Dork Life.

You know you’re hanging out with PhD students when:

Me: “Oh, you’re meeting up at 10pm? I can’t go. I’m going to be asleep, because I’m a dork.”

PhD Student: “I don’t really know what you mean by dork. I guess we don’t really assign people personality traits like ‘dork’ here. We just are who we are. I mean, I suppose you could call yourself a dork, but really, you’re just manifesting your desire for sleep.”

COME ON, GUY.

Also, I just saw Maleficent, and it was magnificent. (Do you see what I did there?) It was actually great. I highly recommend it. Also also, this song plays over the credits and it is pretty damn fabulous:

Yes. All Women.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a small, crowded place talking to a man in his forties about his rampant homophobia. It’s rare in my life that I encounter people who hold such views, because a) I’m in my twenties, b) I’ve lived in Los Angeles for my entire life, and c) I make a point not to associate with people who blatantly, unapologetically hate other people. But, for reasons beyond my control, there I was, discussing homosexuality with this near perfect stranger at 10:30 pm on a school night.

I’m not entirely sure how we got started – surprisingly, quizzing randoms on the status of their fear-based hate isn’t really my style – but I ended up getting an earful about how unnatural and wrong and “just not right” gay men appeared to this person, whom I’ll called Bob. Something about them seemed off to Bob and they upset him and made him nervous.

Never one to let an opportunity for a shitstorm pass me by, I asked Bob why he held so tightly to such obviously gross ideals. He told me about the time he’d accidentally wandered, wide-eyed and twenty-one, into a gay bar in New York City, where he had to deal, for one hour of one night in his whole heterosexual male life, with the unwanted groping, suggestive gestures, and repeated advances of a large gay man who’d set his eyes on him. As Bob told me this story, he looked to me for sympathy, and wanted to see the shock and awe register on my face when he said that the guy would not leave him alone, even after he said he wasn’t interested and intentionally moved away from him.

My reaction was a huge disappointment I think, because I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t in awe. I didn’t have to be revived with smelling salts after hearing a story about a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Color me not shocked, dude.

His story for me had nothing to do with sexual orientation, despite the fact that that is how this guy had internalized it. In dismissing his misguided prejudice, I’m not discounting how uncomfortable it must have been for him. I know how uncomfortable it must have been for him. Because, as a woman existing in the world, that invasion of personal space and complete disrespect happens to me on the regular. That happens to every woman I have ever known all the time. We are told by complete strangers and supermarket cashiers that we’d be prettier if we “smiled more”; we’re cautioned against walking in our own neighborhoods alone at night; we live with the expectation that if we’ve spoken to a man and are not sexually interested, we will be called a prude or a tease or a bitch. Standard. We learn when we are very young that as women, we are default targets, and we live our lives that way, always aware that if we let our guard down, if we “allow” ourselves to be victimized, it will be our fault. After all, we shouldn’t have been out after dark.

The most surprising thing about Bob’s story to me was that for the adult man telling it, the experience of being intimidated by unwanted male attention was so singular that it was possible for him to chalk it up to being a “gay thing.” He had absolutely no frame of reference for that feeling outside of that one experience in a small gay bar twenty years ago.

Putting aside the (hopefully obvious) fact that his stereotyping of an entire group of people on the basis of one terrible experience is ridiculous and wrong, I was then and still am now absolutely astonished that there are humans in the world who think that those kind of forceful, unsettling, testosterone-fueled advances only happen in the dark, seedy underbellies of cities, in places you “wouldn’t normally go,” to quote my new friend. For me, and for every single woman I know, those encounters (and alternatively, the active, vigilant avoidance of those encounters) are a fact of life. It must be so wonderful to live a life in which it’s never on your radar.

I’ve been thinking about that conversation a lot over the past few days, while I’ve watched the women in my life specifically and on social media generally react to what happened in Isla Vista Friday night. On Twitter this week, the hashtag #yesallwomen reached over one million tweets. They all recount personal experiences of misogyny and fear. Some of them cut me deep. Most of them are hard to read. Because no matter where the statements come from, no matter what woman is expressing herself, I have been there. I get to consider myself “lucky” because I’ve never been sexually assaulted, but I have faced harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence for my entire life.

As has every woman I know.

For fifty percent of the population of this planet, this is not just something that happens once in our lives, when we stumble into a dark basement bar looking to watch a football game. This is something that shapes our entire lives.

Things I was going to write about here, things like walking to my car at night with my keys in my fist like Wolverine or being the only sibling (as I’ve got brothers) to receive a “rape alarm” from my grandfather before going to college or being 19 and walking a gauntlet of humiliating catcalls every morning as I walked from my apartment to campus or being told that if I didn’t want to get attention, I shouldn’t be out, are repeated over and over by the women using #yesallwomen.

I could not be more pleased that we’re talking about it on a national stage.

someone

Small Miracles.

About 100% of the time, I am convinced that I write this blog for myself and no one else, which is obviously enough for me, because I keep on keeping on.

However, occasionally, I receive emails/comments that make me feel, even if just for a brief moment, that I’m not just blindly throwing this stuff out into the universe. People are reading and sometimes, it helps them feel better or laugh at my idiocy or see me in a different, more understanding light. These things make me very happy, because I am the type of narcissistic jerk who writes a personal blog and I therefore love attention, especially the positive kind.

Recently, I got an email that asked me what I would trade to get rid of my acne, once and for all. If presented with the opportunity to banish this thing that has haunted me for my entire adult life, what would I give up to have clear skin?

I thought it was a fascinating question, considering the answer has changed dramatically over the years.

I’ve had acne on and off for about 14 years – I was 14 when I got my first pimple. I’ve spent an obscene amount of time thinking that I would give anything to rid of it. To finally feel good about myself. To get the kinds of attention my high school friends got. I would have given up any accomplishment, any personality quirk, anything to feel pretty, normal, young. I just wanted to be normal, dammit.

But strangely, right this minute, I can say that I wouldn’t give up anything (except most sugar, dairy, and coffee, of course). Despite all of the skin issues, I have lived a very fortunate life and have friends and loves all over the world and I’m funny and interesting and have okay feet. I am happy. I don’t think I’d want to sacrifice anything I have to earn better skin.

My aunt once told me that everyone has a cross to bear, and at the time, I thought it was a really insensitive thing to say to me, as I cried about my red, bleeding acne. No one else I knew had to carry their cross on their face. Now, though, I agree with her. Everyone has their crippling issues – and in comparison, I am okay with mine. They are more visible maybe, but they are manageable. I am safe, I am loved, I am not in pain (most of the time).

I’d love to be finished with this once and for all, but I couldn’t risk anything else in my life.

Maybe that means I’m not a total mental case about it anymore.

Thank God for small miracles.

Fringe.

In keeping with the recent tone of this blog, which is one of emotional chaos and instability, I am going to follow up a supremely emo post about the day my family found out I’d decided to divorce my husband with a post about hair! Because, obviously.

On Friday, I went from this (read: looking like deathbed-Beth from Little Women)

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to this:

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(While this is a story about bangs, it could very well also be a PSA about the dangers of fluorescent lighting.)

I think I may hate them. I knew that I would, but I did it anyway because I am so rebellious. They aren’t even really what I wanted, because my attempt to go full Zooey Deschanel was thwarted by the man charged with cutting my “fringe.” We had a long, lost in translation moment when I first sat down, when I told him what I wanted and kept demanding “bangs,” forgetting, of course, that I’m in a country where asking for things like “rides” and “bangs” means something decidedly different. When I finally pulled out my phone to show him all the photo examples I’d collected, he said, and I quote, “With your hair in this weather? No.”

I strong-armed him into what I currently have, and I’m thinking now that my first mistake was thinking bangs were a good idea. My second was trusting a man who didn’t understand half of what I was saying to attempt to cut them.

It’s been two days, and I’m already looking into creative ways to pin and braid them back. So.

At least that’s going well.

Editors Wanted.

Hellllllo, darling readers! I have a favor to ask. I’ve been told by lots of people who love me that I should try to write about the last year of my life. However, they like me a lot and are probably super biased. I am terrified of doing this, because to sift through what happened, to really look at what those experiences were like, is torture. I was effectively an empty shell for most of the time, so I barely lived them as they were happening, and even then, as numb as I was, I was crazy every second. To think about it all again in any critical way is almost too much.

But it’s been months now and I’m hoping that beginning to write about it, really write about it, will help me rip off the blinders and the bandages and start to heal.

This is where you come in. I haven’t written in any real sense for ages and I think I may be terrible at it. If you don’t mind, I’d love feedback. (But be nice, because I am such a delicate flower.)

Behold, the first attempt:

It’s late Sunday morning, and it’s pouring rain. The clouds are heavy and low, but I can still see the island out in the harbour.  I feel, for the first time in my life, like I am outside my body. I’m not really here. This is not actually happening.

I know my brother is watching from a measured distance, and I am ashamed of myself. We’re in public, making a scene in front of countless strangers, but I am humiliated only because he is here. My brother, smart, carefree, blameless, is here, and I am hysterical with grief. I am dying.

“What happened to you?” she asks, frantic, tears and rain running down her face. “You were always so responsible. Jesus, Sarah, what is wrong with you?” My mother, with the gift shop bag full of Irish wool hats and scarves still dangling from her arm, is panicking.

“Nothing happened to me,” I say, trying to keep my voice down and my face low. I am aware now of all the people around us in the park – sitting on benches, riding the carousel.

I am lying through my teeth. Everything happened to me, but they won’t believe me. In an instant, I have lost nearly twenty years. I am not a grown up now. I am a ten-year-old girl, begging her parents to have faith in her. Believe me. Hold me. Save me.

They don’t.

My dad takes a step toward me, moving in front of my mother, blocking her from view. He looks right into my face and says, kindly he thinks, “You were always such a good person, Sarah. Be a good person.”

I am more myself in this moment than I have ever been in my life. I am free. I am alive.

And no one can see it. No one understands.

I was a good person, my dad said. But not anymore.

 

The Doorway to Norway.

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Oh, Norway. The land of beautiful landscapes, gorgeous people, obscene expense, and I Farta nuts.

Thing I Loved About Norway:

It was, without a doubt, one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. It’s on par with the Scottish Highlands and the west coast of Ireland – both insanely beautiful places. My friend Cold Mountain and I spent approximately ten bajillion dollars on an all-day fjord cruise and train ride, and it was worth every damn Norwegian Krone (1016 of them, to be exact). It was so, so, so spectacular.

The fjord, from our boat:

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The mountains, from our train:

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My crappy cell phone photos absolutely do not do it justice. The whole four-day trip was worth the five hours we spent cruising in the fjord. It was just. Awesome.

The city of Bergen wasn’t too bad either.

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And I got a pastry (or three)!

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Thing I Did Not Love About Norway:

This.

Shocking News, Norway, and Toilet Fingers.

Things Of Note:

1) Filed Under “Shocker”: I bailed on the half marathon. And not even because I hate running so much (although not running crazy miles every other morning will certainly be appreciated). I’ve decided not to do it simply because I am poor, and the marathon is in Cork, Ireland, and flights from London to Cork the weekend I’d be going are upwards of £150, even on the cheapest sites. (I think it’s because it is a bank holiday, or three day weekend, in Ireland.) You’d think I would have considered this before I agreed to fly over for the weekend in the first place, but in my defense, I happen to be very close to someone who just booked a return flight between those two cities for £35, so I wasn’t expecting such a price hike. In addition, I’m saving all my pennies because this weekend

2) I’m going to Norway! One of my closest friends in all the land is in Scandinavia for a conference, and asked me to meet him in Norway for a few days. I have known this person, whom I affectionately call Cold Mountain because he is giant and also very icy, since my very first night as an undergrad in the dorms at UCLA, and it seems pretty fitting that he’ll be the first person I see from home in several months. We have absolutely no plans – the idea is to get there and find some fjords and eat a lot and take photos. I pride myself on discovering, locating, and consuming local pastries in every city I visit, so my plans for this trip are basically: hike a fjord and eat some goodies. I’m so excited. I AM SO EXCITED.

3) People tend to give me a hard time because I am a totally neurotic hypochondriac. I can’t even tell you how many times friends have tried to cajole me into doing things like walking around barefoot in a city or playing beer pong and drinking out of the same cups twenty other people just used. My answer is always, always and forever, no. No, never. I will bring my shower shoes on all the vacations. I own my craziness. It has kept me safe.

And in addition, you know what? I’m right. I’m proven right all the time. Recently, I posted about the public restroom horror that is the inside door handle. Today, I was in a bathroom at work, thoroughly scrubbing my paws, when a woman left a stall and walked proudly out of the bathroom without washing her hands, grabbing the inside door handle with her filthy toilet fingers. And she did that with me as an audience. Most of the time, I think people who normally wouldn’t care about hygiene might be shamed into it by the other people around them. This woman was unfazed.

Just imagine what people do when they are alone, and then tell me you don’t want to advocate for bathroom doors that swing out.

It’s important to have causes you believe in.

The More You Know.

Dear everyone: prepare yourselves. Today is your lucky day.

Why, you ask? Am I about to reveal the secrets of the universe? Do I have some winning lotto numbers? Are you going to suddenly realize that this blog contains the answers to every single trying, soul-wrenching question that haunts you?

Well, probably. Later. When I feel like it.

Right now, I’m mostly referring to the fact that I’m about to participate in a Liebster nomination for the second time. You know, the Liebster, in which the nominee provides eleven factoids about herself and then answers eleven questions posed by her nominator.

The reason this is so great for all of you is that I did this already, about a year and a half ago, right here, so really, you’re all getting  twenty-two factoids for the price of ten minutes of your life you’ll never get back. Small price to pay, if you ask me.

This time, I was nominated for the Liebster by a very stylish, totally gorgeous blogger I started stalking when I first began googling acne supplements. Her name is Brittany Jo and she writes over at Knee Deep In Lovely. You should go to there. Like, right now. Let me break from character for a moment and in absolute sincerity just say that I’m genuinely thrilled that she thought to tag me in her Liebster. Sometimes, I am still in awe of the connective power of the internet. Thank you, thank you, Brittany Jo!

Eleven Things You Don’t Already Know About Me:

1) I’ve been living in England for four months and I still don’t understand the coinage. When faced with having to use coins to pay for things, I literally just hold open a palm full of change and helplessly beg cashiers to handle it. And because the English are really kind and wonderful, every single person does. They handle it for me.

2) I am 27 and I still have to run up the stairs to safety when I turn off all the lights downstairs at night.

3) I am vehemently anti-sharing foods and cups. I watched five people drink from the same straw the other night and almost had a panic attack by proxy. No.

4) I used to have a list of things I had never done, and it made me feel really puritanical and high and mighty and proud of myself. Now, I keep a list of all the things I have done and my life is really rich and awesome.

5) I am incredibly blessed with some remarkably sane, wonderful friends at home in the US. I constantly reconsider my move across the world because it just doesn’t feel right to be so far away from them.

6) I could eat a bean and rice burrito for every meal for the rest of my life and never once miss other food.

7) I wear a cardigan almost every day. I LOVE CARDIGANS. So versatile. So cozy. So totally justified because: English weather.

8) As much as I hate to admit this, I’m a little judgey when children are out of control in public places. I know, I know, I don’t have them and I should shut up. But I taught twenty of them at a time for eight hours a day for years, and I know there are ways of handling crises without giving into tantrums or using force. I’ll make sure to eat lots of humble pie when my children make a habit of throwing cans of soup across grocery stores, okay?

9) I. love. Mindy. Kaling.

10) When I was 11, I won a bicycle in a phone contest through Nickelodeon, and then panicked and hung up the phone when the woman asked me for my zip code, because I didn’t know it. I never got my bike.

11) I have always handled pressure really well.

Eleven Questions I Was Asked:

1) What do you eat for breakfast?

Plain organic oatmeal with diced apple, cinnamon, and a spoonful or two of ground flaxseed. Every morning. I am nothing if not boring and gross.

2) Do you prefer emotional or physical risks?

Definitely emotional risks. I am too freaked out about bodily harm to take physical risks.

3) What are your biggest blogging challenges?

Writing about things people care about. It’s very rare that I have any real knowledge or information to share with the world. No tips, no tricks, no tutorials. Sometimes, I feel guilty subjecting people to what is just essentially a glorified diary.

4) What do you order at coffee shops?

Five months ago, the answer would have been a soy latte with an extra shot – regardless of size, always an extra shot. However, now that I’m off the juice, it’s always green tea, when I can summon up the desire to pay as much for one tea bag in a coffee shop as I’d pay for 25 at the grocery store. (Glass half empty over here.)

5) If you won the lottery, would you still work a 9-5?

Not at first. I’d get all the traveling and eating out of the way, and then probably get desperate for structure again.

 

6) If you could have either unlimited time or unlimited money, which would you pick?

Unlimited time, I think. I’m learning you don’t need a ton of money to do the things you love. What you always, always need more of, though, is time.

7) What is the purchase you regret the most?

Pretty much everything I buy, just after I buy it. I always feel like I shouldn’t be spending money, even if it’s on things like food to keep me alive.

8) Which trendy food have you gotten WAY into?

I think my trendy food of choice right now absolutely has to be specialty teas. I am all about them these days. Green tea with ginseng and raspberry. AMAZING.

9) Have you ever wanted to change your name? If so, to what?

I forced my third grade teacher to call me “Zoey” for six months. She loved it.

10) What is your favorite way to spend money?

Travel, absolutely. I’m getting really good at living on a budget all month in order to finance regular major trips. I want to get the most of living in Europe.

11) What is the most bizarre dream you’ve ever had?

When I was kid, I had a recurring dream that King Kong was juggling TVs in our garage. Please, someone, interpret that for me.

 

Photo Phriday.

I’m not particularly fired up about anything that happened in my own life this week. I did, however, find out some exceptionally awesome news about a new, life changing development for one of my closest friends in the world. This person kept me from completely losing my mind last year, and I am (quite seriously) forever indebted to her. I am so, so thrilled for her. I am also conveniently making it all about me. Getting huge news from home is bittersweet – I am so excited that it’s happening and also a little bit devastated by how much I’m giving up to be here. There is enormous, wonderful life happening for my people and I am too far away to participate in it.

Nothing earth shattering here (other than battling some pretty epic homesickness). I’ve been super busy with work and have managed to keep up with the running, gradually adding mileage, still terrible at pacing myself, still feel like my bones are grinding into dust. I realized while out yesterday that I’d run 4.5 miles in about 30 minutes, which put me at around 7-minute miles. That most certainly does not need to be happening. I’m hoping, come race day, I’ll be forced into a pace by the pack of other idiots running this thing with me.

And there will now officially be a race day, as I just registered yesterday. I think I was secretly hoping to get out of having to do this. Unfortunately, that plan did not go well.

Last weekend, I went to the southern coast and hiked and ate and meandered with some new friends (yes: friends!). It was a gorgeous day. England has its moments.

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Last night, I went to a fancy gala fundraiser for a department at the university, and did my own eye makeup. Forgive me. I am so proud of myself.

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And, in case you all thought I was some classy, make-up doing success now, here’s a text I sent this week:

unnamed-4It’s the little things.