 

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Catcalls

catcall“Come here pretty baby, aww you’re so fine. Come here pretty girl, I just want to make you mine.”

We (and when I say we, you know exactly who I’m referring to here) all know how this one goes. A person comes near you, gets way too close, and whispers seemingly sweet words that are dripping in not-so-hidden meanings. Pretty baby? Make you mine? Oh, puh-lease.

Maybe I invite this kind of behavior, or maybe I somehow deserve this. Am I strutting in a provocative way? Do I look extra cute today? I try to figure out every day what it is about me that compels people to feel so bold, as if they’re able to just walk up to me and tell me that I should go home with them. Every. Day. This is actually a situation that I face every single day of my mere 28 years. I’m practically a child still, yet there’s this weird urge for people to domesticate me. Straight to the kitchen for the rest of my life, am I right?

Not me, though. Nope. No way. I’m not like some of the others. I’ve seen a bunch of my peers get giddy for these types of remarks, and then six months later they’re trapped in the home all the time. It works for them, but not me. I’m a free spirit–you can’t tame me! Call me wild, if you will. It isn’t necessarily true, but sometimes I like to think I can channel it as if I’m reaching my roots somehow.

Oh geez, here it comes again. Another one. I can hear the whistles from a mile away, and it’s not just because I have fantastic hearing. This is a different type of whistle, the kind that’s directed right at me in order to capture my attention, and with any luck, my heart. Not going to happen, buddy. Sorry!

“Come here! Come here, cutie. Aw, you’re so sweet! Baby, look at that pretty little girl. Is she a tiger cat or a tabby? I can never tell the difference. Aw, no! She’s running away! Come here pretty baby, aww you’re so fine! Come here pretty girl, I just want to make you mine!”

I dodge their dirty hands (I spend enough time cleaning my fur, I don’t need some total stranger touching it–thank you very much!), and hide under a car. Humans are so rude, total and utter pigs. Maybe if they could spend a day in my paws they’d understand how this is not an okay way to treat others.

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Writing Down the Bones

41vE++wPhKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My lovely boyfriend gifted me Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones for Christmas because he really gets me and knew that this would positively influence my life. What a keeper.

There isn’t a lot that I have to say about this book aside from the fact that I think it’s superb and that it should absolutely be taught in all middle schools/high schools across the country. Writing, and education in general really, are rarely valued anymore, which I think is such a shame but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post. I think there is a lot of value to be found in this book by students who are maybe unsure of how to go about their passion for writing, and I even think that it could help open other students up and expand upon their skills. I never realized how many people struggle with writing until I started editing. Even those who aren’t interested in eventually publishing a novel or even writing for fun would benefit from this book and the practices it instills. Business owners tend to discard writing as a skill and send out emails littered with incorrect spelling and poor grammar, but imagine how they would benefit from a bit of practice and proofreading. I find her relation between writing and meditation to be natural and eloquent, and I yearn to be at a similar space as Goldberg with my own writing. Since completing this book, I’ve tried to make it more a goal to write at least every day again (starting back up the journal!) and have simply felt more inspired to do so. I even find myself less critical of my work and attempting to have confidence in my pieces. I’ve found ideas floating around my head more often, and I look forward to practicing some of her techniques and prompts. Overall this book changed my writing life already and I think it could be a fantastic resource for others as well.

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Uncommon Courtesy

idiotSometimes you just need to rant about things. And lately I’ve been finding myself annoyed–and I mean really annoyed–by people on the subway who either have no concept of what personal space even begins to entail or just frankly don’t give a shit about people around them. This is due mostly to the fact that I rarely take the subway since I usually bike, but I’ve been sick for almost three months and didn’t want to prolong my illness(es) by jumping onto the saddle again too soon. So I’ve found myself commuting an hour to and from work among some of New York and Brooklyn’s finest specimens of egotists, and it’s turning me into a grumpy old woman.

I genuinely don’t think I’m being irrational or complaining too much when I list these things, mostly because I see other people who are annoyed along with me. Even though the majority of people are irritated that someone nearby is blasting Candy Crush or watching Rush Hour 2 at 8 a.m., no one wants to offend that person or risk telling off a crazy person. It’s completely understandable, too. Just last month a woman yelled at me and tried to instigate a fight with me on the subway because I tried to let people off the train rather than crowd the open door. It’s a silly story now, but in the moment it was both infuriating and terrifying.

To me, it seems like one of the rudest things in the world (I know–first world problems, blah blah blah. Get off my blog, you rotten kids!) is to have music or a movie playing without headphones on. This just makes no sense to me at all. What weird pleasure are you getting from subjecting everyone to your music? Even worse than those people are the ones who play insanely obnoxious cell phone games. You probably don’t have headphones in because you don’t want to exclusively listen to that crap, so I guess the logic is to bring others down with you at that point. It seems like a no-brainer to not burden others with what you’re doing. Hell, if I’m listening to music with headphones on I usually take them off to see if I can still hear the music then turn it down until I can’t just so I don’t annoy anyone. My friend Molly once asked a kid on the subway who was playing Candy Crush (or Farmville or one of the other games I have ten thousand pending requests for on Facebook) to turn his game down. He stared at her completely confounded that we even knew he was playing a game on his phone. He did not turn the volume off that day and probably never has since.

Another pain is people talking on cell phones in a quiet place where it’s usually assumed that a phone call would disrupt and annoy others. The other day I was on a Megabus with my boyfriend and we were both exhausted. We had slept like crap the whole weekend because the air mattress we used had it’s last round of life and deflated both nights, leaving us huddled on a hardwood floor. So we were passed out on the bus when the boy next to us decides that it’s prime time to call his parents and loudly update them on his life. For over an hour this kid chatted about his broken laptop and how his weekend in Philly went until we both finally looked at him and he quieted down, remembering that he wasn’t alone in his dorm room after all. Let me repeat: He got quieter. He never hung up the phone, though.

My last complaint is just a general people not understanding personal space and how they affect someone else. I can’t count how many times I’ve been sat on during my commute by people who see a very small amount of space left on a bench and somehow think they’re going to fit there. It blows my mind how desperate to sit down people can be that they’re willing to compromise their own comfort just to have half of their butt cheek on the corner of a subway seat. Half the time I end up getting out of my seat anyway because they’re either sitting on me or have made me immensely uncomfortable.

I couldn’t be more thrilled by the warming weather, and I hope that it lasts. Warm weather means riding my bike means rarely taking the subway anymore. And the less I’m on the subway, the happier and more content in life I am overall. For those poor perpetually commuting souls out there, you have my sincerest sympathy.

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Hausfrau

hausfrauI read Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Hausfrau for my book club, which I haven’t been to in FOREVER. I made a point to go to this one mostly because it was being hosted at the Random House office and I have a not-so-secret obsession with publishing houses. I also thought the author was going to be there, but instead she just Skyped in, which I actually preferred because people seemed to hold themselves back from saying the “wrong” thing in front of her. Oh, and I also thought her book sucked.

I thought this novel was cheesy and overly dramatic and also catered exclusively to women who are married/have kids. I couldn’t relate to most of things that went on in the narrator’s life, but older women at the book club meeting today seemed to understand it. The narrator, Anna, was a woman who drifted through her day-to-day life in passivity as she lived with her husband in his native Switzerland. During her nine years there, she never bothered to learn the language, get a job, meet any friends (she literally had one, who was actually kind of a badass), or even have some sort of hobby. She actually just let life pass her by, which was exactly as boring as it sounds like it’d be, and admitted to enjoying sewing as a girl before she majored in Home Economics (yes, exactly.) in college. A girl at the book club argued that she believed the narrator to be “actively passive,” meaning that she forced the passivity and did it all to herself. To an extent, I agree, but it was also very clear that Anna was severely depressed and couldn’t stop herself from isolating others. The book ends with Anna killing herself, confusing almost everyone that read it, but I thought in her suicide she was able to take control for the first time in a decision she’s made. I was also really happy she died off because I was utterly sick of her complaining and being a victim to every incident in her life.

Essbaum is a poet mainly and her book reads like extensive poetry as well. It has a great flow at times, however, I think her sentences read very dramatically and over-the-top. I found myself rolling my eyes and sighing most of the time as Anna or her psychiatrist went off on long inner monologues where, instead of letting readers figure out the metaphors and symbolism, she spelled them out in painfully long tangents. Overall, not a fan of this book, and I was surprised to see how many people there actually enjoyed it. I am, however, a fan of the Random House office and its desks full of books.

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My Boyfriend’s Bad Habits

I wrote this story for my writing club for a prompt to write something about drinking. I think I went sufficiently dark and terrifying…again…with this one. Not sure what that says about me, but I also don’t think I want to know.

——

Eric looked different. Scary. I could tell it was happening again and I had an internal panic attack. A dark cloud passed through him and took up a temporary residence, his face enveloped in shadows like a cliché evil villain. He tossed back another gulp of his draft with his eyes fixated on the television screen. The Knicks were losing, badly, which meant that Eric was probably losing money. Badly.

I shifted uncomfortably in my bar stool and looked at my friend Anya and her boyfriend Ted who barely seemed to notice. Maybe it was because Eric was always wasted lately, or maybe they were trying to be polite. But more likely the charismatic man that I fell in love with two years ago fooled them. Most people went out for drinks and many of them got pissed when their favorite sports teams lost. That’s what I chalked it up to before I realized how deep his anger and addictions went.

Anya had been—was—my best friend. We met in college and lived together for three years and were pretty much inseparable. But then I met Eric two years ago and she met Ted, so we moved out of our shared apartment and in with our boyfriends. College was a place for us to rebel against our conservative upbringings. We were walking clichés. We became vegetarians and rallied on campus for equal rights and environmental awareness. Moving back to a big city after our small-town college experience slowly broke our rebelling spirits, and we fell into the very patterns we so adamantly tried to avoid. When we did see each other now, we played the same small talk, catching up games that acquaintances play with one another.

I tried to approximate how many beers he’d drank, but started to get a little confused. I wasn’t drunk; hell, I wasn’t even tipsy—once I saw the effects alcohol had on Eric, I took up sobriety without even realizing. A clear head helped me to protect myself better anyway. Whatever the exact number was, his count probably laid around eight or nine beers while the game was well into the fourth quarter. Ted and Anya were deep in some conveniently distracted conversation, but I needed to get some space and try to think up a strategy to protect myself.

“I’m going to run to the bathroom.”

I tried to catch Anya’s eye so she would come with me, and whether intentionally or not, she dodged my glance. With my bag slung over my shoulder, I began to leave until I felt Eric’s large hand devour my wrist. I sat back down and pretended to fidget in my purse for something while I dug my nails into his knuckles and tried to loosen his grip. He hadn’t looked away from the television until a commercial broke onto the screen and he finally met my gaze. His hazel eyes reminded me of the man I fell in love with two years earlier. The green-brown mixed with sadness, holding the part of him that didn’t want to hurt me, the part of him that didn’t enjoy drinking and gambling. Like a scared child locked in a dark room, the darkness mostly overshadowed the last remaining pieces of who he was when he wasn’t drunk.

I fondly remembered the charming accountant that won my heart in a drunken game of darts then swept me off my feet with a romantic first date. Dark brown hair and a muscular build that loomed almost an entire foot over me. In the beginning I always felt protected by Eric, but the more comfortable he became around me meant that he was able to change into the person he really was underneath the façade. I only saw him as a dangerous threat now, even when others complimented me on how lucky I was for finding such a great catch.

“Where are you going?” his voice slithered out of his mouth and his eyes burned my cheeks.

“I…I’m just going to the bathroom,” I floundered as I tried to mask my shaking voice.

His grip released as the cheering fans inside the television returned, but I felt his gaze glaring through my back. I hopped off the seat and mumbled something about finding lipstick in my purse.

In the bathroom, a pale face stared back at me. My skin clung desperately to my bones as I tried to quickly count up how many pounds I’d lost in the last year and a half since Eric’s gambling really spun out of control. The freckles that normally danced across my nose and splashed onto my cheeks were faded to the point where I barely noticed them. My hair looked unkempt and stringy, the previously strawberry blonde waves now grayish and flat. I dampened a paper towel and placed it on my neck then dipped it into the sunken creases of my cheeks. My eyes even looked dim and I tried to remember where my energy and fire for life went. My life became robotic as I went through the motions yet my focus was always on how to avoid the next fight. My hands were shaking and icy so I ran them under warm water in attempt to bring them back to life. A blueish-green shadow was forming on my wrist already from where Eric grabbed me, and I pulled my maroon sweater sleeve down to cover up the evidence. I don’t know how long I was actually in the bathroom. My fifteen-minute escape felt like a weeklong vacation. Someone came in and interrupted my time away, and I tried to make it look like I was fixing my hair instead of daydreaming about how to escape my life.

Pushing out of the bathroom door, I released the breath I’d been holding since I really looked at myself. I had to sit down alone and figure out how the hell I let myself become this person. I wasn’t the type of girl who let a man control her, let alone lay a hand on her. I channeled the diehard feminist of my late teens and early 20s. Womyn not women and everything that entailed. Now I’m the type of girl who hides bruises with makeup and concealing clothing and avoids talking to her friends. Three years ago, I would’ve been screaming it from the rooftops if my boyfriend laid a hand on me. I straightened my shoulders and adjusted my posture, my back creaking out of its comfortable slouching position. I should meet up with some of my regularly ignored best friends. I needed to talk to someone and share my suffering with someone else. The first step to recovery is to admit when you need help, and I finally felt sick of playing the victim.

Maybe it was because I was lost in a cloud of rare confidence or maybe it was because the light was broken outside the bathroom, but Eric blindsided me. People in the hall snickered and clutched their drinks dramatically to stop them from spilling as they assumed we were just wasted and looking for a place to make out. Eric pushed me up against the wall crushing me to it, the wood panels giving my lower back a painful massage. My breath squeezed out of my diaphragm as I desperately tried to keep it within me, confidence fleeting as it gushed out.

“Eric, you’re hurting my back.” I tried to keep my voice low to avoid a fight about how I caused a scene. I raised my arms to push him off me and relieve the pressure on my lungs, but he encased them both in one of his oven mitt hands.

“What took you so long, sweetie?” His voice crept out of his mouth as if it were coming from somewhere deep inside him.

“I was just fixing my hair.” As much as I tried to keep my voice from quavering, it once again faltered and gave away my fear.

“The Knicks lost,” he said as he pushed his body harder into my chest and planted a hard kiss on my forehead. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Air whooshed into my body, refreshing and refilling me. Eric’s fingers wrapped around my already bruised wrist, settling into the familiar grooves created less than an hour earlier. He pulled me back to our table and my body felt like it was totally out of my control again. My shoulders fell back into their protective slumped position and I could barely remember what having hope felt like. I quickly wrapped my winter jacket over my shoulders as Eric talked to Ted about the basketball game they just witnessed. My mind was in full-blown panic mode trying to think up a way to avoid a fight when we got back to our apartment, but as always I actually knew it was impossible.

“Bye Sarah,” I heard Anya’s voice break into my thoughts. She sounded almost impatient and her sky blue eyes were full of concern and doubt.

“Oh, sorry. Bye Anya,” I said as I tried to avoid her gaze. As I turned around, I broke character. With my last bit of hope inspired from my earlier surge of confidence, I turned back to my friend and looked her dead in the eyes. “I’ll call you tomorrow, maybe we can grab coffee. Just us girls.”

Her lips tightened into a smile that I recognized from years of friendship, her shiny blonde hair and sparkling eyes were the inspiring light that I needed to latch onto. The familiar smile masked the genuine concern and anxiety that I knew would take hold of her until my call. “That sounds great! See you then.”

Anya’s anxiety probably peaked and finally diminished after she didn’t hear from me. There was no surprise; I became such a flake after I moved in with my boyfriend that she probably didn’t think my offer was genuine from the start anyway. Eric must have overheard our conversation at the bar because he made sure that night that our coffee date never occurred.

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I was Shamed by Shaming Articles

I’ll still accept silly/adorable dog shaming posts, however.

I often find myself completely contradicting my own thoughts and opinions, resulting in total hypocrisy and me feeling like an ass. It’s an unnerving concept to think of because I like to believe that I’m pretty steadfast in my opinions, but certain topics throw me into a total tailspin. Just the other day I reprimanded my boyfriend for talking about work so often as I seamlessly went into a tangent about my own job and freelance work. He called me out on my hypocrisy, but I noticed it while the thoughts were still bubbling around in my mind.

There’s relief in the topics where I know I won’t waiver. Gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry; trans people don’t deserve judgment and should be able to identify however they’d like; women don’t deserve to be criticized for enjoying sex; vaccinations are crucial and not vaccinating your children is an outrageous fad — essentially the theme is that people should be nice and respectful while reserving judgment toward others.

Often my doubts and hypocrisy come into play when people talk about all the different kinds of shaming. Slut shaming, skinny shaming, fat shaming, blonde shaming, gluten shaming (xoJane actually an article about this and I cringed the entire way through)…the list goes on and on, becoming more obscure as the demand increases. If you have a physical or emotional attribute, you bet your ass you can be shamed for it. Just browse through xoJane and search “shaming” where you’ll find a slew of women who are unhappy with how someone treated them. It oftentimes isn’t shaming but people having a conversation where one party felt offended, and rather than stand up to this person, they write passive aggressive articles online to vent their feelings.

Here’s where I feel torn by hypocrisy. When I ask myself how I feel about these issues, I become overwhelmed and can’t come up with a clear answer. I don’t think there’s a need to tell anyone your thoughts on their weight, but then I contradict myself because I also don’t feel like issues like obesity shouldn’t be ignored. My opinions are split as I can see the rationale to both sides of the argument.

This is the sort of controversial article that I’ll get a lot of eye rolls for, but that’s what I get for opening my blog up to the public I guess. I’ve just been feeling lately that there’s too much political correctness going on, which is just an excuse for everyone to play the victim and garner sympathy. I hope for an end to the excessive amounts of “I Was ______ Shamed by ______” articles because they’re petty and obnoxious. Rather than post quality material, shaming articles have become a cop out for writers to build their portfolios and for websites to gain more views on their pages. Here’s to hoping the fad dies out sooner rather than later.

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Home for the Holidays…If I Have To

gingeyI’ve been hesitant to write this post for awhile now, mostly out of fear. And since it’s always on my mind as the topic I want to be writing about, it’s stopped me from really being able to write much else. Thus the recent lack of posts on my behalf. Then I remembered what my senior year Creative Nonfiction professor told me, and that kind of snapped me out of this. If you’re going to write creative nonfiction, then you have to commit to it. If you lie or embellish things, then your audience will notice it. And similarly, if you leave things out or try to write as a favor to others, then what is the point of writing? So here it goes.

 I wanted to talk about the holidays and how now, as a 25 year old, being home for the holidays with my family fucking sucks.

As I get older, the holidays become smaller and more personal. We come closer together, bonding over memories of those who are no longer with us and clinging to one another with an unspoken desperation. In a way, it’s great that my family finally deems us “kids” as ready to be part of the grownup conversation at the dinner table. But the grownup conversation usually differs drastically from my opinions. I have no problem discussing differing opinions — in fact, I love it — but my responses are always met with eye rolls that say, “Oh, she’s so young and naive! She’ll see one day.”

My entire family — cousins, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, probably the ghosts of family members that are floating through our houses during the holidays — are all registered as Proud Republicans while I’m the lone Democrat (newly registered Green party member actually, which depending on who you talk to in my family, might be a lot worse). I don’t have an issue with all conservatives necessarily, but I do have a problem with the racist, homophobic, close-minded ones that come to my kitchen and drink wine on the holidays. These aren’t the people I grew up; these aren’t the people I have an endless amount of love and respect for.

Except, they are.

Some are worse than others, but for the most part my family has started to embody the characteristics that I find most deplorable in the world. The types of topics that I harbor strong opinions about — women and gay rights, racism, a value behind traveling and coming out of your comfort zone, understanding the difference between journalism and creative writing — are things that my family not only just doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me about, but they flat out refuse to even try. It’s frustrating and leads to me walking away from the dinner table once the conversation turns to the recent news of cops that “did the right thing because they’re cops and cops are right forever and that black man tried to do a bad thing probably maybe” with a little bit “hey, Obama sucks and here’s why I think so” sprinkled on top.

Maybe this is part of growing up. The parents that were invincible, highly intelligent superheroes are our peers now. I’ve gone through a significant amount of struggles that they can relate to, and more upsetting, ones that they can’t relate to at all. I understand that they weren’t all-knowing even if my child mind thought they were. Now I can relate to certain paths they took and that scares the absolute shit out of me.

My family isn’t wrong (ehhhhh…maybe a little actually) and they aren’t bad people — they are simply different from me. At some point in my life I drastically deviated away from the course my parents took, the same course that my brothers and cousins seem to be gliding along. I’m envious of friends who come from more liberal and open-minded families, and I’ve even begun a list of things I didn’t try until college (so far this list consists of hummus, Indian food, traveling outside of the United States, brown rice, and so many other weird things that even surprise me). But unfortunately this deviation leads to me feeling very alone during the holidays now, resorting to simple and gossipy conversation in the hopes that I’ll feel that camaraderie with my family members once again.

I don’t know what I hope to accomplish with this post, but part of me hopes that my parents never see it. Even though they already know that I don’t like their opinions and wish that they would step outside of their comfort zones more often, I feel like reading this might upset them. But again, I’m attempting to write for myself, not for anyone else. The holidays are no longer fun, exciting moments where I get a break from the stresses of real life and can hang out with my favorite people. It’s become a time where I feel completely ostracized from my family, even the ones I felt closest to throughout my life. It uncovers a fear that after 25 years of conversations and experiences together, they don’t actually really know me that well at all.

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