Monday, July 29, 2013

Two Hearts/ Two More Weeks

When I was in Alaska I drew our initials in a snow heart. I texted him the image, and he responded:
I left AZ June 25th. It has really been too long.

I'm fractured from the fall,
and I wanna go home.
But it takes two when it used to take one.
It takes two when it used to take only one.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Working Song

My sister told me my blog has been too sad. Well, toot. But okay. Some great things about summer camp:

Storm cloud. July 2013. Michigan.
Running the long, quiet road of antique farms just off camp property Monday. Only two girls signed up for an afternoon four-miler. Track stars of course. They smoked me. It was very windy.

My first period Musical Theatre girls kicking their feet to "Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile."

Playing Mafia (I actually love Mafia. Like, a lot. I wish it were still acceptable to casually mention it be played at parties now that I am an adult. Sigh.) in the lake on a very wavy day. Hopping the white caps during accusations.

My campers at the breakfast table every morning. One brings yogurts for all. Another carried cups of water by the bunch. That one always asks for a bowl of Golden Grahams. There is a subtle game of who will get a bagel first--thus becoming the table toaster slave.

And on your lovely woody banks,
we dream beneath the shade,
and offer up again our thanks,
your memories ne'er will fade.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Boys Think They're Funny

Dance often has precedence over Drama in stage usage in the camp Great House on the account of only one sound system. This doesn’t bother me because I like the unenclosed sky of the deck. And. Really. I’m a summer camp counselor behind all the “Mhmm yeeees, I am a resident playwright of children’s theatre.” What, am I going to demand a diamond-encrusted director’s chair and a tech booth? We’ve got, like, some light switches.

However, girls’ Drama starts just as boys’ breakfast ends, so during warm-ups and the beginnings of our rehearsals, an ant line of boys passes us. The campers are actually well-behaved, but seriously every other counselor, not realizing that every other counselor does it, kind of pops into the class—either mimicking what we’re doing or shouting little “To be or not to be!”s at us. Sometimes falling down and saying, “Well, that was dramatic.” A har har har. The girls obviously get a little flustered because warm-ups aren’t exactly confidence-boosters. We’re often making weird noises or stretching or something.

I am very interested in the fact that none of these counselors realize that A) it’s still not funny the fifth time in the week they interrupt and B) half their kind practices this behavior.

On picture night the girls in their navy skirts and white tees bunched in cabins to take charming little photos for their parents to stalk on the camp website. As I waited for my chicklets to be called I watched as every single male counselor left the dining hall, crept up behind the cabin currently posing, made a stupid face, was shooed by the photographer, and laughed themselves out of the shot.

I wasn’t able to see my boys’ improv class perform last week. They had their showcase during girls’ dinner. I asked them how it went. “Amazing,” they said. Amazing. One, particularly adorable and willing to learn, said, “Oh man, Alice! We played Emotional Rollercoaster and we were mad, and then we got ‘blissful’ and I just changed my voice, and everyone cracked up! Including us on stage! We couldn’t finish the scene! It was the funniest thing ever.” I nod. Mhmm.

When I start girl’s musical theatre class I ask, “Who has performed before,” and we hear about high school and jr. high productions of yore from each individual. One girl was the lead this year. “Oh yeah?” I ask, “How was that.” She says “I think it went well,” but she has the tiniest corner of her lip upturned so we know she thinks she was good. And we all hate her for it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Living with Eight Fifteen-Year-Old Girls

One girl walks around the cabin in undies that say "YOU'RE SO HOT RIGHT NOW." Who are those for? I ask. She shrugs. I hate you, Abercrombie. Another asks me earnestly, "What do you think about push-up bras?" while her cabinmate clips one together in the background. I have to appease and paddle through honesty: "Well. I don't own one. And, well, ideally we don't see our worth or beauty as measured by...that. But, if it makes you feel more attractive, then, that can bring confidence, and, so..."
The girl in the Wonder answers, "It doesn't make me feel attractive. It's just what boys want."

You know, I think a lot of people think we've mastered certain aspects of feminism, but then a child says something that breaks your heart, or your camper cries because she has too much acne, or another asks, "How can I feel like I am equal to boys when we've never had a president?"

Last night I crept into the cabin after the staff meeting to find all my kiddos huddled in the corner, one flashlight on, sweating out the hot night in sports bras and gym shorts. It had been Lights Out for a while. "Can we talk for just thirty more minutes?" they pleaded, and I said yes. They can go to war in three years, I think they can stay up past ten.

"We're talking about PMS," the mop-top one said. And we laughed about emotive yelling and sitting down all the time and one was like, "Yeah, and then whenever you tell a boy something he doesn't want to hear, he says it's your period!" And I did not laugh anymore. And we whispered in the dark, just over the wild Lake Michigan winds, about culture and shame and confidence and they were like, "Oh, really?!" And I was like, "Yes, really!" And being in high school is amazing! These kids remind me what enzymes are and know about Marie Antoinette but also Burma but ALSO misuse the word "ironic" and when you ask if they've seen Chicago they say, "That's the one with 'STELLA!' right?" And you shake your head and they say, "Oh, yeah, I just saw that on Modern Family." Their minds are so open and they're so eager and so confused and truly beautiful despite/because it all. I want so badly for them to see themselves how I do, and I wonder if this is how the women in my life have always viewed me. If it pains them when I accept the pain I think is my burden.

"Okay, now it's really time for bed," I say. They nod and hug. I hop up onto my bunk. Their flashlights click off. One by one. Waves crash from the beach below. "Innocence is never lost": my last thought. Before sleep pulls me into the undertow.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Thing I Kind Of Get (But Only Kind Of)

Before I even got to camp my first summer, I wanted to learn how to sail. Then, when I arrived, I learned you had to be thirteen. I was twelve. Blast.

There was something ABOUT those little boats on the lake. They looked so peaceful, but also fun, and also colorful! I wanted to be on them. We (collectively as children) had been drawing them with triangles and half-circles for years on penciled waves.

Two summers later, I finally grabbed one of the coveted six spots in the sailing double period. The counselor sat us in the sand and explained the very very very basic overview of the sport. I was completely lost, the terms "mast" and the effects of wind on cloth sailing over my head. (Pun unavoidable.) We hefted those gnarly wooden blocks out to sea, awkwardly slumped into them, ducked, leaned, and I never signed up to sail again.

What compels us to set sail? The freedom? The wind? What's so good about wind anyway? Is it the Jesus thing? The walking on water? (This is all true of waterskiing too--which is glorified standing that people flip for.) Water: it's what we're made of. It's free in every restaurant. We want to be on it.

This is a thing I can only kind of get.
My first Michigan sunset of 2013.
And somebody told me that this is the place
where everything's better and everything's safe.
Walk on the ocean. Step on the stones.
Flesh becomes water. Wood becomes bone.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Thing I Don't Get

Riding horses. On a hike yesterday one of my campers told me she has been riding since she was one. Okay, what? How does an infant ride A GIANT BEAST. This girl (13) also owns a horse. I had previously assumed that only richo girls from the Hamptons owned horsed, but apparently it's NBD?

Camp has six horse. Which 87643 girls want to ride. I didn't get this as a camper, and I don't get it now. Where is the appeal? Is it a subconcious power thing? Like, "I can't control my life, but I hold the reigns on this"? Surely it's not a cute thing. Horses aren't cute, right? Is it a princess thing?

I have ridden horses before. I never found it thrilling or cool or even very interesting. This is a thing I don't get.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bein' a Woman! (Part III)

At times I am uncomfortable to publicly say anything about romance. I am happy to show simple affection when I am with my beuf, but when I'm not, I get worried about not sounding like my own person. And I am my own person! I've known people (I'm sure you have too) who project so much about their sig others that they seem to fade into a deflect of that other half.

But. The people we care about are part of who we are. To avoid them in projecting our "own personhood" is to neglect something very important about ourselves.
I miss this guy.
And I could write a book,
the one they'll say that shook
the world and then it took--
it took you back to me.
And I could write a song
a hundred miles long.
Well, that's where I belong.
And you belong with me.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Peanut Butter Pop-Tarts!

Well, two of my favorite food items in the world have combined. Please fill my coffin with Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty! I am kidding. Cremation is better for the environment. But sprinkle some crumbs in my urn!

It feels like winning the Willy Wonka golden ticket when you open the box!
 Both Tarts are an A. Period. Soft pastry shell with delightful-quality pb inside. That's an A.
The regular pb tart has no icing. However, it kind of helps me feel like I'm not eating a processed dessert for breakfast. The chocolate tart is just, well, a joy to have in class. I don't want to say I am in love with these snacks, but, let me put it this way: if I had to marry a toaster pastry, I would marry the choco pb Pop-Tart. Well, let me put it this way: if I could marry a toaster pastry, I would marry the choco pb Pop-Tart. And I would become a widow during the reception.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bein' a Woman! (Part II)

Thursday I had dinner with a kind of mirror. A looking glass from the future. She's been doing educational improv in Chicago for eight years. She's had commitment issues. We met at the best vegan hotspot in the city, right in the middle of Boys Town DOMA Day. Parades and confetti everywhere. We were connected via another great, supportive, mentor-type woman I met in Alaska. And in the safety of our seitan chicken salads she told me about how she, at age 22, with steady professional work, had been scared she'd missed her window. And I blinked and explained I almost dropped out of grad school last year because I really love improv, and I was worried if I "wasted" two more years on school I'd be too old to make anything of myself.

She explained about the webs of shame we take with us: work, family, body. All connected. I need a better form of success, which I can only have for a very limited time in the performing arts with a woman's body, a body that will never be as hot as it should be. No matter how hard I try, there's always going to be a tiny voice in me saying if I really cared about my happiness I would wear more makeup and hurry the heck up with making life choices because I die at 28.

Last year when I explained my drop-out predicament to others, every single man looked at me like I was nuts. Every single woman nodded gravely. They know. In fact, they were only half listening because they were counting down days themselves. Gotta get it (job, man, money, fame) now before any more people realize you're older than you were a minute ago.

This is really unfortunate (obvs) and what's more so is that we all feel this way but do not want to say so because we are so sick of the stereotyping of this feeling we don't want to keep feeding it, but it's there. It's still there.

I want to emphasize that I, and most women, are more powerful than this little nagglet. But, it should be noted...mainly so I (and others) can understand when "we" have negative thoughts about ourselves and how we're "doing" that it might not really be from our own good brains. It might be from, like, you know, hundreds of years of oppressive expectation, or some little inconsequential thing like that. I also want to emphasize that I believe men have similar nagglets. I don't even believe women's are inherently harder to deal with. But, I'm a woman, and this is my blog, so I'm speaking from my experience, ya dig?

ANYWAY. You HEAR about all this stuff so much, but where are the solutions? Yeah, "Just don't listen to the screwed up voice," but, pssh, okay, THAT'S JUST AS EASY AS PIE. (Ohmygod pie. I should be baking pie right now. For all the men everywhere. But never eating any. MUST BE A SIZE TWO.)

Three women I love! On my couch! Man! I feel like a woman! Shania!

Here are two small things I think, ladies, we can do:

1. Acknowledge that stupid shamebot inside yourself and argue with it instead of brushing it away. Like, don't ignore, "You would be happier if you were prettier." Make a case. Be like, "You know what, I am actually already very happy, and if my face were different I would not have the experiences I have had. Also, what is 'pretty'?" Etc.
2. SMILE AT OTHER WOMEN. This sounds maybe really stupid, but I am actually pretty convinced it goes a long way. I was standing on the sidewalk the other day wearing my usual attire (disintegrating sports bra, sweat shorts, over-sized hoody) when a girl my age walked by in a cute lil work-out get-up. I felt a tinge of "I should maybe try harder."(This is what I'm talking about with the shamebot. Everyone knows there's no chance I'll ever "look cute" for a work-out, but there's still a kind of pressure or guilt bubbling up sometimes.) It occurred to me that if that girl had smiled at me, I would actually feel better. Like, she doesn't care I look like a trashball. She really doesn't. But in my head the world is judging me. But! I could interpret a smile as "Oh, you're good the way you are." I've been trying this since, smiling at every woman I come into direct contact with. Oh, you're super old wandering through the grocery store? I am smiling at you. Oh, you are wearing a muumuu today in the park? LET ME SHOW YOU IT DOESN'T MATTER WITH MY TEETH. And you know what? The ladies smile back. Also, it's not even really about the lame gesture (Dear sweet Poptarts--I have turned into someone who actually believes in the "power of a smile"). It's about truly loving other people just because they are people. Like, you are just as important young or old or fat or skinny or wearing some fancy lulu leggings or a navy blue heart tank top with holes in it. So, to be reminded of remind yourself of that by loving pretty rad.

This was really long, but I'm going away to the woods for four weeks on Saturday, so updates will be scarce.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bein' a Woman! (Part I)

When I was 13 a boy asked me to put away an encyclopedia for him in the library. I said no.  Even though we were both sitting down at the same table, he called me a bitch. I have recently realized that I have been a little scared of speaking about womanhood since that moment, which sounds ridiculously dramatic, but, nevertheless true. I also recently realized that that experience may have had nothing to do with gender at all. Middle school boys are weird!

It is okay to be a woman and talk about what you and women have in common and how women might be perceived. It is not always true, but sometimes it is. It's not unlovable to note how being a certain type of person has affected your experience. Also, to recognize or confront times you have been victimized by your type does not make you annoying. It also doesn't make you a victim. It just makes you potentially victimized sometimes. More importantly, it makes you aware of your surroundings, which is always a good thing. Oh, yeah! Talkin'
oppression also doesn't mean you inherently are mad at men--even in general. Everyone is still learning!

Mostly, being a woman is fun. Why, just look at this hilarious photo of my sister. Clearly enjoying her gender.
I can only speak for myself, but it's been like this:
Be a human. --> Learn that being a woman human can make things tough, at least historically. --> Try to navigate how that applies to you today. --> Find some things and discuss them. --> Get rolled eyes. (See: middle school) --> Feel annoyed and talk louder. --> See other women doing that and find it unattractive. --> Be more reasonable/ maybe a bit too quiet. --> Want to explore womanhood but do not want to be roped in with the stereotypical feisty male-haters. --> Realize it's not your problem that some people don't talk about womanhood well. You can. There are no rules to this.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Heat! (Some Spoilers, But, Like, Stuff You Coulda Guessed)

Welp. I loved The Heat.

Granted, I had an extremely generous mindset going into the theater--I wanted to love this movie. Oh, boy, did I want to love this movie. FIRST FEMALE BUDDY COPS, FEMALE SCREENWRITER, MIDDLE-AGE HEROINES, MELISSA MCCARTHY'S UNCONVENTIONAL BEAUTY! My gender equality dreamz exploding into unicorns.

Look, it's not GD American Beauty, but it's way way way better than, like, eighty percent of Will Ferrell's summer movies. I have way too much to think and say about this film, but this is my crummy blog, and I don't get paid for it, so I am just going to give some bullet points.

-It was just as exciting to see women run around with guns and narrowly dodging explosives as it would be watching men. Truth. Of course the amount of violence is problematic, but that's not what I'm focusing on right now.
-Witty, gritty women. Some of the banter and one-liners. #SupesSmartDialogue #SupesSmartDialogueInLadyMouths
-I was worried at first when the women were so horribly opposed, but I had to recognize that they were not just competitive women (cough, Bridesmaids), they were just two opposing protagonists. It's a buddy cop movie. That's how it goes.
-Perhaps women can be a little more emotional, but they don't have to be. The women become friends/learn from each other, but they maintain a playful hate/love relationship until the end. Like, women (especially women in the FBI maybe?) can be affectionate jerks.
-No sexualization besides minor comedic club dancing. More awkward than body-focused. In buddy cop comedies, we don't need to actually get into a dude's six-pack. Same goes got Sandra's bangin' bod.
-THAT said, the women talk about each other's appearances more than average cop duos might.  (Although, it does happen. Opening scene in 48 Hours.) But, let's be real...that's part of being a woman. That stuff matters more. It's natural, they would make it matter more in their conversation. It was never drippy. It was punchy and often entertaining.
-Men also commented a lot on their appearances/ages/hygiene. I think this may have been overblown. (The villain always commenting on the relative "hottness" of the pair.) But, possible (sad). It was done comedically like, "Oh, great! This silly guy not being attracted to Melissa LOL." In seriousness, I'm sure true male villains do use appearance as a wedge to make their female victims feel uncomfortable. But, that would be a different genre.
-Lack of romantic focus. Each woman had a little backstory (I'm wondering if to prove they weren't gay?) but not even a B plot worth. Not even a C plot worth.
-The supposedly touching friendship moment was actually touching for me. I wonder if it was just written well or if I could connect more as a lady. Is this what I have been missing out on bromance movies all this time!? Seriously felt slightly choked up. During The Heat.
-There was a big ol' lack of other women. One one hand, this was probably accurate. Female cops in high places? Meh? It helped show a subtle feminist message: woman against everyone else. But, I thought that may have been too strong. Of course Sandra wants a promotion that her male boss can't see she deserves. What if it had been a woman? Maybe, I'm reading too much into it.
-These humans were supremely unlikable at the outset and didn't get much better (although they grew on me). Perhaps showing some negative women blown up? I think no. I think that's just what comedy is. They were whole humans. That's the important thing. I mean, we can't complain about lack of women in film if we expect them all to be perfect. Perfect is boring.
-The plot skeleton was pretty intriguing. The cops are on the trail of a huge drug bust. Kinda one of the less important rings of investigation? (According to me, who, you know, doesn't know anything about the worst impacts of coke economy.) I guess it's comedy, so murders aren't the best bet. But, still...something about the women succeeding at a pyseduo-fruitless mission...Hm.
-For a female-centric movie, there were still a lot of dick jokes. But, part of standing up as a woman is making aiming some guns at guy crotches.
-No one ever made fun of Melissa's weight or even alluded to it. #SoFreakingHappy

Things are happening, and I feel really excited for the future.