Tag Archives: life-isms

Banish The Pixie Dream Girl

I was going to write a post seeking riding buddies and new friends on the road, but then I got sidetracked by a recent episode of the podcast Modern Love.

At first blush ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl‘ seemed like it was going to be a cheesy love story, but you know, that’s not really Modern Love style. There must be some insight. There is always a lesson.

As the narrator talked about his love of the genre of manic pixie dream girl romance. He told a story of how he once found his very own manic pixie dream girl. Describing the exciting but damaged personality that makes up the manic pixie dream girl, I wondered if I envisioned myself as a manic pixie dream girl too.

No, I don’t envision myself as a Natalie Portman from Garden State. I lack the physique and eating discipline to actually be pixie-like (note: photo is nothing like Natalie Portman) But that old trope of the fun, interesting, quirky and intriguing girl who is also emotionally and mentally damaged from whatever ghosts haunt her and she needs fixing by a stable, strong, infinitely patient protagonist. The storyline goes that the stable protagonist finds himself a manic pixie dream girl. She, through her wild antics, she draws him out of his shell and introduces him to an exotic new world of new experiences and, of course, sex.

They fall in love. But the heroine can’t escape her mental defects. The sexy intrigue becomes unbearably eccentric. The wild excitement turns into fear-inducing volatility. The fun quirkiness becomes mental instability. The sass becomes mean.

We worry about what she will do to him. Or what she will do to the relationship. And we are certain she will ultimately hurt herself. Naturally, love overcomes all and our strong and stable protagonist is able to fix her; thus saving her from herself.

My favorite of this genre is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It doesn’t follow this exact formula and our manic pixie dream girl, Clementine, is less hapless and cutesy pixie and more self-assured and decisive woman. I hesitate to add manic, because that would imply she actually has a mental health disorder that the audience thinks she needs fixing. She doesn’t need fixing.

As I declared myself an atheist at age twelve, I am not so into the idea of fate nor star-crossed lovers nor soulmates nor one true loves. So, it’s odd that I love this movie so much. It relies entirely on fate – our two soulmates, despite erasing each other from their minds, they find each other again because they are destined to be together.

The movie abruptly ends after they find out they erased each other from their respective brains. They learn about their previously volitile relationship that ended in heartbreak.

Roll credits.

We are left to believe Joel and Clementine are fated to be together. Armed with the knowledge of how their relationship failed, perhaps they avoid all the mistakes of the past and live happily ever after.

Or maybe they are the same people, the same personalities and the same relationship they were the first time. Perhaps, they are destined to just repeat the same heartbreak again and again and again. Groundhogs Day.

Okay, that was a fun recap of my favorite movie. So, why, you might ask, would I envision myself some sort of manic pixie dream girl? I don’t want to, really. In fact, it’s not even specifically the manic pixie dream girl that is the problem.

She is just the embodiment of that tired old mentality that most of those smart, intriguing and fun girls we love are flawed. They need to be fixed. The “I like all these things about you and you would be perfect if you could just fix all these things about you.” Your amazing, but totally screwed up. I’ll take all the good stuff, but let me help you identify and eliminate all this shit that stinks and offends me. Your great, but broken.

Here is the problem. We are all flawed. No, not flawed. We are all different. With the good weirdness comes the bad strangeness. With the exciting and exotic comes the scary and different. With the wild and fun come the unpredictable and volatile. It is all matter of degrees and increments, compromises and acceptance. It is not flaws in need of fixes.

I fell for the romantic construct of the manic pixie dream girl. We all do at some point, don’t we? We envision ourselves as some gauzy, doe-eyed creature who is wonderfully and tragically imperfect. We are broken and we need someone to fix us and save us from ourselves. And it’s not just any anyone – it is only the fated one.

No doubt, I can be improved. But let’s banish the manic pixie dream girl and all her incarnations. The concept of her is broken. I am not.

Happy cooking and dreaming!

Ladies, We Need to Talk.

Today, I am diverging from recounting my life of yesteryear. The hard part about soul searching is digging up all that old shit, good and bad. A lot of emotions wash over me. . . nostalgia. . . happiness. . . admiration. . . sadness. . . anger. . . in the end, all this thinking then broadcasting it to the world leaves me feeling both freed and cleansed but also isolated and empty. Funny how those words are different sides of the same coin…not only poetic, but synonymous.

Today, on the anniversary of her death, in celebration and memory of the strongest, most resilient, adventurous and kind woman I have known, I want to put aside cleansing my soul to the would and instead I want talk some fierce feminism today. In a nod to my uncle’s passing this week from the same horrible disease that took my mother too soon, I also write this for him. I know he is motorcycling into the sunset, and he leaves two strong and amazing Ceridon women (do they make any other variety of Ceridon women) behind. I love you, Mom and Uncle.

Now, I promise this post is lighter and perhaps a bit scolding from here forward.

I try to ride daily. When you are staying in the Sierras, it is not hard to get in some miles on fun, winding roads. Round trip, it’s 12 miles to the nearest market, 40 miles to the pharmacy, 60 miles to my brother’s and 20 miles to the nail salon. 

Yep, the nail salon. A girl has got to  keep her toenails in good fomr. Iguess the nail salon doesn’t get many clients showing up in full motorcycle gear with a helmet in hand. I was quite the novelty among the staff and clients.

As I was leaving, a woman said “You ride? That’s great. I only ride on the back.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah, I don’t known how to ride myself.”

“You should learn, it’s so much fun to be in control of your own ride.”

“Oh! No, no, no. I can’t do that. I just can’t do that.”

Can’t.

Can’t?

Can’t!

Ladies, let’s talk about that little undermining, underestimating, and decidedly unfeminist word. First, I can totally respect someone wanting to ride on the back of the bike. You don’t want to learn to ride? Cool. You tried it, but prefer to be a passenger? Good for you. Own that shit. But can’t is not acceptable.

Can’t is one of those words we’ve been taught to make us dumber, “I can’t understand this super smart thingy, please teach me.” To be weak, “I can’t open this super tight whatchamacallit, can big strong you do it.” To be demure, “I can’t do that sort of thing, I am a good girl.” To be more feminine, “I can’t do that, it’s for boys.” To be less, “You’re so much braver and stronger and smarter and better than me, I can’t do those things.” And in this case, to be weirdly complimentary, “Oh gee, woman-I-am-talking-to, you do that all by yourself? I can’t do that.” Or maybe that last just weirdly diminishes a women who is doing something decidedly unwomanly, unfeminine.

Yeah, I am piling a bunch of baggage into one passing conversation. But this isn’t about that one conversation. It isn’t about motorcycling. It’s about empowering oneself through our choice in words and how we represent ourselves and our capabilities.

I listen to moms and dads and teachers correct kids when they use can and can’t. Sarcastically saying, “I dunno. Can you?” Or saying, “Did you try? Then, how do you know you can’t?” Yet somewhere on our journey to adulthood, little girls learn to bat their eyelashes and say “I can’t, can you?” We use it to be less intimidating, less capable. We use to not own our wants and our desires.

When we proclaim we are incapable of something – that we can’t – then we might feel better having deferred the need to explain why we want what we want or why we don’t want what we don’t want. And sure, avoiding the explanation feels less taxing.

I get it. Just saying “I can’t” instead of “I want” totally eliminates the possibility of someone mansplaining how what you want it wrong. But that is avoiding something awkward by implying you are different and less than those who are capable. You are not dysfunctional because you want something different. Own that shit. Don’t feed and perpetuate the lie that says we women are less or that differences in skills or behaviors are based on differences between men and women.

My mom didn’t raise her two daughters to be less than her son (save for that childhood beauty queen episode, but no one is perfect). She didn’t fall for that gendered crap that said my sister and I were less capable than our brother. And, as anyone who survives an abusive life knows, she didn’t succumb to the word can’t. She picked herself up every time she got knocked down and she said, “I can do this. One foot in front of the other.”

Mom, I can and I will. One foot in front of the other.

Happy cooking and kicking ass!