Tuesday, June 24, 2014

More Stuff on Being a Girl in Automotive School

There were some things I didn’t cover in my last piece about my school experience so far. (For those who are curious about the academic front, I’m writing this on the day I took my first final and tomorrow I start a new class, and I don’t actually have a clue what subject it will be because the way things are done is that the class lists are pinned up on the bulletin board the DAY OF the new class, and that’s when you find out what subject it is and what classroom it’s in. Bizarro. In other news, I am a spoiled college kid.)

[UPDATE FROM THE FUTURE: My new class is Electronic Fundamentals or something to that effect, and we have shop in the morning with one instructor and classroom/theory in the afternoon with a different instructor, which makes zero sense from a student perspective, because the practical stuff we’re learning may or may not line up with what we’ll be tested on, since there’s no way to communicate exactly what each instructor is covering to the other and they don’t really coordinate. Oh well. I’m a smart cookie; I’ll figure it out.]

I don’t intend for this piece to be a huge essay, just some quick notes on what wasn’t covered last time, broken down into sections for your convenience!

 

Bathroom

There is one girls’ bathroom and one men’s bathroom for students. The girls’ bathroom has one toilet, one sink, one motion-sensing paper towel dispenser, and deliciously mango-scented air freshener. It is always locked, so girls have to go get a key from Student Services every day in order to open it. You can keep the key all day and return it after dismissal, but I forgot to do that on my first day, and now I just “forget” to do it, so I basically have my own key that I take to school every day so that I don’t have to constantly ask them for one. (Don’t worry; they have enough keys for the few girls in the program.) And the hassle of having to remember if I transferred the key from one uniform shirt to the other every day is so worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing that that bathroom is a heavenly slice of privacy.

It’s no secret that I love my solitude. The few minutes I spend in that bathroom each day are kind of my favorites. It can suck having to come out of it and promptly coming face to face with a dude who’s like, “Hey, beautiful,” which totally kills that wonderful bubble of comfort and privacy, but it’s also a place where I’ve run into some of the other girls in the program who needed to use the bathroom, and that’s great, because sisterhood, yo.

 

Clothes

We get button-down uniform shirts. Two of them for $46. With iron-on patches that can display our academic achievements.

The sizes on the paper that I could choose from at orientation were: Small, Medium, Large, XL, 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, and 6X. So, unsurprisingly, the admissions guy’s immediate reaction to me was, “I can see if they can order you an extra small?” Which I shot down and tried on the small. It’s ginormous and fits my body in exactly no places, but I knew that extra small wouldn’t be any better because in point of fact, no one has yet invented a button-down shirt that fits a body that is as hourglassish as mine. Take your pick: Boobs or waist — you get to pick a shirt that fits one, not both. This one fit neither, being too baggy at the waist and too small at the chest. None of this is a complaint, by the way; by not fitting in any way, shape, or form, my shirt basically serves as a reminder to me about how tiny and curvy I am, which I cannot find a way to spin into being a bad thing. And anyhow, I ain’t going to automotive school to be a fashionista so whatEVER.

Everyone wears shirts or tank tops under their uniform shirts (except one guy who our instructor has dubbed “The Phantom” because of his habit of just disappearing during the school day for hours at a time but that’s another story) so it’s not a big deal that my shirt doesn’t close over my chest and I wear t-shirts underneath every day. It puts my t-shirt collection to good use, that’s for sure.

We don’t get uniform pants. This is only a thing of importance to me because I don’t own a single pair of jeans. I have like one pair of sweatpants and a few pairs of leggings, and mostly any other pants I have are pajama pants. Hashtag Orthodox Jewish Girl Problems. I asked at registration and was told that for safety reasons, as I assumed, skirts are not recommended. So I put a post up on facebook asking if any friends of mine had old jeans that they thought might fit me, and some friends responded, but I still don’t have jeans because it turns out that even though I am a 6-8 in skirts/dresses, I am apparently probably something like a 10-12 in pants. Like I said, hourglassish. So if you’ve got size 10-12 ladies jeans lying around, email them to me! Much appreciated.

Obama will give you a thumbs up. Cross my heart.

 

But this hasn’t really been a problem so far. The first few days, I came to school wearing sweatpants or leggings underneath one of those ankle-length black skirts that I almost never wear in real life, and after the classroom portion of the day (i.e. all morning) I pulled off the skirt and went to the shop in pants/leggings. But then one day I forgot to change and no one noticed and the instructor didn’t care, so I stopped wearing the extra layer underneath (because it is NYC in the summer, gah) and just wear the same ankle-length black skirt every day for class and shop and no one gives a hoot. If we ever do something that’s physical enough to require pants, of course I’ll wear them, but for now I’ll stick with skirts because they are way better in summer heat and most of my non-skirt bottoms are not fit to be seen in public. And they totally don’t match my uniform shirt. (One of my pairs of leggings is like purple and shimmery. Went with the oversized navy button-down shirt super well. Not.)

Also the shirt has pockets. They’re breast pockets but it’s not like the shirt fits me so stuff in the pockets doesn’t actually look weird; it’s just part of the overall sloppy-mechanic-mess-look. Which means I carry stuff in my pockets all the time. This is awesome.

POCKETS! *drool*

 

Despite all this lack of anything resembling fashion, I get looks and I get hit on with regularity, simply because I am female. This really hammers home the fact that there really isn’t that much you need to do, looks-wise, to get a guy’s attention. They’ll probably notice you exist just because you’re a girl. If you want to hold that attention (which I don’t in this case), that’s where personality comes in. (I know I am saying this from a position of body/overall attractiveness privilege, because I fit into certain conventions of beauty, and that’s unfair. But I do think that being female has a lot more to do with it in this situation than being attractive. I’m not that attractive, especially not in school; I’m just an object of curiosity.)

More about this in …

Makeup

I have this policy of wearing makeup for the first few days of any new class/semester, in college and now in automotive school. The theory is that if that’s how I make my first impression, whatever glamour that first impression creates will cling to me for the duration that those people know me. This is a theory that I completely made up and is entirely unscientific because I have not attempted to research it in the slightest, but I don’t need to, because confidence is a head game that you play with yourself, so whatever works will work if you let it.

The biggest issue with this is that during each semester/course, you get to what I have internally dubbed the “band-aid day” — meaning, the day I rip off the metaphorical band-aid and show up with no makeup on. And Buzzfeed can tell me all they want that no one notices if you don’t wear makeup, but that is baloney. The first day I showed up without makeup, B. (of my previous post) did a double take and said, “Did you forget—” and stopped.

“Did I forget what?”

“Nothing. Never mind. You look great.”

Because nothing is so utterly transparent than giving a girl an unsolicited reassurance about how she looks after you just looked at her like she showed up wearing mud in her hair. Good one, B. And he proceeded on a few subsequent days to say things like, “You don’t get much sleep, do you?”

To which I was always tempted to respond, “None of your business but I get plenty of sleep; I’m just a pasty white girl with no consistent skin tone and I don’t feel like wearing makeup every day just so that I don’t look like a zombie.”

SM without makeup, an approximation.

 

But note that this did not deter him from continuing to hit on me, ask me to the movies, offer to take me places “if you’re good” (ugh). He has definitively used up all my goodwill at this point. Persistence is not sexy at all when it ignores and disrespects other people’s clearly-drawn boundaries. B. is fortunately not in my class right now; he’s in the diesel program and I’m in the automotive program, so we had that one intro class together but now we have separate classes. He still comes to find me during breaks and is like, “Can I get a hug??” and I’m like, “No.” And he laughs and says, “Handshake?” and so I shake his hand instead of telling him to get lost, because I’m super polite like that.

And similarly to how it works with the clothes, plenty of the other guys continue to hit on me and attempt to chat me up whether or not I am wearing makeup.

So to end this on a positive note, I can tell you that when it’s not incredibly annoying or creepy, the inane male attention has actually been a decent confidence boost/reinforcement for me. Like, if I can look like crap and get hit on constantly, then when I finally do get all gussied up and wear makeup and put on clothes I like that actually fit my body, I feel, like, super sexy. Like turbo-charged sexy, to use a car metaphor.

Va-VOOM.Va-VOOM.

 


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Like my thinky thoughts? Want more of them? Consider donating and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading! And you can keep up with me on Twitter @FloatingSpirals and never miss a post :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

On Being a Girl in Automotive School

I’m two weeks into automotive school. Well, technically 6 school days in, since I started on May 22nd and got vacation for Memorial Day and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, cutting the four-school-day week down considerably. But still, 6 days is half of a course in my program, since every 12 days we’ll have a final and move up to the next class.

I am the only girl in my current intro class. There are a handful of other girls in the school and I’ve seen a few at lunch, but none are in my class. This in itself wasn’t something that I considered remotely problematic; I don’t mind standing out, and being a girl makes me memorable, and you want to be memorable in a field like this. Far more nervewracking was the fact that everyone in my class had experience working with cars whereas I was a complete newbie.

That’s still an issue that I’m dealing with, even though I’ve quickly risen to the top of the class with my book-smarts and grades on all the written quizzes and assignments. I am slower with tools because of a) having never used them before and b) needing to use my entire body weight to operate something that my shop partner can use with one hand.

I know that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for not being the fastest with, say, a 3/8 drive ratchet or a torque wrench, seeing as I’d never even heard of those tools and certainly never used them until a few days ago, but I am used to excelling, and I know that as a girl, I need to excel in this in order for anyone to take me seriously. If I were a guy, the raw strength would make up for some of the doubts employers might have when looking at me, seeing that I could be useful in other ways, for lifting and grunt work. But I don’t have raw strength; I’m barely 5’ 2”; I’m thin and I was told by one of the guys at lunch that he thought I was 19.

Babyfaaaaaaaaace.

Which leads me into the other gender issue that I obviously knew I’d have to deal with — numerous personal interactions with guys, generally without any women around to back me up. Me against the world, dun dun dunnnn. And that makes it sound antagonistic, which it’s not, because everyone I’ve met has been nice to me. There has been no outright hostility from anyone. (When I told that to a friend, she responded, “that’s good!” before adding, “Our standards are really low, aren’t they.”) And plenty of people have been really friendly.

For instance, I remember being somewhat freaked out at lunch on my first day, after sitting in class all morning and feeling overwhelmed by all the new material I knew nothing about, and a Haitian guy in some other class sat down at my table and haltingly told me not to worry: “You gonna make it. Look at me — I barely speak English and I doing okay.” And that was exactly what I needed to hear.

And I’ve also somehow befriended the guy in the class with the most car experience and he’s been enormously helpful, giving me tips and offering me advice and information on all sorts of things without me asking for any of it.

And the guys in the lunchroom have a domino tournament every day and they were happy to deal me in. I actually won one game, though the exact rules of scoring that they play by are kind of a mystery to me.

But it’s not that simple. It never is.

Basically.

So far there’s only been one super creepy incident — when I went to refill my water bottle at the water fountain on the first day, a smallish guy was already there and he insisted on letting me fill it before taking his turn. That was unnecessary but nice, but then he had to go ruin it by staring at me unblinkingly the whole time and speaking in this weird monotone that some guys use when they’re trying to be slick or suave but don’t know how. He told me his name, and I told him mine (it was on my ID tag anyway) with my brightest chipper voice and smile so that he wouldn’t know how creeped out I was, and then when I finished and turned to go, he said, in that slow, deep, deliberate monotone, “Sarah. I hope we stay friends.”

Dude. You let me fill my water bottle. That does not make us friends. Especially not with the bonus leering.

And then there’s the condescending and sometimes downright weird sexism that I encountered from some of the administrative staff. The very first time I visited campus, my admissions representative kept saying to me what a “nice girl” I am: “You’re a nice girl, aren’t you? Just a nice girl. I can just tell. You’re a nice girl. A nice girl.” He did this in the midst of selling the school to me as hard as he could, but I seriously can’t figure out what kind of sales pitch that is supposed to be. I am, however, 99.9% certain he didn’t say the same thing to the prospective male students who came to tour the school. (And he did it again once I enrolled a few months later: “We’re gonna take good care of you, because you’re a nice girl. A nice girl.” I can’t even.)

Suuuuuuure.

A different male administrator didn’t say anything nearly that weird to me throughout my enrollment process, but on my first day he passed me in the hallway the first time I wore my oversized uniform shirt, and he went, “Aw, you look so cute.” Which is, well, wildly inappropriate, but I just smiled instead of saying anything, because a) he’s in a position of authority and I do not want a fight, and b) I’m still trying to find the balance between how much to use my cuteness to get students and faculty to like me and be more patient with me than they would if I were a guy, and how much I should really draw the line and say no, that’s not okay.

It’s complicated. More on this later.

Mostly, what I’ve had to deal with, and anticipate having to deal with most, are very well-meaning, friendly guys saying stuff that they mean to be complimentary, that they don’t realize are in fact sexist.

Like I mentioned befriending the guy who turned out to be the most knowledgeable one in the class. I had no clue about that when I met B. at orientation; he was just friendly and easy to talk to, so we talked, and talked again while waiting for class to start on the first day, and sat at adjacent desks, and so out of anyone in class, we’re probably the best friends in that room. It’s been a bonus that he’s got experience and from Day 1, B. basically took me under his wing and doled out all sorts of practical tips and reassured me that there was once a time when he knew nothing about cars and that I’d catch up.

That was all really great stuff to hear on my first day, and I could see how serious B. is about his career and about school (he wants to get 100s on everything and get all the iron-on patches they give you for your uniform to signify the A’s you’ve gotten), and I was glad to have made a friend, or at least an acquaintance, who was as dedicated to school as I was and who was fun and could easily carry a conversation.

But then, after a whole day of just being friendly and helpful and professional, B. had to go and say, “You know, it’s really pretty sexy that you’re doing this.”

Sigh. I just wanted to facepalm everywhere. But I just shrugged it off.

Because it’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t already get why a comment like that is demeaning. Because there are situations in which I would not mind a guy finding out what I’m learning to do for a living and saying that it’s sexy. A woman doing blue collar work is a inevitably a symbol of strength and self-sufficiency, so I’d hope for their sake that guys have the good sense to find that attractive. And plenty of people find it attractive when a guy can fix a car, and I’ve got no problems with that.

But not in school. In school, we’re supposed to be peers. We’re supposed to be equals. You’re doing the same work I’m doing, and I doubt you consider it sexy when you do it — it’s just work. Being called sexy from within the industry diminishes my professional standing. It makes my work somehow different from yours; it “others” me. If an outsider looks at me and my work and thinks it’s sexy, that’s different. I’m already “othered” in that situation, by virtue of working in a different job with all the exoticism that entails. But if you’re in the business, find other ways to compliment me.

Trust me, it’s not hard.

Look, I could tell B. liked me. I’m not one of those people that can’t see someone’s interest unless they declare their intentions with flashing neon signs and smoke signals. He clearly thought I was smart and funny and interesting, and I also happen to be a cute girl. So I knew, and I also knew that I was unequivocally not interested back and did my best to communicate that to him without outright telling him to forget about it. I mentioned in one of our very first conversations that I only date Jewish guys (which B. is not), and also that this is a very stressful time for me and I’m not really interested in dating anyone at all at the moment. He didn’t seem to grasp the significance of the Jew thing until a couple days later when the topic of kosher food came up somehow and I started explaining just the bare bones of kashrut rules, and he was astonished by how complicated it is and said, “No wonder you prefer to only date guys who are your religion.” YES.

I thought that was that, and even smugly congratulated myself on finding an ingenious method of scaring off non-Jews without hurting their feelings, but the next day this happened:

B.: “I’m gonna take you out someday.”

Me: “Oh really. Why?”

B.: “Because you’re beautiful.”

Me: “So?”

B.: “And I want you to know that I know that you’re beautiful.”

Me: “I know you know I’m beautiful. You have eyes, don’t you?”

I feel like these were lines that must have worked for B. in the past and that’s why he said them, but just no. Compliments on my beauty are not gonna get you a date. Like I said up there, find something else to compliment.

Be creative. I’ve known a lot of smart and articulate guys who’ve given me excellent compliments, so I have high standards.

Not that good compliments would have made any difference in B.’s case, since I had already made it clear that he wasn’t what I’m looking for. In case my response came off as more flirtation than rejection, I clarified to make things crystal clear:

Me: “Look, I think you’re a great guy and I enjoy your company, and don’t be offended, but like I said, I don’t date guys who aren’t Jewish, and besides, I don’t think you’re my type.”

At which point B. backtracked and said he only meant “take me out” as a friend and that I was reading too much into things, and I probably should have let him save face with that but I couldn’t help myself:

Me: “Then what does me being beautiful have to do with it? You’re not friends with ugly people?”

B.: “No, I’m – I’m friends with all kinds of people.”

Me: “Uh-huh.”

I don’t usually give guys such a hard time, but I really needed B. to get it. I don’t think B. is the type who gets rejected much — he’s tall, strong, has a symmetrical face with dark skin and very white teeth that give him a great smile, and he’s intelligent and friendly without giving off any creepy vibes — but he handled it okay.

But being rejected didn’t stop him from giving me compliments on how sexy I am or other very gendered compliments. What do I mean by gendered here? Basically, if you can easily imagine a straight guy saying it to another straight guy, it’s probably not a gendered compliment. Like, “Good job!” or “Impressive” or “Nice!” Gender-neutral, non-sexual, can be directed at anyone, male and female alike. B.’s compliments to me were things like, “I’m proud of you,” or “you’re fascinating,” or “you make it hard not to like you.” Things that I really can’t picture him saying to another same-aged, same-sized dude, which (spoiler alert) I am not.

I’m the one with the cape.

I finally asked him not to call me sexy or describe my work as sexy, and this exchange happened:

B.: “But I just mean it like validation, to let you know that you’re doing a good job.”

Me: “Then just say I’m doing a good job. You wouldn’t say that a guy, would you?”

Him: “No, he’d think I’m homosexual! He’d think I’m hitting on him!”

Me: “And are you hitting on me?”

Him: “No!”

Me: “Then don’t say it!”

Him: “Does it make you uncomfortable?”

Me: “It doesn’t make me uncomfortable; it’s just not necessary.

And he seemed okay with that. Then I tried to push my luck the next day asking him not to say certain other things he said and he wound up asking me why I hate men.

Sigh.

And it’s frustrating, because I don’t want to misrepresent myself as being more uptight than I am. There are tons of jokes made in class about “lubing things up” and “not putting them in dry” and it’s hilarious and I love it. I joked with B. that he lets me do a lot of the work on the engine because he likes watching me, and the instructor overheard and said, “Is that so?” and I said, “Well, who wouldn’t?”

And maybe saying things like that is a mistake and makes people think other remarks are acceptable when they’re not. I don’t want to act like I don’t want anyone to talk about anything remotely sexual around me, I don’t want to call “inappropriate!” on every little thing, I don’t want to burn potential bridges. I definitely don’t want to seem ungrateful for everything B.’s done to help me so far, but at the same time, his help does not earn him the right to say certain things to me, any more than it earns him the right to touch me, which he does a bit more than I am honestly 100% comfortable with. But I haven’t stopped him yet, or any of the other guys who’ve casually touched me, because I worry about male entitlement and whether they will be insulted if I tell them not to. Which is absurd, to be concerned about other people’s feelings more than my own right to personal space and comfort, but like I said, I’m only six days into this and I’m worried about starting things off by burning bridges. I hope I haven’t burned any with B.

This = Bad idea.

The weird and contradictory truth is that in a male-dominated setting, invoking my sexuality myself makes me feel empowered, but having it invoked by the men around me feels demeaning. It’s the only thing I have that they don’t and when I control it, it gives me back some of my power. But when other people use it, I lose that control and consequently that power. I’m at such a disadvantage here for not being male; my instinct is to try to recoup some of that with whatever nebulous power comes with being female.

What I’m asking is this: If I don’t have the advantages I can get from maleness and physical strength, isn’t it only fair that I use some of the advantages I can get from being female and cute? (I’m not talking about sleeping with people here. I’m just talking about being a cute, feminine presence. Using my girlness to gain likeability, since, as I am fond of saying, true power comes from likability, because if people like you, they’ll willingly try to do anything you ask.) But at what point do those things cease to be at all advantageous and just invite people to think they can treat you condescendingly and make inappropriate remarks at you? Where is the tradeoff between likeability and respect? Can you have a sufficient amount of both? Is this a harder balance to achieve as a woman than it is for a man? Is it better to just draw the lines from the start and almost certainly get a reputation for being a bitch, just so that everyone’ll leave you alone and respect you? Is that even real respect? Where’s the middle ground and why is gray area so hard to navigate??

So yeah, when people ask me how automotive school is going, all of these things come rushing to my head and I can’t figure out how to distill all of them into digestible, conversational chunks. All I can think to do is write ‘em all out.

Here. HERE ARE ALL MY LADY FEELINGS ABOUT AUTOMOTIVE SCHOOL.

This is the seventh page of this post in Microsoft Word. So if you ask me how school is going and I say, “…Interesting. Complicated,” and you don’t get why I’m not exploding with details or jumping for joy or whatever it is you’re expecting that I’m not doing — this is why.


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Like my thinky thoughts? Want more of them? Consider donating and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading! And you can keep up with me on Twitter @FloatingSpirals and never miss a post :)

You can also read this post on my blog at: http://smrosenbergblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/on-being-a-girl-in-automotive-school

 

Friday, July 13, 2012
avi:

The Epic Conclusion!

avi:

The Epic Conclusion!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Baseball Ethics

I have to admit, I’m ethically impaired when it comes to baseball.

No, I’m not saying I chloroform people outside the stadium and grab their tickets (though now that I think of it, that sounds like a good plan). I’m not saying I shoplift memorabilia from clubhouse stores. I don’t even beat up innocent little children in the stands to steal their foul balls.

And I don’t condone steroid or other Performance Enhancing Drug use, and I don’t think that succeeding athletically entitles people to be douchebags.

But that’s all off-field stuff. On the field, as far as I’m concerned, anything goes. As long as it’s not causing deliberate bodily harm to someone else.

Case in point: last week, the Yankees played a game against the Cleveland Indians, and the biggest story of the night was a, shall we say, interesting call by the umpire. By “interesting” I mean “blown.” And by “blown” I mean “majorly screwed up.”

What happened? Late in the game, Dewayne Wise, the Yankee left fielder, sprinted into foul territory after a fly ball, and toppled into the left field stands after lunging to catch it.

The umpire immediately ruled it a catch and an out. The inning ended, and the Yankees ran off the field.

But.

The replay shows very, very clearly that Wise never caught the ball. It smacked off the heel of his glove as he fell into the stands.

I was watching this game on TV, and I’ll admit I was cracking up at the play, the umpire’s screw-up, and the announcers trying to figure out where the ball went when it kicked into the stands, and who had it when, and how Wise could have ended up with it in his glove when he came out (it was revealed after the game that he didn’t have the ball at all; the ump just never asked to see it after he emerged from the stands).

Then the announcers’ discussion gave way to a little debate over whether instant replay in baseball should be expanded to include plays like that — right now it’s only available to reevaluate questionable home run calls. I continued to snigger.

My mother, who was working on the computer in the room, asked me what was so funny. And I explained the blown call, as yet another replay graced the screen.

“And now they’re all talking about using replay and—”

“Why doesn’t the outfielder say something?” my mother asked, in typical mommy fashion. “They don’t need replay; he can tell them if he caught the ball or not.”

I was struck speechless.

“It, um, it … doesn’t work that way,” I managed.

And I flopped back onto the pillows, watching the screen and wondering for the first time why it never entered my mind, or the minds of the professional commentators, that Wise should speak up. Why did it not occur to us to hold the athlete responsible for telling the truth in a situation like that? Why were we all so focused on the flaws in the umpiring system, to the point where the guy who was actually involved in the play, and had total access to the truth, was completely forgotten?

Well, I can give you a couple of reasons.

First, and very particular to this case, you gotta understand context and team dynamics.

Dewayne Wise is not an everyday player. Nobody is buying this guy’s jersey and wearing it with Yankee pride. He’s a bit player, a guy who fills in for others, mostly pinch-running or as a defensive replacement late in games. He hardly ever gets to hit. If I recall correctly, this was only the second time he’d started a game. Also, he’s the new guy.

What I’m trying to say is, I think it’s unfair to expect a Dewayne Wise to speak up after a call like that. He’s the new guy who’s finally managed to get some playing time and is doing better than expected, on a national stage, for the best team in the American League. There’s no way he’s going to jeopardize that by being Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes and risking his team’s chance at winning. It’s unreasonable to expect that of him.

Secondly, and much more generally speaking, umpiring is part of the game.

You tend to hear that from managers and players in post-game interviews, but mostly in a shrugging, what-can-you-do-about-it way. Nobody really talks about the flipside: umpires are another piece on the chessboard. Any player worth his salt is going to work the umpire just like you work the pitch count. Umpires are part of the game. They are there to be understood and analyzed and have their weaknesses exploited just the same as any other part of the game.

If you can slap a tag on a guy running the bases, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the ball as long as the umpire thinks you do. If you’re a hitter and a pitch dings off the knob of your bat but it’s close enough that nobody but you can tell that it hit the bat and not your hand, it’s perfectly within your rights to gasp and wince and milk it for all it’s worth until the ump awards you first base.  Or if a pitch misses you completely but you hit the ground, grabbing your head and writhing in pain to fool the umpire—I got no problem with that. If you’re a catcher, it’s practically your job to make every pitch look like a strike, whether that means moving your glove after you catch it or setting yourself up a little to the left or a little to the right, or whatever works on this umpire. A story I heard once about Jim “Catfish” Hunter was about how he could “work the corners” — home plate is 17 inches wide, and he would start the game pitching on the very edges of those 17 inches, and incrementally pitch further and further out, until by the end of the game, he was pitching to a 25-inch zone. Dude is in the Hall of Fame for a reason.

So that’s how I see it. Yeah, blown calls suck when they don’t go your way. But umpires are human, and everyone is welcome to take full advantage of that. If that makes me a midget in the realm of morality, and an ethically-challenged evil Yankee fan, so be it.

But all’s fair in love, war, and baseball.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
You choose what to think about. And you may not feel that way every day, but the truth is, that you choose what you think about. It’s one of the few things that you can choose and it is—it’s kind of the definition, I think, of being a person. It’s that you have this weird gift of consciousness and you get to choose how you direct that gift. Like, how you direct your ability to think about things. So, if you choose to think about the relative health of the romantic relationships of The Situation, you’re making that choice. MTV is not making that choice for you, The Situation is not making that choice for you, you are making that choice. If you choose to think about astrophysics, you are making that choice. Every second of your definitionally temporary consciousness, you are choosing how you spend something that will not last forever. You are choosing how you spend your life, and it will be spent. And that’s a very serious thing that you have to try to take pretty seriously, even though, of course, much of our lives—because consciousness is kind of a burden—needs to be spent turning that off, which is, you know, why God made television. But we have this responsibility to ourselves, to each other, but also to the people who came before us and the people who will come after us, to think consciously about what we’re thinking about. And that was, in some ways the beginning of The Fault in Our Stars for me, was trying to think about, what I should be thinking about. Trying to think how I should be orienting my life, what should I value, what should I prioritize. And I grew up—and so did most of you—I think, in a world that values a very specific kind of heroism. The kind where you jump on a grenade to save your buddy, or you die heroically because your family says that you can’t marry the girl you want to marry, and you’re fourteen and somehow you think that’s a deal breaker?—which is the plot of Romeo and Juliet, I ruined it for some of you, sorry; I should have prefaced that with a spoiler alert, but if you haven’t read Romeo and Juliet, that’s your fault—or in another of our great epics of heroism, The Odyssey—which I’m also about to spoil for you, but it’s a good reading experience, regardless. There’s this dude, his name’s Odysseus, he does some good warring, top-notch warring, and it takes him a long time to get home, because a bunch of stuff happens, and then he finally gets home and his wife has a bunch of suitors, and the correct response to that situation is to be like, ‘Hey! I was gone for a long time, and there’s no text messaging, you didn’t know I was okay, like of course there’s a bunch of suitors living here, that’s cool, but suitors it’s time to head on out and, you know, find someone else’s house to occupy.’ And instead, what happens is that the palace floors course with blood, and that is your happily-ever-after ending. And Augustus Waters in this novel really buys into that idea of heroism, that idea that the best lives are lived on the biggest possible stage, and that the best lives are lived with an eye toward the grand heroic gesture, whether it be sacrificial or otherwise. That, like, the good life, by definition, is the big life. Well, I’m here to tell you that even the biggest lives are temporary, including the life of Odysseus, including the life of Romeo and Juliet, because, you know, we’re temporary. And if that’s the only way that we orient our lives, if that’s the only thing that we value, we’re doing ourselves, I think, a great disservice. So, I wanted to write The Fault in Our Stars because I wanted to write a story that was about the kind of small heroism that almost all of us are going to have to choose; very few of us will have the opportunity to jump on a grenade and save many, many people. The vast majority of us will have to find tiny ways to take care of ourselves and each other in the best ways that we can figure out how to do. And that’s really what The Fault in Our Stars is about, ultimately. It’s about these two kids and their parents trying to figure out how to take good care of each other and trying to figure out how to leave the best possible world for those who will come after, and also live a life that honors those who have come before. John Green, on The Fault in Our Stars at the Tour de Nerdfighting Event in Austin, Texas (21 January 2012)

(Source: atoska)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Little sister refused to read a book I recommended, so I offered to read it to her. 372 pages and several water bottles later, I get her to repeat after me: “I was wrong, you were right, I will take your book recommendations seriously from now on.”

Friday, January 27, 2012

Question of the day:

Ever have so many dreams in one night that you wake up more exhausted than when you went to sleep?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 Monday, January 23, 2012

Jealousy and Liking

I’m an incredibly jealous person.

Or at least I used to think I was. I know that I used to (and probably still do) evaluate people based on how much I envied them. I never felt like I had a handle on a new person until I’d pinpointed at least one thing he or she had that I wanted.

And there’s always something. Always. It can range from the superficial — hair color, eye color, a figure that looks great in clothes I can’t wear — to the practical — organizational skills, work habits, zippy typing — to the absolutely essential — breezy unselfconsciousness, dazzling originality, effortless humor, and various other categories of brilliance and energy and empathy.

But at some point, somewhere, somehow, I turned a corner. I can still probably look at anyone I know and tell you straightaway what they have that I don’t, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve got enough on my own. No, that’s a lie. I’ve got more than enough, WAY more. I look at myself now and I know that past-me would have looked at me and been so freaking jealous it would have driven her bonkers.

I really don’t know what happened. It probably had a lot to do with getting out of high school, surrounding myself with the right people, and letting go of my need to be liked.

Probably that last one most of all. There’s so much power in it, in the not needing to be liked.

I vividly remember the day it first started, in 11th grade when I brought my newly-published book to show my friends at their high school.

On the street corner just before I reached the building, I saw someone. A former student of my father’s, a grade above me, a girl I’d ached to impress in junior high because my father, who so rarely dispensed compliments to me about my work (though I’ve learned over time that he brags about me behind my back), could never say enough good things about her writing, so I knew it had to be something special.

All the years I’d known her, she’d ignored me when she was feeling charitable, and carelessly belittled me when she wasn’t. But I couldn’t shake the longing I felt for her approval.

And there I was, my first book in hand, published at the tender age of 17. And there she was, not noticing me in her walking mode, or not recognizing me with my shorter haircut. Right there.

I could go up to her and make her notice me.

Make her respect me.

Get her to treat me as an equal for the first time in her life.

The moment, the setup, was absolutely perfect.

And suddenly I didn’t need it anymore. Didn’t need to chase the approval of a girl who didn’t like me. Didn’t want it. She didn’t like me, and I didn’t like her. She’d never made me feel like I was anything more than garbage. I could fall over myself trying to win her over, or I could stop. Now.

I walked right past her without looking back.

So much power.

Nowadays, if I get the sense that someone doesn’t like me, I think less of them, not less of myself. And it genuinely throws me for a moment when friends of mine ask me if I think there’s something wrong with them just because so-and-so didn’t like them, and it takes a conscious effort on my part to put myself back into that mindset in order to empathize.

[Friends of mine, you are all awesome; you should never doubt yourselves for stupid reasons like that. Though I get it, I really do.]