#NaNoSoMeMo 2017, or, Being On Social Media In 2017

This is one of those posts that I keep starting and restarting, because I feel like the thing that I’m trying to express can easily be construed as another thing that I wholeheartedly disagree with, or an attack on people for whose work and effort I have nothing but admiration and gratitude. So I’ve decided to write this post as an interview with the imaginary person telling me why all my previous drafts are terrible.

Person In My Head: So, Amethyst, tell the seven people who will read this post what #NaNoSoMeMo is.

Me: It stands for National Novelists’ Social Media Month, and it’s really for creators in any media, not just novelists. I created it as an alternative to #NaNoWriMo for people like me who are good at prioritizing writing, but bad at prioritizing social media and networking. I’m challenging myself to update my public Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest every day for the month of November.

PIMH: “Good” at prioritizing writing? You haven’t produced a complete manuscript in three years.

Me: Your face hasn’t produced a complete manuscript in three years.

PIMH: I don’t have a face. Or a mom. This is going to be fun. Anyway, a lot of people are saying it’s difficult to keep up with social media in this day and age. I’m assuming you agree, since you failed your own challenge last November.

Me: Yes.

PIMH: I know, right? Social media has gotten so negative and divisive these days! Can’t we all just forget about politics and political correctness and find common ground and focus on beautiful things like sunshine and kittens and love? And can’t we all put our phones down and start talking face to face again? No one is ever misunderstood, disagreed with, or verbally abused in face-to-face conversation.

Me: No, the problem isn’t that we’re talking about “politics” or “political correctness,” or the fact that we’re having these conversations online instead of face to face. The problem is stuff that is actually, literally, empirically, demonstrably, verifiably, objectively HAPPENING.

PIMH: Meh, potato, potahto; “actually, literally, empirically, demonstrably, verifiably, objectively HAPPENING,” #FakeNews. Can’t we ignore these meaningless differences and talk about video games and sitcoms?

Me: See, that’s the problem. The fact that I can now lose an entire day on social media trying to explain to people that it is in fact possible to know what is actually, literally, empirically, demonstrably, verifiably, objectively HAPPENING.

PIMH: Okay, you’ve convinced me. So I guess you now have a sacred duty to spend your days telling everyone on the internet about all the bad things that are happening, why they’re happening, and what they should do about them. Oh, and issuing public statements that you know bad things are bad. Otherwise you’re being neutral and choosing the side of the oppressor.

Me: Which isn’t something I can sustainably do. I’ve spent a lot of this year avoiding social media because I can’t mentally handle getting involved in conversations about this stuff that is happening.

PIMH: That sounds awfully privileged. Marginalized people can’t just avoid this stuff and look at pictures of kittens. It’s stuff that affects them every day, Beckita.

Me: A lot of it is stuff that directly or indirectly affects my life, or that I can reasonably expect to affect my life in the near future. Whether or not it affects me in any way, it’s usually stuff that I don’t have the physical, mental, professional, or financial resources to help. So I put down my phone, spam Lin-Manuel Miranda’s playlist a few times in hopes that I’m generating a few pennies of financial support for victims of at least one of this year’s disasters, say a prayer, which all my atheist friends are reminding me doesn’t actually help anyone but me, chant “Our Existence Is Resistance,” and make sure my apartment and pets and self are getting the basic upkeep they need.

PIMH: Wow, that does sound stressful. Like, clinically stressful. Why are you still on social media at all?

Me: Because one does not become a successful author/artist in this day and age without having a successful social media presence.

PIMH: Ahhh, that makes sense. Well, be sure you sound sufficiently woke in your social media presence. Teenage girls who are reading about how to dress for a protest in Teen Vogue might not buy your books because of a tweet from five years ago that didn’t use a word that didn’t exist yet. But don’t sound too political. Those teenage girls’ parents might not buy your books because you expressed opinions about things ever, and you shared things about yourself that remind them people different from them exist. Oh, and don’t forget to post about your own art every now and then, because you are on social media for the primary purpose of promoting it. But if there’s anything terrible happening in the world, don’t even think about posting about your own art or about anything other than the terrible thing, because if you’re posting about anything else while something terrible is happening, not only does that mean you don’t care, it means you’re encouraging other people not to care, too. And you’ll be on the wrong side of history. You will be remembered as “Amethyst, the bitch who cared more about last night’s episode of The Good Place than fires, floods, earthquakes, police brutality, terrorism, and actual Nazis.”

Me: Or I could remember that I was taught to be honest about what I believe and who I am, and that I’m one voice among millions, and that I can be grateful for the people who are doing the hard work of keeping people informed about what’s going on in the world while acknowledging that people doing that work also need entertainment that lets them escape their troubles, and that I’ll never be able to provide that entertainment if I don’t protect my mental health.

PIMH: Wow, that sounded surprisingly reasonable.

Me: It did, didn’t it? I just may survive #NaNoSoMeMo after all.

PIMH: ALL RIGHT, FOLKS, YOU HEARD IT HERE! AMETHYST SAYS YOU SHOULD ALLLLL STOP POSTING ABOUT CURRENT EVENTS AND POST FUNNY, CUTESY CRAP INSTEAD BECAUSE SHE KNOWS WHAT’S BEST FOR EVERYONE!

Me: I give up.

PIMH: As well you should. Before we go, you mentioned that #NaNoSoMeMo is for all kinds of artists, not just novelists. Sure, that sounded nice and inclusive. But not everyone is an artist. Who are you excluding, exactly?

Me: Just one person.

 

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Why Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is not about Stockholm syndrome

I have no idea whether this started as serious feminist critique or as comedic satire, but if you’ve read any Disney-related stuff on the internet in the last five or ten years, you’ve probably heard someone asserting that Beauty and the Beast is about Stockholm syndrome. I’m not going to bother with links. This stuff is everywhere. If you’re one of the three people who hasn’t heard it before, just Google it. Now, I don’t mind acknowledging problematic elements in childhood favorites, and I don’t mind “lol, your innocent childhood faves are actually The WORST” satire. But today I’m going to talk about why this particular criticism of this particular movie is seeing something there that wasn’t there before.

To begin, let’s establish what Stockholm syndrome actually is. According to Merriam-Webster, it is:

the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor

Beauty and the Beast fails this basic definition right out of the gate. Belle isn’t a hostage, and the Beast isn’t her captor. Maurice breaks a law, namely trespassing on royal grounds, and is imprisoned for it. Sure, it can easily be argued that he received an excessive sentence without trial and that the dungeon conditions weren’t humane, but “Don’t trespass on royal property” is a pretty reasonable law from a security POV. This would be like finding some random person camped out in an unused corner of the White House, claiming it was because they got a flat tire.

So, anyway, Maurice is in jail because he broke a fairly reasonable law. Belle comes to find him of her own initiative. She knows her aging father won’t last long in the dungeon, so she volunteers as tribute to serve his sentence for him, also of her own initiative. The Beast does not in any way manipulate or intimidate Belle into that choice. He doesn’t expect or consider that she would make such a choice at all. But he decides it’s a fair exchange. He doesn’t care who pays for Maurice’s crime as long as someone does. Sure, the Beast later admits that he considered the possibility that Belle was an eligible spell-breaker, but apparently that didn’t matter enough to him to actively force or coerce her to stay for that purpose. Because he didn’t. In fact, he dismisses the idea that Belle could fall in love with him out of hand. The servants have to badger him into making an effort (a futile one in his eyes) to get Belle to like him.

And the Beast’s efforts are futile at first, because Belle has no reason to trust him. She’s glad to get out of the dungeon, but the opulent bedroom, the wardrobe full of fancy gowns, and the invitation to dine at the Master’s table don’t impress her. She’s not fawning with gratitude that her warden moved her to a better cell.

Belle only starts warming up to the Beast after he’s followed her example and risked his life to save her. I mean, yeah, he was following her because she was running away from his castle (where she was under house arrest because she was serving a sentence for a trespasser, and then she went and trespassed herself). But he could’ve left her to the wolves and saved himself, and he didn’t. And Belle takes this for what it is – an act of basic human decency. She isn’t swooning over her captor because he’s tossed her an extra crumb. She thanks him for saving her life, while maintaining that her life was in danger in the first place because he had frightened her into running away.

What most establishes here, imo, that this isn’t a Stockholm syndrome case or any other kind of abusive relationship, is that when Belle tells the Beast he should learn to control his temper, she gets the last word. The Beast doesn’t retort that Belle shouldn’t have made him lose his temper, nor does he faux grovel and shower her with assurances that it’ll never happen again. They’ve been arguing over whose fault the incident was, and “You should learn to control your temper” is what makes the Beast stop, silently acknowledging that there is no good counter-argument.

And we see over the course of a full season that the Beast does start controlling himself and acting more human. We don’t see a cycle of the Beast losing his temper, Belle threatening to leave, the Beast winning her back only to lose his temper again. We see consistent, long-term change. Belle sees it, too, and that’s when she starts falling for him.

Oh, yeah, we’re going to talk about the library scene. 

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I’m going to guess that, if you were a kid who loved Beauty and the Beast, this was the scene that made you believe in true love. This was the tale as old as time. This was the impossible standard against which all future suitors would be judged. This was the true fantasy. Not being kidnapped and falling in love with your captor. Not finding a “beastly” man and being the one to reform him. Not being given outrageously expensive gifts.

THE BEAST LOVES THAT BELLE LOVES TO READ.

This scene is in such stark contrast to Gaston’s statement that “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas…thinking…” The Beast gives Belle ALL THE BOOKS! so she can get ALL THE IDEAS! and think ALL THE THOUGHTS! Not only that, he invites her into a dark corner of the castle, in contrast to shutting her out before. I’m trying not to stray too far into speculation and subtext here, but I think it’s a reasonable extrapolation that the Beast had been utilizing the library himself over the last ten years, and that a love of books (or at least literacy) was something he and Belle had in common, unlike pretty much everyone else in Belle’s poor, provincial town.

After all this, Belle asks to leave for the same reason she originally asked to stay. Her father is in danger. The Beast lets her go. He doesn’t force her to stay or manipulate her into “choosing” to stay, despite the fact that he’s fallen in love with her and that his curse is on the verge of permanency. Later, Belle returns to the Beast, not because she misses the (non-existent) abuse, or because she can’t live without him, or because she can’t function as a free person. She does what she always does. She risks herself to save someone she loves, and who loves her.

I can’t wait until the live action Beauty and the Beast comes out next month, and I’m interested to see what inevitable changes are made to the story. I just hope Disney doesn’t try to “fix” the Stockholm syndrome “problem”. In the words of a wise clockwork butler,

If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it.

On Underage Marriage and Sexual Ethics

Preface: Earlier this week I posted a rant to my private Facebook page about a retreat in Kansas for Christian parents to arrange marriages for their underage children. This retreat was being hosted by Let Them Marry, an organization that promotes teen marriages and describes “youths” (people under 20) as being ready for marriage when they’ve developed “all forms of full secondary sexual characteristics”. I encourage you to click the links in this paragraph and evaluate Let Them Marry’s beliefs in their own words for yourself.

The next day, I found out the conference had been canceled because the Wichita branch of the Salvation Army withdrew the use of their facility. What follows is a slightly edited version of a note I posted to my private Facebook page about why I think this is a good thing even though I’m against laws that allow discrimination against same-sex marriage.

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Ah don’t understand ze patriarchy…

Continue reading “On Underage Marriage and Sexual Ethics”

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

boston1940_snow

It was 1944. Against all odds, Frank had made it home for Christmas. Lord knew how many strings he’d had to pull for that one. We spent every spare moment of those few days together, not that we had many to spare since work wouldn’t let me off.  It wouldn’t have been practical to take the time off, anyway. We were saving money to get married, move out of the city, and have a real home. We’d talked about getting married four years ago, but the War got in the way. I didn’t want to be a wartime bride like so many of my friends – a courthouse wedding followed by months or years without my new husband at best, or an early widowhood at worst. Not to mention the war babies I was watching on the weekends for my girlfriends. I was nowhere near ready for one of my own.

The last night before Frank shipped out, we were together on the only chair in his tiny hotel room. I felt so warm, safe, and protected in his arms. We’d been sitting that way for hours, talking about everything and talking about nothing at all. I glanced at the clock. Was it after eleven already? I had to get up early for work. Besides that, if anyone saw me coming home from a man’s hotel room past midnight and word got back to my boss, I might not have a job to get up for. No one wanted a woman of ill repute on their staff. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want a single thing to change. I didn’t want to be so gosh darn stinking practical.

But I was. So I lifted my head from Frank’s neck and said, “I really can’t stay.”

Frank knew me well enough to recognize my reluctance. He glanced toward the window, his gaze inviting mine to follow. “Baby,” he said in his good-natured manner, “it’s cold outside.”

He was right. While we’d been distracted, the evening’s gentle flurry had turned into a white wall. But would my boss take that as an excuse? Would my parents take that as an excuse? I couldn’t risk it. “I’ve got to go away,” I shook my head in resignation.

“Baby, it’s cold outside,” Frank persisted, though he relaxed his embrace.

I stood up and clasped his hands, knowing I had to leave, feeling I wanted to stay forever. “This evening has been so very nice.”

Frank rubbed my cold hands between his warm ones. “I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice.”

I laughed and leaned back toward the door, pulling Frank out of the chair with me. “My mother will start to worry,” I chided.

“Hey, beautiful, what’s your hurry?” said Frank, putting an arm around my waist.

“And father will be pacing the floor,” I laughed, putting mine on his shoulder. “Really, I’d better scurry.”

“Beautiful, please don’t hurry,” Frank said, spinning me away from the door. I willingly followed.

“Well, maybe just a half a drink more,” I conceded. Could one more really hurt? It wasn’t even midnight yet. I could still get home in plenty of time.

“Put some music on while I pour,” Frank agreed.

I turned on the radio, then slipped into my coat as Frank got the eggnog and bourbon out of the ice box. I knew if I sat down again, I’d never get up this time. “The neighbors might think…” I worried aloud.

“Baby, it’s bad out there,” Frank reminded me as he handed me the tumbler.

I took a sip. That was definitely an extra shot of bourbon. Just the way I liked it. Just the way only Frank knew I liked it. I didn’t want to risk a reputation as a hard-drinking dame. Not until the war was over and I didn’t need a job, anyway. “Say, what’s in this drink?” I raised an eyebrow.

“No cabs to be had out there,” Frank reported from the window. He turned back to me and stared. I shot him a questioning look. “Your eyes are like starlight now,” he said. It was such a cornball line. So ridiculous, but so perfect. So Frank.

“I wish I knew how to break this spell,” I said with a sigh of contentment. But the spell had to be broken. I set down my empty glass and reached for my hat.

Frank intercepted me. “I’ll take your hat; your hair looks swell,” he said. He knew I loved it when he ran his fingers through my hair like that. He knew it would always lead to a kiss.

I took my face out of his neck for a moment. “I ought to say no, no, no, sir,” I laughed, thinking how scandalized my parents would be.

“You mind if I move in closer?” Frank grinned. It wouldn’t be the first time. I tugged on his shirt collar as he slipped his hands under my coat.

“At least I’m going to say that I tried,” I said with mock indignation. Why did women have to say that they tried? Why did my reputation – my viability in the job market, my standing in the community, my relationship with my family – rest on whether or not I adequately pretended I didn’t want to do something everyone wanted to do? I wanted that drink, extra shot of bourbon and all. I wanted Frank’s hands exactly where they were. I wanted to stay with my fiance until morning, and not just because it was cold outside, dammit. Why would it be the end of the world if I just said so?

“What’s the sense of hurting my pride?” Frank replied, matching my mocking tone.

I caught another look at the clock. Darn. How was it midnight already?

“I simply must go,” I said, pulling away. Frank let go easily. I didn’t.

“It’s cold outside,” he reminded me, searching for my hat.

“The answer is no,” I mourned with my eye on the clock.

“Baby, it’s cold outside,” Frank said as he put my hat on for me. He took my arm with great formality and escorted me the five steps to the door. “So lucky that you dropped in,” he said with a put-on accent.

“This welcome has been so nice and warm,” I curtsied. Frank opened the door for me. We both jumped back a little as we were hit with a blast of icy air.

I shut the door and leaned back against it. “Look out the window at that storm,” said Frank. He was maintaining a light-hearted manner, but I could tell he was getting genuinely concerned. So was I. If ever there was a legitimate excuse not to go back to my own house for the night, this was it.

But would my family accept it?

“My sister will be suspicious,” I said. Betty was only sixteen. I was supposed to be an example for her. If I didn’t go home tonight, would she think it was just fine and dandy to do whatever she wanted with that boy she’d been going steady with? Would she end up in a girls’ home because her twenty-five-year-old, engaged sister stayed out of a blizzard one night?

Frank gently fingered my lips, trying to take my mind off my worries. “Your lips look delicious,” he said.

“My brother will be there at the door,” I laughed. Johnny was only seventeen, but he still thought of himself as my protector. He’d already given Frank the “What are your intentions?” talk.

“I ain’t worried about your brother,” Frank laughed with me.

“My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious,” I said, a little more seriously. Now, Aunt Minerva was someone to worry about. Sometimes I truly wondered if she had any idea what it was like to have feelings for a man. As far as I could remember, she never kept company with one. Come to think of it, neither did her housemate. They seemed determined to be old maids together forever.

Frank distracted me with a kiss. I happily let myself be distracted. “Gosh, your lips are delicious,” he said.

“Well, maybe just a cigarette more,” I conceded, teenagers and old maids be damned.

It was well after midnight when our empty cigarettes sat in the ashtray with their burned-out tips touching. Frank and I were wrapped around each other in the chair again, just as when this whole song and dance had started. “I’ve got to get home,” I murmured, making no effort to act on my resolute words.

“Baby, you’ll freeze out there,” Frank murmured back.

“Say, lend me a comb,” I said, leaning into his chest. My hair didn’t exactly speak of a sedate, ladylike, respectable evening.

“It’s up to your knees out there.” He did have a point. But I couldn’t shake the fear of dealing with my family in the morning if I stayed over. Once again I forced myself to stand up and took Frank’s hands.

“You’ve really been grand,” I said.

“I thrill when you touch my hand,” he said, standing with me.

“Oh, but don’t you see?” I said.

“How can you do this thing to me?”

I couldn’t resist anymore. Not in the name of practicality, anyway. Sure, my family would be furious in the morning, and I might be facing an unpleasant conversation with my boss. But if they couldn’t see that it was better to stay overnight with a kind, caring, gentleman I trusted with my life than to walk home in a blizzard, then there was just no pleasing them. I gave up. I was a practical woman. That would never change. And the most practical thing was to stay in for the night.

“There’s bound to be talk tomorrow,” I said as I took off my coat. “At least there will be plenty implied.”

“Think of my lifelong sorrow if you caught pneumonia and died,” said Frank. He still kept up his teasing façade, but I could tell he was truly relieved.

“I really can’t stay,” I said with a dramatic flourish, mocking the protest I’d have to tell everyone I’d given tomorrow.

Frank took my hand and spun me into his arms. “Get over that holdout,” he laughed. Together, we declared, “Oh, but, baby, it’s cold…out…side!”


Lyrics to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Frank Loesser. Headcanon by Amethyst Marie.

About the Black Widow thing in Age of Ultron

Warning: This post contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Age of Ultron. Proceed at your own risk.

“Widow,” by deviantART user alicexz

So, there’s been some controversy about Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff’s backstory, specifically that her Brainwashed Soviet-Ish Killing Machine training was concluded with a routine sterilization and she feels un-good about this. As for the scene itself, I don’t see how it’s being framed as a gendered issue. Bruce Banner has already told Natasha about his own infertility, and they’re having the discussion in the first place because they’re seeing the family life that their male friend has deliberately created and likely gone through an insane amount of effort to keep.

However, other bloggers have already done a great job analyzing the scene and the overall movie, so I’m not going to spend much time on that. Instead, I’m going to talk about my experience as a medically sterilized woman. Continue reading “About the Black Widow thing in Age of Ultron”

The March Family Letters: Little 21st Century Women

Click to go to the official website

I was eight years old the first time I read Little Women. I fell in love with the Marches and identified with all four sisters in different ways. I was a writer and loved adventure and couldn’t manage to do what was expected of me like Jo. I was the oldest and could be too cautious and practical for my own good like Meg. I was quiet and withdrawn and loved music like Beth. I was artistic and used words people didn’t understand and was never taken as seriously as I took myself and totally had a thing for Laurie like Amy.

I’d go on to revisit Little Women  and its sequels throughout the years. I learned more about the historical context of the book. The Alcott family’s involvement in Transcendentalist, bohemian circles. Louisa May Alcott’s first-wave feminism. All of this just made the book more fascinating to me. Age and distance have made some of the book’s imperfections more noticeable, but it’s one of those childhood loves that will always have a special place in my heart.

Despite all this, somehow the existence of The March Family Letters escaped my knowledge until this month. To be honest, I was more apprehensive about this one than any of the literary webseries I’ve watched. There are so many ways a modern Little Women could go horribly wrong. Would Jo be a straw feminist or a misogynist? Would Meg be an unsympathetic killjoy in the tradition of grouchy sitcom wives? Would Beth be a Purity Sue, canonized by virtue of disability? Would Amy exist to remind the audience that being a girly girl makes you a terrible person, or at least a really shallow one?

Don’t worry, my inner voice whispered as she wrapped me in a blanket and brought me some hot chocolate. It’s being distributed by Pemberley Digital. Click the playlist.

OMG I CAN’T EVEN TELL YOU HOW OBSESSED I AM WITH THIS SHOW. Continue reading “The March Family Letters: Little 21st Century Women”

10 Books That Made An Impression On Me

You’ve probably seen this challenge on Facebook already – list 10 books that have made an impression on you. When one of my friends tagged me last weekend, I decided to narrow it down to ten by focusing on books that I feel have influenced me as a writer. Here’s what I came up with, listed roughly in the order in which I first read them. All images link to listings on Barnes & Noble’s website. Continue reading “10 Books That Made An Impression On Me”

It’s Okay to Try

You don’t have to try
Take your makeup off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror
At yourself
Don’t you like you?

– “Try,” Colbie Caillat

If you’re at all engaged in social media, you’ve probably seen Colbie Caillat’s new music video for her song, “Try,” in which she starts out looking like a Kardashian and ends up looking like Colbie Caillat.

It’s a beautiful video with a beautiful message. The girls and women featured in it look incredible in the before and after shots, which is the whole point. I’ve seen my female friends moved to tears this week as they passed this video and Colbie’s commentary around Facebook. I have no trouble seeing “Try” as a sincere expression of Colbie’s story, and I also believe that the women who were moved by it see their own story reflected in it. Which is a wonderful, powerful thing, and I certainly don’t want to detract from that in any way.

Colbie Caillat, still adorable with no makeup.

Personally, though, I was struck by how different Colbie’s story of self-acceptance and embracing self-expression looked from my own.

I rarely if ever experimented with makeup in my teens. I know for sure that I didn’t own any. I think I was 19 before I tried so much as shaping my eyebrows, and then I felt absurdly guilty about it. Makeup wasn’t for me. I was an intelligent, talented, virtuous young woman. I wasn’t one of those vain, frivolous girls whose value was in how attractive they were to boys. I was smart. I was accomplished. I was responsible. I was respectable. Why on earth did I need to be pretty on top of that? More specifically, why did I need to put any effort into being pretty? Wasn’t pretty one of those things that you just are or aren’t? And why did I even care? I didn’t care.

Except I did. A part of me that I’d stopped listening to a long time ago wanted desperately to be pretty. Not because society was telling me I should. In fact, the society I inhabited was specifically telling me that I shouldn’t. That putting any thought or effort into outward appearance meant I was a vain seductress like the worldly women in magazines I was discouraged from looking at and movies I wasn’t allowed to watch. That, sure, a few lucky girls had the gift of being pretty without trying, but this was more curse than blessing. It made them targets for boys who would never appreciate their True Inner Beauty because they were so blinded by their outer beauty. Charm was deceitful, beauty was vain.

As I grew up, I exchanged patriarchy for feminism, and was told almost exactly the same thing. Don’t tell little girls they’re pretty. Women’s value shouldn’t lie in their looks. Women should take pride in accomplishment, intelligence, talent, and integrity. The World tells women they have to make themselves sexually appealing for men, so we waste so much effort in these vain pursuits that could be spent achieving things like men are taught to from infancy. A Real Man (not that you need one anyway) will love you for being A Real Woman, not one of those made-up, photoshopped, underfed women in misogynist magazines and movies. Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain.

As I continued to internalize these messages, they enabled a deeper, more insidious message I was getting from my own brain chemistry as I battled clinical depression: There’s no point in trying. Why bother running a brush through your hair? Who’s going to see it? Who cares if all you’ve done to your face in a week is splash water on it every other day? It’s not like you can improve it that much. Screw personal hygiene. No one’s getting close enough to see how much you’ve been neglecting it. On some level I knew how repelling my appearance was.* This time, I really, truly, didn’t care. I couldn’t care. My brain had forgotten how.

I got help. I learned how to care again. I felt happiness again and learned how to take conscious actions conducive to that feeling. I learned how to deconstruct the ideas I’d internalized about what I was supposed to be, and how to sift through the pieces and uncover who I really was.

I discovered that who I really am is an intelligent, talented, accomplished, courageous woman who freakin’ loves makeup, accessories, and clothes. I love decorating my face and my body with bright colors. I love knowing how different cuts of clothing can change the way my body appears. Dressing and grooming feels like an opportunity to create a new work of art every day. Fashion has become one of the most powerful depression-fighting weapons in my arsenal. It’s not about pleasing men or women, though I’m happy if it does. Honestly, sometimes I worry that my bright colors and sparkles make people think less of me. But, like Colbie in her video, it’s not about them liking me. It’s about me liking me.

And ironically, it was only after embracing all this that I learned to love my face without makeup. I don’t need makeup to like the way I look. I go out with a bare face plenty of times, usually if I’m in a rush or if I’m going to a movie that I know will turn my eyes into a waterfall. A movie with beautiful women whose beautiful makeup I’ll probably challenge myself to replicate sometime. I won’t look just like them, and that’s okay. Because I’ll look just like me. And I like me.

I like me enough to try.

Full disclosure: Foundation, concealer, highlighter, a four-shade eyeshadow palette, mascara, blush, and lipstick.

*Just to be clear, I’m not implying that women are repelling when they don’t wear makeup, shave their body hair, or style their hair in a conventional, feminine way. I’m talking about neglecting very basic hygiene, which can be a sign of clinical depression regardless of gender.

10 Things I Love About The Legend of Korra

The trailer for Book 3 of The Legend of Korra has been viewed about 1,140,000 times, which means people other than me have viewed it about 140,000 times.

The Legend of Korra was my introduction to the Avatar franchise. I watched The Last Airbender after Book 2 ended last fall because I missed my Korra fix. I loved Aang and his story, too. Aang is as different from Korra as humanly possible, and the two shows have very different feels to them, so I can understand why some people who fell in love with Avatar Aang and his team first aren’t huge Korra fans. But Korra was my first love, and I can’t wait to see more of her and her team. Here, in no particular order of favoritism, are ten things I love about The Legend of Korra.

10. LIN FREAKIN’ BEIFONG

I had virtually no knowledge of The Last Airbender when I started watching The Legend of Korra, so I didn’t meet Lin as Toph Beifong’s daughter. Her awesomeness was all her own and not a matter of legacy. I couldn’t remember her name at first, so I just called her Lady Magneto in my head. She quickly became one of my favorite things about the show. Really, how many shows have you seen with a middle-aged gray-haired female action hero? Where her age and grayness weren’t played for laughs or irony? Lin got even cooler for me when I did watch The Last Airbender and Toph became my favorite member of the Gaang. This video is, imo, the perfect summary of the Beifong legacy:

9. MOAR GROWNUPS

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I like it when kids’ stories are well-populated with an active, non-useless adult generation. Lin, as I mentioned above, is clearly middle-aged and drawn with unambiguously gray hair. The Avatar wiki gives her age as 50 in the first book and 51 in the second. She’s far from the only one. Tenzin, Korra’s Airbender mentor, is the same age as Lin. His older brother and sister, Bumi and Kya, get a lot of screen time in Book 2. Their family issues take up almost as much of the story as the actual Avatar’s arc. Also earning plenty of screen time is Pema, Tenzin’s wife and the mother of his four children. Even Korra’s own parents are key players in Book 2. Yes, you read that right – there is such a thing as a fantasy protagonist with two living parents!

8. ASAMI SATO

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Asami is the resident muggle on Team Avatar, and she’s a very conventionally attractive and conventionally feminine girl. It would’ve been really easy to write her as weak and shallow to make Korra look stronger and more authentic by contrast. Instead, Asami is intelligent and courageous. We quickly see that she’s someone Korra can learn a lot from, and not in a cliched “Girly girl gives the tomboy a makeover” way. Asami is a valuable asset to Team Avatar and eventual friend to the Avatar herself.

7. LOVE TRIANGLES THAT DON’T COMPLETELY SUCK

Love triangles are pretty case-by-case for me. Sometimes I find them entertaining, and other times I’m like, “Why? Just…why???” I have to admit, it could be argued that this story didn’t need love triangles at all. But accepting the fact that they are a big part of this series, I think they’re handled really well. Like I said above, Asami, Korra’s “rival” for Mako’s affections, isn’t portrayed as weak or shallow in contrast to Korra. I put “rival” in quotes because for a long time Asami didn’t even know Korra had asked Mako out, and she and Korra get along reasonably well considering Korra’s secretly in love with Asami’s boyfriend who may be in love with Korra. Or with Asami also. (Mako’s an idiot. I didn’t say it was a perfect love triangle. 😛 ) You sympathize with both girls and want to see them both get a happy ending.

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This is all foreshadowed when Korra confides her feelings about Mako to Pema, Tenzin’s wife. Pema encourages Korra to go for it and tell Mako how she feels. She recalls that, when she fell in love with Tenzin, he was interested in someone else, but that she made a move because she couldn’t stand the thought of him being with “the wrong woman.” Pema is a likable character. She and Tenzin obviously have a happy marriage. I took her words at face value, interpreted the scene as an older woman empowering a younger one, and was interested to see how her advice would serve Korra.

Then it turns out that “the wrong woman” was LIN FREAKIN’ BEIFONG. Who evidently never found anyone else. The story gives no easy answers as to who “deserves” to “win” their love interest. No matter how things are resolved, someone will have every reason and every right to be hurt, and someone else will have every reason and every right to have made the choice that hurt them. And young impressionable viewers will learn the valuable life lesson that love effin’ sucks.

6. THE AIRBENDER KIDS

Okay, so, something a bit lighter. Tenzin and Pema have three little airbenders. Meelo has all of Grandpa Aang’s boyish exuberance and Great-Uncle Sokka’s goofy sense of humor. Ikki is the Keeper of the Baby Sky Bison, and if you don’t think Blueberry Spicehead is best bison, we’re not friends. Jinora…Jinora is everything. EVERYTHING. The next spinoff could easily be Legend of Jinora. Rohan, the baby born in Book 1, is predicted to be an airbender, but personally I think it’d be interesting to see what happens if he can bend some other element, or if he isn’t a bender at all. Time will tell.

5. PRO BENDING

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I love everything about this. I love that, in this universe, superheroes have turned their superpowers into a competitive sport. I love Korra, Mako, and Bolin as a team (when they are functioning as a team). I love that Korra can learn bending best in the context of a dangerous, high-stakes game. I love the old-timey radio announcer. And I love the Fire Ferrets’ mascot.

4. THE CHANGING WORLD

Even without having watched The Last Airbender, I could tell that Korra’s story took place in a world that had seen a lot of change over the last century. Benders, once the saviors, had come to be regarded with suspicion and fear. A world once strongly divided along nations and races had overcome these barriers only to create new ones, namely benders vs non-benders. After watching The Last Airbender, I could appreciate even more how different the political landscape was in the two series. I think my favorite change, though, is the progression of technology. It’s like The Last Airbender is around the mid-19th century, and The Legend of Korra is circa World War I.

3. ESKA AND HER FEEBLE TURTLEDUCK

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I am a horrible person.

2. “WHEN WE HIT OUR LOWEST POINT, WE ARE OPEN TO THE GREATEST CHANGE.”

This line is really insightful and thought-provoking to me because, in my observation, it’s usually true. Though not necessarily in a good way. The biggest changes in my life were usually the results of decisions that were made at someone’s lowest point. Sometimes they were my decisions. Sometimes they were decisions made by my parents or by other people with direct influence on my pre-adult life. There’s something about being at that low point that makes you open to a level of change you wouldn’t otherwise consider. Sometimes those changes aren’t good, and you find that it is in fact possible to reach an even lower point. But other times you look inside yourself and find a power you’d never quite been able to tap into before, and you finally make that change that lets you save yourself and become what you were meant to be. At least, that’s how it worked for Korra.

1. KORRA

You guys, I freakin’ love Korra! Yes, she’s a hothead. Yes, the writers were playing ping-pong with her mental state for most of Book 2. Yes, she’s Not Aang. But having “met” Korra without the weight of Aang’s shadow, I saw her as an engaging, entertaining, likable, and believable 17-year-old girl. She wants to do the right thing and solve all the problems of the world even though she doesn’t always know how. She wants to excel at her calling even though she doesn’t always have the patience to learn the skills that don’t come naturally to her and polish the ones that do. She does excel at bending and fighting and has since she was a toddler. Her arrogance and brashness hint at years of knowing very few people skilled enough to teach her. Once she knows what she wants, she goes after it right away. She has a joy and enthusiasm that you don’t see in a lot of contemporary YA heroines. She is fire. She is earth. She is water. At last, she is air.

She’s the Avatar, and you gotta deal with it!

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