Saturday, July 23, 2022

#AspieGirl (?)


Here’s what happened. 

Multiple people around me got diagnosed with ADHD, including one of my roommates. Watching their journeys, I saw a few things that I recognized. 

Object permanence problems. (If I can’t see a food item in the fridge, it does not exist. I have thrown away so many packages of cheese. And if I need to remember to bring something with me somewhere, I have to either leave myself a note or leave the item right by the door.) 

Bumping into things. All the time. My spatial awareness of my own body is shite. 

Hyperfixations. Having projects or TV shows or movies or hobbies that take up all of my mental time and energy for a significant period of time. Some could be considered specialized interests, since I’ve been obsessed with them for most of my life and have a considerable amount of knowledge about them. (Hey, ancient Egypt.) 

But as I learned more about ADHD, I kept bumping up against one particular idea: that people with ADHD often struggle with executive function. 
 
And I generally…don’t? When I’m in a bad depression dip, I struggle to function, but it’s not quite an executive function issue. It’s not that I have some block surrounding organization or task completion or even being overwhelmed. My block is surrounding energy. In fact, when people talk about how difficult it is to complete a task, I have a hard time understanding what they mean. You just…do it? 

So I was like, “Hey, internet, what has some of the symptoms of ADHD but you’re hella good at organizing things, breaking down a large task into smaller parts, and completing to do list items, and also were a weird kid who struggled with social cues?” 
 
Oh. 
 
Autism. The answer is autism, kids. 

So I had a crisis, because I couldn’t have autism. I hated math growing up, and I’m a deeply empathetic person who’s sensitive to the feelings of those around me, and I actually have lots of friends now, and I understand humor and metaphors. So there’s no way I could be autistic. 

And then I took the RAADS-r test and scored an 83. The minimum score for autism is 65. So I took another test from The Autism Research Centre in Canada, and scored a 30, which is at the low end of high risk. 

And then, based on the RAADS-r questions, I started really looking at myself, and who I was as a kid, and who I am now. A fearless moral inventory, if you will. 

And the truth is that I really was a pretty weird kid. I never quite fit in…I always felt different from other people, and most of the time, that was fine with me. But here is a short list of the ways I was weird, which are all also autistic traits: 
  • I was very very anxious about food. I was a very picky eater, refused to try new foods, and had an enormous irrational meltdown if someone tried to get me to eat something I didn’t like or hadn’t tried before. 
  • I often wore the exact same thing every day for days and days (and weeks?) on end. For like, a long time. For at least the first half of my freshman year of high school, I wore the same jeans, off-white textured top, and blue cardigan. Every day. 
  • I played imagination games (dress up, Barbies, dolls/stuffed animals, etc) for longer than average. (I think.) Until I was 14 or so. 
  • I refused to put my head underwater at the pool. I remember a swim teacher specifically giving me this note at the end of several weeks. She might have even bribed me with candy? I also remember having similar anxieties about having my hair washed. 
  • Hygiene in general was difficult, because of what I now understand to be sensory issues. I often refused to brush my hair, and would get these awful, matted rat’s nests in my hair as a result. I struggled with brushing my teeth, especially spitting the toothpaste out. 
  • In general, I struggled a lot socially. Some of that also probably had to do with the hygiene and outfit things I just listed, but even aside from that, I often just couldn’t connect to my peers. I had a hard time accessing what was “cool” or “popular.” It all seemed so arbitrary to me, and I couldn’t keep track of it, and couldn’t figure out what was important or why. I was teased and picked on, sometimes by people whom I had thought were my friends. I often had a sense of having missed something in social interactions…I could feel the temperature change in a conversation, but I wouldn’t know why or what had happened. I disappeared into books for much of my childhood, and preferred to spend recess in elementary school making daisy chains by myself to playing with my peers. Freshman year of high school, I often sat in the hallway above the auditorium and read books during lunch. Granted, I wasn’t a complete loner. I did have friends and meaningful connections, but for a long time, they were all just as weird (and probably as neurodivergent) as I was. 
 
And you guys. Most of these things were going on well into my teenage years. It took me finally getting into theatre my SOPHOMORE YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL to feel like I could finally start to fit in with my fellow humans. 
 
(I have a theory about why—I think it’s because theatre kids are VERY EXPRESSIVE and direct, and I could easily navigate conversations that were with people who were weirdos but also clearly expressing emotions in very dramatic ways. Like, weirdness was embraced among theatre kids. And everyone was so dramatic, which meant social interactions were less subtle. And scripts gave me parameters to interact within. I could make strong individual choices, but there was always a “right thing” I could say when following a script onstage. It was enough to give me confidence to develop those skills more as a person offstage.) 
 
But you grew out of all of it, right, Liz? 
 
Here is a short list of the ways I continue to be weird, most of them starting in childhood but continuing on today, all of which are really common traits among those with autism: 
  • I’m still a picky eater, tbh. Spicy foods make me feel like I’m dying, and new foods give me anxiety, and if a food has a texture I dislike, it makes me gag. 
  • My most prevalent stim is twirling my hair, followed closely by picking at my nails and swaying while standing. I often use fidget toys during movies or plays to keep myself from stimming hard in other ways that are more damaging (like making my cuticles bloody with picking at them). 
  • Little spoons only. I am picky about silverware and dishes in general. They must be the right shape, weight, material, etc. 
  • Form follows function when it comes to clothing. If it’s not comfortable, I cannot stand to wear it. I often cut tags out of my shirts, and have occasionally cut collars on t-shirts to be lower so that they weren’t as close to my neck. I’ve been known to trim scratchy inner hems. I dislike wearing pants (as any of my previous roommates can attest), and I dislike wearing shoes (as anyone who knows me can attest). 
  • Eye contact actually doesn’t come easily to me. It’s much easier onstage, but in real life, I have to remind myself to consciously do it during other interactions. I also have to consciously remind myself of the rules of casual conversations, especially if it’s with someone I don’t know super well. (If they ask you how your day was, ask them the same thing back. Conversation is reciprocal. And also, not everyone is interested in the random trivial fact you learned on a podcast today.) 
  • In fact, I uh…I rehearse social interactions ahead of time. For a long time, one of my deepest secrets was that I’ve rehearsed jokes or stories or conversation bits before telling them for like, most of my life. I’m only comfortable sharing this now because I’ve learned that lots of other people do it. 
  • I have a list in my phone of conversation starters and reminders to help me navigate social situations where I don’t know people as well. Topics to bring up, questions to ask, etc. 
  • I’m easily overwhelmed in loud, crowded areas. When I’m sitting in a theatre before a show (as an audience member), I usually have to put in headphones and play white noise to keep me from like, freaking out. I’ve also used headphones and white noise in grocery stores, on public transportation, and in airports. 
  • Repeated soft touch on one part of my skin sometimes feels actually and literally painful. One or two brushes of someone’s fingers over one part of my arm = lovely. Repeated touch of the same kind in the same place = torture. 
  • Spontaneous social interactions are hard for me. 99% of the time, I need a day to sort of emotionally prepare. It’s not that I don’t love people, it’s just that 1, the disruption in my plan for the day is difficult, and 2, social interactions take a lot of work for me and it’s hard to jump in really quickly. 
  • Walking on my tiptoes. I don’t do this one quite as much nowadays, but I often walk on just the balls of my feet. 
  • Always using movie/YouTube/TV/TikTok/etc quotes in conversations. (Or, more often, thinking them and not saying them, because if people don’t know the reference, it often gets in the way of actually connecting with other people, which is the goal of conversation. And also because I don’t know how to explain that the thing I just said is a reference to the blooper reel from an early 2000s British sitcom that I’ve watched dozens of times with my sister.) 
 
There are also a few things that could be classified as just kind of quirky personality traits, but I see them in a new autistic light nowadays. My deep love for forms, spreadsheets, taxes, and organizational documents of any kind. The meticulous tidiness of my room and/or desk. The game I play in my head when I’m buying something less than $20, when I try to think of a historical event that took place in the year of the total. ($14.92 = Columbus sailed the ocean blue.) 
 
I also have a few common morbidities with autism. I have an auditory processing disorder and misophonia. And hooo, boy, do I have a history of anxiety and depression. 
 
And each of these things on their own are kind of just quirky personality things, but put altogether, it looks a hell of a lot like autism. 

(Okay, quick note: Most of what I've described would likely be classified as Asperger's Syndrome, which is a part of the autism spectrum. If autism is the tree as a whole, Asperger's is one of the branches. Asperger's doesn't require as much support as other autism diagnoses, but it's still autism. "Aspie Girl," the phrase used in the title of this blog entry, is a nickname for women with Asperger's Syndrome. Some folks don't like using the shortened nickname "Aspie," or using the phrase "Asperger's Syndrome" at all, mostly because Hans Asperger was a Nazi eugenicist shithead and also because we understand more about how Asperger's Syndrome is one type of autism. I'm comfortable using "autistic" to describe myself, and even though Asperger himself sucked, I like the way "Aspie Girl" rolls off the tongue, and I also like how it makes me sound like I'm part of a cool gang of femme people who roller skate and solve crimes and stuff.)
 
I’m a little uncomfortable calling myself autistic without an “official diagnosis.” But it’s not like I took one BuzzFeed quiz and decided I was autistic. I’ve spent months reading articles, visiting websites, using diagnostic tools like the RAADS-r test, listening to other adult women with autism, and speaking about it with other autistic folks. 
 
I’m currently in the process of seeking a formal diagnosis, which is…difficult. One of the clinics I called is booked until the year 2024. And women who have “mild” autism (like mine) are often dismissed or overlooked, so I want to find someone who specializes in autism in adult women, which is not easy. I also understand that if I am not diagnosed as autistic, that could also be accurate. It just…it really seems like an accurate diagnosis to me. 
 
When I told my roommate some of these things that I did and still do, she looked at me incredulously and asked “How did you not know?!” And I replied that I didn’t know because I’ve never been in anyone else’s head! I’ve only been in mine! And also I was born in 1985 and getting an autism diagnosis as a girl in the 1990s was unheard of! 
 
So now, at age 36, I’m navigating the very high possibility that I’m a little bit autistic. My therapist pointed out that I managed to white-knuckle my way through a lot of distress in order to have connection with my fellow human beings, and that I was able to find some helpful coping mechanisms just on my own. That’s worth celebrating. 
 
Does this change anything about my life now? Not really. 
 
Just kidding, I’ve been going through ongoing loops of identity crises, research and self-education, and re-evaluating every single aspect of my life. This also means that all of the social confidence I’ve developed over the last 20 years has frayed at the edges a bit. By my senior year of high school, I’d become confident enough that I could enter into social interactions with very little anxiety. A lot of that anxiety came back after getting divorced in 2017, but nowadays it’s like…middle school level social anxiety, 60% of the time. I’m hyper aware of how I act in every interaction I have with other human beings, while it’s happening, which means that the interaction itself sometimes gets weird because I’m aware of how I act and it’s just a strange, endless loop. 
 
Shout out to anyone who has become friends with me over the past six months or so. 
 
“But Liz, you don’t seem autistic at all!” Maybe not on the outside, I don’t. And maybe not to you. That’s probably because I’ve spent the last 20 years learning and practicing normalcy really really hard. (Also, I thought the same thing but then I learned more about autism.) 
 
But here are a few of the good things that have come from this journey. 
 
I have enormous compassion for little Liz. That weird girl with un-brushed hair who was reading by herself throughout school was doing the best she could with what she had, and no one had the tools or knowledge to help her navigate a world that presented challenges for her. I see her isolation and confusion and pain in a different light, and now I can reach back through time and offer so much love and patience to that young girl. 
 
And some of that sense of isolation has been lifted as well. When I first began my journey with a possible autism diagnosis, I felt this strange sense that the diagnosis would erase my experiences growing up. Like if I was autistic, I was just like a bunch of other people, instead of an unusual, otherworldly creature who single-handedly figured out how to connect to others on her own terms and was more highly evolved than her peers in middle school. I had come to embrace my strangeness as something beautiful that I then grew out of. But nowadays, I see things differently. I can still be an unusual, otherworldly creature…it’s just that now I don’t have to be alone in it. I get to keep the strangeness, but let go of the isolation. (I also now understand that I’m no better or worse than my peers…we just had different tools and experiences.) 
 
And I’ve seen this as an opportunity to embrace my strangeness and my needs. I follow a couple on TikTok who both have autism, and they posted a video about how one day, they just decided to be themselves, in all their strangeness. To not hide their wild, unusual quirks, and to live bravely as exactly who they are. Hearing this didn’t change a lot about my behavior, but it lifted a lot of the shame and embarrassment I had about my behavior. Okay, so I need some time to prep for social interactions! That’s a legitimate need and not a character flaw. So I’m a picky eater. So certain kinds of touch are painful to me. So I need headphones to help me not meltdown in large, noisy crowds. ALL OF THAT IS FINE. I’m allowed to have those needs and to speak them and to do what I can to meet them. 
 
And that’s actually true whether or not I get an official autism diagnosis from a licensed professional. That’s true of all of us. We’re allowed to give ourselves tools to navigate the things in the world that don’t work for us. We’re allowed to look back in time on our younger selves with compassion. We’re allowed to like what we like and dislike what we dislike and be our weirdest selves. 
 
Connection with our fellow human beings is still possible when we do those things. And the more we are our truest selves, the more authentic that connection will be.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Writing Elsewhere

Hello, my friends! 

Things have been a bit quiet here on the blog lately, and I just wanted to post real quick to excuse and justify my absence. 

RJ and I are continuing our Sister Blog Challenge, but we're on a brief hiatus while we focus on other projects. I'm doing NaNoWriMo (again) this year, so for the month of November, I'll be focused on that. And during October, I spent a lot of time editing old works and submitting them for publication and applying for writer residencies and doing all kinds of other writerly things. 

But if you're craving some Liz writing, never fear, because one of my essays got accepted for publication! You can read my creative non-fiction piece, "The Goddamn Miracles of Nature," on the Sad Girls Club Literary Blog by clicking here. (While based on truth, names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.) 

Happy reading and writing, loves.

Monday, September 13, 2021

What I Learned from (Almost) Doing 50 Hours of Yoga in a Year


Actually, I won’t be able to tell you what I learned doing 50 hours of yoga. Because I didn’t do 50 hours. I did do 30 hours and 36 minutes, though, and I learned plenty from that! 

I set this as my birthday goal last year, but didn’t really post anything about it here like I usually do. It somehow felt more private, so I just quietly made my spreadsheet and paid for the premium version of my yoga app and set up a reminder in my phone to do yoga every other day, even if it was only for 10 minutes. I chose a goal of 50 hours because it worked out to be about an hour a week, or 20 minutes three times a week, or even 10 minutes six times a week. Not so much as to be overwhelming, but enough to make a difference. 

I had visions of being so flexible and strong at the end of this journey. I was going to be able to do headstands. I was going to be able to lift my leg straight up into the air, knee by my ear, my eyes gazing out serenely. I was going to have clearly defined abs and no double chin and I was going to be Zen as f*ck. 

Surprise: none of that happened. I am not really any stronger or more flexible than I was a year ago. And honestly, I don’t know if I would have been even if I had made it to 50 hours. But it was still worth doing.  

Because it sustained me. It kept me grounded through an ongoing pandemic, through a breakup, through cancelled shows and new jobs and stressful days and lonely nights. 

Most of the time, it was me and my app, my iPad propped in front of me in my room, my yoga mat unrolled in the space between my bed and desk. A few times, I joined a virtual yoga class, including one instance where I was the only student. I was always a little wary at the beginning of a formal class—did I really have an hour to give to this? And I always did. 

There were times when I dreaded, absolutely DREADED, doing yoga. When the task felt so heavy that it seemed to pull the rest of my to do list down, a ball and chain to my day.  Sometimes I just crossed it off the list without doing it. I just couldn’t bring myself to “show up at the mat” or whatever. But sometimes I showed up anyway, teeth gritted, until they weren’t gritted anymore. 

There were times when it was a desperately needed respite. When my mind was going 10 million miles a minute, when my whole body felt twitchy with the frantic need to ACCOMPLISH ACCOMPLISH ACCOMPLISH. When it took putting everything else aside and just breathing for one goddamn minute to help me get to sleep. 

There were times when I felt luxuriously glad to be doing yoga. When I moved into wide child’s pose with the kind of sigh that’s usually reserved for slipping into a hot bath. When that “Zen as f*ck” feeling settled into my spine with ease and I felt at home in my body. 

And there were times when I sobbed my way through poses. It happened a lot after my breakup in November. I would be going through my day with a background note of sadness, and then I’d move into some pose and it would all come rushing out. Like all the sorrow I was carrying was waiting for some kind of release. I don’t know what I would have done with all of that ache if I didn’t have yoga. 

I had weeks when I was unrolling the mat every single day. And then weeks where it lay completely untouched. It’s still that way--inconsistent. But even if the habit hasn’t taken hold exactly, I still feel the place that yoga has taken up in my life. Now, I can sense when I’m feeling a little tangled—emotionally or physically. I can feel when I need the slow untangling that yoga brings me. I’ve come to accept that I don’t need the leggings, I don’t need the classes (although I do like them!), I don’t need to do this for an hour every day, or even for an hour at a time. 25-minute increments still settle and untangle and strengthen me. 

There’s often a sort of self-righteous evangelism that comes with yoga. At least that’s how I interpreted it from most of social media. A lot of promises of it changing my life. It takes a certain level of privilege to be able to make yoga practice a part of your life. I used to get the impression that most yoga classes were filled with skinny white women who can afford $70 leggings. Which is sometimes true. But I have discovered spaces where all are welcome, and found a home on my mat that I didn't know was waiting for me. 

And now here’s the thing: I’m becoming a bit of a yoga evangelist myself. I hope I’m not coming across as self-righteous about it, but I've learned that yoga really is for everyone. Rich, poor, fat, skinny, cisgender, transgender, any and all races and abilities. Is your stomach getting in the way of doing child’s pose? Just modify it to wide child’s pose. Can’t afford classes or a studio membership? Find a free guided class on YouTube (there are hundreds). Don’t have an hour to give to your practice? Just do 10 minutes. Can’t touch your toes? Touch your knees. 

It sounds cheesy and evangelical and unrealistic, but I've come to believe that yoga really doesn't ask anything of you except showing up. And I'm grateful for what I found as I showed up this past year. I don't think I'll stop. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Breaking point

 I'M NOT BLOGGING THIS WEEK I AM TOO BUSY. 


I'll be back with more writing later, on the regular schedule, when I'm not Door Dashing, Etsy-ing (x2), doing other side hustles, memorizing 2 different scripts, doing improv shows, house managing and rehearsing in Provo, and attempting to make food at home so that I don't spend a billion dollars on eating out. 


Love you all. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Loving Our (Imperfect) Bodies

DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional, for mental or physical health. I have done research and am providing relevant links, and I'm also experienced in advocacy and non-violent communication, which is really the focus of this blog. 

CONTENT WARNING: This blog contains frank discussions of body image and disordered eating, including examples of harmful things that are sometimes said about bodies and examples of negative inner monologues. I invite readers to practice self-care and discretion in reading, and offer the option of skipping the examples written in orange text

Image: A dim picture of an empty dressing room, with lighted mirrors.
(via Travel Salem on Flickr

Hello my friends! Before I start this blog, I want to be transparent about the fact that for most of my life, I've been thin. My body has grown somewhat in the last several years, and nowadays I've got a bigger and softer tummy and a proper double chin. But I haven't personally experienced a lot of fatphobia or disordered eating or body image issues. This makes it easy for me to stand up and say "Hey, let's all love our bodies!" with very little baggage. But the amount of baggage I have or don't have doesn't have anything to do with my willpower or character. I just got lucky. I won a genetic lottery and got a body type that happens to be valued in my society and a family that doesn't have too many issues around body image. All of us humans have grown up in this culture, and all of us have internalized messages about fat, about age, about appearance. No one should be shamed for how much those messages affect them. For all my positive body talk, I also still have plenty of moments when those messages get to me, too. This blog entry is about why I do my best to consciously undermine those messages, and some practical ideas about how to do it. It's a skill that has to be learned and practiced. 

So! 

Now that more people are vaccinated (for the love of Osiris, if you can get vaccinated but haven't yet, PLEASE GET VACCINATED), we have more opportunities to do live theatre safely! And with that comes something I had literally completely forgotten about: the negative body talk that gets thrown around in women’s dressing rooms. 

I don’t know what happens in men’s dressing rooms, and it’s been a while since I’ve been in a universal dressing room. But I’d like to invite everyone, regardless of the dressing rooms you’re in, to move away from this kind of talk. The last year and a half has further radicalized me into working for all kinds of equity and compassion, and the dressing room is one place where I can do that work. Come join me! 

WHAT IT IS

Negative body talk is any negative comment about your own body, someone else’s body, or bodies in general. It may include comments about weight, shape, age, or appearance. Sometimes negative body talk comes in sneaky forms, like praising people for weight loss, or assigning moral value to certain foods. 

Here are a few examples: 

  • “Ugh, this costume makes my butt look huge.” 
  • “These crow’s feet around my eyes are driving me crazy.” 
  • “I was so bad today. I ate like five cookies.” 
  • “Okay, time to put on makeup. Because no one wants to see this face without makeup.” 
  • “I’m gonna have to go to the gym for an extra hour to work off that lunch.” 
  • “I hate having such tiny boobs!” 
  • “I felt so bad for him, trying to do that lift with her.” 
  • “You’ve lost so much weight! You look amazing!” 
  • “Time to put on my Spanx. Gotta tuck all of these saggy bits in.”
  • “These gray hairs look just awful.”  

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO SHIFT AWAY FROM IT

(My radicalization is gonna show here…) 

Negative body talk upholds the patriarchy

It’s the patriarchy that says “women are valuable because of their looks.” It’s the patriarchy that says “Men should look a certain way to get women to date them, because that’s where men get their value from.” It’s the patriarchy that says that women’s jobs are to be ornamental, decorative, and make others comfortable. It’s the patriarchy that makes no room for queerness or anything outside of the gender binary. It’s the patriarchy that says only pretty people can be romantic leads. It's the patriarchy that says women's value goes down as they get older. And there’s no inherent truth to any of it. It’s what society teaches us, but we can decide to disregard it. And as more of us disregard it, the less power it has. 

Negative body talk perpetuates the toxic aspects of capitalism

Think about how much money we spend trying to change how we look. I’m all for cool haircuts and tattoos and piercings and sunscreen and yoga studios—those things help us express and care for ourselves. But the only reason women shave their legs is because some guy in the 1920s wanted to sell us razors. The only reason we have so many diet programs is because people want to make money off diet programs. Even though none of them demonstrably work long-term and restrictive eating is always harmful. (Check out The F*ck It Diet for one resource on this.) The diet industry makes an estimated $60 billion a year. Imagine how much good that money could do if we spent it elsewhere. On small businesses. On bail funds. Or hell, on our f*cking bills. And don’t even get me started on the “pink tax.”

Negative body talk is often deeply rooted in racism

This is way complex, and I’m not the best person to speak on this, and many others have spoken about this more eloquently than I have. (Check out this interview with Sabrina Strings on NPR for one example.) But the idea that “thin is the only and best way to be beautiful” is an extraordinarily Western idea, based on white ideals that attempt to separate “superior” bodies from “inferior” bodies. The beauty ideals of other cultures are all so radically different…if we say “Well, being thin and young are the ONLY ways to be beautiful” we’re saying “White colonial ideals of beauty are the only valuable ones.” (Also, your value as a human being doesn’t have anything to do with how you look ANYWAY.) 

Negative body talk perpetuates the fatphobia that plagues the entertainment industry

There is literally no reason for actors to be thin. Because we use our bodies to tell stories, it’s helpful if our bodies are strong and healthy. But the lie that we’ve been fed for so many decades and from so many sources is that fat = unhealthy. And it’s just not…true. (Check out Health At Every Size to learn more). Health can be measured in a few different ways, but generally speaking, the actual science says that weight is not an accurate predictor of health. Lizzo can do cardio while singing and playing the flute for hours at a time in heels, night after night, for months on end. And have you seen Olympic weight-lifters? And also, the BMI is racist and completely useless and was never intended to measure health. So if you’re ACTUALLY worried about health, you don’t need to worry about weight. And as far as storytelling goes, there’s no reason we can’t have a fat Juliet on stage. A fat Elle Woods. A fat Hedda Gabler. LITERALLY NO REASON. If being thin doesn’t mean being healthy, and if you don’t have to be thin to play certain roles, then there’s literally no reason to push ourselves (or each other) to be thin. 

Negative body talk harms those with body image issues and disordered eating

It's difficult to get really accurate statistics, but eating disorders affect AT LEAST 9% of the population. So if you're in a room with 10 people, it's highly likely that at least one of them has experienced some kind of eating disorder, and even likelier that more people in the room have a difficult relationship with food or body image (if not all of them/us). When we make comments about our own weight, or the weight of others, we're adding our voices to the chorus of already loud voices saying "you're not thin enough" or "you'll only be loved if you're thin" or "you're not worthy of love unless you're thin." This is also why it's powerful to not compliment people about weight loss. I personally have multiple friends who have shared that compliments on their weight loss caused their eating disorder to deepen. Or perhaps their weight loss was because of another health issue, and the compliment made their pain feel invisible. In both cases, they were being rewarded with love and acceptance in times when they were very ill. I want to live in a world where we give people love and acceptance regardless of their weight. 


HOW TO UNDERMINE NEGATIVE BODY TALK IN THEATRE DRESSING ROOMS 

(and any other rooms, really)

Okay, so if you're on board with moving away from the negative body talk that perpetuates the patriarchy, toxic capitalism, racism, and myths about health, here are a few ideas of how to do it. 

  1. Aggressively compliment yourself. Look at yourself in the full-length mirror and smile at what you see. Exclaim with ecstasy. “Are you seeing this?! Look at these thighs! Look at these curves! Man, I love this gorgeous tummy.” Grab handfuls of your body and jiggle it with joy.
  2. Abstain from the “script” when someone says something disparaging about their own appearance. When one person says “Ugh, I hate how this makes my butt look!” the expected response is either “No, it looks great!” or “Well, MY costume makes my tummy look huge.” Both of those responses reinforce the idea that appearance = worth. Which is completely false. Speak up, or change the subject, or abstain. 
  3. Give specific compliments that don’t have to do with size. These compliments can have to do with appearance, but think of it as praising the way you’d praise a painting. (“You have such great eyebrows.” “You have such lovely hands.” “Look at your beautiful elegant feet!”) You can also compliment things that don’t have to do with appearance at all, like talent or smarts or interpersonal skills. 
  4. Respond to negative body talk with “That’s the patriarchy talking!” or another quippy one-liner of your choice. 
  5. Post body positivity quotes/images by the mirror/on the walls. A few of my favorites include "Love Your Tree" from Eve Ensler's The Good Body, some variation of this popular sticker, or this one, and this cross-stitch from my own Etsy shop (shameless plug).
  6. Respond with a simple “Hey, this kind of negative body talk isn’t okay with me. Could we please keep it out of this space?” 
  7. If the costumes/time period of the show allows, refuse to wear Spanx or other shape wear. 
  8. Invite people to explore the ideas behind the fatphobic comment. “Hey, have you ever thought about where those ideas come from?” (This can also be done more pointedly, in the form of “Explain what you mean by that?”)
  9. Speak frankly and matter-of-factly about your own body to the costume team (“These jeans are too small for my belly.” “If I wear this skirt, can I also get something to wear underneath so that my thighs don’t get irritated from rubbing together?”)
  10. Respond with “Hey, friends. Someone recently pointed out to me that this kind of negative body talk can be rough for folks with eating disorders. So because we never know what the people in the dressing room are going through, I’ve been trying to just refrain from any kind of negative body talk in every dressing room I’m in. Would it be cool if we did that in here?” 
  11. Sometimes negative body talk is an attempt to bond with those around us. The desire to connect to our fellow humans is deep and primal! (This is often what's going on when people are following the "script" mentioned earlier in #2.) So work on finding other ways to connect. Tell a funny story about your day, ask people what their favorite part of their day was, bring up an interesting article or YouTube video you recently read, or ask any of these conversation starters. (I always love hearing about people's journeys, so I like to ask "How did you get into theatre?") 
If you have other ideas, feel free to share them in the comments! Now go forth, and practice showing love to your beautiful, imperfect body and help others love theirs! 


Monday, July 19, 2021

Am Writing


No blog today. But it's because I'm working on two essays, four poems, and one script (at least). The entire point of the Sister Blog Challenge is to stay writing. And I am writing. It's just not ready to be seen yet. 

Maybe in two weeks it will be. See you then. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Kick off your Sunday shoes

“If Walt Whitman were alive today, what song would he hear America singing? When I turn on television, all I hear is the music of easy sexuality and relaxed morals. I hear rock and roll and the endless chant of pornography.” – Reverend Moore, “Footloose,” Act One 

“You wish to change the law because you want to throw a dance; that is your right. It is my duty to challenge any enterprise which, in my experience, fosters the use of liquor, the abuse of drugs, and most importantly, celebrates spiritual corruption.” –Reverend Moore, “Footloose,” Act Two

Listen. I'm in a production of "Footloose" that opens this week, and it's kind of all I can think about nowadays. (You know how tech week is.) The premise of the show always struck me as so ridiculous as to be unbelievable. A ban on dancing seems absurd for any time period after the early 1600s.  

But the more I learn about American history in the 1980s, the less ridiculous a religious ban on dancing seems. First of all, the show is based on a true story (you can read about it here), but also there were a lot of things going on in American culture during the 1970s and 1980s that could easily lead a Christian preacher to believe that dancing is dangerous.   

I’ve been researching this for weeks, like the nerd I am, so get ready for a dramaturgy dump, my friends. 

THE RISE OF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT

In the late 70s and early 80s, evangelical Christians were like "You know what we need MORE of? Combining Church and State." For them, the separation was clearly leading to the "decay of the nation's morality." Groups like The Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council urged evangelicals to get involved in politics and got them pumped up about "traditional family values." Before this, things like abortion, divorce, feminism, LGBTQ rights were all separate issues. It's a great PR move, really, and it carries through to this day. 

SATAN WANTS YOUR CHILDREN 

For members of the Christian right, Satan wasn’t metaphorical. And know who he was after? THE CHILDREN. In 1972, Evangelical Christian Mike Warnke published “The Satan Seller,” a memoir of a childhood allegedly spent in Satan worship, detailing everything from summoning demons to ritualistic sex orgies, and his subsequent salvation and conversion to Christianity. 


In 1980, another even more explosive “memoir” was published called “Michelle Remembers.” Co-written by Michelle Smith and her therapist Lawrence Pazder (who eventually became her husband), the book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Michelle while she was under hypnosis. During these interviews, Michelle recounted terrifying childhood experiences after her mother sent her to live with a Satanic cult at age five. She described everything from being forced to consume urine and feces, bathing in the blood of dismembered babies, and being locked in a cage filled with snakes and spiders. She also recalled being sexually assaulted as part of Satanic rituals. The entire experience allegedly culminated in meeting Satan himself, before Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Archangel Michael intervened. These beings removed all physical scars, and hid the memories from Michelle until “the time was right.” 

The best-selling book, along with one or two accusations of sexual assault made against preschool teachers (particularly the McMartin preschool in 1983), launched what we now call “The Satanic Panic.” There was a widespread fear throughout North America that Satanists were secretly running preschools in order to use the children in rituals. Under dubious interview practices, children made statements about being taken to "devil churches," being sexually abused, performing Satanic spells, and being tortured. Worried parents campaigned vehemently for authorities to do something with the slogan “We believe the children.” Federal law enforcement made training videos to help officers recognize the signs of “Satanic Ritual Abuse.” 

SATAN IN POP CULTURE

In 1973, the horror film “The Exorcist” was released, and the fear of Satan’s power ramped up among those who believed in him literally. Not only was the movie legitimately terrifying to audiences, but the making of it was also terrifying. (At one point, the entire set burned down in an accidental fire, except for the possessed character Regan’s bedroom???) The film was based on a real life exorcism on a 14-year-old boy known only as Roland Doe. Or rather, it's based on the attempted exorcism, because Roland somehow managed to break out of his restraints, pull a metal bedspring out of his mattress, and slash one of the priests with it, and they declared him beyond their help. When the film was played in theatres, there were multiple reports of audience members fainting and vomiting, and at least four cases of people requiring psychiatric care afterwards. Televangelist Billy Graham said “There is a power of evil in the film, in the fabric of the film itself.” 

And when 17-year-old Nicholas Bell killed a 9-year-old girl in his UK neighborhood in 1975, his statement to the police read, in part: "It was not really me that did it, you know. There was something inside me. I want to see a priest. It is ever since I saw that film The Exorcist. I felt something take possession of me. It has been in me ever since." Turning to the attack on the girl he had said: "I don't know why I killed her. It was this spirit inside me." In a later alleged statement he continued: "One night I was alone at home playing with the [ouija] board and while doing so felt something bad was happening."

Satan was everywhere. Movies. Books. Music. Television shows. Advertisements. Magazines. 

By 1988, Satanism had so permeated popular culture that TV Talk Show star Gerardo Rivera aired a special called “Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground.” 

Music and dancing were especially dangerous. The 1989 Christian documentary “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock ‘N’ Roll” linked rock music to sex, violence, suicide, drug use, rebellion, and the occult, and ended with a dramatic call to be saved. In 1989, Mormon church leader Gene R. Cook recounted a story about meeting Mick Jagger on a plane, and asking him what he thinks the influence of his music is on young people. Jagger reportedly replied, “Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex.”

Here are a few excerpts from the LDS Church’s “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlets—a free publication to help Mormon teenagers live righteous standards. 

From For the Strength of Youth, 1972 edition: 

“Church standards prohibit dancing that is suggestive or sensual in any way…If one concentrates on good posture, many dances can be danced in a manner which will meet LDS standards. Some examples of these dances are the waltz, fox trot, tango, rhumba, cha-cha, samba, swing, and most of the folk dances. When dancing, young people should avoid crouching, slumping over, trying to do a backbend, or having too close a body contact…Members of the Church should be good dancers and not contortionists. Extreme body movements—such as hip and shoulder shaking, body jerking, etc.—should be avoided, and emphasis should be placed more on smooth styling and clever footwork…The kind of music that is played has a definite effect upon the actions of those participating in dance. Moderate and modest music should always be played. When electronic bands or instruments are used, an extremely loud beat is discouraged because it is inconsistent with church standards. Musical lyrics should always be in good taste and sung in a dignified way.” 

From For the Strength of Youth, 1990 edition: 

“Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music can be used for wicked purposes. Music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. You cannot afford to fill your minds with unworthy music. Music is an important and powerful part of life. You must consider your listening habits thoughtfully and prayerfully. You should be willing to control your listening habits and shun music that is spiritually harmful. Don’t listen to music that contains ideas that contradict the principles of the gospel. Don’t listen to music that promotes Satanism or other evil practices, encourages immorality, uses foul and offensive language, or drives away the Spirit. Use careful judgment and maturity to choose the music you listen to and the level of its volume. Dancing can be enjoyable and provide an opportunity to meet new people and strengthen friendships. However, it too can be misused. When you are dancing, avoid full body contact or intimate positions with your partner. Plan and attend dances where dress, grooming, lighting, dancing styles, lyrics, and music contribute to an atmosphere in which the Spirit of the Lord may be present.” 

RISE OF SERIAL MURDER

There was an enormous surge in serial murders during the 1970s. Why? Who the hell knows. Unresolved PTSD? Intergenerational trauma? Misogynist backlash against second wave feminism? All of the above? Maybe better forensic methods, stronger police communication, and deeper research into psychology just made us more aware of the murders. Maybe the nation was paying more attention because more victims were white women. Whatever the reason, the majority of the most well-known serial killers in American history were committing their crimes during this time period. 

Charles Manson and "Helter Skelter." "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz. Edmund Kemper. John Wayne Gacy. "BTK Killer" Dennis Rader. The "Golden State Killer" and "Easy Area Rapist" Joseph James DeAngelo. The "Hillside Stranglers" Angelo Buono Jr and Kenneth A Bianchi. Ted Bundy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Wayne B Williams and the Atlanta child murders. Richard Ramirez. 

Dennis Rader wasn't apprehended until 2005, and Joseph James DeAngelo was at large until 2018. Berkowitz and Ramirez both cited Satanism as the reasons for their crimes. Bundy was a law student who had converted to Mormonism. (Incidentally, he was arrested a few blocks west of the Harman Theatre, where "Footloose" is being produced.) 

From these cases alone, that means there were AT LEAST 150 seemingly senseless murders/sex crimes during the 15-year period from 1969 to 1985. If you were to average it out, that’s around 1 per month. For 15 years straight. Murders that didn’t have to do with gang violence or drugs, or even robberies much of the time. It was happening in Brooklyn, New York and Witchita, Kansas and Provo, Utah. Nowhere was safe. Kids were warned about "stranger danger" through PSAs and children's books. 

SEX IS MAINSTREAM


Also to the dismay of Christians, sex was going mainstream during the 70s and 80s. Chippendale’s opened in Los Angeles, then in New York, and then went on tour, performing mostly for middle-aged white women (who apparently were into sex? What?). Pornography films like Blue Movie, Deep Throat, and Mona were being reviewed positively by everyone from Johnny Carson to Roger Ebert. Madonna and Prince and dozens of other singers were writing lyrics that weren’t even thinly veiled references to sex. 

Thousands of gay men were dying of a mysterious new illness that would later be diagnosed as AIDS, an immunodeficiency disease caused by the HIV virus, and spread through bodily fluids. Ronald Reagan and the United States government intentionally ignored the crisis, and by 1995, over 800,000 people had been lost to AIDS. Conservative Christians viewed the crisis as a “gay plague” and that God was punishing homosexuality. 



So yeah. You take the rise of Christianity in politics and a literal belief in Satan, the occult showing up in everything from blockbuster films to rock music, hundreds of people being senselessly murdered and some of the murderers blaming it on Satanism, children saying they’re being ritualistically abused by their preschool teachers, and sex seeping into every facet of American society? You’re damn right I’m going to do everything I can to protect my kids. And if I have to ban dancing to do it, that’s a price I’m willing to pay for their eternal salvation. 

With hindsight, it’s easy to see how this kind of thinking is misguided. How the impact is miles away from the intent. But it still continues today. Fox News spent weeks clutching their pearls over Lil Nas X’s song and music video “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and did the same thing again with Cardi B/Megan Thee Stallion’s Grammy performance of Up/WAP. (It's worth mentioning that a lot of the criticisms of popular music always have been and still are deeply rooted in white supremacy, but that's a whole 'nother conversation.) Evangelical Christians still dominate conversations about conservative politics. 

And we still are determined to “protect our children.” Instead of putting signs in our windows that say "We Believe the Children," we share things with the hashtag #SaveOurChildren. In 2016, a 28-year-old man walked into a New York pizza parlor and fired 3 shots from an assault rifle, in an effort to rescue the children from a child sex-trafficking ring allegedly run by Democratic elites. Despite there not being a child sex-trafficking ring in the pizza parlor, the belief that powerful people were using children as sex slaves persists through QAnon and InfoWars and Trumpism. 

Here in Utah, Tim Ballard’s non-profit “Operation Underground Railroad” allows investors to join Liam Neeson/Taken-esque “rescue missions” in other countries. Despite a lack of any relevant training, problematic sting operations that create demand for underage sex workers, and a lack of recovery resources for victims, Ballard continues to frame his work as guided by God. 

Mike Warnke’s memoir “The Satan Seller” was completely debunked and revealed as fraud. The same goes for “Michelle Remembers.” The Satanic Panic surrounding daycare centers had more to do with anxiety about mothers entering the workplace than the devil torturing children. Child sex trafficking is absolutely an issue worth solving, but the problem has less to do with innocent white girls being kidnapped from suburbia and more to do with foreign policy and economics and racism and resource equity and drug policies. 

It’s difficult to face the real traumas. Poverty and grief and fear are all so messy. And the solutions are equally complicated and overwhelming. It’s so much easier to blame a metaphorical being whose only motivation is evil. If you're a parent, it feels both impossible and vital that you protect your children from sexual harm and violence and substance abuse. And if you're Christian, the stakes are even higher--those things lead to literal damnation. 

So it's easy to see how the parents who proclaimed “We Believe the Children” during the Daycare Satanic Panic had good intentions. They were trying to care for and protect the innocent young people they were responsible for. But the heartbreaking thing is that they didn’t actually believe the children. In interview after interview after interview about the satanic ritual abuse that supposedly happened in daycare centers, the children said that nothing really happened. Transcripts and recordings of the initial interviews show that the children were coerced into confessions and stories of things that weren’t even possible. 

But parents were so afraid of failing their children that they didn’t listen to them. 

Just like Reverend Moore. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

In Bloom

I’ve had the sense, lately, that the last year and a half was like a long winter. But as vaccinations go up and COVID numbers go down in my home state, it feels like a kind of spring. Like things that were buried and waiting in the soil are now reaching upwards towards the light. 

Or maybe it feels like summer. Like things have been awake and blooming for a while now. 

I’ve thought about this on warm evenings as I watered the yard. When A and K planted bulbs in the flower beds, A didn’t think they’d show up until next year. But there they are, growing taller every day, their green leaves standing strong in the dirt. The desert grasses are growing new stalks (well, except for that one by the mailbox). And while the lawn is struggling in this goddamn drought, there are patches of green that keep returning under our obstinate watering. 

It feels like things are blooming. And I want to embrace the blooming. 

First of all, I have declared summer of 2021 to be “Hobbit Girl Summer.” 

Inspired by this tweet, I’ve chosen to make this summer a time of taking pleasure in simple things and guarding my comfort fiercely. 

When I made this plan, I quickly discovered that I’m at least 75% Hobbit already. Often barefoot. 7+ meals per day, usually consisting of simple fare—fresh fruit, baked goods, pasta. Taking pleasure in homey, domestic past-times like cross stitching and gardening. Going to bed late and getting up late. 

So there may not actually be many radical changes. But rather, Hobbit Girl Summer will be about embracing those things more fully, and being more deliberate about them. I’m planning to throw in a few other Hobbit-y things. Reading books and taking naps under trees. Writing poetry by rivers. Smoking the occasional pipe-weed. Maybe there can be a garden party or two. (Sans Gandalf’s fireworks because Utah is in the worst drought since the 1970s.) (I will also not be donning any ornamental waistcoats, because it’s bloody hot outside.) I may seek a handful of adventures, Baggins-style. But a friend recently described hobbits as “hippie dippie hedonists,” and if that’s not what I want for my life this summer, I don’t know what is. 

Second of all, after a year and a half of Zoom theatre and streamed performances and radio plays, my fully vaccinated self is re-entering good old-fashioned rehearsal rooms and theatres all over the valley and it’s my favorite thing. I’m rehearsing “Footloose!” at West Valley Arts, and sort of also became the de facto intimacy and fight choreographer as well. I’m halfway through choreographing intimacy for a production of Much Ado About Nothing, and have another intimacy/fight choreo gig lined up for the fall. In a few weeks, I’ll teach an intimacy direction workshop at the Utah Advisory Council for Theatre Teachers Conference. I’ve been submitting resumes and self-tapes a few times a week. I felt rusty as hell for a while there—I spent a week doing vocal warmups for 15 minutes a day because any time I tried to sing, my diaphragm felt non-existent. But it’s like riding a bike…when you’ve been doing it long enough, it comes back to you pretty quickly. An Other Theater Co had our first in-person company call a week ago, where we made plans to clean up the space and get ready for our upcoming season. I feel like there’s a forward momentum in my theatre career that had been on hold for a while. 

Third of all, a handful of writing projects have been percolating in my brain, and some are ready for…consumption? Creation? Clearly, metaphors aren’t my strong suit today, but the point is that I’m moving out of the brainstorming phase and into the “actually writing” phase on a few things. I’ve been fighting myself on the idea of tropes and clich├ęs, and was just being an insufferable, snobby hipster about it all. Like “tropes are too simple and therefore beneath me because I’m an original artist and only art that is challenging is worthwhile.” I’m calling myself on my own bullshit. I’ve started leaning hard into tropes and have found it makes writing much easier, and that there’s still room for “originality” within tropes anyway. 

I sometimes worry that I sound a little too “hippie dippie” in my observations about how “it feels like this is a season of blooming.” This feeling is 100% completely subjective and also deeply personal. But as I grow more into my witchy, intuitive, whole self, it’s empowering to speak these things, to name the chapters of the book I’m in. Friendships are beginning and deepening and shifting. Careers are gaining momentum. Things are just…blooming. So I’ll keep metaphorically watering them, and embrace the blooming.  


(I know I just had this like, great meaningful "button" for this blog, but as I initiate Hobbit Girl Summer, it feels necessary to share these pictures from 2008, when cell phone cameras were blurry as hell, and when some friends and I put on a sketch called "Middle Earth's First Christmas" and I played Legolas with my Nigel Lithgoe hair and RJ was a perfect hobbit and C was "Gandalf the Red" even though he was dressed in white.)






Monday, May 31, 2021

Tableaus of the American West, spring 2021

There are stretches of Utah that are, frankly, boring. Pastures, shrub-covered hills, sage and tumbleweeds. But down near the southern border, it becomes almost other-wordly. The sandy red cliffs rising against a backdrop of cotton candy clouds. I feel my stomach unclenching the farther south I go. 

At Zion that afternoon, it’s too hot to sleep in the tent. So I lay my sleeping pad out on the ground in the shade of my car and nap there. When I wake, it’s still hours before sundown, but I make a fire and roast hot dogs for dinner anyway. I read. I look at the fire. I move my chair in a steady orbit to avoid the smoke. I am discovering that more than half of what I enjoy about camping is spending time with other people. Maybe if I had a good place to hang my hammock, I’d feel differently. I make two unsatisfactory s’mores and go to bed. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I unzip my tent to look at the stars. It’s only a moment, but it’s beautiful anyway. 

The Grand Canyon is truly and actually GRAND. It’s also fucking enormous. I feel like I pass signs for hundreds of miles that tell me I’m at the Grand Canyon. I pull over after crossing the bridge at Glen Canyon, then walk back over it. It’s so far down to the water it doesn’t even feel real. Later, I take a small detour and hike ½ mile in the desert sun to see Horseshoe Bend. Maybe one day I’ll kayak around it. For now, I lean over gaze down, the metal of the railing scalding my forearms. I hold my breath as I glance over at a man close to my age, sitting with his legs dangling over the edge, hundreds of feet above the Colorado River. 

I’ve decided I hate camping by myself, so I cancel all of my camping reservations and book cheap motels. It’s probably just the fact that motels have internet access, but it feels much less lonely. In Williams, Arizona, I eat a meal by sitting down in a restaurant for the first time in 14 months. It’s surreal and a little nerve-wracking. I sit at the bar in a 50’s-themed diner and devour a burger and sweet potato fries with my book propped up behind my plate. At one point, I glance up in time to see one of the dishwashers in the back drop a cup onto the ground and put it right back onto the shelf. 

I listen to books on tape while I drive, or BTS, or podcasts, or my “Wandering Tunes” playlist. I’ve learned that I do best when I take a break every hour and a half or so. I pull over into rest stops and stretch, I wander the aisles of Maverick gas stations and side-of-the-road gift shops. I see a sign advertising the ancient site of Montezuma’s Castle and drive a few miles past two casinos to see it. I feel like John Steinbeck, “traveling with Charley.” But instead of a poodle and an RV, I have a journal and a Prius.

At a gift shop on Navajo land, things feel like April 2020. Masks are required, spacing is enforced, entrances and exits are calculated so that only a limited number of people are in the building at a time. After I spent so much time in areas that probably never really took the pandemic seriously, and as someone who’s been fully vaccinated for a while, it feels like a time capsule.  


There are whole stretches of the American southwest that look so much like the quintessential idea of “The American Southwest” that it almost feels fake. If I lived in a different country and had never been to America, and you asked me to describe Arizona, I’d say, “Big open areas with tall saguaro cactuses, flat-roofed adobe houses with dogs sleeping in the dusty driveways, the occasional tumbleweed, metal sculptures in the yards of the more wealthy.” It sounds like a movie set, or Disneyland’s Cars ride. But it’s 100% accurate. 

There’s something sort of surreal about the moment when your drive home turns from unfamiliar to familiar. I don’t know my way around Spanish Fork, but once I hit Provo, it feels like I’m “home.” Even if I still have an hour left to drive. 

I’m not entirely sure how to end this piece. I can’t tell if it’s a love letter to the American west or reminders for my next solo road trip. 

I suppose I’ll end abruptly, in that crisp way that you pull your car into your own driveway after a week away. 


Monday, May 17, 2021

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!

HOUSEHOLD DOG IS CERTAIN THAT OWNER WILL NEVER COME BACK, EVER

Late yesterday afternoon, a 1-year-old coon hound mix lost his sanity when his owner walked into the bathroom and closed the door. Despite the fact that this is a frequent occurrence and that the owner always returns, the adolescent pup stood at the door and whined for the entire three-and-a-half minutes that the owner was gone. Other household members attempted to offer reassurances and comfort, but these had little effect on the worried doggo. It was only when the owner opened the door with exclamations of “Can you chill?” and “Why are you like this?” that the dog calmed down. Currently, all is calm in the house. (The dog declined to provide a statement for this story.)

WEATHER 

It is that time of year where it’s hot during the day and cold at night. We recommend wearing shorts but bringing a jacket. Pollen count is very high, with winds expected to exacerbate any allergies. This report is only included to help meet the word count requirement. 

EYE ON SCIENCE: GROWING WEEDS AND DYING LAWNS IN A YEAR OF DROUGHT

It’s that time of year—perennials are coming back, trees are blossoming, and the lawn mower is getting pulled out of the shed. But this year, Utahans are facing a conundrum. Their yards need water, but there isn’t a lot to spare. The state of Utah is currently in one of the worst droughts since the 1970s. With watering restrictions in place, residents have a more pressing question: Why doesn’t the drought prevent the millions of weeds sprouting up? Freelance scientist Rebeth Whitner has been studying the question for years. “The truth is…we don’t know,” Whitner says. “It could have to do with how much water each different plant needs to grow, but so far, our research indicates that there’s no real pattern. It seems like they do this just to spite us.” Whitner and her colleagues at the Center for Plant Science have been conducting experiments since 2014, but their findings have been inconclusive. When can we expect answers? Whitner laughs sardonically. “When hell freezes over,” she says. So in the meantime, wait to water, and just keep spraying those weeds. 

SECRET LIP SYNCING: WHAT MASKS HAVE BEEN HIDING ALL ALONG

With the CDC recently lifting mask guidelines for vaccinated individuals, many are finding this new world has a few challenges to navigate. There’s the obvious uncertainty that comes with the fact that going mask-less is based on the “honor system.” There’s no way to know whether someone is vaccinated or not just by looking at them, sending some into anxiety spirals that can be difficult to come down from. But there are some unforeseen complications as well. One source, who wished to remain anonymous, shared her experience: “I didn’t realize how often I lip sync in stores,” Jane (not her real name) stated. “I’ve been doing it for about a year, and the first time I went out without a mask, I couldn’t figure out why people were staring and smiling.” It took Jane a few minutes to realize she’d been lip syncing to the Bruno Mars song playing over the loudspeakers. While most of us have found mask-wearing a little annoying, many have discovered unexpected benefits. “I went two days without brushing my teeth!” said one source, who also wished to remain anonymous. Others cited being able to cover acne, secretly mouthing rude things to people who walk too slow, and not feeling obligated to smile at friends’ babies. There’s also the benefit of not getting sick as often—while masks prevent the spread of COVID, they also prevent the spread of other infections like the common cold. It will likely be several months before we all adjust to a post-mask-requirement world, and there may be a few growing pains. None of us expected mask requirements to have silver linings, but it turns out there was something to smile about after all. Even if no one could see it.  

GETTING THAT SUMMER BODY! 

It’s been a long year and a half! We’re all coming out of isolation and getting ready for a summer of hedonism. Worried about that “quarantine 15”? You’re not alone. But luckily, you are only two steps away from having that “summer body,” and both take little to no effort. Step One: Have a body. Step Two: Experience summer.  


CORRECTIONS

Last week we ran a story about a local cat who believed that the entire couch was hers. We erroneously stated that the couch belonged to the humans in the household. We have been informed that the couch is, in fact, the cat’s. 


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Full reviews of things half-finished


***NO SPOILERS INCLUDED; PLEASE DON'T SPOIL IN RETURN***

New Girl (television sitcom) 

I slept on this show for literally a decade, and then A recommended it, and now it’s 2 weeks later and I’m almost done with season 4. I am charmed and delighted by this ensemble-based sitcom. I dismissed this show for so long for a few dumb reasons. One is that I was (am) a hipster with no logic and had this unjustified sense of superiority for “not liking sitcoms.” The other is that I am intimidated by Zooey Deschanel and have an unfounded fear that every straight guy wants me to be her. (That’s probably some internalized misogyny, actually.) But I now adore Zooey’s character Jess, and I’m also deeply in love with Nick Miller. (Crush on TV character = another way I’m currently acting like an 8th grader.) 

Shadow & Bone (series on Netflix) 

I read the “Six of Crows” series last summer, and then devoured the “Shadow and Bone” trilogy a few months later. Leigh Bardugo has become one of my favorite authors. (Strong focus on characters and relationships, good world-building, suspenseful plots, diversity of all kinds!) The Netflix series combines these two separate series into one story. They take place within the same world, but in different timelines, and are really pretty damn completely different. Six of Crows is all “ragtag group of petty thieves pulling off an epic heist” and Shadow and Bone is all “a girl is the answer to a prophecy about destroying the work of dark magic.” Structurally speaking, so far I think they’ve combined the plots fairly well. I think it technically works, but in all honesty, I think some executive at Netflix made a poor choice in slamming these two stories together. Even if you were just thinking as a dirty capitalist, the fan base absolutely exists to get way more mileage out of this world. They could have done literally twice as many episodes and people would have watched the hell out of it. But too late now, Netflix, so I’ll embrace what is and accept these plots being interwoven. I’m a fan of the art direction/design. I think the casting is fairly perfect, with no A-list stars to distract or “carry”—just capable actors doing good work. (Thank GOD this wasn’t made in the 90s, when studio execs would have cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Kaz for the star power and made every character straight and white and neurotypical.) (Also, I hadn’t realized until I watched the first few episodes of the series that I’d been picturing the Darkling looking a lot like David Bowie. Ben Barnes is much better casting.) 

Dear Edward (book) 

I dragged myself through 80% of this book. It had so many good reviews on Goodreads, and it was on so many lists, and I always like stories with multiple intersecting perspectives. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset or something, but I found this book to be a BUMMER. A whole lotta focus on trauma. Especially about, and from the perspective of, Edward. I imagine the end of the book is probably uplifting somehow. Finding meaning in the tragedy or whatever. But the discovery of the letters felt sort of trite. It was a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” resolution being set up. I spent most of this book hoping for a final chapter like The Goldfinch’s, but eventually decided I didn’t have the patience to get through the rest of the story to get to it (if it existed). 

The COVID-19 Pandemic (a pandemic) 

I’m mostly including this as a reminder (to myself more than anyone) that the pandemic is not yet over. I got my second shot in early April, and as of Friday, our entire household is vaccinated. Today, I drove past a movie theatre and thought about being able to sit in a darkened room in front of a big screen again and almost cried. I still haven’t eaten IN a restaurant yet, and we’ve had two or three other vaccinated people over, and I just accepted a role in a musical with COVID precautions. So in my corner of the world, things are looking pretty good. Vaccinations are up and infections are down. I still wear a mask when outside the house, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I give the pandemic as a whole zero stars, but I give the current healing Utah curve a solid four and a half.