Thursday, September 30, 2010

Letters to That Guy That Holds the Door Too Long

Dear Guy That Holds the Door Too Long,

I've been running into you a lot lately. I mean, first, let me just say that I appreciate the gesture. It's really nice of you to try and be considerate and I always feel somehow worthy and attractive and tons of sappy stuff when people bother to show me a bit of courtesy.

However, I demand that you cease and desist. I'm not trying to put you down-- this is for both of us. I know how awkward you must feel when you realize that I'm way farther away and a far slower walker than you anticipated and that you're just going to have to stand there and look pleasant yet nonchalant for a whole twenty seconds. Unless I run. And you know I feel obligated to do so, and of course it looks stupid. I look stupid trotting eagerly up to the door just so I can thank you and save us both some time. You feel the way I look.

I'm not sure how to say this but-- and I know this seems to go against all preconceived notions of chivalry-- let the door go. Door-holding is nice, but I'm fully capable of opening it myself. You don't need to wait for me. I will be okay. In fact, I want to open it myself. Whenever I see you walking just a little too far ahead of me in close proximity to a building I start to panic. For the love of God, just shrug at me and go inside. I'll appreciate it, I promise.

After all, nothing could make you any worse than Guy That Doesn't Say Thanks When I Hold The Door.


What's one of your politeness pet peeves?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

White Light, Black Rain

LIFE, Nagasaki circa 1900.

"All this pain we carry in our hearts and in our bodies-- 
it must end with us."
--Sakue Shimohira

Sakue Shimohira was 10-years-old when the Fat Man plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. She and her sister were the only family members to survive. Soon after the bombing, her sister committed suicide due to depression stemming from the event.

I know this may seem like a bit of a departure from regularly scheduled programming, but yesterday I watched an absolutely astounding documentary, White Lighting/Black Rain. It's the story of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as told by some of the survivors. I've been fascinated by this event for awhile now (I posted another set of first-hand accounts a bit ago, which was the article that started the obsession), in part because no matter how many accounts, or videos, or photographs I take in, it is absolutely unfathomable to me what happened to these people. I don't think any of us can, and we are so lucky for that. To think that so many civilians died so horrifically in the name of war is heartbreaking. To think that there are survivors today that must live with the memory of the bomb every day is equally so, no matter how you feel about the "necessity" of the bombs or the actions of the Japanese military.

I'm just really affected and I couldn't think of anything more appropriate to post right now. If you're interested in seeing this film, send me an e-mail and I'll gladly work something out for you.

We must learn history so that we can learn to understand one another. Man's capability for destruction is immense-- far moreso than it was in 1945. We can ensure this will never happen again. But it takes everyone. It takes knowledge. It takes honesty. It takes love.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Love 365: Day 255 - 261

I love that I make fantastic vegan cupcakes.

I love that my best friend thinks I'm special for the way we relate to one another. Her love for me makes me see myself in a better light.

I love how I lose my shit over adorable puppies (watch this little guy spin!)

I love that I won't give up.

I love that I got up the courage to call the guy from People Magazine. He wasn't there, but I left a message and I'll try again soon if I don't hear back. I was so nervous and I put it off for a long time, but I did it!

I love that I sing softly to myself as I do the dishes.

I love how I steal my boyfriend's clothes.



I love that I was chosen for a photo spread in my college's magazine about beards. Mine is just that awesome.



I love that I still know how to forgive and understand.
I love that I have learned how to be the classy when it comes down to disputes.
I love that I love telling stories about my schitzy little cat.
I love that I get super excited when I get new treats or toys for my cat and I can't wait to get home to give them to her.
I love that I have stuck to my new job. I was going to for reals quit on like the third day but I made myself keep going no matter how much I didn't want to and now I'm kinda really loving it a lot.
I love how I do random nice things for my friends without it having to be an occasion. I planned a Sunday adventure for my best friend and just because I thought she'd really love it (and being out of the house for a bit).

--Julie, +Laells+


I love my courage.



What do you love about yourself?
Submit to Love 365 by e-mailing me at:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Are You First?

When you go to describe yourself, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

For me, it's always been "smart," whether that sounds mildly arrogant or not. Smart has had its ups and downs for me: on the one hand, it's always meant that I take to school easily and succeed at academics with very little effort. It meant that I could talk to adults on an adult level from a young age. It means that I can read and read and read and comprehend very difficult books and take joy in the sense of discovery that comes from that process. It means I'm the kind of person that gathers information and is very analytical. It means being the person in the room who can explain that obscure concept you happened to bring up. Being smart opened the doors to a wonderful university. I will be the first in my immediate family to graduate college. It means that I have the world at my feet because the wonderful world blooming in my brain is infinite. I can do anything.

But it's also meant that I was labeled as a "nerd" in school and singled out. It meant knowing that other smart kids were competing fiercely with me and wanted to see me fail. It meant feeling self-conscious participating in class because I was "showing off." It meant being teased because showing your smarts is grounds for ostracization in playground culture. It meant that I didn't feel that much like a kid sometimes because my mother saw my potential and pushed me hard to grow up. It meant I didn't feel right being silly for a very long time. It meant I didn't feel like I could relate to people very well if they weren't at a similar intellectual level. It meant that sometimes I felt profoundly isolated and alone.

But we take the good with the bad and I've always recognized that being smart makes me who I am, even if many other people are the very same way. I wouldn't trade being smart, because for me, it's what I am first.

What are you first?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Music: Brand New Day

I know we're sort've far into Monday by now (at least my fellow East-coasters are-- I suppose this depends on time zone), but I figured I'd share a song to get you through it. I like to listen to this on mornings when I'm not feeling chipper enough to want to get up. That's a lot of mornings. I don't like getting out of cozy little bed early, but this is my reminder that it's always more than worth it.

You can see the music video here, too, for a different arrangement.

What songs get you through Monday/the morning? What other rituals do you have to get yourself going?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Love 365: Day 248 - 254 (Slightly Belated)

I love that I sometimes have the confidence to listen to ridiculous music in front of other people.

I love that I'm unabashedly a terrible English major (in the sense that I slack off more than I should and don't particularly like Milton).

I love how I often walk into a room feeling as if I command it.

I love that I finally tried coconut water. It was terrible. But I have a hard time trying new things so it was an accomplishment anyway.

I love that Diana Levine and my college tweeted my latest article. I was also really proud to see it displayed in our UC. I'm overly pumped, to say the least.

I love that I can almost name all the states from memory (try this, it's harder than you think).

I love how I remind myself to find things beautiful on bad days.



I love that I think stupid things are funny.



I love that I'm a good teacher.

I love that I can run farther than I ever could before.

I love my baby blues.



I love my body. All of it. Even the not-so-perfect parts.



What do you love about yourself?
Submit to Love 365 by e-mailing me at:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Meat Dress

Lady Gaga wore a meat dress at the VMAs. I'm not sure I even need to say this. Most of you either saw it as it was happening or later on in the event coverage. What I do need to say, just briefly, is why we should all be recognizing a little something wrong and hypocritical here. A lot of this has probably been said, but I believe that people need to say their piece about stuff like this as often as possible. The fact is, we are the voices of the consumer-- of pop music and of meat-- and we have a chance to change the way people play the game if we lobby hard enough.

First, I applaud Gaga for her work with gay rights groups and for the statement she made by making victims of Don't Ask, Don't Tell her dates for the night. I think that's a really wonderful thing and despite the fact I'm not a general fan of hers, I can respect that kind of move. It's something I wish we saw being done more often by celebrities. However, the irony here is that on a night she rallied so hard in her own way for human rights, she managed to do something very ignorant of animal rights.

I was speaking to Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Professor John Sanbonmatsu the other day for a piece I'm doing with Pulse Magazine. It's about his work to get people to think about animal consumption in a new way. I'm going to paraphrase here since I don't know if quoting him violates some sort of policy, but he said that people often get offended by the idea of animal rights when it comes to food because confronting the realities of how food is produced involves actually placing some blame on yourself. People don't want to believe that eating a steak makes them complicit in a very cruel, destructive system (both to life and to the environment). He went on to say that it's also offensive because people are then required to ask themselves who really gave them the right-- according to him, no one-- to cause suffering to other animals on such a mass scale. While I am a vegetarian now, I do believe that eating meat is natural. I don't believe it's natural or humane the way we're obtaining it, and I believe that it undermines our idea of what it is to be human. If being human is somehow "better" than being another kind of animal, how do we justify mass cruelty to other sentient beings?

I'm getting a little away from the point, which is that Gaga, who seems to pride herself on being "the most judgement-free human being on the Earth" and doing so much work to try and this atmosphere of peace and freeness and equality, is taking a step backward. Though she claims this outfit wasn't meant to offend anyone vegan or vegetarian and was just a message about fighting for our rights we'll become as valueless as the meat on our bones. Whether she meant to or not, the combination of that statement and wearing real dead animals is truly telling of underlying disregard for life. If the "meat on our bones" have no rights and she's wearing animal meat to make the statement (she could have worn faux human limbs or something), it would follow those animals don't have rights.

The outfit's designer confirmed that this outfit is genuine meat. 50 pounds of it. The newest statistics I could locate (provided by the USDA in 2006) projected the 2006 per capita beef consumption in America at 66 pounds. That statistic may be different by now, but think of it. If that's true, Gaga was wearing close to one person's year supply of beef on her body. The designer said that the dress is meant to be worn once, then saved to dry up and eventually be displayed. 50 pounds of food. Obtained from a butcher. Meaning its original purpose was to feed someone, not clothe a billionaire. I know that people wear leather (personally, I do not), but leather is not food. Leather was not created to feed someone. And this world is full of people who are literally starving. Making a statement would be going to the VMAs in your underwear and explaining that you were going to wear a meat dress, but instead you sent 50 pounds of beef to an impoverished community so that children didn't go hungry for a few days. What I'm saying is this wasn't a little bit of beef. This was food that could have fed a lot of people. It's very First-Wold-centric to go around wearing food and then tossing it in a closet for a later date.

Not to mention, of course, as far as shocking statements go, the meat dress has been done to death. Even by Gaga herself. She just appeared on a magazine cover swathed in meat, after all. For a performer who prides herself on being new and interesting every time we see her, this was a major misstep. You can find plenty of meat clothes just by Google searching. Artist Jana Sterbak famously did a show on meat clothing. On top of the waste and the anti-animal rights message it flaunts, it's kind've cliche, and isn't Gaga supposed to be the exact opposite of that? (I would argue she really isn't, but then again I'm not a fan in general).

What I'm asking here is not for you to agree with me. And I'm certainly not attacking those of you who do eat meat. We can all choose what we want to eat and put into our bodies and what systems we want to buy into. What I ask, however, is that we take moments like these and really think about what they mean and ask ourselves hard questions. When I was much younger, I loved animals and my heart broke at the idea of eating them-- but I did it anyway because it was "too hard" to be vegetarian. As I got older I realized that we have to be honest with ourselves. I wanted to be the kind of person in practice as I was in theory. Being mature is sometimes admitting when we're wrong. We don't all have to go about things the same way, but we should really be actively thinking about how we live our lives.

Right isn't always easy. When I see Lady Gaga wearing 50 pounds of food that will never even fill the stomachs it was intended for in a world of starving people, I feel disgusted. And I feel like it's her way of taking the easy way out. Wearing meat was shocking, but not for the right reasons.

What are your thoughts on the meat dress? 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Roommates of Christmas Past

While reflecting on my near-complete college career, I realized something: I have never had a bad roommate. I'm not sure how unique I am in this respect. When you go to college, people warn you about the kind of roommate who will have sex in your bed and throw parties while you're studying for finals or pee on the floor in your room (my junior year roommate's freshman roommate actually did this). You go to college anticipating that living with a stranger is going to be a nightmare of the grandest kind, but I, well, found the opposite to be true.

My first roommate I spent two years with because we were so fond of living with each other. She liked musicals, movies, and making origami cranes out of anything she could get her hands on. She also learned how to make origami penises at one point, much to the amusement of many. We would have late-night conversations on the regular. She's actually the whole reason I met my boyfriend of almost 3 years-- he was her friend and he hung out in our room a lot. After Sophomore year, we decided to part ways but we're still friendly when we see each other and do lunch on occasion.

Junior year, I moved in with a hipster girl who was quiet and nice but who I didn't think I'd hit it off with for that reason. We didn't talk much and she watched "The Office" a lot. After awhile, we got friendly and found we had common interests like lolcats, Lamebook, and Jersey Shore. We were totally the roomies who would send each other Facebook links from across the room and laugh, and even though we don't like together anymore we still bombard each other with pictures of cute animals and ridiculous hipster things. We also both took extreme pleasure in making fun of my boyfriend. We hang out on the regular and talk and I'm really glad that we became friends.

My roommate now is one I've only known for a few weeks, but she's wonderful so far even though I didn't get to pick her (basically, I was going to room with someone who decided not to return to Clark, so I was randomly assigned to a transfer student over the summer). She's a vegetarian-hippie-feminist with an adorable pixie cut and a dress collection to die for. So far, so good.

So I've never had a bad roommate. I've actually quite liked them. My boyfriend, Luke, on the other hand, has not been so lucky. A quick rundown:

Freshman year: jock who drunkenly slept with a girl while he was awake in his bed. The jock didn't know Luke was awake but assured the drunk girl that it was okay to do it while he was in the room. Ummm.... Luke never revealed to this roommate that he knew what happened.

Sophomore year: kid who liked Japan a little too much and wore a woman's wig that he was using for a cosplay once while having a conversation with us. His alarm would go off for a straight hour or so every morning before he would shut it off. He also wouldn't stop bragging about the fantasy novel he was writing or the one video game he and Luke both liked.

Junior year: guy we thought would be awesome 'cause he supposedly "lived" with his girlfriend. He spoke almost solely in questions (talking to him was like police interrogation), except for when he was saying random phrases at odd times. He would come in and say "Death of a Salesman!" or "Willie Loman!" for no reason and make random nonsense comments while doing work at his desk. He originally said he would never be in the room but ended up being there 99% of the time listening to loud rap music. Oh, and he had a subwoofer.

Senior year: as far as we can tell, this dude and his girlfriend sleep 20 hours a day and then loudly watch "Shrek" for the other four.

What about you? That's what I'm curious about. I want to hear some great and terrible roommate stories from you guys (they don't necessarily have to be college roommates). Spill it!

[Also, please continue to bear with me while I try to get my schedule under control. This semester is going to be last really difficult one and I have a lot on my plate. I'm going to try to still post regularly and visit your blogs, but just know I still love you even though I may be a little absent until sometime in December.]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brief Thoughts On Size Acceptance

I recently decided that I want to complete the Insanity workout. You've probably seen at some point when you woke up way too early and didn't know what to watch. It looks, well, insane-- and I love stuff like that. I very much enjoy taking instruction in the realm of fitness and I love to push myself to see just what my body is capable of. One of the best aspects of a workout, for me, is that aspect of competition with myself and with others. When I first saw Shaun T's commercials for Insanity, I was intrigued-- could I do it? I'm not in the greatest shape I've ever been in, but I'm always up for a challenge (and I do know what my actual limits are). The other day, I got ahold of the DVDs. I don't know when I'm actually going to do it, seeing as I live in a dorm with little space and a roommate, but I'm going to get around to it eventually.

My boyfriend and I were discussing Insanity when something interesting came up.

"What if you get really skinny?" he said. "Won't that undermine all the size acceptance stuff you write about?"

This is actually something I've thought about before. What if I were to change my daily routine in a way that made me thinner? Would it be a betrayal of my readers? If I lose weight, does that mean I don't think all sizes are beautiful anymore? Was all my self-love for naught?

Simply, no.

I know this is a controversial comparison, but saying you can't be thin and believe in fat acceptance is like saying that you can't be White and believe in civil rights. Or that you can't be a man who believes in women's rights. Or that you can't think disabled people deserve equal rights if you don't have a disability yourself.

Look: the fair, equal treatment of all humans-- no matter if they look like you or not-- is a human issue. Compassion is human.

The very real truth is that larger people are demonized in today's media and thus face very real challenges in their everyday lives that go beyond mean comments and stares. Fat people face discrimination in the workplace not only at the hiring level but in their salaries. Medical professionals give them less care because they find them "awkward, unattractive, ugly, and noncompliant". There's also some evidence that the mental anguish that comes from these prejudices can manifest itself as deadly stress.

Whether we believe that weight is a choice (usually no) or that being fat is unhealthy (not necessarily) is inconsequential when it comes to a little thing we call human rights. If a person does choose to be fat, does that mean they should be discriminated against? If being fat is a health issue should they be discriminated against (we certainly wouldn't say someone with cancer has fewer rights)? And I certainly don't think just because a person isn't attractive to everyone means they're less worthy of equality.

The idea of size acceptance isn't the idea that fat is "right," but the idea that it is right to treat each other as equals. That's something that everyone should get behind, whether the issue at hand is size, color, sexuality, or anything else that makes one person unique from another. Fighting for the acceptance of others is something that we all can and should take part in, and we can do so every single day by just being nice and pointing a finger when we see injustice.

I also believe that people are capable of changing themselves from a place of love rather than hate. I am confident enough in my body and love it enough for what it is that I want to act in its best interest. Exercising, eating (mostly) healthful foods, sleeping, relaxing, stimulating myself mentally, and simply taking the time to enjoy things I love are in my best interest. Whether those things change my outer appearance right now is inconsequential: as long as I'm healthy and happy, my weight is a moot point. Frankly, no one's business but my own. Sorry, don't care, I'm beautiful how I am and I don't need to hold myself to anyone else's standards. It's sometimes a struggle to feel this way-- I'll never deny that-- but I work hard at accepting and loving myself every single day. To paraphrase something I heard Lesley of Fatshionista say once, acceptance isn't a mountain you climb and reach the top. You are always climbing. You have to keep climbing. Sometimes you don't want to, but the effort is worth it.

Will I be able to stop climbing if I were to be thin? No. You don't solve self-esteem issues by losing weight. I truly believe I will have to work just as hard at climbing that hill at a socially acceptable size as I do now as a fat person. And as a woman who has been both of those things in my life, I know it's true.

I want to use my writing to be a voice of size acceptance. I want to use the pain I've gone through to reach out to the billions of others that have shared it. I want to help make this world a place where the number on the scale can't hold you back-- and I know for a fact that I can do that at any size.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Love 365: Day 241 - 247

I love that I don't have many dramatic college roommate stories. I suppose I play well with others.

I love how I fall asleep with my makeup on sometimes (not good for you, I know).

I love that I am scared sometimes. That's okay.

I love how this sense of wonderment comes over me whenever I'm in a library. I don't think I've taken proper advantage of Clark's library and I'll miss sitting among the stacks with a bunch of open books.

I love that I go barefoot as much as possible.

I love that I get nervous before opening my e-mail.

I love that after almost 3 years I still get butterflies in my tummy when I see my boyfriend from across a room.



I love that I make little kids smile.



I love that I'm not easily embarrassed.

I love that I'm a great girlfriend.

I love my ability to light up a room-- according to other people. That's one of the best compliments.



What do you love about you?
Submit to Love 365 by e-mailing me at:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sammi, Ronnie, And Lessons On Abuse

[DISCLAIMER: I'd like to preface this by saying that this post is a discussion on abuse and uses examples from "The Jersey Shore" as well as my own experience. I know this is a topic that can be triggering, so this is just a heads-up that if so, you may want to skip this post.]

If you're like a lot of America, you've been sucked into "The Jersey Shore." It's terrible. Awful. Really, the worst show ever. However, it's almost sickeningly addictive and it's become a huge part of pop culture since the first season debuted last year. While most of the show's content should be seen as a how-to guide to being a complete douchebag (translation: if you see it on Jersey Shore, you should never do it), there's one part of the show that I've always found super-disturbing: Sammi and Ronnie's relationship.

In the first season, Sammi was the main abuser. She was extremely moody and short-tempered with Ronnie, who seemed genuinely interested in being faithful to her. She would fly off the handle and then demand his forgiveness (for example, the "Fred Flinstone toe" incident). Just like him, she flirted with other people at clubs, even getting some guys' numbers. She played far more games than he did, and games are never a sign of a healthy relationship. The two clearly struggled to determine whether they could be together all season until, at the reunion, they called it quits.

And then there was this season, when it stopped being just stupid and got horrifyingly sad. Let's go over the basic trajectory of this season's romance: Ronnie going and out, getting really wasted (and probably coked up) and hooking up with a zillion chicks, then coming home, telling the guys he was going to sleep with Sammie-- who, let's recall, is not his girlfriend-- and just getting into her bed. Then they decide they're dating. And then he acts like an ass and calls her lovely names like "bitch" and "cunt" and hooks up with more girls. Sammie says she "done." He apologizes and says he loves her. They sleep together again. Sammi plays some emotional games (such as searching Ronnie's phone and telling him he can go out but really "testing" him to see if he'll stay with her). Ronnie plays emotional games by cheating and then coming home to his sort've-girlfriend. Oh, we're done, no wait I love you, let's make up. Then Ronnie does something stupid and Sammie says she's "done." And then they make up, snuggle. More stupid stuff, "done," "BUT WAIT I LOVE YOU SAMMI!" wash, rinse, repeat.

It got so bad that the girls in the house decided to write Sammi a note about all Ronnie's infidelities. Sammi reads the note, it's very dramatic, she claims this is the last straw, but ultimately Ronnie tells her he loves her and he's sorry (again) and they appear to be back together. Sammi and the girls fight over all the shadiness in the house and we won't find out the rest of the story until episode 7.

I, like most people watching this show, am sick and tired of watching Sammi allow herself to be Ronnie's fall-back plan. Like she says, yeah, it does make her look bad-- should it? Maybe not, but I think a lot of us are sitting on the other side of the screen yelling "DON'T GO BACK TO HIM YOU ARE BEING SO STUPID!" and banging our heads against the wall. Or, conversely, we've just given up on the whole thing and decided that she's dumb. She'd have to be dumb not to listen to all the evidence that's smacking her in the face.

But here's the rub: most of us, if not all of us, have either been in a similar situation or had a friend just like Sammi.

The first time my first boyfriend broke up with me, I found out that he was over my best friend's house hitting on her little sister the next day. My friend asked my ex didn't Vanessa mean anything to you?! And he replied, I later found out, "no." At the time, my friend just got on the phone with me and said, plain and simple, "never go back to him." But did I follow her advice? Of course not. Because when I had a guy still paying me attention and flirting and then saying he hated me and talking about other girls and then acting like he wanted me back but saying no, I was too confused and naively hopeful to listen. I thought about the good times. I thought about how he was the only guy who'd ever liked me-- said he loved me-- enough to date me and I wasn't going to let that go. No one's advice mattered to me. They didn't see him like I did. They didn't know about how nice he could be. So I dealt with him getting plastered every night and telling me how awful and undeserving I was because sometimes, yeah, he'd snuggle and who else did I have to do that with?

My refusal to see the truth came from an ailing sense of self-esteem and pure, utter desperation. He never harmed me physically, but I was being emotionally abused. I was being used on top of it for the fact that, as the typical victim of abuse, I was willing to stay and hold on and be there whenever he wanted me to. He didn't love me and I later realized I didn't love him. I was desperate and obsessed and lost and hurt. I was not in love.

Unfortunately, I can also say that within the relationship, I thought the love I had for this guy was so real and that even though he treated me awfully, he loved me, too. I would turn him around. He would realize someday that I paid for lots of things for him and had sex with him and let him be mean to me and that that? That was devotion and he owed me it in return. That never happened. There was never a chance of it-- and I'm glad of it.

I began dating my current boyfriend when my ex went to boot camp for the Marines. When he came home, I told my ex that our relationship was done, he begged for my forgiveness. He told me he changed and he loved me and that I had abandoned him when really it was he who refused to be committed to me. I was strong enough then to put my foot down, but had I not had the distance from him that I got, I don't think-- I really don't-- that I would have been strong enough to do so. I saw plenty of warning signs of how bad the relationship was along the way, including the advice of my loving, amazing friends, but I didn't listen until circumstances made me ready.

I can, in that sense, relate to how Sammi must feel. She's acting stupidly and unwisely, but I don't think what she's doing in front of America is any different than what many of us have done or seen our friends do in a way that isn't as public. Abuse like this tends to take a certain form, and unfortunately that often means one party delusionally clinging to another out of hope and desperation. Emotional abuse, like any other form, becomes a force for manipulation and coercion and you can lose sight of the way out. I can say without shame that I acted stupidly and that what I went through was something that I never in a million years would have imagined myself going through. I wasn't "that girl" in my head. Now, older and wiser, I see everything for what it was. I'm willing to bet that Sammi feels the same way I did when I was with my ex and that someday she'll see how terrible and degrading an experience she went through. She's the only who will be able to make herself see that-- not her friends/castmates. Hopefully she'll come out of it as a better person. Say what you will about the Jersey Shore cast, but people are people and each and every one of us deserves love and respect.

Sammi is not being stupid as much as she is being human. Whenever we see people in abusive situations who don't seem willing to be, as Sammi says so frequently, "done," we react with bewilderment and frustration without taking a moment to remember how different and confounding the feelings can be from the inside. It's so much more complex than a lot of people want to believe. Sammi is not stupid: she is human and if what MTV shows us is accurate, she is a victim of abuse.

Interestingly, while MTV decided to air the number for an abuse helpline after the infamous Snooki-gets-punched incident, there's been little explicit attention paid to the abusive nature of Sammi and Ronnie's relationship. Yes, it's become the main conflict of the show, but MTV hasn't passed any real judgment on what we're seeing yet. In the first season, we never see the number for an abuse helpline at the commercial after Sammi manipulates Ronnie into apologizing and doing arbitrary tasks to prove his devotion and then proceeds to go out and get others guys' numbers. In the second season, we never see the number for an abuse helpline at the commercial after Ronnie goes out and cheats and calls Sammi a cunt and she says she's "done" and then sleeps with him anyway because she loves him so much. We're watching two people in a very real, very violent cycle.

Many of MTV's viewers are young, maybe even getting into some of their first relationships. Whether kids should be watching this or not is inconsequential right now: they're watching it. If MTV wants to be truly responsible and take a big step in the right direction, they'll make it clear that what we in Sammi and Ronnie is not healthy, because for some people it might not be. If you know people-- male or female-- who watch this show, talk to them about it, especially if they're younger. I think a lot of the "problems with today's youth" could be fixed by a healthy dose of dialogue. Either way, MTV needs to take a stand and acknowledge that just because this kind of abuse doesn't leave bruises doesn't make it any less horrific.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Talk Sh*t, Get Hit: A Reminder

The first time I heard this phrase wasn't too long ago. I've gone back and forth from really liking it because it embodies the part of me that's very rage-y at times and disliking it because, well, hitting people is not how we in this civilized world of ours should solve our problems. Sure, when we find out someone is saying nasty things behind our backs, the gut reaction may be a desire for confrontation, but we all have to learn to rein it in and deal with situations like this constructively.

Which, by the way, can be hard. This isn't to say, of course, that I really think most of you would go out and physically assault someone who was saying nasty things about you: I don't. Most of us just really aren't that confrontational. Still, many of us do have an instinct-- a desire-- for revenge. There's this little part of us that wants to go defame our enemy to the masses or make a scene or ruin some part of their lives. We're all human and we can sort've feel like being vindictive sometimes. Admit that to yourself. It's okay-- really, it is. It's fine to fantasize about some kind of over-the-top revenge, as long as-- and this is the part where you need to follow me-- you don't do it.

The character of a person is largely determined by how they react to life's negatives. It's easy to be nice when everyone smiles at you, but not so much so when you're getting dirty looks. What do you do then? See the cruelty of others as a chance to show your grace under pressure.

This is a reminder to you that you're just so much classier than that, and that's the best revenge you can possibly get. Be classy. Sure, tell your closest friends how angry and insulted it makes you, but get that over and done with and resume life. Don't be the person who holds a grudge. Don't be the person who talks shit right back-- let karma do the work for you. People say this all the time. I know my advice to you isn't new or innovative, but it bears repeating, because sometimes we get caught up in the drama and forget.

Stay classy, dear readers.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Love 365: Day 234 - 240 (Slightly Belated)

I love that I make up silly songs to pass the time.

I love that I feel hot while working out. Hot in both senses of the word.

I love how many nights I have where all I want to do is watch old TV and drink hot chocolate.

I love my imperfections. Even if I have to work at it.

I love that I am lazy sometimes.

I love that I often laugh so loud that people stare.

I love that I can read Middle English-- while (mostly) understanding it and pronouncing it correctly. Thanks, Professor Gertz!



I love my dumb, silly Spanish accent.



I love that I can always be relied on to have Kleenex.  Their importance and usefulness is very underrated.

--Laura, Ruby Bastille


Reason to feel good:
*My boss unexpectedly gave us the afternoon off today!
*My boyfriend and I finalised our arrangements to go on holiday to Glentana in October. Beach holiday before summer really sets in and while everyone else is working = awesome! 

What do you love about yourself?
Submit to Love 365 by e-mailing me at:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Being Estranged

When I was little, my father would come to pick me up every Sunday at 10 AM. He would pull up to my grandparents' big house in a black Cadillac and his brown leather jacket. We would go to a big pond in the middle of town to feed ducks before walking through the old revolutionary war cemetery behind it. We would spend hours winding through the headstones and he would teach me history. Our history is important. Hours would pass and we would cautiously wind down the hill by the old red farmhouse to get back to the car. When we got home, I would scurry up the big hill in front of my grandmother's house while my father waited on the sidewalk below. I would bend my knees and spring, fluttering downward toward his arms and he would catch me. After a few jumps, he would say he had to go. I didn't want him to. I'd have to stall.

"One more time and last more time!" I'd say. Climb, jump, catch. Climb, jump, catch. And then I would kiss my father on the cheek and go inside.

I am 21 now and I haven't spoken to my father in three years. This was my choice.

Growing up is hard because you begin to see things with adult eyes. I began to see a father who didn't pay my child support despite the fact my mother and I were poor and living with my grandmother to avoid being homeless, who constantly insulted my mother in an attempt to turn me against her, who was selfish, who was emotionally frigid, who did unexplainably perverse things around a young daughter, who forgot my birthday, who was bigoted and close-minded. I began to see a man who helped create my life but was someone I no longer wanted in it. As I grew older, I avoided him. I made excuses for our visits to be shorter and more infrequent. I couldn't wait until the day came, inevitably, when I would have the courage to sever our ties.

The catalyst was an incident I've talked about before but will recap: his reaction to my boyfriend. My boyfriend is biracial, half Black and half White. I had a feeling that when I told my father, who claims to be very progressive but isn't, that our relationship would go from bad to worse. I was right.

"He's half Jamaican," I said.

"Does he look like a Negro?" he asked. I think he thought this was funny. I didn't.

Weeks later, my mother let slip that my father had said he didn't approve of me dating a Black person. I flew into a rage. I rarely initiated phone calls, but this time I did. I told him I knew what he said. I demanded that he be a man and defend it to me personally.

"I'm enough of an adult to have a relationship, so I'm enough of an adult for you to talk to me about it," I said.

He claimed that, yes, he said it, but he was okay with me dating someone of a different race but not marrying someone like that. He said he didn't like the idea of "cultures" mixing. He said that the whole issue should be dropped because my mother shouldn't have said anything. That didn't matter, I said, because I already knew and that trying to keep it from me was hugely disrespectful. He always used to say, even when I was quite young, that his favorite thing about me was how I was more of an adult than a child and that he could always speak to me as such. Apparently I wasn't an adult this time.

That was the beginning of the end. This incident was the very last straw, but not my main motivation for becoming estranged. I didn't need his negativity and lack of support-- emotionally and finanically-- in my life. I stopped taking calls. When my mother told me he was pestering her about it, I told her I refused to speak to him. Tell him to stop calling, I said. He didn't. He called and called and called until one day he sent a letter.

The letter said he believed the sole reason I wasn't speaking to him was his comments about interracial relationships. He wasn't racist, he claimed-- he just wanted his daughter to marry someone of her own culture. He had plenty of Black friends, he said, but he wouldn't want them to date his White daughter. But he wasn't racist, of course. My Jewish grandmother didn't want my mother to date him because he was Italian-- that wasn't racist, was it? He ended the letter saying that my mother was a disrespectful bitch for not keeping what he said between them as parents. He then said, ironically, that if I wanted he could tell me bad things that she had said about my boyfriend. "Tell me if you want to know," he said.

I wrote him back that he didn't get it. I told him I didn't want him to be a hypocrite and tell me what my mom had said (I had a hunch I knew what it was anyway). I told him that not only did his letter actually make me feel as if he was more racist than I did before (and, yes, my grandmother's actions were racist-- a culture's customs can be racist), but it told me that he totally missed the point. I told him I've been to therapy for my anxiety. I told him that the lack of a supportive, loving father in my life-- a dad-- had created a huge hole in my self-esteem and disfunctions in the way I'd related to men in the past. He was a father, not a dad. I told him that I hated him for not even helping my mother pay for my college. "I know you don't have the money," I said, "but neither do we and we're doing it anyway." I told him I hated him for not participating in my life after those days feeding ducks when I was very small. I told him everything. I spilled my heart-- and it was difficult. As much as I hated him, it hurt. But I told him everything. Everything. Including "I don't want you in my life anymore."

He wrote me back. I hoped, briefly, as I opened the letter that it would show remorse. I hoped he would say he understood now and didn't want to lose me and that he would try to fix it and that he was sorry.

He told me I was wrong. According to him, all these hurt feelings were my own hypersensitive delusions. He said it wasn't his fault, that he'd done nothing wrong. He said he didn't know how I could feel that way. Obviously he loved me. Obviously. He said that he was a dad, not just a father. I was being stupid. The only thing he admitted to was not helping us financially. Enclosed was a check for $1000. He said he'd give it to me if it mattered so much.

The letter I sent back was written hastily on a Post-It note.

"Thanks for the money-- I appreciate it. But your letter just shows you just don't get it and you never will. Do not call. Do not write. I'm done."

That was the last time I corresponded with him. He hasn't called or written since.

This has been like a break-up that was a long time coming. It was painful for sure, but inevitable. And in the end, it's left me open to direct my love and energy to better things. To me, that is invaluable.

I am content, truly, with being estranged. I needed it, wanted it. I write this post not to justify it to myself but to assure anyone else who has been through this or would want to sever ties with a family member that it's not a crime-- it's okay. It doesn't make you bad. I sleep better at night without his negativity in my life. I know a choice like mine isn't for everyone. I get questions about it when I finally have to explain the situation to my friends.

People often say to me "oh, you'll come around. You won't want this forever."

While I believe in forgiveness, I believe you can forgive while still admitting to yourself that someone isn't healthy to have in your life, even if that person is a parent. If the same person were an abusive, neglectful ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, no one would tell you you need to have them back in your life. I don't believe in keeping toxic relationships just because that person is supposed to be important to you. He is important because I am here. He is important because our past, as deeply as it has wounded me, has shaped me into an incredibly strong, independent woman. I don't know if I would have turned out better if he had known how to be a dad. Maybe. But all I know is I am proud of who I am today. Our relationship has made me strong.

I told my boyfriend recently that when my father dies someday, I think that I'll be sad, but not for the reasons most people would be.

"I won't be sad for him," I said. "I'll be sad for me." I don't miss him now. I won't miss him then. What I'll miss-- what I'll always miss and have been missing-- is the idea of him, of him being the kind of dad he was when I was very small. I'll miss the fact that my father was never my dad and that his passing will be final death-knell of a relationship that never really was. I've never had a dad, because a dad is more than what my father was to me. Sometimes I think I won't be sad at all because I've already had time to mourn a dad; I've had 21 years to cope with not having one already.

When I was little, I jumped off the big hill out front and into my father's arms. I didn't imagine I would ever feel like this about him. "One more time and last more time," I would beg, hoping he would never leave me. I am 21 now and I have left him. And it is one of the best things I've ever done.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Results May Vary

*Oh, hi, wanna read something I wrote for Pulse Magazine? This is my story on Diana Levine, a young celebrity photographer who graduated from my college. You can leave comments to tell my editor you love me :-P

*Ever seen a Welsh Corgi do a belly flop? Probably not, but trust me, you want to.

*This article about restless, confusing 20-somethings in the New York Times Magazine is awesome for several reasons: 1) I am a 20-something and can relate to grown-ups just not understanding me, 2) It is fascinating, 3) Jeffrey Jensen Arnett is a psych professor at my university and I get unreasonably excited when Clark people show up in the news. You'll also note the article mentions Clark's first president, G. Stanley Hall, who more or less came up with the idea of adolescence. Nice!

*A map of other things that are around Ground Zero. I dunno about you, but an Islamic community center is a lot nicer-sounding than a strip joint. (Did you know the place it's going is an old Burlington Coat Factory? Doesn't ring of "hallowed ground" to me).

*Pinup RDJ. Enough said. This is fantastic.

*When Shamantis took "U Smile" by Justin Bieber and slowed it down by 800%, he found something incredibly inspiring.

*So pathetic and so funny: "Fur-ocious" photos of a cat fashion show. Thanks to my friend and former roomie with excellent taste in lolcats, Alicia.

*You want more cute animal videos, am I right? Penguins chasing a butterfly. A-dorable.

*This cover of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" may be the only good one I've ever heard. No one does it as heart-wrenchingly as Dylan, but she comes close.

*Do You Want To Be A Mermaid Or A Whale? Gala Darling reposts a very inspiring letter.

These are some of the things I'm loving lately, but results may vary. Tell me what you think in the comments!


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