I woke up extra early this morning, on a Saturday, with a pit in my stomach. Trying not to feel so sick, I looked over to see my dog snoozing on the futon next to my bed. “Good morning, sweet girl,” I said, for the last time.
Before we got Darby in 2004, I was terrified of dogs. 14 years later, I’m terrified of life without one.
She was the runt of her litter, tiny and trampled by her brothers and sisters on the day we got her. I was 8 years old. She was so small that she had to wear a cat collar.
It’s so incredible that we got to spend 14 years with this quirky Coonhound-Doberman mix. Everyone thinks their dog is the best dog, but Darby truly was a once in a lifetime dog. She was so sweet and so funny. She boldly stole chicken nuggets from my plate, gave side-eye when she felt ignored, and would kick golf balls back and forth to herself on the wooden deck. We lived close to the shore. She was afraid of the water, but constantly tried to eat crabs on the beach.
She quickly stole the hearts of my entire family. My mother, who once insisted that our dog would mostly stay outside as her dogs had when she grew up, shared her master bed with Darby. The dog’s preferred sleep number was a solid 25, in case you were wondering.
Darby’s silly yet sweet temperament became the focal point of our whole family dynamic. My parents initially joked that Darby surpassed me in the family ranks. In our four person family, I became #5.
There are so many moments with her I will never forget. When I cried in the weeks before my high school prom, she sat extra close to me and licked my hands. When she revenge-shat on a stack of my laundry (her only real accident in our house, and one that my parents will never not find funny.) The many times I sat in the grass next to her as she outstretched her silky body in the sun. She was a pizza crust vacuum and sass queen.
I liked my dog more than I liked most people. Friends came and went, but I always had my little buddy. Whenever I didn’t want to face unfavorable realities in my life, I’d gloss over them to focus on her. “Well…how is the dog?” I’d say over the phone, when I was at college and didn’t want to have hard conversations.
A few months ago, we found out she had cancer. A mass started to grow in her mouth. I was heartbroken, and I cried in my apartment about the thought of her leaving us. I started coming home from college every weekend, just to get more time with her. As the mass grew, and began to bleed and smell, she mostly was still the same happy-go-lucky dog. A week ago, I watched her hop in the yard after a squirrel as if she was 12 years younger. At my arrival, she would still wap her tail back and forth. At the same time, I realized that she was ready to go, no longer able to go up the stairs by herself, and skipping meals. 14 years is an incredible amount of time to have with a dog. I know that. When I arrived home for our last day together, I noticed the black mass that once hung from her mouth was missing. My mom informed me that it fell off two days ago. She wasn’t in any less pain, but I’m glad that thing fell off. I’m sure she felt more comfortable by its absence. I thought I’d be okay today, knowing how lucky we were to get 14 years, but at around 12:30 I found myself desperately crying to my mother in the kitchen, “Can’t you just cancel it? We can take care of her if she falls again!” As the day ticked by, the countdown aspect of this was extra haunting. I’m not ready to say goodbye yet.
Moving forward, it’s going to be so hard. I’m anticipate a hollow feeling in my household as I pass by all of her favorite places. Even the places where she once puked on the carpet will hold sentiment.
Over the summer, I found a golden, tarnished, heart-shaped locket in my childhood bedroom. The chain broke, so it was just a pendant. It was from fourth grade, and I was so amused. I thought inside there would be some embarrassing remnant of an old crush. Lord knows what fourth grade me could’ve put in there. Would it be Jesse McCartney or the name of a kid in my class? I pried it open to find a picture of Darby in there. My heart’s desire in fourth grade was my dog. I attached the pendant to my bracelet and I’ve worn it every day since.
Darby spent her last day like a queen, with plenty of bacon and belly rubs. I lost an incomparable love from my life today, but god, I am so thankful.
Sir Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” was probably the cheesiest 80’s pop song that wasn’t George Michael’s. Though my love for Sir Elton John runs so deep (a fact most people in my life know) this particular song was an always immediate skip in the playlist. As a listener, I couldn’t possibly start with emotional “Daniel” about a Vietnam War veteran, or my go-to karaoke jam “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and transition to an upbeat, nonsensical “I’m Still Standing” and it’s ridiculous diss: “And if our love was a circus, you’d be a clown right now.”
Quite literally “I’m Still Standing” stood out as something trivial and silly. I’ll be the first to admit it’s because as much as I constantly try to fight it, I am an innately snooty music snob. This song wasn’t “deep” at the first listen, or even the first 30 listens, so it was out. Until recently if a person were to come up to me and mention they loved Elton John only to reference “I’m Still Standing” as their favorite, I’d probably internally scream, “Sure, Jan.”
Listen to this without telling me it’s cheesy.
It wasn’t until I learned a lesson about resilience that I really understood “I’m Still Standing.” It’ll never be “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” But it isn’t trivial, and my many years of disdain for it were misinformed. I had to learn that there’s so much power in just saying, “Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?” That seemed to be a major theme of 2017 for me. I’m still here. Despite everything.
For the same reason, I personally clung to P!nk’s latest album, Beautiful Trauma. Specifically the blatantly named track, “I Am Here” and it’s’ line, “I can make anywhere home.”
A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined where I would be now. I’m sure many feel the same about 2017 both politically and not. I have many new faces in my life. That’s a weird way to put that, but I’ve got a lot of new company. I’ve strengthened older friendships, too. I went from someone who had a lot of acquaintances they never hung out with to a person who cackles with them over drinks. I didn’t know that I’d live in my favorite neighborhood in Boston. Mostly, I didn’t, and still don’t really know, how to manage that mental health thing people talk about.
I also don’t have to disclose much about that. I constantly remind myself I don’t have to share that. I don’t owe anyone anything, in that regard. Brevity is a virtue.
Recently, I was talking post-grad plans with my dad, about where I may take a job. He said maybe jokingly, maybe seriously, “You couldn’t even survive living alone in LA!” I shot right back, amused, “I’m still here, aren’t I?”
That’s the thing. I’ve survived 3,000 miles away from everything I knew. I’ve survived heartbreak. I’ve survived loss. I’ve survived every single day that I’ve ever doubted myself. Nothing and no one can take that away from me.
A week or so goes by, and I’ve left what was supposed to be a normal doctor’s appointment worried. I was laying on my bed, pondering and listening to Elton John’s latest album, “Diamonds” staring at the ceiling, as one does. Teary-eyed, I heard the stupid beginning to my least favorite masterpiece. I reached for the skip button, almost laughing, “Dear god, not this stupid song, not now” but I stopped myself.
It took a mixture of crying and laughing for me to understand this silly song. I guess I’m just trying to say that I’m still standing, better than I ever did.
I thought of a few of absurdist Halloween costume ideas, so you don’t have to. These are not for the last minute draw-whiskers-on-your-face kind of person, rather these are for the individual that wants to win Halloween.
You have approximately 21 days to get this together. Allow me to help.
1.) You could go as Beyoncé’s Ultrasound. We all know that the announcement of Bey’s pregnacy was a momentous in this year’s history. Twins Rumi and Sir Carter will probably be the first twin presidents someday, so it’s important to start honoring them early. I know what you’re thinking, “Maddie, how am I going to pull off being an..ultrasound…?” Well, allow me to explain with this concept art. Obviously, you’re going to need two people for this one.
2) You could go as Baroque Obama. Dress in Baroque period clothing with a puffy collar and as #44.
3) To really spook your friends, go as Ann Coulter. 4) Get a motorized scooter, some cardboard, and remove your spine to become Sean Spicer with a moving podium à la SNL.
5) Lastly, are you one of those people that wants a costume your friends, “just won’t get” ? Or are you afraid that you’re running out of sexy costume ideas? Impress yourself with an original, *quirky* sexy version of the best Guillermo Del Toro film to date. All you need for these ones, is well, professional help.
There you have it. Which one of these amazing ideas are you going to steal? Please, don’t all thank me at once.
Reading @jonnysun’s “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” is the cutest existential crisis I’ve ever had. If you’re a creative, introvert, included in the 1 out of 4 average that suffer from mental illness, or a combination of all three; this book will feel like a hug. I was genuinely sad I finished it. Luckily, sadness is fleeting.
If you don’t believe my hype, take Lin Manuel Miranda’s, “Read this book if you want to feel alive.”
Jomny is an outsider alien sent to earth to study humans. His journey to find friendship in a world that is so confusing to him gets deep, cute, and insecure. Before you go spellcheck crazy on me, remember that aliens, or “aliebns” shouldn’t be expected to fully understand how to spell. I believe that Jomny is simply doing his best.
While at earth Jomny meets many woodland creatures he assumes are humabns. Notably, he meets: a tree, an egg, a bear, a ghost, a hedgehog, a puppy, and casually, the concept of nothingness. Each of these characters, whom have never really had a chance to open up before, find solace in stumbling across someone who’s willing to listen.
The bear is surprised Jomny doesn’t run and questions fear. The puppy cannot communicate with Jomny for some reason, and ponders its frustration over the inability to communicate just how happy it feels. From an outside view, Jomny is jealous of how happy the puppy appears.
The egg, very relatable, questions both its future and present.
Same. I am not crying over an egg, you are.
The tree struggles with stagnancy as others come and go. The ghost claims there’s nothing to fear beyond. The hedgehog manages creativity as an introvert, fight crippling self-doubt. Nothingness gets fed up.
There is so much here I want to say, but I don’t want to ruin anything. I want everyone to experience this intergalactic journey on how to be more humabn as authentically as possible. I came out of reading this with laugh lines, life lessons, and feeling like I now have some sort of celestial son I must protect at all times. Beliebve the hype. “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” is the cutest, most thought-provoking and heartwarming cartoon to have on your coffee table this summer.
Does Twitter give you a skull-shaking headache these days? It seems that nowadays there is always a lot to take in. Take last week: the disgusting Transgender Military Ban, Scaramucci’s WH meltdown, the fight for the Skinny Repeal, and now ballistic missile strikes from North Korea. How is it that I nostalgically miss when Twitter was just everyone freaking out over Amanda Bynes asking Drake to murder her vagina. Those were simpler times.
Now, the minute two events happen simultaneously, people are so quick to yell, “Distraction! This is a distraction from [insert clusterf*ck of the week here].” I’m sure another one is happening right now as I type this.
The amount of information we now have thrown at us in our fingertips all day is too much for one brain to fully comprehend. No, really.
A couple of months ago I read a book called Thank You For Being Late by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Ignore how snobby that sentence sounds, and focus on this. The only thing enlightening and relevant thing I found in its 461 pages was a concept known as Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law is a theory from 1965 from Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, and it was used to exponentially chart the growth of both speed and processing power in a microchip. Moore theorized that about every two years the speed and power of the microchip would double, and so on. The accuracy of Moore’s law in the course of the next 50 or so years, led it to be a term used to describe exponential growth in a changing landscape, and essentially the rate of which the market churns out things, that in which, we process.
Maddie, what the f*@k do microchips have to do with anything right now? Let me explain.
In the book, Moore’s law is best illustrated by an annoyingly repetitive metaphor about a king and a peasant wagering on some grains of rice. A king meets a peasant, who is conveniently the inventor of chess, and is so amazed at the game that he bets the peasant he can win. The peasant agrees, but says he only wants to feed his family, so he bets that the king reward him with a grain of rice for each square of the chessboard, except double the amount on each square moving forward, so one on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on… The king agrees without realizing that double yielding the rice over 63 times, actually adds up to about 18 quintillion grains of race. Well, Friedman asserts that we have now entered a “second chessboard” of innovation/acceleration, meaning that the “rice” we now have at our disposal is beyond quintillions of what we once started with. Stay with me. I’m getting there. Friedman met with Eric Teller, the CEO of Google’s X research and development lab, to discuss Moore’s law and its relevance to acceleration in technology and social movements. Teller, who rode into their meeting on roller blades, enthusiastically created a graph to illustrate the how accelerations in Moore’s law and in the flow of ideas are together increasing the pace of change that is challenging the ability of humans to, well, adapt.
What we are seeing here in Teller’s graph, is that, “even though human beings, and societies have steadily adapted to change, on average, the technological change is one accelerating so fast that it has risen above the average rate at which most people can absorb all these changes.” The result, is well, cultural angst and those Twitter-induced headaches. We simply cannot adapt as fast as what is being thrown in our direction. It is impossible to wholeheartedly and fully focus on all of these concepts at once, in a news cycle, on a Twitter feed everyday.
So, if you’re feeling like you’re constantly playing catch up, you’re probably just operating at an average level of adaptability. Next time you’re at a party and someone complains how “they’re so out of the loop” explain Moore’s Law to them, maybe even bring some prop rice for some showmanship; you’re welcome.
There have been so many things I have wanted to write here, I promise. I have lists of ideas scribbled on napkins, ripped notebook pages, and bulleted lists clogging up my iPhone notes. It’s just…that I can’t write them. For some reason, within the last month or so I’ve built up a stigma about posting to this blog. Everything I write for it, I delete. If this makes the cut, it’ll be a miracle. I don’t know if this thing started back up recently because The Funyun now has over 1K followers on Twitter (I kind of have a feeling deep down that’s definitely not it) but in the past I have grappled with the whole “writing for an audience” vs. “writing for me” type of thing. I’d like to think that I write for me but also like, aren’t we all writing so that someone reads it and receives it well? Was this ever a thing I did that was “just for me” ? You can’t answer that. I certainly can’t answer that. Here comes the crippling self-doubt and existential meltdown that at 21 years old I am appropriately having.
I’m in a very transitional part of my life. If I’m being honest, I don’t really know who my friends are. I don’t do a lot of things for fun. I recently just left a job that I was working at pretty much full time. Since the end of April I was either at work, doing other creative work, or asleep. I have friends, sure. Although often it seems that my best friends have their own best friends, if that makes sense. This is just something I’ve gotten used to after using the past 3 years throwing myself from one work environment into the next, trying to fool myself out of an anxiety disorder. Spoiler alert: you can have the best grades, the best job, and still be an anxious mess. How unfair, right? Anyways, I am sitting here, age 21, just thinking about how at age 13 I was probably in the same mindset. Isn’t it funny how life works out?
I have still been writing, and enjoying doing so on a platform where I feel less paralyzed. This summer I’ve been writing for Mack In Style, a lovely fashion and lifestyle blog. That’s been great. You can find that writing here, here, and here.
I’ve started going to therapy a while back. It turns out pretending to relate to Lana Del Rey lyrics wholeheartedly can often be a sign of something else. For a while I was a die hard Marina Diamandis and Lana fan that I swore their often sad aesthetic accurately portrayed the anxious mess inside my head. I wanted to embody Lana, in a way. In high school once a guy told me that I looked like Lana at school one day and at the time I thought was the nicest thing. The fact I even remember that compliment says something about my obsession with her. This week Lana’s new album Lust For Life came out, and I found myself staring at the ceiling listening track by track thinking back to the times when I angstily thought she understood me. Honestly? Her music has phonetically not changed at all. The songs sound exactly the same. It didn’t bother me, but the fact that I am now recognizing how beautiful and romanticized her angelic voice makes depression sound did bother me. She makes sickness sound so sweet. As a teen I totally bought into it; that somehow my discomfort was beautiful and cruel in a way. It wasn’t. That is bullshit; but those intrusive thoughts are easily brought to surface when your mind is already halfway there and a practical angel sings you into validating those sad thoughts.
Anyways, off the Lana tangent, I also stopped going to therapy. I’m still figuring my mind out. If I learned anything from what has been the hardest school year of my life is that I truly am my own biggest roadblock.
I have a bright future. I work really damn hard, but that’s all not going to matter if I am not mentally there for myself. I’m not sure how to be there for myself yet. Outsiders love to tell me their own remedies to anxiety, I’ve noticed. Drink water, try this natural thing I like, make new friends, go out – and while it’s nice of them to think of me, most of that advice isn’t going to personally help me, but rather just give the person offering advice a better feeling about the whole thing. I’m learning that I need to learn what makes me happy. It seems crazy to some that I’ve forgotten what does.
For years I’ve badly kept a secret under a snobby “I listen to the Shins” facade. I play it “cool” when talking music. If you ask, I’ll recommend eclectic Tame Impala, soothing Jenny Lewis, and mention how I just got into Andrew Bird and wish I saw him at a house show in the city before he got big. If you hand me the aux cord I’ll put on Fleetwood Mac’s stomp-y “Tusk,” pretend I liked Lorde from the start, or select Jack White’s “Lazaretto,” not before mentioning it’s unfortunate that he’s an asshole in real life. I’ll mention that I saw the ever so angsty Simple Plan in concert when I was 15, and how I once fainted during a Modest Mouse set.
If you met me now, you probably wouldn’t guess that at one point in my life I knew the whereabouts of Harry Styles at any given time and day, but that’s the goddamn truth.
One Direction was more than just an obsession; it was a ride. I was there since 2011 when they auditioned on X Factor. I knew everything past the basic information everybody knew like his birthday, hometown, his tattoos. Just from scrolling through my Twitter feed I knew where he was, who he was with, why he was with them, I mean everything. My parents gifted a cardboard cutout Harry to me as a reward for being inducted into my school’s National Honor Society. I was mortified, embarrassed, and only a few, trusted, friends ever saw it. I had 1D books, their DVD, cut out pictures of them. I even had a favorite picture of Harry. This was it. I don’t know, okay?
I’ll try to write this to the best of my ability as if I did not own a cardboard cutout of Harry Styles in 2012. You see, it was “embarrassing” to proudly stan One Direction in my day. It was shameful to bop to “trivial” hits like “Live While We’re Young,” “Up All Night,” and the one that started it all, “What Makes You Beautiful.” It was basic. Society deemed 1D as soft, childish, and because it was beloved by hormonal teen girls: dismissible.
Here’s the truth about that: assuming something is shit because teen girls like it is inherently sexist, elitist, and frankly, a waste of both yours and my time. Nothing is worse at a party than having to listen to a mediocre dude mansplain Weezer, Coldplay, or Radiohead to you while vaping. I once had a man-bun donning Uber driver in Los Angeles ask me, “Jack White, ever heard of him?” and I rolled my eyes so hard I resembled an eightball.
Mr. Styles himself is aware of the sexism that surrounds his fame and actually addressed it in a recent Rolling Stone interview:
“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls liked the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”
Forced into hiding during One Direction’s peak, I began to share my “cooler” musical interests more often. It wasn’t necessarily a lie, because I did and do listen to Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, and Jenny Lewis frequently. In childhood journals, I wrote that Stevie Nicks was my role model and mentioned how “Tusk” and “The Chain” were the best songs ever created. (Though 21-year-old me contests now that Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” may tie).
I went into complete stalkerish-fangirl-retirement around the time of One Direction’s third album. I had just dropped off, lost interest in the drama, and I was done. I heard the last album post-Zayn and I liked it, but didn’t obsess over it like I had previously. I truly did just naturally stop listening to their music. Things were smooth sailing for a couple of years; my headphones only blasted some good ol’ Norah Jones, Rilo Kiley, Fleetwood Mac, Father John Misty, and y-know, indie folk stuff.
That’s why when Harry Styles went solo, with a newer, folk-y rock sound I knew I was in trouble. At first I avoided the album, I knew that once I listened I would be too far gone. I heard peers compare his “Sign Of The Times” to Bowie and call him a baby Mick Jagger. Shit, I thought. The album came out, I avoided it, but my mind had already started to get on board. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get back into my 1D conspiracy lifestyle, but when I saw headlines “Harry Styles’ New Girlfriend: Tess Ward” and I immediately doubted it because it was announced so close to the album release date. Oh no, here we go again, I thought. Then there was SNL, which I regularly watch anyway, and there he was, in a goddamn plaid suit, singing “Sign Of The Times”, and then, “Ever Since New York” (rumored to be about Taylor Swift – see! I’m doing it again! Ugh!). Upon hearing his soothing voice sliding out of his goddamn smirked mouth it was game over, I had to listen, and I did. And now, just like Sum41’s classic 2000’s angst anthem, I am “In Too Deep.”
“Sign Of The Times” does slightly evoke the late David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” It’s dramatic, soothing, and written about the current political state. “Just stop your crying, it’s a sign on the times. We got to get away from from here. We got to get away from here. Stop your crying, baby, we’ll be alright. They told me that the end is near we got to get away from here.” I mean true though. Styles admitted to long-time best friend James Corden in his recent Carpool Karaoke segment that he cries sometimes performing this song, but in a “cool, emotional way.”
By the way, Harry’s Carpool Karaoke, at the time of publishing, is just three days old and has already accumulated 12 million views on Youtube. It’s also a gem. Harry and James reenact romantic comedy scenes and sing “Hey Ya!” (which I have mentioned a million times is the best song of my generation!).
The other tracks on the album won me over just as easily. “Meet Me In The Hallway” sounds like a Mac Demarco or Tame Impala track, with drawn-out dream-like sentences. It’s desperate, entrancing, and perfect for those who select certain songs to induce them into sleep whilst picking their own brain. “Carolina” is 60s-ish. The repetitive “La La La’s” really make me think of rose colored glasses, neon flowers, and high-waisted bell bottoms.
A favorite, “Two Ghosts,” murdered my soul. It is slower, calmer folk about the ebb and flow of a dead relationship. “We’re not who we used to be, we are just two ghosts swimming in a glass half empty, trying to remember how it feels to have a heartbeat.” Ouch. This one is negative, but not unrelatable. The next track, “Sweet Creature,” is well, sweet. A lot of fans seem to think this was written about his older sister, Gemma. It is also his mom’s favorite song on the album. The background vocals are really eclectic, I think. In fact, the thought of Styles recording just the high-pitched background vocals “Oooooooh-woop! Oooooh-wooop! Oooooh!”s makes me laugh.
“Only Angel” is that classic rock sound many were waiting for. It’s sexy, catchy, and about goddamn time. In the foreseeable future Harry Styles will probably jump around stage to this and possibly swing an electric guitar over a plaid-suited shoulder of his. The not-so-retired fangirl in me wants to guess this song is about Kendall Jenner, but I won’t talk about that. (Though wouldn’t it be amazing if he became a reoccurring character on KUWTK?)
My absolute favorite song on this album is “Kiwi.” It’s the most honest, loud, and rock and roll sound we have heard from Styles yet. It mentions the lifestyle that you’d expect to hear from a 23-year-old celebrity living in LA — cocaine, hard liquor, prostitutes, a crazy impulsive party scene, and baby-makin’. The chorus screams the lyrics “I am having your baby! Its none of your business!” and I quite literally have felt that way toward Harry Styles for years, so thank you, for that, for affirming what I have been thinking this whole time.
“Ever Since New York,” is a slower ballad similar to “Two Ghosts.” Oh, tell me something that I don’t already know. Truthfully, eh. There’s got to be one on the album that just isn’t a favorite. For me, this is it.
“Woman” is moody and confrontational, with some long guitar riffs and orchestrated duck sounds. Well, it’s actually Styles’ voice with an effect over it and it’s not supposed to sound like a duck, more of like an “UHH” but it totally sounds like a quack.
Lastly, is “From The Dining Room Table,” which sounds like the kind of song in an opening scene in Judd Apatow movie starring Michael Cera as the shrimpy male lead. It sounds how unshakeable uncertainty that comes with the twenties feels. It progresses into almost a heavenly sounding chorus for a brief second. My favorite lines are “Fell back to sleep, I got drunk by noon. I’ve never felt less cool.” and “Comfortable silence is so overrated.” For me, this taps into the nature of impulsive decisions a lost twentysomething sometimes makes. It reminds me of almost every time I have drank alone. It’s about longing, missing someone, and in a way, missing yourself. I dig “From The Dining Room Table” and relate, hard.
To make matters worse, I truly think Harry Styles is trying to personally kill me. On Sat. May 20th, he performed a “secret show” at The Troubadour with a special guest. It was Stevie Nicks. They sang “Landslide” together. He cried. I cried. Goddamnit.
So here we are in 2017, Harry Styles’ self-titled rock album has debuted at number one on Billboard’s top 200 chart. One Direction critics will act as if they’ve been won over. That mediocre guy from that party earlier will state the obvious, “This is Harry Styles? It doesn’t sound like One Direction.” A new era of fangirls will mix in with the old. People like me don’t have to hide anymore under elitist “well actually, I listen to-” tones. Harry Styles is cool, has been cool, and if you thought he was lame before just because teen girls liked him, then you were probably being a little sexist. Now if you excuse me, I have an old cardboard cutout to dig out…
Most people recognize the queens of comedy as Ball, Rivers, and modern Fey/Poehler types — but there’s a certain throne in my heart reserved for the woman whose jokes raised my wit — Bynes.
We need to talk about Amanda Bynes. Amanda Bynes was an early 2000s queen, the nonsensical teen on my TV with all that, and my first introduction to women in sketch comedy.
The lengths of which she entertained a generation are enormously spread. I dreamt of being as funny as her, being as cool as her, being able to pull off a midriff like her.
Everyday when I got home from school I would grab a granola bar, plop myself down on the ugly dark green carpet in my childhood bedroom and glue my eyes to the low-def glowing television screen that sang, “AMANDA-AMANDA-AMANDA-AMANDA-AMANDA-AMANDA-AMANDA-AMANDA SHOWWWWWWWWWWWWW!”
In recent years, the media has done her real dirty. The Hollywood Reporter declared the end of her career. People Magazine chronicled her “fall from grace” in just 5 pictures. They also wrote that she is “impossible to help” at this point. In grocery store mags she’s the “hot mess” and “Lohan 2.0.” Harvey Leven and Perez Hilton pretend to be nice now with reports like “Amanda Bynes Is RECOVERING and we’re so proud!” when the truth of the matter is that they were on the frontlines of a spiral for years exploiting addiction, abuse, and sensationalizing mental illness for profit. Frankly, it’s disgusting how profitable tragedy has become to these sick f*cks.
As I type this I feel similarly to how Chris Crocker felt defending Britney.
Yesterday was Amanda Bynes’ 31st birthday and I want to celebrate her and all she has done to shape my young mind. Her plethora of characters still make me laugh and her wit never falters. Millennials truly do need to celebrate what she has done for us.
She was Ashley, a rude tiny-person with a help hotline in All That.
She was Judge Trudy, a no-nonsense nonsense judge who called in the dancing lobsters in The Amanda Show.
She worked at Blockblister, an off brand Blockbuster – god, how old of a sentence?
She taught us what to do when Hula girls attack.
She took us into The Girl’s Room and introduced us to Debbie, her friend who liked eggs.
She was Candy, girlfriend of Tony Pajamas, one of the Al Dente brothers. (“What’s that for?” “For being an idiot!” “Okay!”)
She marketed commercials with consumers like us in mind.
She would tell physically painful knock knock jokes during a hillbilly moment.
She introduced us to her friend Kyle. (Sorry for this one’s video quality but I HAD to include this iconic moment, you know the one).
Lastly, I saved the best for last, she gifted us with the most important melodramatic short series of all time: Moody’s Point. (I could write a whole other blog post about Moody’s Point alone – in fact, I think doing a react and recap for each episode would be pretty cool? Would anyone want to read that? Me rewatching probably my favorite parody drama series for the first time since the early 2000s? Let me know if this would interest you and I might do it?)
Basically, I owe Amanda Bynes my childhood and a large percentage of my sense of humor. In a world where women are constantly told they aren’t funny, I am glad that as a little girl I had Amanda Bynes to prove critics wrong. I continue to wish her all the happiness and laughs, just as she’s given me for all these years. We should all bow down to comedy queen Ms. Amanda Bynes.
In feminist circles on Twitter, she’s known as that fearless bald chick, but Los Angeles boss babe, life coach and makeup artist Mira Joleigh is so much more than that.
Not many people can say they’ve walked across 30 feet of hot coals, gone skydiving the same day they proposed to their wife and left their corporate desk job to become an exotic dancer. Then, go on to become a successful business owner, life coach and makeup artist. For Mira Joleigh, these facts are just a part of her journey. If Beyoncé was right when she sang that a diva is a female version of a hustla’ then there’s something to be said about Joleigh as a diva. Joleigh is the founder of digital lady squad #Ambitionista, a popular online platform for women in their 20s and 30’s to connect and lift each other up.
Each Monday, Mira hosts #Ambitionista Twitter chats, an hour-long online group hang where women offer advice, network, and take time out of their week to mentally unwind with like-minded ladies. Following the Twitter chats, participants are encouraged and invited to join the movement in a closed Facebook group called #Ambitionista Success Club. Here women help each other, network and share advice. If there is such thing as a femme-positive lady mafia, I think I may have found it here.
“I’ve learned that people we admire the most are usually the people we see ourselves in,” says Joleigh. “I tweeted this out earlier today; in an alternate universe I was the love-child of RuPaul and Annie Lennox, but in this universe I am just going to have to be a fangirl.”
In 2014, inspired by fierce femmes such as Amber Rose and Demi Moore, Mira shaved her head, felt liberated, and began posting to social media that #BaldIsBeautiful. Her close friend and former client Alexandra Muller attests to this being one of the most defining Mira moments within her friendship. “It was like this milestone in her life that symbolized her stepping into her own skin and bones. After that, I watched her flourish and grow in career opportunities and in her personal life. It was like she was finally fully herself and began attracting all the right opportunities in life. If that doesn’t scream “INSPIRING!” I don’t know what does. Seriously, how many long haired people have the ovaries to shave their heads? I don’t,” Muller enthused.
Mira exudes new-wave Beyoncé era feminism and intersectionality that previous models of feminism rejected. “Our generation is starting to define what feminism means to us, and how it’s differentiated from the previous waves,” Joleigh explains, and goes on to insist that feminism means “recognizing that gender is on spectrum, that people who are labeled female at birth tend to be treated differently than people who were labeled male at birth, and that masculine qualities are valued in ways that feminine qualities aren’t. It’s not feminism unless it’s intersectional, so that takes into account all identities including race, sexuality, culture, ability, etc.”
Vulnerability is largely a part of her identity, and as a life coach Mira accepts this and uses it to her advantage. “I don’t have it all figured out – no one does,” says Joleigh, in regards to a common life coach misconception that their lives must be perfect in order to coach others. “This keeps me on my toes, I’m always growing because I want to be the best guide and mentor that I can for my clients.”
Joleigh prides herself on conquering fear-inducing challenges. She came out of the closet as a lesbian at age 17 in small town Georgia and describes that as a scary time that changed her forever. When asked about this time, she swallowed hard, sighed and reflected, “My own happiness was more important than what other people thought, and once I really got this, I could apply it to so many other aspects of my life.” In regards to her other fear-induced challenges she’s proud of: she’s shaved her head, held a tarantula, gone cage diving with great white sharks, climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and danced naked in front of thousands of strangers. After listing her triumphs, Joleigh states, “I’ve learned that fear is mostly in your head and nothing is ever as scary as we make it out to be.”
When living in Georgia began to feel oppressive and stagnant for Mira, she decided to up and move across the country to Portland, Oregon. As a child of a military family, she was accustomed to moving around a lot and became conditioned to feel as though places and people were temporary. This mindset challenged her ability to bond socially and clouded her view of sisterhood.
It wasn’t until she was working weekends in a strip club dressing room in Portland where she first felt the bonds of sisterhood, working alongside other empowered dancers. Having always admired strong sexy women, she found working at the strip club to be personally empowering. “The way I see it; I’m going to be ogled at by disrespectful men in public anyway, I might as well be in control of the situation and profit from it,” says Joleigh, whose first introduction to the adult industry was when she discovered an alternative modeling website, Suicide Girls.
As a dancer, profit is exactly what she did. It started as a fun way for Mira to make extra money on the weekends, but the pace convinced her to leave her desk job behind and plan to use her new funds to start her own life coaching business. A few months later, she learned that most of her coworkers at her old job were laid off in the recession. Mira felt fortunate to be dancing in a seemingly recession-proof source of income. Her love of dancing and comfort with her own body took control of a male-gaze oriented tradition and turned it on it’s head.
Fast forward seven years… now, as a life coach and beauty ambassador for LimeLight by Alcone, Joleigh headed into 2017 with the knowledge this is her year to hit the six figure mark as a business owner. Mira’s life-coaching business combined with her social media presence has given her perfect positioning to combine her passion for helping people with her passion for beauty. Mira now uses Facebook Live to broadcast motivational webinars as well as makeup tutorials where she applies all of the products she promotes.
Former coaching client of hers, Alexandra Muller reiterated, “Mira is one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve ever encountered in my life. She’s one of the very few people on this planet that makes everybody feel safe to just be who they are and really inspires people to be the best version of themselves.”
From a corporate desk job, to exotic dancing, to coaching millennial women through life, to makeup artistry, Mira Joleigh is headed nowhere but up, supported by the strength of all the empowered ladies she has left in her wake.
This is dedicated to my dear Mimi, who was sharp, hilarious, and adorable up until the end.
I’ll never forget the way her gaze fixated in contempt slightly to the left of my face that day. My grandmother, “Mimi” then 90, my mother, and I were sitting in the sun in front of an ornate garden lined with marigolds, peonies, and neatly trimmed lavender. We sat on a hot bench on the slate patio in August, chatted and watched the ants below weave in and out of the cracks in the pavement.
The garden was lined with green trees and overgrown vines encompassed what must have been the garden’s old centerpiece – an old stone archway that mimicked an entrance to topiary maze. Today, the stones are toppling, cracked, with small traces of snake skin if you look hard enough. Still, the place was overwhelmingly beautiful, an onlooker would’ve never guessed it was part of a hospice home. The hospice home was essentially a 1933 mansion donated by a past owner and turned to a non-profit hospice home in 2011. The estate sits atop Turkey Hill in Hingham Massachusetts, with a sprawling view of farmland, cows, and it’s interior Neo-Georgian style. There was a pinkish-red tea room lined with old velvet chairs and cabinets of fine china. My personal favorite was a royal red music room, with a crystal chandelier that almost touched a large bouquet of red and white roses that were on a table beneath, a large wooden bookshelf, and an old acoustic shiny black piano. I was sent there several times to wait while my mother and caretakers tended to my grandmother and had conversations that were not for my ears. I’d escape to the music room, which for some reason was always a little bit dusty, and I’d plop myself in front of the piano to play a few songs from Harry Potter — which I’m sure, was a selection that had never been played in that room before. Mimi’s favorite place was any place that you could see birds. Cardinals were her favorite. The best place to see the birds was the patio overlooking the garden outside. Even on the hottest days, that was her place to be.
I looked up from the ant trails on the slate to face directly at her. I spoke about my upcoming school year in the city. As I babbled on, I noticed her eyes move to my left and she smiled. It was enough for me to notice, pause, and slightly laugh, “Mimi, what are you looking at?” She smiled, “Oh, there’s a little boy right behind you.” My breath hitched in my throat, knowing that the likelihood of a child in this environment was anything but normal. At this time, my grandmother was the only patient in the hospice home. I shot my mom a panicked look, and she tried to suppress laughter. I slowly but surely turned my head to see this little boy, but there was nothing there. Mimi continued, “He’s running behind those trees now.” My mother and I looked again, there was no one, and no sound of footsteps through rustling leaves. We laughed it off and as soon as I got into the car with my mother, I looked at her in horror and she just laughed at me. I have a habit of feeling like every single inch of the United States is haunted. To be fair, I grew up in New England, the oldest part of the country with a peculiar amount of dark unknown history, but that’s a story for another time.
My next visit to the estate I beelined for the musty binder that sat on the front desk to find out about the history of the house. It had old photos and news clippings, but it didn’t suffice. They were all the highlights and I needed answers. Obviously I knew that people had died in this house, duh, but I was looking for names, family members, any description that would match a little boy. I found nothing. I kindly returned the binder to it’s place and went along my way. My mother asked the nurse if any patients had reported seeing a little boy in the past. She said that a lot of the patients report things, but many of them were disillusioned due to various medications. I tried to forget about it as I focused on transitioning back into school. A couple of weeks later my mom told me that Mimi had mentioned the little boy again, and that he ran up and down the halls every night. Mimi died in the following month after that, and to the end was a graceful queen in her mansion. I think of her everyday and am thankful for the time we cherished that summer.
This past weekend I caught up with my best friend Emily, whose own loving mother died of breast cancer in that same hospice house around the same time as Mimi. For obvious reasons, she doesn’t like to talk about it. Hospice talk isn’t exactly light conversation, I get that. After a few drinks, we started talking about it and reminiscing on the times we spent that summer with our loved ones. My mother loved running into Emily there – the familiar face in this peculiar setting warmed my mom’s heart. Emily brought my mother great positivity in a time when it was direly needed. Amidst tears, Em told me that her mother, who was a special education teacher, in her final days had diagnosed a boy who ran up and down the hall at night with ADHD, because at night he was just restless. Emily, like my mother, had asked the nurse if there were children around and was told the almost the exact same thing. She had never told her mother about me mentioning the little boy before, this had all happened naturally. When I heard this, my knuckles turned white and I almost shattered the wineglass I was harshly clutching.
I’m unsure if those close to the end of life transition slowly onto a more perceptive, spiritual plane than the living – but I do know that on that August day, sitting in the garden, my grandmother saw a little boy right behind my left shoulder.
A more down-to-earth entertainment source than The Onion* who we are not affiliated with whatsoever.