Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Feministing's So You Think You Can Blog? Contest

I've already been yammering about this over at Dating While Feminist, but since I think Layla is the only one who stays up-to-date on the happenings there, let's just repeat it here!

So. Feministing is running a contest to pick their next contributor. I want that person to be ME. Here are some details:

Feministing is looking for a new Contributor. We’re looking for someone to join the Feministing team and blog for us once a week — someone who’s smart, funny, insightful, reliable, and raring to go. To that end, we’re holding a little contest.

Here’s how it’s going to work.

Next week, contestants who want to be considered must write two blog posts on the Community blog between Monday the 20th and Friday the 25th. Each of them should say “A SYTYCB entry” at the top and include the SYTYCB logo. Then, the Feministing team will pick several finalists, and those finalists will have another chance to show us their stuff before we pick a winner. It’s just like So You Think You Can Dance, except we don’t care how many fouettées you can do.

I’m relieved they don’t care how many fouettées I can do, as I don’t know what the fuck that is.

So! I’ve submitted my two posts. They're both on the site now, waiting for someone to decide that they're brilliant. Ha, ha. Wanna read them? Of course you do!

One is about Todd Akin (barf, groan, etc.)

The second is about vulnerability, and Fiona Apple, and some other badass women who make my little feminist heart roar.

If anything happens with all this bizness, like, say, I'm a finalist, of course I'll keep blabbering about it here, and there, and everywhere else on the Interwebs. If not, we'll just pretend this all never happened! Or something. 

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

One Week in Rome

The week we were in Rome, each morning we walked up to the hotel's rooftop deck, where we sat and ate croissants. I drank a cappuccino each morning and E drank orange juice. The sun beat down, hot, but I didn’t mind at all.

Afterward, we’d circle down the steps, and head out to the street.

Everything was ahead of us.

I don't remember the name of the hotel. But I remember that rooftop, and swirling my sugar into my foamy cappuccino each morning, and the way crumbs from the croissants flaked all over the table.

I’d look over E’s shoulder, and at the city, and think, Remember this.

The most wonderful part of it all is that I do.

I thought about this today as I stared out the window during a work department meeting. I could barely hear anything that was being said; I wanted nothing more than to be far away. I thought about this one week in Rome, now six years ago, and how so often, the things we expect to happen, that we might even plan to happen, don’t.

Today, instead of looking at Rome from the top of a hotel whose name I don’t remember, I looked out at the Chicago River, Navy Pier, and the shadows each beautiful building cast over the next. From the 27th floor, the traffic crossing Michigan Avenue seemed to be moving in slow motion. I could see the tops of heads in the boats on the river, and people crossing the bridge. Lake Michigan stretched out in the distance. It wasn't Italy. But it was something, and suddenly I didn't mind being exactly where I was: sitting perched uncomfortably on a windowsill in a meeting where I could barely hear anything.

Six years from now, I won’t remember a word that was said in this meeting, and it won’t matter at all. But it's a safe bet I might remember looking out the window, and thinking, and day dreaming, and the way a city can be so beautiful when you really look at it.

It’s good to remember, but it’s even more wonderful to be present.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Telling a Very Simple Story

After a day spent staring at a computer screen, trying to form words into coherent sentences, I sometimes—or maybe five times a week—leave the office feeling completely brain dead. It’s not just because of all the words, of the mind-numbing yet still sometimes wonderful aspect of copywriting, but it’s because of the sheer overload of possibilities. I'm at a computer with an Internet connection. Anything is possible: a new album to listen to, a beautiful essay to read, a horrifying piece of news to discover. The wondrous thing that is the Interwebs is also a never-ending distraction!

It all gets to be too much.

When I left the office tonight, I had to go to CVS to refill a prescription. (And guess what, Paul Ryan? It was birth control! Ha, HA, you dickhead!) Sorry. Paul Ryan being the antichrist isn't the point, here. The point is, I could barely even communicate with the pharmacist. Words suddenly made no sense. I think I might have actually been growling at him rather than speaking English. It’s all a blur. I really don’t know.

Thankfully, I have my walk to the train to help clear my brain, and help me return to being a human. Then, on the train, I started reading Maya Angelou's interview with The Paris Review, and it was like waking up from a good nap.

Maybe you're not also a geek who likes to read about writers discussing writing, but I bet it's safe to venture that all of us feel a little brain dead after a long day at work. And while she's talking about writing here, it's about so much more than that. It's about dealing with the "serious business" that is life, about growing up, and the utter scariness of "the truth about the human being"—and I find it brilliant and refreshing.

I hope you do, too. Here's the excerpt I'm referring to (all emphasis is mine):

Aren’t the extraordinary events of your life very hard for the rest of us to identify with?


Oh my God, I’ve lived a very simple life! You can say, Oh yes, at thirteen this happened to me and at fourteen . . . But those are facts. But the facts can obscure the truth, what it really felt like. Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.


Aren’t you tempted to lie? Novelists lie, don’t they?


I don’t know about lying for novelists. I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.


James Baldwin, along with a lot of writers in this series, said that “when you’re writing you’re trying to find out something you didn’t know.” When you write do you search for something that you didn’t know about yourself or about us?


Yes. When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.

Sometimes it's nice to step away from the computer, put the phone away, and just be reminded that, like the brilliant Maya Angelou, all of us share something (or at least I hope). Because aren't all of us, whether we're writers, or pharmacists, or politicians, just trying?

"Trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we're capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up..."

I know I am. And like she says, "It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story."

That's exactly the kind of story I want to write to live.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: In Misery Park

If the new The xx song isn't perfection, then I don't know what is.

Separate or combine
I ask you one last time
Did I hold you too tight?
Did I not let enough light in?

It captures all the reasons why I fell for The xx—the beats, both of their voices, and how they're so lovely, separate and combined. Just like this song.

We used to be closer than this, we used to be closer than this...

And then it's just over. 2 minutes and 45 seconds. And then it's just over.

It's not enough, so I listen to it again.

The same thing happens to me with this new Twin Shadow song, "Run My Heart":

He keeps saying he's not in love, but I'm not sure if I believe him or not. What do you think?

I know I like to get all teenage girl over my music, but fuck! The chorus! The refrain! And these verses:

You want to meet me out in the dark
You want to meet in misery park
By the moon , so low and lovely
With the gloom that's above me

You couldn't know what makes me dream
And I couldn't wear the things I've seen
Like the shake, the trembling fiends
Like ache of unused wings

Then there's this live session, plus this handwritten letter penned by George Lewis Jr., via Yours Truly:


Monday, August 6, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion: 'It's Never Too Late' for HelloGiggles

[image by Marco Nelor]
I wrote about my love affair with yoga, and HelloGiggles was kind enough to publish it! I'd love it if you check out the entire post, but here's an excerpt:

A few years ago, I dated someone whose mother was a yoga instructor. He’d be a ball of energy after doing mysterious stretches in his living room, saying strange things about “sun salutations” and “downward dogs” — I’d think how weird the notion of a “down dog” was, then go back to reading my book and feeling annoyed by his energy. A couple of times, he tried in vain to get me to attend his mother’s yoga class (if I remember correctly, my stubborn refusal led to a rather embarrassing argument in Border’s). No way. I was not going to a yoga class. I was not going to sun salute in the effing living room.
But then, I would see lithe, calm-looking young women on the train, a yoga mat rolled up and nestled in their bag. I would scowl at them. Yet inside, I secretly wished that I could be the type of woman who commutes across the city with a yoga mat in her bag. Later, further evidence about the magical powers of yoga happened when one of my co-workers started strolling in the office with a grin and energy levels that seemed almost manic as she hopped on my desk where I sat slumped, drinking instant hot cocoa. Her face was glowing. It was actually glowing.

“I’ve been doing hot yoga!” she would squeal. “I’ve been getting up at 5…”

And then I tuned her out. Getting up at 5 in order to take a bus halfway across the city, only to enter a steaming, 98-degree-heated room packed with all those lithe, calm-looking young women I’m seeing on the train? No, thank you. I will stay in bed and sleep. So when I thought again this fall about how much I wanted to be active, I said nothing about it. I just decided to do it. [read more...]

Hope you like it, and thanks for reading!