Talk about a time when you were driving and you sang in the car, all alone. Why do you remember this song and that stretch of road?
I’m modifying today’s Scintilla prompt. There’s a second person in the car with me.
Her name is Erin and we were on our way from Chicago to Indianapolis for a mini blogging meetup. I had made the most ridiculous playlist for the 6-ish hour drive, full of showtunes, boy bands, and terrible pop music that we could sing along to without getting bored.
Somewhere around Lafeyette, Indiana on I-65, we found ourselves in a horrible rainstorm. I’m talking barely visible conditions. My windshield wipers could not go fast enough. We could barely hear one another over the pounding of the rain.
As the driver, I was scared. No doubt about that. But it seemed too dangerous to pull over–what if someone didn’t see us? what if someone skidded into us?–so I just gripped the steering wheel and took it slowly.
Around the height of the rainstorm, my iPod started playing “La Vie Boheme” from the musical Rent. Something about the rhythm and rhyme of that song settled me. Erin and I both started singing along, giggling like 12 year olds at the dirty lyrics.
It was almost meditative, nearly chant-like, and exactly what I needed behind the wheel.
…to Ginsberg, Dylan, Cunningham and Cage… Lenny Bruce… Langston Hughes… to the stage, to Uta, to Buddha, Pablo Neruda, too. Why Dorothy and Toto went over the rainbow to blow off Auntie Em…. la vie boheme.
Craving a bit of bloggy community, I decided to join The Scintilla Project. I remember seeing a lot of buzz about it last year, so I’m excited to be a part of the project this time around! Over the next two weeks, you’ll be seeing some stories that tell the tapestry of my life.
Today’s prompt is: Tell a story set at your first job.
My first job was slinging ice cream at a little shop called Ritter’s Frozen Custard. It’s a chain, but their locations are sparse. If you live near one, consider yourself lucky. It’s the best damn ice cream outside of real Italian gelato.
The environment at Ritter’s was happy. Like, really really happy. Employees are known for their friendliness, and if you have Ritter’s on your resume, service industry managers in town especially know that your service is top-notch. Because how could you be depressed when there’s so much free ice cream around? And you get to listen to the radio? And you work with your friends? I’m telling you, it was a fantastic job. (Even though I was paid $5.50 an hour.)
Except, let’s be realistic, everyone has bad days, even Ritter’s employees. And one day, I had a bad day. I don’t remember what set me off, but I was irritable, short-tempered, and just ready to leave. Now that I think about it, my bad attitude may have been due to a caramel apple sundae selling contest. (My kingdom for a caramel apple sundae right now.) Before the end of the night, I had absolutely snapped at my assistant manager.
I felt awful.
My assistant manager was a nice dude. He was very positive and knew how to motivate a team. But I was over it that night.
The worst part was, I assumed this was going to go into my file. You see, every Ritter’s employee at that time had a file. When you did something spectacular (like win a sundae selling contest), it went in your file. When you did something questionable (like snap at your AM), it also went in your file. When I saw my AM go into the office, I thought for sure he was writing my outburst into my file.
I knew I had to confront my general manager and apologize. It was one of the scariest things I’d ever done at the time.
During my next shift, I told my general manager that I needed to talk. He sat me down and I explained everything–that I was frustrated, that I snapped, and that I felt terrible about it. I figured he needed an explanation as to why this black mark was on my file.
He told me that the AM hadn’t written anything down from that shift. But he was proud of me for apologizing.
I was proud of me, too.
One of my lovely postcards from the 20sb Postcard Exchange came from Cassie. It was a fantastic vintage NYC postcard with a darling message. Cassie asked for some feminist book recommendations, and she’s not the first. I thought sharing my favorite feminist books would make for a good blog post.
I always recommend people new to feminism to check out Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism. It’s an accessible primer to all things feminist. As you read it, you’ll likely realize you’ve been a feminist all along, but now you’re able to articulate it.
For privileged young white women like myself, I always recommend Courtney E. Martin’s Perfect Girls Starving Daughters. I read it as a college senior and the part that stuck out most to me was the idea that our generation has been raised by feminist mothers who told us we can do and be anything we want to do and be. However, we heard them say that we have to do and be everything we want to do and be. We’re overwhelmed and hyperachieving and this book breaks down why from a feminist perspective. It might be my favorite book of all time. However, it is very specific in its audience and not generalizable for everyone.
If you’re up to speed on feminism and want to branch out, I recommend Diane Negra’s What a Girl Wants. This book is a feminist critique of postfeminist pop culture, a phenomenon that considers all of feminism’s goals as achieved and discusses consumerism as a (poor) form of empowerment.
For a feminist perspective on masculinity, I recommend anything by Jackson Katz, specifically his film Tough Guise, as well as Susan Bordo’s The Male Body. Sexism and patriarchy hurt men, too, and these texts focus on that. Does a dude in your life want to know more about feminism? Try Michael Kaufman’s and Michael Kimmel’s excellent book called The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. It’s absolutely fantastic.
What about some good feminist pop culture?
My favorite feminist YouTube series is Smart Girls at the Party (see above!).
My favorite feminist blog is Feministing. Duh.
My favorite feminist television comedy is Parks and Recreation.
My favorite feminist television drama is Friday Night Lights.
My favorite feminist film comedy is Legally Blonde.
My favorite feminist film drama is Mona Lisa Smile.
My favorite feminist documentary is Miss Representation.
My favorite feminist young adult novel is Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
My favorite feminist novel (not YA) is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
I love introducing people to feminist texts. Are there any I missed? Leave them in the comments. Want more recommendations? Let me know!
I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy online lately…. how we maintain it, how we ignore it, how we make boundaries, etc, and especially how it relates to bloggers.
I was a much freer blogger when I knew only a handful of strangers were reading. In other words, I was happy to share often and a lot when those closest to me weren’t aware of this aspect of my life.
And then there was the transition period, as slowly more people in my life found my blog or I told more people about it. And I remember thinking, “That’s okay. It’s not like I write about anything scandalous.”
But the boundary turbulence was more jarring than I anticipated.
In communication studies, when the contextual boundaries we set up around our private information flirts with being taken out of context because information gets into the hands of people it wasn’t intended for, boundary turbulence occurs. In other words, when only my blog friends read my blog, I was happy sharing whatever I felt was appropriate for that audience. The information I shared was specific to this context and this audience. But now that so many people beyond the blog-friend-boundary read my blog, boundary turbulence has occurred, thus that information has transcended both context and audience. It’s not that this information is necessarily private, secretive, or scandalous, it just wasn’t meant for readers beyond the blogosphere. (More on privacy management theory here.)
It’s difficult for me to describe the feeling I get when I start to tell a story and someone says, “Oh, I saw that on your blog” or “Oh, I saw your tweet about that.” The context becomes out of whack and the communication becomes one-way. It’s in these moments that I pine for the old days where no one blogged and those of us who did were part of something truly special, quiet, and understood.
There’s something reciprocal about blogging that makes reading strangers’ words okay. I put my life online and so do you, so it’s okay if we read one another’s blogs. But my real-life friends don’t maintain blogs. Why should they have access to mine?
This might be why I have trouble maintaining friendships… my friends and family think they’re keeping up with me because they keep up with my online presence, yet I have no idea what’s going on in their lives because they aren’t sharing similarly. This seems imbalanced and strangely unfair.
But that’s the thing about blogging. We throw our words into the ether of the internet and are subjected to whomever comes along to read them. I just wish we could hold those boundaries a little tighter, avoid the boundary turbulence, and keep the blogosphere small and semi-anonymous.
Alas, those days are over.