Saturday, December 28, 2013

Song Lyric Some Days: Consent and "Blame It" Part II- (Please Don't) Blame It (On the Alcohol)

Trigger warning- song described is about rape, nothing in detail about that rape is mentioned in this post because this post describes more about the idea of blaming behavior on alcohol.

Speaking of blaming the victim, there is still a whole huge issue in this song that we have not covered.

The title of the song is "Blame It (On the Alcohol)," but Mr. Rapist over there is not blaming HIS actions on the alcohol.  No, he claims that the "shawty" in question is blaming HERS.  

"Ay she say she usually don't
But I know that she front
Cause shawty know what she want
But she don't wanna seem like she easy."

So obviously what she is going to do is:

"Blame it on the goose
Got you feeling loose
Blame it on Patron
Got you in the zone
Blame it on the a a a a a alcohol."

This is an actual problem for women in society, I will admit.  Women with sexual agency are seen as loose, easy, sluts, and lots of other bad words that have no equivalent for males who practice the same behavior.  I'll spare you the slut vs. player analysis because we all know I'm preaching to the choir anyway.  

A response to not wanting to be seen as "easy," at least in popular media, is the "I never do this" phenomenon, wherein a woman claims that she never hooks up/has one night stands/whatever while hooking up/having a one night stand/whatever.  While doing this, said lady may "blame it on the alcohol." (However, we all know that that should give their partner pause because as we have established in the previous blog post, sexual acts that happen because of alcohol that would not happen otherwise are rape.)

Because the woman in the song is in the "I never do this" category, she actually, at first, has a measure of agency.  "She say she usually don't" implies that she usually doesn't do this, but is going to make an exception, meaning that she is giving consent.  Of course, later in the song they have to go and ruin all of that, what with her total intoxication, but they got off to a not totally terrible start. 

However, I do want to explore the idea that women who take agency in their own sex lives have to pretend not to have it.

First, a message to the female identified people, I know it is hard because Society and Norms and lots of other capitalized words that you do not have control over, but if you want to change the world a little at a time, you could start by owning your actions.  Next time you are hooking up, instead of saying, "I never do this," say, "Let's do this."  Seriously, what kind of dude is going to mind that you did not deny (or confirm) frequently hooking up with people if you happen to be choosing him on this particular night?  And for the love of pizza and puppies and sunshine and all things good and sacred, please do not make consent any more confusing than it already is.  Do NOT blame it on the alcohol if you actually want to be doing whatever you want to be doing with this person.

HOWEVER (and this is a really big however- literally- see what I did there?), I'm pretty sure it isn't the female-identified people to blame, here.  Not ever having tried to pick up a woman in a club or anywhere may bias me here, but my female friends seem to own their sexual agency plenty and say what they mean.  Jaime Foxx, T Pain, and their awful writing team, in my mind, are perpetuating a myth that goes along with the whole "no means yes" phenomenon.  They PORTRAY women as not saying what they mean, as "blaming the alcohol" for the behavior that they actually deep down want to do anyways.  ("We probably gon do what you been feeling deep inside, don't lie now.")  

This is a huge contributor to rape culture because young men learn from these songs.  They learn to see behavior that women genuinely mean to be disinterest ("I don't want to dance with you."), lack of consent ("I don't want to have sex with you."), or the display of the inability to consent ("I'm soooo drunk.") as "fronts" or simply challenges to be overcome.  While some ladies really do blur the lines for the rest of us by not saying what they mean and not owning their behavior, the vast, vast majority of us aren't blaming the alcohol for actions we'd want to do anyway or saying no when we mean yes.  

In the end, it isn't women, but Jaime Foxx and T Pain who need to stop blaming it on the alcohol.

A personal appeal:  I say what I mean.  I am a deep, complex human with desires and dislikes and a story to tell.  Society teaches people that women are liars, that they don't say what they mean, that they don't know what is best for them, that they are generally second class citizens, and that deep down, all of them, always, want the d***.  When I say something to you, please, try to get past all this noise and listen to ME.  Don't let songs like "Blame It" make me voiceless.

Song Lyric Some Days: Consent and "Blame It (On the Alcohol)"- Jaime Foxx ft. T Pain

Content warning- rape

My family has a subscription to Rhapsody, a music service, that, among other things, has theme "radio stations."  We were listening to the #1 Hits station today (always hilarious- because the hits are basically from any decade and we can go from the twist to Lady Gaga in one song transition) and "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" came on.

I have only ever heard this song in the context of a school dance (probably quite a bit more appropriate than it should be), meaning that I had never actually been able to hear the words outside of the chorus before.  I heard them today for the first time, and they made me upset and scared.  Lots of songs are misogynist.  Particularly offensive are those that assume a woman wants to have sex with you because she exists or have no regard for what the woman wants at all ("Tonight I'm F***ing You," "In my Head").   However, in my limited experience (I listen to the radio and- gasp- popular music almost exclusively) few songs are explicitly about rape.  "Blame It" is. 


The scariest part about it isn't that a song about rape became a #1 Hit* or won a Grammy**(though lyric AND quality wise, that is pretty disturbing).  No, the scariest part is that probably all of you are sitting there going "That song is about rape?"  So, too, would be Jaime Foxx, T Pain, and the dude who wrote the song.


Let's take a closer look, shall we? In the midst of totally confusing lyrics such as "Feelin' on your butt what?" there are moments of what may be clarity.  These moments illustrate a disturbing picture.


"See what we can be if we press fast forward

Just one more round and you're down I know it"
"Couple more shots you open up like a book
I ain't trippin'? (cause I'ma read ya)
Shawty I ain't trippin? (I just want to please ya)"

And finally:

"Shawty got drunk thought it all was a dream.
So I made her say ahh, ahh ahh."

The University of Minnesota's Aurora Center defines consent this way:

"Consent is informed, freely and actively given, and mutually understood. If physical force, coercion, intimidation, and/or threats are used, there is no consent. If the victim/survivor is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that the victim/survivor cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, and the condition was or would be known to a reasonable person, there is no consent. This includes conditions due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious."

They go on to say- "Rape is sexual intercourse without consent."


It is clear to me that this song is about a sexual encounter that took place without consent, and that the singer was in fact, preying upon this woman by encouraging her to drink more, understanding that this would make her receptive to his sexual advances when she otherwise would not have been.  This is rape, without question.  


However, I doubt (I hope not, anyway) this song would be so popular if people truly understood this.  Probably the guy in the song does not know he is a rapist, or he wouldn't be advertising it.  Alcohol and consent is one of the hardest relationships for people to understand.  Alcohol is a part of our culture, and people CAN have consensual sex under its influence (to a point).  Lots of people want to know where the line is.  (An educator at my college says when asking where the line is, people are really asking, "How close can I come to raping someone without actually raping them?")  I don't have the answer to where the line is, only that the man in this song crossed it and then some.  There are lots of signs towards this being the case, such as the predatory nature of him waiting for her to get drunk enough that she'd "be down," when she was not already, and the big red flag, that the woman "thought it was all a dream."  


Friends, I'm not telling you that if your potential partner has had a drink they can never consent.  However, if you are using alcohol to get people to do what they wouldn't otherwise do, or if your partner is so intoxicated they cannot tell what is a dream or what is reality, you are a rapist.  Please, please, please do not be like this guy and be a rapist out of ignorance.  Not knowing what consent is doesn't make you not a rapist.  Consent is something responsible adults practice, and those who do not understand it should not be having ANY sexual interactions.  In the best case scenario, this song's popularity indicates to me that most people do not understand what consent is.  That, to me, is terrifying.  So, terrifying, in fact, that I cannot even begin to contemplate a world in which most people understand the song is about rape and like it anyway.  But I know that we could be living in that world, too.  All you have to do is look at any coverage of a rape where the survivor was brave enough to speak out.  The song our society plays isn't "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" it is "Blame It (On the Victim)."



*On the R&B/Hip-Hop Charts for 14 weeks running, the song peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100

**Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, 52nd Grammy Awards


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Song Lyric Some Days: Consent, One Direction, And the "Best Song Ever"

Announcing a new series!  Some days (I was going to have it be once a week and on a Saturday or Sunday, for alliterative purposes, but that is just not a reality in my life right now) I will overanalyze song lyrics.  Because really, I always have to be overanalyzing something.

Today's subject- One Direction's Best Song Ever.

What fascinates me is not that One Direction has used the such a gimmicky title.  (It turns out to be them singing ABOUT the best song ever, not suggesting that they have actually created it. And thank goodness, because I know having hair that gorgeous takes a lot of product, but if they think "Best Song Ever" is the best song ever, I might have to tell Harry to lay off the hairspray.)

I also only have the most tangential interest in the idea that he (whoever the general male subject of this song is, as there are lots of dudes singing it) and the lady subject of the song (One Direction songs always have a lady subject) danced all night to the best song ever, meaning that this song literally lasted all night.

No, what I am most interested in is this fascinating exchange that happens between this dude and this lady at about 1:25.

"I said, 'Can I take you home with me?' She said, 'Never in your wildest dreams.'"

This exchange happens directly after him talking about HER kissing HIM ("but she kissed me like she meant it") and just before he goes back into the chorus to say "And we danced all night to the best song ever!" 

Now, there are an awful lot of "no means yes" issues in popular culture, and this could just be an example of that.  They are dancing, presumably at a club or party.  For many people my age, the only goal here is to hook up, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing that not everybody wants.  (Rihanna sums up my personal attitude about this in the song "Who's that Chick,"- "I just want to dance, I don't really care.")  So it could be that this One Direction conglomerate dude hears "I will literally never go home with you in your wildest dreams" and thinks this actually means "I will probably change my mind about this once I dance with you."  And that is a big problem.

But I don't believe that is true because the lyrics suggest otherwise (there is no part about them going home, just about the fact that he won't forget her), because I am an idealist, and because One Direction has an large fan base of like, 8-year-olds, so I feel like if they are going to talk about anyone going home with anyone, they'd better do it in the nicest, most consensual way possible.   

Instead, I believe One Direction has hit upon several revolutionary new ideas, at least for popular culture:
1) No means no.
2) No does not mean "I hate you/ I don't find you attractive/ I am a prude/ I am no fun/ We can't do this other thing/ etc"

These two people seemed to have a really fun night together (after all, they were dancing to the best song ever), and everything they did was totally consensual.  This 1D dude didn't seem to find it a given that because this bold girl had kissed him at this party or club she would go home with him.  When she didn't want to, he was all like, "That's cool." He didn't get all upset that her behavior could be perceived as in conflict with her future desires.*

Now, if all this 1D dude wanted was to hook up, that would have been fine too, and once he found out that she wasn't on the same page, he could have politely moved on and tried to find someone with the same goals, the way that you do after making some small talk with someone, essentially.

However, I really like the idea that they still had a fun night together because I think that is something that is really undervalued in day to day life, in movies, everywhere.  If you don't have sex, you didn't make the goal; you didn't have any fun.  And furthermore, if that is not your goal for whatever reason, you certainly have no business being in this place that facilitates that goal.

That's silly.  Some people just want to dance all night to the best song ever.  And if a cute One Direction dude wants to join them and they are cool with that, then it might just make a night they'll never forget.  ...Even if he has evidently forgotten all the words to the song that he considers the best one. Ever.

In conclusion, 1D has created a pretty darn feminist, consent-happy club song.  And I love that message (or at least my idealistic interpretation of it).  This is very much unlike their song "What Makes You Beautiful"... but that is a whole other blog post.  Perhaps a whole other series of blog posts.  Coming at you in the eventual future!

*Which, by the way, they are not.  This is an extension of the whole victim-blaming thing.  Obviously, no way that a woman "acts" or dresses or dances or whatever ever means she is "asking for it."  Beyond that even, gender relations (particular to club/party culture in the U.S. especially) often require women to police their own behavior, which stops them from doing things they are comfortable with and might really enjoy in order to protect them from having to do something they would be uncomfortable with.  For example, "I won't dance that way because then he'll think I want to dance that way with him." Or "I won't dance that way with him because then he'll think I want to go further."  If consent worked like it should, these ladies would have a lot more choices, and I hope we get there someday, even at parties and in clubs.  For now, being a woman in a club- depending on the club- nearly automatically signals you as a possible hookup or even a sex object.  And that is just not fair if you like to dance in peace and are "not here for [their] entertainment." Gotta love Pink.  But seriously, "keep your drink, just give me the money. It's just you and your hand tonight." Creeper.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

An Honest Account of why we are Still Friends on Facebook

(In being unflinchingly honest here, I'm about to be a bit of a jerk.  Sorry I'm not that sorry?  You can de-friend me after this if you want.  But puh-leez, don't pretend you're all friends with me because you like me.)

Even after twice going through Facebook friend "purges" and refusing to add anyone I don't at least sometimes talk to (with some exceptions), my Facebook friends list sits at around 674.  I have met all but a few, and take great pride in actually caring about the people I present myself as caring about.  But I have realized, it is really impossible for me to truly like ALL 674 of you, much less call you friends.

So if we're not super close, this is probably why we are still friends on Facebook:

-You go to my school and I have some vague idea of who you are and I think maybe YOU might think we are friends and I'd actually like to be friends with you but at this point I'm just really confused because we like, saw each other twice.

-You are hot.  Any questions?

-Your life is a train wreck I can't stop watching.  Seriously, someone get out the popcorn.  I want to cover my eyes, shut off the screen, or unfollow you, but there is just something about the concoction of your particular train wreck that makes me totally unable to do any of these things.

-Your life is too damned perfect and I watch, alternately happy for you, putting things you are doing on my own bucket list, and hoping something goes wrong for once.

-We dated.  Or almost dated.  Or I wanted to date you really, really badly.  This is kind of a mix of genuine care about you and how you are doing (after all, you were once pretty important to me), and some sort of unhealthy jealousy/ over-involvment in affairs I am definitely no longer a part of.  (Who is he dating?  Is she prettier than me?  I'm way cooler, right?) For a select few of you, this is more venomous than innocent.  Don't worry, you deserve it.

-Similarly, ex-best friends are definitely the kind you watch, wanting to know how their life is going, not really being able to ask them.  It works with basically anyone.  Once important to me, always important to me on Facebook....

-You were really mean to me in high school or middle school and I am waiting for karma to come around.  Bonus points if karma actually HAS come around.

-You are, or were, a Very Important Person at my school.  (Org leaders, student body presidents, popular people.  They tend to have a million people in their network, floating around to see what is up, and it is a good idea to be friends with them, to be in the know of whatever.  Once their reign is over, it is fascinating to watch and see if they sink or swim on their next journey.  Sorry I'm treating your life like a terrible dramedy...)

-On the topic, for the purposes of networking.  Being friends on facebook with former bosses, coworkers, random extremely smart classmates is weird and feels not-very-professional (especially considering they are now reading this, oof), but networking happens in all social circles, including online. It is just practical.  I won't judge you (too much) if you don't judge me (too much).  (Also, it isn't really so bad.  If you don't want your boss or your grandma to see something, you probably shouldn't post it on Facebook. Facebook is forever.)

-You are my age and you have kids.  Believe it or not, this is not one of those backhanded nasty comments about your life choices.  After initial gossipy shock, ("So-and-so is PREGNANT?")  all I care about is how cute that baby is.  Seriously there are so many babies in my news feed.  I feel this is a little unreal.   But keep the pictures coming- I LOVE babies.

-You are really close to someone I'm close to.  I feel like I should be friends with you, you know?

-I think your statuses are really, really funny.

-You are my personal source for intellectual articles.  You keep me informed and stuff.  Thanks for making me look smarter, dude.

-You are my 8th grade crush.  You were once oh-so-very-attractive, and my world was a bit crushed when I decided you didn't like me back (I wouldn't have known, I never asked you out- that would have been UNTHINKABLE.)  Then you got kind of fat in college.  I use this to prove to myself that some things that feel like they are the be-all-end-all of your existence really won't be that important in the future.

-Camp friends.  I don't know why this is.  I knew you all for less than two weeks.  I didn't even LIKE some of you.  (Depending on the camp, a lot of you...)  But camp is this special, unbreakable Facebook bond, I guess.

-You are artsy, or have a blog or something.  You post pictures or great writing or something that I can't get enough of.  I just love it.  Anonymously.

-I have a friend-crush on you.  That means I would like to be your friend.  Let's make that happen.  (Although after reading all of this, you might 1) think I'm a jerk 2) mistakenly place yourself in one of the more unflattering categories, and unfriend me.  Oops.)


Yo- Do you think I'm a jerk?  Do you have even better/more ridiculous reasons to be friends with someone on Facebook?  Why are WE friends on Facebook?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Undies

In recent news, aerie now offers a thong with a padlock pattern  (See it here.)

Is anyone else confused as to what message this might be sending?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Demi Lovato: Cosmo's August Cover Girl (And why this actually matters, so much)

Guys, I picked up a Cosmopolitan today.  Ordinarily I'd be very ashamed of this fact, even though I didn't buy it, but gosh, I like to think I take care of myself better than putting my eyes near that trash designed to make me feel horrible about myself.

HOWEVER, this Cosmo is different, because it has the beautiful, courageous, and currently plus-sized-looking Demi Lovato on the cover (I wouldn't usually talk about weight, but you have to admit, that's unusual for Cosmo), and an amazing interview inside. I read it sitting on the floor of the aisle of my local Target store because I'm like that. (Read: cheap.)

The interview was so inspiring that I went to look for it online afterwards when I got home.  I was a little shocked and disappointed, especially after reading the article, to see the results of my Google search for "Demi Lovato Cosmo 2013"-

"Demi Lovato Dishes on being Suicidal at age 7" (That's not what it is about- respect her WHOLE story.)
"Demi Lovato Bares Bra for 'Cosmopolitan' August 2013" (Also not what it is about.)
"Demi Lovato is smokin' hot on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine" (Also also not what it is about.)

How about Demi Lovato, real, fierce, and courageous?
Demi Lovato, champion mental health advocate?
Demi Lovato at her most vulnerable?
Demi Lovato, on being a role model?
Demi Lovato, total badass?

Okay, so maybe my headlines wouldn't sell too many magazines.  That's not what Cosmo is trying to sell, anyways.  Cosmopolitan is kind of the opposite of everything Demi Lovato stands for.  But I believe she is doing a powerful thing, using her voice and her story to inspire young women everywhere, and young women everywhere read Cosmo, so if she does it there, all the better.

Some gems from her interview, especially on self-acceptance and mental health (so you don't have to commit the sacrilege of actually touching the magazine):

"If you're spending your entire early 20s chasing the next party, what are you running away from?"
"Being a badass is having your shit together." (On facing problems head on, staying away from the party scene.)
"I totally allow myself to cry my eyes out, and I allow myself to open up to people and ask for help." (So important.)
"You've made it another year, an entire year. Some people, don't make it to 21." (On birthdays, what a big deal they are, and hers in particular.)

The final quotation I'll list really spoke to me, and I think it should be the swan song for anyone who has ever struggled with any form of mental illness. There are parts of our lives that we cannot live like other people.  But we don't stop.

"Sometimes I wake up and I'm like, Why can't I be normal?  Why can't I just... You know....?  But I can't.  So I don't."

Demi Lovato, staying strong, speaking out, and inspiring anyone who has ever struggled.  Now there is a role model.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On Burning Bras

Dear Everyone,

I am a feminist.

Sincerely,
Mariah

Now, coming from a Macalester student and in all likelihood, going to a Macalester student, this is not all that shocking.  (This means I am about to preach to the converted, as I do just about every time I talk about important social issues, but I don't know what else to do, so I am doing it.)

But where I come from, I just said something controversial.  It is also controversial in Hollywood, and in circles of overly polite Minnesotans, it seems to be regarded as a political issue.  It is not.  It is none of the above.

In fact, I'm just going to go out there and say that if you are not a feminist, I do not want to be friends with you.*  You might be thinking, now Mariah, that is pretty harsh and judgmental.  It is not.

I understand that self-identifying as feminist means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  To me (and I would dare to venture, most educated feminists) at the most basic level, this means that you recognize that women face oppression simply because they are women.  Beyond recognizing this, you believe that women deserve to live in a world free from this oppression.

So, if you are not a feminist, to me, this signifies that you don't care that 1 in 4 college-aged women experience sexual assault, and one of them could be me. You think it isn't a big deal that women do not receive equal pay for equal work, and feel the same way about the fact that someday, I will face struggles and judgments in the workplace if I choose to have children.  You refuse to recognize that women face violence, both physical and structural, each and every day, for no other reason but their body parts/ gender expression/ both.  This affects me.

Of course I don't want to be your friend if you are not a feminist.  If you are not a feminist, you don't- you can't- care about me.

Luckily, I'm good at giving people the benefit of the doubt.  You see, when Taylor Swift says she's not a feminist because she has never really thought about things as "guys versus girls,"  I understand that she isn't a feminist because she has no idea what a feminist is. And just because it is a totally stereotypical "feminist" (and mean, and not helping the cause at all) thing to do to hate on Taylor Swift, I'll highlight some other famous ladies who are evidently not feminists.  Actually, I'll let them do it, and add Katy Perry to the list.  As you will see in the link, even Lady Gaga (sex positive, generally empowering) once said she was not feminist because she loved men, but she turned it around and started using the label.  Presumably, once upon a time, Gaga thought being a feminist involved hating on men and not shaving your legs.  Each of these quotations proves to me that these ladies may not be whatever idea of feminism they have, but they probably are actually feminist.

I've been there.  I refused to identify as as a feminist for a long time because of it's association with the above, as well as general craziness.  I didn't feel like that label really worked for me.  "Like I'm really into women's rights, but I'm not going to start burning bras anytime soon."

I also thought that people would judge me for saying I was feminist because they would have even less of an idea than I did as to what it meant, and immediately jump in their minds to a pyre on which to roast all of the bras.  Where I'm from, that was probably true.  And yet, I, from a young age was yelling at my conservative male classmates about things like women's ability to hold any job a male could or empowering women to provide for themselves and not depend on their husbands.  So really, from the moment I understood even the slightest bit of the world around me, I have been a feminist.  But I had no idea. (And, for the record, I like my bra.  It is supportive.)

So I think it just needs to be cleared up, for everyone, that yep, I'm a feminist.  It isn't about politics really.  It isn't controversial.  Stop saying it like it is a dirty word or a group of extremists.  Do you love your wife, your sister, your mother, your best friend, your aunt, your grandmother, yourself?  Congratulations, you are over halfway there.

I'm a feminist.  You are probably one too.  Thank goodness.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go  take away the rights of some men, judge some women for shaving their body hair, and burn some bras.







*I feel it is necessary to clarify, I am not a jerk, and I am not at all exclusionary about who I keep company with.  If you like me (which maybe isn't always easy), and I'm not afraid you are going to harm me or others, I will probably like you and hang out with you.  (Unless you have at any point made unwanted sexual or romantic advances towards me, but that is a blog post for another day.)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

SNAFU

I have recently learned that people are calling my little sister a NAF.

NAF, means Non-athletic "F-er," as my sister termed it.  

She is taking this small and annoying development in stride, but it makes me sad.

First of all, because nobody messes with my sister. And why is the f-word necessary there, really? But more importantly, because my sister is actually pretty athletic.  She dances, runs, and swims, and even if she is not amazing, she can play virtually any sport you throw at her.  So this makes me upset and confused.  If my beautiful, rather popular, and undeniably actually pretty athletic younger sister can be called a NAF because she doesn't have perfect hand-eye coordination, where does that leave the rest of us?

I was made fun of a lot (back when people cared) for not being good at sports, but I was never called a NAF, probably because the term was not in use back then.  And thank goodness, too, because if my little sister is a NAF, I'm a SNAF (Super Non-athletic Fucker).  

Or better yet, a SNAFU, where the U stands for "Ugh! The ball just hit me in the face!"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Small Talk

I recently read Lisa Bloom's article, "How to Talk to Little Girls" in the Huffington Post.  I loved it, and if you haven't read it, you need to.  Go on, this stuff will still be here when you get back.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html

It made me reflect more on the things we choose to say, and why they are important, ESPECIALLY in the day-to-day life, little conversation moments that might not be as important at first glance.

I swear to you, if I lived with my grandmother, the be-all-end-all of my life would be to fall in love, get married, and have some kids.  The only thing that seems important to her about me is my relationship with a man.  She has, of course, never told me this.

But when I was a young teenager, we sat out by the pool, and she spoke wishfully of a future summer, when I would be "falling in love." I rolled my eyes, but I secretly felt excited and hopeful.  Wouldn't it be nice to have summer love?  She said it like it was a sure thing.  A done deal.  I had that to look forward to.

Fast forward to a summer where I am more than old enough to be falling in love by some social standard I don't know who made, and I am not.  At all.  My grandmother has dutifully asked me about my relationship status every time I have seen her in the past year, at least.  The questions have ranged from, "So, are you in love this week?" to "Are any of your coworkers attractive?" Once, she asked me what was up, as if she meant in general, in life, but I asked her what she wanted to hear about, and of course, the answer was "boys."

Once you get past the awkwardness of a grandmother nosing into her granddaughter's love life, you might notice that there is more to feel uncomfortable about than that.

Now, I love my grandmother, and I do not blame her for the narowness of her interests.  She started dating my grandfather in the 10th grade.  And it was the 50s.  These are the things that are important to her, and I will admit, boys are one of my absolute favorite topics of conversation as well.

However, her husband, my grandfather, always makes it a point to ask me how school is going, how my classes or my job are.  On the day my grandmother was asking me about cute coworkers, my grandfather asked me to tell him more about my program and the kids I work with.

And even though it is mostly small talk on both sides,  my grandfather's questions make me feel empowered.  They make me feel like a complex human being.  They make me feel valued for the things that are important to me.  They make me feel like my family is proud of me.  Plus, with my grandfather's questions, I always have a good answer.  I always have something to say.  They make me feel more interesting and more accomplished than having to simply answer, "No, no boys" all the time to my grandmother, as if that ought to be really disappointing.

And yeah, I think I am the type of person (or I have enough outside influences- I'm still debating about just how much my environment can affect me, and it seems to be a lot)  that is strong enough not to just start thinking the most important part of my life is my relationship with a man based on a few comments from my grandmother.  But like I said, I have plenty of other influences, and a possibly inherent feminist side (is there a gene for that? haha).  I don't know what I would be like if that was all I ever heard.  And even when it isn't, I can still identify that other ways of relating make me feel better and more valuable.

Small talk.  It can be really big.

Friday, May 17, 2013

On the Blowing Up of Microwaves (Or, More Indirectly, Why Nathan Didn't go to Prom with me Junior Year)

It is prom season, and you know what that reminds me of?  Microwaves.

More specifically, that I should not cook with them.  Ever.  

Why?

Welllll.......

My tumultuous relationship with microwaves began when I was very young.  It was the first time we were watching National Treasure (one of my favorite movies ever, no shame) in my basement home theater, and during a highly suspenseful chase scene, we decided we wanted popcorn.  Movie paused, my friend Vivian and I went to try to make the really cool movie-theater style bucket of popcorn (like this one) we'd bought earlier with the movie, but we couldn't find the tray for the microwave.  We stuck the popcorn in anyways, because we were like ten and didn't figure it would make any difference.  We went back to our movie.  

That ended with Vivian going to check on the popcorn a few minutes later and telling us that it was ON FIRE.  (Luckily, it was pretty contained.  We didn't get any popcorn, but that was about the worst of it.  And we've never used those movie-theater style buckets since.)

Since, there was the time I burned noodles in the microwave while on the phone with one of my best friends because I am bad at measuring water and the time that I stuck a pot with metal elements in the microwave while I was babysitting.  (Sorry to my lovely neighbors for the destruction of their cookware.)

That was all prior to high school or so.  Afterwards, I became much better at microwaves.  (I had enough mistakes to learn from.)  I was also never responsible for the destruction of a microwave.

Until junior year.

When I was a junior, I brought my lunch to school frequently, and sometimes I used a thermos bowl.  I decided one morning I would reheat my food in it before school to make it stay actually warm, rather than pointlessly lukewarm by the time lunch rolled around.  I had heated things with their covers on but vented before, so I figured this would be no problem with the thermos bowl as well.  

My assumption was shattered, along with the top of the microwave, less than a few minutes later.  I heard a loud noise and looked up from the kitchen table to see a blue disk flying through the air at top speed.  Vegetables and ravioli followed.    

Thanking my lucky stars I had not been standing in front of the microwave waiting for my food to be finished, thus avoiding severe brain damage from the cover of the thermos, which was now halfway across the kitchen, I headed over to check out the damage.  There were vegetables all over the floor, the stove.  The door of the microwave, oddly, was fine.  The cover of the bowl had flown out by opening the door rather than destroying it.  I opened the door to discover a horrifying sight.

You will  never believe how fully a small meal, exploded, can cover the inside of a microwave.  But that wasn't the part that was going to get me in trouble.  Before flying out the door, the cover of the thermos apparently rocketed straight upwards (pressure!), breaking the plastic top of the microwave into several pieces and cracking the rest.  I had a guess this was going to be an expensive mistake.

And I was going to be late for class.

Luckily, "I accidentally exploded my microwave this morning" counts as an excellent excuse, even to the strictest of band teachers, and even more luckily my father "never liked that microwave anyways" and bought another without much fuss.

So what about prom?  Well, later that spring, one of my best friends, Nathan, and I were joking around with my parents at the kitchen table.  I didn't have a date at this point, and I was telling him he should go with me, even though dances aren't his thing.  My parents agreed.  He said he'd go with if we'd rent the tux.

My father pointed to the shiny new microwave on the wall and said, "There's your tux."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Latest Sarcasm in the Saga of "Which Quarter of Me is Mexican?"

(sunshine)

Good news guys!  I am returning to the skin tone I most self-identify with.

In completely related news, I suspect it will only be a matter of time before people start asking me those not at all confusing or offensive questions such as "What are you?"  Funny how those questions only seem relevant in the summer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Uncertainty


You know sometimes past Mariah says exactly what present Mariah needs to hear.  After a friend of mine asked me about my commencement address, I looked it up and read it over.  I cringed at points, remembering how quickly I had to write it in the midst of my final high school finals.  But I got to the final paragraphs and something clicked.  I was an ambitious high school student.  I worked hard.  That semester was no different.  Now, I sometimes feel like I am losing that identity.  This is the year of questioning- Why am I doing this?  What goal is this education pointing me towards?  Where the heck am I going?  Turns out, a more optimistic me wondered similar things two years ago.  Here is what she had to say:  

            As we finish high school, we enter a world of uncertainty.  Graduation speeches often give advice on how to handle this time of change.  What’s ironic about this is that I have no more authority to be spreading words of wisdom for the rest of your lives than any of you do.   In fact, unlike many of you, I do not have a specific career plan.  I have ideas of what I like and that’s about all right now.  My main idea is that success will probably involve hard work, late nights, and tears of procrastination.  But all that stuff I learned in high school.  However, I’m here tonight to tell you that not knowing is okay… that much I know for sure.  Important, smart people agree with me too, which is always comforting.  David Brooks, who writes a column for the New York Times, says that advising young graduates to look inside and find their passion and then pursue their dreams isn’t the right answer.  It is not that you should not pursue your dreams.  It is that at our age, most people are still figuring out who they are, and that a successful, fulfilling path doesn’t necessarily come from introspection.  He says, “Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life.  They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life.”  And it’s important to note that the world in which we will be looking for our direction is an uncertain one.  It seems many of us will be uncertain people in an uncertain world.  And that is scary.  But uncertainty is opportunity.  Because the world is uncertain, careers are changing in the blink of an eye.  If you are completely sure about what you want for your future, you might miss out on something that was not even there when you made your plan.  And for those of you who are certain, well, be prepared, a lot of you will change your minds.  This isn’t a bad thing.  We are versatile enough to successfully face anything that the uncertainty of life sends our way.  But just because we are embracing uncertainty does not mean that even for a second, we can ever slow down.  Well, besides today.  Enjoy today.  But after today, we must keep moving, as the world keeps moving, because even if we don’t know exactly where we’ll end up doesn’t mean we don’t have to work hard to get there.  Every opportunity in life will require someone who works hard, someone willing to learn, and someone who moves at the pace of our world.  And that’s fast.  So keep moving fast, Farmington High School.  We’ve come this far, and no matter where we go next we’ve got to look good when we get there. 

I'll keep moving fast.  And someday I'll get there.  And darn right I'm going to look good.