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.

2017
2020

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?

FemComPod: Bye for now!

Woohoo! Episode 78 is in the can, and we’ll be hitting pause on A Feminist & A Comedian Walk Into A Bar until February 2019. See you then. In the meantime, enjoy the latest episode… as well as this fanny pack style inspo (hear us talk about this comeback kid fashion statement in topic three of the new ep):

Our Thanksgiving Day matching velour tracksuits and WWE fanny packs. So many cans of whoop ass fit in these!

Patreon subscribers, your bonus episodes await! Get-chur ears on ’em now. Thanks for listening! We love you and hope you have a happy, restful, dreamy new year. PUNCH YOUR GOALS IN THE FACE. YEAH!

One anniversary tradition worth following

Justin and I celebrated our first anniversary yesterday! We went to the pool, napped, got a fancy dinner, and went to a movie (Spike Lee’s “BlackKklansman” is great!). The night before, I surprised Justin with an anniversary gift. We promised not to do gifts like this, but I couldn’t help myself. I generally think marriage is kind of dumb, but anniversaries are great! Traditionally, the first anniversary gift is paper. So I got him this print.

It symbolizes comedian Bill Hicks’ bit “It’s Just a Ride,” which was a reading at our ceremony. We both love this bit and try to live by its ethos of fearlessness. But that’s hard. Because I am afraid. All the time.  I‘m so scared and find more to be scared of every day. I‘m scared of you. Of me. Of loss, of regret, of giving of myself. Of the world and the universe and all their black holes.  I want to hold on to Justin (so brave in who he is and how he pushes me and how he sees the world) with my hands up (hands up!) until my ride’s up.

I think I’m also subconsciously getting new art for our apartment so his bachelor-era Rocky posters can go, ahem, somewhere/anywhere else. 😉

We also ate the top of our wedding cake, which we’ve kept in the freezer for the past year. It was so gross. The worst part of our day. Which, all things considered, means we had a pretty great one.

To many more. <3

“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while.

Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.”

And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride.

But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love.

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride.

Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.” 

 

A very Otis Valentine’s Day

There are many sad, tragic and/or ironic endings bespotting the relatively short history of pop music. But one that, ahem, flies under the radar is the story of Otis Redding’s death.

It came a mere days after he recorded what would be his most famous hit, “Sittin’ On The Dock of The Bay.”

A stormy night. A plane crash. Dead at 26 years old.

It’s so sad to me that he didn’t get to see how soothing this song would be to so many people. It’s a hit, sure, but it is my favorite kind — a sad song wrapped in a melody that makes you feel good, that reminds you why you keep going.

I’ve been thinking about this story lately. Mostly because I am amazed at how young Otis Redding was when he died. It makes me worry that I’m not doing enough. Accomplishing enough. Am I wasting my time on things that may not really matter? I worry that I spent my twenties to fast. I know I didn’t, technically, but I worry about it as I start to settle in a new, greater sense of self-awareness.

“Where have I been this whole time?” I wonder. “Because I finally feel like I have arrived in this body, this life.”

While the back of my brain was gnawing on this yesterday,”Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” came on my playlist. At first my anxiety deepened because, damn, he died right after he recorded his most famous song — a song about wasting time! How many people have missed their opportunities like that because of timing?

Mmmm… That song though… I couldn’t stay in a state of panic too long if I tried… Not with Otis crooning his cathartic beachy blues…

I could look at this the other way, I thought: It’s a miracle he even recorded this song when death was so close. So many things nipped on the heels of people like Otis, but he made it, even if things were cut short. Every moment is a miracle, really. Whether we spend it sitting by the bay or knee deep in dream making. Worrying about it all is the ultimate waste.

After all, this is my first Valentine’s Day as a wife, something I became after walking down the aisle to another Otis song. However it all turns out, I have a lot of moments to be thankful for.

Settling in to a not-forever home

Somewhere deep in a landfill, or draped around the tip of a mountain of trash, like a pig wearing costume pearls, there is a garland of construction paper candy corn, crafted to decorate my apartment several Halloween moons ago.

Presumably nearby:

  • A mini Christmas tree with pine needle ends that alight in LED technicolor.
  • A cornafauxpia made to overflow with plastic fruits and vegetables, the waxy purple grapes soft from wear and punctured, thanks to fingers that liked to squish and a cat that liked to gnaw on their spongy exteriors.
  • A Valentine’s Day Cupid window dressage, whose silhouetted sharpened arrow may have seemed menacing from the second floor if not for that cute little bump of an angel baby bottom. If we count Cupid, we’ve been blaming a child for our relationships for a long time. A threatening, flying child whom we’ve given a weapon.

Throughout my young adult years of living along, my holiday decor has been nothing short of Pinterest worthy. In fact, I hold Pinterest accountable for my former highly held expectations of a home stunningly outfitted for the season. That, and holiday movies of every rank.

Similar to how SATC tricked Millennial girls, fledgling in life outside the nest, into thinking a one-bedroom apartment and closet full of Manolos was possible for any woman in NYC not in finance or with a trust fund (let alone as a sometimes-freelance columnist, not even a freelance reporter, gah!), holiday movies have made it appear that affording an entire dining table worth of golden turkey embroidered napkins, squash-scented pillar candles and salad forks would, like, totally be possible on the average 20-something’s salary!

That’s about as real as the families that smile from your newly purchased picture frames.

It is time we held pinned Pottery Barn catalogs accountable for the monsters they truly are.

For nearly 10 years and nine apartments I’ve hauled plastic tubs full of stockings and feathers and firework centerpieces and light-up reindeer, then tried to find room for all of it in closets the size of a Christmas card.

For my cross-state move, however, I trashed it all. Gave the best pieces away to Salvation Army. Washed my hands of all that glitter and gold and never looked back.

I did save a few of my favorite pieces that I’ve had since my first year as a post-graduate. I’m still a weepy sentimental softie, just more economical, hardened by the reality of how much moving sucks, as does finding storage space for things you don’t really need after you’ve taken the luxuriously large U-Haul back.

I’ve purged a lot of my everyday decor, too, much to the relief of my now-husband, who, no exaggeration, will straighten my things into parallel lines when I’m not looking. I’ll return to notebooks, shoes, half-eaten snacks I’ve mindlessly strewn about and find them perfectly aligned and laying at attention. Good little soldiers, keeping his demons away. The whereabouts of my hair ties are no longer a mystery with a non-debilitating-OCD dude as my roommate.

The thing about tchotchkes is this: They’re all well and good in a home that you’ve bought and will be paying off (ie. living in) for the rest of your life. But I was tired of them clogging up my apartments. They created pressure. If I bought a cute vase for my fireplace mantle, I’d have to then get cute matching bookends for the books I have up there. Oh! And maybe a few new books to showcase a variety of topics I can pretend I’ve read about.

You know, that age old “the more you have, the more you want” chase that never seems to end. Happiness and satisfaction never achieved by way of “stuff.” Plus, everything from big boxes to drug stores to mom and pop-style gas stations now have an inventory of something fucking adorable tempting me to buy and hang at my house. I was starting to feel suffocated by my options. NO MORE. I HAVE TOO MUCH. TOO MUCH. TOO MUCH.

Our now minimalist apartment style can be attributed to a reaction against all of the above. A husband who gets itchy over disorganization and an exhaustive fatigue courtesy a tireless consumerist culture and decade of moving unnecessary items that I don’t even like that much, just feel like I need to have or keep.

But can a house (a one-bedroom apartment house, but still) become a home without this stuff?

Can touches of personality come simply by way of a cute bedspread and matching curtain?

Can I miss having a place of my own to decorate and pattern mix and generally make a delicious mockery of class and sophistication but at the same time grow increasingly satisfied with having little of worth or heart-value in here except a flesh and blood person, my greatest accessory yet?

We know we won’t be here long (I mean we won’t be here long in this apartment but you could read that sentence as something more metaphorical about life). We’re tramps born to run and eat vending machine cheese sandwiches on the road, after all. Acknowledging this has not only saved us (me) a lot of money on flash sales at Target and Michael’s, but also imbued a sense of peace and focus into our relationship.

For each life choice you tick off the list of choices that life — and its no-nonsense, objective passage of time — forces you to make, the easier your life becomes.

We will decorate a house together someday, but for now, why worry? All we have to do is be with each other. Be ourselves, stripped of pretense and a perfunctory going-through of life’s motions. Enjoy each other’s company.

Which, when I consider it, is what all that holiday decor was supposed to inspire in the first place.

Gone honeymoonin’!

Hey! Thanks for stopping by. Your friends at lo-class studios just got marrrriiiieeeed! We’re currently busy on a beach or stuffing our faces with wedding cake (because wedding diets end the day of the wedding).

We’ll be back with tons of new content on September 5. Until then, catch up on what you missed from A Feminist & A Comedian Walk Into A Bar podcast; Justin Golak’s Safe Space podcast; and Mildly Depressed.

See you soon…

I’m getting married today

This photo is from 2013. (So, this is not my wedding dress.) Justin and I were marching in Doo Dah, an annual Fourth of July parade in Columbus, Ohio, where anyone can participate.

If you couldn’t tell by the bandana, handcrafted undies and world title belt, we were Macho Man Randy Savage, who is one of Columbus’s favorite native sons, and his manager wrestler wife, Miss Elizabeth.

Justin bought a box of Slim Jims to throw out to the crowds like candy. (I was sure to move us several spots behind the vegan cheerleaders marching in the parade so as not to be rude. Like any self-respecting face wrestler manager would do.)

 


 

If you hadn’t watched Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth wrestle as a kid, the Slim Jims were really the only visual cue as to who we were dressed up as. We were relying heavily on Justin’s ability to imitate Macho Man’s growly, “OH YEAH.”

So, imagine our dismay when, only 50 feet into the parade, we were out of said Slim Jims. A bit overzealous with the jerky toss part of our plan, naturally.

It was… awkward. Especially when the grassroots parade would stop and we had to stand in place for a minute or so in front of the same group of people. We just kept doing the same posing, waving and growling over and over again, like wind up dolls with red cheeks that deepened the longer we stood in front of the same people.

But as we marched and waved to many (mostly) blank faces, we also got a few outrageously happy, “OH MY GOD IT’S MACHO MAN.” There were hugs, photos, high fives.

The people who got it, loved it. We were their favorite thing.

I think Justin is a lot like that too.

I get him.

I love him.

He’s my favorite thing.

And I wouldn’t want to walk through life or throw beef sticks at strangers with anyone else.

*****

“The best thing you can do with your life is tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.” Cheryl Strayed

To the women who loved me before he did

Behind every love story, there’s one like ours.

The kind where we’ve tried everything together.

Haircuts, Indian food, Irish car bombs.

Ideologies, birth controls, road trips.

Face masks, protests, jobs and drugs.

You are the foundation for my future. That foundation is so ridiculously, life-makingly, goosebump-inducingly fun.

But I know I was not always easy. You were often better friends than I was. I squirrel myself away when I hurt. Bury myself in the caverns of my mind, throwing you off the scent of my wound. Isolated but not alone.

I know I would never just let you have it, take my pain for me, no matter how many ways you asked for it. Some ancient manifestation of pride would make me keep you at a distance, would not let you see an open fit of tears whenever something spoiled.

Only my mom got to hold me through something like that. Once. When my college boyfriend broke my heart.

You remember.

I know you do.

Because you carry my scars as if they were your own. Trapped securely under bell jars in the recesses of your own hidden caves, the trails to which are lined with lavender and guarded by fearsome wolves with fur the color of your hair. Blonde and black and brown and pink and red. You’ve all sacrificed parts of yourselves to be my protectors.

Whenever I ran, I knew you weren’t far behind. The peace that gave me, even when I pushed you away, always lured me back to the light.

You’ve shown me how to love and to forgive. You were the guides and the guard rails. You saved me from the nights, my shining armor.

I want to say thank you. For loving me first. Ceaselessly. Sisterly.

Behind every great woman are 20 like you.