Oh, Dear Reader, I have made a grievous mistake. Today is Valentine’s Day, and I should be happy, but alas and alack, I am not and it is all for this: I’ve anthropomorphized a robot.
The Mars rover Opportunity is probably something you’ve heard of, but don’t know a whole lot about. I know I didn’t know a whole lot about it until yesterday. I knew it sent us some great photos, and I thought it sang “Happy Birthday” to itself every year, but then I learned that that is actually Curiosity. Yeah, there are two little roving robots up on Mars right now (well, technically only one is left roving, and actually we’ve sent up seven total).
But Opportunity lasted the longest, landing on Mars 15 years ago. It was only meant to last for 90 days, but it proved to be much more resilient than that. Opportunity traveled just 28 miles in its lifetime, but those 28 miles have never been covered by anything else from Earth, so maybe don’t be a dick about it, okay?
On June 10th, 2018, Opportunity entered into hibernation to reserve its solar-powered battery. Dust storms blotted out the sun, and it shut down with hopes it would boot up again when the dust settled and it could be charged once more. The end of Opportunity’s watch was called yesterday, February 13th, 2019, when, after six months of sending signals out to it, it had failed to answer. Its mission has been officially declared complete.
Its final message was:
My battery is low and it’s getting dark.
– Mars Exploration Rover – B aka Oppy
I’ve struggled so far to not call Opportunity “him” for a number of reasons, mostly because he says “my” so the little dude comes off as sentient, but also, well, just look at him!
For goodness sake, he looks like Wall-E!
Anyway, it’s not just me who’s humanizing this poor, little, lonely sentinel out in space, and undoubtedly all these sad-as-fuck tributes are aiding in the over-abundance of feelings I’m having for a hunk of metal:
So, basically, I’m wondering: what the fuck? I have cried about this more times than I can count on one hand in the last 24 hours. For a little bit I wondered if I was suffering from depression, and it’s just coming out like this, but the truth is I’ve kind of always been incredibly weepy. I cry over the smallest things, especially if they are manufacture like a well-timed song or a commercial about forest creatures, but this seems extra bad. Something about this little machine is fucking me up hard.
The logician in me understands this: Opportunity is not a living creature, it does not have sentience, it doesn’t know what’s happened to it (at least I’m on board with those sentiments 99%). And yet…AND YET…I feel bad for it. I’m sad it’s all alone, I’m sad it doesn’t get to know how much it did for us, I’m sad it doesn’t get to come home. But maybe what I’m really sad about is what it appears to represent: the end of space exploration. Of course, this isn’t the case at all, NASA still exists, Curiosity is still out there, and we have a whole future ahead of us in which we’re bound to eventually get into some Star Trek shit. But seeing as we’ve entered the darkest timeline here on Earth, specifically in the USA, the future just doesn’t quite seem that bright, and the death of something so good from a time when things seemed possible (I was 16 when this guy shot off into space) just feels so heavy.
And maybe someday we’ll actually get to Mars, we’ll collect him, and we’ll set him up in the Smithsonian with a nice little plaque that humans can wonder over and appreciate. That’ll be a really nice day, and I guess it’s really something to look forward to, it’s just so hard to imagine as a possibility right now in the face of everything else our nation is going through. We seem so doomed to repeat ourselves, to stop dead, and–worst of all–to regress, and it’s terrifying and disheartening. But, on the other hand…
We’re not quite broken yet, are we? I mean, if we’re sad about it, at least we’re not apathetic. The 24 hour news cycle is so in your face that you can become numb to all the bullshit deluging out of it, but this little dude, sitting alone in a crater, covered in red dust, can still illicit real feelings (in me, at least). And maybe that’s a sign that the future’s not going to be so bad after all.
Clouding up my mind today has been the people who, and the ways in which those people, made fun of me when I was younger. See, I ordered a laser hair remover from Costco, and it just arrived. Don’t get me wrong, I am fucking PUMPED this thing is here–it’s something I’ve wanted since I learned laser hair removal is a thing–but I’m also having a little bit of post-traumatic stress from thinking about why I want to epilate so badly.
So here’s a story for nothing more than my own catharsis. Let me guarantee you this upfront, Dear Reader, there’s nothing to be learned by reading farther other than a deeper look into my psyche.
I, like a lot of people who grew up to have a shred of empathy in their shriveled little hearts, was made fun of a lot growing up. I was a kill ’em with kindness kinda kid in elementary school, and when these other kids recognized that I was just genuinely nice and smart (they very often thought I was mentally challenged because I had a lazy eye and a droopy face–not that that would have justified cruelty) some of them stopped being too awful to me.
Case in point: in 7th grade I had terrible acne (I hit puberty a few years before most of the other kids, so I got to experience the face explosions first) and there was this boy who called me “pizzaface” or just “pizza” because I was Italian, greasy, and, well, I suppose it looked like I was covered in pepperoni. I didn’t even like pepperoni! It was so unfair! I felt all the shitty feelings about it, but I found a way to kind of laugh it off. Then that kid became one of my best friends, and even when I moved away, we still talked and saw each other for a few years after that. So yeah, basically I had a shining, win-em-over personality.
But once I was a teenager, my personality didn’t matter so much anymore, and kids were into playing the long game. Also, enough of that bullshit really wears you down. Teen-aged angst buoyed by being made fun of for things way out of your control and a huge dash of social anxiety is a pretty good recipe for character-killing-serum, but I do still vividly remember the first time I was essentially bullied when I went to a new school in the 8th grade.
I was in some sort of computer class. This was the very early 00s and most of us knew more than the teacher, but “keyboarding” was still inexplicably on the curriculum. I was sitting next to this girl who was very sweet, very pretty, and also very, very dumb. She was a cheerleader and seemed to be one of the happiest people around (ignorance truly is bliss), so even though I thought I should feel bad for her, there seemed to be little to feel bad for. Anyway, this story isn’t really about her–she was actually one of those rare people who was really popular, but also really nice. No, no, this story is about Jeremy.
And yes, Jeremy is his real name.
Jeremy was, and I assume still is, human fucking garbage. I know you can’t know this for sure, you only have my words here to go off of, and at the time I didn’t know this either–I was new to the school and didn’t really have any friends yet–but I hope I can sway you with this anecdote upon which you will judge the whole of Jeremy’s worthless, POS character.
So prettydumbnice girl needs help, and the instructor has already written her off as a moron, so I’m happy to oblige because I’m not an asshole. I’m leaning forward in my chair to look over her shoulder, and she’s actually getting it. I love when you show someone something and then they do the thing and their face lights up with realization. That’s such a good feeling! And here comes Jeremy to ruin it.
I’m tapped on the shoulder, turn, and there’s his stupid fucking face, but at the time I didn’t know what a stupid fuckface he was, so when he goes, “Can I tell you something?” in this incredibly serious tone, I think something sincere is going to come out of his mouth. No idea what, but to 13-year-old, kind, helpful, empathetic me, I am thinking, Oh, this person might also need help, what can I do? and I tell him, “Of course!”
“You have the hairiest back I have ever seen. I mean, seriously, just the hairiest. It’s like you’re a monkey.”
He delivered this in the same sincere, flat tone, staring right into my eyes like I wasn’t even human. Like he was just practicing being mean. So since this was the 00s, low-rise jeans were hardcore in, and as I was leaning forward, my lower back was exposed. At the time I had no idea how hairy my back was–I mean, I’d never seen it, obviously–but it suddenly became the center of my goddamned universe. I had known my eyebrows were way too bushy thanks to previous teasing, but quickly discovered so much more of me was hairy–too hairy–and all thanks to that comment.
And don’t worry, I’m not writing off Jeremy because he just said one mean thing to me. I watched him be an utter dickface over the next five years to a plethora of people. He’s earned every shitty name I’ve called him here plus about a thousand more.
With the rise of body positivity, women have been embracing natural things about themselves, including hirsutism and even just normal hairiness (we are mammals,after all, despite what every razor commercial and post-apocalyptic movie armpit would have you believe) and I think that’s great. But I’ll never get over that feeling when I was 13, and even though I can openly talk about it now, it still hurts me. I’ve spent almost 20 years trying to remove unwanted hair, I’ve irritated the fuck out of my skin, I’ve bled, I’ve given myself chemical burns, all in the pursuit of hairlessness. Maybe now I’ll get there, or at least a little closer.
What did today’s yoga have to do with all this? Well, not a lot, or maybe everything. Adriene’s letter for today talks quite a bit about loving what you see in the mirror, working for yourself instead of on yourself, and I appreciate that, but part of conditioning your mind is often changing the physical things around you. This is part of my effort to do that.
And I realize it’s not a fuck you to the people who bullied me. Looking the way they thought I should isn’t a fuck you at all, “glowing up” doesn’t absolve me of feeling like crap back then or teach them a lesson. In fact, I’m sure nothing I do now or ever will affect the Jeremies of the world. Like I said, Dear Reader, there’s nothing to be learned from reading this blog, it just is what it is.
In a word, this year has been weird, and in another word, December specifically has been busy. So it all just WENT and here I am, on the brink of January, both glad and sad to see it go.
Moving, in general, was the theme. In fact, “Moving” might be my title for the year. Leaving Florida was especially strange. Husband and I have spent the majority of our relationship and, frankly, the majority of our adult lives in Tampa Bay, and to leave was just so, so odd. It was also exciting and fun, and carved out a very different life for the both of us here in Atlanta which has very much been about moving–into a house, out of our comfort zones. forward on our career and creative paths.
As I’m sure pretty much everyone reading this can attest to, 2018 was full of both bummers and wonders (it took a long time for me to figure out what nouns to use there, and I think I actually nailed it, so you’re welcome), and since it’s about to be a new year, I am feeling that familiar sense of “NEW YEAR, NEW ME” that is also, I think, pretty communal. I watched a couple videos to make 2019 THE BEST YEAR EVER, and a common thread in them is to look back at the previous year to figure out how to be productive in the coming year, and after a little more random googling, I came upon this: YearCompass.
I downloaded the booklet and filled it out this evening, and I have to say, it really felt good, my dudes. Like totally cathartic to let go. I thought the booklet would be more structured and focused on actual goals and hard concepts, but it was softer than that, and while there’s definitely room for planning out your year with concrete ideas, I was pleasantly surprised at how emotional and motivated it made me.
But this isn’t a commercial for that site, I’m just saying it’s what I used, and turned out to be exactly what I needed. I have a lot of plans for 2019, including bringing back this beast. I don’t know what will happen to Vacancy, but I do know there’s a lot of writing in my future. I proved to myself it’s possible to do, now I just need to do it in abundance.
Last night while I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about two different, very old stories I really loved. Past me would just sigh and wistfully remember then and hope someday I could bring them back, but current me realizes I can write them–both of them–COMPLETELY–this year. Like, I can fucking DO THAT, I just have to plan it and execute it! WOAH!
I don’t know exactly how I’m going to bring the blog back alongside everything else, but I really want to get back to blogging about daily things, trying to be funny, and explaining why really stupid, insignificant things piss me the fuck off. So here’s to 2019 being a word-filled, creatively-abundant year. I know the only way forward is to actually plan things, so that’s what January is going to be all about, and that’s where it will go: all down in a planner.
Well that kinda went to pot at the end, didn’t it?
Happy Post-Halloween Depression, everybody!
I hope whatever you did to make yesterday special was awesome. I got up at about 4:30am so that I could do Husband’s makeup for work. I think it was worth it:
He was a corporate demon with Terms of Service contracts and business cards for Beel Z. Bub. He also had a briefcase that, when opened, lit up with a red light and he played a crackling hellscape on his phone in his pocket throughout the day. If only we could have got smoke to come off him.
Once he got home he changed into something more casual, just your average demon dad:
You’ll notice in these shots our house is still messy as fuck. We’ll never be done unpacking.
I was a witch, which is pretty much the same as the other 364 days of the year, I just showed it on the outside:
I did like a galaxy thing on my face because that never fell out of style with me, but I didn’t get a good picture of it til a lot of it wore off at the end of the night. My eyes are still rimmed in black today because I wear makeup so infrequently, that I have no makeup remover:
I wanted a cute picture with Rutherford, but he was a vampire for Halloween:
So now the season is over, and what did I learn from Blogoween? Don’t try and do it while you move! Seriously, though, it was a lot of fun, I think I pooped out at least a couple good posts, and I can carry this momentum on into NaNo for sure! Which starts…RIGHT NOW!
I’ll be tracking just like during Camp NaNo and hopefully get out ahead of myself these first couple days since November promises to be quite busy. Good luck to all you writers, out there!
“Hey, kid, why are you so into all this macabre shit?”
That’s what my uncle asked me two years ago just about this, the spookiest, time of year. It really struck me for two reasons: 1) it’s a very funny combination of words, and 2) wtf, for real @me “Why??”
Mostly people don’t ask me why I like spooky things, they just accept it when we meet. But my uncle’s known me my entire life, albeit on an off, so when we saw one another for the first time in many, many years, and I expressed so much excitement about ghosts and witches and the undead, he actually asked. And I didn’t have an answer.
So I’ve been thinking about it since then–yes, actually for two years–and I still don’t really have a good answer. I thought maybe there would be some triggering moment in my childhood or one aspect of Halloween that really dug its claws into me, but there seems to be no one thing. I’ve attempted an intro-spook-tion, if you will, but don’t get excited for a conclusion.
Halloween is, in many ways, the last bastion of imagination for adults. As an only child, I used my imagination a lot when I was kid.
And I didn’t really let it go when I grew up. I’m a big fan of “what if” now. It’s not a particularly useful characteristic when you’ve got anxiety (it actually might be a core component), but it does make life more interesting. My what ifs aren’t always “what if I trip in front of these strangers and am then forced to relive that moment of embarrassment every night before falling asleep for the rest of my life?” sometimes they’re “what if my pharmacist with the long blond hair and pronounced canines who always works evenings shifts is a vampire and is developing a pill to replace the vampiric need for blood?” or “what if when I go into this completely empty public restroom and all the sound is shut out I really have entered into another dimension and when I go back out I’m in a different *timeline?”
Halloween makes those what ifs not exactly possible but more people seem to entertain them in their own minds. So ultimately, I’m less weird for a short time every year, and that feels kinda nice.
Speaking of being a kid and also a total fucking weirdo, I’ve always had a strange relationship with my own emotions. I guess, really, everyone does, so maybe this isn’t unique, but I feel like I’ve been on this roller coaster my whole life where for a few months or years I was a complete slave to whatever my tiny mammal brain decided I was going to feel, and then there would be a span of time that I was so in control of my feelings that I would barely be able to experience them at all. I’ve come to find that throughout all that, fear has been the only constant. I can’t step back from it and analyze it. I can reason with myself when I’m feeling almost every other emotion, but fear happens to you in a way that the others don’t. Fear is sudden and, frankly, reliable.
And fear makes you forget everything else. You can’t worry about the distant future when you’re concerned with surviving the next ten seconds as you run up the stairs from the basement, you know?
But why ghosts and goblins and zombies and skellies? Honestly, no fucking clue, dude. The supernatural has always been such a draw to me. I guess I look at the world, and it’s so damn boring and like, I KNOW it’s just like how it is, right? I believe in science, I would like to believe there’s a cool place you go when you die or you get another chance at life, but I know logically that probably not (don’t get me wrong, I’m holding out hope, Dear Reader, I’m just sadly able to rationalize a lot of it away). But having these fun concepts and these things that people have believed in a feared across cultures and millennia as an active part of my life just feels…right?
Modern American life is so sterile. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, it’s actually great that things are clean, and we’re very aware of the way the world around us works, and yes I am incredibly privileged and lucky to be safe and healthy and surrounded by opportunity. But doesn’t that just all lend itself to a longing for something…mysterious? Something dark?
*I used to think I should come up with a code phrase to use with Husband for the timeline situation; however, I’ve figured that it’s quite likely the code word would be the same across most dimensions because if I am in an instance where I think I’ve fucked off into the wrong dimension, but it’s only a feeling and everything else appears to be the same, it would be INCREDIBLY coincidental that the only difference would be the code word which ultimately nullifies the code word.
Sometimes, because the human brain is imperfect and possibly glitchy due to some kinks in the simulation, we get songs stuck in our heads. And some of those sometimes, we get not a whole song, but a snippet of a song stuck on repeat indeed like a broken record. And even fewer times than all that, the snippet is unidentifiable. At least that’s my experience which I assume is shared by every other human because uniqueness is theoretical only. Usually this passes, the song is identified or forgotten, but if I had a story about one of those times, I wouldn’t write about it.
This is about the unidentifiable snipped I’ve had stuck in my head FOR LITERAL YEARS.
I have been singing the following to myself for at least a decade anytime 1) someone says I can’t do something, or 2) I get excited about taking on something new:
I can do that how hard can that be I can be anything I wanna be wanna sail the seas just like a sailor
I knew the melody to this, and I knew that the voice behind it was male and poppy, but for the life of me I could not remember from where I’d heard the song.
But the theme of the song and the admitted silliness of the lyrics lead me to believe (correctly) that I’d first heard it when I was much younger and that it was possibly on a children’s show only, here’s the thing: I didn’t watch a lot of kids’ TV. I legit watched Friends and Seinfeld and Xena when I was a kid. And while, yes, I know all the little songs to Blue’s Clues and Eureka’s Castle, the problem there is I know those songs. And I know none of them had the melody or the lyrics that plagued my mind.
I consider myself pretty good at The Internet, and also pretty good at remembering specific things. Husband can feed me a line or two where every word is wrong and the melody is nonexistent, and I can get the song correct 90% of the time, but this case was just mind boggling.
I have tried on many occasions to find this stupid fucking song, Dear Reader. Believe you me, I’ve googled that stupid line a hundred times. You know what comes up? NOT THE SONG.
So in the last few years I became kind of content in my lack of knowledge. Ignorance is bliss, they say, and while “they” are usually very wrong, I forced myself to accept this. I even got a little delusional for a while and thought I may have made the song and melody up myself, but that seemed pretty crazy since I have attached a very specific memory of listening to this song, instruments, and a different voice to it.
Well, Dear Reader, I am happy to report that this day, September 13, 2018, I FOUND THE SONG.
I was peeing as I am wont to do quite frequently resulting in lots of good ideas, and the song popped into my head because, I guess, water, and I got the sudden very strong feeling that Len was the musician. Detour: Len is that band known for the incomprehensible “Steal My Sunshine,” the anthem of every late 90s, early 00s summer. If you do not click that link, I’d really like to tell you that you are missing out on an incredibly awkward music video where you see the camera reflected in every fucking pair of sunglasses and they do that thing where they filmed with the song at double speed then slowed the video down to sync it up (but only for the first half) to get a “cool slow mo” feel which is completely out of place, and also if you look closely at 1:28 you will see the girl screw up and VERY CLEARLY say “fuck” and that gives me life. (I wonder what that baby the tat’d preggo woman was carrying is doing now.) Anyway, all that’s to say, I thought Len probably had a second song, and it was that sailor song, but it didn’t get very popular.
Dear Reader, it wasn’t Len. I didn’t even bother to google it because I knew in my soul it wasn’t them. But it did make me think: I had this song on CD, but I didn’t own the band’s actual CD because if I did I would have for sure known them, so that left only one option: it was on a soundtrack.
THE POKEMON: THE FIRST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK.
That absolutely had to be it. Now, you have to understand, the Pokemon: The First Movie soundtrack is…a whole thing. To be clear: I didn’t buy it as a kid because I liked Pokemon, I bought it because I liked the musicians. That’s the kinda fan I was. I needed everything Britney had her name on even though “Soda Pop” was exactly the same on Baby…One More Time. It’s kinda the perfect snapshot of where pop music was at the cusp of the millennium: a handful of really big names that pumped out a lot of soulless shit (no shade, I LOVE soulless shit) for years, a larger handful of one-hit-wonder types, and a couple pseudo alternative but not really edgy enough acts that actually played their own instruments. It’s amazing. I’m fairly certain the songs have almost nothing to do with the movie, and the soundtrack was just a marketing tool for Sony to test out new artists, but I think most of the 90s/00s was just a marketing tool for Sony, so that’s fine.
Anyway I perused these songs for a good while on Wikipedia, but I knew from the titles alone (because I could recall how almost every song went just from the title *sigh*) that none of them were it! How? Did I own some Japanese bonus tracks not listed? Did I accidentally see the movie and remember the one song that didn’t make it on the soundtrack? Did I actually just make the damn thing up?
No, Dear Reader, the song exists. And I knew that in my heart of hearts. The song exists on a CD I owned and on a soundtrack. And that soundtrack could only be to the absolute pinnacle of 90s teen high school movie: Drive Me Crazy. (I was 12 in 1999, by the way, so not in high school. I don’t know what was wrong with me.)
Bonus: The webpage made for this movie still exists thanks to the Wayback Machine and holy fucking shit. I’d show you the boyfriend I made on the Interactive page, but sadly that bit of code fails now. Alas and alack, I suppose Husband will have to do.
So I perused those songs and had so many punches right in the nostalgia feels. But sadly, none of them stuck out to me as the song, and, Dear Reader, I am ashamed to say that I almost gave up. I would never know, it would forever be a mystery, but then I saw a song listed that I just didn’t really remember, and thought I needed to hear it because why not? And, well, I’ll let it speak for itself:
None of the rest of this song would come into my head when those lines I wrote out above would, but as soon as I heard this thing I instantly knew all the words. I also instantly knew I’d HAD THE FUCKING WORDS WRONG ALL ALONG.
Wish I could be Anything I wanna be Wanna be a fireman Wanna be an astronaut Wanna sail the sea Just like a sailor But it’s not the end of the world So baby don’t get upset It’s just a little regret
And that’s a fuckload more depressing than my version.
So, Dear Reader, you’re probably wondering why I’ve committed to writing this blog especially after such a long silence, but that’s precisely it. I wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to for the past two months. Research. Now that we have this all clear, we can return to regularly scheduled programming.
I’m not even sure myself, so I can’t answer that, but I’m having trouble getting back to wherever I used to be. I feel guilty leaving this space empty, and I miss it. I’m sure my need to produce will ultimately win over, it’s just how long will the struggle last, ya know?
Somehow it’s theoretically worse in my head than turning 30. That “1” is solid.
All I want for my birthday now is to eat.
Did you know up until recently becoming pregnant at or after 35 was called “geriatric pregnancy?” They now use the term “advanced maternal age” which is…better?
Adult birthdays are horseshit not because they’re not fun anymore–you can make any day fun–but because the government makes too much shit expire on your birthday. I do not enjoy walking to the post office to mail off a third request for something from the state of Florida on any day, least of all my birthday.
People my age are grandmothers in some parts of the world (and the US). That’s a lot.
My mom always calls me at the time that I was born every year, and I always say “thanks for pushing me out of you.” That’s just a fact you should know.
If I were born today I would be a Cancer which I’m on the cusp of anyway, though I do identify more with Leo because cats, obviously.
I heard Tom Petty on the radio at lunch, and I really had to hold back the tears. What the frickle frack, man?
My cats don’t know what day it is. To them I am eternally their caretaker/slave. I have always existed and always will, my sole purpose to bring them food, scoop their poop, and give them scritchy scratches when and only when they are feeling it. My birth, age, and death are barely concepts that register with them: all that matters is this moment, providing a leg to lean up against or an ice cube to chase across the floor. We should all be more like cats.
I’ve got this top five albums that I carry around in my heart. They aren’t necessarily my top five desert island albums or the top five albums I think are the pinnacle of what music should be. These are if, say, I needed to explain to someone how the fuck I got this way without my own words, I would just hand them these CDs. That’s a situation I’ll never be in, but guess what, Dear Reader? You’re on my blog, so technically you’re in that situation right now.
These are meaningful to me because of the times in my life when I fell in love with them, and the fact that they can so easily transport me back to how I exactly felt during a listening session. To be fair, Mandy Moore’s “Candy” can do that too, but I’m pretty sure that’s universal.
The Wallflowers, Bringing Down The Horse, 1996
If there’s a theme going forward, it might be “depression.” I don’t know that I was ever clinically depressed, but sadness plays a big role in these picks, and pretty much every song on Bringing Down The Horse is, in a word, bleak. I was eight when it came out, and I think I got the CD when I was nine or ten. That may sound weird, but I grew up watching adult sitcoms and listening to both alternative/pop radio and classic 70s/80s rock, so The Wallflowers, The Verve Pipe, Matchbox Twenty, these were all sort of the backdrop to my childhood alongside Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, and Queen. I used to make up supernatural stories to the songs on Bringing Down The Horse, pretty easy when Jakob Dylan’s lyrics are already so prose-y and fantastical, and it sort of paved the way for me to really get into writing more dark and somber stuff. I mean, a pre-teen is probably already on the verge of that anyway, and the images of a boy living in a tower, a girl dying of a broken heart, and a man who can survive disconnecting the wires in his own heart just push you over the edge. Every song is magic, and if you didn’t before, you will absolutely appreciate the existence of the slide guitar after one listen, but of the non-singles, I’d suggest “Josephine” to get a feel for the album as a whole. (Please keep in mind that to a nine year old, the schoolgirl imagery was not weird. As an adult, I find this song…odd, but I don’t think that escaped the band.)
Green Day, American Idiot, 2004
The first time I was old enough to cast a ballot for the President of the United States, I had the privilege and the honor to vote for Barack Obama. Everything I felt about this country could be summed up with the title track on this album when I was a teenager, and consequently, it’s probably more accurate now than it was 14 years ago. Beyond a punky middle finger to George W (remember the good ole days when Bush was the bad guy? Now the dude who infamously said well, I can’t pick just one, is the voice of reason!), there’s this sad, angry, trippy story about finding yourself and your place in a fucked up world on this album, and that’s what a lot of teenagers deal with. Sadly, the story itself ends with the protagonist giving up, so I was never keen on the last couple parts, but I like to think that just because he gives up on Whatshername doesn’t mean that Whatshername ever gave up fighting the good fight. The album is also incredibly theatrical (they did adapt it for the stage, after all) and loud and in your face. Basically a lot of things I wasn’t but desperately wanted to be. “St Jimmy” is one of the most fun, scream at the top of your lungs with your tongue sticking out songs:
The Killers, Sam’s Town, 2006
I used to say The Killers was my favorite band, but I realized that it’s actually just that they made one of my favorite records because they change pretty drastically from album to album. There are a lot of songs on their B-sides release, Sawdust, that I really like, but you can tell those songs were the ones that didn’t make it onto Hot Fuss because they belonged on Sam’s Town but ended up on Sam’s Town‘s cutting room floor. (A little detour here, but “All These Things That I’ve Done” is probably The Killers’ best song, but it’s weirdly on Hot Fuss despite the very clear Sam’s Town vibes it gives off, though it might be too hopeful and cymbal-crash-y for the latter. Okay, I’m done!) Again, there are a lot of story-telling songs, but the focus here is faith and in the mid 2000s that’s what I was struggling with too. Who am I, what’s my role in the world, what does God (yeah, big G) want me to do? All that bullshit. I also got interested in my mom’s life when she was growing up as I got closer to the age she was when she had me, thinking “I could never have a baby right now,” and curious about my biological father, and Brandon Flowers explores similar ideas in a lot of these tracks. “For Reasons Unknown” spoke to me on a primal level, and “Read My Mind” was basically the soundtrack to my struggle with sexuality. I don’t know if everyone has experienced this, but you know that thought when you’re driving over the speed limit toward a sharp curve on a country road and you’re like, “You know what, self? You don’t have to turn, you could just, like…keep going straight.” Well, “Why Do I Keep Counting” basically kept me wondering enough about mortality and God and the future to stay out of the ditch and keep my feet on the ground throughout 2008:
Meat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell, 1977
If there’s one album that doesn’t fit in…except it totally does! It’s a rock opera, it tells a story, it’s about finding yourself (though admittedly finding yourself half naked in the backseat, dry-humping a cheerleader), and it’s epic. I think my mom got this on CD when I was around eight, and I’ve been listening to it since. It was always fun, even when it was about heartbreak and death, and it might be what introduced me to the idea of the devil being a pretty cool guy. Like with Bringing Down The Horse, I wrote supernatural stories in my head to this one too, only these were cheesier and self-aware. There were vampires and werewolves and demons and blood pacts and necromancy and, of course, motorcycles, but with bat wings. And all before Twilight! I’m not going to offer you a non-single suggestion because “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” is literal perfection and Ellen Foley is a goddess (that’s not her in the video though):
My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, 2006
The Black Parade is a desert island album for me. In fact, if I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life, just one set of songs, it would be this. Why? I wish I fucking knew, honestly. It’s super dramatic, it’s sad and self-loathing, it romanticizes war and cancer and abuse all of which are absolutely not romantic, but it’s also loud, clever, thoughtful, uses “fuck” unabashedly, it is just so much fun. Of course, My Chemical Romance’s popularity wasn’t born out of fun, they rode a wave of emo tears to the top of their genre. I wasn’t a huge fan of their first two albums (but “I’m Not Okay” always does it for me), and I never had scene hair or a lip piercing, but I felt a lot of the things expressed in these songs. Yes, they’re self indulgent, but I don’t think you can really feel an emotion without wallowing in it for at least a little bit. On top of all that, The Black Parade presents music in some of my favorite ways: broadway-esque with vocals that are full of emotion (and also ENUNCIATION), borrowing from other cultures and sounds but making those things sound borderline poppy, orchestral sounds, and lyrics that are angry but also humorous and kinda grotesque and demonic. Or maybe I’m over-analyzing it and it’s all shit, but it doesn’t matter because I love it. So on that note I’ll leave you with one of, if not the, most fucked up songs on the album.
This is roughly what I used to look like at the end of 2014:
I had cut my own hair for the first time with Christmas-themed craft scissors that were a gift from my friend Maggie (you can see the handle under my armpit). I gave myself swoopy bangs and layers, and I was feeling VERY proud. Dangerously proud. Poseidon-threatening-you-with-10-years-at-sea proud. I wanted my hair a certain way, and I never really got what I wanted at the hairdresser, so I figured I should just do it myself.
It was at this point, on an emotional high from achieving something I thought I needed at least a year’s worth of training, a certificate, and two children out of wedlock for, that something in my mind clicked, and I realized: I could do what I wanted with my hair. And what I wanted had never been to be brunette.
I have, however, very desperately and for a very long time, wanted to be pretty. I know what you’re thinking: the girl in that picture is not necessarily ugly, and I don’t disagree. I have learned over the years and in the age of the selfie how to fake a good picture, but there is nothing about me that’s classically or even interestingly beautiful. My face is alarmingly asymmetrical (hence the desire for swoopy bangs), eyes sunken and tired with one lazy wanderer, nose broken and too big, eyebrows a fucking mess, a history of hair that would make year one Hermione thankful for what she had, hair in places that would make a lycan jealous, moles, and for about a decade I had the kind of acne that prompts older women and mall kiosk hawkers to grab you roughly about the arm and try to apply makeup to your cheeks without your consent. My eyelashes, I think, save my look, but to really see them you have to look past a whole lot of bullshit.
And I know this, it’s no secret: while most little girls get told at some point growing up that they’re some version of the word “cute” (for better or worse) I have literally never experienced that, not even from family members. I was a disfigured infant, and no amount of growing into my skull could convince anyone I could grow up to rely on my looks.
Of course, you don’t know you’re ugly just because of the absence of praise–you really find out when people tell you, mostly in the form of little boys who call you everything from Lurch to Pizza to Sloth (I’ve still never seen The Goonies and I never will, fuck you very much, but pizza is one of my favorite foods and the Adams Family is one of my favorite families, so who knows where my head is at.) I was an ugly baby, a weird looking little kid, a disgusting teenage, and I’m an occasionally okay-looking adult, but my body and my memories are the same.
This is all to say that when I realized I could do whatever I wanted with my hair I opted for distraction. The general consensus seems to be that people who dye their hair wacky colors are looking for attention because, I guess, doing something fun for yourself never crosses those uncreative minds. But the truth is, humans are all actually different people who do arbitrary things for different reasons and my reason was this: I think color is pretty and I want to be pretty and if my hair is colorful it will be pretty and also if THAT is what people look at when they look at me instead of my lazy eye or that chin hair I missed, then by the will of the gods my hair will be fucking purple. Also I wanted to take back my hair from the kids in high school who shot spitballs into it. (Yeah, I fucking remember, ex-boyfriend. Still wondering why I didn’t end up marrying you? That’s certainly part of it!)
So in the early months of 2015, I watched a fuck load of YouTube, bought some bleach and developer, and dyed the tips of my hair purple. It was nice, I liked it, but it was NOT ENOUGH. Because like tattoos and (I imagine) piercings, once you pop, you absolutely cannot stop.
So I bleached everything and dyed it pink into purple into blue. It was glorious and I…didn’t take a picture. BUT a month later when it faded, I did:
So just to be clear, this isn’t a searching for sympathy post. This is a celebration post. A post about making a choice and being much happier for it. You’re going to see a number of pictures of me that don’t prove the “I’m ugly” theory above, but trust me, they’re hand picked, and I’m not here to have you tell me otherwise. I’m here to tell you to do whatever the fuck you want with your body because you’ll never please all the people, but you certainly can kinda please yourself. At least a little.
By August of 2015 I had redyed the hairs a couple times and come out with a “bangs one color and rest of it a different color” theme:
I still had some bounce and life to my hair, but then I wanted to change, and I mean like BIG change, so I had to bleach it again because I decided I wanted to embrace my goth side and become a vampire:
In September I went red, and it was probably the biggest mistake I could have made. unless you want to be red forever and ever, DON’T DO IT. It’s impossible to wash or even bleach out. This was the turning point where I really started to damage the hairs. But on the other hand I had this rockin’ Ronald McDonald ‘do for like a whole month!
Then by October I couldn’t stand the way it constantly faded to orange like immediately after a single wash, so I went darker:
I don’t actually remember making this choice, I think I actually tried to go purple and this happened. I really wanted to be purple though and I knew I had to lift to get there. So lift I did:
You can see I have less hair here because…damage lol, but I was still having so much fun! And then I bleached it again:
So that was January of 2016 and I don’t really have any photos of myself again til December 2016. I don’t remember what I did that year except probably played around with pink because that was my only option. Here’s the one time I dressed up in 2016:
In February of 2017 I redid my roots and fully embraced pink. The color I bought was called violet, and the color on the bottle matched the color you imagine when you buy something called violet. The company has since changed the bottle’s color (but not name) to match the actual shade:
Then I went blue because blue is different and why the fuck not:
Then I went two-toned again:
And finally transitioned all the way back to purple:
So now I am letting my natural hair grow out again. I haven’t bleached it in I don’t know how long and I have a bunch of regrowth at the roots. I miss having insanely bright hair (it’s having the roots that bight color that really makes the whole thing pop), but for my hair health I need it to grow out. I still have my ends to dye when they fade, so I’m still colorful.
I was other colors over the last three years, turquoise, green, faded periwinkle, almost lavender, but I do always come back to purple because that’s where my heart is. As my brunette comes back, I actually feel unhappy. I don’t like the color of my natural hair. Where others have these warm, chestnutty, honey, oaky tones to their hair, mind is best described as “mousy” and while mice are absolutely adorable, the matte, almost grey tinge my hair has is unappealing. But I know I can change it, and I will eventually because I can and that’s a pretty great feeling.
Do the assholes who called me names still have power over me? Yep, they certainly do. Their words and actions were impactful enough to make me feel bad then and feel bad now andeven take action to change myself. No, I never learned to love who I am completely. I never overcame those bad feelings and I don’t think I even will. But I did learn to love something I wanted, something that was a little out of the box and controversial, and I’m happier for that. Will I always hate my lazy eye? Yes. Will I always be happy I can cover it up with PURPLE hair?? YAAAAAAS, BITCH, YAAAAAAAAAAAAS!