Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

It happens. It happens to us all. One day you’re smiling and your heart’s busting out of its frame Grinch-style and you’re so happy even strangers want to punch you in face, and the next you’re crying into a Grilled Stuffed Burrito in the Taco Bell drive thru at 3 AM. You’re so sad you can’t even drink. You’re that person at the bar who nurses a beer and goes home stone cold sober. And then proceeds to get shitty drunk. With your cat. And a box of Thin Mints. You’re bumming out rain clouds.

Don’t worry. We’ve all been you.

You’re heartbroken.

It’s a curious thing, heartbreak. Every writer under the sun has described heartbreak in some way, shape, or form (because, believe me, it takes many), but no one really seems to know how to say what it is. Is it a shattering? A breaking apart? A fading away? Is it starvation? Suffocation? Drowning? Hell, is it all of those things? The moral of the story is this: it may be all of those things, and it may be none of those things. Not a single one of us, not even the famed writers among us, really knows.

Because it’s heartbreak.

And if heartbreak is anything, it’s a fickle bitch. The kind that creeps up on you when you’re at a stop light, being totally normal, jamming to Taylor Swift and pretending it’s something cooler. (But DAMMIT, “Shake It Off” is a good song.) Then, before you know it, heartbreak is buckled into the seat next to you, willing – daring – you to kick her out as you snot-sob all over yourself and search for a Kleenex. This is invariably the point when the person next to you in traffic looks over and you two make what will become the most uncomfortable second of eye contact in human history, and they will look away hurriedly because they will now think you’re unhinged.

Heartbreak is the kind of bitch that follows you around all day but only interrupts you while you’re eating. In public. (Because crying in public over a full plate of spaghetti doesn’t make you look like a sad sack AT ALL.) You just can’t make sense of a thing like heartbreak. It’s useless, really, so give it up now.

Maybe heartbreak made more sense in the days before Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. But not anymore, amigos. It’s nearly impossible to break up or separate or just take a couple of damn seconds way from each other to breathe in the Millennial generation without opening up one app or another to see their big ole mug staring back at you. “Oh hey, it’s you, the face of my misery,” you think. “So nice to see you were out last night playing pool while I laying in my bed watching The Gilmore Girls and willing myself not to roll out of the window.” It’s the catch 22 of dating in the era of social media; to be a social media user is to be connected, global, and in the loop, but it’s Facebook and Instragram that constantly remind us that our exes are doing better than we are with one perfectly cropped photo after another.

This, of course, only contributes to the break neck, Indy 500-like speed in which some Millennials jump into new relationships (or relationships) in order to win the break up. And you have to win the break up, or you’re the loser. If you don’t bring home Gael from the sands of Argentina, you have to grow an itchy break-up beard and hope that sucker doesn’t come in patchy. It is imperative to ALWAYS seem as if you’re okay – better than okay, even! You’re FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC. Wanna know how everyone knows? You put it on social media. You’re winning the break up, dammit.

But it’s all this winning and losing and visibility that have made breaking up that much harder for Millennials. Constantly seeing the source of your pain is essentially an endless cycle of scab-picking. It’s worse, of course, if you’re only seeing the aforementioned ex on social media because, at this point, your imagination has free reign to turn you into a batshit crazy psycho. Suddenly, the girl he’s standing next to in that picture is his new girlfriend, and they’re probably going to get married, and what if he’s already had sex with her, THAT BASTARD?!

I’ve been there. I know.

In 2010, my last year of college, I felt the wrenches of my first real heartbreak. I bloomed a little later than most, I know, but there it was. I thought I would never, ever heal. I was certain beyond all certainty that I would die with this fiery weight in my chest. I cried all the time. I threw up on a dime. I checked social media like I got paid for it. I was your typical hot mess. But things happened. Time happened. My family got my mom through cancer, I moved away from home, both of my siblings got married. Slowly, the weight lifted and my chest opened up and I finally felt like I might be able to take one, full, deep breath again.  

It’s 2014 now, and I’ve found myself in the same situation. Well, sans cancer (whoo!), and I’m actually back home.  But I’m heartbroken again, and so many things are the same. I still write things down obsessively in the hopes of capturing every detail, remembering every moment. I still check social media in the hopes that he’s changed his mind and suddenly decided he’s into Facebook and Instagram – ha! I still find untold amounts of joy in wallowing in my bed and watching Friends episodes until I can laugh on cue with the laugh track.  And my tendency to make mixed CDs when I’m sad hasn’t changed at all.

When I was “cleaning” out my car last week, I found the old editions. That’s right. It’s plural. One sad CD never cuts it. But there’s no shame in my game. So here it is, My Journey Through Heartbreak: The Mixed CDs, Vols. 1 & 2:

Over It!* - 2010
  1. “The Bitch is Back,” Elton John
  2. “Back in Black,” AC/DC
  3. “When Did You Heart Go Missing?” Rooney
  4. “That’s All,” Genesis**
  5. “Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac
  6. “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” Charlotte Sometimes
  7. “Fuck You,” CeeLo Green
  8. “People are Strange,” The Doors
  9. “Another One Bites the Dust,” Queen
  10. “So What,” Pink
  11. “Believe,” Cher
  12. “Stop!” Against Me!
  13. “You Get What You Give,” New Radicals
  14. “Old Ways,” Chiddy Bang
  15. “Photograph,” Def Leppard
  16. “Hound Dog,” Elvis
  17. “Bitch,” Meredith Brooks
  18. “What I Got,” Sublime
  19. “Here Comes the Sun,” George Harrison
  20. “Never Going Back Again,” Fleetwood Mac***

Love and Sex and Loneliness - 2014
  1. “Back on Chain Gang,” The Pretenders
  2. “Big Machine,” Goo Goo Dolls
  3.  “Buttons,”  The Weeks
  4. “Cola,” Lana del Ray
  5. “Dearly Departed,” Shakey Graves ft. Esmé Patterson
  6. “Follow Your Arrow,” Kacey Musgraves
  7. “Gypsy,” Fleetwood Mac
  8. “High,” ToveLo
  9. “Head On (Hold On to Your Heart),” Man Man
  10. “I Ain’t the Same,” The Alabama Shakes
  11. “I Won’t Back Down,” Tom Petty and  the Heartbreakers
  12. “Losing You,” John Butler Trio
  13. “Take Me to Church,” Hozier
  14. “Temporary Blues,” The Features
  15.  “This Land is Your Land,” My Morning Jacket****
  16. “Wild Child,” Brett Dennen
  17. “Wonderful World,” Sam Cooke
  18. “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  19. “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracle
SO. What can take from these playlists?

Firstly, heartbreak does slowly, ever so slowly, alter into an entity you can learn to live with. Eventually, you stop reacting with anger, and you learn to accept the lesson in the pain. It’s there, somewhere, even if you have to dig for it.

And secondly, Fleetwood Mac is timeless.


* That’s right. I named them.
** I was young and sad. Leave me alone.
*** This is back when all of my mixed CDs had story arcs.
**** So it’s not exactly a “love” song, in the traditional sense, but it’s sort of a love song to the wild spirit of America, and I'm trying that whole embrace-messy-hair (aka your messy soul) thing these days. 

All original content copyright Kimberly Turner, 2014-2014.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

One Man Away from Welfare: The Millennial Girl’s Story of Working and Womanhood

“Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.” – Helen Keller

There’s this pesky rumor going around about Millennials. Something along the lines of how we hate to work, and when we do, we essentially suck at it.

Let me set the record straight.

I’m 26 years old. I have a Master’s degree, I teach college English, and I have multiple publications to my name. And until about two weeks ago, I worked two jobs.

I’ll do that math for you. That’s six days a week where I did work that someone actually had to pay me for (which is completely different than the crafting work I do in the hopes of one day dethroning Martha Stewart in a cuter, less 10 to 15 kind of way). Four of those six days ended up culminating in 15+ work hours, which isn’t counting grading I took home with me. So here’s my point: I work hard. I always have. I’m not a slack ass.

Yet, with a few clicks, you can find a host of condescending web articles, including this incredibly special video "Millennials in the Workplace Training Video," which details all the ways in which Millennials pale in comparison to their predecessors in the workplace. But don’t take my word for it. Just Google it. There are plenty of articles out there describing how exactly managers can “deal” with their up and coming Millennial employees. As if we are the ebola of the workplace - an entity that needs to be handled. We, the needy, self-absorbed, whiny, and lest we forget lazy Millennials destined to plummet the American economy into the worst recession it’s seen since the Great Depression. Oh wait…

But I digress. 

The most frustrating part of this whole ordeal – the ordeal being that I am a Millennial worker in a Boomer run world – is the fact that women still face the added challenge of actually being women. So on top of being young and thus subject to skepticism, millennial women and I also have to deal with men who challenge our position in the workplace for no reason other than the fact that our junk turns inward.

Case in point: recently, after a year, I left a job at a small business – a gourmet pizza place, actually – where two male bosses twice my age repeatedly undermined my intelligence. Never mind the fact that I have somehow with my feeble woman brain managed to acquire not one but TWO degrees. Or the fact that my colleagues (most of whom have PhDs and M.As) seem to find my performance up to par. OR the fact that an article of mine was just published in a scholarly collection examining Girls and Millennial angst.

Put that aside for a minute, and what do you have?

You have one boss who apologized to one of MY COLLEAGUES for anything I might “do wrong” while he sat at the bar with his wife. A colleague I asked to come eat and drink a beer while I worked in an attempt to promote the restaurant, mind you.

You have another boss who made several jokes to me and other female coworkers bordering on sexual harassment. A man who thought nothing of flippantly announcing that I wanted to “go through the initiation process” as I joked with a fellow Sons of Anarchy fan about how I’d make a killer old lady (on account of being small and innocent looking – I'm a tiny ginger with a baby face. Who would ever suspect me??). Now, I know I’m young and I’m burdened with this damn lady brain, but I do feel as if casually jesting to a coworker half one’s age about having a train run on her (or more accurately, wishing to have a train run on her) might, just might, fall under the category of sexual harassment. I could be wrong though.

You have two men in their forties who repeatedly called ME, a woman in my mid-twenties, immature and disrespectful because I demanded to be treated with common human decency. That uniquely Millennial desire for something more than simple acknowledgement of existence from an employer and an understanding that there are lines that should be respected. And when they aren't, we are allowed to say so, regardless of our age.

So yes, I’m annoyed. I’m bothered by the fact that my age, gender and intelligence are characteristics that somehow make me suspect or threatening or uncomfortable. Even more frustrating to me is the very fact that I feel the need to justify myself for sounding like a snot-nosed, entitled Millennial kid who’s never known a day of real struggle in her life, let alone the tribulations of women who fought the good fight so I could stand up to two men twice my age, hold up my finger, and say, “Let me stop you right there, you RAGING ASSHATS.”

The truth of the matter, though, is that Millennial women have been taught to fear the F word: FEMINISM. (Eeeek!) That scary bra-less condition that may turn us into those Rush Limbaugh-imagined feminazis with lasers for eyes, loaded missiles for breasts, and God knows what between our legs.

So what we have then is women, particularly young millennial women new to the adult workplace, living in a world of catch 22s. It’s like Claire Shipman and Katty Kay say in their book, The Confidence Code: The Science And Art Of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know, “Women suffer consequences for their lack of confidence—but when they do behave assertively, they may suffer a whole other set of consequences, ones that men don’t typically experience…. If a woman walks into her boss’s office with unsolicited opinions, speaks up first at meetings, or gives business advice above her pay grade, she risks being disliked or even—let’s be blunt—being labeled a bitch. The more a woman succeeds, the worse the vitriol seems to get. It’s not just her competence that’s called into question; it’s her very character.”
                                                                                                                               
Basically, kids, the moral of the story is this: there's still no place for a capable woman who relies on her brain in a man's world.

But I have another F word for just such occasions:

FUCK.

That.

All day long.

But just in case that isn’t clear enough, here’s a chart that breaks it down a little further:   

Things I Do Like a Girl
Things I Don’t Do Like a Girl
Earn 77 cents to every man’s dollar
Think

Fuck

Cry

Throw

Have and/or express emotions


I think that covers it. 

Now, I don't imagine my diatribe will stop anyone, even those who do sympathize with the plight of the millennial women, from actually eating there. They do serve good food, after all. And very often our ethics take a back seat to other, more pressing needs and desires. And I'm even more sure that both of my former bosses could list on cue every reason why I was the most terrible employee to ever grace their threshold. 

But regardless, I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the  baddest bitches around, the ever-legendary lucky star Madonna: “I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” 

All original content copyright Kimberly Turner, 2014-2014.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Losing Robin Williams: It’s Okay to Mourn a Stranger

Unless you live under a rock (or the outer lying regions of the Pee Dee area, which are really one in the same place), you’ve heard the news about Robin Williams. You’ve heard that Robin Williams is dead by his own hand.

Last night, when I heard, I sat in the love seat in my parents’ living room, and I wept openly. My mother expressed her concern for me several times, like any good mother hen would, and I kept telling her I’d be fine. I apologized for crying over a stranger. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” I said. One, two, three times. I said it again and again, for as many times as I started to cry anew.

But this morning, when I woke up, I was still sad deep in my gut. And more than that, I was peevish. I thought to myself, “FUCK that.” Why should I feel ashamed for crying over Robin Williams? Why should that make me feel stupid or in any way like I’m weak?

True, Robin Williams was no friend of mine. I didn’t meet him at Disney World. I wasn’t his roommate at Julliard. I didn’t see him perform live anywhere. I never even shook his hand.

I never knew him as Mork or Garp or the Fisher King. But I knew him.

For me, and millions of Millennials like me, Robin Williams is inexorably bound up with memories of childhood. Robin Williams is, for me, the face of the 90s. Those fantastical years when I was a kid and the most pressing concerns in my life were if I would get home in time to watch Wishbone and if I could maybe read a little in my American Girl book after that. Those years when staying up late with my mom to watch Jay Leno and eat Nutty Butty ice cream cones were a little bit deviant but also really, really special. Those years when my sister and I still shared a bed because my parents didn’t have the money for an extra mattress, but neither of us cared because we fell asleep snuggled up like bugs in a rug every night.

I still remember the very first time I saw Robin Williams on film (kinda). My parents schleped all three of us – my brother, my sister and me – to see Aladdin in theaters. My sister was still an arm baby, my brother about two and half, and I was four. No easy feat for two mortal parents, especially since my M.O. was to ask as many questions about EVERY LITTLE THING as I possibly could. I’m sure the outing wasn’t an easy one. But we went, nonetheless. And it remains one of the earliest, strongest memories I have, not because I loved the movie so much but because my dad did. I remember my dad laughing hysterically at the Genie doing celebrity impressions, and I laughed too. It would be years before I understood the jokes, but the sheer, unadulterated amusement on my dad’s face was contagious. Four-year-old me peeled into giggles at the mere sight of my daddy laughing so hard. Something good must have been happening. I knew it then. And I know it now. To this day, I can picture vividly the way my dad’s face looked, his eyes closed, his head tilted back, his whole body given over to laughter and happiness.

Robin Williams did that for him. Robin Williams did that for me.

He recreated Peter Pan for a generation of Millennial viewers who may well have otherwise forgotten a Disney movie long ago shelved. He gave life to a cross-dressing nanny, a flamboyant cabaret owner, a man destined to finish a game before dinosaurs destroyed his town, a fifth-grader who looked older than most of his friends’ parents, and a professor who discovered the existence of flubber. Robin Williams didn’t just shape my childhood; he was my childhood. He was my innocence.

And he continued to be. For as long as I have been alive, Robin Williams has been a constant. He was always there, quietly, occupying space in the recesses of my mind, in the place where everything is normal and stable, and I don’t have to think or keep track or try to muddle through.

But yesterday, the last and possibly one of the best vestiges of my childhood died, not in contentment, but in sadness. Not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with a giving up.

And maybe that’s why I’ve had such a profound emotional response to the death of a man I’ve never met and will never meet. This is the end of the road for Millennials.

We are no longer children. Our Peter Pan is dead.

Yes, I know there are more pressing issues. I know Iraqi children die every day in ISIS’ hate-fueled genocide. I know millions of Americans live below the poverty line and can barely afford to eat. I know that ebola has entered our country and black men still can’t walk in the streets without fear of retaliation for little more than being black and women now have to face the added horror that their rapes might end up as internet memes.

But just for now, let us mourn. Let me mourn. Let me mourn the dying pieces of my childhood as I make my ever-quickening journey toward thirty, toward adulthood, and further and further away from the magic of simply being a silly little girl, in the theater with her family, laughing at a big blue genie. 



"Oh, no. To live... to live would be an awfully big adventure." - Peter Banning, Hook

Bangarang, Robin. 

All original content copyright Kimberly Turner, 2014-2014.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Touch of Fiction

I've always had a flair for writing, both fiction and non-fiction. Surprising, I know. SO, I've decided to flex my muscles and mix things up. What better way than to put some creative writing out into this ever-crazy, YOLO-ing, over-moralizing world. Here goes. 

_______________________________________________________

No one ever feels sorry for the other woman. They may conjure up a bit of sympathy for a man who cheats – she’s a hard woman, I heard it was a midlife crisis, you know we all make stupid mistakes when we’re under that kind of stress – but never do they cast a forgiving eye on the woman who stoops so low. Who poaches. Who makes herself a slut. What woman would do that? What kind of woman would do that? 

I’m that kind of woman. I am that woman. 

I don’t want you to hate me though. Don’t hate me. I’m not the kind of woman you hate. When I take quizzes in women’s magazines, I always know that my friends would describe me as loyal or kind. I ask them, just to be sure, but I know that’s what they would say. Because I am. I am loyal and kind. I know that you would like me if you knew me. 

Besides, any person who tells you with a straight face that they haven’t spent their whole life looking for love is a fucking liar. 

I know it for a fact. We look for love incessantly, in the nooks and crannies of our lives, in the space between reality and the lives we wish we led. The urge for love runs through our bodies deep in our cells, and we can’t do shit to fight it. We seek it. In our pets, in our children, our lovers, and our friends. To love isn’t human nature, but the pursuit of love is part of the human condition. We wear it like skin. 

Here’s what I know for certain: love doesn’t come to you like it should, like a quiet knowing that settles itself around you like a warm fog. Love is a three-legged dog running like hell to avoid the cage. You can catch her, but you’ve got to be quick on your feet. 

So I promise I’ll tell you the truth. All of it. That’s all anyone ever wants, isn’t it? The truth, in all its tiny, shining parts. This will be the truth, I swear it. I swear it to you.  

All original content copyright Kimberly Turner, 2014-2014.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Future Freaks Me Out (No, Seriously Though)

Pardon me, I’m about to go crazy cat lady on you. (Sorry I’m not that sorry.)

Get this: within the veterinary community, there exists a pervasive notion that cats who live relatively domesticated (read: indoor) lives will come to view their owners (ha!) as surrogate mothers and thus live in a prolonged state of kittenhood.

(By the way, that was totally a Jeopardy question. It’s definitely not like I know this useless piece of feline trivia because I stalk veterinary forums to ensure that my cats really are supposed to look at me with that hateful stank face all of the time. Just in case you were wondering.)

The point is this: adult cats, given food, toys, chin scratches, and a sizeable portion of every bed in their considerable domain, will retain their kitten-like qualities of playing, purring, and generally being the cutest fucking creatures to ever walk the earth.

Now, think about this: recently, every news outlet from The Wall Street Journal to Jezebel has published something (usually snippy) about the emergence of “millennials,” that much scrutinized group of people born between 1981 and 2000, as defined by the Pew Research Center. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re “America’s newest generation.” Even though it sounds like we ought to be rolling our hair in victory curls and letting our boys slip their hands up our skirts before they march off to war, all this really means is that Generation X is now old news. They’ve had their hay day (e.g. Reality Bites and pretty much any other movie Wynonna Ryder starred in during the 90s).  Gen Xers have kids now, and that’s pretty much the social equivalent of getting braces and wearing high waters. Nobody with crazed mom eyes or receding dad hairline gives a flying shit what’s on Twitter or Kik or Snapchat because they’ve got elementary-aged kids in their houses, and they spend most days trying to not pluck their own eyelashes out one by one. Justin Bieber? Miley Cyrus? Unless those name are followed by “microwave-safe” or “family size,” most of our Gen X friends don’t give a good God damn.

But not us. We’re Millennials. We’re basically the walking, talking, YOLO-ing future of America. Morley Safer even said so on 60 Minutes when he dedicated a WHOLE HOUR (get it??) to us in a show called, “The ‘Millennials’ Are Coming.” I will kindly overlook the fact that CBS cast millennials as some amalgamation of 1950s B horror movie villains riding into town like the horsemen of the Apocalypse bent on making everyone dance. (Footloose reference. CHA-CHING.) The gist of all this talk is this: Millennials are entitled, unaccustomed to hard work, and unwilling to fly the coop. In essence, Millennials are the weird adult cat-kittens of the new technology-driven, socially-accepting, network-forming world. We are part of, what some neuroscientists are now calling, “emerging adulthood.”

Maybe that’s all true. Maybe I just feel a little defensive because I am a millennial and I have lived at home and I do occasionally need to mooch off my parents. I mean, I think it’s fairly general knowledge at this point that the human brain doesn’t fully form until approximately age 25, which for most millennials is coming up or very recently became a thing of the past. We all sure as hell know that we aren’t even remotely prepared to make complicated life decisions as teenagers. When I was sixteen, I bought bright yellow sweat pants and wore them to school as a completely legitimate fashion statement. Proof positive that the young adult brain is subject to periods of serious instability.

(Never mind the fact that I’m 25, and last weekend I bought a ring so big and ridiculous that it makes Kim Kardashian’s butt look believable.)
The point is that I just find it a little odd – off-putting, if you will – that the very people who raised us are now complaining that we’re not acting according to the values our parents raised us with. Does anyone else see a sizeable gap in logic there? Weren’t we told to go to school? To prepare for college? To wait for marriage and babies until we had a degree? Weren’t we the generation whose parents wanted us to be involved in extracurricular activities and make tons of friends and just be kids? Weren’t we encouraged not to be our parents by our parents?

Bottom line: this ain’t your daddy’s rodeo.

Life is different now. The world is different now. And millennials are the first group of young people trying to figure it all out. We were the first generation of tweens to have in-home computers and the first crop of teenagers to have our own personal cell phones. (And these weren’t iPhones, guys. These suckers were BRICKS.) We’re the first generation to figure out dating and jobs and love and kids and marriage and how to tie our freaking shoes with computers, phones, iPods, tablets, Nooks, Kindles, and God knows what else buzzing all around us. We’re growing into adults in the wake of 9/11, with the advent of social networking, and in the midst of one of the most precarious economies since FDR busted out the New Deal.

SO YEAH, I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. Go get a PhD? Take a few years off and work? Eat a bagel for breakfast? Somehow, my life has become a never-ending game of Twenty Questions that doesn’t seem to have any discernible answers. Meanwhile, all these Baby Boomers and Gen Xers keep demanding that we, the beguiling Millennials, act our age (not our shoe size). And I’m still kinda wondering, damn, what’s my age again?



The PIMP Ring. I wear it and immediately feel like Beyonce. 

All original content copyright Kimberly Turner, 2013-2013.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Friend Zone, Naked Friends, and Other Not-So-Platonic Things

I have a question I think most twenty-somethings would consider burning (or at least fairly itchy): where in GOD’S NAME is the friend zone actually located??

Can I get some coordinates? Are we talking about being stopped at the five yard line with 10 seconds remaining or being sidelined altogether? Is the friend zone some kind of relationship purgatory – the holding cell of the blossoming romance? Or is the friend zone more like the right lane on the interstate: meant to be passed?

No one seems to have a clear definition of where the friend zone actually is, who resides there, and what exactly goes on inside the parameters, but we’re ALL talking about it. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find Wikipedia has dedicated a page to the friend zone, Psychology Today has published on the subject, and even a writer from the Chicago Tribune has taken a whack at trying to uncover the goings on of this most loathsome platonic space. Need further proof? Just check out Urban Dictionary. There are four rather lengthy definitions exploring the nature of the friend zone, its regions, its application, etc. And then there’s my personal favorite: “(3) The friend zone - When a girl decides that you're her friend, you're no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.” For Christ’s sake, the Oxford English Dictionary Online added the friend zone to its litany. But all this talking is to no avail, because I still don’t know WHAT THE DAMN THING IS.

Here’s why I say this: the friend zone corresponds in our cultural imagination to a space where only lovelorn (or maybe just sexlorn) men end up when the objects of their affection (or lust) ain’t biting (or whatever else). Okay. Sure. Penny friend zoned Leonard for two years. Rachel friend zoned Ross multiple times. Pepé Le Pew tried FOREVER to get Penelope Pussycat to give him a shot, but the dog just wouldn’t hunt. Er, well, cat.

Still, I’ve got to ask about our long-suffering lady brethren. Can’t we be friend zoned? I know Billy Crystal already told us this was virtually impossible; according to him (or more accurately, Harry), we’re supposed to believe straight men are walking sex machines thinking of nothing but how to get women (specifically every woman) into bed – and then maybe to hang out long enough to date a little. But, if this is true, why are so many of my remarkable lady friends perpetually pulling out their hair over blockhead guys who can’t figure out if they’re cooking dinner for these girls because they wants to date them or because they really do want to prove that they can do more than microwave Spaghetti-O’s? Bottom line: I CALL BULLSHIT. I don’t know about you gals out there, but I’ve been placed squarely in the friend zone a few times before. And each time I end up crying over Friends reruns and desperately clutching my copy of Mansfield Park while I yell at Fanny for being such a damn moron. This is what “friendship” looks like, kids.

It seems curious that, as a society, we seem to wholeheartedly buy into the idea of the friend zone – and the humor therein – despite the lingering anomalies. For example, do our best friends belong in the friend zone? Can we zone hop? Can we put ourselves in the friend zone?!? OH, and what happens if, say, a fella friend zones me, but someone else friend zones him? Are we zoned together? Seriously – I’m not actually trying to hang out in this murky platonic wonderland while I pine over him and he pines over someone else. Because awkward. So here’s my question: is the friend zone a multi-regional place? If that’s case, I’d like to make a reservation at the Friend Zone Waldorf, thank you.

Of course, when you take into account the advent of the Naked Friend, the whole notion of the friend zone becomes even more complicated.

What is this Naked Friend I speak of? Well.

I have a best friend. We’ve known each other since we were twelve. At this point, we’ve literally been friends longer than we haven’t been. She knows everything about me – literally. All the weird, perverted, and sincerely uncomfortable elements I wish no one ever had to know, she knows. Our sisters are best friends, our moms are best friends, and I think our dads might be best friends if they weren’t both so socially awkward. We’re so close that I can freely listen to her pee while we’re on the phone, and it doesn’t freak me out. Ours is the stuff of friendship legend – one of those relationships that gets turned into a caricaturized sitcom friendship played by better looking actors. I’m forever putting decorations on the wall but forgetting to clean the lint trap; she thinks I have the fashion sense of an 80 year old Jewish woman but sews me pretty pillow covers anyway. Seriously, that’s love.

I’m also very close to another girl, My Married Friend (so called because, ironically, she’s married). She eloped with her husband when she was nineteen – and by eloped, I mean went to the beach and got married in some lady’s yard in front of a rusted motor boat and a Jesus lawn ornament. And, even though all of our mutual friends have been comrades their whole lives, we didn’t know each other until college. However, during my junior year of undergrad, all of the hallowed forces of the universe lined up to bring us together. And since then, we’ve been eating our way to a beautiful friendship, one slice of beef pizza and a child’s portion of spaghetti at a time. She is the Christina to my Barb. (Yes, that makes me Wanda Sykes; my inner spirit guide is most definitely a black lesbian with a fro.) The bottom line is we were meant to be.

Until recently, I lived with a roommate I met during my first year of grad school. She’s my exact opposite in every way. She grew up on a North Carolina mountain about fifteen minutes outside of Asheville. Given her southern mountain upbringing, she speaks the crazy mountain talk, and about 85% of the time I don’t have a goddamn clue what she’s saying to me. I swear to God I need captions when she gets excited. She also eats the most peculiar food concoctions I’ve ever seen (i.e. cornbread and milk joined together in a chunky mess in my nice coffee mugs), and she always, always has a bottle of Coke around. Yet, in spite of the country rearing, she’s probably the most intelligent, anal person I know in actual life. I’ve literally never seen someone do school work every day of the week. (As a general rule, these are usually the times I’m sitting on the couch watching The Nanny on Nick at Night and praying I wake up early enough to finish what I need to do the next day.) Still, despite her various OCDs, she never seems to remember to put my hand towels back on the oven rail, nor does she load the dishwasher in any logical pattern I can comprehend. And, truthfully, I love everything about her – including the odd mix of Appalachian WASPiness and Timberland-wearing sass that combine to complete her. Or maybe because of it.

These are not naked friends.

Contrary to Girls assertion that platonic women friends take baths together while eating cupcakes, we don’t. Unless we’re lesbians, in which case the bathing is part of the deal. And maybe cupcakes if she’s an awesome girlfriend.  (Take note, fellas.) Generally speaking, though, girls aren’t sudsing it up together unless sex or alcohol – or some combination thereof – is involved.

No, the Naked Friend is a whole different animal.

When you do finally discover sex – which I’ll admit was a bit later in the game for me – you’ll realize it’s really, really fun. Not in the 50 Shades of Grey, everyone gets off like they’re popping soda cans kind of way, but in an it’s nice to be near you, I like the way you smell kind of way. Sex is, for many of us, both extremely anxiety provoking and that which we most desire. Like Taco Bell – delicious in the moment but so caloric you’ll have to work out for a week to be able to button your pants again. It’s this dichotomous nature of sex that complicates the whole concept of the naked friend.

However, watch any media depiction of twenty-something life: apparently we’re all in bars every night, wearing Gucci, tipping back vodka cranberries, leaning over pool tables like porn stars, and bating ridiculously hot potential sex partners with the mere power of our eyes. Maybe some of us are. But more than likely, you’re sitting at home with your cats (or dogs) exhausted from a long day of trying to prove your worth at a job where no one gives a crap about you. Which makes the Naked Friend hard to come by.

For most (if not all) of us, the Naked Friend is a rarity, like a precious gem or an intelligent Kardashian sister. And why? Because a lot of us who choose to get naked together aren’t feeling anything remotely like friendship. Let’s be real: wanting to touch privates with somebody else (and then really going the whole nine yards) is the only thing separating couples from buddies in the first place. Still, it seems to me that a great many of us in our twenties are convinced that nudity is a perfectly acceptable part of friendship. As in, we can see each other’s business, go a few rounds, smack each other on the ass, and then head out for a burger and a pitcher. I’m not denying the existence of the Naked Friend, mind you. But I do wonder: are naked friends maybe (just maybe) always already on the friend zone highway without even knowing it?

Given all the complexities, you might be inclined to think the friend zone is something like Gilligan’s Island for unrequited love, and naked friends just aren’t sober enough to know that’s where they really are.  It’s easy to assume that all of us in the friend zone are living out our days in various states of anxiety – and in Thurston Howell’s case, drunkenness – waiting for a tug boat to come along and scoop us up. True, we might meet some fairly interesting people along the way. I mean, after all, we’ve got a doctor and a movie star. (Although I’m having difficulty believing Carrie Mulligan has ever been friend zoned. Hell, I wouldn’t friend zone her.) Nevertheless, the friend zone still fundamentally appears to be the relationship equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys. Except with potential suitors. So more like the Island of Sexless Chums. But this can’t be, right? Just look at the naked friends! They are friends. They are naked. They are naked friends. So someone please tell me, what in the actual fuck is the point of the friend zone if we can get naked together and then kick back with a case of PBR and play a few rounds of rummy?!

Alright, alright. Don’t panic. Drop that complete Friends discography and put hard liquor away.

BECAUSE, despite the dire outlook, I’ve also been wondering lately if perhaps there’s more to the Naked Friend and the friend zone than simple friendship. Could it possibly be that, for a large majority of twenty-somethings, the friend zone is a place to cool our jets while our “friend” tries to get their bearings about them? Please note what I’m offering here isn’t advice on avoiding the friend zone; rather, I’d like to think of it as a way to make peace with the anxiety, the frustration, the late night boozing and ensuing haziness, the way-too-personal gestures that are in no way merely friendly, the weirdly out of place kisses or maybe the ill-conceived roll in the hay, and, generally, the lack of geographical awareness. If there’s a highway into the friend zone, there’s one that leads out, right? Maybe it’s all just a trial period. And maybe not. But think of it this way: at least you’re among friends. 

All original content copyright Kimberly Turner, 2013-2013.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Raising Hell! (...And Dahlias Too)


I have a secret.

What, you ask? Is she addicted to cocaine? Does she lead a double life as a dominatrix? Does she secretly hoard York Peppermint Patties in her bra??

Sadly, no. I hate to disappoint. I’m not that exciting. I barely like blowing my nose, so cocaine is definitely out. I’m not even remotely coordinated enough to be a dominatrix. And in my apartment, my roommate is the hoarder. (Although, to be fair, she keeps her Tootsie Pops on the top shelf of her closet, like any good food hoarder would.)

No, my secret isn't as thrilling as all that, but it’s something I haven’t told anyone except my nearest and dearest. Because even as I think it, I feel like a creep. But here goes: I think I might be a crappy feminist.

OHMYGODNOSHEDIDN’T.

I know. I know. It’s terrible. It’s the worst thing a 21st century woman could ever, EVER admit out loud. (Unless, of course, you think 50 Shades of Grey is quality literature, in which case you’re in a class all your own). But really, I think I might actually be a terrible feminist.

Not in a disturbingly scary, Anne Coulter kind of way, though. Before you call the National Organization for Women and report me for lady-hating, I should clarify that I’m probably one of the most outspoken and openly indignant women you've met since the limp penis ascot blouse went out of style. I’m little, I’m loud, and I've got Irish fire coursing through my blood. I’m basically a one-woman Rush Limbaugh coronary waiting to happen. I may be a shitty feminist, but I still want women to have the right to vote and leave their houses in pants and read books written with multi-syllabic words. I ain’t into the barefoot and pregnant thing. Unless you decide that’s what you want to do. (And then, by all means, do you boo boo. Do. You.)

Honestly, though, I sincerely and ardently believe women are intelligent and capable and deserve every damn cent of every damn dollar for every damn hour they work. I’m into birth control and sex education and single parents and little girls and boys playing with whatever toys make them shut up for the longest amount of time. I’m conscious of what I wear, and I think about what I say. I am single-handedly keeping The Vagina Monologues running. I’m with women (and men) all the way.

That being said, I think I suck at feminism.

It’s a tricky thing to confess, especially since I have a degree in Gender Studies. You’d think a woman like me would be a Grade A, free range, 97% fat free feminist. But I’m not. I studied gender, and with that came a major emphasis on queer theory. For those outside of the academic circle, gender studies and queer theory aren't quite as LGBT-centric as they sound. (Although I do spend a good deal of my time in the company of those who practice the love that dare not speak its name. And it’s awesome.) Queer theory is, in actuality, mostly concerned with interrupting a culture which naturalizes white, Christian, middle-class, hetero-normative culture at the expense of – well – everyone else. Suffice it to say, queer theory hasn't exactly made it to the streets yet. It’s predominately significant to a small group of scholars who actually like to write twenty page essays and present them at conferences and wear monochromatic pant suits. Like me.

What’s most important about queer theory and gender studies is that a whole generation of twenty-something men and women (and me) grew up post-feminist movement and right dab smack in the middle of a whole new mindset. Not just post-second wave, big glasses-wearing, frizzy-haired, Gloria Steinem feminism. We’re post post second wave feminism. So post that most of us aren't old enough to remember 1992’s “Year of the Woman.” Why? Because we were all more excited that we had learned how to flush on our own. Given our life spans, feminism seems almost – dare I say it? – dated.

Please don’t shoot me.

But think about it. If I’m specializing in issues of gender and sexuality, and even I think feminism is beat, there have got to be a few more people out there who have been feeling this way for a while. Maybe it’s because feminists couldn't foresee a future in which a study of gender might stretch beyond just women’s issues. Maybe they were SO DAMN PISSED for being drugged up and impregnated and shellacked with department store beauty products that they went too far the other direction. Whatever the reason, I've got to say, our second and third wave feminist
friends (an extremely valiant group of women, don’t get me wrong) handed us 21st century ladies a hard narrative to follow.

Don't misunderstand me. Betty Friedan was on the money when she said, “No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.” I don’t. Never have. And unless Swiffer gets really creative in the next few years, I doubt I ever will. But sometimes, I've got to admit, being a Strong Feminist Woman is really damn exhausting. I’m not doubting myself or undermining my own badassery. I am begot from a line of women so strong they make Lou Ferrigno seem like an asthmatic four year old. I come from a woman who moved 14 hours away from home when she was twenty-three for a job in a place she knew jack about. She’s the same woman who subsequently had a breast removed, stared cancer down with a stony eye, and worked out after every round of chemo. This heifer ain’t no joke. This is my blood people. Sia don’t know shit about titanium.

But there’s a flip side to this whole Strong Feminist Woman business. Our fore-mothers gained a tremendous amount of ground in a short span of time, and those women made it possible for me to even study gender in the first place. But, BY GOD, did they leave us twenty-something women (and men) with a lot of damn baggage. We live with an incredible number of social rules regarding what it means to be a strong woman (and possibly even more about what it means to be a man who respects strong women).

So, here’s my quandary: I’m vulnerable, and I’m not sure if that’s okay.

I don’t know if modern women even have a script for how to be strong and vulnerable. The whole notion had a brief shining moment in the late eighties, but somewhere along the way, our mothers were scared off. Maybe Olympia Dukakis was just too damn awesome. And Greek. Whatever the reason, a vulnerable, emotional feminist seems to be a cultural taboo these days. Remember when Hillary Clinton cried on the presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire? She faced considerable backlash (from both sides) who claimed her emotions were calculated or that she was doing female politicians a disservice by pandering to stereotypes about femininity. She was accused of trying to win over voters with a “human touch” – as if, at their cores, strong feminist women are all black box hearts and haphazardly crossed wires.  Clearly, we’re only programmed to show emotion when it’s advantageous – you know, when holding babies or petting kittens or trying to win the Democratic bid for president. Moments like that.

Whatever the reason, the Strong Feminist Woman in her twenties trying to be hip and socially conscious is, under no circumstances, allowed to admit that sometimes, when she’s sure no one will catch her, she reads romance novels for the love story, not just the sex. And she absolutely cannot own to watching Sabrina and sighing a little wistfully because Audrey Hepburn wore the most ridiculously gorgeous clothes ever donned or because Humphrey Bogart was clearly her soul mate (only he died 25+ years before she was born). And she definitely, definitely can’t admit that sometimes men hurt her feelings. Because she’s a feminist, dammit.

Well, fuck all that noise. I have this new theory I've been working on for Strong Feminist Women looking for something perhaps a little more…21st century.  It goes something like this:

I’m a feminist. I cry. Deal with it. 

All original content copyright Kimberly Turner, 2013-2013.