Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tinder for Townies

So you're thinking about starting a Tinder account, but you live in a small town: proceed with caution.

Small town Tindering should really be its own special subcategory of Tindering, it is rife with unique small town peril. Especially if you live in Juneau, Alaska, where there are literally no roads out. Prepare yourself mentally, you will likely come across the profiles of your high school math teacher, people you had no idea were in an open relationship (wait are they in an open relationship?) and/or your second cousin. The reality of the dating limitations that come with living in a town that you can only escape on boat or plane will come closing in on you and quickly start to feel something like this:

Star Wars Episode Trash Compactor
make funny GIFs like this at MakeaGif

You might find yourself drowning out the sound of your friends discussing what photos you should use for your new Tinder account, gazing off in a thousand mile stare, wondering: how the fuck did I get here?  What great tragedy has lead me to this? The thing is, it doesn't matter how you got here, you're here now and you might as well embrace it and start swiping left on your cousins (although if you get desperate I believe 1st cousins are legal in Alaska) and swiping right on that person you've known most of your life, but never dated -- and there's probably a good reason for it -- but you know, you're almost 30 and your life just imploded, so maybe there's something you missed about that guy's personality during the 20 years you spent in school together, and really, just stop thinking so much.

Once you've decided to take the plunge and create a Tinder account, the first thing you need to do is choose your profile pictures.  It is important that you get this right, it is not as easy as it sounds.  If you're a woman, don't worry about describing yourself in the "about me" section, men aren't going to read it.  In fact most men won't even scroll through all your pictures. If you aren't obviously dying of syphilis, they'll swipe right.  If you're a man, the description can make you or break you, I suggest that you avoid sentences like "Come wander with me. . ." or, "If you don't like me, too bad." 

When choosing my own profile pictures, my friends explained to me that I'd get "more hits" using this picture:
Instead of this picture:

. . . because studies show that men swipe right more when you hit that perfect balance of outdoorsy, but not too hardcore.  And by "studies" I mean an episode of Freakonomics that I heard secondhand.

Personally, I thought the second picture was better.  I mean, look at that form, that jacket gracefully billowing in the wind. On a biological level alone, shouldn't men be attracted to this? Those spandex shorts don't lie... they are showcasing some real-woman birthing hips, who doesn't like sturdy barbie? This picture further illustrates how much of your shit I could carry if we were in some sort of dire situation, while still remaining feminine with a nice blue scarf and pink handlebars. What's not to like?  According to my friends and Freakonomics, a lot.  Although, I suppose I have to agree that the first picture is saying, "hey look, I'm laid-back cool girl, I like to bike, but I'm not about to get too sweaty or concern myself with practical footwear." 

When making a Tinder account, my advice is: listen to your friends.  The first photo, along with the image below, are my most successful conversation starters.

I'd like to think that the green dress pic sends a "hey, I'm funny, but more importantly, I'm sexy-funny" vibe, but maybe it's more of a "hey, I'm a fun, classy alcoholic from the past" vibe? Either way, it's working.

I've noticed that almost all men on Tinder (that I'm swiping right on -- so this says more about me than them) use the same five images:

1) A photo of them doing something in the snow (skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, or just standing, looking comfortable in snowy conditions).
2)  A picture with their dog (which they will want you to meet, because: yay, dogs are so fucking amazing and everyone who owns a dog has the greatest fucking dog ever).
3) A picture with a group of women (to show that other attractive women find them harmless enough to allow them to be photographed together).
4) A picture with their mom (to show you that they have a healthy relationship with their family, which is important, but who knows if that's really their mom, it could just be some old lady they found on the streets).
5) A photo of them fishing (to show that they can provide for you and maybe teach you something too -- although I've never come across a hunting photo which, if the goal really is to show women that you can provide for them, would be more effective than one fish.  Maybe that's not the goal, though? Maybe these men aren't putting any thought into this whatsoever? Get out of your head, Lynn).

Pictures I'm not swiping right on:
1) Men in front of large vehicles.
2) Shirtless-man mirror selfies.
3) Men chugging large quantities of alcohol, being cheered on by other men.
4) Men attending any sort of desert rave.
5) Men wearing tank tops.

Setting your mileage radius is the final part of the process.  In Southeast Alaska, in the summer, you can set your radius to a reasonable 100 miles. In the winter, you're going to want to crank that thing up to 1,000+ miles. And no, they don't actually allow you to set your radius that high, but they fucking should.

Having conversations and attempting to date on Tinder are where things really start to get interesting.  You'd think that most conversations would begin with something as simple as "hi, how are you?" or "where are you from?"  Nope.  A quick "Tinder dating tips" search on Google provides insight into what kind of advice is out there for men on Tinder, and why you may not be receiving any standard conversation starters:

1) "The best lines trigger emotional responses... Avoid being generic." (You are one of many men jockeying for position, you have one chance to get this right.)
2) "At some point, she'll ask what you do for a living.  Have an answer prepared ahead of time: 'Beginning a new business endeavor soon' sounds better than 'I'm unemployed and unsure what to do next.'" (Lie, lie to them.)
3) "Do not send too many messages, or messages that are too long." (Try to trigger those emotional responses in 10 words or less.)
4) "Reference details in her photos, but avoid complimenting her looks." (Pretend Tinder is not a dating app based solely on physical appearance.)
5) "Present yourself as genuinely interested in her personality." (Again, lie to them.)
6) "Build a rapport so that you can eventually take the conversation off of Tinder" and "Move the conversation off of Tinder as quickly as possible." (Separate her from the herd.)
And my personal favorite, 7) "You will open with a lot of girls, so it's important to make it time efficient.  Focus on a few lines that not only work but are also easily adjustable.  It will take some time to find your best opening lines, choose about five different ones and try each on at least ten girls.  Afterward compare the results and keep testing the best lines even more."

Holy Jesus fuck, you want men to start tracking their Tinder opening line success rate on some sort of chart?  I'm imagining all the men of Tinder doing this:


Then urgently analyzing the facts and figures, saying fuck it, and going with: "Hi, you're hott? Want to bone?"

After reading all of the shit advice that's out there for men using Tinder, I'm beginning to understand why my own experiences have been so strange.   The two weirdest experiences so far being: 1) a self portrait of one man's fellatio fantasy, while out to sea on his very woman-less fishing vessel -- it included a beautiful rendition of his man-bun; and 2) a hand written, and hand delivered, letter from a man asking if there had been "some sort of glitch" after I deleted my tinder account.  Very awkward -- avoid this type of interaction at all costs. I'd also like to point out that these two things are setting the weirdness bar pretty high, so the other interactions I've had, while better, are still pretty odd, i.e. getting offered a "free" professional massage in exchange for tacos.

I have to admit that number 1 was actually hilarious, the only mistake I made there was deleting that beautiful piece of art from my phone, I truly regret that.  The events that lead to number 2, however, were due to several critical mistakes made on my part. I know that you're thinking telling the person where I work was the first and worst mistake I made, but I would argue that leading this man to believe that: a) I liked dogs; b) I was into mountain biking; and c) I wanted to watch Finding Nemo as a date -- was where things really started to go wrong. In hindsight it all seems so clear, but it's that thing where it's winter and you're trying to date in, not only a small town, but a small town in Alaska, where there are no roads in and out... and the lines start to blur and you tell yourself, "a massage in exchange for tacos is actually just a really good deal," or "you could be a dog person, just work on not flinching so obviously when the dog inevitably jams its face into your crotch and pretend to listen when he tells you its name" or more concerningly, "Finding Nemo was a pretty good movie, I could do a Finding Nemo date."

So if you live in a small town and you feel like signing up for Tinder, all I ask is that you go into this with your eyes open, knowing that successfully avoiding someone is a luxury we small town folks will never know.  Just when you think you've gotten out of something scot-free, the door will swing open, and your stomach will turn as you watch your Tinder match slowly walk towards you, handing you a note, asking you to Tinder him again. Be careful out there and Tinder with caution.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rules to Surviving a Broken Engagement in a Small Town

Rule # 1, and the most important rule of all: Do not live in a small town.

Just don't do it.  It's really great to be anonymous in these situations.  Going to the grocery store without running into your 5th grade teacher and your gynecologist is a luxury I may never know.  So if you can avoid living in a small town, just take my advice and do so.  It's hard to determine when a life crisis will occur, but if you have any sort of inkling that one is approaching, buy a plane ticket and leave.  Until you hear that someone else is going through a life crisis, it is not safe to come back. If that is not an option for you, continue reading.

Rule # 2: Create your own story.

First off, if you live in a small town, you can't actually allow yourself to get upset by rumors, because, face it, you've probably participated in spreading rumors and/or have gotten some sort of sick pleasure out of them.  It's a sad part of life, but humans gossip, especially in a small town.  I'd suggest that instead of letting rumors upset you, or worse, trying to correct false rumors, start creating your own.  Trying to correct false rumors will get you nowhere, because everyone wants to believe that your life is more exciting then it is, which, if you think about it, is actually kind of flattering.  The reality of your break-up is too boringly "run of the mill" sad for anyone to want to talk about, so they're going to make up their own version.  What you need to do is subtly control the story in a way that makes you look amazing, just remember to always start things off by saying, "Don't tell anyone, but..." 

1. I was too adventurous and open-minded.
2. He didn't want cats...
3. I was, and I know this is going to sound weird, too financially stable and responsible.
4. We actually got along too well? I know, strange.
5. We couldn't agree on the next series we wanted to get into.

Eventually people will become bored and move on.

Rule # 3: Prepare yourself for "pity face."

The absolute worst part about a broken engagement is receiving the "pity face."  It is its own special kind of hell.  You will most likely receive the best and most prolonged pity faces from the women who never really liked you in the first place.  "Oh my god Lynn, I'm sooooo sorry.  Lynnn, oh, god, how are you doingggg?  That is just the worst, most horrible thing that could ever happen to anyone. Lynnnn you poooooor thinggggg."  They will often find ways to bring your predicament back into the conversation, after it has already been addressed.  I like to tackle this head on by saying things like, "Well thank you, but I'm not dying."  Making people really uncomfortable can also be fun, try dead panning things like, "Oh, no. It's great actually.  I've been really wanting to get some alone time and move back into my childhood bedroom anyway."  To those people I say, flip them an inner bird and forget about it.  Life goes on.  

Rule # 4: Game of Thrones

Now is a nice time to become invested in a series that everyone has told you to watch, but you haven't felt like putting the time in for.  Well, you've got a lot of free time now and zoning out can be really helpful.* The show doesn't have to be Game of Thrones, but I'd suggest picking something that is as far removed from real life as possible.  For me that's dragons, people getting their hands chopped off, and zombie armies riding creepy dead horses.  It is great. 

*You can also zone out by exercising, which is both healthier and more productive than watching Game of Thrones, but for the first couple weeks after a break-up you get to be very selfish and self-indulgent.  You can always go on a jog later.

Rule # 5: Don't beat yourself up.

Yeah, you just watched three seasons of Game of Thrones in two days, so what?  You are allowed to go into the dark hole that is your childhood bedroom and have your reflecting time.  Don't let anyone take that away from you.  Eventually though, like pretty quickly actually, you should probably put on your game face and confront reality -- or at least pretend to while slipping in a respectable three episodes of Game of Thrones a night.  You don't want people thinking that you've lost it, because then they'll do the most annoying thing that people who love you are required to do, constantly ask you "how you're feeling" and if "everything is okay" while awkwardly giving you a light one handed back rub/pat.  Avoid that at all costs.

Rule # 6: Embrace your childhood bedroom.

If you are still living in the small town you grew up in, chances are your parents live about three blocks from you.  

Yes, it can feel defeating to move back in with your parents in your late twenties, but stop being a big old whiner about it. Not everyone is lucky enough to have amazing parents that love you unconditionally, and want you around, and make good food, and listen to you tell your boring story about how you cried so hard you gave yourself a stuffed up nose watching a bad Reece Witherspoon movie, but that you can't cry about anything normal and you don't know what that means -- all while crying and stuffing your face with delicious homemade banana bread.  

Yes, they might yell really loudly from the bottom of the stairs, when they could just speak to you at a normal level:


"No, thanks mom, I'm taking a nap."

10 minutes later:


30 seconds later:


"I'm okay, I'm trying to nap, thanks mom."

15 minutes later:


"God dammit, okay, fine, yes, I'm up."

And yes, after waking you up from your nap to force-feed you, they'll probably ask if "you're feeling alright" because "you've been sleeping a lot" and they are worried that you "might be depressed." You may feel like replying, "I'm depressed Mom, but not because my relationship fell apart,"  but don't. Your parents love you and want you to be happy, they are just trying to help you the best way they know how: pestering you, over-feeding you, and asking you where you are going anytime you get up to move around.  Be thankful, because, as my friend Linda rightfully reminded me (when I was complaining way too much about people being concerned about me) having too many people care is better than no one caring... a good thing to keep in mind. 

Rule # 7: Have amazing friends.

This may be a perk of living and growing up in a small town.  Your friends have known you your ENTIRE life, they remember when you went through that weird Che Guevara t-shirt, no hair-washing phase and they're still around.  They remember when you ate a cow eyeball soaked in formaldehyde in the 7th grade to impress a boy and they brag about it with you.  They remember all your past relationships and remind you that you'll be just fine.  Most importantly though, they know when to tell you to STFU and get back on the horse, when you've been wallowing one day too many in a pile of Cheetos and the many, many, bottles of red wine pre-purchased for the wedding.  And in my opinion, that is the most important thing you can ask for in a friend.  They also come in really handy when trying to implement Rule # 2. 


... And more rules to come as I think of them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Adventure Shaming

My family seems to have some sort of self-torture adventure gene that I did not fully inherit.  A simple outdoor activity is never enough, some element of "adventure" has to be involved for it to be worthwhile.  This primarily involves hiking on non-existent trails that have been pitched to you as "animal trails," "secret trails," and/or "really cool old mining trails."  What this often entails is: bush-whacking, heights, huge scary piles of bear shit, and what my Dad likes to call, "dancing with the trees."  It sounds fun, but I can assure you, if you are anything like me, it's its own special kind of hell.

When I go hiking, and in life generally, I like to have a plan.  I want a time-frame.  I need an ETA and exact mileage.  So when I'm told that I'll be hiking Perseverance Trail and I get to the end, I don't want to be asked if I'd like to "do a 'short' hike up the side of a mountain to see where that waterfall comes from."  If that had been included in the original plan and I had mentally prepared for it, then it'd be a different story.  But that is the never the case with my family.  Little side hikes are always being tacked on.  What's the ETA? How much extra mileage or we talking?  How many snacks do we have and more importantly, what kind of snacks are they?  The answer is always, "Come on, it'll be fun!"  I'm never provided any real data!  I need a set and finite end to the pain!

The worst part about all of this is that if you protest, if you full on refuse to continue, or even if you say from the beginning, "alright, I agree to this with the stipulation that there will be absolutely no side-hiking tomfoolery,"  it will get you nowhere.  You will literally be stuck between a rock and hard place -- or a rock and a shit-your-pants-scary cliff edge. This is when the "adventure shaming" begins.  "Come on, don't you want to do something different?"  "Get out of your comfort zone, it's good for you,"  or "you know, your sister did this last week and she really enjoyed it."  Well guess what, I'm not my god damn sister.  Did you ever see me taking my hands off the bike handles as a child?  No!  I was the one with the sweaty palms asking everyone to please stand a safe distance from the edge of that look-out point.  

In the rare occasions that you are successful and manage to thwart a side-hike, there is always an underlining current of disappointment permeating the rest of the hike.  Your lack of adventure has pooped on the hiking party and you have let everyone down.   No real danger was involved and thus the hike wasn't a "real" hike.  Yeah, we hiked to the top of Mt. Roberts, but who hasn't done that?  Staying on the main trail, no matter how hard the hike is, is the equivalent of a city dog walk in my family.  

So you'd think I would have known better when my Dad asked if I wanted to hike Mt. Juneau last weekend.  I figured, sure... there's a start and a finish.  I know what I'm getting myself into.  The "really cool old mining trail" is out of commission, and considering what happened the last time he brought me up it -- a mental break down in which I held onto a tree and refused to let go -- I figured he wouldn't bother suggesting anything like that again.  You should be sensing my impending doom at this point. 

Mt. Juneau is not the hardest hike I've ever done, but it is difficult.  It starts in thick brush, with somewhat steep switchbacks that bring you up in elevation quickly.  Midway up the mountain, the trail opens up and flattens out, cutting straight across the side through three waterfalls, that are, if you're talking to my Dad, characterized as "small streams."  I would characterize them as a level 4 hazard (not life-threatening, but not something I look forward to) depending on the level of rainfall that week.  Once you traverse the waterfalls, the climb becomes steep again, with somewhat longer switchbacks, and nothing to grab on to.  The problem with this hike is that if you go too early, and the snow hasn't completely melted, you end up hiking over snow-patches that, if you were to slip and fall, shoot you straight off the side of the mountain.  On a hike up Mt. Juneau in the eighth grade, I famously made my father put me in a harness, and tie a rope to me while hiking over one of these snow-patches -- my sister practically skipped over it.    

Because it has been unseasonably warm this summer, I figured the snow-patches would be at a minimum and I thought it wouldn't be much of a problem.  When we reached the waterfalls -- which usually have some snow covering them -- and there was little to no snow, I thought I was home free.  That did not end up being the case.  About an hour beyond the waterfalls we started hitting the first snow-patches.  If you have any fear of heights, you will know that going across a snow-patch while going slightly uphill, is entirely different from going across a snow-patch while going slightly downhill.  So while I was nervous going up, I wasn't in full-on freak-out mode. In other words, I had not developed Tourettes and lost control  of my limbs at that point.

As you can imagine, going back down the snow-patches did not go well for me.  I got over the first two smaller ones without having to talk to myself, but midway through the third one I started cussing profusely -- never a good sign.  My Dad is an extremely experienced hiker, and he has always been really patient and helpful with me, but if you aren't afraid of heights, you can't fully understand what is happening to a persons body in these moments.  It involves such an intense spike in adrenaline and anxiety that everything in you is telling you to stop, sit-down, hold onto whatever you can grab on to, and never let go -- all while shouting and/or muttering obscenities.  Reason often does not prevail. 

Once we reached the next snow-patch, my Dad suggested I use his ice axe and offered to hike below me so that if I started to slide he could stop me -- my rational mind told me that my Dad was attempting to provide me with a false sense of comfort.  If I slipped, I'd be taking him with me, but I appreciated the gesture and I took the ice axe.  In another attempt to comfort me, my Dad gave me a brief how-to guide on using the ice axe.  He explained, prior to going over the next snow-patch, how I should hold the ice axe and said, "if you start to slide, you can flip your body over onto your stomach and slam the axe into the snow to stop yourself."  Words to avoid when trying to get a person scared of heights over a steep snow-shoot: sliding, flipping, body, slam, axe.  In the 15 minutes that I used the ice axe, I held it so tightly I gave myself a blister.  

Because I'm numbers-obsessed, I had counted the number of snow-patches we'd gone over on the way up and knew exactly how many more I had to get over.  After lots of leg shaking, muttering "don't look down" then looking down, stopping, holding tightly onto things that would easily rip out of the ground, and muttering to myself some more, we made it back to the snow-patchless part of the trail.  While we'd been at the top my Dad had attempted to casually suggest taking the Old Mt. Juneau Trail down -- which, (WHAT THE FUCK?) I thought was no longer hike-able at all.  I stupidly felt comfortable that I had fully squashed this suggestion before our descent, but after the snow-patches, he brought it up again! I said I'd had enough excitement for the day -- and I had. It might sound silly, but dealing with the anxiety and fear of heights is almost as physically draining as the hike itself! My plan was to distract him when we reached the fork that lead to the old trail and hope that he'd just forget about it.  Great plan, I know.

Upon reaching the old trail my attempts to distract failed and my Dad started to veer off towards the right.  You'll recall that this was the trail in which I held on to a tree, refused to let go, and cried and snotted all over myself.  Right now you might be asking yourself, "where does the Old Mt. Juneau Trail start?"  That's a good question. When you arrive at the first look-out point up Perseverance Trail -- the area that is fenced off with two benches -- turn around.  That rock slide is where the trail officially begins.  It follows the edge of the mountain, which means you are hiking alongside a cliff on your left the entire time.  The meltdown occurred at a spot in the trail where there happened to be another cliff to my right.  Sheer panic.  So when my Dad insisted we go down the old trail, I stated in my most stern voice, feeling like a 12-year-old, "I'm not going."  This was met with, surprise, surprise, "Oh come on, it'll be fun," and "It's actually easier on your body than the new trail."  Sensing that I was not winning this battle, I resorted to yelling, "I'M NOT FUCKING DOING IT"  -- to my Dad, who is not someone you want to swear at.  He was unfazed and instead promised that we wouldn't go near the portion of the trail that I loathed the most and that we'd stay further inwards, where we, and I quote, would "dance with the trees."  He went so far as to tell me that it'd actually be "pretty relaxing."

Five minutes later we are on the old trail, "dancing with the trees" and my Dad informs me, after getting on all fours to get through a particularly branchy section of the "trail," that I should be aware of how slick all the dead pine needles can be.  So "dancing with the trees" was not the relaxing fairy tale he made it out to be, but rather a way to avoid sliding down the mountain on a blanket of pine needles.  Needless to say, I somewhat enjoyed this portion of the hike.  I will begrudgingly admit that "dancing with the trees" was actually kind of fun... dammit. 

We got to the very end of the old trail, which again, really isn't a trail at all, it's part tree dancing, part bush-whacking, and I don't think I'd ever been so happy to see Perseverance Trail in my life.  I even allowed myself to think about how cool I'd look if someone happened to be walking down the trail and I just popped out of the bushes, looking all hardcore and mountain-woman like... they would never know about the crying and the snotting and the insistence of harnesses and ropes.  To my delight there happened to be two hikers coming down the trail at the perfect distance.  I decided to take a different path down then my Dad and that's when the pine needles got me.  I slid, hard and awkwardly down the last four feet of the trail, got poked by a small branch in my ass, let out a weird noise, and hit the trail exactly when the two hikers arrived.  They looked concerned and asked me if I was okay, an appropriate end to the hike.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Join the Movement: Sexualize Male Nipples Now!

Apparently it has been a slow week for ultra-feminists because the free the nipple movement is up and running again.  I am in full agreement that it's weird that men's nipples are not sexualized and women's nipples are, but for some reason -- how do I word this in a way that won't offend people... I don't care.  This is just one of those movements that I don't find exciting at all, which is weird, because nipples are exciting and women's nipples are especially exciting.

I'm all for equality between the sexes, and maybe I'm misunderstanding the movement --  I'm under the impression that it is to desexualize women's nipples. If that's the case, I'm not sure I want to do that.  If women want to show their breasts, then great, they should.  There's nothing wrong with that. I'm on board for breast feeding in public, I'm on board for women embracing their bodies.  I'm on board to take back the night.  I'm on board for all of it! But if women think they are going to desexualize their nipples by posting pictures of them on the internet, I'm concerned that there may be some flawed logic going on there.

In my opinion, women's breasts are never not going to be sexy.  It's just not something that's going to happen. And maybe I'm alone here, but I don't want my nipples desexualized.   I think a better alternative would be to sexualize men's nipples.  Why not add more excitement to an already exciting body part.  Imagine all the wonderful male nip slips that will suddenly be worth talking about.  Frank was talking to me at the gym today and I don't think he realized it, but I could see a little bit of his nipple... and it was wonderful.  #SexualizeManNipples.

Who's with me?!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three Ways to Not Get Giardia and Have a Healthy Relationship

Yet another advice piece popped up on my news feed today titled: What Makes Couples Successful: Five Ways to Thrive in a Healthy Relationship.  I'm not even going to get into how generic these numbered advice articles are.  I will admit that I haven't read this article, and I don't plan on reading it, but I'm guessing listening and honesty are somewhere on the list.  I'm not going to point out that every relationship is different and that five pieces of advice cannot possibly make all couples successful, and I'm definitely not going to argue that some pieces of advice could actually be detrimental to certain relationships.  What I am going to talk about is the picture they chose to use for this article and the advice I would give this particular couple:

1. First and most importantly, get out of that stagnant water.  And definitely try not to get any of it in your mouth.
2. I'm pretty sure that man-bun is getting in the way of your big spooning, consider cutting it off while he's sleeping.
3. Dress for couples success.  If you changed out of your pilgrim pajamas every day, you might feel more inclined to go out and do successful couples stuff, and less inclined to wade into random ponds.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

7.5 Reasons Why Lists are Stupid

I am so sick of all these lists on Facebook telling me eight reasons why I need to "go to the mountains with women" -- what does that even mean? 10 reasons why I should be proud of my body hair.  17 reasons why I should soak my feet in formaldehyde once a week.

Are there really only eight reasons why I should go to the mountains with women?  You couldn't make it an even 10?  Or did you feel that a list of 10 wouldn't have seemed as genuine, like you were stretching for the last two?   "Celebrating and sharing the fantastic relationship and beauty of the way a women does things in the mountains."  Why can't I just go on a hike without thinking about my femininity and the beauty of women and mountains and the need to form some sort of sisterhood up there in the hills.  Why couldn't someone have just posted a status update that says "I prefer hiking with women, because men tend to move a little faster"?  Nooooo, you had to give me eight whole reasons and write an entire fucking article on it.

And on that note, if I want to, I'll shave/pluck/tear out my body hair -- and yeah, perhaps it all started from some unfair standard of feminine beauty, but I don't care, because I like the way my legs feel when they're smooth and I think a big chunk of armpit hair looks kind of gross and smelly.  There I said it, and I'm pretty sure I'm still a feminist.  Oh and I think Anne Hathaway is annoying, and it has nothing to do with her being a woman, so... suck it, Jezebel.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Truth About Studying Abroad & an Ode to Emily

Studying abroad.  Everyone tells you you should do it and everyone who has done it comes home with their nose in the air acting like they posses some sort of cultural superiority.  Well, I'm not going to tell you not to study abroad, but I am going to tell you that you're not going to come away from the experience with an in-depth understanding of another culture.  You'll most likely come home ten pounds heavier, with a tote bag that says "London" on it in different fonts, $10,000 in debt.  You will, if you're lucky, get to know the area you've moved to without the "guidance" of your program and make some sort of lasting connection with someone that will make the whole thing worth it.  I was lucky enough to be roomed with Emily.

I can remember receiving a letter from API, the program we went to Ireland through, that informed me I'd be roommates with Emily.  I immediately looked her up on facebook and became nervous. Emily was much better dressed than I was  -- at the time I was going through an intense outdoor gear phase and was wearing a lot of quick drying poly pro.  I remembering thinking, "shit, she's got really nice hair.  I hope she's into quick drying pants as much as I am."

- Emily on the right -

After scrolling through several pictures, I came across some of Emily attempting to pose with her cat and a mug with a picture of the cat on it.  The cat wasn't really cooperating, so Emily was in all these odd places, under a bed, in a closet... and I breathed a sigh of relief.  She was a weirdo. We would get along.

Unfortunately for Emily, I had recently attended a themed party that involved fake tattoos/cigarettes and a white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up.  As I went back to find the photo on my Facebook account, I scrolled through a few others to get an idea of what Emily's first impression of me would have been.  Poor Emily must have been concerned, I looked like some sort of hardcore Northern lesbian:

Once we met and Emily realized I wasn't a smoker, didn't have a horrible Irish tattoo, and was not as hardcore as I seemed (but simply had an abundance of outdoor clothing, whose water repellent capabilities I frequently brought up) we quickly became good friends.  We got along so well that we decided to sign up for nearly all the same classes (all anthropology courses because they had the best field trips and because I also thought I was interested in it and later realized I wasn't, but had accrued so many credits in the subject in Ireland that I had no choice but to minor in it), did almost all our travelling outside Ireland together, and went out drinking together anytime we went drinking, which was a lot, because we were in Ireland.  This wouldn't be so weird if we weren't also sharing one bedroom in our apartment. We were two of only a handful of people who didn't receive the full financial support of their parents to go drink study abroad in Ireland for a semester... and often felt like the poor, outsiders of the group.

Our first couple weeks in Ireland were spent with our next door neighbor, who was one of those types of people who you latch onto when you're thrown into a mix of new people, because they're outgoing and easy to talk to, but someone whose extrovertism you quickly realize is most likely due to some sort of chemical imbalance and spend the rest of your stay trying to distance yourself.  This was how Emily and I first bonded and first realized that our study abroad program, API, really wasn't going to deal with the problem of our crazy neighbor and was going to use all the money we gave them to set up cultural events like "How to Make a St. Bridget's Cross with Straw" and put us in a hotel in the a shitty area of Paris explaining to us that Moulin Rouge was a "classy sex district."  I can assure you that it was not and also that classy sex districts do not exist.   

The first sign that our neighbor might be dealing with some mental stress was when he barged into our apartment, made his way into our bedroom in the middle of the night and went to Emily's bedside to tell her he had "put his face in the Claddagh" and that it had healed him, or something along those lines. "I splashed the water of the Claddagh on my face Emily... You have to try it Emily."  I was wide awake in my bed mentally preparing myself to be chopped into pieces.

- The Claddagh, Galway -

After the Claddagh incident came bank conspiracy theories, yelling "bellissimo!" to frightened women from his balcony, telling us that he no longer needed to brush his teeth (which were permanently stained purple from excessive wine drinking) and that they just needed "time" to clean themselves, telling us he was running the fastest he'd ever run in his life, repeatedly making statements like "send it to God," and finally buying coke from some street person in London.  It took the coke incident for API to do anything about it, apparently the previous incidents were considered part of the study abroad experience?  Who fucking knows, it was weird and our parents were telling us to lock our bedroom door at night.  Yay, studying abroad! 

After our neighbor friend was sent home to get the help he needed, things settled down a bit and Emily and I settled into our new life in Ireland.  We lived in the Menlo Apartments, about a 20 minute walk from the University.  Several other students, Americans on exchange and Irish students, also lived in the complex.  In Ireland many people begin University at the age of 17, Emily and I were 22 and 23, which seems young now, but the difference between a 17-year-old boy and a 23-year-old woman is about thirty years.  They also all go home to their families on Thursday nights and stay home through Sunday, so the party night at Irish Universities is on Wednesday and it involves drinking enough alcohol to kill someone and dropping large weights off second story buildings.

We also had Irish roommates who were 18 and 19-year-old women who had very interesting views on how a woman should behave, what a woman should drink, and the correct name for a round piece of meat.  "Meat patty, it's not a patty ye silly girl, it's a cake!"  One night, several months into our trip, Emily and I brought home some Budweiser because we were sick of drinking heavy beer and our roommates looked shocked.  "Girls don't drink beer, beer is for lads."  Okay, so you're telling me that I cannot drink a beer because it's not lady-like, but going to the bar, getting shit-faced drunk (on sprite mixed with white wine), in a tiny skirt with no underwear, falling over because you're attempting to walk on cobblestone in 4 inch heals, and showing everyone your vagina, is lady-like?  I'm confused. And on a sidenote, am I crazy to think that knee length skirts can actually be sexier?   It's not that I'm not all for the sexual awakening of Irish women, good for them, but it's like they are letting the mean girl from middle school girl dress them and apply their make-up (which is a thick layer of orange foundation that ends right at the jaw line).  In the defense of Irish women, we were living in Galway, which I think might be the "hen party" capital of Ireland.  

-Take note of the giant bottle of sprite-

One of our Irish roommates also didn't seem to understand that we have the same street crossing symbols in the US, "Now ye see, green means walk and red means don't walk."  And that math is universal, "so these items are 50% off, that means you divide 4 by 2 and the cost is $2."  Thank you for explaining that to me.  My tiny American brain needs all the help it can get.  Now that I'm thinking about it, she's either the funniest person I've ever met and was just fucking with me, or she didn't have a clue what was going on outside of Ireland.  

After my stay in Ireland, I have to say that Irish people are very proud of Ireland, which is great, but a little odd when you are constantly bombarded with slogans like, "The difference is, we're Irish," blasted over intercoms at super markets. What the fuck does that even mean when you're buying groceries?  Were they talking about the quality of their produce?  If so, as far as I could tell, there were no competing produce options.  Maybe it was more of a reminder, a little nationalist pick-me-up at the grocery store.  Either way it was fucking weird.  

While, Emily and I did make good friends, other than each other, while staying in Ireland, I think the strong bond we had (others would probably refer to it as cliquey) may have annoyed them towards the end.  Especially when we started referring to ourselves as the "wise woman," and wondered why the younger women in our group weren't coming to us for advice when they began to make poor decisions while binge drinking -- Ummm hello, we've been there! -- Listen to your gut, literally and figuratively. We'd lay in bed at night and joke about taking clients, "Yes, come in, how can we help you?"  No one ever came. Strange, we could have saved them a lot of heartache.  

If we had been the same age as the people we were studying with, I think my view of API probably would have been different.  It's just a little strange hanging with people who are discovering bar life for the first time.  I won't say that I'm sorry I went to Ireland.  Since going to Ireland Emily and I have managed to meet up several times for more adventures and shit-talking.  And if it weren't for API it would have been a lot harder to meet the friends that I did, so I'll give them that, but I'm not going to credit them with enhancing my knowledge of Irish customs and it's people because API took me to a foggy field with a deer in it and talked to me about fairy circles for a half hour.

I suppose API was sort of like a team building exercise, everyone just wants to get through the trust fall bullshit, so they can go get a drink and actually get to know one another.  So, is it worth studying abroad?  Of course, it's important to travel and even if the program you go through is a load of shit, you'll still meet awesome people and take pictures of yourself petting miniature horses so your friends back home think you're doing cool shit:

When really, you're partying in your room, with your one friend, alone, on St. Patrick's day:

Or eating at the Irish version of McDonalds, which you later found out was putting horse meat in its chicken nuggets:

Now you know the truth about studying abroad, it's mostly just drinking, occasionally going to class, and trying to find a version of Liam Neeson that doesn't exist.  So the next time you're at a party and some annoying person reminisces about how amazing their time studying abroad was, and what a shame it was that you didn't go.  You can tell them that you'd rather not pay $10,000 to learn about fairy circles in a foggy wet field at 8 in the morning.  To those of you who are thinking about studying abroad, or travelling on your own, I'll leave you with a montage of my travel adventures with Emily!

-Washington DC, the 17th Century, NYC, Washington's house, Sled-dogs in Alaska-

 -Helicopter ride, top of Mt. Roberts eagle wing span, goat patrol, lobster and cannoli eating in Boston-

 -Alaskan Brewery Tour, Grand Canyon view, mule ride, Old Faithful, and paper, rock, scissors at the Haines Brew Fest-

-Dancing/Tattoos in Vegas, T-Rex in who knows where, Red Sox, ferris wheel in London-

And most recently, go-cars in San Francisco: