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.