The Scarlet Letter

… is one of my least favorite books. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate its literary significance and the importance of the messages and themes expressed in Hawthorne’s famous novel. But – and I say this as someone who loves classic literature – it’s a downright slog to read. I’m glad that I read it, but I will never pick it up again.

I read The Scarlet Letter in 11th grade, back in 2009. And my teacher at the time had our class participate in an experiment to make us understand, to at least some degree, the trials and tribulations of the socially-condemned Hester Prynne.

We had to make a ‘letter’ and wear it around school as a brand for a day. So, if we considered our personal “flaw” or perceived “crime” to be greed, for example, we would make a “G” out of craft materials and pin it to our shirt. As a seventeen year old girl, I picked “A,” but not for adultery. It was for ‘anger.’

I was often angry in my teens, and that anger bled into and impacted several areas of my life. It caused me a lot of frustration, stress, and irritation. It was the root of many personal issues I was experiencing at the time, and vice versa. And I spent that whole day with an “A” on my shirt to announce it to the world… and really, all it did was make me angrier because friends/peers would constantly ask me, “what’s the ‘A’ for?” and it was annoying. But, I digress…

However, the lesson did, at the time, make me think about how anger was affecting my life. I have been able to let it go, per se, as I’ve grown older. And now, eleven years later, that lesson has crept back into the forefront of my mind. Anger is not what I would consider the ‘root’ of my issues now, but I might wear a different ‘A’ as a twenty-eight year old in the year 2020 – an ‘A’ for anxiety.

It might not be an obvious thing, nor does anyone make me march around town with some visible indication that I suffer from anxiety, thus allowing others to scorn me. Times have changed since the Puritan era. But I can feel that ‘A,’ burning a hole in my chest, every day. It is not visible, but I know that it is there. And, of late, it has been swallowing me. Part of it is definitely due to the state of the world at the moment, but there are also other roadblocks in my personal life that are making that “A” blaze brighter and brighter, if only on the inside. And there’s a big ol’ neon ‘D’ right beside it. It’s probably obvious what that stands for.

I am trying not to let it consume me. It’s difficult. I can feel the weight much heavier than ever before, and that creeping dread digs its fingers into my skin more often than usual. I mean, I know – I’m a basic white girl who has been afforded many opportunities in my life, so my issues are trivial in the grand scheme of things and when compared to what others are going through. This isn’t a ‘boo hoo, feel bad for me’ type post, it’s just cathartic to get it out there. And I know I’m not alone.

It does help a little to know that, even though we do not outwardly wear our own scarlet letters, everyone has at least one. And before judging others, I try to think what their own burdensome letter might be, and how it might weigh on them. Some guy cuts me off in traffic? He’s probably fighting his own battles. The person who ordered the last cake pop at Starbucks? Maybe they needed that sugar boost to get through the day more than I did. Knowing that we are not alone can make those letters feel a little smaller, even if, for some of us, they will never disappear entirely.

The ‘A’ may be heavy, but I do wear it with some measure of pride. It has not defeated me yet, nor will I let it.

Aunt Allie

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this on my blog yet (I am a little behind) but I’m going to be an aunt! I technically already am – my sister has a stepson – but she is now pregnant with a little boy and is due in October.

It is also well-known in my circle that I do not like children.

This is a blanket statement, of course, and requires clarification. I am child-free, but I love the kids in my family, blood related and otherwise. I just do not relate easily to children and lack maternal instincts. Like… if a kid falls down at my job because they’re running around or doing something they’re not supposed to, I ain’t stopping to help them up. Kids are known to freeze in their tracks when I send “the glare” their way, and I had a reputation of being scary to children in my old neighborhood in MA, because no one would ring my doorbell during trick or treat for two years running. Those kids also shouldn’t have been playing in my yard, thus prompting me to yell at them a few times, but I digress…

Not liking children does not mean I am not stoked for my sister to have a baby, because I am! I love my step-nephew (or stephew, if you will) already – he is a polite and genuinely fun kid to be around, but having a baby around will be new territory.

We held her baby shower this past weekend, and it was awesome to see friends and family coming together to celebrate with masks and hand sanitizer on hand and as much social distancing as possible. I have felt bad for her because, with the state of the world right now, she hasn’t had what can be called a “normal” pregnancy, but I’m super glad she and the baby are both healthy, which is the most important thing.

My sister has been one of my few companions during this pandemic, and, if I ever don’t feel well, I make sure not to go around her. We’ve been going for walks and getting “starbies,” our standard white girl indulgences.

With my typical dislike of children, I never thought I’d be excited to be an aunt. But I really am – I’ve already got stuff for the baby’s third birthday, and when I go to the store, I usually pick up my stephew some Pokemon cards. Maybe it’s growth – part of getting older. I actually stop and look around the childrens/baby department at stores now instead of hustling by to avoid being around stranger’s spawn.

Now, does that mean I am warming to the idea of having my own children? Well…

ABSOLUTELY NOT. But Aunt Allie is ready to be the best aunt ever.

Homebody

I am, by my own admission, a homebody.

Going out really isn’t my “thing.” Sure, I like to go out to dinner or partake in a social event or two as much as the next person, so I’m not hermit-level, but 6/7 days in the week if I’m not at work, I’m probably at home. I also get burned out from too much social interaction, so one might say the introversion is real.

This pandemic, however, has amped up my homebody-ness. My #1 favorite hobby is going to the movies – I typically go at least 50 times a year – but that is not possible right now, and for good reason. And I did not foresee, when all of this began, the impact not being able to “do things” would have on me. Since I am a homebody, I thought hunkering down wouldn’t effect me too much. I was wrong.

I do still have to go to work, so I’m not stuck in my house or anything, but I am also trying to be cautious when I must venture out. I’ve been to a restaurant twice since my state reopened, and both times sat outside, six feet away from others, and wore my mask before and after sitting down to eat. I’ve bought Star Wars masks, so I can brighten up my days a little. I am stocked with hand sanitizer. The only folks I’ve seen face to face to “hang out” are other folks who have been as careful as I have, which are mostly my parents and sister/bro in law.

But… I never thought I would miss doing things. My depression/anxiety has hit a major spike over the last couple of months. I haven’t read a book in months. And I know I’m not the only one affected like that, considering the current state of the country/world. Plus, I am very grateful that I have not gotten sick, and, fortunately, no one close to me has either.

This Sunday, the weather was hot, but not as humid and muggy as PA has been recently. It has been truly disgusting, but there was actually a bit of a breeze that afternoon, so my best friend and I took advantage and went on a nice long nature walk because, in my own words, “if I stay inside one more effing day I’m going to scream.” I prepared adequately, with my mask, lots of water, a protein smoothie, and big spray / sunscreen.

We trekked for eight miles, and it was beautiful. I felt, for the first time in a while, like I had found a tiny pocket of solace, and was able to funnel negative energy into something positive. I’d trod that path before, but it felt new and exciting. My calves are still burning three days later, but it was well worth it to indulge in nature for a bit, to feel the sun, and crunch the soil and stone beneath my sneakers.

And it gave me hope that we will reach the end of this trail, even if it seems a long way off.

Then, I’ll go back to being a homebody – on my own terms.

AF

So, my real name isn’t Allie Frost.

My real name is not a huge secret or anything, so I don’t particularly care if folks know it, but my actual initials are still AF. And I sign everything with my initials. Documents, emails, etc. I do have very poor, distinctive penmanship though, so forgery would be quite hard.

The other day, before a meeting at work, as I was settling down in a chair with my notepad and pen ready to go, my boss asked me, “Did you know your initials are internet slang for ‘as f*ck’?”

To which I replied, “Why do you think I sign everything with my initials?”

I mean… that’s not really why I do it, I do it because I’m lazy and my handwriting is atrocious, but still. I am fully aware of what my initials indicate in the internet/social media world. And my boss thought it was funny, so…

But now, hearing it aloud, it has struck me. The weight of those two letters.

I need to try to live my life not only as AF, but live my life af.

2020 Oscar Snubs

I didn’t have time to write out my Best Picture Countdown this year (just know that my top 3 were Little Women, JoJo Rabbit, and Parasite, not necessarily in that order, and The Irishman is last) so here’s my list of Oscar Snubs instead.

The Peanut Butter Falcon / Shia LeBeouf
It’s almost heartbreaking that this movie didn’t receive any buzz at all during the awards season. A film about a young man with Down syndrome’s quest to become a wrestler and the conflicted fisherman who reluctantly helps him, it preaches a familiar lesson about following your dreams and learning to forgive in a fresh, and utterly poignant way. LeBeouf’s performance was award worthy, and to see him excluded is a shame.

The Lighthouse / Willem Dafoe / Robert Pattinson
So, The Lighthouse is f*cking weird. I know that. But, as artsy fartsy as it is, it deserved more than a lone cinematography nod, although it’s my favorite to win. This is the type of film the Academy should be slavering over. Dafoe is unrecognizable in it and R-Pattz delivers another solid performance. Should have at least gotten a nod for both of them. But yeah, the movie’s f*cking weird.

Wild Rose / Jessie Buckley / “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)”
Buckely’s performance in this film – about a young woman who battles her checkered past in order to chase her dreams of country singer stardom, even if it means neglecting her two children – is electrifying, and the film itself is incredible. If nothing else, the song “Glasgow (No Place Like Home,” should have gotten some Oscar buzz. If this film flew past your attention in 2019, I highly suggest you check it out!

Hustlers / Jennifer Lopez
This movie was fantastic, and J-Lo’s performance as Ramona should have gotten a nod.

Ad Astra
Though I do believe Brad Pitt got his nomination for the more deserving performance in OUaTiH, Ad Astra was visually captivating and has a narrative that actually achieves, in a  significantly more succinct manner, what Interstellar tried to do in 2014. Would have liked to see at least a visual effects or cinematography nod.

The Mustang / Matthias Shoenaerts 
A definite dark horse (ha) and underdog in the race, especially since it came out so early in the year, it seems this film – about a convict and the horse he trains as part of a prison rehabilitation program – has flown completely under the radar, which is a massive shame. Shoenaerts’ performance is brilliant, carried by simmering emotion and silent intensity, and it pains me to see that he and the film are not being mentioned in the award buzz at all.

Midsommar / Pawel Pogorzelski
Cinematography. Cinematography. Cinematography. This movie wouldn’t be as terrifying as it is without the combo of Ari Aster’s direction and Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography.

Rocketman / Taron Edgerton / Dexter Fletcher
Not only was Edgerton snubbed for a Best Actor nod – which, although I don’t think he would have won, I do think he should have at least been nominated – Rocketman only received a nomination for Best Original Song. I may be in the minority, but I actually think Fletcher did a fantastic job directing this one and would have liked to see a nom for him also.

Booksmart
This movie is phenomenal, and to see it ignored is A CRIME. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a unique coming-of-age tale about two girls who fear they’ve missed out on typical “teenage” experiences, and seek one last wild night on the eve of their high school graduation. It’s equal parts hilarious and poignant, and I think it definitely deserved a Best Picture nod.

Adam Sandler
Sandler’s performance in Uncut Gems is, quite possibly, a career best, and he didn’t get a nod.

Greta Gerwig
I don’t think I need to explain myself for this one.

Christian Bale
I am, admittedly, a Christian Bale fangirl, but I do think his performance as Ken Miles in Ford V Ferrari deserved a nomination.

Yesterday

Yesterday, my alarm went off at 4:30AM. I smashed the snooze button until 4:50, but it was technically my day off, so I wasn’t under much pressure to be on time to work.

I brewed my coffee into a “Do or do not, there is no try” travel mug emblazoned with Yoda on the side, grabbed a protein bar, donned lazy-day yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and climbed into my car as the sun began to break over the horizon. For about the fiftieth time since I bought it, I thanked the car gods (and the previous owner) for blessing me with a vehicle that was customized to have a seat warmer installed in the front seat. It will be a blessing on cold winter mornings.

I lamented that the Radio Classics station on XM Satellite Radio was playing a comedy, and not one of my favorite detectives, like Philip Marlowe, or a good creepy show like Suspense or the Witch’s Tale. So I settled for music on the long commute to work, hating the bits and scraps of poor, car-struck deer littering the sides of the highway.

I strolled into work, determined to fly under the radar, but still said hello to a few folks as I hastened by, though I reminded them that it was my day off – not to brag about my “dedication,” but to hopefully inspire them not to bother me too much with the usual day-to-day shenanigans since I was putting in my own time. For three and a half hours, I managed to get a good chunk of work done, but left before I could get too sucked into a project. Also, my supervisor told me I looked terrible when I walked by, so I figured I should leave and hopefully alleviate some of the haggard-ness from my face.

I nabbed Starbucks breakfast – the spicy chorizo sandwich and a caramel cloud macchiato – and made the long drive home. This time, Gunsmoke was on the Radio Classics channel, and though I normally shy away from Westerns, I decided to give it a go, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. Not as much as my favorite detectives, but my ears have been opened to a new genre, at the very least.

Once home, I made a couple of phone calls – endured the tedious wait times and horrible hold music – and set up my utilities for my new apartment, feeling proud to see new account numbers written down in my name. Then my mom and I went to the gym, where I was able to knock out a few chapters of my latest read, and reached the first few pages of the final installment in Claire Farrell’s Chaos series, which I am absolutely loving. It makes me look forward to the tiring treadmill sessions, as all great books should.

After a quick drive home and an even quicker shower, my mom and I drove over to the movie theater for an afternoon showing of Harriet, the biopic starring Cynthia Erivo. Though I yet again cursed the inefficient way the theater conducts their concessions lines, especially on $6 Tuesdays, I was thrilled to see that the female-driven movie about a heroic black woman was showing in theater #1, which is the largest and often reserved for the hotly-anticipated blockbusters, even though it came out the same day as Terminator: Dark Fate. Despite some audience annoyances, we were both thoroughly engrossed in the film and enthralled by the powerful performances.

Still pondering the messages of the movie, we ran a couple of errands, grabbed another Starbucks (don’t judge me) – me a venti pink drink, her a pumpkin cream cold brew – and then, before returning home, we decided to do our duty and vote in the local elections. I am personally a long way from being fully informed, but I made my choices and cast them, and felt proud to receive the little “I voted!” sticker at the end of the line. The sun was going down as we drove home – the curse of the dreaded daylight savings – and I started the first of what would be three loads of laundry in an effort to get a few chores finished before the close of the day.

After a salmon dinner, I scrolled through my FB feed, rife with “Remember, remember, the fifth of November” posts, and just as many posts lambasting them – and then my mom and I tuned in for The Little Mermaid Live! on ABC, while my dad left the room to watch NCIS upstairs. I was charmed, watching one of my favorite Disney movies come to life onscreen, and I was personally pleased by the performances and the production value. Still humming the familiar tunes, I turned in to my bedroom for the night, watched a few Youtube videos, then drifted off to sleep.

Yesterday felt like a simple day – not a waste, per se, but maybe a little dull, not too jam-packed, nothing to sneeze at. An average November day. But when I write it out… sometimes, even the simple things can have more meaning than we first believe.

 

 

McFlurry

Little known fact: I am scared of drive-thrus.

This is a quirk that stems from my irrational fear of car washes, I think. Or it’s born from some other bizarre facet of my psyche. I don’t really know, but I have actively avoided drive-thrus since I got my driver’s license ten years ago.

My new route to work features numerous drive-thrus that make food more accessible, which is convenient for someone with an hour commute, but for my first few shifts, all I did was mobile order Starbucks and pick it up for a dose of caffeine on the ride home. No drive-thrus – I’d rather go inside the establishment and order something “to go” than to go through a drive-thru.

But, the other night, I closed at work, so I wasn’t ready to leave the building until around 10:30, and then a snafu with the alarm system kept me there until around 11. I was very, very done with the day by that point – because a very nice police officer also scared the living daylights out of me while I was working out the alarm problem, because he thought I looked suspicious sitting alone in my car in front of the building. Which I did, I guess, but it was a shot of adrenaline I didn’t need.

As I was finally driving home, I passed a Wendy’s, a Burger King, a Sheetz… and then I saw it. Those horrible, beautiful golden arches. McDonald’s.

My stomach rumbled, and I knew what I had to do. I had to face my fear in order to scrape some semblance of joy from the night.

I pulled up to the order box, heart pounding, and ordered my favorite item on the menu – an M&M McFlurry. And, by some miracle, their ice cream machine was working! I carefully pulled up to the next window and paid, then pulled up to the last window to claim my prize. The employee held it out to me, but it was there, at the final window, that one of my drive-thru related fears materialized… I hadn’t pulled up quite close enough.

This might have, in my earlier years, prompted a bit of an emotional crisis. I was once driving on the Mass Pike and didn’t pull up close enough to take the ticket in the toll station and had to get out of my car, serenaded by the blaring horns of fellow drivers. It was an irrationally traumatic moment for me, and heightened the fear of drive-thrus. So, this same scenario unfolding on a chilly October evening, in the twenty seventh year of my life, could have sparked an equally upsetting episode.

But, it didn’t. I just put my car in park and leaned out the window a little further, and the McFlurry was mine. It was a smooth drive home that evening. Not only did I conquer a fear, but I got one of my favorite sweet treats in the process.

And maybe – just maybe – I can take on some bigger drive-thrus now, too.

To My Younger Self

Here, on Olde Poetry Monday Friday, a poem I wrote in 2012. I don’t remember writing it, but with all the changes going on in my life, I thought it was appropriate.

 

To My Younger Self

To my younger self,
A bit of advice for your future.
When Coach Smith tells you not to try and stop suddenly,
at the end of your section of the relay,
listen to him.
He knows what he’s talking about.
And your knees will never be the same.

Don’t take A.P. Government your senior year.
You aren’t even going to take the A.P. Test
and that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.
and while you’re at it, don’t take Calculus freshman year of college.
that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.

Practice your violin a little more,
so you don’t get embarrassed when you have to play for a crowd,
and so you don’t have to fake-play your way through concerts.
Actually learn how to play the James Bond theme
instead of moving your bow and hoping you’re in synch with the others.

Say hi to your old Spanish teacher when you walk past him in the hallway.
Even when he isn’t your teacher anymore.
Because when he runs into your class and congratulates you
on the hefty college scholarship you received
you’re going to feel like an asshole for not talking to him for two years.

Don’t steal your government teacher’s prized stress ball during class
and then spend study hall cutting letters out of the newspaper to make ransom notes
and then slide said ransom notes under the door of her office.
…actually, you should still do that.
That was pretty funny.

Remember to tell your grandmother you love her every time you see her.
Remember that no matter what stupid shit your sister does,
she took you to pet cows on your sixteenth birthday.
Remember to always see movies with your parents.
Remember to always thank Alex’s parents for having you over for dinner.
Remember to tell that guy you aren’t interested before he breaks up with his girlfriend for you.
Remember to always laugh at ‘That’s What She Said’ Jokes.

But most of all, past self,
Remember. No regrets.

12 Random Questions

1. If You Had The World’s Attention For 30 Seconds, What Would You Say?
REMEMBER TO FLOSS YOUR TEETH EVERYDAY! AND STAY HYDRATED!

2. If You Had To Work But Didn’t Need The Money, What Would You Choose To Do?
Any type of writing. Or cuddling kittens. That counts, right?

3. What Is In Your Fridge Right Now?
Leftover pizza, yogurt, milk, coffee creamer, some fruit, some veggies. Pretty boring, typical stuff.

4. If You Were Home On A Rainy Sunday Afternoon, What Movie Would You Most Want To See On Television?
Jumanji! The 1995 version.

5. Where Do You Not Mind Waiting?
I don’t mind waiting anywhere, really. I usually bring a book along so the time doesn’t drag.

6. If You Could Close One Fast Food Chain, Due To Disgusting Food, What Would You Pick?
…Taco Bell. *braces for torches and pitchforks*

8. If You Could Be A Member Of Any TV-Sitcom Family, Which Would It Be?
Oddly enough, the Crane family from Frasier. I think I’m neurotic enough to fit in with Niles and Frasier, but chill enough to be like, a more laid-back, distant cousin of theirs at the same time.

9. What Would Be The Best Thing About Not Having A Sense Of Smell?
I have a fairly sensitive nose, so I would like being able to walk into a soap store or candle store without feeling nauseous.

10. Would You Leave Your Hometown Forever Or Stay In Your Hometown Forever?
I’d leave it forever, only because many of my friends have moved away, and my parents plan to leave within the next couple of years. Also, it’s a bit of a “backwards” area.

11. When Scrolling Through Social Media, Do You Prefer Posts From Celebrities Or From Your Best Friends?
Friends, but I enjoy commentary from my favorite celebs. It depends on the medium, though.

12. Is There An App That You Hate But Use Anyways?
I get really addicted to random games, but only ever have one on my phone at a time. I got sucked into a game called Wordscapes and got through 900+ levels in a week. I’m onto a new one now, so although I hate them… I still use them.

Questions borrowed from HERE.

The Hawk

Today, I was cruising along on my way to get my post-work Starbies (a venti iced cocoa cloud macchiato, if you wondered) when a flutter of feathers caught my eye. I directed my gaze just in time to watch a majestic hawk swoop down from atop a telephone pole and snatch a poor, furry creature – either a chipmunk or a squirrel, not sure which – up off the ground, and then fly away to enjoy the spoils.

So, basically… I witnessed a murder.

But, after I processed the trauma of seeing my second brutal rodent death (the first was a squirrel vs. van incident), I got to thinking. I felt bad for the rodent, of course – it didn’t deserve a grisly death, even though that’s the way of the world. It was just trying to scurry through some tall grass and find some seeds or nuts for lunch. But I think I also felt a kinship with it.

In certain elements of my life, I am more rodent than hawk. More discreet, meek, and aiming to squeak by unnoticed. The kind of creature that gets swooped on, scooped up, and made a meal of. Who fearfully watches the skies for any sign of talons, and hides from the shadow of wings overhead.

But, as I grow and learn, I am trying to be more like the hawk. I don’t want to be someone who snatches up and preys on the innocents, however. No… but someone who is keen-eyed, goal-oriented, and sharp. Who sees what they want and goes for it, even if it takes great patience to accomplish. Who strives for results and is not afraid to reach for them, even in the face of potential failure. To be feared, instead of fearful.

There is value in the way of the rodent – learning to be quiet, and to listen. To be watchful and mindful of others. But similarly, there is value in the way of the hawk – learning to be patient, but driven. To be strong-willed and willing to strike to achieve results. So maybe, the best way is to be a bit of both. Not quite feared, but not too fearful.

Or, you know…. just be a bear and hibernate for months at a time, or something.