Friday, September 28, 2012

Imbibery in the First Degree

Whoops. I had promised myself I'd write every weekend - FOR YOU, MY ADORING FAN(S)* - but I missed last weekend. I think the weight of knowing I had to continue such a leaden topic was leading me to do what I do best. No, not sleep. No, no eat, either. Stop suggesting things, I'm starting to get offended. I was going to say procrastinate - a most noble of pastimes. So, I decided to just write about something else for now. I'll circle back around to the Jewish thing at some point, I promise.**

*Hi, mom. (Also, could you bring me a glass of water next time you come upstairs? I would get it myself, but I'm SUPER comfortable, thanks.)
**"Thank goodness!", said no one.

Despite my self-professed hermit-slash-couch potato life, there was once a time where I saw young people regularly.* Occasionally, we would even go out! Or perhaps someone would have a get together at their apartment. What these last couple sentence are coded-ly saying is that sometimes there was drinking. Gasp!

*The fact that I said "young people" means I'm old now. Where can I get some prune juice? (And if you think this is a hack-y and obvious joke, my grandfather specifically requests we have prune juice in the fridge when he stays with us. It's not a stereotype if it's true.)

This isn't scandalous in the slightest. It's perfectly legal for me to drink. But as discussed elsewhere in this blog, I feel like I'm twelve - so it feels wrong to be drinking. And I don't really even like drinking all that much. Here's my juvenile though somewhat rational reasoning: firstly, alcohol has never tasted all that great to me. Beer is okay, wine is okay, but frankly, I'd just rather have a diet coke because it saves me money, calories, and will actually refresh me, which is what I'm looking for in a beverage.* There are sweet tasty mixed drinks, but I'm not allowed to order those since I'm male and have an ego that bruises like an apple. Secondly, I'm cheap.** I don't like spending money on things I don't enjoy; I just feel bad about it because it feels like a waste. So if it doesn't taste good to me, why should I drop a bunch of cash? The bottom line is I can order a diet coke and get fifteen refills for two dollars.***

*...and a lover. (Okay, that was weird. It seemed funny in my head but the word lover is so dour.)
**I know where you're going with this - don't even think about it.
***Wanna see me indignant? Tell me the restaurant I'm at CHARGES for refills.

So while in my day-to-day life I think of myself as a teetotaler - a word I can spell  just fine but can never say correctly on the first try - there have been times where I indulge in the sauce a bit. If you're surrounded by people who are drinking, sometimes it feels really uncomfortable to not be drinking.* So you do whatcha gotta do! And rare as me drinking is, I have noticed that when the booze is flowing heavily enough, one of four distinct personalities will emerge from within me. I have no control over which one shows up on any given night - it's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde.

*Hooray for post-adolescent peer pressure!

Andre is always really happy to be out or at the party. He wants to dress well, and is really concerned with how his hair looks.* Andre really loves dancing. Like, he really loves dancing. He tries to start dance parties every five minutes, and typically he usually only gets one other person to dance with him. Trying not to be discouraged, he'll act like he's fine with a two-person dance party, but after about a minute and a half he'll run into the kitchen or find the other members of his group and say, "Okayit'snotabigdealbutWHYISNOBODYDANCINGhello?" really really fast with all the words mushed together like that. His attention span is frighteningly short, and he has trouble having coherent conversation.** Andre loves pop music, and upon recognizing the first two seconds of any song will shout "I LOVE THIS SONG!" even if what he really means is "I know this song."***

Jeremy is really overly nostalgic and kind of weepy. He never actually cries, but he feels like he's in the mood to cry, so he sort of sits around making himself feel, hoping a moment is going to happen. He purposely makes himself look like he's trying to hide the fact that he's sad, in hopes that someone will ask him if he's ok. Jeremy really wants to have a deep, meaningful, and revealing heart-to-heart with somebody at the party. Jeremy is happy to be around his friends, but thinks they're all going on to greater things and moving on in life without him. I'm pretty sure Jeremy is not fun to have around.

Smith lives life pretty hardcore. Not really, but Smith doesn't like the idea that he's perceived as boring - he HATES the idea that he's predictable. So he wants to shock or surprise people by doing things you'd never expect. He's a rebel, man! He likes playing games that involve dares because SMITH FREAKING LOVES DARES. Smith loves to prove you wrong by doing something crazy n'wild! He swears more than he needs to, and he occasionally overshares. Smith loves doing shots, which is nuts, and he's super excited to take, like, a double shot without wincing, because it shows how much of a man he is.

Thomas is all too aware of how infrequently he drinks, and is nervous that he looks dumb while doing so, or that he's doing it wrong. He wants somebody else to make/order his drinks for him. He has also been known to just assign someone else to be in charge of his drinking for the night - "Should I drink this? I've already had three. I'm nervous. You're in charge of my drinking!" He's really really doesn't want to look like those drunk people that he feels that he's smarter/better/classier than****, and if he veers too close to acting those people he feels like everybody's judging him. At his apartment-warming party, he (and everyone) had a lot to drink and he spent most of the night saying "Are you patronizing me?" repeatedly to his own guests.*****

Pretty embarrassing. I don't want to spend time with any of those weirdos. It takes some of the sting off to talk about them like they're other people, but they're not. These people are me! It makes no sense! Smith loves looking like a real manly man? I hate and resent all that macho crap! Or maybe subconsciously, I don't?

Would now be a good time to mention just how seldom I drink? Truly. I think the last time I had alcohol at all was July, and the last time I was... what's the polite term? Overserved? Was March. So don't worry America, the odds of you running into any of these nutcases are slim to none. Hopefully.

*This is especially odd because anyone who knows me knows I NEVER (ever in the history of everdom) care about what my clothes or hair look like. 
**Direct quote to girl telling the story of her ex: "You know what? You're better off! He's too good for you! NO, I MEAN, REVERSE THAT! I MEANT YOU'RE TOO GOOD FOR HIM"
***Whenever I'm walking down the street in the city and a train passes with its incredible volume, I turn to whoever I'm with and shout "I LOVE THIS SONG!" as a joke, so the first time I noticed that Andre shouts that BUT FOR REAL, I knew I was a moron.
****Ironically, those are people like Andre and Smith.
*****Actual quote spoken by me to my roommate in the middle of that apartment-warming party, a particularly crazy night.
"We threw a theme party! The theme was SHITSHOW."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Jewish Thing, Part 1: Barrington Balagan

DISCLAIMER: If you thought last week I started taking myself too seriously, this week is gonna be difficult...
It's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year; any Jew will tell you that it's a very important holiday for anyone who subscribes to the religion. I have been asked if I would like to go to services tomorrow - my response, verbatim: "Will there be lunch involved?*" You may find this tasteless - it's a religious service, after all. But considering that in the last ten years I haven't even considered going to services, it's a minor victory for the faith. My inner [insert hard-hitting journalist] tells me the obvious follow-up question is, "Why haven't you been to services in ten years?"

That's right kids, buckle up. We're gettin' into the Jewish thing. Prepare for some complaining.

*This question is VERY Jewish and is perhaps is an indicator that I should go.

I grew up Jewish in an extremely conservative Christian area. This experience, for those of you who did not share it with me, feels something akin to being trapped on one side of one-way mirror, watching everyone else have a party without you. And when you start banging on the mirror, trying to let them know what's up, the smug little brats turn towards the noise and start pelting you with eggs. Overdramatic, sure, but everything's overdramatic when you're a child. Correction, everything's overdramatic when you're an overdramatic child.* Still, I maintain to this day that I was in the right.

*This sentence would seem to imply that I am no longer overdramatic. This sentence would be lying.

It starts young. Kids are dumb, and they can be mean without knowing it. It would seem, based on my experience, that they don't have the mental capability to feel empathy. Or maybe it was just the kids around me. No, wait... it was the adults too. That is, perhaps, the most frustrating part of it all. One of my two biggest pet peeves in the world is adults who act like children, and maybe this contributed to that.* I have a running log in my head of some of the incidents that were an affront to me. Let's begin, shall we?

*The other is when someone opens a can of soda, takes one or two sips, and then leaves it on the counter where it immediately gets flat and is wasted. WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU? Have you no decency??

In kindergarden I first got a taste of how completely oblivious people were to the mere idea of inclusiveness when were all given Christmas Trees to color. It seems it had not occurred to anyone that someone might not celebrate Christmas. Then, in second grade we had a "Christmas Concert" where we sang all Christmas songs. I asked the music teacher if we would sing any Hanukkah songs. "Well", she sighed, "Light the Candles All Around the World is sort of a Hanukkah song." "Uh, no bitch, it is not" I didn't say; I was a nice boy.* In fifth grade we had a Christmas party that included games like "stuff the Santa" and "guess the Christmas song". I was recently told by a friend (shout-out to my homegirl Katrina!) that she distinctly remembers me being deeply upset and as a fifth-grader she thought, "yeah, that isn't really fair". I boycotted that Christmas party. I sat out in the hall, against the lockers. NOBODY cared. No teacher came out to talk to me. Nary a peep. Nary!

*But seriously it isn't.

Kids can be cruel. Time after time I would get asked, "What's wrong with you?" "How can you not do Christmas?" "Don't you know Christmas is way more fun than Hanukkah?*", and my personal favorite, "so how can you just, like, not believe in Jesus?**", as if my religion was any weirder and more random than theirs, or as if I had anything to do with the religion I was born into. A kid wrote his in-class story about Christmas vs. Hanukkah (guess who won - it rhymes with Bristmas). I used to get so angry and defensive, inappropriately so, and I didn't understand why. A classmate in high school recounted to me, "I remember when someone said something about Christmas and you stood up and started yelling - six million Jews died in the holocaust!" "Oh my god, that's embarrassing" I said, turning red. I have no memory of that incident, but I have no doubt it happened. I do remember going to sit in the hallway when someone brought up Jesus Christ in class, requesting angrily for someone to come get me when they were done.

*"HANUKKAH HAS EIGHT DAYS THOUGH SO THERE" became my defensive response.
**I got asked the Jesus question even in high school. Nuts, ain't it?

So while the tantrums were perhaps misguided, I do understand the place they were coming from. Unfortunately, I developed a reputation as that Jewish kid who hated Christmas, which only further added to the problem; now to the other kids, Jews seemed really grumpy. Kids used to ask me why I hated Christmas - another super fun question! - but that wasn't it at all. I have no problem with any religion or holiday... what bothered me, really made my skin crawl, was the fact that these people could not even wrap their minds around the idea that somebody could think differently than they did. It was a foreign concept that anybody might do anything other than the things they themselves did. It wasn't that they didn't like Judaism; it was that they didn't even seem to know (or care) that it was a thing. And while "that's not a thing" is one of my favorite expressions, it most certainly was a thing. I imagine two blonde parents in country club argyle sweaters, sipping coffee and reading the paper as their daughter comes home from school...

     Daughter: Hello mummy! Hello papa!
     Mother: How was your day sweetheart?
     Daughter: Oh, it was so exciting! There's a new boy in class, and he's a Jew!
     Mother: A what?
     Daughter: A Jew, mummy.
     Mother: What on earth is she saying?
     Father: A Jew... oh, like on the television? Like that Seinfeld show that you love.
     Mother: Oh, sweetie, Jews aren't real! 
     Daughter: But he is, mummy, I saw him!
     Father: Sweetheart, what did your mother and I say about making up stories?
     Daughter: But papa!
     Father: What did we say?
     Daughter:'s not polite to lie.
     Father: That's right. Goodness me, it says in the paper the president had an affair...

Did I overdo it? Well, you get the idea. Anyway, the whole situation just felt bad in my core, my inherent sense of what was right and what was wrong. My mother feels so awful when I talk about this aspect of my childhood - "I feel like I failed as a parent!" she says. But growing up that way gave me empathy for anyone feeling like a minority or an outsider; I know how it feels to feel marginalized.* It's cruel, it hurts, and nobody should be made to feel that way. Many (powerful) people don't seem to care about the feelings of others anymore - we could use a little more empathy in the world. So I learned how wrong discrimination and marginalization were - I say that's a pretty good trade-off for being pissy during a couple of class parties. And possibly more importantly, when I see Bill O'Reilly on TV talking about the "War on Christmas" and "how DARE Target change their sign to say Happy Holidays", I know he's an asshole. Because being NICE AND INCLUSIVE to all people is A GOOD THING. It's kind. We could use more kindness, too. Kindness and empathy, and also smaller size frozen pizzas because I always end up eating the whole thing even when I'm not actually that hungry, y'know?

*And don't think I'm not aware that my experience PALES in comparison to many others. But this happens to be mine.

This still hasn't quite answered the question of why I stopped going to temple, but we're out of time for this week - I've gone on long enough; I'm stepping off my soapbox now. So to all my Jews, have a good Rosh Hashanah. And to everyone else, enjoy work/school! Jews are taking the day off, suckas!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hello, Returns? My Face is Defective.

DISCLAIMER: As it went on, this post ended up taking itself a little bit more seriously than I intended. Oops.
Nowadays, when I stare at myself in the mirror like the vain boy that I am, a particular feature stands out. Beyond my freckles and my brown eyes and my messy hair that never knows where it wants to sit, one thing stares back at me. On the left side of my mouth is a deep crease, a wrinkle, permanently etched into my skin. This wrinkle, that I have just now decided to name Stanley, haunts me daily. I can't see myself without my eyes zooming directly towards him. Stanley sits there, smirking. It's like a really simple, depressing game of Where's Waldo. Where's Stanley? OH, HE'S STILL RIGHT THERE.

"How is this possible?" I think to myself. "I'm too young to have wrinkles!" Aren't I? I still feel like I'm a kid. Not only that, but there are three lines that run across my forehead. Unlike Stanley, they fade a little when I'm holding my face very still. These three are making me consider getting Botox as a preventative measure. I know, you're thinking, "that's crazy!" "you're so young!" "that stuff is poison!" But if I have wrinkles now, I feel like by age 35 I'll just look like an old worn-out leather sofa. So best to start fighting before Stanley has mean little children that spread across my face.

But imagining going to get the Botox gives me pause. I picture myself sitting in a waiting room, a young man sandwiched between suburban housewives twice my age. Then there's the meeting with the doctor, where you have to own up to your own vanity. Oh yeah, then a needle injects poison into your face. So there's that. And really, will the Botox do what I really want it to anyway? Because what I want is for the Botox to KILL STANLEY. I don't just want it to prevent new lines - I want it to destroy the ones I have now. I want it to turn back time and undo Stanley. I want it to wipe Stanley from the face of the earth - or rather, the face of my face. But can Stanley ever truly be undone? Isn't Stanley just a symbol for the fact that I'm aging? Can you really kill a symbol?*

*Batman and I both struggle with this question.

I feel old at random times - it'll catch me when I least expect it. I went to my sister's 7th grade track meet a couple months ago. By mere chance I happened to be wearing my badass Buffy the Vampire Slayer tee. After the meet, I found my sister chatting with some of her friends. One girl perked up when she noticed my t-shirt. "There's vampires on your shirt!" She said. "Yeah, it's Buffy the Vampire Slayer." ...Crickets. Blank stares. It was time to educate. "See girls, there was a time called the 90s..." I started to say.
"I was born in 1999." Said one girl. "Me too." "Me too." I felt sickened. And again old.

For those of you who can't believe I think I'm old, worry not; my old feelings are offset by simultaneously feeling way too young to be a grown-up. I keep seeing people on Facebook - people my own age - getting married. "She's too young!" I shriek. It is unfathomable to me that I could run into someone from high school and that they would introduce their husband or wife and they wouldn't be joking. I sometimes still don't feel like I'm old enough to drink, and there's people getting married? What's wrong with them/me?** I've said it before and I'll say it again - I. Feel. Like. A. Child. I forget I'm getting older - several times in the last year, when asked my age I've answered 21, only to then be reminded by someone else in the conversation that I am, in fact, 22. Horrified, I go, "oh my god... you're right, I am 22!"

**Who's the weird one in this situation? If you want to choose "them", go to page 85. If you choose "me", go to page 102.

My friend is now officially teaching high school, which my brain can not compute because I'm pretty sure we're children. What's that? We're grown adults? Huh? I can't hear you, must be really bad reception in here... my friend invited me to a dinner for the staff because she's new and didn't want to go alone. I told her I was pretty sure I'd feel like I was a student; she assured me I wouldn't. As she showed me her classroom, I held my hands up to my temples. "This is so weird! God, you're like a grownup and stuff!" My instinct was to sit in the back of the class with the cool kids***, not to stand up at the front and be a teacher. I could not believe that someone who is ostensibly the same as me could be so adult - could be imbued with such adultyness****. We wandered over to the football game. This was strange. The familiar trappings - the players, the marching band, the cheerleaders - if felt... like high school, for lack of a better explanation. It felt familiar, like a sense memory thing. It was all kind of sweeter, wasn't it? For me, at least. More innocent, I guess.

***I was not one of the cool kids. 
****I'm aware this isn't a word. Artistic license.

I realized how far removed I was from it. The kids seemed so young. I definitely was not a high-schooler, which was a relief on one front because I often feel like I look and dress like I'm a fifteen year old. It was a relief on another front as well; my friend being a high school teacher had made no sense to me because I figured I was basically still a high-schooler, still essentially the same kid I was then. But the fact that I felt distant from it is good, right? It proves that I actually have grown up a little. Just because I don't feel like an uberAdult doesn't mean I'm still a kid. I must be somewhere... in between. Maybe it's like when children start getting taller - if you see them every day, you don't really notice the slow, incremental growth. But if you don't see a kid for a while, when you do you're like, "Jesus, he's tall!" I didn't notice the tiny ways I've grown up because I'm with me all the time, but the high school saw me and was like, "whoa, you're way more of a grown-up when you were the last time I saw you! Must be three inches more at least!"

So the point is, whether I knew it or not, I actually did grow up somewhat. Which is a relief. I suppose that if the price for elevating above the maturity of a teenager is that I have to carry Stanley around with me, I can live with that.****

****THIS IS A BOLD-FACED LIE. I CANNOT LIVE WITH THAT. If you have any tips for me on how to terminate Stanley please contact me right away. TIME IS A FACTOR.