Hey there, Hot Stuff!

Why be you when you can be me?

Remember this commercial from the Concerned Children’s Advertisers? I know it’s pretty old, but the message is as important now as it was then.

I have three confessions to make, blogosphere:

  1. I’ve felt very plain lately. Not ugly, which is a whole other issue, but not beautiful either. Just plain. I know, I know, they’re just emotions that don’t have any bearing on the truth, but I’m just being honest with you.
  2. I’m a Facebook lurker. Especially of younger girls. It’s not as creepy as it sounds. I just get curious sometimes about the girls I babysat or taught Sunday School — the ones that maybe, perhaps, looked up to me at some point in their lives — and I want to see how they’ve grown up and how they’re doing. Basically, I’m interested in the teens and young twentysomethings of today and how youth culture has changed since I was there not too long ago.  And yes, it really has changed a lot in only 5-6 years. I’m not just saying that because I’m an old lady.
  3. I can be pretty judgmental.  You already knew that, didn’t you?  Maybe observational, perceptive, and discerning are better words, but if the shoe fits ….

These three confessions have led me to think long and hard about something:

It seems as though — perhaps now more urgently than ever — there is a lie permeating our culture that to be hot, to be sexy, is of the utmost importance. And not hot or sexy according to your own standards, but hot and sexy according to the very thin, narrow (pun intended) dictates of modern society.  To be considered good-looking is more desirable than being intelligent, altruistic, kind, spiritual, or moral. The closer you are to society’s standards of beautiful, the better of a person you are.

What? How does that even make sense?

But we don’t think about it.  It’s just there.

Look at the way these young, impressionable girls represent themselves on Facebook.  Skin-tight dresses, short skirts, Hollywood hair, and the poses … chest out, butt out, stomach sucked in, cameras held at an angle to show off cleavage, precocious smiles, hugging each other in a way they know would drive the boys wild … And these are the Christian girls.  Modesty, what?

Of course, in doesn’t end in the teenage years. I’ve noticed that even — if not especially — in the Christian counterculture, there is an unsettling focus on appearances. Think about the compliments we give each other, the comments we make on our friends’ Facebook pictures. Instead of, “Wow, you’re such a strong woman,” “you’re an inspiration to all of us,” and “you have a sweet, gentle spirit,” it’s stuff like, “Sexy Mama!,” “Hey there, Hot Stuff!” and “you are so freaking gorgeous!”

It’s kind of embarrassing.

What if we focussed on what really matters, our inner selves, rather than putting so much stock in how we look?  This challenge was put forth recently by pastor Bruxy Cavey from The Meeting House in a recent series titled Get Over Yourself: Rebelling Against the Culture of Narcissism. Do yourself a favour and listen to the sermon called Appearance: The Culture of Hot, which you can listen to here.  He challenges us to work harder cultivating an inner beauty rather than an outer beauty, and to compliment each other on stuff that counts. It’s quite a rebellious way of thinking. He also asks: “What if plain is the new hot?

What if we truly rebelled against culture and refused to believe the lie that our looks are what make us? What if we spent more time in the morning making ourselves spiritually and intellectually hot than outwardly hot?  What if we taught the new generation of girls that being beautiful on the outside, in the long run, doesn’t really matter all that much?  That focussing on that stuff is just a way to distract them from being who they were truly meant to be?

What if?

Distractions Thursday

So basically right now I’m just procrastinating from writing this article … which will be my last article for my internship!  Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to write.

During my Web-browsing, I came across some humourous things which will provide you with some distraction.  Enjoy!

First of all, this list of stereotyping people by their favourite author.  What does your favourite author say about you?  According to this list, I’m a girl who made out with other girls in college when I was going through a “phase” (Jane Austen), and a female high-school French teacher with a master’s degree (Virginia Woolf).  I wonder what loving the Brontë sisters says about me (they’re not on the list)?  That I’m an obsessive romantic with a dark side (quite accurate)?  

Take a look at the list.  Is your favourite author(s) on there?  What does that say about you?  Are you a youth group leader who picked your nose in fourth grade (C.S. Lewis)?  Or a woman whose favourite colour is hunter green (Margaret Atwood)?  

From the same blogger is this website of pure comedic gold: http://www.momsmsgs.com.  

From the website’s About section:

We decided to start this site when we realized that because of technology and social networks, parents can be annoying more often and in a more public way. The texts messages are embarrassing enough – you only have to provide us with your first name and your relation to the offender.

And remember Mom and Dad, we only poke fun because we love you.

Anyone who has received a ridiculously misspelled text message, e-mail, or awkward facebook status comment from their parents will truly appreciate the humour of this website which had me laughing hysterically at work (co-workers think I’m nuts)! 

Here are some of my favourites:

Becky: OMG Gossip Girl was so good!

Becky’s Mom: What does OMG mean? It sounds like you’re choking.  (Facebook status comment)

Janna’s Mom: Why can’t we all get along?

Janna: What happened now

Janna’s Mom: Aunt Nancy said that she wasn’t coming to Christmas because Dad told you guys about how she went to Twilight by herself (text messages)

James: We won the ultimate frisbee tourney!

James’ Mom: You’re my favorite little mathlete. I remember you when! (Facebook status comment)

Ryan’s Mom: Is that bar really a cougar place? I’m scared they’ll take my hubby away!

Ryan: Dad’s 61. You have nothing to worry about.  (text messages) 

Remind me to start saving my mom’s text messages, okay?

The Tweet Goes On …

Have YOU caught a smiling whale lately?

Have YOU caught a smiling whale lately?

What if people tweeted what they were really doing or feeling? 

I’m not one to judge (actually, yes I am!) but I’ve noticed that twitter updates have taken on the same illusory shape as Facebook, posting the glimmering lie that everyone’s life is full of fun and fabulousness.  And yes … I use twitter this way also.  Now everyone is going to be monitoring my tweets with hawk-like intensity …

I “follow” the tweets of 69 people, from friends and minor acquaintances to some of my literary heroes like Jonathan Goldstein and Douglas Coupland. With the exception of the latter who are perhaps so naturally awesome or emotionally secure that they don’t need to trick everyone with a veneer of awesomeness (Goldstein’s tweets are often drunkenly misspelled and express his fear of taking off his shirt while Coupland is unafraid of appearing dull and admitting that his day was “one total sack of shit”), everyone else uses the 140 available characters for personal PR to promote the sunshine and rainbows of their lives; all the burps and hiccups and body odour are carefully edited out:

“Out clubbing with fab girlfriends. Hot DJ. Martinis. Awesome.”

“Poetry reading in 5. Eating nachos and talking to poet laureate.”

“Watching fireflies light up night sky at cottage. Enjoying company of bf/gf and dog.”

“Today = mall + Starbucks + beach. Could life get any better?”

Of course, I only tweet the good stuff also.  For instance, last night, one of my tweets looked like this:

“Tonight=stress relief yoga+Sixteen Candles+journalling. Sweet.”

While this was all true and it happened to be a pretty good night, I didn’t mention eating salty nacho chips and the crumbs falling on my chin and stomach at 11 p.m. or the breath-shortening anxiety.  But imagine I did?  Imagine a twitter world in which we got the bad and ugly along with (or instead of) all the good?

Here’s what that might look like:

“Staring at the ceiling for two hours. Wondering if it’s all worth it.”

“Kicked my cat because it got in the way of my war path towards the fridge. Feeling crappy.”

“Just had the binge to end all binges: 1 carton of ice cream+tube of cookie dough+two cans of diet pop. Still feel fat.”

“Woke with Cheetos-stained fingers and shirt. Going to go drink my troubles away.”

“Going out with two friends I actually can’t stand. Probably will want to throw my latte in Tiffany’s face.”

“Hanging out with parents for fifth night in row. All HGTV, all the time, baby. Want to gouge out eyeballs with monkey wrench.”

“Staying in tonight to play WoW with 10 year-old geniuses from Japan.”

“Woke up at noon. Spent 1 hr in the real world. Crawled back to bed.”

“Just had worst date ever. Dude had B.O., I had IBS, I felt pressured to kiss him. Gross.”

“I hate all my friends. They’re all fake and laugh too loudly and are always drunk.”

Etc., etc., etc.

Imagine we put our hearts on our tweets, letting the world know that we’re not all okay all the time, that we have really sucky days and feel really insecure a lot of the time and stay in most nights and haven’t been in vacation in ever?

Nah, maybe that would be too good to be true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m meeting a friend I love for ice cream, second-hand store shopping, pizza and movies. Life is awesome.

La La Lent

This year, I decided to give something up for Lent.  It’s not required that you give something up or fast for 40 days, but this year I strongly felt like I should sacrifice something that takes up a lot of my time and then use that time for productivity or spiritual development.

Fasting food has never been an option for me because I become a monster if I haven’t eaten something every few hours.  One year when I was in high school, I gave up TV and movies, and back then we didn’t have a computer at home, so it was kind of a media fast.  Even though giving up TV at that time was a sacrifice, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I felt better after the 40 days were up.

I considered fasting TV and movies this year, but it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice because I’m not as much of a couch potato as I was in high school.  When I was talking about this with a friend, she suggested giving up Facebook. 

Giving up Facebook is definitely a big sacrifice because I’m on it all the time and waste countless hours browsing photo albums and checking status updates and wall postings.  I’ve started noticing lately that being so addicted to Facebook is having a negative effect on my mood and also, it is so obviously a time suck and an enabler of procrastination–which, in my final semester at university, I need like a hole in the head. 

Similarly, there are some new people in my life.  Ordinarily, I would have added them as a friend to Facebook, and before even really getting to know them I would already know so much and would have judged them or made up my mind about them based on the kinds of photos they’re tagged in or what people write on their wall.  Now, I feel a freedom to get to know them slowly and without pretension, without preconceived notions and snap judgements.  I like the slowness, the beauty of developing a friendship or what-have-you based on face-to-face interactions and small conversations.  It’s blossoming organically.  It feels old-fashioned.  It’s like life without Facebook is this place full of possibility.

So I gave up Facebook for Lent, not because I felt obliged to give something up for Lent, but because I really want to.  Since Lent started (Wednesday), I have been so much more productive and getting to know these people is like slowly unwrapping a mysterious present, layer by layer.  Rather than fully undressing them upon initial contact and killing the romance, so to speak, they are still covered by the clothes of slowness with hints of an ankle or wrist here ore there.  I love it.

Please blame incoherence or strange metaphors on Tylenol PM.

The Lost Generation

It hit me early this year.

Every year since I turned 20–around the end of March to April–when the grass begins to thaw and the sweet smell of a coming spring wafts through the air, I have a quarter-life crisis.  Either it creeps up on me slowly, filling me with dread and the sense of impending doom, or I have this weird penchant for staying in bed and crying at nothing, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel walled by papers and exams.

I cannot escape the thoughts that sing to the tune of: What are you doing with your life?  What will your summer look like?  Where will you work?  What are you doing in September?  How will you make money?  Why are you still living with your parents?  Why aren’t you more INDEPENDENT?  Why don’t you travel more?  How will you pay off your student loans?  Why don’t you invest?  Why don’t you have a career yet?  How are you twentysomething and still doing this while kids 5 years younger than you are already embarking on their careers?  How are you twentysomething and not married or having babies?

Every time I log on to Facebook–which I am certain is the root of all evil and the cause of depression in this post-whatever world–I’m reminded, through status updates and countless photo albums, that people are traveling, seeing the world, going to parties, beginning careers, living in cool cities, losing weight, getting engaged, getting married, having babies (the last three only apply to the small-town and/or Christian friends)  . . . experiencing “life to the fullest” . . . I am convinced that everyone has a more fabulous life than I do, which is why I’m going to try to decrease my Facebook usage and significantly reduce these negative emotions, especially when I’m having a “crisis.”

Maybe the reason why I had a quarter-life crisis during Reading Week in mid-February rather than March or April is because it has finally hit me.  I’m (finally) graduating university in the spring and my future has never been more uncertain.  I don’t have a job lined up for the spring/summer.  I don’t know what I’m doing in the fall.  I applied to a Masters program at one university (talk about keeping your options open!) and I have yet to see the fated envelope in my mailbox (meanwhile, some teenaged acquaintances have been accepted into that university’s undergraduate programs and have been gloating about it on Facebook . . . grrrr . . . )  If I don’t get into the Masters program, I’d still like to move to Toronto (again; hopefully in a better neighbourhood this time) and get on with it. 

Your 20s are supposed to be the best years of your life.  These are the years when you “find yourself” . . . when you explore and experiment and make mistakes and learn and grow . . .  and then you settle down with your lifemate and pop out a few kiddies (this seems to happen at the average age of 21 for the small-town and/or Christian kids and around 25-9 for those who do not fit into those categories).  I’m almost 24, I am just getting my degree now, I still live with my parents in a dead-end small-town, I still see the city as a magical place where fabulous things happen (even though I lived in the worst area of it for 1.5 years), I am not quite ready to be a married mother.  The thought makes a little shiver go down my spine.  Even though Facebook tells me otherwise, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels lost, uncertain about the future, and kind of . . . stalled.

It’s arrested development.

I was having a conversation with a friend about this in the early afternoon.  He told me–and I’m not sure if I’m getting the statistic right but I’ll do my best–that 58 per cent of Toronto twentysomethings still live with their parents!  Apparently it’s become normal to be as LOST in your 20s as it is in your teens. 

The 20s are the new teens.

I guess I should feel like my life is just beginning, that the sense of being lost and uncertain is normal and acceptable.  I should also realize that everyone’s life looks different and I’m sure that if I lived someone else’s life for a day, it wouldn’t be all glamour and fabulousness, but rather, unpaid bills and credit card debt.  I should also give up this ideal of fabulousness that has been built up in my mind by Mademoiselle in my teen years, Glamour in my 20s, Audrey Hepburn, Carrie Bradshaw, various makeover shows on TLC, and chick lit. 

Life is whatever you make it, baby, and so I will learn to love what I have.  Who knows what tomorrow brings?