Aging

We’re Saying Simple Sentences

Miss Spoken is two! Girls generally talk earlier, and we’re no exception. We’re not just girls now either, though lady live lit still has a catchy ring and I’m keeping it. We haven’t expanded so much as recognized that we always planned to include trans and non-binary performers, and hope to continue in that vein.

But yeah. Two years of themes and stories by non-dudes. When we had our first show, I don’t think we had a two-year plan for the series, or even a six-month plan. I thought I might move to LA. Carly thought she might be pregnant. One of those thoughts turned out to be true. I’m still here and so is Roan, who’d probably have better luck getting a script: seriously he’s really, really cute and Carly says he’s kind of an asshole, sounds like Hollywood material.

Two years ago, we sat in Garcia’s with our mutual friend Jasmine, who’d heard a similar idea from us: a show with a different theme every month. Girly topics. Maybe all girls. We talked and ate basket after basket of free chips, and by the end had agreed to do it. And so Miss Spoken was born, salty and boozy and feminine.

We’re still here, a ladylike (lol) presence among the multitude of other live lit shows. We feel what we felt then: having all non-dudes is not exclusionary, but expansive: people and stories often dismissed by society as unimportant, frivolous, or literally not real have a place where they’re given weight. We hear you, our audience hears you, you are funny and sad and real. In the current cultural climate, where women endure horrific harassment for talking about a fucking video game, the U.S. trails in maternity leave, and political groups threaten to take away rights enjoyed by your grandmother, your stories are more important than ever.

We also like to talk about boobs. We plan to continue that in the coming year, and hope you will join us.

Quiz: Are You the Right Kind of 30?

Remember how fun it was to take quizzes in Seventeen? A series of questions with pictures of your sultry, scowling contemporaries designed to help you figure out those pressing concerns: Am I okay? Am I doing the right thing? Am I good? I always changed my answers so I came off even and nice, brain racing too hard to answer anything honestly but pretty good at predicting that too many points made you a bitch. Choosing a lot of A’s meant a lot of 3’s, better throw a few B’s in there to balance it out and compensate for the crushing sense of inadequacy that plagues every waking moment. Man, adolescence was the best.

Remember how I’m being weird about turning 30? Let me remind you with this quiz from xoJane: 9 Thoughtless Phrases to Stop Saying To Women Turning 30. I don’t think it’s actually a quiz, but I’m definitely taking it.

1. “You look so young!”

I am young. And vain. Vain enough to override the implications behind that comment. Thank you. Tell me again.

2. “Do you want to have kids yet?”

Did you want to have them that young? Or that old? Let me judge your life choices.

3. “You’ll meet the right person soon.”

I’m in one of those long-term relationships so no one asks me this. Replace it with something about getting married.

4. “It’s all downhill from here.”

I have a ton of bullshit about aging, but I know it’s bullshit. The only thing worse than my pitiful flailing about my life being over that I know isn’t true is someone who actually believes their life is over.

5. “Do you feel sad about turning 30?”

Yup.

6. “You’re all grown up now!”

I’m only cool with this if you’re a female relative over 50. My Aunt Louise can tell me I’m a woman now and I find it lovely and charming. It makes me feel warm inside. Same thing with being called Rosie. Are you a) related to me or might as well be, b) over 50, and c) know the meaning of sheyna punim? Bzzzzt.

7. “NOW you’re in your sexual prime!”

What.

8. “It’s a good thing you did so much in your twenties!”

This is a weird slam, like “You did so much, that’s great because now you can’t do anything because you’re older and everything sucks”. It’s kind of backhanded and confusing. Also, I spent the first half of my 20s obsessing over dudes and putting substances in my face, so I don’t think I did so much, so much as accomplished very little. Whatever. This is passive-aggressive and weak.

9. “Do you feel like a woman now?”

See #6. But for real, as much as I see 22-year-olds and think oh my god you are tiny babies, you are women and should be treated as such, even though sometimes I get kind of bemused by you and try to hide it because I hated that shit when I was your age. I’m not more legit just because I’m older. I’m legit because I don’t quit.

-Rose

A Love Letter to the Sick Day

As a kid, I loved sick days. It helped that I wasn’t sick. No, aside from an early tangle with a forced air heater and the occasional stomach flu I was relatively injury and accident free. I attribute this natural good health, moderate cowardice, and after age 10 transitioning slowly into an indoor kid. I played sports when I was little, but after we moved to Minnesota pre-teen athletics turned into serious business. Girls were ultra-competitive and ice hockey was terrifying. This coincided neatly with my self-consciousness and angst hitting peak levels, culminating in a general feeling of “fuck teamwork, I’m going alternate between staring at my shitty complexion and reading a book for two hours, and fuck everything else too”. What a peach.

But back to sick days. Sick days were the greatest. Left home alone with large amounts of unstructured time – the luxury of a full eight hours (!) – I read, watched TV, and ate buttered noodles with parmesan. The house was gloriously quiet. My parents were at work. I wasn’t at school. No one was yelling, no girls were snickering as I walked past, and Ray Bradbury Theater reruns were playing on the Sci-Fi Channel. At that point we lived in the lower level of a duplex with large windows and a sunroom. Light streamed through, casting shadows on yellowing issues of Funny Times or The Mists of Avalon. It was peaceful and perfect.

Sick days are important. Maybe even more so as an adult, where being busy is the ultimate humble brag and working 60+ hours is a badge of screwy and terrible honor. Often it feels like people are convincing themselves that it’s a virtue to be a cog in a machine, a martyr to endless, churning productivity. And I feel like I’m sounding like the 13-year-old who hated gym class with that last part, but I owe a lot to the sick day. Through those hours, I figured out what made me excited, the words and pictures that came alive and stuck around, rattling for months and years and decades. This is probably why I still remember that episode of Legend of the Hidden Temple where Olmec’s face fell off, revealing the machinery beneath. It was intense.

Eventually I started to write little things – mostly lists, and then stories. They were pretty terrible. But still. It might not have happened without a pseudo-Mayan talking head, Lynda Barry comics, and the time to bury myself in them completely.

The sick day is not about being sick. It’s about free time, and a lot of it. No agenda and no expectation. No apologies, because free time is awesome. Free time is amazing. Free time is never wasted.

It’s also about buttered noodles. Feel free to sub out for a comfort food of your choice. Flexibility is what the the sick day is all about.

-Rose

30 on 30

I’m not super excited about turning 30. There, I said it. I know, age ain’t nothing but a number, blah blah blah but what it boils down to for me is I want more time. I want five years back. Maybe seven. But with everything I know now, from how not to date losers to confidence (possibly related to the first thing) to what type of bang looks best with sad, wispy hair. I want more, more, more, because I never think I’ve done good enough. Or enough period.

I feel like I’ve wasted so much time, but have a sneaking suspicion turning back time isn’t possible. So until Science gets on that Dorian Grey Theorem, I made a list of the best and worst parts of coming up on 30. In the coming months, I’ll review this in an attempt to find some kind of balance or acceptance (I won’t). But making lists is comforting and puts things in perspective – and hey, there we go. That’s one thing that comes with age.

The Worst:

  1. Energy. I get tired. I need a full night’s sleep. So lame.
  2. “When do you think you’ll get married?”
  3. Pitiful tolerance. Brutal hangovers.
  4. The fashions of your tween years come back. You walk past Lane Tech and everyone looks like an extra from Buffy (TV show, not movie). 90s styles being a thing is tripping me out so hard. Maybe this isn’t the worst so much as weird and hilarious. But yeah. Flowered dresses with spaghetti straps. Chunky platforms. I can’t.
  5. “How do you feel about being an older mother?”
  6. Never tell anyone you might want kids someday. Never tell them you don’t want kids. Never tell anyone anything because after 27 they will make your uterine future their business and any preference you express is ammo to judge, judge, judge and pour on the unsolicited advice. Also, from what I hear this never ends. Cool.
  7. Still not sure what I’m doing in some major life areas.
  8. Your mom isn’t 40, she’s 60, and everything that comes along with that.
  9. 25-year-olds killing it.
  10. “But really, when do you think you’ll have kids?”
  11. 22-year-olds killing it.
  12. Insecurity and its pal anxiety still alive and kicking.
  13. Acute awareness of the passing of time.
  14. Eating like an asshole has more consequences. I’m not going to stop doing it. But, yeah. It’s real and upsetting.
  15. Regret.

The Best:

  1. My friends in their 30s, 40s and beyond look good. This is soothing.
  2. Bullshit tolerance at an all-time low. Oh man. Not putting up with things is heady stuff. I encourage all young ladies to start doing it as soon as possible.
  3. I can drive a car.
  4. I can ride a bike on the street.
  5. I don’t date garbage dudes. I’ve settled on one. Hey-o! Kidding so hard, my long-term guy is wonderful and being with him is pretty great and occasionally a little sad, because it throws the shitty relationships of the past into sharp relief. Like wow, I really put up with that when I could have had this.
  6. I don’t hang out with garbage people. Generally. Not by choice, anyway.
  7. “No.”
  8. My cousin is a mini-adult now and I can sort of talk to her like a real person. She also takes a million selfies but that’s fine. We text sometimes.
  9. Staying in is the greatest.
  10. Did I mention I don’t date garbage dudes?
  11. After a billion years of therapy, have come to some understanding of family, history, and how brain workings. Still fuck up but have greater awareness of why it happens and sometimes how to make it better.
  12. Confidence.
  13. I don’t buy twelve shirts at the thrift store that kinda look okay, I hold out and buy one that actually fits.
  14. Perspective.
  15. I write more. That might be the first half of this list for you, but it’s forever this half for me.

-Rose

birdday girl

I’m going to keep this kind of short because it’s my birthday today (WHAT) and apparently the weather is nice so I’m going to leave my house (I took the day off work) and do something.

I didn’t plan anything for today. I’ve already had such a nice weekend. LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT.

In Da Club

The bachelorette party was a success!

After finding someone to carpool with (who had a Prius and drove us there and back and we had so much to talk about the radio never went on), I felt really good about taking the out of town trip.

The bride to be’s college friends are sweet, fun and hilarious ladies who I always enjoy seeing on the rare occasion. I realized it had been a really long time when many of them were engaged or married and had been single the last time I saw them.

The restaurant we went to kindly divided the check SEVENTEEN ways, which was basically the best thing ever because group dinners give me anxiety when it’s time to deal with the bill.

After dinner, the party moved to a bar that had dancing.

I can’t tell you the last time I went dancing. I always want to…er, what I want is to be in a room with just my friends dancing to all of our favorite songs and drinking and actually having “the best night ever”.

But as we ALL know, these nights do not actually exist. After all of the clubbing I did in my 20’s and early 30’s, a total of zero of those nights went down in history as awesome. Instead, the best I could muster was a good laugh or a “I can’t believe that happened”, but mostly in an embarrassing or ridiculous way.

In fact, I’ve talked to a few friends about wishing Rob Gordon’s “Dance Music For Old People” was an actual thing (you know, from “High Fidelity). We wanted to rent out a room and not let anyone under 30 in (except for our cool under 30 friends). IT’S A BRILLIANT IDEA.

Anyway, I was reminded of why these nights are always disappointing this past weekend. For one, it’s no fun being old. I felt like it was obvious this was “my night out away from the husband and kids”. Everyone looked like a teenager and even if they were twenty-two, same difference. Not that I was there to hit on anyone, but when these boys were born in 1994 (my freshman year in high school), it’s hard not to feel like a creep just being there. (Maybe like me you went to underage clubs where you had to be sixteen, and there were upper age limits [I think 25?], but this time you are the old weirdos hanging back and watching the action.)

Second, the DJ was horrible. And it’s not because he was playing new music only the kids would know about. He was just bad. He did not play good songs. There are so many good songs. So. Many. I would rather dance to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry then pretend I’m really into this dubstep version of “Come On Eileen”. If you’re the kind of DJ who is just going to play one whole track after another like a human playlist, get your act together. Though to his credit, I was only there for about 90 minutes tops.

Third, girls are the worst. I’m sorry, but they are. Men are terrible, but women? Women in clubs may as well be wild animals. It’s bad enough having to dodge erect penises trying to grind on your ass. But a group of girls who’ve decided they don’t like you and your group of girl friends are horrible. I wanted to shout to every one of them who purposely elbowed their way through us or tried to box us out of our space that we were DEFINITELY NOT TRYING TO HOOK UP ANY ONE OF THE DUDES there and the only reason we got up on a stage (that was not lit and at the very back of the bar) was to get out of the way since we recognized how large our party was. Why do we act like another woman is a personal affront to us?

It was a sad reminder that this is what it’s like out there sometimes, especially when you’re single and looking. I remember those days ten years ago when I’d put on some stupid outfit and ill fitting shoes, forgo a coat in winter and jam my ID, credit card, cash, phone and lipstick in the smallest purse I owned to go to some trendy bar hoping some guy would buy me a drink. Without fail, I’d come home alone and half (actually most) of the time cry myself to sleep.

One scan of the room and I wanted to pick up a megaphone and yell “Look around you ladies!!! Are these guys worth fighting for??? Lets all just dance and have fun and ignore these dudes because that would be way more memorable. Also, we can stop looking each other up and down as though we’re competing with one another. While we’re at it, lets buy our own drinks because we shouldn’t be here to talk to anyone anyway!”

I really just wanted to say “Hey, my friend is getting married and we’re out celebrating her because we love her. I’m sure you’ve been there. And if you haven’t, I know you care about your girl friends, so lets all be respectful and kind because peace and shit. Why does it have to be this way? Geez. Sigh. COME ON…”

And lastly, what is with all of the making out in public? Seriously? Was it always like this? GO HOME. You can accomplish so much more behind closed doors. No one wants to see you touching tongues.

Really though, can someone make this “Dance Party For Old People” a real thing? I would pay cover AND stand in line.

-Carly

I Don’t Care That I Don’t Always Get Your References

“I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like…Books, records, films – these things matter.” -Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

I’m kind of done caring that I don’t always know what you’re referencing. At the risk of alienating the subcultures I align with forever, shared knowledge of books, music, and movies isn’t everything in the entire world. It’s awesome. It’s fun. It brings people together and leads to greater understanding. But it’s just not everything. And it’s ugly when it’s used to shame someone, which seems to be a thing dudes of a certain nerd stripe are really into. You made fun of me in high school? Well now you don’t know that Linux command/Spider-Man issue/My Bloody Valentine EP SO SUCK IT, YOU’RE DUMB AND I’M SMART SO NYAH NYAH DID I MENTION I AM BETTER.

I’ve been on both sides of this. Mostly the side where someone’s snarking because I haven’t seen/read/listened to something. But not always. When I’m freaking out at someone unfairly, it’s usually about comic books or food. In these instances I turn into Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons (yes, I recognize the irony of using references in this post) and get all OH MY GOD HOW DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT, I MEAN SERIOUSLY, puffy with self-righteous nerdrage.

One time a friend was telling me how she made mac and cheese. That’s not how you make it, I scoffed. You don’t just add cheese to pasta (you could hear the eyeroll in my voice), you make a roux with flour and butter and- I stopped when I saw her face. I said I was sorry.

(I’m still not sorry I told that one dude making boxed mac and cheese with no milk and just extra butter for liquid was gross. It is gross. You’re eating a bowl of fat and cheese powder. That’s a crusty, oily textural nightmare. Milk is not an exotic ingredient. I have too many feelings about mac and cheese so I’m going to stop.)

Another time was with a girl I used to work with. We had a conference room named Arkham Asylum (yes it was a tech company, why do you ask?). She was talking about having a meeting in that room and garbled the first part: she couldn’t pronounce Arkham. I nerdraged hard, barking “Have you not even seen the movies?”  Ugh. Ass. Hole. I really love Batman, from The Animated Series to the movies to most of the comics, even though some of them really aren’t that good. But the point is, who cares? She probably didn’t grow up with Batman. She doesn’t care about Batman now, and may never care about Batman. And that doesn’t make her dumb or less.

I didn’t say I was sorry that time. It was awkward and it seemed like apologizing would make it more so. It’s been a few years, and I’m 99% sure she doesn’t care. But yeah. I’m sorry.

These instances made me aware of a couple things:

  • A good way to make someone disinterested in something you like is to be a dick about it.
  • Unless you’re me at 19. Then I’d probably be more interested, because at that point I think love looks like being mean, because mean equals attention and attention is everything.

Thinking of the ways I’ve been Comic Book Guy brings me back to guys from my past, and it’s usually guys, and it’s usually ex-boyfriends. Guys who are happy to tell you what you like sucks.

This might be a side effect of having a type: I was born in the 80s. Most of the dudes I’ve dated were born in the the 70s. Most of the dudes I’ve dated have obsessive interests (nerds). Most of the time I liked these qualities, a lot. Until what I liked was stupid and nothing could be better than what they were into when they were 18. Yawn.

But when you’re barely into your 20s with a precariously dangling shred of self-esteem that gets to you, a lot. You get hurt, angry, and eventually really fucking sick of being told that good music ended in 1995, that they miss the days girls wore sneakers with long skirts and why don’t you dress like that, that your childhood was bereft and adulthood is a lie because you’d didn’t see this or play with that.

I didn’t experience a lot of pop culture milestones growing up. I wasn’t super sheltered – my parents were pretty liberal. But I didn’t see Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Back to the Future until a couple of years ago. I did see Paper Moon, Twilight of the Cockroaches, and a lot of the tamer John Waters movies. I don’t think I got shortchanged.

I mean, I’m not proud that I didn’t know what “Han shot first” meant until pretty recently. But I don’t feel bad about it either. I liked Star Wars. It was fun. But I’m never going to be a 10-year-old in 1980. And that’s okay. Hocus Pocus, Crybaby, and Rattlin Wrestlers were pivotal parts of childhood. Third Eye Blind, Mean Girls, and jeans cut just above the pubic bone were key components to adolescence. My nostalgia is equally valid.

But but but Rose, I don’t care about Nickelodeon shows or Super Soakers! I want to talk about Lite Brite and Unbroken.

It’s cool. There’s a way to show your love and nostalgia for whatever it is you are into without being a dick. An example:

My boyfriend (mostly) jokingly threatened to break up with me because I hadn’t seen Star Wars. He goggled at the lack of 16 Candles, The Shining, and Pulp Fiction in my life. Then he stopped.

“Let’s watch them.  I think you’d be into it.”

-Rose

Mildly Eventful Beginnings

Top Five Kinda Alright New Year’s Eve’s:

  1. 1999: Y2K! Even as a teenager the threat never seemed too real. I babysit a 10-year-old, feeling like we’re too close in age for this business and she could probably be left home alone. I drink Martinelli’s, eat snacks, and watch a Twilight Zone marathon. Happy millennium!
  2. 2004: Home for the holidays. A mistake. My friends from back home feel claustrophobic and unfamiliar. I don’t know what to do with myself. I go to some goth-industrial party in a warehouse a few blocks away from my mom’s house. I drink a lot beforehand. Everything is blacklight and makeshift tunnels. I crawl into one of these tunnels, make out with the guy I came with, then fall asleep. I don’t remember most of this. It’s slightly weird between us for a short period of time. I spend all New Year’s Eve’s in Chicago from that point forward. Happy 2005!
  3. 2008: My boyfriend isn’t into going out. I say I’m okay with it. I miss going out. We do random things around his apartment while I brim with vague resentment. This feeling is starting to become familiar. I go to bed shortly after the ball drops. I don’t know it yet, but 2009 is going to suck. Happy 2009!
  4. 2010: 2009 sucked. 2010 was so solid. I don’t want to let it go. I want this gentle upswing of a year to continue and am afraid the bottom is going to fall out any minute, a persistent and paralyzing life fear I should go talk to someone with a certificate on their wall about. Instead, I go to some friends’ adorable storefront studio with my nice newish boyfriend and his friend and girlfriend. I like them. I like him. We don’t know a lot of other people but it’s okay. We look at their screen printing stuff, knick knacks, new kitten. At midnight they play Ratatat. There’s this on the wall:

164736_709680198231_4426511_n

There isn’t a real number five. I have a limited number of New Year’s Eve tales, and am saving the worst for our next show: Gallery Cabaret, 1/28, 7pm. Readers to be announced soon. Have a good rest of 2014, or just get it out of the way. Either way, I hope your last day of the year is memorable.

-Rose

Hungry Brain

Sometimes when you love a place it creeps up on you. You don’t fall hard and fast right away, and it’s definitely not love at first sight – it was never that pretty. It’s a gradual thing that builds up over nights and then months, until it’s hard to think of the last ten years without it. But you remember your first time.

Hungry Brain is a bar without a sign, but you remember it’s just past Oakley. You’re 19. You like bars. You’re too chicken to get a fake, but your friend works the door and lets you in, accepting the cupcakes you’re carrying with a nod. You asked him to look he other way just this one time because it was your friend’s birthday, just this one time, and he does. He lets you in the second time too, then the third and fourth. “You don’t cause any trouble,” he says in his froggy, rasping voice. “And you bring treats.”

There is no special occasion the fifth time but it feels significant. You drink cheap gin and tonics and look around at a space that resembles a sort of cool older cousin’s basement, if that cousin had a stage and decent beer. It’s comfortable, like a low-key house party where you know enough people to make it familiar but there’s some strangers to keep it interesting. The lighting is low and that makes you confident. There are couches and tables. The tamale guy comes by around 10.

Measuring Life in Halloweens and Black Bean Burgers

Over the last few weeks, I read this beautiful and elegiac piece, dressed up for Halloween, and burst into tears in the bar area of Chili’s.

My boyfriend stared at me, unsurprised. I’d dropped hints this was coming: Staring into the distance in between getting sodium poisoning from Bottomless Tostada Chips. Shifting in my seat. Asking, “Where do all the books go?”, my voice breaking slightly.

We’d just sold five boxes of books at the Half-Price in Skokie. And smaller things have made me cry in public places.

I went on to blubber through some stuff about growing up in a house with too many books, which was terrible and wonderful, but the first part makes me want to lead a capsule lifestyle now (I’m failing), that I have so many shitty relationship memories, and I was thinking of this because a lot of previous Halloweens were ruined by an ex-boyfriend, who’d been really into Chili’s and that was why all these feelings really made sense right now.

He took a bite of his chicken sandwich. I wondered how I wasn’t single.

I was with someone for a long time who wasn’t into Halloween. He didn’t like costumes, or even dressing up at all. It was faking it, he said, pretending you were someone you weren’t. It was lying. Every year, we’d fight about going out and participating. He’d grudgingly put on something that was a costume, sometimes. It wasn’t even a half-assed costume. It was a quarter-assed costume, a walking reminder of how he didn’t want to do something and thought it was lame.

I ended up feeling terrible about something I loved. And there were a lot of things like that. I don’t begrudge someone for not liking something, but ruining it for someone else is pretty low.

Through exes, suburban chains restaurants, and “Learning to Measure Time in Love and Loss“, I realized that life is too fleeting to be with someone who hates Halloween. It’s too precious to convince yourself that what you love sucks, and you should apologize for it. It’s too important to date someone who doesn’t make you feel amazing, supported, and loved. And it’s way, way too short to salt your giant Diet Coke with tears of regret.

My black bean burger sat in front of me, their attempt at an artisanal bun glossy and golden. My boyfriend looked at me, his face open and concerned. I stopped talking and ate.

-Rose