Monday, July 11, 2011

books, classic films, booze, god, feminism

Forewarning: this post is all over the place.

Lately I've been spending my afternoons devouring books and my nights watching old movies. From my childhood on, I've adored old black and white films. Humphrey Bogart was one of my first true crushes, followed by Jimmy Stewart, a perennial favorite. Currently I'm loving me some Cary Grant. Neil doesn't like old movies and I've found that he will just talk through them, so I stock up and watch them when he's off at gigs. I find them calming. No crazy, overstimulating special effects. No TMI love scenes. Instead, I get a steady dose of playful banter and glamour. 

I took a break from my Atwood to read the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins last week, and they were wonderful. My 13-year-old cousin Hannah, who is basically a mini-me bookworm, gushed about it endlessly, but it wasn't until my sister and dad read the first that I jumped on the Hunger Games train. I may be an English major but I've never been a snob, which is more than I can say for some of my peers, who love to tear into Twilight and Eat, Pray, Love and any book that has met any commercial success. I tend to roll my eyes at these folks. READING SHOULD MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY. Even if Twilight doesn't have the same intellectual merit as War and Peace - it doesn't, I can say this because I've read it - it draws people to books that might otherwise not read. This is of greater importance than feeling superior to others. 

Those who spend their days on a high horse judging people for their choice of reading material need to find a hobby, stat.

Reading the Hunger Games series definitely brought me back to the lazy, listless summers of my childhood, when I would lounge about reading the Harry Potter books, eyes glued to the page, completely engrossed. My dad and I both read each of the Harry Potter books immediately when they came out; he would buy two copies of each so neither of us would have to wait. I distinctly remember the weekend that HP and the Goblet of Fire was published: we drove up to Onalaska to visit the grandparents but I was glued to the couch reading, ready to bow down to JK Rowling's mastery. To this day, that book is still my favorite of the series.

Of course, everyone everywhere knows that the final movie installment of the Harry Potter series is debuting this Friday - which also happens to be my 21st birthday. (I will flippantly call this fate without truly believing that anything happens for a reason or that any event is predestined.) In fact, I am losing several friends who would otherwise accompany me downtown for my very first sip of alcohol ever to the midnight showing. I can't blame them too much.

Finally twenty-one. I am used to exciting events that last a day then fade, but by crossing the invisible threshold from 20 to 21 I will be deemed responsible enough to drink booze, liquor, spirits and what have you - forever. They won't be able to take that away from me.

I'm excited to be able to buy a bottle of wine myself. I'm excited to be able to go hear Neil play in bars and at various gigs. I'm excited to be able to partake in the classic La Crosse experience of "going DT" before leaving for Indiana. In one of the cities that boasts the most bars per capita in the US, you cannot imagine how often I've heard my fellow students (especially bro-like characters, almost caricatures of themselves) talk animatedly about their exploits "DT." This is funny, as you can imagine, but there's also a dark, ugly underbelly of alcohol that people choose to ignore - I refuse to.

Now for a digression: does anyone remember the Laci Peterson murder case? I was at my neighbor's house on New Year's Eve in 2002 when I read a People magazine article about her disappearance. I was truly shaken by it. It is always horrific to read about women going missing, turning up dead, etc., but for some reason at that time I was more affected than I had ever been by a similar story. I went home and couldn't stop crying in my bed. I prayed, if praying can be considered anguished mental pleading. I addressed God, who I knew to be a bearded white man floating around somewhere in the clouds, and made offerings to Him, attempting to swap out the trappings of my lucky life in exchange for Laci and her child to be found alive. My tears can be attributed to the knowledge that she was probably rotting, decaying, decomposing somewhere and that I could do absolutely nothing about it. Suffice it to say, I cried myself to sleep, steeped in empathy and heartache. I went on with my 12-year-old life the next day, but that experience imprinted itself in my consciousness. How could it not? And sure enough, they found her headless, almost unrecognizable body in some body of water soon enough. She was dead and God was dead too, an impotent concept that left my life swiftly. (Please note: this is not to detract from the importance of God or gods to others, merely to express that it vanished from my life and I haven't missed it since.) But religion is talk for another day: this story only illustrates that since then, I've been affected and enraged by the number of women who are taken advantage of or killed at the hands of men every day. I think that if you are a woman and you're not pissed, you're not paying attention. And if you're a man and you're not pissed, well, I doubt you could understand the fear that women feel on an everyday basis, simply because they have breasts and a cunt. Try to understand.

I am acutely aware of the connection between alcohol, being a woman, and becoming a target. I'm sure that many, many, many sexual assaults happen here in La Crosse, but these never surface. Sluts asking for it pass out and wake up wondering. (This is sarcasm, if you're not sure.) Alcohol enables. We have college-aged guys who wander into the Mississippi and drown, but I'm surprised that there haven't been any recent cases like this, which occurred at my future university, IU. At some point, sadly, there will be something that happens in La Crosse. With an out of control drinking culture, there are consequences.

Lately I'm just disgusted with waking up to read the news and learning about a law student being dismembered, an ex-boyfriend dumping his old girlfriend's body in a marsh like a piece of trash, another pretty girl vanishing without a trace, a ballerina being killed and stuffed in a storage shed, a nursing student gone, and let's not forget the black Jane Doe whose body was found outside Indianapolis. Everyone was in a tizzy because they thought it might be Lauren Spierer's body - the sad truth is that murdered women of color don't exactly receive the same media attention as white college girls. For shame.

Yes, every month the bodies of dead women pile up, so to speak. And the specter of sexual assault haunts many more women, I'm sure. Ever since I was young I've looked over my shoulder while walking hurriedly down dimly lit streets. I've locked doors, then gotten up to double check that they are still locked. I've panicked at the thought of anything happening to the women I love. I've fantasized about my tenure as benevolent dictator, when I would personally oversee that child molesters and the murderers of women are drawn and quartered. Trust me, I have a vindictive soul: this is a beautiful planet and some people have no business remaining here.

Anyway. Sorry for the heavy nature of that diatribe. I'm just so angry these days and I am not sure how to corral that anger. Writing helps. Feministing helps.

Doom and gloom aside, I expect I will have an enjoyable 21st birthday weekend. While I'm not sure what I will make of the downtown experience, I am more than willing to put on my bar-hopping hat for a month to observe the binge-drinking culture of my college town firsthand. I am happy to be able to have my dear friends, all of whom except a few are already of age, to show me the ropes. I've opted to not be puking and disgustingly hungover on my birthday, so I'm limiting myself to five-ish drinks over the course of the night. We'll see how that goes.

More photos and prettiness and lightness tomorrow!


  1. You know, if you want a young adult series that I have firmly enjoyed and even seems to me to be fairly well written, I would like to recommend the Haruhi Suzumiya series by Nagaru Tanigawa. It's a series of short novels from Japan and... hey where are you going? Trust me, it's legitimately good. So far, only five of the eleven books have been released with official English translations (the sixth is scheduled for release in November), but for me that just helps me relive the charm of waiting for books like I did when I was a child. Admittedly, that charm was diminished for the Harry Potter novels, as I frequently would not get a chance to read them until they had been out for a significant period of time due to my paranoid mother. But these are legitimately good novels, and even for those who are not into things like anime and manga, I feel these books can still be very enjoyable.

  2. i will definitely keep that in mind! i love branching out into new genres and i love getting book suggestions! i'll tack the haruhi suzumiya series onto my ever-expanding to-read list :)

  3. You make an old man proud! Rage on!

  4. This was one intense post, but I appreciate it. I am just the same way when it comes violence against women. I think many men, since they do not have to worry about it, are very apathetic to the whole thing. They may not necessarily think it's right, but they don't take a stand against it even when something like that could just as easily happen to the women they love in their own lives. It sickens me that this is the world we live in and while all these stories get attention in the media, you don't see much about how we can prevent this or how to look for signs that a relationship may end in such a horrific way for the female involved. No one wants to live in fear; it takes away your independence. But at the same time to think that it couldn't happen to you is a very naive way of thinking.

    On a positive note though, I am very much looking forward to your birthday, and I hope you have fun taking in our town's horrible binge-drinking culture. It can be fun as long as you control yourself! I hope you will be ready to dance!

  5. thanks dad! & katherine, you are one of the reasons i'm looking forward to my birthday so much! you're a great friend!

  6. ...and you make ME proud when the word "booze" is included in your title!


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