Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sometimes only child-dom sucks

As an only child, I had the distinct privilege of enjoying the kind words of praise from loving (read: smothering) parents who thought I hung the moon. And pretty much I did, at least, by virtue of the fact that they had no other basis of comparison. I would always hear from my friends how they had to compete for attention with siblings in their household, and whoever shouted clever things loud enough, or won the most awards, or pissed in a way that was most pleasing to the ear won the undying affection of their parents and the tiara of "the favorite." By default, I was that. It's like having a Wal-Mart in your hometown and no Targets, Marshalls, Rosses, Costcos or malls. Even if Wal-Mart is a soul-sucking corporation who outsources their labor and continually mistreats their employees, you would never know the difference and you would brag to all your friends how great it was and take pictures of it and hang those pictures on your refrigerator underneath a Christmas card from Aunt Dora and Shoe, her chow mix who is wearing a Santa hat and bells.

So it's been a hard transition for me as an adult to NOT hear praise from others on a constant and/or frequent basis. When I write a headline I think clever, no one is standing over my shoulder nodding vehemently and offering me a plate of gingersnap cookies as a reward. When I say something witty two glasses of wine into a girls' night, and no one laughs, I wonder if it's just because they didn't hear me or maybe they are deaf. When I am wearing a new, cute outfit, there is no one to tell me how adorable I look, even when I really look like I just returned from a fight with a ball of orange yarn, a screwdriver and a feral tabby. And LOST.

My constant need for approving words and approval in general is really my Achilles' Heel. No, not even a Heel. More like a Leg, Knee and Thigh. I have to remind myself that no one except for George Clooney or Milla Jovovich is getting that kind of constant praise and even if I was? It would probably become real cloying real fast. The grass is always greener, right?

I could see how people who constantly put themselves out there with photos on Flickr, videos on Vimeo, or popular blogs would get tired of the good and bad side of public scrutiny. On the one hand, I still think it's a little like begging for compliments when you pose in a million photos and then act surprised when one of your "friends" or "contacts" says how lovely you look. But on the other hand, sometimes my stupid only child mindset still surfaces and I'm like, "what about meeee?" (said in the tone of a three-year-old beating the kitchen floor with her fists and slinging drool all over the linoleum). This, even though I have no Flickr, Vimeo, or Twitter accounts, nor a blog anyone can "see."

In this age of do-it-yourself celebritudinalism, I have come to the conclusion that the ability to cast yourself forth into the virtual or real world's eye so easily allows EVERYONE to exert their only child.

And maybe that's ok. And maybe I should be ok with the fact that no one reads this blog but my boyfriend. Probably because I haven't really linked it to any other site I'm actively on, but part of me thinks DAMMIT, I'm a decent writer and by force of me pounding keys which make pretty words into the keyboard, somehow other users will STOP WHAT THEY ARE DOING IN MID-CLICK and be like, "oh my GAWD. do you hear that sound?? THAT is the sound of a decent writer saying important, weighty things on a blog that I had no idea about! I'm just going to GUESS this kickass blog's url until I find it. WHICH MAY TAKE FOREVER. But jesus, she's an only child and she needs my comments and that is more important than feeding my crying child or going to work!" After which they immediately slug a glass of Robitussin and fly out the window because that is how magic works and the internet is MAGIC.

So, if you ever find this blog, humor me and tell me what you think. I'm currently accepting good praise, lukewarm praise and cash donations made out to: Genius Sorceress of the Written Word/Only Child.

Alternately, you could just make me a plate of gingersnap cookies. And pat my head. And tell me I'm a princess while I twirl around the kitchen floor with my tiara and magic wand.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tuppence is for the birds

Maybe it was all the Masterpiece Theat-ah I watched when I was a nerd in high school and had no social life beyond fantasizing what it would be like to make out and possibly go to third base with Mr. Knightley (from Emma fame), but on the rare times that I encounter a British person, I am always tempted to mimic them.

Not in an aping sense, don't get me wrong, more in a pure "I want to lick your chin to soak up your accent" sort of way. It really is kind of a problem. My inner brain (devil) has this mastery of assimilation, so that when I listen to some poor stranger who happens to have the curse of the Anglo-Saxon fresh upon him, I am compelled by King James I (in a metaphorical kind of way, of course) to form words in my head that take on a British slant. Like:

Random British sucker: "Right, my name is Chahles. Ah-nd yaahs?"
Me (in my head): Name's Suh Dee. Right proh-pah introduction, that."
Me (in real life): "Ummmmmm....Figs! I like figs! And geraniums! Oooh - look, a bright light! Is that tin foil?"

Oftentimes after that heady, genius interchange, I will grab the nearest piece of tree bark and start feasting upon it. Because I have to handicap myself, using crippling, nonsensical, Rain Man-type speech and slow rocking motions, for all the idolatry and imitation going on inside my stupid head. Because clearly this stunting of my own intelligence is a far superior choice to the humiliation that would accompany actually speaking in a faux British accent back to them, a la Madonna, when they obviously already knew I was American. It would upset the delicate balance of diplomacy, string theory and sociology. Did I mention humiliation? Or the fact that they would think I was a lunatic (although really, this might not totally alter their world-view of Americans)?

This, I feel, might be the real reason we won the American Revolution. They, quite frankly, had sickened of us acting like 'tards trying to drop their accents and chuck their tea in a sad attempt to Turrets them away. Guess what? It WORKED. Sadder yet, who's laughing now?

Them. In their chin-licking-worthy elegant accents, flicking us away with their Union Flag 'brellies like a pestilent blowfly. I hate myself.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A passage, or maybe just a tight squeeze

First, a poem, one of my favorites since I was 14 or so, by Archibald MacLeish (

L'An Trentiesme de Mon Eage*

And I have come upon this place
By lost ways, by a nod, by words,
By faces, by an old man's face
At Morlaix lifted to the birds,

By hands upon the tablecloth
At Adlebori's, by the thin
Child's hands that opened to the moth
And let the flutter of the moonlight in,

By hands, by voices, by the voice
Of Mrs. Whitman on the stair,
By Margaret's "If we had the choice
To choose or not --" through her thick hair,

By voices, by the creak and fall
Of footsteps on the upper floor,
By silence waiting in the hall
Between the doorbell and the door,

By words, by voices, a lost way --
And here above the chimney stack
The unknown constellations sway--
And by what way shall I go back?

(*English translation - "In the thirtieth year of my age" or "In my 30th year")

I have always loved this poem; for some reason, even as a teenager, it spoke to me with the delicacy and deliberate pacing of these memory tufts the speaker has accumulated in his 30 years. I hadn't even looked at this poem for a long while, but tonight, the porch light trembling outside and the lilting breath of a quietly chill Texas night made me want to reread it.

Also, it spoke to me now more than ever. Being 30 is like being a middle manager. You have the wisdom of hard knocks from your more naive and dumb 20s, yet you are only starting to grasp the larger concepts at work in the world: love, perfection, loss and eventually, death. You start to remember what led you to this point through the fractured yet sustainable lens of what came before, what you suffered, what you did not suffer, what you felt and mixed all through this is the ever-widening canvas of vivid snapshots, just like the "child's hands that opened to the moth/And let the flutter of moonlight in."

You feel (or at least I feel) like you can grasp some epiphany, some revelation, if you just stretch your hands out far enough, but you have not earned the wisdom and stoicism yet to do so.

Even while acknowledging the breadth and power of time, you still marvel at how much time HAS already passed, and wish you could go back, reboot, relive some particular moment or instance that you took for granted years ago.

You feel like your footstep resounds in the doorway, but you don't know which doorway it is; you don't remember the exact pacing step that led there. But you do know that you must go through it, if you are to advance.

Tonight is a ruminating kind of night. The wheel advances, overarches, heavily falls again. Tomorrow, I may feel differently. But right now, I am fine here in this passageway, so exactly 30, so inexactly molded.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

blind leading the...well...blind

At the baggage claim at ABIA, there was a group of blind high schoolers. I guess it never really piqued my interest before - how DO the blind find their luggage on the steel-partitioned carousel? But dammit if I wasn't fascinated tonight. I could not take my eyes off them. They were leaning slightly over the carousel and palming, cupping, caressing the blank air between bags. One of them finally caught one that was his - from a single touch, he immediately assessed it was the correct bag. I wish I could learn this sensory-rote technique. I wish I could find a way to memorize the tactile sensation, the solid grace and texture, of even one of my possessions.

Like a lover's face, is it possible for a seeing woman to divine the shape and grain of a thing based purely on touch and measure?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Not a care in the world in '09

I was just now brushing my teeth and out of the corner of my eye, noticed that the expiration date of my Stress Tabs(R) was 6/09. Am I to take this to mean that by age 31.5, all stress will be completely gone from my life, I won't have a care in the world and I will finally figure out how to play sudoku? A girl can dream.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 - This year's (slightly newer) model

So I don't think atrocious actually even begins to describe how bad I have been about posting this year. In fact, seeing as how my last entry was almost a year ago, I will simply let that ignominious fact speak for itself and say no more.

But, it's that time of the year, time for reflecting briefly on the old and pushing forward towards the light of a new year, and frankly, I think my 2007 ended quite well. The first half of the year was shit, but the last half turned out decently - and dare I say - tentatively great. Here's the 5-second rundown:
The Good:
-Moved to Austin, got a job from heaven
-Started working out/running again and have thus far lost 12 lbs.
-Got reacquainted with some old friends
-Practiced a much healthier eating regime that includes lots of veggies, fresh and organic produce and less of the sauce
-Became more tech-savvy, which is good, because I am an interactive writer. Ha!
-Got a new car, computer and phone, all of which rawk

The Bad:
-Commute to see the bf on the weekends continues to teh suck
-Last job in hellish work environment surrounded by mentally unstable folk took years off my life. Ugh.
-Let myself gain about 25 lbs and am now atoning for the fried food and booze sins of my former bad self

That just about sums my 2007 up. How was yours? I hope you had good health, good memories and few mishaps or setbacks, although if you did, here's hoping you will have a better new year.

And speaking of, it's now time for my wish list of NY's resolutions for 2008. "Wish" list, you ask? Why, yes. I call it a wish list because I know myself and am a pragmatic, sane person (although my bf might disagree and point in the general direction of my shoe collection). I am a perfectionist by nature and by practice, and realize that in pinning myself to a set number of goals, I will turn into a basket case if I perform them all less than perfectly. Some of them may not be accomplished in the next, oh, 364 days, a few might be unreasonable at the outset and have to be later amended and possibly one might be fool's gold in concept. This way I am putting forth the goals that I *wish* and hope and pray I can accomplish, or at least turn down the right road toward. In no particular order, here they are:

Be kinder
Yes, I am generally a peaceful, nice person. Yes, I have a temperamental streak that can surface in moments of anger or frustration. But this goal is multi-faceted, and doesn't just include the desire to adapt a more composed, zen-like mentality. It also includes being kinder to myself - pampering myself whenever possible, not kicking the shit out of said self when I do not perform according to the unreasonable or unattainable standards my head has for my body. It also includes being kind to and in thoughts about others. In the past couple of years, I have retained a scary amount of bile and anger and righteousness towards certain people and situations that I cannot truly control, even when they don't directly affect me. This is very unhealthy. I would love some behavior modification to take place, and God help me I don't know how it will, but I am going to try and seek it out. I have to let go of some anger. I have to make myself not care about things that are a good deal like the proverbial "elephant outside the tent," aka, things I have no power over.

Quit smoking
This is a no-brainer, but I really feel this is the year I will want to as opposed to feeling like I should. Hypnotism is a tangible avenue that I am doing a lot of research on. I will keep you posted on this one.

Become more tech-savvy
For Christ's sake, I live in one of the most tech-savvy cities in the nation and work as a supposed expert on the internet. I really need to increase my knowledge of interactive trends, up and coming designers/websites and key industry leaders. I really want to try and attend SXSW Interactive this year, but the ticket prices are such a pretty penny. Maybe work will sponsor me. Who knows. If that doesn't happen, I can still accomplish this goal thru regular perusal of online mags and tech sites, participation in advertising forums or contests and self-teaching.

Get creative
I *try* to be creative about 8-11 hours of the day for work, but I have really let my personal writing go to hell. As in, I am not doing any of it, unless you count writing reviews on *sigh* I would love to start writing poetry again, then READING it at local open mike nights, attend/join writer's groups and/or forums/symposiums and read more new lit. Also, I got a camera for xmas and I intend to learn more about photography. Now, I'm not going to turn into those annoying, naval-gazing amateur photog assholes I hate who "experiment" with lomo and holgas and construction paper because they think they are arty - I am talking about taking scenic or interesting personal pics for ME and learning how to use my camera. I would also love to try and publish, too, whether online or in print. I figure baby steps - posting more regularly here is geared towards helping me to get the juices flowing again, so to speak.

Get fitter
This is more of a continuation of the strides (pun intended) I have been making in the last 4 months. My ultimate goal might be to run another half-marathon, but I haven't sussed out the details on that one yet. Stay tuned. Definitely going to lose the rest of the weight I gained last year, though. That is a certainty. I will fit back into my size 4 jeans. Oh yes...

Learn to cook a wider range of things
I am already pretty good about cooking a lot at home, and I can follow a recipe, but I would love to become more of a foodie this year. Not a snob, mind you, just someone who knows what ingredients do, their shape and texture, how they perform, what their essence is. I intend to do this by perhaps taking a cooking class or three, visiting more farmer's markets and researching and - of course - experimenting. Learning more about wine pairings would be bonus, too.

Go to Europe
This is pretty self-explanatory. I am 30 years old and have never been outside the contiguous continent. Sad and pathetic, but honest. I want to change that, and how.

Well, those are the big ones. If I had to have an overarching theme, a grand goal of sweeping caliber, I would say that removing toxicity from my life will be my biggest aim of 2008. Interpret that how you will, given the above list. Your mileage may vary. And that, my friends, is a good thing, I promise.

We'll talk soon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

good feedback = bad, worse, worst

Writing is not so much a lost art these days as it is an antediluvian, outmoded discipline that appears to have been supplanted by, like much else, a D-I-Y commerce; easily manufactured and readily available for the masses. New blogs are flung up on the web in almost unending succession; like tumors – the bad ones seem to sprout up faster and in much higher frequency than the good ones. These days, everyone seems to believe that they are a writer.

The error in logic here is that just because you have taken the time to spout out your personal opinions on the Super Bowl® ads, or the new high-rise in your neighborhood that obstructs the view of the park, you obviously must have something meaningful to say, ergo, you put it on your blog, and ergo, you are a writer. And while I am not dissing anyone’s genuinely heartfelt sentiments, I am still of the old school that concurs you must have the God-given talent, or at least put in the time and effort, to call yourself a writer and have the designation seem less than laughable.

While I do not normally read Stephen King, I did read his book ‘On Writing’ and found myself agreeing with most of it. One point that was relevant here was the answer to the question of how much should one write if one is to be a writer. His rather inarguable stance is that it must be every day (he only takes off for holidays, if that), and it must be uninterrupted. While I don’t know if all of us have the luxury of taking hours and hours of time out of the day to write to said requirements, the guy has a good point.

There is no reason to call yourself a writer if you don’t make writing a regular habit. Blogging doesn’t count. To me, blogging is just practice on a more accessible scale. If you started writing on a blog because of a life impetus such as depression, your dog, or someone laughed at an email you wrote once, you are still not a writer. Indeed, if blogging is the only form of writing you’ve ever done, aside from a short required essay on The Canterbury Tales in Miss Milton’s 10th grade English class, you are a card-carrying non-writer who is keeping an online diary in hopes that a certain audience that perhaps you have cultivated will give you enough positive reinforcement to convince you that you are.

The dangerous trap here is this positive reinforcement, and I guarantee that those are the folks who turn off all the negative feedback on their site so that they can pretend everyone who visits is basking in the 100-watt glare of their literary brilliance. It is the most blatant yet insidious form of self-congratulation and navel-gazing I can think of. On the contrary, the true test of whether or not you are a writer is the biggest leap of all: exposing yourself to the potentially cold hard truth that you are not.

When I was in one of my journalism classes in college, my professor was a kindly man who was a savage with the red pen. He drilled the rules of the Style Guide into our heads so hard that I still have a divot in the back of mine to this day, and sometimes spontaneously wonder if I am leading a paragraph with the most important fact. My papers would always come back afloat in a sea of red, even when I was so sure my every title and comma was airtight. But here’s the thing – I got better. I grew as a writer and why? Because I had a critical eye on it. Because he wasn’t making comments like this:
“You are such a beautiful master of words, (insert name here). I just know that a shining talent like yours will always prevail, despite your recent problems with depression.”
This kind of syncophantic blather can nearly always be found peppering every hack’s blog. But I guarantee that if the same entry which avid admirers so readily heap praise upon was brought before a teacher in the Language Arts, they would receive nothing more than a big red C, D, or F with comments more to the tune of, “Composition and syntax problems. Material is trite and unoriginal; read Woolf or Salinger for examples on narrative flow.”

The ironic final thought here is that I, in writing this Molotov cocktail love note to a portion of bloggers out there, am myself using the same medium which I just now lambasted. But frankly, this is just practice for me. I write full-time, 8-12 hours a day for a living and my position is defensible. Can I get better as a writer? Of course. Does it take practice, perhaps a lifetime of it? As the old fortunetelling black ball says, signs point to yes. Will I incur negative feedback here precisely because of the subject matter? Probably so.

But you know what? At least I’m not turning it off.

Now. I’m taking my toys and going home. Pbtpbtpbtpbtp!!!!!