The Problem With The Good Old Days

August 20, 2015

Good Old Days

Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.
Brené Brown

I have written and re-written an essay on “the good old days” a few dozen times over the years, but I can never bring myself to finish it because no one wants to hear a rant. I don’t want to hear a rant. Rants are for sad toddlers and sad uncles and sad Facebook feeds. Nine times out of ten, our deprecation is better left unsaid. There is a reason Mark Zuckerberg refuses to create a dislike button on Facebook. The world doesn’t need any more negativity.

Then all of a sudden we are defending Bill Cosby, chastising Harper Lee, and caring more about a dirty, old southern flag than actual human lives, so I’m going to say one quick thing tonight: There is no such thing as the good old days.

Humans did not behave any better or worse in 1810 or 1960 or after drunk Noah said, “Let’s start over, folks!” Every corner of every religious and historical text points to the fact that we are, and have always been, the worst.

Things we ignore to protect the good old days: literature, rape, racism, murder. We will literally ignore dozens of sexually abused women to protect our memories of a tv show personality. We also won’t read a book to protect our memories of a fictional character or take down a flag because hey, remember southern hospitality?

When our precious childhoods are at stake, we are willing to do almost anything.

The obvious problem with this is that if we are constantly putting our elders or history on a pedestal, we will only be disappointed. Humans have been being human for thousands of years. We are no better or worse than the very first man or woman who lied to get out of washing the loin cloths. There is no reason to be surprised when our youth pastor watches porn or when our grandpa turns out to be racist or when Joshua Duggar cheats on his wife. Bill Cosby was never our moral tour guide, Atticus Finch was never ours to have, and the confederate flag has never been anything more than a relic.

It’s okay to let go.

I know nostalgia is hard to avoid. I love nostalgia. Nostalgia is one of my love languages. It can also hold a lot of truth. We have so much to learn from those who have walked before us. Every generation has its wisdom; knowledge and understanding we’ve lost with the passage of time. The danger of nostalgia is that it can never really reflect the complete truth. This is why our childhood bedrooms will always look smaller and our memories of first grade colored by a single picture. We will never break the cycles of violence, oppression, or pain if we can’t admit our errors.

There is no such thing as the good old days. They were just days, some good and some bad. There is only the sweet smell of nostalgia and the hope that when we know better, we do better. Let’s keep trying.

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Book Review: Sick In The Head + Pretty Is

August 18, 2015

Judd

Hello readers. I’m back again with two great books you need to read this summer. One is non-fiction–a collection of interviews with great comedians that I read not once, but twice. The other is fiction. A novel about two girls and what happens when our truths change with time and distance.

As always, all reviews are spoiler free.

Happy Reading.

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1) Sick In The Head.

sick in the head

If You’re Looking For: Memoir, laughs

If You Like: Comedic technique, behind the scenes specials, Jerry Seinfeld, comedians, interviews, writers on writing, pop culture 

My Review: This isn’t a funny book, this is a book about funny. A glimpse into the mind of comedians. Over the past 30 years, Judd Apatow has put together a bona fide treasure trove of interviews with greats such as Jerry Seinfeld, Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Louis CK, and Jimmy Fallon. After I finished it, I immediately read it again and bought it as a belated Father’s Day gift for my dad. It is a goldmine for genuine comedy lovers and pop culture nerds (hey there). 5/5 stars.

Their Review: “Incandescent . . . an irresistible, ultimate-insider’s comedy-interview extravaganza . . . [Judd] Apatow never loses his unabashed fan’s enthusiasm even as he asks canny questions that yield superbly illuminating conversations rich in shop talk and musings on the lure, demands, and resonance of comedy.” —Booklist (starred review)

Quotable: “There are always people telling you that your experience doesn’t matter, that it’s navel gazing or unnecessary. ‘We don’t need to hear about twentysomething girls who feel like they’re ten pounds overweight. We don’t need to hear about forty-year-olds getting divorced.’ But we do need to hear it, because…it can be the difference between someone feeling like they have a place in the world and someone feeling they don’t.”

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2) Pretty Is.

pretty is

If You’re Looking For: Page Turners, drama, suspense, “chick-lit/thriller hybrid of the more literary variety”

If You Liked: Room, The Lovely Bones, Sharp Objects, Big Little Lies, Rabbit Back Literature Society 

My Review: Maggie Mitchell is really great at picking book titles. She’s also great at storytelling. I read this book, her debut novel, in two days. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of two women who were kidnapped when they were twelve, slowly revealing the details of their abduction and aftermath as adults. Their voices are strong but different, and as the story unfolds, we are left wondering how time has changed what is truth and what is a memory. Pros: Dramatic, well-written, readable even if you have a sensitive mom heart (me). Cons: Slow to end. In short, add it to your end of the summer reading list. 4/5 stars.

Their Review: “[A] stunning, multilayered debut . . . . with a great deal of intelligent, beautifully written panache. . . . What a satisfying novel, with its shifting perspectives and competing stories and notion that our relationship to the truth changes with time and distance.” –The New York Times

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Up Next: Her & Everything I Never Told You

Exercise: A Like Story

August 13, 2015

clueless

Once upon a time I was never in shape. Not in middle school or high school or in the college fitness center where I pretended to work-out but was really just reading a People magazine and checking out the dude situation. I’ve been thin, but never athletic. A size four, but never able to run a mile without taking a 30 minute “allergy break.” Sports were just never my thing. Instead I was a choir, musical, yearbook nerd with body issues. It all worked out okay, but being in shape has never been on my radar.

This is the part of the story where you insert a BUT THEN anecdote featuring a before-and-after photo and magical juice blend squeezed from a zebra’s liver.

Not today, folks!

I did join our local gym a few months ago, inspired by friends getting fit and a few terrifying heart disease infomercials. The day before I signed up, I tried to back out of it because:

1) I hate gyms.
2) Gyms are expensive.
3) Why don’t you just walk outside, dummy?
4) Locker rooms smell weird.
5) Other people will be there.
6) I’m too tired.
7) Exercise is boring.
8) I hate gyms.

I also have a bad track record of signing up for gym memberships and then never going back to actually exercise. At least twice I have called a corporate headquarters to get out of a one year contract due to “extreme circumstance” (I wanted to stay home and watch TV). There was a brief period in my early twenties when my friend Carrie and I would frequent a sketchy gym on the outskirts of town to use the elliptical for ten minutes and then sit in coin operated massage chairs. It was the best of times and the best of times.

Ultimately I decided to sign up and give it another try. My friends Natasha and Mo were doing it, and despite my crusty exterior, I’m a hopeless romantic for second and 15th chances. Also there’s childcare. Even if I just sit and slow pedal on a stationary bike with a book for an hour, that’s worth something–right?

BJ

Wrong. Much to my horror, Natasha and Mo did not want to slow pedal and talk celebrity gossip while our kids were in childcare. They didn’t even want to use the elliptical. THE ELLIPTICAL. Instead they insisted on taking classes because “It’s a better work out” and “We will sweat more” and “It will help us stay on task.”

Come to the gym, they said. It will be a nice break, they said.

The first class we do is Zumba. If you are unfamiliar with this ancient practice, it is basically a bunch of women aged 18-100 shaking their butts to Beyonce. Ten minutes in, I start to cry. I can’t do half the moves, but what can I say? There’s just something about grandmas and teenage girls dancersizing to dirty rap together that moves me. Five out of five stars.

The next class we do is called Boot Camp. I’m nervous about the title but they say I’ll be fine. Two minutes in, I remember why I hate exercise. Three minutes in, I am thinking about how to cancel this gym membership. Anemia? Financial ruin? Chronic pink eye? I give Natasha my angriest glare. She responds with a thumbs up. Zero out of five stars.

The next handful of classes are somewhere in between. Spin class, water aerobics, body combat, body flow, yoga. I make a mental checklist of achievements. Small triumphs for my fit friends, but giant leaps for my soft body.

After a few months we fall into a rhythm. We mix and match classes and make plans on Sunday nights for what the week will look like. Everything we do is hard and semi-unpleasant, but I grab my water bottle and load the kids into the car anyways, knowing that if someone wasn’t meeting me there–I would have quit by now. I would have feigned a terminal illness to get out of that one year contract and kissed 10 minutes on the elliptical goodbye. 

Sometimes peer pressure wins for everyone in the end.

Help me

Once upon a time I was never in shape, but putting on my sneakers without making up a head cold is ten steps ahead of my former self. I have lost zero pounds, but every day I feel my body getting stronger. I still swear during boot camp and lie flat on the ground during push-ups, but I’m showing up. For me, it will always be 100% of the battle.

I wish I could call this a love story, but my love is reserved for the finer things in life; pizza, beer, lying horizontal for as many minutes as possible. So I guess this is more of a like story. A toleration story. As it turns out, I don’t hate gyms. They aren’t that expensive, I can still walk outside, and you don’t have to use the locker room. The people are okay too.

Official Yelp Review—>

I had heard about Exercise for many years and decided to finally give it an honest try at The Gym. Pros: emotional release, stronger muscles, social activity, increased sex drive. Cons: Still kind of hate exercise. 4/5 stars.

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