One of the most common conversations I get into with friends who discover that I really like horror movies is this: "Why are the ghosts/demons always women?" It's an age-old question, one that I've probably talked about already, but once you point it out to someone you can't stop noticing it. I've even noticed it in my own writing: I'm way more likely to write a female ghost than a male one, even though when you watch those shitty ghost re-enactment shows, the ratio seems to be about 50-50. If these little testimonials are any indication, you're just as likely to be haunted by Great-Uncle Bob as Great-Aunt Millie.*
I have a few theories that I offer when asked the aforementioned question:
- Women are more likely to be disenfranchised with limited options in real life, so their only recourse for the plethora of wrongs done to them is supernatural vengeance (c.f. the rape-and-revenge ghost movies like Shutter and Rose Red, or even that old samurai ghost story retold in Kwaidan, as well as the occasional slow-burner like Lake Mungo or Ghost Story)
- Women are considered closer to wilderness, savagery, evil, insanity, magic, so they are either explicitly more susceptible to the supernatural or just the quicker, lazier, easier option for the creator (c.f. a whole bunch of stuff, from Evil Dead and Infection to The Ring and Noroi and The Haunting of Hill House)
- Women are more likely to die a violent death - this goes with #1 (c.f. Ju-On, Silent Hill, What Lies Beneath, Retribution, all them Korean Whispering Corridors movies)
Demon possession movies are an extreme version of Theory #2, because demon possession in real life tends to be colored by the perception that young women are: 1) walking potential demon vessels, because they are the weaker/fairer sex, or further from God, or natural followers, or something - I really don't know, but something about Eve?; 2) really tasty demon food, sometimes because they can potentially bear the anti-Christ; 3) more likely to give in to temptation?; 4) so sweet and innocent and virginal and protected that it's more tragic and horrifying all-around (the same reason some Christians say believers are more likely to be attacked by demons: they're a more impressive conquest); 5) NO ONE EXPECTS THE LITTLE GIRL.
If you look at movies like Emily Rose
, The Exorcist
, and The Last Exorcism
, wherein you've got a pretty teenaged girl
writhing around in her nightgown and talking dirty to stiff, straight-backed male priests - and of course, the implication that the Devil has literally invaded this girl's body - you've got to conclude that there's some psycho-sexual shit going on, like the Devil is mocking and showing off our society's sexualization of young women who are, nonetheless, still absolutely required to be good girls (a lady in the street but a freak in the bed, and all that). Like we are so used to ogling and objectifying young women, well look at her now
. Like the most grotesque and disturbing thing we can think of, as a culture, is a wicked, furious, enraged sixteen-year-old girl - precisely because they are supposed to be pliant, happy, vulnerable, something for Liam Neeson to rescue. The irony is that she's still all those things, of course, because as the Paranormal Activity
trilogy sadly reminds us, it's the demonic spirit acting through her body. The Conjuring
is all about all this stuff, but also highlights a couple less common, but still pervasive themes:
- Ghosts and demons and poltergeists alike attack families when the father is out of town. Strangely, this actually does correspond to those ghost re-enactment shows. I always assume it's because the malevolent entity thinks the father is the alpha.** The father also tends to be the disbeliever/skeptic, compared to the histrionic mother.
- The truly most horrifying thing we can think of is an evil mother: a mother who kills her own children. I'm torn on whether this is seen as worse than or equally as bad as an evil father, because there are fathers-gone-rotten: Amityville, The Shining, Insidious. I think if you look at the news media, you get the sense that child-killing mothers are worse, because maternal instinct is assumed to be stronger, and men are assumed to be violent anyway. "Mother is God in the eyes of a child," as they say in Silent Hill, so naturally the topsy-turvy version of that Good Mother is going to be pure evil.
Put in this perspective, The Conjuring
isn't really especially right-wing. It falls right into place in a very old-fashioned, very Christian rendering of the supernatural genre. "God brought us together for a reason," Lorraine Warren says to her husband, who admonishes the besieged family for not baptizing their daughters. Note that it's also a very American Christianity here: the Catholic Church is no help because it's tied up in red tape, so if you want an exorcism done right you gotta do it yourself, Signs & Wonders style. It occurred to me last night that it's really quite incredible how much American demon possession movies align with the world view of a very fringe faction
of Protestantism along with other people who take exorcism and "spiritual warfare" into their own hands and are thus most likely to accidentally kill somebody in an exorcism. The most disturbing part of the movie for me comes near the end, when the demon is breaking the possessee's bones and Lorraine says, "We are now fighting for her soul!" This is in other exorcism movies too and I gotta say, few sentiments in horror movies seem as likely to lead to the deaths of actual people.
But I guess I've grown weary of movies like this - The Conjuring
even comes complete with a creepy haunted (girl) doll that needs to be kept in a glass case, how much more retrograde can you get? - especially when even Hollywood seemed for a while to be churning out new, different types of supernatural horror movies, like Insidious
, Cabin in the Woods
- not to mention the indies, like the extremely creepy and highly-recommended Lovely Molly
, problematic V/H/S
, The Moth Diaries
. I like to think that we can be more interesting.
* Speaking of Bob, David Lynch deserves credit for making one of the most frightening supernatural men ever, and one that clearly hates women, at that.
** Yeah, "malevolent entity thinks"... I know. Can never be too careful!
"Miles and miles of perfect skin, I swear I do, I fit right in. Miles and miles of perfect sin, I swear, I said, I fit right in, I fit right in your perfect skin."
- Hole, "Reasons to Be Beautiful"
This is an issue near and dear to my heart, so I'm actually going to respond to it: Can Male Writers Successfully Write Female Characters?
Rod Rees defends his female characters in a way that makes you really appreciate Cormac McCarthy's refusal to write female characters, because he just knows he can't pull it off. Because if there's one thing worse than a man who claims all women are incomprehensible, it's the man who claims to understand all women!
The old adage is write what you know and living in a house with two hi-achieving, confident and very ambitious teenage girls and having an intelligent and thoughtful wife (who happens to be beautiful to boot!) gave me, I thought, something of an insight into the female mindset.
Beautiful to boot! I'm sure that makes her easier to try to understand. Based on his descriptions of them, his female protagonists tend to be young, feisty, and ready and able to market themselves to men. They admire their breasts in the mirror, use their sexual wiles to get themselves out of a tight corner (the backseat of a Volkswagen?), and call themselves "a lush thrush with a tight tush." Rees protests that women do, indeed, objectify themselves. And yes, many women do - many women are constantly preoccupied with their bodies, but about 80-90% of the time, such preoccupation comes from a very scary place of self-hatred and envy. Even my most confident friends say things like, "bad news, I got fat :(" and when they tell their mirror selves, out loud, "I look hot," it's to combat the years and years of negative internal dialogue, their relatives' nitpicking, their boyfriends' secret stash of porn featuring women that look nothing like them, and of course, that ol' bugaboo, the media.
Rees also protests that women - grown-up women, that is, in the "visceral world of adult fiction" - use their sexual wiles. Yeah, also true; some women do. But again, it's accompanied by a whole host of other issues: flashbacks to uncomfortable/negative/non-consensual sexual experiences, fear of "something going wrong," and of course, the above body shame. There's also the issue of personality shame: "I'm too awkward," "I scare people away," "no one likes me," "I'm not popular." I'm not saying guys don't have this too - they do - but that this is a real insecurity experienced by many, many women (pretty much every woman I know) who are under pressure to be the kind of socially-adept coquettes that Rees apparently thinks is standard adult female behavior. And as I argued in my essay on Shirley Jackson
, women who fail to play the social roles assigned to them rarely if ever appear in fiction, and almost never as heroines. This doesn't mean there's not a hunger for them, among both men and women, which is why fucked-up, maladroit women like Kara "Starbuck" Thrace and Lisbeth Salander have proved so popular, and why I've got high hopes for Sonya Cross on "The Bridge." The issue, for me, isn't that Rees writes about women who don't exist. I'm sure they do, somewhere - there's a lot of women in the world - and they're probably fucked-up in ways that Rees can't imagine. The issue is that female characters like his are so obviously a male fantasy, and all they really do is contribute to the huge pile of excrement that is The Portrayal of Women in Media.
What it comes down to is this: spending your life looking at
women does not give you insight into what it's like to be
a woman, to think like one, to act like one. All it does is enable you to create avatars who fetishize themselves. When temporarily transformed into a woman for a movie, Dustin Hoffman came to the astonishing conclusion
that the world was full of interesting women that he had not deigned to talk to, because they didn't meet "his" standard of beauty - because he had been brainwashed. This is a really important discovery that more men need to make. To some extent, it goes both ways, but men have more social tools at their disposal: wealth, power, seniority, wit, or even just being "not creepy." By in large, women are still defined and judged by their physical characteristics.
Once female writers venture into the more visceral world of adult fiction they find this stereotype doesn’t work and hence struggle. Just a thought.
The stereotype, by the way, is the "ideal" heroine who doesn't "see herself as an object of male sexual interest" and doesn't "use her sexual charisma as a means of achieving an objective." This is probably the most woeful, enraging assertion of all, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Rees hasn't read a lot of books, or stories, or songs written by women. I mean, if he's really suggesting female writers write female characters who have no idea they're objects of male sexual interest, he really needs to listen to Courtney Love's entire ouevre, for one, and Catherine Breillat's, and Sylvia Plath's. Believe me: we know.
And actually, there are
female writers who write his type of self-fetishizing female characters: teenage girls writing bad fanfiction, copying what they've seen in some romance novels, some erotica, and male-gaze sex scenes. He's got plenty of company.
I'm starting to think that writing about contemporary politics (a political thriller!) from the liberal perspective is like trying to analyze security and war from a constructivist perspective: goddamn near impossible. Like a fish trying to ride a bicycle. Etc. My roommate says I will have bombs delivered to my mailbox if I publish this story, and I said nobody tried to bomb Margaret Atwood, but then again she could hide her true ambitions in extreme dystopia elements, which I'm not doing. This article
suggests I take my cues from David Baldacci, whose ads I sometimes see on the metro, or apparently turn to legal thrillers (also check out the conservative author's covers sometime. They are really very macho
Needless to say, I'm an Idiot Writer that does not think about readership
until it's too late.
As you can tell from the novel's playlist, it's mainly a love story. It's about the power of ideology, after all. Really more It Can't Happen Here
than anything with big block letters and the Capitol building engulfed in darkness and flames. It's not really about the people with fancy titles trying to stop plots - I don't even know what the President's name is, and anyway, can anybody really imagine me writing something where a politician is portrayed as anything but a half-cocked, rambling lunatic? House of Cards, this ain't. None of the main characters have any real national power, although the protagonists are Johnny-come-lately political activists. I also spend way too much time on interpersonal drama - I've been watching The L Word
and goddamn if that isn't the best relationship drama I've ever seen, although I am not surprised at all that the only thing that's come close for heterosexual relationships is the psychotic and unpleasant Nip/Tuck
- and rape culture and depression for this to be a true political thriller, I think.
- "Filth Noir" - Zeromancer: Sometimes you just have to risk it all to get what you want
- "Sometimes It Hurts" - Stabbing Westward: I hate myself when I try to get over you
- "Hey Man, Nice Shot" - Filter: I wish I would have met you, now it's a little late
- "Tensioning" - Sparta: The sky could fall, the bliss of beginning replaced with an ending
- "Not in Love" - Crystal Castles (Robert Smith): And we were lovers, now we can't be friends
- "Weapon of Choice" - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: I won't waste my love on a nation
- "Is Your Love Strong Enough?" - How to Destroy Angels: Someone I could die for, there's no way I could ever leave
- "Bodies" - Smashing Pumpkins: Love is suicide
- "We Are The Lust" - Death in June: Hold the knife, bloodied, to the throat of love
Also, Glenn Beck's written another novel, and it's a (surprise!) dystopia
- as far as I can tell, the UN appears to be committing genocide in the name of protecting the Animals of the Earth.
... this one just came out of the swamp."
- Radiohead, "Optimistic"
Orson Scott Card is no longer contributing to the Superman mythos, and people are very happy about that because of his stance on gay marriage and homosexuality in general (being a Mormon). This being the first I'd heard about any Card/Superman shenanigans, my reaction was "Well, of course he wants to write about Superman. Superman is probably perfect for him. He probably thinks Superman is the perfect Mormon, just like Stephanie Meyer wrote vampires as the perfect Mormons."This
blog, for instance, explains that Card should not write Superman because "I do not think that an admitted bigot, whether bigoted for religious reasons or no, is qualified to write for the comic universe’s greatest symbol of truth, justice, and equality." I don't read Superman or Card, but I'm sure - sure
- that Card thinks he's got at least truth and justice on his side. Most people with strong beliefs don't think they're fighting for injustice and falsehood. Here's an example of the defunct British political party, Veritas
(note their primary policy, liberals). Here is the famous USSR paper, Pravda
. Islamist Justice Parties
are all over the place, like Indonesia's own Prosperous Justice Party
- and most Western liberals don't think of Islamic law as the foundation for justice. Truth, Justice, it just sounds like a good place to start. And a character like Superman - who to me is the boyscout superhero with an unshakable dedication to all that is good - is going to be an appealing totem for any movement that thinks it's got righteousness on its side.
I don't begrudge Chris Sprouse, the would-be illustrator, his decision not to work with Card. I don't begrudge not supporting Card. I don't begrudge liking Superman. I'm not even saying there is no absolute Truth or Justice. But Superman is a symbol anybody can claim. Card writing Superman is not like a misogynist writing Wonder Woman
, because Superman's not gay. Superman is a boy from a farm in Kansas who just wants to help people with his incredible strength. Sounds like a good place to start. Boys Wanna Be Him, Girls Wanna Be Him. DBZ fandom was the same way - jam-packed with conservatives and libertarians who read totally different messages in what I thought was The Great Post-Colonial Disaster. Stephen Chow explained it very graciously: "the airy and unstrained story leaves much room for creation." The main reason I'm writing this is because I am familiar with the feeling of frustration you get when something you love is terribly "misread."
I also know that with that feeling of indignation is a little hint deep inside that maybe you're
the the one misreading things all along. There was once a xenophobic facebook group, for example, that used The Lord of the Rings
and Aragorn's "I Bid You Stand, Men of the West" in particular as its mascot. I love LOTR
, and I love Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn, and that is not what they represent to me, but I'm not going to pretend there is no xenophobia in that story, and that the facebook group creators were totally coming out of left (right) field. l do think there's something about simple hero epics that appeals to a more conservative - and more ideological, on either side - audience overall. It's the absolutism, I'd guess, and the masculinity. So I also think Superman is a symbol someone like Orson Scott Card can easily claim. Hooray.
Also, this is why I study -isms like fascism and nationalism: because there's a reason people sign onto these things. These are words, ideas, symbols, codes that work.This song helped me come to terms with this. Hope it helps:
I promised Lindsey I would write this entry.
I recently decided to re-write a series of books I first wrote in junior high and high school (I wrote one book a year). They were really quite terrible in too many ways to mention, but I was also a teenager. I wrote most before I read anything truly good. I decided this mostly because I think I had some really fun ideas in those books, especially pertaining to politics and religion, which are my favorite subjects, and like I "owed it" to the skeleton of this seven-novel series to not just let it crumble in obscurity (born in lust, turn to dust). I think I also decided to do this because these characters were people I knew, long-forgotten friends who saw me through my most hormonal, unstable years. And I missed them. We've been through a lot together. I named the series after Walton Ford's "Sensations of an Infant Heart" (this is the only thing I've ever written to Harper's Magazine about - I emailed the woman in charge of the art department and said, "So I have this picture from your magazine of a chained up monkey strangling a parrot and I have no idea who it's by, please help?" and she wrote back, "Oh, it's Walton Ford. What a picture, amirite?"). I think I knew while writing it that it was juvenile and half-baked and that I wasn't ready for the story I was trying to tell.
I started publishing short stories a couple years after I finished the last book of this series. I don't feel very much for my short story characters. This enables me to do to them what I could never have done to these first proto-characters, my Adam and Eve. It enables me, supposedly, to view them objectively. There are some that have stayed with me more than others, like Lizbet from "Pugelbone" and the unnamed narrator from "Intertropical Convergence Zone," because they were drawn from places close to me emotionally - Lizbet was drawn from my blood, the army guy from, well, my dad and Suharto and other larger-than-life Indonesian men from my childhood. But most of them are pawns. I like to think they're reasonably well-rounded, but it's entirely possible that they read a little cold and distant because of this wall I put up. I put the wall up for reasons that I thought were good: I was way, way too invested in my proto-characters, it got in the way of the story, and in the end their characterization suffered for it. "Are You Hurting The One You Love," indeed. I know that Kill Your Darlings refers to words, but after this series I decided to use it with my characters. These characters' next permutation were still near and dear to me, but much less so. Because I was also becoming a better writer throughout this whole process, I associated the technique with good writing.
And I think this affected the way I read other books and watched movies/television, too. I stopped getting emotionally involved with other people's characters. I had gone through a period where I was very involved in fictional characters - incidentally, at the same time I started writing my overly-emotional series - and I was embarrassed by that side of me. Sure, there were characters I liked, a lot, like Dale Cooper and Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks and Starbuck and the Agathons from Battlestar Galactica. I think I only ever fell in love with Billy Budd, of all characters, after the calamity of The Song of Roland (and yes, they all end up dying, always), and maybe a little bit with Yossarian. It took me a long time to find a female character I genuinely liked, and then I found myself much more sympathetic to a whole host of them: Eleanor Vance from The Haunting of Hill House, the narrator of The Bell-Jar, April from Revolutionary Road, Lily from Run, River. But for the most part I appreciated these books and movies for other reasons - words or stories or ideas. A lot of my favorite stuff, like A Sound and the Fury and The Violent Bear It Away and almost everything I've read by Cormac McCarthy, were populated entirely by noxious, terrible people. I wanted to see their worlds collide, I wanted to watch them climb over each other and go up in flames, but there was no visceral attachment.
Then I decided to rewrite this series. Around then I started watching The Tudors (I know, I know), and I got all invested in the tragic queens. I've gotten invested in television characters before though - I think it's an effect of spiraling melodrama, it catches you up the way sports catch you up - so that in and of itself was not worth much. But I did end up writing a story based on Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn, because they wouldn't get out of my head. And then when I came back to DC this semester, I started watching that free Netflix series, House of Cards. And I "met" Peter Russo.
Everyone I know who watches that show - and my sample size is all male, for what it's worth - loves the main character, Francis Underwood, because he's "boss" and callous and cool and is in control of everyone. I think Francis is evil and horrible and shitty, but I totally fell in love with Peter's character. I would start episodes being like, "Peter, you'd better not [insert stupid thing here]." And Peter is a terrible judge of character and an addict, so there's a lot of "Oh Peter Russo no" in the show. Peter is weak, while Francis is strong. Peter has big dreams and really deep lows, while Francis is always level-headed, rational, logical, focused on the prize. At the time I wasn't sure why I loved Peter so much. I decided later that he reminded me of who my male proto-character was turning into, and man, I always loved/hated that guy - and it recently occurred to me that my proto-character evolved this way because he's like the id version of myself: the volatile, angry and depressive mess driven by resentment and self-hatred. Starbuck is the female version of this, which is I think why I like her. And my female prototype, the stoic good girl, is my super-ego side that most people see on a daily basis while I work and study and listen to people's problems. This is a surprising realization, to say the least (and not one I was at all expecting), but may go along the way toward explaining why I keep writing this duo over and over, until the end of time.
Organizing and planning the rewrite is like a drug to me now (the outline for the first book - thankfully I scaled it down from seven to three). I do think that the edited/overhauled version has a lot of potential. I think it reflects how much older I am now - the characters and their relationships and the context they operate in are all vastly changed, having been boiled down to their core and seen for what they really are: damaged people, in many ways, the full extent of which I couldn't quite fathom as a high-schooler. I also think it picks at a raw nerve in me, and I've always picked at wounds.
I still can't shake the feeling, though, that real writers don't write this way - not the ones that end up living relatively healthy, balanced lives, anyway. I know that Caddy was Faulkner's heart's darling, but Caddy was barely ever on-page and never heard from directly - which mitigates, I would think, the detrimental effect of an emotional attachment to one's own creation. Because writing is business, right, it's politics and nothing personal?
One of my girl friends, A.C., came up to me last night at a horrible establishment called The Dirty Bar (populated by hardcore yuppies on the cusp of middle age, of really the worst kind) and said I am an inspiration to her. Why? "Because after we talked I realized that I need to focus on why I'm here: my studies, and my career, not worry so much about men. And now I feel so much calmer. I'm just doing my thing, enjoying life, having a good time." And I was thinking, when did this conversation take place? Was it last year? It had to have been last year.
Because I'm no longer in a position to give anybody advice, ever.
So hey! asakiyume
is making me do this meme.
It's going to be terrible because I am not actively working on this novel (all I can manage are little short stories, and even those I can't really manage
). Nonetheless! I am committed to the effort of someday writing this story, and I continue to modify it ever so slightly in my sleep. Also I am totally re-doing the series of books I wrote as a high school student and turning them into a treatise on the religious right. You heard right. But first, after-the-apocalypse.What is the title of your book?Junction Rally
, followed by Pleading the Blood
and On Fire for God
(again: this is not the religious right trilogy). Where did the idea for the book come from?
You don't want to know. In its current permutation, however, it came from stories about non-white children who are taken away from their parents and raised "white." Also: from being intrigued by post-apocalyptic scenarios and then confused as to why none of them went in the direction I would have gone in. Also: being angry at humanity, and this song
: "Wield it wisely, and wield it ruthlessly." Fun fact: that's how I strive to wield that sword.What genre does your book fall under?
Fantasy. Horror? Probably some kind of Fantastic Horror, but I'm sure it would be put next to the other grim, ashy post-apocalyptic books with lonely men carrying guns in a bookstore, never mind that on my cover the man would be pointing the gun at himself. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I am actually one of those annoying TV-generation writers (when I first started writing I saw everything as a movie, which is why my writing was so terrible and why my mother was like, "uh, are you sure you don't want to be a cinematographer?) who has a whole cast sketched out, but they would all be either dead or old or in rehab by the time this gets made. Nonetheless, I would want my main character to be played by someone like Joaquin Phoenix in Signs
, managing to be earnest, passive, and dopey all at once, and my main antagonist to look like Channing Tatum pretty much at any time. Oh, and my morose primary female character to look like Eva Green in Womb
. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
Trapped in one of America's last villages, a young "demon" tries to be "good" in the hopes of being accepted as a human.Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I would want an agency, but this is so far down the road, I don't even...How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About six months of pretty solid devotion to writing (and schoolwork).What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
Well, this is my never-ending problem, because I basically read literary fiction, and usually non-contemporary literary fiction at that (1920s-1960s precisely), and I have a lot of issues with most post-apocalyptic fiction especially. I can tell you that despite the social conservativeness of many of the more loutish characters, it is the anti-Under the Dome
. That said, of the books I love, I would say it aims for something that harks closest to O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away
, the Ibsen plays An Enemy of the People
, and McCarthy's Outer Dark
. I can't emphasize enough that I am not saying I can write like they can. If we can go to other media, though, it's kind of 100% Battlestar Galactica
set in a small town in Nebraska, then smashed together with Twin Peaks
. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I have no idea. I felt it was an important story to tell, for whatever reason.What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Exorcisms (fake and real), cannibals, small-town politics, baby-ghosts, wolves, (heavy) gender politics, moonshine, mundane evil, social analysis, moral conundrums. That's just in the first book! Even more shit guaranteed to go down in books two and three, including but not limited to angels, demons, "dragons," California, decapitation, dysfunctional families, and true love.Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
Any writers who see this are welcome to do it.
So, the movie Cloverfield
(which I love). I've always felt (still feel?) that it is a movie about young urban self-important assholes with no survival skills and no common sense, and the fact that this very small bracket of humanity is the movie's entire cast is actually one of the things I like about it - there's no slow old person to die tragically, no plucky blonde child, no religious/gun-toting nut, etc. It's just all these yuppie scum fresh out of a going-away party where one of them is going to Japan, of all places. The apex of their stupidity, I've always felt (still feel?), is the part where protagonist Rob decides that he must go to Columbus Circle to get Beth, his best friend that he hooked up with once who he is now apparently in love with. Because everyone else is locked into their follow-the-leader duckling march, they all go to Columbus Circle with Rob and in the end... everybody gets out of Manhattan and lives happily ever after! Just kidding. The opposite of that, actually.
So every time I watch Cloverfield
, I'm like, "Rob! You moron. You are moving to Japan. Beth came to the party with some guy you don't know. You don't even know if she's in her apartment. There is a monster eating people and the monster hangs out around Central Park, you idiot. Look at all these people with you who are following your directives for some dumb reason. It's not like you're married to Beth! GOSH."
But now I'm like, wait. I get it. If we were Rob and Beth (and I was Rob), I would totally go to Columbus Circle, if nothing else because the thought of going the other way (to safety) without knowing he was okay would be so utterly soul-destroying. I know that's a lot to say. I really do. I have these moments where I'm walking home in the dark thinking about things and my eyes get wide and I'm like, "oh my God, this is my life."
And that is, of course, if I was Rob. I have no idea what would happen if I was Beth and I was skewered to my apartment floor by a fallen pole. I don't know if he would come for me, which is terrifying. That is how I feel on the not-so-good days*, skewered to a floor, which is maybe why I actually tend to feel really "floaty" on those days, because my real soul is actually stuck somewhere far behind.
It is crazy how much changes in a year. Above ground, of course, nothing has changed. I am still stuck in the underground research center working on stuff for Professor A.'s class, and B. is still sitting across the room from me. He is still trying to start conversations with me that go nowhere. But underground, I don't care about B. or anything he's doing at all. Running around, finishing his thesis... whatever, dawg. He needs to send me his notes and I don't even approach him. Just don't sit next to me right now. And I'm not even actually working even though I have a midterm due tomorrow, I'm talking online to L., because he is going to some autonomous province of China I didn't even know existed tomorrow, and it is more important to spend two hours talking to him than to get citations into my essay. Anytime, anywhere. "Stop making me laugh," I'm telling L. (I'm in a Quiet room that actually functions as Silent thanks to passive-aggressive graduate students), "B. will shoot death-glares at me."
Sometimes I go back and read Gmail conversations and Facebook messages from last fall: the agony and the irony, they kill me, whoa.
* Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck, some nights I call it a draw.
"It's always darkest before the dawn."
"It's always darkest before it gets pitch black."
- John McCain misquoting Mao Zedong
Last semester I described
The Birthday Massacre's album Pins and Needles
as the album that summed up my (lack of) emotional health at the end of my first year of graduate school. This semester, that album is shaping up to be Garbage's Not Your Kind of People
, though interestingly I am not a big fan of the titular song. The good news is that I think as a whole it's actually more upbeat and optimistic than Pins and Needles
, despite how I feel right now. So I guess that's good? Or I've finally had my mental break and will live delusionally happily ever after, like Jackie-O in The House of Yes
? Who knows! Tune in to find out!
I increasingly feel way too old for mass-drinking and house-partying, although sadly that is the definition of social life in graduate school. More and more I just want to grab dinner with a friend - an actual friend, a true friend, not a frenemy or an acquaintance - and just talk about things. I just want to walk miles to a store, buy nothing, and walk back. I'm tired of wasting my time sipping cranberry vodkas, perching on heels in a skin-tight dress, with people I don't even like
- witness to the most dire of conversations:
Me: "You're still dating that guy?"
Me: "So what's he like?"
Friend: "He's super hot."
Friend 2: "I can't date guys that are too good-looking. They have to have something that's a little wrong with them."
Friend 3: "And they have to be good in bed."
Friend 2: "Yes. That's important."
Friend 3: "That's more important."
Friend 2: "Truth. [Her boyfriend] is really good in bed."
Friend 3: "[Her boyfriend] is too."
Friend 2: "Yeah."
Friend 3: "[Boyfriend] is like really good in bed."
It's weird, because if you asked the guys in our group about their significant others, I guarantee those would not be the first things out of their mouths. And granted, maybe they'd be different with other guys - but the girls are like this with everyone. Maybe they need to prove themselves to men and women alike? Also interestingly, the girls who graduated with this degree last year seem not to tend toward these types of conversations. I was in a group with both the M.A. '12 and the M.A. '13 girls, and there was definitely an awkward moment when the M.A. '12 girls were debating the finer points of something the M.A. '13 girls had never heard of, and Friend 3 (above) just kind of extended her plastic smile and nuzzled in close to her boyfriend. The M.A. '12 girls also graduated in their late 20s as opposed to early-mid 20s. Perhaps there is a connection there.
Anyway, as I told Whan today, maybe I should just learn to laugh about it, so I can still at least have an all right time at these events. I mean, if it's all just "Gangnam Style"
anyway (and last year it was Shots Shots Shots), might as well laugh. The problem is that I don't think I can have my entire social life consist of this kind of bullshit. I think that might cost me my sanity.
Today I am cleaning red wine puke stains out of our (beige) corridor wall. I started with something called Basic Cleaner (fail), then 409 (a little bit), then Shout (pretty good). The next, hopefully final step is bleach. Bleach, erase, eliminate. I feel like this is some kind of cathartic moment for me. Or maybe just a variant of the fantastic Specials song "Friday Night Saturday Morning," which includes, "wish I had lipstick on my shirt, instead of piss stains on my shoes."( don't know why they're calling on the radioCollapse )