Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Think I Found a New Reason Why I'll Never Have an Office with a Window

For some reason I distinctly remember the social studies teacher in 7th grade lecturing my class about the importance of concise and proper handwritten note taking.  This lecture was prompted when we all would gasp and whine when she went the next slide too quickly for us to copy it down, as if we were all perched on top of a cliff and she had just jumped up and down to make the ground shake and threaten to let us fall to a sharp, pointy death.

She was annoyed by this overreaction and warned us that in high school and college, no teacher would keep the slide up long enough for us to copy it down.  In fact, some teachers wouldn't even HAVE slides!  They would just talk at us and expect us to copy down their words like literary slaves!  We all shuddered at this thought and decided to call her bluff.  The whining continued.

In high school and college I've been pretty lucky, as most teachers I've had were kind enough to put their powerpoint slides on a website or just explain that the information for the test could all be found in the textbook or graciously allow me to use my laptop for note taking. I have never had to rely solely on my handwritten notes for study material. Ha HA 7th grade social studies teacher! Because of this lucky streak, I have never developed the concise and proper handwritten note taking skill that she wrongfully insisted I needed.

*suspenseful music*

I'm taking a class right now where no laptops are permitted, slides are flipped through faster than I can blink (and I'm  a preettty fast blinker [If you know what I mean]{I don't mean anything}]) and words like "colonization" and "utilitarianism" are spewed out every 50 seconds. After looking around at my peers and seeing a sea of blue and black pens no doubt taken from dentist offices, I realized that I was going to have to succumb to the fate that my 7th grade teacher had warned me about.

This is a bigger problem than it may seem.

Mostly because I have the handwriting of a 10 year old boy who had just found out his dad got him tickets to a baseball game and he could only go if he finished his homework in 5 minutes.

See, I used to comfort myself by thinking "Well doctors have bad handwriting too and doctors are really smart." But this comfort only lasts a couple seconds until I'm forced to internally admit that, as a theatre major, my future will rightfully not include writing on charts and being excused for bad handwriting because I had just saved a life.

And after reviewing my notes today, I realized that there is more than one reason why I will never be a doctor.  Or a lawyer.  Or anyone who will be invited to talk to kids at a career fair ever.

But it's okay!  Because I'm a theatre major! So this is no indicator of my future success! Right? ...Right?

...Why aren't you saying anything?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Realizations Through Art and Selfies

I'm currently studying abroad for the summer in London, which has been really exciting for me because I have a very weak grasp on the distinction between fiction and reality and I love Harry Potter.  In an effort to become culturally aware of works of art that don't include surprisingly decorative flying broomsticks, I visited the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square after class one day.  I've never been to a museum by myself before and I really enjoyed it, mostly because I could stare at a portrait for a long time without worrying that I was holding someone up.  This hold up probably wouldn't bother me if I was thinking big, intellectual thoughts, but because my mind usually wanders to "I wonder if the artist ever sneezed while drawing this," I feel guilty making someone wait for me.

So I explored the different rooms of the museum by myself, stopping every time an interesting depiction of a person caught my eye and skipping over landscapes and fruit (my head hurts while trying to figure out the depth perception of painted landscapes and fruit makes me hungry. [For skittles.])  I usually read the descriptions next to the portraits because it shows everyone that I am cultured AND literate.  From these descriptions I learned that a lot of the portraits were paid for by the subjects themselves.  I don't know why this surprised me.  I guess I assumed that portraits of people outside of royalty existed because some artists stopped people on the street and were all like "You! I'll paint you now. Please wear something symbolic."  If anyone is scoffing at my ignorance right now, please refer to the sentence about my effort to become culturally aware.  And then continue to scoff.  I'm 20 years old, don't let me get away with that shit.

Anyway, this discovery was interesting to me because it made me start to think about Facebook.  As I mentioned before, I'm part of a study abroad program at the moment.  If anyone reading this has a Facebook, I'm sure if you see one more picture of your friends standing next to old buildings with an enthusiastic "I'm in (insert foreign city or significant landmark here)! description, you will probably try to burn down every stone older than 300 years just to prevent future FB pics on your newsfeed.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that people looooove to have their pictures taken and they loooooove for everyone to see it.  I always thought of this as a social media generation thing.  But these portraits made me think otherwise.  Maybe it's not just Facebook that's made us the second most vain creatures on the planet (Peacocks are number one. Ostentatious bastards.)  Maybe humans have been trying to figure out ways to instagram the shit outta themselves since the beginning of time.

And then I felt really bad.  Because earlier, I had laughed really hard at this one portrait I saw at the beginning of my excursion. It was of this rich dude with a really sad and longing look on his face (okay this is making me seem insensitive wait let me finish) with words inscribed on the inside of his cap that said, in Greek, "Alas, I desire too much."  After reading that description and looking back at the portrait, it seemed like the most ridiculous thing ever.  Maybe because it just seemed really overdramatic (As an actor, I like to think I have mastered the art of being overdramatic while at the same time being very subtle.  Some may call this "passive aggressive.") So yeah, this rich guy who desired too much was very funny to me.  But this laughter-at-someone's-pain thing happened before my realization that maybe humans have always wanted a new Facebook default.  And it was at this discovery moment when I realized that me doing this

is the EXACT SAME THING as the rich dude doing this

At first I felt ashamed by the realization, but when I went back to look at the rich dude I felt a weird connection to this man and his deliciously self deprecating cap.  I liked the thought that though centuries apart, me and this guy share something:

Vanity. And a touch of narcissism.    

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Lost Years and Why It Took Me a Long Time to Buy Another Skirt From the Gap

Like so many, the moment I decided I wanted to possess beauty did not coincide with the moment I obtained control over my looks.  I like to call the few years in between these moments "The Lost Years," as if I am a 60 year old man beginning his autobiography for the 3rd time.  Others may call this period the "Awkward Stage."  Almost every girl I've ever talked to can pinpoint and (while spastically cringing) remember these years in her life, which for me occurred from age 11 to 14.

There comes a moment in a girl's life when she realizes she is dissatisfied with the way she looks. She finishes soccer practice, unsuccessfully brushes some dirt off her knee, grabs her water bottle, pours some on her head then spits, kicks some rocks around while she waits for her mom, jumps into the tan minivan when it arrives, absentmindedly looks into the side mirror and feels her heart sink.

This feeling is confusing.  So what if her ponytail is pulled back so tight that she looks like a boy solider in The Patriot?  Her face is always that shiny around late afternoon.  She LOVED the bright blue color of her braces just hours earlier.  These things have never bothered her before.  So why does she suddenly look away from the mirror in disgust, as if she had just seen her brother eat peanut butter from the jar with the same spoon he had just used to eat yogurt?

Okay.  This can be easily rectified. She will buy that flowy white skirt at the Gap that will definitely make her feel pretty, because apparently that is a feeling she now craves.  To the Gap!  (The girl never actually said "To the Gap!" to her mother, because her mother was not present for the conversation that the girl had had in her mind and would not understand without appropriate context.)  The girl buys the white skirt.  But she did not anticipate the discomfort she feels as her protruding belly makes the top of the skirt stick out in a way it did not on the mannequin.  Doesn't matter! She wears the white skirt because though she is not good at math, she has already hypothesized that white skirt + wearing it= feeling pretty.  After a couple of times wearing it, however, she throws it out.  Because looking down and seeing her stomach instead of her feet was not fulfilling the aforementioned equation.

Hair. Hair! I will now switch out of the third person to talk about the HAIR because it is too important for attempted blog mystery.  I could not control the hair because the hair was BIG and WAVY and oh! the FRIZZ!  I, of course, did not know what frizz was at the time because I still watched only Nickelodeon and on Nickelodeon there were no hair commercials telling me what frizz was in between an All Grown Up! episode.

I got a treatment when I was 13 called Keratin or Carrot-in or Stay Still This May Burn Your Scalp A Little-in.  It was supposed to make my hair perfect.  Or that's what I fantasized.  That this would be the magic formula to make my hair like Lizzie Mcquire's.  (The treatment did not make my hair like Lizzie Mcquire's)

Though I'm sure my friends were having the same frustrations I was experiencing, I was convinced I was alone in this constantly disappointing pursuit for beauty. So it was a difficult time. For my parents' bank account.  Because I would buy every hair product at the CVS that promised me a frizz-free existence, every workout equipment on infomercials that look vaguely easy enough to do maybe every day and ALL of the weight watchers desserts at the grocery store.  ALL of them.

I wanted to feel beautiful.  And I didn't understand why this was a lot to ask.

Now I write this not as a tragic but triumphant tale about a once fat girl with frizzy hair parted down the middle who one day figured out how to use a hair straightener correctly.  I guess I'm writing this because this "beauty" moment I was searching for didn't come from the places I expected.  When I was 14 and a boy told me that I was beautiful for the first time, in that moment, I was ecstatic.  And I waited a couple seconds for that feeling of pretty that the white skirt and the carrot-in never could give me.  After years of burning pictures and expensive hair treatments and throwing out white skirts, this moment was finally here.

But it wasn't.

And that was even more confusing.

Maybe it was naive to think that I'd feel beautiful once a boy I liked told me that he thought that I was beautiful. Or maybe it wasn't naive.  Maybe I had been trained to think this because of "society" and "magazines" and "Hilary Duff Movies."  Or maybe the girl I envied in middle school had a million boys telling her she was beautiful and she seemed happy.  Or maybe it was a perfectly logical expectation that has worked for hundreds of other girls but just not for me.  I guess I still don't know.  What I do know is that I felt beautiful when my first boyfriend laughed at my jokes.  I felt beautiful when my best friends and I sat in a circle before performances and each had a turn at making the ugliest face we could while everyone else clapped.  And fiiiiiiine I felt beautiful when some business dudes were checking me out one day in in the city I'M NOT PERFECT OKAY. It was a cute dress AND I LOOKED GOOD.

Anyway, now that I'm 20 and The Lost Years are far behind me, I'm proud that my cringing is not nearly as spastic when I remember my frizzy middle part.  And to prove it, here is... a picture.  (I urge you to at least lock the door before you start pleasuring yourself to it)

Katherine circa 2007.  (That white hair band on my wrist is actually something I'm very proud of because it matches my white skirt PERFECTLY)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let Me Talk like Human With You?: a first week in London

Katherine (mutters): Can have cafemochatogoplease?


Actual Response: Sorry?

Katherine: SorryI'mgonnagonowthankyoumuch

And she rode into the London sunset, never to return.  Sometimes, if you stand close enough to this very coffee shop, you'll be able to hear the faint, barely audible whispers: "to go..."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Don't Look at Me Like That, I Just Have Something in My Eye

As the oldest of three girls, I have a lot of responsibilities. When we were younger, these responsibilities included "hey, make sure the gate to the deck is locked so your baby sisters don't walk through it and fall down the stairs and experience serious and painful injuries." So I was seven when I looked up from the backyard swing and watched the youngest tumble down, very slowly and poetically, which I suspect she did purposely to really draw out the consequence of my negligence.  She was fine, but it was at that moment that I decided I should probably pay more attention to these small creatures who keep following me to the snack stand.  

As we've all gotten older, I am no longer in charge of gate locks. Probably for the best (see the first paragraph.)  Instead, my job description now includes pausing Netflix, turning my head slightly to the right and watching one of my sisters, whichever one is suddenly in my room, use many hand gestures and many carefully placed inflections to describe a current situation in her life (the inflections are not carefully placed). And I love this.  Okay, wait.  No, not the pausing of Netflix part.  I am not a saint. I am on the 7th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am a human. But I do love listening to them and I love trying to help in any way I can.  

This is what I do not love.  (A problem is arising. I learned this story structure from 6 and a half seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer)  

I do not love when my mind spins and my insides hurt because my two extremely thin and fit sisters are telling me about how they think their stomachs are too big and their thighs are too huge. 

I was in high school once.  I was a teenager once.  I was a girl at LEAST two times before.  I understand hating to feel full.  I know that dressing rooms are the enemy.  And I've stood in front of my mirror before and cried. Duuuude, we all have.  The only person who asked "who is the fairest of them all" and actually expected her name to be the answer was fictional and evil and wore a lot of purple eyeshadow.  We have all cried in front of mirrors.  And it sucks.  It totally sucks.  

But I have watched my beautiful, perfect baby sisters hate their bodies. The beautiful, perfect bodies that have been following me to the snack stand and to the playground and to the backyard (negligence) for as long as I can remember.

That. Sucks. Worse.  

And I scoff at them for being silly and blind.  And I proclaim how all bodies are beautiful and that even models are insecure. And I yell at them for not seeing what I see.  And then a huge name tag falls from the heavens, sticks to my shirt and labels me the Biggest Hypocrite in the History of the World. 
Right? You'd think the heavens could come up with a more eloquent title. 

The heavens apparently know more than you'd think though, despite their apparent lack of creativity.  They know I am far from being the "I am totally happy with my body because I am healthy and my BMI is not off any chart and I have all of my toenails" girl.  I have cried in front of many mirrors. Which can be hard to admit because, like most people, I like to think that I am the MOST perfect human being on the face of this planet, this planet that is not as wonderful as I.  

And then, recently, one sister started crying in front of me.  Because she looked in the mirror and hated what she saw.  Because no matter what she did, she couldn't lose weight.  Because it was killing her. 

And all of sudden, I waned to take back every awful thing I've ever said or thought about my body. 

I panically wanted to strike a deal with her, that I'd promise to love every section of skin on my being if she would do the same for hers.  I wanted to take a hammer to every mannequin that she compared herself to, every boy that looked at her and didn't give the desired response, every person who is in charge of photoshop for magazine covers.  
I wanted to change the fucking world.  And not even for that noble of a reason. Not because of people dying or global warming or hunger and all that.  I wanted to change the world so my sister would stop crying about her thighs. But I could not change the world at that moment. 

Instead, I dropped my pants.  

And I grabbed a handful of fat and shook it.  I jiggled my (jiggly) thighs and yelled "LOOK!" while I bounced a little, which made everything (everything) bounce a lot.  And for the first time in my life I stood in front of another person half naked and didn't feel one ounce of insecurity.  Every piece of fat that I could showcase was a blessing and a way to get my point across.  A point I think I'm still trying to figure out myself:

That I have fat and I am happy.  Or, I have fat and it doesn't stop me from striving for joy every day.  And that I will never be a model.  And that I will never give any of the fucks in the world that I will never be a model.  And mostly, that she can stop comparing herself to me because, I have fat (and oh my god, like so much more fat than she has.  Seriously, I invite you to look at a picture of us side by side. No, don't do that! Haven't you been paying attention?  I will smash you with a hammer.)

I cannot change the fucking world.  I cannot rid society of skinny mannequins.  I cannot even keep a gate door locked.  But I can try to show the small creatures that follow me everywhere how to look into a mirror without cringing or crying.  I can demand to see the self esteem in them that I can't always find in myself. 

And I can always, always pause Netflix.

...once I'm done with the 7th season.