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Robert Pattinson and the Myth of the Byronic Hero

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Okay, so Dad’s on an airplane to Dubai, en route back to Bagram, and things are back to normal at my house.  I’ll be going back to my dorm tomorrow night.  In the meantime, I thought I’d try to alienate a potential audience.

Better writers than me have puzzled out Twilight’s confounding popularity.  I’m not here to do that.  I have never read the books, though I have read excerpts online, and can confirm that Stephenie Meyer’s prose has a chemical makeup similar to ipecac.  I have also never seen the movies.  When I was at Millsaps, several of my friends saw the first movie multiple times, and I considered going with them just to see what the fuss was about.  Ultimately I decided not to, partially because I knew I’d be a huge wet blanket, and partially because I was a wee bit frightened of its strange power.

I’m a teenage girl too, after all.  Nobody seems to understand why Twilight has the effect on people that it does.  What if I turned into another glazed-eyed zombie fangirl?  I’m not immune to guilty pleasures.  I’m sitting here now writing about Twilight, so clearly I’m fascinated by it.  I’d like to think that my fascination with Twilight comes from the same place as my love of “Manos” The Hands of Fate, but what if I’m wrong?  What if there’s something hormonal or evolutionary in women that causes them to irrationally adore such tripe, regardless of their otherwise feminist beliefs and empowered lifestyle?

Regardless, I can tell you that the blogger Miss Banshee’s recap of the New Moon film is hilarious on many levels, and I highly recommend it to anyone not quite curious enough to subject him/herself to actually seeing the damn thing firsthand.

For honesty’s sake, I should probably admit that I, too, find Robert Pattinson attractive.  When he has been manhandled into a shower and through a hair and makeup department, he’s almost knee-weakening on a physical level.  I can understand why a lot of lonely teenage girls (and mothers, ew) have photos of his brooding face plastered on everything they own.  After all, when you don’t have anything better, what’s the harm in a cheap thrill?  I’m lucky enough to have a very nice boyfriend (and in any case, I prefer Cillian Murphy), but to each her own.  I’m only bothered when these fantasies affect real life.

Robert Pattinson obviously has an army of stalkers because they think he is Edward.  These stalkers are not necessarily the same people who have his face plastered on their belongings, but the two groups do overlap.  Rationally, most of them know that Pattinson ≠ Cullen, but they just want it to be true so badly.  I know this because I was once horrified (embarrassment alert) to discover that Elijah Wood was far from the noble, innocent character that Frodo is (I was twelve, okay?!?).  I learned my lesson about celebrity hero worship, and someday the sane among them will, too.  He’ll get old and saggy, and so will they, and the world will continue on its merry way.  This is the way celebrity crushes have gone since women flung their petticoats at Henry VIII’s passing litter [citation needed].

Pattinson is a particularly acute case.  Taylor Lautner is less remarkable, because he is, frankly, a boring person.  His life doesn’t provide good paparazzi fodder, with the exception of that romantic interlude with the equally boring Taylor Swift, and it doesn’t remotely resemble that of his Twilight stereotype character. Robert Pattinson is a totally different story.  Every news story that details his exploits with Technicolor vividness fuels the fire of the Pattinson mythos.

He is simultaneously the polar opposite of the character that made him famous, and eerily similar to it.  He matches the alcoholic exploits of Lindsay Lohan with the tortured persona of Edward Cullen.  Fans love him, and they want so badly to save him from himself, a la Bella.  So they read every article about him, even the unflattering ones.  The paparazzi profit, so they continue to publish embarrassing stories about him.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Some people speculate that Pattinson encourages media coverage of his foolishness, in an attempt to repel his legions of stalkers.  If this is true, DUDE, IT’S NOT WORKING!  Instead, he’s turning himself into a Byronic hero.

So here’s where I’m truly confounded.  I can tease out some information about the dynamics of Twilight fans, but I’m totally in the dark about the larger appeal of the Byronic hero.  I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, have seen the movie version of Jane Eyre with Anna Paquin, and even went through a brief stage of being obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera.  The Phantom was sympathetic to me mostly because I know what it’s like to feel like a freak, but I only find Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy attractive once he begins behaving like a non-shitty human being, and Mr. Rochester (as played by William Hurt) mostly makes me roll my eyes.  As for Heathcliff, I’d prefer that he be pushed from a particular tall specimen of his namesake geographical feature.

I guess nice guys really do finish last, because I seem to be in the minority in my opinions of these and other literary bad boys-cum-romantic icons.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why this is true.  Does it just not register that one of the most appropriate synonyms for “Byronic hero” is “asshole”?

If anyone happens to read this, I beg you, TO THE COMMENTS!

And in the meantime, leave Robert Pattinson alone.  He’s pathetic and, furthermore, really bizarre.  If he gets any worse, he’ll be the next Britney Spears.  And who wants that?

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Written by Estie

March 23, 2010 at 3:57 am

Apologies and Crudeness

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I know, I know, I haven’t posted all week.  I’ve barely begun this blog, and have already fallen into slackerdom.  I’m DEEPLY surprised, because that’s TOTALLY not how I approach every other area of my life.  I am a paragon of enthusiasm and commitment.  Honestly, sometimes I lie awake at night because I am so excited about everything I have promised to do.

The end of my nose just collided with the computer screen.  And here I promised myself I wouldn’t tell lies on this blog.  For shame.  For double shame!

In my defense, I really have been spending every spare moment with my dad.  I even stayed at home this week, instead of at my dorm, in order to get maximum Quality Time.  I am such a dutiful daughter!

This was the first hit I got on Google Images when I searched for "dutiful daughter."

We’re planning a trip to the United Kingdom this summer, and I am so excited I really am having trouble sleeping.  I have wanted to visit the U.K. since I discovered Harry Potter at eight years old.  That’s eleven years!  Now, as a college student, I am majoring in history, with a concentration in British history.  Some people describe themselves as Anglophiles, but I can’t really bring myself to do that.  Despite my somewhat serious interest in the history of the British Isles, most of the British things I love are kind of stupid.  So I prefer the more forgiving term “dork.”

British slang is legitimately the dog’s bollocks, though.

[/Seinfeld monologue]

Anyway, I’m a lazy person and it’s late, so I’ll just leave you with a charmingly short narrative about my brilliant Health and Exercise professor, who may actually be insane.

Students at CCU are required to take the course, which is nothing more than glorified P.E., in order to graduate.  In principle, I think it’s a good idea.  It is important for anyone to understand the basics of taking care of their body, and if people are going to end up paying around $160,000 to graduate from CCU, they’d damn well better be able to get a long lifetime’s worth of use out of that degree.  If you have a college degree, you really have no excuse for not understanding why hydrogenated oils are bad for you.

However, as I have just stated, I am a lazy person.  I also really, really like cake, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, brownies, and any other baked good with copious amounts of fats and refined sugars.  I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I drive like a granny, so give me a break!  There are worse vices I could have than one that just makes my thighs wobbly.  But to hear the man I fondly call Dr. Dipshit talk, I am setting myself up for a lifetime of pain, misery, and obesity, as well as an early death, every time I eat half of a Swiss Cake Roll.  This would irk me even if he were an otherwise perfect man.  But he’s about as close to perfect as I am to  mathematical genius.

One of his favorite things to do is rag on students for being obsessed with texting and Twitter, as if our generation’s bizarre and evil habits are going to be the death of us and the rest of the human race.  Every time he does this, I am impressed all over again by his maturity and worldly wisdom.  He is clearly the product of a golden age, long before the high-tech scourge was visited upon our land—

Oh, wait.  He’s 35.

He seems to think that anyone who has ever eaten a hot dog is personally responsible for his father’s untimely death at 57 from congestive heart failure.

He pauses class to yell at anyone who comes in late, even though our classroom is on the opposite side of campus from everything else.

He “helps” the ultra-flexible Volleyball player (who once exclaimed that she “HATES IT!” when people bigger than her beat her in half-marathons) stretch in the gym.

And he SLURPS when he talks.  Incessantly.

“Did you know that (shllllp) scientists predict that this generation of kids, (sssslup), your generation, is the first generation in ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY (sluuurpppppt) with a SHORTER LIFE EXPECTANCY THAN ITS PARENTS (SLLURRRUPRPTHTRFHRRRP)?!?”

I’ve met Saint Bernards who drooled less than he does.

Obviously he is cracking up.  All of the signs are there:  excessive sweating (and spitting), a short temper, and a case of Daddy Issues so huge it’s no wonder he’s obsessed with working out—it must take a lot of strength to carry those around with him.  Also, he is a WASPish-looking, successful-seeming smartypants and family man.  As we all know, those are always the first to snap.

Last week, I wrote an essay for him in which I joked, “the terrorists will not win if we take a little time for ourselves out of our days.”  I was talking about the problem of obesity in America.  He underlined it and wrote, “Who are the terrorists in your argument?”

And on Monday, he spent the entire 50-minute class lecturing with an enormous booger hanging out of his nose.

I, on the other hand, would know nothing about being insane.

Written by Estie

March 20, 2010 at 5:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Picaresque FINALE, and the insidious Seinfeld

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It seems that nearly every post I’ve written here has an opening monologue.  I have just noticed this, and I don’t know whether I like it.  Audience poll:  should I cultivate it as a fabulous new addition to my shtick?

Regardless, I suspect that I know from whence it came.

Hello, Jerry...

Oh my Christ, am I Newman?  Though I did not previously feel any kinship with him, his character as described by Wikipedia bears several resemblances to my own:

  • Often speaks in a humorously sinister tone
  • Impulsively protests the idea of any mail being “junk”
  • Tends to be bombastic and verbose
  • Loves food
  • Talents have so far eluded similar recognition to Jerry’s
  • AND my paternal grandfather worked for the Postal Service, so we are genetically linked.

Oh dear.

All of this evidence can only lead to one conclusion:  Seinfeld is insidious.  Cunning, sneaky, quietly powerful; a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It is a persistent cultural meme.  It is not as explosive as the Interrupting Kanye, but it is nevertheless omnipresent.

Seinfeld is ostensibly a show about nothing.  But by being about nothing, it is simultaneously about everything.  That is why it’s insidious.  While we’re watching weeknight reruns, cringing at 90’s fashion and Jason Alexander’s negative sex appeal, Seinfeld subliminally worms its way into our brains.  We think it’s a sitcom, the sole purpose of which is to shut our brains off, but we are very, very wrong.  Eventually, Seinfeld takes over our subconscious.  We become Seinfeld zombies.

And we write 250 words about a canceled television show, instead of continuing to blog about our life stories.  And that is sad.

*

I am left handed, which endows me with special powers.  These powers are further enhanced by the fact that I have sharper-than-normal eyeteeth, and my second toes are longer than my first.  Also, I may have absorbed my twin.  One of my powers is the power of prophecy.

And now, for the benefit of my readers (all two of you…), I will prophecy:  In twenty years, medical schools will take over the world.

My powers allow me to know this, but perceptive Muggles may find evidence of it in the fact that half of the damn populations of all three of the colleges I have attended seem to be pre-med students.  (I told you I can’t do math:  add that up, and it makes three halves.)  Assuming every other college in the United States has similar demographics, the Congressional healthcare bill will soon be damn superfluous, and the U.S. population will soon have a frighteningly high percentage of smart, highly-educated sadists with God complexes.

And the best of these will come from Emory.

Because it is a top-20 university, Emory has a highly diverse student body.  Everybody has something that makes them special on the surface.  You could probably find a New Zealand-raised Palestinian kleptomaniac with a surgically-corrected cleft palate and a transgender parent somewhere among the undergrad and graduate student population of Emory, if you tried hard enough.

But if you gathered everyone in an auditorium and polled them, you’d find out that nearly everyone wants to be the next Sanjay Gupta.  In other words, wealthy, personable, famous, millionaire doctors with hot spouses.  Many twelve-year-olds also want to be those things.

I should stop to point out that I’m not trying to condemn Emory University in particular.  I suspect this is true of most top universities.  Furthermore, I am sure that there are many exceptions to the rule.  What I am railing against is the stereotype.  So please hear me out, okay?

In middle and early high school, I was socially awkward.  I was kind of a freak, to tell you the truth.  But by the end of high school (probably thanks to those fantastic SSRIs), I had learned how to make friends.  But I really didn’t make many at Emory.  This was not for lack of trying; it was just that, honestly, I preferred the company of my Sims to the company of my classmates.

(I named one Sim baby Pootbrick, and she grew up to be the coolest person ever.)

This is going to sound horrifically snotty and holier-than-thou, but most of the people I met were repulsive.  Even the ones who didn’t smell of tuna salad.  My impression of them was that they were obsessed with gossiping, social status, and money. At their best, they behaved like high schoolers, and at their worst, like the cast of Gossip Girl.

Example:  my English class, taught by a totally awesome guy named Dr. Galle, was full of the sound of crickets, i.e. silence.  Nobody ever talked except for me, my roommate Hira (not the tuna salad one), and Dr. Galle.  Okay, I know most of the students at Emory are scientifically-minded and were taking the course to knock out a graduation requirement, but come on.  These kids are supposed to have SAT scores that are higher than Amy Winehouse.  Need I remind you that two of the three components of the SAT are verbal and writing?  They should at least be able to bullshit their way through a class discussion of Huckleberry Finn.

Honestly, I think the other students were afraid of getting the wrong answer.  This makes me feel a little sorry for them.

In order to get into top universities, you have to have spent your entire childhood being groomed for it.  There are rules you have to follow, which over time become so deeply ingrained that they become part of your character.  You learn to always know the right answer, always make 100%, always do everything correctly.  But English isn’t like that:  there are no right answers, and the best work tends to result from breaking the rules.  That’s scary.

*

I think the real problem is that I can’t handle highly competitive people.  They never seem to have any emotional depth, and even when they do, they seem to be doing their utmost to conceal or destroy it.  They are so consumed with displaying the various ways in which they have “won” at life.  At some level, they seem to realize that it’s hard to display winning at being a good person, and that accordingly falls by the wayside in favor of other goals.

You’d think it would have taken me fewer than thirteen years, forty thousand dollars, and countless thousands of miles to realize that I don’t want to be a Smart Person after all.  I don’t like them, and I don’t like what I become when I think of myself as one of them.  And I don’t think they like me, either.

I’ve decided I don’t believe in dignity, or status diplomas, or Smart People.  All I really believe in is being happy, and for whatever crazy reasons, Country Club University makes me happy.

Well, Punky helps with that too.

Written by Estie

March 13, 2010 at 5:59 am

Picaresque pt. 4

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It’s Spring break! Woohoo!  Punky hit the ‘nip at eight o’clock Saturday morning, and she’s been raging ever since.

If you didn’t guess, I am at the fabulous party destination of My House, where things are gettin’ all wild and crazy because my dad just got home!

He keeps falling asleep sitting up because South Carolina is eight hours behind Bagram time.  At first he was in an armchair, so it was no big deal.  But the last four times it’s happened he’s been in my brother’s desk chair.  This introduces slightly more danger to the situation, as the chair has no arms and is near a treadmill with many corners and metal parts.  If I were in Dad’s position I’d just go to bed for the next sixteen hours, but apparently such behavior is a sign of weakness.  Now that I think about it, I used to get jet lag when I traveled between South Carolina and Mississippi.  And as you know, I am a total pansy, so maybe the two are connected.

I finally did convince him to go to bed.  I pointed out that it would suck to spend his time at home suffering from a concussion instead of doing fun things like going hiking and letting Mom drag him off to IKEA to look at sinks.  I think what really convinced him, though, was the memory of the last time he ended up incapacitated on the floor in the company of his immediate family. This memory does not give the impression that we are good company during a medical crisis.

He and my brother, who was three at the time, had engaged in a duel with a pair of toy lightsabers in the hotel room at Disneyland.  I will not describe precisely what occurred next, but I will remind my readers that three-year-old children’s prime striking zone is exactly at crotch level.  As my dad rolled on the floor, in too much pain to speak, my brother and I sat on him, bouncing up and down and demanding that he stop playing dead so that we could perhaps hit him again.  Our mother would have restrained us, but she was laughing too hard to get out of her chair.

Okay, so that was thirteen years ago.  But I hear tell that the mere memory of such pain can override all rational thought.  Besides, we probably would still laugh at him, once we’d ascertained he still had a pulse.  And Punky would most likely sit on him.

I took a nasty fall down the stairs last summer.

No matter how amusing I find the cruelty that runs rampant at my house, as the title of the post indicates, I am now obligated to continue my tale.  So!  Oxford of Emory.

I spent the first month or so in a state of supreme self-satisfaction.  Every room in the dorms had that stupid torch logo on the number placard, which served as a constant reminder that I was now certified as one of the Smart People.  The only thing keeping me from becoming unbearably smug was the knowledge that I still wasn’t at “real” Emory, and probably couldn’t have gotten in if I’d tried.  I was only a second-rate smartypants.

This distinction stemmed more from my own flaming insecurity than from any actual persecution.  Oxford isn’t really Emory’s red-headed stepchild.  Some of the Oxford kids get into the downtown campus as well, but elect to go to Oxford for a small college experience first, as sort of a best-of-both-worlds kind of thing.  The students at the downtown campus are aware of this, so they keep their shunning of Oxford residents to a minimum (though they don’t abstain from it completely).

However, as time dragged on, my sense of smell overpowered my sense of satisfaction.  My roommate suffered from a laundry list of psychological ailments, including agoraphobia.  She tended to avoid going to the cafeteria, as it was large and full of people and made her twitchy.  I am a Zoloft-taker myself, so I can understand the need to avoid psychologically stressful situations.  I did not mind her eating most of her meals in our room.

But dear lord, did she have to eat tuna salad at EVERY MEAL?  And was she frightened of showers too, or did she just have poor hygiene?  I bought a plug-in air freshener, but it didn’t change the fact that our dorm and everything in it smelled like the seat cushion of my great-grandmother’s wheelchair.  It clung to my clothing, and lurked in the depths of my purse like a stubborn miasma.  It was truly foul.

I spent two weeks consulting with various campus professionals about the best way to address the problem of body odor in a person who has been hospitalized twice for psychiatric treatment.  I became plagued by dreams of her chasing me, in a murderous rage, wielding a samurai sword.  Ultimately, because I am a pansy, I decided to just change rooms.  I told her that the reason I was moving was to take advantage of the opportunity to live in the new dorms.  This was partially true.  Just not totally.

After that little hiccup, things should have gone more smoothly.  Instead, I began to sleep through my classes.  It’s usually a struggle for me to get out of bed—it’s a shame there are no careers in sleeping, because I am a champion sleeper—but once I do get up, I’m usually glad I did.  Not so at Oxford.

At first I thought it was my usual difficulty with new places and people, though that usually subsides after the first three weeks or so.  I became more involved in extracurricular activities, trying to find something that would make my days feel worthwhile.  Nada.

Next, I wondered whether I was suffering from a new bout of depression, perhaps as a sort of karmic retribution for the shitty way I’d treated my former roommate.  She seemed to know I had ulterior motives for changing rooms, judging by the dirty looks she shot me every time I saw her. That, or she had Katrina de Voort syndrome.

I knew the steps for declaring insanity, having followed them my junior year of high school, when I was prescribed the Zoloft I mentioned earlier.  I made an appointment to talk with a counselor in the student health center, but their schedule was so packed with regulars I had to wait two weeks for an opening.  This was frustrating.  However, it gave me time to consider whether I was actually going crazy again.

I came to the shocking conclusion that I was not.  I just really, really hated Emory.

Spoiler for next time:  smart people can be shallow, too!

Written by Estie

March 9, 2010 at 5:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Picaresque, pt. 3

with one comment

Now that you know everything about my current and former pets, I suppose it’s time to return to the topic at hand….

First, you should know that if you’re disgusted with me thus far, you’re not the only one.  I could try to defend myself by pointing out that I was young and stupid, but as all of this occurred last year, that’s not the greatest argument.  So, okay, I’m a bad person.  Moving on.

It turns out that I did manage to get in to Oxford of Emory.  I don’t know if it was the essay, which was full of bitterness and regret about my neglect of mathematics, or the fact that I worked my ass off and managed to get straight As at Millsaps.  Regardless, it sure was nice of the Oxford people to wait until the last week of winter break to let me know.  To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if someone had managed to shove a lump of Christmas coal up my ass, in two weeks they’d have gotten a diamond.

Oxford of Emory is a weird little place.  It’s called Oxford because it’s in Oxford, Georgia, and also because they can piggyback on Oxford University‘s reputation.  When big Emory moved to Atlanta proper, they converted their old campus into a sort of a feeder school into Emory.  It’s supposedly dedicated to the liberal arts, but in my exalted opinion that’s a heap o’ crap.  The liberal arts don’t tend to flourish when everybody’s pre-med.

Basically what happens is, if your test scores or extracurriculars or other essential benchmarks of personal worth are not quite up to the standards of big Emory, the admissions officers might decide to admit you to Oxford instead.  After spending your freshman and sophomore years at Oxford, you automatically move to the Atlanta campus to finish your undergraduate degree.

“It’s just like Emory!” they claim, “Only smaller!”

The tuition is slightly cheaper, too, but still not below $40,000 a year.  Oh, and good luck trying to get scholarships!

Regardless, when I toured the place in October 2008, I decided it was perfect for me.  The girl who led our tour was a freshman, but she was cool and friendly and from Oregon, which gave her extra points in my book.  She’d spent a gap year doing something related to poor people in Latin America, because her parents could pay for it she was just that good of a person.

If she was the typical Oxford student, I’d have zillions of cool friends!  We’d have clever yet unpretentious chats about, like, literature and stuff!  Their conversation would be so stimulating, I’d be able to pen a smart contemporary novel within six months of graduating!

ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!

Okay, so I wasn’t quite that naive.  But I was looking forward to being surrounded by certified Smart People.  It was a bonus to the fact that in three and a half years, I’d have a diploma from Emory University to hang on my wall.

With that diploma, I’d never have to doubt myself again.

*

My dad is addicted to workahol.  In high school, he held down two jobs, in addition to playing football for Dorman High School.  Now he’s an engineer.  Though my parents are still married, Dad has lived and worked on the road for most of my life, coming home as often as distance allowed.  As the economy began circling the drain, that distance seemed to get greater and greater.

Right now, he’s living on an Air Force base in Bagram, Afghanistan.  He and his coworkers are in charge of running and expanding the base, while the actual military personnel fight the war.  He lives in a six-by-eight foot hut and sleeps on a cot.  He comes home for two weeks once every three months.  But hey, the pay is good!

Blah blah blah, this is what’s wrong with the American Dream, yadda yadda Daddy Issues, etc.

Except not really.  I have a few zillion neuroses, but I don’t think any of them are my dad’s fault.  I know he feels guilty for missing out on the minutiae of my childhood, but he was there for the important things like spelling bees, poetry readings, and my high school graduation.  He taught me to ski and to change my oil.

And he told me this story:

“My parents always said they’d pay for me to go to any college I wanted,” he said, “As long as it was Wofford.”

Neither of his parents had a college degree.  His dad worked at the post office, and his mom did secretarial work.  They lived with my great-grandmother until my dad was around ten years old.  On their income, they still managed to cover college tuition for my dad and both of his siblings, as well as medical school for my uncle Fordham.  As far as I can tell, they did this by driving the same Rustoleum-ed Plymouth for 30 years and subsisting on scavenged mushrooms and barnyard offal.

(Scrambled calf’s brains?  Vile!  And they wonder why they have high cholesterol.)

So of course, my dad appreciated what they’d done for him, but he’s an engineering type and Wofford is a liberal arts college.  He majored in mathematics, but he’s had some difficulty finding work in his chosen field because he doesn’t have an undergraduate degree in engineering (plus he took and passed the P.E. exam without going to grad school, but that’s his own fault).

He told me that he worked so hard, and was gone so often, because he was going to do me and my brother one better:  if we could get into the college, he’d pay for us to go there, no strings attached.

If he hadn’t kept that promise,  you wouldn’t be skimming through reading the tale of my grand college adventure with such marginal great interest.  So thanks, Dad.  Every great freeloader artist needs a patron!

*

Failure in the writing world is more frequent than success.  Many good writers who do end up being published are Ivy League graduates, from Sylvia Plath to Jonathan Safran Foer, and a lot of authors who (should) go unpublished went to, um, Brigham Young University. This is a terrifying prospect, but before you go crank up the Cure and hide under your bed, consider this:

If you feel better, don't read the next paragraph.

The thing about tried-and-true wisdom is that after a few million repetitions, it starts to sound stupid.  Anyone from Albus Dumbledore to the Swedish Chef could have told me that it didn’t really matter where my degree came from, but it would have taken a Memory Charm or a good whack to the head with a rolling pin to make me believe them.

I was not the best writer in my class at the Governor’s School, not by a long shot.  Those were some seriously gifted people, y’all.  One of them got published in Poetry magazine the month after we graduated.  But I’m not bitter, no, not me.  Not a bit.  No sirree.

(AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHH!)

It was so easy for me to imagine myself at fifty, sitting alone and wondering how different my life could have been if I’d graduated from Emory instead.

So in the last days of winter break, I dragged all my crap out of Millsaps and moved into a dorm at Oxford College that smelled EVEN MORE like nursing home than the previous one.

Do you believe in signs?

Written by Estie

March 4, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Posted in College, Me

Entr’acte

with one comment

Meet Punky.

She’s not your normal cat.

She is my cat.

Punky was raised by Oreo, despite Oreo’s best attempts to have nothing whatsoever to do with that upstart kitten who dared to nuzzle all over her face and purr.

We’re not sure Punky thinks she’s a dog, but we’re pretty sure she doesn’t think she’s a cat.

She likes to chase her tail.  When guests come over, instead of hiding, she jumps into their laps.  She doesn’t mind being turned upside-down, cradled like a baby, or poked repeatedly.  She comes when called.  She licks people a lot.

She’s afraid of my fake beard and my pink gorilla suit.

Halloween 2009 was my personal best.

Not much else fazes her, except for falling in the bath.

Oh, and the reindeer cat hat I purchased for her this Christmas.  She didn’t like that either.

My friends tease me for going home on the weekends, especially when I tell them that it’s to see my cat.  I mean, I love my family and all, but I can deal with seeing them, like, once a month.  I miss Punky.

She’s beeyoutiful.  Even though she has a fat, saggy belly that swings like a church bell when she runs.

When the other girls who live on my residence hall talk about how many kids they want to have someday, I talk about how many cats I want.  (No more than five, with a dog or two for good measure.  I fully plan to be a crazy cat lady.)

But I know there will never be another one quite like Punky.

Written by Estie

March 2, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Posted in Me, Not College

Tagged with , ,

Picaresque, pt. 2

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Fun fact:  I am a prematurely old lady.  This partially explains why I prefer going to bed at a reasonable hour to partying, and why I am so fond of pretending that I know anything about anything.  However, I am technically still a teenager, despite my elderly personality.  So I am forced to substitute pictures of my pets for pictures of my nonexistent grandchildren.

I like animals better than kids anyway.  It works out.

In case you were wondering, this is what my most beloved border collie-spaniel mix Oreo looked like:

I still miss her.  She was a good dog.

But the narrative must go on!

My teacher George promised to help me fix my college predicament, while I sniffled and sobbed and contaminated his office with no small amount of my snot.  Looking back, I’m not entirely sure what I thought he could do.  This is a man who dresses like a homeless person and openly mocks those in positions of authority.  He smokes behind the dumpsters outside school and collects baculums.  One day, he brought a cooler full of live clams to class, and made us practice catching by throwing them across the room at us.  He’s just not the type of guy who’d be adept at bargaining with admissions officers.

However, he might be a little bit magical.  Because, the very next day, an admissions representative from Millsaps College dropped by.  George pulled me out of class to go speak to her.

The logical explanation for this turn of events is that since Millsaps has rolling admissions, they send their admissions reps around one last time in April, to pick up stragglers like me.  It was just a lucky coincidence that this bouncy young redhead named Emma showed up the day after doomsday.  George must have put in a good word, because Emma all but promised that if I could get an application to her within the next week, I’d have a spot at Millsaps come fall.

You know what I think about logical explanations?  BO-RING!  Let’s dispense with coincidence and pretend I’m the fairytale princess I wanted to be when I was small.  George is perfect Fairy Godmother material, right?

*

Once upon a time, way back during the first quarter of my junior year, George assigned our class a short story by a guy named Rick Bass.  The story’s called “Cats and Students, Bubbles and Abysses.”  I forget what we were supposed to learn from it; probably something about Voice.  What I do remember is that the main character really hated his roommate, who thought he was hot shit because he graduated from Millsaps.

“What’s Millsaps?” a girl asked, wrinkling her nose.  She was the type who’d apply to every college in the Ivy League (but unlike me, would actually get in).

“It’s in Mississippi,” said George.  “I got a coupla writer buddies who went there.  It’s not bad or anything.”

George makes a living writing about the South.  He bemoans the slow disappearance of the kind of southerners who populate the works of Flannery O’Connor and her peers.  Southerners like my great aunts, who worked in mills and drank Royal Crown cola and set their hair with stale beer, and who speak like they just wandered off the set of Gone with the Wind.

“Southern lit is disappearing!” George railed.  “Who cares about people who live in New York City?  They’re not interesting.  The guy who sells face jugs at the jockey lot is interesting.  Write what you know!”

Yet I still dared to tell him that I hadn’t applied to a single school east of the Mississippi River or south of the Mason-Dixon.  No wonder that when he played Pink Floyd backward and waved his magical raccoon baculum, he sent me to Millsaps!  That school would be in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico if it were much further south.

My fairy godmother might be willing to do me a favor, but in doing so, by god, he’d teach me a lesson too.

*

The weekend after I graduated from high school, my mother and I took the nine hour drive from Greenville to visit Jackson, so that I’d have some idea of where I was supposed to live come fall.  As we crossed from Georgia through Alabama, the towns became fewer and farther between.  The humidity rose (from around 90 to 95 percent…Greenville is in the South too).  We began to see dead armadillos on the shoulders of I-20.

“We call those possums on the half shell!” Emma informed us later.

“I think I hear banjo music,” said my mother.

We drove through a solid hour of forest before we arrived on the outskirts of Jackson, the treeline broken only by the muddy trickle of the Chunky River.  The next morning, we toured Millsaps.

The students had already gone home for the summer, so the campus was eerily empty.  Emma had to turn on the lights in every building we entered.  I was trying to keep an open mind, but it was really hard when Emma pointed out a mossy mausoleum on the pathway between the liberal arts building and the chapel.

“That’s Major Millsaps’ tomb!” she said.  “He and his wife never had kids.  When they died, they were buried on campus, so they could always be near the students they came to think of as their children.”

I could end my story here, with a dire warning to high school seniors:  if you don’t pick a safety school, you’ll end up living out the opening scenes of a low-budget horror movie.  But honestly, that’s not fair to Millsaps.  I kinda liked it there.  The dorms smelled like a nursing home, and the cafeteria food was atrocious, but my professors were brilliant and I still miss the friends I made there.

For example…

My roommate was a Kazakh exchange student who polished off a 20-pound jar of pickles in two weeks and taught the frat boys to take flaming shots of Sambuca.  She shouted in Russian at her friends back home, via webcam, at 2:30 in the morning.  Her name was Kseniya.

I joined the Beekeeping Club, which didn’t have bees yet.  We mostly sat around listening to Duran Duran and planning elaborate fundraisers that would allow us to purchase said bees.  After a while the two founders would need a cigarette, so the meeting would disband.

My friend Kailey started a Quiz Bowl team! I joined, of course.  We spent my last weekend at Millsaps at the Admiral Ackbar Invitational quiz bowl tournament at the University of Alabama.

I took a class on the history of the U.S.S.R. that slightly changed my life.

And I saw a live crayfish!

    I would not by any means discourage anyone from attending Millsaps.  In the perfect vision of hindsight, I realize that the school itself was a better fit for me than I thought.  Jackson gets a little scary at night, and the dining options aren’t as posh as those in Greenville, but neither of those would have killed me (though one might have mugged me).

    I left anyway.  I felt that being successful at Millsaps, regardless of the effort it took, would have been a pyrrhic victory.

    A nagging little voice in the back of my head needed me to prove that I was better than everyone else, or else I would be a complete failure.  Going to Millsaps had bought me a little time, along with the chance to prove to admissions officers that I could be successful in college.  But graduating from there was out of the question.  Having to list Millsaps as my alma mater for the rest of my life just didn’t sound impressive.

    On the other hand, if I kept my grades up and wrote a killer essay, I just might be admitted to Oxford College at Emory University for the spring semester….

    Written by Estie

    March 1, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Posted in College, Me