REVIEW — The Flash, Season 1, Episode 15, “Out of Time” [#SPOILERALERT]



I was commissioned way too many months ago by a generous [and patient!] donor to review an episode of The Flash of my choosing. (Commissioned post #8, booya!) First I thought I’d do the pilot, because it was a pretty darn good one and record-setting to boot. Then I thought I’d do the Flash/Arrow crossover, because it was pretty epic.
And then last night’s episode came along, and, well, I had to write about it. Not because I loved it, but because it is such a hugely important episode (a real “gamechanger” as the showrunners have been telling us), and ultimately, to me, a hugely frustrating episode. And I feel like most reviews are going to be going gaga over how awesome they thought it was, so I just have to come along and poop on everybody’s opinions before it’s too late.



So on the one hand, I am really really glad that they FINALLY told us who Harrison Wells is (or confirmed it, anyway, since my comic book geek friends have been telling me for weeks that in the comics, Reverse Flash’s last name is Thawne, and thus he’s probably a descendant of Eddie Thawne — aka Mr Romantic Obstacle who will be discussed later — and that’s why Reverse Flash didn’t kill Eddie when he had the chance). And the show told us his main motivation: to pull a Marty McFly and get back to the future. He’s been trapped in this time period for 15 years, and he believes the Flash’s speed holds the key to him getting back to his own time, and he’s so desperate to return that he’s been sociopathically murdering anyone who might hurt or kill Barry, because that would destroy his only chance to get home.


Great. Got that. It mostly makes sense. (Except the part where he was going back in time to kill Barry in the first place. That one’s still a mystery for a later date.)


What I did NOT get:


What are the parameters of Dr Wells’ powers? Wtf is that speed mirage thing? How fast can he go and what else can he do, and also WHAT THE HECK was Cisco looking at when he was reexamining the containment field? That was what almost killed the whole scene for me — he’s running some kind of test on the containment field and then the Reverse Flash appears within the forcefields, doing and saying exactly what he did and said that first time, and it’s supposed to be this BIG REVEAL MOMENT, but I…didn’t get it? What was it? A recording? A hologram preprogrammed by Wells to do all that stuff, including beating him up (there were actual bruises on Wells; they treated him for his injuries) and killing all those cops? But can a hologram beat up a person and kill things? And if it wasn’t a hologram then what? Huh? Was it another application of this whole speed mirage nonsense? That Wells-in-the-Yellow-Suit was a speed mirage left over to beat up Wells-not-in-the-Yellow-Suit? But a speed mirage lasts seconds.


I haven’t looked up anyone else’s reviews or explanations of what that was, because I want this review to be about my untainted reactions at the time that I watched it, and my untainted reaction at the time was: Error. Error. This does not compute in any way.




So for me that whole scene was a fail because when your Big Reveal moment winds up being just a Big Huh??? moment, it’s incredibly distracting and not only takes away from the reveal but takes away from what comes afterward because I was still all WHAT IN THE NAME OF ZEUS IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOING ON HERE when Wells himself came into the scene and [SPOILERED] Cisco and I suspect that part had much less of an impact on me than it was supposed to, because my head was still stuck several minutes back.


Speaking of which!


The other awesome/gamechanging development in this episode came in those final seconds when Barry somehow punches a hole through the fabric of the spacetime continuum and travels through time. Woohoo!! And surprise, he doesn’t go to the future or the very distant past — he goes back, conveniently, to nearly the beginning of the episode, so that the writers have in effect hit a handy dandy reset button on everything that happened after that. Cisco isn’t [SPOILERED], Wells hasn’t revealed himself, the police chief hasn’t been struck by lightning to save Joe, Joe hasn’t been kidnapped by the Weather Wizard, Barry hasn’t revealed his powers to Iris AT LONG LAST, Iris hasn’t confessed her undying love for Barry, Iris and Barry never did something so abominably thoughtless as smooch each other while in relationships with other people — but more on that development later.


As for time travel, it’s still super unclear what the rules are. Like, are there now two Barry Allens walking around in the past or did he somehow merge and become only one, because I didn’t see a second Flash on that streetcorner when he appeared in the past? And can he alter history now, or not? Because if he could, then what we saw happen would never have happened, because there would have been a second Flash running around stopping it in the first place, because time travel is circular and paradoxical and totally makes no sense.


But I figure they probably won’t address that and just have him try to change things and have OTHER things go wrong. Which I’m looking forward to, for sure.


But I think it’s a bad thing when an episode makes you feel glad that it pressed a reset button if the reason you’re glad is because you think most of the choices made by the characters were stupid choices and phew, now they get a do-over.


Like, oh my god, I am not okay with the direction the romance on this show has taken. I am really not a fan of when a show presents alternate love interests who (a) might as well have OBSTACLE emblazoned on their foreheads and then (b) proceeds to treat them poorly, depriving them of development and having the main characters who are dating them instead of each other treat these disposable obstacle characters like crap. (This is what happened to Dean after Jess got introduced on Gilmore Girls and so much NOPE there too.)


Barry, you are dating Linda. Focus on that. Stop dwelling on Iris. Stop asking Joe for advice about her; ask a neutral party. (Joe gives terrible advice here that deserves to be erased from the spacetime continuum; he advises Barry to “hold onto those moments” when he thinks Iris loves him back, rather than pay more attention to the girl he is actually dating. You cannot date someone seriously — and Linda has made it clear she would like to be dated seriously — if you are actively holding onto hope for someone else. Bad, Joe. You should know better.)


Iris, you are living with Eddie. You know Barry has feelings for you. Stop feeding that. Stop inserting yourself into his love life, by crashing his dates, being touchy-feely, giving him your unsolicited opinion that the girl he’s trying to date is wrong for him. That is an area of his life that you need to butt out of, period. Let him get over you and build new relationships. Not to mention the discomfort you’re causing Eddie. Which has reached a point where he speaks up about it and calls Iris on it. (Aside: I really liked how he did it, btw, the way he phrased it: “I didn’t like how I felt when…” I didn’t like how felt. He doesn’t accuse and blame her, but he makes his feelings clear that he felt like a third wheel when he shouldn’t have to feel like that. He was much more diplomatic than my little sister’s assessment, who is only 14 but can still tell that Iris’s behavior is not okay: “Iris is really bugging me right now.”)


All of this detracts majorly from the moment at the waterfront where Iris confesses her feelings and they kiss — the whole time my brain was just screaming “WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS ROMANTIC??? You are dating other people! You are lying to them! This is not romantic! This is not okay!” But with the music swell and the camera’s loving, lingering shots, clearly the show is presenting this moment as romantic, and I am so not cool with that. (Also Joe was being held hostage and there’s an impending tsunami and why are you kissing. Also that.)



Also was not cool with Linda’s line to Iris that she thought Iris had told Linda about Barry’s feelings because that was “typical weird crap women do to each other” — that line just radiates Male Writer in a way that really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe a woman who sees herself as such an outsider compared to other women might say something like that, but we really don’t know enough about Linda for that to feel authentic to her character. It basically sounds like a man writing a woman, and doing it badly.


Female representation on this show is not its strong suit, which is a crying shame, because representation of other minorities is done so well. There are multiple non-white characters in the regular cast, and it was established in an earlier episode that the chief of police has a boyfriend, who is now a fiancée.


That’s the one moment that I am sad to see vanish into the ether of rewound spacetime: the way everyone reacts to the fiancée — that is, they don’t react at all. They treat him as anyone would treat any distraught significant other, with no mention whatsoever of the fact that this is not a heterosexual relationship and no “look at us, we have a gay couple on our show!” It’s presented as completely mundane and normal. The show made such a statement by deliberately not making any statement at all, and I loved, loved, loved that.


One final gripe: Dear lord, everyone is so stupid about the Weather Wizard. After Cisco makes that magic weather wand, and after it has been proven to work, WHY ON EARTH IS JOE GOING ANYWHERE WITHOUT IT? What is wrong with you?? And since he didn’t take it, why didn’t Barry take it when he went to the waterfront?! WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID. (I know, I know, gotta pass the Idiot Ball around because Plot.)


One final non-gripe: The Weather Wizard is pretty. So glad he’s the one who gets to have a recurring role, and not the creepy-looking dude who played his brother.


So…yeah. These are my thinky thoughts. Basically, most of what happened in this episode bothered me, especially the romantic subplots and the stupid way everyone dealt with the Weather Wizard, and I was glad it was stricken from the record of history. If it was the intention of the writers to make me feel that way, well, good job, writers. But that doesn’t make me any more thrilled with the contents of this episode.



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My Year-In-Review, via Facebook Statii

It is way too much work to think back over this whole year and construct some kind of coherent narrative and write it all out for a serious, heavy-duty year-in-review. So instead I’m just gonna take the first and last Facebook status of every month of 2014 and post them in one spot, with minimal commentary in fancy schmancy italics. I’m excluding links and pictures and famous quotes and whatnot that aren’t just pure nuggets of wisdom straight from me. Enjoy?


January 1st

So, Wolf of Wall Street? Basically makes me want to go and hug everybody I know and be like, “OH MY GOD I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE NOT JORDAN BELFORT.” Oh, and DiCaprio better win the Oscar.

lolololol oscar hahahaha

January 30th

If I were to have a “What I Be” portrait done, I think I’d have “vampire” “acne” “makeup” and “smile lines” (with arrows) written on my face, with the caption: “I am not my skin.” And no, I’m not posting this for attention or validation. I’m posting this solely to annoy Rafi Skier.

Because *reasons.* Also, ha, remember that photography project? That happened.


February 2nd 

BAD. IT. IS. SO. BAD. ‪#‎SuperBowl‬

Nuff said.

February 27th

Please keep my friend and radio mentor Philip Rosenberg in your prayers, because he suffered a medical emergency today and is a devout atheist, so being prayed for would probably piss him off enough to get better so that he could yell at me.

Phil is doing just fine, yay! Proof there is a god! Suck it, Phil! (Also no we are not related. Thanks for asking.)


March 3rd

Another year, another zero Oscars for Leonardo DiCaprio. Dude is probably going to get a lifetime achievement award before anyone will give him an Oscar.

Whaddaya know.
March 31st

Why SM will never be a relationship counselor, episode 4567:

Friend: “Stop getting all the men to fall in love with you! Sheesh”
Me: “I’m a heartbreaker. It’s what I do.”
Him: “Yea, I know.”
Me: “you are lucky enough to be immune to whatever it is about me that hooks these poor suckers”
Him: “I thank Jesus for it every day.
My immunity means that I’ve messaged approximately 5 profiles on two websites in the last year, because the rest are boring.”
Me: “move to mongolia or something. People seem more alluring if you can’t understand what they’re saying.”

See, what did I tell you? Nuggets of wisdom. EVERYWHERE.


April 1st

Note to self: the axiom “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet” was invented for days like today. (Except for the outrage over the How I Met Your Mother finale. I think it’s safe to believe that.)

APRIL FOOLS DAY AMIRITE?? Still have not watched the last couple seasons of HIMYM. But I know I would hate the finale if I ever did. Because ewwwww.
April 30th

Why SM Will Never Be a Supervillain, Episode 93:

Friend: “So-and-so thinks you hate her.”
Me: “What? Why would she think that?”
Him: “I have no idea. I went to great pains to explain to her that SM doesn’t muster the energy to hate anybody.”
Me: “Seriously. Way too much effort.”

This was later amended in the comments (after other motivations for being a supervillain were presented) to more specifically: “Why SM Will Never Be Slade Wilson, Aside From his Awesome Goatee and Accent, Obviously.”


May 1st
Kid I babysit for: “I want you to join Minecraft. Because I want you to come live in this world with me, because I don’t like being the only person in this world.”

Me: “But couldn’t anyone else keep you company too?”
Him: “But I want YOU to live in it.”
Me: “Why me?”
Him: “Because I know you well and I really really want you to live in this world with me.”

I feel like I was just proposed to by a nine-year-old.

Winning ’em over while they’re young, that’s me.
May 31st
Another Heights shabbos gone — big thanks to everyone who invited me for meals, hung out with me, said hi, and especially to Galit Wernick for hosting me, listening to me explain how engines work, asking me to read “Something Borrowed” out loud for a hour or two, and agreeing to watch “The Normal Heart” with me tonight. Shavua Tov!
Galiiiiiiiit ❤ ❤ ❤
The Normal Heart 😦 😦 😦


June 2nd

Things nobody tells you about the differences between automotive school and a liberal arts college: An abbreviated, commonly used form of the word “transmission” is “tranny.” I still get whiplash hearing people throw that word around in a completely inoffensive context.

Yup. Still. Every time.
June 30th
Out of context quote of the day: “Joanna, don’t miss the orgy. I can tell you where it is.” ~ Tamar Pacht
No, I will not tell you the context. YOU ARE CURSED TO WONDER.


July 2nd

omg I love ewoks they are best thing in all of cinematic history

Context and justification not required.
July 31st

Today in “Questions Never Asked of Male Automotive Students” —

Instructor (apropos of nothing): “Do you know how to make apple pie?”
Me: “No.”
Him: “Do you know how to make cheesecake?”
Me: “Nope.”
Him: “Oh. See, I want to find out how to make them so that I can tell my wife how to make them.”
Me: “Google. Google knows everything.”

Unpack the sexism, people. Unpack. Go.

Also happy birthday Harry Potter!


August 2nd
It occurred to me this week that I am starting to become afraid to be a Jew in much the same way I am afraid to be a woman. I, as a woman, know that obviously not all men are rapists or misogynists, but I also know (from experience and from studies and history and well-documented events) that far too many are, and therefore I am instinctively cautious and apprehensive of most men I don’t know. And similarly, I, as a Jew, know that obviously not all people are anti-Semites, but I also know (from current events and experience and studies and history) that far too many are, and therefore am starting to become instinctively cautious and apprehensive of most people I don’t know. ‪#‎persecutioncomplex‬
Oh god the Gaza war. Let’s not do that again. (Ha. As if.)
August 31st
Dear body, you can sleep late on Sundays. Really. It’s okay. Sincerely, I DIDN’T GET TO SLEEP UNTIL 2 AM LAST NIGHT WHY AM I AWAKE


September 1st

So Labor Day is about honoring the blue collar workers? Honor me, people. I expect groveling.

Ahem. Still waiting.


September 30th

It will never not be creepy when guys I’ve never had class with and never spoken to call out to me by name when I walk by them in shop or in the hallways. Never. Ugh, so creepy.

*curls into fetal ball*


October 2nd

Signs you’re an auto mechanic student: You cringe every time you see a Chrysler Town and Country because the hood is too short so half the engine compartment extends under the dash and is a nightmare to work on. *shudders*

October 30th

Baby brother: “You’re going to school today?”
Me: “Yup!”
Him: “You know, a wizard could probably fix cars REALLY EASILY.”


little brothers always ruining everything


November 2nd

boston y u have such bad weather also y r u in boston. ugh boston. no me gusta. Awesome people though. Jacquie Chana Yocheved Wolpoe better come back to NYC soon or — or…I’ll just have to visit again, I guess.

but for real Boston sucks so much

November 28th

These Black Friday taglines of “The more you spend, the more you save!” are shorting out my logic circuits. That is literally not true. Stop it, internet.

although thank goodness for Black Friday because who knows if I’d have a tool set without it


December 1st

Things that frustrate me: the fact that we have the technology to land a probe on a comet but not to pack chips into a bag in such a way that the settling won’t result in 2/3 of a bag of air. ‪#‎darncapitalists‬

And don’t tell me the bag is the technology keeping the chips from being crushed. If there was any financial incentive to fit more chips in a bag, they’d find a way.
December 31st


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#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.



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Girl in Automotive School: On Symbolism


The High Holidays of Judaism always arrive at around this time of year: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, followed quickly by the less High but still 8-day long Holiday of Sukkot (7 days if you live in Israel).


And I’ve noticed this year, maybe even more than any other year, just how much each of these is rife with symbolism. There are unusual fruits eaten with their own brief prayers relating their metaphoric significance or at least puns about them and how they relate to the blessings we hope to have this year. There is apple dipped in honey for a sweet new year. There is round challah bread to symbolize the circle of life. On Yom Kippur, it’s a common custom to wear white to signify a fresh start. And don’t even get me started on all the things a sukkah may or may not symbolize.


Sometimes a sukkah is just a sukkah? Nope, never.


I’m not going to deny that symbolism can have great power, that seeing a physical manifestation or reminder of an emotional truth can be very effective. However, I think it’s largely true that the symbols that have the most power to us are not the ones that are passed down to us (not to say that there’s anything wrong them), but rather, the ones that we create for ourselves.


I am no stranger to making my own symbols. I’ve been choosing certain actions based on their metaphorical resonances since long before Augustus Waters made it cool.


[Side note: I recall reading a review of The Fault in Our Stars movie and the reviewer scoffed at Augustus’s cigarette metaphor, saying that it barely worked in the book and certainly doesn’t work on screen, and to that I say, “BAH. There’s nothing to ‘work’ or ‘not work’ about it. Either you acknowledge that there are people who create symbols for themselves or you don’t. And if you don’t, well, you’re wrong.” We may be unbearably pretentious but that doesn’t mean we don’t exist!]


For instance, a while back I took to wearing a fake engagement ring, first as a social experiment and then, as explained here, as a symbol to myself of all the times I have felt most wanted, chosen, or loved, by classmates, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, family, etc.


Lately, I’ve taken to wearing another kind of ring for symbolic purposes.


There is symbolism in my choice of hand pose and background posters as well. I’m just so symbolic.


The ring is a clamp from the inner tie rod of a car that we worked on in class. (Tie rods are what connect the tires to the car’s rack-and-pinion, which is attached to the steering gear and moves to the right and to the left to steer the car. Not important! Well, no, very important, but not in regard to this post.) Point is, it’s a piece of a car and I turned it into a ring. I even coated the outside with clear nail polish so that it would be shiny.


The symbol has a couple of major layers, which I was very conscious of while choosing it:


  • It takes something stereotypically masculine (car part) and turns it into something stereotypically feminine (shiny ring). This is important to me because it helps me fight my internalized misogynistic thinking that anything feminine or girly or pretty is inherently inferior or weak or useless. These are constructs that are pushed onto us constantly and — while this may surprise you, given my affinities for bright clothes and makeup — I am still deprogramming myself from my aversion to anything girly.


  • I made a very conscious choice to wear it on my left ring finger, where it is customary to wear an engagement and/or wedding ring. I did this even though occasionally my fingers swell up a bit and it might make more sense for me to wear it on a pinky finger or even the ring finger of my right hand, which may be slightly narrower. But I didn’t want to, because I absolutely want that symbol of commitment for myself. That this is what I am dedicating my life to right now. That even when it’s overwhelming, or I’ve had a bad day full of sexism and frustration, or when it’s a long weekend and school feels far away and it may feel easier to slip backward into a more conventional career, this nail-polished piece of metal around my finger provides a physical, tangible reminder for why I won’t do that.


I lost it a couple weeks ago, and I felt naked without it; kept tightening my fingers or reaching my thumb over to my ring finger to feel the ring but it wasn’t there, and I felt unsettled and anxious, like I’d lost an anchor, like I was loosing my grip on my commitment. It’s irrational, but that’s how much power symbols can have. I totally understood why Augustus would risk his life to get another pack of cigarettes to replenish his anchoring metaphor and regain his equilibrium.


bonus John Green
excuse to post gif of Augustus Waters being adorable


What was worse than losing it, though, was the way I lost it: I took it off to wash my hands before eating bread, as per the Jewish custom, and I forgot it by the water fountain where I washed. This was because the water fountain is in a fairly small, semi-isolated nook of the school and I don’t like being in that nook for any longer than necessary, because I can’t help but be aware of the fact that out of anyplace in the school building, that is the easiest one in which to overpower a girl. It’s not like it’s ideal for that — if I screamed they’d totally hear me in the shop — but it’s definitely not the most comfortable place to linger. So I get jumpy when I’m there, and as a result, forgot to put my ring back on and by the next day, it had been cleared away.


And I hated the symbolic significance of how I’d lost it — letting sexism and fear push me around to the point where my behavior was affected and I lost something valuable to me — I hated that even more than I hated losing it, and so I desperately wanted to replace it, to erase that negative energy and make sure it never happened again. Luckily, I take home lots of spare odds and ends from shop, and I found another inner tie rod clamp in my small collection, and that’s the one I currently wear.


So the symbolism on this one is three-fold. Better not lose it.




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#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.)


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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.



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#ThrowbackThursday — “Heavy”

I’ve been feeling a bit down on myself and my body recently (I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks; nothing serious, just a cough and a cold and general ickyness), and this felt like an appropriate Throwback Thursday post.

Original post was a Facebook note from May 6th 2012.




I’ve lost a lot of weight recently. I sometimes dread going out in public because I know half the conversations I’ll have will sound a little something like this:


“How much did you lose?”

“You look so skinny! How’d you do it?”

To which I dutifully respond:

Um, thanks.

I don’t know, I never weigh myself.

By accident. I was sick.

And then come the apologies and the remarks about silver linings.


This isn’t going to be a rant against our weight-obsessed culture and the superficiality of the skinny = good mentality. That all goes without saying and I’m not going to waste your time with it. This is a lot more personal.



I’ve never thought of myself as skinny. I’m not built that way — I’ve got hips, I’ve got shoulders, I’ve got meat on my bones.

I’ve never thought of myself as fat, either. As a kid, my older brother called me “fat” all the time, because in my family, most of the kids are skin and bones with no meat whatsoever, and I was not. Throughout elementary school, I was bigger than he was — when he was in eighth grade and I was in sixth, I was two whole inches taller and probably had 20 pounds on him. So of course he called me fat.

My mother constantly corrected him, steering him toward other words. I wasn’t fat, I was “normal.” “Regular.” Also “muscular,” and muscle weighs more than fat. I’d internalized that fact by the time I was three.

I was also a tomboy. Completely and totally.

I was the girl who got inspired by the “shoot ‘til you miss” scene at the opening of Space Jam and wanted to be Michael Jordan before “Like Mike” was ever a thing. I was the girl who could outrace the boys. I was the girl who taught herself to ride a bike, one pedal revolution at a time, on long afternoons alone in her driveway. The one who could kick a soccer ball clear from one end of the field to the other. The one who could catch dodgeballs thrown by the strongest boys in her middle school class. Who spent hours teaching herself how to swing a baseball bat to pull, and how to hold back her wrists to hit to the opposite field.  Who could jump 7 feet in the long jump without a running start. The one who would rather be a Jedi or a Power Ranger than a Disney princess.

In fifth grade, my school had a fitness evaluation, and gave out certificates to only 80 of the 380 participants. I think I was prouder of that certificate than any of my academic achievements.

Skinny didn’t enter into it. Skinny was girls who teetered in high heels and blew away in the wind.

I’d rather be strong. I’d rather be solid. I’d rather be tough. I’d rather be powerful.

I also had a fascination with precision and control. Free throw shooters who couldn’t miss. Pitchers who could paint the corners with perfect strikes. Characters who could shoot a bow and arrow as well as Robin Hood (Katniss hadn’t been invented yet). Ones who could pilot a ship like Luke Skywalker or Will Riker. Fence or lightsaber-fight like a dream. Fire a gun like Shane, who “could shoot the buttons off your shirt with you a-wearing it and all you’d feel would be a breeze.”

Controlled, concentrated power. It still kinda makes my heart race.

The me of my dreams doesn’t have a bell-like laugh and cascading tresses of glossy hair. The me of my dreams isn’t a size 0. The me of my dreams isn’t sweetly doe-eyed and princess-y.

The me of my dreams can whirl in a cloud of dust and fire a bullet right between your eyes. The me of my dreams can slam the heel of her hand into your nose with enough force behind it to make you spout a bloody geyser. The me of my dreams can wear a dazzling dress and whip a knife out of her boot to slash you before you could scream.

(It’s not about the violence, I swear. It’s about the power. I don’t actually want to do these things; I just want to know that I can. And for other people to know that and treat me accordingly.)

The me of my dreams is not pretty.

She is acutely, painfully hot. I’ve heard both girls and guys express distaste for that word, but I like it. Hotness comes with a kind of power that prettiness just can’t wrangle. And I like power.

And the me of my dreams is not skinny.

Skinny snaps like a twig in a halfway decent fight. Skinny has no power. Thin, maybe. Slim or slender, possibly. Skinny, no.


My body first started giving out on me in sixth grade.

I wish I could say it started small. A tweak here, a twinge there.

I wish I could say there was some kind of accident, a fall, a crash, or at least a broken bone or some stitches.

Nada. I basically woke up one morning and, apropos of nothing, could barely move.

It was my back. It was the type of pain that burrows in deep and sits there, and you think after a few minutes or a few hours that maybe it’s your imagination, maybe it doesn’t really hurt that much, and then you try to move and it knocks the wind out of you.

I pushed through it at first, not mentioning it. I couldn’t stand hitting the ground hard, so I walked and ran a little more gingerly. I couldn’t bend down to tie my sneakers, so I jammed my feet in and yanked them out without untying anything. I did everything else as usual, because my highly evolved current attitude of “playing through pain is only sexy in the playoffs” hadn’t yet emerged.

Did I mention I’m a control freak?

Obviously, it quickly became something I couldn’t control, couldn’t hide. I remember a classmate of mine walking into the empty class area after the school day had ended and finding me lying facedown, spread-eagled on the floor, where I’d carefully positioned my body to try to find the least painful pose in which to collect myself.

“Oh my god, are you okay?!”

“. . . I’m fine . . . I just . . . need a minute . . .”

Yeah, I was kind of an idiot.

At some point, I told my parents. Probably on a day when I just couldn’t physically get out of bed. I honestly don’t remember; I was a mess by then.

And then came the testing.

X-rays. MRIs. CAT scans. Bone scans. The only helpful or useful thing any of them did for my back was that sometimes I had to lie still for extended periods of time while the tests were taking place. Otherwise, nothing.

There was nothing there.

We went around to different specialists for a year or two, not getting a definitive diagnosis. Theories ranged from “stress fracture” to “torn spinal tissue,” and had Dr. House existed back then, we would have bemoaned his fictional-ness. Basically the only thing all the doctors could agree on was that I should “take it easy” and hope for the best.

Didn’t really have a choice by then. I quit the basketball team. I got exempted from gym class, and from that dance class that we sixth grade girls were supposed to take so that we’d have something to do at bat mitzvahs. (I should be honest and admit that even before my back gave out, I’d been spending 30-minute chunks of that class holed up in the bathroom. I spent the dancing portions of many bat mitzvahs in the bathrooms, too. The me of my dreams evidently does not dance. But I had never ditched gym. Not once.)

I never did get a diagnosis. The pain is still settled there, near the base of my spine. It’s dormant, and I can’t feel it most of the time, but it’s always there, like a balloon just waiting to inflate. Whenever I overexert myself — run or walk too fast, jump too far, throw too hard, lift too much, sleep too little — it flares and I have to pull back immediately before it becomes paralyzing. I don’t talk about it, I don’t really think about it. It is what it is.


Not long after all this had sunk in, I had my second major health crisis: my stomach problems. To this day, I still blame it on the antibiotics that were prescribed to me for my acne, which chronologically precipitated all of it — but there’s no way to know for sure, and at this point it hardly matters anymore.

I made it through ninth grade relatively unscathed, only missing a few mornings here and there because of pregnancy-free morning sickness. But then came the summer.

I’d been accepted to summer program for young writers, 826NYC’s 2005 Young Adult Writers Colony, a program for budding novelists which had initially been advertised as limited to 5 students, but due to the quality of the entries was expanded to 15. One of the main draws was that if you finished your novel during the program, they would publish it. I was so incredibly psyched.

But my stomach pretty much knocked me out. I was throwing up almost every morning, couldn’t keep food down, was afraid to leave the house lest I wind up puking on the subway. I missed the first two weeks of the 8-week program, and the directors called me in to talk.

I was terrified. I thought they were going to tell me I was disqualified, since I’d fallen too far behind to catch up. I thought I’d never be published. I thought I was screwed.

But they didn’t kick me out. They admittedly couldn’t keep me working with the rest of the group for logistical reasons, but they believed in me and wanted me to succeed, so they set me up to work with a fantastic volunteer editor named Chris. We’d meet once a week, and together we conquered the insurmountable goal of THE FIRST NOVEL.

In between writing, writing, more writing, meeting with Chris, and more writing, there was my second rapid-fire round of medical tests, these ones all gastro-intestinal. And there may have been some blood tests and some allergy tests, I don’t remember.

What I do remember is that, weirdly, my medical records showed that I’d gained weight, not lost any, since the start of all the digestive issues. Which was a real headscratcher for obvious reasons, but aside from that — I recall vividly one of the female technicians at one of the hospitals looking at me incredulously after we told her, and saying, “I wish I could gain weight and look like that.”

And that’s the thing, really.

At no point have I ever looked bad. I know that’s the kind of statement I make a lot that sounds very arrogant, but hear me out. My body and I have a complicated history, and I’ve gained and lost and gained weight for various different reasons over the course of it, never on purpose, and I’ve been in plenty of unflattering pictures and I’ve worn many unflattering hand-me-down and just plain ugly clothes.

But I honestly believe I have never looked bad. Even at my heaviest, which I can’t spell out for you because I don’t know when it was or how much I weighed because I never weigh myself despite that uber-convenient bathroom scale that stares at me daily — even then, if I dressed right and I held myself right and I didn’t get caught up in trying to compare myself with some classic mold or with my sisters, I looked pretty freaking good.

I’d be lying if I said it’s always easy to stay out of the comparison traps. But I’ve always seen beauty in things other than skinniness, and when Sara Ramirez (Callie from Grey’s Anatomy) and Christina Hendricks (Joan from Mad Men) are unquestionably gorgeous TV goddesses who are unquestionably not skinny, it’s easier to see the flaws in the narrow definitions that keep being shoved down our throats from other directions.



None of this is meant as an insult to skinny people everywhere. I love you, skinny people. (Though of course the fact that I love you has nothing to do with the fact that you’re skinny.)

But when my body takes a turn for the skinny, as it certainly has lately, and I can feel my clothes hanging off me, and people keep commenting on it, what it means to me is: something’s wrong. It means my body has been eating itself from the inside out. It means I’ve lost control over something elemental. It means I feel powerless and weak, physically and mentally and psychologically and just overall everything-lly.

I’ve been able to eat again, and I have been eating. I may gain the weight back, I may not. I won’t care. The people around me who’ve been complimenting me — they’re the ones who’ll care.

So if you’re reading this, please know that right now, I don’t appreciate compliments about my weight. It’s something completely outside my control that I can take no credit for and means something different to me than it does to most people. Compliment my hair, my makeup, my clothes, my overall appearance and bearing, if you must — those have a lot more to do with me.

And if I do gain all the weight back, just remember: Fat people are harder to kidnap.




Like my thinky thoughts? Want more of them? Consider donating to my automotive school tuition and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — — and thanks for reading! And you can get email notifications of my blog posts by subscribing with that widget thing on the sidebar! Ain’t that neat?

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