So, I’ve been thinking a lot about Selena Gomez.
A few months ago, I noticed that she was looking a little different. She, it seemed, had gotten slightly larger.
Selena Gomez has always been a long lean lanky stick. Like a literal branch that had fallen from a tree. In Wizards of Waverly Place her Free People shirts would just hang on her. And I know she wore a lot of Free People because we had the same six to eight articles of Free People clothing that we both seemed to have repeatedly worn to school in only a way Lizzie McGuire would on her graduation day.
I usually am hyperaware of these things–famous people gaining weight, which is admittedly not a good habit of mine whatsoever but I’ll admit it nonetheless–so I figured I was just being crazy and Selena was just being a normal person.
Then, a month or two went by, and Selena stayed the same. A little “fuller.” Certainly, certainly not “fat.” But healthy.
And then the headlines started. The first one I saw read, “Selena Gomez Shows Off Her Curves in Polka-Dot Bikini After Facing Criticism from Body Shamers.” The second one read, “Selena Gomez ‘Is In a Really Great Place,’ Not Bothered by Body Shamers.” That one went up on the same publication less than 24 hours after the first headline.
Here are some memorable lines from the articles:
“Selena Gomez couldn’t care less what you think of her curves.”
And from another publication: “Looking good, Selena!”
“Taking a dip in the ocean, the 22-year-old “I Want You to Know” singer looked healthy as she enjoyed her day on the beach with a couple of gal pals.”
I thought a lot about what I was seeing but never criticizing, and how it was confirmed by my Facebook news feed. And I started to wonder why we, or the media we feed and consume, have made backhanded body-shaming the new black. Think about it: it used to be all about who’s gaining weight. I mean, it’s still about gaining weight, but it used to be OUT THERE. I think for a solid five years in the earlier 2000s all I did was read about Kirstie Alley and her experiences on Jenny Craig. Now, it’s “in” to write about the body-shaming stars endure and then show how they ward off the evil spirits by going to the beach and still wearing a bikini.
Well, have you ever thought that a celebrity’s life mission isn’t to put their haters to rest, but is instead to live a normal happy life, which may involve going to the beach, especially if you live in California and/or have a lot of money like most celebrities do?
Then came Selena’s Instagrams. First, one captioned with, “I love being happy with me yall #theresmoretolove” and another, from just a few days ago, captioned, “Soul cycle aftermath. I. Want. Tacos.”
Holy shit, I thought. She’s playing into it.
I could have been totally wrong, but I saw a weird game of tic-tac-toe going on. She media is insisting that Selena is fucking the haters by wearing a bikini. Now, Selena has decided to play that role–the role of the young celebrity who doesn’t let the body-shamers bring her down, the celebrity who is real and likes SoulCycle but also tacos, too, goddamnit.
What I’m really thinking, though, is that this new thing is probably just Selena’s natural body. You know, the body she has when she isn’t working out for two and a half hours every day and isn’t on a diet regimented by Gwyneth Paltrow. Doctors, nutritionists, moms, EVERYONE talks about the idea of a “natural body” that you have, which is going to be different from everyone else’s, and is the way your body looks when you are treating it just right with *balance*. It reminds me of the two year period where suddenly, all of my friends from all walks of life became a little thicker, or a little wider. No one got “fat,” but we all just started to have “womanly” bodies. We traded lanky limbs for looking like actual humans. It’s a part of growing up.
The problem with all of this is that it’s really kind of difficult to come to a place where you genuinely love that natural body and are happy in it all of the time. It’s a million gazillion times more difficult to do that if you’re famous. The odds that Selena Gomez has gotten to that place, as someone who is currently 22 and has been famous since she and Demi were on Barney, are slim.
The tabloids patting her on the back? Not saying her body looks great, but saying she’s shutting out the haters… that all just draws more unwanted attention to the issue. This makes her think about it more. That makes her accept her body less. Because if it was totally normal, wouldn’t we be not talking about it at all?
It’s like how sometimes, friends tell me, “You have such a unique body, Han!” or “You really are able to work your body.” That’s like saying, “You aren’t super skinny and you don’t have the ‘in’ body shape right now [that’s basically to be so thin you don’t exist] but you still look great!”
So for a while, I let this train of thought convince me that my body was so unique, but in a bad way–in a way that I had no one to relate to, boob to boob, butt to butt–so I would get obsessive about it and spend a lot of time comparing myself to other people just to see if there was someone else like me out there. That way, I would really know how to work it. I would know what to wear. I would know how to make boys think I was a *dimepiece*, though I doubt in reality I actually want to be one.
I loved finding famous people with my body. It doesn’t happen often. I’d like to think I have the body of Scarlett Johansson, which you’ll know isn’t true within watching the first five minutes of Lost in Translation. A personal trainer once told me that I have the Kim Kardashian/J. Lo shape, which made me happy for a few weeks. But, like always, insecurity creeps back.
Things this experience taught me:
Stars aren’t all magically thin. I used to think that being naturally skinny was a requirement for being famous, and that I could never be famous because I don’t have long legs. I used to wonder if it was sheer coincidence that celebrities are all skinny people. I spent so much of my own life trying to look a way I’m not that I couldn’t process how people who aren’t meant to look like that do, and how they become famous.
Selena Gomez weirdly reminded me that stars are humans, and their weight, like mine, fluctuates, and they probably work too hard to be in the shape they’re expected to be in.
But I didn’t need all of this media attention to tell me that. Really, I came to that conclusion when I saw the first Instagram of her, 12 weeks ago, and wondered–
Hmmm, has Selena gained a little weight? Or is it just me?
Image via my homeslice @SelenaGomez
In reality, “darty” makes a horrible flavor. It would taste like beer, and pizza, and probably some dirt and grass, which are all great things individually but not the best when mixed together.
A darty, for those of you who don’t day drink, who do go to a city school, and who refer to day drinking as “brunch,” is a day party. Day + Party = Darty. And that’s all she wrote.
To darty, verb, is to have slightly alcoholic tendencies at a shockingly young age. A darty, noun, is a place where people express their alcoholic tendencies at a shockingly young age. Dartying occurs at universities with school spirit. They are thrown in parking lots and backyards, or outside of football stadiums. It’s what your dad would be doing if the Giants game was being held at AEPi.
I thought dartying was a college thing for the exception of high school spring break trips. I was wrong. Apparently, like most things, dartying cannot be confined within the boundaries of the American university–not the American University, but, like, the American university in general as an institution–and is now spreading to high schools in the months of May and June.
Some schools darty more than others. I totally understand why the nerdier schools darty infrequently but go hard in the paint when they do–it’s actually one of the very few times that you completely forget all responsibilities and to-do lists. This happens subconsciously and naturally, like Mr. Clean magic scrub. I will not deny the fact that my dartying experience is relatively limited. I have had a few notable dartying experiences, however, and they all follow a very similar pattern:
1. Wake up. Be like, “omg, what am I about to do.”
2. Eat a good breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the (Satur)day.
3. Start drinking, want to kill oneself.
4. Overcome with a wave of sheer euphoria. Wow, it is so light out, it is so pretty out, the sun is really shining. I am so happy. I just want to dance and smile.
5. Start talking with everyone around me about how tired I am, how gross I’m going to feel later, how we can’t believe that it’s 1pm and we’re drinking.
6. Essentially spend the whole darty talking about how we can’t believe we’re dartying.
7. If you’re me, start to get anxious, because this is so disorienting even though it’s also really fun.
8. Realize you’re not sick or going to be sick, you’re just hungry because dartying is basically like a really hard workout. So eat.
9. Nap if you’re going to try and resurrect yourself for the party, which happens at night, unlike a darty, which happens during the day.
10. Sleep forever.
11. Or try to go back out again and then get really mean and cranky. And eventually leave because you’re so tired that your mouth won’t really move, and if you are physically unable to kiss or drink more then what’s the point of really being out at all?
It is darty season. It is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully commit to being a part of, because it’s now 3pm on a Tuesday and the lower part of the back of my head still hurts.
But we love it nonetheless. The lighting is better in all of our photos, and we just automatically feel less intoxicated, regardless of how intoxicated we actually are, because denial is the first stage of grief and it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that we’re actually drinking during business hours.
Once, a wise woman once told me crucial advice about dartying: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Well, nothing for me in my life is ever a sprint–that’s something I’m normally not capable of–so I have no fear that my dartying methods will rock on for eternity.
I wouldn’t say I come from a family of monograms. Or monogrammers. It wasn’t something I grew up with. But now that I’ve grown up, or am a good ways there, monograms are sprouting up like tiny molten lava islands. Especially on my Instagram feed.
So not only are people obsessed with monogramming, but they are obsessed with Instagramming their newly monogrammed objects. These people, it seems, tend to be in their mid to late twenties and are often in a self-proclaimed quarter-life crisis. If you have your shit together enough to be monogramming, then I don’t see where the crisis lies, but that’s beside the point.
One who enjoys monograms, in my mind, is also preppy. And if the monogrammer is not preppy, then she is a grandma. Monograms are the kinds of things that look good on my grandma’s sterling cutlery and on the towels in her powder room. The best way to describe the type of woman my grandma was is sort of through her cutlery. She had monogrammed forks, knives, spoons, but then also napkin rings, soup spoons, dessert forks–the whole nine yards. When we’d set the table together for a big holiday dinner, we’d give certain relatives certain cutlery because of how the letters corresponded with their names. The silverware, for the most part, was monogrammed with “S” for Sauer. The napkin rings, though? I eventually found out that my grandma was able to have different ones that correlated to the most important people in her life not because she custom ordered them or had them engraved, but because she founds ones close enough to our initials on eBay. She always loved eBay.
A few college kids will still carry monogrammed L.L. Bean backpacks. These are the same people who carried those backpacks at camp when we were eight, so I don’t consider those monograms as much as I consider them actual ways for people to keep track of their stuff.
The other monogrammed thing that’s big right now is the teenaged girl version of a “chain”–the $700 necklaces high school girls are wearing, with monogram charms the size of my palm. I like these, actually, even though they’re really large in size and in-the-face. I don’t hate them at all. They are just a token sign of being a tribe member, one of the chosen ones.
I only own one monogrammed item so far in my relatively short life: a green leather mini-tote my mom bought for me when we went to Florence together. It isn’t a big monogram. It’s not one of those intricately designed cursive ones, either. It’s just my two initials stamped toward the top of one side of the bag. They didn’t engrave it or anything fancy like that. The most genuinely, simply, and naturally boho chic Italian woman who worked at the leather store imprinted it with these stamps that were oddly similar, perhaps identical, to the ones I used in the silversmithing art shop at sleepaway camp. In other words, if I could do that when I was 13, it must not be very legit monogramming, or at least very intense monogramming. It’s so small that I usually forget it’s even there.
What I understand and appreciate most about the monogram is how it adds a timelessness to your things, or it at least proves their timelessness. Those pieces are not ephemeral trends but heirlooms. They are things that will be yours, forever, like a husband. And they’re not just material pieces, but they are the pieces that you consider to be a part of you. You share initials, anyway.
I asked my mom why she thinks people monogram their shit, and this is what she said: “It looks more formal and fancy, and it’s a way to stamp ownership on it.”
My real question is why, in my mind, the monogram is so intertwined with such a specific group of people, a specific culture, a way of dressing, and even with a period of life?
Well, that question is surprisingly answerable. Monogramming costs money. Any piece–a little towel or a napkin ring or a tote bag–can be invaluable to a family without being monogrammed, too. That’s just a luxury, albeit unnecessary, that some people can afford. Buying something monogrammed, having something monogrammed, is like getting a new charm for your charm bracelet, or another link for your Nomination bracelet. Tee-bee-tee. You don’t need that extra little thing for the bracelet to be wearable or to exist, but it apparently makes all the difference in the world.
That all aside, there’s no way all people are obsessed with monograms because of the individuality it gives to an otherwise unoriginal object. There’s no way 20-somethings are concerned with the longevity of their objects. We just don’t think that far ahead.
But then again, maybe the people getting the monograms are the ones that do.
Have you ever looked very small, but not like skinny small, just disproportionately small, against a colorful outdoor landscape? Like someone shrunk you and dropped you off in Google Earth HD?
Have you been fisheye lensed without complete distortion? Just slight distortion so we know you still are pretty but are standing in front of a funky camera?
Have you starred in Beyoncé’s “7/11″ music video?
Have you ever been skiing in Colorado? Do you do cool tricks? How about skydiving? Have you been strapped to the back of a Swiss man named Romain, kind of like the lettuce, and fallen through the sky at frightening speeds over the Alps?
Well, golly gee, you must have a GoPro!
I love something I don’t understand, and that thing is the GoPro. GoPros are meant for “high action” endeavors, which is why you see so many people with GoProfilePictures (see what I did there? eh? eh?) of themselves SUPing (stand-up paddle-boarding). You can attach them to a helmet. This is good for me, because I really should be wearing a helmet more often and this is a great excuse to do that. So maybe I should get a GoPro.
Side note: I love that the GoPro is called a “Hero.” Like, “Hero 4.” It’s like an action figure for grown men.
The other day I was having a conversation with someone about the difference between a GoPro and a selfie stick, a difference the other person didn’t quite understand. The GoPro is an actual camera that you can buy a more expensive, more official, selfie stick for, and you get to call that selfie stick a tripod and pretend it’s not a selfie stick. The actual selfie stick is different–you attach it to your phone and have a lot of fun with it when you aren’t worried about looking like a Times Square tourist. Hence, another reason we love the GoPro: it turns selfies into self-portraits. We can all be Frida Kahlo if we try hard enough.
In the beginning of high school, everyone got these big, fancy Canon and Nikon cameras for Hanukkah, like Gretchen Weiners and her gorgeous gold hoops, and brought them to “parties” and to “photoshoots” on Fridays after school. The photos were beautiful. I mean in terms of cell phone, all we had to work with back then was a Blackberry. You so easily forget how shitty its camera quality was. And the Blackberry flash–don’t even get me started on the flash. But I do miss my Blackberry. RIP. So the DSLR was a sweet, sweet remedy for an aged profile picture.
Now, we only take photoshoots in secret. You know what they say, or at least what my mom says, and it’s that it takes a million photos in order to get one good one. And then that one good one goes up on your Instagram. Group photos, tho. GROUP PHOTOS, THO. That’s a whole different story that the DSLR does not lend itself to.
The GoPro is extremely conducive to capturing college life–a life in which (too many?) things happen in groups. It’s just as conducive, if not more, than the DSLR was to capturing our virginally innocent ninth grade Fridays. Today, Facebook is no longer about proving to the world that we finally have boobs. It’s about proving to the world where we take them. How effin cray cray life is. How much fun we’re having.
GoPros, in a strange, magical way, make everything look more fun. It’s partially because they’re able to tag along in situations that were previously unphotographable. Now, nothing is sacred. No moment is un-GroProable.
So literally, pics or it didn’t happen.
Guess what? The sun is out! The birds are chirping! Spring has sprung, like T-Pain in 2005.
I know it is spring because just this week we had the first fake day of spring. This is the first day of the year when it feels warm but only if you’re standing in direct sunlight–if you’re not, it’s too breezy and the air still has a chill. This is the first day of the year when everyone is ambitiously dressing in dresses and skirts and Sperry-doting boys get sexually excited at their own amount of exposed skin–that is, they’ve whipped out the shorts that, woah, hit a perfect two inches above the knee.
So it is spring, and our wardrobe is supposed to adapt to the weather just like the frizz in our hair does–rapidly, and aggressively.
I’m making this change by dressing like a small Bar Mitzvah-aged boy with C cups. I should probably instead be wearing bright colors and florals like everyone else who hopped on the Coachella boat this year, but that ship has sailed, those matching sets and neon platforms have been bought by my cohorts, and I am not on it.
I’m making small improvements, I suppose. I’ve given up my olive green shearling coat for a striped boxy cardigan. I’ve resumed my tendency to favor light wash denim. But those two things aside, I’m faking spring style. I’m dressing for winter but tossing the turtlenecks.
Three years ago I stopped putting effort into the way I dressed–don’t worry, it lasted a hot second/six months–the the next year I put violent effort into dressing like a boy. Then, I realized maybe dressing like a boy isn’t always the go-to, especially if you have the most womanly waist-to-hip ratio in the world, so I found neutral ground. My friends agree: my recent happy balance of tomboyish, basic, and feminine has finally become happy.
Man oh man, but then came spring. And I’m being thrown off my rocker. I feel like I just embraced the turtleneck. I’m trying to embrace a diverse population of denim, so I just bought four new pair of jeans that are not made for leggy seventh graders. Actually, none of them are skinny jeans, all of them are a little cropped. One is bellbottomed, one is distressed and momish, and the other two just make the tush look dang good. They all flatter the tush because I’m getting older and my priorities are changing–I’d rather look skinny than wear skinny.
There’s a problem: the cropped jeans, which are relatively spring-ish, are too perfect with my black high top Converse, which I will always consider fashionable. And my black high tops are like a trigger. You know what they say: once you go black, you never go back, and you will eternally strive to dress like Kurt Cobain.
When I think of being someone with C cups who dresses this way, I think of grunge and the Olsen twins, because look at them:
The thing is that on the Olsen twins, dressing kind of like a boy, kind of like Kurt Cobain, even in the springtime, is glamorous. And on me, especially in the springtime, it looks like I am very much in the wrong decade or, even worse (and so not in line with my feminist principles), never going to be attractive to guys.
This is especially odd because the famous people who do maintain a sense of glamour, even in the denim rubble, are usually so skinny that they are flat chested, making them look even more like authentic teenage boys. You’d think my boobs and tush would give me the benefit of the doubt. Do they? LMK.
Maybe when it’s warm enough for me to commit to a dress without the incorporation of tights, I will convert to sunshine and butterfly-worthy attire. Until then, it’s just little old me over here, in my new flare-ish tush-enhancing jeans.
There is a strange, strange thing going on. The written word is becoming more personal, accessible, and understandable due to the internet and its platforms galore. This is not the strange thing. This, actually, has transformed a big chunk of writing into someone everyone feels they can relate to mostly because we’re all just talking about ourselves. A new voice has blossomed and it is one of, like, this is our generation, we will talk about things like cropped denim but also about issues we, um, take issue with in society. This is a good thing. A different thing — I don’t know if I want to call it a bad thing — is that writing is kind of degenerating in this process. It doesn’t have to, but it is. For example:
This is the front page of a news and culture site that I, in general, take no serious issue with but will neglect to name.
Okay. So, as I said, this is the front page of a news and culture site, and it looks almost more like a self-help chapter book or, if you prefer, awkward teenagers holding fingers up during a good ol’ game of Never Have I Ever. The guy on top is losing. Or winning. Depends on how you play.
Listicles are taking away from the essay or the article as an art form. They are extremely conducive to our generation’s desire to multitask/rush though everything both from the writer and the reader’s POV. For example, the reader can skim a segmented list way quicker than she can fully comprehend an eloquent essay. The writer gets to skip out on transitions, which could be, if you play your cards right, the most artfully crafted part of a written work. You get to ignore the tendons that hold the muscles and bones of your piece together.
I mean, not being condescending, but anyone can make an outline.
So now that I’ve successfully shat on the listicle, I will propose ideas for listicles that should be created, because these are the kinds of things listicles should be made about — things that need no intricacy, no inner workings, no tendons and ligaments. They are things that you should take as is.
The 6 Different Chocolate Producing Monopolies
10 Ways to Pretend It Wasn’t You Who Passed Flatulence
12 Reasons We Miss Talking to AIM Robots
40 Ways to Incorporate Avocados into Your Daily Life so People Think of You as a Higher Class Citizen
17 Places to Get Matcha Lattes, so You Can Name Drop at Your Convenience
25 Stars You Forgot About Who Are Now Hot (We Put Them Together in One List for You so That You Don’t Have to Read 25 Versions of the Same Article)
13 Craft Beers, Because We Know You’re Already Obsessed with the Idea of Them
15 Lines He Will Use That Mean You Should Run While You Can
12 Songs to Sing in the Shower, Like “Fuck You,” Because Everyone Sounds Good When They Sing Them
10 Tracks on Kanye West’s Album, Yeezus
7 Reasons Why It Is Not Healthy to Look up Your Astrological Compatibility so Early in the Relationship
There is a 21 hour difference between these two majorly huge yet completely conflicting life recommendations made by the same publication. Does science change so quickly??
My tweets come to me in waves, kind of like the nausea-hunger cycle one endures on her period. I’ll have three days of subjectively unadulterated wit followed by a week of getting lost in the trappings of a hectic schedule that leaves my Twitter account neglected and, even worse, un-funny. And then, the three days of me patting myself on the back in masturbatory chirping, nonchalantly dropping the details that both spawn from and trigger whatever the F is going on inside my head, resurrect like Jesus Christ on this very Easter Sunday.
For example, a dry spell will produce uncomfortably forced material (as I feel obligated to feed my social media presence regularly) that reads like this: I tried to put on jeans in this blizzard but after three hours “literally could not” and had to come home and put on leggings/exercise pants
That is a bad tweet.
But when I peak, I peak: Raise your hand if your outfit has ever been personally victimized by your snow boots and Grandpas who work out in boating shoes [I promise, not all of my tweets are about shoes] and then there’s this last one, which I think is really funny but most people don’t get it, “I love it when you call me big matcha”
(Most don’t understand this one because you have to have both a broad knowledge of Biggie and a specific knowledge of powdered green teas to do so and to therefore find it funny whatsoever. I think I am one of a small margin who stands at the crossroads of both of these… um… roads.)
Needless to say, when a good tweet comes to mind you hold on to it for dear life and you don’t let go. This means you might text it to yourself or jot it down in the Notes app or, old-fashioned, on a napkin if you don’t have time to perfect your own diction within the confines of 140 characters.
This means that I tweet everywhere. I tweet from the street, on line, in class, and, especially, while walking. The best ideas always come when I’m walking. A tweet is not a boob or crotch itch one cannot, and therefore does not, scratch in public. A tweet is much more ephemeral, but the largest difference between the two phenomena is that the latter is something you don’t want to drift out of consciousness. The former, obviously, you do.
For someone who is not very self-conscious, though I am self-aware, tweeting makes me very self-conscious.
I tweet and I feel like everyone walking behind me is peering over my shoulder. I’m paranoid that the world is reading it — which is stupid, because the world is actually about to read it — and I’m paranoid that, above all, the world is judging me for it, “it” being both the contents of the tweet and the tweet itself.
If I was walking behind someone who was tweeting, I would probably be thinking the following things:
- Isn’t it weird that she’s talking but directing it at no one right now, in other words that she’s talking to nobody, like talking to a wall
- Like why is she tweeting and not texting
- What could she possibly be tweeting while walking somewhat aimlessly
- Really, why is she tweeting
- Who does this chick think she is having a directionless voice that people will care to listen to
The last one was a little harsh, but you catch my drift.
A Twitter account is kind of like a public diary — or in my case, it is one — and it is the ideal space to unleash the random thoughts that cross your mind — that’s how I construct my tweets, anyway, they aren’t contrived or planned much further than that — that other people might just find funny. And in order for one to recognize that others might find his or her inner train of thought humorous, he or she must be able to poke some small ounce of fun at his or herself. He or she must also have some hubris. I probably suffer from that to an extent.
I’m self-conscious when passersby see me tweeting on the low, whether I’m walking or opening Twitter in a new Chrome tab at a coffeeshop, because I feel like they’re getting a strange glance into this proverbial abbreviated diary of mine. They know when I have an idea because I take action to it right away. Usually when you have an idea, you just have it and you are, at first, the only one who knows. Like any other diary I’ve ever written, people are welcome to read it, but only if I stick it in your face and force you to.
So, I guess the moral of the story is to follow me on Twitter if you want to read my tweets. And if you insist on being nosey, on judging me for tapping on the little blue bird in the lower right-hand corner of my iPhone, then you are simply snooping in a sphere that is not yours to snoop. And you’re totally harshing my creative mellow. Jeez.
I have a really very awfully bad digital hoarding problem. The first time I typed that out I swear on Carrie Bradshaw I wrote “digital hoarding program” and I said the word “program” in my head when I was typing it so a) I clearly have convinced myself that I do actually have a digital hoarding program and b) if you still don’t quite understand what a Freudian slip is when people talk about them I have just solved your social shortcomings.
To ease my strange emotional attachments to the digital ways in which I’ve documented my own life — from photos of me in a onesie and a tutu, don’t ask, to my first 20-page single-spaced collection of memories from the summer after I graduated high school — my tech-savvy uncle enrolled me in the 12-step program for people like me. It goes like this: you buy an external hard drive, put everything on it, and then delete it all from your actual laptop by spending the most nostalgic chunks of time you will ever have with your computer, ever.
In sifting through completely insignificant photos like this:
I came across way too many others like this (circa five versions of iOS ago):
Way, way too many others like that.
It turns out that an embarrassing percentage of my iPhoto library is not actually iPhotos but is iScreenshots of anything and everything: bad photoshop jobs, really mean things that boys have said, really nice things that boys have said, really funny things my friends have said, funnier things my friends’ moms have said (“HAVE YOU SEEN JAMIE? WE ARE REALLY WORRIED ABOUT HER????? [KISSIE FACE EMOJIS]”), and also, like, some coupon codes.
The strange thing about this is that none of these words or these sentences or these “I love you I hate you I love you I hate you” rants have ever actually been said. They’ve all been typed and sent and read and felt. But no one ever looked me in the eye and spoke it from their mouths.
If they were said, I wouldn’t have been able to screenshot them and look back on them in search of evidence, as I do when I construct my more argumentative relationships like research papers.
The stranger thing, though, is that I screenshot so much to begin with. I’m not that much of a psycho — 99 percent of the screenshots I take I don’t do anything with, and I don’t take them in anticipation of needing them in the future. Sometimes I go through my camera roll and delete twenty of them at a time because I don’t know why I felt an attachment to them, or a love at first sight. I think — I think — I take them because I am a hoarder and I am obsessed with remembering things. The voice in my head was very concerned when I realized how I was more reluctant to delete a screenshot than I was to delete an actual photo because screenshots have, really, created a way for us to preserve the typically unpreservable.
The satisfaction I felt from rereading things that happened at crucial moments, or “turning points,” if you will, was, like Beyoncé, irreplaceable. Also, I should note that most of my screenshots aren’t of bad things. They are often funny, or “I miss you” texts, or other things that have the ability to deceivingly transport me to a time I would have otherwise forgotten about. Most of them are the kinds of things that make you laugh out loud in public.
Screenshots are flirty and fun and I like them but, like my shoe-hoarding issue, there comes a time where I’ve just gotta clean out the closet. I can’t hold on to Hilary Duff’s amazing blue hair Instagram forever.
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?