Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You Meddling Kids

I think I'm officially way too old to live in a dorm. I have a prime room by UNH standards--an air-conditioned single in Congreve, newly renovated, perfectly located etc. But aside from a few upperclassmen, the floor is almost entirely made up of freshmen. (And since when do freshmen get to live in Congreve? I earned this, goddamnit. I lived in a built up triple on Stoke 8 freshman year. Big, bad, vomity, pissy, smelly, Keystone-soaked Stoke: that's where freshmen belong. It builds character. )

But freshmen. Oh, freshmen. They slam the doors. They still think it's awesome that there are no parents around to tell them to turn down the music. (They have two songs: "Fire Burning" by Sean Kingston and"Airplanes" by B.o.B.) They think they're the shit because they got into a frat. They puke in the bathrooms and wear their IDs around their necks and rather adorably ask you for directions to the MUB. And it wasn't even that long ago that I was one of them.

I feel like I'm caught at a weird age. Going to the same party over and over (beer, Beirut, Axe) has gotten kind of boring at this point, but I can't go to the bars and...well, let's be honest, Durham does not offer that much of a chem-free nightlife unless you're really into comedian Bob Marley. I'm old enough to be cranky about asshole freshmen waking me up with slamming doors at 6 a.m.. but obviously, I'm still a 20-year-old. I like to go out and have fun... it's just that lately "fun" doesn't necessarily mean pregaming in somebody's dorm room and then going to some dumpy apartment in the Greens and drinking warm beer. That was awesome when we were freshmen, because we were freshmen. So I don't begrudge the class of 2014 a proper freshman experience--the globe would probably tilt off its axis if freshman girls were mature, sensible creatures.

For me, though, there's something new this year; and I think that it's the very fact that it's
not new. I know where everything is. I don't (often) get locked out of my room. I'm not scared of my professors, and I don't get surprised when one of them says "fuck". The dining hall food has long since lost its novelty. Don't get me wrong, I love it here. And I know how fortunate I am to be here and not yet in the working world. But as junior year began yesterday morning, it struck me that this college business is feeling less like an Asher Roth video, and more like...well, I don't know what. Maybe it's only that mysterious "real world" starting to seep in at the edges, just a bit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink: Actual Advice from Cosmo

I impulsively bought a copy of Cosmo before a long car ride with a bunch of girlfriends a few weeks ago. I hadn't actually bought one in a long time, although I'd read a few because my roommate subscribes. I had fond memories of giggling over it at slumber parties and sharing copies at the beach, but I didn't remember it being quite this...stupid. I don't know if the magazine has gotten worse since we were reading it at eighth grade slumber parties, or if once you're old enough to actually be Cosmo's target audience you've already outgrown it, but this was some staggeringly dumb shit. The tips below are from Cosmo's August edition. I'll let them speak for themselves.

....Alternatively, order a Sex on the Beach or talk loudly about how you sleep naked

....Because standing in line at the DMV quietly humming and rocking back forth whilst stroking a picture of yourself in a bikini isn't strange at all.

...And make sure you moan so your fellow cubicle-dwellers know just how much you're enjoying that soft, comforting material.

...Because everyone loves minty tits!

He'll be totally seduced by the way you're too dumb to tell the difference between employees and customers. Also, men love it when you shove shoes in their faces.

This is kind of hard to read but I wanted to scan it to prove it's real. Cosmo suggests that you print out online coupons and offer them to strangers as a means to meet men. Because no man can resist a woman who spends her workday scouring the internet for coupons to McDonald's. Along the same lines as the "do you work here" ploy is the second tip, which suggests that you doggedly insist that a man goes to the same gym as you do, even when you know he doesn't. This just sounds annoying, and once again, you look retarded. Sexy! My favorite part of the article is the beginning, though: "Since it's not a typical pick-up scene, men let their guard down." Ladies, pay attention: you have to be ready so swoop in when a man is vulnerable, or hungry. And as soon as he lets his guard down and you seduce him with an internet coupon for a free McFlurry dig those claws in deep, because finding a man is the means to the only important things in life: diamond rings and babies!

I mean, give me a fucking break.

Monday, August 23, 2010

These Allegories Are Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Norah: There's this part of Judaism I like. Tikun Olam. It said that the world is broken into pieces and everyone has to find them and put them back together.
: Maybe we don't have to find it. Maybe we are the pieces.
-Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

I've avoided writing about the so-called Ground Zero Mosque so far, firstly because Tim King dealt with it elegantly over on his blog, and secondly because it makes me so spewing mad that I wasn't sure I could write anything coherent about it. (My opinion, just so we're clear: Awesome idea? No. Is it right for the United States government to sanction religious intolerance? Absolutely not.) I'm not going to write about it now, either, because while I am pissed about this, what's worse is that every time I calm down from being angry at somebody (BP, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the woman with a sticker that said "Guts, Guns and God Made America Free" on the back of her truck) the despair in my gut gapes a little wider. And despair is a dangerous, dangerous thing.

Despair is worse than fear. Fear gets people moving, fear accomplishes things--for good or bad. If you still have the energy to be afraid for your country (or planet, for that matter) it means you haven't given up on it. Fear yells in your ear; but Despair comes creeping in quietly, a little bit at a time--hand in hand with its old pal Apathy--and whispers "It's out of your hands. You think what you do matters? Lie down. Forget it. Watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Just go to the mall. Forget about all this mess." Despair is one sneaky son of a bitch.

I hate most of these mainstream flavor of the month metaphysical bullshit artists that are popular with the Oprah's book club set lately, and I probably sound like one of them now, but the best thing you can do to fight despair is make your own small corner of the world a little bit more okay. (That doesn't quite fit on a bumper sticker, but I'm working on it.) Personally I like feeding people--whether it's cooking a big meal for my friends, a weeknight dinner for my family, or pancakes for my boyfriend, it makes me feel just a tiny bit better about pretty much everything. I can't fix the oil spill. I can't stop homophobes or racists from yapping their hateful nonsense all over cable news. I can't feed everybody in the world (I warned you this was going to get a little Oprah) but sometimes, I feed this one handful of people that are most important to me and for a little while everything doesn't suck.

There are still things in the world that are just plain old beautiful. For instance, yesterday I was standing on a beach on the Cape thinking about corn. Ethanol, high fructose corn syrup, the corn lobby, the Midwest vote. How these things that are bad for us are going to continually going to get passed into law if Congress is just concerned with getting votes. How government subsidized high fructose corn syrup is one of the major contributors to the obesity epidemic, which the government says it's trying to combat, but if that were true wouldn't they stop paying farmers to grow more of the thing that's making us sick? Then a baby smiled at me and I smiled back and for a minute things just weren't so bad. I remembered I was on a beach, and that there was a baby over there who was just learning to walk, and I told Despair to go get eaten by a Great White.

I hate the notion that we're powerless against the bad stuff in the world; because we're not. But most of us don't have a lot of control over the wider world, either. The best thing we can do is to do our damndest with whatever it is we do have control over. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have, as Teddy Roosevelt said. Take care of the people around you. Take care of yourself. Be the best at something. Grow the best tomatoes or make the most delicious pancakes ever, or be that one person who always remembers to send birthday cards, or the person who makes spectacular cocktails or can always entertain kids or gracefully diffuse an awkward situation. Lie in the sun. Eat a really good peach. Over-tip your waitress. Be nice to the checkout girl, especially if you're having a terrible no good very bad day. Because for now, all that stuff is still firmly in our hands. And that's the kind of thing that throws Despair to the sharks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

We Are a Fortune 500 Company, Not a Lemonade Stand

Sue: What are you majoring in?
Joel: Russian literature and Slavic languages.
Sue: Oh wow, that's pretty interesting. What career track is that?
Joel: Cabby, hot dog vendor, marijuana delivery guy. The world is my oyster.

English majors have the ability to be real jerks. We snicker about other people's terrible grammar. We yell at the TV about journalistic integrity when CNN launches into their 15th hour of coverage of Lindsay Lohan's jail sentence. We raise our eyebrows if you declare that your favorite book is The DaVinci Code, quietly putting you under the the "nice but dim" tab in our mental Rolodex.

The more militant among us carry Sharpies and bottles of White-Out (See: Lynne Truss, The Great Typo Hunt), ready to correct any public apostrophe mistakes or dangling modifiers, free of charge. These people are dicks.

But we're all members of what Garrison Keillor calls P.O.E.M--the professional organization of English majors-- and I'm here to say that you ought to cut us little slack. See, snarkily correcting other people's grammar is really all we've got. This is what we're good at: reading, writing, talking, forming arguments and yes, grammar. Once upon a time, people who could read and write were valued, because literacy was a specialized skill. (I like to fantasize about this a lot, because that was also a time when blindingly pale skin was considered attractive. They would have made me the fricking queen.) Now, obviously it's a good thing that most modern people can read and write...except that they can't. Or they can, but not well. That's where we come in.

It honestly mystifies me why all businesses don't have an English major on retainer the way they have a lawyer. If your website or correspondence has "its/it's" confusion, or, worse "they're/their/there" confusion, you and your company look sloppy and unprofessional. Hire an English major and have her proofread that shit. I'm not sure if the problem is that people just don't give a shit about the way the present themselves in writing, or if they think they're doing it correctly, or if they just think that the rules of grammar are really just fluid suggestions.

Whatever the problem is, no one listens to us. Which brings me to my big idea: a company that contracts out members of P.O.E.M. to make business owners and their employees seem intelligent in writing. It's not a PR company, because PR people have to be diplomatic. We will be a company of nasty, mean sons of bitches. (And we're not going to be just a bunch of grubby Starbucks-and-Macbook-toting English majors. Women will have to wear skirt suits and heels, and guys will have to dress like Joseph Gordon Levitt in Inception.We will carry briefcases.) Hire us, and we'll make sure that every semi-colon is used correctly, fix subject-pronoun agreement problems and comma splices, and make sure that every last godforsaken apostrophe is used properly. As a free service, we will also correct use of Clip Art or Comic Sans.

Suggestions for a company name and tagline are welcome. Come on, you know you want to work for me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Princesses and Other Dubious Role Models

There's new study out that says that we're pretty much set in our personalities from first grade onwards. Now, I took sociology, and I kind of decided that at best it's a pseudoscience, but I think there might be some truth to this. Ever hang out with bunch of first graders? You can just tell which ones are going to be the jocks and the class clowns and the queen bees and the quiet kids hunched over their Gameboys in the corner of the cafeteria. Which is pretty depressing, honestly.

But if this is true, maybe we should be paying more attention to the books and movies we put in front of kids, especially girls. Because I know a lot of six-year-olds who don't just like to pretend they're princesses...they know they're princesses. Which is adorable when you're six, but not so much when you're twenty-two and running around buying Coach bags with daddy's credit card.

I loved playing dress-up as a kid, but whenever it was possible I made whoever I was playing with be the princesses while I was the queen. Specifically, I liked to pretend that I was Mary Tudor, otherwise known as "Bloody Mary." I knew my history because I was an accelerated reader, which was a nice way of saying I was an asshole. I would make somebody else be Elizabeth I, and lock her up and threaten to behead her. We always got bored with the game before it was time for me to marry Phillip of Spain or die a slow, nasty death. I think I identified a lot with Mary though, because she was an oldest daughter. Because even if your dad isn't Henry VIII, if you're the oldest daughter you're going to get shafted in some respects. I could empathize with that.

So really, why can't little girls have movies about Cleopatra, or Catherine the Great? (besides the fact that they were, um, sluts. And murderers.) Those bitches were awesome. What about Sacajewea? (I was actually Sacajewea for Halloween, with a baby doll strapped to my back. Twice. That's how cool I was.) What about Eleanor of Aquitaine? She rode from France to Jerusalem with her ladies-in-waiting, smack into the middle of the Crusades. Maybe this is just me, but having wild death-defying adventures in the desert just sounds like more fun than cooking and cleaning for a bunch of midgets.

I wasn't a total freak of a little kid--my favorite movie was The Little Mermaid, possibly the least feminist of all the Disney movies, which is saying something. (She gives up her voice to get a man? Come on.) I'm not trying to go all humorless porn-burning feminist on Disney princesses, but I think little girls have the same craving for adventure and monsters and dangerous stuff as little boys do--we just condition it out of them with a steady diet of wasp-waisted white women who get dressed by flocks of birds in the morning and then sit around waiting to be rescued. And you know, maybe teaching little girls passivity and entitlement isn't such a great idea. I think we can all agree that a gazillion Katherine Heigl clones is not what the world needs right now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Deep Questions

Why do guys feel the need to honk at girls walking on the sidewalk? Like, wow you honked the horn of your 1993 Camry at me, let's have sexual relations? No.

Why can UNH jack up our tuition without a peep of protest from anyone? You know that money is going to expand the football fields, right? I mean, nothing against football. Well, not really, I hate football. But unless we're getting new bathrooms in Ham Smith, or one of those vans with the satellite dishes and antennas (antennae?) for The New Hampshire I'm not having any. Or maybe SCAN could get some of those holographic imaginary friends like Wolf Blitzer has.

Why can't people put on some freaking deodorant? Yeah, it's a concert and little stank is expected, but you and
your American Apparel T-shirt reek of B.O. and Zhenka, and you're too drunk to stand up without smearing your hipster grease all over me. The sixties are over. So is grunge. Get it together.

Why does anyone live in the South? If you know me you know this is a dead horse I beat fairly often, but have you seen those pictures of the waves of oil starting to wash up on Gulf beaches? Horrifying. I feel terrible for everyone whose businesses and lives are affected, but it begs the question: why do you live in the South? It's hot, humid, there's snakes, mosquitoes, hurricanes, alligators, racists, NASCAR, the highest obesity rate in the world, grits, Bobby Jindal...I'm just going to stop.

Why, at twenty, can I still not go to a club and dance? I'm not even going to get going on the drinking age, I'm not even talking about ordering a drink. I know I can be kind of a snobby English major/asshole but sometimes you just want to go out with your girlfriends and talk about periods and whether you're more of a Carrie or a Samantha or whatever and dance. No, Lady Gaga, it will in fact NOT BE OKAY because my friends and I aren't 21 and can't JUST DANCE.

Speaking of which, why was Step Up 3D necessary? I don't even have a witty remark here. Everything you need to know is in my dancing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Get It Together

"First, we will stop feeling sorry for ourselves, it's not very attractive. Second, we will try to enjoy each other's company here in this beautiful place. Third, we will make our plans for the future. Can we agree to that?"
-The Darjeeling Limited

The back to school stuff is on the shelves at Staples, and August has set in. Now, I almost never make New Year's resolutions, because, as previously stated, I think January is a terrible time time to resolve anything. January is cold. January is long. January when you lie in bed and eat pie. That is what it exists for. That said, I nearly always make resolutions in the fall. Fall is spunky. Fall smells like Dixon Ticonderogas. Fall is when you buy lots of bins from Ikea, and some new clothes that make you look like a grownup, and a Very Serious Book that you are absolutely going to read. Fall is when you pull your shit together and decide that this is going to be your year. And August is when it all starts. We are going to get it together. Ready?

Because, sure, summer's great. Summer means keggers, drunk swimming, totally inappropriate boys, sleeping off hangovers on the beach, smoking weed in people's backyards and screwing around at dreadful summer jobs. Last summer, I worked in a building actually shaped like a hot dog. (this summer was tamer thanks to monogamy and a job that requires that I not be too hungover to stand up.) It was a pretty dreadful job, but on a positive note, I will never eat a hot dog again. I also learned every dick joke ever.

August is time to shake the glitter off your clothes, if I may borrow a phrase from Katy Perry. (Although last summer's "Waking Up in Keene" remix is better and more regret-filled.) It's time to detox a little bit, and make some plans. Make a list. Make a resolution. Make a five-year plan. Hell, make a five-hour plan. I don't mean to get touchy-feely on you, but I believe there's a power in making plans. Writing things down makes them more real; speaking them aloud even more so. Even if you never do something, you increase your chances of doing it just by putting it out there. (You shouldn't tell that good, wise friend of yours about your plans though. Or tell him/her but also tell that asshole friend who will make fun of you for the rest of your life if you don't follow through. This gets results.) Write down your plans, and then cross things off as you accomplish them. You can make a bucket list if you want, but personally I like to start small. Write down some things you've already done and then cross those off. Feels good doesn't it? That ballpoint Bic just slashing through those tasks. You're a machine. You bought stamps AND got your hair cut. Now, move on to the rest. We've got a big year ahead of us.

...what? Try to find a motivational indie song. Just TRY.