Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Tiny High School Story

                 Sarah crept out of the bathroom and slowly stumbled her way downstairs to where the noise of the party was coming from. It seemed that everyone, except the select couples who had already snuck off to the remote corners of the house, was already crowded into the living room and spilling out into the main foyer in front of the stairs. Sarah made it to the entry of the living room, and then waited until something, or someone, invited her in. Jeff was the one having the party, but she only knew him as the guy who got out of gym class because he had asthma.  There was always a party somewhere when the firefighter convention was in town, and this year it was Jeff’s home address that was passed around through texts and whispers in the hall. Jeff’s dad was a firefighter and had made it a date night with Jeff’s mom, leaving their home vulnerable to the whims of their puberty-stricken-asthmatic son. Sarah’s head began to spin a little as she scrutinized the room. Dalmatian trinkets and toy fireman hats were being passed around and thrown on the floor, adding to the chaos. Sarah hated coming to parties, but always felt like she had to go so that she could laugh with everyone on Monday morning about how Corey had squirted alcohol out his nose, or Samantha had made out with her best friend’s brother, or how Landon had brought weed. The only thing that made parties a little bearable was to sneak off to the bathroom and chug some of the Sambuca she guarded in her faux-designer bag. Finally her eyes locked on Phil across the room. He was waving at her, or waving to someone next to her – close enough – she smiled as big as she could and started to make her way through the throng of bleary-eyed strangers.  As she got closer, Sarah realized that it wasn’t Phil, and while turning to find another familiar face was confronted by an unfamiliar one with a buzzed haircut and a tight white T-shirt that showed the sweat under his arms.

“Hey – have we been introduced?” said the voice belonging to this stranger’s face.

            Sarah blinked and turned to walk again into the roar of people, but was jolted back in front of this leering face with a fierce grip on her arm. She looked down to see the indent of his fingers in her skin. All at once, the spinning of the room that had threatened before seized her again. With all the strength she had left, she pulled herself away from this stranger and ran out of the room and out of the house; away from this man with the sweating armpits and from all these people who did not know her. She knew that even if there was something to laugh about on Monday morning, she wouldn’t feel like laughing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

If Tony the Tiger Can Be Great, Why Can't I?

        My creative writing professor is a brilliant writer who thinks none of us have any talent. He told us the other day that "Given statistics, none of you will ever be great writers" - which may be a fair statement in general, but isn't something you want to hear from a person who is supposed to open up a door to new inspiration and knowledge for you. So how much do we listen to the advice and anecdotes of those we look up to? I know that I'm not great yet, but I'm still going to keep working on my 10,000 hours and be at least utterly and fantasticly good one day.

(and if you don't get the 10,000 hours reference, you need to read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - it's inspiration to keep working on your craft)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Had an Imaginary Baby

 I knew that something had to change when I took a wrong turn down the baby food aisle at the grocery store and was instantly mentally transported to a breeze-blowing, sun-glowing evening drive with my laughing, handsome husband at the steering wheel, and my wispy-haired toddler riding between us in our ’62 pickup Chevy. In the exact same moment I was euphorically happy in my mind’s eye, and miserable in reality.
It started as a lovely daydream on a lonely Saturday afternoon. There was a paper that needed writing, and some errands that needed to be run, but I found that if I just leaned back and gazed off into space – suddenly all those to-dos became insignificant as I pictured myself in the irresolute future with a man who divided all my worries by half.
So on that afternoon, and for many afternoons to follow, I found myself in the midst of a vivid, tantalizing encounter with the world’s most perfect man - Seth. There was no limit to the wonder of this new relationship. Mostly he let me talk, but when he did speak it was so fitting and poignant that I loved him all the more. He was handsome in a reassuring way, with imperfect hair and a nose that slightly exceeded the bounds of society’s preference. We would stay up long hours into the night talking about where we wanted to be in ten years, what scared us as children (and still scared us today), and the guilty things that plagued our conscience that we had never told another living soul.
            When I was not in the Land of La-la, I had moments of contemplating my own insanity. I knew that this was abnormal behavior, but I also knew that there were people out there doing a lot worse things with their loneliness than keeping company with an imaginary beau. I did not see this as an act of desperation; I saw it as an extension of my independence and self-confidence. I saw it as a means of making do and keeping the dream alive until the real deal came along. He was my upgraded, adult version of an imaginary best friend.
            Our romance played out like a contrived PG rated romantic flick with the curtains neatly closing on anything more racy than an elongated kiss. It was clean, and it was simple, and it was what I wanted in my own life at that point. I craved simplicity: a rising action that opened and developed as one expected, a climax that managed to shock and yet still reassure, and a conclusion that put everything back together just as one had hoped.
            Just like any other relationship with an imaginary best friend, there comes a time when you become aware of its social unacceptability and either discard it all together, or hold on to it even tighter. I was caught in the crux of these two options. I had become ashamed of my reliance on my imaginative powers, and I was terrified of the prospect of becoming the topic of shared whispers and conspiring glances.
            When I realized in the middle of aisle 7 that I had just had an imaginary baby with this imaginary man, I knew that I could not continue my inventive rendezvous. Next week I would be potty-training this pretend child, then getting him/her ready for his/her first day of school, losing his/her first teeth, buying his/her first car, then watching him/her walk across the stage at graduation. My fake existence had become too real, and reality had become too tragic to come back to, so I had to make a change. The next day when I thought about Seth, I thought about homework instead – or cupcakes, or shoes, or politics, or anything other than Seth. A week later I thought about getting a cat. If imaginary lovers are an upgrade from imaginary friends, cats must be the upgrade from imaginary lovers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ripped Jeans and Lonely Hearts

For me, trying to find the "right guy" is like trying to shop for a new pair of jeans. Should I get the $5 pair that's a little tight on the hips and not quite long enough in the legs; or should I pay an extra $60 than I normally would for a pair with the right inseam? Most of the time I just give up and postpone the inevitable for as long as possible. The difference between jeans and guys is that I need pants to go about my daily life; I haven't decided yet if it's a necessity for me to find a "right guy," or any guy for that matter.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Call to Positive Action: The Burden of Being a Part of an Overly Cynical Generation

No one could have missed the explosion of Kony 2012 this month, and certainly no one could have missed the controversy it created resulting in many a heated argument had over smoking keyboards and furrowed brows. The popular consensus, as it is with all such debates, is that the cynics must be of infinitely superior thought and all those who were naively inspired to be a part of change in their generation must be simple minded and use words such as “like” and “totally” as every second word in their everyday speech.
            I do not want to get into the Kony 2012 debate. I am sure you can guess what side I am on, but I am not likely to change your mind any more than you could change mine. I want to discuss a different issue.
            As of this week I am sure that it will be all over Facebook, Twitter, etc, that Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and the face of the Kony 2012 viral video, was seen acting irrationally, running around in his underwear and screaming, as reported by CNN. There were hearsay reports courtesy of TMZ saying that at one point he was completely naked and seen to be masturbating in public.
            Well, isn’t this just perfect timing for all the critics to pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves on a job well done for spotting the "crazy."
            When I read this report, I was shocked – and then not so much. We live in such a dark and aggressive world where every part of a person is picked apart and analyzed, critiqued, and degraded. How many celebrities have the media driven to the edge? How many politicians? Humanitarians? Now with social networking and the internet keeping everyone connected into everyone’s business one hundred percent of the time, this aggression has permeated all aspects of life.
            People should question things. People should investigate, and remodel, and recreate to find the best solution to every problem - that is our right and duty as citizens of the modern world. However, the opposition rarely plays clean anymore. When the critics came out to have their say about Kony 2012, they did not focus on creating a better solution; they focused on tearing apart what existed, callously beating down the people involved. I blame them for the alleged mental breakdown of Jason Russell and all those that have been destroyed before him by similar means.
            We know so much about everyone and everything that it would be logical to assume that we would feel more connected as people, but I would argue for just the opposite effect.  I think that our analytical qualities have been heightened to the extent that we focus on the facts and trivia of a person, but are deficient in empathy and compassion for the true soul beneath the surface of the person. And in reference to organizations and causes created to help real needs in our world, we as a society are more concerned with finding the faults in the humans behind these organizations than focusing on the problems themselves and finding the best solution together.
            What we have seen with the backlash and bickering that has ensued from the Kony 2012 video is a sad depiction of humanity, and unfortunately it is not the first example nor will it be the last. If you are a regular naysayer, I want to ask you what you are doing with all your pessimism? Who have you helped today and who are you going to help tomorrow? To the go-getters out there, I ask you the same questions. Whatever your disposition in life is, you must do more than just attack those who hold disparate views from your own. You must question new ideas and potential solutions, but I hope that you will be inspired to do this proactively rather than hostilely and help our generation to create a better legacy than the one we are currently leaving behind.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My (Gay) Bestfriend

Male friends are tricky. All through elementary and high school, I would speak to the opposite sex only if entirely necessary; and if I should happen to feel more than friendship for a fellow, heaven forbid that I should do more than look at him from across a crowded room. In return, being known as “that smart girl” in high school did not exactly do me any favours either as boys would only talk to me if they were having trouble with question 9 on our latest math assignment.
            In grade 12 I had come to a new realization that avoiding boys was juvenile, and just because I said hello to a guy did not mean that I was madly in-love with him. Unfortunately this attitude only proved to produce a series of unfortunate gents who would run their course through my previously unromantic life – all of them being on a scale of mildly to overly obsessive (and almost all of them being associated with a struggling rock band – but that’s a different story).
            After this brief interlude of me befriending the opposite sex, I narrowed my safe guy acquaintances down to my relatives and Michael*, my dear friend who would never dream of lustily tracing the shape of my body with his eyes, or turning a hug into anything more than the purest expression of friendship. He was tall, he was charming, he was handsome, and he was blissfully and inexplicably gay. But more than all this, he was my friend. Truth is, he still is my friend. He makes it so easy to be around him, I feel as if I understand those girls who are “one of the guys” in a more complete way. The fact that he’s interested in the same sex as I am just adds to the simplicity of our relationship, but in no way defines it.
            Coming from the same small city as Michael*, I witnessed as he was in high demand to be “the gay bestfriend” of all wannabe fabulous teenage glamazons at the height of the “GBF!!!” phase. But the truth about Michael* is that although he is, in fact, a pretty great Gay Bestfriend, he is even more phenomenal at just being a friend. That, and the fact that he has yet to write a mediocre rock ballad in my honour (but that’s a different story), is why I keep him around.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Freaks, Geeks, and Things that Make You "So Gay"

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” or so my mother believes. This cheery colloquialism is one of those used in an effort to make horrible, hateful things that happen to you seem part of a grander plan and give the hope that once you have pushed through the latest injustice, you will somehow emerge as some sort of super human on par with The Hulk or Superman or something. The truth is that I have been hearing this saying all my life and am still waiting for my honorary super strength or, at the very least, a gold badge.
Most of the offenses I have withstood in my, albeit short, lifetime have been due to a breach of conduct between myself and what is accepted as “normal” in society. I never thought of myself as being abnormal, but then people would hear that I was homeschooled through elementary school (“That means you wear long skirts and don’t know how to talk to people, right??”), or that our family did Foster Care (“But those kids are wild, aren’t they?”), and little by little I began to realize how much I am not like the majority. When I was 12, I had two foster sisters who had severe Cerebral Palsy. It amazed me how people would have no qualms about staring wide eyed at the wheelchairs, and tubes, and drool as we passed them on the street. You could visibly see some people squirm as you rolled up closer to them in a Wal-Mart line up, or wheeled in to sit beside them at a school concert. Rarely would someone who was staring then make the effort to walk over and talk to us, or the girls.
At age 14, my first of two wonderful little brothers was born. To my shock and dismay, this meant that I was just the right age to appear as one of those “Darn Teenage Mothers,” as I chased my brothers up and down shopping aisles, or fed them their bottles while waiting for my Mom at the Dentist. I never expected the snide comments and dirty looks, along with the occasional pitying sidelong glance, that were dished out (mainly by middle-aged women). I found myself often saying loudly things like, “Ok, Baby, let’s go find our Mom!” or “Who loves sister! Yes, you love sister!”.  
Then there was that awkward stage - all through high school - where I was determined to be cool even though I didn’t drink or party: a recipe for success. And let us not forget that wonderful growth spurt which left my limbs flailing and people wondering if I had succumbed to Anorexia (being told that you are “a little too skinny, if you ask me” is hardly more complementary than being told that you are too fat).
 I have been a victim of social stigmas, and most likely so have you. They make us who we are, and give us the bias that we uphold as our truth. I still clarify as often as I can that I am SISTER to my six and seven year old brothers, I am still sensitive of my gangly legs and spindly arms, and if you should even dare to make a Helen Keller joke around me I will make you feel like the lowest person alive. We are all acutely aware of the wrongs that have been inflicted upon us, but are we cognizant of the words and actions that we are inflicting on others? If we are using derogatory words such as “retard,” or saying that things are “so gay,” or taking time out of our day to gawk at the homeless, the disabled, or the just plain different without following up that stare with a kind smile or a simple hello, then we are contributing to the ostracizing of others and adding to the stigma likely already felt by these people. If you would like a challenge, here is one: go out and befriend someone who makes you feel uncomfortable today. What doesn’t kill you does make you stronger, but what they don’t tell you is that it’s a lot easier to make it through the hard times if you have a friend who is willing to go through it with you.