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Irony, sarcasm, and vulnerability

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Perhaps you saw Christy Wampole’s New York Times article “How to Live Without Irony,” published in mid-November. While I believe Ms. Wampole makes a mistake in mass-labeling so-called hipsters as insincere narcissists (because I know plenty of people that fit the “hipster” bill who are both genuine and generous), I do think she’s accurately pinpointed a larger cultural norm.

From the outside looking in, I am the furthest thing from a hipster; I like my jeans flared and my house Pottery Barned. But I recognize my use of irony and sarcasm as shields against vulnerability – and I know that I’m not alone. I see it all around me, in people of all ages, in all sorts of clothing, with all sorts of hobbies, and all manner of facial hair. Irony is not reserved for the mustached.

In light of that article (which is worth the read), I hope you’ll watch this TED talk by Brené Brown about the importance of vulnerability. You may have seen it already (6 million have), but I revisit it often, particularly when I feel my armor start to go up. I could go on about all of the reasons I love this talk, but really, you should just take the 20 minutes to watch it.

In response

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Hearken back to Monday’s post.  What was meant to be a shoulder shrug, a lark, a lighthearted jab at my pal Andy, actually sparked quite the response.  While I got a lot of “You go, girl!” comments from women, I have been much more impacted by what I have heard from the men – whether in comment, email, or response via their own blog post.  And while there is no way that I will be able to say everything that there is to say today (yeah, or ever), here is what has been rattling around in my brain this week.

If there is anything that I want to be, it is humble – humble, and teachable.  So THANK YOU to the brave dudes (especially Joey – the catalyst for many of these thoughts today) who had the guts – spine – balls – to challenge my thinking.

Which brings me to my first point: it was wrong of me to emasculate men – denying them of the very thing that makes them male (um… balls… sheesh, I can’t wait to see what keywords bring people to this post) – for not being able to communicate in the way that most women would like them to.  I am not a man-hater – I LOVE men! – and in no way desire to make eunuchs out of a bunch of surely well-meaning guys.  I’m sorry for sounding – snip, snip – harsh and judgmental.

Here’s the deal: in an ideal world, men would communicate clearly.  In an ideal world, women would communicate clearly.  In an ideal world, both sexes would have eyes to see and ears to hear the other person loud and clear.

That is obviously not the world that we live in – due to culture and socialization and upbringing and experiences.  So things get a little bit muddy, a little bit complicated, and sometimes, a little bit… hostile.  Men aren’t up front with their feelings.  Women send mixed signals – a “come hither” straight into a stiff arm.  One person doesn’t know who he is, the other doesn’t know what she wants – or vice versa.  Television only adds to the confusion, portraying men as bumbling idiots, and women as capable-yet-snarky ice queens (think “Everybody Loves Raymond,” or “Home Improvement”).

Who are we?  Who should we be?  Men and women alike are confuzzled.

I so wish that was a real word.

When it comes to love, we’ve all been hurt.  We’ve all been disappointed.  We’ve all got skeletons in the closet, and wounds that haven’t quite healed.  And for as much as we want them, it’s easy to make the opposite sex into the “enemy.”  I have my own stories – things that have happened that have made me a bit gun-shy when it comes to putting myself out there – and when I think of these disgraces, even years later, I still want to bury my head in the sand.

I think it’s safe to say that on a very fundamental level, women want to feel “worth it” to a guy – worth the risk, worth whatever it takes.  But hello – this is 2009.  A man can’t exactly prove his devotion by riding into battle with her hanky in his pocket.  So some of us feel like the least he could do is say, “Hey, you seem great.  I’d love to take you out sometime?”

Then again, the feminist movement sort of threw a wrench in that plan.  We women-folk sure asserted our independence, didn’t we?  Dang it.  We’ve stabbed ourselves in the back.  But that’s another post entirely…

Bottom line: I am backing off from the stance I took on Monday, however playfully I meant it when I first wrote it.  I don’t expect for a guy to take the reins, run the show, ask me out, sweep me off my feet, order me the lamb chop at some swanky restaurant while I sit mute and adoring.  Can you imagine?  Me?  Being conquered?  I do hope for a partnership, with honest and frank communication, equal parts respect and affection – and prior to a relationship, I think that means that both parties are going to need to communicate our interest in whatever way makes sense.

Sigh.  This just zapped every ounce of brain power I possess.

We all just want to matter to someone.

I wish it was easy.  And I hope that one day, it will be.

In the spirit of tomorrow’s holiday

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Here in America, we are taught that all men are created equal.

So no one should be “out of one’s league,” right?

We try to pretend that everyone deserves a fair shot – that there are no “leagues” – but when it comes to love, we employ our own silent caste system. We say that attraction is not the most important thing, but our relationships (and sometimes lack of relationships) tell a different story. We agree with John Lennon and sing, “All you need is love” – yeah, that… and a job, and a hot body, and chemistry, and a quick wit, and these days, a blood test.

I don’t know how anyone ever gets married.

Don’t get me wrong – these are not the rantings of a bitter and cynical woman. I WANT to fall in love – those of you who know me know that my heart is still soft. I hope that it happens for me someday. But I’m perplexed. I don’t understand how it ever happens – how the stars align, bringing the right people together at the right time. I don’t want to settle – but as Andy Merrick recently wrote:

“We’re acting like a contestant on Deal Or No Deal. We’re making this a game. We KNOW you’re interested in us. We have you. Maybe you’re the $500,000 case. But we’re greedy. We think there’s a $1,000,000 case out there. We don’t know for sure, but we’re hoping.”

Are we being ridiculous? Are we hoping for something that just does not exist? It’s like we’re designing our own paint-by-number mates, and unless everything fits just perfectly – the exact perfect color within the exact perfect lines – then we hold out for something (and someone) “better.”

Sheesh. I wish it was easy – easy like Sunday morning.

But never fear! Contrary to what many men assume about single women, I am not going to spend Valentine’s Day crying in my pajamas, eating peanut butter off of a spoon and cursing the boy who broke my heart in high school. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I get a little bit sad about being single, but it seems to me that I’m in good company. And this year, my holiday weekend is full of so many delightful things, it’s insane.

My favorite little wood sprite (and the closest thing I have to a soul-mate), Greta Girl, is flying in tonight.


Seriously, could I HAVE a cuter friend?

A group of us are spending Valentine’s Day at the Bluebird Café to hear Josh and Meg play – Lovebirds at the Bluebird (awwww!).


Aren’t they the best? I want them to adopt me. They kind of already have. I’m practically their love child.

We’re attending Charlie Hardin‘s CD release at the Rutledge on Monday night.


Charlie is one of my favorite musical discoveries here in Nashville – amazing songs, and an astounding voice. If you live here, you should come to this show. His EP is called “Hollywood Be Thy Name” – how could it NOT be good?

Also, I plan on exercising my love languages several times this weekend.


Because after all, all you need is love… and in my case, some beautiful friends and a glass of Syrah.

Save the penguins! – or – Anti-Twitterpation

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Yesterday, I was this close to writing about Twitter, and calling it “N is for NOBODY CARES.” But I figured that all of you Tweety Birds would be hurt. And when I’m honest, isn’t this blog just one big, festering, narcissistic Twit? Or whatever.

So instead of ranting about our culture’s obsession with broadcasting the minutia and detritus of our lives, I figured that I would just go ahead and continue broadcasting the minutia and detritus of MY life. But I’ll try to do it using words like “minutia” and “detritus.”

When my friend Aaron Chan started med school, a professor drew an iceberg on the board. “This is your brain,” he said. He began to add tiny penguins on top of the iceberg, saying, “These are the things that you know.” Eventually, the iceberg was so crowded with penguins that “at some point, inevitably, penguins start to fall off.”

Twitter is pushing my penguins off the ledge.

To be fair, it’s not just Twitter: Facebook, MySpace, blog updates, text messages, email, and all sorts of other technological “ways of knowing” are cramming and jostling their way onto my iceberg. I can’t keep up – but more than that, I don’t WANT to keep up. I honestly do not care where my 922 Facebook friends are at all times (brushing your teeth, in line at Starbucks, reading, going to church, at a bookstore, grocery shopping, sitting at your desk, eating potato chips, what-have-you). It doesn’t mean that I don’t care ABOUT these people, that I don’t care about YOU – it’s just that for the first time, we humble laymen have the capability and the technology to mass-inform… and we, myself included, have gotten a bit slaphappy about it.

So. What to do? Give up the internet? Erase my online footprint? Boycott status updates? Feel more and more aggravated as my brain is cluttered by people’s Twittery Tweets, crowding out important information like birthdays and bible verses and when was the last time I changed my Brita water filter? I can’t hide from the internet – it’s unstoppable, like… like a train that… can’t be stopped.

Whoops. There went my simile penguin.

Please. For the love of flightless, aquatic birds. Let’s attempt to be more responsible, intelligent, and discerning with what we are unwittingly forcing upon each other’s icebergs. I’ll try if you will.

Body talk

Monday, June 9th, 2008

This summer, I am reaching a milestone: I have maintained a healthy weight for 5 years.

Most people in my current everyday life did not know me between the years of 2000-2002, when I gained not the freshman 15, but literally, close to the freshman 50. I moved away from home, had access to a surprisingly palatable college cafeteria, went to Taco Bell almost every night, and hated to exercise. Period. It was that simple – and before I knew it, my face and my fingers and my waistline had ballooned up to form a person I couldn’t recognize. I was completely uneducated about health, and calories-in versus calories-out. I quickly spiraled into a depression, and hated myself for being fat. And until I finally got my act together and was empowered to do something about it, I lived a reclusive and self-loathing existence.

Through the difficult, old-fashioned method of decreasing my calories and increasing my exercise, my body is now very, very different than what it once was. But my mind is the same. I look in the mirror and criticize my form. I live in fear of the number on the scale creeping up. I feel guilty every single time I eat a cookie. I exercise as punishment for over-consuming. I beat myself up for what I am, and what I am not.

And I know that I am not the only one.

Due to the media or the culture or the devil, our minds have a skewed expectation of what we should be, and what we should look like. While I know that it affects certain men, I am confident in saying that women have taken on the lion’s share of this curse.

I have heard some of my most beautiful friends refer to their bodies as “disgusting,” “heinous,” and “foul.” I have used similar words in reference to myself, too. This both angers me and breaks my heart. Everywhere we look, there are cruel reminders to hate our legs, to hate our hips, to hate our _____. You name it. It feels like a hopeless situation and a vicious cycle – will it ever end? What’s it going to take?

I honestly believe that it’s going to take an entire generation of women saying, “Enough is enough.” Changing our way of thinking. Doing the hard work of taking each negative thought captive, and transforming our self-talk. Vowing to never use harsh and hateful words to describe our bodies. Step by step, learning to love and care for what we have been given. Refusing to teach our daughters to hate their fleshy arms or stomachs or thighs.

But before an entire generation can do this, it has to start with individuals.

This is my hope and my prayer for myself. I do not want to spend the next 50 years condemning the body that is so faithfully getting me through this life. I want to be grateful to it, and take good care of it, and find contentment in less than perfection. Wouldn’t life be easier if I could be kind to myself? If you could be kind to yourself?

I’ve always known that thinking highly of oneself is vanity. But recently, I have been realizing that thinking lowly of oneself is another form of vanity. Because in either case, we are giving ourselves too much credit.

Because I’m feeling ballsy

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Lately, I have been made acutely aware of a certain discord in romantic relationships between people of my generation. Now, I am not currently dating anyone. However, these observations have come from my own experiences as well as those around me – I’m not pointing the finger at any one person, or any one gender, for that matter. I’m just going to share my thoughts, simple as they may be.

If you’re feeling particularly sensitive today, maybe you should take some deep breaths before reading this. Are you ready? Consider yourself warned.

I have noticed that most humans are looking for fulfillment. In my experience, women generally look for that fulfillment in the context of relationship, while men generally look for that fulfillment in the context of autonomy.

I said generally. Stop bristling.

So when men and women interact, and coexist, and begin to let their guard down with each other, generally a conflict rises out of the tension between what they are each looking toward for fulfillment: the woman tends to look to the man, while the man tends to look away. The woman asks, “Do you love me? Do you think I’m beautiful? Am I worth it to you?” And the man says, “I can’t be responsible for you. I’m not ready to commit. I need to be free.”

The man sees the woman as needy. The woman sees the man as an asshole.

I propose that we need to stop looking toward the wrong things for fulfillment in the context of romantic relationships. Women need to stop expecting the man to fulfill her. Men need to stop looking toward independence to fulfill him.


Women, we need to stop asking the hubba-hubba man to dictate our worth. If the God of the universe created us, and knows us inside and out, and calls us worthy and beautiful and captivating, then honestly, what else do we need? A man is just a man. He’s never going to be enough to fulfill us – it’s unfair to expect that of him. And a man’s opinion of us – favorable or otherwise – happens to have absolutely no bearing on our worth. So maybe we should just start trusting that our worth is already determined, and nothing can ever change that. Let’s rest in the fact that we are LOVED, and move forward into our relationships with confidence. We’ve been watching too much of “The Notebook.”

And men, maybe it’s time that you stop looking toward experiences and autonomy and wild adventures to fulfill that hole inside. Being in a healthy relationship with a good woman will not be an emasculating thing – in fact, some of the most honorable men I know have told me that their marriages have been the biggest and best adventure that one could possibly embark on. That restless ache inside of you is not going to be fulfilled by freedom or the mountains or the ability to sow your oats or a lack of responsibility. That hole is only filled when we ask God, “Who do you say I am?” I have watched too many men turn their back on good, substantial women, for fear of being “tied down.”

What do I know? Am I hypocritical? I’m just a 25-year old single girl who, trust me, does NOT believe these things easily. I want a man to come and sweep me off my feet and tell me that I am beautiful and that he will never, ever leave me. I really want that – and I have asked for it and expected it. But as a result, I have been severely disappointed and deeply hurt by numerous guys. It has felt unfair. It has left me tempted to launch into bitter diatribes at weddings, and bridal showers, and every time I get another Save-the-Date card in the mail. I am definitely a person in process.

But I invite you to be a person in process alongside me. Because the way that it’s going isn’t working.

Just here for the food

Monday, May 12th, 2008

You are dying to know what I did this weekend. Trust me: you are.

Well, between meeting up with a fellow Annie who is moving to Nashville in the summer (and who is AWESOME and HYSTERICAL and TOTALLY friend-material), dumpster diving for Vanderbilt dorm left-overs, and crying my way through church (it happens), I attended the Iroquois Steeplechase.

Late on Friday afternoon, co-worker offered me two free passes to Steeplechase – and not just any passes: wristbands that would get me into the CORPORATE VILLAGE, full of free food and booze.

Dude. I am so in.

However, sadly, since it was such late notice, I didn’t know anyone who could attend with me. Did that stop me? Oh, I think not. On Saturday morning, I thought to myself, “I could stay home by myself, or I could go to a free event by myself.” And honestly, why else did I have a plaid, belted sundress just hanging in my closet?


So I curled my hair, and put on my makeup and my cute dress, and drove down to Percy Warner Park for a classy, high-society event of a Steeplechase.

If you’re anything like me, you would be freaking out about what people might wear to a horse race. I had no idea. Luckily, I had watched the Kentucky Derby enough times on TV to know that I at least needed to wear a dress.

And now, let me take it upon myself to be the solver of your future quagmires. If you ever find yourself in the position that I found myself in – free tickets, and no idea of what might be wardrobe-appropriate for an equestrian event – then take it from me. Because, as I discovered, an event like this is not really about the horses – it’s all about the attire.

If you’re a woman, you wear this.

And if you’re a man, you wear this.

Seriously, if I was to give an award for the best hat of the day, it would be to this woman. A fabulous hat, without being gaudy. Congratulations, Winner of Annie’s Hat Contest! You set a classy example for us all.

Bringing sexy back?

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

In my last post, I used the word “sexy.” In reference to my laptop – really, people, there’s no denying it – but still. It got me thinking about the word, and what it means in our culture. I have a confession: I have never, ever heard the song “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake. I’m so uncool; I wouldn’t know it if I heard it. Oh, I’ve heard references to it, I’ve followed the cultural tidal wave, but largely, I am outside the whole young and sexy scene.

“Sexy.” What an odd concept. Where do we learn what “sexy” means?

For me, I learned from television. First of all, there was that lady on “Miami Vice” who oh-so-cooly tipped her sunglasses during the opening credits. The last time I tried that move, I may or may not have poked myself in the eye. And that may or may not have been just this morning.

Secondly, there was Kelly Kapowski. I distinctly remember an episode of “Saved By the Bell” where she coyly held the tip of a pen between her teeth, flirting with Zack Morris. I, for one, never tried to emulate that move. On a plane. Next to a cute boy. When the pen broke open. Filling my mouth with ink. Causing me to panic. And swallow the ink. And – tada! – staining my teeth black.

No. That never happened.

See, “sexy” isn’t my forte. At Nordstrom, I have occasionally heard the booming voice of God: “Step away from the Karen Kane.” I don’t know why – I just somehow naturally find myself surrounded by… mom clothes. I found a very functional black bag at a yard sale, and one night, a friend said, “Even my mom hates Liz Claiborne.” Oh. So that’s not cool? Okay – I didn’t know.

Yesterday, I gave myself a pep talk and decided to give the juniors’ section at Nordstrom a try. Despite the awful music that plays there (“Lips of an Angel”? Whose idea was that? No, really – whose?), I triumphantly came away with FIVE NEW TOPS! I am so cool. And young. And hip.

But sexy? I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable attributing that label to myself. That term will forever be reserved for the computer, who will always deserve it more than me.