A Tough Week

Tuesday night, my heart broke as I watched Donald Trump become president-elect. The only time I have felt this type of grief–the full-body, pressure-cooker kind of grief–is when someone in my life has passed away.

My heart broke first for Hillary Clinton, who spent the last two years doing all of the things women are supposed to do to ensure they don’t come off as bitchy, threatening, or emotional. Who has been dealt insult after insult, accusation after accusation, and gotten back up.

Then my heart broke for me. My heart broke for me because 60 million Americans seem to think I am worth less than a man, that I may be treated like an object, and that I should not be allowed to make choices for myself and my family.

Then my heart broke for all women around me who are trying to reassure themselves that Trump’s win isn’t sexism–it’s just the way the cookie crumbled–even though it doesn’t feel that way.

Then my heart broke for all the like-minded parents around me who have been struggling to explain to their children why someone who does all of the things they’re taught not to (bully, name-call, attack, abuse) has been supported by 60 million Americans.

Then my heart broke for my black friends, my gay or transgender friends, my Muslim friends, my latino friends, and my disabled friends. It broke for my friends and their families who, over the past week, have been screamed at to “Go back to Mexico!” or told that “Trump is going to punish you!”

Then my heart broke for anyone who falls into more than one of these categories. I fall into only one and the pressure I feel wrapping around and squeezing my heart is unbearable; I cannot imagine the emotional burden of others.

And then my heart broke for everyone, because I just can’t see a way the country will heal from this. Too many of us feel too deeply wounded. The next decade, maybe longer, is going to be incredibly rough.

 

I hope Trump is a great president. I hope that he tempers his rhetoric and policies the way his supporters said he would, that his economic policies don’t pan out how they’re projected to, and that he can successfully empower the working class. I truly, deeply hope for all of these things.

But I’m not holding my breath.

A Visit to The Happiest Place on Earth

Y’all, the bff and I went to Disney World recently and it. was. amazing. We met aaaaaall the princesses, gorged ourselves at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, rode all the good rides, ran around in our mouse ears, and generally acted like idiots for three days. And do you SEE that giant pink Minnie Mouse bow? It was the best.

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Us, basically.

Disney World is, of course, a mecca for young children everywhere. Watching a little girl’s joy meeting Ariel or a little boy running around with Alice waving at caterpillars in the garden is an entirely new level of adorable. However, we discovered that Disney World is also the greatest place ever to be an adult because you have to use your brain absolutely 0% of the time. 

Lost? Employees know where absolutely everything is. Tired? Take a shuttle or tram back to your “resort” and let it practically drop you at your door. Hungry? Walk up to any country in Epcot and someone will pretty much shove food in your hand. Thirst-ay? You bet there’s a bar in spitting distance. Bored? Nope, because you’re at Disney World. All you need to do to be entertained is walk twenty feet to the right and oh my god is that Gaston!? 

Of course, all this greatness comes as a price. Not only is Disney World an expensive place to visit, it’s also one of the weirdest, most surreal places to experience as an adult. Why?

Disney World is oddly dated. Not only are some of their resorts in dire need of an upgrade, but many of the rides show clear evidence of what we would politely refer to as “simpler times.” Not only does It’s a Small World stereotype every culture in the whole world, there’s also a lot of emphasis on butts. Splash Mountain features a series of animatronic bears with their head stuck in positions that fully present their large butts to those on the ride. To top it off, there is always some sort of animatronic motion of another creature pushing suggestively on the butt.

At first glance, the Disney experience feels so low-tech. There aren’t touch-responsive screens scattered everywhere, no fancy holograms, or high-tech augmented reality spotlights. But, as you start thinking about it, what feels like “old technology” is actually seriously high-tech robotics. One of the first attractions we went into was The Hall of Presidents and we were floored by the intricate movements that made each president feel real–twitching fingers, furrowing brows. That level of intricate design, construction, and maintenance is just mind-blowing.

“Face characters” never break character. Never ever. It is utterly bizarre to be greeted by a bubbling Snow White, who you know is really just some twenty-something who eats ice cream on the couch in her ratty sweatpants like the rest of us, and try to have a conversation with her about how Doc checks her hair bow for her every morning. Or listen to Anna from Frozen explain how to make a chocolate sandwich. How are you supposed to respond to that? You can do what I do, which is mumble incoherently and just smile until the photographer is done.

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Bonus weirdness: Apparently people regularly try to dump the cremated remains of their loved ones in the Haunted Mansion. Don’t be that guy.

Oprah’s Favorite Things? We have very different taste.

Even though The Oprah Winfrey show is officially off the air, the woman herself is still a BFD. She recently signed a book deal with Flatiron Books (an imprint of Macmillan) to publish her memoir, is continuing to expand her TV network and, of course, is still bestowing upon us her annual list of favorite things just in time for the holiday feeding shopping frenzy.

I think this is the first year I’ve even looked at her list (although I’ve certainly enjoyed the memes that follow her Christmas giveaway shows in previous years). I have to say, I’m really not impressed.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the list– it’s got to be at least 90% PR product placement. But, if you’re looking for a $60 cherry pie, $195 sweatpants, snow tubes for only $109, or 3 mason jars filled with dirt and herb seeds for $54…well, Oprah’s got your back.

If you’re like me and don’t have $500 for a single set of three cheese knives, don’t worry. I’ve got your back! Here are some of my favorite things that make great Christmas gifts and not require you to kiss an entire paycheck goodbye.

  • A pint of Lick Ice Cream – The perfect hostess gift. The flavors are unique, the taste is divine, and a pint comes in at just the right price point at around $8. Not so expensive that you feel bad for buying it, but not too cheap that you feel bad for not buying something else. And it will get eaten.
  • Knock off Ugg boots from Payless – I know, I know. Uggs are dumb and stupid and ugly and everyone who wears them is a terrible person, but listen to this: having warm feet is the best. Having warm feet for 80% less than the price of having designer warm feet may be even better. If you love someone, you will warm their feet.
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson –  Books are great Christmas presents, and Seveneves will satisfy any book nerd. It’s intelligent, a great balance of realistic and speculative, and will keep even the fastest readers occupied on a flight or drive home.
  • Ticket to Ride by Days of Wonder – This is a fantastic board game for all ages with tons of replay value. It also has the potential to keep everyone playing focused and occupied, which helps cut down on stiff and awkward chatting.
  • Adult coloring books – Coloring books for adults are fantastic, especially for those of us who feel artistically challenged. Playful and freeing, they are also deeply meditative and relaxing. They’re stunning beautiful and easy on the wallet at around $10.
  • Lovely stationery – Cheeky, beautiful, or personalized stationary is a great way to encourage someone to keep in touch. There is nothing better than taking the post out of the postbox and finding a handwritten letter from a friend wedged in between the inevitable spam and bills!

And last, but certainly not least:

  • A sincere “thank you” – The best gifts are always ones that aren’t things. If you find yourself unsure of what to get someone for Christmas, give them the gift of sincere appreciation. Tell them how much you love them, list ten reasons they’re a great friend, compose a song about all their good qualities, reflect on ways they’ve inspired you or changed your life for the better, or simply squeeze them extra tight next time you’re hugging. Bonus points if you can make them cry.

 

Nicki Minaj is the worst (and that’s the worst, too)

I’m not normally on the up-and-up with the latest pop hits, but I feel compelled to draw a very clear line in the sand: Nicki Minaj is terrible. I wish she weren’t because I do really, really want to like her music, but I can’t because she is so atrocious. Allow me to explain.

I don’t dislike Nicki Minaj because I think she’s sexualizing women by flaunting her cosmically large butt. Girl’s got booty; that’s her brand. It’s her differentiator. It’s her product. Like Kim Kardashian, her butt is her business. And, like Kim, she is a smart business woman. You don’t accidentally achieve superstardom.

I don’t dislike Nicki Minaj because she’s a terrible dancer. Taylor Swift is also a pretty terrible dancer, but both of them own up to their lack of technical skill in their music videos. It’s authentic. I like that.

I don’t dislike Nicki Minaj because her lyrics are all sleaze and narcotics. That doesn’t make her music bad, although I recognize that many people would disagree with me. Part of what makes Minaj’s lyrics so jarring is that they do the same thing that lyrics of popular male rappers do: draw attention to their desirable lifestyle and objectify the opposite sex. It’s odd to listen to women sing about how successful and desirable they are because we are expected to downplay our successes. It’s weird to listen to women sing explicitly about sexual interactions with the opposite gender because we are expected to be demure and polite.

I like that Nicki Minaj is objectifying men and brushing off the backlash she gets from it; like Kesha, you simply cannot shame her. That’s awesome and so empowering! I love strong women who take full ownership over their own life and body.

No, I dislike Nicki Minaj because all of her music can be improved by removing her voice from it entirely. It is my theory that no one actually likes listening to Nicki Minaj and instead actually like the music accompanying her singing. Let’s break this down with four of her most popular songs:

1. ANACONDA (2014)

“Anaconda” takes a classic rap song that we all already know and love and gives it a tremendously catchy remix. There is no way you cannot listen to the music of “Anaconda” and not love it. It’s a feast for the ears…until Minaj kicks in and her grating, screeching voice pulls you away from the music. And that freestyle at the end? I literally shiver every time I hear it and have to find something else to listen to, STAT.

2. BANG BANG (2014)

I have no idea how this song came into existence, but I am even less sure of how Minaj got a part in it (aside from someone saying “Hey, Nicki Minaj is really popular right now. Let’s throw her in there!”) I’m just glad she’s rapping quickly enough that I can get back to enjoying Jessie J’s amazing set of pipes and the upbeat, totally dance-able music.

While we’re at it, let’s kick off Ariana Grande, too. She contributes equal amounts of nothing to the song and looks like she’s bait in an episode of To Catch a Predator.

3. SUPERBASS (2010)

I think this is the biggest let down of all Nicki Minaj songs because, for a shining second, Minaj actually sings well. She’s no Adele, don’t get me wrong, but she does a good job with the chorus. Unfortunately, her nasal, grating voice causes you to reflexively turn the volume down a few notches every time she raps, which ruins the experience of the entire song. The imitation of Minaj’s vocals by another pop singer, Karmin, is equally as obnoxious…proving the point that any Minaj-style vocals are the worst.

4. HEY MAMA (2015)

This song is catchy, as is all of Guetta’s music. Listeners were really impressed with Minaj’s vocal stylings on the chorus of this song, which showcase some new techniques we hadn’t seen from her previously (like vibrato). But the chorus, which we all crave simply because it’s so good, wasn’t actually sung by Minaj; it was sung by Bebe Rexha. Rexha got the shaft and didn’t have her name listed as a featured artist for weeks after the song’s release but, perhaps due to the internet demanding she get credit for her awesome vocals, she’s now listed as both contributing writer and featured artist. (She also released an acoustic version of the main vocals if you just want to listen to that on repeat.)

Minaj is expendable, if not a nuisance, in “Hey Mama.” Again, you reflexively mute your speakers or pull out your earbuds every time Nicki kicks in because her voice is simply so terrible to listen to.

And all of this– this tangent, this aversion to her music– is the worst because Minaj has done so much to push boundaries of pop music and carve a new niche for female rappers. Without her, we likely wouldn’t have seen the rise (and fall) of Iggy Azalea or so passionately embraced Rihanna’s “Bitch Betta Have My Money.” The foothold of the entire subgenre of female rappers would lose their foothold in pop culture if Nicki Minaj’s Louboutins weren’t there saving a spot.