Valentine Playlist

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“You’re In Love” – Betty Who

You smile at me like you’re dying to say that your heartbeat stops when I’m walking away, so don’t walk away

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“XO” – Beyonce

Your heart is glowing and I’m crashing into you

“Rollercoaster” – Bleachers

It was summer when I saw your face

“Tiny Little Bows” – Carly Rae Jepsen

I wish we could be holding hands

“Rather Be” – Clean Bandit

When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be

“Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

Home is wherever I’m with you

“Emmylou” – First Aid Kit

It’s you I find like a ghost in my mind

“I’m With You” – Grouplove

I’m with you, this is all I do know for the years this is mine to follow

“Who You Love” – John Mayer

You can’t make yourself stop dreaming who you’re dreaming of

“Double Rainbow” – Katy Perry

Secretly, I won the lottery because you’re brighter than all of the Northern Lights

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“Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry

No regrets, just love

“Old Money” – Lana Del Rey

If you send for me, you know I’ll come, and if you call to me, you know I’ll run, I’ll run to you

“Ho Hey” – The Lumineers

I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart

“Catherine” – Magic Man

You know I’m on your side, I feel you right here keeping me up tonight

“Your Song” – Mayday Parade

And I can call you baby doll all the time, and you’d whisper in my ear, you’d say ‘I missed you’

“I Must Be Dreaming” – The Maine

And she calls me sweetheart, I love it when she wakes me when it’s still dark, and she watches the sun, but she’s the only one I’ve got my eyes on

“1, 2, 3, 4” – Plain White T’s

You make me feel special even when I know I’m not…you make it easy.

“Beta Love” – Ra Ra Riot

In this city of robot hearts, ours were made to beat

“On Your Side” – A Rocket to The Moon

It was a Saturday, I remember it like yesterday, you knew my name.

“Us” – Regina Spektor

They made a statue of us

“Latch (Acoustic)” – Sam Smith

You lift my heart up when the rest of me is down

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“Style” – Taylor Swift

You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye

“Closer” Tegan and Sara

I won’t treat you like you’re oh so typical

“Mess is Mine” – Vance Joy

Hold on darling, this mess was yours, now your mess is mine

“Dancing in the Moonlight” – King Harvest

Everybody’s feeling warm and bright…we have our fun and we never fight, you can’t dance and stay uptight

“You Make My Dreams” – Hall & Oates

You make my dreams come true

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“Aquaman” – Walk The Moon

So here we go headfirst, no regrets and no rules, we can stay as long as we want. Slow dancing in the darkness, and all I know is I wanna be here with you from now on

“She’s Got You High” – Mumm-Ra

The sun’s in the sky

“Secret Valentine” – We The Kings

Soft kiss and my, what a pretty friend of mine, we’re finally intertwined.

“Forever” – Youngblood Hawke

You said ‘I won’t wait forever on you,’ well, I wouldn’t make you wait that long

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Valentine’s Day is a pretty weird holiday, right? Supposedly, it’s to honor St. Valentine, who did something or other for his one true love way back in medieval times, but clearly his story is not a well-known one. In practice, Valentine’s Day is more of a schmaltzy, PDA-filled extravaganza of buying useless gifts and expensive dinners. Basically, it’s a made-up thing that the capitalist patriarchy has hyped up so effectively that most people feel bad if they don’t celebrate it or at least limply acknowledge it.

And I absolutely LOVE it.

I LOVE Valentine’s Day. Like, I turn into the hearts-for-eyes emoji just thinking about it. Coming from a gal who’s been extremely single for a humorously long time, I think that should mean something. It’s beautiful that we, as a whole society, have designated a day to celebrate the love we have in our lives. I love that it’s a day where you’re encouraged to sit down and eat a nice meal with a person you love. Made-up holiday or no, how great that “Valentine’s Day” is written right there on the February 14th of every American calendar, a quiet little reminder that you’re not too busy to clear your schedule for one night to spend quality time with the person or people who make life worth living for you. The purest form of love known to humankind is a square of SpongeBob SquarePants cardboard with a sticker, a lollipop, and a child’s name scrawled on the outside. If you’ve ever seen the painstaking earnestness with which even the rowdiest six year old boy will prepare his little Valentines, and you still don’t see the point of the holiday, then there is no hope for your soul.

Of course, V Day is not all SpongeBob and champagne, it’s also heart-shaped jewelry from a gas station, giant teddy bears with one eye askew, creepy cupids, and greeting cards with horrid fonts and woefully misguided attempts to be cheeky and suggestive. Valentine’s Day has a kind of pageantry that I really dislike – I don’t know people’s hearts, but if you get me a fake diamond bracelet at the checkout of Jewel Osco while you’re picking up your cholesterol medication, it becomes kind of a dutiful display rather than an effervescent act of affection. Valentine’s Day should be about whimsy, and it’s become cliché in such a tacky way. That being said, I don’t mind a lot of the cliché things about the holiday. I love pink things, chocolate, glitter, balloons, wine, flowers, and little love notes. If you’re really so jaded that you can’t support those kinds of things on principle, then that’s very unfortunate for you. It’s cool if you’re into a more goth Valentine’s Day or whatever, but if you instinctively roll your eyes at the pink fluffiness of early February because you think it’s so fake and cheap and just an excuse for dumb couples to smugly rub it in, then what’s going on with you? OK, a lot of couples are terrible. Use Facebook with caution on February 14th. But don’t let them ruin everything! You can’t allow them to steal your whimsy!

I’m not going to pretend that Valentine’s Day is just as special for single people as it is for couples, though. I imagine being single on V Day must be how the less gung-ho Jehovah’s Witnesses feel around Christmastime. This almost tangible, buzzing joy is all around you, everyone is excitedly bustling, and you’re there watching. You can kind of take part in some of the trappings if you want, but you know in your heart that all this isn’t really for you. You’re not really a part of it. Love between friends is a beautiful and often underrated thing, to be sure – there’s nothing inherently less special about the bond of friendship than that of romance. I love going to friend-friendly Valentine dinner parties – heck, I went to one tonight – and I’m way into Leslie Knope’s coinage of “Galentine’s Day.” All the love that ties us together and keeps us going deserves to be intentionally reflected upon and deeply appreciated. V Day reminds me to do that – it’s almost midnight, and I feel ready to burst with the warm and fuzzy feelings of being so loved, loving others so much, and being reminded of the fact that I’ve built fruitful relationships.

But, there’s just no getting around it: Valentine’s Day is really geared toward romantic love. Even though, like I said, I’m not a part of it, I do enjoy imagining. I’m actually surprisingly romantic at heart. I love knowing that today, a bunch of couples got engaged, or got married, or started dating, or even just went to bed in each other’s arms, smiling and warm. (Also, probably a lot of reckless teens lost their virginities at far too young an age, but I try not to dwell on that.) Who cares if it’s just a high school couple who will break up in six months? Who cares if the couple eventually gets divorced? Who cares if tomorrow night, someone sleeps on the couch? I mean, it would be better if all loves were persevering and joyful, but they just won’t all be. There’s more love in the world today than there was yesterday, and that’s comforting. End result aside, today, for right now, love is alive and two people are happy and delirious with possibility, full of hope, believing that this could last forever. Even if they’re disappointed or disillusioned or wrong eventually, tonight they’re not. I like that thought. It’s daring to believe in love, and I like knowing that it’s happening despite all the cautionary tales against it.

It’s just hard feeling like I’m not a part of it. Although I’m very outgoing, very social, and generally well-liked, I’m also a sort of lonely person. Nearly every day of my life, as I’m boppin’ around, I suddenly see two people who just seem so together. Their shared love is so palpable, so electric, I instantly realize how alone I am. It doesn’t make a lot of sense because I have the most wonderful parents, the sweetest little brother, and the loveliest friends. Then again, it makes some sense. I know admitting this makes me the most basic bitch in town, but here’s the truth: not having a boyfriend makes me sad, and it makes me feel lonely. (Since this is not, alas, my Live Journal account, I won’t delve deeper into that; it’s just a pertinent fact for what I’m saying.) Yeah, it makes me sad, but it’s a kind of sadness that I’m happy with. V Day makes me pretty full to the brim with all the lovely feelings I mentioned before, but it’s all soaked in a sweet and melancholy wistfulness.

I want to be someone’s Valentine, and I’m not, so there’s the melancholy part. But the sweet part is knowing that someday I will be. I’m not talking about hope, exactly; it’s more like excitement for something I know is going to happen. I’m a real catch. My future Valentines are out there, for sure, and I love that the taste of the chase is still on my lips. I love being here on my couch, alone at the end of Valentine’s Day, being the girl I am, feeling a little lonely, but knowing that someday I’ll make someone want to take a chance on love. It’s going to be so fun!

In the meantime, I had a great Valentine’s Day 2015. After leaving work, I made a Valentine playlist, treated myself to a hot shower, put on a pink top, and did my makeup really pretty. My perfect parents sent me the annual Valentine package – this year, two cute books about dachshunds (I made it all the way to page one before breaking down sobbing). I danced in my kitchen with some cheap white wine. I made these beautiful stuffed mushrooms and went to a friend’s house for a “Palentine” party. And that friend is engaged – what an angel. Friendship rocks! And now I think I’ll watch You’ve Got Mail. BASIC.

The Virgin Suicides

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**Disclaimer: this is a post about the 1993 Jeffrey Eugenides novel, not my pitiful love life. For news on that, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, “It’s only desperate if you say please more than three times.”

The lumps of death get lost in the mess God made us.

I have been sort of an erratic reading-journaler forever. So, here’s the first installment in my attempt to:

1) Be less erratic. Actually be consistent in writing a little or a lot or literally anything at all about the things I read.

2) Be less private about the kinds of writing I do. In other words, to care a little more deeply about making my writing worth reading.

This one won’t be perfect (pause for collective gasp) because ideally I would journal about my reading throughout the reading process rather than just reflect on it at the end. I reeeeeally dislike doing that though. I’m not sure why. For someone who’s all about the journey, I sure hate journaling about the journey. But I don’t want to feel like I’m just writing a book review either, so…you see the bind I’m in.

About two weeks ago I read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I haven’t seen the movie, but I have read Eugenides’ excellent Pulitzer-winner, Middlesex, and I loved it. So I’m guessing that’s how The Virgin Suicides ended up on my bookshelf. That, and my fondness for a deft blend of the sexy and the morguish. I’m not kidding. We came from one, and we’re headed toward the other; so, for me, there’s something inherently haunting and touching about art that manages to intertwine the sensual and the visceral aspects of our physical beingness. Sex and death both have qualities in equal parts seductive and macabre, and Eugenides is good at thinking about those themes in terms that are less black and white than one usually considers. He’s like a literary My Chemical Romance, and I dig that.

The plot of the book is fairly straightforward. Narrated in first person plural (I know, right?), it follows a year in the lives of the Lisbon girls, Cecelia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary, and Therese, five sisters who live in a small, green suburb of Detroit. Mrs. Lisbon is a strict Catholic who only lets her daughters out of the house for school, mass, and activities that would look good on a college application. The neighborhood boys (who, as adults, narrate the novel) are obsessed with the girls, constantly watching them and speculating and fantasizing about them despite the fact that they have only interacted in passing at school. Then the youngest, Cecelia, kills herself, and the Lisbon house and its neighborhood – and the lives of those who occupy them – begin to steadily deteriorate. Within the year, the four other sisters have killed themselves as well. This brings discussion of teenage repression and depression to the forefront of their community, but nothing seems to answer the question of why these particular girls wanted to die.

After reading Middlesex, I knew that Jeffrey Eugenides really had it going on, and The Virgin Suicides confirms that opinion for me. There is a lot to love in Middlesex, but something that especially fascinates me is that Eugenides challenges his reader without being explicit about it. The protagonist and narrator, Cal, is an intersex person, which is in itself challenging enough. But, Eugenides doesn’t drop the mic there. There’s no sense of him thinking, “Well, I wrote a Pulitzer winner about an intersex person, so that’s that. No need to push it any further.” He takes care to thoroughly explore the complications of the breakdown that happens when a reader has to read through the eyes and mouth of a character who doesn’t fit into the most basic categories we’ve established for a human being: “Is it a boy or a girl?” This unsettled equilibrium is subtly present from the lovely first line:

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

Reading The Virgin Suicides, I found a deeper nuance in what it is I find so moving and intriguing about Eugenides’ character development: he understands women. He knows how to write women. I’ve read a lot of women who know how to write women and men, but for a lot of reasons, I think that women have lived experiences of masculinity more so than men have lived experiences of femininity (obviously, huge generalization). Eugenides’ special attention to gender is penetrating and never patronizing. That quality, in a cis, straight male, to me shows a meticulous, deep, and personal investment in understanding humanity. Very trite, I know, but in Eugenides’ prose, this understanding is so natural and intricate. He never condescends to his reader. He never feels the need to be explicit or explain the why of a truth that he sees clearly enough to write so hauntingly well.

I checked out this book and its reviews on Goodreads, and it was pretty remarkable to me how many readers focused on the boys in the book and how “messed up” they were as a result of the Lisbon girls’ lives and deaths. The first-person plural narration provided by the boys is undeniably one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel, as this style is rarely attempted, let alone with such success. I think the purpose of this narration, however, was to homogenize the boys in the mind of the reader in the same way that the Lisbon girls are homogenized in the minds of the boys. Although the sisters are constantly referred to in terms that cast them as one entity, or as five indistinguishable but equally tantalizing objects of speculation, as the reader I have far better an idea of the individual traits of the five girls than of the distinctions between the countless boys who tell the story. The “we” is not the ripple of the life-altering effects that the Lisbon girls’ lives and deaths had on the boys who loved and watched them obsessively; it is the pronoun of an army violently encroaching on and occupying the consciousnesses of five girls who could never retreat.

The obvious person to “blame” for the five suicides is Mrs. Lisbon – she was strict, she kept her daughters from dating, she made them wear oversized sacks to homecoming, no makeup, no boys, no freedom from supervision. But it wasn’t the strictness that drove the girls to suicide – it was the scrutiny. Even on the night of the triple suicide, when the boys were determined to save the girls from parental tyranny, the parents were asleep. It was the boys who literally watched the girls through the windows with binoculars, speculating wildly how they felt and certain that it had everything to do with them. The paraphernalia of pictures, underwear, and handwriting are treasured by the horde of boys who never cared to befriend the five individual girls. The night of the homecoming, it didn’t matter who took whom – the four boys just showed up and took whatever girl offered her arm. The brassiere on the crucifix is the ultimate symbol of the sexual fantasy-fueled worship that the boys lavished on the girls, uninvited, unwanted, and unreciprocated.

The Virgin Suicides is a book that haunted me for days after finishing, and not for the reasons you’d expect. Gruesome content notwithstanding, the writing is effortlessly beautiful; the prose is a kind of poetry that most novelists can only dream of achieving. The startling beauty of the book demands a contemplation of one’s own sexualness, one’s own impending death, and one’s own experiences with change. Yet, this book, about teenage suicide and sexual repression, is heartbreakingly, weirdly, deeply uplifting. Make no mistake: Eugenides never gets saccharine, he never employs sentimentality, he never earnestly pleads for anyone who is contemplating suicide to reconsider, and he never goes for the Jodi Picault-esque scenes of intensely emotional drama. This is no moral tale. Nevertheless, I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone who is questioning the value of life.

Your life is much more – it means much more, it’s worth much more, it’s much more intricate – than what people tell you it is. How others have conceived of your life is incomplete and inaccurate. Believing other people’s summaries of your life will fragment you irreparably. You have knowledge of your life, of your being-in-the-world, in a special way that others can’t understand, and if they try too hard, they’ll go mad. Dying, however, is not the way to take control of your life and correct the fabrications that asphyxiate you. Selflessness must guide your life, teaching you how to simply be for yourself and to be there for others. Eugenides is in true form as he holds to this solution, never making it seem so simple, but never putting it out of reach. Although others’ encroachment on your life can be destructive and suffocating, it nonetheless indicates presence. Even in moments of deepest misunderstanding and hurt, we are reminded that we are interconnected – living and dying are affairs that can and must be navigated in the spirit of togetherness. Never losing his tone of empathy, Eugenides frankly points out “the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself.”

Suicide – the ultimate self-destruction – leaves you truly incomplete, forever burdening the outsiders who loved you, deeply and imperfectly, with the impossible task of piecing fragments of you back together. It is only in a state of being fully known and knowing, fully loved and loving, that we can be complete.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH SO MANY GUYS WANTING TO TALK ABOUT MAKEUP AND WHY I SHOULDN’T FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO WEAR IT?

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I recently had the very fun experience of doing makeup for a lovely group of women who were performing a dance to the Cheetah Girls song “Different Colors.” They wanted everything to be as over-the top as the Cheetah Girls themselves (seriously, have you seen their first names? Galleria, Chanel, Dorinda, Aquanette…it’s like the Ecstasy dream of a jungle stripper). I did some very fun things with glitter, black eyeliner, and tropical eye shadow colors that night. And honestly, it was very easy for me because I have worn most of what I did as a day look.

I’ve never been shy or subtle with makeup. I didn’t start wearing it until I was fifteen, but when I did start, I went from “just mascara” to “45 products are on my face” in about a week’s time. There were some terrible, awful, blackmail-worthy looks going on for a couple years, but without those awkward missteps, I wouldn’t be at the place of full-blown flawlessness that I am today. I have not tried contouring, probably because I foresee considerable difficulty in contouring a face as perfectly round as a basketball, but maybe someday. I distinctly remember my mom telling me in high school that I can’t match my eye shadow to my outfit because “no one does that” and being like, well, they should, and I do it to this day. I love wearing dark lipstick and winged eyeliner and I never shy away from color. It’s fun for me, it’s a nice and calming morning ritual, it’s a little form of daily creativity that I treasure, and it helps me feel put together and on.

I think it’s a little bit of a vanity point for me that at my small school, I’m really the only girl who wears statement makeup regularly. If I just wanted to go for a more “natural look” (ugh, that phrase is one of my trigger words), I just wouldn’t bother with makeup at all. Here’s why: I love my face. I think my face is so pretty. On one level, I like its features. My eyes are big, my eyelids are wide and deeply creased, my eyelashes are long and thick, my nose is adorable, my lips are full and dark, and I have a great complexion. I have no cheekbones, but I like the roundness. I hate my resting double chin face, but that’s about it.

On a deeper level though, I’m my own best friend. That’s not something I tearfully and/or drunkenly recite to myself in front of a mirror – it’s a startling truth for which I’m constantly gaining a deeper appreciation. I’m with me through successes and failures, lonely nights and laughter-filled days, hours of creativity and quiet tears, my worst and my best. I like myself and I know myself. When I feel that way about other people, I don’t care if they look like Steve Buscemi, the sight of their face will be beautiful and welcome and warm. And that is how I feel about Steve Buscemi. (What? He’s a great actor.) When I catch myself in the mirror, whether I just woke up or I’m covered in makeup, I like the face I see because I like the person who it represents. It represents the well-loved little girl who grew up in my childhood home, the recent college graduate trying to figure her life out, and the grown-ass woman who will become the first female president to win a Grammy, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy and marry a 25-year-old underwear model, or something similar.

Basically, I like my face enough to let it be what it is, in public and in private. This is why I hate the assumption that every girl who wears makeup is doing it to hide her insecurities or present a false identity to the world because she doesn’t believe she’ll be liked for the “real” her.

Yesssssssss, some girls DO do this. Disclaimer section: over.

The thing is, I get the feeling that some people really go to town with this assumption in regards to me because like I said, I’m basically the only girl at my school who regularly wears makeup in shades other than brown. And by “people” I mean boys. Whenever I venture out into the world with a bare face (which is not often, once a month at most), I guarantee you that every guy I meet who I am even peripherally friends with will comment on how pretty I look. It MIGHT be because my face with no makeup is pretty, but I suspect it’s a heroic reassurance move. In the backs of their minds, I know a lot of these guys are thinking, “I never see her without makeup. This is my chance. Maybe if she hears how pretty she looks today from enough people, she’ll have enough confidence to FINALLY be free of the wicked shackles of Covergirl.” When someone earnestly tells me how pretty I look, of course I just say thanks. I think I look pretty too, and the best way to agree with a compliment is to just be grateful for it. I know that seems like I’m reading too much into a simple compliment, and maybe I am. It’s far preferable to the ever-popular “Are you sick/tired/grief-stricken?” There’s something ineffably humiliating about uttering the phrase “No, I’m just not wearing makeup” to someone who is visibly concerned about your health.

Also, I cannot tell you how often I see guys post something on Facebook that encourages women to toss out their makeup. A lot of pop songs, too! One Direction, Bruno Mars, John Legend…I’m looking at you. What, so now are you supposed to be the soft and sensitive, faithful and accepting hero I’ve always dreamed of? Is this supposed to be your way of notifying all the ladies out there that you’re not superficial “like other guys,” and I can finally, at long last, be with a man who only cares about “inner beauty?” That with you, I can “be myself” because there’s no way I could be myself with so much makeup on? Are you going to unlock the angelic woman who has been too caught up in glamour and vanity to spread her wings? Sorry, I know I sound like a jerk, but it bothers me when people think they know about me just by the way I choose to look. I find it especially annoying in this case because the underlying message is “I want to see who you really are.” YOU ARE SEEING THAT. There’s something so frustratingly ironic about hearing people essentially say “I care about who you really are, so don’t be who you really are in terms of how you look because it makes me feel like I’m not seeing who you really are.”

Conversely, though, enough with statements that shame women for wearing makeup. “This is why I have trust issues” memes featuring before-and-after makeup shots are a dime a dozen, and they’re disgusting. First of all, if you’re really stupid enough to believe I have blue and pink eyelids, then that’s on you. Secondly, the fact that someone could betray your trust simply by having a normal human face says a lot more about you than it does about her, and it might explain why she felt the need to “deceive you” in the first place!

The bottom line here is, guys who aren’t my dad or my boyfriend need to stop caring so much about whether or not I’m wearing makeup. You know that old, sexist saying, “Men want her, women want to be her?” That that’s the only fantasy? Well, if someone wants me or wants to be me, fine. I don’t really care. I care that people want to be with me. I don’t wear makeup to attract men or to impress women. I don’t just do it for myself either, though. If I did, I’d be in full makeup right now just to sit on my couch. There is no bigger letdown for me than looking awesome and then not going anywhere cool or seeing anyone I care about; hence my current appearance, which could be better described as “slovenly greaseball.” No, I wear makeup because I love it. I think it expresses the person I am. It makes me feel like the Sasha Fierce version of myself. I feel like my yellow lipstick and turquoise eyeliner is just such a very Allison way to look. It looks like the me that I know people love and want to be with, the me that I know is real. I’m a colorful, glittery, bold, vibrant person, and I like that my makeup can reflect that. Those qualities define all that is the best in me, and it’s nice to be reminded of that when I look in the mirror. I appreciate the compliments I get for my no-makeup face, but I like the ones I get for my makeup face a little better. Exuberance trumps earnestness for me, every time.

I’m not going to rhapsodize on whether it’s good or bad to wear makeup. I do love scoffing at “go makeup free” challenges, but at the same time, I have never seen a person and thought that he or she should change the makeup or lack thereof that they are wearing. I know it’s become one of those irritating first-world feminist issues, but I say, who cares? If you wear makeup and you like it and you don’t feel oppressed by it, wear it. The social or historical or cultural or whatever reasons there are why you do it don’t matter. Don’t make yourself feel a way you don’t feel about something as trivial as makeup just because you feel like you should. And, if you don’t wear makeup, the same rule applies. Be happy with the ways you look and choose to style yourself. The only little caveat I have is to buy your beauty products responsibly – try to only buy from companies that don’t test on animals. Like I said, makeup is trivial, but living things are not.

So I say the solution is, erase the double standard. Men should be able to wear makeup too, stigma-free. I love beautiful men! Ruggedness has its appeals, but…meh. Have you seen RuPaul’s Drag Race? Those men are GORGEOUS. Also, probably not options for me, for many, MANY reasons, but that’s neither here nor there. This is very similar to how I approach solving the feminist conundrum of shaving off body hair. I applaud those women who have thrown out their razors in the name of smashing the patriarchy and then go on to NOT lord it over the heads of their clean-shaven fellow feminists as a point of superior enlightenment (ahem), but I tried it for like five days and felt disgusting. Ugh. It’s just not for me. Then I realized that I don’t like hairy men, either. I think men should shave their armpits, to be honest. Armpit hair is gross, dudes. I’m not saying we should all be Kim Kardashian glossy, but…I will argue for universal upper-body hairlessness. Anyway, I digress.

EVERYONE IS COOL

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We live and let live, and assume that things are jogging on fairly well elsewhere, and that the ordinary plain man may be trusted to look after his own affairs. I quite grant – I look at the faces of the clerks in my own office, and observe them to be dull, but I don’t know what’s going on beneath.

— E.M. Forster, Howard’s End

I meet a lot of sort of cynical people these days. People who consider it a point of pride that they dislike most other people, people who roll their eyes at other people’s interests, people who kind of feel an enlightened superiority because they see right through everyone else. That kind of cynical. Full disclosure: I have some pretty detailed inside knowledge on these people because I let myself be one for like, two years. I’ll make this a little more tangible by providing a list of all* the kinds of people I privately and sometimes not-so-privately scoffed at because I had waaaaaay more insight about how the world works and what it means to be cool.

*roughly 8%

1. Han Solo girls. This affectionate moniker refers to the hordes of white girls who dress like Han Solo from October until March. They have those knee-high boots that are a zero on a scale from one to hooker, skinny jeans sometimes but usually leggings, a flannel or a long-sleeved shirt of some kind, and an insulated puffy vest type thing. Oh, and the whole outfit is in neutrals and/or earth tones. Bonus points if the combined retail value of the ensemble is more than $200. So stylish.

2. All males I personally know. “Out there in the wide world” I know for a fact that there are scads of dudes who are really cool, attractive, and interesting, but not the ones in my spheres of contact. N0 sir, all the guys I know are pretentious narcissists, wishy-washy little boys, or immature douchebags. The WORST thing about them, though, is that none of them seem to want to date me. I mean, good for me though. I would like, probably actually feel really BAD about myself if any of them took an interest in me. Ew, it’s just, why would he, am I the kind of girl who attracts…oh, barf! I can’t wait to get out there in the world where I’ll lock eyes with a Chad Michael Murray doppelganger at every street corner and he’ll instantly fall in love with me because his life is obviously not a messy charade.

3. Eager beavers. Oh, just shut up already. I get it, you think you’re sooooo smart about “Kantian ethics” and “molecular composition of whatever.” You’re not that special. Just pipe down. Dial it back a thousand. It’s so lame to babble on about stuff you love and have worked to amass knowledge on. Don’t you know how much cooler it is to just silently perfect that coolly aloof expression of bored intelligence? First things first, that manic gleam in your eyes has got to go.

4. Eager beavers. Slutty girls. Teehee. Okay, okay, so more accurately, girls who get really fluttery and self-important about male attention, especially if they have this affected behavior that they think will seem more appealing to guys. Usually, this either takes the form of a giggly cheerleader at a bake sale or the talking head of a broad on an MTV show who’s been around the block a few times.

5. Photography buffs. The main thing I hate is that they never f***ing ask me to be one of their subjects. Every time I get a Facebook invite to some exhibition or show, I’m like, oh brother at you and your artsy one-word-in-all-caps show title. Cool, we all know how to push a zoom button and Google “Audre Lorde quotes.” Oh, it’s in black and white. Well, aren’t you just like, Man Ray over here. A boy wearing makeup, well my God, you are so edgy. I’m just gonna ignore your invite to “DISTORTIONS // A Story in Stills” because I should have been the GUEST OF FREAKIN’ HONOR, your muse and inspiration.

6. Country music fans. Are you also a Men’s Rights Activist and a member of the KKK? Tell me more about how we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage because people who have those jobs are lazy idiots. Wear some sunscreen. Put that gun away. The “R” in your neon Budweiser sign is burned out, if you care.

7. Band geeks. Let me be clear about something: I’m not talking about the marching band. Nothing is more endearing to me than an awkward adolescent wearing a weird hat and a tuba. I’m talking about twenty year old hipsters. Have you ever used the phrase “layering synths?” Do you have an upcoming gig at a venue roughly the size of my living room? Are you all wearing Youth XL Hawaiian shirts, cuffed skinny jeans, and high-fashion hiking boots? Is your band called something like The Virgin Collective or Arbitrary Lizard? I might hate you. I shouldn’t even have to say how stupid it is to have a talent that you enjoy pouring creative energy into, pursuing with friends, and sharing with others. Yeah, call me when you’re famous, i.e. NEVER.

8. Happy people. Wake up, SHEEPLE. The realities of the world aren’t so glaringly obvious to you that you know that cheerfulness and optimism are the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of the 21st century? Oh, I bet your life is just so peachy, you just don’t have anything to brood about or make a hobby out of hating, do you? I feel so sorry for you that you don’t share with me razor-sharp insight and thorough knowledge regarding the lot of humanity. If you did you would be sadder. WHY WON’T YOU BE SADDER?

9. Nice people. Ugh, nice people are just the worst, aren’t they? I mean, they’re just so fake. Fake nice people. Nice people just lie to your face every time they speak with you. They obviously hate you just as much as you hate them, but they’re nice to you anyway. You know why? BECAUSE THEY’RE FAKE. If they’re not fake, it’s because they’re boring, opinion-less slices of white bread. Interesting and genuine people are always assholes. Fact of life.

10. “Hypocrites.” Some people might consider these dirty rotten individuals to be “multi-faceted.” Nope. If you aren’t exactly the same person with the exact same demeanor in every last area of your life, you’re a hypocrite. Sorry, I can’t respect anything you’re saying about your selfless month in Haiti rebuilding an orphanage because I know for a FACT that you got too drunk at that party and said some regrettable things. So, the gig’s up, slimeball, stop being such a hypocrite. Wipe away those fake-ass tears. Put that picture of Jelena the Haitian orphan back in your pocket and admit that you suck as a human being.

11. Myself.

Ouch. As it turns out, when you act like a haughty little biatch for a long time, breathing in imperfections and breathing out hatred, you start to be mad unhappy with yourself. There I was, schlepping through public areas, scowling and glaring, hating everyone for being so lame and fake and dumb. Partly, this was because I look really hot with a scowly face – my eyes are all big and my lips are naturally pouty, and the glower really lends a new and exciting luster to my dark and dramatic makeup looks. Mostly, though – if you haven’t picked up on this already – it was because I think I actually felt a little jilted. Why doesn’t everyone like me as much as they like these girls who don’t seem as genuinely cool, authentic, and interesting as me? They don’t even know how to draw on eyeliner and have never bought a shirt from a dead ninety year old woman’s estate sale. Why doesn’t everyone like me as much as they like pretentious dudes with basic tastes and cringey sense of humor?

Well guess what, Allison you dummy, the things you do, the things you like, and even the things you are don’t make you cool.

Being a human being makes you, and Han Solo, and Shutterfly, and literally everyone else, cool.

Say it with me: everyone is cool.

I think it’s too easy to look around and see people who aren’t really like you at all crushing it. And for me, that’s kind of when insecurity comes knocking. Is the way I am wrong? But, but….I like me. I think I’m cool. Dammit, I’m the coolest! But all these people who aren’t like me are doing a great job at stuff. That doesn’t seem right, so, instead of just being happy for other people and reminding myself that I too am happy and have loads of great qualities and talents that I’m super stoked to have and totally putting to good use, it’s somehow easier to just think that other people succeeding are fake. People might THINK they’re cool, but they can’t fool me. My life is outwardly-seemingly lamer than theirs because I’m REAL.

Seriously though, enough of that. I felt so crappy, not only because of the endless comparison, but also because I was being someone I’m not. I’m not a cynical, aloof wolf woman! I’m soft and fuzzy and joyful. That’s not a pep talk, it’s just true. Feeling bad about the way some things are going in my life is no excuse, no excuse at all, for hating other people so I can feel superior to them. It’s waaaay nicer to wake up and forge out into a world that I believe is filled with cool, fun, and lovely people than it is to believe I’m making my way in a universe of shitheads. I might only really “get” like .01% of those cool, fun, and lovely people, but that doesn’t make the other 99.99% uncool and terrible.

You know what? That photography is actually awesome. Your band’s music is really good. And I just work at a restaurant. But I’m also sitting here writing this. I’m practicing writing because I want to be published. I went to the Field Museum because it was free this month and I loved it. I made a really pretty painting this weekend. I graduated college last month Magna Cum Laude. I read a book so hauntingly good I cried. I made a playlist with the same song on repeat twelve times and danced in my bedroom. I adore every person who I have actually taken the time to get to know. They give me life and light and love. And I actually love my job! I’ve got some stuff. I celebrate my stuff, and I’m doing my best to celebrate other people’s stuff too. No more jealousy, no more cynicism, no more toxic negativity.

Even though there are some people I’m glad I’m not and some people who I don’t like very much, I still think they’re so cool. They have their stuff, and they do it, and they love it, and, like me, they’re just trying to be the best they can be and do all the good they can and find some sort of happiness. We’ve all laughed at something weird and said something mean that we didn’t really regret and worn something even though we knew it was tacky and secretly loved a dumb song and spent all day watching TV and desperately wanted something but acted like we didn’t and felt super proud of ourselves and cried for no reason and worried what someone else thinks of us and jumped on our bed because we were so excited and proud and human.

Those are the human things that make us all so crazy cool.

DO SOMETHING ELSE

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I love being politically correct. I do. It’s something I kind of pride myself on (is that problematic? Probably…eh, whatever). To me, being politically correct isn’t a large-scale pandering or a feel-good warm and fuzzy party; it’s not spineless spin-doctoring or a flimsy vocabulary of lukewarm platitudes. Political correctness, done right, is about being kind to other people, plain and simple. It’s the ability to set aside our obsession with having the right to say precisely whatever is on our minds, other people’s opinions and feelings be damned! Having the guidelines of political correctness is a handy little gift that keeps us from blurting out hurtful things and reminds us that not everyone has had the same experiences and privileges, so we should think twice before proclaiming our universal truths. Basically, it’s this great thing that we, as a society, have embraced that says “I have the power to make other people feel things; I’m going to exercise that power responsibly and intelligently. Heck, I’m even going to go so far as to acknowledge that how I make other people feel is more important than my ability to say whatever I please.”

(Side note: someone, please, explain this to Miley Cyrus. I honest-to-goodness wince every time I hear the line “it’s my mouth, I can say what I want to” in her otherwise uplifting anthem to basic human decency, “We Can’t Stop.”)

That being said however, there’s one little PC phrase that I would like to anthropormorphize and punch in the face. I’m talking about those three little words, those eight little letters that everyone loves to say and longs to hear.

“You do you.”

(Did you think I was going to say that the phrase was “I love you?” That was intentional [obviously] because I kind of am starting to think that “You do you” is the new “I love you,” and that sucks.)

Ah, yes, “You do you,” that gleaming, wonderful little catch-all that sort of allows us to vehemently disagree with someone without running the risk of being labeled the number one worst thing that anyone can be in 2015: judgmental.

Let me clarify something here: it is bad to be judgmental. It’s very bad. But I’m talking about actual judginess. Like hypocrisy. Like, you’re doing something I don’t like so now I think you’re a bad person and I don’t want anything to do with you. Like, of course something bad happened to you, look at how you were living ha ha I told you so. That’s judgmental. Unfortunately, that’s rarely how I hear it used. I usually only hear it as a code for “You disagree with what I’m doing, and since I would rather not engage with that, I’m writing you off as judgmental. Have fun being a pariah, sucker!”

So, enter “You do you.” Tack this little baby onto the end of just about anything, and you said your bit without running the risk of being labeled judgy. It’s almost too good to be true, but it works dang well!

“I think that you are running your life into the ground with your choices, but you do you!”

“Your boyfriend is sucking the life out of you and making you miserable, but you do you!”

“I do feel a little alarmed about the bad habits you’ve been picking up, but you do you!”

“I can see your underwear through your leggings which are actually tights, but you do you!”

Yes, we like to feel like we can do whatever we want and everyone will love us anyway. That’s sort of the central yearning of humanity. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who truly doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them, just a lot of people who see indignant belittling as the most convenient response to disapproval. But there is something really frustrating about love, which is that it’s not blind approval. It’s not a synonym for tolerance. Love actually requires you to pick a side, to fight for it, to stand for it – even if that means you won’t be able to “tolerate” the things that stand opposed to what and whom you decide to love. Love involves a lot of confrontation, a lot of disagreeing, a lot of being told that you can’t actually do whatever you want, and we just don’t like that. Freedom of speech, bitches!

Then we start to love someone. We don’t want them to make unhealthy choices, date a loser, endanger themselves, or let the world know they wear 99₵ underwear from Walmart. But we don’t want to drive them away by being judgmental. So we just perpetuate this “You do you” mentality that only ends up hurting people. Waving our hand in blind approval and blessing just isn’t loving. People want to feel accepted, true; but, more importantly, people want to be fought for. Not fought over. Unless it were, say, Matthew McConaughey vs. Jon Hamm. Fighting over me. That would be amazing, and that scenario deserves a post of its own, but even more tantalizing than that is the idea that someone would fight for me. You fight for things and people you care about, that you’ve invested in, and you fight because you believe utterly that one possible outcome for them is better than the others. With people, though, it’s tricky. They might disagree with you, get angry, or tell you to leave them alone. They might. But, unless you were especially asinine or they are especially an ass, I think that verrrrry secretly, deeeeep down, they will still be tickled pink that someone cares enough about their stuff to be a little intolerant of some other stuff.

Part of love absolutely is accepting people, flaws and all, and being able to separate the goodness of the person from the badness of some of his or her decisions. I firmly believe that love should be unconditional. Smart. But unconditional. I think Rihanna said it best: “Because when the sun shines, we’ll shine together. Told you I’ll be here forever; said I’ll always be your friend – took an oath: I’ma stick it out ‘til the end. Now that it’s raining more than ever, know that we’ll still have each other. You can stand under my umbrella. You can stand under my umbrella. Ella. Ella. Eh, eh,eh. Under my umbrella. Ella. Ella. Eh, eh, eh.”

But let’s be real. We all kind of share the tacit understanding that the phrase “You do you” is not three magical words of loving acceptance. We all know in our heart of hearts that this phrase actually means “That’s really weird,” “I hate that so much,” and “Seriously, what do you think you are doing because you are being so dumb.” But, it’s cloaked in loving acceptance juuuuust nicely enough to whistle and look away and pretend we don’t see the disagreeableness underneath.

Let’s just eradicate this phrase, okay? If someone is really “doing them,” that is, living their truth in a healthy way and their uniqueness as a human being is made awesomely manifest in their words and actions, we can do better. How about, “I celebrate you!” Or maybe, “It is so awesome and inspiring to see someone as wonderful as you doing the things you love!” On the other side of that, if someone is “doing them,” as in, wreaking havoc as a self-centered ass, you don’t always have to shrug and pretend to be accepting and convince yourself that they must know what’s best for themselves. There’s a time and a place for standing up and pushing back.

Disagreeing doesn’t make you a bad person or a Pharisee. It’s okay to be honest when someone is doing something you hate. You might not know what’s best for them, but they don’t always know either. That’s what friends are freakin’ for. Talking, pushing and pulling, longing for understanding, and cultivating empathy are what help us connect. Not nodding and saying uh-huh. “I’m not perfect” isn’t an excuse, it’s an admission. Being able to admit that, knowing that it will probably be a part of a fight and could lead to an excruciating self-assessment, is tough, to say the least. It goes against everything we’re desperate to cling to: I can do, say, and think what I want, and the people who love me will love me even more for it.

Obviously, it’s a terrible idea to change who you fundamentally are as a person for someone else, but if you don’t think you should have to change at all for someone you love, then…yikes.

How awesome would it be if, instead of making “I don’t care what people think/You do you” our mantras, we could start regularly using phrases like, “I won’t hurt you by being that way anymore.” “I will change the way I treat you because I love you.” “You’re doing this thing and it bothers me.” “I think you’re wrong.” “Help me understand.” Shall I continue? Discernment is key: it’s truly a gift to know when to step back and accept that not everyone in the world is like you and when to step forward and stand up for something you know to be right and true. I’ve found it’s helpful to lose the whole obsession with how I think I deserve to be treated and to re-focus that energy onto treating other people better. I’ve also found I’m terrible at that. But I want to get better.

Quit saying you do you. Either get more creative about celebrating someone else or stop being so afraid of pushing back against something you don’t think is right. Here’s a last helpful tip: if you catch yourself starting to say it: just change the last word to “me.” Hey, you do you, you brazen little minx 😉

Hello? Blog? It’s me, Allison.

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OK, so yesterday’s thing was actually an album review I wrote for my school’s dumb newspaper. If you’re wondering, yes, I requested to write it. It’s good to share the things you love with the world! Or at least the 2500 students at your liberal arts school, as it were. Side note, like two days after I submitted it, I saw a picture of Pete Wentz and Nikki Sixx together. Nikki said that FOB actually used a soundbite of a Sex Pistols song in the title track of American Beauty/American Psycho, so how cool is that? I’m prescient. Or in tune. Basically a guru. I’m a guru. So that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, more to the point, the reason I posted it was just because, well, I set the dang thing up, I wanted to make a post. So there it is. I obviously know nothing about critiquing stuff; I fluctuate between two extremes of gushing and despising. That’s it. This is kind of my “real” first post, like the ceremonious beginning to my well-wrought urn. Get ready. My “ars blogetica,” if you will.

Blogging is stupid. It’s the dumbest thing ever. It’s 2015, and everyone and their neighbor feels like they have something totally new and cool and indispensable to say and to offer to the world. Every time I turn around, someone is adding a picture of their face to Instagram or their clever little aphorism to Twitter or their suuuuper insightful political ideas to Facebook or their unique brand of taste and humor to Pinterest or their elaborate conspiracy theories to Reddit. (The only social media I’m on is Facebook, and I wish to Betsy I could delete it, but I’m a creep and I need a socially acceptable outlet for my voyeuristic tendencies.) People love to talk and there are literally thousands of venues for people to just talktalktalk and feel like their voice is being heard and their opinion matters.

And blogging is like, the internet equivalent of the Playboy Mansion. “The places (social media/strip clubs) where I can do little spurts of what I love the most (sharing my thoughts/havin’ sex) aren’t enough, so I’m gonna just create this whole place (blog sites, The Playboy Mansion) that decadently indulges my every whimsy as relates to this hobby! EXCESS!”

What I’m trying to say is, we are all Hugh Hefner.

I know this all sounds terribly, horribly, ludicrously cynical. But the truth is, I do think that everyone has special thoughts and words that demand and deserve to be spoken, written, and shared. But our thoughts and words are little shards of our souls. I feel like nowadays (I know, I know), every time anyone does anything, they like, feel obliged to blog about it or instantly share SOMETHING about it. Like, I hate the fact that it would legitimately be weird if someone went to the Grand Canyon and none of their Facebook friends or Instagram followers knew anything about it. It’s like, here’s the rawness of my existence, the tremulous pulsation of my life, out there in the Internet FOREVER, for EVERYONE! I just don’t like it. Stuff is special! I want the people I love to be special, too, in that only they get to hear and know my special things. I want things to be personal and in person, I want someone to see my eyes and my mouth and hear my voice. Most of all, I don’t want to be an inflated hubris balloon.

Obviously, though, I’ve jumped into the ring. And the reason why is simple: I love writing. I have a lot of thoughts, yes, but I also have the lovely blessing of many dear people with whom I can express and discuss those thoughts. So if that were it, I wouldn’t do this. Also, I don’t feel like I have some kind of obligation to blog. Even though my life is pretty cool and I think I’m all right too, I’m not traveling to South America or interning for Vladimir Putin or going undercover as a Real Housewife or anything outwardly awesome and enviable like that. At the moment, I’m just kind of chillin’ and enjoying an everyday kind of sweetness that I don’t think would really be anything special to anyone but me and my loved ones. And possibly, my enemies. They love keeping tabs on me.

Nope! I just love writing! I absolutely love technical research writing and close-reading writing, which is what I have the most experience in, and – hubris be damned – I’m great at it. But, I love more informal writing just as much, and I haven’t had as much practice. So I’m just gonna do it! Never stop doing the things that you love. That’s kind of my philosophy. Now that I’ve graduated college, which was my primary venue for writing, it’s important to me that I find a new outlet so I can carry on pursuing it. I want to experiment a little with different styles of writing, different topics, and different….genres, I guess? (i.e. I have some GREAT ideas for SNL sketches, so look out for those, if you’re reading this, Kristin Wiig.) Even if I’m always kind of mediocre at this, that won’t stop me from loving it and doing it. Hey, whatever keeps me off the streets, am I right?

Whatever. Here I am, adding my voice to the din. I had my fingers crossed that 2015 would be the year everyone shuts up, but…that doesn’t seem likely.

We’re The Things That Love Destroys: Fall Out Boy is bigger and badder than ever in their second full-length post-hiatus release

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Disclaimer: 20 of the 25 most played song on my iTunes are FOB. 90 of my 1400 songs are FOB. I have listened to the song “Uma Thurman” like 1000 times because it’s the greatest song of this or any century.

From the trumpet fanfare that opens the first track of Fall Out Boy’s sixth studio album to the ghoulish chamber music that sings the last track out, Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman, and Andy Hurley deliver a solid album that reminds us we’ll remember them for centuries. The band is no longer the same boys who gave us the pounding, defiant, genre-changing tracks like “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy?” and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” but the evolution Fall Out Boy has undergone is one of the most successful, sophisticated, and un-ignorable reinventions in rock history. The boys are back with a new defiance, recharged and ready to change the genre again for a new generation. After American Beauty/American Psycho, Fall Out Boy is that greasy emo kid at your high school who grew up to be really, really sexy.
The lead single from AB/AP, “Centuries,” is one of several tracks with crisp, in-your-face verses and memorable choruses that build off of edgy pop melodies. “Irresistible” is another example of the acidic pop punk that Fall Out Boy does so well, and the track is aptly named: one listen is all it will take for that hook to be stuck in your head for weeks. AB/AP also offers one of the best, most weirdly creative songs the boys have crafted to date: “Uma Thurman” brings together sound bites from The Munsters theme song, Pulp Fiction references, and snarling vocals to create a unique sound that can best be described as macabre beach party grunge.

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Middle school FOB die-hards have every right to be skeptical of the “new” Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll, the band’s first post-hiatus venture, was an awesome album, but it definitely felt more pop than punk. American Beauty/American Psycho feels a lot like Save Rock and Roll in that sense, but it is also much more reminiscent of their earlier years. Fall Out Boy dishes up its brand-new, grungy polish alongside a slight campiness reminiscent of Folie A Deux and brooding melodies that have a distinctly From Under the Cork Tree vibe. Pete Wentz delivers on lyrics that have the bang-your-fists-against-the-wall attitude of Take This to Your Grave as well as the hard-won wisdom and wistfulness he showcases with finesse in Save Rock and Roll, and Patrick Stump spits the words out like he’s staring down the barrel of Nikki Sixx’s loaded shotgun – just give the bridge of the title track a listen, and you’ll see what I mean.
That being said, some tracks in the middle of the album could use a little 2005 to put the pummeling, full-steam-ahead spirit into them that a Fall Out Boy album just doesn’t seem complete without. As it is, a couple tracks (“Favorite Record”) just seem like less good versions of Save Rock and Roll’s nearly flawless anthems of regret (“Miss Missing You”).
It’s been twelve years since Fall Out Boy released its game-changing debut record, and ever since then, the emo kids who never forgot their roots in hardcore have been growing up and building steam. American Beauty/American Psycho offers some of the most provocative, sexy, and storied music of the band’s career and proves the boys’ ability to evolve and mature without losing the bratty angst that won them the spot as the therapists pumping through our speakers.

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An excerpt from the novel I dream of writing one day, “The Private Life of a Luxe Lapdog.”

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“As the love of her life drove down the driveway and out of her life, the wealthy and beautiful Tussina von Weiner knew that no string of pearls, no BMW, no invitation to an A list party, and no fine champagne could ever fill the gaping hole he had left in her heart. She howled a farewell, but it was drowned in the sound of the torrential downpour outside. Raindrops fell, one after the other, but to her they were the sound of his paws, pitter pattering away from her…….forever.”