Stock Phrases from Cover Letters/PlentyOfFish Dating Bios of Recent MFA Grads (List Rejected by McSweeney's)

1. The Art of Communication

2. Reliably self-motivated

3. Varied and eclectic experience

4. Teacherly

5,. Acted as discussion moderator/motivated participant

6. Finalist

7. Finalist

8. Teamwork; team player; team-oriented; teaming

9. Coordinated curriculum

10. Developed curriculum

11. Motivated to manage curriculum

12. See: curriculum

13. Joyfully co-led

14. Skills which translate outside of the academy into the private sector

15. The academy

16. Effective communication is artful (note italic)

17. A sense of humor is essential

18. Finalist

19. Diversity, inclusion, adaptive, flexible, mindful, diversity

20. I’d be delighted

McSweeney's Response:

Hi Samantha -

Certainly amuses, but I’m afraid we aren’t taking this. Appreciate the chance to, though.

Best,

Chris

- - -

Christopher Monks

MIT Editor

Top Pandora Station Playlists of The Ohio State University English PhD candidates (List Rejected by McSweeney's)

1.     Existential Crisis Hotline Bling

2.     Time after Time is a Construct

3.     The Hamilton Soundtrack

4.     The Hamilton Mixtape

5.     The Hamilton Cast with Judith Butler and Non-Binary Friends: The Podcast

6.     Spinoza Me Right Round, Baby

7.     70’s Lite Rock feat. Gerry Rafferty and Varied Sax Solos

8.     Solange > Swift

9.     Foucault the Police

10.  Coldplay covers Enya covering Tranquil 12 Hours of Native Fowl and Waterfall Sounds: Naturescapes II

11.  Hip-Hop Barbecue

 

McSweeney's Response:

Hi Samantha -

This has a good beat and is easy to stress out over a dissertation to, but I’m afraid we aren’t going to take it. Thanks for thinking of us.

Best,

Chris

- - -

Christopher Monks

MIT Editor

Post-(insert here)

I cannot write.

Everything feels urgent. I make lists on napkins and Post-Its. I call strangers on Facebook RACIST, all-caps. I do two minutes worth of squats and pray for roller derby. I start podcasts about shitty new-old movies on Amazon. 

The film, "Regarding Henry," is Harrison Ford at his best-worst. Annette Bening cries in every scene she shares with him. The early 90's comic-drama-fish-out-of-water narrative struggles to find its tone and genre in the way early 90's films do. Mike Nichols must have been so proud of the ending shot, wherein the family is whole once more, striding away from a church in the fall, their Beagle pup skipping underfoot. I think they stole the soundtrack from Twin Peaks; maybe this film is actually a horror movie. The moral of the story: wealthy, detached, cruel, white male lawyers, can only find their humanity by being shot in the head and the heart. 

I feel poor on time and cash, rich in sleep, ideas, disjointed motivation. 

I feel white and helpless and so fucking sad. 

My heart beats Trump, Trump, Trump. The sky has been blue most days this summer. My neighbors got a puppy and he is pure. His name is Apollo. Soon he will top 100 pounds. 

My own puppies cuddle exceedingly well. Meryl has learned to spoon. Buster tolerates more and more petting. This stranger on Facebook says I'm stupid and a bully and I wonder if the jobs I apply for will think I'm too radical to work with because I don't hesitate to call RACIST like I sees it.

I kinda don't fucking care.

Last week I scored 1,250 AP exams in an English Lang College Board sweatshop of sorts. The Tampa Convention Center was unprepared for us. Toilets overflowed. The Snack Revolt of 2017 happened because of a banana shortage. DO NOT HOARD THE SNACKS they warned, and so we stuffed them deeper into our pockets, our pants. The heat of Tampa felt like relief after the forced, sewage'd cool of the convention center central air. Everywhere we turned, there was a way out of the building, but only one way back in. Security guards chased us if we went in through the out doors. That's a metaphor. 

It's all metaphor.

I miss my friends. I talk to them most days and I miss them. I miss the America I believed was real before I knew better, though that was decades ago now. I have enough hope left to believe, perhaps, my voice might be heard, even relevant. But I'm afraid it's too late.

I'm afraid. 

I sit on my porch in a chair that leans back until it is parallel to the ground. My husband cooks. He cooks casserole in the summer, the stove burning humidity dry. 

My home is cozy and my shoulders are in pain. The clouds are fat and they look like home. Did you know that Larry Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby? Did you know Kennedy defeated Hoover? Did you students in Silicon Valley test better than students in Mississippi?

I want to be Capitalist enough to be Marxist again, I've said a few times now. 

Time to start my second, third, fourth, unpublished book. Life is so good, and I mean that. It is.

 

 

Every Day Is

Memorial Day and so it does not bother me, your barbeques, Coronas and shots of Patron

He would have wanted, please

Worship the yellow and blue, blue sky/stop using

Service or Sacrifice

Like they mean something, like using one

Day is enough to remember any of them

There is a cardinal outside my window, bleeding red through green

Christmas in Spring every day is a day without

Living your fucking life is what you should

Do not feel shame for breathing, for earning time and a half, for being

Here where he belongs in the grass beside the charcoal, my baby brother

I’m a grown-ass man, Sam

Not a symbol to assuage guilt, complicity, ignorance, lazy one-day-a-year

Enough ten dollar words, move on, move on to

Meaning-making bratwurst, cheeseburgers, chips and dip on

Checkered table cloths contain the mess if you must

Feel bad

Bone Thugs isn’t loud enough.

SPC Ronnie J Tucker

KIA 30APRIL2008

Letters to W: Two

Dear W,

Doesn't #100daysofTrump sound like a medical condition? You could replace Trump with "Loose Bowels" and we're still talking facts.

#100DaysofLooseBowels. 

Ah, W. I figure you like a good poop joke. 

Spring is the season for my family. Colorful things shoot out of the ground while we're remembering what we buried deep into it. We've got my brother's birthday on 3/19, and then his death day on April 30. My grandpa's death day is also in March. Memorial day is at the end of May, and don't let that happy rhyme fool you; we bar-b-que like everyone else that weekend, but we are sure to include a somber moment or two, quickly followed by a shot of Patron (or two). So many veterans to honor, so little tequila.

My Dad's death day is in June. I used to release balloons for it,  but I care about the environment now. Or, I always did, but wasn't considering my complicity in fucking it up. In any case, I don't buy balloons anymore. And I don't release helium ones I find, at parties, grand openings, used car lots. I grab scissors, make a small incision at the base of the balloon, right above the knot, and I suck that helium down. If there are people around, a potential audience, then I say serious things in a Betty Boop voice.

"How much is that Subaru outback?"

"Do you have a life insurance policy? Do you want one?"

"The pollen count is extremely high today."

Do you suffer seasonal allergies, W? What is the pollen count in Texas? Can you just give me a blanket number? Can you just say,

"Well, Sam, the pollen count is seven. Can I offer you an MGD, the champagne of beers, and a Claritin?"

Thanks, W, but I prefer Zyrtec. And Patron. Occasionally Bourbon. And if we're being honest, things that are green but don't make me sneeze. 

(I don't inhale).

Do you remember Memorial Day, 2008?

You spoke on TV. You spoke about Ronnie. I think I've told you this before, W. You stood at Arlington in front of the Tomb of the Unknown and you said, "Ronnie Tucker liked NASCAR." 

This is not true. He liked fast cars. The difference is mighty between the souped-up street racers Ronnie preferred--banana yellow and muffler-heavy and growling into the night--and the Pepsi-fueled cages rednecks watch tread circles. No offense to you, sir, but you are what you eat, as they say. And rednecks are your bread and butter. Were. They were, but now they belong to that Cheeto in the White House. What a disgrace to Cheetos and America. I bet we can agree on that. 

Sorry if I'm rambling. Tomorrow I graduate from Graduate School. In writing. Though you wouldn't know it based on the sentence, "Tomorrow I graduate from Graduate School." Anyway, that's the point of this letter. It's actually an invitation. If you're around Columbus, Ohio this weekend, you're welcome to come to my graduation. And hang around--we could also do Ronnie's Day together on Sunday. We could haunt helium balloon joints. We could tequila. You could tell me about the weirdest advice your Dad ever gave you, like, 

"INVADE IRAQ! GO FOR IT!"

or

"Dick Cheney is cool."

Hope you're well. If you want to send a cash gift in your place, or, like, a certificate to Red Robin, that's cool too. My favorite burger there is the Whiskey River BBQ burger. That thing is like one million points on Weight Watchers.

Talk Soon,

 

Sam

Letters to W: One

Dear W,

Today is Ronnie's thirtieth birthday. This is my favorite time of year, when my brother and sister and I are back-to-back in age, 30, 31, 32. His death is almost a decade past now. Considering time like this is terribly effective in terms of remembering who we were, and why we are.

Mom called early this morning to tell me about the robin in her backyard. She calls them her Ronnie Robins, and this is the first she's seen this spring--his puffed red chest, his thoughtful head cocked and pivoting in the sunlight. The robin perched on my parents newly fenced perimeter and watched Mom watch him through her kitchen window. He stayed longer than birds tend to do. 

I like your painting book. I like calling it that, specifically. I think I’m being mean-spirited. I could be more generous and refer to it as your book of paintings, but your painting book sounds funny in a way I think you’d understand.

We’ve never met, but you said my brother’s name once. Memorial Day, 2008—he was killed about a month prior. When your speechwriters called the house, it wasn’t all that surprising. My family was living our new normal. A reporter from a local station had been stalking our driveway for days, his TV hair plastered to his scalp, a helpful makeup line visible above his collar. My aunt went outside and demanded, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” or something in a similar tone. Lots of people were calling the house then. Or, we were making the calls. My mom asked me to call my brother’s girlfriend in Texas. That was the first time I’d ever spoken to Amanda, and she was calm, steady, when I could not be.

Your paintings are remarkable. Your choice of color is refreshing. I am taken aback by the way you marry light and dark in the faces of these veterans. I find the thickness of paint on each canvas appealing, and bold. Each scrape and smear deliberate, confident—I like excess of materials. As though the paint could be picked, rolled off in strips. I have an untrained eye for such things. When I do experiment with visual art, I, myself, am greedy with my chosen medium. I was always the kid who broke the crayon by pressing too hard. I have a box of dusty pastels, little vibrant nubs now, because I push and squeeze as though color will only arrive through pressure, by enthusiastic, violent force.

Why did you begin painting? And why these “Portraits of Courage”? I saw you on Jimmy Kimmel and I smiled. Then I cried, because smiling with you feels like a massive betrayal. I know you didn’t kill my brother yourself, with your painting hands. I know you’re more like a symbol—like the symbol you made out of my brother. I want to hate you, but I cannot. In fact, these days, I see your face and I feel relief. This Trump dude has been convenient for you, huh?

 

Who is this book for?

 

Are people buying it?

 

Where does the money go?

 

What did it feel like the first time you picked up a paintbrush? 

 

My husband bought a cake for Ronnie today. It says "Happy Birthday, Ronnie" in red cursive frosting. My husband also bought a three candle and a zero candle. We're about to eat the cake. I don't think we'll sing happy birthday, or light the numbers, or even stick them in the cake; one can only handle so much morbidity at a time, you know? My parents went to Ronnie's grave today in Colorado, left him a balloon and flowers. When the caretakers are missing, my mother digs and plants the flowers along the marble headstone rather than lay them beside. She's hoping to make the blooms more permanent. The tree they planted beside his grave is growing taller. Do you know trees cost like $1000? I found that surprising, too.

I don't know where the Ronnie Robin thing came from. I do remember the four of us, my mom, my sister, my brother, and I, getting Sonic for dinner and stopping at a car wash on the way home. Maybe then we were something like 8, 9, 10--our mother, thirty. Like Ronnie, today. Strange, the way life folds in on itself, over and over. It was this time of year, the days getting the longer, the sunset prolonged. Mom vacuumed and scrubbed our Toyota minivan, and Daisy, Ronnie, and I, walked along the the perimeter of the car wash, seeking loose change and treasure. We found a broken robin's egg, the blue of the delicate shell unmistakable. The nest must have been built in the rafters of the roof, but we couldn't find it, and we didn't look for long, because the still, shattered, baby bird held our attention. We used a leaf and stick to scoop up the body and the jewel-toned shell, and we buried the bird in the grass between the car wash and Fountain Video Rentals. When Mom finished washing the car she yelled out to us, and we went home.

Would you consider sending me a copy of your painting book? I don't think I can, in good conscience, purchase it. But I'm certain a copy is owed, at least.

 

Talk soon,

Sam

 

 

This, American Life

u wot m8

The Wasser Agency is in Miami, Florida. This fact is almost as annoying as the reason for their call: to ask if my loved one was killed/maimed/hurt/amputee'd by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, what have you. There are infinite ways to profit from my brother's death. There are books to be written and lawsuits to file and so much to be done in his name, in his name.

The secretary sounds like a secretary--old-fashioned, kind, with pictures of loved ones on her desk. She sounds like someone who wouldn't mind being called 'secretary.' She thinks she is doing a great service. She will tell her own family about this call, about my biting tone. I can tell she'll cluck and sigh. I predict when she will say I can't imagine, and this is precisely when she says it, right on time to fuck up the rest of my day.

"Mr. Wasser is on another call right now," she says, "but if I could just get you to hold--we just have a few questions for you." She will not tell me how they found me. Or if my mother is on their call list, or "database," which she keeps referring to. Her voice fades as mine rises. I use phrases like above-board and exploitative and I throw in a gross for good measure. I tell her I don't have time to talk, I am driving on the interstate, I am late for roller derby. I say this in a threatening way too, but it makes me sound desperate, like I need her to know I'm the kind of woman who plays roller derby. 

David Wasser calls me three days later. David Wasser is the kind of man who enjoys knowing more than others, and things don't work out for him when he gets on the phone with me. He tries to talk at me, through me, and peppers his speech with brief asides about ultimate sacrifices or getting what's owed. He likes that he can go to sleep at night knowing he might have helped these families, sorry to have reopened the wound, the most valuable families, sorry if your feelings are hurt. All I hear is Ka-ching, Ka-ching, Ka-ching.

John J. Driscoll is a lawyer in St. Louis. He's the one implementing a database on my behalf. On my brother's behalf. On the behalf of loved ones. On behalf of those killed in fucking bullshit wars, God bless John J. forever, Amen. He's the one working with "Blue Path Labs Counter Intelligence," a group I Google and find nothing about, which only enhances the credibility of all these talkative, ever-helpful men. I may never speak to John J. Driscoll, but I hate him. David Wasser cannot stop speaking. He is a good crony, an enthusiastic P.I., and he gives me the rundown.

  • My brother was killed by an EFP, an Explosively Formed Penetrator. 
  • This is not the same as an IED, an Improvisational Explosive Device.

I tell Wasser I know this, I'm aware of these things, but he happily continues as if I've never said a word. 

  • An EFP is made of liquid copper. The strength of this weapon--the efficiency of it--is why my brother and his captain were killed. Their vehicle, an MRAP, would have been strong enough to withstand your everyday roadside bomb. But the sophistication, the evolution of weapons, is inevitable.
  • The EFP Wikipedia uses words like hypervelocity jet of metal, self-foraging warhead, penetration proportional--I stop there because I can hear Ronnie turning all this vocabulary into an incredible series of penis jokes. I don't want to laugh as I research, as David Wasser rambles away on speaker phone. 
  • The EFPs were funded by two Iranian banks. "They gave the terrorists money," Wasser says, on behalf of Driscoll, courtesy of a blue yet invisible intelligence group, all for the sake of soldiers and loved ones. I don't ask who the terrorists are, because no one ever has a good answer for that.
  • The Iranian banks do business in America.
  • This opens them up to lawsuits.
  • Driscoll is a patriot. Wasser is a compatriot. Lawyers suck in general. But isn't this case worthy?
  • We can do this personal injury style rather than class action. We're not talking like five dollars per shitty hip replacement. We're talking, you lost a leg? You get a pay out. Your brother and your life undone by liquid copper? Lives demolished by the kind of bomb which will perforate a thickness of armour steel equal to half the diameter of its charge for a copper or iron liner? $$$$$$$$$$$$$
  • There are checks to be signed. Everybody wins.

I tell David Wasser I do not appreciate how many people have approached my family with the promise of lawsuits and payment. I say I do not feel comfortable knowing random lawyers are digging for ways to make money whilst performing patriotism. I let him know he talks too much, that he'd be better off listening, that he couldn't possibly understand the pain, the pain, the incessant, throbbing pain.

He cuts me off. David Wasser does understand because he has spoken to hundreds of these families now. He is a man who speaks with a puffed-up chest. I bet he enjoys fishing, but he hates eating fish, and he loves how his secretary always buys his favorite kind of licorice. He tells me I'm a smart young lady. I interrupt and tell him it's not nice to remind people their loved ones died because people with money sent them to their death. It's not nice to dangle dollar signs in front of people who ended, when and where they did, because they didn't have much money to begin with. Do not ever contact my mother, I say. David Wasser cannot be derailed. He has many things to offer. He's not really one for lawyers, to be honest, but he does what he can because this is his favorite case, the most important case, a life-changing case he's now chained himself to.

Columbus has been fog-coated all morning. Fog makes me nervous, cloaks what's just ahead and behind. In fog, everything is the same and nothing ever changes and life is hazy and humid and un-mapped. Fog makes it impossible to fully trust one foot in front of the other, and still, I must take my dogs on a walk. The worst thing that ever happened to my family resulted in half a million dollars and an insurmountable rage, entitlement, a friendly dose of hysteria. Most of my life is resisting the urge to cover myself in memorializing tattoos. Much of my time is spent in silent, indirect accusation.

The fog is lifting. I tell David Wasser my father--the Veteran, the Drug Addict, the Life of the Party, the Long-Deceased--was also a private investigator. I realize I still want to, somehow, make this man feel valued, even slightly appreciated. I worry for his massive ego. This is why he gets it, a little bit of it, anyway, at the end of the call. He sounds meek when he suggests that I, please, have a good day. He apologizes again. He shuts up for approximately ten seconds.

I hang up the phone and cover my head with my arms.

I wrap my head with my arms.

I squeeze my head with my arms.

It is very difficult to catch my breath.

The sun is coming.

The sun is coming.

 

 

#NOTALLGHOSTBUSTERS

A Film Review in Dialogue

or

Between Two Genders

So many vaginas, what to doooo

So many vaginas, what to doooo

*WARNING THE MOVIE REVIEW BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS...FOR THE DAN BROWN NOVEL INFERNO*

Sam: Have I told you about the first time I saw Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2?

Jesse: Yep.

S: Please stop deleting my words in this Google doc.

J: They were videos “borrowed” from the library.

S: I can’t believe you remember! That makes me so happy. Elaborate for the reader.

J: Dad, drugs, poor, library.

S: My husband--a man of few words. But yes. Dad checked them out from the library and never returned them. OR he rented them from the video store in an Albertson’s and we owe like a million dollars in late charges. Either way, those were two of our first home-owned videos. We watched them over and over and over...what about you? Do you remember watching the movies?

J: I don’t remember exactly when I saw them, but when I did, it was mind blowing. I even had the Nintendo games and toys.

S: I still have a glow-in-the-dark pillow case! I used to Trick or Treat with it . And we had a dinner tray, and do you remember the Saturday morning cartoon?...HEY! STOP TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT IT ON FACEBOOK. We’re supposed to write this review together. How many tabs do you have open?

J: Sorry. My B… I’m focused and ready now.

S: I’m about to come off as a real Nagging Nelly, a real shrew, (pr have I already?) which seems appropriate given the context of the new Ghostbusters. So--did you know I was angry at/with/around you this week re: this reboot, and us watching it?

J: Nice segway.

S: Hahaha.

J: I knew you were getting annoyed at all the male critics/reviews I was reading and watching because they all were saying the same thing.

S: It was like every time I walked by you and your computer, a new Internet bro was bitching about how crappy this movie was, and how dull and unfunny it was, and blah blah blah GIRLS CAN’T BE GHOSTBUSTERS. I mean, none of them said that outright (although I bet they were a part of the “BURN THE WITCHES” crew a year or so ago when the studio announced the cast), but listening to man after man after man just tear down this movie was exhausting. And I worried you were setting yourself up to agree. Not that you can’t be critical for yourself--I just. It reminds me of that Dan Brown novel I’m about to spoil for everyone.*SPOILER ALERT* Where the plot twist is EVERYONE WAS ALREADY INFECTED WITH THE VIRUS. You know, Robert Langdon is chasing this virus, but everyone already had it. So everyone going to see/or choosing not to see the new Ghostbusters already had the “Burn the Witches” virus. Sorry, I’m mixing metaphors. I think it's because we went to Salem a few weeks ago and we saw that new Tom Hanks Roman Holiday Easter Egg Hunt National Treasure directed by Ron Howard trailer.

J: Well, after seeing the initial Ghostbusters' trailer (which I thought WAS awful), I did have a feeling that it might not be good, but I reading reviews trying to see what everyone else’s thoughts were once they finally saw it. Then I remembered the Internet is not the best place to read comments because it's full of women-haters.

S: For me, the trailer is a non-issue. I agree it didn’t show the potential of the film. But the way people reacted to WOMEN as GHOSTBUSTERS--do you think that original vitriol affected how these many male critics experienced the film? I suppose we should say at some point that we disagree with the naysayers…

J: What dis vitriol?

S: lolololololol stahp

J: Every reviewer I saw made it a point to say they were not biased or affected by the original reactions online, but I do think the seed was planted, for sure, regardless if male reviewers said they weren’t swayed.

S: And you said every single one mentioned the possibility of that, right? Like, made sure to wash their hands of the original sexist backlash, before they began to tear into the film?

J: Yep. They said they were for an all-women cast, there needs to be more women lead roles, etc….and then followed it up by saying “They were not funny,” and “there was too much male-bashing in the film.”

S: So, you’re saying I’m not a crazy misandrist is what you’re saying.

J:...

S:...

J: Love you.

S: What I’m most confused about now is, well--did we see a different movie than they did? Because my face hurts from smiling. Like two hours worth of smiling. And the audience, though there were only maybe fifteen of us--so much happy!

J: We must have seen a different film. I went in with slight hesitation, but after the first scene nailed the feeling of a Ghostbusters movie, and in its own, original way, all my worries were gone and I really enjoyed it. It was it’s own movie with great respect for the source material.

S: I have two questions. What is the “feeling” of a Ghostbusters movie, for you? I know when I heard the opening song and the accompanying chubby ghost logo I felt super giddy, not unlike how I felt when we watched The Force Awakens. And also, what made you so worried? Besides the trailer?

J: The feeling of a Ghostbusters movie is, I guess, having fun with the right amount of scariness--a movie not taking itself too seriously, but also not going so casual the humor is forced and not funny (which is what the trailer did and why I was worried). I wanted it to be good not only because I’m so nostalgic for the old ones but also because these women are funny and didn’t deserve to be dealt a crap hand by Neckbeards online before anyone even saw the movie.

S: I’m sorry, did you just say “women are funny”

J: I said THOSE women are funny.

S: JESSE

J: #notallwomen

S: JESSE

J: DONKEY!

S: I felt joyful watching this movie. They were all wonderful, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy. I wish Kate McKinnon would live with us in a polyamorous/dog-sitter situation.

J: I’m fine with this. I also really enjoyed this movie. Great nods to the classics and the original cast cameos show they approved of this movie too. It’s never going to replace the original but it’s exciting seeing another take on a great franchise. They made it their own and it was really fun and funny.

S: #notallcastmembers

J: Too soon.

S: No! Not a Harold Ramis joke! RIP HAROLD. I mean good ole Rick Moranis. Canada has him now.

J: Damn you, Canada

S: Ok, so we think everyone should go see this film. The cast is incredibly talented, script is funny, amazing CGI effects...wait! You forgot to mention how much you loved Chris Hemsworth. Do you want to mention that real quick?!

J: Yeah. Being one of the few male parts (hehe) in the movie, he was really funny as the ditzy secretary. I just assume he is actually like that in real life.

S: #penis

S: Also, it’s so sad there aren’t more great roles for male actors out there

J: Tell me about it.

S: To to wrap up--all of this has me thinking of Hillary Clinton.

J: NO POLITICS!

S: But babe, we can agree, can’t we, that the rhetoric surrounding women, in any/most/all industries/contexts is, well, pretty fucked. Yes? So fucked Hollywood will make another all-male Ghostbusters to dry all the male tears? So fucked people say they could maybe possibly SEE THEMSELVES VOTING FOR TRUMP over Hillary? I can't handle the way people talk about Hillary. The tone is so very different in regards to her than it has been for any other politician (male). Do you think people are just that unaware of their implicit biases?  Do you think the cultural messages we receive Re: Women is so ingrained we don’t even notice pretty blatant sexism and misogyny anymore?

J: Yes.

S: Thank you for your time and effort.

J: You’re welcome.

S: And thank you for the Slimer you won for me in the claw machine. He’s super cute.

J: First dollar. First try. I ain’t afraid of no claw machine.

 

Sam and Jesse are married. Their names are androgynous, though that wasn't planned. Some things just work out that way. They love movies and share a SMASH THE PATRIARCHY shirt. See Jesse's web comics at www.deskwarming.com.

 

 

 

The Broncos won, as I'd desperately hoped--but all I can think about is Cam Newton.

The commentators post-game, white mothers writing articles in The Denver Post, and many Broncos fans on my Facebook feed, all want to talk about how humble, how gracious, how classy, Dear Peyton Manning is. 

And while I can't disagree--Peyton Manning seems like a lovely, hilarious, kind man--I can't help but notice these praises seem meant to come at the cost of Cam Newton.

Yeah. I think I'm witnessing some pretty thinly veiled racism, over and over. 

Headlines read: "Cam Newton Wanted to Disappear. He Should Have Known He Couldn't." or "Cam Newton loses Super Bowl, sulks." or "Cam Newton fails to show leadership by bailing after Super Bowl loss." Tweeters delight in posting the WHOLE TEN LINE transcript from Cam Newton's post-game conference, where he, I feel, more than fairly offered: 

"They just played better than us. I don't know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that's what it comes down to. We had our opportunities. It wasn't nothing special that they did. We dropped balls, we turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That's it. They scored more points than us."

So he didn't do it with a smile. So he left after questions became obnoxious and repetitive. So he needed a moment to himself after his team just lost what reporters will certainly call "one of the biggest games of his life." 

WTF does everyone want? A cookie? For feeling vindicated in asserting Cam Newton models "egotism, arrogance, and poor sportsmanship" as one Tennessee mom said in the Charlotte Observer. She was distressed by Cam's display of celebration. God forbid she have to explain The Dab to her nine-year-old, whose confident opinion of Cam was, "...he looks like a spoiled brat".

All of this criticism, all of this loud, WHITE, opinion, really gets under my skin. MY WHITE SKIN. Because this is about respectability politics. This is about policing black bodies. This is about trying to force a young black man to conform to some white idea of what showing humility, or leadership, or proper football etiquette, means. 

In ways, Manning and Newton are as alike as they are different.

Peyton Manning is a legacy player, and he grew up incredibly wealthy, in a family where life was eat-sleep-breathe football. He doesn't wear his feelings on his forever-jersey'd, quietly Christian, sleeve. His talent, cultivated since the day his Daddy Manning could pass him a football, has made him one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. He has the two Super Bowl rings and five NFL MVP awards to prove it. 

Cam Newton, an incredible player who grew up in a middle-class family with a sort-of NFL legacy, attended a Pentecostal church founded by his grandparents, and has an athletic prowess that was recognized early by coaches and teammates--and his father, who was also passing the ball with his son as early as possible. Eric Nusbaum of Vice, who flew down to Georgia to write a piece called "The House that Built Cam," found that younger Cam Newton "was hyper-competitive, a hard worker, and the kind of kid who built his teammates up, who brought them with him. He was also something of a quarterbacking savant, even back then. His quarterbacks coach at Westlake, Tony Slaton, called him a "mad scientist." His running back, Michael Harrison, said, "He's so football smart, it's crazy." Cam Newton is coming in hot on that Best Quarterback in the History of the NFL title, right on Peyton's heels. What (white) people can't seem to stomach is the way he is doing it. The way they've determined he ought to do it. 

The biggest difference between these men is the most important. Because this is a changing of the guard. This is classic meets modern. This is white meets black. 

Here are some loose and fast statistics: the majority of players in the NFL are black. There have been very, very few, black quarterbacks in the NFL. The majority of team owners is white. The majority of pundits and reporters and media telling us about the NFL is white. The majority of people with exceeding, specific, amounts of power over players in the NFL is white. 

And if you've been paying any attention to the news, to protests, to Ferguson, and BEYONCE (the real MVP), you've figured it out: people are sick and tired of WHITE. 

At least, that seems to be how the legions of angry, thinly veiled racist white folks seem to be taking it. Like Black is the new White. Like White is so 1865. Like Black is trending, and White is so yesterday.  Like any reasonable response to President Barack Obama is President Donald Trump

Here's where white folks are getting it wrong. IT ISN'T ABOUT YOU. AT ALL. PLEASE. SIDELINE YOURSELF. PLEASE. STOP HAVING SO MANY OPINIONS. PLEASE. LISTEN, FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE--LISTEN. I know it's scary, to feel voiceless, to feel less than, to feel as though culturally what you say and do matters less than what others say and do, like you have some kind of powerlessness in your life simply based on the color of your--OH WAIT, NO I DON'T.

BECAUSE I'M WHITE. 

Yeah.

So here's where I want to end. #blacklivesmatter. The way white people talk about #blacklives needs to start mattering less. Let's hear from black people about black people. I should be an echo, a small white voice, defending an incredible young black man, in a sea of black voices. But to hear the black voices, the white ones need to pipe down. The white ones need to listen more than speak. I'm listening! Are you? 

.........................................................................................................................................................................................

"Cam Newton dances after touchdowns. He hits the dab. He smiles. If Peyton Manning makes quarterbacking look like work, Cam Newton makes it look like play. In fact, that's what everybody, even his critics, seems to agree on when it comes to Cam Newton: he makes football look like fun. He plays the game with the same joyful spirit he did growing up."

 

 

 

The Denver Broncos Make Me Cry *

My little brother, Ronnie, wrote me letters my first year of college. "I figured I'd write you to try and keep you from getting lonely," he told me, in his sloppy, terrific, handwriting. His letters often included a RONNIE'S SPORTS CAP, complete with crudely drawn field goal posts and little kicking stick figures. He thought it essential to inform me of all Denver team's scores and stats, but no team was more important, more significant to Ronnie, than the Denver Broncos: 

Oct. 27 2002

(6-2) Broncos 27, (4-4) Chiefs, 20

He also kept tabs on rival AFC teams, like the Raiders, who were actually kinda good about twenty years ago, and the Patriots, who were surely hate-able even back then. 

We grew up in the Elway Era, surrounded by adults who still reminisced about The Orange Crush Broncos of the 70's, but had long since hung their hats on "Good Ole Buck-toothed John," as our father referred to Mr. Elway. "He owns car dealerships too," Dad told us many times, as though his legendary quarterback status wasn't impressive enough. 

And it wasn't, for a time. Five AFC West Division Titles, three AFC Championships, and then, finally, those back-to-back Superbowl wins of '97 and '98. Ronnie paid close attention during our little Superbowl parties at Dad's house, rather, his wealthy girlfriend's house, while my sister and I ate as many Crockpot meatballs as possible, and screamed when prompted. Ronnie had been initiated early by our father, a man full of We. Look, we gotta just keep the ball slow and steady. There we go, we got that touchdown! When we won in '97 and '98, we--Dad, my sister and brother and I--ran into the streets of his girlfriend's ritzy neighborhood and banged pots and pans together. We honked car horns, and delighted in stories from Mile High, about riotous fans flipping whole vehicles--what strength, we thought, what dedication! I stopped wearing my Dolphins Starter Coat that same year. I figured I ought to be loyal to my team, my family, and in truth I'd only demanded the coat because, frankly, I really liked dolphins. 

My father died not long after Elway retired--rest assured the two events were not related--and it seemed only natural Ronnie take on his enthusiasm for Our Denver Broncos. He taped sports clippings to the walls of his room, collected action figures and Wheaties boxes and kept them in mint condition. He played high school football for about a minute, then realized he had more fun as a spectator. A little of the rabid fandom dispersed to Daisy, my sister, and Mom seemed more invested too. Me? Meh. I mostly watched the games for the little Crockpot meatballs. 

But Ronnie did not live to see another Broncos Superbowl, either. After his 2008 death in Iraq, we--Mom, Daisy, my stepfather and stepbrother--began to watch the Broncos religiously. Every Sunday we knelt before the TV, substituted prayer with an excessive amount of profanities, and felt a fervor for football we'd never known. I figured out two-point conversions. Daisy taught me about onside kicks. I learned my mother could convert the F-word from a one syllable word to an approximate twelve.

The Denver Broncos are still on the walls of Ronnie's room in my mother's house. Hanging among them is a random Peyton Manning ala the Colts action figure, waiting in its case. I hadn't known Ronnie was a Peyton fan until very recently. Daisy, who became invested earlier than I,  remembered.  Back in 2012, when a fresh-out-of-surgery Peyton left Indy and decided between teams, at the last moment he chose Denver and Daisy thought,  "It's like Ronnie's playing chess in Heaven." 

We had a lot riding on the 2013 Superbowl. None of it monetary, all of it some great big intangible emotion. Like a resurrection was possible. As if winning another Superbowl got us back a little bit of Ronnie, and maybe even our father. I told my husband, several times, "The stakes are just too high," although I had trouble explaining just what I meant by that. After the first fumble, I turned to a bottle of Patron Silver (we've found it necessary to take up many things on Ronnie's behalf) and barely remember the best part of that God-awful game: Bruno Mars.

So, 2016. It's a banner year for the Broncos. We've got that whole NFL WE SHALL OVERCOME narrative happening--it's a miracle Peyton's on any field, anywhere, right?--and it's the 50th Superbowl ever. DIVISION CHAMPS AT HIGH ALTITUDES. We just beat the Pat's, America's Cheatiest Team, and we did so in Denver in fifty-degree sunshine, bleeding out orange and blue. After the first touchdown today I called my mother and she was screaming, then sobbing. I called her after the monstrous fourth quarter to sob a little myself. The stakes are too high, we know this--we know. 

When the Broncos win, it brings us closer to Ronnie. But maybe when the Broncos lose, it brings us closer too. He would be so pissed at a loss, like the time he called Daisy from the barracks in Fort Hood to say, "The Broncos lost. I threw a chair off my balcony and it broke." As he got older he began to slowly take it all in stride. "It is what it is," he'd say, or "We'll get them next year." The thing is, he didn't get much older; he didn't get next years. It's unbearable, at times, contemplating the loss of Ronnie, a twenty-year-old man who adored the Nuggets and the Rockies, but most of all those Denver Broncos. It has too often brought us to our knees, the loss of him, and, at least on football Sundays, the kneeling feels productive. I don't pray to God for a Superbowl win because I don't know just what I believe in. And I understand the silliness or even danger in believing in a professional sports team, in the grueling, unpredictable game they play, in their "LAST SEASON EVER?" hopes and dreams. 

It's best to believe in my little brother, who'd be sporting a shit-eating grin right now after this hard-won Broncos win. In honor, our mother is going to purchase orange and blue flamingos and adorn his grave with them. If he were here, he'd be knocking back Patron shots, or buying the bar a round on him. I'd like to think we'd all agree to wear our jerseys and Bronco gear every day until February 7th--and even a few days past, no matter the outcome. 

 

 

 

*(to the tune of the Nationwide Insurance theme)

Lessons at BrOhio State

 

It is noon on move-in day for the students of (The!) Ohio State University, and the corner of Indianola and Lane is busy with Uhauls and mattresses and parents teaching their newly grown children how to adult. The lawn of the brick house is already littered, so early, with empties, Natty Lights and PBRs, and young men in various states of undress are hooting and hollering, dancing around and shouting at cars to honk in agreement—of their general revelry? Of their All-American banana hammocks? Of their determination to repulse women everywhere? I am walking my puppy, Buster, when we stumble upon this otherwise lovely brick house with two giant and gross banners hanging from the roof. The first sign says, DADS, WE’LL TAKE IT FROM HERE. The second, DAUGHTER DAYCARE. They may be acting out a scene from (insert National Lampoon movie here). It’s difficult to determine. 

Buster is unimpressed. He yawns, widely, considers pooping in their lawn, declines. He does not deign to poo in their yard, no matter the amount of fibrous canned pumpkin he consumed the day before. I, myself, am disgusted. I fight my urge to confront the young men. I turn around because now the sunny day is less so.

Truly, I turn around because my eyebrows are not on. I left them back at the house with my eyelashes and a spot of blush and the comb I did not run through my frizzing red hair. I’m wearing paint-splattered running tights, and sweating through my sweat-resistant under-armor. I am a woman, and a bedraggled woman at that. I will not be taken seriously here. I will be mocked and derided and written off as the Feminist with a capital F that I am. Off to burn some bras, I.

But, had I been brave despite my lacking brows—had I been borne of a culture that allowed me, my gender, to look grubby now and then, sans certain facial hairs, and accompanied by certain other facial hairs—wax on, wax off—I might have offered these young men an impassioned speech:

You, there! Yes, you, the unashamed Bro in the unbuttoned Hawaiian t-shirt and paisley swimming trunks! Let’s dress down the rhetoric, the language of your banners. Let us make the implicit explicit, young man crushing a can against your heavy brow! What do you imply, telling dads their daughters can be dropped off with you for “daycare”? What if, instead, your signs were direct, succinct, and honest?

Dads, you took care of your daughters.

Now let us take care of them.

Here, my good Brozillas, is why these signs are simply not “all in good fun.” Because you are infantilizing women. You! In the Buckeyes hat, whose parents did not love him enough, you promote the idea that women need to be taken care of by men. You mean “taken care of” in a purely sexual and disrespectful way. I am sorry, young Bro-B-One-Kenobis, if you were weaned, too soon, from your mothers, but you are objectifying women, marking them as though they are not individual people with thoughts, ideas, and self-sufficiency, but simply things to be passed from man to man. You are asserting a twisted power with your Sharpie-scrawled message, with your dirty, patriarchal sheets swaying, forlorn, in the breeze.

Fourscore and seven bros ago one of you declared this all “just college fun.” I want you to know it’s insulting, to women and men, to say things like, “Boys will be boys.” You promise, “We’re good Christian men,” and let me tell you, Jesus is just not alright with your misogynist messages, your casual sidewalk oppression of pedestrians. Jesus Christ is also not a fan of Abercrombie and Fitch—although, what respectable person is, really?

And, Dear Drooling Brosephs, what right do you have to tell others to get a sense of humor? I cannot, nay, will not, cackle at your sexist—dangerous, even—display of extreme loneliness and self-loathing. Suns out, guns out, you say, but I know inside you weep, mein little Bro-hans.

I do find amusement in your choice of business. Do you know the cost of running a daycare, BrO-M-G? The licensing fees, the insurance costs, the variety of snacks demanded by those in your care? Goldfish crackers are not to be substituted by knockoff Sea-Monkey Cheezums—else! Bropocalypse. And is there, my Napoleon Bro-napartes, amongst your perspiring rented kegs, between your piles of wilting boxer-briefs, any room for nap-times, for high-chairs?

Yes, C3P-Bros, I have an insufficient amount of eyebrows, and a white-blonde dusting of eyelash, but I am a person! A woman person! This, here, is my Feminist pup, Buster! Ball Buster if you will, Broteins in search of like-minded humor, haha! And I, here, as I stand before you, in my post-Armageddon-yoga attire, beg, nay, demand, you relinquish your aims to solicit female companionship through direct coercion with their paternal figures! I demand you do not treat your front lawn and its accompanied public sidewalk as a real-life, real-time, Tinder! Swipe left on your slightly sideways ball caps! Swipe left on your faux-Ray-Bans, hot pink and plastic, your sleeveless tanks and misogynist urges, swipe left, I say! Expand your Brocabulary, avoid those basic urges, claim culpability for your actions, and go forth! Participate in a world where it is both possible to crush at beer pong and respect women—not as dad’s daughters or potential mothers or anyone’s sisters, but as individual, capable, living, breathing, spectacular, WOMEN.