Archives For Culture

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Anyone who believes that their high school years were the best years of their life has probably repressed those heinous memories and replaced them with delusional fantasies. Or else you were head cheerleader/captain of the football team.

Congratulations! You peaked in high school. Everything was downhill after that.

 

In the 1980’s I would have donated my spleen for a high school experience that even remotely resembled any one of John Hughes’ teen movies. I spent my high school years double dipped in emo, sobbing my black eyeliner off to New Order songs. I even faked being vegan.

As an adult, I realized that these movies are culturally iconic masterpieces which contain essential adult life lessons. Everything I need to know about life, I learned from a John Hughes movie.

 

Fun is Essential

Ferris Bueller knew this when he played hooky from school, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Fun is a powerful respite from life’s challenges. Life is short, so PLAY!

Of course, we can’t all end up atop a parade float in downtown Chicago, like Ferris. Instead, go swimming in icy cold water and experience the exhilaration of hypothermia! Spend the entire day speaking only in quotes from The Godfather. Run around in a forest, pretending to be a magical creature and beat other people with a latex sword.

Just try not to do anything than lands you in jail or the ER.

And leave the gun – take the cannoli.

 

Be Unique

In Pretty in Pink, wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl Andie Walsh dresses in her own unique, if not bizarre, style.

For the love of God, DON’T GOOGLE PRETTY IN PINK! I’ve warned you about Lady Google, have I not? Google is no longer a search engine and is now the gateway to a pornographic den of iniquity.

Back to Andie – yes, she often dressed as though she was impersonating her own grandmother. And her homemade prom dress at the end – is she going to the prom, or taking the helm as Captain of the USS “What the Fuck?”

BUT- she is an original.

I googled it for you. Because I love you.

I googled it for you. Because I love you.

 

The suburban fashion police patrolling my neighborhood want me in Lululemon and Louis Vuitton. I prefer shopping at Hot Topic for rock tee shirts and superhero underwear.

Like Andie, I dress to express my individuality. Most importantly, I feel safe knowing that Spider Man is guarding my crotch.

 

Perfection Sucks

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.” So says teen delinquent John Bender of The Breakfast Club, in this classic quote.

Perfection is unattainable, and chasing after it is boring. People with messy, beautifully flawed lives seek adventure. Those women at the supermarket who are perfectly coiffed and accessorized at 9 am? BORING. Imperfection gives people character. Every time you fail, you get stronger and more enlightened.

 And epic failure gives you something spectacular to write about.

 

Age is Only a Number

In Pretty In Pink, Andie defies societal attitudes towards age. Her best female friend is the quirky, 30-something record store manager where she works. At home, Andie has a complete role reversal – she is the “adult,” caring for her father.

We are who we are inside – not the number assigned to us because of birth year. I prefer life through youth-colored glasses. Which is a nice way of saying I never matured past 15.

My only concern is that in another year or two, my 12 year-old kid will totally outgrow me.

 

You’re Stronger Than You Think

Andie is devastated when rich heartthrob Blaine retracts his prom invite. Yet she plans to go herself, “so they know they didn’t break me.”

You have more strength and resilience than you realize. You may think you can’t handle it, but whatever it is, you CAN. Face life’s challenges head on, like Andie preparing to march her bad-ass self into the freaking prom, SOLO.

Don’t let it break you! Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! And whatever kills you – well, you’re dead. So it’s irrelevant.

 

Good Man/Bad Boy

So, you’re madly in love with a man whose neck tattoos scream “I may not cook meth but I know a guy.” Marrying him is risky, no doubt.

However, a good man CAN be a bad boy. And bad boys are FUN.

John Bender was the quintessential bad boy hottie. But his vulnerability is a precious gem glistening underneath the gymnasium floor of The Breakfast Club. When we finally recognize his desperate need to be loved, we see the good man who will eventually claw his way out from under all that pent-up pain and cry-for-help rage.

 

Life Is Right Now

We spend our lives waiting for that amazing thing that’s going to happen someday. But life is right now – a whole chain of small, glorious, ‘right nows.’ John Hughes depicted ordinary people in everyday circumstances, living small, beautiful moments.

One of my favorites is in Ferris Bueller, when Cameron, Ferris’s best friend, loses himself by staring intently at a painting in the Chicago Art Institute.

Or maybe it’s the tender kiss over a birthday cake at the end of Sixteen Candles.

Simple, small moments as light as breath, as constant as a heartbeat.

 

 Don’t Let Your Heart Die

All the characters in The Breakfast Club hope desperately not to turn out like their parents. And yet, it’s inevitable, says eccentric outcast Allison. Because “when you grow up, your heart dies.”

DON’T LET YOUR HEART DIE. EVER.

Keep your heart as alive and full of magic as when you were a teenager. Have crushes. Stay up all night.  Get drunk and vomit all over your friends (okay maybe not that one).Take chances. Dream. Love.

Love is the ultimate expression of life. The protagonists of all John Hughes movies are united in their quest for love. And in his movies, love wins.

It’s an ideal worth living for.

 

*This post is dedicated to my sweet Lizzi, who reminds me all the time that #LoveWins. Really. 

 

What was high school like for you? Was it anything like these movies? 
Have you learned any useful life lessons from a movie? Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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beautiful-young-woman-screaming

 

I’ve spent a large portion of my life waging war against my hair.

It’s a nightmare. My hair is curly and frizzy. Not loose lustrous curls –  small, tightly coiled kinky curls.

I grew up being told I had “Black hair.” It was not meant in a pejorative way. I was a white girl in a black housing project. It was just a way to characterize the texture of my hair. Black people told me it was “nappy.”

White people made fun of me and called me “Nigger knots.”

 

When I was a little girl, every morning was devoted to the taming of this fuzzy tangled mess. For one hour, I stood at the sink, my legs cramping, holding back tears as the the heavy brush banged against my head.

My mother slathered my curls in Dax, and Ultra Sheen, relentlessly pulling and stretching my hair into submission. Finally she would wind it into two long, waxy pigtails

I longed for bone-straight, parted in the middle, 70’s hair. Laurie Partridge hair. My mother was less concerned with the Partridge Family and more concerned that I not run around with a wild mass of frizz jutting out of my head.

By the time I was 8, she was straightening my hair with chemical relaxers. They were foul-smelling products which stung my eyes and nasal passages. The lye dripped onto my neck and burnt my tender skin.

In between chemical processing there were searing hot metal combs used to press and flatten my hair into surrender. They straightened my hair, and burnt it  – as well as accidentally burning my ears and scalp too many times to count.

Curly hair is labor-intensive. I didn’t have the time or patience to wear my hair curly every day. When I got older, I no longer had to suffer drugstore lye and scalp burns. I went to black hair salons in Bedford Stuyvesant, where they knew how to deal with my hair.

Today, I still relax my hair. I use organic keratin and go to white people salons in the suburbs.

 

 

 

When I was a girl, to keep my hair neat during the summer while giving it a break from harsh chemicals, I got my hair done up in braids. Cornrows. This is a habit that has stayed with me, on and off, into adulthood.

I recently found out that these days, if I braid my hair? I am “appropriating a culture.”

Evidently, African Americans are tired of white people adopting black culture – music, hair, style of dress, speech – and neglecting to raise awareness for black issues. It’s not right to take the fun, hip part of being black and leave the bad parts behind. That’s considered “racial appropriation.”

I REJECT THIS.

If white people dress, make music and wear our hair to emulate African Americans, are we not paying homage to them? When did it become offensive to celebrate the aspects of a culture?

Kylie Jenner started a shade war when she posted a picture on Instagram in corn rows and low slung sweats. The disingenuous caption to the photo was “I woke up like disss.”

Is Kylie Jenner an asshole? Absolutely. But not for her cultural misappropriation. She’s an asshole because she was born into a family of assholes who make their livings being assholes.

Amandla Stenberg, the 16-year-old actress from The Hunger Games, decided to call her out by commenting on the photo:

“when u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter “

I REJECT THIS.

I reject the idea that in order to embrace and celebrate black culture, people are obligated to direct attention towards police brutality and racism. And how does it help anything to publicly chastise Kylie Jenner in front of millions, to humiliate her in an attempt to expose her as racist? It doesn’t.

IT JUST DEEPENS THE DIVIDE.

 

Cultural appropriation allegedly occurs when ignorant white people pick and choose what part of the black experience to adopt into their lives, while simultaneously invalidating the challenges faced by black women who will never have access to white privilege.

We partake of a culture for fashion, all the while purposely disinterested in the adversity faced by that culture.

I REJECT THIS.

I resent the gross generalization that because I am white and choose to braid my hair, that I am unaware of race issues. To declare that by borrowing from a culture, we are, by definition, ignorant of that culture’s historical struggles, is ludicrous. That kind of stock characterization of white philistinism propagates racism and distrust. It invites ridicule; in essence, it’s wearing “white face.”

 

According to the black community, the history connected to these styles, the context in which they were created, is essential to wearing them. These styles are the contemporary remnants of slavery. A white person who wears these styles cares nothing for that context and turns black hair styles into travesty, empty fashion, mocking the black race.

In fact, by wearing these styles white people are systematically breaking down the rich history of black culture, and continuing to exploit the black race just as slavery and segregation did.

I REJECT THIS.

I am TIRED of being blamed for past generations’ idiocy. If, by association, I am guilty of the crimes of a system by being part of the system, then we are all guilty. Which renders the concept of guilt meaningless.

Stop blaming me for oppression and hate I had nothing to do with.

I just want to get my braids done.

 

I am sadly aware that African-American women have been made to alter their appearances to maintain their jobs and their respectability. Many have been forced to give up natural black hair styles in what can only be described as an attempt to force them to adopt a “whiter” look.

This is heinous.

But now, if I put my hair in cornrows, I am accused of using my “white privilege” to exploit black culture’s historical symbols to satisfy my shallow need for self-expression.

I REJECT THIS.

I should be free to wear my hair however I choose. I cannot change what has happened in the past. I can only fight for a better future. I know that even today, black skin still acts as a mark of negative difference. On many fronts, black America is in crisis.

But restricting MY personal freedom is not going to address racism and economic injustice. Cultural appropriation is just another way to create discord between races.

Am I only allowed to adopt the hairstyles or music genres, of my ancestors? If I am allowed beyond my own heritage, who draws the line, and where is it drawn? Can I enjoy the films of Spike Lee? The music of Miles Davis?

Culture is not black and white. Like many things, it lives in the gray area. It’s borrowed, repurposed, and reformed over and over again. Exchange of culture creates empathy, and tolerance. It’s what makes up the richly woven tapestry of our lives.

I refuse to view my enjoyment of other cultures through the lens of appropriation. If that makes me part of the problem – then so be it. Fling your accusations at me because of my white girl braids.

I’ll be over here, celebrating the beauty of cultural exchange by dancing through life to the music of cultures from all over the world.

Should white people wear cornrows? How do you feel about cultural appropriation?
Does that include doing yoga? Talk to me. I’m listening.

Moist Panties

October 7, 2014 — 171 Comments

wet underwear

I live in a world of words. My job immerses me in words; I write, I talk a lot and I have a kid who speaks non stop. There are words, however, that just make me want to hork.

I’m talking about words that actually make me feel queasy if I speak or even hear them. This is an actual phenomenon known as “word aversion.”

It’s not the same as “word rage,” which is anger you feel towards a word, because of what it represents. Like “webinar.” Don’t EVEN.

Or because it’s trendy and pretentious, like “multimedia-ist,” which apparently is the occupation of several people on Ello. If I was out and someone trying to pick me up told me he was a “multimedia-ist,” I’d punch him in the dick.

Word aversion occurs because the act of actually uttering the word makes you sick. It has to do with the connection of emotion, memory, sound and “mouthfeel” (mouthfeel – that’s a word I get word annoyance from. Not rage; just enough irritation to want to slap someone with a phone book.)

Evidently, the word most people feel aversion to is “moist,” which doesn’t bother me. Another word found universally revolting is “panties.”  Here’s where it gets complex.  Although I don’t find these words objectionable individually, combine them, and I’m repulsed. “Moist panties?” Gross. it sounds like a chick with a yeast infection.

 

Here are some of the words that make me want to throw up in your mouth:

1. Goiter

Definition: an enlargement of the thyroid gland on the front and sides of the neck.

This word has that horrible “oi” diphthong that makes you sound like you’re coughing up phlegm. It’s uglier than watching an elderly man keel over and die while eating deep fried bacon at a Cracker Barrel. Not only does it sound disgusting, it IS disgusting. It’s something your 100-year-old grandmother gets.

neck goiters

She looks like she’s pregnant with triplets and they’re climbing their way out through her throat. The upside to this mess is that she would be virtually impossible to strangle. So there’s that.

Sentence: Dude, my grandma’s goiter can kick your grandma’s goiter’s ASS!

2. Globose

Definition: Shaped like a globe

This is another one with a phlegmy diphthong; the “gl” sound is just nauseating. I thought it was a Pokémon character. When I googled “Globose+ Pokémon” I saw so many anime penises it actually put me into a cartoon phallic trance. I had to punch myself in the face to stop googling it.

It sounds like it would have something to do with male genitalia, doesn’t it? If it’s shaped like a globe, for the love of anal warts, just say “shaped like a globe!” No one uses this word unless you need to sound like an overly educated douchepuppet who scored a whopping 580 on the English portion of his SAT a hundred years ago.

And the images that come up when you google it:

xpaeoniifoliusGlobose_tn_jpg_pagespeed_ic_2vCievcMsJ

Amorphophallus paeoniifolius. A tropical tuber plant. But it looks like a dick.

 

Sentence: Dude, your grandma’s goiter is completely globose!

 

3. Cumquat

Does this really NEED an explanation?

This word is repugnant. Saying it makes my cervix go all crunchy.

It sounds like sad porno, like someone with a speech impediment tried to say “cum” and “twat” in a shitty Ampland video.

I didn’t google it, because I have learned, while innocently searching for birthday cake recipes on Tumblr in the wee hours of the night, that there are things on the Interwebs that my eyes CANNOT UNSEE.

THAT'S why you don't google it. You're welcome.

THAT’S why you don’t google it. You’re welcome.

 

Definition: a small, round or oblong citrus fruit having a sweet rind and acid pulp, used chiefly for preserves.
(And some really nasty ones if you look in Urban Dictionary.)

WHO would name a fruit this? If watermelons are full of water, what are cumquats full of?

Sentence: The sour, unappetizing globuse cumquats resembled your grandmother’s goiters.

 

4. Squelch

This is a tricky little bastard, this word. Because it has several meanings, thus raising the probability that this word cancer actually gets spoken. It rhymes with all manner of gross things, like belch, and felch.

Definition:

1. The nastified sound your shoes make when you walk through something nastified, like a puddle of dog pee.

2. The act of suppressing something or stopping something.

pumpkin

Let’s squelch all this pumpkin food everyone eats. It’s a GOURD.

 

Sentence: I had to squelch the urge to touch my grandmother’s goiters.

Let me state, for the record, that I am in total disagreement with my normally exalted reference source, Urban Dictionary. Squelch is NOT the sound a cherry chocha makes during intercourse. That is a queef.

5. Blog

This is a HORRIBLE word. It sounds like someone took a crap and it landed in your mouth and it DIED there.

In a study done in 2010 at Harvard which I made up, a team of researchers interviewed 1000 people regarding the word blog. 94%  thought it was a synonymous with “word vomit.” The other 6% were busy blogging about topics such as their love for Bruno Mars music and cosplay as Garfield the Cat.

blog

Oh, I have so many DEEP THOUGHTS, I should write a blog!

 

Definition: The thing you’re now reading.

It’s a good thing we’re voiceless, faceless dots on a screen. If I had to actually hear this word as often as I have to read it, I’d hang a tire filled with gasoline around my neck and set my head on fire.

Sentence: He wrote a great blog post about an anime grandmother who was still able to suck Globosuar’s dick, despite the presence of her triple neck goiter.

 

Do you have word aversion, or is this just the late night word vomit of an insomniac?
What words make you want to hurl?
Talk to me.  I’m listening (as long as you don’t say “moist panties.”)

This is who's giving writing advice.

Why wouldn’t you take writing advice from this man?

 

The writing gods have buried me.

 

Enter Charles Bukowski, “so you want to be a writer?”

This poem has always fired me up, like a pep squad before the big game, like anabolics the coach procured to shoot into beautiful blue teenage veins.

Today  –  that poem is the PLAGUE.

It’s a tirade of what I’m not and how I can’t and why I shouldn’t.

Fuck you, Bukowski.

Shut yer PIEHOLE.

 

Yes, I want to be a writer, Bukowski.

For weeks now, the words are bottlenecking at my throat; cutting like ground glass swallowed.

I dream HARD and wake up to words bursting! Grab a pad, and:

“The merry-go-round is only the equivalent of an undergraduate degree; not even a stream in the clown’s mouth on the boardwalk of academia.”

You think YOU don’t know what I just said? Try being the person who just wrote that.

 

You were incredibly prolific, Bukowski. Your work ethic unparalleled.

I CAN’T  DO IT.

I can’t work 12 hour shifts, dragging mailbags along the smog filled streets of LA, back and forth on gravelly pavement in cheap shoes and then come home and write all night long, fueled by insanity, nicotine and rot gut wine.

When I read your brilliant poems, I hear them punctuated by the yellow phlegm of your hacking cough interrupted by trips to the 7-11 to corrode your teeth and liver and soul.

You lived like the pulp fiction heroes you immortalized. You cavorted with lowlife hookers and winos. No one depended on you or asked anything of your booze-soaked brain and sociopathic womanizing EXCEPT to write.

I can’t wake up painfully hung over in a flophouse motel after a one night tryst with an unwashed hooker, watch a man plummet to the ground outside my sooty window and then crawl to the school where I projectile vomit at a PTO meeting.

So, BITE ME, Bukowski, literary king of LA’s lice infested underworld.

You wrote as you lived – blunt, angry, vulgar, demented and sordid. Your creativity fed off of drama and chaos and emotional filth.

Emotional disarray vaporizes me; blocks my words which need release SO BADLY. The frenzied high of shooting dope on the keyboard, the good nod when I hit the vein of an idea.

You arrogant know-it-all, buried with that obnoxious “Don’t Try” on your gravestone.

Easy to say because YOU BECAME FAMOUS.

I HAVE to try.

Not everyone can get hellafied on a jug of MadDog 20 20 and then word vomit genius.

 

HERE’S WHAT I THINK OF YOUR STUPID POEM:

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it- 

What if it crawls out of me slower than an Amish drag race? Don’t judge my process.

 

If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter for words, don’t do it.

I’m not that old that I would hunch over a goddamn IBM Selectric, but I do stare at the computer for hours.

I wrote the last sentence at 7 pm. Now it’s 9 pm, and I’m hearing it through a different set of ears. My words gestate slowly. Soon it’ll be midnight; by 2 am – maybe I’ll have a paragraph.

Then I’ll reward myself with porn.

 

If you’re doing it for money or fame, don’t do it.

While writing rarely yields a solid living, anyone who tells you they don’t want recognition is lying.

Why would bloggers be tweeting, meme-ing, pinning, tumbling, instagraming, and making YouTube channels of themselves?

So they can hide in the Witness Protection Program?

 

if you’re doing it because you want women in your bed, don’t do it.

You were infamous for bedding everyone, you he-whore!

If I write to impress Jennie Saia, because I want to visit her and drink wine with her SO HARD, run away with her to Mexico, are YOU going to judge me?

You’d write 50 poems to her smooth skin. Have you seen the picture of her in her bikini?

 

if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don’t do it.

I do and I do.

My first drafts are complete SHIT. Shit is the fertilizer that makes my ideas grow into beautiful flowers.

 

If it’s hard work just thinking about doing it, don’t do it

Sometimes, it is. And I have to push through that place of resistance.

Would you have me lay on my deathbed thinking of all the things I didn’t do because they seemed like hard work? That describes 2/3 of life. The other 1/3 I’m sleeping.

 

if you’re trying to write like somebody else, forget about it.

Sometimes artistry is emulation. Or else we can discount every band that emerged from the Seattle grunge scene after Nirvana.

 

if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you’re not ready.

I don’t.

I would rather be paid minimum wage to help elderly people fix their Internet over the phone than marry another writer.

 

don’t be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don’t be dull and boring and pretentious,

Because, you know, that’s totally what I’m GOING for here.

 

unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it.

Suicide? You’d love that, you tragic asshole. And I was close to murder today. I wanted to kill YOU deader than you already were, telling me “don’t do it” like some backwards Nike commercial looped endlessly.

 

if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way. and there never was.

Yes. FINALLY we agree.

It chose me.

 

What do I do now? Now that I’ve deconstructed you, sentence by sentence, I guess I don’t want to be a writer. By your standards, I’m NOT a writer.

You hijacked my identity.

I can’t live the self destructive fallacy of the vice ridden artiste. 

So would you have me buy into your perception of me? Just, give up? Your own advice would tell ME to tell YOU to go fuck yourself.

 

But if life is made up of a string of moments, and there is only THIS moment,

Then in THIS moment, aren’t I a writer?

So confusing. Now I know why you drank daily.

 

Maybe just today.

Maybe just this moment.

But I finally put down words. So, I want to be a writer.

And now I’ll hit, “Publish.”

Seriously.

Go fuck yourself, Bukowski.

Did you ever have horrible writer’s block?  Or lack the time, energy, whatever, to write? 
Does it eat at you?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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