Monday, May 1, 2017

on being happy and guilty

2017. I've had such a beautiful, blessed, sprawling life so far: twenty-three privileged years of being white and wealthy and loved and safe. 

There was public school in suburbia. A Bachelor's degree. An apartment with a hot tub.

Parents who came to all my guitar recitals and poetry readings and choir concerts and who showed up for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Timberline Middle School six nights in a row when I was playing Potiphar's Sexy Maid in 8th grade. Parents who read Faulkner and Steinbeck and Brontë and Dickens and Le Guin. Parents who took me to church on Sundays and picked me up from Kaitlyn's house late at night and drove me all over Utah County. Parents who fed me whole wheat bread and never smoked crack cocaine or whatever.

A big rock house in the middle of an old naturalist artist's community from the 1970s surrounded by woods and weeds and sunflowers and sage brush. A romping, rolling fairy wildlife as my childhood: deer and raccoons and scrub jays, the dirty foothills behind the house, a hot black trampoline in the summer. Air-conditioning. Land Rovers and Jeeps and Jimmys. Rescuing little hurt baby things from the rough wildnerness of my neighborhood: premature kittens and a squirrel with a broken leg and a pair of tiny, raw-looking starlings that rode from California to Utah in the hood of an old John Deere tractor and died after a few days. My dad drawing cartoons in his wood-smelling studio and watching Bonanza and Gunsmoke at lunchtime. My mom making big, cheeky, panoramic art quilts and winning blue ribbons for them. My dad showing me Harryhausen films and The X-Files and The Twilight Zone and Raising Arizona. My brother coming in dirty from soccer, or tennis, or whatever. My mom baking elaborate loaves of bread and sketching in a notebook when she got bored at church. My dad playing Scarborough Fair on the guitar downstairs when I was falling asleep at night. My brother reading Garth Nix and Hellboy and Brandon Sanderson. My mom playing Carol King loudly when she cleaned.

I, like, skied as a kid. I had a family where everyone just went to college like it was no problem. Everyone loves each other so, so much. We all call each other just to talk. My mom always buys the Girl Scout Cookie cupcakes I like on my birthday. My dad is working on Curious George. Me and Dylan are both writing novels. My sister-in-law just directed a production of The Jungle Book. Everyone is happy, and weird, and wonderful.

So I'm bragging about my sunny, pastoral life ad nauseam. The thing I'm attempting to convey is less gloating and more bewilderment. More bafflement. More astonished, astounded, eye-blinking/eye-rubbing, dazed wandering through the halcyon sunbeam of everything that has essentially just been handed over to me randomly and reasonlessly. I was basically just plonked unceremoniously into a dreamscape with all the lovely, wonderful things I could've ever needed or wanted. I can't even believe my own buck-wild luckiness.

I'm graduating from college with a Film degree (eye-roll) and a Creative Writing minor (eye-roll) and a Women's Studies minor (mm, I'm not eye-rolling this one). I spend every single day with Hunter Phillips, who is ambitious and easygoing and gracious and brilliant.

Here's Hunter: tall, leggy, left-handed, an American citizen, a Mormon convert. A movie-watcher. A dog owner. Currently reading Flanner O'Connor. Full of political/global angst. Lover of The West. Honest and upstanding and sexy in a vaguely cartoony way. A feminist. Hunter Phillips has promised me a Boston Terrier. Dating Hunter is like dating Abraham Lincoln. I wish we were all dating Hunter.

I'm healthy and young and basically graduated from college. Nothing scary under my bed. I'm neurotic and anxious and moody and full of venom -- I've been heartbroken and depressed and scared and self-conscious and a lot of other unhappy things -- but my life is essentially good.

I don't believe that I've ever done anything to deserve the life I have more than someone else. I truly think this was all bonkers, stupid luck -- and that stresses me out so much. There are better people than me living in worse conditions, in unhappier circumstances, and in tragedy.

I want to talk about the weird guilt of being #blessed.

I think it's important to note that I'm not just talking about pure, simple happiness in this post, I'm talking broadly about happiness + privilege. Being able to live so freely and with so few social dangers is a product of being born white and upper middle class in Utah. There are certain luxuries, liberties, and securities that I get to take advantage of simply because I'm not part of a marginalized minority -- and let me make it explicitly clear that the privileges that I have because I'm straight and white and cisgender and have wealthy American parents are unfair and the fact that my quality of life is better because of this privilege is wrong and sinister and it is a giant problem that the entire world is facing right now.

Here's what I think is the closest thing you can get to Making Up For It: freakin' spreading the wealth and sacrificing hard for those who aren't as arbitrarily lucky as you. It's not settling into the charmed, cheerful goodness of being safe and prosperous and healthy and just watching it pan out before you greedily, accumulating more and more privilege to the point where you can't identify with or really even recognize those who are in the midst of The Struggle. And I'm not just talking about donating to women's shelters or the WWF or putting in long hours at the local food bank -- although these things are all wonderful and noble and necessary, and we do need to be serving in these capacities. But I'm talking about just the regular scope of your everyday life. You on Twitter. You in statistics class. You at the mall. There's a certain way to weaponize your own privilege against privilege. Learn to engage in productive discussions about privilege/disadvantage and speak up against problematic behaviors and ideologies; learn to step aside when it's time for someone else -- someone who doesn't have the same built-in entitlement that you do -- to enter a space of success or authority that maybe doesn't include you for once. Maybe it isn't our ("our" meaning those of us who are wealthy and straight and white and whatever else) time to harvest wildly and overwhelmingly anymore. What we're hoping is that the millennium-long tyranny of Straight White Males can finally end and that women, PoC, the LGBT+ community, everyone that didn't have it so easy, can finally be in a position to experience the kind of freedom and safety and general quality of life that we've been taking advantage of for so, so long. It isn't about reversing the oppression dynamic so that all straight white people will be oppressed the way minorities have been for centuries -- it's about fixing the oppression dynamics altogether so that antiquated systems of hate and degradation and bias won't have to exist at all.

So it's about moving aside and not taking all the easiest routes every time. It's about letting other people have some of what you have, and not hoarding every good thing for yourself. It's about not getting everything first and best and only

One thing that I feel very strongly is that there is enough bounty, enough delight, enough joy to go around, but the world has been taught to be selfish. I don't think that sacrificing and working for other people is a means of letting go of the gifts and pleasures that you already have, it's more of a way to broaden and expand them, and to let other people fit inside your privileged circle of safety and good fortune.

I live in luxury and abundance, gluttony even. The thing that I'm trying to better is to make it so other people don't have to have such a hard time because my good, easy life.

"My head cocked toward the sky, I cannot get off the ground." (James Tate)
-Avery Jalaine

Friday, February 24, 2017

against 'good enough'

I've been thinking a lot about the different ways people settle in relationships. It seems like hardly anyone is dating/married to the person they originally wanted to be dating/married to, but that they've made so many compromises and adjustments just to be with SOMEONE that they've contented themselves with settling. 

I was kind of halfheartedly doing some research and discovered an article by Lori Gottlieb in the March 2008 issue of The Atlantic called "Marry Him!: the case for settling for Mr. Good Enough." Essentially Gottlieb is like, "Bleh! You women are too fussy! It's too hard to find someone you really want to be with! JUST SETTLE FOR SOMEONE WHO SEEMS OKAY." This line of thinking makes me want to die one million times. Maybe I'm a little snobby about the whole idea of settling because Not Settling Ever has worked for me every time. I can think of every guy who tried to date me who I dumped and I still feel really confident about all of my choices. I have good instincts about who I like and who makes me happy and who I want to spend time with -- and I think everyone has these same good instincts -- so trying to force myself into situations with people who fall short of my standards never really works; I'm always left bored or annoyed or apathetic and ultimately unhappy

Gottlieb says, "My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling 'Bravo!' in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)" Like, sorry? I think Gottlieb is underestimating every single woman by assuming that women are incapable of recognizing when someone is or isn't actually making them happy. 

I've been noticing, like, an onslaught of settling recently. I have friends who are dating guys because "it's better to have someone to go cuddle than nobody" and friends who are dating guys because of family pressure. I know someone who is dating a guy to get over another guy. Moreover, I'd definitely include jumping into serious relationships too quickly as settling, because it's 100% settling for the Honeymoon Phase or settling for not-bothering-to-get-to-really-know-somebody. It's settling for a fantasy rather than reality. 
Someone I love is getting engaged after two and a half months of knowing her boyfriend -- as in, less than ninety days; as in, less than a semester -- because "she just knows." I see fear and desperation and loneliness, but I don't see any self-care or confidence or self-love. Everybody deserves to be in a relationship that is both exciting and sustainable, a relationship that they actually want to be in that doesn't feel like an afterthought or self-preservation against a lonely future. 

I'd also like to point out that the opposite of settling isn't just finding the hottest boyfriend with rock-solid abs and a billion dollars and a Mazarati.
Another friend of mine is supposed to get married in March and recently texted me that she's having major doubts. She isn't happy. Her fiance has "all the right things": a temple recommend, a high GPA, a future in some money-making field, a Herschel backpack, a fixed-gear bike, a bunch of nice friends, a big welcoming family, a Tumblr blog. But despite everything that my friend isn't settling for, her fiance has never been interesting enough or smart enough or strong enough or brave enough. Just because a person looks right for the part doesn't mean that you're compatible on a really basic, primitive level. You can settle for all the minutia of a personality that doesn't impress you mentally/emotionally, and that's still heartbreaking and unfair and serious.
Another thing I've been feeling baffled by is Twitter re: relationships. Provo Twitter is a weirdly bleak and desolate place for a lot of single/dating/engaged people because the pressure for young Mormons to find literally anyone to get married to is amplified by the echo-chamber of similarly frustrated and/or lonely voices. I love Twitter and all the friends I've made there, but some of the relationships I've seen form between "mutual followers" are alarming and, like, super super super embarrassing. I'm not really an insider in the local community of Instagram or Snapchat or whatever, but I kind of imagine that it's vaguely the same situation. The problem is that a lot of these relationships are forming on a base of nothing -- mostly just one lonely voice calling out *into the void* or whatever and a similar lonely voice answering -- so these relationships become toxic and flimsy because they're ungrounded and phony and insubstantial. I truly believe that a relationship cannot be founded simply on mutual loneliness, or mutual wanting-a-significant-other-very-badly-because-all-their-friends-and-all-their-siblings-are-married-and-their-bishop-has-been-pressuring-them-and-it-sucks-to-sit-at-the-kids-table-with-the-rest-of-the-unmarried-cousins-and-their-ex-started-dating-again-and-it-would-be-a-lot-easier-if-they-could-just-settle-down-with-someone. It's settling. It's settling for a relationship that isn't rooted in truth or reality.

I guess this is kind of an unfair thing to post about so critically because I'm the kind of person who would rather not be dating anyone at all than be dating someone who has an annoying Twitter presence or talks about football too much or doesn't read or whatever -- especially because my dating track record is kind of this barren landscape of romantic casualties: I'm famous for not giving anyone the benefit of the doubt, for being "picky," for having impossible standards,
for being brutal, for being unimpressable and undateable. Maybe I'm not the right authority to be like, "Everyone Is Settling!!" because I'm unusually hard on guys and might be the outlier here. Maybe everyone is having a good time settling and I'm just being a crabby goblin about it. Maybe my crazy high standards are just that: CRAZY, and maybe everyone else would be unhappy being as fastidious and particular about the people they spend time with as I am.

But then again, my pickiness and bonkers high standards led to Hunter Phillips: the smartest, silliest, most interesting boy of all the boys. Loving Hunter has never been settling because I wanted smart and he's the smartest. I wanted kind and he's the kindest. I wanted funny and he's the funniest. I wanted weird and he's the weirdest. I wanted talented and he's the most talented. I never had to go through some weird phase where I thought he was kind of gross or cheesy or dumb or narrow-minded. I never had to come around to the idea of loving him. I never had to teach myself how to love him. Hunter is easy, even obvious, to love. Everybody is in love with Hunter.

I don't want this blog post to seem gloat-y or smug or like I'm against compromise. I don't want it to seem like I'm not aware that "perfect" doesn't really exist and that finding someone who is really, really, really good is HARD. Even your ~soul mate~ or whatever is going to have some weird habits and annoying opinions, blah blah blah blah. I don't want to have to baby everyone by doing some big dumb disclaimer about something we all technically understand about how relationships work. The bottomline is this: you don't have to settle for someone who has flaws, opinions, habits, etc. that you don't want to settle for. 

Everybody is allowed to be super, super, super in love and not to feel distantly sad about it, like maybe you're better than this. Like maybe you could be happier with someone else. Like maybe you're settling after all.

-Avery Jalaine

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

november anthology

november anthology: beloved objects and wonders
(numerals are links)

i. Dark Things by Novica Tadić, translated from Serbian by Charles Simic
ii. Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest (especially the song "Fill in the Blank")
iii. "Goodtime Jesus" by James Tate
iv. Long Winter Farm perfume oil in "Porridge"
v. "David Lynch Keeps His Head" by David Foster Wallace
vi. Margaret Atwood's "Songs of the Transformed," particularly "Pig Song"
vii. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
viii. Misery (1990)
ix. A Hat That Says Movies On It
x. Action: A Book About Sex by Amy Rose Spiegel
xi. "The Female Body" by Margaret Atwood
xii. Malcolm in the Middle season one
xiii. Boscia Black Cleanser
xiv. Charlie Rose's 2001 interview with Jonathan Franzen about The Corrections
xv. Warm Buttered Bread scented candle by Village Candle
xvi. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen
xvii. The Roches by The Roches
xviii. "Gettin' Fat" by Margot & The Nuclear So And So's
xix. The Handmaiden (2016)
xx. "A Story about the Body" by Robert Haas
xxi. D&C 6:34
xxii. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet H. Murray
xxiii. "Diving into the Faery Handbag: On Fabulism" by Melissa Goodrich
xxiv. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace
xxv. "Hey, Ho Nobody Home" (traditional)
xxvi. Black Mirror season 3 episode 1 "Nosedive"
xxvii. Adventureland (2009)
xxviii. "Low Impact Fat Burning Workout" by Adam Fitzgerald
xxix. Rifle Paper Co. 2017 Scarlett Birch 17-month planner
xxx. "Inhospitable" by Emily Perez

Ad nauseam!
-Avery Jalaine

Sunday, October 23, 2016

i can't do this but i'm doing it anyway!

You're allowed to watch anime.

You're allowed to take long showers and shave up to the knee. You're allowed to take months and months to re-read Infinite Jest. You're allowed to eat trash and junk and carbs and sugar. You're allowed to stop eating meat and be stubborn and sanctimonious about it. You're allowed to hate salad. You're allowed to read and read and read and read and read, read voraciously and chaotically, read urban gothic and haptic poetry and cyberpunk and New Weird and cosmic horror and occult detective and American realism and magical realism and hysterical realism. You're allowed to tweet selfies. You're allowed to go to Slab Pizza alone. You're allowed to put Joni Mitchell and Ariana Grande and The Kinks and XTC on the same playlist. You're allowed to be unreasonable. You're allowed to be difficult. You're allowed to be ambitious. You're allowed to be demanding. You're allowed to be hard to impress.

You're allowed to be bored of people who are boring. You're allowed to be picky. You're allowed to have high standards and be a little bit ruthless. You're allowed to develop a gang of artists and thinkers and beauties and prodigies and you're allowed to be hysterical with them. You're allowed to be friends with people who are hugely, massively, terribly intelligent and talented and interesting and funny and kind and weird and good. Smarter than you. More talented and more interesting than you. Funnier and kinder and weirder and better than you. You're allowed to be friends with truly terrifying wonders; geniuses; freaks; anyone who is wonderful and no one is who isn't. You're allowed to choose people who feel like they're maybe a little bit magic, like they are capable of everything, like they're practically not human, like they are so so so good that you almost can't possibly stand it.

You're allowed to be friends with girls who are shy and freckled, who are reading Atwood and listening to Beck, who have been bright and loyal and levelheaded for as long as you can remember. Girls who are campy and cuddly and uproarious and unfailing, who have BAD TASTE IN MUSIC (*cabaret) and a weird kink for building furniture. Girls who, inexplicably, love the Mets and are taking over print journalism and politics and yoga and the rest of the world. Girls who are tall and red-haired and stylin' and silly, girls who wear blue lipstick and read palms, girls who are generous and watch the same trashy tv shows that you watch, girls who gaff, girls you've been friends with since junior high, girls who mom you, marathon-running girls, Twitter girls, girls you didn't speak to for two years because you were proud and bitter and venomous, party-throwing girls with boundless energy and 1,000,000 vintage coats and platform shoes. You're allowed to be friends with pretentious Japanese film snobs who've got a big ol' boner for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You're allowed to be friends with boys with slow, gravelly laughs and long rock-climbing arms who are brave and sincere and devoted and unflinchingly, terrifyingly honest. Boys who want to talk about zombie theory. Boys who are easy laughers, boys who rattle off film trivia like it's the weather, boys with sprawling D&D campaigns, boys who want to talk to you about Vonnegut, boys who majored in economics and got rich, boys who loved you and then realized you were too feckless and unruly, boys you work with, vegan boys, boys in bands.

You're allowed to be whip-smart and hilarious, a holy terror, precious, charming, a tiny bit mean in a playful way. You're allowed to enter rooms like a hand grenade detonating, all sparkle and body and growly laughter. You're allowed to be the center of attention sometimes because when you're on you're really on; you're allowed to tell long stories and gesture with your hands and be hammy and gracious and ungodly.

You're allowed to snarl.

You're allowed to write essays about The Terminator and Kick-Ass and Moon. You're allowed to take two more upper-division poetry classes even though you honestly just need to graduate. You're allowed to argue with boys in class about Evan McMullin.

You're not allowed to become a scholastic mess: abandoning your homework, rolling into class an hour late, refusing help. You're not allowed to read Geek Love during Film Theory or Consider the Lobster during History of the Moving Image or Perdido Street Station during Doctrine & Covenants. You're not allowed to fail. You're not allowed to lie about failing.

You're allowed to be no fun at parties. You're allowed to say "no" to dates. You're allowed to say "no" to hangouts and dinners and opening socials and watching Tron: Legacy at your friend's brother's apartment. You're allowed to stay in on Friday nights with your bad skin and ratty leggings, and you're allowed to watch Grey's Anatomy in the dark.

You're allowed to be mean and ugly and sullen during your period, crying weirdly and miserably and for the hell of it into the night. You're allowed to wear Hunter's big flannel shirt to school three days in a row. You're allowed to bleed through your jeans. You're allowed to wallow. You're allowed to bitch.

You're allowed to wear fishnet tights and steel-toed Dr. Martens to church and everybody else is allowed to deal with it. You're allowed to skip Relief Society a lot of the time; trust me, it's fine. You're allowed to say long, strange prayers and neurotically read the Book of Job. You're certainly, completely, 100% allowed to watch rated R movies despite what your mother thinks. You're allowed to be full of doubt and angst and moral vinegar. You're allowed to believe whatever you want.

You're allowed to prowl up to those you love and put your body on their body. You're allowed to wear tight jeans and push-up bras and let your hair fall loose and yellow all the way down your back. You're allowed to undress a little. You're allowed to move your hips. You're allowed to flirt. You're allowed to let people feel exactly how soft your skin is -- practically excruciatingly soft -- and you're allowed to be devastating.

You're not allowed to date someone from Joke Twitter. I'm not kidding. You're not allowed to date someone who makes puns. You're not allowed to date someone who does that sulky smolder face in Instagram photos. You're not allowed to date someone who posts memes. You're not allowed to date someone who won't hang out with your friends or watch The Last 5 Years or go to Sodalicious even though they hate it. You're not allowed to date someone braggy. You're not allowed to date someone controlling or angry or who tells you what to wear. You're not allowed to date someone who doesn't know where your clitoris is, in theory or in practice. You're not allowed to date someone who throws tantrums online and has to disable Twitter for a little while. You're not allowed to date someone who flirts with other people right in front of you. You're not allowed to date a business major or an accountant or someone working in sales. You'rea not allowed to date someone who doesn't pick you up from school when it's rainy. You're not allowed to date someone who isn't, like, psychotic about you: crazy, insane, bonkers, batshit. 

You're only allowed to date someone brilliant. Someone who reads. Someone who watches the news, who knows every president of the United States by name, who is voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who understands foreign policy. You're allowed to date a former student body president, former debate star, former editor of the paper, former Captain von Trapp, former whatever. You're allowed to date someone who is almost supernaturally likable, who is funny and fey and winning. You're allowed to date someone who is nervy and heroic, everybody's Favorite Guy Ever, someone who believes in beauty and Sasquatch and America. Someone lanky and big-footed with dainty little bird wrists and the longest legs in the entire world. You're allowed to date someone who is damaged and messy and frustrating and overwhelmingly, bafflingly, gigantically good. Someone sharp and gifted and capable. Someone who wakes up before the sun. Someone who works hard, who likes working hard, who works too hard. Someone who sneezes quietly. Someone who hates Harambe memes and Comic Con. Someone who listens to Carly Rae Jepsen. Someone who tells good ghost stories. Someone who writes on his bedroom wall in Sharpie. A Spielberg-lover. An Idahoan. 

You're literally not allowed to marry someone you met six months ago. It's 100% forbidden. It's gross and dumb and regressive and boring. This is the 21st century and you can wait for a year or two like a real couple instead of some tedious Mormon stereotype.

You're allowed to wait. You're allowed to become a power couple. You're allowed to become expected, old news, unsurprising, nobody in your college program asking you out anymore because they all know who you're dating and how long it's been and how you sort of dress the same: hoodies, neutrals, plaid. You're allowed to hold hands in the car. You're allowed to get to know the scary, maggoty parts of each other's coyote-ish bad sides: I'm obsessive, stubborn, self-conscious, jealous, arrogant, irresponsible, selfish; he's unpredictable, hard-headed, unapologetic, self-deprecating, has high standards and a God complex. You're allowed to fight and fight and fight, you're allowed to fight about everybody's exes, you're allowed to fight about Pokemon Go!, you're allowed to get yelled at in the car coming home from Salt Lake City after seeing Don't Think Twice and eventually cry. You're allowed to get over it. You're allowed to be pushy and pigheaded about the kind of car they want; you're allowed to gloat when the Toyota Highlander is too big and too ugly, just like you said. You're allowed to start speaking a made-up language to one another, all "goo" and "hebbo" and "yee," none of it really making sense. You're allowed to take a very long time loving someone.

You're allowed to give people space. Even if it's excruciating for you. Even if it might just kill you. You're not allowed to hold grudges. You're not allowed to be petulant. You're not allowed to be jealous and suspicious, but honestly you're allowed to stalk people. A little bit. Judiciously. You're allowed to keep yourself sane. But you're not allowed to get stuck in holes of obsession, in vortexes of impulse and compulsion. You're not allowed to read too far into various Twitter feeds and Pinterest accounts and Spotify playlists and Venmo histories of boys and friends of boys and ex-girlfriends of boys. You're allowed to calm down.

You're allowed to be with the person you love. You're not allowed to settle. Even if it takes a year of seething and stalking and combatting Other Women. Even if you have to play a little dirty. You're allowed to play a little dirty. 

You're allowed to get what you want. You're NOT allowed to be cruel, to be self-serving, to be merciless, to be greedy, to be nasty. But you're allowed to take what is yours. You have to take what is yours. You're allowed to sleep soundly at night with no bad dreams. 

You're allowed to be happy. You get to be happy.

-Avery Jalaine