When you were 16 or 17, you started dating an older guy – he was probably 19 or 20 with spiky blonde hair and a shitty car and a too-cool-for-school attitude, and you knew it worried your mother (which, of course, made him even more appealing).
You had a number of boyfriends before him, but they were mostly just pass-notes-in-the-hallway, awkward-first-kiss types and nothing more, so there were certainly red flags when this guy came into the picture – the pressures of being a teenage girl multiplying instantly in his presence. And you remember one afternoon that summer, your mom sat you down and said a lot of things you already knew about boys and dating and sex, and you’re sure you rolled your eyes so hard out of your head that you pulled a muscle, but there was one little pearl of wisdom that stuck with you for years and years, and that was when she said: Honey, it’s hard to say no to things that feel good. At the time, it seemed like such a hollow and meaningless message. Okay, mom. Whatever you say. You could totally say no to something that was tempting or gratifying. Of course you could. But as you got older, you wondered, Why would I want to?
Dear Oprah 4,
Weeks have gone by since my transmission to the ISA Council on human activity and still no word on whether I may continue my research on planet Earth or will be forced to go to Space Prison, a gloomy fate for which I am not cut out one bit.
As my journal, you obviously already know all my important thoughts and feelings on Space Prison. I’m way too eager to please to ever make it in the clink! I’ll fall in with the wrong crowd, have to go through some horrible initiation process, finally start to build trust among my fellow convicts, and then get shivved in the end anyway for accidentally betraying my gang leader, all because I wanted one of the other gang leaders to like me.
This is just one example of how my inevitable prison slaughter might go down.
Because the outcome of my transmission is still unknown for some stupid reason, my nerves are frayed to the max. I am unable to go into full sleep mode. I can’t think about anything else. Will all the hard work I did preparing for my presentation pay off? Will I get to stay here on Earth, where I have spent years learning to fit in among my human subjects? Where I’ve made the best of my unfortunate and most unjust exile? Where they make tacos?! Because trust me, Oprah, if you were an alien who found a planet that made tacos you’d want to stay too. But you’re a journal, and you have no mouth parts, so I don’t really expect you to understand.
I keep going over and over it in my mind. Should I have sent a thank-you note? A fruit basket filled with delightful Earth fruits some of which have been partially dipped in chocolate? Did I come across confident? Knowledgeable? Likeable? I tried my best on all accounts.
But… what if my best wasn’t good enough?
The worst thing about breakups is when they never happen. When you get dumped, when a guy or girl breaks up with you, then you can watch Almie’s video and take her sage advice, and you will suffer and grieve, but you will survive. But what about the non-breakup? The disappearance? The ghosting? The slow, inexorable self-removal of a person from your life, via unreturned text, via sudden, unexplained, constant busy-ness, via silence.
You think you want closure. Or you think it’s “just a phase” and that s/he really is that busy right now. Or you make a list of all the things you did wrong, all the signs you should have seen, all the ways in which you let yourself get too invested. Too vulnerable. Too needy. Too independent. Too Much Too Soon, or Too Little Too Late. You blame, blame, blame, him, her, or yourself. You dwell and obsess and it all spirals down into anger, hurt and sense of helplessness or is it hopelessness? No. The sadistic thing about the non-breakup, the slow fade, the disappearance is that there remains a tantalizing sense of hope. You guys had something! It was real! Technically speaking…it hasn’t even ended! Maybe he/she really is just that busy right now!
And so it goes, but that is not the worst part.
Sarah and Sara weren’t in a fight. They were best friends and had ruthlessly stuck by each other since middle school, when there had been three other Sarah’s and two other Sara’s in their grade. So they would never fight now, let alone “over a guy.” They were not in a fight over Mark.
But they could disagree about who had the right to email Mark first after he and Bev broke up.
As it turned out, they had both emailed him that morning, shortly after learning about the breakup via mass text from Aaron, who always knew the gossip. Aaron had suggested that the friend group rally to support Mark, because Bev had, in fact, been sleeping with her good-looking Russian co-worker, whom she had nicknamed Sergei the Great while swearing he was gay. Mark’s ongoing jealousy of Sergei had seemed so mean-spirited that everyone had interpreted it as insecure paranoia. They had all, over the course of many months and in group emails as well as one-on-one, persuaded Mark to “tone it down” and “trust Bev.”
Now they all felt guilty and complicit in her deceit. As if the glint in her eye every time she said “Sergei the Great” hadn’t been a dead giveaway.
Greetings, Council members, members of the Junior Council, and Franky, the transmissions operator. I hope this transmission finds you all in a state of gelatinous comfort.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my secret alien observations about humans with you today. I understand the consequence of delivering insubstantial information will result in my being sent to Space Prison for the commencement of my shoplifting sentence regarding which I wholeheartedly maintain my innocence.
EARTH…. It’s blue, green, round, and chaotic. There are rocks and plants, and oceans, and kangaroos. It is a place where many strange and interesting things happen. There are a lot of creatures co-existing, with some creatures trying a lot harder than others. The human species in particular encapsulates a broad spectrum of different cultures, values, and personalities. A single human may feel the angry, the happy, and the sad emotions all within the same earth day. In fact, they are subject to so many feelings and thoughts it is no wonder they have trouble living in harmony with one another. They’re often not even in harmony with themselves.
I can now say with some authority that it’s not easy being a human. It’s not.
Council members, it’s tricky business.
First of all there is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of shit you need to stay on top of.
I have decided that age is a very, very weird thing. When I was a freshman in high school, I met this kid at Mad Science camp who was three years younger than me (a 6th grader, naturally). He was a nice little boy with good taste, therefore he hung on my every word and regarded me as a goddess. While my fourteen year old self was secretly, wildly flattered, my public high school persona was mortified that a boy this young had a crush on me.
We remained friends for a number of years, as it turned out that he was the son of one of my mother’s church friends. I would see him maybe a couple times a year and, every time, he would treat me with the same, puppy-like affection. A small part of me felt a little bad for never overtly telling him no, but the bigger part of me relished the undivided attention (because really, there is nothing I crave more in life than attention).
After I graduated high school and left Nashville for Boston (he had just finished his freshman year), we fell completely out of contact. Sure, we were Facebook Friends, but what does that really mean in today’s society? One day, not long after I left, the internet told me that he had a girlfriend. “Good for him!” I thought, and put it out of my mind.
As a typical 20-something female stumbling awkwardly into adult womanhood, I am very much coming to terms with my sexuality. And I will say it’s exciting. I’m becoming more secure in the person that I am, carrying myself differently–more deliberately–and slowly discovering this, sort of, neon-pink feminine spark from within. Oh, and believe me when I say that spark is a very powerful thing. I notice it in other women, as well. I notice it in the way a woman walks, or the way she wears a black bra underneath a sheer blouse, or in her smile. It’s so powerful it’s almost tantalizing. There’s nothing sexier than a woman.
Yesterday in typical morning fashion, my best friend Gchatted me to catch me up on what had I had missed being out the day before. She had finally met a new “distraction” on Tuesday night. After the requisite flirting, he finally said to her, “Well, if you ever want to hang out, you know…find me through the avenues.” WHAT? No, what does that even mean? Not only does is it not make any literal sense, but it’s also the worst mixed message ever (Yes, Berger; there ARE mixed messages). It’s so vague and passive that it could have just been a nice gesture, trying to get out of looking like a first class A-Hole.
Being a veteran, my friend wasn’t going to let this ambiguous crap fly. She told him whatever sentence he had just strung together made no sense. He responded, “Well, I’ll give you MY number and you can text me yours if you want. I would never ask for yours, because you’re a lady.”
Ok, this still makes no real sense, but it least it was clear that he was interested, but being a weirdo about it. So, she texted him. They volleyed until she fell asleep. Game, set, match. Your move dude…MAN UP AND PLAN A DATE.
What is this all about anyway? I saw this classic Carrie meme on Buzzfeed‘s list of “27 Ways You Are Not Carrie Bradshaw” this morning and it reminded me of so many hours, laying on the couch pretending to watch TV but really staring at my phone. (I was also reminded of HOW MUCH Sex and the City I have watched, since I could name the season and episode of all twenty-seven memes.) How many nights have you fallen asleep with your phone tucked under your pillow, just in case he calls or texts? I honestly couldn’t calculate my number, but it’s surely embarrassing. And yes, as misguided as Carrie Bradshaw can be, she has a point.
Freshman year of college wasn’t kind to me. I felt an incredible amount of pressure to live the idealized undergraduate life I’d seen in movies and television shows: excellent grades, tons of new friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a solid athletic career. I already had a sweet boyfriend and was a straight-A student. Those things were nice, but they weren’t new or exciting for me. I wanted the friends and athletic success even more.
After a few months on campus, my life resembled a constant cycle of worry and disappointment. I got along with my roommates but I didn’t have a lot of other friends. My track teammates were nice, but they were also faster, thinner, and more outgoing than me. Basically, college wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and that freaked me out. The new anxiety caused me to overeat and occasionally binge, and soon a twenty-pound weight-gain became another source of worry.
My boyfriend, who I’d been dating for two years before going to college, did his best to make me feel better. He told me not to worry about my social situation, and he encouraged me whenever I vowed to get my weight in check, but nothing felt right anymore. I felt like a pudgy failure. Two months before the end of spring semester, I told him we should see other people.
I need to confess something and it’s not going to be easy – the thought of selling my body for money has crossed my mind once or twice. I am not proud of it. I am even more shamed by what my college Women’s Studies professor would think or, say, my parents who paid good dollars for said college probably so I never have to think that thought. But during my flings with unemployment and subsequent Showtime’s Gigolos marathons I have had the passing thought – those dudes kind of have it made.
This brings me to the topic of the gray area entrepreneur, Jacqueline Samuels, who has opened up a snuggle spa, a cuddle concierge, a spooning salon that is the Snuggery. Turns out, American culture is chronically deficient in non-sexual touch – I guess we just go straight for the junk and maybe save the cuddling for after. Maybe. Probably not. Probably we have a really early appointment we have to make in the morning so let’s do this again sometime. Well apparently that’s our first mistake. Are you feeling anxious with the weight of the world on your snuggle-stunted shoulders? Perhaps consider treating the afterglow as the main event. Numerous studies (that seem to be clogging my pacifist-filled Facebook newsfeed) have shown that cuddling raises the levels of the oxytocin hormone that creates calmness, helps with depression, reduces stress and addiction and ups your immunity. And as we Californians know all too well, where there’s promise of inner peace, there’s a new age buck to be made – I’m looking at you, Lululemon.
Sometimes, when your characters are behaving rather badly and seeming less and less likeable by the moment, the best storytelling trick is to give them a crippling flaw. Like OCD.
What I used to love about Girls was the “Girls! They’re just like us!” message that seemed to seep through the show’s surface, even in the most unrelatable of settings – eg: a rabbit farm in upstate New York, or a Ted Bundy Brownstone – but I don’t feel that way lately. At least not with Hannah, who is so determined to prove she’s unlike anyone else that she’s on a semi-permanent “you wouldn’t understand” tirade against everyone around her. Even her therapist, who is hired to help. This week was a giant reminder to girls in their (our) 20s that every now and then, it’s okay to take deep breaths, relax, and stop trying to solve the ever-present predicament that is figuring out Who I Am. For like, two seconds.
How to cheat. Or: “It’s really possible that you’ve seen me at a club.”
Shoshanna can’t stop worrying about Jessa, “like, where is she? What is she wearing? Is it linen? What language is she speaking? Is she in a tropical climate or like, somewhere up high, oh my God is she warm enough?” While Marnie and Ray don’t seem as concerned re: Jessa’s whereabouts and sartorial choices, Shoshanna is very preoccupied with Who-Is-Doing-What-Where in this episode. This is probably because, like many girls who start to settle in with their boyfriends, leaving one’s love cave and entering the real world gives you mad FOMO, as soon as you realize people kept living their lives while you were nuzzling under those pink sheets.
So when Radhika, the richest Hindi Shosh knows, rollerblades up to invite Shosh to a college party, Shosh aggressively defends her need to attend: “I am a girl who has found love and disappeared.” This is, obvi, her worst nightmare. Ray patronizingly mocks her air quotes – “pantomime to express your emotions is a crutch we’ve talked about that” – but has no good or real reason to be so disagreeable with Shosh in this moment. When you’re 33 and sleeping in the glass house that is your 21 year-old girlfriend’s bed, you probably shouldn’t throw stones.
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