Saturday, August 29, 2015

Batons and Man-Pants!

Or, Why I Wear Men's Clothes

(The following blog post is from real life, not fantasy or sci-fi. I am not sorry for writing a blog post that has nothing to do with dragons, zombies, or aliens. Enjoy!)

July, 2014

"...and that's the last of the paperwork!" John cheered, my new boss. He gathered up all the scattered papers while I tried to massage some feeling back into my right hand. Why the hell did this company need me to write the same information--name, social security number, address, contact info--twenty times on different colored paper?

"Let me get you a shirt and hat," John said. "And we need to take your picture for your ID."

Despite the onslaught of paperwork, I was practically buzzing with excitement. Sure, door-to-door sales wasn't exactly glamorous, but I was good at sales. More importantly, this job paid $10 an hour plus commission, which is a friggin' gold mine to a college student. And if it totally sucked, I could get a new job in the fall. Easy peasy.

Up the stairs and through the conference room was John's office. I hung outside his doorway so I was still sorta in the conference room, with my new coworkers.

Who were all male.

Shit, I thought. Well, this isn't the whole team. Maybe there are some women who just aren't in today.

I looked at the board. The names of every coworker was listed, as well as the number of sales they made each week and...yup, those were all guy names.

Guess I better find out where HR is, I thought just as one of them came over. They'll want to know why I've slapped someone within an inch of their life.

But to my pleasant surprise, nobody raised a word about gender or gave me any bullshit. And the flirting was so obviously joking that even I was able to throw it back, and I suck at flirting.

John came back with a green shirt in one hand and a hat in the other. "Okay, I've got good news and I got bad news. The bad news is, we don't have any girl shirts."

I rolled  my eyes and snatched the shirt from John. "I wear guys clothes all the time, so I really don't care. What's the good news?"

He put the hat on my head. "The good news is we have plenty of hats! Your start Monday, 1:00 sharp."

RbA: What we lack in women's clothes, we make up for in window quality. 

December, 2014

"We got your Christmas wish list," Mom said.

"Great." I almost dropped my phone with shaking fingers and cursed when I barely caught it.

I was too distracted to talk to Mom right now. It was f***ing freezing in the sorority house because our landlord was a cheapskate who didn't install proper heating and was going to end up with a bunch of dead sorority sisters if he didn't do something about it. It was finals next week, which meant all I could focus on was Japanese katakana symbols and Latin American historical figures. I swore I would be taking no more classes about Japan or Latin America, because this was ridiculous. Forget the East Asian Studies major, and if I had to do a concentration on my history major, it definitely wasn't going to be Mexico. My head was swimming with Spanish and Aztec names that I couldn't even pronounce. I'd almost forgotten the taste of real food, eating roman noodles every damn night and vending machine snacks every damn day. And on top of that, there was my canvassing job, which had gotten considerably less fun in subzero temperatures.

Having said that, the job was still manageable. Even enjoyable, since I was actually good at sales (which is weird for a writer; I must be really good at pretending to be an extrovert). So I wasn't complaining.

Well, I was complaining, actually. But not about my job. Just about everything else.

"Your grandparents and I were wondering about one thing, though," Mom continued, as if my sanity wasn't crumbling around the fringes of my mind. "Why do you have a baton on your wish list?"

I stared at the phone. A baton? Like a police baton? What the hell was she...

Oh, the baton.

"Yeah, one of my friends has one of those pop-out batons that she keeps in her purse. The ones where you flick your wrist and it shoots out to three times its length?" I said.

"Okay, but why do you want one?"

"Uh, because I canvass in unfamiliar neighborhoods and go into strangers' houses?" Not that anything had happened, but there had been a time or two where my creep radar had spiked.

"...fair point. But you know the one you asked for costs $200 on Amazon, right? Your grandparents say they can get you one for much cheaper elsewhere."

"Will it still dent a pervert's head?" I asked.

"Sweetie. It'd be a gift from your grandparents. The people who got you a goddamn bow two years ago after teaching you how to fire five different types of guns."

"...right. That was a stupid question."

Apparently, the place where Grandma and Grandpa got the baton was having a sale on mace. So I got both for Christmas, and I carry both whenever I canvass.

Which was fine in winter. RbA loans out some amazing winter coats for canvassers. Granted, they make us look like yellow marshmallows, but they're essentially hunting coats. You don't get cold. At all. And they have really deep pockets where I can stash anything. Apple juice, a snack, a baton, some mace, my cell phone...

But the Starks' slogan is incomplete. Winter is Coming is very true. But so is spring, and the end of winter coats and their deep pockets. (Wow, that was both nerdy and lame. Anyway...)

Don't want any windows? Really? Are you sure?

August, 2015

"Welcome to Eddie Bower! Can I help you?"

Mom and I are the weirdest shoppers ever. We went to the Mall of America for some girl time and the day went something like this:

-have lunch at Masu Sushi & Robata (great place, highly recommended)

-get gelato

-get books from Barnes and Noble

-go to Williams Sonoma, but don't buy anything because Mom already got everything she needed from birthday presents that week

-go to Teavana, but only to steal their free tea samples

-go to Nordstrom, but only to steal a perfume sample that my mom used half of to go with her leggings and baggy t-shirt

-go to DSW so I can get boots (in August) and so Mom can get an exact replica of the type of shoes she already has

-go to Eddie Bower to get baggy canvassing pants, with Mom carrying my baton in her purse, as I didn't bring my own purse (I'd offered to bring it, since we were shopping, after all; the death glare Mom gave me almost burned holes in my skull; I didn't dare offer to pay for anything in any of the stores)

"Yeah, actually. Mom, can I have the baton?"

While Mom dug into her purse, I explained to the very nice clerk that I needed a pair (or two, or twenty) of pants that looked somewhat professional but had deep pockets.

"...and they have to be deep enough for this," I said, taking the baton from Mom.

The clerk frowned. "What is that?"

"It's a baton. See?" I flicked my wrist and the baton shot out to three times its length.

The man jumped back. "Okay. Um...where do you canvass?"

"Twin Cities area. Why?"

"...no reason."

Mom rolled her eyes. "Her grandfather insists."

"Yeah, and I'm not an idiot," I said. "I'm going into strangers' houses for crying out loud..."

"Sweetie, why don't you fold up your baton?"

The thing with re-folding the baton is that you have to slam it into the ground to do it; it's the only way to get enough force to close the damn thing. Most of the floor of Eddie Bower was wood. Since I didn't want to blow a hole through that, I found a patch of cement and slammed the baton closed. Which caused a few customers to give me weird looks.

"What?" I asked, waving the baton around. "Haven't you seen a girl with a modernized club before?"

For some reason, they decided to avoid me.

Which was fine, because the clerk was trying to find the pants I needed. He, Mom, and I scoured the women's section, but none of the pants's pockets were deep enough. Probably because every woman is supposed to carry a purse, or drag our wardrobes around by a chain on our ankle or something.

"Well...I suppose we could try a man's pair," the clerk said, going to the other section. "See; these pockets look deep enough."

"Great," I said. Because really, who cares?

Of course, there were a couple problems with that, the biggest being that men's clothes are sized differently from women's. And I give the clerk full credit, because when I said my general pants size (12/14), he immediately said, "Well, these should work," and pulled a pair with the exact same waist size (34/32).

The second problem was brought up by my mom. "I don't know," she said. "You're pretty curvy, Chris."

Oh, basic biology and anatomy. You've screwed us over.

"Yeah, but I have a belt," I said, lifting up my shirt to reveal the belt around my jeans. "Let's just try it."

So Mom shrugged, the clerk unlocked a changing room, and I went to try it out.

Thirty seconds later, I burst out wearing the pants and shouted, "Why the hell is men's clothing so much more comfortable than woman's? This is not fair!"

It was unreal. The pants fit perfectly, even though they were specifically designed for people without hips. I almost didn't have to wear the belt. And they were unbelievably comfortable. I did not understand it.

And this is true for the rest of the wardrobe. Mom and I are constantly raiding Dad's closet because men's coats offer more comfort and freedom than a woman's. Have you tried wearing a woman's coat? You can't move your arms! You can barely turn your head! Those coats are prisons! So Mom and I have man-coats (which we bought, because Dad kept getting pissed about not having an appropriate coat to wear to work).

Shirts are debatable, especially for women who have a bit of chest (like myself; I got big boobs and I like 'em). Women's shirts look better and tend to fit women better. That's just a fact. But I'd worked for RbA for a year in men's shirts and that was just fine (John dug up a bunch of really old women's shirts from, like, decades ago and gave them to me just last week, but I still wore the guy shirts when the others were in the wash).

Socks and shoes are just stupid. I have no idea why those are gendered because, seriously, what's the big difference between a guy's sock and a girl's if there's no lace or pink fluff? (And Dad gets even more pissed when someone gets careless with laundry and ends up wearing his socks, whether it's me, Mom, or my brother; he is inconsolable when he runs out of socks because we keep wearing them, but it's not our fault he gets really comfy socks!)

But now, apparently, male pants have been added to the list. Everything but underwear has been proven to be more comfortable when designed for men no matter what biological sex is wearing them. Wait, scratch that. There's a very popular type of women's underwear called "boy shorts."

So now, I've decided to say "F*** all" and do the majority of my shopping in the men's section. Because, let's face it. Guys clothes are more comfortable, but women make them look good.

--

Know a good show, movie, or book? Do you have an idea for a future blog post? Any questions or complaints? (all criticism is welcome, so long as it's respectful) Then PLEASE contact me.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Supernatural: a Love/Hate Relationship (but Mostly Hate)

I'm slogging through Supernatural. I'm only two thirds done with the first season, and half the time I feel like gouging out my eyes with a spoon. The only reason I'm sticking it out is because I'm waiting for Castiel to come and rock my world.

(For those of you who don't know, Supernatural is a TV show about two brothers--Sam and Dean Winchester--who hunt ghosts, demons, necromancers, and other evil entities while searching for their dad, who's gone missing. I assume they eventually find him--dead or alive--for now, he's missing.)

Dean: "Why does he get a snake? I want a snake..."

I love the banter between Dean and Sam. It makes me homesick for my snarky little brother.

And the horror can be pretty damn terrifying. Like that scene in "Home," when he's working on the drain and you know the garbage disposal is going to shred his hand. That was great suspense.

But threre are three big bones that are stuck in my throat when it comes to Supernatural that are almost enough to completely ruin it for me.

Formulated

This is a flaw for a lot of TV shows. Just look at House. A problem's presented, then there are three false diagnoses before House finally gets it right. Same with Supernatural.

I know Sam and Dean are going to conquer every problem before hitting the road again.

I know the bad guy will be defeated.

I know which of the minor characters is going to live and which will die gruesome, horrible deaths (hint: if it's the first character you see that isn't Dean or Sam, they're probably dead).

I know Sam and Dean, while they may get hurt, will always survive.

There is zero suspense.

No, I'm not worried. At all.

Why Can't Sam be a Lawyer Again?

Maybe this is just me being an individualist. I hate when parents/older siblings/anyone tells someone what they can or can't do with no reason other than "I'm your parent/older sibling/anyone." It's Sam's life; butt out.

Worse, they're doing it in a way that just condemns education, like going to college is a bad thing (i.e. "You left us to go to college," is something Dean spits out in one of the earliest episodes). Do they expect Sam to be surgically joined to the hip with Dean or their father for the rest of his life? Do they want him to not learn about the rest of the world?

And yes, family is important. I totally agree with that. But if Dean and Mr. Winchester really believed that family was the most important thing, then they should listen to Sam's needs, dreams, and desires and at least try to find a compromise (i.e. "Sure, you can join the soccer team, Sam, but if you mess up your bow-hunting you're off the team." See? Compromise.)

And it's not that Sam hates his family. He is, after all, running around the country with his brother on super dangerous missions hunting ghosts and looking for their dad, worried sick about both of them. He just shows his values in a different way. For that, he gets punished.

One of the best scenes on this show that demonstrates Sam and Dean's different family values is when their dad calls them, and it's the first time they've had contact with him since he went missing. Sam answers the phone first, and he's (obviously) demanding answers, like where are you? What do you mean you want us to hunt a ghost while you hunt something so much more dangerous--alone? Then Dean takes the phone, jots down the info his dad gives him, and hangs up.

Look at any period of history. Bad things happen when people just blindly follow orders. Goods things can happen, too, but unquestioningly following any kind of figure--be it a parent, a priest, a politician, or anyone--is begging for trouble.

The other argument that's brought up supporting Dean and his father is, since there are monsters out there and they're one of the few who know how to deal with them, they have the responsibility to deal with them.

Ok. But in doing that, how many times have they been arrested doing all sorts of illegal shit like fraud, impersonating an officer, B&E, etc...

A lawyer would be pretty damn handy!

Bet you wish you had a lawyer now, huh, Dean?

Where Are All the Women?

This is the big one. If you're a woman on Supernatural, you get one of two roles: damsel in distress, or villain. All the hero roles go to the men.

If Sam can't be Samantha, or Dean can't be Debbie, can't we get a girl every other episode who can handle a shotgun and blow off a minotaur's face, or something? Or for one of the times when one of the boys need to be rescued, can't they give the rescue to a ghost hunting lady?

I guess Dean's pretty enough to count as a girl.

I'm not saying Supernatural has to go completely feminist with ear-numbing slogans every episode. But the problem is that this show is teaching its viewers that women can't be fighters or heroes.

It's teaching them that it's best to put all dreams and hopes aside for the fast-track to revenge.

It's teaching them to blindly follow orders even if those orders directly go against what you want to do with your life, or what you believe.

I'm giving it until the middle of third season. Castiel had better be the greatest f***ing thing ever.

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Know a good show, movie, or book? Do you have an idea for a future blog post? Any questions or complaints? (all criticism is welcome, so long as it's respectful) Then PLEASE contact me.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tales of a Part-Time Tiefling Warlord

You are not a geek if you haven't played Dungeons and Dragons. This is a fact. You don't have to like it, you just have to try it (like that weird, new kind of food your parents tried to make you eat: "just try it; you'll love it!").

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about (and therefore are not yet true geeks), Dungeons and Dragons is a group-based roleplaying game (and when I say roleplaying, I am not talking about sex). Playing D&D varies from group to group. Some groups only have pencil and paper and a Monster Manuel, and can create some of the most fantastic adventures. Other groups have hand-painted figurines, heavily detailed maps, and eight different volumes of players' guides.
Basically, you create a character in the D&D fantasy world, grab a few friends who also have characters, get a Dungeon Master who plays judge, jury and executioner (sometimes literally), and go on adventures. You know, everything that grown adults do.

Liam decided this fire genasi wasn't badass enough, so he gave him a giant sword.

I started with my dad and my brother. Dad had played D&D when he was in college (ages ago, in between hunting for dinosaurs and worshipping fire), so he kind of knew what he was doing. Liam had heard of it and wanted to try it. When he told me about it, I figured it was some kind of multi-player computer game, like Civilization. I wasn't big on computer games, but I figured, what the heck?

Dad had a business trip to Ely, Minnesota, and Liam and I tagged along. I loved it, because we got to see the International Wolf Center (most awesome place in the world ever), see the wildlife, and eat venison at a restaurant. That said, the weather was pretty miserable. The Boundary Waters are supposed to be absolutely beautiful, but while we were there it was all gray mud. We stayed inside our rented cabin for most of the trip, killed a frost dragon, almost got killed ourselves, and rescued a dozen kidnapped dwarves.

Our first party, we had no idea what we were doing, so we scrapped them pretty fast and came up with a second party. Liam and I each played two characters while Dad played the fifth adventurer and was the DM (the reason we did this is because 5 adventurers is the ideal number for a party; all skills are covered by at least one person and if someone dies, you're not completely screwed).

New Rule: The next bully who calls me a nerd deals with this.

Liam had a genasi swordmage named Quarrel-Karn (essentially a magic fighter with fire for hair who teleported a lot and jumped on the backs of very big monsters) and a deva invoker named Gundar (a holy wizard of sorts who worshipped the dwarf god Moradin). I had a shifter warden named Rain (a nature-based fighter who was descended from werewolves) and a tiefling warlord named Shakairra Romazi (a half-demon leader). Dad played all the monsters, as well as a dark-elf sorceress named Shivra (who liked to make blizzards; not the DQ kind, unfortunately).

We were the Flying Cobras, this because we all got enchanted tattoos and we all had to agree on the design for them to work. Liam's obsessed with snakes, Shivra wanted something with wings, and I didn't care. Hence, a winged snake.

Not all angels are nice.

We were a party who argued a lot. Rain didn't like how Quarrel-Karn was setting everything on fire and teleporting away to fight more interesting creatures when he should have been protecting the party. Shivra didn't like any of us, but was stuck with us because we were the only people who didn't hate dark elves (a.k.a. drow). Gundar kept accidentally hitting everyone--goblins and party members alike--with searing shards of holy light that hurt like a mother. And Shakairra didn't like how nobody followed her orders even though she was the warlord, but everyone demanded that she healed them with an Inspiring Word. Mom never played D&D. She hid in the living room with a book like a sane person.

In other words, a typical day in the family.

Use one more cheesey pickup line. Come on. I dare you. 

It took twenty levels for us to figure out how to fight without more than one character dying (death itself was rarely a problem, once everyone learned how to cast rituals and added Raise Dead).

So of course, Rain had to die permanently right before epic tier.

Dad had covered the entire dining room table with plastic figurines to represent the edge of an evil army that was attacking the city of Sundabar. We had to hold off the army while the citizens evacuated. We cleared the entire board, then saw it fill up again because, as I said, that was just the tip of the iceberg. They had catapults that shot these weird black hole things that, if they dealt fatal damage, turned the body to dust (no body, no raise dead).

Everyone was out of healing potions, healing spells, and powers. Rain was stuck in some enchanted goop. She held off the entire f***ing army while the others escaped, then got hit with three of those black hole things at the same time. They only just dealt enough damage to take her out.

Oh, Rain. You were so close to being truly awesome. 

I thought it was pretty great. I mean, a warden's job is to do just that: protect the party and be a badass. Liam cried. I think I heard Dad sniffle. Mom had to come in and tell us to shut up, it's just a game.

With the death of Rain, we had to draft up another character. That was Khashana, a kalashtar paladin (kalashtars are a weird race of humans with the fragments of souls of an ancient magic people in their brains, which allows them to do telepathy and other cool things). I still missed Rain, but then Khashana turned into a dragon. We were okay with that.

A warden? Pfft. Let's talk about paladins.

The Flying Cobras' crowning achievement was killing the evil spider goddess, Lolth. Dad found a giant spider figurine and painted it an ugly purple with dark green claws. It was awesome. When we killed Lolth, the weird magic parallel plane we were in collapsed. Shivra ended up dying, which led to more crying.

Gundar became an angel for Moradin. Quarrel-Karn had a wife and kids and retired. Khashana became the heir to the dragon god Bahamut and turned into a minor deity herself. Shakairra became queen of Luruar (which is where Sundabar was located). Shivra's spirit moved to protect a neighboring city of eladrin. Eladrin hate drow and drow hate eladrin, so we're pretty sure she did that just to spite them.

The moral of the story: go play Dungeons and Dragons, or you will never be a true geek.

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