Friday, October 27, 2017

Hairdressers: Reasons Why You'll Never See Me In Your Chair Again

I like to think I'm a fairly ideal client, and according to some rants from hairstylists I've seen on YouTube, I avoid all the major faux pas.

I arrive on time, if not early. I don't expect you to turn my fine, brown, wavy hair into a thick, blonde runway for Rapunzel's prince.

I make small talk without gossiping. I crack jokes and try to be lighthearted.

And what do I get in return? More often than not, a pile of shit on my head.


No more.

Over the past few years, I have had maybe 2 hairdressers who didn't completely fuck my hair. I've spent the last 3 years since moving (and thus losing a stylist I liked and trusted) trying to find someone who could give me what I wanted.

Then I settled into trying to find someone who could JUST CUT MY HAIR EVENLY.
My hair has been 3 inches shorter and DRASTICALLY more layered on one side than the other FOR TWO YEARS.

This, despite switching stylists, switching hair salons multiple times.

This, despite pointing out the already obvious problem and having the stylist see it, acknowledge it, and state that she could fix it, MULTIPLE TIMES.

So, I'm swearing off hairdressers. No more salons for me.

I'm going rogue. I'm buying myself the implements and hacking at my shit myself.
At least I can say I did it my way.

And guess what, professional hairdressers? I'm not the only one. I know of other women who are feeling the same way.
So, if you see a dip in your business, or simply lose an awesome client and don't know why, check this list:

1) You rake Satan's claw across my scalp. This is pretty self-explanatory. I don't know if you're trying to use the comb to draw blood  in order to use it as a pre-treatment or what, but what the hell? Is your own scalp made of steel? Who made you this angry? Furthermore, how about not tearing my hair to shreads?

2) You insult me in order to sell me hair products. Do they show clips of Mean Girls in hair school? Honest to God. I don't need you to blow smoke up my ass, but telling me my hair is dry and immediately segueing into a commercial for your $50 specialty-special shampoo and conditoner is so obvious it is laughable. Mormons arriving at the door are less obviously about to pitch me something. I would love it if you could just not sell me shit. Odds that I walked into the salon completely bereft of shampoo, conditoner, etc. are really low. I don't buy it until I need it, and when I need it I ask for it. And if you're giving me a hair cut that requires a certain product in order to be styled correctly, guess what. That hair cut sucks. People go camping, you idiot. People get rained on. And we still want to look good. DO NOT SHACKLE ME TO A HAIR PRODUCT.

3) You are hell bent on putting me in my place with your superior, specialty-special beauty school knowledge. Every single advice article on the internet says that you should bring in pictures when you go for a hair cut. I am careful to select pictures that feature hair similar to my own texture that show what I want. Guaranteed, at home, I put a lot more mental work into my potential hair cut than any stylist ever does for the hour or so I am in the salon chair. Yet, without fail, the stylist goes in hard critiquing what I've brought in, telling me that "actually there are lots of layers there" when I thought the cut looked really blunt, or "each one of those have different bangs." Okay. But bitch, is your objective to school me, or learn what I want? Because it feels like you just want to be an irritated diva right now. If I'm sitting here saying "blunt" and "side bangs," but I'm pointing to a cut where you see layers, maybe make like Jeopardy and phrase your shit in the form of a question, "Do you want a little bit of subtle layering like I see through here on the picture?" instead of screwing that mouth up and getting all Professor Hairdresser on me and making me feel like I failed after the hours I spent trying to find the right pictures to show you.

4) You decide to get creative and cut an interpretation of what I wanted instead of what I actually wanted. Let me ask you something. If I go to a Spanish-speaking country and take a Portuguese interpreter, how well do you think that's gonna go? Close enough, right? No? Well, same thing goes for my hair. If I show you a cut that sits on my shoulders but you decide to cut it slightly above my shoulders to "avoid my shoulder flipping my hair up on the ends," guess the hell what. I didn't get what I wanted. AND MY HAIR WILL FLIP UP ANYWAY BECAUSE I TOLD YOU IT HAS CURL IN IT. So now I have shorter hair than I wanted and it flips up on the ends. If I ask for blended layers and you instead cut a heavy shelf layer, maybe I don't realize it when you blow that shit out to perfection while I'm there, but when I get home and wash it and style it and no matter what I do MY EARS HAVE WEIRD HAIR PARENTHESES around them, I know what's up. You gave me The Rachel, bitch. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID.

5) YOU. CUT. MY. HAIR. SHORTER. THAN. I. WANTED. This should/could have been #1 but I decided to work my way up to it. This one is so universally bemoaned by every woman I have ever come across that I can't believe ya'll haven't gotten a clue yet. I think maybe you bitches are vindictive. My BIGGEST PROBLEM, whenever I have left a salon unhappy (read: crying, in tears) has been that too much was cut off. Maybe it's not a big deal to you because "hair grows" or "it looks healthier" or whatever bullshit, but I think there needs to be a fucking memo sent out from the U.S. government to all stylists to cut at least two inches lower from where you think you should cut on all clients. And that goes double for clients with curly or wavy hair. In fact, I think this should be a requirement for you getting your licences.

There are a thousand more details I could go into that would be specific to my experience, but I've tried to narrow this list down to an easy, widely-experienced top five that you can scan and know that one of these, if not all, have contributed to your loss of business, or at the very least to the complaint you receive or "stingy" tip.

Hairdressers, consider this information my service to you as I go forward, freeing myself from your "services."

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I don't know exactly why people were all over Amanda Nunes's ass booing her, but here is one theory.

Ya'll already know how I do. I pick the fighter I want to have sex* with, and that's who I cheer for. I've said this before, and I'm not ashamed. Everybody has their strategy, and I live by my hoocher.
I wasn't sure about Amanda at first because I didn't really get to see much of her personality because UFC has a problem with promoting certain fighters aww shucks, who knows why? Ahem.
But then Amanda Nunes smiled.
Amanda has this way of smiling that breaks her whole face open in the most vulnerable, eager way that you feel like you can see straight through to when she was seven years old and getting her first bicycle or ice cream or winning a game of hop scotch. It is pure and joyous and remarkably free of any self-conscious holding back. Her nose crinkles, and her top lip sort of folds down in a way that is most endearing.
Okay, so you know why I'm a fan.
Now let's talk about why most of the people in the arena at UFC 215 sounded like they are definitely not fans.
First, a little theorizing to lay down.
Ya'll know how sometimes people like to watch train wrecks of other people's lives blowing up just to make themselves feel better about their own lives that are normal and functioning by comparison? I'm talking about stuff like Jerry Springer and Cops and Donald Trump's presidency.
Well, on the other side of that, I think people also like to watch other people be extraordinary because it gives them something to pretend that they are, or that they could be.
I'm talking villains and heroes, here.
Nobody wants to be the ordinary guy. Nobody wants to be the victim.
Certainly, nobody wants to be the villain.
We all want to be heroes, and we feel this need to fuel our ideas of our own heroism by filling our brains with images and story lines of humans who are superhuman.
This is why Ironman works.
This is why superhero movies are usually blockbusters.
We're watching our greatest hope for ourselves on screen.
The problem is when we forget that we are all truly human.
The problem is when we stop allowing others to be human.
Now, how this applies specifically to Amanda Nunes.
Amanda Nunes had to bow out of her last scheduled fight because she is human, susceptible to human limitations, illnesses and twists of fate.
Boom, she is suddenly no longer a hero, no longer bullet-proof. But because we need these heroes, need these examples to cling to in our mind so that we can hold up our own inner schema of ourselves as heroes, you saw people turning on her left and right.
And what did you hear most of?
Usually it went something like this:
"I went to work with a sinus infection!"
"I gave birth with a sinus infection!"
"I completed my Christmas shopping with a sinus infection and a hangover!"
Notice that most of those statements involve "I" rather than Amanda. Because who is threatened here? That's right - the fan's own sense of themselves as a superhero.
Because if a fucking beast like Amanda Nunes who trains like a mother fucker and took out bitch after bitch after bitch in the UFC can be taken down by a sinus infection, where does that leave a miserable little lazy, regular person like me?
Right. It leaves you uncomfortably, vulnerably less than what you thought you were, less than what you wanted to be.
The people in the arena at UFC 215 last night weren't booing Amanda Nunes; they were booing their own weak, ruined selves.
It's as if, by not fighting, Amanda Nunes said, "Look guys, I'm human."
And the fans, like something out of the classic elementary school insult textbook, booed back with "I know you are, but what am I?"
And they didn't like the answer.
So, for the next time something like this happens (and it already did happen, to the other, former main card event, as a matter of fact), fans need to realize that fighters are human - fucking awesome, bad ass, super talented humans, but human - and while that may be difficult for you because it makes you feel like something less than human as you sit on your wine-stained couch in your ratty underwear with yesterday's pizza on the menu, you still need to accept it - accept it for the fighters, and accept it for yourself.
And just try to be the best human you can be instead of booing someone else because they're not who you need them to be.

* I am aware that Amanda Nunes has a girlfriend and at this time I would like to request that she not come beat my ass. No offense is intended to either Amanda Nunes or Amanda Nunes's girlfriend.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

One Bad Ass Thing Tonya Evinger *Didn't* Do At UFC 214 That Everybody's Ignoring

Best I can tell, everybody is ignoring this detail, and I won't have it.

Last I posted, I was bitching about how the UFC execs hadn't signed Tonya Evinger.

Well, the bastards finally did it, and it happened just the way you'd want it to - because the fuckers needed her to come save their asses and fight on the fucking card against no other than Cris "Cyborg" Justino.

It's like Cyborg is a ghost made of iron and protein bars and every-damn-body else is a colossal pussy, so who you gonna call?

Tonya Evinger, that's who.

So anyway, just as she was set to fight another battle for Invicta, all of a sudden I look on the Twitter and BAM! there's the news that she's signed to the UFC.

Cue me flipping the fuck out for about two months.

Because all this coincides with some pretty major life changes that I've been making, and continue to make, thanks to watching Tonya train on a medieval torture device (nah, really it was a Isophit exercise thingy), and getting called out and put into my feelings about being a lazy little tubby cakes.

ANYway, so she's in the UFC, thankgodfinally, and she's fighting an iron protein bar.

UFC 214 went down this past weekend, and it didn't go down the way I wanted it to, but


All during the build up to the fight, I had this Burning Question That I Dare Not Ask, and that question was,

Will she get her hair did?

Because about 100% of these women fighters go get their hair cornrowed until their scalps are about to actually split wide open, or else they have really short hair.

And I was wondering, what with this being the UFC, and all the pressure I'm sure she was getting to do things differently or be different or act different or FUCK EVEN TELL A REPORTER HOW DIFFERENT IT WAS BECAUSE THEY ASKED HER THAT ABOUT A THOUSAND TIMES, if Tonya might get her hair pulled out of her head for this fight.

But fuck no.


Everybody People who are cool and in the know have been saying what an "OG" fighter she is, and unphased, and real, and ya'll the hair is part of it.

One of the many awesome takeaways from UFC 214 is that Tonya stayed Tonya.

While I was watching the fight, 3 strange-o's came up and started chatting MMA with me. I didn't have time to school them on some shit, so I just ignored their asinine remarks for the most part until one of them said something about Evinger's "all over the place hair."

I kept my eyes on the fight, but I grinned and said, "Yeah, I love it."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tonya Evinger is up against the ass ceiling

First off, let's get one thing out of the way. I'm a "newbie," or "newb," MMA fan, and if you spend five seconds in the comments section on YouTube, you find out pretty quick that I'm not qualified to lick shit off the shoes of those who've been following martial arts since Chuck Norris first slung a nunchaku.

I'm a poet, and a girly girl. Lip gloss is my life. I've never been much for sports, but one day a picture of Holly Holm cleaning out Ronda Rousey's nostrils with her toenails hit my Google feed and - long story short - a little over a year later here I am with a basic idea of the difference between an arm bar and a guillotine, although I still don't know what the hell a half guard is.

I'll be honest with you. I pick the fighters I think are sexy and I root for them. If they have a good attitude and a good personality (read: are funny), I'll remain a fan.

Cue Tonya Evinger.

I think the first clip of Tonya Evinger I ever saw wasn't of her fighting, but running her mouth, and running it in glorious, unabashed fashion. She was being interviewed. She had a cap on backwards and she kept looking directly into the camera, almost like she was flirting with the lens, and a light from behind the cameraman's shoulder kept hitting her eyes, lighting them up. You got the idea that the camera was flirting back with her.

I watched several more interviews, all the same - Tonya cracks a quick, honest joke like an uppercut, then laughs it off.

I found out that she is a veteran of the sport, successful, proven.

I found out that she hasn't been signed with the UFC, and several MMA fans, reporters, insiders (read: not "newbies") have been wondering why.

This wondering has been renewed by Tonya's most recent redemption - a battle touted as the "leave no doubt" match, wherein Tonya proved that she really would have worked her way out of Yana Kunitskaya's arm bar the first fight if the ref had left her to wrestle in peace.

She won the fight and retained her belt in the second round (of five) by RNC (that's rear naked choke - using acronyms makes me feel fancy, also, knowing what a rear naked choke is).

Tonya Evinger grinds. She works hard, and not just inside the cage - I learned in an interview that when she's not in camp, training for a fight, she works construction.

I was surprised, and the interviewer was surprised as well. I guess I'm not the only one who was riding the fairy tale rainbow in my mind where all fighters at the elite level (Invicta, UFC, the point at which fighters call fighting their "career," which Tonya does) get a pot of gold and enough sponsership to allow them to train full time.

So, Tonya Evinger, quite literally, is a working class fighter. By that I mean that she works hard and has class, of course, but I'm also referring to the cultural designation we associate with certain jobs.

This leads me to the theory I have about why Tonya hasn't been signed with the UFC.

If you look through the comments section of any of the YouTube videos featuring Tonya Evinger, you're going to find more than one sucktard (sucker + bastard) who uses the phrase "trailer trash."

At Tonya's most recent weigh in, somebody called out something about a trailer and I honestly can't tell you if it was trash talk from the opponent's fans or a member of Tonya's own team indicating that they've embraced what the lonely, chronic masturbaters of the internet have tried to use as a slur against her.

In any case, all of the above just confirms that Tonya Evinger is my people.

See that trailer behind me in the picture above? I was brought home to that trailer from the hospital when I was born. My mama was married in a trailer.

Regardless of whether or not Tonya Evinger has any actual trailer in her background, one of the reasons I'm a fan is that I get an outsider vibe off of her.  I know that vibe. I know that life. I also know people can judge you for it, think you are less than them.

Over the past while that I've been an MMA fan, I've watched glossy, polished fighters who may or may not have highlight streaks in their hair be called up and promoted by the UFC.

In direct contrast, Tonya does her own hair before her fights, tying it back in a sort of basket pattern with tiny rubberbands, allowing a crazy ass cloud of fury to happen during her performances as her hair loosens from the ties, like some sort of warrior halo by the end.

I'm not saying that all or even any of the UFC fighters are preppy, bleach-tipped bourgeois - far from it, but I have noticed a trend by the UFC toward a certain persona that would be less likely to have "filthy" as their hashtag.

Maybe this is part of the UFC's concern (obsession?) with being observed as a high class, professional, legitimate sports organization, but they should know that it comes off to at least one fan as stinking of snobbery.

Besides, in one fell swoop, Tonya defended her right to be #filthy AND contributed to the legtimacy of a sport ruled by, well, rules and regulations, by taking her fight for foot placement to the commission.

The UFC shouldn't be afraid to be filthy if filthy is written into their rulebooks.

I've read more than once that Tonya Evinger has a chip on her shoulder, but in the vernacular of my people, it seems it ain't so much the chip on her shoulder as it is the blockheads on the shoulders of them UFC people that's the problem.

With the glass ceiling obstensibly broken by other star female athletes in the sport, it seems that Tonya Evinger may be up against the ass ceiling - decision makers who are judging her on something other than her talent and her record.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Some clear fall morning...(a run-on sentence)

Some clear fall morning, first of October, I hear an airplane puttering like an aeroplane, like a first Ford model car, fragile as any newborn machine, and I can believe for a second nothing's ever happened, not even me, or my mother; it's 1954, the year before my mother was born, and no one would even begin to think of a jet slipping silent and red and burning like a sleek needle into the window of a tall, tall building and then another into it's twin, those two gray arms, but this morning the rickety little sky-car didn't even leave a scar of chemical clouds - you might even believe they hadn't invented wings for men to drive yet, if you were sitting here like this with the sky so blue and you hadn't heard the engine.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Julia's Trash

Julius likes show offs, and Dahlia was a show off.  He doubted her real name was Dahlia.  She was already drunk at 5 pm, half slid off a bar stool, challenging Newton's thoughts on mass and gravitational force by stopping her total decent to the sticky floor with one toe, albeit her largest.  It had blossomed red under the nail from it's effort, like Sisyphus's cheeks must have done. Her sandals had long given up, and had folded themselves off to the side, bearing the dark, identifying imprints of her feet like name tags on children waiting for their parents to pick them up from school.
Julius had seen the empty stool beside her immediately, and knew the score a second after that.  All the other men had their caps pulled down or their shoulders shrugged up high, elbows pulled in close, their beers resting on their lips, perpetually taking or about to take sips, so that no one could expect them to speak.  They were all trying to make it to the bottom of the seventh so that they could go home to what would, ironically, seem like peace compared to this brash woman.
Julius slipped quietly onto the stool next to her, and as her attentions were turned to shouting at the guy closest to the jukebox five stools down, it took her several minutes to light on him, but when she did, the evening rolled real quick from there.  She didn't so much speak as overtly breathe her name, and she did this trick of leaning back and extending her pudgy little hand only so far, making the gentleman move forward to take it and try to shake, but she only held on, a little limp and soft and lewd. Her lips were coated with lipstick, an off color of red that didn't suit her, and she kept pushing them out, showing the wet pink that was meant to be up against her teeth.
By 7, he had an arm around, or nearly around, her waist and was helping her out to his car. She leaned more on him than he felt was necessary, but again Julius likes show offs.  They'd settled into play fighting to flirt - he kept trying to get her to tell him her real name, and the most should would give was a cute, shortened nickname for Dahlia, which was Doll - and when that back and forth got boring they reckoned they ought to move onto something else, which is when Dahlia or Doll - Julius guessed it was really Darlene or Doris - mentioned she had tickets to see Lost Kerosene Container at the Marble Street Theater that night.
Heavy metal.  His favorite.  So he put her in his car and didn't mind when the passenger door gave it's long, loud creak as he closed it because she didn't seem the kind to mind.  She had her pocketbook - where had that come from? - set on her lap and she had dug a cigarette out of it, was lighting the cigarette with a tiny little decorative lighter that made her thumb look like Paul Bunyan wearing an acrylic nail.
During the name game play fight, he'd kept trying to find a sincere, inoffensive way to ask her if she were a prostitute, but the concert tickets put his mind at ease because prostitutes don't regularly go see a show first.
At the concert, she became even more drunk, started taking bottles off of strangers when their last dregs got too warm and they were going for a fresh one. She kept trying to hold the bottles up to Julius's mouth like he were a baby, knocking the glass into his teeth.  She titled her head back and hollered the words to the songs as the band was singing, hollered words to the songs they had just sung, words to songs they had yet to sing, and words to songs of other bands not present.  At one point, she howled, and another concert-goer from a group of guys that had been watching and making fun for a while, mocked her, howling back, which Dahlia, Doll, took as friendliness and encouragement, so she started howling over and over, then got tickled and stopped howling because she was laughing, then she sat on the ground and announced she had to go to the bathroom.
Julius took this as an opportunity to get her back to the car, and home.  By the time they made it to the lobby, only partly because of his efforts, mostly from the inertia of the pushing crowd, which seemed to want them out as well as he did, Dahlia was falling down drunk, slipping out of his hands like a fish - a large, dank bass, but he kept her up with quick hands.  Dahlia forgot all about the bathroom and Julius got her out the door, fifty feet from the car when she dropped in one soundless movement, falling comically like Charlie Chaplin, and Julius's lucky catches were up like a cat's ninth life.  Julius let out a rush of air from losing her and then there was silence, not even a note or boom came from the insulated theater in the distance, and there was no one milling about in the parking lot.  Ridiculously, everyone in the universe was attending closely to Lost Kerosene Container while Julius stood over Dahlia's inert body.  
He took her arm at the crook of the elbow and gave it a tug, felt the pain he knew would shoot down his back, into his knees. He dropped the arm with another puff of breath, tilted his face up to the street lights, one a duller yellow than the other.
Dahlia was simply more woman than he was man.  She had him by nearly ninety pounds, which would be no bother except that he was chicken shit, always had been.  He'd been chicken shit at school, chicken shit at track and weights and baseball, chicken shit at vocational training, chicken shit at his last five jobs, chicken shit at everything except finding the one woman in the room that most lacked for being listened to and then shutting his mouth, letting her talk until she let him do a few things he liked to do in turn.
Even if someone came up within earshot, he wouldn't call out.  He was too embarrassed.  He saw her pocketbook, magically appeared again like a wizard's broomstick, and picked it up, pulled the clasp apart then rooted around until he found a tiny zipper at the back, where her cigarettes and lighter were packed. He took a cigarette, lit it and was smoking when Dahlia made a noise, a groan, angry and helpless at the same time, and he tossed the cigarette quick, grabbed her arm in a flurry, acted like she had just hit the pavement that second.
She came to enough that he could get her to the car, but he expended just about all his energy doing it and sat in the car beside her, holding on to the steering wheel, mind-numb from exertion, not turning the keys or attempting any of the other little maneuvers that would get them started toward down the road.
She slumped all the way over, ass up in the air, sandals kicked off and shoved over like at the bar.  Her dress was up and he saw her thighs all the way up to her hips, the indention of the buttocks flattened out by her position, her underwear a chaste slit of white that a young boy will stare at like a laser pointer for hours on a poster of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader for no good reason because he's seeing about as much as he would if he were staring at the crotch of a Barbie figurine.
Still.  That ought to be enough to do something for Julius, always has been, but tonight he finds himself disgusted, a little nauseous.  Drunk, sloppy, and half passed-out has never been a problem for him, in fact he's done his best work when the girls are too far gone to really be watching, but tonight Dahlia is starting to feel like his sister, and he's wanting to pull her skirt over her flank, get her home, meaning to her house, where she can go to her own bed, wake up later and walk herself to the bathroom to finally pee or puke.
But he doesn't know where her home is, so he drives to his own home, the home where he rents a room with some other guys, college guys that laugh at him and fake politeness to his dates, going red in the face from trying not to burst into laughter at the women, which they call "Julia's whores," Julia's instead of Julius.  It's all a big joke.  He's a big joke to them.  He parks out on the street, and here he's faced again with what to do with Dahlia, who still sleeps, her face washed with trust.
He can't get her in the house.  It's a warm but pleasant 86 degrees out, night, cooling, so he rolls down the passenger window halfway and leaves her in the car.
He goes in the house and stays awake all night, listening for the passenger door to creak open and shut, to either hear her bang on the front door or watch her stumble down the street. Finally, he drops near dawn, sleeping hard, drooling on the naked mattress.  He vaguely registers the house waking up, the tin sounds of spoons and mugs and coffee, deep voices being necessary and gruff with each other. Suddenly, one shout after another, he hears each of them calling up the stairs in turn, "Take the trash out, Julia's! Take the trash out, Julia's! Take the trash out, Julia's!" Three calls, and there are four roommates not counting himself, so Andrew must've stayed out all night, still gone.  Julius thinks nothing of it; they were all animals, lived like animals, but would randomly rail on him about some stupid chore. He grunts and rolls over, drops back asleep. A half hour after everyone has left, he wakes, remembers.  He assumes Dahlia has gone, found her own way, probably a way she's walked before in one way or another.  Girls like that tend to figure it out, make do.
He goes downstairs, walks out the front door.  He sees from the front step that his car is empty, but he walks up to it anyway.  The window is still rolled down.  For some reason he thought she'd roll the window back up.  He doesn't know why he thinks that.
He gets a few feet from the car when he sees a crumpled fast food bag. The bag is on top of a pile of loose garbage, mostly fast food detritus, but also household stuff like an egg carton, coffee grounds, waded paper towels, even a used tampon from a female visitor.  Looks like she'd been near the end of her cycle. In the back seat, there are two Hefty bags full as well.
The trash in the front seat moves, and Julius starts to scoop it away, scared to use his bare hands because of the tampon, also thinking it's a raccoon scavenging for food causing the movement, then he sees blond hair, then nails, smooth pink nails and he notices for the first time because it's day now and the light is pure and the world is clean and wholesome that there's tiny specks of glittery silver in the polish, like what a little girl would wear if she wanted to play princess.

© 2016  Amber Shockley

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Writers and Worry: Does being narrative-minded feed anxiety?

Lately, watching television with my mother, I blurt out what's about to happen next.

Mama is amazed.  She'll ask, Now how did you know that? 

The other day I blurted out that Gwyneth Paltrow's character was about to get hit by a car.

Mama asked, Well, did you know she was going to fall down the stairs? 

I did not.

I’ve always loved to read.  I’ve always loved stories.  Through undergrad coursework as an English major, then graduate studies in two different programs, including working toward my MFA as a writer of stories (very, very small ones) myself, I've not just read but analyzed the stories of countless texts, as well as narrative presented through other media, such as television and film.  I like to think this gives me a heads up on guessing that Gwyneth Paltrow is about to get it with the front grille of a vehicle in Sliding Doors.  

But if I put my ego and tens of thousands of dollars of student loans aside long enough to be real with myself, I can admit that guessing what's going to happen in the next few seconds of a movie isn't unique to students of literature or writers.  Especially if the woman is lollygagging in the street like a nut.

We’re all exposed to countless stories, every day.  But writers tend to volunteer to steep themselves in story, to spend time thinking about plot and get to know it at a deeper level.

Plot is difficulty. Plot is when the main character gets hit by a car. Plot is an antagonist showing up and screwing you over.

Plot is when hell happens.

Which brings us to anxiety.

Think about it:

Plot is when hell happens.  And writers think, breathe, sleep, eat, pray to the gods of plot.

Writers are basically people who look for hell to happen, who look for someone to get hit by a ton of steel careening around a corner, and I don't think we keep this tendency contained within the fence of the fiction we create for others to consume; I think it spills over into the outlook we have on our actual lives.  

I've often thought that my past life experiences, which have included some real bad doozies, or the pessimism I’ve learned from my mother and her own hard life, have led me to believe that everything is most likely going to suck just as hard in the future as it has in a disproportionately great number of the days that are behind me. But now I'm wondering if much of this sad attitude has to do with being a writer, which means being narrative-minded, which means hunting for plot, which means looking for hell to happen.

Wouldn't it just be perfect if I came down with the flu this week?

Wouldn't it be par for the course if this blind date were a serial killer?

Wouldn't it be divine if someone slammed into the back of my vehicle at this very moment? 

Seriously.  I would have stories to tell.  Life would be literature instead of listless.

Am I a writer because I'm a pessimist or am I a pessimist because I’m a writer?

There's some debate over whether or not being a good writer can be taught.  Is it talent or is it trying?

Or is it temperament?

Do optimists who grew up relatively unscathed have any stories to tell?  And if they did, could they tell them?

Is literature really the purview of the miserable, the dissatisfied, the troubled?

If you look up "anxiety," listed as a synonym is "unquiet."  That's telling.

Of course we're veering into stereotype here.  Not all writers are neurotics or alcoholics or depressives.

Most.  Most are, maybe.

In any case, clearly the idea that writers are miserable is not a new one, to the point that some have viewed misery as a prerequisite for success in the field. 

In the movie Adult World, Emma Roberts portrays a privileged young woman with a Syliva Plath obsession who unravels when she comes up against a curmudgeonly, reclusive novelist whom she worships. Over the course of the movie, she whines and complains while everyone but the cute shop boy who walks around with a love-interest neon sign over his head tries to distance themselves from her. I'm still not sure if viewers are meant to root for her or be repelled by her, but I thought she was awful.  I hated her, and I remember wondering if this was the way the world views all young female poets: high strung, self-absorbed, naïve twits. 

The movie gets across the idea that her poetry is bad because she hasn’t really suffered, or even witnessed suffering.  She’s miserable alright, but with no real basis for it - not clinically depressed so much as entitled and unused to failure - and therefore has no real substance for her work.  Her contribution isn’t in writing good poetry herself, but inspiring it by heightening the emotions (namely frustration, torment, heartache, worry) of those around her. 

But really, some very successful, complete, thoroughly happy people have written published some wonderful books with the help of ghost writers.

Ghost writers.  There’s a phrase to consider.  Why not background writers, like background dancers only with less spandex? Why not support writers, like spandex?

Everything seems to point to the idea that writers are chain-dragging, howling spirits who happen to still inhabit their bodily form.
I feel both validated and damned by this.  If success as a writer, meaning publication, requires a dose of melancholy in order to produce good work, it also requires a balancing bit of hope, confidence and perseverance in order to muster the motivation and energy to create, much less continue submitting work in the hailstorm of rejections that every writer, even brilliant, famous ones, receive.  

I’m long on the former, singular attribute, short on the latter few.  

With distance, and infamy, the misery of artists and writers becomes romantic.  It certainly held an allure for Roberts’ character in the movie.  

But real life, including real suffering, real anxiety, not just the tension at the climax before the slow, satisfying decent to the conclusion of a story, is not romantic at all.  

In the face of it, it’s a wonder that writers are able to produce and publish anything at all.  

Lately, I’ve been taking steps to increase my energy, hope and confidence, and of course I worry that if I’m happier, my well of misery will run dry and I won’t be able to write any more.

I worry.  

Is worrying about not writing enough misery to keep me writing?

Of course, as any writer knows, there are always more miseries around the corner.  

At the very least, I think writers must be bothered, if not worried.  We must be bothered enough by a potential for hell to happen, or bothered enough by the witnessing of it having already happened, to bother creating the art that makes misery bearable.