An Update from J. Awkward Prufrock

Well, I did it. I became a master. Of what, I am unsure. But I have it on paper and everything! Or I will. Right now I have more of a fancy folder with an IOU inside.

Thank you very much to both of my readers for your patience as I completed this process. Indeed, I am planning to dedicate more time to this blog and am brainstorming topics for future posts. I am also searching for full-time employment. My special skills include sitting quietly for a long time and chanting when asked. If you know of any field besides the monkhood at which I could excel, please let me know.

Truthfully, I thought I would be bored by now. I handed in my last final two weeks ago. Turns out, there are plenty of things out there that can fill my time. We live in an exciting world, full of things to distract us from creating a legacy or effecting change. Have any of you heard of this show called Game of Thrones? It’s really good. Sure hope nothing bad happens to the main characters.

I cannot hide from productivity forever, though. This post is my first step toward my next chapter. It’s not about anything in particular. Just letting you know that I’m not dead yet; I’m alive, well, and perhaps more cynical than ever before (thanks grad school!).

Until next time, awkward on, dear friends!

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Censor? I Don’t Even Know Her!

So lately, I’ve been doing some light research for a podcast on young adult media I’d like to start (“Hey YA!” Coming as soon as I stop fantasizing about being a podcaster and actually learn how to produce one. See you in 2055!).

I’ve found some pretty interesting information so far, but the most intriguing has been around banned books.

There is a part of me that understands I am not a parent yet and therefore cannot totally empathize with that experience. I think I can get why a parent might want to shield their children from violence or nihilism or scary things that most likely won’t hurt them, but boy will they think about those things as they grow into their anxiety!

But, does that make it go away?

When you look at the top ten banned books of 2017 on the ALA’s website, you can see the top reasons why that book was banned. You want to know why these books are banned? It’s not for violence or nihilism or “So you’re afraid your neighbor’s a cannibal.” The top reasons these books are banned are profanity, LGBTQ content, and sexual content. And banned doesn’t just mean banned from a household, it means a whole district or town—an entire community that has been denied access to a book.

I am not sure how one can successfully censor anything these days with so much information readily available (literally) at our fingertips. But there’s a real danger with banning books, even if it is symbolic. Banning books creates an apathetic society. Banning books is banning ideas; banning books is banning questions. Where there are no questions, there is no freedom.

I don’t even know where to begin with the LGBTQ stuff. I’m just gonna throw out there that if a kid can get through long division, they are probably capable of understanding that Joey has two dads.

And if the parents’ problems are with profanity and sex, they don’t need to be protecting their children from books.

They need to protect them from the bus.

Any curse word, any sex act, anything that could be considered amoral or depraved, I learned about it on the bus. The school bus is a wild, unstoppable conglomerate of all the things that would make grandma turn red.

The first time I ever gave the middle finger was on the bus, when I was six-years-old. Two boys who sat in the back came over to my seat in the humble front, where I’m certain I was staring at the leather in front of me in silence.

“Hey, mute, stick this finger up,” One of them said, and pointed to his middle finger.

I did it. Probably because I’d never read a book about the middle finger and thus I had no frame of reference. I was a lemming in a censored world.

“Oooooohhhhhh shit (see?), you are so busted.” They said and returned to their seats.

When we got to school that day, the two boys immediately told our teacher that I had given them the middle finger, just loud enough that the classmates in the front row would know. Word had circulated to the entire class by the time the teacher told me to come to her desk, beckoning me with those long, fake, blood red nails of the 90s.

The journey up to her desk was like being an inmate on death row. Backs turned to me; woeful cries of, “I trusted you!” echoed dramatically through the air; my best and only friend gasped and shook her head in disbelief. Many crayon drawings were crafted about that day: the finger heard ‘round the world.

Mind you, at that point, I still had no idea what it meant. It would be another year before I even learned the F word on the bus.

The teacher pulled me aside and tried to chide me quietly, but since the room was in a state of shocked silence, I’m sure everyone heard. Her adult son was visiting the classroom that day and I could hear him giggling at my circumstances. Great, I thought, now I’ll never get a job!

 “Jillian, that was not a very nice thing to do,” Mrs. Something-or-Other said. “That’s not something a person should ever do, especially a pretty girl like you.”

And the moral of the story is GUYS! SHE THOUGHT I WAS PRETTY!

No, no, that can’t be right. The moral of the story is I never gave the middle finger again. Except when I’m driving or when people annoy me.

That’s a little thin. Perhaps the moral is I don’t really know anything.

Maybe this is what I’m trying to say: you can’t protect people from anything. Not really. All we can do is listen and learn and work through things. And books and stories and art are our best gateways to learning about each other, whether they make you uncomfortable or not.

Besides let’s face it, these kids are going to grow up and profoundly disagree with their parents on everything anyway. My kids are going to read this one day and think, “Goodness gracious mother was perverse. How about another round of golf before we head back to Wall Street?”

Growing Up Awkward

For whatever reason, being 27 has been a weirder experience than other ages. It’s more…existential? Reflective? More HOLY SHIT I’M 27? There’s something about officially being in my late 20s that makes me feel like I’ve run out of time to grow (even though that’s totally ridiculous and untrue. If everything I know now is all I’m ever going to know, well, then, I’m in trouble, friends).

Perhaps the more accurate description is that feeling of waving goodbye to adolescence. The very surreal, yet very present emotion that childhood is over. For good. You don’t get repeats. And so recently, I was sitting up at night thinking about all the things from my past that I regret. I thought, “Not only will I never be a kid again. I didn’t do it right the first time.”

Mind you, I have no idea what “right” would have been.

A lot of people try to avoid growing up. So much that it’s been turned into an industry. I can’t think of anything more marketable right now than nostalgia. Many people think of childhood as an easier time, when parents worried about the real stuff. While that’s not the case for everyone, it was certainly true for me.

The thing is, when you’re a nervous, awkward, anxious person, when those tendencies are innate within you from birth, you always find something to worry about. And when you don’t have bills to pay and a career to pursue, it’s easiest for those worries to be totally social.

So, in those school girl days, I was always trying to maintain an impossible balance of desperately wanting to be liked, desperately wanting to seem like I didn’t care about being liked, desperately wanting to excel at something (hell, excel at everything!), and desperately trying not to cry when my expectations for myself weren’t met. On top of everything, there are those crazy little things called hormones that make you just…so…angry…all…the…time!

From what I understand of the adolescent experience, what I just described isn’t uncommon. Which makes me wonder, what is there to miss? To long for? It makes me wonder if when people say they want to go back to being a kid, they mean they want to be a kid who knows what an adult knows but is still free of responsibility.

It makes me wonder, even though I feel like I didn’t get adolescence “right,” if I could do it again, would I?

Not in a million f***ing years.

I remember a lot of my childhood classmates proclaiming, at some point, they couldn’t wait to grow up  (grass is always greener, yada yada). This is usually in reference to not wanting to follow your parents’ lame rules anymore, to wanting to stay up late and eat ice cream for dinner and not get grounded. Those things are nice. But when I said I couldn’t wait to grow up, I meant it. Thing is, I already stayed up late (I was a horrible insomniac until about 3 years ago), I got plenty of ice cream, and to me, getting grounded rocked. You mean I can’t leave my bedroom? Where I have all my books, Barbies, and a TV? Suh-weet!

I couldn’t wait to grow up because it seemed like growing up meant I would have less time to care so deeply about what other people thought of me.

Perhaps many of us always worry about that on some level. We’re pack animals after all. It’s natural. I mean, the entire concept of this blog is feeling terribly uncomfortable in social situations. However, up until recently, hearing any sort of negative comment about me, especially who I was from middle school-through-college, really made me spiral into a deep, sulky depression. You ever see that episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon goes to her high school reunion thinking she was the nerd and it turns out everyone thought she was really snarky and aggressive? Yup, that was me. I was angry, I thought I was really funny, and I thought no one was listening.

But then, a short time ago, when I was on the brink of 27, I ran into someone from high school. We got to talking, a bit of reminiscing. And then, inevitably, at some point, he said, “Yeah, you were mean back then.”

And what normally would have resulted in completely shutting down, excusing myself, going back home, and crying, resulted in my mind going wait a second, I’m about to move to a new city, about to start grad school, about to move in with my boyfriend; I’ve got a thousand actual things that need consideration running through my head; frankly, I was never that fond of you either, and I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT, followed by a curt nod.

How unbelievably liberating!

I would take 27 over that other nonsense any day. I would never want to be a kid again. Chances are even if I didn’t make the same mistakes, I would find other ones to make. People are funny that way.

Now, a carefree adult with the means to do nothing but travel the world, drink wine, and read books? And I wouldn’t need ask my dad to take me to the airport and have to be home by 10? That’s a far more compelling option.

J. Awkward Prufrock Rings in the New Year

Well, so much for my once per month posting goal.

It’s weird when you start a new chapter of your life, especially such a drastically different one. At a point, even if it’s only been a little while, you start to remember this current chapter as essentially your whole life and every chapter before it just seems surreal, hazy, far away. Almost like you dreamt it rather than actually lived it.

I do not remember my life before Dance Clash.

Dance Clash is a game I downloaded several weeks ago because I wanted something mindless to do in between my schoolwork. My boyfriend occasionally plays video games and they look fun, so I thought I’d give one a whirl.

Dance Clash is a pensive creation that attempts to answer an age-old philosophical debate: ballet or hip-hop? The way it seeks to answer that question is by each player being assigned a dancer (whether it be a ballet or hip-hop dancer is up to you), for whom you choose back-up dancers, a costume, make-up, hair-do, set, lighting, music, and choreography and whom you take to the gym to prep for the big dance-off (or dance clash. Holy shit, I get it now).  Afterward, it is determined using unknown criteria who won (I have a feeling it is whichever player has forked over the $9.99 for the advanced features).

It is also designed for ages 4 and up, so it totally fits within my skill level.

I am not entirely sure why I am so attracted to this game. Nor am I sure of why I find myself being so critical of the probably-four-year-olds whom I’m playing against. You call that choreography! Where’s the story? Where’s the pizzazz? Nice costume, did you get dressed in the dark?

There is also the fact that your choices are incredibly limited if you haven’t paid the $9.99. You only get about four or five choreography combinations to work with, a few more if you’re willing to watch ads. I’ll admit a part of me is a bit worried I’ll have some wine alone in my apartment one night, and I’ll pay the $9.99 because I’m afraid of what I’m missing, that I’m not living my life to the fullest, and because I crave the glory.

Anyway, I’ve been playing this game when I probably should have been doing other things like writing blog posts or holding myself accountable for anything in any way.

I’ve never been great with resolutions. I am for creating new habits, finding new passions, enriching life, etc., but you can do that at any point (I found Dance Clash in November!). What’s so special about the new year? I’ll also admit New Year’s is not my favorite holiday, since it is based around human interaction in large quantities. I made a mistake during one of the games we played this year and I consider it a personal victory that I did not go to the bathroom and cry.

But there is something I happened to notice about myself as 2017 came to a close, something that I would like to change.

I am obsessed with time.

I always thought it was a result of being a New Yorker: we’re always in a hurry. But I’ve come to realize it goes beyond that. I schedule everything, every minute of my day. I schedule do-nothing time, in which I carve out what kind of nothing I’m gonna do and for how long I’m gonna do it.  And it’s stressful, watching the clock all the time, and in many ways, it makes it impossible to enjoy something, because I’m always counting down to the next thing. Not because I’m excited for the next thing, but because that’s the schedule.

I think I’ve missed out on a lot of good moments because of this. Maybe not life-changing, remarkable moments, but enjoyable moments nonetheless. And stressing yourself out over TV time can’t be good for you.

So I suppose you could say I am making a resolution that happens to fall around the New Year, and that resolution is to savor. I am going to bask in that TV time, in that reading time, in that snuggle time, in that bath time once I have finally fulfilled my dream of dreams: to have a really nice bath tub. I am going to savor and be glad. At least, that’s the plan. I could use it.

And write more blog posts and hopefully, finally get back to my other writing. It’s pretty bad when you can’t remember the name of the antagonist of the story you were sixty pages into.

Or maybe I’ll just play more Dance Clash. I’ll admit, I think it has over-complicated my feelings about the ballet vs. hip-hop debate. Perhaps that was its intention overall, those clever minxes!

Either way, happy new year, all. May you savor, may you bathe, may you find something, may you dance like no one is watching (because they’re not; it’s all on your phone, you guys!).

Me, Too

To all the people out there who have ever had
their boob grabbed by a stranger,
their butt smacked in a bar,
something slipped into that drink you said no to
after he asked you four times because he couldn’t
possibly imagine someone saying no to him.
After he calls you a bitch for not drinking it.
Who have had someone call them a whore after
they don’t respond to a cat call.
Who have had their bra snapped open in public
because you didn’t want to talk.
Who have been told to go home and change because
their summer clothes were “too distracting.”
Who have ever felt like they were being raised as an object;
a small object, fragile, submissive.
Who has had to constantly look over their shoulders
when they walk down the street alone
and grab tight hold of a pepper spray key chain
when someone walks by.
Who had to ask a friend to pretend to be your significant other
just so others wouldn’t grab you on the dance floor.
Who has listened to their coworkers rate other girls’ asses
and they think the look of horror on your face is because
they forgot to compliment yours.
Who has ever been told their boobs aren’t big enough to make good tips,
whose boss gave them an unsolicited back rub
and then slipped them a hotel room key,
who felt like they had to take bad behavior just to keep their job,
to keep the peace, to stay afloat.
To all the people who have ever felt degraded,
violated, objectified, powerless, silenced,
I’m sorry.
Who felt like they had to keep everything suppressed
just to get through the day,
I’m sorry.
Who were told to stop making a big deal about it,
I’m sorry.
Who were told, “Don’t call it that.”
I’m sorry.
I’m sorry this is the world you were brought into,
I’m sorry that these ideas continue to be conditioned,
I’m sorry for the times I, myself, was apathetic,
For the times I thought, “Well, what do you expect?”
I’m sorry that this is still a fight against reality,
still an argument,
instead of just a plain right and wrong.
I’m sorry.
Me, too.

J. Awkward Prufrock Goes Back to School

Well, the good news is I’m 1/10 of the way through my master’s program! Gotta take what I can get.

But for the other 9/10, you can probably expect less frequent blog posts. I’m aiming for once a month. Turns out grad school is a lot of work. Who knew?

It’s weird to go back to school after a five-year hiatus. When I was in undergrad, I had all this energy, fueled by my starry-eyed dreams and desire to make memories. I didn’t only pull all-nighters to get work done; I pulled all-nighters just because. What?! And then I could simply brush my teeth, go to class, and be fine. Did I do the reading for class that day? Hell no! Who does the reading for class?

You know what you have to do in grad school? The reading for class. The professors acknowledge doing all of the reading is impossible, yet expected. How does that make any sense? Guys, I’m so tired.

Having been 27-years-old for nearly a week now, I can say…it’s an awful lot like being 26: if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep and eat some vegetables, I turn into the garbage that Oscar the Grouch sat on. A few people in my program are straight out of undergrad, and I look at the emails they send out at 1am and think, I was like you once. Ah, youth. I wonder where you disappeared to. Probably somewhere in all that time I was wishing it was the weekend. I accidentally made my life go 5 times faster.

I don’t want to complain too much. Philly is wonderful. Living with Marc is wonderful. The campus is wonderful. All of my classes are wonderful…and interesting and provocative and thoughtful…I think. I do take comfort in the fact that everyone around me looks just as confused as I feel. We’re all just trying to make it to May, merely cloaking ourselves in the scent of intellectualism (by Calvin Klein).

But the academics, I can handle. It’s tough, but I can (well…we’ll see what I say when I get my first paper back). What I’ve been the most worried about is making friends. It’s been a long time since I made a new friend. I’m a bit out of practice. And it’s so much easier when you live on campus and know you’re going to be spending the next four years with these people. This is a nine-month program and I live 30 minutes away and I don’t like to do things: all of these factors may work against me.

In these trying times, I find myself so much more aware of the things I say. Guys, that’s extremely aware. That’s beyond hyper-aware. That is a degree of awareness theoretical physicists haven’t dreamt of. Lately, after I say anything to anybody, I immediately say to myself, Everyone hates you now. Just last night, I found a potential friend in the ladies’ room. She was exiting while I was entering. Her look said that she was really chill, but not so chill that it made her superior. She had that friendly smell; of potato chips and freshly-soaped hands.

She looked at me and said, “Oh my God, I had to go to the bathroom so bad, but the professor wouldn’t stop talking.” She was paving the road for a friendship, slowly, with a small smile and open eyes.

I responded, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean.” She looked taken aback, hurt; she giggled unsurely, and darted out of the bathroom. And it dawned on me that, while my line was supposed to establish the common ground on which kinship wallows, she may have interpreted it as my telling her that her reaching out to me was preventing me from my own peeing. Everyone hates you now. 

My other friendship attempt happened in the university bookstore, where arguably the best friendships can happen. Books are sacred like that. I was at a table full of organizer journals, thinking about possibly buying one but then realizing that would prevent me from being able to tell myself that I don’t get anything done because I’m disorganized, when a girl walked over to browse. She clearly had no fear of organization and I thought maybe she could be the kind of person who would push me to be better throughout my master’s journey.

So I turned to her and cleverly said, “In the market for an organizer?”

She laughed and nodded, which I took as an affirmation that I totally should keep this act of an organizer salesperson going.

“Well you got your big ones, you small ones, your sparkly ones, your motivational sayings, animals doing animal things. Which do you find most appealing?”

At this point, I could tell that I had made it awkward. She looked confused. But for some reason, I thought that stopping at that point would make it more awkward, so I kept rambling on about the sales handles of various organizers until she walked off with one. I feel kind of bad. I’m not sure if it was the one she wanted or if she just wanted to get away from the weird girl who hangs out at the organizer table trying to make lifelong friends, or at least Facebook “happy birthday” acquaintances. We’ll never know!

It’s so hard, but I think the fact that I’ve only had a handful of disastrous social instances is rather encouraging! And I’m on smile-and-hi level with lots of people. So who knows? Maybe there is hope for this life chapter yet. Onward and awkward.

Now, back to reading about jurisprudential challenges in private university governance. Whatever that is.

J. Awkward Prufrock Learns to Cook!

Prepare for the most awkward cooking blog post ever, as, even though I vaguely planned this post, I did not take any pictures of my experiments. I never remember to take pictures of anything. I encourage you to use your imaginations as you accompany me on this culinary journey. I assure you none of them looked like their Pinterest pictures, if that helps.

Now, I have lived on my own before, but on those occasions, I was either kitchen-less or too afraid to really use the kitchen (because of the filth factor and because I live my life in fear). Also, I’m one of those people who is perfectly content to eat the same thing everyday and also perfectly content if that thing is a bag of frozen vegetables I can pop in the microwave.

But I live with my boyfriend now. And while he is a very smart man who has been feeding himself for years, my waspy ethnic origins are predominantly Irish and Italian, and thus I possess this unflappable stoicism that is only curbed by pictures of cute dogs and a need to feed others. It’s how I show I care. I’m also hoping that if I get good enough at cooking, he will be able to look past all the new neuroses he’s learning about now that we live together (Jillian, why do you keep all the closets open? Because someone might be in them. Obviously).

I love to eat, but I’m pretty health-conscious and like to keep things plant-based when I can. I also don’t really like the idea of handling meat (shut up, Freud). Now, the thing about cooking is it never looks or sounds that hard to do. And it isn’t, really, if you’re striving for edible, but boy does it take time. (Curses upon those Tasty videos that made it look like all cooking only takes 30 seconds!) Especially if you’re incredibly anal and insist on staring at everything the whole time to make sure it’s cooking the way it’s supposed to be…and yet, it still manages to be over or underdone at the end of it all.

So, here are some of the things I’ve made.

Day 1: Vegetarian French Dips
In this recipe, you use mushrooms instead of roast beef. It was pretty good and very easy to make. But this was the day I learned that even recipes labeled as “Healthy” on Pinterest can call for lots of olive oil and salt. Which makes me wonder, is anything really good for us?
Rating: 7.5/10
Recipe here: http://www.connoisseurusveg.com/vegan-french-dip-sandwiches

Day 2: Peach Mango Stir Fry
Ah, the joy of the stir fry! Proof that you can throw a bunch of things into a pan and it will probably come out alright. In this case, it was a bag of peppers and onions, a can of black beans, and peach/mango salsa. Added rice after. Above par, nutritious.
Rating: 8/10
Recipe: Whatever the hell is in your cabinets.

Day 3: Potato Mushroom Concoction
Peeling potatoes sucks.
Rating: 7/10
Recipe here: http://cooktoria.com/recipe/potatoes-with-mushrooms-2/

Day 4: Burgers and Black Bean Salad
I want to know why people think it’s so much better to cook on gas. Not only am I perpetually conscious of breathing when I’m around it, but it gets so hot! So fast! On this day, I thought I would give pan-frying burgers a try since we had some in the freezer and I know my boyfriend enjoys them. Bless his heart for eating these, which somehow managed to be burnt to a crisp on the outside and raw on the inside.
The black bean salad was fine. A bit vinegary. I also boiled him a hot dog. Amen to boiling hot dogs! I will boil hot dogs ‘til somebody stops me! What a low pressure meal.
Rating: 6.5/10
Recipe: Black bean salad consists of 1 can of black beans, peppers, onions, lime, corn, oil, balsamic vinegar, and the spices of your choice.

Day 5: Pasta and Broccoli
I’m not a terribly gifted person but I can usually get pasta right. And the more the kitchen smells like garlic, the harder people think you worked!
Rating: 8/10
Recipe: Pasta and broccoli and stuff.

Day 6: Roasted Cauliflower and Chick Pea Salad
After a few days of hearty eating (weekends are for pizza. It’s in the bible), I thought we could cleanse ourselves with some kale and other vegetables. But roasting vegetables takes a lot of time and the ability to walk away from the oven. I do not have that capability.
The dressing called for tahini, which is hella expensive, so I thought I would improvise by combining every condiment in the fridge: a concoction my boyfriend kindly described as, “a lot of really good flavors that maybe shouldn’t be together.” Womp womp.
Also, why is salad never filling? We broke out the Ben & Jerry’s an hour later!
Rating: 6/10
Recipe here: https://www.budgetbytes.com/2017/02/roasted-cauliflower-salad-lemon-tahini-dressing/

Day 7: Enchilada Orzo Casserole Thingy
Oh, if I could only shake the hands of Mr. Crockpot himself! Seriously, what ingenuity. This was definitely the best of all the attempts so far. And to think, all I did was dump some stuff into a pot in the morning and by 6, we had dinner. The crockpot gets my full endorsement. I will die so crockpots can live.
Rating: 8.5/10
Recipe here: http://damndelicious.net/2014/12/01/slow-cooker-enchilada-orzo/

Does anyone have some easy recipes they want to share with me? Does anyone want to help me get over my fear of cooking meat or my CO woes (I don’t think it’s good to keep testing the detector…)? I would love to hear from you!