3 Years: Recovery Birthday Update

I really gotta start taking regular-ass selfies for these sorts of posts. Pic by MLA Photography

I really gotta start taking regular-ass selfies for these sorts of posts. Pic by MLA Photography

About 4 or 5 times every year, I’ll have a friend, acquaintance, or sometimes an anonymous reader reach out for insight/help dealing with mental illness issues – whether with themselves or a loved one. At least once every few months, someone will pop up with a “Hey, I’m just starting [fill in the blank antidepressant/anxiety/psychotic medication] and was just wondering if you knew anything about it” or “My S.O is being hospitalized for mania and I have no idea what to do” or “My BFF/sister/parent/child is suicidal and I’m scared.” Look, I honestly never  believe I have any of life’s answers, but in these times, I am so, so grateful to have experienced what I have so I can be someone’s trusted confidante in a social climate where we’re only just starting to normalize mental illness. (For what it’s worth, I don’t get on any of my soapboxes or try to talk anyone out of psychiatric treatment/lecture about the perils of misdiagnosis and/or long-term effects of psychiatric meds. Believe it or not, I’ve actually become quite the supportive listener these days and just give objective, informed answers when asked. Yeah! Really!) I’m happy to be a free, nonjudgmental resource when called on, because clearly that’s an in-demand niche I can easily fill.

This is why, despite still being exhausted with dealing with/talking about my personal psychiatric/depression/suicidal ideation issues, I keep sharing my story publicly on occasion. A close acquaintance once attempted to insult me by accusing me of making “oversharing” my personal brand. Had I not been receiving consistent evidence for years now that my oversharing is directly responsible for presenting an open door for dialogue between myself and people in my social circle who need an insider’s perspective, I might have considered being offended. Instead, I keep posting blogs like this one and being called on for what knowledge I have (even though I am often positive everyone I know is equally exhausted with me as I am 80% of the time. Thank you all for continuing to prove me wrong. <3)

Today marks 3 years since I finally detoxed off all my psychiatric meds. This feels like a birthday that I actually earned. Three years without manic episodes, psychotic breaks, whole-body aches, or reckless impulsive behaviors I could never explain. Three years of settling into myself and realizing that I’m pretty fucked up, but also, I’m kind of fantastic. Three years of forward movement after more than a decade of waiting. It’s been wonderful.

In case you’re just tuning in, I wrote about this all for XOJane a couple years ago, but here’s the short version: I’ve had suicidal ideation since I was 11. I started antidepressants at 19 when [mis]diagnosed by a university-health-center psych [who would be fired two months later for handing out drugs like candy to students at my college.] The meds made it worse (1 attempt & 2 hospitalizations in the next 4 years) Instead of scrapping my initial doc’s first diagnosis, subsequent doctors kept piling on more meds to treat side effects of what turned out to be too much serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and I became increasingly manic, impulsive, and psychotic over the course of a decade while still bottoming out with suicidal compulsions every couple months. Was given meds for aaaalll that extra garbage as well. On a pile of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, I felt dead and useless for about a year until I realized this was all bullshit and detoxed myself off everything in ‘2014 after 12 years on varied cocktails of prescription drugs. (I did a lot of research about how to detox safely but it still suuuuuucked. #BrainZaps) I also quit birth control during just to get an assessment of myself at “base level” – something no doctor had ever suggested from 2002-2014. Learned in the year afterward that I’m actually fine most of the time, but I have PMDD, which means A) I have soul-crushing depression for a week and full-on suicidal compulsions for about 18-36 hours before I start my period and then I’m fine and B)Taking antidepressants in the weeks when I’m not premenstrual were making me very literally insane. Trying to take antidepressants one week per month just for PMS weren’t worth the side effects, so we focused on just trying to level out my hormones naturally and get a normal, healthy monthly cycle going which made things much, much better. I’m like a different person altogether.

It’s funny; I remember when I got pregnant in ’07, I immediately quit taking any medication and I felt fine. In fact, during my pregnancy, my mental health was the best it had been since I was a kid, but once it was over and I’d finished nursing, my depression and anxiety came back with a vengeance. I can’t believe it took us so long to connect the dots that my depression issues have always been hormonal. (I’ve discussed being angry that no doctor ever mentioned it, but I’m at a place where I’m finally not mad about it anymore. Hell, maybe they were ignorant, too. Best I can do is just keep talking about it.)

I’ve paused my blathering about this so much because I’ve really just wanted to let it breathe. The act of coming out of this era has been its own separate story where I’m rediscovering who I am, what I’m capable of, and where to go from here. In fact, I started seeing a counselor again for a little while in ’16 because I felt stuck in this post-recovery mode and wasn’t sure how to get out. I’d identified as a “sick person” for so long and was so unable to complete anything I really wanted that I had this overwhelming sense of powerlessness once I finally came out the other side. Talking to a psychologist helped me get some perspective and generate some momentum.

What also happened in this latest counseling work is that I learned I’m also on the OCD spectrum, and I always have been… and I’m a little pissed that I never caught it because movies, TV, and popular societal beliefs only represent parts of obsessive-compulsive disorder that don’t apply to me at all. I don’t wash or clean obsessively (seriously, clutter is where I thrive) and I don’t have any life-altering rituals (delusion-based or otherwise), so I would never have assumed I was OCD at all had I not read Mara Wilson’s book and learned more about the other aspects of the disorder (like that it’s under the gigantic umbrella of anxiety disorders, for example.) I started doing research and was shocked that I’ve had symptoms of this all along. I’ve always counted stairs and paces, for example. But even more destructively, I have always had obsessive ruminations that are invasive, involuntary, and distracting. I’ve had them forever. I’ve tried prayer, meditation, yoga, ancient rituals (yes. literally), drinking myself to oblivion, and everything short of animal sacrifice to banish them from my brain, thinking that this revisiting of trauma incessantly was something I was just too lazy or stupid to control – or thinking that it meant something about my psyche and how I was still damaged goods and needed to “fix” myself in perpetuity – instead of just having a mental tic.  Had I been diagnosed with OCD originally, I would’ve immediately been advised that spending years and thousands of dollars in therapy trying to pick apart the “whys” and “hows” of my specific fixations is dangerously counterproductive and only exacerbates the problem. So, effectively, all that time in therapy really was making me sicker and more obsessive… and more stagnant.

God damn it.

In a plot twist: It’s okay. I’m not wasting my time being mad about any of it. Part of dealing with this variety of OCD is learning how to take power away from things I tend to stay fixated on – like things in the past that I can’t change and tend to want to part out endlessly. I’m actually really proud of how much better I’m doing with changing my mental habits, even though thinking about all the time I lost in madness makes me unbearably sad and frustrated if I stop to think about it… which I avoid..which is new for me…

Aside from that, I was positively (finally) diagnosed with PCOS in the last year. This contributes tremendously to the whole hormone fuckery thing, so recently, my focus has been about reframing eating habits (UUUUUAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHITBUUUUUURRRNSSS), keeping an eye on blood sugar, making sure to get exercise everysingledaynomatterwhat, and readjusting my sleep schedule.

Oh yeah! That’s another fun thing!  Until my official diagnosis [and subsequent lifestyle changes], I’d been having night terrors more and more frequently, usually in the form of hallucinations that I can see in the dark as I’m waking up screaming [to my husband’s absolute delight.] So, I’m asleep, then I’m terrified, then I wake up, then I see a nonsensical vision (like a man painted all blue dressed as a clown standing over me in the darkness, for example), all in the course of 2 seconds.  It’s superfun, y’guys! My daughter calls them “jump scares”, which puts a comforting sense of humor on it. Incidentally, I’ve always had what was called “exploding head sydrome” which – holy shit – sounds WAY more dramatic than it is, but it’s when, as you’re drifting to sleep, you suddenly get an audio hallucination like an organ blaring or a horn honking or someone yelling that jolts you awake. Those started for me in my tween years, but I never thought anything of it because they were periodic and I had a unibrow to worry about. As all this hormone crap has progressed over the years, so have the sleep disturbances. Once I figured out what was causing the hallucinations and that we didn’t need  to exorcise the house, I’ve learned how to keep it under wraps by curbing my drinking and tendency to stay up until all hours.

So, basically, if I’m sober and in bed by 9 pm, I won’t be terrorized by demons all night… Sounds like a premise for a church youth group’s terrible scare-tactic propaganda video.

As much as I hate reporting new diagnoses (because GOOD LORD have I had a heap of them in the last howeverfuckinglong we’ve been doing this), these two are actually spot-on, and manageable. And, as a result, so is my life for a change.

The monthly depression hasn’t vanished, by the way, but because I’ve gotten better, I can handle it better. I treat my suicidal tendencies as though I’m a werewolf; my PMDD-based self-harm compulsions come around for about a day during the full moon and, knowing it’s going to suck but I’m going to survive it, I just make preparations to hunker down and ride it out alone until it’s passed. Listen, I’ve been dealing with being at total-crisis-mode/completely-on-the-brink-of-killing-myself every month for 20 years now, and I’m still alive. I’m at the point where I can look at my oncoming Crazy, scoff “Biiiiitch, please. You got nothing”, and lie in bed eating fully-loaded baked potatoes for a couple days till I’m back to myself. It’s not glamorous, but it’s better than anything else I’ve tried.

And 28 days out of the month, I’m comfortable, I’m calm, and I’m finding a groove for what feels like the first time ever. I’m thinking for myself for a change; I’m embracing the things that make me happier and finally ignoring all those expectations from other people that I’ve always felt like were more important than my own; and I’m getting out of the house and having a life again. I feel happier and more grounded than I can remember being since I was a kid, and while my confidence isn’t quite back to 8-year-old-Liz-level, I’m just so damn happy to still be around to work toward it.

Things I am a Hypocrite About: Part II

Principle: One of my biggest pet peeves is Hollywood naming movies after famous songs. It’s awful.
Hypocrisy: I’ve been able to quote every line of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun: The Movie” since I was 8 years old.

#LynnStone4President

 

Principle: I advocate for suicide awareness and prevention, having served on a committee of volunteers for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for three years now.
Hypocrisy: I strongly believe in the right to die and advocate for its legalization everywhere. I plan to exercise this right should my health reach a turning point when I am a senior citizen and, frankly, I much prefer that method than slow deterioration at the expense of my loved ones’ resources.

Principle: I tried to read both Twilight and  50 Shades and couldn’t stomach either despite my earnest attempts to understand the appeal. They’re cringeworthy garbage…
Hypocrisy:have read Steve-O’s book and watched every single “Jackass” thing that’s ever been released… multiple times. I like my garbage to be self-realized, I guess.

Principle: Women deserve just as much of a social platform as men and it’s wonderful that we’re finally getting representation in so many facets. Even if its often used as a PR maneuver from various media at the moment, after awhile it will be the norm and this makes me happy.
Hypocrisy: “The View” is embarrassing drivel. I’m embarrassed it’s still on the air. And WHAT HAPPENED, Whoopi?! None of this is helping. I’ll protect your right to produce it, but I’m gonna continue to be bothered every time I have to see it in some medical waiting room.

Principle: I’m very comfortable with nudity. I’ve been working on and off as a nude/artist’s model for the last 16 years and feel very comfortable posing without anything on.
Hypocrisy: I started believing that women my size/shape “shouldn’t” wear shorts around the time I was 18. Other than a few times at the gym and over a bathing suit, I haven’t worn a single pair in public since the summer of ’99. I gotta change that.

 

SPOILER ALERT* 4: Thoughts I Had Watching “The Usual Suspects” for the First Time in 2016

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Thoughts I Had While Watching “The Usual Suspects” for the First Time in 2016

In Chronological Order

~ It’s weird how I know precisely nothing about this movie except that Kaiser Soze is the guilty mastermind. And it’s Kevin Spacey. And he totally gets away with it because it’s all an act. So literally all I know about this movie is the answer to the twist ending/riddle.

~Kevin Spacey looks like Voldemort on this witness stand.

~ Is that the restaurant they always visit/piss off in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” when they want a “fancy dinner out”? Where was this movie filmed? And how old is it? And what else has Bryan Singer done? Why do I know that name? GOOD LORD I know nothing about this movie. …Have I ever seen The Lesser Baldwin in a movie ever?… What am I even doing with my life?!

~Why is it that Kevin Pollak always makes me feel safe when he’s on screen? He’s like Kevin Costner in that way… But not really Kevins Sorbo or Spacey, so it isn’t a middle-aged, white Kevin thing… #NotAllKevins

~ When I was a kid, I always got Dan Hedaya confused with the guy who played Al on “Quantum Leap”…of course, I also used to get Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin’s names mixed up for some reason, so I wasn’t at all reliable with actor identification as a child.

~Ohhhh, I’m going to be Kevin-Spacey-chilling-in-the-back-of-this-van-and-casually-smoking-through-the-black-fishnets-over-his-face-while-pointing-an-automatic for Halloween.

~….Wait… If the corrupt cops got robbed while “taxiing” some smuggler for huge money, how did they suddenly get busted for all kinds of corruption just because their car got set on fire? I’m confused. If the whole department was guilty of years of corruption, wouldn’t they have better ways of covering that up? Was a cop car assault randomly investigated by the feds? I need answers, guys. This seems flimsy.

~ SHOOT BALDWIN COME ON!!… Whoa. Where did that come from, Self? Why am I cheering for these guys? I barely understand what’s going on here. Why am I so invested? Is it the power of two Kevins on one team?

~ Did they even hire a costume designer for this or did they all just bring their won wardrobe? Real Question.

~AAAHHHHHHH IT JUST GOT VERY FUCKING GRAPHIC AND CHILDREN WERE MURDERED AFTER A RAPE SCENE AND IT ALL LASTED LIKE 45 SECONDS WHAT THE HELL?!?!?!… damn… I need a minute..

~ This was the movie college bros used to quote mercilessly while attempting to sound intellectual/hard before “Fight Club” came along, wasn’t it?

~ I’m going to be honest; if I didn’t know the ending had a twist, I’d be done watching this. I’m 1hr 15 min in and bored out of my mind. This Keaton fella has precisely zero personality. I’d rather watch jeans being hand-woven than this character anymore. And this relationship of his we keep seeing is completely devoid of chemistry. Was it supposed to feel stale and bland and awkward because if so, nailed it!

~Sorry, but after watching a brutal rape and murder-of-children-and-wife scene in less than a minute, all the other gun violence feels inconsequential. I do not care about these drug dealers and con men shooting at each other on a boat. I know, I know. Being a woman ruins everything.  Damn consciousness and social-awareness getting in the way.

~ Verbal’s breakdown at the Keaton revelation has him sobbing with zero tears. C’mon man. Menthol drops on your fingers. Earn that Oscar.

~ How have I seen this entire ending sequence before but nothing else? Like, the whole last two minutes…

~…. And why didn’t he make up a story before he got to the police station?

~ Dude, showing an overweight black gal when he says “I mean, like, ‘orca’ fat” is more than a bit problematic even by 90’s standards.

~…Hunh… Alright.
… I bet this would’ve packed more of a punch had I not known the twist at the end, right?

*SPOILER ALERT is a series developed as a product of my many, many recent sick days spent lethargic, despondent, achy, and unable to do more than catch up on all those movies everyone saw years and years ago that I’m just now getting around to.

SPOILER ALERT 3: “Pet Sematary”

When I was a kid, I was the oldest of four in a relatively conservative household, so instead of catching new releases in the theatre, I got a lot of my movie exposure from reading the book version, which explains why I still own the paperback novelizations of “Home Alone” and “My Girl”, but didn’t see those movies until they’d been on VHS for a few years. Anyway, when I was about 11, I went on a Stephen King bender and read all his 80’s classics in about two weeks and then never watched the movies, so to this day, I’ve never seen “Children of the Corn”, “IT”, “Christine”, “Cujo”, or “Pet Sematary”.
I realize the social implications of these omissions and have been working to remedy this.

Now seems as good a time of year as ever, so here are:
My Thoughts While Watching “Pet Sematary” for the First Time as an Adult in 2016
Chronologically

~ Alright, 3 minutes into the movie and both children have been put in potentally-mortal danger, so the theme here is “Negligent Parenting”. Got it.

~ Why does this Mom character look familiar? She’s got sunglasses on but I know I know that face…

~ Ellie just asked a complete stranger “Are clams really happy?” after he told her she’d be happy as a clam in her new house. Ellie is what, 6? I don’t care what happens in this movie; I’m #TeamEllie

~ OH IT’S TASHA YAR!!! That’s the Mom character… Oh no… She got booted from the first season of Star Trek: TNG and had to go do this low budget horror flick? Now I feel even worse for Denise Crosby. She just kept getting the shaft, man.

~ How do they train kitties for movies? Why don’t Hollywood cat trainers get more awards? Do they have some sort of psychic connection that enables them to manipulate a cat for film?

~Wait, HOW is neutering a cat going to keep it from being hit by a car?! What kind of backwoods pseudoscience…?

~AAAAAHHHHSUDDENBLOODBRAINSKULL. Oh, he dead, y’all. Don’t even close the curtain, doc…. Ew, what kind of jerk starts talking to a dead guy and blaming him for his problems?!

~ GOOD! I’m glad that dead guy woke up, spit blood on you, called you by name, and chanted some weird curse at you. Maybe you’ll think twice about blaming him for your problems.

~ Hey it’s BloodBrainSkull guy again! And this time he’s all smarmy and smug and casually in your house. Again, I say GOOD. But I can only understand, like, half of what this dead guy is saying, if we’re being honest. If a ghost tries to warn you about something but he’s unintelligeable, how does that work? Are you in the clear? Is he free from his courier burden?

~ AAaaand the cat’s already dead.

~ Listen, I don’t care how ominous my elderly neighbor is, I’m not following him through the woods and over a rocky mountain with a dead cat and shovels in tow without first asking questions about what the hell is objective is. And I’m definitely not going to go through all that for hours and then agree to keep the whole thing a secret without actually knowing what we just did.

~ WHAT IS WITH THIS OLD MAN?! He drags the doc through the woods to bury his dead cat knowing it’d bring the cat back to life, but also knowing the cat would come back slightly demonic and violent!?  This man is not your friend, Doc.

~ Ohhhhh, that kittie is too chubbie and sweeet to be mean. Even with glowy eyes, flinging rats into the bathtub, I wanna snuggle it. I don’t blame him for being mad, either; I’d be pissed if my owner moved me to the middle of nowhere, lopped off my genitals, found me all murdered, dragged me across the county, and then buried me in a cursed lot to come back from the dead so he wouldn’t have to explain his pet owning negligence to his kid. Haunt away, kitty.

~ Oh. Oh the maid just killed herself. That was the first thing I legitimately didn’t see coming. In their basement? Why would you kill yourself at work?
Hunh. Okay.

~ YEEAAS STEPHEN KING WITH A FEATHERED MULLET AND 80’S GLASSES CAMEO!!! #Iconic

~ Now we’re getting a story about Tasha Yar’s sister slowly dying of meningitis in a back room and everyone being happy when she finally bit it. Look, I know her name isn’t Tasha Yar in this movie, but we know who I’m talking about, right? Let her enjoy that character since the TNG writers clearly didn’t.
…No, I’m not letting this go. JUSTICE FOR YAR

~ Trucker recklessly driving while listening to the Ramones. Small child playing with kite in a field. Wonder where this is going.

~ Oh man. I knew that was coming but Jesus that was rough to watch. Well staged though. Point made.

~…say what you want about “helicopter parents”, but toddlers aren’t playing traffic very often these days.

~ This older sister wailing in the other room is the worst fake crying I’ve ever heard. That’s not hyperbole. It’s off-camera; couldn’t they find a voice actor for this?

~  Man, someone got punched at a funeral and I couldn’t even enjoy it. Dammit, I was counting on this movie being so bad it was laugh-worthy, but now I want to go get my kid from school and take her out for ice cream and never stop hugging her.

~ BUT LOOK AT THAT SWEET LITTLE DEMON KITTY BAAAAWWWWWW…
kitten

~ OKAY AGAIN. This old guy is back, sitting in the doc’s kitchen telling him another story about a dude who got buried in the cursed mound and came back all demon-y. He’s saying “The ground went sour so the Indians stopped using it. That place is evil.” So this man has been sitting on TWO stories that prove that spot is bad news, but he still took the doc up there to see what happens?!

~ Sure yeah. Your dad punches your husband at your toddler’s funeral, but definitely go stay with your parents for a while, Tasha Yar. Boundaries.

~ This acting isn’t going to get better, is it?

~ Doc, think this through. First of all, the bloody ghost of a dead guy you didn’t even know is standing there telling you not to, you know, dig up your dead kid or mess with the burial ground… again. That alone should be reason enough to let it go. Secondly, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO EXPLAIN TO YOUR FAMILY THAT YOUR DEAD KID IS BACK?!?!?!

~ This bloody-headed ghost looks gross but he really just cares about people, I think. He could be hanging out in the afterlife, visiting dead relatives and rock stars or even watching over his own friends and family, but instead he’s trying to save this complete stranger from poor decision-making. He’s the real MVP.

~ Uh oh. Yar is losing it, too. But look how helpful Captain Bloodhead is being! He’s a delight! I’d be okay with my guardian angel looking like that as long as his protection stays so thorough. This guy’s interventions are impeccable.

~ …He’s also the most intriguing part of this movie. The doc is dragging his dead kid’s corpse along on a midnight mountain hike and Tasha Yar is Catherine-O’Hara-in-Home-Alone-ing her way back to him and this is all still feeling very underwhelming.

~ Ohhhhbutlookat that sweet. little. demon. kittie. So sweet. Little fat floof.

~ The toddler is back and unpacking surgical knives while muttering to himself after his resurrection. Also, the demon cat is getting agitated. If this ends with a toddler and a kittie destroying everyone, this might become my new favorite movie.

~ WHY IS THIS OLD MAN ALWAYS AROUND?! He’s lived in this town forever; doesn’t he have friends his own age? He’s still pretty spry and hardy. Surely he has a couple drinking buddies.

~ I always wonder what kind of parents put their kids in movies like this. I’m watching a toddler biting and then sucking blood out of an elderly man’s neck before we had CGI technology which seems like it should cross some child-protection regulations. I hope they did that in one take… Even the kid from “The Shining” wasn’t subjected to the really scary stuff during filming.

~ Where did Gage get this stepped up outfit after he murdered that old man? Being demonic gives you hypermature smarts, skills, AND style? And how is he defeating these adults? Who can’t take a 4 year old if it comes to blows?
…And how is he calling people on the phone?!

~ Did they sedate a real kitty for this movie!?!?!? NOOOOO!!!!
Once again, Hollywood is the real evil here.

~ What happened to that maid who killed herself? What was that about? Are we going to see her again? Why was she necessary to the story?

~ The old guy just died by being bitten in the neck briefly? He couldn’t just get up and apply pressure to the wound? What were his hands doing while he was being bitten? He couldn’t just throw the kid off?

~Okay, Doc. Burn down your neighbor’s house after your wife and neighbor were suspiciously murdered “by your demon toddler son when he came back from the dead.” Totally solid narrative.
…and then bury your dead wife in the Demon Lot.
…and then make out with her when she drags herself back into your house.
… and then act surprised when she stabs you.
I don’t usually believe in victim blaming, but dude…

~ I’m angry at every single person who told me this movie was scary now. This wasn’t even fun garbage. I need a palate cleanser.

…. Is “IT” any better?

SPOILER ALERT 2: Thoughts I Had Watching “White Men Can’t Jump” for the First Time in 2016

While I was going through a rough health spell this summer, I spent my sick days catching up on all those movies of yore I should’ve seen but never got around to. These are my inner thoughts about each one.
CHUNG CHUNG!
(Please hum the “Law & Order” Theme to yourself at this juncture)

Thoughts about “White Men Can’t Jump” In Chronological Order

~ Alright, first and foremost, you guys should know that my initial exposure to Wesley Snipes was watching “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” 4,000 times before I saw him in anything else, so every time I see him, I’m just looking for signs of Noxeema Jackson. Just a heads up.

~ Man, this snaps battle is taking me right back to 2nd-5th grade. I miss a good “Yo Mama” joke. Times would be so much simpler if we were just resorting to that sort of rhetoric to settle our differences.
I smell a masters thesis coming on…

~ I am LIVING for this early-90’s-in-LA fashion!! COME THROUGH Color-blocked Spandex Romper! YAAAAS Doorknockers! I. Am. Here. For. This.
If someone snaps in a “Z” formation, I might lose consciousness.

~ So, I’m 20 minutes into this movie and, I gotta say, this is deliciously simple in its pacing and premise setup. We are taking our time, setting a scene, getting to know these guys and how they create a dynamic on the court. This is beautiful and doesn’t happen enough anymore in modern film. If this was made today, this whole scene would’ve lasted 5 minutes. This could work as a stage play. It’s fantastic.

~ Seriously, though, the smack talk in this dialogue. Oscar-worthy.

~ Hang on. These two dudes have teamed up to hustle the street ball scene in LA with the assumption that nobody will think that Woody/Billy/The White Guy can ball without considering that if they pull that crap even one time in front of an audience, people are going to talk about “the white dude showing everyone up and taking off with the money” all over South Central and their new gig will be over? Come on, even a white girl from the Southern suburbs can see this isn’t a sustainable plan.

~ Wait. Wait. Wait. Rosie Perez’s character Gloria is smart enough to know that Billy got hustled by his partner, but not smart enough to know that sitting around drinking vodka and studying to be on Jeopardy isn’t the best career option for her?

~ GIRL. You’re grinding on him from the car to the shower and then in bed?! SLOW DOWN. You’re making the rest of us look just awful. I mean, I appreciate the effort but that car trick won’t work away from a green screen.

~ Snipes’ screen wife gets ALL the credit for being a class act. Another woman showed up to her house to call her husband a thief and a liar, and this gal invited her in for a drink and to talk to her with respect, even though she doesn’t agree at all. Your taste in men is questionable, ma’am but well done on breaking down stereotypes of women hating women.

~ Oh sure. A guy finds out his partner swindled him out of $1,000 and is in a screaming match with him and his friends because he owes some mobsters money or he’ll die, but they all get distracted by a basketball game on TV and let the whole thing go. Sounds about right.

~ RealTalk™: Was this movie a way to introduce street ball to the white mainstream? Are we going to have a white-knight moment with Woody Harrelson saving the day?
Ohmahgah… we are, aren’t we?

~ These two mobster thugs trying to get money from Billy really illustrate how severely the mullet turned on pop culture. In the late-80’s and early-90’s, it was a legitimate haircut and then suddenly it was a national joke. It’s the hair version of Hootie & the Blowfish or Dane Cook.

~ I’m confused. Billy keeps getting held at gunpoint but never giving up any money, he’s making a drunk Gloria super angry at him pretty much daily, he’s walking around South Central talking smack to everyone including the one frenemy he has in LA… How has he not gotten the bejesus kicked out of him yet?! Not even a scratch and these thugs keep chasing him down and dragging him out to secluded threat spots.

~ This trio with the half-bleached flat top man buns are incredible. I hope they at least got SAG cards for this appearance.

~ We’re back with the snaps and I’m cackling like a crazyperson at this guy screaming for Woody Harrelson to tell Aunt Bea she’s going to get her ass kicked as a hypothetical insult tie-in to him being Opie from Mayberry. It’s like a snap that jumped the shark.

~ Oh noooo Wesley Snipes said The Title Line.
He fully asserted that “White Men Can’t Jump”.
And now Woody Harrelson is betting all the money Gloria is counting on to prove that he can, in fact, jump.
And dunk a ball.
And I bet dunking is The Thing That Saves The Day At The End of the Movie.
Aaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuugggggggggggghhhhhhh... Come ON…kind of lazy ass writing is this…

~ OH MY GOD SHE GOT ON JEOPARDY?!?!

~ LOOK HOW FIERCE SHE LOOKS ON JEOPARDY!!

~ SHE KNOWS ALL YOUR ANSWERS, TREBEK!!! SHE IS GALVANIZED AND READY TO TAKE HOME THE CROWN!!

~YAAAAAS GLORIA EFFING CRUSHING IT ON JEOPARDY!!! RUN AWAY WITH THAT GAME!!!! SNATCH THAT MONEY, HONEY!!! MAKE THEM EAT IT!!!!

~ I’m crying with happiness to the Jeopardy! theme now. The old retrotastic theme. I just want it for her so bad.

~ Gloria on Jeopardy! isn’t just my new favorite Halloween costume idea, it’s what I aspire to. She is my goddess now. I bow to her.

~ Movie’s over as far as I’m concerned. Gloria got on Jeopardy! I’m done.

~ Waitgirlno!! Why did you take him back!? Why are you on top during sex again!? You don’t have to work so much this round. KNOW YOUR WORTH, GLORIA. … wh-Don’t give him money!! NOOOOOOO!!!!

~ She just dumped him while she was on roller blades! Yes. YAS. Skate away from the bullshit. Put on that Walkman to tune out his garbage. This is the 90’s breakup fantasy I never knew I had.

~ Aaaaaand there it is. He dunked the ball. The White Man CAN Jump and therefore save the day for everyone hallelujah. But now he’s broke, he’s lost his pretty fantastic girlfriend and he only kind of has one friend who barely tolerates him. Awesome. Why did people see this? To soothe fears that white people and black people couldn’t get along?
…OH NO… WAS THIS HOLLYWOOD’S ANSWER TO THE RODNEY KING RIOTS?!?!?!

… Don’t answer that… I can’t bear the obvious… Dammit, white people…wmcj3

SPOILER ALERT: Thoughts I had Watching “The Karate Kid” for the First Time as an Adult in 2016

My health wasn’t great for a few months this summer, and I spent a lot more time than I’m happy with lying in bed and staring into space. (I can’t even read very well on those days, which was torture.) To keep from wallowing in depression about how this isn’t the life I want for myself, I started watching all those classic movies I know I should’ve seen but never got around to for some reason.

Because I don’t have the joy of talking about these movies like I would’ve had I seen them when they were still relevant, I recorded my inner monologue during each screening, which I will now share with you.

You’re welcome.

Thoughts on the Original “Karate Kid” (1984)

First and Foremost/Awful Confession: I FINALLY get the “Wax on, wax off” reference. All these years I’ve really thought it was some obscure car wax brand commercial from the 80’s that I was too young to see (I was born in ’83). So THIS WHOLE TIME I’ve been smiling and nodding awkwardly when people say “wax on, wax off”.

I’ve been living a lie, is what I’m saying here.

Thoughts in Chronological Order

~ Ralph Macchio can get it. Wait… How old is he in this movie? (:::does the Googles::) Oh good! 22! That puts me in cougar territory, but he’s still legal.
And no, I’m not going to bother learning his character’s name because it’s too late for me to absorb that information at this point in my life.

~ Oh, hold on a second. Who’s his friend at the beach party with the curly hair and the big nose and the red headband? He’s way more my type. (:::goes to IMDB to search obscure-80’s teen extra:::)

~ Really? Another role with Elisabeth Shue playing the generic, personality-less girlfriend of the protagonist? Was Disney really the only one to give her a break in the 80’s?! At least in “The Saint”, she has cold fusion going for her…

~ Wait. Did the mom just straight up lie about having a decent job in LA on top of the no-pool-no-nice-house thing? Is that part of the “Everything sucks for Macchio” motif or did I miss something? Is she waiting tables?

~ I’m disappointed that “Cobra Kai” wasn’t spelled with two K’s since it’s clearly a training center for the Aryan brotherhood. This seems like where I imagine Mens Rights Activist dads send their slightly effeminate sons when they’ve been waitlisted at conversion therapy centers.

~ OH SHIT MIYAGI BUSTING HEADS!!! This is satisfying! More of this please!!
… We won’t get more of this, will we?

~QUIT WHINING, Macchio, GAWD. Miyagi is building your strength and muscle memory, obviously. You’ve had three days of mindless hard labor with nothing to think about except Elisabeth Shue and hating your mom, and you couldn’t figure this out?!

~… See? Jeez.

~I’m gonna be honest; there is a lot more back-and-forth subplot noise about the love interest than I care to see. This is a snooze. Does this pay off? Does she somehow save the day? Is she a secret ninja warrior who is going to murder everyone at the end? Why are we watching their every move on these dates? Is she gonna get knocked up? Where is this going?
If this whole storyline ends with them just kissing victoriously, I’m going to sprain something rolling my eyes.

~ I do love how unprocessed and natural everyone looks, though. Like, they keep calling Elisabeth “blonde” even though it’s really just super light brown. That would never happen these days, but there was such a different dynamic in teen movies up until recently. Even in “Clueless”, Cher and her friends look only lightly made-up; she wasn’t a bleached, emaciated caricature of a teen like Hollywood insists on presenting in modern films. I miss when people on screen weren’t hyperstylized at every single turn.

~ Wh-why is this the first time I’m experiencing the Miyagi Drinking Song ever!? Why isn’t THIS the most quoted thing in the movie?! This is the best drunk-singing scene since Robert Shaw.

~I’m having issues dealing with Miyagi’s sadness. I’m not prepared for this magnificent badass to be drunk and melancholy. This is too much like Early-20’s Me for my comfort.

~ Here comes Inevitable 80’s Training Montage!!!
…OH NOOO. This song isn’t just a fake song made up by the “South Park” guys as a joke about hilariously cheesy 80’s montage songs?!
Man, I have a lot more pop culture blind spots than I thought going into this.

~ What’s the deal with Old Dude Befriending Young Dude Buddy Films (Featuring Elisabeth Shue) from the mid-80s? At least this kid was new to town; what was Marty McFly’s excuse?

~ SECOND EMBARRASSING CONFESSION: Alright, also, I thought it was “Sweep the lake, Johnny” because, on Patton Oswalt’s 2007 comedy masterpiece “Werewolves and Lollipops” album, he uses that term in reference to taking a girl to buy Plan B after a one-night stand and he blurts it out and I heard “lake” and when you’re looking for dead bodies in a lake or a field, it’s called a “sweep”, so I 1) had no idea it was a Karate Kid reference and 2) have been saying “Sweep the lake” like an idiot for about a decade now.
This exercise is allowing me to face a lot of truths about myself.

~ Wait. That’s it? He won the contest so now he’s not going to get the crap beaten out of him by the Hitler Youth Ninjas supposedly? And that’s it?

~ Ohhh, that wasn’t it. There’s the victorious kiss from Elisabeth Shue… She’s not a secret ninja and Miyagi is still sad and alone. :::sigh:::

~ Okay, honestly, this is a satisfying enough story about humility and inner growth and strength. I get why it was a hit for the kids; it’s basically Rocky Jr. But what happens in the sequels if his self-empowerment storyline is over? Was it just a Mighty Ducks thing where the stakes in every film get higher and higher? Is he battling the Yakuza by Karate Kid 3?

15 Terrible Early-90’s Songs Suburban Kids Listened to in The Back of Our Friends’ Moms’ Minivans and Have Tried to Block Out Since

90’s nostalgia has been upon us for awhile, and, much like Ren Faire attendees would rather ignore the fact that the Medieval era would’ve been torturous to endure, those screaming about how much they “LOVE 90’s music!!!” rarely look objectively at the decade. Y’see, kids, kids, pop music went on a strange tangent in those years between the 80’s and the Britney/Christina/boy band invasion of ’98, and thanks to our parents’ determination to follow the stars of yore during their respective descents into Snoozeville (see: Rod Stewart, Elton John), a horrible vanilla phase emerged in the undercurrent of the adult contemporary genre. A huuuge chunk of 90’s musical culture includes this wave of hostile Caucasian Americana-brand mediocrity which permeated suburban life via carpool lane radio and The Weather Channel. It’s in our best interest to remember this dark side so we aren’t doomed to repeat it.

All I’m saying is: Thank God for “The Bodyguard” Soundtrack breaking through to the Mom-pop stations and keeping it interesting. We miss you, Whitney. 

Anyway, a healthy life is about balance, so to offer a counterweight to the glory of 90’s hip hop/rap/alternative/R&B/riot grrrl/grunge, I’ve curated some of the worst pop hits from 1990-95. I’m not going to bash many of the era’s heavy-hitters (Celine, Michael Bolton, Kenny G,) even though they were also responsible for some heavy-duty earsores (looking at you too, Madonna). Instead, let’s explore those subtle-yet-pervasive hits that we’ve all tried very hard to blot out in the years since.

FUN FACT: I’d never seen the videos to any of these songs, because, as the oldest of four kids in a pretty conservative family, I didn’t have any exposure to MTV until after Kurt Cobain was dead. So I first experienced these as I put this post together – a real treat!

As a warm-up, here’s
Aaron Neville’s Cotton Commercial

Ready now? Let’s do this!


How Do You Talk to an Angel – The Heights

I’M COMING IN HOT!!! Yeah, I said it, 90210 fans!! NOW WHAT WHAT NOW?!!?!?
No, but seriously, y’guys. Give this another listen with our now-adult perspectives and tell me it’s a good song with a straight face. If you can, you’re a sociopath, no questions asked.
Also, I’m not going to get into the whole Gin Blossoms/BoDeans/Rembrandts/Spin Doctors soft-altrock thing any further than this. Promise.

All for Love – Sting, Rod Stewart, & Bryan Adams (from “The Three Musketeers” Soundtrack)

Alright, to avenge 90210 Fans, here I am stepping on my own toes because I definitely liked this song and absolutely harmonized the shit out of it together with my BFF just this summer when she visited my place. And it. Is. The. Worst.


Soldier of Love – Donny Osmond


Alright, CONFESSION: I didn’t know Donny Osmond sang this until just now. Again, my pop culture knowledge has a lot of blind spots from that era (Ex: I just watched both “Total Recall” and “Basic Instinct”  for the first time just this week. Yeah, really.) But true to form, he continues to be not at all “rock’n’roll”, no matter how hard he’s working that Jordan Knight-knockoff look.

Good for Me – Amy Grant

Whenever people my age whine that “music these days has just gotten soo baaaad. I miss the good old days when pop music was great!!”, my brain immediately thinks of Amy Grant and Billy Ocean as evidence to the contrary.
You guys, Amy Grant was awful. (BUZZKILL ALERT: There’s a ton of scientific reasoning why everyone believes the music that came out during their adolescent years was the best. It correlates with your pubescent hormones and the imprinting of the feelings the music gave you at that time in your life holding significant value and meaning, exactly like your first love. This is why you’re not as amazed by new music when you’re an adult and why your parents hated what you were listening to when you were a teen. The music wasn’t better; you were just hormonal. Sorry ’bout it.) “Good For Me” is particularly cheesy, although “Baby, Baby” is a close second.

Anything by Jon Secada. Just anything.

There was a span of about a year where this guy was everywhere and honestly, all his tracks sound like clones of each other. In fact, until I went hunting for his videos on YouTube just now, I didn’t realize I know at least 5 songss of his because I was convinced it was just the same two played over and over. Also, I remember always wondering whether or not his music was secular or if he was Trojan-horsing a Jesus message on all of us, which was a super common thing back in those days, as evidenced by…

Michael W. Smith – I Will Be Here For You

Christian crossover artists were all over contemporary charts at the time (see: Amy Grant) and Michael W. Smith was the guy your parents were happy for you to listen to because you’d probably hear his stuff at the “contemporary service” on Sunday, too!

Faithful – Go West


I’m cackling at the idea of any of you curiously clicking this link to give this a first listen because JEE. ZUSS. I forgot how terrible this song was. Oh man. I’m so sorry.

The Heart of the Matter – Don Henley

I really thought this song was called “Forgiveness” until just now when I Googled it to find the video. Who cares. Garbage.

I Want to Be Rich – Calloway

I may’ve learned a little American Sign Language through Girl Scouts and private study and then taught myself how to sign this entire song for fun… just in case you were wondering what my personal brand was during this time in my life.

Would I Lie to You – Charles & Eddie

I keep finding these and thinking “Oh WAAAAOOWW… THIS one has to be the worst…” until I get to the next one on my list, but honestly, this one is Top 3. I don’t usually believe in superlatives, but this song makes me blush and cringe in a way I’m not comfortable with.

Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane or anybody else who covers it

And to answer the follow-up question: No, none of the covers of this are good, either.

Peter Cetera’s Varied Number-One-Ranked Experiments in Increasingly Mind-Numbing Sounds


Remember that thing I said about our parents aging stars of yore? Yeeeaahh…

Richard Marx – Right Here Waiting

It’s all just starting to sound the same, right?

Right Here Right Now – Jesus Jones

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhnnnnnn……

That Springsteen Song from Jerry Maguire

Maaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-wuh!!!!

HONORABLE MENTION: I Know – Dionne Farris

Alright, this wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either. It was a track that was a little more of what the adults would embarrassingly dub “funky”, but was pretty tame and middle-of-the-road by all accounts. I’m including it on this list because it seems to be THE SONG we all heard repeatedly and we all knew and when we sang along to it when it was on the radio at any given moment for about 2 years, our moms didn’t give us a hard time about it. Kind of like Des’ree but without a memorable voice.

…And yes, I DID have that one Des’ree album on cassette. And I DID listen to it when I went for a rollerblading cardio session every day during the summer… when I wasn’t listening to the “Batman Forever” soundtrack.

Never Forget

NC Just Needs Your Love Right Now

Hey America,
I’ve noticed you’re pretty pissed at North Carolina as of late.  Me too.  But I need y’all to listen for a minute. Please.

I’m a bi(pan-ish? I hate labels)/poly cisfemale North Carolinian living just outside the capital city.  Aside from a semester in Australia in ’05, I’ve lived in the Carolinas my whole life – the majority of that in NC. I’ve visited almost every state in the U.S, and most of my best friends live on opposite sides of the country, but I’m not afraid to confess: love it here. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, our summer produce is made of magic, and if you can’t stand your neighbors, the cost of living is good enough that you can afford not to have to live too close to anyone.  Conversely, within the metropolitan areas surrounding our major universities, there is an impressive range of culture with a thriving liberal arts scene. Sit in any of our largest cities on any given weekend and you’ll see a our population is a blend of ethnicities, religious groups, and relationship styles that boldly protest the stereotype that Southerners are all a bunch of uneducated, white, fundamentalist Christian bigots.

We’re not.  I promise you we’re not. And the millions of us who cannot understand the ignorance and hatred we are seeing from our leaders are not only terrified for what this means, but we’re heartbroken to see America lumping us all in together with the same people who are hurting us.

Ask any person who didn’t fit into the “White Heterosexual Conservative Christian” category in the South to tell you about the torment he/she/zie endured by both peers and  leaders and you’ll get at least one story that’ll turn your stomach. This is the hatred that the LGBTQA community is used to here, a place where prejudice and violence to minority groups has been a thriving part of our history for centuries now – primarily in the name of Protestant Christianity, as though Jesus at any point preached exclusion or malice.

ICYMI, recently the focus of the NC religious Right (wealthy and poor alike) has suddenly become a pearl-clutching terror of the transgender community, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so destructive. Despite a rash of suicides in North Carolina’s transgender teens  – most notably, Blake Brockington, a Charlotte-based activist who had been voted his school’s Homecoming King just months before – our legislation suddenly decided that, although it has never once been a problem before now, transgender people don’t deserve the right to use the bathroom where they’re most comfortable.  I’m sure you’ve read enough thinkpieces about why this whole HB2 thing is multifaceted bullshit (Fun Fact: It actually takes away everybody’s rights, regardless of genitalia), but what it effectively does, more than anything, is reinstate the long-standing paradigm that this is a world in which LGBTQA people are not welcome.

That this is not a new message doesn’t make it any easier for us to stomach.

The worst, however, is reading that these people who were elected by our majority of ill-educated rural conservatives are inciting more violence and suicide, and then, hoping to commiserate with the like-minded outside NC, receiving vitriol toward all of us en masse.

The last thing that the NC LGBTQA community needs right now is to be dismissed as being somehow part of the problem.  If you truly believe all Southerners are, in fact, redneck idiot inbred bigots, who, then, is the government hurting with discrimination?!

Similarly, I understand why businesses pulling their money from the state makes a powerful statement; get ‘em where it hurts. But I don’t understand why artists are boycotting the state as if it’s comparable.  When Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, or Cirque du Soleil cancel their shows, they aren’t hurting the legislators who made these oppressive laws or the wealthy conservatives who keep them in office at all; they’re hurting the venue employees and sending a message to fans that we’re not worth showing up for.

That’s the message we’re already getting from the rest of America: Fuck all of ’em! They deserve it for being so backward!

We’re still here. Some places we’re everywhere (See: Asheville), and some places we are as sparse as those tiny, windowless gay bars that continue to exist in the middle of nowhere between farming communities. But we’re still here.

Last weekend, I attended Out! Raleigh, a kid-friendly festival that was started to give LGBTQ families a safe street fair experience. It was a beautiful, cloudless day, with families of every gender combination hanging out, enjoying the music and the sunshine together. We were one block from the Capitol building, but there were no protesters all day. There were church and synagogue groups with booths giving out hugs, water bottles, and invitations to come worship. There was love and acceptance and a sense of casual freedom.

This is also North Carolina. This is why I’m proud to stay here. This is what I want you to know about us.

North Carolina isn’t in the news for things I’m proud of right now, but I’m not alone. There are many of us here – representing all genders, races, and sexualities  -who are making noise and fighting back. What we need from you, America, is your love and patience while we get right.

Just like literally everywhere else.

Sincerely,
LP-S

P.S. You’re welcome for Krispy Kreme.

Psycho Hangover 2

If you’ve ever woken up after a night off too much partying, you may’ve been horrified to learn of the things you did the night before. You may feel shame and embarrassment and total confusion about the things you said, exclaiming, “I don’t even know where [godawful terrible behavior] even came from!! I don’t feel that way at all! OH MY GOD.”

I’ve had this feeling for at least a moment every day for the last two years. Except my “Night of Hard Partying” is, instead, “One Third of My Life when Meds Made Me Insane”.

I know, I know. I keep talking about how much I’ve changed and how much better things are, but the truth is that, while I feel healthier than ever, I keep being haunted by the knowledge that I was actively someone very different for a very long time. Someone I’ve been desperately trying to get away from, for-just-fucking-ever now.

For example, while I was on the meds, I had emotional obsessions with events and people from my past that my mind fixated on every day. I quite literally prayed and performed ancient rituals to banish these infatuations from my daily life for years. But, because I’d been taught in therapy that ignoring my feelings was harmful to my psyche, I went out of my way to keep trying to get “answers” as to why my brain couldn’t let these things go.  After my detox, the obsessions finally dissipated and my mind moved on the way a healthy one does, but I was mortified to realize how needlessly all my constant probing and bothering others in my quest for “answers” had been.

Aside from the terrifying things I was convinced of during my psychotic breaks (like that time I called my best friend and calmly, rationally explained to her why I was pretty sure I was a neo-deity for an hour with “Beautiful Mind”-style connections and numerological/astrological “evidence” – as hinted at in the original Psycho Hangover post.), there are the years of medically-induced manic episodes, during which time I wafted in that odd realm between psychosis and sanity for about a week every month. I acted in confusing, impulsive ways I didn’t understand and could never explain, which now are things I’m embarrassed people recall or define me by. I remember about four years ago, in the thick of it, my husband was so frustrated when I told him “Who I’m acting like is not who I am!” and he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just stop acting like that; I was heartbroken because I couldn’t either. Just like the obsessions, my compulsive behavior and angry outbursts stopped once I quit the psychiatric meds.

And then there are the things I can’t remember. Like with an alcoholic or drug addict, the people around me are still angry at how I was when I was sick, except, unlike active addicts, I was working my ass off the whole Goddamned time to get better… I’m already embarrassed at who the meds turned me into for a huge chunk of my life, but the worst is when I’m being told about the awful things I did/said/believed that I don’t even remember when I was otherwise sober and then being asked to answer for them.

I can’t. I keep saying that I’m so sorry over and over, every time it comes up, out of unrelenting guilt and shame. But if we’re being honest, I never feel comfortable apologizing for it; I don’t feel responsible for it because I wasn’t responsible. Or competent. I wasn’t even myself.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll tell many of those still demanding repeat apologies that I’m done; I can’t be held hostage for my past and at some point, it’s up to them to choose to move on or terminate our relationship. That’s been effective, but the resentment still creeps out in occasional jokes.

I’ve thought about printing out business-sized cards with the following to hand out to anyone who brings up My Shitty Past Behavior so we can move on already:

I don’t know who that was who was around for so long. I didn’t like Her. That’s why I worked my ass off to exorcise Her. I’m very sorry She scared you or offended you, but at least She didn’t try to fucking murder you like She did with me a bunch. I tried to fight Her off for a long time before She finally went away. I’m sorry you didn’t see that, but it’s okay; you’re getting an unobstructed view of Me now. Thanks for sticking around to see it. 

And look, I know I wasn’t All Psycho All Day E’rryday. I know there were things I did in there that were good and kind and selfless. I know there were moments in there where the Real Me crept out. But all those snapshots are haunted by the Crazy that constantly lurked in the periphery. That’s what’s ruining walks down Memory Lane for me recently. I never go to Facebook’s “On This Day”/Memories feature; it’s too much for my anxiety. I’m not far away enough from it to be able to enjoy it without remembering all the garbage I was going through at the time. All I wanted for years was to stop feeling like that; the last thing I want to do right now when things are so dramatically different and better is to revisit it, even in hopes to search for positive moments in the rubble.

My positive moments are now. I just want to dive in already.

 

 

 

 

Tips For Professionally Sitting Around Naked In Public

I’ve worked on and off as an artist’s model for the last 16 years, and it’s a part-time gig I’m finally starting to “lean in” on by booking more sessions and networking within the community. I recently met up with some other local artists’ models and, while we were exchanging tools of the trade, I realized I’d accumulated a lot over my years of experience.
I thought I’d share some with you.

                                                     #Realness

Here’s some tools of the trade I’ve picked up along the way:

1) Go Natural
The magic of being an artist’s model is that you don’t have to make yourself look like a fantasy; they want reality. Keep makeup minimal and soft (tinted moisturizers or BB creams are the best thing ever) and sweep your hair up into something loose so you’re not having to fiddle with it and artists can work with the shape of your neck and shoulders. Use a clear deodorant (I really, really like the Crystal kind.) If you must paint your fingernails, go with what I call the “Disney Princess Look”, which is just a solid nude tone, so your nails look healthy but aren’t distracting with a stark French tip. Try to avoid tan lines. If you’re working in a studio with stage lighting, feel free to hit yourself with a little contouring and mascara, but otherwise, skip it.

You gon’ sweeeaat.

2) Use Vagisil Brand Powder head-to-toe
You’re going to sweat. Even if you’re sitting still. I promise. Regular baby powder is thick, will make you look chalky, and goes on chunkily (New word alert!). Powder designed for vaginas, however, is light, fights odors even if unscented, and is translucent on the body. It’s also talc-free! Score!

3) Commit to a Hairstyle Down There
Look, your pubic region is going to be on display, but it isn’t the Main Event, so don’t try to feature it. Either grow your hair out or wax it all off, but anything in between will look out of place in the context. Trimming the edges is okay; landing strips & creative designs not so much.

4) Wear a Wrap Dress to the Session — Just a Wrap Dress
It seems trivial, but if you’re not wearing anything at all, strap indentations from bras and underwear are small ways that take the artist out of that ethereal, magical, otherworldly zone in which we create, and back to banal details. Plus, if you don’t bring underwear with you, you can’t accidentally leave it in the bathroom at the studio.
Oh, and BYO Robe, even if the studio owner says there’s one there you can use; you may need to use it as seat protection, and that is not something you want to share with other models.

5) Wear a Tampon
I don’t care what time of your month it is. You want a tampon in. You may be sitting for awhile in a warm room and snail trails are awkward to have to address in a professional setting. And plan sessionsaround your period if you can.

6) Skip the Coffee/Tea
I’m not a sadist, but seriously skip the coffee or tea unless you want to be interrupting the session every 10 minutes to pee. In fact, I don’t even eat within a couple hours of a long-term sitting so I’m not dealing with unforseen digestion issues.

7) BE SOBER
It doesn’t matter how nervous you are before your first time posing nude, you’re being hired to do a job and, believe it or not, this is intensive work. Even having one cocktail or puff beforehand will change the way you hold your posture and expressions, which is a recipe for unimpressive work. Not only that, you won’t be able to hold poses for as long if your head isn’t in the game. Do everyone a favor and show up without a buzz, at least until you and the artist get a groove going.

8) Line Up Your Focal Point With Your Nose
You might have to hold a pose for awhile, so your first inclination is to pick a focal point; however, you can still keep your eyes on a spot while your head and neck slowly melt into a different position (which results in your head looking like a weird blob in any artwork because the artists’ view is slowly changing.) To make sure your head isn’t moving position, close one eye and line your nose up with a focal point. Check in every 5 minutes to make sure you’re still lined up.

9) PRACTICE YOUR POSES BEFOREHAND
My first ever art model gig was at a huge class at what was then called North Carolina School of the Arts on a tiny block in a drafty loft-style studio in front of about 30 students all around me. We were going to start off with a few 5-minute warm up poses that the professor directed me to “give something energetic!!” so I picked a crazy, angular stance where all my weight was on one foot. Within 30 seconds, I was sure I was going to die. The rest of the session was me struggling to figure out what I could hold for longer than that that the students in the back of the class could see that wouldn’t kill me. Somehow, I booked another gig with that professor, but this time, I did some thorough research of complementary poses that both flattered and showcased my form and wouldn’t have me in agony if held long-term. Now I have an arsenal of poses for every setting at every length of time. Oh, and I also learned to…

10) Strive for Poses with 3 Resting Points
Whether you’re standing or sitting, the part of your body that is absorbing all the weight is going to start aching after a few minutes not moving. Even if you’re sitting but putting a lot of weight into your hand, that wrist is going to start freaking out if it’s working long term. With three resting points, you can shift your weight delicately between them without drastically changing your pose, which keeps intact the integrity of the image your body is creating.

3 Resting Points includes your upper body, btw.

11) Check In With Your Zen
If you’re sitting still for a long time and holding a pose, your mind tends to wander to your grocery list or that thing some stranger said on your way to work or repressed childhood memories or whatever. As important as it is to check in with your nose focus point, it’s also important to check in with your self every 10 minutes so your face isn’t slowly morphing into an expression of horror or resentment or heartache. Again, you want to have one stable emotion the whole time so the artist observing you isn’t trying to draw a weird amalgamation of expressions (unless they request that.) Be sure to come back to your emotional center, take a deep breath through your nose while you puff out your chest, then slowly exhale back into your pose. Roll your eyes around to stretch them out, squeeze them shut, then gently open back to your focal point. This is like hitting the “reset” button for your whole system.

*Look for my essay about my love affair with this style of modeling in Sasee magazine. And, no, they aren’t paying me to say this right now.