Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Writing Standpoint is Super Immoral

An Open Letter to Julie Plec

(written in anticipation of 4x17, with an update written post-viewing)

I’m calling this a letter, but it’s really a list of demands. I’m kind of like a serial killer that way. (I don’t know, just go with it.)

Dear Julie Plec,

You’re so great and you make me so upset. These two things are the same, really. Anyway, love the show. And I have some thoughts about what could make it EVEN BETTER. (Listen, Damon has been my favorite character since episode one, so I’m absolutely the kind of delusional that makes someone think they can write something like this. In case you were confused. Oh, and the moment I started enjoying the show? I’m pretty sure it was when I sarcastically thought to myself, ‘God, that coach is fucking annoying, can someone just kill him, please?’ and maybe thirty seconds later Damon ripped his throat out. I think I laughed and also cheered? Yep, that’s me.)

So here we go.

Damon and Elena need to have sex again. This one is fairly self-explanatory. Recently, she brushed tearily past him in the hallway, not even really sparing him a second glance, and I was SO OVERCOME BY THE CHEMISTRY. Seriously. That was a hot brush-by. Just saying.

I would like Alaric to be alive again, but failing that, can we just have him ghost around a little bit? I don’t know, Matt could fake drown again and start seeing ghosts like Jeremy used to? And he could talk to Ric? It'd be weird, but I just want him back so bad.

I need Damon and Lexi to have had sex at some point. And to have never told Stefan about it because I LOVE WHEN YOU GO TO THE FUCKED UP PLACE SO MUCH. (Kudos if you've already done this, Plec. Extra kudos if it was clearly violent hatesex. Extra extra if it happened more than once. If it did, then I'm probably already supplying a back story of them maintaining a sexual relationship for basically the entire last century, probably only stopping when Lexi met her little boyfriend, but possibly not even then. I may or may not now be assuming that they had sex shortly before Damon killed her. Because that's how I roll.)

I would like it if Damon and Bonnie could be besties. One day, they need to realize that they are the only ones who ever make sense about anything, Bonnie’s late crazy aside, and that for that reason alone, but also because they deeply love each other, they need to be best friends. Also Bonnie should drink more. Like Bonnie should probably be drunk a lot. She's got mad reason for it. Damon can teach her how to function with raging alcoholism.

On that note, it would be super amusing if anyone ever pointed out that Damon is basically the worst alcoholic in the history of time. If you took a shot every time he’s shown drinking or holding a drink on this show, you would DIE BECAUSE NO ONE CAN DRINK THAT MUCH. I know, I know, he’s a vampire, he can deal with it. I accept that he can deal with. But I also think that considering how constantly his life is under threat, maybe being drunk 100% of the time is not the best survival strategy.

So my final, and by far most important demand, is that Damon get naked again. Preferably for no reason at all. Failing that, laughably thin reasons will do. Here's looking at you, shirt change that served absolutely no God but nudity. By the way, Plec, that scene basically guaranteed that I will love you forever, even if you ignore my demands. Also all those times he was in a shower when, again, there was no reason why he should have been. No blood to wash off, no grime to clear away. That time it was just morning so you started the scene in the shower? Glorious. That time he and Sage walked in there to makeout and "not be heard by Rebeckah" even though they proceeded not to talk at all? Beautiful. Walking around with his shirt open in that motel room despite the presence of a sleeping teenage boy? Strange and fabulous. More of that, please.

"Shall I change out of this black v-neck and into a slightly less black v-neck whilst struggling heroically against an overwhelming desire to have sex with the girl who's currently in the room with me and openly daring me to have sex with her? Why yes I shall. Because MY SKIN IS FLAWLESS and everyone should have a chance to know that." It's THAT kind of thinking that really makes this show something special.

Okay, it's official: in my heart I now completely believe that Damon and Lexi had an ongoing sexual relationship behind Stefan's back for at least a century, that it did not cease when she met her one true love, and that they, in fact, had sex again, somewhere in the Salvatore house, within 72 hours of him murdering her. Also that, somehow, she'd always completely understood that one day one of them would kill the other, and she continued to have sex with him anyway.


unicorns and puppy dogs,


Look, Plec, I have a catalogue in my head of the times Damon has been naked on this show, and I have not been able to update it since Christmas. So go ahead and let that thought haunt you, you heartless thief of joy.

That being said, Damon in the ’70s is officially the greatest thing you’ve ever done.

The first two and a half minutes of this episode? I could basically watch that over and over again until I die. And I just wanted to...thank you for that.

Just a thought, totally random--wouldn’t it be great if vampires had their own version of the Vulcan nerve pinch? They’re immortal and shit. You’d think they could figure SOMETHING out. It’d be nice for all the vampires who aren’t super interested in murder.

I AM SO PLEASED ABOUT DAMON AND LEXI. But in case you were wondering, in my head, nothing has changed. I still deeply believe that they just carried out a century-long, hate-fueled, top-secret, grossly violent sexual relationship that only ended when he killed her. Again, Damon was my favorite character long before he became plausibly redeemable. If anyone was confused.

Also, listen, I may be the only one in all of fandom, but I would fucking love it if you brought back the fucking crows. That shit was ridiculous and completely awesome. Cheesy and bizarre, yes. But, seriously, also awesome.

And I don’t know, it would have been cool if the Originals had had weird fucking powers like that, you know? Like if Elijah had fucking lions following him wherever the hell he went because fuck it, he’s an Original. He’ll have an entourage of lions if he wants to.

Just saying, that’s a thing you could do.

In lieu of that, can we maybe just have an entire spinoff series of Damon fucking around in the ’70s? I WOULD WATCH IT FOREVER and you wouldn’t even have to come up with a plot, I promise. I would seriously just watch him killing people to a punk rock soundtrack, provided he occasionally woke up naked for no reason at all.

At all.

rainbows and kitty cats,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Unwrite Your Life! Part Two!

(in which we write down another list)

So approximately four billion years ago, I wrote a list of all the things I needed to do before I moved to Seattle.  Since then, I’ve done most of those things, and also I’ve moved to Seattle.  So I haven’t really posted much in the meantime.  But I figure now is as good a time as any to fulfill a somewhat specious promise, no?  Well, here it is.

Things I Want to Do Sometime Before I Die
(because it would kind of be too late after)

-Hangliding.  Or sky-diving.  Or something that could definitely, definitely kill me, but has safety precautions that are supposed to make you feel better about it.  No base-jumping, though.  That just seems stupid.

-Climb Mount Rainier!  Climb more in general, too.  Rainier’s a lot closer now than it used to be though, so it gets to be the name on this list.

-Go camping in the Badlands.  Mom and I stopped a little while there on the trip out here, and they were fucking amazing, and I definitely want to go back and sleep there.  Possibly stare down a wild animal or two.

-Go on a really extended camping trip.  I used to go on two-or-three day ones when I was a kid--with my childhood biffel Liz, with Girl Scouts, and with the private school I went to for the first 3 years of Elementary.  Anyway, I loved camping.  I haven’t done it in a long time, and I’m definitely pickier about sleep-things now, but I miss it heartily.  And I really want to do it for a longer period of time.  A week or so.  This is a little bit connected to the next one on the list--

-Live with the Amish!  For a little while.  Basically I have this fantasy of cutting myself off from technology completely.  I know, people are supposed to freak the hell out when they contemplate a separation from their beloved iPhones, but first of all, I don’t have an iPhone, I have a Blackberry.  And second, I love the idea of being cut-off.  During my senior year of high school, our English teacher had us read Walden.  Pretty much everybody else hated it.  It was a little tedious--the dude goes on for pages about the supplies he bought.  PAGES.  But secretly I really loved that book.  And I loved a number of the related assignments, too--especially the one where we had to write out an essay by hand.

I have long been a notebook-lover.  I have a huge box of all the notebooks I’ve ever used up, and I also have a collection of notebooks awaiting my future abuse.  Like my teacher at the time, I love the idea of writing things by hand.  But the practice does not fit well into modern life.  Still, I’ve always kept a notebook, and after senior year, I started thinking of it as a kind of philosophy.  Writing things out by hand forces you to slow down; I think it’s something most people would benefit from.

Anyway, embedded in that is my secret fantasy of running away from the universe and going to live with the Amish.  Totally cut off from the bill-paying, email-reading needs of everyday life.  Of course, this is probably the one thing on the list that I will never do.  Mainly because I’m pretty sure I’d have to eat meat, and I don’t think I could do that.  Plus I’m deathly afraid of those giant, old-timey dresses.

-More running.  I haven’t run in a while, but while I was running, I couldn’t seem to crack the two-mile marker.  I could get up to about 1.8, but I just couldn’t breach that last stretch.  Anyway, I’d like to get back to running, and I’d like to run 2 or 3 or even 4 miles at a time!  I know, it’s a lofty goal.

-Visit, like, everywhere. Primarily Europe.  I’ve only been outside the United States twice--once to Mexico, once to Canada.  Mexico was about a day, and Canada only a few hours.  I happen to live a lot closer to Vancouver now, so as soon as I can, I plan on pushing my outside-the-US experience past the 48-hour mark.  And who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll make it off the continent entirely.  I’d like to see the Parthenon, and also Hogwarts.  Okay, sure, maybe there is no Hogwarts.  But how can I really know unless I check?

So that’s about it for now.  Except for the obligatory “become a millionaire” one.  Stay tuned for part three, where I elaborate on what happens after I do become a millionaire.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brand New Horizon

(in which we discuss the finer points of city living)

A few weeks ago, I got stopped by a homeless guy on the street.  I still felt new to the city: I knew the routes to and from all the necessary places, but they didn’t feel like habit yet.  And the nighttime walk home from work still looked like the opening scene in a horror movie.

In short, the homeless guy unsettled me.

Most of the time, I can duck around just about anybody and get away without real interaction.  I think a lifetime of shyness has prepped me pretty well for walking through a city; my immediate response to any reaching out is to shrink and squirm away.  But I was distracted that day.  I had a build-up of texts and emails on my phone, and I was still within sight of work, so I hadn’t yet built up the wall of resistance.  Anyway, he took me by surprise, and before I knew it, we were in some deviated form of conversation.

He started off with a “hey, can’t you help me out.”  I think I responded with a deer-in-the-headlights look.

He proceeded to tell me that I look like a Barbie doll, to hug me without my permission, and to ask if I could give him some sanitary napkins.  I answered, in an especially girly voice, that I didn’t have any, and ran away.

I had to throw the shirt straight in the laundry, of course.  I’m not saying all homeless guys are dirty, but I think if they’re asking for sanitary napkins, you can probably assume.  Besides, who knows who that guy has hugged?

I thought about it the whole way home.  I tried to think my way through it, so I could shrug it off me like a sweater and forget it ever happened.  I ended up wondering most about the Barbie thing.  I don’t look remotely like a Barbie, so it puzzled me.  Maybe he thought all young women look like Barbies, or maybe all white girls?  Or maybe someone had told him that was the best way to give a lady a compliment.  Or, maybe, he really thought I looked like one.  I usually clip my hair up so that some of it kind of bounces over the side, and I don’t know--that could look like a Barbie thing?  The bouncing bit?

Or maybe I should stop trying to analyze the verbal stylings of a man asking for sanitary napkins.

Anyway, when I got back to my apartment, I just thought, “Hey, welcome to the city, kid.”

The homeless here are ubiquitous.  I don’t know if Seattle has an especially high population of homeless, or if I notice it because the city is so beautiful and full of trees and you can always see the water, or if I notice it because I grew up in the suburbs and I really don’t know what city life is like.  But much like the napkin man, that fact of it took me by surprise.

I guess I’m used to it now.  I’ve got my bob-and-weave style down.  I know the way home and I don’t care about taking it at night.  Sometimes when I walk the overpass, I just stand there a while.  Twenty feet to my left is a mini-park, and most nights, someone sleeps there.  The homeless go to bed early.  By my standards, anyway.

Sometimes I play a game.  I don’t know if the game is evidence of my slack morality and poor character, or if it’s just a self-protective reflex against a horror I have no power to change.  I call it “Homeless or Hipster?”  It’s pretty self-evident: I see someone who looks unwashed, unshaven, carrying a bag or two, sitting on the ground.  I take a guess.  If eventually I see a Starbucks cup or a sketch in progress, then hipster it is.  If one of the bags is a trash bag, then it’s homeless.  Sometimes I never reach a definitive conclusion.

When I think back on the napkin man, it brings up a few tangential thoughts.  I don’t like to be hugged by people.  There are exceptions, but in general, I’m not a hugger.  Of course, being hugged by a homeless man is a little worse than being hugged by a clean, employed acquaintance, but I would request neither.  Unfortunately for me, a lot of girls like to hug.  When I was a kid, girls liked hugging, and squealing, and makeup, and Leonardo DiCaprio.  I was kind of into black eyeliner, but the rest of these were lost on me.  Still, I was acutely aware of how well, or not well, I fit with other girls, so I learned to adapt.  I don’t shrink away from the hug.  I let it happen, and I don’t even wince.  I do tend to over-pat though.  Excessive back-patting is now my thing.  I think it’s my involuntary method of distancing myself from the hug.  You can get the girl out of awkward, but...

One of my housemates in college was sitting in our living room one day, reading about prisoners on death row.  They’re all in isolation, and they’re there for years.  The isolation drives them a little insane, in the strangest ways.  Apparently more than a few of them start acting out with the intention of getting the guards to beat them up.  It’s been so long since they’ve been touched by another human being that even this rough treatment is preferable to nothing.

I can’t help but connect the story of the prisoners to the napkin man.  I don’t have any words to give the connection, but it’s there.  I suppose it’s another self-protective reflex that we ignore it.  But sometimes I wish we wouldn’t.  I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t.  I don’t know what there is to do.  And I guess most other people don’t either.  So we back-pat a little excessively, give a heavy sigh and a shrug, and go about our days.

The shyness has served me well.  I know just how to lock down any connection, any unwanted emotion, and shove it in a box somewhere.  I’m never touched by anything unwanted for too long.  Already, the napkin man has faded from unpleasantness.

I don’t know what disservice I do myself with this.  I don’t really have the time to figure it out.  Who ever does?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Unwrite Your Life!

Hello, blog babies!

Upon reflection, I have realized that my last post, though earnest, was a bit of a downer.  So I figure maybe it’s time for an upper--or, at least, a post that wouldn’t sound weird if you read the whole thing in an up-at-the-end valley-girl accent.

How do I think I might accomplish this?  By listing things, of course!

At any given time, I have lists floating around in my head.  Sometimes I write them down, but usually I don’t.  Basically, I prefer to keep my entire life-schedule memorized at all times, thereby eliminating the need for a planner--or written down lists.

I’m usually surprisingly good at doing this.  Or, let me rephrase--I’m surprisingly well organized compared to a lot of other people, considering that I never write anything down.

It’s not a foolproof system, obviously.  For some reason, even if I can remember 15 different meetings/work times/classes for weeks on end, even when the times change (and in the jobs I’ve worked, they changed quite a bit,) I cannot seem to remember more than two grocery items at a time.

But, alas, there comes a time in a young man’s life when she must admit that owning a planner is maybe the adult thing to do.  So...I don’t know...I guess I’ll get one of those sometime...maybe.

In the meantime, I’m going to write down some of my life-lists right! here!

Right now, my three working lists are: Things I Seriously Need to Do in the Next Few Weeks, Things I Want to Do Sometime Before I Die, and Things I Would Do if I Got the Novel Published and/or Won the Lottery Despite Never Buying Lottery Tickets.


Things I Seriously Need to Do in the Next Few Weeks:

-Trade in my car!  I’m actually working on this one.  This very Saturday, I have plans to see some cars.  I love Cherie (the 2001 Hyundai Elantra I’ve been driving for 3 years and yes, I named her, and yes, she has a gender, shut up,) but she’s getting on in years.  I can’t even drive her to work without experiencing a paralyzing-death-fear anytime I hear a sound I cannot immediately place.  And, um, not a huge deal or anything, but I’m sort of moving to Seattle in a few weeks?  Yeah, that’s a thing.  And Cherie is not gonna survive that trek.  So, sadly, I must put her to pasture and start anew.

speaking of Seattle...

-Find a new place to live!  I could write SEVERAL paragraphs on this one, but it takes up about half of my waking thought already, so I’m gonna breeze right past it instead.

-Find a new job!  Basically, I’ve been going on and searching “creative writer.”  I’ve found a few good ones, several more mediocre ones, and ones that at least sound better than how I get my money now.  So...yay?  I’m also halfway signed up with a tutoring service.  Yay for my SAT scores getting me paid!!!

-Buy a new computer!  Seriously.  Seriously.  I’m on Momsy’s right now.  It’s burning my fingers.  My own personal computer has been incapable of turning on for three months.

-Really, really, figure out what I can leave behind, and start packing all of it.  I’ve got way too much stuff.  It can’t all come with me.  I’ve already donated a mess load of stuff--mostly things that have been in storage for 5+ years--the kind of stuff I didn’t want to take to college with me but just couldn’t quite part with yet.  I’ve parted with a lot of it now, but I still have almost a whole box of Buffy magazine cutouts.  It kind of looks like I’m a Buffy-obsessed serial killer.  (Which surprises no one, I’m sure.)

Alright.  This is getting a little long, so let’s break it into parts, shall we?  We shall!

Here concludes part one.  Part two will, of course, be--”Things I Want to Do Sometime Before I Die.”

Night night, blog babies.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

That Old Friend, Shame

(Warning: this is a long post, and it has no pictures.)

Today,  I read something that brought me right back to my teen years in a way few things can.  I say “few things can” because I have spent a lot of emotional and intellectual energy repressing this part of my life.  I don’t like to think about it, because even after all this time, and even though I have come to love and respect myself in a way I couldn’t then, a few things still have unmitigated power to reduce me.

I should clarify: by “teen years” I specifically mean the years that I was 12 and 13.  Mostly, I mean the year I was 12, aka 6th grade, but I dealt with a lot of emotional fallout the next year, too.  Specifically, I mean my suicide attempt when I was 13.  (This is a big bomb to drop in a throwaway sentence, but believe me when I say that it is a separate story, which bears mentioning here because it is a part of my emotional landscape.  Everything has a context, and this is a part of mine.)

Here is the piece I read, for anyone who is interested:

The author primarily talks about the awful psychological effects of racism, and the experience of being categorized a racial “other.”  Especially the experience for a kid or teenager.  Of course, I am white, so I have never been forced to go through this.  But I understood and empathized with everything she said; I kept thinking “god, I know what you mean.”  Why?  Because when I was a teenager, I was overweight.  Still am, in fact.

I don’t like to talk about it.  I don’t think it’s anybody else’s business.  And I’m not done being ashamed about it.  I’ve known other fat girls (and fat men and fat women and fat anything) who own it, but that will never be me.  I can, on occasion, be totally comfortable with my body--but I never totally banish that last layer of shame.

It was at its worst when I was 12, which is kind of funny now, because looking back, I know that I didn’t have anything to be ashamed of.  But shame isn’t about truth.  It’s about perception and emotion.  And, oh boy, it’s about paranoia.  That Iago voice in your head telling you that you will never be good enough, that no one will ever love you.  Shame is the thing that answers that voice when you find something about yourself that, you think, proves Iago right.

I have one perfect moment of shame that will forever be tattooed on the walls of my head.  One time, in sixth grade, I walked to the front of a classroom to turn in my homework, and I heard the two boys who sat behind me giggling together.  I don’t remember if I asked my friend what they were talking about, or if she told me spontaneously, but I do remember exactly what she told me they’d said.  One had turned to the other and said, “Look at the fat in her butt jiggling when she walks.  Jiggle, jiggle.”  The other laughed, extensively.

Wait, let me backtrack--at first, I did not remember EXACTLY what they’d said.  I remembered the words “butt” and “jiggling.”  I’d forgotten the word “fat,” until I thought it over again.  I’d suppressed the word.  And then I remembered.  The weapon of the word “fat.”  The word I have obsessively avoided for most of my life.  The word that can make me feel like I am somehow worse than everyone else.  Somehow less than nothing.

Like I said before, I will never be a fat girl who owns it.  I will never be someone who names her blog “A Fabulous Fat Girl Takes Manhattan!”*  I love the woman who does that, but I will never be her.  I don’t have her courage.

*(Ahem--as far as I know, this is not a real blog, but one I invented on the spot.  If it is a real blog, I promise I did not mean to step on any intellectual property toes.)

I ended up “telling” on those boys.  And, like these things often do, it ended up biting me in the ass.  I informed a counselor, who checked the story with the several students who’d heard them.  The boys were pulled into an office for a scolding, and the worse offender was sent home for the day.  Somehow, this resulted in the following rumor: “Sara got [Boy 1] suspended for five days because she’s a bitch!”

A--Not true.  Kid was back the next day, yet the rumor persisted for weeks.  As in, random people came up to me weeks later and asked, “Aren’t you the one who got [Boy 1] suspended?”

B--Really?  I got him suspended with, what, the power of my mind?  I get that we were all 12, but did NONE of these kids think, for even a second, that you can’t actually just decide to get someone suspended and then do it?  Did NO ONE say “okay, but, actually, what was the reason they gave for suspending him? Because ‘Sara said so’ is not a real thing?  Guys?”  Apparently not, because for weeks after, I was plagued by dirty looks from every single one of his popular friends.  And an occasional audible muttering of “bitch” from Boy 2.

Of course, I was immune to that by then.  I crossed my arms and rolled my eyes and bought even more black clothes.  But deep down, I felt deeply, violently threatened.

And I got the message.  I had developed breasts and hips a little too early, and as someone with hips might be, I wasn’t stick-skinny.  And that gave boys the right to sexually harass me.  And if I had the gall to challenge that right, I was a bitch, and their friends would make sure I knew it.

I got the message, but every day, I do my best to ignore it.  I think, on the feminist side, I succeed.  I get in shout-you-down fights with men twice my size or age, and I don’t back down.  I paste feminist links on facebook, and I tell anyone who will listen that I will never be a housewife, and that women need to be paid the same as men or we don’t get to call ourselves civilized anymore.  I define myself however I damn well please, and I ignore anyone who tries to tell me what to do.  (Except my mother, but she mostly just tells me to do my share of the dishes and to follow my dreams.)  And I never, ever let anyone walk me to my car, because I will not live my life in fear.

But I don’t succeed in every way I could.  Despite my ardent feminist fire, I let myself hate my body.  I hear those boys giggling in my memory and it tears me down.  I see anyone look at me sideways and it tears me down.  For years and years and years, I wore the baggiest clothes possible because I just wanted my body to disappear completely.  I didn’t want anyone to have the faintest clue what it looked like.  And I succeeded there--I looked way fucking worse than I should have.

I’ve spent much of the past year dealing with my body.  I started dieting and exercising.  The exercise was wonderful--I ran a mile for the first time in a decade.  Apart from the day I got into college, it was my proudest moment ever.  And it made me feel good about my body, which was new.  I felt powerful.  I had crazy new leg muscles, and I could do that weird crow yoga pose that had once seemed literally impossible (in spite of the fact that I watched other people do it.)  These were good things.

The diet has been less wonderful.  Far more effective, of course--exercise makes you feel great, but you won’t lose weight if you end up eating what you burned.  But as effective as it is, dieting isn’t the best thing for mental health.  I’ve lost a whole crap ton of weight, but not always in the best ways.

I had a friend once who said, “Sometimes the best feeling in the world is going to bed with your stomach growling.  It’s like you’ve won.”

I know two things about that: it’s one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever heard, and it’s completely fucking true.

Exercise made me feel physically powerful.  But dieting made me feel powerful in another way.  I felt like I had so much control.  The need to eat is second only to the need to breathe, so if you can control that, then you are completely your own master.  Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

And, in a way, it feels like you’re meeting the challenge.  And, somehow, throwing it in the challenger’s face.  You CAN be that beautiful woman on the TV/magazine/billboard ad.  Because you can decide not to eat, and that will MAKE you that woman.  So fuck everybody!

It’s fucked up.  It’s massively fucked up.  It’s wrong and it’s harmful, and NOBODY should ever want anybody to feel that way.  We shouldn’t be ashamed of our bodies.  We should be ashamed of the forces that make us ashamed.

We should be ashamed of a culture that allowed two boys to get to sixth grade without ever telling them they could not talk about another human being like that, and we should be fucking ashamed of making a 12-year-old girl feel like their dipshit idiocy was on her.

But the truth is, we aren’t.  We keep on making fat jokes.  We keep on making fat jokes about PEOPLE WHO AREN’T FAT.  We talk about women’s bodies like somehow it’s our business.  Like somehow they fucking OWE it to us never to age, never to gain weight, never to have “frumpy” hair.  And if anyone tries to call us on it, we claim long and loud that they’re “asking for it.”

“She’s the one who’s fat, so she’s asking for it.”

“She decided to become a celebrity, so she’s asking for it.”

“She wanted to run for President, so she’s asking for it.”

Over a year ago, an 11-year-old was gang-raped in an abandoned house in a small town.  People spent weeks after that proclaiming that she had been “asking for it.”  An 11-year-old.  Up against more than a dozen adult men.  And the people who didn’t blame the girl?  Blamed her mother.

Her mother.  Not her father, or both parents.  Not the people who heard noises and did nothing.  Not the more than a dozen ADULT MEN WHO RAPED A CHILD, ONE AFTER ANOTHER.  Her mother.  Or the girl herself.

Here’s what it is: I am a feminist, and I am ashamed of my body.  I am angry and self-serving and I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about me, but I am ashamed of my body.  I am an adult, and self-sufficient, and white, and privileged, and confident, and I have never been raped.  But I am so, so ashamed of my body.

I can only imagine how everyone else feels.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This is Not the Poster You're Looking For

From time to time, every single person on this planet is irrational.  For most people, their irrationality presents itself in their belief systems.  Some of these belief systems are religious, and some are cultural.  Christians believe a woman once gave birth without ever having had sex, even though we know that’s not how reproduction works.  And if anyone told them it was happening again, they probably wouldn’t believe that--because, obviously, something like that can only ever happen once.  Jews believe a dude parted a sea by telling it to part, and they believe that a miracle is when oil lasts longer than it should.  Children believe a fat guy can fit down their chimneys, and adults believe it’s somehow kind to convince children of this lie, only to break their hearts with the truth later.  People, from time to time, are irrational.

I don’t blame them.  I’d like it if people were irrational less often, and I’d like it if they guided their irrationality with kindness, or any semblance of a true moral code, but I don’t blame them for holding to their beliefs.

Mainly because I kind of believe in aliens.

Alright, let me qualify: I don’t entirely believe in aliens.  I believe that the universe is so incredibly vast that it’s stupid to assume this is the only planet with life on it, and I believe that wherever there is life, there is also the possibility for intelligent life.  And I believe that people lie.  Governments, companies, people on the street, people in your homes.  People lie.

So, in short, I believe that maybe things have happened on this planet and people have lied about them.

So, now, let me rephrase.  I do not actually believe in aliens, or in anything mystical, or in anything greater than what I can see with my own eyes.  But I want to believe.

I guess you could ask me why I’d want to believe in aliens over god, but then you’d be missing the point.  The point is that belief does not come to me naturally.  So you ask me to believe in god, to start up cold, to look in the face of evil done in the name of religion and to pretend it doesn’t matter because god is real, well...I can’t.  I can’t believe in an altruistic all-powerful being when children starve to death every day, but the Catholic hierarchy sees fit to scream at some nuns for being more concerned with helping the poor than demonizing gays and women who have sex.  I can’t ignore the evils of religion, and I can’t believe in something with absolutely no proof.

But I can maybe believe in the possibility of aliens.  Nobody started a war over aliens.  Aliens don’t hate gays.  Aliens don’t care about abortion.  Aliens don’t care about you, one way or the other, except for curiosity’s sake.  Sure, people claim that aliens have captured them in the night and raped and/or performed surgery on them, but I don’t believe those accounts.  And even if I did, that would be a lesser evil to behold than most.

And maybe aliens could represent something a little greater than myself.  Maybe if aliens exist, other things exist, too.  Maybe there are more things in this universe than dreamt of in my philosophy.  Like weird little gray men who want to know what makes us work.  I can go with that.

A lot of this belief--or semi-belief--can be represented by one simple poster.  Here it is, hanging over Agent Fox Mulder’s desk.

I love that poster.  It’s beautiful.  I love that whole desk.  It’s not dissimilar to mine---covered, graffitied almost, by the evidence of its owner’s passions.  And that shining symbol at its center--I want to believe.  I want to believe in endless possibility.  I want to believe we are not alone.  I want to believe that humanity’s struggle might gain meaning, not oblivion, from a universal context.

I doesn’t mean I do believe.  Only that I want to.

So when I thought I’d found that poster at an open-air market in the middle of my college campus a few years ago, I thought it was kismet.  I’d scoured the internet for years looking for that thing, only to find message board after message board telling me that the only one that ever existed was the one on set and that it was lost to the sands of time (which here means: a private collection) years ago.

Of course, when I looked at it a little more closely, I realized it wasn’t the right poster.  You can see a little string coming away from the little saucer, the quality of the picture isn’t clear enough, the trees aren’t high enough.  I felt a little deflated.  And then I bought it anyway.

It’s not the right poster.  It’s a cheap imitation.  But I decided it didn’t matter.  The poster is only a metaphor, anyway.  It stands in for the real thing.  The real thing is somewhere I can’t touch.  I’ve only heard of it in whispers, and I have no real evidence that it even exists.  Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.  I can’t ever know for sure.

But I want to believe.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Brief History of the Written Word

“There was a girl, and her uncle sold her, wrote Mr. Ibis in his perfect copperplate handwriting.
            That is the tale; the rest is detail.”
American Gods, Neil Gaiman

Here’s a fact: I started writing stories when I was about five years old.  I wrote a story for school—in Kindergarten or first grade, I can’t be sure.  I wrote it and illustrated it, and my teacher laminated the cover and bound the pages together with plastic rings, and she had me read it to the class.  I can’t remember how I felt about reading it aloud, but I’d guess I didn’t like it much.  It’s not that I have a problem speaking in front of other people; I’ve voluntarily performed in a number of plays.  No, the problem I have is with my own words.  When I write something, for the most part, I like to pretend it has nothing to do with me.  It’s an illusion that shatters the moment you start reading aloud.

Like I said, I don’t remember for sure how I felt about reading it.  But I do remember how I felt about the thing itself.  When that teacher first told me she was going to “publish” my little story, I walked into a different world.  At five years old, I felt that I had done the most grown up thing you could ever do: write a book.

At 23, I feel more or less the same.  I wrote a book, and it’s kind of freaking me out.  I haven’t sent it to a publisher, or even an agent.  Until two weeks ago, mine were the only eyes ever laid on it.  But it’s a book, and it has a plot, characters, chapters, an ending.  The thing itself is finished.  Also, one other person has read it now.  And she didn’t tell me it was the worst thing ever.  So, you know.  It’s been a weird week.

If somebody went back in time and told my earlier selves what their first novel would be about, I think they’d be concerned.  Not surprised, exactly, but concerned.  So what’s it about, you ask?  Well, sir.  Indeed.  Um.  Okay.  Let’s go with…an impoverished teenage girl in southeast Missouri who deals drugs.  I’d say recreationally, but that would be flippant.

Like I said, I don’t think younger Sara would have problem believing you if you told her.  But she would probably wonder a great deal about the intervening years to come.

Of course, if you told her what I’ve told you, you wouldn’t really be telling her the novel.  You’d be telling her a sentence, and it would suffice to stand for over 98,000 words.  There was a girl, and she sold drugs.  And there was a girl who wrote about her for a number of years, until she came up with this finished thing, and then, finally, she had to stop.

There was a girl, and she sold drugs.  You read that sentence, and it stands for the novel.  You read the novel, and it stands for something else.  We try to tell a story under the story, and we hope nobody throws rocks at our heads for the effort.

I wrote a story when I was five, and I wrote a lot of stories after that.  I don’t know the number.  I can tell you it’s well more than ten.  I’m feeling weird about this last one.  It’s longer than the others, and I spent more time on it.

It’s a stupid old cliché, but here it is: I feel exposed.  I’m a very private person, usually.  But I just sent what feels like my life’s work out to what feels like the whole universe and it makes me feel a little raw.  On edge.  Every once in a while, I’ll remember a name, or a sentence, and I’ll wish I spent more time editing.  And then I’ll take a breath and try to remember that you can’t edit forever.  I’ll try to remember that I mostly hate Kubrick, who edited everything for fifty thousand years, so there’s no point editing that long.  At a certain point, you push eject and you walk away.  Email it to everyone you know and wonder if you’ll ever get any money out of it.

There was a girl, and she wrote this thing.  I don’t know if I can tell it any better than that.