Creativity Q+A: Why pink?

Why pink? I’ve always loved this color.

Evidence: Baby J, pink lei.

I’m drawn to every version of it. Bubblegum. Neon. Fuchsia. Pepto Bismol. Patent leather (my favorite).

My senior year of high school my mom made me a hot pink crochet blanket as a graduation gift. I loved it. For a while. Then I stored it away in the top of my closet for about a decade. Why? Pink feels authentic to me, but I became embarrassed by my love of the color.

Pink seemed too conventional, too basic, too one-dimensional. That was how I perceived others perceived it. It was as if pink had already been claimed by women who weren’t like me, representing identities of the shopaholic bimbo that I wanted to distance myself from. I felt like pink had been claimed by a consumerist or sexualized society that made me feel less than valuable.

By my mid-college life I had veered away from pink’s statements, shamed by how the color has been weaponized to sell women shit and commodified to represent a whole community (i.e., who should like it and who shouldn’t). I was also cowed by the seeming conventionally of it (this, my own confused internalization of the weaponization of the color), and instead dabbled for a bit in punk rock black or wannabe-queer camo. Color and pattern are so tied to identity in that way.

Eventually, as I settled into myself, I came back around to pink, and I think it’s no coincidence that I fully embraced its powerful hold on me in my 30s, an age profound in its allowance to let me be myself. My true self. My awash in pink, sadly joyful selfhood.

A custom job for my friend Mandy.

Pink is a symbol of my roots, my discontent, and my self actualization. 

I love when men wear or like pink, but I am not too interested in using the color as an obvious gender statement in my artwork, though it probably can’t be unthreaded from that experience in a small capacity. No, I use it in my artwork as a reclamation of the color individually. Pink is powerful. I don’t find it feminine necessarily, but I myself am feminine and find power in being feminine—and power in accepting my femininity.

As an artistic element, pink makes anything and everything pop. Pink is a bold choice. It draws your eye and doesn’t let you go. I like that it’s still a bit divisive. It is the most stereotyped hue, as far as non-bodily pigment is concerned. 

Pink draws attention to itself. Pink makes you look. Pink says, “I am not what you think I am… even though you are looking at me because you think you know precisely what you think I am.”

Pink fluff in Red.
Pink slime in one of my embroidery artworks.

Pink in an artwork makes you confront something inside yourself.

That something could be big or small, upsetting or comforting. Doesn’t matter. The confrontation is what’s important. A confrontation is a question that makes you pause. It can be as small as a stitch, or as big as an elephant. A confrontation is a question that you’ll answer almost immediately with your intuition. That’s what I’m interested in. The naturalness, primality, invoked by such an unnatural color.

Pink is a loaded adjective as much as it is a color. It is something we culturally face everyday so we’re bound to have associations with it.

Pink cloud in sobriety refers to the typically short period of euphoria that some people feel soon after quitting their drug of choice. 

Pink tax is the term for how women are nickel and dimed on toiletry products made for their gender.

Pink line(s), one or two depending on your situation, is what we look for on pregnancy tests as the minutes tick by. 

One pink line in Untouchable

Can’t we just like something? Sure, but what we like has connotations, meanings, and layers. I don’t judge these. Just find it interesting. When we confront our connotations, meanings, and layers as individuals and as a whole, nonjudgmentally, we are closer to making change.

In the path from girlhood to adolescence to adulthood, the color identity shifts along with one’s self and understanding of their persona and place in the world.

Assumptions can be made. Let them.

What we like can change. Let it. 

Who we are can change. Let’s.

The color though. The color never changes. And maybe that’s it. Maybe pink is some form of—some outlet for—controlling the narrative of my own life. Seeing my self, my life, my color for what it truly is: Whatever I make of it.

And I want to make it beautiful, fun. I want to make it pop.

Pink nails by me. Quote by Celeste.

Writer Jackie Mantey sits on a bench outside in the park

Notes on a Couch Warming Party

OK, look, this is very exciting because, ever since your breakup—a wretched, booze-soaked affair that ended with you prematurely exiting the shared apartment with a wobble-wheeled suitcase packed and not one but two chip-nailed middle fingers in the air—you haven’t owned a couch.

Door slams. Lock bolts.

That was two years ago. You’ve lived and lounged and lamented your life since then on a bed (a raft, really, in an OCEAN OF TEARS), moving from that stupid shared apartment back to your stupid parents’ house, then to a stupid studio that smelled like if moths had their own closets, then to ~here~…

Your new home. A gorgeous one-bedroom, bottom-right quarter of a falling down, white-and-brick house in a hip part of town. It doesn’t have windows that open, but it does have your cat, which your ex hated, and as of noon today—of all glorious, single lady days—it has this: A suede dreamboat in the color of “Stone.” It’s called the Darcy Sofa. It is seven-and-a-half-feet long, which is ideal for your five-foot-two frame and your feet-cuddling cat. It is perfect.

This Darcy Sofa cost you $500 and is officially one thousand times more valuable than any diamond ring, you’re sure of it.

You eye it now, mentally applaud how it looks on the hardwood living room floor, shoved up against the butter-colored wall you don’t want to paint because you’re renting so you’ll have to paint it back eventually and who has time for that, and across from the brick fireplace you can’t use because the chimney has been plugged-up with who knows what because squirrels or drug dealer Santa or something.

The couch looks familiar. It’s almost identical to the one you bought for your first apartment out of college. You remember, that $150 bear-brown thing that your brother and your cousin helped you transport from the Big Lots (née Odd Lots) where you bought it. Afterward, feeling oh so grown up, you offered for your moving mates to stay and hang out and here, have a beer, I bought it just for you! (even though you already drank half the pack).Your cat, a mere teenager at the time, hopped on the couch and onto your cousin’s lap and everyone had a perfectly lovely evening sitting on your brand new couch, bought and paid for by you and only you, until you probably blacked out and they went home.

It was the best day you had in that apartment.

Who knows where that couch is now.

Your friends are coming to meet the Darcy Sofa in just a few hours. You have decided to host a Couch Warming Party, because this is to be celebrated, an occasion to remember! It represents healing and independence, this furniture, this moving-on-up. This couch means a new world is opening up to you. You made it. Couch Warming Party is being held on the weekend of your terrible ex’s birthday. You didn’t plan this timing on purpose, at least you don’t think so, but it does make the second glass of wine at three p.m. taste even sweeter.

Now it’s nine. You are fuzzy and warm and a little bit sick. The couch, soft as a petal, feels like a lily pad beneath you. Bobbing, bobbing.

Your friends are here! Your friends pile in the aching red-rimmed door. Your friends clamor in the living room and oh and ah appropriately before tumbling down the long hallway to the kitchen and out its back door to the fire pit you share with the other dwellers of this broken home-you-love’s divvied-up apartments.

Your friends are good friends. They agree to pose for photos on your new couch. They make a big deal about it, even though this couch, it’s not that special.

They are just happy to see their friend happy again.

They bring you Couch Warming Party gifts they’ll know you’ll enjoy, like a new blanket, lounge pillows, cat toys, vodka, smokes, cocaine. By the end of the night, you are all outside howling at The Man and the moon, crouched beneath the giant tree you don’t know the genus of, that the city hasn’t torn down yet but will soon. Your backyard’s wooden fence stands guard. Tonight, as the fire licks the air and your friends lick each other, the perimeter feels like a hug and not a cage.

The couch has been forgotten. But that was the point.

At two a.m., you sit alone on your back porch smoking a gifted Parliment. Your cat has joined you, that loyal little thing. You both purr and wish every moment was a Couch Warming Party moment. You wish this especially because you know what awaits, what you’ve been running from. Morning. When you will wake up and every inch of you will hurt, including your heart. Especially your heart, and the yet-unknown thing rotting beneath its floorboards. It will be seven more months (exactly one month after your 30th birthday) before you wake up on another stranger’s couch—again!—and finally—finally!—decide it’s time to get sober. And you do it! You beautiful, goofy, grateful recovering alcoholic! You finally break through. Find a home inside yourself.

Tonight, though. Tonight is as bright and dark as a chewed up cherry pit, as twisted as the tongue-tied stem, and to be lived to the last briny drop.

You have so much further to go, but tonight you honor everything it took to get to Here. To the Stone-colored sofa. Your new Plymouth rock.

Fun in the time of quarantine

I’ve finally landed on a word the best describes how this pandemic has made/is making me feel: Bewildered. (And, I guess, longing. I miss my family, my city, my lifestyle, etc.) That said, Justin and I have been having a lot of fun together. I can’t see being stuck inside with him for months as anything other than a lopsided gift. Justin’s a fun friend and a good partner. 

Here’s an example:

In an effort to find different things for us to do together as the 2020 months crawl on, Justin decided to find a video game for us to play. To do this, he had to consider many variables. Well, two variables. 1) I hate video games; and 2) I hate video games because I’m absolutely terrible at them and have none of the hand-finger muscle memory that seems to be required for success in any of the adult games and when I’m bad at things I get pissed off and ruin the this-is-just-for-fun vibe and ok, back off, I’m working on it.

But this didn’t stop our sheltered-in-place friend! Justin spent weeks researching games that moved quickly and provided many a dopamine hit of congratulations by way of sparkly animated gems simply for showing up and pushing buttons. So, basically, games for children.

Enter: Castle Crashers.

It’s perfect for us/me because 1) it’s made for beginners/children and I can just mush all the buttons and still accomplish something maybe or at least think I did in the flurry of chaotic noises and special effects; 2) there’s a Pink Knight character that, duh, I chose, and my “magic” abilities include stunning opponents into dropping their weapons and giving peace signs by throwing stuffed animals at them and shooting rows of rainbows out of my hands to distract them; and 3) we can play the levels at the same time, so essentially Justin does all the work killing bad guys and strategically spending our gold coins on health potions and doing the things that get us moving forward, while I furiously shoot rainbows at the empty, endless void and try to figure out how to turn myself around.

This is so indicative of who we are as people and why we work together as a pair.

Justin1 and Justin2 (aka Jackie), sittin’ in a tree…

Anyway, today’s our three-year wedding anniversary. 

Thanks, boo. I feel unsure about pretty much everything except you.


Two empty lawn chairs sitting side by side

Home is a feeling

Quarantine Day 1,345. It was early evening, that time of day when the heat has started to fade but the light is still saying its goodbyes. 

Justin and I strapped on our masks and headed out the door to take a walk around the neighborhood. “Let’s go get Italian ice,” he said. I was suspicious, not wanting to go to a restaurant. “They have a walk-up counter,” he said convincingly.

And so we strolled, taking a brand new route, a few side streets behind the local grocery store, streets that I’d never been down before. One block in, and I couldn’t believe how excited I felt. All the new things to see! After approximately forever-amount-of-days staring at the same walls and the same computer screen, chilling in the same park and running the same route, this walk was a novelty more delicious than any cold treat.

We said muffled hellos to an ancient Border Collie lounging among the pink blooms and behind the twisted iron fence of a brick one-story.

We joked about what we would do if we had to move into a three-story house towering above us, its boarded up windows framed by a white exterior turned a dingy browbeaten gray. I would fix it up and nurse its good bones back to health. Justin would burn it down because clearly it was haunted and something wicked lurked in the basement. 

We passed by a wooden fence. It was too tall to see over, but if we could, we would see a family celebrating summer in their backyard. The scent of grilled corn and the sounds of mariachi carried over the fence, tempting us to join as we passed on the sidewalk. Hello, I said, wordlessly. Thank you for the reminder.

I’ve always loved looking at houses. That there are endless rows of them is one of my favorite aspects of living in Chicago. The neighborhoods, the overflowing residential streets with endless charm tucked away just beyond the hurried thoroughfares. It’s like knowing where to find a secret water source in the desert.

I tried to explain to Justin why I like walks like this so much. Looking at other homes makes me feel like I am here. Nowhere in particular, just here. On earth and un-alone. But though I like thinking of all the human stories stacking up in those houses they inhabit, what I enjoy most is the look of the exteriors, as an individual and as a whole. A street of houses all lined up, especially if those houses have completely different facades, looks the way a bowl of fresh, in-season strawberries tastes: A welcome mat for the senses. 

Each house has a face and sleeps at night. Even the most humble of architectures here carries a gentleness for me, feels like a place where life unfolds unceremoniously (which is the most rewarding kind of unfolding, I think?). From the humble bungalows to the soaring million-dollar build right next door, I love looking at all of them. I don’t want to be inside them necessarily, just to behold them. The window panes, the flower beds, the curve of a doorway and all the knowing it can share just from its shape. Even the sharp angle of every roof taps a different feeling inside me. Oh! And, best of all, the trees! Dangling their drapery as a curtain to each house’s stage. Look, they say. Witness what is here.

We held hands as we ordered our Italian ice, a line of people with the same idea spaced six feet apart behind us. A string of brightly colored owl lights on the outside of the building shone stronger by the minute as the sun settled. There were pink and green plastic chairs on the small strip of grass near the order window—also six feet apart. We decided to keep walking and find a corner to stand on as we spooned the icy treat into eager mouths. Lemon, raspberry, watermelon. A woman riding her bike with a dog on a leash passed us. A new mom on her cellphone tutted along, baby peeking out of a blanket from the stroller in front of her. Cars blinked by with a rattle. Justin and I watched it all as we ate, the cold a relief on our hot tongues. The taste lingered, hidden behind masks, as we walked back. Dusk hitting the homes with a loving light, guiding us back to ours.

Couple in a private dance studio

Finding an old flame on the dance floor

I always frame my dancing in the past tense: “I used to dance.” I’ll say it wistfully and stand a little straighter as I do, like a ribbon is connecting my ponytail to the ceiling, a helpful visual technique for dancers with poor posture. I always had poor posture. And I had trouble remembering more than an 8-count at a time unless I choreographed it myself. And I never paid attention to the costume requirements and more than once ended up on stage in the wrong colored tights.
But none of those flaws stopped me from dancing. Time did that. As I entered my 30s, dancing sounded exhausting… was exhausting. Moreover, I knew my ability to dance would be on a continued, inevitable downward slope. My best dancing days were already behind me. A body’s flexibility, physicality, and strength is at its prime at a certain point, and that point is one I have passed. I didn’t want to dance because my self-competitive nature would be disappointed that I couldn’t leap as high, spin as fast, or bend as lovely as I could five years ago.

Then 2020 happened, and, damn, it has got me feeling d-o-w-n. My morale is the thing on the downward slope now. Justin (my bff/husband) has been encouraging me to get back to dancing ever since I stopped, but I have promptly ignored him, saying I’m happy to leave the barre behind me, which I think has mostly been true.

Last weekend, however, he made some moves himself. He took me to a dance studio that he had rented for a few hours from Peerspace (like Airbnb but for studio, meeting room, or venue rentals). And that was all I needed: A partner to take me by the hand and plop me back on the dance floor. My body instinctively took off. 

Dancing around the studio space was the b-e-s-t thing I’ve done since early March. So much sweat! It felt grounding, calming, and exhausting indeed! It felt like a turned-head to pointed-toe rejuvenation! To get out of our apartment and just move my body around, a body I have been staying put to protect in recent months (and, I realized, keeping in self-imposed bounds for the past few years), was mentally healing beyond measure.

The experience helped me see that hobbies can evolve, and that’s OK. I will never be as good a dancer as I once was, but was excellence really why I was dancing in the first place? Nah. Not even close. I danced because it was fun. And, it turns out, it still is. Maybe even more so because I don’t have to worry about showing up in the wrong tights. 🙂

What have you left behind because you thought it couldn’t help you anymore? If you reframed how it healed you, would it be worth another shot?

Grandpa in front of stone wall in Korea

Time doesn’t pick sides

My grandpa died this week. It has caught me off guard. He was always so full of life, I just figured he would live forever?

He was such a spry old guy, too! Grandpa had recently moved into an assisted living facility, an act he definitely DID NOT want to do but acquiesced to when COVID-19 hit. Why? So he could visit my grandma in the Alzheimer’s unit there every day (a through-the-window visit would no longer suffice). He took such loving care of her the past few years. From making sure she had outfits she would approve of, to bringing her a thermos of root beer as a treat when he’d visit. His love for her is probably what I’ll remember most. I can still picture him helping Grandma dye her hair in the sink whenever we had sleepovers. They were best friends. 

Grandpa was curious, adventurous, thoughtful, smart, and so damn playful. And he was a wonderful writer, writing and editing the Army’s Preventive Maintenance (PS) magazine throughout his career. I’ve always attributed any natural gift I have as a baton handoff from him to me. 

After college, I asked Grandpa to email me some of his stories. Him and Grandma kept binders of tales from their many travels—like #vanlife bloggers before their time. He said yes but did one better: He said he would write some brand new pieces for me and his daughters of memories from his life. Today I have this remarkable collection of stories he wrote (a few by Grandma, but mostly him). What a fucking gift! I loved getting to know him this way and I was always excited to get a new email with a story attached. It sparked a lot of interesting conversations between us. They’re now all stored in a binder he gave me when I moved to Chicago. 

I recently started adding new photos to the binder… printouts of photos he would text of him and of Grandma at the nursing home, screenshots of funny text messages he sent, a photo of him in a COVID face mask that he’d drawn a smiley face onto. Such a rascal.

I’ve been adding these to the end of the book. The day he died, I added a note about when, where, and how he passed. I feel tender toward making sure I give his story, in this binder at least, the ending… that I record it. He would always end his written stories like the grisled old magazine editor he was: with – end – at the end.

A story isn’t a story without an ending. And Grandpa had a hell of a story. You did good, farm boy.

I’m sad COVID forced me to cancel my March visit to Marion. He and I had a Bob Evans breakfast date planned, like we had been doing for the past year or so. We would eat together, bitch about the coffee, politely disagree about politics (he would always hear me out!), talk about about my hopes to roadtrip across the country with Justin, order some blueberry crepes to-go, and take them (and some root beer) to Grandma for our visit.

But. I’m so grateful to have had him as a grandpa and have had as much time with him as I did. I miss him already.

– end –

Wave on Lake Michigan beach in Chicago

Girl, wash your face mask

Hey, how are you doing? Overwhelmed? Me too. It’s surprising how all-consumingly intense life can be in lockdown, no? Nearly four months of time in which I’ve talked to a total of three people in person. But maybe that’s part of the problem—I’m worried about humanity because I am not experiencing it much beyond the screen. I’m like the baby monkey clinging to a wire-made mother, longing for but misunderstanding real love.

Some complain of feeling bored in quarantine. I feel anything but. I feel stressed and anxious and overwrought. Everything seems so B-I-G, even as the physical boundaries of my daily life are smaller than ever.

To help myself feel just a little bit better, I’ve been trying to focus on things I can control. I can control what I give my attention to, so after work each day, I’ve been plugging along at building an online shop to sell my artwork. There’s something cathartic about tinkering away at a thing I hope to launch in “the future” while listening to the news and the podcasts and the sound and the fury. Working on the shop symbolizes the shred of optimism I have buried underneath all this tension that’s seething and solidifying inside a worried self. It’s like embodying a strange paradox—I miss being around people, but I’m also very tired of “people.”

I’ve been thinking about restarting my blog too. As social media, which replaced a lot of blogosphere time and energy, becomes a place of exacerbated one-dimensionality and optical, oppositional grandstanding, the thought of having my own little Island of Internet is increasing in its appeal. 

How do we all come out of this moment kinder, more equitable, more closely tied to one another and our collaborative condition? Is that possible at this point? Do others feel as tired and disconnected as I do?

I don’t know. And writing all of this seems trite in the wake of a cultural revolution, a global pandemic, a paradigm shift of historical proportions… I feel increasingly tense as there seems to be no route out of this place but to keep on keeping on. 

I am plankton in a wave. 

I do my work, I add items to my site, I plan for “the future,” I read about the present and feel upset about the past, I go to bed. 

I wake up and do it all over again. 

Photograph of last dandelion seed hanging on

Planting the seeds

Well, damn. When I started my newsletter I thought I would use it to share anecdotes of joy or hope or humor from my previous seven days. This past week has been anything but joyous, hopeful, or funny. It’s been historic. We better get used to it. We are on a precipice of something. I hope that something is change and a more equitable criminal justice system. I hope it happens soon.

In lieu of anything joyous to report, I’ll share this instead: I’ve found a lot of solace during the pandemic by doing regular runs around my neighborhood. I am not a ~runner~ by any means. By “runs around the neighborhood” I mean I slow-jog about a quarter of a mile, then walk, then kind of run again but get tired and tell myself it was a valiant effort and we can’t all be heroes, and then sort of surreptitiously dance to whatever music’s spilling from my headphones to my ears, then sit in the park for a while and try to will myself to do sit-ups and pushups but mostly just stretch and inspect the grass.

You can see a lot by looking at the grass, while on the grass’ level. 

Like a mystical woman in polyester nylon, I conduct phony tasseography and stretch my hamstrings. Fortunes emerge through the layered leaves and fragile stems, the grasses map to answers (a rapidly disappearing luxury). A cross can mean a blockage—they’re everywhere. The wings of a bird, new freedom—they’re here but not fully formed. This is like cloud watching but for those who have found themselves tangled in the earth.  

The other day, while performing the last act of my running ritual and lying down in the grass pretending to do leg lifts, I spent some time watching the last two seeds of a dead dandelion struggle to detach, to fly away from home and grow near each other elsewhere. They were on opposite sides of the center bud, both pulling as mightily as they could, buoyed by the breeze, like a tug of war in which both of them would crumble away with their host if they couldn’t figure it out soon.

I left before either flew away.

Magnetic sentence // There are things in this world that we will never understand

Remembering what I don’t want to forget

Two days ago, my bangs had reached the point of no return and needed to be trimmed/ burned to the ground. I haven’t cut my own bangs for a year or so, having found a delightful little Logan Square stylist who smells of root beer floats and always asks how my day is and brings me a bit of tea to sip on even if I don’t ask for it.
I forgot how to do this task for body management (it’s not so much a beauty ritual as it is maintenance and upkeep of a relatively uncontrollable variable—a body, my body, my hair growing out of my body). Nonetheless, I, chin-up, strode to the bathroom mirror, grabbed a chunk of hair and, with the confidence of an award-winning surgeon, performed a thorough snip straight across the bottom, right above my eyebrows.
I realized my mistake as soon as I let the pieces go free and they stacked like unruly sticks on my forehead. I looked like a young German boy off to fetch mushrooms for mutter dearest from the Black Forest at dawn.
“That’s not how you do it,” a voice snorted in my head. “Cool, hey, so nice of you to show up!” I replied.
Life in lockdown has reminded me a of things like this, things I’ve forgotten. Like that bangs are best cut in small vertical snips, not one long horizontal gash. Other remembrances of late:

  • I live in a city because I like to see things for myself.
  • Intimacy is a gift; adaption is a given.
  • My body is a vulnerable vessel.
  • I still own the red mini skirt from Express that I bought at 80% off five years ago. (Hello, week six’s Project Closet Purge.)
  • In a lab test in 1978, two scientists fed rabbits high cholesterol diets to see if they got heart disease. One group of rabbits totally fucking did. The other group didn’t. Why? The lab assistant who fed the group that didn’t get sick talked to the rabbits, stroked their fat little cheekies, and cuddled them while she fed them. (AKA: Family dinner can be sacred.)

Twenty-four hours and two YouTube-tutorials-by-teens-named-Ava after my “haircut,” I fixed my bangs. They look pretty good, actually, all fringed and perfectly layered, and I’ve been thinking about how much, before coronavirus, I paid for things that I could do myself just as well. More of that’s coming, I’m sure—a global scaling back in favor of doing it ourselves (by way of virtual spiritual guides named Ava, of course.)

I feel shocked that these shifts that are already happening to us individually. This experience, potential life-threatening illness notwithstanding, hasn’t been a full two months in progress and we’ve already changed, adapted, rethought, reimagined, reframed. 

Why am I so surprised that I can continue to be surprised?

When will I remember that there’s always something to forget?

Photo of a painting of fruits and vegetables on a table

Fiona and friends

I first heard—really heard—Fiona Apple during my second week of college. My new friend from Buffalo was a huge fan. 
Buffalo lived a few doors down from me in the freshmen dorm, and I was in love with her the minute I saw her. Were there people like this, people who showed up for you when you first left your hometown, people you were drawn to instinctually, magnet to magnet? Buffalo was one of two girls I met my first year at college that, when I first saw them, some internal alert flared and flashed, “That’s her! That’s her!” I’ve never felt that kind of intense platonic attraction since.
Buffalo was wildfire with an ice pick. Where I had hung a poster of Van Halen that I’d won playing SkeeBall at the county fair the past summer, Buffalo had taped up a handwritten self-manifesto of “Who I am and what I believe” on her wall. Where I had a Caboodle box on the shelf above my computer, she had a betta fish in a bowl. A betta fish named Sue. Like the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.” Yeah, dude. So cool, especially for an 18-year-old from Buffalo.
In Buffalo, I saw a model for the kind of girl I wanted to be. Strong, certain of herself, giving, curious, and effortlessly fun. We would end up accomplishing a lot during our first semester of college together. Where I got a Monroe lip piercing, she got a nose ring, etc. The fact that we were both redheads worked in our favor at parties; we’d snag free beers from the boys and then sneak back to our dorm floor and hang out on our own.
I was starving for culture by the time I got to Kent State in fall 2004. I knew how to find a world beyond the one I’d been born into, but only in a fractured way. I spent much of my senior year of high school checking out CDs from the local library and having a friend with a computer burn them onto CDs I could listen to in my Buick Skylark while I surreptitiously smoked Pall Malls out the window. In this way, I learned the entire catalogs of the Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, The Pixies, Janis Joplin, and (of all things) Supertramp. Mesmerized, but still hungry. By college, I’d eeked the Marion County Library dry and I needed more. (To be honest, I had also lost the fourth CD in a Rolling Stones multi-pack and owed the library the kind of money a 17-year-old Applebee’s carside-to-go girl just doesn’t have!)
Culturally, I needed some direction. I needed people like Buffalo to be my source, my guide to music and art and books and ideas. When Buffalo let me borrow Fiona Apple’s album “When The Pawn…” it was her idea. “I think you’ll really like this,” she said. “Oh and this, too,” she added, putting The Distiller’s album “Coral Fang” in my other hand. 
That handoff changed everything. Fiona Apple and Brody Dalle—and, by proxy, Buffalo—are cemented in my spirit. The lyrics to “Limp” still ring righteous shivers like a shot right through me. “Drain the Blood” still makes my pulse pound hot and rapid. These furious fucking women helped me feel not so fucking furious.
Sophomore year, Buffalo and I were in different dorms, in different areas of campus, and we naturally drifted apart, but not before she showed me how to find more of who I was and how to express it. My sense of self was forged through our friendship. I learned to balance my adoration for Buffalo and what I learned from her with what I brought to the table as myself. 
My first year out of college, I bought my own betta fish. I named her Black Betty, after the Ram Jam song—a song I used to blare from my smoking Buick, tearing down a lonely country road, with so many more miles to go.