“Growing Up Is Hard To Do…” But It’s Doable

I am turning twenty-one this year. That would be incredibly exciting if I were looking forward to taking my first legal sip of alcohol, but all the years of watching Forensic Files and Law & Order:SVU have left me with the incessant fear that my liver will instantly begin to cirrhode once I take a sip. I’m overcoming that fear, however, and looking forward to drinking some red wine, or some Patron Tequila, in mid-July 2014. The bolded portion is the crux of this post, as recently, I’ve been overcoming some fears, and I’m feeling pretty damn good about it. They say that your teen years, high school especially, is the greatest time of one’s life. If that’s the case, I need a do-over, and I’m getting that in my twenties.

 

1) Let Go. My greatest fear wasn’t rats, lightning, or even death. It was judgement. Not necessarily a life-sentence from a judge (although that would terrify me), but an disapproving glance or statement from someone else. I could get an A- on my Latin exam, but if someone said that he/she didn’t like me or saw me as ugly, the effect of the A- would end. I’d no longer be happy for the educational feat that I accomplished (I love Latin now, but I hated it then), but I’d be brooding over, and crying over, someone’s disapproval me. All throughout high school (from age 14 to age 17), as well as my freshman and sophomore years in college, this plagued me. Now, I’ve come to, and embraced, the realization that, one, someone’s disapproval is not going to kill me ( seriously, my brain won’t cease functioning); two, I’m not the center of the universe, and people probably aren’t thinking about me as much as I think; three, a judgement is usually a momentary, temporary perspective; someone might not like what I’m currently doing and judge me for that, but if the criticism is warranted (what I’m doing is really bad), then I can change for the better; four, that I must focus on myself, because I’m the one who’s living in this body, I’m the one who will die with this body, and caskets don’t have room for bunk-beds.

 

2) Patience Is a Virtue. If there’s a statement that has been repeated to the point of banality, here is one. I fretted all throughout my teenage years about getting a boyfriend. I’ve had a few, and I honestly appreciate the trials and tribulations that got me there. I seriously believe that all good things come in due time, Those years that i was waiting for a guy to come into my life and validate my existence, were pivotal points for me. As mentioned in my previous point, caskets don’t have room for bunk-beds. By this, I mean that we should always take care of ourselves first, because fundamentally, ourselves are all we have. instead of having a guy show me that i mean something, and that I am worthy of happiness and all that stuff, i needed to prove it for myself. like they say, you can take a horse to the river, but you can’t make him drink. if you don’t believe in your self-worth, others can state it until they’re blue in the face, but you won’t believe it. you have to believe in yourself. i have my flaws. i’m often impulsive, sensitive, and impatient. i’m working on them. Heck, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it practically was destroyed in a day, huh, Nero (Latin humor)? i’m still impulsive, but not as much as i used to be. i’m working on it. I am my most prized investment. i find that, when i’m ready for my next relationship, it will be because I value myself enough to choose to be with someone, not that i have to be with someone for the sake of my self-worth.i am virtuous because i value that.

 

3) Be Humble. Well, Kind Of. i have some pretty amazing qualities about myself. i’m incredibly considerate, smart, and pretty damn hilarious. disagree if you want with the latter, but it’s true. i am not a megalomaniac, and i don’t talk about myself incessantly. that’s humility. if you’re really as good as you say you are, you don’t have to go mouthing off about it. if it’s obvious, it doesn’t need to be mentioned. however, some people are humbling themselves in that they’re elevating, baselessly, the status of someone else. if you’re a make-up artist, for example, and you’re shouting-out beyonce or rihanna and providing your services free,just because you’re elevating the person so highly, then you’re doing yourself no favors. you’re inflating someone else’s ego. why humble yourself before another human-being when he/she is promised the same thing at birth as you are, and that, my friends, is mortality. it’s one thing to note someone’s talent or other positive attributes, but it’s another to boast them as if they’re something other than human, which they are. i used to do this a lot. i would fan-girl over someone else, generally a popular girl whose favor i so desperately sought, in an effort to be approved by her and thereby have my existence and self-worth validated.take my word for it, this does you no favors.

4) It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint. I was talking to a friend once, who attempted to console me after I was rejected from my dream school. “You’ll feel like your life is over so many times before your life even begins. You’ll come back up more determined and resilient than before.” I felt like not gaining admission into my dream school was the end-all. I was seventeen, and I was prepared for my burial. Yes, it still pangs me a bit that I am not attending that school, but it’s okay. The rejection, now that I consider it, allowed me to realize that, one, abilities—academic and otherwise—are, in fact, mutable, and that they’re just one facet of the multi-facetness that constitutes character. I know now to work hard, and that my whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The person who I am today is not who I was ten years ago, and is not who I will be ten years from now when I turn *gasp* thirty-one. I’m in my marathon. I’m not done yet, but I’m still moving. I’ll drink to that.

 

 

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Celebrophilia: The Dumbing Down of a Generation

Late last week, Justin Bieber was arrested in Florida. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs, as well as drag racing and resisting arrest without violence. Of course, with Beiber’s high profile, this incident was on the front page of numerous magazines and websites, including CNN.com. Beiber was Google’s trending topic of the day. In short: he was all over the place. To some, this story is all about an entitled, drunk-off-fame boy who’s heading down a dangerous slope. To others, it is insight into a larger epidemic: the  dangerous obsession that many have with high-profile names. This obsession causes people to excuse, and in some cases, applaud, dangerous, potentially fatal behaviors. It’s an outbreak, and I suggest that you quarantine yourself with all due speed. 

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[Photo Credit: Miami Beach Police]

Now, I do not know Justin Bieber. I know his name, and I have listened to, and enjoyed, some of his music. “Beauty and a Beat” is wonderful; if you disagree, then something’s wrong with you. Bieber seems to be making music and living his dream, to which I raise no objections. I don’t see how any objections could be raised. Where one could say “sustained” to the raising of an objection is with Bieber’s out-of-control behavior. He’s peeing in a bucket that isn’t his and allegedly throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house. Now, he’s apparently put the lives of others at risk with his latest stint and first major run-in with the law. By drinking and getting behind the wheel, he’s putting the lives of everyone out in the area at the time at risk. That is selfishness and negligence, plain and simple. Does he recognize this? I’m not sure. With one of his most recent tweets following his arrest, he states that God is with him and all who support him, and urges his followers to be “strong.”

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[Photo Credit: Justin Bieber’s personal Twitter account]

 

I have a myriad of issues with this. By mentioning God, who represents love, peace, and most importantly, justice, Bieber’s tweet implies that he is being persecuted somehow, and that he will be vindicated. Again, I do not know Bieber personally. He may be dealing with some internal demons, and for that, I shall not judge him. Not at all. However, internally-inflicted or not, Bieber’s actions seriously could have put another’s life or others’ lives at risk, not to exclude his own. As such, O feel that God, or justice, would have Justin Bieber punished for this. This isn’t your music career, Justin. It’s not like you have one bad album and can then redeem yourself with another or others. In a split second, your life and someone else’s can be irrevocably changed.  There’s no do-over there. 

What’s even more puzzling is the undying obsession and support that some of his fans, nicknamed “Beliebers,” have shown him. Like Justin’s parents, some of his fans will undoubtedly support him, and realize that he is a good person in need of help. Fine. If I were going through a  difficult situation, I’d want my parents and close friends by my side. Then again, it doesn’t help for those allies to saturate you with “you aren’t at fault” and “you could never be at fault” chants and cheers. Some of his fans, thank goodness, have stated their disapproval  with his actions.Image

[Photo Credit: “twerkdabiebss”‘ Twitter account]

Others, however, are pretty much giving the diabetic child a bag of white sugar and hoping that this cures his ailment. Loving someone, supporting someone, means that you wish to see said someone improve, and that you have his/her best interest at heart. They say that the most beautiful diamonds grow under the most profound pressure. This “pressure” comes in the form of the trials and tribulations that the person faces, and tough love (“yes, you are at fault”) gets the job done beautifully. This (below) does not do it.Image 

[Photo Credit: KidrauhlHaze”‘ Twitter account]

 

I’ve always wondered what this undying love and support yields those providing it. Do they think that it will cause Bieber to get down on one knee and propose marriage to them? He might love this support on the surface, but this relationship, if it were to happen, would be based on superficiality. That’s not love; that’s idolatry and the fanning of an ego at work. I titled this post “Celebrophilia: The Dumbing Down of a Generation.” I’m not trying to say that generations before my own there weren’t these celebrophiliacs who, like some Beliebers, provide obsession and undying support to celebrities. It’s just that this is the first time that I’ve seen such fervent “love” at work. Like my post on Hollywood a few weeks back, I am writing this as a humanitarian. My objective is opening people’s eyes to the sometimes-purposelessness of celebrophilia. It encourages behavior that is potentially dangerous to both the person doing as well as innocent people, but it serves no purpose to the avid supporter either. Get your vaccination shot; that is, stop worshipping people who, one, don’t even know that you exist, and two, who are people just like you. Stop humbling yourself for others. They use the bathroom as you do, their bodies run on the same fuel as yours does, and they are promised mortality, as are you. Your character is your best investment, and celebrophilia, philias of almost any sort really, dull the shine of your diamond.

 

Advocacy or Appropriation? Choose Your Tool Wisely

Tonight is heralded as “the biggest night in music,” as it is the night of the 56th annual  Grammy Awards. Originally called “The Gramophone Awards,” the ceremony honors achievements in the fields of audial entertainment , such as singing, rapping, instrument-playing, and audio book-recording. In the music world, receiving a Grammy is one of the highest achievable awards ever, second, I would say, to receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In short, the Grammy’s stage is an important and incredibly-visible one, and all eyes are on it. 

Anyway, I was cruising through the blogosphere this afternoon, and came across a report that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis would be performing their song “Same Love” while, live, Queen Latifah would officiate the joint wedding ceremony of thirty-four couples, some of whom are same-sex. Part of me says “Hooray!” while another part of me says “Here we go.”

Here’s my recap of the performance.

*When the Queen introduces the performance, she claims that the song “Same Love” says “…whatever God you believe in, we come from the same one. Strip away the fear; underneath, it’s all the same love.” I’m Catholic, of course, so I do believe in a God. That’s not the perspective of every thinking and conscious human being, however. Is “God,” or “god,” meant to be seen as “source,” as in, “we all come from the same source”? I’m not sure. Fundamentally, the message that we are all the same is beautiful, but incorporating theology, as the Queen appears to do, is a bit divisive. Nevertheless, great message.

*The camera then pans to Macklemore, who begins rapping, “When I was in the third grade, I thought that I was gay…” From about the 1:00 mark onward, the lyrics are very first-person oriented. Macklemore’s “I,” who is really straight but questioned himself once, dominates. About eighteen seconds later (1:18), the camera pans out to show that Macklemore is not alone on stage, although he is the focus point. The light is shining on him, while the others are obscured. This, coupled with the first-person orientation of the song, puts the focus on the straight man who, for some time, questioned his sexuality. The focus here is on the heterosexual.

*One line of the song raps, “[the belief that] God loves all his children is somehow forgotten.” This is one example of where the third-person perspective enters the lyrics. That’s where, I believe, the entire focus should have been. Then, following the chorus sung beautifully by Mary Lambert, Macklemore raps that if he were gay, he’d think that hip-hop hates him, especially since “That’s so gay” is used insultingly all the time. Calling out the homophobia (for lack of a better term; it’s more prejudice and hatred than fear, in my opinion) in hip-hop is remarkable. Hip-hop, as are other musical genres, are lauded as these perfect, omnipotent institutions. It’s nice to hear someone from the inside call it out for one of its downfalls. He then calls the genre as one founded on “oppression,” and that ” ‘gay’ is synonymous with the lesser. Yes, one might say that Macklemore isn’t saying anything new in decrying the genre for its prejudice, but I disagree. The novelty lies not in the message itself, but in its delivery and publication.

*Macklemore’s fundamental messages (“It may not be the same…damn right, I’ll support it”) is laudable, again because he’s stating a common sense belief that isn’t freely stated. However, let it be noted that, at 3:12, right before the song cuts to the chorus for a second time, Macklemore is still the focal point of both the stage’s lighting and the camera’s lens.

*Around 4:22, Queen Latifah walks out and states, “We are gathered here to celebrate love and harmony, in every key and every color. As I look out on this audience, I’m delighted to see the faces of thirty-three couples who’ve chosen this moment to celebrate their vows with us here in Los Angeles [California].” She then asks the couples—both gay and straight—to exchange rings. The Queen, to whom the camera has panned and on whom it now generally focuses, declares them legally married, during which declaration Madonna, clad in white, steps onto the stage. She then dives into a performance of her song “Open Your Heart.” Sporadically (though barely), the camera pans to some of the now-wedded couples, ecstatic and embracing.

*The stage background, mimicking a church’s stained-glass decor, lights up, and the choir, those who’d been previously obscured, now sing along with Madonna. Lambert and Madonna then join together in the chorus of “Same Love,” while the couples process to the stage.

*The singing ends around 6:45, to which the camera, with a bird’s-eye view and continuing to zoom out, pans to the procession of couples. Then around 6:54, the focus returns to the stage, to Madonna, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, and Queen Latifah all embracing. Then, the celebrity audience becomes the focus point, as they applaud and, in some cases, even show tears (Keith Urban, 6:58). The couples then walk down the aisle of the arena, as if in a church or other wedding venue, with the audience serving as witnesses and guests. And that’s it. The theatrics were wonderful, but…

Now, I have not quantified it, but the majority of the time, the camera was focused on either the performers or the audience. The couples—gay, straight, interracial, etc.—were not, surprisingly, the focus point. Actually, it’s not too surprising, considering the first-person orientation that dominates much of the performance’s lyrics. Below, I’ll discuss what I believe the intent of this entire spectacle is. However, in the world of intent vs. impact, the former is hardly considered while the latter definitely is. It’s possible that Macklemore wanted the focus to be on the couples. However, he’s not responsible for the camera man’s action of spending the less time on the couples as opposed to the performers. It is the Grammy’s, music’s biggest night. However, I feel that sacrificing the couples’ camera time for the musicians’ (most of whom, at least, are straight) is one example of a larger issue that I dub pseudo-advocacy.

 

I’m Catholic. I believe in Catholic doctrines, and this faith system has provided solace to me over the years, especially with my grandfather’s death last year. I don’t resonate with its sexist, patriarchal undertones (or, in some cases, overtones), but the fundamental messages of love, empathy, and benevolence are practices that I aim to adopt. With that being said, I am a homosexual ally. I am not homosexual. I don’t understand what attracts two men to each other, or two women to each other. Then again, I imagine that it’s no different than the feeling that draw me, a female, to a male. That seems plausible to me. However, whatever the reason is, it’s not for me to understand, it’s for me to respect.

The, for lack of a better term, antagonism that many gay people have received since, well, forever, just baffles me. I know that this statement has been repeated to the point of banality, but thinking about it just breaks my heart. How human beings can treat other human beings so carelessly, so violently, so senselessly just churns my stomach., Disgusting. Berating anti-gay statements are really anything but subtle, and are therefore easily spotted. However, I think that there is a new form of anti-gay treatment, and that is appropriation, which should be better called “pseudo-advocacy.”  Pseudo-advocacy occurs when someone appears to advocate on behalf of a cause or group of people, but in reality, said “advocate” is just associating him/herself with the cause/group of people in order to gain attention. In the world of celebrity and notoriety, there is no such thing as bad press or negative attention, because, fundamentally, people are paying attention to you. I feel that some individuals claim that they are pro-gay advocates, when in reality, they are stating so only to gain attention. Advocates and allies will pay attention to you, the Westboro Baptist Church and One Million Moms will surely talk about you. You’re getting attention, bottom line. At the same time, actual people, the gay people who’ve always been antagonized, are being antagonized in a more subtle, though still painful fashion. This is why this is “anti-gay” activity. They’re not being treated like people; they’re being commoditized. Slap a price tag on ‘em, and put them on sale. 

So, back to the whole Macklemore and Queen Latifah thing. Are they advocating or appropriating? I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I’m going to decide on the former. With “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have amassed a huge following. Heck, they had some following even before then. Queen Latifah is a legend when it comes to female emcees, and she herself, I have heard, is gay. Thus, I doubt that both groups–the Queen especially–would act on pseudo-activism.

 

As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was almost one week ago, I feel that semi-quoting him is highly appropriate.  I, as well, long for a day when people are judged on the basis of their characters, not on their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation. It’s easier said than done. I’m speaking from first-hand experience. I was raised around Catholics and the faith, so encountering someone who was Jewish, Muslim, or even Atheist baffled me, and the words “you’re wrong!” would instantly pop into my head. What helped me put things into perspective are the following statements: I would feel hurt and insulted if someone were to think of me and my faith in the same way, and if my faith preaches the common-sense mandate of treating others with respect and being kind, then I’ve already failed by judging and mentally berating others. We’re all mortals, and all we’ve got in this world is each other. That’s frightening, and at the same time, comforting. We should do whatever possible to lighten the heavy burdens that others carry. If you’re going to take action, be an advocate, not an appropriator.