Earlier this summer I registered to take a poetry class through Coursera, a “company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.”
“Hot diggity,” I responded, as I Facebooked and Tweeted my findings. “I’mma get in on this sweet, sweet learning action lickety split!”
The first class I signed up for, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo) is taught by Al Filreis through the University of Pennsylvania, and the course description sounded right up my alley:
This course is a fast-paced introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry, from Dickinson and Whitman to the present. Participants (who need no prior experience with poetry) will learn how to read poems that are supposedly “difficult.”
Fast-paced? Poetry? No experience necessary? Wahoo! All that would be required to complete the course would be submitting four short essays, commenting on other students’ submissions, passing weekly quizzes, and participating in the discussion forums. Easy peasy, and fun to boot! If, you know, you enjoy writing essays, commenting on things, taking quizzes, and participating in discussions.
Which I totally do.
As do thousands of folks who are still learning English, and a bunch’a weirdos intent on dumbing down the Facebook end of the experience…
Things I Have Learned From Joining ModPo’s Facebook Group
1. There Are Not Enough OTE Mods/Admins
For about one hora gloriosa the other semana, I played make-believe as a Spanish-speaking T.A. for a handful of Facebook group members who are using ModPo in part as an opportunity to work on their English. It’s an admirable goal with the unfortunate side-affect of making me feel like a useless layabout for never having attempted any such thing in an effort to work on my Spanish.
It was fun getting to know a few of my ESL classmates a little better through that experience, and I enjoyed it on both a social and an educational level. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how the lack of Other Than English mods/admins throughout the Coursera universe might be impacting the experience of those students hoping to use Coursera as an English exercise.
Mostly I’m picturing hands being thrown in the air “I give up!” style across the globe, Google Translate tabs slamming closed in browsers worldwide.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Coursera “should” or “must” provide OTE support, particularly since Coursera doesn’t market itself as a “work on your English” resource, so it’s not like it’s failing to supply something it promised in not having live translators on hand for real-time assistance. Plus I have no idea how it is being funded or how much money it is actually making, and real-time human translation services are notoriously expensive. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to offer a website and services entirely in English, or Dutch, or Guarani… I’m just wondering if such an effort- providing OTE mods- would be possible for some of the classes with higher numbers of students, and if expending that effort might pay off in the long run for Coursera and similar sites.
2. Even Poetry Attracts Trolls
Hoping to engage in a thoughtful discussion about a question someone raised about the poem everyone is currently reading? Too bad!
but I inform: if, I will see in essays in context something about : word-killer, precious stone and poem, diamond and poem or else, what I have written, I will shame you for all over the world.
That’s right. If during the course of the discussion any of the participants should draw similar conclusions from reading the same poem, and if any of those shared conclusions should appear in any of the participants’ future comments or essays, there is no other possible recourse for this particular troll but to shame the alleged offender on a global scale for stealing their ideas.
Or if you are participating in a thread and would like to point out that you think Classmate A and Classmate B “are very inspirational locutors“? Be prepared to be informed that you are wrong because, frankly, “they are absolutely standart thinking people -it’s complitely boring.“
Say that in a meatspace classroom. Please. I dare you.
And don’t bother asking these self-righteous poetry trolls to stay on subject, to keep non-productive and exclusionary comments to themselves, or to behave like adults. Your requests will only be met by such gems as “this idea everywhere is in internet…about innovation. may be your own ideas?” Or the dare to “block me. any perssonmay just block.” Or perhaps it’s time for the “how many Universities have you graduated from ?” challenge.
Wheaton’s Law: It also applies in poetry forums, ass, and you are breaking it with fantastic regularity.
Things I Have Learned From Reading ModPo’s Official Forums
1. Whatever you wanted to say in the forums? Yeah, it’s already been said. About 10,000 times.
I’m having trouble tracking down the exact figures, but the last estimate I saw for the number of registered ModPo students was hovering somewhere around 30,000. That’s right: 30,000 people from all over the world participating in discussions on the course’s forum page, submitting essays, and taking quizzes.
On the one hand: This is awesome and encouraging and crazy and inspiring and gives the international poetry community an approachable and familiar feel and I love love love it and am so glad things like Coursera exist and that people like Filreis are so excited about blazing new trails in online learning and I can’t wait to see how this model develops in the coming years.
On the other hand: Anything you think of to say in a discussion thread? It’s been said. Any question you want to ask? It’s been asked. Any idea you find yourself puzzling through? Spoiler alert! It’s been unpuzzled, and if you are participating as directed you will come across myriad possible conclusions, including your own. Any thought you were developing has already been written out- short form and long form- by literally hundreds, even thousands, of your classmates. So that “participate in the forums” part of passing the class? Maybe you’ve got something new to add, Genius, but me? Yeah, ain’t nothing I can add that’s not already in there a hundred times over, and more clearly and eloquently expressed than anything you’d ever wring out of me.
Presenting an idea or question first isn’t necessarily an ideal solution either, however, as whatever you have to ask or add will be met by the same trollish horseshit (please pardon my French, Christie) addressed above.
For example (using actual quotes from discussions in the Facebook forum) (I know I know the Facebook forum is not the official forum):
Classmate B: (Thoughtful reply offering up gratitude, further exploration, and new questions.)
Troll: poor Emily [Dickinson], she couldn’t even imagine that her brilliant poetry will be dissected into small bones and this brilliant monolithic poem will be broken into separate words…God..poor Emily. dig, dig dig with dissection her poetry, losing it’s spirit…dig to nowhere..good luck :) Could you be so kind and tell the meaning of this popem using two sentences ?
Classmate A: (Two sentence reply offering a well-constructed summary of the piece.)
Troll: I have asked to depict , to show your idea using two senteces.Sorry, I will not even read this. good luck. how to say the truth in a soft way , in rush way : you are daun and stupid. How it will be on your opinion with YOUR interpretation of E.D. how to tell truth to people ? LOL, know what wanted Emily Dickinson? have you been on spiritualistic seance with E.D. ? I have asked you a very concrete question and wait your answer on it
Classmate B: I am going to assume that you are not meaning to be rude, since English is not your first language. However, your previous comments are coming across as extremely rude and insulting.
Troll: I have already blocked about 5 idiots, who are really mentally retarded))..I am just enjoying of stupiiidity, reading all this ))) what are you doing with E.D. brillian poetry I am FRANK and complitely DIRECT
See, now that’s your problem right there: You’re a mentally retarded idiot whose replies are stupiiid and you are unable to deal with fellow classmates who are simply being frank and direct with you.
I’m sorry, but who wants to participate in a discussion when trolls are interrupting conversations, derailing threads, mocking fellow participants, and decrying attempts to dissect poems even though THAT IS THE POINT OF THE CLASS?
I don’t mean to say the environment is always this hostile. While there is certainly a sad abundance of awkwardly inappropriate participants (here’s lookin’ at you, Facebook trolls), there is also a tremendous number of people in this course who present such brilliant ideas and feedback it’s a wonder they’re not teaching their own poetry classes.
I do mean to say I think a classroom- whether IRL or online- is not the place for this sort of behavior and my personal opinion is that participants like this, whether in official forums or officially sanctioned forums like the one on Facebook, should be given the ol’ heave-ho so they can stop wasting everyone’s time and making our “classroom” ugly every time they sit down at their keyboards.
And by “everyone,” I of course mean THIRTY-THOUSAND PEOPLE required to offer individual insight after reading thousands of others say what they were thinking.
2. Words, Words, Words
We recently received the question for our first essay writing assignment, and have been advised that we are expected to write at least a 500 word response. 500 words? Awesome. Short, sweet, to the point. A totally reasonable expectation.
For the students, that is.
‘Cause that’s 500 words (minimum) x 30,000 students for a potential total of at least 15,000,000 words being turned in for this assignment. Assuming an average reading speed of 250 words per minute, it would take 60,000 minutes, or 1,000 hours just to read all the essays if every student participates as directed, let alone the time required to weigh in on them. For comparison’s sake, there are 168 hours in a week, during which time the professor and the TAs are also expected to participate in the forums; prepare, administer, and grade quizzes; record, edit, and upload videos of themselves discussing the assigned readings; and teach and attend other classes.
If Coursera has developed a way to make this work, that’s great. And probably also magical. But I can’t help feeling like this is a an implausible load to lay on any professor, regardless of the subject matter. Regardless, even, of the fact that this isn’t an actual college class offering college credit. I almost feel like I need to offer my condolences with each essay I turn in, along with links to stress relief tips and pictures of the candles I’ve lit for the TAs.
One alternative is that there is no actual expectation that the profs and TAs will read all the essays, but in that case I find myself scratching my head about the point of requiring the assignments in the first place. Sure it gets students thinking about the subject matter, and who doesn’t benefit from a directed writing exercise? Lord knows I do! But why bother developing the infrastructure of tracking assignments when most of them will, of necessity, go completely by the wayside? I wouldn’t call it an exercise in futility, necessarily, but perhaps a warm-up…
Another alternative is that they’re counting on most of the students to not fully participate. But that sure seems like a shaky bet around which to plan a semester in a system that is still being developed. And I’d rather believe they’re not banking on most of us slacking off, even though, ya’ know, we probably are. I mean– I know I am.
Third alternative: Peer evaluation? I just hope it’s the thoughtful students and not the trolls doing the evaluating…
Ah… but I still love poetry. I still love the idea of online learning. And I still want this class to work- for Coursera, for Filreis, and for me. So I’ll keep trying. I’ll return to the forums, dive into the boards (ignoring the fact that accusations of plagiarism have already garnered us an official memo on the subject), submit my essays to the (potential) void, and enjoy the fact that at the very least I tried something new and saw it to completion.
And I’m a big girl! I can flag the trolls and move on. I can enjoy essay writing for its own sake. I can even ignore the perpetual TMIers. (Hi! I’m Linda from Seattle and I’m deaf because of injuries I sustained when a co-worker pushed me in front of a car, which I forgave him for because my therapist says I’m trying to compensate for my uncontrollable flatulence and psychosomatic allergies to all animals, which just kills me because I have dedicated my life to rescuing animals and cannot imagine parting with my eight dogs, four cats, six rabbits, twelve birds, or my goat. Also I love poetry.) (That was neither a direct quote, nor an exaggeration.)
But for now I think probably the most realistic description of how I’ll use this course is as a passenger-seat test-drive of how this whole “online learning” thing works. I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me, so the likelihood I’ll finish the essay on time is low, and as much as I enjoy being on the internet I have never gotten into forums or message boards, so the likelihood I’ll engage in that fashion is even lower. But for the price of Free? I’m up for a test drive.
Vroom vroom, Coursera…
ETA: A ModPo member just posted this link to a very positive, pro-Coursera write-up on edcetera. If you’re considering signing up for a class through Coursera, I’d strongly encourage you to check out this link. It discusses a lot of the strongest points of the Coursera format and will be sure to get you excited about your upcoming studies!
There is no lift like that
No urgency like that
This sun bakes low
A Calm Sea.
I wish each sound
So far the most fun part of moving has been setting up my new “living room.” There’s just something about getting a fresh start with organizing my bookshelves that leaves me feeling all giggly and excited!
If we’ve been friends for any significant amount of time you are most likely already familiar with my love of organizing and list-making. If we haven’t known each other long, or we have but you were too distracted by my ferrets to notice, no worries; consider this your crash course.
Living Room, View 1: Desk
- Red: Philosophy
- Pink: Education
- Orange: Writing
- Yellow: Crossword Puzzles
- Green: Journals, notebooks, stationary
- Dark Blue: Dream dictionaries and theory
- Light Blue: Dictionaries
- Dark Purple: Language, style guides
- Light Purple: Grammar textbooks, poetry/ prose collections/ reviews
White Circles (L to R)
- A picture of Jenny K. and me after a performance of The Actor’s Nightmare at Carroll University. We played Sarah and Ellen, though Lord knows I can’t remember who was who any more.
- A ceramic piggy bank I got at an Irish fair with my high school boyfriend; Susan, the talking Aflac duck I got from one of their reps peddling their wares at a former job. I got her for answering a question correctly. When I answered a second question correctly the rep offered me a larger duck. *pfft* As if I could part with Susan!
- A seashell my friend Sarah M. brought back for me in high school from her family’s vacation to Florida, during which her appendix burst. Whoops!
- The Orrefors candle holders my great-grandma Ruth brought over with her from Sweden. My parents passed them down to me last Christmas.
- A picture of the ladies of The Actor’s Nightmare: Jenny K. (Sarah? Ellen?), Mariya G. (director), Kate G. (Meg), me.
- A flower-covered woven thing I wore on my head for the Ophelia costume I wore to a party at Corey R.’s house in high school.
Living Room, View 2: Bookshelves
- Red: Fiction, literature study
- Pink: Poets and poetry
- Orange: Sociology, miscellaneous non-fiction, politics
- Yellow: Gender studies; CDs
- Dark Green: Remodeling, house styles, interior decorating; a gigantic dictionary
- Light Green: DVDs
- Dark Blue: Fiction
- Light Blue: Arty things
- Purple: Videos (The rest are inside the cabinet below.)
White Circles (L to R)
- Votive candle holders I got from my Uncle Steve years ago. He also gave me a decorative bag of scented, orange votives to go with them, which I’ve hesitated to burn since he passed away last December. I know they’re just candles, but it feels strange to think of using up something that cannot be replaced.
- A baby walrus on its mother’s back. This ceramic beauty has been in my collection for over twenty years now. It set me back a whole buck at the local dollar store on a shopping trip with my Mimi when I was about seven years old. I don’t know what prompted me to buy it, though the interest I would later develop in The Beatles certainly made room for it.
- A long dead lighting instrument I grabbed (with Scott B.’s permission!) from the upper storage space at Carroll University during a work day. I have two of them, actually. I like to think about all the exciting moments they lit up, all the stories that are never retold the same way twice, all the effort and laughter and tears. I won’t keep them forever, but I’ll keep them for now. They’ve seen so much. More than you or I ever will.
- A stuffed pig my mom received from a student ten or so years ago. Somehow I ended up with it.
- My senior year of high school our theatre department attended a theatre workshop at Wisconsin Lutheran College. One of the available sessions dealt with mask-making and masked performance. I hadn’t planned to take that class, so my attendance turned out to be one of those “happy accidents.” I believe Deborah Solomon-Phillips led that session. Every part of the exercise taught me something. I settle the mask onto my face every couple of years to see if it still fits. It does, but only on the outside.
- A light saber from a friend and former employer, Jennifer C. Yes, everyone at work had one. Yes, we had battles with them when we were done having Koosh wars and playing hide and seek.
Living Room, View 3: Couches
- Red: Miscellaneous books
- Pink: Photo albums
- Orange: Records
White Circles (L to R)
- A picture of Jenny K. and I at the Carroll Players’ annual Theatre Banquet her junior and my senior year. She has always been just the cutest stinkin’ thing. Love that girl.
- Somehow I ended up with two of Jennifer’s light sabers…
- A wire basket of dried flowers from Donna D. Ah, but from which show, which show…
- A purple Ao Po’i table runner I bought with Christie H. at a shop in Itauguá (though it may’ve been elsewhere; those last few days are a bit of a blur!) during my trip to Paraguay this past January.
- A picture of Amanda H., Brent J., and me at the Blood Center on September 11, 2001. Everyone wanted to do something helpful, something positive, something proactive… but what? The lines at the center were long. We were put on a waiting list and told to come back hours later, which we did. They couldn’t tap my first elbow, so they bandaged it up and moved on to the other one. After drawing a pint of my spaghetti sauce blood they bandaged up that elbow, too, leaving me unable to bend my arms. You can’t see it in this zoomed out image, but in the picture Amanda is holding up my juice for me so I can drink from the straw.
- A turtle candle Jessica C. gave me for my birthday some time during high school; a Speech Meet trophy for first place in Humorous Interpretation.
Is there anything one can possibly do on a computer that feels more mentally fulfilling than completing a detailed list?! Ahh… Refreshing as an ice-cold lemonade after a summertime lawn mowing!
I, uh– I haven’t ever actually mowed an entire lawn…
The bedroom still looks like it was attacked by sea monsters despondent over their banishment to land. But never fear, Nerdfighters: Further bookshelf pictures will make their way up here as soon as I’m done hanging up all my clothes and sorting my non-fiction!
If you’ve tried getting in touch with me over the past couple weeks via email, texts, Facebook messages, voice mail, game requests, or showing up and banging on my door, there’s a fair chance I’ve pushed your patience to the limit with my lengthy reply times.
Sorry about that. See the thing is: I was busy moving.
Back into my parents’ house.
I wasn’t working, things were tight, and it was downright painful watching one carefully saved dollar after another get sucked up into rent payments. I gave my landlord my notice and spent the next two weeks in manic “cleaning/ packing/ hauling/ unloading/ dragging upstairs/ taking the empty boxes back to my apartment/ repacking them” mode, day in and day out until by the end I was ready to set up a dumpster under my balcony and shovel everything into it just to be done.
When you’re limited to a set number of packable containers and the back of a Toyota Matrix, moving can be a bit of a slow process. But thanks to the help of the fam and my boyfriend (who brought along a rental truck for my furniture; aww baby you get me the nicest things!) I was able to get everything moved out, and moved in, in the span of about ten days.
Mom even helped with the post-packing clean-up.
And wouldn’t you know this is the sight that greeted us as she and I drove the absolute last carload of stuff to the house:
I have to say I’m pretty happy about the whole thing. My folks and I get along well so that’s not an issue, and I can’t even finish the sentence “Don’t wait up” without them interrupting to remind me they don’t care and to have a nice time.
I’ve moved my bedroom and half my books into my old bedroom in their upstairs, and my living room and the other half of my books into my brother’s old bedroom next door, while the upstairs bathroom now houses the 47,000 bottles of shampoos, lotions, creams, and solutions I’m currently working my way through. I get a spot in the garage, a dog to nap on my stuff, a yard to run around in, a patio to read on in the sun, a kitchen that fits more than one grown adult at a time, my parents’ company (I like ‘em, what can I say?), a sizable living space in the basement for the ferrets, and a decided lack of drunk people passing out just inside the front door.
While I certainly miss the feeling of autonomy that accompanied having my own place, and while I am more than just a little broken up about not having the ferrets thieving their way in and out of our shared personal space throughout the day any more, I have to say this move seems to have been a GREAT thing for me to do right now and I’m really happy about it.
There’s been plenty more keeping me busy now that I’m moved in and mostly unpacked, but that’s best left for another post as it’s already almost midnight and something about living here makes me ready for bed at awkwardly early hours. (Case in point: I paused to yawn at least five times while writing that sentence.) I’m even taking naps again. It’s like my body realizes my brain feels safe and is ready to get healthy. And I like that.
I like it all.
So I have this Hoover Elite Rewind Bagless Upright (aka HERBU) vacuum, right?
And I’m on Pinterest, right?
Now I know you don’t want to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway because it needs to be said: Not every household tip on Pinterest works.
Case in point: Pins advocating the use of baking soda to “freshen” up your carpet. Pardon me while I “bah.”
The idea is you sprinkle the baking soda on your carpet, let it sit for a while to absorb any odors, then vacuum it up. Except it doesn’t work. Or at least– it didn’t work for me and my “Bagless design with E-Z Empty Bottom Release Dirt Cup.” Five minutes into vacuuming and my dirt canister and filter were so clogged with the fine powder I’d fed them that it up and turned off. No whirring, no dying down slowly; just on, and then not on.
*shakes fist at Pinterest*
I’ve been using my HERBU for a little over five years now, so naturally I don’t expect it to operate the same way it did when it was new. I have to say, though, that I’m a little disappointed at how entirely overwhelmed it now becomes over the simplest of vacuuming expeditions. These days I can’t even complete the living room in my apartment without having to flip this puppy over and fish out all the carpet fuzz it has sucked up and then not been able to process.
If your HERBU is giving you grief and you’ve stumbled across this page in your search for fixes for our HEPA-filtered friend, the advice I can offer you is limited, but a good place to start:
1) You’ve emptied the canister, right? Okay. Just checking.
2) You’ve removed the filter from inside the yellow plastic thingy, checked it for gunky stuff, and then washed and dried the yellow plastic thingy, right? No? Try that real quick. I’ll wait.
3) Time to check the hose and make sure it’s fully attached to the vacuum and that the open end is “plugged in” all the way. No holes in the hose either, right? Good.
4) Better give the cord a good once-over while you’re at it. If that thing’s shot, man– I vote you go get an entirely new vacuum. Fixing those things is a hassle, and you don’t have time for hassles. You’re too busy reading blogs.
5) It could be that the dirt, carpet fuzz, hair, jewelry, etc. you’ve been sucking up has gotten backed up somewhere between the rotating carpet brush and the collection canister. Time to grab a Phillips head screwdriver and check it out. To do this…
Lay the HERBU on its back and locate the five screws holding the black, plastic shield in place on the bottom of the machine. Unscrew ‘em and pop that sucker right off. If you feel like you really need to force it, double check that you’ve removed all the screws; it should come off fairly easily. (Looking at the picture I couldn’t remember where the last two screws were, but I think I have the arrows pointing to the correct spots.)
All the disgusting stuff you’ve been sucking up with this thing over the years gets funneled into the dirt canister via the hose opening inside the large orange rectangle (pictured). Empty this as best you can. Because of the proximity of the brush to the hose opening it’s sort of hard to get in there with just your fingers. I used a pair of needle-nose pliers to loosen everything up and pull it all out, but a pencil, a chopstick, or even your screwdriver will do the trick. All told I yanked out a pile of very densely packed vacuum grossness about 8″ across and about 4″ deep. How that thing ever did any work with all that nastiness mucking up the works is beyond me.
Once you’ve tried all of the above steps- presuming your HERBU also has a fondness for hording crap and nonsense- give your vacuum another go.
And if these steps didn’t do the trick? God help ya’, honey, ’cause I sure can’t.
Sunset Playhouse‘s annual Event I Can Never Remember the Name Of is coming up this Saturday. I’ve turned in my ballot for Best [___], and chosen which dress I shall wear (grandma’s cast-off), leaving naught else to do save answer the following questions that arrived with my invitation:
“Tell us something about you…”
Well for starters I’m a Pisces, Year of the Dog. I don’t put any stock into that sort of thing, mind you. I just thought you should know those things about me in case they mean anything to you. When I was three years old a dog bit me in the face, leaving a row of short scars from my eyebrow to my chin. One day I’d like to rent a cottage in the Appalachian Mountains for a few weeks and just write. I like my pizzas deep dish, my theatre community, my screwdrivers sonic, and my sagas set in space.
“Your favorite story from the season”
I was only involved in one show at Sunset this past season- 6 Degrees of Separation- so I hope you’re up for tales with a limited scope.
- I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much fancy-pants candy as I did during rehearsals for 6 Degrees. Every day we’d show up to a decadent sugar buffet courtesy of Jim Santelle and Sendick’s, and every day we’d clean that sucker out. And then there were the people there like Donna Daniels, man. They wear their little khaki pants, you know? And their little cardigans? And they drink their tea and they eat their veggie snacks and you think they’d never belly up to a processed sugar smorgasbord. But wouldn’t you know she totally did every time? Admittedly she wasn’t matching the rest of us bite-for-bite, but I will say this: Girl is not afraid to put away a few sweets. Admirably so.
- And then there were the nights when it was time to go home, but it wasn’t time to go home. It was time to congregate outside the door to the back parking lot to shoot the breeze for an hour over bottles of Red Stripe while the bad kids smoked and the short kids had their pictures taken next to the tall kids.
- The good times weren’t restricted to post-practice rolling, much to our collective great fortune. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled into the parking lot before rehearsal to find our director, Jim Farrell, sitting out in the grass with Spence Mather, the two of them swapping stories and guitars. As our 7pm start time ticked closer and more cast members arrived, the number of lawn hippies would increase. The stories that went around the circle are theirs to share, but I will offer you a prompt: Track down Joan End some time and ask her how not to dispose of a cigarette while traveling. Bad to the bone, that one.
- And then there was the party at Jim Santelle’s. Oh Jim Santelle, sender of eloquent emails and hero of high-school smokers everywhere: You are great! And your stove is great! And your books are great! And I love your taste in fruit trays and cheesecake decorations!
- Then there was the time after we opened when I dreamed my mom and I gave JFare and his non-existent elementary school-age daughters a ride back home to their Tuscan villa in a community of theatre folks, all tucked away past miles of farms and fields and hills. The girls wanted to show me their room and their books, then wanted to share their cake. I’m more of a brownie person, but that was some mighty fine cake.
- Plus we acted in a play, which was pretty cool. (This’un is mighty good for monologue mining for anybody with auditions coming up.)
“How you found Sunset”
I’ll be here all week.
But seriously, folks…
I graduated from Carroll University- though we called it Carroll College in those days- back in aught-four. Toward the end of the school year an event was held honoring department chair Dave Molthen, complete with a snack table and places to sit, so naturally plenty of Carroll theatre alumni came to call. Among them was Mark Salentine, the fella who’d directed me in The Nerd my second semester at Carroll. A bit of a nerd himself, I quite liked the man. One of those sorts you can’t help but smile about. So when I learned he’d be directing Cabaret at Sunset that summer I decided to have a go at auditions, in spite of my being neither a singer nor a dancer. And wouldn’t you know the fool cast me?
And that was it. One show was all it took. Cabaret came and went and left me hooked, and I’ve been going back ever since. Occasionally racing head over heels toward my own disaster. Ask me some time where it still hurts from Noises Off!…
“Why you volunteer”
Yeah, I mean… I’m gonna keep doing it, I’m just sayin’ if they offered me a paycheck I wouldn’t turn it down, kapeesh?
“What you love about Sunset”
There’s nothing quite like having a hobby where the Venn Diagram of the cool kids and the weird kids is a circle, and Sunset has its fair share of both.
For me, Sunset has had a “home base” feel ever since the first time I crept off-key, and off-beat, through “The Telephone Song” for Donna Kummer, my heart in my throat, my throat in my sinuses, my brain long since flown into hiding so I’d never be able to fully reconstruct my memories of that particular part of the rehearsal experience. The rest of it, though? Not nearly as scary. Brilliantly fun, even. I’d never have believed you if you’d told me I could have such a blast doing so many new, difficult things in front of hundreds of people at a time for weeks on end. But then I did it. And it was wonderful.
It was all wonderful. Every show. There hasn’t been a single one that hasn’t fulfilled some acting dream, or given me a reason to spend countless hours plugging away at exciting work with lovely people, or proven to me that yes I can memorize a stupidly large number of lines. Shows like:
- Bedroom Farce, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
- Rehearsal for Murder, where I got to run around in a robe while married to Ken Smith
- The Seven Year Itch, where I got to run around in a nightie while haunting Brian Zelinski
- Jake’s Women, where I got to run around in flats while my boyfriend was haunted by Coleen Tutton
- Noises Off!, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
- It’s A Wonderful Life, where I got to run around in wigs while my husband was haunted by himself
- 6 Degrees of Separation, where I got to SUFFER OUTRAGEOUS EMOTIONAL TORMENT AS THE ONLY TRULY INNOCENT VICTIM
Themes. I’m sensing themes…
Really it’s the people, though, that made those experiences so memorable for me. The directors, the designers, the crews, the other actors, the beautiful, beautiful audiences. I forget all my lines within two weeks of a show closing, but the people I keep with me forever, tucked away in random brain folds, smiling and laughing and shining.
I love how you all shine.
“Funniest backstage antic”
I– I mean I can’t… Aw geez.
I can’t even begin to think of how to answer this one. Randall Anderson’s slot machine anecdote comes to mind, and Jim Bloomingdale and Mark Salentine with sleeves full of shaving cream are floating around up there too. But as with most great “backstage” stories, the element that made the moment truly magical is lost in the retelling, especially if the tale can’t be acted out since most of the hilarity occurs in silence.
That is, you hope it occurs in silence.
I’ll tell you what: I’ll see what stories come up at Saturday’s Annual Theatre Volunteer Annual Event for Theatre, and if there are any that can stand on their own without the aid of miming and the quaking laughter of onlookers, I’ll post one or two of them here. ’S'good?
*Read about 2009′s Annual Theatre Thingy here: The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards
I was looking for a book at the library. I found it, but the cover art and dust jacket description totally turned me off so I took home the book next to it instead; I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, by Barbara Sher. Don’t feel badly, Other Book; it happens.
I Could Do Anything… description from Amazon:
A life without direction is a life without passion. The dynamic follow-up to the phenomenal best-seller Wishcraft, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (the New York Times Bestseller) guides you, not to another unsatisfying job, but to a richly rewarding career rooted in your heart’s desire. And in a work of true emancipation, this life-changing sourcebook reveals how you can recapture “long lost” goals, overcome the blocks that inhibit your success, decide what you want to be, and live your dreams forever!
As many of you know I’ve been looking for a new job of late. There is always more than one reason to conduct such a search, and most of the time those reasons are uninteresting unless you’re a) the one experiencing them, or b) the one asking about them in a job interview, so I’ll spare you, Gentle Reader, by leaving them out. You’re welcome.
With my job search in mind I performed a few of the exercises in Sher’s book, then decided to go out on a limb- breaking every goal attainment rule in the process- and share my responses. I’m doing this because goodness knows I process information best when it’s weighed and measured in thoughtful discussion (I’m counting on you, Nerdfighters!), but also because I’m eager to read how youwould answer the following questions and can hardly ask you to share your responses unless I’m willing to share my own first. Right? Right.
Ready? Let’s go!
Chapter 3: Resistance, or What’s Stopping You, Anyway?
Exercise #1: Meaningful Work
Here Sher asks readers to write down what the world considers “meaningful work.” She goes on to say “…in the back of your mind is the thought that somehow you have to make a contribution to something, be acknowledged, do something that matters–or you’re just fooling around.” I wrote down what I consider “meaningful work” since, frankly, the idea of pursuing a path simply because the world considers it meaningful sounds exhausting and a little silly.
For work to be meaningful to me…
- It must involve creating something new, which will hopefully be acknowledged by its intended audience as 1) truly different from its alternatives, and 2) helpful.
- It must involve working with people, either in person or through the written word, to help them understand something better, or appreciate and be enriched by something they hadn’t previously given much thought.
Exercise #2 Part A: The Job from Heaven
Sher instructs readers to include what the job entails, where it would be performed, and who it would be performed with, and not to ”limit [themselves] with reality or practicality, because this is Fantasy Time.”
- Blogging about every day life
- Travel writing on back road gems, Americana road trip culture, and introducing readers to towns that barely make it to the map
- Publishing interviews/mini-biographies on “folks” I meet along the way. Not the rich, not the famous, just the folks.
- Reading to kids at the library, homeschool groups, churches, etc.
- On my laptop at the table in my ground floor hotel room with the curtains open no matter how drab the parking lot outside
- In a notepad during walking tours
- On my laptop at a large, clean desk in a home office. A home office with a door that locks, plenty of natural light, a love seat, a coffee table, an electric tea kettle, and lots of green and wood and overflowing bookshelves and a giant map of the U.S. painted onto one of the walls. A home office outside the big city, on the edge of a small town– maybe even just outside of it– but with easy access to the city, the library, the theatre, and maybe a local museum or two.
- When writing I need to be alone, but when traveling I prefer the buddy system
I think I may have missed the point ever so slightly because “Fantasy Time” this ain’t. Is it too late to tack on something like “…and spend every other week riding horses in India and make $80 gajillion dollars a year”? Or should I just be glad that my dream job is more realistically attainable than, say Ballerina or Astronaut?
Exercise #2 Part B: The Job from Hell
- Processing bills. AP, AR, doesn’t matter. If I had my druthers I wouldn’t process payments.
- Scheduling international travel itineraries
- Customer service (for past-due payment collection) over the phone
- Answering a multi-line phone
- Being the final decision maker on things involving big costs and make-it-or-break-it deadlines
- Business professional dress code
- Long hours on weekdays, with lots of weekend shifts and mandatory overtime to top it off
- Working for a company which creates goods or provides services I care nothing about, or which I actively dislike
- In a cube farm surrounded by windowless gray or institution-green walls
- In a large metropolitan area
- In a building with more than four stories, or with a configuration that necessitates taking an elevator to my floor
- In a room that’s always extremely loud or always silent
- More than a half hour commute in bumper to bumper traffic
- Intense, high pressure coworkers who start the day stressed out
- Coworkers who are cool and stand-offish and who don’t want to sit with me at lunch or show me the ropes when I’m learning my job
- Coworkers who are perpetually dramatic, narcissistic, jealous, who harbor cruel opinions, and who are more mouth than eyes and ears
- Screaming customers upset about issues I have no power to correct or change
- So many coworkers I can never hope to know all their names
- Supervisors who make politics part of the job, with the understanding that agreement is the first step to advancement
Two things struck me about the second part of this activity: 1) I was surprised (and slightly embarrassed!) at how much easier it was to come up with the things I don’t want, and 2) the “professional” skill set I’ve spent the last nine years developing lends itself to the kinds of jobs that fit this bill. Uh-oh…
Chapter 4: The Sure Thing
Exercise #1: What Are Your Escape Dreams?
Per Sher, “…make sure they’re true fantasies, and not practical in any way… Escape dream[s hold] a powerful clue to something you really need. It’s like a photo film negative of your life. Whatever in your life is missing, wherever a blank spot exists, it shows up in this fantasy. …[W]e should do something about what’s missing. Because if you don’t use that information to improve your life, you’re using escape dreams to help you avoid life.“
Yeah, I can see that.
- My escape dream involves having enough money in the bank that my needs are met; enough that I can afford to travel simply on a regular basis (road trips, trips to other countries where I could stay in friends’ homes or mid-range hotels); and enough to give generously to support charities and friends’ projects and dreams; all while being able to help family members in need and to put funds aside into a retirement account and into college funds for my kids.
- In this dream I write, I read to kids, I act in plays, I road trip, I help community theatres in out-of-the-way towns to organize themselves and reach out to their communities, and travel throughout Latin America.
- I live with my husband, kids, dogs, ferrets, and home library in a ranch house somewhere out West (not the coastal west; the north/central West) where the outside of my office door is painted to look like the TARDIS, and where we own acres and acres of land that will one day go to the kids. It’s land with hills and woods and open fields and creeks and animals you don’t want to run into at night, and there’s a fenced in area and a barn where I house transient livestock rescues for the local animal shelter, and a special room to house all my ferrets, and a tree which for some reason is always filled with crows.
My constantly recurring themes? Family, Security, and Writing. Okay you three, you’ve made your point.
Chapter 6: I Want Too Many Things; I’m All Over the Map
Exercise #1: Time Management for the Person Who Loves to Do Too Many Things
This exercise is geared toward people Sher refers to as “Scanners.” These are folks who “want to taste everything. … Because our culture values… specialization and determination, we too often think of scanners as people who simply won’t get down to work. This is a foolish cultural oversight. … We’re trained to believe that we only get one choice in our lives. But to scanners, one choice sounds like someone’s saying, ‘You can have a coloring book or you can have crayons, but you can’t have both,’ and they’re onto something. Scanners know that life is not stingy. If anything, life is too generous. The choices are dizzying. But there’s a way to manage the riches.”
Part 1. If you were ten people, what would each of you do with your life?
- Documentary Filmmaker
- Wife and mother
- Something with independent ministry projects, focusing on providing education and technical training for children and young adults
Part 2. Quickly answer each of the following questions with one of your ten lives.
- Which life can you devote yourself to this coming year?
- Which life can you do when the first one is completed?
- Which activities can you do for twenty minutes or less each day?
- Which ones can you do on a weekend?
- Which ones can you do once in a while?
Naturally I was able to match up bits and pieces- or sometimes even whole “lives”- to each of those questions. And that’s the trick, isn’t it? Being faced with the fact that if you really want to do something you can probably find- or make- time to pursue it? Given that I don’t have much of a natural inclination toward the sciences, and that some of these pursuits can take years just to get the degrees necessary to engage in them for profit and to create the necessary relationships and contacts to make them fulfilling, it’s clearly unlikely that I could pursue each of the above “lives” to its fullest professional extent. But that’s okay too, because if I achieved some of them on a professional level I’d have to spend a great deal of my time doing *mostly* those things, and that wouldn’t satisfy my inner scanner either!
The book is 322 pages long and I’m only up to page 187, so I can’t speak for the whole thing. What I’ve read so far, though, has provided a thoroughly worthwhile reading experience filled with useful advice and approachable anecdotal support for the author’s opinions. It’s a charming, simple enough read, and I’m looking forward to working my way through a few more of the exercises, particularly those in Chapter 13: A Rage Against the Ordinary, and Chapter 14: The Red Herring, or Trying Hard to Love Something You Don’t Really Want.
I’d love to hear your answers to one, a few, or better still to all of the above exercises. If you’re up to playing along you can leave your responses in the comments, or provide a link in the comments to wherever you’ve answered them elsewhere. I can’t wait to read what you have to say!
So first I was all:
But then I was all:
I was stumbling through Forbes when I saw the top image, which purportedly depicts a “leader” in the act of “keep[ing] a learner’s mind.“ Clearly, right? I don’t know how it is where you’ve worked, but where I’ve worked “leaders” did not do their own filing.
A few minutes later I was at WiseBread skimming their advice on “How to Answer 23 of the Most Common Interview Questions” when I spotted the second image in an ad for Gold Peak Tea.
While I could get a giggle out of Women Laughing Alone With Salad, the images above I can actually relate to.
So how ’bout it, Internet: Can we make “Women Crying Alone With Filing Cabinets” A Thing?
ETA: Woohoo! We’re officially on our way to making this A Thing! I give you: Woman Crying Alone With Excel
I dreamed last night I found a fat, white, aquatic ferret with a black tipped tail like an ermine. Its claws were long, its fingers scaly like a lizard’s, and its teeth looked like they belonged in the jaws of a dinosaur we should be glad has gone extinct.
The creature interacted well with my current ferret brood, but kept leaving them injured after playing with them because of its deadly jaws and paws. It scurried in and out of my arms, up and down and around my torso, playful and chittery and surprisingly heavy in my hands. It was used to living under water and alone, but seemed so much to want to stay with us. It grew happier and happier, and more and more playful, even as its fur would dry and it would have to run back into a rocky pool to wet up.
And so I told it I would keep it as long as it wanted to stay.
I tried to create a place for it to live in my home, separated from my other ferrets so it wouldn’t accidentally hurt them, but every tank I found for it leaked.
Before I could find a solution, I woke up.
“Remember on this one thing, said Badger. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.”
- Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel
I fell back asleep and dreamed I was taken- not with force, but not by choice- onto a giant, steel ship. I was lead below deck to a giant passenger hold like a commuter car on a puddle jumper train. There was an empty seat to my left, so I took it and belted in. And then strapped in. And then belted in some more. What was this? Why all the extra safety measures for simply sitting in a seat on an enormous boat?
I looked up, and the ceiling above my head was a window full of twilit clouds and sky. The captain’s voice came over the speakers all around announcing that all personnel should find their seats because we were about to dive.
It was a submarine?
I looked up through the window. We dove. I could not determine the angle of our descent, except that I knew it must have been sharp as the ocean around us was almost immediately tar dark through the windows at each row of seats. I checked the ceiling view again. No stars, no sky, not even water. Just blackness. I pictured the window above me cracking and wondered if pressure or drowning killed more quickly.
“God? I love you.”
I gripped my arm rests, ready to die there in the unavoidable rush of an unchosen sea.
The captain’s voice came on again to say we would continue to take on passengers at various undersea docking points. We did so, each time diving deeper down to avoid the subsequent barrage of torpedo fire from the new passengers’ previous vessels. They were refugees of some sort. Were we taking on good guys? Bad guys? I never knew.
I got up from my seat under the guise of looking for a restroom, and set about exploring. I found myself in an empty great hall with gold walls and vaulted ceilings. An exhausted group of five or so wilting strangers approached me. I assumed they were our most recent pick up, so I regarded them as fellow commuters.
They were heading toward a nearby bench, so I sat down on it to join them. The youngest in the group was a woman with auburn hair who looked to be in her 20s. She sat beside me on the bench, curled up under my arm, and went to sleep. Another woman, who carried herself like the leader of the band, her hair dark and broken, her jacket creased and worn, worked her face into a small smile for me, and leaned back against the wall behind us to go to sleep herself.
The hall was vast and silent, the walls glittering, the chests of the strangers rising and falling. I tightened my arm around the sleeping girl to keep her from slipping. She opened her eyes, thanked me, said she loved me, and went back to sleep. I stared ahead, wondering without care if anyone missed me in the dim tunnel of belted seating I’d left behind.
Suddenly a door to our left burst open, admitting four giant men, skin dark as the ocean, spears in hand, and looking for all the world like they’d just arrived from hiding in plain sight as a museum display. The sleeping group woke and leaped to their feet as the men demanded I join them. Not “them” the four men, but “them” the four men and the troupe of sleepers. I realized they had not been picked up, they had snuck aboard- and they were all working together.
“It’s time,” said the dark haired woman. “This is why you’re here. We need you to tell the captain. It’s over. It’s time.”
The painted men had set down their weapons and were changing into black pants and shirts from bags I had just noticed them carrying. “Yes,” said one. “She’s right. We can’t wait any longer. We are all here now and it’s going to work this time. You must tell the captain that this is right, and that you are leaving with us.”
“I love you,” whispered the younger woman. “Come with us. Tell the captain. It’s time.”
I felt the ship shift and dive, faster than before. A look to a window revealed more torpedoes speeding past.
“I can’t,” I said. “It’s not my place. I’m not a part of this. I don’t even know who you are. I’d get in so much trouble, and it will never work.”
I wanted to be wrong. I wanted them to be right. I wanted them to be heroes. I wanted them to save the day while I watched from the best seat in the house. And somewhere buried under fears of death by pressure and drowning, I wanted to be one of them.
“Help us. Please.”
I woke up.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
- Anaïs Nin
Yes, I am on Pinterest.
No, I have never been tempted enough to actually make anything I’ve seen there.
That is, I had never been tempted enough until I saw a pin to this post about cold-brewing coffee so a tasty iced treat would always be only moments away.
Um, yes please?
Idiot Proof Directions*
Step 1: Dump 8 quarts of water and 1 lb of ground coffee into a big ol’ container (or 1 quart for every two ounces of coffee.) I recommend pouring in the water first to make sure the container will be large enough for your batch o’ brew.
I also added a teaspoon of cinammon and a couple tablespoons of vanilla extract to the mix. I’m not sure that’s enough to make any sort of difference to the taste of the finished product, but I was too scared to add any more in case it would mess the whole thing up and I’d have to start over. I’ll leave it to you guys to do the experimenting on this one.
Step 2: Stir the muddy mass around a bit to make sure all the grounds are wet, then stick it in the fridge and forget about it for 8 hours.
Or for 14 hours if you decide to start the process a few hours before bed.
Step 3: Strain the brew. I did this by pouring several quarts at a time into a juice pitcher (because it was easier for me to hold than my giant metal stock pot)…
…and pouring from there through a tea strainer inside a cheesecloth coffee strainer.
I collected my strained, caffeinated goodness into a Brita shelf unit with a spigot on the front, because I am a clever, clever girl.
I then ran the brew through the cheesecloth strainer a second time, figuring I probably hadn’t gotten all the grounds out during the first go ’round.
Yep. Missed some. Ewww.
Step 4: Chug-a-lug. I mixed 3 parts cold-brewed coffee (on ice), 1 part Half & Half, a teaspoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of chocolate syrup, and I mean to tell ya’, folks: It was pretty awesome.
I even went to bed excited that when I got up in the morning I’d have this stuff ready to go so I could enjoy another yummy coffee treat. (I may come to regret my admission that iced coffee was enough to gear me up for the following day, but for now it stays. I trust you all will not to think less of me for it.)
For those of you more swish than I at such things: Any recipe modifications you’d recommend?
Over the years I’ve shared with several of you the blog of a woman I found in Paraguay, Julie Kurrle, who served there since 2002 with her husband, Norberto, and their 6 year old son, Timmy, as missionaries. (I found her blog around the same time I found that of Christie Hagerman, with whom I would eventually stay during my January 2012 visit to Paraguay).
Julie’s is one of those blogs I check almost daily, getting to know her family through her recounting of their adventures, and of their struggles. It was through her blog that I read about their work with youth in their area, their years long struggle to adopt, their final success in that struggle when they brought home their beautiful daughter Esther Anahi, their adventures in peanut farming, their great love of Paraguay, and most of all their passionate love for God.
Julie’s blog post from April 14, 2011: “Helping Poor, Rural Farmers Increase their Profit Is Easier than You Think. (You can Help!)“
Norberto talking last May about the peanut harvest:
This was a beautiful family that loved each other and their fellow man in a way that was so tender and obvious and full of joy that it shined through in every single post I read from Julie. I couldn’t help but want to know this woman in real life!
So of course it was to my great delight and privilege that I got to meet Julie and her family in person when I traveled to Paraguay in January 2012, and to spend several days with them at their home in Encarnacion. They opened their house and their hearts to us, fed us an amazing meal, took us out to the pond next to their house to relax, to play with the dogs, to watch Timmy get covered in mud… The next day my hosts, the Hagerman family, and I spent the day with theirs and another family at a nearby beach sweating, laughing, and sharing stories over burgers, potato salad, and plenty of tereré. You just never met a warmer, friendlier bunch of folks. And that love they had for God and each other and their community? Even stronger and more visible in person!
A (particularly adorable) video from Julie on how to wash clothes on a wash board:
Julie updated her blog yesterday saying that the family would be heading into Asuncion to pick up their daughter’s birth certificate and passport. Adoption is a complicated process under any circumstances, and in Paraguay it can become particularly messy, but things were finally wrapping up for the Kurrles with their beautiful new daughter, now one and a half years old.
Anahi’s first steps:
This morning I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was Christie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my phone to text or call her about something, only to remember I can’t because she’s so far away. But I only had a moment to be excited that I was hearing from her, because she was calling with heart-breaking news.
Some time around 5 am local time this morning, the Kurrles were involved in a terrible car accident on their way into Asuncion. Norberto and Anahi survived the crash, but it claimed the lives of the beautiful Julie and her sweet son Timmy.
My understanding is that Timmy survived long enough for his father to get to hold him and talk to him one last time, for which I am sure all who know the family will be forever grateful. Norberto is a good, good man and Timmy was such a smart, funny child.
And now I hardly know what to say or think.
Yesterday Julie was laughing with the judge who was handling their adoption case, and today- unspeakable tragedy.
I don’t know what is going to happen next. I dare say the family probably doesn’t either. All I do know is it is just sickening to be here so far away, unable to hold my friends and cry and pray with them in person. I rejoice with all my heart that Julie and Timmy are with the Lord, and weep that the world, that this family, that their community, lost such a vibrant woman, and such a friendly, outgoing child in such a sudden and shocking way.
If you have a moment I urge you to visit Julie’s blog: http://kurrles.blogspot.com. Read the posts, smile over the pictures, click through to go back, back, back to watch their ministry unfold in reverse. Click through to be encouraged by the love this family bore for each other. And, if you are a believer, click through to be encouraged and uplifted by the love they bore for God, our Source and Supply, our sustainer not only during the devestating times, but during the beautiful.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
- Kahlil Gibran
QEPD Julie Ana Beam de Kurrle y Timoti Samuel Kurrle Beam, 18/4/12
ETA: Christie was able to attend the memorial service at the Kurrle’s church in Paraguay. You can read that post here: Memorial Service for Timmy and Julie Kurrle
So– it’s a belt with a crotch?
And it’s being sold to tweens?
It’s almost not even worth it to post pictures of those shorts. Compared to some of the other stuff being marketed and sold to kids, tweens, and teens today, these shorts really aren’t much to blog about. They’re just the only pictures I had on hand.
And they make me angry.
It makes me angry that these are considered normal- modest, even- for young girls to wear. It makes me angry that some mothers would actually buy these for their daughters. It makes me angry that shorts with a 2″ zipper and a 2″ inseam are almost completely inconsequential up against some of the other clothing options out there for young girls that are so much worse. And it really ticks me off that sexiness has been crafted to matter so much to a person’s worth that it would ever even come up in relation to kids’ clothes.
Cognitively, self-objectification has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, thus leading to impaired performance on mental activities such as mathematical computations or logical reasoning (Frederickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn & Twenge, 1998; Gapinski, Brownell & LaFrance, 2003; Hebl, King & Lin, 2004). One study demonstrated this fragmenting quite vividly (Fredrickson et al., 1998). While alone in a dressing room, college students were asked to try on and evaluate either a swimsuit or a sweater. While they waited for 10 minutes wearing the garment, they completed a math test. The results revealed that young women in swimsuits performed significantly worse on the math problems than did those wearing sweaters. No differences were found for young men. In other words, thinking about the body and comparing it to sexualized cultural ideals disrupted mental capacity. In the emotional domain, sexualization and objectification undermine confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences, such as shame, anxiety, and even self-disgust. The association between self-objectification and anxiety about appearance and feelings of shame has been found in adolescent girls (12–13-year-olds) (Slater & Tiggemann, 2002) as well as in adult women.
Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression or depressed mood (Abramson & Valene, 1991; Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Harrison, 2000; Hofschire & Greenberg, 2001; Mills, Polivy, Herman & Tiggemann, 2002; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw & Stein, 1994; Thomsen, Weber & Brown, 2002; Ward, 2004). Several studies (on both teenage and adult women) have found associations between exposure to narrow representations of female beauty (e.g., the “thin ideal”) and disordered eating attitudes and symptoms. Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women. In addition to mental health consequences of sexualization, research suggests that girls’ and women’s physical health may also be negatively affected, albeit indirectly.
Ah yes. The ever-present related issues surrounding weight and its supposed relevance to one’s sexiness. But that’s such a vast topic, and I’m so distracted right now, that that’s probably better reserved for a separate post.
Actually, all of this probably is. Save it for a separate post, by a separate blogger, because I’m not even sure what I want to say here, or why I feel like I want to say it, especially when my thoughts are so scattered at the moment that I know I can’t do justice to any serious subject matter. And I’m certainly not feeling up to discussing how these clothes aren’t a cause but a symptom, or that the mere fact of their existence points to much deeper issues regarding what we value as a society, our objectification and demand for public ownership of women’s bodies, and how we often disguise that lack of value with winks and dismissals. They’re harmless, right? It’s just a pair of shorts! Don’t be such a prude. Little girls want to look sexy too. What, were you one of those fat kids when you were little? Lighten up! And smile while you’re at it. You’re so much prettier when you smile.
I’m not here to argue some point at great length, to teach a lesson, to knock heads, whatever. Honestly I just saw those shorts at my local Kohl’s store and felt frustrated as I noted how young the girls were who were shopping in that department, wanting to look cool (read: older) and turning to clothes to make that happen.
But that’s not what they’re getting when they buy this stuff. They’re not getting “cool.” They’re getting over-exposure. They’re getting sexualization during formative development years. They’re getting belts with crotches. And if the APA can be trusted to know what they’re talking about, they’re getting “eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression” to boot.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe this is all real. It’s like some kind of stupid joke repeated too many times for it to even be ironically funny. It’s more than anger-inducing, it’s more than annoying, it’s more than frustrating. It’s sad.
And it shows no signs of going away any time soon.
ETA: If you’re interested in a little further reading on the subject…
Jezebel: The Problem With Being “Sexy But Not Sexual” (I highly recommend this article in particular.)