Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
I am back from the bakery with 120 festively-frosted oatmeal-sugar cookies for the third graders at my son’s school.
I ordered 10 dozen, thinking that was plenty for the 106 children I was told to plan for, plus a few buffers in case there was, you know, an incident with me and my other little boys.
I should’ve gotten more.
Want a closer look?
Valentine’s Day is a hard holiday for lots of people, but in third grade, it’s still uncomplicated and good. Just treats and cards with corny jokes for everyone. Maybe it’s not like that forever, but for now, it’s nice.
While addressing valentines last night with my boy, I watched him consider writing something rude on the card for a girl in his class. She’s dished out plenty of unkindness lately, but even so, she deserves a friendly valentine. I didn’t bother to philosophize or try to explain to my son that as an American woman, she will likely have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day for the rest of her life, and no way would I allow him to contribute to that turmoil while they are both still learning to navigate the foreign waters of good manners and peer relationships.
I just said it’s important to be nice and make sure everyone has a day where they feel liked.
He left his card with a simple “To/From” message and we stuck a small package of candy to it.
For all the sadness and upheaval in the world, there are many sweet parts. May you find a few of them today–whether they are cookies or beauty or friendship or true love or a parking place at the impossibly crowded grocery store–and know that I wished them for you.
We need some new posts up here. (Hint, hint, other Rock Poolers!!!)
And while I’m at it, welcome back to the worst day of the year (Valentine’s Day). Feel free to visit again next year. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be feeling a little more hospitable toward you then. I know, I know, and I admit, Valentine’s day is a wonderful time of year and has a lovely idea behind it. But I, like many other single women (and possibly single men, but I don’t think I have any right to speak for them), have my issues with it.
One issue, mostly.
It makes a lot of us single people feel like crap because we’re not getting shiny or scented
or chocolatey presents like how all of the people who are in relationships are. Fortunately, I think everyone that I’ve run into that is in a relationship is always conciliatory toward any snarky singles around the time of Valentine’s Day. Mostly because they’ve been there. Fun fact. Anyone in a romantic relationship has been single at some point or another. Amazing how that works. 😉
I think I’m a little more snarky about Valentine’s Day this year than usual, simply because (brace yourselves!) I actually was in a relationship. My first one, oddly enough. And it all ended kind of quickly, which certainly didn’t help. Long self-indulging story short, it was an odd relationship, and an even odder situation to be in. And yes, it was good. And if the poor idiot who went out with me is reading this I hope he’s making funny facial expressions and turning bright colors. Simply because that would make me laugh manaically. Which might scare some of my roommates, but if they’ve put up with me this long then I doubt I could drive them off if I tried. Kudos to them. 🙂
But there are always the after-effects. Like bizarre dreams and a greater longing for chocolate goodness. More than usual, that is. I have some very bizarre dreams under even the best of circumstances. And the desire for chocolate is just a given.
Even at my worst moments though there are a few things even I gotta admit. The first is that relationships make us look at our priorities a little differently. Not just about relationship priorities (you know, where suddenly the way someone smiles seems more important than their taste in music), but about a lot of things in general. Like how much I miss my family sometimes, and how much I need my God. Among other things.
For instance, afterwards I started realizing that I needed to be doing homework again and (gasp!) actually put some effort into it. I also remembered exactly how important a lot of friends are to me; a fact I’m afraid I neglected for quite some time. And oddly enough, when I was smack in the middle of said relationship, I didn’t worry as much about if thing would work out between us. I think he was doing more than enough of that for both of us (sorry if you’re reading this, he, but I couldn’t leave that out! Honesty is a curse… especially when it comes pouring out of my mouth. Hee hee hee). The odd part was that the thing I worried about if the relationship did work out was that it would somehow destroy my literary genius. Writing, I mean.
I know. That’s weird. Has anyone else out there in the world felt a little odd writing romances for characters when they’re in the midst (more or less. Often less) of one themselves? Maybe it’s because I assumed that writers wrote romances in order to fulfill some part of their lives that apparently had not been previously satisfied. I mean, really, you can believe it reading some of Stephanie Meyer’s stuff. Teenage hormonal fantasy, that one. And I can’t believe I just described those heinous books so kindly. But there is another day and another time to rip those dreadful things to pieces. And I certainly look forward to it. *Evil grin*
Returning to the original idea of priorities now.
So to put off the horror and utter disgust surrounding Valentine’s Day this year, I combined those three priorities. In order to get out of doing homework, I decided to do something highly bizarre for one of my friends, and I am now writing about it.
Turns out, the all guys choir on campus is singing to people for Valentine’s Day… for a price, of course. Which I paid. Just to see if I can embarrass my friend ever so slightly (she knows who she is- sorry, but it’s one of those things worth writing about). And yes, she knows about this already. Unfortunately, someone else has gotten there first, but I figure I can go for a repeat performance and see if these guys get better with practice.
And yes, I fully expect her to retaliate sooner or later. That’s part of the fun of this whole situation. I’m intrigued to see what she comes up with.
So here’s the goal for all of the single people who might be inclined to be snarky this Monday.
Find something entertaining to do. Find something to do for a friend, especially. Take a little time to laugh and joke and just plain have fun. It’ll make the day worth it. I promise. It makes every day worth it.
First of all, I must apologize profusely for my recent silence. It was mostly unintentional, but there have been some oddities that I’ve been forced to deal with until I have turned snarly in the face. But I think it’s about time that I finally post something.
If you’re wondering about the title, yes, I am doing something that resembles a rip-off of Beauty and the Beast. Except that in my life, the Gym is certainly not like the Beast from the story. And definitely not like the one from Disney. Because that is an amazing movie and the Gym is… not. Very much not. Amazing, that is.
I think every woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and discussing exercise of any kind tend to shun gyms for one reason or another. There’s all the usual reasons and excuses that you hear every single time and that we use every single time. “I’m too out of shape to go to the gym,” “I only do such and such exercises while I’m there, and they don’t have anything for that,” “I don’t want anyone to see me there (which is an excuse I use to get out of going to a lot of things, and while a lot of people think it’s ineffective, I think it’s a perfectly legitimate excuse),” all of those. But I think one of my roommates and I may have found one of the real reasons that we struggle to go to the gym.
Everyone there is a little too beautiful.
I realize that’s not always the case. Going to the gym at five in the morning to go work out before classes or work, you run into some people there that are not what we always classify as being “beautiful.” There’s the cranky middle-aged woman that takes the weight-lifting machine that you were just considering using but you don’t dare confront her because you’ve seen her put it onto the highest setting and because she’s currently glaring at you and that’s generally a good time to turn away and work on something else. Like the exercise you were just doing. That’ll work. Or there’s the eighty year old man with a paunch and scrawny looking legs running on the track that still manages to lap you six times in the half hour that you’re brave enough to run on the same track as him.
Well, there’s the other motive for staying away from the gym. It’s just humiliating. But back to motive one.
I actually went to the gym a few days ago. A few days being the beginning of the week. Why? Because they have a rock-climbing wall there. And because I had friends there who were all going rock-climbing. And in spite of my pitifully small stature and ridiculously short arms, I enjoy rock-climbing a lot.
But the gym at my school is a little daunting. Rock climbing doesn’t require gym clothes, and so I came walking into the gym with my jacket and messenger bag still on and a pair of rented climbing shoes in hand. And then I began the long walk down the rows of people on exercise machines to the rock wall, which of course is conveniently located on the other side of the gym. Which gave me a very good opportunity to look at all the people in the gym.
All of the men are wearing white tee-shirts and black shorts, and if they’re not built, they’re ripped. There’s not enough fat on any of them for them to float if they’re treading water. And they’re all lifting and running and flexing. I decided not to look at any of them for too long.
All of the women are also wearing white tee-shirts and black shorts or pants with their hair tied up, riding exercise bikes next to three other girls gossipping about their collective lives, or else they’re working out near their boyfriends, or else they’re running on their own with an iPod or the equivalent strapped to their arm. And their tee-shirts are never baggy like how mine are, and obviously they’re wearing some pretty expensive shorts because they’re certainly not as baggy as mine are either. Their tennis shoes are very new and white and shiny, and I swear they make their legs look even prettier. And yes, they really are very beautiful. I don’t want to downplay that in any way.
My problem is that I will always be comparing myself with these women who are all at least six inches taller than me and, to my mind, suddenly infinitely more attractive than I am, just because they can ride an exercise bike for however long and gossip with their friends when I don’t think I have the energy for either.
But I think I just realized the problem with that.
Yes, I can remember what their bodies look like. Well enough to be plenty jealous. But for the life of me I cannot remember a single face from that gym. Nothing distinctive comes to me. Nothing from a pair of gorgeous eyes to a pointed nose. No one with acne, no one with freckles, no one sweating, no one with a pretty smile or a painfully contagious laugh. Nothing that makes them different than anyone else in that gym.
You know what I think?
I think we look in all the wrong places for beauty. We look for something physical, something so obvious that we can’t see past it and probably never will. And you know why we will never see past it? Because we will never want to. We see what we want to see in that first shallow layer. We will not bother to strip it away and see the beauty that lies underneath. We may never be able to see the person. Just the body that they occupy.
I guess maybe there’s a reason that my gym clothes are baggy on me and why I sweat profusely when I’m trying to run laps, and why my hair turns from flowing to pasted to the top of my head.
Maybe it’s because it gives me a chance to see people with pointed noses and gorgeous eyes and acne and freckles and pretty smiles and contagious laughter. Physically, I’m not really a beauty. I battle with myself over it on a regular basis, physically and mentally. And what woman out there doesn’t? But it makes it so that I can learn to see past that in other people. I get to see something else that few people will ever bother to see. Which let me tell you, is completely their loss. You know why I say that so many guys are idiots? Because there are all of these wonderful, gorgeous women out there in the world, and so many guys will never see it.
I certainly don’t mean to speak disparagingly about gyms. I appreciate the whole thing about how they’re meant to help us become more fit and healthy and all of that good stuff. And it is good stuff. (Speaking disparagingly about guys, that I might be doing on purpose. Just a little bit.)
But gyms go back to the ancient Greeks, and the reason that they were called gymnasiums is because they were where men would exercise naked. Just so that all the other men could see how great their bodies were and humiliate them into working out just as hard to have just as good of a body. Thank goodness women didn’t have to deal with that kind of humiliation. They only had gyms for women in Sparta, and thankfully they wore clothes there. (Yes, I study history. What gave it away?)
But I guess I have a very different challenge from anything you would find in a gym.
1) If you know any women that really loves to workout, let me know. I want to meet her. Maybe I can go work out with her and be infected by her enthusiasm.
2) Look for the beauty beneath the surface in other people. If you haven’t already, you’ll be amazed.
3) Find a little bit of that beauty in yourself. And yes, this applies to YOU! Whether you’re male or female, young, old, no matter WHAT your circumstances may be. You’ll be stunned at what you find.
Hey, every single human being out in the world is the most beautiful person on earth. We just have to see it.
In this cold (so cold) dark, snowy, gray and cheerless January, I’m thinking rather than doing.
I’m thinking about the colors pale aqua, white, pale pink and crimson.
Huskies. I’m not an animal person, and definitely not a dog person, but if I was, I would run out right now and procure one. Beautiful, haunting faces.
Lemons. Meyer Lemons.
Do I want to live here anymore? In this state? In this country?
Will. Learn. To. Knit. If. It. KILLS. ME.
Can one kidnap one’s own husband? Is this allowed? What are the repercussions?
Seed catalog time. After last year’s dismal failure due to being unable to keep a squirmy one year old from running the entire 15 feet from our front door to the street – I’m a little unsure about my ability to be outside and absorbed with dirt and watch her at the same time.
How does one make math hilarious? And fun? I sure as hell don’t know.
Do not give your toddler a 5 lb. jar of river stones under the guise of Montessori teaching/play/blahblahblah. Every time you think you’ve put them all back, the jar will be just a little less full than it was the last time, but you mysteriously won’t be able to find any more pebbles.
What do you do when your sister moves abroad? Probably permanently. With your fat little nephew who might starve for want of auntie kisses?
My computer sounds like a cow in labor. Pretty sure that’s not normal.
Dishwasher broke. Feels like it took forever to wash dishes and yet somehow I managed to clean up for the night way before I usually do. Maybe washing dishes by hand causes a time warp.
Really, really want to build this. And then go somewhere. Anywhere as long as it isn’t here.
Worried that I won’t get enough chubby toe gazing in before my baby’s feet turn into my husband’s. Or mine. She’s two in a half, how much more time do I have?
Was asked to be at a friend’s birth. Was excited. NOW AM PANICKING. She thinks I know something about having babies?
Guffawing word: HUMANURE!
And lastly, trying to be good. Do good. See good.
Deep into January and perhaps suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, what are you thinking of?
It must be admitted that my weakness for girls in pretty dresses has led to some pretty poor decisions. But it’s okay, because they didn’t do any permanent damage because we’re (just) talking about books. The only damage happening was up there.
It must also be admitted that when Bright Young Things fell into my lap, tagged with ‘gorgeous socialites’, ‘flappers’ and ‘scandal’, and likened to Gossip Girl, I thought uh oh. As a rule without exception, I abhor scandal; I can live without flappers, and I doubt I could ever strike up a conversation with a socialite, gorgeous or otherwise. And Gossip Girl? Twelve kinds of twisted. Not my kind of book, no thank you.
O thou hasty in judgement! Anna Godbersen writes genuinely beautiful prose. It’s a pleasure to read the way jam is a pleasure to lick off your paws. With that kind of marketing, I never would have guessed, which is the reason that every time I picked up Luxe (‘ooo pretty dress!), I put it right back down again.
‘If she could have foreseen everything that was to happen in the next couple of weeks, how sleepless and manic and full they would be, she might have tried to get some rest, too. But her eyes were wild, and there was so much electricity in every corner of her head and heart – she was too alive with awake dreams…she wanted to see the sun coming up in another state, and everything else the world had been holding out of her reach.’
General summary: Bright Young Things is set in New York City in the last summer before the Depression hit, while Prohibition is still in force, and follows the stories of three young women. Cordelia and Letty leave their small Ohio town for New York City, where Cordelia searches for the father she’s never met (who turns out to be a notorious
and rich bootlegger). Letty, her best friend, has ambitions for fame which take her to unexpected and sometimes unpleasant places. And in New York, they meet the perfect and poised Astrid (and despite that according to the blurb, she is ‘hiding secrets’, it’s not yet clear what her deal is), who is a puzzling mix of softness and steel.
I’m not exactly sure I would recommend this, because it does have sticky moments, but I was surprised by the lovely and evocative vividness of the writing (I will most definitely be reading the next one). And as ever, because books aren’t read in a vacuum
and also because I hate writing reviews and have a sad inability to stay on-subject, the story’s themes picked at thoughts in my own head, like Cordelia’s relationship with her father, and the part where he tells her not to do something, she thinks she knows better and does it anyway, and Bad Things happen. There is also a strong thread of family loyalty and how you can dislike someone but you can’t beat the genetically hard-wired sense of something (be that duty, possessiveness, love, whatever) out of yourself despite it all. It’s like Emily found:
‘Emily was up against one of the contradictions of human nature. She was learning that you may fight with your kin – disapprove of them – even hate them, but that there is a bond between you for all that. Somehow, your very nerves and sinews are twisted with theirs. Blood is always thicker than water. Let an outsider attack – that’s all.’
– ‘Thicker Than Water’, Emily Climbs.
I thought about that a lot, especially because of the unlikely connection between Cordelia and her new-found brother, who met and disliked each other as strangers, but when they discover they are siblings, have to reconcile their initial dislike with the fact of their relatedness. Family relationships are a little underrated in a lot of teenage fiction, and where it is written, it isn’t always convincing – it’s more like a boring sideshow (that even the AUTHOR finds boring) when really you want to know about THE BOY and will he live happily after after having wooed and won THE GIRL? It’s a little silly, but there you are. But well-portrayed complicated family relationships = win. Especially since I’ve also been watching Gilmore Girls*, which revolves around the daughter-mother-daughter relationships (and family relationships in general). A lot of work has to go into making it work. As Lorelai tells Rory, ‘We have to talk, always. Our particular special thing only works if we agree to that.’
I’ve been staring at the word ‘daughter’ and reading and re-reading it. It is such a strange little word. Daughter. Dawter. Door-ta. Dawta? Dogtar. Dog star? Dot. Dotty. Dottir. Dottore. Dogtor. It becomes more and more meaningless with every repetition…try it. No, go on, really. It’s trippy.
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, bestselling author of the Luxe novels, was released by Penguin Razorbill yesterday. For more information, or to read an extract, visit http://www.bytseries.com/.
Quotes are taken from ‘Bright Young Things’, by Anna Godbersen, supplied to The Rock Pool for review by Razorbill, an imprint of the Penguin Group.
* Conversation-starved junkie seeks fellow junkie to talk Gilmore Girls with: apply anywhere. Rigorous conversation skills desired, will pay in kind.
Well. At least that’s over. Yeah, I’m a humbug. I freely admit to feeling insufferably meh about this entire season, starting from the first signs of it (getting earlier and earlier every year) to the last, frenzied, materialistic hurrah! I feel like I have been assaulted through my eyes and ears enough already and I am delighted that it is now officially over and I can get back to simply surviving the darkness, cold, and dirty snow of winter. I am, however, feeling the need for a restorative. And nothing is more bracing than the antics of upper-class English nitwits. Let’s call it A Wodehouse Restorative.
A slight throbbing about the temples told me that this discussion had reached saturation point.
Am taking legal advice to ascertain whether strangling an idiot nephew counts as murder. If it doesn’t look out for yourself. Consider your conduct frozen limit. What do you mean by planting your loathsome friends on me like t his? Do you think Brinkley Court is a leper colony or what is it? Who is this Spink-Bottle? Love. Traver.
It’s only about once in a lifetime that anything sensational ever happens to one, and when it does, you don’t want people taking all the colour out of it. I remember at school having to read that stuff where that chap, Othello, tells the girl what a hell of a time he’d been having among the cannibals and what not. Well, imagine his feelings if, after he had described some particularly sticky passage with a cannibal chief and was waiting for the awestruck “Oh-h!Not really” ?, she had said that the whole thing had no doubt been greatly exaggerated and that the man had probably really been a prominent local vegetarian.
– Right Ho, Jeeves
She choked. His lordship, a young man with a shrinking horror of the deeper emotions, whether exhibited in woman or man, writhed silently. That was the worst of the American!
I am strongly of the opinion that, after the age of twenty-one, a man ought not to be out of bed and awake at four in the morning. The hour breeds thought. At twenty-one, life being all future, it may be examined with impunity. But, at thirty, having become and uncomfortable mixture of future and past, it is a thing to be looked at only when the sun is high and the world is full of warmth and optimism.
-The Little Nugget
‘I’ve changed my name. I call myself George Wilson.’
‘Why on earth?’
‘Well, you try calling yourself Augustus Mannering-Phipps over here, and see how it strikes you. You feel a perfect ass. I don’t know what it is about America, but the broad fact is that it’s not a place where you can call yourself Augustus Mannering Phipps…’
Constable Plimmer did not reply. He was busy silently hating the milkman. He knew him – one of those good-looking blighters; one of those oiled and curled perishers; one of those blooming fascinators who go about the world making things hard for ugly, honest men with loving hearts. Oh, yes, he knew the milkman.
-The Man with Two Left Feet and Other Stories
Mrs. Pett, like most other people, subconsciously held the view that the ruder a person is the more efficient he must be. It is but rarely that any one is found who is not dazzled by the glamour of incivility.
I felt rather like Lot’s friends must have done when they dropped in for a quiet chat and their genial host began to criticise the Cities of the Plain. I had no idea old Rocky could be so eloquent.
I’m not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it’s Shakespeare – or, if not, it’s some equally brainy lad – who says that it’s always just when a chappie is feeling particularly top-hole, and more than usually braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with a bit of lead piping. There’s no doubt the man’s right.
-My Man Jeeves
‘If you try it, I shall infallibly bust you on the jaw.’
For years Belpher oysters had been the mainstay of gay supper parties at the Savoy, the Carlton and Romano’s . . .And then, in an evil hour, somebody discovered that what made the Belpher Oyster so particularly plump and succulent was the fact that it breakfasted, lunched and dined almost entirely on the local sewage. There is but a thin line ever between popular homage and execration.
‘Americans are the civillest coves I ever struck. I remember asking the way of a chappie at Baltimore a couple of years ago when I was there in my yacht, and he followed me for miles, shrieking advice and encouragement. I thought is deuced civil of him.’
‘Just at present my sense of humour is rather dormant.’
– A Damsel in Distress