October 18, 2014

The Voodoo Fad and Why it Hurts my Heart a Little

Why, yes, this image has everything to do with Vodou.
I apologize for the length of time between each of my posts lately. It’s kind of tough to get back into the swing of college after a two year absence. I also apologize that this is a rant with absolutely no bigger message, point, or any good organization or clear thoughts. But let’s just get right to it.

Okay, here we go.

This is going to be one bitch of a rant.

Fuck, I really don’t want to do this.

Let’s talk about the affinity I have for Haitian Vodou and Louisiana/New Orleans Voodoo and why the hell I have such affection for such a random topic that obviously has nothing to do with my personal history or heritage. As my invisible/imaginary readers probably already know, I’ve been working on a novel project under the working title Demetrius and Chloe for the better part of three years now. Demetrius, the “antagonist” of the story, spent a lot of time in New Orleans under the roof of a modern Vodouisant (practitioner of vodou), who worked with a combination of traditional Haitian Vodou and the religious melting pot that is New Orleans Voodoo. Vodou themes and symbolism run rampant throughout the second draft of my novel, though hopefully I’m being subtle about it. Due to my novel project, I began studying Vodou in 2011 and found it to be the most fascinating and unique mythology into which I’ve ever delved. I’ve studied Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, the Haitian Revolution, and the history of voodoo in New Orleans (emphasis on slavery in New Orleans and the two Marie Laveaus and their family) exhaustively. In fact exhaustively is probably putting it lightly at this point. Vodou immediately became an obsession of mine and I’ve had tremendous respect and love for the religion ever since.

I’m going to take this moment to clarify: though the religion absolutely fascinates me and I adore it, I do not practice Vodou. As I mentioned previously in a blog post involving this, Vodou is a religion, and it is steeped in Catholocism. It includes the belief in a distant and all powerful god (Bondye), spirits that aid in the day to day of mankind for said powerful god (they are known as the loa/lwa), and the belief in a spirit world, obviously. I don’t believe in any of these things. My fascination with any religion, be it Greek or Norse or “Celtic” or Haitian, is my fascination for mythology. Vodou just hits the perfect blend of culture, history, and mythology to be Dee Catnip for my intellect. I simply adore it.

…Smash cut to American Horror Story.

I mean absolutely no offense to the multitude of friends and family that love AHS, but…guys, I’m sorry. I actively despise this show. I hate is as much as I hate Stuart Townsend. I hate it as much as I hate Anti-Stratfordians. I fucking hate American Horror Story. And there’s a specific reason why. I watched the entire first season, and basically came away with “It has great special effects, but it’s not my thing. Too many things irk me about it.” But I didn’t despise the show until season 3, when a coworker of mine came up to me and had a conversation with me that is burned into my rage brain forever:

Coworker: Hey Dee, you know a lot about voodoo. Can you answer a question for me?
Me: Sure.

Coworker: Do you know who Papa Legba is?

Me: (immediately extremely excited) YES! Papa Legba is one of the most important loa in Haitian Vodou. He’s the guardian of the crossroads, kind of the Mercury of the Vodou world. He likes to speak in riddles and play practical jokes, he walks with a cane because he has one foot in this world and one in the spirit world. No one can work with the other Loa without Papa Legba “opening the door” to the spirit world, so everyone has to pay him respect before doing anything else.

Coworker: Oh. That doesn’t sound like what I saw. Is he a bad guy?

Me: No, not at all. There aren’t really bad loa. Especially Rada loa. Legba’s really easy to work with.

Coworker: Does he have a skull face?

Me: What?....No. That’s Baron Samedi.

Coworker: Well, does he steal souls?

Me: Um…no. What?

Coworker: Oh. He’s a bad guy in American Horror Story. Marie Laveau sold her soul to him and she gives him sacrifices and stuff.

What the FUCK.

I honestly can’t remember if the conversation went any further. My vision went white and I felt a rage I haven’t felt in years. What the ever loving fuck?! Here it is, 2013, an age where in America we are painfully PC about nearly everything, and Vodou is being demonized as if it were the 17-fucking-hundreds again and idiots wrote in tabloids about human sacrifice and “naked darkie orgies” in order to create fear between the  slave/”free people of colour” and the privileged whites! WHAT THE FUCK?!

I can’t…I can’t continue with this. It still makes me so mad. Suffice it to say, I loathe American Horror Story for shitting on a religion that is already so demonized and so misunderstood. And it’s all misunderstood because of historical prejudices and slavery justifications back in the most shameful period of American history. Slave owners demonized Vodou in order to keep the “coloured classes” down. They straight up made up newspaper articles about having witnessed demons, orgies, and all manner of things that would terrify good white Christians in order to perpetuate this.  And it’s still prevalent today?!

…I’m sorry, but that’s all I can say without bursting a blood vessel in my brain. I can rant about this for hours, but it might actually fucking kill me. Moving on.

Unfortunately, largely due to the show’s popularity, “voodoo imagery” is rapidly replacing Dia de los Muertos sugar skull imagery as the newest ethnocentric fad for Americans to latch onto. And I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to be around for this fad. Top hats and skull face paint are everywhere, decorated with bones, and no one has any understanding of what loa they’re even mimicking, or what loa even are, or that there are people who practice this religion and whose families have been persecuted for generations upon generations simply for practicing this religion. Hell, Vodou fucking blended with Catholicism because slave owners tried to stamp it out and convert their slaves to Catholocism, so Vodouisants practiced in disguise, using saint imagery to represent the loa they worked with in order to avoid a goddamned lynching.

I’m getting too angry.

Deeeeeeep breaths, Dee. Deeeeeeeeeep breaths.

Anyway, back in August, I decided that for one of my many Halloween costumes, I wanted to try and do a female representation of Baron Samedi, my second favourite loa (my first favourite is Damballah, who is a giant white snake. That’d be tough to pull off.) Baron Samedi is the loa of death, healing, sexuality, reproduction, and the lord of the Guede, a family of loa who are essentially loud-mouthed, cursing, hilarious spirits of the dead. I fucking love Baron Samedi. He curses, he jokes, he swigs rum with scotch bonnets steeping in it, smokes cigars, and causes all sorts of good-natured mayhem with the other loa, who find him and his family very rude. The Guede are the most popular loa family in Haiti, because whenever the Guede are called or work is to be done with them, it’s a fucking party. They’re hilarious, lewd, and wild, and Baron Samedi and his wife, Maman Bridgette, are no exception, though they command immense respect. It’s said that if the Baron refuses to dig someone’s grave, no age or illness or infirmary has the power to kill them.


Unfortunately, it is the Baron’s image that has become synonymous with “voodoo” in this fad: a human skull with a top hat and a cigar, a suit or tuxedo. Not many people stuff their nostrils with cotton (I won’t either) or wear sunglasses with one eye punched out, but yeah, Baron Samedi’s signature look has become the new sugar skull in our pop culture. So in honoring my favourite loa with my own interpretation of him, I am also perpetuating this horrible demonizing mess of a fad. This week at Ination, there is a theme: Voodoo Carnival Freak Show. It sounds like an amalgamation of the most recent AHS seasons, and it probably is. For a long time I intended to suck it up and go as Baron Samedi, blend in with the rest of the skull faces and top hats, but now I don’t really know what I should do. I spent money on my costume. I want to walk around with a cigar in my mouth, swigging rum and handing out cards with the image of Saint Expedite (or Saint Yves, I haven’t decided which, they’re both affiliated with the Baron), but I feel like I’d be furthering the ethnocentrism despite my own personal affection and respect for Vodou. I might just have to abandon my beloved costume project and go with a more “carnival” theme—belly dancer, etc.

 I know that this entire rant makes it seem like I’m a pretentious douche canoe with a stick up my ass, but seeing Vodou/Voodoo once again demonized and whitewashed into popularity is a tough thing to watch when I have such love for it. I don’t believe that Ination or my old troupe, who is doing a “voodoo-themed” performance, or anyone who is participating in the fad has anything against Voodoo or even really thinks about it past “it’s fun!” I totally understand that. The same thing happened with Dia de los Muertos. It’s just a fad, and it pisses me off that I can’t just shrug it off and go, “Whatever, it’s all in fun.” I guess we’ll see what happens with my costume and what I decide to do. Maybe I’ll be able to say “fuck it” and go all out.

Sorry about this rant not really having much of a moral or a point, and I really do sincerely apologize if this offended anyone. Love you all. Better posts to come!

September 19, 2014

Breaking Up

            Hey, guys. I’m in an awful state of mind right now, so this post is going to be very incoherent and less than eloquent. I’m basically just going to get my point across and bail, because focusing on what’s happening to me right now is pretty detrimental to my mood.

            I have a terrible track record. In the four long relationships I’ve had in my life, three of them ended in horrific train wrecks of heartbreak. My most recent relationship hasn’t ended that way. It’s more of a whimper than a bang, which is less tumultuous but infinitely more difficult to navigate through for me. Most of what I’m going to talk about here isn’t really in reference to what is currently going on for me, so I’ll be using examples of the more traditional meltdown relationships I’ve had in the past.

            There is no painless way to end a relationship, and in my opinion, healing from it and moving on is more about how you handle things afterward. Everyone is different, but in my experience (and in the countless breakups I’ve seen with friends and family), there are a few extremely important factors to healing a broken heart. I’m going to be both honest and blunt about these; blunt because they need to be said like that sometimes, and honest because I may be preaching this, but I certainly haven’t practiced every point myself in every breakup I’ve dealt with (this current one has some complicating factors, for example.) So if you’re currently going through a breakup and are still very emotional about it, I’m probably going to sound like a total bitch, but hey, if you know me and have read my blog, you already knew that about me. ;)

            The most important thing to do is also the most difficult, the one that everyone tries to somehow circumvent because it’s exactly what every ounce of your being is screaming for you not to do when your heart is broken, and that is put distance between you and your ex. Yes, I’m telling you to stop talking to the person that up to this point has been the most important person to you for however long your relationship was. Do not text, do not call, do not hang out, do not follow their posts on Facebook. When my psychotic ex (the one before my current one) left, the best thing I did for myself was cut off contact for a while. It was also the hardest thing to do. In long relationships especially, you might not have gone a day without seeing this person. You might have done their laundry and grocery shopped together for the past few years. It’s extremely difficult, but you must disentangle your life from theirs. The longer you stay intertwined, the harder it’s going to be and the longer it’s going to take for you to move on.

            I’ve had countless friends try to stay friends with their exes right away. For casual relationships, it seems to work without many problems. But for the kind of relationships I have, the ones I’m talking about in this post--where there was a very deep romantic emotional connection for months or even years, where you might have talked about kids’ names, have a pet together, made plans for a future together, etc--staying friends right after the breakup inevitably ends with someone getting hurt. Why? Because one person is going to move on faster than the other. Imagine witnessing the person you love with another person’s tongue down their throat. Imagine them with their arms around somebody who isn’t you. It’s going to hurt. And you aren’t doing you or your ex any favours by sticking around to witness it.

            Even if that doesn’t happen, staying attached to an ex so soon after a breakup blurs the line between friend and significant other. I’ve seen exes who are just “friends” continue to sleep in the same bed, share a bank account, drive each other everywhere, and basically remain completely dependent on each other. More often than not this does nothing but lengthen the time it will take for them to get over one another. Other times, “non” couples like this end up getting back together simply because it’s “easier” to stay together than to learn to figure out how to live without each other. Not to be an asshole, but does that sound like a healthy relationship…? We all know on-again, off-again couples, and they aren’t exactly shining examples of happiness. To get stuck in a dependency loop like that is to shoot yourself in the foot. It keeps you from growing, from changing, and even from meeting someone who might actually be good for you. It’s not worth it…trust me, I know. I’ve been down this road an embarrassing amount of times.

            I understand the impulse of staying around someone who had been such a huge part of your life for a long time. I have quite a few friends who have broken up with someone and remained “friends” with them. And what I inevitably see with those friends is a vicious cycle of denial, dependency, and emotional torment, either in them or their ex/“friend.” It’s hard to see in people I love. It is so much better for everyone involved to make a clean cut, as impossible as it may seem, for at least a few months. You cannot rediscover yourself as an individual with your ex hanging around. Life isn’t like How I Met Your Mother.

            Now, before I get an onslaught of “Dee, stop being a bitch, not everybody’s like you!” I totally understand that there are exceptions to this. There are people out there who end very emotionally attached relationships, remain friends with their exes the whole way through the breakup, and everything’s cool. I’ve even seen it happen.


Yes, that merited a sassy paragraph break. Bite me.

Anyway, I’ve seen it work out once and I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen it fail. I’m definitely not saying that no one can ever be friends with an ex with whom they had a deep connection. I’m just saying that it’s much healthier (and smarter) to cut off contact while the breakup is fresh and sort out the emotional fallout independent of one another. When you have established your own habits and your own friends and your own independent life…essentially, when you’re whole again…you’re in the right frame of mind to decide whether or not hanging out with an ex is a good idea for you.

            Another important thing to do after a breakup is to keep busy. During my last really bad breakup, I spent a good month and a half walled up in my newly empty apartment. I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t see anyone. All I did was lose an unhealthy amount of weight brooding over every single thing that went wrong in that relationship, everything I “failed” at, essentially driving myself insane. I do not recommend this.

            I don’t personally do well sitting alone in my apartment for long periods of time, and in the midst of a breakup, doing that is just begging for my depression to take over. If you’re like me, then now is the time to see friends, have girls’ or guys’ nights, visit family out of town, or take up a class. I’m insanely grateful to be in BG right now, because I have so many friends who are more than happy to steal me away for a few hours at a time and handle Down Dee with relative ease. There will still be low moments, of course. The point of keeping busy isn’t to bury your pain, but to avoid brooding about it excessively. Keeping active also helps you build up a life independent of the relationship, which is, as I’ve mentioned, the most important thing you can do for yourself.

            As for a parting thought, this is going to sound very weird, but if you were in a relationship for a long time and spent a lot of time in your current space, you might want to consider moving. If that’s not possible, then completely reorganizing has always helped me get through. For some reason, one of the first things I find myself doing after a breakup is redecorating my apartment (or, if I have a roommate, my bedroom). For me, a new bedspread and personally chosen art on the walls has always made me a little better, a little more “me” and a little less “we.” But I’m a notorious nester with three separate Pinterest pages about home decorating, so this step might not apply to everyone, but I figured I’d throw it out there. It’s my version of getting a new haircut or growing a breakup beard.

            I might have more to say on this topic later, but right now I need to get out of the house or I’ll go nuts. If you’re going through a heartbreak, hang in there, my darlings. It’s a terrible thing to go through, no matter how common it is. Don’t forget that you will feel better. There is always a light at the end of this particular tunnel. If you are one of my flock, you know you can always come to me if you need someone to listen. I promise I’m not always blunt and bitchy and I am perfectly capable of buying you a drink or cuddling you excessively without a lecture.

           I apologize for any grammar errors, misspellings, underdeveloped thoughts, or inconsistent moods in this rant. This is just one of those posts that I vomited onto a page without much thought. I love you all, my invisible/imaginary readers. Hugs and kisses!

*****Please bear in mind that as of right now, where I am, I am a gigantic hypocrite posting advice that I am struggling to follow as we speak. This is a do as I say, not as I do type situation.

August 30, 2014

Snake Talk: Why I Don't Feed Live

Last night for me was not a typical Friday night for most. While many of my friends were hitting up the bars, chilling at house parties, or catching up on sleep, I was standing over my bathroom sink, holding a blow dryer over a previously frozen dead mouse in order to make his coat warm and fluffy.

The glamorous life of a Snake Mama.

Ball pythons are well known for being finicky eaters, and damn, does my sweet Prometheus fit the bill. In the five months I’ve had him, he’s eaten a grand total of five times. He hasn’t eaten once since we moved to BG. By all accounts, he’s happy and healthy and content, but he just does not feel like eating. Not only is it irritating, but I feel terrible, because I’ve had to throw away countless meals he turned up his little white nose at; mice whose deaths were wasted. But I think of it as food that I let spoil in the fridge; it sucks, but it happens. Only instead of a few chicken breasts, I have a bag full of frozen mice.

Not many people support the idea of the rodent holocaust I currently have in my freezer. Some openly condemn it.

“Why don’t you feed live? It’s natural, and besides, it’s cool!” is the most common thing I get from people when they learn that I feed Prometheus FT (frozen thawed) food. And I know that the friends/blog commenters/snake enthusiasts that say that mean well, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to backhand them. It’s not because I don’t respect their viewpoint on the matter (though I don’t, sorry, not sorry), it’s just that I’ve heard it countless times in my years of snake ownership.
This post started as a reply to the beginning photo I posted on my Facebook wall, but it got so big and so detailed that I decided to make a blog post out of it. So, my invisible/imaginary followers, this is why I feed Prometheus—and any snake I have owned in the past and will in the future—frozen thawed prey instead of live.

Starting with a big fat DISCLAIMER: Many snakes, for whatever reason, will only eat live prey. In the herpetology lab at BGSU, for example, we started all hatchlings on FT, but there are a handful of snakes there who are problem feeders and will eat nothing but live. I totally get that. I will not own a snake like that. Prometheus’s finicky eating is not due to the fact that he eats FT. He’s eaten FT all his life. He’s just a picky eater so typical of ball pythons. There is also nothing medically wrong with him. Not really relevant to the discussion, but it’s always important to know that about your pets.

Now I’ll get my personal reasons out of the way, and I’m sorry if this sounds snide, but I’ve gotten shit for so long on this subject. First and foremost, aside from my love of Jackass and the like, I absolutely cannot handle suffering on any level (and I don’t see that as a weakness.) I am especially upset by animal cruelty and suffering, to the point where if it’s in a movie or a TV show, there’s a good chance I’ll shut it off, or at the very least skip the part. You’re talking to the girl who won’t kill bugs that end up in her house. It’s just the way I am. I cherish life on many levels. Were it not for a few issues, I’d probably be a vegetarian. FOR THE RECORD—I don’t condemn or disrespect people who do not share this worldview*.

Now for the less personal reasons. I hate the “it’s natural!” argument, because it’s the number one reason people cite for giving me shit about this. Number one, 100% of the time, these people don’t give a shit if “it’s natural”, or they’d be making their cats and dogs hunt for their food, and they’d be running around naked and living in caves and shunning technology. They just think it’s cool to watch a snake eat live. That’s fine. Lots of people do. I’m not one of them. Two, the “it’s natural!” argument kind of falls apart when you look at the fact that you are keeping a snake in an enclosure that you maintain, and that you handle said snake in your hands, around your shoulders, and on your floor all the time, and that you provide said “natural” food by dropping it into their tank or feeding enclosure. In other words, fucking owning a snake throws “natural” out the window. You want your ball python to live “naturally?” Release it in Africa.
Sorry, that got snarky. Moving on to the less bitchy and more sciency reasons I feed FT.

PRACTICALITY: The typical owner of a live feeding snake takes a weekly venture to the local pet store, buys a single feeder mouse/rat, takes it home, and drops it into their snake’s tank. I open my freezer. I buy FT rats (well mice, currently) at reptile shows, usually in bags of 10 or 20 for about $20-30. Most snakes eat once a week, my picky Prometheus, even less so. I just cut 10 or 20 weekly trips to the local pet store from my life.

Though the vast, vast majority of casual snake owners go to the pet store for their food, there are breeders and hobbyists with collections that buy their live feeder rodents at reptile shows, like I buy my FTs. These shows often only happen once a month, so these owners will buy in bulk and feed/care for the rats throughout the month. Still others choose to breed their own feeder rodents. Now, I couldn’t do this not just for practical reasons, but because I just don’t have it in me to raise and care for something and then kill it. Count me out as a farmer, I guess. But cutting that personal part out of it, God damn, it would be a major pain in the ass to care for feeder rodents, not to mention the expense. Many do it because of the safety risks in pet store mice (I’ll get to that), and I totally understand that. But that’s quite a bit of extra work an expense, and yet another reason I won’t personally own a live feeding snake.

SAFETY: This is a major, major reason many breeders and hobbyists feed FT to their collections. First and foremost, the vast majority of casual snake owners get their snake’s food from pet stores. We’ve all heard of puppy mills, which are terribly inhumane, disease-ridden places from which pet store puppies come (DON’T BUY FROM PETLAND). Well, all pet store animals come from places like that, and though they don’t get the media attention that puppy mills do, they’re equally inhumane and unsafe. I’d NEVER buy a ball python from a pet store, and I won’t buy my ball python’s food there, either. Rodent mills produce mass amounts of feeder rodents in the worst possibly conditions that are not only cruel, but unsafe. Pet store feeder mice/rats often come home riddled with diseases and are generally poorly bred to boot (meaning they’re essentially snake “junk food”). There are plenty of snakes that are fed a diet of pet store feeder rodents and are perfectly fine and lead healthy lives, but I wouldn’t recommend the practice to anyone looking to own a snake. I give Prometheus the best I possibly can because I love the little bastard and want him to live a long time. The FT rodents I purchase are from a lab that specializes in only that. The rodents are healthy, well fed, well bred, and kept in humane conditions. Sort of like free range chickens, I guess.

Another note on safety is that live rodents often can and do fight back. They’re alive…live things tend to want to stay that way. Many snakes are enthusiastic feeders who immediately strike and constrict their prey upon seeing it, so there isn’t much of an issue. In the battle of rat vs snake, snake tends to win. However, if your snake isn’t terribly hungry that day, or strikes and misses, or the rat somehow gets an edge, which happens, then your snake’s food has the potential to do some serious damage. Snakes have lost eyes, sustained bites and gashes, and even died due to rodent attacks. Again, this doesn’t always happen, and when it does, it’s more often than not because the feedings were unsupervised, which is a terrible misstep for some snake owners who choose to feed live. I almost included a link to a few stories about rat attacks, but the images were horrifically graphic and I couldn’t handle it. I trust you guys to do your own research, especially if you disagree with me on these points. I’m not writing this to start some sort of campaign. Anyway, as Prometheus is a finicky eater, it is very likely that a live rodent could injure him, and there’s no way I’m risking that.

There are many ways to feed a snake, and as much as my snark seeped into this discussion, I don’t hold live feeding against anyone. A troupe mate and fellow snake enthusiast of mine feeds all three of her ball pythons live, and I don’t condemn her for it, nor do I call her a sadist. That’s her choice, and that’s how her snakes prefer to eat. She’s a conscientious Snake Mama who consistently takes her babies to the vet and monitors their health and attitudes. And she feeds live. I am a conscientious snake Mama and I adore my legless baby with all my little black heart, and I feed FT. Neither way is the wrong way, so long as you’re responsible, careful, and caring.


*I feel badly about this and I know it’s wrong, but I do see hunting as a pathetic hobby for people with God complexes and/or tiny dicks. Sorry, working on that prejudice…but it’d help if I actually met someone who didn’t fit the stereotype. ;)

August 17, 2014

My Social Anxiety

Actually kind of the opposite; I'm
most at ease in clubs; but this meme
cracks me up.

            So…I’m back in BG.

            And it’s just as awesome if not more awesome than I had anticipated.

            Seriously, I’m home. Other than job hunting and getting ready for classes, I’ve been spending my time walking down Main Street, teaching belly dance for an upcoming show at the park, bar hopping, dancing myself to exhaustion at my beloved Ination, and spending a ridiculous amount of time with some truly amazing friends.

            My social life in particular has exploded, as I had predicted it would. In Columbus, I had a core group of friends and a few others scattered about, with one weekly (totally awesome) movie night and sporadic visitations here and there. I’ve been in BG all of August and there have been maybe two days where I haven’t spent time with friends. It’s been beyond wonderful, but it’s also been, honestly, exhausting.

            It’s a surprise to most people when I admit that I have pretty heavy social anxiety. Those who have met me when I’m at ease probably see me as a bubbly social butterfly. At Ination, for example, I bounce from the bar to the back to the dance floor, hugging, cuddling, and chatting the entire night. This isn’t an act. I thrive in situations like this. As I’ve mentioned countless times in previous posts, I adore people, am completely enamoured with my friends, and wilt like a flower without sunlight when I’ve been alone for too long. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that in every single social interaction , a part of me is absolutely terrified.

             Ladies and gentlemen, the aesthetic paragraph break. Hold your applause.

            I’ve had anxiety all my life, and in college I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. For those who don’t know, this means that I worry more than the average person, and that something mundane can become catastrophic in my mind in about .3 seconds. In an article I came across on a friend’s Facebook wall, blogger Shuan Groves put it perfectly: People with chronic debilitating anxiety are often ruminators. They are people whose thoughts get stuck in a groove like a needle on a record, going round and round playing the same anxious thoughts again and again until it’s all they can hear.

            …Yup. I can’t even think of a good way to add to the thought. It perfectly explains my brain when I’m anxious. My anxiety blends with a single monumental flaw of mine and creates the social anxiety that I really struggle with. That flaw is the plain and simple fact that I can’t shut the fuck up.

            I have a blog because I’m overly opinionated, and I tend to express those opinions very strongly. Friends reading this right now are probably thinking, “Yeah, no shit.” If you’ve had a conversation with me for five minutes, chances are, I’ve blurted out a strong opinion on something, and quite possibly gone on a rant for that full five minutes about said topic. I don’t really have a problem with the fact that I feel strongly about music, movies, social issues, and just about everything else under the sun. The problem is that I don’t have to express my goddamned opinions, especially in the often harsh and cynical manner I tend to. But I’ve never been able to stop myself. I mean, I’ve improved over the years, but get me on the right topic and words just spill out of my mouth. I’ve offended and alienated so many people by my unfiltered rants that it’s a wonder anybody likes me at all. Yet I can’t stop. I’ve even had days where I’ve physically written SHUT UP on my hand in sharpie as a not-so-subtle reminder to keep quiet, and I’ve failed.

            Because of this rather crippling combination of ranting to the wind and then obsessing over the fact that I’d made an ass of myself, I’ve become far more comfortable socially interacting in loud, busy settings, where I don’t spend too much time with any one person. I prefer to flit about from friend to friend, holding brief conversations. I like to socialize in situations where there’s something else going on; at a club where discussions can be broken by a great song coming on, or in between scenes at a rehearsal for a show, or during a class; anything where the focus isn’t solely on me and one or two other people. I have better control over my tongue (ha!) in short bursts, I suppose.

            Aesthetic paragraph break number two, because God damn, I am ranting roll right now.

            I don’t tend to go to house parties or put myself in “let’s just hang out somewhere” situations unless I’m with friends who have known me for a very long time and are able to brush off the sometimes off colour and unintentionally offensive things that I inevitably spew. It’s pretty safe to say that when I offend someone, 99.9% of the time, it’s unintentionally. I rarely want to hurt somebody, and when I do, there’s no misinterpreting it, because I go right for the jugular. I can’t remember the last time I wanted to hurt somebody, but I remember and obsess over quite a few times I’ve accidentally offended someone.

            If you’ve heard me rant about something I don’t like (or read anything to that effect on Bite Me), then you know I can be a pretty brutal critic. I am three times that brutal on myself; about my looks, my acting and dance performances, my writing, you name it. And having that kind of psycho bitch in your head makes you damned cautious. When I hang out with someone one on one, I might seem fine, but internally I am tense and constantly monitoring what I say. Again, If something slips out of my mouth that I thought was too harsh or random or crazy, I beat the hell out of myself, because now this awesome person I’m hanging out with is going to think I’m stupid/mean/insane/dull, etc. This happens to me at least three times every time I am talking to somebody in an intimate discussion.

You can actually read my comfort level from my level of chatter when I’m talking to somebody. If I’m totally comfortable with you, you might not be able to get a word in, and the subject will change from one nonsensical rant to another in a jumbled blend of insanity. Luckily, if I’m that comfortable with you, you’re already totally used to that, and some of you even find it entertaining (Hence why I’ve been dragged to bad movies more than once just so friends could hear me rip them apart). If I’m around somebody I’m uncomfortable with, normally because I admire and respect them and would be utterly devastated if I pissed them off, I’m fucking quiet. I’m being so careful not to say anything potentially annoying that I can hardly say anything, period. When I met Nero Bellum last year, I might as well have had my lips stitched together. There are plenty of non-celebrity people I’m too nervous around to talk much around, some of whom I see on a weekly or even daily basis now that I’m back up in town.

I’m downright euphoric about being in BG and being able to spend time with the people I’ve missed so much for two years, and I’m actually making a conscious effort to conquer my anxiety and hang out with people outside of the typical events during which I see them, but I still find myself hesitating about accepting an invitation to chill at someone’s house or mill about Main Street, because all of the mental jumping jacks I go through during these unstructured interactions, and the hours afterwards when I beat myself up for having said stupid things, are completely exhausting. I’m working hard on it though, so if you’re one of my loves who wants to hang out with me outside of Ination or rehearsal, bear with me!

And if I go on a rant that ends up irritating you, for the love of God, don’t take it personally, and just tell me to shut up before I piss you off.


August 11, 2014

Celebrity Deaths

"Oh, there you are, Peter!"
I feel terrible that this is what I’m posting about after such a long absence. I moved to BG, we finally got internet, and then this terrible news sweeps my newsfeed.

I wouldn’t have expected the death of Robin Williams to hit me so hard. I was at Grounds for Thought with a few friends when I heard the news. In the middle of the walk home, I burst into tears, and it took me a good hour to finally stop crying. But even now, as I sit cradling a cup of tea in front of my laptop, I feel an unmistakable heaviness in my chest, as if my heart is slowly becoming stone.

I’ve never understood why people scoff at the widespread heartbreak that come with the death of beloved celebrities. Most of it* seems to be the idea that if you don’t personally know someone, then you have no business sharing in the grief that should only be exclusive to their friends and family. I do understand where they’re coming from, but what I think these people are missing is that celebrities touch each and every one of us with their work.

I grew up with Robin Williams. He was in movies that became staples of my childhood; Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook (oh, especially Hook), and so many others. His death was the snuffing out of the magic that helped shape me and so many of my generation. On a more personal note, his manner of death struck a chord in me as someone who constantly battles depression. Someone who filled so many hearts with laughter and warmth fell to that consuming psychological venom. Now cracks a noble heart.

I didn’t know Robin Williams personally. I didn’t know his friends or his family. But he and so many other actors, writers, musicians, philosophers, and other celebrities have touched my heart more than many people in my life. I will wear my grief on my sleeve no matter how ridiculous people think it is, and everyone should. Kurt Cobain’s suicide broke the hearts of an entire generation. John Lennon’s death shook the world. Those who scoff at the pain we as a nation are feeling right now don’t understand that artists shape us without ever having to know us. They shape our childhoods, inspire our own art, change our culture. It’s only natural that we mourn them. Their deaths are true tragedies.

Robin, you will always be Pan to me. Thank you for bringing me so much joy in my childhood and inspiring me in my adult life. Your life and your work meant so much to all of us. Rest in peace.

*I’m not including the people who joke about deaths. I understand that some people use humour as a coping mechanism, but most often the people I see joking about celebrity deaths are nothing but callous, pathetic attention seekers. They can all fuck off.

July 17, 2014

Things I’ve Learned About Apartment Living

            Guys, I fucking hate moving.

            I hate it so much I couldn’t even think of a clever way to say it. I hate moving. Every second of it. I hate the ridiculous amount of time and energy it takes to pack (“How the hell do I have so much stuff?!”), how furniture that seemed so easy to move in somehow can’t fit through the door now, I hate going back and forth from the apartment to the moving truck like a soldier ant, the white-knuckle experience of driving said giant moving truck, knowing that with every pothole you hit, you probably broke every single thing in every single box labelled ‘FRAGILE!!’ I hate hauling heavy furniture up narrow stairwells and through labyrinth-like hallways, and how no you can never find that special box of essentials that you need right away. I hate the days (or weeks...or months) it takes to unpack all of your crap. For me, moving is like the twelve labours of Heracles, and I’ve moved seven freaking times in six freaking years.

            In all my time renting, I’ve learned quite a bit about apartment living. And as I pack up to return to school in BG, debating whether or not I really need a replica of Anduril and a seven foot inflatable Freddy Krueger Halloween decoration (I do), I find myself reflecting on the youngling I was when I started renting and what’s become important to me now. When I was eighteen, all it took was a nice kitchen and a balcony to sell me on a place. Now…well, I still want a nice kitchen and a balcony, but I look for more practical things, like how many outlets are in the living room or how well the apartment complex is rated online. I’ve also grown up a bit in my expectations and what I believe I need in an apartment. Here’s pretty much what I’ve learned so far:

Space is overrated

            This is a big one, and it’s one I’ve only come to truly realize in the last year. The house I grew up in wasn’t huge, but there was a basement and an upstairs with plenty of room to be on your own, even when everybody was home. I went to college thinking that I would absolutely need the biggest space possible when I moved into an apartment. Living in the dorms for a year reinforced that belief tenfold, and for years I looked for the most space I could possibly get, even if I had to stretch my budget to within an inch of its life to do so. Moving to Columbus was a big wake up call for me, because the cost of living is significantly higher than it is where I’ve rented previously.

            Earlier this year, I visited a friend of mine in town. She lives with her hubby in a 400 square foot studio near downtown. The minute I stepped into their studio, I loved it, which shocked me. Looking at the size, I would have expected 400 square feet for two people would be a cramped, crowded hell. The apartment was adorable, with the bedroom divided from the living room by a gorgeous sliding door that almost mimicked a shoji screen. The open concept of the kitchen and the living room made the whole place seem communal in a very cozy way.

            I was dumbfounded. Sure, it’s cute, but how could you possibly feel at home in such a tiny space? How could there be any privacy? But then I gave some serious thought to just how much space I used in my roomy two bedroom townhome with its sky high rent and utilities. We (okay, I) had transformed the second bedroom into a dance and yoga space, and that was a very lofty idea, but more often than not it went unused, save for a week or so before performances. I did most of my yoga in front of the TV in the living room because trying to follow a Yogaglo vid on a laptop way off in the corner of the room was a flaming bitch. The second bedroom became Prometheus’s room, and being a ball python, he doesn’t exactly require a suite to himself.

Ladies and gentlemen, the aesthetic paragraph break.

Our kitchen was used, sure, but when I was in this apartment, I spent the vast majority of my time in the living room. It’s where I relax, write, make jewelry, and eat. So why was I spending so much money on all this space I didn’t use? It seemed ridiculous. And it is. When you think about it, we humans do not require a ton of space, especially nowadays. We spend a great deal of our time either out of our homes or in front of our various electronic devices. I dance, and that certainly requires some space, but other than that, all I really need is a kitchen, bathroom, a place to sit, and a place to sleep. I’m blessed with laid back friends who don’t care about the square footage of my apartment when they visit, and I’m not one to host huge parties. There is no reason for me to be living in (and paying for) so much space.

Ever since that visit with my friend, I’ve been working on downsizing. Being a bit of a pack rat, I own far more stuff than I use. I even still have things in boxes from my last move. My new apartment is much, much smaller than where I’m currently living, and half the price. I’m willing to bet I’m going to be much happier in a simpler space with less junk collecting around me.

Damage is inevitable

            Some people can leave an apartment as clean and perfect and undamaged as the first day they had moved in. I am not one of those people.

            It’s not that I throw wild parties or set things on fire. I just seem to be plagued with utterly random damage happenstances. Well, that and my cat, but we’ll get to that. In my very first, fresh-out-of-the-dorm apartment, for instance, I had some wonderful red jersey knit sheets for my bed, which was against the wall. While moving out, I noticed that those sheets, which were washed countless times and went onto the bed clean and dry, had somehow stained the freaking wall. In another apartment, the first day we moved in, a bag full of cleaning supplies leaked and created a crazy Chemical X that melted the carpet underneath it (all somehow without damaging the bag itself!) There was also a liquid latex incident that is better left to the imagination, but needless to say, carpet destroyed.

            Like I said, I’ve never laid waste to an apartment, but wear and tear will happen, from spilled nail polish to broken windows. I’ve learned to accept that I don’t always get the entirety of my security deposit back, and give major kudos to those who do.

Be meticulous in your first walk through

            This is both a tip and a life lesson. No matter how laid back your landlord seems or how minute something you find might be, write it down. I’m normally totally exhausted from moving when I do my first walk through of the apartment, but I’ve learned over the years to write every tiny thing I see that could possibly in any way be damage to the apartment. In my aforementioned first place, there was a big scratch in the kitchen tile that had probably been there for a while. Young Dee skipped writing it down because, come on, they had to know about that already and know I hadn’t done it. Well, that preexisting scratch went right out of my deposit, and because I hadn’t written it down on that stupid piece of paper, I couldn’t fight it. In my last apartment I actually walked through with my video camera. You never know what your landlord/company is going to charge you with when you leave. Protect yourself.

It’s imperative to know your rights as a tenant

            This is another tip and pretty self-explanatory. I haven’t personally run into any trouble, but I feel much better knowing exactly what my landlord can and can’t do when they’re the only other person with the keys to my home. I may be pretty (okay, extremely) open about my thoughts on everything from music to sexual preferences, but I value my privacy, and I for one feel safer knowing that my landlord has to give me 24 hour notice before entering my residence, for example.

            For a summary of tenant rights in Ohio, here’s a link from the Ohio State Bar Association.

A decent landlord should be as important as the apartment itself

"I heard you're going to be a little late with rent..."

            While we’re talking about landlords, I’ve found that it’s just as important to have a good landlord as it is a good apartment. Landlords are an area where I’ve been fairly fortunate, and that’s not by accident. I Google the shit out of the apartments I look at while searching for my next place to live. For me, it’s much better to have a nice living space with a friendly office staff and prompt maintenance than have an absolutely adorable! duplex that you rent from an old woman and her crazy ex-military son who thinks he can walk in if nobody answers the door. Not that I’m saying independent landlords are always bad. There are plenty of them who are fantastic, and I’ve personally run into more trouble with rental agencies than the latter. Just do your research.

Pet ownership is a huge decision

            I’ve never been able to live without animals. I was raised with (by) my parents’ two cats in childhood, and I haven’t been without a creature companion since. I love all animals; dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, etc; and I’ve been Mother to many nonhuman babies. But with renting, pet ownership is a very difficult road. Owning a pet significantly diminishes your options while apartment hunting. Columbus is a very pet friendly city, the minute I put “pet friendly” into an apartment hunt search engine, my list cuts itself in half. Most landlords require a nonrefundable pet deposit, sometimes almost as high as the security deposit itself, and still others tack on an additional monthly ‘pet rent’ that I’ve seen climb as high as $100 a month. Add to that number of pets and species, breed, and weight restrictions, and your new puppy just made your apartment hunting process a challenge.

            The reason owning a pet in an apartment can be challenging is because pets can do some serious damage to apartments. I’ve never had this problem with Stella, but dogs are notorious diggers and chewers, and many an apartment has become playground to their destructive tendencies. One of my cats was a major problem for a couple of years. In my first apartment, I had nowhere to put her litter box, so I put it in one of the carpeted rooms. Biggest mistake of my pet-owning life. All it took was one accident just off of the litter box, and the smell had seeped into the carpet. She ended up peeing all over that room, and the smell seeped into the furniture. I got rid of every piece of furniture from that room except for one bookshelf, which I cleaned meticulously...but not well enough! In the next apartment, that bookshelf (and the carpet it was on) became her bathroom. I later discovered from the vet that she’d had a pretty serious liver problem, which made it very difficult for her to pee and exacerbated her accidents (so don’t be afraid if you have to put your litter box in a carpeted area). But either way, damage had been done, and no matter how much I cleaned, those apartments always freaking smelled like freaking cat pee. Nothing, from enzyme destroying hardcore pet odour cleaners to professional carpet shampooers, could get rid of it. For two years I was the olfactory-obsessed version of Lady Macbeth, “Out, damn stench! Out, I say!”

            For me, and many people I know, owning a pet is one of the greatest joys in life. For me, it’s a requirement. But think before you take home that fluffy little kitten who fell asleep in your lap at the local shelter. Think about pet rent, vet bills, and the nightmare of hunting for pet friendly apartments when you move. Also, think about how much it will kill you to have to give up your pets because you can’t find a place to live that will accommodate them all. My darling cats, Luka and Rufio, will be living elsewhere for at least a year because the apartment I’m moving into will only accept Stella. Because my pets are like my children, this breaks my heart. I’m lucky to have found temporary but longer term arrangements for them, because having to give them up would absolutely kill me.

I. Won’t. Paint. The walls.

            As boring and sterile as white ass walls make a potentially beautiful apartment, I’ve found that it is never worth it to paint the walls and paint over them when I move out. Maybe that’s because I’ve only ever stayed in apartments for a year. Maybe if I stay in an apartment longer, I’ll feel it was worth it. But as much as I adored the chaotic process of painting words on the wall of my second bedroom in this last apartment, I will resist the urge to do it again.

            Unless I have a baby. Then all bets are off. I don’t care where I’m living at the time. That kid is getting the craziest nursery you’ve ever seen.

Thick walls are worth a thousand square feet

            I am one of those people who cannot exist in silence. When I’m home, the TV is always on for noise, even though I’m cleaning, making jewelry, or otherwise not watching TV. I can’t sleep without the soothing hum of a fan. I’m also a rather loud person. I talk to myself/my pets/inanimate objects constantly, I sing* in the shower. Stella fancies herself a watchdog and barks at every passerby or unexpected noise she comes across. I’m not always the best neighbor to have with thin walls. I also don’t care to know what kind of porn my neighbor likes to watch when his wife’s out of the house, or listen to every detail of their fight over where her mother is going to sleep when she visits. Thin walls fucking suck. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, especially if you’re living in a duplex, but if I have to sacrifice a spacious apartment for thick walls, I always go with the thick walls.

            As much as I hate moving, I do enjoy the prospect of moving into a new place. It’s a fresh start, with new rooms to decorate (in accordance with your lease) and sometimes a new neighborhood to be a part of. Still, I’m just fucking tired of moving. I’d love to live in an apartment for at least two years. But I’m a restless little bitch, unfortunately, and as much as I cross my fingers that I’ll slow down, I still end up boxing up my life and shipping it off to a new place, even if it’s just across town.

            Two weeks until Neverland. I can’t wait!

*if by sing you mean emit an eerie, tuneless wailing much like the cry of the banshees of lore.

June 30, 2014

Return to Neverland

Yes, I’m alive and I haven’t posted on this blog in…………………….a while. I’m a bad, bad, naughty blogger and you’ll have to spank me later because I have big news!

…sorry, now I’m giggling.

Anyway, to make an extremely long, boring, and depressing story short, May was rough, and June was absolutely terrible. I’m hoping for July to be a wonderful month becaaaause…it’s my last month in Columbus!

I’ve been thinking about finishing my degree for quite a while.  After spending a couple of years down here, I’ve made the decision to actually go back and finish what I started. I’m only a few classes shy of graduating, and though my field of study isn’t what you would call lucrative, I think it’s important that I get the degree. I’m the kind of girl who’s more haunted by actions I didn’t take and the things I’ve left unfinished. I’d personally rather struggle as a college grad than a college dropout.

I’m extremely excited. As my invisible/imaginary blog readers know, BG has always had my little black heart. It is home to some of my best friends and to Ination, my extended family. It’s a place of comfort and safety, of infinite hugs and familiar smiles. BG won’t be my home forever, but I’m happy to return to my beloved Neverland for a year or two of new adventures.

Columbus is a wonderful city and has been an extremely friendly and accommodating to me. I love it here. I found wonderful friends, a tribe to dance with, and a great job with excellent coworkers. I can’t speak too much for the future, but in this moment, I can say that Columbus may be my home for quite some time after I’ve finished school. But until I come back, I’ve made a bucket list of things for me to do this month before I head back to Neverland, and that’s what I’ll be doing all July.

Anyway, sorry this post was so quick, so dull, and so awkward! It’ll take me a bit to get back into the swing of blogging. Here are some pics of my sweet Prometheus to make up for it!