The Hitchhiker’s Hail

In the last seven years, I’ve had eight nine different addresses (I almost forgot England). Those seven years have seen me moving out of my parent’s house for the first time, living in six different dorm rooms, moving to England, moving back to the States, getting my first real apartment, and then moving to grad school. I consider myself to be decent at moving, good at packing, and great at upacking. I have moved into and out of my parents’ house so many times that I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I’ve permanently left.

When I first traveled from Cleveland, Ohio to Washington, DC for college, my dad had a pick-up truck and we used every square inch of the truck bed despite the fact that I was moving into a shared dorm room. I’d like to say I’ve really learned to pare down my belongings, but in reality all I’ve done is leave more and more items behind.

My proudest move is probably the first one I made completely alone, when I got on a plane to England to study abroad for a semester. Against all odds, I packed my life into one suitcase and travelled across the Atlantic. My plan had been to fly into Gatwick and take a train to Brighton, but that was ruined pretty immediately. A broken plane and Amazing Race-style sprint through O’Hare later, I ended up flying into Heathrow, taking a bus to Gatwick (panicked that I would not be able to figure out how to get to Brighton without my carefully laid out plan or a cell phone), and then taking the train to Brighton. Look, in the end I managed, but that’s not the point. My point, I guess, is that it was the first time I’d really had to navigate traveling alone.

I moved again last month, and the move was probably more daunting than my first trans-Atlantic flight, customs, and finding my dorm room at the University of Sussex. The one thing that made this move seem do-able, however, was that my dad was my co-pilot. We packed up my Honda Element as full as we could (leaving behind, among other things: all of my furniture, 95% of my books and DVDs, and my favorite pair of earrings) and hit the road.

For five days we drove cross-country so that I could move to Los Angeles.

I never wanted to live in LA. Despite my deep, abiding love for television and the quiet, burning part of myself that wanted to work on television shows, I never really considered making the move. LA has sunshine, and earthquakes, and it’s in the Pacific Time Zone. All of those things are anathema to me. But as I finished an undergraduate degree that I didn’t really know how to use, and worked in my first adult job, and went to grad school, the thought of working in television never left. It became louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore that, out of everything, that’s what I wanted the most. More than living in the same apartment building as my friends, and being in the same time-zone as my parents, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I gave it a chance.

So my parents, my wonderful, supportive parents helped me pack up the car and my dad drove across the country with me. We took our time, stopping so that we could play in Arches National Park and visit the Grand Canyon. I think both of us had been a little apprehensive about spending so much time alone with one another, no buffer of any kind between us, but it only brought us closer. We shared beers at breweries in the mid-west, and had a pillow fight in Arizona. We took pictures and watched shitty movies in the hotel room, and forced each other to eat salads. At the end of the trip, he even agreed that my choice of superpower (which he’d mocked mercilessly months ago) to be able to stop shedding was pretty worthwhile after all.

There were parts of the trip that were trying, sure. Like trying not to hit that elk as we left the Grand Canyon. Or the moment that I almost ran out of gas in the middle of Kansas because I was too absorbed by an episode of Keepin’ It 1600. Our musical choices are at odds, so striking the compromise of his jazz in the morning, my alt. rock in the afternoon was necessary early on. After so long in the car, our backs and knees hurt, we were probably always at least a little bit dehydrated, but we made it.

I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In fact, I want more road trips. A few summers ago my mom and I packed up and drove around Michigan for a few days, which had been a great bonding experience, despite the near-constant rain. This move was stressful, but certainly less than I had anticipated, because I had my dad by my side. I hope that next year my brother comes to visit and we can go on a trip of our own, maybe to Yosemite.

I hope my future is filled with road trips. I want them with my friends, hours of fighting over music and putting up with each other’s podcasts. I want nights camped out on the roof of my car looking at the stars with my loved ones as I try not to cry from the beauty of the moment. I want to get lost in a foreign country and not care for the awe of the landscape. I think spending hours alone in a car, while risky, is ultimately good for relationships.

The post script of this post, if anything, is that I live in LA now. But what was really important was the journey.

I Wish This Dress Had Pockets

Almost every time I’ve been forced into a dress, I’ve thought, “I wish this dress had pockets – where am I going to stash my lipstick, my Kindle, and a pen and some paper?” My life is not one that requires me to wear a dress with any frequency, a fact for which I am quite grateful, but dresses are still a topic I can’t help but want to explore. I seem them online, on people, in pictures, and envy them. Each dress has so much personality and can convey personality, sometimes more so than any other article of clothing. I find dresses interesting because, in the right picture, or moment, or memory, they convey glimpses of growing up, becoming a woman, and the events that shaped me on my way to adulthood.

Not only is wishing for a dress to have pockets a universal desire in the dress-wearing community, but the act of dressing up itself is a visible marker for adulthood. The chance to change from frilly frocks to sleek evening gowns provides a sense of maturity the way few other clothing items can. Sometimes it’s hard to bear leaving some markers of childhood behind, and the ability to stash trinkets and distractions like a phone or a book into my pocket provides that. I’ve had an admittedly fraught relationship with dresses, starting from when I was a tomboy who would rather play tackle football with my brother than take a dance class. However, as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate the difference between feminism and femininity. Now, years later, I can wear a dress and feel comfortable because donning a dress doesn’t mean committing to being any one kind of woman.

Feeling comfortable in my own skin is a recurring theme for me, and expressing myself through my clothing choices is the most obvious way to process that battle. I’ve never desired to look like a model or have clothes that were in-season, but I’ve wanted to dress to express myself. It’s taken a lot of introspection to understand what image I want to project to the world because appearance is so often tied to identity. I carry this struggle with me as I write—how characters perceive themselves, how the world may perceive them, and how they act to change or enforce those beliefs.

At times I’ve struggled to figure out the image I want to project into the world. I grew up playing with the boys on my street, making mischief. I grew up dreading wearing dresses for fear of being mocked by my friends and hating that it was more difficult to run and play. So many milestone events in my life have been ones for which I’ve been forced into a dress, even when I wasn’t comfortable. Doing things, being put in situations that aren’t comfortable, is relatable, even if wearing dresses isn’t.

When I dig deep inside myself to question why I spent my adolescence hating dresses so fervently, I come up with a few answers: because they made me feel like an imposter; because I worried that they wouldn’t flatter me (either physically or personality-wise); because I wanted to run or flop on the couch with my legs spread without a thought to modesty; because I hated the way my legs chafed together on hot, sticky summer days. Now, with the ability to purchase my own wardrobe, armed with a stick of deodorant (will cure that chafing like whoa, trust me), I’m glad that I have fought this battle. I wouldn’t be nearly as self-aware if I hadn’t ever had to stop and consider this dilemma I faced for every milestone in life.

This struggle led me to pause and ask myself, “Why do I hate this?” A question I’ve found that will offer insight, no matter the topic. So yes, I do wish this dress had pockets, but my purse can hold more stuff, anyway.

High-Five Romance

Credit for the original gifs (which I made into one giant gif) goes to tinamy.co.vu
Credit for the original gifs (which I made into one giant gif) goes to tinamy.co.vu

Almost a year ago, on a rare trip home to visit my parents, Dad and I painted a familiar picture: sharing the living room as one of us clicked around on our laptop while the other vaunted control of the TV. Aside from golfing and visiting the West Side Market, watching TV together is our greatest bonding experience. Maybe one day I’ll enumerate all of the weird and wonderful moments that have come from that.

But not right now. Right now I want to focus on this one particular moment, where Dad and I were reunited in our natural habitat. For the life of me I can’t remember what we were watching, but whatever it was gave my dad pause. He looked over the screen of his laptop at me and said that it was beginning to dawn on him that he and my mom didn’t necessarily do a great job of being affectionate around each other when I was growing up. He wondered if they set a good example of showing me a relationship to aspire to when I was younger.

I had to think about that, because I have never doubted that my parents love each other. They’re still together after 31 years of marriage, they must love each other. But at the same time, I have the kid-goggles of thinking of them as my parents – a unit, but not necessarily a couple. My parents are loving and affectionate, but not in the way that I ever had to worry about walking in on them making out in the kitchen. My parents are not prone to PDA, a fact for which I am eternally grateful.

So after agreeing with him that they aren’t the most romantic of couples, Dad asked what I found to be my ideal standard for judging a good relationship. It wasn’t something I’d given a lot of serious consideration before, despite being surrounded by couples in every day life and pretty much every bit of media that I consume. In the end, it wasn’t difficult to pick one  factor above all others: high fives.

High-Fives are great couple behavior. When I think of the couples on television that I grew up watching, shipping, and envying, they are, overwhelmingly, the ones that would high five. (Or seemed like they would high-five off screen.) There’s a reason that my tag on tumblr for Chandler and Monica is “OTP: high fives”.

The innate knowledge of when is acceptable to high-five is half the challenge. They can be celebratory, like if your team is better at Celebrity, or your fantasy football team won, or something truly excellent happened at work.

In sharing a high-five, you’re acknowledging your SO’s partnership, you’re congratulating them, you’re rewarding them. You’re sharing something. It seems kind of cool. (But also know when you should keep your hand to yourself, because few things are worse than the disappointed little shake of the head you get when it’s “not the time”.)

Unlike it’s cousin Relationship Theory, the High Five Romance is a real-world desirable relationship standard. And that’s kind of the point; whereas the relationship theory demands a passionate, roller-coaster of emotions, the high-five romance is calmer. Yet it still manages to be a thing of passion – I’m not looking to high-five someone over something I’m ambivalent about, rather something I find so exciting and exhilarating that I need an outlet outside of my body. I’m looking to high-five when I have so much joy and such a sense of accomplishment that I literally need to share it with someone else. A high-five can be comforting, but still fun. It’s lighthearted but has significance. And I like that.

High-fives can be flirtatious and/or the product of inside jokes you think are a-mah-zing, but make your friends want to vomit or be a celebration in-and-of themselves AS WELL AS your amazing shared pop culture knowledge or maybe it’s “an expression of elation and teamwork” (shut up, fist-bumps totally fall into the same family as high-fives, especially if they’re done with that beatific expression of joy):

Relationship Theory mainly portends to fictional couples and our desire to live vicariously through them. High-five romance, however, is about how I’d like to apply some of the rules of fictional relationships to real life. Obviously high-fives accompany other relationship habits, but they’re a very good stop on the affection spectrum, and they deserve some recognition.

tl;dr High fives are great and I hope they play a significant role in my next relationship.