The Cardinal Rule of the Internet

2

I made this today, after berating myself on Facebook for my failure to absorb, and summarily apply on a daily basis, that Cardinal Rule of the Internet:

DON’T READ THE COMMENTS.

I like to think I know what’s good for me. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I (mostly) don’t look up ex-boyfriends and/or their current squeezes on Google (don’t even BE like you haven’t done this). Viewing the comments on nearly ANY article online, no matter how seemingly innocuous, invites agita, followed by weeping.

We are querulous beings by nature. The first cave painting was most assuredly followed by a cave painting directly UNDER it calling the original painter a dumbass. And on and on until one of the painters finally bashed someone’s head in with a rock.

Today we are far too civilized to bash someone’s head in with a rock, so we take to the internet and accuse one another of being socialists.

So – I made the mistake of jumping in on a “discussion” about the recent brouhaha surrounding Victoria’s Secret (VS), purveyor of ill-fitting brassieres, and skimpy panties suggesting that the wearer LOVES PINK. If you’re not up on this, here’s the condensed version: VS holds annual fashion show. VS fashion show consists of models strutting down runway in impossibly tiny underpants. VS makes the rather tasteless decision to send one of these models (Karlie Kloss) down the runway in the aforementioned tiny underpants AND a Native American headdress. Many Native Americans suggest that this is, well, kind of offensive, explaining that the headdress is a symbol of reverence and respect and is reserved for the most influential members of the tribe, each and every feather earned through hardship, loyalty, and strength. VS apologizes in that way that’s not really apologizing and tells Native American community that it won’t show Karlie Kloss in this particular getup when the show is broadcast in December. Everyone should be more or less happy, right?

You know who isn’t happy? TEH INTERWEBZ. RAWWRR!

The following are ACTUAL COMMENTS. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Who cares! We need to stop PANDERING to ‘those’ people.

Who, pray, are “those” people? Native Americans? Liberals? Does it matter?

There is no racism in this. It was done out of respect of a holiday we celebrate. If this is the case then we should ban Thanksgiving all together. Or those that are offended, get off welfare, quit getting drunk and get a job!

Oh, that’s fantastic. It’s not racist! And to prove it’s not racist, I’m going to end my little rant with something even MORE racist!

Native indians should be happy VS even decided to include them in their amazing show.

Yes. Because I’m quite sure someone’s looking at Karlie Kloss and thinking, “What a magnificent headdress. I wonder what that signifies to the Oglala Sioux? I’m going to Google that, just as soon as I can pick my jaw up out of my lap.” Let’s hear it for cultural awareness! Thanks, VS!

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not the most “politically correct” person in the world. At the same time, I can’t get over the insanity of non-native people telling Native Americans what they shouldn’t be offended by. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to decide that. If you didn’t grow up in the culture, if you have no knowledge of the culture beyond the smattering you MIGHT have received in school, YOU HAVE NO SAY IN WHAT THE COLLECTIVE MEMBERS OF THAT CULTURE TAKE OFFENSE AT. None. I mean, that’s just common sense, isn’t it?

But the comments section is where common sense goes to die.

Thanksgiving Comes First

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A couple of days ago, a blogging acquaintance of mine – Suldog – approached me to once again participate in his annual Thanksgiving Comes First campaign (see my past entries here and here). Last year’s contribution was fairly serious and straightforward. My 2007 rant was a tad obscene. Both invoked the images of vomiting elves.

THIS year I wrote a li’l poem. But I’m still including the regurgitating elves. For your questionable reading pleasure:

Starbucks now pours their java in cups that are red,
and I cringe just to think of what else is ahead.
It’s early November, so I expect the worst,
because no one remembers THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST.

I walk into the drugstore and notice the shelves
look very much like they’ve been puked on by elves.
I stand there quite flummoxed, and I sputter and curse.
Why will no one acknowledge THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST?

“But what do you have against Christmas?” friends wail,
“It’s so pretty to look at! So much is on sale!”
I don’t disagree; but their bubbles I’ll burst
by reminding them all that THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST.

Dressing Room Breakdown

2

I went shopping yesterday for that most annoying and yet necessary wardrobe staple: “the little black dress.” This is always something of a challenge since I am not entirely hourglass shaped. My hips are just wide enough that I have to go a size higher than would fit my top half, and it causes all kinds of agita in that dressing room, let me tell you. And I don’t need to get into the bleak lighting in those places that throws every little dent and divot into painful prevalence.

So there I am, feeling shitty about myself, feeling shitty about feeling shitty about myself, when I hear a pair of women similarly berating themselves.

“All my FAT bunches up over the waistband.”
“This makes me look DISGUSTING.”

And I couldn’t help myself. I stood in my little stall, half-dressed, and burst into tears.

I’m 42 years old. I have a fair amount of that “wisdom” stuff that invariably comes with age, and a good number of years of being sober. I am fortunate enough to have worked for the same theatre company for almost 20 years now. I have a little theatre company of my own; we’re puttin’ on a show in December. I’m in a band where I get to wear ridiculous wigs and plays some of my favorite music in the whole world. I am pretty well-read, I’m a homeowner, I have a husband who sometimes empties the dishwasher and frequently tells me how beautiful I am. I KNOW I don’t have the body I had 20 years ago. I would not live through my twenties again if you PAID me. I also have the self-awareness to realize that if I lost 10 pounds, I’d need to lose another 15. And it still wouldn’t be enough. I emerge from my yearly physical with lovely and perfect numbers in terms of cholesterol and blood pressure whether I’m 125 pounds or 145 pounds. I am healthy. I just don’t happen to go to extreme lengths anymore to make my body conform to a standard of “beauty” that it cannot possibly (and naturally) maintain.

And yet a dressing room immediately renders all of that null and void. I’m right back to being a chubby 7th grader. Conversely, I see an ex-boyfriend with his 20-something “lady friend” and immediately feel like a FAT AND DECREPIT OLD HAG. Really. There’s no happy medium on days like this. Sometimes I am just not fit to be out in public.

I don’t write this so I’ll get a whole bunch of ego-stroking comments both here and on Facebook. Please don’t tell me I’m “skinny.” In the first place, I’m not, and secondly, “skinny” is not a compliment. This is something I’ve struggled with my entire life, it’s something that I’m going to continue to struggle with, and I’m just having it out here so I can go and get some damn breakfast and get on with my day.

That all being said, would it KILL some of these places to have better lighting in the dressing rooms?

It’s not a journey…

1

At what point does one outgrow pretentiousness? I’m asking for a friend.

In the early 90s, I’d just been jettisoned from my cozy little undergraduate cocoon into the harsh, cruel world, where it turned out that the only employment available to someone with a B.A. in Theatre (and plans to continue on to graduate school to learn how to WRITE) was at The GAP. Yes, y’all – I worked at The GAP. I started on the floor but was quickly “promoted” to Visual Coordinator, where – totally unseen by the customers – I held court in an unused bank of fitting rooms, armed with an ironing board, iron, clear plastic “bodyforms,” a box of T-pins, whatever clothes we needed to pimp that week, and what was left of my pride.

The GAP was enjoying a renaissance of sorts that year. It was the year of their hugely successful khaki campaign (“Steve McQueen wore khakis!” “Some writer guy wore khakis!”). It was also the year of this particularly baffling commercial:

As I said, this was the year I was readying myself for graduate school, and so I wrote feverishly (read: under the influence of various substances) in order to have plenty of material to present to Emerson College when it came time to apply to their Graduate WLP program. As such, I had filled notebooks with playlets, short stories, and “poetry” by the spring of ’93. I was prolific during this time, due to a combination of ruthless ambition, and the totally untreated mental illness that made me such a thrilling girlfriend back then.

And some of my writing was quite good, certainly good enough for Emerson to decide to take me on that autumn. And some of it was strikingly putrid dreck. But I remember seeing this commercial and thinking, “I can write better than that. Where’s MY GAP commercial?”

Fast-forward to 2012. I am still paying off that graduate degree from Emerson, and I’ve parlayed all that I learned there into this wildly successful “blogging career.” And perplexing, mediocre poetry in commercials has made a comeback:

So there are these lightbulbs going off in my head, you know? I have all my journals from ’92 – ’96 in my basement, along with my old Thespian Society trophies and those jeans that I keep thinking I’ll fit into again once I lose ten pounds. Somewhere in those journals is SOLID COMMERCIAL GOLD.

I can picture Brad Pitt continuing to shill for Chanel, looking all purposefully unkempt and morose, staring into the camera and reciting these lines:

in case you were wondering,
i played house with you
when i couldn’t sleep
it was nice in theory
and we had cool furniture
but i could never quite
imagine
telling you about
the things that keep me alive –
my words,
the words of others that
i wish could be mine,
how they fit together and
how some people make money
by getting them into a lucrative
arrangement.
i couldn’t tell you
because it all became static…
and i knew that yours
was only
the most polite of interests…

Yes, ladies and gents, that up there is something I wrote in 1994. Innit TERRIBLE? Every time I read it, I fantasize about going back in time and saying to my 24-year-old self: “JESUS GOD NO – do NOT write that. NO – DO NOT – DO NOT – WRITE THAT. DON’T.” But the fact is that I DID. And I may as well try to cash in, since the ad agency behind this particular campaign seems to be in the market for Wicked Shitty Poetry Penned By Drunk, Mentally Ill 24-Year-Olds. Because if you look at it THAT way, it’s BRILLIANT. It’s tormented! It’s puerile! It has absolutely NOTHING to do with perfume!

Brad, have your people call my people. I have REAMS of this crap, for real.

Everlasting Sunshine?

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Dear Suave:

I was in dire need of deodorant yesterday, and so I ducked into our neighborhood Rite Aid to pick some up. They lock up most of the deodorant there, except yours. Maybe there’s a lower incidence of theft there. Just saying. People don’t want to steal your deodorant as much as they want to steal, say, BAN. You may want to look into that. Anyhoodles…

So I bought your deodorant, because I just didn’t want to deal with finding a clerk and getting him or her to unlock the SUPER SECURE DEODORANT (EXCEPT FOR SUAVE) CASE, even though the folks that work at Rite Aid are unfailingly cheerful and polite. They really are. Like, at Walgreen’s they always look so miserable. And don’t get me started on CVS. Whenever I have to pick up my crazy meds there they treat me like I’m not only crazy, but stupid. “Are you SURE that’s the right dosage?” Actually, yes, I’m quite sure. I’m quite sure because I don’t want to leap over that counter, kick your shins, pull down all the shelving, and roll around in all those lovely drugs like a pig in the mud. I don’t want to do that because I’M ON THE RIGHT DOSAGE. Jesus. ANYWAY.

I just grabbed the first deodorant stick I saw. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed what you’re calling it:

That’s kind of a lofty promise, is it not? I’m also not convinced that it’s entirely accurate. Who in your laboratory decided that “everlasting sunshine” smells like Jolly Ranchers and baby powder? I mean, it smells fine and all, but everlasting sunshine?

My friend Nettie has this deodorant that’s supposed to smell “energizing.” Yet she’s still feeling snoozy at 4:30 every afternoon.

I just don’t think it’s deodorant’s place to be making these kinds of promises. Deodorant’s job is to make us less smelly. Americans don’t like to smell bad. That’s a fact. It’s why deodorant is so popular. It’s so popular that people want to STEAL IT. Well, except yours. They don’t want to steal yours, and maybe it’s because you’re making promises you can’t deliver. Maybe it’s because everlasting sunshine doesn’t HAVE a smell. I realize that “Jolly Ranchers & Baby Powder” won’t fit on a label, but maybe you can call it something more accurate, like “Hyper Toddler.” Or “Sullen Tween.”

Just think about it, okay? I have faith that one day you’ll produce a theft-worthy deodorant.

Regards,
Lisa McColgan

In which I think about my ink.

7

Say what now?

I’ve seen this “flowchart” bouncing around Pinterest and Facebook lately.

As someone who is trying not to take everything so PERSONALLY (and as a recovering addict, this is a daily challenge), I get that it’s a “funny” way to get people to think before they ink.

But as someone with a fair amount of ink, the assumptions this flowchart makes are – well – kind of insulting.

Now – I’m used to being insulted, both by total strangers and by people who know me. I remember showing up at a family reunion with half my head shaved and spending that long weekend enduring whispered reports that my hair was the topic of many discussions. I’ve had people come right up to me and tell me how much more “attractive” I’d be if I wasn’t dressed like a derelict. And I’ve gotten the stink-eye more times than I can count. This is part and parcel for anyone who’s made the decision to let his or her freak flag fly. I get that, and have tried to accept it ever since I was a teenager, when my friend Keith gave me the straight dope one afternoon in study hall: “Look, Lees – if you’re going to go around looking a certain way, you’re going to have to deal with people giving you shit for it. So either stop dressing like that, or stop whining about it.”

So I’m used to people expressing disapproval at my appearance, which isn’t even that extreme anymore. I now look like what I am: a somewhat-eccentric, “artsy” woman hurtling toward middle age. We’re a dime a dozen around here, and it’s safe to say that most of us have at least one tattoo.

I get why people don’t want a tattoo. What I don’t get is why some of these same people can’t accept that there are those of us who DO want them, and DO have them, without accusing us of possessing poor judgment, of being under the influence, or of lacking that nebulous state known as “class.”

And that’s what chafes me about this flowchart. It makes some pretty broad assumptions and/or sweeping generalizations which, I’m sorry, in 2012 are just fucking silly. Plenty of us tattooed folks hold “white collar” jobs. Plenty of women have tattoos on their lower backs and aren’t “easy,” nor do they particularly want to be thought of as such. And don’t even get me started on the homophobic undercurrent happening there.

So to the people who post this stupid flowchart on their Facebook pages, or repin it on their Pinterest boards, I ask you this: why are you wearing that dress? That hat? Those shoes? More than likely your answer will be that you wear these things because you like them, and you like the way you feel in them. Right? It’s decorating yourself, is it not? You’re making a statement about who you are and what you like. It is no different for us, only we’ve decided that we don’t want to take these decorations off.

The idea of permanence is uncomfortable for some. I understand that. Trust me when I say that I’ve weighed that particular concern very carefully, and ultimately came to the conclusion that I like the idea of my story – the people I have encountered and the things that have challenged and inspired me – right there, on my skin. And so I moved ahead with it. It is an ever-evolving installation. I have an artist I adore who understands me and – each time I come to him with another element of my story – works with me to make sure he gets it exactly right. My tattoos are about trust. They’re about enduring discomfort with the knowledge that when the discomfort has subsided, I will have something beautiful. That’s what my recovery has been about from the day I realized I had to stop drinking. And one of my tattoos reflects that concept: an cailín a bhfuil áilleacht an bhróin ina gnúis. It’s Gaelic, and translates roughly to “the girl with the beauty of sorrow in her face.”

Are there people who act hastily? Who get a little tipsy and make a rash decision that they may come to regret? Of course. In my experience, these folks are largely the exception, and not the rule. But you know what? They’re not “classless,” either. Think a minute. “Consider the source,” as my dad always says. That’s all I’m asking. I’m really trying not to whine.

Ask me about my tattoos; I’m happy to explain why I have them, provided you’re genuinely interested and not throwing shade.

Dear Pretty Young Woman Who Looked At Me, Aghast & With Considerable Pity, As I Described My Latest Battle With My Chin Hairs:

4

Hey. Nice earrings.

I’m guessing you’re about 23 or 24. Am I right? The dew of your youth and all that. You believe you know it all, have seen it all, when basically you’re an infant who can legally drink. I know, because I was once 23 or 24. Granted, this was kind of a long time ago, but I have journals and poems from around then and while I may not remember all the particulars, it’s pretty well supported by this dreck. So I know that this is the way I was at that age, in the early Nineties, when you were probably starting kindergarten. Really – you should read some of this stuff. It’s HILARIOUS.

Gravity has not had its way with you yet. Everything’s nice and perky and looks good in a wee angora sweater, or a smart little blouse, or a high-waisted pencil skirt. I used to wear that kind of stuff, too, until I woke up one morning and discovered that someone had replaced my cute butt with a half-opened bag of ricotta.

You see, the decline has begun for me, pretty little thing. I have developed strange, misshapen areas that no amount of time on the elliptical machine will eradicate. I am beginning to see the beginnings of jowls. JOWLS. And the spider veins…dear God, the spider veins. The backs of my legs look like the AAA roadmaps you get at the gas station. I won’t get into the sprouting of little, wiry hairs in inconvenient and embarrassing places, because clearly this horrifies you. But in about 10 years, you may want to consider having tweezers in your purse. Like…AT ALL TIMES. I’m just saying.

Because it will happen to you, my dear, depending – of course – on genetics and/or a willingness to go to expensive and unnatural measures to prevent it from happening. So maybe not ALL of what I’ve described will happen, but I’m fairly confident that you WILL be appalled at SOMETHING that your cute, firm little bod didn’t have 2 weeks ago. Like chin hairs.

I want you to know that it’s okay, though. I am embracing my impending crone-hood.

The most beautiful women I know have their stories on their faces. It’s more intriguing than statement jewelry or cute shoes, although I’m still partial to those things as well. I would rather have the look of someone who’s lived through some stuff than to look 24, although – don’t get me wrong – I greatly enjoyed looking like I was 24…when I was 24. Some of the stuff that happened to me at 24 is on my face RIGHT NOW. I wouldn’t be 24 again if you PAID me.

So, please, don’t feel sorry for me (although I suppose I can understand your horror at the chin hair thing).

PS – Use sunscreen. Seriously.

Shock and Awe on the Internet

2

My friend Derrick and I were talking about that moment when you stumble into some dark crevice of the web and realize that the internet is not as wonderful as you once thought.  And we weren’t even talking about the comments sections of most major news outlets.

I’ve had an online diary/blog/whatever kind of presence on the interwebs since the late 1990s.  So that’s — what? — at least 15 years?  And I’m not even counting my Prodigy account in ’94 or whenever.  And I can remember some of those early moments of total disillusionment.  I mean, not enough to scare me off the web…it’s sort of like your weird, drunk cousin.  You know you’re going to run into the weird, drunk cousin (WDC) at every family gathering.  You will have to endure WDC’s wine breath as WDC confides some deeply personal (and borderline disturbing) information that WDC has been DYING to tell you since the last wake/wedding/birthday party.  But you don’t STOP going to these things just because WDC is going to be there.  You go because there’s also a high probability of cake, and cake will always trump WDC.  Right?  And so it is with the internet.

But I remember the first time I encountered chatroom acronyms.  I remember venturing into the terrifying realm of Angelfire-hosted goth websites, navigating their spinning ankhs and dripping blood bars:

I remember my first “flame war,” with a creator of one of those said goth websites.  I remember the deep shame and remorse I felt as a result (“I’m picking a fight with a kid in a Christian Death tshirt…what the HELL is wrong with me?”).  I remember realizing that ANYONE could publish their terrifyingly execrable poetry for all to see.  I remember my first internet “stalkers.”  I remember the guy who kept sending me pictures of himself with his cat.  I remember Numa Numa.  I remember goatse.  I remember MySpace.

But none of these things have kept me off the internet.  I began to feel as though I was becoming jaded.  I’d seen so much over the years.  Once I’d seen Cryptie, I reasoned, could I really be surprised by anything anymore?

Never underestimate the vast universe of WTF?! that is the internet.  Because one evening (the eve of my 42nd birthday, if you want to get precise), I was confronted with a heretofore unprobed dark corner of the web.

Bunnies humping balloons.

BUNNIES.  HUMPING.  BALLOONS.

You guys.  This is a THING, you guys.

Bunnies humping balloons is a THING.

My mind is completely blown.

To post or not to post…

0

There are a couple of pictures making the rounds on Facebook lately.

Political Posts!  Boo!

Political Posts!  Yay!

As I’ve tried very hard to do over the last couple of months, I see both sides of it.  People are REALLY concerned over what’s going to happen come November 6th.  I’M  really concerned over what’s going to happen come November 6th.  Truly.  I grew up in a family where political sociology was as likely to be the subject at cookouts and birthday parties as the outcome of whatever playoffs were on the near horizon.  To not vote, to not engage in the process, to not care about the outcome…these things are anathema to me.

Anyone who knows me knows who I’m voting for.  Anyone who knows me knows what issues I’m most concerned about.  And to the question that’s been posed over and over of late:  Yes, I am better off today than I was in 2009.

I made a decision to stay “neutral” (relatively speaking) on Facebook because I was really turned off by some of the “discussions” that came of posting anything political.  I didn’t like some of the blatant untruths and obvious satire that were being passed around as gospel truth.  I didn’t like the hysterical, hyper-partisan mud-flinging, and a great deal of that was coming from ME.  And so, to anyone who asks:

I don’t get into it on Facebook because that’s not what I use Facebook for.

I use it to promote my writing or my band, to make dumb jokes, to keep in touch with old friends.  I use it to pass on the message of recovery.  And, yeah, I use it to post pictures of my dinner.  Sometimes my dinner is really exciting!

If anything, I’m most guilty of using it to post pictures of my cats.  And that, I realize, is even more annoying than political posts.

Stuff.

0

I made a decision today to – really and truly – not post about politics on Facebook.

This is not to say that I won’t talk politics with people, in person, where it’s somewhat slightly less liable to be all shout-y and misconstrued-y. I’m not apathetic, nor am I apolitical. I’ve just seen too many “discussions” get real ugly, real fast. It’s icky. I’ve tried to point out how polarizing the rhetoric has become, and I’m just not getting anywhere, certainly not on Facebook, so I’m taking my opinion ball and going elsewhere. Bounce it off a wall for a bit until I can find someone that wants to play fair.

Like maybe on Twitter.

Anyhoodles, I think part of my problem is that I’m still recovering from a week on the West Coast, where I absorbed far too much information on database software at a conference, sang a No Doubt song (rewritten to reference said database software) on the deck of the USS Midway (video of that…eventually), stood in buffet lines and ate a lot of heavy conference hotel food, and made the singularly EPIC mistake of going to see Tony Clifton “perform” in Los Angeles. If you don’t know who that is…look him up; I’m too exhausted to even TRY and explain the whole Tony Clifton thing (and to any Tony Clifton fans – this is not an invitation for you to try and explain the Tony Clifton thing to ME; I get what he’s doing…I just think he’s doing it WRONG).

BUT. I also saw Peter Murphy perform at The Roxy, which was stellar, and made me feel twenty years old again, if only for a few minutes.


I got in a little quality time with my best friend, had some of the best Ethiopian food EVER, and then made the second EPIC mistake of the week, which was to take a red-eye flight back to Boston. Ugh. BRUTAL. JetBlue gives you a little care package containing a sleep mask and earplugs, which is nice, but then they tell you NOT to cover all the way up with your little fuzzy travel blankie that the aforementioned database software company gave you for being a presenter at the conference, because then the flight attendants can’t tell if your seatbelt is fastened, so THEY WILL WAKE YOU UP if they can’t see it. And for some reason this made me very stressed out, so I would doze fitfully, then jerk awake to make sure I hadn’t covered my midsection with my fuzzy travel blankie. It was terrible.

Yes. I know. First world problems. Whatever.

So I got home this past Sunday morning, took a nap for about an hour, then went back out because it was my brother’s birthday, and he’s HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY OLD, plus my parents are in town and they rented this cute little beach house and I kind of wanted to go to the beach and maybe wash the airplane/Tony Clifton psychic grime from my spirit. And my niece Kaleigh climbed – unprompted – into my lap. And I felt much better.