in recent years

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the mortifying ordeal of 'get bent'

I take great pride in being unembarrassable. Incapable of shame. I think of myself as existing Above and Beyond the mortal realm of humiliation. Some of that’s an act, obviously, because I am still human despite my best efforts. But by committing to the act for so long, it’s become truer and truer as time goes on. I don’t get embarrassed at things that I know other people would and I’m often joyfully and enthusiastically willing to do dumb shit out loud and in public that would likely horrify other people. I just want to be myself. If other people don’t like it, well. That’s not really a me problem, is it?

So, recently, I made a tank top. I had envisioned this shirt — I wanted a floral print tank top, fairly femme, and I wanted big white iron-on letters spelling out GET BENT across the chest. I say and write, “Get bent” a lot. I like that it’s both pretty aggressive and weirdly inoffensive. I like that the delivery can really sell your meaning. I like that it’s kind of old school.

I wanted this shirt in time to go to a concert in Denver and Crystal helped me get it made in a hotel room in Wyoming since we don’t actually own an iron with which to iron-on letters. I got frustrated and wanted to quit, but she made me persist! Because she is a very good wife and carries me through when I try to wimp out on stuff.

So I made this shirt! And it turned out fucking great! And I wore it to the show in Denver for Frank Iero and the Future Violents! And I took a picture with the whole band in it! And I have worn it a couple times since, including to see Ghost in Minneapolis and Ludo in St. Louis and I’ve gotten a bunch of compliments on it! Especially from drunken middle-aged women! Including a couple who have gently grabbbed me in the friendly way that only women can and went, “GET BENT! HA! That is GREAT!” And I get the bonus of getting to watch men look at my chest, read it, then look up at my face as they interpret it as a message for them and that is… Transcendent.

So I have warm feelings for this shirt and I’m happy about its existence. But then, while perusing Tumblr as I am now occasionally wont to do because the whole internet is a wasteland and who needs principles anyway, I came across a picture of the Frank Iero from Frank Iero and the Future Violents playing with his Future Violents about a week before I saw them in Denver. In the photo, he is holding his guitar flipped up against him so the back is showing. (He often puts words on the back of his guitars — numbers, his kids’ initials, whatever — so not unusual to see writing there.) But on this guitar… It says… Get… Bent…

Frank Iero And. You know. Coincidences, right?! Frank Iero and I have… similar tastes? We are… close in age? It is… Not weird! That we would both! Be partial! To the phrase! Get bent!

But also, Frank Iero was/is (DON’T GET ME STARTED! The last week has been WILD.) a member of My Chemical Romance and has fans who are… Very Devoted! And they sometimes dress up like him and/or his My Chemical Romance bandmates! And then go to his shows! With his new band! And would probably very much make a shirt that said something he had put on one of his guitars!

And… while I love and respect these fans Very Much because they are, let’s face it, the ones who make the gears turn, the machines work, the reunions happen, I am… Just… Not one of them. Which is fine! I am obsessive and devoted in my own way!

But the idea… that Frank Iero might have looked at this shirt I was wearing while I was PAYING TO MEET HIM (An already, admittedly, kind of mortifying thing to do!) and which I had very clearly made myself… And thought I did it… Because he has that same phrase… on one of his guitars… … …

The Retroactive Embarrassment…. My soul left my body… I transmuted briefly into a toad as if cursed by a wizard I had wronged… I curled so deeply into myself that I returned to my fetal form… When what was left of my soul finally returned to my wombless wormy body, I burst outward into Humiliation Fireworks and then slowly returned to the earth as embers and ash… My body reassembling piece by piece… Even now, thinking about it, the molten lava of residual shame is the only glue holding me together.

I’m still gonna keep wearing it though.

to the stars

I love space.

I have always known that I would never go to space.

I was an uncoordinated, fat kid who didn’t trust the military (Of course there are civilian astronauts. Lots of them! Neil Armstrong even, technically!) and I knew I would never have the discipline for it.

But I have always wanted to be part of the space program.

More than any other dream I’ve ever had — publishing a book! writing a movie! — I wanted to help explore space. It was my second dream job — edged out by paleontologist because, dinosaurs are amazing obviously — and the first I knew, almost as soon as I dreamed it, that I could never do.

Space is incredible. Vast and beautiful and endless. Every single thing we learn about space teaches us something important, but also opens us up to even more knowledge, to an even more expansive universe than we previously imagined, to an infinity so broad it’ll break you if you think about it too hard.

And I wanted to be part of it more than almost anything I have ever wanted.

And I knew I never, ever could.

Math and I have always been enemies. My lowest grades were always math. I had to repeat high school algebra. I preemptively took the ACT, well before I took the SAT, because I’d heard that the math was easier and I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D that my SAT score wouldn’t hit the minimum to avoid college placement tests. (It didn’t.) I didn’t want to struggle through at least 3 quarters of remedial math before also struggling through college algebra. (My ACT did.) I had to take a no-credit in my college algebra class because I couldn’t hack it. I ended up taking a logic class to satisfy my one single math requirement. I don’t think my final grade was very good. I excelled in sciences until they required math — here’s looking at you, high school chemistry — and I knew, deep down in the dark cave-like places where disappointment lives, that it would never get better. I would never make it through anything harder.

I took physics in college anyway, probably through a fluke of class requirements, availability, and timing, and it was torture. I understood the concepts, the ideas, the big stuff, the theoretical. I understood it and I liked it. I cared about it. Physics is… as close as humans get to magic. But the math bewildered and confused me. I tried. I read. I studied. I have never been a good studier, but GOD, did I try. I tried. And I just… couldn’t.

After putting in my second lackluster test performance, my very smart, very kind professor — a woman who worked for NASA and JPL and took students to the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Kennedy Space Center every year — asked me to stay behind after class.

I think I’d gotten a D and I was unhappily resigned. I wouldn’t call myself an overachiever, but with the exception of math, school had always been easy for me. Not just easy, but natural. It has always felt like learning was what I was supposed to be doing, the only thing I’ve ever been particularly good at.

This woman looked at me with this awful kindness, the kind that strips you down when you’re not expecting it, and she said, “You just. You can’t do this math, can you?”

And my breath caught in my throat because I’d had teachers who sympathized with my struggles before, ones who tried their best to help, but no one had ever, ever looked at me like they actually got it — that I was trying my absolute fucking hardest and I just could not do it.

And I just nodded.

She smiled at me, soft, and she told me she would do everything she could to give me partial credit so I could pass. And she did. And I did.

I took an astronomy class with her later, a class I anticipated and dreaded in almost equal measure, because I still loved space and because I wanted to learn about it, and she smiled and nodded at me when I took my seat at the front and some of the dread faded because I knew she still got it and I knew she had my back.

I cried after that class a lot. Because I love space. And learning so much about it — it was a surprisingly in-depth class for even an upper division entry-level — was moving, but also devastating because I knew this would be the end of organized space education for me. There was nowhere else for me to go.

She told me once, about midway through, as we went over a test after class that she had never had a student who so clearly and easily grasped and engaged with conceptual information, but who couldn’t do the math. It was the kindest, most flattering knife I’ve ever had through my heart.

I’ve always told people that, if the opportunity arose, even if I knew it was a one-way ticket to certain death, I would go into space. This is true every single day. This has never, even for like, one minute in my entire life been not true. To reach into the rich dark and see the limitless sea of our existence, to leave the bounds of earth, I would give my life. In a heartbeat. In a nanosecond. In a Planck second.

I won’t set foot on an airplane, but any space vessel will do.

The privatization of space exploration pains me. The increasing incuriosity of the American public and their unwillingness to fund NASA and further exploration of our universe is nauseating to me. We are so small in the scheme of everything and we have so much to learn. We are a species built from survival instincts and yet our curiosity compels us to do so much more, to learn so much, to seek out the edges of our universe and understand them.

Math may have defeated my dreams of exploiting that curiosity to its fullest. It may have even crushed my dreams, but it can’t stop me from learning. There is always more to know. And if Opportunity could outlive her mission by 14 years to teach us as much about Mars as she possibly could, we can be curious enough to learn something from her and curious enough to care about what comes next.

The static from your television is 1% residual radiation from the Big Bang. You and I and everyone we love, we are made of star stuff. We are the universe, walking and talking and seeking. Stay curious. Don’t stop learning.

intrusive religiosity

For about a year in the late 2000s, I became intensely devoted to crossing myself whenever I passed a cross.


 
This started with a steeple cross that was visible to me from the freeway on the drive home from my college. I often sat in a little clutch of traffic near it and it was lit at night, so I noticed it frequently, hovering over the wall that separated the speeding 210 from the neighborhood beyond.
 
I’m not religious. I’ve been to church less than a dozen times in my entire life. I’m unbaptized, un-saved, uncircumsised. I’ve been to Catholic mass once and I spent the entire thing staring at how super naked Jesus seemed on the cross, hanging morbidly above the Filipino priest’s head. I’m religiously curious, so I know a lot about rites and rituals. Plus I’m a writer and I like characters of faith, so I’ve done a lot of research over the years. I’m an atheist though. No waffling here: I don’t believe in god and I have no interest in church.
 
But this cross, it haunted me. I could feel the pull of compulsion each time I passed it, the little tug at me, like there was something my body, my hindbrain NEEDED to do, but I wasn’t getting the message. It probably took a month of this drive, two or three times a week, for me to figure out what it was. My right arm wanted to make the sign of the cross.
 
This is 1. hysterical because with all that lack of religious upbringing, I had no idea how to accurately make the sign of the cross, and 2. disturbing, because it was a compulsion with an intensity I had not yet experienced. I’ve had intensely intrusive thoughts my entire life (flashes of sudden injury, the desire to drive into oncoming traffic, having to back up from a rail because I wanted to jump – all the regulars!) but this was not that. And it wasn’t like the compulsive need to touch and smell things that I inherited from my mother. (Thanks, Mom!) It wasn’t going all the way back to my apartment or dorm door to make sure I locked it. Twice. I knew there were consequences if I left my front door unlocked. I didn’t have any identifiable fear or consequence of NOT crossing myself, I just realized that I had to do it and I had to do it real, real bad.
 
So I did.
 
It became a thing. I drove by this steeple, I crossed myself. Probably incorrectly, but it got the job done. I felt compelled first in my upper arm, then my elbow, then my fingers as I neared the cross. I’d cross myself and I’d feel the minor flood of elation at having satisfied the compulsion. I only crossed myself when I was traveling on the westbound side of the freeway because, I don’t know, these things just happen and the universe in which I live has all kinds of rules I just obey because that’s how it is. I also always did it with my fore and middle fingers extended, which had no reasoning either. It just felt right.
 
It was weird, but it wasn’t dangerous and it was only once a day, twice a week!
 
But then it started happening when I was eastbound as well.
 
And then it started happening any time I passed a large cross. Then any time I passed a church. Then any cross. Then cemeteries.
 
I was living in a Los Angeles suburb and commuting into the Inland Empire. I spent a lot of time in the car and I saw a lot of crosses and churches and cemeteries.
 
I knew it had become a problem when I had to come up with a way to cross myself SECRETLY.

I had started crossing myself so frequently (There are more than 40 churches just in the town of 40,000 where I lived.) that doing it with other people had become unavoidable.

I have been an outspoken atheist since I was thirteen years old, I couldn’t let my friends and family think I had suddenly become weirdly and confusingly Catholic. Also, I still – despite having access to the entire internet at my fingertips – had no idea if I was crossing myself correctly and being seen doing it incorrectly would have been HUMILIATING, obviously. I think I didn’t look it up because the compulsion didn’t want me to. My crossing was organic and it wanted to stay that way.
 
I had learned in like, the third grade, that crossing your fingers for luck came from persecuted Christians giving each other the what’s up, so I tried that. I didn’t like it. First of all, it’s not really an action, it’s an adjustment. Second of all, it didn’t satisfy my elbow or my shoulder. My fingers were okay-ish with the deal, but the rest of my right arm was Not Having It.
 
So I started drawing a cross on my thigh. It allowed for the motion of my entire arm, it seemed semi-holy, and it was pretty easy to do inconspicuously. And I did it A Lot.

The best way to end this story would be to tell you that someone busted me and I had an embarrassing breakdown about how I was an adult woman who couldn’t control my own weird, compulsive, faux-religiosity. Or maybe that the compulsion started to make me feel too out of control and so I forced myself to break it. But, sadly, this story just ends the way most idiot problems I have do: it just went away on its own.

#crashrocketship


soundtrack for this post

Today is six months since Crystal and I got hitched!

I am still honestly amazed by how much I L-O-V-E-D getting married. A group of forty people I really love who all showed up in the same place at the same time to stare at and listen to me talk? What a fucking dream!

I honestly don’t know how I got lucky enough to not only find a woman who has loved and adored me for more than eight years (and finally got her shit together and figured out she was actually in love with me eight years ago this month!) but also agreed to stand up and declare her love for me in front of a big group of people and then also promised to stay with me forever? When she hates public speaking and attention focused on her? What a champ, what a gift, what a wife.

And forty people who showed up to Las Vegas on a Friday the 13th for a 7pm wedding to cheer us on and throw confetti and get drunk and eat mad delicious burgers with us until midnight? I’m drowning in heroes over here.

The year of planning up to the wedding was mostly fun, but also torture. I learned a lot of stuff in that year, most of which can be summed up with: shit happens. And all those things that seemed huge and difficult at the time ended up either working out fine or not mattering at all in the end. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.

If you’re planning a wedding I have only one piece of advice: ELOPE. J/K. Mostly. Fuck it, nail it! It’s something I saw on a wedding blog (A Practical Wedding, probably) and immediately wrote on a post-it note I stuck to my computer where it still lives. It’s sort of become my life mantra, tbh. Need to make a decision? Say “fuck it” and nail it down.

And if you’ve found your person and you want to marry them? Do it!

PS: I uploaded a million more pictures and planned to make a way longer post with vendor info and all that jazz and I will (truly!) but we’re house-hunting right now and it makes me wish I lived in a cave with wifi, so you’ll have to forgive the continued delay! plz&ty you are the best

what’s up wednesday

I’ve been a terrible blogger! And I apologize! Because I love talking to you guys (and about myself, let’s be real) and miss it immensely! (I also just miss BLOGS so much. I love EVERY POST I see from Rae and Kimmie and the few other people I follow who still get out there and share about their lives! DAMN THE MAN, SAVE THE BLOG!)

Anyway, Crystal and I get married in TWENTY-THREE DAYS which means that we leave to make the drive to Vegas in just EIGHTEEN DAYS so I’ve been basically losing my mind once every hour because I am very ready to be MARRIED, but I am not ready to have a WEDDING even though I am super amped and L-I-V-E to host parties tbh. I guess when you get married you’re supposed to like, pay attention to your partner and be in love and stuff and probably not perform and try to make everyone ELSE love you the whole time? What’s the point, man?

Also! My sister HAD A BABY and it turns out falling in bananas auntie-love with your SUPER ADORABLE NEPHEW can be really time-consuming. Who knew?

this is my nephew oliver! he's so cute it kind of makes me barf and i love it. #latergram

A photo posted by ash rocketship (@ashrocketship) on

So aside from wedding planning and trying to be a Serious Adult about skincare so that I can look passably attractive in my wedding photos* and taking lots and lots of aquacise classes because they are my FAVORITE THING I’ve done this year, I’ve been reading a lot and traveling a bit and getting tattooed and watching documentaries because I’ve officially become an old person and it’s WONDERFUL. I’ve had ALL clear biopsies since my diagnosis in February of last year (which rules!) and I’ve bought a bunch of jeans (some of them in an actual brick-and-mortar STORE like a PERSON) and a giant new cellphone that’s almost obnoxious enough to be embarrassing and also lots of make-up and I have SO MANY favorites to catch-up on with you it’s probably embarrassing.

I’ll leave you with a short list!

RIGHT NOW:

Reading: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang & Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman & A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. (Let’s be friends on GoodReads!)

Hearing: Spotify because I’m still riding out my 99¢ three month trial period & lots and lots of our wedding music (No DJ! Curating my own pre and post ceremony playlists! Terror!) & The Weeknd because I am alive in 2015 like the rest of you.

Seeing: Several of Kimmie’s documentary recommendations including Iris and 20 Feet from Stardom & Grav3yardgirl on Youtube & iZombie.

What have YOU guys been up to?! I miss you!

*: If you do any eyebrow grooming, do you find that that you have one good and one bad eyebrow? My left eyebrow is so good, but my right’s a dumb jerk. What’s that about?