Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gossip, Breakup Songs, and Tiaras

One of my guilty pleasures is People.com. I often read the news about celebrities to find out who broke up with whom this week, and who thinks that being famous means you don't have to pay taxes. I say it's a "guilty" pleasure since most of the articles are mainly just gossip; did you ever notice how most of the articles about celebrities don't actually include quotes from the celebrities themselves? Instead the articles include information from people who are supposedly "sources close to the star", which could mean anyone from the star's best friend to his or her hair stylist to some guy who stood fifty feet away from the celebrity once.

Ever since Prince William got engaged to Kate Middleton, their relationship has been all over the news. Every day there's a different headline on People.com and other gossip websites and magazines about their engagement and their upcoming wedding, because apparently William and Kate are the first couple EVER to get married. And I just have one question to ask:

                                   WHY DO WE CARE?

I must admit that I did have a crush on Prince William when I was sixteen. But then again I also thought that Skittles should be counted as one of the four food groups, and I thought that The Real World actually was real, and I wanted to be just like one of the cast members when I grew up. Now I kind of just want to challenge them to a duel and then when they show up to fight me I'll use a magic wand to zap them onto the Jerry Springer show and have one of the guests fight them and then I'll laugh maniacally as chairs are thrown and...

Wait. What was I talking about?

Anyway, I also admit that I am a little envious of Kate Middleton. Not because of William, because I'm not a starry-eyed sixteen year old girl with a crush anymore, obviously. I'm envious because the money that will be spent on her wedding dress would probably be enough to pay for a lifetime supply of Frappuccinos, or possibly enough to buy my own personal Starbucks, complete with a full staff of baristas ready to keep me caffeinated all the time. And that would rock.

I do have to wonder why Americans care so much about the Royal Family. No offense against the Royal Family, and definitely no offense against anyone reading this who lives in England. But seriously, why do we care? It's not like the prince's wedding impacts us in any way. It's not like we're going to be invited to the wedding. It's not like we will EVER meet the happy couple. We don't even have royalty in this country, despite the fact that certain politicians walk around as if they should be wearing tiaras and we should all be bowing down to them in adoration. So why should we care?

Maybe it's because Kate and William's story is like a fairy tale with paparazzi. And people like fairy tales and want to believe that they could actually come true.

I read the celebrity magazines not because I actually care about the celebrities, but because the magazines themselves are an escape. People magazine, for example, is the exact opposite of the "scholarly" books I have to read every day, as well as the students' papers that I have to grade. I don't have to analyze the articles I'm reading; I can just read them for fun.

I'd like to say that I'm mature and that I never judge the celebrities for their mistakes. But I do have to roll my eyes and shake my head when I hear about another famous person getting arrested while in the company of a porn star, or a musician getting married for the tenth time, or a young starlet flashing a late night talk show host. And besides, I judge EVERYONE.

Do you notice that the magazines rarely include articles about "real" people? When they do, the articles are about people who have committed crimes. What's also interesting is that I rarely find any articles about writers on People.com.

But sometimes the articles, particularly the headlines, get to me, because they often don't reveal anything about the famous people that I didn't already know. (And, sadly, I already know too much.) Here are just a few examples: (And these are actual headlines, and by actual, I mean I just made them up. But you just might see them in the next issue of People.)

Kate Chooses Nail Polish Color for Wedding: Tie-dye Is In!

Donald Trump Gets Cavity, Fires Dentist

Ashton Kutcher: How Twitter Saved My Marriage

"It's My Turn!": Prince Harry Announces Engagement to Snooki

Poll: What Kind of Wedding Cake Should William and Kate Get?

Jessica Simpson Shows off New Mohawk

The Top 10 Reasons Why Brangelina WILL NEVER GO AWAY

Contest or Conspiracy? Bristol Palin and Dancing with the Stars

Gwyneth Paltrow Uses Dictionary to Find Baby Names

I do feel sorry for celebrities, because they can't go anywhere without being photographed. Every move they make is overanalyzed and criticized by people who know nothing about what their lives are really like. People complain about the aggressiveness of the paparrazi, but the paparazzi wouldn't even exist if people weren't reading their magazines or checking out the latest photo of Britney Spears buying lunch. But then again, I don't feel THAT sorry for them, because they're good looking and so rich that their personal assistants have assistants. (Again, I must ask, WHY?)

I think that as William and Kate's wedding draws nearer, every third article will be about it. I guess the simplest solution would be to just stop reading People.com. And I will. As soon as I finish the latest article about Jake Gyllenhaal and Taylor Swift. They just had coffee together, which obviously means they'll get engaged and then break up; Taylor will write a song about Jake titled "You Done Me Wrong", and then they'll reconcile, move in together and adopt dogs that they will name after their costars. And it will all probably happen within the next week. Maybe I should use my magic wand...

What do you think of the celebrity magazines? Do you read them? Why do you think people are so fascinated by famous people?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Calm before the Chaos

I hate shopping. Maybe it's because I spent several years working in retail. Now I find myself automatically picking up clothes and folding them or greeting customers whenever I go into stores. Maybe it's because all those years in retail has made me loathe cash registers so much that whenever I see one I want to attack it with a clothes hanger.

Or maybe it's because I'm kind of intimidated by sales people. It's weird because I used to be one, and so I know it's their job to tell customers about new sales and encourage them to buy stuff they don't really need. But it makes me nervous if the salesperson follows me around the store, stands outside the dressing room to chat with me about accessories, and gives me coupons for sales where I can get 3% off on a particular item as long as I buy it within the next five minutes. (I also feel guilty because I used to do the exact same things when I worked in retail.)

I'm also incredibly indecisive, and I'm afraid that if I linger too long in the store the employees will think I'm shoplifting. And then I'll get arrested; the TV stations will do a news story that says something like "Ph.D. candidate turned THIEF"; my students will say, "Why should we do the homework when YOU didn't even pay for that Hello Kitty purse?"; then I'll never be crowned Miss America because of my record and I won't get to cry and throw roses at people when I win.

Usually I just want to get out of there as soon as possible, so I usually just buy the first thing that the salesperson shows me. That's why I have incredibly uncomfortable shoes that make me weep a little when I put them on (though of course they feel okay when I try them on in the store; it's when I go out into the street that the shoes magically become painful and unreturnable), outfits that would probably land me on an episode of What Not to Wear, and an assortment of beauty products, half of which I don't know how to use and am afraid that if I put them on wrong my face will break out and then I'll never be crowned Miss America.

The only stores I'm comfortable going into are bookstores. The sellers leave me alone and I can be around books, which make me happy. But other than that I don't go shopping very often, which is just as well seeing as how I currently have about enough money to do my Christmas shopping at a vending machine. (I hope my parents will like the Cheetos I'm giving them. What? Technically it could be a stocking stuffer.)

That's why I don't understand why anyone would want to go shopping on Black Friday, let alone at 4 A.M. when a lot of the stores open. (I feel sorry for the people who have to work that day.) But no offense if you are going shopping that day; I just don't think I could do it. (It was bad enough having to WORK in a store on Black Friday.) I know that there are a lot of good sales on that day, though I imagine some of the customers' conversations going something like this:

Customer #1: Do we really need a life-size statue of Oprah that glows in the dark? I'm not sure our kids will want that for Christmas. It - I mean she - might scare them.
Customer #2: That's not the point! It's 50% off! Get it before someone else does!

Customer #3: Oh my gosh! I didn't even REALIZE they sold giant whoopee cushions here! What a GREAT idea!
Customer #4: And check it out! If we buy six whoopee cushions today, we can get a free roll of singing toilet paper! (The toilet paper is an actual product; I saw it on a website. I wonder what it sings?)

Customer #5: Look! If we get five of the same sweaters in different colors, we'll save three dollars!
Customer #6: I knew it was a good idea to camp outside the mall all night! And people said it wouldn't be worth it.

I've also learned that it's never a good idea to go shopping downtown on the weekends, especially not during the holiday season, because that's when the tourists come out. They walk incredibly slowly, because they're so busy tilting their heads back and remarking on how tall the buildings are or pointing at the cars and remarking on how everyone is so FAST and beeps their horns real LOUD and gosh they sure aren't like that in our hometown! And I'm just trying to get into the holiday spirit and NOT knock any tourists over, but it's just so DIFFICULT sometimes.

One year I tried going to Michigan Avenue on a Saturday in December, and I found myself identifying with Ebenezer Scrooge before the ghosts visited him. Bah, humbug! Let's see those Christmas ghosts try to navigate the crowds at Water Tower Place for three hours (two of which will be spent just on the escalators) during the holiday season and then see what kind of advice they give Scrooge.

So on Black Friday I'm staying home. Instead of shopping, I'm going to work on my dissertation. What? You didn't think I was going to take the weekend OFF, did you?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lessons Learned

I've decided that probably sometime in the early spring, I'm going to try online dating again. "Why not now?" you might ask. One reason is that this time of the school year is especially busy, so that I often wake up with my hands moving in the air because I've been dreaming about grading papers (even in my dreams I'm working). Also, I'm pretty broke right now, so I need to save up some money first; hopefully I'll have enough by February or early March.

Another reason is that I'd rather not get lumps of coal in my Christmas stocking this year because Santa found out about the revenge spells I cast on bad dates where I danced around a fire chanting guys' names and calling upon the forces of nature to keep them single forever and...well. Maybe it's best if I didn't finish that sentence.

I'm thinking of trying zoosk.com or chemistry.com. Either way, it will be the fourth online dating site I've tried. I already tried match.com, okcupid.com, and eharmony with varying rates of success. I did go on dates with guys I met on all three sites, but I'd like to try something different this time.

I also tried speed dating, but I like online dating better because you get more than three minutes to get to know someone. (On the other hand, sometimes three minutes is all you need to know that you NEVER want to see this person again, not even if you were the last two people left on Earth, in which case you would have to relocate to another planet and see if any aliens are available.)

I did recently discover that eharmony kept my profile up on the site months after my account expired, which would explain why I was still getting e-mails from random guys who requested communication. I sent an angry e-mail to eharmony to demand that they take my profile down, but they said they kept it up in case I wanted to renew my membership; that way, I wouldn't have to retake the 45-minute questionnaire. But I thought that was misleading, because who knows how many other profiles are up on that site of people whose accounts already expired? They finally agreed to make sure that no one could see my profile anymore. But still. (Maybe I should go dance around a fire again.)

I didn't find the right guy on the other sites. But I don't regret all the dates I went on, even though on some of those dates I made up excuses about why I had to leave early, such as how I was going on a top-secret government mission the next day that prevented me from using the phone or e-mail so the guy could NEVER CALL ME AGAIN, drank extra caffeine so that I wouldn't fall asleep even though my date was that boring, or thought within the first three minutes, "Yeah. This is NEVER going to happen. I wonder if that girl over there would be willing to switch dates with me."

I don't regret the dates because I learned something from all of them. I learned what I'm looking for in a guy, and I learned about how I want to be treated. For one thing, I want a guy who calls when he says he will, and doesn't lead me on or play games. I want someone who isn't condescending and won't put me down just because I don't make as much money as he does or just because I'm not interested in all the same things that he is. I want someone who listens when I talk, makes me laugh, and doesn't go on and on about the same topic for hours. I want someone who isn't going to flirt with other girls when he's still on a date with me. I want someone who doesn't think it's okay to wait more than a month before calling me after the first date.

I also learned about how to treat guys with respect even if I occasionally had the urge to spit ice cubes from my drinks at their faces so that they'd shut up. (I didn't actually spit ice cubes at them. And that is progress.) I learned that it's important to give everyone a chance, but that you don't have to go on a second date if you really don't want to; you don't have to settle for less than what you're looking for just so you won't be alone.

I've also learned that even if I never meet a guy and end up being single for the rest of my life, at least I can say that I tried. It's like with writing. Even if you never get published, you still accomplished something just by writing regularly and sending your work out. And anyway, how do you expect anyone to read your work if you don't put it out there? By a similar token, I probably won't meet anyone unless I put myself out there.

Check out this Second City sketch comedy special titled "Dates of Future Past", starring a younger Steve Carell and Sherry Bilsing (who I think was one of the producers on Friends). It's a good example of how sometimes it's worth it to make mistakes because you can still gain something from them in the end.

What about you? When you look back on the mistakes that you've made, can you think of anything that you learned or gained from them?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Paths (I Wish) I Could Have Taken

I've been feeling really burned out on teaching and graduate work lately, and by lately, I mean the past several years. In my heart I still want to be a professor, but sometimes I think about what my life could have been like if I'd become something different.

When I was a kid, I thought I could do anything and be anyone. I didn't think about all the reasons I couldn't. I just had these dreams and believed that I could make them come true someday. I have to admit that one of my childhood fantasies was to be Cinderella:

But I wouldn't dance in glass slippers, because that would, you know, hurt. And I'd want a Prince Charming who was just a little bit smarter too. I mean, I wouldn't want a guy who'd set out to find me and decide he's going to marry the girl who has the same shoe size as me. No. I'd want a Prince Charming who'd decide he's going to marry the girl who has the same face as me. (Unless, of course, I really do have an evil doppelganger out there who is plotting to take over my life. I'm pretty sure I saw her buying french fries the other day and I swear she was WATCHING me...) But I digress.

Now that I'm older, I don't want to be Cinderella anymore, but there are other things that I might have liked to do instead. For example, I became a workaholic at age five. One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was cleaning and organizing my room. (I think the "nerd" gene must have multiplied in me or something.) So I think it would have been cool to become a doctor, because the nature of the medical profession would pretty much require that I be a workaholic anyway.

And I admire doctors for their dedication to helping people and saving lives. I think that anyone who goes through the long, arduous process of becoming a doctor must really be passionate about the medical field and making a difference.

I'd be known as the doctor who developed the cure for hiccups, or the doctor who proved that you really CAN lose weight by eating pizza and not exercising. The only thing is I'm terrified of blood. I can't even watch horror movies without covering my eyes and shrieking, "AAAAAHHHH! Is it over? Is it -- AHHHH!! Why do more people keep going into the basement if none of them ever come back up? And OH NO! They're opening the door and AHHHHH!!! Where'd that guy get a chainsaw?"

It also would have been cool to be a dancer. I've watched professional dancers who moved with complete and utter joy on their faces, as if the only place they ever wanted to be was on stage.

The only thing is I'm not very graceful. I'd probably mess up one of the dance moves and then bump into one of the other dancers, and start some kind of dancing domino effect. And then the shrieking would probably start up again. And maybe the other dancers would get so frustrated that they'd toss me off the stage, and I'd fall into the laps of people in the audience, get up, and then fall again. Only this time I'd land on members of the orchestra and possibly break their instruments, and then people would REALLY start shrieking, and....

Yeah. I don't think I could maintain the level of concentration required to be a dancer. Not for that long, anyway.

I've also had this fantasy of playing in a rock band. I like the idea of putting my stories to music and performing them for people and watching them dance to my songs. I think it'd be fun to perform with other members of the band and let the music just fill me up.

But I have no musical talent whatsoever. Dogs howl when I start singing. And I can play a couple instruments, yet the only songs I can play without messing up are "Chopsticks" and "Hot Cross Buns". And those aren't exactly dance tunes.

The one dream I've had that's never changed (and probably never will) is to be a writer. Even if I never get published, I'm still going to keep writing, because I can't imagine a life without writing. It's the one goal in my life that I've never questioned. When I write, in a way I can live out my dreams because I can become any person I want to be, go wherever I want to go, and meet new and interesting people. I can create this whole other life for myself where I don't have the urge to yell at anyone in public because they were rude or inconsiderate, where I can find a way to address the problems that come up without feeling so lost and scared sometimes, and where I can just be happy.

How about you? When you think about the path that you're on right now, is there any path that you sometimes wish you could have taken instead?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Respect My Dry Cleaner

I've been going to the same dry cleaner ever since I moved into my neighborhood. Even though her rates are a little more expensive than the other dry cleaners' in the area, she always gets my clothes cleaned properly and doesn't leave them scattered around in stacks or piles. And even though I secretly believe that the amount of money I've spent on dry cleaning bills would probably be enough to buy new cars for my dry cleaner and every member of her extended family, nevertheless I keep going back to her because I respect her work ethic.

Even though she opens her business every day at seven A.M., I've seen her still working hours after her business has already closed. I'll see her carefully ironing someone's pants, or I'll see her head bent over her sewing machine as she mends someone's dress. I feel sorry for her that she has to work so hard. But I also respect the fact that she takes pride in her work, and is willing to put in as much time as possible. I think that that's why her business has succeeded in an economy where several businesses, including other dry cleaners, have shut down.

Contrast her with this guy I used to see at the library all the time when I was an undergrad. He would bring stacks of books with him, but I rarely saw him open any of them. Instead, he and his friends would talk about everything BUT school, and talked loudly as if they were making sure that everyone could hear about how awesome their lives were. Right. Bragging about how many coeds you tried (and failed) to grind dance with and about how you passed out after downing too many tequila shots and throwing up in the street makes you a REAL rock star. (Then again, maybe it does.)

I'd also see him looking around the room several times, because he was always looking for girls to flirt with. He never flirted with me, probably because he saw me shooting my "Be quiet or I will GET you" glare at him. What amazed me was that I once saw him holding an MCAT book. I always wondered if his lack of a work ethic prevented him from getting into med school. Or maybe he did somehow become a doctor, and then spent most nights talking with his fellow doctors about how he passed out after trying (and failing) to grind dance with female colleagues, drinking too many shots and throwing up in the street. Or maybe he would chat up his female patients and say something like this:

Lazy doctor: So, are you doing anything tonight?
Female patient: You mean before or AFTER the heart transplant you're supposed to perform on me?

That guy also makes me think of this other guy who was a member of this gym that I used to belong to. I saw him at the gym quite often, but I never saw him exercise. He would sit on one of the stationary bikes and then watch one of the TVs up on the wall, but he wouldn't actually pedal the bike. He'd just sit there, for up to an hour or more. I always wondered why he bothered to pay for a gym membership when he could just sit at home and watch TV. (And I also wondered how he always managed to smell like he'd been exercising for 13 hours straight when I never actually saw him exercise.) By not doing anything, he wasn't actually accomplishing anything, like building endurance, gaining strength and muscles, or losing weight. He was just wasting time.

These people made me think about the difference between the people who actually get work done and achieve things, and the ones who don't even try. It relates to writing because not only do you have to show up to write, you also have to actually write something. You can say that you want to write a book, but that's not the same thing as actually writing it.

It sounds obvious, but I must confess that sometimes I'll sit down at my computer to work on my novel and I'll end up watching Youtube videos of The Office bloopers or home movies of people's puppies instead. It's very easy to procrastinate, because it's so much easier not to write. But if I just sit at my desk every day without writing, then I'll never be a writer. And then I might as well not sit down at my desk at all.

If I'm not going to put in the effort to write, I could do other things, like start a letter-writing campaign to Bravo to stop making more Real Housewives spinoffs .(Seriously, are they going to have one with housewives from EVERY city in the U.S.? By showing all those episodes of rich "ladies" fighting with each other and spreading nasty gossip, are the show's producers trying to make the audience meaner? Or is acting like Satan's mistress the "in" thing to do now?)

Or I could train for a marathon so that I'd finally be able to run fast enough that I could laugh over my shoulder at all the people running behind me. I'd say, "Ha ha! Eat my dust, LOSERS! Why don't you run more SLOWLY, because you'll never beat me! Hahahaha!" And then, of course, at that moment I'd trip over a fire hydrant or something and fall flat on my face, and all the other runners would simply laugh and trample over me and sing songs about karma.

I read somewhere that writing isn't always productive, because you can write for hours and still not come up with a draft that you're satisfied with. But that great draft isn't necessarily going to be completed in one sitting. It could take several days, weeks, or months of writing before it gets done. The point is that you have to be willing to put in the time AND the effort to do it.

I'm not saying we should put in fifteen-hour days. But I think that if my dry cleaner did become a writer, she'd have a much better chance of succeeding than that Casanova wannabe (who had all the charm of a contestant on a reality dating show) from the library or the guy who'd rather watch TV than exercise (despite the fact that he could do both at the same time). It isn't just about talent. What's that phrase by Thomas Edison? "Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration." (Or is it 2% and 98%?) And I think he's right.

How do you motivate yourself to keep writing, even when it becomes challenging to produce something good? How do you keep yourself at your desk when you'd rather be doing something else (or nothing)?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Filling in the Blanks

Every semester, the question I am most likely to hear at least 237 times is "Can you just tell me what to write so that I can get an A?"

I'm always tempted to respond, "Do you want me to cut up your meat for you too?" or "Did you not hear me say no the first five times you asked me that? Be gone!"

Questions like that irritate me as much as statements like "You made a mistake with my grade. I know I stopped showing up to class for a month, but I deserve AT LEAST a B" and "Why should we care about this? When will we EVER use this?" and "I need to leave forty minutes early, but I won't be counted as absent, right?" (I am not making these statements up.)

Meanwhile, I'm thinking that maybe I should leave the classroom right now, because otherwise my evil alter ego will take over and I'll turn into Professor Screams-A-Lot.

On the one hand, I can understand why students are so focused on getting A's. Undergrads are under an incredible amount of pressure. If they don't maintain good GPAs, they could lose scholarships or financial aid. They need those A's to get internships and to get into grad school.

I could tell them exactly what to write. I could also pull a rabbit out of my textbook so that they'll stop falling asleep in my classes.

When students pressure me to "fix" their drafts, they're missing the point of writing. It's one thing for me to guide them through the process and show them how to write thesis statements, do research, and present both sides of the argument. But if they expect me to line-edit their papers and fix all their mistakes, then all that's left for them to do is fill in the blanks. It's like Mad Libs. The story is already written; all people have to do is put in a few words or phrases.

No writer would say to an agent or an editor, "Can you just tell me exactly what to write so that I can get published?" The agent and the editor would just throw the book at them. Literally.

It's fine and often necessary to get feedback from other people. They can help you see your writing from different perspectives. They can provide encouragement and constructive criticism. But they can't write the story for you, because ultimately, it's your story.

It's not just about getting an A or getting published. Writing is about freeing all those ideas and secrets you've kept locked up in your head and your heart. It's about rewriting, so that you can learn from your mistakes. It's about telling the world how you feel. But if you try to get other people to write the story for you, then it's not your story anymore.

That's why it bothers me so much when some of my students seem to care more about the grade then the writing. They end up not learning anything from the writing process. They don't get to tell their stories.

When you share your writing with other people, what kinds of questions do you ask them? What kind of feedback do you hope to get?

By the way, Guinevere is hosting a cool contest on her blog, This is Not My Day Job; all you have to do to enter is be a follower and leave a comment on her blog. You could win a great art print with a writing theme! For more info check out her blog. The deadline to enter is November 19.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When Did "Friend" Become a Verb?

Recently, the awesome KarenG of the blog Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author, wrote a post about her decision to leave Facebook.

I've been thinking about joining Facebook. It's not so I can reconnect with old friends or meet new people. I want to join Facebook for the coupons.

A lot of restaurants offer coupons to people through this site. But if you don't have an account, you can't get coupons. That's not fair! That's Facebook discrimination!

I'm also reluctant to put pictures of myself online. I'm not very photogenic. In almost every picture it looks like one of my eyes is winking and the other eye is opened extra wide, so it looks like I got a giant eye transplant. I also imagine people viewing my picture and asking themselves, "Why did she get plastic surgery to make her nose look bigger?" (On a side note, my pictures on my online dating profiles are probably why I only seemed to attract losers.)

If they have a "friend" list, why can't they have an "enemy" list too? I'd "enemy" several people with messages like, "Neurotic Workaholic wants to enemy you. And by 'enemy' she wants to make you cry yourself to sleep every night." (If they had an anti-social networking site, I'd probably sign up for it.) I'd also have a "Writers who rock" list, and possibly a "Guys I want to make out with" list.

And seeing as how I'm such a positive person, I'd have a "dislikes" list in addition to my "likes" list. It would say, "Neurotic Workaholic dislikes people who make excuses, people who blow cigarrette smoke in her face and make her go 'HAAACCCKKK', summers in Chicago because that's when the tourists come out and OH DEAR GOD it's going to be Christmas season soon and THEY WILL RETURN HELP HELP HELP, and decaf coffee, because what's the point of drinking coffee if you don't get wired enough to run around with your arms in the air while you babble a mile a minute?"

And I'd probably just lie on my Facebook updates too. I'd write something like, "Today I had lunch with the Mayor. He gave two thumbs up to my moving sidewalk idea so that I don't have to walk as much." Or "Nora Ephron wants to make a film version of my book and I haven't even written it yet." Or "Today I bought all the property on Michigan Avenue. It's hard to have so much money." That way, if anyone from high school did see my page, they'd think I was successful.

That's also why I didn't go to my high school reunion. I don't want to go back until I can arrive in a helicopter, like the class geek (played by the brilliant Alan Cumming) did in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

But I'm not going to get a Facebook page anytime soon. I'd probably just get really addicted to it. (You may not have noticed, but I tend to be obsessive. About everything.) I started watching Jersey Shore one day and now I've seen every episode of Season 2. (Shut up.) My IQ has gone down at least fifty points, and my soul cries a little every time the show comes on. And yet I can't help watching. They're so stupid it's funny. And I'm not being mean. Just listen to them talk for five minutes. So it's probably better if I don't join Facebook for now. But I still want those coupons.

What's your opinion of Facebook? Why do you have/not have a page?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dancing in the Street

One thing I've noticed when I go to work in the morning is how glum people look. They look like they're about to get their cavities filled at the dentist's office, or like they just finished watching a Keeping up with the Kardashians marathon. No one talks to each other; they're just focused on getting to their destination.

Once a random guy passed me on the street and said, "Good morning!" I didn't respond but looked at him suspiciously. I thought, What's HIS problem?

Sometimes, though, I get the urge to dance along to the music I listen to on my iPod as I'm walking around outside. It reminds me of when I was a kid, and I used to skip along the sidewalk just because I felt like it. Do you ever feel that way? When you hear a Lady Gaga song, don't you also feel the urge to put on oddly shaped clothes and just start dancing? Because I do.

But I don't. There are a few people who dance along to the music on their iPods, but other people usually avert their gaze and cross the street to avoid them. But I think that people would be even just a little bit happier if they could just dance in the street when they felt like it.

Check out this scene from one of my favorite movies, 500 Days of Summer. I love this movie not just because of the great acting, but because the writing's even better. I believe that the love story is most people's favorite story, and I like this movie's story because it portrays love without all the cliches.

In this scene, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is dancing on his way to work, and everyone else starts dancing too. Okay, maybe he's dancing because he just got lucky (wink, wink), but still.

There are other things that I feel like doing, but I don't do. I do what I'm supposed to do instead. And yet I think it would make me feel better if I actually did them.

For example, there's this group of people who hang out at my favorite coffeehouse. They are there for hours every day. They treat the coffeehouse like it's their own living room, because they have no consideration for the other customers. They yell greetings to their friends entering the cafe; they raise their voices and argue with each other on a regular basis, and they take up several tables even if there are only a few of them there. I don't expect a coffeehouse to be quiet, but I would like to be able to sit and relax without feeling the urge to fling my coffee in their direction.

It wouldn't be such a big deal if this coffeehouse wasn't within walking distance to my apartment, so I have to go further away just to buy a cup of coffee. (And I can't make it at home, because I like iced coffee and I don't have a blender. Or ice. Or a coffee maker, for that matter.) I contacted management about these people; the manager gave me a coupon for a free drink and said he'd talk to the people in charge. But I still see them there.

Sometimes, I wish I could walk over to them, slam my hands down on their table, and yell, "SHUT UP! You are NOT the only ones here!" And then maybe I'd knock over their drinks or spit in them or something. But I don't.

I work every day, even on weekends. Even if I don't have to teach that day, I still have my graduate work to do, plus my job for a website. But occasionally, I feel the urge to play hooky and do something else. I think about going to a movie (I only see about two or three movies a year), so that I could enjoy the luxury of an empty theater in the middle of the day. I think about going to Shedd Aquarium and making fish faces at the fish to see if they'll recognize me as one of them. I think about spending the whole day writing. I think about letting myself stop so that I could just breathe, so that I could think about something besides work for once. But I don't.

What do you wish that you could do? If you don't do it, then what holds you back?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How to Lose Followers and Alienate People

1. Write a post titled "The Top 100 Reasons Why I Am Better Than You".

2. Write a post titled "The Top 100 Reasons Why You Suck for Not Following Me."

3. Plagiarize entire passages and/or posts from other bloggers' writing, and "justify" it by saying, "They stole from me! I just didn't get the chance to write down MY ideas yet, so they must have read my mind or something. But I'm ON to them!"

4. Write reviews of shows like Jersey Shore and Rock of Love and explain why the cast members are our nation's "future".

5. Reveal all the secrets that were told to you in confidence by your friends and family, and say that they have no right to be mad at you because you are simply answering your calling as an "artist". And, if they never told you any secrets because they know that your mouth is the size of Soldier Field and you will blab everything to anyone with ears, then make stuff up, as long as it makes you look good.

6. Make sure that all your posts are about how great your life is, how everyone loves you, how you NEVER have ANY problems with writing EVER, how all the agents and publishers are beating down your door RIGHT NOW just because you're so awesome. That way, anyone reading your posts will roll their eyes and then run to find a place to throw up.

7. Host blog contests where the first prize is the pen you used when you wrote your first novel.

8. Write guest posts for other bloggers, and make sure that the titles of your guest posts say something like, "And here's why you should be reading my blog instead".

9. Instead of making people fill out that word verification box in order to leave a comment on your blog, make them sign over the rights to their first published novel, or make them guess what number between one and 1,546,287 that you're thinking of, or make them give up their blogs so that your blog won't have any competition.

10. Respond to everyone who leaves comments on your posts, and write them messages that say stuff like, "Yes, I know that I'm amazing, but the question is, do your friends know?"

11. Recognize your fellow bloggers by giving them awards with names like "Almost as Cool as Me" and "I GUESS his blog is ok".

12. Don't follow too many blogs, because it takes up too much time that otherwise would be spent admiring your reflection in the mirror, practicing your acceptance speech for the Pulitzer Prize, and writing ANOTHER 100 reasons why you are better than everyone else.

Feel free to add to this list....