AM I A HIPSTER? (AND OTHER CONCERNS.)

I wear Ray-Ban Wayferer glasses, I’m big into finding new spots, I like craft things, I’ve had poutine more than once, and I totally think bacon on popcorn is the great new frontier. Pop up dinners? I’m in!

When I moved to Chicago, I moved to Wicker Park, and then to Pilsen. Guilty… and guilty by association too!

I’ve been going through each item of the “hipster definition” list, and I’m afraid I may be one. I appreciate art:

instagram pic aic

… and I downloaded the Snoop Dogg (pardon me Lion) app and thought it was hilarious. Laughed a good while.

billcosbydisdain

I’m sorry. I would like to apologize, formally, to everyone. I have come to terms with my reality. I won’t even offer up a defense – I am a hipster, and I’m OK with it.

The only thing that I feel deeply conflicted about is Liz Lemon not accepting me (but secretly, I think she would like me if we hung out.)

hipster nonsense

All you other people, don’t care. Do not care at all.

But even coming to terms with this hasn’t calmed down my neuroses. I’ve started to realize I am extremely neurotic, and it’s only getting worse with age. (The fact that I’m only realizing that now gives me more stress. The other day I found myself contemplating if I was destined to be a late bloomer for life.) I also started worrying about my Vitamin D intake. Should I be taking more? Is that a thing?

What I mean is, now that I’m well into my 30th year of life, have I really learned anything? Am I in any way smarter than say, when I was 25? I thought 30 would mean “you got your shit together.” You know, you’re an adult, and you do adult things. But since turning 30 I quit my job, moved in with my mom for the summer, and decided to move half-way across the planet for “new experiences.” Is that what adults do? Or have we altered the definition of adulthood?

And here is where I have arrived. Another year older, and I thought I had nothing to show for it. A new decade and not a clue about what I’m doing with my life. The main difference is, I don’t care. Or better, I don’t mind. I have no clue what these choices will bring. I can’t really tell, but if adulthood is knowing who you are, I definitely know who I’m not! I keep remembering a philosophy class from college (yes, that one that everyone remembers.) The professor said to describe a chair to someone who had never seen one. One by one students gave descriptions:

“It has 4 legs.”
“So does a horse.”

Not earth-shattering, but at 18, students

KKwhatevs

The exercise was just that. A way to chip away the preconceived notions of language and how we view our reality. At the time it was simple. A chair, the number 3, what’s more real? Like a really painful study of Magritte. But now in it’s most tangible way, if applied to adulthood, it can become a clear definition of what an adult is. Or better yet, isn’t. An adult is not someone who has a mortgage, is married, has a 401K, 2.5 kids, and a dog. (BTW – if I have a dog, am I closer to adulthood?)

An adult is someone who knows if he/she wants a mortgage, or to be married, or how to prepare for the future (or even if you want to prepare), if you want kids (some people should not be entrusted with minors), and if they want a dog!

I’m not defining the future by what I want to do, or where I want to be. So far, I know what I DON’T want, and where I DON’T want to be. I think that’s good enough.

Also, I think Tuesdays are the worst day. I’m writing this on a Tuesday. Tuesdays unlike Mondays don’t have the lingering residue of the weekend, and they are so far away from the next weekend. Wednesdays at least have the “hump day” marketing now. We’re seeing the cup of water week half full by Wednesday. Tuesdays are just boring. Uninspired. Sorry, Morrie. (This is a legitimate concern and thought ruminating in my brain.)

Your brain

brain

Your brain on critical thinking

brain ping pong

Other concern-musings from recent weeks:

  • Did my metabolism really shoot to zero at 30? If so, how do I lose weight/stay in shape? Do I need to work out more? I can’t work out more…
  • Does my dog think I’m abandoning her? Am I doing irreparable damage? Does that make me a bad person?
  • Could I have developed adult ADHD?
  • Am I just another Millennial statistic? AM I A MILLENNIAL?
  • Do I need to cut down my Facebook friends?
  • Am I watching too much reality TV?
  • Does “48 hours” count as reality TV? Am I watching too many crime-drama shows? Are they helping or glamorizing murder? Does that speak more to how our society operated or our creative collective?

My brain is fried, so cats.

funny-cat-gif

***

*I heard of a place that will serve toast all day, and I am genuinely excited to find this place and try their toast.

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‘HAVING IT ALL’ IS NOT A GENDER ISSUE

Women are really important right now. Women are everywhere. Women are mothers running a household, and now they are CEO’s running a corporation. It’s difficult to avoid women. Women have even become trending topics! Women, women, women. Inescapable. The “fairer” gender, all of a sudden, is having its moment in the sun!

The popularity of women created an exploitable interest group now. Suddenly, as if we hadn’t existed before, suffragettes hadn’t worked tirelessly for voting rights, feminism was just a fad from lesbians upset with their bras, women – much like the fashion wheel – are a thing again. Tassels, fringe, leather, and lace.

But we women are in now, and people are going to talk.

I read through all the pieces, from The Atlantic’s seeming obsession with this topic and Indra Nooyi’s candid interview to the Matt Lauer-Mary Barra much contested interview. Then I red the “write-terpretations” of each (my new term for articles that write a new interpretation of a seemingly straightforward statement.) So many points of views, and each, increasingly more entrenched in the ideology that women could (should they set expectations accordingly) have almost all (and always at the cost of the family.) Basically, each ended with what could easily be put into an imagery of “think of the children” montage. The other response: what if women don’t want the family? It’s our choice. Another: It is insulting to our intelligence and derailing the conversation, you wouldn’t ask men that question! Or yet another: Why even ask that question?

I read everything. I devoured it like I was going to be tested on some right or wrong metrics developed by the Core program. It made me sick – then, I had my Oprah-like “aha” moment, although I don’t know if she would have liked my epiphany. “HAVING IT ALL” IS NOT A GENDER ISSUE! It should have never been. It is simply because now women are surpassing men in college graduations and entering the workforce to compete at a slightly more leveled playing field. (Sometimes, this part of my brain that still operates on guilt, somehow convinces me that we gave them patriarchy as a head start for their shortcomings – now as we bridge that gap some un-evolved binary gender adherent men are scared. Is that PC enough?)

As for the issue at hand – having it all. A more pressing and interesting question is why women entertain the question. Having everything in life is impossible. That’s not a gender dynamic; it’s cold, hard, calculating economics. Microeconomics, to be exact, and it is opportunity costs. Is occurs independently of what or who you are. In its simplest form, opportunity cost is “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” We must choose. There is a finite amount of time in this life as we live it; therefore, when faced with options we must forgo some to fulfill others. We prioritize. It’s why those “Sliding Door” fantasies occur; it’s why some people never act (but that is a choice in itself.) If presented with two things: career advancement or family, we must make a choice. Until recently (and still very much in the forefront) women’s answer should always be family. Well, of course, we could have a side job to get us out of the house and make us feel useful, but family always first. Then came a breed of women, unafraid to bitch their way to the top. (Because, men are aggressive. Women are bitches man-eaters. Fact.) The truth is, taking opportunity cost into effect, these women prioritized career. They chose like men. Because the male definition of success equates to acquiring a family without the need to maintain it, or even be present in its development.

Now that women (however few) have reached the same executive positions and success as men, the definition of success morphed. Success is being perfect at everything! Success is getting the promotion at work, completing all your Pinterest board dream DIY décor ideas, and never missing a parent/teacher conference.

Think of the Care.com commercials. Have you seen them? The “Multiplicity” ad presents, in a 30-second time frame, the definition of female success. Somehow, when the estrogen ingredient is added to success it equals to overwhelming.

Under any definition Indra Nooyi is successful. She has been married for 34 years, has 2 daughters, and is the CEO of a multinational corporation. She also happens to be a woman, and Indian. 3 things she’s worked for, 2 things that happened to her. When she asserts that women can’t have it all, and it is quoted over and over again as a banner from patriarchy calling out to all women letting us know we will never achieve our dreams of 100%, I can’t help but frown – if I had a large apple tree I would go and sit underneath it to sulk.

The “having it all” dilemma raises more questions than providing a guideline for how to live life. I won’t be Ms. Nooyi or Ms. Barra, but I have a right to use them as inspiration without an asterisk. Without a “but.” They should be controversial without questioning if they’re happy with their life choices. Men can look at, and idolize, Jack Welch and Steve Jobs, without even the slightest concern for their personal life. And I think that’s the end point of the argument. Having it all is not a professional question. It is absolutely personal, and to a certain extent it pries into the individual’s life in a stealthy way. It doesn’t come right out and ask “tell us everything about you,” but in a shorthand way requests personal information from the individual. Women are expected to answer how they handle it all at a higher rate than men. Women can’t just be powerful on their own; it must come at a cost. Somehow. Why? Are women setting the standard by even entertaining this question, or are we just more vocal?

Women are flawed, just like men. To reach those levels of success, there is more in common between two CEO’s independently from gender than between Mary Barra and myself as women. Don’t ask women can they have it all, we can’t. But then again, no one, not ever, will have it all.

I’m exhausted, life is hard enough. We’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t. I’m going to go watch reality TV.

 

***

 Questions I would prefer we ask these high-ranking women (and all other high-ranking officials):

  • Would you reconsider bringing back Pepsi Clear?
  • Before Pepsi, did you ever think you were a Coke person?
  • Why does PepsiCo continue to obstruct California legislation on GMO labeling?
  • What has GM done since the ASOTRECOL hunger strike in 2012-2013 regarding labor conditions in its plants in Colombia?
  • How does GM counter the EPA claims of exacerbating pollution and the lawsuit brought forth by the US Department of Justice?
  • What does your company do in order to ensure compliance with local laws of operations in your international locations?
  • Does your company invest in its multinational locations? What does it do for the local community that will have positive long-term effects?

  ***

*Full disclosure, I read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and laughed at 50% of it. I agree men should share in household duties and as women we should be looking for partners instead of providers. Everything else, well, let’s chuck some of it up to lucky star alignments.

**And let’s get real, now that Kim Kardashian weighed-in in the matter, well, how can I counter? I’m just a nobody. Women can have it all! Vapid, dead-eye Instagram posts included!

 

 

“Can I Touch Your Hair?” Got Published!

She looked at me and said: “Can I touch your hair?”

In hindsight, I should have said no. We were sitting at a table in a bar, enjoying a lovely evening; everyone was having such a good time. I didn’t want to be a buzz-kill. So, I had become a party trick. For some reason, unknown to me, I don’t look Puerto Rican. So, my new Chicago friends thought it was funny to ask people sitting near us to guess my heritage.

I bent across the table, and let her squeeze my hair bun. She looked at me, and I could see the wheels in her head turning. It felt like forever, but then she said: “You’re Greek!” My friend laughed, he thought it was hilarious. I politely corrected her. She had a mix of disappointment and annoyance in her face; then she let me know I had Greek hair. I’m sure her disappointment stemmed from the failure of her fact-based theory.

TouchHair-mediumNo one at that table would consider themselves racist. They all liked me. Was I the one being weird, or is this just a fun game I’m not getting?

I grew up in Puerto Rico; shielded from minority status. I took my differences for granted, because I wasn’t. I thought racism was blatant, like on TV or movies, and I would know right away when I faced racism. I didn’t.

I learned what “micro-aggression” meant, and I realized that’s what I faced every time a friend paid me what I can only assume they thought was a compliment. Every time they smiled and said “Oh, you don’t sound Puerto Rican” or “you’re not that kind of Puerto Rican.” Apparently, a memo went out. I was not aware. We’re not post-racism; we’re in a brand new era of racism brought about by political correctness and extreme politeness.

This is who I am, it’s a fact. I didn’t choose it, I just happened upon it. I, however, am not solely defined by it. I am a fully formed human being with many defining factors that either differentiate me or make me a part of a group depending on where I am at any given time. I’m obsessed with Steve Martin, politics, Friends (the series, and my friends too), Frank Sinatra, Hector Lavoe, I danced salsa at every party; I’ve read Cien Años de Soledad every other year for the last 10 years, I also went through a phase where I read all the beatnik writers, and watched all the Audrey Hepburn movies. I am aware a lot of what I just stated makes me painfully uncool, which informed me more than just my nationality. I am not a two-dimensional character sidelined by one factor. Humans are more complex.

I am not embarrassed by my culture or my heritage. It’s unspoken, but I know what people mean, and I don’t find it flattering. No one but me gets to define who I am. I look in the mirror and I see “una mancha de plátano” staring back at me – proudly. I made my choices based on my interests, but they are informed greatly by my culture. Racism is alive; it’s now nuanced, morphed, shape-shifted. People won’t yell racial epithets, but they let you know subtly (often unwittingly) that you are different. Because racism is not just about the differentiation of a race, it’s in the idea that one race is entitled to decide and define another race.

This offended me. Offended by the inability to have an honest cultural and race conversation because no one wants to insult anyone. What it leads to is even more insulting. It assumes that we cannot carry an objective conversation on race and race relations. Or worse, not worth the discussion. We are.

Racism finds the lowest common denominator, it finds the stereotype and does not allow for deviations from it. We are all a giant bell-curve. This is where micro-aggressions hurt the most. They paint with the broadest strokes. It concludes that each minority, be it based on culture, race, gender, or any other differentiating factor, falls under a category with pre-set parameters without accepting any changes. It is comforting to have a definition, but it is not right.

Now, when faced with these assumptions of my Puerto Rican-ness, I try not to get insulted. I take it as an opportunity to start a new conversation. Sometimes with a disarming joke – just to let them know gently that we are not a supporting character in the life movie that says something sassy in Spanish and walks out.

Granted, I will say something sassy, but I can say much more than that.

                                                ***

via La Respuesta Media

Great Expectations

I was waiting to put some distance between myself and this entry. At some point I was hoping the sickening happiness and loving-everyone fog would settle, and I could write coherently, dryly (and somewhat cynical) about weddings being all about pomp and circumstance. But that’s not how my stupid emotions work, and they’re still going crazy.

So, let’s work through this together, let’s work out the turmoil of emotions, hormones, and genuine love.

I’ve become quite an expert in weddings. It all begins when somewhere along the way I started collecting friends. In my childhood, as I grew up, and even into my 20’s. I always thought “the more, the merrier” was the best way to approach friendships. After all, friends are the part of our families we get to choose, right?

What I didn’t think about was that these friends would grow up, like people tend to do, and fall in love, and want to get married, and want to start a family. I also overlooked a crucial point. Just as my friends mean the world to me, I belong to their world as well. We tend to forget that, mostly because we’re self involved. (I use we to deflect from myself, just in case you didn’t catch that. I’m extremely self-aware.)

This means, each milestone in my friend’s life includes me, just like my milestones will include them. Et voilá, reciprocity! So, with each engagement, each wedding, each baby, I’m there! And when I step back, I’m nothing but grateful. This wedding was no different.

Vanessa, the bride, and I met in junior high. We bonded over being in the choir together, one of the boy bands du jour, and movies. Movies were our true love affair. We sat for hours watching old Hollywood in its heyday. We were probably the only 12 year old girls that were aware of the Andrews Sisters, and wished we could somehow catch the attention of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Yeah, it’s a wake up call when you realize all your favorite actors and singers are dead, and you’re a tween! Needless to say, but our bond somehow survived the general fluctuations of life, the living in different cities, and everything else that could’ve gotten in the way. It was still a surprise when Vane called me and asked that I be a bridesmaid, and then pressed her luck by asking me to sing “Pie Jesu” and say something during the reception. There’s no evidence of the song, so don’t even go there. However, I did keep a copy of the speech, and you can see it later in the post – with the corresponding picture from an unflattering angle.

Enough about me, let’s talk more about the wedding, and all the events leading up to it. Great Expectations is a great novel, it could also be the underlying theme of every single wedding. There are expectations about everything, from the location to the flower details. Each one a potential for tears, or even worse rage. Yet, even with all the potential for sheer horror, we go through with it with the hope that it’s the greatest metaphor for life. That somehow hard work, sleepless nights, and emotional breakdowns will yield beautiful moments that make it all worthwhile.

A week before the wedding I quit my job, and would start my funemployment in New York City. There’s enough here for another entry, so I’ll hold off on that until a later date. Let’s focus here on love and friendships.

My funemployment week started off with a bridal shower and a bachelorette party. Things got a little rowdy, but it was mostly girls being silly and making inappropriate jokes. And one of the bridesmaids yelling at the rest to finish the tiny cupcakes because they were her favorite and she wasn’t going to just throw them away! Yes, Carla, I’m calling you out. But you were right, they were delicious.  All the girls bonded, and I think I’ve made new friends, along with the mini high school reunion that happened. Yeah, I keep collecting friends, I think it’s far healthier than if I started collecting stamps. (A big shout out to the MOH Tracy, we’ll start our “Tale of Two City Girls” blog soon – working title.)

Great Expectations is also the inspiration for much of this wedding. Well, that and Jane Austen. (The only thing missing was a double wedding and Colin Firth. That would have been a great addition.) The ceremony and reception took place at Alder Manor in Yonkers, NY. Not the first place I would have thought for a romantic wedding, but shame on me for assuming. You know what they say when you assume. When you drive up to the manor, you get a chill. I can’t say if it was good or bad, mostly it was intrigue. Stay tune for Lali waxing poetically about architecture and design. For now, lets leave it at: it was living up to great expectations. The dilapidated mansion, home to a family at some point and the false outdoor setting for several Hollywood movies, served as the perfect backdrop for a romantic wedding. Being there made everyone feel like fairy tales could come true, that Hollywood endings were a possibility. Basically, I was battling with myself. At some point, I did let it all go and got swept into the whole emotional roller coaster and happily ever after, romcom big gesture. The devil’s in the details, and Vane excelled in all of them. From the dresses she chose, to the beautifully placed photographs of their families throughout the years. I must say that Nathan executed each of these details with such preciseness that can only come from love, because there was A LOT of little things.

The table arrangements were done by matching keys and movie titles. The keys then turned into charms you could wear long after the ceremony. At the entry way there were two flags, PR and UK represent. This was, after all, a multicultural affair. The guest book had within it quotes and antique etches, there was also an old hairbrush, old leather-bound books, and hearts cut out from famous novels. Each thing made it feel like you were stepping into this world, and it made the old dilapidated mansion feel like a home.   The food was a nice blend of rice and beans, different proteins and salad. For their first dance, Vane and Nathan wowed everyone with the cutest choreographed dance! And I was surprised with Nathan’s amazing dancing skillz – again, pardon me for assuming, I should know better at this point! Vane doesn’t do mediocre!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten many other things, like late night conversations and belting out Beyoncé in the hotel room (y’all know she’s my spirit animal.) There were also more Great Expectation metaphors and movie quotes (I’ll spare you.) That would make this a novel, rather than a very long blog entry. For now, I leave you with a lovely collection of pictures, which will compensate a 1,000 words each.

bachelorette 2

The bachelorette party started with making our own pasties and a burlesque class. Eat your heart out, Dita von Tees.
Mine were themed, Mardi Gras. They are staying in their little gold bag forever. Those kindergarten-level-pasties should never terrorize anyone!

bachelorette 1

We did the obligatory phallic lollipops and shots. Crown and sash in tow, we went out in NYC, and then to a burlesque show. You know, now we’re total experts after our ONE class.

***

wedding location 1

This was one of the views. In one of the brief moments of respite prior to the ceremony some of us snuck* off to meander through the manor.

(*Editorial note on the use of “snuck” vs. “sneaked.” Yeah, I’m sticking by my verb choice. )

wedding location 2It’s like the Secret Garden. (Yes, book nerds everywhere, rejoice!)

getting ready 1

Getting a bride into her dress is a team effort.

getting ready 2

Those buttons were like a chastity belt! But the dress was gorgeous, so whatever.

wedding ceremony 1

There were little birds flying in the greenery behind. All worthy of Vanessa & Nathan.

wedding cocktail 1

Unofficial, but awesome, high school reunion. We’ve been friends for a long time, special mention goes out to Yari for handling me like a champ! (And always laughing WITH me.)

wedding cocktail 2

 Our true nature comes out.
(Photography courtesy of Yarimar Jiménez.)

speech action shot 1

***

The Speech

Life is messy. We can’t tell what happens in the future, and fate can be a fickle friend. But movies are clean, they take the messes and wrap them up in our Hero’s Journey.

So, tonight, I want to offer my advice the best I can: vicariously, through movies.

First, we have an ordinary world. But soon it all changes, fate or a good screenplay writer, turns up and turns our ordinary world upside down.

After all, Ilsa could have walked into any joint, but she walked into Rich’s in Casablanca and nothing was the same.We take the leap, the chance, but these are forces in the world that will always try to keep lovers apart.

So, here are my top 5 couples (abridged) of how to overcome, or sidestep altogether, the common pitfalls and traps of marriage.

  1. Ben & Elaine from “The Graduate”: if only to remind you that there are some messed up families out there! Ben and Elaine faced one of the worst, so anything you face will probably be A LOT easier!
  2. Karen & Milton from “From Here to Eternity”: inspiring more attempts at sex on the beach than any other screen couple. Leading to more disappointed couples who just end up with sand in not-so-fun-areas.
  3. Melvin & Carol from “As Good As It Says”: may you always take your pills, ma you want to make each other a better man or woman.
  4. Phil & Rita from “Groundhog’s Day”: may you fall in love with each other every day, even when it could get monotonous… always try to figure out how to make the mundane exciting.
  5. Westley & Buttercup from “The Princess Bride”: Because they taught us “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a little while.”

There are many more, and really any Meg Ryan movie can show you it’s all solved by a grand gesture on top of the Empire State Building, but for now…

We’ve reached the end of our journey, the beginning of your happily ever after, and our Hero’s Reward.

¡Qué vivan los novios!

***

clown for hire 1

I’ve tried being serious, and I held out as long as I could. That was about 10 seconds.

vane bride 1

wedding happy couple 1

Don’t the make a gorgeous couple?

Thanks for hanging on till the end! Give yourself a pat on the back. Until the next one!

***

I Tried ‘TheMoth’ Again – Theme Envy

Some insight into my youth: I was never, nor am I now, a cool chick. Not cool at all. In fact, probably the opposite of it, and probably because I wanted to be cool so badly.

With age comes wisdom, and wisdom is basically knowing that you’re not cool and not caring about it. I’m really wise, guys.

Anyway, the theme of the evening was “Envy.” I wrestled with the theme because I try not to be envious of anyone, except Beyoncé. (I think we can all agree, she’s pretty much ruling the world, and even with her 8th grade education, she’s still cooler and smarter than us mere mortals.) But aside from that, I’m pretty OK with who I am.

However, that’s not always been the case, has it? And when I dared to look back into my past, I realized I was really jealous in middle school. Below is a short (less than 5min storytelling) story of one of my darkest moments, and also, how I learned my lesson.

the moth logo

***

You may not be able to tell by my Olympic physique, but I was – am – terrible at sports.

And ALL I wanted to do when I was growing up was be in my school’s volleyball team. The girls in the volleyball team were the coolest. I had some friends in the team, and every year they just seemed to get cooler. They had developed a short hand; they had specific uniforms, knee-pads, and special sneakers they got at Foot Locker – not like my cheap frilly ones from K-mart.

My parents had refused to invest in expensive sportswear for me, and for good reason. I have absolutely no hand-eye coordination, no depth perception. If a ball was going left I went right, just absolutely clueless when it came to any sort of sport. If there was a speed reading competition, watch out. I would own that!

I had no concept of shame. I tried out for the team every year; I wanted to be cool like all the other girls. You know, when you’re in elementary school everyone is kind of together, there’s no real clique yet. But every year that passed it became clearer that I was not sticking with my cooler friends who were making it into the volleyball team, they had tournaments, they were let out of class early to make it to games across town on time, and they complained about being tired because they got home from practice soooo late.

Ugh, I wanted to complain about being tired!

They also looked cool. They had cool pony tail accessories, cool sneakers, and VB Rags. If you don’t know what VB Rags are, you are really missing out. They look like a cross breed between MC Hammer pants, if they were shorts, and Magnum PI Hawaiian prints on them. Yeah, hindsight. But they would bring the new collections to school, and they weren’t cheap pants, contrary to what they looked like. And the girls on the team would be let out of class so they could pick out their colors and buy pants for the season. I really wanted VB Rags.

There was an unspoken rule at my school that 6th graders were allowed in any team, even if they hadn’t participated in any sports prior to that. 6th grade was the equivalent of high school seniors at my school, and they wanted to give us a chance to be in a team sport. We were a charity case. But again, I stress, no shame. So, I tried out, and this time, I made the team.

First order of business, get my pudgy self into those VB Rags, a children’s extra large team t-shirt, and convinced my parents to take me to Foot Locker. I am in the volleyball team, I repeated this several times at the store.

Now, again, in hindsight, I should have picked up on some of the clues at the store, but I had fallen in love with a pair of sneakers, and no one could talk me out of them. They were green, black, with white piping high top court sneakers. It’s the early 90’s take it with a grain of salt.

The day finally arrives, the first tournament where I’m going to participate. I had a scrunchy that matched my VB Rags and my freaking awesome sneakers with the knee-pads coolly resting on top of them. Everyone knows you don’t pull up your knee-pads until you’re going to play! I had been practicing my volleyball-girl attitude and look FOREVER! Aaaand I spent a good 2/3rds of the game warming that bench real nice.

Finally, when we were so far ahead and there were maybe a couple of minutes left, I was allowed to go in. I played. Well, looked at the ball go back and forth. Whatever. I was in the winning team, and it went to my head real fast.

We went to sit at the bleachers to watch the boys’ part of the tournament begin. I did my best to imitate the cool way the other girls were sitting, because they knew how to sit on the bleachers. I was really uncomfortable. When 3 boys from one of the other cool schools walked in front of us, AND THEY WERE WEARING THE SAME SNEAKERS.

I was wearing boy sneakers. There were red flags at the store, but I hadn’t picked up on them.

And just like that, my cool moment ended. I was never going to be a cool girl, in middle school, there’s no way to bounce back from wearing gender bending footwear.

***

Team and Other Unexpected Happenings

By now you know about my love affair with Chicago. It’s really taken over my life, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. You also know that I’ve spent the better part of this year training to run around it for a little while.
Well, this may be my last post about the marathon for a while (rejoice, the mighty marathon will step off her running soapbox!) I know, as we train we become pretty insufferable and impossible to be around. So, please accept this as my formal apology. This is my last post about this, I swear! (Next, will post political rants – you know, things to unite the masses.)

Well, the point of this entry isn’t really just about the marathon, but about the things that happen while you’re running it that you never expect, and can never really plan for. Let me explain myself… and maybe it’s best I should start at the beginning. You see, I’m not much of a self-motivated person. I always need external forces to help me achieve my goals. And the best way to get me to do something is to attach other people to it. Why? Because, guilt of letting anyone down is the only way I do things. That’s exactly how I trained for this marathon. One of my co-workers at the time, Melissa, and I wanted to get back into running, so we signed up to run the Chicago Marathon with Team in Training. We thought it would be a fun way to be active and see each other outside of work. This was as far as I had planned. Everything that happened after that decision changed the course of my year – totally for the better!
The first long Saturday that Melissa and I finally made it out to, we met another girl who had gotten lost running through the unmarked path we were asked to run. (We found a kindred spirit, and we would soon learn her name – Elisabeth!) After that first week, all Melissa and I could talk about at work was our weekly meetings to gossip without interruption or fear of being overheard in the office. Laura was in the kitchen with us at the time, overheard, and we convinced her to come and run, just once! It won’t hurt! Just come out next Saturday, it’s like, 6 miles, tops! Needless to say, but our powers of persuasion are quite legendary. She couldn’t say no, she showed up, and we ran. Laura signed up, and soon after that Elisabeth realized that we all had a similar pace and running style. Soon, we were a pack of 4!

In the mean time, Melissa had gotten a new job, so Saturdays became the only assurance I would see her that week – and we had a lot of catching up to do at that point! Elisabeth, it turned out, lived really close to me, and we could start morning runs around the lake with our new buddy system! During the week, Laura and I would stay motivated at work, and do some cross-training too. Then shortly after that, Melissa was diagnosed with the evil “runner’s knee.” I love Mel, but her knee was being a little bitch! But with doctor’s orders, we were not disobeying, and Mel had to sit it out. Still, she became one of our loudest cheerleaders, and the day of the marathon showed up with bananas for us at Mile 16. How amazingly unselfish is that?! We’re sooooo an awesome team! (Mel got the “green light” to run the Nashville Half Marathon in April, and we’re already planning to go cheer for her and repay the favor.)

This was just the summer and we had already seen our fair share of action. In the mean time, Laura also got married (there’s pictures of her wedding in an earlier entry.) Elisabeth and I both had ups and downs with work, and I realized that my time at Second City had ended and started re-evaluating myself. Tons of self-discovery b.s. that we don’t need to discuss, because, let’s face it, we’re all awesome, and everything is going to be fine. Am I right? Right? No mental breakdown necessary! Anyway, we’re running, one foot in front of the other… running, focus!
The BIG day arrives, we’ve eaten what we’re supposed to eat, we’ve slept throughout the week, we set aside our outfit, and we’re ready to go! We started running and around mile 2, as it was expected, my shins started hurting – quick stretch, and we’re out! Ups and downs, and bathroom breaks happened, but everything was perfect. Alyson met us around Mile 8, and then Elisabeth’s parents were around Mile 11-12, and soon after that Mel at Mile 16, Jimmy (Laura’s husband) at Mile 17, Alyson at Mile 18 again, and Laura’s family doing the Pilsen stronghold at Mile 19. It seemed like every other mile had scored some sort of amazing support necessary to keep us from hitting the infamous “wall.” Then the unthinkable happened, that curve ball you can’t possible see coming. Laura pulled her IT band around Mile 21, no amount of stretch was helping, and Elisabeth quickly flagged down one of our TNT coaches in her discernible green shirt and purple tutu. She walked with us to the nearest Aid Station. Laura was wrapped up and iced. The doctor gave her the OK to finish the marathon, although, I think he did it out of fear that Laura would bite his head off – she can be scary determined. She had to walk it in.

Back to the beginning of our little group. Way back when we became this little pack, we promised to train, to run, and to finish TOGETHER. We used phrases like: “come hell or high water” and “through thick and thin.” Well, this was the test. One of us was not going to be able to run, walking in those last 5 miles took us 2 hours, but we crossed it together. We stuck it out, as did Abby. We plastered mustaches on, to make ourselves laugh, and people cheered us on. Laura smiled through the pain, even though at one point she had tears streaming down her face. Several times she told us she wanted us to run ahead. We didn’t, we stuck it out, TOGETHER. Cue the string quartet, the slow clap, and the Disney happy ending. It was totally “Kumbaya” and I was beaming! Not even the lack of medals at the end (yeah, they ran out) could ruin the fact that when theory became reality, we still stuck to our ideals. We’re all mushy and bffs and all, and it’s tots true!

I share this story, because I’m extremely proud of the people I have befriended along the years. I don’t take a single one for granted, and although some fall through the wayside because life does get in the way, I am always thankful for even the shortest of friendships. And it’s because they tend to show up when you need them the most, and didn’t even know it. It’s because the bonds that form when you stick by someone, show the character of that person, their integrity, their humanity. Even at my most cynical moments my faith in humanity is restored because of the people that surround me. Family and friends, they continue to impress me. My brother showed up at Miles 12 and 23, and walked the whole way to the end, in the cold, and applauded us. My friends, they stuck together, when one of us was down and never wavered, never questioned.

OK – the end! I promise no more sentimental posts for a while! Get ready for smartass, judgy Lali to make a comeback real soon!

And now for the fun picture compilation:

Injury prevention – wicked shin splints! (Notice the purple = team colors)

I also got a manicure to show my support. (Also, got a purple lipstick, but that ended up being a bad idea. It was cold, and I looked like I was entering the early stages of hypothermia.)

WE GOT OUR BIBS!! So young, so naive!

Still with that youthful exuberance… we can take on anything! (And probably over the world!)

It’s here! It started, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod (that’s pretty much what’s going through my mind – and blocking out the terror.)

I calmed down once I saw the first sign coming down State Street. I’m remembering, and putting one foot in front of the other to fight cancer. Kicking it in the balls!

I’m running it for fun, whatever that means! So, I stopped and took pictures. Look at all of us! Mile 7 and we’re kicking ass!

We got a little crazy around Mile 22 and broke out the mustaches! Movember a little early, but rallied the troops!

OPPAN GANGNAM STYLE!! This makes the long hours seem worth it.

WIN!! This is the poster board my roommate, Alyson, made.

Friends we picked up along the way, and helped us cross the finish line. (Laura was already hurt, look at her putting on a brave face. Rock Star!)

Again – the signs made my life!! Thank you, guy.

Who cares about time? We crossed the finish line, we’re marathoners. We’re the 1%!!

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My latest venture:

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What Has Consumed My Summer and My Life

I keep having catch up phone calls with my friends – this thing about following your dreams and moving to different cities is great for the soul, but taxing on the phone time. Anyway, it’s the price we all pay in the search for happiness, and for that I am grateful my friends are in all corners of the world. (And thankful I have a place to stay in almost every continent, and more than one state!) Continue reading What Has Consumed My Summer and My Life