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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Unapologetically Connie

Growing up, I was a misfit. I didn't know that until about junior high, when fitting in became important. My neighborhood had a group of girls, each of us very different, but like most of us back then, geography more than common interest determined our friendships. The kids in the neighborhood, our gang, were our best friends.

The Goonies (Image from Screenrant.com)
 
Even among this close-knit group, with whom I spent some of my best times--and my worst--I never quite knew where, how, or if I belonged. I'd never be as pretty as Katie, no matter how hard I tried to imitate her dress, make-up, and hair. I'd never be as athletic as Theresa, no matter how hard I tried at softball and basketball. I'd never be a wild-child like Sue, no matter how much I drank or smoked. And I'd never be as comfortable in my own skin as Connie--even when, or especially when, I tried to imitate her.

Like most teen girls, our group formed and reformed in varying combinations and subsets, infighting, backstabbing, and declaring new and different best friends every few weeks. Despite all our girl-drama, we remained friends, even when we migrated to new groups of friends at school, found boyfriends, and pursued other interests. Through it all, I still didn't know where I belonged.

All during high school, I was rather protean, donning different personas based on who I was with, trying to figure out which one fit: the princess, the bad-ass, the brainiac, the All-American...I liked all of those roles, but knew they were just that, roles; costumes. Underneath, I was still the misfit. I knew I must belong somewhere, but it wasn't in any of those high school stereotypes.

The Breakfast Club (Image from Mentalfloss.com)

Somewhere along the line, Connie and I became best-friends. By college, we were inseparable. She knew my quirks and shortcomings and accepted them, and me, as I was, with no judgment. She remained my best friend, the person I turned to and knew I could rely on, through high school, college, grad school, a number of moves, and a failed marriage. Eventually, through jobs, marriages, and relocations, we lost touch. We'd visit each other's parents and pass friendly "hellos" through them, exchange Christmas cards, and that was it. I made new friends--based on shared interests and passions, not just geography, and didn't see Connie for years. They grew into decades.

But then I found Facebook. Connie and rediscovered each other, and after about twenty-years of not seeing each other, we made plans and got together. I was nervous, didn't know what to expect. What could we possibly talk about after all that time? What would we have in common any more?

We saw each other and it was like we'd never been apart. We had our own lives, had gone our own ways, and had different experiences, but our shared past gave us solid common ground from where to pick up and move forward. And we did. Connie made it easy because once again, as always, Connie was Connie and she didn't care about the differences that had separated us over the years. I was who I was, quirks and all, and that was fine by her. She hadn't changed a bit.



We've all seen people from our pasts and said, "You haven't changed a bit," when really they have. Physically, of course, we've all changed, and when we say it about someone's appearance we mean, "I can still recognize you under the gray hair/wrinkles/extra pounds." But the lives we've lived have changed us at the heart of who we were and are, our identities. The wild-child has become a respectable, hard-working member of the community, the beauty queen has a work-a-day life and family and bills to pay, the jock is no longer able to get by based on his performance in Saturday's game. Growing up has made us all more similar than different and the old labels no longer apply.

It took me longer than most, but I eventually found out who I am under all the acts and costumes. I learned to be myself and to be happy with that self.

I've been thinking a lot about Connie recently, as she and her husband go through some challenges. For all these years, I think I've taken for granted how very special she is. Reconnecting with her, I see that she really hasn't changed. What hasn't changed about her? Her basic "Connie-ness" that made her so special. Connie has always been her own person, marching to her own drummer, not giving a damn if someone else didn't like the beat. A talented athlete, she partied and smoked and hung out with both crowds. A good enough student, she passed her classes without putting in much effort, and didn't feel out of place with the either the brainiacs or the slackers. She didn't fit in perfectly with any group, but had friends in every group. I think that's because she doesn't see our differences as something that separates us, but as something that makes us all interesting. She knew what she liked and didn't, acted according to who she was, and felt no need to hide that. She swears like a sailor, drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney. She can identify where someone is from by their accent within the first ten words out of their mouth. She can listen and hear beneath the words, and truly hear, but not judge, just understand. Connie has always known who she is and has always been unapologetically herself and is happy to let everyone else be exactly who they are.

As kids, I didn't always appreciate that about her. Thus, our frequent falling-outs throughout high school. Seeing Connie now is like a trip back in time in the Delorean, right back to how she was in our teens and twenties. She continues to be true to herself, 100% unapologetically Connie. Now that I know who I am and can be myself, I understand how hard that is, especially for teenagers and young adults. I'm in awe of the strength and courage it takes to do that, and in awe of Connie for having always had that strength and courage.

The "Back to the Future" Delorean.
(Image from ComicBook.com)



(Image from Funniestmemes.com)
Do any of you out there know someone who has always known exactly who they are and always behaved according to the dictates of that, rather than what others expected? Or are any of you that person? Or, are you like me--a (very) late bloomer? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Boy Talk

(Image from Joyce's Choices)
I overheard a fascinating discussion among the 4 lifeguards at the pool today. All four were young men in their early-20s. Bear in mind, I was swimming laps, so my eavesdropping was limited to time at the wall, and while at one end of the pool during kick sets. I caught bits and pieces, but the situation was clear. Here's some of what I heard.

Some lifeguards. (Image from Aquasafe.com)

After lap 1
Guard 1: You need to just end it, man. You aren't being fair to her.
Guard 2: There's nothing to end. You know, we just hang out sometimes.
Guard 3: You call her when there's no one else around and nothing else to do, but if a better offer comes up, you ignore her.
Guard 2: So? She's not my girlfriend.
(Guard 4 mostly smiled and shook his head through all this.)

(Image from the City of Sacramento Aquatics Program)


After lap 2
Guard 1: So, you have a relationship with her.
Guard 2: No, we aren't in a relationship.
Guard 1: You've talking to her, hanging out with her, and doing things together for almost two years.
Guard 2: Yes, but it's not a relationship.
Guard 3: If you spend time with her, there's some emotional investment, so you have a relationship.
Guard 2: It's not like that.
Guard 4: No one said boyfriend-girlfriend, you just have some sort of relationship, like friends.
Guard 2: But we aren't in a relationship.

After lap 3
Guard 2: You guys just don't understand. I can't break up with her because we aren't going out.
Guard 3: Does she know that?
Guard 2: I can't talk to you guys about this.
Guard 1: We're trying to understand, but you're the one who doesn't get how unfair you're being to her. She sits around waiting for you to call her. And you don't even like her.
Guard 2: She's ok. I mean, I like her enough. I'm not crazy about her.
Guard 4: So why do you keep calling her.
Guard 2: To hang out.
Guard 1: But only when you don't have a better offer.
Guard 2: I'm not talking to you guys about this anymore.

If I wrote that dialogue, the whole scene, and that fairly easy to figure out situation into a novel, how many people would tell me, "That's not believable"?

We--society--have this preconceived idea, a stereotype of young men, especially college boys, being out for one thing. Yes, many are in relationships (defined as boyfriend-girlfriend), and even those, we assume are in them for sex.

Maybe those are only the ones we see and hear about because they're the loudest. Those are the one young women are exposed to because they're making the effort and playing the odds. Hit on enough women and eventually you'll find one to have sex with. The impression, reinforced by movies, television, and even books, is that all 20-something men are these hormone driven lust machines, but every now and then, the rare exception is out there--a nice guy who wants to meet a nice girl (not that being nice precludes sex).

(From IMDB)

Today I saw three of those nice guys. Not only did this discussion show that those guys are out there, but that they recognize and don't approve of the horn-dog behavior of that stereotypical guy! In this case, 3-to-1, favor nice guys.

That observation, that these young men were trying to convince this other man that he wasn't being fair to some girl, raised some questions for me.

1.  Do the stereotype and perception that all 20-something men are like this exist because these guys are the loud, visible ones we're most exposed to when we socialize as 20-somethings?

2.  Why do women, like the one at the heart of this discussion, put up with this behavior? Low self-esteem? Some misguided belief that we can change them? Fascination with the "bad-boy"?

3.  Why do young men (and not-so-young, too!) dread being labeled "nice"? One of my exes, who really was/is a very nice guy, cringed at that term. Said it was "the kiss of death" for a guy. Is that a guy thing, or have women created that negative connotation be picking the bad-boy over the nice guy so often?

All questions to ponder. Anyone out there have thoughts on this?

 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A New Leaf...maybe

I'm turning over a new leaf. Maybe. If I stick with it. I'm not known for my long-term dedication or my attention span, but I'm going to try.

When I started this blog, I'd done the research, new what all the gurus of blogdom had to say about it, and I ignored it.

Me and my lavender hair---which has absolutely nothing to do with this post.
Growing out my gray hair, however, is another undertaking that challenges my ability to
stick with a project for very long. We'll see how that goes, too.

Not right away, of course. While I don't have the highest degree of stick-to-itiveness, I am very goal oriented. I like to set goals and then, at some later time, check them off the list. So, I began by setting the goal that I'd blog about something I was thankful for daily, for one year. The intent was to make me blog every day, as the blogging experts advised, and try to overcome my curmudgeonly nature by expressing something positive in my life each and every day.

I didn't last very long. Not because I don't have 365 things that I'm thankful for in my life, but because oh, the drudgery! Besides, the blog is called RANDOM for many reasons: it's random in when, how often, and what I post.

After a few years of increasing randomness, I'm going to try some structure again. My goal? Daily short postings on any old thing I happen to be thinking about when I log on. Part of this is to satisfy my curious, scientific mind about the efficacy of growing a readership (not just for my blog, but for my novels) through blogging and other social media. The conventional wisdom is that by blogging daily (or at least on a set schedule) readers will follow you regularly, too.

We'll see how long I can make it.


Friday, August 1, 2014

LESSONS FROM COMIC-CON


My first Comic-Con in San Diego surpassed even the exceedingly high expectations I'd built in my mind for the ultimate in nerdvana. Celebrities, elaborate costumes, camaraderie, and superheroes. Comic-Con has it all. What surprised me were the inspiring sessions for writers, and the lessons Comic-Con can teach us all, writers and fans. Here's what I learned.



Lesson 1. EMBRACE THE COSTUME YOU WEAR. Comic-Con teems with costumed superheroes, villains, cartoon characters, and superstars that play (or voice) them in the movies, all proudly embracing their role and their fandom.


Matt, in his photographer costume, makes friends.

Whatever costume you choose to wear, for Halloween, Comic-Con, or life, embrace it fully, immerse yourself in the character, and become it.

For me, that's about embracing me as a writer, unapologetically and without an asterisk* and footnotes (* well, I'm a marine scientist, or I was, now I teach, and I write on the side. I've had two novels published, but no bestsellers or anything, just with a small publishing house in Sacramento, but I hope to someday be a real writer...)

Just as I embraced scientist-Lynne and professor-Lynne, I need to fully embrace author-Lynne. I'm proud of my work and have every intention to continue it. I might not be paying the bills with it yet, but very few authors do early in their careers, if ever. The costume I've chosen is that of a writer, an author. It's what I do and who I am. That I'm teaching, doing research, or consulting to help me afford to be a writer doesn't make me less of one. My name might not be well known now, but you never know what the future will bring. And so...

Lesson 2. BE NICE TO EVERYONE BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHO'S BEHIND THE MASK. Lots of celebrities were fans and geeks trolling the Comic-Con exhibit halls before they became famous (as someday, I hope to be!) The fan-boy/girl costume is still part of who they are, but getting around is a bit more complicated now, so they don a different outfit to hide--and continue to get their geek on. Peter Jackson roamed the exhibit halls as a court jester, Daniel Radcliffe and Maisie Williams donned Spiderman masks, and who knows how many other celebs were out rubbing elbows with the rest of us under the cover of Cosplay.

Peter Jackson in a jester costume (from his website)

Daniel Radcliff as Spiderman (from thewire.com)

How horrible would it be to get boorish or rude to a Cosplayer only to discover they were your favorite actor or actress? Why would that be any more horrible than being rude and boorish to anyone at all?

Not that I ever try to be rude. I'm from upstate New York--we talk to strangers all the time, not to be rude, but because we're friendly (and maybe don't recognize boundaries.) I struck up a lot of conversations with strangers in line, people sitting next to me, and, at a Random House reception for their authors at the San Diego Library, with a man who was standing by himself.

We had a lot in common: He was a writer, too! And his first book is coming out soon. We talked about how hard it is to find time to write around having another job. Turns out, his other job is also writing--but like a 9-5 sort, so he had to write his debut book around that. "So what do you write for your job?" I asked. "I write for television," he (very modestly) replied. "Oh, how interesting! What sort of television things do you write for?" "This show, maybe you've heard of it, The Big Bang Theory."

At which point I prostrated myself to my hero and bowed, humbled to be in the presence of a talented wordsmith like Eric Kaplan. But he was there, at his publisher's reception, not as the Big Bang writer, but as author of his first book, Does Santa Exist? That was the costume he wore that evening, downplaying his superstar-writer-of-the-best-show-on-television role to fully play this new role. Wow. Wow. Still a little (lot) star struck here.

Another, equally good reason to be nice to everyone (if you need a reason other than because it's the right thing to do), is because it really is a small world. I'm not sure which is smaller: the geek world, the writing world, or the island world. But they all collided at Comic-Con. The very first session I attended, Wonderbook: Writers on Creativity and Inspiration (with the book's author, Jeff Vandermmer, and Wonderbook contributors Lev Grossman, Charles Yu, Anina Bennett, and Paul Guinan) was moderated by Ann VanderMeer. As Ann read her own bio (editor for Tor Books, Hugo Award winning fiction editor for her work at Weird Tales, founder of BuzzCity Press...) I wanted to go into hero-worship, prostrate and bow mode, but I refrained. As she was leaving, I modestly and discretely told her how very much I enjoyed the session. I even held myself back from disturbing her for a round of gawking and hero-worshipping when I later saw her at lunch.

 
Wonderbook, by Jeff VanderMeer

After posting a pic of the panel to Facebook, a friend from St. Thomas days commented, "Hey! That's my friend Ann. Tell her I say hello." Turns out, Ann had lived in the VI, and we have a mutual friend...I had a valid reason to go up and gawk, er, I mean talk with her (and get her and Jeff to autograph my copy of Wonderbook.). Alas, by the time I discovered that connection, she'd left.

It's a small world, and you never know who's behind the mask, whether it's covering their face or their face just stays behind the scenes while their work does the talking. Best to be nice to everyone. No matter how famous you are...
 
Lesson 3: STAY HUMBLE, EVEN WHEN YOU GET CRAZY-FAMOUS. Clearly, lots and lots of very famous folks were running around Comic-Con. I can imagine constantly being flocked by screaming fans, hounded for autographs and photos, can be taxing. But, that sort of goes with the territory, doesn't it? Worldwide recognition means that you might have to change costumes or cover your famous face to do what you used to do when you were just a wannabe.
 
The importance of remaining, if not humble, at least not an asshole, was really driven home by the polar opposite responses and behavior of two authors to their celebrity: one threw it around like a shield to simultaneously draw attention to himself and fight it off. He made a point of complaining in every interview and and panel he appeared in, about how much he misses being able to walk the exhibit halls or go out in public any more. While lesson #1 is to embrace the costume, there might be times when you have to take it off, especially if your outfit is tied to your fame. This particular author has a costume that is quite recognizable. He appears in almost all publicity pics, cover-jacket photos, and events like Comic-Con in a distinct and instantly recognizable outfit (I'm thinking of dressing as him next year.) He could easily remove his costume and become one of the many older nerds strolling around the Con. Instead, he chose to whine about his fame.

Conversely, new author (but already a star) Evangeline Lilly (Lost, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug) bubbled with enthusiasm, and clearly enjoyed interacting with fans. She reveled in her writer-costume. Her excitement over her children's book, The Squickerwonkers, was contagious, and the story behind her becoming an author, inspiring. She chose to self-publish because she wanted control of her vision, and she worried her Hollywood fame would lead to people thinking, "she got that book contract because she's famous; a ghost-writer must be behind it"; or, attributing it to the cliched, superstar  self-indulgent "passion project." But this truly is her passion, and has been since she first wrote The Squickerwonkers when she was 14-years-old. She read it to her mother, then stuffed it in a drawer. Her mother has hounded her to get it published ever since. Twenty-years later, she pulled it out, polished it up, got one of the artists at WETA (the company behind the Hobbit) to collaborate on illustrations (she wanted a collaborator to help her fulfill her vision of the tale, not impose their own), and she self-published it. A year later, Titan Books approached her and she got a contract. She gushed, blushed, and grinned ear-to-ear about achieving her lifelong goal to become an author. And she encouraged everyone in the audience to pursue their dreams, too.

 
The Squickerwonkers, by Evangeline Lilly

Getting her autograph, I brazenly slipped my card onto the table. "Look, I'm an author, too!" I said. "You don't have to take this, I just wanted to show you because I understand--I feel the same way about my books." She insisted on taking the card, congratulated me, and seemed genuinely pleased to meet a "fellow-author." Wow. Wow. Wow wow. THAT'S the kind of famous I want to be.

 
Me (the one looking like an orange Oompa-Loompa)
with Evangeline Lilly and her children's book, The Squickerwonkers.


Lesson 4: IT'S OKAY TO CHANGE YOUR COSTUME. Like Evangeline Lilly removing her actress costume and wearing her new, author outfit, Zachary Quinto of Star Trek and Heroes fame (he played Spock in the former and Sylar in the latter) changed out of his celebrity costume. Instead of Zachary Quinto, actor, he participated in a panel as a producer for the upcoming documentary series, "The Chair: One Script, Two Visions, One Winner." As with Eric Kaplan and Evangeline Lilly, the costume he chose to wear and embrace differed from the one that he's best known for.

He didn't hesitate, didn't fall back into what's probably a familiar role (star!), but instead, became this new persona, Zach Quinto, producer. In that costume, his job is to promote the show and the two new directors who star and compete in it. While it was clear many people attended the panel to see the actor Zachary Quinto, he deflected attention from himself to the stars of this panel (directors Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci). It was also clear he'd taken measures to downplay that "other" persona--the session was away from the convention center in a nearby hotel, in a tucked-away room, and his name was buried in the session description. Attendance suggests the ploy to not be "famous Zach Quinto" succeeded. He also snuck out early while a short clip from the show played, leaving the audience to talk with the real focal points of the panel. While disappointed at the lack of opportunity for further gawking and hero-worshipping, I found myself truly interested in the project. His passion for this new role, like Evangeline Lilly's, was contagious. I'm looking forward to following "The Chair" this fall to see the outcome.

The screenwriter, directors, producer (that's Zach Quinto!), an actress, and the director
of, "The Chair: One script, two visions, one winner."

It takes a lot of courage to move out of our comfort zones. But, sometimes, it's the best thing for us. It's liberating to be someone else, to challenge ourselves to try new things. It's not only okay to change costumes, but it's what lets us grow and pursue our dreams.

That brings me to the last lesson, and a theme threaded throughout Comic-Con:

Lesson 4: FAIRY TALES CAN COME TRUE. From a panel of WONDERBOOK writers and artists talking about creativity and inspiration, to a movie star-turned-children's book-author, to aspiring directors, one message was loud and clear everywhere at Comic-Con: You can make your dreams come true. Don't be afraid to pursue your passion, whether it's writer, artist, actor, singer, animator, costumer, Cosplayer, producer, or all of the above, or anything else.

Comic-Con not only tells participants that, but abounds with opportunities--pitch sessions, employment stations, interviews, new and amateur film debuts, and contests--to get you started. In every session I attended, at least one or more panelist said, "I've been in your seat, there, looking up at Comic-Con presenters and dreaming about being in this seat one day. Now I'm here. It could be you next."

In a world where it often seems like our dreams are destined to be nothing but a fantasy, how amazing is the message that you can do this. Don't let your current costume dictate what you can or can't be in the future. No one downplayed the hard work involved, but they made it clear that fairy tales can come true.  

 


For more pics from Comic-Con 2014, head over to Matt's Flickr site.