Thursday, February 13, 2014

why 'Aliens' made me cry, like, 5 times

Last Friday I saw the 1986 film, ‘Aliens,’ for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I was probably going to jump, yell, maybe want to throw up a little. I knew it was a thriller and I knew it was a cult classic but I didn’t expect to be so moved I would tear up.
This is why I loved this movie so so much. And it might be cliche to talk about, but whatever - I loved it because of the simple, obvious fact that the women in this movie were so BADASS. Sigourney freakin' Weaver, man. Like, there really aren’t any words. From the second she is on the screen you can literally FEEL her commanding presence. Never once is she an object — even when she’s just in her underwear. Those aren’t moments of sexuality but of reality and by that point you are so invested in her character you don’t care that she has an amazing body, you just want to see her safe. Also Vasquez. Keeping her shit together while everyone around her freaks out. She never once exhibits fear and fights until the very end. That’s a woman I admire.
There was also a lack of romance and a clear picture of the cowardice of man (even though Bill Paxton is one of my favorite parts of this film). While there WERE heroic men in this film (Bishop, Hicks) no one holds a candle to the badassery of Ripley. The sheer will that woman had and how she never, not ONCE, backed down from what she firmly believed in. I loved that so hard. I’m not a movie critic and my words aren’t eloquent but I just NEED to write about how important this film was to me.
Another thing I loved? The maternal aspect of the film. The fact that Ripley morphed into this mother for Newt. I loved this because it was like Ripley was having her cake and eating it too. There’s this age-old stigma in our culture that if you’re a badass, you can’t be a mother either. Like you can either 1. Kick an alien’s ass or 2. Stay at home with babies and root for your husband to kick ass. It’s rare to find a film that meshes the two so flawlessly.
Ripley’s maternal instinct wasn’t her weakness….on the contrary, it proved her strength and made her, without a doubt, the hero of the film. GOD I loved this. So, so much. Because it spoke volumes. Like, “Hey. HEY. You can be strong, opinionated, intellegient. AND you can be a mom too. AND oh my GOD get this — you can actually WANT to be a mom! That’s okay!”
That was so important to me. For so long I was actually ashamed of this desire I have in me to one day have a family and be a mother. I think it might have to do with going to college in New York City where everyone is very career-minded and then moving to Los Angeles where it’s the same. I’m 24 and saying aloud that sure, yes, one day I’d like to be a mom seems kind of scandalous. Just because that is something I want, one day, doesn’t mean it’s the only desire I have inside of me. 
I love Ripley because she just exists as this person - this human - whose identity isn’t wrapped up in motherhood or a career - she is just a person. A human who is fighting for what she believes in and swallows her fear and just GOES FOR IT.
Also she has a cat and that might be the most important thing of it all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

half a pound of horse head meat, please

The scene is clear in all of our minds, yeah? We're sitting in our post-grad glory, a cup of coffee on the bedside table. Our hair is lightly tousled, we're in an over-sized flannel in some simplistic yet just the right amount of lived-in New York City apartment. There's an old record's music floating around the place (where did we get this record player? that's not important) and we're 'writing' and we count this as 'working.' 

And then it happens - we get the email...that beautiful, wild email that says something like:

"Dear _____,

Thank you for your application to your dream job! Guess what? YOU GOT IT! Say goodbye to those student loans cuz you're gonna make it, baby!"

We tear up a little and we feel like we're in some kind of film montage - we light up a cigarette (when did we start smoking? that's not important) and we go out to the fire escape and our hair dances around our face. A stray cat (which isn't dirty) looks at us and we pet it and we smile and think, "Damn."

We celebrate that evening in the East Village with drinks with our friends and we treat everyone because that paycheck is going to be nice. And everything is okay. It's all going to be okay.

* * *

I was certain this is what my life would be after college and it was perhaps the exact opposite. I graduated NYU with a degree, a massive amount of debt, and zero plans of the future. In my last semester I had planned to move to Ireland (spoiler, it didn't work out), go to grad school, and turn into Amy Adams in Leap Year or something. That plan fell away, and I found myself in December of 2010 packing up my NYC apartment and moving back to the suburbs of Philadelphia to live at home.

This wasn't supposed to happen to me. I mean, I heard it happen to other people all the time -- moving home after college, living in their parent's basements or whatever -- but I was different, right? No, I wasn't, and I moved home and gained ten pounds and spent the hours applying to grad school and hanging out with my blind and old cat. 

Months past and I realized I had to do something. I was making no money, living in my high school bedroom, and I was growing more and more miserable everyday. It's pathetic, really. I should have been happy and grateful and eventually I got there -- but that immediate shock of "Oh my gosh. I'm not in school anymore. I'm supposed to be an adult. And I'm not. And I'm alone and I miss my friends and WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?" That shock lasted awhile until my mom finally looked at me and said the dreaded words we all hate to hear - 

"You need a job."

So after several months of bumming it I finally swallowed what tiny ounce of pride I had left and applied for a job.

At a deli.

Where my baby sister worked.

I got the job pretty quickly and was the only girl that worked behind the deli counter. I've worked since I was thirteen and working doesn't scare me but this job terrified me. My co-workers were rough men, I had never used a meat slicer in my life, and I'm already an anxious person. But around this time was when my college roommate and I decided at the end of the summer we were going to move to Los Angeles. We bought one-way tickets and thought, "YUP. What the hell, we're going to move across the country with no plan, no anything and try to make a life."

This little beacon of hope - this light was what helped me be at peace with the fact that my seventeen year old sister was training me at a job. 

What I learned working at 320 Market was that pride is dangerous and you really have to be careful with it. I never would have expected that I would truly fall in love with that job. I loved my time there (I also hated it at times) but overall it was really a great job. I never stopped humiliating myself there, like the one time this lady asked me for Boar's Head meat and I thought she said "horse head" so I announced to the guys behind the counter, "Can I have half a pound of horse head meat, please?" Why didn't I realize how sick it would be if we provided customers with horse head meat?

But I learned a lot. I learned to not cry when I sliced open my thumb so bad I almost threw up. I learned to stand up for myself when the guys tried to make me blush or say crude things. I learned that no one has their shit figured out and that's fine, to be honest.

And when I finally put in my two weeks notice and began packing for LA, I really felt grateful. I carried that with me to LA and I've learned that work is work and you should never be embarrassed if you don't have this idealized "dream job." Because even when we get this "dream job" we're still going to want something else, something bigger. Something better. There will always be this constant want want want. So instead of constantly stressing myself out that I'm not doing as well as other people my age, I just have to remind myself of how lucky I am. I need to practice being grateful because it doesn't come naturally and this moment isn't going to last. We aren't promised tomorrow so why do I freak myself out so badly? It's just pointless.

If I had never taken that job, if I had let my pride swallow me, I would never have made enough money to move out here and I never would have the most amazing friends, an incredible job and I never would have experienced this. I mean, maybe I would have....I don't know. But I love the way I got here and I never want to discredit it. 

Even if it meant having everyone laugh at me for an hour straight because I thought it was normal to serve horse head meat at a deli.

Ya learn, ya know.

* * *

Monday, February 3, 2014

feeling lonely at 13 mattered, ok?

In so many ways loneliness is really, really important.

I was recently flipping through an old journal of mine from when I was thirteen. It is both so sad and so funny and I love reading it because it helps me appreciate where I am right now and how thankful I am that I never, ever, ever, EVER have to go back to middle school. At one point in my journal I write that my sister Rebecca has two of her friends over and I felt "so lonely." 

I had friends growing up and I'm definitely an extrovert. I love parties and people and being the center of attention (definitely to a fault). But I remember this loneliness, this real feeling of "I don't know if I have anyone." Even as young as thirteen we feel these things, right? Loneliness is perhaps the most common human condition, right? Because it's not just like, a feeling or emotion. It's this state we are in. Because we can be around tons of people, we can be in a city with hundreds of bodies all around us and still feel really, truly alone.

But it's important to be alone. And it's important in those moments of loneliness to know that "Okay. This is where I am right now. I'm lonely. But I'm okay." 

I used to fear loneliness. I don't anymore, to be honest. I used to fear loneliness because I was really just afraid to be by myself. I didn't want to have that moment where I'm forced to look at that the person I was because for so long I hated the person I was. But now, with each year that passes, each moment, I'm learning to love myself and accept myself. I'm learning to understand that I'm not always going to be happy and I'm not always going to be okay. But that in and of itself is fine and it's life or whatever.

So now if I feel loneliness, I know it doesn't necessarily mean I'm actually alone. I think it's good to feel it and not immediately shut it out with distractions. I want to feel it and then just let go of it and know like, it's going to be okay. 

It's funny reading that part of my journal now because at this particular moment in my life, I really don't feel very alone. I have amazing friends, a family that lets me know they love me every single day, and I'm....oh my GAWD, dare I say it....happy? Did I just jinx myself? Whatever. Whatever. 

But I know I will feel loneliness again, one day, because that's life and that's what happens. I guess I don't know what I'm trying to say with this blog other than I think it's okay to feel lonely sometimes. I don't think that's wrong at all. I think it's okay and I think it's important, because it helps us appreciate the not-lonely moments a little more. 

Ya know?