cut in halfIf only chop shops were this cool.

 Sometimes I have to take a Lyft to work because I share my car with my significant other, D. He had a car when he moved to LA, but it died. The next car developed clutch issues that he couldn’t fix right away, and it hardly would have mattered if he could; some neighborhood kids broke the windows in. Instead of getting it towed to our friend’s house out in East LA where street sweeping didn’t exist – like I had asked several times – he opted to leave it on the street. He’d move it on sweeping days by putting it into neutral and pushing it to the opposite side of the street.

I feigned shock when someone eventually stole it. The truth is I was surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Our upstairs neighbor saw someone exchange some papers with a tow truck driver.
“Jeff’s Towing,” he said, “That was what the truck said. I thought it was weird that you weren’t the one selling the car, but then again, it didn’t seem too out of the question.”

We filed a police report and even told them the name of the company that took the car, but D ended up locating the car the next day: Jeff’s Towing was a chop shop in Bellflower. All of the addresses for Jeff’s towing looked like private residences on Google Maps. D called the number and asked it the ’99 Audi A4 was there and, sure enough, it was.

D went to the LAPD where we filed the original report.
“Oh, that’s way out of our jurisdiction. You’ve gotta go talk to the police in Bellflower,” they said.
The police in Bellflower said,
“You can’t file a report here. You already filed one somewhere else.”
“But I found the car. It’s in a chop shop in Bellflower.”
“Ah. How do you know it’s yours?”
“Because I called and asked and it still has my plates on it. These people took it without papers or documents of any kind.”
“You need to tell them to give it back to you, then.”
“But they STOLE it. Shouldn’t you come with me?”
“Nah, you try to get it first.”

So D went to the chop shop. That exchange when like this:

“Hey, you stole my car and I want it back.”
“LOL you sold it to us.”
“Show me the proof that I did.”
“You’ve gotta bring a cop back here with you if you’re going to talk like that.”

So he went back to the police.

“They said they won’t talk to me unless I have a cop there. You need to come with me.”

This is the part where I imagine a giant eye roll and a sigh. 
“Fine.”

So D and the cop go to the chop shop yard. The “proof” that D had sold them the car was a laughable piece of scratch paper with four numbers and a scribble on it. The numbers were supposed to be a drivers license number and the scribble was supposed to be a signature.

“See? It’s obviously made up. This dude stole my car.”
“Eh,” said the policeman, “It’s a matter of he-said/she-said.”

I had already told D that the chop shop was most likely a gang or drug related operation and to be wary of the police. When he told me about the policeman’s overall ambivalence toward the situation, I knew I was right.

In the end the chop shop owner pushed D’s car into the road, further damaging the side by making sure it ran into the metal gate on the way out, tearing into the door.

The car was totaled and he sold it to a junker a week later. He still feels legitimate sadness whenever he sees an A4 out in the wild. 

Without the means to obtain another vehicle, he was at the mercy of me and my car. Murphey’s law, however, states that whatever can happen will happen – and soon enough my grandma’s Buick gave out and I found myself of being the only one with a good enough credit score to finance a car. I ended up getting a hatchback like I had always wanted, and I knew that I would have to share it with D if we stayed together. I told him he could drive it when he needed to, but that I expected him to help with payments and insurance.

“If anything happens to my car and it’s your fault, I will break up you. Do you understand?”

I have repeated this to him on a couple of occasions. The words “Drive safe” have all but replaced “I love you” in my vocabulary.

Sharing a car is a big deal for me. I have accepted the fact that I don’t really do relationships like a normal person. I do not understand people who are fiercely devoted to their relationships or significant others like a fierce mama bear ready to kill. The last time I was that fiercely into a significant other was my junior year high school. I remember being in love sometime before I moved to LA, but even then I was always open to a way out. The “ride or die” mentality is all but lost on me.

“Jas, what is an ideal couple to you?”
“DWIGHT AND JIM.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“CLAIRE AND FRANK UNDERWOOD.”

I have purposely avoided or left good and well meaning partners because I thought,
“This person is entirely too nice to be with me,” or, “This person is way more into the idea of living as a unit than I am,” or, “Damn, this person is gonna want a baby some day and I ain’t about that.”

I realize that certain experiences have programmed my brain to be wary of commitment and sharing my life with another person. Perhaps this is why I gave D an ultimatum of “Start generating an income or my car and I will leave you,” instead of simply dipping out. I have a rich history of dipping out. I feel like I should try to overcome that.

Sharing my car is perhaps a step in that direction.

This was all a roundabout way of saying that sometimes I have to take a Lyft to work.

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VEDA. Let’s do this.

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What’s another word for OVERSHARING?

Unsolicited reality:

Nosy girl next to me on my flight apparently sees what I’m typing on my phone, says,
“Does it really take 5 text messages to let someone know that you are “stealing” the free blanket they gave you on the airplane?”

I have a problem with sharing too much. While I love people, I find myself simultaneously terrified by them. Whenever I start to talk I begin to worry what I will say ten seconds later and as the conversation gains momentum I tend to evolve into an avalanche of appallingly unnecessary information.

Here’s an example: I recently went home to Georgia, mostly to see my grandmother, but I took a night off to go meet some of my old crew at the Hi-Lo Lounge in Normal Town. It had seriously been years since I had seen a couple of them. There was so much catching up; we reminisced with anecdotes from high school and took turns sharing about our current lives, jobs, and relationships.

Now, I feel like the normal thing to do in this situation would be to say something along the lines of, “I have a significant other named X and they do X and they are very nice. What about you?”

What I actually did was lecture on the ups and downs of living with my obsessive-compulsive boyfriend in a tiny studio apartment until suddenly, somehow, I found myself saying, … and so they said, “We are 90% certain that you are physically unable to bare children.” Then I finished with a hearty laugh.

I get on these weird tangents and there’s no telling where they will go.

“We found a new apartment in an awesome, up and coming neighborhood. Got the keys and moved the furniture and the cat and anyhow, two months later I ran into Dolly Parton on the street and we slit our arms with a nail file and mixed our blood and now we are sisters forever. HAHAHA!”

That one’s a lie, but you get the picture.

“Oh, the visit was fantastic. Did you know that Mom and Dad planted a garden? They grow real zucchini and squash and, anyway, the short and short of it is that I had no idea that members of the army who get deployed in the jungle adopt a jungle dog for their platoon and then shoot it in the head when their tour of duty comes to an end because the new platoon will not be bonded to it. HAHAHA!”

Yeah, I’m kind of the same way with my texts.

Hi!

hey

I’m good, a little under the weather. I sat next to the craziest person and they sneezed everywhere. Like they sneezed so hard that I felt it even when I was sleeping. Like it woke me up. I think I’m going to catch a sickness. I might die.

wow

lol I kid I’m not gonna die

thats good

If I die I can’t go to work next week.

cant miss work

Yeah, I’m working a trade show for carnival people. I’m really excited. Carnival people, right? CARNIES! I wonder if any of them ran away from home. You know, growing up I frequently thought about running away from home.

thats cool

Yup! K Bye!

Almost nothing I said in this hypothetical, but very realistic, exchange needed to be shared.

When I text, I prefer to send the final message in an exchange. This seems to go against the general opinion that it’s better to let the other person end the exchange, the logic being that you want to give the impression that you are too busy and important to answer.

I prefer text conversations to have a graceful, definitive ending. I don’t like the idea of leaving someone hanging. I say that as if I’m so amazing that everyone I text waits with baited breath for my next SMS surge of brilliance; that’s not the case. I think the reality is that if I’m the one who decidedly ends the exchange, then at least I know that I am not the one left hanging. Thus I occasionally find myself texting until I feel it is complete.

Perhaps I got a little carried away in the case of the stolen airline blanket. The girl next to me had a point; five messages was a tad excessive.

… Nosy bitch.

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My music taste makes cool people sad.

It’s ironic how my side hustle takes me to so many music festivals. No one in their right mind would call music aficionado. A music lover, for sure, but in case you aren’t aware, not all music is music. As a child, I happily listened to oldies and Broadway musicals from the 80’s over most pop music and to this day I remain near willfully ignorant of new artists and trends in the music world. I have never been the kind of person who can put an album on and listen to it cover to cover except for The Fratelli’s Costello Music – which, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I continue to tell everyone despite the fact that it’s something I should probably refrain from sharing with anyone Then I forget who I’ve told and I tell them again. 

“Jas. Stop. You told me this three years ago.”

In short, you will never catch my writing in an article on Pitchfork or Paste. I took an acting class where I had to bring in a piece of music that embodied the essence of “me.” The idea was it was a piece of music we could use to market ourselves to people. I had difficulty choosing between a song from a ska band out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I Know a Place by Petula Clarke.

Just to clarify: out of all of the songs in the world that I am aware of, I narrowed my essence down to the band that did the theme to a cartoon about a anthropomorphic, mystery solving shark and a piece that embodied the Burt Bacharach era.

“Don’t you like anything contemporary?” the teacher asked. “What’s with you kids and your old ass music?”

Imagine my surprise every single time I get an email from my bosses asking me to take the photography machine to another music festival. I don’t understand it. It’s almost criminal that I get to go to these festivals and watch these bands. My own musical taste is so questionable that friends made me mix CD’s full of colorful artists, styles, and genres in an attempt to broaden my palate. My summer camp roommate begged me to listen to better things, but only after she burst through the door and screamed, “NO!” when she heard the DeLovely soundtrack drifting into the hallway. People have staged borderline interventions, saying that my musical taste is “like being at a roller rink on a Wednesday night.” I have been scorned by lovers because I love Jock Jams that much. Thank you for the sweet sweet sensations of your intimacy, Jas, but you think that DJ Kool is an artist so we can’t share the same bed anymore.

How does the universe justify all of the amazing music that I am pretty much paid to see? I’ve gone to Austin twice where I saw Andrew WK, Big Frieda, HAIM, Chvrches, Protomartyr, Cheap Trick, Estelle, Chance the Rapper, Anamanaguchi – and that’s only a few.

This time the work sent me to Little Rock, Arkansas for their annual Riverfest. The big headliner, for me at least, was The Flaming Lips. Everyone who has ever said anything to my about my terrible music taste has at some point publicly decreed their love for the Flaming Lips. Thus, I made myself familiar with them – though more out of a desire to move up in the world than to expand my mind. 

I really enjoyed their music before, but you know how sometimes you have to see something live before the music really grabs you? That’s how I feel about The Flaming Lips. They put so much thought into their set. I saw some of the other acts at Riverfest and while it was great that they showed up, most of them did song after song without much else, which is fine, but the Flaming Lips were a drink of cool water in comparison. The show began with several explosions of confetti and, for a second, I was confused as to whether it was the air canons or the sheer energy of the opening number that propelled them outward. Wayne Coyne would clap his hands and yell, “Come on! Come on!” in between numbers to get the crowd on their feet and screaming. They figured out how to do the most they could within the amphitheater’s limitations. At one point, one of the roadies donned a massive Chewbacca costume and Coyne, wearing a massive, light-up cape, climbed upon his shoulders and rode him around the stage. My favorite bit, though, was when he climbed into a giant plastic bubble and sang Space Oddity as he traversed the audience.

“You guys make the magic happen,” he said at one point, “because they are just costumes and bits of paper we shoot out of a box but you all act like you’ve never seen it before in your lives and it’s completely magical.”

I like that I didn’t feel like an impostor in their audience. That happens to me a lot at live shows – where I go I fail to understand not just the music, but the overall concept. I once went to a performance where the singer snaked about the stage to pre-recorded beat boxing supported by some live musicians and I failed to get it at all. I considered turning to the person who brought me and saying, “So I know that this ticket was free, but I feel like you should give me $100 dollars for being here or else I’m going to let everyone know that you brought an outsider to the club.”

Th Flaming Lips were amazing – a real inclusive, everyone’s awesome kind of party. It was as if he said, “Good music and being a worthwhile human aren’t mutually exclusive. There is room in your life for 90’s club bangers and the joyful sounds of our lush, psychedelic rock arrangements.

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I can’t afford to “stay mad.”

resized_Creepy-Willy-Wonka

Wow – so it has been a hot second since I’ve written anything substantial in Smile Big and Pretty. The last you really heard from me I had just started VEDA (Blog Every Day in April). I made it three or four days in before I got this bright idea to make a video about a controversial subject! Controversy, yeah! Because I couldn’t resist the urge to get mad about something! It seemed like a great idea – until about an hour later, when I legitimately felt like I was in danger. That’s how swift and hateful the response was. Vitriol in the form of emails and 140 characters and private messages flooded my social media. It seemed like it would never end – until the hatriarchy of the patriarchy threw me a rope and offered to make it stop if I took it.

And I took that rope. Oh, I grabbed it and I deleted the video from my channel and ended up eating crow on the internet to make it stop.

I felt sick for weeks. I wrote nothing, I posted nothing. I was worried that they were going to dox me and I was going to get out of my car to find someone waiting for me outside my apartment building. I was scared I would come home and find someone had broken in and harmed Taxi and I would have to go full Liam Neeson on their punk asses. That would suck, because I do not know if I am physically capable of achieving Optimum Liam Neeson.

I think that’s when I decided that being mad wasn’t worth it.

That was difficult because, as it turns out, I have evolved into a person who gets bent out shape easily.  I find triggering things with such ease that I’m certain my subconscious actively looks for them while I tell myself I’m living a normal, healthy life. The problem? You can’t live a normal, healthy life when you are convinced that everything is terrible.

I have a theory: I seek out things that I know will make me mad. Then I make a big stink about them to distract myself and others from just how unproductive I’m being. I can’t be productive; there’s too much injustice in the world and I have to let people know how WOKE I am so that they don’t know I’m actually just sitting around my apartment feeling sorry for myself as I try to resist the urge to eat all of the chips. All of the chips.

After the internet incident, I went through both the public and private bits and pieces on my blog, my Facebook, and my twitter and did an inventory of the general tone of my posts. The disparity in positives VS. negatives was alarming. I used to be able to take things that annoyed me and put a humorous spin on them, but the past couple of years has been a steady decline of humor and a straight up spike in pure unpasteurized misery.

“Oh my god,” I thought, “I can’t be this person. I cannot be this person. I don’t want to be angry and miserable all the time.”

I wrote out a list of things that I felt the most frustrated about. Then I began to do something about them. My personal life, my social life, my finances – all of it.

For starters, I quit almost all of the feminist groups I was a member of on Facebook. I’m still a borderline misandrist hellbent on dismantling the patriarchy, but… see, Facebook knows that about me now. Facebook took ALL of the posts about rape, unequal treatment in the industry, and other genuinely terrible things that women experience at the hands of a male dominated world and put them at the top, front, and center of my feed! Whenever I logged in, which was all day/every day because I’m an addict and I have a goddamn problem, the first thing I’d see was a screen shot of a text-message conversation gone wild after a woman turned down her male acquaintance’s unwanted advances. Or how yet another woman in a less civilized part of the world got burned alive because she refused a marriage proposal from someone twice her dad’s age. Facebook loves to make sure I know all about creeps on Tinder and women who get stoned to death in the Middle East. 

After the groups came the initiative that I like to call, “OPERATION: DON’T CLICK ON THAT!”
It’s where I resist the urge to click on links to articles about how terrible everything in the world is. I consider the fact that I haven’t clicked on a single thing about the gorilla at the Chicago Zoo an astounding success.

After quitting the Facebook groups and links of horribleness, I made a more concerted effort to establish good, meaningful friendships and relationships with women. For someone who spent much of her life saying, “Cool girls are hard to find!” I sure found some amazing women to cavort about town with. I cannot remember the last time I had girlfriends who actually called me. It’s like the friendship fairy rubbed my belly or blew kisses my way coated in magical friendship dust or whatever it is that friendship fairies do – and suddenly I know all of these down ass ladies.

After planting the seeds of friendship, I reassessed my personal life. I made some decisions, gave some ultimatums… you know. 

I wish that this was the part where I could say, “I’ve achieved my acting and writing goals and I’ve unlocked the secret to financial autonomy!”

Yeah, about that – maybe if I had spent the last two years focused on myself and my happiness and living a good life, then maybe things would be different. Conan O’brien once said that there was no hope for success once you let yourself become jaded. Granted, Conan came from an affluent background and went to Harvard, so – NO! NO! NO EXCUSES, JAS! 

The bottom line, for me at least, is that nothing good will happen if I spend every day angry at something. It’s good to be aware. It’s good to be woke. But I can’t be mad anymore and I cannot let angry people influence my mental health. I can only be grateful that somehow I made it this far and that I’m finally figuring this out.

For now, I’m going to choose to believe that the best road forward is the most positive one.

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I booked a print job for Orkin a while back and I never found out what happened to the pictures. Until yesterday. Actually, that is a lie; I still have no idea how Orkin used these pictures. That didn’t stop their ad agency from posting one of my shots to their site, though!

Now if only I could finagle a role in one of those TV spots with the giant ant puppets riding in the back of a pickup.

OrkinWoman

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“Your eyes are good enough.”

Before words.

I’m in a class on how to audition for commercials. It involves watching your auditions on tape and getting real about what works and what doesn’t. When it was my turn, all I could go on about was how limited I felt; limited by my face shape, limited by my how pale I was, limited by how my eyes were too narrow and small.
“Did someone, somewhere along the line, make some kind of comment about your eyes?” the teacher asked. It was clear that she was frustrated; after all, this class was about critiquing performance and technique, not picking apart the things we had no control over.
“All the time,” I replied.
Then, I added, “I know how absurd it is. I know it’s ridiculous.”
She furrowed her brow a bit and said in a way that was joking but also quite serious:
“I want you to wake up and write this in your little actor journal at least once a day: my eyes are good enough.”

~

It was the fall of seventh grade and my Girl Scout troop leader announced that we would shift focus from public service for a little while to focus on the Beauty Badge. It caught me completely off guard. Beauty badge? We still had a beauty badge? This was a thing? Don’t get me wrong – I would have traded my teenage soul to learn secrets that could transform me into a human specimen seen only in the style pages of Teen Vogue. The Beauty Badge involved grooming lessons from an “industry professional,” however, and I questioned my troop’s ability to draw someone with the right pedigree. We met in a building surrounded by roads that hadn’t been paved since the 60’s. We shared it with the county shriners and a church that forbid women to shave their legs and cut their hair. What kind of beauty industry guru would take time out of their fancy job at the Georgia Square Mall Clinique counter, which is where I imagined all beauty gurus lived, to come talk to us?

For the Troop #360, that professional happened to be none other than a Mary Kay beauty consultant. She didn’t work at a luxury brand makeup counter. Instead, she sold makeup out of a catalog and stayed at home with her children. I was confused; I always imagined that a makeup guru would look like  Phillis Diller’s headshots from the 80’s. This woman looked like the secretary from Ferris Bueler’s Day Off.

She told us how important diet and exercise were to a positive complexion.
“Remember, you are the ultimate foundation,” she said. Then, taking out her catalog and her magic bag of tricks, she added, “But some real foundation certainly don’t hurt!”

She put out quite a spread of tubes and compacts, lipsticks and glosses, and mascara. They had names like “Pristine Pink” and “Olive Mystery.” She explained what each one was and how Mary Kay made sure their makeup was made with fine ingredients and empowered women to look their best.

“And part of looking your best is knowing how to apply makeup to your face shape.”

Then she brought out the piece of her presentation that I have consistently referred to as “that fucking chart” throughout my life since.

faceshapes
Each of us got our own copy with 6 basic face shapes on it: the heart shape, the diamond shape, the tear drop shape, the round shape, the oval shape, and the long shape. I didn’t know that “long” could be classified as its own shape, but I decided to roll with it.

“So now we’re going to play a little game. We are going to go through these magazines,” she said, dumping a small stack of People and US Weekly on the table, “and you are going to go through them and try to match the celebrities in all the pictures to the face shapes on your chart!”

And all the traditionally good looking celebrities went into the heart or diamond shaped face pile. The Mary Kay consultant explained that these faces were the best and easiest to apply makeup to.

“You can accentuate all of your features in so many fun ways! There’s really no way to go wrong if you have one of these face shapes.”

Then there were other celebrities. Politicians, authors, women who had carved their niche in playing midwestern moms. You know – women who were famous for something other than their beauty. They mostly went into round face pile.

“Alright, now the fun part! So you’ve seen some real life examples of different face types. Let’s see if you can guess which one you are.”

She went around the table and, one by one, asked each girl where they felt they fit in on the chart.

“Heart!”
“Diamond!”
“I think I’m a heart and a diamond!”

My troop was an exception in the stereotype of scout troops, which tended to fill out with the outcasts and nerd children. Mine actually had a sampler of some of the coolest girls in my grade since one of them was the troop leader’s daughter. Not wanting to fall prey to the stereotype, she enlisted some of her friends to join the troop and it became a middle school away from middle school. There were still three of us holding up tradition, though.

I had no idea what to do when she got to me.
“I… I don’t know,” I said.
She studied my face for a few seconds before it came out sounding like a slo-mo voiceover: “Roooound shaaaape.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.16.20 PM

My “round ass face.”
(also doubles as the cover for my eventual season of Making a Murderer.)

No! No! I quickly took in all of the cut-outs in the round face pile and nearly had a panic attack. As an adult, I know that women like Bette Midler or Delta Burke are fabulous and wonderful, but as a young girl with a skinny, delicate older sister and a mom who was never not on some sort of diet, having a round face felt like the end of the world. It felt like someone had just pulled back the curtain on why I was having a hard time with school or making friends and behind it was my disgusting, round face. It was like the Mary Kay lady told me I had an asshole for a face. A face-asshole. That’s how quickly a psychosis can form.

“But I could have a heart shaped face,” I said.
“Mm, no, you definitely have a round face. You are a little jaw heavy, too.”
I persisted. “But if I turn my head a certain way…”
“No, you definitely have a round face and you need to learn how to wear makeup for your face type.”

If the realization that I had a sub-level face weren’t bad enough, the makeup tutorials surely took it home. The industry professional went through all of our face types and gave mini lessons on how to apply various Mary Kay products. The heart shaped face tutorials were filled with phrases like,

“This looks AMAZING on you!” and,
“To REALLY make it pop, you should…” and,
“Brilliant finish! Just lovely!”

My tutorials sounded a little different.

My lessons included phrases like,

“You can make this work by…” and,
“Create the illusion of ___ by…” and,
“You can use eyeliner to make it look like you have eyelids.”

It didn’t help that she had no makeup in my shade. I was so pale that the kids at school called me “Living White Girl” after the Rob Zombie song and the Mary Kay lady had no shades for the undead. She tried to make it work with lightest shades she had, but I just ended up looking like a cross between a raccoon and Two Face from Batman.

She ended by pushing us to, in turn, push our mothers to buy us some of her products. She actually ended up making a few sales. The girls who had learned all about the wonders of their miraculous, movie star quality faces made their cases and got their reward. I didn’t take anything home except a pamphlet to give to my mother.
“You know. In case she wants to take control of her financial life,” said the Mary Kay lady.

I think that was the day I started muttering the phrase, “Goddammit.”

After Words.

Holy crap; that meeting was so stupid.

I can actually remember a time when I had no qualms about my face. I used to think things like,

“Wow, I look really cool.”

Back then I thought it was kind of cool that my skin was radioactively pale. People could find me in movie theaters with the lights off. As far as my face shape: until that meeting, I had no idea that round meant anything. I used to think I looked like a comic book super hero child, yet I have spent every day since then being unhappy with at least one thing about myself.
“You can’t keep doing this,” the teacher said.

She was right. I can’t. I will not be the grown woman who beats myself up about ridiculous beauty standards. I’m not going to be a woman who gives up on looking nice because looking nice is wasted on a woman who is less than perfect.

I looked at the teacher. She would have gone into the round face pile at that meeting, too. Yet she was gorgeous, assertive, funny, and didn’t fuck around. No one has time for that.

I don’t want to fuck around anymore.

My eyes are good enough.

Also, I don’t know where the hell I got off thinking my eyes were too small to express emotion. LOOK at how amazing they are expressing “I do not wanting to be on top of this crucifixion rabbit but I know I’ll be in trouble if I don’t smile so HERE’S YOUR SMILE, MOM.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.43.32 PM

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Video: Star Wars is LAHF.

May the 4th be with ya’ll!

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Vlog Every Day in April 1

Another month that begins with an A has rolled around. YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.

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Ask one of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who spent a portion of their lives in summer camp what their they remember the most and you’ll get a show of fond stories about people who learned about their self worth – all while fashioning keychains out of twigs or learning to canoe.

I’m not saying that these people are liars, but I am saying that there was probably a lot more to remember about camp than crafts and pond sports. Most of the people I have talked to about summer camp remember it as the first time they smoked pot, exposed themselves to The Clash, or touched a boob. They turned into men and women at summer camp. I guess I could say the same – kind of.


“But how do I know where to put it?”
“You just have to feel around,” called Kat, the camp counselor. My body had chosen to take its first, spritely step into womanhood during breakfast on the second morning of my weel at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Camp. I bolted for Kat because she was the nearest female authority figure, but I don’t know if she would have been my first choice under any other set of circumstances. She was a young bohemian with thick glasses and an arsenal of rings on her fingers. She was a nice person, for sure, but she had maybe seven years on me at the most and I had always assumed that the woman who would teach me to use a tampon would be considerably older.”I think I am getting my period and I don’t know what to do,” I whispered.
She looked me over for a second, clearly in thought, before saying,
“Well, you have a couple of options. Do you want to swim at all this week?”
“Yes.”
“Well, now you only have one option. Come on.”

After a long like back to the cabin, she pointed to the bathroom and said, “Go wait there,”
as she went to her trunk and rummaged around. She eventually produced a small box and dumped the contents onto her bed, picking out a tubular package with pink, friendly looking daisies on it and a booklet of directions.
“This,” she said as she approached me, “is something you need to learn to use.”

One painfully awkward crash course in feminine hygiene later, I found myself alone in a bathroom stall with a strange, foreign device in my hands that was supposed to end up inside my body – somehow.
“And people use these?” I called out.
“Women use them, yes.”
“Why?”
“They’re convenient.”
“Can I have the directions?”
“Sure,” she said, tossing them over the stall from the main room of the cabin. I thought it was weird how she refused to come inside the bathroom. It made me feel like I was holding a stick of dynamite and it would explode any second. I studied the diagram one more time, trying to make sense of the drawings and the directions that came in every language imaginable.

“You alright?” she called.
“What if it goes in the pee hole?” I called back.
“You can’t do that. It’s impossible.”
“But -”
“The pee hole is too small. Most people have never even found it.”
There was a pause. Finally, I asked,
“Have you ever found your pee hole?”
There was an even longer pause. An awkward pause.
“No, Jas. I have not.”

I eventually got everything squared away and was allowed to swim, and though my counselor and I never spoke of the exchange again, I sealed my fate as the “that girl” of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Camp.

Camps are supposed to be the place where the socially inept, such as 12 year old me, could go to escape the empty, confusing lives they led at middle school or high school. For me, camp just took those awkward years and mashed them into one week.

Prior to St. Andrew’s, my only experience summer camp was limited to a week I had spent at Camp Pristine Pines, a Girl Scout camp nestled in the foot hills of the Appalachian trail. I slept in a leaky cabin with eleven other girls who were really into horses the The Babysitter’s Club, two concepts that I did not understand whatsoever. They always picked me last in team sports, leaving me with no option but to partner up with Ms. Tammy, the camp leader. Being my own partner was not an option; her staunch belief in the buddy system left her incapable of letting us do even the most basic tasks on our own. A girl in a neighboring cabin had to spend an entire afternoon sitting in Ms. Tammy’s office because she walked to the volleyball court by herself. With her leathery skin, an accent that rivaled the Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, and a temper to match, Ms. Tammy developed into worthy nemesis.

My overall experience culminated in a moment of fury when no one would go with me on a much needed, midnight bathroom run. I moved from bunk to bunk, whispering small pleas to my sleeping cabin mates to wake up and walk with me to the latrines in the middle of camp. Most of them pretended to be asleep, but a few of them muttered, “No,” or “Go find someone else,” before I could even finish my question. Finally, I crept over to Ms. Tammy’s section, separated from the rest of the cabin by a wire screen.
“Ms. Tammy,” I whispered, scratching on the screen. Nothing.
“Ms. Tammy, I have to go to the bathroom!”
With a snort and a groan, she turned on her back and put her hand on her forehead.
“Go back to bed,” she muttered, “It can wait ‘till the morning.”

At that exact moment, I decided that I hated summer camp.

The frustration that had been building up all week came to a head as I planted my feet in the middle of my cabin, pulled down my pajamas, and let loose all over the plywood floor. I mean I really did a number on that cabin. I vengeance peed right in the center, and when I was satisfied, I climbed back into bed and dreamed of my cabin mates’ faces the next morning.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.16.20 PMYoung Me, in Girl Scout regalia, most likely reminiscing about pissing on the cabin floor. This will also double as the DVD cover for my season of Making a Murderer.

When asked who soiled the cabin, the cabin succumbed to a frenzy of name calling and finger pointing. It was total anarchy and I just laughed.

To this day, whenever I tell that story in real life I always tack on the phrase, “Those bitches had it coming.”

The remainder of the week dragged on for what seemed like months. The weather was rainy; the girls were more interested in talking about horses than anything I considered even remotely relevant; and although I learned that someone under 90 pounds could use their thumbs to gouge out an attacker’s eyeballs in the Girl’s Defense Course, it wasn’t enough to make me want to go back to Camp Pristine Pines the next summer.

My parents, after hearing wonderful feedback about St. Andrew’s from my sister and some of the other kids from church, convinced me to give summer camp another go by sending me to the performing arts session. By “performance arts,” they meant breaking us off into small groups every day and creating skits from the more colorful tales in the bible. At the end of the week, each group picked their best skit and used it in a showcase for Parent Pick-up Day. For the grand finale, every group from camp ran on stage and danced the Macarena to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”

I went back for three more sessions because of one of my cabin mates. Her name was Helen and she was a mildly athletic, cool tempered girl who exclusively wore faded band t-shirts and showed me the Beastie Boys for the first time. Aside from my counselor, she was the only one who knew about my leap of womanhood and, to her, this made me a mature and worthy accomplice. Helen had this energy that sucked in everyone around her, making them grateful to be in her presence. I had never been so warmly received by someone so cool. When she told me she was switching from performing arts camp to general camp, I followed her. When she went on morning jogs with the counselors, I went with her even though I hated jogging and I was always wheezing by the time we were done. When the boys began to give her a hard time, I got in their face and told them to leave her alone. It seemed like a worthy trade until one year when she snuck off to make out with one of them in the bushes.

I kept to myself for the rest of the week. She’d poke me with her fork at lunch or dinner and say things like,
“Dude, what’s wrong?” or, “Hey, something bothering you?”
“I’m good,” I replied, “Just not feeling it.”

A day or two later, someone would tell her that she had “broken my heart” and she and the other girls would stop waving me to their table at meals and cease asking me to play on their teams for camp games. I stopped going to camp at Saint Andrews after that summer. I was too embarrassed and pissed off. I felt like I had put in so much effort and I expected her to give back in equal amounts. As much as I don’t want to say that I thought she owed me, chances are I probably thought that she owed me. Most of my education on healthy relationships with other women would happen well after my camp years.

Aside from the lying, the passive aggressive peeing, and the obsessive tendencies toward camp friendships, I think that the weird little cherry atop my cake of camp strangeness was the opportunity it afforded to completely reinvent myself. I went to camp with a new nickname every year. I even tried to reinvent myself as “Mizzy,” a hip kid with an out of this world sensibility, but that fell flat on its face when I met Ben, a kid who also the comic book where I found the name “Mizzy.”
In the comic, Mizzy wore a backwards cap and schooled all the guys in basketball. I could wear a backwards cap, but I could barely dribble, much less shoot. Ben pointed all of this out to me, but didn’t blow the whistle on my true identity. The real agony was making it through the next five days knowing that he knew I was faking everything.

Otherwise, camp was simply a cocktail of awkwardness that I have learned to appreciate in the years since. My favorite memories are ones that make me look back and silently scream, “Really? No, really?” – like the time I pretended that I had seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail so I could run around and say “Kni!” with Helen and the rest of her friends on camp skit night. When asked if I could quote anything from the rest of the film, I replied,
“Oh, sure!” and promptly changed the subject.

That said, I did rent the movie immediately when I returned home. So maybe I did learn some good stuff at camp.

At the very least, I learned where the pee hole was.

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