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Dear Captain A,

I’ve been friends with my friend, B, since 2004. We had a short but really important lovership in 2006, had a hard breakup, but then rebuilt our friendship. For the past five years, he’s been someone I’ve considered family and my best friend. We referred to each other as ‘non sexual life partners”, threw giant Thankstaking and Xmas parties for our queer chosen families. We are both estranged from our families of origin due to abuse and have been super committed to being really solid people in each other’s lives. He has been the person I always picked up the phone for, the person I pick up from the airport, and the person who I’ve prioritized being there for. Over the years, we’ve done  a huge amount of mental health and physical health support for each other that’s been a work in progress, but that has felt really good in terms of us both being able to offer a lot to each other and also have boundaries. He is the executor of my will and my medical power of attorney person. And we’ve also cooked and eaten lots of food, traveled, laughed our asses off, gone to movies, thrown parties and film nights for our friends, nerded out over hiphop and poetry, talked for hours,  gotten each other jobs, gone dancing and to the ocean, and been super involved in each other’s lives. I thought we were going to be in each other’s lives forever. Our breakup and the way we came back from it built this huge amount of trust and solidness in how we’ve handled conflict. He is a wonderful person.

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Lindy West reacts to a new book by the authors of The Rules with the correct amount of “What the everloving fuck?” (h/t Bitches Gotta Eat)

So, essentially (according to these jokers), online dating is a forum where you put yourself up for auction and then passively watch while men compete for your silent company by bidding varying amounts of pork tenderloins and tennis bracelets. Whatever you do, don’t express an interest in or attraction to anything. The worst thing you can do for your romantic life is to play an active role in your romantic life. Also, Fein and Schneider say, once a man does contact you, under no circumstances should you let him know that you’ve looked at anything on his profile. Keep yourself vague. Because there’s nothing hotter than a woman-shaped blob of nothingness.

Or you could ignore all this speculative, baroque, antifeminist bullshit and just be a fucking human being.”

Yo, should I dump this asshole? should cut into my traffic & inbox significantly. I agree with the author that people who self-describe as “feisty” are to be avoided. See also: Quirky, zany, and madcap. Always avoid the madcap. Though, on that topic, I liked this piece at The Gloss taking down the overuse of the word “crazy”:

You know, it’s funny, generally when men refer to their exes as ‘crazy’ what I keep hearing is ‘she had emotions, and I did not like that…’

And when men do this on a regular basis, remember that, if you are a women, you are not the exception. You are not so cool and fabulous and levelheaded that they will totally get where you are coming from when you show emotions other than “pleasant agreement.”

When men say “most women are crazy, but not you, you’re so cool” the subtext is not, “I love you, be the mother to my children.” The subtext is “do not step out of line, here.” If you get close enough to the men who say things like this, eventually, you will do something that they do not find pleasant. They will decide you are crazy, because this is something they have already decided about women in general.”

A good friend and collaborator once told me I was the first and only non-crazy female director he’d ever worked with. He meant it absolutely as a compliment, I am sure. It’s not a compliment, and it took me a little while to figure out why it sat so badly with me. So then I gave him a piece of my mind about it that started with “Actually, I have a mental illness, so I AM technically ‘crazy,’ and if we’re going to work together again I need you to think real hard about whether you have a different standard for what’s crazy when a woman does it vs. a man.” People paid Stanley “I need the clouds to be just right” Kubrick, Werner “Yeah, we’ll need to carry that over the mountains” Herzog, Terrence “I can only shoot at the Magic Hour” Malick to direct movies. Meek, ever-agreeable and self-effacing is not actually a good quality in a director. Or a girlfriend.

Work/Career Advice:  Bitch Magazine’s post on 10 Things That Would Have Been Good To Know At and After Graduation is pretty spot-on. Congratulations, class of 2012, especially my beloved students and former students. This speech from Neil Gaiman about making a career as an artist is what I wish I could tell all of you. This advice about How To Get and Keep A Mentor is pretty useful as well.

Got any recent great reads you want to link in the comments? (Shameless self-promotion is allowed).

Oh, before I forget, yesterday I spotted honest-to-god FEELINGSART/FEELINGSMAIL outside my CTA stop:

"Billy Jean, I love you. Call me. Love Louis" written in chalk on a sidewalk.

Way to use your words, Louis!

I cannot look. It is too awkward.

Sometimes the only answer an advice columnist can give is “Dude, you are so fucked.”  Check out Dan Savage’s Letter of the Day from yesterday.  Amazing.

Also, it’s National Poetry Month!  Here is Maggie Estep’s great poem, “I am an emotional idiot.”

I’m an Emotional Idiot

so get away from me.
I mean,
COME HERE.Wait, no,
that’s too close,
give me some space
it’s a big country,
there’s plenty of room,
don’t sit so close to me.Hey, where are you?
I haven’t seen you in days.
Whadya, having an affair?
Who is she?
Come on,
aren’t I enough for you?

God,
You’re so cold.
I never know what you’re thinking.
You’re not very affectionate.

I mean,
you’re clinging to me,
DON’T TOUCH ME,
what am I, your fucking cat?
Don’t rub me like that.

Don’t you have anything better to do
than sit there fawning over me?

Don’t you have any interests?
Hobbies?
Sailing Fly fishing
Archeology?

There’s an archeology expedition leaving tomorrow
why don’t you go?
I’ll loan you the money,
my money is your money.
my life is your life
my soul is yours
without you I’m nothing.

Move in with me
we’ll get a studio apartment together, save on rent,
well, wait, I mean, a one bedroom,
so we don’t get in each other’s hair or anything
or, well,
maybe a two bedroom
I’ll have my own bedroom,
it’s nothing personal
I just need to be alone sometimes,
you do understand,
don’t you?

Hey, why are you acting distant?

Where you goin’,
was it something I said?
What
What did I do?

I’m an emotional idiot
so get away from me
I mean,
MARRY ME.

"Tact is just not saying true stuff." - Cordelia Chase

Dear Captain Awkward,

Are there times when the FU should not be silent when telling people the STFU? If so, do you have a combat guide for mild-mannered ladies who wear pearls and read a lot of Jane Austen?

Wanting to Get out the Sticks and Stones

Oh, my ladylike friend, one day you will be on the subway and a creepy strange man will be leering at you and trying to  talk to you, and where before you may have just tried to focus extra-hard on your book or retreated back into your happy place of recalling last night’s ball at Netherfield or mentally cataloging your spice rack, something will snap inside you and you will say “Listen, you creepy, disgusting motherfucker, why don’t you take five steps back from me because I just cannot handle your goddamn bullshit today” and it will feel fantastic.

Not everyone curses like a sailor in an extremely unprofessional manner, when, say, teaching a class on lighting for film and finding that every single light in the kit I’m using to demo is broken in a slightly different way.  Invective might not roll off the tongue for you, which is okay, because people who are just learning to cuss end up sounding kind of cute when they try.  It’s especially noticeable from novice actors and directors who attempt Mamet or Mamet-like (Mamet-ish?  Mamet-y?) dialogue.  They overemphasize the swears because the little kid inside them gets excited about saying them or they want to be dramatic, so the rejoinder to Creepy Subway Guy (above) comes out as “Listen, you creepy, disgusting MOTHER (pause) FUCKER, why don’t you take five steps back from me because I just cannot handle your GODDAMN (pause) BULLSHIT today.” Amateur hour.

Thankfully we have Miss Julia Sugarbaker to turn to in times of crisis.  Look, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched an episode of Designing Women and I have no idea what she’s so mad about in this clip but I’m pretty sure I agree with every word she’s saying.

You might have to age into that some to get the right mix of patrician elocution and crazy eyes, but that just means it’s something to look forward to! Does anyone know if Dixie Carter attended some kind of Auntie Mame-training academy and, if so, can I go, too?  Maybe there I can learn to cultivate pointed silence in the face of vapid absurdity.

If you want to ride down the middle of the road and can master a sufficiently cutting tone, here are some all-purpose phrases that might get you through a trying conversation if you’ve exhausted “Really,” Wow,” and “What.”

  • “Well, I’ll be doing the opposite of that, but thanks for your opinion.”
  • “It’s amazing that you think that’s your business.”
  • “Let’s just pretend this never happened. It will be less embarrassing for you.”

When I am rich and dead, teenage girls will get copies of The Portable Dorothy Parker and The Handmaid’s Tale* from my dead rich lady foundation, so that they learn exactly how depressing and terrifying life can be and develop the necessary sarcasm and drinking skills to cope.  Dorothy Parker could bring the pain.

So, you’re the man who can’t spell ‘fuck.‘”
-Dorothy Parker to Norman Mailer after publishers had convinced Mailer to replace the word with a euphemism, ‘fug,’ in his 1948 book, “The Naked and the Dead.”

Buuuuuuuuuurn.

Have you been watching Downton Abbey?  Because Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess Lady Grantham is delightful. When I use the word “cunty” to describe her character’s amazing ability to deliver a backhanded compliment, please believe that I mean to convey only respect and awe.

Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

It seems what is required is to just remove one’s filter.  Strip it right off.  Why wait for dementia to set in when you could be enjoying an unfiltered life right now?

I hope you found this educational and improving.  Shall we take a turn about the room?

 

*What else (besides Auntie Mame, can’t believe I left that off) should we add to the curriculum for the Academy for Wayward Girls Who Want To Stay That Way?

PROMOTE! PROMOTE! PROMOTE!

I like this post about how to promote yourself without being a jerk.  I’ve been linking CaptainAwkward.com hardcore on the Book of the Face and the Twitter. This is a good reminder that you have to self-promote your work (no one else will), so don’t feel ashamed, but also don’t be such a Dalek about it.

Penelope Trunk is brilliant about “thinking outside the box”, as in, it is a phrase that generally means “I don’t like any of your ideas” and the people who are great at innovating are the ones who spend a lot of time thinking about the box itself.

Sady Doyle has a baseline of being a pretty great writer, but sometimes she even transcends herself.   I recently read a critique of feminism right now “a bunch of bloggers writing about the pop culture that’s oppressing them,” can’t remember where, except…it was posted on a blog.  Sady writes about how stories shape us and warp us and sometimes save our lives.  Here are three great recent things:

1. Running Towards Gunshots:  A Few Words About Joan of Arc:  “And I don’t know if I believe in Jesus, but I believe in Joan of Arc… I ended up finding the trial transcripts online. Because I’d never read them before, and I was over the whole religion thing, but I ended up finding out that she was a real person. This real,  live, bitchy, funny, charming, smart, obstinate/contumacious/disobedient, gender-inappropriate, charismatic, determined person, who somehow managed to happen, a really long time ago. I don’t know what I believe about the God thing. But I believe that we’re human beings, and that the range of human possibility includes Joan of Arc.”

2. Ellen Ripley Saved My Life:

At a certain point, you have to ask yourself why certain stories are so important to you. Why they become, not just entertainment, but myth: Something you use to explain yourself to yourself, or to explain the world. A thousand times, on Dr. Who, the lady Companion insists that the Doctor will save them, and every time, the people are all “BUT PERHAPS THIS TIME HE WON’T AND WE ARE SCREWED THOUGH,” and every time, the music swells and the Doctor comes and he saves as many people as he can. And you love it, every time it happens. Because that’s the story you need: There is someone out there, someone good and wise and kind, and he will always come to save you. I mean, I get it. Some people go to church for less.

But for me, it’s always been about the girls. Specifically, the Strong Woman Action Heroines: Scully and Buffy, Starbuck in the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot, Ripley and Vasquez and, hell, even Tasha Yar. I love this; I need this; I eat it up. And yet, my relationship with the Strong Woman Action Heroine is… complicated? Let’s say complicated. And let me take a minute, or several, to explain how.

3. No One’s Ever On Your Side:  Betty Draper Francis Still Needs Your Love.

“We wanted Betty to read The Feminine Mystique and get her mind blown and rise above; or, we wanted her to stay a victim, so we could relate to her better, or at least keep feeling sorry for her. But sometimes, people just get damaged until they start damaging. Sometimes, people are lost. We hate Betty now because she’s not going to stay a victim, but the truth is, she’s also not going to be saved.

It was the scenes with the child psychiatrist that did it for me. Some will argue that January Jones is a terrible actress, and to them I submit: The scenes in the child psychiatrist’s office. She became an entirely different person for those few minutes of film; you could see her getting softer, and sweeter, and more human, every second. All because someone — a woman, older than her, an authority figure — talked to her gently, and quietly, and responded to her worst, yikesiest statements only with, “that must be a terrible feeling.” You know: It really must be. All of Betty’s feelings must be so, so terrible. But it was clear, even then, that this woman was scared of her, and scared for her daughter. You could see the potential for Betty to heal, in those few scenes. But that wasn’t the message of the scenes themselves. The message was that her chance was gone; she wasn’t a child any more, and she had to be judged by adult standards. She still needs love, so badly, but she just doesn’t deserve it any more, and giving it to her is just too risky. Help came too late. And how many stories is that, really?”

And finally my good friend Manboobz has been making milk come out of my nose with his descriptions (with examples!) of what happens when men who really hate women try to date them.

Photo by Flickr user rivieramaya26

Bookslut writes about Judith Warner’s column on “yoga memoirs” like she took the words right out of my mouth.

“It was with joy/frustration/hilarity that I read, then, Judith Warner’s piece in the New York Times about the rise of the yoga memoir. And how it ties into the death of feminist political action, because all anyone wants to do anymore is “find themselves.” These days that means in the yoga studio, in the bedroom, in their home, rather than in their community, their job, their consciousness raising group. I read a list yesterday of the whatever 11 resolutions all women need to make for 2011, and of course it was nurture your soul, find time for yourself, not let’s go out and rally for real political change, or let’s protest our banks’ behavior by taking our money out, or let’s establish a community garden so that we make sure our children, regardless of financial situation, are getting nutritious, fresh food. No, let’s light a scented candle and talk to our inner child.”

Ha!  Look, I’m not going to make the case that yoga is bad, because obviously it’s really good and good for you and more importantly, I happen to enjoy it and feel better when I do it.  And I’m not going to make the case that having a clean and organized home is bad.  I’m sure if I could ever figure out how to have one I would really enjoy that too!  And I’m not going to make the case that all the “real” feminism happened in the 1970s, because there is a vast and diverse community of brilliant men and women figuring it out in front of us as we go.  I’m also unsure about the whole take-all-you- money-out-of-the-banks-by-way-of-protest thing, because it makes me think of the guy in my hometown who has Revolutionary War cannons in his front yard and once put a baby raccoon into my trick-or-treat bag.  I bet he took all his money out of the banks years ago.

But I’m thinking back to Brene Brown’s talk, and how one of the things we do to numb ourselves against fear and vulnerability is to “perfect.”  Sometimes the world really makes me scared and angry, like when the financial industry runs a protection scam on the entire country, or we start a bunch of wars that we don’t know how to get out of. It makes me really scared and angry when we torture people – even really bad people – because I think there are things that humans should Just Not Do Ever.  I should totally do something about all of that, after I find an exercise regime that really works for me and find a way to pare my wardrobe down to a few elegant and perfect essentials and try out some meditation and relaxation techniques so I can become more centered. Read More

I just watched this TED talk by Brene Brown (thanks to Between Those Things).



I’m a total geek for TED. The internet is amazing.  We live in amazing times.  I press a few buttons and books come to my house. I press a few more and I get to sit at the feet of brilliant people and hear about the neat stuff they are doing. I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions because by March they become The List of Things I’m Currently Failing At  but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to watch a TED talk every single day and write about it.  Shit, I started the wrong blog!

How does any of this relate to advice columns and screenwriting?

Two years ago I took an “Autobiography & Memoir” class with the great Chicago performance artist and teacher Brigid Murphy.  Here’s the class:  Brigid gives you writing prompts.  Using a paper journal and a pen, you scribble down a story from your past without editing or judgment.  You bring the story to class and read it out loud, and the group comments on the details and moments they found most compelling.  You write 10 or so of these pieces and then choose one to polish and adapt into a screenplay, a piece of fiction, or another piece of art.

What happens when I just wrote down what happened, without to be literary or to make myself look good, was magical.  Reading the stories aloud told me where to cut and where to elaborate.  It turns out there is a club for people who tell stories like this, and I started reading in public. I got in the habit of speaking truthfully about vulnerable topics and not feeling ashamed.  My life got better.  My art got better.

If you are any kind of artist, your embarrassment and pain and fear and weird gross obsessions and preoccupations and failures become the DNA of your work.   Joel hides Clementine in his shameMeg Murray defeats IT with love and with her faults.

In life, the courage to be vulnerable makes you go after what you want.  Try these on for size:

“I’ve been afraid to ask you out because I don’t want to ruin our friendship, but I really like you and would love to take you on a date. Would you be up for that?”

“You think you’re being helpful when you say those things to me, but really you’re just hurting my feelings, so I need you to stop.”

“I don’t really like being a management consultant.  I want to save up some money and then start my own business.”

“I can’t handle this all by myself and I need help.”

“Let’s have a kid.”

Scary, right?  It’s uncomfortable to put yourself out there.  What Brown discovered in her research and we all know from any awareness about our culture, when we are afraid to be vulnerable and uncomfortable, we numb ourselves.  We look for certainty.  We blame others.  We try to pretend that consequences don’t exist.  We grit our teeth and limp through another year.

Or, we take a risk.  It could fail spectacularly, but it could be kind of amazing.

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