Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm Not Your Bitch, Thanks for Checking!

Stop asking me to work for free. It's really getting to a point where it's just kind of obnoxious. In the last couple of months, I've gotten two inquiries from the journalism department and one forwarded from a local paper asking if I could just pick up some freelance work...for free. Just go out, report a story or write some copy and hand it over to someone in exchange for nothing.

This would be one thing if a.) I were an underclassman rather than somebody who has already completed a journalism major and has a boatload of professional clips; or b.) I was going to get published somewhere that would give me a really money clip; or c.) I was getting in on the ground floor of something entrepreneurial and awesome. But actually, no I will not spend hours reporting a piece for your free college guide or your bus station music rag. I'm young, but I have experience under my belt, I do good work and I deserve to be paid for it. I've written for free and I've written for a paycheck, and surprise! The paycheck is nicer. Working for free is okay if you're really learning something, or again, if you're getting those million dollar clips. But you're just asking me to do work and not get paid. Period.

I know this is how the business is right now, but it is bullshit. Creative people--writers in particular, but also designers etc.--are in a position where we're all expected to act grateful for the privilege of working for free, and it's crap. Go on or the writing gigs section of Craigslist. Half the stuff on there is unpaid work. Work your ass off, we'll throw it up on our site and take the ad revenue and you get to...what? Get a clip from some shitty website? Fuck that noise.

Nobody expects accountants to work for free. You don't get your hair cut for free, you don't get free car washes. The problem with things like writing and design is that a lot of people labor under the delusion that any monkey with a computer can do them. Guess what? This is actually what I do. It's work. It's as real a service as a haircut, and yes I most likely can do it better than you. That sounds cocky, but I don't care. Unless the New York Times comes knocking (yeah sure) I'm really over working for free.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Humblebragging

"Everybody has to feel superior to somebody," she said. "But it's customary to present a little proof before you take the privilege."
- Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's

I love it when you're having your morning coffee and perusing CNN, by which I mean Facebook, and it pops up that someone can't believe he went for an early morning run in the rain, even though he got no sleep last night because he was working on his green energy startup. Or that she was sooo embarrassed that her professor showed that Faulkner paper to his publisher, or that he's invited to soo many parties that he doesn't know how he'll choose (sadface emoticon). That right there is a humblebrag.

Yeah, it sounds like something Larry David would think up (Seinfeld or Curb, doesn't matter) but unfortunately they're everywhere, in the non-TV world. My generation excels at the humblebrag, so much so that somebody had to coin a word for it. It's those little declarations where you simultaneously put yourself down and, well, brag. And we should all stop it, right now.

If you're going to brag, just brag. When you have a real win, just be a teeny bit braggy about it. Just drop the coyness, we all know what you're trying to do. A girl I went to high school with just got a job at Google, and you know what her status was? "Jane Doe will be working at Google next year!" I mean, that is awesome. Brag about it, girl. Four for you, Glen Coco! (And speaking of Google: ladies--or really everyone, but especially girls-- read the New Yorker's profile of Sheryl Sandberg. I love her advice to women about knowing when to talk yourself up).

But yeah, on the other hand, freaking stop asking for validation for doing normal shit like exercising or cooking. I know we were all raised to think we're special snowflakes but really, no one gives a shit. Stop bragging about being a functional human.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wear Sunscreen, Etcetera Etcetera.

This is my welcome letter/advice to this year's incoming freshmen. It'll be showing up the freshmen issue of The New Hampshire on Friday. I promise I'll get back to real blogging soon, shit's been crazy.

Welcome to UNH. I’m sometimes envious of you—my classmates and I are staring down the barrel of a job market that’s so spectacularly bad for new college grads it would be almost funny if we didn’t have to graduate into it in a matter of months. By the time you graduate, maybe things will be better, or maybe we’ll all be scrambling to learn Chinese. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not really envious of you. Because I’ve learned a lot since I first lay in the top bunk in a sweltering room in Stoke during freshman orientation, unable to fall asleep because I was so excited to begin, to start what you’re starting this week, this big adventure called college. Here’s what I’ve learned since then.

Work hard, but don’t work too hard. Take a late-night walk in the snow, have long talks, hang out with friends at HoCo until it’s time for the next meal, lie on Thompson Hall lawn in the springtime…take time to notice that this is a nice place. Don’t miss it because you’re holed up in the library.

This seems like a big place to you now, but it will start to feel small. Explore everything—internships, study abroad, alternative spring break. Durham will always be here, and it’s a big world out there. And you’ll appreciate our sleepy little town even more if you’ve been away.

The people who are worth your romantic attention aren’t the ones texting you at 1 a.m. asking you to come over and “watch a movie.” Know what you want, know what you deserve, and stick to your guns. And, when you inevitably ignore that hard-won little chestnut from a wizened senior, just remember that every person you date/hook up with/have a weird undefined thing with is part of your story and part of the hopefully functional adult you’re going to become. Don’t disavow that. It’s college. We’ve all been there. (Just use a condom).

Fight for your friends. From this year onward, and progressively for the rest of your life, your friends are going to be increasingly scattered across the country and the world. The friends who were two doors down last semester might be in Kenya or London or New Zealand next semester. Your friends from home may not come back for the summer—they might take on internships in California or summer classes in Cambridge. Make the effort to hang onto the people you care about. It’s worth it.

Finally, don’t get locked into a five-year plan or fixated on a dream career. The jobs I’m looking at now are in fields I didn’t even know existed when I was a freshman. Things happen. You learn new things—about yourself and about the world—and you change your mind. That’s okay (and you’re not even remotely alone). Whatever you think you want now might not make you half as happy as something you haven’t even discovered yet. Yes, have goals—just stay awake to the rest of the world, too. And don't take it too seriously. You're gonna be great.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tea Partied Out

"We live, too, in the age of the Tea Party, a movement that cherishes stupidity and zealotry and hates thinking, reading, and teaching." -Harold Bloom, Harper's Sept. 2011

I haven't written a ton about politics lately, primarily (heh) because I'd rather let somebody cut off my fingertips with a bagel knife than listen to a lot of these wackjobs. Also, I'm still kind of traumatized by the last New Hampshire primary, in which I was unfortunate enough to throw my hat in the ring of the guy who was schtupping his videographer while his wife had cancer. Like, he was in my living room. My hat was fully in that particular, philandering ring. Anyway.

I felt like I have something I want to say about Michele Bachman and Rick Perry (and Mike Huckabee, I heard a murmur?!) but I wasn't quite sure what it was until today. I realized that the thing that drives me so entirely up the wall about these people (and the Tea Party in general) is that they are such absolutists. I'm not somebody who has a lot of Philosophies, but one thing I really do believe is that you shouldn't listen to anyone who thinks that their particular discipline can explain everything. Religion is not the answer to everything, but neither is science. Neither is meditation or Jungian analysis or psychotropic drugs. All of these things can fall into place and work for particular people at a given time in their lives, some more than others, but they're all just part of a bigger picture.

Today I was driving behind a car whose license plate said "SAVED." And it's just like, really? You're that sure? You want to carve that in state-issued aluminum? Now, I'm not knocking faith. But I cannot stand when people are so smugly self assured that their way--whether it's Christianity or libertarianism or veganism or chiropractic--is the only right way. Seriously, just don't trust anyone who tells you that something that can fit in a pamphlet is going to fix your whole life. (And I'm pretty sure Michele Bachman's version of Christianity can fit in a pamphlet). Life in general is a business that requires both diet and exercise, hard work and luck, psychotherapy and booze. It's not a single-sum game, ever.

Perry, Bachman, Santorum et al. think that their way is the right way, and everyone else is going to hell. Time was, in America, if you wanted to be president you tried to distance yourself from crazy, irrational people. Instead crazy and irrational has become a political base. Frankly I'm pretty scared--especially of Perry, because he's apparently in first place and whips people up into the kind of froth where they stand up and applaud the fact that he executed like 230 people while he was governor. Because Jesus is definitely pro-electric chair.

I have to go bang my head against a wall, I'll catch you guys later.

five hour energy for primary season=liquor and West Wing reruns

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink: Summer Double Header

So first of all, I'm sorry I totally blow at blogging lately. I'm going to make it up to the four of you with a special summer edition of OWWWP. It's a nice little smorgasbord this summer from Cosmo--ways to hate yourself, ways to be passive aggressive with your man, ways to "pamper" yourself that mostly involve glopping food on your face...really a little of everything. Here we go:

Numbers don't lie, ladies don't get laid
According to a "recent survey" which I can only hope was conducted by Cosmo, they found that in exchange for a perfect body, 85% of women would give up Facebook (okay) and 69% would give up booze (uhhh). They say that 82% responded "no" when asked whether they'd give up sex for a perfect body...which means that 18% of women in this survey were totally okay with giving up sex in exchange for a perfect body, which they would not able to use to have sex. So we know that 18% of Cosmo readers actually aspire to be frigid trophy wives, which honestly seems a little low.

Mix it up
August has a family-friendly little feature called "What Your (and His) Secret Fantasies Mean." It's pretty much copy and pasted from every other issue of Cosmo ever with slightly different graphics, but it does include this little peach: "It's all about role playing...if you want to get edgier, have him don a playful mask--the novelty will fuel both of your libidos." And now you are thinking about a couple banging in Richard Nixon masks. Sorry.

Wake n' bake
"I love cooking for my fiance, but I feel like I'm being taken for granted. Last weekend, I tried an experiment where I asked him to cook breakfast--he kept putting it off and we didn't eat until 3 p.m.! How can I get him to do more? For starters, don't conduct anymore experiments. For only did yours make you annoyed, it failed to get the point across. He may have procrastinated because he felt nagged. Plus guys can get distracted from eating--by the game, his iPad, a car wash at the sorority house across the street--so he might have actually did what you asked. Either way you didn't solve anything."

First of all, I have to set aside the fact that I would actually murder any guy who made me wait until 3 p.m. for my breakfast. (I'm not a murderous person in general, just really susceptible to low blood sugar.) But what the fuck kind of advice columnist is this? You basically told this doofus that her boyfriend's assholishness can all be chalked up to the fact that he's a dude and then didn't even answer her question. And let me tell you something else: any guy who can't manage to make you a fried egg sandwich before 3 in the afternoon definitely can't afford an iPad.

Feel like a million bucks for $1.75
The 25 Ways to Pamper Your Body feature from August includes this gem, which doesn't even need commentary: "#24: Give yourself goosebumps by sweeping a new, clean toothbrush over the curves of your neck and collarbone."

Just to verify, I am not making this up.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Which We Can Be Anything But Mostly We Are Broke

Remember when you were a little kid and they told you could be anything you want when you grow up? That was so nice. "They" of course is Sesame Street, or whatever show those of you who grew up with cable were watching. No, I will not catch most of your references to "Hey Arnold." Sad, I know. But Sesame Street had Spanish lessons and I speak Spanish now, so really, who wins? (The Hey Arnold kids totally win).

Anyway. It was such a lovely idea that you could be anything. A ballerina, an astronaut, a doctor...really anything with a recognizable outfit and an explanation five year olds can grasp. They keep up this farce right through high school and even into college. Remember those motivational posters stuck on the walls of the gym? If you can dream it, you can do it! Really, the idea that you can become anything you want runs deep in American culture. All it takes to achieve the American dream is some elbow grease, bootstraps, grindstones and some other metaphors I'm sure Sarah Palin would be happy to provide. If you can dream it, you can do it.

The worst part, to my mind, is that once you go to college and declare a liberal arts major they keep going with this notion that you can be anything. A liberal arts education prepares you for a huge number of professions, they love telling you. Here, you will learn to write, research, argue, think critically, and here you will become an Educated Person. Well, great. There was a time when that was all you needed to get a job, but it's not anymore--and no one ever sits you down and says, "Okay, let's talk about how you're going to take this degree in philosophy and turn it into something that will eventually cut you a paycheck."

For the record, I believe a liberal arts education is a really valuable thing. The world needs people like us, because otherwise all we'd have is numbers and data and brushed stainless steel. (I guess my world without the liberal arts looks like "I, Robot" with Will Smith? I don't know.) I don't disavow my decision to major in English. I feel like an educated person. But, in one area, I feel like my education has already failed me in a big way. Writing is what I'm good at, but I'm staring down the barrel of the gun that is the real world and nobody's offered me even an inkling of how I'm supposed to take what I'm good at and turn it into a job.

Now, I'm figuring it out on my own, and I've got my fingers crossed that everything will look better in a year. But does UNH actually think that my courses in the Post Colonial Novel and Shakespeare and drawing and art history have actually made me a competitive candidate for a real job? (Technically I'll have a degree in journalism and be qualified to write for newspapers, but these days that's like majoring in physics and banking on becoming an astronaut.) Are the university bigwigs so out of touch that they don't realize that in today's market their students aren't qualified for anything, or do they not care?

Salon recently ran an article called "Is is time to kill the liberal arts degree?." Now, I'm resoundingly against killing the liberal arts degree, but I do wish somebody would recognize that liberal arts students need a little more of a plan than engineers, and that it might be nice if our university could throw us a little guidance. Some personal finance, some computer skills, some basic understanding of business, a little career counseling. Hell, it could be a whole class. No, it's not romantic. It's not living on coffee and cigarettes and scribbling the great American novel in your vermin-infested apartment. It's not grappling with philosophical conundrums. But it's goddamn common sense. Until academia realizes that liberal arts majors need to live and work in today's crazy-ass job market the same as everybody else, all we're going to have is a lot of Latin-speaking bag boys and dishwashers quoting Kafka.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Worst Girls

They think they're hotter than everyone else (but they like talking about how they just like wearing jeans and t-shirts) they like sports (but not as much as they like telling guys how much they like sports) and they just don't get why they don't have any female friends (although what they really love is saying that girls are bitches and they don't want to be friends with them anyway). They're not just girls who are friends with guys, they're girls who proclaim that they can't stand other girls, only want to have guy friends and simply will not shut the fuck up about it.

They are the worst girls.

The worst girls shine in their Facebook pages; where they post statuses about how glad they are that all their friends are guys because girls are awful, and tons of boozy photo albums called things like "my boys <3." Don't get me wrong, it's great that you have boys. I believe that guys and girls can be platonic friends, sometimes. But sorry, if you're a girl who hangs out solely with guys, probably about 50% of them harbor feelings for you or at least a vague sense that they might want to make out with you sometime when everyone's drunk, 45% of them want to sleep with your roommate/sister/mom, and maybe 5% of them want to actually be your friend.

A lot of actresses also suck in this regard. (Megan Fox, I'm looking at you). They're champs at saying things like "Women are just so jealous, I really just prefer guy friends" and "I'm really just a guy's girl, I love football!" (I'm sure you do, January Jones). These factoids--especially the sports (because imagine! A woman who likes to watch sports!)--are constantly trotted out in profiles of actresses like they somehow make them more interesting. So, ladies of Hollywood (because I know you're reading this) it's quite possible that the reason you don't have girlfriends isn't because they're all jealous of your hotness--it might be because you're just really annoying.

Now, I shave my legs and everything but what the hell ever happened to sisterhood? This is simply not cool. If you do this, you are not fooling anyone. We all know that "girls are so jealous" means "I think I'm hot shit, you should too," and that "I just get along better with guys" means "I think all girls except me are bitches." We all get it. But if girls don't like you, you need to a.) take a look at the girls you're hanging out with and b.) take a long, hard look at yourself. Because somebody's acting like an asshole and it might be you.

So ladies, here's the takeaway: stop trashing other girls as a way to inflate your ego, because it sucks. It does not make you remotely interesting or unique that you like football. It just makes you one of millions of other people who like football. (And dudes: I know a girl who can hold her liquor and talk intelligently about sports is hot--not that I can speak from experience--but think twice about dating a chick with no girlfriends. Just...think twice). Most people couldn't care less if you want to have friends of the opposite sex and watch sports and drink whiskey and do whatever other crap "guys girls" supposedly do, so you can stop talking about it now. Sorry, but those are just things that people
do sometimes. You're going to need a new schtick, cupcake.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where I've Been

Sorry that it's been a long time since I've blogged, but my laptop was in London for about two weeks. You know, just chillin. Hanging out with my Kindle and the other thousand pieces of lost luggage at Heathrow. It was good. I think we both grew as people.

I left my laptop in a bin at security in Heathrow. They make you go through again because they're serious as hell about security in Britain and security in Spain is a joke--you leave your shoes on, don't take out your electronics and you can get almost any liquids you want through as long as no one actually sees them. The flight was late getting in because no one in Spain understands the concept of places to be and people to see, and I had like forty-five minutes to make my connection in London. Which if you been to Heathrow you know isn't even enough time to physically get to your gate, let alone eat a sandwich or pee. I was running to the gate, but safely got on the bus out to the plane, and then realized that my backpack was feeling kind of light.

No MacBook.

No Kindle.


I thought about trying to go back, but I wasn't prepared to miss my flight. By this point I wanted to go home way more than I wanted my stuff back. So I got on board, hyperventilated for like half an hour about all the files that I might have lost forever, then for another fifteen minutes I berated myself for never backing things up. That got boring so I had an Advil PM and two of those mini plastic bottles of Pinot Grigio, put on The King's Speech and slept like the dead for the rest of the flight. Helpful tips!

The thing is, though, it didn't ruin anything about coming home. My boyfriend was waiting for me with irises and a Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. Here's pretty much how it went:

8:00 pm I wheel my luggage through the exit, see Cam.
8:00:05 Random lady: There's a smiley girl!
8:00:07 Other random lady makes connection between me and Cam: AWW!
8:00: 10 Me: Hi.
8:00:12 Cam: Hi!
8:00:125 We're making out, random ladies are applauding, and oh em gee this is just like Love Actually you guys!
8:12 Random ladies start getting veeery uncomfortable. It had been like three months, okay?

My family was at home waiting for me, and my little brother and cousins had painted a big Welcome Home sign. And it was pretty much as awesome and warm and fuzzy as I thought it was going to be. It was totally possible that my computer was lost for good--although luckily it's not--but when I'm not blogging about random shit I occasionally write some serious pieces, a few of which I thought were starting to be kind of not terrible. There was some stuff on there that I really didn't want to lose. Thankfully it's all back now, after a lot of abusive emails and for some reason multiple faxes...I won't get into that shit though, you're welcome.

But bizarrely, there was a huge sense of calm that came over me somewhere in the middle of my second airplane bottle of Pinot Grigio. (And I might have utilized the red balloon trick a couple dozen times). Especially for someone who a.) sometimes pretends to be a real writer and b.) never backs anything up because she is really unbelievably DUMB, losing a computer is kind of a big fucking deal. But even though everything I'd ever written was quite possibly gone, I had a weird moment where I just decided it was going to be okay. I was finally on my way home, and it was all going to be okay.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Fall Down a Mountain and Decide It's Time to Go Home

I think maybe the universe is trying to tell me that it's time to get out of Spain. A group of about ten of us went hiking in the Sierra Nevada this weekend, which was stunningly beautiful and should have been a pretty much perfect day--except that I took one of the more epic and embarrassing wipeouts of my life. I'll explain.

I was really excited to get out of the city for a little while. Although I think I could definitely be a "city person" someday, city life has been getting me down a little. They're building the new Metro system right near my house, so every weekday I wake up to power saws screaming as they cut through cement, which is fun; and I'm also really allergic to whatever probably toxic dust all that excavation is kicking up. Then on Thursday my roommate and I walked a corner right near our house to find a morbidly obese guy beating off in the alleyway. I needed some fresh air.

The Sierra Nevada is absolutely gorgeous, and so totally different from any other mountains I've ever seen. (It's been awhile since I was a six-year-old geologist toting a L.L. Bean backpack of rocks, but I still have an appreciation for a good glacial formation). It was a gorgeous day, and everyone was in a good mood because our finals are mostly done and we don't have much to do except enjoy our last few days in Spain.

So anyway. Our guide for the day was named Paco, and he was pretty much a typical Spanish man in that he chain smokes and doesn't understand boundaries when there are college girls around. We had a beautiful trek to the top of a fairly small mountain, where we stopped to take some pictures. Paco was taking a picture of the whole group, and was still holding my camera.
"Here," he said, to me, pointing to a stone marker--about three and half feet tall, to indicate the summit--"This is a funny picture. Get up on this." So I do it, thinking he wants to take a picture of me standing on this thing, surrounded by the mountains. "Okay," says Paco, "Now, when I say 'ya' you jump, ok?" ("Ya" means "already" but it's kind of an all purpose word that means "Go!" or "Done" or a number of other things). Now, this seems dumb to me--not even necessarily dangerous, just lame--but I think, whatever, isn't going to hurt anything.

Yeah, no.

I jump, and immediately slip on the loose gravel and rocks on the ground and fall forwards on my hands, which would have been fine except that we're on a mountain--so I roll at least another six feet. I scrape pretty much the whole right side of my body, throw out my shoulder and knock the side of my head on a rock. For 1/50th of a second I think about that horrible book about people dying on Mount Washington, but then I get it together enough to form the words "OW!" and "FUCK." My friends all run over to help me up and make sure I'm okay, but Paco kind of ambles over and hands me back my camera. "The picture didn't come out," he says, puffing on his sixth or seventh hand-rolled cigarette of the day. "You're supposed to jump slow."


I assess the damage, which truth be told isn't anything too terrible, although I'm a little nervous about the whole head trauma thing. There's some blood and I have a couple of unholy bruises, but nothing much worse than that. Thing is, I'm kind of a baby. I do not play contact sports. I have never broken a bone, or even needed a root canal. (I also occasionally fall down a WebMD wormhole late at night when I'm sick, so I have an active imagination for things like concussions. Although at least this time it's probably not throat cancer. With WebMd it's pretty much always throat cancer.) I'm also kind of pissed, because although I might be a baby about pain, I'm not a baby about hiking. I grew up in goddamn New Hampshire, and this asshole and his precious little hipster cigarettes just made me take a full-on Sandra Bullock wipeout. I look like freaking Legally Blonde-goes-hiking.

The rest of the hike was beautiful, and although I was waiting to faint or throw up or something I didn't. Like I said, low pain threshold/overactive imagination. In the end it was nothing that Advil couldn't handle. Anyway, point is, I feel like it's time to go home. This whole week it's felt like when Spain wasn't grinning at me and jacking off, it was hitting me over the head with rocks. And if that's not a sign I don't know what is.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Put a "Like" On It

If you use the Internet, you've probably come across one of these videos titled "Greatest Proposal Ever," or something. Lately it seems like there's about a thousand former graphic design majors who proposed to their Zooey Deschanel lookalike girlfriends in a quirky whimsical video and then titled it something like "WE ARE AWESOME." Which, great. You're happy, you're in love, go for it. Plus I like looking at the faces of the former AV geeks when they realize how extremely laid they're getting tonight.

Then again--and I don't mean to shit on these people's happiness, just point something out-- it doesn't sit right with me. But what's not to like about sweet, young, attractive people getting engaged while some schmaltzy music swells and their friends and families cheer? (Just once I would like to see somebody post a video in which two forty-five-year-old divorcees get quietly engaged a Red Lobster because they can't really see anything better coming down the road and they both like Law and Order and yellow labs).

What's wrong with it in my book is that it's creepy, this constant need for praise via the Internet, a desire for total strangers to affirm your life choices. We're so wired that we don't know how to have a significant moment with our partner that doesn't go up on the Web? So linked in to social media that Big Moments don't feel real until we Tweet them? We won't feel engaged until britneyfan100xox0 has commented to say that we made her believe in love again? Yuck. That big decision you're making can't just be between the two of you, and eventually your family, and your friends--the Internet needs to know too?

I know this is the world we live in. Everyone's Tweeting and updating their status and BBM-ing and using Digg and Reddit and all kinds of other stuff, mostly to construct themselves a nice little online persona that's a smidge cooler, smarter and more attractive than their real selves. (And yeah, I know I do the exact same thing--glass houses, etc.) I know social media can be used for all kinds of useful stuff too--but let's face it, a lot of us like knowing that there's some total strangers out there who think we're cooler than we really are. But you have to go and do that to your proposal, too? What about romance! What about intimacy! All that! Come on!

Or maybe I'm just a crank, I don't know.

Here's one you'll either love or hate, although if you're still reading this post you'll probably hate it and I appreciate your readership.

AND ONE MORE THING: When did guys go back to asking permission for the "hand" of grown-ass women? I mean, if it's your thing, I guess that's your thing, and in the scheme of gender politics it's a little thing, but...yeah, gross. And at least they negotiated how many goats she's worth off camera, that was tasteful. I'm sorry. I am a bitch.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Things My Mom Taught Me

Neither of my parents have ever been big on giving advice--they've always been lead-by-example types, who dole out capital A Advice pretty sparingly. I honestly think that if you asked me when I was ten or eleven something concrete my mom had taught me about life (besides like, walking) I wouldn't have even been able to articulate something. I've been considerably further around the metaphorical block at this point, though, and I know I owe her an awful lot. So here's some important things I learned from my mom.

1. How to Not Give a Fuck
My mom, Katie, homeschooled my siblings and me until I was in the seventh grade, something I don't think I even appreciated all the way until recently. Although homeschooling might be why I was ridiculously shy until I was about 16 (maybe that's just biology, I don't know) I know that being raised that way gave me some of my strongest and best traits as well. Homeschooling taught me to be an independent learner, to follow what you're interested in, and--ready, this is cheesy--to be myself. Because if nothing else, homeschooling teaches you not to give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. I hope I'd have the patience and the courage to do that for my own kids someday, but I honestly don't know if I would--so I have to be pretty in awe of that.

2. How to Like Your Small Boobs
When I listen to my friends talk about how fat they're feeling or how they can't wear that top because it makes their legs look weird or how much they hate their nose/hips/elbows/chin/thighs, I send up a little "thanks Mom." Girls put themselves down a lot and I'm convinced that although friends make it worse, it many times--not always--starts with mom. If all you hear is "fat talk" from the time you're eleven, that's going mess you up a little. Now, my mom's approach to all of this is, again, something I didn't even appreciate until recently. Her approach was always to feed us very healthy food, make sure we were active and otherwise, for the most part, leave us alone. I went through a time where I was pretty "sedentary" (her words) and she always pushed me to get out and move, not because I was going to get fat (although obviously I probably would have), but because it's just healthy. And it's not healthy to get fat, either, but my mom placing that constant emphasis on eating well and exercising because it's good for you definitely gave me a healthy outlook on life and --blech--"body image."

So she got the big stuff right, although I don't think anyone ever showed me how to put on makeup, and I know that I didn't learn to tweeze my eyebrows (she did eventually show me that) until at least eighth grade, because there is a class photo of me looking like Frida Kahlo in a polo shirt. But, priorities.

And my mom's final piece of advice about body image: "Don't wish for bigger breasts. It's a pain in the neck when you exercise, and when you get older....well, gravity is a cruel mistress."

3. How to Have a Happy Relationship
My boyfriend and I agree that one of the best things our respective parents did for us was a.) stay married and b.) seem genuinely happy to be married. I feel hugely lucky to have my parents as an example of a happy marriage, and I don't underestimate how important that has been in my life (again, I feel like this is the kind of thing you definitely don't appreciate when you're twelve).

4. How to Feel Better
Go for a walk.

5. How to Tell Left From Right
I have a mole on my left hand. I still refer to this periodically.

6. How to Fake it in Math Class Despite Your Crippled Left Brain
Do all your homework. Get A's in English.

7. How Not to Be That Girl
Don't drink when you're sad.

8. How to be Polite
Put your napkin in your lap and always write thank you notes.

9. How to Let Go
(Mom holds out a closed fist)
"It's a red balloon..." (opens fist) "Let it go." I'm always embarrassed by how well this works.

10. How to Help in a Crisis
Make a lasagna.

what, there are no not-gross songs about moms.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Coffee

If you want to understand the difference between Spaniards and Americans, all you need to know is how we take our coffee. When I'm at home, coffee isn't really something I think about a lot beyond "I need it" and "please give it to me" and "now." I'm only a fledgling journo but I've been drinking newsroom tar long enough to singe my palate pretty completely. I drink whatever's around--a medium black from Dunkin Donuts if I ran out of time in the morning, the coffee my dad made at 6 a.m. when I finally roll out of bed at 11 on a Sunday, and in a pinch even the coffee somebody at the office made last night, warmed up and accompanied by a piece of cold pizza from production night. (Breakfast of broke college journalists everywhere) When I have to get Starbucks--only when nothing else is around, I'm a Dunkin girl always and forever--I say I want a "medium" because I'm just a dick like that.

But the Spaniards. Oh, the Spaniards. Coffee here is an
event. The tiniest hole in the wall coffee shop has beautiful, elaborate espresso machines. You might see espresso machines like that in New York City, but I'm willing to bet you could count on one hand the number of beautiful brassy steampunk confections we have like that in New Hampshire. You can only get espresso--straight up, cut with a little milk (cortado) or with a lot of milk (cafe con leche). There are cups, saucers and tiny spoons, not styrofoam with a plastic lid. But that's just details.

The more philosophical side--coffee as a metaphor for life, if you will--is that to-go coffee is an oddity here. (Actually, eating and drinking anything on the go is pretty uncommon.) While Americans are bombing around with our venti lattes with a shot of Adderall and screaming into our Blackberrys, Spaniards actually
sit down in the cafe, read the paper, talk to their friends, have a little cafe con leche and maybe a croissant, and--when they're good and ready--eventually head to work. And this is pretty much how everything in Spain works. The waiter will bring you your food when he's good and ready. My history professor will roll into class whenever he feels like it. Those old ladies have a gossip fest in the middle of a busy sidewalk will get out of the flow of traffic when they're damn well done talking.

It sounds romantic, I know. Everyone taking their time, connecting,
enjoying. I don't have any data on this, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a part of why Spain has the second highest life expectancy in the world, despite the fact that they all smoke and live on cured pork products. (I'm generalizing, but not a lot) People are less stressed, less wound up. They know how to chill, not just when they're on vacation but any old time of day. Which is lovely, if that's what you want to do too. If you have to actually get stuff done, the cafe con leche lifestyle can get frustrating fast--especially to black coffee Americans like me. I walk literally twice as fast as most people here. I don't really have a lot of patience for people who don't understand how a sidewalk or a line in a grocery store is supposed to function. I would, on occasion, like to eat a meal in under two hours.

But although my frustration with all of this gets amplified on days like today when I have a considerable amount of actual shit to get done, I remind myself that pretty soon I'll be back in the land of road rage and people murdering each other over children's hockey. And then, I remember to have--and really enjoy-- a cup of coffee. Nice and slow, the way the Spaniards intended.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Here's something. I live in a country where topless sunbathing is totally chill but walking down the street in anything other than an actual potato sack is license to be catcalled and whistled at and just generally creepily harassed. I mean, I'm used to working in Manchester, where the most hitting-on I ever had to deal with was an occasional, appreciative two-syllable "da-yum" from a guy in a doo-rag, or a barista shyly telling me that he likes my Wilco shirt. I am so not equipped for this.

And really Spain, what the fuck? I guess I think I'm decently cute, but I normally dress in a way that Barbara Bush the elder would find appropriate. My style is probably best described as "cool librarian" or on a more casual day, maybe "artsy camp counselor." But apparently it doesn't matter that I'm walking down the street dressed like Peggy Olson (but cool Manhattan Peggy with the lesbian friend and the new haircut, not sad Brooklyn Peggy). I'm an American girl, and that's all the go-ahead these assholes need. Part of the problem is that literally everyone can tell that I'm not Spanish. I have a big round Irish pancake face and practically albino skin--and American girls definitely get the brunt of the creeptastic shit that goes down on the sidewalks of Spain. (Spanish men think we're all MTV girls). And no matter how Continental I try to dress, I still end up looking about as un-Spanish as speedy service in a restaurant.

Now, I've been working on my bitch face. When I walk alone in the mornings I pop in my headphones (yes mom, volume low, not trying to get hit by a bus) and put on my sunglasses whether I need them or not. There's ways to avert some of it, but especially as the temperatures are starting to edge into the eighties and skirts and dresses are becoming more the norm, it pretty much is a cemented part of the daily routine. (The only surefire way to avoid it is to be walking with a guy, but we only have three on our program so they're in short supply as chaperones) There's no one type of guy who'll do it--some of them are fifteen and some of them are eighty-five. Typically it's a group--guys the world over are just more dickish when there's a bunch of them (not a stereotype if it's always true). Sometimes it's just a whistle, sometimes it's a full-blown speech about "beautiful American girls." Once or twice it's been bad or weird enough that I tossed off a "leave me alone" or a "fuck you" but usually the only sensible thing to do is ignore it and keep walking.

Unfortunately, the truth is it is part of the culture. One of our Spanish professors was shocked when we tried to explain to her that in the US only certifiable creeps yell things at random girls on the street. I won't say it's everyone, because I've met plenty of perfectly nice and polite Spaniards too, but it's a whole hell of a lot more than any city I've ever been in in the states--as in, it happens to us every day. And it's getting really, really old.

People (most of whom happen to have testicles) try to tell you that this is just a part of the culture, that's just how they are, try not to let it bother you, they're just "appreciative." Well, fuck that. For real, it blows. And saying that it's part of the "culture" is the most inane argument I've ever heard. I mean, for christssake slavery used to be part of our culture. And when two guys follow my roommate and me for four or five blocks making kissing noises and mumbling things about "guapas" and "bonitas" at 2 o'clock in the morning, that doesn't feel appreciative, that feels fucking scary. Flamenco guitar is part of the culture. Getting harassed on the street is getting harassed on the street. File this one under "things I will absolutely not miss about Spain."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure

So I've pretty much sucked at blogging this past month. I'd like to be better about at least jotting things down as they happen, because I know I'm going to forget things in a year, two years, ten years. But fact is when the coolest stuff is happening you're living it, not writing about it. And I refuse to be one of those douchebag writers with a fifteen dollar Moleskin notebook in my pocket all the time, I'm sorry.

There's just about two months left in my time abroad, and I'm constantly vacillating between wanting it to slow down and speed up. On the one hand, I'd happily live in Europe and see the world one 8 euro Ryanair flight at a time. (Although if and when I'm ever making real money I will never fly Ryanair again. That shitshow is basically the Fung Wah bus of the skies.) On the other, I miss home. I miss my boyfriend, and my family, and my friends from home and from school. I feel like the world's biggest whiner--partying until 5 a.m., swimming in the Mediterranean...and here I am talking about how homesick I am?

But this was what I wanted all along, I think. To feel homesick, and even at times a little lost. Because every time that I beat down a purse snatcher on a bike--yeah that happened, long story--or share a joke with somebody from Morocco, or Mali, or Cuba, or stand in front of Las Meninas or inside the Alhambra, I am constantly bowled over that this is actually my life. My life is drinking sangria with the Sierra Nevada on my right and the Mediterranean at my left. My life is having breakfast with my boyfriend on the terrace of our rental apartment and looking at the Alhambra. It's crazy, and it used to all be out of my comfort zone, and it's all pretty amazing.

Whenever we're traveling as a group, everyone is constantly taking pictures of groups of people, and the sights, obviously. But once in awhile, somebody hands their camera to a friend and, almost a little sheepishly, asks if the friend will take a picture of just him or her--standing in front of whatever important, beautiful or famous thing we happen to be visiting. Because even though we share so much of this trip, we're all writing our own version of the story. We all want a little piece that says "I was here."

The thing about going abroad as a student is that even though you're in a large group that gets close very quickly, you're also you. You're a college student who's choosing to ditch the library and the dining hall and the warm Keystone for something totally new and unknown. You've got the balls to do that--and while it might not feel like a lot sometimes, it sets you apart a little. I think it's something very personal, choosing to push yourself like this. Everybody is looking for something slightly different, but we all wanted this challenge. We're looking to learn, and make friends, and travel, but for me at least there's also something bigger, something more inward. I don't know what to call it, really, but I feel it sometimes when I fall into bed at the end of the day just totally exhausted from speaking, reading and writing Spanish all day, not to mention absorbing the culture shock (which gets better but it doesn't go away). It's like going to bed after a serious workout, with all your muscles aching. They hurt because you broke them down and now they're slowly rebuilding themselves into something stronger.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I Have a Uterus and I Vote

This week, the GOP started a huge push to take away federal funding for a lot of (in my opinion) essential government programs. I'm not going to get into all of them, because my boyfriend Paul Krugman did it better here but one cut that frankly isn't getting talked about nearly enough is the move to entirely defund Planned Parenthood.

First of all, crazies, there's no federal money paying for abortions, that's illegal. Considering that abortion is still a legal and often lifesaving medical procedure, that's bullshit, but moving on. The federal money that Planned Parenthood gets is for things like pap smears, breast exams, HPV shots and other important routine women's health care and checkups. You know why women have to go to Planned Parenthood for their mammograms? Oh right, because the GOP fucked women on the healthcare thing too. Sick.

Now, the anti-abortion thing I can understand. I don't agree with it, but it's a viewpoint I can at least wrap my brain around. What I can't understand is why anyone thinks it's a good idea to take away access to condoms, birth control, checkups, vaccines, and other health care options. Because you know how you prevent abortions? By reducing the number of women who get pregnant. You know how you do that? Access to birth control. You know what's expensive? Breast cancer. You know what's cheap? Mammograms. You know what sucks? Terrible complications from STDs. You know what's cheap? Condoms, or if it's too late for that, penicillin. THIS IS NOT THAT COMPLICATED.

I'm going to stop yelling at the Republicans, because obviously John Boehner doesn't read this blog. But ladies. Ladies. Wake up. Our generation was born fifteen years after Roe v. Wade, and considerably after the advent of safe and effective hormonal birth control. And if you want to go back further than that... two hundred years ago, if you had sex you probably got knocked up, and if you got knocked up you had to a.) give birth, which would probably kill you, or b.) have a horror show back alley abortion, which would also kill you. If your husband got the clap at the whorehouse, you got some too. If you had your period you stuck some rags in your underwear and went back to your back-breaking life. You would pop out kids until your body gave out, and then there was a pretty good chance you would die. Women only got so far behind in the historical sense because they were concentrating on making sure that their uteruses didn't kill them.

And now, we have all the technology to make sure that we only have babies when we want them, and to treat STDs, and to catch deadly cancers early on, and our own government is about to take away a lot of women's access to all of that. We've gone our whole lives thinking that our reproductive health is a given, but it's not. We still have to fight for this. Which again, is bullshit, but that's the world we live in. There is zero doubt in my mind that this is sexism. If you want to keep a woman down, you take away her autonomy over her body, plain and simple. (If we can keep young and/or poor women down, so much the better!) Fact is there are still people running this country who would like nothing more than to see us all barefoot and pregnant. We have to realize that if we don't sit up and pay attention, these people are going to slowly but surely take away the rights that generations of women before us fought and sometimes even died for. Women's rights are human rights, for the billionth fucking time.

So whether you're a woman or just someone who happens to think that women are also people, please sign this petition and send an email or make a phone call to your representative. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. And if you have some disposable income, send a few bucks PP's way. We've come way too far to let this happen, and we need to tell Congress we're not putting up with this bullshit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

At Home in Granada

If you've been keeping up with my trip on this blog (which makes you a member of a demographic of approximately three people) you know I've done a little whining about Spain lately, but I really have to say: I love this city. Here's why:

1. This weekend we went to a club that is in an actual cave. And I stayed out until 5 am and actually enjoyed it. I'm getting the hang of Spanish nightlife, although ending the night with some 6 am churros y chocolate like a lot of young people do still sounds like a terrible idea. We're starting to have the scene figured out a little better, and we all know our way around the city pretty well by now. In a lot of ways, it's starting to feel like home--not like my home, maybe, but home the way UNH is home.

2. This morning, I went to Mass in Granada's immense baroque cathedral, and was actually able to understand a lot of what was going on in the readings and the homily. It always feels like a victory every time I piece together something on my own--a newspaper headline or an ad or a scripture reading. That said, sometimes I was totally lost, and I had a new appreciation for the cathedral--even if you have no idea what's going on, at least there's a lot to look at. Which is exactly why it's so beautiful--back in the days when the Mass was in Latin the hoi poloi needed something to do while the priests were droning along. Obviously it's a good thing that the Mass isn't in Latin today and ordinary people can understand what's going on, but this kind of explains why my home church looks like a conference center.

3. I think Sunday mornings in Granada are just the nicest thing ever. Everyone's out for a walk or on their way to church, or sitting around enjoying some coffee and breakfast with their families. There's some kind of outdoor market right near our apartment that's going on for the rest of the month, and this morning the street was full of musicians and guys selling balloons. Everyone is dressed up beautifully, including the kids. That little girl in a camel coat, red tights and Mary Janes and the two-year-old twin boys in duffle coats and loafers really make me wish somebody in my family had a little kid so I could buy tiny adorable clothes for him or her. I just love how everyone is truly relaxing. At home, weekends are for catching up with stuff you've otherwise been putting off all week--chores, errands, whatever. Here, everything's closed on Sunday. No grocery shopping, no Home Depot runs, no nothing. The only thing to do is sit in the sunshine and drink coffee. Bummer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When Your Euro Trip Starts to Feel Like a Bad Trip

So let me say first of all that I love Spain. It's an unbelievably beautiful country, the people are all so nice, and I'm having a fantastic time learning Spanish and exploring the city that's still my home for the next three-plus months. But this was a fucking rough week.

We traveled to Madrid for four nights last week, from Wednesday to Sunday, making side trips to Segovia and Toledo. I loved the trip--it sounds silly but you can't help but be bowled over by how old everything is here. The aqueduct in Segovia has been there since Roman times and was only decommissioned a few decades ago. My dad laughed when I called Madrid a "new" city--only because most of the architecture is from the seventeenth century onwards. After a little time here it's easy to forget that they were building palaces in Madrid while the Pilgrims were practically living in mud huts. I visited the Prado, which was something I've been wanting to do for years, and it definitely was not a disappointment.

So throughout all of this I have kind of a low-level sinus ache/head cold. Which, whatever. I was perfectly able to get out and do whatever I wanted. Wasn't about to go run a marathon, but I was fine. But our last morning in Madrid, two girls from the group came down with a stomach virus, and long story short we spent five hours on a bus together and practically everyone in the group came down with either the cold that had been circulating or the stomach bug. Or you know, both, if you're me.

There is absolutely nothing like being sick to make you homesick. At a certain point you just want to puke in your own toilet and crawl miserably back into your own bed. My hostess Ana made a special trip to the store for melusa, a white fish that is delicious but definitely not what you want to eat on a queasy stomach. I didn't want anything to eat at all, but I had an aggressive Spanish matriarch trying to get me to eat fish in cream sauce absolutely insisting that it would fix me right up. I wanted my mom. I wanted to go home.

I didn't actually cry at the table, but it was a close one.

Another thing you don't realize--until you really need something, anyway--is that they don't have the same names for medicines here. I would have killed for Pepto Bismol but I had no idea if there was a Spanish equivalent or what it was called. Our profa Sarah recommended something called Primperan, which was supposed to help with nausea. Well, my roommate went out and got me some. Here are some of the possible side effects:

-Disminuacion del nivel de consciencia, confusion, alucinacion (Decreased state of consciousness, confusion, hallucination)
-Espasmos de los musculos de la cara, del cuello y la lengua (Spasms of the face, neck and tongue muscles)
-Problemas de coordinacion de los movimentos voluntarios (potencialmente irreversible) (Problems with coordination of voluntary movements, potentially irreversible.

This is something you can just walk into a pharmacy and buy, although to me it sounds like you could just inhale some lead paint dust and call it a day. I decided to take my chances with the puking.

Anyway. It was just a bug and I'm fine, but it was not a good time. On Tuesday I felt okay, so I went out because I wanted some fresh air and needed stamps and some girl stuff. Well. Let me just say that siesta sounds like a great idea to you but it sucks when you're puking in a Spanish Burger King because you've been forced to wander around for an hour waiting for the stores to open up again because they're all closed for siesta and all you want is some goddamn tampax. So yeah. That was my week, how was yours?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Sat Through a Soccer Game and All I Got Was This Lousy Sunburn

I went to my first soccer game this weekend in Granada. I wasn't psyched about it, frankly, but this semester is supposed to be about being open to new stuff. I'm pretty much always open to new things when they're edible (that sounded dirtier than I meant) and I'm always up for new experiences in art museums and shopping and moderate exercise with stops for nice views and snacks. Sporting events, not so much. So yeah. It was all about getting out of my comfort zone, etc. etc.

Really the only American sport I can get into is hockey, but that's because I was supposed to be born Canadian. I'm not kidding about this. Football is okay if you're watching it at home on the couch with friends and beer and chili, and absolutely horrible if you have to watch it live. Basketball is pretty fun to watch live, and okay if there's nothing else on TV. Baseball is boring as fuck, I'm sorry. It's all great if it's your thing, but it's not mine. I am destined to spend my life not catching Frisbees and swinging wildly at whiffle balls and getting smacked in the face by kick balls, and that's my cross to bear. I'm good at other things, such as Scrabble.

Soccer falls somewhere in the middle of my sports spectrum. I will say that the game was not as long as I thought it would be, so that was one plus, and it was a nice day out. It moves pretty fast, and Granada actually scored three goals so it wasn't quite as dull as it could have been. The stadium is absurdly disorganized--there are no signs to tell you what section you're sitting in, apart from a few chalk numbers scratched on the cement walls. I get the sense you're supposed to grow up coming here, so they don't need signs of any description--everyone who's from here already knows where to go. Really though, it wasn't unbearable. I only got a mild sunburn. I spent most of the time wondering what we were having for lunch.

Here's the thing though. Everyone loved it. I don't mean the Spaniards, because obviously they go crazy for this stuff, I mean the other American kids I was with. They want to go again, and a lot of them have already bought 50 euro tickets for a Real Madrid game next week. What gene am I missing? Why do sports make some people scream their heads off and make others wish they'd brought a book? Let me know if you figure that one out.

chainsmoking camerahombre

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Settled In and Taking Stock

Things I miss about home:
1. My family, friends and Cam.

2. Breakfast cereal. You think I'm joking by ranking this right after my family and my boyfriend, but I'm not. A bowl of Special K while watching Letterman is the absolute tits, I don't care what you say.

3. Dog-crap free sidewalks. In most respects Granada really is one of the cleanest cities I've seen--every night there's legions of guys in jumpsuits out cleaning the streets--but people let their dogs shit smack in the middle of the sidewalk and never pick it up.

4. Other people of slightly-above-average height. Spaniards are short people, and I seriously keep hitting my head on low-hanging doorways and beams all over this city. If I start acting strange, please let me know, because I'm probably mildly concussed.

Things I don't miss:
1. Driving everywhere. I absolutely love being able to walk to basically anywhere I need to go in an ordinary day, and I really don't miss paying 3+ bucks a gallon to drive around my gas-sucking Subaru.

2. Snow. I love to ski, but I have to say taking a break from the winter--especially this winter--has been really wonderful. It snowed for the first time today, but for the most part it's been sol, sol, sol.

3. Being under the legal drinking age. It is so unbelievably nice to have a drink or two and not worry that I'm going to get arrested by the forces of the Police State of Durham. That said, I'll be 21 when I get home, so my stateside friends better be ready to rage--because I have a feeling turning 21 could be anticlimactic in a country where people take their children to bars.

4. Working out. Now, I'd estimate that I walked at least six miles on most days last week. I sleep like a log and based on purely unscientific methods I think I've actually lost a little weight--but I really don't miss the gym. You know those people who say that eventually you're going to want to work out, that your body will crave it? I hate those people. I work out because I feel better, happier and healthier afterwards, but it's always a chore when I'm actually doing it. My name is Ellen Stuart and I fucking hate the gym. And I am not ashamed.

love the song...unfortunately the video was made my a fourteen year old who just discovered clip art.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Today we had a big gathering with our host families at Cafe Futbol, and we all at too many churros with chocolate. World travelers or not, we're still college students, and as such can't resist free food--especially when it's as tasty as churros. All of us girls are very conscious of what we're eating lately, and trying to calculate whether we're walking enough to work off the bollerias (rolls and croissants), pasteles (pastries) and of course, the churros. We do walk a lot, as does everyone here in Granada. It's a 20 minute walk to school from our apartment, and in addition to that we've been spending several hours wandering around every day, just getting to know our new city. I'm not usually one to worry much about what I eat, but still. The pasta. The sweets. The white bread at every meal. I'm also not one to abstain from good food when I'm on vacation, but I keep reminding myself this isn't a vacation--a vacation is a week, maybe two weeks. This is a whole semester, and all those carbs are going to add up.

It doesn't make us feel much better to try on clothes in Spanish stores--my size 4 butt just barely fits into a medium dress here. An extra-large pair of pants looks more like it would probably be about an American size 8. (Plus the fact that I'm really tall here, and my shoe size hardly exists--which is a very good thing, when you come down to it.)

On Sunday mornings it's very easy to spot who's American and who's Spanish--the Spanish women are in fur coats and beautiful shoes, having a little paseo (stroll) through the quiet streets, arm in arm with a friend or husband; and the American girls are out in running shorts and blonde ponytails, taking a jog. (which I should still do.) But it's not just that there's fewer fat people--I was ready for that--but nobody seems particularly worried about exercising or watching what they eat. Forty-year-old women unabashedly eat fried dough dipped in chocolate. (I mean I was used to that from working at Canobie, but those women weighed 300 pounds and were wearing Gretchen Wilson tour T-shirts.) Spanish women enthusiastically ooh and ahh over how good it is, without any of those jokey "diet starts tomorrow!" comments American women make--and they're mostly thinner than Americans, too. Looking at them, I'm not too worried. The food we eat at home is delicious and very healthy, we walk everywhere, and a treat here and there is okay. What a concept.

dear julia: buying new pants is not the answer. paseos are.
also this movie sucked, except for the "eat" part.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Amor y Otras Drogas

Last night about ten or eleven of us went to the movies to see Amor y Otras Drogas (Love and Other Drugs). (The wonderful Sarah Hirsch paid and wrote it off as a "cultural experience"--thanks UNH) The dubbing in the movie was obviously insanely fast, and I was able to mostly keep up only because I'd already seen the movie in English. The movie got out at about 1 a.m., and we went to a bar called Batan to have a few drinks. We were tired of hearing only American music everywhere we go, so we asked the bartender to put on something Spanish...and so he had Kim and me go behind the bar and make a playlist. (American girls tend to get what they want here). It wasn't anything crazy, but even a low key night of a movie and a single drink doesn't end until about 3 a.m. in Spain.

Lots of talking about boys--from both sides of the Atlantic--as we walked around and ate too many Napolitanas (croissants with chocolate filling) this afternoon. I always feel lucky to be with Cam, but today I was feeling especially lucky to live in this century. My dad wrote to my mom every single day of the six weeks that she spent in England when they were in college, but Cam and I have Facebook, Gchat and Skype--it's easy for me to pop in for even a few minutes to chat, or, if I have more time, to talk face to face for as long as we like. I can't even imagine what a separation like this would have been like for a couple living before there was even reliable mail service. All I know is that being apart has certainly made me more sentimental than usual.

Had a pretty lazy afternoon drinking coffee and wandering around with Marilyn and Athina. Athina already has an admirer--Mauricio from Cafe Futbol--and today he brought her a flower and gave her a free coffee (Marilyn and I paid our own way). He's been trying to get her to go for un paseo (a stroll) with him for awhile now--unfortunately he's thirty years old and about 5'2.

Classes start tomorrow, so I actually have to go do homework! Hasta pronto.

that's my boys from Wilco helping out on instrumentals.

Friday, January 14, 2011

History Lessons and Relationship Advice from Maricarmen

Today we got ourselves a caravan of taxis and went up into the neighborhood of Sacromonte, where there is a monastery and incredible views of the Alhambra. One of our professors, Maricarmen, sat us down for a short lesson about the history of Granada and the monastery were were sitting in. La Abadia Sacromonte was a monastery and a seminary, and it has a beautiful courtyard with a fountain and orange trees. The star of David is everywhere--on the walls, the ceiling, the furniture and even the priests' vestments--and Maricarmen explained that in this context it's not a symbol of Judaism but Solomon's seal, a mark of wisdom and mysticism. I won't try to encapsulate the multiple millenia that Maricarmen told us about, but one of the most interesting things we did was explore the catacombs beneath the church. These were used by early Christians during the second century to hide from the Romans who occupied Spain at the time. The patron saint of this area is San Cecilio, and his (supposed) bones were found in the catacombs and are relics at Sacromonte today. The bones were found beneath two stones, one black and one white, and superstition says that if a woman touches the black stone on February 1, the feast of San Cecilio, she will be married within the year (My roommate Athina touched it but the rest of us stayed a safe distance away). Conversely, if you're married and touch the white stone on February 1, your spouse will either die or otherwise disappear over the course of the next year--which I guess must have come in handy before Spain recognized divorce (It's a fairly recent phenomenon here, compared with the rest of the world). Maricarmen swears it works--she said (in Spanish) that if you ever find yourself married to the wrong person, you shouldn't bother to pay a lawyer--just make a visit to La Piedra Blanca. That way, she says, you at least get a vacation into the bargain.

the chicos, making us a classroom

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Update from Spain

Hola todos, I'm in Spain for the semester now, so this blog is likely to become mostly about my adventures and misadventures in Granada. (There is such a thing as Spanish Cosmo though, so keep an eye out for that post) I arrived last night, and got settled with my host family. My senora's name is Ana and she's very sweet and a great cook. Got our hands on Spanish cellphones this morning, and had churros y chocolate at Cafe Futbol (basically donuts dunked in melted chocolate...super healthy.) After that we walked around a lot and found the Centro de Lenguas Modernas, where we'll be having class. Tonight we'll check out the nightlife, and tomorrow we'll have orientation at the Centro--before we start our five-hour-a-day Spanish classes with our profe Sarah on Monday. Hasta pronto.