Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Too Spooky

Unfortunately, due to my work schedule, school, and a new (but weirdly positive) existential crisis, I'm unable to write a serious post today (though Friday's post is literally just going to be me fangirling over Halloween). Instead, enjoy some Halloween inspired tunes:

"Organ Donor" by Jeremy Messersmith. Messersmith is a Minneapolis musician and I love his album The Reluctant Graveyard. This tune is eerie and lovely, as well as "A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard" off of the same album.

"Spooky" by Classics IV. Everything about this song is a win.

"Heads Will Roll" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. How to be sinister and glamorous at the same time.

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson. I mean, duh.

"Moondance" by Van Morrison. Van Morrison is amazing and this song is sultry and lovely.

"Lucky Suit + Tie" mashup; Daft Punk v. Justin Timberlake. This song has nothing to do with Halloween but everything to do with getting your groove on. Best mash-up ever (though the mashup between M83 and Ellie Goulding is a close second).

WARNING THIS NEXT SONG IS NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED. OR ANYONE. Seriously, listen to it at your own risk. I'm freaking the hell out just looking it up.

"D.O.A." by Bloodrock. I sincerely regret ever listening to this song. I heard it by accident last year on the Current because I happened to get up extra early that day and I have my alarm set to this radio station. Every year, the Current plays this song and, trust me, hearing it in your apartment in the pitch black one morning is pretty damn scaring. It's less scary the second time around, but let me tell you, when this song came on that morning, I bolted out of bed to turn on the light so fast my head was spinning. Horror movies bother me, but I can rationalize my way out of it. This song has bothered me ever since I first heard the DJs talk about it before they even played it and it continues to freak me out just mentioning it. It's about a plane crash and death and for some reason that is the most horrifying thing I have ever heard.

I need something less creepy.

"Love Potion Number Nine" by the Searchers. Better. So much better. I loved this song as a kid.

And finally, my favorite Halloween song:

"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr. For the win.

Have a happy Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Public Letter to Tom Hiddleston

Dear Mr. Thomas Hiddleston,

Firstly, let me explain a thing: you aren't actually reading this. Not in a metaphysical, sort of Baudrillard "you aren't reading this because none of us are really real and there is no reality" kind of way, but more in the simplistic sense that you don't read my blog. There is about a .00000000000143% chance (or 1.43e-10, as Google tells me one divided by seven billion is) that you have discovered the weirdness of this website, so it's safe to say that my writing of this is not actually directed towards you, but to my blog readers, which really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Why I think anyone would actually care to see what I'd like to say to my favorite actor is a mystery and even more so is why I feel the need to say it at all. Why share my thoughts on your existence and your actions? And why publish it online instead of sending it in the mail like other fans? Why make it public instead of private?

Then answer is: I'm not really sure. While writing this is strangely terrifying, actually sending it in the mail would terrify me more. The thing is, I simultaneously border between this longing to communicate with you, while also fearing I have nothing worth sharing and believing it might be better for the universe and my fragile mind if I simply stay unknown and unacknowledged. However, I also am striving to be more honest with myself and I cannot argue myself out of writing this. I argue with myself about enough things as it is, and have decided that I should once and for all address this... whatever this is.

How do I explain my relation to you as a person as well as my perspective and outlook on the world? I could just say it's complicated and leave it at that but I believe it's important to acknowledge a few things. You seem familiar to me in some way, which sounds like an incredibly ludicrous thing to say when you are in a number of films and shows and all across the internet. I mean this in a very peculiar way, such as when I see certain photographs of you I feel I've met you before or when I hear about certain things you've done, think, "yeah, I know that guy." It's sort of like déjà vu, except about a person, not a situation. Your entire perspective of being as kind to people as possible is also incredibly amazing and perhaps the only thing that helps me through bad days in retail, school, and - well, the world in general. Every interview you give is full of wonderful, insightful commentary about your films and the universe, and every time you mention Shakespeare, the bibliophile in me freaks out. The thing is, sir, you're kind of amazing. But it's kind of becoming a problem.

I mean, it's a good kind of problem, I suppose. I'm generally happy about the fact that the internet is very intent on sharing your happy smiley face and general goodwill to human kind. It's just... I'm not the best at dealing with my emotions. I have a terribly difficult time putting into words what exactly I am feeling. All the things I know how to do with words and I struggle to say what's inside my mind and heart the most. Perhaps it's because I'm afraid to recognize it.

There's a great deal to admire about you. Anyone who reads the interview you did with the London Evening Standard is apt to see that. You're humble, kind, respectful, authentic, and the way you interact with your fans is incredible. Everything you do seems to be focused and intent in the moment no matter whom you're speaking with - a colleague, an interviewer, a fan - and your attention is on them and them alone. In a world of multitasking and distracted listening, I find this kind of amazing. You do everything with such purpose and, to someone who has reacted with fear rather than curiosity or anticipation too often in her life and hesitated instead of acted, I can't help but be impressed.

But of course this is only my perception from fan bloggers, interviews, and other various snippets to be found in the media. Outside the little fan-made sanctuary in my mind, I honestly know nothing about you. It's a strange balancing act between feeling like I know you, as the media broadcasts a great deal about you, and realizing I don't know a thing.That's what makes all of this so awkward and ungainly - I care a ridiculous amount about someone I've never met. I don't know it happened, but it happened. And now there's no going back.

It's not an overstatement to say that your existence has changed my life. You've proven that kind and transcendent people truly exist somewhere outside the realm of fiction and daydreams. You've helped me discover new friends and new things to explore through your work. Your generosity through UNICEF and positivity about the world has gotten me through some tough days. It embarrasses me to admit how much I refer to you for motivation or hope, but it's true. The only way to describe it is through some lofty metaphor of your perspective being like a lighthouse in rough seas. It's a light in a darkness and though I'll never tread the shores where that light is, it gives me hope that the possibility of it happening is still there and that I at least can be led to calmer waters because of it.

There was a six word story I saw online: "I look for you in everyone" that applies here. It sounds awkward, and maybe it is, but I mean it in the sense of looking for the best in people, of finding qualities that I admire and enjoy being around. I'm critical, rude, skeptical of everything, and likely not that great of a person. But for some reason, you help me think and act otherwise. Often I pretend that you are a customer in the retail store I work at in order to keep from reacting poorly to less friendly customers. I'm calmer, more forgiving, and kinder to myself and others knowing you exist.

All of this is based only on the idea of who you are that and the truth is I don't know you at all. But the idea I have is inspiring none the less and I suppose all of this is a complicated expression of gratitude for the reality this idea sprang from. I'm not the first to do this and certainly not the last and nothing I have said is new or unique or different from any of the other hundreds of wonderful, devoted fans who deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard. There are proper ways to do this sort of thing and I feel as if I am violating them in some way. But writing here allows me to float in this strange meta state of wondering why I'm writing this at all which would seem frivolous and inappropriate in a private letter, while playing Russian roulette with who is reading this. It's a mystery who my audience is, something I've grown used to through blogging and writing fiction, but now I wonder if I even know how to truly write privately now. I also find it slightly egotistical to have written this, not only in this format but to have penned it at all, to make assumptions about you as a person and describe what you mean to me, as if my perspective mattered that much. I guess I'm writing this in the hopes that it does matter - it matters to me, but perhaps to someone other than myself or some greater end. And there is the vain hope that maybe this will end up in your hands through some means because I'm too - what? shy? afraid? embarrassed? - to send this myself. I don't know why I'm writing this instead of something else - a petition, a deep investigation of some issue, some altruistic undertaking - but perhaps I need to recognize and investigate just how important my own sensibilities are for myself.

Anyway, before I ramble on into more meaningless drivel, I would like to express to you the tipping point that caused me to write this. Several days ago, I saw a picture online of you holding a Thor-themed Build-A-Bear. Let me tell you a story about Build-A-Bear: I have two dear friends who used to work at one of these wonderful stores and for my birthday last year, they gave me this:

This is Loki the War Horse. He really means a lot to me, so to see you with a Build-A-Bear yourself really struck me on a extraordinarily personal level and added to your adorable wonderfulness. I can't say exactly what it was about instance that did it, but it perfectly captured what I admire about you. I guess what I'm really trying to say in all of this, dear sir, is thank you. Thank you for being yourself, for being an optimist, and for inspiring so many people through your work and your actions. A thousand gratitudes and all the best to you.

Gina Musto
Minneapolis, MN

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fifteen Things About Working in Retail

I just had my forty-five day review at my job and given my rapidly gained experience in retail, I thought I'd create a Buzz Feed-like thing to express what it's like to work in a field that I think is very much taken for granted. I am aware that my managers and fellow employees may be reading this, so know that I am not putting my work place in a bad light. I like where I work. It's the people that shop there that make things interesting...

How I feel around customers:


Having a college degree and working a job most of my friends had in high school:

Hey, at least I'm not the only one in this scenario. Don't judge me, Willy Wonka!

When people complain about the cost of items:

You can complain to my team lead, but they don't decide the prices either. Take it up with corporate. 

When I've been working by myself for hours and I try to talk to a customer but they could care less:


Finding that weekends have sort of lost their appeal:


Realizing I am Rose Tyler sans the Doctor:


How I feel when I make a mistake and there's no way to fix it and now I just feel like I've spread bad karma for everyone in the world:


Zoning (or making everything look neat and pretty) in softlines (aka clothes) while customers are still shopping:

I get this paranoid feeling that people purposely unfold all the sweaters I just folded simply because they can. I try not to take it personally.

How I feel when I get my paycheck:


How I feel when the team and I get all our work done:


How I feel actually having a job with a real paycheck that deducts taxes:


When I think about things too much about consumerism at work:


When something is out of stock and I get blamed:


How I feel about Black Friday:


Retail may be tough, but there are far worse jobs (and I used to have one of them):

(There is literally no better photo for being a building manager. Trust me on that.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Problematic Things

I'm in a mad juggle between work and school at the moment so this is going to be a fairly brief post. However, it's also a short ad-on to Tuesday's post and I don't have a lot more to say, but just want to tie up some loose ends.

I found this quote on Tumblr a while back, which was originally from a comment on this post on LiveJournal:
Being a feminist doesn’t mean suddenly no longer liking problematic things. If you stopped liking everything that was sexist in media and entertainment there would be no media or entertainment left. Being a feminist, to me, is being aware of what it is you’re liking, and of its problematic aspects. 
I really, really like this. It's tricky to deal with, but a good way of handling the cognitive dissonance such relationships cause. You don't have to hate something just because it's flawed - you can choose to, but aren't required to. We don't live in a perfect world and our art forms reflect that. It's better to be aware of the problems that exist in things like Disney films or TV shows or comic books, but we don't have to hate it. Hate won't change anything. Recognizing it and doing something different because of it can.

In a reflection on Tuesdays post, I feel the same about my issues with humanitarian groups - I know they are flawed and I'm trying to work around them and find a better way. But it's hard. I often find that I struggle to do as I say. For instance, last night after getting off work, I had the issue of being hit on again. I tried to ignore the man instead of answering his questions, but he was getting irate. I should have just left and gone into the rain, but I was stupidly checking my phone first. For reasons I don't understand, I continued to reply to him, until the inevitable, "Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend?" question came up. I made the same error I made before and said I had a boyfriend. Why? Because it's much easier to think you're going to do something than actually do it in the moment. No one teaches us how to deal with harassment or how to deal with cognitive dissonance in this manner. It's something society prefers to ignore than confront. And it's hard to relearn when the methods we use work, even if they don't work as well as we'd like. I'd like to think the relearning is worth it. But I've yet to manage to do it. I could have stopped the man the moment he began speaking and assumed that his speech was going to go the route it went. But I don't want to assume - that would only make matters worse. But why I chose to respond to him when he asked my name instead of continuing to ignore him or just leaving is a difficult one. I didn't want to be rude - even though he was the one being rude to me. I blamed myself for not just leaving instead of understanding that I was not at fault. I feel much the same for my potentially misguided attempts at humanitarian aid - I blame myself for wanting to help instead of fully recognizing that organizations are flawed because of the flaws of our world. Because I don't know how to make a more evident change, I blame myself. It's unfair, but it's a trend I unfortunately continue.

I mention it because I often fear that I blog about something and make it sound too easily resolved. This likely isn't the case, but it concerns me none the less. Blogging in many ways is for my own selfish benefit to think through things and try to solve problems in my own mind. And that's essentially what this post has been. Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

I had sort of a blah day on Sunday and Monday, filled with a less than stellar shift at work, a sick cat, a body that will no longer wake up to my alarm no matter what, and a general feeling that this week was going to be difficult. It's only Tuesday, but I've yet to be proven wrong.

It's less to do with personal events in my life and more to do with the general mojo of the universe - okay, the US. The government is still shutdown, there's discussion on who will be the world's first trillionaire - which Blogger here doesn't even count as a real word (and given the discussion on how much a trillion dollars is in one of my classes, this makes me very nauseous), and according to my management class, life expectancy has dropped to 48 years for men, 51 years for women - which is a huge drop. However, I can't find a source for this - other than a Forbes article about how certain demographics seem to be having a drop - so I don't feel too certain about that, especially since it came up in class discussion and no source was given (and if it's from our textbook then I'm still not sold). Regardless, the world is sounding a bit bleak and because I am having that little voice asking, "What the heck are you doing with your life? All you do is work and go to school and sometimes have time to write and sleep. Are you really happy? Is this really what you want? Shouldn't you be doing something else to help people or something?"

Yes, the echoes of existential crisis are still there (echos of existential crisis... sounds like a ridiculous band name), causing me to doubt myself once more. It doesn't help that people are talking about the US government ending (a bit extreme I think - I hope) which would make my career path pretty much null and void. It doesn't help that I'm beginning to realize that after four years in a liberal arts track, going to a business school has a very different way of thinking and one I'm having trouble reconciling. I'm there to keep learning, to develop new skills, not because I think a degree will get me a job. And I'm living proof that that's not the case anyway. I also just can't care about making money; not that I'm entirely uninterested (I'd like to not be broke, please and thank you) but seeing money as the only driving force in the world is really quite... bleak. And it's troubling me. What's more, I had a very grim dream a week or so ago where, for some indescribable dream circumstances, I believed that I was not going to live past the age of twenty-four. Depressing. I think that's my brain's way of worrying about time, about doing what I really want to while I can. But in some ways that's a luxury that's not available to me.

For this first time in my life, I'm realizing how short the days are. I don't have enough time to do all that I want to do - not at work, not at school, and certainly not in my free time. I'd love to volunteer in the theater community, I'd love to do community outreach, I'd love hang out with my friends in the evening when they get off work instead of going to work at that time. I wish it were January and not October, which is something I've never wished in my life - autumn is my favorite season, but I want to be at a different point in my life, not where I am now.

I came across this quote from Amy Poehler on Tumblr last night and it articulates perfectly what I'm looking for: "I want to be around people that do things. I don't want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things." While I happen to be the sort of person who talk about what people do and judge - quite often on this blog - I find myself tiring of it in certain respects. While I love my academic background, we spent a lot of time doing this and it's what I'm good at. It's often necessary too. But I recall what my professor Ben said back in my sophomore year when I told him I was a Cultural Studies major. It was something along the lines of, "Make sure you double major in something. Otherwise CSCL will burn you out and turn you into a jaded nihilist." Four years later and I'm still fighting against the jaded nihilist call of over-criticism and over-critique. There's a certain point where if you're constantly working like this, always pointing out the faults of everything that you can't enjoy anything or really experience anything. It's exhausting and limiting and a sort of warped ideology of its own. It's more than being aware - it's constantly ruminating but never doing anything about it. It's passive, not active. And I need to get away from that and do something.

Of course, it's difficult to find people who are actually doing something you feel good about. Again, once you start seeing the world in problematic terms, there's no unseeing it - you just have to learn to live with it. I'm really struggling with the business aspect of some of my classes and trying to get a idea of whether it would be appropriate to bring in critiques of things (like textbooks, or large issues like work ethic in the US) in classes. What's more, I just signed up to sponsor a child through an organization called Child Fund International. And literally both sides of my mind are at war with each other.

Part of me thinks it's probably a bad idea because I don't exactly have the highest salary (though I do actually have a salary, yay retail!) and it might be a mistake to spend that kind of money right now. The other part of me is drawing back on everything I wrote about UNICEF and humanitarian aid. I don't know much about Child Fund other than what the guy who stopped me on the street told me (and the fact that they are often on the U of M campus and in downtown Minneapolis in green vests talking to people about their organization). The whole thing sounds a little white savior-ish and uncomfortable to me - you sponsor a child, they send you letters and stuff apparently (it was described to me as a sort of penpal but it sounds awkwardly more like fan mail), you give someone more opportunity in their life, and the whole thing is tax deductable. It of course sounds too good to be true. Questions filled my mind after I filled out the paperwork - does the child I'm sponsoring, Jose Hernandez of Honduras, speak English? Is he really writing me letters or does someone write them and pretend that they came from him? Is this going to turn into that episode of Wallander where Rupert Graves deeply scarred my subconscious and made me doubt humanity forever (which is discussed more in all its terrible glory in this post)? Then I just ended up feeling terrible that I can't trust anyone about anything.

But I decided to do it anyway. Why? Mainly because I don't have a good enough reason not to. I want to do it. I have a job and a steady income. I did tell the Child Fund representative that I was in school and wasn't sure I could afford it, and he mentioned that college debt doesn't really go away and could be worked around. I realized that I don't even have college debt and thus have even less of an excuse (and on that note, is that how my generation has come to think about college debt? Somethings that is always there and we'll never pay it off? It certainly seems like it). I really want to get involved with organizations like this - preferably UNICEF, in the future. I want to be the sort of person who donates to charity and supports the local public radio station and volunteers in the theater community and is aware of what they are doing, aware of the pitfalls, but tries anyway. Yes, I want to have a good job, but I want what I do to matter, to have some sort of motivation. I want to do some good, even if it is limited or flawed, or whatnot. Maybe I took Emily Dickinson and that fable about throwing starfish back into the ocean too much to heart. But if I can make a difference, even just for one person, I would feel a lot better about life. I don't want to live just for myself and I don't want to focus on getting ahead. To me, life is about so much more than that. And that's how I chose to live.

I can opt out of Child Fund at any time, so perhaps if I find some unsavory information about the group or decide to save my money, I can do that. But for now, I'm going to see how it goes. And likely, I'll switch to UNICEF instead and try to do something that involves me personally, not just my money. I want so badly to believe that groups like this can do some good - and I want to see if that can be the case. Maybe I'm only being driven by selfish altruism, but I truly hope that it's something more. Back when I critiqued Life of Pi, I mentioned that I disliked the main character's perception of an agnostic's doubt as immobility. I see doubt as a means to move towards something, an impetus to keep thinking and wondering, even if that doubt will never be resolved. However, I better understand how doubt can keep a person from moving, from doing anything at all because you can't know and so you simply get overwhelmed with it all. I am resolved to not do that. Doubt is important, I continue to think that, but it's also important to have belief - even if it is just in the belief that doubt is important. We live in a dark, grim world. It's incredibly easy to see that. But I want to work to see the light in the world, to really bring it out and recognize it and do what I can while I can. Like Sam tells Frodo in The Lord of the Rings: "There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for." This might make me a bleeding-hearted fool. And I'm okay with that.

I've had this Billy Joel song stuck in my head since this morning, long before I agreed to the Child Fund support, but it seemed fitting from the start, even more so now. So I'll leave you with this:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Not Interested

Being downtown every day is really affecting the sorts or interactions I've been having with people. Mostly it's been positive but there have been some certain negative aspects.

Consider this conversation I had on Nicollet Mall the other day:

*guy comes up to me*
Guy: Hi, miss, I'm doing this survey- you are so cute!
Me: *indistinct noises*
Guy: It consists of four words- wow, you have pretty eyes!
Me: Thanks?!
Guy: Would you be interested in taking part in it.
Me: I actually have a meeting to go to...
Guy: What? Why? Ah, would you ever consider going out with a guy like me? *says something about not being scary*
Me: I actually have a boyfriend.
Guy: What?! He's so lucky! Well, high five! You better marry him!
Me: *high fives him and walks away to revel in awkwardness at Panara*

At first I couldn't decide if I had become some part of a social experiment or if I actually got hit on. Or both. I wasn't pleased with my reaction and after I made a status about the situation on Facebook and my friend Emma linked me to this article, I understood why. Give the piece a read - it's brilliant. 

I hate using the excuse I used to get out of situations like that, but I did it because I was in a rush and I wanted to get away quickly. I knew that it was the fastest way to deter someone like that - but it's also dishonest, and it also simply reinforces the sexist society that surrounds us. Instead of just being honest and saying, "No, I'm really not interested," and leaving it at that, I feel pressured to state a reason to not be interested. Simply expressing my own opinion doesn't feel like enough and instead of arguing my point, I weaken myself and fall back on something else, a default that, while it works, doesn't do any good to lessen the situation. 

No more. I have been hit on four times in the last week, possibly five if the guy who kept shifting around, dropping stuff, and pushing/throwing his water bottle towards me while I was sitting outside reading, as if he were trying to get my attention, then said, "Have a good day, ma'am" and mumbled something else when I left because he was making me uncomfortable counts (because I have no idea what he mumbled as I'd told him to have a good day too and had begun to walk away). It's becoming a daily thing. 

I feel like a pretty awkward individual most of the time anyway when it comes to human interaction, so deterring those who hit on me isn't easy especially as I'm not quick-thinking in these situations. But I have to do something. I don't know if it's simply being downtown, if I'm doing something different, or if society is changing and this sort of behavior is making a resurgence (thanks for that, Robin Thicke). But I'd just appreciate it if I could walk in downtown Minneapolis and have a better grasp of how to deal with unsolicited romantic attention. It's unwarranted and more than complimentary. It's uncomfortable. And yet I deal with it by saying I have a boyfriend and feel vaguely embarrassingly flattered and mostly annoyed. And I don't know how to respond when people I complain to say it's because I'm attractive or recommend that I work it. I don't want to work it. I want to be able to walk down a street and not be treated differently because of my gender.

I came across this post on Tumblr and thought it was fitting and thought I'd end this post with it.  

I think this wonderfully articulates this issue. In a fed-up text to my mother, I said that men never get uncomfortable like I have (well, not never, but far less frequently) and said they should get a taste of their own medicine. I don't really mean that - an eye for an eye will solve nothing. But I shouldn't be afraid to make them feel awkward or embarrassed when they hit on me and I tell them to stop or say I'm not interested. I shouldn't be afraid to express my own opinion and assert myself. 

What's more, I hate these interactions because they weaken my trust with people. I feel more unlikely to engage in conversation with strangers. I feel reluctant to sit outside alone in public places. I feel afraid and worry about what to do if this sort of situation arises at work where I have to be polite and keep a certain customer-focused attitude. It makes me distrust and hate people. And I hate that it does that to me.

I know compared to all of the other issues that women face, especially queer women and women of color, my complaints are rather petty. But if I have problems, then what other women face is far, far worse. I live in a safe area in a relatively safe town with a privileged background and a lot of blessings. So many other women don't have that. It's not to delegitimize my problems, but to put them into perspective. It's a real problem and has nothing to do with appearance or attire - I have been hit on in a nice dress, I have been hit on in my Target work clothes, I have been hit on walking home in the pouring rain with mascara smeared all of my face and looking like a drowned rat. I'm used to it. But I'm not okay with it. And never again I will I lie to get out of an awkward situation. I will tell the truth and respect my own opinion. I at least owe myself that much.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Between reading my textbook for fraud examination (yes, I am taking a class on fraud examination. Whole different school, whole different shebang, and I'm still taking some classes that sound too awesome to be real) and somehow running over five and a half miles today, I have once again crammed myself into a position where I have to write a blog post in two hours or less. It worked pretty well last Friday. Let's see how my attempts to be concise work tonight. Fortunately, it shouldn't be hard, as this is a personal post on the very thing I was talking about moments before - going back to school.

Yes, I'm two days in to being a paralegal student and it's going pretty well. There was a slight bump on Monday morning, not long after the start of my fraud class, and I feel compelled to write about it. The professor of the class had us split into groups and introduce ourselves, answering specific questions about what we were studying and what we did for work and fun. I talked about being new to the school, that I was a paralegal student and that I liked traveling along with a few other various things. One guy in my group, an older man who was really friendly and easy to talk to was surprised that I had already graduated from college but was going back to school. I briefly mentioned my inability to find a job and that I'd had a career path change. We had a break in class and I asked the man, who wanted to open his own business, what sort of business he wanted to own. He in response asked me what kind of law I was interested in. I described how I was thinking about employment law, but also social justice and international law, and possibly some forms of business law. He continued to ask what I wanted to do with it and how I would make money. I was confused and explained that being a paralegal paid really well. He agreed and said that there was no question that I'd get a job but that I should think about myself. He explained that he could tell that I really wanted to help people but I needed to think about how I was going to put myself ahead and make money. Perhaps because one of the questions in the group work was what we could really do in work if we could do anything and I said theater, there seemed to be some doubt about my career goals. The man told me not to box myself in and keep an open mind, as well as that I would be a natural at helping businesses understand different cultures. "I've been wrong before, but..." he qualified. I was kind of lost for words.

He was very friendly and very nice, but he'd only just met me and was questioning me on the very first day of class in an entirely new world for me. I wanted to politely explain to him that I'd been keeping an open mind for the last ten years and if I didn't pick a career - or at least a career to start with - I'd never chose one. I didn't know how to say that law encompasses so many of the things that I'm interested in and that it can be a rare chance to actually help people and make a livable wage at the same time. I didn't know how to explain that the whole idea of "getting ahead" is so hard for me to fathom because "getting ahead" does not mean to me what it does for other people. I wasn't sure how to politely say that he didn't know me and didn't know my life and that I knew I was making a good decision for myself. So I didn't say much of anything and am saying it all here instead.

This sort of experience isn't knew for me. People like to try and gauge what people are like from first impressions - we all do it. But for some reason, people repeatedly try and gauge my career options and tell me what they think I should do. My very first adviser in college was convinced that I wanted to be an anthropology major and could not understand why my forms said I was interested in music (he ended up being sort of right in the long run, actually - anthropology and cultural studies have their similarities). A man at a bar told me that he could see me being a social worker, but then decided no, I was too cerebral for that. A woman once told me I should reconsider being a writer because there was far more money to be made in the sciences. I have been told by many people what they think I should be doing with my life. I don't know if I look like a blank slate to mold into whatever career it seems strikes people's fancy, or if I sound completely perplexed and unguided. Yes, I did just make a huge change in my life and it might be kind of odd for a college grad to go to a business school for another degree. But things happen. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans, John Lennon said. I couldn't agree more.

It's not like I claim innocence to this sort of thing. I've certainly given people career advice before - solicited or not. But I don't think I've ever really doubted someone's goals like this. I doubt myself enough, I don't think I'd instill this in someone else. I know the man didn't mean to do that to me, but it baffles me. I don't assume to know what someone should be doing with their life, especially when one's age, race, gender, and/or experiences are far different from mine as this man's were. It isn't that I don't respect other's opinions but that these seem so forceful, so assured that I'm doing something wrong. So what about me makes it so necessary to give me such direction time and time again? This is a question I don't think I'll ever answer.

Friday, October 4, 2013

What's My Age Again?

I came across this headline being commented about on Tumblr the other day:

There were some really interesting comments on how the BBC couldn't pass up this headline by talking about two popular actors in such terms, including one blogger who found this irritating because it played off the issue of how Hollywood continually casts older men with younger women in romantic relationships. It seems that the BBC is playing into this with such a headline and I think the issue deserves further discussion.

There's a certain kind of sexism at play in how women in Hollywood are viewed as actors. Okay, there's a lot of sexism, but I'm only going to focus on a certain part of it today. Think about the last film you saw involving a romantic relationship onscreen. How old was the male actor compared to the female actor? Generally there's an age gap, with the man being older and the woman being younger. This is such a trend that it's a gag line in the trailer for the upcoming film Last Vegas.

Now, I don't mean to criticize age gaps in couples. I for one am a 22-soon-to-be-23-year-old with a massive, crippling crush on a 32-year-old actor. I had a friend whose parents have a 10 year age gap between them. I have friends who have dated people older or younger than themselves. It isn't necessarily about the gap, but the fact that Hollywood continually makes the gap only between an older man and a younger woman and heavily criticizes women - such as Demi Moore when she was married to Ashton Kutcher - who are older and date younger men.

Why is this an issue? This article begins to describe the issue. Again and again, male actors are paired with younger women, which creates a problem for older female actors. They will not be cast as romantic leads because they are considered no longer sexy or viable for such relationships by Hollywood's standards. Men continue to be cast as romantic partners, but after a while, women are cast as sexless mothers, or grandmothers, or widows, or partner-less people, or not even cast in roles at all. I cannot think of a movie where a relationship consisted of an older woman and a younger man without making fun of the entire relationship or showing why it wouldn't work. Such things are rarely shown for the older men/younger woman relationships and if they are made fun of, it's a sort of knowing, sly acceptance of,  "Aw yeah, you get lots of sex and she gets a sugar daddy!" which is considered far less disturbing than an older woman dating a younger man and being a "cougar."

Again, I'm usually not terribly concerned about age - unless I know the couple personally and I have a legitimate reason to be concerned. Or in the case that it's harmful or exploitative to one of the parties involved (AKA: pedophilia. Major problem). I generally assume it's up to a couple to figure things out, and if they're in a relationship that's more than just about sex or money or appearances, and they really care about each other and having a decade or two between them isn't a problem, then whatever; I'll try to stay mum on the issue. However, society and history has built up a lot of reasons for why I feel uncomfortable about age gaps of certain sizes between men and women - creepy arranged marriages of young girls to men older than their fathers, men leaving their partners for younger women, the idea of having a trophy wife or someone who looks continually young, the obsession we have with youth, the fact that women can be mocked for whatever age they are attracted to. Attracted to someone younger? Wow, you must like immaturity or have an obsession with youth or prey on young men. Attracted to someone older? Wow, you have a complex with experience and authority or you just care about social position and money. Apparently if you don't find a partner within whatever specific designated age range society finds acceptable, you fail.

To reiterate, yes, birds of a feather flock together and relationships between 900-year-old time lords and young women may likely end in tears.


Too soon? Too soon.

But the point being is that Hollywood continues to portray heterosexual relationships in a very limited age format, which is rather annoying and harmful to women's already less than perfect treatment in film. Men are encouraged to have such relationships while women are mocked for it and told they have to stay young or else they cannot be considered a love interest. And now other forms are continuing this way of thinking and... well, it's a problem. And one all the more complex when age itself is complicated on its own.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Guide to Traveling with (Figurative) Rabbits

As per the usual MO on this blog, this was not the post I was planning on writing today. I actually wrote an entirely different post, looked at it, thought about, then decided, "Nah, Internet, you don't need to hear me talk about that." Then I tried to decide what the Internet really should hear me talk about and I was drawing a pretty solid blank. Regardless, this is a much more positive post than the angst I turned out yesterday and a more enjoyable read (I hope).

As I mentioned last summer, I'm going to London in the winter, a sort of late graduation gift/ "Oh my God I can't pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity to see two of my favorite actors in the same Shakespeare play"/ any excuse to go back across the pond. The plane tickets have been purchased and everything is a go. So this seems as good of time as any to give a rundown for my traveling companions and the world at large what to expect when journeying with rambling rabbity me.

1) I've been across the pond a couple times already: Yes, I have traveled abroad before. Yes, I have been to London before (when I was sixteen with my high school concert and marching band). I will say annoying things like, "the last time I was here" or "when I was here before" which I found out the hard way irked my traveling companion who had never traveled overseas before when I went with her to Scotland. I like to impart my traveling advice and my experience because I really, really enjoy traveling. Especially to the UK. However, this may prove annoying and if that's the case, a sound punch in the arm should do the trick.

2) There is a 100% chance I will get us lost at least once: I like to think I'm pretty good at reading maps and navigating. This is mostly true, but I am far from perfect at it. I will get things mixed up or not remember which direction we came from or get turned around and take us the wrong way. Or I will say, "Hey, what's over there?" and bound off and forget that we originally had another destination that we should be heading towards. If I get us lost, I'll admit it (probably). But prepare for lots of maps - I like maps. Even though it conflicts with the following point.

3) I like being a tourist but I don't want to look like a tourist: Because I have taken the fear of being an ugly American too much to heart, sometimes I'd prefer anyone not to know I am American. Even though once I open my mouth that's kind of impossible to avoid. I will likely grow self-conscious about looking too touristy or being perceived as rude to locals. I will gladly do touristy things (except for the duck boats considering one of them just caught on fire in the middle of the Thames) and I will totally look like a tourist while I cry over Globe Theater and dance through the streets and squee over dumb things like flowers growing in a park and store fronts and... okay, basically everything. Just keep telling me I look cool and normal. Because I most certainly won't (especially while carrying twenty maps and brochures and taking photos and dancing through the streets).

4) I left my soul in on this island and I kind of want it back: I was in Scotland in the late spring/early summer of 2011 and somehow managed to displace my soul there. In a "Harry Potter searches for horcruxes" fashion I might endeavor to find my soul. This seems futile. But I'll probably blabber out about how I'm losing even more of my soul in random places throughout London. However, I should mention, unlike Voldemort, losing parts of my soul is not the result of murder. You are welcome, United Kingdom.

5) Showers all over the world hate me: I have a problem with showers in any new place. I will stare at the apparatus, try and figure out how it works, and will likely get water everywhere. Here is a pictorial representation of me trying to figure out how a shower works:

The one thing I learned from traveling to London and Germany was this: ask how to use the shower first. Don't pretend to know what you are doing. Plumbing is weird and strange and I am not the sort of person who can figure out what knob or button or pulley or lever does what. As far as I'm concerned, plumbing fixtures are sorcery and I'm a Muggle. Even though my traveling companion in Scotland mocked me for saying, "I always have trouble with the showers," she also couldn't figure out how to make it work. This isn't just an international thing - I've been in American hotels and seriously stood in the tub for five minutes trying to figure out what did what. This is a "Gina is mystified by water fixtures" issue. Be prepared.

6) I bring a lot of stuff with me. And I don't mean just luggage: The last time I was in the UK (see what I just did there? Point #1 in action) I was on a study abroad trip and my companion was a high school friend with whom I have since lost connection with. Our friendship was on the rocks when we left and headed to drama central, and when we returned, things got exponentially weird. I'm not sure how many of the issues from this experience and unresolved problems I still have exactly and I'm afraid some that I didn't expect to see again will reappear when I travel abroad once more. My mind may have some unfinished business and some ruminating it will think it needs to do and I'll do my best to keep any deep, dark revelations at bay. What's past is prologue, as Shakespeare said, and it's time to move on to a better beginning.


7) I eat like a hobbit: I like food. I like tea and coffee. I like drinks. Despite my rather short stature, I can eat quite a bit and I eat often. I am basically a hobbit - especially when being very active, as one generally is when traveling. I will want to eat all the things.

(Also, does hobbit sound like a mash-up of hedgehog and rabbit or is that just me?)

And pudding - did I mention I like pudding?

8) I will want to see all of the things: Baker Street? Gotta go. British Museum? Oh hell yes. National Gallery? Duh. Harrods? Sure. That one place where the filmed that one scene in that one movie? Absolutely. Did I see it the last time I was here? Maybe. Do I want to see it again? Um, yeah. I will not be able to see everything - I know this. But keep telling me there are more hours in the day than there actually are and I'll be placated. I'll also do my best to not be creepy and hope that I actually run into a celebrity. Because as cool and smooth as I'd like to think I'd be, it'd go something much more like this:

Which segues nicely in point #9:

9) This is going to be awkward: I mean, I'm going to go see two of my favorite actors in a Shakespeare play in one of my favorite cities in the world in January. If I'm not a total fangirly wreck by the end of December, it will be a miracle. I'm worried that I'm going to get all day dreamy and have my experiences skewed by impossible dreams instead of enjoying the city I'm in and letting my adventures take their own course. But I'm sort of living off of those day dreams right now and it's hard to get focus and clarity when you're living on a day-to-day basis of, "Do I work today? When do I start classes? What errands do I need to run? What phone calls do I need to make? Did I ever tell that person that one thing?"

Also did I mention that my favorite actor ever is in the play? And that I keep getting bombarded with things like this:



My ability to function like a normal human being is completely in jeopardy and will be for the rest of my life. Also, we're dealing with Shakespeare here and not just any Shakespeare but a Shakespeare tragedy. And a very timely one that deals with a lot of interesting political stuff. I imagine the whole thing will feel a little something like this:


If I manage to not turn into a gelatinous mass of human-wumany goop after this trip, it'll be a miracle.

10) When I am not overcome by feels, I will likely be acting like a kid in a candy store. Continue to treat me as if I were a mature adult anyway: Self-explanatory. My reactions will be, but are not limited to:

So there you have it: a short guide to traveling with rabbits. TL;DR? Watch this video: