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.

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Adolescent Development My... Self?

By Anci CL

One of the classes I took this past semester was of course, Child development-- which as a former child, ended up being quite helpful in processing a few things that have forever been circling my psychic drain.

You know, its funny the way children- particularly adolescents are routinely pathologized for displaying what amount to typical "growing-up" traits-- anxiety, discomfort, confusion, experimentation. And although we all go through those unflattering phases, it still makes society uncomfortable, when we see these tendencies displayed in the "youths" that we come across. Why? because stigmatizing angst in young people is an effective means of dismissing them.

Think about the most cutting thing you could call someone. Stumped? Try recalling what we compare any emotional person to, when we're trying to put them down?
A teenage girl.

Everything related to teenage girls is considered lesser-- from the way young adult fiction (meant for girls in particular) is deemed trashy, to the way the (developmentally sound) self-absorption that characterizes the ages of 11-21, is reviled. (Newsflash: self absorption is inescapable during those tumultuous years, and it's actually pretty healthy, because.. guess what? sustained internal reflection is kinda necessary for establishing identity.)

as is..apparently,  brooding before bookcases. (me age 16)

The point here is that all of that newly acquired awareness has manifested into the mentally modifying mechanicisms of a cerebral stool softener...  (if you dig enough you'll find a metaphor about relief, buried somewhere in there.)

This is namely due to the fact that for years, I have been carrying guilt for being "bad" when I was in high school-- bad in the sense that I was dramatic, insecure, underperforming, and impressionable. (none of that is code for drugs or sex, by the way. I actually am serious about that.)

But I did have a tragically warped body image, which consumed my daily life, and rendered all other moments, joys, and interests, comparatively empty. And guess what? It wasn't my fault. It wasn't my fault because I was conditioned to feel like my worth was based on male approval, and at the age of 16 I was falling for that nasty narrative, faster than Lindsay Lohan fell of the wagon on that Oprah reality show.  (Man, I am nailing this metaphor thing.)

It wasn't my fault, because puberty and body development, are by definition traumatic. (which is something grown people tend to forget) And it wasn't my fault, because I didn't have any young role models to look up to, who looked, acted, sounded and thought like me-- (which was probably the key element of survival, I was missing.)

To be fair,  the reigning queens of celebrity at the time were Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton, so... pretty much none of us had a chance.


But more importantly, I didn't know of anyone who had overcome or even experienced depression - because that wasn't something people talked about. And guess what the reigning emotion (or lack thereof) in my life wasBleak, unrelenting, mother effing depression.
Every single day of middle school and high school experience was brutal, and as it turns out, that stage in life is pretty equally brutal for most sensitive, intelligent young folk.  (Yes, you can feel mildly vindicated at the strong correlation between intelligence and depression-- which is a relationship that needs to be further explored, but isn't necessarily causal.)

Reading pages and pages of text on this period of time in life, however, has given me a more compassionate perspective, towards myself-- and all teenagers (particularly girls.)
It's easy (and lazy) to write off the youthful histrionics of an up-and-coming generation as the side effects of a spoiled, pampered upbringing... but it's more honest to interpret them as distressed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

That was a long, unannounced hiatus... (A listicle)

By Anci CL

Okay here's the deal guys, I was back in school, taking five classes, commuting over 2 hours every day, and well, I forgot about my blog a little.
But here I am on Christmas break ready to tear the world up with my feminist laser beams. (and radiant, unparallelled... personality.)

I'm not kidding. This is what happens when you look into a magnified mirror after one semester of barely-passable tweezing.

So in these past several months, I have been studying children's literature, child development, education, math, and art education...along with working in an Elementary school, in a place so rural and remote, its legally referred to as a village. (that's not a joke. Which you probably already gathered, because it's better than most jokes I make-- but that's because that shiz is legit.)

As you can imagine, this set up resulted in a series of hilarious quotable moments, which this disgraced blogger is eager to fall back on, in lieu of content. (Give me a break though--- i did  get a 4.0 gpa, which means i was pretty busy killing it academically...or...watching Netflix in my slanket, while hugging a cup of coffee for warmth.)

So here are my top five moments in the classroom this year: I know, i'm such a CHEATER:

5) When I obliged to the odd and adorable request: "Ms. Ana, will you take a picture of my shoes?"

4)The moment when one of my five year old's confidently approached me, about seven weeks into my student-teaching interim, and declared "I know who you are are, ms. Ana!" Me: "Who am I?" Her: "You're the librarian!"

3)When one of my students did this:
It says POOP.

2) When I brought five boxes of cupcakes to school, and one of my more precocious little blueberries came up to me asked "Ms. Ana, is that your lunch?" (Excuse me,  do I look like a sea-monster, capable of polishing forty pounds of processed faux-colate mix off? As always, the answer is: I look like a graceful hummingbird, thank you very much.)

1)The moment when one of my kids looked up at me and said "Ms. Ana, I know why you're here." Me: "Oh yeah, why?" Him: Because you don't want to be alone.

And a bonus number 1B
when I encountered a Zebra, on a way to my rural elementary school.... because that's all an economically depressed group of people needs... other than you know, dental care.