Living in Awkward Sin

Last year, I celebrated Marc’s and my two-year anniversary with a post on how we met. It seemed appropriate for our three-year anniversary to post about our first year of living together.

A lot of people have asked me about this—the adjustment of moving in together. Was I nervous? What if it didn’t work out? How would we navigate all this new stuff?

The main thing I can say about living with Marc is we are confused and disturbed as to why an adult hasn’t checked in on us.

Every relationship is different, but one year of living with Marc has confirmed what I always believed: I could have moved in with him after our second date, and everything would have been fine. Living with Marc is really just living with me, except with more whimsy. Like me living with me in a cartoon, where John Denver songs are constantly playing and I have many animal friends.

Okay, perhaps it isn’t that whimsical. That sounds like a bad ‘shroom trip. But the adjustment wasn’t major for me. Our relationship is one of those that simultaneously feels like three years, three days, thirty years, and three-hundred years. It seemed like a lot of people expected me to say I felt pressured to constantly look cute and to pretend I don’t burp. That is not us, nor has it ever been. I am many things, but cute is hardly one of them, and demure, even less so. Quirky might be a better adjective. Or weird. Or concerning. You decide!

That said, a few things are different. A few things that may help prepare you if you, too, are considering living in awkward sin.

-At first, it will seem like you’re playing House.

 I remember the first night we were together in our apartment and I went outside to tell him dinner was ready. And it was just so freaking surreal. It was like I was coming out of my Fisher Price play house to tell my friend/husband, who we drew a mustache on for authenticity. It eventually all becomes routine but in the beginning, you feel like you’re watching the family-friendly sitcom version of your life.

-You realize how many strange noises you make throughout the day.

 It’s natural to be a bit more self-conscious, a little more hesitant. I was afraid to get up in the middle of the night because Marc is such a light sleeper (contrary to myself, who could sleep through Gilbert Gottfried arguing about politics with the MGM lion while Transformers 3 plays in the background). Through that extra self-consciousness, you learn things about yourself. Apparently every emotion I have manifests itself in an other-worldly noise. Whooooeeee means I’m happy, awgawgawg means I’m sad, bleeeehhhh means I’m experiencing ennui, boooooooppppmmmmm means I’m nervous. I never really noticed before. Now we just make noises at each other all day, having whole conversations in shuckshahhas and pffffftttttsss.

-You’ll want to cook because you’re cooking for someone else.

 When I was just feeding myself, dinner consisted of hummus and pita chips or a microwavable bag of steamed broccoli. I don’t find the idea of making myself a nice meal compelling. But I want us to lead a nice, long, healthy life of making weird noises, so I have taken to making actual meals. Granted, 90% are some combination of beans and rice. The fiber keeps us young!

-You’ll become comfortable…too comfortable.

 We’ve always been comfortable sharing things about ourselves with each other, but since moving in together, there’s been a lot of, “Can you check this weird bump?” and, “Can you shine this flashlight into my mouth?”

 -You’ll rant more now that someone is there to listen.

I suddenly come home to another human everyday, which means he gets to hear all about every driver who pissed me off, every person who irked me, up to that little old lady who said, “Thank you,” so snidely! You never realize how much you have bottled up from your day until you can just throw it all out there. Sorry, love.

-There’s more singing and dancing.

When we’re not making whale noises, we are usually making up songs. Sometimes those songs are just shouting the other’s name to the melodies of the Les Mis soundtrack. Sometimes they are creative interpretations of Tracy Chapman’s greatest hits. Sometimes to avoid doing an actual workout, we will just start dancing. Essentially our apartment is just one giant Fringe rehearsal space.

-You’ll fight.

 There’s definitely a bit more bickering when you’re around each other all the time. We’ve never been fighters. But sometimes his answers to ridiculous and arbitrary Would You Rather questions are just…wrong…and he needs to know that!

You’ll still miss them.

 Even though we spend every evening and weekend together now, I still spend my whole day just waiting to get home so I can hang out with him. Even if hanging out just means sitting on our computers in silence, everything is better when he’s there.

 I spent a good portion of my life making sure I never needed anybody. I have wanted to have people in my life, certainly, for their wonderful company. But I never wanted to feel like I couldn’t function if those people weren’t there anymore. I can honestly say I need Marc, on an emotional and spiritual level. He is an extension of myself. A better, smarter, funnier extension, but an extension nonetheless. That is both terrifying and exhilarating.

I am the luckiest.

Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

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It’s Really Unattractive When…

Welcome to the newest episode of, “What I Should Have Said Was…”

I’ve been thinking a lot about pet peeves. For instance, I’ve gotten a lot of flack in my life about being a loud eater. People have rolled their eyes and whispered about me (or audibly complained) as I chewed my food at an apparently deafening volume. Well, I’m so sorry that’s bothering you, I really am, but telling someone to eat differently is like telling them to walk or breathe or sleep differently. It’s not a switch I can just turn on and off. As I reflected on this, I think I realized that pet peeves might be my pet peeve.

And also, jerks. Jerks are my pet peeve.

You ever have someone tell you that it’s really unattractive when you do something? Perhaps a friend or family member or a lover themselves. Not things like, “You were really rude to that server,” unattractive. But for doing simple, human things?

I’ve always thought it’s good to work on oneself. The older I get, the more I think that working on oneself is about harnessing the conviction to know who you are and what you want, and less about listening to the jerks. But when I was younger, I always listened to the jerks. I consumed that jerk feedback like it was delicious jerk chicken (loudly, apparently). This is where my actor training kicked in. I had a part to play, the part of lovuhhhh. And I wanted them to like me, to really like me!

I’ve always been told I take direction well. But it’s impossible to keep track of all of this! Eventually my options became either join the robothood or set this list on fire with a maniacal life and thunderous applause from my live studio audience.

So, for this post, I thought about some of the best, “It’s really unattractive…” comments I’ve gotten in the past. Some I took to heart; most I was just timid about. For the sake of catharsis, I am including the response I like to think I would give these days. Oh, beautiful hindsight!

It’s really unattractive when you get so clingy.
Well, it’s really unattractive when you act like I don’t deserve your time and attention.

It’s really unattractive when you don’t shave.
Well, it’s really unattractive that you want me to be as smooth as an eight-year-old. And it’s really unattractive that you think you can govern my hair.

It’s really unattractive that you dye your hair.
…It’s really unattractive that you think you can govern my hair.

It’s really unattractive that you’re a brunette.
IT’S REALLY UNATTRACTIVE THAT YOU THINK YOU CAN GOVERN MY HAIR.

It’s really unattractive when you drink.
It’s really unattractive when you try to control what I do with my time.

It’s really unattractive that you’re friends with so many guys.
It’s really unattractive that you check out every single woman who walks by.

It’s really unattractive when you act so apathetic.
It’s really unattractive that you and the rest of the world have told me not to have feelings.

It’s really unattractive when you wear makeup.
It’s really unattractive that you think you can govern my face.

It’s really unattractive that you watch so much TV.
It’s really unattractive that I have to resort to fictional characters to fulfill my emotional needs. You’re nothing next to Ben Wyatt.

Any readers out there have an, “It’s really unattractive…” moment? What did you say or wish you’d have said? I would love to hear from you.

Being the Middle Child

All the middle children out there, can I get a what-what?

If one were to pose this question in a crowded room, the eyes of all the middle children would light up like fireflies in the night, each one attempting to bark the loudest what-what in the bunch. Their moment had finally come, their time to shine. And it wouldn’t even matter, because as they turn to face their parents, feeling like they will finally get the approval they so desperately crave, it will turn out that their parents were in the bathroom and missed the whole thing.

I have two brothers. One is two years older than me. He sings like Sinatra with perfect pitch to match, and my mother never misses an opportunity to mention that he aced his kindergarten entrance exams. The other is six years younger than me, and he’s really funny. Like you’re still thinking about how freaking clever that was two years later kind of funny. Then there’s me, in the middle. I am the girl. My defining personality trait is girl.

And I am SUCH a middle child.

By that, I mean I’m a perfectionist. My whole life, I’ve wanted to be the “most” something. Even if it did end up being the most painstaking or the most easily offended. I can’t always let things go easily. I am twenty-seven, and when I visited my family last weekend, someone attributed this vaguely funny line I’d said many years ago to my younger brother. Because he’s the funny one so he must have said the funny thing. Makes sense. This is not a problem on any scale; it doesn’t mean jack. But guys, I WAS SO SENSITIVE ABOUT IT! I wanted to climb on the roof and yell until I bled.

When I found out I was going to be a big sister, I was pretty excited. But that excitement wasn’t really reflected in those around me: you know, people spouting worldly wisdom about what it means to be a big sister. Instead, I would get statements about being the middle child. People would try to convince me that being the middle child is great. “Like the cream in the middle of the Oreo cookie,” they always said, “the best part.”

Couldn’t help but notice no one felt the need to convince my older brother with similes! No one was telling him being the oldest was like fine wine or something.

Because of this, I felt like I had to figure out what it meant to be the middle child, philosophically. I would ask my parents, I would ask God, what was this plight that had been bestowed upon me? Why had I been chosen?

As with all questions, I turned to TV for my answers. I started off with Family Matters and Happy Days: shows where the middle child started off as the protagonist, and then they realized two children made for better comedy. Abruptly, one child was gone and the middle was not the middle anymore. Not off to a great start!

But then, you’ve got your Jan Bradys, your Stephanie Tanners, your Cory Matthews…s. I saw myself in these characters: their unsureness, their constant searching for their special talent and place in the universe, their lack of star quality. That was ME!

This only made my searching fiercer, my need to overachieve more real. Surely, there was something out there for me, something that would make me special. I imagined everything, from figure-skating to shot-put to a genius-level IQ. Maybe teaching animals how to play chess. Ballroom dance. I think sometimes I created such a vivid imaginary life for myself that it almost started to seem real.

I just took a minute off from writing to unpack that loaded-ass statement. Guys, that’s why I wanted to be an actress. It’s all starting to make sense now! Thank you, blog!

Sometimes it takes a couple decades of life experience to realize that the middle may just be exactly where you belong. After all, it is the most awkwardly stigmatized birth order. There’s a lot of cool stuff about being in the middle, perhaps even cooler than Oreo cream. There’s vision, independence, originality! There’s a power to the middle (as long as you ignore Jenga principles).

And as Sue Heck, my favorite TV middle child, said in her series finale, “The middle is the best place to be. You’ve got love on both sides.”

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-29,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y
This picture would be better if I were actually in the middle, but my siblings and I only take a picture roughly once every seven years. 

 

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!

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!).