Friday Five:

  1. What animal, not normally ridden by humans, seems like it would be really fun to ride? A giraffe. I mean, not sure it’s the best idea, but hey.
  2. What’s a food you’ve always wanted to try but still haven’t? Not necessarily a specific dish but rather a type of cuisine–Indian. What’s holding me back is the fact that I’m really sensitive to spicy foods, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
  3. What’s stuck to your refrigerator door? Some magnets holding up mostly coupons for pizza and stuff. Most of the magnets are either ones that came in the mail from charities or save-the-dates.
  4. Assuming your needs for food and water were taken care of, how do you think you’d do if you had to live houseless for a year? Horrible, unless I was using my friends and family for help and as a place to stay. But if we’re talking solely living outside, it wouldn’t go well. I could handle things like going without makeup and the internet, but I couldn’t take not being able to shower at least somewhat regularly. Most of all, though, I couldn’t live out in the cold. It might be easier if I a lived in an area that stayed warmer throughout the year, but not here.
  5. What geographical location that’s not already a person’s name (that you know of) would make a pretty good first name for someone? I have no idea! I’m trying to think of a lot of the little coal-mining patches around here, but they would either make terrible names or already are names. Although there is a New Salem, and Salem might be a neat human name. I know it’s been used as a fictional cat name. I’m not sure I would actually name my own child Salem, though.

On Livin’ in Sin

It never really occurred to me to be grateful for my parents’ leniency and open-mindedness until, well, now.

Okay, that might not be entirely true–the gratitude started creeping in when I got my first real tastes of Paul’s mom’s overbearing tendencies. My parents and my friends’ parents were pretty similar my whole life. They may have differed on some details and my parents were a little more steadfast when it came to their rules, and I’ve often said I had a “heathy fear” of them. I knew if I fucked up, there would be consequences, but I never felt like I had to lie or hide things. Until Paul, I never met anyone who truly had strict, difficult parents. My dad’s attitude was, “You’re over 18, you do what you want.” Paul’s 25 and his mom still coddles him. One of the other things I’ve often said is that my parents raised us with the knowledge we’d have to survive on our own day, but Paul’s raised him with the hope he’d never need to.

One of the things that came out of family catch-up sessions at the wedding last weekend is the fact that one of my cousins somewhat recently moved in with her boyfriend, who she’s been seeing for I guess close to two years now, maybe longer. My mom was actually the one who told me, and she told me my aunt’s not happy about it. From the rumblings on Twitter, I wasn’t the only cousin to find out from her mother–but my mother does seem to be the only one who’s not upset by her daughter livin’ in sin.

Like I said, I was never really grateful for that until now.

Paul and I expected blowback from his mom when he moved in with me, but by some miracle, it has yet to come. We still expect it to be thrown in our faces one day when she’s in a mood and yelling about something else, but for now, all we’ve heard is, “I’m not gonna say anything.” Which is admittedly still sort of a passive-aggressive way of expressing her disapproval of the situation, but I was just glad that was all we got, with the exception of statistics about higher divorce rates among couples who lived together first. Because nothing says, “I support you as a couple” quite like, “I’m afraid you’ll ultimately get a divorce if you live together first.”

My dad told me maybe once that he’s “not happy” about it, which I found to be hypocritical. I was conceived out of wedlock.

But this did make me a little nervous that my mom was displeased. But when I asked one night–with a little alcohol in me–she gave me some variation of “I don’t care.” She actually said she prefers it to me living alone. She didn’t say this outright, but the implication is that she worries about me less.

Apparently, this is an attitude unique to my mom in the family. As much as I’m grateful for it, I feel bad for my fellow cohabitating cousins. I don’t know if they’re hassled about it regularly, but I feel bad that they’ve had to hear the little bit they have. For one, it was “I give wedding gifts, I give shower gifts, but I don’t give shacking up gifts” when my cousin told her that her boyfriend’s mom bought them silverware. For another, when she said, “It is what is,” her mom replied, “And it ain’t what it ain’t.”

I get why they disapprove, especially with our Catholic upbringing and Catholic families. What I don’t get is why if one girl from each of the families–and in two of those families, the only girl–living together is such a scandalous thing. But there’s also a level of it that treads over into telling someone how to live their life. And even if it’s a parent telling their adult child, it’s still an adult child. And at this point, the three of us are in our mid-20s, working, supporting ourselves, and in long-term relationships. At least two of us have said outright we don’t feel like we need to get married to solidify the relationship, but I’ve admitted I’m open to doing it, mostly because I know Paul wants to, although the thought of actually planning a wedding sounds like a whole lot of shit I don’t want.

Of course, having been together for years at this point, people keep asking when we’re gonna get married or why we haven’t get married. And I never put much thought into this until one of the cousins pointed it out, but it’s kind of a rude question to ask. The way she put it, there isn’t a deadline. The way I see it, five years doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for marriage, especially if you step back and look at where the couple was in their lives at various stages in that five-year relationship. For Paul and I, that’s meeting at 19 and 20, respectively–we both celebrated our birthdays the summer we started dating. I turned 21, he turned 20. That meant my senior year of college was the first year we dated. That meant that even after I graduated, he still had another year to go. That meant that I was going out into the workforce. And the way things worked out, it also meant two moves–one out of my parents’ house and into Pittsburgh, then out of Pittsburgh and into my current place. And then it was Paul’s turn to graduate and go out into the world, his turn to move out, which brings us to now. There may have been points where getting engaged would’ve been feasibly, but not actually planning or holding a wedding. Honestly, looking back on all of it, there’s not a single good point until now where both of our lives were in the same place, where we would’ve been able to focus on wedding planning. And I’m sure if you ask most married couples if they thought we ought to get married in the midst of any of that, they’d have said no. But suddenly, if you ignore all that and look solely at the amount of time we’ve been together, that’s all that matters.

And I know this hectic experience of not being ready isn’t unique to me, obviously. I may not know every detail of my cousins’ lives over these years, but I know they, too, have included school and job changes and moves.

But then there’s the fact that the question of marriage coming from others, at least in this specific situation as it relates to cohabitation, is a selfish one.

Sure, I have no doubt that our families want to see us happy and see marriage as a milestone, but there are absolutely underlying issues. When most people ask me or my cousins about when we’ll be getting married, they’re not asking because they’re anxious on our behalf because they want us to experience it, because they see marriage as a sacrament in the church or a gift or a union or whatever other positive things marriage can be–they’re asking because they want us to get married. And if you think that’s reading too much into the issue, spend five years with a person without even getting engaged and then pay attention to how often you get asked about it and why.

Paul’s mom brings it up more and more these days–at first it was subtle, and now it’s not. The last time it was a very blatant, “Let me see your hand. Do you have a ring yet?” For her, part of it might be the issue of cohabitation. I don’t know. But I know she wants it for her, and I know she’s anxious for grandkids already.

One of my cousins went so far as to say her parents want her to get married just to make themselves feel better so she’s not livin’ in sin anymore. And as harsh as that sounds, I do think there’s some truth to it. Obviously, my situation with my parents is different, but one can’t help but consider why their parents are pressuring them to get married when they’re pretty open about disapproving of cohabitation.

And the thing is, if and when we do start getting married, that’s probably not going to help–sure, my parents won’t say anything to me, but my poor cousins might get a fresh round of anger and pressure, assuming it doesn’t start with two weddings coming up next year.

When it comes to extended-family dynamics of love, cohabitation, and marriage, there are no winners.

The Diary of Anne Frank

I don’t know what other people’s experiences of learning about the Holocaust were, especially people my age. I might be wrong, but I imagine being shocked and horrified when they learned about it in school. I might be wrong, but I feel like I was in a minority that knew about it long before it was taught in school.

My dad’s always been a World War II buff and a history buff in general, so I was exposed to a lot as a kid that others might not have been. We took weekend trips to Gettysburg for years, and R-rated movies that were based on historical events were fair game for viewing. My dad felt that history was important and wasn’t something we should’ve been shielded from, which is an attitude I strangely respect and admire–and using those words to describe something my dad did is pretty rare. He actually wanted to take me to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. on a trip as a kid, but at least at the time, you had to be 12 to go through and I was not.

I was fascinated by the Holocaust, which feels like the wrong word to use–disrespectful and voyeuristic, almost, but it’s the best I can come up with. I was astounded that someone could be filled with so much hate for a group of people and could be so horrible and do such horrible things. I still have an interest in memoirs of survivors or documentaries and movies, and like my dad, I think they’re important.

Strangely, despite having an old copy of my mom’s I never actually read “The Diary of Anne Frank.” My reading habits have pretty much always been the same–I’ll read just about anything, but that means I’m surrounded by stacks of unread books and I get to a book when I get to it. But I remember probably around the time I was in 6th grade–maybe around the late ’90s, early 2000s–there was either a mini-series or TV movie on about Anne Frank. The only thing I remember is the end, when Anne died in a concentration camp just a couple weeks before the camp was liberated. I cried myself to sleep.

A few months ago–on either a sick day or snow day or just random day off–I was going through my Netflix list and stumbled on an Anne Frank movie and tackled it. And on a recent trip into the city, I noticed billboards advertising a production of the play based on the diary. I decided if we had a good opportunity to go, we ought to, and that’s what we did last night, just in time for the last weekend of the show.

On my last couple trips into the city, I’ve ended up being sufficiently early for where I was heading. I’m still in the habit of checking traffic before I leave–it helps me gauge whether or not I need to leave early or if I should take an alternate route–and that includes checking news reports for road closures due to construction. Normally, the side of the highway we take to get home is the one that’s closed, and that’s what it sounded like was happening again last night. Turns out the side that was closed was the opposite inbound side, with a detour that ultimately took you all the way around the parkway on the other end of the city. And because everyone had to detour that way, traffic was terrible.

We’d originally planned on taking recycling, then parking at the casino and taking the subway. We first got stopped a little after 7 and figured no big deal, the show’s at 8 and we can just skip recycling and take it after if we need to. And then the minutes ticked by and we were barely moving, so we decided to scrap the subway and just go straight there and pay for the parking, possibly even having Paul drop me off at the theater while he parked. I even checked my handy parking app in advance to make sure the garage was open before we went to it–ParkPGH, if you’re in Pittsburgh, super helpful. Come 7:40, I said, “I’m afraid we’re gonna spend this next 20 minutes still sitting in traffic,” and I was right. By a little after 8, we started discussing at what point our cutoff would be to say fuck it and turn around and go home–no point in going to a play if you’re gonna miss half of it. I even asked my mom if she thought I ought to complain and try to get free matinee tickets for today if we ended up going home. We decided that if we weren’t out of the traffic by 9, we were going home.

We made it out around 8:30, got parked a few minutes after, and were fortunately right down the road from the theater and made it in there and picked up our tickets at the box office by around 8:45. I was pretty pissed, but at least we made it before our cut-off time and before the first act ended. I actually wasn’t sure that they’d even seat us–I thought we’d be stuck in the back until intermission–but I’m grateful to the nice, understanding O’Reilly Theater employee who took us right up and sympathized with what was ultimately our two-hour ordeal in traffic.

I’ve never been to the O’Reilly before, although I’ve been in the area plenty of times. It might be my favorite of the city’s theaters, simply because it has a thrust stage. I didn’t want the cheapest seats in the house, but I didn’t want the most expensive, either, so I sprung for a tier up, which got us the top level of the theater. Because it’s a thrust stage, our section was lone chairs arranged in a single-file row, so Paul was actually sitting behind me as opposed to right next to me, which actually works really great when you’re 45 minutes late to a play because it meant we could slip into our seats quickly and quietly without disrupting anyone around us significantly–which might be why we did get seated immediately. And for being the not-quite-cheapest seats in the house, it had a great view right down onto the stage. Next time, I might spring for a price tier up, but I wasn’t disappointed.

Although we were 45 minutes late, we suspect they got a late start and we didn’t actually miss a full 45 minutes–in fact, we ended up being able to see almost a full 45 minutes of the first act and just under two hours of the play total, and the runtime was advertised as being just over two. Paul was unfamiliar with Anne Frank’s story but was able to pick it up quickly enough, and my movie viewing was fresh enough that I could figure out where we were. The trouble was forcing myself to pay attention instead of stewing in my fury over being late.

Obviously, I can’t speak for the beginning of the play, but what we saw was great. It was a Pittsburgh Public Theater production, and the entire cast was excellent. And naturally, it was a heavy, moving story, and I cried. The movie I watched showed the family actually being forced out of hiding and taken away, but I was grateful the play didn’t go that far and stopped with the family hearing Germans entering the building and getting closer and closer to the annex, closing with Anne’s dad reading from her diary–which, although I missed it, I do know is how it starts, too. It’s funny to say that I’m grateful the play didn’t show what was the most difficult part of Anne’s diary (though obviously not her story itself) when that would’ve been so, so much harder to live. Watching it is hard enough itself.

The same things struck me about the play that struck me about the movie–how difficult it can be to be a teenage girl in general, let alone one in hiding from Nazis in a small, cramped space with your entire family, another family, and a middle-aged man as your roommate. How in spite of everything going on around her, Anne was still very much a typical teenage girl developing a crush on a housemate or wondering if she was pretty. How Anne, as a writer, feared she wasn’t any good but wanted so badly to be.

You can’t help but thing how you would handle that situation. I imagine I’d act very similarly to Anne but with more of the anger and fear of some of her housemates. Even pettiness didn’t seem so petty–there’s a scene where the father in the other family takes his wife’s fur coat to the woman who’s hiding them to sell, and his wife goes into hysterics over it. On the outset, it looks materialistic, a woman going into a crying fit over a fur coat. But when you think about it, is it really? If you were in hiding, away from your home, comfort, and even some basic necessities like enough food, wouldn’t you cling to what few possessions you had left? It wouldn’t really be about the things themselves, would it?

I’m also struck by that now-famous quote of Anne’s about still believing that people are still good at heart. It was one of the moments that pushed me over the bring into all-out tears. Honestly, there weren’t many, but they were strong enough to be really compelling. I admire that optimism and hope, and in some ways, I agree with her–I think people are capable of good and things go wrong, and I think there’s a lot to learn from that. I think it’s important for all of us to look at the way we treat people, the way our politicians treat people, and make sure we’re all doing everything we can to be compassionate, kind-hearted, and helpful, not paranoid or laying blame or selfish. We have a moral obligation to be good to each other. We all have the power to change someone’s life, even in tiny ways, and we have the moral obligation to do so.

Why not try to brighten and improve this world while we’re here? We can.

No matter my somewhat negative and at times contradictory views on marriage, I really, really love going to weddings.

I think it’s because every wedding I’ve ever been to has just felt like a big celebration of love, even though I’ve heard stories from friends about attending weddings where the bride and groom both looked unhappy, getting married because they “had to”–we come from a religion and a county where if you get pregnant, you get married. Somehow, even the weddings I have attended with a pregnant bride have felt happy, not forced.

Weddings in my family–though mostly on my mom’s side–are just a big party, and I always want to stay all night and dance until the DJ (or band) stops and the lights come up and everyone starts cleaning up. We come from a Polish heritage where we hear stories about bridal dances lasting hours. Even now, Paul talks about the stories from his parents’ wedding about his grandfather being locked in the bathroom to stop him from getting in the line over and over. My Uncle Richard often goes through more than once and has the greatest bridal-dance shriek I’ve ever heard.

At the wedding we attended last weekend, Aunt Gina brought her own hanky to shake in the air, and hankies were provided as favors–and this isn’t the first wedding I’ve been to that did that. Aunt Gina also joked that we should’ve timed the bridal dance, and I joked on Twitter that shaking that hanky the entire time was the best arm workout I’ve had all year.

My mom’s cousin Allison got married. Although she’s my mom’s cousin, the age gaps among my grandma and her siblings mean she’s closer in age to me and my cousins, which made her the first of the younger generation in the family, let’s say, to get married. I actually once predicted that once one of us got engaged, the rest would drop like flies and we’d have two weddings in one year, and I was so right. Allison was the first, followed a few months later by my brother, Brandon, and cousin Adam, who actually got engaged just days apart and are planning summer weddings–Adam’s in August, Brandon’s in May. Coincidentally, they also both landed the two dates I’d have wanted for my own wedding. Brandon got mine and Paul’s anniversary, Adam got my grandparents’.

It was a nice, fun wedding. I actually ended up doing a lot more talking than dancing–after dinner, all the relatives played a kind of musical chairs, where everyone made rounds saying hi and sitting and chatting. Paul and I spent a good amount of time sitting and talking with Kimmie and Joey, actually, and then everyone would shift when someone else came over or if someone was summoned to a relative at another table.

People left slowly, and my family was among the last ones standing. I did get some dancing in, and I even had a fun moment with my mom where they played this polka she used to love dancing to as a kid and taught me how to do it. I think one of the things I love most about my mom’s family is the way the women sort of band together and mother and daughters pair up as couples and dance, or aunts and nieces or cousins.

The only reason we left before they kicked everyone out is because I could see in Paul’s eyes that he was getting tired. His eyes have this way of looking really heavy when he gets tired, and as he was the driver, I figured it was best to go.

But I’m excited and ready for the next one.

Friday Five: Consumables

  1. What dehydrated foods (meant to be consumed that way) do you enjoy? Apple chips, particularly the ones I usually buy at the local farmers market.
  2. What’s your favorite dish made by stuffing one food with another? Stuffed peppers! I was eating them weekly for a while, then got out of the habit when farmers stands opened up for the summer and I rarely made it to one, despite my best intentions and efforts–they tend to close early, and overtime at work kept me from getting there on time. I’d also like to try stuffed cabbage, but I’m concerned about just how much cabbage there is in a head. Although I guess there’s always haluski to make with the leftovers…
  3. What’s your favorite dish made by rolling something up? Sushi! Especially cucumber rolls. It’s the simplest sushi ever. It’s seriously just cucumber and rice. But I love it so much.
  4. What’s a meal you frequently consume primarily because the cleanup is quick? Almost any boxed meal, especially pasta or frozen pierogies. Bam, boil and done.
  5. What’s a food that’s made much better because of what you sprinkle on it? This is a bad one for me because I enhance most of my foods with salt, and if that’s not fitting, ketchup or some other condiment. But how about the very literal answer of sprinkles on ice cream? I don’t give a shit if I’m 26 and still put rainbow sprinkles on everything.

Well, I was two for two for being late for dinner last week.

Honestly don’t know how it happened that time. I mean, Paul and I working late was part of the problem, but we just should’ve made it there faster than we did. Plus getting even close to the city on a weeknight is a mess for us. There’s no possibility that doesn’t involve traffic.

But at least fun times were had. Terra’s husband, Scott, was in from the Navy on a surprise visit–he kind of just walked in the house one night and scared the shit out of her because she thought he was a murderer, which is exactly what I would’ve thought, too, if I heard someone in my house at night.

Side note: a lot of people who hear that story react with “LOL, good thing she doesn’t sleep with a gun!” and probably fail to realize how that’s kind of an accidental argument in favor of gun control, but whatever.

Scott was going out with his friends–who are a fun crowd–for wing night at Quaker Steak & Lube. Terra and I are vegetarians, so I compromised with shrimp and she ordered an appetizer and the waitstaff is probably like, “What kind of barbarian comes in on wing night and asks for a full menu?”

But it was fun, and it’s always nice to see Scott. True best friends, Terra and I sort of adopted each other’s significant others into our lives, and they did the same–Scott and I have called each other “bestest” since college when I bought him dinner on my flex while Terra was in class, and Terra and Paul have friendly Facebook chats and he fills in if I can’t take her to or pick her up from the airport.

We’ll miss them when she joins him when she’s done with her grad program.

On Social Media and Insulting Fans

There’s a good chance I’ve talked about this or similar issues before, but whatever.

Pretty much no one needs reminded that the internet, social media, and Facebook especially can be very negative places. Personally, I’ve done a pretty good job of paring down my friend list and cutting out the biggest offenders, from racists and bigots to a man who personally attacked me for my beliefs to a former classmate who referred to transgender individuals as “shim” or “it” AND said Penn State students deserved settlement money from the Sandusky sexual-abuse case for their student loans to frenemies. But Facebook is still full of people who act like assholes simply because they can, or maybe because they’re just really unhappy and don’t know what else to do. Seriously, I am a firm believer in the idea that excessive complainers and trolls are really just unhappy and are either trying to bring everyone down with them or are just lashing out because they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

But I digress.

Arguing with such people is often pointless and exhausting, but I’m also a firm believer that if you stay silent in the midst of racism or sexism or homophobia or just plain rudeness, you’re only a small step down from the one doing the talking. You’re letting it happen, for the most part, at least in the context of the internet. Naturally, the issue isn’t quite as simple when speaking up might endanger you, and granted, on the internet, things like calling yourself a feminist can get you death threats.

I choose my battles. I deleted all those friends because I was tired of the negative impact their posts were having on me as a person and because frankly, much as I believe we all ought to speak up, it can be really damn hard–not everyone feels like jumping into an argument every time the opportunity presents itself. Whether or not I do so is random. I’m more inclined to, say, jump in and call my brother out on something shitty than I am a distant relative, although my brother is fortunately not that much of an asshole that it’s an issue. Just don’t tell him I said that.

A huge, huge part of why I believe in speaking up is because I would hate for someone to be scrolling through their Facebook feed and be hurt by comments made about their race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, pretty much anything. If they have to see it, I’d like them to see something positive, too, to know that there are people supporting them and that care.

And even though in the grand scheme of things, a dude trolling a band and its fans is very, very minor, I couldn’t just sit by and watch a guy be an asshole today.

I’ve been a fan of local band Punchline for probably more than 10 years now–I remember hearing local DJs play “The World” at middle-school dances, and then in high school, they opened for I think Anberlin at Mr. Smalls theater. They played “The World,” and I was like, “Oh, those guys!” and have been a fan pretty much ever since. So has Brandon. We stopped counting how many of their shows we’ve been to, and my favorite April Fools’ joke I pull every year is that they broke up. He believes me every damn year.

They’re putting out a new album. They’ve been alt-rock/pop-punk up to now, and they said they’re gonna go in a new direction now–like how Mumford and Sons ditched the banjos and went electric, except Punchline ditched their electric guitars and went a little more electropop. I was nervous about the switch, but their newest song, “Tell Me How You Sleep,”  is really catchy and well-done, and I’m pleased and excited to hear more. If anything, I just miss their kind of unique take on pop-punk–I was a fan of their guitars–and I’m wondering how the live shows will be. It’s what happens whenever a band makes a pretty big sound change, honestly. Almost anyone who’s been a fan of any musician knows the feeling. It’s not about disliking the new stuff, it’s not about preferring one era over another, it’s about an adjustment period as a fan.

I fully expected some backlash to the song, and I’m sure the band did, too. Not everyone’s gonna like it, especially when it’s so different from what we’re used to from the band. So when I was doing a Facebook scroll-through and saw the post about “Tell Me How You Sleep,” I figured I’d pop in and see what people had to say.

Honestly, it was mostly positive. Some people admitting it wasn’t their thing but wishing the band the best, some polite expressions of not really liking it. But I kept noticing this one dude’s name pop up over and over again, like he just couldn’t stop letting people know how much he disliked it. He started by comparing the song to Owl City–which I personally find to be a strange, almost outdated comparison since I haven’t even thought about Owl City in years and because with the electronic sound so big in music right now, there are so many other more accurate and more relevant comparisons one could make. But whatever. The problem was this guy just kept going, and he was going beyond mere dislike of the song to insulting both the band and their fans. And I couldn’t just let him keep on keepin’ on. It was annoying. It was rude. It was unnecessary.

So as politely as I could think to, I told the guy that he’s free to dislike the song and free to express that but that he was getting a little mean for no reason, that it was a really, really different sound and some people weren’t going to like that but there was no need to continuously leave negative comments. He came back with saying it wasn’t different at all, that it sounds like tons of other stuff out there–which wasn’t what I meant–and that it was an embarrassment to the band. Another guy chimed in agreeing with me, calling the guy an embarrassment to the band’s fans, and the guy said he wasn’t a fan. The post was a sponsored one that popped up on his feed and that he was doing us all a favor by pointing out how bad it was.

I correct him on the point of the sound being “different”–I told him I’d meant that it was different than their previous material, under the assumption that he was a disappointed fan, but that I now saw he was really just interested in insulting anyone and trolling, really. And unless he was being sarcastic, he admitted that and essentially said the band abandoned their previous sound to latch on to what’s popular right now. In retrospect, it was long-winded way of calling them sellouts. And I don’t think any adult trying to have a legitimate discussion about music should be talking of selling out, no matter how roundabout the words they use for it.

In retrospect, it’s also kind of fascinating to me that he makes all these statements about the song and the sound and the band’s intentions as an admitted non-fan who knows nothing of the band’s background or the long post that made the rounds on the band’s social media the other day about the new sound.

But I didn’t think it was right to just sit back and let this guy shit all over a band and their fans. And insulting fans of just about anything is off-limits to me. I think we all get not understanding how/why something could even have fans, but it’s another thing entirely to insult them as people, unless we’re talking about things like fan behavior. It may be a tiny issue, but it’s still rude and condescending and it has zero place in a discussion about music.

The thing is–and I guess in some ways, this isn’t surprising–this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen with music. What’s more alarming, though, is that the last time I was bothered by it, it was actually comments a professional writer made in a professional review of Amanda Palmer, where insults really have no place or bearing. It was an interesting review all round. The writer sounded as though she went in already hating Amanda Palmer and only intended to rip her to shreds from the start, and rip her to shreds she did. But it wasn’t limited to Palmer’s music or even her performance. She actually went so far to say that Palmer’s fans are so blinded by their love for her, so stupid, that they don’t realize her music is actually terrible. Which again brings up the question of why you’re reviewing the show of a musician whose music you hate, but I also fail to see how that opinion of the fans is relevant. In fact, it’s downright unprofessional.

In the end, Punchline’s frontman validated my reasons for speaking up in the first place–he actually sent me a private message, saying he and his bandmate were wondering if anyone would stand up to the guy and thanking me for being the one to do it. It was nice to know they saw it and were maybe a bit uplifted by it.

On a related note, one of these days I plan to write an open letter to a girl I heard making fun of people at a Jukebox the Ghost show.

I don’t remember the first time I met my mom’s friend Laura–it was definitely when I was in high school, probably when Laura was on a visit home from New York City, where she’s lived for years. But I know she hadn’t seen or talked to my mom in a long time. I remember talking to her on the phone once to give her my mom’s cellphone number, and I remember that when I did meet her, I thought she was cool as hell. That’s probably why my mom introduced us in the first place.

Laura works as a designer in New York, although these days, I think she mostly travels as a buyer. She’s always wearing something neat with interesting makeup–when I saw her last week, she was wearing a leather studded jacket–and her personality is just the type I mesh well with. At some point, someone got the idea to visit her in New York, so when I was 17, I flew up with my mom and her best friend, Lisa, and we spent the weekend in Laura’s studio apartment with her showing us around the city. It was probably one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken.

At some point in the last few years, Laura (and Lisa, for the record) got on Facebook, and I was thrilled to have that connection to her. We’ve seen her a little bit in the years since the trip.

I saw on Facebook about this time a year ago that she was home, but I didn’t get in touch. I probably mentioned it to my mom, and I probably assumed that if she wanted to get together, she’d reach out. She didn’t.

I have a holdover still–and someone remind me to bring this up with my therapist when I get around to scheduling with him–from the Craig fallout where I just assume no one really wants to talk to me or hang out with me, even when they do talk to me and hang out with me. I’m not sure that they’d see it this way, but going on as though nothing was wrong when people were mad at me and intentionally leaving me out felt like a lie to me, and it fucked me up more than I think any of us could’ve predicted. The result is said holdover. Basically, I don’t believe that people are genuinely enjoying my company, even when all signs suggest otherwise–because let’s be real here, I had no real indication that anything was off with the Craigs, so it’s like my brain thinks everyone else in my life will act the exact same way. It’s essentially a combination of low self-esteem with a nice, big heap of insecurity and a side dish of trust issues.

But I made a New Year’s resolution to be more proactive, essentially in an attempt to push myself out of that negative, distrustful mindset. My goal has been to stop waiting for someone else to make the first move and to do it myself, to move away from the assumption that I’m undesirable as a friend and put the responsibility on other people to be honest with me if they don’t want to talk or hang out as opposed to assuming they don’t from the start. And believe me, it’s not like I haven’t considered that this insecurity works both ways, that the people I’m assuming want nothing to do with me because they’re not taking the initiative might have the exact same fear that that’s how I feel about them.

This hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t always worked, and I haven’t always done it. But I have done it. A baby step is still a step forward.

So when I saw another post from Laura about another trip home to Pittsburgh, without even hesitating like I would usually, I told her that my mom and I would love to see her if she had some free time. Because the catch with people visiting from out of town is that a lot of their time gets eaten up quickly with visits and whatever else they want to do, but Laura had some time for dinner Monday night.

And damn if that wasn’t the one night I got stuck at work ridiculously late. It actually wouldn’t have made me too late for dinner, and I was able to warn my mom I’d be late–maybe around 15 minutes–but the place we picked, The Titlow, apparently gets crowded on Monday nights and I had trouble finding parking. Which is weird for Fayette County, and Meloni’s across the street will tow you if you use their lot. Wonder if they’d still do it if, like, I stopped over for a drink and cannoli.

I wrote about dinner itself over at my other Fayette County blog, but in short, it was good but a little disappointing for Laura and Lisa. My mom joked, though, that with Laura living in New York, it’s got to be hard to find truly good food in Fayette County. In fact, our first choice of restaurant is actually closed on Mondays.

We sat and hung out for a good while, and Laura actually thanked me for getting in touch and getting everyone together, even though I passed off the actual planning to my mom. But it was nice and fun and I’m glad I did it, and it was kind of a lesson learned about my interactions with people.

Tuesday brought more out-of-town visits I was late for, this time with Scott.

On the “Protective Dad” Trope

I went back and forth about whether or not I actually did want to write about this, and I’ve obviously landed back on the decision to do it–I basically thought, “Ah, fuck it, no reason not to.”

Maybe you’ve heard about the dad who told his daughter’s homecoming date, “Whatever you do to my daughter, I do to you,” and took a funny posed picture with his daughter’s date. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, this reaction to it perfectly echoes my own.

My first thoughts when I saw an article about it for the first time were something along the lines of, “Ugh, not this overprotective dad shit again. This is weird.”

I think part of me is just bored with it. I’ll be honest, I think the picture itself is actually pretty funny, but I’m uncomfortable with the concept of girls needing protected by their fathers in this context. Sure, women can face a lot of dangers and a lot of threats, but their homecoming dates generally aren’t one of them–and this is never framed as an issue of consent, either. It’s never about respecting the daughter’s wishes, whatever those may be, or respecting boundaries. It’s always about what the father wants and completely ignores the daughter in this situation. Daddy may not want a boy to so much as look at his daughter, but what if she’s into him? What if she wants attention from him? What if she wants to go to a dance or kiss or hug or do more? She’s allowed. Her father doesn’t own her any more than the boy does.

And this absolutely depends on the girl, her father, and their relationship, because no one seems to consider what it’s like actually have your dad play that role.

Personally, I hated it.

I only really ever remember my dad doing it twice. The first time was when Stephanie’s brother used to work at McDonald’s and my dad took my brother and I through the drive-through, coincidentally while Steve was working. Steve  had a habit of playful flirting–which continued on through college, pretty much–and he said, “Hi, Janelle,” in kind of a sing-song voice as we were slowly driving away. My dad slammed on the brakes and in a husky, deep, mostly put-on voice said, “How do you know my daughter?!”

The second time was in a mall shortly after he got back from Iraq, where we again saw someone I knew who happened to be working. This time, I was in high school and the guy was a slightly older male friend, and we chatted a bit–completely platonically. There was never even a hint of anything between us, and I’m almost positive nothing in our interaction suggested otherwise. But my dad took it upon himself to say, “I’ve killed before, and I’ll kill again.” It was a little funny at the time, but not all my feelings about it were positive.

Like I said, I hated it. Rather than feel protected, I felt embarrassed that he was butting in and apologetic that he was being rude to either my friends or my friends’ siblings. And especially now in retrospect, I don’t even believe he was honestly looking out for me–the way he acted out of character and modified his voice seemed more like a bullshit macho move, a put-on to look like a hardass. Maybe I’m wrong–I can’t read my dad’s mind–but I think it was more of a pissing contest than it was a sincere concern for the guys’ intentions or what might happen between us. I’m not saying my dad didn’t give a shit about me or something, I’m just saying showing dominance was more important.

On top of all of that, I was a shy, insecure teenage girl who, despite never really expressing this at the time, desperately wanted to date. Guys seemed uninterested and I was too shy and scared to make a first move, and even if I was uninterested in both of the guys my dad went into papa-bear mode over, he could’ve easily done it to a guy I was interested in if the opportunity presented itself. And the last thing a teenage girl looking for love wants is her dad poking around and possibly interfering or sabotaging her chances. And unfortunately, for some girls, this sort of overly masculine meddling doesn’t end with the teenage years. It’s also not limited to fathers and daughters, but all you need to do is read around on this blog a bit to get an idea of the other mother/son end of it.

My dad may have kept it to two dudes in my teen years, but my godfather was a little more extreme. I never really dated before my current boyfriend, Paul, and maybe Uncle Clark was just waiting for his chance the whole time. But he threatened Paul over the phone when we first started dating–albeit jokingly, but all my previous points still apply. Paul fortunately saw it more as concern for me, and in Uncle Clark’s case, I am more inclined to take it that way, but there’s a point where the “touch her and you die” joke stops being funny. It stops being funny when your godfather says, “Don’t touch her below the collarbone” without considering that maybe you want your first serious boyfriend to touch you, well, everywhere. It stops being funny when your godfather meets your boyfriend for the first time with a gun by his side while he’s drunk, even if it’s not loaded. It stops being funny when you can’t sit next to each other without being told you’re too close. It’s nice to know people care about you and don’t want to see you get hurt, but it’s frustrating at best when that gets taken to the extreme of your feelings for the guy in question being completely disregarded.

Funnily enough, the guys my dad and godfather deemed in need of a threat were never the guys that were a problem.

When my mom used to complain about my dad–or she used to chime in when I started the complaining first–one of the stories told frequently was a short, sweet anecdote about a dinner my parents had with my dad’s parents early in their relationship. My grandma said to my dad some variation of, “Denise is gonna get tired of the jokes just like I did.” And she did. Whether they should be or not, my parents are still together, and one of her biggest complaints is how everything is a joke. One of my brother’s biggest complaints is how everything is a joke. One of my biggest complains is how everything is a joke.

My dad’s sense of humor can be very childish. He’ll make the same jokes over and over again, and just like his own mother predicted, it gets old. But the more annoyed you get, the funnier he thinks it is, so asking him to stop is useless. It just makes the joke funnier. He likes to see people get wound up and angry, and sometimes, if you snap a little sooner than he expected, he’ll make another crack about you being “sensitive” or “touchy.” He’s one of a very, very few people I’ve ever encountered who just can’t honor a person’s requests to lay off the jokes because they’re getting annoying or hurtful.

I have a former friend I’ve written about a few times who is notorious among our (former) mutual friends for disrespecting women and their boundaries, for being a compulsive liar, and for very clearly using and manipulating women for sex, except almost every single one of us was smart enough to know what he was doing. Not only did I end our friendship over this, but I was once genuinely afraid of what he would do to me if he had the chance.

One of my dad’s favorite jokes is how because this guy is in the military, he surely can’t be guilty of any wrongdoing is a nice guy. And even though my dad knows every single thing this guy’s said and done to me–I’ve made it very clear and even been quite vulgar to get the point across, saying more than once “I thought I’d wake up pregnant with his dick in my mouth”–he still thinks this is an appropriate and funny joke, and I know the more I argue otherwise, the funnier it’s gonna be to him. And don’t get me wrong, this is an entirely an issue of my dad being a downright asshole, but this is exactly why I don’t believe he truly was protecting me when he threatened guys in the past. Maybe the fact that he threatened guys who were not, in fact, threats is pure coincidence, but the fact that he makes jokes about a guy who was a threat certainly is not a coincidence.

So, dads, listen to your daughters and consider what they actually want and what you’re actually doing when you put on the macho, “don’t you dare” act. You may think you speak for them, but you don’t.

Friday Five: Goings On

  1. What’s an issue you wish more people knew about? It’s been getting more attention lately, especially in certain circles, but veterans’ issues. Everyone heard about the trouble with the VA, but that was an ongoing problem that obviously vets already knew about. It’s not just long wait times–it’s the fact that lots of basic, unnecessary care gets denied, and my personal theory is that it gets denied in the hopes that the veterans will just accept it and get nothing rather than file an appeal, which tends to result in them getting what they deserve.
  2. When were you last outraged about something? I get kind of outraged about attitudes about guns. I get the arguments about the Constitution, but the fact that so many people seem to have the attitude that people getting shot at schools or movie theaters is a small price to pay for the right to own the guns is disgusting. There are ways to solve this problems that don’t involve outright bans, but gun nuts are unwilling to even consider them, and I’m outraged by that disregard for human life.
  3. When you were a kid, what was the first news story to make an impression on you? I can’t remember the first one I actually paid attention to and was invested in, but I think the first one that I can remember seeing as it happened was O.J. Simpson. A close second would be the Gulf War, but I remember less of that as an event and more about how I was a toddler and my dad used to tell me to “play Iraqi,” and I’d put my arms up like I was surrendering and he’d tickle me. I had no idea what putting my arms up actually meant, though, or even anything about the war or Iraqis. My dad just taught me that.
  4. What’s getting far too much media attention lately? Any celebrity, aside from actual newsworthy events. I’m talking media attention on what people are wearing or saying as opposed to their actual work.
  5. What’s a consumer product you’d recommend to others? I’m gonna go with my sugar scrub! I have really dry skin, so I started using sugar scrubs. I used the all-natural scrubs from Simple Sugars, a local company–which would be the Pittsburgh area, for those unfamiliar with me/this blog. I started with their face scrub–I’ve tried both cucumber and green tea but settled on strawberry as m favorite–and it’s been perfect. As a woman, breakouts still happen around my period, but my skin has been a lot clearer but more moisturized since I started using it. I had a big problem with makeup flaking on me, and their scrubs ended that. Of course, this means I also use their body and foot scrubs. The company prides itself on being so exfoliating and moisturizing that it encourages its users to go “no-lo,” meaning no lotion afterwards, but my skin’s a tad too dry yet for that. That said, though, my previously rough, bumpy skin has noticeable improved. It may not be quite as soft and smooth as those without dry skin, but it certainly looks and feels better and healthier. And with the weather getting colder and making dry skin worse, the scrubs feel great. My feet are especially improved in cold weather since using it, and that’s even only using it ever other day or so, mostly due to the fact that I try to keep my showers short in the morning before work. The only thing is they don’t have a scrub fine and gentle enough to use on lips, so I turn to Etsy for that–I get this orange and lemon scrub from seller Lippydudu.

As always, questions come from Friday 5.