The Only Princess I Could Be

leia-bun

I started elementary school in 1979.  That’s roughly two years after Star Wars: A New Hope was released, and about a year before The Empire Strikes Back hit the theaters.  Empire was the first movie that my parents took all of us to see, and I vividly remember the experience.  I don’t know if I’d seen the first movie on TV already, but I knew all about it.

I was a strongly opinionated little girl with no tolerance for bullshit and no interest in dolls.  I never lasted long in groups of girls.  They either played some mind-numbingly boring games involving feeding babies over and over, or they spent their time cruelly dividing each other up in order to hurt as many feelings as possible.  They didn’t DO anything.  I wanted to run and jump and use my imagination.  I wanted to have the chance to lead, to pick the adventure.  The girls included me only so long as I played by their rules and stayed in my place.  (Still very bad at staying in my place.)

Something amazing was happening in those years, though.  The boys at school spent every recess playing Star Wars games they’d made up, and I knew Star Wars.  I wanted to play, too, and because of Princess Leia–they needed me.  They didn’t just tolerate a girl playing with them, they had to welcome me and give me equal footing.  I was a part of decisions, I could save the day, and my ideas were just as valid as any the boys had.  During those years, I had a place where my strengths were celebrated as assets.  It was powerful stuff.

Of course, it changed as the boys moved on to Dungeons and Dragons and the girls got meaner.  David Brickey pushed me off the Big Toy and I hit him on the head with my Holly Hobby lunchbox.  Star Wars faded, and the games the boys were playing involved sports (let me tell you how many different kinds of athletic equipment have hit me in the eye) or sound effects that the girls used to mock me without mercy.  The Dungeon Master didn’t have the foresight to realize he would want to date me in high school, and didn’t let me join his campaigns.  I was gently nudged out of the boys’ world and had no place with the girls.  They didn’t want a Leia, they wanted followers.  I couldn’t do that.

It wasn’t all gloom and lonely pre-EMO moping, though.  There was a lot of that, don’t misunderstand, but I also carried that feeling–the truth that inside, I was just as worthy as Carrie Fisher’s unapologetically powerful Princess–for the rest of my life.  When my career was threatened by a traditional firm because I was “abrasive” and “challenging,” I found a better job and left.  I learned a little diplomacy and softened my rough edges, but I never surrendered my fire.  Neither did Princess Leia, and neither did Carrie Fisher.

Thank you for giving a square peg of a little girl the courage to argue that there ought to be a square hole, and a woman the strength not to strive for equality, but to assume it.  I owe you one, my Princess.  More than one.

iNappropriate

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iNappropriate

I think I’m in love with my phone.
I’d like to say “Not like THAT,”
But I’m not so sure that’s true, as I
Swipe this way, oh YES, and that.

I touch it more than my husband,
Passionately sedating myself.
What about him? Oh, I don’t know.
He can take care of himself.

I should put down my screen.
Ask him to go for a walk.
But if we could no longer text,
I can’t figure out how we’d talk?

 

Note: I’ve found the solution to this is to introduce your elementary-aged children to Pokémon Go. You’ll never have your phone again.  Also, whoops.  I forgot my titles are all caps, and a little capitalization joke wouldn’t show up.  I just didn’t plan ahead for capitalization jokes.

Pokemom. So?

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I’m forty-two years old
But don’t you say that I’m over.
You can’t even see my game
‘Cause I take my kids for cover.

I don’t care what it is,
Weedle, Meowth, or Spearow.
I’m gonna catch ’em all.
Hell, it’s my new careero.

I’m looking for that round thing
Covered in wriggly stuff.
Meanwhile, I’ll just grab my ‘balls
And catch this Jigglypuff.

I used twenty Pokeballs
Locking up a Gastly.
Never gonna give him up,
I’m the PokeRickAstley.

I’ve got so much Pokecred,
I’m the yugest Big Fromage.
Honestly, man, I’m so great
I deserve a Pokemontage.

When I finally get them all,
Spots, spikes, and paislies.
I bet they’ll be worth a FORTUNE,
Just like my Beanie Babies.

 

Note: Yes, people are actually selling their accounts full of rare Pokémon on eBay. I do not get this, just like I didn’t understand Beanie Babies during that craze. I buy bags of Beanie Babies at Goodwill, cut the carefully protected tags off, and wash them–then I give them to my kids to play with. Also…. #rickrolled.

I Do Not Believe You, George R.R. Martin

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I started watching that Game of Thrones,
I realize I’m a little behind.
Y’all are about 5,000 deaths ahead
But you keep going, I don’t mind.

See, I read the books already
So I’m not exactly a newbie.
I’m not shocked by a little blood
Or the sight of the ubiquitous booby.

I’m not scared of your spoilers,
I knew more than you did to start,
But my advantage seems to have slipped away
Because The Winds of Winter are mere farts.

Yes. I’m doubting you, Mr. Martin.
Another book? He’s just pretending.
I’ve given in, I’ll watch the show,
Just so I can see the ending.

Getting a PhD in Biochemistry Is a Lot Harder Than Running a 5K

We went to a wedding this weekend for one of my husband’s coworkers. I had met the affianced on a couple of occasions, and some people from the office were there, but otherwise I was swimming in a sea of strangers. Since I am naturally inclined to pop under the table when confronted with a Mass of Humanity[1], I had my best “executive wife” game face on. I was charming and engaged, offered a witty riposte when appropriate, listened with rapt attention when spoken to. (My rapt attention is a force of nature. Think of it like having Counselor Troi look deeply into your eyes and ask how you’re feeling. People spill.) I was using up my reserve of social interaction points, but not so quickly that I was worried about it.

Can you show me how to get...away from all these people?  Gah.  I can't breathe.

Can you show me how to get…away from all these people? Gah. I can’t breathe.

We watched the lovely couple say their vows and moved to tables to wait for the buffet line to open. After round seventy gazillion of pictures was done, the emcee introduced the wedding party with a few personal tidbits and seated them at the head table. It turns out, the sister of the groom has a PhD in biochemistry. This is a great and wonderful thing. Lady scientists are a huge intellectual turn-on for me. It’s knowing someone’s brain size before you even have to talk to her .

Now…maybe I’ve been hanging out in the running community too much lately. Certain behaviors are more accepted there than in regular society. For example, biochemists appear not to be used to getting a “high-five for science.” When I introduced myself to the lady scientist, she was quite taken aback to have someone fangirling her over her PhD. Since there was no alcohol at this wedding (gasp!), she spent a moment evaluating whether my apparent social and/or mental deficit was dangerous or just awkward. I did get my high-five, but I also got the question, “Why?”

I confess, I didn’t have a very good explanation. I hadn’t exactly thought out what I was going to say, well, because of running. If you slap palms with someone who just finished a race, they don’t stop and say, “Why did you do that?” They say, “Woooooo!!! Damn right I’m awesome!!! Wooooo!!!” So… I probably sounded sort of stupid, which was embarrassing and confusing. “Because SCIENCE!” wasn’t an adequate answer for an actual scientist. I have a college degree and a lettery credential of my own, but I couldn’t come up with anything convincing enough to stop her from asking who had invited me and how I was related to the wedding and did I really know her brother all that well?

She was quiet and sort of kept to herself.  - All the Neighbors After They Found the Bodies

She was quiet and sort of kept to herself.  She didn’t look crazy.          – All the Neighbors After They Found the Bodies

I’ve had time to think about it a little more. Here’s what I wanted the science lady to know: Science is something that I am personally very grateful for. Science has not only saved my life, but improved the quality of my life in ways that I don’t explain to most people, because science made it so I don’t have to. I was born with a cleft lip/cleft palate. I have had five reconstructive surgeries. In the 1800’s, my chances of surviving infancy would have been very bad. Instead, I had two surgeries, and my mom fed me using specialized equipment made of those space-age plastics that were so popular in the mid-twentieth century. Then, like all cleft palate kids, I had about 471 ear infections, several of which were bad enough to have cooked my brain without antibiotics. At the very least, I would be deaf for all intents and purposes. Then, in high school, I had three reconstructive surgeries to make my appearance more symmetrical and close my palate. Oh, and ten years of orthodontia, because I had a seriously messed up snaggletooth thing going on.

There are countless ways that science touches everything we do—but science touches a lot of what I am. I do not have to explain to people what is “wrong” with my face. Sometimes people see it (generally they have a close relative with a cleft lip), but mostly they see a little scar. My speech doesn’t have the nasal echo that a cleft palate often causes. I have never thought of it as a handicap. I have, however, said many grateful prayers that I was born when and where I was (and for parents who sought out the best doctors with the best possible approach). The medical skill and technique was available. I not only survived, but thrived. I feel grateful to those scientists—the doctors, the researchers, the chemical engineers—because without their discoveries and techniques, I would be a completely different person. Science saved my life, and gave me more of a life than I could have ever hoped for 100 years before.

On top of that, when a woman goes into a field that is traditionally dominated by men, as most of STEM is—she deserves a little extra support from the rest of us. I worked at a large semiconductor company, and I’ve seen what it’s like to be the only technical woman in the room. I have an Up With Women campaign going, where I support women I know individually. It’s my own brand of microfeminism[2]. See a woman doing something cool? Run over and tell her you think it’s cool. Here’s the template: “Hey, insert name, I just wanted to tell you that I really admire how you _______________. It’s something that makes the world a better place.” End of story. Don’t add “because I can’t do that” or “I wish I could do that” or “but your shoes are atrocious.” Don’t make it about you. If women could be supportive of women in an unqualified way…maybe the opinions of all those men in those male-dominated STEM fields would be easier to navigate. Be in someone’s corner. Tell her that bread is delicious. Tell her that PhD looks really fine on her. Tell her that the screaming tantrum her toddler threw is not a sign of failure, it’s normal, and you appreciate how she handled it. Be her fan, even when it’s awkward and makes you feel slightly silly.

You may want to put more thought and effort into your supportive actions.

You may want to put more thought and effort into your supportive actions.

I’m not sorry I went over and did my fangirl routine at the smart lady scientist. Sure, it was sort of awkward at first, but by the time I got to my little “Yeah, Science!” hoppy cheer[3], she had pretty much decided I was just a harmless nutter. I’m going to work on my technique and do it again the next chance I get. Maybe I will start carrying an autograph book with me and collect signatures–because getting a doctorate full of sciency goodness is a hell of a lot harder than running a 5K. Women of STEM, I am unabashedly a fan. Give me an S! Give me a C! Give me an I….
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[1] A Mass of Humanity is any group of people over six, whether I know them all or not.

[2] I made up this word, as far as I know. It’s far more than just being nice and giving an occasional compliment. I probably should write a whole “thing” about it. It means ditching your own insecurities and competitive judginess, and just helping another woman see something about herself that she desperately needs to. For example—fighting for your employee to get the raise she deserves, so you can tell her that she kicks ass tangibly. Or telling a woman who is habitually thoughtful that you admire that, and want to be her when you grow up. TELL them. It’s a personal touch. It’s someone you know, or someone you would like to know.  I have mixed feelings about “FEMINISM,” but that doesn’t mean I’m not into women.  Wait… um.  …  I have no graceful exit from that.

[3] Yes, I really did a little cheer and hopped up and down. This is the part of the routine that needs the most work. The French judge didn’t deign to score it, and the Russian….yeesh. Ouch.

Facebook: More Like Christmas, Less Like Oxygen

I have a new Power Pose now.  I usually just go for the “Top of the Hill,” which I do…at the top of a hill, after I run up it.  It involves looking out over the horizon, hands on hips, while desperately attempting to control my breathing so I don’t die.  It is full of awesome.  Today I added “Noticing Reality” to my repertoire.  To do this Power Pose, open Facebook on your phone.  Then set the phone on the counter and turn your back on it for two minutes.  You will be filled with either a gripping panic that you might have missed something, or you will realize that the front of the refrigerator is so covered with face-shaped smudges that you’re not sure if it’s white or stainless.  You may even realize that it looks this crappy because you have been looking at funny cat pictures and haven’t cleaned the house in three weeks.

I'm really glad I Liked that comment before anyone else did.  Priorities intact.

I’m really glad I Liked that comment before anyone else did. Priorities intact.

I have a Facebook problem.  I actually wear out the protective screen on my iPhone over the Facebook app before anywhere else.  It has become such a reflex that I sometimes open Facebook when I mean to open something else.  I only have 91 Facebook friends, because I sort of insist on only connecting with people I would actually meet for coffee, and how much can they really be up to since three minutes ago?  Often…nothing, despite the fact that I am checking once a day for each of them.  All I’m getting is updates from the Pages I’ve liked.  I am rubbing a hole in my phone to see that some guy I’ve never met just ran 100 miles in a tutu.  Good for him, but that floor isn’t vacuuming itself, even if I told the kids that was what I was going to do upstairs.

Why do I check it so often?  Read: Why am I so pathetic?  Well, I am an introvert and a mom who stays home.  Some days, especially if Mr. YSBH is traveling, Facebook is the bulk of my adult interaction.  There are days when it is ALL of my adult interaction.  I could go join a group of moms to drink coffee and talk about nothing but our kids.  I could get involved in something.  I could do a lot of things.  I don’t, because I don’t have the social energy right now.  An introverted person who stays at home all day with small children is borrowing social energy from the atmosphere already.  Real actual people, I think you’re great, but you exhaust me.  Facebook gives me a way to spy on keep in touch with you, without having to interact with you.

BUT THEN….there is that beautiful thing that happens in the morning.  I wake up, stretch my arms over my head, and reach for my phone to check Facebook.  NOTIFICATION TIME!  How many will I have this morning?  2? 6?  Because my phone gets in my face so much during the day, I rarely have more than a couple of notifications.  But every morning, it’s like Christmas.  Except I guess some days I was bad, because I don’t get anything, but that doesn’t really help my story along here….so….anyway…  Anytime I am able to ignore my Facebook for a few hours, I get an armload of comments to enjoy.  I keep my posts sort of light-hearted and entertaining most of the time, and I like to know that I’ve made someone laugh or think.  Having a pile of notifications to sort through is fun and gives me a chance to think about what I wrote and who was interested or amused.

OMAGHERD!  LOOK AT ALL THE PRESENTS!!!

OMAGHERD! LOOK AT ALL THE PRESENTS!!!

What would happen if I started treating Facebook like this all the time?  What if I took it off my phone and checked a few times a day on the computer?  I’d miss some things.  I wouldn’t be in the middle of some conversations that I currently enjoy.  The world might miss out on some of my funny.  Rather than breathing Facebook interaction like oxygen, I would open it up like a special package.  It would take a smaller place in my life.  I might not be in the cool kids of Facebook club anymore, because timing really is everything.  The pace of my life might slow down just a little bit.

This picture, while chock-full of oxygen, does not quite have the same magic.

This picture, while chock-full of oxygen, does not quite have the same magic.

Can I do this, this “slow living” experiment?  Can I post my updates a couple of times a day, read what my friends have written, and let the rest of the world pass me by?  I tried it the other day.  I spent a Sunday doing other things, and left my phone on the charger, partly because a friend and I had agreed to do it together.  I cleaned stuff.  I finished up the macaroni thing and posted it.  I did a lot of stuff.  I didn’t feel like I missed much.  The next day, I was right back to whanging away at the Facebook app like it controls the very beating of my heart.  It’s fun to have Christmas, but not *every day*.  That would get old.

Twitter Is Just As Bad As I Thought It Was

I just recently started a Twitter account. I avoided Twitter like the plague for a long time, because I thought it was a time-sucking bunch of inane drivel. Then, a few months ago, my friend Tom Racine (@talltaleradio) convinced me to start writing a blog. Then, he said, “You have to get a Twitter account to promote it.” I replied that I didn’t want to and he couldn’t make me, because he is not my Dad. For a few days, however, the thought kept nagging at me. What if he was right? What if the little push my fledgling blog needed was a few simple tweets?

It has worked just as well as my MSPaint skills would indicate.

It has worked just as well as my MSPaint skills would indicate.

I went out to Twitter and looked up a couple of variants of my blog name, You Should Be Happy. Wow…no one had chosen “@YouShouldBHappy” yet! I’m not sure what happened after that. I think it was a bit like an auction, where you end up buying that box of garbage for $500—because if that other guy is bidding, it must be awesome. I thought that I’d better snap that up, because when my blog hits the big time, someone else might take it and try to capitalize on my success. How lucky for me that it wasn’t taken! What an opportunity! Don’t let it pass me by, oh please don’t let someone else be poised with their finger above the enter key before I can make it MINE.

So, I signed up for Twitter. I felt kind of dirty and didn’t really want to tell anyone about it, sort of like that time that Carlos Danger sent me that picture online. I made a tiny mention of it. Two of my friends followed me right away. And then a Complete Stranger followed me. I thought he must have picked it up from one of my other friends, because they are both into comics (the art kind, not the onstage kind). Cool! A Complete Stranger (sort of) is interested in seeing my tweets! Yeah! I followed him back, just to be nice. You see how naïve I am? I didn’t realize about the quid pro quo out there…

Until…another Complete Stranger followed me! A COMEDIAN. For me, well, this was great news. He is a *corporate COMEDIAN, but still. He had a couple of thousand followers. This was going to be fantastic. My Twitter future was looking bright. Two days later… he unfollowed me. I guess I didn’t follow him back fast enough. I thought:

“Maybe I should follow him, and see if he refollows me. At the very least, I can unfollow him a couple of days later, and see how HE likes it.”

So I did, and he didn’t, and I did. I’m not proud of that. I should have just passed a note to my BFF during third period that said, “Kevin is a big jerk! We won’t EVER talk to HIM again!!!!!” (Please note, his real name is Kevin, with a K, just like I’ve spelled it here. Feel free to find him and give him a piece of your mind.)

Miss Craig, would you like to bring that up to the front of class and read it for everyone? - Rhetorical Teacher

Miss Craig, would you like to bring that up to the front of class and read it for everyone? – Rhetorical Question Teacher

I’ve been out there for a couple of months now. I am baffled by the behavior of what I believe to be adults, for the most part. Here are the strangest behaviors that I’ve seen:

  • Celebrity Stalkers: Dear Celebrity Person, please please please follow me, because I want to tell my friends that you are following me! Dude, none of your friends are going to believe that you have ANY RELATIONSHIP WHATSOEVER with that famous person. They are going to think that you begged and whined in a desperate and pathetic fashion to get someone to pretend to be your friend in an imaginary world where their identity often isn’t even certain. Sounds like a grand way to use your time and measure your self-worth.
  • Retweety Birds: They never met a tweet they didn’t want to instantly retweet. They retweet someone else’s thoughts and jokes and writing all day long, never adding an original character. If your job, or avocation, is promoting an art form, a cause, or whatnot…fine. I will know that when I follow @catzpicsallday, I am going to get a bunch of pictures of cats. If I follow @originalthoughts, I would like something besides a bunch of Monty Python quotes.
  • Support Stalkers: I admit, I tweeted a rather cranky comment about how Norton Antivirus keeps interrupting my writing to tell me that it has expired, like some over-friendly ghost that pops in to say, “Yep. Still dead! That’s me, all dead,” every five minutes. While I enjoy being Kittyfriended[1] to a certain extent, I don’t really want to have to get a piece of software out of my face every 15 minutes. Now I have a new friend! Norton Support! I think the Corporate Stated Goal is to ensure that every Norton user has a top-notch experience, or somesuch thing like that. This will be accomplished by publicly announcing that they heard what I said behind their back, and they don’t appreciate me talking sh&t about them, and if I’m going talk sh&t, I’d better tweet it at their faces.
Oh, I see, it's a protection racket.  Pay up, or you might have a little "accident," if you know what I mean...

Oh, I see, it’s a protection racket. Pay up, or you might have a little “accident,” if you know what I mean…

  • The Perpetually Pissed Off: Wow. You have ground that axe down to a nubbin and yet you go on and on and on. I followed one person because I thought the name on the account was clever. Turns out, that one small bit of clever was spawned during the tweeter’s brief flirtation with lithium. The rest of the time, he or she is a raging psychotic, and delights in offending and berating Complete Strangers for any wrong, real or imagined. It was terrifying and extremely annoying. UNFOLLOW, dammit, why am I not unfollowing you faster?[2]
  • The Promoters: I have a thing! Look at me! I’m on a book tour! I’m signing things! I wrote a crummy thing about Twitter, which I am now going to promote on Twitter! I obviously don’t have a problem with the occasional tweet about your thing. It’s a good way to tell people about things and stuff. I do get tired of incessant tweets about your thing. I am probably not as obsessed with your thing as you are.
  • The Weirdest Person Contestants: I did not even know that these people existed, or that they knew the alphabet. Actually, some are more adept with the alphabet than others (see @jonnysun for an apparently clever person abusing the alphabet). It seems that they spend a great portion of the day coming up with the oddest things they can. Sometimes, it is really funny. Sometimes, it is just weird, and worse, they tend to build off one another. At some point, the weirdness level is going to be so high, that it will cause a black hole to form within Twitter, and everyone’s tweets will get sucked into another dimension, and we will be able to smell them. See what I did there? That is weird. I probably should put in some typos and tweet it.

    Hey!  I'm here for the number pic....  oh.  Hi, D.  Very clever, yeah, I get it.  Ummm... get out of the way.

    Hey! I’m here for the number pic…. oh. Hi, D. Very clever, yeah, I get it. Ummm… get out of the way.

The whole experience is a bit like Student Council Elections in the 8th Grade. Millions of people competing to be Class President, with homemade marker and glitter signs. The cool kids…are already the cool kids. The wanna-be crowd is unlikely to become the cool kids. There are a few stand-outs who have made reputations, and built followings, based on the quality of what they have to say, including how they condense it into as few characters as possible. That’s cool. I’m not going to cancel my Twitter account, even though I don’t much like the overall vibe or the medium. After all, I have to keep telling my six followers about updates to the blog. I’m sure it is the highlight of that Norton Support guy’s day.

Oh…and follow me at @YouShouldBHappy. There’s a little clicky button on the side of the page right there.

Postscript: I now have five followers. The guy who draws the incredibly violent comic book has unfollowed ALL of his Twitterites except the Rajneesh. The actual Rajneesh who took over Antelope, OR, with his fleet of rainbow Cadillacs. Being a Native Oregonian, I remember the news coverage of the Rajneesh and his actions, many of which were not as above-board as you might think a “spiritual leader’ would strive for, including the first act of domestic bioterrorism. The Rajneesh has been dead for 23 years, and is still annoying Oregonians from the grave. Well played, sir.


[1] Kittyfriending is the process of getting all right up into someone’s face and meowing repeatedly until they break down and pet you. Kittyfriend was a neighborhood stray at our first house; he was aggressively friendly to the point of absurdity, which was oddly charming. Long live beautiful, scraggly, big-hearted Kittyfriends.

[2] I finally got this lunatic unfollowed. Two days later, Twitter sent me an e-mail suggesting other accounts that were like “@nutzball.” I guess this was to help me find the right kind of crazy, because I obviously wanted some crazy in my feed.