17 October 2010

Moving On

As I have finally, FINALLY!, gotten a job (and what a job it is...) I have obviously closed up shop here at Adventures in Funemployment.

But, if you enjoy reading of my manic misadventures and bizarre realities that continue to be my life, follow me here: Finding Ford Prefect



Don't Panic.

05 August 2010

Things You Don't Say to Dad (and Never Did)

(This is where I usually put a photo, but I searched for "crackpot" and only came up with images of Bill Kristol and Glenn Beck. The internet wins again!)

This Is Why I'm Crazy, The Sequel

The Crazy Flags are waving at full-mast here at the family homestead. Allow me to elaborate.

My father, Dog bless him, is a wonderful, kind man whom I consider a confidante and friend as well as an inspiration. My mother, likewise, is a loving and nurturing individual who is truly invested in those around her. I love them and respect them both entirely.

However, as I said before, my parents are bananas. (And yes, you can love and respect crazy people.)

Last week I came home from spending the day with Adam, as I do. He had complained of a cold, so we just loafed around, watched TV, I made tea and such, and so the day went. I returned to my parents' house for dinner and spent what I thought was a fairly average evening at home. We three chatted, I watched The Daily Show and The Colbert Report with my dad as is our habit, read a little of the book I'm devouring (The Help by Kathryn Stockett), and went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning and started my usual routine. I made coffee, had some yogurt, and started looking for jobs. My mother was furiously cleaning the windows in the house, but as it is getting close to the end of her summer vacation, I was not surprised by this. When my mother is on vacation (she's an elementary school librarian), she spends 90% of her time reading. There is exactly zero wrong with this. My mom is a bibliophile, she loves her job, she loves books, and kids crack her up. Most days, she sits in the living room reading book after book, from children's stories to huge tomes written for adults. It's her comfort place - and to be honest, it's mine, too. As long as she's sitting there, I know she's not about to go all Joan Crawford on me because... one day, something in her brain starts to fizzle and she goes on a cleaning rampage because she thinks she hasn't accomplished enough over her break. It's super-fun, especially when you get unexpectedly sucked into it and have to help sort through your brother's old shit even though he moved out 12 years ago. Fun fun. 

ANYWAY, so she was doing something weird with the windows (it wasn't just a cleaning, there was scraping and such involved), and I started chatting with her. I'm not exactly how it came about, but at one point, she looked at me in the way she looks at a puppy (we've had several) when it pees on the rug and said, "Well, after what you said to your father last night...! I have never - in 38 years! - seen him speechless, but you made him speechless!"

At first I thought, 'Oh GOD, what did I say?' I had been out for a friend's birthday the night before and there were margaritas involved and I was mildly concerned I had dropped some awful unintentional insult at my dad for a moment. But then I paused. No, no, I had a lovely, quiet, fun evening at home. There was nothing controversial or even any mild disagreement. I had no idea what was going on.

"What?! What?" Exclaimed I. "What did I say?!"

--- Here, dear reader, is where I will tell you what I actually said. My father asked, mid-Colbert Report, what Adam and I did that day. I said, "Oh, you know, sat around all day, laid low." This is my usual sort of response. Additionally, it's truly what we did all day. ---

So my mother, cleaning rag in hand, points at me and says, "You told him you and Adam made love all day."

I don't think I've ever come so close to vomiting at something my mother has said. I was so panicked and horrified that my brain turned into TV static and I burst into tears. And despite my protestations, I could not for the life of me remember what I said, so it seemed like I was just back-pedaling. 

"I" - sob - "would" - sob gasp - "neversay" - gasp sob gasp - "ANYTHING" - sob - "like that" - sob gasp sob - "to" - snort sniffle choke - "either of you!" I blurted.

And this is where I lost my mind. I was so thoroughly mortified at the idea, that screws started shaking lose. I know there exist some really fantastic people out there who are so bohemian and free-spirited and like "with it" that they can say shit like that to their parents. Good for them, honestly, that is pretty awesome. But for all my parents' hippie and free-spirited tendencies, we're not like that. As an acquaintance said when I told her my tale, "I'm 42 and married and I still can't mention anything like sex to my mom!" Some of us are just too stuck in our Puritanical ideals or whatever, I guess. I mean, I get embarrassed if my dad finds out I had a gynecologist's appointment. I begged my mother not to tell him when I reached menarche, for the love of Bob! (I mean, even at that age, I realized he'd figure it out sooner or later, but seriously.)

So, screws coming lose, sobbing, I turned into what can only be characterized as "a six-year-old attempting to run away." I started maniacally throwing shit around my room. I moved my stuff like a whirling dervish, my bed was strewn with books and papers and clothes of various sorts. My mother stood at my doorway, vacillating between apologizing for upsetting me so much by saying she "had to make sure I really didn't say that" and reminding me that she and my father "weren't born yesterday" (i.e. they know I knock boots. FANTASTIC. Really, I'm excited about being told that in no uncertain terms). Neither of these approaches helped.

I started babbling about how I had to move out IMMEDIATELY, and started to "plan" accordingly. Here's where the runaway attempt began. Into an overnight bag, I threw: four pairs of underwear, a dog-eared copy of Lettres de Mon Moulin by Alphonse Daudet, my iPod (sans headphones), an already worn tee shirt, and a box of tampons. I was ready for anything, or at least for emergency travel to the French countryside. I don't know if I've ever felt so mortified - and I once gave a fifteen minute presentation in sixth grade with my fly down!

A few hours later, still half-crying, my face looking like something a rabid possum had chewed on from so many tears, I calmed enough to assess my packing, sort out what I really needed to pack, and headed over to Adam's.

As I drove down Pierce Road, I realized what I had said. Here I must point out that I absolutely ABHOR the use of cell phones while driving. Unless there's an axe murder in the back seat attempting to gut you, stay off your fucking telephone while driving. The use of cell phones - hands-free or otherwise! - while driving is downright dangerous and people who do so should be treated like drunk drivers. BUT, hypocrite that I am, I was in such a state that I called my house.

My mother picked up. "Hello?" She said.

"I know what I said," I growled, only half-relieved. "I said 'we sat around all day and laid low.'"

My mother laughed and laughed, and if I weren't still worked up from earlier, I probably would have seen the humor in it, too. She asked, still half-laughing and entirely worried because she knows how I feel about phones in cars, "do you feel better now?"

"No," I pouted. "Not yet."

"You'll find it funny soon, too," my mom soothed. "I love you."

"Ilumyoutu," I mumbled. "I need to go, I'm driving."

"Okay, be safe," she said, still half-chuckling to herself. "I'll sort everything out with Dad. Love you."

We hung up. I got to Adam's and told him the story. I could tell he was trying very hard not to laugh as he rubbed my back and told me everything would be okay.

"I'm never going to be able to look your father in the eye again!" He exclaimed, only half-joking.

We went about our evening as planned.

My mother later told me that my father was doubled-over with laughter when she told him what I actually said. She said she'd find him chuckling to himself the rest of the day, standing in front of the open fridge for instance, muttering "laid low" and shaking his crazy, bald head.

Now, we just don't mention the incident, my dad and I. I have, however, begun to see the very awkward, slightly schadenfreud-ish humor in it. Likewise, I've come to the conclusion that I need to enunciate better, and maybe make sure my father's not half-asleep when imparting even the most mundane information. 

26 July 2010

The Road to Nowhere... Leads to Me

Ozzy would probably kick my ass for snatching his talent off YouTube, but I could totally outrun him now. 

Facebook is a dangerous place. Not just because it opens a whole universe of stalking, snarking, bullying, and Doocing oneself, but because it's a vessel for all my worst fears. One of these fears is doing nothing with my life.

Why is this embodied in Facebook, you ask. Well, I shall tell you, oh avid reader of blogs. Because by its very nature, Facebook allows users to filter exactly what others see. That means as a friend, I see how wonderful your life is. And it probably is! And I'm not jealous of this. I am a bit ccovetous of your job, however...

One thing I find difficult is seeing how many of my friends have gainful employment, in their chosen fields (or at least with stable benefits packages!), and how this is providing so many new and continuous opportunities. I don't want their jobs, certainly; I want my own. And I apply. Oh! I apply. But it's been six months. And I am depressed about it.

Honestly, when I quote Ozzy (side note: I'm really not a metal fan, this is seemed appropriate. For my next act, I will be biting heads off of Barbie dolls), I am doing so out of desperation. Desperate frustration and that sinking feeling that things will never get better.

Platitudes from friends and strangers alike are not enough to get me through these job-hunting doldrums. And even suggestions don't seem to help, regardless of how many times I apply to suggested positions. The problem, of course, is not simply the never-ending hunt-apply-get rejected cycle. What it really is involves my self-esteem, pure and simple. 

Facebook is like a daily facing-down of my ten year high school reunion. And I graduated high school in 2002! What do I tell people I do? For a long time I was cheeky and laughed about being unemployed, cracked a wise-ass comment. After all, not only do I revel in gallows humor, but being silly helps me stay positive. Making other people laugh makes me happy, this is part of the reason many say truly funny people are often really sad - why else would they try so hard to elicit laughter? Even the sound of it warms the cockles. I said cockles, you perv. Anyway, I digress.

I don't joke much about it anymore. My other post, about how much it fucking sucks to be unemployed and have to talk about it all the time, was a little cathartic. I mean, the conversations about my job hunt have certainly been cut down in number and length. What it didn't do what shut my brain up about it.

I wish my brain had an off switch. Or a mute button. Or that I could buy an at-home lobotomy machine off late-night television for seven easy payments of $75.99 (be one of the first hundred callers and get a free barium enema with each purchase!). I recently found out that the average American job-search takes 35 weeks these days. Thirty-five weeks! That's almost 9 months. I could gestate a human being in that time. Or like 40% of an elephant. Or a whole shit ton of mice. (Well, I couldn't gestate those animals, but I think you catch my drift. Hmmm... mouse army.)

I've been jobless for six months. This means I have 11 weeks to fix my shit or screw up that statistic. I just can't help but think how infuriating this is. Why can't I get a job? Am I looking in the wrong places? Am I being too picky? Or really, and this is the insidious part, am I just not good enough?

Ever have a friend offhandedly (possibly accidentally) give you a backhanded compliment? You know, one of those accidental-by-way-of-asshole insulting phrases that you don't necessarily initially register, but later they start eating your brain? I will give you an example.

"Oh, wow, that's a really cute dress for someone your size."

Initially, you're all, "Gee, thanks! I love it, too." And you go about your day, maybe your week, but then, hours, days, maybe even weeks later, you're sitting down to read some Jane Austen or William S. Burroughs novel and you just blurt out, "... for someone of MY SIZE? What the fuck does that even mean?!" And by now it's way too damn late to say something snarky or corrective back, and you just feed your starved self-esteem with negative thoughts. And sure, when your brain needs to be fed, the first thing to get consumed is never pleasant. Like the rice of self-esteem nourishment, these negatives are plentiful and readily available, but they lack nutrients and flavor and only make you worse off in the end. (And garnishing them with shit like soy sauce and ketchup only makes you thirsty.)

I've been chewing on the stale-rice-negatives of unemployment for far too long. Mostly, they are self-developed. There seems to be an endless supply of New Ways to Hate Me in my head these days. I fixate on my weight. I pick fights with Adam. I throw minor temper tantrums when I lose at chess. I skulk about like Miss Havisham on a bad day (sans wedding cake, of course. That said, I do love me some cake. Donations appreciated.)

It's the uselessness that starts it, but it grows fed by something worse: self-doubt. Of all the adjectives that people have used to describe me, the one I always thought and hoped was true was "intelligent." Often, it is the only thing that has gotten me through some really tough times in my history of self-esteem bullshittery. Thoughts like, "I may be a fatty lumpkin, but at least I'm smart" and "They're paying me borderline poverty wages, but I know so much more than they do!" helped keep me going for a long time. Am I embarrassed or ashamed of my mentally-driven conceit? Sometimes. I don't know everything. I don't even know a lot. But I always knew I was, at the very least, smarter than the average bear. So why am I reduced to stealing pick-a-nic baskets these days? Hey, Booboo?

19 July 2010

I Was Born To Love You

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From my earliest memories of riding in the back of my father's beloved early '70s Pontiac Lemans with BigD 103 (America's First FM!) blaring, to my brother's pre-teen obsession with Billy Joel and my mother's insistence on ambient Celtic music during Christmas, music has been thankfully flooding my eardrums.

This post, however, is about Queen. Queen taught my eight-year old self about queerness, and throughout the years about musical drama, about fuck-yeah-you-can-have-terrible-teeth-and-be-sexy, about seriously shredding it, about you-can-never-wear-too-many-sequins, and about knowing yourself and not giving a shit what others think.

Okay, so maybe I'm giving Freddie a whole helluva lot of credit here, but I will say this: I don't trust people who don't like Queen. All the same, I'm not joking when I say Queen taught me about what it means to be queer.

My dad gave my brother Classic Queen (1992) on cassette (hey we're old!) that he played on a loop for, well, years. Who could blame him?! I remember looking at the band in the flyleaf and wondering why the hell anyone (Freddie) would wear an electric blue silk shirt with cats all over it, but that was beside the point. (Mind you, this is only my recollection of his outfit, I may be mistaken.) It wasn't just because I listened to the album non-stop without any control over it (our bedrooms shared a wall. If you'd like me to recite all of "We Didn't Start The Fire" I can do that, too) that it is so ingrained in my memory. It's because Queen truly changed my appreciation of music.

Sure, I had listened to The Beatles since, well, birth, and had passing familiarity with The Who and The Kinks and even Frankie Valley. I liked music. I loved Queen. Between the two of us, my brother and I destroyed the cassette of Classic Queen. I mean destroyed. We listened to it so often that the tape stretched and distorted. We paused, fast-forwarded, rewound and otherwise mangled the damn thing from over-use. I wonder if it's still around here somewhere, long ago replaced by a now very scratched CD...

I was moved by the music. It made me want to dance like a maniac (and at eight, you are 100% allowed to dance like a maniac), it made me cry and laugh and hurt and can't wait to fall in love. And therein lies my discovery - my understanding - of queerness.

My brother had told me that Freddie Mercury was gay. He then had to explain what gay was. While certainly not upset by the information, I was thoroughly confused. I thought, as many children who are raised by heterosexual parents, that love is one of those very restricted things. Restricted in the sense that certain criteria had to be met before love was achieved; as if it were some sort of algorithm. Hey, I was eight. I loved my family, I loved my pets, I loved Jem and the Holograms (perhaps a little too much, but once you're a Jem girl, you're never the same! Actually, I preferred her arch enemies, the Misfits, but whatever), and I loved QUEEN. It didn't much understand love outside of these narrow contexts.

I was in the car with my mom and had pushed play on - what else - Classic Queen that was in the tape deck. Having recently been informed about this gay stuff, when "Just One Year of Love" came on, I asked my mother what is was like to be gay and how that love compared to "regular" love. (What? Moms know everything.) I think I surprised her with the question, I mean, a trip to the town pool with your eight year old doesn't usually include conversations about sexuality as far as I can gather.

My mom just looked at me, an expression of mild surprise (okay, her eyebrows were attempting to become one with her hairline) across her face. She just said, "Love isn't something that is the same for everyone. Two men or two women can love each other just like a man and woman." (Side note: the physics of love were not discussed. I remained naive to those for quite a few more years, and by then, it was a different story.)

I chewed on that for about three and a half seconds before saying, "Oh, okay." And that was it. Is there really anything else to say? No, except that Queen kicks ass.

Shortly after this, Wayne's World came out, and thanks to Mike Meyers, everyone was singing "Bohemian Rhapsody." I felt like the biggest bad-ass in the fourth grade when I already knew the song and everyone else was running amok abusing the word "bismillah" in their most offensive Freddie-inspired falsettos.

And we all know the arena-Queen, the "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions" medley that is a sporting event staple. (Odd to think that of the few songs Americans actually enjoy during their sports, they were almost all written by Brits, who tend to prefer singing Gerry and the Pacemakers and such during their arena sports. That was almost entirely a non-sequitur, but I felt it was important to make the point.) This isn't the Queen that I know and love, however.

My Queen is singing "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy" at the top of my lungs in Tanya's car on the way to pick up her friend in Vermont. The two of us dancing as best we could while still buckled into her Dodge Neon., murdering Freddie's stellar singing with our own adrenaline-fueled ridiculousness, totally high on the music and life and maybe the fumes form the car.

My Queen is realizing that the best part of the entire Highlander film is "Who Wants To Live Forever" (honestly, a Spanish ghost with a Scottish accent? WTF?) and Queen's other contributions to the series.

My Queen is being told in no uncertain terms that "Fat Bottomed Girls" are as sexy, if not more so, than any skinny supermodel. It's thinking that I should be an international assassin or spy, not because of James Bond, but because of "Killer Queen."

It's listening to "Breakthru" until I laughed myself to tears after a friend's death. 

It's singing "Khashoggi's Ship" or "A Kind of Magic" into a hairbrush in the bathroom in my underwear at least a few times a year for my entire Queen-filled life ("Who said that my party was all over?"). It's knowing arena-rock at its best, and feeling like Queen was playing just for me in some of my worst moments. It's understanding that Freddie Mercury will forever be the only man I think acceptable in a mustache.

Sure, there are other bands I love as much for various reasons, but there's nothing like turning up the self-aware, silly, excitable, operatic, sweeping, shredding, soaring music of Queen. It can change my entire day from absolute shit to totally survivable and maybe even enjoyable. It can elicit laughter and tears, stinging nostalgia and deep fear. And even as I write this, I seem to be falling in love with Queen all over again.

P.S. Happy birthday, Brian May.

09 July 2010

No, I Don't Want To Talk About It

Photo from Scrapetv.com

The world of the Job Search (capitalized, you see) is an odd one. It is made up of the Haves and Have Nots, a stark distinction that is not unlike a class division. And while many of the Haves were once Have Nots, I imagine that they quickly forget what it was like to look for gainful employment. Or, at the very least, I often suspect that they were Have Nots in another, kinder economic climate.

I've mentioned this before, but I have a great education. I have experience. I have brains and drive and a sense of humor. I am not unemployable, I am simply unemployed. Moreover, I know what I need to do to get a job. The horrible cliché "getting a job is a full time job" isn't too far off. I wake up every morning and start my search. (Today, Monster.com suggested I look into managing my local Sunglass Hut.) I apply for jobs, I tweak my resumé constantly, I follow up on applications, interviews, business cards I pull out of the "Win A Free Lunch" fishbowls at restaurants.

As I sit here crying from utter and all-consuming frustration, I realize that one of my most challenging struggles is not just my inability to find employment - it's having to talk about it.

The Haves seem to look at me with the same expression - one of pity and concern and relief - when they ask how my job search is going. Yes, relief. I know that every time I mention how hard it is to find a job, how I've only had a few interviews, how it's been almost six months, they thank their lucky stars it isn't them. And I don't blame them, really. I would probably be making the same face if I were in that position. But then comes the unsolicited advice...

I know people are trying to help. Really, I do. Or, they're trying to remind me that they're employed. Sometimes, I honestly can't tell which it is. Either way, I cannot express how tired I am of the following conversation:

Employed friend/acquaintance/stranger: How's the job hunt going, Court?
Me: Oh, you know, it goes. I've had a few interviews, and I apply to jobs every day, but it's tough.
Employed individual: Have you tried...? OR What about...?
Me: Oh yes, I have. OR I'm looking into it.
Have: Well, I'll keep an eye out for you. I'll see what's out there.
Have Not: Oh how grateful I am to you, as I am a lowly peon with crap morals milking the State for unemployment benefits. Without you, I would starve!

Okay, so not really. I am actually grateful that there are some folks who are keeping an ear to the ground where they work. My friend Kristin, for instance, has been amazing in sending me job openings at her company, and I actually got an interview there upon her recommendation. Incidentally, it was at an insurance company, and they went with someone with underwriting experience (can't blame them), but at least I got in the door. 

On the other hand, I'm tired of that conversation because there seems to be an underlying assumption that if I just tried their advice, if I just did the one right thing, I'd have a job. I just haven't been told what that thing is yet, but THIS PERSON HAS THE MAGICAL INSIGHT, damnit. They just know it! 

The thing is, it's all the same advice. I just had to stop my dad from spewing more a minute ago when he asked why I was crying. 
"I'm just so fucking frustrated with my job search!" I said.
"Well, have you tried...?" He started.
"I don't want to talk about it. I just don't!" I interrupted him. He left the room. I feel bad.

Really, it's been six months. There is no more wisdom to impart to me as far as how to look for a job. I have heard it all, I promise you. And the one conclusion I draw is that is isn't what you know, it's who you know. Yes, it's that horrible n-word. No, not that one, I was talking about networking.

"Networking," as far as I can tell, is code for "my dad/aunt/friend/neighbor/former babysitter is in middle management and will get me a job." I shouldn't poo-poo networking, but I don't have connections. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which being I went to grad school overseas and the limited experience I had in my field was for a non-profit - a dying sector if ever there were one in this economy. (Word is they haven't even outsourced my position at my old organization yet. That means this non-profit has gone six months without any communications team. If you can't communicate your mission as a non-profit, you can't garner donations!) 

But it's more than that. Networking is all fine and dandy once you're in the network, whatever network that may be. It's getting in that's the hard part. And how do you get in? You become a Have. 

Just as I stare, dumbfounded, at job openings that require 5-10+ years of experience, wondering how I can get a job without that much experience, but I can't get experience without a job, networking is a Catch-22. I can't get in without being in. Networking is like the Sopranos or something, though with presumably less fire power and T&A.

So, I'm tired of telling people I'm unemployed. I am sick to death of the pity/relief stare. I am tired of smiling through the same dead-end conversations and suggestions when I just want to talk about anything else. I hate basketball, but I will talk to you for six hours about LeBron James if it will keep you from reminding me that I don't have a job.

I don't want to sound ungrateful. Really, I'm not. I'm just frustrated and scared and angry. I'm not jealous, per se, of those with jobs. I don't want to take anyone's job, I just want one of my own (preferably one with benefits, but I'm definitely getting less picky these days). I do appreciate the sympathy and empathy that people offer, because it is really hard out here in Joblessville. I just can't talk about it anymore, especially with the same people. I don't have anything left to say, and there really isn't much new to hear.

All the same, I know the conversations can't stop, because who knows? Maybe the next person I come across will know of the exact position I will fit, and I'll suddenly become a Have. (And by suddenly, I mean after slogging through the seemingly endless application and interview process.) I just want to put it out there that this isn't easy. And it's not just the search that's hard, it's that it is never-ending. There is no respite from the reminder that I am unemployed, that I need a job. Even when I'm out trying to relax, I have a nagging fear that I may never find a job.

Adam keeps reminding me that of all the times to be unemployed, now is it. So many people will have a gap in their resumés during this period that it will be understandable. Regardless, it's hard not to feel defective and less than because of my joblessness. It's difficult to wake up every morning and question whether or not I'm worthy, intelligent, or friendly enough to get a job... or to keep one. I realize I was laid off due to the financial shit-show that was my former employer, but sometimes, on days like today, I really wonder. 

Maybe I just need a little Stuart Smalley in my life today, because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggoneit, people like me.

Al Franken as Stuart Smalley. Found it here.

All the same, even Stuart Smalley once said, "whining is anger coming through a very small opening."

So maybe I've been whining my way through this post. Or maybe, just for a little while, I don't want to talk about it. Just for a little while. I need time to regroup.

27 June 2010

C Is For...


Captivating. Conscientiousness. Casual. Conversation. Courtney. Crazy. Contest. Communication.


Well, I promised I'd write about "the c-word" at one point or another, since I am a big fan after all, so I figured that there was no time like the present. I like the word cunt, though I will try to keep my use of it in this post to a reasonable level, since repeating anything too many times, aside from potentially offensive, is just plain tedious. In some ways, I love the word.

Allow me to slpain.

"Cunt" is, for all intents and purposes, one of the oldest words used to describe, well, female genitalia. Shakespeare used it. There's a street in London called Gropecunt Lane (uh, yeah. I wonder what business was going on there...). The etymology of the word is one that goes back centuries to early Middle English, and may come from Germanic, Latin, and even Greek roots. It was in common, daily use from about the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century. Then, somehow, it became a taboo all its own. Honestly, though, who cares?

When it comes down to it, "cunt" is a bad word, one that is derisive and vulgar and helped make George Carlin (may he rest in peace) one of the most memorable (not to mention effective and progressive) comedians in history. You know the bit:

At any rate, I like the word cunt because, for all its culturally imposed vulgarity, it's a damn fine word. I don't see any reason why the corner on the market of "strong and offensive" words needs to belong solely to male genitalia. Think about it for a second. The following words are strong and offensive: cock, prick, dick, schmuck, shaft (as in "to shaft"). To put in frankly, these relate to penises. Yay for men and their fantastically strong (albeit awkwardly placed and funny looking - sorry guys) genitals. Seriously. You won. Or at least, your anatomy and our culture made sure you did.

ON THE OTHER HAND, think of these words when used in the offensive sense: pussy, douche(bag), vagina, twat. The weak sibilant Ss of "pussy," the sense of being unclean that comes with "douche" (for the record, douche means "shower" in French). The fact that even the anatomically correct term can be used as a power-sapping insult is maddening. How did that happen? In the words of Mr. Carlin, "We fucked it up."

To bring in another comedian, Hal Sparks, I would like you to watch this:

The vagina is the tougher of the two genitals, damn it. And we have only one word that conveys this toughness: cunt.

Why do I beleive this? Based solely on the pronunciation of the word, it is strong, forceful, direct. Not unlike "fuck," the hard c sound snaps and forces you to pay attention. The taboo that our culture has attached to it has made it all the more effective. If you're really mad, if you really dislike someone, you call them a cunt.

Cunt is so effective in its vulgarity that it can be like a slap to the face. You're not going to get that effect with a word like "dick." And while some may argue that "bitch" is another strong word, reserved mainly for women, it is still disempowering. It references animals, weakness, subjugation. Fuck that noise.

Cunt is an old word. It is an effective word. And it is a powerful word. One could say it's the most offensive word in the English language. And I love it. It so succinctly and directly conveys what is so often missing in insulting discourse (I use "discourse" lightly): strong femininity. 

So, if you're going to insult me, if you're going to call me anything, call me a cunt. I have one and I am one on occasion, and I'm almost always proud of it.

25 June 2010

It's A Judgment Call

Or Moral Relativism Will Drive Me Insane
photo from this blog

This is not a "blog post." This is an incoherent rant that wanders and back-tracks and generally just makes no sense. (But neither does moral relativism.)

I just got off the phone with my boyfriend. We talked for nearly two hours. He happened to be at work, but that's another issue altogether. We argued.

Adam and I have been arguing quite a bit lately, about lots of different things, though we've certainly been able to stay away from petty spats. Our arguments have been about our families and our perceived incompatibilities therein, and life choices that we need to come to grips with. In part, our frequent disagreements are because we've reached that point in a relationship where everyone stops being on their best behavior and starts to let humanity eek out again. You know, the point where every foible stops being cute, and you stop for a second and think, "ya know, it really isn't adorable when she..." Not that this changes how I feel about the man, he is without a doubt, amazing. Patient and kind and understanding and intelligent, Adam is the guy I never saw myself with before but can't picture my life without now. My mother can't get over how dissimilar we are, but I imagine that will eventually change. And the arguments, regardless of their mere existence, are infrequent in general, and overall surmountable. But I realized just now, I am a judgmental bitch.

We were arguing this time about environmental responsibility. Adam made a conjecture about how "it costs more to be 'Green.'" I promptly lost my shit, but that's not the point. I am self-aware enough to know that I closely align an environmentally responsible life with a morally sound one. My stance on politics is no different. Regardless of the so-called liberal attitude that morals and ethics are moving targets, so to speak, and ignoring my often extremely liberal stances, morality is not and should not be a grey area. 

Capice? Listen, people, there is a right and wrong. Execution of one's ethics differs, but morality is overarching. There is right and wrong. You could be utilitarian in your ethics, or Kantian, or Aristotelian, or fucking John B. Doeian for all I care, but ultimately, one comes to the conclusion that A is right and B is wrong, even if both have elements of the other in it. Wait, I'm getting off my point. 

My point? Judgment happens. All the time. You can call me Judgy McJudgerson all you want, it's just how it goes (and look at yourself, count the value-judgments you make in a day.) My judgments about others tend to stem from my own Kantian tendencies - belief in the categorical imperative. Perhaps I should just refer to my own behavior as Cuntian, since that's usually the outcome, but I digress... (I apologize to my aunts who I know read this for using the c-word, but I like it, and someday I will explain why, but that's another post for another day.)

Okay, here's the deal, Adam said to me, "You're such a non-judgmental person on so much, but when it comes to this, you take judgment to the extreme."

His assessment is not wrong. At all. It annoyed me a little at first for it to be so blatantly put out there, but the thing is, he's 100% right. I'm as socially liberal as they come, I think it's right to allow people to marry if they love one another. I think it's right to do what we can to help those in need, form providing unemployment benefits, to nationally subsidized healthcare. And why do I think these things? Because morally, they are sound and justifiable stances. We must consistently afford others the benefits that we ourselves would like should we need them. Morality does not come form the pages of a book of any sort, mind you, but from and understanding of basic human decency - the right for each person to live life as they see if so long as it does not challenge the agency of another. And I'm wandering again...

So as per Adam's assessment, I've spent the last 45 minutes trying to decide why I get so judgmental and angry about people who are blatantly environmentally or socially irresponsible. The people whose opinions differ from mine are one thing; so long as you can logically support your position, go for it. It's the other type that get to me. (And no, people don't fall into one of just two categories, but bear with me here).

The bottom line is, my judgments come from my disgust over willful ignorance; I am revolted by those who choose not to know. Or worse, by those who clearly know and choose to act in the opposite way for whatever reason. Laziness? Selfishness? Downright-Asshole-who-doesn't-give-a-shitness? 
Allow me to provide an example of this: choosing not to use reusable bags (or whatever description) at the grocery. store. What the fuck. Seriously. It's not HARD, it saves you money, and it's better for the environment. Many stores give them away for free. Why wouldn't you choose to do this? GIMME A REASON. Justify your behavior; I'm the goddamned karma police.

Honestly, this doesn't justify it, but at least I'm aware that I can be a self-righteous asshole. Yet, this self-awareness doesn't mean I will change, either.

I'm tired of moral ambiguity. I'm tired of people choosing not to do what is clearly and intrinsically right because of ignorance. It's difficult for me to discuss ethics without delving into the semantics of it, because our language is built with judgment words, but I will try hard not to write a dissertation here. Just think of how subversive political discourse is, and how this semantic abuse has increased recently. Calling someone a "socialist" is the new "communist." "Feminist" is a bad word. These are judgment-laden words which have not always been so, but through intentional semantic use (or abuse) have become such. 

Semantics aside, I reserve my right to judge. Often, I will have the common sense and social decency to keep my damn mouth shut when it comes to making a judgment. 

The bottom line, however, is that we cannot live in a world of moral relativity. Moral relativity in a socially liberal sense breeds a fear of offending others, even when what they are doing is wrong. It means The Daily Show censors itself regarding lampooning insane behavior from religious fundamentalists of various sorts. It means a book - published in the US! - about cartoons that got a Dutch man killed does not include the cartoons in question. It means we learned nothing from Salman Rushdie or the death murder of Dr. George Tiller. 

And moral relativism allows for willful ignorance. I give you one of the most idiotic statements every thought: "It's right because it's right to me."

This can be said for many things, mind you, and be perfectly acceptable. If it relates strictly to your personal autonomy, go for it. If you decide to forego logic and evidentiary support for something such as organized religion, you are perfectly welcome to do so, so long as you're not going to start proselytizing. The thing is, something such as environmental or social responsibility doesn't just affect you. It just doesn't. I realize not everyone can afford, or has the resources, to be "green." (But fuck it, even Kermit the Frog had a safe assessment on that - it's not easy being green.) 

I have a significant amount of trouble focusing on one argument. My ability to articulate that which really boils my potatoes becomes an issue because so much of our illiberal, stagnant society does is intertwined in a way that creates roadblocks when trying to unpack an assumption or disengage prejudices from argument. Hence this meandering "argument" that spanned from judgmental behavior to Emmanuel Kant and onward to Kermit the Frog. 

The problem is not that we perpetuate our own judgmental foibles or that many people just haven't been provided with an understanding of the absurdities of moral relativism (or Constitutional Originalism, for that matter. I'm looking at you, Justice Scalia. Ahem.), or given a lens through which to view life beyond their experiences. 

Please, take a moment and unpack your assumptions, divest yourself of your beliefs and examine them from the outside. You may find that you are, uncomfortably at first, filled to the brim with prejudices and misunderstandings that until you can study them in yourself, will never understand in others.

I don't know if any of this makes sense. I know I haven't provided cohesive or coercive arguments in their entirety, but I have written this because, well, we're all chock full of bullshit, and I'm no exception. At the very least, I try to be honest.

04 June 2010


Service is the rent you pay for having room on Earth.
(okay, that was cheesy, but whatever.)

Shortly after being laid off, while reading the local paper, I came across a call for volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels in my hometown. Knowing I'd be free most (okay, all) days around lunchtime, coupled with a newfound affection for our older citizens as well as an itchy sense of abject uselessness, I called and signed up. 

I must say, my volunteering is not entirely selfless. After all, I'm satisfying a very personal need to be needed. Ultimately, I think that's what most people want in terms of employment or volunteering, or some may say even parenthood. Sure, I help my parents around the house (I spent what seemed like an eternity painting the interior doors recently, for example), and I like to cook for my family and friends, but it's not the same as feeling like a truly contributory member of society. I volunteered for Meals on Wheels because I needed to feel useful. I needed to feel needed. And, truth be told, I needed to feel appreciated. There's little so disheartening as collecting unemployment checks while at the same time living with your parents and not exactly struggling to get by. Strange as it sounds, sometimes I think that if I were struggling, I'd be better off mentally, but I won't get into that now. 

I had to go to the town hall and fill out an absurd amount of paperwork. They asked for references, contact information, emergency information, my SSN, and a urine sample. (I made that last one up. They wanted a blood test.) It was quite the lengthy process, considering I'd be simply dropping food off at senior citizens' homes and scampering off. All the same, I can understand it. After all, these seniors are essentially opening their doors to complete strangers - who knows what shady folk would take advantage if they could, ya know? It's a pretty sick world we live in to think that such people exist, but so it goes...

I was supposed to start deliveries in April, but as it turned out, one of the regular volunteers was sick twice in March and I was called to fill in. There are two routes in my town for deliveries. I tend to choose the one closest to my home, as I'm more familiar with the little neighborhoods and all that, but I've delivered to both routes. One of them is considerably harder than the other to deliver to, and not just because it has more recipients on the list. 

The second route is much longer, with homes farther apart. That is all well and good. What really gets to me is the difference in MOW recipients from one route to the next. The ones on Route 1 are house-bound, sure, but generally speaking, they don't seem to be suffering. They chat a little, and one guy showed me all the wood carving he'd done in his front room (I went in to say hello despite knowing it was against the rules. These people need visitors!) 

The recipients on Route 2, well, they're a different story. Many are in wheelchairs. One woman is so house-bound that she leaves her door unlocked so that the delivery person can walk right in. One woman had a stroke so severe, she can no longer talk. And then there's Mr. L.

This man reminded me so much of my grandfather that I could barely stand it. He came to the door of his condo, shuffling slowly. He wore a flannel over-shirt and dockers, clearly cold from the March rain. His Parkinson's was so severe that the people who pack his MOW have to open a corner of his hot meal so he can get into it. I wanted to hug him and bring him cake, because, let's be honest, MOW food isn't exactly gourmet.

I delivered to Mr. L about halfway through my route. And I cried for the rest of my deliveries. I'd sort myself out before going to the rest of the deliveries from then on, but my heart was breaking. Maybe I was especially soft-hearted that day. Maybe it was the cold, persistent rain that soaked through my sweatshirt. Maybe it was the overwhelming smell of the food that turned my stomach and made me prone to upset. Or maybe because delivering Meals on Wheels is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

I haven't selected to deliver to Route 2 since. I just can't bring myself to do it. I discovered recently that Route 1 has its own set of difficulties. I delivered to Route 1 about once a week since April. One of my favorite people to see was Gerald, an adorable, awesome dude who, the first time I met him, informed me it was going to be is 92nd birthday in a week. He lived on his own, as so many of these people do, but seemed to have a really good handle on things. His house was clean, he was always neatly dressed, and always always in a good mood. Whenever I asked how he was that day, his response was always positive and sweet.

Two weeks ago, he was no longer on the list of deliveries and hasn't been added back since. I have almost successfully convinced myself he has gone to live in an assisted care facility, or that his family has built him an in-law apartment and sees him every day. 

They warn you not to get attached to the people you deliver to. And honestly, I didn't think the 5 or 10 minutes I spend chatting with these folks would indicate attachment. I guess I was wrong.

I won't stop going, though. I really do enjoy it. My face usually hurts after my hour or so of deliveries from smiling so much. There is never any question that these people are happy to see me. Really, it's not about the food at all. Of course, it is about the food, due to their finances and mobility, many of these people wouldn't eat three square meals a day if it weren't for MOW. However, there is no doubt that it's the brief visit that really makes it worthwhile for them.

Recently, Ms. T has been added to my list. Or rather, I've recently met her. Before, a nurse or family member would answer the door, but I suspect she's on the mend, and has been recovering nicely in her in-law apartment. She is always so excited to see me I feel like a rock star. Every time I come to the door, she mentions how adorable and sweet I am, highlighting how young I am (most volunteers with MOW are a bit older). The other day, she invited me in for a chat, conspiratorially.

"How are you today, Ms. T?" I asked. 

"Oh, pretty good!" says she. "Aren't you the sweetest thing? You're just lovely!"

"Oh, thank you," I responded. "Can I help you bring them in?"

"No, no," she said, then paused and looked at me sideways, smiling crookedly. "Unless you'd like to come in for a chat..." she almost whispered with a giggle, knowing what I'd say.

Of course, I couldn't. I had more deliveries to make, and I am not supposed to go in to their homes as per MOW rules. I politely declined and wished her a lovely day. I realized I had a goofy grin on my face when I got to my car. Ms. T just cracks me up. I have a sneaking suspicion she wants to set me up with her grandson, too, but that's another issue altogether. I'm guessing in a few more deliveries, I'll get that invitation, too. 

And I know I shouldn't get attached to Ms. T, just like I shouldn't have gotten attached to Gerald, but I really can't help it. These people are really cool, just a little less fast-moving as the rest of the world. As such, I feel like we have all passed them by, and unfairly so. I will keep delivering MOW until I get a job, since deliveries take place in the middle of the day. 

When I was younger, elderly people kind of freaked me out. I think a lot of younger people feel this way, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the slower pace, or the need to shout and then listen soooo intently at the same time that makes us uncomfortable. But really, I think it's the underlying understanding that we, too, will end up old one day. The bullshit "live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse" adage makes us think that old can never equal beautiful. 

I have lost all of my grandparents, and I have made friends with the people on my delivery route, I can tell you, I can think of no people more beautiful.

03 June 2010

Hypochondria 101

Comic from nataliedee.com

As far as I can recall (though my older brother will probably disagree), I haven't ever really been sickly, or prone to complaining about my ailments. Recently, all of this has changed.

I'm not sure if it's my recent and strange array of minor health issues or purely boredom of mind, but I'm pretty sure I'm dying. And beyond that, I'm probably dying of something weird that only Dr. House could fix in a stunning display of assholery. But Dr. House is fictional! This will not help me! Maybe I should just start stalking Hugh Laurie.

I think WebMD was my gateway drug to hypochondria. WebMD really can be a great resource. Without a doubt, it offers useful and complete information about a wide variety of health issues, treatments, and medication. I was able to use the website several times to self-diagnose problems, make an appointment with my doctor, and go in with all the appropriate questions and get solid answers. 

That damned website needs to come with a warning label.

Honestly, have you ever tried their "Symptom Checker" application? Enter any minor discomforts you're having, for instance: a headache, lower abdominal cramping, and back ache. Instead of just telling you: "STFU you've got PMS, dumbass!" it will tell you that, sure, you might have PMS, but you could also have metastasized uterine cancer and you'd better have written your will five minutes ago, sicko. And, since it's not actually an MD, despite its totally deceptive address, WebMD slaps a "when to call your doctor" addendum on everything. I could go on there looking for the best way to remove a splinter, and it would instruct me to contact my doctor anyway.

Let me tell you, my doctor is a wonderful man who I am quite sure is getting sick of my phone calls. 

At the risk of sharing way too much information (aw, hell, who am I kidding here? I have no filter anyway), I recently got an IUD (as I mentioned before). Now, let's just put this out there: I have a foreign object implanted in my body - intentionally! And not by aliens!  Understandably, this takes one's body some time to get used to. My uterus occasionally throws temper tantrums these days, and every time it happens, I kind of freak out. Keeping in mind that I have a T-shaped piece of plastic wrapped in copper inside my uterus, I can't help but think that the worst possible outcome is on its way. IUDs have some pretty scary risks associated with them (perforated uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease, sterility), but they are so rare that they're pretty much unheard of, and considering the benefits (no babies! no crazy hormones!) they're well worth the risk for me. 

That being said, I'm pretty sure my IUD is migrating its way to my spleen or something, on an Hannibal-esque march to conquer other organs now that it has presumably beaten the crap out of my reproductive system. WebMD routinely confirms these fears and works very hard to instill others.

Reading WebMD is the first step toward becoming a reclusive germaphobe and hypochondriac. Look at today's front page:

You got me, WebMD! You're right, I don't sleep well. I have two tattoos! I have bi-polar, and that includes sometimes depression! When I drink something before bed, I have to wake up to pee! I'M DYING.

WebMD is like a constant barrage of the scare tactics from your local news stations. You know, the ones where you'll get a teaser from these damned rinky-dink "news" outlets during How I Met Your Mother or Fringe that say things like, "What common household object is killing your babies? Find out at 11!" and "Tune in at ten to find out how you're slowly murdering your spouse without knowing it!"

Mind you, I do think WebMD can be quite helpful, but DAMN. What isn't killing me these days? Or what isn't making me want to kill myself?

And all of this is occurring without taking into account the things that are secretly killing all of us. Global warming! Pesticides! Genetically manipulated foods in my grocery store! Scientologists!

Okay, so maybe since I'm aware that I've come down with a raging case of hypochondria, that's not what it really is (though some close to me might differ). Honestly, I think it's a symptom of a brain left to its own devices. The bottom line is, I need a job, if only for my health.

20 May 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Cartoon from 

I have ranted and babbled about my feminism and various women's rights and health before, and I hate sounding like a broken record or a raving lunatic (okay, maybe I like the latter a little bit), but recently I have been struggling deeply with the state of feminism in the United States. I shall call this my State of the Uterus Address... (heh.)

A few months ago, I was at a bar talking with a group women I had just met. In my slightly inebriated state, I mentioned that I was a feminist and started yapping, as I do when drunk, about equality and all that nonsense. Anyway, after I dropped the F-Bomb, I realized I had made a dramatic social faux pas. (Sometimes, I really should just say to myself, "Courtney, no one wants to hear about your weekend bra burning and baby killing, you pinko lesbian man-hater!")

"I am not a feminist," one young woman said with indignation and a slight flavor of superiority, while the other ladies nodded in agreement. "I'm perfectly fine with a man taking care of me."

The Lady Center of my brain (it's where some of us store details about cute shooz and Sex and the City) screeched and wobbled and maybe fainted when I heard this. (Then again, the Lady Center of my brain could have fainted because its corset was too tight, but we can't be sure.) Unfortunately, it was not the first - and sadly won't be the last - time I have been looked at by women of my generation as some sort of aberration because I self-identify as a feminist. The screeching and wobbling comes because I get so worked up, so confused and frustrated and angry when I hear this, that I have trouble articulating what's going on in my head.

So, weeks later, with space and time and a lot of thought in between, I'm going to attempt to explain. Attempt being the operative word.

Fuck You If You're a Feminist-Hating Woman

Fuck. You. 
I feel somewhat compelled to apologize for my visceral anger on this subject, but there is little I hate more than hypocrisy, and that's exactly what it is when American women sit there and sniff, "I'm not a feminist. Ew. Gross." So I'm not bloody well apologizing!

If you're an American woman who hates feminists, you need to check your comprehension of history. You can vote. You can drive a car. You can make personal and unique decisions about your body, your future, and your entire life. And why can you do this? Not because some man took care of you, but because the women who came before you were Feminists

I won't get into the complex and varied history of the Feminist movement, but feminism, just like women as a whole, has evolved and changed over the years. And the women so many revile, the stereotyped bra-burners with hairy arm pits, have done far more for the state of women than many will ever recognize.

It is this stereotype which harms all of us, I think. Feminists are not responsible for this militant angry man-hater stereotype at all, but our culture (it's the Patriarchy, baby, and it's alive and well), in an insidious attempt to retract any gains women have made over the years, has reinforced this Frightening Feminist notion again and again and again. In fact, this has been so pounded into our collective mind-set that the word "Feminist" pulls up a very distinct image, one that is unfeminine, and intimidating, and, well, ugly. It is of a woman who would beat down men and take over, kill your unborn babies (or eat them, I'm not sure), and have sex with your daughters. Or something. Am I right here? Are you scared of feminists?

The Proof Is In The Pudding

True feminists, like true feminism, are about equality. It is about equal treatment for women AND men, for people of all races and backgrounds and futures. 

And yes, there is anger, there was anger, and there might always be anger. It is born of frustration at being repeatedly told that you're not good enough or smart enough simply because you have ovaries. And for those who think they have never been told these things, you are out and out wrong. Women everywhere are told this every day. Give a more critical eye to the advertisements and politics and economics of our world, and you will see that women have consistently gotten a pretty goddamned raw deal.

To clear up confusion, I suppose that maybe I should stop calling myself a feminist and maybe start calling myself a secular humanist or some such, but that just makes me sound like a pompous ass (note: I am one). But I will not allow the play into the fear of feminism. I am a feminist - and a proud one at that. But as I have said before, it is not what defines me, it is simply a part of me. 

In this is a key of feminism so many often miss (or Ms.? damn I think I'm witty!). Feminism gives us the opportunity to define ourselves as women. And the longer we are convinced that feminists are grotesque, the longer we spend arguing whether or not we are feminists, or what a feminist is, or how Feminism is best performed, the less time we have to actually find our definitions, whatever they may be. When a woman hates feminists, when she denies the quality of the Feminist movement, it is an act of betrayal. It is a betrayal of those who have given their lives for the strides women have made in our nation, and betrayal of all those women who are still subjugated and treated as second-class citizens around the world. When a woman like Sarah Palin brags that she is not a feminist, yet is unable to deny that she would be in her position now were it not for the feminists before her, she is a hypocrite and a Judas to her sex. (And any woman who is anti-choice and would deny another the right to her own reproductive decisions fails to realize one very important thing: carrying a pregnancy to term is still a choice.)

The worst part of all of this is that the longer we spend debating what feminism is, the longer we argue whether or not we are feminists, the less time we as women have to become doctors, lawyers, mothers, teachers, politicians, and individuals. And in that, those who strive to retain any and all inequality in our society are winning. 

And as a woman - as a person of any sex - you can be fine with a man (or woman) taking care of you, but that's not a reason to be anti-feminist. That's pretty much just plain laziness.

And for the record: 

18 May 2010

"Crickets Live For Two Weeks"

Seeing as I rather abruptly spilled the beans on the craziness that is my parents, I felt as though I needed to explain that the insanity they bring to the table often pales in comparison to that of my older brother, Colin. 

Again, I feel I need to make it crystal clear that I adore my family. They are loving, intelligent, funny, fun people - I just happen to be related to them, and, ya know, sometimes we all need to put a little more fun in dysfunction. Colin does exactly that in spades.

Allow me to provide a Brief History of Colin. He was born in 1979, the first (and if he'd had it his way, the only) child of Greg and Ellen. Everything was apparently hunky dory until one day, he was unceremoniously informed that the family would be moving to a new town, as they were expecting another child and needed more room. Initially, from all accounts, Colin was ecstatic at the thought of a little brother or sister. Imagine the possibilities! A tiny minion to do his bidding! A ready-made scape-goat! A foil of incompetence, raising his every word to gospel-like veracity! 

And then I showed up. Admittedly, my memory from the ages of birth to about nineteen is a bit fuzzy, but I trace this back to one very significant event. When I was two, Colin pushed me down the stairs and blamed it on the dog. (The dog was a matronly golden retriever, and if I recall, she probably would have turned herself inside out from pure guilt at the thought of hurting one of her People.) I obviously don't remember this incident, but I chalk this up to the head trauma caused by my fall. Of course, no one knew the truth until much later, when Colin got into one of his babbling moods, and spewed his dark secret to the whole family over Christmas dinner. The truth of the fall was followed up with a pointed look at yours truly and the statement, "my life was great until you came along." Mind you, Colin was at least 22 at this point, and I was 17, and in all honesty, I had no idea he harbored such animosity toward me.

But Colin and I are actually quite close friends as well as siblings. Granted, it hasn't always been like this, but from very early on, I worshipped my Big Brother. There are photos of us - or him and his friends, rather - with me in tow, toddling around, trying my best to please him. He has always been boisterous, and smart, the center of attention (and his own universe). He's a tough act to follow.

As the toddling little sister, the smallest in the bunch of neighborhood kids, I was often considered everyone's doll. In fact, my brother's best friend when he was a munchkin, Katie, told me once she thought I was hers; and I was often toted around by Katie, her older brother Matt, and Colin during various odd adventures. What various odd adventures, you might ask?

Well, once the trio of elder children floated me down the stream behind Matt and Katie's house in a baby bathtub. I was around the age of three, and the stream was probably a foot and a half deep at its deepest, but still. I often wonder what the hell my mother and her friend Pat (Matt and Katie's mom) were up to during these various high-jinx, but I digress. Regardless, not only did they float me down stream until it became impossible due to the shallow stream, but they floated me through a cement culvert that passed under a nearby road. The three elder children balanced themselves above the water, in a slightly prone position, shuffling sideways as I went on my sail. I recall being intensely nervous, but at the same time totally ecstatic that I was the center of attention for once. Granted, part of me believes this was my brother's Best Plan for how to get rid of me, as though at the other end of this culvert, the stream would open into the sea and he could wash his hands of his little sister forever. As though I would float off into oblivion, à la Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod or some such. My mother always said that his favorite poem was "One Sister For Sale" by Shel Silverstein in Where the Sidewalk Ends, pictured below. (This statement, while I understood to be in jest, still gave me a bit of a complex. I often wondered if Colin would someday set up a road-side Lemonade or Psychiatric Help stand and slip me in during a sale as some sort of "Buy One, Get One" promotion.)

But the baby bathtub incident wasn't the only time I was exploited for my willingness to be included. Once, during a dinner party my parents were having, the aforementioned trio took it upon themselves to provide dinner and a show. I was pushed into the dining room wearing a pair of my brother's holey underwear on my head, my father's old maroon blazer styled as per 1978, a pair of lens-less wayfarers. I clutched a chipped coffee mug, as I begged for "alms for the poor" from our parents and their friends. I was roughly six at the time and had no idea what alms for the poor were (save the reference in Disney's animated Robin Hood), but was well aware that underwear does not, in fact, qualify as a hat. 

Yet, the dangerous and sometimes embarrassing exploitation my brother subjected me to was often minimized by the rare times we did connect. On rare occasions growing up, we'd shut all the lights off in the upstairs of our raised ranch, shoo our parents downstairs to the family room, and have raucous Nerf fights in the dark, laughing and beating the crap out of each other the whole time. Granted, being five years older, Colin inevitably won, but it's hard to do any permanent damage with a Nerf weapon (that didn't stop either one of us from trying, mind you). 

When I pissed him off enough, by the time he was a preteen, Colin could easily pick me up and throw me around. Like many siblings, bodily harm was not unheard of, and he was known to grab me, dash into my bedroom, and launch me at the wall over my bed, providing a backboard for the Courtney-three-pointer as a splatted and dropped onto my comforter. The only time I ever really got one over on him was when he was chasing me down the hall. Realizing I reached a dead end as I approached my parents bedroom door, I dropped into the fetal position on the floor. Unable to stop, Colin rocketed over me, squarely into the closed door. This victory was short-lived, but oh-so sweet. (See how I revel in it even now?)

But those were the years we were not close. It's difficult to cultivate a friendly relationship between siblings five years apart, especially between siblings of the opposite sex. He always looked out for me though. Kid had my back... even if this protective nature manifested in some of the oddest ways possible.

When I was about fourteen, I was reading in my bedroom when Colin marched in, looked at me authoritatively, and said, "If you ever need condoms, you let me know. I can get you some." 

He left.

When he was out of earshot, I think I almost herniated myself laughing. This was my brother's idea of the Birds and Bees discussion, and was so out of my realm of reality at that point, I couldn't conceive of such a need. But the delivery! Ha! Priceless. And Classic Colin.

Uncompromising is often a word one uses to describe a discerning palate, a refined individual, and those unwilling to give up a little to gain a lot. Uncompromising, in Colin's case, means that he is literally unable to compromise (though my sister-in-law may disagree). My mother loves to tell of how, when Colin was six or so, he and a playmate got into a fight over how to play a certain game. My mother informed them that she would not solve their problems, and that they had to compromise. 

My brother quickly responded, "Of course we'll compromise; we'll do it my way."

He hasn't changed much since. It's more than just an unwillingness to bend, Colin enjoys being the Resident Expert on Everything. It might be a genetic trait (except that I try to be accurate), but it also stems from a very good place. For all his bull-headedness, Colin would do absolutely anything for his friends and family. Providing answers to their every question is only part of this. Granted, this also means that my brother often spreads himself so thin that he's vibrating with energy and tasks from sunup to sundown, eventually passing out from exhaustion on the couch at 7 p.m., but that's another issue altogether.

This isn't to say that his self-assigned role as Resident Expert on Everything isn't also partly and expression of (a very hefty) Ego. At a bonfire party a few summers ago (and if you're from Connecticut, you've been to a bonfire party, and you know how it goes), friends were discussing crickets. One was chirping away in the distance, and it prompted Dan to ask, "How long to crickets live, anyway?"

Swooping in from another discussion altogether, my brother announced authoritatively, "Crickets live for two weeks." 

It is his delivery as much as anything which limits discussion. His self-assured answers and statements, regardless of how outlandish or off-the-wall they seem, are delivered with such obvious testimony, it becomes all but impossible to argue with him without sounding like you have no idea what the hell you're saying. Silly peon! How dare you try to argue with the Great and Powerful Colin Zachary?! Pfft. Quiet, before you make us all stupider for having to listen to you.

This technique of uncorroborated expertise has been perfected over his 30 years. Mind you, none of us have yet to figure out exactly how long crickets live, but we have figured out that Colin's answer was pulled out of his ass. But it demonstrates his technique perfectly. As he spews information, he sprinkles His Own Truth in with actual fact, so efficiently that it becomes extremely difficult to tell truth from (mostly) fiction. He would have been a marvelous snake oil salesman, of Fox News pundit. If only Rupert Murdoch knew what he was missing!

Speaking of which, my brother's politics could not be further from mine on the spectrum. Though most of the time I'm aware that Colin will say socially controversial things just to get my goat, more than once my parents have looked at one another, heads shaking, asking, "Where did we get him?" after one of his whacky and unexpected political tirades. Such tirades are executed in the fashion mentioned above, his arguing skills reminiscent of those of a religious fundamentalist - you know, those folks who use their own logic to justify their assertions without any mind to Aristotelian or Boolean logic. 

To put it plainly, you can't argue with my brother. I mean, you could argue with him. Go ahead, give it a try, Bucko... and my God have mercy on your soul. Colin wins every argument he has (except those with his wife, bless her), not because his logic is more valid (see above), or his evidence more compelling, but simply because he was out talk you. Colin would out talk anyone on any subject. And more than that, he loves to argue. 

When put in a room together, especially with the addition of alcohol, Colin and I can discuss with emphasis (that's our term) anything. Sometimes, he's so eager to argue, we'll end up discussing the same side of an issue, just loudly. 

Our friend Smith once critiqued, "I can't be around you two; you're always arguing!"

This took both of us by complete surprise. We weren't arguing at all, really. We were just having a loud discussion. Loud is key, since Colin has always spoken just a little louder than everyone else in the room. This ensures two things: one, he who shouts loudest gets the most things correct; and two, he is peripherally always the center of attention. It's really quite ingenious. Growing up, I learned that if I wanted to be heard at all, I needed to all but holler. (This once caused Tanya to tell me, "In the volume button of life, you need to go WAY DOWN." Then she met Colin, after which she said, "In the volume button of life... WOW." When people meet Colin after they meet me, they understand why I speak loudly and quickly.) It is all a survival technique.

My brother can be painfully funny, too. I have always believed he's funniest when he cuts loose and lets out his goofy side, rather than his lately preferred "controversial" (read: offensive) humor. When I was about fifteen, I walked by his bedroom to see him staring at his feet, holding his socks. 

"Look at this! Courtney, look at this!" He said.

I came in and stared at his feet. "Look at what?"

"I have Bilbo Baggins feet!" He exclaimed, laughing. "Look at them! They're Hobbit feet!"

To be fair, his feet aren't quite of Hobbit-quality, but it was funny. This was years before the Lord of the Rings movies came out, so part of me thinks he projected his own understanding of Hobbit feet form the books based on his very own peds. 

Often, he'll do things like this just to entertain. Whether it's singing Rod Stewart in a Scottish accent or recounting a tale from work, he has a solid sense of humor that was cultivated much in the same way mine was: too much Monty Python, Marx Brothers, and Benny Hill during formative years. 

And this is probably why we're such good friends now. Even though his intense need to do everything for everyone often means he can't socialize, and I see our mutual friends far more often than he does of late, we do almost always have a great time together. 

Rare as it may be these days, I relish the time I get with him when it's just us. His need to be right all the time falls away slightly (often because I call him out of his bullshit), and we are just two kids in a tree fort again, having a Nerf war, but this time with friendly words rather than foam weapons. All the same, we have a relatively contentious relationship at times. And while I will always love him, it doesn't mean I always like him... but I suspect that feeling is mutual. But maybe that's really because we're so much alike.