Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Things to be happy about

The croissant and latte I had this morning
This cafe plays The Weepies and Regina Spektor
I'm sitting next to the window while it rains
The leaves in Prospect Park yesterday
My wolf sweater and my gray paisley scarf
The future is full of potential, even if it's terrifyingly unpredictable
To be hosted by Brenna in her totally mod Park Slope apartment
Watching Magic Mike XXL with Brenna last night
Listening to Andrea Bocelli right now
The broccoli, onion and mushroom stir-fry I ate for dinner last night
The glass of cab sav I had after dinner
This is my favorite part of my favorite Andrea Bocelli song
The rain stopped just in time for me to walk back to Brenna's apartment for lunch
I have wonderful friends, even if they'll be scattered across the country/world for the rest of my life
I'm 22 and it's okay to not have a plan

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Insidious Myth of the Hairless Woman

Women should work hard to distinguish themselves as not-men. It needs to be immediately obvious at first glance whether someone is male or female, because men and women inherently deserve to be treated differently. Women are beautiful, and they should devote considerable time, money and energy to enhancing their beauty — in order to maximize their natural assets. A man is expected to work to enhance his natural physical strength and power, while a woman should work to enhance her natural beauty and charm.

Women should wear makeup to cover any blemish of the skin, to bring attention to the curve of the lip and to enhance the seemly shape of the eye. Without makeup women's faces are less entrancing, less exotic, less captivating. Without makeup women look more like men: rougher, more plain. And looks are everything for a woman, as her value in society hinges on this quality. Beautiful women are more likely to be hired in any position, and to receive more attention in any context. Therefore it's obvious that women are best off devoting a portion of their income ($216/yr) to buying makeup, and devoting at least 5 minutes a day (1,825 minutes/year) to putting it on.

Women should wear tight clothes to show off the beauty of their feminine bodies, which should be slim — much slimmer than a man's body. Women shouldn't take up too much space. Women should sit with their legs together: their ankles tightly crossed and their elbows tucked in compactly. When a man sits with his legs spread apart, he's confident and comfortable. When a woman sits with her legs spread apart, it's crude and distasteful. (Women should also take care to moderate their voices; a loud woman is shrill, offensive, and probably bossy.)

Women don't have body hair. At least, they shouldn't. It's simply hygiene. Women's body hair is gross. Women should be soft and smooth; it's more appealing to look and touch. Men are hairy, but women are not. It's the natural order of things. Women should do whatever it takes (time + money + energy) to make sure they are never seen with body hair — and praise be to the gods of the patriarchy, they do. More than 99 percent of American women remove their body hair — any woman with body hair is absolutely appalling to the ubiquitous American sentiment that women have an inherent responsibility to invest in altering their bodies to suit male preference.

"American women who shave ... spend, on average, more than $10,000 and nearly two entire months of their lives simply managing unwanted hair. The woman who waxes once or twice a month will spend more than $23,000 over the course of her lifetime."

"Social psychologists, in particular, have found that women who resist shaving their legs are evaluated by others as 'dirty' or 'gross,' and that hairy women are rated as less 'sexually attractive, intelligent, sociable, happy, and positive' than visibly hairless women."

"The overall effect of the norm, social scientists suggest, is to produce feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability, the sense that women’s bodies are problematic 'the way they naturally are.' Practices of hair removal, in turn, are said to produce 'pre-pubescent-like,' 'highly sexualized' bodies, which ultimately 'may contribute to the increasing objectification of young girls.'” (Source)


About a year ago, I stopped shaving my legs. I was exhausted by the near-daily obligation, frustrated by my constant self-consciousness over my leg stubble. I started waxing instead: painful and expensive, but at least my naturally dark, coarse leg hair grew back softer and thinner: more feminine. But after a few months of waxing, I started resenting the cost. I started resenting the obligation in general. I felt like I didn't have a choice — yet I was driving myself to the waxing salon. I felt deeply conflicted on the matter: I hated the time and money and (pain) I put into removing my body hair, but I felt such an overpowering obligation. Plus body hair is gross, right? My body hair is gross. Women's body hair is gross. Right?? That's what I've internalized, but it makes ZERO sense when you stop and analyze it. Men's body hair isn't gross, it's natural. Women's body however, should be removed at any cost. Cultural sexism or nah?

So I stopped removing my leg hair. I grew out my armpit hair for awhile, too, but finally caved and waxed it, justifying to myself that waxing my armpits is quick and easy. Plus I think armpit hair actually is inherently gross (no matter whose body it's found on). Annoying that men don't feel shame for their armpit hair the way I and all other American women do, but at least it's low cost for me to remove my armpit hair.

Leg hair, however, is an entirely different question. When I get my legs waxed professionally, it costs an average of $65 + 1 hour each time (and it has to be done every three weeks or so). I save about $20 if I do it myself, but I do a crappy job and it hurts more. And all for the sake of conformity under the sexually charged gaze imposed on me by hetero men?? I find it frustrating that all my female friends justify their constant hair removal routines by explaining that they like their bodies better without hair. "Of course you do," I want to shout at them. "For the same artificial, damaging reasons that make you feel happier wearing makeup and tight clothes." We get affirmation from altering our bodies to fit Western beauty standards. We get immediate and shallow affirmation, but it's damaging in the long term as it reinforces the idea that women are "opposite" of men — therefore ultimately justifying sexual discrimination (no matter how subtle). 

So I stopped shaving and waxing my leg hair. It's not easy, and it doesn't feel good. I hate having hairy legs. I feel ugly and gross whenever I look at them. I feel animalistic, dirty, unattractive. But f*ck the patriarchy! I won't be duped into spending $23,000 and 1,444 hours on my own culturally-imposed sexual objectification.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

To me, graduation was a funeral. While my fellow graduates smiled and cheered, I hung my head and cried. I knew it was a dramatic, privileged, self-indulgent reaction, but at the same time I struggled to keep perspective on what felt like a tragedy. When I thought about graduation, I mourned the loss of a life I'd never see again. Graduation Day felt like The Reaping in The Hunger Games: Everyone pretends that having your name read is an honor deserving of celebration, when in reality all it means is that you're being sent into a harsh, unknown wilderness where survival is a daily challenge.

Pathetic attempt at a smile

Graduation meant the loss of all that was familiar; that is, the end to the satisfying structure of the American educational system in which I had excelled for my entire life. Before graduation, my life was neatly divided into regular, predictable seasons — and more broadly: easily definable four-year chunks. Now there is no definition, no visible divides beyond the Gregorian calendar grid. From graduation day on, my life stretches out terrifyingly undefined until whatever day I happen to die. 

Does that not terrify everyone else who graduates college? Why did everyone tell me "congratulations" so enthusiastically when I felt like I was being pushed off a pirate's plank? Every time I heard that sentiment, I had to bite back sardonic responses. "Life is all downhill after college," I often said, characteristically unable to keep myself within the realm of polite society and its stifling conventions. "No, it's not!" my well-wishers would exclaim, with an uncomfortable laugh. ("What an odd joke," I'm sure they were all thinking.) "You have so much to look forward to," they'd reassure me vaguely.

(I usually bowed out of the conversation at that point, preferring to avoid having to defend my utter lack of desire to bear children. Maybe one day it'll appeal to me, but my horror at the entire operation has not abated in the 4.5 months since graduation.)

How long do I need to wait before I can say "I told you so"? 

I kind of hate emotions. I try to live rationally, making deliberately logical decisions that are at most informed by emotion. When I think my emotions are unreasonable, I try to ignore them. I have friends who think this approach is silly. I have friends for whom emotion is central in their daily decision-making. "Follow your heart," popular culture advises. But that's just not how I do it.

However — sometimes I can't deny my emotions. Sometimes they persist, despite my attempts to rationalize them away. Graduation wasn't a funeral. It was a celebration, the culmination of four years of hard work, an acknowledgment that I was on the cusp of adulthood (as defined by financial independence?). I acknowledge all that objectively, rationally... but my emotions don't match my knowledge. I've felt low since my emotional breakdown on the day of my last exam of my last semester of college. At the end of May I basked in five incredible weeks of a cross-country road trip with two of my favorite people — then I flew to Austin and started life as a working professional, i.e. a lifetime of the daily grind, the weekly routine, the endless monotony of adulthood.

I'm incredibly lucky to have a comparatively flexible, remote-based job that combats that horror — I just need to take more advantage of it. Variety is the only salve to the tedium I have found in adulthood.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Caroline's Comprehensive Coffee Consumption

If I were to blog about my life in Austin, it would largely be a blog about local cafes. I love working from home — seven years of homeschooling prepped me well for that — but I don't feel completely whole when I'm in my apartment 23 hours of the day. (That one special hour out is reserved for my near-daily Lady Bird Lake Trail run). So on days when I have a large enough gap in my schedule without any major client calls, I bike or drive to a cafe. I haven't compiled a comprehensive list yet of all the places I've been to, but I'd estimate it's close to 15. I definitely don't want this to be a daily habit, as one $3 coffee five days a week x 50 weeks = $750 in a year. But it feels somewhat necessary as I need the variety, and because I work much more comfortably in a cafe than in the Trilogy office downtown. (Trilogy is the parent company that founded Crossover.)

So I've made it my personal mission to try every Austin cafe. During the week I'll visit and work at the ones that have wifi, and on the weekends I'll check out the ~disconnected~ ones. I'm evaluating them on ambiance (which includes decor, seating, and personality), price, menu variety, quality of coffee, and quality of any edible offerings I sample. I'll try to visit each one twice before making a final conclusion.

Here's to America's favorite drug*!

(*caffeine, if that wasn't obvious)

EDIT: Clearly, this idea never actualized: When I was spending 10+ hours per day on my laptop for Crossover, the last thing I wanted to do was spend my free time gazing at the same screen. It was a good idea, though. Maybe some day...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Broken Circle

My compost bin is quiet like a tomb. The dark, moist soil lies still as a corpse.

But the corpses are gone. Thousands of tiny carcasses were scraped off the top of the soil, where they had futilely sought escape as they writhed in heart-wrenching anguish, their cells collapsing in the oven of my sun-baked car.

Their absence is a wistful ache in my heart. I want to laugh at myself for getting attached to a box of earthworms, but I'm genuinely too sad to laugh. I hate the way they died. I hate that I think about it every time I throw away an apple core. I hate that my generator of life was so quickly transformed into a mass grave for such amazingly productive creatures.

I loved the entire concept of vermicomposting: how my food scraps, otherwise destined to contribute more toxic greenhouse gases than anything else in a landfill, were food for earthworms that contributed nutrient-rich castings to the box of soil in which they lived. Hidden in my kitchen closet, they diligently broke down every banana peel and every broccoli stem before it could rot. I marveled at their efficiency. I took pride in talking down the incredulity of every person who wondered aloud, "But doesn't it smell?" The compost bin was a self-contained box of life-nurturing soil in a society where dirt is thought of as simply a nuisance, where food can be considered trash, where earthworms are assumed to be unimportant or useless or gross.

For eight months they neatly transformed my trash into gourmet food for plants. And then they roasted to death, in masse, in the backseat of my car. Is it really so incomprehensible that I'd mourn that?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"The Real World"

I've always hated when people refer to life after college as "the real world." Was college not real? I suppose some people coast through college by achieving the bare minimum to be considered "successful" — that is, eligible for employment in a mediocre 9-to-5 contributing incrementally towards some generic product or service with dubious impact on anyone's well-being (from the overpaid CEO to the underpaid janitor to the mind-numbing dullness of every employee's monotonous life).

To me, that's a terrifying nightmare. A kind of soul-dying against which I will rage, rage until the sun sets on my life.

Much of what I did in college was low-consequence practice for higher-consequence responsibilities that I face now that I've graduated. But lower consequences doesn't mean less real. The work I did for The Daily Tar Heel was some of the highest-consequence undertaking I think I'll ever perform, unless I have the luck of reporting for a newspaper with an even bigger audience in my future. Yes, being a student gives you special permission to make mistakes in most peoples' eyes. But I still took very seriously the duty I carried as a representative of every organization with which I was affiliated at UNC.

A month into life "in the real world," my four years of college still feel so much more real to me than I can ever imagine full-time work feeling.

And yet I'm here, and this is my life now, and somehow I've got to make the most of it. I vehemently defy the cloying clawing quicksand of routine, that subtle sink into "your normal, hardworking, quietly desperate species of American."* That will never be me, even if it's an uphill battle the entire way.

Right now I have a job that requires me to sit on my computer for 50+ hours per week — something I never thought I could endure. But the work is engaging and challenging. I'm learning all kinds of skills and processes at a nearly overwhelming rate. The salary is generous, and I can work from anywhere in the world. So I'm making small sacrifices for major advantages. And it's all worthwhile as long as I'm able to keep the balance of priorities in my life — feeling productive, constant learning, maintaining physical and mental health, engaging with people who challenge and inspire me, opportunity for exploration, and room for spontaneity.

For now, I think I can sustain at least a tenuous balance of all those things — the list of requisites to my happiness. I feel like I'm driving blindly into a foreign universe, but even "Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay"** — so with a sort of apprehensive excitement, I steel myself to stay deliberate and optimistic. Because what is "real," anyway? I work, therefore I am?

*David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
**Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"

Thursday, April 16, 2015


If I could go back and do one thing differently throughout college, it would be more journaling and blogging. Nights from my first semester that I never doubted would be permanently etched in my memory are now faded. Specific meals with special people are now blurred into the stream of past days. Though I'll continue to carry the effects of those many serendipitous conversations that influenced my thoughts and perception — conversations that opened my eyes to new ideas and ones that nudged my path in new directions — I no longer remember all the details of what was said, or exactly when and where it happened.

Maybe losing those details is a natural part of life not to be regretted. But as a soon-to-be graduate, I wish I had held on tighter to more of those details. The great, wild, precious four years that is college is an experience I want to cherish forever — not as a vague, generalized time period but as a collection of specific moments that cumulatively shaped (deeply and beautifully) who I am today, who I want to be and who I will be for the rest of my life. Yet I'm not satisfied with carrying the outcomes of a four-year transformation — I want to cherish all the tiny parts that make the whole.

The next three weeks are nearly overwhelming with the amount of work I have with final papers, projects and exams, but I want to remember every detail of the events in between the studying: the Drunk Defense party at McPlasters and the Eats Awk Cock I went to last night, the dinner I'm getting at Basan in Durham with Ellie and Emily tonight, Ashlyn's 22nd birthday dinner tomorrow night, the Chi Psi alumni cocktail I'm going to with Brian on Saturday... Regardless of whether any of these moments seem important or influential on their own (and I recognize I'm probably just being a nostalgic near-graduate) but I feel an urgent drive to cherish every detail — and I'm resolved to be more deliberate about cherishing such details as I start the next chapter of my life.

I know that's super cheesy — but expressing it and publishing it will make me stick to it!