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Again, as if there was indeed a force greater than just us humans, life tried to speak to me for the second time today. I applied for a freelance job today and heard back from the guy in literally under five minutes.
We met after work today at his offices and I’m hired. And here’s the force-greater-than-just-us-humans part: this one little project pays almost exactly to the dollar what my regular office job paycheck is.
It made me think, as I sat on the couch this evening and got to work on my new freelance assignment, what’s the difference between these two checks (other than the fact that one is for 80 hours of work and the other is for roughly 10 hours of work)?
The answer is that I truly dig it. I enjoy even the most boring of the creative non-fiction writing genres. I enjoy sitting on my couch with my lap top and cat and Ben typing away in the other room. I enjoy that with each new project I get to learn about a whole new subject and world. Oh, and I enjoy choosing which hours I work and whether or not to wear pants while I work.
And here’s the thing: even though I never ever, ever hear back from real full-time jobs that I apply to, I’ve gotten the last five out of five freelance gigs I’ve applied for. Again, capital-L Life is probably banging his head against his desk right now. (Life has his own desk, right?)
The tiny hitch lies in the fact that freelance work doesn’t come regularly. It’s risky. But I might be ready to take some risks after a year and a half of no surprises. Even if it means getting a second job as a clown or stripper or, if push comes to shove, the dreaded clown stripper.
I know this blog has gotten a little more journal-y than usual in the last few days, but this is all I can really think about. Tomorrow I promise I’ll write about something else. At least for one entry.
I watched snippets of Superman Returns tonight on HBO, after having seen it in the theater last summer. I’m not going to waste your time by pointing out the terrible special effects, the gaping plot holes, and the baffling ending that I am sure cannot be explained to me logically by anyone.
But I do want to talk about this one thing, because I’ve seen it a lot lately and it is driving me crazy: why are female love interests today getting younger and younger while the male leads stay the same age?
I think Superman Returns is the best example of this phenomenon, since this movie supposedly takes place five years after the original Superman movie (which was released in 1978. Now, in the original movie, Lois Lane is painted as a no-nonsense career women – a reporter high up on the ladder at a big city paper. Margot Kidder (below left), who plays the original Lois Lane, was 30 when the movie was made and might even look a bit older than that in the movie. It might be a stretch, but it’s somewhat believable that she could be writing big articles for the paper at that time.
Now let’s fast forward to Kate Bosworth (above right), who plays Lois Lane in Superman Returns thirty years later. She was around 23 when the movie was made, and she looks around that age in the movie. But she’s got a five-year-old kid and it’s been five years since Superman was around – this should land her in her mid-thirties, at least. Instead, she looks a solid ten or fifteen years younger than she should.
I might be able to suspend my disbelief that some 23-year-old has landed a huge job at a city paper, but now I’m supposed to believe that she got five years younger instead of five years older during a five-year span of time? Is she also from a different planet? And am I also supposed to believe that, if she’s 23 now, that she was 18 when she got the job at the paper and originally met Superman? That’s harder for me to accept than a guy who wears a cape and blue tights and carries around commercial jets.
Even more than that, am I supposed to believe that she’s gotten more glamorous, less charmingly odd, and less practical after the birth of her bastard child and as time passed?
Who knows, maybe this has to do with the fact that I’m a brunette. Who tends to photograph weird. Or that I am not nearly as skinny as either Bosworth or Kidder. But seriously, I think it might be a scary sign of our times. For a long time we’ve know that actresses tend to “lose their value” as they age much faster than their male counterparts, but this is getting ridiculous.
I mean, we’re getting a strong, quirky, smart, career-minded character in Lois Lane, but in today’s standards we have to also make her barely legal? What do we tell the girls in this country, who are going to think that they and their aspirations expire right before they’re old enough to rent a car? That they should hurry up and get married before they become invisible at 25? That they should skip college and get to man-finding?
And don’t be that one guy who mentions that Juliet was 12, because I don’t want to hear it. Juliet might have been 12, but she was also dumb and immature enough to kill herself over a dude when she should have been pursuing her own dreams, taking guitar lessons and gossiping on the phone, had phones been invented.
After an almost week-long absence, my annoying cubemate is back in full force. It seems even worse this morning because I think I lost some of the tolerance I had built up for her while she was gone. It feels like rolling around in the snow naked after being in a hot tub as opposed to simply rolling around in the snow naked.
The problem is that she talks on the phone ALL DAY – she literally picks up the phone and dials someone before she sits down in the morning. She doesn’t get coffee or turn her computer on first, she is on that phone like it is crack and she is a crack addict. A crack addict who also loves talking on the phone.
Mostly, when she is not on the phone treating her fiancé like he is a toddler incapable of the simplest tasks or understanding of the most basic emotions, she is talking to her girlfriends about how fuuuuun things are and how cooooool and aweeeesoooooome things sound. She is also getting married soon, and the incessant wedding talk somehow permeates even my loudest and most rocking iPod defensive strategies.
Her second favorite topic, aside from the minutiae of her lame Valentine’s Day wedding, is how much work she has to do. It makes me wonder how much she could theoretically get done if she, I don’t know, hung up and worked on a project or two. We may perhaps never know.
And it isn’t just me that’s bothered. The only other two people in her vicinity have already written me emails this morning with similarly hopeless-yet-caustic comments about the deterioration of the quality of our workspaces.
This morning in particular, I am overwhelmed with an idea I had in which I would spend the whole day on the phone myself, not hanging up between calls but merely tapping the receiver in between dials. I would talk to everyone I knew, telling them how much fuuuuuuun I was having and how aweeeeeesome and cooooool and niiiiiiiice their weekend plans sounded. I would hold the mirror up to her face, and she could partake of her ugly, ceaselessly chatty reflection!
The calls would get more and more obviously annoying, as I said things like, “Ohmygawd I just have so much work to do – sometimes it feels as if I don’t even work at work, but merely regurgitate the cloying details of my 30-something social life! Details that often only consist of drinking a responsible amount of white wine and being nitpicky about my fiancé!”
Or, when I started feeling especially evil, ”You know what’s a really interesting topic to talk about exhaustively? My cubemate’s totally clichéd Valentine’s Day wedding! Let me tell you more about the flower-ordering process in such a drawn-out manner that you will get nauseous the next time you even smell flowers.”
And I would go on and on, all day, until my cubemate got the message that maybe – just maybe – it was neither aweeeeeeesome or cooooooooool to ruin everyone else’s work environment.
Or maybe I should just get some work done. Talk to you laaaaaaaaaaater, sweeeetie!
Many of you have written asking me why I haven’t been writing my Sarah vs. Spears installments during a time of such rich deposits of Britney Spears-related celebrity news. How could I have missed out on commenting on Brit leaving her kids in a locked car while she went on a chandelier shopping spree? How could I have resisted writing a scathing blog about Brit’s sister being preggers what with her mother having just finished up that book about parenting?
And now, in these prosperous Britney-Spears-Acting-Crazy-Again times, how could I not cover her dramatic mental breakdown and custody loss?
The answer is two-pronged. First off, it’s just too easy. Too many people are doing it and as soon as I come up with a clever stretcher joke, I read about it with slightly different phrasing on TMZ or somewhere. Secondly (and this may shock you) I’m kind of starting to feel bad. It’s one thing to make fun of someone chandelier shopping and it’s another thing to make fun of someone landing themselves in a mental hospital for the weekend. This might go back to my earlier point of things being just too easy.
I mean, I don’t want to be the bully who makes fun of the fat kid or the kid with acne or the poor kid whose parents are divorced. I want to make fun of the popular girl or the guy who thinks he’s hot shit when in reality his shit is only lukewarm. Britney used to be that popular girl, but I’m not sure if she really qualifies anymore.
These recent reports that she’s not even hooked on any foreign substances are even a little scary to me – if she’s not on something, she might seriously be in trouble. I mean, she slept with a member of the paparazzi, people. And now you’re telling us she was sober during it? (And you’re also telling me he didn’t get any pictures?)
I might have to find myself a new youthful diva to hate on – I think Ben thinks Lindsay Lohan is hot, maybe I could fabricate an intricate fantasy in which I am locked in a life-long competition with her. Or Paris Hilton? Or is she too skinny for me?
In any case, until Britney Spears gets her act together to the point in which her life is only as screwed up and sad as mine, I’m going to lay off a bit. If I dig down deep enough, even I can start to see some difference between being dumb and wanton and socially irresponsible and being in need of some mental counsel and professional help.
But – mark my words – if we are to find out that this is a stunt, and that Britney is merely SO dumb and SO wanton that she physically needed a stretcher, I will come back with full force and full vengeance. Or, if we find out she’s merely on a smorgasbord of illicit and prescription drugs, all washed down with alcoholic beverages and fried chicken, I will not be kind. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
This weekend, if nothing goes terribly wrong, I’ll break the 100,000-hit mark. And somewhat neatly, today is the exact four-month anniversary of the birth of this thing. What I’m trying to say is, thanks for sticking around, people.
What does the future hold? I’m currently working on a new site with a new look and URL. I’ve hired a person with style and computer know-how (two things I’m sadly deficient in) to help me out and soon-ish (I have no idea how long these things take) it should be up and running.
In lame celebration of the big day, here are a few earlier posts that I had fun writing that you might have missed. As you might guess, these are not necessarily the most popular ones.
Commercials and advertising campaigns are almost always annoying. But every once and a while there comes along a commercial or advertising idea that makes me want to kill everyone including myself, or even, God save us all, turn off my TV. For example, I’ve had a tough, ongoing struggle to live harmoniously in the same universe with the Arby’s talking oven mitt spokesperson.
But the oven mitt is not, as I long assumed, the essence of all that is wrong in the world. It’s Payless Shoes and their BOGO promotion.
I don’t have a problem with the Payless product. I like the idea of inexpensive shoes. However, a few times a year, perhaps once a season, they have a BOGO sale. What does that mean? It means that, during the BOGO promotion, you can buy a pair of shoes and get another pair of shoes, of equal or lesser value, for half price.
I know what you’re thinking: sounds like a pretty good deal…but why is it called BOGO? I’ll tell you. BOGO is an acronym for Buy One Get One Half Priced. Kind of. Maybe Payless is also paying less for their advertising people, who decided that, unlike most acronyms, their acronym would stop half way through what it actually stood for – cutting out the HALF OFF part of the message? Maybe Payless purchased their acronym during some sort of a Buy Half An Acronym promotion?
No, here’s what probably happened: the Payless advertising group was sitting around a conference room table – unshowered and eating cold Chinese takeout after days of tedious brainstorming. They were exhausted, desperate, and maybe even hallucinating a bit from sleep deprivation. How would they come up with something fresh and catchy for their Buy One Get One Half Priced sale? It was impossible, and the deadline was in an hour.
“Screw it,” the head advertising lady would have finally said, half-heartedly flinging her pen across the table. “Let’s drop the BOGOHP idea and just go with BOGO. I have a family. I have dreams. I am not the monster you see before you.”
And so it was. BOGO is just easier. Bogo could be the name of a cartoon dog that wears human clothes and enjoys puns and walking upright. Bogo could be the name of the exotic island where you took your honeymoon – somewhere with volcanic black sand beaches and swim-up bars. Bogo could be the name of the new wildly fun board game that brings the whole family together, if only for a few hours.
What is Bogohp, on the other hand? Bogohp could be the name of that exchange student your family had your senior year of high school that always picked his nose at the dinner table and at first you thought it was a cultural thing until you met another guy from the same vague Eastern Bloc country Bogoph was from, and he explained that no, they don’t pick their noses at the dinner table, they just drink Vodka.
Bogohp could be the name of the post-post modern art exhibit that you are forced to go see on a first date – and not even a first date with someone you like, but a first date you only agreed to for the combination of the self-esteem boost and the excuse to buy a new dress. It turns out Bogohpism, which all the big critics are calling “an innovative wave of abstract ideas that we totally understand better than laypeople,” looks kind of like that coffee table book you got for your birthday that’s filled with pictures painted by house cats.
Bogohp could be the noise the guy you are on the self-esteem new-dress first date with makes when he gets really excited and also the noise he makes when he blows his nose. A noise which causes you to leave early, maybe even before your free dinner, go to a theater by yourself to see the new romantic comedy/Hilary Duff vehicle, and then return home to sit in the silence of your studio apartment and reevaluate your life.
In short, the BOGO commercial makes me really angry every time it comes on. You can’t just pick and choose the letters you use for your acronym! Sure, you can drop a T for THE or an O for OF but you can’t drop two big, important words! It’s madness!
If I were the head of advertising at Payless Shoes, things would have gone very differently that day in the conference room. In just minutes, I would have erased the brainstorming whiteboard with huge arching swoops and written the acronym BOGOHO (Buy One Get One Half OFF).
And then I would describe my vision for the commercial – the 30-second primetime spot. It would show a high-powered career woman wearing a pair of beautiful high-heeled Payless Shoes, running to catch a taxi. She would turn to the camera and candidly say, “I’m a BOGO HO.” Then it would cut to a mother, wearing a pair of Payless sneakers, playing with her kids on a tire swing. “I’m a BOGO HO,” she would whisper to the camera, maybe winking a little. Then the camera would cut to a chic hipster in Payless flats, tripping along a path with a cute hipster guy. After laughing with the cute guy and kicking up her legs joyously, she looks into the camera and confesses, “I’m a BOGO HO.”
That would make me so much happier.
Over the last few months I’ve been interested in street harassment in New York – how I and other women react to being bothered, catcalled, and touched by men. It all started with this post and continued with this post, where I decided to respond aggressively to harassment.The biggest conclusion I came to, I think, was that you have to be ready for these incidents and have a response ready – if you don’t you’ll be too shocked to do anything (and also, don’t respond aggressively if you are not in a safe position to do so). Of course, I still have a lot of questions – what is the best way to react to someone so that they might understand how they are making you feel? What’s the best way to react to someone so that they might decide not to do it again? What doesn’t egg them on? Why do they do it in the first place?
In any case, on the way home from work on the subway on Friday, I saw something totally new: a drunk woman harassing and inappropriately touching men. I was sitting directly across from her and got to see her interact with four different men during the ride and it was absolutely fascinating – like a mini-experiment in how men react to street harassment.
It happened the same way each time a man sat next to her: she started by resting her head on their shoulder. All four men allowed this to happen and didn’t react except to look a bit uncomfortable and confused. Just like I feel when it happens to me, they seemed to be working out in their heads what was happening – was there some other explanation for how the woman was acting?
After this, though, the woman would touch their legs and crotches and make comments about how much they wanted her and what kind of men they were. I won’t go into her colorful language except to say that it was extremely creative and effective and that I might have noted several of her imaginative phrases for utilization my fiction, if I ever decide on a drunk crazy person character.
Two of the men (the two older ones) put up with this behavior longer than I would have guessed – again, maybe they, too were in shock? But, eventually, all four men yelled something loud enough for the entire subway car to hear (these statements varied from “Chill, lady!” to “What the fuck is your problem?” to “Do not touch me or speak to me again!”
Two of the men used physical force – pushing the woman away from them – and, most surprisingly, all four of them stood their ground. No one left the space that they were originally occupying until their stop came. It seemed almost territorial – whereas the first thing I think of doing when someone is bothering me is to get away from their area as soon as possible, the men opted to push her out of their area instead.
The drunk lady, as one might guess, wasn’t especially affected by any of the men’s defenses (the yelling, the pushing, the retorts). Once the man got off the train, she started the whole cycle over with whoever sat next to her. No one else on the train jumped up to help either the men or to confront the woman, but a lot of sudoku puzzles were completed and a lot of paperbacks were read. Although I stopped reading my paperback, I had no idea what to do.
I don’t think we can draw any solid conclusions from what I saw since it was such a small sampling of people – but, as evil as it may be, it sure was interesting to see the tables turned for once.
Although we could make some guesses about men being more apt to aggressively confront something like this (and I should mention that three out of four of the men were bigger than the woman) or about how they are more likely to cause a scene or stand their ground, the thing I was weirdly comforted to see was how bothered they were about being touched and called names. Nobody likes to be treated like that, from the tiniest meekest woman to the burliest, most aggressive dude.
But as far as I can tell, all the efforts I’ve seen from both men and women haven’t really worked. I still think doing something is better than doing nothing, but is anything effective in the long term? The heart of the problem seems to be that you can’t reason with a drunk crazy person. Is anyone who would openly harass a stranger on the subway, man or woman, capable of understanding how they are making other feel? Perhaps not. Is reacting to these people and stadning up for ourselves more for us than for them? I’m not sure. Back to the drawing board, I suppose.
Ever since I posted about a guy bothering me on the train a couple of weeks ago, I have been patiently waiting for my chance to yell at the next guy who bothered me. My chance came yesterday afternoon on my way home from the gym.
The guy who bothered me looked the part – he was wearing a tacky leather jacket, cheap sunglasses, and was about two inches shorter than me. As he walked toward me, he stepped into my path, said, “Hot hot hot!” and then did a thing with his tongue that I think you can only learn at a special school for harassing women on the street.
Unfortunately for this guy, I was ready this time. It took me a couple of seconds to process everything (yes, he was being inappropriate, yes I would indeed do something about it), then I turned around and yelled “HEY!” and walked back up to him and got in his face. “YOU DO NOT DO THAT TO WOMEN. ARE YOU A FUCKING IDIOT?”
Somewhere between HEY and YOU the guy’s entire body language and expression changed. He actually put up his hands and started slowly walking backwards. Somewhere between FUCKING and IDIOT he turned around and ran.
It was about the most awesome thing ever. It felt great to raise my voice, which I realized was something I simply never do as soon as I did it. It also felt great to utterly shatter this guy’s confidence, at least in relation to doing weird tongue things to women in the street.
I wouldn’t do it in just any circumstances, though: in this case, I was on my very safe and familiar block, 100 yards from my apartment, in the middle of the day. And, as I mentioned, the guy was shorter than me. He also might not have spoken any English besides “Hot hot hot!” But even if that was the case, I think I stated my point in a way that crossed language barriers.
I also wonder if I’m not really just making things worse in the world – is harassing someone who is harassing you solving any problems? Or is it more like a messed up version of Pay It Forward, where every time someone is a jerk to you, you go out of your way to be a jerk to someone else? Should I have just gone all Ghandi on the guy and used more noble tactics than he did to prove my point? I’m not sure what that interaction would even look like, but it might involve fasting.
I think I am convinced, though, that not doing anything is the wrong thing to do. Just as I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am too passive at work, I think that I (and perhaps other women) would rather not cause a fuss than speak up about not being comfortable in more general situations.
Mostly, though, I wish I had said something wittier and more demeaning. Maybe next time.
I don’t know how, but I got through all of high school and college in America without reading a word of Willa Cather. It all worked out for the best though, since ten years ago I would have probably found her work like, totally boring and about farming and the human condition, or whatever.
I picked up My Antonia a few months ago and loved it to bits – to me, nothing beats stories written in ordinary language about ordinary people. Mix in some bleak, sweeping plains, some overtly lesbian action, and, yes, some awesome stuff about the human condition, and I’m happy.
O Pioneers! was written five years after My Antonia and you can pretty much tell. The story, while similar, is a bit more fantastic and formulaic – Cather studied a lot of Henry James early in her life, and you can tell. Everything is a little simpler and more straightforward in this book — the themes are more concrete, the storyline moves forward steadily, and the ending is clear-cut.
Still, though, there is some beautiful, wonderful stuff happening. The flat, blank unrelenting landscape makes for a great setting in that the characters are very much on their own – affected only by the weather and by each other. There’s not much out in Nebraska during this time period besides sod and humanity, and Cather knows how to write about both.
It’s one of those books where you want to underline things, all the time, like this: “There are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country that have been singing the save five notes over for thousands of years. The young people, they live so hard. And yet I sometimes envy them.” Or this, on the very next page, about problem with being free: “Freedom so often means one isn’t needed anywhere.”
And throughout so much of the book, I couldn’t help reeling at how ahead of her time Cather seemed: about women, about education, about religion. And, although it can never be confirmed, since she destroyed all of her personal papers before her death, it seems that Cather was one of the first authors to write about gay rights (but do we really need solid proof? Check out her author photo, for goodness sakes!). For example, in O Pioneers! the moral center of the book is an old man named Ivar. Ivar, whose love and understanding of animals makes him integral to the community, is also mostly mad due to a vague temptation of the body that is never named. He always walks barefoot to punish his body for what he is feeling and constantly reads the Bible for comfort – he has sacrificed his freedom to love in order to reach eternal paradise when he dies.
The book, ultimately, is about the constraints of freedom — being constrained in some respects in order to be free in others – and how getting older means choosing which freedoms you can live with best. Too bad I never got the chance to write a five-page high school essay on this.