Ranée

Favorite(s)

I’m a lifelong lover of books and music, having been massively influenced by both since I was a child, so this post contains a list of my seven favorite books and—as an homage to one of them—my top five all-time favorite recording artists.

Favorite Books

Listed in chronological order according to when I read them.

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (whom my father claims is some distant family relative of ours) is one of the first authors with whom I became enamored; he is also responsible for getting me hooked on supernatural literature. As a teenager, I devoured his stories of horror: “Ligeia,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and others. I also repeatedly read a number of Poe’s grimmer poems. What I admired most about his work was the artful way he generated suspense, the shocking turns he incorporated, and his lyrical style. Poe, to me, wasn’t just a master of the horrific but also rhythm, rhyme, and repetition of sounds (both assonance and alliteration). He will forever occupy a significant portion of my rather morbid heart.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

This book about a pathetic record store owner and self-described arsehole obsessed with making top-five lists, penned by a music-loving writer and critic has been among my all-time faves since I first read it back in college. Hornby’s debut novel reads like an Elvis Costello song (note: the title is an Elvis Costello song and Mr. Declan McManus also happens to be one of my favorite recording artists). I’ve never been able to find out whether or not Hornby purposely chose the title because of the song or whether, just being the music writer and lover that he is, he decided (like Costello) that the double meaning of the term high fidelity was incredibly appropriate (and clever) for his debut novel. Maybe it was a little of both. If I ever get the chance to interview or chat with Hornby, I’ll be sure to ask him. What makes this book one of my favorites, however, isn’t just its references to music or the fact that it was obviously written by a music lover who’d seen more than his share of know-it-all music snobs, but because Hornby is so frank about the awkwardness and absurdity so often inherent in relationships, his flawed and quirky characters are entirely believable, and his chronicle of Rob’s ridiculous romantic entanglements is really funny.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

I treasure this tale of magic and the sacred feminine based on the Arthurian legends. Morgaine is without a doubt one of my favorite literary heroines, right alongside Lisbeth Salander (two very different but equally strong women, in my view). When I read this book, Avalon also represented something that I’d sorely lacked for most of my youth—a community of genuinely supportive women. This beautifully woven tale gave me hope that I’d eventually find my own place within one.

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

I know I probably shouldn’t list this book among my favorites without also including Bram Stoker’s Dracula on that list, but, well, King’s updated version of the Dracula story is frankly scarier than the original. In fact, it’s the scariest book I’ve ever read. I like my vampires creepy and terrifying and, like his predecessor and obvious influence, Count Orlok, the original film version of Kurt Barlow certainly fits the criteria.

The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

When I was introduced to Duffy’s poems in an Irish lit class in graduate school, it was love at first read. By turns, bawdy, brash, and beautiful, Duffy’s style is one that I admire above many others. Her words, imagery, and subject matter felt so raw and real to me, and when I read The World’s Wife, a collection of poems about famous literary, mythical, and historical women (reimagined and written from their points of view), I identified with so many of them. Duffy herself is one of my favorite writers.

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

Mama Day is another book I discovered in grad school, this one thanks to my advisor (and one of my real-life heroes) Teresa Washington. I suppose that aside from African American lit, this book also falls into the genre of “magical realism.” It’s also something of a love story. Those elements of the book along with its incorporation of the sacred feminine are certainly partly why I love it so. Another reason is Naylor’s brilliant storytelling and creative narrative choices. Parts of the story are told from the points of view of two of the main characters, Coco and George, and written in first person as they talk to/about one other and their relationship. Some elements are a beautiful lesson in history and culture. Other sections are a third-person narrative focusing on the title character of Miranda “Mama” Day and other residents of Willow Springs, which, like its most famous denizen, Sapphira Wade, belongs to no one but itself and its people. This is one book that I will never tire of re-reading because of its richness, and I laugh and cry every time I enter the world of Willow Springs.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

This book is on my list because of how much it has meant in terms of my personal and spiritual growth. Reading this book awakened something that had been buried and brutalized within my soul, and it inspired me to reclaim and nurture that part of myself—to heal so that I might become whole.

Favorite Recording Artists

My favorite musicians

In true High Fidelity fashion, here are my desert-island, all-time, top favorite recording artists, in alphabetical order:

  • Tori Amos
  • David Bowie
  • Elvis Costello
  • Queen
  • Lou Reed (and The Velvet Underground sans Nico)

Satisfyingly soulful and strange, Tori Amos was a big part of my formative years and although Sarah McLachlan, U2, and Garbage were just as much so, it’s Tori’s music that’s stood the test of time for me. Most of the music that I loved by those other singers and bands were their earlier songs and records, whereas I’d rank albums like 2002’s Scarlet’s Walk and 2017’s Native Invader right up there alongside Tori’s first three. Quite a number of her songs have inspired post titles on this blog.

Elvis Costello, aka Declan McManus, aka Napoleon Dynamite, is the only one of my top five I’ve actually seen in concert (I didn’t really get out much when I was younger, OK?). He’s a masterful, witty lyricist and wordsmith, sharp with a turn of phrase, genius with his use of the double entendre, and fantastic on guitar. I’m a bigger fan of his earlier, grittier work on albums like My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model, and Armed Forces, but I’m also impressed with his ability to effortlessly shift between music genres, particularly stuff that I wouldn’t have thought a fit for him (see albums like Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane and his work with Burt Bacharach). I appreciate genre-shattering musicians just as much as I do authors.

I suppose the other three on my list are sort of a testament to my love affair with glam rock, which began in earnest when I saw Todd Haynes’ film Velvet Goldmine, but I don’t just love those guys because of their glam records and personae. I love them because they’re weird and wonderful.

Lou Reed was the primary songwriter behind The Velvet Underground, one of the most influential bands in modern rock. To me, he was also its heart. I think one of the reasons I so love Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry is that it reminds me of Lou Reed’s songwriting. He was a poet too, a fellow freak and survivor, and a damn fine guitar player.

Speaking of freaks . . . yes, I loved the oft alien, always androgynous David Bowie for his weirdness too. But, like my other favorites, I also adored him for his musical talents, especially the risks that he took musically and his production work.

Bowie certainly had style and flair but so did Freddie Mercury, who is one of the main reasons that Queen makes my list. I called him “The Voice” because I was simply in awe of that man’s vocal range and talent. To me, he is far and away the most amazing vocalist in all of rock; no one else even comes close. I also couldn’t help but dig the fact that he was often so in-your-face and over-the-top when performing. Freddie isn’t the only reason I love Queen, though. I’m also a huge fan of Brian May’s guitar playing and the band was brilliant in the way that they melded genres and pulled off stuff that I’m sure the people working behind the scenes with them thought would never work.

Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know a little more about me. I know you have your own favorite books, writers, and music-makers and I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

Ranée

Winter

I get a little warm in my heart when I think of winter
— Tori Amos

Winter has come and, with it, darkness—a time for rest, contemplation, soul-searching, and planning for the return of the sun and the light come spring. I am wishing for snow and the peace and quiet stillness that it brings. I love winter when there’s snow and a decided chill in the air (we have only one of those things at the moment and I had to be content with nothing more than a little frost today). Winter is second only to fall for me. I seem to come alive with the dying season. I guess maybe that’s because I’ve always been a lover of solitude and shadows, a strange soul who found solace in the things that made many others cringe with restlessness or fear. Something there is that doesn’t love the quiet, or slowing down.

Well, this winter, I will be slowing down, taking more time for me and my loved ones, and for completing a draft of the book I’ve been working on for way too long now (it’ll be two years come spring). I’ll also be catching up on reading, curling up with a cozy blanket and a mug of tea many a weekend; the only thing our home is missing is a fireplace, really. But I will not be shut up indoors for the duration of winter. Oh, no! I’ll be out experiencing the wondrous beauty of nature as I always do, especially when that first snowfall finally does blanket our world. There’s something so serene about snow and, yes, I confess that I do get a little warm in my heart when I think of winter . . . Besides, I’m interested to see how my archery progresses (or doesn’t) with the change in the weather.

Ranée

Silent All These Years

I got something to say but nothing comes
Yes, I know what you think of me, you never shut up
— Tori Amos, "Silent All These Years"

I spent most of my life embodying the above lyrics. I listened to everyone else talk. And talk. And talk. They seemed to never shut up, never pause to actually listen once in a while, and if I tried to speak or by some miracle managed to get a word in, it merely became a springboard for the talkers to start in again. I had things to say too. I wanted to be heard. But I couldn’t find my voice. I was like the Little Mermaid, sacrificing her voice to Ursula to be complacent.

Apart from the very bad, unhealthy habit of buying myself things I couldn’t afford, didn’t need, and in most cases, didn’t even want, I didn’t really do things for myself, took little action, and instead just let things happen to me even well into adulthood. As a result, I did a lot of things that I didn’t really want to but felt as if I had to. Those of us who do that seem to have this warped idea that we’re somehow being noble or caring or that it’s good to be so goddamn self-sacrificing because we’re supposed to care more about others than ourselves. Why do we crucify ourselves like that? We can care about others without being martyrs for crying out loud and it’s not selfish to give a shit about yourself, speak your mind, and say “no” to other people (you can do it politely). I think many of us who act this way have been bullied in the past and we’ve gotten used to just giving in to everyone else and forgetting about ourselves. We even find it difficult to figure out who we really are because we haven’t taken the time. Of course other people love you when you’re a martyr—why wouldn’t they? You do everything for them, nothing for yourself, make them look stellar, and you fade into the background like the shadow you’ve become. But, chances are, those people don’t respect you. Someone who respected you wouldn’t treat you like that in the first place and, moreover, they’d want to see you shine, not burn out and fade away. This line came to me in meditation: When you put yourself last, you don’t play the hero but rather the fool and ultimately you just end up resenting all the people you’re trying so hard to please (for more of my thoughts on this see Beginning to See the Light). I think it’s incredibly apt.

It’s still difficult for me to say no to people, to speak my mind and not let things fester. It feels strange. Taking action of my own volition instead of waiting for someone else to do something also feels foreign, but it’ll get easier. The important thing that I now remind myself of is that I have a voice and I need to use it. People will listen. And I can say no to people and things without feeling bad about doing it. Offering an explanation of my feelings helps, but so does knowing that the person I’m saying no to respects me enough to accept my response. If they don’t, then that speaks volumes about the nature of our relationship and is a cue to me that it’s one that perhaps I should rethink.

Blue is the color associated with the fifth chakra, the throat chakra. It’s the color of the candle a dear friend made for me to assist me with healing in this respect. Over the past several weeks, it’s cracked to the point where just moments ago, hot wax started spilling out through a hole and all over the desk. If that isn’t symbolic, I don’t know what is. Clearly, I have found my voice! As Tori sang, “it’s been here . . . silent all these years,” but not anymore.

Ranée

Strange

“You’re so weird!”

I consider those words among the highest compliments. I personally would rather be called “weird” or some synonym of that word than most other adjectives. It means a lot to me if someone truly likes me for my strangeness because the things that make us weird are usually the things that others don’t like about us. If you’re someone I care about and I tell you that you’re weird or a weirdo, it’s because it’s one of the things I love most about you. I’ve been known to say to someone, “You’re so fucking weird! Can we hang out?” And I totally mean it. Most people like to hide their strangeness but I love the ones who embrace it; your weirdness makes you unique. My son, for instance, is totally weird (his *own* weird) and I LOVE all of his little quirks. At this moment in his life, he lets his strangeness shine even when others try to dim it and I hope with all my heart that he stays that way. I don’t want anyone to diminish that boy’s shine.

Granted, there are many different brands or flavors of weird out there and one person’s strange may not be another’s. That’s probably why most people choose to hide their quirks—they fear being disliked. I did. But, look, no matter how hard you try, there are just some people out there who aren’t going to like you and your particular oddities (and vice versa). And they don’t have to. Once we stop thinking we have to please everyone or that we should be liked by everybody, we can just let others get on with their own thing and take solace in the people who find our strangeness endearing or appealing.

To my fellow freaks: please don’t dim your shine—not for anyone. Your strangeness is beautiful and there are people out there like me who love you for it.

On Writing, Ranée

Spark

The creative spark runs in my family.  My father has it.  My mother has it.  I have it too.

My father’s surname means distaff or spindle, the part of a spinning wheel that holds the thread.  Like that ancestor long ago who first bore the name, Dad is a weaver.  Not of cloth but of stories.  He’s woven a great tree of life from our family genealogy, an entire tapestry that connects our families to every other one in the small rural area of southwestern Pennsylvania where we grew up.  Back in college, he wrote poems and when my brother and I were kids, he told us a whole series of stories about a character named Grouchy Grump who had a pet skunk called Odie Colognie (a play on eau de cologne).  At some point in every one of those stories, we’d hear the line “Out popped the black and white tail.”  We would wait for it and every time I heard it, I’d squeal and laugh.

My mother’s surname was the German equivalent of farmer and like her grandfather who was one, Mom has nurtured things to grow.  As a girl, she had all sorts of animals as pets—everything from horses to a skunk—and growing up, we always had a dog or a cat or both.  Dad created worlds with words, but she created them with her hands, landscaping in the yard, planting beautiful trees and flowers, and creating a little fairyland complete with a small pond in the back yard.

That spark of creating lives in me, their daughter.  The best way I can think of to describe what happens to me when I write or get an idea for writing is indeed a spark or, as Emily of Bright Moon called it, “the flash.”  It can happen at any moment anywhere, so I’ve learned to carry a notebook and pen with me at all times.  Sometimes I wake up with a sentence or two in my head or I’m out walking and something strikes me and I get an image.  Sometimes it’s a few lines of dialogue.  It comes just like that—a sudden flash of inspiration, like a spark igniting a tiny flame.  And there are moments when I’m writing that the act becomes sort of unconscious.  Fellow writers know what I’m talking about—those times when you give yourself over to the craft, let yourself become so immersed in the world you’re creating that the words just flow out and when you come out of your little trancelike state, you look back at what you’ve written and go “wrote that?”  For me, those moments have always been the ones that produced my best writing.

But you need to feed a fire if it’s to burn steadily and grow.  That requires time, something I’ve lacked until relatively recently.

I’ve had several stops and starts on the way to fully embracing my gift.  When I was a kid, my best play time was spent using my imagination like when my brother and I sat in mom’s hooded dryer chairs, put the hoods down over our heads, and pretended we were astronauts on a space mission.  I started writing my own stories when I was in junior high.  I was a rather morbid, reclusive, and contemplative teenager who dwelt a bit too much on death and “dark” stuff (think Raven from Teen Titans).  I begged to have my room painted black but had to settle for black bedding and a black rug.  Obsessed as I was with the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, most of my stories were bloody tales of horror.  I lacked confidence, though, and didn’t think that I could “make it” as a writer.  Who, I thought, would want to read the garbage that I write?  That sort of self-disparaging remark is the hallmark of someone who doesn’t believe in herself.

That lack of belief in myself prompted me to study psychology in college instead of English, but it was my English courses where I came alive.  I wrote a novella about a vampire plagued by all the pain of his life and the absence of God.  It was an expression of my own emotional torment.  I asked one of my professors to read it and although she didn’t care for the subject matter, she told me “I think you should be writing professionally.”  Those words were all I needed to stop lying to myself about becoming a psychologist (shit, I didn’t want to spend my days listening to other people’s problems; they unloaded on me all the time anyway!).  I changed my major to English the summer before my senior year and ended up having to go an extra semester to fulfill all of the requirements.  All I had needed to do for the psych degree was take a bio psych course, write my thesis, and do an internship, but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t for me, so I switched and never looked back.

I submitted my work for a creative writing fiction course and got accepted.  It was the one thing that got me through a very tough time—writing and sharing stories.  I got valuable feedback from the professor who called me a “master revisionist” and praised me for telling a story almost entirely with dialogue.  But I stalled after that.  I submitted some stories to indie publishers, but gave up after a few rejections.  Self-doubt had got me again.

I worked some boring retail jobs for a while, but although I liked helping people find something they liked, I hated having to push stuff on them that they didn’t want.  My first full-time job was working for a bully patent attorney in a technical writing position.  When I say bully, that’s putting it mildly.  I’m talking about a man who belittled staff, paged them over the intercom to phone his extension and when they didn’t immediately do it, paged them repeatedly until they did (up to seven times in a row for the poor older woman who worked as the receptionist).  Stories circulated around the office about how he had abused employees in the past, causing someone to have a nervous breakdown, and punching a pregnant woman.

After that nightmare ended, I was at a loss as to what to do next, so applied to grad schools.  I got accepted into Kent State’s English program, so moved to Ohio to earn a master’s in English with a concentration in literature and writing.  It’s a really useless degree, I have to say.  I didn’t need it for any of the work that I did subsequently, nor did it give me an edge over other candidates.  It was just a couple of letters after my name if I wanted to show off and put them there.  I didn’t and don’t.  While there, I had a fellowship and taught some introductory composition courses, teaching expository writing to college freshmen, which I continued to do as an adjunct faculty member for a year after I graduated.  The class was a required course so the students didn’t really want to be there.  Neither did I most of the time, but there were a few students who actually enjoyed my classes and one in particular whom I remember.  I don’t recall his name, but I can picture him just as clearly as if he were standing in front of me now—a white guy with dirty blond hair under a backwards cap, round brown eyes, and an ugly purple bruise across his broken nose from a rugby injury.  He stood there in front of my desk on the last day of class, the last student to leave, and thanked me, said he’d really liked my class, and extended his fist for a fist bump, but it wasn’t me or the class he’d really liked, it was the encouragement I’d given him.  I’d had the class read High Fidelity, one of my favorite books, and he’d written a heartfelt thank-you for me in the style of the opening about how I wasn’t up there with all the other teachers who’d influenced him only to flip it and say that I’d been one of the best.  It meant a lot to me that I’d seen something in him that others hadn’t, that I’d made a difference for him as some of my teachers had for me.  Students like him and interactions like that made me love teaching and helping others with their writing.

That was one of the highlights of my two years at Kent State; that, discovering the poems of Carol Ann Duffy (primarily her fantastic book The World’s Wife), and meeting my mentor.  Ironically, the creative writing course I took there wasn’t helpful because the only valuable feedback on writing came from the teacher and as always, we didn’t receive any guidance about how to actually get one’s work published.

After KSU, I wrote less and less because I moved to the DC Metro area for a job working at a strange little publisher of dead journals, another messed-up anxiety-inducing situation.  I tried doing National Novel Writing Month a couple of times, but I found that I didn’t have time to write.  Work consumed most of my time and then family life took up the rest.  It stayed that way for over a decade.  Every now and again I would find something calling me back to writing and I’d pick up a pen or sit down at the computer to bang out some personal or creative work and I’d realize once more just how much I needed that spark.  It filled a void in me.  It was something that I loved and thought I couldn’t have or had to give up.

Back in 2016, I changed jobs in the name of self-care.  I took a position that was a step down from my current role career-wise but paid a higher salary and offered me a substantial amount of flexibility and freedom.  I didn’t have to go into the office every day; instead, I could work at home if I chose.  I could set my schedule around my son’s so that I could be there to get him on the bus in the morning, was close enough that if something was going on at his school I could easily be there, I could get him off the bus in the afternoons, and I would be able to take time off when he had sick days or snow days.

I really didn’t start taking advantage of this freedom for myself until a couple of years ago.  I met a couple of fellow writers and started workshopping with one of them and coaching the other.  I enjoyed that experience so much.  It was, as always, like rediscovering a part of myself that had been missing.  I decided that if writing was important to me, then I needed to make time for filling that void (along with a lot of other things that I needed to do for me).  Now a portion of every day is devoted to writing, whether it’s personal journal writing, writing this blog, or jotting down notes and inspiration for fiction stories.

My current job is ending in December and I see this as the perfect opportunity to finally embrace my gift.  I can have a career doing something that I love.  I’ve decided that I want to use my skills to help others with their writing.  Embracing my passion and becoming my own boss will not just bring me financial wealth, it will bring me even more in the way of emotional and personal wealth because I’ll be doing it for my soul.  It will be the combination of the creative gifts my parents passed to me—the love of storytelling, the craft, and the impetus to grow something that I love, the act.

The spark is my calling.  It’s time I heed it.

Ranée

Raisin Girls

Never was a cornflake girl
Thought that was a good solution
Hanging with the raisin girls
— Tori Amos

The Mean Girls bullshit started in elementary school for me. I remember a friend telling me in the 5th grade that so-and-so had said my outfit (a pink denim skirt and matching jacket that my mom had bought me) was “just OK.” I frowned, not really understanding (a) why my friend was telling me this or (b) why the other girl had said something like that in the first place (if she even had). Why did she care what the heck I was wearing? I’m sure lots of other girls and women are familiar with this little game. Well, I hate it. I’ve always hated it.

I was at a junior high dance when a girl in my grade saw the boy she had a crush on dancing with another girl and turned to me to say, “Why does he like her? She’s not even pretty.” I had no answer for that; how was I to know why he liked that other girl? There could’ve been any number of reasons. But I also wasn’t supposed to answer that question. My companion was unhappy that her crush was with someone else, so she badmouthed her. That’s what we women are supposed to do to each other right? (I know you can’t really read tone, but for the record, that last sentence is dripping with sarcasm.)

I made the cheerleading squad in ninth grade but it was clear from the start that I didn’t belong. One of the the other freshmen girls actually said very loudly, “Some people made it who shouldn’t have,” and looked right at me. Yeah, I got the point. I had been so excited about making the squad, but over the course of that year, those girls made me hate it. I almost quit when we were training for a competition. I remember breaking down in tears, leaving practice early, and swearing that I didn’t want to go back. My mom and the coach convinced me to, but after the year was over, I never auditioned for the cheerleading squad again.

In high school, the Regina George of our group was Chelsea (I’ve never actually known anyone named Chelsea, so it’s safely anonymous). Chelsea thought it was fun to make up lies about other girls and to say things like “I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this, but Amber thinks you’re a bitch” or “Billy used to like you but now he likes Liz.” The girl everyone else was not talking to or mad at seemed to change from week to week, but it was never Chelsea. The others finally figured out that was because she was always the one stirring things up. Another girl, Deanna (not her real name), and myself were sort of on the fringes of this group, so we were never really as big a target for her as others were. In fact, we were kind of the second-string friends, only “in” when someone else was “out.” But did we say “forget this crap” and go find some other people to hang out with? No, we didn’t, at least not then. I was lucky enough later on in high school to find my best friend; she wasn’t a cornflake girl and our friendship was the most genuine one I had back then. But, I certainly wasn’t an innocent with my previous friend group. I went along with them, behaved like a cornflake girl, trash-talking others, etc. Did I like doing it? Hell, no. It didn’t make me feel better about myself to cut up other people. I felt like a jerk. But I played the game nonetheless.

One of the worst things I can remember being a part of was the first time I ever heard another woman recount a story of sexual assault. Deanna told us about two encounters that she’d had with a man at her college and her attitude was very flippant, as if these were just normal things that had happened to her. Her face, too, was a mask, but I understood very clearly that she was talking about something else entirely. I felt the underlying emotion in the lie she told in that dark car. Let me pause here to state that just because a person doesn’t scream no and do all that they can to fight off a sexual aggressor, does not— I repeat, does not— mean that what the person experienced wasn’t a sexual assault. Go look up the definitions (RAINN provides some very good ones). Sometimes you consider the situation and opt for the lesser of two evils; you give in and let something bad happen to you because you fear something worse will happen if you don’t. I know because I went through a similar experience myself a few years after Deanna did and like her, I told a lie about it. I didn’t want what had happened to me any more than she had, but I allowed it anyway because the person who did it had prefaced the act with “What would you do if I raped you?” When Deanna told us her story, I said, “Oh my God, Deanna, that’s awful,” but everyone else in that car was silent. Silent! They didn’t say a damn word! That’s the sort of “friends” I had, the kind that didn’t speak up to support each other but instead either ignored one another or were cruel and uncaring. That was the night I stopped playing that stupid fucking game.

But it still went on around me, still does. In graduate school, some of my fellow female students started a rumor that I was fooling around with one of the professors all because one day I came to class late looking really depressed and upset (which I was), sat in the only vacant seat, which just happened to be right next to the male professor, and he reached out, put a hand on my arm, and asked, “Are you OK?” Yep, he touched my arm, asked me how I was doing, and some petty people concluded that we were having an inappropriate relationship. Where’s the logic in that you ask? Well, I later found out that apparently some of those women thought this professor was hot and they were projecting their own wants onto me. So . . . I guess it was some weird form of envy or something? And some pretty serious exaggeration on top of that.

My instinct with mean girls was to be like Janis in that scene in the gym when Cady waves to her and she waves back like “Oh, hiiii!” then gives her the up-yours arm gesture because it can feel really great to finally say “screw you” to someone who’s treated you like dirt. I’ve thought about this though and while I definitely believe that we shouldn’t put up with other people’s bullshit, giving it back ultimately doesn’t seem like the best approach either.

What I really want is a sisterhood, the very opposite of Mean Girls— women who actually, genuinely support one another. My best friend in high school (who is the only person from that time in my life that I’m still in touch with) was not a mean girl and when we were not as close through college and our early adult years, I truly missed that presence in my life. She showed me that the kind of friendships I wanted—the ones my soul needed—were possible. That’s who the raisin girls are. They’re the ones who listen when you need someone to and won’t repeat what you tell them because it’s some new piece of gossip they can spread around. They’ll empathize. They’ll try to help you if they can. They won’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but they will try to help you figure out what you need to do. They’ll tell you that you deserve the best that life has to offer you and that you don’t have to settle for anything less than that. They’ll hug you when you need to cry, they’ll rejoice in your happiness, and they won’t ever judge you because they don’t want to bring you down, they want to build you up. Yeah, that’s me and those are the women I now call my friends — those raisin girls. And all the cornflake girls? Well, they can come hang with us too whenever they’re done playing the game.