Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November Is For Lovers.

I can't remember who said it now.

"Screw February," she said. "November is for lovers." Something to that effect.

I have to agree. So many of my friends have recently found happiness with one dreamboat or another, and they gush appropriately.

I guess I slept through Boyfriend Season, because I know I don't have one. (You know... fishing season... hunting season... boyfriend season... forget it.)

To be honest, I can't complain.

There is no better time to be single than twenty. Twenty is the new thirteen. When you are twenty, you're in the throes of neoadolescence. The world is your oyster. Responsibility is slinking quietly up to you like a boa about to constrict... but you do not have to care for two short years.

I am woman. I have neurotic tendencies. I am bright. I am confident. I am dryly witty. I am the new thirteen.

But really, where would I be without The Bangles?

PS--I'd also like to point out the attractiveness that is my family:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So, for the past couple of hours, I've been looking at THIS:

The Theatre Arts Graduate Program of ___________ has long been recognized as one of the most outstanding graduate schools in the nation. The program offers a M.F.A. in Acting, Scenic Design, and Dramaturgy (Or it will say Dramatic Writing or Theatre Criticism.) Our students are universally challenged to create wonderful, critically valid works of art which will render them incapable of ever being unemployed by any theatre. Our involved faculty experts empower our students to take over the theatre world.

(Looks good. I scroll down.)

Students of dramaturgy (or dramatic writing or theatre criticism) are intellectually dragged through the sewer by their hair. Their exceptional dedication and voracious talent means that they are required to write a book the size of Tolstoy's War and Peace on each and every graduate level production at the ______________ School of Professional Drama. The book must use proper punctuation, MLA format, and blank verse.

Each potential dramaturgy MFA is required to fit 1000000000000000000000000000000 hours of work into 60 credit hours. Our three year program will suck away 10 years of your life, as seen in the torture scenes in The Princess Bride.

The dissertation and thesis committees are located in the scenic submerged city of ancient Atlantis. Find Atlantis, defend your master's thesis, and, after our committee has torn it into shreds, edit it into a masterpiece worthy of our graduate program within 2 minutes. While knitting a sweater for Anne Bogart and participating in an anti-Bush demonstration.

I am, for real, going to flip.

Discontent, diseased, and disgruntled....... OR AM I?!

I came off of my Thanksgiving holiday with a bug.

A big bug.

A hurts-to-move-hurts-to-eat-hurts-to-cough-hurts-to-sleep bug.

I caught it from my sister.

And five pounds, straight to my middle, of turkey fat. Don't ask me how it happened; I ate ham.

I look at the rest of my extended family, and I wonder how it happened that they are distance runners and I'm emphatically not.

Of course, the relatives are also into Cole Porter, as am I. We're not entirely from different stratospheres. (Cole Porter, by the way, inspired the title of this blog post by writing so many conveniently alliterative songs.)

But still. I have half the DNA of a distance-running family. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? I very suddenly wonder if I'd be expressing more of myself, my heritage, my identity, if I started running.

I had been signed up for a 2 Mile Walk/Run for charity, unbeknownst to me previous to my arrival in VA. Very well, thought I; one of my relatives donated the registration fee out of pocket, so I can surely amble with ease for two miles. It was a 34 or so minute promenade, meandering with my cousin and her boyfriend. We pretended to be powerwalkers.

But some of my relatives actually ran, or they ran the 10 am 5 Mile Run. One of my cousins is a runner for her university. Another cousin and uncle (not by marriage; my real, honest to God blood uncle) are training for a half marathon.

A half marathon is 13.1 miles. I would be bored to tears, even if I could run for 13.1 miles.

Or would I?

I am suddenly very discontent with being still for the time it would take to run 13.1 miles, which, if you are my 50-year-old running uncle, is still a few hours.

And yet I'm conscious--and self-conscious--that Thanksgiving is for being thankful. Even if, since I am in an ibuprofen-induced state, with sinus headaches, palpable muscle aches, and crankiness, it took a reminder.

Thanksgiving is not about the big turkey (I ate ham anyway) or Black Friday. It's about taking stock and thinking that I already have a pretty good lot in life. Even if I can't run 13.1 miles (yet) (and to run 13.1 miles would mean I'd have to buy expensive shoes and anti-chafe gel and probably an iPod) and I have PLAGUE (gee, thanks, Bethany!). I still have things that make me smile and make me a better person.

So here's to the stuff that isn't rancid in my life--the stuff that will never grow tiring or bitter. Here's to second--and third or fourth or seventieth--chances, thanks to a God who is, inevitably, always bigger than I. Here's to my awesome knit hat with the oversize pompom. Here's to being short. Here's to movies with Judy Garland in them. Here's to my patient parents. Here's to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Here's to dramaturgical, geeky research. And finally, here's to anyone who believes that, with training, I could one day run a half marathon.

Yup. I'm ready for Christmas.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

For Booey.

Congratulations on making it thus far through the throes of middle school.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with the cattiness that is so prevalent among girls your age--and the idiocy of boys your age.

Believe me, I understand.

When I talk with you, my beloved baby sister, the memories of being a wound-up wad of energy and emotion and nerves invariably comes flooding back.

Eighty-five pounds. Christopher Mitchell. Dealing with a brother I didn't understand. Zits. Ever After (and Dougray Scott). The Jenna Elfman-- that (first) hair cut that made me look like a boy. Sleepovers. Giggles. Sunday School. My beloved pink, ivory, and blue angora sweater. The Olympic Games in Sydney. Not fitting in... if I'm not cool enough for the rest of the (weird) homeschoolers, how gauche, exactly, does that make me? Dive played all the time on the Christian radio station.

And I look at this quivering mess of bad hair and giggles and knees, and I wish I could go back and tell her the things I am going to tell you. Not that it would make a difference. Young Claire liked to learn things the hard way. She kind of still does.


Girls who are really OK with themselves do not like to make other girls feel bad. Note that I did not say "Girls who are really into themselves do not like to make other girls feel bad." But girls who are really, fundamentally secure are invariably OK with making connections and lasting friendships with other girls. It's only the resentful and frightened little girls who feel the need to compete and alienate potential galpals.

This means that your archrivals are probably as insecure as you are, no matter how perfect an image they may perpetuate. So have a little pity. And don't take it to heart when they say catty things or badmouth you behind your back.

(And remember... you probably have hurt someone's feelings in a similar way at some point.)

Being genuinely friendly to everyone is the smartest thing you can do. You'll make friends because most of the insecure girls will want to befriend someone who accepts them and makes them feel cool. And then the few insecure girls who backstab will be gossiping about you to your new friends, who will defend you.

Caring about junior high boys? Not really that worth it. Most of them have not figured out that they do need to wear deodorant every single day. You may think they matter. And they should matter... to Jesus. Not to you.

So, now that I have told you not to take the junior high drama to heart, you may be wondering what I do wish you would consider focusing on. The answer is simple: bigger things than you. Life is crazy... for you. So put your crazy self into a cool situation. Continue to dance and do theatre. Learn a lot--but never think that you know it all. I started going to OFY when I was your age, and it changed my life.

Don't take the middle school drama to heart. Be okay with where you are. You are a beautiful, intelligent kid. Rebekah Carmichael thinks that you are "awesomeness." A lot of us are really proud of you... even if you are a middle schooler with a lot to learn, a lot of room to grow, and some pretty flagrant flaws.

And watch the movie Stardust. But you cannot watch it without me. I'm serious. I will be very angry if you see it when I'm not with you. It's the ultimate sister-bonding movie.

Whenever I mention that I have a sister around my two friends, they always ask "Is she hot?"

They're goofballs. Dirty goofballs who know that using the word "hot" in reference to my baby sister makes me vastly uncomfortable. Dirty goofballs who love to watch me squirm.

But I'm telling you this--and I'm being honest, because I don't lie to you--that in four, maybe five, maybe six years, not only will you have survived middle school and gone on to bigger and better things, you're going to be hot stuff.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Smell of the Crowd, The Roar of the Greasepaint

I'm not going to lie; I love being in the theatre department. I do.

I realized this, anew, today. I was walking through the performance space that's currently being used for "Pirates of Penzance," and I happened to see a large, eerie, red being with claws and netting and a fierce scowl.

We call him Lucifer and he is a gigantic puppet that usually hangs on the ceiling, reaching out his fearsome claws and glowering menacingly down on the scene shop, which is where we build the sets and props. (And by "we," I do mean "we"--I'm mean with a jigsaw--though the rest of the department may be meaner.) We're doing "A Christmas Carol" and my dear friend Meg is playing The Ghost of Christmas Future and is constructing a large, eerie puppet ostensibly similar to Lucifer. She has been walking around with Lucifer for practice. Right now, Lucifer is discarded backstage, stretched along the back wall so as not to get in the way of the Pirates.

And I just thought to myself, as I gazed upon this enigma, this paper, clawed puppet stretched along the wall as if in the middle of dying, "I go to school with a gigantic puppet named Lucifer."

The thought made me smile. I go to school for fantasy, for adventures too exciting to be really real. I go to school for the pirates, for the larger-than-life paper mache demons, for the pie shops and the turntables--all magical stage machinations which never work. I go to school for the happy endings and the tearjerkers.

I go to a school that is proud of gigantic puppets, that puts puppets on display.

I love theatre because you can watch your friends and foes put on just a bit of crepe hair and latex and become a different person.

I love it because I am interested in things that happen. I like action. Drama is action. Lots of action.

I love theatre because I love the sound of words. I love the combination of good vocabulary and good resonance.

I go to this school because we will spend thousands of dollars for paint for a show that runs for four performances.

I go to this school because it's full of people who put their heart and soul into every stroke they paint or every stitch they sew. We make mistakes--but it is because we are consistently challenged by the guidance of the faculty, who intentionally give us responsibilities that are uncomfortably large, in hopes that our characters will grow to fit them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Meaning of Life

I was discussing the meaning of life with an ignorant agnostic. Now, I'm not going to generalize here--not all agnostics are ignorant people. Some are very intelligent. This agnostic wasn't.

But I'm still thinking about the meaning of life... because I want my life to be ideal, perfect... everything in place, like a good stage manager's first aid kit.

I've heard it said that the meaning of life is putting things in holes. Such a postmodern concept: the meaning of life is forming context, relationships with people and things, connecting nodes in the brain. It's all text.

And I do that. I guess.

But I also break things apart. I'm the kid who would take off the back of the cassette player to see all the pretty colored wires on the inside.

I destruct.

I analyze.

And I write.

If I put things in holes, I spend the rest of my life poking the things out again and scrutinizing the holes and the things. I examine Christianity and theatre and people, because these are the things I care about.

What in your life grants meaning, and how?

For a friend of mine, it's visceral experiences. He hasn't told me this... but I know. It's the warm, fuzzy, deliciously 12-year-old-and-reading-Playboy feeling he gets when he reads Kurt Vonnegut. It's the accomplishment he experiences when he works really hard on a show and lives it. He's a pastor's kid--but he really should almost belong to the First Church of Epicureanism. It's not hedonism; it's a little too simplistic and admirable... it's just experience.

Good Friend, he of the giggles and Blue Moons, doesn't tend to think there is a meaning--because if there is, I guess he'd have to have some responsibilities. The meaning of life, to him, he says, is "Who cares if there's a meaning of life?"


I think that I care.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I'm a fighter. I'm an academic. I'm less than six months away from my legal champagne dinner. I'm praying.

Dear Jesus,

a. I've been listening to Darius de Haas' version of "King of the World." I hate to say it, but I identify quite a bit with the feeling of "ohcrapletmeoutofhere." It's not really senioritis because there are miles to go before I can blow everything off. But it's intensifying--I don't want to feel stuck anymore, I want to knock everybody's socks off, I want to have an apartment with a Mac (named Macheath!) and a cat (named Maxwell Silverhammer!), I want, I want, I want. I know I'm not ready for the rest of my life--this is why I am a junior--but I feel like I'm in a second stage of adolescence, just waiting for the day when my feet aren't awkwardly too large for the rest of my body and I can get out there and assimilate to the real world.

Gee thanks, college.

b. Other than the above feeling--which is not altogether unpleasant--I have been having some good times. I have lived dangerously. I have flagrantly broken rules that were meant to be broken. For me, this does not mean illicit drug use or shoplifting or anything else of that nature. Just thought I should make that clear.

c. I feel like I should be saving the world right now. Where is my sense of purpose? What do I do with it? See "a." Since I am so confused about what, exactly, I should be doing with my urges to impact the world and make connections with people... my immediate inclination is to forget the world and find some Haagen-Dazs. (It took me two tries to spell Haagen-Dazs correctly, and I'm normally a first-try-for-the-win speller. Darn you to heck, Hristov family!)

d. I want someone to talk smart to me. I am growing impatient with pretentious people and with stupid people.

e. I am impatient, unfulfilled and I AM TWENTY. WHERE IS MY LIFE GOING?


Monday, November 5, 2007

Tips on Blogging--from a flint-faced blogging veteran... yaaargh!

1) Choose a blog name that is easy to spell. I clearly did not take my own advice with this one. I suck, I suck, I suck.

2) Do not blog solely when you are angry or depressed. This is what personal, private journals are for.

3) Do not get too pretentious. It's one thing to be a brilliant person and blog; it's quite another to write, self-consciously inserting words like "syzygy," "vexillology," and "sciolism." (Unless you're my friend Michael Rader. Then, and only then, you can get away with it.) Words like those are for graduate school applications. Duh.

4) In fiction, it's fine to write about what you don't know. In blogging, not so much.

5) Too many blogs are just too many. Limits make life more sane. You'll probably only post regularly to one anyway.

6) Take advantage of having this sounding off board if you like feedback... I've posted scenes I've written and gotten some good advice on what to do with them. But be aware that this is the Internet, people plagiarize, don't get too personal or invest too much in what you post online.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Toxins. Marbles. And Who I Am.

So, there's this girl at my school. You know. The kind of girl who always seems to have a chip on her shoulder.

She always seems too exhausted and too fed up to deal with anything.

She's only 21 and she is jaded. She just doesn't know what joy is or how to deal with it.

She'll get defensive before the hat drops.

Her mouth will just drop open and complaints will just fall out, as if she's stuffed her face with marbles--complaint marbles--and she can't fit any more in.

She's not perfect... and she's let her limitations get the best of her.

And I realize, as I look at her and I think that life could so easily be so much better for her, that, too often, that girl is me.

I make people tired to look at me.

I approach life like it drains me... as if people aren't to be trusted... as if fun takes too much effort...

Because I can't impress the people I'd like to impress? Because I'm not the perfect person I'd always wanted to be?

Life is too long to be stressed. Life is too short to be stressed. It doesn't mean I don't care. It just means that I realize that I can't be the toxic, bitter person I've felt myself becoming.

I don't subscribe to burnout.

I subscribe to wonderful days... I believe that it's a good thing to be busy doing what I like... I believe that my time here can be filled with sleep and game nights and girl chats and champagne on my 21st and lots of phenomenal shows. That's part of what I came here for, and I definitely did not come here to be too shy or resentful or busy to enjoy it all.