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Meet Our Readers

Get out your quills and charge your keyboards, we’re talking about letters. Legal letters, letters of recommendation, Dear John letters, FAN LETTERS OMG, from the desk of Maggie Tomasek, LeeAnn Yops, Anna Wolfe, and Lisa Hilleren.

Maggie Tomasek

maggie tomasekMaggie Tomasek is a writer, comic, runner and rapper. She’s performed at the kates, Write Club, Story Club, You’re Being Ridiculous, Essay Fiesta and Tuesday Funk, among many others. Maggie is also a member of She’s Crafty, Chicago’s all-female Beastie Boys tribute. You can see her with She’s Crafty on Saturday, May 6, at Township in Logan Square.

 

 

 

LeeAnn Yops

LeeAnn YopsLeeAnn Yops (long “O” in that “Yo”) is a Chicago-based stand-up comedian, storyteller and writer originally from Wisconsin. She’s your go-to guide for all thing 80s and 90s related. LeeAnn is the creator of the website BH9021WHOA, the site that’s better than a Mega Burger about everyone’s favorite teen drama zip code. When she’s not busy gushing over Luke Perry, she also runs a monthly storytelling show about music called Appetite for Rock n’ Roll Storytelling. You can catch Appetite every second Wednesday at the Elbo Room at 8 p.m. for a true evening of oral debauchery.

 

Anna Wolfe

Anna Rose WolfeAnna Rose Wolfe is an writer / performer. She is the co founder of Scout & Birdie, and online literary magazine and podcast. Anna is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where she earned a BA in Acting and a minor in Gender Studies. She performs regularly with The LIVINGroom, a solo performance ensemble. Anna has been featured in venues and fests around Chicago, such as Life Line Theater’s Fillet of Solo Festival, Greenhouse Theatre Center’s Solo Celebration, Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Festival, National Cool Shorts, The Plagiarists Salon, and The Election Monologues.

Lisa Hilleren

lisa hillerenLisa Hilleren is a North Dakotan who moved to Chicago via Wisconsin. Lisa is the founder of bikecampchicago.info, a blog dedicated to car free camping in the Chicago region. While Lisa usually writes about bicycles or feelings about bicycles, sometimes she also just writes about feelings. If you’d like to know more about Lisa’s bicycles or feelings, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @yo_uterus.

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

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Aloha!

Miss Spoken will be 2 ½ next month and I will be at work conference in Atlanta.

I won’t be back in 2017.

It’s been a really great experience. Mostly I have a ton of gratitude to everyone who has read for us. Each of you has brought something unique to the show, which makes it something to look forward to every month.

Lately, I just haven’t had as much fun. After thinking about it long and hard, it felt like a good time to move on.

In case you’re wondering, the show must and will go on. Rose has done the heavy lifting for the better part of the show’s existence and I know it will continue to be great.

Also, your new co-host Jasmine Davila is the best around.

I want to thank everyone who’s ever been the show. Your support is what keeps things going.

Thank you to Gallery Cabaret for taking a chance on us. You have been supportive and extremely easy to work with.

Keep going to the show. Keep performing in the show. Keep making lady live lit a thing.

Don’t worry. I’ll see you around.

Much love,

Carly

Rose Tinted Period

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This is the bag they want you to use to dispose of your lady period items even though the little silver tin box next to the toilet is already lined with that brown paper bag.

As you can see, it has flowers on it to remind you that the blood soaked items you are shoving in there are really like a bouquet of roses or at the very least, it’s nice wrapping paper for the stubby cotton vagina plug covered in your uterine lining.

I accidentally bought scented tampons a couple of months ago. I didn’t even know that was a thing so I wasn’t really making sure I grabbed the right ones. I mean the ones that glide in nicer and cost more because comfort always comes at a higher price and the ones who are for women who do “sports” and move more than non-sports women are much easier to distinguish.

I was enraged. And sure, I guess most people would chalk my reaction up to being hormonal, and on the rag and you know, acting like every woman does when it’s THAT TIME OF THE MONTH or whatever. But seriously, this notion that at every turn something and someone is telling me that the natural things happening to and from my body are disgusting and need to be disguised in fucking perfume is like, A PROBLEM.

I need to look like a flower and smell like a flower and then wrap my flower into flower printed and flower scented things. I need to shove a flower into my flower when flowers come out.

And no, maybe I don’t want or need an illustration of a bloody pad to be stickered on that silver tin box next to the toilet to notify of me where I’m supposed to be throwing my period items away, but It’s better than a floral barf bag.

I’m pissed that even having and sharing these thoughts will evoke some (man) response about geez, what is the big deal?

Maybe it’s that I’m sick of hiding things about my body, my woman body. I’m tired of everything being so shrouded in secrecy and myth and worse, tidied up into something palatable for who, men? I’m using the goddamn women’s bathroom, let’s get real here.

I get compact tampons and thin as a razor pads for convenience factors, but not for what I believe to be the overarching implication that I should never LET ON that I have my period even though it’s probably widely known, though not entirely accepted (?), that I may at some point be on my period when you come into contact with me.

Also, PMS is who I am. No really, hormones may beef up my anxiety or depression or anger or irritability, but at the end of the day, I am me and this is all of me and if you choose to not like me or ignore me or discount me for 20-25% of the month than you are rejecting ¼ of me and that’s not really going to fly.

I’m sorry I snapped and I’m sorry I overreacted and I’m sorry I grunted and rolled my eyes and sighed and yelled and cried. But I also can’t help it. So when I tell you I’m acting this way because of my period, it’s not an excuse, it’s that I’m trying to communicate that I’m having some difficulties and could really use your patience and sympathy and to still listen to my words even when they’re hard to hear through the tone of my voice and the look on my face.

But how can you empathize when what I’m going through is explained to the world as this temporary insanity that we mock and make fun of? And on top of that I’m miserable and unable to put on a happy face and have an Everything’s Fine attitude.

You’re taught to not express your feelings and I’m taught that I can cry, but only because I’m weak.

So yeah.

I’m tired. Very tired.

So, so tired of everything women go through only to be faced with scented tampons and floral disposal bags which are not so quietly reminding us to cover it all up in niceties because that’s easier for everyone else.

-Carly

Not That You Asked: My Lemonade

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Can we talk about Beyoncé? Or rather, can I? I mean, since everyone is weighing in on it…

*Don’t worry. I won’t speak on the racial aspect of things since I can’t, while also acknowledging that race may or may not play into what I do want to discuss.

Like others before me who were quick to write their think-piece on the matter, I will declare myself a Sort of Fan of hers. Yes, Destiny’s Child’s songs still make me smile and in general, I’ve always enjoyed her music.

But I’m no worshipper.

When Formation came out, I rewatched it about five times in a row, fascinated. I found it powerful, eccentric, creative and tried to understand the meaning of its message without claiming any kind of ownership or overwrought opinion on/about it.

I just liked it. I liked what felt like a political statement and I liked hearing it from someone who had an understanding of it beyond my own.

 

When I watched the trailer for “Lemonade” on HBO Go, I was…confused. And annoyed. I remember seeing her tease something about this upcoming “once in a lifetime” event and felt even more irritated when, from what I saw, she had gone and made some kind of horror movie.

But of course, after hopping on social media, I was quickly inundated with the overwhelming response of people I like basically saying I was missing out on life if I didn’t take the opportunity to watch it.

Well. It was…incredible? Incredible in how it captivated. Incredible in how emotionally connected I was to it. Incredible in how real it felt.

I will choose, for now, to ignore the swirling talk of this all being a huge production, created and made-up by Jay and Bey to garner sales and sign people up for Tidal.

Because honestly? Even if that were even remotely true, you will never be able to convince me that Beyoncé hasn’t wondered if her husband has cheated on her and you will most likely never be able to convince me that he hasn’t.

There are two things I thought a lot about after digesting this visual and audio onslaught.

The first being: We need to talk about how Beyoncé met Jay-Z when she was SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. In a 2007 interview with Charlie Rose, Jay-Z said he met his future wife about ten years prior. She was 16 in 1997.

Six. Teen.

And while further interviews and loose details will point more to them “starting to date” when she was 18 or 19, that seems awfully convenient.

But fine. Let’s give them the 18 and then focus on the fact that he is ELEVEN YEARS HER SENIOR.

Which means, a twenty nine year old MAN was wining and dining an 18 year old GIRL.

Now here is where I’m going to start making assumptions, ones that I believe are probably true and deeply entrenched in what might be going on in Beyoncé’s mind and soul if dealing with her spouse’s infidelity.

Beyoncé was destined for stardom, for queendom, for utter domination. No question. She worked her ass off, night and day, day and night. She has been performing since she was a child. And judging from her relationship with her parents, I don’t think she was really concerned with, nor had time to have a boyfriend.

What I’m saying is, even if she lost her virginity to someone else, maybe even had sex with two people before Jay-Z (which even that I’m doubtful of), he is one of VERY FEW sexual partners she’s ever had.

So there’s this juxtaposition. We live in a society (an American one) where being sexy means you ARE sexy means you know what you’re doing in the sack.

There is no way at sixteen OR eighteen she was sexually experienced enough to know left from right, especially with a twenty nine year old man.

And whether or not she had other encounters before him, he became her everything. And depending on what kind of teacher, nurturer, partner he was, that would become her introduction to sex.

A lot of things have to go right in that scenario for her to come out of it OK.

Because again, we are expected to know what we’re doing. It’s assumed that if we look good and exude confidence and seem sexual in any way, or are sexualized without doing anything other than stand there, we internalize that and never actually talk about it.

We’re supposed to know what we’re doing based on what exactly? Movies? T.V.? Porn? The only way to get good at sex is actually having it and even then, depending on who you have it with and how open your communication is, you may never get good at it.

I’m not saying that people haven’t been able to wordlessly get someone off. But is that all you want? Just the orgasm? Also, why don’t we (as women) talk about all of the times we definitely did NOT have an orgasm?

Maybe it seems unsexy to have a discussion before or during. Why do you feel that way? Is it because everything you’ve ever seen on the screen are two people automatically connecting and having otherworldly intercourse?

Sexual attraction gets you there, but it doesn’t and can’t take you all the way. There is no way of knowing what the other person is into without working it out first.

Back to Beyoncé. Her world is coming apart on many levels due to this infidelity. Do you see me? She asks. Everyone else does. She says. He only want me when I’m not there. She says.

To her, this is unfathomable. She is THE baddest bitch on the planet, oh and also his WIFE (which again, in her mind is the ultimate…the commitment, the vows, the promises, the sacredness…to her, this is everything and being cheated it on is the equivalency of him murdering her.) This makes her feel like she is not enough and how could that possibly be?

Why would he want anyone but her?

To touch on marriage and monogamy, this is what I think causes a lot of damage for some people. For those that consider marriage a holy union, an eternal binding with no exceptions, cheating is the worst sin of them all. And a lot of people cheat.

Because it is actually asking a lot of human beings to only sleep with one person, or in general, “be” with one person for the rest of their lives.

As hard as it is to meet people, it is also not hard at all to make a connection with more than one person. If you have exes than you’ve already proven my point.

There’s no completely shutting that off. We will continue to be attracted to and attracted by other people. We will form relationships with people, get close to them emotionally and sometimes physically because that’s in our nature.

Not because our partner isn’t enough, but because there is no actual limit.

We feel because we’ve given everything to someone that they should be satisfied, fulfilled.

Which brings me to the second thing I thought a lot about: Past relationships. Actually, one in particular. I’ve never been cheated on (to my knowledge), so I can’t really speak on it. Yet I still really identified with the first half of “Lemonade”, with all of it’s anger and apathy and threats and indignation and middle fingers wagged in faces.

And the absolute contradiction telling the guy you want: “Boy, BYE.”

When you are sleeping with someone who doesn’t want to be exclusive, doesn’t want the labels and is generally kind of aloof and non-committal, it will drive you crazy.

The answer is always to not be with someone like this, but it happens.

You have no idea if you’re the side chick. You probably are. Or at the very least, you are simply one of a few, possibly many.

I remember trying to see other people in the meantime. Which didn’t really work because if I was being honest with myself, I wanted to be with him. Even though I knew well enough that we weren’t right for one another, the baseline attraction (mine to him) was undeniable.

I could not extricate myself from the situation. That out of control feeling had me going on dates with other people, having inappropriate conversations and casual meet ups with a friend of his and other people he had connections to.

So when out of the blue, the phone calls and texts stopped, I didn’t know how much of it had to do with him meeting someone else or what he knew about what I was up to when we weren’t together.

I believe it had more to do with the former, but the way in which things were left were because of the latter. As in, maybe I didn’t deserve any kind of explanation or reason or courtesy ending of our non-relationship.

On occasion, I’m still irked by this other girl. She is younger. She is prettier. And she managed to lock it down. The one thing I couldn’t do.

During the entire situation I was constantly questioning my self worth over something that wouldn’t have worked for me anyway. Seriously, at one point I was at a bar hanging out with his friends and he was there. On a date with someone.

Anyway. I’m no Beyoncé.

But I feel a lot of things when I watch and listen to Lemonade. I feel for her and I feel for me.

-Carly

Before and After

Sometimes I ask myself if I miss the days before having a kid. Or more accurately, do I wish I was childless now.

It happened again last night on the drive home for our show.

I got pregnant a couple of months before our debut, so I don’t even know what it would be like to stick around and drink more and see where the night took me.

Which is what I used to do. Stick around. Drink more. See where the night took me.

I felt like a wet rag packing up my things for the drive home to a nameless suburb, lamenting my early wake up call and reciting my absurd commute time and schedule to a new friend.

I can be acutely aware of being without freedom. I feel the resentment rise and then I tell myself as calmly and plainly as possible that “this is no longer about me” and it becomes easier to accept.

Because it really isn’t about me at all.

The practicalities have overtaken everything. The ones that probably should have pre-kid. The voice that would tell me it was OK to show up to work tired and hungover is silent, replaced by a louder one that chides me into calling it a night at the earliest time possible.

Upon further examination, I realize that my kid is less a barrier to my fun than the distance I am from many of the things I love and care about. Though I suppose, the kid is the reason I’m so far away to begin with.

When I decided to have him, I also knew it most likely would not be in the city. Not out of choice, but out of necessity.

We probably could have made it work. Perhaps it would have been fine. But I’m mostly assured after having an unexpected C-Section and  a newborn that living with three people to help was better than one. And while I know I could have asked friends in the city to help and they would have, it’s not the same as your parents making unexpected trips to Target to buy you a table for your breast pump to make things easier.

In a world where I’m paid enough to live in the city with my kid (a number that feels astronomical at this point in time), I could see people after my kid went to sleep or invite them over to my easily accessible apartment.

(My utopia would be living in a commune like setting near all of the people I loved. Every new, cool person would build their own house in the next plot of land. There would be plenty of privacy, but also a community building where people just came and went. There would always be potlucks. There would always be a few people sipping wine or having a nightcap and chatting. There would always be kids running around and exploring. We would help each other with as much as we could, especially the important stuff like child rearing and elder care. And of course, orgies. [Haha…] Wait, am I describing a cult? A polygamous cult? Possibly. Oh well?)

Thinking about it more, I remind myself of those nights in my 20’s and early 30’s. The nights I pushed myself to go out. The ones when I stayed out too late. The ones I hardly remember.

But It’s not hard to forget the absolute loneliness and emptiness I felt coming home to no one.

It’s also not hard to forget that most of those nights were not all that worthy of being remembered or fondly looked back upon.

Not necessarily because of the activity or the company, but rather the undercurrent of desperation to make something of things, to want it to be more.

If I could have stayed last night for one more drink or on to another bar would that have been better than getting in my car, driving an hour to my house, talking with my partner about how the night went and going to bed?

It would seem so because in the moment, that’s what I wanted to do.

In the bigger picture, though, I know that in the old days, every time I was out, I was looking out of the corner of my eye, aware of the strangers around me and hoping maybe they would become something more to me. Even when I was with friends whom I loved dearly, I knew they would never be mine, all mine.

I know now that the rush I feel in meeting a new person and wondering if they will become my friend is that same initial reaction I used to have. Only now I know the limitations.

I know the limitations because even when I was single and untethered, the effort and time it takes to really be in someone’s life is a difficult task. Sometimes it felt like I was spreading myself too thin. I kept meeting people and wanting to swoop them all up and carry them with me. And of course they would slip out and become small blips on my social media radar.

All of that time I kept wanting to be wanted. That’s the twinge inside of me whenever I’m around someone new or old. “Want me.”

But what I really need is to be needed.

Sometimes that’s scary. Sometimes I resent it. Sometimes I want to run away. But I know in the end, I’d be running away to find it again.

There is a baseline now, a foundation, a layer, that’s been built. It’s the longest piece of a triangle. Every thing above it is a little shorter, takes up a little less space, demands a little less attention.

It grounds me. It humbles me. It reassures me.

It is part of me.

And I wouldn’t give it up to go back in time just to see where the night might take me.

 

Baby and His New Pair of Shoes

IMG_8657I wanted to take my kid shoe shopping.

Technically, this was not his first pair. But they were in terms of actually using them for purposes other than pure decoration, which all baby shoes are until they can walk in them.

I decided to suck it up and spend a bit of dough at Stride Rite. I figured, they were reputable and would have a good selection and besides, it’s important to have a comfortable pair of shoes, especially for someone who has only been walking for a third of their life.

Also, since Stride Rite is a kids shoe store and not a big box store, I envisioned someone measuring his feet and going in the back to find us the ones we liked and helping me put them on and determining if they fit right. I can’t remember the last time *I* bought shoes this way since I usually end up at Payless’ BOGO sale convincing myself it’s fine to walk out with four pairs.

I imagined the store would be fairly empty, even though it was a Saturday. Mostly because the shopping center by my house is doing pretty badly. Stores rarely have anyone in them and businesses come and go so much you have to look them up online to make sure they’re still around before heading out.

Which is what I should have done with Stride Rite.

Then we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed several people heading into the store. I thought to myself, “why are so many people shoe shopping today?”

My question was answered when I realized the sign on the door for 50% all merchandise was due to the store going out of business.

And so, in this teeny, tiny building, dozens of people were rifling through boxes. Some jerk had their stroller inside and kids were standing around a little dumbfounded as parents threw on shoes asking them if they fit and if they liked them.

I was by myself, which was bad move on my part. I’d been in such a hurry to get this adventure going, I told my partner to stay home, drink coffee and relax and we’d be back to pick him up for lunch later.

So yeah, there we were, my kid wanting to walk around and make friends. I was eyeing the stacks of shoes trying to guess his size? 3? 4? NO IDEA.

Finally I arrived at 5 ½, which seemed to work. Then I saw a sales person measuring a bunch of kids and asked her if she’d take my kid’s.

He is a 6…WIDE she announced, so look for 6 ½…if we have anything left.

I’m not going to lie. I thought it was hilarious that my kid’s Fred Flinstone feet were WIDE.

OK, so 50% is a good deal, right?

Well, sure, if the two pairs you found in his size did not retail at $52 and $44.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

The most expensive pair of shoes I own right now are the $40 winter boots I bought at COSTCO this year.

And yes, I would spend more money on my child in a heartbeat, but not on footwear that he will grow out of in approximately three seconds.

Also, no wonder they are going out of business! Seriously, who is buying their less than two year old a $50 pair of shoes?

In my frazzled need to run out of that store screaming, but NOT empty handed, I bought him both pairs. So yeah, I still spent $50.

Though I suppose it was worth it.

I took him to the park the other morning and let him roam around. He kept looking back at me with an experssion on his face like “is this OK?” All of the open space seemed endless.

He walks up the driveway and down the sidewalk like a character in a video game trying to figure out where they can go.

He loves this new world without walls, gates and closed doors and he associates that freedom with those shoes.


-Carly

A Third Opinion

A couple of people posted a response to a 25 year old who wrote an open letter to her CEO at Yelp about her low wages and was subsequently fired. A 29 year old argues that the 25 year old should have made better choices and worked harder.

I read both and I have to say, I agree more with the 25 year old.

I’ve often wondered how anyone can live by themselves in Chicago. Every other day I’m reading  new stats about the city’s rising rent cost. One of them had a handy calculator to show I needed to make $14,000 more a year to be able to do this. But I already knew that.

I figured out that most people don’t live by themselves. If they do, they got a great deal or are living on the fringes of neighborhoods whose boundaries allow them to charge more for living in them. Or maybe they are able to afford it, but I’m fairly positive none of them have enough money saved up in the bank to get them through any sort of major incident like a medical emergency.

Because most of us are “making do”. We are all surviving on less, working just as hard and just getting by. And this is why wages are stagnant. This is why the very top keep making millions and we are getting second jobs or living at home or reading up about how to eat on $5 a day.

Someone will always have it worse. Many of them have it worse because we still live in a racist, economically unequal, corrupt and uncaring country. Some people will have to work a shit ton harder to make ends meet and it’s not fair.

But honestly, how does anything change if the cost of living keeps going up, but a cost of living salary adjustment no longer exists? How can we keep ignoring the growing expense of our day to day lives? We think because we can afford a $5 t-shirt and a “free phone” with a two year contract and an $80 a month bill and a 4 for $4 meal that we’re doing OK.

And that’s what they want us to think. We seem fine because we have material things, but can’t afford our rent, mortgages, hospital and student loan bills. As long as the facade of our everyday lives is intact, we think we’re doing fine. In fact, the only time we’ll probably see a true revolution is when gas prices are $10 a gallon and bread costs $10 a loaf.

I have material things because I don’t pay rent. I live at home with my parents. But between my car payment, insurance and monthly commute into the city to go to my job, there is not enough to live on my own. Even without my car payment, insurance and monthly commute costs, I would still not be able to afford to live in the city.

I can’t live in the city I work and that’s sort of backwards to me. If you’re a company who can afford to operate out of a major city and have employees that presumably live in it or within commuting distance, than either rent needs to be lower or wages need to be higher.

Neither of those things have anything to do with me needing to make sacrifices or work harder.

Not to mention, I’m already doing that. I’m away from home thirteen hours a day for this job. Unfortunately, I literally don’t have time for a side hustle.

And sure, maybe the answer is taking a server job. It’s not beneath me. I worked as a nanny getting paid cash, with no insurance or paid/sick time off for six years. I saw friends take home good money and have flexibility with their hours. But they definitely didn’t have health insurance.

Notice I haven’t said anything about my kid.  

I’m actually talking about how much more I’d need to make it to just live BY MYSELF.

I’d also like to mention that apartment living in the suburbs is not much cheaper than in the city. That’s because most people don’t live in apartments in the suburbs. So the shortage of available spaces allows rent to stay in the range of $1,000 for a one bedroom.

Right now, take your rent cost, which is supposed to be around 30% of your total take home pay and figure out what you’d have to make before taxes in order to live. Are you making enough or are you paying over 30% for your housing costs?

Do I think my friends who make two, three times more than me are working harder or better than me? Perhaps. Do I think their hard and better work means they should make two or three times more than me? No. Is the CEO of a company working THAT MUCH harder than their lowest paid employee that they should take home a hundred times more than them? One Hundred Times More?

How how about this: Do you believe and would you say to my face that my job doesn’t entitle me to enough money to live?

Yeah, I get it. We all make choices. Some of us make really bad ones. But I think anyone working forty hours a week should make enough to put a roof over their heads, feed and take care of themselves and live in a modest, self respecting way…no matter what they do.

The only way that can happen is if they’re paid more. I don’t expect them to have to work two jobs or take jobs without security (paid time off and health insurance).

But if we keep moving out of cities because we can’t afford them instead of questioning why it costs so much or why we’re getting paid the same amount of money we were ten or fifteen years ago while someone at the top isn’t seeing that same problem, then we’ll never get out of this situation. And that’s exactly what the 1% hopes we’ll do.

How does a manager at a fast food chain make only $10 an hour?

Why is it a luxury to live by yourself? Why is it a luxury to live in a major city? Why is it a luxury to be able to save money? When did it get like this?

We’ve been conditioned to believe that what should be affordable and accessible is somehow something that has to be earned. We’re accusing people of asking for “handouts” when all they’re asking for is a fair shake. We think people who are making a salary and have benefits should shut up and be grateful when the truth is, some of them are barely getting by.

If you are not questioning who decides what salaries should be and why, how they come to these numbers, if you are not the one deciding the value of your work and time, if you are not questioning why people have a legitimate argument for making more money, than you are part of the problem.

If you want to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and work harder than the next person, you are certainly entitled to your latest iPhone and European vacations and your expensive bourbon.

I know the difference between living within your means and simply trying to survive. We are all worth having the basic necessities after a full day’s work. Undesirable jobs shouldn’t have anything to do with how little they pay.

So while I’m glad the 29 year old never had a major medical problem that she couldn’t afford to pay for or got sick and couldn’t work for a week or two and didn’t earn money and then couldn’t pay her rent and then found herself homeless or any of the other hundred of unlucky, out of control situations that happen to everyone all of the time, I’d appreciate it if instead of telling someone else to suck it up that she might consider that really isn’t the solution.

-Carly

 

Why This Non-Christian Loves Christmas

grinchWhile I sit in the lobby of my office building stealing Starbucks’ WiFi, I thought I’d tell you about my relationship with Christmas.

It probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that someone as non-religious and Agnostic as me would even celebrate this holiday.

But we were raised with it, albeit minus Santa Claus. Maybe my parents figured if we weren’t going to acknowledge baby Jesus, there was no reason to bring Santa into the mix either.

I was fine with this set up, having no idea that Christmas for many people involved church or the spirit of giving and the birth of Jesus CHRIST.

Instead, we had a tree and presents and got together with extended family to eat ham off of t.v. trays in someone’s small apartment.

Since there was no Santa, our gifts would often sit under the tree a week or two before the actual day, and my brother and I would sit and try to guess what they were by shape and weight. Maybe this seems unexciting, but I loved the built up anticipation.

I like Christmas music. Today I sat in my cubicle listening to oldies versions of carols on Spotify. Did you know they have a dozen or so different channels just for Christmas songs??

If it wasn’t offensive, I would decorate my space with red and green and maybe even wear a pair of reindeer antlers on Christmas Eve Day (because I’ll be here…)

My building has a huge tree and wreaths in the lobby. They’re adorned in blue, white and silver, as if to say “This is SORT OF Christmas because a tree is involved”.

It’s enough for me.

*Update* There was a quartet of cellos (high schoolers) in the lobby playing Christmas music and I sat and listened like a weirdo for fifteen minutes.

I get that in a time of increasing sensitivity to other cultures, religions and practices, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to tone down on all of the Christmas mania that consumes everything once the hangover of Thanksgiving wears off.

In most cases, I would gladly support this sort of political correctness.

But I love holiday inspired drinks, Christmas cookies, candy canes, and lights.

You guys, I sang in the madrigals in high school, dressing up in rented renaissance clothes singing carols a capella at nursing homes.

Voluntarily.

I also REALLY like giving presents. I’ve been financially strapped for awhile now, so this year I hope to at least get my immediate family gifts.

I LOVE THE MOVIE ELF. And A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Love Actually and Miracle on 34th Street.

Christmas makes me happy. It’s a sense memory of excitement and joy and yeah, I suppose being spoiled, not going to school, and wearing a dress to dinner.

I cling to those memories. Perhaps like The Grinch, my heart slowly shrinks and shrivels throughout the year, but grows and swells from the warmth of Christmas past.

I think gift giving has been watered down a lot because of online shopping and the ability for anyone to get anything at anytime. And in general, growing up and being able to buy myself things. Also, nothing seems all that special or unique unless it’s handmade. And sometimes it just feels gross to get more things. Things that take up space, that we don’t need, that seem excessive and unnecessary.

Christmas has toned down a lot at our house. One year we didn’t have a tree and I was surprised at how disappointed I was.

My mom bought a tiny one so there would be some sort of decoration. I want to put it up this year, but she’s afraid my kid will tear it down (which is a very valid fear.)

We stopped celebrating with my extended family after my grandmother died several years ago.

Some years it’s just been me and my parents. My brother and his fiancee don’t live in the state and I didn’t have a boyfriend for many years.

It felt really quiet and un-holiday like.

I hope we can resurrect some of the past now that my son is around to potentially take joy in the small transformation the house takes because of Christmas. I think he’ll get a kick out of tearing up wrapping paper and hopefully enjoying what’s inside (though it’s OK if he doesn’t.)

I suppose I want him to have experiences that turn into happy memories, so he’ll always have a little bit of nostalgia this time of year once he’s an adult. Even if I’m remembering things with rose tinted glasses, that’s OK with me.

-Carly

Zen and the Art of Meat

Cooking was definitely something I grew up with, but I wasn’t interested in doing it myself until well into my 20s. I knew homemade food was good and sometimes better, but I didn’t care. There was a McDonald’s under the Loyola stop and a value menu with my name on it, Gharweeb Nawaz with one-dollar lentils and saag paneer, and about six million good Mexican places. I was set.

(if you don’t care about food or cooking, now might be a good time to revisit some other posts)

But sometime around my third apartment I started to miss it. So I started doing it, and long story short I am an okay cook. I don’t do anything fancy but my cookie and casserole game is solid. I don’t suck at vegetables either, especially the roasted and slaw variety. Every once in awhile I’ll bust out the food processor and make my own crackers. They’re basically teeny cheddar pie crusts and make me feel a lot more “foodie” than I really am.

The term “foodie” makes my teeth hurt, like to the point where I don’t want to say I like to cook because people get all oooooohhhh do you make your own seafood broth with leftovers from your homemade beer-steamed mussels then save them for later? (no, though I’ll happily eat the delicious bi-valves at Revolution or Hopleaf). And okay, I went to Sean Brock’s pre-fixe dinner at The Publican and I still think about those freaking heirloom carrots and crab-studded hushpuppies. I like herb-flecked artisanal goat butter as much as the next guy. But copping to making your own food and not blowing at it feels like aligning with a sanctimonious culture that doesn’t have a lot of room for being human or White Cheddar Cheez-Its, my one true love.

Despite not worrying too hard about the origins of my asparagus and a deep and abiding affection for Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden, I like cooking. I read a lot of food blogs. The abundance of Mariano’s excites me. I think it’s taught me some things too, which I will now share with you in a hopefully non-preachy manner.

Single Ladies

Two things have happened recently that have gotten me thinking about my dating status.

Rose was awesome enough to pass along a job ad for an online publication looking for a new dating blogger. She said she thought I might be a good fit, which was really flattering. When I read the description, it said the person applying should be “actively dating”. So…I didn’t apply.

Then a good friend of mine posted a question about a dating scenario on Facebook wanting feedback. I totally knew where she was coming from, even though I’ve been “out of the game” for a bit. I answered, but the whole time felt like an asshole, as if I no longer have insight or opinions on dating that are valid since I’m in a relationship.

When I told Rose I didn’t think I filled the requirement for the job, she said she thought that part was bullshit and really put a limit on finding someone who could write about dating. I agreed at the time, but after responding to my friend’s query, felt less assured.

I used to write about this kind of thing all of the time. I had also been single and basically looking for over five years. Sometimes I was more aggressive in my search, other times I was so burnt out from everything, I would take a break. But blogging about it and producing a show that was about dating, relationships, and sex meant that I felt a sort of obligation to keep things interesting. Or more accurately, to always have material.

Even now, sometimes I feel like my posts on this blog are boring because I’ve written so much about my pregnancy and being a new parent. I won’t assume my past stuff was particularly mind blowing or thought provoking, but it did have a wider range.

But I’m not one dimensional. I have opinions on all kinds of things, especially when it comes to dating. I may not be in the thick of it and I don’t have much to say in terms of present day complaints, but I remember things pretty clearly.

Two years ago today, I wrote about how I was frustrated with dating. But I’d also decided that guys who made no effort weren’t worth thinking twice about and that I wasn’t going to waste my time on them.

I also said I wasn’t as prone to be blindsided by love after so many years of failure.

I was wrong.

You CAN be blindsided by love, any time, no matter what’s happened to you and no matter how long it’s been since you’re last love (if you’ve had serious relationships in the past.) Even if you are jaded like I was. Even if it feels hopeless.

If you are still dating, then you still believe.

And you should.