Friday, December 12, 2014

My [Rejected] Bachelor Application


Age: 27
Occupation: Audio Post-Production Engineer Works On A Computer
Hometown: Spring, TX Houston, TX TEXAS
Height: 5'8"
Tattoos: Four, but only one of them has ended a relationship (3 outta 4 ain't baaaad)
Can't live without: Coffee, Sandwiches, Snacks, WIFI (Producers told me to write "love" but I've been doing okay so far.) 
Biggest date fear: the actual experience of it

If I never had to change out of yoga pants, I would be very happy.

If I never got to put on yoga pants, I would be very sad.

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
I would be a lion - but like, a dude lion. They have really pretty hair, are visually intimidating as hell, and got a really cool rep from The Lion King. But I'd be one of those cool loner-lions who didn't have a pride or anything - just sort of hung out on rocks, chased the easy-to-kill antelope, and like, roared every so often just to remind people what was up.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?
To be perfectly honest, I'd probably blow a lot of it on wartime propaganda prints and mini-replica canons and stuff like that.  But with the rest of it, I'd invest - in my own spaceship like the USS Enterprise where I would be captain and you'd all be red shirts to me.

What's your most embarrassing moment?
Pretty much every day I get up with moderately average hopes and aspirations and proceed to do something humiliating instead. I can't say I have a "most" embarrassing moment - but here are a few: 

  • I got drunk at a bar and ranted at the stranger next to me for 45 minutes about the emotional journey of Captain America. 
  • Once, I hit myself in the face because I thought the reflection of my bracelet was a spider. 
  • I propositioned a 50-year old father of three without realizing it because slang is different in Ireland and "a ride" did not mean what I thought it meant.

What is your greatest achievement to date?
I watched all of the extended edition Lord of the Rings films in one sitting over the course of two pizzas. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bed Bath and Beyond Rock Bottom

The other day I was trying to think of the creepiest question I’ve ever been asked. It’s never just the question, there’s not necessarily anything frightening about stringing words together. It’s more about the circumstances in which it arose, who the asker was, and my own personal mental and physical state that creates the fear factor. Try as I did, I couldn't place my finger on one, single moment in time.

But the other day, I found my answer in the pillow section of a Bed, Bath and Beyond.

In my home, there is an on-going joke, that’s isn’t really a joke, that attributes getting older with bodily injuries occurring under increasingly dull circumstances. It’s a joke in a sense that we were destined to get older every day, regardless of how we injure ourselves. The part that’s not a joke is how often we prove the theory to be true.

February 2014: I threw out my back while putting on my socks.

March 2014: My roommate broke her toe while walking around the apartment.

May 2014: I pinched a nerve in my neck while attempting to towel-dry my hair.

While injuries like these are more of a nuisance than anything else, they do manage to serve as a constant, throbbing reminder that you are a fallible, fragile human being who, at any moment, could literally just fall apart and die. My roommate, we’ll call her Alice as that is her actual name and I don’t care about her privacy, takes the stress of it in stride. Didn’t miss a single day of work. Didn’t complain. Just lived through the pain until it fixed itself.  

Personally, I took a different path. Rather than suffering in silence, I became a whimpering mess of self-pity, on the war path to blame everything around me for the injustice I had suffered at the hands of anatomy. Yes, I still went to work, wet hair and all, but I left early, and immediately upon returning home, I collapsed on my bed, too pathetic to even take off my shoes.

Closing my eyes, I hoped to take solace in my Tempurpedic haven. But I couldn’t find a comfortable position for my head to rest; my temples throbbed from exhaustion as my shoulder muscles tried to overcompensate for my neck’s inability to do its one job. My pain turned to anguish, which turned to hate, and then I turned on my pillows. Pillows, I raged, curse your inevitable betrayal.

It’s surprising how easy it is to ignore choices you’ve made that inescapably direct you down a path of no return like purchasing bad pillows. When I bought the pillows in 2009, I found the concept of spending any amount of money on pillows truly obscene. Money wasn’t for pillows – it was for necessities like coffee and rent and pizza rolls. I went to Target and spent a grand total of $10.49 on two flat, lifeless containers of cotton-like fluff, and thought eh, it’ll be fine. Even at point of purchase, I knew it wouldn't actually be fine. So five years later, when that $11 investment finally did the damage it was destined to do, the only pain that rivaled my aching neck was the crushing agony of personal defeat.

It was the acceptance of that life-failure, fueled by the desire to have a pivot joint that once again pivoted, that landed me at the threshold of that Bed Bath and Beyond.

And that’s when things got bad.

Bed, Bath and Beyond is a strange, mystical land. Instantly upon arriving, I am able to call to mind at least five household items I desperately need, but can’t, for the life of me, think of what I went there for in the first place. And that's exactly how I ended up in front of a peg-board wall covered with non-stick frying pans, and nowhere near the pillows. Do I really need a 12” pan? I wondered. Wouldn’t a 10” suffice? What size is the one I have at home? Is a stainless steel pan better than these other ones? If not stainless steel, what are these other ones even made of? What IS stainless steel?

Stainless steel is a steel alloy with about 10.5% chromium. I know, because I googled it. Right there, in the middle of the cookware section of the BB&B. And it was about halfway down the Wikipedia page for stainless steel that I remembered I wasn’t even here to buy a non-stick pan. And that it really didn’t matter what it was made of because all I needed was a pan to make eggs that wouldn’t annihilate the sun of my sunny-side up masterpieces, and that ultimately my decision, like every decision before it, would be based off of how much the item costs, and not much else. 

So, with an “under $40 kind” of non-stick frying pan grasped tightly in my hand, I made my way over to the pillow department.

Pillow technology has come a long way since the last time I shopped around. Expecting to read descriptions like “firm” or “not so firm,” I was entirely overwhelmed by “hypoallergenic ISO-cool microfiber standard bed pillow.” With ceiling-high displays of what seemed to be at least 175 different kinds of pillow, I was at a loss with how to begin to make a decision. I walked around the section, pretending to read the labels by occasionally pausing and nodding, and discreetly poked at the display models. Oh, that one seems nice. No, that one’s too squishy. Well, this one could work – IT’S HOW MUCH? While I understood that I would have to spend more than $10 dollars, I was still not emotionally prepared to spend $100.

There were goose feather pillows and memory foam pillows. There were memory foam pillows that lived inside of goose feather pillows. There were pillows for pregnant women and tall men. Probably pillows for people with early onset diabetes, too. I had returned to the center of the aisle, the non-stick frying pan wielded like a machete in my left hand, when a man sidled up next to me.

“There certainly are a lot of choices,” he said. I turned to look at him, prepared to acknowledge that he was a friendly, caring customer service representative of the BB&B who was only doing his job.

Then I saw he was not.

I said nothing, though my social reflexes forced me into a half-hearted shrug, feeling the need to at least recognize that he had spoken. This was, of course, a mistake. My one-shoulder shrug had unintentionally given him the green light on continuing to talk.

“I’m just trying to figure it all out. It’s an important decision, you know?”

OH MY GOD, go away, I thought. Go away forever. Go away so far. My neck ached, my head hurt, I was tired, it was hot; all I wanted was a pillow and to go home.

“Because we spend eight hours a day sleeping, right? So that’s a lot of time…”

“Yeah,” I replied, emphatically. I took a step forward towards the Brookstone BioSense display, putting him out of my peripheral line of sight.

“Say,” he said, taking a step forward and towards me, “are you a side-sleeper, or do you sleep on your back?”

This was the moment in time when two completely distinct, but equally fatal notions occurred to me. The first being that I was surely about to be murdered. Having just recently fallen asleep to a documentary on Jeffrey Dahmer, I knew that serial killers could have unusual criteria for their chosen victims. It was possible that for this man, the way I would be sleeping when he broke into my house to stab me repeatedly and leave a Shakespearean sonnet on the wall written in my blood, could be enough. I glanced at him again before answering.

“Both,” I said before taking another step away. My grip on the frying pan tightened.

The other possibility that occurred to me was that I was being hit on. This was similarly awful in a somewhat different way. All I wanted was a new pillow. I wanted to buy my pillow and return to my empty house to watch six hours of “Merlin” on Netflix and maybe get a burrito from the taco truck. That’s what I wanted for my day. Some of you will defend him, some of you will say, but he was just being friendly! Or you’ll say, you never know when you’ll find the right one!

And to that I say, it won’t be in a Bed, Bath and Beyond, and he won’t be asking me creepy-ass questions about how I sleep.

I grabbed a box that I hoped contained a decent pillow, and I booked it out of the department. Upon recounting this story to a friend, her first question was “Well, was he cute?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, honestly. “He had red hair, was approximately 5’9”, medium build with no visible tattoos or scars. His shirt was green.”

“That's not an answer - that sounds like a police sketch.”

“Yes. I know. That's the point.”

Sometimes moments happen like dominos, and each event crashes into the next event until you’re left with a huge mess to clean up at the end. Maybe my assumption that Alice would have to call the coroner to retrieve my mutilated body was merely an accumulation of all the other negative things that had happened to me that day. Or maybe I dodged a metaphorical, and quite literal bullet. Hopefully I will never truly know. What I am quite certain of, however, is that even surrounded by all the modern comforts of Bed, of Bath and of whatever lies Beyond those things, a person can still fear for her life, and also be tempted to stab first.

Tell me something," I could say. "Would you like to be placed in the coffin on your back, or are you a side-sleeper?”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Because You Watched These Documentaries, We Think You'd Like... Help.

There’s a man in a captain’s hat who stands on the corner of California and Battery in San Francisco every week. As I pass him on my way home from work, he greets pedestrians, hands full of those Homeless Press newspapers, with a big, cheery grin on his face. He calls me “young lady” and he asks how I am, beaming as if we were old friends who happened upon each other coincidentally. The first few weeks of this routine I found it annoying, having to awkwardly take my headphones out and say, “I’m sorry?” Yet, unfazed, he would repeat himself, and I’d force a smile and reply, “I’m doing well, thank you,” before returning my ear buds to my ears, and allowing my face to sink back into a tired frown.

On a particularly gruesome Monday, I reached the California and Battery intersection with my headphones out, prepared for our 15-word exchange. He smiled, addressed me as young lady, and asked, “How are you?”

“Ready to be done with today,” I replied. I added a sigh of exasperation for effect, to really drive home my distress. His smile never wavered. “With this sunset?” he gestured towards the uphill climb of California Street, where you could see the setting sun not yet disappeared behind the hill. “Nah, I hope it stays today forever.”  

I had to give it to him, there’s nothing quite like a sunset here in California. I politely wished him a good evening, and as the crosswalk sign lit up its little white man, a creeping sense of foolishness settled in the pit of my stomach. This man, with his captain’s hat and his newspapers and his evident homelessness, had just admonished my self-serving grumpiness with a sunset. And I, who was livid with my coworkers, frustrated with my friends, and consumed with planning the next fifteen steps of my life, couldn’t be bothered with it. It happens every day, I thought in defense, what’s so great about that? I watched him smile at strangers, tipping his hat to them as they walked by, and I grew envious. How could someone with so little have so much more peace of mind than me?

I wanted to ask; I needed to know. I wanted to say, “What are you even smiling about?” But I couldn’t think of a way to phrase that question without sounding horrible. So instead, I tried to manifest his happiness for myself. I smiled back wider, and more earnestly. I bought his newspapers. I contemplated buying a captain’s hat. None of it stuck.

I’m a thorough, meticulous person. When I set my mind to a task, I run it down with precision, every step crosschecked and calculated. In my professional life, my hyper-organized, careful nature is met with commendation. In my personal life, it’s met with rolling eyes. So when I began to fill my Netflix queue with documentaries on happy people, no one was surprised.

After a few features landed in the “Recently Watched” column, my roommate simply asked if I had managed to solve my “happiness problem.”

“I think it’s the stuff,” I said. “Look at this place, we have so many…things.”  

That Friday night I began, and by Sunday evening, I had donated, trashed, or recycled over half of my possessions. I picked through everything, down to my absurd collection of threadbare Target tank tops, and asked myself the same question: Does this make me happy? Sometimes in the form of, “Is this even wearable in public?” It was alarming how often the answer was no. At the end of the weekend, my closets doors were finally able to close; I donated books and sweatshirts and like, four duvet covers. I looked at piles and piles of stuff and said, “this doesn’t make me happy,” and it felt great.

On Monday morning, I was rejuvenated and full of possibility, but by midday I was in a fight with my brother, frustrated with work, and as I walked in the front door that evening, I couldn’t tell you what the sunset looked like. Only that I was fairly certain it had happened. I knew my possessions didn’t make me happy, but I was no closer to figuring out what did.

When I was in therapy, which I was for almost two years in my early twenties, my psychologist would ask me to write down the things I saw myself doing when I finally “happy.” She said that if I could paint a picture of my daily life, I might be able to figure out how to get there. I told her about my dream job, about how my house would look. I told her I wanted a dog. And she would always respond, “And that would make you happy?”

“Well, not only that,” I said. At first, I didn’t really get the point. She rephrased the question, and sent me off to try again.

The next week I came back, I told her about the types of activities I saw myself doing when I was my ideal person. I’d say things like, I would be the kind of girl who reads books and drinks tea; a girl who hosts dinner parties for her friends where we eat at a table instead of in front of the television, like adults. I would be active and athletic, but could also lose hours of time with just a notebook and a pen, scratching down insightful, witty conjectures to better the lives of the world around me. And maybe I would be capable of having a single cocktail at a bar, as opposed to five. Maybe.

Again, she’d ask me, “And these things would make you happy?”

“I think so, yeah. But I just don’t think I’m that kind of person.”

My heart sank as the words came tumbling out of my mouth because I knew it was true. That’s the stupid thing therapy does to you. It makes you say things that are real, and then you have to deal with them. It’s the worst.

She put her pen down, and tilted her head in confusion, as she did so often with me, and said, “Well, what kind of person do you think you are?”

I must have been staring at my hands for no less than four hours; it also could have been thirty seconds. Time is irrelevant when someone asks you a question you’ve spent your entire life trying to avoid answering. Tears spilled out in streams rather than single drops, and when I opened my mouth, only a choked sob came out.

“I don’t know what kind of person I am. I’m a disaster,” I said while hastily wiping the tears from my eyes, like I was going to pretend I wasn’t crying. “I just don’t think I fit. Like some days I dance around my apartment to Top 40 hits, and I sing along really, really loudly. Other days I binge-watch television in yoga pants that I have never, ever done actual yoga in. Then there are days when I read and write and make dinner and don’t talk to a single other human being. And sometimes I want to call up a friend and go out to drink and chat and watch other people drinking and chatting. Sometimes I take the time to dry my hair, but most days I cannot think of a more boring activity. I feel like a lump of tangled, multi-color Christmas lights, a disaster of inconsistent thoughts, and I try to just pick one color, like I’m just going to be the blue lights, but when you start pulling on the blue lights string, you get a yellow light and a red light, and then you’re right back where you started.”

“Well,” she said, not remarking on the several steps past crazy I had taken because I literally paid her not to, “Do you think if you were only blue lights, you’d be happier?” 

I thought about it for a moment. “I think I just hate when Christmas lights get tangled up.”

She laughed. “It could be if you spent less time trying to pick out the blue lights, and more time embracing the strands as a whole, you’d stop wasting time trying to define yourself by the standards of painted bulbs.”

Maybe the man with the captain’s hat had reached this conclusion, too. Rather than fighting his individuality, he had learned to embrace it. Maybe that’s why he could love every single sunset; he had learned to love the differences.

My authentic, multi-colored self is a myriad of hobbies and interests, oftentimes dissonant in nature, in the way that gives you chills, rather than makes your ears bleed. I like what I like, and I like the things I like out of a minuscule collection of things I have tried. For a long time I avoided new experiences in fear of being overrun with too many differently colored lights. With too many possibilities, it becomes impossible to know where to begin, and for a girl who googled “how to be happy,” that can be a debilitating notion.

There are days I have to say, out loud, “This is okay.” There are times I have said this, out loud, in public places. Strangely, it helps. It helps quell the panic of too many lights with no discernible order, and it helps me notice the sunsets. The other day, on my way home, I stopped next to the man in the captain’s hat, and I watched the last sliver of sun drop just below the crest of the Nob Hill. He turned and watched it with me for a moment, and then said, “That’s a good one there, isn’t it?”

“It is.” I smiled. I turned to him, offered him money for one of his newspapers, and tucked it away in my bag. “Hey,” I added as I started to walk away, “I really like your hat.”

He smiled and laughed a bit. “Maybe we can find you one!”

 “Nah, there’s only one Captain. That’s all you," I said.

Though, I do believe Admiral is still available.

Hey, you know who needs an Admiral, right? The Avengers. DIBS.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

We hold these truths to be self-serving:

...that all men are created about as equal as whatever suits my argument.

It’s tricky to pin point the exact moment I began to stop associating myself with the American culture, but I do believe there was a red double-decker bus involved. You know the one. I was abroad in London with a group of friends, and we were on our way to yet another tourist attraction when a posh English woman, early thirties, said quite loudly into her mobile phone, “I’m terribly sorry I’m having trouble hearing you. There are some noisy Americans on this bus.” She glowered at my friends and I; the way she said the word American, it was steeped with resentment and disdain, as if we were the convoy sent over from the New World to tell King George III what exactly he could tax.

In her defense, a group of fifteen year olds in an enclosed space is a weaponized nuisance in any country. Throw in a slew of dropped consonants and that famed supercilious air of entitled freedom, and you have what we in the modern world like to call a “no win situation.” She was predestined to hate us, the accent just made it easier.

My cultural heritage has been a significant part of my life for as long as I can remember; it’s a common side effect of possessing a distinct, French surname.  On first days of school, after the all-American Jones’ and Smiths had breezed by, my particular fifteen letters of cultural diversity would bring the robotic roll-call to a stuttering halt.

Teacher: Eleanor Tah-Thih-uh, how is that pronounced?
Eleanor: Tee-bow.
Teacher: Oh really? I would have never guessed that.
Eleanor: Obviously.
Teacher: What is that? Where is that from?
Eleanor: It’s Cajun.
Teacher: Oh! Like Mardi Gras!
Eleanor: …Yes. Exactly like Mardi Gras.

Despite having relocated to Texas partway through my adolescence, my family actually is, in a sense, like Mardi Gras; we’re Cajuns – an ethnic group descendant of the French Acadians who were forced out of their Canadian homes during Le Grand Dérangement in the late 1750’s by those infamous parade-rainers themselves, the British.

Before the American colonies told the British monarchy to shove off, there were the Acadians, a group of people who just wanted to eat delicious bread and be Catholic up in Eastern Quebec. However, because the British Crown was going through that gotta-catch-em-all approach to world domination, they seized claim over that particular region of Quebec, and insisted the Acadians swear an oath of fealty to the Iron Throne British Crown. When the Acadians said, “uh, but we’re French?” the Crown proceeded to deport them back to France, from whence they came. Of course about three years after that fiasco, the King of France essentially extradited the faction back to the New World to hang out in the mosquito-ridden Spanish Territory of the Atchafalaya Basin swamps.

And in the face of all this, the once-Acadians, now-Cajuns have exactly one motto, Lassiez les bon temps rouler. (Let the good times roll.) Which is the Cajun way of saying, “No problem cher, if der’s food, it’s a party.”

I’ve always considered myself a Cajun first, and an American second, but the Acadian storyline is not unlike many of the stories of the early American people. At one point or another, the majority of the American settlers suffered under the tyranny of some Class A haters. But to look at our social and cultural landscape now, it sort of reads like a how-to on rebelling from your parents, and then growing up to be exactly like them.  With the insurmountable class divide, social inequalities and a government so divided within itself that it has all but ceased to function, what does it actually mean to be American? More so, is being an American even a good thing anymore?

I left the south at the age of eighteen to seek out more liberal pastures in the Golden State of California. Aside from the geographical differences between the two regions, of which there are billions, the real shock of my relocation was with the culture shift of the area.  The words Northern Californians would prefer to use are “eclectic” and “diverse.” The word I used for the first few years I lived there was “disconnected.” Maybe it was little fish, big pond syndrome, but I felt isolated and utterly lost. There were no crawfish boils or barbeques in community centers there. I couldn’t find a church that felt right. And a substantial number of people I met were under the impression that Mardi Gras was a parade fabricated by alcohol vendors held on Bourbon Street for promiscuous college students. Which, by the way, it is not.

Eventually I did finally begin to settle in to idea of this “culture of cultures.” I shared my traditions, explained how jambalaya is SUPPOSED to taste, and proceeded to build up something new from layers of inherited legacy. My individual culture became a gumbo of a hundred different spices, of various influences and experiences, and with every new insight, I craved more.  No longer feeling the weight of choosing a strictly French or American persona, I was able to become someone entirely unique. Like all of those settlers in their easy-breezy-beautiful covered wagons, I had set out in pursuit of an unprecedented future in the name of Manifest Destiny.  In my attempt to leave Americanism behind, I accidentally became one.

That’s what the American culture is, at its heart. It’s a nation of peoples continuously striving to build a new identity, unafraid of making mistakes, which they did quite often, in the search of something greater. Our culture is ambition and fortitude; we are descendant from explorers and adventurers, and quite a handful of arrogant sons-of-bitches. The same mentality that sent me packing to the golden hills of California was inherited from those Acadian settlers who, after being bullied out of Canada, which was probably the last time THAT ever happened, said “what the hell” and jumped the ship to a place that is the OPPOSITE of Canada. And once they got there, they discovered crawfish and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. 

That passion for something greater than what is known pushed settlers to the West Coast. It led Texans to declare their independence from Mexico. It's the same big risk, big reward American Dream mindset that brings immigrants to our borders, still. For better or worse, that zealous, manic determination is the one common thread that binds our melting pot culture together. Simultaneously, it can make us the best of friends, and the worst of enemies.

Back in 1787, a group of white guys in wigs got together in a stuffy room and spent the entire summer bitching at each other about what laws were necessary for their newly won independence. Odds are good that from the outside, this “convention” looked like a complete disaster. It probably looked that way on the inside, too. But they got it done. Well, they got it started. And the document they drafted still governs today, in theory. With a group of remarkably passionate and driven individuals, they built a national identity for an eclectic and diverse population; a population that would be forever united on a single, self-evident truth: ain’t no one gonna pay that much money for TEA.

Yes, we’re noisy, and headstrong, and we habitually let our emotions get the better of us. Often we think we’re right always because we were right that one time, but we challenge each other. That’s what it means to be an American, and that is a good thing. The woman from the bus will probably always dismiss our American culture as crass, rambunctious and a walking cautionary tale about what happens in a world that drives on the left.

Then again, shortly after she called us noisy, a fellow traveler shouted back, “We’re not Americans, we’re Canadians.

So it could be that now she just hates Canadians, and we’re in the clear.

Better them than us, right, America?