The Regulars

When I came back from Hawaii, my friend Jane had a new spot she loved to hang out at in Hollywood. She liked it mainly because she had a crush on one of the bartenders, a slim actor from Canada. When someone tells me they are from Canada I instantly am on their side. When introducing myself to a new group of people, I like to add that I am half French Canadian and I can tell people are already endeared to me. I have found people are also endeared if you say you’re from Wisconsin, Georgia or anywhere in Europe. If you want people to immediately become apprehensive of you, tell them you were born and raised in Los Angeles. Jane and I would sit at the bar whenever Canada was working, and before I even had become aware of what my life was turning into, I had become a “regular” at this bar. I’ve never been a regular at a bar before and it was nothing like Cheers. Nothing makes you feel more pathetic than walking into an oriental themed bar and having a Canadian say, “the usual eh?” while he fills up a wine glass. Being a regular at a bar also meant you met the other regulars. Jane was not Canada’s only admirer, he also had a middle aged man named Stuart who hung out at the bar after work or when his wife wanted to watch The Voice in peace. While Jane was fixated on Canada, I became fixated on Stuart. Stuart knew everything that happened in that bar. “You were talking to that good looking guy three days ago around eleven pm, how did that go? Have you heard from him since?” he asked me one night. “I was what? You were here? How did yo-” Stuart shook his head, “I talked to that guy last night for an hour. He’s a good guy but I don’t think he’s interested in anything serious with you. He gave you his favorite books didn’t he? Don’t read too much into that, you look like the type that might.” I took a sip of my wine and stared into his eyes, I am that type, I thought.

While Jane and Canada’s relationship was either going nowhere, or progressing at the pace of a beached whale trying to make its way back to the ocean, I had observed enough of Stuart that I now considered him an oracle of sorts, a person with the ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception. “Do you think Stuart is…enlightened?” I asked Canada one night. “That man tells it like it is,” Canada said, “I think it’s interesting, some people can’t take the honesty though.” We looked at Stuart at the end of the bar, he was sitting directly under a light which cast a soft glow around only him. “Look at that beeeaaauty! What a beauty,” Canada said as we both gazed at Stuart wearing shorts, loafers and a baseball cap, aglow. One night Stuart had gotten deep in a discussion with Jane who I could tell he was very fond of. I was sitting there on the outskirts of the conversation with my phone, sending out texts to ex-boyfriends:

On a scale of 1-10 how bad of a girlfriend was I? 1 being the worst.

Hey, do you hate me? 

When Canada appeared. “What are they talking about?” he asked as Jane screeched “He was a drug addict, but I loved him!” I shrugged as my phone lit up with a text from my very first boyfriend: who is this? I sighed. “I can’t believe you’ve never read To Kill A Mockingbird,” I told Canada, remembering a discussion all of us had had the week before. “Boo Radley is one of the greatest fictional characters in my opinion.” Canada shook his head, “Hey if you bring it to me I’ll read it, I’ll bring you my favorite book that you have never read,” he told me. “I can’t believe you’ve never read a Mario Puzo book. Not even The Godfather.” I  shrugged and then realized Jane had gotten up and had run out the door crying. I turned to Stuart. “What did you say to her?” I asked. He was studying me. “You have Bambi eyes, that’s what it is about you. I bet they probably get you into trouble all the time. You also look better with your hair up, and you don’t look as tired as the last time I saw you. Also, you speak very slowly, you’re a slow talker, has anyone ever told you that before?” I stared at him. “Is it true you sell your daughter’s girl scout cookies to people at this bar?” I asked, in a semi-threatening tone. He slid a napkin towards me. “Write your name, number and how many boxes you want,” he said, “unfortunately, we are sold out of Thin Mints.” Canada and I looked at each other. “I need to close out,” I told him. I paid our bill and went outside to find Jane, who was in tears over Stuart analyzing all her past relationships with men. “You can’t listen to that guy. I mean who even is that guy? He doesn’t know you,” I said and then added, “Hey, would you say I’m a slow talker? Did I say that slowly? Am I speaking slowly now?”

The thing about LA, a city full of good looking actors/models/musicians that need day jobs, is that even though you can be (not seriously) dating or involved with someone else, you also end up developing crushes on everyone you see: cute barista at Starbucks guy, every bartender and waiter/waitress everywhere, the bouncer who sits in front of the medical marijuana dispensary that you walk by everyday on your way to work, your cute lyft driver. In theory it makes sense, you date around until you find someone you connect with more than the others and then you become exclusive and all of the sudden you stop noticing how cute the guy who is making your sandwich at Subway is. In reality, all that happens is you upset absolutely everyone and lose not only all your credibility and respect, but followers on Instagram. Jane had been dating a guy who was a total dick but had a crush on Canada, Canada seemed interested in no one but his acting career, I had been tagging along, newly single and just obsessing over old boyfriends like a psychopath, and eventually what happened was I did bring Canada To Kill A Mockingbird,  just before the ground beneath my feet split open and I burst into flames and was swallowed up by evil. This confirmed that Stuart is not in fact, an oracle, because apparently exchanging books is a big deal that should always be very carefully read into no matter what type of person you may be. The book lead me to hang out with Canada and once I realized I was in fact interested, it was way way way too late. A good friend would have asked Jane before ever scandelously lending out a book and asked permission to be interested in the guy, a really really good friend would have just ignored Canada completely.  I called Jane to apologize, and talk about it, and she told me she wanted to meet me at The Grove.

The Grove is the perfect place for shit to go down. The fountains, old timey music playing, trolly, chain restaurants and gigantic three story Abercrombie and Fitch creates an idealistic setting to tell someone you want a divorce, or you are pressing charges, or filing for a restraining order. As I walked through the crowd of tourists I saw Jane. She was wearing a colorful jumpsuit, large sunglasses and her hair was up in a bun, adding height to her. I walked up and before I could even get a word out she took off through the crowd. “FOLLOW ME,” she barked. An overweight man wearing a Disneyland t-shirt and eating a Wetzel Pretzel looked at me like you better follow her. I tried to see where she was going, I lost her in the crowd until I heard, “I’M NOT UPSET THAT CANADA CHOSE YOU OVER ME. I’M UPSET THAT YOU CHOSE HIM OVER ME.” I started jogging to keep up with her. “I didn’t choose him over yo-” “NO. LISTEN TO ME. I’M TALKING. YOU LISTEN.” I realized we had just walked through an Asian family trying to take a picture of themselves in front of the Nike store. They were all staring at me, “I’m so sorry,” I said, thinking about once they return home and are sitting around showing their friends and family their trip to LA, a picture of the family blocked out by Jane, red in the face from screaming, tears running down her face and me wearing a black romper chasing after her wide eyed and fearful.  “YOU ALWAYS TRY TO JUSTIFY EVERYTHING WITH YOUR FEELINGS, BUT YOU DON’T REALIZE YOU HURT PEOPLE!” she yelled. In the background Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me,” was playing. “WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE JENNIFER.” In llama-land there’s a one-man band and he’ll toot his flute for you. Come fly with me, let’s take off in the blue. We had now gained an audience and I felt like I was on a special episode of Maury that was filmed at a 1940’s themed lounge. “It’s not his baby! It’s not his baby!” I wanted to scream over Frank Sinatra. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THIS, DO YOU REALIZE WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE.” Everyone was looking at me and I wish I could have paused the moment and interviewed members in the crowd. “What do you think is going on?” I would have asked the large black man who just exited Cheescake Factory. “Obviously that skinny bitch slept with her husband,” he would say. “Or maybe that skinny bitch stole money from her. Maybe murder…. that skinny bitch has wild eyes.”  I had never really had someone yell at me before like this, especially in public, not even my mother when I was five and walked out of Ralphs with a ring pop we didn’t pay for, so I had begun to shake. “Maybe we should talk about this later, when you- we, feel calmer, maybe take some time to think-” I said meekly, and I realized that in paralyzing fear, I clench my butt, like people do when they are trying to hold in farts. Which probably added to this whole scene we were putting on for The Grove shoppers. “NO. WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE! AND IT’S YOUR FAULT. YOU DID THIS.” As Jane kept yelling I realized she probably wouldn’t stop unless I either ran away or vanished into thin air. If I could have vanished into thin air I would have, mainly because I’m a puss, but also for the benefit of the tourists, so they could go home and tell everyone they saw a real life evil witch when they were in LA. “How did you know she was evil and not a good witch?” their friend would ask. “Because this enthusiastic woman was screaming at her,” they would reply, “screaming in a BAD way.”

I often wish I was born a man, and this was another one of those times where I was just like, God, men are better than women. If this situation was happening among brethren, and a boy went out with a girl his friend had no history with except for having a crush on her, a crush that was not reciprocated, I don’t even know if they would talk about it. “Dude, I know you are interested in her, but since I’ve been going with you to this bar all the time, we talk and I don’t know, it seems like we may have a lot in common. I think we may be interested in each other, can I move forward with my feelings or is she off limits?” I mean I can’t even imagine that conversation. I had a guy friend who once dated a girl all through college, broke up with her and she started dating one of his friends and no one gave a shit. And even if it resulted in anger and hurt feelings, one swift punch to the face and all would be forgiven and forgotten. None of this screeching and yelling and exploding in the middle of a retail complex. Jane was still exploding and we were now in front of Barnes and Noble. I, with clenched butt, opened the door of the bookstore and closed it on Jane, her muffled voice through the glass “WE ARE DONE! DONE!” I turned around and a tiny elderly couple was standing behind me, they looked shocked. “My girlfriend and I are fighting,” I tried to explain. “Oh, not my girlfriend girlfriend, like my lover, just my friend who is a girl. She likes this guy, he says ‘aboot’…it’s cute, lots of girls like him I think, who really cares, love is crazy bullshit…” I trailed off as they walked away. I sat down in an oversized chair next to a stack of Maxim magazines. Stuart is going to hate me, I thought and then slapped myself across the face.

Now when I am a mother, I know exactly what to tell my children when they turn 21. You never want to become a regular at a bar my child, Cheers was nothing but television magic…..also, friends are always more important than boys, so think before you act. Also, books are like your virginity, only give them away to special people who love you, don’t send mixed messages or be a whore. And never mix wine and whiskey, that is so irresponsible and stupid. Don’t be a fool.

 

 

 

 

Dear Online Diary

A side effect of being in your twenties today, (or just another unfortunate side effect of being born me), is the inability to sleep. I find myself completely and utterly exhausted, lying face down in bed, my whole body shut down except for my mind, the crypt keeper of my existence. What’s tourturing me varies, it could be anything from worrying about the civil war in Syria to beating myself up over adding too much bleach to my laundry and burning holes into three perfectly good pillowcases. A lot of the time I become haunted by the past, a thing I have been heavily dwelling in lately. As if not being asked to your sixth grade dance by a boy was painful enough to live through the first time, who knew that decades later I would still be using it against myself.

The other night I was torturing myself over this very blog and a specific incident relating to my blog where I wrote about something and offended a large group of people, you know, as you sometimes do. Awhile ago, I went to a Christmas party with my boyfriend and all his friends. I was there, behaving like I normally do in most situations whether they are social or not,  usually participating as a semi wallflower, sometimes actively involved, and sometimes silently observing everything from a safe removed distance- but in general, always observing and absorbing everything. If I were to cast myself in a movie about my life I would cast Spongebob Squarepants, not only for the poetic metaphor, but for several other reasons, the main ones being, of course, that he is an optimistic sea sponge, has large crazed eyes, and he never develops a more meaningful career than flipping crabby patties at the Krusty Krab. In my defense, it is my life, and I can observe as much as I want, but the problem is after I observe, I think. It’s not enough to just add details and notes to the overwhelming library in my mind- things ranging from the color of the inside interior of my dentists office, to the conversation I had with the postal worker about Vegas party buses, to my old neighbor Steve’s early 90’s rocker hairstyle, I have to  ponder over these things. Maybe they painted the walls blue because blue is calming and people are usually anxious when they go to the dentist? I wonder if more people get anxious going to the dentist or the doctors office? I want to go on a party bus to Vegas with Denise, she said she drank four Adios Motherfuckers, I would have pegged her as a tequila on the rocks woman myself, but she’s even more badass than I thought. I wonder what shampoo Steve uses? I don’t know why but I want to say Tresemme. 

So, I’m there at this Christmas party which coincidentally happened around the time I had really started to care about my boyfriend. The fun and flirty stage was over. I had begun to believe in him, in his talents, abilities and character, and now I kind of gave a damn about what happened to him. What I kept seeing happen to him at these various different outings and parties- birthdays, holidays, bon voyages, Saturday nights- was beginning to remind me a lot of my college days where people’s nights ended with their head in a bush puking, and everything is photographed and posted to Facebook the next day with very unclever captions. Because I had started to care, I now had begun to worry that this was a forever lifestyle, one that I didn’t really fit into or see myself adopting, and what would that mean for our relationship- which I now cared about losing, losing it at that point would break my heart. So while everyone was joyfully celebrating Christmas, I was somewhere else, panicking, unsure of how to relay these fears to my boyfriend, unsure about myself, and now unsure about the entire Christmas holiday season- people at the party must have just figured I was a grumpy, practicing Orthodox Jew, uneasy in this foreign territory. So I did the only thing I really knew how to do, I tried to find the humor in it, and then later on I wrote about it. I posted it onto my blog, I didn’t use anyone’s names, and the general feedback I got was that it was relatable and made readers laugh.. except for all of my boyfriends friends. “They all read it,” he told me. “All of them? They read my writing?” I asked, flattered, my voice full of pleasant shock. “What did they think?” I said, hopeful. My boyfriend shook his head and I knew, it had not been received well and I was now that bitch with the creepy blog. Not the funny blog, or the heartfelt blog, but the creepy blog.  I know creepy is the appropriate adjective to use because later at a bar one of his friends referred to my blog as my “online diary.”

The word “diary” is the sharpest of insults to me, someone who has tricked herself into fancy-ing herself a kind of writer. When I think of a girl writing in a diary I think of purple glitter retainers and hair scrunchies, a mouth breather, a girl who loves horses in an obsessive and slightly aggressive way, a girl who is bitter and misunderstood with nowhere to turn except her Lisa Frank hard cover diary where she keeps all of her disturbing feelings. “Online” diary meaning she publishes her writings onto a web platform where the background is a picture of a unicorn and the page is titled “Jenn’s World.” If only I had been born a painter. Everyone likes painters, they are harmless, gentle souls who can paint a picture of anything really- an obese nude woman holding a feather, a realistic portrait of a coyote, a potted plant- and stand proudly next to their work at a gallery opening and just be quietely admired for their vision and motor skills. But a writer, people hate those. Writers are the creepiest of misanthropes. They have opinions and ideas, they see things and point them out. Now thanks to the Internet, they have access to publishing their kookoo ideas and littering the web with useless mumbo jumbo.

It made me feel horrible that my (what I thought) comical post about holiday party debauchary angered the people who had inspired it. While I had kind of wanted my boyfriend to read it and maybe reflect for a second, it also was just another experience in my life that I used in my writings. Maybe I had somehow become deliriously confused after reading authors like David Sedaris or Dave Eggers or Tina Fey and all the other people who have written a book of personal essays, and I thought hey I can write about myself and what happens to me, it’s ok, people do it. The morning after the party everyone had spent a good lengthy amount of time reinacting all the stupid things everyone did and said the night before, and laughing about it, but somehow I guess when they read about what they did and said everyone got their feelings hurt. Stupid uncool sixth grade Jenn, you are not apart of the group and you never will be. You are a creepy diary girl, devoted to horses, and full of misplaced feelings.

What I’m really trying to do, is just share and connect. I’ve always been a reader and the reason why is because when you read you realize you are not alone. Someone, some author who you’ve never met before wrote something, a feeling, a situation, an idea or concept, that after you read it you thought I’ve felt this way too, and suddenly you don’t feel so alienated from the rest of the human race. It could be a character growing up in the fifties like J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield that could resonate with you today, or something Anne Frank wrote in her diary that somehow translates to a struggle you are going through in your own life and that you can draw inspiration and strength from, but literature is a pretty powerful connector. Most people want to feel that their experiences, thoughts and feelings are all uniquely their own but a lot of the human condition is just that- the human condition- felt and experienced by all humans. I’m not trying to write and post my experiences and thoughts to a blog to be vengeful, mean or creepy (but I will admit, sometimes I do want to argue a point).  I’m just trying to channel my life into an honest, creative expression that someone else may be able to relate to, or, if nothing else, just entertains someone else.

As I lie awake at three in the morning, these are the that keep me awake. I was thinking of maybe changing the format of my blog so that each post was in fact a diary entry. And maybe making the content more basic, simplify the idea without cluttering it up with useless context. It would be like this:

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here. It’s Monday. I’m thinking about when boys were mean to me. I hate boys. 

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here. I feel bad because I ate an entire Little Ceaser’s pizza. I am gross and do not look like Gisele Bundchen and probably never will, especially now that I ate all that five dollar pizza. It was so good though. 

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here. Hooking up is so confusing and kind of scary. Am I prude?

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here. Will I ever date a boy who can’t fit in my jeans comfortably?

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here, I’m sad Stephan Colbert is leaving the Colbert Report to take over The Late Show. Life doesn’t make any sense ever.

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here. I feel pressure to start tweeting but I don’t know why….

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here. Why do I feel guilty when I see a homeless person? Do others feel that way too? 

Dear Online Diary.

Jenn here. I’m thinking about when I am mean to boys. Why am I mean to boys?

Dear Online Diary,

Jenn here. Cried all day today. 

Maybe I could collect all my dear online diary posts and turn them into one of those under $10 coffee table books you buy at Urban Outfitters. They could be animated and…completely pointless.

 

 

 

 

No Flamingos

Once upon a time I was making out with an attractive boy when he stopped and pulled away from me. “Sorry,” he said. “I just, I started to think about your Dad.” I stared at him in awe, completely intrigued, wondering if this had anything to do with my broad shoulders. “My Dad? His name is Steve, er, why?” I asked, the heebie jeebies creeping all over me as if my father, a man who has a law degree, cactus garden, and who dressed up as the Beast for my Beauty and the Beast themed sixth birthday party, had just walked into the room- still wearing the Beast costume, and wedged his way in between us, taking off the oversized beast head and revealing a face wearing an expression more horrifying than any fictional monsters, and asking “Young man, what are your intentions with my daughter?” I felt like I was about to throw up. “I just was thinking, you are someone’s daughter, there’s a man out there who probably cares a lot about how you are treated,” he said. “You have no idea the kind of man either,” I told him, an image of my father rolling out pie dough in the kitchen and singing that Joni Mitchell song about the painted ponies going up and down on the carousel of life. “What’s your favorite song?” he asked grabbing a guitar from the corner of the room, “I’ll play it for you.” “I like many Celine Dion songs,” I admitted, without thinking first. He broke into a smile. “You give off Celine Dion-ish vibes,” he said. “I do? Like immediately, right off the bat?” OMG Jenn, Celine is batshit crazy, no more listening to My Heart Will Go On. “Play whatever you want,” I told him. He paused, thinking for a second. “Ok, I’ve been working on this one,” he said and he began to play “Heart of Gold” by Neil Diamond and I dropped dead.

“That’s fucking weird,” my friend exclaimed when I told him what happened. “What!” I said shocked, “I thought it was so…nice.” “Well that’s because you’re fucking weird too,” my friend responded. “Geeze Louise, if I didn’t have a shiny silver dollar everytime someone told me that,” I replied. My friend sighed. “I’m just saying, it’s like he’s not acknowledging you as your own person, but instead is seeing you as something in relationship to other men in your life.” I thought about my Dad, the first man I ever had a relationship with. There’s this picture of us in the hospital on the day I was born, he looks young and handsome and he’s holding me, I’m so small that I almost fit in the palm of his hand, and he’s looking at me like he just fell in love with this little person he doesn’t even know yet. From then on, my Dad spent time building me up, encouraging me, validating and protecting my thoughts, making the world around me safe. When I was going through my decade(s) of painful awkwardness, unnoticed by my male peers- I was tall, stick think and had huge bug eyes- my Dad was the one who introduced me to Audrey Hepburn. We watched Sabrina together and at the end he said, “Audrey is a beauty icon, and see? She has big brown eyes like you, and she is sweet. You are beautiful like she is.” The day I brought my first boyfriend home and all the others that followed, I know my Dad was hoping they would care for me the way he has all my life, not because I’m not my own person, completely capable of caring for myself, but because I’m his daughter, who he loves in the most insufferable way.

I’m incredibly lucky.

And also doomed. This is turning out to be an incredibly intimidating world if you you are single and mingling. People’s love stories begin with we met at a bar and hooked up on night, we were both blacked out..and then we kept hooking up and now we are dating. “Don’t you ever think of people as being someone’s son or daughter? It changes the way you view them. For some reason it always causes you to be gentler, more compassionate towards them,” I continued. My friend considered this for a minute. “I really just don’t get what you are talking about. When I’m making out with someone I’m just thinking about my dick,” he said. I shuddered.

The next day I was driving when Chris Brown’s song “Loyal” came on the radio. As you can probably guess, I am not a huge fan of Chris Brown, but the lyrics to this song had captured my attention: “You all about her and she’s all about hers. Birdman Junior in this bitch, no flamingos.” Chris went on to whine about disloyal hoes, asking questions like why give a bitch your heart when she’d rather have a purse? Why give a bitch an inch when she’d rather have nine? And going on about how he can make a broke bitch rich but he don’t fuck broke bitches. It was all very complex, confusing, and real. Chris Brown has lost his faith in the goodness of hoes? I thought. Love is officially dead. It is a confusing time to navigate through the waters of courtship, love and sex. If Chris Brown is confused, the average bro shmoe wearing a pastel colored V neck in the bar must be completely baffled over hoes. The all-access-everything-is-instant culture does’t help either. I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store and people will be casually browsing profiles on Tinder. You didn’t get the attractive person you saw at the coffee shops number? Oh well, there’s probably someone more attractive on Tinder who you can connect with. There’s no need to fight for anyone, just find somebody else real quick. Anything requiring effort, courage, or patience is no flamingo. I had a friend who loved Tinder because she enjoyed rejecting others. “I love nope-ing people,” she would exclaim, hitting the big red ex at the bottom of the screen. “This person is ugly, they can’t get with this!” “Who are you?” I’d ask.

This DGAF attitude is becoming a popular mantra to adopt. Strength is perceived as power, the person in the relationship that has the upper hand, the one that nopes you first before you have the chance to reject them, but usually to have the upper hand in any relationship, one must be aloof, selfish, and at times, manipulative. This only leads to disconnection, lack of true intimacy, and loneliness, a community of personal islands ruled by narcissists. But I can’t imagine that’s what people truly want. I was at a bar in Hollywood awhile ago, meeting up with some friends who were visiting from out of town. Bars in Hollywood are full of progressive haircuts and flannel T-shirts. Girls wearing droopy hats and guys with the same swished back hair style, after awhile everyone blends together, especially in a dimly lit room. The bar was packed, full of woodchip smelling hipsters standing around with whiskeys as a band performed. “We’ve got to dance,” one of my friends said, “the band will be so bummed if no one dances.” The two of them took off making their way through the sea of people just standing around until they reached the front and began to dance as if they were alone in a pitch black room, no one else around to witness such movement of the body. As I watched them bounce around one of them almost taking out a frail boy in a beanie, I overheard the girl next to me comment to her friend, “what the hell are those guys on, right?” I looked at my friends, the only people dancing in the room, my one friend pumping his fist in the air with his eyes closed and wiggling his hips. Ok, it was clear they were white men dancing, but they were having so much fun. I wanted to lean in close to her and yell, “LIFE,” when I was struck with a thought. Probably everyone in this room was looking at my two friends and secretly wishing they could be as carefree. Everyone out on a Friday night wants to feel this type of freedom and release, but yet if they can’t be enveloped in the safety of a crowd, no one will allow themselves to out of fear of judgment or criticism. The same general idea relates to people’s conceptions of love and romance. Everyone secretly wants someone to sing them their favorite song, or even ask them what their favorite song is, but no one will openly admit it, for fear of pity, rejection or the biggest of the no flamingos-weakness. But in the sea of sameness, you will always find, when you are at the brink of losing all hope, you will come across that one rare heart of gold- in this case two hearts of gold. I charged my way through the flannel and joined my two friends. “I love like a Justin Timberlake song, not a Beyonce song, and there’s nothing wrong with that!” I exclaimed. “Whatever pretty! This is not the time or place for those emotions!” my friend yelled, spinning me around and around.

I have experienced a lot of different relationships, some really good and some really bad, and the one thing I have learned is that everyone loves differently. In my last relationship my boyfriend and I were the best of friends, we had more good times than bad, but at the end of our story, we both loved differently and it ultimately forced us to go our separate ways. The way I love, I suppose is because of my relationship with my father. I grew up witnessing how he treated my mother, and his mother, and women in general, and of course my own experience of how he treated me, and all of this formed my ideal for love over any displays of love I saw in the media. There has to be a deeper connection than just having fun times, and enjoying one another’s company, it starts out that way but as you get the privilege of knowing someone else, you also start to become responsible. You become responsible for someone else’s happiness, for making that person feel wanted and unique, for listening to that person without the intent to respond. You stand up for them, you believe in their dreams, their vision. You know their values, their sense of humor, their position on just about everything and you are on board. You are their no matter what person. You protect them. When they act small you are there to remind them they are bigger, because you believe they are. It takes time and patience, but if you are able to do that, that’s true strength. And it is important that strong women are loved by strong men, and strong men are loved by strong women.

 

You Will Learn

The other day I was writing in Starbucks, like I always am, and I couldn’t help but overhear two teenage girls talking about boys. “I’ll text him and litz three hours later he will respond,” one girl was telling her friend. “And you can see that he totally read the text!” her friend exclaimed, disgusted. I started to sweat. This was one of those moments. A moment where I, an old woman, or an older woman than these sixteen year olds, can now bestow my hard earned wisdom to a pair of souls on Earth. “Ladies,” I began, butting my head in between the two of them, causing the brunette to let out a scream in alarm. “As an… elder,” I continued, “I can give you some knowledge….some very hard earned knowledge, knowledge only gained through painful, horrifying mistakes.” They looked at me in equal parts alarm, suspicion and awe, and I felt like Ursula in The Little Mermaid- a terrifying overweight old octopus woman, who if existed in real life would most likely be a participant on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, about to tell these girls that the only way to find true love is to surrender their voices to me, the evil drag octopus queen. “Send one and only one text,” I instructed, their eyes growing big. “What?” they asked. I paused dramatically. “Text, ‘hey’ at 2 am…..and then just turn your phone off.” They stared at me. “Then what?” one of them asked. My brow furrowed. “You just go to sleep,” I said in a tone that suggested, look at me, I clearly get all of the menI could sense from their silence, I was losing some, if not all my credibility. “Men today are slobs,” I declared in a hushed tone. One girl sighed like she just figured out that I was not a person to take any advice from ever. I was losing them. “Give your voices to me or else Prince Eric will never love you!” I exclaimed. As they both ran away, I was left sitting there to stew, in shame.

As I watched them from the window I realized they would most likely go home to their parents overwhelmingly disturbed by the scary woman in Starbucks. “I’m sorry…” I called after them. In retrospect, I would have just told those girls that if he doesn’t text you back don’t worry. As you grow up life is going to throw so many more obstacles in front of you, boys will be the least of your concerns. I started to think about myself as a sixteen year old- I looked like a stick bug and I spoke to no one- and myself now- I still look like a stick bug and I talk to like, three people,  but there have been so many things I have learned since being sixteen, valuable things I could share with someone younger than I.

I would have admitted that the hardest part about growing up will be not becoming that scary woman who has let all the painful lessons and failures of her life leave her jaded and bitter. Because there will be boys who don’t text you back sure, but sometimes you won’t text boys back, and there will also be boys that tell you they love you but don’t really know how to, and you will tell someone you love them but end up not knowing how, and there will be boys who use you, and you will use boys, and you will make and lose friends, succeed and fail at jobs, fall down over and over and have to get back up. And you will always have to get back up and keep going.

You will go out into the world, and nothing will be fair. It will shock you. You will have to figure out which battles are worth fighting for and you will realize everything in your life will be a choice. You will have the choice to fight or not to fight. You will have the choice to blend in or stand out. There will be moments when you will need to be brave. Moments when you will need to listen instead of speak, and moments when you will need to speak instead of listen- and you will need to know the difference. You will need to figure out how to love yourself, others and the world- in that order. Your heart will get blasted into a million pieces and, this will be one of those moments you will need to be brave, you will need to put it back together using yourself, others and the world- the very same things that shattered your heart to pieces in the first place. You will have the choice to let your defeats, embarrassments and failures define and weaken you, or make you a more empathetic and courageous human being.

You will have to face a media shitstorm. Everywhere you look there will be someone to compare yourself to, something to live up to, some person making you feel inadequate, threatened or afraid. And you will have to be smarter. You will have to investigate for yourself, you will have to form your own opinions and ideals and it will seem impossible and lonely at times, but it’s a struggle worth embracing- and it may take a lifetime, so don’t ever surrender. You will want to be beautiful. You will see beautiful women everywhere. You will hear men talk about beautiful women. You will have to define beauty for yourself because one day you will hopefully be a wrinkly old woman, and you will have to look at yourself in the mirror. You will be disappointed by how the world is presented to you. You will need to be more than creative, you will need to be innovative and take what’s given to you and recreate it. You will have to learn to seek- to really hunt for the good, and you will realize you have to be the good in the world, and you will have to figure out how. You will have to follow through. You won’t always follow through or honor your word- and you will learn how detrimental that will be.

You will lose things- innocence, dignity, pride, friends, lovers, family members. Your parents will get older- their hair will turn grey, they will get sick, you will need to be there for them. You will need to suck it up and be strong for others. You will have to prioritize your time and energy. You will have to determine what and who is important. You will have to be dependable for the people you love. You will need to stop thinking of only yourself. You will need to take responsibility. You will need to care. You will need to connect. You will need to be able to recognize those who are toxic to your wellbeing and you will need to learn to forgive them and let them go- because, you will learn, that sometimes you too, are toxic and worthy of being forgiven and let go.

You will feel sad. There will be some days where you won’t want to get out of bed and try. But there will also be some days where you can’t sleep because you are so excited about something, there will be moments when life will feel perfect. You will learn to remember the good days on the bad days and you will get out of bed and keep trying.

You will learn how complex you are.  You will surprise yourself. You will disappoint yourself. You will be proud of yourself. You will hate yourself. You will love yourself.  You will realize others are as complex as you are. You will learn not to fear different people, or opinions, or lifestyles. You will learn to embrace everything foreign to you with open arms. You will learn to be tolerant. You will become more interested in people, more forgiving, and more loving because of this.

You will learn that people in power are sometimes cruel. There will be people who have authority over you who will abuse you. You will have to learn to stand up for yourself. You will have to remind yourself that you are powerful too, even if they don’t think you are. You will learn how to help others see their own power- you will learn that breaking others down is a sign of weakness, not strength. You will learn how to be a leader and not a dictator.

You will learn to laugh. Laughter will be your saving grace, and you will realize it’s the only weapon you will need in any battle. You will learn that people who can laugh at themselves always win.

You will learn it’s worth it to pay attention to everything and everyone, even though everything you see, experience or encounter will most likely leave you completely bewildered and confused. Be conscious. Don’t ignore things just because it’s easier.

You will find soul mates. People who, in a crowded room, you can make eye contact with and just know what they are thinking. You will know who these people are because they will be around for all of it, they will endure your messy life with you. This doesn’t mean they will be physically with you all the time. Your soul mates will be traveling along on their own path, fighting their own journey, but along the way you both will be each others teachers and safety net. They will let you go out into the world and be there in some form when you come back completely fucked up from whatever happened to you out there. You will exchange stories with them. They will challenge you, they will see the best in you, they will bring out the best. They will remind you of all your strengths when you are downtrodden and they will call you out when you are being an idiot. They will protect you, sometimes from yourself. You will learn that being someone else’s soul mate is even better than having one.

You will love and lose. And love and lose. And love and lose. Each love will be different, and awesome, and horrifying. And you will learn to always be brave enough and willing to love again. And when you find that love you can’t live without, you will learn to fight for it every. single. day.

But most of all, you will learn to keep learning and re-learning. You will learn that your mistakes make you a good teacher, a more empathetic member of humanity. You will learn that throughout the different stages of your life you will make new mistakes, and that you will be ever evolving and in flux. And you will hopefully learn to make peace with this and accept your own humanness. And I hope you will, at the end of it all, have enjoyed being alive.

At this point, I had begun to weep- in the middle of Starbucks. As I blew my nose into paper napkins and rubbed my gigantic red watery eyes, one of the baristas stopped wiping down a table nearby and put her hand on my shoulder. “Uh, are you ok?” she asked. “Life is so crazy, but so beautiful…..so sorrowful.  I just didn’t want to be Ursula, I wanted to be Grandmother Willow,” I told her. She nodded kindly and said, “There’s always tomorrow.”

The Face In The Dollhouse And Angelina Jolie

“Success is an illusion,” Connor said, his blue eyes wide. “It’s not like you cross a finish line and suddenly you have everything you want and life is perfect. You have to keep living and moving forward.” We were on Hollywood Blvd, trapped in a crowd who was waiting to see Angelina Jolie at the premier of Maleficient. Behind Connor, a young tan girl was standing on her tip toes trying to peer over everyone shoulders. She turned to me, her voice thick with a Brazillian accent and asked, “Is that Angelina Jolie?” I looked at the blue carpet where a woman was standing in a dress, her hair pulled back into a bun. “No, I think that’s just an especially pretty normal person,” I told her. “Or maybe someone else in the movie, I’m not sure.” She nodded, completely confused. Connor added, “You’ll know when Angelina comes because everyone will start screaming.” I began to imagine what it must be like to have people scream at the sight of you. I imagined myself in a normal setting, like walking through the doors of Chase bank, having to wave at all the people who were now hyperventilating at the sight of me in real life. I’d acknowledge them and they would all start screaming and I would feel like an all powerful Goddess, blessing the mortals with my presence here on Earth. I really like when you go into Chase bank and everyone says hello and asks you how you are in a really genuine way, one that suggests you can tell them the truth-that you are completely stressed out and knee deep in debt and need help. They don’st get annoyed and instead sit you down, offer you a piece of candy, and walk you through your money crisis. I always fall into the chair across from the Chase representative in relief, comforted by the realization that these complete strangers care about me, and my whole faith in humanity is restored. I wanted Angelina to feel like that. I would scream when I saw her but only so she could hear me saying, “HEY ANGIE, HOW ARE YOU? I’M HERE BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT YOU! DON’T WORRY I’LL WAIVE THAT OVERDRAFTING CHARGE!” 

In front of Connor were three Korean girls, their arms decorated with shopping bags. Next to me was a dad and his teenage son. We were surrounded by people, trapped in a massive mob. The blue carpet was cluttered with people who looked famous. “Is that Britney Spears?” the dad asked his son looking at a blonde girl. “Is that the girl from Modern Family?” someone else asked, everyone googling “girl from Modern Family’s name.” “This is a picture of her,” someone said showing her friend. “That girl kind of looks like her, maybe it is.” The problem wasn’t that we were really far away, having to peer through binoculars to make out human forms. We were actually really close and could see everyone perfectly. The problem was everyone looked the same. A group of girls strolled down the carpet talking to reporters and taking pictures and everyone in the crowd tried to discuss who they were. “Are they on Pretty Little Liars?” someone asked. A boy with swishy hair would walk by and he looked like every other boy I see when I go out. Wait a minute did I go on a date with him? “Who is that?” was the question everyone was asking, followed by shrugs of who cares they must be famous! A beautiful Korean woman wearing a kimono strolled past us, surrounded by her enterouge, one of which was holding a binder near her head to shade her from the sun. “Who is the chick in the kimono?” someone asked, just as the three Korean girls in front of Connor went ballistic. They began jumping up and down screaming in Korean and snapping pictures. From the blue carpet the kimono woman stared at us, and I imagined the scene she was looking at. A sea of people just staring at her surrounding three Korean jumping beans waving frantically at her and screaming, her three biggest fans, everyone else silent and blinking at her.

“Look at all you assholes, waiting around to watch someone else live life when you could be out living your own!” a male voice boomed from behind me. Yes! I thought, whoever is behind me is my soulmate. I turned around and found myself face to face with a tiny toothless man, wearing a dollhouse on his head. You. We gazed into one another’s eyes. I began studying his hat, how did he- and realized he had cut one of the walls off of the plastic pink children’s toy, revealing the inside rooms of the house, his head in between the family room and kitchen. The characters of the house- the mom, the dad, the kids, had all been taped into different rooms. The dad taped to the floor of the kitchen, the mom lying face down on the stairs, the kids taped to the ceiling of one of the bedrooms. His depiction of the nuclear family, complete with his own head in the middle of the household was so compelling, I just wanted to discuss his message with him. He looked at me, his eyes ablaze with enlightened truth. “This doesn’t matter,” he said. I shook my head in agreement and he wandered away, leaving me reaching my arm out to him. “Wait, but what does….” I asked wistfully. “Come back…” I looked at Connor. “His hat-” Connor cut me off. “I know, I could easily make that for you.” I imagined myself in a matching dollhouse hat and my heart raced. I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants.

I was starting to get annoyed that we were trapped in a mob. The last time I was trapped in a mob on Hollywood Blvd, I ended up participating in a four hour long protest, and I wondered if this would end up being a similar experience. A man dressed in full Maleficent drag was strutting up and down the blue carpet and next to him was a shortish man, dressed in a tux wearing Maeficent horns and a matching dark expression. “I bet he’s that drag Maleficent’s assistant,” Connor said. The little man was just following drag Maleficent, standing out of the way when media photographed her, sometimes drag Maleficent would whisper something in his ear and he would disappear and then return a few minutes later. Elle Fanning walked by, looking like a real life princess in a beautiful gown, but people didn’t even know who she was. “It’s Dakota Fanning!” someone yelled. I began to wonder why tourists even come to Hollywood. What is the appeal if all they are going to do is return home with a slideshow of pictures of some blonde girl in a gown, telling all their friends they saw the real Dakota Fanning until someone informs them they have confused two young blonde actresses who share the same last name? Their whole trip must just come crashing down around them- what a waste of perfectly good plane tickets, we could have gone to the Florida Keys and swam with real life sea cows. 

“That girl is hot. That one in the dress with the hair,” a man next to me said to his friend. I looked around. There were packs of women wearing dresses with hair, everywhere. “Which one?” his friend asked. “That one,” he said pointing. “That one is hot too though in the purple dress,” he said. “That girl in the white pants is too,” his friend added. In my head all the woman on the blue carpet had merged into one ginormous hot girl, towering above everyone and crushing us with their skyscraper high heels. When I am in Hollywood I usually dress like I am on the plains of Africa. Boots, fishing hats, windbreakers, hiking socks. The reason is because as a woman, I don’t want to be just another hot girl with hair and wearing a dress. These guys next to me would hit on any of them, they didn’t really care, and I need people to care about more than the surface. I need them to say, “look at that girl, her boot is so lumpy, I am so intrigued at what she’s hiding in there, I just have to know.” I looked around, where did the dollhouse hat man go? 

“Is that Britney Spears?” the dad next to me asked his son and I looked at him in disgust. This man was highly confused. He obviously was not a well informed member of society, completely unaware that Britney Spears is and has been locked in a basement somewhere in Calabasas, not allowed to be seen by anyone since her demise in 2007, only allowed to walk around on stage and lip-sync once in awhile in Vegas. “Dad, every blonde girl is not Britney Spears,” his son informed him. “Believe in the power of The Lord!” “Believe in the power of The Lord!” Behind us, a group of people were trying to take advantage of the mobs of sinners gathered all in one place and relay their beliefs through chanting at us through megaphones. “Dad,” the son asked, fearful, “what are they doing?” The dad put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “They are preaching a spiritual message son. You either believe it or you don’t. Is that Britney Spears?” he said pointing to another blonde girl. I had to interject, “Sir, Britney Spears is locked in a base-” I began to tell him but then was interrupted by loud fierce screams. “Brad Brad Brad Brad!!!!!!!”

Brad Pitt was being rushed by, surrounded by bodyguards. “That’s not Brad Pitt, that can’t be,” Connor said. It’s true, in person Brad is kind of on the smallish side. I thought if I ever saw him he would be glowing, or maybe levitating above everyone else, easy to spot, but he kind of is just like another shortish Hollywood guy. Everyone was on Instagram, searching “#maleficentpremier” and looking at pictures of the stars, even though the stars were on the same street as we all were, in front of our faces. “Apparently Brad got punched in the face,” someone said reading an Instagram post of someone who was standing further down the street. “Angelina just got out of the car,” someone else said looking at a picture someone else posted eleven minutes ago. I was busy peering over the Korean girl’s shoulders, completely enchanted by their Instagrams. At the bottom of their screen was a row of an Asian girl’s smiling face, only displayed in the different filter options. They were busy uploading pictures of the chick in the kimono. The kimono star had walked by a few more times, but now not even the Korean girls cared. They had their Instagram pic already and didn’t feel the need to scream or wave at her anymore.

I was starting to feel like Jodie Foster in The Panic Room. I was trapped in a crowd of people, I was starting to get hungry, I missed my mom, and I had lost my dollhouse hat man forever. I had come to terms that this would be where my story ended, in the middle of these people who were waiting for Britney Spears to show up at the premiere of Maleficent, and that I would never get to accomplish any of the things I really wanted in life- like eat dinner at Mel’s Diner with Connor like we had originally planned on doing, or raise a son to be a strong, compassionate, independant gentleman who gives a lot of damns, when Angelina suddenly showed up. As everyone lost their minds around me, I quietly watched as she calmly smiled and waved at us. And I realized, it’s true, her life is more important than mine or the dollhouse man’s, or the Korean girls or the dad and his son. I wondered if the dollhouse hat man was on the other side, walking the blue carpet, if people would care about him and if so why that is. I respect Angie for her talent but more so for her activism. I like her for taking her celebrity and power and putting it to good use in the world. And I have that same respect and admiration for the millions of other people who are activists and who work hard to help or contribute to humanity, who aren’t movie stars. Hollywood is a real rat race, it is full of people with their heads down trying to gain the type of celebrity or power or money that Angelina has, things that in the end I’m not sure really make you feel fulfilled as a human with a soul, because if they did, why would Angelina feel the need to become an activist? Why wouldn’t she just sit around in her mansion in France, play with her kids, and get massages all the time?

One of my old friends wants to be an actor. He once told me that when he assessed all his skills, acting was the thing that he felt he could really succeed at. I’ve always thought it was interesting because when I assessed his skills and characteristics, I never came to the conclusion that he should be an actor. “He would be a good teacher, professor, coach, father, physical therapist, journalist, scientist…” I once told him this but none of the things I named had any appeal to him. But why? What was it about playing make believe for a living and performing that outweighed his choice and ability to be anything else in the world? I suddenly saw the face in the dollhouse, you assholes are watching other people live life when you could be out living your own. I stood in the middle of people bursting into tears at the sight of Angelina and I stupidly, for the first time realized, this must be what people are chasing. But it’s kind of like the hot girls, those guys don’t know anything about the hot girls except that they are attractive on the outside, and they worship them because of it, but that’s just the shell, the body of a person, and why would you only desire that part? I don’t know Angelina personally, why would I cry at the sight of her? I think she’s wonderful at what she does, but I would cry at the sight of the heart surgeon who saved my father’s life before I would cry over her.

Once Angie left, everyone else did too. The crowd dispersed and Connor looked at me. “Run,” he said. And we bolted through the mass of people, freeing ourselves. “You know when actors play the roles of important people in history? Like how Morgan Freeman played Nelson Mandela or Ashton Kutcher played Steve Jobs?” I asked Connor as we ran by a woman lying on the ground, her face right next to Ryan Seacret’s Hollywood star, as her friend took her picture. “Yeah?” Connor said. “I would rather aspire to actually be Nelson Mandela, or live a life that turned out to be such a great or inspiring story, that the tiny ego obsessed people in Hollywood wanted to make a movie about it,” I said. Connor looked at me, rolling his big blue eyes.”That dollhouse hat man really got to you huh?”

 

 

The Dogfish

I had pulled off the 101 and into a gas station. I wasn’t in my typical driving outfit, which usually consists of white ankle length gloves and silk head scarf, but instead was wearing a black hat backwards and motorcycle boots. My motorcycle boots are everything to me, I hate purses so I usually cram everything I need into my boots for quick getaways. I’ll go to a friends house and take my shoes off- dollar bills, chapstick, tums, my cellphone, drivers license all falling out and scattering all around my feet. When I got out of my car, there was a gang of motorcycle riders gathered in the parking lot smoking. As soon as my lumpy boot hit the ground, the five portly old guys wearing leather jackets and puffing on cigars made eye contact with me and I knew my boots were in good company. I took my sunglasses off and strolled into the store to buy dried apricots. Every gas station everywhere sells them and now when I’m on a road trip I look forward to consuming bags of dried fruit. If you don’t pace yourself correctly, you can end your trip falling out of the car in a severe bout of cramping and stabby pangs in your stomach, causing you to throw your boot off, dump everything out and reach for the tums. As I walked back out with my bag of apricots one of the bikers waved at me. “Where’s your bike?” he asked. If my life was a movie, a slight breeze would have blown a piece of my hair across my face just so and I’d say something really witty, full of feminine charm, that charm that gives really strong beautiful woman an air of power that separates them from regular attractive chicks. But usually I’m never living my life as the leading lady, and I just stood before them in my snapback, my mouth full of apricots, my chin slightly glistening with drool. One of the other bikers nudged his friend, “Stop embarrassing yourself in front of such a beautiful girl,” he said. “Buotifol?” I gurgled, finally swallowing my food. “Do you fellas want some apricots?” I offered. Fellas? Wow, who am I? They shrugged and put their hands out and in each one I placed a tiny orange gas station apricot. As I did, I realized how generous I looked, protecting these land pirates from scurvy, but how selfish I really was, knowing my lack of self control and that if I didn’t share my stash my stomach would violently punish me later. What are true acts of virtue? I wondered to myself. “Would you like a cigar?” one of them asked. “Sure,” I said taking it from his hand and slipping it in my boot, giving them the eye that said, mama’s going to save that for a rainy day. 

We parted ways and I continued on my journey. I love long drives because if you are with someone it gives you a perfect excuse to quench your curiosity and ask them a million questions about themselves, a form of interrogating disguised as innocently trying to pass the time and have a fun time while in the car. But I also love long drives all by my lonesome because there’s no better feeling than driving away from something and to something else- usually something new. Just you in your car, completely in control of where you are taking yourself. There’s the excitement of not knowing what you will encounter, like land pirates, or what I saw next, which was a white Toyota behead a tiny squirrel that had scampered across the road. OH MY SWEET JEEEEEESUS. I swerved around it’s severed body as it’s tiny furry head rolled away from it’s torso and I thought I was going to die myself. I still don’t know how I experienced such a brutal display of cruel cruel life and just continued on my way like ho hum oh well, I wish I had more apricots or a lighter so I could puff on my cigar I just got from some bikers off the 101. 

I was on my way to Northern California, where I was going to meet a new friend I’ve made named Nick. As much as I love flailing around in la la land, I love escaping Los Angeles, leaving the thick smog of delusion behind and re-entering normal life, where people spend Saturdays playing on professional frisbee teams. Nick gets paid to play ultimate frisbee. Forty dollars per game, which I hope he asks to be paid for in all singles so he can shower some upscale burlesque style strip club dancer with his professional athlete money. The game was held at a stadium in San Francisco and as myself, my friend Sue, and a group of Nick’s friends waited to enter, I noticed the people taking our tickets looked like they all were still in hot pursuit of possessing their driver’s licenses. They were all wearing matching yellow shirts and their cheeks were rosy as they frantically tried to figure out how to scan patrons tickets using their iPhones. Suddenly, a man dressed in a grey business suit, tie and pointy shiny leather shoes with a slight, but obvious heel appeared. “This can’t happen, see these people in the back, this has got to go faster,” he said sharply. I looked at the five of us, the only people gathered around the table. This guy. There’s always that sports guy who wears a suit to a frisbee game and is over demanding of middle school student volunteers, always. I wonder what they were like as children, but I suspect they were the ones on the playground who raced a girl, barely won, and then shoved it in her face and bragged to his friends about it.

As we took our seats I looked around. “Is the other team from Canada?” I asked. “Yes,” one of Nick’s friends said. “A team flew out from Canada to play this game.” Just then Enrique Iglesias’s Spanglish pop song from the 90’s, “Bailamos,” began to play on the overhead speakers. “I love this song,” I exclaimed. As the teams warmed up to let the rhythm take you over bailamos I noticed a person wearing a foam shark head on the feild. A real life Dogfish. Nick’s team is named after a family of sharks called Dogfish and their mascot was an average height guy wearing jeans, Birkenstocks, a Dogfish shirt with a fin pinned to the back and a foam shark head that covered his entire head, and I’m not completely sure he could see out of.  I watched as The Dogfish danced over to a group of school children sitting together in the stands. In the right setting, grown ups dressed in costume are a huge hit but in a sports stadium somehow kids pick up on the fact that a stranger wearing a foam shark head is dancing towards them and fight or flight kicks in. They don’t cheer or want to take pictures like they would with a grown man dancing around in a Tigger costume at Disneyland. You could tell The Dogfish was trying to get the crowd psyched, but all he gave everyone was the heebie jeebies. “But sometimes, that’s all you have to give,” I said to Sue, nodding my head like I’ve been this Dogfish in my life many times before. 

“And now, we rise for the national anthem.” It wasn’t really clear where the flag was and I watched as everyone stood up and spun around looking at each other in confusion. As the announcer introduced a tiny blonde girl who belted out The Star Spangled Banner, everyone finally got it together and realized it was behind us. As everyone clapped for the girl, the announcer took the mic back. “And now, the Canadian national anthem….” He trailed off and then, as if he had suddenly changed into a different outfit, began to sing O Canada in perfect French:

“O Canada

Terre de nos adieux

Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l’epee, Il sait porter la croix….”

Everyone was slightly turned, just staring at the announcer and a few people took out their cell phones and began to record him. I turned my attention to the flag. Next to a bright United States flag was a dull, slightly torn Canadian flag. It resembled the Canadian flag my French Canadian father has hanging in our family’s garage, one that has been hanging there on the wall collecting dust since my parents bought the house almost twenty years ago.

Then, it was time to announce the players on each team. It is always interesting being included in a group of friends who you are meeting for the first time, especially a group of male friends. I am slightly wary of groups of male friends because I have had the unpleasant experience of being that girl. The last time I tried to fit into a group of bro friends on behalf of a boy I cared about, I struggled to understand their expression of love and and respect between brethren. I would be on Instagram and find a picture posted by one of my then boyfriend’s best friends of my then boyfriend, drunk, passed out on the floor with the hashtags #sorryforpartying, #donahue, #cocks, and I’d just feel so bad about him and myself. I get bros rousting one another and needing time to bro out, but to me, basic friendship involves a lot of respect for one another. A type of connection and maturity between two people that develops over time and hopefully has been reached once manhood happens. Something about this fraternity driven type of expression of friendship among grown ass men never sat right with me. It made me fearful, I wanted to be surrounded by men who realized the value in being gentlemen. As I watched Nick run out onto the field and all his friends, all who he has known since high school, erupt in genuine supportive cheers, a small piece of my heart warmed up. Each of them was wearing a jersey with Nick’s name on it, and instead of rousting him, they were just really proud of him. You could tell that this group of people were connected in a way that resembled more of a family than a group of dudes who had been partying together since high school. And it was refreshing. It was a loving group, one that made it easy to feel included.

As the game began, let me just say, frisbee does not look easy. Especially on a windy Saturday in San Francisco. As the wind blew the frisbee all over the place I realized how easy it would be to be a total mess on the field and how graceful all these guys looked. It’s fun to watch athletic people perform because you realize what the human body is capable of when it’s put in motion. Or when it’s not, which was the case when the half time show began. The group of kids in the stands who had been accosted by The Dogfish turned out to be a fourth grade class that was going to perform a choreographed dance to Pharrell William’s song “Happy.” As fourteen grumpy kids walked onto the field hesitantly, led by their teacher, a younger looking woman with a mass of wild curly hair who was jumping up and down in unison with The Dogfish, who had joined them, “Beeeeecauuuse I’m happpppeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” began blasting. The kids looked miserable, instead of pumping the kids up, it looked like the teacher had obtained her energy level by sucking the souls out of all her kids, leaving them sad shells, painfully trying to raise their tiny shriveled hands above their heads and wiggle their frail hips, while she bounced around like a cosmic rainbow with her hands in the air screaming “happpppeeeeeeeeeeeee!” The Dogfish was bobbing around too, wobbling from side to side and losing both his Birkenstocks in the process. “I think The Dogfish is drunk,” Sue said. “They should have done a routine to Baliamos,” I suggested, “I love that song. I had totally forgotten about it until they played it today. I’ve got to download that.”

The game ended with the Dogfish winning in overtime. I kind of felt really bad for the Canadian team, “I mean they traveled so far…” I said trailing off. If my life was a movie I would have began singing the national anthem in perfect French, like the announcer had earlier. The fourth grade teacher had befriended The Dogfish and they were  now both standing at the bottom of the stadium stairs, posed to face the crowd. The Dogfish had in his possession, a huge gun that shoots T-shirts, which he passed over to the fourth grade teacher, who gleefully pointed it upwards and out to the crowd. With her hand on the trigger she let out a long, loud, “YEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!” She pulled the trigger and a shirt kind of dropped out slowly and fell to her feet. I looked at Sue and she nodded as if to say, the game is officially over now. 

Overall, it was a great way to spend a Saturday.

 

Life Sans A Filter

I was at a party the other weekend, sitting around a fire pit when everyone started discussing Instagram. One of the girls was showing her friends Instagram accounts of two different boys she liked and everyone was weighing in with their harsh pre- concieved judgments. “This guy’s Instagram is annoying. He is good looking but what is this black and white picture of a stop sign?” someone commented, and then after raising his eyebrows as if he had just found the evidence he needed to conclude this person’s worth on planet earth he added,  “and it got no likes.” A chill went down my spine. “This guy is cute, and less annoying than the other one even though he is Instagramming expensive cars and shit, it annoys me less than the other guys…” someone else said trailing off lost in thought over how this could be. They both turned to me. “What’s your Instagram name?” I paused and probably resembled a dog pausing, sensing a natural disater is about to strike. “Aloha Big Jenny,” I said casually and kind of bored, like I was just spelling my last name to a bill collector over the phone. In my head I was trying to remember my pictures, and how annoying my account made me appear. “Big Jenny?” they said looking at me. I narrowed my eyes, “Big. Jenny,” I repeated. Big Jenny DGAFOS sprawled across my face.

Instagram is fun at first because you can be Big Jenny and post over saturated pictures of the ocean and feel artsy, but then you have to ask yourself… but why? One day you will be sitting around a fire pit at a party with new people and instead of talking to you to get to know you, they will want to sit next to you and scroll through your Instagram account silently judging you off your social media presence and your lack of likes. She only Instagram’s pictures of mountains, what is she doing all the time up there in the mountains? Is she a witch? It’s true, you can kind of tell what people value off looking at what they Instagram the most. My cousin only Instagrams cute pictures of her kids and husband doing things like building forts in the backyard, she only cares about her family. There was a time I was tempted to unfollow everyone except for her. There is a large following of people who complain about people’s wedding and baby pictures on Instagram and Facebook that I do not understand, like how I don’t understand Republicans or why people hate comfortable foam footwear like Crocs. You got engaged? Oh are you going to Instagram your divorce too?  I don’t want to see your baby. Get that newborn off my feed. People would rather see pictures of fancy mojitos than other people falling in love and starting families. I had a friend who only Instagramed the alcoholic beverages she drank, and that was always nice to have scattered in throughout your newsfeed- she’s drinking again, oh good at least it’s not another picture of a newborn life two people made. Some people have artsy Instagrams- pictures of marbles on the sidewalk in sepia, things like that. I don’t know what to think about those Instagrams except that they are my Insta inspiration- the ones who originally understood and appreciated a pretty picture of the many different facets of life, before everyone else gained access to a camera and photoshop on their cell phone. Some people have very fashion forward Instagram accounts. A girl wearing an Urban Outfitter jumpsuit with her hair in a bun standing in front of a brick wall and flipping the camera off. Or girls holding hands and wearing native american prints in a field while the sun is setting. Or a girl in a bikini posing on the beach. It makes me wonder why I am shuffling around town in black tights and a man’s T-shirt, never finding myself stylishly dressed by a brick wall. How do they do it? How do they own a tiger print pantsuit and find themselves draped over a gold chair on a balcony overlooking downtown LA? How? Now everyone can be a supermodel and thank God because the world needs more pretty people posing more than any other type of person. On my account I have a black and white picture of me lying on the beach in Hawaii in a one piece. At the time I thought, everyone else does it, I’ll post this because one day I’ll most likely completely give up and let myself go and I need proof that there was a time I roamed around gutless. After I posted it I realized all that did was make me feel like I lie around on beaches obsessed with myself, and somewhere a child is malnourished. How do people post free of  guilt? I wondered, looking at an Insta of a girl posing in a thong bathing suit with the caption “pause.” She’s just celebrating her toned butt without a care in the world, and everyone wants to celebrate with her, I want to celebrate my butt, I want others to celebrate with me. Why do I want to celebrate my butt? Do others think about their butt as much as I am now? My butt is fatter than hers I think. I look like Rosie O’Donnell in a bikini next to her. And then as they often do, the trail of thoughts always ends with, and somewhere a child is malnourished, how can I starve myself for a smaller bikini butt on Insta, who am I. And then of course the Instagram’s that are the most self absorbed, the selfies. Instagram accounts full of pictures of a person’s face- them in their car posing, them lying in their bed, them standing in line at Starbucks, them in the bathrooms of restaurants- I guess these people are letting everyone know what they care most about is..their face.

Just like my black and white bathing suit picture, I decided to join the orchestra and posted a selfie to my Instagram account. After seven different filters I had blurred out all human imperfection and I kind of looked good, like a plastic doll. I’m SO pretty with filters. I posted it and almost immediately the likes started coming in- omg I AM pretty! I usually post pictures of open fields with the hashtag “nature” and I have very few followers and even less likes on all my pictures, but my face generated the most likes I’d ever gotten. People want to see my face? I thought as someone left a comment #prettyhurts. I looked at my photoshopped face in horror. The last person to like my selfie before I deleted it out of disgust with myself, was my mother. The next day she sent me a text:

Why did you delete the picture of yourself? Was it because I liked it, are you embarrassed your mother has an Insta?

I sent her a text back:

Because I looked like an…asshole. 

To which she responded:

Jennifer, your language. But you weren’t showing any cleavage. It was tasteful. 

To me, this conversation with a person of the old timey world sums up selfies. I don’t know how my mother grew up without pointing an iPhone in her face and snapping away, or lying on a beach without someone capturing a nice shot of her butt, she must feel like she really missed out. She will never know how many likes her face may have gotten by random people all over the Interweb. And because of this, she must just be a sad shell of insecurity. I have to wonder when my Instagramming will stop. Will I be Instagramming as a grammie in a retirement home? Will I ever tire of the hefe filter? When you go somewhere, a concert lets say, everyone has their phones out documenting the whole thing in such a way that suggests if they didn’t have a video no one would believe that they went to the concert. But it’s just as easy to make people think you are doing cool things when you aren’t. I could google a vague picture of Coachella, upload it and hashtag it and people could think I went. My friend uploaded a picture of himself, thanking everyone for the best thirty-first birthday and as everyone started writing “happy birthday!” and liking his post, I had to wonder why no one knew his birthday is in August and he is years away from turning thirty. Aren’t your followers your friends? Don’t they know you? What the hell is the world today. 

A while ago at a lunch with my co-workers, one of them was talking about developing a dating app. “How many times have you been at a bar and there’s a pretty girl you see but you don’t know how to talk to her? With this app you could check into the bar, and see profiles of other people there with the option to ‘like’ them. Then you would know you both ‘liked’ each other and you could talk to her,” he explained. Everyone was silent and one of my bosses asked me, “Well, lets ask the one girl at the table, what do you think Jennifer?” The whole idea had exhausted me and the older I get the less of a filter I possess, I’m going to be a nightmare of an old woman. “I think if a man can’t approach me in person when I am standing a few feet away from him…that’s just…WEAK. I don’t want to be with a man like that, that’s not a man, that’s an infant, that’s an undeveloped baby brain, that’s a person I just don’t want to know. I’d rather die alone.” Everyone was silent. “Well,” my co-worker said and then just shook his head.

A few months later an app was released called “Minglr,” and it was exactly the idea my co-worker had had. Now when you are in a bar you can connect with others around you by logging into Minglr and browsing profiles of people standing right in front of your face. “I’m dying alone!” I complained as I switched back and forth between the sierra and mayfair filters to enhance the sunset picture I was uploading to Instagram. “Now people will see me out and be horrified that my face doesn’t look like my Minglr profile face, because that face has been through seven filters. And they will just move onto the next profile of some attractive girl. All I need is this phone, it is not just an extension of my hand, it is an extension of my lost humanness, my demise into a robotic soulless selfie of a life.” My friend looked like he was about to cry. “Stop, stop please, you are so depressing.”

It is depressing, a real drag, but I can’t help but think about technology and the effect it has on people’s sense of self, their pride, their ego, their values. I feel happiest when surrounded by people so old they want to “take selfies of their cat.” Those are the people who have stayed able to be present in the moment. The rest of us, especially the younger ones find it hard to disengage from our phones and look around what is right in front of us- because usually what is right in front of us, is other people, or a tree, not your own face or a profile of someone else. People have character traits and voices that can’t be captured in a photo or a blog post or a Facebook profile. Two people could have chemistry sitting across from one another at a dinner table, but never get there because they are writing each other off because of a blog or an Instagram account or Facebook profile, online profiles act as a filter too. People could be losing the art of conversation, knowing how to interact with living breathing people, how to express yourself without the aid of an emojicon.

Having a million followers doesn’t mean you are more valued as a human being- but we are starting to think it does. We are starting to think that is caring and worth. Magazines are beginning to list celebrities number of twitter and Instagram followers. We are comparing ourselves to others with numbers. But is following someone a connection? If you want to know what’s up in someone’s life, looking at their social media isn’t catching you up. You don’t know how they are feeling or what they are thinking presently. You just know what they are posting, you are essentially just stalking them with their permission. And is that how we want to care about one another?   The internet and social media can be a gift and a curse, and you have to choose how you use it and how you choose to live, view and share your life with others. It’s easy to get sucked into it, and watch real life disintegrate around your online life- with your online friends and followers, but it doesn’t have to isolate you. You can always isolate your phone and rejoin real life, which is quite beautiful and interesting sans any filter or number of likes.