Wednesday, June 28, 2017

From Princess to General

Because I am perpetually behind the times, I have not yet seen Wonder Woman, the first big-screen adaptation of Diana Prince's story. However, the Internet has been awash with discussions of the film and its constituents, from forebears to alternate screenplays, and I've seen enough at this point that I want to highlight one recurring meme in particular:

This is honestly one of my favorite things I've ever seen online. Up top, you have Robin Wright, who first came to prominence as Princess Buttercup in the film adaptation of The Princess Bride and has most recently portrayed Diana's mother Hippolyta in Wonder Woman. Below, of course, we see the late Carrie Fisher, first as the young Princess Leia in A New Hope and then--almost 40 years later--as General Organa in The Force Awakens.

The reason I love it so much is because it encapsulates a mighty shift in our culture. Have we had badass women on screen in the past? Absolutely! From Buffy to Xena to Sydney Bristow to The Bride, and even Leia herself, there are plenty of worthy examples, and I'm happy to give credit where it's due. The difference, in this case, largely revolves around one word: princess.

Having grown up during the Disney Renaissance, and being the aunt of a little girl, I am perhaps alarmingly well-versed in the language of fictional princesses. Don't get me wrong: I was, and remain, a huge fan of Disney, but as an adult, I do recognize the indoctrination I endured. (As a side note, Disney now owns the Star Wars properties, which--in a very technical sense--means that Leia has joined the ranks of Ariel, Aurora, and Anna, as many others have pointed out in the past.)

The dilemma is that we females have spent large swaths of our lives being told that girls are "sugar, spice, and everything nice," that we should be "ladylike," that we need to find our lives searching for our own personal Prince Charming. It's pretty problematic when you consider it, because we live in a society that has ostensibly progressed but often seems to backslide badly.

So when I see images of Hippolyta in action and General Organa working hard to ensure the safety of those around her, I get a little giddy. As I said in a Facebook post just after Fisher's death last December: yes, I love the princess who sasses Darth Vader, keeps herself together even after watching her planet destroyed, infiltrates Jabba's palace, and all that. But I love General Organa more, because she is the end product of all those things followed by 30 more years of hard work and dedication. In other words, General Organa is what daring girls all over the world have the capacity to become if they persevere.

The problem is, our society tends to squash those sparks of personality and ambition, so it is extremely important that we continue to give girls (and boys) good, strong female role models in our media. It lets girls know that the line they're fed about having the capacity to be whatever they want when they grow up isn't just bullshit--even though it feels like that some days, given the typical images with which we are all bombarded on a daily basis.

And I hope, also, that the women out there who think they "don't need feminism" are waking up a little through this journey with two lovely princesses turned generals. It would be fantastic to know that children aren't the only ones affected by more positive portrayals of strong women whose power doesn't stem from their royalty but through the battles they wage to keep others safe and equal (equal being the operative word).


Images via here, here, here, and here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Another Thing About Anxiety Is That It Fucking Sucks

When I started this blog, my plan was to talk about books, writing, and popular culture. Believe me: I still intend to focus on those things. I've found, though, that it's important for me to share experiences in other areas of my life, as well, because it can be difficult to find people who are open about their mental health (or someone whose words make sense to you and affect you and validate you), and I'd like to help where I can. Being an introvert and a person who sometimes attempts to write, this is the way that makes the most sense to me. This is the second part in a two-part series. Part one was published on Monday.


Anxiety is one of those disorders that can have unintended professional or interpersonal consequences. For example, when I've suffered through anxiety attacks at work, I've had to leave a sales floor or hide behind a closed office door until the feeling passes. The most comical of these incidents happened when I was lurking around the quietest corner of a Hallmark store, hiding from a nun because I have a completely irrational, unfounded fear of them. (This strategy worked until we were short-handed at the cash wrap and I was forced to ring up the sister's purchase.)

The majority of my anxiety-related meltdowns, however, affect my relationships. On a good day, I struggle to explain what's happening inside my head, so imagine me trying to tell someone all of the things I'm feeling when I'm also in the middle of an anxiety attack. (Hint: you might reasonably call it a shitshow.) Even my dog ran away from me once when I was sobbing through some anxiety; that's how extra I become, but in her defense, she has a limited grasp of the finer points of humans' emotional anguish.

Once I manage to get on this path of explication, though, it's difficult for me to stop. Hence I dump all sorts of information on people in a short amount of time, attempting to make myself clear and searching for some sort of understanding on the part of the other person(s) involved. I also spend a significant amount of time apologizing, because even though I think my feelings are valid, I recognize how someone else might disagree, and even more so how they might find it off-putting that I'm sharing so many details of my inner life. As my mother once put it, I can be scary.

That is never, ever my intention, but I get it: my emotions are too intense for some people. And no matter my aim, no matter how much I mean what I'm saying--and I always do in instances like this--my confessions more often serve to get me in trouble. Perhaps I come across as unhinged, but I choose my words as carefully as possible and attempt to maintain some logical flow (this is why I usually have to write these things out rather than say them face-to-face).

But once I've gotten it out, I panic and scramble to write a second--or third, or fourth--note to clarify my previous statements, and the cycle of anxiety continues. The longer it takes someone to reply to me, the worse I feel, and the more likely I am to keep going.

Eventually, I will burn myself out, perhaps for a day or two, or maybe even a week. Then it begins afresh, and some other source of anxiety will take the place of the last incident. If I'm lucky, it's nothing serious and I can continue my routine. Other times, not so much. But I do what I can to fight it and advocate for myself, even though it can be difficult to do so when the real enemy is your own brain.

To those who have been on the other side of this, who have ever wondered why or how I get so wild-eyed or who have ever felt bombarded, I apologize. I know that it isn't easy for you, and I realize that I owe you a great deal. I can't offer much in the way of reparations, but I'm usually available to tell a bad joke, if you're into that sort of thing (or if you simply tolerate that sort of thing). 


Monday, June 19, 2017

Emotional Hypothermia

When I started this blog, my plan was to talk about books, writing, and popular culture. Believe me: I still intend to focus on those things. I've found, though, that it's important for me to share experiences in other areas of my life, as well, because it can be difficult to find people who are open about their mental health (or someone whose words make sense to you and affect you and validate you), and I'd like to help where I can. Being an introvert and a person who sometimes attempts to write, this is the way that makes the most sense to me. This is the first part in a two-part series. Part two will be published on Friday.


I have that cold feeling again.

For me, this is one way in which my anxiety disorder physically manifests itself. When I feel I've done something wrong--regardless of whether a transgression occurred or not--I start to feel icy. But this chill isn't superficial, like when an unexpected breeze catches you. No. This originates within and spreads under my skin.

It started during my childhood, but of course I didn't recognize it as anxiety back then. If I had a word for it at all, it was likely fear--the fear of being in trouble, usually with my mom. Back then, this was accompanied by a recurring need to pee, as if my body was trying to dehydrate itself and shrivel up into nothing to escape the situation at hand.

Right now, I'm lucky--if that's what we're calling it--because I know what's at the root of today's anxiety attack. But I'm also unlucky, because all I want to do is keep picking at the situation until I've resolved it. Think of it as a scab: I feel successful once it finally peels away, but the sting quickly sets in and the process starts anew, because I haven't fixed anything.

The drugs help. A little. But I've never been able to make the cold feeling disappear. I try to leave other people out of it; I've caused some damage this time, though, and of course that contributes to the problem on my end. I wish I had a mental straightjacket to keep my flailing from injuring myself and others, because no apology sufficiently undoes the past. And so I continue to live with the turmoil, like I'm on a roller coaster running an endless loop on a windy night.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Heat Rising

For many years, I gave away copies of my favorite book, Fahrenheit 451, very sparingly: only to my very best friends, people I love. Recently, though, I gifted 14 at once--the latest printing, with a plain red, cream, and black cover--because the time has come for people to take a stand.

The current American political situation is, in a word, terrifying. Fahrenheit remains timely and prescient, and I can't recommend it enough. My hope in sharing it en masse is that the recipients might follow Montag's lead and not only resist but revolt.

Of course, I realize that revolution is a strong word, but I fear we may have started down that path. The best way to arm ourselves may be through knowledge. At least, that's the way I've always seen it.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Coming Home. Again.

For the second time this decade, I find myself leaving the South and moving home to Michigan. Unlike the first time, however, the choice was mine.

There are the reasons I cite publicly, and there are the ones I mention privately. They overlap, of course: a Venn diagram of quitting. Some are reasonable, others less so. Like last time, I will lose things in the deal. The fact that I have more ownership of this departure softens the blow, but not as much as I'd like.

Here are good things: Mom and Dad, Niece and Nephew, Little Dog, BFF Kate and BFF Charlie. For my own sake, I won't talk about bad things.

But I will tell you the best thing: home.