Saturday, March 29, 2008

I know what you're doing

In honor of my previous post, my Saturday night video tonight is my stalker theme song, although I suspect he didn't even know it. This song was very popular that semester, and it basically is what I always imagined myself saying to him if I ever got the opportunity.

In defense of stalkers

Having led off with a provocative title like that, I suppose I need to establish my position right away, so let me start by revealing that I have actually had a stalker. Without going into all the gory details (which might be the makings of another post somewhere down the line), let me say that while it was a harrowing semester of my life and one that I would not like to repeat, obviously it all turned out all right in the end. He broke off pursuit all by himself and I did not, as the Lifetime movie of the week would have you believe inevitably occurs, end up bound and gagged in an airless garret with walls papered with pictures of myself in various states of undress. Obviously, as my experience demonstrates, there are mentally unbalanced individuals who are real stalkers, who I define as people who insist upon pursuing someone even in the face of overwhelming evidence that their advances are not welcome. Those people deserve punishment and/or psychiatric help, and they are not the subject of this post.

Rather, I'm talking about the watered-down idea of the stalker that has arisen in our popular culture in the last ten years or so. Basically what it boils down to is that a "stalker" is anyone who shows what may appear to be an excess of interest in another person. This idea is what makes a red-blooded American male blush and look over his shoulder before saying in a low, sheepish voice to the object of his affections, "I hope it doesn't make me sound like a stalker to ask what part of town you live in" or "Would it make me a stalker if I admit I've read your blog?"

Basically, I think what we've lost here is a sense that the information-gathering stage of courtship is important. In the old days, this was all much simpler, because you probably would have known that person your whole life, or at least known of them. You could ask your mother or your grandma to tell you everything about that family and she would do so. And there were other sources of information as well. I remember being thrilled when I found an old church directory that contained a picture of my first-grade boyfriend, Chad Keller, as a baby. It wasn't just knowing that he was an adorable baby (although he certainly was!) that thrilled me, but it also gave me a sense of continuity. Even though he and I had only been around for 6 years, our families had known each other for a long time, and that gave me a positive, optimistic feeling that we two would know each other for a long time to come. (And indeed, while we didn't end up getting married as I romantically hoped, I do still know exactly where he lives with his wife and children, and my mother still regularly tells me all the goings-on in his family.)

These days, it's less likely that the person you fall in love with will be someone you've known your whole life, but that doesn't mean you don't deserve to know something about them before you pop the question. Of course, the two of you could sit down together with a checklist of 649 questions about each other, but that doesn't sound like a lot of fun. It is probably better in the long run to get what you can from other sources, such as mutual friends, Facebook, and even the ever-popular Google. And do you honestly think that the other person isn't also Googling you even as we speak?

The catch here, though, is that it is unseemly to actually let on what you've learned about someone else through these means. While it might give you a slight advantage to know they were on the cross-country team in high school, by no means is it kosher to say to them, "So, I see you were on the cross-country team back in high school. Nice shorts, by the way, and orange and black really do look good on you!" I know a guileless young man who actually committed this sin and lost the trust of his lady love forever. However, I would say that it should be only common sense and tact to know not to do this. Besides, what good is it to get extra intelligence if you're only going to tip your hand and let the other side know you've got it?

My point here is that we shouldn't let the slight threat of real stalkers dissuade us from trying to get to know people as fully as possible. Take it from one who knows: there really is a world of difference between having someone call you and hang up 20 times a day and having someone look at your blog once in a while. I don't like the former, but the latter is just fine with me!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bittersweet chocolate and sea salt caramel

I've had this song stuck in my head for a while, so I thought I'd post it. There's no deep meaning here for once, except to say that it fits one of my favorite categories of music, the song with sad lyrics and a bouncy tune (the perennial Bee Gees specialty.) Maybe that has something to do with the pleasure I derive from saudade. For me, happiness and sadness will always be mingled together in odd ways, I guess.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A confession or two

So, as part of my new spirit of openness, I'm going to confess something shocking. I went to a church on Sunday that was actually celebrating Easter, and it felt darn good! And anyone who doesn't like it can lump it.

Since I'm on vacation, can I post a music video even though it's a weekday? Pretty please?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The long and winding road

So I'm still vision questing, but I think I've finished the part where I took myself apart and am now well on my way towards putting myself back together. I've been trying to be a little bit more open about my real feelings, both personally and professionally, and the most amazing thing has happened. This week, so many people have come up to me and said something like, "I've always wanted to tell you how much I admire it when you (blank), and now I finally feel like I can." So much praise has been heaped upon me for things I've done in the past, and so many people have approached me about starting new projects together, that I am quite speechless. This is making me think that maybe my past approach was wrong-headed.

You see, I always thought that if people knew what I was really like, they wouldn't appreciate it. I thought I was just too different to really fit in here, and so I should just keep my head down and try not to offend anyone. But maybe the reason no one else is doing those things I want to do is because no one else can, and so maybe I should just start to do them and worry about the consequences later.

Fear of being hurt can be a very motivating force, but as one of my favorite authors once wrote, "Sometimes, in the labyrinth, you just need to find a little blood on the wall to know that someone has gone ahead of you." (Trust me, it made perfect sense in the context of the story.) I've always thought that quote was reminding me to learn from the mistakes of others and take guidance from their examples, both positive and negative. But I've been thinking about that quote in another way now. Sometimes in order to be a leader, you have to have left some blood on the wall for others to follow. And in order to do that, you have to have bled. In other words, you don't have to be perfect in order to be an example.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The lost art of the celebrity crush

Since I've been "vision questing," as a friend once described one of these pensive moods of mine, in the last week or so, one of the questions I've been asking myself is "What is love?" And then I remember the particularly odd episode of Mr. Rogers where Lady Aberlin goes around asking everybody that, and it gives me pause. But don't worry, this post isn't going to go into Hallmark card territory. As I've been thinking back over my happiest and most romantic memories, one thing has become clear: most of them involve eminently unsuitable people who never knew that I existed. And so I have been pondering the lost art of the celebrity crush.

My childhood and adolescence were filled with mad longings for athletes (I preferred jockeys), actors (Paul Darrow of Blake's 7 made me weak in the knees), and even cartoon characters (Bugs Bunny was my first boyfriend). When I got to college, I branched off into the almost-attainable "big man on campus" crush. I longed for Chuck Klosterman long before anyone outside of UND had ever heard of him. (If you're reading this, Chucky, call me!) And of course there were all the celebrity professors as well. (Between swooning over Dr. Beard and Dr. Huang, it's a wonder I ever got any homework completed at all!)

But it seems that around the same time our society became obsessed with stalkers (I could write a whole separate post about that and might do so one day soon), the celebrity crush became a no-no. Oh, sure enough, you might hear a college girl today murmur that Patrick Dempsey is "hot," but I'm sure that she will no longer be the proud possessor of a scrapbook filled with articles about him and a wall covered with his pictures. Because in today's anti-stalker culture, that would seem seriously weird. Plus, when such things are always attainable online at the touch of a button, they probably seem less valuable and not as precious as they once did.

But I've been thinking about all the good things that my celebrity crushes have given me.

First of all, they gave me a drive to research. My first research project in the microfilm room at UND had nothing to do with school at all. Instead, I was looking up every article I could find (thanks to the green-bound Reader's Guide) about Sylvester Stallone in the first year he became famous after writing Rocky. Sure, it seems kind of dumb now, but I really did learn how to do thorough, complete research in a way that a project on plate tectonics would never have inspired me to. Likewise, I didn't become an authority on the Bee Gees because I was intellectually stimulated by their music (although that did come in time); it was because I wanted to know everything Robin Gibb had ever said or thought or done.

More importantly, I think that my celebrity crushes have helped me to practice the whole business of being in love in a safe way before branching off into real boys, who can be easily hurt by careless blunders. I wonder how teenagers today accomplish this, or if they do it at all. From the male-female interactions I witness on campus every day, I'm thinking they don't. (I also wonder how they learn to call the opposite sex on the phone in these days of Caller ID, since it used to involve dialing your beloved's number repeatedly and then hanging up, and that no longer seems possible.)

At any rate, these memories have been such fond ones for me that I've decided to buck the trend and find a new celebrity to crush on. You can ask me who it is, but I'll just blush and look at the floor, so don't bother!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wind of change

I've decided that I get to post videos on Sundays, too! And this is very appropriate, as the winds of change are blowing around here in a big way. In other words, I am a free woman. Completely this time.

Through a glass darkly

There's something that I've been thinking about for a while now, and I've skirted around the issue in some previous posts, but now I'm going to try to get to the heart of it. Simply stated, I am a contradiction in terms. I guess everybody that I work with would tell you that I have both feet on the ground. Some might even say I'm a goody-two-shoes. I've never had a library fine, I've never missed the deadline for a paper, and I've never taken more than a sip of liquor. When shopping, my big splurges are usually no larger than a box of imported chocolates, and that doesn't happen that often. (Only when they're on clearance!) Especially here in Ohio, everybody knows that I'm good old reliable Marne, who you can ask to do something for you and she'll do it. (Unless she thinks it's a dumb idea, and then she'll drag her feet, but that's another story.)

But I'm also a lush and impractical romantic, a little girl who wanted to be a writer and a ballerina and a chef all at the same time, who made up long and involved stories about imaginary people and had her stuffed animals act out Shakespeare in her bedroom. I love air travel because of the feeling of being weightless and free and cut off from all my regular ties that bind. I regularly write letters to people telling them how I really feel about them that I never send, and they're all in a box here somewhere that's really going to shock people when they find it after I die. I've been secretly in love about 47,000 times, and have described at least 5 different people as "the love of my life" and meant it fully and whole-heartedly each time. I also am that rare American who was regularly filled with saudade even before she knew that it was a real concept in Brazil, and was so glad when she finally found a name for that feeling of indescribable longing that she gets with astonishing regularity.

Maybe it's no surprise that one of my favorite books when I was young was The Three Faces of Eve. The sensible part of me got to note the details of the psychoanalytical approach the analysts used on this perplexing case, while the romantic side of me got to revel in the wild details of Eve Black's secret life as a bad girl who did whatever she felt. But now I'm wondering, like Eve does at the end of the book, if I can successfully integrate the disperate strands of my personality.

I think the reason that I'm feeling this bind more now is that since I've moved here to Athens, the sensible side has really won the day. I'm not exposed to all the interesting artistic types like I was in Iowa, and I've been way too busy with work and school to notice that fact. And now I'm at a place where everyone in the library already "knows" who I am and it seems too late to break out of that mold. And so I'll always be the good girl, the one who isn't interested in romance and doesn't even want to have a pet and is perfectly happy eating spaghetti for supper every single night. While all around me lies another Athens with fancy restaurants I've never been to and galleries I've never seen and theater productions that are passing me by. And will I ever get the chance to go to Pittsburgh and see the Mr. Rogers exhibit like I've always wanted to? That seems like too much to even dream of.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Strange magic

I'm trying to work up an idea for a post, but it's taking a while to bake. In the meantime, let me go back to my regular Saturday strategy of giving you a music video to mull over.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Encounter at Farpoint

Our library has a number of interesting patrons, but I've finally encountered one I've been curious about for a long time. (He remarked that I'm "new" here, so I guess I didn't make such a big impression on him!) His name is Aethelred Eldridge, and he may be the only person I know who has a real-life, non-vanity Wikipedia entry. He definitely is a character, and if you Google him you can find out all about him, so I won't go into all that, except to say that not everybody people label as crazy actually is crazy (and not everyone people label as sane is actually sane, either).

What I do want to do is to tell the story of the first time I heard of him. One of the assignments I was given when I first started working here was to work on our index to the campus newspaper, The Post. To say we were significantly behind was an understatement-- I started working on 1993! (The index will finally be going online any day now, and we're all very excited about it.) At any rate, one of the articles one day was written by Aethelred Eldridge, and was called "The God Particle Has Landed." (You can see a transcription of it here.) I couldn't make head or tail out of how to index it or what it meant, and I finally decided to give it the subject heading "Language." But now, having read some other things that he's written, and having a few more years of experience under my belt, I guess, at least parts of it are beginning to make sense to me. It's also reminding me of something another artistic friend wrote lately called The God Virus.

I'm not sure exactly what to say here except that I've known a lot of artistic types on the bleeding edge over the years, and when they're with you, it's wonderful, but if they turn against you, it can be quite frightening. Which is to say that I hope I stay on Aethelred's good side!

Monday, March 10, 2008

What is this dark, cold world?

Just a post to let you know that I'm still alive and not digging this time change at all! My alarm went off at 6:30 and I lay down for a few more minutes, which translated to 7:06. Blarrgh!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I was dreaming when I wrote this... forgive me if it goes too far.

There's something I've been wanting to write about here for a long time, but I've been afraid it would be too revealing and possibly cast me in a negative light. However, at the continual urging of a particular reader to be more forthcoming with my thoughts, I've decided to go ahead and just say it straightforwardly. I'll try not to get too emo, ok?

I have a confession to make: I want to get married. Depending on who you are and where/how you're situated, that may or may not seem like an incredibly personally revelatory statement to make. Yet I assure you that for me it is. In the time and place where I grew up, a girl was not supposed to aspire to marriage. You were supposed to want to become a successful career woman with great clothes and lots of boyfriends, kind of like a real-life version of Barbie. (The fact that I've come pretty close to that ideal, mostly while actively trying not to, does give me a certain feeling of accomplishment in retrospect. However, it doesn't make me want to end this happy state by getting married any less.)

When I got to UND, it was even worse. Most of UND at that time was still ruled by 60's radicals, and most of the female professors were hardcore feminists. I've since learned that in most places, hardcore feminists of that academic stripe believe that women should only love other women and not marry men. However, at UND the ideal was a little different. I tend to disbelieve people who say that harshness of landscape begets harshness of character, but in this case it may actually be true. You see, the UND ideal was for a woman to be some sort of superachieving robot with no romantic connections whatsoever. To be, as Sara Teasdale put it, "self-complete as a flower or a stone."

So in my heart of hearts, it still seems an incredible social faux pas to admit that I want to get married. But yet, I suppose if I don't do so, no man will ever realize I'm not the self-confident, self-composed, self-complete career girl that I try to present myself as. You can consider this post as my declaration. (By the way, my request for proposals still stands.)

So many stars

Maybe I should start calling this a vlog! Anyway, after the conference yesterday (which was super, by the way), this song expresses very well how I'm feeling.