Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"If you do not succeed, try, try again."

In grade school, teachers bought posters with the above saying and attached them to the walls of classrooms, hoping to incite some sort of inspiration in their students. Everything can be achieved with a lot of practice, a lot of effort, a lot of invested time. Everything? Everything.


Can you apply this to academics, friendships, dating, career-seeking, writing?

If you've learned anything in science class, it's that biology does play a role in creating gender distinctions. Not only do our genitals look completely foreign compared to one another (duh), but our brains boast different levels of skills. The ladies show more activity in language-specific brain areas, while the gentlemen show superior spacial reasoning. Women are friends with verbal skills, while men bond with math and the sciences. Does this mean women require more practice in math to achieve the same level of skill as men do in the subject, and vice versa? Surveys admit that the gap between male and female engineers is preposterous; women are just more inclined to become teachers, writers, nurses, etc. Can more practice and more effort on my sex's part even out the mathematical score?

And what about friendships? One isn't just born prosocial. Over time, experiences with family and peers cater to the lowering or heightening of our self-esteem, which is correlated with socialization. If our peers don't reject us or avoid us, we're more likely to be socially-sound and confident in our endeavors. But can we "practice" being personable and sociable? What does that even mean: standing in front of a mirror, and making sure you have an adequate amount of conversational topics to surface when you're with others? Does it mean going to a party and getting intoxicated so that, even if you do suffer from low self-esteem, your awareness of that will decrease and allow you to meet people?

Speaking of meeting people, let's proceed to dating. You can, in fact, practice dating. You can  theorize that each time you go on a date with someone, you're experimenting with different ways of getting to know that person, every instance being different from the last. It's all a test to find someone close to perfection. This experimentation is just practice for the big kahuna (brace yourselves): MARRIAGE! To think it all starts in 6th grade, when you kissed that big-earred, braces-wearing nerd in your basement. Then, you reach high school, and ultimately take the plunge into the world of relationships (or the world of random-hookups; either applies).

Then, academic upgrade: college. The whole system of dating, your perception of it, goes awry. Surrounded by people who claim they are full-fledged adults, you try to mirror their actions, maybe stray from commitment and emotional connections, caring, mutuality. Hooking up becomes more than the norm: it's life, a different person each party, maybe a different person every few months. Who wants to put a relationship ahead of their academics and future? To claim you aren't responsible enough for one simultaneously is hogwash & puerile. You'll always be climbing the life ladder, whether its academics or occupational success. Why do it alone? You can, you absolutely can function as an individual, but the real test is bringing someone else into the picture. If you don't experience it, you'll never know. What's life without complications, complexities, and challenge? Like watching paint dry: boring.

For example, finding a career that greatly defines your interest takes time and practice. Leap from one field to the next, until you stumble upon something that stirs you the most. Of course, in this day in age, we lack the ability to explore as much as before. Jobs are scarce. You could be laid off after a year, and what then? Do you really want to be that lazy ass committing fraud and living off of $500-a-week unemployment checks from the government? No one likes those.

As I'm writing the previous paragraph, I sulk at the lack of information I have. But that evolves from inexperience. What advice can I give someone, if I've only had 4 jobs before? I can do this though: I can tell you about writing, and my preposterously rough relationship with it. This skill takes plenty of practice that might begin with hair-pulling and self-deprecating sighs, but with perseverance, the learner may have the ladies saying, "Oh, you have a way with words." If you're an English major whose writing style is still in production, then you have multiple classes or paper grades to establish your voice. Yet is it possible that some of us just have that gift of gab, that innate love of language? I believe so, but I wouldn't call those people superior. For those of us still struggling to write like professionals, we have a breadth of activities available to speed up the process: websites with exercises, college classes, blogging, writing a short story a day. Chances are, someone's going to take an interest in your style, even if you end up writing on napkins in a bar until you can assemble all of your ideas into a novel.

That last one was in light of J.K. Rowling assembling the Harry Potter series despite poverty and hard times.

But what you can say to the child living in the ghetto, whose demographics almost condemn him to less opportunities than the white child sitting atop the ivory towers of upper class America? Can they dream, too? How many "greats" rose from poverty and social strife to become world-renowned? More than you might think.

You can achieve or obtain anything--realistically, anything--you wish with effort & discipline. Why else do you think every Asian kid is stereotyped as the next Einstein? They worked incredibly hard until that result could be obtained. The same amount of energy, maybe even less, is the cliche "recipe for success."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Boxers, or Briefs: Women No Longer Need to Guess

Just recently, I went on a cruise to Bermuda. Yes, it was lovely. Yes, I met a ton of good-hearted people. Yes, the sand was indeed tinted pink.

But one of the many interesting segments of the trip involved an onboard comedian, who kept his act clean and managed to attain the attention of the audience. He submitted a few statements about my generation and the differences between his and our's. As I lay in our cabin that night, I started to conjure a few aspects that actually bugged me to the core about our generation. Don't dub me a Carrie Complainer, but some truly evident nuances about us just made me question "WHY?!" in the most agitated way.

1. Why do some boys feel the need to show their boxers and leave their pants hanging low, belt still intact? What is the use of that belt? And why not just wear your boxers outside of your pants if you're that interested in letting the public know if you're a Joe Boxer or Hanes proponent?

2. Why does "badass" have to be defined by rappers and hip-hop artists, who hold guns sideways and think this angle is the most efficient way of shooting? Isn't it harder to target someone or something? And what about their dance moves? They just move their arms in high, robotic manners, so where's the talent? Can't we return to the days of Mo-town?

3. Why is rap music even called music? Why is most of it about sex in the club, shooting up your brother, and earning money from drug-dealing? Did anyone notice how pessimistic and negative their lyrics are, that the message doesn't actually make you happy? When you attend their concerts, they just walk around stage and point in an authoritative manner: how do you still dance to this? Life isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but their lives must SUCK, despite the fact they live in mansions and actually pay to have real gold teeth?

4. Why is "emo" music becoming such a fad? Why does each singer from those bands, and each melody they create, sound the same? Why do we label that "music," when they whine about "oppression" & their "broken hearts" & only appeal to that group of unappreciative teenagers still going through puberty? If these kids synced some Temptations or even The Doors to their mp3 players, maybe their "depression" would disappear and they'd realize that more than half of them actually live the good life?

5. Why are we so addicted to Facebook? Yes, I have one, and who doesn't at my age, but how many of your Facebook friends out of 400, 500, 700, 1000, can you actually refer to as a "friend"? If we all weeded out our good friends on Facebook, wouldn't we be down to at least 50 people on whom we can rely, and do we avoid doing this entirely because we fear losing the popularity contest?

6. Why is dancing from the 2000's consisting of the ability to just pelvic thrust and to line dance? Where's the talent? I can grind just as well as the next girl, but I'm not going to deny how stupid I feel in comparison when I notice my mom and dad salsa dancing, or ballroom dancing, or even just doing the twist. When a guy asks you to dance at a party, why does he immediately grab your waist and turn you around so you aren't facing him and then proceeds to move his hips back and forth while pressing them to yours? How can you even form conversational topics when all you feel is that guy's erection?

7. Why is chivalry almost dead (and I'm not saying the independence of women is grossly unimportant, merely that the lack of respect we receive from the opposite sex, whether earned or not, is appalling)? Why do my boobs and vagina label me as just a commodity for a good portion of the male population? Sure, men of the early 19th century noticed our skinny waists (thank you, corsets) and thought, "That's the girl I want to marry," but they also pulled out our chairs, respected our space, refrained from always asking for a "blowie," and occassionally recited some half-decent poetry? Nowadays, if man not laid by woman by/during college, man big pussy.

Granted, none of the above include the positives about our generation. I will admit that those can be listed just as well and as often as the negatives.

But really, guys: why buys jeans with built-in boxers that reach right below your belly-button?

Friday, June 4, 2010

No Monkeys Were Harmed in the Baking of This Dessert.

When you mention devouring and loving "monkey bread," you receive a lot of suspicious and concerned facial expressions. What is this dessert, and why call it "monkey bread"? It's asking for trouble from PITA, right?

Nope. Monkey bread is the entertaining dessert that tastes like a cinnamon bun, only better. Tastebuds are intrigued, as the nuggets covered in cinnamon, sugar, and butter are pulled a part and popped into your mouth. For kids, the mess is fun: fingers drenched in gooey and sugary splendor!

In some ways (and this may be a stretch), monkey bread can be used as a metaphor for life. You have to keep eating until it's all gone, because if you don't finish each 25-calorie nugget, someone else will. Savor each, and possibly dip it in cream cheese icing to add some pizzazz. The message is a lot like carpe diem, or carpe noctem, to cherish each second/mouthful as if it's your last ... nugget of monkey bread.

And that one nugget is highly unhleathy. Once a health nut indulges and frees his/her troubled spirit, he/she has surmounted various obstacles--fears of weight gain, heart failure, cavities. Nothing can prevent them from picking away at the best stuff on Earth. After all, if you can laugh in the face of danger, then aren't you living a full life?

Terrible thought: in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, what if the rose were actually a full cake of monkey bread, and when the last nugget was eaten (rather than the last petal), then he would remain a monster for eternity? The following scenarios are likely:

  1. The beast would accidentally speed up time because he would constantly face the temptation to eat it.
  2. When Belle illegally explores the West Wing and happens to find the monkey bread, she would no doubt have a morsel...or ten.
  3. The monkey bread would spoil and slowly deteriorate. A mortal sin, to be sure.
  4. The enchantress might have poisoned it. And the beast would die.

These ramblings are the consequences of what occurs when you monkey around with your food.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Do you have a "FOE-bia?"

Ablutophobia- Fear of washing or bathing.
Bogyphobia- Fear of bogeys or the bogeyman.
Caligynephobia- Fear of beautiful women.
Dutchphobia- Fear of the Dutch.
Euphobia- Fear of hearing good news.
Gnosiophobia- Fear of knowledge.
Hobophobia- Fear of bums or beggars.
Ithyphallophobia- Fear of seeing, thinking about or having an erect penis.
(J options were too rascist.)
Kosmikophobia- Fear of cosmic phenomenon
Linonophobia- Fear of string.
Myctophobia- Fear of darkness.
Nostophobia- Fear of returning home.
Ommetaphobia or Ommatophobia- Fear of eyes. (Well, that's a huge issue...)
Paraskavedekatriaphobia- Fear of Friday the 13th.
Quadraphobia- Fear of the number four.
Rhytiphobia- Fear of getting wrinkles.
Staurophobia- Fear of crosses or the crucifix.
Taphephobia- Fear of being buried alive or of cemeteries.
Uranophobia or Ouranophobia- Fear of heaven.
Vestiphobia- Fear of clothing.
Walloonphobia- Fear of the Walloons. (Wikipedia that.)
Xerophobia- Fear of dryness.
(Y-phobia has yet to exist. Conjure something.)
Zeusophobia- Fear of God or gods.

Friday, April 23, 2010

2 Years

Two years ago from April 22, I left school on time and drove to my grandparents' house not 5 minutes away. Poppop was dying, and he was in good, caring hands back in the very house in which my dad, uncles, and aunt had grown up and cultivated so many memories. That house hosted so many family reunions and Christmas parties that it was forever associated with joy, but on that day, I remember being so afraid of walking through the door, as if one could sense an impending separation from that indoor sunshine. The mood was light, only because Poppop always considered himself a "burden" & wanted to, despite the situation, maintain a level of calm.

So when I walked upstairs to see him, I had no expectations for the site. They had him propped up in a hospital bed. My grandparents' bedroom was all disheveled. Aunt Mary & Mommom were there as Poppop asked how my day was, how the boyfriend was, etc., all of the normal inquiries. Of course he wasn't the same, but he still tried to wear a smile, my Poppop who was known for his riddles and his jokes, his unconditional love for his grandchildren, his paternal passion for his children, & his eternal love for his wife.

When I say Poppop cannot be compared to any other grandfather, I'm not exaggerating. He battled cancer like no other, and he was strong throughout. He always sported that smile, and he always bought these crazy mugs against squirrels and their thievery of his birdseed. We all loved him very dearly.

I know for a fact I did not know him as well as I could have. For some reason, as a child, I always felt vastly inferior to everyone around me, and I had a fear of disappointing my grandfather. We grew up in a family of accomplishment, and there were times when I felt I didn't even meet the average. Though it's obvious that Poppop didn't care, I allowed the pressure to overwhelm me.

I really, really, really should not have.

He said he loved me, and this seemed like a sign in which he was trying to say his final good-bye. I, the non-believer, just smiled and said, "I'll see you Thursday, Poppop," and then kissed him good-bye.

I really thought I'd see him that Thursday. I really thought Tuesday wasn't the final good-bye. We were wrong.

That Thursday wasn't such a bad schoolday. I had checked my phone in the morning only because I liked to wish my boyfriend of the time a good day, and used to love receiving those little surprise texts from him. If I had only checked it passed a certain point, I might've realized my mom had called me. Once the 3 pm dismissal bell rang, I didn't check my phone, but instead hung out with my friends until the crowds in the hallway dispersed. I then called my mom back, and she told me as calmly as possible that Poppop had passed away not a few hours before. She tried to reach me, but alas, "I was in school."

It's another one of those moments people believe they may never have to experience. And me, sheltered little, in-a-bubble-at-the-Mount girl finally dove head-first.

I remember a lot of wailing, a lot of tears, a lot of me sliding down my locker and not knowing what to do, and pressing my legs to my chest, and only looking up when Sister Kathleen asked me what was wrong. This nun was my favorite; the president of our high school, she had the heart of the Mother Teresa herself. She stayed with me for a while and got me back on my feet--"He loved you very much, sweetie, I know he did"--and made sure I made it to the car.

The next destination was Poppop's. The drive is hard to recall, but when I finally reached the house, I remember walking in and first seeing my Aunt Mary, and breaking down yet again--"I never really got to say good-bye, I never really got to say good-bye" "He knew you loved him, and he loved you, too".

The viewing, the funeral, and everything afterward--nothing felt the same. My dad delivered the eulogy at the funeral. He had cried before, and I'd only seen him cry twice in my whole life--this time, and another time when a family member basically took my dad's love & threw it back in his sweet face.

When your mom cries, you don't think as much of it as when your dad cries. He's the strong, rational, "masculine" one. He holds your mom while she cries, not the other way around. It broke my heart to say him so emotionally-drained, and I remember he grabbed me and one point and sobbed, and I sobbed with him.

All I know is, I miss my grandfather more than anything, and although I always preach the antihesis of the following statement to my friends: I have regrets, and I wish I could rewind time.

But Poppop wouldn't want this. He would want us to live our lives to the fullest, which is what I will strive to do. In his honor. As my dad wrote in his eulogy, Poppop showed us how to live and how to love. We should always and forever emulate that.

"When you cry, you cry alone, but when you smile, the world smiles with you."
-R.I.P. Robert

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Egg-sperience

In the world of breakfast foods, eggs can assume many forms, specifically:

  1. Scrambled,
  2. Hard-boiled, &;
  3. Sunny-side-up.
Personally, I used to avoid eggs at all cost, until the day an ex of mine made me scrambled eggs one morning. Graciously accepting the meal rather than politely declining, I finally tasted the eggs without so much as turning up my nose. They were phenomenal, as heavenly as bananas' foster french toast, as delectable as the crowd-pleasing monkey bread, and as sensational as my mother's critically-acclaimed cheesecake.

Really, they were darn good eggs, and to this day, I have not had a plate of scrambled eggs please me as much as they did that morning. Kudos to the chef, of course. Without him, I would never have the moxie to try them.

So, after tasting this fashion of cooked eggs, I developed an affinity for tasting eggs in all sorts of manners. As a result, I came to the conclusion that eggs can be a nice metaphor for people and personality types.

For example, let us begin with scrambled. When you hear the word "scrambled," the following adjectives quickly resonate in one's mind: "struggling," "scurrying," "muddle," "confusion," and "scrabble."

So, someone who cannot manage to find their path in life--someone who suffers from an identity crisis--are very much like scrambled eggs. They are facing the identity moratorium stage of life. Picture one of your friends, quite probably an excessively indecisive one, who has no motivation simply because he/she cannot find motivation. As a flibbertigibbet, this person may be a little scatter-brained, since so much is thrown upon them that their Life Code, if you will, can't be deciphered despite trying many different combinations. Your friend couldn't tell you what he or she wants to do in the future, much less how he or she likes his or her eggs. Of all the egg forms to be categorized as, this sounds like the most internally aggravating.

Hard-boiled eggs avoid the kerfuffle of scrambled eggs. They're pretty black-and-white, usually possessing a tough outer shell that, once cracked, will reveal a soft and vulnerable interior. These are the people whom you can just observe in passing and think to yourself, "Well, someone thinks he's/she's just the bees knees, as strong as 300 Spartans and as emotionally stable as a robot!" Well, ponder again. Inside, you might find a stormy and subfusc individual. Put them in a situation in which their one fear is present, and they may break completely.

If hard-boiled eggs are like ticking time bombs, then the sunny-side-up folks are clones of Po, the Teletubby. As the description implies, such people seem to carry a smile through all manner of circumstances because their core is like the sun, brightening the earth and keeping the rest of us from experiencing a serious emotional ice age. These are the people whom you aim to stick around, and these are the people whom you aspire to be at all times. Optimism is a cure for the worry-wart: for the most part, sunny-side-up kids are just glad to be alive, and that's all they require as a driving force.

But the question is, which are you? 

Friday, April 9, 2010


This year, two friends had a ladybug infestation in their room. They multiplied like rabbits. Of course, the girls expressed their trepidations about the rapid proliferation of ladybugs.

Ladybugs are virtually docile insects, and have a tendency to be synonymous with luck. Why would an infestation be so troublesome then?

Well, if ladybugs are generally associated with luck, then these beautiful critters can be applied to the dating world.

For example--and I swear my grandmother either fabricated this tale, or stole it from elsewhere--my grandmother uses ladybugs to describe the opposite sex. She claims that one day as a little girl, she chased ladybugs. After being unsuccessful, she fell down in the middle of a field and allowed herself to slip into a slumber. When she awoke, she was covered in ladybugs.

The lesson? Expect the unexpected: don't spend life waiting around for good to fall upon you. Rather, just FORGET ABOUT IT, and all of the sudden, you will be blessed.

After my grandmother enthusiastically divulged this piece of her childhood (in a desperate attempt to teach me a high school lesson), I experimented with this theory. Most of the time, it worked. The problem? Don't snatch each ladybug that lands upon you; the ladybug world is vast and for the most part unexplored, so you should probably welcome some other guests.

And if that ladybug actually turns out to be a hostile bumble bee, do not simply stand rigid and await it to leave your presence. Take action; grab a massive fly swatter and some bug repellant, and end that sucker's buzzing. Come on. Do you really want a bee sting?

Of course, if you're brave, and quite vindictive, perhaps you would rather be stung by the bee, which will die instantly post-stingage. Justice! Theoretically, you're liable to "win" either way.

Lately, the bee population triumphed over the ladybugs. From a positive viewpoint, the abiliy to distinguish friendly bug from a foe gradually became clearer. After a few ladybugs and/or bumble bees, you suddenly realize that once those ladybugs land on you in that dreamy field, you can flick a few away and allow the others to remain. Hopefully, the ones you might desire to stick around won't fly away so soon. After all, ladybugs are decently difficult to ensnare once they fly away, and if you chase after them, well ... don't be selfish.

"Nicoletta, you just wait. You just wait, and you'll get that ladybug."

Thanks, grandmom.