There’s nothing funny about actual “Mean Girls”

Mean girls suck. Actually, mean people suck, but I’m going to focus on the concept of the “mean girl”, since that’s what most relevant to the situation at hand. To get into it I need to set the stage, so I’m going to roll the clock back to my time in second grade (around 1980).

I was transferred to a new school so I could be part of a “Gifted & Talented” program, one of those accelerated learning programs that public schools in my area offered for kids who tested out of the standard curriculum. I didn’t know anyone there, but the rest of the kids had been together for several years. It’s not like I was some kind of novelty; the other kids mostly just ignored me those first few days. Only one girl took any interest in me, and we became fast friends–a deep friendship that continued for many years.

Some of the other girls, however, were assholes. It’s not like it was everybody, but a select group of A-groupers who were thinner and prettier than everyone else decided that I would be an easy target for their bullying. They’d be nice to me when they wanted to see how I solved a math problem, but otherwise they’d tease me for being fat, for being ugly, for being different from them. It was classic herd rejection.

It took years for me to be comfortable enough in my own skin that I was willing to look past what those early interactions did to my self-esteem. And there was no small part of me that sighed with relief when I saw that my daughter was an improvement on the model by leaps and bounds; she’s just this gorgeous, athletic, smart, funny, kind, and effortlessly cool kid. I figured things would be easier for her.

And yet, I spent a good bit of time up past her bedtime chatting with her last night about the mean girls that she’s encountering. Some are budding juvenile delinquents–not so much for lack of intelligence but for complete lack of discipline and manners. Some are from the classic “mean girl mold”, like telling anyone who’ll listen “I hate {dd}” and stage whispering about dd with her mean girl clique. Some are veritable human tofu: they take on the personality and aspect of those around them, regardless of whether they’re good or bad influences.

It’s sad and frustrating on so many levels. I want to protect dd from the pain that I went through, to have her rise above it and not feel rejected by those who choose to pick on her. I’m incredibly sad that some girls that I’ve known for years, that I’ve taken into my home at times or that I’ve spent time around, are treating her so horribly now. And I know that I can’t go to the parents and ask them why their kids are being such assholes to my kid, because it’s not my place to tell them so. (And they may be aware of the behavior and just don’t care, although I’d like to hope that’s not true.)

When I talked with dd about all of this mess, I asked her to see these kids for who they really are. The tofu girl may still be the nice girl that I’d like to think she is. But when her personality and actions change depending upon who’s she’s around, who’s the real her? The *mean* girl and the juvie-hall candidate-in-training are the ones I’ve told dd just to avoid. I’ve encouraged her to play with the kids that are nice, to find and make those safe spaces away from the kids that treat her like crap. That pushes her outside of her comfort zone which requires risking further rejection by attempting to go and play with someone new.

And I know that everyone thinks their kids are the cutest in the land, but seriously my girl is gorgeous. As in: when I look at her, I’m amazed that she’s my kid. That’s why it was a painful conversation, listening to her to tell me how ugly her face is, how much she hates the color of her skin, how few kids she feels comfortable playing with because of all the cliques and divisions that exist even at the 4th grade level. It hurts because she has natural advantages I didn’t (like her stunning beauty and her athleticism) and she’s still being subjected to this bullshit.

Maybe this is part of growing up, helping you develop a thicker skin and build your self-confidence…or maybe it’s just a shitty part of society that we really need to get past. Maybe one of these days we finally will. It just can’t come soon enough.

What the hell, y’all

So here we are. 2017. And so far, it’s living down to the expectations set by 2016: a year when we saw many celebrities earn a spot on the “In Memoriam” list, a year when Britain voted to be an island in every sense of the word, and a year when nearly 3,000,000 more people voted for HER but HE managed to get the Electoral College vote. In short, 2016 was pretty atrocious.

And then came 2017. The popular vote be damned, the least popular candidate on Inauguration Day installed himself and immediately began creating fresh hell on a nearly hourly basis for many Americans.

Do you like having health care? Well, he’ll fix that. Actually, you’ll still like having health care, but your access will be greatly diminished because the imperfect-but-better-than-what-we-had-before Affordable Care Act is being killed by 1,000 cuts.

Do you like a free press? He’ll fix that, too! From threatening the press corps with expulsion to revoking credentials for exceptionally well-established and highly credible news organizations, the press is being given a stiff arm any time it’s not being fed alternative facts bald-faced lies.

Do you like freedom of movement around the country and abroad? There’s an executive order for that! Thankfully, a temporary nationwide stay has been issued–stopping the unconstitutional order from being enforced…but it’s only temporary, and the Customs and Border Patrol defied regional/state-specific orders, so it’s hard to have much faith we won’t have a full-on Constitutional crisis any minute.

Do you like having a government that at least tries to regulate businesses on issues like pollution and predatory lending? He’s got an answer for you, and it rhymes with “suck goo”.

Color me unimpressed.

It’s been awfully hard to concentrate. I’m sure that’s part of the plan: obfuscate, confuse, frustrate, and discombobulate your opponent. And yet I have a clarity of purpose and emotion. I know that what’s in office right now is wrong, and I can’t wait to vote it out. So in the meantime, I’ll march. HELL YES, I WILL MARCH. I already went to DC and walked the hallowed ground of my birth with 500,000 of my best friends, as we made it perfectly clear that women’s rights are human rights. (I have pictures but, frankly, have been too busy with work and other stuff to upload them except to Twitter.)

And I’ll be out marching again on April 22nd for the March for Science, because science and fact are real things that we don’t just discard when our moral center has been surgically removed by a failure of the Electoral College.

I’m teaching my kids about the three branches of government and how they’re supposed to work together, why The Constitution is so incredibly important, and why the word EQUALITY should be what they always consider in their daily lives.

I haven’t written here lately because I’ve had strep and work and marching and more work and kid events and FUCK, I’M TIRED. And yet, the show must go on. Democracy is really hard work, and I’ve been a participant in it even before I turned 18. We won’t have the country we want by just wishing for it.

So here goes. Time to tell y’all what’s next. What to do. And in-between, make sure that you exercise some self care, like eating a favorite food, or just spending an hour playing with your cat/dog/{insert pet type here}, or watching a movie. But here’s what you do when you’ve got even an iota of stamina:

DONATE: to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and/or your local food bank. If you don’t have a lot of cash, donate a small amount (even $5 can be a blessing). Or donate clothing. Go volunteer for a nearby charity, donating your time and energy. Then share that on social media to rally your friends to donate, too.

HELP: by calling your Representatives, Senators, and/or Governor. If you’re afraid to call your government because you’ve never done it before, here’s a simple script that needs only minor tweaks: “Hi, my name is {YOUR NAME} and I’m calling about {INSERT CAUSE HERE}. I want you to say {YES/NO} to {LEGISLATION/DECISION} because this is important for the future of our country. Thank you for your time.” Maybe calling Congress isn’t your thing; in that case, check on a family member or friend who has health issues and ask if you can run an errand, hang out with them, or bring them a meal.

ACT: by speaking up and speaking out for what you believe in. This is no time to plant your head in the sand. And yes, it may scare off friends who don’t agree. But are they really your friends if their beliefs deny your right to existence? I’ve had friends who I realized weren’t friends AT ALL when it became obvious that they only wanted to spew hatred, homophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, and other b.s. on my timelines. Decide how much hatred you can accept and draw a line in the sand. Sometimes you can educate, and other times you have to know when to walk away. This isn’t about bubbles; this is about understanding that some people may have put up a good front for years, and now it’s time for everybody to show where they REALLY stand.

Just do something. If not now, when? There may not be a “later”, if we don’t work as a team to make it clear that hatred, disdain for our Constitution, and bullying aren’t allowed to represent our country. There are many legal, positive ways to get involved; so pick one and get started. Then pick another and do that, too. It’s time. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Movie Review: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Rogue One

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a Space Western trilogy took this little blue marble by storm. More than a decade after the original “Star Wars” movies (Episodes IV – VI) bowed out of theaters, out came a threesome of somewhat lackluster–but stunningly visualized–prequels (Episodes I – III). Last year saw the release of an uneven Episode VII, the lead-off for a third trilogy in the series. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” fits neatly in between Episodes III and IV, finally giving the details of how the plans for the Empire’s Deathstar landed the hands of the Rebellion.

While firmly planted in the “Star Wars” ‘verse, and hewing so closely to canon as to employ more than a few easter eggs (including of the human variety), “Rogue One” definitely shows it’s not your typical “Star Wars” flick. It dispenses with the traditional opening crawl and dramatic John Williams score, setting the tone from the first second as something that wants to establish its own path rather than reheating material. This is a nice contrast to Episode VII, which got a lot of mileage out of ground well-traveled in Episode IV. The story centers on Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of Imperial prisoner and weapons architect extraordinaire Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson). Galen manages to save Jyn from immediate capture by the Empire, and she spends some of her formative years in the hands of an estranged Rebellion leader, Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whittaker).

The fully-grown Jyn eventually finds her way into the hands of the Rebellion proper–and they offer her a mission that could lead to her father. She’s paired off with the dashing yet surly Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). The Rebellion is convinced Gerrera has confidential information they need, in the head of an Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), who defected and headed straight for Gerrera. It’s at this point where it’s actually wiser to stop providing more detail, because the level of spoilers goes through the roof. It is safe to say that Jyn and Cassian cross paths and take into their confidence two mysterious figures: the blind, Jedi-esque Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), a former protector of a Jedi temple.

No longer on her own, Jyn acquires more than a mission–she gains a rag-tag family of rebels that give her a reason to fight for something bigger than herself. This is a common thread for the “Star Wars” movies, with some of the lines in Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy’s script resonating just a little too much these days–such as the reminder that “rebellions are built on hope”.

“Rogue One” is a splendid addition to the “Star Wars” legacy, with only a few hiccups here and there. Jyn follows the excellent example set by Daisy Ridley’s Rey in Episode VII, “The Force Awakens”; we’re seeing a whole new level of feminist idols emerging–badass “don’t call me a babe” types who can hold their own in a firefight. It’s pretty fantastic. Weitz and Gilroy simplified the droid sidekick trope by giving K-2SO a coat of sheer smarm handled to perfection by Tudyk. Yen and Jiang are steadfastly brilliant, and Mikkelson performs just the right mixture of stoic and emotional (and finally in a role where he’s not a straight-up baddie–a nice change of pace).

Where “Rogue One” had more opportunities comes in the depth of some of the storylines that somehow got left on the cutting room floor (such as the rallying speech given by Gerrera, heard only in a trailer). Additionally, there seems to be a baked-in expectation that viewers will have spent their spare time catching up on all the canon fleshed out in the “Clone Wars” animated series to be fully oriented in the basic who’s who.

Luna’s performance, while quite easy on the eyes, is a bit more spotty than I would’ve liked, and it feels like some space on that same cutting room floor is littered with character development along the way for Jyn and Cassian, in particular. The level of planet-and-moon-hopping also wears a bit thin; yes, it’s clear that there’s a lot of galaxy to go around, but we didn’t need to fill our Imperial passport entirely in the span of 135 minutes.

For those wonder if it’s worth seeing “Rogue One” in 3D or 3D IMAX, I can say that the 3D is fairly good for giving depth throughout, but the IMAX really only shines during the final act. It’s not necessarily worth springing for IMAX unless that’s your preferred mode.

What about the younglings? Is “Rogue One” okay for kids? This is the third “Star Wars” movie to earn a PG-13 rating, and it definitely has its fair share of action and violence. That said, I found “Rogue One” less startlingly bloody than “The Force Awakens”, so little ones turned off by Episode VII may warm up to this film. Even so, kids younger than 7-9 years old may not be quite ready for all of it (and the 3D IMAX may just overwhelm them). They may do better with one of the 2D showings.

As “Star Wars” movies go, “Rogue One” finally succeeds where all three of the prequels failed miserably. It pairs decent acting with really good dialogue, and it deftly avoids any of the whiny teenager action displayed by the Skywalker brood. This is a “Star Wars” movie worth watching again and again, preferably as a lead-in to a re-watch of Episode IV. “Rogue One” offers hope tinged with painful realism, building on a decades-old legacy in a way that makes it an instant classic.

Three and a half out of four stars.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opens in theatres on Friday, December 16, 2016. It’s rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.