Monthly Archives: February 2013

in which I lead a barricade revolution

So you might have heard about this new movie that’s out right now. It’s about Wolverine and a prostitute and a lot of people who are so sad all they can do is sing their emotions.

Brace yourselves, because I’m about to drop a knowledge bomb on you here: That movie is actually based on a Broadway musical.

I know. I KNOW. And that Broadway musical is actually based on a book, too, but that’s one level deeper into this movie-inception than I want to go.

So this musical called Les Miserableshas always been one of my very, very favorites. I can recite literally every word of the score. Even the weird bits in the middle where they’re sing-talking. Call me a cliché, but I really passionately love this show and everything it espouses.

The first time I saw Les Miserables, I was about ten years old, because I was raised by parents who believed in exposing us early to things that were way beyond our maturity level1. I actually remember the production fairly well, or, more accurately, I remember how it made me feel. I remember saying to my dad at intermission, “This is so great! It looks like everybody’s going to end up happy.” And he snorted and said, “Just wait.” I remember crying at the end. Then the lights came up and there was the MT, four years younger than me, sobbing her little heart out. Theater gets you where you live.

But the thing I remember most about this production is Eponine. Not the actress—I don’t actually remember a thing about her. But the character. At ten, I had yet to experience my first unrequited love, the quest that makes Eponine the everywoman2. But there was something about her that I related to at a very basic level—even at ten years old, I understood this idea of wanting impossible things. And ever since then, I have latched onto Eponine. When I was in my theater days and people would ask me what my “dream role” was3, I always said Eponine. Though I have the musical talent of a goldfish, I was dying to stand on stage in my oversized trench coat, belting On My Own. I did it plenty of times alone in my bedroom, for practice4.  For me, Eponine was always my girl because she was so relatable. In the scope of the play, it can be hard to relate to prostitutes and escaped convicts, but there is something so simple about what Eponine wants that we all understand it: she just wants the man she loves to love her back. And I loved her for that.

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Eponine and Marius done by the incredible Tealin, whose art you should really check out (and can do so, by clicking on the image)

Then last summer I went with my family to see Les Miserables at our very favorite place, the Utah Shakespearean Festival. I was excited, ready to cheer for my emotional doppelganger, Eponine.

But Eponine came on stage…and she sang all the same songs she usually sang. And did the same things she always does. And died the way she always does. Because this is a play, and things don’t really change much. But I didn’t feel it. It wasn’t the actress—she was splendid. And it wasn’t Eponine. It was me. Because I wasn’t interested in Eponine anymore. I was absolutely fixated on Enjolras.

This is the moment where you all say, “Who!?”

Enjolras is Marius’s best friend and leader of the doomed barricade revolution. The guy in the gold sparkly vest5. Enjolras, a character whose name I didn’t know until probably my fifth viewing of the show and didn’t know how to pronounce for several more after that6, was suddenly so much more interesting than Eponine, or anyone on stage for that matter. Because he didn’t just pine like Eponine does. He didn’t sulk in the background and sing about how sad he was. He took control of his own life, and the lives of the people around him who were floating along with their fates. He charged forward. He thrust the flag in the air from atop the barricade. He is a rebel with a cause.

And just like that, Eponine was gone, and there was Enjolras.

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This is Enjolras. Aside from being awesome, he has great hair.

I had a similar experience with Jane Eyre, which remains my all-time favorite book. When I read it for the first time as a junior in high school, I thought it was so romantic. Rich, handsome man falls for plain, poor girl because she is intelligent and witty. The greatest love story ever told, in my little sixteen year old brain. And I still think that part of it is great. But as I read Jane Eyre for the ninety third time recently, I started to see things about it that my mind had glossed over in the past. Like the fact that Rochester basically mentally abuses Jane for the entire novel, and lies to her, and asks her to compromise all her moral standards for him. And at first she says no, but then she says yes. Which I’m really not okay with. And though I still value Jane for its literary merit and realize we have to read it as a novel of its time, I’ve lost a bit of my attraction to the story of a woman who gives herself so easily and so completely to a man.

What am I saying? I’m saying that we are never aware of ourselves growing up and growing old. We can’t see it happen—one morning, we just look in the mirror and wonder who the person staring back at us is. And so for me, the greatest indicator of my own descent into adulthood comes in the form of the evolution of my tastes. And I’m happy with my choices if they have led me to be attracted to characters in literature who do not compromise, and who move actively in the direction of their own dreams. It makes me think that maybe, I too, have a shot at doing something awesome. Either that, or I will die at a barricade. Which is actually a pretty epic way to go.     

 

  1. Almost every swear word I know, I learned from Les Miserables. That’s parenting for ya.
  2. I’m fairly certain even women in stable, committed relationships frequently say, “I am just like Eponine!”
  3. No one actually asked that much. I just sort of volunteered this information a lot.
  4. This happened last night.
  5. And, in this production, totally awesome gauntlets.
  6. In spite of what my dad thinks, it’s not En-Rolls.
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in which the oscars are announced

Happy Oscar Weekend! My favorite weekend of the year! 25% because movies, 75% because making fun of beautiful people in ridiculous clothes.

Every year, between nomination announcement and Oscar Sunday, I try to see all the best picture nominees. I am never successful. But I always try. This year, I got to 6/9, and two of them I did not see because I was taking a moral high ground. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be inside my head while watching an Oscar-nominated movie, this is the post for you! And so, please turn off all cell phones, get your popcorn ready, and …

Let’s Go to the Movies with Mackenzi Lee  

Silver Lining’s Playbook

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Me: I hope they don’t get together.
Me: They probably will but I hope they don’t.
Me: I know every other woman in this theater is looking at Bradley Cooper, but I cannot take my eyes off Jennifer Lawrence.
Me: She is crazy and I love her.
Me: She is stunning.
Me: She is perfect.
Me: Jennifer Lawrence.
Me: Be my friend.
Me: I literally remember nothing about this movie except Jennifer Lawrence.
Me: And I think there was some ballroom dancing at one point.
Me: And he threw a book out the window.
Me: Oh drat they got together.
Me: I have no confidence in a relationship with two people that unstable.
Me: But Jennifer Lawrence.

Les Miserables

eddie derp

I was going to use serious photos or posters from all the movies. Then I found this Eddie Redmayne derp picture and it was all downhill from there. 

Me: So every shot is of the actor’s face really far to one side of the frame…
Me: So many close ups.
Me: So much crying.
Me: Ugh. Hathaway.
Me: …Hathaway is the least of this movie’s problems.
Me: Is Russell Crowe on Valium?
Me: These musical monologues really don’t work well on film.
Me: Eddie Redmayne.
Me: Freckles. Freckles. Freckles.
Me: Oh hi Enjolras.
Me: Handsome…handsome…handsome….
Me: I freaking love the barricade boys #nameofmynextband
Me: Why did we unnecessarily rewrite so many lyrics?
Me: Aw. Enjolras.
Me: Everyone is crying but me…
Me: Seriously, did you not realize going into this that THEY ALL DIE?
Me: I wanted so badly to enjoy this.
Me: And I didn’t.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Me: She’s cute.
Me: She’s not wearing any pants.
Me: Okay storm…
Me: Okay ice bergs and cavemen…
Me: ….okay bored…
Me: Where are your parents!?!?
Me: She’s cute.
Me: She’s cute.
Me: Bored.
Me: Fast forward…

Lincoln

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Me: I think my grandpa was Abraham Lincoln in another life.
Me: Or maybe Daniel Day-Lewis.
Me: He’s very good at playing very tall.
Me: I miss my Civil War days.
Me: Pretend I did not just say that, and don’t make me explain it.
Me: Oh hey there JGL.
Me: Oh hey there JGL in Union blue.
Me: I love Lee Pace as a southern gentleman.
Me: Keep it together, Mary Todd!
Me: This is like the American answer to Amazing Grace.
Me: I kind of love this movie.
Me: DON’T GO TO THE THEATER! THIS IS THE ONLY TIME I WILL EVER SAY THAT!

Argo

argo fuck yourself

Me: Heh…the seventies.
Me: Lose the gold chain, Affleck.
Me: I love this I love this I love this.
Me: Oh gosh I love this.
Me: Ben Affleck, you basically have one face this whole movie.
Me: I love movies about movies and movies about history. Basically, this is a dream team for me.
Me: Oh no you do not put those shredded face pictures back together.
Me: Okay, here we go.
Me: *stress crying*
Me: *stress crying*
Me: *stress crying*
Me: I have no fingernails left to chew.
Me: I am basically eating my fingers.
Me: Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh
Me: OH GOSH!
Me: I KNOW HOW THIS MOVIE ENDS AND I’M STILL PANICKING!
Me: YES!!!!!!!!!
Me: *relieved crying*

Amour

oscars 6

Me: French.
Me: French.
Me: French.
Me: I really not do well with subtitled movies.
Me: …I think that was nice.
Me: But I don’t want to read my movies. That’s what books are for.

Life of Pi

Did not see. Because the AMC stopped showing it and didn’t tell me. Maybe this informational Pi chart will help.

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Django Unchained

oscars 8

Did not see. Because nudity.

Zero Dark Thirty

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Did not see. Because torture.

And, to bring us home, here are my picks for the awards that I care about.

Best Picture: Argo
Best Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actress: (ugh) The Hathaway for Les Miz
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Best Animated film: Brave
Best Costumes: Anna Karenina
Best original Song: Skyfall
Best Effects: Life of Pi 

Happy Oscars, all! Please leave your own picks/movie thoughts in comments!

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in which writing kidlit is hard

Why Writing Kidlit is Hard – A half formed thought by Mackenzi Lee

Today I had a job interview. In the middle of it, I had a brainwave. I did not share this brainwave with the interviewer, because it’s still sort of half formed in my head, and I didn’t want to look like a totally inarticulate moron1 if it didn’t pan out.

So here’s what I was thinking about writing for kids, and why it is so hard. Because it is. For those of you who read picture books and think, “I could do that!” Try it sometime. I dare you2.

As adults writing for children, we are looking back on our childhood and remembering what it was like to be a kid. But kids have never been anything but kids. They don’t have to look backward, they just look around.

So when adults write, we3 bring with us our insights and baggage from both childhood and adulthood, and the perspective that comes with it. But kids don’t have this reflective vision. That’s why writing for kids is so hard, because kids don’t have that ‘extra perspective’ that comes through in your writing, so it becomes really easy for them to spot people who are faking it. As a kidlit writer, you have to find a way to take yourself back to a time when you weren’t looking backwards at yourself.

But I think that’s also why so many adults are drawn to kidlit. It’s very appealing to be able to go back to a time when you didn’t have adult worries. We can go back to a time when things made more sense, or experience the problems that we felt at the time were so earth changing, but in the end really weren’t. Or sometimes, in certain YA books, they are earth changing. We don’t want to have to look back at our youth, so we can experience it all over again through kidlit. .

Wow, yes, really good I didn’t bust this one out in the middle of my interview. This might not have gone over that well.  I will stop now.

  1. In other news, Microsoft Word just autocorrected moron to Mormon.
  2. Okay, it’s hard to write a good kids book.
  3. We…Oh no. Guys, am I an adult?
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in which I live passionately

Last night on the train, I overheard a girl talking to her friend about a first date with a guy and the impossibility of a second one with him. I heard her say the following:

“He was really sweet and really cute, but he was just too into Star Wars.”

First of all…no. There’s no such thing as being “too into Star Wars.” Give me a guy who can identify a clone trooper based on the color of helmet any day2.

Second of all, I understand that there is a line where obsession stops being endearing and instead can be dangerous and consuming, but I want to know when we started making fun of people for being passionate about things. When did that become a deal breaker? I don’t think there’s anything more attractive than someone who is passionate about something—anything—even Star Wars—and then uses that obsession to elevate their own life and the lives of those around them. That’s something I love about the communities I am a part of, both the young adult community and the wider world of being a total nerd2. I love being part of communities who value passion and knowledge and excitement, and who let me be unironically giddy over the fact that I got an advanced copy of Robin LaFever’s new book, and that the set designer for Sherlock has been sending cryptic tweets about their season 3 shooting locations.

I am grateful to be part of groups that understand when I stay up all night writing this weird little steampunk novel that may never see the light of a bookstore but man, I am enjoying myself. Sometimes I get so caught up in the race to get published3 I forget that I am here in Boston at Simmons because I passionately love writing. It’s fun. And I am passionately enthusiastic about it.

To quote, as I so often do, John Green, “When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.”

So I would encourage you to go out into the world and strive to live passionately and work towards something that moves you. This world was not shaped by those who were kind of interested in things. Jump up and down on your chair and scream about how much you love whatever it is you love. People will listen.

  1. I was really close to leaning over to this girl who did not know how good she had it and asking, “Sorry, but if you’re not going to call this guy who is too into Star Wars, mind if I take a crack? He may have met his match.”
  2. Let’s call it nerdfighteria.
  3. Which sometimes feels second only to the Space Race in importance.
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in which I make Valentines

Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day everybody!

Also known as Valentine’s Day.

Also known as “Of course you’re still single, take a look at yourself” day.

Also known as Thursday.

If you’re still looking for that special card for that special someone, allow me to submit the following ideas, inspired by my favorite fictional couples, and designed by me. Feel free to print off and distribute at your leisure.

It should be noted, I have zero artistic or graphic design skills of any kind. Food for thought.

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And then there’s sad Voldemort. Who has no Valentine. But not for lack of trying. Image

Happy V-day, all. Make it a good one.

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in which I offer unsolicited advice to fictional characters

This weekend, while in blizzard-induced lockdown, I read Frankenstein, which I somehow made it out of high school without ever being assigned. Frankenstein has reminded me of something that I often forget when reading so much young adult lit: reading can be hard and slow. I can rip through most YA books really fast. I sit with Frankenstein for what feels like hours and only get through fifteen pages.

Frankenstein has been a surprising and huge hit. I have loved every word of it, even the parts where the remarkably articulate monster waxes poetic. But, as with many books, I have frequently found myself shouting at Victor Frankenstein because he is a total moron, the same way you shout at people in horror movies not to go in that closet.

It got me thinking about the other fictional characters I would like to give a good talking to. And since Valentine’s Day is coming up and everybody’s writing cards anyway, I thought I’d send a few of my own.

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Dear Jay Gatsby

No. You cannot repeat the past. And you are playing jump rope with the line between romantic and restraining order. Ask yourself this question: did I buy a million dollar house to impress a girl I am now too scared to talk to? If the answer is yes (and it is), you need to stop. Maybe friend Daisy on facebook. Friending an ex is universal language for wanting to get back together. Also, you do not have to go swimming just because you haven’t used the pool all fall and you feel like you need to. DO NOT GO SWIMMING, JAY!

Love, M

 

Dear Elizabeth Bennet,

Oh my lanta, YOU LIKE HIM! You are TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH HIM! How are you the ONLY PERSON WHO DOES NOT KNOW THIS?!

Love, M

 

Dear Mr. Rochester,

First you have a kid with a random opera singer. Then you have been stringing along Blanche Ingram to make the girl you actually like jealous, you drove your wife crazy and then locked her in an attic, and you have been mentally abusing Jane since you met her. You are basically a terrible person. And oh man, I love you for it you beautiful bastard.

Love, M

 

Dear Hamlet,

Just man up and kill him. It has been like three and a half hours.

Love, M

 

Dear Amy March,

Sweetheart, I know you are feeling left out, but burning Jo’s manuscript is not a proportional response. A little part of me dies every time I read this bit. I really cannot imagine anything worse a person could do. With like major exceptions like genocide and becoming a politician.

Love, M

 

Dear Holden Caufield

…oh buddy.

Love, M

 

Dear Victor Frankenstein

So you’ve been working for like six years to reanimate this corpse. Do not be so surprised when it actually works. You should have been prepared for this, instead of totally losing it and running away when he comes alive. Because frankly, that was a terrible response. Also, if you were so freaked out by the way he looks, maybe you shouldn’t have made him so freaky looking to begin with.

Love, M

 

Feel free to leave your own letters to fictional characters in comments!

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in which I survive a blizzard

Hello! Can you hear me over the hurricane speed winds currently spitting snow at my window so hard that I can actually feel my bed shaking underneath me? Oh, also the girls outside my window who are screaming like they’re being chased by an axe murderer. Grow up, it’s just snow.

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That was my initial attitude to the great blizzard of 2013 that swept the east coast: Grow up, it’s just snow. Even though they essentially shut down an entire city, stopped running all mass transit, gave everyone a preemptive snow day, and then fined people who are out on the streets or driving, I just kept rolling my eyes. When I woke up this morning, my room was very bright, and I assumed that meant the blizzard had been a great exaggeration,  and I was thoroughly unimpressed1. It was just like every other storm I saw growing up in Utah2.

Then I actually went outside with the roommate to clean off her car. And realized that we literally could not leave the apartment. The snow was too high. Which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “snowed in.” The snow is almost up to my waist in places3 and I couldn’t have walked down the street to get a diet coke if I wanted to. And I did want to. This is partly because we live at the end of an alley, so the snow has drifted around us, leaving us with snow banks. I have no idea what normal parts of the city look like, but right now, there is quite literally no way for us to leave our apartment, which, in all my years of Utah snow storms, has never actually happened to me before. Maybe Utah’s just more on the ball when it comes to cleaning up after a snowstorm, but Brookline really looks like a wasteland right now.

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My roommate and I made it through the blizzard with a lot of Star Wars, which, let’s be honest, is the only way to get through any sort of disaster. It looked like Hoth outside, so the only logical thing to do is watch The Empire Strikes Back and make Star Wars shaped cookies and have an extended discussion about who should play Mara Jade in the upcoming Star Wars sequels4. I also finished a book, started another book, wrote ten thousand words sprinkled across various half-finished projects, and talked to one of my favorite authors on twitter about the Star Wars parallels in her historical zombie steampunk novel5.

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So the blizzard here has come and is still coming. Now we wait to be dug out of our snow caves, wait for the snow to inevitably turn to freezing rain and transform the snow banks into the least delicious crème brulee of all time. But for now, I am safe and warm inside, with power and tea and Star Wars.

So I’m fine. Thanks for asking.

  1. Also I’m fairly certain I’ve skied in worst conditions than the blizzard yesterday. But that’s my family for you.
  2. It’s also hilarious and worth pointing out that in the eighteen years I lived in Utah, I can remember them calling one snow day, and it was only a half day. I have lived out on the east coast for less than six months and we have already had three.
  3. It should be noted I am five foot six on a good day.
  4. Which I am weirdly really excited about.
  5. Just when I thought I could love this book no more, she hides Star Wars references in it.
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in which I experience feelings of love

Last night, I was on the home stretch of two-hour viewing of The Bachelor1 when I noticed that there had been an excess of diamond ring and Hallmark card commercials all night, each more nauseating than the last2. Then I realized why: it’s almost Valentine’s Day.

I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater. I’m not actually a Valentine’s Day lover, either. I’m pretty neutral in my feelings towards V-Day. I generally use it as an excuse to buy myself a book and eat chocolate. However, there is something in direct relationship to Valentine’s Day that I would like to discuss.

Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates love in all its many splendored forms. But if the commercials and window displays are to be believed, the only love worth celebrating this February 14 is the romantic, hand-holding, face-sucking kind. Which—NEWS FLASH—is not the only kind of love.

So today, I’d like to talk about friendship—that kind of love.

When we tell someone of the opposite gender3 that you are not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with them, we say that we want to be “just friends.” Which is ridiculous. When did “friends” become a “just”? When we stacked the pyramid of worthwhile relationships, who put friendship a tier below monogamous, lip-sucking partners? When did dating someone become the whole game? Friendship should never be a “just”.

Since I’ve done a lot of starting over in the past four years, I’ve done a lot of making new friends, and it never stops being hard. Too often, when I’m alone in a new city, I tend to jump into friendships with people that are convenient to be friends with, or who I share one thing in common with, but nothing else. “Oh you also like turkey sandwiches? So, should I just go ahead and pencil us in for spending Thanksgiving together?” While I would never enter into a romantic partnership with such a shaky foundation, I do it all the time with friendships. I try to force a friendship out of something that isn’t there because I just want to know people. I just want to have someone to vent about school to and go see a movie with4.

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I stole this from Elizabeth Wein and a tumblr user named Kelly.

But the truth is, we should screen our friends just as closely as we do our romantic partners. Just because someone is convenient or willing, does not make them suitable friend material. Just like you aren’t going to be attracted to every person you meet, you can’t expect to have friendship chemistry with every person you meet either. And in the end, when you’re left crying on a street corner in the rain after that boy dumps you5, you want the people on speed dial in your phone to actually pick up.

With all the changing my life is done in the past few years, I have started to value my friendships more than ever. When I was younger, friendship was such a given thing. I moved within the same circles of people for most of my young life, and I took for granted how well I knew my peers and how easy it was to judge our compatibility. When thrust into an unfamiliar situation with new people, I am much more impulsive about my decisions, and have ended up perusing a lot of relationships that were doomed from the start just because I missed having friends. So when the new, sparkly-ness of a place falls away, or when distance and space comes between us, those people that are left standing with me have become so very important to me.

I think we as a society tend to romanticize6 romantic love. We act as though the only thing that gives us value in this world is being in a romantic partnership with someone7, when really, that sort of love is only half of it. Life isn’t just about forming relationships with people you are attracted to. It’s about valuing and finding strength in people who you don’t want to exchange saliva with.

This is not to say that I am a man-hater, or a relationship-hater. I am neither. But when I think of my life, and the relationships that have lasted and mattered, I don’t think of the boyfriends I left behind. I think of the friends who are still here with me.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I will not just be celebrating the ghosts of boyfriends past or lamenting my singleness, because there’s nothing lamentable in it. I’m not alone, and I’m not lonely. Instead, I would like to celebrate the people who inhabit my life in a non-hand holding, non-face licking capacity8.

  1. Don’t judge.
  2. I noticed this because every time one came on, I made a very loud and very dramatic groan, and by the time the Bachelor was half done, my throat was starting to hurt from the exertion.
  3. Or same gender, depending on what team you bat for.
  4. Trick question, because I go to 90% of movies alone. And I like it, because no one judges me for sneaking a diet coke in in my purse, and I do not have to share the popcorn.
  5. Everything I know about breakups I learned from Lifetime movies
  6. WORDPLAY!
  7. Which is why I am all the time told, “Oh, you have lots of friends and important people in your life and you’re happy and fulfilled, but you have no boyfriend? Don’t worry darling, you’ll find a good man soon.”
  8. I kind of hate myself for writing this post, because even as I’m reading over it now, I’m so painfully aware of how much it sounds like the sort of thing girls say around Valentine’s Day to hide behind really desperately wanting a significant other. Which is not me. This is an honest opinion that has nothing to do with my current dating situation. I also want to say that this is not a post to discredit anyone who is in a romantic relationship—that’s awesome, and I get finding strength in your partner and being two halves of a whole and that whole Dove chocolate wrapper nonsense. But for me, right now, in my life, this is how I feel about love, and this is where I find my strength. This is my life, as honestly as I know how to explain it.
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