Let’s Get Complicated!

I’ve done karaoke once in my life. I was approximately 8 years old at a neighborhood get-together with my family. One of the neighbor girls that was about 4 years older than me and basically my hero was also there, and she said that we should sing a song. She chose Complicated by Avril Lavigne.

I knew zero of the words.

I can still remember how red I got and how embarrassed I was as I stood in front of the TV cradling the microphone and wanting the song to end. Then afterwards, we chased the neighborhood boys through the desert and some kid got a stick shoved into his hand and somebody called me “dude” and I felt like such a bro.

Great memories.

Ten years later, though, I find myself asking the question, “Why do we go and make things so complicated?” While I think this question is pertinent to several aspects of life, I’m going to discuss one in particular because it fascinates me: romantic relationships.

Last night, I watched the movie Moonrise Kingdom after it was recommended to me as a movie that will make you sit back and think about life. Following the journey of two children, the movie takes you through their runaway trek and the simplicity of being twelve years old and in love.

They make it seem so easy.

I know times have changed, but when I was twelve, I didn’t worry if my best friend was sleeping with my ex or why my crush keeps liking other girls’ pictures on social media. But as we get older, more things get thrown into the equation, such as social media, college, work, and the unspoken pressure of living a heteronormative life with your significant other and children in the house you own with the job that makes money by the time you’re 30.

And while these things do pose obstacles, somewhere along the line, we chose to make those obstacles important dictators of our relationships with others. Somewhere we decided that getting an astronomical amount of likes on a staged bikini picture and analyzing each like to make sure the guy you’re texting liked your picture and not another girl’s picture is more important than being in the moment and being yourself with the people you’re around. Somewhere we decided that stalking the Snapchat map is more important than using a paper map or Google maps to plan an adventure. Somewhere we decided that conforming to these unspoken standards of how to be a perfect, likable, popular person was more important than creating real relationships and connections with others.

I’m so guilty of it too. I meet someone I’m interested in, and I’m all up on every social media site that I can find them on. At the risk of once again sounding like a stalker, one time my best friend and I were trying to figure out the best way for her to ask this guy out. We couldn’t find him on Facebook, so we checked Instagram. Couldn’t find him there, so (and this is where it gets real creepy) we resorted to trying to find him on LinkedIn. Like, who does that??

We live in a world of instant gratification. Hungry? Go through the drive-through. Bored? Turn on Netflix. Lonely? Download Tinder. Want to get to know somebody? Skip the process of face-to-face encounters, and find out all you can online. But I’m not having fun doing this, anymore.

Call me crazy or a dreamer or idealistic, but I want to be the person that doesn’t wear makeup because I’m not afraid of people seeing the authentic me. The person that talks to strangers in a coffee shop. The person that says, “I’d like to get to know you more,” then waits to do it face-to-face. I want to stop making love instant and complicated.

While all these thoughts were spurred by a fictitious story of two children, I have hope that it can be done in real life with adults. We don’t need to live one reality on social media and another reality to our bosses and another reality to our friends and another reality to those we care about. Let there be one reality, one where we care enough about others that we don’t dampen our relationships by being someone we’re not. One where things are a bit simpler and where love can start with a glance across the room and a cup of coffee instead of an insta-like and a DM.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Boy!

The last few weeks of April in college are fun with impending finals and projects looming down on you, the mass amounts of Easter candy at hand, having to find new living arrangements, and the lack of time in general. So of course, instead of working on an essay, I spend my time scrolling through memes on Instagram.

I had been following this meme page for a while, and while some of the memes seemed to be pushing it, most were quality humor. However, when coupling trolling while watching videos for my women’s sexuality class, my inner feminist EXPLODED when I saw this meme:boy2

Oh. My. Word. As a female whose chest is mostly comprised of pectoral muscle (shoutout to bench squad), this one stung. It brought back memories of a sexual encounter I had where I was putting my shirt on after and the guy said, “I never realized how much bras make a difference.”

As I mentioned earlier and am forewarning now, I’m in a women’s sexuality class as well as two other gender classes this semester, so my little gender radar antennae in my head has been whirring around non-stop in response to almost everything I see. So let’s take a nice long look at this piece of “modern art.”

First of all, the phrase, “It’s a boy!” is typically said when the little alien-looking baby pops out of a mother’s stomach. At least this is how it works in movies. “It’s a boy” immediately assigns the child’s sex and gender identity at birth, before the little munchkin is even making conscious decisions on who it wants to identify as. As so lovely-demonstrated in this meme, being a boy is associated with baseball, or athleticism. This implies the masculine view of strength as a dominant male characteristic. Also an inherent appreciation of the color blue seems to be a male trait.

So what does this leave for girls? Personally, if I took off my bra and became magically good at sports, I’d think that was pretty cool. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is what this meme is implying. It’s saying that breasts are what makes a girl a girl, and having a flat chest makes a girl undesirable by males. This would be real bad news for me as a heterosexual female desiring eventually a husband and a family. Also, by adding in the push-up qualifier, it implies that females already feel as if they need to impress boys by having boobs. This is absolutely tragic.

Now, this rant is not universal. I know some incredibly upstanding guys who would cringe at this, and I know incredible girls that know their true self-worth is priceless. Kudos to you. But for the rest of us out there, how do we deal with body shaming like this?

  • Don’t let your body define your self-worth. I am not just 133 pounds. My identity is not the jiggle in my thighs.  
  • Don’t let other people define your self-worth. We’re all guilty of this. I spend nights sitting on my bathroom counter strategically plucking my eyebrows and squeezing blackheads to try to look better so people like me. And then if no one comments on my appearance, I feel bad about myself. Wow, I didn’t know that the 50 people I see a day had the power to control my entire view on self-worth. Newsflash: they don’t.
  • Do what you do for you. Dress in what makes you comfortable and confident and feel good for your own sake. My solid black t-shirt with a normal bra is what I feel best in. And it makes me laugh because the material stains by armpits black. But that’s fine with me; I don’t care if my black armpits don’t get your approval.
  • Speak up against what doesn’t feel right. Some ignorant human doesn’t understand these above points? Holla at them. Don’t do it condescendingly like you’re better than them, but make it known that words hurt. And words lead to mindsets and mindsets spread. Be proud of your value as a human being, and work to raise awareness that everyone should feel the same about themselves and you.

Needless to say, I unfollowed this page on Instagram, and here I am continuing to delay my homework by writing this blog. But realizing your self-worth can be a process, and I think taking time to discover yourself and value yourself is more important than any literature review. And maybe after I post this, I’ll go for a run in a sports bra with minimal padding and tomorrow I’ll hit chest at the gym because I know my worth as a woman isn’t found in a cup size.

The Awkward Person’s Guide to Introducing Oneself to Others

We’ve all seen it in movies and on TV: the girl with the shiny hair and lip-glossed lips smiles and winks at her crush while turning her head in slow motion. Chances are, she’s also wearing a plaid skirt, carrying an armful of books, and is in a traditional early-2000’s high school hallway with lockers lining the corridor. Then the intended recipient of this action either looks on in awe (if he’s considered the class nerd) or gives fist bumps to all his bros around him if he’s a popular guy. That’s the expectation when it comes to flirting. The reality? Being an awkward female in college is a lot more difficult than that.

Let me relate a short anecdote to reveal just how awkward I am. I believe it was my junior year of high school. After school, I would go to the gym, which was this building that housed activities for old people and children and boasted a very scanty and rather questionable teenage population. However, I had developed my first gym crush on this guy that would work out around the same time as me. The gym area was set up where a long rectangular area housed all the weights and machines, and an indoor track ran parallel to it. The track intersected with a stretch of the weight area for access. Sometimes I’d run a few laps after I’d lifted to get some cardio in. On this particular day, I was wearing spandex shorts, feeling fly, and my gym crush was working out. So I decided to do it how they do it in movies: as I was running around the part of the track that intersected the weight room, I would pull my hair tie out of my hair and let it gracefully fall around my face and then nonchalantly keep running so he would see how glamorous I am. Ideally, time would slow down and this would all happen in slo-mo. In reality, the execution was horrendous. First, I chickened out of doing the ponytail pull at the intersection (which turned out to be a huuuuuge blessing). Then, as I pulled my hair tie out, it got stuck because I have a super thick, un-glossy mane and ripped out a huge chunk of hair. So here I am running with a ponytail bump in my hair, a hair tie in my hand trailing a foot of my hair, and a panicked look on my face. And the intersection is fast approaching. So I did the only logical thing to do: I ripped the hair off that hair tie and shoved down my shorts and just kept running. I proceeded to not make eye contact with anyone for the rest of the workout.

Fast forward three years to me having a job at and working out at the campus gym. I basically live there between the hours I put in behind the desk and in the weight rooms, so I’ve gotten to see a lot of faces, some of which I see more than others because of similar workout schedules. And some of those faces are not bad to look at whatsoever. I learned in social psychology that sometimes we come to like someone through the evolutionary perspective that repeated exposure with no negative side effects means the person is a-okay, and my brain decided to adopt this philosophy by picking out new gym crushes. Add to the mix my recent ghosting and rejection by a guy and feeling like I needed to be more confident, I decided to introduce myself to one of them. But how to go about it without ending in a disaster of me shoving something down my pants? Thus enters my universal guide to communicating that I’d like to call “The Awkward Person’s Guide to Introducing Oneself to Others.” Outlined below is each step backed up by the experience I had introducing myself to Gym Crush #2 (GC2).

Phase 1: The Plan

The first step in figuring out how to flirt or introduce yourself to someone is to make a plan. What will you say? What if they have headphones in? Or turn around right as you get to them? How do you first initiate contact? The plan should be formulated while acting scenarios out in the shower and while trying to sleep at night. Make sure you run through every possible combination of potential situations, even though things never actually go according to said plan. It’s just more fun to agonize about every detail and get super stressed out.

Phase 2: The Prep

Now that you maybe have a plan or list of potential plans, you must figure out how to carry out the steps necessary to initiate contact. For example, I knew GC2 typically worked out when I’d work out in the mornings. Therefore, I must go work out at that time. I knew which weight room he mostly used, so I centered my workout in there. The more stalking *cough cough observing* you’ve done beforehand, the better. I also knew I should wear mascara to slightly enhance my appearance, so I thoughtfully selected waterproof to account for sweat and so I could shower and go to work after without changing my makeup. Also, if you’re an advanced flirter or communicator, in the prep days leading up to the interaction, you may try smiling at them if you make eye contact instead of just death glaring at them.

Phase 3: The Buildup

You’re in location, and crush has been spotted. Heart rate accelerates, and you’re putting out double the reps at twice the weight you were using before. Thank you, adrenaline. And this is just from knowing that you’re going to do it, not the action itself. You are going to touch the other side. This is the time to start playing your pump-up playlist and building yourself up. In my case, I turned into a fully-formed stalker. GC2 left the weight room, and all be darned if I let him reach the locker room and leave without my plan going through. So what did I do? I waited three seconds and then followed him to where he went in the adjacent weight room, and I proceeded to get on a machine in his general vicinity.

Phase 4: The Execution

              The time has come. Make sure you’re not interrupting something too important. For example, he would get off the machine between sets and sit somewhere else, so I knew that was the time to do it. Walk with confidence up to them and YOLO the eff out of it. In my case, I happened to be accidentally (I SWEAR it was accidental—I’m not that much of a stalker) matching with GC2, so our interaction went as follows:

Me: I hate to so rudely interrupt, but one of us has to go home and change.

GC2: *looks at me in bewilderment with earbuds still in*

Me: *panicked gesturing at both of our outfits probably resembling having a seizure*

GC2: *takes earbuds out* *laughs*

Me: something along the lines of I’m Richelle; I see you here all time.

And then he introduced himself and told me about a guy that he always sees but doesn’t know his name, yadda yadda. Also, if you’ve only admired from a distance, there’s a great chance that this person will look different up close. This is to be expected. Seeing somebody from far away is a lot different than standing in their personal space.

Phase 5: The Dismount

But then nobody ever gives instructions on how to leave the interaction. Like, I’m pretty sure you’re not just supposed to turn back and take a hike out of there abruptly, but who’s supposed to end it first and what’s the polite amount of time for standing there awkwardly? I always figure the initiator should break contact first since you’re interrupting the person in the first place, and this can be done with a smooth, “I’ll see you around,” or a really awkward, “Well,” with a shoulder jerk towards the exit to indicate that you’re either convulsing or that you should leave.

Phase 6: The Aftermath

This is the stage where you can’t stop smiling at your success and recounting all the things that you could’ve done differently and analyzing everything the other person said and all of their actions. The funny thing I’ve noticed, though, is that I usually can’t remember details. I can’t remember if we were making eye contact or if I smiled or what they said specifically. Hopefully I’d remember if I threw up or passed out or something. Or maybe not hopefully. Additionally, you may start thinking about them even more outside the context of the location where you normally see them. Or, you may be satisfied enough with initial contact to no longer plan your workouts and appearance around them and let them make the next move if they want there to be a next move.

*

While I am not a professional flirter or even communicator, doing this made me realize how much fun it is to step out of my comfort zone and at least try. All this big mystery about initiating human verbal contact evaporated, and life continued as usual, but I gained the confidence that I can speak to attractive male human beings, albeit however awkwardly. I also know that if anyone ever reads this who witnessed the interaction, or if by some sick twist of fate GC2 reads this, I will most likely be heralded as the gym stalker. But you know what, it just shows my dedication and commitment, much like how I imagine us to be in our future relationship. Kidding. I promise.

 

Fruit Flies and Life Lessons

Everybody’s house smells like something. If it’s cinnamon, incense, fresh bread, or some other pleasing aroma, you’re doing great.

My apartment smells like genocide.

Let me expand. About two months ago, something was spilled in the kitchen trashcan that brought every fruit fly within a 20-mile radius swarming. Eventually, the hordes died down, and I enjoyed a nice respite of being fruit-fly-free for about a month. You don’t realize how easy cooking is until you can use both your arms instead of waving them about, defending your meals from the little buggers.

But then something went horribly wrong.

It all started when I was getting ready yesterday morning, and I had company on my bathroom mirror. I won’t say that its beady little eyes were staring at me because they’re too small to actually see the eyes (the small blessing in this), but I’m sure they were. I left for class and work, and upon returning home in the evening, saw that there was a congregation of three on my toothbrush bristles. That’s where I drew the line and decided to wage full-out war.

This morning, armed with rock and roll and the wrath of an aspiring homemaker, I took baking soda and vinegar to the garbage disposal, followed by salt and ice, and topped off with a pair of pliers digging around for any straggling food bits.

This is where the smell comes in.

The first thing you smell when you walk into my apartment is apple cider vinegar. I have religiously made ACV/dish detergent traps and placed them all over the kitchen and my bedroom. These traps come in many varieties, from the hedgehog measuring cups my mother got me for my birthday last year, to my Walmart-grade measuring cups, to the fancy glasses my aunt got me that I was always too scared to use because they were so nice (look at me now, Aunty Kate).

But my personal favorite? My rolled-up cone of paper that I use as a fly swatter that bears the words “DEATH-BRINGER II” on the side. (DEATH-BRINGER I got recycled away after the last invasion.) Bodies are smashed on my mirrors and walls. It’s disgusting, but somehow I feel that leaving them there and living among this desecration will keep my blood hot and powers stronger in this battle.

I’ve even resorted to the Good Lord. Before dinner tonight, I included in my prayer asking for a wee little favor of helping me to get rid of this problem quickly, as it was disrupting my peace.

And that’s where I had my big realization: how often do we treat problems in life the same way I treat fruit flies? We see hints that things are going wrong but don’t take action until it’s too late, and our issue is out of control. And then we try to clean up the mess without taking a moment to reflect how the problem even started. I know the cause of the Fruit Fly War I, but I don’t know what caused the resurgence. And then in trying to clean up the mess, I tended to the garbage disposal, but left the crumbs on the counter and the sticky stains on the floor. I didn’t try to clean up all the possible causes of the issue, just the one that was easiest to deal with.

So I’m going to stop living my life dealing with my problems once they’ve culminated into an ordeal. I’m going to take preventative steps to make sure that potential problems don’t actually come to fruition. I understand that things happen outside of my control and that this really overgeneralized lesson can’t come close to applying to everything, but it’s helping me to look at things a new way.

I just really wish it didn’t take fruit flies to get there!