SPOILER FREE REVIEW — Supergirl Pilot

(100th post!!! Ahhhh!!!)

Before I watch this episode that the world-renowned Anonymous Donor has commissioned me to review, I just want to say that I have no idea what I think about this show. I have not watched any trailers, leaked footage, nada. I made a choice some time ago to see the show only in its intended episodic form, not truncated or packaged promotionally.

And the reviews I’ve seen (headlines are unavoidable on Facebook) appear to be polarizing. I know that when the trailer came out, lots of people mocked it for being exactly like the SNL Black Widow movie trailer except without the irony, while others were adamant that that is the whole POINT of Supergirl, that she is “just a regular girl” with mundane girl concerns and mundane girl interests, who just happens to have superpowers. And that the show is trying to make a point that being a girly girl or being feminine is not a weakness; you can be a girl’s girl AND a superhero! Of course, my concern with that is that in their efforts to make Supergirl an Everygirl, the showrunners may forget to give her a unique personality and have her be more of a cipher than a character.

I’m also not sure what to expect of Melissa Benoist, whose character on Glee was pretty much the dictionary definition of “bland.” That may not have been her fault (the character was definitely weakly written) but put it this way: when Grant Gustin was cast as the Flash, I was thrilled because he was FABULOUS on Glee and I was excited to see what he’d do. Melissa Benoist, not particularly. I did like her in Whiplash, though, and her role in that movie was to represent ordinariness and normalcy in contrast to Miles Teller’s character’s obsessive pursuit of extraordinariness and greatness, so if that will be her job on Supergirl, to be normal and ordinary, she’ll probably pull it off just fine. I just hope it won’t be boring.

Basically, I’m not sure what to expect, what point the show is going to try to make or whether it will be any good at making it. I’m not prepared. Well, I’m prepared to be conflicted. That’s about it.

 

* * *

 

WELL. I guess it turns out that I did have expectations, because this was wayyyyyy better than I thought it was going to be.

First off, Melissa Benoist is perfect here as Kara, aka Supergirl. She has more life and verve in this role than she ever had a chance to showcase on Glee. Yes, the show does do the typical thing of making her kinda clumsy and awkward, but — take note, Aaron Sorkin and Newsroom staff — never incompetent. She has more passion and enthusiasm than I was expecting from an Everygirl character, which give her excellent screen presence. She is not boring. She cares deeply about things, from her job dissatisfaction to her newfound crush to her reverence for Superman to her relationship with her sister to her own heroics to her confusion over her place in the world. Yes, many of these things are mundane Everygirl concerns, but rather than turning her into a cipher or a Mary Sue, the effect is not that I project myself onto her, but rather that she feels like her own entity, definitely a full person, but one that I’d like to be friends with because we have some things in common. That scene on the couch with her squeeing over seeing her heroics covered on TV for the first time — total bff material.

I also love that they didn’t just make the protagonist female only to surround her with a mostly male ensemble, as is far too common. There seem to be two main ladies aside from Kara — a fantastic Calista Flockhart as Kara’s boss, and Chyler Leigh (Lexie from Grey’s Anatomy! With short hair!) as Kara’s sister — and don’t look now but the main villain appears to be female as well. There are also a number of background/one-line characters who could easily have been male but aren’t. The episode probably passes the infamous Bechdel test half a dozen times, easily. And even the clichéd “freaking out over what to wear on a date” scene isn’t really about the date or the dude; it’s about the supportive and reciprocal relationship Kara has with her sister. There are a couple of male regulars too, but they seem to be ancillary and side-kicky in relation to the women, who are the real driving forces of the show. It’s a flipped gender dynamic that is all too rare and therefore very refreshing. To me, at least.

I don’t want to get spoilery, so I’m not going to go into detail about the plot. Suffice it to say, baddies show up and comic-booky fighting ensues at some point, growing more and more prominent as the episode goes on. In my opinion, that’s the weakest thing about this pilot; I would have preferred to see more of Kara in her real life and her relationships with the other characters, because those were interesting and nuanced, whereas right now, these villains seem to just be flat and capital-E Evil because . . . they’re evil? EEEEEEVIIIIILLLLLL. *maniacal cackle*

 

for teh evulz

 

Also, I gotta say, Kara’s coworker who keeps trying to hit on her is kind of a jerk. Not a fan of him. I mean, at one point he mistakenly thinks she’s about to tell him she’s a lesbian and is like “so THAT’S why you were never into me!” Dude, no. The default setting on girls is not “into you unless lesbian.” Sorry not sorry to burst your bubble. Just no.

And the special effects are hokey. Probably the worst of the Arrow-Flash-Supergirl triumvirate. Wonder why that is. Different budgets? Different production companies? More challenging scenarios? Who knows.

So — the million dollar question — is the show empowering? Or *gasp* feminist? 

Well, purely by virtue of it being populated by multiple female characters who consistently interact with each other in meaningful ways, unrelated to the male characters, it is as feminist and empowering as almost any shows I’ve seen this side of a Shonda Rimes production. There are definitely some moments that ring false, like when a character heavy-handedly says, “A female hero! Someone my daughter can look up to,” but overall, it’s a solid start. And if the showrunners catch onto the fact that allowing multiple women to take center stage and go about their business is being feminist, and that waving your arms all, “HEY LOOK AT US BEING ALL FEMINIST OVER HERE!!!1!!” is not so much, there’s hope for it to get even better in that department.

Have you seen the Supergirl pilot? What did you think? Feel free to disagree with me in the comments 🙂

 

 

______________

Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

 

Career Talk — Part 2: Most Frustrating Job Experiences

Background/Intro (skip to the next bold header if you read this last time)

I posted a call for submissions on a couple of platforms, and  I am still accepting submissions, as this will be an ongoing multi-post series. Because, in the words of Amy Adams’ character from Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day: “The crisis is ongoing!”

Also, many of the submissions were very detailed and I want to keep these posts to a reasonable length, so each post will be dedicated to a different question on the list below, and when I’m done with that, I’ll hopefully start again from question #1 with new submissions.
The original call/prompt was as follows:

I’m currently at a crossroads in my career, and I’m hoping to write a blog post next week to help get my brain thinking about various different options. I would love to hear from people in any and all professions. If you’re interested, let me know in your comment or via email or message: a) what your job is, b) whether you’d like to remain anonymous, and c) an answer to one or more of the following questions:

1) What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had at your current job?

2) What’s the most frustrating experience you’ve had at your current job?

3) What’s the most helpful or supportive thing a coworker has ever done for you?

4) What’s the worst thing a coworker has ever done to you?

5) What’s the funniest story you have from your current job?

I just came up with these questions so they’re not comprehensive – if there’s a particular work experience or story you’d like to share that doesn’t fit any of them, feel free to share it anyway! This is just an exercise to help me get the gears turning in my brain as I figure out what to do next with my life 🙂

So I’m not expecting this to solve my career stalemate, but at least it will hopefully provide some forward movement in my thoughts on the topic, because the thing about putting things in writing is, you have to move forward with them. You can’t just write the same sentence over and over again. (I mean, you can, and someone probably has, and they probably called it “art” — but let’s be honest, that is crap.)

(NOTE: Some names may have been changed to preserve anonymity, allowing me to exercise my brilliant pseudonym-making skillz.)

2) What’s the most frustrating experience you’ve had at your current job?

Answer #1: When some, very few, students are not interested in learning anything new, but want to merely copy some method they have learned, even when they are clearly frustrated by it, and would most likely gain understanding by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture.

Also, when my supervisor retired, the new one (apparently not as knowledgeable as the older one) at first constantly criticized various things I did as being incorrect until I provided sources to back up my work. It added a level of frustration that was completely unnecessary.

~Submitted by Roonil Wazlib, tutor

Oh, yes, I’ve been told I’m doing things wrong and had to prove myself right, or let someone else take over so that they could see for themselves why the conventional method or tool was not appropriate in that particular instance. It’s especially aggravating when you’re new at your job and don’t have the experience to know if anything you’re doing is actually right, and then you have to deal with everyone else second-guessing you on top of you second-guessing yourself. Even when you turn out to be right, it’s more draining than satisfying.

Answer #2: Most frustrating is my lack of career advancement at this particular company. A lot of that has to do with circumstances beyond my control, which I always have trouble with, being a complete control freak, as well as certain personality traits in my direct manager. He always sugar coats things b/c he doesn’t like to upset anyone and tends to beat around the bush and never tells you like it is. I’m the complete opposite and tend to expect/need others to do the same. It took me seriously overstepping my bounds and pissing him off royally to finally get a straight answer from him regarding my performance a couple of years ago. I’m hitting walls again and have not advanced as I’d like to and I’m not interested in pissing him off again. I don’t think it would end well if I did.

~ Submitted by Lorelai Gilmore, marketing

Being a constant newbie at this whole career thing, I haven’t really had a chance to worry about things like advancement and promotion. Hopefully one day I will experience these wonderful frustrations, but for now, it’s like people ask me, “You applied to X? Is there opportunity for advancement?” and I’m like, “I dunno, at this point I’m honestly just trying to find something that I can do day in and day out that doesn’t make me want to kill myself or others.” High standards, yo.

Answer #3: I had an team member who was a terrible employee. She rarely showed up on time, she never accomplished anything unless it was spelled out step by step what needed to be done. Our office is very self-driven. Team members are encouraged to seek out projects they find interesting. Rarely will there be a normal Supervisor [who] tells employee[s] what to do. Rather, we all gather together, mention interesting things we’ve heard of and someone says I want to do this!

Telling a team member what to do step by step is counterproductive to the way our office works. Often, our dynamic work environment takes a bit of time to get used to. We hire a few PT college students to work at our office and having them adjust to the not being told what to do mentality can be jarring. Usually they are excited by the chance to use their skills and experiences to make something of their own, and adjust quickly.

I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because this team member just didn’t find the work interesting. She would constantly come up with reasons that her bad behavior was due to an external cause that was over, only for another issue to rise up. The excuses were never ending, and it was the most frustrating experience I’ve had with a coworker.

Everyone in our office is pretty passionate about what we do. To have this team member disrespect our work by very blatantly not caring was a difficult experience for me. I realized two things about management and people at this point:

  1. You can’t force people to care. If it isn’t something they find marginally interesting (or isn’t at all related to what they’ve done previously) even the most collaborative dynamic office will be a challenge. Now, things are related in ways you might not expect. For example, my major focused heavily on things like learning and cognitive processes. Understanding how people think and learn are very related to working on projects dedicated to learning. You, SM, went  from Creative Writing to Mechanic, a fairly dichotomous pair. However, they have a lot of similarities in skills required. Both require an understanding of progress and effect. How something that happens in one area can impact every other aspect of the car/story.
  2. How people interact with each other and thrive in environments is extremely important to their workplace happiness. This team member had worked in various different fields before, and I looked over her resume to see where I went wrong. I realized, while several of her previous positions involved a self-driven attitude, they also all involved interacting with lots of people. In our office, we frequently brainstorm different ideas, research on our computers for a few hours and meet back. To have to do work that involved long periods of time without interacting with people drained this team member.

~Submitted by Ms. Watson, a programmer

A lot of what you wrote, Ms. Watson, reminded me of why I don’t want to write for a living or be a journalist or something like that, despite people constantly thinking I’d be great at it just because I can string two sentences together.

As a freelance writer, you have to be very self-driven, as you describe your office as being. I’m certainly self-driven in some ways, but not in the “constantly coming up with new ideas” kind of way. For instance, as a fiction writer, I’m primarily a novelist, not a short story writer. I don’t come up with idea after idea after idea — I occasionally stumble onto one thing that speaks to me, and I develop it. My posts on this blog and on my Facebook Notes work in much the same way — once in a while something strikes me, and I ruminate on it and explore it from multiple angles. I don’t sit around trying to come up with new ideas, and I’ve always hated the idea of the pressure to constantly come up with and churn out new content, just for the sheer volume of it, because that’s how you pay the bills. Some people have wonderfully creative minds and are naturally always inventing new stories, ideas, patterns, songs, and so on — but I’m not. And I would absolutely hate to have to be.

Then there’s the flip-side, where you write for something that assigns everything so you’re always writing their ideas and not your own, and then you have to force yourself to care about whatever assignment you’re given, in order to write it. And as you said, that’s impossible. I’ve done copywriting like that in the past, and it felt like I was destroying my soul. I’m not being melodramatic here; that is literally what it felt like. It was bad. And the thought of doing that to myself on a regular basis? Just kill me now.

This is why I prefer copyediting. Other people come up with the ideas, and you don’t have to write them. Best of both worlds. You just fix and polish and perfect. But you’re absolutely necessary; the finished product is clearly and measurably better because of you.

And YES, environment and coworkers are unbelievably important for my job satisfaction. I do not function well without allies. I survive, but I’m almost always miserable in those situations.

Answer #4: The WORST part about my job was the schooling for it. It was literally hell. It was the worst years of my life, and I did not have a typical “college” experience. Even the fact knowing that I need to take the boards again when i am 30, and every 10 years after that, gives me the occasional nightmare.

Day to day the job is stressful when there are a ton of patients and I need to move quickly and patients complain they were waiting for a long time, and I get upset that it’s not my fault, because you can’t rush an exam and they need to schedule people better. Or I get frustrated when I tell a patient they need to come in for a biopsy because they might have cancer, and they just never come back, and then I am responsible legally to call them and send a certified letter or else they can sue me when they have cancer and I’ll be blamed even though they are a grown adult and I TOLD them to come back and warned them.

~Submitted by Elisheva, physician assistant

Thanks for the heads-up about the schooling. Definitely good to know. I’m not sure when I’ll have the stomach for a hellish school experience, but it’s definitely not right now.

And yeah, people who don’t listen are the worst. My doctors would probably say that makes me the worst. Sigh. I’m the worst. I’m working on taking better care of myself, though, I swear!

Answer #5: When I got what I considered my first real job as an editor, it was at a women’s magazine. Early in the game, in an attempt to be responsible, I gave my boss of list of all the days off I’d be taking that year. I was entitled to X number of days, and I itemized all X of them. Several were Jewish holidays. She looked at the list and said to me, “This is fine, but at some point in your career, you’re going to have to decide which is more important to you, your career or your religion.” I was pretty shocked by the remark and decided then and there that nobody was ever pulling that kind of anti-Semitic crap on me again and that for the rest of my working life I was going to take off all Jewish holidays Orthodox Jews took, regardless of how I spent them.

~Submitted by Judy Jewett, editor

I have luckily never had to deal with that kind of crap. All the schools I’ve ever gone to and all the jobs I’ve ever had have all been extremely mindful of my religious requirements. Fingers crossed that any future employers will be just as understanding.

MY ANSWER: Oh gosh, where do I even start.

Well, like I said up there, there were those times when I was told I was doing something wrong and turned out to be doing it right. Like when I was looking everywhere for the breaker bar and socket, and was told, “no, take this wrench,” and I’d say, “no, I don’t have the leverage to use that,” and they’d say, “of course you do,” and then I’d spend five minutes trying to loosen the bolt with that wrench, before tossing it aside and demanding the breaker bar, and breaking the bolt loose in two seconds with it.

There were times when I was given a tool and told to do a job and I tried approximately a hundred times, and in between tries, I insisted that this tool was not well suited for this job at this angle; something else was needed. And I was told to just keep trying, which I did until I was thoroughly fed up and basically begged for help. At which point the mechanic who had assigned me the job would go over to his tool box, take out a different tool or an add-on to the original tool, which I of course had not known existed but had been asking for since the beginning, and he’d complete the job with that.

And there were times when I was given a job to do on my own that was not physically possible for one person to accomplish. That happens a lot with cars, btw — I’ve seen 4 grown male mechanics struggle to work together to remove a single bolt. That’s just how these things are designed sometimes. But I’m inexperienced, and I don’t know enough to always tell the difference between when something is “impossible” or when it’s just “really hard.” Because sometimes it is just really hard and you need to suck it up and do it. And if I’m told to do something on my own, I tend to assume it’s not impossible, because what kind of sadist assigns impossible jobs to the newbie, so I would push myself to the very limits of my strength, and then push some more, because maybe I just thought I’d reached my limit but really I just needed that little…bit…more… I was constantly afraid of hurting myself, of pulling something, of throwing out my back from pushing too hard because I just didn’t have the experience to know when I should stop.

Oh, and often the other mechanics would just be standing around watching me struggle. How’s that for work environment.

Up next: Most Supportive Coworker Experiences! Stay tuned, and submit if you’ve got a good one!

______________

Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

#ThrowbackThursday — Radio Segment on Suzyn Waldman

Lesser known SM facts: I worked at the Brooklyn College Radio station for about a year, starting as an intern and winding up an associate producer, which meant I got my own segment to talk about whatever I wanted, as long as it was at least tangentially related to the designated theme of the episode. I’m writer more than I am a talker, but I write conversationally, so I always wrote out my bits and read them, using them as jumping off points for conversation with the other members of our show, which would fill up the remaining minutes of the segment after I’d started it off.

I came across the printout of this segment when I was cleaning my room this week, in an attempt to clear space for the MONSTER PILE OF TOOLS that I bought this week when it went on sale for $310. Alas, I have no date written on it anywhere, but the file on my laptop says it was last modified on July 25th 2013, so I’ll go with that.

 

*    *    *

 

Since we’re putting a spotlight on journalists and journalism tonight, I decided I wanted to focus on one particular journalist, and through that, maybe talk a bit about the larger topic of women in journalism.

 

The female journalist I want to focus on is Suzyn Waldman. She is the current color commentator for the Yankees radio broadcasts, and she gets no respect. Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to has an opinion about her, and that opinion is almost universally, “She sucks.” And the less tactful accuse her of sleeping her way up the ladder.

 

I don’t find that surprising, but I obviously find it very frustrating, because let me tell you some stuff about Suzyn Waldman.

 

1) She’s been working in baseball broadcasting for 20 years. If she’s been sleeping her way to the top, she’s been very slow about it.

 

2) She was the first Yankees beat reporter for WFAN in 1987, and people would literally walk out of the room when she was on the air. She would get condoms sent to her in the mail. And she still didn’t quit.

 

3) She started at a time when female sports reporters had just been granted permission to enter the locker rooms to do their jobs. There’s a famous story about how a Toronto player named George Bell started swearing at her and declared that he wouldn’t answer any questions as long as there was a woman in the clubhouse. Nobody stood up for her, and she was about to leave, when another Toronto player, Jesse Barfield, said, “Hey, Suzyn, I got three hits today. You want to talk to me?”

 

(I met Jesse Barfield, by the way, in Yankees fantasy camp a few years ago. He is really nice.)

 

4) She worked in musical theater for 15 years and has performed on Broadway.

 

5) She’s a breast cancer survivor who went to work all through her chemotherapy in 1996 because she knew that if she took any time off, she wouldn’t get her job back.

 

She’s a pioneer for women in sports journalism. She’s been the first female color commentator in a broadcast booth. She’s the first woman to call a World Series game. She’s won the respect of players, managers, and many people in the broadcast world. She’s persevered through a ton of garbage and had a long and successful career.

 

But her critics are relentless. They hate her voice, they hate her face, they hate when she agrees with her broadcast partner, they hate when she’s dramatic, they hate when she’s repetitive.

 

I don’t think she’s necessarily the best analyst or commentator in the galaxy, but she’s far from the worst, and I think that unquestionably, if she were a man, she wouldn’t face nearly this much scrutiny.

 

So I wanted to bring up that question and ask if you’ve found that your female colleagues face more criticism than you do? Or different types of criticism? Like it’s very rare for a successful guy to be accused of sleeping his way to the top, but it happens all the time with successful women.

 

______________

Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading! You can also buy me tools from this Wishlist but really I just like money.

#ThrowbackWednesday — “Sandwich Method On Myself”

Since I missed last Thursday’s throwback post (for a legitimate reason this time — it was the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah), I’m gonna post this today and pretend I’m trying to make #ThrowbackWednesday happen. (It’s not going to happen.)

Original post is from August 26th, 2012, and it’s relevant for its soul-searching and introspection that are supposed to mark this portion of the Jewish year. I don’t know if I’ll have time before Yom Kippur this Saturday to write up a revised version of this list, so I’m going to hide my laziness behind Past-Me’s poignant self-analysis.

 

* * *

 

Sandwich Method on Myself

 

No, this post has nothing to do with feminism.

 

The “sandwich method” is a colloquial name for method of critique that I’ve been encouraged to use in some of my writing workshop classes, because it is a) the most humane, and b) generally the most effective. It “sandwiches” the criticisms between positive feedback, i.e. it starts with the good, then moves on to the bad, and ends with restating the good or adding more good. People tend to be more receptive to sandwich-structured critiques because it’s clear that you’re on their side.

 

It’s Elul now, the Hebrew month before the start of the Jewish New Year, and I have to admit: I’m not particularly proud of this year.

 

I let myself be treated poorly. I left myself be kicked around, I let myself be used. Not saying I was a doormat, because that would be extreme and untrue, but I let my standards slide at times, and let myself think certain things were “okay,” because I thought the trade-offs were worth it and that I was being too picky about what I needed from my friends.

 

So I’ve decided to use the sandwich method on myself, because it’ll probably be more productive than just wallowing or beating myself up over any of this.

 

Some things I’m good at:

 

1)   Making soup.

2)   Calming people down when they’re freaking out.

3)   Talking myself out of doing stupid things.

4)   Hiding my pain.

 

Things I’m bad at:

 

1)   Talking to my parents.

2)   Giving up.

3)   Letting go.

4)   Listening to music for more than half an hour without wanting to bawl my eyes out.

5)   Not getting sick.

6)   Writing on days when I have no inspiration.

7)   Getting my required volunteer hours done. [Edit from the future: This was a college requirement for my Honors program and I got them done!]

8)   Not telling myself “you’re asking too much” when no, I’m asking for very little.

9)   Keeping in touch with people who aren’t on facebook.

10)  Wearing high heels.

11)  Not judging people who wear high heels even with back and leg problems.

12)  Not valuing the opinions of some people who aren’t really my friends over the opinions of my true friends.

13)  Doing my laundry in a timely fashion.

 

Things I’ve gotten better at but am still not great at:

 

1)   Talking to strangers.

2)   Confronting the people who hurt me.

3)   Not burning quinoa.

4)   Not throwing up when certain conversation topics come around.

5)   Making plans that require me to leave the house and put on clothes.

 

Some more things I’m good at:

 

1)   Keeping in touch with people who ARE on facebook.

2)   Finding humor and fun in almost everything.

3)   School.

 

 

And a serious question for those of you who think that my list probably isn’t comprehensive: What else am I bad at and should work on during the upcoming year?

 

“Shut up about your lists and make me a sammich, woman!”

 

______________

Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading!

#ThrowbackThursday — “Thoughts on Beauty”

I don’t have a particular reason for posting this one at this time; I was just scrolling through my Facebook notes and it caught my attention for some reason. Original post is from June 3, 2013.

* * *

I have a lot of thoughts on this particular topic, and they’re not all connected or necessarily consistent, so I’m going to write a bunch of them up in the disjointed way they ricochet around in my brain.

Not the beauty I’m talking about. But prettyyyyyyyy.

____

I like being pretty. Would definitely not trade it for being ugly.

____

I don’t think of myself as pretty most of the time. I usually only consider myself pretty when I’m wearing makeup. Without makeup, I think I’m fairly average. If I had to pick numbers on a scale, which I don’t naturally think of but if I absolutely had to, I’d say that without makeup, I’m a 6, maybe a 7 on a good day. With makeup, I’m easily an 8, maybe a 9.

____

As an ex of mine pointed out, “There’s no such thing as makeup for boobs.” This is true; they don’t change much no matter what I do. Neither do the rest of the curves. Truth be told, I like my body more than I like my face.

____

Faces are a much bigger attraction to me than bodies, though. Which is probably why in my mind, my numerical rank falls so sharply when I’m not wearing makeup, even though obviously my body stays the same.

____

It’s only recently that my beauty has become a defining characteristic for me. Like in the last few years. Until then, I’d always seen myself as defined by my brains; people would meet me and their immediate reaction would be, “Wow, you’re really smart.” Now I suspect quite a few people who meet me, especially when I’m all dressed to impress, have the immediate reaction of, “Wow, she’s really hot.”

I cultivated that reaction; I know that. But I’m not sure what shifting that focus has done to me and my self-image. I went through a period where I wanted to shift the focus again, to “Wow, she’s really nice,” but I’m not sure “nice” is ever going to be what comes to mind when people think of me. I’m too rough around the edges for that.

____

That’s probably why I wear so many colors and do unusual/“quirky” things with my style — I never want to be just “hot” in a way that obscures me into some generic representation you’d find anywhere on the internet.

____

I’d have been a terrible candidate for that Dove ad campaign video, because I almost always think I’m prettier than I am.

____

I have days when I feel like I look fantastic — until I look in a mirror. Those are days when mirrors are to be avoided.

____

I have days when I feel blah and then I look in a mirror and realize I look pretty awesome. Those are days when I don’t avoid mirrors at all.

____

I’ve had days when a relationship was going badly and I looked in the mirror and saw that I looked absolutely beautiful, and I felt like a monster for presenting this face to the public and pulling people in when I was only going to end up hurting them.

____

It’s nice to have a conversation with a guy every once in a while when I know he’s unequivocally not interested in me “that way,” when I’m not dressed up or made up or flirting or engaging on any level beyond mind-to-mind. It’s affirming to know that I still have a mind worth engaging with — I worry about that sometimes.

____

I think that, generally speaking, I’m a really good person to talk to. But a lot of the time, that makes me think that if I weren’t pretty, most people would rather have me as a friend. My attractiveness just makes things confusing for a little while.

____

Sometimes, when I walk into a room full of strangers, I do an instant assessment of whether I am one of — if not the — most attractive girls in the room. It’s shallow and petty and obviously stemming from insecurity, but it’s nice to feel like I’m holding my own in some way, even in the most meaningless, superficial one.

____

I don’t think that beauty alone will “snag you a good husband” or get you a fulfilling relationship, because any guy (or girl) worth their salt will be able to tell pretty quickly if there’s nothing beyond the shell. But I do think that being beautiful can get me a second glance, and often buys you more time than you would get otherwise, and sometimes that’s enough to let you get yourself together and make it work. It’s not fair, but I think it’s true.

____

I also think it’s true that no matter how hot you are, if the other person is self-respecting enough to realize that you’re just not clicking together properly, or that someone else is a better match, it doesn’t matter one whit.

____

I like getting hit on on subways. I complain about it and mock the people who do it and find it hilarious how not-smooth people can be, but I like being noticed as long as I can get away as soon as I want to and don’t feel physically threatened.

____

There are situations where I feel physically threatened because of a) being female and b) looking the way I look. You learn power dynamics fairly quickly when you’re a pretty girl. Eye contact is usually a bad idea, unless you’re the one making them uncomfortable for being caught staring. In that case, it’s kind of fun.

There are also a few scenarios where eye contact is okay because the guy can’t possibly follow you anywhere, like if he’s a street performer and you’re walking past. Or if you’re walking down a crowded sidewalk and he’s heading in the other direction and your gazes cross for an instant. But that second one’s still a bit iffy; I have been followed for like half a block by a guy trying to start a conversation because I accidentally made eye contact with him.

Sunglasses are amazing because then you can look wherever you darn well please and nobody knows.

____

Smiles are incredibly powerful. Every guy who’s ever crushed on me has singled out my smile as being my most attractive feature. I never used to like my smile much; it’s crooked and asymmetrical, but apparently that’s part of its charm. I’m conscious of deliberately using mine a lot more than I used to, to put people at ease. I evidently have a very warm, non-threatening smile, and on the positive side, that can make people comfortable around me, and on the negative side, it can make people comfortable around me. I rely on it a lot in semi-professional situations.

Also, babies like it.

____

Well, those are some of my thoughts on this. Hope your time wasn’t wasted reading them.

I feel like this is a topic people don’t talk about, or if they do, it’s usually in a trashy way or a way that’s either all positive — “let your sexy inner goddess out!!” — or all negative — “beauty is worthless, only the soul matters!!” — and as with all things in life, there’s more to it than that.

(It goes without saying that what I’ve written here in no way speaks for the mindset of all girls, but I will say it anyway: What I’ve written here in no way speaks for the mindset of all girls.)

______________

Like my thinky thoughts? You can commission more of them via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — or subscribe on the sidebar, and thanks for reading!

Girl in Automotive School: Injury Edition

 

Last week, someone got hurt in class.

 

He spent half an hour lying on the floor, whimpering into silence.

 

No, it wasn’t some horrific accident like the kind my parents worry about happening to me — no hands were caught between engine pulleys or transmission gears and ground into a bloody pulp.

 

The guy fell out of the trunk of a car.

 

For real. That’s what happened.

 

You see, our shop assignment that day [CAR SPEAK ALERT] was to remove a component of the car’s rear suspension, a part called the strut (a spring combined with a shock absorber), to be exact. Struts are positioned vertically behind the wheels of cars. They go up in a fairly straight line from behind the wheel right up to the bottom of the car body.

 

It’s the black springy thingy behind the wheel.

 

This means that while the bottom bolts of the strut are accessible by reaching underneath the car, the top of the strut is bolted to the car itself, and therefore the bolts are generally INSIDE the car, fastening it there. We dug around and eventually found the top bolts inside the trunk, underneath the carpet in the shadowy inner corner.

 

Some groups got access to the bolts by going through the rear passenger seats. But the best angles for ratcheting and unscrewing the bolts could only be achieved by climbing into the trunk and working in there.

 

So that’s what this guy had been doing. Since other teams were also working on the bottom parts of their struts at the same time, all the cars we were using were on lifts, elevated a few feet off the ground. Not sure how high exactly; maybe 3 feet? Not exactly Mt. Everest, but requiring moderate levels of coordination for ascent and descent.

 

And this guy botched it. Twisted his knee and wound up on the floor, drawing the attention and curiosity of the entire shop.

 

Full disclosure: I had been doing this exact same job. In fact, I was the one in the class who realized that going into the trunk was the best option, and since I am one of the few in class small enough and agile enough to comfortably fit in a trunk (put that on the ole resume), I jumped right in. And out. Several times over the course of the afternoon, to loosen this bolt and that bolt and “oh can you get this one too” and “what the hell, just take ‘em all out, you’re already in there” and then of course tightening all the bolts back up when we put the strut back on.

 

And not once did I injure myself hopping in and out of the trunk, because I am a ~graceful swan~ oh yes.

 

But this guy, either through clumsiness or sheer bad luck, managed to get himself hurt. There was a flurry of activity and sympathy at first: clustering around where he lay half-curled on the floor; fetching him an ice pack; fetching him a chair; helping him get into it — but by the fifteen-minute mark, after he’d abandoned the chair in favor of lying unmoving on the floor again, sympathy began to ebb among some of my classmates.

 

I heard one of my friends laughing around the toolbox with some of the other guys.

 

“What?” I asked.

 

“Nothing, just laughing at what a terrible person I am.”

 

“Oh really? Why?”

 

He lowered his voice a jot. “Look, he’s in pain. I get it. I’ve been there.” (For reference, this friend was awarded five — count ‘em, FIVE — Purple Hearts before being medically discharged from the Army after 15 years, and takes daily prescription painkillers for the injuries that still haven’t quite healed. He specializes in getting shot and blown up.) “But it’s like, come on, man, you don’t have to lie down on the floor; that’s a bit dramatic.”

 

I told him I was inclined to agree, because if I got hurt in class, no matter how bad it was, you know what I’d do? Hide it. Why? Because I’m a girl. And the minute anyone sees me show weakness in that kind of public way, that’s the last time anyone’s gonna take me seriously. I don’t care if that means I have to hole up in the bathroom until an ambulance gets there — there’s just too much credibility at stake for me to risk anyone seeing me in that sort of state. Lots of people already think I am weaker or less competent because I’m female; I can’t afford to give them anything that might reinforce their stereotyping.

 

This guy, on the other hand, could lie on the floor for an hour if he wanted and people are still going to think he’s better suited for this profession than I am.

 

The next day, I overheard him talking to his friends and it turns out he had pre-existing problems with his ACL, but like most guys in school, he can’t take the necessary time off to get surgery, even if he can afford to pay for it. So yeah, his injury and behavior make a bit more sense. But still.

 

Why does this matter so much to me? Well, I’m not especially physically strong. I’m not especially athletic. I have a family history of arthritis and a personal history of back problems, and I live in constant fear that they will rear their party-pooping heads and derail my fledgling career. Or that I will otherwise destroy myself physically. (The night before I started school, I had freakout to a friend which basically consisted of me going, “BUT WHAT IF I GET HURT?!” and her going, “You’re not going to get hurt,” and me going, “YOU DON’T KNOW THAT!” A barrel of laughs I was that night, yup yup.)

 

So I have to admit that it eats at me to know that there are guys in this industry who are just as physically damaged as I am, if not much more so, who are probably much more of a liability than I am, and yet people are going to look at that guy and infer “strong” but look at me and infer “weak.” Because, again, in case you forgot, I am a girl.

 

It’s frustrating, to say the least.

 

___

Care to support my automotive endeavors? You can donate to my automotive school tuition and commission more writings, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading!

Also, you can get email notifications of my blog posts by subscribing with that widget thing on the sidebar! Ain’t that neat?

#ThrowbackThursday — Clothes (or “Sluttiness Is Relative”)

In an effort to slowly migrate much of my writing from Facebook to the wider web, I’m going to be digging up an old post every Thursday and reposting it here for your amusement. Enjoy!
[This post was originally a Facebook note from October 19, 2012.]

“Honest question,” I said while arranging vegetable platters in the synagogue kitchen, “what do you think of this dress? Because my mom called it a hooker dress.”

Alex, my 40-ish bespectacled curly-haired supervisor and friend, glanced at the outfit judiciously. “Well, I guess I could see where she’s coming from? If it were 1972?” He crossed the kitchen to stick a platter in the fridge. “I mean, to be fair, a lot of your clothes are, well, mildly provocative? But other people could probably wear them without . . . Well, they have a different effect, because you have a, shall we say, rather . . . nice figure? And I’m going to leave it at that, because I’m a married, Orthodox Jewish man.”

(Don’t worry, this didn’t get Alex into any trouble with his wife. When I told her about this exchange, she almost busted a gut laughing: “I love my husband.” Cuz he’s awesome.)

I think some of the stuff I’m going to say in the rest of this will probably offend some people and make me sound unbelievably shallow and horrible to the rest. On the other hand, a lot of you probably already know this stuff about me and you haven’t run for the hills yet. So.

I don’t dress to blend in. At least, not most of the time. I can, I can wear a sweatshirt and long dark skirt and my glasses and I can disappear. I do that sometimes, when I’m tired or not feeling well or just not feeling up to being the me I want to be. In high school when I hadn’t had a chance to shower in three days, I’d wear a hood up all day and most likely not talk to anyone. I do that in 90-degree heat sometimes too, because nothing says “give this person some space” like wearing a hooded sweatshirt in a sweltering New York City summer. Ellen Pompeo (Meredith from Grey’s Anatomy) has always avoided paparazzi and kept a low profile simply by wearing the same plain black tracksuit outfits all the time. It bores them.

But I know how to dress to stand out, and I often do, since I don’t have to hide from paparazzi. I wear bright colors, loud patterns, materials that hug tight to every curve of my body — or at least the ones I want to emphasize, like the narrow waist and the full chest and the flare of my hips. I’ve had this figure since I was 12, and it was cumbersome and embarrassing and inconvenient then, so I have no interest in apologizing for having grown into it. A friend of mine once explained how she spotted me when we arranged to meet up in a crowded place: “I asked myself, ‘who’s wearing the funkiest clothes here?’ Aaaaand there you were.”

The word “slutty” is a word that needs to die, in my opinion — any character judgments based on how much or how little sex you have are just so ugh — but it gets tossed around when discussing my clothing, so I’m going to address it.

*

Principle #1 that people need to understand, the Prime Directive of clothing choices, is that clothes look different on different people. Especially on different women. We come in all shapes and sizes, as anyone with half an eyeball should know. With guys, slap on a suit and you’re good to go. But there are very, very, very few things that look good on all women. Hence my feeling that school uniforms being “equalizers” is absurd — it’s really tough to make a shapeless collared shirt and pleated black skirt look good; only a few girls per grade tend to be able to pull it off. Uniforms like that only serve to better distinguish the hotties from the notties, if you know what I mean. There may be plenty of other reasons for school uniforms, but equalizing? That’s bull.

And there are certain things that some women can wear that will just look sexier on them than on another girl or woman.

At my little sister’s junior high and possibly high school, there is a policy of “skirting,” which means that if an administrator spots you wearing a skirt that is deemed too short for the dress code’s knee-length requirements, they can yank you aside and make you wear a long black skirt from the office for the rest of the day. My sister used to come home complaining about how she got “skirted” for the same exact skirts that other girls would get away with wearing every day, the kind that missed the knee by maybe an inch. I never knew quite how to tell her, “Look, they’re not bothering with those other girls because those girls probably have no figure, no curves. You do, so stuff looks more suggestive on you. They’re basically penalizing you for looking sexier in the same exact piece of clothing. It’s not about the length; it’s about the overall look.”

Hey, I think it’s important to let girls at that age, who are just coming into their sexuality, know that they should be aware of how their bodies and clothes make them look. But then schools should make it about that, not about some blanket skirt-length modesty rules that are hardly ever enforced equally across the board and tend to humiliate girls simply for being more attractive than their peers.

Now back to me.

There are certain things that look sexier on me than on a mannequin or on most other women. For instance, a button-down shirt will look a heck of a lot more “slutty” on me than on most girls, because if the shirt fits at my waist, there is no way it is going to button all the way up. Just not gonna happen. It’s proportions, physics, science. But that is not my fault and I’m not going to swear off perfectly unobjectionable clothing merely because the shape of my body means it might offend some puritan sensibilities.

Beyond that, though, certain individual items of clothing that I wear, taken in a vacuum, could be considered slutty in a general sense. Low-cut strapless dresses with transparent lace panels, skintight faux leather corset-ish tops, minidresses with strategic cutouts. The “hooker dress” that got my mother a bit worked up was a very form-fitting, knee-length, red-patterned halter-top dress that, in the words of my 18-year-old little sister, “barely contains your boobage.”

“I know!” I said. “Isn’t it awesome?”

She rolled her eyes and huffed an exasperated sigh.

(Big sisters. We exist to embarrass you.)

But if you’ve ever seen me, you know that I’ve never worn any of these pieces of clothing in a way that could possibly be construed as a come-on. I wear long-sleeved, high-neckline shirts underneath anything remotely low-cut, and ankle-length skirts to complement any hemline that falls above the knee. As another married male friend observed, “I suspect that with all the layers you wear, you could take off your outer dress and still be fully clothed.” Which is totally true. I’ve somehow become a master at dressing slutty without showing any skin. It’s very confusing for some people, apparently.

*

The most you could ever call my outfits is “suggestive” or, as Alex put it, “mildly provocative.” I’m clearly not a “slut” in the “advertising for sex” sense. (If I was, that would be my choice and none of your business, either. But it happens not to be the case.) If anything, I’m a tease. All look, don’t touch.

I don’t mind being looked at. Sometimes I keep track of how many people do a double-take or look twice at me when I walk by. It’s the power-mad social-scientist in me — I like to make people react. It amuses me. A prolonged look on the subway from someone who’s wondering if I realized my neon socks are mismatched is in some ways just as good as the mock-scandalized looks my friends give when I wear something envelope-pushing.

As a formerly painfully self-conscious person who was sure everyone was always staring at her, it’s a lot less disconcerting to be looked at when I know exactly why people are looking, and that I’m controlling that.

(Yeah, look at me on a budget — I make my own fun!)

But mostly, I just wear what I like.

“My mom thinks I’m ‘sending out a message,’ ” I said to Alex.

“Nah. The only message you send out with your clothes is that you make your own rules,” he replied. “And I think that’s the message you want to send, no?”

____

Like my thinky thoughts? Want more of them? Consider donating and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading! And you can keep up with me on Twitter @FloatingSpirals and never miss a post 🙂

You can subscribe and get email updates by using that widget thing on the sidebar! Ain’t that neat?