#random

The delights of life are often unforeseen.

¿Porque No Los Dos?

0fcLast week was tough.

This week is tough.

Though to be honest, if you’re Black in America, every week is tough in some way. I guess, for some, it’s easy to forget that. When our bodies aren’t being killed in the national spotlight, it’s comforting to think that it’s only those days and surrounding weeks that are hard for us. But the fact is that Black women only make 60 cents on the white man’s dollar. Or that African Americans are incarcerated at six times the rate of whites. This is just the everyday shit. Let’s throw in the fact that I grip my steering wheel in white-knuckled fear each time I’m pulled over for even a minor offense (which, as a white co-worker pointed out to me, has happened more to me at 32, than it has to her at 42.) That’s not new by the way. Being pulled over has always been a scary experience for me as a Black person in the US. The difference is now that white people finally see it and don’t think that I’m making it up.

So as hard as it is to live a carefree life in the US as a person of color, why are people so quick to shut down our good time when a moment of light cuts through our dark clouds?

I’ll explain.

Last week, Pokemon Go stormed the scene. Unfortunately, the storm clouds came in just as more of our brothers were gunned down by those sworn to protect us. I spent much of last week sad, scared, angry and confused (all at the same time, might I add). How could this still be happening? Would I ever feel truly safe in the country that I proudly call home? But as dark and sad as I felt, I couldn’t let it stop me. I mourned, grieved, talked with friends, read, and wrote. I felt the full spectrum of emotions that my mind and body would let me feel. But there comes a time that I have to stop feeling the negative. I’m not an activist: That would probably kill me. It drains me. I do what I can, but the struggle? I couldn’t get away from it if I tried. And I know too many people who are like me. Who are fighting everyday without wearing boxing gloves. So why are people still making memes like this?:

blm

Really, yo? really?

Why do we still have to explain to EACH OTHER that we’re capable of walking and chewing gum at the same damn time? That we struggle and sing? That we work and play? That we work WHILE we play. Black Lives will always Matter to me because I never stop grinding for Black Lives. My black skin grinds for me.

I’ve always had an approachable face. Strangers have always felt the need to bare every piece of their soul to me within five seconds of meeting. So even if I just want to pick up some salmon at the grocery store, I have to spend 10 minutes of that trip filling a polite, but misinformed elderly woman on why we say BLACK lives matter and not ALL lives matter. And to be honest, I ain’t even mad about it. I’d rather they talk to me than people who are angrier with less patience. Because sometimes my approach changes their mind. I can’t help but fight even when I’m not raising a fist.

Even when I’m out collecting Pokemon and pretending that I’m carefree, I’m knowledgeable that someone may be wondering why I abruptly stopped and report the “suspicious behavior” of a black woman outside. Of course I’m BLM and Pokemon Go. You can’t be black and not wear two hats. Hell, throw in the short, lesbian part and me and Miss Sophia got a lot in common.

All-my-life-I-had-to-fight

Look, play Pokemon or don’t. Watch a “ratchet” reality show or don’t. Far be it from me to tell you how to navigate your self-care. All I know is that if you’re even slightly woke, you need those moments of joy, be it from video games, dance parties, music, or my favorite…pinot noir. But stop spreading these awful memes that imply that Black people are only one thing and if we’re not all doing our best Malcolm X/ Martin Luther King impression, then we’re failures. It’s damaging and hurtful to each other. You imply that we can only be one thing to be successful, and that’s how the bad guys see us. Change your mind so we can change their mind.

What? You didn’t believe us when we said we’re magic?

 

St. James

James Baldwin is following me.

I see him everywhere lately. Strangers on the street will provide unsolicited anecdotes about his life. NPR will begin a story that either mentions his name or is completely about him as soon as I enter a car. His image appears to me in webpages and magazines alike. People casually make references of his writings to me, not just asking if I’ve read the piece in question, but following up with a link or printout of his words. It’s as if Baldwin himself is approaching me with an outstretched hand saying, “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met!” And we haven’t, actually.

james_baldwin_34_allan_warren

I don’t smoke, but if I did…

Obviously we’ve never met in real life. He died of stomach cancer while living in France in 1987. I’ve never been to France and since I was only 4, I doubt we would’ve had much to talk about had we met. But on a more tangible level, I’ve never really read anything that he’s written. I may have read a story or two while in college, but I didn’t commit it to memory. I read snippets of essays that he’d written, but they were often part of someone else’s essay. I both did and didn’t understand his relevance to the American Civil Rights movement: I knew he wrote a lot about what it means to be black, specifically a black man, in America, but I didn’t realize that he was THE movement. That he was one of the fingers in the black power fist.

So it’s clearly not Baldwin himself that’s attempting this introduction. He’d have no reason to concern himself with a comedic writer from Hartford who hasn’t been published anywhere fancy. I’m sure there’s some BLM activist and writer who is more up his alley in the critical thinking department who he’d much rather stalk ethereally. But even if it isn’t Baldwin himself, this doesn’t feel coincidental. It feels like someone is trying to make me absorb this information for my own benefit.

It started last November, when my wife and I saw a wonderful play in Hartford called Jimmy and Lorraine (shoutout to HartBeat Ensemble, who commissioned and debuted this play. It’s available to book elsewhere and it really deserves to be seen by everyone.) The production focused on the friendship between James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, but also weaved in their romantic relationships, creative achievements and political involvement. It was eye-opening to see how multi-faceted they were. We tend to think of artists as only one thing, and Jimmy and Lorraine reminded me that we’re all so much more.

After leaving the theater, I made a half-hearted promise to myself that I’d read more of both of their work. I owed it to myself as a black writer to study those before me and not just blindly name drop them in conversation to sound credible (…not that I’ve ever done that.) Yet by the end of the week, I had completely forgotten my promise and went back to business as usual.

About a week after my birthday, I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to read Between the World and Me by Ta’Nehisi Coates, and she said that she was eager to hear my thoughts how I compared him to Baldwin. Now, again, it’s not that I was constantly throwing out Baldwin references, (because I have none to throw) but people know that I read a lot. So when people assumed that I’m all caught up on Baldwin, I’d just let them assume that I was.  I knew that I had work to do to have this conversation.

And still I did nothing. I picked up new books and planned new literary adventures, including reading the book for this year’s One City, One Book at the Hartford Public Library. I hadn’t done it in years, and it’s always nice to follow along with the events that they have. Lo and behold, the 2015 book is still listed and it’s If Beale Street Could Talk: one of Baldwin’s final novels.

From then on, it was forwarded emails, books and magazines coincidentally opened to pages that mentioned his name, name dropped in television shows that had nothing to do with him, reference after reference to a man that I didn’t truly know.

Now I’m getting to know him. On the one hand, I can see why who or whatever is pushing me towards James would do so. I’ve started not just reading what he wrote, but what other people have written about him. I found out that he didn’t go to college, and while I went, I didn’t do so hot while I was there. I don’t have a Master’s Degree or any cool letters after my name. The idea of going back doesn’t interest me in the least, yet it’s always a secret shame of mine that I’m not more traditionally educated. But here’s a man who is a brilliant writer and amazing thinker, without a degree. I can’t help but feel like there’s some spirit guide who knew I’d be drawn to that.

The more I read what he wrote, the more that it influences my own writing. I’ve always shied away from “writing black”, which is to say, writing about the “black struggle”. For one thing, I know it’s what white people want to see. But for another thing, it’s what I’m tired of seeing. For years, I foolishly wrote off James Baldwin as someone who writes about that and only that. But in these last few months, I see that he’s so much more. And I can see my own ideas take on new shape just by reading what he wrote. Not that I’m copying him; not in the slightest. I guess you’ll just have to read and see for yourself how his words are shaping me. For once in my life, I’m confident enough to say that you will.

So I’m referring to 32 as “My Baldwin Year”. I want to reflect on Baldwin’s (or St. James as my wife has said I should start calling him) words. Cosign on his thoughts, argue and debate with a man that I will never meet, and give myself the confidence to believe that if our time on Earth had overlapped a few years more, he would’ve invited me over to do so.

How Do You Love?

Every now and then, someone will share a meme or image that I feel I have to say something about. Here is one such image.

Never Beg

I saw this image shared a couple places on Facebook and honestly, it’s one of the least ignorant memes that I’ve seen and had a problem with. It’s not demanding that women cook or clean. It’s not saying that black men are inherently bad fathers. It’s just…an incomplete thought. It puts the responsibility of getting your needs met on one person in the relationship; which is not practical.

I don’t always feel qualified to write or talk about love. I’m very much in love with my wife and we have a great relationship, but she’s also my first serious relationship. Even after 7 years together, there’s part of me that still doesn’t feel qualified to tell people what love “is”. But something that I’m starting to get more comfortable doing is clarifying what love looks like.

Love looks a lot of different ways to different people. I’ll start by encouraging everyone to take this quiz to find out your “Love Language“. Your “Love Language” is how your partner(s) (or even friends and family) would best express “love” to you. Additionally, there are ways to best express “love” to them that may be different than the way you receive love. THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT. The 5 Love Languages are:

-Words of Affirmation (“I love you SO much”. “You look sexy tonight”)

-Acts of Service (“Thanks for doing the dishes tonight. Taking that off my plate shows me that you care.”

-Receiving Gifts (“She may not say she loves me, but when she buys me flowers, I know my girlfriend loves me”)

-Quality Time (“Let’s pop a bottle of wine and just chat; you and me.”)

-Physical Touch (hugs, kisses, hands on the small of back. Yes, this includes actual sex because that is important to people and that’s ok.)

I won’t get into greater detail, especially since that website does it much better than I, but above is the gist.

Which brings me to the meme. In the meme, it talks about what a woman “deserves”. It’s very vague on what she “deserves”, but it’s clear on the fact that she shouldn’t have to beg for it and should leave her relationship if she’s not getting it. And that’s not entirely true. If you’ve never made it clear to your partner what your love language is, how can they know that they’re not giving you what you “deserve”. For example, if my love language is Physical Touch and my partner keeps bringing me stuffed animals and diamond rings (Receiving Gifts), essentially those gifts won’t mean shit to me if they aren’t cuddling with me on the couch. I’ve seen memes on Facebook that say something to the effect of “Talk is cheap; what are you DOING to show your wife that you love her?” That may be true for some people, but for others, talk IS their language. If you’re speaking the wrong language to someone, your efforts may go unnoticed.

Another thing that happens is even if you do notice the things that your partner does, if they’re not the best way to communicate with YOU and you don’t say anything, you’re gonna have a bad time. How many times do you hear people say, “I know my wife loves me because she goes out of her way to do things for me (Acts of Service), but she never takes time to chat with me after work about my day (Quality Time). I don’t want to say something because at the end of the day, it’s really minor, but it would be nice if she did that.” In this case, the person is acknowledging that it’s important to them, but still doesn’t want to bring it up to their wife. But that person should bring it up to their wife because eventually, it may not be minor. That’s the type of thing that nags at people and turns into deep resentment. It’s the type of thing that convinces you that you’re not getting what you “deserve” when you never even told anyone that you wanted it.

Communication is key in any relationship. Communicating your needs and listening as your partner communicates theirs is especially important. And you don’t want to wait until you’re screaming at the top of your lungs to tell someone your needs. Say something when it’s a whisper in the back of your mind.

When my wife first discovered the Love Languages, she sent it to me and asked me to take it. Afterwards, we compared our results. Turns out we both shared a high love language of Quality Time. But Physical Touch is a close second for me. I know that some people may look at that and think, “duh. Why wouldn’t I want someone to spend time with and touch me?” Well, if someone is triggered by touch and doesn’t need to spend a lot of time with their partner to feel wanted, then that may not be so great to them. But it’s important to know what you want and how you want it. I’m sure I’ll talk about that another time.

So back to the meme. Is it wrong? Eh…it’s not right. Because there’s a lot of self-work involved that isn’t addressed or implied. Yes, you should get what do you deserve in a happy relationship. But what do you feel you deserve? What do you even want? Have you asked for it? No one is a mind-reader. Even though I sometimes feel like my wife can read my mind, when I’m hurt because of something she did or didn’t do, I have to ask myself if I communicated my needs clearly or just assumed that our bond would tell her my needs. If I didn’t ask, then I have no one to blame but myself. If I had asked, I wouldn’t have had to beg because as a healthy partner, she wants to give me what I need. If I did have to beg, well there are things that I need to consider about our communication. I still won’t say it’s a deal breaker. Also, never say the word “never”. I’ve seen hurting people throw promising relationships away because they “never” do things.

I just wanted to shed some light on the importance of verbally communicating your needs, wants and desires. There are other parts of this that tie in and I may write about them later. But relationships take more work than a meme can provide.

Dear Women: Please Stop Talking Like Women So We Can Take You Seriously

Kim_Kardashian noIn a society where women struggle to be relevant and heard over their big breasts and small, dainty feet, now we have to deal with the new global problem of “vocal fry”. If you haven’t heard, “vocal fry” is the annoying cheerleader daughter of the 90’s trend that ruined our lives, “upspeak“. I blame Kim Kardashian. If it wasn’t for her and her vocal-frying sisters, we as a female nation would be moving forward; fiercely burning our bras on the lawn of patriarchy. Instead we’re all forced to watch them week-to-week as they prance around and flaunt their valley girl gibberish, damaging the minds and vocal chords of our children.

Ladies, if we think that we can take over the STEM job force while speaking with a girlish lilt to our voices, followed by a husky growl towards the end of the sentence, we’ve got another thing coming. What is that? Make up your mind and either growl or don’t. Semi-growling makes you look indecisive and under-confident. Lord knows that men don’t vocal fry and everyone takes men really seriously. And they deserve to be taken seriously, what with their penises and short hair. Those are characteristically male qualities that demand respect. Women would be taken more seriously if we had penises and short hair. But by all means, don’t cut your hair, ladies. No one likes a woman with short hair. It makes you look like a dyke and we all know the worst thing in the world is to look like a dyke. They are positively unlovable.

That’s not to say we can’t be a lesbian, or better yet, bisexual. We can absolutely be hot, feminine lesbians that gratefully accept the unsolicited invitations for threesomes by strange dudes in the bar. We’d be prude if we didn’t. We have permission to pass the time with another perfect specimen of femininity before settling down for a real relationship with a nice guy. But God help you if you both vocal-fry. It’s already hard enough to take two women in a relationship seriously.

Listen, I’m saying this as a friend. I care deeply about feminism and women’s issues and right now, I need you to put this at the tippity top of your list so we can all keep moving forward. How would you feel if some lady doctor with her “voice” and “face” started telling you how to care for the new heart that she just put in you? You wouldn’t take her seriously right? Exactly. So be as close to a man as possible without actually, you know, becoming a man. (I can’t even begin to tell you what’s wrong with that!) Actively work to change the speech patterns that you’ve crafted over the last 30 years of your life that make your voice uniquely yours. Once women stop talking like women, misogyny will end! Lord knows that we would pay women same as men if they would stop fucking sounding kind of like they just woke up during a casual conversation. This is really THE most important issue of our time. It’s about time we finally addressed it.

Oprah’s Book Club Challenge #2: She’s Come Undone

She's Come Undone Cover

I recently read Wally Lamb’s latest book We Are Water. I’m not going to mince words here: I hated it. I can’t believe I read the whole thing. There were tons of times where I thought I would bail, but I couldn’t. It was Wally Lamb, after all! He’d written what I considered two of my favorite books: She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True (another OBC pick). So I trudged through it, hoping it would improve, only to be met with a book that described sexually assaulting a child so vividly that I wanted to vomit. I’m all for artistic expression. I believe he chose to write about this for some reason, but I wish I had no part in it.

It was the second book by Lamb that I hated. This one I only hated slightly more than The Hour I First Believed, which I found rambling and uninteresting. Aside from the grossness that was Kent in We Are Water, I found it also had the same “why the hell am I reading this?” problem. So I was nervous to go back to She’s Come Undone. Maybe I was remembering Lamb’s work wrong. Maybe it wasn’t the awesome book that I remembered it being and it was also a rambling mess. It was time to shake off the hurt and anger of more recent disappointments and dive back into my past.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

Oprah’s Book Club date: December 1996

Book Cover Description: Meet Dolores Price. She’s 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Beached like a whale in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she’s determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before really going belly up.

My thoughts: It’s still good. I breathed a sigh of relief each night as I looked forward to reading it. Though I made connections to We Are Water (both use water as a theme, both reveal the reason for the title all the way at the end of the book), this one didn’t make me feel like I was reading words pointlessly. Everything was brought back up later and with good reason. Each one rounded out Dolores as a human being with a full life and choices. There were no secrets held onto until the end with big reveals (which, unless I’m reading a mystery book, I kind of hate. Tell me who I’m reading about up front if you’re going to have the character speak in the first person. Don’t say things like, “this reminds me of the time when that thing happened that I don’t like to talk about.” Fuckin….these is an inner monologue! Why do I have to wait until the end of the damn book to find out what “that thing” is when its inward? Now I’m reading the book thinking, “well what’s ‘the thing?'” “Maybe I’d know why you’re acting funny to this person if I knew what ‘the thing’ is.” “Shit, I didn’t read that whole last chapter because I’m trying to guess what ‘the thing’ is.” TELL ME “THE THING” IF YOU’RE TALKING IN FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE! That’s a really specific peeve of mine, but whatever. We Are Water was totally guilty of that and I’m hurt and clearly hadn’t gotten my anger out.)

My favorite part of this book was that I was rooting for Dolores. 100% on her side through and through. Even when she was being a brat and treating everyone like crap, I was with her all the way. I remember there was one scene that shook me. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but it was after she spent an otherwise pleasant evening at Dottie’s house. Before Dolores left, she decided to irreparably hurt Dottie. Reading that scene stopped me in my tracks. What she did was so selfish and painful that even though I was reading the book relatively early in the evening, I put the book down and spent some time with my thoughts. Lamb so completely described the thoughts of a person in pain. She was so hard on herself that you wouldn’t think that she’d be capable of being harder on other people, but she was determined to try. Dolores continued a pattern of searching for love, but being completely incapable of accepting it. Reading what I just wrote, I guess I can see why Lamb wrote those terrible “Kent” scenes in We Are Water. Just saying it made me realize that you need that insight to see Kent’s journey. But for real, fuck that. Fuck everything about reading the details of how one manipulates and molests a child.

Back to She’s Come Undone. Sorry. We Are Water REALLY pissed me off. It was more than I remembered it being and after it was done, I felt like I wouldn’t find another book to fill the hole it left. And then I remembered…I still have 74 more books to read.

Should You Read It?: Hell yes. Haven’t you been reading what I wrote so far? Get it now! I’ll even let you borrow it if you live close to me. Don’t read We Are Water though.

I’m lying, read that too. Support authors by buying their books and forming your own opinions on their work.

5 stars – Tom Cruise on the Couchtom-cruise-couch_5219654_GIFSoup.com (1)

Oprah’s Book Club Challenge #1: The Deep End of the Ocean

First book! Let’s dive right in, shall we? I’ve come up with a list of things that every entry I write should have. They’ll probably change, cuz that’s how I roll. Plus this is the first post. Everything always changes after the pilot episode.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Oprah’s Book Club date: September 1996

Publisher’s description: Both highly suspenseful and deeply moving, The Deep End of the Ocean imagines every mother’s worst nightmare—the disappearance of a child—as it explores a family’s struggle to endure, even against extraordinary odds. Filled with compassion, humor, and brilliant observations about the texture of real life, here is a story of rare power, one that will touch readers’ hearts and make them celebrate the emotions that make us all one. (Don’t read the Wikipedia page of this book. They give a big spoiler in the introduction of the entry.)

My reaction: The Deep End of the Ocean was a worthy start to Oprah’s Book Club journey. I can see why she chose it; a book about a mother with young children which was probably her primary demographic at the time. It’s something her audience can let themselves fall into, nightmarish though it may be. But I’m sure every mother has thought about how they would react to a kidnapping. So why not scare the shit out of them a little bit. Because I gotta tell ya, I don’t have kids, but even I had a hard time falling asleep wondering if Ben was ok.

I found the book itself to be an easy read. It took me about 2 days so it was nice and steady to start on this type of journey. The story is told from the point of view of the mother, Beth Cappadora and Vincent, her oldest son who was also present on the day that Ben disappeared. Honestly? I got a little sick of Beth. And often I’m not in favor of people saying, “you wouldn’t understand because you’re not a mother.” This has been said to women about anything from the most trivial to the most severe (“You wouldn’t understand how good this cheese tastes because you’re not a mother.”) I’m not even going to say why I hate it because there’s enough people writing about it to read up on, but let’s just say that about 85% of the time it’s used towards me, it’s untrue. My feelings on this next opinion probably fall in that 15%, so just beware.

I’ve never been through the kind of pain and loss that Beth is clearly going through. After Ben’s kidnapping, she completely shuts down. Even with 2 other kids in the house, she’s just like, “peace out y’all. Hope you get that nurturing somehow.” And I can’t even get that mad at her because her husband also said, “peace out” on being at home and left running the house up to her like she was even kind of capable of that.

But can you hate a book because the characters made shitty choices? Some people say yes, but not me. When I dislike a characters choices, it makes it more believable since people make shitty choices everyday. The whole family had a lot of bull to sort through because Beth and her husband Pat had no coping skills (or more likely, just stopped using them). That’s 90% of America. Bravo, Oprah. Not only did you choose a banger for moms across the world to fret over and probably even feel a little superior about, but it resonates with most Americans and our terrible relationship with mental health.

Should you read it?: Are you looking for something to read? Got a library card? Go for it. I probably wouldn’t buy it unless you really enjoy the author or the description pulled you in.

3 Stars – Cool Story, O   Cool Story O

Challenge! Reading Oprah’s Book Club!

Challaaaange!

Challaaaange!

I like a good challenge. They get me motivated. Keep me on my toes. This past February I gave up drinking. Then for two weeks in March I gave up sugar. They both kicked off a new fitness lifestyle for me that I still practice 4 months later. But I noticed that I wasn’t reading nearly as much. By the end of last year, I read only 8 books. That’s 7 less than I had hoped to read and only about a third of what I read in my younger days. And then this weird thing started happening: I started getting free books. And not just any free books; Oprah books.

I love Oprah Winfrey. Who doesn’t love Oprah? Actually, don’t answer that. I know plenty of people who don’t love her. Who don’t even like her. But I’m not here to talk about them and they should probably stop reading now because I’m about to spit some Oprah realness.

Oprah has been a hero of mine since I was a little girl. I used to make excuses for that. I’d play it down and indulge the critics who say she’s not THAT great, but to me she is and always has been. She’s one of my favorite people. As a child, she was my reminder that success is possible…little black girls didn’t always grow up believing that. Hell, I still struggle with it and I’m a grown ass woman who always had Oprah! And what I loved about her (and her bestie Gayle King who was an anchor on my local station as a kid) was that she showed me that my gift of writing, reading and a sparkling personality (*cheeses*) was actually worth something.

When Oprah began her book club in 1996, I was 12 and an avid reader. Typically I read teen fiction and spent a lot of my kid money on Babysitters Club books, but I would also read whatever else my parents left laying around the house (read: bathroom.) The book club started and though I wasn’t exactly the target demographic, my mom was, and she bought most of those first few books. On a whim, I read Ellen Foster and loved it so much that I devoured A Virtuous Woman soon after that. I went back and read Book of Ruth and She’s Come Undone. I was hooked, but also a bit pre-occupied with my little teen life. I read the newer books when I could and eventually just stopped checking up.

Even though I remember enjoying those books, I consider the person who read them almost as distant a memory as the plots of the books themselves. So with my adult eyes, thoughts and view points, I will read these books again; many for the first time. And since this is the age of social media, would it even count if I didn’t tell people about it?

So here I go, starting something new. Living my best life by living the one that Oprah tells me to live. She’s lived a good life, so why not? Let’s get it started.

The Workout That Didn’t Work Out

I've missed you, lover

I’ve missed you, lover

This past weekend was spent in the Florida Keys with my wife and our friends celebrating a dear friend’s wedding. We ate, drank and were very merry. I took a vacation in every sense of the word, completely eschewing any form of working out and eating right. I did bring workout clothes, but when we got to the resort, we discovered that there was no fitness center. There were tons of activities on site included in the cost of the room (paddle boards, paddle boats, kayaks, even a really dope water trampoline that you had to swim out to), but I did none of it. All of that could’ve counted for some type of workout and I just decided to sit on shore with a book and a cocktail.

I’m not even beating myself up about it. That’s what I wanted out of my vacation and I’ve been working so hard that, yeah, I feel like I deserved it. One thing that I’m discovering with working out is that my choices are my own. It’s no one else’s fault if I’m fat and sad about it. But it’s also not my job to be some perfect-10 or struggling to get there to the detriment of my own self-esteem. My goal is a well-rounded life. Fit and happy and able to enjoy a burger and fries guilt-free (now and then) because I’ve worked heard enough for it. So far so good.

When I got back to Hartford, I was eager to get back to my fitness routine. I hadn’t totally eaten like shit while we were gone, but I can feel my arms getting puny with underuse. Mondays are my cardio interval training, typically in the form of a spin class. This is often tricky. The class is held on at 5:30pm and I get out of work at 5:30pm. So by the time I drive to the gym, change into my workout clothes and get on the bike, I’m about a half hour late for class. No big deal, even though I secretly hate it. But yesterday was a big blow to my usual lateness. I had to run a late errand last night, which meant I didn’t even leave the office until after 5:45. The drive to the gym was more congested than normal, so I got there after 6. I was dressed for class, but I knew the workout would be pointless after the half hour mark.

So I decided to make the best of it and do my own interval biking routine on one of the bikes on the floor. Easy, peasy! I had a great playlist with pumped up songs, there was an empty upright bike…perfect, right? Yeah, turns out it was the shitty bike. Something was wrong with it so I couldn’t stand up. Any resistance over “2” would make the gears go all shitty. I couldn’t find a groove with it and the other 2 bikes (only two bikes? Come on, son.) were taken.

So I thought, that’s ok, I’ll go on the treadmill for some HIIT. You know what sucks about treadmills? Everything. Running is the shittiest. It’s so boring. And on a treadmill you’re running nowhere so it’s 10x more boring. I made it about 5 minutes, very shittily, before I decided that this workout was done. But I still wanted my heart rate up. By the time I was leaving the gym, Zumba was about to start. I thought about joining that class and as I walked in, I saw the instructor was the one I don’t like. She’s a great instructor, but she does this weird ass shake thing that I find distracting. I get focused on the mechanics of how she does it and end up staring at her ass for an absurd amount of time. I know she’s caught me a few times. I’m not attracted to the ass, but I’m fascinated by the shake. It’s kind of like…so you know that one woman in the Back That Ass Up video who does a little twerk and then drops down into a laser precise halt, and then seamlessly comes back up to resume her flawless twerk? (starts at 2:17 get ready for one awe-inspiring second.) I’ve always been fascinated by that kind of booty control. It gives me follow-up questions. But no one else in the class seems to notice, so it makes me feel profoundly lesbian, like when I was in gym class in high school. I’m never embarrassed about my sexuality, but working out with other women makes me hyper aware of it.

Anyway, the instructor gave me a polite smile but like I said, I think she’s seen me drawn to her ass before. She wasn’t all smiles and coked-out peppiness like Zumba instructors typically are. And I couldn’t help but notice that she had new Spandex on, which I already was wondering if she could manage to shake in. I just 180’d and left the gym.

So that was Monday. Once again, being fixated on ass has crushed another person’s goals. I guess there’s always Wednesday.

Image credit: Stefan Funke

You Probably Will Only Understand This If You Read The Giver

The_Giver_CoverWhen I was younger, I’m not sure what age, but I’d guess between the ages of 10 and 12, my favorite book was The Giver. I loved it. Typically, I read all the Baby-Sitters Club books I could get my hands on, but even at that age, I knew being a well-rounded reader was important. One day in the library, I judged a book by its cover (breaking a cardinal rule that the librarians would frequently tout) and picked up the book with the weary old man on the cover. It had always interested me, sitting in the “teen” section, though I wasn’t yet a teen. But the librarians knew me pretty well. When I picked it up off the recommended books table, the librarian whispered, “I think you’ll like that one. And it’s actually good for someone your age.” Unlike the usual books I took home which were the plots of popular movies like Interview With A Vampire or The Firm.

Though I’ve remembered nothing about it plot-wise, I remember how it made me feel. I remember wanting to read more books like The Giver that took me to a different world and made me want to rage against something that I wasn’t quite sure about yet. But I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember the actual plot of the book.

So I decided to read it again. I have a Kindle and the library now has an online catalog to rent from. This time, instead of again dealing with the judgmental glares of librarians thinking I’m reading outside of my age group, I got to click onlilne a few times and read in my bathroom within 2 minutes. From re-reading, I can see why I liked it. It’s very easy to follow and Lowry makes sure you’re clear about everything before moving on. The plot moves quickly, which was good for a young reader like me who always had 6 more books on deck.

I remember thinking that The Giver himself was mean. He seemed gruff and angry. Reading it as an adult, The Giver was surprisingly gentle for someone who literally had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I misconstrued him giving his pain to Jonas as a bother, when it was simply what had to be done. But at such a young age, still fairly new to comprehension and intent, I can see how I got that wrong. I also remember feeling like the book was really deep. Reading it now, I know that it was age-appropriately deep. It was written FOR me, so I could understand why it felt so real. Again, I was also reading about violent, non-sparkly vampires and vengeful fathers killing their daughter’s rapists around that same time, but I think those concepts were so completely adult that I was disconnected from a lot of it. I understood it all in theory, but there was still a part of me that was unaware of that as a reality. The Giver was my lane.

At the end of the day, I would totally recommend this to a teen/pre-teen in my life. I get why I referred to it as a favorite for so long. To review it as an adult, however, well it’s no Hunger Games. It was enjoyable for me as a quick read, but I felt like the world that Lowry created was rushed. There are 3 more companion books written in the early 2000’s (nearly 10 years later) that I probably won’t read. I admire her for going back and adding to the universe though as it didn’t feel complete. There wasn’t a backstory for why this all happened. Was there some major event? A dictator or president who just said, “fuck y’alls opinions and feelings. We’re totally done with that.” And then the ending was just like, “we should feel love again! To do that, leave your family and friends that you just found out you loved. Bye!” But what happened to everyone back home? Did it work? Did they just “release” Jonas’s whole family for raising a deserter? I don’t have the answers, Sway!  I kind of feel out on a limb here and when I was a kid, I don’t remember being pissed about that. I should’ve been.

April Fool

I’m not much of a prankster. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a funny person, but I’m not very creative. My practical jokes are usually stolen from the internet and lean towards showing off how smart I am. I’m kind of an April Douchebag. At my last job, I was always the first one in the office. So I planned to go to everyone’s office before they came in and hit ‘ctrl+alt+down arrow’ on all of their computers so when they turned it on, their screen would be upside-down. Brilliant, right? The thing is, I KNEW that I was probably the only one who knew how to turn them back. I KNEW everyone was going to slam IT with calls (which would’ve been sort of bad) or slam me with calls as the office Googler (which would’ve been even worse because I don’t like talking to people in the morning.)

Sure enough, people get into work around 8:30 and all 4 lines are lit up. What I didn’t foresee was that people would panic. This was a government job circa-2007. We’re well past 9/11, but the country is still at war. As government employees, we were always a little on edge. 2/3 of the office immediately went right to hacking. I don’t know why they called me in the event of hacking. I think it’s because I have a calm face. Nonetheless, I had to go to all of those computers and assure them it was a joke. Some were so panicked that they couldn’t follow my instructions to turn the screen right. I walked in one guy’s office and he had just turned his whole monitor upside-down and continued working. Only one person in an office of 25 decided to Google how to fix the issue and even after he did, he didn’t even chuckle. He just thought it was something he did accidentally as he shut down his computer the night before.

This is why I suck at April Fool’s Day. I get so consumed with “winning” that I lose the fun spirit. I don’t want someone to say to me, “I knew it all along!” or laugh disingenuously. I want the big laugh. The “You got me GOOD” laugh. Which somehow in my mind translates to complicated, torturous joke that only I get.

There are certain things that I do know about this day. For example, telling people that you’re pregnant, on Facebook or otherwise, is just not funny. What do you hope to gain out of that? If your spouse does it with you…actually you should probably hold onto each other. You’re both kind of fucked up. If you’re telling friends/loved-ones/nobodies on the internet, why get their hopes up? I know at this point in my life, when I hear someone’s pregnant, I get genuinely happy for them. I think about this incredible journey that they’re about to embark on and want to join them in their rollercoaster of emotions. When someone takes the joy out of that, it’s a little painful.
And what’s the aftermath of those videos that you see of teenagers telling their parents that they’re pregnant. Sometimes those parents just let it all go out of anger. They say things I’m sure they wish they hadn’t, especially on the internet. Why make your mom call you shitty names so maybe YOU can laugh? When I secretly got my tongue pierced at 18, my mother called me a dumbass and I NEVER FORGOT IT…Ok, maybe I’ve never forgotten it because it was hilarious, but it also wasn’t a prank. I meant that shit. And once my tongue healed, she probably just forgot about it. But that’s the worst part of these bad “pranks” (“I’m pregnant”, “you’re fired”, “Let’s get a divorce”); when the joke doesn’t get the response that you think it will? You tell your family that you’re quitting school and they finally admit that they didn’t think you could hack it anyway. “Um…haha, surprise! I was kidding.” “Um…haha, surprise! So were we? Way to fuck up Easter, Jonathan.”

I’m also not good at being pranked. I offer nothing in the way of a good response. I scare too easily. I’m also easily brought to tears. On things that are too casual, I go with the flow. Salt in the sugar bowl? Let me dump this into the garbage and fix it. Someone must’ve been working too quickly. I’m often in space so I don’t notice things. “You got new glasses? Yeah, they look a lot like your old glasses. Oh, you never wore glasses before this? Well shit.”

I’m just not that good at this day. When I see a great joke, I’m both fascinated and amused that someone could pull it off. Good on the pranksters who flawlessly and harmlessly trick someone.  You’re the real MVP’s. Keep pulling those pranks and making us all smile. Make sure you take video of it too, so we can truly ALL smile. It’s 2015 for crying out loud.

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