Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Does That Make You Larger Than Life?

When you go through a significant weight loss, I've found there are, generally, around three distinct ways people react to it.

1. The "You've clearly lost weight but I don't want to imply anything" method.

INT. PARTY OF SOME VARIETY - DAY

A relative and/or friend who hasn't seen you in a while keeps staring at you from across the room. Eventually, you cross paths. You juggle your mimosa as he/she smiles in an oddly conflicted fashion. 

RELATIVE AND/OR FRIEND
You know, you look great

You look down at your outfit, now sporting a dark stain and smelling faintly of spilled mimosa. 

YOU
Um, thanks. So do you. 

You wait, thinking that, perhaps this conversation might continue. It does not. 

RELATIVE AND/OR FRIEND
You saw Frozen, right? 

The general idea behind this seems to be that your friend and/or relative has noticed that you have lost weight. Maybe they've watched you struggle with it for a while, or maybe they simply haven't seen you in a year. Either way, they would really like to compliment you on your appearance, but are entirely unsure if making the compliment weight-related is appropriate. The expectation is that you will have the same logic as a girlfriend in a male-centric sitcom; they'll say "You've lost weight, congrats." and your response will inevitably be "What? Did you think I was fat before? Did you think I needed to lose weight? Did you forget our anniversary? I think we need to see other people." 

2. The "I think there's something different about you, but I can't quite figure out what" method. 

INT. OFFICE - DAY

Your professor who hasn't seen you since you were in a terrible place in your life looks you over. She smiles. 

PROFESSOR
You look like you're doing well. 

YOU
Thanks. I feel like it. 

PROFESSOR
Yeah, you look...healthy?

YOU
Um, thanks. 

PROFESSOR
So, did you see Frozen? 

This one's filled with nuance. With my weight loss, it wasn't so much a weight loss as a return to form. I'm naturally plus sized so, with some people, it's often hard for them to tell when my weigh fluctuates. People assume that losing weight takes you from fat to skinny with nowhere in between. With me, it's less "I was fat but now I'm skinny" and more "I'm a bit more balanced and comfortable." I had gained a lot of weight during a particularly bad stint with depression, and since getting that more under control, I've lost quite a bit of what I've gained. The result is that I seem different. I'm happier, a bit more confident, and wearing pants that fit me. Because a surprising amount of weight loss is actually internal, when people pick up on it, they're sometimes not picking up on the size of your girth, but on the way you present yourself. As bizarre as the phenomenon is, it's admittedly pretty amusing to watch people stand around desperately looking for the right words to describe you. 

3. The "throw caution to the wind" method. 

INT. FUNERAL HOME - AFTERNOON

You've just arrived home after a six-month stay in another country. You immediately find yourself at a funeral, where your grandfather spots you. 

GRANDFATHER
Who are you?! 

He laughs. Despite having heard the joke before, you laugh as well. 

YOU
Hi, Grampy. 

GRANDFATHER
I was wondering if I'd ever see you again. 

He takes a moment to look you over. He seems proud. 

GRANDFATHER
Did you lose weight? 

YOU
As a matter of fact, I did. 

GRANDFATHER
You look good, kid. 

YOU 
Thanks. 

GRANDFATHER
Did you see that movie everyone's talking about? Freeze or something? 

I like this option best, but it is, admittedly a risky one. Weight's a pretty tricky thing to discuss. It carries a lot of...well, weight. We're conditioned to think about it constantly - whether it's "Hooray! You're skinny" or "Damn, you're fat!" or "Whatever you are, you need to do something about it." The compliment of "Hey, have you lost weight?" instantly brings this to light. On TV it's seen as the thing you should always ask a women, whether she wants to lose weight or not. Because of this, it's lost some of it's legitimacy. It's a shallow thing to say, rather than a genuine one. It's left us constantly looking for the correct thing, and never really finding it. 

Personally, as a sufferer of thyroid disease, as someone who has struggled with weight and self image through most of their life, I'd say compliment what seems to be on the forefront of the person's mind. It's not easy, you may have to become a psychic. But for a lot of people, I know that "It seems like you're doing a lot better than you were before" would mean a lot more than "Hey, you're a weight I can name, but still can only barely find pants for!" 





Monday, March 3, 2014

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Driving in New York is an experience.

Now, I learned to drive in New Hampshire. Despite the fact that we don't have permits - you can legally drive at the age of 15 1/2 as long as you have your birth certificate and someone over the age of 25 in the car with you - and despite the fact that our roads are quite frequently black ice laden death traps, we're generally pretty low key drivers. We have accidents, like everyone, and we have disagreements, like everyone else.

We are particularly antagonistic towards drivers from Massachusetts. New Hampshire has somewhat of a "New York/ New Jersey" rivalry with the state, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on. Perhaps we're bitter that they have all our sports teams? One would think we would be more bitter about Vermont, which is, of course, just an upside down New Hampshire with bafflingly better tourism.

But, I digress.

I grew up hearing about Massachusetts drivers. It was always "those damn Massholes letting me go even though they have the right of way - don't they know they're holding up traffic?" Anytime a car on the road did something stupid, my parents would instantly check the plate, and if they were from Massachusetts they would nod their heads sagely and say "that makes sense."

Notice though, that despite our antagonism towards our neighbors to the south, for the most part, our rage is kept inside the privacy of our own cars, and spoken of with a healthy degree of self awareness. I know, for a fact, that most of my parents' antagonism is based on having to drive in Boston which, even those from Boston will tell you, does not do the term "clusterfuck" justice. We're aware that, for the most part, Massachusetts drivers are just like us. It's simply more fun to blame the occasional fuck up on their license plates.

That being said, any New Hampshirites possessed of genuine, rage inducing hatred toward the drivers of Massachusetts should really consider driving in New York.

To New York, New Hampshire is basically Canada, and it's easy to see why they have that view when you compare our drivers. New Hampshire is mostly trees. Even if you're in a city, like Manchester, you can bet that driving there will entail a picturesque drive through forests and tree covered mountains on a three-laned turnpike with a speed limit of 65. Unless there's an antique car show, or the tall ships have come to Portland, or you're in Nashua, you probably won't be caught in a traffic jam for longer than about twenty minutes. We drive leisurely and with little intensity unless we're in a rush, in which case we might start pushing 70. We're calm drivers because we can be. You only get aggressive when you change lanes, and even then, it's just a matter of putting on your turn signal and waiting.

This is a marked contrast to New York. In New York, it seems like everyone has somewhere to be in that exact moment and you are the one thing standing in their way. It's not a matter of "damn it, I'm stuck behind some slow, out of state asshole" it's "god damn it that slow out of state asshole needs to be taken off the road."

In New Hampshire, we're very independently minded. We're the live free or die state, after all. As a rule, we don't really interact much beyond an uptight New England head nod. If someone pisses us off, we'll just walk away. This extends to driving, which is fundamentally an individual experience. If you get cut off, you might shout about it, but you'll do it in the privacy of your own car. You might think something like "God, I'd love to just go over there and let the bastard have it" but it would never occur to you to actually do it. Their bad driving is their problem, not yours. At least your car's fine.

In New York, it's a different thing. One of the things I love about New Yorkers is their openness. A New Yorker will talk to anyone. It doesn't matter who you are, or where you are, or wether or not you're from "away". To them, there's really not much of a difference between one person and the next. Everyone is worthy of being spoken to, and of course, everyone is worthy of being yelled at.

I think my first real New York auto-experience (is that a thing?) was when I accidentally took a parking space someone had claimed outside a Bloomingdales. I didn't realize they'd had their signal on, or even that they were there. When I got out of the car, I was greeted by the face of an enraged woman in large, blue SUV.

The following conversation must be read with the understanding that the SUV lady sounded as if she were about to explode, and I sounded like I had already exploded and was trying to recover.

EXT. MALL PARKING LOT - DAY

I step out of my car and head for the Bloomingdales entrance to the mall. I utterly fail to notice the large black SUV following me across the lot. 

SUV LADY
Hey, you! 

I do not respond. 

SUV LADY
You! Girl with the hair! 

At this, for some reason, I turn. 

ME
Um, hi? 

SUV LADY
You know that was my space! 

ME
What? 

SUV LADY
You just took my fucking parking space! I had my signal on, did you not see it? 

ME
I guess I didn't. I'm sorry.

SUV LADY
Yeah, you better be. Are you going to move it? 

ME
Do you want me to? 

SUV LADY
(as if it should be obvious)
YES. It was my space. 

ME
Oh, ok. I'll just go do that. 

SUV LADY
Idiot. 

And so, I moved. 

This was shortly after I started driving in New York, and the experience terrified me so much it took me a few weeks before I was comfortable trying it again. It wasn't so much the woman herself that threw me, it was the fact that I was now in a place where not only was my driving being constantly watched by the drivers around me, but if I did something wrong, they'd be sure to let me know. I've been flipped off more times than I care to admit, which to a New Yorker, seems like the natural result of being a driver. 

But as long as I may live in New York, and as many times as I might find myself the target of profuse swearing on the way to New Rochelle, I will never escape my New Hampshire roots. The idea of taking the time to personally shout at someone for their driving will always seem odd to me, as will the idea of constantly driving like you're in a rush. I will forever be worried that I'm driving in the wrong lane, or taking the wrong turn, and someone will hit me. Worse, that they'll talk to me.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

One Year

We forget sometimes how long a year actually is.

All years are long. They are eventful, and painful, and absolutely nothing like what we imagine they will be on New Years Eve.

Last year, when 2012 came to an end and 2013 began, I stood in front of a fire and burned the words "The End of the World". My cousin suggested it. The metaphor referred to both the Mayan apocalypse and my own tendency to focus on mundane events as if they held earth shattering consequences.

But that wasn't really the end of a year and the beginning of another. Technically, chronologically, yes. The year we were all supposed to die had ended. We could pat ourselves on the back and celebrate that we had made it through. But, for me, nothing had really ended. Nothing had really changed.

My ending came a month and a half later. One year ago today.

I could write about what's happened to me in that year. It was a lot. More than I knew, or ever would have imagined could happen in a year. But I've already done that. I've thought about it, and talked about it, and probably made it more significant than I should have. That's what you do, I suppose.

One year later, and I find it surprisingly difficult to be retrospective. Is that a good thing?

It's cold in New York. Colder than it was a year ago. It's clearer now, but changed. I feel like it's been forever since I've been here...but I was really only gone for a year. Less than that, actually. I feel like I've lived an entire separate lifetime - like I've been born, then died, then come back to exactly what I had before. Can you live an entire lifetime and come back exactly the same?

I doubt it.

But you can sit around and revel in your change. In my case, being a year removed from the early hours of February 17 is anything but bad. If I feel myself being pulled back to it, I can just remind myself of that other life I led, and it's a bit easier to force myself away again. It gets easier the long I'm away from it, and I suspect it will continue that way.

But it's inevitable that being exactly a year away from something will also, somehow, pull you back to it with a greater force ever before. All the progress you made is suddenly both readily apparent and meaningless. You can try to run away, and you're very capable of doing so, but the date makes the memory slightly quicker.

So, whether I like it or not, February 17 will forever be my new year.




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What To Do?

I've got about a half an hour to kill. The Daily Show has already been watched. I've checked Facebook and Cracked. I've checked my e-mail (both personal and school) and have even resorted to checking Twitter.

And yet, here I am.

In Colombia I would occasionally run into this problem. Breakfast was at seven, and most people had to be out the door by eight, but I never had to leave until nine. I would find myself in an empty apartment with no one but Rosa to talk to (my Spanish was so basic, at the time, that our conversations could really only go as far as "Buenos dias, como esta? Esta jugo de mora?") Occasionally, I'd have another volunteer going with me to blind school, and we'd hang around trying to figure out what we were going to do that day. During the period when I was teaching at the school without the woman who ran the program, I spent a number of mornings pacing back and force across the living room while Jay, a friend of mine who had agreed to come with me, watched a Korean drama and told me to either calm down or go to hell. When I wasn't fretting, I usually read or listened to music.

But that was South America. That was me when I wasn't considered a "student." You become an entirely different person the second you step onto a campus - and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why. It's true that, as a student, you are suddenly burdened with all the responsibilities of studenthood, the severity of which can be quite overwhelming. But when you're on your own, you have just as much to worry about. You may not have to think about when your next paper is due, but you do have to consider where you're going to live, how much money you have for rent, what you're going to eat, how you're going to teach three classes of Spanish-speaking blind children when you can only speak a smattering of Spanish.

And yet, with all that to worry about, I still found myself with an enormous amount of time to devote to reading, writing, painting, and any other hobby I felt like pursuing. I read more books during my six months abroad than I had read in years. Originally, I thought it was because I had shaken off my internet addiction (among other things). Despite the impressive list at the top of this entry, my internet usage is nowhere near where it used to be. I get tired spending hours on end online, and I mostly use it for Google Docs and Facebook. Having recently re-learned how to function without it, I returned to what I actually enjoyed doing.

But, for some reason, despite keeping it up through the trip, and through two months at my parent's house, the second I returned to a college environment, I became too stressed out and tired to do anything but sit around watching Bob's Burgers on Netflix again. How did that happen? I have no idea. My workload isn't even that bad. It's been relatively easy to keep up with, and I'm generally finished with it all pretty early. How is simply being in a college environment inherently more stressful than the outside world? And, why?

You always hear that college, for all it's stresses, is a cakewalk compared to the "real world". You're supposed to "enjoy it while you can" because as soon as you graduate and are faced with the pressures of actual adulthood, everything goes to shit. And you know, maybe it does. Adult life is probably a lot harder than I think it is - having only spent a few brief months experiencing it. But from my naive observation, at least as an adult, outside the "high school in dorms" atmosphere of college, you can be slightly closer yourself. You have less to prove.

But of course, everyone is different. Certainly everyone's adulthood is different. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems when you're outside it. And if it's one thing I learned while not being a student, it's that I am very, very young.

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Took A Trip On The Starship Enterprise

So far, living in Enterprise again has been fairly uneventful. 

I've managed to keep a decently low profile. I haven't dyed my hair any outrageous colors, I don't play my music too loud, and I try to keep the television and angry Spanish homework screams to a level no one else will hear. On my first day, I played the guitar for a bit, but since realizing that you can easily hear the sound of a guitar from the hallway and bathrooms, I've not touched it. 

I think most people know me as a visitor. There are two people I interact with on my floor on a semi-regular basis. One of them is my neighbor - another senior here past the four year mark - who informed me that the previous resident of my single was someone named "Elizabeth" who vanished after a man came and tore her name off the door. The most likely explanation is that she dropped out or graduated, and the man was either her father or a representative of Reslife. I'm choosing to believe there was something mysterious and otherworldly about it, mostly to keep myself occupied while I'm trying to fall asleep at night. 

The other person I see regularly is my RA. She lives about three doors down from me, and is pretty outgoing and easy to talk to. We're both taking the second half of Advanced Screenwriting, so we're both going to have to find a way to successfully write ten pages a week while not losing our jobs. Her script, as she pitched it the other day, was really interesting. A sci-fi sister story I would totally take my sisters to. It's ending in particular excited me, though our professor told her to revise it. I hope it doesn't change too much, but then, it's not my script. Still, I would love to see it in theaters. I could easily see it as the new Hunger Games. 

The fire alarm has gone off no less than eight times since classes began last week. Enterprise always was famous for it's sensitive alarms. It's usually hairspray. 

The alarm itself is loud and blaring - the kind of sound you'd expect to herald the approach of a nuclear disaster. It will start suddenly, anxious and upset, and then build as you run around the room trying to remember where you put your shoes and coat. By the time you've thrown everything on over your pajamas and stumble out into the hallway with the rest of your annoyed and fairly zombie-like floor, the alarm will inevitably sound like the world's most intrusive and nagging parent. You know you need to leave the building, you're aware that though it's probably someone burning popcorn in their microwave, it could always be something worse. Yes, Mom, we get it. Please let us exit the building in peace. 

I should note that this is no way a comparison to my own mother. My mother's nagging does not sound like a fire alarm, and is generally triggered by something I've done (or, more typically haven't done) that was legitimately stupid. You get the idea. 

Once we've all filed out of the building in as close to an orderly fashion as we can managed at one in the morning, the courtyard between Enterprise and our neighboring hall, Vander Poel, is suddenly filled with the least energetic angry mob on the face of the earth. There's always someone who manages to find out whose room triggered the alarm, and when the person is discovered, it seems for a brief, exciting moment, that the entire building is going to sacrifice him or her to the housing gods. Then, of course, the moment goes by. We all realize that not only have we forgotten our torches and pitchforks, but we've all probably done something just as stupid. Being angry takes a lot of effort, and over-tired, freezing cold college students are not the sort to be bothered with effort past midnight, if it's not going to help raise their GPA. 

You are then left with several choices to pass the time: 

1.) Find someone you are remotely friendly with in your building and stand around commiserating. An attractive option because, of course, misery loves company, but also because it assures the rest of the building that you, indeed, have friends and are a relatively normal person. It's also a good way to make friends, since the person you wandered over to complain with will inevitably have their own friends who you will get to meet and possibly forge a lasting friendship with. Or you'll hate them. 

2.) Decide "fuck this" and walk across the street to Dutch Treats. Dutch Treats is our on-campus convenient store - convenient in that it's open 24 hours and doesn't stop serving sandwiches until four. Or possibly three. I'm not really sure. A fire alarm going off is a good opportunity to get groceries, and no one really minds if you stand in an aisle staring blankly at the microwave noodle bowls for a half an hour. Depending on the length of the evacuation, you could get there, buy some milk, say hi to the guy in the back who makes the sandwiches, and leave just in time to return to your room. 

3.) Call someone you know and complain to them. If you are lacking friends in the building, and don't want to spend the meal points getting things you don't really need at Dutch Treats, the "call a friend and bitch about your building" option is a good alternative. On the one hand, your friend will not be pleased that you woke them up at one in the morning to discuss something that doesn't really effect them, but on the other hand, if they're really your friend, they'll get over it in the morning and do the same thing to you should they be forced to evacuate their own building. 

4.) Force your significant other to either come and pick you up, or stand around with you. In last night's evacuation in particular, I heard many couples use the term "Valentines Day is coming up" and "Bring something warm." 

5.) If it's particularly freezing, Vander Poel will open it's doors to lost, cold, Enterprise students by announcing that it's lounge is free in the most secretive way possible, thus ensuring that no one will actually come. If you are one of the lucky people in the back of the mob to hear the announcement, you can hang out there, with the seven other people who heard, and check the window every five seconds to see if people are filing back in. 

Then, of course, there's the ever popular, 

6.) Stand around awkwardly by yourself, occasionally playing with your phone, wondering why fate has seen fit to force you outside in the middle of an evening's Hulu viewing, and didn't even have courtesy to warn you beforehand. 

As for me, I chose a skilled combination of options 2 and 6. I started in Dutch Treats, bought some milk for tea, and and then returned to the courtyard outside Enterprise to stand around checking Facebook on my phone. By the time I had come from Dutch, the social groups had already been established and it was too late to attempt to find one to crash. 

Eventually, they have to let you all back inside. There is a great migration towards the door that you will suddenly instinctively be aware of, even if you're not looking in the general direction of the mob, and everyone will file forward blindly. The crowd moves as one, like molasses, slowly oozing its way into the building towards the elevators. The elevators, of course, will not work properly, and the flow of student traffic will come to an abrupt and confusing halt while everyone waits for the elevators to cope with their issues. 

Luckily, I live on the first floor, so I just took the stairs. I put my milk in the refrigerator, turned my Roku back on, and returned to watching Rod Serling teach me about humanity through the use of elegant, science fiction parables. I could almost forget I had just been forced to stand around outside for no particular reason. 

So Enterprise is very much the same as it was when I last lived here, to the point where it's a little surreal. So much has happened since then. A part of me feels like if I take a stroll up to the eighth floor, I could find myself and let her know what's ahead. She'd probably just ask me why my hair looks so thin. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Please God, Not Beiber

So Justin Beiber's gone insane and everyone's surprised. The reaction went something like this:

NEWS
Justin Beiber did something stupid today because he's twenty years old, and thus, an idiot. 

VIEWERS
How dare he be an idiot?! There was once a period when he wasn't an idiot! It's as if constantly watching his every move during his fragile adolescence has in some way warped his mind! I feel personally slighted! 

NEWS
In other news, here's a list of the Top Ten Best Times Hugh Grant Stuttered in an Amusing Fashion. Oh, the nostalgia. 

VIEWERS
If Notting Hill isn't on this list there's no hope for this fucking planet. 

And so on and so forth. 

It occurs to me I should probably watch the news a tad more often. Being of the useless millennial generation, I admit I'm a bit more inclined to watch The Daily Show and read Cracked, but surely there must be something that hasn't been transformed into a social media vehicle. At the same time, my level of concern for the antics of pop figures I didn't care about when they initially rose to fame is pretty minimal. I just feel I'm missing out on this great outrage. Like when Miley Cyrus discovered sex and everyone went nuts. 

It is interesting to note that the coverage of Justin Beiber's fall from pop star grace has focused almost entirely on his delinquent actions, whereas the coverage of Miley has focused on her sexuality. Could this be, perhaps, because we expect young men to discover sexuality, but we're still surprised when young women find it? Pictures of Justin have seen him shirtless and tattooed and clearly trying just as hard to be a sexual icon as Miley. Why is that not as shocking? Why do men fall from grace with their actions, but women fall from grace with their sexuality? 

Perhaps, I'm over analyzing. Or, perhaps I'm not analyzing enough. This millennial generation only ever goes two ways - we either overreact, or fail to react enough. The same could probably be said of the generation before us, and probably was. We have a habit of declaring the new generation is the most important generation ever, and then promptly telling them they'll amount to nothing. I wonder if we'll ever realize how much we repeat ourselves? 

I have to go to Spanish class. Perhaps I'll ask someone there. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

In Motion

I spend a lot of time walking.

During the day I'll walk to school or work. I'll walk to meet a friend, or to get coffee. At night, I like to go walking with my ipod. The music is important, and a fairly good indicator of my mood, but it's the motion that's vital. Being still is problematic.

I've always been a walker. In high school I'd walk the same route around my neighborhood every night, generally listening to Keane, or the Doctor Who soundtrack. Occasionally, I'd mix it up with some Beatles or Amy Winehouse. I think I also listened to a lot of Queen. I'd walk the same streets every night, literally wandering in a circle. Surprisingly for someone with as minuscule an attention span as myself, the walk never bored me. I looked forward to it, and after a while, I needed it. I'm not sure why. Maybe the repetition comforted me. Maybe the act of walking and mentally reciting the lyrics to Under the Iron Sea was some sort of adolescent meditation. Maybe walking alone in the dark made me feel more interesting and mysterious. Maybe it was just nice.

It's interesting. I used to be able to churn these things out in minutes. Stream of consciousness writing is easy, or at least, it was. I haven't done this in a while, and since then, the entire universe seems to have become exponentially more complicated. My life has always been sort of narrative, in a way. It wasn't exactly complex, unless I made it complex. I had a tendency to blow things out of proportion. I was often anxious about inane things. I didn't feel my life was worth living unless it was dramatic and impressive.

Since I last wrote, I've seen and done a lot of strange things. I am both entirely different and exactly the same. I'm so far removed from that person in the RSR booth rambling about haunted doors and Eric Roberts. A part of me is glad for that. The other part hopes she isn't gone.

I've always said the world is very strange.