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: August, 2014

rebellion pt. II

Dear you guys,

My second missive on rebellion is dedicated to you. First I want to tell you that I am so bummed your awesome game was banned from the yard last week. I, for one, was just so impressed that you’re three and can’t wipe your own asses, yet managed somehow to invent and execute a game in which you could all participate peaceably and collectively. My interest was piqued from the moment I stepped outside and saw you. You were in a very large circle, walking clockwise around one child lying face-up in the middle, his eyes closed. You chanted, and this is where you really sold me, “Dead body, dead body, dead body!” On the third of which the boy in the middle rose from the pavement, arms outstretched, like a motherfucking zombie, and chased the shit out of the rest of you. I did try to protect your creepy little game; when that other teacher came over to ask me what you were doing, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I can never understand anything they’re saying.” Unfortunately, while you are really shit for communicating anything else, when you’re chanting “DEAD BODY” in what appears to be a cross between Duck-Duck-Goose and some bizarre pagan ritual… it is rather hard to mistake for anything else.

But I was most impressed when your game was banned and you were told to disperse, and a small group of you remained in your circle to play what was, you later explained, to that same teacher, a new and entirely unrelated game entitled “Dead Body” (what you lack in creativity, you make up for in cojones.) In a brief and entirely uncharacteristic moment of ambition, I asked the other teacher to let you play. Because it was a game that you had invented, and you should be encouraged to invent things, even if they’re creepy, plus you weren’t hitting each other (or myself, mostly) with those fucking golf balls so, really, wasn’t it a win-win? And I felt the adrenaline rush of being a rebel again, fighting on your behalf for your creative freedom to play whatever fucked up game you want.

When I was in elementary school, in my spare time I authored a series of short stories starring the kids in my grade, embroiled in a bitter and often violent battle of the sexes, entitled REVENGE. In typical fashion, it generally served as a vehicle in which I could verbally eviscerate the boy with whom I was currently in love. It was filled with booby traps and snowball fights, with clandestine plans and lots of pathos. I would read the stories to my brothers while they were in the bath, often the only opportunity I got to road test my work with a (physically) captive audience. When we were given a journal in school and told that we could write whatever we wanted in it, I jumped at the opportunity to immortalize my stories in number two pencil. And, afterwards, when we were asked if anyone would like to share what they had written, my hand was the first one up.

My brothers are an okay audience. They were better before they could talk. Much better before the ability to leave snide comments on every single one of my Facebook posts. But I had never known a reaction to my work quite like my classmates’ reaction to REVENGE PART ONE. They hooted and hollered, cheered and booed appropriately. I had been performing my own work my entire life, but had not known, until that moment, what an unparalleled joy it was to slay an audience.

It was official: REVENGE was a sensation. In the weeks that followed, it sparked a number of spinoffs which were, in keeping with true literary tradition, often cruder, more violent, and far less structurally complex than my original. They eventually grew so widespread, and the content so inappropriate, that my teacher finally proclaimed that REVENGE stories were banned from school, permanently. For some reason, I took this as pertaining only to my peers’ spinoff stories, but when I offered to share the latest installment of my saga the next day, I got a point crossed off my fucking star and was asked to tear those pages out and take them home.

My mother continued to surprise me by not being upset, but rather seeming quite proud to be the mom of North Springfield Elementary School’s literary Che Guevara. With her encouragement, I began to no longer mourn the loss of my stories and instead appreciate the gift my teacher gave me. My peers looked to me now in a way they had never before; I, Mikayla Park, nice, responsible, straight A kid, was suddenly a vanguard, purveyor of incendiary content, enemy of the state. The REVENGE stories would have died out on their own; it was elementary school, we had the attention span of a number two pencil. In banishing them, my teacher only ensured their continued duration, because something worth banning is certainly something worth holding onto. By striking them down, she only made them stronger. Like in Star Wars, guys. And, as a teacher, the minute you make yourself comparable to a bad guy in Star Wars, you’ve seriously blown it.

So for the small, three-year-old “Dead Body” cadre, for the kid who made a gun out of legos and then qualified it as “a… blaster that shoots… candy,” for the artist who clearly drew a vampire cat with blood dripping out of his mouth, who then scribbled a jelly donut into his hand as a safety afterthought; this one’s for you. Get on with your bad selves. Creativity is a right and a precious gift, but so is being revolutionary, and everyone should know what it is to be one, at least once.

Vive Le Revenge,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

rebellion pt. I

Hello Kiddos!

Welcome back to school! I’m sure, by now, you’ve all noticed that there’s something up with Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again’s hair.  Namely, as one of you so charmingly phrased it, “It got blue.” Many of you asked me why, why it got blue, why I would do such a thing, why it is now a sort of alluring shade of pee green (your spelling, not mine. Okay, maybe also mine now.) The answer to the last one is in the color wheel, my art class delinquents: in the process of washing out, a little blue plus yellow hair equals pee green. The answer to the rest?

Unknowingly, my blue hair was a very early sign of what was only the beginning of what would be a slow and bittersweet realization that, after 10 years, I had fallen out of love with the acting profession… a profession that, ironically (being a profession “in the arts,”) had actually stunted my creative expression far more than it had allowed. My blue hair was a giant middle finger to years of tailoring my haircuts and color to fit the headshots I loathed, to dreaming of tattoos I would never be able to get without risk of them being a liability in casting, to suffering through advice on WHAT TO WEAR to meetings (no one, ever, in any other circumstance, has ever dared to give me unsolicited advice on WHAT TO WEAR… if you aren’t familiar with my wardrobe, I can tell you right now I am wearing some lulumeon running pants and nikes, a Hello Kitty t-shirt and a giant white fur coat. It’s my dog walking outfit. No one tells me what to wear.) If I was in the process of grieving my lost love for acting, perhaps my hair represented the anger stage.

So tonight, in the very twilight hour of Miss-What’s-Your-Name-Again’s pee green hair, my thoughts are on rebellion. It has been a short series of thoughts, because I have very little experience on the subject. As a matter of fact, I have precisely three thoughts on rebellion, which I will share with you in three parts. Starting now.

My first took place, conveniently, on my own first day of school, in first grade. I was wearing my most winning outfit: white, long-sleeve button down with fringe, half-tucked into acid-wash hammer pants, scrunched socks over my white canvas keds (No one tells me WHAT TO WEAR.) The first day of school is super awesome for someone who has a tendency towards anxiety that often manifests in the form of OCD; everything so stinkin’ new and clean: new supplies, neat and tidy new room, brand new start. My spanking new desk was adorned with a colorful Lakeshore nametag on which was written my name in sharpie, little bubbles in the corners of every letter. And next to my nametag was taped a perfectly-cut white square, on which was printed a perfect, five-pointed star.

My new teacher, a pretty, if stern-looking, woman in front-pleated trousers and shoulder pads, made her introductions and explained the class rules. The star was a key item in her behavioral system; there were class rules to follow and, if you were caught not following one of the rules, you would lose a point in your star. For every point lost, you spent a minute of recess on Friday sitting on the wall. I listened intently to this for I was a model student; I had been told so many, many times in kindergarten. I was, in fact, informing my rather chatty neighbor in the Hypercolor tee that we weren’t supposed to be talking right now when my powerfully-shouldered teacher came up behind me and, with a red pen, slashed through one of the points of my star. For talking.

Now, for someone who has a tendency towards anxiety that often manifests in the form of OCD, having a point permanently and rather haphazardly crossed off of your brand new star on your brand new desk is a considerable blow. I don’t remember the rest of the day. It was the singular event I relayed to my mother when she later asked me how my day went. She thought for a moment, and then, to my absolute confusion and utter horror, said something I would not come to appreciate until many, many years later when I could fully comprehend how fucking boss my mother is, and how completely she understands her children. She suggested, rather matter-of-factly, that perhaps I should attempt to get the rest of the points crossed off, because maybe then she would give me a new star– or, at the absolute least, they’ll all be crossed out so they’ll look the same.

I did not, in the end, go on a week-long, bad-behavior bender to rectify my star problem. But it didn’t matter whether I had one red mark, or five. Did I learn my lesson? No, I was a fucking model student, there was no lesson for me to learn; except that the system in place to keep kids in line was not perfect, and sometimes that system failed you, even if you were a model student. I sat for a minute on the wall on that Friday, and then for the remaining 19 minutes of recess with my sketchbook and crayons, which is also precisely how I would spend every single recess after, that until a rumor began to circulate around school that there was a severed human hand that occasionally floated past the sewage grate on the field, and then I spent every day camped out there in the hopes of catching a glimpse… until administration caught wind and forced us to disperse.

I know that my teacher was just trying to make a point when she singled me out to be punished on the first day of school, sometimes, you have to make an example out of someone to make a point. But when that someone is a model student with a tendency towards anxiety that often manifests in the form of OCD, you should avoid making yours by crossing theirs out.

Love,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

what the heart wants

Dear girl,

I know you’re not a crier.  I just wanted you to know that I know, that I am aware that you are a stoic motherfucker and, being a crier myself, I respect the hell out of that.  I once saw you faceplant out of a kiddie pool on the yard, in your chic little Hello Kitty maillot, your blonde curls in disarray, only to drag yourself back to your feet, picking the gravel out of your palms in mild amusement as you called What’s-His-Name over to admire the gnarly scrape that was currently oozing blood on your knee.  That is why, you see, I gave pause when I saw you today with that look on your face, a look with which I am so painfully familiar, the look that says, “Do not say one goddamn word to me, or I will start to cry, and it’s going to be ugly, and real snotty, and motherfucking apocalyptic.”  I, of course, in my infinite wisdom, blurted out the one thing you never say to someone who looks like that: “you okay?”

Through your gasping sobs, you told me, “[That boy who was eating glitter out of the craft box this morning] won’t play with me.”  I was soothingly recommending other boys as potential playmates when you then wailed the timeless dirge of all choosy girls everywhere, one that traveled from my ears to the very threads of my soul that bind me to the rest of our kin: “I just want HIM to be my boyfriend!  I don’t want anyone else!  WHY WON’T HE BE MY BOYFRIEND!?

Oh honey.  Such a long road ahead for you, for all of us.  And such a difficult lesson to learn, that none of us is immune; even the baddest bitch will invariably spend a few miserable nights in bed, watching Say Yes to the Dress while eating a tub of frosting, crying her fucking eyes out over some hapless dude.  Not that I speak from experience (but, in my defense, if I was, it needs to be said that I live in a studio, and the only place to watch TV is from my bed, so there’s that.)  I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve made somewhat of a career out of chasing after boys who didn’t want to play with me.  Does this mean I have some illuminating words of wisdom for you?  Well… no.

As hard as it may be to believe, this is the easy part.  Boys will never be easier or simpler than when you can just repeatedly bellow their names from the top of the play structure until they realize you’re talking to them.  When you get older, you will end up doing the craziest, most nonsensical bullshit in the name of trying to get someone to be your boyfriend.  Your wardrobe will suffer in a most bizarre, bipolar relationship to your dating life; you will swing violently between shoving yourself into sexy, feminine outfits because it’s a game, and you’re going to have to play it, and chucking on a cruddy pair of jeans and a tshirt because if he’s not going to like you for who you really are, he’s not right for you anyway (your fitness regime will suffer a similar duality.)  You will be forced to listen to more shitty music than ought to even exist in the world, in a desperate attempt to discern the deep and complex hidden message a boy meant to convey to you by sending you that particular song (allow me to save you the time: there isn’t one.)  You will take up rock climbing in an attempt to gain the attention of a crush who happens to be an avid rock climber, a disastrous endeavor that ends with you asking him over for dinner while stuck at the top of a gymnasium in very climbing-unfriendly jean shorts.  He will say yes, but then never show, leaving you to eat an entire casserole dish of macaroni and cheese alone while watching reruns of The Hills.  You will have such a confusing, roundabout conversation with another boy that you leave it believing he has asked you on a date, only to find that your date is to a pyramid scheme recruitment session.

You will cleverly stage a second serendipitous meeting with the handsome man your dog picked out for you 101 Dalmatians-style because, after the first one, you sent him your phone number via Facebook only to discover that it went into his spam box (CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL HIM HE HAS A FACEBOOK MESSAGE SPAM BOX.)  The meeting will go okay until you knock your head on the doorframe accidentally and then miss the step by the door while making your hasty exit.  You will show up to teach at another one’s school in your cutest teacher clothes, only to find out that he is the teacher for whom you are subbing, and that leaves you dissecting a cow’s eyeball in Diane Von Furstenberg palazzo pants.  You will forgo your precious loafers and birkenstocks for some sexy stiletto heels for your friend’s birthday party; you will trip over them while carrying a birthday cake and end up smushing it all over yourself while the party sings, “Happy birthday to… *gasp*.”  You will have a glass of wine while on antibiotics and proceed to belligerently text the handsomest guy in your contacts in what you believe to be a sort of mean-sexy flirtation, only to discover the next day that it skewed more towards the odd-and-erroneously-autocorrected.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve grown so much wiser from my years of experience in love and love lost, but if I told you that I just got off of antibiotics two days ago, would that give you an idea of where I am right now?  All time and experience have taught me is to fear my own, harebrained love impulses.  That big risk, more often than not, ends in big humiliation.  And I don’t know how to reconcile the fight to preserve one’s dignity with the fact that the heart wants what it fucking wants, and what else can we do about it?  Hopefully, someday, what the heart fucking wants will figure it out.

But, in the meantime, if it’s any consolation– What’s-His-Name’s shits are gonna look like Bob Mackie designed them for at least a week, so there’s that.

Love,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?

our most valuable and precious

Dear child,

I am so, so very sorry that we lost Puppy today. The incident occurred somewhere within a flurry of frenetic activity preceded by the following: my recognition that (1) the bench on which we had been sitting together was suddenly warm, (2) that it reminded me of the heated seats in my dad’s Yukon, (3) that my mother always complained that heated seats felt like you had peed your pants… and, finally, (4) that you had peed your pants, and the entire bench, and, as a result, my pants too. And then there was the rush to change you out of your clothes, and the lap I made around school to complain to every single adult I could find that now my pants were peed on too and, unfortunately, my mother hadn’t packed ME an additional set of pants, in the desperate hope that someone would tell me to go home (should it not be a rule that, if you get PEED ON, you get to FUCKING GO HOME?!) … well, somewhere in there, we left Puppy on the bench. And Puppy got jacked.

I searched the entire goddamn preschool. And when I say searched, I interrupted every class to announce that we were missing Puppy. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled around the playground, looking for Puppy-sized hidey-holes. I dug in the motherfucking sandbox (if I get ringworm, I’m quitting.) I OPENED THE COMPOST BIN. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FUCKING TERRIFYING IT IS IN THERE? Puppy had simply vanished, Gone Girl-style. I was just about five seconds away from barging once again into every classroom and ordering every child in the school to EMPTY THEIR MOTHERFUCKING CUBBIES OR BE TURNED OVER TO THE AUTHORITIES FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE but then your mother came to pick you up, her face blanching at the news, whisking you home where she hoped to pass off “backup Puppy” as the real deal.

I so doggedly searched for Puppy (oh, and I will find her, mark my words, and the culprit will face the full weight of the law of… someone who isn’t me) because I understand the importance of your stuffed animal. I, too, had a stuffed animal on which my entire wellbeing depended. He was a bear named Teddy (in true matters of the heart, sometimes simplicity trumps creativity.) He was intended for my newborn baby brother; there is even a picture my guilty hand, caught in the act of snagging him out of my brother’s crib. As early as I can remember, Teddy slept in the crook of my arm. I was so accustomed to him being there, that I could not sleep without him. I forgot him once, on a sleepover, and spent the night wide awake with my sweatshirt crammed into my arm, trying in vain to mimic his comforting weight. But it was no use; Teddy was infused with some sort of homespun, childhood magic; ours was an unbreakable, enigmatic, timeless bond that happens between children and that one, very special talisman they claim for their own.

So, naturally, as you do Puppy, I took Teddy everywhere, including on trips. My mother would remind me not to leave Teddy in my bed at a hotel, because housekeeping might just accidentally gather him up in the sheets and take him when they changed the linens. As a safeguard, I would lock him in the safe every day, my most valuable and precious possession, a little yellow bear with a shredded, worn bib on which used to be a tiny embroidered bumblebee, now just some needle holes where the thread had long worn away.

As you might have predicted, this worked well until the one day I forgot to take Teddy out of my bed. You can imagine my horror, the panic, searching under and around the bed, scouring the hotel room, checking the safe over and over again. It was hard enough to be away from the comfort of home; it was almost unbearable to consider that I might have lost my most valuable and precious possession in a strange place. I remember going to concierge, it was late, maybe midnight, in tears. Explaining over and over again, to a number of different staffers, that it was a small bear, it was important to me, I even made up some story about how a long-deceased and beloved relative had given it to me (I thought perhaps it sounded better than that I had lifted it off my unsuspecting infant brother.) Finally, after the very nice gentleman in guest services conducted a hushed conversation on the phone that I couldn’t understand, my heart pounding, a man came down the hallway with a small plastic grocery bag in his hand. And in that bag was Teddy, freshly laundered, frayed little bib with no stitching, grandest bear in the entire world. I burst into tears and hugged everyone in the lobby, to mixed reaction, and then went back to my room. … Perhaps, in retrospect, it came off a little odd, in a luxury resort in South Africa, to be hugged by a semi-hysterical 30 year old woman in pajamas, clutching the shittiest little teddy bear you’ve ever seen. But, in true matters of the heart, sometimes appearances aren’t worth one single fuck.

We all have our most valuable and precious possessions, kid, old and young, every last one of us. And to lose them fucking sucks. Which is why you and I should consider not bringing our most valuable and precious possessions where they can be easily taken (accidentally and not.) I have a feeling, however, that Puppy might miraculously find her way back to us on Monday, if she smells anything like my pants did by the end of the day.

Love,

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again?