Friday, February 27, 2015

Eye Contact

Having been born and raised in the big city of Los Angeles, I think I'm more conscious of whether or not to make eye contact, and the possible good or bad outcome of eye contact, or really, of whether or not to acknowledge something or someone at all -- whether to pretend nothing's happening and just mind my own business.

I've noticed that friends of mine from smaller towns don't have the same kind of eye contact rules as me.  Similarly, I have heard musicians complain that L.A. audiences just stand and stare during a band's performance, instead of dancing and singing along.  

I think I'm one of those.

Here are some of my rules that I follow but that I don't expect to necessarily make me sound like a great gal:

I pretend not to see people having embarrassing moments like tripping and falling or spilling their water everywhere.  This may seem like a mean thing, as opposed to asking someone if they need help, but when I myself trip or spill something, I don't want to be noticed, and I don't need help.  What help could be offered in minor accidents?    I think it's more gracious not to draw attention to someone's mishap.  Also, in most cases, there isn't much I can do to actually help that person.  Like, if it was an elderly woman who tripped, of course I would help her up and see if she needed medical attention or whatever the situation called for, but if it's a co-worker who trips over her shoelace, what actual help could I give her?  

I ignore mentally ill people who are yelling on the street, because I know there's nothing I can truly do to help, and any attempt to offer some assistance in such a situation would just be an empty gesture to look good.  Also, I don't want to put myself in danger by engaging with someone who isn't in control of their actions.

I make eye contact with homeless people when they are asking for money, even/especially when I don't have money to give.  I try not to stay and chit-chat though, because I don't overvalue my own company.  When I've had lowly jobs --- security guard, front desk clerk, janitor --- and someone thinks "I'm gonna make this person's day by having a conversation with them" I just want them to shut the fuck up and leave me be.  I usually assume that this is the same thing a homeless person feels about chit-chatting with someone they don't know and have nothing in common with, especially when it's not going to help them get food or a place to stay.  

There is a homeless person near my office who is a dick and I go out of my way not to make eye contact with him, because I don't naively lump all homeless people together into being long-suffering saints.  They're just people; some are cool, others are assholes.  The homeless guy I don't like is definitely an asshole and a bit of a bully.

I ignore riots and police activity.  I ignore drug deals.  There is a guy on the corner of a street I pass in downtown every day who dresses like the stereotypical image of a pimp, in a huge real fur white jacket, and i don't make eye contact with him, and pretend to ignore interactions he has with other people, but when he's not looking, I soak up every moment of his presence, because the whole thing is so surreal and cinematic -- an actual pimp on an actual street corner, in an actual white fur coat.

I make aggressive eye contact with businessmen in the elevator in my office building who are doing that power-play thing of trying to take up too much space to crowd everyone else out, like to be the alpha dog or whatever thing they're thinking.

One thing I wish I didn't ignore is a constant, yet hard to prove, form of sexual harassment I have to put up with every day -- here's a case where I can't use my withholding of or use of eye contact to control a situation.  

Anyway, like it or lump it, these are my rules.  I'm a calculated ignorer of sensational stuff, and someone who uses eye contact to control situations as best as I can.  After all, it's a jungle out there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Easter Noneday

I’ve described my dislike for Easter Sunday before.  It has always been the holiday that really drove home the self-pity aspect of being an only child.  Usually mom, but on occasion dad hid eggs for me (they were divorced and I usually spent weekends with mom, but once or twice dad was the organizer of Easter, and a couple times I think I even had two pathetic Easter egg hunts in one day); I was just this hopeful and solitary figure, looking for eggs and candy, and sometimes little vending machine toys – I was always trying to figure out “Am I lucky to have all this parental love and attention to myself?  Is this a fun activity?  Is this a scene that outsiders would consider pitiable?  Are the Cadbury Crème Eggs going to be stale (the ones from the 99 Cents Store were often stale to the point of tasting bad, if you can believe it).  What are my friends doing today?  Am I going to have to watch ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ later today?”

Anyway, Easter is the fucking pits.  Last Easter, I was lucky enough to be visiting my lovely grandma and my ailing, recently deceased grandpa in East Lansing, Michigan, while my son and husband spent a nice old-fashioned Easter with my in-laws.  I’m not being sarcastic -- it really did look like a nice old-fashioned Easter, from the pictures I saw later on.  My son looked amazed and amused carrying around a huge yellow basket, his great grandmother helping him with his payload of goodies.  Meanwhile, I was at a thrift store in Michigan that day, buying some of the coolest things I currently own, all for at least half off, because of an Easter Day 1/2 off sale.  

I like Christmas because it’s a birthday party, and December is a Christmas light-laden and usually crisp and clean-aired month where anything goes.  At work it’s usually like "Meh, let’s not do much until the new year.  Let's just eat cookies and fuck around." And a drive home is a surreal drive through streets where front yards boast huge inflatable penguins or santas and gold and silver garlands threaded through fences.

But what is Easter?  Some morbid celebration of Jesus rising from his grave, after being sacrificed in a cruel predestined plan orchestrated by his dad.

However, the other day when I was browsing at Cost Plus World Market and saw aisles of Easter decorations that reminded me of the charms of the holiday that I genuinely loved as a kid, I had a slight, consumerism-driven change of heart about the whole thing.  

Easter eggs made of sugar with little scenes inside, made of candy

Cardboard Easter egg-shaped boxes

And this children’s story, “The Country Bunny and the little Golden Shoes.”

This story is about a brown bunny, a single mother, being chosen as the Easter bunny responsible for making a treacherous journey to bring a sick and secluded child his sugar Easter egg. 

It’s somewhat of a scandal that the Master Easter Bunny, a white patriarch, chooses her, but he knows she is the best rabbit for the job, because of her evident common sense and dignity.  One reader review on Amazon wrote of this story:  "I first read this as a minority child growing up in a rural community. Now I am a professional in a large city. This book made a difference for me."

I felt something similar when I read this story, which was my most consistent Easter tradition, and of course my favorite one as well,as reading a book is an act intended to be solitary, not like an egg hunt or the accompanying celebration and nice clothes and big familial ham dinners.  

More than that though, more than the relief of escaping into fiction, this particular story, which my mom also loved, was a beautifully illustrated feminist anthem.  I didn’t have the vocabulary yet to express the gender pride and loner pride that was engendered in this book, of course, but, remembering its existence, I’m looking forward to buying it this year and reading it to my son, who I hope will never ever ever believe in Jesus.  Ever. Like, for realsies.

jesus christ superstar film still

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wild and Free (keepsakes)

Throughout the years I've decorated and filled several keepsake boxes.  I keep them hidden away in raggedy cardboard boxes, and every few years, when I feel up to the headache of it all, I unearth some of these memory boxes.  Here's my "Wild and Free" box.