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I am not going to expend a lot of energy weighing in on what I’ve witnessed countless times at unsavory Orlando nightclubs in my early 20s, but I do want to ask this: Is no one mortified by Bruno Mars crooning about getting lit on cocaine and making love like gorillas? It’s a bonafide jungle out there…
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("Honey, where’s my Jergens? We can’t have meaningful pillow talk without it!")
It’s a recurring scene: TV husband has something to discuss: his boss, his (“ahem”) needs, his insufferable mother-in-law, his true identity. He paces the room, tie undone and shirt half-buttoned, but TV wife has already slipped under the Egyptian cotton. Her bedside lamp illuminates her camera-ready skin as she vaguely listens to her TV husband’s latest crisis while keeping quiet about her affair with the neighbor, her positive pregnancy test, her insufferable mother-in-law, her stumbling upon TV husband’s true identity. As TV husband yammers on an on about how his new boss is destroying his integrity, the future of advertising, his chances at being a role model for his son, TV wife vigorously rubs lotion on her hands. She’s like a doctor readying for surgery or a suburban Lady Macbeth who’s mislaid all her best plans. The ritual is so explicit and gratuitous in length that one can’t help but muse on its subtext. What the hell does all this bedtime moisturizing mean in the context of this scene?
A slew of pedestrian sitcoms employ this trope: Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, probably Yes, Dear and the new one with Tim Allen. Perhaps more surprising is the observance of Kristina Braverman and Mrs. Coach participating in this ritual on Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, respectively. I’ve seen it appear in some films, as well, the kind with big, white kitchens as backdrops, meandering J. Crew-sponsored beach montages, and heteronormative ennui in spades.
Questions I need answered:
1) Am I failing at life for not viewing a lotion-lather as a necessary precursor to slumber?
2) Is the point of this trope to remind me that, as a woman, I will grow old with dry chapped hands and thereby become shriveled-up, useless, a dream deferred?
3) If so, I have some ways to change-up this scene while maintaining its probable intention:
a) Connie Britton inspects teeth for signs of aging. Notices a graying back molar. Puts her mounting panic aside to better listen to Coach’s aimless tale about Buddy Garrity’s plan to destroy his integrity.
b) Monica Potter has Peter Krause inject her with Botox while they both decide what to do about Haddie’s plan to destroy the integrity of the family unit.
c) Bad Sitcom Couple enters bedroom. Bad Sitcom Husband paces in a charmingly neurotic fashion. Cut to:
Bad Sitcom Husband remarks: “Needs more Aveeno!” (Canned applause)
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My most recent dreams have been rather perplexing. But isn’t that the case with any and all dreams that the dreamer is able to recall?
In my first vivid dream, I am meeting friends for Thai food in a diner. A New York diner straight out of the movies where the alienated and soon-to-be-unhinged go to eat pie and intensely regard the clouds in their coffee. I sit alone at the counter, away from my friends who are crowded in booths, but that doesn’t deter them. They keep handing off babies to me, adorable ones with open dimpled arms and gurgly smiles. I reluctantly take the baby and it eventually dissipates while I try to order an orange-infused espresso/green tea hybrid. I never order it because at the moment when I have the waitress’s attention, Edward Furlong sits down on the adjacent stool and tosses his papaya salad to the floor in classic Furlong-fashion. I have to beg the behemoth of an owner not to throw Eddie out as night hits the walls of the diner and the inside lights up like a fish tank.
The second dream left me in a cold sweat at 3 am watching an Amy Schumer comedy special, the episode of Cheers where Woody is overeating because he isn’t schtupping his girlfriend, and a half-episode of It’s Sunny in Philadelphia. My nightmare began the way all my nightmares begin: in a dark house inhabited by a cadre of demons. A Lynchian drone of dream-silence scores the unsightly sights that I’ve created and frames of pure madness are held several seconds too long for this sleeper’s comfort. In this particular episode, I am in an impressive residence, a cozy but minimalist cube presumably owned by someone modestly affluent with a discriminating eye for what works in term of open-floor plans. Jake Johnson and other faceless friends are there. We sit on a plush sofa in the pitch dark as if we’re waiting for my mind to entertain us with its most twisted notions.
Inevitably, it does. Demons show up. Blue-eyed child demons lurking behind shower curtains. My implausible group of friends and I are frozen with fear. Demon children continue to pierce us with the constellations of their eyes. It’s all we can see as we look into the open bathroom without daring to approach it. A light goes on in an unknown room down the hall. A trite device, too easy. I look at Jake and the gang sheepishly, as if to say: “Welcome to My Nightmare”.
Then,Type O Negative’s “Christian Woman” rips open the silence and fills the high ceilings of this hellish abode with its faux-black magic reverie. I float above Jake Johnson, my flesh rippling like the skin on cream. Peter Steele’s deep, hell-bound voice repeats “Corpus Christi” and my body thrashes and contorts, hitting the well-built walls of my Houzz fantasy.
I wake up. I can’t shake that subconscious dread that fuels nightmares but never really manifests itself in interesting or obvious ways. At dawn, I am calmer and remember Peter Steele is dead. I hope that Edward Furlong isn’t. At 5 am, I think: Remember to look up the meaning of papaya salad, open-floor plans, find out why people love Frasier. Forget to do so but, in writing this, discover: 1) Edward Furlong starred in the remake of horror-camp classic Night of the Demons and 2) Type O Negative was played in the film (“Black #1) although not included on the soundtrack. Add the justification of irrational fears and validation of dream logic to list of reasons why the internet makes everything scarily convenient. Consider ordering Thai food.
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In my heart, this song is a classic. And so it might be, secretly or not-so-secretly, in the hearts of many. The Outfield’s “Your Love” resonates with just about everybody who’s encountered its enduring magic: die- hard fans of the 80s, karaoke enthusiasts, gamers, dads, Katy Perry, tipsy moms at weddings, Bon Iver, contrite adulterers, less apologetic philanderers, you (?). Basically, the whole world, year after year, decade after decade, buoys this would-be flash-in-the-pan and distinguishes it from the other flotsam and jetsam of pop culture past. It’s not a “Take on Me” assuming the Sisyphean burden of being emblematic of everything both awesomely terrible and terribly awesome about the MTV era, perpetually stuck between those two worlds just like the adorable Morten Harket in that video that will never die. And it’s not a “I Know There’s Something Going On”, a middling effort from an established pop star that represented its point in time well, but most definitely deserves its ephemeral status in the hearts and minds of the general public. “Your Love” is something else altogether—one of the few one-hit wonders that matters apart from whatever collective nostalgia dictates. “Your Love” didn’t reach #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986 because it was desperately on-trend ( See: stirrup pants). It topped the charts because it personally touched each one of its listeners. It said something real and true and sad and sexy and desperate and sincere and we all kept on responding long after we discarded stirrup pants—or their hideous equivalent—from our closets and our memories.
The song’s premise is incredibly simple: guy cheats because his gal is on vacation far away (I always envisioned “Josie” in Hawaii), he’s digging on the other woman but feeling a tad guilty, and ultimately, he puts an end to their indiscretion. But he won’t forget her and all of her love that he used!
This is infidelity depicted at its most relatable and sympathetic. Perhaps there has been no more honest plea in pop music than “I just wanna use your love tonight”. Most of us haven’t the nerve to say these words aloud, but most likely we’ve thought them, say, at closing time, as singletons (or not), when the night gets tired and he/she, the love-vessel, still hangs around in a dark corner casting coy glances that light up the walls of that dive bar like champagne. In that moment, we feel no shame in entertaining the primal fantasy of using up all that love if only until 7 am the next morning and, whether we recognize it or not, The Outfield is partly responsible for this. All great songs have a restlessness, a palpable urgency about them that demand their audience to either join them on their journey or “get the hell out and ‘please would you close the door?’” “Your Love” is a great, great song. Each time I hear it feels like the first time—the first time to heedlessly follow that chorus to its very center, belt out forbidden desires or consummated transgressions gone wrong. To give into the infatuation, the confusion, the ultimate sadness that permeates the whole affair. And once the song reaches its fade-out, to press play and give in all over again.
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It all began with the “Jump” video. It was a routine weekend visit to my godparents’ house in Miami, Florida. The year was 1984 and I was four years old. At this time, I was already subsisting on a steady diet of MTV viewing, so it was not unexpected that as soon as I entered my godparents’ home, I greeted them monosyllabically—as any four year old would, I suppose—and plopped down directly in front of the television set. When I say “directly in front of”, I mean I was so close I could taste Martha Quinn’s skin cream. In a pitch-dark family room with the comforting sound of my parents’ voices echoing from the dining room, I witnessed the world premiere of Van Halen’s “Jump”. And it was a spectacle.
The man with the lion’s mane streaked with Sun-In seemed to take up the entire screen as he kicked and lunged about the stage, his body aerodynamically contorting itself in slow-motion. He tossed his hair like a swimsuit model and had the predatory eyes of an animal lurking in my backyard at night. But he was also really funny. Like a birthday party clown but with more jewelry. The other guys were smiley and friendly, too. That one with the yellow zebra jacket seemed to totally enjoy what he was doing to that guitar. They all seemed so darn pleased to be in the presence of this really flexible man with all his great dance costumes. The best part was that it seemed as if they were playing just for me, as if I had willed them onto that softly-lit black stage for my own amusement. The music sounded like robots soaring in a metallic sky or a less frightening version of when the Blue Angels would fly directly over my house and cause the world to shake. The colors, the sounds, the smirking, the gymnastics, the fun, the gaze of the lion-man! I was hooked. I had to see it again.
HBD to DLR.
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When I was thirteen, a lot of terrible things happened. And more bad things took place before then. The ’90s, in general, were not so kind to me. Life stopped being polite and started getting real. Really real. Real, real, real.
Early on in the decade, pop culture’s premium on ‘realness’ emerged: It bit the beautiful slacker’s hand that fed it; it extended itself into slick and sinister virtual realms; and it was filmed by television producers intent on capturing how it imbued the lives of fresh-faced, young folks with an addictive earnestness that viewers would allow to merge with their own inferior realities that constantly betrayed them.
See, there was ‘real’ and then there was real. The latter belonged to us, the regular people whose lives weren’t being filmed, because the media wanted nothing to do with it. I understood this even as a precocious pre-teen quick to jump on the latest fad that primetime Fox, all too liberally, doled out. In 1993, I was wearing chokers and crocheted vests layered over bodysuits that echoed Jane, the drippingly sincere, but oh-so-hip boutique owner and doting wife of Dr. Michael Mancini on Melrose Place. I was twelve. I was insecure and susceptible to the charms of advertising. I bought the sickly sweet perfumes featured in every print ad in Seventeen magazine. I wore them even though they made me gag. Yet, I was media-literate and happily let myself be duped. Smelling like a brothel fronting as a bakery, I was Cindy Crawford confronting the elements of fire and ice. I embraced the sham(e) of it. I was the perfect demographic for the advent of ‘real’.
I knew that when I took off the velvet rope around my neck, my problems would loom much larger than whether or not I should lose my religion to Beverly Hills High’s resident bad boy. Or how I would ever reconcile my friendships with a black woman and male model with my conservative Midwestern upbringing. Were these real concerns, issues to take seriously and digest as a socially-aware consumer? Certainly. Were they germane to negotiating my own conflicted childhood? Well, yes and no.
It’s not really important what sorrowful threads made up my reality because I consciously traded them in for a realer reality so often that the threads started to braid themselves with those I co-opted from cable and Sassy magazine. I wanted the’90s version of an honest life: political activism, bowler hats, coffee, black baggy blazers, Toad the Wet Sprocket. I wanted to discuss the state of the environment with a bearded boy while wearing sensible shoes and my grandmother’s dress. I wanted us to fight about “selling out” our lives to capitalism and then make up in a dark bar with Eddie Vedder ringing in our ears. I wanted to break up with bearded boy unceremoniously and then get a tattoo (a black hole) to celebrate our dissolution. I wanted to live the sloppy, somewhat sad, pop-culture saturated life of Janeane Garofalo’s character in Reality Bites and have meaningless sex with guys in bands until my heart hurt constantly because I was just being true to myself. I wanted to lose my job, lose my purpose, lose myself in melancholy and inhabit the warbling chords of a Cure song that wasn’t “Friday, I’m in Love”. I wanted to live in Cameron Crowe’s Singles, but in a grimmer version that sucked slightly less.
But let’s be real: I was in 6th grade. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted. I just wanted to escape from a bedroom that was always dark even though it was filled with pink stuff and neon-headed Troll dolls. I wanted to scrub away the patina of stability and comfort my parents offered to mask the amorphous gunk of death and dysfunction that crudded my childhood home. My dad had begun videotaping our outings to riverside parks and craft festivals, forcing us to smile as we made memories to put off the inevitable. My mom insisted we buy a Sears photo package the year before she died. By that point, you could see the disease in all of us. I’ve looked at those pictures once since they were taken. The ghosts scared me off. The date is on the back of the photos: May 1992. In 1992, I wished for a life that would make me miserable, over-analytical and hyper-aware of the tragic beauty of the human condition, but in ways that I did not currently already know. I sought to live authentically as someone else. Someone equal parts Christian Slater’s quirky love-interest and Natalie Merchant. I thought it a fair compromise.
In 1993, I loved Nirvana, Lenny Kravitz, and Dr. Dre. I liked Toad the Wet Sprocket. I hated the Gin Blossoms. In 1994, my mom died. And so did Kurt Cobain. In 1995, I dye my hair cherry-cola red in an attempt to become Angela Chase. The hair dye is semi-permanent. I am still me.
What’s, perhaps, most strange is that Toad the Wet Sprocket evoke the ‘real’ of that time in my life more than almost any other band. At the time, they were just a signifier of false promise that rang true, the sincere score accompanying my coffeehouse daydreams. My pubescent soul took in their folky poetry and clung to it as much as I did to Johnny Depp’s mischievous gleam or a new addition to the MTV Buzz Bin, which is to say I buried it somewhere very deep within my burgeoning consciousness of what should forever shape my identity.
“All I Want” can play anywhere and I get nostalgic for a life that was never mine. This irrevocable loss feels so real that I conflate it with the actual loss that did take place. The song is a melancholic lilt—if there could be such a thing. During the verses, the singer embraces their purported honesty and tethers himself to the real: “The truth is not kind. And you’ve said neither am I.” And then he begins to hope, to evade the truth he’s grimly laid out, allowing himself to be beckoned by the siren’s call of “everything”. And he wants and he hears things on the evening air that he desperately wants to believe. By the time we reach the bridge, it’s clear he’s reached the core of his truth: the siren’s song is just a taunt of what will never be: “Though the air speaks of all we’ll never be/It won’t trouble me.” The singer’s easy dismissal of this deceit, in the guise of accepting what’s he’s lost, somehow seems more dishonest than anything. For we know, he will go on wanting and listening to the air “confessing everything” despite what will never be. Acknowledging the futility of this wanting doesn’t make it any less true. The ‘real’ will continue to defeat the real. He’s just pretending to be honest with himself.
This is how I hear “All I Want” in June 2012 while drinking a margarita beachside at a Jacksonville bar & grill. My dad’s ex-girlfriend’s daughter is getting married the next day. I am nursing the wounds of a book proposal rejection and trying to enjoy the Florida sun with my boyfriend. I am attempting to be real with myself. I am in my 30s now and no longer want the ’90s version of an honest life. I want what my life is naturally: its complications and disappointments confessing everything that I wouldn’t myself. Or this is what I say anyway. It might have been the tequila, but I couldn’t help it: It is fall of 1993. I am Neve Campbell coping with a family tragedy, clad in tasteful denim and a baggy Gap sweater. My boyfriend has eyes like Johnny Depp’s soul and his goatee circa 1994. The leaves are gold and the sky is dark. The moment is quiet, sad and real. The air outside is soft.
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I suppose this is my way of assessing whether or not I am in the minority more than anything. Channing Tatum isn’t so bad, right? In fact, he can be downright enjoyable or surprising in his ability to convey actual human emotion. There is a certain pathos present in those smoldering green eyes. An inchoate ferocity that can catch you off-guard, that can make you overlook that he is essentially the hulking, slabtastic epitome of beefcake supreme. He redeems himself somehow with his doltish charisma and makes you want to believe that what dwells within his tawny, chiseled warrior-flesh is pure, composed, questioning, cerebral.
It’s not that I’ve even seen many Tatum films. I saw Stop-Loss years ago and remember that he was believable as a returning soldier, but surely that isn’t much of a stretch. I vaguely remember his brief appearance in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies as none other than Pretty Boy Floyd. What I recall most is my sincere disappointment that he was killed so early on and, therefore, wouldn’t have the opportunity to truly show his chops. Even then, before 21 Jump Street, it occurred to me that I had never seen these “chops” myself. It was too late: I’d invested absolute faith in the incipient reign of Tatum. And still the question lingered: Why in the hell?
I have no interest in the male physique on steroids…on steroids. The muscular estuaries that form Channing’s action figure torso leave me indifferent and, in fact, more ambivalent about my mysterious affinity for him. It’s not that a celebrity so hyper-male should raise my red flags, but I should have the good sense to take him completely off my radar. Perhaps my fondness can be lucidly explained if I review those shreds of trivia that create his “still under construction” persona.
I know he is a dancer—apparently a good dancer in the first film in the Step Up franchise. I am a total sucker for men who can move (see: Justin Theroux, Paul Rudd, Sam Rockwell). I also like men that are steadfast and romantic. Tatum has been with his now perky and pint-sized dancer wife for six years. Yet, none of this information sets him apart as an object worthy of my reverence. If anything, it proves that he is a simple and monogamous type with good motor coordination.
Here’s where things could get enlightening: Tatum was once an exotic dancer shaking his tailfeather in seedy Orlando, Florida. More impressive, he is co-producing a film (directed by Steven Soderbergh) about this particular point of time in his checkered past. This demonstrates that Tatum’s interior life is not necessarily pure, but it is unapologetic, humble and slightly wild. Yet, this discovery seems slight. It’s not a solid argument for cheering on a guy who played G.I. Joe and was the latest piece of menopausal eye-candy in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.
So, maybe all I really need is some validation that these feelings aren’t completely ridiculous. Even though I’ve created a weak and confused defense for him, maybe if I put the unpacking of my thoughts/feelings on Channing Tatum out there in the public sphere, I will be one step closer to clarity of some kind.
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Heard this song in an empty Carroll Gardens sports bar this week and found myself enchanted by its breezy, U2 lite sound. It’s a song that is easily forgotten and, in most instances, its flash-in-the-pan mediocrity should be. But awash in whiskey, the sun-flecked cadence of its chorus is irresistible. Who doesn’t love rain in the summertime? Never mind that the band intends it to be some sort of allegory for faith’s redemption, the song’s image of a cool shower in the blaze of a summer sun remains soothing and just affecting enough for you not to be irked by the incredibly repetitive chorus. As the weather grows milder, I fully intend to bath in this innocuousness.
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Big news: I finally saw Tuff Turf this weekend. For the longest, it had been the missing link in the Spader-Downey Jr. catalogue. Now I can rest easy because I’ve seen every film starring the once angsty, baby-faced duo. In my mind, prior to viewing, Tuff Turf was essentially a prequel to the “young, debonair and without a fucking care” aesthetic I would grow to love to a maddening degree at the ripe ages of 8-10. The movie would document a time when “Downey Jr.” was just “Downey” and Spader didn’t talk like he was politely screwing you with every uttered morpheme.
However, I wouldn’t say that I saved the best for last. This is no Less than Zero. It’s not particularly sordid or sleazy or fantastically over-acted. People either have terribly normal, middle class names that aspire to be WASP-y like “Morgan” (Spader’s suburban rebel) or really bad fascimiles of working-class names like “Frankie” (the tritely named female heroine played by Real Housewife Kim Richards!) or Nick (the name for every studly prick in every 80s movie ever). This is a movie I would recommend to people who didn’t think The Wraith was “altogether that terrible” or masochistic folks that wish to endure a toe-cringing scene where James Spader performs a lip-synced piano serenade to a totally crimped-out Kim Richards.
The louche reptilian we instantly loved in Pretty in Pink is altogether absent here. Spader’s pretty mild-mannered as Morgan, riding his bike around and stirring up minor trouble in a working-class California neighborhood. He’s from Connecticut (I think… but it doesn’t really matter) and he’s caused some sort of mayhem at his old boarding school. He’s bright, sensitive, but just can’t stand still in the face of injustice. When will he ever learn? On top of these imperative life lessons about rebellion/identity/typical teenage bullshit, his dad lost his lucrative gig, had to move the family, inexplicably, to the West coast and now moonlights as a cabbie. Mom refuses to accept that her family’s tony lifestyle went out the window when the Cali sunshine came on in. She’s all Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People and favors her other son: the successful law school preppy who isn’t all brooding and messed-up in the head.
But don’t pity Morgan too much. He doesn’t want your petty sympathies. If a bunch of thugs run over his bike in the school parking lot, so be it. He’s not going to blink an eye. He accepts his plight with a quiet, fierce-eyed dignity and a signature leather jacket. Yep, these thugs, again inexplicably, have it out for Morgan. But Morgan has his eye out on the gang floozie, Frankie. With her Crystal Gayle tresses that’ve seen a 6 hour crimping iron session and her signature red ZZ top babe gear, she’s gonna get a full heaping of that creepy Spader Stare. In response, she will look at him blankly through a veil of fake lashes, with what I presume to be conflicted yearning. You see, Frankie is the girlfriend of head thug, Nick. He’s not a nice guy: he’s possessive, dumb and way too old to be in teen film. But Frankie’s never known she should desire anything else. Until…Morgan’s ten speed rode up and changed everything.
To resuscitate this pile-up of teen movie cliches, the film calls on the puppy-eyed vigor of Robert Downey (Jr.). As Jimmy, a cutie punk drummer that straddles the line between low-rent thug and big-hearted comedic relief, Downey Jr. steals any scene he’s in. Why that’s not hard to do in this crapshow, one can witness the rudiments of the flamboyant wit and undeniable charisma that made RDJ a star twice over.
Now here’s the best scene from TUFF TURF:
Jim Carroll, inexplicably, is in it rocking out with Jimmy in a downtown warehouse hangout. RDJ looks a bit awkward here on the drums, but of course, charmingly so. Everyone is goofily dancing like they are Carroll’s twisted, fresh-faced puppets. It’s like the world’s coolest, darkest and longest deodorant commercial, which is to say, I relished every tacky moment of it. Kim Richards makes a stunning entrance in a little grey, cut-out shoulder number. And yep, that’s about it. This is where Tuff Turf peaks.
From this point on, with the exception of the heavily choreographed scene that follows it, the turf becomes a lot less tuff and a lot more WTFohnevermindwhocares. Oh wait, that’s not entirely true. There was this:
But besides that, Spader’s dad gets shot by Nick the Prick, Kim Richards looks around like a lost fawn, Morgan takes on the bullies and learns that…I have no idea. By the movie’s close, you are left thinking: “Did Kim Richards have formal dance training?” And: "To whom did Jim Carroll owe a favor?" Oh and: “Pretending to play the trumpet is always good for a laugh.”
Sometimes paying witness to your heroes’ humble beginnings proves to be less than rewarding. I’d rather see how far they have fallen rather than how much farther they had to climb. If I could go back in time and give advice to my two favorite quasi-Brat Pack Babes, I would say: “The turf will be tuff, but in the end, a bloated face coupled with a starring role on a fading adaptation of a British sitcom awaits one of you. For the other, a glorious comeback and eternal status as a strong, sassy, sex god. I am here to offer solace to the former.”
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• Teaching 8th and 9th grade at an all-girls’ institution in Brooklyn since September 2011.
• Mastering the art of discipline and the craft of self-preservation afloat the tides of adolescent rage and idiocy.
• Taking refuge in episodes of HBO’s Enlightenment. Seriously, Laura Dern is the goddess of quotidian hardship. Am I right?
• Numbing my battered pride with wine, hard cider, the feeble “Will they? Won’t they?” potential in Dan & Blair’s inevitable coupling on Gossip Girl.
• Discovering that scotch tape is at the root of most of the discipline problems I encounter.
• Discovering that I can be, in fact, perceived as the “b-word” by others, that I can set limits, that I can convey high expectations to stubborn minds. This feels good, but doesn’t necessarily take the sting out of overhearing a student exclaim that she “hates that lady” when referring to yours truly.
• Hearing the same obnoxious part of Drake’s “The Motto” escape the mouths of preteens for an interminable span of 5 months, praying that they will find something new that doesn’t reference Sir Mix-a-Lot in a way that lacks creativity. Hoping that they will stop asking you what “Tunche!” refers to even though you went to urbandictionary.com and think you now have a pretty good idea.
• Crying. On the inside. On the outside. Crying just because that room full of faces never shuts up. Just because they demand that you re-direct them at every turn. Just because they’re utterly exhausting.
• Breaking up my first fight, but not my last. • Hearing stories of pain scrawled in journals. Attempting to respond to them sensitively but not insincerely. This proves quite easy.
• Learning what my students listen to when enduring the purgatory that is adolescence. Here is the shortlist:
*LOTS & LOTS OF K-POP
*30 SECONDS TO MARS
• Learning the highest compliment a teacher can receive from her students is the proclamation that she has “mad swag”.
• Learning that it’s difficult to pinpoint what is more insulting: a student throwing a chair while exiting your room, a still unidentified vandal defacing your office photo, a yawn, an eyeroll, a student remarking on your chapped lips to her snickering sidekick, a student exclaiming “What the fuck is this?” in reference to your midterm, a student who writes her name on an assignment giving you that ephemeral buzz of false promise and then writes nothing else.
• Smugly realizing that you really identify with Mrs. Coach on Friday Night Lights. The W.G. Snuffy Walden theme swells in your head as you roam the empty hallways that are about to be filled with 8th graders just released from lunch, the same 8th graders who will enter your class with atomic-level braggadacio and chaos. You silently repeat your new mantra: What would Tammy Taylor do? while thinking of Tim Riggins’ smile. This cures most 5th period ills.
• Carrying the lives of countless students on your conscience at all times.
• Talking to unwilling participants (friends, significant others, etc.) about every minute detail of your day, every witty exchange you had with a student, recounting every moment of that day’s lesson in vivid detail as if you are painting a Proustian scene of transcendent revelation . Readily ignoring the fact that to anyone who is not an educator, these anecdotes are both repetitive and tedious.
• Learning to love those that once detested you. Realizing that you have a soft spot for the rebels, the naysayers, the ones that shrug, curse, scoff, yell, and find it all futile and pointless. You realize that this is because they are sort of right. This unsettles you.
• Being consistently awe-inspired by the stories and art shared in students’ journals. There is one young lady you herald, without hesitation, as a genius. She wants to be a tattoo artist, but you think she could start her own movement. Her most recent drawing involved an octopus with a frosted donut head eating Five Guys fries with its tentacles. She also wrote a short story about grilled cheese clothing and Fran Drescher. Her heroes are Earl Sweatshirt and Lil’B. She is consistently dumbfounded that you know who these people are.
• Proudly observing that students can read the New Yorker without realizing it when you make them read a very slightly modified version of Sasha Frere Jones’ Drake piece and answer comprehension questions you created about Drake’s place in the annals of hip hop. Students work in reading discussion groups and you overhear such rich exchanges as Student 1: “Well…I think it’s because he stands out when he tells everyone about his life, wears his heart on his sleeve. Lil’ Wayne doesn’t always do that.” Student 2: “Yes, but he learned everything from Lil’ Wayne. He basically stole his style and added things here or there to it. Not that cool.”
• Teaching students that Drake totally owns that new literary term: the “likeless simile”. To them, this is mind-blowing. Delfonics.
• Voraciously reading The Hunger Games due to student recommendations.
• Brushing up on algebra, slope, y-intercepts and other confusing math concepts that I cannot confidently teach even after thorough review.
• Candidly and thoughtfully discussing Trayvon Martin with students. Candidly and thoughtfully discussing the issues of class and race with students and realizing that this conversation is truly enlightening for all of us.
• Masquerading at Starbucks’ pretending that I will fully revise my children’s book and get it published before middle age sets in.
• Working diligently after work at Starbucks, revising my children’s book and being dead-set on getting it prepped for inevitable publication.
• Feeling painfully incomplete because I have no time for writing anything besides my infinite to-do lists. Hoping, hoping, hoping that this will change. A co-worker likened me to a candle dimly flickering. This image is apt, but depressing.
• Feeling pathetic for feeling incomplete because I have no time for internet perusal, i.e. Facebook.
• Feeling hopeful because it’s Spring Break. Time for me to quietly re-enter the Tumblrverse.
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