Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obsession: Home

When I was in London I took an English course called Writing London, and we spent one whole class period discussing the idea that part of being a writer is obsession and addiction. We acknowledged that many great writers have had detrimental addictions, but also talked about the idea that in order to be any kind of successful writer, one must be completely obsessed with certain ideas and tropes, addicted to the belief that if one just writes one more time about that Thing, the Thing that grips you and keeps you up at night and follows you around relentlessly, it will solve everything.

We read an excerpt by a prominent author (it is a painfully obvious author, one that I will look up when I am feeling less lazy, one that I will be embarrassed not to have remember off the top of my head–maybe it wasn't an author, maybe it was Freud, whoever it was I am definitely going to be mortified that I couldn't just go look him up immediately, but being home makes me slothful and it's easier to type a few extra sentences about being embarrassed than it would be to get up, find my Writing London folder, flip through the sheets, and locate the author) that addressed this phenomenon. He wrote about traveling to a specific town and wandering around the town, but no matter how he wandered or what route he took, he ended up in the same spot: the road filled with the prostitutes. He didn't want to get away from that route, even though by wandering around he could pretend he wasn't stuck there. But he was, emotionally, intellectually, even physically. And I think that translates over well to the idea of writing: we write about certain ideas because we are stuck on them, fixated by them, totally and completely obsessed with them. We spend our whole lives writing about them, thinking it will help us move away from them, thinking it might help us make sense of them. It usually doesn't. It usually just makes us look like obsessive loons. But that's a writer, you know?

Anyway I've realized that one of my obsessions is Home, and what it means, and how it functions in a human's life once we leave it. In an act of serendipity made possible by the Internet, just as I was thinking about how one of my obsessions is Home, and I can finally acknowledge that, I got an email from The Photographer's Gallery in London (see, it all ties back together in the end, yes? No, not really, the Internet has just made the world one giant coincidence. But pretend with me for a moment.) Anyway the Gallery, which is one of my favorites, emails: "We want your stories & photographs for An Idea of Home!"
The word home conjures up many images, as well as posing many quesitons. What makes a home–the roof over your head, or knowing your neighbors? What does it mean for refugees, or the homeless? What makes a person leave their home–and how do you create home in a new country?
I'm glad they asked, because I want to know! Anyway they've started a Flickr group to explore the question and they want people to contribute. I just might. Check it out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I get anxious if I don't see her

Probably just the sappy English major in me, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say this movie will be my favorite fall flick. Who wants to come see it with me immediately?

"Mr. Keats is very brilliant." Indeed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Last First

That's Molly and me "underwater" @ P.S.1 MoMa

My last few days of summer vacation have been positively blissful. The apartment is coming together, my friends have been reliable and wonderful, I've been actively doing cool shit, and New York feels like home. I'm so lucky, and I'm going to try and remind myself that every single day this year, especially when all the work I've signed up for starts feeling overwhelming, or I get the urge to freak out about The Future, or when I get caught up in the tiny little things that ultimately don't really matter. I'm incredibly excited for this school year, even more so when I realize it could be my last official school year ever. Which means I'm like, growing up...or something.

Happy first day of school everyone–let's get to it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Almost my last first day of school!

Can't believe tonight
was the last night of summer
break. Hey, Senior Year.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tracey Emin's coming to New York!

I almost forgot! Sam told me earlier today that Tracey Emin, one of my favorite artists (as well as being one of my biggest girl crushes), is having a show in New York in November! I was so bummed to miss her London show, so I'm doubly psyched about this one. And seeing as it goes until December 19, it works as a perfect early birthday present. Thanks, Tracey!

PS: When Googling Tracey Emin, I stumbled upon this: "I'm not happy being a feminist. It should all be over by now." And my heart skips another beat.

Indulgent Reflections

It's been a busy week. On Thursday, in the "first milestone since graduating high school that has been me feel pretty fucking old" category, we drove to Vermont to drop my baby brother off at college. Baby being relative, of course, seeing as the boy is 18 and about 8 inches taller than me. Nonetheless, I felt more than a reasonable amount of sadness upon leaving him all by his lonesome in a dorm room that is perhaps tinier than my Hayden Hall one from three years ago but definitely more social, as when we left he already had 4 "friends" and I'm pretty sure when my family left me at NYU I had 0. So that's good. And, as Dan helpfully pointed out, I'm the one who had the nerve to pack up and leave first, so it's not like I can feel betrayed or's not like we've lived in the same house for three years now. But what can I say? I have far more motherly feelings towards my baby bro than is normal, and I worry about him and care about him and I just want him to love college and grow into his own and keep writing and be awesome. Which he will be, so I should shut up and stop worrying.

A fun, true, FML-this-is-pathetically-accurate, story: we drove past the UVM rugby team practicing on a random field and Dan pointed it out. My dad got a very confused look and was like, "Wait, those aren't college boys! They're so big!" To which I had to explain, no, they are college boys, my dad is just used to the emaciated hipster boys populating the streets of NYC, his only other reference to college. I am seriously contemplating moving to Vermont, or like, Minnesota after graduation, simply so I can attempt to secure a burly sexy mountain man. Then of course I will have to lure him back to New York, because I don't think I could really make do with a place where "downtown" indicates four restaurants and a few karaoke bars, but really, I have never seen men in New York who compare to the kind they were harvesting in Vermont. So, states where farmland exists, watch out...I might be coming to borrow some men post-grad!

Anyway after we dropped Dan off, to distract my mother from impending suicide at the thought of being an empty-nester, we drove up to the Birkshires to see James Taylor in concert with Sheryl Crow and Yo Yo Ma. Which was, as could be expected, absolutely glorious. The Birkshires is another place where I could see myself after graduation. You know, lounging about in a cute bed and breakfast, forcing random townspeople to pose in the wilderness a la a Norman Rockwell painting, finding myself a husband...all valid ways to wile away my time as my undergrad degree (presuming I manage to procure one, please god let me graduate in May) goes to waste. I kid, I kid...kind of.

Now I'm back in Newton for one more night (read: 5 more hours and I'm still not packed!) before driving back to the city and moving into my brand new first real big girl apartment! Which currently has no furniture. And no internet. And possibly no heat, though I guess that's not much of a problem on August 31. Point is, I shouldn't really be blogging, but I probably won't get a chance to hop on line for the next few days (anyone who knows me will understand when I say I absolutely cannot relax until things are at least vaguely organized at my new place.) I do intend to keep up with the blog though, and now that school's about to start I'm hoping my desire to procrastinate writing my thesis all year long combined with an enforced schedule will help kick my ass into gear. So get ready for lots of rambling over here and hopefully some coherent stuff over at NYULocal, which I am attempting to contribute to for the third time and plan to actually follow through with this time around (third time's a charm blah blah blah right? Right.)

I feel good about everything coming my way. Yeah, it's fucking terrifying that in one week I start the last year of my undergraduate experience, but at the same time, I'm ready for everything. I feel zen about the future, calm about my probable lack of employment after graduation, and just incredibly excited about everything that's coming up before all that. Bring it on, Fall 2009. I can take you on! But first I have to finish packing, otherwise I will never get to you.

Ready, break.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This might be an overreaction but the fat-shaming of women in this country makes me want to scream

I'm currently seething.

I was just thinking that maybe it's time to abandon this blog, maybe it's been too many days where I just don't know how to articulate what's in my head into a meaningful or useful post, maybe I should focus on my creative writing elsewhere and hopefully contribute to some other publications and just shut the fuck up online for a little bit because we all know I secretly believe the world wide web is going to be the end of imagination and creativity and life on earth, or something.

But then I do a quick scan of my Google Reader (that's a lie, I still don't really understand how a Google Reader works so I don't have one, but I think I get the gist and I have some sites bookmarked that I click through quickly every time I turn on my computer which seems to serve the same function, so uh anyway...). And I find out that Star magazine has now pronounced Mary Kate Olsen "bloated." And I want to scream.

Maybe on the surface this doesn't seem like a big deal. Gossip magazines spend their pathetic existences churning out lie after lie about whichever celebrity they can snatch some new paparazzi photos of for that week, and although the American public seems to gobble it all up I'd like to think that most people know that very little of it is the truth. It would also be nice to assume that most of America actually doesn't give a shit about the lives of a few people we have elevated to the status of "celebrity," but sadly I don't think that's the case. So I mean, I know that all "stars" have to deal with reading upsetting and often untrue things about themselves, day after day, week after week, etc. There are plenty of sites online that trash celebs as a way to make a living (yes I'm talking about you, Perez Fucker, but no I will never link to you lest I provide you even a single pageview). This happens a lot. I get it. Star is not the only offender. But that does not make me less mad and it does not make it any less of a big deal.

Just for full disclosure, I'll admit that Mary Kate is my ultimate girl crush. So obviously I love her, but rest assured, I'd be raging right now even if Star magazine decided to assault my worst enemy with their stupidity. There is absolutely no excuse for shaming a woman for her size publicly, whether she is a celebrity or not. There is no excuse for expecting all women to be a specific size. There is no fucking excuse for going out of your way to point out that a woman who used to suffer from an eating disorder has gained weight. Not only is this insensitive, it's both physically and emotionally triggering. It proves that you are a fucking asshole.

My two main issues with this article:

1. It reinforces the idea that there is some magical ideal weight for every person and that if you are even an ounce over it you are fat. Yes, being too fat is not healthy. No, most of the time when people say you can "tell" a person is too fat they are not correct. Our country's vision of a "healthy" body is not based on a truth. It is based on the perception that all women should be skin and bones, it is based on the idea that the only way to be the best version of yourself is through extensive PhotoShopping, it is based on the premise that aging is bad and youth is good and fat is evil and skinny, no matter how you achieve it, is magical. As someone who is overweight, I know the dangers of eating too much and not exercising. I am aware that being healthy means not eating 5000 calories a day and dragging my ass to the gym more than once a month. You know what though? Most of the women and girls I know who are "overweight" are a lot healthier than the women and girls I know who look "awesome" aka super thin. I may be overweight, but I am healthier than a girl who only drinks water all day and then eats some crackers at night so she doesn't pass out. I am healthier than the girls who chain smoke so they don't have to eat lunch. I am healthier than someone who pukes up her meals, healthier than someone who goes to the gym for four hours every day, healthier than someone who starves herself to death because society says thin is pretty. And I am not blaming any of these women–I am blaming the falsehoods we, as a society, pass on to children. When my brother was about 7 years old, he turned to my mom at dinner and asked, "Mommy, why do calories kill you?" What the fuck. What the FUCK?! At the time, as a ten year old, I just giggled, but now as a twenty year old I want to cry. Are we really raising a generation that equates calories, the sustenance and energy that keeps our bodies alive, with death? Yes. Yes we are. And that mentality is far scarier and far more unhealthy than being a little bit overweight.

Which brings me back to the original point that I strayed from a bit: a "healthy weight" is not a perfect equation. Everyone's body is different, so everyone should weight a different amount. Muscle weighs more than fat, some people have bigger boobs, some people have bigger bones. A healthy weight for one person is not automatically the same healthy weight for another person, even if they are the exact same height. BMI is misleading, remember?

2. Why are we obsessed with weight in the first place? Seriously, I am the first one to say that when one takes on the role of celebrity, one must accept the label of "role model" whether it's invited or not. Yes, Miley, even though you are a teenager, by deciding to be a pop star you have made the decision to be a role model to the many little girls who look up to you. It's not fair because you're just a kid yourself, but you put yourself out there and now you do have a responsibility. Yes, President Obama, you are now a role model. Sorry if that's annoying and we all stalk you on the Vineyard, but you knew it was coming, right? Right. Hey, random reality show stars–you signed up for people to videotape your life. And we live in a weird culture where the masses will actually follow through with that bizarre concept–you know, sitting in front of the TV, watching your "every day" life. But we'll judge you on it, too, and you had to know that when you signed up. What celebrities should not have to sign up for? The public monitoring their size. I don't know when our obsession with skinny women will go away (maybe when we're all dead because we stop eating because Star says 5'1" and 130 lbs is fat?) but I find it so upsetting that instead of focusing on what celebrities do–if we're gonna insist they be role models then we should care if they do volunteer work, are kind people, etc, right?–all we care about is their weight. Specifically, females. More to the point: we don't want 'em fat.

The Star article writes, "At 5'1" tall, the formerly superskinny twin–who spent her 18th birthday in rehab–looks like she's tipping the scales at 130 lbs, which is 20 lbs more than her ideal weight, according to North Carolina-based weight-loss expert Dr. Aaron Tabor." Obviously Star can guess MK's weight just from looking at the photo. And we should definitely trust Aaron Tabor to know what MK's true healthy weight would be. And also, we get the subtext–you think us readers at home are Fatty McFatFats, right, because we might weigh–gasp–the same weight as Mary Kate Olsen, a beautiful young women who used to be anorexic. Which, you know, would make us fat. Also, super subtext: you are less beautiful if you're fat, less special, less worthy of a boyfriend, and all around a lesser person. Duh.

You know what? Fuck you, Star. And fuck you, Dr. Tabor. Not only did you just almost make me, a fairly well adjusted and healthy 20 year old, feel bad about my weight (which, without getting too personal, let me just say is a tinyyy bit more than 130 lbs, and I stand 5'1", too), but you also just said that someone who suffered from an eating disorder is now too fat. At a healthy weight. I would like to know where you practiced medicine, because where I come from, you know, The School of Common Sense, it is far preferable for a young woman to stand 5'1" and weigh 130 lbs than oh, I don't know, under 100 lbs.

Fuck American beauty standards. If this sort of thinking is acceptable to the majority of society, then I think we're all fucked. And I just don't know how to fix that.