I always tell people that the thing that has shaped me the most has been my role as a big sister to two little brothers. I think it is imperative that a) I am the oldest sibling b) I have two siblings, not just one, and c) I am the only girl and my two siblings are brothers.
I believe all the theories on family placement. All of them. Both because they clearly have affected me—if you’ve ever wondered why I’m so bossy now you must be satisfied because here I am, very openly admitting it, but also providing a substantial excuse for it—and because I’ve seen their effects on my brothers. For example, I’m just going to say “Middle Child Syndrome” and leave that right there.
So think about it: think about being one of three kids, think about being the only girl and having two non-effeminate brothers, and think about being the oldest. And now you know, basically, why I am who I am and we could end this whole thing right here.
We won’t, though, because I’m feeling extra mushy and smushy today after spending a nice long weekend at home. And I’m thinking a lot about why siblings are so great. After all that thinking, here’s what I came up with:
1. First and foremost, they are the people you can be your most natural self around. This is as corny as it’ll get, I swear, but if you saw me running around my house singing songs about my brothers, neither of whom I call by his real name but by strange nicknames that have come about for various reasons with long backstories, you would find this a lot less corny and a lot more… disturbing? Embarrassing? The latter. Definitely.
2. That being said, siblings are great at taking care of you when you stumble home too intoxicated too late at night and you need someone familial to hold your hand but shhh don’t wanna wake up Mom and Dad! One Thursday night in the spring of my senior year of high school, when I used my body as a melting pot for many bad things, my friends decided it would be a good idea to drive me home in a packed Jeep Wrangler. In the Wrangler, I proceeded to convince myself that I was stuck in what I called a “vortex” and then had a panic attack in my brother’s room at 2am. He let me squeeze his hand while I hyperventilated.
3. If you have sisters, they are good for photoshoots. Instagram has, in a way, provided a new backdrop for domestic intrafamilial child labor. If you have brothers, you can try and make them photograph you but they will never understand how to properly focus by tapping the screen, how to take photos fast enough, and how to highlight your skinny arm.
4. Siblings are great people to eat with. You know each other’s favorite foods (read: you’re used to going from ice cream out of the carton to a full block of Manchego in front of each other, no biggie) and there are no regrets and no judgments.
5. Little brothers are also great for being honest about how you look. The littlest brother of mine used to tell me that I’m “generally skinny but have big thighs that you could work on.” Now that he’s older he’s still honest about my ever-fluctuating weight but is mature enough to roll his eyes before disclosing his honest answer after he’s asked, “Eli, how do I look these days?”
6. CUDDLING! And WATCHING TV IN BED! These are the best sibling things to do, even if you are all aged 13+, and especially if you are single. In not-gross ways, your brothers and sisters are the closest things you’ll always have to significant others. Last night I went to a play with my brother and his girlfriend and I kept having the inclination to rest my head on his shoulder when I was tired but then realized she was doing that on his other shoulder and I kept having to be like oh, wait, no Hannah, bye.
7. Upping your likes on Instagram and Facebook. Everyone loves and envies a cool, fun, photogenic liter of siblings. It works the other way, too: the more siblings you have, the more guaranteed likers you have at your beck and call.
8. Siblings are great to think about. When you think about them, you smile, and you get really happy. And the best part of that happiness is that you can share it with them. You can text them and be like, “Remember when I sneezed a piece of seaweed out of my nose from my miso soup and you almost threw up because it grossed you out so much but I was laughing really hard?” And if you’re with them, you can just run over to them and squeeze them really tight, I mean you’ve always been rowdy with each other anyway, and you can feel like a kid again because in a way that’s how you’ll always remember each other. Or maybe that’s just me and the way I try to cradle my 13-year-old brother in my arms, though he now has armpit hair and makes me tweeze his unibrow for him.
As we get older, our siblings serve different purposes in our lives. Your brother can’t take as good care of you if, when you come home, he’s also intoxicated and is laughing at you instead of holding your hand. Unfortunately, your little little brother’s six-pack does not mean he is still skinny enough for you to carry him like a baby. They are old enough to FaceTime and text me, and when I’m with them, take pretty pictures of me, so I guess under the circumstances I got no complaints. They’re good enough for me.
I am not just one of those people who, at eight, could tell you what I wanted to name my children. I am one of those people who has, at different stages of her life, had such clear ideas of what I wanted to name my children that my best friends can give you a catalog of baby names that have been or still are in my repertoire.
In a strange way, this herd of imaginary children that I dreamed up is, or was, an extension of me. My best friend Nicole still taunts me about “Milo”—that one was from, like, fifth or sixth grade—and I kind of deny that I would still use it but a) I still have a strong connection to/association with the name, it’s like the Milo I envisioned myself birthing some twenty years down the road was an imaginary friend of sorts, and b) any validity of my denial completely falls through when you talk to my mom about how, just last year, I refused to let my family name our new puppy Milo in fear that one day, I would want to use it for a child but would not be able to because “Milo” would be forever ruined with images of a small labradoodle.
I’ve spoken before of my thoughts on baby names and how the name game, like any other sport, changes over time and adapts to the strange ways in which our social interactions present themselves. For example, when you think about Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter “Apple,” (is it offensive that I put someone’s name in quotations? Does that make it sound like imitation meat on a kosher Chinese food menu?) and then you think about her obsession with green juice, everything makes a lot more sense.
So what about this whole giving your girl a boys’ name-thing?
When I was born, my parents named me Hannah Dylan. I thought Hannah was a relatively unique name—I’ve always considered any name that isn’t Britney, Ashley, or Melissa (sorry Britneys, Ashleys, and Melissas) to be a unique name—and Dylan, for obvious reasons, even uniquer.
In my preschool class there was another “Hannah.” According to my mom, she taught me what sex was but I don’t remember learning about sex until third grade when this girl who shall remain unnamed showed me a picture of it on Google, and my epiphany at that moment was so great that I don’t find it possible for me to have had ANY prior knowledge of sex beforehand. Anyway, so there was this other Hannah and for that reason, people called me Hannah Dylan. I have vague memories of my teachers writing it on my finger paintings. I have vague memories of introducing myself as Hannah Dylan. I have less vague memories of practicing my signature to ensure the “D” was included between the “H” and the “P.”
I loved my middle name. I always have, and I always will. As I get older and the babynaming gets weirder, there’s an infinitely larger amount of not only girls with “boys’” names, but also of “gender-neutral” names. In my eyes, “Blake” is just as well-suited for a girl as it is for a boy. This may be because I know a very cool female Blake who is not Blake Lively, in all seriousness, and a very weird male Blake. Of course, this also has larger implications when we consider how perhaps there should no longer be “girl names” or “boy names” at all. I won’t let that go unmentioned, yet it deserves many an essay on its own to be elaborated upon. There are certain names, though, that we have undeniably been programmed to think of as “boy” or “girl” names.
Last night, I was speaking with some friends about names and I mentioned how I used to pretend my name was hyphenated Hannah-Dylan, and though I neglected to mention it to them, I did used to go around telling people that my first name was Hannah Dylan, not just Hannah, because my birth certificate said “Hannah Dylan” in the “first name” spot. In reality, I don’t even know if there is a first name spot on birth certificates, I don’t really remember the last time I even saw a birth certificate, and I do know that my birth certificate says “Hannah Dylan” but just because it says that does not mean my parents had any intention of “Hannah Dylan” being the “Mary Ellen” of our generation.
I don’t think I love having “Dylan” be a part of my identity precisely because it’s a “boys’ name” as much as I love it because it’s a unique name that avoids sounding absurdly ridiculous or reflective of green juice culture. Girls with “boys’ names” are always proud of them. Last night at the table, when a friend with an objectively good taste for cool told me that she wished I went by Dylan (as, you know, some people do go by their middle names as their first names, I don’t always understand how this works or comes to be but it does) and that she thought I would “pull it off” really well, I felt like I had gotten a nice pat on the back. Really? I thought. Thank you, I told her.
Why am I thankful that I could “pull off” a boys’ name? Why do some of my peers insist that they don’t know what they want to name their children, but know they want to use a boys’ names for a daughter? And, we can’t not wonder: why did Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds name their daughter “James?” Do they just love the “idea” or the “concept behind” crossing traditional gender boundaries?
Also, what is it about me that makes “Dylan” such an integral part of my identity? Why does almost every individual in the male species instinctively call me “HDP” and not “HP?” And, really, how do I make sure I continue to be able to “pull off” my fancy middle name for all of eternity?
Tell me, I’m ahb-so-lutely dying to know: what is it about a girl that makes her well-suited for a name usually granted to the other half?
Last week, I watched Danny Kahneman’s TED talk on “the riddle of experience vs. memory.” Though Kahneman is a sixty-something man with a cute accent and not a 20-year-old girl who’s been regrammed by @Infatuation, he spoke on a topic to which we can all, almost undoubtedly, relate.
Experience vs. memory is a way of measuring our happiness: are you happy in your life, or are you happy about your life? If you read that sentence again and think about it really hard, I promise you’ll notice a difference between the two clauses. It’s there. I promise.
Kahneman argues that we make decisions about what we want to do and what we want to do again based on how we think we’ll remember something. I’ll put it in 21st century terms: we decide what we want to do “for the Instagram” and not because we actually want to do it.
I did some research and it turns out that Kahneman is an 81-year-old Israeli psychologist who got his bachelor’s degree in 1954 from Hebrew University. That is just a few years before the creation of Instagram and Facebook, FYI. Sooo, it seems that not much has changed over time. This could be really amazing for us but really sad for all humans and huwomans: it looks like our vice isn’t our addiction to social media nor is it our narcissistic self-expression, but it is our skewed perception of happiness.
I’ve always had this theory that memory is the best quality to have. This is because I’ve had too many encounters where I don’t remember someone’s name, or even worse, I just don’t remember anything at all and have to ask stupid questions that make me sound unintelligent (including but not limited to: state capitals; telling the difference between continents, countries, and regions; stuff about wine). As I age, there seems to be nothing more impressive or useful than remembering people’s names and remembering stuff about wine. It just makes you more likable.
Hence, the experience vs. memory extravaganza was no surprise to me. Obviously, memory is important to us. It probably should be. But maybe we’re doing it just a little bit wrong. We’re obsessed with memory in a way that we think might make us happier but, in the long run, may not.
Actually, I take half of that back. I might have been lying depending on who you are. If you believe that you will be genuinely happier through commemoration, by posting a photo of it to social media, then you might be. That also means that you just value your happiness in memory more than you value your happiness while actually doing something. Sure, the Instagram was great, but your ego may have been better boosted (and your happiness might have increased) if you didn’t eat that delicious brownie ice cream sundae after your meal of pasta and pizza and red wine at a fancy shmancy Italian restaurant. Now you’re nauseas, you can’t stop asking your mom if you look fat, and all you’ve got is 116 likes on Instagram. You’re lucky it was a brownie sundae; my research tells me that ice cream sundaes minus the brownie have an average of 20 to 26 less likes.
What if you absolutely hate skiing but you went with your friends anyway because you were afraid of FOMO and not posting in Instagram in over two weeks? Would you be happy?
Memory is weird. You might really be enjoying an experience, like eating pasta and pizza for days, until something bad happens at the end of it, like lets say you get really bad diarrhea because uh-oh you forgot to take your Lactaid pills. You are programmed to essentially forget all about the amazing meal and how happy every bite made you and instead promise to never consume dairy again. Gluten, though, we can still work with.
There is a difference between experience and memory and our generation is one that favors memory over all. We do things for the sake of remembering them later. And it extends farther than just our inability to be in the present. At the end of the day, or at the end of your Snapstory, it’s about the fact that memory can be shared, and experience, typically, cannot. You can’t make someone jealous about something they weren’t present for unless you drag them into the past with you.
So I guess what makes us happy is social affirmation. You know what they say: an experience isn’t worth it unless someone else expressed some form of offensive or complimentary jealousy! Right?? …Right?
One Saturday night in the spring of my senior year of high school, two of my best friends and I watched Harmony Korine’s notorious Spring Breakers. I was a fan of Korine’s other work before we committed to those 94 minutes of sheer absurdity. The movie was lit like an odd hospital and the characters were more frightening than the most frightening movie character of all time: the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I like what I call “the creepy weirds” so I didn’t mind the movie. In fact, Harmony Korine, via Kids and Gummo, sparked what is now my love for disturbing psychotic films, like Donnie Darko and American Beauty and Fight Club (which I watched two nights ago, then proceeded to intentionally fall asleep with the lights on afterwards).
My friends, though, felt differently. The two of them were laughing, as they were throughout other parts of the movie. And when it culminated in the strange murder of James Franco/Riff Raff, they were like, “That was the weirdest thing of all time.”
We spent the next three months saying “spraaaang breaaak fo’evaaaa” during parties at which we were clearly the least cool and at prom weekend and whenever we were spending Friday nights packed in my bed: sprang break fo’eva.
This year was the first that one of us ventured on “real AF spring break” Ashley Benson/Vanessa Hudgens style, which means a resort in Mexico that converts itself into a brothel for college students/AA meeting gone COMPLETELY wrong for three weeks every year. I am yet to go on such a spring break (can’t say I’m not tempted to, but also can’t say I genuinely think I would be able to survive) so I do not completely understand the ~experience~, though I understand the hype.
In the strangest of ways, I may have loved Spring Breakers for the same reason I kind of wish it was a “thing” for me to go on Spring Break — yes, the term deserves proper nounage. It’s that whole living vicariously thing, doing shit we would never do outside the boundaries of Vamar Vallarta (which I am now so familiar with thanks to all of your Instagram geotags), and in the case of Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson in neon bikinis, killing a bunch of really largely sized gang members!
I grapple with the Spring Break diet. I say it’s really dumb and puts on too much pressure that none of us need. For too many, life is the Spring Break diet. When I was a junior in high school, I went to my boyfriend’s senior prom. All of his girl friends were losing a lot of weight very quickly via the prom/prom weekend diet. Everyone was eating lots of almonds, like, all of the time. I decided to be a reckless champion against it, perhaps one could have called me the “heavyweight champion,” and vehemently told them all that I didn’t care to lose weight for a 48 hour event on a lake in upstate New York because this is real, this is me.
I would like to think my philosophies would be the same now, but then I consider how I was deep into my fat stage at the end of my junior year of high school and realize that if I were going on Spring Break tomorrow, I’d be freaking out just as much as the next sorority sister.
Here are some things that seem to be trendy on Spring Break this year:
- These new headbands that a lot of girls wear over their hair, so it doesn’t really keep the hair out of their face at all
- Taking photos in front of blank walls, usually white
- Trendy bikinis that are kind of patterned like corny Hawaiian button downs from the eighties
- Random q: where do you keep your room key all day???
- Another random q: why does it seem like no one is on the beach? The beach is so much better than the pool
- Crop top and skirt sets — big fan, big fan
Also, for the record, I am going on spring break this year. I am not, however, going on Spring Break. I will be at a friend’s house in Puerto Rico with three other friends and a lot of wine. We are doing things like hiking through the rainforest and seeing the bioluminescent reefs at night and maybe hitting the casino. Once. I can’t resist a good game of blackjack.
I am particularly struck in the heartstrings by the passage on seasickness from David Foster Wallace’s essay, “Shipping Out”:
“In heavy seas, hypochondriacs are kept busy taking their gastric pulse every couple of seconds and wondering whether what they’re feeling is maybe the onset of seasickness. Seasickness-wise, though, it turns out that bad weather is sort of like battle: there’s no way to know ahead of time how you’ll react… For the first two nights, who’s feeling seasick and who’s not and who’s not now but was a little while ago or isn’t feeling it yet but thinks it’s maybe coming on, etc., is a big topic of conversation at Table 64 in the Five-Star Caravelle Restaurant.”
I have never interacted with a passage like I do with this one, which so accurately sums up all of my neuroses.
My name is Hannah (say it back to me now in an angelic chorus: “Hi, Hannah”) and I have been a hypochondriac for my entire life.
Being a hypochondriac has taken its toll on my existence. Two years ago, I went on a cruise and did, indeed, spend most of the first two days trying to listen to my stomach like it was the audio comprehension part of the AP Spanish exam.
This week, I spent all of Saturday drinking seltzer in my room because the rainy weather gave me this cringe-worthy chill and joint acheyness.
I didn’t eat sushi for the first three-quarters of my life because once about seven years ago, in the “Gross Confessions” column of Seventeen magazine, I read about a girl who ate sushi when she didn’t want to and then vomited it all up very publicly while doing karaoke at a birthday party. Guess what I did Friday night? Went to a sushi dinner and then to karaoke. Guess how nervous I was to eat the sushi?
My freshman year of high school I went through a phase where I felt motion sick every night because I spent too much time thinking about the earth turning on its axis. True story.
In general, I am someone who salivates a lot. IDK it must be genetic. Last week, I, for some reason, was producing an extra large quantity of saliva which would not go away, and there was so much that I was almost drooling. And I kept having to swallow it and it was wretched and disgusting. I googled “how to stop hypersalivating” and ended up on WebMD, which told me I was a) about to vomit or b) had ALS. Of course, vomiting and ALS are my two worst fears. My mom and I decided that I should never go on WebMD again and that I should watch some Law & Order: SVU to calm me down.
The worst type of hypochondriac is the teen pregnancy hypochondriac. This takes form in many females who are correctly using at least one form of contraception and still tell their friends every month that they are pregnant. As much as I hate to admit this, I think these girls get a kind of strange, twisted excitement from their version of hypochondria. They usually get their periods the next day.
I don’t know what makes some of us prone to hypochondria and some of us not. Obviously, some of us are more anxious than others, but just as obviously, no one ever wants to or likes feeling ill. When it comes down to it, the hypochondriac will be just as ill-equipped (no pun intended) to take care of him- or herself during a seizure, for example, so there’s no good reason for us hypochondriacs to make ourselves crazy in the first place.
There is an exciting dramatic element to being ill (when I was younger I would love to lie in bed after a panic attack and have friends come and sit on the floor by my bedside, I still do this sometimes), but still, I would never sacrifice the contents of my stomach and bowels for some good old drama. Therefore, I don’t see the attention as a justification for most hypochondriacs, except for the teen pregnancy hypochondriacs who know they really just can’t be pregnant. However, there’s a chance I just really hate feeling yucky and I’m also always looking for a good story, which, in tandem, increase my chances of freaking out when I simply need a Gas-X.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the rising number of hypochondriacs aligns itself with the rising number of health freaks — those whose diets are 50 percent acai chia maca flacka flame bowls and 50 percent algae or something. As someone who is an inconsistent self-elected member to the Kale Tribe, I see how the paths could overlap. For example: if I’m feeling sluggish, it’s because I’m uber dehydrated and didn’t drink enough water in the first 30 minutes I was awake that morning. I’m very convinced that I’m always dehydrated.
I have to say, though, there is a visible link between the hypochondriacs and the romantics. Consider my dad, who cried at the end of Finding Nemo, but also once turned around to go home — although we were halfway to his office for “bring your daughter to work day” — because he felt some sort of ominous illness looming ahead. I’ll never forget that day. Dad spent the rest of the afternoon in bed and I kept asking my mom if he threw up yet, to which she kept responding, “No, Daddy never throws up. He’s not going to.”
Perhaps it is better to be safe than sorry. Maybe one day I’ll be right about my mysterious diseases. And to hell with WebMD.
You know it’s National Pancake Day is (it was just last week, I’m pretty sure) because your Instagram is flooded with revelries of IHOP shortstacks. National Oreo Day was pretty recently too, I think, because I distinctly remember being like, “This is a great excuse to buy another pack of Red Velvet Oreos that I, hopefully this time (as opposed to last), will not finish in two hours.”
However, that day, in which I ended up not buying the Oreos as I walked by them at CVS thrice, was really no different from any other. I wasn’t particularly in the mood to eat Oreos—I sometimes very much am—but I still felt a strange compulsion to buy them and engage in this “national holiday” of sorts.
National food days, which are sweeping the national faster than snowbanks, are ways humanity has recently decided to make every day a little more special or a little more fun. Add some spunk to your daily routine by letting a flood of Instagram posts and hashtags dictate what you should eat and on what day and how you should eat it (and how you should take a photo of it pre-consumption).
On that note, national food days totally have a direct relation to our obsession with eating food and with looking at it. National Doughnut Day (June 5th, FYI) gives us a reason to eat something we might normally feel too guilty to eat on a “normal” day. National food days decide our “cheat” days for us (though I don’t necessarily condone a “cheat” day because life and food are all about ~balance~). And on top of all of the elation and joy from a guilt-free PB&J doughnut, we get the opportunity for an A+ Instagram. The best of all #basic worlds.
There are other “national days”—another thought: should we be calling these days “holidays?”—that aren’t about food. The first that comes to mind is National Sibling Day, which, I must note, happened twice this year. So whoever is in charge of that one better get her shit together.
I did some googling to investigate other holidays not food-related but more on the National Sibling Day spectrum. In .03 seconds, literally, Google provided me with a national days calendar. It’s title, “Calendar at a Glance / National Day Calendar” brought out the skeptic in me. At first, I thought a calendar with such a name would only provide me with “Veterans’ Day” and such but, alas, this was not the case.
If you look just below this unassuming title to the SEO preview you will see “March” and then under “March” the first thing you’ll read is “National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.” Note that this is different than National Peanut Butter Day (January 24th). This is the day for peanut butter LOVERS, like me. It was not coincidence or chance that I stumbled upon this so quickly. This was fate.
And that is how I, very quickly, succumbed to the fallacy of the national days.
These odd “national days” bring us a sense of self-affirmation, of something larger we can relate to, and as something with which we can label ourselves.
The next question in my search, logically, was: How many national days are there?
Well, according to this website, every day is a national day. Actually, every day is many national days. For example, yesterday, March 10th, was National Mario Day (as in Luigi’s special friend or just everyone named Mario? unclear), National Blueberry Popover Day, National Pack Your Lunch Day (is this a social criticism about consumerism and big business monopoly? Or just, like, try something new and pack your lunch?), and also National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS awareness Day. It seems slightly inappropriate for the latter to be juxtaposed with any listed prior. Especially with National Blueberry Popover Day.
I appreciate the concept of the national blah blah blah day because, although our responses are not much more than an Instagram, they do remind us of certain things that we forget to make a point of. We do get a mental alarm, we do text our siblings or our great aunts or our third cousins twice removed, as I’ll bet there’s a day for them, too.
And, to boot, it pops our health-obsessed bubble and reminds us that blueberry popovers, for example, do exist and people around the world do eat them—it is okay to eat them—and it isn’t a crime to do so. In fact, baked goods should be celebrated and not shunned. That’s nice to think about.
However, we must be real with ourselves in that these days don’t actually exist. They aren’t celebrated officially (for the most part) unless we choose to celebrate them. They are for us, but they need us and our hashtags in order for them to exist.
So, I guess it’s back to the idea of self-affirmation. We, it seems, are constantly coming up with reasons and excuses to live and do things certain ways. I am sure about one thing, and it is that you should eat the blueberry popover.
Kim Kardashian and Jared Leto can now say they have one, and only one, thing in common. The short platinum hair.
Perhaps now they can also say they share the experience of breaking the internet; once, Kim broke it with her tush and now she’s done it yet again with that other large, round body part of hers. Jared Leto has broken my heart, not the internet, countless times (this is what happens when, as a fourteen-year-old, your boyfriend introduces you to Darren Aronofsky) and has now broken the internet, too. Kinda.
The difference between Jared Leto’s forgoing of those Keratin-blessed locks in exchange for a bleach blonde slick back and Kim Kardashian’s transformation into a pint sized Armenian Tilda Swinton is that we are sad about Jared but can’t seem to shut up Kim. How many articles per website does it take to talk about Kim’s new hair and who it was inspired by? On average, four. Ish.
If we’re being honest, how much do you really care about Kim Kardashian going blonde? How does that affect your life? I don’t think you’ll go blonde, too, because of it. Actually, stylists are supposed to encourage a “transition” process before someone with such dark roots takes a walk on the wild side. You think about going blonde for a long time. And then you try on a lot of blonde wigs to make sure you actually like it. And then you pick out the exact shade of blonde you want because obviously, if you just “go blonde,” you’re fucked. But after this process you can go blonde.
Sure, there are a whole buncha reasons why we care what people like Kim Kardashian do: we’re bored with our own lives, we use them as role models, we live vicariously. My theory, however, is what we care about is not just what they do, but who they are. Famous people are so close to us (in the social media age) but you still can never smell them. So, we try to learn everything else about them to compensate. We want to be their best friend, though we never expect them to be ours in return. Low expectation infers low disappointment.
The best way to learn stuff about someone is to study the way she expresses herself. Thus, Kim Kardashian’s hair = self-expression = us getting to know Kim Kardashian via her hair if her hair is the “self” that is being expressed.
Yet what we receive to be “self-expression” is what causes the uproar. Think Britney’s bald head, Lena Dunham’s Giving Tree tattoo, Kelly Clarkson’s weight gain (hey, who said you can’t express yourself with food?). We obsess over the self-expression of celebrities when they express someone that we don’t see as themselves. Enter Kim Kardashian, a dark complexioned brunette bombshell-type who goes rogue on Teresa and decides to become Barbie. We get angry when celebrities don’t express the “selves” we want them to be, so that the entire concept of self-expression has basically blown away and in its place is a pitchfork-bearing mob of angry housewives with tabloid subscriptions. Kim, they feel like they don’t even know you anymore.
This leads to an even bigger question: what is self-expression? Do we have a duty to express who we actually are, or to test the waters of who we want to be?
I don’t know if there’s a point in one’s life where she is suddenly like, This is me! I know me! and is able to express that “me.” You can buy the mom jeans because they’re “so you” but when it’s your first pair of mom jeans… oh, that first pair… that’s when we aren’t quite sure who we are and who we want to be while denim-clad.
If there is no point where we know ourselves, then there is no point where we should be expected to express ourselves. The moral of the story here is really just to express yourself and stop stereotyping the Kardashians. They can be whatever hair color they want to be.
“You’ve got to listen to The Moth,” my aunt told me just over a year ago. And now, a year later, I find myself standing on a stage (kind of, like it was a non-elevated stage), “storytelling” in front of a pretty crowded auditorium, because that’s what the cool kids are doing these days. And the cool kids are storytelling these days because they listen to The Moth. And The Moth, for those of you still out of the loop, is a nonprofit storytelling organization that’s widely known for its public radio hour and, le duh, its podcasting, which everyone listens to and is then inspired to do things like stand on non-elevated stages and tell stories (which, I must say, is really fucking fun).
Podcast culture has officially invaded my life and I’m not even a podcast listener.
When I say “podcast,” you think “Serial.” I have not listened to a single episode of Serial, though I’ve been studying those who are devoted followers, eavesdropping on conversations about Adnan and skimming think pieces on its correctness versus its problematicness. Serial was a more addicting version of Grey’s Anatomy, not counting Grey’s more recent seasons, both of which I, once a most avid water, detached myself from.
In other words, there are those who loved Serial for the plot line. But there’s another side to this story – or to this audio podcast, rather – and it’s that podcasts may have become popular because they are podcasts, popular for the sake of their sparkly, shiny newness yet revered for its (ironic) alternative scuff. The podcast embraces the technology age without being absurdly expensive or inaccessible. Podcasts find a home for themselves between the future and the cassette tapes we fell asleep to in the early 90s. The podcast, it may turn out, is actually vintage as feck.
If we’re in some ways regressing, then it’s right to question the elitism of podcast listening (though perhaps this phenomenon is contained to a college campus). Listeners seem to value fellow listeners more than they do the obsessive reader, for example, and really more than they do anyone else. There is an exclusive club of Podcast People who love each other and love podcasts just so! so! much!
I see the logic behind the podcast ego: listening comprehension requires “more” intelligence and focus than reading comprehension does. You can always read a convoluted line in the New Yorker twenty-five times until your brain decides to understand it (read: pay attention). Reading is more conducive to the perpetually slow. When you listen to a a podcast, the words go in one ear and you just have to hope to god that your brain is functioning enough for them not to go right out the other.
But… but… but… what about multitasking? You can do that while you podcast, and not while you read. Did I just use “podcast” as a verb incorrectly? My b.
At least three people have told me that they love podcasts because of how easy they are to listen to, how convenient they are. Just last week I met someone who told me she became a Podcast Person by doing menial archival work in an office for a summer. I, in her position, would have spent that time listening to as much music as possible. But then again, I’ve never tried the podcast. And I’ve never tried the podcast simply because I’m afraid to commit.
This is the same reason why I still haven’t started season one of House of Cards. However, I’m falling asleep at my computer as we speak and now I’m very tempted to go home and watch it because hot yoga was just too hot today.
Another reason I’m afraid of podcasts is that they seem like a waste of time (don’t kill me !!!) but this is only because when I imagine myself listening to a podcast, I picture myself sitting upright in bed, wearing my very chunky Beats, and staring straight ahead at a wall for hours at a time while murder mysteries and other sweet nothings are whispered into my longing ear. That thought gives me complete anxiety. When does anyone have time to be sitting upright in bed?
And don’t even let me get started with how this will continue to affect the dwindling print industry.
For a very long time I thought of myself as a relationships girl. Perhaps I still am even though I classify as *single*. But it is possible that, both in my love life and in my intellectual life, I just haven’t found the right thing to commit to, and podcasts could be that right thing? Or House of Cards? We’ll see how tonight goes.
Image via Slate.
When I started The FYD two years ago, I was equally as obsessed with the concept of “trendy” as I was with spending all of June lying on a giant beach towel in my front yard. I spent hours there, blasting Dave Matthews and Coldplay from my Blackberry not out of free will but out of destiny and fate. Read “destiny and fate” as “my uncle gave me this Blackberry as a hand-me-down phone and those were the only two artists he, for some reason, already had on there, which is strange because I always thought of him as more of a Mika guy.”
When I think about it more, I realize that my lying-on-the-grass phase happened not two years ago, but in eighth grade, and for some strange reason I was really convinced for a second that I was in eighth grade two years ago. I was not.
This flaw of the mind just might contribute to the argument I’m trying to make perfectly, that involving the ebbs and flows and unpredictable shortly lived lives of trends. Things happen and you’re infatuated with them for one month in eighth grade. So many other little obsessions have come and gone since, that eighth grade passions – think lying on the grass, wearing jean jackets with skirts and converse, carrying a small digital camera around on Fridays after school to document teen angst in its purest form – have crept up so close that they seemingly happened a mere two years ago, when, in fact, they did not.
Though I find myself constantly intrigued about “trendy,” I don’t actually know what it means. Or I do know what it means sometimes, but I don’t know if it’s something we can categorize into good, bad, or “aspirational,” as in, trendy is something we should all aspire to.
For example, my mom tells me I waste all my money on clothes and shoes: “Hannah, man, you just gotta realize that money doesn’t grow on trees,” or, “One day you’re gonna realize that you don’t just have an endless supply of money and you can’t spend it on stuff you won’t care about in a month and stuff you don’t need.” When I chime in with: “But Mom, fashion is a hobby of mine… being well-dressed is something I care about… this is just the thing I choose to spend my money on,” she replies with, “Yeah, but you buy something and wear it once and don’t care about it ever again.”
This conversation happens immediately after my mom notices I’m wearing something she hasn’t seen before, cocks her head to the side, and says, “Where’s that from?”
She’s entirely right, you know. The only explanation for how I could possibly spend so much money on clothing and shoes yet constantly feel like I have nothing to wear, as my closet expands like a lady in need of a lap-band, is because I buy “trendy” things. They come in and out like men to a harem whose affections towards women last as long as they can keep it up. And suddenly, I realize my closet is a combination of someone who fights morbid obesity and someone who objectifies women in ways that should have gone out of style a hundred years ago, which is very, very bad.
Yet most of the time when I use the word “trendy,” I’m not referring to striped sailor shirts with boat necklines, silk culottes, or the $340 Edie Parker/Del Toro velvet loafers stitched with poop emoji patches. I’m referring to something much more encompassing, as I believe most are when they use the word, too. I’m referring to saying certain words (literally can’t, literally cannot, stop I’m dying), avocado toast and brunch, wearing those large floppy hats not in the summertime (click here for example, this one is actually called “floppy hat” in its product description), never getting a haircut ever, and SmartWater. Just to name a few.
Here’s another. Once, I tweeted this: “Recently I’ve been eating a lot of Chobani. It looks like cheese curds but tastes trendy, so I like it.”
This was before Chobani was a “thing” yet I still attributed a yogurt texture to something considered “trendy.” I still like Chobani – it’s the perfect protein-packed afternoon snack – but most other things I spent exorbitant amounts of energy and babysitting money on just to watch them fade months later. It’s uncomfortably ironic how what I’ve considered myself most enthusiastic about at various points in my life, like lying on the grass and walking to the diner for a milkshake once it got to be 10pm, are ephemeral.
Perhaps this is just the nature of passion. (Or the nature of trendy, if there’s a difference.)
Image via Jezebel.
Everybody has a thing for their grandmas. But, of course, everyone’s things are different.
When I tell people my grandma was my best friend, I’m generally shocked that they aren’t shocked. “I mean it,” I say again. “She was LITERALLY my best friend.” For the longest time I was frustrated at the ignorant head-nodding with which all would reply. But now, after thinking about how awesome grandmas are/watching Julie Andrews at the Oscars on Sunday, I’m going to give the bubbes of the world more credit. Though I will never admit defeat in that my grandma was the best person in the world, and still is in my eyes, I will start recognizing other grandmas as equally endearing in their own light.
Here are the different types of cool grandmas. May you one day achieve your goals in becoming one:
1. JAPpy Grandma
This grandma is your straight up 16-year-old who goes to any big Long Island public school. However, she is 77ish and is not necessarily from Long Island. She appreciates the finer things in life, like a good Juicy Couture sweatsuit and silver Supergas. JAPpy grandma gets great botox and looks exactly how your mom would if she were made into a wax figure at Madame Tussauds. However, we love JAPpy grandma for all of these qualities, and she’s the best for shopping trips. “I’m not a regular grandma, I’m a cool grandma.”
2. Very Old Geriatric Grandma
She’s your standard octogenarian. She puts up with bullshit because she doesn’t really understand what bullshit is. She looks like a “Grammy” even though you might not call her that. Wheelchair is optional but recommended. She’s just really cute and is Buddha-content with her long, prosperous life. She might even take pride in her senility. You know what they say: a grandma who can laugh at herself is a great grandma. IDK who “they” is, but someone, somewhere, says that.
3. Hip Grandma
Hip Grandma is Nora Ephron if Nora Ephron were your grandma. She knows how old she is and therefore dresses like she’s about to walk the NYFW runway for Eileen Fisher’s fall collection. She still maintains complete sanity and is “with it.” She even says, “I am so with it.” She likes talking about femininity, sex before marriage, and alcohol. She puts quinoa in her matzoh ball soup. She loves working out with her trainer on a large exercise ball that doubles as a toy for the grandkids. Oh, and watch out – here comes the world’s most incessant Instagram commenter.
4. Traditional Grandma
Here, think Julie Andrews. She dresses conservatively, loves brooches, and is prim and proper. Maybe she was raised in the south. Maybe she’s British. However I have a shockingly large group of friends, and by large I mean two or three, whose grandmothers were raised in the south, so perhaps that should be a category on its own. New official category: southern grandmas who have since relocated to a suburb in the tristate metropolitan area. Also, she has good taste in bling.
5. Cute and Unintentionally Cool Grandma
This was my grandma. She’s a combo of the wise grandma and with a spoonful of each the others. For example, she knows everyone has premarital sex but doesn’t like to talk about it (at least with her granddaughter). However, she loved the Broadway show about drag queens. She spends money on you that she may not even have and appreciates nothing more than a good “Girls’ Day.” She carries designer purses – without any knowledge that they are designer – but sports Eileen Fisher like a champ. She isn’t quite like JAPpy grandma because she won’t count dessert calories but never turns down a mani pedi. She has a BlackBerry and an iPhone but doesn’t really know how to use either of them.
6. Quiet Grandma
The quiet grandma is a silent hero. She comes to babysit a lot and just kind of sits on the couch while you’re downstairs playing with your siblings. She’s good at ordering pizza and making dinosaur chicken nuggets. She’s affectionate but not your BFF. Maybe she drives you places. That doesn’t mean you don’t love her, though! Maybe she’s still a little sour about something that happened in the fifties. Quiet grandma really likes iPhone games.
7. Wise Grandma
Wise grandma is straight from the picture books you read when you were younger. Wise Grandma looks beautiful with wrinkles and is the best storyteller in the world. She doesn’t quite understand “kids these days” (she probably doesn’t know about premarital sex at all) or technology. Still, she’s loving and patient with you. She’s great at cooking food you refused to eat when you were little but can’t get enough of now. Also good for playing board games. She’s like a little gem with words that come in quality, not quantity.
This post is dedicated to my very own Cute and Unintentionally Cool Grandma, though she was really all of the above. I miss ya everyday.