“We don’t even know if her writing is any good. And what if she wakes up, and she’s 30, and what does she know how to do?”
“She knows how to have fun. She does what she wants to do, when she wants to do it, and she has fun–and then she thinks about that fun and she learns from that fun.
“Girls”

Thanks to Xfinity and the promotion they have going on that seems geared to target people who get obsessive about things they really like, but only for a short period of time, I managed to watch two entire series of the much-buzzed-about HBO show “Girls”. I haven’t watched the show for a number of reasons, but the main one is the fact that I don’t have HBO. I also no longer have Blockbuster Online, since their service turned to absolute crap, so really, there are few ways of seeing the show.

After 20 episodes plus commentary with Lena Dunham, I can say that I do indeed like the show. I was prepared not to. In fact, over the past 36 hours, I’ve seen Lena Dunham naked so many times that I think I might be in a relationship with her. I feel like I should be buying her dinner or something, because I probably know more about her character’s sex life than my own. I don’t really think we should keep seeing each other. There is no physical attraction whatsoever, and she seems remarkably self-involved. Yet, I keep watching.

And, strangely enough, that kind of defines the phenomenon that is “Girls”.

One of the reasons I stayed away from this show is because of all the media buzz surrounding it. From haters who summarize it as “over-privileged twenty-something white girls whining about imaginary problems” to pro-feminist bloggers who write about “rape scenes” and “lack of female sexual empowerment” in a show that’s supposed to be about young women *becoming* independent and empowered, there was enough to make me think I was better off not watching it. Not to mention the fact that, plot-wise, it seemed like a younger, poorer “Sex And The City” (you’ve got the quirky writer, the prudish skinny brunette, the wild child, and no Miranda—she’s been replaced by a somewhat manic 21-year-old virgin. Redheads were not popular in casting, apparently. :P )

Many of my friends loved the show, assured me I would love the show, and as a female creative person who is vocally supportive of other female creative people getting out there and being “real”, I would love Lena Dunham.

However, all the interviews and publicity I saw about Lena Dunham seemed to reference her looks and her weight and her nude scenes, and how being an “average” woman on TV was groundbreaking. Something about all this just made me feel uncomfortable rather than interested. Perhaps it’s because of the 145-pound actress making self-deprecatory comments about her weight and her appearance through her character, while simultaneously sending out the message that it’s cool to be comfortable with yourself—-and by the way, this is what the average “real” woman looks like, so we should get more comfortable with that, too—and the fact that the mixed messages made me uncomfortable. Since gaining some weight two years ago, I’m about the same size she is (although we’re clearly shaped differently) and her show is littered with references about how her character is “plain” and “fat”. Does this make me “plain” and “fat”, and even if I happen to be those things, do I want to see a reflection of them on TV? Or is the point that her character is NOT “plain” and “fat” and “weird”, it’s just how she sees herself?

In any case, something about the whole thing made me feel vaguely uncomfortable, and I figured this was either a show that I couldn’t relate to at all, or would be a good way for an insecure person to reinforce insecurities by seeing some sort of reflection of herself in a character that was described with not particularly positive attributes. Thus,about a month ago, when I was approached by what turned out to be a guy far too young for me who compared me to Lena Dunham, I didn’t necessarily take it as a compliment, although he obviously meant it as one.

The idea of watching this show scared me, in a way, because it’s not often on television you see a brutally honest depiction of someone who in some way reminds you of yourself. In a way, this is a type of scripted television that’s way more real than any “reality TV” or “true life story” you’ll see, and I can see why it would be uncomfortable and intimidating. While not all the characters on the show are as real and brutally uncomfortable as Hannah (the character based on Dunham’s own life experience), some are. Almost all have moments that make you cringe, while at the same time, you recognise these things have happened to you or someone you know.

“Girls” entertains, but unlike “Sex And The City”, it makes you feel uncomfortable and doesn’t apologise for that. It shows people at their best, and at their worst. Surprisingly enough, the scene that made me feel the most uncomfortable wasn’t one with Lena Dunham present at all. One of the characters is a very experienced, likeable, and totally irresponsible hippie type who ends up in a screaming match with someone she believes loves her. Instead, he ends the relationship by tearing her down in the most vicious ways possible, and she doesn’t even flinch. When he says, rather than loving her, he considers her a mistake and a “whore with a terrible work ethic”, she hits him. At the same time, you barely see her react to being verbally abused, making it obvious that this seemingly confident character has never actually been loved by anyone, despite her greater experience with the world. It made me terribly uncomfortable to watch, and I actually felt somewhat damaged after seeing that scene, to which I could relate a little too much.

I think that’s what the show does, and it is why Lena Dunham isn’t just the overrated, controversial twenty-something of the moment. She (along with Judd Apatow) take what should be one-dimensional characters we’ve all seen before, and put them in situations of such vulnerable honesty that there are moments that are tremendously emotionally affecting. While I’m pretty vocal about my feminist viewpoints, I honestly didn’t see anything in the show that made me angry enough to not watch the show. Sometimes, the girls on the show are in situations where they are not treated nicely by men, and by each other. Again, there are things that are hard to watch. But they’re also things that anyone who has made it through their twenties living a relatively unsheltered, adventurous lifestyle has probably experienced (the funniest episode is undoubtedly the one where Dunham’s character does cocaine with her gay ex-boyfriend as “research” for a story).

I don’t necessarily feel the need to see Lena Dunham naked more frequently, and the character she portrays on the show is far from stable (not that any of them are), but it’s really difficult to listen to her talk about her creation and not like where she’s coming from. She’s definitely a cool, creative person, and I wish the press had focused more on the positive aspects of her show and her persona. In this day and age, almost anyone can be a blogger, an aspiring filmmaker, an artist whose favourite subject is “Telling the story of my life”. That’s often mistaken for shallow self-absorption or shameless attention whoring (we can all thank the cast of “Jersey Shore” and anyone in the Kardashian family for that.). However, it’s downright ballsy to do it in a way that not only doesn’t idealise or glamourise those you know and the situations around you, but is willing to show you at your lowest and most “unbeautiful”.

That’s reality, and while I may have avoided the show out of an instinct that it would make me uncomfortable, that’s also precisely why I needed to watch it. It’s why most women in their early 20′s to early 30′s could benefit from watching it. Sometimes, life isn’t pretty, and no matter how time you invest in the right manners, the right job, the right makeup, the right clothes, and the right friends, you’re not always going to be so pretty, either.

Yet, most of the time, if you’re lucky, you’ll have people around who love you anyway. They may never understand you, they may get mad at you and think you’re not worth the trouble until it occurs to them that everyone is insufferable sometimes, and some may walk away when you need them. But, in the end, there are always people who love you, and they’ll come back for you anyway…even when you don’t deserve it.

I consider my 36-hour fling with Lena Dunham and her colourful cast of characters to be one of the most rewarding I’ve had in some time. I’d highly recommend. :)


“My survival is, in fact, the final irony. Everyone was always in better health than me. All my friends, two husbands, my sisters, so many who never complained a day in their lives until death tapped them on the shoulder. The grass is green over them now–and I’m still here.” — “Mozart’s Wife”,Juliet Waldron

A few days ago, I completed an author interview that will hopefully be around and about in the next few months. In it, I was asked about the state of indie publishing, and whether or not traditional publishers were still the only reliable source for for quality literature.

A year or so ago, The Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a Kindle Fire, which I wasn’t even sure at the time I wanted. As it turns out, I love it, and it’s gotten me into the habit of reading more. Since I don’t live near a convenient library and spending $15-$20 for a new release every time I’m excited to read something can become an expensive habit, discovering relatively inexpensive indie authors is a fun hobby. I’m already somewhat addicted to clothes and jewelry and headpieces and perfumes. I don’t need anything else on which to spend money (but more about me and my 2013 shopping adventures later.)

The truth is, for every 10 “free” or “99 cent” Kindle books I download, one is worth reading. Recently, I downloaded a book that sounded so promising to me in premise, and was written by a retired humanities professor with the requisite letters after his name. I made it through 10 pages. I couldn’t help but remember a time, as a freshman in university who was slacking off and called into the adviser’s office for a “chat about my potential”, the professor speaking to me told me that I was more articulate and visionary than many of his colleagues. Even though I studied in the arts, where graduating with a job offer is considered a success, my adviser expressed disappointment that I didn’t turn it down in order to continue my education. I remembered this episode, with a total lack of humility, because I encountered an instance that proved him right. Not every well-educated person should be self-publishing, at least without an editor.

I’m picky about what I read, in the same way that I don’t have the patience to sit through a bad movie and will fall asleep during a TV show I hate. I don’t mean to be critical. I guess I just am. If I dislike a book within the first 20 minutes, I’ll delete it without a thought. I’m sure plenty of people would do the same to mine. ;)

I downloaded “Mozart’s Wife”, because it was a work of historical fiction (which I enjoy), and because in my years of singing, my operatic repertoire has become particularly Mozart-heavy. Mozart loved his coloraturas, and wasn’t afraid to write very difficult pieces for them. Of course, I know a great deal about the less-than-admirable life of the child prodigy who, like so many child prodigies, did not end his life with the same promise with which it began. However, I know less about his wife Constanze (Konstanze, or Stanzi in this book). She’s always depicted as petite, slightly plump, voluptuous, and bursting with energy that attracted many admirers. Since Mozart has a reputation as a philanderer, an alcoholic, a gambler, and a person of many other vices, it’s widely portrayed in books and popular culture that his wife was of the same temperament. One would assume, especially after watching “Amadeus”, that they were a pair of liberal party-hoppers with high aspirations but little sense of practicality.

This book shows a different side to Konstanze, a woman who struggled to deal with a neurotic, unfaithful, and chronically irresponsible husband whose flaws were to be forgiven because of her genius. She also struggled of living in the shadow of two gifted sisters, one an extraordinary beauty Mozart wanted to marry but instead helped her to launch a career as a prima donna. In the character portrayed, you don’t see a flighty and sensual woman, but one who might have been content with a less glamorous and more stable life. Upon Mozart’s death, she found herself to be 28, in severe debt, prematurely aging, and willing to bury her husband in a pauper’s grave and lock up all relics of his life. You see someone who is not mourning the loss of love, but carrying the burden of anger at how many lives the man she loved destroyed.

I do not know how much of the story is fictional, and how much is based on papers left behind by Mozart himself (which Konstanze later edited and published in order to build a sense of financial security), but the speculation that Mozart had illegitimate children and died by poison at the hands of a fellow Masoner who found his wife seduced by the musician is certainly a possibility, and an entertaining one at that. Regardless of Konstanze’s feelings toward her late husband, if she had simply thrown his stacks of compositions and correspondence into the fire, history would have been denied much. An artist who struggled to earn a living for his family during his lifetime has been turned into one of the greatest legends of all time, and I suspect most of that is owed to the sheer practicality of his widow.

I’ve always adored Mozart’s “Requiem”, and the dramatization of his death surrounding the composition of it in “Amadeus”made it that much more heart-rending for me. At one point, Waldron writes a scene in which Mozart acknowledges the requiem he is writing is for himself, and cries during attempts to create the “Lachrymosa”. (the last part of the “Requiem” most scholars agree Mozart completed completely on his own.) This scene shook me, because it is perhaps the most musically powerful piece ever composed by someone who spent so much of his gift creating entertaining stories and bawdy farces. It is at the very end of his life, you see and hear the true genius that was perhaps never entirely discovered.

I had to look through 20 “free” Kindle books to find something as well-written, well-researched, and engaging as this novel. Fans of Phillipa Gregory, Juliet Grey, Antonia Fraser, and Alison Weir will all enjoy this work.

On a somewhat related note, I experienced something that I can now cross off my bucket list: receiving my first rejection letter. I submitted a series of short stories for publication as a chapbook, and it was rejected with a polite semi-form letter that said “I’m glad to have read it, and while I found much to like in it, I think I’m going to decline the chance to publish it as a title. Please don’t take this as a reflection on you or the work–when making editorial decisions like this it’s more about the larger picture of the vision for the grouping of titles as a whole than it is a singular comment on one particular book.”

I actually took the rejection harder than I thought I would. I am not unused to rejection. You don’t get through a lifetime of working in theatre without knowing how to handle rejection. You don’t live life as the sort of person who will tell someone how you feel about them without the risk that every so often, your feelings simply won’t be reciprocated. You don’t apply for freelance jobs expecting every single person will be awed by you.

Yet, there’s something about a rejection letter that’s extremely personal and final. It is the equivalent of hearing “It’s not you, it’s me, but it’s really you.” I cried and felt inadequate about the whole business. At least when you don’t get a role in a show, it’s often because of a director’s vision, or because you’ve seen with your own eyes that you weren’t right for something or someone was better than you. When you confess your love for someone who replies with “But I’d rather be with someone who isn’t you”, you cry and realise that person is just an emotionally unaware idiot and it’s for the best. When you don’t land a job, it’s a disappointment, but an impersonal one. The real and personal nature of a rejection letter has a way of hitting hard. It must be a little like being one of Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends listening to her new album for the first time.

It isn’t even so much that I believed that a chapbook was the right format for what I wanted to put out there. As always, a simple idea of “I should write some stories” turned into a larger project that will likely end up being a 150-page novella with an over-arching theme that 10 people will read. My inability to do anything on a small scale is nothing if not consistent.

I suppose it was more just a case of me hoping to hear validation and encouragement, in the form of “You’re a creative person who isn’t wasting time working on creative things.” When I received the opposite, it felt like quite a blow to my already delicate self-esteem.

On a final, somewhat related note, I’ve had my first author interview published regarding “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse“. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read it here. Make certain to leave a comment or a “like”, to let both the blog owner and myself know you’ve visited and appreciated what you happened to read.

It’s been an odd week. The weather changes almost every other day, as does my mood, and both have been difficult to handle. I hope to be able to take some time in June to travel and visit a few friends I’ve been missing dearly, as both travel and the company of friends I see too infrequently generally makes me feel more exuberant and less…well…old. *laughs*

On the up side, we have tickets to see Fun. in October, and while that’s a lifetime away, I have something to look forward to. :)

Yesterday, I somehow got myself lost in the tangled spiderweb that is the past decade or so of my life. It’s easy for me to do this, because one of the advantages (and also disadvantages, I suppose) of living most of your adult life online and going through a period of being a prolific letter (i.e. e-mail) writer, is that you have a lot of written evidence of your personal journey and interactions with others that got you to where you are today.

The reason for my search was simple: Somewhere between 2005-2007, I had a Yahoo! account. It is one I no longer use, nor do I remember it, but it is liked to my long-inactive Flickr account. For sentimental reasons, I’d like to access my Flickr account, but when Flickr merged with Yahoo!, I must have created a log-in with Yahoo!. This account is likely long de-activated, but I was able to find the e-mail address I used to sign up with Flickr. It’s not useful, because you can’t sign into “old-skool Flickr” anymore. You need your Yahoo! ID. I wrote for help on this subject, explaining the conundrum. They said, “Just sign in with the account you used to create Flickr, and we’ll send you the Yahoo! ID.” Great, except the account is linked to “jadedelegance.com”, a domain I no longer own.

Two days of bashing my head against the keyboard yielded no results. I started to have fantasies about beating Yahoo! employees unconscious with a bat. The anxiety caused by communicating with Yahoo!, coupled with some financial worries this week, finally got to a breaking point and I told Yahoo! just how unhelpful they were and made a list of the reasons I’ve used Gmail since 2007. After that, I got a sound night’s sleep. Obviously, I am never getting into my old Flickr account, and the 2,000+ photos that are in there (many of which I lost when Kodak merged with something else and deleted years of memories) will not be rescued. Corporations suck.

In any case, I gave it a noble attempt. I reactivated a few Yahoo! addresses I remember having back in the day. None of them were it. I then looked in the “storage” folder where I stored voluminous correspondence from 2003-2006 from my former Earthlink account, hoping for some reference to initiating a Yahoo! ID. Nothing. But I did naturally get curious, and take a trip down memory lane.

I read some e-mails from ex-boyfriends I don’t always remember fondly, but happened to be reminded of some of the good times. I read some e-mails from some of my best friends, including one where I was apparently mad because a good friend of mine repeated some unflattering comments his college roommate made about me, and I was all sensitive and hurt by the opinion/comments of someone I did not know. (Ironically, I remember neither the comments nor why I cared. Even more ironically, the roommate who made them is someone I am now fond of as a person and consider a friend. Reading the conversation about how this person and I would never get along was like discovering the book you’re reading has ironic foreshadowing involved.) I read some e-mails from some people in my life who are no longer in it, but a part of me can see why I’d miss them (which is not the same as ever wishing to speak to them again.) I read some e-mails from haters, including a friend of a friend who seemed preoccupied with tearing me to shreds whenever possible, and referred to me as “Alayna-Renee Vilemont” or “Alayna-Renee Bitchmont”. He saw me as kind of an allegory for all that was wrong with society, and said some of the most hurtful things I’ve ever heard from someone, until I started dating Southern boys and met their mothers. I even read e-mails from people I used to really love and idealise and wanted approval from, and now I look back, and think “Why?”

Some e-mails I couldn’t read, because opening up old chapters of life is too painful. I somehow managed to only concentrate on the positive ones, through the laws of random clicking.

One of the more amusing conversations I came across was from 2002 or so, before everyone started living every detail of their life on the internet, but I’d already been sucked into a world that included blogging, long-distance relationships, IM, and any way possible to over-share with strangers. (I’d like to think I’m a trendsetter. :P )

One thing that most people don’t know about me is that, although I will talk your ear off about nearly anything and tell endless stories about myself and my life that you probably have no interest in knowing—followed by expecting you to share intimate details about your life because you find me so endearing— I really suck at small talk. One of the reasons people don’t always hit it off with me is because the endless social niceties bore me to death, and the older I get, the harder it is for me to hiding. Instead, I’ll jump right in with the colourful stories and psychologically probing questions, because it’s far more interesting than knowing you moved here 6 months ago and have a cat. I really fast-track all kinds of social relationships, which can make a certain kind of person uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the time or patience or interest to invest in people who are never going to be more than shallow acquaintances. Maybe it’s because I’m easily bored, and I want to hear about what makes someone different from everyone else, not the mundane details I could learn from reading your Facebook profile.

A good friend of mine is a similar type of person. Despite the fact that we met many years ago and logged endless hours on chat back in the day, he’s the type who grows annoyed and frustrated with some mundane,conversational type questions, like “What did you have for dinner?”. However, after a few years of talking to someone daily, you kind of become like an old married couple. The mystery is gone. What the hell else is there to chat about? Yet, you like someone enough that you don’t want to stop chatting because they now know your entire life story, and your present routine of “Sleep, work, internet, food, TV, weekend” isn’t terribly interesting either. Yes, I understand this is a somewhat boring question…but the point behind it is not. I think the habit of asking the question grew out of a relationship with an ex, which began as a long-distance relationship, and the conversation every night always included “What did you have for dinner?” It’s just a way of saying, “I’m curious about every little thing about you and your life, because you interest me.” Therefore, I get very annoyed with those who brush it aside as a “stupid question.” It’s not. Well, it is, but it’s not.

Alayna:”What did you have for dinner tonight?”
Alayna’s Secretive Friend:”Why? That’s a silly question.”
A:”I was just curious. Making conversation. You don’t want to tell me?”
ASF:“Well, I had roast beef. And potatoes. And vegetables.”
A:“Mmmm…that sounds good! What kind of vegetables?”
ASF:”Nothing special. Green vegetables.”
A:“Well,there’s lots of different types of vegetables, silly!”
ASF: “If you really must know, I had green beans. *annoyed sigh* GREEN BEANS, OK?!!

The funny thing about this conversation is that it is, again, kind of an instance of foreshadowing. A decade later, we live in a world where people perpetually photograph and Instagram their dinners, and share not only with their best friends, but the thousands of people they somehow know.

The world has somehow changed and technology has created a world full of people like me, who think every thought they’ve ever had is relevant. However, if everyone freely shares all the time, the process of opening up and sharing one-on-one with those you feel a specific bond isn’t quite so special. I, who once spent every waking minute near a “chat” tool, have largely gone back to old-fashioned letters and phone calls to keep in touch with those who really matter. Digital intimacy has been replaced by digital broadcasting, and it’s ironic that the more ways available to keep in touch, true connection doesn’t seem to happen easily via any of them. Once upon a time, it did, until it got easier and easier, and connection was designed to be as effortless as possible.

I find it funny that my views on communication have come full circle, and I disable all my chat tools. Facebook is great for checking in with acquaintances, but to be a good friend, you have to call me every so often, or better yet, make time to meet up and talk. I no longer ask anyone what they had for dinner, not because I don’t care about the people in my life, but because there’s no one with whom I spend all of my waking hours “virtually”.

In some ways, I think it’s so much better..and in others, there are things about that heavy level of communication I miss. What I know now, and didn’t then, is that quantity does not replace quality. When it comes to communication, the more we use technology to connect, the more disconnected we become, because connection no longer requires interest, effort, or putting too much of oneself on the line. It no longer requires thinking about other people, much less forming substantial bonds. Digital intimacy is now for everyone, and the way to communicate with those you value the most is to communicate in a non-technology-oriented way.

Sometimes, the more the world moves forward, the more we inevitably see the value in things left behind along the way.

While I’ve made the decision to not invest the time and energy required to format “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse” for the Kindle, Nook, and other tablets, I have decided to offer a .pdf version of the book for sale on Lulu.com

There are a few reasons for this. The product I designed was specifically designed to be appreciated as a book. From the cover art to the colours to the font choices, it has a slightly antiquated and personal feel that simply can’t be conveyed on a computer screen. I firmly believe that what I’ve created is meant to be read in such a way that you might forget, for a few moments, that everything we do is electronic, instantaneous, and impersonal.

Yet, I am aware that people enjoy having a lower-cost option available, and many people simply do not want stacks of books cluttering up a space. So, in the spirit of compromise, I’m offering an electronic edition of “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse in old-fashioned .pdf format. There are no bells and whistles, and you’re missing out on the back cover (which is really just a lovely quotation and my bio).

The .pdf is $2.99 (compared to $7.99 for a hard copy on Amazon.com), and can be purchased instantly on my Lulu Author Spotlight page. However, for the truly old-fashioned book lovers and romantic spirits, I’d still recommend ordering the book in physical form. You’ll enjoy it all the more for being tangible. :)

“I gradually realised that I’m just not the muse type. Girls like me don’t inspire people. I’m just not muse material,I finally thought sadly on my 18th birthday, looking at a world wholly non-inspired by me. “I’m not a princess. I’m not a muse. Just being me isn’t enough. I’m going to have to dosomething instead.“—Caitlin Moran,“How To Be A Woman”

It’s been a little while since I’ve felt inclined to post over here. Chalk it up to the winter blues or simply a lack of anything truly different and interesting happening in my life, but blog topics have been few and far between. Sometimes, it comes to transpire in life that you have many thoughts and feelings you could express, but most are things you’re obligated to keep to yourself for one reason or another. When that happens, I notice that my blog gets a little quieter, but it’s easier for me to renew my habit of writing three pages a day in my journal, or to actually send letters to people.

Speaking of letters, I started out my day today by reading a beautifully handwritten letter from Randy of Narrative Urge, a project that’s garnered a lot of local publicity. He’s dedicated himself to writing a letter a day, each one to a different person around the world. It’s a little bit like a daily journal, I suppose, chopped up into bits and pieces and scattered around the world. It would be a very cool project for him to get back copies of every letter sent when the year is out, along with any responses from those he’s written, and turn them into a published anthology. Because I’ve recently become fascinated with the idea of human disconnection in a world that’s obsessed with making connection easier and more instantaneous, I think this is a wonderful idea on Randy’s part, and am happy he took time out to include me.

While I haven’t been the most productive blogger or worker bee, I have been keeping up with some reading and writing endeavours. I’ve completed the first draft of “Sophisticated Nothing”, a compilation of memoirs and short fictional pieces I originally intended to submit for publication as a short chapbook. The chapbook draft is complete, and I may send it off just to see if it is approved by a publisher and the idea is worth exploring. However, after I started work on it, I realised it had potential to be a much longer collection of short stories and personal memoirs. The concept behind it is, as mentioned above, about connection in an increasingly disconnected world. Every story is set in a different bar, restaurant, coffeeshop, or cafe, because these are public places where people interact, often forgetting they’re in a public place. They’ve also been inspirational places for people interested in observing people, or having exchanges with strangers. Once I thought of the overarching theme of the collection, I realised there were more stories to be told than could fit into a 50-page chapbook. However, I have a habit of allowing my projects to get too big, and therefore, never get finished. So, I’ve been debating what to do with my creative vision. I don’t really need another project that serves to make no money from distracting me from what should be a main goal in life—making money. *laughs*

I enjoyed reading two short but extremely witty books over the past two weeks. Both are by women around my age, and are part memoir, part sociological insight on subjects such as feminism, travel, relationships, independence, and self-esteem. It’s always interesting to me to read books by people who started off as bloggers, columnists, or writers for less-than-mainstream publications. They have different and more authentic voices—the kind Elizabeth Wurtzel and Alexandra Robbins got panned for before it became common for journalists to write about “myself and people like me”. It is still a style of writing that is reviewed quite harshly and described as “self-indulgent”, especially when penned by a female author, or one that can land you in the hot seat on Oprah if it turns out you made a lot of the colourful details up. I don’t really care; self-indulgent or not, fictional or not, I enjoy the kind of in-your-face style of writing that today’s version of diarists and essayists are putting out there. So, when many of them were on sale for $1.99 through Amazon, it was a good day.

I started with Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman”, which has been panned so harshly by critics and readers above the age of 40 with such passion, I determined I’d probably love it. (What are the chances that I’m not going to identify with a controversial book about feminism and being a woman in today’s society, written by a snarky British woman around my age?). I actually loved the book, and I don’t know what people were going on and on about, because there’s very little that’s controversial or shocking in what she has to say. Oh, wait. No. She talks about having an abortion and not feeling too upset over the whole ordeal. And she uses the word “vagina”. I guess that’s “controversial”.

A music journalist for Wired magazine back in the day, Caitlin Moran is the non-conformist cool chick who isn’t afraid to discuss how uncool and insecure she’s always felt about her place in the world. Moran’s stories alternate between being funny, heartfelt, and painful, and sometimes all at the same time. Since that’s rather how life is, I’d say it’s a successful book. It’s easy to read, and I don’t know the last time I used the “bookmark” feature on my Kindle so often, because she’s a quotable woman. I look forward to reading her other book soon, but I’ve added her to my favourites list for the time being.

After that, I moved on to Rachel Shukert’s “Everything Is Going To Be Great”, another happily settled thirty-something writing about her decade or so of finding herself. While Moran is a cool British feminist who hangs out with guitarists in drug-induced fits of being an asshole, Shukert is an American Jewish girl from a wealthy, suburban family that wants to live life outside of the “good girl” role. Needless to say, her exposure to the world without the security blanket of money, family, a supportive relationship, or even the comforts of living in your home country is not a seamless one. There are many points when I am reminded how the best part of the book is the ironic title, although it really isn’t. Even though all the sucky things that might befall someone traveling abroad seem to happen to this one rather lost and directionless girl, things always somehow get back on track and for a while, do indeed appear to be great.

Shukert doesn’t make any pretense about wanting to be a feminist or help a younger generation of women through the painful and funny journey of self-discovery, while Moran writes about these topics outright and seems to not only want to give you a dose of reality, but shock you in the process. These are clearly two very different types of girls, but the common denominator is they’re around the same age, both educated, both great writers, and end up finding a sense of self and stability in a chaotic world. If you’re looking for reading material for your next flight, either or both of these will entertain you for quite some time.

Although I myself haven’t done anything interesting in the past month (first, The Guy I Am Currently Dating was sick for 10 days, and then on the day he recovered, I got sick for 10 days, so February wasn’t the most action-packed of months.), I’ve used some of the down-time to be entertained by and proud of some of the cool things friends of mine have been doing. Dave Leach, a friend of ours for many years via my social group, appeared on the Jeopardy! Tournament Of Champions, and made it through to the semi-final rounds. After winning 6 times in 2012, it was really a fantastic way for Dave to put a cap on his Jeopardy! experience, and we’re all very proud of him!

Later in the month, long-time blogger-artist-friend-and-fellow-Philadelphian Gina Martinelli appeared on Lisa Ling’s Our World” with her rather colourful family. Gina is one of the voices over at Polyskeptic, and they all seem pretty happy about their appearance on the show. They were one of three families profiled about modern-day polyamory, and presented an interesting look at poly marriages and families. outside of the traditional primary/secondary partner paradigm that most people I know happen to embrace. (I’m still personally attached to a little more compartmentalization than these more “familial” relationships allow, because as it turns out, I’m remarkably private for an open and unconventional person who keeps a blog on the Internet. :P )) I have a number of friends who are actors that I’ve had opportunity to see on TV and in the movies, but somehow, it’s a little different when people are just being themselves in real life on camera.

Although I personally have been on the more introverted side of things, and am patiently waiting for the happy 70-degree days to arrive, I have more than a little travel wanderlust. I really just want a bag of cash and someone to watch my dog, and I’ll take off and see friends and family I’ve been missing over the past year or so. :P We’ve had some fun events, including dressing up and partying at The Shelter on more than one occasion, but sometimes, you want adventure and spontaneity that happens to lie outside of your Metro area.

Yes, a life of freedom and not being terribly concerned with money would make me a much happier person. I might even blog more. Perhaps that could be an Indiegogo campaign. :P *laughs*

Finally, if you do not possess a copy of my 2012 poetry anthology, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, you can win one on Goodreads. Simply click below and enter the drawing. You’ll received an autographed copy with a personalised dedication. :)

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ophelia’s Wayward Muse

by Alayna-Renee Vilmont

Giveaway ends March 17, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

AUTHOR’S UPDATE: After writing this, I was almost pointed to this article via synchronicity. It’s no secret I don’t care for Jezebel’s perspective, especially when it comes to reading columns by female writers, but this article has more than a grain of truth. In fact, it seems remarkably tied in to everything I was feeling and writing about today.

“When 40 became the new 30, 30 became invisible. It’s a decade of major transition, a bridge from the broke hot mess of your 20s to the fabulousness of your 40s. Or when ‘Mean Girls’ graduate to ‘boring bitches.’ At least that’s one of the perceptions that hurts the pre-middle age group. Thirty-somethings are overshadowed by the antics of the 20-something “Girls” and the 40-something “Real Housewives” because, pop-culturally speaking, the best material is born from ‘having nothing’ (20s), ‘having it all’ (40s) or ‘losing it all’ (40s divorcee).”

I sometimes wonder if there are people out there who feel the way I do, who get to a point where they have so much restlessness and discontent inside of them, they’re ready to explode.

It isn’t a new experience for me, although it’s gotten worse as my situation has changed for the worse. I grew up with this feeling of restlessness inside of me, and even though performing provided an outlet for the experience and attention I needed from the world to feel happy, there was always a part of me that was biding my time. I grew up dreaming of bigger and brighter things. I wanted romance and adventure and experiences that I’d remember for the rest of my life. I wanted to travel the world and meet people and roam without being too accountable to anyone else. I wanted to converse with people far more interesting and worldly than I was. I was an adult who never looked back the moment the ink was dry on my high-school diploma. I had enough of being bored.

From 17-29, life was non-stop adventure and experience. Some were wonderful, glittering, romantic, legendary experiences. Others were immensely painful ordeals I did not have faith I’d know how to survive. When you’re a kid with daydreams about the world and all its adventures, even if you’re not particularly naive or sheltered, you’re still not prepared for how hard and callous and unfeeling the world can be. You abandon delusions that you’re somehow special, because the reality is you’re just another person struggling to get by in life.

Yet, in some ways, security and monotony has been the greatest struggle for me. It’s surprising, because I remember in those horrible moments in life, all I missed were the simple things, and swore I’d never take a night at home watching TV and eating pizza for granted again. Yet, it seems that people don’t change. I’m able to appreciate those small things with more frequency than I used to, and I’m able to live in my own little world for greater periods of time than I used to. However, that restless teenager that just wants to get out and live comes back frequently, and with a vengeance.

I am a grown-up now, with a rather ordinary and repetitive life. I no longer do much of note or accomplish much that makes me special. Time has taken its toll on me, physically and mentally. I no longer have the independence to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I have a dog that needs to be taken care of, and no roommate, and everyone who was ever going to help me with that responsibility so that taking care of a dog didn’t limit my freedom to travel is nowhere to be found. I lack regular income or any prospects that point to a way to make regular income, as my health still isn’t as strong as it needs to be to get out in the world and do things on a daily basis. Some days are great. Others, getting up and dressed is a challenge. It makes it really hard to remember that I used to be that person who would wake up practically bouncing on the bed because of all the exciting things life had to offer.

I always thought the above paragraph would be something written by someone closer to 80 than 30, but, here we are. I know that as long as I am on the Earth, I will never be done living, but the setbacks and limitations have been very hard on me in an emotional sense. All the time alone gets to me, and I have tried to make it otherwise, but it’s simply not how I’m wired. I’ve always needed to be doing things, interacting with people, having others notice me and engage with me. Like everyone else, I need my down time. Unlike most of my friends, 8 hours is fairly sufficient for me to spend alone and recharge my batteries, unless I happen to be ill.

My reality is that every day is pretty much like the next, and it drives me insane. I only see other people perhaps three days a week. Other days, I may chat with people on the telephone or via Facebook or e-mail, but I essentially spend about 70% of my life alone. For an extrovert, that’s hard, and it’s really easy to feel depressed.

I don’t always feel like I have a lot of friends, at least not here in Atlanta. People have rather forgotten about me, or understandably find dealing with the symptoms of my illness too restrictive or too much of a downer. The friends that I do have seem to be the type who look to me to plan interesting things to do or initiate adventures, which leads to my next limitation: transportation. I can only leave the house when someone wants to pick me up and take me somewhere, and in Atlanta, where it’s assumed everyone drives, it’s simply just too much of a pain in the ass a lot of the time. I hear “I wish you could have been there” a lot. I can’t help but feel, “I wish you’d cared enough to actually come get me.”

We have buses in my neighbourhood, but it is one of the least walkable areas you can imagine. My heart is unable to handle the mile walk to the bus stop, because it requires walking up and down a steep hill I’m just not physically able to conquer yet. It is a three-mile walk to the train station. You can call a cab, but the three miles to the train station will cost you $12. (Base fares for taxis in Atlanta are now $2.50-$3.00, but in 2008, they tacked on a “$3 gas surcharge”. Even though gas prices returned to normal, the taxis never got rid of the surcharge. Customers who need a taxi agree to blatantly be ripped off, and there’s not a thing to be done about it.)

Oh, and it’s not particularly safe to walk around after dark, which means that spending $30 just on round-trip transportation is my only option if I wish to attend an event that someone cannot drive me to.

There are very few decisions in my life I regret, but conversations with the ex who got me down to Atlanta where I expressed concern about transportation, and the reply was “Don’t worry. It’s very walkable and people can drive you where you need to go” should have been more detailed. In fairness, he wasn’t here much longer than I was, had a car, and grew up in the suburbs, so our perspectives were quite different. Also, living in the city is indeed much easier than living out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s really the only way you can manage in Atlanta without a car, or the health and free time that allows you to spend hours on public transportation.

Although I lived in Midtown for more than half the time I was in Atlanta, looking back, the amount of money I wasted on taxis and car services was excessive. Even when I was working outside my house or for a company, I had a regular paycheck, but there were always travel expenses, always non-optional “social” events to attend. Once I started organizing for a social group, I realised I was going to take taxis everywhere, because I didn’t have the time to spend hours on a sucky public transportation system. I estimate that for about 3-4 years, I spent about $400 a month on paying people to drive me around. Yet, I still found myself being bitched about on other people’s blogs and talked about behind my back because I was committing the cardinal sin of not paying friends to pick me up and give me rides to things. In my defense, I have to say that I’m not an intentionally rude person, and this is a cultural difference. People don’t ask for gas money in the Northeast, especially if you’re going the same place the driver is going. Buying someone a beer and offering a “Thank you” is politeness enough. Here, people want cash, and I was shocked to discover that was one of the many things people didn’t like about me when I started living down here. There are things people should tell you when you move here, and one is there’s a whole new set of rules when it comes to interacting with other people. I do not like most of the rules, which is why I still have people who ask me when I’m going to leave.

I live in the suburbs of Atlanta because, frankly, it’s where I can afford to live. On paper, I’m not the ideal candidate that anyone would like to rent to, so the fact I have a place to live at all is a blessing. It has enough space for me. When I moved out here, I had one roommate and then another who told me “Don’t worry, we’ll give you rides wherever you need to go”. After a year, that turned into grumbling and resentment about how dependent and needy I was. It was never a *choice* to be dependent. If you isolate someone, you take away their independence.

Then I got sick, and lost my ability to walk around too much. That really erased what little independence I had left. Much of my life feels like a repetitive loop, a child locked in her room, “grounded” for some infraction and not certain if there’s a reprieve in sight.

I can keep things in perspective, most of the time. I technically have my freedom, in that I am not dead or in jail. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, cable, internet, ways to make a little bit of money here and there. I have imagination, if I don’t have health, and I spend a lot of time replaying the film loop in my head of the days when life was filled with adventure, and dreaming of a time it might be that way again.

I know it can never happen as long as I live in Atlanta, or likely, anywhere in the South. Yet, unless I am successful at something in some way, I don’t have a lot of hope for being able to afford to live anywhere that it would be easy for me to live life in a way that’s not dependent on others. It is the proverbial Catch-22.

The Guy I Am Dating doesn’t understand. When I tell him I sometimes want to rip my skin off just so I can feel less trapped, I get a look of worry instead of someone who relates to that feeling. Yet, he is a very different person from me. He is an introvert who has not traveled much, who doesn’t get depressed spending most of his days on his own, who doesn’t need the whole world to notice him, and really values peace and security. I think it’s easy not to miss adventure when you’ve never really had too much of it, or pursued it. Many of my friends here are that way.

People will say “You do things all the time”, but the fact of the matter is, they’re typically the *same* things. We play trivia. We go to restaurants. We watch movies. We sometimes go to clubs or parties or concerts. We watch our favourite TV shows. We do the things that people do.

Yet, that’s the problem. I know it hurts the feelings of The Guy I Am Currently Dating when I express just how freaking bored I am with life, because he thinks it’s me saying I don’t like him or that I think he’s boring. But,honestly, I need to get the hell out of here sometimes. I need to not only do things, but different things. I want to get in the car and drive somewhere we’ve never been. I want to go to Athens for the weekend and see live bands. I want to end up at a random country bar on a mechanical bull. I want to road trip to nowhere in particular and end up doing something I’ll probably make fun of, but am pleased, because I’ve never done before. I want to cross things off of my “life experience” list. I want to do something memorable with people I like that didn’t have to be planned, but just happened because the people around me are always open to adventure.

There is so much *new* in the world, and I’m not doing any of it. And I’m afraid that one day I’m going to look back, and realise I mostly stopped living at 29. Life is just too short for that.

I really can’t wait until an opportunity comes up when someone can watch my dog and I can travel somewhere, anywhere. If people don’t want to go with me, I don’t care. I’ll go myself. I’ll hitchike and crash on strangers’ couches and have stories about interesting things that happened to me. I’m just not the sort of person who is happy living life sitting still in one place, and am dating someone who appears to not like to travel. In all the years we’ve been together, we’ve never gone on a trip together that wasn’t because of a convention he was organizing or a reunion he was attending, and that does make me sad. I sometimes think that is a major incompatibility, because my ideal romantic partner is a travel partner who values adventure. Sharing your journeys *with* someone is so much more meaningful than doing it on your own, and when I hear about all the couples we know who are exploring places that are new to them, it makes me feel downright envious.

I don’t want to have to watch the world pass by without me, while I sit in my little bubble and daydream. I am too old to be a Disney princess waiting to be rescued from the Evil Overlord Monotony and Confinement.

Yet, that’s how I feel. I want freedom and independence and adventure so badly that it not being available to me sends me into fits of depression and anger.

I know I’ve done a lot in my life. I’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot, but there has to be plenty of new adventures waiting for me. I know that life isn’t over yet, and I should accept that I’m at an age where routine is just what people do. I don’t want children and obligation for precisely that reason. It’s just that, as long as I live here, I can’t seek out too many new experiences on my own. I can’t even go to events I put together for my social group. I can plan them for others and live vicariously through other people, but I can’t experience them, and that physically hurts me. :(

I wish I knew how to be happy with what I currently have in my life, but it’s hard to compare it to what I once had, and not dream of all the possibilities I never explored while I had the opportunity. I don’t want to sit still. I don’t want to do the same things over and over again until, one day, I’m 40.

I know there has to be more out there. I wish I knew the someone who could help me find it. Sometimes, even the person who is always inspiring other people to get out and live life and take chances needs to be inspired.

I know that if I am lucky, one day I will be old, and I will have the same limitations in my life: transportation, money, health, wondering if anyone really cares about including me in their life, or I’m just baggage. It seems a little unfair to have to deal with them now, unless I happen to not live long enough to experience them at a later point in my life. After all, I’ve heard these are the years I’m supposed to be doing the most, accomplishing the most, building my life the most.

Like most things I’ve heard, this one appears to not be so true. I haven’t woken up with the feeling of “It’s such a great day, I can’t wait to get out in the world and LIVE!” in a very long time, and because I can remember that feeling so well, I miss it.