Category Archives: Essays

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been published

So remember when I wrote this piece a while back? It was intended as a submission to the hitRECorderly (which is something cool you should all check out) which just got published and the first batch of pre-orders got sent out. I was not among the pre-orders, but my friend Maura was, and she immediately e-mailed me this picture and IMed me “LOOK, YOU’RE PUBLISHED!!!!!” And yes, indeedy, there is an excerpt of my piece, printed in black and white! Or, well, red and white.

So yes, I’ve been published! And that honestly is not something I was expecting at all, which makes today officially count as A Good Day.

Advertisements

There Are Wolves in the Woods (Originally for hitRECord.org)

When it comes to the idea of rape culture, there are certain things everyone, including myself, can agree on. Everyone agrees that women shouldn’t be raped. Everyone agrees that women are raped far too often. Everyone agrees that rape is never an acceptable consequence for not doing the “right” thing or acting the “right” way. Everyone agrees that often women are told that they deserved to be raped because they were “asking for it”, and that that’s a terrible thing to say. And everyone agrees that rape culture has far-ranging, awful consequences that make the reality of being a woman something that is often fraught and almost always degrading. Being a woman means living in a world where you know that there is a one in six chance you will be sexually assaulted at some point in your lifetime. Being a woman means growing up constantly being a bitch, no matter what you do. Being a woman means that it is not a question of if, but when and how often, that you will be verbally harassed, or objectified, and that you will always, always be found to be somehow lacking or wrong. And I think everyone can agree that that’s just not okay. Rape culture is about blaming women, about hanging the ultimate consequence of rape over their heads to keep them in line, about finding fault in women for no other reason than because they are women, and pretty much everyone agrees that that’s a terrible thing to do.

What people often either don’t realize or cannot agree on is why that’s a bad thing to do. It isn’t just that there are, of course, people who believe that there is a “right” way to be a woman, and that the “right” way usually involves a set of impossibly high standards that leads to constant disappointment and judgment. It’s that there then develops a reactionary strain of thought that says that women are judged too harshly and therefore should never be judged at all. And this, quite frankly, is just as equally ridiculous and problematic as the first way of thinking.

(Read more…)

The Dichotomy (For hitRECord/TIME Magazine)

Note:  This was written in response to a collaboration with Joel Stein of TIME Magazine. More details can be found here.

When TIME posted the magazine assignment to hitRECord, I was, oddly enough, not at my computer. Instead, I was on my annual vacation to a YMCA family camp, where one of the nightly activities was, as always, a movie night. The adult movie was Inception.

“I thought you liked Inception,” my mom said to me as I griped and groaned.

I do like Inception. I like it quite a lot. But it has Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it (or, as my parents refer to him, “that famous guy who sometimes likes the stuff you put online”), and I didn’t really feel like watching something with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a famous guy who looks dapper in suits in a way that makes me nervous. Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears on red carpets and Saturday Night Live, he shows up in fashion editorials and on all my favorite pop culture gossip blogs. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is not a normal human being, he is one of the elite and terrifyingly attractive demigods that populate my entertainment universe. And in my head, he has nothing to do with Joe, my normal-looking, t-shirt and mismatched sock-wearing, slightly pretentious sort-of boss.

I like Joe, My Kind-Of Boss. He’s dedicated and passionate about the work he does. He’s not the best boss I’ve ever had, but he’s far from the worst. My main concern when it comes to Joe is the same one I’ve had with every single boss I’ve worked for, which is balancing my respect for them and the work they do with my natural tendency to try and subvert any sort of authority I encounter.

Facing The Joe Dichotomy in my day-to-day life is something I attempt to avoid as much as possible. Cognitive dissonance is never comfortable. It’s even less comfortable when you realize that Joe Your Kind-Of Boss is also that famous dude. You may know him in a way that’s unusual, even in today’s world of celebrity twitters that share far too much information. You may know him because you’ve worked with him, even if it was a few degrees removed. You’ve shared your artistic ideas and passions and listened to his. In a way, the way you know him (or anyone on hitRECord) is more  personal than people you may have known for years, because there’s nothing more deeply intimate than creating something with somebody else. And in that sense, Joe is just Joe.  At the same time, he’s still Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and you don’t really know him at all.
It’s always a depressing thought, realizing that you don’t occupy the same place in someone’s universe that they occupy in yours. It’s way too depressing to think about on vacation.

“I’m just not in the mood for Inception,” I told my mom, and we left it at that.

(Read more…)

Touch (Originally for hitRECord)

When you’re a twin and one of three kids, it’s inevitable your parents come up with superlatives to define you from your siblings. I was a lot of things; the verbal one, the stubborn one, the funny one, the littlest one, and (and this usually surprises people) the cuddler. I was the touchy-feely one. I needed to be all up in everyone’s business, climbing in their laps, I needed to be brushing out my mom’s hair and beating my brother to be picked up by my dad when he came home. And I made him pick me up even when I was way too big and his back was way too busted for it to be a good idea for either of us.

I say this is surprising now because I’m pretty much the opposite of a physically affectionate person. I suppose I am in relationships. At least, I was at 15, which was the last time I was in a relationship, but these things change. What I do know is that while plenty of other girls would drape themselves over each other and hug as greetings, and still do, I’ve never been good at that, or liked it. Maybe it’s because I’m so very, very tiny and anyone who hugs me inevitably makes me feel a little like I’m being smothered. Maybe it’s because I’m so jumpy and sensitive. Maybe I’m just a closed off person. I just don’t really do touching unless it’s my parents, who I still hug a lot, or my siblings, who I hug if they’re leaving for a trip or something. Even my best friend, who I may as well be related to, only ever touches me when she’s having an utter emotional meltdown, and that’s not just because she’s all repressed and WASP-y.

The thing is, the instinct to cuddle never really died, just because I stopped doing it. I really just stopped feeling right doing it. I stopped feeling okay with requesting hugs from my parents several times a day, I got too big to fit in laps, I started being self-conscious about where my boobs went and if something was inappropriate or vaguely sexual, and I just stopped touching people. It wasn’t tragic, or at least, not any more tragic than adolescence inherently is (which is still pretty fucking tragic), it just was. It just is.

(Read more…)

Geshikhte (History) (Originally for hitRECord)

My best friend has more genealogy than she knows what to do with.  Growing up, I’d hear her tell me about her giant, ancient family, I’d hear her complain that she couldn’t get any new furniture because there were too many antiques, see her show me heirlooms as carelessly as if they could be found on any street corner, looked at her ancestors’ framed immigration documents that hang on her bedroom wall. My best friend jokingly refers to her family as “the bad guys of history” – the slave-owners, the mill-owners, the rich white men who everyone ends up hating in history classes. I’m lucky, she’s always said. My family are all Jews. I never had to feel responsible for the things someone in my family did because the people I came from didn’t do much of anything at all

But I guess I never felt very lucky about it.

(Read more…)

Consider the Elephant (Originally for hitRECord)

My twin brother is studying to be a scientist. What sort of scientist, I can’t quite tell you. All I know is that it has to do with very teeny-tiny things, and he’s extremely concerned with how to fold proteins.

I am not a scientific person. I did not even know that proteins could fold, or that there were certain ways they folded, or that all that molecular origami had life-saving implications. That is the kind of not-scientific person I am. My brother, when he comes home, occasionally attempts to explain scientific principles to me. One disastrous winter break, he was trying to explain the work of his friend the theoretical physicist, which led to an argument on Schrodinger’s Cat that lasted the entire month he was home.

This partially has to do with the fact that my brother is exactly as gifted at verbal communication and story-telling as I am at science – that is to say, he isn’t – and spent the initial explanation undecided if in this scenario the cat was administered a drug that left it dead or sleeping, depending on how humane he was feeling at that moment.  Finally, though, after much confused Wikipedia-ing and prolonged explanations, I looked him square in the eye and said, “That is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“A cat can’t be halfway dead,” I said. “Either it’s dead or alive. You’re telling me that scientifically, the cat is considered 50% dead simply by virtue of not knowing if it’s alive or not. But let’s say the cat’s dead, right, and then you look, and you see it’s dead. It was still 100% dead two seconds ago, it didn’t become 50% less dead just because you now know it’s dead. Are you honestly telling me that there is an enduring scientific theory based upon a human inability to simply check on the mortality of a cat?”

“The cat’s a metaphor,” he said, “see, if the cat were an electron, this wouldn’t be dumb.”

“But it’s not an electron, it’s a cat,” I protested. “Seriously, am I the first person who realized how stupid this is? It’s a cat.”

“But,” my brother said with the air of someone who has irrefutable logic on their side to win an argument, “it doesn’t matter, because it’s true.”

“I just told you it wasn’t true!” I said. “Do I have to go through the dead cat thing again? It is a terrible, terrible metaphor that kills cats!”

“No,” my brother corrected me, “it’s science.”

(Read more…)