Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What You Missed at the #Grammys

If you seriously missed the Grammys this past Sunday, go ahead and take a minute to dust yourself off, because you've clearly just crawled out of a rock. I'll wait right here, go ahead and take all the time you need. Oh, you're back? Good, now let's get down to talking about what went down on music's biggest night.

The show started off with America's favorite power couple--and no, I'm not talking about Barack and Michelle--Beyonce and Jay-Z. Queen B initially took the stage alone in a sexy black bodice singing "Drunk in Love", one of the more memorable songs from the album she sneak-attacked on us late in 2013. Though this is a little off-topic, I'm just hypothesizing that the 2015 Grammys will be the year of the 3 Pop Queens: Beyonce's self-titled album, Lady Gaga's Applause, and Katy Perry's PRISM were all released just past the cut-off point to qualify this year, but next year they'll duke it out against one another for top honors. Anyway, as a viewer I was immediately buzzing for the next hours to come; I was just about as giddy as Taylor Swift dancing in the front row.

(photo courtesy of PopSugar.com)

Speaking of Taylor Swift, her performance was another highlight of the award show. Maybe I'm biased (okay, I'm definitely biased) but my girl killed it. She's lately been relying on her big-hit pop songs "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", "22", and "I Knew You Were Trouble" accompanied with dancers and intricate costumes, so this stripped down delivery was much appreciated. Sitting just at a piano adorned with her lucky number 13, she showed off her impeccable vocals and wise-beyond-her-years songwriting prowess with the soulful confessional "All Too Well". The only theatrics she used were some striking eye contact and hair flipping. Regardless, did the Taylor haters jump all over her for performing a song about a man that broke her heart? Of course. Is she way richer and hotter than all of those haters combined? Duh. But still in all, my girl Tay was sent home with 0 Grammys, which in my opinion is ridiculous. Her album Red is a masterful weaving together of country and pop genres and it stings a little to know that that work will go unrecognized, but it doesn't change the songs themselves; that's what I'm telling myself anyway. But seriously if you're reading this and you aren't familiar with any of the songs on this album that weren't made into singles, look them up.

(photo courtesy of HollywoodReporter.com)

It seemed as though not all of the performances this evening followed in that same understated trend, but that's what makes award shows fun. Not every artist can have 20 dancers and robotic horses (looking at you, Katy Perry), but as an audience we crave some of that showiness. The Grammys struck a good balance with the types of performances, I will say. Personal favorites of mine were Pink's amazing trapeze act (seriously I can barely do my ab routine at the gym, meanwhile she's in her 30s and singing beautifully while suspended upside-down), Lorde's bizarre clawing and raspy mix of spoken-word and big notes, and Kendrick Lamar's collaboration with Imagine Dragons. Oh! And I can't forget about my new girl-crush, Kacey Musgraves. I've had one of her songs on my iPhone for a few months ("Merry Go 'Round", for which she accepted the Grammy for Best Country Song) , but once she took the stage in her light-up cowboy boots and preached "kiss lots of boys...or kiss lots of girls if that's something you're into", I was beyond enthralled. She snagged the coveted Grammy for "Country Album of the Year", and upon listening to Same Trailer Different Park I couldn't support the decision more. Her self-penned lyrics hold true the musical values that make country so strong and catchy--the banjos, the honest melodies--but she does so in a new, progressive way. Her lyrics help push the somewhat old-fashioned genre in a positive direction, because hello it's 2014, we need songs about having premarital sex and loving whomever makes you happy.

(photo courtesy of EOnline.com)

Now you know I couldn't mention love and equal rights without gushing about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's beautiful, tear-jerking performance. They, with the help of Mary Lambert, performed "Same Love", an apt equal rights anthem. And if that wasn't great enough, Queen Latifah proceeded to come on stage and marry 34 couples--both same and opposite sex--lined up in the aisles as guests looked on and shed tears. I truly believe as I watched the prompt ceremony in my dorm room, I was watching history being made. Oh and not that it's a big deal or anything, but freaking Madonna decided she would join the party. I can honestly say Macklemore and Ryan Lewis deserved to win four times over, especially the Grammy for Best New Artist, because their impact on the music industry is making waves. Oh my God, and when they went to accept their award, Macklemore's fiancĂ© immediately bursted into proud, happy tears. Entirely too presh.

(photo courtesy of NYDailyNews.com)

So I guess that's all you really missed at the Grammys this year. The biggest award of the night, Album of the Year, went to Daft Punk, which is totally understandable because with lyrics like "We're up all night to get some...We're up all night to get lucky" they totally stack up against the other nominees. Are you sensing my sarcasm here? Honestly, I thought Taylor had it in the bag, but even more than that, I thought the other nominees did enough good work this year that I could humbly accept her loss on their behalf. Daft Punk though? As they say in their robot language: Does not compute.

What did you think of the awards this year? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Essentials

If there are any gentlemen reading, I'd advise you to switch the tab on your browser over to Netflix Instant Streaming, (I know you're in the middle of marathoning either Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black) because today's blog post is even more girly than usual.

Every time I ask Siri how cold it is outside, she responds with a shudder-inducing number in the single digits that makes it hard to get out of bed. So to compensate for the dreadful chill of January, I've been turning to some of my favorite products and media to make that trek across campus a little less miserable. If you're still trying to desperately cling to your early autumn routine, girl, it's time to make a few switches, your skin and your attitude will seriously thank you.

1) A good foundation and moisturizer duo.
As someone with skin prone to dryness even in July, I get unsightly dry patches on my cheeks and jawline this time of year, and just covering that up with a thick powder every morning only makes the problem worse--not to mention 10x more obvious. If this sounds like you, try a liquid foundation that sits lightly on your skin; the less you can feel it, the better. But first, remember to apply face moisturizer morning and night. I swear by the Olay Complete All-Day UV Moisturizer for sensitive skin, because it has sun protection (which you absolutely cannot neglect, even in the dead of winter) and doesn't have an overwhelming powdery scent. If my skin gets particularly wind-whipped one day, though, sometimes I'll go ahead and apply a pea-sized drop of Cortizone 10 to dry patches right before bed. It sounds gross, but that stuff your mom rubbed on your bug bites when you were little actually makes your skin baby soft in the morning. If all that sounds like one skin product too many or if your skin is oily year-round, opt for a BB Cream that gives light coverage and has all the benefits of a moisturizer. I like Maybelline's Dream Fresh BB Cream personally; with a little concealer and a baby pink blush, it gives you a completely natural-looking dewey complexion.

2) Brown Sugar and Honey
You heard right, folks. I bet you have both in your kitchen cupboards right now, and they're both untapped sources for your best DIY project yet. Mix equal parts brown sugar and extra virgin olive oil then add a squirt of honey and voila! You have a lip scrub that'll slosh off that unsightly peeling, chapped skin. Follow up with a medicated lip balm to ensure the skin you just exposed stays hydrated and your lip products will go on much smoother. Speaking of lips...

3) Ditch the Lip Stain.
This time of year lip stains just settle into the crevices and cracks of your lips and feather in a really undesirable way. Instead, try to use moisturizing lip products that also give good color-payoff. I know a lot of you are probably under the impression that these products never come in fun colors, but I'd beg to differ. My favorite lipstick range is the Revlon Lip Butters. Sure a lot of the colors are pale but if you're after a good orange, red, violet, or hot pink, you won't be remiss. My favorites from the line are the obnoxious in-your-face colors that sit especially well on my beyond pale skin. I own and constantly wear Candy Apple, Red Velvet, Sugar Plum, and Lollipop.

4) Let It Snow
Okay sure, Christmas is over, but what can I say? I'm a sucker for festive holiday stories year-round, and since it's at least winter, I feel like I can get away with this one. Let It Snow is a compilation of three short stories written by acclaimed young adult authors Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. Each story is barely 100 pages, if that, and tells a sweet romantic tale you can easily digest after a long day of work or school. This year, try reading for pleasure at least one night a week instead of using the computer or watching TV. It may sound annoying, but you'd be surprised how enjoyable snuggling up with a good read can be after a tiring day. Plus, books don't radiate any harsh light that'll keep your brain buzzing until 4 AM. Start with Let It Snow and then find yourself making a "to-read" list a mile long.

5) A Good Gym Playlist
Getting exercise this time of year seems difficult now that warm comfort food is even more enticing, but if you throw together good songs to listen to, you'll be surprised how much you get into your cardio routine. Think about how long your workout will be then make a playlist that's about 5-10 minutes longer all total. For example, if you're working out for half an hour, make your playlist at least 35 minutes. Why? Because studies have shown listening to music before a workout makes your brain more readily active by the time you climb onto that elliptical and conditions your endorphins to start pumping. Think about the beat and meter of songs and arrange an order that reflects the warm-up/work hard/cool down pattern of an ideal workout. If you're feeling uninspired, here's my current mix:
Tennis Court by Lorde
Pop Danthology 2013 by Daniel Kim
Pompeii by Bastille
Friday Night by Lady Antebellum
Chocolate by The 1975
Dark Horse by Katy Perry feat. Juicy J
Nobody Compares by One Direction
I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift
Drops of Jupiter by Train

For now that's it. I hope you enjoy these next few weeks--though frigid--and we'll talk soon!

Remember to leave comments below; I love getting mail.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I Changed My Life Plan!

From where I'm sitting in my school's library, I am see the small Starbucks kiosk in the corner, so I'm going to count that as "I Wrote This In Starbucks", ergo I am once again fulfilling what is expected of this blog. I'm sure none of you care, but it makes me feel like I'm accomplished and important. Although I probably shouldn't, I care an awful lot about feeling accomplished and important, because in my head if I'm doing something worthwhile with my day, it makes the money I spend on my coffee and the time I spend on my makeup justifiable because it's almost like I'm a high-society business lady. I know that belief is built on a slate of flawed logic, but once again there's an insight into the unrealistic conventions of my brainwaves. Anyway, I do actually have some news for you all: since we last talked, I changed my entire life plan! I'm honestly so excited about it and I thought y'all should be the first to hear the news...well, first to hear the news if you don't count all of my friends and family.

You may be wondering Lauren, what happened to wanting to be a high school English teacher? It seems like you were into that! Well, oh inquisitive one, here's a secret: I haven't really been into that for a while now. The shitty thing about being 18, though, is that all of the adults I know (and even those I don't know) expect me to have a life plan, so I just went with something that felt slightly comfortable. Kind of like how when girls go shopping we'll buy a pair of jeans that are a little too tight just because they don't totally cut off our circulation and the thought of going a size up is unbearable. So yeah, studying English and Secondary Ed, while not completely perfect for me, was ideal enough to declare as my major when I enrolled in my university. My first tip-off that I needed a change should've been the major-exclusive class I took last semester where I felt as though I was completely drowning while my peers were happily swimming laps in the deep end of the pool. I kept telling myself "this is normal, I'll get the hang of it", but soon enough I began to dread that class. I knew that was weird--you should love your major courses--but I chalked it up to lack of experience and told myself I would enjoy the English class I would take in the Spring semester. Well, shocker, I'm in that English class now and after only four lectures I'm not feeling it. Now that's weird: two major classes in a row I wasn't absolutely excelling in and didn't want to attend. The thoughts in my head saying "maybe change your major" began to rapidly multiply until it was all I could think about. Once I sucked it up and realized I needed a change, there came the next challenge: change to what? Sure, I knew I didn't like the track I was on, but that sure didn't mean I knew the perfect track to jump over to right away. Then there came the most productive gym session I've had in a while.

One of the things I love most about going to the gym is the hour--give or take--I get to spend quality time with my thoughts. Not as a surprise to anyone, I was thinking about the issue of changing my major as I pumped iron and did crunches. As my thoughts raced, I was reading a magazine on the elliptical. On one of the pages there was an interview with a woman from Richmond, Virginia (about two hours from my hometown) who attended a state school that currently works as the Social Media Director at Maybelline cosmetics, one of my favorite brands. Her job profile involves using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest to make connections, blog writing, and researching trends for the brand. I sighed and thought to myself God, something like that would be the dream job. Then I realized, whoa there, there's a major here. It was then I thought really hard about why this job sounded so enticing, and I realized it was because it combined my three passions and skill-sets: writing, using social media, and all things girly. Ideally, I'd love to work in a big city with a publication or beauty brand I'm passionate about dealing with new media; the great thing about being in college right now is that as I hang out here and take the right classes, new jobs like I just described are being created every day. With the fire of a potential new life plan warming my frigid walk back to the dorm, my head was spinning. I called my mom to get her blessing and then perused JMU's Undergraduate Course Catalogue to find a pre-professional track that fit those qualifications, and that's how I ended up declaring a Media Arts and Design major yesterday!

Unfortunately this major requires applying to the School of Media Arts and Design, which I won't be eligible to do until next September, so not much is changing as of right now, but right now I'm just focusing on getting my Gen-Eds out of the way to really dig my heels into the program as soon as possible. If I'm admitted to the program I'll hopefully have a concentration in either Journalism or Converged Media with a minor in Creative Writing. I know, it sounds very confusing, but basically all this means is I'm on the right path to get where I want to go. I'm just so relieved to be focusing on a life plan that excites me and is well worth the challenge. Could I have continued as an English major and taught in a high school all my life? Sure. Would I be good at it? I have no doubt. Would I feel fulfilled and creative every day? Probably not. I've always had a secret obsession with working for a female-oriented brand, I just didn't know how to get there. So if you're at all like me with a hidden interest in a lifestyle that seems way unattainable, there's a good chance it's possible, it just may not be perfectly-manicured.

Well anyway, that was my big update for you guys; I hope you're as excited as I am for this switch in scenery and who knows? Maybe in a few years I'll be writing this blog from my dream office or in the Starbucks next to the adorable organic foods store in the hip, warm city I'll be living in. As for me, I can't wait, and I hope you'll still be around to hear about it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Five University Students You Don't Want to Be

Hello friends! First of all let me just say how beyond happy I am to find this blog has already reached over 1000 page views? I love writing here and I love that someone's reading! So whether this is your first time in this neighborhood of the internet or you've contributed a good percentage of that first thousand, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Pull up a bean bag chair or one of those cool trampoline seats from Target and make yourself at home. Anyway, since we've last talked (it's been a little bit of time), I've completed a week of spring semester classes, and so far they're all going well. Of course there are a few annoying people in every lecture, and this post goes out to them. Maybe they don't even know they're being so annoying, so maybe this will help educate and eradicate classroom nuisances. Take it from me, there are enough know-it-alls and biddies in the world without more innocent souls contributing. Without further adieu, I present the 5 University Students You Don't Want to Be:

1) The 20 Question Machine
Remember how fun 20 Questions was when you were younger? Well here's a strange plot-twist: it's not fun during syllabus week. Asking incredibly detailed questions about the final exam that is a good 15 weeks away does kill time, but it also makes me want to kill myself. If you're going to ask one or two questions about the syllabus, go right ahead, but once you cross over into the territory of three or more, you need to do some thinking to yourself. Ask silently does this question benefit at least half the class and do I need to know the answer right now? If the answer to either question is "no", save it for a later date or wait after class to ask the professor.

2) The Kiss-Up
Hey what lipstick shade are you wearing? It looks particularly nice on our professor's ass. Every class has this kid, the one who makes it his or her goal to win affection. Maybe batting your eyelashes wins you extra points in the third grade, but I guarantee it won't make your stickler professor go easy on the shitty essay you submit later in the semester. Plus, it's actually really creepy now that you're a consenting adult. Just don't do it. If you want your professors to like you, just be genuine. Introduce yourself, get help during office hours, get them to learn your name, and turn out quality work. That's how to get in your prof's good graces, not by complimenting their haircut every time class meets.

3) The Hermione Granger
Trust me, I love Hermione, she's such a good feminist role model and portrayed by Emma Watson beautifully, but you must admit she was a pretty annoying student. As a little girl, I would roll my eyes every time she was awarded "5 points for Gryffindor!" for robbing other students' opportunities to excel, and that attitude hasn't changed much. Even if you know the answer to every question or the Gen-Ed you're taking is in the same field as your major, limit yourself to a few contributions a day. Plus, many college courses rely on participation, so by robbing all those points, you may actually be sacrificing others' grades. Make sure you gauge the amount of raised hands before you blurt out answers, and if you're really passionate about what you're studying, you can always express this to your professor outside of class; they'll probably love the enthusiasm.

4) The Un-Appointed TA
It is a professor's job to critique students' work and make suggestions for improvement, not yours. There is nothing more simultaneously infuriating and embarrassing than getting called out on a careless mistake by a fellow classmate. I know it's tempting, I too feel an overwhelming desire to fix everything and everyone, but sometimes you just have to let go and allow for the learning process to take place without you. Sit on your hands if you must, and exert that extra energy into making your own work even better.

5) The Drunken Braggart
Repeat after me: We are in college. We've all been drunk. You are not special. Talking loudly so everyone can hear about how "crazy" or "insane" Friday was isn't a very novel story. It doesn't take any particular skill to get drunk, therefore rendering it unimpressive. Additionally, if you didn't party this weekend, no one cares. Just like we don't care about your party stories, we don't care about how you think partying is "gross" or "barbaric"; additionally your tired excuses for staying in are boring. If you go out, that's awesome, do that. If you don't go out, awesome, don't do that. Just don't think you deserve a gold star either way.

So apparently I was feeling really sassy today, sorry if I was a little brash or forthright. I just feel really strongly about these things. If you didn't already realize this, I tend to be more tightly-wound than the average young adult. Not apologizing for it, just pointing it out. I hope you're all having a good week, and here's to another 1000 page views!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Glamour=Kick-Ass Feminist Literature?

Today as I ran out the door to go to the gym, I stuffed the January issue of Glamour in my backpack and laced up my athletic shoes, not paying a second thought to either phenomenon. When I got there, I hopped on my usual elliptical machine, silently thanking God the sign-up board wasn't already full, and opened the magazine I subscribe to, yet oddly enough rarely read.

Let me level with you by saying that I got this subscription for free when I was checking out at Ulta one day. The makeup girl asked me if I wanted a free year, and as a textbook cheapskate couldn't turn it down. So now I have this magazine I occasionally flip through for the pretty pictures and maybe read the covergirl interview if she's a celebrity I'm particularly interested in, nothing more than that. But after reading today at the gym, I promise I won't miss an issue from now on. Wanna know why? Because Glamour is feminist as fuck.

The copy I read while on the elliptical features Claire Danes wearing a pretty (yet completely seasonally inappropriate) sundress and headlines about the "Top 20 Dos and Don'ts of the Year"; overall, it seems like your typical girly magazine. But alas! Those 20 Dos and Don'ts? All about dressing for success and not obsessing about having a thigh gap. Upon reading just the first feature, I'm already on board, and as a cranked the resistance on my machine up, I turned the page to only be more pleasantly surprised.

Glamour's fashion spread featured outfits to wear to work for the average successful woman, and while certainly stylish and a bit ostentatious for your everyday look, still completely practical. Other magazines for women only feature impossible-to-rock clothes that only reduce the models to living clothing racks, whereas Glamour styles outfits you may actually feel comfortable in and wear while you present at a board meeting. Another point in the mag's favor.

Of course, the magazine also features beauty trends and hairstyles to try, but that's important, too! Women should be told they can indulge in expensive face cream and intricately braid their hair if they want to; after all, we catch our own eye in the mirror often enough, might as well like what we see! Glamour presents their beauty tips as ways to make women enhance their own self-esteem and to dress up for no one else but themselves, if they so choose, and what isn't awesome about that?

So imagine me pumping my legs to the tune of my One Direction workout playlist, turning the page to the sex section (sex-tion? Maybe?) of the magazine and still feeling proud to be caught with it in public. Why? Because it continues to slay with its feminist view of sexuality, that's why! Other magazines focus on "101 Ways to Pleasure Him" or "What He Really Wants in Bed", but Glamour basically damns all those gender roles to Hell and praises women for taking control of their own sexuality. This article in particular compared two sex surveys--one taken in 1993 and one taken in late 2013--and praised readers for their comparable openness and willingness to explore more. According to their stats, 35% of women said they've watched porn compared to the 21% reported twenty years prior, and the writer gives kudos to ladies today for being more curious about sex. Now I'm actually kind of prudish myself and the thought of sex still makes me a little uncomfortable, but I think it's hella cool that we're giving other women the freedom to do whatever they want under their own bedsheets.

Now as much as I want to go through every section and tell you about why it made my little feminism heart go a-flutter (and trust me, I really want to), I'll save you the chore of having to read all of that. This is partly because it's almost midnight and I still have reading for school to do, but also because I'm thinking of you. So I'll be brief: other articles discussed the empowering act of freezing one's own eggs, how TV is still very much a man's world and should be re-structured to provide more inspiring female friendships, and letting women know "Hey, It's OK..." to be exactly who they are, messy habits and all. I can't express enough my new love for Glamour magazine, and I can guarantee I'll be actually purchasing my subscription once this free trial runs out.

So anyway, I hope you're all having a good week so far and I'll be talking to you soon. Now I really should tend to that reading of mine.

Monday, January 13, 2014

First Day of School [pt 2] and the Handicapped Stall

Good evening, dear blog readers. It's currently looming close to 8:30 and while at some point I will have to force myself to go to the gym, right now is not that time. So naturally I thought I would tell you all about my first day of classes this semester, but as briefly as possible because I think "my first day of school" falls into the same category as "the dream I had last night" as far as storytelling goes--ergo nobody actually cares but has to pretend to be intently interested so as to not come across as a douche.

So anyway, yeah I had my first two classes today: Survey of British Literature II (basically Victorian lit) and French 232. The English class was good because three of my best college friends are taking it with me, so I didn't have to worry about, y'know, talking to people and making conversation. Phew, what a relief, no associating with strangers! The sad thing is I'm only half kidding when I say that. Anyway, the auditorium the class is in is so big I was immediately overwhelmed upon entering--last semester my biggest classroom was meant to hold 150 students, but this room is at least twice the size. But both the lecture and grading professors seem cool and I'll probably be able to coast through, so all-around good things. My French class doesn't start until 6:10, leaving me with 5 hours in the middle of the day to do nothing. Mom, if you're reading this, I meant 5 hours to study. Anyway, because the class is so late I was worried the roster would only boast a few names, but thankfully a good twenty people bothered to show up. My professor is a high school teacher by day and seems pretty nice, plus she said she'd speak English a good portion of the time, so I'm not too worried. I can already tell I'm going to whine and moan about going to French as we get further into the semester, but hey, you can't win 'em all.

Anyway, that was my recap of day one; I have more details I could smack down on you, but I'm not going to make you suffer through that. Tomorrow I have my final three classes--Individual Presentations, Lifespan Psychology, and Introduction to Theater--and I can't imagine having a problem with any of those. Now onto what I really wanted to talk about today: handicapped stalls in public restrooms.

During that aforementioned 5 hour break I read a bit of David Seraris's Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (which, so far at least, is phenomenal by the way; highly recommended) in the library when I felt the sudden urge to pee. This is a problem for two reasons: one being the fact that I always always wait to pee until the very last minute so I basically have to run to the nearest restroom cupping my crotch; the other being the fact that every time I go into a public restroom I'm reminded of my handicapped stall anxiety.

See, if there's no one in the bathroom it's not a big deal because you can just use the other regular person stall and it's all fine and dandy, but God forbid those are occupied, then you have to use the dreaded handicapped stall. In theory it's great because there's no much more room to stretch your legs, (because we all do some quick hamstring stretches in the bathroom, right?) and then on top of that there's almost always toilet paper in there, even if the other stalls are barren as far as butt wiping purposes are concerned. I mean I'm not saying it's a direct correlation, but I feel like the bathroom cleaners are cognizant of the fact that the handicapped already have it pretty rough, so perhaps toilet paper should always be an available amenity in order to compensate a little bit. A little bit being the operative term here.

But anyway, even though those perks exist in the handicapped stall, you can't fully enjoy them because you're so anxious the entire time. Wait, I failed to mention one key factor here: in order to properly understand, you'll have to pretend you're me, aka afraid of everything and analyzing even the most irrelevant details of the human experience. To continue, you can't enjoy the handicapped stall because you're rushing so much to get in and get out. See, I have a really bad habit of caring way too much about inconveniencing people, so naturally this situation isn't any different. The entire time I'm using the bathroom (the whole two minutes, tops) all I can do is picture myself opening the door to wash my hands and finding a severely handicapped woman--I'm talking blind, deaf, and in a wheelchair--sitting right in my path red-faced with embarrassment because of the pee puddle she's been forced to leave at her feet...err...wheels. I know that is completely irrational and will never happen, mostly because I feel like most people have more control over their bladders in those scenarios, but that's just how my mind works. It's odd, I know, but that's just pretty much the conclusion you can draw from any quick trip inside my brain.

Hopefully as I keep updating you on my life and the anxieties therein, you'll begin to understand where I'm coming from a little bit more and not feel as uncomfortable every time you read my blog.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Maternal Instinct, or Lack Thereof

Guess what, guys? For the time ever in the history of this blog, I'm actually writing in Starbucks, as the title suggests! I'm sorry if you were under the impression that I had been doing that all along, Dorothy, but the truth is it was just a regular person behind the curtain all along. Did you get that Wizard of Oz reference? I hope so, otherwise we need to stop associating.

Writing this blog post in Starbucks is actually very interesting because not only does it make me feel like a real life important blogger, but today is also prime for eavesdropping. Call me rude or nosy all you want, but I can't help it: I love people-watching. Maybe it's the part of me that is so keen on writing and collecting stories, or maybe it's just the part of me that gages my life worth and degree of fucked-up by comparing the snippets I hear from other people's conversations...I'm not totally sure. The important thing here is that the three people sitting to my left are having the most riveting argument I've overheard as of late. I only sat down next to them to listen in to the tail-end of the exchange, but from what I can tell one married couple with kids is arguing with another woman with kids about their parenting styles and the appropriate way to raise their 15-year-old boys. The single woman has gotten up from the table threatening to leave about four times already, and she's pushed the other man to apologize for giving her a headache at least twenty.

Alright, the single woman just finally left in her last fit of rage, so now the married couple opposing her gets to talk shit about everything that just went down. Honestly, I do feel bad, because I've been there before: I've tried meeting up with people with the sole purpose of working out discrepancies only to find the conflict escalating and reaching the point of absolute frustration. I've been there, strangers to my left, I know how you feel! But honestly, there's one thing that could've been done years ago to avoid this entire exchange: you shouldn't have had children. I know that's incredibly harsh, but it brings me to the topic I actually wanted to discuss today; isn't it wonderful how I was able to conveniently work that into what I just observed? Anyway, I thought it'd be a good idea to discuss early-on one key insight into my makeup as a person: I do not possess any sort of maternal instinct, nor do I have any desire to have children by any means.

Ever since I can remember, I've always felt weird about children. I can specifically remember being four years old when my neighbor gave birth to her second child and brought the infant over to the house to show my parents. From what I recall, I was lingering around the corner looking at this swaddled up pink-skinned thing and feeling really on-edge as a result of the whole situation. I never had younger siblings and wasn't really that accustomed to babies at that point; Hell I never even wanted baby dolls to play with and the mere thought of playing "mommy" was not appealing to my toddler brain in the slightest. Well, you guys are smart people, what do you think happened next? The neighbor saw me hanging out at the outskirts of the room and of course said the most haunted words in the English language: "Lauren, do you want to hold the baby?" Of course by that she meant "sit on the couch and I'll support her head and rest her body on your arms", but either way the flashing red lights started sounding off in my inner being, blaring over and over again DO NOT HOLD CHILD...DO NOT HOLD CHILD...DO NOT HOLD CHILD! In a quick fit of anxiety, I spluttered out an awkward "no thank you", probably offending my neighbor in the process; though looking back on it now, she should thank me because at least this way none of my extreme oddness got imprinted on the kid. The baby in question is probably a genius beautiful head cheerleader now, and it's all thanks to me. You're welcome, ambiguous neighbor girl. Make sure to float me a check when you're undoubtedly hella successful.

From there, my interactions with children, even as a child myself, were strikingly similar; holiday get-togethers, block parties, and parental work functions all presented the opportunity to hold babies or play with the little kids, and every time these experiences threw me into a weird panic. The only time I came around and started convincing myself I liked kids was when I realized I was old enough to start babysitting. After all, you know what they say: if you're afraid or uncomfortable, get someone to pay you and you probably will be less afraid or uncomfortable.* Even then though, I got exhausted watching even the most angelic kids, and upon looking at the clock would find we'd only been playing for half an hour.

For the longest time, I thought all of this was just a result of my social anxiety and naturally high-strung disposition, but one fateful trip to Target a year ago made me realize hey, the common denominator here is kids; I like people, just not kids! I was shopping for a Secret Santa present for a classmate with a friend of mine when we took a stroll down the toy aisle. There sitting on the end of a shelf was a creepy looking baby doll boasting a large "Try Me!" sticker. I figured this'll probably be funny, why not? and pushed the button on the doll's right hand, only to find myself terrified as the thing chirped in a high-pitched voice "Mommy!" At first I didn't know why I was so taken aback by this, but since then I realized it's because I don't want to ever be called Mom, Mommy, Momma, Mum, or any variation thereof. I really don't feel that natural softness toward kids, now imagine me having any of my own: absolute chaos and a lifetime of regret.

I'm sure this is coming across as me being a horrible Satanic person, but hey, we all have our vices. Some people hate snakes, other people hate cats, I just happen to hate other humans under the age of 14. I say that because, if you recall from my first blog post, I want to be a high school English teacher; this isn't incongruent with my distaste for kids because said distaste only manifests in kids age 0-13. I think teenagers are cool, especially if they like you and you've tricked them into believing you're their leader. Anyway, now that we've got that out of the way we can continue on with my plan to live a barren life.

Let me just begin by saying that I know plenty of adults that have chosen not to have kids and are just as happy, if not happier, than those with the textbook definition of "family". Don't feel pity for me as I describe my ideal future, thinking I'll feel some sort of void. Anyway, phase one of the plan will most likely take the most time and effort, judging by my current success with boys, or rather lack thereof. See, I just have to find some dude that's cool and likes books and thinks I'm okay and also shares my desire to not have kids. That may be difficult, because a lot of these aforementioned cool dudes tend to want babies, but maybe I can trick imaginary dream guy into changing his mind with my feminine charm. Or, better yet, maybe once I land someone, I'll fake a pregnancy scare really early on, freaking him out beyond compare. This'll work in my favor because then once I tell him something along the lines of "lol jk not knocked up" his relief will be so immense that I'll be able to milk it forever and ever; if he ever wants to try for a baby further down the road I can whip out the "remember how happy you were when you found out I wasn't pregnant?" card. I'm a terrible person, but anyway that's phase one: find cool life partner that I can trick into hating kids too and marry him before he can change his mind.

Phase two is my personal favorite part of the plan: adopt some dogs. Dogs are enough work to make me feel responsible for another life, but they don't need diapers or money for field trips or college tuition. I'm hoping imaginary cool husband person will share my love for small lap dogs, because I refuse to get a dog any bigger than a Beagle. Then again if he wants a big dog, I can trick him out of that, too; I tricked him out of wanting kids, didn't I?! Anyway, we'll live in our cute impeccably decorated Pier 1 dreamhouse with 2-3 little dogs and it'll be awesome.

Phase three of the plan is pretty simple: do whatever the fuck we want because we don't have kids. For example: it's payday! Since we don't have kids to buy things for, let's spend our hard-earned money on new throw pillows for our adorable home and treat ourselves to a nice dinner. Another example: it's summertime! We're not responsible for kids, so let's get our neighbors to watch the 2-3 little dogs and go on vacation! Since we don't have to worry about pleasing small children and keeping them entertained, we don't even have to consider shitty vacations like Disney cruises and family-friendly resorts; let's go to the South of France and eat expensive cheese on a nude beach. Phase three of the plan goes on for the rest of our lives, until we get too old to travel; at that point we'll just order cool gadgets off the TV and bask in our retirement. Sounds pretty great if you ask me.

And thus concludes my feelings on children. My friends love to joke with me about how "no no Lauren just wait, you're gonna want kids once you settle down and get into your mid-twenties", so I hope they've read this and now understand my stance. I hope you're all well, and now you know if you ever have kids only invite me over to your house after they've gone to bed.

*Okay, so that's not even a saying, but it should be. I'll work on my cross-stitching skills and get in on a pillow. Then it'll catch on, just you watch.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sorry, Jake

Because it was a record-breaking cold yesterday, I spent the entire day indoors watching movies with friends. As I threw DVDs into a plastic Target bag to bring over for our viewing party, I grabbed titles off of my shelf hastily. That's when I came across Sweet Home Alabama, 14-year-old Lauren's end-all, be-all favorite film. With those fond memories in mind, I grabbed the DVD and insisted we watch it. In my head, it was a kitschy, fun film about finding your roots in a small town. I knew it wasn't a masterpiece, but I remember loving it ever since I stumbled across it on HBO four years ago. However, upon a fresh viewing, turns out I was wrong. I wouldn't advise you to sit down and watch all 109 minutes of the film, unless you're prepared for a predictable Southern-style chick flick, so in its place, just watch the trailer.

If you just sat through those 2 minutes and 30 seconds, you're quite the trooper, and now you kind of get the gist of how honestly terrible this movie is. Not that it's not cute, but it certainly isn't the type of film the Academy pays attention to, y'know? Anyway, I realized this last night as I laid my wiser 18-year-old eyes on the screen and remembered something else: when it was my favorite, my freshman year of high school, I lent it to a guy I had a massive crush on. The poor boy! Initially the plan was for him to come over to my house so we could watch it together, but of course because I have anxiety about that type of stuff, I backed out at the last minute and just made him watch it in his spare time. And the worst part of it all? He pretended to like it. Apparently I was quite the hot ticket when I was 14, the kind of girl you sit through a dreadful rom-com for. If only I had that kind of allure now.

And while I did agree to watch The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in return, (his favorite movie at the time, though I hope that's also changed, because it's not a very good one, either) I honestly feel bad I ever insisted a boy sit through that movie for me. As I watched it with my friends, half of me was laughing at the cheesy dialogue and predictable plot, while the other half was cringing for the boy I used to pine after. 

I distinctly remember him texting me as he watched--because he a true romantic so naturally texted me every day--applauding my great taste in film; I bought that shit up, feeling important and sophisticated for the rest of the night before I went to sleep at an unreasonable hour. The worst part is a few weeks later when he asked me out on our first official date, I said no because I was so nervous. After all that, I never even agreed to go out with him. Poor guy! I'm definitely not saying women should ever feel they owe any part of themselves to men in return for being treated nicely, but honestly that's not what was going on here; I liked him and wanted to go out with him, but chickened out. But hey, that's the Lauren Sauer way. Ride or die--but like ride with a seatbelt on going the appropriate speed limit because let's not get too reckless here.

So in conclusion, though he does not read this blog, I'd like to formally apologize to Jake, the aforementioned boy that had to sit through Sweet Home Alabama for me. I hope he isn't too scarred from Patrick Dempsey's questionable acting choices, and I hope he is successful in his future ventures. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

End Girl Hate!

A very wise Tina Fey once said "you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores; it just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores." When I first saw Mean Girls at age 11, I thought it was just another funny quote I would later add to my repertoire, but as I found myself venturing into the often turbulent teenage girl world, I revisited this striking idea and realized damn, we need to stop hating on each other.

Walk the halls of your local high school and you won't be hard-pressed to find at least one young girl blasting another with toxic conversation. Or, even easier to find, a girl wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt scoffing at the cheerleaders lined up along the adjacent lockers because they're "so catty" and "airheaded". Both of these occurrences I just described are prime examples of girl hate, and both are just as damaging to our gender as a whole.

Where does girl hate come from, you may ask? My theory is it stems from one core problem: competition. As Darwin once taught us, species' function around survival of the fittest, and this phenomenon is no different when it comes to the special breed of human we've decided to call "the woman". From birth, we're given an ideal standard we're supposed to live up to which requires being not only physically attractive, but demure, yet intelligent, but classy, but not too emotional, but a little sensitive. If you're a girl, think back on the first toys you played with as a child; I guarantee Barbie will make an appearance. She's gorgeous, with boobs past her sculpted chin and a waist so small your five-year-old thumb barely measures up. Then you come to find she's a hard-worker (think President Barbie and Airline Pilot Barbie), smart as a whip (University Barbie, CEO Barbie, and Teacher Barbie), and a devoted wife and mother to Ken and whatever the baby's name is. So that's the ideal archetype you've memorized before you can even spell your own name, and because you're five you think you'll have all that and more when you're a grown-up. Oops, flash forward to ninth grade and surprise! Your boobs are nowhere near as perky as Barbie's, plus you're struggling to pass chemistry, something Pharmacist Barbie never had to deal with. Now that you're older and more aware, you're noticing the actresses on TV or the models you see online don't have these stretch marks you've recently discovered, not to mention they're dating your favorite boy-band member. And as a result of feeling inadequate, it seems most healthy to take these feelings out on girls you know in real life, because at least they're seemingly your equals.

Honestly it's no surprise we want to lash out at each other, we're bred for competition and don't want anyone around us claiming top prize. On an average day, women receive almost countless messages from all angles shouting "you're not good enough!" resulting in us feeling insecure and wanting to have what the girl next door possesses. Many women throw this insecurity into mean messages or adversely a desire to shout from the rooftops how they're "not like other girls". But here's a secret: being "like other girls" isn't a bad thing: if women started to support each other, we might even be taken seriously by men.

Because here's the other piece of the puzzle: all of this girl-on-girl hate sends a lot of men the message that they can join in on the picking apart. When guys see us calling each other "catty" or "slutty", many of them internalize these messages and feel like it's okay for them to say, too. The truth is, it's not okay for anyone to say, no matter how you identify. We're looked at as dramatic or ridiculous because we treat our fellow women in hurtful and degrading ways which comes from our feelings of competition with one another. Well guess what? These aren't the Women's Gymnastics portion of the Olympic Trials; we're not really duking it out for any sort of fancy recognition.

So how do we stop girl hate? I have two pieces of advice: acknowledge your jealousy and acknowledge the differences in everyone. That first tip comes more into play if when you feel a sense of competition that is purely based on "x has this/x does this better than I do/x possesses this quality" type of thinking; let these observations make you better, not bitter. For example, if you see a girl wearing a shirt that shows off her toned stomach, instead of rudely hissing about how "slutty" she looks, privately admit to yourself that you're envious of her well-defined body and make a plan to do some crunches every day. In this scenario, no one gets hurt, no negativity is spread, and you've made steps to improve your own life.* The second tip I listed above comes more into play with those girls that are so adamant about not being the "average" girl. If you ever find yourself feeling this way toward other, more classically feminine women, ask yourself: "Why should I be threatened by her? What is she doing that is actually deteriorating from who I am as a person?" I'd be willing to bet you'll find it difficult to find a legitimate answer. Next, remind yourself how individual differences are what make people--both men and women--each unique and special in a way that should be celebrated. Plus you never know, that cheerleader you're condemning? Maybe she's rushing home to play Call of Duty or watch the latest episode of Sherlock. People are often more complex than you think, and if you allow yourself to assess them in a more dynamic way, they may just surprise you.

So that's my analysis on girl hate. I hope you found this the slightest bit entertaining or enlightening, and while I don't apologize for my feminist rant, I promise I won't make a habit of posting these. Next time I'll publish something a little more light-hearted, friends.

Have a good night and be nice to one another; especially you, ladies.


*Of course, this is just a hypothetical situation involving a made-up person that feels envious of another made-up person's body; if you don't feel a desire to have a toned stomach, for example, that is 100% normal. I don't want anyone to be offended here or assume I meant to suggest one body type is superior to others.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What You Don't Learn in Your Lectures

I've only been in college for a few months, so naturally I claim to be an absolute expert on the subject. Go ahead and ask me any questions you have about any aspect of the university experience, and I guarantee I'll be able to bullshit an answer so beautiful you'd think it's actually correct and rooted in intellect. In all seriousness though, I have done a lot of learning and growing in these last few months, and while a good amount of that learning and growing has taken place in my classrooms, most of it hasn't. I've found that my friends are often even better teachers than my most dedicated professors and the hallways of my dorm complex are more knowledgable than those of the libraries. And honestly that's the best part of it all: my corporate, bustling hometown has been wrung dry of novel learning lessons, but these new people I've met sure aren't.

I truly feel as though certain people were placed in my path to shape who I want to be in these severely important years. And maybe it's because I'm feeling home-away-from-homesick, but something about tonight is making me feel a strong desire to be with these people. I'm missing everything from the clothes I left in my dorm room to the pink carpet between mine and my roommate's beds that sheds everywhere. I'm missing the nights spent yelling profanities over difficult homework and wishing each other sweet dreams at 1 AM when it's finally time to get a few hours' rest. And even more than that...

I'm missing the pretentious upperclassmen in my English classes that speak with a level of linguistic sophistication I worry I'll never achieve. I'm missing the women that work at Starbucks and always make my iced coffee just the way I like it. I'm missing the strangers you pick out of a crowd because of their pink hair, booming laugh, or cute dimples. I'm even missing the kids from high school that followed me in my journey that remind me where I came from and how much growing I've done since then.

But most importantly, I'm missing my friends. I'm missing friends with accents and phrases that aren't familiar and their New York sense of urgency about everything. I'm missing friends that don't know what it's like to go to school with every other race in God's catalogue of diversity because they grew up near farms. I'm missing friends that listen to good music and obsess over their preferred breed of dog. I'm missing friends that have a global perspective to share with me and are so filled with love and understanding. I'm missing friends that tuck me into bed and have an innate maternal instinct. I'm missing friends that talk about the painful things they've experienced without an ounce of self-loathing or even a flicker of masochism in their eyes. I'm missing friends that have been through more than they deserve but refuse to be weaker as a result. I'm missing friends that make me feel comfortable, loved, and strong.

Thankfully we'll all be reunited in 10 days.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Resolutions

Hello beautiful people! Because today is January 1st of a brand new year, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you the resolutions I've made. There's been psychological studies suggesting that the sheer act of telling other people these resolutions diminishes one's chances of actually achieving what they set out to do. Something about your brain feeling accomplished just by getting recognition of these goals from others and some other scientific mumbo-jumbo, but WHATEVER. I'm going to tell you anyway, because I'm above science. I watched a video two women made on this exact topic the other day, and they split their goals in categories, which I think was a good idea that I will now copy.

1) Family and Friend Goals
-Be more easygoing. I find I often get very uptight when it comes to planning to hang out with friends or family and can to be less than flexible when it comes to being spontaneous or doing things differently than planned. It ends up causing me unnecessary stress.
-Check in with my family more often. Since I've moved away to college I don't talk to my parents every day, and sometimes I get too involved in my own life that I forget to say hello. This also goes for my extended family, especially my grandparents, who I really should call more often.
-Be more patient with the people in my life and accept others' flaws with less reservation.
-Try my best to be less jealous. I tend to feel very hurt or over-emotional when I don't get invited places or learn I was not included in things, which again only causes me unnecessary stress.

2) Spiritual Goals
-Try to find my own comfort zone with religion. I want to figure out exactly what I believe and how important these beliefs are in my guiding actions.

3) Health Goals
-Go to the gym at school 4-5 times per week. I did that last semester and I want to keep it up.
-Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day and cut out soda entirely. Actually pretty much cut out all sugary or fattening drinks other than coffee. But we'll see how that goes.
-Rediscover my passion for fitness and healthy eating. I go in and out of healthy living phases, and for most of the last year I was definitely out of it.

4) Work and School Goals
-Get on the Dean's List at least once. That means either this upcoming Spring semester or the Fall semester of next year. Preferably both, but let's not get unrealistic here.
-Do 100% of the required reading for my English classes.
-Find a job at school and line up a good paying job for the summer.

5) Mental Health/Misc. Lifestyle Goals
-Keep up with my "Good Things" journal every day. (if that's confusing see my last post)
-Read 50 books in 2014 and record them on this blog (in the sidebar). These can be both books for school and for pleasure.
-Blog at least 4 times a week :)

Let me know what you vow to do this year in the comments below and I'll talk to you soon!