“Don’t let the spiked hair fool you — like I’m not a bitch.”

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have finally jumped on the Jersey Shore bandwagon. When the show first came out, I was (like most people, I think) mortified that someone would actually watch that and concerned about what it meant about our collective intelligence level. I am also not a fan of reality shows in general, for many reasons. The people are just fake fame-whores. There is not much reality in them at all. I read enough to keep up with popular culture, even if I am not immersed in it myself, so I knew all about GTL and Guidos and Snooki and all that crap. And I still had no desire to see it. Then, a couple weeks ago, my friend and I had the following conversation:

Friend: “We have to watch the season premiere of Jersey Shore Season Two tonight!”
Me: “Whaaaaaat? Nooooo.”
Friend: “Yeah! It’s so funny! You have to experience it!”
Me: “I don’t care about watching a bunch of stupid idiots get drunk.”
Friend: “That’s because you haven’t watched it with me. There is so much more to it than that. Just watch one episode, and then if you don’t want to see any more, you don’t have to.”
Me, thinking this sounds like a good compromise: “Okay. I guess one hour won’t kill me.”

We started with the first episode of Season Two. Two days later, I’d seen every episode that ever aired.

I typically abhor drama, particularly in my own life. Although some friends of mine may disagree with that, because I often have drama going on in my life (but not usually of my own making). I also can’t stand catty girls. But it is SO much more fun to laugh at other people’s dumb drama and cattiness. It makes you appreciate the sheer lack of it in your own life by comparison.

On Jersey Shore, someone is always getting punched in the face — and ALWAYS with good reason. They will punch people being punks at the club (“She called Snookers fat and that like triggered me, umm, so I threw my drink in her face. I was gonna try to uppercut her, but at that point I had too many bouncers wrapped around me.“), haters on the boardwalk (“Damn, the kid’s sleeping right now. That’s what you get for talking shit.”), people who are bullying others (“GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE, BRO! THAT’S ONE SHOT! THAT’S ONE SHOT, KID!“) and even each other for being assholes (“Mike, he’s a creep, I mean at this point you’re lucky I don’t crack you in your face right now.”) I mean, I won’t lie and say I’ve never wanted to punch any of my friends in the face, and they’re all great people. But sometimes people are shits, you know?

I love how these random people got thrown together and became friends, and then became like family. All these kids are decent people at heart. They have their flaws, but who doesn’t? Most of their Italian culture reminds me of ours here in the South — the whole “don’t mess with my people or I will fuck you up” attitude. We hang together. We stand up for our own. (“How do you watch a girl get punched in her face and do nothing?“) Family is everything, and we treat our true friends like family members. (“I think what happened to Snookers brought us a lot closer to her, definitely. I mean, we get on her and stuff like that, but we still care for her.”) In fact, there are a lot of similarities between Italian and Southern culture:

The family is the center of the social structure and provides a stabilizing influence for its members. In the north, generally only the nuclear family lives together; while in the south, the extended family often resides together in one house. The family provides both emotional and financial support to its members. Prefer to do business with people they know and trust. In the north, people are direct, see time as money, and get down to business after only a brief period of social talk. In the south, people take a more leisurely approach to life and want to get to know the people with whom they do business. Generally highly satisfied with social relations and family, health care, daily life and friendship relations; however, find economic status and job opportunities generally less satisfying, especially with the fact that Southern states still suffer from relatively high unemployment. Those from the Southern region generally perceived to be less intelligent by the rest of the country. Place great importance on religion and family. Originally an agricultural society. Reverential about food. Proud of contributions to history. Serious about preserving honor. Not afraid to call people on their bullshit. Accustomed to living with false stereotyping. Love car racing. Jersey Shore = Myrtle Beach (or Panama City Beach).

My advice to those haters out there who think they’re above this type of entertainment: stop being such a snobby asshole. This is the first reality show I’ve ever seen in which the people act like real people who have real ups and downs and real shining moments, as well as real low points. (“Down here at the Shore, one minute you got three girls in the jacuzzi. Next minute, somebody’s in jail and you have to bail them out.”) And the girls will only put up with the cock-blocking and drama-starting for so long before they have to take action. (“I’m putting Vaseline on my face, I’m taking my earrings out, I’m putting my hair up, and I’m beating the crap out of her.”)

Also? Get over the fact that none of them are from New Jersey. It’s called Jersey Shore because it’s located on the Jersey shore. What is so hard to grasp about that? As Pauly D would say, “Don’t spill the haterade.”

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Crafty Love! Handstamped

I’ve always been a big fan of personalization, and these days personalized jewelry is all the rage. Unfortunately there is a lot on the market that is either ugly or looks the same as fifty other products. Browsing on Etsy, I found a few personalized items that are a bit more unique and interesting. Lately I’ve been trying to suppress the urge to get a tattoo, so maybe a personalized key chain or something would be the regret-free way to go. These are some things I would actually purchase for myself or a friend…since I have a tendency to develop catch-phrases with people. 🙂 I mean, what fun would life be without nicknames and catch-phrases??

Recycled Silver Initial Ring
$24 by Two Chicks Too

Suede Monogram Wrap Bracelet
$64 by jp style

Copper Pet Tag
$7.25 by Ao Designs

Custom Cuff Bracelet
$60 by Metal Pressions

Family Totem Key Chain
$55 by Silver Me Pendants

Custom Key Chain
$14.75 by The Copper Poppy

Random Guilty Pleasure: I-85

I imagine it is a common motherly trait to be overly cautious and paranoid and worrisome. I think my mom takes it to a new level, though. Any time I do anything remotely adventurous — well, what I consider normal adult activities, she considers adventurous — her first response to the mere mention of it is worst-case scenario, what could possibly go wrong, what I should be worried about, and why I should reconsider doing it in the first place.

You should have heard her when I told her I was going to the Amazon. “What if you get malaria? What if you get lost?” What if what if what if? If I tell her I’m going to a party, it’s “Watch your drink — people can drug you.” If I tell her I’m going shopping, it’s “Don’t talk on your phone in the parking lot. That’s what they look for.” If I tell her I think I might like to live in Colorado one day, it’s “But it’s so far away and it snows too much and we would never see you again because we can’t afford to fly out there all the time and you might get there and hate it and it’s so expensive to move!” If I say I’m going for a run, it’s “BY YOURSELF? Don’t go after dark, and be sure to take Birdy and your phone with you.”

I’m convinced she was a guilt-inflicting Jewish mother in a previous life. Actually, a famous holocaust survivor, Rena Kornreich Gelissen, once told her she looked exactly like her mother, who died in a concentration camp. “You have my mother’s eyes,” she said.

I have heard the phrase “Ohhhh, Maegan. You’d better. Be. Careful.” so many times that I have started waiting until after the fact to tell her about things. Like, when I went to Alabama the other weekend, I couldn’t tell her. The Alabama friends said, “You can’t tell your mom you’re driving to Alabama alone? You’re thirty fucking years old!” (I know. Believe me, this is my thought also.)

Obviously my friends knew where I was going, and I told my dad so someone in the family would know where I was in case of emergency, and because I knew I could trust him not to say anything. Because he gets it and he lives with her and he needs to keep his household drama to a minimum. Like a good child, I let her discover it on her own. On Facebook.

I think my mom made an effort when I was a kid to not be too overprotective and to let me experience things. My best friend’s parents were way more overprotective than mine. They wouldn’t even let her go to the beach with my family until we were in college, because, AND I QUOTE, “Something might happen.” But my parents let me do all kinds of cool stuff when I was a teenager. When I was a senior in high school, they even let me go to my college boyfriend’s fraternity formal for the weekend in a city 4 hours away. That’s pretty cool.

In my adulthood, she seems to be more open about expressing her fear at the mere notion of me existing in the world alone. I try to tell her that she should trust in her parenting skills and take comfort in the thought that she (and my dad) taught me how to make good decisions. I mean, I am a pretty level-headed person, generally. I’ve heard her warnings enough that it’s the first thing that pops into my mind as well when I think of doing something. I’m just able to suppress it so I can live my life and have fun without being completely afraid of everything.

Want to know the completely baffling part? She actually wants to go skydiving one day. I do, too, and I think I am going to do it for my birthday this year. Nick and I have the same birthday, so we are trying to do something crazy fun. But part of me thinks I should go with her so she actually does it, and take pictures and put them all over the internet to document her one adventurous, thrill-seeking moment. When she and my dad were in college, they talked about moving to Australia. What happened to that person?? I could have been an Aussie!

When I was younger, I was taught to fear most busy freeways more than most things in life, but I-85 in particular. My grandparents lived in Atlanta for a while, and when we would go down to visit, my nervous-wreck of a mother (I say that with love) would squeal and fake-brake and white-knuckle the oh-shit bar and caution my dad to slow down and watch out for that truck the entire 4 hours it took us to get there. Then, while we were there, she would talk incessantly about how fast everyone in Georgia drives — like they think 85 is the speed limit and not the name of the road. And how it’s no wonder there are so many accidents on it all the time. And how all the cops must be downtown busting up drug dealers because they sure weren’t giving out any speeding tickets.

Back home, where there were no roads more than four lanes wide, she beat into my head which intersections were considered “baaaaaad” way before I could drive myself (as in “That’s a baaaaaaad intersection,” every time we drove through it). Like where my grandparents’ road met the Rock Store in Shiloh before they put in the stop light. Or the intersection of Hwy 221 by George White’s store in Oakland. Or the place where Hudlow intersects Whitesides Road on the way to my cousins’ horse farm in Mount Vernon before they put in the caution light that senses when a car enters the danger zone and flashes to let you know to wait.

Inevitably it was a “bad” intersection because  someone she went to high school with or rode horses with or someone my cousins went to high school with or rode horses with was killed at it…probably because they pulled out in front of someone or were drunk. They were usually places with blind hills. Or blind curves. And when you live in the foothills of the mountains, blind hills and curves are pretty common.

Anyway, I used to be very nervous about driving on I-85 due to said instillation of fear. But on my road trip down to Alabama last weekend, it was mostly I-85 the whole way, and I found myself marveling how odd it was that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. Not only was I not afraid, but I found myself actually enjoying it. I love how fast everyone drives on that road, because you get to your destination faster, and you don’t worry so much about getting a ticket because there is always SOMEONE going faster than you. Who doesn’t like driving fast? It’s fun. I’m a careful driver — I don’t follow too close (mainly because I perpetually need to have my brake pads replaced and don’t get around to it), I always wear my seat belt, and I stay observant and alert and defensive.

My mom (like most parents) would say, “It’s not you I worry about! It’s everyone else!” Whatareyougonnado. I’m pretty sure that just keeping up with traffic on I-85 shaved about an hour to an hour-and-a-half off my travel time in both directions. And the only accident I saw, both coming and going, was in Alabama on the part of I-85 that is probably the flattest, calmest, and least trafficked, where people actually pretty much do the speed limit.

While I was driving, I kept having to squash this guilt that was rising up my spine at the thought of what my mother would say if she knew I was embracing I-85 instead of being terrified. And I finally just decided, you know what? Screw it. You’re chalking it up to a guilty pleasure. And you’re listening to Eminem’s offensive lyrics on your iPod, and you’re stopping in Braselton, Georgia for gas AFTER DARK. And you’re not getting home til AFTER MIDNIGHT. And it was okay. Because I am “thirty fucking years old.” And I do what I want, yo. Just don’t tell my mama.

Someone Cares About the Environment!

Okay, social networkers! Let’s do some good!

My friend Dave Boyer is a 7th grade science teacher at Kernersville Middle School, and his Garden Club is trying to win enough votes on Kohls’ Facebook contest to win one of (20) $500,000 prizes. It says to dream big — they want to convert their school into a net zero energy school with solar PV panels. Everyone can vote up to five times for a school. Please search Facebook for Kohls, “like” them, and vote for Kernersville Middle School (NC) 5 times!

If you know another school participating, you can support up to 5 schools.

Dave is doing a great job of educating a new generation about environmental issues, so please support the effort of an awesome public school teacher!

INCENTIVE: leave a comment telling me you voted, and I’ll enter you to win a handmade hemp Good Karma bracelet in the color of your choice! (Do good, and good will follow.) Now, GO VOTE!

Good Lyrics: Not Afraid

Not Afraid
by Eminem

I’m not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just letting you know that you’re not alone
Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road

Yeah, It’s been a ride…
I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one
Now some of you might still be in that place
If you’re trying to get out, just follow me
I’ll get you there

You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay ’em
But you won’t take the sting out these words before I say ’em
Cause ain’t no way I’mma let you stop me from causing mayhem
When I say I’mma do something I do it
I don’t give a damn what you think, I’m doing this for me
So fuck the world, feed it beans, it’s gassed up, if a thing’s stopping me
I’mma be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly
And all those who look down on me, I’m tearing down your balcony
No if ands or buts don’t try to ask him why or how can he
From Infinite down to the last Relapse album he’s still shit’n
Whether he’s on salary, paid hourly
Until he bows out or he shits his bowels out of him
Whichever comes first, for better or worse
He’s married to the game, like a fuck you for christmas
His gift is a curse, forget the earth he’s got the urge
To pull his dick from the dirt and fuck the universe

Chorus

Ok quit playin’ with the scissors and shit, and cut the crap
I shouldn’t have to rhyme these words in the rhythm for you to know it’s a rap
You said you was king, you lied through your teeth
For that, fuck your feelings, instead of getting crowned you’re getting capped
And to the fans, I’ll never let you down again, I’m back
I promise to never go back on that promise, in fact
Let’s be honest, that last Relapse CD was “ehhhh”
Perhaps I ran them accents into the ground
Relax, I ain’t going back to that now
All I’m tryna say is get back, click-clack BLAOW
Cause I ain’t playin’ around
There’s a game called circle and I don’t know how
I’m way too up to back down
But I think I’m still tryna figure this crap out
Thought I had it mapped out but I guess I didn’t
This fucking black cloud still follows me around
But it’s time to exorcise these demons
These motherfuckers are doing jumping jacks now!

Chorus

And I just can’t keep living this way
So starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage
I’m standing up, I’mma face my demons
I’m manning up, I’mma hold my ground
I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now

It was my decision to get clean, I did it for me
Admittedly I probably did it subliminally for you
So I could come back a brand new me, you helped see me through
And don’t even realize what you did, believe me you
I been through the ringer, but they can do little to the middle finger
I think I got a tear in my eye, I feel like the king of my world
haters can make like bees with no stingers and drop dead
No more beef flingers, no more drama from now on, I promise
To focus soley on handling my responsibilities as a father
So I solemnly swear to always treat this roof like my daughter’s and raise it
You couldn’t lift a single shingle on it
Cause the way I feel, I’m strong enough to go to the club
Or the corner pub and lift the whole liquor counter up
Cause I’m raising the bar, I shoot for the moon
But I’m too busy gazing at stars, I feel amazing and

I’m not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just letting you know that you’re not alone
Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road

What Would Don Draper Do?

The thing I am most excited about at the moment is that one of my all-time favorite shows, Mad Men, just premiered its fourth season. As we all know, I have been lamenting the lack of any TV worth watching during the summer, so this comes as a welcome relief. Actually, I did discover one other show this summer in desperation — BBC’s Robin Hood. The first two seasons were excellent, and then one of the key characters died. So I’m done with it now, but there is a third season. All three are available on Netflix’s Watch Instantly. I recommend checking it out if you’re bored and in need of new TV like me.

Mad Men is ridiculously awesome. For those of you who may not have seen it, it’s a drama on AMC about an advertising agency in Manhattan during the early 1960s. That’s a very basic description that tells you almost nothing about why the show is so great. As a literature aficionado and aspiring writer of some kind, I’m attracted to film and television that is so well-written it would read like a great novel even if there were no pictures to accompany it. Like great literature, Mad Men’s characters are fascinating and well-developed, and the plot contains a lot of cultural subtext. The writer, Matthew Weiner, is notorious for his attention to detail and spares no expense at furnishing the set with authentic vintage furniture, decor, clothing, you name it. You can be sure that if you are watching Mad Men and you see a secretary using a typewriter, it is the same EXACT vintage model of typewriter that a secretary in 1963 would have been using.

Another thing I think draws people to Mad Men is a fascination of how different the time period was socially from today, even though it was not that long ago in the grand scheme of things. It’s pretty fascinating to see a depiction of how real life problems may have been handled (or swept under the rug), instead of the usual idyllic, rosy portrait of the era we are normally fed. Not a single character on that show is perfect, and their flaws are reflective of their environments, circumstances, upbringings, and so on — just like real people.

This is a good recent interview with Matthew Weiner on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Or you can download the podcast for free on iTunes.