What Kind of Day Has it Been?

Today is the end of my time here at Gotham. This past week has involved a lot of endings for me- end of classes, end of college, end of Gotham. Soon it will be the end of 2014, which to be honest I am pretty pleased about- this year was garbage. I feel sad that things will be different for me going forward, because I don’t like change, but I am also excited about the future. My life is full of possibilities, for the first time in a long time, and it is a pretty nice feeling.

I will miss coming into Gotham a lot. It is surprisingly hard to express. I will miss the people, all of whom I have grown to love very much, and I will miss just the regularity of having someplace to go and having a job to do. It was a lovely place to intern, and by far the most pleasant work experience I have had so far. It will also be harder for me to keep writing without the structure of the class, but I am optimistic that I will continue to stick with it. All in all this has been a fantastic experience for me, and I am feel very lucky that I got to be here at Gotham, doing cool things and meeting lovely people.

There are a lot of changes happening in my life right now, but weirdly I am not that emotional. I have noticed this happens a lot in life.The big moments are never what you expect them to be. Its not as if you wake up one day, graduate college, and become a completely different person. It is something that happens gradually, over time, and you only notice it in retrospect. I often think something is a major turning point, only to then realize that I was wrong. Real changes only happen when you are not paying attention. In real life there are no series finales- the show never really ends.

I think the key to a happy life is not so much about what you’re doing. Its more about the fact that you are doing something at all. Productivity is key. If you are busy, and feel like you are accomplishing something with your day, I think you are generally happier. I do not know how true this is for everyone, but it is definitely true for me. So that, I guess, is my goal going into a year where nothing is certain: stay busy.

Anyways, I am sorry for waxing philosophical and making metaphors and all that jazz. Thank you very much for reading, whoever you are. I had a lot of fun writing this all semester, even if it was a dialogue with no one. I hope 2015 brings only good things for all of you. I hope everyone goes outside and eats sweets and meets awesome people who make life seem worth it. And I hope everyone keeps writing, or at the very least keeps creating cool things. If you are reading this and I know you in real life, I hope we keep in touch, cause chances are good that I think you are really dope and like you a lot (unless you are Kyle, then I think you’re lame.(JK Kyle, you’re alright))

Anyways, Happy Christmas/Chanukah/non-denominational winter holiday!

Love,
Allyson

Best of 2014!

Basically my favorite thing about December (besides Christmas, the end of school, snow, Christmas cookies, and like… a bunch of other things) is end of year lists. What fun! What is better than arbitrary, highly subjective rating things you like? Nothing I can think of!

The only problem with end of year lists for me is that I am very often behind on popular culture things. Something may be new to me, but everyone else in the known pop culture universe has already read/seen/heard it. I am often very behind on the times. So, in that sense, my definition of things that happened in 2014 will be very loose. It is also hard to compile a list for this particular year, because it was filled with such ABSOLUTE GARBAGE. The news cycle this year was horrifying, a bunch of people died, ebola continued to happen, Ariana Grande’s second album came out- things were pretty grim. But now is not the time to focus on all that negativity. Now is the time to focus on the things I liked best (which seemed to involve mostly women this year. Way to go women!), so, HERE WE GO. My best of film/books/music/TV/movies for 2014.

(Note: This is list is incredibly biased. It is my list deal with it.)

Albums

1. Bury Me At Make-out Creek, Mitski

This album is SO DOPE you guys. Mitski is so dope. She is this cool Japanese girl who plays bass and has an amazingly beautiful singing voice, and this album is my everything. Voice=awesome. Lyrics=awesome. Instrumentation=awesome. This album combines my love of female singer/songwriters with my love of guitar distortion, and it is my everything.

2. Acid Rap, Chance The Rapper

Technically this a mixtape, and it technically came out in 2013 (on my birthday!) but I didn’t listen to it until this year so whatever its going on this list. “Cocoa Butter Kisses” is a great song. Chance the Rapper is also dope, his cover of the Arthur theme song came out in 2014 and it was super awesome. Listen to it and remember that time is a flat circle and so technically I’m not wrong. I can put an internet released single out as a best album of 2014 because this is America.

3. Are We There, Sharon Von Etten

She is beautiful and her voice is beautiful, and this album makes me cry. It is also super badass. Also fun fact: Sharn Von Etten is from NJ, and is related to my friend James, who is also very gifted musically. Crazy.

That is it that is the end of my best albums of 2014 (only 2 of which were actually albums released in 2014) honestly I didn’t listen to that much new music in 2014, and apparently the only things I liked were by female vocalists (which is actually unusual for me.) I ended this list here because if I kept going I would have had to include Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey and 1989 by Taylor Swift which I really wasn’t comfortable doing.

Books

1The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell

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I love David Mitchell, so this is probably biased, but I thought The Bone Clocks was excellent. I liked the interconnected stories, as I always do, because sometimes sticking with one character’s POV the whole time can get dull. I think Mitchell is a nuanced and talented writer, and I thought will Holly he created a great protagonist. I also like how Mitchell brings back characters from his other books as supporting players- it is a nice treat for the reader to see familiar faces thrown in- it feels like a reward for paying attention.

2. Yes, Please Amy Poehler

HELL yes (please)

HELL yes (please)

As I have previously mentioned, I really really liked this book. Since I already wrote a whole post about it, rehashing why I think this book is awesome is probably unnecessary. I know celebrity memoirs are considered low-rent by most of the literary public, but try it! Its a fun, insightful, and interesting read.

3. Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay

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As someone who is constantly struggling with what it means to be a “feminist” I really liked this book, and based on its popularity, it seems like a lot of other people do as well. All Gay’s essays were well written, insightful, and took a hard look at race, gender, sexuality and other difficult topics. In the world of political correctness and internet backlash in which we currently live, I appreciated Gay’s candor and honesty, and her ideas on what it means to be a “bad feminist” will continue to resonate with me.

TV Shows

 This is kind of a weird category, cause, I generally have a hard time separating season/series. Still, I think all three of these shows had particularly strong years, as well as being some of my favorite shows in general. I also want to note it took a lot of self restraint to not include Top Chef, which I love even though it is mostly garbage.

1. Mad Men

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Mad Men is always forever number one on my TV show list, because it is amazing and perfect. Even if you disregard my bias though, I still think this (half) season qualifies as a year’s best. Following what was perhaps my least favorite season of the show, I thought both the plot lines and the acting this season was amazing. Things got increasingly desperate for Don and co. but Weiner handled their slow downfall with nuance, and it made for engaging, depressing, beautiful television. The fact that this is the last (half) season makes me want to weep, and I know I am doomed to be disappointed by the ending, but nonetheless, I can’t wait for Mad Men to start up again this winter.

2. New Girl

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Watching New Girl and Mindy Project together every Tuesday night has become something a tradition for me and my roommates, as is endlessly binge-watching it on Netflix. The show is joyful and hilarious, and it is my personal opinion that Lamone Morris is a national treasure. This is one of the most consistently funny shows on television, at least in my opinion, and this year it has been killin’ it.

3. Parks and Recreation

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Oh, Parks. This show is heartfelt and beautiful and hilarious and the best. It continues to be the best. The way NBC is handling the airing of the final season is making me very sad, as does the thought of my life without new episodes of Parks and Rec in it, but I am trying to soldier on. I will miss all our friends.

Movies

Yeah I barely watched any movies this year, so this is hardly an objective category. I really want to see Top Five, Birdman and Obvious Child, but I haven’t so those don’t count. Regardless…

1. BOYHOOD

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This movie was amazing, and beautiful, and made me nostalgic for things I didn’t even realize I missed. I am generally against romanticizing childhood- it seems cheap- but I thought this movie was a gorgeous story of growing up, and should be considered a best-of even without considering the incredible way in which it was made. Also, the soundtrack is really really great. I would have put in the “best albums” category except that would be very cheap- soundtracks aren’t albums.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

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I am a huge Wes Anderson fan, and a person who considers The Royal Tenenbaums to be on their top 5 movies of all time list. So the fact that I liked this movie is not exactly a surprise, even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Moonrise Kingdom. Still, I think Grand Budapest was the rare Anderson film that manages to be aesthetically beautiful, emotionally powerful, and very funny. It is definitely one of my favorite films of the year, and probably my third favorite Anderson film of all time.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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This is kind of a weird choice, mostly because if I was going to pick a superhero movie, the obvious choice is Guardians of the Galaxy starring my true love Chris Pratt. But I am going with X-Men, because it was a movie that was very poignant, considering the subject matter, and that made me nostalgic for the X-Men movies of my youth. I was obsessed with X-Men and X2 when they came out, loved them, but have just been disappointed by most of them since them (I consider X-Men: Last Stand to be a personal crime against me, committed by Brett Ratner.) Days of Futures Past was a return to form, however, and I thought the integration of the two casts was really well done. Plus, James McAvoy is an amazing actor, so much so that he can make a film about mutants very emotional for me. Not sure why I am justifying this so hard, but do to lack of better choices, X-Men is my 3rd favorite.

My Favorite Strong Female Characters

Strong doesn’t mean leather-wearing, ass-kicking, weapon-wielding heart-of-stone heroines who are unemotional and unfeminine (because that is what media seems to think defines “strong” women). No, strong is being brave and courageous, facing your fears, getting up when you fall, making the right choices and decisions, and going on no matter how hard it is. Strong is everything that you take for granted in a male hero but is usually surprising (or absent) in a female lead. Strong doesn’t mean inhuman. It means you are human.

And with that note, this is my list of my favorite strong female characters that I absolutely love (in other words, characters I’d love to be best friends with).

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1) Hermione Jean Granger (obviously)-pretty self-explanatory. Bad-ass and feminine, logical and emotional, clever but sweet…not to mention Harry and Ron would’ve been toast without her, starting from way back in the first book!

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2) Allison Argent-she was the female lead of the supernatural show Teen Wolf from its first season to the third. She has since grown to be one of my most favorite people, and one of the reasons I loved the show. An archer who wore floral dresses and boots and dealt with guns and knives–heck yeah! Not to mention she died saving her best friend. She died for her best friend. She’ll admit how scared she truly is and yet she’ll go into battle fearlessly to protect her loved ones, and if that isn’t strength, what is?

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3) Rapunzel-I love how the filmmakers re-imagined Rapunzel in Tangled. Spunky, outspoken, unafraid and able to stand her ground–how can you resist her?!

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4) Gogo Tomago-One of the major characters of the new Disney-Marvel animated film Big Hero 6, she is just amazing–a daredevil, an adrenaline junkie and a master at witty one-liners and sarcasm, so even though she doesn’t say much, you’ll always have fun with her. Not to mention she’s a mechanical engineering student! Tough and science? Always a good mix. (Did I mention she’s Korean?) Plus, she’s fiercely loyal and understanding–can’t judge by appearance!

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5) Honey Lemon-Another major character part of the Big Hero 6 team, it is just hard not to love her–optimistic, bright, eccentric and highly-fashionable, Honey Lemon is super-sweet and quirky–but just like Gogo, can’t judge by appearance. She is a highly-intelligent chemistry whiz and runs an online boutique (and she’s Latina!). She loves chemistry, clothes, and her friends–she shows that you can definitely rock science in 6-inch platform heels!

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6) Misty-The original female lead character of Pokemon, I loved Misty while growing up–she was my childhood idol, and the first female character I really looked up to. I would even try to do my hair like her! She’s energetic, outgoing and determined with a softer caring side, and it was always fun to see her friendships with Ash and Brock. Her never-give-up attitude and emotional investment in her friends and in herself makes her a perfect friend.

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7) Geet Dhillion-the female lead in one of my favorite Bollywood films, Jab We Met, Geet breaks all stereotypes of a typical Bollywood heroine–she isn’t there to just serve as the love interest. Optimistic, impulsive, talkative, and always one to look on the bright side, Geet takes charge of her own life and speaks her mind about everything. Moreover, she isn’t afraid to be herself, and brushes off anyone who undermines her. She doesn’t fire guns or throw punches but she’s realistic, lovable, loyal, and of course, strong-hearted (and her spontaneity would make it so much fun to be her friend).

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8) Ananya Swaminathan-the female lead of another favorite Bollywood film, 2 States, Ananya is all for breaking societal stereotypes–she calls the guy out when he says things like “you’re supposed to know how to cook, you’re a woman” and she herself will throw sharp remarks like, “It doesn’t take a guy a second to jump into bed but the moment you talk about commitment, they need ‘time to think’.” I love Ananya because she’s strong-willed, bold, confident, thinks for herself, and takes matters into her own hands. At the same time, she’s caring, emotional and loves her family enough that she won’t leave or hurt them, not even for a guy. And that, my friends, is the kind of woman and daughter anyone should love.

 

The Young Adult Problem

Hey guys, this is going to be an actual topical post, so if you’re only here to listen to my vehement angst, you’re in the wrong place! Aha!

Last week I read two books by Rainbow Rowell: Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. Dana here at Gotham recommended the former to me, and the latter has been launched like neon fireworks at my face for the last few months on tumblr and other platforms of social media.

I loved them. I had given up on the Young Adult genre in recent years, resigned to let it rot in a realm of which magical being is sexy right now? and what last name sounds good with Blanche Helena for a protagonist? and love triangles in which one person is a genuinely good person and the other is a clear domestic abuser but he’s got sorrowful eyes and likes The Smiths.

I used to want to write YA books.

I thought I could write books that would make people change their opinions on relationships. I especially wanted to reach the target audience, teenagers, who seem to think that the guy you’re with has to follow you home and tell you that you smell like strawberries and everyone else smells like dry grass in order to show his love for you. It’s sort of like the bad tropes of adult erotica were passed down to YA romance, but without the chapter-length smut scenes in between scenes of bizarre displays of affection, everything just seems awkward.

Which brings us to our next topic: sex in YA. In recent years, it seems the genre has become more lenient towards adult topics. People smoke. People curse. People drink at parties. People think about sex. I remember reading Meg Cabot’s Ready or Not and thinking to myself “holy sweet crickets she’s talking about masturbation?!? Is this allowed?!” and all of my friends at school were like “that was weird I didn’t know she could do that” when we discussed the book the following week.

But now there are people like John Green who can write teens smoking and drinking and swearing and sleeping with each other, and it’s okay because it’s trendy and deep.

But most YA doesn’t get away with that. Most sex in YA is passed over with a turn of a page. “He took me to bed.” Next chapter.

I’m not saying here that I’m irritated YA isn’t pure smut like its adult predecessor, the romance novel. I’m just saying that there’s a kind of stilted view of sex in these books that irks me. Virginity is still this big scary thing as if teens don’t get MTV or HBO (Game of Thrones is a glorified pornography), and every protagonist is an unsure, confused child who can’t even fathom the idea of sex at all.

It makes no sense. We live in 2014 (almost 2015) now, people. Even if teens aren’t having sex (which they are), they at least know what it is and how it works.

And I get it. YA books are targeted towards an age group where what the kids read is still possibly monitored by adults. Parents. But it just is so absurd to keep publishing books about 17-year-olds who look at boys and think “gee golly is he handsome I hope he watches me sleep” instead of thinking “wow he’s hot it would be kinda awesome to make out sometime” which is a much more realistic portrayal of teenage hormones.

Which brings me to the topic of the post: New Adult books. Also called New Adult and College Romance. This genre is shiny and new, and I have been curious about it since I started researching LGBT YA books. Which mostly do not exist–there are some, though. New Adult books, however! (I guess it is still taboo enough to be gay that love stories about two boys or two girls must be labeled “new adult”). New Adult is basically the stage between YA and Adult (which seems obvious), but when I really looked into it, I found that most NA books are just smut.

Like 50 Shades for college kids.

Which makes me wanna barf. Like, look, I am all for smut, but I cannot even vocalize how disturbed I was when I googled “New adult books” and almost all of the covers had college aged couples in soft-core pornographic poses. It was like they just aged down a Fabio romance novel cover to make it more relevant to the audience.

It’s like the jump from YA where sex is glossed over with a deep hipster metaphor about butterflies on chicken wire fences to NA is simply the removal of said metaphor and extension of the missing scene.

Maybe I want the well-written hipster metaphors AND the smut because maybe life actually has both?? Am I wrong??

Is it wrong to assume the youth of America is capable of handling emotionally crippling stories of self-harm, cancer, suicide, and grief, but they can’t handle topics like homosexuality and sex?

And I’m sure there are New Adult books that aren’t just Anne Taylor Loft versions of adult erotica, but I’m still skeptical.

I’m skeptical about everything targeted towards my generation, especially since most of the books seem to be written from some place between nostalgic judgement and lost fantasy fulfillment. Again, that isn’t to say I’m against people from Generation X writing about the Millennials. Of course not. I’m just saying when middle-aged women write YA books about dreamy mermen who kiss protagonists against their will or whatever it is that’s trending in the world of YA right now, it feels forced. It feels like wish fulfillment.

It doesn’t feel like the book is meant for me. It feels like it is meant for them, the author, the one with desire, circling around their object of desire, that is, youth, lost love, spontaneity, when every setting sun was just a setting sun and not a lost day in a long stream of lost days

I want books about what it is really like to be a young adult in the modern age.

I want books where people don’t speak in unnatural witticisms but they also don’t speak in LOLCATS.

I want books where sex isn’t an unmentionable taboo or a glossy shiny trophy of love fulfilled, but it also isn’t just a chapter filler with lots of flowery ways to name female anatomy.

Is that unrealistic of me? Is it unrealistic to want a form of literature where youth isn’t romanticized or sexualized?

I’m so proud of the genre for the strides it has been making away from Title That is Something About Summer and Boys: Female Protagonist’s Name and Location the Book Takes Place such as Summer with the Delancey Boys: Book 2 Francesca in Charleston.

But I’m also still waiting for a time when I pick up a YA book and don’t walk away feeling like I’ve read some romanticized version of a teenagerdom that doesn’t exist except on television or in the smoke-filled hazy memory of housewives.

I don’t want to read a book about myself, no way, that would be grossly disturbing and also boring, but I also don’t want to keep reading books about pure and eternal true love that somehow starts at age sixteen and extends on a continuum into a neverending shimmering sexless sunset. 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Music (also known as my longest post on here so far)

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard at least once in your life that “music brings people together” (or something like it). I’ve read it on corny coffee mugs, decorative wall plaques for your living room, and quote blogs that aim to inspire. And yeah I believed it but didn’t really believe it you know, it was like something you see in rom-coms and Disney movies.

But now I think I believe it. Kinda?

Let me regale you with some of my music history: back in high school, I had two favorite bands, two bands that I absolutely loved and fangirled over like nothing else: There for Tomorrow and Tokio Hotel. Both bands helped me through lots of things, and I still remember which song got me through which situation. Moreover, I had a friend in high school who loved Tokio Hotel as much as I did and we bonded over the band and became really close friends, fangirling together, defending the band to others who had the audacity to make fun of them, and making Tokio Hotel gifts for each other. In junior year of high school, I saw There for Tomorrow in concert for the first time and got to meet and take a photo with every member except the guitarist (at the end of the concert, a machine went wrong and filled the room with smoke that left residue on my boots. I’ll always remember how Jay, the bassist, bent to brush it off my boots when I pointed it out to him–such a sweet gesture!!). It was a golden time.

Then things kind of cooled. My friend and I grew apart and stopped talking altogether; There for Tomorrow, whose last album came out in 2011, didn’t release any new albums for the next two years. They quietly did their own things, and it looked like the band members were growing apart; Tokio Hotel, whose last album came out in 2009, lapsed into an even longer silence and didn’t release any new albums either, though they did other things like judging a German reality talent show, and interacting with fans.

Finally, circumstances changed in 2014. There for Tomorrow self-released a new EP. And for the first time in two years, they posted a new photo of the whole band laughing together. Fans were elated–was elated. But then they posted an announcement, suddenly confirming their long period of inactivity and what looked like the band members growing apart: they were ending the band. They’d decided to explore new career options their music had opened up for them, and would be playing farewell shows in their hometown Orlando, Florida.

I was heartbroken to say the least. No more new music from a band I’d always loved. I wouldn’t even get to see their farewell shows, being here in NYC. But I was grateful for the fact that I had seen them live at least once before they separated.

At nearly the same time, Tokio Hotel, after five years, emerged with a new album and a new experimental sound, straying from their usual alternative rock to more electronic. They also looked different–Bill, the lead singer, is of course forever changing his appearance, but guitarist Tom and bassist Georg also had new looks (and looked 10 times more attractive because of it).

And then, my Tokio Hotel friend from high school, who I had not talked to for about four years now, suddenly sent me a friend request. Surprised, I accepted and sent her the video for the single, Run, Run, Run, from their new album, with the message “for old times’ sake.” She responded instantly and we talked about the new album, the band members’ new appearances and how cute they looked, their new music videos, etc and it was as if we’d never stopped talking. We just fell right back into the old rhythm and bonded again over Tokio Hotel. So the band brought us together (again) in a way?

Now that There for Tomorrow isn’t together anymore, I find myself leaning on Tokio Hotel for support. Here I am, crediting them for my friendship with this girl back when we were 14, and crediting them again now, because they’re the reason we’re talking so effortlessly again. I just feel so glad that, where my other favorite band has broken up, where almost everything else has changed, Tokio Hotel, a band that has been together since 2001 (2001 !!) has not broken up, are still together, are still happy together as a band and are still making music.

Some fans don’t like it when their favorite bands experiment with new sounds but I found myself actually liking the fact that Tokio Hotel was trying out something new. I appreciated the effort. Maybe because I’ve entered a new phase in my life? Maybe because I’m about to become a year older in exactly one month from now and still can’t wrap my head around it? Maybe because I realize things are changing little by little and these changes are just preparing me for the bigger changes that are coming? They’ve grown up and I’ve grown up, and I know what it’s like to want to try something new.

So I guess you could say that as Tokio Hotel understands me, I understand them.

 

Here’s the video for the single from their new album.

 

Times when I cry: a list

1. When I am forced to confront my own mortality

2. Hallmark commercials about pets or babies or holidays or honestly anything at all related to Hallmark

3. When someone is not “upset with” but “disappointed” in me because I, say, lied about eating the entire sleeve of oreos or am, you know, unemployed and going no where in life

4. When I listen to piano versions of my favorite songs on Youtube as I slowly dissolve into my mattress

5. When I’m super sleepy and grumpy and people want things from me

6. When I meet people I idolize, they make eye contact with me, I realize they are the very manifestations of everything I desire, I confront the knowledge that I will never a) possess them, b) be them, c) make an impact on their lives whatsoever

7. When I watch movies about magic and come to the conclusion that I will never be magical but maybe ~*~in another life~*~

8. When I am incapable of putting words to feelings, and the words attempt to rock climb up my spinal column, but they haven’t been to the gym lately and their collective upper body strength leaves much to be desired, so they keep losing footing on the notches of my spine, so my brain is up at the top like “C’MON GUYS WHAT DO I DO” and the words are like “wELL YOU KNOW WHAT? MAYBE IF WE’D HAD A LITTLE HEADS UP, WE’D HAVE TIME TO CHALK OUR PALMS OR SOMETHING” and my brain is like “wELL WE GOTTA SEND SOMETHING OUT THERE” and so then my lips part for words but instead tears come out my eyes instead.

9. When someone is proud of me

10. When someone else is crying, even if I don’t know why, and my eyes start sympathetically stinging because wow something must be wrong like war or famine or a pet died or she stubbed her toe

11. When I stub my toe

12. When I read a really great book or short story like “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” by ZZ Packer

13. When someone tells me I am worth something

14. Inspirational super hero films like oh man that scene in Spider-Man 2 when he’s dying on the subway after a fight with Doc Oc and all the New Yorkers lift him up and carry him through the train and the little bOY GIVES HIM HIS MASK BACK UGH 

15. When I hear funny words like “lemons” out of context

16. Lemons

17. Killing off fictional characters

18. Unfulfilled dreams

19. Video compilations of soldiers returning from war to get hugs from dogs or babies or wives or husbands or parents

20. When people tell me I am pretty :3

21. Aging

22. Not being Scarlett Johansson