A Quick Lesson (and Rant) on Love

My senior year English teacher once stopped class to give a bunch of hopeless teenagers a lesson on love.

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“Get out a piece of paper,” she said sternly, her usual intricate gray bun sitting imperiously atop her head. Her hair – as she told us – reached below her knees when she loosened it out of its bun. She never cut her hair after high school, save for a few trims, as was the Native American tradition her Pawnee grandfather had taught her. Dr. Lara was by far one of the most interesting teachers I ever had in my educational career (which is saying something, since my 50-year-old communication applications teacher once had a screaming fight with her boyfriend in the middle class over the phone). (Also I had an English teacher claim that Julius Caesar was essentially Jesus Christ because they both had the initials “J.C.” But that’s beside the point.)

“Get out a piece of paper,” she commanded, “and write down three things you look for in a romantic partner.”

I blanked for a second. What do I even look for in a person? I realized I never looked for specific traits, I was either attracted to someone or not. I never really thought about why.

…Intelligence, I wrote down. Kindness. I couldn’t think of a third. I could think of a lot of qualities, but none that I considered an Ultimate Character Trait.

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“Next, write down three things that you would never want in a romantic partner. Three deal-breakers.”

Violent/brutal. I paused for a bit. Ignorant. Untrustworthy.

“Now, move your desks in a circle.” And then there was the usual cacophony of chairs scraping against carpet and backpacks shuffled about and pencils rolling off desks.

“Alright, Ms. Shankar,” (She never called us by our first names.) “Tell us what three things you look for in a romantic partner.”

Rayna (aka Ms. Shankar) smiled confidently – always the extrovert and always fiercely unembarrassed by any situation.

“I said, funny, smart, and fine af.”

There was a ripple of small smiles around the room.

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“Most young people – teens and preteens – look for physical beauty in a significant other,” Dr. Bissett spoke carefully, “but in doing so, you can be limiting yourself from several compatible romantic partners. Additionally, as you fall in love with someone, everything associated with them – their appearance, their personality, their passions – these all become beautiful to you. So I wouldn’t worry about physical attraction as a top priority in looking for a relationship.”

“However, I do agree with your first two criteria. It is easy to share your life with someone who won’t bore you, who has the mental capacity to understand your complexities. And it is even easier to share your life with someone who has your sense of humor, who can make you laugh.”

I looked down at my piece of paper. Of course. That would complete my trifecta of Mr. Perfect’s character traits. I wrote down “sense of humor” next to “intelligence” and “kindness.”

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It’s been about a year since that spring day when we were all just struggling through another class period, counting down the days until graduation. I didn’t realize then how keeping in mind a three-point criterion for a date would help my love life. But I think I get the purpose of it now. It’s helped me avoid chasing after the wrong guys or chasing after romantic notions of “this guy isn’t exactly Mr. Right, but I can change him!!” It’s helped me avoid wasting my time on kindling relationships that I know won’t work out. It’s put something concrete and objective to a very abstract, subjective thing – love. And at least for now, the organization helps. Because the rom coms, the chick flicks, and the Romeo/Juliets hardly prepared me for the reality of romance. This did.

I’ve modified my list a bit. It’s now “intelligence,” “humor,” and “compassion,” because not only do I want my S/O to be a nice person, I want him or her to be a person who cares deeply about humanity and the world.

And here’s my two cents of experience. I’ve found guys who are tear-inducingly hilarious. I’ve found guys who are arousingly smart. (Intelligence is the new sexy after all.) But I have yet to find someone truly and genuinely compassionate from the micro level of caring for a baby brother to the macro level of worldwide politics. At least, it doesn’t show itself often.

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So why is this? Why isn’t a passion for kindness something that we promote in our outer personalities, something that shines out of us radiantly? Boys will make stupid jokes to catch a girl’s attention (their version of humor). Boys will show off their sharp wit and acute cleverness by cracking more stupid jokes and occasionally answering a question correctly in class (their version of intelligence). But, from my experience, few boys will go out of their way to perform a random act of kindness or stand up for someone against their friends or rail against the evils of homophobia or even simply offer their jackets when it’s cold to impress a girl. What is it about fiercely, bravely, and confidently being nice that is so scary? What is it about compassion that is so damn hard?

But I suppose it’s unfair to blame it on the male population. Looking at it all on a grander scale, the world isn’t totally short of funny people or smart people. The rarest element of all is compassion. I know my special someone will be special, because he will be compassionate. And if it took one day in a 12th grade English class to learn that, then hey, maybe my entire grade school education wasn’t a waste.

 

 

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Boy Wanted

Someone who’s a feminist.

Someone whose hilarious, witty banter astounds you…but only once you get to know them.

Someone who is flabbergasted at the sight of a starry sky on a clear night.

Someone who maybe lacks some self-confidence and faces insecurities (as we all do) but smiles bravely and dorkily all the same when you capture them in a hug.

Someone who writes poetry in their head without realizing that they are the poem they’ve been trying to write all along.

Someone whose favorite dates involve trips to museums.

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Someone who’s a humanitarian.

Someone whose first kiss to you is on the cheek or the forehead.

Someone who keeps up with current events and has an intelligent opinion on half of it and will humbly admit that they have no clue what to think of the other half.

Someone who cries during marriage proposal scenes on TV.

Someone who is globally literate – an adventurer, a traveler, a learner of cultures, a speaker of many tongues.

Someone who maybe has trouble showing affection, so that when they do, it’s all the more special.

Someone who realizes that we are literally just tiny specks of dust floating in space guided by social constructs and surrounded by nothingness but still believes that life contains hope, purpose, and possibility.

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Someone who’s both a cat and a dog person but is basically 99% cat.

Someone who reads Sartre and Faulkner, but will still claim that the Harry Potter series are the best books of all time.

Someone who makes mistakes and apologizes genuinely.

Someone who treats your subpar singing as if it were the love child of Adele and Beyonce’s voices.

Someone who stops to make silly faces at children (or at least won’t mind when I do).

Someone who appreciates all music but has a soft spot for amazing movie soundtracks, indie/alternative, and “dad music” (Queen, The Beach Boys, Brandon Flowers).

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Someone who will watch chick flicks and cheesy Christmas movies with you over mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Someone who adds a touch of compassion to everything they do, a Hufflepuff at heart.

Someone who embraces the countryside as well as the city and can’t decide whether they like the East Coast or the West Coast better.

Someone who cares deeply about their work.

Someone who will make a fool of themselves on the dance floor just because they know how much you love to dance.

Someone whose existence is pure art.

Someone who loves you. Honestly, purely, gently, passionately.

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My Attempt to Work Out (Oh, Boy)

“I get enough exercise just by pushing my luck.” -some poor guy who should’ve probably trademarked this phrase before it was plastered over workout apparel and memes everywhere

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Look, I’ve tried to stay on an exercise regime before. We’ve all been there. We’ve all sat in front of our laptops watching the latest Blogilates YouTube video as hope slowly drains out of us before typing “#unattainablebodygoals” in the comment section. I’ve gone to the gym on and off. I’ve done these home workouts on and off (but never all the way through). But after a year in college (hellooooo freshman fifteen) and a trip to East Asia (what do you mean lunch is $2 what kind of narnia is this?), I’ve decided that I need to crack down on my health.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my body. I have a healthy BMI, I’m not overweight, and I can still fit into that one then-oversized T-shirt I had in middle school. I want a fitter, healthier, and more toned body because I love my body and I love myself. I’m promising myself that I will take care of myself. Therefore, I’m going to exercise. Every day. And eat healthy. Maybe not every day. (But there will be attempts to cut junk food and embrace more fruits and veggies.)

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I’m no fitness expert (God forbid), but I’ll share my amateur home workout routine with you. I like it because I can do it anywhere (say yes to never leaving the house), without equipment (like I have equipment), and it’s simple enough if you’re willing to put in the effort. I mean, converting fat to muscle is never really gonna get any easier.

I really wanted to concentrate on cardio for the summer with some work on my abs and thighs. And I also discovered XHIT Daily videos on YouTube recently and I really like them – they’re effective, they’re easy to follow along, and the trainers aren’t too annoying. So here’s the plan.

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Monday, Wednesday, Friday (cardio x abs):

  1. How To Burn 150 Calories in 8 Minutes
  2. 9 Exercises For a Flat Stomach OR The 7 Best Ab Exercises (I like to alternate the two. The first one’s a little less strenuous in my opinion.)

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday (cardio x legs):

  1. Cardio Workout: How to Lose Weight
  2. Miley Cyrus Workout: Sexy Legs OR Thigh Exercises for Losing Fat OR Victoria’s Secret Angel Butt Workout (That last one says “Butt Workout,” but I like that it works out the cellulite-y part of your thighs.)

Sunday (cardio):

  1. FuseDance Cardio Melt Workout

There you have it. I’ve been doing this for about 2 weeks now, and I’ll admit I’ve had to skip some days because I’m simply too busy or because, you know, period cramps. But I feel a lot healthier, energetic, and happier than I did before. I’ll admit, I haven’t really lost a lot of weight, but for me that’s not the point. I don’t need to be skinnier, I just want to be fitter.

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Take care of yourself guys – physical health and body positivity are both extremely important. No matter the criticisms from friends, strangers, family members, beauty advertisements, the media, mall mannequins, society…you are perfect. Pear-shaped, hourglass, skinny, heavy, small, large, petite, tall, boyish, lanky, straight, curvy – these things don’t make you more ugly or more beautiful. Your body shape is made beautiful by the human being that inhabits it. You only have one body, so enjoy looking after it. xx

 

 

Life Update #2

10 things happening right now.

  1. For the first time in two years, I’m trying harder to expand this blog. I’ve been working on it very sparsely and casually over the past months, and I’m pretty proud of the little bit it is. Well, now I’m finally getting my blog its own Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. These accounts will mostly just be little notifications when I post and maybe the occasional retweet or reblog. We’ll see. I’m not 100% sure where I’m taking this, but I do know I want to blog more and blog harder. You can follow @brooklyngirljournal on Instagram and Tumblr or @brooklyngirljnl on Twitter. Thanks for any and all of your support!

2. I’m heading off to Austin! I’ll just be gone for a week from Saturday to next Friday, but I’m pretty excited. I haven’t really explored the weird (dark) side of Austin yet and I’ve dearly missed Tex Mex. Plus, I’ll get to see some of my best friends down at UT that I haven’t seen since winter break. Have any suggestions for what I should see in ATX, since I’m going to be a clueless tourist?

3. France for Euro Cup 2k16!! Allez, les Bleus!!!

4. I just finished Year Two (that’s Season 2, I suppose, in normal terms) of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and I’m so hyped. The live show finale sounded amazing and I can not wait to be able to attend my first WTNV live show sometime soon. Unfortunately, I can’t make it this year as I am heading down to Austin when they come to Dallas. But next time, for sure. I can’t stay away from a live showing of Cecil/Carlos love any longer. And if you guys have no idea what I’m saying, do yourself a favor, get on YouTube, and start listening to Welcome to Night Vale. You might regret it, but hey, “Are we living a life that is safe from harm? Of course not. We never are. But that’s not the right question. The question is: are we living a life that is worth the harm?”

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5. Before this post starts to seem like a shameless plug for each and every one of my social media handles, I just want to say that expanding my reach goes both ways. I would love to hear what you guys are posting. Leave a link below to your latest blog post and I’ll be sure to read/comment/like it. You can even leave a link to your Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, whatever. I’d love to know what you all are up to. Building a community is important.

6. I have to relearn high school calculus in preparation for next semester. Gross. #khanacademyfordays

7. In an attempt to not sit on my lazy bum all summer and put in some level of productive effort, I’ve taken up an internship with New Story Charity. They do the kind of international developmental work that I hope to get into in the future. Basically, they’re a nonprofit that transforms slums in developing countries into sustainable communities. They’re also on a mission to stop chagas in Bolivia, a disease caused by the “kissing bug” that leads to fever, swelling, and heart failure. If you’re interested in interning or helping out, check out their website at www.newstorycharity.org.

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8. It’s World Chocolate Day! #treatyoself

9. I’m about to finish a book I’ve been reading for a while, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Here’s my 2 second book review. 4 stars out of 5 since it’s relatable to college freshmen and fangirls and somehow manages to be both a Harry Potter fanfic and an original story at the same time. Fun for a light read, but I’m more of a deep thoughts/annoyingly philosophical kind of girl, so I could’ve enjoyed it more.

10. Dark skin is not a crime. How hard is it to grant somebody the right to not be shot at? Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Sandra Bland. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. And so many more. Say their names, because they matter. Black lives are human lives; black lives matter.

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Three Things

Because the best things come in threes.

Three things you can’t go without: music, bubble tea, people

Three celebrity crushes: Tom Hiddleston, Dave Franco, Asa Butterfield

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Three favorite book characters: Eponine from Les Mis, Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit

Three favorite things to wear: sundresses, Nike shorts, kickass red lipstick

Three things you want in a relationship: depth, gratitude, humor

If you had to evacuate your home because of a natural disaster, what three things would you take with you? laptop, diary, senior yearbook

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Three pet peeves: chewing with your mouth open, negative groupthink (like when you dislike a person just because all your friends dislike that person), being on your phone all the time when we’re having one-on-one time

Three things you’d do if you weren’t so afraid: travel around the world by myself, ride the largest roller coaster at the park, become a writer

Three favorite TV shows: Sherlock BBC, I Love Lucy, Game of Thrones

Three favorite music albums: The 1975 by The 1975, Grand Romantic by Nate Ruess, Strange Desire by The Bleachers

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Three best #wcws: Julie Andrews, Kristin Chenoweth, Audrey Hepburn

Three things on your desk: purple glasses case, empty Tapioca House cup, February 2014 issue of Smithsonian magazine

Three reasons why you write: to reflect on myself, to entertain, to advocate for certain truths about life

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