a note from the sub

the things i forgot to tell you today, because i was too busy botching all of your quiz scores.

Month: June, 2014

oh brother

Dear girl,

I know you think I was unduly harsh on you today, when I called you over to “resolve” a conflict with your younger brother.  You stood there, cold as fucking ice, as your little bro sobbed that you weren’t sharing the magna-tiles.  I stared at you incredulously, pointed to your brother and said,  “Your little brother is crying, fix this.  You are his sister, that’s your job.”  I then turned back to my very important work, drawing a motherfucking rainbow for what’s-her-face.

Don’t get me wrong.  I saw you.  I saw the rage at being left to deal with your brother… but a big sister who not only stands stone-cold while her little brother suffers, but asks a relative STRANGER to mediate your familial conflict?  It’s time to put on your goddamn big sister pants, girl.

Being a big sister is the first job you will ever have in your life.  And it’s a fucking important one.  You are friend, you are mini-mom, you are antagonist and protector, you are confidante and whistle-blower, which also makes you alternately loved and bitterly resented.  Your job is to tell your little brother stories while you’re in the bath together, serve as creative director during playtime, and impartial referee to games in which you are an active participant.  He will be boring sometimes, and no fun at all, and when you complain to your mom that you are bored, she will tell you, “That’s what I gave you a brother for.”  You will be cheated out of winning, you will be blamed for messes, unfairly assigned blame in conflict, occasionally you will have to run into your room and slam the door while your much smaller brother hurls a chair at it, trying to get at you so that he may hurl the chair at your face.  You will have no privacy, he will break into your diary and use the information obtained there against you.  Your parents will tell you the awful truth that, someday, he will be physically bigger and stronger than you, and you will neither be capable of imagining it nor believing it.  You will break your parents in for him, everything you wanted to do but weren’t allowed to when you were in high school he will be permitted to do, and more.  You will clean up his messes, your dad will tell you that’s your job, even when he is an adult.  You will be stood up when better plans come along or he just forgets you had plans together to begin with.  You will be there every time he wants to talk to you, every time he has a problem, and you will be forgotten when he starts dating someone until there is a problem and he needs your advice.

And you will love him with every tiny little piece of you.  You will understand the capacity to love with a pure and singular ferocity that many people won’t, even some people who have siblings of their own.  When he hurts, you hurt.  When he is happy, sometimes you are happy too and sometimes you will also hurt.  When you think he is not paying attention, he is, and he will always understand you better than you give him credit for.  When tragedy strikes your family, you will find that your worst grief is his suffering, and you will wish more than anything that you could take away his fear and pain so that he could stay a little boy.  He will give you a more thoughtful birthday gift than the guy you have been dating for four years.  And when you leave the guy you have been dating for four years, and are devastated and terrified, he will call you and say, “Look, I know you’re sad and everything is weird and messed up… but can we please talk about my problems for a minute?”  He will make offensive jokes about your breakup that will make you laugh so hard you cry.  You will send each other work papers to proofread.  He will photoshop Nicholas Cage into your Facebook photos.  He will guess the passcode to your mother’s phone and respond to your text messages as her to mess with you.  He will guess the passcode to your phone and change your background to a picture of Brett Favre.  He will protect you when you don’t need protecting, and assume you want him to butt out when you really wish he’d step in and help, but he will always be there for you.  You will be awed at the great man he becomes, and so proud that he is your brother.  … Except for all of time times you want to kill him, of which there will still be plenty.

Being a big sister is no easy job, and it is not for the faint of heart.  But it is also not a choice, and it is the greatest gift your parents could have ever given you.  So man up and share those fucking magna-tiles.

Warmest,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

 

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on manners and wrist-breaking

Dear Sir,

I understand the considerable confusion it might bring you to be addressed on a blog normally dedicated to misguided students, but it’s summer break and I need someone to teach, and you are so terribly in need.  As a matter of fact, kids, particularly you boys, listen up too, because there are valuable lessons to be learned here.

Next time you approach a woman walking her dog, offering her a gratis martial arts lesson and invitation to your comedy club, do make sure to first stop and ask yourself, “Have I approached this particular woman before, offering her the same exact thing, roughly a week ago?”  Furthermore, when she begs off, telling you she has a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, it is impolite to then lecture her on what Taekwondo is (further impolite to be wrong about it,) and then to remark that, although you, “Like when women get themselves a little training,” she is unaware that her training in martial arts taught her absolutely nothing about defending herself in a practical situation.

Because perhaps this woman’s “little training” came from her father, a Grandmaster of such wide acclaim he was awarded a Doctorate for his work, making him a Grandmaster Dr. (and requested that his children refer to him as such, Grandmaster Doctor Daddy, for an arguably unreasonable, not to mention embarrassing, amount of time.)  And she was roughly one ignorant comment away from taking a very practical stab at breaking your wrist just the way he showed her how to when she was nine.  Her father might not have approved, but he would have understood.

Lastly, it is inconsiderate (not to mention inadvisable) to pet a stranger’s dog without first asking permission.

Sincerely,

Whatever-Fake-Name-I-Gave-You (I forget, since this is the second time I’ve done it)

 

 

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Grandmaster Dr. Cha Sok Park

(Grandmaster Doctor Daddy)

eye(glasses) of the beholder

Dear Lila, or Lily, or something like that,

My appearance suffers a lot of insults throughout the school year.  Like that time a class collectively decided that my somewhat nautical-inspired outfit was a little too pirate-like and repeatedly referred to me as “Captain Hook,” or the day I debuted my silky, very of-the-moment trousers and was asked if I had mistaken today for Pajama Day, and, of course, when I Extreme Hair Makeover-ed myself by chopping my long hair off, and had to endure at least ten of you running up to me, full of concern, asking “WHAT HAPPENED?!!!”

But, seriously.  Today.  Well, today, you said this to me:

You: Miss…

Me: Miss Park.

You: Miss Parks, can I see you without your glasses?

(here, I hesitantly remove my glasses, eyeing you with suspicion.)

You: … wow.  It’s like magic.

Me: … what’s like magic?

You: You look like a normal teacher with your glasses on, and you look like a model when you take them off.

You know what’s ironic, Laura?  Well, never mind that for a minute, can I first say, good fucking lord, just what a nice thing to say, and thank you.  Thank you.  Gosh you’re sweet.  The ironic bit is that I actually wear my glasses partly because I’m nearsighted, and partly because I feel they distract from the stranger aspects of my face so that I may appear to look, on the whole, fairly uniformly pretty.  And we will skim over the fact that I do not feel like a model; that, in fact, on a good day, I can look in the mirror and say, “Yeah girl, we don’t hate us today” (and on a bad day, I catch my reflection in a window and think, “FUCKING HELL you are FAT and you look like you’re wearing a BAG, why do you always look like you’re wearing a BAG.”)  And how I very often wonder, despite my fierce desire to help stop this destructive cycle of self-loathing when it comes to our appearances, how I could ever make a difference when I’m a big fucking hypocrite and can’t even truly accept my own.  No, we will table that for another day, because I know some people say that kids need to see adults being human, that we have emotions too… but as a kid I found the entire concept of adult weakness weird and terrifying.  Which is why at the sensitive age of 12, on the way to my grandfather’s funeral, I so empathetically turned to my mother and asked, “…You’re not going to cry when we get there, are you?”

No, instead, I will tell you that I really should have figured out this whole prettier-without-glasses thing a long time ago.  Because you’ve been trying to tell me this very fact for years and I have failed to notice.

Behold, Exhibit A: Portraits of Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again? Sans Glasses:

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triumphantly wielding my coffee cup

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as a sassy princess

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in my future Met Gala gown (this one is looking a little Dolce and Gabbana.)

and Exhibit B: Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again? With Glasses:

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Sometimes, there’s just no substetoot for some good, quantifiable field data.

Fondly,

Miss What’s-Your-Name Again?

 

 

there is a spoiler for Island of the Blue Dolphins in here

Oh dear sweet girl.

Fuck.  It just broke my heart today, the entire thing. Everyone was so precious in their fancy fucking picture day outfits; you had on that adorable knit hat with the little knit ears that you insisted you had been permitted to wear every year for picture day since you were in kindergarten. The poor parent volunteer who kept coming in to collect you in small groups had laryngitis and seemed one class photo away from a nervous breakdown. I was in a sort of a mood so I was yell-laughing at Jake, whose name I think might have actually been Kyle (I just know it wasn’t Jake.) We were in the middle of reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, and fuck I hate that sad-as-shit book, when she came to grab you and a bunch of other kids for your pictures. And, in the flurry of hair-checking and tie-straightening and reading about that SPOILER ALERT poor girl’s dead brother, you turned around and knocked that pretty glass water bottle of yours, with that clever silicone netting to keep it from breaking, off of your desk. And it broke. 

So, of course, you were on the verge of tears when that harried mom ushered you out the door. And, when you returned, you were in full hysterics because, not only was your bottle broken, but you had cried in your picture and… well, you had cried in your school picture. Honestly, I’m tearing up again right now thinking about it. I told you we would figure it out; that if I had to storm the room myself and demand that the photographer take another picture of you, that I would do it (and I would have; I love doing shit like that.) Even the aide, who appeared to be chilling in my room for the sole purpose of going around and checking the math work incorrectly, vehemently agreed that we could get the picture retaken. But you just looked at me with your sweaty face (it was a little warm for a knit cap) and red eyes and quivering lip, and said that you just didn’t want to think about it anymore. My less-sound judgement wanted immediately to chime in that, of course, you would eventually have to think about it because it was a picture that would end up in your yearbook… but miraculously I managed to keep that in. Instead, I sat with you and babbled on about the most remarkable discovery I had made last week: the mug cake. Yes, a tiny little cake that you can make in a mug, in your microwave, that probably doesn’t taste very good once it cools down, but is long gone before then so it doesn’t really matter.

The mug cake has played a significant role in my days lately, which have been troubled too. My double-life as an actress has suffered a few setbacks, and I’m not entirely sure I can keep going if my success, and I have sort of been led to believe that this is the case, is contingent upon asking people for money and/or favors. For the first time in maybe twenty years, I am seriously questioning what will become of me. So I dropped out of that acting class I complained so bitterly about, in an attempt to gain some perspective while I continue to spiral down my little existential rabbit hole. And I didn’t want to join the acting class in the first place, because I don’t like being part of a group, because I so rarely feel like I belong anyway, and belonging is scary because people are fickle and life just goes on. And now the giant fucking joke is that I’m sad I’m not there because I feel left out, even though I’m the idiot who left myself out of it. And I did fall in love with those sweet kids in my class, and for a while I felt like I was a part of the club, and my shriveled little heart breaks thinking that I won’t be there anymore, and things will just continue like I was never there, because people are fickle and life just goes on. 

So this week, acting class came and went, this time without me. And I don’t want to be there, don’t get me wrong, I shouldn’t be there; I am craving solitude and quiet so that I can figure out what the fuck I want… but it is a melee inside my brain of does anyone even notice that I’m gone? and when will I know that I’m done with acting? and if I’m done, what will I do with my life? and will people judge me if I’m done? and will I judge me if I’m done? and why can’t I write like I usually can? and why is everything so fucking hard now? and how do I know if my dog is happy enough? and are my friends annoyed at me because I’ve become such a downer? and am I ever going to meet someone again? and what will I do if I don’t? and am I selfish for wishing for good things for myself? and would I feel this way if I had never left home? and would I feel this way if I tried for a different kind of life? and am I going to feel this way forever? And suddenly what I’m carrying becomes so unbearably heavy, so sad and so cumbersome that I realize I have stopped caring if I ever get answers to any of it, that I would trade it all for just a little moment of peace.

So, the mug cake.  Just a little bit of flour, and some sugar and an egg and milk and you just stir that shit up in a coffee mug and nuke it for two minutes and, ta-dah, cake.  Now, I know, a mug cake does not fix your school picture.  A mug cake cannot put your shattered bottle back together again.  A mug cake cannot give me answers about my life, cannot cure my depression, cannot make me feel less lonely, cannot make hard goodbyes any easier.  But a sweet little mug cake, that probably doesn’t taste very good once it cools down, but is long gone before then so it doesn’t really matter, when eaten properly in the quiet of one’s home with a movie on in the background (not sad-as-shit, do not eat while watching the movie adaptation of Island of the Blue Dolphins) well, that’s got some power all its own.

There was nothing I could do to fix the fact that you cried in your school picture today.  And I don’t know what to do with my fractured little life.  But, tonight, I made a tiny little cake in a mug, and I ate it for dinner while watching Never Been Kissed. It was a peace of cake.

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

infallible

Hello Child.

Let’s just get right to it, then: I’m sorry, for totally throwing you under the bus with your other teacher.  Or maybe not necessarily throwing you under the bus as much as… allowing you to stand precisely where the bus was bound to eventually arrive, and then pretending like I had no idea what you were doing there.  Let’s recap, if we must.

As you may recall, you waved me over to ask if you could draw on the back of your completed math worksheet.  As you also may recall I, in turn, asked you, “Well, is this something you normally do?” to which you replied, “I don’t know.”  (For the sake of time, we will skip over the part where it’s fucking JUNE, and if you haven’t already familiarized yourself with what you ‘normally do,’ you’ve got bigger problems than whether or not you’re allowed to doodle on your papers.)  I declared that you should know better than I, and to use your best judgement.  Minutes later, I see your other teacher making a beeline for your desk and, in her quiet, scary, “You’re In Deep Shit Now” voice, she tells you that you know you’re not allowed to draw on your paper, and then not only makes you stop, but makes you recopy your answers onto a new worksheet. You looked to me, like, “What the fuck?!”  And, as you may recall, here’s what I did: nothing.

So here’s the thing, kid.  Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the other teacher in your classroom is FUCKING TERRIFYING.  And just because I’m a grownup and get paid to hang in your classroom absolutely does not, in any way, mean that I am immune to the sheer terror of that lady’s bone chilling, turns-you-to-stone, “You’re in Deep Shit Now” voice.  And as she was laying the verbal smackdown on your shitty rendering of Olaf the snowman, I very briefly considered speaking up, claiming my part… but the window of time in which I could have done so was so very small, and I unfortunately spent those few moments thinking that, really, you should have known fucking better, or at least she seemed to be under the impression that you should have known fucking better, so it was kind of every teacher/kid for him/herself at that point.

When I was a kid, I drew a picture in my journal of my dog Rugby leaping over a fence (an activity he enjoyed in real life, a prelude to another harsh reality I was soon to face… but mortality is a bit heavy to discuss, and it’s fucking June, so we will leave that for another day.)  Typically, I labored over it lovingly, meticulously; it was part of a journal entry in which I extolled the many virtues of my dog (He’s so cute!  I love him!  He’s the cutest!)  But when I returned after recess, to revisit my masterpiece, it was GONE FROM MY JOURNAL, left only were the tell-tale remnants of a paper crudely torn from a spiral notebook (they couldn’t even take the time to tear from the perforations?  Motherfucking savages.)  A first-time victim of theft, filled with an alien sense of rage, I furtively scoured my classmates’ cubbies.  I finally discovered it roughly shoved into another girl’s journal, my name erased and hers penciled heavily over it!

Fueled by righteous indignation, I grabbed the paper, stormed to my teacher’s desk, and slammed it down in front of her, babbling what I thought was, “Miss Whatever-Your-Name Was!  Someone has STOLEN and taken FALSE OWNERSHIP OF a sketch that belongs to me, and the culprit is… (at which point, I very dramatically turned and pointed to:) WHAT’S HER NAME!”  In retrospect, it probably came out more like a teary, panting version of: “Drawing… me… mine… can’t… THAT GIRL!”  (The dramatic turn and point was really all that mattered… I’d seen enough bits of My Cousin Vinny to understand proper courtroom posturing.  I probably also said it in a Jersey accent.)  Miss Whatever-Her-Name-Was called the accused over, and asked us both to explain.  I calmly detailed the events leading up to the crime, all the while thinking of the most tidy way to reaffix the drawing back into my journal.  So you can imagine my shock when it was her turn to plea her case, and I discovered that she had AN ENTIRE STORY COOKED UP.  It was her dog, see?  She had drawn him in a dog show (WHAT THE FUCK is a DOG SHOW, I remember thinking to myself, AND WHERE CAN I FIND ONE, REMEMBER TO ASK MOM LATER.)  I was so unaccustomed to such fucking in-your-face lying that, for a moment, I was genuinely confused as to whether or not it had been my drawing at all.  And yet it was the second shock to come that truly rocked me to my core.  My teacher, arbiter of fairness and justice, wearer of eyeball on the back of her head, all seeing, all knowing, said, “Well, since there is no way of knowing which one of you is telling the truth, I guess I’ll just have to keep the picture here.”

And let this be a lesson for you too, kid.  It’s a sucky lesson, but one you needed to learn: grownups are not infallible.  They make mistakes, just like you.  They have serious character flaws, like cowardice in the face of other, scarier grownups, and they often make shitty judgement calls, like not believing the sweet, straight-A, overachiever artist who literally couldn’t lie at that age if someone was holding a gun to her teddy bear.  You will always need to trust people, kiddo, and I’m not saying that adults aren’t worthy of it.  But no one is perfect (except maybe your other, very scary teacher… and if she asks, I told you SHE IS PERFECT, SHE IS INFALLIBLE, PLEASE LIKE ME.)  At the end of the day, you will always have to have your own solid judgement on your side, and you must be prepared to have it challenged, sometimes even by the people you would trust the most.

Except your mom, of course.  Moms ARE infallible.  Except maybe when they’re texting.

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I still don’t know.

Best Regards,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?