Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Passing Lane

An ex-boyfriend once told me that he loved driving on what he called, "his stretch of highway", this certain little corridor of road near his house that encompassed all the places that he would normally go. It's the part of the road that you most feel comfortable on, where you know all the twists and turns, the potholes, the speed traps; the part of the road that you know like the back of your hand, that you could drive blindfolded.

Today I drove home on my own stretch of highway: It is comprised of the entire portion of I-95 in Westchester between Connecticut and the Bronx. I grew up learning to drive on that stretch of highway, driving with friends, racing cars, getting tickets and flat tires, sitting in traffic, passing accidents - I drove that stretch at all hours of the day and night and in all kinds of weather.Whenever I hit that stretch of highway, it just feels like I can put myself on auto-pilot and always find my way home.

Regardless of the year and a half I've spent in Pennsylvania, and as many times as I have driven on it's various highways, I am still unfamiliar with the pavement, with the construction zones, with the exit numbering, the toll plazas, the merges. I drove home this week for the holidays grasping the wheel, nervous and sweating the whole route from PA, through Jersey until I had finally hit my stretch of highway and could relax.


Your life when you're growing up is kind of like that familiar stretch of highway: you know what's coming around the bend, you have all your expectations, you know where to slow down and when it's safe to let it rip and rev the odometer well beyond the speed limit. Everything is set out right there for you - all the familiar exits and road signs and landmarks. You know where you're going and you don't need GPS. But as you get older, you start to venture out beyond that stretch of highway. You maybe go one exit further then you've gone before, get off and explore an area you've never been before, get lost and have to turn around or stop and ask for directions. 

That's kind of the perfect metaphor for adulthood for me. I'm still trying to navigate this new stretch of highway leading into adulthood. There are so many twists and turns, traffic stops, areas to slow down, exits that are few and far between. I have found myself turning around on several occasions, and even ticketed on a few. I've gotten off exits in bad parts of town and found myself struggling to get back on the highway, to get back on the road again. I know that one day I will get used to it. I will be able to recognize those bumps in the ground as my tires run over them, to be able to tell people how to get to those places that I can't remember now without a map, to know where it's safe for me to push the pedal all the way down and floor it. I'll be able to close my eyes and feel my way through the lanes to get to where I'm going. It will feel just like second nature. 

One day, I'll be able to call this new stretch of highway my own. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear Santa...

When you're a little kid, Christmas is a magical time of year. All the lights and the big tree with the ornaments. The fairytale of Santa going from house to house leaving presents and eating the cookies and milk you've left out for him. The excitement you feel ripping the paper off your new favorite toy - "JUST WHAT I WANTED!", you cry out as your parents take pictures and smile.

But not everyone gets that same kind of Christmas. Many families can't afford to get the name brand toys or the video game systems or the expensive clothes that you want. (My grandparents were barely scraping by, but they still managed to have piles of presents under the tree and in my stocking. And while at the time I found myself sneering at the generic dolls, no-name toys and the homemade trinkets, I realized later on that they were just trying to do all they could with the little that they had because they wanted to see me happy.) Some people can't even afford to get their kids more than one or two gifts, especially the way the economy is now. Obviously, in some cases, people rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card debit just trying to make sure that Christmas is a happy occasion and that everyone gets what they want.  And in more extreme instances, sacrifices must be made - even if that means disappointing little Johnny or Judy on Christmas morning.

That's where Operation Santa Claus comes into play. Each year, a group of volunteers receives the letters that children (and sometimes even parents in need) write to Santa Clause. They do their best to make Christmas miracles come true. This year, because people have fallen on such dire straits, Santa's letters aren't just asking for Nintendo Wiis or Justin Bieber T-shirts - they're asking for diapers, blankets, even money to keep the electricity on. Many of these kids who write to Santa have never had much, so they're not setting their hopes too high. Some children however, make excessive demands and even include price points. Everyone wants to believe that there's someone out there that will hear their pleas and help them. Everyone wants to believe that Santa Clause will make their Christmas wishes come true. The volunteers do their best to accommodate those that they can - but there's only so many letters that can be answered, only so many prayers that can be answered, only so many people that can be helped.

I have seen Christmas become so commercialized over the years. People become greedier; asking for unnecessary things, trying to satisfy these materialistic desires. I have had friends who only wanted to exchange gifts so that they could get something in return. People pushing and fighting for the last hot toy, trampling Wal-Mart workers to death on Black Friday just to get deep discounts on TVs, video games, etc. What happened to the spirit of the season? The spirit of simply giving and sharing and enjoying those special moments with your loved ones?

Maybe I've been a bit of a Scrooge the past few years, but since I've grown up, Christmas has just lost its appeal to me. Once you enter into adulthood, should you really be berating family and friends with a list of Christmas demands? I have shifted from asking for silly things like TV DVD box sets that will just collect dust or hundreds of Hello Kitty trinkets to useful things like luggage or supermarket gift cards. Anything that I really want, I make enough money now that I can just buy myself; I don't need to ask people to get me things. I used to get upset when people would buy me practical things like an emergency roadside kit for my car or a lunch bag, but now, I see that these are the kinds of things I can really be appreciative of.

Reading the stories about the kids who are writing to Santa has really touched my heart. I wish I wasn't already living paycheck to paycheck so that I could truly help people and change lives and make a difference, make children happy and make them feel like Christmas miracles really do happen. We did a toy drive at work this year and I wish I could have gotten everything on that list and personally distributed the toys and games so I could see the smiles on those kids' faces; so I could feel their joy in knowing that someone cared enough to think about them and get them things that they wanted and wouldn't have been able to receive because of their family's financial situations. So they could rip the paper off those presents and cry out "JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED!" and smile so, so wide. And I would be smiling too while hiding the tears of joy in my eyes as I reveled in their excitement, knowing that I helped make their dreams come true.

I have always had this inner Philanthropist just bursting to get out. I remember coming up with a proposal when I was 16 about setting up housing for the homeless on Governor's Island and finding them jobs and helping them get back on their feet; I told my parents about it and they laughed at me. Whenever me and my friends would fantasize about what we would do if we won the lottery, in my mind I would always set aside a generous portion of my money to use for charitable purposes. I envisioned driving through the streets of Manhattan and handing out $100 bills to homeless people and picking them all up in a limo and getting them cleaned up and well fed for the night - even if they were only going to eventually use the money for booze or drugs or some other degenerate purposes.

I am not a greedy person. My parents came from poverty and always taught me the value of money and of things and making the most of what you have. We lived very comfortably and I never had to worry about having clothes or food for dinner or a roof over my head. Moving from the humbleness of the Bronx to the decadence of Westchester County, I grew up truly understanding the difference between the haves & the have-nots. While my classmates lived in mansions and got brand new cars for their 16th birthdays and wore expensive jeans, I knew that my parents couldn't afford those things and were doing the best that they could. I never took that for granted. Sure, I was jealous at times, but money doesn't buy you happiness.

One day, I am going to be rich and successful. I will live a modest and comfortable lifestyle (possibly splurging a little on expensive shoes & purses), but I will never live beyond my means. I am going to keep good on my promise to use my wealth to do great things. I will walk down the streets of New York and instead of passing over the vagrants with their empty coffee cups extended, begging for change, I will shove in a fist full of large bills. I will start charities to give back to those who really need it. One day, more of those letters to Santa will be answered and more Christmas miracles will come true.

I promise.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Favorite Things

Well, it's that time of year again when Oprah does her famous "Favorite Things" show; known to cause heavy breathing, bouts of fainting, mild dancing, excessive screaming and even some "OH LAWD!"-ing. She's given away everything from video cameras to phones to clothing, books, food, cars and trips. But why should Oprah have all the fun? Why are her favorite things so important? I've got some pretty awesome favorite things too and I'm gonna share them with you RIGHT NOW! (Of course, I mean sharing in a totally 'over the internet' kind of way. You will not be receiving any of these items - unless you like, steal them from my house or something.)

I now present to you, in no particular order, my 10 most favorite things:

Old El Paso Gordita Dinner Kit
Gorditas are pretty much the most delicious thing you can cook that comes out of a box. They're quick and simple. The spicy ranch sauce is unbelievably addictive. A gordita is kind of like a sexier version of a taco. Here's a personal tip: put cheese on the bottom of the gordita shell first, melt, then add your meat and toppings!






Converse All Stars
Just about the most comfortable sneakers you will ever wear in your life. They're versatile; you can dress them up, you can dress them down. Pair them with skinny jeans. They're iconic! Just remember how cool those red ones looked on Tom Hanks in the movie, BIG. I own them in three colors: black, grey and cobalt blue.







St Ives Apricot Scrub

This is one of the best exfoliator and facial cleansers around. The pain you feel from rubbing this gritty scrub that feels like wet concrete on your skin is masked by its deliciously fruity apricot scent. See how red and raw your face is afterward? That's how you know its working!







Beverly Hills, 90210: The Complete Series

If you grew up in the 90s, you've seen at least one episode of this show. You might not have watched willingly, but you got sucked into the trials and tribulations of the Walsh kids and that catchy theme song was stuck in your head for a week. BH 90210 taught me so much about life and I still, to this day, can relate real life situations to some of its episodes. Like that one where _______. And then there's the time ________. See? You try it now!



Essie Nail Polish: Marshmallow

YOU PICK COLOR!, The nail technician yells at you. You gravitate towards all the bright, shimmery, tantalizing OPI blends. Suddenly, this tiny white bottle catches your eye. It's simple, it's subtle, it's perfect. It's MARSHMALLOW! An almost sheer white polish that doesn't look like when you were going through your "alternative phase" in High School and used to paint your nails with White Out! It's also great for French Manicures.




Britney Spears: The Singles Collection

I fucking love Britney Spears. Sure, she may not sing live, but the legendary, Miss Britney Jean Spears has brought us hit after classic pop hit throughout her career. Now, you can own them all in one timeless collection. Recall all your favorites like "Hit me Baby One More Time", "Lucky", "Stronger", "Toxic" - and even those smash hits from her crazed and shaved head years like "Gimme More". Put on your tightest black v-neck, pop in one of these fierce tracks and pretend you're at the hottest Gay club in WeHo.



Olay Body Wash with Tone enriching ribbons

I am obsessed with this body wash. It is smooth and luscious and leaves a little trace of shimmer all over your skin. You feel moist (not in an awkward way) and sexy all day. And did I mention the SHIMMERS!? Who doesn't want be be sparkly?

Pretzel M&Ms
Let's say you love pretzels, and you love M&Ms, and you love chocolate covered pretzels. Well, guess what? M&M just did you one better and put a pretzel inside an M&M! They're horribly addictive and delicious - a perfectly blend of sweet and salty. Once you pop, you can't stop! (Oh, wait, that's that other snack food...)




The iPod
Remember when you used to make mix tapes back in the day? You'd wait by the radio for your favorite song and quickly press play - then repeat on both sides of a blank Memorex? Then, remember when you were in college and used to download music illegally from Napster and burn it onto a mix CD? Gone are those days. The ipod takes stolen music to a whole other level. I have 120 GBs on my ipod. What do I have on it? Everything. Anything I want. It's full of 60 GB of nonsense right now. And to me, that's pretty fuckin awesome.




Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Cleaning Gel
 If you're like me, you hate cleaning. You hate cleaning the toilet even more. You hated have to choose between the lil Toilet duck that you have to pull your whole toilet tank apart to get to function, or sticking that gross little clip on to the side of your tank & removing it when the blue disc is gone and the plastic hanger is all covered in piss.Gone are those days. You load up the Toilet gel plunger and stamp a lil flowery disc of scented cleaning amazingness right onto the side of your bowl. It lasts at least two weeks (depending on if it makes it through Chili night or not) and then BAM! you just stamp on a new one. Just sit back and let those cute little bubbles do all the hard work for you.


Well, I hope you enjoyed my favorite things. If not, then I don't really care because I'm sure the first thing on the minds of people in Oprah's audience was "How much can I sell this for on eBay?" when they saw half the shit she was giving away. You can't win em all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Si e’ spento serenamente oggi

"She has serenely gone out today." 


When I was a little girl, I remember telling my mother one day when we stopped at the bank that I never wanted her to die It was a time when life should have been so simple. When the scariest thing in a naive 8 year old's world was breaking a toy or not getting dessert. But as soon as I became cognizant of what death really meant at that young age, I remember being incredibly afraid of it. Of dying, and of people close to me dying; that seemed like the worst thing I could ever imagine.

People had died around me for years - parent's aunts and cousins, friend's relatives, boyfriend's grandmothers, but no one close to me had ever died before. Until I was 23 years old. My grandma had been battling Emphysema for years, had various breathing problems and was in the hospital on occasion, but soon fine and back to her adorable, short little Irish self. Until March 22, 2008.

God saw you were getting tired
And a cure was not to be, so He put
His arms around you and whispered
"Come to Me." With tearful eyes we
watched you, and saw you pass
away. Although we loved you
dearly, we could not make you
stay. A golden heart stopped 
beating, hard working hands at rest.
It broke our hearts but proved to us,
God only takes the best.

She had been in the hospital for almost two weeks. She had called me and sounded fine. I thought everything was going to be ok, just like always. But then, there were complications, possibly an infection. I was still the baby in my family's eyes so no one wanted to be straight with me and talk to me about it like an adult, so I'm still not 100% sure what happened. I remember things were looking very grim. My father and I drove to pick my uncle & grandpa up and bring them to the hospital; we were going to go to the funeral home afterwards to talk about making arrangements. When we got to the hospital, I asked if I could go up and see her. They wouldn't let me. My grandpa told me that she had all these tubes in her and was totally out of it and that's not how he wanted me to remember her. I remembering being upset about it at first, but I could understand.

My father and my aunt and I sat in the meeting room of the funeral home that I had passed hundreds of times walking the neighborhood when I stayed with my aunt and now, here we were, looking at prayer cards - my father read through the suggested messages and psalms and started crying when he'd finally found the right one - and coffins. The funeral director asked what we wanted in the obituary and my father said he didn't want one; it didn't need to be in the "Irish Comics." When we had finished and my father put down a deposit, we told the funeral director we would let him know when we "got the call". That was a Saturday night. I remember I came home from work and my dad was up and he told me the news. We hugged and he rubbed my back. The wake was going to be held Monday and Tuesday and the funeral on Wednesday so I would have to tell my job that I wasn't going to be in. I pulled black clothes from my closet in preparation, curled up in bed, and cried.

My girlfriend and I went to the wake together. I was so nervous. I wasn't sure what my grandma would look like or what to do. My ex-boyfriend's grandmother had died about a year ago and I remember going to the wakes and the funeral with him. He didn't cry until the pallbearers were carrying her coffin out of the church. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry. When I walked into the room, my aunt and uncles were there, my grandpa, and some other relatives and friends of my grandma's. She was 100% B.I.C. - Bronx Irish Catholic, as my Grandpa would say. . She went to church every weekend and sometimes even during the week.(My dad told me when they were growing up, even if they didn't have enough money for groceries, my grandma always  made sure they each had a dollar for the collection plate on Sundays.) She helped out at the soup kitchen as well and was very active in her church community, so she had a lot of visitors

I walked to the front where the casket was with my dad, and I just started hysterical crying. She was all bloated and they put her in this horrible dress that she never would have worn but it was apparently the only thing that fit because of the condition of the body. I had written her a letter and drew a picture of us holding hands, my grandmother with angel wings and a halo. I folded it up and stuck it in the coffin with her. I hated it. I hated this whole situation. My grandma was the one person who mattered most in my entire life. She had always been there for me and supported me and loved me unconditionally. And now, here she was, lying before me. I would never get to hear her soft little whisper or feel her hug me or see her smile. She was gone.

The funeral came and went and my father had collected some of her things from my grandparent's house. She had written out a will back in 1995 after she was hit by a car with her aunt and went to the hospital; her aunt had died. That had been the first wake I'd ever been to. I was 11. I wasn't really sure back then how the whole thing worked, the grieving process. I didn't cry because I hadn't been close to Aunt Marge. I went up to the coffin and made the sign of the cross and said some things about how I would miss her and memories I had of her. She had always been old and senile and a little crazy though, so I'm not really sure what I remembered. I can't even recall anything now. She didn't have much, but my grandma left me a small ceramic music box shaped like a piano that played "Memory" from CATS when you wound it up. She also wrote a note telling me to "always be a good girl, Angelface". That was her nickname for me. She always called me Angelface.

I am still trying to figure out what the whole grieving process is and if it ever really ends. I'm not sure if I ever grieved or not. I know that I cried and I got angry that my grandma, who had devoted herself to God her entire life, had been let down by the "man" she had put all of her prayers and trust and faith in. As I write these memories, tears are falling from my eyes. I remember recalling the times we shared together growing up and getting emotional. Seeing pictures of me and her together. Her birthday was a month after she died and I got her a birthday card, one of those silly ones about Grandmas, and I wrote in it telling her that I missed her and hoped that she was happy in Heaven. I sealed it and stuck it in the bottom of my drawer. Mother's Day was a month after that and I had gotten my other grandmother a card, so I got one for my Grandma too. We used to joke that she was my "Real" Grandma because I always spent so much time with her. (My Mom's mother lived in Las Vegas for most of the time when I was growing up and I only saw her when she would come to stay with us at Christmas.)

That fall, I asked my dad if he had visited Grandma's grave. He told me that he hadn't. One October afternoon, I was in the Bronx doing the Breast Cancer walk with my friends and a guy I was dating at the time and on the way home I told him I needed to make a detour. Absentmindedly navigating using the GPS on my Blackberry, we made our way to the cemetery; through the roads of graves and to the top of hillside where my grandma was buried. She didn't have a gravestone yet - just a small plaque in the ground with her name on it. I started hysterical crying and my date rubbed my back. He left me alone and I talked to her. I was glad that I had come, to let her know that I cared, that someone cared. Then we left and went home. I never told my dad that I went to her grave that day and he still doesn't know.

Christmas that year was going to be my first Christmas without her and my first time going to the house since she died. My dad kind of threw me under the bus and left me to go by myself. It just felt so different, so empty. It had always been Grandma's house and now, Grandma didn't live here anymore. I tried to make awkward conversation with my uncles and grandpa. We exchanged presents and watched some TV. I stayed for maybe an hour and a half, the whole time I was fidgeting and trying not to cry. I told them I had to get going since I had a long drive home. As soon as I got into my car, I began crying again and cried half of the ride home. I knew at that moment I would never be able to set foot in that house again. I just couldn't do it - it was too hard. Everything about even going inside that building reminded me of her. I still to this day can't even call the house either because she would always answer phone and I know that if I call now, she won't be on the other end.

My Uncle Michael died earlier this year too. We half joked that its a good thing my grandma died first because she wouldn't have been able to handle losing him, but it was true. He was the other closest person in my life; He was Mushy and I was Squishy and we were partners in crime. He was always like a big bear. We would play and watch cartoons and he would draw for me. He was a really good artist but he never finished high school or went to college; he was really talented. He loved Lord of the Rings and Native American culture. He would take me to the park or McDonald's or the movies; even to see crappy little girl movies like "The Babysitters Club". At his funeral, my dad and I went up to his coffin and my dad told me that he'd never met two people who were so alike; that we had been cut from the same mold. Michael was his oldest brother and they were always very close. They'd talk on the phone once a week and call each other names and get each other gag gifts for the holidays. When I was little and stayed at my grandparents, as soon as my uncle would come home, I would run to the door. MUSHY!!!!!! and give him a big hug. He was 6'5" so I only came up about half away on him. Once I even wrote a poem entitled, "I am Mushy" to the rhythm of "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy; it was all about him and his loud snoring. He was my favorite uncle.

.......

So, why bring up something as depressing as death? Well, I am in the middle of working on my novel right now. It's about a woman who loses her husband and she spends the rest of the year dealing with the pain of her loss and trying to grieve and struggling and remembering everything about her relationship with her husband. But I'm having some problems - I've never lost someone who I loved in that romantic kind of way. Even though I have lost people I loved, there's something completely different about losing someone who you are emotionally, physically, intimately connected with. Even in the case of my grandmother, I probably don't even feel half the pain that my father feels or have experienced the same type of grief that he has because that was his mom. I am still not sure if I know that I can portray this properly but I am trying. I have been Googling support forums and other questions I have like "When should I take my wedding ring off after my husband dies?" so that I can make my character's experience believable and her situation relatable. I know that grief is a long process and everyone has to find their own way through things, so I am trying to use that in relation to my character's personality. I just hope I can do this justice.

Because this is for my Grandma - because she always believed in me.

If you have any input or stories about your own loss, or advice you'd like to give that you think will help me write my store, please comment. I would greatly appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Truth or Fiction

For as long as I can remember I have always been a writer. That's just what I've always known how to do; put words together on paper or on a computer screen to form sentences that mean something. They have been known to draw people in, make them think and laugh and cry and feel. Works of fiction that have been bred from real life experience or from fantasy. I have started a lot of stories and never finished. I have finished a lot of stories before they even began. I have written poems that have taken pieces of my soul and put them on sorted display for all the world to see. But every day I live my life, it always feels like my biggest story yet; every day is a new page, a new chapter, a new storyline. My life might just turn out to be one giant work of fiction.

Recently, I became involved with working on a piece for National Novel Writing Month. (www.nanowrimo.org, for those that are unfamiliar.) The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th. As of today, November 17, I am currently hovering around 22,107 words. This is probably the most I have ever written in my entire life of one consistent piece. Now, they tell you as part of the "contest" that it's only the word count that matters, but to me, it's so much more than that. It's proving to myself once and for all that I really do have what it takes to be a writer. All the years of criticizing myself, of worrying, of losing faith and giving up on story lines because I don't know how to flesh out my characters or come up with decent plots or structure; of self-loathing because everyone else's work I read is so much better than mine; of thinking that everyone write's so much better, thinks so much better, is such a better writer - that I'm not good enough to compete with them. All that is banished this month.

I am treading water and keeping my head above the surface with this story. I am confident that it is meaningful and readable and likable. It is from my heart and the depths of my soul. I am putting little pieces of myself and my life throughout these pages. My real experiences and my fantasies, just as before, and I am making them work. I am seeing things come to life. I find myself stopping and going back and adding more and figuring out how I can make things better, more interesting, more exciting, more fleshed out. I wake up in the middle of the night and jot story ideas into my phone. I sneak in chances to write between things I am doing at work. I am finding my footing and finding my voice - finally. And it feels absolutely liberating.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

America, the (Big and) Beautiful

Obesity in America has become a growing problem over the past several decades. And while no one is expected to be a size 6 or have a 32 inch waist, the fact remains that our country is just plain fat. We are constantly bombarded with commercials from fast food restaurants on one hand and then, images of hard bodied hotties on the other. So what is Joe or Jane Average to do? There's no denying that body image obsession and striving for perfection has sent the number of eating disorders and plastic surgery procedure statistics through the roof, but what about a different kind of eating disorder - one where people can't or won't stop eating? What about procedures like gastric bypass or lapband? These instances are greatly on the rise as well. But is there a happy and healthy medium to be found?

The invention of the drive thru and microwaveable dinners and take out pizza has made our society, already pressured that every second of our time is valuable and equated to a dollar amount, undeniably lazy. Take for example, a mother of three in Middle America, already stressed from a long day of work, chores and playing carpool for her kids afterschool activities. She doesn't want to have to think about preparing a meal from scratch for her family and so she stops to pick up something quick and pre-made on her way home. She isn't thinking about the calories or the carbs or sodium or preservatives or the fat content; All she cares about is getting her family fed fast and getting on to the next task on her list. Some people depend too highly on this convenience and fail to realize that, over time, eating these meals on the go eventually catches up with you.

Now, I'm not saying you have to eat all organic, low fat, lean protein and steamed vegetables all the time, but you should have a balanced diet. French fries and pizza five times a week provides no real nutritional value. Growing up, our neighbors almost never cooked dinner. We would see pizza boxes outside with their trash on a weekly basis. In my house, pizza was a treat when it was someone's birthday or we came home late. My mom always cooked, no matter how stressed she was. And it never had to be something complicated - she usually always had dinner ready in 30 minutes or less. But the point is that she actually took the time to cook a meal that didn't contain 1100 calories and 32 grams of sodium.

The city of San Francisco banned "happy meals" in fast food restaurants recently, citing the concern for the growing trends in childhood obesity. They said that having toys in these calorie-riddled meals encouraged kids to eat unhealthily, despite McDonald's and other fast food establishments recent incorporation of healthy alternative choices with their happy meals such as chocolate milk and apple slices instead of french fries and Coca-Cola. In my opinion, having a toy or not having a toy in a meal isn't going to make a child eat any healthier if you're already taking them to McDonalds! And no one is forcing a parent to take their child there, so why cut out the toy option? The problem is obviously starting at home when a parent gets it into their mind that taking their kid out for a burger and fries makes for a well-balanced meal.

Apart from society's obsession with thinness, there has been a growing obsession with obesity. Shows like "Celebrity Fit Club" and "The Biggest Loser" have millions of people tuning in to watch people who are anywhere from extremely overweight to morbidly obese turn their lives around in an effort to get healthy. And more people should be getting healthy. Obesity is one of the leading killers in America these days. Obesity leads to extreme health problems like Type 2 Diabetes, heart attacks, high cholesterol and organ failure, just to name a few. Losing weight shouldn't have anything to do with wanting to fit a particular body image - and continuing to live an unhealthy lifestyle shouldn't be excused by a person saying that they are comfortable in their 350 lb body, because no one is comfortable when they are 350 lbs.

I have seen people who are morbidly obese using canes to walk or power scooters to get around, simply because they are too fat to stand on their own two feet. They cannot walk or support themselves under their own weight. 700 lb adults are bed ridden and have to be forklifted out of their homes after a SWAT team comes and knocks down a wall, just to get out and get medical attention. The truth is abundantly clear: We are too damn fat for our own good.When did this country just settle and become complacent about our growing weight problems? When did it become acceptable to be so fat that you can't even fit into a normal pair of pants or an airline chair or your own car? Does the level of laziness that has increased in this country - from the quick, fast food, drive thru lifestyles and self-checkout lines, internet shopping and On Demand movies and automated everything - does that go hand in hand with our growing obesity? Perhaps.

Recently, a Marie Claire blogger, Maura Kelly, was criticized when she wrote an article about becoming disgusted over watching a reality show where two fat people were in love. People tore her apart all over the internet and in other media outlets, basically condemning her as a "Fatty Hatter". She then issued an apology for making anyone feel bullied or ashamed for being fat in the article. To be honest, her opinion is her opinion, and I don't think she should have been bullied or ashamed for what she said because most of it was true.

Obesity has gotten to such an extreme point that now it is becoming fetishized. Sure, fat people want to feel acceptable, to feel like they belong and to not be judged by their size. They want to see people on TV and in magazines who look like them too, but at what cost? A show on ABC family called "Huge" revolves around teen drama at a weight loss summer camp, which is supposedly meant to empower obese children and teens and make them feel like they have characters on TV that they can relate to. The fact that weight loss camps even exist in the first place should be a big red flag in this country. Your child should be out being active on a regular basis and not forced to exercise once their doctor finally informs you that your child is dangerously overweight for their age and corralled off to some special institute for other fat kids. And more times than not, fat children are the product of fat parents because that is where their get their eating and diet habits from.

So where does the change begin? How do we as a country, as a whole, get on the right track and start to get to normal, healthy weights? Again, I'm not saying that every woman has to be a size 6 or an 8 or even a size 12, but you should be able to walk up a flight of stairs and not get winded (especially if you are a non-smoker) and to not worry about having a heart attack before you're 35. It doesn't have to be entirely about exercise; you don't have to hit the treadmill five times a week. It doesn't have to be about starving yourself on ridiculous diets or using weight loss pills or getting stomach stapling surgery. (Which, by the way, many doctors will not perform certain gastric surgeries if a person is extremely overweight because of the extreme risk of heart attack involved.) It starts with changing your mindset and your eating habits. Change the way you view food and its portions and its nutritional value. Don't lose weight because you feel forced by society or have a negative image about your body - do it because you want to be healthy and feel better! Do it because you want to live!

Below are some statistics and informational links about obesity and what you can do if you or someone you know want to change your life and start getting healthy: (Of course, you should also consult a physician first if you are thinking of making any kind of major change in your dietary habits and exercise plan.)
http://www.obesityinamerica.org/
http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html
http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/overweight-weight-loss.cfm
http://www.nbc.com/the-biggest-loser/

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. For as long as I can remember, I have always put some kind of great effort into making sure Halloween was a fun and great success. Finding a fun costume idea to create, finding a fun group of people to go out with and finding an awesome party to attend. There's just something so fun about dressing up in costume and pretending to be someone else for the night, losing all your inhibitions behind some polyester, face makeup and a wig. (Oh, and how could I forget the candy?)

It started with a mismatched Minnie Mouse costume my mom made for me by hand in Kindergarten. The polka dots were pink on blue background for the skirt and bow and my mom made ears and a tail using wire with black stocking fabric stretched over it and I drew on some whiskers and a nose. Not too shabby.


In 3rd grade I was a nerd. I wore a white shirt with suspenders, a beanie, thick glasses with tape on them, high waisted pants, saddle shoes and a kick me sign on the back.

4th grade, I was a jester. I sewed 2 different color shirts and shorts together, wore colored stockings, made pom poms for my shoes and wore a jester hat my mom got in Las Vegas along with a star pointed wand. Then I made the fringe/pointed neck thing out of a giant piece of felt and sewed pom poms on that that too.

5th grade, I was a princess - wearing an old bridesmaid dress that my mom had & a princess hat, again courtesy of the Excalibur hotel and resort, Las Vegas.

7th grade, I was a witch. I made the dress out of an old black dress my aunt had; cut the sleeves off, made a v-neck and fringed bottom. wore fishnets and boots and had a hat and a broom.

9th grade, I was a punk rock girl/dominatrix. I wore a leopard print teddy I stole from my mom's drawer with a sheer black hoodie over it, fishnets, boots, a regular hoodie and spray painted my hair green, orange and purple, a tiara and wore lots of dark makeup and bracelets. Then, my best friend Lisa was my bitch: she wore a pair of my wide leg plaid pants, my wingtips and a collar which I hooked a dog leash on to.

10th grade, Mary Catherine Gallagher from SNL. Borrowed my friend's Catholic school uniform, wore a headband and stuck my fingers under my armpits like THIS....... and sniffed them. (I never did give that uniform back and it has been greatly defiled since then.) 

 12th grade, I was supposed to be Tinkerbell. I got this old, light green frilly dress from my Grandma, got fairy wings, put pom poms on sparkly ballet shoes and put my hair up in a bun. However, I got really bad food poisoning the night before so I didn't get to wear it to school. I wore it to my friend's Halloween party that night and was still not feeling well, so I sat in a chair in the corner and was grumpy Tinkerbell. This was also the same day I took (and passed!) my road test.


2001 - French Maid. (Store bought, sadly.)
2002 - "Graver" (Goth Raver) - All black clothes, makeup & fishnets. (and black bunny ears.)

2003 - Care Bear; Got a Pink Care Bear hoodie at Hot Topic, pink PJ pants, pink gloves, made a "Care Bear" heart out of foam and stuck it to my butt. Drew little pink dots on my face. (Oh yeah, and I made that Red Bull costume for my Ex too; Cut a blue & grey shirt up & sewed it together. Cut all the letters out of red foam. He got so many compliments on it - and even free Red Bull from the bartender at the club.)

2004 - Sexy Nurse. Also store bought. Plus hooker heels & lots of curly hair.
 2005 - I was nothing. I just wore a festive halloween shirt and socks.My ex said I looked like a kindergarten teacher, so maybe that could have been my costume. He wore a hula skirt and a lei over his clothes and we went to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner.

2006 - I was a Fallen Angel. Store bought last minute because my ex decided 2 days before Halloween he wanted to go to the parade in NYC and I didn't have a costume.

2007 - Sexy Harry Potter/Hermione. Didn't get to wear it out though because my ex trapped me at home once he saw what I was wearing.

2008 - Greek Goddess. Store bought but my date's Gladiator costume was semi-homemade. (My mom stole the tunic which was one of those robes they give you at the Dr's office. It was too perfect.)

2009 - Lady Gaga. Home made. Leotard from American Apparel, Blond wig cropped & made the Hair bow. 2 Hula Hoops together to make that big, hooped contraption she's always photographed in. And purple feathered fake eyelashes.

This year, my Halloween plans got derailed and so, my Sookie Stackhouse (from True Blood - not to be confused with Snooki from Jersey Shore) costume sits in the closet to see another year, or possibly some type of Comic Con event in the future. 

Happy Halloween Everyone! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just Average

I got my grade back the other day for my post-Masters International Business class that I took this session: B+. That makes it the second B+ I have gotten in this program so far. It really speaks volumes for the path that my life as taken. All my life has really been is one giant series of B+s.

When I was 2 years old, I taught myself to read. I baffled a woman on line at the bank once when my dad had me in the baby sling and we were having a full-fledged conversation. (My dad loves to tell this story.) He says the woman tapped him on the shoulder and asked him who he was talking to. When he showed her me, she just couldn't believe that tiny little me was talking in complete and intelligent sentences. She told my dad that I was a brilliant child and would succeed one day.

I started school early and was always a year younger than my peers. It made me feel special and elite because I was younger and smarter. I was reading on a 5th grade level in 2nd grade. When my parents moved to Westchester and wanted to put me in public school for 3rd grade, the school wanted to put me back in 2nd grade because I was so young. My parents knew I was too smart for that and needed a challenge. So, luckily, I got into one of those super fancy Magnet schools for advanced kids and continued on with 3rd grade. Except, now that I was in a public school with other kids, I started to not feel as smart anymore. There were other kids excelling at the same level as I was that made me feel inferior. I had to take aptitude tests to see where I stood since I had been in private school up until now.

In 4th grade, students who were above average could be admitted to TAG - the talented and gifted program.... And I didn't get in. It really discouraged me. I thought that I was definitely in that group. I was on that level intellectually. So how did I qualify as "talented and gifted"? A few other parents, as well as my mom, caused an uproar over TAG and in 5th grade the program was revamped as "Kaleidescope", and I finally got in. But because of my exclusion the previous year, I still didn't feel like I was competing with all these other students in the group. I just felt average.

When middle school came, we were all divided into 3 "Houses". The Green House was all the super-duper smart kids, the Red House was the athletic and popular kids, and then there was me, lumped in with all the leftovers in the Blue House. I kind of became resigned to my fate. I never stressed out over assignments. I never studied for tests except finals. Everything just came naturally to me. But because of that, I was always just a B+ student. Even in High School - I probably could have tried studying more and working harder, but it just never occurred to me to try. I only applied to 3 colleges, all of them in Boston. My top choice, Boston University, I failed to get into. Why? Because I was just average. I didn't have a long string of extracurriculars. My SATs were a 1230. I came from a middle-class family. I just didn't stand out from all the other B+ students who applied.

College was more of the same. Switched schools a few times. Switched majors a few times. Settled in the familiar and graduated with a 3.0.

But the rest of my life has always been B+ status as well. If I found a guy I liked, he wound up liking my friend. My friends always had boyfriends before me, lost their virginities before me. They were popular and pretty and I was just average. In my relationships, I never came first (literally and figuratively). Guys played with my heart strings because I was easy, vulnerable and average. I wasn't that breathtaking beauty that could twirl them around my finger and keep them coming back for more, to keep them at my command. At work, I don't win awards or get to sit in on important meetings. I just hang out in the background making sure things are still getting done and winning silent praise when necessary.

I am just a pattern on wallpaper, not the centerpiece of the room. I have always been just average.

And.... I've kind of gotten used to it. Sometimes drawing too much attention to yourself just highlights your flaws, makes your small faults greater, puts more pressure on you, magnifies your weaknesses....

Maybe its better to just fly under the radar and gain sporadic recognition than to always be in the spotlight.

Maybe sometimes, it's ok to just be average.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

HATE//love

I got a little lazy and dug up an old blog post from another of my blogs, but it's still relevant - so enjoy!


HATE

Rene Descartes viewed hate as an awareness that something is bad, combined with an urge to withdraw from it. Baruch Spinoza defined hate as a type of pain that is due to an external cause.Aristotle viewed hate as a desire for the annihilation of an object that is incurable by time.Finally, David Hume believed that hate is an irreducible feeling that is not definable at all.

In psychology, Sigmund Freud defined hate as an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness. In a more contemporary definition, the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology defines hate as a "deep, enduring, intense emotion expressing animosity, anger, and hostility towards a person, group, or object." Because hatred is believed to be long-lasting, many psychologists consider it to be more of an attitude or disposition than a (temporary) emotional state.

........

Hate is perhaps the worst 4 letter word in the world. Worse that "shit", "cunt", "fuck", "twat".... Hate carries with it more meaning, more force, more of a curse than any of those other words. To truly hate someone, to feel hatred towards another person, is the strongest, most intense feeling one can have.... almost as intense as love. And unfortunately, sometimes love can lead to hate....

There is one person in the world that I can say that I truly hate. The feeling is so intense that it becomes consuming... Every time I think of him, what he's done, what he continues to do, it makes me physically ill. I wish I could just punch him, kick him, hit him in the face with a baseball bat, run him over with my car & then put it in reverse and run over him again (but oh wait, my car is too low to even make it through the car wash, so how could I run him over?) 

He ruined my life and yet continues to exist unscathed. Because of him, I had to be re-medicated for my anxiety disorder; I lost a job, I lost friends, I lost the respect of my parents, I ruined my credit, I basically flushed thousands of dollars down the toilet, I had to file for bankruptcy, and I was on the verge of admitting myself to an institution and ending my life on several occasions because he made me hit rock bottom....I thought that was the only way out from the life of hell I was living.... the scars exist on my arms and remind me constantly of the pain that he put me through and continues to put me through today.... I will NEVER forgive and I will NEVER forget. I HATE YOU. 

.........

LOVE

I am trying to pull myself together though - trying to move on and start over. It's a slow but steady process... I managed to find someone else who is going through the same thing, who is basically the same person as me - my missing twin, and me and her are getting through this together... 

I want to be able to feel again one day, to not live in fear of being hurt, to not put up a wall that you will never be able to scale. I want so badly to love again, to love the purest kind of love... and for someone to love me the way I deserve to be loved. Love is another horrible four letter word, for once it leaves your lips, it can never be taken back. It carries with it such force, it can change your life forever. The next time I say the word "love", it's going to be for real, it's going to be life changing, it's going to be wonderful, and it's going to be forever. 

.............

I just want you to know that I have all this baggage, and I hope it doesn't scare you away. I want to kiss your sweet lips over and over, and feel your body against mine, your heart beating rapidly in my ears... I wanna fit right in that space underneath your chin with your arms around me because you're tall, and wrap my arms around you too. I wanna come up and hug you from behind and lay my head on your back and listen to you breathing. I want to look at you while you're looking at me and smile and not speak because we both know just from a look. I just wanna see you smile and know that smile is there because of me. 

Sometimes there are so many things we want to say to someone, we find it hard to put them into words. Feelings are sometimes so impossible to vocalize - and sometimes, you're not quite sure how. This is how I get out my feelings: I write. That's who I am. I'm a writer. I could put into prose every little heart flutter and nervous sweat that you build up inside me, yet never be able to bring myself to tell you how I feel aloud. So I'll just sit there and bite my lip and wonder....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Miss Misery

In case you weren't already aware (and sorry to put it so bluntly) I fucking hate it here in Philly. It makes me miserable. There is just something about living in this area: the traffic, the erratic and reckless driving, the awful accents (South Philly and the borderline southern redneck ones), the sport fans, the lack of culture and diversity, the lack of decent pizza, the bizarre and atrocious liquor laws, the people... I could go on about it all day.

Ok, yes, I know, being a total New York snob, I'm probably not giving this place much of a chance. But there is just something in the air here that makes me feel like I'm sticking out like a sore thumb. I drove home this weekend and as I drove deeper and deeper through Jersey towards the George Washington Bridge, I could feel the calm wash over me. And as I hit my stretch of I-95 from the Bronx all the way up through Connecticut, something clicked: I was home.

I spent all day Saturday soaking in the essence of New York City: Riding the 6 train and people watching, looking longingly over Japanese fashions in the FIT museum, walking those long city streets, eating in a cute little restaurant in Greenwich Village, sipping delicious drinks with friends in an underground speakeasy, watching the Yankees play on TV in an Irish pub, mingling with the masses in Times Square. From the Bronx, into Manhattan, rounding the night out in Queens - where I hope to live in when I move back to NY next year, pointing out bars and restaurants I've already tagged on a Google map to acquaint myself with my future neighborhood - and back to the Bronx, I felt wide awake in the City that Never Sleeps.

And then I had to drive back to PA today. Despite the weather being beautiful compared to the torrential rain I drove up to CT in, a pit just sank deeper in my stomach as I got closer and closer to this place that I am currently calling "home". New York just makes me feel so alive. My life constantly feels like one of those video games where a little line is in the upper right corner, monitoring your character's health. Every day that I am here, those green lines slowly start fading into yellow and then dangerously close to red. But going home re-energizes me, and those green lines are all filled up again.

...........

Being alone in this city doesn't help, either. Emmett is gone, away having the most amazing experience of his life and I can't even compete with that. That just makes me more miserable. Between crying over him and crying over being stuck here, I should seriously invest in Kleenex stock. I just wish I could be with him, watching him be happy and being happy together, smiling this smile I swear he only smiles for me that makes me melt. I'm happy for him but I suppose jealous in a way, too. I had hoped Philly would be the same enlightening, life changing, eye opening experience; a way to turn my life around and start over from the awful stand-still spot it was stuck in, just like he's doing now. (I also hoped that moving here would mean we'd be closer and together.) And again, I know people will say I'm not giving this place enough of a shot, but I shouldn't have to force it. I shouldn't have to force myself to enjoy it here or to feel an emotion about this place that doesn't exist and probably never will.

I hate being the silly, crying girl who worries all the time. I hate feeling clingy and awful and miserable and don't want to bring everyone else down so I don't talk about it. I hold everything inside, which I guess makes me even more miserable. I am trying to distance myself from the obsessive and longing feelings that I have for Emmett. I put away pictures of us and keep trying to stop thinking about him and how great he is and the little things that he does that make me smile, the memories of us that make me smile. I am trying to push past this wave of emotion and outrun it - to move beyond this intangible relationship that will never happen, to move beyond feeling like I'm not good enough when it has nothing to do with me, to move beyond thinking that he never thinks about me and doesn't care because I am always thinking about him and I always care - all I do is think and care. I need to just lock all that part of my life up in a little box and throw away the key. Otherwise, it will continue to consume me and eat away at me and completely devoid my life of the happiness that I am not allowing myself. (In that aspect of my life, anyway.)

And so, everything I built up in my head, these fictitious scenarios about the future stemming from our real life interactions and conversations; I have to break them down slowly brick by brick and start to lay the mortar around my heart and move those cinder blocks back to rebuild the wall that had been up for so long before I met him.

.........

you make me come
you make me complete
you make me completely miserable


...........

Its so hard to let go, but sometimes love isn't enough of a reason to keep on hanging on.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It Gets Better

I can't say enough about how much I love the Gay community. I self-identify as being Bisexual, but secretly, I'm convinced I'm just a fabulous gay man trapped in a woman's body. I pretty much embrace every aspect of Gay-ness; Adoration of pop idols, house music, fashion, movies, musicals. Some of the most fun, amazing and wonderful people I know are Gay. I am an avid supporter of Gay rights, Gay Marriage and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Almost every young boy I surrounded myself with growing up turned out to come out after high school. This is probably why my Gaydar is so good: I've been a Fag Hag since the playground days. And it's pretty much my life-long goal to have Drag Queens dress up as me and a gaggle of fabulous and fierce Gay Boys following me around.

I guess maybe I'm just lucky that I grew up in such a Liberal area with a somewhat wonderfully open-minded family. (Except of course for my super Irish-Catholic grandparents) My Aunt lived in the heart of Chelsea, NYC's Gay Mecca. I remember one day going to breakfast with her and she said to me, "Now, if you see two men holding hands, don't be alarmed." I told her that we had a Gay couple in my High school and that it didn't matter to me. Love is Love, no matter who's doing it.

But sometimes, other people are not so lucky to live in such a Liberal, Urban paradise as New York. Sometimes, people are not as accepting or supporting of alternative lifestyles. Gay youths face the fear of having to come out to their families and be shunned in return for simply being who they are. They face bullying at school, on the streets, in their workplaces. And often times, this extreme bullying turns tragic. Gay youths, fearing that they have no way out, that things are at the lowest point, that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, wind up taking their own lives.

In the past 3 weeks, 9 Gay youths have committed suicide because of bullying; In the most extreme case, a 18 year old Rutgers University student was secretly video taped having sex with a man by his classmates, and the video was posted on the internet - both outing and humiliating him. He jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

This needs to end.

Through the time that George W Bush was in office, a witch hunt was in effect across our country. The hatred for Gays and Lesbians grew stronger and more violent over the last 10 years; Not since Stonewall have we seen this level of ignorance and atrocious acts committed toward the Gay community. From our own President attempting to pass a Federal Law prohibiting Gays and Lesbians from getting married to the fact that an archaic law such as Don't Ask, Don't Tell still remains on the books; This is 2010 - we should be more open-minded and more accepting of our fellow human beings by now. But yet, the seeds of ignorance have been planted into the minds of our youths by bigoted Adults who do not want to change their prejudices.

There needs to be a change in the way that we all think and not simply a mob mentality. Gay teens today need to know that one day, they won't have to live in fear anymore. That things will get better. That it does get better. That there are people in this world who will love them and accept them and be there for them, regardless of how grim things may seem right now. But that they have to be alive to experience the better.

Please do whatever you can to help make a stand and help make things right. Leave your ignorant beliefs and prejudices behind. Help make the world a better place. Help prevent these senseless deaths.

Visit the Trevor Project's website: They are doing something amazing and you can too:
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Twice Broken, Once Shy

They say that nice guys finish last and yeah, this is probably true. We always throw the nice guy aside for the asshole and regret it later on down the line. But by that time, it's too late to take things back: we've already broken their heart.

Unless you're me and you manage to do this to the same guy twice.

Seal (just go with it) and I met when I was dating my first boyfriend one night in April 2001 when a group of us went out to Applebees. I thought he was really cute... and tall. We kind of flirted a bit. He stole a cup from the restaurant and then whacked his head on my car door. But it turned out he was like, 15 and I was 17. (Plus, you  know, I had a boyfriend.)

A few months later, I was at my friend Kaylee's house getting ready to go to a house party at our friend's house; I had a cute guy from our summer job with me as my date. (And yes, I was still going out with my boyfriend - but it was the summer before college, and I was determined to leave him behind when I left for school and have some fun. He was also a recluse who played online RPGs and didn't drive so he never left the house and hence, I couldn't get caught!) Well, in walked my friend's boyfriend with Seal - we were all going to the party together. Now I was in a dilemma: One girl, two cute and very young boys. What's a girl to do? Simple. Spend the first half of the night with boy #1 until he has to leave at midnight, at which point your friend's boyfriend plays the ultimate wingman and pushes you into a pantry closet with boy #2. Problem solved.

I basically started "dating" Seal all summer before I left for college, despite having an actual boyfriend. We did all kinds of couple-y things like go to dinner and the mall and the amusement park. (We took adorable kissy faced photobooth pics and he won me a stuffed mouse.) I even took him to our summer job's end of season dinner. But then summer ended and I went away to college. And then I found out he got drunk one night and hooked up with some ugly fat girl. I called him and yelled at him and you know what he said to me? "But you have a boyfriend!!!!" The nerve. I ended things with him. I couldn't believe he was hooking up with other girls! I thought we had a thing! I went to my friend's boyfriend's house for New Year's Eve and he was there and, while he was drunk and crying and telling me he loved me, I told him he didn't know what love was and I hated him.

I never talked to him again....Until four years later.

My friends and I were going out clubbing one night when Kaylee decided to sideline me; She didn't tell me that her ex-bf had invited Seal with us. So when they picked me up and he was in the car, I gave my biggest "OH HELL NAW!" face the whole ride. Seal said hello and I was definitely less than cordial. I gave him the death stare all night. When we were waiting for the subway home, everyone was kind of tired and out of it and I was starting to sober up. Seal started talking to me and somehow, he broke my anger spell when he mentioned he was reading Descartes in Comp & Lit class. I had just read it too so we broke out into this whole conversation about it. We talked the whole ride home and, when everyone else was too tired to go to the diner afterwards, me and him decided to go alone.

We had a good time talking and eating and he was going to give me a ride home. When we got into his car, it was kind of cold and he had to wait a bit for his car's heat to kick in. So, he said to me - and this is probably the best line I've ever heard in my life: "I hear the fastest way to warm is through your lips." And he kissed me. Suddenly, all those butterflies and feelings from the first time were coming back. We started hanging out again, doing coupley things. Going to dinners and movies. But there was another problem this time: I didn't have a boyfriend, but I was still pining over who-was-soon-to-be-my-epically-horrible-ex. (Who I had dated briefly that winter and stopped talking to, but was hoping to try to reconnect with.)

While Seal and I were having great times together, I couldn't stop thinking about that Shithead and I don't even know why. Seal was sweet and kind and funny and goofy. (He was also a bit of a flighty pothead.) He was thoughtful and wonderful and would have done everything and anything to me, catered to my every desire. He tried so hard to impress me. The most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me was when Seal took me to the toy store and bought me a Winnie the Pooh kite. Then he took me to the park where we flew the kite and he spread out a blanket on the grass and we laid down together with the kite in the air, snuggling and kissing. He asked me to be his girlfriend and I said, no, I don't really wanna be in a relationship. He asked me if it had to do with the other guy. I kinda lied and said no, but it was.

Then Seal started getting clingy and trying really hard to win me over, changing to be like some nerdy TV character I said I liked and that sort of reminded me of him, and it was a total turn off and I just started blowing him off and stopped answering his calls. He called and left me a drunken voicemail telling me how much he loved me and how I was breaking his heart (again). I felt like kind of a bitch, but I just was so focused on being with someone else that it didn't really affect me....

Until I started dating that asshole and every minute where I felt like I just wanted to die from the way he was treating me, I would stop and think to myself, "Why the fuck didn't I just date Seal???" I would have been so happy and treated like a Princess instead of being told to walk in front of a bus and being called a stupid bitch. I would have someone who would have done everything for me without being asked, instead of having someone who wouldn't even pay his own bills or pick up his clothes without a fight.

A few years later, Kaylee sidelined me again and Seal came out to a group dinner with us, but this time, he had his new girlfriend with him. I was alone, of course, since my ex was the world's biggest asshole and couldn't be taken in public without creating a scene and embarrassing everyone in his presence - also, all my friends hated him. So, I tried to pretend like I was soooo happy. But it was killing me to see him with someone else. Making someone else happy the way he should have been making me happy. I looked him up on Facebook today - He's still with her now, and they look unbelievably, blissfully in love.

I had a dream about Seal last night. He told me he still loved me but he couldn't let me break his heart again. This time, I wouldn't. But people don't get third chances.

........

I'm sorry, Mark. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Co-Habitation

I dabbled into a bit of co-habitation during my early 20s. It was clearly the worst idea that I ever had in my entire life and I will probably not ever live with a (straight) member of the male sex ever again unless I have a ring on my finger and my name is legally bound on a marriage certificate. Oh sure, there's a lot to be said for living with someone if you are planning on eventually getting married. But if you're dating, then honey, you're just roommates.

And if you thought living with roommates sucked, living with your significant other can be 100x worse.

First off, when you're living with roommates, everything is pretty much defined in terms of who is taking what responsibilities in the apartment, what spaces are off limits, whose food you shouldn't eat, who pays what bills, etc. When you are living with an SO, most of this goes out the window. What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine, right?

Your food is combined. Your finances (at least some of them) are combined. Your laundry is combined. You sleep in the same bed.

Of course, the honeymoon stage is fun at first. You're LIVING TOGETHER! That means, no roommates barging in, no commuting from one place to the other. You're together, in the same place at the same time, 24/7. Isn't it so great?

Wrong. This lovey dovey phase passes and then, the things that you used to love coming home to start pissing you off.

He left dirty dishes in the sink.
She left a tampon in the toilet. 
He left the seat up.
Her hair is clogging the drain. 
His beard shavings are all over the sink.
She forget to pick up milk again.
He forgot to take the garbage out again.

And more of that. Yeah....

Or, especially in the case of my former relationship - it was me getting upset at my ex for all of those things. For never giving me money for groceries, yet sure as hell eating everything in the fridge. Then, when I would complain about it, he would tell me "Well, I didn't tell you to buy all that stuff!" Then Asshole, You don't need to fucking eat it!

I tried to get him to do the dishes once and he cried and told me to never make him do it again.

He made me do his laundry, and then when the dryer "shrank" his clothes (aka he put on 60 lbs over the course of our relationship and was in denial), he blamed it on me.

He never cleaned.... except my car, which was apparently his main responsibility in the house. And so, that apparently admonished him from all household chores since he was "taking care of my car." (And by 'taking car of' he meant lowering it 2 inches from the ground so that it scraped while going over pebbles and installing a fart can muffler that had the decibel level of an F-15 fighter jet.)

Everything in that house I paid for. (Except the 42 inch plasma screen TV - which he stole from his old job.) And so, when I left, I took everything the fuck with me.

...........

I am terrified of a repeat of that horrible past living experience. Obviously, I know that no one can ever come close to being as awful a roommate as my ex was. But that still doesn't make me feel any better about co-habitation. I just don't think people should move in together unless they are really serious and planning on being in a relationship for a long time - otherwise, yes, basically you are just roommates.

You have to get to know each other's highs and lows, respect each other's boundaries, learn how to respect your shared living space, work out detailed chores and schedule bill paying.Will you set up some kind of combined finances for all your household expenses? Who will pay what bills? What about furniture and grocery shopping? Will your tastes combine or clash - or will you create your own "couple style"?

Sure, living together seems great in theory, but it is a big leap to take and something that should really be thought out before you rush into signing a lease. Otherwise, you could get stuck living with someone you really can't stand. (and a bunch of IKEA furniture that you'll just end up selling on Craigslist.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Getting out of the 'Comfort Zone'

I've always had a problem with straying away from the familiar. For years, my wardrobe consisted of dark colors - blues, browns, greys, blacks. Graphic tees. Things that were comfortable and safe. Last year, when I started my new job, I started to venture out from the familiar as I re-vamped my work wardrobe. Button down shirts in every color of the rainbow with stripes and plaids, flower pins, snakeskin belts, herringbone flats, candy colored cardigans, pearl necklaces with tulle rosettes. Statement pieces.

In my regular wardrobe, I started to be more daring as well: Plaid orange and purple button downs. Skinny jeans with distressing and rips on the knees.4 inch wool grey pumps. Leggings with ankle boots and tunic shirts. A tan leather/bomber jacket acquired in Shibuya 109 with frilled shoulders, deep v-neck and a 3 inch zip on the bottom. A teal plaid flannel moto-jacket/shirt.

With regards to my life, I am still trying to venture out from the comfort zone I had always known. Growing up, I was the loner, the quiet, independent girl. I'd stay home and read and watch TV. I'd go to the movies and concerts alone. I ate chicken nuggets and fries religiously and was nervous about trying new foods because they might be gross or hot or spicy. I have and still am breaking boundaries in regards to my palate. I have acquired a love for Indian, Vietnamese and Thai food. In Japan, I was willing to try anything at least once like octopus, okonomiyaki and chicken curry. I have stopped being opposed to eating things just because I don't know what they are so I am not sure if I will like them or not. And now I found myself with a never-ending desire to eat corned beef sandwiches and tofu summer rolls.

My social life is still on eggshells. I am nervous about meeting new people and opening up about my life and my past. I am afraid to trust because I am afraid of getting hurt. I am basing everything in the future on everything that has happened in the past, and it is keeping me stuck in my comfort zone: being a shut-in every weekend when I should be out socializing and enjoying the weather and this city. At work, I don't talk to a lot of people other than those in my immediate office - I tell myself it is because I am trying to keep things professional, or because I don't care about getting to know little stupid facets of people's personal lives, or because I'm leaving next year so what's the point. But it's because I am afraid to let people in, to let them get to know me.

At happy hour last night, a co-worker that I'm not particularly fond of and I got to talking about stuff like TV and travel and I jokingly suggested we go to Atlantic City later that night. He was 100% serious about it. And so, at 8:30 that night, I found myself in the backseat of his car with him & his friend on the way to Atlantic City. Completely on a whim. Totally random. He joked with me that he was surprised I came because I "hate him". I joked back "Yeah, I know. I do." But we had a great time and of course, left alone with his friend, she asked me where I hung out on the weekends and I blushed and looked away when I told her I stay at home because I don't have a lot of friends, despite living here for a year. She told me that they go out a lot in my area and I should come out some time and took my number down. The inner dork inside me, the one longing for acceptance, smiled and save her number in my phone too. At the end of the night, I had had a really great time and made some new friends that I will hopefully hang out with again sometime soon.

See? That wasn't so hard. I can do this. Baby steps, baby steps.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So Happy I Could Die

In October 2008, I went to the New Kids on the Block Reunion concert at Madison Square Garden. Listed as the opening acts were Natasha Beddingfield, of into theme to "The Hills" fame, and someone calling herself "Lady Gaga". When she hit the stage in an all white ensemble and long platinum blond wig with half naked men writhing around to house music, literally everyone in the 20,000 seat venue went "Who's this bitch?" I thought maybe she was some kind of Euro-pop star that was just starting to get big over here in the U.S. so I Googled her on my Blackberry. Turns out she was just some broad from Yonkers. The last song she played sounded familiar - it was "Just Dance" and Z-100 had just started playing it recently. I went, "Hey, I know this song. I like this song." Of course, my Main Gay already was all over the Lady Gaga thing, raving about how great she was, so I downloaded her album. It was fun, quirky dance music. I remember listening it to as I walked from the train to my job the next week on a brisk, November morning and instantly, I was on Team Gaga.  Before she had 6 million followers on Twitter, I remember clicking on that button to follow her when she had roughly 150,000 followers - and imagine my surprise when a few days later, I received an email telling me that Lady Gaga was following ME on Twitter now too!

"Just Dance" soon took over the radio and the rest of her pop anthems slowly crept over the rest of society, with "Poker Face" became musical crack-cocaine, the stuttering and catchy lyrics getting stuck in everyone's heads. By Spring 2009, Gaga-Fever had swept the nation; Gaga's crazy outfits and antics were getting the attention of everyone from Toledo to Tokyo. She graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in an outfit made entirely of bubbles. Her video for "Paparazzi" (with the oh-so-yummy Alexander Skarsgaard from 'True Blood') garnered so much attention that when she performed it live at the VMAs, in a show where Kanye West snatched a mic from Taylor Swift, Gaga doubled up and "hung" herself from the ceiling of Radio City Music Hall, dripping in fake blood, it was one of the most EPIC performances ever to grace the stage. (Unfortunately, because of Kanye's antics, the proposed tour with him and Lady Gaga was canceled. It would have been one of the best tours ever I believe.) I even dressed up as Lady Gaga for Halloween in a lavender bodysuit, blond wig complete with hairbow and hula hoops around my body ala the promotional pictures for her upcoming tour, "The Monster Ball" and I came in 2nd place in a Karaoke contest for singing "Poker Face".

And so, with the release of her 2nd album, The Fame Monster, Gaga-mania was in full effect. She was everywhere. She was Marching for Gay Rights, she was collaborating with Beyonce, she was meeting the Queen of England, she was opening the Grammys with Elton John in another EPIC performance that brought tears to my eyes and she was touring non-stop all over the globe, selling out every show in every city, bringing much joy to the masses and much money into the pockets of scalpers who could get away with charging whatever they wanted in the midst of Gaga-fever.

As the Monster Ball made its way around the globe, I tried from January to July, desperately trying to get tickets for her shows in NYC - both mine and Lady Gaga's hometowns... Turns out, she wasn't from Yonkers after all. She was from NYC, born and raised, and dispelled the myth of her birth as the "worst rumor she had ever heard about herself" on Jay Leno's show. Even when I was in Japan in the spring and Gaga was doing 4 shows in Kobe and Yokohama, I still couldn't get tickets.... Until this week that is.

Lady Gaga was doing a 2 night stint here in Philadelphia. I looked on Stubhub, Ebay and Craigslist, desperately trying to find a decent price for a single ticket. People wanted $150-$200 for obscured view, club box and even nosebleed tickets. I wasn't willing to settle. I kept looking. And to my luck, there was one posting that read "1 Lady Gaga Ticket 9/15 - $95" and I checked it out. A girl was selling her FLOOR ticket at almost half the price as people wanted for seats! I quickly emailed her asking if it was still available, and it was. I told her I'd meet her the next day, cash in hand. At 12:35 the next afternoon, I had procured my ticket and had the biggest smile on my face for the rest of the day.

I rushed home and amended my Halloween costume from last year, included a leather jacket and some ankle boots and using a LOT of Aquanet and bobby pins, rolled my hair up in some soda cans like in the "Telephone" video. I set out for the venue and proudly strutted my way to the entrance to the floor, got a beer, and found my spot for the show. When the lights dimmed and the music started pumping, my heart started beating and with those opening notes to "Dance in the Dark", the crowd went wild and I was transported on the 2 hour journey that was the Monster Ball. I cheered and put my paws up. I laughed at her jokes. I screamed when she said scream and jumped when she said jump. I cried when she emerged from the stage wearing a movable piece of art and fashion she calls "The Living Dress" and performed my favorite song, "So Happy I could Die" - a platform elevating her high above the crowd and I looked up as tears streamed down my face, ruining my mascara. At that moment, I was truly so happy I could have died. And when she came out for her final encore, those unmistakable notes of "Bad Romance", the crowd went wild and moved in unison as one giant Little Monster.

That night, I came to see what all the fuss about her live shows has been about: Her vision is truly remarkable and can be seen in every detail in her show from the sets to the lighting to the costumes to the interludes. She is beautiful, intelligent, talented and has an amazing voice. She speaks her mind. She loves one and all unconditionally and holds no judgment. Everything she does is for her fans and completely selfless. She tells her fans to love themselves and be who they are and to not be afraid, because she will be there for them. She has given me hope and strength in myself through her music and her persona, making me feel empowered and beautiful.

I grew up hating my big Italian nose, but thanks to Lady Gaga, who is also a beautiful, big nosed Italian girl, I just now at 26 years old have grown to love how I look and embrace it as part of who I am.Your flaws are not flaws at all; they are what makes you who you are, they make you beautiful and you were BORN THAT WAY.


Lady Gaga is loved, hated, revered, abhorred, idolized, feared and celebrated the world over. She is only 24 years old and already a force to be reckoned with. I can't wait to see what is next to come from this amazing woman in the years to come, but I can't even begin to imagine how she will top herself next.