Own What You Love, Love What You Own

I was going to write about something else, but I have something to say. I can almost hear the digital pixels click on my computer screen, as the cursor waits for me to push and shove it along. And it’s funny, how I’ve been uninspired to write this blog all week, and yet here I am, putting two and two together, and putting fingers to keys, and putting thoughts to the world. I had an agenda tonight, but I decided to discard it. Instead, I am going to start my blog post by offering an observation:

I’m not sure that anyone knows what love is anymore.

Think about it. What do you love? And what kind of love do you love it with? Is it a shallow love with thin, hairy roots? Or is it a deep, booming love, like when you drop a stone down a large hole to hear it strike against the sides and echo back up? Do you love things? Do you love material objects? And I’m not saying the shiny Mercedes parked in your driveway or the lavish house you live in. Do you love books? Do you love songs? These may not be the typical objects that you may think of when you think someone is being materialistic, but they still implie materialism. These things still tie you to the earth and the human experience.

In some way, you love these things because you own them. You love books. You may not own the book itself, but you own the story inside it after you’ve read it, in your consciousness. You love songs. You may not own the melody and the lyrics, or earn royalties every time it’s played, but you own your memory of songs. You own the feelings associated with the band, the lead singer, and the live concert you attended. Without knowing you, I know that you do not love death, and that you do not love disappointment, and that you do not love sadness. Not because these things are inherently bad, but because they are universal, and you do not own them. When death, disappointment, and sadness have left their mark, they leave to mar another. We cannot own them. We have to share them. And only by sharing them can we piece together the full mosaic of human experience.

But you can own love. In fact, we must own what we love, and we must love what we own.

And now you are saying, “But everyone has experienced happiness, people can share their happiness and love it, too.” But that isn’t true. If you are talking about two people in love, two people on their wedding day, they are happy to be with the other person, yes, and they own their happiness in that way. But they do not own the other person’s happiness, and so they cannot love one another. You can’t love what you can’t own in some way.

When we love other people, we must give little bits of ourselves to them. We don’t get these bits back, but we don’t want them returned either, because they’ve taken on a new shape in the other’s person hands. They get mangled or dinged. They get soaked or burned. They get coddled and stroked. We would not recognize the little bits we give to other people because they are simply not ours anymore.

So, how do we rediscover what love means in our lives? We have to play by love’s rules. We have to own what we love. If you love the present moment you will own the present moment, and you will be able to move freely within it. If you love your body, you will own your body, and it will not have the power it sometimes wields over your mind.

If you love with the intent of ownership, there will be no room for death, disappointment, or sadness.

I’m young, but I’ve seen people forget how to do things out of love, how to move out of love, how to love out of love. We somehow get buried under too many bills, too many “no’s,” and far too many promises of tomorrow.

But if you give little bits of yourself away to everyone you meet, little handfuls for people to own, cherish, and destroy, you will know love and you will be, ironically, full.

A Friendly Reminder to Live Your Life

All WoMen Must (Eventually) Die

In college, I was occasionally prone to panic attacks.

Whether it was due to imposing deadlines or self-imposed standards of perfection, I occasionally found myself with a quickening heart rate and an ominous tightening in my chest. The attacks do not last for long, but I am incredibly grateful for their passing. Thankfully, they are by no means frequent, but I certainly have to consider my surroundings and my situation when they occur. I might say to myself, “Okay, obviously I need to slow down. How can I take better care of myself?”

Except, when I found myself alone last night in the throes of one, I had no answers.

Embarrassingly enough, it was brought on by Game of Thrones. It was actually catalyzed by all of the death on last night’s episode (which is in every episode, I know).

Now, I’m not shy about being a sensitive soul. I often experience a cute overload just by seeing a few ducklings cross the road. My thin skin is then combined with the fact that HBO has enough money to render every decapitation in stunning detail, which creates a heady (pun intended) combination. So, realistic gore mixed in with a couple of heroic deeds of valor was enough to set my heart soaring… and beating rapidly. However, there was something underlying the violence for me: the fact that these people had literally and figuratively run out of time. It’s a television show, I get it, but it does not mean that some grain of truth was not hidden among all of that fighting.

Why do we waste our time on so many figurative and literal battles in our lives? Why do we make excuses for not pursuing our dreams with fervor? Do we really believe that we will have enough time, or are we masters of delusion and disguise about our own mortality? Why do we have a debilitating fear of death? Is it because we are afraid that our legacy and achievements will not be enough to outlast us?

And it’s possible that I would have never had a panic attack (or this much insight) if it weren’t for a completely separate, but absolutely related, event that occurred over the weekend.

Coincidences are Convenient Excuses

My boyfriend and I were waiting patiently for the train after a late night of celebrating a friend’s birthday. A man approached us where we sat. I could feel my boyfriend tense up, and I felt myself nurture a small seed of fear. I personally blame the news for this gut reaction, but that is an entirely different blogpost. The man opened his dialogue fairly harmlessly:

“Are you two dating?”

Now, this could have been dangerous if we were brother and sister, but we aren’t. We replied that, yes, we were dating, and had been for the last 9 years. He then asked the inevitable question that we are always asked: “Where’s the ring?”

We had to politely explain, as we do to our friends and family as well as strangers, that we met in high school, and we simply do not have the money to settle down at the moment. However, the man, while intoxicated but not belligerently so, began to impress upon us the importance of having someone you love by your side. He explained that he was gay and that he had been married to someone that simply encouraged him to settle down. After several years, they got a divorce, and he now realized that the marriage had been born out of necessity, not out of true love. He then explained:

“What if one of you dies tomorrow? Gets hit by a car? What then?”

Now, I’m not trying to suggest that this scenario hasn’t crossed my mind. I felt like saying to the man, “Well, sir, I thought you were a serial killer up until a few minutes ago, so I’m not going to lie, that’s a possibility.” But who hasn’t thought about their significant other dying suddenly due to some tragic accident (or something trivial, like forgetting to take the trash out just one too many times)? And I’m certainly not saying that this man was putting some revolutionary concept to us in a poetic way. I’m simply saying that coincidences are convenient excuses for truths about life that you don’t want to face. I’m saying, this man had a message: live your life at all costs. We were supposed to hear it, and now, so are you.

Although he was drunk and would probably forget meeting us that night, he gave us a gift. He imparted his own life’s truth to complete strangers, in the hopes that his own experience would not have been a stagnant mistake but a learning opportunity for someone else.

 

Or. He was just drunk and wanted to talk.

 

I get it. I’m getting a bit sappy here. But we both left on good terms. I never asked for his name, and he didn’t know ours. We boarded two different cars, and he smiled at us until he got on the train. And we smiled all of the way home to ourselves. Happy to be, but also happy to be together. We had a mutual understanding of our limited time here on earth, the man and us, and my boyfriend and I were happy that a complete stranger recognized our relationship for what it was: special.

So, I received a very friendly reminder to live my life this weekend and be grateful for what I have. I had to experience a panic attack for the event to really sink in, but I have accepted it now. I hope you receive a similar message from this blog without the unfortunate side effects. But if you didn’t, then at least you got up a heads-up for the latest Game of Thrones episode. Seriously. It’s brutal.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Life

I thirst for knowledge. I make it a point to learn something new every day.

Today was no different, and yet it was. Today, I had my mind absolutely blown.

Let’s start where I started:

After writing about my love for Stargirl Caraway in this week’s blogpost, I decided to read up on my favorite novel, Stargirl. I have read it cover to cover several times, but I had never searched the Internet for people like me, “Star People,” if you will. As I have reiterated several times, the novel is about a teenage girl with a nonconformist attitude. She dazzles the high school she attends, and in particular, one boy who is swept up into her mystery and her majesty. And like the high schoolers, I became just as infatuated with her. She’s cheeky, smart, and best of all, she’s her own person. But her most shining feature is that she is half mythical creature and half legend. By the end of the novel, the students can hardly separate fact from fiction regarding Stargirl. Some think of her as a complete fake, others believe that she is as real as it can possibly get.

Enter the short summary of the novel I read that suggests that Stargirl is your typical “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope. Besides sounding like a character on HR Puff ‘N’ Stuff, I had never heard of a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” All I knew is that I needed to find out why my most beloved book character of all time was being called one.

Trippy Tropes

After some very scholarly, academic research on the credible website Wikipedia, I found that MPDG was a common trope in film. To rewind for a second, a “trope” is one of those very interesting words that means one thing, but gets reshaped down the line to better serve society’s needs. More aptly named, a trope is a “contranym.” To rewind even further, a contranym is any word that has two true but opposite meanings. So, according to Merriam-Webster, a “trope” can mean “a phrase used in a different way for artistic effect” or an “overused cliche.” It’s a contranym because it is difficult to use something “differently” when it is also a “cliche.”

I also see these two elements at odds because I do not believe that art can exist without cliches. In my view, the two opposite definitions are redundant.

Humans need common touchstones to view art, to perceive what artists are essentially poking fun at or trying to mimic. All art is simply the construction of or on something that has come before it. There are no more original ideas on this earth: there are only descendants of ideas and the equal, opposite reaction to that same idea. It’s nothing to be depressed about. We live in a world with many beautiful minds that can take an idea and unravel it faster than a moth-eaten sweater, only to knit something different with the same yarn.

However, we still haven’t come to my epiphany. So, let’s continue with one more definition. What’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? According to the film critic and creator of the phrase, Nathan Rabin, it is “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” The Wikipedia article goes on to say: “MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up; thus, their men never grow up.”

And just like that, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Because here was a phrase that completely encompassed my entire goals as a child, as a young adult, and now as a woman. And while I did not know how I felt about chasing some idealistic version of myself, I could not completely reject this reality, or pretend that I hadn’t read what I read. I felt a bit betrayed by a sense of ironic unoriginality that was housed in the most original character I had ever met. Yet, these women obviously have some sort of familiarity in film that allows us to revisit and reinvent this trope time and time again. Here are some films that make use of the MPDG:

  • 500 Days of Summer
  • Elizabethtown
  • Garden State
  • Almost Famous
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

If you have to ask who the MPDG is in these movies, then you haven’t seen the movie. Or maybe you weren’t watching closely enough.

Feminist Fatale

Now, let there be no mistake. I am a feminist, and I understand that MPDGs definitely represent, even encourage, a misogynistic viewpoint. They suggest that women are air heads with just enough wisdom to enlighten the men in their lives before literally and metaphorically running off into a meadow of wildflowers. The MPDG trope, in its cliched form, suggests that every woman who is a bit weird bears similarities to weird women everywhere. And so, women are again slapped with the labels that we must pretend to shun but embody at the same exact time. At any given moment, we are all the “Mother, Whore, Virgin” and now the “MPDG.”

And yet, I want to ideally see this particular trope in its first definition, as something that is viewed differently to create an artistic effect. Maybe I have rose-colored Manic Pixie Dream Girl glasses on, but I think there are some positives that we can take away from this trope, some lessons that Stargirl can still teach us.

I think people need to be reminded that they only need to grow up in definition, not in practice. I think we also need to keep that one person in our lives that is able to take our hands and whisper “jump” when we are too afraid to take the next step. These are our Manic Pixie Dream Girls, and we need them. We need Summer, we need Holly Golightly, and we need Stargirl.

So, cheers to the mothers, the whores, the virgins, and the MPDGs. May you live out loud in our films and in our lives. (*

 

Car Commandments

Like many Americans, I commute to my place of work. A year ago, it was reported that 10.8 million Americans commute an hour to and from their job. That means we spend 520 hours driving to work in the span of a year. That’s hours of radio playing, white knuckling the wheel, getting lost, yelling at the GPS, etc. And I won’t even mention the amount of gas we feed into our cars only to have them spit out the remains in an ironic cloud that chokes us and the earth.

“Mr. Hyde”: Road Rage Edition

Yet, in many cases, the drive is not the problem; it is the other drivers. The slow turners, the speed demons, the huge trucks, you name it, I’ve probably seen it and been furious at it. I’m not sure scientists will ever be able to pinpoint the exact gene in the human body that, when the switch is flipped, could turn Mother Theresa into a monster truck driver. However, when people get behind a wheel, we all seem to experience the white hot hate that is road rage. I like to call them my “Ms. Ryde” moments, a play on Dr. Jekyll’s barbaric counterpart.

Now, I try very hard to keep “Ms. Ryde” stuffed deep inside. I chew gum to release my stress, I listen to soothing music, and I even employ a truly revolutionary tactic: I remain rational. I try to not take things personally on the road. And really, in the grand scheme of things, where will anger get you? There are worse things than being cut off, or even getting in an accident, although it doesn’t seem that way at the time. People lose their lives on the road everyday. Be grateful you are still sitting safely behind the wheel when you arrive home, and remember that everyone else is just trying to do the same.

With that said, I reached my boiling point today. I actually saw someone get out a newspaper and start to read at every red light. I can’t say I was surprised, but I wish I had asked for the funnies when I passed by. All joking aside, this is downright dangerous. I also watched one woman proceed to curl her eyelashes in her rearview mirror last week.

So, I feel as if I have a civic duty to remind my fellow drivers of what I like to call “common sense,” but what other people may call “Car Commandments.”

Car Commandments

1. Thou shalt not text or talk on a cell phone whilst driving.

-I don’t even know why I have to say this, but put your cell phone down. Down. Every day, I see people miss red lights and nearly collide with other cars because they have a phone at their ear. They somehow believe that they have super powers because even though other people get into accidents, they seem to be immune. You are not special. If you’re not the President of the United States (and even if you are), that phone call is not that important.

2. Thou shalt always check thy mirrors at least twice before merging/changing lanes.

-They are called blind spots for a very good reason. Check, double check, and check again to make sure that no one is in yours. Believe me, I know you want to get out from behind that slow poke in the fast lane, but if you don’t glance at your mirrors before making your move, you may have a bigger problem on your hands.

3. Thou shalt merge like thou mean it.

-Every day, I merge onto a major highway. And every day, I see someone in the right lane who is going far too slow to let anyone merge in front or behind him/her. If you are this person, get in the left lane so people can safely get into the rat race. If you are the person merging, it’s best to speed up, if you can. Step on the gas to get in front of someone, don’t put on the brakes so that you can get hit from behind.

4. Thou shalt turn like thou mean it, too.

-Easily my biggest pet peeve on the road: when someone on the highway decides that they will make their turn and that they will make their turn at a speed that a tortoise in its dotage would think was too slow. Listen, I know you’re excited that you didn’t miss your turn, but if the people behind you have to slam on their brakes and say 10 Hail Mary’s before you take your exit, then we are going to have to throw down.

5. Thou shalt put on thy turn signal in a timely fashion.

-Again, I’m not even sure why I have to say this, but my daily commute dictates that it needs to be said. Turn on your blinker when you need to turn. Turn it off, if it doesn’t go off, when you turn. That’s it. But if you are one of those people who turn it on far too early or far too late, I have no time for you. And a question for those people who leave their blinker on halfway down the highway: doesn’t that annoy you? That metronome ticking? If it doesn’t annoy you, it probably annoys the person you are talking to on your cell phone, because why else would you leave that thing on? Pay. Attention. And see Commandment #1.

 

I completely agree that too many rules can dull the edges of our mind and turn us into sheep. However, the right rules can keep us safe. Be mindful of other drivers, and they will be mindful of you. In reality, if you give me that little “wave” that says, “Thanks for letting me into this giant parade we will be following for the next 20 miles!” or that says, “Hey, I’m really sorry for cutting you off for no reason, but I can see you are upset from your angry gestures in my rearview!” I will totally forgive you. Remember, karma waits at every red light.

10 Women That Should Have A Hurricane Named After Them

Does This Hurricane Make Me Look Fat?

If you haven’t heard, there was a surprising report in the weather forecast today. A new study has confirmed that hurricanes with “female” names are not taken as seriously as “male” hurricanes. Therefore, female hurricanes are deadlier because people do not rush out of their homes if “Sally” is coming, but they might if “Sean” is at their doorstep. Putting aside my absolute outrage that they give actual hurricanes women’s names, and they still do not receive the respect they deserve, I had to renew my female fierceness. First, I read this response to the news: Do Female-Named Hurricanes Need to Lean In?

And I cracked up. Then, I compiled the following list of cool (real and fictional) females that are practically subzero. Relax, lean back, and enjoy the wonders of women. Maybe hurricanes need to be named after these dynamic dames for a better fear factor…

10. Khutulun

Her name means “Moonlight,” but something tells me you wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley. Khutulun was a fierce and accomplished warrior in Mongolia during the 13th century. She challenged any suitor to wrestle her for her hand in marriage, but all of her potential husbands simply received an a** kicking. Even when her parents begged her to simply lose the wrestling match so that she could marry, it seems she could not fight off her fighting instincts because she always won.

9. Dita Von Teese

Whether or not you agree with her lifestyle is of little importance, she is fabulous. She is a class act and a savvy business woman. She re-popularized an entire industry and stands at the forefront of many more, such as lingerie, make-up, modeling, etc. She is also credited with stating my favorite quote:

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.

I can’t lie; I hate peaches. But I catch your drift, Dita, and I applaud you for it.

8. Nellie Bly

Bly was so committed to her journalism that she intentionally had herself committed. She spent 10 days in a mental institution to expose the horrid conditions of asylums in the 1800s. Thankfully, she made it to the outside to publish her findings.

7. Daenerys Targaryen 

This fiercesome female on Game of Thrones is firmly deserving of the title, “Dragon Lady.” She suffered greatly in the first season of the show, but it is obvious that she will be gracing our screens for episodes to come. Dany was able to conquer the hearts and minds of her people with swift justice and amazing outfits. Seriously, Khaleesi, can I be queen for a day?

6. Helena Bonham Carter

A terrific actress, Bonham Carter has not received any formal acting training. She appears alongside Johnny Depp in many of her films, but she is never upstaged by her hunky co-star. She is also Tim Burton’s muse and simply lives an enviable life.

5. J.K. Rowling

I know, I know, I went for the obvious choice. But the woman captured the hearts of millions and has more money than God, yet she is still able to keep her wits about her. And thank goodness, because she’s got some amazing wit. Click on her name to read her inspiring words of wisdom. You go, Jo.

4. Tardar Sauce (Grumpy Cat)

Yes, Grumpy Cat is a girl! She’s made so many people around the world smile with her sour frown. She will go down in history as the cutest, unhappiest cat that ever lived. Long live, Grumpy Cat!

3. Julia from Jeopardy!

Julia Collins slid into the second spot for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! She holds a bachelor’s degree in art history and a master’s degree in engineering (what even!?). Her reign recently ended on the game show, but she is still a trailblazer for smart women everywhere.

2. Susan Caraway from Stargirl

No list would be complete without my favorite book of all time, Stargirl. Susan Caraway is a nonconformist youth that renames herself Stargirl. Her message is one of true individuality and self-beauty. I would not be the woman I am today without her.

1. Your Female Family

You need not look far for powerful women in your life. Simply look to your mom, your aunt, your cousin, your sister, your grandmother, your best friend, etc. Any woman can prove to be a positive female influence. Let the love and estrogen flow!

 

I hope you have educated yourself on some truly phenomenal women that could rival any weather phenomenon. I’m pretty sure people would listen if “Hurricane Khaleesi” was making landfall…

Don’t agree with my list? Submit your own nominations in the comments!

Bandwagoning Books

If I had my way, I would spend about 90% of my time reading. And if I could spend even less time reading but still be able to experience books in all of their undeniable sublimity (perhaps due to some book osmosis that I prayed for when I had an anatomy final the next day in high school), then I would engage in such an activity every day. Seriously, someone much smarter than me should get on that…

But a serious question from a less than serious blogger: how does a bookworm keep up? E-readers have certainly helped people to stay on top of his or her book game, but the Internet has given voice to many more people and topics than ever before. So, how do we cut through the din? How do we account for a steady diet of the written word when there is a bigger feast than anyone can handle? Tell me, what makes the “paper cut”?

Reader to Theater

Not surprisingly, many readers are at the theater, as they look to film to inform their next read. Movies have become 2 hour advertisements for 200 page books that are adapted past the author’s ability to stomach their own creation. We watch the film/television version almost to judge whether we will want to spend precious time on the book itself. And when I say precious time, I actually mean a precious lifetime if Game of Thrones serves as an example.

There has been a complete role reversal; students used to watch the film instead of read the book to save time. Now, we go to the movies in the hopes of liking the movie enough to read the book. Do we not trust our own instincts? Do we not trust the authors to deliver a satisfying read? Do we really trust Hollywood to do our characters justice?

Perhaps, I do. I’ve watched four seasons of Game of Thrones with only about five chapters read in the first book and with little intention to keep reading when HBO breathes gold dust into Martin’s story and colors in between the literal lines of text. I did not read Harry Potter at all until I saw the first movie, some three years after the book’s publication, but I did eventually find out what I was missing. The Hunger Games only beeped onto my radar when the indomitable and loveable J Law crashed onto the Hollywood scene in all of her ungraceful glory as Katniss. In many ways, I’ve failed my fellow readers. And at the same time, I’ve seen stories reproduced on the big and small screen that far outpaced my own imagination.

The Fault In Our Books

And now, even with my literary to movie pedigree, I am absolutely fearful of picking up John Green’s teen love story, The Fault in our Stars. Even though I ran to catch up with my fair share of book bandwagons in the past, I can’t help but watch this one roll away and kick up some dust. From what I can tell from the trailers, (and maybe I’m just bitter about Shailene Woodley because the Divergent fan club loved her first) it is this generation’s A Walk to Remember but with a horrid twist that makes people absolutely lose it. So, excuse me if I don’t go running to the library to cry my eyes out. I did read The Book Thief, after all. (And if you haven’t read Zusak’s masterpiece, you need to. I mean, now. Go.)

However, I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, by its movie, or its fan club, for that matter. (If I made decisions on that last one, I wouldn’t be looking at you, the Bible). So, maybe when the crickets grow silent in the theater and TFIOS leaves the bestseller rack and slips back into the YA section, I’ll give it a read. But for now, it’s all I can do to dodge The Fault in our Stars and not find the faults in all of the reading material that has been barraging us lately. So, would I call watching the movie before reading the book blasphemy? No, I would call it smart. But these days, a movie ticket costs as much as a paperback, so be careful how you spend your money and your time.