Last week, my podcast co-host, Ethan, was so kind as to send me a gift: a Snowball Microphone!
Currently, Ethan and I are hosting our podcast, Learning From Strangers, for free, but we are investing our time (mostly Ethan’s) and money (again, mostly Ethan’s) into this, hoping it boosts our numbers when it comes to our writing ventures.
Both of us are bloggers, and write lots about relationships—those mysterious things we’re all trying to figure out. But our podcast brings together two viewpoints that don’t often meet: one from a married man’s brain, and the other from a single girl’s eyes.
Not to blow smoke up my ass, but I think so far, we’ve done a great job. While we do think of show topics in advance, we never have a script, or really talking points. We just start talking, and eventually come to some sort of end.
So far, we’ve talked about creepiness, cats, drinking, new year’s resolutions, fashion, the friend-zone, and virginity. And there’s lots more fun stuff to chat about!
It has to be said that Learning From Strangers is an international podcast, as I am in Louisiana and Ethan is in Berlin. So, since we record with an ocean between us, the sound was inevitably different.
And, since Ethan hosts other podcasts and is an overall geek, his side of the conversation sounded way better than mine. I was just using my built-in microphone and a set of headphones I won at Dave & Busters (no, seriously), and you could kind of tell.
Enter: my new fancy pants Blue Snowball Microphone!
I know it seems pretty dorky to get so excited over a microphone, but I’ve never really invested in cool technology aside from my blog—and even those were minor.
We’ve recorded one podcast with it (on women making the first move), and I think you’ll be able to tell a difference in the sound quality.
I hope that this investment is a sign of good things to come!
My love affair with Nicholas Sparks’ novels started many summers ago when I borrowed, “The Last Song” from my friend to read by the pool. Needless to say, I loved it.
Yeah, I know, his works are not genius. And, they are all very similar. But I love them, and I can recall one of the best days of my life, sitting in a canvas chair on Pensacola Beach, toes buried in the white sand, holding “Dear John” in one hand, and a beer in the other.
Seriously, it was amazing.
I have to wonder sometimes, if Mr. Sparks is the butt of jokes at his poker night, considering he’s made his career out of dreaming up amazing fellas for women worldwide to lust over. Either way, the dude is banking off of it.
With my latest Sparks novel in tow, I’ve been thinking a lot about the collection of male characters he’s created—what do they have in common? Why are they so goddamn dreamy?
In a 2012 interview with Brian D. Johnson of Maclean’s, Sparks said his characters aren’t perfect: “I simply create the character your mother told you to be. Be honest, work hard, don’t look down on others, women and children in the lifeboats first.”
Late last year, Details published an article, “Nicholas Sparks—This Mild-Mannered Father of Five Is Single-Handedly Redefining the Male Ideal,” in which Sparks said his female characters were probably more similar to each other, because they are all based on what he finds attractive in the opposite sex.
When it comes to the male characters though, Sparks said, ”If there’s any similarity, it’s that once they fall in love, it’s the real thing. Once they meet the girl they love, they’re actually in love.”
Currently on his 25th year of marriage, Sparks added, ”It’s out there. There are guys who do this. There are guys who love the women in their lives very much forever.”
[Insert heavy, dreamy sigh here].
As for the male characters in Sparks’ novels, the article states: “They’re never the high-testosterone rogues that Fabio notoriously emblematized on paperback covers—never famous men, senators, captains of industry. They’re not men who need to be tamed; Sparks’ guys come predigested.”
The article, written by Jonathan Miles, describes Sparks’ story plot formula as such:
- Boy meets girl, but some variety of circumstance prevents their union, until some other variety of circumstance—this one usually fatal to someone—shoves them together.
- The settings are invariably the Carolinas, though with minimal southern texture.
- His characters are inveterate letter writers, often writing to lovers in the grave or writing letters to be read after they themselves are in the grave; and those characters, even the abusive louts, never cuss.
- They also have a vicious mortality rate. Death stalks Nicholas Sparks novels as though navigating a buffet line, claiming victims via leukemia and various other strains of cancer, drowning, Alzheimer’s disease, auto accidents, and mudslides, to name a few causes.
Since I haven’t read ALL of Sparks’ books, I brainstormed with my girlfriend/fellow Sparks fan to make a list of common traits found in Sparks’ male characters:
- Unique-ly good looking, attractive in their own way (often outdoorsy, rustic, with defined, yet hidden muscles)
- Sensual, selfless lovers
- Are initially single because they have a skeleton (or two) in the closet
- Know how to treat a lady
- Live alone, aside from their dog
- Live by a body of water, in a fixer-upper house
- Are often loners
- Deliver perfect one-liners, exhibit A:
When you ask me
“Why are you single?”
What I want to say is,
“Why are you so fucking nosy?”
But instead I put on a jacket of societal norms
And I just
Shrug my shoulders
And tell you
“I just haven’t found the one yet”
But if you want my honest opinion…
I don’t fucking know why I’m single
Maybe it’s because I’m Fratastic
And love to do keg stands
Maybe it’s because
I feel a spiritual connection
To Gangsta’s Paradise
Maybe it’s because
I have a history of being a side chick
Or because I cancelled my subscription to Match
Maybe I’m too picky
Or not picky enough
But you ask me
Why are you single
Like you’ve never been there
Like you don’t know what it feels like
And it feels like
Not knowing the rules to a football game
Like Riding your bike through a sleeping neighborhood
It feels like the Delta Clinic on a rainy April morning
Feels like a giant game of dress up
like a party that I’m not invited to
Tastes like takeout Chinese for one,
Even though I ask for double chopsticks
It’s cat hair on all of my clothes
Because you’ve labeled me as such
It feels like living one giant lie
Of telling yourself that you’re cool
With being single because that’s what I am
And if I’m not cool with it
Then I’m crazy,
Which is probably why I’m single
Because I’m starting to convince myself
That I never wanted what you have
Boyfriends are bullshit…
I don’t need a guy…
Weddings are a waste of money…
I’m too busy for kids…
And maybe the one that I
Was my only shot
And this is just my Karma
Maybe this tradition of people
Living in pairs
Is so elite that I shouldn’t even try
Because my world
Filled with bon bons
And meaningless hookups
Is really what it’s all about
when you ask me
Why I’m single
I don’t know if you want me to say
That what it really boils down to
Is that I had love once
And I gave it away
it was stuffed inside a mason jar
And I gave it to him
And he took it,
Without paying for it
Maybe he has a collection of jars
That he’s about to sell on EBay
But I can’t buy it back
And sometimes it feels like
That’s all I had to give
and maybe there’s nothing left for
And so when you ask me these questions
I know you’re not built
For my truth
So I’ll give you ignorant bliss
With a giant, pink bow
And Tell you
I don’t know
Last week, I finally got back into a regular routine of participating in an open mic night. But, my journey to the mic has been an interesting one.
When I was in college, I was on a mission to get a degree in journalism. But after applying to my university’s journalism school twice, and getting rejected, I took my advisor’s suggestion at going for a degree in English.
I was terrified that I’d be thrown into a curriculum with a slew of beret-wearing beatniks, and really, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to fit in. Once I got accepting into the English college, I was able to start taking upper-level courses and my first one was literary criticism.
While no one in my class was wearing a beret, I felt pretty out of place when, on the first day, we were asked to go around the room, introduce ourselves, and say what our favorite movies were. Most of the movies my classmates said were ones I’d never heard of or seen, or just didn’t like, such as Clockwork Orange.
My favorite movie? Home Alone. I could feel them cringe at me. Me, the sorority girl, relationship columnist, who likes John Hughes’ movies. Standard.
The textbook for the class, Critical Theory Since Plato by Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle, was a whopping 1,545 pages, and I carried it with me everywhere, using highlighters and Post-It notes to help weed through a jumble of words I didn’t understand without my barista-dubbed beverage, “A Sugar Rush” (Venti-iced-black-and-white-mocha-extra shot).
Even though I really struggled in that class, it was the only class in college that I felt that way. Since then, I’ve grown to really appreciate the education I received, and the students I met along the way.
It had been awhile since I’d surrounded myself with people so creative, I almost didn’t get it, until I was on assignment for a freelance job. I was working on a story about a local open mic night.
I was blown away by their performances.
And when my assignment was over, I kept going back. After attending several times, but not participating, I decided to give it a try. Most of the people at the open mic performed spoken word, often memorized.
I hadn’t written poetry since high school, and I was nervous about what the other participants might think. I didn’t want to disrespect their space by saying something shitty.
I was nervous as hell the first time I got up there, but it felt so good to be welcomed and received by such a creative and talented group of people. These are people that have won titles for their craft. It still blows me away.
Since my first time on the mic, I’ve written and read maybe a dozen poems. I also got to judge the All-City Teen poetry slam (a night that nearly brought me to tears due to the level of talent) and I had the honor of meeting and interviewing one of the best poets in the world, Denice Frohman.
No, seriously she won the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2013 for her amazing, chilling piece, “Dear Straight People,” but I also love this one:
Tuesday night, I joined my fellow creatives, for the Baton Rouge Poetry Alliance open mic. In the picture, you see the tools of my trade:
- My iPad, where I write my poetry, ’cause I’m techie like that
- My wallet, because there’s a cover charge and I like to drink
- My compact, so I don’t look shiny on stage
- My drink, a vodka and soda, because I could always use liquid courage
And so, I continue to believe that I’m just someone who is obsessed with everything dealing with words, and I’ve got so many things inside of me to say, that I’ll find anyplace to share it. My journey at the open mic still has a long way to go—I’m trying to memorize a piece so that I can participate in the slam.
And I’m still learning how to write a great poem; but it really helps to be surrounded by people who don’t judge me; people who encourage me; and most importantly, inspire me to write…forever.
The obvious truth, since it is quickly and easily seized, delights us and passes into the memory. But in order that, acquired by toil, it should be more pleasing and for that reason the better retained, the poets concealed it under many things that are not, apparently in accord therewith. They chose fables rather than any other disguise, because the beauties thereof attract those whom neither philosophic demonstrations nor persuasions are able to draw. What shall we say then, of poets?
—Giovanni Boccaccio, Life of Dante
It’s quite possible that it’s been an entire year since I’ve given myself a moment.
A real moment, anyway.
At any given minute in a typical day, chances are, I’m working. Whether it’s at my day job, or an underpaid freelance gig. I’m working (even on the weekends). If I’m not working, I’m at the gym. And yes, those moments are kind of for me, but sometimes I don’t want to be there (sorry, trainer).
In 2012, my counselor told me I needed to start making an effort to do things I wanted. Take an hour each week, he said, pen yourself in. What would you do? he asked.
I would go for a walk in my neighborhood, I said. I would go order one of those fancy, spiked coffee drinks from the pizza place, and I would sit and sip and read.
But, as it seems anyway, before I could make one of these moments for myself, I started dating someone who was determined to take away everything I had made for myself.
I spent lots of free time with him; even some of the time we spent together I felt like I should have been working, or sleeping (instead of picking him up from jail). It’s something I have a pattern of doing—giving absolutely all of me to the person I am dating—and when they leave me, there’s just a tired, heartbroken me.
Once we broke up, I spent the remainder of 2013 indulging in another pattern of mine: working myself like a mother fucker. I’ve done it since my first love left me—I cope by working, by moving forward, by never stopping.
One of my trainers calls it a fear of complacency. Call it that, call it masochism, call it work-obsessed, call it what you will—but it’s starting to wear on me. Unfortunately, I can’t give all the credit of my work-obsessed routine to my exes.
Part of it is just a complex I have. I want to be successful (Enter: Drake). I never want to lose my creativity. I don’t want to get stuck in the bores of my 9 to 5 (sorry, boss). And sometimes, like perhaps after a breakup, I don’t want to be able to think.
But, the recent visit to my doctor gave me a few reality checks: 1. STDs (real or fake) are scary as shit, and 2. Stress is real, and so are its negative health effects.
So last week, I decided to stop taking on so much freelance work, and save a little time for me. Now, I still had deadlines, so I worked like a horse all week so that I could take the weekend for me.
While I didn’t order an Irish Coffee, I did get some things done that have been on my to-do list (yes, it even felt good to scrub my shower), I gave myself a pedicure, I cooked (pumpkin pancakes, sausage and eggs, and sweet potato soup…all paleo!), I blogged, and I sat down with a mug of black tea and my newest book (thanks to my best girlfriend), The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks.
In case you’re interested, here’s the short synopsis:
Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.
I know I can’t be alone in my work-obsession, but if you’re anything like me, I hope you can find a moment for yourself this week. Cheers!