The Loser’s Guide to Screenwriting

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Become Impregnated by The Idea

The Idea comes to you like a mythical creature. It creeps through your window at 2 AM. It rushes straight into your bosom, carried by a warm, southeasterly wind. When it comes to you, it’s fully formed, for it has been made by the hands of tiny green gods from another realm; they know more about storytelling than we ever will.

Yes, they’ve crafted The Idea, the green gods have, and now they’ve sent it to you. It’s so good it’s sexy. And you’re sexy too, now that you have The Idea. You cuddle it, coddle it, coo at it in your mind. You’d kiss it straight on the mouth if you could. Heck, you’d kiss yourself on the mouth.

Obsession. Development.

You write a few things down—not too many, just the broad strokes, really—afraid that delving straight into details will scare The Idea away. And it really is a fantastic idea. So good you can’t believe no one has come up with it before. How is it that a story like this has never been told? Not in this way. Not with this twist. You can’t believe your luck. You speak of The Idea to no one as you flesh it out in your mind, and even in your mind you speak in hushed tones.

The Idea is to be revered. Respected. Protected. You caress its head like it’s the prettiest kitty of all time.

Share Just a Little

Aflame with the exhilaration of having an actual writing project in the coffer, you find yourself unable to resist sharing a little with your writer friends—juuuuust a little.

But lo, when you open your mouth some kind of sentence fragment sputters out, and falls directly in your coffee. You have made a mockery of The Idea. You must stop speaking immediately.

Immediately.

Backtrack Paired with—What’s That? Oh, Yes—Panic

Back in your apartment, you pull out your notes, searching for The Idea. It must be here somewhere; intact, gorgeous, purring.

You read through one page. Then the next. And the third. The last? Wait…wasn’t there more than this? What about the opening images that gave you chills? Or the B story that brought just the right blend of levity and intrigue? This is not The Idea! This is something else, something lesser, something—God help you—pedestrian.

Excavate. Hyperventilate. Repeat.

Okay, just calm down. The golden Idea crafted by the tiny green gods could not have disappeared this quickly. (Unless you angered the tiny green gods. What did you do!?) You just need to think a moment. Just think. THINK.

So you need more than a moment. That’s okay. What’s that 99% perspiration thing? That’s fine. You can do that. Stop worrying. Go to the shelf. Pull out a few screenwriting books as reference, and you’ll have the bones all nice and laid out before you in no time. Sexy bones. The bones of The Idea. It will be fine.

Reinvent All Wheels

Whatever crap they’re selling in screenwriting books isn’t going to help you now. What were you thinking? What, were you hoping to write formulaic drivel that will make a bunch of money for some studio fat cats out there but will leave you dry and listless in your soul? Starved to the core of your creative being? (Wait, what was that about money? Creative famine might be fine with money…)

No! No formulas will work for you. No “structure” or “journey” or “beat sheet” will do The Idea justice. Instead, you must cull the collective knowledge and craft your own system. A system, a structure, a theory worthy of The Idea. The Idea needs a warm, fresh, bohemian yet ruthlessly genius home in which to appear once again. Yes. Yessssss. This will work. Just give it time. Tease out the structure with your hybrid, game-changing ideas and all will be well. The Idea will be well. And you will kiss it on the mouth.

Beer

And a little whiskey.

Vomit

In the alley. Defeated, you deposit both your stomach contents and your hopes for The Idea neatly between a dumpster and a family of rats. Even the rats pity you. A baby rat averts her eyes. You don’t disagree with her choice.

Interlude

Hello, Old Friend

Months later, you find a folder on your computer holding a vaguely named file. You open it out of curiosity. “Now that was a good Idea,” you think. “Just a little work and…”

Another ride around the carousel, please.

Why You Should Always Give a Pregnant Lady Five Bucks

Next time you see a pregnant lady, you really need to stop and give her five bucks. Why? Well, the short answer is that pregnancy is the freaking worst. THE WORST.

Okay, having your leg chewed off by a bengal tiger is probably pretty bad, too. But pregnancy is freaking awful, and no one comes right out and says that because, well, I think it makes you look like a bad parent or something. But I totally don’t care about that. Let me endure the judgement and describe the terrible catastrophe that is pregnancy. You’re welcome.

Why You Should Always Give A Pregnant Lady Five Bucks

Morning Sickness is a Lie

The term “morning sickness” is about as accurate as “occasional breathing” or “optional heartbeat.” For many, the nausea that comes with your precious bundle of joy happens whenever the crap it wants to, and—blissfully for some—all the live long day. I’ll let you guess which of those things happened to me.

It’s also not some adorable, dainty little queasiness. It’s as if food is now the enemy, and your body will do anything to keep it out of your mouth/stomach/necessary locations for life. I’ve read of women puking 20 times a day. Twenty. Times. Uh, give that lady five bucks.

My nausea was so bad that my doctors gave me a drug that they also give to chemo patients. Because apparently being on chemo and being pregnant have certain similarities. I don’t know why they don’t put that on Hallmark cards. Even that prescription-strength solution didn’t keep this pleasant little conversation from happening in my head several times a day:

I’m going to die. I can’t believe this is how it’s going to end for me. A shriveled, starved mess that can’t get out of bed. Wait, no, you live in California, Melanie. CALIFORNIA. I’m pretty sure there are a few steps between this and death. Right? Of course! They’ll hook you up to IVs and give you nutrients that way! All you need is hospitalization! No. big. deal.

Thankfully it didn’t come to that, though I did ask my husband several times to check into a medically induced coma. I’m still a little mad that he didn’t at least Google it. Right? Right.

“Cravings”? Not Exactly

You always hear those adorable stories of women wanting to eat pickles and ice cream, like that’s the cutest thing ever. The reality? Pickles and ice cream—and other equally absurd food choices—may be the only thing your body will accept. So, if the choice is between the aforementioned hospitalization and, say, shrimp-flavored Cup O’ Noodle and instant mashed potatoes, you kinda choose the Cup O’ Noodle. Turns out, the desire to not die in your bed is pretty strong.

There once was a time when I favored braised beef cheek and chilled grape soup with basil foam—pregnancy reduced my palate to that of a still-drunk frat boy. Thanks for that. Give me five bucks, please. I have no self respect.

I told my doctor about this terrible starvation/inability to eat anything that can reasonably be called food and her was response was, “Luckily, the baby doesn’t need nutrition right now.” Yeah, luckily. And it’s not like need it, right? And where is the baby getting her nutrients? She’s stealing them from your body. Like a parasite. Where’s the greeting card for that?
someecards.com - Congratulations on your acquisition of a small parasite that will steal your essential nutrients.
(Sadly, that analogy doesn’t quite end at birth. Not that I hate my kid. I don’t. I promise. Look, I can prove it.)

“Luckily,” Lots of Terrible Stuff is Normal

If you’ve never been pregnant before, all this crazy stuff will start happening to you and you’ll be like, “Holy shitballs, this can’t be right. This is how humans are made?” and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll say as much to your doctor. And she will say, “Yeaaaaaaaah. I’m sorry.” Because it totally IS right. It’s normal. For your entertainment/education/horrification, here’s a bunch of bizarro stuff that’s just par for the course with pregnancy.

  • Days long headaches that you can’t do anything about, because you can’t take any pain killers when you’re pregnant. A wet cloth on your head in a dark room may be recommended.
  • Bleeding gums. Like you’re a pirate with scurvy. Sweet.
  • Not pooping ever. Someone I know might have thought she was going to die of not pooping. It wasn’t me, because why would I share that? But no one wants pooping to be mentioned in their obit.
  • Nosebleeds. Wha…? Or a constant stuffy nose. Also wha…?
  • The persistent feeling of being kicked in the crotch. This happens because of a chemical that makes your joints loosen. Sometimes your pelvic joint kinda, you know, comes apart. And that process might make you Google “pregnancy kicked in the crotch.”
  • Extra moles. To make you feel awesome about yourself.
  • Chest pain due to: a baby being where your organs are supposed to go; or heartburn; or maybe a blood clot or heart attack. Hard to know. Not that that’ll freak you out or anything.
  • Dark spots all over your skin. To help with camouflage in the wild?
  • Hot flashes. Because why the heck not at this point, right?

There’s totally more than this but…why? (Oh, wait…diabetes! You can get di-a-be-tes just while you’re pregnant. And middle-of-the-night leg cramps! And anemia!!) I mean, does it need to get any worse for you to spot a lady a fiver? If so, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU HORRID FIEND?

I will take one second to address something that might come up in the comments: some people have lovely pregnancies. They say they’ve never felt better, and that it’s such a blessing and they glow and all that crap. Ladies, you owe other pregnant women fifty bucks. Somehow they caught your share of the crappy part while you rubbed your belly and made cooing noises. Not okay.

So there it is. Go forth and procreate you poor bastards. I’ll give you five bucks if I see you.

Of Course I’m Afraid of Nuclear Fallout

[220/365] Nuclear Fear (Explored)

Photo by pasukaru76 @ Flickr

I’ve been having weird dreams lately. And sleeping kinda restlessly. Sleep is literally my favorite thing to do, so it makes me a little bit cranky when it doesn’t work out quite the way I want it to. A lot of things make me cranky, though. Like:

  • Bathrooms that don’t have toilet seat covers
  • When you think you have another mango in the fridge, but discover you don’t
  • (Related) Starting a recipe and discovering half way through that you’re missing a key ingredient
  • People that don’t signal
  • Anything sticky

I could go on for some time in this fashion, because I’m essentially an 84-year-old woman in a 33-year-old’s body. I’m fine with that.

Aaaanyway…so yes, I’ve been having cranky-making sleep as of late. And the weird dreams always linger in the morning, so I spend the first couple hours of the day trying to get over the yelling match I had with my non-existent boss while ice skating; or the panic of accidentally marrying some terrible other person, then remembering I’m married to someone great, and now I have some serious paperwork to do; or spilling ALL the milk in the grocery store and trying in vain to clean it up before anyone notices.

This is a piss poor way to start the day, friends. If I was dreaming about flying that crazy dog thing from the NeverEnding Story to a sushi restaurant where I ate some yummy nigiri, the morning would be spent with the lingering memory of tasty fish. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Anyway, what happened the other night is WORSE than all those other stupid things. You know those times where you roll over and you’re awake for a little nanosecond and then you fall back asleep again? Well, something happened in that nanosecond. A little noise. Like, a bang or something. I live in the city, so it was probably someone’s cat farting in a trash can. You know, something innocuous like that. It was definitely not, as my sleepy little mind imagined, a nuclear bomb being intercepted high above the city, whose toxic contents were now showering 1.2 million people, all of whom, including myself and my family, were soon to have melting insides.

Yeah, it definitely wasn’t that.

But to a sleepy little brain, whose imagination truly knows no bounds, that didn’t matter one little bit. Nope, because the idea had hatched, like a frightening sharp-toothed alien turtle, and now it was going to rip apart my conscience like a squeaky chew toy. Can I just say that I’m super fun? I mean, like a laugh riot o’ fun.

So the next half hour’s thoughts went like this:

That was probably a nuclear bomb.

Okay, it definitely wasn’t.

But probably most certainly was. *scratches skin* Is my skin coming off? No, not yet. That’s good. But when will it? Or is that even the right test? Do your insides just melt or something? I think I remember reading that once. And that all the DNA in all of my cells is fried now. What happens?

Everyone is going to die. We don’t have enough food in the house to survive nuclear fallout. I’m a terrible parent. Couldn’t I have just donated $50 to NPR? I’m pretty sure one of their contributor gifts would save my whole family, AND keep Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me on the air. What the hell is my problem?!

I should check Google.

You definitely should not check Google, you crazy SOB. Stay in bed. GO TO BED.  Now. Go to bed now. Now. Right now.

I should check Google. Although, would they even put it on Google? The government would probably hide it as long as possible as to not create a panic. But I know already. I’m ahead of the curve.

My poor family. We can’t drink the water now, probably. We have no water or food and our insides are melting.

And THEN…and then. Oh freaking lord, and then. I start thinking how if we’re going to starve, and dehydrate, and our insides were turning to goo, then we should probably figure out a way to commit suicide together.

WHAT?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY BRAIN?!

And that’s when I a) see, in stark relief, that this line of thinking has gone a touch too far and b) beg whatever demented gremlin that has taken over my brain to please, oh please, oh please let me fall asleep.

To my credit, I didn’t check Google. Somehow, I fell back asleep. And in the morning, everyone’s insides were intact, and the fear that had gripped me so tightly in the middle of the night was gone. Like magic. Poof.

I don’t know how this stuff happens, but I know this: I don’t want to live gripped in fear. I hate that fear gets the best of me sometimes. Clearly, it’s a pretty big freaking bummer. The last few months have given us all a thousand things to fear, and it seems like that won’t be letting up any time soon. But fear and worry have never solved anything. So I’m gonna try to do less of that.

Good luck to me. Good luck to all of us.

(p.s. I’ve decided I won’t be watching that new show, The Following. I’m pretty sure it will make me afraid of all humans—even the baby ones. An ounce of prevention…)

What kind of monsters are in your closet?

Thank You For Your Valuable Feedback: The Art of Interpersonal Customer Service

photo by Thad Zajdowicz

photo by Thad Zajdowicz

A very kind, smart, caring, professional, and good-looking friend (that last part is irrelevant, but what the hey—it’s true) just received her very first piece of hate mail. The criticisms aren’t about widgets not being springy enough, or jeans shrinking in the wash. The criticisms are more personal, more pointed, more…lively.

These kinds of things basically make you want to retreat to an igloo, living out your days in the company of dead fish and wandering arctic wolves. Or, at least, that’s my first response. So, being the kind, smart, professional person that *I* am, I thought I would save her the trouble of writing a reply. Feel free to use it yourself, should the occasion arise.

Dear Concerned Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your valuable feedback!

There are so many items and facets to address (wonders, really!), but I will do my best to give you the attentiveness that you so kindly gave me.

First, I must commend you on the tremendous effort you have displayed. Your thoughts were carefully constructed, and neatly typed out. There was not even a trace of food from the anger-snacking I assume you participated in before, during, and after writing this. I mean, there was not even a small amount of Cheeto powder or Ding Dong filling…color me impressed. And then, you folded the letter, put it in an envelope, addressed it properly, and took it to the post office! Were you going there already? Or did you make a special stop just for me? Either way, just look at that follow through.

Secondly, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your thoughts about my sexual orientation. Did you know that I didn’t even know I’m a lesbian? It’s true! Here I’ve been dating and enjoying men my entire life. A feel a little foolish for being so blatantly out of touch with myself, but grateful for your brave counsel. Someone else suggested that you may not be more in touch with my feelings than I am, but rather are using sexual orientation as an insult…but that seems below both of us, doesn’t it? I’m glad you agree.

I also really enjoyed the sweeping generalizations you used for entire groups of people. Some people call that prejudice, or just being an unbearable troll, but I can see how you were just trying to be efficient. Equally impressive was the way you disparaged both my employer and the people we serve—that way no one has to feel left out!

It got a little ramble-y toward the end, but you did bring it to a swift and succinct close when you stripped me of my value both as a “woman” and as a “human being.” The feedback from my peers suggested that perhaps this was an ugly overstatement, and inappropriate for civil dialog, but you know what I see? A fresh start! There’s no where to go from here but up! In fact, any future criticisms you might have are essentially unnecessary at this point: what could you possibly expect from someone who has failed both as an expression of the female gender, and as a human being of any kind? If you find yourself disappointed in me in the future, I think it’s safe to say you have yourself to blame; appropriate expectations are key.

Again, thank you for your valuable feedback—I regret that I need to wrap this letter up to attend to my many personal and professional shortcomings that you’ve painstakingly outlined. I can only hope to attain the kind of human perfection that you’ve clearly attained, removing my need for self-reflection, and freeing me to mercilessly judge members of my community with impunity.

Warm regards,

[Your Name Here]

p.s. Just for future reference, is anonymity required when sending merciless judge letters? Or was that just for an air of mystery? Be patient with me, please (see above re: failed human being).

How to Be Beautiful

It’s hard to be beautiful. There are so many ointments to apply, so many devices to wield, so many techniques to employ…yeesh! It’s surprising that more women don’t have flasks in their brassieres—who wouldn’t need a morning drink after all of that?

And it’s not really optional. Sure, there are some rad young women out there daring to step in the daylight without makeup on their faces, but for most women, we get shooed back into our bathrooms by societal pressure or self-doubt if we walk down that road. Shooed, I say!

I mean, when Candy Crowley (the moderator for the second 2012 presidential debate) gets pre-emptively bashed for her weight and looks (not her qualifications or skill), I think that underscores the demand for women to—above all—be pretty. Even Martha Stewart had a recent article with instructions on how to—I shit you not—”avoid the pull of gravity” on your neck. (Love you, Martha, but damn…really?!) I mean, putting on a little lip gloss is one thing, but somehow skirting the laws of the universe seems like a little too lofty a goal.

But Hey, If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Shellac the Crap Right out of Your Face

The other day I was in a fake pageant for my friend Melissa‘s birthday. It was kind of fabulous and insane, and Stephen and I performed the oddest combination of talents and abilities in the history of talents and abilities. If you and your milieu find yourselves wanting for entertainment, please throw a pretend adult pageant. You won’t regret it! Anyway, as part of the pageant planning process, I looked up how to do super fancy pageant make-up ala Miss America, via the source of all knowledge: YouTube.

I forgot to take pictures of the process, so I decided to recreate it through Photoshop with my hard-earned, under-used Photoshop wizardry. It’s both instructive and entertaining, so sit down and enjoy yourself, okay? Alright. Here we go:

Here’s me starting out. Look at that face. It’s like Cinderella’s been using it to clean the windows. Yikes. Gotta fix that business, and fast!

Step 1: Cover that freaking skin up!

Okay, now this part isn’t actually in the video, but you can tell that she has foundation ALL OVER that business. So, you should do something kinda like this:

Except that’s mildly terrifying, so you need to blend it. Blend it. Like so:

Oops—lost the eyebrows in the process, but that’s no big deal. Just draw those bad boys back in there.

Sweet. Lookin’ good.

Now We Work on Dramatic Eyes! With Drama!

Okay, so you start smudging white stuff under your “brow bone” and on the inner corner of your eyes. Kinda like a zombie! And then blend, of course, then you do some other darker shades on your eye lids, and then draw some even darker triangles on the corner of your eyes. It’s kind of like coloring in preschool, except on your face.

And then you do more white stuff under your eyes. I’m not sure why we couldn’t do that earlier, but whatever. I’m the student, not the teacher.

And blend…

And now black where you just put white…

And now you look like a kitty! Which is the best time to start gluing things on your face. Your eyelids, specifically. Glue some fake eyelashes right about where your real ones are, since your real ones are now engulfed by dramatic, colored powders.

Okay, the eyes are done! Now we need to add “natural glow” back where we covered it with paste at the beginning. And add some highlights to give dimension. (I know we had dimension before we started this whole charade. I get it. But just go with it. I mean…I’m lookin’ pretty dang good, so…you know. Don’t rock the makeup bag.)

So natural! Add a little lipstick…

Tada!

Now, that’s about all I can do with makeup. BUT, since we’re already working with Photoshop, lets use a few of the tricks that people frequently employ to “enhance” a woman’s face in print and on the web.

Eyes Like a Baby Dolphin! Teeth Made of Ivory!

It’s proven that larger eyes are more attractive, so let’s get that done. And, hey, the whiter the teeth, the better, right? And might as well fix that little chip in my tooth…and make my eyes “pop” a little more…

*tinker tinker tinker* …

PERFECT!

What the Hell…Let’s Stick Something Else on Your Head

We all know that curly blonde hair is preferred over dark, witch hair, so we’ll just swap that out and we’ll be done!

…drum roll please…

…drum drum drum…

And…I’m done! Sure, I look like something the devil dreamt about after watching too many episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo while listening to a Dolly Parton station on Pandora, but—whew!—isn’t that so much better than my, you know, skin? And real face and teeth? You go enjoy that, friends. I’m here to help.

What’s your relationship with makeup like? Love it? Hate it? Please do share.

(And don’t forget! You can get a weekly dose of my A-game—like this—by subscribing via WordPress, email or RSS)

The Tweet Goes On

So, I signed up for twitter the other day, and it was entirely exhausting. This is less indicative of the experience of twitter than it is of my current mental state, which can turn even the most mundane of activities to a nightmarish hellscape. I mean, really, what does twitter need of me, anyway? Not even a paragraph, I tell you! Not even a paragraph. They just want tiny, fragmented thoughts jammed together in as little character space as possible. While being witty, of course. And adorable. Or powerfully compelling. Whatever your schtick is, melt it down to its basic elements and send it out to be judged/ignored/embraced as genius. No biggie.

The panic did not come, as you might imagine, when actually tweeting. I didn’t get that far. The panic came while choosing a handle.

Apparently, Melanie is not an uncommon name (who knew?  Not me.), and all the Melanies already have the good twitter handles. Melanie? Taken. MelanieCrutchfield? Too long. (Though MelanieCrutchfie is available.) HiMelanie? Taken. HelloMelanie? Taken. JustMelanie? Taken. This is where I swear like a G-rated cartoon character, “$%&!# your stupid face, twitter!”

Here are some gems that were available, but I decided against:

  • Melaniecholy (oh, isn’t that so very witty?)
  • KITMelanie (It’s like signing a yearbook with twitter.)

These adjectives are more for food than people:

  • SaltyMelanie
  • ZestyMelanie

And here’s where I started perusing the “M” section of the dictionary:

  • Mach1Melanie
  • MacroMelanie
  • MicroMelanie
  • MadlyMelanie
  • MainlyMelanie
  • MegaMelanie (I’m going to crush you!!)

And here’s when I started getting a little loopy about it:

PirateSnack? Available! Awesome! AssHat? Not available. Twitter suggestion: AssMelanie. Touché, twitter. Just because I can’t pick out a handle, doesn’t mean you have to get all nasty about it. Also unavailable: HellsMels, FelonyMelanie (which Kate told me sounded like a Garbage Pail Kid. Totally true.), and CrapBag (somebody is REAL proud of that one.).

I was SOoooo frustrated. And hot (because San Diego was obscenely hot last week). And that’s when I thought, “It’s hot as the dickens in here!” and then I wondered what “the dickens” meant. So I looked it up, and it’s euphemism for the devil, along with Old Scratch. OldScratch, which is also taken on twitter.

At this point I had gotten into a VERY long discussion on facebook about my whole quandary, and I was about to just give up and go for PirateSnack, when I discovered the closest thing to a good twitter handle that I can think of. You ready for it? Hmm? Hmm?

HelloMelanieC

I’m sad that I didn’t get to use PrincessCummerbund, or KarmaKitten, or—truly—PirateSnack, but I think that’ll do for now. Let’s go follow each other, okay? It’ll be super fun. You don’t want to miss out on these gems:

  • So Much Yapping

    • Now chicken on the grill looks like squirrel meat. Thanks, Hunger Games. 2 hours ago
    • Why am I immediately distrustful of anyone who calls themselves a poet? 2 hours ago
    • We pay higher rent in SD for the feeling of weather-related superiority. After today I think I deserve a refund. 2 days ago
    • If you ever wonder a) is that roasted jalapeno hot? and b) should I put it in my mouth? I’ll save you the trouble: a) yes b) no. 4 days ago

How did you come up with your twitter handle? Are you a lover? A hater? Spill! (In as many characters as you’d like.)

Problems That Lions Don’t Have

Have you ever had a frustrating moment in your day and thought, “If I were a lion, I wouldn’t have this problem”?

Really? Me too. Those lions. They have it made in the shade. Here are some common people problems that wouldn’t be problems for lions.

Getting “Burn” by Ray Lamontagne Stuck in Your Head

You know when you get a song stuck in your head and it just plays over and over and over and over again, and you sing it in your car, and in the kitchen while you’re doing dishes, and you try to figure out how to bleep out the g-d part because you don’t want your toddler singing that? And then finally you have to look up the guitar chords so you can get the full effect in your living room?

Yeah. Not a problem for lions seeing as they don’t have CD players, and even if they did, Ray Lamontagne might be a little too indie for the average plains-dweller.

Listening to Angry People Talk About Politics

Civility in politics is dead, and if you take the civility out of politics, you’re left with annoyance. If some yammerhole gets all red-faced and absurd about politics while talking with a lion, the lion wouldn’t have to feign interest or try to find an interesting segue to plants or (obviously) Ray Lamontagne. No, the lion has simpler solutions.

Deciding What to Make for Dinner

I’m pretty sure lions just eat whatever’s running by. Sure they probably get bored with zebra from time to time, but their lives are simple; they’re not bombarded with a thousand restaurants, and 400 kinds of soup, and a million new uses for the crock pot which they discovered on Pinterest. See it. Catch it. Eat it.

Yes, the life of a lion: so simple, so bloody. Plus, they look really comfortable when they take naps. Which of your problems could be solved by being a lion? Do share.

The Rape Rainbow (A Guide to all the Kinds of Raping)

First, a note: the beginning of this piece is what they call “satire.” If you’re new to the idea, satire means that if you find yourself agreeing with this stuff, you might also have a rusty nail wedged in your brain, or maybe you were raised by squirrels in the forest*, or perhaps you’re trying to win a contest for the dumbest human alive. Whatever led you to this point, you should probably see a doctor and/or read all the books in your local library. Also, please refrain from talking unless it’s to call a doctor or ask for directions to said library.

You know they say that you learn something new every day? Well, guess what I learned the other day? I learned that there are lots of different kinds of rape and—here’s the real fascinating part—a bunch of them are okay! Well, not TOTALLY okay, but some kinds of rape can’t get anyone pregnant, and therefore it’s probably not that big of a deal. And if you DO happen to get pregnant from rape, it’s because it wasn’t all that bad, and probably you were wearing a short skirt, or smiling, or having breasts and a vagina—you know, you were asking for it.

I know, it’s crazy! I had NO idea. I feel so silly for thinking that rape was always rape when you weren’t 100% sure that your partner—pssht, I’m sorry. “Partner?” What am I, some crazy liberal? Let me try again. I thought rape was rape when you weren’t a 100% sure that your sex receiver was into the whole thing. Boy, was I wrong. There’s “forcible rape,” “non-forcible rape,” “legitimate rape,” “sneezy rape,” and they all have different causes AND consequences. Fascinating stuff.

So, as to not be an irresponsible community member, I thought I’d come up with a handy guide to knowing when it’s the okay kind of rape, or really RAPE rape, which, you know, is bad. I now present you with…the Rape Rainbow!

Red Rape

Stop! Red rape is the bad rape. Maybe you have a knife, or a gun, or your strangling someone, and then you have sex with them. CLEARLY this one is super terrible, but on the upside, you can’t get your victim pregnant (according to the Czar of No Science Ever). I know you’ve got your heart set on raping someone, but we have to draw the line somewhere, so the line is brutal force. Brutal force + sex = Red Rape.

But you’re in luck! There are other kinds of rape that are kinda almost fine!

Orange Rape

Orange rape is still pretty freaking terrible, but if you get really douchey about it, you can explain how your victim didn’t say no, so, you know…you’re in the clear!

Now, how do you get someone to let you do something you know they don’t want you to do? Drugs! Alcohol! They key here is to make sure your lovely lady is either completely unconscious, or that she doesn’t remember how words work. She won’t even remember what happened until a few weeks later when—blammo!—she discovers the gift of a human embryo you left her in her insides! See? You gave her a present! What an ingrate.

Yellow Rape

Yellow rape is all about prostitutes. Buying a prostitute is like buying a house.  When you buy a house, you can do whatever you want to it, because you PAID for it. Same thing goes with a prostitute. It’s not like prostitutes are people with feelings. And if they didn’t want to get raped, they would have chosen to be florists or a senators, right?

Green Rape

Green means go! Green rape is all about finding the most ambiguous signal that could be interpreted as sexual interest, and then using that to make the victim feel like she WANTED to be raped (because we all kinda do, right? Of course.). This can be wearing “slutty clothes,” smiling at you at the bar, feeling overcome by your coolness because you’re 10 years older…all kinds of stuff. And if you’re dating someone, that’s just blanket permission to rape. It’s kinda like all those terms of service things that we don’t read; she signs up for dating, but you know that she’s agreed to giving you sex whenever you want it, even if you have to use a little muscle or emotional threats or whatever.

And then…um…

Okay, people…sorry. I can’t get through it. I can’t keep up with my own sarcasm because…well, this is crazy. What’s crazier is that Todd Akin is out there is propagating these toxic beliefs and trying to get people to PAY him to make legislation on their behalf.

I know there are a lot of issues on which to hang our hats, and it’s hard to make progress when we’re drawing so many lines in the sand, BUT there’s no excuse for trying to minimize rape. None of us want to be raped. None of us want our daughters, or sisters, or aunts, or cousins, or coworkers to ever experience such a painful violation.

We have to communicate to our representatives that if you’re not willing to stand up for victims of violence in our communities, then you’re simply not qualified for the job.  There’s only one kind of rape. If you believe in degrees of rape, you don’t belong in our government. Sorry, but it’s not a liability we can afford. Maybe try the florist route. There are lots of shades of things there.

*No offense to those of you with rusty nail heads and squirrel parents. I know you’re better than this.

This Powerhouse is Condemned

Condemned.

Photo by shiny red type @ Flickr.

My life, as of late, has taken a turn for the seemingly impressive. I say “seemingly,” because while it might look impressive at first brush (what with all my exercising and writing and to-do list-making), I assure you, things are getting rather questionable on the inside.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m lazy. If laziness were a career, I’d have $4.2 billion dollars and a vacation home in the Caymans. Little Richard and I would eat caviar and laugh big, open-mouth, tiny black pearl-coated laughs. That’s how good I am at being lazy.

However, recognizing that people don’t actually get paid (in money or caviar) for doing nothing, I decided I should do things that successful, active people do. Basically, I should pretend to be successful and active and hope no one spots my ruse. So, that’s what I’m doing. Specifically, I’ve been exercising at least 6 days a week for two months, I’ve been dieting for a month, and I’ve been writing at least 750 words per day for exactly 107 days. In a row. It makes me look kinda awesome.

But there’s a catch.

See, what I expected to happen was that it would be hard at first, maybe even mostly unproductive, but then I’d start seeing changes. It’d get easier. I wouldn’t curse the alarm every single morning. I expected to put in the hard work, then magically become super me who can do exercise and productive things without every fiber of my being screaming to lie down and watch The Only Way is Essex. But no. That is not what’s happening at all.

Every day I struggle to get up. And it’s getting worse. Now, instead of thinking, “I’m so tired, I don’t want to get up,” I think, “I want to quit. Should I quit? I just don’t want to do this anymore.” I drag myself through the entire workout and slump down exhausted afterward. And then I pound out my 750 words, which often include the phrase, “I really freaking wish I wasn’t doing this right now.”

And weight loss? Not happening. Last week I was so discouraged that my best friend and I decided that I shouldn’t weigh myself anymore. I should just take measurements. Because if I’m gaining muscle it’ll throw the weight thing off and I don’t need to upset myself with a number. So this week I tried just measurements. No change.

I’m facing the very real possibility that nothing will change from here on out—that this is it.

But We Just Exercise to be Healthy, Right?

This look is probably not in my future.

Everyone says that they’re exercising for “health.” I do. I try to tell myself that even if I don’t end up looking like those Pinterest photos, the overall health benefits are worth it. Everyone says that. And I think most of us are lying.

We want weight loss. We want sculpted body parts. We want “that sexy v shape” (oh, lord does that phrase make me angry). But you know what will make you really inspect that belief? If you run and stretch and pull and lift and crunch and cut out sugar and reduce fat and do everything you’re suppose to do…and your body says, “NO! This area here is a flotation device. We are keeping it for survival! Run all you want, bitch!”

I am unhappy with this arrangement.

My friend Anna keeps reminding me that I’m in the normal BMI range, and maybe I should be happy with that. Happy with being healthy. I have to wonder why I’m not. I think it’s because I can make Jabba’s face with my belly if I want to, and I have yet to find a use for that ability.

Jabba the Hut Portrait

Not a great look for abs. Photo By San Diego Shooter @ Flickr.

So, again, I’m confronted: Do I really want to do this—the exercising, avoiding foods, eating truckloads of salads, getting up early—do I want to do this if nothing changes from here on out? If I end up looking like a person who doesn’t exercise, will I still do it? If I look like someone who doesn’t eat right, will I eat right anyway? If I don’t gain any energy, if I don’t like it any more, if it doesn’t make me feel accomplished…if nothing gets better…will I still do it? If  the answer is yes, then by golly I might actually be doing all this for my health. In fact, that’s all I’d be doing it for.

Those questions rang through my head on my cool down walk home today. And the louder they rang, the clearer this was to me:  I have to let go of my expectations. Not just let go, I need to mourn them. I need to burn an effigy of the “ideal” me . I thought about how hard I’ve been working, and how the results aren’t showing. I decided that I have to let the expectation that things will change die like a neglected Ficus. In fact, maybe the Ficus is already dead and I’m just now showing up to its funeral. I thought about all of this and I cried my way home, having buried in my mind the hope of looking slimmer, fitter——better.

On the upside, I’ve been making this banana-peanut-butter-cocoa shake and it’s so delicious I could punch a goat in the mouth. So there’s that.

The Parent’s Survival Guide to Theme Parks

Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be a Long, Long Time)

Photo by Paul Sapiano @ Flickr

I had the super fun opportunity to go to some of the coolest theme parks in Orlando this past week. (We’ve got people watchin’ our stuff, robbers, so don’t think you can break into our crappy apartment and steal our…um…Ikea cheese grater, okay?)

We had a GREAT time. We spent a load of time with my in-laws who are the best in-laws on the planet. Good people to the last drop. You know those kind? They’re awesome.

Anyway, as I was saying, we had an amazing time. Theme parks can be really cool and fun and exciting…all the adjectives you would want out of a vacay. I realized a few days into the deal, though, that your chances of having a good theme park vacation and having a bad theme park vacation are about 50/50. And man, hell hath no fury like a parent who shelled out a pile of money to amuse their children, only to find said children throwing a fit over whatever is upsetting them at the moment. I can’t tell you how many bug-eyed parents I saw genuinely losing their crap at their tiny, glitter-dusted, sugar-fueled tyrant cruise directors. It was…intense.

So, as I am wont to do, I thought I’d put together some tips for theme park survival. I know, I know—I’m just so danged helpful.

#1 – Don’t Forget Who Your Children Are

No matter how magical the destination, your children are still the same people you interact with at home. Whatever limits or frustrations or shortcomings they have at home will still be there at whatever theme park you’ve sold your blood to. And let’s face it, kids are 10 parts cute, 90 parts insane, and remembering that is just about the only way to make it as a parent. So when they’re all angry and unimpressed and tired and needy and full of sugar-rage, don’t be surprised. Be prepared. In fact, make a pact that when your kid melts down, you get a cookie or a beer or whatever your vice is (you’re on vacation, right?). That way, their negative means a positive for you. Yay! (But not too many beers, okay? Don’t be that guy. Drunken parent guy is…disturbing.)

#2 – Don’t Let Those Commercials Fool You

All the commercials for theme parks are filled with slow-mo scenes of parents and children laughing and running and staring doe-eyed at the wonder of life while fireworks burst and genteel birds float down to grace their shoulders as the sun sets in the distance. That crap does NOT happen. Like, to anyone. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 1.5 minutes of awesome, never-want-to-forget moments and the rest will be a combination of exhaustion, frustration, bewilderment and sugar withdrawals (why is there so much freaking sugar around?!). That’s fine. It’s totally fine. Hunt for those 1.5 minutes like Cap’n Jack looking for the Black Pearl. And when you find them, hold on to them tight. Loving the good moments will get you through the mediocre-to-pitiful moments. And, you know what? Just lower the bar. Be okay having a low-key pleasant vacation. Don’t make big, elaborate plans for milking the park for every penny you gave them. What’s that saying? Making plans is the surest way to hear God laugh? Or the surest way to give yourself an aneurism? Whatever it is, the point is—don’t have crazy expectations. Just chill out.

#3 – Realize a Lot of it is For You

If you have a teeny tiny one like I do…the ENTIRE experience is lost on them. Yep. The whole freaking kit n’ caboodle means absolutely nothing to them, they won’t ever remember it, and many of the fun things are, to them, terrifying. If you’ve set it up in your mind that your kid should be wowed by all the stuff you’re paying for, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed when the stairs and a seriously over-zealous squirrel steal the show.

No biggie. The truth is, kids can’t appreciate it all the way you can. You’re older. You’re wiser. You can soak in the wonder of fireworks in the sky, and new technology infused into the rides, and how they can make an ice cream snack taste so good you’d punch a stranger in the nuts for one. You can appreciate it all, and you should.

#4 – Hit the Park Kid-less if You Can

Due to the aforementioned amazing in-laws, we were able to go back to the park for about 2 hours after the kiddo went to sleep. It was…Uh-mazing. We sprinted around the park and went on all the adult rides and got in more park fun in those 2 hours than we could have all day with the kids. We laughed maniacally at all the parents saddled with strollers full of screaming children (what were they doing up, anyway?). You can’t always swing it if you’re not traveling with friends or family, but if you can, do it. It’s fun to feel like a kid sometimes. Well, a kid who has enough perspective on life to know exactly how fun it all really is.

#5 – Try to Love Your People

The bottom line is that parenting is tough, and it doesn’t get easier just because you go to a cool place. So, remind yourself that a BIG part of being a parent is practicing loving other people. So when they scream for a toy or refuse to stop chasing that bird or complain that they didn’t see whatever the stink they wanted to see, take a big, big breath and remind yourself that you love that little person, even when they drive you nuts. Then, get yourself a really big cookie. Or a beer. God bless beer.

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