Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit

Unlike many women, I hate shoe shopping because I hate my big feet. I have this fear that the minute I take off my shoes to try on a new pair, people are going to start screaming, "Run for your lives! Bigfoot is REAL!"

You can get plastic surgery to make your nose smaller. But I don't think you can get plastic surgery to make your feet smaller. Even if you could, I wouldn't get it. Not only would I be afraid that something could go wrong, there's also the fact that a Frappuccino is a big expense for me. So I definitely can't afford plastic surgery anyway. 

Once a helpful saleswoman told me that the reason high heels hurt me so much was because I have flat feet; high heeled shoes are often curved. The few times I have worn heels, I ended up falling down more often than not, so that it looked like I was still learning how to walk (at the age of thirty-one).

Whenever I go to shoe stores, I always see all the pretty shoes that will never fit me. The last time I went shopping, I saw a bunch of large shoes that looked comfortable, so I tried on a pair. Then I caught several guys looking at me strangely and I realized that I was in the men's shoe section. To cover up my embarrassment I lied and said, "Uh, I'm buying these for my boyfriend. Our feet are the same size."

I'm even more insecure about my weight than my feet, which is why I work out at the gym four or five times a week. I was overweight in high school and college, which is one of the reasons I was made fun of and didn't get many dates. There were people who constantly told me how fat and ugly I was, which made me feel even worse. I ate to make myself feel better, but then I looked in the mirror and felt bad all over again.

Yes, it's definitely true that you don't have to be thin to be beautiful. There are plenty of gorgeous people out there who don't look like stick figures. But on the other hand, I think that there are a lot of people like me who want to be in shape. Otherwise, why would programs like Weight Watchers have so many members? Why else are there so many health clubs? 

I first decided to join a gym when I went to the Taste of Chicago (a summertime food festival featuring food from restaurant vendors all over the city. It's my favorite festival, and I go every year.) a few years ago. There was a group of trainers from a popular gym in the city who had set up a table and were demonstrating exercises for people who stopped to watch. There were other trainers who were stopping festival goers and encouraging them to sign up for free trial memberships.

At first I felt tempted to say no, but I felt guilty about the fact that they were all fit and healthy looking, while I was eating a bunch of fried food. So I signed up. And I've been a regular gym rat ever since. I think a part of me is afraid that I'll get fat again.

On the other hand, working out usually makes me feel better. On days when I'm ready to start screaming and throwing things like a guest on the Jerry Springer show, I go to the gym and the endorphins I get from exercising make me feel good. I don't have to feel guilty about taking time off from my work to exercise. Spending an hour or two at the gym makes me feel like I've done something productive, unlike spending an hour or two watching TV.

But no matter how often I work out, I know that I'll probably never look exactly the way I want to. I'm not saying that I want to look like a Victoria's Secret model (though that would be AWESOME, as long as I don't have to walk around in my underwear, which I guess would defeat the purpose of being a Victoria's Secret model). But I want to be able to walk into a store and try on any outfit that I want without worrying if it'll fit. And I want to be able to look in the mirror and like what I see.

What about you? Do you ever feel insecure about the way you look? (And I'm not trying to insult anyone, because you're all lovely, of course. But I think that most people have wanted to change something about themselves at some point.)

Side note: Sorry if some of my old posts show up in your Google Reader; I've been removing most of the pictures from my blog. I hated to remove the pictures, since they were good ones. But Roni Loren, a novelist and fellow blogger, shared her story about how she was sued for posting someone else's pictures on her blog. I thought it was good of her to be honest with everyone and take responsibility for her actions. I also thought it was horrible to see so many people leave nasty, self-righteous comments on her blog (to the point that she had to shut down the comments section on that post); I don't think she deserved to be attacked by mean-spirited jerks like that, especially since she already paid (literally and figuratively) for her mistake.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

People Watching

More than one writing book has said that people watching is a good way to fight writer's block. They advise writers to take a walk around their neighborhood, sit in a cafe and write about the customers, or go to a shopping mall and watch the people go in and out of the stores.

There was a scene in my manuscript that I was stuck on. It just didn't sound right, and I didn't enjoy writing it. I thought about cutting it out altogether, but the scene was important to the story; it was supposed to reveal something important about the main character and her brother. I just couldn't figure out how to make it ring true, so I set aside my manuscript for almost two weeks.

Not writing for that long makes me frustrated and cranky, and it also makes me so bored that I'm almost tempted to watch reruns of The Hills (almost). So I decided to try people watching by taking a walk around my neighborhood.

I opened the door of my apartment, only to see one of my neighbors rush by in his underwear. He was on his way to throw a bag of garbage down the trash chute. I wouldn't have minded if he looked like Channing Tatum, but he looked more like John Goodman before he lost 100 pounds. (Don't get me wrong. I like John Goodman. He's a terrific actor, and he's actually pretty handsome. But I'd rather not see him run around in briefs, you know?) I quickly closed my door and had to rinse my eyes out with water in order to get the image out of my head.

When I finally felt safe enough to leave my apartment again, I took a walk down my street. I saw the same couple I see almost every morning. They were standing outside their building with their arms around each other, kissing. What I find interesting is that they always make a point of looking around between kisses, either because they want to make sure that no one's watching, or they want to make sure that everyone's watching.

I turned a corner and nearly bumped into a woman walking down the street wearing nothing but sneakers, long shorts and a bra. Not a sports bra or a bikini top, but an actual bra. It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine gives a female acquaintance a bra as a gift, and the woman wears it like a top and walks around outside in it. I saw several guys turn to stare at this woman, but they looked more confused than anything else. They were all, Wait, am I dreaming, or am I still drunk right now? 

It also seemed to me like my neighborhood had been invaded by a bunch of babies. I saw several women and men, some of whom were pushing strollers; others were carrying babies in their arms. The babies looked so cute, with their tiny hands, chubby cheeks, and round heads. It reminded me of how I want to be a mother someday, and I felt tempted to kiss the babies' foreheads. But I would probably get arrested if I went around kissing babies' foreheads, so I didn't do it.

I also saw a little boy walking hand in hand with his mother. She was talking on her cell phone, but he was looking around at everything on the street. I saw him watching the people yelling at each other across the street, the drivers honking their horns, the happy dogs leading their owners, and a barista offering free drink samples at a cafe nearby. His eyes were very wide and he seemed genuinely fascinated by everything. Out of all the people I observed, I thought it would be good to be like him.

After I finished walking around, I went to a cafe and wrote several pages for my manuscript. I felt better than I had in a while. I also came to a few conclusions: 1) A lot of my neighbors are weird. 2) Some of them need to wax their backs. 3) I don't think I'm a prude for saying that people should put their clothes on before they leave their homes. 4) Even though a lot of my neighbors drive me up the wall, they often give me something to write about.

What about you? Does people watching work for you when you're fighting writer's block? Do you find yourself observing people when you walk around your neighborhood, and what kinds of things have you seen/learned?

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I Will (and Won't) Miss

Recently, the writer Nora Ephron died. She wrote the screenplays for movies like When Harry Met Sally and Julie and Julia. She also wrote memoirs, like I Feel Bad about My Neck. I found an old copy of the novel she wrote, Heartburn, in a used bookstore a few weeks ago, and I liked it so much that I've already read it twice. When I found out that she died, I felt sad, and a small, selfish part of me regretted that she wouldn't be writing anymore.

In her book I Remember Nothing, she made two lists: What I Will Miss and What I Won't Miss. I think she made those lists because it was a way of evaluating what was most important to her, and what didn't matter nearly as much. It made me think of what I would put on my own lists (other than the obvious things like loved ones).

What I Will Miss

   Writing fiction (and writing obsessive rants about why rude people should be made to live with Snooki or the cast of any season of The Bachelor for at least ten years)

   TV shows like 30 Rock and The Big Bang Theory that make me laugh and that make me think, Finally! Now people are finally starting to see that nerds are cool AND funny! (Is it bad to say that I'll miss TV? Am I supposed to say that I'll miss Shakespeare's plays instead? While I do enjoy watching his plays, reading his plays sometimes makes me feel like Wile E. Coyote right before the anvil drops on him. I feel like a bad English major because I still don't fully get iambic pentameter.)



    Good books that I finish reading in two or three days because they're so engrossing that I can't stop reading them.

    Walking down South Michigan Avenue, with Grant Park on one side and the Loop on the other side. When I stand there and watch all the cars, buses, cabs, and people rushing around, I think, This is my city. This is home.

 What I Won't Miss

    Writer's block (and all the writers who apparently never suffer from writer's block, because they like to brag about how they never run out of ideas and how they finish (and publish) several stories a year. They also chide philistines like me who watch TV.)

    TLC shows about gypsies who get married (and divorced a month later, apparently) at age 16 (or younger) and 34-year-old virgins who live in their parents' basements and collect jars of belly button lint (I WISH I was making that one up. But I'm not, because I just watched Virgin Diaries on TLC. Now I'm kind of afraid to turn on my TV again.)

     The guilt I feel over eating too much chocolate and the subsequent trips to the gym to work off all those calories, where I envy all the women who look like they eat nothing but grapes.

      The excuses I get from students on why they didn't finish their homework, why they keep missing class, and why they really aren't vampires (yet they sleep all day, particularly during class on the occasions when they do show up).

       Bad books that make me shudder at the mediocre writing and all the
 cliches and that make me wish I was watching TLC shows instead.

       Being stuck on the El on the day of a Cubs game with crowds of rowdy Cubs fans who are all apparently hard of hearing because they yell a lot, even if they're standing right next to each other. Those often happen to be the days when it's ninety degrees out and the A/C on the train is broken. On days like that, I think, Maybe I should move to the suburbs. 

We'll miss you Nora...and your writing. 

What about you? What kinds of things will you miss? What kinds of things will you not miss?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Picking Fights with Trolls

Last year, I received a couple of really long, nasty, angry rants from someone who'd read one of my posts about online dating. I think it was from the same person, even though one of the comments was left by an "anonymous" commenter and the other one left his name (though his profile didn't include any links to any blogs).

The commenter was very hostile towards me and towards all women, making comments about how unfair it was that women were in control of the dating scene. He whined about the fact that he'd messaged several women on online dating sites but most of them hadn't responded. He also said that my standards were too high and that I should be more "forgiving" of the flaws that I saw in guys' profiles. He said that the fact that I wasn't willing to overlook those flaws was why I was still single. According to this jerk, I was one of those superficial, self-centered, mean girls who never gave guys a chance.

What bothered me most weren't his insults towards me. It was that he blamed women for the fact that he was single. Yes, there are women on online dating sites who never try to make the first move; they just sit back and wait for the guys to message them first. There are women who judge guys solely by their pictures or who will dismiss guys because they don't make enough money. But I am NOT like that, and for him to claim that I was showed how much of a hypocrite he was; he was judging me in exactly the same way that he accused me of judging other guys. Not to mention there are plenty of superficial guys as well.

I thought about responding to this jerk, who was obviously very unhappy about the fact that he was single and took out his anger on me. It's not just guys who get rejected, so it bugged me that this creep was acting as if only guys were "victims".

I follow several blogs about online dating and the single life, and there's often at least one commenter like that guy who leaves nasty comments on every post. One blogger I followed had to deal with a particularly hostile troll (who was female). This troll left at least six or seven comments on every single post that the blogger wrote, criticizing her for the way that she lived. I think it's one thing to express your opinion, but it's another thing altogether to harass someone and try to force them to accept your perspective. This blogger eventually shut down her blog, and I think it was largely because of that troll's despicable behavior.

There are trolls everywhere. They show up in the comments section of online news articles and Youtube videos. They fall into several categories.

1. The Never Gets Laid Troll: This type of person makes sexist comments or crude jokes about men or women (usually celebrities), because apparently this troll thinks that derogatory jokes are attractive.

2. The Grammar Police Troll: There's always at least one person who's complaining about spelling/grammatical errors. What's ironic is that this person often has grammatical errors in his/her own comments.

3. The Anti-Politicians Troll: I read a lot of online news articles about crime, and on almost every post there's always at least one person who will be quick to blame the president or some other politician for whatever bad thing happened in the article.

4. The Racist Troll: This type of troll offends me to no end. It's people like this one that make me think that there should be limits on freedom of speech.

5. The Wanna Fight Troll: This type of troll insults all the other commenters, so that you'll often see random commenters fighting with each other. It'd be funny if it also weren't kind of sad.

6. The I Beg to Differ Troll: No matter what you write, this person will disagree with you and point out all the reasons that you're wrong. (I also think of this kind of troll as the Know-it-All Troll, or the I-Think-I'm-Smarter-than-Everyone-and-That's-Why-I-Have-No-Friends Troll.)

7. The Spammer Troll: These people leave comments that have nothing to do with the article or post and everything to do with promoting their scams. Spammers often leave comments with links to their "businesses" or websites on my posts, which makes me mad. It's one thing if advertisers e-mail me to ask if I'd be willing to promote their products. But these trolls don't even ask my permission to leave links on my blog. I always delete them.

8. The Anonymous Troll: Not all anonymous commenters are trolls, and not all of them are mean. But I've found that a lot of them do leave nasty comments, because they would never have the courage to say any of those things in real life. That's why I removed the Anonymous option in my comments section.

People often say: don't feed the troll. And I think they're right. I realized that responding to this loser was probably what he was looking for, because he probably wanted me to defend myself so that he could keep attacking me. But I was still tempted to fight back and stand up for myself.

I chose not to respond to his comments, which probably reinforced his belief that all women ignored him and it wasn't his fault at all. Even so, just thinking about mean people like that makes me angry. I have to deal with enough jerks like that in real life; I don't want to have to deal with them online, too.

I don't understand why people become trolls anyway. I think they must be very lonely, angry, bitter people, and they choose to deal with it by attacking strangers online.

Fortunately, most of the other bloggers I've come across are very kind, friendly, and encouraging. The connections I've made through blogging are why I continue to blog.

What about you? What do you think of trolls? Have you ever encountered any on your blog, or have you ever seen any mean comments left on other blogs? How do you think they should be dealt with?