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Thursday, March 22, 2012

This I Believe

Tell us what you're believing in this week.

13 comments:

  1. Why can’t Helen Keller drive? Because she’s a woman.

    Why can’t women drive? Because there’s no road between the kitchen and the bedroom.

    There is a cultural myth that women are bad drivers.

    From my experience as a pedestrian, I believe that women are better drivers than men. Women keep their eyes on the road when I pass them.

    When I was a teenager, I relished the catcalls and horn honks. Men are pigs, I thought, but with a smirk to myself, because I was attractive. I was wanted. They thought of me.

    I don’t feel that way anymore.

    At some point—since I turned twenty, possibly more recently, I’m not sure when exactly—the smiles and greetings seemed turned in my head. It isn’t flattering for male drivers to turn their heads over their shoulders to watch me as they drive away. It does not make me feel beautiful or worthwhile. It makes me feel used.

    Why, if studies suggest women are better multitaskers, are men considered better drivers? If men can’t multitask, they have no business leering at girls on the street while maneuvering a 10,000 pound hunk of metal at high velocities. Women, despite their reputation for both multitasking and sub-par driving, never look anywhere but straight ahead.

    I believe that the male gaze is a threat, and I believe that women are not bad drivers.

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    Replies
    1. 98% of all crashes are caused by a single distracted driver. 10% of these distractions are caused by the driver looking at scenery (I think we can agree that "scenery" is a euphemism). 5% are caused by cellphones.

      Thus men rubbernecking to leer at women cause twice as many accidents as cellphones and we have outlawed the use of cellphones while driving.

      (and the average car weighs 4,000 pounds)

      Delete
  2. It is almost always a girl. Her dentist diagnoses puss-oozing sores inside her mouth. Though at times they are an infestation of spider eggs laid beneath the skin of her gums, most often it is cockroaches. They are always the result of eating at Taco Bell.

    Because these tales have circulated since 1998* without ever visibly diminishing the traffic at the counter,

    Because the company floated a promise in the South Pacific when the Mir Space Station plummeted to earth: a free taco for everyone in the United States if the core of Mir landed on target,

    And in spite of the fact that I have never eaten there,

    I am tempted to believe in Taco Bell.

    Instead, I find myself believing in various irritants lodged beneath skin.

    I dig deep tracks into my flesh. With a needle pulled from the scarf of an unfinished sock monkey, I cut a path to unleash the long splinter from the soft cushion of my palm. Though its tannins corrode skin like an acid, I would rather a sliver of oak if I could choose. This mahogany rips into pieces if pulled.

    I watch through the smallest opening I can make between the first and second fingers of my left hand. Snagged, my flesh pulls away from my palm to a point like the sharp tip of the umbrella my mother gave me for Christmas. The porcupine quill opened into a fish-hook-like barb after entering the softest part of my hand. The doctor invites a pack of interns to watch: a unique learning experience.

    I pull skin into a sharp tip as I squeeze tightly on tweezers held against each fattened side of a tick, its head burrowed in flesh just below my last rib. I marvel at what it must be like to wait. Ticks wait to be touched by a body that courses warm with blood. Without such connection, a tick would die waiting.

    I complain when I have to wait too long for flavored coffee to brew.



    * snopes.com

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  3. It’s been almost three years now. Your face dwindles in my memory, but as time passes it grows ever more faint. A picture of you accompanied by people I barely remember hangs on my wall at home. I found it in an old photo album, one I created with my child-sized camera many years ago. I don’t care about the other people, but you rarely allowed yourself to be captured on camera, and it is the only photo of you I own.

    Joseph and I walk into the kitchen after a night at climbing practice; I am ecstatic because I have almost tackled one of the hardest routes in the gym. I open my mouth and begin to recount my extraordinary battles with the wall, but slowly I begin to realize that Mom and Dad are standing awkwardly looking at Joseph and I. I abruptly halt my story telling, and look from one parent to the other. Dad quietly says, “Momo had a heart attack.” I look again from him to Mom, in shock: “She’s okay, right?” I ask. “No, darling, she died,” he replies. Mom’s eyes glisten with tears.

    Maybe you know this, but I wrote a poem about you, and I read it at your funeral. It was a beautiful funeral, like one out of a Hollywood movie. The tall oak trees towered above me as I worked my way down the page, trying to force that funny feeling out of my throat. The rain poured down on our umbrellas; my awkwardly high- heeled feet sunk into the sandy ground as I walked away from the front of the group in my white linen dress and waited patiently for others to tell their own stories about you. There were a lot of old people standing around that I didn’t know. You had looked much healthier and younger than them, I thought, although I am sure they were about the same age as you.

    I couldn’t say Mormor, the name for grandmother in Swedish, when I was young. So I called you Momo. You cut up bananas for me and put whip cream on each circle, gave me a spoon of the perfect size to put in my mini hot chocolate mug, and we had tea parties on your back porch. You made the best strawberry jam in the world, but I still can’t find the recipe in your house. You read me a book about Ferdinand the bull who liked to lay in the flowers, and you let me sleep in a iron bed perfectly my size at the foot of yours. You bought Joseph and I weird gadgety toys from QVC, and they were cooler than the other kids’ toys. You watched us make boats out of corks and aluminum foil and run them down the stream by the barn. When I grew older, I realized that your animals, especially the horses, were in poor shape. You loved them, but they needed some care. I came over and spent hours grooming them out in the field, and you drove down in your truck periodically to check on me and to reassure me that they loved me for giving them the attention.

    You, I, and Mom never got to go to Sweden together. You never saw me graduate. You never saw me at a climbing competition. You never got to see the college I chose. You never got to meet my best friend that will probably stay with me for a very long time; I think you would have liked him. You won’t get to go to my wedding, and you won’t get to meet your grandchildren. I’ve gotten a lot better with kids since the last time I saw you. I think you would be proud of me, I’m doing pretty well in life so far, or at least I think I am. I miss you. I doubt you can hear me, or see me, or whatever, but I hope you had a happy life.

    I believe that three years later, time doesn’t heal the pain, but love remains the same.

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  4. It’s hard to believe I’ve forgotten what it feels like to do something creative. Something with colors, with shapes, with my now far too clean hands. They should be covered in paint or caked in clay or coated in charcoal or colored in pastel.

    Not until I was deep within the process of wood burning and a cloud of smoke did I come to discover this pang of loss. I realized I’d forgotten this passion I used to have. I realized, I don’t even doodle in class anymore. I admit, it’s my own fault that my sketchbooks are buried deep within the confines of my rarely-explored closet and I’m not exactly assigning myself art projects to accomplish. But it seems this spell of non-inspiration has lifted a bit and I can remember the good old art classes of yesteryear.

    I’m thankful for the half-crazy, soon-to-be-retired art teacher, as well as the less crazy replacement who took great joy in sharing stories about his time in Africa and got more than a little upset when the phrase “artsy fartsy” was thrown around. I miss discussions about how a plain black circle upon a plain white canvas, though self portraits come in a variety of forms, is in fact NOT a sufficient portrait of oneself in an intro level high school class. I miss doing work that usually didn’t feel like work. Work that was enjoyable and didn’t require a certain amount of pages or words or right answers.

    The solution to this situation is easy - just take an art class. And I plan to. I had alway played with the idea of an art minor. I believe in making art and being creative and putting your hands to good use. What I can’t believe is that I let this part of my life slip away from me so quickly and so easily, but I’m glad it has made a reappearance.

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  5. because, after two years of being a student in ceta, i express thoughts and emotions not through poetry (like others might), but through ‘this i believe’ essays.

    because i have been given a task that, to my knowledge, has not been done before.

    because so much emotion goes into our essays it forces me into a state of existence in which my sole purpose is to become intimately involved with the words we post on our blog.

    because i have spent hours poring over these essays, digging for just the right tidbits to pull out.
    because taking pieces out of our essays seems somewhat destructive. they were created as entities, and it feels wrong to pull them apart, almost like i am severing limbs from healthy bodies.

    because i do not believe alyssa is alone in the way she feels about making our dolls who they are – and i feel exactly the same way about our essays.

    because each and every essay is unique, and beautiful. each and every essay tugs at heartstrings and caresses worn laugh lines. each and every essay is an outpouring of what it means to be an individual and, more importantly, what it means to be human. and, like tyler, i believe in the common human element.

    because i also believe in swings, in scars and spots, and in appreciating the small stuff. i too believe in childhood, in cheesecake, in community and collaboration. i believe in words, in anagrams, in gentle lies, and in hand-written letters and mixed cds i believe in traditions and thunderstorms. i believe in winter, in walking, and in the work women do. i believe in laughing, in accepting and loving, and that life is way too short. i believe in dads and daddies, in siblings, in places where families can be truly alone.
    because i believe in all these things and so much more.

    i believe in believing, and i believe in sharing beliefs with others who believe.

    i believe in ‘this i believe’ essays.

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  6. Somewhere in the haze of sleep, I register an alarm going off. With a sleepy grin of satisfaction I realize that it isn’t mine and go back to sleep. A half an hour later, my double bell alarm clock goes off. It’s loud and shrill and my heart is thundering when I wake up. I hastily switch it off and I lay in bed for a few more minutes, waiting for my heartbeat to return to normal. It can’t be too good for my health to wake up like this every morning but I continue to use the same alarm clock.

    Below me, I hear my roommate grumbling from the bottom bunk. She likes to think that she gets up earlier than me but in reality, she gets up the same time as I do. After she gets up to turn her alarm clock off that’s all the way across the room she simply climbs back into bed and waits for my alarm clock to go off. That’s what roommates are for, she says.

    We then scramble to get our homework done in the morning before class, choking down milk and cereal as we write essays and work out math problems. Every morning we ask ourselves the same thing: Why do we do this to ourselves? And every morning it’s the same answer. Because last night we didn’t feel like doing homework. We grin and laugh crazily at each other, saying we’re going to drop out and go to cosmetology school, or as we more affectionately call it, “cosm’ology school.” While we’re ranting, we fail to realize that it’s already time for her to go and she’s late to work again. I laugh at her as she rushes out the door.

    I believe in mental breakdowns and rushed mornings with roommates.

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  7. I wonder if she was already unable to tolerate him with his shirt off when she was 26 and I was 3 and he packed up a fake-ladder travel bag and closed the door behind him. 20 years later she reminds him no man will sit at her table shirtless even though this is my first trip back from America and I assume this reunion-of-sorts is about me, not about him and her. My father slips on the flannel shirt that, he likes to brag, used to fit him the same when he was in high school. He has been fixing my mother’s broken toilet in an apartment in which only women live 20 years after he left.

    10 years later my father teaches my American boyfriend how to slaughter and skin a chicken. My father instructs him: “Put on your running shorts. Take off your shirt.” In my father’s world running shorts are good for providing the minimal body cover required in polite company. In the picture I take, my semi-naked boyfriend sits on a plastic white bucket, plucking a dead chicken’s white feathers. 6 years later my father tells his next-door-neighbor that he taught his American son-in-law how to slaughter a chicken. “The boy still remembers,” my father brags.

    Years later I live on a street where the men go shirtless. The teenager across the street passes time between jobs bare-chested, sporting an upper body sculpted by exercise. No one knows when or where he exercises. We like to speculate about it. On weekends my next-door neighbor strums his guitar on his breezy front stoop. Some days he does covers of old songs. Some days he tries out new tunes. Under the warmth of an early-March sun, he plays on, shirtless, his naked 2-year-old keeping rhythm with a stick.

    I believe in men who don’t wear a shirt, even if it’s the wrong season.

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  8. I believe in priests who wear weird pompom hats with their cassocks and nuns who have had multiple husbands before finally settling down with Jesus. I believe in the walls of stained glass and the baptismal font getting water all over the green carpet. I believe that Catholics don’t read the Bible, at least this Catholic doesn’t and that’s okay because I prefer to listen to Father George reading it on Sundays in his adorable, yet sometimes challenging Indian accent. I believe in grandpas who go to mass more religiously than they drink gin and walk around with their black-beaded rosaries in their pockets. I believe in getting a cake on my saint day and getting excited over the Miraculous Medal. I believe in churches- especially cathedrals. The pointed gothic arches and the vaulted ceilings humble me with their strange, solemn beauty. I believe in the Book of Kells turning darkness into light and that time when Amanda burned her hair with a lit candle during the procession through Lourdes. I believe in drinking holy water because it is free and finding the phallic symbols hidden within the Kildare church. I believe in ancient bell towers- sans bells and the ribbons tied along the branches of the trees surrounding St. Brigid’s Well. I believe in standing though all of the Stations of the Cross even though it’s kind of boring- sorry, but you know everyone was thinking that exact same thing. I believe in multiple trips to the National Basilica just so I can stare at some more mosaics. I believe in thirteen years of Catholic school and then I wonder why it is so hard to choose clothes to wear that aren’t kaki pants and a white collared shirt. I believe in all of the countless medieval paintings of solemn saints and dying saints and freaking miserable saints. God, were they trying to scare everyone away from the Church?
    I believe in daughters who rebel against their tightly laced, rosary-infused upbringings and decide to make their own decisions. I believe in birth control- along with about every other Catholic in the entire world- except maybe the pope. I believe in putting my sister’s scoliosis brace on my head so it looks like a miter and then inventing that excellent game called “pope ball.” And I am fairly certain that this may count as blasphemy, but it is one of the few games I can actually play well, and frankly if I was the pope I would be flattered that someone created an entire game centered around the concept of my hat. I believe that women should be priests and bishops and popes. Jesus is probably really pissed off about how sexist the present policy is. He is also probably pissed off about a lot of things the Church does and believes and promotes.
    I believe that I will always be Catholic. It is true that I ascribe to the cafeteria variety of Catholicism, but I cannot hear a siren without automatically doing the sign of the cross. A part of me will always be that girl who reads books about Saint Brigid and draws pictures of the backs of holy cards.
    It is easier to believe in the universe when it is given some prayers and maybe a few paintings of miserable saints.

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  9. I first saw the papers years ago. I must have been young when they passed it around, “collecting autographs” they said to us kids, I think it was at Christmas – Tis the season and all that. I remember gripping the pen with chubby fingers and fastening a clumsy signature to the line below Lila’s. I never did get the hang of cursive. I remember asking what this stack of paper was for – it was so big then that it had to be bound with one of those plastic spines – and somebody, maybe an aunt, maybe a mother told me is was for “just in case.” My family has always had a gift for euphemism. Although I remember vaguely grasping the concept of wills and death and trusts, it was all in abstract, in the same way I understand calculus and real estate brokering now.

    The papers resurface every few years, shuffled around infrequent Leatherclan gatherings, mailed from one household to another – the are so few of us it’s hardly an inconvenience. Another signature on the revision, another time I’m too scared to look at the specifics of the inheritances detailed inside. I’ve never looked, but I’m hardly curious, anyway, it’s not like anything’s ever going to happen to her, why do we even need this?

    I’m completely unable to imagine a time without my grandmother, without that orange Dial soap, and the almonds (the cocoa ones and the sea salt ones, mixed together in a 1:1 ratio), and the bourbon balls. And the alcohol, passing judgment on gin, pineapple in her old fashioned, the wine I’m served on holidays as a young adult. And there are those vests with fur (yak’s?) and long drives to DC, and the orchids my dad brings for each visit. A time after is unfathomable.

    And yet, the latest revision surfaced over the break, a neat stack that’s been pared down to staple size, waiting for me on my sister’s desk when I got home. I signed them, like I signed the other, taking special care to ignore the figures and properties detailed in the pages beyond. Maybe if I don’t look they won’t be there.

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  10. I believe in mass chaos. Running around like a chicken with a head cut off, and being stretched in too many directions to count. This is currently my life, as is every college student’s right after spring break. So many meetings, my agenda is piled full with them. Every hour of my day is planned down to the minute and this week, each minute had to be made to count. No dilly dallying on facebook, no sitting down to watch Grey’s Anatomy or Boy Meets World on MTV2 on Tuesday and Thursday’s either. It’s crazy! Don’t get me wrong I love being involved in all that I do, in taking active roles in this bubble we call Transylvania but, right after my blissful spring break coming back to all of this. Hectic. Shocking. A to do list so long and only roughly 3 weeks to complete it. SCARY.
    It has me thinking why I do all I do and I reflect back to the end of last semester when I was hyperventilating on the floor after seeing all the A’s lined up in a row on TNET. All of them. Beautiful and Perfect. I know so many teachers are anti-grades.. “So long as you learn and try you’ll be fine”. Yes, I know I’ll be fine but, will my GPA? The only reason I’m so concerned with grades is because of the expectation put on me by family, my grandfather was the only one who completed college among them and has the least bit of sympathy for me. If you are smart you get A’s. Law schools also tend to share this belief. A personal statement, an LSAT score, GPA, a list of extracurriculars, internships, and faculty recommendation is all they get from those of us who plan to apply. With my turn to apply coming right around the corner, I’m becoming more and more concerned for these things and the worst part is I have no idea if any of my work will get my where I want to be in 2 years.
    However, even though I’m stressed, this massive chaotic life is preparing me for whatever I may face in the future. I believe eventually all this chaos will settle and I can breathe again. Massive chaos will come again and I’ll know I can handle it. Grades won’t last forever either and I guess so long as I’m continuing to grow that is what matters most.

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  11. I believe in making pillow and blanket forts, even when you’re in college. When you think about it, the way we played as children has helped to shape our future, plus, forts are still pretty cool. I believe in staying in from a potential night of partying to craft with your mother (sometimes). Most of all, I believe in genuinely laughing. Not only that, but I believe in genuinely laughing like you have never before. Like you found some connection that you lost. I believe in being able to forget the differences between you and your loved ones and finding the common human element again. I don’t think there’s a god, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I have a family and they should still care for me in the same way that they did before.

    When I gaze at the stars, I have learned to feel big. To quote Neil DeGrasse Tyson: “The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth the atoms that make up the human body are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them went unstable in their later years they collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas cloud that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.”

    In short, this means that we are part of the universe, but the universe is also a part of you. I don’t know if I have a spirit or a soul, but I do know that someday I’m going to die. My remains will become a tree. I could be a plant. How amazing is that? I believe in forgetting the subtle differences in humans to realize that we all have the same fate.

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