Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Once more for Equality. With Feeling.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

I grew up in a small town in an even smaller house and went to the tiniest high school you can imagine.  (I'm not joking. I'm friends on Facebook with my entire graduating class. There are about 6 1/2 of us.)
My town had the quintessential makings of small-towness. We had a general store where I would buy chocolate milk on the way to school. We had a penny candy store on the river that was run by the town's beloved Sarge and his son who was, in fact, a pedophile that lived in the back room. I spent many happy afternoons walking along the beach before stopping into Sarge's and picking out 100 stale penny candies that I paid for with a crumbled dollar bill I kept shoved into my sneaker. I rode my bike past boy's houses on the lake. I acted out shows in my backyard with friend. I tested out the electric fence that kept in the horses across the road, sacrificing a bird to see if it was on. (Sorry, PETA.) My fingers were almost always stained with blackberries, my shoulders always sunburned, and I lived a sheltered and idyllic life.

And then I met Justin when I went to high school.

Justin was friendly and fun, a spark-plug who sometimes wore eyeliner to school to match his cape. I was desperately in love and thrilled with the fact that my Mom let me go out with him alone for "dates." She would stand in the kitchen as Justin and I rehashed all the gossip from school that day and raise her eyebrows when I asked if we could go to Friendly's for a soda. "Sure." She would carefully reply, as I wondered why she didn't seem to care that I was going out with a boy. "Just- have fun. Lock the door when you come in."

"What if we're super late?" I'd press, and she'd shake her head, confused, as she patted meatloaf into a pan.

"I'm sure you won't be."

She was right of course, Justin was gay and I had no idea at the time. I had no idea because my town didn't exactly have a community where gay people felt free enough to be themselves. Justin grew up in the same small town and disappeared after a breakdown his junior year. It took me years to realize that he was broken down by the community, by a family that couldn't accept him, and he faded away into the folds of society while we ignorantly (and not so ignorantly) stood and watched.

It still haunts me to this day.

I moved away to Berkeley, California, and quickly was swept up into an environment and culture that was so accepting of everyone all the time. It wasn't even about the gay community. All sexual orientations, all religions, all shades, all walks of life- in Berkeley you were loved AND hated, accepted AND spit on equally. It was nirvana. It was the place that I could walk through campus with a police officer, chatting about the safety lecture I had just attended, and as we were caught in a cloud of pot smoke from a barefoot grad student 2 feet in front of us, the officer gently moved me to the side. "Oh, let's get down wind from this guy, unless you have potato chips in your bag." It was a place that accepted the green-haired angry conservative man that came to rant about the war every day in the main quad. I'd watch bleeding liberals leave him wrapped sandwiches and cups of coffee as he marched around, screaming his argument out on forgiving ears. It was a place that I could hang out with my guy friend Andrew and no one stopped to ask if we were a couple? Was he gay? Was he straight? Because no one cared.

In Berkeley I felt reborn, I felt renewed, and I felt like my Christian faith actually came into play in this city more so than in the small, white, "straight" town that I grew up in. The whole point of Christ's message was to "Love One Another"...and I was getting to see it put into action every day.

My conservative family was harder to convince about this message, and there were many family gatherings that ended in tears and me sloppily trying to illustrate how twisted it was that we were not a "Christian" community that embraced everyone. I have to admit, as an alley to the LGBT community, I did a bad job in my support. I picked fights. I got angry and hurled insults. I did, essentially, the very thing that goes against the message of love. It took me years and quiet, intelligent conversations to finally feel like my voice had been heard. And with my voice the voice of millions. And then today something amazing happened.

My conservative sister offered up her voice in the support of equality. She posted a banner on her Facebook page- on This Very Important Day- that simply said that she was for marriage equality for all.

I immediately commented: "Really?! I am so proud!"

To which she responded: "God, Melissa. I have a gay friend you know. I even have a black one."

It's a small step, but a giant one at the same time. And all we need to do is keep stepping one foot in front of the other...one giant step or small step at a time...until we reach the goal.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Growing Pains. (Without crazy Kirk Cameron.)

I'm going to sleep in a cocoon of this after drinking it with vodka all night. Ageless!

“Look at how much we’ve aged.” Brett said to me the other day as we were going through an old box of photographs.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“Aged.” Brett repeated, blinking at me, completely unaware of his major faux pas. “Like- we both look really old compared to when we started dating? We’ve aged? Physically?”

“Stop. Just…stop.” I said, holding up my hand while I closed my eyes.

“Why are you being weird? Look at this picture. Look- you’re so young!” He tossed me a snapshot of me at 22, sitting on the couch in our first apartment. All tan limbs and wet hair from a shower, smiling an unlined and hopeful smile. I snatched the photo and held it up to my angry face.

“Are you trying to tell me…that I look older than I do in this picture? Are you trying to tell me that I have aged? Do you want a minute to think about this before you answer? ARE YOU SAYING THAT I AM AGING?”

Brett sat back and seemed to finally feel the gravity of the situation. He thoughtfully pulled a hand through his hair while he regarded me warily. Finally, a look of recognition and understanding swept over him, and his features relaxed as he smiled at me sympathetically.

“Well, yeah.” He cooed. “But, don’t worry. We all are.”


I hate to be the 29-year-old woman that talks about aging, but I’m going to be the 29 year old who talks about aging, so get over it. Don’t screech at me about, “SHUT UP I’M SO MUCH OLDER THAN YOU I HATE YOU FOREVER YOU ARE NEVER ENTITLED TO YOUR OWN VAIN FEELINGS!” because: you get it, right? You’ve been there before. We all should be allowed to have these vain and selfish freak-outs about aging. (Unless you are 17, and then you aren’t allowed to complain about anything.) So, I am the 29-year-old woman complaining, and I’m going to start with a story about my boobs.

We all have parts of our bodies that we are secretly stoked about. We’d never admit it, of course, because that’s bad, but we all have areas we love and then areas we spanx into submission.

I love my boobs. (sorry Mom and Dad. I mean? Thank you I guess? No. Gross. Ok- moving on.)

The other day though, as I was getting into the shower, I caught my reflection in the mirror and froze. Had my boobs…had my boobs moved?
I frantically stood front and center and lifted my hands above my head. My mind silently mocked me as my chest rose. “This is you at 19” It said. And as my arms came down it snickered. “Aaaand 29.” I flapped my arms up and down maniacally, trying to measure the slight distance that had naturally happened over a decade. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t terribly noticeable, but when you live in and hang out in your own body all of the time YOU NOTICE THINGS.

And then I noticed other things.

Like the extra line on my forehead. The extra crease around my mouth. The odd freckle or dark under eye bag that had previously escaped my scrutinizing glare.

And then I did the only rational and healthy thing.

I cried.

Brett was home at the time and worriedly knocked on the bathroom door. “Are you ok? Um- do you…need something?”

In between choked sobs I told him I was fine. “But…my boobs!” I gasped tearfully. “My boobs…moved. They moved.”

He waited a beat before nervously clearing his throat and asking:


This was enough to break my vain-weirdo-spell and dissolve into giggles. I was having a conversation through a closed door about my boobs’ migration- as if they had decided the north was too much and they were looking into some beachfront property in Boca Raton. It was all too much. I was too much. This was hardly something to waste tears over, let alone good shower time. I literally pulled myself up off the floor and stepped under the hot stream of water where I forced myself to really look at my body.

I had:
Strong legs that recently carried me up a mountain IN THE SNOW. WTF. SNOW IS COLD.

Arms that were slightly toned from a lifetime of talking with my hands.

Boobs…wherever they wanted to be.

And, a stomach threaded with a scar that snaked towards my belly button -a physical reminder of a bad surgery in high school that made me lose 40 pounds and suddenly got boys to notice me.

Not all bad.

In all seriousness, it was the most frank interaction I have ever had with my body. It was like we were having a conversation that started out tearful and psycho-girlfriend-angry, but ended in acceptance and forgiveness and maybe a sandwich. This body is the only relationship I will have my entire life. I might as well be kind in it.

Bottom line? I am aging. On my way out the door this morning, as I was doing my make-up I noticed a pure white strand of hair lying coyly on top of my dark tresses. I could have freaked. I could have plucked it. Instead, I did a little smile back at my reflection in the mirror…and pulled on my highest heels. If this is my life-long relationship, my marriage to my body, I’m going to be the sexiest spouse ever.

29-year-old boobs and all. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

True Love, Demons, and other stories.

I mean...HOW can you blame me?

There's always that moment that you fall in love with someone. You may have spent time with them before, and you fall gradually until it finally clicks into place. You may be on your first meeting in San Francisco, drinking champagne and eating pancakes after only knowing each other before this day online- when they suddenly say something so...perfect you just fall in love. It's just done. It's final and everlasting and BAM. LOVE HEARTS STARS GLITTER.

That's how I fell in love with Brittany.

So, funny story: we had just met after starting a friendship online, and we're sitting there in San Francisco eating pancakes and drinking champagne. (See what I did earlier?) And I was leaning forward, hanging on every funny word this girl was saying and then she says IT. We were talking about funny fears and quirks of ours, and she casually said: "At night when I go to bed I jump the last few feet to get in. I know it sounds irrational- but I don't want to get too close to what could be under the bed, you know?"

I was smitten.

This is why: I don't know if it comes across in this blog, but I am sort of a grab bag of quirks and funny little things all mixed together with gumballs covered in lint and glitter. That's the best description I can come up with to illustrate that I'm just...weird. I'd like to think in a cute, fun way and not in a way that you would be afraid to leave me with your rabbits lest I boil them, but you may disagree.  (You shouldn't. I'm very against bunny boiling.) I just think we all need to embrace our little oddities and be ok with who we are. Even the parts of us that are adult and still slightly afraid of what could be under the bed. So, when someone is authentically awesome with me: I'm theirs for life.

After her confession, I immediately told her that I was an almost 30 year old woman who still closed her eyes for 3 seconds after turning off any light. Why? Someone once told me that the devil only appears to you in those 3 seconds, so if you don't want to see him- you best shut yo' eyes. I know it's ridiculous, but I've been doing it for 20 years AND HAVE NEVER SEEN THE DEVIL, SO IT OBVIOUSLY WORKS.

Brittany and I clearly went on to live happily ever after, cultivating a friendship that I cherish and adore. But, that's not where the story ends, so bear with me.
I've recently gotten into this very cheesy show called "Supernatural." The writing is horrible, the make-up on the ghosts and demons varies in believability according to how much the budget was blown that week, and the plot lines are confusing and laughable.

I obviously can't get enough of it.

I roped Brett into sitting next to me and watching it yesterday when I was home sick. My reasoning was that he could, you know, be here in case anything happened (like being attacked by ghosts and/or demons) and we could figure it out together. The episode was about a dead boy who apparently became a water demon and could kill people anytime they were near water. We got about half way into it, and I casually pulled a blanket over my head and continued to watch through the fabric.

Brett turned to me to ask a question and immediately started laughing. "OH my God! What are you doing?"

I sighed deeply. "I'm watching the show. Please be quiet. And tell me if the boy demon comes back."

"Why do I need to tell you that?"

"Because I can't see obviously. Who is talking now? Sam or Dean?"

"You're ridiculous."

He's right, I am, but he didn't understand the necessary precautions I was taking to make sure I was safe. It backfired, as I saw enough scary things through the thin fabric that the next morning in the shower, I washed up in record time with my eyes squeezed shut and the curtain open.

I'll be damned if I let the ghost-water-boy get me.

Thinking about all of this actually made me feel sort of lucky this morning. Sure, last night I employed Brittany's technique and launched myself the last 3 feet to the middle of the bed. Sure, I didn't dare to get up to use the bathroom because that was obviously when ghost-boy would want to strike. And yes, ok, maybe I did use a nightlight last night and warily regarded the shadows that it splayed out on my ceiling. And maybe I fixated on one shadow that looked vaguely human, but was probably a lamp. (And maybe it actually was my lamp, because I got up to check 3 times.) 

But, it's all ok. I'm colorful, imaginative, and extremely good at finding other people like that to be colorful and imaginative with. And that's a life worth living, isn't it? I would totally unwrap the blanket from my head to watch that story play through... until the credits roll.

(Also, I would like the record to show that I texted Brittany that I was writing about our conversation. Her reply was: "Yes! Make sure you say, though, that avoiding under the bed is to avoid the Mischa Barton character from the Sixth Sense!" Dear God I just fell in love with her again.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My celebrity crush? Your mom.

Girls that say I am their celeb crush tend to be highly intelligent and creative. Or boys. 
For some reason I’ve noticed lately that the important topic of celebrity crushes keeps popping up in random conversations. I guess it’s a good ice breaker. You can saunter up to anyone at a cocktail party and throw out a “So, who would you bone if you could bone anyone in Hollywood?” and most people will have an answer.  Most people.

Brett never has an answer, because he rarely watches TV, has no real working knowledge of any celebrity names or facts,  and always seems vaguely baffled by the question when it is presented. He will mumble the only name he can connect to a celebrity face which is the WORST ANSWER EVER. ‘Angelina Jolie.’

No one wants to hear that Angelina Jolie is your celebrity crush. Women will instantly hate you, men will be a little squeamish because she has about 9 thousand children, and it is like saying Romeo and Juliet is your favorite work by Shakespeare. It lacks creativity.

I love him for it though. I love the fact that I know he finds the question inane and that he REALLY thinks Molly Simms is gorgeous, even though he has no idea who she is. I will usually jump in with that tidbit when the question is tossed his way. Which is socially obnoxious, but that never really stops me.

“He likes Molly Simms.” I’ll supply. “Which is obviously why he married me.”

“I don’t even know who Molly Simms is, Melissa.” Brett will try to interject.

“You nearly died when she got out of the shower in the movie "Benchwarmers.”

“We saw "Benchwarmers?”

and so on.

My answer varies on my mood and how much I dislike the person asking. If I’m trying to be difficult, I will say something like: “That guy that sat behind Leslie Nielson in “Airplane.” I think he was in a Chevy commercial once too.” Or  “The jack-in-the-box guy. I know you can’t see his face, but I find his voice very manly.” Or, the even better response: “Jodi Foster.”

I’m not trying to be the most annoying person on the planet, but sometimes I just can’t help it. I know that a simple “Ryan Gosling” or “George Clooney” would pacify the masses and firmly establish my femininity. But, I find that sort of obvious attractiveness incredibly dull. Give me Zach Galifianakis with bean burrito in his beard and THAT’S what I’m talking about.

I was thinking about all of this when an old friend posted a link to my facebook featuring our shared childhood celebrity crush, Jonathan Taylor Thomas. (or, JTT to be intimate.) We were obsessed. We cut out every picture of him in Tiger Beat magazine and poured over every article and interview he was in. I knew his favorite food (“pasta!”) what he liked to do in his down time (‘read and skateboard!”) and the most desired characteristic of his dream girl (“down-to earth!”) these generic and manufactured interview responses kept me going and made me feel like I really connected with him.

 I like pasta too, JTT. I like pasta too.

On one occasion we took the celebrity crush to a new level when we took pictures of him on the TV screen during an episode of "Home Improvement" and then made an album splicing those pictures next to pictures of us. I dressed for our couple pictures in a flowy, bohemian skirt with a paisley print that matched the rubber bands on my braces. In my mind that is exactly what a "down-to-earth" girl wore. And modeled in her little book of creepy photos. 

While I no longer entertain celebrity crushes to that sort of passionate level- as a teenager saying JTT was my celeb crush was representative of who I was. A dorky girl well versed in pop culture with a slight personality disorder. Affiliating myself with him was a peek into what made me tick. Which was a whole lot of crazy.

And that's why we ask that question. We ask it to harmlessly look into someones inner workings and to get a sense of who they are as a person. If you say your crush is "Angelina Jolie," I will immediately think you are slightly douchey. (And Brett is not douchey. Just ill-informed.) If you say your crush is Jake Gyllenhaal I will immediately be bored with you. If you say Channing Tatum, I will think you have a penchant for STDs because that man looks like he created them. 

If you say Zach Galifianakis with a bean burrito in his beard I will know that I found a soul mate for life. And then I'll offer to buy you a drink. And then we can stand in the corner of the room making fun of the girl who answered "George Clooney." BECAUSE SERIOUSLY? GEORGE CLOONEY? GIVE ME A BREAK.

Go out there and be original, my friends. And make a creepy photo album to show it.