so you think you can

Well, hey there, internet.  You’re looking good.  Apologies for my recent hiatus from blog writing — November knocked me completely out.  I spent every weekend in one Bloomington or another, witnessing weddings, funerals, and grad school interviews, battling tornadoes, complimenting my father on his lady’s lingerie.  All of this is true.  It was a topsy-turvy time.  Chicago is quiet and commonplace by comparison, even considering the homicide outside my neighbourhood custard shop on Monday.

That sentence seems quite normal to me.  I don’t know how I should feel about that.

Since funerals are depressing and my father swore me to secrecy regarding his stint in lacey pants (which, incidentally, is incredibly hard to resist talking about), I will instead regale you with anecdotes from the wedding I attended.  It has led me to one conclusion:  straight boys should learn how to dance.

This isn’t some sort of social commentary or a statement on gender differences and our culture’s obsession with body shaming.  I could go on about that for days, particularly after a bottle of wine and a couple hours of yelling at the Twilight movies.  This, however, is a simple observation on how heterosexual men kind of shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to this particular courtship ritual.

Let me drop a truth bomb on y’all:  ladies love to dance.  We just do.  I have met many a woman who has claimed that she can’t/doesn’t/won’t dance.  People can be self-conscious.  A girl doesn’t want to start busting out her best dice-throwing moves only to discover an entire room of party-goers staring at her lack of talent.  But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t start boogying when her favourite MOVITS! song pops up on her iTunes playlist while she’s at home cleaning floors in her Batman jimmy-jams.

…Not that I would know.

(…It’s this one.)

I think the thing I most enjoy about life post-college is the fact that so much of the embarrassment I felt about my body and the way I move has fallen away, drowned in a delicious layer of who-gives-a-crap.  I remember tagging along to my first Chicago wedding, hopping on the dance floor, and realising that nobody cared what I looked like.  It was a theatre wedding, friends of a very good friend of mine from back home, and no one gave two vodka tonics about my one-woman recreation of that scene from The Breakfast Club.  Everyone just wanted to have a good time.

I love to dance.  I do.  Not in the let’s-just-go-out-and-dance sense.  I’ve never been one for loud noises and clubs make my palms sweat.  But if I’m at a wedding with my girlfriends and Shout starts blaring, I’m the first one on the dance floor.  If I’m having Fancy Lady Fun Night at The Green Mill and an older gentleman asks me to take a turn, I’m swinging with the best of them.

Grooving with my awesome friend Liz at a wedding last month, I found myself looking around the dance floor at the opposite-sex dance partners.  From what I could tell, all of the men dancing were either happily coupled or gay (or both).  This resulted in an unfounded observation, which will now be labelled as completely true because I’m putting it on the internet:  straight men who dance get the girls.

Think about it.

It’s not so much a matter of talent, although a man who is an actually good dancer is more than swoon-worthy.  It’s a question of willingness.  It’s the ability to let go of insecurities and have a good time.  It’s about touching and moving and flirting.  There’s a reason why your mum was sighing while watching The Mask of Zorro.  Antonio Banderas has got some moves.

Red-Blooded American Heroes

Red-Blooded American Heroes

And here’s the even better thing:  we don’t really care if you’re a good dancer.  We just want to have fun.  It might even be better if you make an absolute tit of yourself!  That shows you’re willing to be goofy and you’re having fun, too.

And you’ll definitely get bonus points if you do all of that in Batman pyjamas.

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no accounting for taste

This has nothing to do with anything, but before we get started, I just wanted to refer everyone to this amazing, insightful, and topical discussion on whether or not you should wear blackface on Hallowe’en.

Now that our minds have been expanded, let’s move on.

I have a rather spotty dating history.  This is a bit of an understatement, but it seems a little more polite than saying, ‘I am apparently really attracted to jerks’.  Granted, not everyone I’ve dated has been a jerk, but the numbers are disproportionately in favour of jerks.  Jerks and hot messes.  And hot mess jerks.  It’s a vicious cycle.

My Soul Mate

My Soul Mate

Me being me, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing why this might be.  In general, I have little-to-no tolerance for people who are rude, disrespectful, or entitled — what I consider the main components of jerk-dom.  When it comes to friends, I wouldn’t say any of them are jerks, and I’ve certainly never stayed friends with a person long if they’ve shown any signs of becoming a jerk.  If I become friends with you, it’s because you’re kind and funny and you’re probably a bit of a nerd.  You’re good people.  We’ve bonded over bowties or familial problems, or one of us caught the other person quoting Oscar Wilde and started flailing.  We have a beautiful life together ahead of us, as anyone can see.

For reasons I cannot explain, these are not requirements for dating me.  And this is a serious problem.

I’m pretty sure my attraction to jerks comes from a rather obnoxious belief that everyone is secretly a nice person and just don’t know how to be open about it.  While this is a very pleasant thought, I’m beginning to learn that it’s not actually true.  Not everyone has some dark and twisted past that causes them to be curt or sullen or closed-off.  Some people were just in the loo when the Nice genes were being handed out.  Some people drank a bit too deeply of the cup of douchery.  It’s not pretty, but I’m learning that it’s true.  However, knowing something doesn’t mean you actually use the knowledge you have.  And despite my ability to sit down in a neutral setting and state all of these facts, my good sense goes flying out the window when I see Marlon Brando on a motorbike or a person masking their pretentiousness as intelligence.

Since I know the heart of the issue but have no idea how to resolve it, I recently decided to put a halt to dating activities for a while.  Before anyone gets all concerned, this isn’t so much a matter of resigning myself to a life alone with my cat (which, as we all know, is a fate I welcome anyway) as much as it is resolving to stop looking for trouble.  I’m sure my perfect mate is out there for me and one fine, glorious day, we will be together.  However, since actively seeking said perfect mate has had such calamitous results, I think it’s best I lie low for a while and allow Fate to intervene wherever she sees fit.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, depending on your perspective), I’m very dedicated when I want to be.  As a result, my moratorium on active dating has some interesting results, one of them being that I no longer register when I am flirting.  Or I’m incapable of flirting.  It’s hard to tell, really, because I can’t register when I’m flirting.

I was at a party recently and found myself talking to the only single dude in the room.  This was by no means intentional:  he had witnessed one of my infamous Star Trek rants and realized he was in good company.  Star Trek turned into NegaKhan, which turned in to The Hobbit which turned into impassioned rants about Peter Jackson.  Honestly, no one here is surprised.

The next day, I got a text from a mutual friend, wondering if aforementioned single dude had picked up on my vibes.  I didn’t know what to say.  Does fangirling about Benedict Cumberbatch count as flirting?  Is gesturing so much you spill wine on the floor because you honestly don’t understand how Azog the Defiler became the major antagonist when he is seriously only a sentence in the book a sign of Interest?  The internet age is so confusing.

This, incidentally, is an apology to anyone who wonders if I’m flirting with them or not.  Sorry, friend.  I have no idea.  And if you think I am and enjoy it, please let me know.  Because I am completely hopeless on my own.

the yucky diaries

The summer I turned eleven, I was in Oklahoma visiting family and we were at a mall having an unexpected shopping trip.  Growing up poor, going shopping for the fun of it was a serious treat.  I was the pinnacle of fifth grade fashion in a khaki Tweety Bird skort and my little white Keds.  It was a beautiful summer day.  My cousin and brother had decided to include me — the annoying kid sister of the equation — in their activities all morning.  Needless to say, I was feeling really well adjusted and happy.

As we headed across the parking lot, I ran ahead to open the door for everyone else.  Just as I was adding my natural politeness to the list of things to feel good about, my mother walked past me, stopped dead in her tracks, and made a terrible face.

‘Phew!  Is that you?  You smell like B.O.’

I had no idea what B.O. was.  All I knew was that I was supposed to be mortified by the accusation.  I stood there in abject horror, well aware that my brother and cousin were in easy hearing.  The likelihood of me being welcomed into the fold any longer had just left the building.  My mother barreled on.

‘Don’t you wear deodorant?  You’re really ripe!’

We went to buy my first stick of antiperspirant that very day.  I dreaded our return to my aunt’s farm and the subsequent teasing that lay in wait for me.

Keep in mind, my mother was raised in a very different environment than I was.  A lot of stock was put into appearance and proper etiquette.  For the most part, my mum accepted the fact that I was a hopeless tomboy and much more likely to come home covered in dirt than swathed in perfume.  I will give her a great deal of credit:  my mother has always been quick to tell me I look pretty when I was dress up and I never faced the fat-shaming that some of my peers suffered.  I feel that the criticism about my body that I did receive was made in a genuine effort to bring out the best in me.  Unfortunately, it had its repercussions.

This was the first time my mum called me out for my biological functions, but it wouldn’t be the last.

A year later, we were preparing for our first and only family trip to Disney World.  Again, we would be travelling with my aunt and cousin, who were no strangers to the wonderland we were headed for.  It was to be my first ride in an airplane and I could not be more thrilled.  Mum and I made a trip to K-Mart to buy me a brand new swimsuit and I had found the perfect one.  In the changing room, I drank myself in.  I looked cool.  I looked girly.  This was weird.  I turned to my mother with my arms flung wide and saw proud tears at the corners of her eyes.  She told me I looked great and we would definitely be taking the suit home with us.  And then she told me that it was time I start shaving my armpits, ‘So your brother and cousin won’t make fun of you.’

Again, I didn’t understand.  Weren’t those supposed to be there?  I wasn’t sure; they’d just shown up in the middle of the night.  It’s not like I’d been hanging out behind the school and picking up pubes with the bad kids.

I know that my stories aren’t unique.  The number of girlfriends I have with similar anecdotes up their sleeves is too high to keep track.  And like them, so much of Personal Lady Hygiene was thrust upon me without explanation; it was all a matter of Ladies Don’t or Ladies Do.  Ladies don’t have body hair or unibrows or torn cuticles.  Ladies always smell nice and act composed.  They weren’t realistic, but these were the expectations.

The real crux of the matter was that no one seemed to be willing to teach me the skills I apparently needed.  Both of my parents worked full-time, and there were no older girls nearby to take me under their wing and teach me the ways of Woman.  The kids I hung around with were mostly like me:  scrappy, poor, and disinterested.  Once puberty was in full swing, a lot of concern was placed on the secondary changes my body was going through, but no one seemed to know how to treat, prevent, and cure the problems.  I stole turns with my mother’s make-up, trying to find the right amount of Under Eye Concealer that would deter the public’s ability to see my myriad pimples (spoiler alert: there isn’t one).  While my mum was happy to curl and style my hair for shows and Homecoming alike, there was never enough time to teach me how to take care of these things myself.  And when it came to more sensitive topics — underwear, periods, and family planning — I wasn’t so much ill equipped as set adrift without ever having seen a body of water.

Fifteen-year-old Kiri is very suspicious of Homecoming.

Fifteen-year-old Kiri is very suspicious of Homecoming.

Once in high school, I bought my first tube of concealer.  I started wearing proper bras.  And I further discovered that I was not the only girl trying to figure out this whole Girl thing.  We learned to pool our resources.  I was lousy at make-up, but Laura wasn’t.  And Sarah was ace at baking.  And Addi and Felicia knew about boys.  And Paige and I, we could work up papers so air tight, they were bound to be accepted by the college application boards.  My senior year lunch hour became a coalition board, a chance to swap stories and compare notes.  This is where my real education took place.  Word got out, and more and more girls joined us, bringing their own questions and expertise to the table.  It was safe to bring up those things you always wondered, safe to ask the table Is it just me?  In the hallways and at class we may never meet eyes, but we were united once we plopped down for lunch.

I learned something vitally important in those lunch table sessions, something that I to this day find that not many women are ever told.  Being one of the informed, I feel I should impart this knowledge on all of you:  We’re all gross.  We all do gross things.  We all have weird, gross problems.  And, most important of all, that’s okay.

You’re thirty years old and have pimples in unbelievable places?  You’re not alone.

You wake up to find you’ve grown an impressive beard in the night?  Join the club.

You can’t understand why your stomach/butt/nose/period are/is behaving so irrationally?

Me too.  Don’t you hate that?

Let’s hang out.  Let’s talk about it.  If we can’t celebrate our grossness, let’s at least commiserate.

After all, misery loves company.  So do weird pimples.

butter side down

There are certain self-evident truths in this world, things that someone will state and you find yourself thinking (perhaps in a French accent), ‘But of course!’  Some truths occur on a greater, cosmic level, such as gravity and Godwin’s Law.  Some hit a little bit closer to home.  This post is about a specific, smaller truth and how it affects my life and the lives of those around me.

The Truth:  I am really bad at parties.

I’ve made this assertion to most of the people in my life at least once, and it’s often met with some resistance.  Everyone seems to think they’re bad at parties.  This is not the case and this misconception can be quite frustrating.  True, everyone finds themselves in uncomfortable situations.  Everyone has stories of social mishaps that are hilarious in hindsight.  That’s not the same as being genuinely bad at parties.  Remember when ‘awkward’ became synonymous with Zooey Deschanel?  The pilot for New Girl came out and suddenly everyone thought being awkward was cute.  ‘She thinks she can wear overalls on a date! She’s probably got some undiagnosed form of Autism, but whatever she’s really hot LOOK HOW ADORKABLE SHE IS.’  The fact remains that this was not awkward at all; this was Zooey Deschanel.  Actually awkward things were subsequently denoted to ‘creepy’.  It was a dark and confusing time.

Pictured:  The Opposite of Awkward

Pictured: The Opposite of Awkward

My point being, there really are some people in this world who are terrible at parties.  I am one of them, I know that I am one of them, and the proof that I am one of them comes in the form of people being concerned about what will happen if they invite me to parties.

Not that there isn’t ample evidence to support their concern, of course.  I exist in an (obviously) small circle, and enough of them have seen me in the throes of some socialization-induced anxiety episode for it to get around.  On a less dramatic but related note, I’m a hopeless introvert.  The thought of striking up a conversation with someone I don’t know intimately is laughable to me.  On occasion, I can worm my way into a nearby discussion if it covers a super comfortable topic, such as cats or Oscar Wilde.  The danger in this, however, is I am rather susceptible to overexcitement, and then I break things — like myself and people’s ear drums and prized family heirlooms.  I have become That Girl in more ways than I am at all comfortable.

I wasn’t always this way.  There was a time and place, many moons ago, when I kicked ass at parties.  I was the party-going queen.  Sure, unfortunate things would happen on occasion, like my da sending me to a slumber party with a full-length floral nightgown to wear.  In Summer.  I was mortified, but I was able to borrow a t-shirt from the Birthday Girl and no one was the wiser.  I still want to send her a thank-you card for that.  This is a normal way to fix something unfortunate that happens at a party.  This is also something I am no longer capable of.

I don’t know what killed my ability to socialize.  Maybe it happened in junior high, when all of a sudden there were wealthy kids around and my former, poorer classmates and I learned to be jealous and cruel.  Maybe the years of high school theatre and the bonds I crafted with the accepted outcasts of U-High society pulled some hidden freak tendencies from the depths of my soul like so much H.P. Lovecraft.  Maybe it came from reading too much H.P. Lovecraft.  All I know is I arrived at college and could no longer function in large groups of people my own age.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and a side helping of mild-to-moderate agoraphobia.  Unfortunately, I am an adult woman in my mid-twenties and expected to have my act together when it comes to interacting with people.  As you might guess, these two things don’t really work well together.

Like most other things, when you have issues with social anxiety, you eventually learn coping mechanisms to help you to survive necessary and uncomfortable situations.  Thus far, the most successful coping mechanism I have developed in this vein is my Posse of Fellow Lady Introverts.  We’re like Charlie’s Angels, but with fewer sexy costumes because oh dear Lord what if people judge me for my thighs?  These are the women I call when I have to go see a friend’s theatre performance but can’t convince myself that I won’t be eaten alive by the Hipster Mafia of Wicker Park.  These are the women I ask to be my Plus One because there is no way on G-d’s green earth that I can go to high-school-friend’s wedding and explain to my former peers and/or their parents that I’m single, childless, living alone in a major metropolitan area, and actually okay with all of this.  In short, these are my true and blesséd people.

Earlier this week, friend Lisa — one of the founders of the P.F.L.I. — accompanied me to a concert for a friend of ours from college.  He’s working on getting his singer/songwriter career up and running and wanted one last show here before going coastal.  The concert was lovely, the piano player was cute, and the drinks were generous.  We spent the entire time having elaborate silent conversations about the girls drooling over him from the front row.  Afterwards, we waited by the bar to try and catch our friend, all the while lamenting that neither of us are outgoing enough to turn around and tell the violinist who was sitting directly behind us that she was fantastic.  On the drive home, we blasted Rent and The Last Five Years and belted along, breaking out the very best of our dancing-in-the-car moves.  And it was awesome.

I guess this is why I’m really okay with being terrible at parties.  Whenever I found myself shaking in the corners of foreign living rooms, wishing I was just home with my books, there always seemed to be that one other girl who would brave the legions of drunken revelers to sneak into my hiding spot and say, ‘What are we doing here?’  We’d huddle together against the racket of the extroverts, united by our discomfort and love of ghost hunting shows.  And even though my stomach was twisted in knots, I was happy.  Because I wasn’t the only one.

That, and ghost hunting shows are way better than parties anyway.

so it has come to this

I don’t consider myself to be cool.  I have a naturally obstinate personality that results in my refusing to see films that everyone says are amazing (i.e. Inception) and I rarely understand the current ‘trends’.  I’m also prone to rants about Star Trek and tend to embarrass myself and those around me on the regular.  These are things about me that I have come to accept, and those who love me have decided to dub them ‘idiosyncrasies’.  I’m still not sure why people hang out with me.

You can imagine my shock when I was hanging out with friend Amy a few weeks ago, feasting on wine and Oreos, and discovered that she was coveting the beat up cat pillows my grandmother made me in 1994.  What are you saying? I wondered.  Those have been with me for years!

‘I don’t know, Kiri,’ she said.  ‘You’re just so hip.’

sigh

Did someone break into my apartm– …Wait.

I’ve been a little lost ever since this happened.  I find a great deal of comfort in my status as Decidedly Uncool.  It’s been a refuge for me since my middle school days, when I was mocked for my four-stripe Adidas knock-offs.  When you understand that you are not now nor ever will be cool, you’re given license to do whatever you want and enjoy whatever you enjoy.  Much like being labeled a nerd (a title I bear proudly), the Uncool can go on reading fantasy YA fiction with a stoic middle finger directed at the rest of the universe.  If my tattered Grandma pillows are now desirous, what other prized, uncool possessions of mine have now crossed over into the world of Tragically Hip?

Further research was required.  And according to the internet, I am swiftly headed for the Cool Kids Table.

Things I Have Always Loved That Are Now Trendy
Dinosaurs
Bangs
Facial Hair
Cats
Tea
Glasses
Cryptozoology
Scrabble (TM)
Sci-Fi
Batman (TM)
Whiskey
Crafting
Old Maps
Bill Murray (probably also TM)

Last night while brushing my teeth, I happened to glance up at myself in the mirror.  There I was in my black plastic glasses and ‘Star T-Rex’ t-shirt, my bangs still damp from my shower, my giant tabby across my shoulder.  And I found myself thinking, ‘Oh hell.  I’ve become a meme.’

Welcome to the Summit of the Recently Hip.