Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Croatian summer 2015

By Anci CL

Immersing myself into our annual Dalmatian getaway is always a little jarring at first—time seems to stand still over here, like we’ve got a foothold in a perpetually sunny Narnia of sorts. I realize life goes on even when I’m away, but I also kind of think that’s bullshit, and that this island only exists for six weeks out of the year.  (that’s my self-centeredness talking. Or maybe it’s my science fiction geek.)

I experienced some return anxiety, when I first stepped through ‘the door’ —I guess I’m never sure what to expect when re-interacting with ghosts from the past.  Not that they are malevolent ghosts—more like, hormonal, pubescent phantoms that stir confusion in me, when I see gazes, (and biceps) I recognize.

The women are preternaturally beautiful. I scan their faces with fascinated distance, and wonder what it would take to join their ranks—legs that start from their shoulders, and end several miles below sea level, for starters. (Not to mention a semi-bitchy walk, which my flat feet can’t pull off, but my ambitious hips perpetually strive for, anyway.)

I am suddenly bombarded with memories I have long-since forgotten. Riding on the back of a raging rusty motorcycle, gripping onto the tanned skin of a semi-reckless, sandy-haired driver, whose masculine prowess is forever set (in my mind) at  a hissing, red “TERRIFYING.”

Then I blink,  and I’m storming away in 17 year old rage when… a boy I “liked” did something unforgiveable like... use a shitty tone of voice. His indifference clashes with my leopard print bikini, and my eyes are burning with hot, feminine fury.

I flash forward several years and I’m watching glowing sea creatures shiver and dance below the surface of the Adriatic, as somebody in the background strums on an old guitar, and a very drunk friend of mine starts quietly playing with my hair.  I pull away, and allow him to compose himself but my thoughts are scattered with dull whispers of Bosnia.

In an instant I am back to 16, holding a trembling flute in my hand, and feeling relief when my professor praises me.  She calls me musical and talented, and this makes me both elated and nervous. It’s a feeling similar to having a teenage crush, (except for none of the downsides, and all of the self esteem.)

Then I’m back in my 20s dancing in a bar surrounded by friends, knowing this moment would remain forever in an increasingly inaccessible loop, buried deep in the least reliable parts of my psyche. I am pained with joy that I will never recapture, and I am simultaneously uplifted by its fleeting force.  More importantly, I am also uplifted by Jennifer Lopez’ loud clubby beats.

In another instant I am roaming the coast with my friend—her dark black curls are bouncing with their trademark enthusiasm, while her black eyes glitter with intelligent mischief. I enjoy having girl-friends like her—sharp, bright, chatty, and a little bit biting. She is telling me about a Japanese author she really likes, and I am listening intently, while picking at a scab.

Finally, I am turning 27 ( exactly a year ago) and I am fully absorbed in the pages of Murakami, while swaying gently in a hammock. I feel quietly happy, and self assured. Ahead of me is a long year of teaching children, and snowy days in rural Ohio. But in that moment I am utterly okay and satisfied, and grown up. The long-haired waiter stops by and asks if I’d like a refill on my beer, I shake my head no, and continue swaying before turning the page.

These are all very old memories, but I relive them in every whiff of sea-air I inhale. I feel both childish and very ancient—like I am rooted to the earth, simply by existing within this rocky landscape.

But that’s a lot to take in, on my first day back.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


 By Anci CL

This Christmas vacation played out like a study in good food--I didn't take a picture of every beautiful meal, I ate (unfortunately...though, maybe not for you?] But I did document a couple of my gastronomic feats of consumption.

Going to New York, to watch my sister play in Carnegie hall, meant... eating from a plethora of "high end" platters, (well, high end for me. Not for rich people, obviously)  and then coming back home meant indulging in my standard fare of beautiful, but substantially less impressive dishes. (Okay, So I wanted you to know my sister played at Carnegie... six times more than you have. Can you blame me?)

In many ways the food we eat is indicative of our stations in life-- it conveys our attitudes, our values, our tummy troubles. (and my god, are they beautiful.)



Mom's cooking


I love food presentation almost as much I love food-- anything really, that brings dignity to one of our basest impulses. It's really the same principle as seduction, -- without which intercourse would be vulgar and over, quick. Food presentation attracts us, and makes our mouths water in anticipation... just like a pretty boy flashing a grin, or a dancer wiggling her hips.

There's something so inherently feminine to presentation-- (although men can certainly participate. Femininity is inclusive, y'all!) Whether it's food presentation or physical presentation...(aka  how we make up and adorn ourselves in our daily life)
It all smacks of that wonderful artifice that comes with socialized womanhood.

Artifice gets a bad rap, but look what beauty it creates-- what comfort, what experiences, what sweetness.

That's something powerful I took away from my American upbringing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

cultural elasticity, ethnic hair, and a gallery of selfies.

 By Anci CL

"Happy new years!" She trilled from across the street.I nodded back, a little thrown by the timing.

But more importantly?
It's happy new year, not happy new "year's" We call it new year's day, because the apostrophe with an S makes that shit possessive. (in the same way, that referring to my verbose rantings as "Anci's blog, doesn't make my name "Anci's")

(And that, ladies and gentlemen is why I am in education.

resting blog face

I like blogging-- I like that I get to sit down somewhere-- messy, unwashed hair strewn across my shoulders, reaching just past my clavicle, and settling into an unkempt arrangement of dark brown chaos.

I like my hair-- I like that two years after my last dye job, it sits as a stark reminder of an off-white heritage. I like how overcast it feels (and how golden it can seem in certain lights.) I appreciate its heaviness-- (the one consolation, assigned to this thick Lebanese eyebrow-haver)
I'm going to take better care of it in 2015--- like, do more than just throw it in a ponytail, whenever it starts to over-complicate things.

Hair is the only (immediate) external marker I have of of my more ambiguous heritage. Well, that and my nose, which isn't so prominent as to raise airport suspicion.
 I like the fact that when I dye my tresses blonde, I look completely Slavic. Even my nose starts to take on a daintier disposition, in compliance with my softer visage)

But when it's darker, (and i have dyed it black twice) I take on a much more visible exotic "otherness" (which I have rightful claim to-) When its darker I'm suddenly harder to dismiss. I seem more articulate to others.
Not many people get to play with their racial/ethnic presentation. But me?  I am the halfway point between so many cultures, and I love getting to show it-- (And i love the way some people resent the way I can dip in and out of identity. Sorry not sorry.)

okay it's not like i never fuck with them on purpose either:
It's not cultural appropriation, it's Diwali. (2013)

and again in 2014...

Sometimes I think I talk too much about my identity issues--  but then someone walks up to me and says "Is  that Armenian?" "Are you Russian?" "Croatian? You mean Korean?" "Ana... pronounced the Spanish way, really?" And my favorite "What do you mean you're Mexican? How Mexican?"

Then I feel less mired down by my proverbial writerly pita-chips, and more radiantly righteous in my prickly predisposition. (And also, suddenly hungry for pita.)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

File this under "Personal"

 By Anci CL

I'm at.. where else? Another starbucks. And  I feel strangely light, after exchanging a few harmless flirtations with the barista. (Okay, I know its his job to be friendly, but he was really cute, really black, and really charming and nobody got hurt)

The thing about harmless flirtations is that they keep you going during the day-- they're like this tiny bit of validation wrapped up in dazzling warmth, that remind you how sexy and interesting you are.

The word flirtation has such a weird connotation--We all know it can sometimes be the start of infidelities, or sexual addiction... but 99% of the time it lives in it's own moment in time.  You never have to know the other person's name, never have to feel disappointed, never have to be disenchanted, never have to see them again, really. In your mind, this person exists just to smile and remind you that people are sweet, and want to make you happy.  They're like a mint on your pillow-- unnecessary, but also delightful in small, unobtrusive bites.

Growing up, I used to flirt with guys (way too obviously), and part of the allure of those exchanges lay in the fact that I believed (incorrectly) that expressing interest in men, in any way other than demure, backhanded glances, was slutty. That making bedroom eyes at a stranger I never intended to see again made me a big, 'ol skank. I thought it meant I was a "bad girl." 
There's something powerful about taking control of your personal interactions, and saying "no, this is how far I want to take this," and then walking away at the right moment. Men do it all the time.
There's even a term for it... "catch and release?"

It means engaging with something, until you're satisfied (until you feel warm and tingly, and giggly) and then saying "byyyyye" 

If both parties are game, and neither feels used, then why the fuck shouldn't we validate each other, when the mood catches us?

 If I ever have a daughter, i'm going to tell her to flirt to her heart's content. Get out your stupid impulses when you're 16. Cultivate that slutty reputation, wear scandalously short skirts, let yourself laugh too loudly at his juvenile jokes, and then come straight home. Then when you're in in your 20s, you'll be more selective, and wiser.
It's what I did. The only difference is, my kid won't carry the extra heaping of guilt.

sweet 16..

I'm going to tell my future daughter that it's okay to be giddily aware of the shirtless Italian boys' eyes lingering on you,  that it's okay to play along, and put on a little show for him. It's okay to flip your hair, and pretend not to notice, and take your time applying your cheap lip gloss, between bending over casually, to retrieve your scattered beach items.  And then, it's okay to go home, feeling smug. (conversely, it's also okay to scream "don't fucking look at me," if you DON'T like it. We have every right to dictate who gets access to those parts of us. And just because we want some men to look at us, doesn't mean we want ALL men to look at us.)

 Man, I got a lot of mileage out of that barista. i'm grateful. I wasn't sure what I was going to write about, when I sat down. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On Leelah. TW: Suicide, transphobia

 By Anci CL

I didn't expect to get so emotional about Leelah Alcorn-- simply because I tend to compartmentalize tragic news into a cerebral "oh well" filing system.  (for self preservation/self care reasons,)  But then I started picturing having a kid of my own one day, and imagining if that kid felt abandoned by the world and by me... and suddenly I was overwhelmed with guilt and anguish.

We need to do better by our LGBT children.  And my God, suicide is so final. There's life, and suddenly there's no more life-- because some piece of shit couldn't accept their transgender daughter?
What kind of pansy-ass bullshit is that?

"We love our son" you fucking asshole, that's exactly why she killed herself.

I don't know what kind of a child I will eventually welcome into the world-- but I do know I will NEVER diminish that kids' agency to self determine.
 I will never dictate what their orientation or gender identity should be-- because doing so would be an act of violence. An act of violence against a baby I'm supposed to protect, and love.

Leelah's parents failed her. Their rejection drove her to suicide, when this troubled little girl couldn't bear to exist in the wrong body, and under the wrong name any longer.

For the skeptics: (first of all, fuck you.) second of all: Imagine being trapped in the humming skin-chassis of the opposite gender... how miserable and stifling that would feel. How horrifying.  Leelah felt that way every goddamn day of her life, and her own parents didn't have it in them comfort her. They didn't hold her, and cry with her, or acknowledge her suffering, or tell her what beautiful little girl she is.

Instead, they kept insisting --to her ultimate, and exhausting expiration- that she was a boy. These 'Christian' people humiliated, and betrayed their daughter. And then to top it off, they buried her in a suit. (completely bypassing the rather significant stipulation in her suicide note, maintaining that she wanted to be remembered as girl.)

That is cowardice, and that is unworthy of parenthood.

Which is why I am formally declaring  that any human being who is unwilling to raise an LGBT child, NEEDS TO GO GET STERILIZED. Because they should not be bringing any more potentially suicidal babies into the world. Because that is what happens when children are abused in this way-- they end their lives, or they end up homeless. (look it up. 40% of homeless youths identify as LGBT)  If that is to you, somehow  preferable to nurturing a gay or transgender child, then FUUUUCK YOU.

I can't put it any more eloquently than that.


Feliz año nuevo! (part one)

 By Anci CL

I'm writing this on January first of 2015, in a Starbucks (but not the same one as before, so we have some variety.)

Last night was blissfully free of chaos, and as a result I am neither hungover, nor baggy eyed.  (Actually my tolerance is such, that one glass of red wine gets me to my happy place.)

Well that, and a round of settlers of Catan: which is how we rung the new year in.

But the point isn't to talk about how hard I (didn't) party/ied

I wanted to say a couple thoughtful things about this past year...  The turning point of which, was definitely going to Croatia and deciding to focus on my wellbeing and fitness (emotional and physical) -- which in turn has cut down on my depression, sluggishness and irritability, and endowed me with an angelic halo of hair twirling pulchritude

la la la

So yes,  I'm proud of that change i made--which consists of one hour a day (nothing less) of intense cardio. and guys?  I've never slipped up, never missed a day, never phoned a work-out in-- (and never gotten anything less than A in school either)

whiiiich shows that you don't need to be rich in order to be committed to fitness AND work/school. (contrary to millenial folklore)

The result of this physical odyssey was a ten pound slimmer frame, and an agile, more athletic physique that can outrun, out-manuever,  out-arm-wrestle most people my height.  And what's more feminist than that? (Other than Laverne Cox's morning breath.)

The other big change I made, which I settled on, while summering on the Adriatic, was to let go of the toxic, angry, militant people in my life (I get too influenced by that shit.) I don't want my feminism to compromise my humanity, and warmth. Because I get angry when people are sexist and i get angry when people are racist, but I don't want it to color my attitude, and rewrite my demeanor... 

Like, I'm already almost too passionate to function, anyway.

So I decided to take a breath, and voice my objections to extreme leftism. (because extremism is bad) and continue living my life firmly to the left of center, and in opposition to white supremacist patriarchy... without letting the ensuing anger consume me. I can't let it. I want to live peacefully, and dammit, I deserve some happiness. We all do.

The final turning point of 2014 was deciding to go into education-- it was a tough decision, and a tough semester, complete with a 2 (and sometimes 3) hour  daily commute. (back and forth)
It meant getting up at 6:30 AM, and coming home at 8 PM, some days.  It also meant navigating a very rural community, and it meant explaining what a cappuccino is to a very befuddled barista. (Which. seriously?)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Navel gazing is easy, when your belly button is this pristine.

By Anci CL

I'm in a starbucks, sipping on a foamy cappuccino, silently judging everyone around me. It's true: I judge what I can't relate to. (but luckily, due to the mixed bag that is my upbringing, i can relate to a whole hell of a lot.)
 Here I see women opening their mouths a little too widely when they laugh, or speak and it irritates me, and I don't want to fucking unpack the reasons why. I don't want to think about what anger they're trying to conceal-- I want to sit, and stew in my irritation, because dammit, it's comforting.

Growing up, my mom used to always call me out when I was laughing or smiling fakely. Because that's one thing Croatians don't do--pretend to be happy. And that goes for grocery store clerks, and cashiers. If you catch them on the wrong day, they will roll their eyes at you, as they weigh your potatoes, or your plastic bag of blitva.

it's okay to make this face once in a while. because sometimes it's too cold to crack a damn smile.

In a way, I prefer that. Because it somehow feels more human. Seeing women with hysterical, unconvincing grins  plastered to their faces always makes me shudder. Like, why not fucking say "i'm not in the mood for this shit? I don't want to sit here and laugh at your micro aggressions, and your sly digs, and your prying questions about my alcoholic son?"

When I was 12, my school put on a production of Li'l Abner. And naturally, most of the performers were terrible. (because they were 7th graders.) The lead however, was fantastic-- he was confident, and perhaps aberrantly mature in his stage presence. so my mom walked up to his mother and warmly related that "your son was the best." Another mother overheard, and decided to correct my mother's heartfelt praise, with a snippy "ALL the children were  equally great."
"Oh please," my mother smirked good naturedly. (If you've never heard of a good natured smirk, well.. then you haven't hung out with enough Slavic immigrants.)

You can't sell bullshit to a Croatian. Don't tell her all the children were equally good, when one was clearly better. It's not harsh, it's cultural. 

me, my sister my mother... several summers back.

I get up, order another cappuccino-- I sit back down on the computer, and i peruse old photos.

I stumble across the only picture I have with both my grandfathers. (Obviously, one lives in Mexico, one lived in Croatia.. so it was hard to get them in the same place.)

Looking at this picture though, their feelings toward me are so fucking clear. one grandfather is posing for the camera, while limply clutching one of my chubby baby legs. The other is gazing at me warmly, with both arms wrapped protectively around me. I wish I had known my grandpa Nikola better-- I wish the war hadn't separated us for six fucking years.

He came to live with us in Boston for an entire year, when I was a baby, just to spend time with his little American grand-daughter.

My mother says he adored me-- and I can see that by the way he beamed at me proudly in photos. I actually have a video clip of him, practically purring with happiness the first time I walked up stairs ALONE. "she's doing it herself!" he croons in Croatian.
Whenever I relive this moment onscreen, I am moved by his joy-- a departure from his usual stoic demeanor. (my sister inherited that from him by the way.) He was a man of few words, and he sometimes stuttered on the "ch" sound.
I know all of this from stories my mother tells me.