Do I want to be a pinup model? That’s what some random stranger asked me a few months ago. He stopped me on a campus sidewalk, not far from my office. At first I thought he was a student. Maybe he was: youngish, early twenties, wandering around as if lost. The guy introduced himself as a photographer-slash-artist who was looking for models. “No thanks,” I said and fondled my phone in my pocket, pretending to amble away. Instead, I ducked behind a pillar and watched him until he left. You never know about some people. Maybe he was a serial killer.
From the safety of my office, I tweeted some joke about it being the upteenth time some creep had asked me to pose for them. I mean, if he was a killer then this might be my last chance to go viral on the Internet. That’s me, master of the humble brag. I’m humble bragging right now, in fact.
Yesterday I stalked my students’ social media feeds and found some chicks who post what I consider an unusual number of selfies. Hey, don’t judge. They friended me first. Anyway, I love over-analyzing people. Do it to myself all the time. So. A few of my students caught my attention. Of course, there’s the super beautiful ones. This one girl, she’s the living embodiment of perfection. Her Instagram account is stuffed with selfies. She’s an artist who uses herself as a canvas, with the blessing of hundreds. Go, girl.
What puzzled me, though, was the good-looking girl who was just taking regular pictures of herself. She had almost as many selfies as the other girl, more than me, and less likes than either of us. She averaged 10 likes her photo. She has a boyfriend, a pretty happy life from what I can tell. But there were dozens of them. What the hell was going on here? My brain couldn’t handle it. A girl who most people would consider attractive, posting lots of pictures of herself. They weren’t social–definitely straight up selfies. Except they were just regular pictures and they didn’t seem to attract all that much attention. I’m still working on understanding this. Please send help.
Recently, my spouse and I moved into a new apartment. Our new neighbor showed up randomly that weekend. He’d brought us milk and some snacks. He was so polite about the whole thing. Huge red flag. I became suspicious immediately. Bae chatted with him a few minutes while I fought back rage tears over my broken desk. The movers we hired had done a shit job with our cheap ass furniture from Target. See, that made sense in my book: you hire someone, and they fuck up your stuff. Someone bringing me free milk? This scenario held no place in my worldview.
Even now, I still look at the guy funny when we pass in the stairs. What am I supposed to say? “Hey, that was some great fucking milk the other month. Best milk I ever had. So tell me, do you always go whole, or was that just a splurge for us?”
Talking to your mom’s hard enough. Imagine trying to talk to a schizophrenic one. I tried to have a conversation with mine for ten years. When I gave up, it was wonderful. So many authors, talk show hosts, and celebrity shrinks tell us about the importance of healing wounds with family. I remember one of my professors reading to a big crowd about reconciling with his homophobic father after 20 years. It was a moving essay. Everyone reacted with such emotion. And that’s fine. The problem? I wondered if there was something wrong with me after that. I didn’t want to reconcile with my mom. But then if I didn’t, then would I ever be able to write about my relationship with her? Turns out, yeah. I could. At 24, I didn’t realize that sometimes the best thing you can do is remove someone from your life permanently.
Part of the fault is mine. Let’s forget about all the teenage years for now. I write about that in my novel. I’m talking about adulthood. For a long time, I couldn’t sit in the same room with her for five minutes without losing my temper. About 80% of me fucking hates her with a primal rage. Dialogue was futile. She would ask me questions like, “How’s your classes?” and I’d get angry. Why? Because I already knew she didn’t really have the capacity to understand me. If I told her anything, she’d pretend to listen for three minutes and then say something completely random, something that had nothing to do with teaching, my job, or anything I’ve said. At worst, she would listen to me and say, “Maybe you should just quit. Sounds like you’re not good at it.”
Before you step in: Look, I get it. Adversity is great. After all, I wouldn’t have much to write about if my life had been roses. I’m pouting for art’s sake. Do you want me to write about my half marathon training routine? Didn’t think so. You like drama, you addict.
Christmas. Family. Spouses. Their family. 12-hour car rides, days full of social events, some of which involve prudes I can’t drink around. A few friends have done the smart thing and reserved a day somewhere in there for themselves. I envy them. Part of me tends to reminisce about my single days, back when I was either solo or just “sort of dating” someone. I used to need vast oceans of selfie time. No joke, I once dumped a guy for suggesting we go apply picking one weekend. I was like, “Are you kidding me? This is what you’re about? Fucking apple picking? Picking fucking apples off trees and piling them up in a basket? I don’t even like apples. Why would I drive two hours to eat something I don’t even buy at the store, unless I need something to soak in alcohol and/or dip in chocolate? I think I’ll stay home and work on my dissertation.” He actually dumped me. But it was definitely over apple picking.
These days, I have more friends and family than I can keep up with. I’m learning to accept my new role. I even bought presents for relatives on the boyfriend’s side this time. The gifts aren’t great. One’s a book I don’t know the title of, a few gift cards, and a DVD I think this other relative might already have. I’m giving my dad-in-law a gourmet cheese sampler because he likes snacks. Hey, we all start somewhere.
It’s nice having people who want me around. Over the years, I’ve met some people who truly had nobody for Christmas.
I’ve had some rough holidays, and some when some single friends and I opted to spend it with each other rather than with family. But I’ve always had the luxury of people to ignore. If I were truly alone, and not just prone to solitude, I’m sure I’d be crying over a bottle of something expensive right now and wishing I had someone to share it with.
This is a shorter post. So I’m throwing in an essay I wrote way back over the summer. The essay mentions Christmas, though, so it counts:
We’ve all dealt with trying to gain our parent’s approval. One writer shares her journey of trying to make her father proud of her & what she learned.
Source: Deferred Approval Can Be the Best – FEMpotential
Professors at my university have bitched about faculty excellence awards for weeks now, and it’s hilarious. Some of them complain that the awards committee requires too much paperwork. We have to submit a cover letter, a CV, sample publications, letters of recommendation, syllabi, blah blah blah. You know, normal stuff that most of us don’t like doing. (I personally love updating my CV.) Others whine that the university doesn’t dole out enough cash. We compete for five awards of about $2k each. That’s not enough? No. Our faculty senate’s lobbying to double the amount. I’m pissed because I’m not eligible until I’m tenured. I wrote a snotty email about that, then deleted it after I sobered up and got a good night’s sleep.
Don’t ever email your faculty list-serv drunk, btw. I’ve seen it happen. Not pretty. How do I know Professor X was drunk? You can practically smell the booze rising off those obvious typos evry few wrds, along with a free stylin’ punctuation. You don’t have to stumble around a bar like some trashed grad student. Your words do that for you.
I have a troubled relationship with awards. Somehow I acquired a trunk case full of trophies for child modeling and piano recitals. My parents displayed them too proudly above the fireplace. Some sad shrine to my potential. I won some certificates and plaques for short stories, too. Quite a nice little display there in the living room. My parents loved gesturing nonchalantly at them when company came over.
A year ago, I never thought I’d engage in sexting of any kind whatsoever. Then on a whim, I started doing it after reading American Girls by Nancy Joe Sales. That’s probably not the effect she was hoping to have on me as a reader. Still, the chronicle of teens’ sex lives on social media left me curious. What did they get out of sexting? Boy, did I find out.
There’s something drug-like about sharing a photo of yourself with a stranger. I don’t even send nudes (not ever, too risky). But tastefully erotic images…sure…I thought I’d take the plunge. Responses like “you’re so hot,” and “goddamn girl” made me all warm and fuzzy. They’re better and more frequent than the kinds of compliments thrown my way in real life, safer and much less irritating than cat calls. I would even describe them as respectful. A lot of guys even ask permission before they “tribute” me. Imagine me, safe at home, reeling in the compliments. No boring conversation to endure. No risk of rape. No expectations for “something more.” Just trading some pictures. Every now and then, a guy might try and learn my email address, ask where I live. The great thing about these guys? I can just tap a button and they go away.