Grasping at Straws: An Adventure in Humble Bragging

I stumbled across some reviews of a Sundance favorite, recently. And by “stumbled across” I mean I’ve been googling this movie every week since last February until finally, I ran into some news. If you recall, my sister and I were lucky enough to be extras in the film, The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, we’re basically famous. If by famous we can agree that I mean we walked past those two big names several times in the course of an afternoon. Good. We agree. As it turns out, this film, that some thought might not even get off the ground, has been racking up rave reviews and might even be on the Oscar track. What does this mean for your favorite blogger? Absolutely nothing but this strategic grab at trending google searches.

theendofthetour

My bet is that I ended up on the cutting room floor rather than peeking coyly around corners (as I blatantly looked into the camera) in my 90s-appropriate mom jeans. If I see my Jordache-clad butt on the silver screen, I might honestly die. I mean, what a claim to fame. This is the sort of tidbit that could tide this spotlight-seeking writer over for at least a year. If I end up in the movie, that is. Of course, by “in the movie” I mean more “blurry and briefly in the background” and less “Nicholas Cage”. But still. What will likely happen is that my sister will be featured in every Oscar clip and press-packet and I’ll just have to stomp around, exasperatedly tossing my hands in the air and reliving that fateful day when we spent no less than twelve hours on the least glamorous set of all time.

In costume in the holding room, where we lived for approximately one million hours.

In costume in the holding room, where we lived for approximately one million hours.

In short, being an extra is terrible. I clawed my way into the biz by fortuitously sharing a house with a friend of one of the location directors. She set us up and we showed up, unprepared and starry-eyed. I took the day off work, just knowing that I was going to snarkily quip my way into the right person’s heart and end up writing the next hit screenplay. What actually happened was a numb bum and a bruised ego. After hours of waiting in a GVSU math classroom and delighting the surrounding teens with facts I (and I alone) remembered from the actual 90s, we were hauled intermittently into wardrobe (where I was dressed as a “member of the faculty” and made to shout my dress size across the crowded room) and lined up to be sized up by an assistant director of some sort so he could pick the right look for special classroom scenes. With dialogue, even. My sister and I didn’t make the grade for the classroom scenes, and were herded back into the discard pile to sit for three thousand more hours.

About four times throughout the marathon day, we were hauled out to participate (however briefly) in a scene. In the first scene, the other chubby girl and I were paired to walk across campus and through the frame. We waddled, mom-butts swaying in the GVSU air and pretended to gesture toward indiscriminate groups of extras in the foreground. We nodded emphatically and laughed (silently) while touching shoulders and again, pointed vaguely into the foreground. It was a true masterclass in pantomime. I’m told that while we were engrossed in our “motivation”, Jesse and Jason were casually strolling behind us, quite possibly saying some things. We did three or four more takes (at this point I had become very good at walking while gesturing) and were then herded back into our servants’ quarters.

Another extra got bored and drew this poignant cartoon. Superfluous apostrophes aside...

Another extra got bored and drew this poignant cartoon. Superfluous apostrophes aside…

The next scene involved hurriedly walking past the frame of an open classroom door as Jason delivered the line, “Don’t expect too much”. Since other chubby girl had been one of the chosen few for inside the classroom, I was paired with other old lady, instead. Except, this lady was legitimately old. With scary witch hair, and an eccentricity that was giving me cause for concern. Because, this lady was attempting to bond with me. In her mind, we belonged together. Our pairing made sense to her. We trudged past the open classroom door as quickly as we could each time but without success. The word, “CUT!” sliced through the air and impaled my old, chubby heart each time we failed to get in frame.

Our final scene was a true test of skill. We were told to start out standing in the hallway and then to walk to a pre-determined end point. This scene evolved and I was eventually placed on a bench with a sixteen-year-old girl who thought pantomiming looked like anything Sofia Vergara ever does. That girl ruined my future acting career with her dumb teenager brain as I glared ten feet down the hallway, trying to mentally murder my sister. She had been placed directly next to Jason and Jesse and coolly chatted with them between takes. They did talk about me, and waved halfheartedly once, throwing breadcrumbs of celebrity my way, but the damage was done. She was dead to me (for the remainder of the day).

I managed a quick, “I’m fine” in response to Jason’s very cordial, “Hi, how are you?” as I shuffled past him, trying to nonchalantly work my mom-jeans camel-toe situation out of my downstairs. And that was it. We had put in a twelve hour day, made no friends (because everyone was dumb) and I might, if we’re all lucky, get to see my camel-toe on the big screen after the mass release. But likely, what will happen is I’ll circulate this blog and ride the wave of Oscar-buzz until nobody cares anymore.

My actual, Oscar-bound camel-toe.

My actual, Oscar-bound camel-toe.

Here’s hoping for larger-than-life front wedgies. Am I right?

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CrazySexyCool

In all my excitement over the latest New Kids News of a 2015 summer tour, I almost forgot that on this tour I’ll finally be getting the chance to see some of my earliest role models perform. TLC, even before the Spice Girls, helped to shape the sassy, independent and sometimes crass woman I would become. And now, after all these years, I get to see them live. Well, 2/3 of them. But Lisa Lopes will be there in spirit. I’m sure of it. Or I would be if I believed in that sort of thing.

#TheMainEvent is a bucket list show

#TheMainEvent is a bucket list show

As a little girl, not too long after falling head over heels in love with those “five bad boys from the beantown land”, I discovered an album called, “Oooooooh…On the TLC Tip”, and songs like, “What About Your Friends” helped me work through some really tough 3rd grade drama. Was I a bit too young to listen to these three brash beauties? You bet. But I already knew all the words to “Baby Got Back”, so it was much too late for me anyway. I was never going to be a member of the D.A.R. or have a coming out party. In a white gloves and waltz kind of way. Not a double vagina kind of way. Once “CrazySexyCool” came out, my friends and I would spend every afternoon blasting the album and “playing TLC”. As in, we each pretended to be a member of the group and performed the album in our bedrooms, from top to bottom. Even the strange interludes. And we always fought over who got to be Left Eye. Because she had the super-cool raps. You can’t say, “I seen a rainbow yesterday…” and stop there. You know how it goes. And I bet you get mad when “Waterfalls” comes on the radio and that part is gone. I know your life.

TLC wasn’t just important to me and my elementary school clique, it was arguably the most important “girl group” of our time. I’m going to say of all time. Because this is my blog. They were at the very least the first all girl group to have a diamond-classified album in “CrazySexyCool”. And they did it all while flexing their socially aware, feminist muscles and while living just like the regular people who bought their record. They each made less than $50,000 a year even at their most successful. They were poster women for my (and most of my artist friends’) current “starving artist” plight and had to eventually declare bankruptcy after being unable to re-negotiate their ridiculously unfair contracts. I’m getting retroactively mad right now. In your face, LaFace! You misogynist bullies.

The bright early 90s fashion of the "...TLC Tip" days.

The bright early 90s fashion of the “…TLC Tip” days.

Lack of funds didn’t stop TLC from banging out hit after hit and forcing the pop-culture swilling public to swallow some hard truths about safe sex (by covering themselves in day-glo condoms in their early music videos and effectively un-tabooing the prophylactic for young fans), female sexuality (by demanding satisfaction in “Red Light Special” and again, by covering themselves in day-glo condoms and proving that women can take protection into their own hands, and over their own left eyes), HIV and dangerous drug culture (by making “Waterfalls” their biggest hit of all time while crooning that “three letters took him to his final resting place”) and by being fierce females in general. Their music videos flipped the sexuality script on popular mid-nineties chart-toppers, bringing strong, sexually confident women into the living rooms of suburban-subdued kids in subconscious search of role models. “Red Light Special” still brings a blush to my cheek in the way only an early-life learning experience can.

The soundtrack of my formative years.

The soundtrack of my formative years.

Their third album, “FanMail” came in 1999 at the cusp of my adolescence. I was in the 8th grade and really celebrating crushed velvet tops, tattoo-inspired choker necklaces and bright blue roll-on glitter. “No Scrubs” hit the airwaves and puffed out the chests of myself and my ragtag group of precocious friends. We didn’t want no scrubs, either, when the time came for that to be an option. We were ready to make choices that proved we valued ourselves and our worth and only sort of giggled if someone “holla’d at us from the passenger side of their best friend’s ride”. Because, I mean, we were 14 and it was a car. The second single from that album was a game changer in the music industry of the end of the 20th Century. “Unpretty” brought harsh realities about body image into mainstream media and was delivered into the ears of self-conscious girls via Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ signature low-and-slow voice. The video featured scenes of thinspiration-fueled purging and followed Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, who has spoken about being teased as a teen about her flat chest, through her struggle with deciding against getting breast augmentation surgery at the insistent request of her boyfriend. It gave us the other side of the beauty machine and we were ready for it.

Beautiful and Strong as ever in the "Unpretty" video.

Beautiful and Strong as ever in the “Unpretty” video.

Just a couple short years after FanMail was released, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was killed in a car accident and my 17-year old self was devastated. She had felt like a friend. My history with the ladies of TLC runs deep. From condoms and baggy jeans, through House Party cameos (Sex As A Weapon was no joke) and on to admissions of creeping and the resistance of Scrubs, I was a fan. I’m expecting a lot of memories and emotion when the ladies take the stage, and I’m hoping that if not spirit, Left Eye will be there in hologram. We have the technology. Let’s let her speak about that rainbow she saw yesterday. I ain’t 2 proud 2 beg. Yep. I did it. I ended the blog in a song lyric. Sort of.

Stressmotionings

Emotions make me uneasy. I try to avoid having them if I can. Sometimes, avoiding them for too long results in a perfect storm of meltdown when nothing in particular has happened. Last year, my “stressmotionings”, which is a combination of stress, emotion and odds-and-ends-feelings, manifested in a shower tantrum that nearly cost me my life at the hands of the concave bottom of my clawfoot tub. This time, they fell out of my eyeballs on the way home from work as I was sitting at a red light on the corner of 28th and the East Beltline. Which is a delightful intersection, if you’re not familiar.

I was stopped at the light, crying (a lot) and making it really obvious that I was crying by producing facial expressions and sob-noises that would make the writers of Degrassi uncomfortable. Even though it goes there. I self-consciously looked to my right and left to be sure nobody was watching, but of course they were. I would. The man to my right was really visually unappealing. All of him. His whole thing. He was wearing transition lenses, and we all know how I feel about those. His car was old. The kind of old that looks like rust is eating it from the inside out, like the gross way to eat a Twinkie. His hair was messy, but not intentionally and he wasn’t attractive. He looked like he had some life issues. But he also looked like he was taking some pity on me. His brow was knit with concern (or maybe his lenses hadn’t transitioned enough yet) and he looked like he wanted to reach out to me. This probably should have made me feel better. The kindness of a stranger and all. But it didn’t. It made me scrunch and sob harder because this not-at-all-together person was feeling sorry for me. I scrunched, even harder, to squeeze the tears that had formed a shield outside of my eyeballs. You know, to avoid dying in a fiery car crash and really giving myself something to cry about. Like dads used to say. Or so I’ve heard.

I continued the outburst of tears and deep, desperate gulps of air for the duration of my drive home, which was in the middle of rush hour and full of way too many hurried drivers to be ideal. Not that sobbing hideously is ever ideal. Possibly the most frustrating part is that I’m not sure why I was crying. I’ve been trying to pinpoint my ridiculousness and I’ve realized in the short hour since this went down that I’m simply restless and generally dissatisfied with myself. I’m nowhere I wanted to be. Geographically. Professionally. Socially. Intellectually. Romantically, and every other possible “lly”.

So, why today, you ask? What tipped me over the proverbial edge?

As far as I can tell, it was a combination of things.

I’m 30, which used to mean adult, through and through. People often tell me they’d never guess I was 30, which at first sounds great. But when you think about it, means my actions and the way I carry myself aren’t quite there yet. They don’t say, “I’m a grownup who has her life together”. They say, “I still try to shop at Forever 21 sometimes, watch hours of teen dramas on Netflix, spend crazy time and money on a particular boyband and I live with two roommates because I am incapable of saving money and/or budgeting life on my own.” That takes too long, so people just say I look young. I get it.

Not feeling 30 means that I feel like my life is still loading. I’ve been buffering for too long and now the internet is down. I should have started earlier. My friends are doing great things or have plans and actions to get to their own great things and I just write this blog, complaining instead of trying to do my great things. I feel like I’m not doing a good job at work, which is especially unsavory since I have a non-career that isn’t supposed to fulfill me, it’s supposed to pay for my passion. So I should at least be good at it, right? Or trying to make my passion into something real? (I’m sorry I said passion twice. Now three times. Now that I’m looking at it it’s grossing me out. Like the word “lover”).

What is that pash-uh…dream of mine? Writing, of course. But you knew that part. More specifically, I want to have interesting experiences and write about them so you can have them too. But, I mean…have them as I had them. Not as you. The thing about interesting experiences is that you have to go out and find them. I’m not great at that. Most of the experiences I’d like to have come in the form of expenses. Which is the game-stopper. I recently went off on a complaint-tangent about that very thing via Facebook messenger to a not-that-close friend. She never knew what hit her. And now I’m embarrassed. The root of that tangent was my inability to afford the crazy VIP packages at the upcoming NKOTB, TLC and Nelly extravaganza in GR. “Nobody wants to read my ramblings about sitting in nosebleeds and watching a band I’ve seen ten times already”, I said. “They want to read about me asking Nelly if I can scoop him like a baby.” I need ways to get to Nelly. To the collective Nelly. All of the Nelly’s in my life. How do I get to them?!

There are things in my life that remind me of my age, of course. It’s hard for me to shed pounds, my hair is going silver in a very non-Stacy London kind of way, I look up way too many words on Urban Dictionary and I get hungover easier and for longer. And, Ariana Grande makes me angry. When she comes on the radio I get physically, tangibly angry. I feel it in my body and don’t know what to do with it. She should stop. Or at least use her tongue when she sings her mushed up words.

I needed a scapegoat for my stressmotionings so I’m pinning it on Ariana for now. At least if she retaliates I won’t be able to understand what she’s saying.

Pretty Pedestals & Sexy Soapboxes

Rather than watching a Youtube tutorial on how to build a soapbox, then watching a Youtube tutorial on going to the hardware store to purchase tools and blocking out time to actually go there, and constructing a soapbox on which to stand and deliver this diatribe, I thought I’d just write it down. You know, so you all can access it at your convenience. And because I’m not much of a builder. The only tool I own is a combination hammer/screwdriver and it has flowers on it. It came that way. So for me, soapboxes will always be metaphorical. That way, I’m less likely to fall off.

Someone sent me an article entitled: “6 Reasons Why Beautiful Women are Also Insecure Women”. This person wondered what my thoughts were and she got an earful. Now it’s your turn. Aside from the fact that this article was written by an objectively “beautiful woman” yet speaks about them as an outsider (and superfluously uses the word, “why” in the title), it was the shoddy construction and overall whiny tone that irritated me and left me feeling compelled to lash out. At anyone. The article opens with the writer shaming herself for assuming “hot girls” are happy. She then goes on to explain that if a woman is beautiful, she’s constantly looking over her shoulder in fear of that beauty somehow being snatched from her. Perhaps by old age, perhaps by an unfortunate acid-throwing incident. She doesn’t specify. What she does is complain for several paragraphs that society judges based on looks and beautiful women are judged more harshly because they possess that beauty for which we all long. Basically, this writer suggests that beautiful women are more insecure because they have more to lose. Asinine.

The article is based on the idea that the general (and decidedly plain) public assume all beautiful people are problem free and happy at all times. I can’t speak for the public (although I frequently do) but in my humble and not-that-attractive opinion, attractive people have an easier time in this world, just like those rich with other attributes have it easier than those who are lacking in the same. People react more kindly to attractive strangers. If an ogre hobbles up to me on the street and asks for spare change, I’m likely going to shrug him off and mumble something about only having plastic. If this hobbler is even marginally attractive, I’ll at least look him in the sparkling eye while I tell him to fuck off. Now isn’t the time to sit up straight with righteous indignation, readers. You know you’ve played the “not the uggo” game while sitting next to an empty seat on any public transportation. Sitting, judging, watching uggo after uggo slime their way down the aisle until finally a surface-dweller pauses in your row and smiles sweetly while asking you to move the hell over. If one of the uggos had said the same, surely you’d have scoffed and rolled your eyes. But this person is good looking so you laugh and move over, silently hoping they think you’re cute enough to sit next to as well.

The writer of the article takes issue with the word “and”. Calling someone “pretty and smart” or “pretty and funny” has the power to reduce that woman to a puddle of adorable mud. I’d love to be two things. Wouldn’t you? “And” is certainly better than “but”. “She’s not that easy on the eyes,  but she has a winning personality!” What a groan-inducer. Of course, the idea behind the “and” problem is that we shouldn’t have to mention looks at all. Social standing should be based on merit alone. Well that’s just stupid. It’s a biological reaction. Darwinian. Evolutionary. However you’d like to swallow it. And you’re more likely to swallow if it’s coming from a hottie, am I right? Good looks are like a golden ticket. Your sexy mug will get you in the door to the chocolate factory but if that’s all you’ve got, you’ll be a rolly polly blueberry before the day is through. You need the pizazz of that poor, ugly kid. You need the “and”. And frankly, that’s up to you. If you rest on your beauty-queen laurels instead of becoming a decent human with complex layers, that’s on you. That’s not on the world for telling you you’re pretty.

Insecurities are a human condition. It’s unfortunate but it’s real. Claiming that beauty is the thing that secures you a mate is maybe true if you’re in middle school.  Or if you just suck as a person. For me, however, physical appearance becomes less and less important as I age. Maybe it’s the reality that my own has deteriorated substantially over the years or maybe I’m just getting smarter. Granted, I’m not lining up to date the Steve Buscemis of the world, but if he was funny enough, nice enough and didn’t make me want to puke right in his face after everything he said, I’d give it a whirl. In the end, I do believe that beautiful women are insecure. What I don’t buy is that they have it any worse than the rest of us living outside the sexy-bubble.

In short, cry me a river, hot girls. Let’s ask them if they’d rather be ugly. And if they say yes, we’ll know they’re really pretty and dirty, dirty liars.

Selfie

As a newcomer to the idea of community, let alone an actual breathing, cross-promoting community of writers, I’m struggling with putting myself on any level, especially that of my new peers. If I talk about me, conversation will be rife with humble brags and sweeping declarations of my mediocre prose-presence when what I’d like to say, like to believe, is that I am good at this silly hobby of mine. I know that I need to get over myself. And under myself. And basically all up inside myself. But do I have to let you watch? Perhaps rooted in years of a self-deprecating (and hyphenated) brand of humor, or perhaps just plain old low self-esteem, I just can’t separate the idea of self-promotion from metaphorical masturbation.

I tell myself that what I want is constructive criticism. I want to grow, to learn from those who are better than I am and to finally do something other than force my Facebook friends to read my recapped ramblings. What I actually want, of course, is for people to tell me that I’m already there, that my work is done and to list the reasons why. Convincingly.

After almost a decade of romantic retardation (masked in snark and wrapped in punchlines) I don’t have it in me to accept or even recognize interest in the real world. The same can be said for the words that I write. Even this. This happening right now. Every letter keyed is so loaded in doubt that I couldn’t possibly survive a second draft. Dramatics aside, I’ve never written a second draft in my life. What comes out is what comes out. Never linger, never lament. Obviously, part of me knows I have something to say and understands that if nothing else, my friends and family are willing to enable my need to be read. If not celebrate it. Honestly, if I leave my thoughts as they lay, I can always reference haste as an excuse for mediocrity. Everyone loves a loophole (JK).

So what do I expect, if I won’t agree to self-aggrandizing? To self-stimulation. Can’t we partner up? I’ll stroke yours and you stroke mine.  No strings attached. But, even as I suggest no strings, I have an urge to end this. To end the relationship we’re having. I’ve always had an issue with length. Size matters, after all, and I’m set on five hundred words or more. Anything less and is it really worth our time? If I leave you with this, will you think I’m flippant? They, the overarching “they”, always say to leave them wanting more. But where’s the line? If I find it, can I cross it to ask you what you think? To make sure you’re satisfied with simply watching me do mine? I promise I’ll return the favor.

As I reach the edge of what I’ve already and arbitrarily decided is the minimally acceptable length, I know I’ll half-heartedly self-promote on social media. I’ll toss out a “share it if you like it” suggestion and hipster my way into making you believe I don’t care either way. I’ll phone it in, like you do when you’re alone. Just enough to satisfy but not too much to seem desperate. But alone and with others are disparate experiences. At least if I’m alone, I can control the outcome. No publicity might be better than exaggeration and subsequent mass letdown, right?

I bet these are questions Carrie Bradshaw had. “If we’re stimulating ourselves in front of our constructed community, is it truly indecent exposure?”

Mate

I read an article recently that said intelligent people would rather spend their lives alone than settle for an incompatible mate. Once I got past the loose use of the word “mate”, I really appreciated the idea of this study. It gives me ammo for the inevitable questions at family gatherings and unfortunate run-ins with high school classmates. I’m mere weeks from my thirtieth birthday and have yet to date anyone longer than three months. Let me rephrase that. I have yet to be able to date anyone for longer than three months. Because humans are weird, and spending tons of time with one human brings to light all of that weirdness. There has to be something there to combat the ick factor and make me want to see their face again without the urge to strike it with a blunt object.

That something, for me, is simply a lack of pressure. If I’m not feeling pressured to make something romantic happen with a person, I can get along with them famously. This is perhaps why I feel most comfortable around gay people. They’re not going to try to sex me up and I’m not going to have the urge to gaze longingly into their collective downstairs. Without sexual tension I’m able to quip freely and often and maintain friendly relationships for decades. With it, however, I’m awkward and full of unmet expectations. The list of which only gets longer as I get older. After all, the years are stacking up on me and my baby making organs are beginning the slow descent into uselessness.

Biological clocks and romantic pressure aside, I’m turned off by any number of behavioral and wardrobal idiosyncrasies. Not the least of which are man-tank tops and man-sandals. And glasses with transition lenses. I just can’t. And you shouldn’t. A few other things that send me running for the proverbial hills are a penchant for sleep-snuggling and the expectation that all of my free time must be morphed into we time. Because, no.
My longest running relationship is with Netflix and eating inappropriate things in bed and I’m completely unwilling to give that up. Netflix gets me. It anticipates my needs and checks on me when it thinks I’ve been binge-watching Gilmore Girls too long to still be categorized as a healthy human. And it doesn’t get mad at me for dismissing the concern and continuing to binge for another four hours. Netflix lets me be me. If Netflix could father my children, I’d be in romantic bliss. But, it can’t. Not yet, anyway. I’m looking at you, technological geniuses. Make it happen for me so that I can stop eyeing wide-eyed child-nuggets with a fleeting intention to kidnap them.
Biological clocks are a real thing. Even if the ticking is against the will of the person hosting the evil uterus. My internal clock ticks most loudly at night when it penetrates my sleep with dreams of procreation. I wake up and frantically check my stomach to be sure it isn’t engorged with a tiny human and relieved, fall back into a childless sleep. I assume I’ll never marry and I’m too cautious to get knocked up by mistake, so my choices are basically to trick someone handsome into fathering my mid-life baby or to adopt well into my forties. I’m leaning toward adoption, since I’ve seen childbirth happen and frankly, I’m not into it. At least with adoption I can pick out physical attributes like accessories. That is what is most important in a child, isn’t it?
I’d hate to clash with my baby like plaid and stripes and have to return it.

You Better Werq

Happy Hour took a dark turn this evening.

I can be talked into a number of things after two martinis. Giant tire swings, weeknight karaoke and making out with strangers are a few of the antics that have followed happy hours gone by, but tonight was something new. Something sinister. Something I never thought I’d do. Tonight, I joined a gym.

Once four or five ounces of gin start sloshing around in my stomach, everything sounds like a great idea and I turn into a very supportive friend. Without the gin, I’m terribly disagreeable.  On this occasion, conversations of weekend plans and rough terrain on the job front turned to self improvement and affirmations of change. My friend announced that she was going to get herself a gym membership after dinner and I quickly stated my intentions to join her. Then immediately regretted it. But it was out there in the universe. I had said it and she intended to stick me to it.

True to our (her) word, we left our empty martini glasses and went straight to Fitness 19. This particular location is situated conveniently on my way home from work, which I knew was the only option if I was actually expected to go there occasionally. As I clomped across the parking lot in my 5-inch heels, I stared in horror at the sight before me and nearly turned around. The front of the facility is all windows and framed in those windows were gads of overly-muscled dudes. Dudes as far as the eye could see. Dudes squatting, lifting, curling and presumably grunting in close proximity to each other. Dudes wearing t-shirts that had had the sleeves viciously ripped from them, perhaps in a Hulk-like manner.

We walked in, arguing about who would do the talking and I stepped up, telling the overly-muscled man behind the counter that we needed help. He laughed and I stared, unblinking, at his forehead until he realized that we truly needed to be treated with kid-gloves. I told him I had never been inside a gym before and he laughed again, realizing more quickly this time that I was again serious. We were led over to a small table, adjacent to a handful of sweaty people jogging slowly on treadmills. At the table, the gym representative (I’m sure he told me his name, but my buzzed brain ignored it) asked us some preliminary questions, including what our expectations and goals were. I had no answers. I wanted to say, “Help me, I’m fat” and call it a day. I assumed they’d just need to take a look at me and they’d know every answer they ever needed. I was in business casual, of course, with full makeup and the aforementioned high-heeled boots. I was sweating at the mere mention of exercise and babbling sarcastically, like I do when I’m uncomfortable.

We settled on a 6-month plan and embarked on a tour of the facility. I asked questions along the way, things like, “Is there a particular time that is less populated by dudes?” And he said, no. It’s always dude-city at Fitness 19. He did recommend sticking to the treadmills and/or elliptical machines, which is “where the women usually stay”. So, at the very least, I  know there’s sex segregation. Basically, the treadmills are the “kitchen” and I should stay there where I belong. Which is fine. I don’t want to bulk up with weights, anyway. And I’ve always wanted to be barefoot and pregnant. Truthfully, being in the weight-area made me uncomfortable. There’s something very “bath house” about groups of glistening men, all grunting and moving in otherwise silent unison. Totes fine for them to experience. Not fine for me to watch.

Asking about possible classes they offered led me to the gloriously named “Werq”, which is a dance-based fitness class. I can’t not go to it. It’s called “Werq”. With an E. And a Q. I only know how it’s spelled because I jokingly asked if it was spelled with an “e”. I did not expect to be correct. If “Werq” isn’t danced entirely to post-insanity Britney Spears, I’m going to be incredibly disappointed.

Before we left, the gym-guys behind the counter made us promise they’d see us tomorrow. We of course said they would, and even meant it. So I guess I should start practicing my grunting face and find out if I own any clothing that stretches in a good way.

Aaron Carter Hates My Guts

I knew months ago that Aaron Carter was coming to Grand rapids. I saw it on the weekly email of “upcoming shows” I receive from The Intersection, and thought, “he’s playing the front room? That’s sad and hilarious. I should totally go.” And then I promptly forgot about it until Monday, when a BH friend graced my Facebook wall (are we still saying “wall”?) with an Aaron Carter Instagram re-post, taken somewhere on the streets of GR.

If you're curious, he was wandering 28th Street for some reason.

If you’re curious, he was wandering 28th Street for some reason.

Game on.
There is something hard-wired in me that doesn’t allow for inaction when there are celebrities, even quasi-has-been-celebs, anywhere in a 20-mile radius. Naturally, a fervent comment-conversation followed her post, which basically consisted of us going back and forth about whether we truly wanted to put on real pants and go on a D-list goose chase. You get the idea. I never actually considered what I would say or do if we found him wandering the city. I just knew that something in me felt compelled to go try. But then I made spaghetti and pushed that feeling down with marinara and ground turkey. Not before making tentative plans to go to the show the following evening, however.
Rather than go in my business casual, I rushed home after work on Tuesday to shove some more spaghetti in my face and change into something a little more trendy, which of course means something decidedly more 90s. I met my BH friend in line and after about thirty seconds of standing outside we mutually decided to walk down the street to a warm bar and an area less populated with eager Aaron Carter fans, thus beginning our first ever “in real life hangout”. One drink down, and less line to stand in, we headed back to the venue to get our tickets and feast our eyes.
So dramatic and playful, ha.

So dramatic and playful, ha.

The show was just starting as we grabbed drink number two from the incredibly over-priced and under-stocked bar. We coolly made our way to the outskirts of the crowd to check out the opener. They call themselves “Liberty Deep Down” and their logo is a large V, which is also tattooed on the lead singer’s forearm. After much discussion, we decided that they must be a group of aspiring gynecologists who found life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness deep down in the vaginas of women everywhere. Well, four of them. One of them, I suspect, would prefer a different set of genitalia. At least that’s what his “Broadway Lion King” and “equal sign” tattoos told me. The music was not great. It was sickly sweet tween pop that hides behind guitars, visible tattoos and black skinny jeans. The lead singer’s voice had that chipmunk quality that usually comes only after being in an exceptionally loud venue for a couple of hours. But doesn’t everything right now? Maybe my old ears just can’t process what the kids are into. And the boys were cute. All of them. So attractive, in fact, that I find it hard to believe they formed organically. It had to be an audition process. Oddly enough there is no Wiki article on them so I can’t be sure. One of them looked exactly like Zayn from One Direction. And I may have tried to smell him as he brushed past me after their set. But I’ll never confirm that. They did a choreographed spin/jump thing which made me laugh out loud and then did a cover of Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me”. Unironically. The sea of hands stamped with “M” went crazy for the whole package.
BH friend and I are on the same page about most things, being of similarly obsessed ilk, so we agreed that we absolutely needed to get a picture with LDD. They could be the next 1D. You don’t know their lives. But also to get a close look at their pretty faces. After waiting too long for a young blonde in very little clothing to stop giggling near them, we marched up and I introduced myself as a local blogger. That got their attention. They immediately invited us to come to their “bus party” after the show but I had to turn them down, citing my oldness as an excuse and informing that if I don’t take my Zzzquil by 11pm, the night is shot. They laughed and tried to ply us with the promise of free pizza, which I actually found mildly insulting until I remembered they were likely teens, and teens love pizza. But again, we declined, asking them how old they were. Their reply? “Old enough”. Which we all know is the universal code for “too young”. I laughed out loud again, and said goodbye to the future gynecologists of America.
Squint hard, and you may be able to see us.

Squint hard, and you may be able to see us.

There was a performer between the Bieber-Boys and Aaron Carter, but he was nothing but a vague memory of poorly executed Justin Timberlake and John Legend covers. And he wasn’t cute. Which is probably what failed to get my attention.
Finally it was time. The M-stamped hands flew up and at least five girls who were born in the 90s, but still tried their hand at 90s fashion, swarmed the gate near Aaron’s only logical point of entry. I looked away for a second to throw away my empty beer cup and completely missed the entrance, so it was a surprise to see two female backup dancers on either side of the now grown up child star. I could only see the torsos of the performers, and only if they were near the edge of the postage-stamp sized stage. Along with the two dancers and Aaron, was a drummer (just a drummer) and a DJ. These black gentlemen, one of which is a regular on “Wild’n Out” (did I spell that right?) on MTV, basically sat behind Aaron and looked mildly angry. When they weren’t providing “hype”, that is.
Amid a sea of camera-phones.

Amid a sea of camera-phones.

Aaron was shorter than I thought he’d be. He is skinny. Very skinny. Almost alarmingly so, with cheekbones that protrude in a way that makes me assume he subsists on a steady diet of cigarettes and cocaine. How retro. He definitely had amphetamine-eyes, appearing almost manic as he began his first song. Obviously, I have no idea if AC is on drugs. Maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s filled with adrenaline every time he sees a room full of half dressed minors. Who wouldn’t be? I just know that his energy level was straight up bananas. He literally jumped up and down wildly throughout his set. I got winded just as an onlooker and it must have shown on my overly-expressive face because at least two fans felt compelled to tell me that I looked bored. I wasn’t bored. I was just taking it all in, and texting myself notes all night. Because I’m a cool old woman, not a regular old woman.
Aaron puts on a pretty good show, and I imagine it’d be even better if your vantage point allowed you to actually see it. He spent ample time dry humping his dancers and sending what I assume were intended as “sultry” vibes out to the audience, and the crowd ate it up. He takes his crowd-instructions very seriously. This I learned. When he tells you to “put your hands up” you had better thrust with all your might. BH friend and I were busy concentrating on nicknaming all of the youths around us and didn’t pump our fists when asked. Aaron’s laser-like stare cut across the expanse of teens and into our souls as he yelled into the microphone for everyone to put their hands up, again. He held the stare. We laughed and nervously put our VIP-braceleted arms into the charged air. My only complaint as someone who had not spent the past ten years drooling over AC and humming the tune to “That’s How I Beat Shaq”, is that he spent approximately fifteen minutes between each song catching thrown cell phones and taking selfie videos with them. Very exciting for the phones’ owners, I’m sure. Not terribly fun for onlookers in the back.
It's his "UGH!" face.

It’s his “UGH!” face.

Finally, the time had come for Aaron to wrap it up and head offstage. I did manage to catch his exit, and noticed that the two dancers were wearing acid-washed denim onesies. Just. It was bad. But it was time. Time for the reason for the excursion. The Meet & Greet. Yes, I have been explaining in detail up until now, that I am not a huge Aaron Carter fan, but I do collect awkward Meet & Greet photos so I’ll pay for a VIP pass if it’s not outlandishly priced. This was not. BH friend and I got in what we thought was the line about eight times, only to be told that it or we were moving again. We chatted with others in line, like you do, and met a pair of sisters who swore we didn’t look a day over 23 years old. Those sisters are my new best friends. I couldn’t think of a great “awkward photo” scenario, so I polled the line a bit. The ladies who line, wanted to see me pick AC up like a toddler, and balance him on my hip. Awkward? Yes. And also a longshot. But I had had a few beers and crowd support builds up my bravado, so when it was at last time for me to meet the man, I asked him. I said hello, cordially, and informed him of my growing collection. I asked, “would you be willing to let me hold you on my hip like a toddler?” And he stared flatly at my forehead and said, “No.” The silence was almost too much for me, as his photographer looked on expectantly and an anxious line of curfew-laden ladies waited behind. I started to nod and he said, “…because I’m a 26-year old man.” Right, right, right…you certainly are. But, you’re also Aaron Carter, so…I think we can agree to disagree on this one. He told me he had an alternate suggestion and before I could protest, he had stuck an overused Sharpie marker in my ear. This felt oddly intimate. He literally penetrated me. And then he stuck one in his own and we were photographed. The awkward was not forced in that one. He sort of shook my hand and leaned in for a “normal” photo and I took off. It was all I could take.
No Caption required.

No Caption required.

Does Aaron Carter hate my guts? Probably not. He likely forgot all about me the moment I was out of his line of vision. But for at least a full minute, he did. He was insulted and unamused. Which is frankly a new reaction for me. Most people find me delightful. Even when my sole purpose is to write humorous recaps of their lives.
Liberty Deep Down didn’t hate my guts, but I assume it was because they can’t afford to lose potential fans as yet. They randomly followed me on twitter the other day, so give them time. They may read this, after all.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

No, there isn’t a doctor, per se, but there are two new roommates to introduce. They go by the monikers, “McDreamy” and “McSteamy”, and boy are they.

McSteamy is a friend I’ve had for a while, introduced through the famed Lesbian Legion. He was one of few brave gay men who dared roll with the Double Ell. He has southern roots and a Drag Queen past that should prove advantageous when it comes time for makeup lessons. He’s promised to teach me to contour like a Kardashian. Gird your Instagram accounts. The selfies are coming. Since I no longer have access to a room full of mirrors, I have to instead rely on the harsh truth spewing from the mouth of McSteamy. He tries to sugarcoat it by adding a “maybe” in front of “you should find something else to wear”, but I’m grateful. I need it. I’m living in a post-mirror room apocalypse and I’m finding it hard to adjust. McSteamy is currently out on a trail somewhere, running in preparation for a half marathon. I know, I traded a yogi for a run-nut. What was I thinking?

Fab.U.Lous.

Fab.U.Lous.

McDreamy, on the other hand, is a typical run-of-the-mill straight dude. He’s in the kitchen right now wearing basketball shorts, a white T-shirt and a backwards baseball cap. But he’s cooking and singing along to some soft rock, gently ebbing from his discarded iPhone. He works at Founders, which lends some insight into what beer is happening when, and also sometimes results in a fridge full of the catch of the day. Today is Centennial and All Day, if you were wondering. McDreamy is cute. In an All-American kind of way. So I’m safe from wanting to sleep with him. He’s a smallish white dude and he’s super nice. Lorde knows I hate nice white dudes. Dreamy calls me “Miss Kaira” and “Ma’am” and if that weren’t enough, he tells me about his girl troubles and I smirk, knowing that he just has to be a little bit more of a dick and they’ll come running. But you can’t tell a nice guy to be a dick. He just has to wait it out.

Dreamy. And All American.

Dreamy. And All American.

Our threesome has moved into a two-story house in the Belknap district. Which isn’t quite ghetto, but isn’t quite not. It’s certainly not as pretty as Heritage Hill and yes, I’m still mad about it. Over here, I get looks if I step outside in something other than velour sweatshorts. Which is just insane. The other day, I almost ran into the back of a woman who stopped abruptly on the sidewalk right at the bottom of my house’s stoop. I didn’t know what to do, and she had hoop earrings on, so I panicked, told her she smelled good and basically ran up the stairs and into my house. Art School Hipster Youths are one thing. I’m not equipped to deal with those I can’t knock down with snark alone. And yes, I base whether or not I could beat someone in a fight on the size (or existence) of their hoop earrings. Don’t be fooled by these blogs that I got. I’m not, I’m not, Jenny from the Block. Yet.

I'm Not, I'm Not, Jenny from the Block. Yet.

I’m Not, I’m Not, Jenny from the Block. Yet.

On a positive note, my cats are loving the new digs. Cee Lo has been reveling in “bro time” with the guys, sleeping on Dreamy’s chest and letting Steamy pet his belly. I’m pretty sure he’s trading me in for them and he’s not even sorry. Not even sorry, not sorry. Adele still likes me best, but that means I get to pick her super-long hairs out of my eyeballs on a daily basis, so that’s fun.

We’re only a block or two from the “Medical Mile” and I’ve heard word that sexy medical staffers hang out at a local bar. Maybe there soon will be a doctor in the house. But, likely, just a parade of nurses coming in and out of Steamy’s bedroom.

Block Vegas: If They Build It…(Part 4-Final Installment)

As has been the trend, I left off last with a regret-filled sleep. Sunday morning brought stories of delight from my roomies and a barely masked FOMO-based depression from myself. I shook it off and we all headed down to the pool hoping to snag some lounge chairs at the early hour. Breakfast is for wimps who don’t want to get sunburnt so we skipped that and managed to plop down poolside, finally. As I mentioned, I don’t like being outside so I didn’t last long. The other girls had to scurry as well, in order to make it to the exclusive “Cruisers Only” party that was taking place that afternoon. Another event that eluded me. I didn’t have plans at all for the day, so I decided I should try and get a ticket to the evening’s performance. Obviously.

Alyson and I ran to H&M to get something neon to wear (if you glow at the show, they’ll marry you, right?), and because we hated everything we had brought. We were working on an assumption that H&M would have a plethora of neon choices and we were right. After the girls left for their mystery party, I lounged around and tried to make my pictures less blurry on Instagram. Mostly unsuccessfully. And I managed to contact an incredibly generous BH who gave me her two free “cruiser tix” for Sunday night’s show. I offered to pay her but she wouldn’t take any money. There’s a reason #BHLOVE is a thing. I texted Branson and asked her if she’d like the other and we made plans to meet up after showers for some pre-show drinks.

One more Elevator picture before the night was through.

One more Elevator picture before the night was through.

The shower in our hotel room was part godsend and part torture chamber. It was nice to be able to shower in something other than my clawfoot tub and have freedom to move without falling to my death on a slippery, concave surface. But the pressure was lethal. My nipples have never taken such a beating. Well…no, never. Once I finally escaped, most of my breasts intact, I instinctively checked my phone to find a text message from Alyson and Andrea saying that entry to the Cruiser Party required only an email. Which I could easily get. But it was starting. And I was nude. The next half hour flew by as I splattered makeup onto my face and pinned my hair in what ended up being a really strange decision of an updo. I had no time to fuss over whether or not my outfit made my arms look huge(er) or to even put in my contacts. So I ran to the elevators and to the club hosting the party. Email-laden phone in hand. When I got there, slightly out of breath and oddly alone, I panicked. Had they closed the doors? Where were the infamous security? I tentatively pulled back the curtain and saw noone still. So I continued. I basically just wandered in, unbothered. And I found my roommates in the crowd. The guys hadn’t come onstage yet so my timing was perfect. Even if I was a mess.

Five chairs soon held five boyband butts and we learned that the party would be more of a Q&A session. Which was ok with me. Most of the questions revolved around when they would tour next or put out new album material, but some were a little more endearing, asking how the “Donathon” bromance took root. One small child (who I hadn’t realized was sitting right behind me) challenged Donnie to explain why he promised her he’d serenade her at last summer’s tour and never delivered. He was appropriately sheepish and asked her if she’d like to join him on stage that night as his “Cover Girl”. It’s safe to say we all got our “awwww” fix. She took the precocious to a new level when she went on to say that they “better make it happen”, to which Donnie replied, “Do you need anything else?!” She looked around for a bit, and then said, “These ladies behind me would like some drinks!” I snorted. And I believe Donnie did as well.

The three of us left the party, laughing still and jonesing for some dinner. And then I remembered…Branson! I forgot about her again because I am a jerk. We were supposed to get dinner. I quickly texted her my apologies and she joined us at PF Changs for some asian food and the weirdest server ever.

Once finally entering the concert venue again we realized that the guys were already playing. Starting something on time is an unheard of feat for the New Kids. But, Donnie-time shifts when D-Dub has to be on the set of Blue Bloods at 5:00 am, across the country. He was in a hurry and the Sunday show reflected that. The ad-libs were mostly gone, though Joe continued to sing the wrong verse in “Summertime”. I’d be disappointed if he had gotten it right. Donnie got his words right, though he skipped them to tell us that he had gotten them right. But of course we knew. It was interesting to see the show from three different viewpoints over the weekend. I’d prefer to be in my Saturday 3rd row spot for everything of course, but at least I got to be near Joe when he briefly came over to our section during “Tonight”. I couldn’t reach through the crowd to frantically and awkwardly grab at his body, so I didn’t. I’m sure that was best for everyone.

Weird Paparazzi Shot

Weird Paparazzi Shot

Again, during a ballad, I checked my phone to see how many likes my Instagram photos had gotten since arriving and I almost flipped over the back of my chair. Jon Knight had commented on my photo of him. As my first social media interaction with one of the guys, I was pretty damn excited to see, “I was doing aerobics. ;)” staring at me from my notifications list. I mean…it’s an epic achievement in a BH’s life. With that accomplishment tucked away in my pocket I enjoyed the rest of the show, but missed the fact that Jon had run out on stage in his socks after not having enough time to finish his wardrobe change. Oh well, there are enough pictures floating around to make sure I remember it as if I did see.

AAAGGGHHHH!!!

AAAGGGHHHH!!!

We all headed out of the venue in a slow and sad march, knowing that it was the last time we’d see our guys this year. With a vague promise of a 2015 tour, however, we knew it wasn’t forever. After some more unsuccessful sightseeing (it was STILL too hot) we called it a night. I slept for about two hours, then sprang up to catch my ridiculously early airport shuttle. The flight home was uneventful, but I did see that adorable BH family from Part 1 of this series. The dad bid me adieu and said, “maybe I’ll see you on the cruise next year!” Maybe you will, mildly creepy elderly gentleman. Maybe you will.

Look...I went outside once!

Look…I went outside once!