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5 Things Claire Won’t Tell You About Flirting (But You Need To Know)

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From my scandalous “Our Town” high school theater days.

So Daily Dot has these two little articles, another one of those online lists about men and women and sex and what not. What do men not know about lady sex? Men and sex, what do women not know? That’s the whole deal.

Now, since my grandma (hi Grandma Mickie!) reads my blog, I am going to refrain from going into the gory details of my… interesting… love life (or many times, lack thereof). However, in the spirit of singlehood and the fact that it is Valentine’s Day and all that romantic stuff, here is another guide to the workings of my brain and my easily flustered heart if I should ever flirt with you.

  • We probably know each other (and we’re probably friends or acquaintances).

This is a habit that I picked up from high school when I first was becoming less afraid of actually talking to guys. I was swimming in a sea of testosterone whenever I went to band and took my place in the trumpet section, so I had to learn to become comfortable with the male presence. I grew to like having a lot of guy friends.

With that, and the nature of my easily-won-over heart, I have become enamored with a series of guy friends over the years. It’s not even that I think that you’re flirting with me. It’s that we had COFFEE or did some ACTIVITY together and WOW you’re a COOL HUMAN that’s a male and ATTRACTIVE and wouldn’t it be nice if we held hands and watched Star Trek together??

I’ll try to hide it as much as I can, but the descent into my self-conscious worrying will overtake my interaction with you…

  • If I am feeling awkward, I will do one of two things: become professional or pet you (fortunately, I no longer will punch you).

So at this point, I have told at least fifteen of my other friends, “Oh my GOSH I think I TOTALLY have a thing for [insert guy friend’s name here]!!” More likely than not, I can hear people sighing and saying, “That’s nice, Claire” through the words on the screen of my phone.

“Poor [so-and-so’s name]…” my mom will sometimes say.

Not that she doesn’t want me to pursue anyone. It’s that she knows what this particular guy is unknowingly in for.

I’ll try to play it cool really really hard with you. I’ll reward myself for every evenly spoken sentence or “haha” in my texts to you instead of “oh haha, how wonderfully droll!!”

But then my mind with begin to atrophy with worry. Why did I say that his shirt clung well? I think to myself after a conversation. That’s totally too noticeable. I can’t afford to be noticeable.

I am notoriously very obvious when I like you. So I try so hard to not be obvious.

What will end up happening is that if you say a cute or funny or nice or flirty thing to me, I’ll laugh, bury my hands in my face, hyperventilate a little, and then pet you. Yes, pet you. Normally on the back or the shoulder. Sometimes I won’t even touch you; it’ll be like air pats near your skin because if I actually do touch you, then I’ll explode or something.

The opposite of what happens, however, is just as bad. I’ll treat you like a fellow colleague in a fictionalized work environment. This is because while growing up, whenever social interaction terrified me, I would retreat to academia.

I’ll ask you about the weather and your family and your homework like we might as well be talking in a cubicle. My texts to you might as well have a letterhead. The worst, however, is if I shake your hand like we just make a business transaction. That’s when I know in my heart that I really can’t overcome my own flustered nature, so why not shake your hand?

I used to be a bit rougher than I am now and would actually punch crushes or shove them out of chairs. It was like I was enacting some elementary school playground routine that I didn’t live out until I was sixteen.

  • Words don’t really work too well. And my texts to you become weird.

I touched on this slightly in the previous blurb, but this awkwardness becomes more prevalent as time goes on. I eventually will start my “double-texting” paranoia and I will soliloquy whenever I see you. I’ll cater my ranting to something that you’re interested in, like Star Wars or Arcade Fire or some form of sports and I’ll leave no space for you to respond since, well, I figure that if I do the talking for the both of us, then I don’t need to worry about what I’ve said and what you will say since I must’ve said something embarrassing anyway.

  • I will actually face plant on the floor and crawl away if it isn’t going to well.

God forbid I actually tell you how I feel about you. If you should ever reach this point with me, then I apologize. I apologize to those who have experienced this.

I’ll make sure to do this in person because if I do this in a text, it will be in the form of a fifteen-paragraph essay, many of it trying to explain my neuroses.

I will say at least five times, “Let me know if you feel uncomfortable! And it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way!” because I really don’t want you to feel off-put by me, even though it would probably be best if I said it once and didn’t keep bringing up being uncomfortable.

When I do actually tell you that I like you, I’ll whisper it or I won’t actually say it because I don’t want to believe that I am exposing myself the way that I am. I want to pretend like if I can’t hear myself say it, then you never will know what I am even saying.

Normally, I’ll joke about it and say some silly thing and most of the time you’ll be really understanding and tell me that either you’re interested or that you aren’t for different sorts of reasons.

My reactions range from being bashful and giggly to asking you why or why not so that I can add to my mental list of my social behavior to falling on the floor and crawling away. I will just go down like a tree being chopped. It doesn’t matter where – it could be in a normal room or somewhere as public as a bar. And this will be the one time where I actually am not thinking of the sanitary texture of the floor.

  • I will friendzone myself, but in the end, I am okay with this (and a lot of the time, it’s what I want anyway).

Normally after these experiences, I will give myself some time to cool down. I’ll back off for your sake or for my sake or for both of our sakes. I’ll focus on my life with my friends and family and school and work and go back into a normal sort of routine. I have a lot going on, so it’s easy for my mind to swim around with all of the things of life, man.

And then, happily more times than not, we’ll circle back around. We’ll laugh it off or we won’t even bring it up. We’ll catch up and we’ll have a good time talking. A lot of the time, we’ll become friends, the kind of friend that knows that even if you go into my heart and I become flustered, I won’t get you out of my mind. Because you’ll be important to me regardless of what happens.

I freaked out at the oral surgeon. Sorry Mom.

This past summer, I was supposed to get my wisdom teeth out. That didn’t happen.

Instead, I yelled at my oral surgeon and had to get taken out of the room.

It’s moments like these that are a constant reminder that no matter how much better I think I am, friends, no, I still don’t have it all together.

For this experience, though, I was set up for failure. The stars had been misaligned for what was going to come. For starters, I had been worrying the past few days about the procedure. I was drinking heavily that weekend and was worrying that I didn’t have enough water in my system. Also I didn’t like the idea of someone inducing that kind of a feeling in me. I didn’t want to feel incapacitated unless I made myself incapacitated. Also, I watched my siblings go through the experience a few months before and my sister didn’t have as good of a time as my brother.

The cherry on top was that I couldn’t get the scene from Ghost Town out of my head. You know, when Ricky Gervais goes back to the hospital and freaks out because he “died just a little.”

“You’ll be fine Claire!” my siblings said the night before the surgery. “They give you laughing gas. It’s really fun! Just like having a few beers… which we know you like!” They smirked as they walked up the stairs to go to bed.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world,” my mom consoled. “Just like having a cavity filled. You’ve done this before.”

She went out the day before and bought all of the soft foods – ice cream, soup, jello. She picked up my antibiotics. I was set. All I had to do was sit in a chair for an hour.

I’ll be totally fine. I thought. Just a few days of TV and then I’m back to it. It’ll be nice to just sit and watch TV.

Although it’ll be different when I actually am there to get them taken out.

Unfortunately, I know myself all too well. Mom was parking the car as I walked into the surgeon’s office with its sticky, old, leather chairs and dim lighting.

“You here for your appointment?” the receptionist asked, her head just barely making the viewing window.

“Y-yes…” I said. “I just need to have my mom bring the consent form.”

“Okay,” the receptionist said, rolling her eyes. I know, lady, I should act older for my age too.

“Is she coming in?” the nurse asked, popping in like a cartoon.

“No… she’s waiting for her mom to bring her consent form.”

What is this, the mean girls from high school?

“Okay Claire, well, we’ll tell your mom where you are. If you could just walk down to the end of the hall and it’s the door on the furthest left.

I walked in and there was the chair. The chair.

I had to get some minor oral surgery (stuff that mainly required some numbing) done a few years ago and in that scenario, it was a comical set up. There were way too many machines for a simple procedure and it made me happily think of the birthing scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. There was even a machine that went “Ping!”

This chair, however, was something out of Brazil. It had the small, black side table with devilish metal instruments and a bizarre small TV placed squarely in front of the set-up. The chair was sort of elevated off of the ground and was a pasty color of pink. It was Hell in furniture form.

“Alright Claire, just take a seat, okay,” the nurse said.

Yeah… and then Michael Palin’s going to torture me in a baby mask, I thought.

I was already on edge walking in by myself but I was even more edgy considering I could hear them talking to my mom outside. I just wanted her in here.

Mind you, I am someone that has taken many modes of transportation by myself. I am someone that has no qualms walking alone in a random city for eight hours at a time. I can proudly handle myself in different adult tasks.

But in that moment, there was no one else that I wanted in that room more than my mom.

The oral surgeon came in and, grossly mistaking me as a normal person that would have a nonchalant reaction, made an offhand comment on my breathing state.

“Oh, it sounds like you have a cold,” he said. “We might have to postpone this.”

A COLD? A goddamn COLD? Since when did I have a COLD? Was I willing myself to get stuffy so I wouldn’t have to go through with this? Was I purposefully creating mucus so I could avoid a procedure that 16-year-olds go through?

He took a look inside my mouth and I tried to think of a way to explain for my body.

“Yeah, your throat’s just a little red,” he said.

Verification! My body failed him!

“Well I just, I mean, I just don’t know,” I said, crying already.

“Oh, see, well, we can’t do it now since you’re really stuffed up,” the surgeon said, his tone akin to that of a disappointed uncle.

“Hey Claire, how’s it going?”

Thank goodness, Mom walked into the room at that moment.

“Yeah, we’re thinking that she might have a cold so it would be better to do the procedure later,” the surgeon said, happy to have a real adult in his presence.

“I mean, I know that Lucy and Grant had colds, so maybe I got it from them,” I said, garbling my words and clutching my cheeks. “Lucy has a little bit of a sore throat too.”

“Oh yeah, they were all at Lollapalooza together, so that’s probably where she got it!” my mom said, making sure that her voice was chipper. She does this so I can feel like the situation is not as big of a deal as it is.

“Here’s a tissue box,” the randomly appearing nurse said, reusing her skill but this time with Kleenex.

I took a few minutes to breathe in and out, in and out. I acted out my non-stuffy breathing state multiple times to prove that I was surgery-worthy.

“Okay, yes, it sounds good,” the surgeon sighed.

“We need to have you sign these forms, just these worst case scenario stuff,” the nurse said. I took the clipboard and I must have looked like a ghost.

“You know, just so you can do the surgery,” she reaffirmed.

I’m literally signing my life away. This is it. This really is the end. I really am Ricky Gervais.

“Alright, Claire, they’re going to start now,” Mom said, heading out of the room.

My eyes must have been maniacal because she called out before they closed the door:

“Just don’t think Claire, don’t think about anything.”

That’s the root of it really, I just overthink everything. “Just don’t think so much” is a common phrase from everybody, including myself. That’s why I really like “Breakers” by Local Natives. I should have just played that song in my mind considering I’ve listened to it hundreds of times at this point.

Instead, they were starting up all the horrid machines and my normal go-to memories of happiness weren’t working. The nose mask being placed on my face and the arm pump taking my blood pressure interrupted my reveries of my best concert experiences.

I closed my eyes.

Just don’t think. Just don’t think.

In my mind, Spoon’s “Inside Out” started to play. This helped a little bit. I could feel the psychedelic melody in my brain and I thought of the soothing vocals at the start of the song…

“Okay Claire, we’re going to start to give you oxygen.”

Instead of this statement helping matters, this just brought me back to an incredibly painful experience that I had during a family vacation while skiing in Breckenridge. I got altitude sickness, had to get steroid shots and got very slightly addicted to my handy dandy little oxygen machine that the house doctor gave me for the weekend.

No, no, Claire, this is the good part of Breckenridge, I thought. This is when you got the oxygen. This is happy Breckenridge. Enjoy the oxygen – it’s free!

But the memory of the shots became more prevalent as the surgeon said the most horrifying words:

“Ok, we’re going to look for the place to put the IV in.”

I don’t know why the idea of an IV literally makes me want to crawl out of my skull. I guess maybe it’s because arms are just so fleshy and sensitive and I don’t want some jangling thing sticking out of mine. I hoped that it’d be in my hand or something, a little less intrusive.

“We just need you to dangle your arm.”

DANGLE my ARM? That’s what DEAD PEOPLE IN HOSPITALS DO.

“Oh… um… okay,” I breathed.

The surgeon tightly tied a band around my arm, pulling it so hard that I couldn’t concentrate on the gas anymore.

This is what they do to people who are about to get their limbs amputated!!! OR WHEN YOU’RE A HEROIN ADDICT!

My fear turned into an unpleasant combination of annoyance, anger and hysteria as the surgeon started hitting my hand and probing my arm.

“I thought that there wasn’t going to be a needle in the arm,” I barked.

“Well, we just want to make sure we use the right vein,” he said, his patience with me obviously waning thin.

I started to wiggle around in my seat, re-shifting to try to make my arm feel less wooden and stiff. The nurse cooed me to sit still, attempting to calm me down.

“I just want to let you know that I get very nervous with needles,” I said, my senses starting to tingle. When I actually remembered to breathe, I’d been taking short, deep breaths of the gas.

I should have given this information sooner. Why hasn’t the gas fully knocked me out yet? No. I must stay competent to let them know how I feel.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I shouted, not daring to look at anyone in the room.

“Come on, you can do this,” he said.

“No, I don’t think I can, not yet! I CAN’T DO IT YET.”

I was yelling, full freak-out mode. I was having a panic attack and I felt chained to the horrid, horrid chair.

“Nope, you’re right. We, can’t do it,” and the surgeon wheeled his chair away in one aggressive motion. He stood up and strode out of the room.

“No… no wait, I’m sorry,” I said between sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

But my powers of emotional persuasion were too great. I got what I wanted… but it wasn’t really what I wanted.

I remained motionless in my chair as the nurse opened the door. Mom was talking to the surgeon, calm and logical, her voice even and unsurprised.

At least she knows what I get like.

The surgeon, however, with his hands on his hips and shoulders occasionaly heaving from heavy sighs, was just introduced to my nature.

“Come on Claire, it’s okay. You’ll be able to have it done at the hospital,” the nurse said.

I got up and stood for a minute. My feelings crashed down on me, my body seeped into the floor. Slowly, I shuffled over to where everyone was standing.

“We’re going to have it done like the other procedure,” Mom said. “It’ll be at the other place too. Just like before.”

“We’ll get you in there for Winter Break,” the surgeon said, relieved he could pass me off to someone else.

And with that, Mom and I left the building. We walked out into the cold, grey day. We drove to McDonalds and, despite the fact that yes, I still cry as hard as a two-year-old in some scenarios, I can make things more difficult for myself and that yes, 16-year-olds have gone through that experience before, I still got to have ice cream with my Mom.

 

 

Claus and Effect

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I actually wrote this story when I was a senior in high school. In the spirit of the season, I felt it fitting to publish.


 

I believed in Santa Claus until I was in eighth grade.

It was easy at first. Oh, sure! I felt content amongst other believers at elementary school. Whenever the holiday season came, we made homemade ornaments in class such as felt reindeer traced out from our hands. Also, away from my classmates, there was the joy of seeing Santa with my family! During the annual Christmas Walk in my town, we would wait outside with only a meager cup of complementary hot chocolate from the concession stand to keep us warm in the below freezing temperatures. Why? To be in the presence of the one and only Santa Claus, of course!

“Oh my gosh… we always have to wait sooooo long!” I moaned just as we were approaching Santa’s tent. That December during my third grade was particularly frosty.

“I want the LEGO Eiffel tower… and I want the red Bionicle…” Grant, my younger brother by three years, said, listing off his first picks of the year.

As we entered the tent, Santa smiled at us warmly.

“Merry Christmas, kids! Have you been good this year?”

“Yeaaah!” Lucy, Grant’s twin, chirped as we climbed on top of Santa’s knees. “Santa, can I have some more horsies?”

“You mean the little toy ones, right?” Santa replied with a smirk.

“Yeah… but a real one would be nice, too!”

Santa chuckled his famous laugh. “Ho, ho, ho! Alright then! Now, you my boy,” he said, turning his direction towards Grant, “What would you like?” Grant then sat up straight on his lap and talked with the utmost dignity.

“Santa, I want a lot of things.”

“Okay then!” Santa said, mildly surprised at his bluntness.

“Well, I want a LEGO Eiffel tower, and I want Bionicles, and I want Super Mario Smash Brothers-”

“Santa will see what he can do!” Santa said, before my brother got any further with his endless Christmas list. Santa then looked at me.

“And what would you like?”

I blushed. “Well,” I said in a small, quiet voice, “I… I would like Nellie, the new American Girl doll.”

“How nice! Santa would see to it!”

And with his promise, I beamed into Mom’s camera as we took our picture with him. I was thinking about Nellie, my soon-to-be new doll!

By fifth and sixth grade it was a bit more difficult. People talked about their parents putting presents under the tree as Santa – “Lalalalala! I can’t hear you!” I said. Every time my friends would allude to the truth, I would plug my ears in defiance. Some said that I was in denial. I said that I was determined to not give up. I would tell my friends (my “nonbeliever” friends) that my cousins had actually seen him. Lucy first told me about this infamous incident.

“Claire, did you know that Matthew and Christian caught Santa on video??”

“No way!” I said, flabbergasted. Did Lucy really mean it? I could feel my eyes bulging out of their sockets. Did they really see him?

“Yeah, they did!” Lucy quipped, seeming to answer my thoughts. “They tried to stay up all night, but they fell asleep. But when they looked back at the camera the next day, they found that a black glove went across the screen!”

I gasped so loudly that I felt that I had sucked all of the air out of the room. “That’s proof of Santa!!!”

“I know!!!” Lucy said, jumping up and down from her excitement.

By early December of my eighth grade, however, I was one of the few. I proudly wore my “I still believe in Santa Claus” shirt even though it was starting to get a little short. I was in the midst of writing my list for him that was as extensive as ever. I had pushed any notion of doubt of his existence to the side. He was real, I kept saying to myself, they just don’t believe.

Still, there were nights when I lay awake, deep in thought. How could a jolly, red-suited man really live at the North Pole? There isn’t any land at the North Pole… and how could a man manufacture toys for every kid in the world?

I stopped myself. I had to believe.

As I started to relax, I filled my head with convictions: I mean, even Mom believes in Santa. She has that nightgown of the Mary Englebright cartoon with Santa saying “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Mom says she believes!

A couple weeks before my insomnia attacks started, I asked Mom if she really, truly believed in Santa. It’s not like a big deal or anything, I told myself right before I asked her, even when I knew that my heart was beating a little faster. I just want Mom’s opinion on the matter.

“Hey mom,” I said, my head down, eyes scaling the wood paneling of our kitchen floor.

“Yes?”

“Do…well, you believe in Santa, right? Do… do you?”

She puckered her lips and tilted her head up for a moment, deep in thought. As she was thinking, I focused on the foggy window behind her, my stomach churning from anticipation.

“I do believe,” Mom said after awhile. “I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus.”

Remembering Mom’s words on those cold, question-filled nights, I could then drift into sweet, sugar-plum-fairy-filled sleep.

But fate had a different plan for me. My Titanic of forced ignorance was drifting into an iceberg and Santa was going down with the ship.

It was a typical school day. Well, at least for the holiday season. Things were winding down for winter break and a festive spirit was taking over. I was sitting in class, doing a Christmas-themed activity: answering questions on a children’s book about Santa. Whilst reading, my teacher strolled to my table.

“Good afternoon, Claire!”

I looked up from my book. “Hello!”

“It’s a nice little book isn’t it?”

I nodded, a merry grin sprawled across my face.

“It is.”

“The pictures are so lavish. And the story is absolutely charming.”

“Yes! I also like how Santa can’t go to every house so he gets the parents to do it.”

“Yes, it’s very sweet,” she said, smiling. “It’s a good book to show to the kids when they find out that there’s no Santa Claus.” And with that completely earth-shattering remark, she was onto the next table.

A bomb had been dropped. The nice, red-suited man was a lie.

I looked around the room, my face numb. No one else seemed to be in quite as big of a shock as I was. They were still reading the book, that nice, stupid, little book, without any misgivings or anxiety attacks. WHY? I thought. WHY ARE THEY ALL OK?!?! SHE JUST SAID THAT SANTA WASN’T REAL!!!!

I could hardly contain my blubbering bouts of sobbing until the end of the day. After I was let off the bus, I ran home. Mom was standing outside of the car in the driveway, unaware of my turmoil. I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“MOMMEE,” I screamed, barely coherent, “SANTAISNTREAAAL!!”

“Claire! What! What are you talking about?” Mom asked, her eyebrows creased with worry.

I buried my red, snotty face into her jacket. “Santa’s not real,” I whimpered.

“Awww, sweetheart!” Mom said as she gave me a hug. I could feel her start to chuckle as her chest bounced up and down. Through my tears, I guess I had to laugh, too. Here I was, emotional, little Claire, crying about how there isn’t a Santa Claus at age thirteen.

Through the rest of the season, though, I felt naked when doing the annual celebratory acts such as lighting the advent candles or putting up ornaments on the tree. I watched my brother and sister talk about how they were going to write out their lists perfectly so that Santa would be able to determine which items on their lists they wanted the most. I would smile and nod, and then run to the other room crying.

Even while crying, though, I had to come to terms with the truth. I was kidding myself. I knew all along that he wasn’t real. Ever since I found that price tag on the CD case in my stocking a few years back. Ever since I recognized my parent’s handwriting in the letters from Santa. Ever since I realized that when my parents made us close our bedroom doors to bring down their presents to the tree, it took them an awful long time before my father’s heavy steps and Mom’s delicate pattering drifted downstairs…

But I loved Santa. Santa made me feel like a kid.

I don’t want to grow up. Not yet, I thought as my brother joyfully perused the Bionicles. After winter break started, my family and I made the traditional trip to Chicago. We always went to the same places: the stores at Water Tower Place, Virgin, Borders; now we were in the LEGO store, the shelves lined with glossy plastic casings of a bunch of itty bitty bricks that gave my brother great pleasure.

“Remember, I want these, Mom!” Grant excitedly pointed to the newest edition of the Toas. “But I already have this one. Tell Santa I don’t want that one.” The happy sparkle in his eye was enough to make me go crazy with jealousy. I want to be a kid again!

Eventually, Christmas Eve was upon us. Throughout the day I morosely thought about how my siblings would eventually learn the truth about Santa as well. Before going to the evening service at church, though, things changed. We had a candlelit dinner. Lucy and I had our hair meticulously curled and full of hair spray. Grant and Dad sat at the wooden dining table with smooth suit jackets and brilliantly festive ties. Mom had on shiny Christmas jewelry and shoes that went clomp, clomp, clomp, as she walked across the hardwood floor. In hushed tones, we asked each other for some more ham and mashed potatoes. Amongst the calm atmosphere, Lucy and Grant were anticipating for when we could get ready for Santa. Just as I was about to looked away sullenly and try to think of something else, my parents stole my attention.

“I found the Santa plate. We can put the sugar cookies on it, you know, the ones that Grant likes,” Mom said.

“We’re going to have to put out the oats quickly, it’s pretty cold out,” Dad chimed in.

My ears were ringing. Mom and Dad were excited, too! I wonder why, I thought, delving into the mashed potatoes, but it became clear to me as I remembered Christmas Eve past: The fastidiously handwritten notes to Santa. The warm milk in my hand as I set the glass on the table. The tingle of bitter cold as I place the small plate of dried oatmeal on the glittering snow. With each memory, my mashed potatoes seemed to get sweeter by the mouthful.

“Claire, are you excited to set out oats for Rudolph?” Lucy asked.

I looked up from my plate and smiled. “Yes, yes I am.”


 

On Christmas day, Grant was the first one up. He’s always been the first one up. He was downstairs and bounding across the floorboards, and I’m pretty sure it was the sound of his mammoth feet that aroused my parents from their brief slumber. They tried to sleep in as much as they could and said things like, “Oh, it’s too early to open presents,” or, “Not until I have my coffee.” Try as they might, they had to release us. My bursting brother, with my sister and I not too far behind him, rushed down stairs.

Tree aglow, the misty windows housed a celebration of pure joy. My brother’s eyes popped at seeing the bounty under the tree, and my sister’s squeals rose in pitch as she looked at our overflowing stockings. All the while, my siblings praised Santa Claus.

The oats outside were half eaten and we saw that there were hoof prints in the light snow! That’s the one thing I’ve never asked my parents about. The hoof prints outside our back door. I think I’ll leave that mystery alone.

We found that Santa drank half of his glass. Part of a cookie with little crumbles nestled on his special plate. We read the note, (it was Dad’s handwriting), and it was saying how good we all were that year. Dad turned on the Christmas music in the CD player and the kids were officially allowed to open all their gifts. After each stocking unveiling and gift unwrapping, I would glance over to Mom and Dad. Then I would smile and say, “Thanks, Santa.”

Unfortunately I got into an accident but at least Enterprise gave me a cupcake

If you ever carpool with me, I should probably ride shotgun.

When I first started driving in high school, I was really, really bad. I waited until I was 18-years-old to get my license. At that point, it was to have it more because I wanted to get to my friends’ graduation parties rather than simply drive. My mom would print out a Google Map for every location but still that didn’t work all of the time. It once took me 50 minutes to get to the mall that I’ve been going to for my whole life.

An upside of learning to drive in the suburbs was that my “bumbling driver” persona wasn’t ever much of an issue. The extent of it was either my friends poking fun at me when I would have trouble pulling into a gas station or my younger siblings (without permits at the time) electing to drive instead of me.

I got a little better by the end of the summer before freshman year of college, but I couldn’t continue to practice once I got to school. I came back during break and drove again, as if I had pressed a reset button. This was the norm for the next several semesters. I had two weeks of a break between my time in London and LA. Over in England, I was used to using the Tube every day.

So renting a car for the LA semester was of course going to go well.

It was, unfortunately, necessary. I’m not accustomed, should you say, to the way in which LA is set up – I thrive on walking. I became accustomed to walking for at least two hours a day while I was in a city. Some days, I was going for six pushing on seven hours. And I loved it, despite the fact that I would sometimes wear out my friends and learned how to better read social cues. In LA, though, the most walking that I did was to and from my car.

In LA, people drive to go to a Starbucks if they’ve left a Coffee Bean that they didn’t like (something that I admit to doing). People also don’t use turn signals. People also don’t merge until the last minute. People also don’t slow down.

In LA, you have to constantly be watching which lane you need to be in because at any moment your exit could come up and you’ll be defying death by crossing over four lanes in four seconds.

I hated it.

I hated every moment of driving in LA. I was enjoying getting to know the city but boy, I turned into a toddler throwing a temper tantrum every time I got into the car. I hated it so much that I would listen to music in the car to distract myself from my hatred, which was a dumb idea in the first place because that’s one of the many things that created my anxiety about distraction.

The day before my accident, I finally thought that I was going to be okay. I had gotten into a fender bender a few weeks before but I thought, That’s it. That’s all it is. Just a fender bender. I’ll be able to know what to do to avoid that.

I was going to test myself.

I drove down to Amoeba Music from Universal City during rush hour – and I had gone on the 101. I even drove down into Amoeba’s basement parking garage without a hitch.

Why would I defy danger, dare you say? Well, I just had to see the Silversun Pickups play and write about it. It was important. I would drive during rush hour into Hollywood for a band.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the last groups of fans waiting outside let into the store. I watched Brian and Nikki from the band play an acoustic set of songs featured on their Singles Collection and they played “Lazy Eye,” my favorite, for the last song. I thought, This is all that rush hour is. That’s it. I’ll be able to know how to drive to see and find music anywhere.

The day of the accident was the first day that I felt the bravery to explore. I missed just going around places and seeing different shops and areas. I passed my normal coffee shop that I would stop at after class and went down to Magnolia Boulevard instead – a cool strip of different restaurants and boutique-y sort of places. My destination was a record store that I hadn’t been to yet.

Not seeing a free parking lot, I parked along a side street.

I got out and walked around. Record store, different food places, an old recording studio facade. It was starting to get cloudier and less aesthetic outside so I was done after about a half hour. I got back in the car and turned on the Swoon album by Silversun Pickups. I was still glowing from that experience from the night before: that song, my favorite place in LA, that band, my confidence about driving that I never thought I would have. “Substitution” began to play. It was the first song that ever I heard by the band and I was in the mindset of thinking of where I had come from and how far I had gone.

I pulled up to the stop sign. I looked right. I looked left. I looked right again.

There was a road like this back home but this… was more than that. Cars were zipping by and every block it looked like there was a stoplight so traffic was always coming and going. I had to make a left. I waited and thought I had a window of opportunity.

I started to turn.

And then.

I looked left again.

There was no mistake, I was going to get hit, driver’s side.

Fortunately, I had enough time to swerve the slightest so my body didn’t get the impact. I waited for it and felt the hit.

This was different from the bumper-to-bumper crunch that I had heard before. This was a tin can being smashed and I was in it. I hit my head on the top part above the window, missing the glass.

The car stopped and the crunching sound was over. I was still in the car. I wasn’t bleeding. I was okay. I was okay. I was okay.

“Hey. Hey you’re okay.”

I was alone but I needed someone to tell me to pull myself together.

“Hey, you’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay you’re okay you’re okay. You know what you need to do? You need to get to the side of the road okay. You cannot freak out yet. You can’t do it. You gotta hold on just a little bit more. Try to see if you can get to the side of the road.”

As I attempted to floor it, the car sputtered along and several drivers sped past me.

I glared at them, fuming at the fact that I was in a place where this was normal.

I managed to drive my battered car to the parking lot that was right next to the road in front of a maintenance shop.

I got out of the car and looked over to the other driver. She looked to me, her eyes thin from squinting through the cloudy sunlight.

“Excuse me? Ma’am?” the other girl said.

Ma’am? Did she just call me ma’am? I was probably younger than her.

“Ma’am, you’re going to need to get over here and call the police.”

I hadn’t done a police report before. The fender bender was just exchanging names. I didn’t know how to do a police report. I have to call the police?

I weaved through traffic and met up with the two other drivers.

“Is everybody okay?” I asked. I was weak in the knees and I am sure I looked pretty weak as well, the way that I get when I talk to people who intimidate me.

“Stand up straight, Claire,” my mom would always say.

“Well, the seatbelt was really tight on my chest,” the other girl said. “So I’m a little winded. But neither of us are bleeding.”

“My leg hurts,” the driver said, limping to walk closer to us.

“Oh my gosh, oh no… I must have not seen you… I mean… this is awful…”

“I’m going to call the police so they can file a report,” the driver said.

“Okay… okay I’m going to call my parents,” I said.

I sat on the curb and prepared for the call that no parent ever wants to receive. My crying stories aren’t always a laugh riot for my mom, but this was something that no one wants to hear.

“Hello Claire!” Mom said, her voice upbeat as normal.

There wasn’t any way to lead in with anything. I had to just go in.

“Mom, I just want to let you know that I am okay and that no one got seriously hurt, but I was in a car accident and the police are coming.”

I can’t really remember much of what I said afterwards. I was crying hard and my parents were asking detailed questions of the scene.

“Do not say you are sorry,” Mom said. “It is up to the police and the insurance company to decide who is at fault. You do not have to say you are sorry.”

I’m so used to saying sorry though. I’m sorry that I forgot the milk. I’m sorry that you didn’t make the play. I’m sorry that the rental car is totaled.

The next few hours happened, long and monotonous. I called home intermittently with more information that I received over time. The cops showed up and squared off the part of the street that had debris. They asked us if any of us were hurt and we all told them about how we felt.

“We’re going to need paramedics just to check you all out,” the main police officer said.

I sat down along the curb and balled up.

I’m relieved whenever people tell me that I am over-exaggerating or freaking out over nothing because then I can make those feelings stop.

So when I was scared and I was right, I felt hopeless.

The paramedics came and fortunately my wish was granted.

“Do I have a concussion?” I asked, hyperventilating on the curb.

“No… but don’t work yourself up like that,” said one of the firefighters.

They were silently standing in a circle around me. I felt like I was a bleating sheep and the farmers in front of me were wondering why it was making so much noise.

“Seriously, you’re messing with your internal system. Stop it,” the firefighter said.

After calming myself down to a level of mild sanity, I called my friend to come pick me up.

I once was in a fender bender with my mom on the way to high school. I was late as per usual with getting ready in the morning. It was snowing and we turned left onto the main road and we were going along and we heard a crunch. The next several months my mom had to deal with the insurance companies and the driver and going to court, which was just a pain in the neck for her and it was because of me.

The other mom calmed the girls down as I was sitting on the curb in front of the firefighters practically in spasms and she had to be there to make them feel better because of me.

When my friend came, she didn’t see the car since it had been towed already and the other driver and passenger had left with their mom. She didn’t mind driving me back but it wasn’t something anyone really wants to do. You don’t want to hear that someone you know gets in an accident. But I couldn’t think of anyone else at the time that would be available and know what to say to me. I didn’t know her then as well as I do now, but I knew that she wouldn’t blame me the way that I was blaming myself.

In her car, I was crying. This was the first time I had shown this side of myself to her. People don’t really know me until they know that side to me. It’s a gamble to show people that side but sometimes I don’t know how to control it.

She comforted me and she said something that helped me more than I think she realizes.

She said, “Oh Claire. This is just part of your charm.”

And it was just what I needed because then I could laugh at myself.

She dropped me off in front of my apartment and told me that if I needed her that she’d be there for me. I went inside and I was so happy to not be in a car. I was so happy to call my mom in a place that I knew.

I called the insurance company and then I ate Skinny Pop and watched It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I went to bed and I could pretend that it didn’t happen, just for a little bit, while I slept.

When I woke up, the problem was still there. I needed a car.

The first time, after the fender bender, I drove into the Enterprise parking lot thinking that they were going to just notice a few scrapes. The Enterprise branch manager, a calm, professional woman with a comforting smile, met me outside and we walked around the car.

She pointed to the front and said, “Your hood is crunched.”

I crouched down and then I saw it. I’m so bad at cars that I don’t even know how a car is supposed to look.

So I got a new car after the fender bender and I started to feel better and I went to the concert and then I got into the accident and this time I showed up with nothing.

I was barely holding it together as I walked in that morning but I was fortunately in my pre-crying stage. I’m better at holding myself together when it comes to having to interact with strangers. I’m fantastic at work. I’ve never cried before, not like how I would cry during school. I came close a few times and maybe I’ve cried because of work when talking about it, but when I am on the job I am on the job.

I sat with someone – I can’t remember his title but he seemed like he was in charge of the claims or something – and he looked the report and went through a myriad of details about what I should do about getting a new car and what to do with the old car.

I told him, “It already was towed.”

He asked, “Did you use our service?”

I told him no because there wasn’t anyone on the line that late at night.

And he got frustrated.

But this isn’t the sort of frustration that I needed to hear because in that moment I thought I hadn’t made a mistake. The night before, I talked to the police officer and he gave me a number to call and I used that because I just wanted to get back to the apartment.

He explained how that now because I didn’t use the service, they had to track down the car in some random impound and how this made things more difficult. I was being scolded and this poor guy didn’t know whom he was talking to, not like my friend.

So I started to cry.

I cried in the Enterprise and Yoga pants-wearing So Cal visitors looked over at me, just wanting something to drive. Claims Guy felt bad about this so he apologized and started to speak to me in a softer, warmer voice. Then, the branch manager walked out of her office and held up a nearly empty plastic casing.

“Do you want a cupcake?”

Now, I’ve always loved cupcakes. I can’t tell you how many I ate while I was in New York. Her asking added to the bizarreness of how I was feeling already.

I laughed and I ate the cupcake while there were still tears coming down my face. Claims Guy did his best to stay focused on deliberating the information as I stuffed my face with frosting and looked like a wreck.

A young employee with a bright smile and almost cartoonish amount of energy led me to the Enterprise van so we could pick up another car from a different branch.

“It’s so nice to meet you! Where are you from?” he gushed.

The ride over was so pleasant that I temporarily forgot about everything. I was just happy gabbing about the industry and how we were so relieved that we weren’t in other parts of the country during this particular winter.

Once I was set up with the new car, I managed to get myself safely back to the apartment.

There still was enough time in the morning to go to work.

I could go. It’d help things feel normal again.

I repeated this in my head maybe fifty times. Then I stopped lying to myself.

I called my supervisor and explained the situation.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “No, just rest and come back tomorrow – or you can take off tomorrow if you need to. Seriously, do not feel like you have to push yourself.”

For the remainder of the semester, I didn’t get into another car accident. I made sure to give any last details to the report. I made sure to come on time whenever I did the monthly check-up at Enterprise. The branch was always happy to see me.

“Hey there! It’s so good to see you!” they beamed. “It’s so nice to see you smiling. How are you?”

I’d smile and think, I totaled your car but I’m okay with this.

When I returned my car at the end of the semester, they even said they were sad to see me go.

“We always have a few students from those programs in the Oakwood that we get to know, and we’re so glad that we got to know you!”

I laughed, thinking how strange but wonderful it was for these people to be so welcoming. I have some friends that wouldn’t be nearly as accommodating.

The branch manager stood up from her desk and came to the front, holding a brownie for me. The entire branch and I laughed about it, as if it were the end of an I Love Lucy episode.

The young employee drove me and a few other students back to the Oakwood so the airport shuttle could take us to the airport. I waved goodbye to him and I don’t even think it would have been weird if we hugged.

I waited in the lobby and the shuttle finally came. I got in and sat down and started my journey to the airport. Someone else was driving.

 

10 Signs You’re Dating a Claire, Not a Woman, Not a Girl

 

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This article on Elite Daily made me angry.

So did this article.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the most timely of responses since it was posted a few months ago. Regardless, if you would so indulge me for a second, I would like to briefly get on my high horse and hope that it doesn’t gallop off into an open grassy area surrounded by a forest, which is what happened to me in elementary school at a Girl Scout camp. Anyway, aside from emotionally scarring animal stories, I will say that I like sharing and bookmarking fun articles. Who doesn’t? This article, however, I would not include in that collection.

This particular article goes further than, say, quirky seasonal accessories or the best beers to find in Greenwich. When an article on a website criticizes people for just being people, it just becomes a breeding ground for over-generalized comments and perpetuates this idea for the search of utter perfection. Even more than that, these articles can reemphasize gender stereotypes that are already ever so prevalent in media and society.

Also, in simpler terms, I was miffed at reading something like that, especially since it was written by a dude. So what if I eat a salad every now and then and then eat Cheez-Its at home? So what if I have a night where I drink a little too much and think that I became best friends with the bartender? So what if I watch reruns of The Bachelor? Personally, I think that Juan Pablo is a cretin.

So, I’ve come up with a list of my own.

“1. Girls like to dress in revealing clothes because they think they look sexy – women know they look sexy no matter what they wear.”

Claire just doesn’t know when she looks sexy and it’s probably better if you don’t tell her if she does happen to look sexy.

I mean, I know I have curves. And I like funky shawls and boots. Those are fashionable things. I used to not be fashionable at all (ask my sister). But if you tell me that I look hot, it’s likely that it won’t even register. Especially if you are an attractive man. It’ll be overload for me. I already know I look nice for myself, which is a huge personal accomplishment for me to actually like my appearance since I used to have serious confidence issues about my physicality. So if you tell me that I look nice then you’re going to ruin everything. What will happen is that I’m going to have to then deal with my emotions of me feeling good about looking nice and then I have to take into account that you have a standard for me looking nice and that it is probably making you think happy and sexy thoughts of me. Which is too much. I need to deal with my own happy emotions; you just keep it to yourself.

“2. Girls expect their men to know how they feel and what they’re thinking – women use their words.”

Claire expects you to know how she’s feeling and she uses a lot of words. And then Claire cries.

There is a select few of you that, unfortunately, know the depth of my rare confrontational skills. It involves me questioning what you are doing while simultaneously me questioning what I am doing. Then I explain the entire situation, pretty much more to myself rather than you after awhile so I can make sure that I am understanding what I am actually saying. Then I’ll realize that it probably wasn’t even that big of a deal anyway and I’ll cry for feeling bad that I put both of us through twenty minutes of me frustratedly talking to myself.

“3. Girls expect you to pay the tab – women are financially independent.”

Claire will either mooch off of you like a leech or offer literally everything to you such as water from her water bottle that’s two days old.

Listen, we all like free meals, right? We all like free rides to places, right? Free stuff is free stuff. If you offer me pie, I’m going to eat pie. If you offer to buy me a burrito, of course I’m going to eat a burrito.

At the same time, I enjoy being obnoxiously generous. Please, take my day-old cheeseburger. I don’t want you to be hungry. I want you to be well-fed. Eat it. Eat it now.

“4. Girls go out and get wasted – women can hold their liquor and know their limits.”

Claire should probably just stick to beer.

I like going out and about. I will be messy sometimes. I will be classy at other points. We can all agree that I should mainly stick to my beer snobbery and indulge in craft ales and lagers. If I venture into the tempting realm of whiskey, it is not uncommon to see me cry during various experiences. These range from being overwhelmed by too many people at a party to explaining why Arcade Fire means so much to me, man.

“5. Girls can’t wait to update their Facebook status to “In a relationship” – women forget they have a Facebook.”

Claire will post pictures of all of her pseudo-boyfriends regardless.

I have a boyfriend. His name is Leo. He’s so handsome and has amazing dancing skills and is willing to let loose and play with water guns during the summertime. There’s something I haven’t told him, though. He doesn’t know about Key… or Corey… or Dev or Dan or Benedict. I did tell him that it was an open relationship, though, so he shouldn’t be too upset…

“6. Girls watch junk TV – women read.”

If you talk about a book or a television show to Claire then she will dissect every element of the story so you won’t ever want to hear the words “Sherlock Holmes” or “Ex-Parrot” ever again.

When I’m in my happy place, I’m in my happy place and I will bring you there. Other trigger words include “Heisenberg,” “Santaland,”and “MeowMeowBeenz.”

“7. Girls talk about trivial matters – women know how to hold a stimulating conversation.”

You don’t even need to be there for Claire to have a conversation.

There’s home video footage of my mom trying to talk to me while I’m playing with my Babe stuffed animal. In it, she’s trying to ask me what I’m doing, etc. All I am doing is quietly talking to myself, to Babe, and responding to myself as Babe. Ranging from excitedly listing out songs to put on my next playlist while walking around campus to chastising myself for forgetting to get milk while leaving the grocery store, things haven’t changed much since then.

“Claire… I just sometimes hear you randomly talk,” my sister will say.

“Yeah, like you’re in the bathroom washing your hands or something and I’ll wonder who else is in there,” my brother will say.

I’m not talking to anyone else… except for Tony.

“8. Girls eat salads – women eat whatever the hell they want.”

Claire likes eating pizza and will lose respect for you if you diss deep dish pizza.

It’s a meal, people. It’s supposed to have substance. That’s what food is, isn’t it? Not just a snack that you eat in two minutes, you know? Not that I don’t like New York-style, I do, I really do, and yeah, it’s more popularly seen throughout the country. But that’s the beauty of Chicago-style pizza, my friends. You want to have something that is unique to a region? You go anywhere outside of the city or the suburbs and it’s going to go downhill from there.

“9. Girls stick to what they know – women are always searching to widen their horizons.”

Claire knows everything.

Be afraid.

“10. Girls need guardians – women don’t need anybody but themselves.”

Claire likes people but there are some that are just cumbersome and aren’t worth trying to understand. So whenever those people give her trouble, she just watches a show or a film and pretends that she’s Claire Underwood or Amy Dunne or Mindy and becomes friends with these characters in her mind.

I have my family, my friends and then my characters. It’s a pretty good support system.

Crazy burnt the popcorn.

Remember that awesome FDR quote? You know? “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It was my favorite quote growing up.

But tell that to me when I am nearly writhing on the floor of my dorm hallway screaming, “I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT, I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT,” it won’t go over very well.

I want to make it clear that I do not condone my actions in this particular debacle. To say that this was a gross overreaction is the understatement of the century and I still get chills that this particular instance happened merely three years ago. People remember this. This was bad.

Sure, I can laugh at my emotions. But sometimes it’s a means to laugh first. Because my emotions aren’t always pretty.

My first semester of freshman year was a whirlwind. I came into Syracuse University as a tornado of ideals, emotions and the conviction that I was going to win an Oscar one day and this was my first step of getting there. I joined the SUMB and my time was filled with 18 credits of classes and practice, practice, practice. If I wasn’t marking time in the parade block I was marking off boxes on scantrons. I was also learning that, to my horror, I was way more of an emotional person than I ever realized.

Growing up, I had the hope that I would one day “get better.” But the older I got, the more that I realized that reactions weren’t going to taper off just because. When my mom and I first talked about puberty and the “emotions” associated with growing up, I bawled.

“But MOM,” I said, terrified, “this means that I’m going to be EVEN MORE EMOTIONAL?”

She did her normal consoling of hugging me and we laughed about it.

Unfortunately, my prepubescent self was correct. The peak of my emotions didn’t come during the breadth of high school, however; it was the end of my senior year of high school and my first year of college when it began to rear its ugly head.

Yes, Claire, I say to my younger self. You’ll become even more emotional.

I was going through an emotional rollercoaster like all freshmen, but I was letting my freak flag fly in front of everyone. My RA, the new people I met in band, my floormates. They all got a bit of raw, emotional, scared Claire. Everything was so new and practically no one knew me on campus and I hadn’t learned how to “reel it in” yet (something I’m still working on today).

Because I was so busy, I didn’t really make any connections on my first semester floor, and because I was in band and, well, let’s face it, a little hard to handle, I wasn’t exactly popular. My dysfunctional relationship with my floor was best represented when I burnt my popcorn in the microwave.

It was evening in the fall, so it wasn’t too cold outside. I was in my jammies. I didn’t have band practice that night. I had homework to do. I had set everything in its place and I was ready to get work done. I had prepared my workspace and my mind for a productive evening. I was feeling settled – whenever the world is a little too much, focusing on work is my go-to thing to calm myself down. So, for a lovely moment, I was at peace.

This didn’t last long.

Anyone who’s had to live with me knows that I live off of popcorn… no, correction: I exist off of popcorn. I always get it at the theater and it’s a perfect late night snack. So, as part of my homework ritual, I would prepare a bag of popcorn and do some work. I was going to do that on that very evening.

The microwave on the floor was right across the hall from my room, so I put the bag in for 2:30. Also, because I am the most impatient person on the planet, I went back to my room and fiddled around some more with my desk.

And then, the most horrifying sound started blaring throughout the dorm.

It was the fire alarm.

Everything in my being stopped and I could feel the prickly sensation of terror starting to settle in my mind. Footsteps came from outside of my door.

“Oh my god, who’s popcorn is that?”

“Oh man, are you SERIOUS?”

I don’t know why I did what I did next. I was in my room. No one knew. I could have played dumb. Damn it Claire, why didn’t you play dumb?

But the guilt was too vicious. I couldn’t live with a heavy conscious, albeit only weighed down with ashy popcorn kernels.

My mouth agape, I opened the door to the smoky, loud hallway with my RA looking concerned and two of the guy floormates looking pissed off.

There was no turning back now. My ability to moderate myself became null and void as soon as I stepped onto the scene.

“It… it was me,” I said quietly at first.

I stepped further into the hallway.

“Oh GOD IT WAS ME.”

Then I went full crazy.

I grabbed the popcorn bag and threw it on the floor.

“I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT. I’M SORRY. I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT.”

“Oh JESUS,” one of the guys said, backing away from me.

“I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT,” I yelled, crying, crouching down near the floor. “I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT.”

“Oh-okay, Claire,” my RA said, attempting to distract me from my meltdown. “We need to go outside, okay?”

I was so distraught that I only remember bits of the next five minutes. I somehow managed to get to the stairs before the rest of the floor came out of their rooms. I practically flew down the flights of stairs, my stomach churning at the thought of the consequences of my actions. I was going to be destroyed by everyone.

Outside, I heard the normal mutterings of people reacting to nighttime fire alarms. “God, who burnt soup?” “Ugh, how can people be so stupid?” “How hard is it to watch a microwave?” “Someone probably was toking up in the room, idiot.”

They’re all talking about me, I thought in crazed distress. They all HATE ME. They all think I’M STUPID. No one MUST KNOW IT WAS ME.

Why I thought that people would know by just looking at me, I don’t know. In fact, the more I worried, the more I started wandering around frantically, looking for my RA. So it was probably obvious that it was me.

I found the RDs and cried and explained that I burnt popcorn and that I was sorry. They led me to my RA and she consoled me, telling me that this sort of thing was normal and that I should just be more attentive next time. I started to calm down and everyone went up to the rooms.

Back in the room, I got what I had predicted: being teased behind my back. I spent doing homework listening to some of my floormates recreating my outbursts in the hallway.

“I’M SORRY OH MY GOD,” a girl shrieked.

“IT’S MY FAULT,” one of the guys shouted.

“God, she’s so crazy,” another guy said, the rest laughing in agreement.

I didn’t confront them about it. It hurt but honestly, I would’ve probably done the same thing if I saw someone have a conniption about burning popcorn. In that moment, I vowed to never go through that ordeal again.

The next semester, I burnt popcorn in my new dorm room. I had moved to do a different dorm and had two new roommates. We had a microwave in the room and the fire alarm went off.

“God DAMN it,” I said.

Fortunately, only the room’s smoke detector went off and the dorm fire alarm remained silent. My roommates came to where I was standing. When they me asked about why I got so angry, I explained to them my sordid tale. This time, though, the three of us laughed about it and I didn’t feel so bad. I made a new bag and went to my desk, ready to study the night away.

The Elementary School Series: Sports Edition

Claire in Little League

My attempt at a smile after crying during a T-ball game.

 

When I was in Elementary school, I was prone to instantaneous sensory overstimulation, especially during sporting events. These are some stories that I’m sure many of my schoolteachers still remember.

Soccer Field Heartbreak

The first crush that I ever had was when I was in third grade. Unbeknownst to me, it would be the start of a long and extremely awkward quest to find – dare I even say it – “the one.”  My poor elementary school self, unaware of the shame and embarrassment that lay before me, decided to pursue a boy. Like an ignorant fairy nymph watching between the trees of a mystic forest, I stared at him longingly every time I passed his desk to go sharpen my pencil.

“I think he moved when I walked by,” I’d say to myself as I shaved my pencil to a fine point. “He definitely moved in his seat when I walked by.”

I didn’t really have any explanation as to why I suddenly felt a certain way about this boy. I didn’t wonder why I went from viewing boys as alien beings to creatures to admire because I was in kiddie love.

I decided to be brave. In class I was known as the shy kid but during recesses, I started to actually attempt to talk to him.

“Hi,” I’d say.

“Hi,” he’d say. And then he’d go play kickball.

“That was good,” I thought, giving myself emotional support. It was progress!

The most thrilling moment of my third grade love life was when we organized a soccer game during recess. Now, I was a soccer tyke pro – nobody could defeat me at my defense. My only problem was that I was usually the smallest player on the field.

Excited to show off my moves to my potential man, I sped onto the field where the other kids were teaming up. I puffed out my shoulders and stood firmly amongst my fellow sporty kids. I was the tiniest person on the field so I had to do something. “I’m not going to be picked last this time.”

I was picked last.

It didn’t matter because my hunk was on my team. “Yay!” I thought. “I can play alongside him the whole time!”

And did I. The entire game I followed his every zigzag and diagonal cut across the field. This made him look less at me, however, and more likely to give me weirded-out looks.

“This isn’t working,” I pondered. I changed my tactics and decided to alternate between running on the opposite side of the field and then happening to make my way over back to him casually.

He was receptive to this.

“Hi!” I said, during gameplay.

“Hi Claire,” he said.

“He said my name!”

I was so delighted at my success that I didn’t notice the massive fourth grade Neanderthal of a boy running into me until it was all too late. I fell down to the ground and as quickly as you could say “penalty,” I was crying.

My bitty babe and the brute that bashed into me to the ground helped me to the side of the field and sat me down. There was an adult there watching the field and she started to console me.

“Are you okay, Claire?” my crush asked, caring so tenderly for my feelings.

“Yeah… I’ll be… okay,” I said, the sobs starting to abate.

“Okay,” he said. He turned to start running onto field. The oaf left me to run alongside him and started to jeer.

“What’s the matter? Aren’t you going to go back to help your girlfriend?” he sneered.

To my dismay, my love interest snapped back at him emphatically.

“She’s NOT my girlfriend!!” he yelled.

That was it. There was my answer: I wasn’t his girlfriend. And everyone knew that I was shut down. I started to bawl harder.

For a few days after that, whenever I would walk by his desk to sharpen my pencil, I’d make sure to shoot him the most hateful glare that I could conjure.

“Who needs him anyway”?

 

The Harlem Globetrotters Made me Cry

Fortunately, I haven’t cried every time I’ve met a famous person, and the following story is the reason why I try my hardest to not cry.

Since I was the world’s biggest five-year-old basketball nut, I knew whom the Harlem Globetrotters were when they came to visit my elementary school. We all were gathered in the gym and sat in front of the stage as they came up front. They were tall and funny and real basketball players. I was in awe.

They were looking into the crowd for a volunteer. Out of all of the shining faces in the crowd, they picked out me.

I was ecstatic.

As I weaved my way through the crowd and walked up to the front, the audience cheered. The players asked me innocent questions like what was my name and how old I was. I was shy and quiet and didn’t say much so they decided to go ahead with the trick.

All that I needed to do was hold a pencil and they were going to spin a ball on top of it. I always thought that spinning a ball on your fingers was the coolest thing ever so this made my head feel like it was going to explode.

But it was too much. I had gone from ecstatic to the emotional edge when the crowd started to cheer. The ball was spinning on the pencil in my hand, the gym was suddenly extremely loud, and everyone was looking at me.

I started wailing so loudly that my kindergarten teacher scooped me up and took me outside.

She knew what was going to happen the moment I started heading up to the stage.

My mom recalls: “When the teacher called home afterwards I could see the whole experience play out before it happened. It was only a matter of time. She had said, ‘I had hoped. I really, really did – I was rooting for her. But it was just too much.’”

After my teacher talked to my mom, I went back in later and sat quietly in the back where I was comfortable.

Whenever people like to brag about their celebrity meetings, I always know that I have an ace in the hole. I can always say, “I met the Harlem Globetrotters and they made me cry.”

 

“I Will PERSEVERE!”

I was going to do it. I was going to unleash my fears. I was going to battle my demons. I was going to overcome the mountain of self-doubt and self-deprecation with triumph and everyone was going to know it. I was having a meltdown, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

“I will PERSEVERE!” I yelled up to the ceiling.

My parents enjoy this particular moment in my emotional career. They would often quote “I will persevere” when I would be crying about something or other and it’d make me laugh. The important thing to note is that I do not remember any of this. I must have blocked it out of my mind considering it was so… out there.

It was during one of my community house team basketball games. Something that the coach and my parents would tell me frequently that basketball was a game of movement.

“You can’t dwell on the fact that you’ve missed a layup or if you pass it to the wrong person,” they’d say. “You just have to move on and keep going.”

I took these words to heart and decided to try to not be as affected during the games.

This particular game, though, I was making a lot of mistakes.The problem was that during the first couple of years that kids could be on the basketball teams, the refs didn’t call all of the penalties. Now that I was in fourth grade, they became more strict with the rules.

The ref often tweeted his whistle at me.

“Traveling!” he’d say.

The gameplay would resumed but soon he would tweet at me again.

“Double dribble!”

On defense, I would be better. Or so I thought.

Tweet!

“That’s a defensive foul!” he’d yell.

The last straw was when I got a foul for standing too close to the free throw net. As I was struggling to keep it together on the court, the ref went up to me.

“Just don’t worry about it, it’s just a foul,” he said.

Little did he know that telling me “don’t worry about it” was only going to make me worry about it even more.

That wasn’t going to stop me, though.

The other team carried the ball down the court. I ran behind, struggling, before stopping in the middle. I clenched my hands and raised my hands a la Platoon. Emotional catharsis. Redemption.

I unleashed my battle cry, enunciated perfectly for everyone to hear.

“I will PERSEVERE.”

This shook the crowd a little bit. There was some murmuring and “awws.” My stunned parents, however, burst out laughing.

“We didn’t want to seem like we were laughing at you!” my Mom says. “But it was so funny! I mean, what little kid says something like that? It’s something that I wish I had on video.”

Safe to say that I don’t say “I will persevere” every time I try to get past one of my moments. Although, I am interested to see what peoples’ reactions would be the next time I get frustrated during an exam or a job interview and I exclaim “I will persevere!”

 

Why would you yell at a kid during a T-ball game?

During a recent visit with my grandparents, I asked my Pop Pop about a picture of me on his desk.

“This one, now this one is a favorite,” Pop Pop said, chuckling as he picked up the picture.

My face is distorted – my one eye squinting and my mouth is in a bizarre “oh” formation. My baseball cap loosely fits the top of my head as I hold a trophy in an oversized uniform.

“You were crying and we asked you to smile and this is what you did!” Pop Pop said.

My parents were on a trip, so my Grandma Mickie and Pop Pop came up for the week to take care of me and my siblings. My last T-ball game was during this week so Grandma Mickie and Pop Pop came to watch me play. I’ve always liked baseball and, while I wasn’t the best at it, I did do a pretty good job at catcher or shortstop from time to time.

Back then, that didn’t matter though. I was just excited to be on the field. Anything was possible on the field. You didn’t know where the ball was going to end up and that was the exciting part! And it was always the best when it happened to land right in front of you because – yes! You were in control! You got to choose how the game went on! Also, I was really looking forward to the trophy at the end of the season.

As any kid knows, though, it’s hard to be part of all the action when you’re in the outfield.

As the innings went on, I was always attentive and engaged with what was going on. A single hit here, an out there. It was still all very exciting and I was still very happy to be out there, but there was something that was troubling me if just for a little bit. I had hardly touched the ball and not once had I ran onto the infield. As much as I was having fun, I wanted to be part of the game.

Late in the game, a kid at bat hit the ball in my general direction and I darted for the infield to try to make the play.

“CLAIRE!” my coach yelled. “DO NOT go for that ball! STAY in the outfield!”

Because I’ve always been a rule follower and sensitive to any time I’ve gone outside the line, I immediately stopped rushing forward and started crying. This only further annoyed my coach. He called me over and took me off the field. I went to the side telling my Grandparents that I couldn’t handle being in the game.

“He was just a little insensitive, I think,” Grandma said. “I mean you were just a little kid.”

“I mean, why would you yell at a kid in T-ball?” my Pop Pop exclaimed.

Despite my coach’s insensitivity, and my meltdown, I still came away with my end of year trophy in hand, and my Pop Pop got one of his favorite pictures of me. In a sort of way, this pattern has been consistent in my life since.

My professor’s dog ate my muffin. I cried.

Did you ever have a rough start to your morning?

Did a dog ever eat your muffin in class?

Did you cry about it?

Before I go any further, I want to be clear about something. This is the story that I use to truly test people, usually people who don’t know me very well. I tell this as an icebreaker with acquaintance-potential-friend types. Will this person handle being my friend? I think to myself, as they say, “yeah, sure, let me hear it!”

I also tell this to guys that I’m interested in – you know, when you go on those pre-dates and you tell each other stories to give off that I’m-uber-datable impression. Luckily, I have the art of giving off the wrong impression boiled down to a science and this story is merely just part of the experimentation. I look at his soft eyes and slight smirk and I know what he’s thinking, but I think to myself, Yeah… but will you want to handle me?

And, as a sick sort of challenge for myself, I think, I bet not.

This horrifies my mom.

“Claire, it’s funnier when they know you,” she pleads. “Let them get to know you first… Please.”

But I can’t help it. It’s almost as if I feel like I owe them the truth, you know? It’s not just because weird things like this happen to me a lot… it’s also because of my reaction to these sorts of situations.

The date was nondescript and the morning dew on the grass was average. It was just a normal day; I was getting ready to go to a normal 9:30 am class and, surprisingly, I was not running late. I strutted confidently into the dining hall. Nary a soul was near the pastries.

This kingdom is mine, I thought, drinking in the possibilities.

I looked at the shelves and the potential breakfast delicacies bathing in fluorescent light, their sweet smells pulling me in. I wanted it all.

But then I saw it. It was a blueberry muffin with some clear sugar sprinkles placed haphazardly on a glazed top. A black paper muffin cup hugged its gooey core.

My precious, I thought, channeling my inner Gollum.

As I put the one to rule all muffins in my outer backpack pouch and walked into class, I would soon come to find that I had gambled too heavily. Too succulent of a treat was not destined in my stomach.

It would be in the stomach of a Rottweiler.

“Isn’t she just the cutest??” my professor gushed. I sat down in my seat, stiff, and placed my backpack on the table.

“Yeah,” I said.

I lamented that the day that I was early to class was the day that my professor brought in the type of dog that ran over me while I was a kid. The memory still persists as one of true abject horror. I was standing innocently in a soccer field, not even a tween, and then all of a sudden a sleek bear-like figure stampeded over my small body.

And now one of them was sniffing my bag.

I pulled it closer to me. I had to protect my breakfast treasure.

Minutes passed and the rest of the class filed in, muffin-less and dark circles glowing under their eyes.

I am queen, I thought.

Until the pop quiz.

Why would she give a pop quiz on my day of muffin triumph? A perfectly good morning was now soured as I apathetically looked at the questions. I had… glazed… over the chapter.

Glazed, heh heh, I thought. Stupid jokes would pull me through.

But I was wrong. By the end of the quiz, I was drained and I overwhelmed. It was MUFFIN DAY. I thought. I couldn’t just have one day of muffin-y bliss?

And so I did what I had started doing in first grade whenever I felt like crying over bewildering circumstances. I went to the bathroom.

I didn’t cry this time, though, but it did help calm me down. The quiz wasn’t worth that many points and I would just actually read the chapter the next time. It would be okay.

If only I could have guessed what the next two minutes of my life had in store for me.

First off, I was already a little shaken with the dog and the quiz and all. But walking into a room of laptops simultaneously playing George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words stand-up bit was pure disorientation. Later and after the madness, I would be told that it was because the projector wasn’t working.

The echo-y shouts of profanity paled, however, in comparison to the bizarreness of my professor just losing it at the sight of me. I mean it – she was practically in tears watching me tip toe to my seat.

“Claire… Claire I am so sorry,” she said, gasping for breath between laughter.

I had been so focused on the laptops that I had failed to notice the carnage on my table. Crumbs… crumbs were everywhere. My backpack askew, the dog was nuzzling her nose into…

Oh no.

My tablemates witnessed my reaction and started to laugh too, bemused at my look of genuine disappointment, surprise and anger. I knew that they weren’t really laughing at me, but it didn’t help. I’ve had to learn over the years that there’s a reason why my peers can pick on me easily (I react and I am sometimes – if not most times – very weird) and that I shouldn’t always blame them, but in this moment, that logic went out the door.

In that moment, I was back in elementary school.

My adult consciousness shut down and before I could process what was going on I was bawling. This made the room dead silent except for the weird echoes of George Carlin bouncing around in the room. With everyone dumbstruck and staring at me, I hightailed it out of there.

I felt like I was coming back down to Earth from wherever the hell I go whenever I get like that while I was crying in a stall in the bathroom and calling my mom. With the phone ringing, my first sane thoughts came through my mind.

What do I even tell Mom? Why am I even calling her? What just happened?

“Hi Claire!” she said, sunny and blissfully unaware of my current state of mind.

“Hi Mom,” I said, garbled.

“Claire… Claire what’s wrong?”

My mom has told me that she can tell within the first two seconds of a phone conversation if I am fine or not. “I usually listen for an echo,” is what she says. “That’s how I know you’re in the bathroom.”

“Mom… I was in class, and it was the professor’s dog, and I went to the bathroom, and it ate my muffin.”

I wish I could actually type the true iterations of words that came out of my mouth because it did not sound like that.

“Wait, what? Did the dog eat a muffin? Did it die?”

“No… it ate my muffin.”

“It… what?” Her voice was becoming less concerned and more incredulous.

“Yeah… it ate my muffin. I got it from the dining hall.”

“What?!” she practically shouted, holding back her laughter.

I started to giggle. “Um, yeah, I guess it’s kind of weird.”

She didn’t hold back this time.

“Oh my gosh Claire… I thought the dog had died or something! Oh my gosh! So what did you do?”

“I ran out of the room crying.”

“Oh my gosh!” It was the sort of voice she used only when she was laughing so hard that she was crying. After a few minutes of bewildered laughing, we both calmed down.

“Okay, well, you should go back to class then. Maybe they’ll know not to bring dogs in the school anymore!” she said.

Feeling better, I hung up. I washed my hands and dried off my tears. And then the pit of my stomach dropped.

I have to go back in there.

I am no stranger to public crying and to public humiliation. Again, another art form I have mastered. But this… this was different. My reaction hadn’t just been weird; it had been jarring.

As I walked back in the class, everyone, and I mean everyone, turned to look at me. The dog was back at my backpack and my tablemates in stunned silence shooed the dog away as quickly as they could, afraid of another outburst from me. I sat down. The class continued in awkward, muffin-less silence.

My world was salvaged when the class finally was over. I tried to scoot out as fast I could but my professor got to me first.

“Claire… I am so, so sorry.”

“Really, you don’t need to feel bad about it,” I said, nearly crying again. Why am I crying NOW?

I thought I could save just a tiny bit of dignity by playing up the fact that a Rottweiler really did run me over as a kid.

“Oh my gosh… I should have known,” she said.

“It’s really fine, really,” I said, one foot out of the door already.

“Take this,” she said, and she stuffed a five-dollar bill into my hand.

Before I could say, “oh no, you shouldn’t have to do that,” she was out the door as quickly as the Roadrunner darts out of frame.

Stunned, I walked out into the late morning day and made my way to the library like a zombie. I was going to attempt to get work done before my next class, but deep down I knew that any attempt of brain functionality would be futile.

Until I saw the café counter.

Next to the deli line was a pastry basket. It didn’t have a blueberry muffin, but it had something better. A coffee cake muffin.

It was like I was making the connection in my mind for the first time that money could buy food.

I… could still have… a muffin.

I beamed at the cashier who exchanged my cash for muffin and I didn’t mind the odd look she gave me.

“Thank you… Thank you so much,” I whispered to her.

“Umm, you’re welcome?” she said.

I walked away and found a perfect study spot. The chair was comfortable and books and windows surrounded me.

And, gingerly… respectfully… I started to eat my muffin, never feeling as happy as I did in that moment.