Life Crisis Solved: Mayonnaise as a Concept is Gross But Society Makes it Seem Okay

The Help. The Secret Life of Bees. The Kitchen House. The books that have always comforted me and given me advice have always been about black women. More specifically, a white woman writing about black women pre-civil-rights-movement and their interactions with a sweet, endearing, non-racist white girl. None of the experiences told in these novels are remotely racially conscious, none of them truly celebrating black women. They beat the Magic Black Woman trope to a cringe-worthy death. So, once I understood this, I wasn’t sure why I didn’t immediately sell my copies and move onto some better literature.

And then I listened to Glass Animals for the first time. The winter going into 2015, I was spooning a thick fingertip-sized mound of eyeshadow onto my lid, blending, when I heard “fresh out of an icky, gooey womb / woozy youth / dopes up on her silky smooth perfume” from my iPhone speaker. “Peanut butter vibes,” “Mind my wicked words and tipsy topsy slurs,” “Tripping round the tree stumps in your summer smile,” alliteration, food and nature imagery, a voice like warm, fuzzy butter. I realized that it wasn’t the hollow experiences that I enjoyed. It was the food.

It was why I liked watching movies about the south with my dad. Always an aficionado of southern American culture, taking us to southern-themed restaurants and watching Sweet Home Alabama were among his favorite pastimes. As I grew older, learned what the confederate flag really meant, and the intricacies of American enslavement, I started to resent his favorite things. And even when I became a vegetarian, I couldn’t resist freshly made chicken and dumplings with grits pooling into warm dishes at the kitchen table. It reminded me of my favorite books; Aibileen’s chicken, August Boatwright’s love of honey. Lavinia learning the ways of the kitchen house. Why did I (literally) indulge in these narratives? It all made sense now. I love food.

Writing this is making me hungry. I want bananas and thick, creamy peanut butter with gelato for dessert. I want all of the wines they describe in the book I’m currently reading, “a rosy, yummy mess of a California sparkling wine. Drier than it was sweet,” and I’ve only had boxed wine and a few $5 bottles from the front of the package store. I want to watch the food network channel, Cupcake Wars specifically, and listen to them list the ingredients needed for the perfect lemon buttercream frosting. I want to be the girl Glass Animals describes in Season 2 Episode 3, “Leftover breakfast, cereal for lunch / she’s broken but she’s fun / my girl eats mayonnaise / from a jar while she’s getting blazed.” And I hate mayonnaise. I don’t really like weed. But they make it sound great.

A lot of things make sense now. How Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is my favorite movie. How I write down all of the restaurants I visit, and why I need to have the Zagat app on my phone even though I can’t afford to eat more than cough drops at this point in my life. TLDR: I can’t wait to go to the farmer’s market tomorrow morning.

 

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For the Ones Who Stress Shower

Due to my constant and overbearing feeling of terror and loathing while I clomp down L/L’s stairs in dirty Jack Rogers sandals, preparing myself for breakfast, lunch, and dinner spent alone, I have come up with a repertoire of things I can latch onto to make this place feel more like Connecticut, more like a safe space, and more like home. Here are those things:

1. Talking to straight edge people. These people don’t have to have anything in common with you. You don’t even have to like them. You could be a cocaine addict or an alcoholic, it doesn’t matter. But if they refuse to do drugs or drink alcohol, there is a safe bet they are pleasant people. They will remind you that not everyone is scary and most importantly that not everyone thinks vaping is cool.

2. Memorizing a poem or song. Over the summer, I memorized (while procrastinating everything else of course) the poem Bygones by Marina Keegan. The poem has a lot of sentimental value to me and repeating it tonight walking to my dorm with a chocolate milkshake in my hand had real therapeutic value. I also like to play songs in my head, with lyrics flashing up on a screen like a lyric YouTube video, to take my mind off whatever the matter is at hand, which is usually being alone in a crowd of people wearing identical Birkenstocks.

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3. Reading for pleasure. Right now, I am reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. I don’t like it as much compared to The Vacationers, but reading a style of writing that is familiar is comforting to me. Making a point of buying yourself new books to read that aren’t for classes is so important, even if you only have five minutes per day to actually read it. Another way to fulfill this need and not spend money is to find blogs and read the shit out of them. I read The Messy Heads and The College Prepster (who also has a shit ton of tips for college students), and when I was an underclassman I read Rookie.

4. Focusing on the future. The weekend before real classes is a lot of waiting, and syllabus week will not be much different. Looking at internships back home and planning concert trips has been one of my favorite distractions. Going off to college knowing I would be visiting Michael in a few weeks and seeing Two Door Cinema Club has given me something to look forward to. I also purchased my passport, and I hope to find somewhere to travel to during Christmas break!

5. Preserving small pieces of your at-home routine. I make the same breakfast as I did every morning junior and senior year of high school (albeit, in plastic containers and with Walmart silverware) here, before my 8:30 a.m. classes or incoming freshman activities on weekends. I also still shower around the same time at night (9 p.m.) and write in my One Line a Day Journal that Maggie got me for Christmas before I go to bed. Small things like checking the Timehop app every morning help, too.

6. Being honest and vulnerable with everyone. College is so good, I’m sure, for so many people. But personally, I’m having a significantly difficult time with adjusting. In a lecture the other day, the speaker said to all of us, “Vulnerability fuels connection.” And something I have been lacking here is a feeling of connection, whether it be to the place I live or the people I live with. I am trying in all ways possible to be transparent with people, and maybe that seems off-putting to the person on the receiving end, but it makes me feel better about my experience.

7. Coffee. It’s the New England thing. It’s the pace of life. It’s what your mother and father and boss and next door neighbor and grandfather and professor and cousin-in-law all crave first thing in the morning. It’s the championing drink of successful, busy, lazy, unsuccessful, stupid, smart, human people. We all share the common human condition that is called “I need coffee.” And, personally, I don’t have the fucking time to use a tea press or whatever that is.

8. Always having your favorite childhood snacks on hand. Yes, I’m afraid of the freshman fifteen, but having a carton of Goldfish and a bag of Smartfood popcorn in my dresser drawer brings comfort to my soul.

9. Finding people from where you’re from. These people will reminisce on your area’s restaurants and highway traffic with you. These people are important and you need them to feel small moments of relief.

10. Never underestimate the power of FaceTime. My entire campus has functional Wi-Fi, so I never really use data, and that makes FaceTime all the more acceptable for my data plan. I FaceTime people walking to and from everywhere, especially when I have no one to talk to. FaceTiming my family is funny and they ask me embarrassing questions really loudly. I like the disruptive power of FaceTiming in public because people give you weird looks, and you should always strive for weird looks, especially in an already strange place because you have accomplished a new level of psychotic. (I have won a few of these and I’m proud.)

An Open Apology To Everyone Who Isn’t Me

I would just like to take the time to say I am so sorry to the world, because I can’t talk about anything but the future. I have become so focused on who I will be that the person sitting here typing this in Christmas patterned pajama shorts is not me. The person in the Christmas pants wants to go to Yale for graduate school and feels pressured to pick three or four activities to be good at and get a 4.0 because that is how you get into things. But she doesn’t know whether to fence or be a member of a philanthropic sorority or a Young Democrat or a student government leader or run artsy events or be a waitress.

This is why I haven’t posted in weeks. I have hit a wall. I don’t know what I’m doing. Every day when I’m driving I almost get into an accident with someone or run a stop sign because I am so distracted by the impending future. Fear of the unknown.

I remember to not care about these things right now only when I’m inside a small moment, watching a sunset on a beach or eating lunch with my little sister, but even then I only shut up for a moment and then become consumed with image, consumed with how to be better and how to make the most of the four years that start in one week. I have never been more addicted to technology than I have this summer. Yeah, I might go outside and do things and lead an overall healthy life but I constantly need a stimulant, something to distract me from the intense pressure I feel all the time. And that distraction has been completely changing my lifestyle and personality. I don’t know why I’m doing that. I don’t know why senior year me isn’t good enough for what’s ahead.

I’m supposed to be coming into my own, figuring out who I really am. But if I really like planners and sticky notes this much, then I am scared. I used to hate bright colors and drink tea all the time, and last month I bought bright pink shorts and I take pride in the mornings that allow a quick drive to Ashlawn Farm for coffee. I’m also afraid that all of this change is going to make my friends dislike me. And I kind of really need them right now.

All of this is making me realize that I can’t shut myself off. I wonder how can adults go on vacations and not care about anything except wine tastings and beach reads for two weeks and I can’t even simply work and lay in sand without freaking out every second for less than that. I know I should not be consumed with anxiety because I am going to be fine but I still am, because I like to torture myself for no reason. I need to get a dog or something.

But I know that I need to somehow get this out of me, because at my therapy appointment today I started crying because I forgot what it was like to vocalize my feelings honestly and deeply. I started telling her about how I was supposed to go to school in California yet that dream was crushed by my parents for no apparent reason, but I was so good with adapting to the restriction that I forgot how upset it made me. It really pissed me off because their acceptance rate was in the 40s compared to the 73.4 that the University of Vermont has. And all I want is to prove to people (and, of course, myself) that I’m smart. So maybe I’ll put on all my job applications that, sorry, I was supposed to go to a pretty good school but then my parents forced me not to and now I feel stuck and gross and scared. I feel like a complete asshole because in some weird way I feel my university is “below me,” but nothing is below me. Everything is some sort of opportunity and I should be grateful, and excited about it.

But I guess I’ll just go back to being okay with it, because there is no use in caring about it now. I’m lucky enough to afford a state school, and lucky enough to even go to college. But Ms. Gallagher told me I would “blossom” in college so I better fucking blossom or else I want my money back.

Comparing Love to Seemingly Poignant, Unimportant Events in Daily Life

 

I don’t know how you can tell if you have had your first love yet. Some people say it was their first relationship, that one person you dated forever and you aren’t sure how it lasted so long. Others insist it was Zac Efron or their second grade teacher. Most people say it’s the first person they considered marrying or their first “real” relationship in college (because anything pre-college isn’t real or valid and everything only counts if your courses begin with four random letters and end in three numbers). My question, forever, has been whether it needed to be shared love, requited love, to be a first love. Or a love at all.

I was reminded of my first love when I was craving grilled cheese today. And my friends reading this may cringe or groan or want me to shut the fuck up about this already, but fuck you guys, because this is my blog. But I am here to tell you all that a first love can be whatever you feel it to be. My first love, the one that sparked a lot of drama kind of like an HBO movie or soap opera, works at the one diner in my town that anyone really cares about. And from June 16th until now, I haven’t really craved a grilled cheese yet. I haven’t had my heart broken this summer, so I haven’t required one.

Seeing him evokes the feeling of my hair being super crunchy after driving with the windows down on 95, the itchiness of a day-old bug bite, and the uncomfortable sticky chill of a summer night all at once. Conveniently, I was experiencing all of these things physically when I saw his unwanted presence at his place of employment. I thought about how I had been feeling about him lately. Had I listened to Marina and the Diamonds recently? I think about his terrible driving skills whenever I impatiently pump my brake at a red light. But that doesn’t really count, because nobody else does that and it’s really muscle memory. As expected, he avoided me, and I was wondering if I was supposed to be sad about it. I wondered if he noticed that I blocked him on all social media. I wanted him to come over and ask if I wanted marinara sauce with my sandwich because he knows that’s what I get. And I wanted him to joke about the fake butter sauce on the popcorn.

But I also didn’t, really. I just wanted him to feel left out and stupid, like I had felt for the past one and a half years. Maybe I did that to myself, but I really think loves only end when you don’t see the person for a long time. Because I couldn’t get far enough away from him until I had to be; until we finished high school, and he moved, and he didn’t answer my text once and went canoeing with his girlfriend instead.

On the way home I put on the playlist I made November 15th when everything felt really heavy and important and every song I associated with him mattered. But there was something fake about the words of the song as I sang them. I wasn’t sad. I was just uncomfortable. My soul felt crunchy and like my driveway when I do a 32-point turn leaving my driveway: gravelly and punctured. I was trying to make a hole in myself with my own tires. And I know I was just testing myself, because I hadn’t revisited my first love in over a month. Doting on him felt grossly comfortable, like I was returning to a school year routine I had missed during the messy, unplanned summer. But I think being comfortable with abuse and misconduct is gross. My first love is gross and dumb and smells like fake butter when he gets home from work.

I think I am going to delete that playlist for a while and only listen to the Lumineers until I go to school.

And who are you to tell someone that their definition of love isn’t what they think it is? Love is relative. Love can exist in spaces and people that humanity refuses to acknowledge. I can love a shitty person and it is valid and real. I loved a shitty person and it was valid and real. I am so lucky that I get to leave him behind. I am so lucky that he is not my last (the fake butter thing would have gotten old).

If My Therapist Knew I Had Pinterest, She Would Be Mad

The moment my hand started to twitch toward my phone at a graduation party I attended last night, I knew I had a few issues. One of them was compulsive Pinteresting, which meant I was compartmentalizing again (defense mechanism, bad, furthered my depression and uncouth adoration of planners). Another issue: I was becoming the kind of person at parties that goes through one hundred Snapchat stories and ignores the living, breathing world around them. I also realized that I wasn’t sure if any of the people around me actually cared about me in high school. After these realizations, I texted my mom: “I think I’m too stressed out to have fun,” and tried to sneak some sort of orange juice related alcoholic beverage from the parent’s table.

There are so many other things that I could be doing right now. So many amazing, wonderful, life-changing experiences could come my way if I just worked a little harder at this or memorized that or stopped doing something. I play the “what if” game all too often: what if I realized that Choate was a thing in sixth grade and tried really hard to get in and then met a Kennedy and went to Yale? What if I didn’t do a Shakespeare play this summer and get the fucking lead and killed myself avoiding memorizing my lines? What if I had saved money for the past three years and went to Europe with all my friends? What if I just fucking cared more about things I feel like I’m supposed to give a shit about? Am I supposed to “give a shit” about finding Keurigs and sheets on Overstock.com? Is it normal that I go to the bathroom at work just to compulsively list what I think I need for my dorm? Why do I use Pinterest? Why do I stare at tan white girls in platinum Jack Rogers and almost drain my low amount of savings just to slip on $110 sandals and feel more… I don’t know, put together? Like I know what I’m doing?

Is this going to be the rest of my life? I feel like I am sixty five and retired with two dogs and an ample amount of Crossfit classes. My potential roommate looked at me with a straight face over coffee the other day and said that she wakes up in the middle of the night and writes down “buy trashcan” and “make sure closet hangers have grips” in the notes section of her phone. Why do I find that not surprising whatsoever?  Why is that normal?

I am becoming my favorite poem.

“I had a dream the other night that I was checking my email. / That dream sucks.”

“I want everyone else’s club and job and class / The grass I sleep in always browner than / Than that around erasing dreams / To sit and breathe,” (Bygones, Marina Keegan).

We are going to college because we are ambitious, right? So we can make changes and run equestrian camps and make food in a nice way? So we can go to Iceland and have it cost way less money because you can spend half your days testing glaciers that are getting screwed over by climate change?

“Ambition is a choice. / Ambition is a race we chose to run / So we could get here so we could / I don’t know so we could save poor / People or invent something or be in charge.”

Is life all about “justifying with tomorrow’s bliss”? Is the todayness of today meant to suck for the tomorrowness of tomorrow? But if the todayness of today becomes the tomorrowness of a tomorrow, will it ever even out? Do we get tomorrows if our todays are meant for tomorrows? Am I supposed to work forty hours a week so I can go to Block Island and pay for my car insurance? What if I die? Will the forty hours count? Does Block Island fucking matter? What happens to my car insurance when I’m dead?

I guess I’m just pissed off because I can’t get my parents to buy me groceries for the rest of my life. And at some point in college someone is going to ask me what I want to be when I grow up, but joke’s on me, I’m grown up and I need to decide, and I don’t fucking know. I will still be mad about horse girls and missed opportunities because the grass on the other side is fucking greener and manicured and cut one inch and three quarters length with hairdressing scissors and mine has been overgrown since the third grade. The sky is so clear on the other side that they can see the Freedom Tower from Fairfield County in the early mornings and I’d be lucky to see a dusty Long Island on the clearest day.

But that’s the fucking thing. My side, my grass, is fine. It’s literally just fine. I may not give a shit about my priorities, but I wake up every morning alive and intact and eat oatmeal with blueberries, chia seeds, oatmeal squares, chocolate chips, and minimal water while watching Gilmore Girls and I’m pretty okay with that. I may not be going to Europe or Nova Scotia or Mykonos and my summer post-high school may not include drunken bike rides or a shred of emotional security, but it’s fine. And even though it is really shitty to hear this, people feel cloudy and overgrown too. And then they look at you and think that you see the Freedom Tower and use San Pellegrino to water your grass. But you don’t. You know that you are skating by. But the human race is too pretentious and thick headed to be transparent and real. People would prefer to pretend they got their TJ Maxx dress at Lilly Pulitzer rather than admit that hey, spending money is not something you can do and it’s fine. It’s all fine.

“The middle of the universe is here, is tonight, / And everything behind us is a sunk cost / Lost in our oceans and our oceans are deep.”

“So we beat on / birds flocking south until we / circle round and realize maybe / maybe all that running wasn’t worth it.”

(Read the full poem here)

It’s Hard to Romanticize a Sweaty Seventeen-Year-Old Boy Wearing $100 Green Dress Pants and a Navy Vineyard Vines Quarter-zip, But I Did It Anyway

       The first time I really fell in love with Connecticut was when I met my third boyfriend: exactly my height, wearing Vans sneakers with dress clothing, at a fencing tournament in a local shoreline town, eating a bagel. I have a tendency to rebel against the basic principles I believe in, and, at the time, I did not go near people who spoke in favor of Wall Streets and skewed tax brackets or Chris Christie being our next president, but he showed me what I was truly missing out on. It was time for me to change again. It was time to shed the confines of my pretentiously hippie-liberal skin that defined my previous relationship and find someone else… someone else’s (conservative) visions and (suppressed) emotions I could devote my time to while completing the busiest year of my high school career. Because I was “ready,” I said, and I wanted to commit.

       And you’re not even supposed to find people at fencing tournaments. Everyone is either extremely odd, a tri-season athlete filling their time, or smart and rich. The odd ones date the other odd ones or barely understand the basic concept of social interaction, the tri-season athletes are douchebags, and the smart and rich ones are either taken or douchebags or both. But it was so early in the fencing tournament season, and I was in denial. And he made the effort to eat the classic tournament waffles with me in the cafeteria, while all the freshman girls on my team watched and reviewed him out of five stars. He smelled really good, but he had a lot of games on his phone.

       I told people at my college orientation that I dated this fencer-turned-engineer and we went to New York City together all the time. That is so implausible. I barely worked when I dated him. I was so poor. He was the one who fronted the bill for Colony Grill and Wild Rice. That is also the thing. We dated for less than a month. But his staunchly white golf hats and terrible taste in movies awakened something in me: that Connecticut does not exist in the small-town vacuum I thought it does, that there is more to the left of New Haven than I thought.

       My parents do not allow me as much freedom as most kids have, and in order to see him, I took trains. I drove an hour in a car over many crumbling bridges once as my mom complained about the world stopping once you hit the Q bridge. I listened to When You Were Young by The Killers and New York City by Among Savages in romantic excess, feeling thIMG_8851e whoosh of the train pull away, back to my reality. It was so cold, and the layers of jacket coating my skin made me shiver with nostalgic anticipation, because I knew it would be short. I knew short replies and purely Snapchat would cause our affair to surface. It was cold in the way that my cheap faux-leather boots made my stockinged feet sweat on the red linoleum floors of the Metro North train I took through neighboring towns to get back to New Haven, and feel the quiet, humming disposition of the mirrored tunnels and tired people clunking their way up stairs and through Dunkin Donuts lines.

       In that blank time I had the opportunity to think. That maybe people only knew what they knew, and boys had nine girlfriends in one year for a reason. And maybe it only takes a few dates to really show someone what driving a nice car through a rich city dotted with bulbous trees and sandy parking lots feels like. And it takes one second to remember that while you sit there in his expensive car driving through million dollar real estate listening to Coldplay, kids are fashioning drug deals and gun exchanges in Bridgeport streets only a mile behind you, and that he doesn’t care and you want to. And it’s okay that he wears Vineyard Vines, and you’ll buy your own long sleeve from a pretentious boutique in Madison with that whale on the front pocket months from now.

       But it’s not okay to feel forced to watch Talladega Nights while giving a hand job, and no one should ever have to be ignored for hours straight in a sticky metal-scented high school gym, and hugs are not too much to ask for, ever, from anyone. Bronx style pizza is not the devil, food service people are nice and tired and deserve your respect, and your seventeen year old boyfriend does not know everything and will never. He will go to WPI and learn how to wear a hard hat and tell people who do actual work what to do; what he does best. And some day he will profit off of disaster if he uses his back-up plan, investing in medical supply companies that will eventually eradicate the Zika virus or whatever new plague that flourishes south of the equator because that is how the world works. And sometimes you have to walk through Fairfield to really understand Bridgeport, and it does not take much for East Haven to blend into New Haven, and you will remember this when you meet the next aloof one percenter with soft hair and a vague interest in internet memes: people miss out on you, and then they go to engineering school and hate math, because they hate themselves and ruin their skin bleaching grass-stained golf caps the wrong way and you don’t.