I’m Not Going to Your Pretty Party (But Thanks for the Invite)

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When I was 5 years old, I went to a friend’s house with long curly hair and left with the Dorothy Hamil haircut. With little to no convincing, my friend put lotion in my hair to prepare me for “my wedding” or “school” or whatever engagements sound grown up to  a 5-year-old.

I never questioned what the scissors gracing my scalp had to do with impending adulthood. I was young, trusting, and promised a strawberry fruit roll up.

I remember looking in the mirror and feeling nothing towards my new appearance. The fear only set in when my mother rang the doorbell and I found myself underneath the table, tightly clutching said fruit roll up.

I went to school the next day and a kid told me I looked like a boy. I cried because I assumed this meant I was ugly. I cried because, at 5 years old, I was already a failure to my gender.

Cut to the present and my hair is almost as short, and almost as styling, as Dorothy Hamil’s. I barely wear makeup, I only respect a utilitarian handbag, and I find shopping to be a frivolous chore that is better left to my boyfriend.

Needless to say, I don’t feel pretty on the day to day.

Needless to say, I don’t really try to.

As a “woman,” I resent society’s pressure to tell me what traits I should care about. I resent that the admittance of not feeling pretty is immediately met with well-meaning  but generic coos of “yes you are.”

I appreciate your insistence that I have value, people in my life, but that’s not really what I’m questioning.

Because, in my mind, pretty is a pretty thing that exists in pretty people. It affects the way they move, speak, and stylize themselves in ways that are both put upon and inherent.

I do not move prettily. I move like you should get the fuck out of my way.

I do not speak prettily. The word “fuck” is not a curse word to me. It’s a second language.

I do not stylize myself prettily. Again, I repeat the phrase, “utilitarian handbag.” Also fuck.

It is not self-deprecating to see pretty as an adjective that belongs more strongly to someone else. It is self-deprecating to cry when some kid on the playground asserts that your appearance is wrong for both your gender and your identity.

It is self-deprecating to believe that because of your genitals, you have to feel pretty or make an effort to be so.

I feel no ill will towards pretty or the friend that cut my hair almost 18 years ago. She knew me before I knew myself. She knew that I was something other than “pretty.”

Getting PC on my MAC And Other Reasons Why LA Drivers Are Bad.

Getting PC on my MAC And Other Reasons Why LA Drivers Are Bad.

People are naturally bad. I know this because I’m an LA driver.

Or maybe bad is just a little harsh, let’s just say that people are naturally selfish and driving on crowded LA freeways brings out a dormant survival instinct where everybody is out for themselves or whatever alliances they’ve made with other cars on the road that look just like them.

Or maybe I’m not really talking about traffic.

You see, every time I put my blinker on to change lanes (as the good handbook tells me) the response I get is not the slowing down of someone who respects my fundamental driving rights but rather a flagrant desire to get ahead and beat me on the race to morning Starbucks; even if it means that both cars become damaged and one of us winds up dead.

To be fair, Starbucks now serves Red Velvet Frappuccinos.

Through the Darwinistic desire to prove whose car is faster or which coffee is hotter, people have become walking sports teams on and off the road. And, as a white, liberal feminist, I guess I’m just frustrated.

I’m frustrated because calling myself a WHITE LIBERAL FEMINIST reduces me to a stereotype who cares more about her right to wear cornrows on social media than disempowering structural racism and sexism.

I’m frustrated because that’s what I think of when I think of a WHITE LIBERAL FEMINIST, and I’m exhausted that there aren’t more people on my computer screen to prove me wrong. Or right. Because name-calling on the internet is stupid and compartmentalization is what got us here in the first place.

You see, as I watch the news and talk to people, and read blogs and twitter, I find myself bombarded by two extremes that are missing the point. It’s not enough to be right and it’s not enough to prove others that they’re wrong. It’s about creating allies so that gaps in income,education,race, gender, and television preferences can merge together to form a middle where everyone’s needs are safely met, all voices are justly heard, and the boxes can stay in the basement where they’ve always belonged.

Again, it’s not enough to be right.

I say this as someone who has been exposed to many people of different backgrounds and perspectives on life. I’ve been militant in my desire to prove my liberal ideals but have been reduced to anger and tears when I can’t get others to intersect. To explain, to really patiently explain my perspective to someone that I perceive as “ignorant” is hard to achieve when my first reaction is always knee-jerk. In my desire for someone to just get where I’m coming from, I’ve ignored the “yes and” part that is so wisely the first rule of improv.

My blinker may have been right, but I hesitated too long and blocked the road.

At the end of the day, I’ve learned from my mistakes in communication and am wary of all defensive and aggressive driving. I’ve learned to shift into neutral and dream of when others will slow down and catch up. I dream of an America where sports teams only exist on the field. I dream of a world where both *Bell Hooks and Beyonce are unquestionably considered feminists and homeless veterans are two words that are rarely put together. I dream of a strong middle class that is not reminiscent of the exclusionary 1950’s and I have a dream of an American dream that is not based on material gain or enacting violence on others.

But mostly, just like everyone else, I dream of a more pleasant commute.

*This refers to an intellectual gathering at The New School where acclaimed media scholar Bell Hooks called Beyonce a terrorist for hyper-sexualizing her body in her music. I love Bell Hooks but don’t see how the whole women vs. women thing has furthered feminism in the past/present. 

Having the Foresight to Reject Hindsight

Having the Foresight to Reject Hindsight

If hindsight is 20/20, then I’ve been functioning at 20/70 for far too long. At least, that’s what I realized when I was given contacts for the first time and my perspective jumped from VHS to HDTV in just a matter of eye pokes. Instead of being thrilled by my new crisper, 3-dimensional vision that all the kids have been raving about, I resented the new change in my daily routine. After all, I loved my VHS tapes.

Six business days later, my glasses came in and my spirits lifted. Daria. Tina Fey. Mother Teresa. By my standards, I was finally inducted into a special club for great women, whose success in gender politics can be measured by their choice in eyewear (take that the pro contact patriarchy).

But when my excitement wore down and I realized that I was no closer to becoming Liz Lemon, I noticed that something bigger and more pressing had been obstructing my view. Much like my vision, my perspective since graduation has been completely near-sighted.

In the past, staying present was hard. I liked looking ahead at the vague shapes in front of me and planning how they would mirror my future. Internships, friendships, teacher-mentor ships, these were just a means to achieving the fruit of my hard work. I had no doubt that I could be a screenwriter and would be ready for any challenge ahead of me.

Well, I’m two months in and my future looks hazier than ever. I can barely see what’s ahead of me and not just because my glasses are foggy from the summer humidity. I’m near-sighted because I don’t have the foresight to know what I want anymore. Are the hoops to work in entertainment worth it? Is selling and possibly changing my art going to bring me any personal satisfaction? Could I really be happy following a career path that only helps myself?

What I realized is that I made choices that led to one path without realizing whether I would regret them. After all, as a child actress I’ve been involved in entertainment my whole life. At what point does it become entertaining?

As usual I have no answers but am finally asking myself the right questions. I love writing, but I can expand what that means. I have stories to tell, but I can choose who I tell them too.

Instead of regretting my lack of hindsight, I accept the challenge of finding a clearer perspective. I will try to explore other interests and other destinations until I find the life I want. I will enhance my sight so that when I drive, I’m no longer a danger to those who share the road. I will not blame the past and lose sight of the future. Yes, I still don’t particularly care for the present but at least I have choices. Glasses or Contacts? It depends on the day.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Unsolicited Advice (AKA Returning To Your Childhood Home)

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Unsolicited Advice  (AKA Returning To Your Childhood Home)

22 is too young to be feeling this negative. That’s what my father told me last night and I can’t say that he’s wrong. 22 is too young for a lot of the ways that I’ve come to define myself: cynical, tired, curmudgeonly in the face of Excel tutorials. And yet here I am, 22 with a glass half empty and an unshakable desire to skip to the last page of a book I’ve all but completely written off. Because hey, the twenties are a lot like the last Harry Potter book: full of hasty narrative choices and a needless amount of time spent alone in the woods. But, unlike Harry Potter, who had his teen years and a genocidal wizard lord to justify his angst, I just have my feelings. And my free childhood home. And a lifetime of institutional privilege. And a father who is still alive to tell me I’m negative.

So, what do I do? Do I feel guilty that I’m not as happy as I should be or do I take the Inside Out approach, and just feel Joy that it’s okay to be Sad?

OR

Do I cry it out now and feel bad, and miss my boyfriend, and hope that I can wake up tomorrow and go to work and feel like a person instead of an ungrateful garbage monster?

OR

Do I just take a deep breath and admit that maybe my dad, no matter how well intentioned, was wrong? I am feeling negative but I’m not too young to do so.

The thing about being 22 is that there’s a seemingly never-ending amount of emotions, questions, and choices. There’s no Dark Lord to slay, but the path to self improvement is just as daunting. Answers still need to be found. Excel still needs to be learned.

Today, I choose to not to feel bad about feeling bad. I choose to listen to my family while still accepting that I may not (or may) have the maturity to implement their advice. Tonight, I choose to shut off Excel and save self-improvement for the next chapter. Harry out.

Nobody Likes You When You’re 23 (And, quite frankly, you don’t like anybody else)

Nobody Likes You When You’re 23 (And, quite frankly, you don’t like anybody else)

Nobody likes you when you’re 23. At least that’s the warning that Blink 182 gave me my entire life, although I’ve never thought  to heed it. That it, until now, as I face the last few months of my 22nd year, still feeling the weight of the one beer I drank the night before (to be fair it was a stout). On this day, I can’t help but remember that mere months ago, a younger 22-year-old Caitlin could have had 3 beers, and hell, 5 shots before feeling anything. Today, almost 23-year-old Caitlin wishes she wasn’t allergic to Tums.

More than the rapid disappearance of my party tolerance, I find myself noticing an age gap with my family that I thought would dissipate after graduation. You know, all that with age comes with maturity garbage? Instead, I find myself at war with people that I genuinely like and love. They use the word transgender in a past tense and I’m ready to fight. They misunderstand the purpose of a Burka and my liberal arts school senses tingle with rage. They admit to watching the Big Bang Theory, and I’m that much closer to starting a commune in Oregon.

I remember being an opinionated teenager, and how rebellious it felt to wear a green army jacket and notice the ignorance that exists in hetero-normative society (deep, right?). It felt like social justice just to call people out on their misinformation: my contorting face, held back tears, and loud, condescending tone made me feel like I was living up to the standards of MTV’s Daria. What I didn’t realize then, or even until recently, was that basing your principals off of a fictional teenage girl does not make you an activist. It does not help you communicate as a mature adult or help you educate those who don’t know the real purpose of a Burka. For all of her truth and insight, Daria’s emotional maturity level is frozen in time. I was 17, was 22, and now am about to turn 23. At this age, I want to close the age gap, change people’s views, and get people to like me. I would, however, settle for beer.

Forgiving the iPod for killing my walkman (although that wasn’t very nice)

Adults like to tell me that I’m an old soul. It’s been that way since I was 6 and watching The Simpsons for its political commentary through my tween/teen years when I had written off Hilary Duff and JBiebs in favor of Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young. Needless to say, the technological boom that had brought us the iPod went over my head. I was content with my walkman and found the prospect of downloading hundreds of songs into a tiny slender box to be stage one of the robot apocalypse. If I was to use the green mini that my Aunt Gail had bought me for Hanukah, it was to listen to The Beatles or Greenday pre-American Idiot. After all, good music had ended in 1998.

Flash forward to now. The robot apocalypse is moving along nicely into iPhone stage 6. I’ve just graduated from college with a media arts and culture degree, a passion for comedic screenwriting, and an appreciation for a wide range of modern music (does Kanye circa 2004 count?) Recently, I’ve realized that technology has changed the world in ways both positive and negative and maybe we didn’t need those 8 more seconds of attention span after all. Really, I’ve committed to being more open to learning, to Benjamin Button my ol’ soul and see the laptop as half-charged. After all, Netflix has allowed me to rewatch Reality Bites, and Spotify has given me access to the entire CSNY discography (still no Beatles but I can wait). Most importantly, the internet has given me the ability to publically embarrass my parents with the photo below:

My parents as teenagers in the good ol' days. (1973?)
My parents as teenagers during the good ol’ days. (1973?)

And on that note readers, how many fives of you might be out there on the other side of the web, I officially grant my iPod amnesty. I will always miss the joy that the walkman brought me, but will forever have the memories downloaded onto my old soul.