There's something about reading a Harry Potter book in the middle of the summer that never gets old, no matter how old I get. Is it the sure predictability I get from its hardcovers, or the thick jackets smelling like printer chemicals before the dust starts to settle in from years of being proudly displayed on the shelf? Does the book itself know how many times it's going to reincarnate the lives of its characters as it passes from one set of hands to another to another before its designated shelf-home--does it wonder about the people whose lives it touches, whose hands it warms?
I took Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in my hands at twenty-six years old, and I read it in a week. I refused to listen to friends tell me how awful it was--how the characters weren't developed enough and it wasn't close enough to JKR's actual voice and how Albus was too whiny and how JKR herself said that H/Hr shippers were right all along.
I love you, friends. But shut up.*
"Foundation," everyone trying to quietly get their four-of-a-kind on the concrete floor of the dressing room, our faces made up with full eye makeup and red lipstick on our braces-lined teeth, looking more like twelve-year-old hookers to an outsider than anything else. We were all preoccupied with being professional ballerinas one day, determined to live out this dream until we were all dancing for ABT (did we know any other ballet company when we were twelve?). But we were young; we had time; and anyway we were so busy between rehearsal and homework that there wasn't time for anything else. We moved through the motions, did the performances, got our ten-year roses.
I had my first boyfriend in 2006. We were terrible together. He was tall and awkward and so was I and I made the mistake of telling him that I loved Trader Joe's Australian strawberry licorice. The day after we broke up (I spent an hour on the phone crying, apologizing that I just didn't have feelings for him anymore, that I was sorry, so sorry, I just couldn't do it any more), we had class together. He'd brought in a bunch of Trader Joe's Australian strawberry licorice. We avoided each other's gaze, like proper sixteen-year-olds (or was he seventeen?), as if we would explode if we by mistake had the misfortune of making eye contact. He passed the licorice box around to everyone else in the class; I got the distinct feeling that he didn't actually like strawberry licorice. I might have asked at some point, but I've long since forgotten.
He did not sign my senior yearbook. The white space in that yearbook is plastered with teenagers' graffiti, illegible signatures and inappropriate jokes, some obligatory and some heartfelt. None from him. I wonder what he would have said if he had indeed signed my yearbook. "Gabby: I can't believe your dad actually cornered me and told me not to say inappropriate things about you and your BFF"? "Gabby: Watching you make out on the prom dance floor with your too-short-for-you sophomore boyfriend was gross. Talk to you never."
"Gabby: Have a great summer."
I always wondered how genuine people were in signing yearbooks. I felt like yearbook signings were the one time of the year I had permission to talk to people I didn't ordinarily talk to--the popular, pretty girls (we had those, even at Nerd High) who radiated confidence wherever they went, the stars of the school musical I secretly hoped I would one day be as talented as, the boy I'd had a pathetic crush on for four years. I wondered if those people ever thought about me outside of awkward social exchanges and yearbook signings. I wondered if those pen scratchings on those white pages meant anything at all.
Here are a few actual excerpts from my senior yearbook:
Fine Brothers Entertainment recently created a YouTubers React video about Lonelygirl15, and it made me realize that this was ten years ago. I couldn't believe it. I remember when I started watching LG15--I was totally inspired, and even thought about starting my own video webseries about twins who had been separated at birth and were about to meet up again. Of course, I got too lazy to actually do that, and realized that the production behind that was actually quite complicated.
I didn't start watching LG15 until I was in college, and even then didn't start watching it until the second half of my first year (2008). So I had quite a lot of catching up to do, and by the time I started watching it, it was already revealed that it was a fake. I was already familiar with the concept of a YouTube series. What was revolutionary to me at the time was the concept of an interactive YouTube series, where you could be actively involved in the story. It was totally awesome. I was so engaged with the story, despite the massive amounts of plot holes. It was the Chosen One story before Chosen One stories blew up the YA literary/film scene. And it was independent.
Like most old videos, LG15 didn't age horribly well. Looking back on these videos, it's got all of the epitomes of Teen Drama--the overly beautiful teenagers, the overdramaticism, the bloodletting, the cultism, the sexual tension. There's hardly an explanation of how they get their money when they're on the lam, and there's SO MUCH focus on teen sex/relationships.
Totally stupid. But totally profitable.
I know what you're thinking:
"A Throwback Thursday post on an actual THURSDAY?! You're SURE you took your medication?" *feels forehead*
I know, I know. But getting beyond that, let's talk about something important: cheese.
According to a post I did not actually read to validate its claims on Facebook just now, cheese is actually an addictive substance. This makes sense to me, since even though I'm mildly lactose intolerant I did eat broccoli and cheese soup today for lunch, along with a bleu cheese-topped salad, AND I had mac-n-cheese for dinner. And then my housemate came home with a serving platter--yes, a full serving platter--of block cheese.
I don't know what it is, but cheese is following me today.
There was a small debate over what sort of cheese was on the serving platter. There were the basics--American and cheddar, of course--but then two non-standard white cheeses were up for discussion. My husband identified one as pepperjack (gross), and the cheese-bringing housemate claimed the remaining mystery cheese was havarti.
"Provolone," I said, to nobody in particular.
Because I am prone to saying random words in the middle of nowhere, everyone ignored me, and Cheese-Bringing Housemate went on to discuss the merits of the cheeses. She said something like, "I think it really balances out the flavor of the havarti."
And I said, "Provolone."
Do you believe in ghosts?
Are they the monsters under your bed, or are they the stuff you feel peeling the hairs off your neck to stand on end?
Or are they Samara's long, stringy hair leading the clay-mation way out of a television screen?
Or are they the silence itself at the end of time?
Ghosts, to me, are closely linked to religion. There's a physical aspect to them, but there's also a dogmatic aspect to them. Some people get swept away in the stories, in the threats that haunt them; some people taunt the legends and dare them to come out at night and do their worst.
I like to think that I stay firmly in the middle.
I remember when I visited the Winchester Mystery House--I must have been something like thirteen or fourteen, or maybe twelve--but I was a kid, still religious and still certain that magic could be real. I was sure that I could talk to the dead, if I really listened. I believed in mystical spontaneity. If I waited long enough, if I blinked my eyes in a certain way--I could control the weather. I could make something levitate. I could hear God.
My oldest cousin is fifteen. I can't believe he's fifteen--I feel so ancient by comparison--and he hasn't let me forget how much older I am than him (albeit not necessarily intentionally).
The easiest way he's not let me forget it: the drastic differences in our social media practises.
My first experiences with social media were the early incarnations of it, way back in The Day: Xanga, LiveJournal, MySpace, and then, of course--once I was about to graduate high school and had a UCI e-mail address, back in the days when you needed a college e-mail address--Facebook. Long before Twitter and Instagram and Pintrest. One of the last times I saw my cousin, he was texting incessantly and using various apps, and his parents were admonishing him for texting in the presence of other people. It was funny to witness because my parents told me the same thing when I was his age, but my generation was the first generation to experience such an admonishment. My aunt and uncle never received any such lecture when they were teenagers. For reference: e-mail exploded when I was in middle or high school, which was at least ten to fifteen years ago. That was back in the days when you asked people "do you have an e-mail address?" and either answer was commonplace.
In this interaction with my cousin (back when he was fourteen--this is about a year ago), I asked him whether he was on Facebook, and he kindly informed me:
"Facebook is for moms and old people."
And then proceeded to send his girlfriend a photo on Snapchat.
Automatically, the title of this post makes me sound young to about half of you, and the other half of you haven't the foggiest idea what I'm talking about. My twelve-year-old cousin has a smartphone and knows--very thoroughly--how to use it, and just this year she took a coding class at school.
This is my concept of coding at school at 12 years old:
(notice it's not even coding)
(also notice the floppies)
When you're new, you're soft--pink, rosy, fresh out of the eraser womb, ready for anything You smell like fear, or comfort, I'm not sure which. Like rubber, like sand, like a photography dark room. Like air conditioning and the resulting goosebumps. Like my time is running out and I only have half of the answers bubbled in; like the stories I've been daydreaming about while ignoring the math problems on the test.
Like my elementary-school cafeteria, where I sat with my back to the entry door (the one connected to the wall I felt once with my lips, just to see what it felt like, because I had gloves on my hands and they had textured palms and I knew someone would make fun of me as I heard the kid talking--"ew, she's kissing the wall!"--but he didn't understand it; my hands were cold) and tried to fill in the bubbles at the beginning of the test. I always felt dishonest picking just one of Hispanic or White--both seemed wrong, and I wanted to make a note on the side saying that I was both, but also neither. But another part of the directions said not to write outside of the bubbles. That wasn't how the test worked. You did what they told you to do:
Dear Ann Carr(-Tunney) of Penn State,
I just watched you in the 1980 AIAW National Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Event Finals. I'm about 35 years too late in writing this letter, but in my defence I wasn't alive in 1980. Regardless, sorry for the delay in this letter. I know that's no excuse.
But those 35 years make a huge difference. I see you in your blue leotard, dressed up with white curved streaks in a flippy pattern throughout the body, and think how dressed-up you must have felt. You were twenty-two, at the top of the world. First woman to be awarded a full athletic scholarship at Penn State. US National Team member. Gold medals galore in the 1975 Pan-American Games, winner of three Broderick Awards, but today at 57 years old, none of that is bragged on your LinkedIn profile. Instead, you've quietly made 10 connections and modestly mention your 27 years of service with the School District of Philadelphia.
I think of Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, daughter of another gymnastics legend 15 years younger than you. You paved the way for Brandy Johnson and Brandy paved the way for Sydney--down the generations you've passed on levels of difficulty and expectations for one, two, three somersaults in the air before landing back down to the women who came after you. And they're so young now. Sydney Johnson-Scharpf is nearing 16. She's tired in the 2014 Secret US Classic, after coming back from three injuries, so young, so old, the weight of fame siding with gravity to keep her down.
Gymnastics is so different now. Your floor exercise in 1980 featured large amounts of ballet incorporated in your exercise. Growing up as a dancer, I'd always thought gymnasts were just doing it wrong, with their hands splayed out into what we call "competition hands" in the studio dance world, their ribs sticking out, their backs arched too much. The older I got, the more I separated gymnastics "dance" exercises from my own. They were a different species. Gymnastics did not equal ballet, and that was okay.
But then I saw you, and realized I was wrong. Or, at least I would have been in 1980.
PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST
Blog not recommended for sober consumption.