Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Annual New Year's Survey

As usual, I fell off the blogging wagon. It's not shocking, since I've been very ill all year and grad school kind of got ... grad schoolier. Anyway!

2012 was mostly awful. I was very, very sick all year, and my insurance wouldn't cover my meds for several months. Grad school got extremely irritating, and I have to constantly remind myself that I need my PhD. But I had a wonderful year with my partner, and hopefully, 2013 will be much better.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?
Moved on September 1st. And I will NEVER DO THAT AGAIN.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Didn't make any.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Weirdly enough, none of them. Huh!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Got into a lab.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not getting well. Not working harder in school. Not taking care of myself.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Ulcerative colitis came back to ruin my life and career.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
New TV!

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Partner's parents. THEY SAVED US.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Mitt Romney. My dad.

14. Where did most of your money go?
PRESCRIPTIONS. Did you know that Asacol HD costs almost $900 a month?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving in with my partner.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Cake's "Palm of your Hand."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier.
ii. thinner or fatter? 5 lbs lighter.
iii. richer or poorer? NOT POORER, FINALLY.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Sciencing. Running.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Staying home sick in bed.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Christmas Eve with partner's brothers, Christmas morning with partner's family, dinner with my family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Hells yeah.

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favourite TV program?
Arrested Development.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book you read?
Oh crap.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Vitamin String Quartet.

28. What did you want and get?
Moving in with a partner.

29. What did you want and not get?

30. What was your favourite film of this year?

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 26. Partner made crepes for brunch, and we spent the day in our apartment, relaxing. He then took me to a very fancy restaurant for dinner. It was the best ever.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably satisfying?
Not being broke!

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Comfortable and trendy.

34. What kept you sane?
Jack, Loki, Amber, Michelle.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Elizabeth Warren!

37. Who did you miss?
That other person, still.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Partner's family.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
Don't move on September 1st in Boston.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I get knocked down, then I get up again
You ain't never gonna keep me down

(Ahahahahahahaha no seriously)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Legally Blonde: Bright Pink Feminism

I've been a fan of Legally Blonde for a long time.  Not since it came out--I didn't see it right away--but definitely for several years.  And when MTV filmed the 2007 Broadway musical, my sister TiVo'd it and we watched it three times in a row.

There are problems with both the film and the musical, and obviously with the general premise of the story.  I want to address some of the more glaring issues before delving into the heart of the matter: why I think this story in both forms is subversively and inherently feminist.

Part 1: The Story:

In this story, UCLA (CULA in the movie) senior Elle Woods, a bubbly, fashion-major, sorority girl, is crushed when her boyfriend, Warner, dumps her when she expects a proposal.  He explains that she's just not serious enough for him, since he's about to go to Harvard Law School to prepare for his political career.  Elle decides the only way to convince Warner to take her back is to go to Harvard herself.  She works hard all semester and is accepted.

When she arrives at Harvard, she's miserable.  Not only is Warner now engaged to Vivian, who is intentionally cruel to her, Elle also finds that for the first time in her life, she does not fit in, socially or academically.  After being humiliated by Vivian at a party, when Warner comes right out and says that she's not smart, Elle decides to buckle down and work her ass off to prove herself to him.

Thanks to her hard work, Elle is noticed by Professor Callahan and and his associate Emmett, and she is one of the four students selected for an internship with Callahan, who is defending Brooke Wyndham, a fitness guru accused of murdering her husband.  Elle throws herself into the case and finally starts to gain acceptance from her peers, including Vivian.  However, after a successful day in court, Callahan makes a pass at Elle, who refuses his advances.  Already upset over the harassment, Elle decides to quit law school after Vivian, who saw the advance but not the aftermath, confronts her.

As Elle prepares to leave Cambridge, another professor runs into her and convinces her not to give up.  Elle does return to court, this time decked out in bright pink with big blonde hair, and Brooke--knowing the whole story--fires Callahan and hires Elle.  Elle, with the support and supervision of Emmett, is able to represent Brooke, and manages to completely and confidently destroy the state's case against Brooke by getting the real murderer to blurt out a confession on the stand.  In the aftermath of the trial, Warner runs after Elle to profess his love for her, telling her that she is the one for him.  After admitting that this is something she's wanted to hear him say, Elle rejects him coldly, recognizing him for what he is--a bonehead--and walks away.

In an epilogue scene two years later, it's revealed that Elle is now the valedictorian of her class, and that she's received an offer to join one of the most prestigious law firms in the Boston area.  It's also revealed that Vivian is still one of Elle's best friends, that Warner graduated with no job offers, and that Emmett, who has been dating Elle since the end of the trial, is about to propose.

Part 2: Feminist analysis

Harvard can't refuse a love so pure and true

One of the things I love about this story is that, at its heart, it's the story of a woman who starts off as desperate to do anything to be someone's wife, and ends up as someone who finds her own worth and her own professional passion.  The musical does a brilliant job of really driving this home at the beginning of the show: Elle's sorority sisters sing to her, a "daughter of Delta Nu," explaining that now her life begins because she's going to be married.  They explain what's expected of her now, that she supports her husband, that she'll keep his house, try not to spend his money, and make sure she stays hot and young-looking so that he won't cheat.

Elle's motivation for going to Harvard is solely to win back Warner.  She doesn't care about anything else besides proving to him that she can be a law student, too.  She's entirely unprepared for law school itself, getting kicked out of class for not doing her reading, bringing a notepad when everyone else has a laptop, and asking for her social events calendar.  In the musical, her steps to success are detailed as: get into Harvard because Warner is there; prove to him that she's brainy; then have a huge wedding.

What's, of course, frustrating about the break-up is that Elle doesn't understand that Warner doesn't care about her.  He breaks up with her not because his feelings towards her have changed, but because she's the beach bunny girlfriend he gets to fuck in college, and not someone he would marry if he wanted to be taken seriously as a politician.  He's engaged to Vivian for the same reason he broke up with Elle--it's about having a female partner who works well as an accessory to his own career.

I love costume parties

Vivian doesn't see through Warner right away either.  She knows about Elle and immediately treats her cruelly, simply because Elle is at Harvard to win back Warner, and is therefore a threat to Vivian.  We get some of Vivian's point of view in the movie when Elle shows up to the party dressed as a Playboy Bunny.  Since Vivian is the one who lied to her and told her it was a costume party, Elle snidely insults her before seeking out Warner.  "She's horrible," Vivian comments to her friend, who reminds her that she, Vivian, is the one with the engagement ring.

At the same party, Elle realizes that getting into Harvard fucking Law still isn't enough to prove to Warner that she's serious and smart.  She even points out the absurdity of it--she got into the same school, and is therefore just as capable as he is.  When he then makes it clear that he thinks she's just not smart, Elle realizes that no, she will never be good enough for him.  And it's true.  In fact, the funny thing is that even by being at Harvard Law, he still won't want to be with her because he's not looking for a partner who's his equal.  He wants a partner who can advance his career.

Four hours?

When Callahan posts his interns for the criminal trial, in both the musical and the movie, Elle reaches a turning point.  At first disappointed that Vivian and Warner have gotten the internship (and, in the musical, absolutely heartbroken that Warner has proposed to Vivian), Elle is gleeful and triumphant when she finds that she got the internship, too.  And that's when she first finds that she finds law to be more fulfilling than her relationship with Warner.  In the movie, she walks right up to him and tells him that getting the internship was so much better than the night she spent four hours fucking him in a hot tub.  In the musical, this scene turns into the song "So Much Better," where she not only embarrassed Warner with the same information, but where she also celebrates the beginning of her legal career, and how she's managed to defy everyone's expectations.  It's significant that the song turns from sadness about the engagement to rubbing it in his face to forgetting all about him as she realizes how amazing this opportunity is.


It's during the Wyndham case that Elle and Vivian (and in the musical, Elle and Enid) become friendly, and where Callahan's sexism begins to show.  In the film, Callahan always insists that Vivian bring him his coffee, which she notices and resents.  Vivian and Elle bond over some depositions, as well as their shared interest--Warner.  It's revealed that both of them consider Warner quite spoiled and helpless; he's never done his own laundry, and he was wait-listed at Harvard.  It's at this point where it becomes clear that both Vivian and Elle are too good for Warner.

Additionally, Callahan shows no trust in or respect for Brooke, his client, who insists she is innocent, but refuses to reveal her alibi.  As Elle herself notes, it's not worth jeopardizing their client's trust by revealing the alibi (which Elle got by showing respect), and part of their job is to convince the jury that Brooke is innocent regardless of whether or not she has an alibi.  Vivian (Emmett in the musical) acknowledges that by keeping the alibi secret, Elle is actually being an extremely professional and ethical lawyer.  Callahan isn't either one, as demontrated by his treatment of the women on his team and his own client.

You almost had me fooled

Callahan's pass at Elle (feeling up her thigh in the movie, kissing her in the musical) and his demeanor when she confronts and rejects him, implies strongly that the entire reason he hired her as an intern was because he intended to fuck her.  While it seems unlikely he would have hired her if she hadn't been qualified (he doesn't even take much notice of her until she begins to excel in his class), the key to the implication is that Elle's confidence is shattered.  Rather than destroying him for what he did, she questions her competence.  This is the first time since she began to excel that she's been reminded that some people see her as a stereotypical dumb blonde.  In the movie, Vivian has seen the pass but not the rejection, and immediately confronts Elle, feeling betrayed by her new friend.  In the musical, Vivian sees the rejection and it's Warner who harasses her about the pass.  The reason for this change is to give Vivian a reason to talk Elle out of leaving; that role went to Professor Stromwell in the movie, but her role was cut out of the musical.

And indeed, in the movie, as Elle tells her friend Paulette, a beautician, that she's leaving Harvard, Professor Stromwell, a ridiculously intimidating professor, confronts her, knowingly saying that if Elle is going to let her entirely life be ruined by one asshole, she's not the girl the professor thought she was.  Not that the professor would know this, but it's absolutely true already--Elle wouldn't let her life be ruined after her break-up with Warner, and she's sure as hell not going to let one asshole perv ruin her law career.  Having a female mentor, especially one who is known for being a ball-buster (really), basically say, "You are compentent, by the way, so stop being an idiot," is the perfect kick in the pants for Elle.

You've got the best frickin' shoes!

In the musical, with Stromwell's role cut, Vivian, with Enid's help, talks Elle off the ledge.  Vivian explains that Elle is actually her new role model, even if she didn't want to admit it.  And while the loss of Stromwell does kind of suck, it's pretty brilliant to see Vivian, Enid, and Brooke in the courtroom, telling Callahan to fuck off, to make way for Elle.  The fact is that Elle has proven herself to be an extremely brilliant, capable, and passionate law student, and Vivian does not want to lose her new role model.

And, of course, the entire court case is demolished by Elle's own understanding of sex, gender, and fashion.  While it's not enough to say that knowing shoe designers or being immune to the bend and snap means a man is totally gay, it's definitely a lead.  By at least pursuing that line of questioning, Brooke's legal team (in this case, Emmett, working on Elle's tip) gets the poolboy to admit that he's gay, and therefore wouldn't have been having an affair with Brooke, like he said.

As Elle takes over for the fired Callahan near the end of the film, she clues in on a major discrepency.  Callahan, who seems unable to respect women at all, completely misses a problem with the alibi of the deceased's daughter, Chutney.  Chutney claims she didn't hear a gunshot because she was in the shower, and because of the delay between her finishing her shower and finding Brooke cradling the body, Brooke must have had time to stash the weapon.  But when Elle, floundering a bit, learns that Chutney says she got a perm that day, she immediately becomes confident and professional, cleverly leading Chutney into a trap, and then decisively tearing apart the alibi.  Chutney breaks down and admits that she, not Brooke, is the real murderer.

I had some serious cottage cheese showing up on my ASS

It's worth noting at this point that Brooke's alibi would have been easily confirmed and would have been proof of her innocence.  So why did she refuse to reveal it to anyone except Elle (and the audience)?  Because Brooke, the fitness queen, who makes a living by having a perfectly toned ass, was getting liposuction.  "It's not like real women can have this ass!" she cries in the movie.  What I love about this confession is something that a lot of women have long known or at least suspected: that the Western standard of beauty is not natural, but something that you must purchase.  And Brooke is absolutely right--if it were to become public that her body was the product of plastic surgery and not her patented exercise regime, she would be branded a fraud and she would lose her fitness empire.

But if I'm going to be a partner in a law firm by the time I'm 30, I need a boyfriend who's not such a complete bonehead

Elle's rejection of Warner at the end of the story varies between the film and the musical.  In the film, it's implied that he hasn't actually broken up with Vivian, and is waiting to see if Elle will take him back (or really let him take HER back) now that she's about to become famous and successful.  She sees right through him and rejects him with the same kind of language that he used to break up with her--by telling him that she can't date someone like him because it'll hurt her career.  BAM.  And then Vivian breaks up with him, too.

In the musical, Elle is much kinder.  She guesses correctly that Vivian has already dumped Warner, and it seems more as if Warner just doesn't want to be single.  When Elle rejects him, it's with thanks, since he was inadvertently the catalyst that led her to discover her calling as a lawyer.  I'm a fan of both rejections, as each one fits its particular brand of Elle Woods quite well.

Granted, not a complete surprise

In the end, during the graduation scene, it's revealed that Elle and Emmett are about to be engaged.  In the film, it's revealed in text that Emmett is going to propose to Elle that night, after graduation celebrations have ended.  While it's slightly disappointing (the point is that Elle is no longer desperate for a proposal), it is a somewhat nice bookend, and contrast to the beginning of the film.  Elle is no longer obsessed with getting married, but now looking forward to her law career, and Emmett is a character who has valued her and thought of her as worthy throughout the film.

In the musical, though, it's actually Elle who proposes to Emmett, after giving her valedictorian speech.  While it's not as neat a bookend as the film, it serves to show that Elle is no longer waiting to be chosen by a man, even if it's a man who's in love with her and values her highly.  It's nice to see her continue to take her future into her own hands.

Subtext, by Calvin Klein

One major addition to the musical that the film flopped a bit on is the relationship between Elle and Emmett.  In the film, he seems to be a mysterious guy she sees around campus, and then works with.  They do seem to kindle a friendship during the trial, but it's not terribly surprising when he's unable to convince her to stay after she's harassed by Callahan.

In the musical, after bumping into Elle after her humiliation at the "costume" party (a scene in the film shows that he does see her after the party, but that's the end of the interaction), Emmett admonishes her for coming out to Harvard just for Warner, when she has a great opportunity to actually, you know, be a lawyer.  His character is entirely fleshed out; he grew up in the Roxbury slums and "hasn't slept since 1992" because he's been working so hard.  His working class status is cemented in his wardrobe as well, wearing a ratty corduroy suit to the trial.  He helps Elle study and as the months go by, they appear to have an attraction to each other.

During the trial, Elle is yelled at by Callahan for not revealing Brooke's alibi; Callahan also snaps at Emmett for not successfully leading the interns, and makes a nasty comment about Emmett's clothing.  Elle realizes that Emmett is really unhappy about his failure to impress Callahan, and brings him to a department store to buy him a professional looking suit.  During this sequence in the musical, Elle gleefully shops for Emmett ("God, I love shopping for guys!") while Emmett starts to realize that he's falling in love with her (resulting in one of the best jokes in the show: "Subtext, by Calvin Klein").  Soon after, Callahan makes his move, and as Elle makes the decision to leave, Emmett tries to tell her that he loves her, but she can't hear him.  While the scene in the movie is quite sweet, and reveals that Emmett might have feelings for Elle, it's much more moving in the musical, where he admits it outright, and where the audience has seen the very deep relationship developing over the course of the show.

By the end of the show, when Elle proposes to Emmett, the payoff is much, much more meaningful than it is in the movie.  In the movie, it matters a lot more that Elle is about to embark on what will be an incredible legal career; in the musical, that's still important, but the marriage proposal feels less tagged on.  There's also something to be said for how hilarious it is when Emmett reacts to the proposal singing, "Oh my oh my OH MY GOD," as well as how nothing is actually made of the fact that it's Elle who's proposing with a ring.  For him.

Part 3: Problems


Let's be honest here: There is no way that Elle would have gotten into Harvard Law School.  The movie and musical both include scenes where three other students give their credentials, and it's obvious that Elle is way out of her league.  PhDs, prestigious scholarships, years of volunteer work ... and Elle just has her sorority work, some charity work, and her ability to talk celebrities out of buying unfashionable clothing.  A 4.0 from UCLA and a 179 (175 in the musical) on the LSAT are both fantastic, but even so, not enough for Harvard Law if you don't have anything else.  And the whole point of the personal essay is that you actually have to write it, within the limits.

I'm not entirely clear on exactly how criminal court cases work, but I'm not sure everything in the story really works.  Frequently, the defense is learning information for the first time during the trial, but the prosecution has to share everything with the defense--so why is this happening in the story?  I mean, other than to give Elle a chance to prove herself.

Finally, while I love this story a lot, there's one other huge thing we need to address: Elle, an extremely privileged, ridiculously wealthy, smart, popular, conventionally attractive, white woman faces all of these obstacles and discrimination because ... she's blonde?  I understand that her blondeness isn't just supposed to be her hair color, but also her sorority girlishness.  But even so, she's incredibly privileged, and it's hard to really feel like she's faced that much adversity.

The movie:

My least favorite part of the movie?  Enid Hoops, staw feminist.  Enid is portrayed as an over-the-top "crazy" feminist, who has a women's studies degree, who's worked to help the underprivileged, and who's a proud lesbian.  Obviously, while these things are really ... normal to me in real life, she's portrayed as militant.  She also rants at Warner for a bit about how it's sexist for schools to use "semesters" because it shows that academia values semen over ovaries.  This is a false comparison anyway (ovaries could be compared to testicles, not semen), and it's just plain wrong because "semester" isn't DERIVED from "semen," linguistically.  Nope nope nope.  Enid is also cruel to Elle from the beginning, taunting Elle and accusing her of bigotry.  I won't claim "no true Scotsman" here, but it's worth noting how little sense this actually makes.  Elle has done and said nothing to garner Enid's scorn beyond being a stereotypical sorority blonde, and while perhaps Enid is just not a nice person, the film makes it out to seem as if Enid is not nice because she's a darn feminist.

It's worth noting that the musical almost entirely fixed this problematic character.  In the musical, Enid is still the same kind of stereotypical feminist.  She's an out lesbian who believes that she has to become a lawyer because it's time for women to fix this country's problems.  But she's played as friendly and reasonable.  Her lesbianism is somewhat of a joke at times; she enjoys watching Brooke's sexy exercise video, and she joins in with Warner asking Elle to repeat the bend and snap.  I'm not entirely happy that her sexuality is played for laughs, but she's not ridiculed for it.  She's given a better role than she had in the film, she's openly supportive of Elle around the time where Vivian became supportive in the film, and she's working with Vivian to convince Elle to stay at Harvard.  And the look on her face when she gets a perm is priceless.

I also wasn't totally on board with the romantic relationship between Elle and Emmett, which doesn't actually come into play until the epilogue of the movie.  It seemed as if the two characters had a budding friendship, and that Emmett was more of a mentor to Elle, but having him about to propose to her in the epilogue felt almost tagged on, as if to say, "Don't worry, she still gets to be in a relationship!"  It wasn't entirely awful, just too tagged on, as I said.

The musical:

The musical had to drop a couple of things that I really, really liked about the original movie.  They did make some changes that were huge improvements, but there were some changes that didn't work for me.

First, the friendship between Elle and Vivian was completely lost in the show.  By the time Elle proves that the poolboy was lying about his affair with Brooke, Elle and Vivian are already tentatively friends.  When Vivian believes that Elle is sleeping with Callahan, it's heartbreaking, not just because Elle feels as if her whole world is falling apart, but also because Vivian feels as if she's put herself out there, being friends with Elle.  In the musical, since Vivian is the one who talks Elle into staying at Harvard, she does see that Elle rejects Callahan.  But her turn seems abrupt.  It doesn't seem entirely unwarranted; again, she sings about how she really didn't want to like Elle, but now finds her inspirational.  But I loved Elle and Vivian's friendship in the film.

The musical touted the idea that girls have to stick together, and not make themselves look better by making other women look bad.  It's actually a great point, and that's one of the reasons why Vivian wants Elle to stay.  But the movie's friendship made that point better without having to come out and say it, and it also addressed the true reason for the animosity between the women: Warner.  It was important that he was the reason they hated each other, and it was just as important that they became friends while he was still a factor.  Vivian was still engaged to him, and Elle, for all intents and purposes, was still hoping to be with him.  What changed?  Vivian had seen Warner be a jerk (he told Elle to give up the alibi and to think of herself and not Brooke), as had Elle, and Elle had begun to forget about Warner as she focused on law.  But they didn't seem to realize that as they bonded.

Closing thoughts:

This film and musical aren't for everyone.  The musical is available on Youtube; MTV actually filmed a performance.  It's a bit distracting because it's a sing-along (so there are words on screen during  songs), and because MTV's behind the scenes crap is very stupid.  Elle Woods in the musical is a much more relatable character, but Reese Witherspoon is pretty hilarious in the movie.  The biggest difference is that movie-Elle doesn't change much beyond no longer needing a relationship (or specifically, Warner's approval and love) to be the person she wants to be.  Musical-Elle doesn't become 100% serious, but she certainly matures more and by the end, her residual silly-dumb-blondeness characteristic is her insistence on wearing bright pink.

If you can get over the fact that Elle Woods wouldn't have gotten into Harvard, and that the legal aspects of the movie are a bit, "Huh?" the story is pretty damn enjoyable.  And honestly, by the end of it, I think it's important to note that part of feminism is that people can express their own gender in whatever way they see fit.  Elle Woods, accomplished law student and soon-to-be lawyer, is not less of a success story because she's a blonde sorority girl who loves all things pink and fuzzy (seriously, check out her room in the movie).  She is not less of a success story because she does the bend and snap and has a tiny dog.  She's not less of a success story because she still gets engaged by the end of the story, and that engagement is still important to her.

And honestly, the bend and snap?  Works every time!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012: Already kicking 2011's ASS

Within hours of 2012 beginning, I was getting laid.  I highly recommend it.  It was pretty awesome.

I spent January 1st mostly hungover and got nothing done.  On the 2nd, I packed up, drove Loki to my aunt and uncle's house, and then went to the airport.  I spent the week in Ft. Collins with one of my best friends, and it was a shitload of fun.  Now that I'm home, I've been pretty busy, too.  I was in the lab on Tuesday and today (and will be in the lab tomorrow as well); I unpacked and cleaned and did laundry and picked up Loki on the night I got home; I taught a science lesson to my mom's students; and I've seen my boy and made most of my weekend plans.  Phew!

But now it's time to think about what's going to go down this year.  Because shit, I'm bleeding money and my legs are all, "WAIT RUNNING ARE YOU SERIOUS."

So, here's what I need to get done.

1) Get my shit together to start the semester

This seems pretty basic, considering how quickly I got my shit together last semester.  But I need to figure out my schedule, which is tough when I might be switching classes (and I picked my teaching sections based on my current schedule).  I need to keep plenty of time to get to my rotation labs this semester, and I need to have time for PT.  I also need to get my calendar and inbox ready to fucking go, and organize my note-copying binder.

2) Running

I still need to go to PT, but I have the okay to start running on my own.  So why haven't I?  I could say it's because I was in Colorado, or because I'm busy, but I know it's not hard to find time for running.  Tonight was a bit of a question mark for most of the day, but judging from my brain deadness right now, and the shit I have to get done for lab meeting tomorrow, I think I'm going to have to wait till the weekend.

3) Insurance -- NO

I have to yell at Aetna for refusing to cover some of my physical therapy for stupid reasons.  I've been putting it off.  It's not good.

4) Fix my finances

I am not in financial trouble, but I have to reduce my spending and be smarter about my saving, or I am boned.  I now have something fun I want to save up for, plus I love buying clothing and shoes, but in order to do this, I need to make sure that I do the following things:

- Budget like a boss: If I don't plan out my budget, I can't stick to it.  Sounds obvious, but really.
- Eat out less, cook more: Another obvious one, but one that's more difficult to put into practice when you have trouble predicting last-minute meal invitations.  And it's difficult when you don't have room in your bag for a lunch bag.
- Stop letting food go to waste: I should think about methods to break this habit.  Maybe I can't go grocery shopping until everything I bought last time is gone?  This would require me to eat easily spoiled foods ASAP, and would also require me to keep a list of what foods I have (the neurotic side of me finds this incredibly appealing, while the lazy side of me is like, "WHY").  I'd have to point out the difference between something like sugar or flour or popcorn, things that last a long time and are not used that frequently.
- Change Comcast subscription to internet without digital cable.  I understand we need NESN (well, I don't need it anymore), but we do not need digital cable, and it's costing us $130 a month.  What.

And now, things I did last year (or last semester) that I want to continue to to:

1) Pick out clothes in the evening, shower/hair/make-up in the morning:

I finally started getting compliments in 2011 for how I dressed and how I did my hair and make-up.  At first, the compliments came in when I would go out clubbing, when I was TRYING to dress fashionably and have my hair and make-up look badass awesome.  Then, when I started grad school, it was a regular thing.  It made me feel much less stressed, knowing what I would wear when I woke up in the morning, and I feel great about myself.

2) Getting shit done before it's due and studying for tests:

This didn't really occur to me to do in college for some strange reason.  I would wait till the last minute to do any work, even though I was doing nothing except watching TV, dicking around online, and chatting with friends.  I didn't actually have something better to do than my work, but I acted like I did.  And when I studied, after spending the lectures half-asleep (or not going) and taking awful notes, I was under the impression that if I "went to class" (again, half-asleep or absent) and "took notes" (which were horrible), and I didn't ace the test after flipping through the textbook the night before, I must be bad at the material.  Yeah.  I'm glad I've broken this habit.

3) Taking care of my body:

It's not just that I had surgery in 2011.  It was that I had a problem, and I made damn well sure it got fixed.  I'm excited to be running again, which will help me make my body stronger.  I've been taking better care of my nails, hair, teeth, and skin as well.

4) Make new friends, but keep the old:

At least, to an extent.  I like keeping in touch with people, and I like making new friends as well.  I suppose this happens almost yearly, but I want to keep it up.

5) Keep my room clean(ish):

As many of my friends know, when my room gets messy, it's not just because I have some clothes on the floor, or I didn't make my bed, although both of those things are often true.  It means that I haven't cleaned Loki's cage in a while and there are seed hulls everywhere, and that empty food bowls/containers are on my bed, and empty bottles of soda and empty bags of chips are in my trash.  Yes.  But I've been better about it.  Maybe it was all the times I thought I might get laid (or all the times I did).  WELL THEN.

So, we'll see how 2012 goes.  I hope it's great.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yearly New Year's Survey

So, I fell off the blogging wagon.  WHOOPS.  Anyway, here's the yearly survey.  There is no #22, so no, I didn't skip it.

2011 was ... full of highs and lows, and not many in-betweens.  I'm glad to see it go.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
Got an A in a university-level science course.  No, really.  And I actually worked for it, too.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Same as every year, I don't really make solid resolutions, and then I don't keep 'em.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Auntie Dora, my great aunt, died at the age of 105.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Laundry in my apartment.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 1st, February 25th, May 14th.  June 12th.  July 11th.  July 27th and July 28th.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Got into graduate school.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Let's not talk about this.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Compartment syndrome!  Got my legs cut open.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new mattress.  OMG.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Amber's.  You know why.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
All republicans.  And that other person.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, food.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Starting graduate school.  My upcoming trip to Colorado.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Reconstructing Science.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Sadder.
ii. thinner or fatter? 20 lbs lighter.
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer.  Whoops.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Studying, cleaning.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Staying up late (still).  Eating, spending money.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Aunt and uncle's house for dinner, as usual.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

23. How many one-night stands?
365, baby.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
Bones, Castle.  STILL.  I'm clearly a sucker for the sexual tension.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book you read?
The Emperor of Maladies.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

28. What did you want and get?
Got into graduate school.

29. What did you want and not get?
Let's not.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
I think the only movie I saw this year was Harry Potter.  Whoops.  Did I not see anything else?

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 25.  I taught in the morning, went to class afterwards.  After office hours, I did some shots with my friends before going to our second class.  After I got home, I went to dinner with my mom, and then I met up with my friends for drinks.  It was a great birthday.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably satisfying?

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
I had one!  Um, clean, comfortable, and chic.

34. What kept you sane?
Netflix, Loki, Amber, Michelle, Scott.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Dan Radcliffe, just so you know, I'm ALWAYS available if you're interested.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Is there one that doesn't?  I'm a socialist feminist shrieking harpy.

37. Who did you miss?
Lady.  That other person.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
CM/MCBB/EBE first years!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
When you know something is a bad idea, you SHOULDN'T DO IT.  And you really should NOT do it multiple times either.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quarter life

I've posted about how my birthday today is not going to be quite the celebration I'd hoped due to the horrific execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.  Now, I want to post about how, well ... I'm twenty-five.

It's weird to think about how much my life has changed over these twenty-five years.  I remember when I was a kid, I had ... no friends.  I was teased a lot, and I don't know why.  I've never been super cool by any standards, but as a six- or seven-year-old, I'm really not sure I was terribly uncool.  I mean, yes, I was hugely bossy, but I don't think I was being teased for that.

And then we moved, and I made friends for the first time.  Many of these people I'm still friends with today.  All of us have changed a lot, and yet we're still together.

I went through weird phases with clothing.  When I was young, I loved wearing pink, and I loved wearing skirts and dresses.  Then I switched gears; I cut my hair to my chin and refused to wear skirts, insisting that my favorite color was orange.  I didn't want to be a boy; I just didn't want to be a girl either.

In late elementary school and early middle school, I dressed extremely unfashionably, even for the late nineties.  I mean, really, really, really unfashionably.  Even throughout high school, I struggled to find a way to dress that I loved.  I went through my punk phase (giant Hot Topic pants and everything), and then settled on boring.  Experiments in fashion failed frequently.  It wasn't until this past year that I've really put myself together, to the point of receiving actual compliments on my outfits.  Huh.

My love life has had its ups and downs.  First was the epic crush I had on a friend who had a crush on me.  The crushes faded, returned, faded, returned, etc., never turning into anything, until we grew apart (or fell apart, more accurately).  My first kiss was at camp, as was my second.  My first boyfriend was a fellow musician, a member of the same Boston groups as I was.  Looking back, I see how UNserious we were, but when I was sixteen, I felt like he was totally perfect for me.  Our break-up threw me into a tailspin, and was the catalyst that brought me to therapy.

My first huge relationship was in college; it was with this boyfriend that I had sex for the first time, and learned how difficult it can be to balance principles with practice.  The relationship ended in a huge emotional mess, and it took me almost a year to pull myself out and move on.  It was then that I finally started dating for the first time, and even when dates sucked, I enjoyed it.

About a year later, I started dating my most recent boyfriend.  It started out with boring dating, became a moderately interesting relationship, and then fizzled.  I still had a tough time when it ended, but moving on was much faster and easier, especially when I realized that there was so much I was ready to give, and that I deserved someone equally giving.

Finally, I learned not to hook up with friends.

My heath has also done some weird-ass shit over the years.  From PCOS to idiopathic hives and angioedema to ulcerative colitis to compartment syndrome ... it's been pretty ridiculous.  Right now, it looks as if I might be emerging from this mess with my health intact.  PCOS seems to have ... well, no impact anymore.  I do have my LOVELY acne back, now that I'm off the pill, but so much of my weight gain was from the pill that I don't think it was fair to think that my PCOS was somehow in full force because of my weight all these years.  Meanwhile, my periods are coming somewhat regularly, or at least every 35 days or so.  Compared to before the pill, this is unprecedented.  I used to go months without a period.  So I guess ... it's gone?

Hives and swelling haven't reared their ugly heads, although I know that going off my antihistamines will change that.  I was having some mild hives along my waistline, from the pressure of my belt, but I realized that my Zyrtec had expired several months before.  New Zyrtec and POOF, hives were gone.  But they're so well under control, I feel as if I'm finally free.  I just have to take an over the counter pill.  That's easy.

Colitis came back last summer and lasted about six months, but hopefully that's the end of it.  I've been fine since January.  And compartment syndrome?  Well, that'll either be cured or not.  We'll find out in a few weeks, when I can run again.

My professional life is so much different than I ever could have expected.  Wasn't I going to be an artist?  An animator?  A flutist?  A veterinarian?  A farmer's wife?  Even in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I still don't know what I want to do, but the difference now is that I'm getting my PhD.  I never thought I would do that until maybe a year and a half ago.  And here I am, in a program at BU, still in Boston.

My family circumstances have also changed.  I went from being super close to my siblings, in a home with two parents, to living with just my mom and sister while my brother was at school, to living on my own and not speaking with my dad or his new family.  My relationships with my siblings are ... complicated.  It's a bit sad, realizing how far from ideal my family is.  But at the same time, I still have a family that cares about me, that supports me.

I lost Lady, our dog since I was seven years old, back when I was twenty-one.  I didn't think she would necessarily be around when I was twenty-five, but losing her was still one of the worst things that ever happened to me.  Our bird, Kiwi, died when I was sixteen, and I didn't know how to mourn.  Now, I have a beautiful parakeet, Loki, who is endlessly adorable and entertaining, and while sometimes I just want to bite his head off, he's very sweet and loving.

Didn't I used to want to own a lion?  Yes.

Speaking of which, my obsession with the Lion King faded with time and was replaced by a similar, albeit more intelligent obsession with the Legend of Zelda video game series.  My favorite TV show went from the Simpsons to That '70s Show to House to Friends to Scrubs to Bones.  Somehow, I'll still watch any episode of Forensic Files that's on.  My musical taste started with the Goo Goo Dolls ... and is still Goo Goo Dolls-centric.

I didn't know how INTO politics I'd be at my age now.  I'm open about being a feminist and an atheist, two things which were absolutely not always true.  I'm working every day to check my cis, white, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical privileges.  I'm so liberal, it hurts being an American right now.  My first time voting, I voted for Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election.  We all know how that went.

When September 11th happened, it was maybe the third day of high school, and I was in class.

My best Halloween costume was when I had swine flu and stayed home as a "sick person."  Okay, no, it was probably last year, when I was Hit Girl, but no one got to see :(

I will celebrate my birthday by teaching lab, going to my classes, and holding office hours.  Then I'll have dinner with my mom and go out with classmates.  Friday, I'll go to my classes and then go out with some friends.  Saturday, I will do work and laundry, and go to a friend's party.  And Sunday, I will have lunch with my grandparents and then be surprised by my childhood friends.

And hopefully, in another 25 years, I'll look back and think, "Wow, look at what's changed and what hasn't!"  It's sort of inevitable, isn't it?

Birthdays and deathdays

On the evening before my 25th birthday, at 11:08pm, Troy Davis was executed.

There's a lot I'm feeling about this.  I'd rather not go into tons of details about the case, which are widely available through online news and Wikipedia.  The gist of it is that Troy Davis was tried and convicted in the murder of a policeman in 1989 based on witness testimony, and he was sentenced to death.  One of the witnesses was a suspect in the same case, and seven more out of the nine total have recanted their testimony, citing police pressure as the reason for their testimony.

I have never felt good about capital punishment.  I don't quite see how it actually makes any sense.  Perhaps if we were absolutely sure of someone's guilt, with no evidence suggesting otherwise, overwhelming evidence suggesting truth, and no sign of remorse on the part of the person convicted, then maybe, maybe, I'd say ... "Maybe."  Because even then, what good does it do?

The person murdered is still dead.  Capital punishment is purely for revenge.  "You did this, and now I'll make you pay."

So what happens when we're not absolutely convinced of guilt?  In the case of Troy Davis, the people with the power to stop his execution acknowledged the lack of evidence for his guilt.  They acknowledged it and didn't do anything about it.

His execution was scheduled for 7:00pm, but he sat on the gurney, with the needle in his arm, for hours, waiting for the US Supreme Court to save him.  They did not.  And no justice dissented.  Before tonight, I considered Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be something of an idol for me.  Now, I'm just too shocked to even process the complete lack of dissent.

And that was the night I went from disliking the death penalty to actively working to abolish it.  I don't know what's so different this time; I've already known I've disliked capital punishment, but really didn't DO anything about it.  But something's changed.  Maybe it's because I'm older.  Maybe it's because I have friends and acquaintances who have been sharing and retweeting the heck out of this case.  Maybe it's because I'm no longer ignorant about so many issues.

Or maybe it's because those people in power, people who had the ability to grant clemency, knew there was doubt as to Davis' guilt.  They acknowledged there was a good chance he was innocent.  And they murdered him anyway.  They did it anyway.

Meanwhile, I've turned twenty-five.  I've had an extremely difficult week so far; major family illness, news of a friend's imminent deployment overseas, and now the government-sanctioned murder of a man who was likely innocent.  I've been missing someone whose friendship I lost this summer, and I've been struggling to take care of my legs.  All in all, I feel much, much older than twenty-five.

And this morning, I have to teach biology to some first-year students, many of whom might not even be aware of what happened last night.  It's so strange.

It's difficult that I've just started my PhD, and now I want to run off and get my law degree so I can fix our broken justice system.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two towers, ten years

It is really weird to be in my apartment this weekend, reading textbooks and papers, and realizing how much time has past.  Not only that, but it's unnerving to think how the course of my life and the lives of all Americans have been irreversibly affected by one major event ten years ago.

I have actually been dreading this day for about eight years, which is the day I realized that September 11th, 2011 was going to be a day full of politics, where my identity American, ten years later, would still be questioned.  All throughout this August, my heart sank as I saw all the retrospectives.  It's not that I'm against remembering, against mourning those lost, against uniting as a country.  It's that I'm angry at the way that this event has been used, much like a weapon, to tear apart the country I live in and give political leverage to men and women who would see the lives of so many Americans destroyed.  And I'm not talking about terrorists.

Ten years ago, I was fourteen years old, and it was one of the first days of high school.  When the World Trade Center in New York City was struck by planes and collapsed, I was in early morning classes.  I left band class to find that there were TVs set up all around the school.  We saw the smoke and flames, but like so many people, we had no idea what was going on.  No one knew how this had happened.  No one knew why.  Even worse, no one was quite sure exactly what had even happened.  And, to make matters even worse, I remember the very, very real possibility that other cities would be targeted, including Boston.

I remember watching the news a lot for the next several weeks.  I remember that the radio that night played zero music; there were just people talking about what had happened.  One young man called in to say that his father had died in his office at the Pentagon, and that he would avenge his father's death by joining the army and destroying the people who had done this.  I remember flipping through channels one evening to find that nearly every single channel was showing a memorial concert.

In this one horrible, terrifying day, I feel like our country was destroyed.  We have not been able to unify in the wake of tragedy.  We were not able to effectively punish the people who did this.  Instead, we're in ruins.

We have politicians who do not help us, who instead have petty arguments, abuse their power, and ignore their constituents.  These are the kinds of people who would deny healthcare to the first responders, who are dying because they were heroes.  Poorly executed and illegal wars have bled us dry financially.  These politicians, through their decisions, have killed innocents, illegally imprisoned suspects, and tortured people.  Instead of unifying our country, and standing up and defying those who hurt us, we're vilifying entire groups of the population for not being appropriately "American."  Our consumerism still permeates every facet of life.  Instead of being able to say to al-Qaeda, "You were wrong about us, and we will, as a whole, avenge the deaths of those you took from us," we have fought amongst ourselves, we have done a disservice to those who died, and we have validated the justifications in the eyes of extremists.

It's been ten years.  Ten years ago, I was a freshman in high school.  I believed I would one day be a professional flutist.  I had no sexual experience, I lived at home with my parents, and even "college" was only a distant milestone.  I had no politics, only strange feelings as I watched the coverage and mourned the loss of life and our collective sense of safety.

Ten years later, I'm a first-year again, this time in graduate school.  I haven't thought of being a professional mucisian in years, and am fulfilling my subsequent goal of becoming a scientist.  I have sexual experience, as well as a desire to be involved in sex education; I am living in my third apartment, with three roommates, far from my hometown; my parents have been divorced for several years; and college feels like a distant memory.  I am passionately political, and dismayed to see my feelings from ten years ago have been identified ... and validated.