December 12, 2013

K.I.T.

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Oh hey.
Here I am. Writing! I love writing! I used to spend hours putting my writing right here. In fact, I spent three full years divulging quirky tidbits about my vagina or my hometown or my poor mom within the slippery tabs of this here blog. I was basically exploiting myself and my experiences for nuggets of relatable human truths or realizations. All for solidarity. It worked! It was an amazing three years. This blog taught me how to write. It introduced me to people I would have never ever met before. It opened avenues I didn’t even know about. It got me jobs. It got me published! It helped me feel sane. It brought me comfort, love, validation, safety. It let me empty out my brain, expose myself, and realize I’m not alone. It helped me see that humans are funny and fucked up and weird and normal and really all the same.

This blog was my best friend. And I truly loved everyone who read it.

And then one day I stopped sharing my writing. It felt wonderful to experience all those realizations and embarrassments and then keep them to myself. It hasn’t been the same going through life without letting the internet know about it, but there is something really powerful in privacy, and it’s time I explored that.

I have let this blog stagnate because I couldn’t bear the thought of letting it go. My best friend! But I think it’s time. I need some closure, man. Every time I accidentally click on its tab in my browser and see the last post from months ago, I feel funny in the tummy. It’s that guilty feeling like running into an ex that you still really care about but you know it would never work. Eeek. I will continue to write. In fact, I write a lot, though now with many more run-on sentences that fall into documents with titles like ‘imightbeinsane,’ ‘whatthefuck,’ and ‘ihatetitles.’ I will continue to publish articles in other places– maybe even a Humans Are Funny Best Of. You can always find them here: laurenne.com

Thank you! Thank you for reading. For helping me grow. For writing to me. For being my faraway friends. For being there. For listening. For laughing with me. For crying with me. For giving me advice. For teaching me things. For being my family. All ten of you. It was a great time.

RIP
Humans Are Funny
2009 – 2013

June 20, 2013

Pink dreams do come true

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When I was planning my trip around the world in 2008 (holy shit, that sounds so long ago), I stumbled across a blog (remember blogs?). It was the travel story of a couple in their fifties. They had taken a trip to the Amazon, fallen in love with it, and bought a banana plantation. They mentioned spotting pink dolphins every day from the porch of the house they built on the edge of their BANANA PLANTATION.

I of course thought they were dicks through my seething jealousy. Really though, I wanted to be just like them (but not in my fifties).

I quickly made some assumptions:
- Seeing pink dolphins in the Amazon is such an amazing dream. It’s so cool, in fact, it must only come true for other people.

- The Amazon is so far away and way too hard to get to. You probably have to be fifty and retired to go all the way there.

- You gotta be super rich to see pink dolphins.

So, I put that dream in the box titled ‘someday,’ and I went about touring places that seemed way more approachable, like Honduras (why? please don’t go there), Spain (Europe– just a $1200 flight away), and Papua New Guinea (home of the most dangerous city in the world— I am NAIVE AND HAVE A DEATH WISH).

This year, I decided to take my traveling to the next level. I went to the Travel Expo in LA to get ideas. And ideas I got. I saw a poster about the Amazon, complete with pink dolphins and bananas. I did some research and found that Leticia, Colombia, is a small town perched on the edge of three countries. From Leticia, you can walk 15 minutes to Brazil or take a 10-minute boat ride to Peru. And all of those places are smack dab in the middle of the Amazon (or El Amazonas, as they say in Leticia). With just some clicks of the mouse (not really. who still uses a mouse?), I found that a ticket to Leticia is MUCH cheaper than the tickets to any of the other places I’ve been going. Plus, it’s MUCH safer than Honduras or Papua New Guinea (I swear, Mom). And… THERE ARE PINK DOLPHINS there.

So, I booked a ticket and went there last month.
IT WAS SO EASY.

Note to 2008 self: don’t make assumptions.

I stepped off the plane and felt a welcoming tropical warmth. Oddly, there weren’t piles of books, electronics, or banana slicers. Just an abundance of trees and fishermen.

I booked a tour upon arrival and jumped on the first boat to glide from Leticia onto the wide Amazon river. On the right, communities dotted the river bank, morning smoke like pillows in the sky. On the left: Peru! We pulled into a quiet spot between two mid-river islands, and the dolphins greeted us there. Grey ones put on a show for us. The little babies somersaulted through the air. Then we waited. One minute. Three minutes. AND THEN PINK DOLPHINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They were bigger and wiser-looking than the grey ones. They moved more slowly and did not care to put on a show. They were smart and smooth and the color of Pepto-Bismol. But best of all, they were there, in front of my eyeballs.

I’d been in Leticia 12 hours and had already seen the elusive Amazon beauties. At the end of my stay, however, the pink dolphins had lost a bit of their pizzazz. First, I found out they weren’t gay (super bummer). And when I saw ALL that the Amazon has to offer, they seemed kinda meh. Being in the jungle there is like jumping into a painting. It’s like coming alive inside a fairy tale. It’s like walking through a cartoon because the actual abundance of animals and flowers and fruits and birds and fish sounds and nature and new things you’ve never even imagined seems unfathomable in real life. But it’s real. And there are nice people there living among the beauty and green and blossoming of the Amazon every day. Some of them even have banana plantations (which are not that expensive, come to find out. You can even build your own house for a mere $2k along the river banks. Take that, 2008).
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fairy tale forest!

I spent plenty of time there– enough to meet indigenous tribes and all sorts of characters. I made friends with a monkey named Shakira. I ate at least 20 fruits I’d never heard of. I had “coaching sessions” with three shaman. And, most importantly, I HELD A SLOTH.

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Next time my brain tells me something is impossible or something is for ‘other people only,’ I will remember Leticia and look around my banana plantation.

In honor of Obama’s speech, MLK Jr day, an approaching Black History Month, and the color brown, I would like to tell a story. It is the story of a town, the confused town in which I was raised. You may have read here before about how some people in my hometown were a tad close-minded, but back in the nineties interracial dating was an event. I dated Rodney B. in seventh grade, and people still bring it up when I go home.

“Remember when you had Jungle Fever?” they ask seventeen years later. It usually comes after “Hey, remember when you were on that show Dog Eat Dog?” which was over 10 years ago. People in my town might be racists, but they sure have amazing memories.

What saved me from falling down the racist hole were my open-minded parents. They’d seen the world and met people outside of our tiny suburb, so they were able to teach me that all kinds of people are exciting. I also think I was black in a previous life because once when I was 8 my dad told me I could have any hat I wanted in the hat store, and I chose the Malcolm X hat. Maybe I liked it because it was purple, but I probably am Malcolm X reincarnated. I’d like to note that I’ve never been in a hat store since.

It was junior year, and I was pretty excited about going to the big homecoming dance. I was pretty excited about going to any high school dance because I saw them as status symbols. In four years, I went to 5 proms and 6 homecomings. So, that means I had a lot of statuses. It also means I desperately wanted everyone to think I was cool and that my mom had money to buy me new dresses (she didn’t, but she bought them anyway).

I must also admit that junior year was a time of rebellion. We would get drunk in parking lots and go dancing at Zero Gravity, an 18-and-up dance club that served pizza while guys who didn’t yet know how to use their penises would grind them on girls from behind. And we let them because we didn’t yet know how to use boundaries. It was a wondrous atmosphere.

I had a supercrush on Rob, the bouncer. He had carmel-colored skin with hazel eyes and a smooth shaved head. This was Michael Jordan’s heyday, and Rob was a shorter version (He probably had smaller feet too and wasn’t as good at basketball.). Best of all, he lived in an apartment all by himself because he was super old, like 19. Knowing Rob was such a status symbol because that meant my friends and I could walk up to the front door of Zero Gravity in our slut costumes and get right in. Yes, you guys. I had a hook-up at the underage dance club that served pizza in the suburban Chicagoland area. You had no idea how cool I really was.

One night, my friends and I went back to Rob’s apartment (which was complete with those psychedelic posters that make you see stuff if you stare at them long enough) and, with a vodka-induced bravado, I asked Rob to homecoming. He said YES! I immediately imagined our fun night of dancing, the limo ride to a swanky-for-teenagers dinner, our subsequent marriage, and beautiful caramel-colored babies (even in high school, my mind went straight to babies. Stilllll going there.).

As I bragged about Rob’s cool posters at school that week, Travis Z, a mega popular football player (yes, I really thought like that in 1997) said that he’d wanted to go to homecoming with me. Ugh, I was torn. The whole week he begged me to change my plans, laying on his popular guy charm and using the argument that I wouldn’t have to babysit him like I would Rob. Even though Travis called me a ‘cunt’ in fifth grade, I decided to go with him to the big Homecoming gala.

Homecoming came. Travis didn’t want to dance. He seemed to hate everything about an event that I thought was as essential as air. He maybe said three words. He came over to my house after the dance and threw up all over my room, leaving a stain that we finally just got rid of last year. I yelled at him through pukey sobs, and he screamed:

I didn’t really want to go to the dance with you. I just didn’t want you to go with a black guy.

Yeah. He said that. He planned that. He got dressed up in a suit, bought a ticket, reserved a limo, and endured weeks of me talking about our plans and my dress only so a black guy wouldn’t come into our school. He ruined my night because he didn’t want a black guy in our school. He spent an entire night with me (you’ll never guess it, but I was probably not the funnest in 1997) JUST because he didn’t want me to bring a person of color into our school. I’m feeling sick just writing this out.

That is some serious hatred right there. Disgusting. Racist. Hatred.

But I don’t hate him back. We learned about projections in psychology school, and I love seeking them out in myself. The gist is that we are unable to judge people or feel a certain way about a person unless we recognize those same feelings within ourselves. It works positively and negatively. For example, I admire Oprah because she’s ambitious, creative, and is fascinated by people. If I take a look at myself, I will find that I’m ambitious, creative, and fascinated by people. And it works negatively. Whatever Travis hated about a different race, he surely hated about himself. So, I am guessing his life and the life of any racist or bigot is probably pretty horrible, filled with self-judgment and unworthiness and lots of lots of hatred from the inside. So, today I’d like to ask to send compassion to that hater and all the haters the world over. Let’s add them to our carts that are already filled with the celebratory toasts of mixed-race presidents, Civil Rights leaders, married gay people, and everyone else who deserves a hug and a shout and a ‘FUCK YEA!’ because we have come a long, long way from when MLK Jr took the stage and even from when I had Jungle Fever for the very first time. And the second few times. And even just from four years ago when our country elected a president because of who he was and not because he fit a mold. Our congress doesn’t get along and there are crazies shooting kids and climate change is ruining our crops, but we DO have a lot to be proud of. I really think there are less Travises today. Maybe not in congress, but definitely in the world.

And if that doesn’t make you feel better, find solace in the fact that Travis Z. is currently serving three years in federal prison for extortion!

I haven’t written a word lately.
I’ve been trying this new thing. It’s called privacy. Pretty amazing.
My whole life has been on this blog for the past three years, and whenever I go on a date, undoubtedly the date knows way more about me than he ever should.

Me: So, do you have any brothers or sisters (why is that even a common question?)?

Guy: I know you don’t. Ok, I Googled you. (blushing) I also know you are from Chicago, you don’t like it when people sit on your bed in street clothes, you recently went to Europe with your mom, and you have a white patch of pubic hair.

Privacy!

The thing is, I don’t even have a white patch of pubic hair anymore. That’s what I’ve spent the last two years in psychology school learning: We are not our stories. I am not what you read here. I am who I am in one moment, and that moment is but a flash of time in my life. I am no longer sad about my mom selling my childhood home. I am no longer going through an existential crisis. I am no longer really into Renaissance fairs (okay, never was). I’m just whatever I am rightnow and that is already gone. To quote Mitch Hedberg: We’re younger in every picture. (his response when people say ‘This is a picture of me when I was younger.’)

My psychology program ended in August, and I’m still feeling the echo from its core. Nobody really tells you what you’re getting into when you start any type of psychological study. You think you’re going to learn how to help other people or figure out how to manipulate family members. But once you realize how the human brain works, you become aware of all the lies you’ve ever told yourself: I’m not good enough to ask for more money. I have to be prettier in order to have a boyfriend. People who invite me to events on Facebook don’t really mean to invite me.

Stupid shit that makes you feel like a stupid shit.

This is a huge awareness. You have to re-evaluate every thought you’ve ever had. You have to start everything over. You have to look at every single relationship/challenge/tragedy/goal in your life and ask if it’s really for-real-real. Was that really a big deal or did I make it out to be one in my head? Was that a real relationship or was I just feeling unworthy of a partner so I got married and played along? Is the relationship with my parents really that bad or am I holding them to unreasonable standards? Am I really insulted by someone’s political views, or is my ego just telling me I am? I MEAN EVERYTHING. Every. Damn. Thing. Becomes. A. Question.

I even took a step back from writing and asked myself if I’m writing this blog because I want to or because it was the easiest way to make me feel like a ‘real’ writer? Or is it because here I can say weird things about myself, meet others who relate, and then not feel so weird? Or, is it just for the validation I get when people say I’m funny, (quick! I need a joke right here SO PEOPLE WILL SAY I’M FUNNY!!)?

Do you know how torturous this questioning can be? It is blood curdling hard. Tears on the living room floor and while driving and while showering hard. It requires some super ‘roided out raging strength to sit down and be honest when there are millions of other things to do with your day. “No, I would not like to go to that movie with you. I think I’m just going to stay home and ponder my childhood instead.”

If I were to talk to my 2010 self, she would tell me that 2012 looks pretty pathetic. She would say that I don’t yet own a home or have a relationship or kids. She would say that I’m a failure (Uff, and the 1993 self would be devastated to know I don’t have six kids by now—- all with names that begin with N). But when I sat down on New Year’s Eve to make a list of everything I did in 2012, I filled up twelve whole sheets of paper (big ones). This year taught me that my biggest life accomplishments are invisible. And they all happened this year (So take that, 2010 Laurenne. And stop dating that DJ.).

I hardly made any money this year. I didn’t publish the book I wrote. I spent hours screaming in my car. But I let go of so much fear. I completely abolished so many misunderstandings I had about myself and the world. When school was all over, I sat down to tell myself the good things about me, and that conversation lasted an hour. Two years ago, it would have been less than a minute. I’m no longer hard on myself. I’m no longer trying to prove my self-worth to my parents, the world, or God. I felt every single emotion that exists at some point this year, and they all led to now. Now I’m feeling calm. Now I am truly just here. No story. Just here. And I’m cool with that. I have no idea where to go from here. I have no idea what I want. Yet, I’m still calmer and more optimistic than I’ve ever been.

This year was something that goes up and down (something less cliche than a roller coaster or tidal wave. I’M SO LAZY AND IM OKAY WITH THAT). I was selfless and really fucking selfish too. I was encouraging one minute and then missing the next. I was the most scared I’ve ever been and the bravest. I cried harder than when I was born, and I laughed more from my gut. I was the ugliest and the most beautiful. I felt confused one day and enlightened the other. I made horrible jokes. I asked impossible questions. I probably insulted you.

It was hard to be my friend during these past two years. And probably harder to be my family. So, I really and truly deeply thank you for being there. For talking with me. For pondering. For calling. For making me laugh. For taking me in. For making me get dressed and go out. For listening. For seeing me. For just showing up to life the way you do.

Thank you to everyone for existing and being part of my 2012 and my life. Here’s to doing crazy shit in 2013 and analyzing it later.

I love you.

What I did on my summer vacation.

My friend and I ordered dessert the other night. We were celebrating. The waiter placed 6 full-size doughnuts on the table surrounded by sauces and fruits. We are two people. SIX DOUGHNUTS. That’s when I knew: I am back in the United States. I’m back. I have spent the last three months in Europe enjoying [...]

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