Fool’s Gold

Once upon a time I saw a leprechaun.

I was on the el, going into Center City for one reason or another. It’s neither here nor there for this story. The point is, he was there, and he was holding a pot of gold.

I’ve never been a fan of leprechauns. This stems from a slumber party I attended in second grade that went horribly wrong. All of the girls in the class were invited to spend the night in a big tent in the backyard, gleefully gorging ourselves on sweets and movies. This was such a good idea in theory. The night took a dark turn when we found out that all of the movies that we settled in to watch were horror.

I was feeling good. I staked out a spot in front of the television, right next to the birthday girl. Popcorn and candy was all I could smell. Birthday girl popped the tape into the VCR and up rolled the credits for the film Leprechaun. It started out innocently enough. Jennifer Aniston and the rest of the cast bumbled their way through gold theft. The leprechaun shows up, rightfully angry, and begins his murder spree.

Watching the movie now, it is, at best, a mediocre slasher flick one watches to try and remain awake. At age seven, it was a gorefest with which my mind could not cope. I cowered in my sleeping bag, watching in horror through my fingers. No one wanted to be the one to cry uncle, to beg for the tape to be turned off. But they weren’t in my seat. They didn’t see the blood-weeping gashes up close. They didn’t hear the snap of a neck echoing through the trees. They didn’t see the leprechaun’s eyes gleaming as he cackled maliciously.

The party was on a Saturday. When we returned to class on Monday, no one had slept. But the others seemed to get over it quickly. I didn’t. I saw him around corners. I heard him skateboarding down the street. I spent the St. Patrick’s Day after the party choking down tears, constantly reminded of the little creature I knew wanted me dead.

Sitting on the el so many years later, I was faced with my childhood foe. A rotund man, hair and beard spray-painted the same florescent orange usually used by road crews, he was dressed all in green and carried a large cauldron with him. I don’t know if it was full of gold, but I wasn’t going to be the one to investigate. I knew how that story ended.

Other people noticed him, too. It was hard not to. But the nonchalance affected by the passengers was amazing. In the middle of a July week, with no real purpose, a man dressed up as a leprechaun and took the el into Center City. And not one person cared.

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To Boldly Go

I grew up on Star Trek. Originally, it was tiny me, watching ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ with my parents. A few yeas later, I stumbled upon reruns of the original series, and I finally understood why the one I watched with my parents was called “the next generation.” I was fascinated. These people paved the way for the Enterprise crew I knew and loved to explore the universe. I had to know about them. So I watched. And admittedly, I wasn’t terribly impressed.

At first, the original series seemed silly. The effects were nowhere near the quality I was used to, the sets always looked like sets, and the aliens didn’t look all that alien. But I have to admit, I was six years old and an idiot. The longer I was a student, however, the more I grew to appreciate the show. Here was this show about a group of exceptionally smart people who went off into space and had amazing adventures. They didn’t want to conquer. They wanted to see and do and try new things. They wanted to learn. And they were celebrated for that fact. It was amazing. It was joyous. I was in love.

As I got older, I learned the context in which these episodes were presented, and because of that, I started to really understand what the show was about. The series aired in the mid-60s, at the height of the Civil Rights movement. And here was this show about a group of people from all walks of life, coming together to explore and learn and grow. It was a story of people learning about others who were not like them, but seeing them as equal and deserving of their respect. The show wasn’t just “‘Wagon Train’ to the stars.” It was a beautiful message of peace and hope and love. These capable, intelligent people with eager minds and open hearts going off into the universe to see what it has to offer, and to accept it graciously.

The original series, to this day, remains myfavorite. It has helped shape how I view the world. It helped teach me to not be afraid of the unknown, but instead to be excited by it and the possibilities it holds. Spock showed me that knowledge and logic are the powerful weapons you can have in your arsenal. McCoy taught me to stick to my guns, no matter how much people argue with you. Uhura taught me to have grace under pressure, no matter how hectic things get around you. And Captain Kirk showed me that no matter how heroic you are considered to be, it’s still okay to ask for help.

Today is Gene Roddenberry’s birthday. He would have been 92. I want to thank him for creating something wonderful and comforting and inspiring. I have been, and always shall be, your fan.

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The Sneezebang Saga

Once upon a time, I was a poor high school student. I didn’t have a lot of money, and what money I did have went towards important things like movie tickets and CDs (in those days, we still bought CDs). I didn’t have money for hair upkeep. So I took matters into my own hands and would trim my own bangs.

I learned the hard way to never do this.

I suppose you could say that it was a disaster waiting to happen. I didn’t have the proper tools. I used cuticle scissors, which are curved and not at all conducive to cutting hair. But they were what  I had, so they were what I used. Going out and buying the proper type of scissors took money away from buying shitty jewelry from Hot Topic. I made do.

In my junior year, I was in the bathroom, trimming my bangs as usual, when all of a sudden, I sneezed. Violently, and without warning. I came back to myself, and quickly noticed that I was holding a rather large chunk of hair in one hand, and a closed pair of scissors in the other. Scissors that once were open.

Panic set in because there was no way to fix this. I had semi-even bangs from my right ear to my nose, a giant chunk missing, and then long bangs the rest of the way. Everything was ruined. I’ve never really felt I had a lot to go on in the looks department, but my hair was the one thing I was always complimented on (which is probably one of the reasons I connected with Jo from Little Women, but that’s neither here nor there). But it was a bit more than that. I clung to my bangs because I could hide behind them. I could peer out from behind my hair and be that little bit more disconnected from the world. They were my security blanket. I needed them. And I had ruined them.

So I did what any self-respecting sixteen-year-old would do: I called for my mom.

She didn’t have any answers either, but she did have a lot of questions, most of them beginning with the word “why?!” But she got my some headbands, and I spent about eight weeks with my hair pushed back. No one really questioned it, and when they did, I told them the truth: I was growing out my bangs. They didn’t need to know it was just the one section of them.

My friend Cait christened them “sneezebangs,” because that is what they were. To this day, I am teased mercilessly about them. And they have made me very particular about the way my bangs are. I get them trimmed by a professional now, but that doesn’t always mean they turn out the way I want. If they’re off so much as a hair (this is not a joke, I mean this quite seriously), I obsess over them until they’ve grown into something workable. I’m pretty sure everyone wants to shave my head after about minute fourteen of this. I can’t help it. It is now ingrained in my psyche.

That, and finishing the statement “let’s get down to business” with “TO DEFEAT THE HUNS.”

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Depression Diary: Diagnosis à la Mode

There seems to be a trend of self-diagnosis. People run to claim they have some sort of mental issue. You’re not just sad, you’re depressed. You aren’t just stressed, you have high anxiety. You don’t just have trouble concentrating, you have ADD.

I think the draw of claiming to have something wrong is the supposed lack of accountability. “It’s not my fault, you see. It’s my disorder.” One of the symptoms of depression is lack of interest in things that you once found enjoyable. Ergo, depression makes you not want to do things, so when there is a thing you don’t want to do, pin it on your depression. Problem solved!

But for those who suffer from depression, it isn’t laziness. It’s vehement disinterest.

I have all three of those things: depression, anxiety, and ADHD. All of them prohibit me from dealing with society on a basic level. Usually I don’t have the motivation to deal with the world, and when I do, I panic about every minute detail, to the point where it drives me to distraction. I don’t get things done. Even necessary things, like making appointments or placing an order. I much prefer to sit under my rock and not do anything. It’s what I have the energy for.

When you have depression, it is very, very easy for your life to fall apart when you have depression, because very, very quickly, you stop caring. I have twelve dollars in my bank account and a very strained relationship with just about every person I know. And I sort of don’t care. Scratch that—I entirely don’t care. I should. And believe me, I would like to.  But I don’t. Because caring takes prolonged bouts of energy.

Everything takes energy. That’s the thing that I’ve discovered. Even being interested in something takes energy. I sit, blandly, trying to find something to distract myself from the nothing, and… there’s nothing. Movies, books, sports: they happen, but I have no reaction. They are there. I don’t care. I don’t care that I don’t care. I don’t care that I don’t care that I don’t care. Round and round and round, further and further in on myself, all going nowhere.

It’s cyclical.

At the start, I was sad. I was sad that I was sad. I wanted to be happy again, but I couldn’t figure out how to be. Slowly, the yearn to be happy again melted away into the void where all of my other emotions went. I was sad, but I didn’t care. Then I stopped being sad. I wasn’t interested enough to be sad. I simply was. It’s an easy place to settle into, just existing. But even that takes energy.

I’m tired. Going through the motions is tiresome, even moreso when you’re running on fumes. Which is what it feels like all of the time. Fourteen hours of sleep, and I still have nothing in the tank. But every other option–both the good and the bad–takes more energy than this, so I stick with this, my path of least resistance, on and on and on, until it stops.

The problem is, it never feels like it’s going to. Because really, it isn’t. It’s always going to be there. The medication and the therapy and the talking keep it at bay, but as proven by my current state, it can and will seep back in. It’s a slow takeover, one I didn’t notice until it was too late. It’s here now.

And I don’t really care that it is.

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Eye of the Beholder

I posted these two pictures on Instagram about two days apart. Both times, I did it because I had time to kill and nothing else to photograph. The one on the left had the caption “Waiting for the bus is megasuperawesomefun.” The one on the right, I had captioned, “I look really friggin’ weird without glasses.”

I posted it without thinking, because that’s usually how I roll on the internet. I went off to my friend’s birthday dinner and came back to a bunch of comments that all said “Oh no! You look beautiful!”

And that’s lovely. Really. But I didn’t post it fishing for compliments. I swear.

I have an image of me in my head. It’s the first picture. It’s with glasses. I’ve had them since I was eight. When I don’t have them on, my vision is so poor, I can’t see what I look like. I just see a blur. So in my head, it’s all glasses, all the time.

When I saw the glasses-less picture, my immediate thought was exactly what I posted: “I look really friggin’ weird.” And I’m pretty sure everyone took that as a bad thing. It isn’t.

In that photo, in my opinion, I look… not like me. Not in a bad way–it’s still my face, and my face is, well, my face. But it isn’t the face I’m used to seeing, both in the mirror and in my mind’s eye. I’m almost always “the girl with glasses”–the nerdy girl with glasses, the quiet girl with glasses, the funny girl with glasses. You see the pattern?

People identify certain ways. This applies to both personalities and the appearances. When you’re faced with an image of yourself that doesn’t match your personal view, it’s weird. It may not necessarily off-putting, but it can throw your balance a little bit. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It may even be a good thing. I think I look quite nice in the second picture. Weird, but nice. It’s a different look for me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that weird and different aren’t bad things. They are often the start of a new and amazing direction. No, I’m not saying that me ditching my eyewear is going to revolutionize anything. I’m saying that weird and different, no matter the scale, should be embraced. Seek it out. It may improve things.

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El Oh El

Public transportation is, as any city-dweller knows, a necessary evil. Whether stuck driving behind the bus or stuck on it, it cannot be done away with. As one without her driver’s license, I depend on it. Unfortunately.

I don’t mind traveling with complete strangers, which seems to be the common complaint I run into. They are the least of my concerns. I have the benefit of time to myself, and I enjoy the fact that I’m doing my bit for the environment. I don’t have to worry about insurance bills or car payments. No missed exits, no jerk cutting me off because he’s late for work. Or the bar.

My aversion to public transportation is simply because it magnifies some of my biggest faults. I’m not particularly punctual and I’m horrible at running. Public transport requires me to either be on time, or (and this is usually the case due to my easily distracted nature) I must run for my life—or, rather, my employment.

But once on the el (my usual mode of transport), I’m fine. I keep to myself. I try and keep to the boundaries of my stupidly uncomfortable seat. I stick my nose in a book and drown everyone out with music–at a reasonable level, of course.

Not all people are content to do this, however. People blast music, yell into their phones, smoke, argue, make-out. I’ve even seen people sleep on the el. Not a quick catnap, head propped up on your hand (I think almost everyone is guilty of this), but an honest-to-goodness proper slumber, REM-cycle and all.

I once had a man fall asleep on me. I was in high school at the time, even more mousy and non-confrontational than now. It was winter, and he was wearing a puffy coat in a robin’s-egg blue, with a matching ear-warmer band wrapped around his bald head. Ghosts of his rocker lifestyle remained on his knuckles: faded tattoos hoarsely yelling LOVE and HATE. He sat in the aisle seat. Desperate for a seat in the crowded car, I settled into the empty chair, not believing my luck.

The el lurched to the side, and he leaned on me slightly. A gentle nudge sent him back to his proper place. The incident repeated: the el lurched, he leaned, I nudged. But then he began to lean on me with no prompting from the el. Now, gentle nudges weren’t enough to send him back to his own area. He was invading mine, leaning more and more heavily on my shoulder. He was big and bulky, and I was his opposite. My only defense was my elbow, which I jammed repeatedly into his side. The first few pokes seemed to send him the other way, if only a little, but then he adapted. He went back to leaning on me.

I was trapped. And, I quickly realized, a show. People did nothing to help and everything to get a better view. They craned their necks around others to watch me struggle to not be crushed. I swear I heard snickering.

I survived by the grace of timing. My stop finally came and I squeezed myself out from under this strange man I never met (but was now uncomfortably intimate with) and dove from the car. I managed to catch sight of him plummeting to the empty seat, almost clipping his head on the windowsill. He woke up after that.

I’ve been asked out on dates, been hit up for money, been ogled at, and been asked if I was running away while riding public transportation. One guy even tried to kiss me. I’ve been cursed at verbally and through writing. And I just accept this. I focus past the obscenities carved into the window and watch the scenery pass me by. I try to enjoy it. It’s tranquil. A sort of in-between space where I don’t have to worry about where I’m coming from or where I’m going. You don’t get that driving a car.

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A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

Dear Me,

Hi. It’s you. From the future. Don’t get excited–it’s not great. Doctor Who’s a Thing now, though. It was awesome, and then it eventually got not so awesome. Remember how much you hated Trial of a Time Lord? Or Mel, and her stupid fucking carrot juice? Yeah. It’s like that. But Christopher Eccleston is gonna blow your mind.

You’ve just finished your sophomore year. Congrats. Here’s a fair warning about your junior year: it’s going to suck. Chemistry class will be especially bad. I’m pretty sure the ten-page paper on nanotechnology you summer assignment clued you in. But I wouldn’t worry about it too much. She won’t actually grade it, and you’re going to bomb the class anyway. Because she’s insane and you hate chemistry.

But there are some other factors at work. Mainly, the fact that you are clinically depressed. You’re not going to figure this out for a while, but that’s what it is. What you are going to figure out is that cutting yourself helps deal with the pain. I wish you wouldn’t do this.  But the advantage of being an older version of you is knowing why you do it. It’s a numbing agent. There is a hurt in you that you think has no source. So you give yourself pain that you can see and touch and watch heal. There is a therapeutic element to it. It’s just not a healthy one. Trust me: I have learned the hard way that it is no way to deal with your problems. It’s stupid and dangerous and doesn’t actually help anything. All it will do is give you something else to lie about. And the panic you feel over that is just going to make you do it more. You just keep circling the drain, getting closer and closer to the void until finally–swoosh. You’re gone.

Luckily, you do not get to this point, though you come close.

You’re also going to write shitty poetry. I really wish you wouldn’t do this. You are not, nor will you ever be Emily Dickinson. Eventually, you will discover that you don’t like writing poetry. It’s going to be around the time you get help for your depression. And then you will learn a painful truth: sadness subsides, scars fade, bad poetry is forever.

Junior year is going to be your worst one. Around March, you’re going to fall apart–assignments will be poorly done, if at all, and you will spend most of your time alone in the library. You will hide crying in study hall behind allergies. Your English teacher will worry about you, enough to keep you after class to talk to you. This should have been the point where you said something. Told somebody what was wrong. She would have helped. This will be your biggest regret.

Stay strong, kid. You’ll get through it. You’ll be exhausted by the end of it, and that much closer to giving up, but you won’t. Eventually, you will figure out the reason you didn’t: because somewhere, buried deep inside, in a part of you that you did not believe existed, there is a tiny ray of hope that this can get better. Protect this. It’ll take you three more years to get the help you need, but everything will be fueled by that little light.

“Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness.” (Luke 11:35)

x Anna.

PS: DON’T CUT YOUR OWN BANGS. I cannot stress this enough.

PPS: You will be invited to go meet someone that will be a possible date for junior prom. Do not go. You will spend two hours at the mall, and an hour-and-a-half, he will spend on his hair. Stay home. Play MarioKart instead. It’s what you’re going to end up doing on prom night anyway.

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When I was in sixth grade, I went on a school trip to the California State Fair.

I’ve not been to another state’s fair, so I can’t really compare if the California is better or worse. I imagine it’s pretty typical, with the food and the livestock and the variations of the comment, “Yep, that’s a big sumbitch right there.” I think there were rides, but I don’t remember going on any. I remember milking a goat, though. I got a certificate. I have no idea what happened to it–some farm animal probably ate it. I have that type of luck. I’m not kidding. One time, a deer ate a hole in my shirt at the petting zoo. It’s my curse.

We had a worksheet to fill out, which was basically a list of places the teacher wanted us to go and see. We wrote down facts to prove we actually went. The only thing on the list I remembered was having to go see the state’s fattest pig. The reason I remember it is because we didn’t go. We got caught up with something else, instead.

I should add that my father chaperoned my group for this particular trip. My parents often chaperoned. My mother took on things like museums, while my father did the more outdoorsy or “weird” stuff.

There was one time where the class was short a chaperone for a trip to the planetarium, so my father stepped in, meaning both of my parents were on the trip. I was fine with this, initially, because my dad was (and I imagine still is) into astronomy. When I was little, we used to walk around the track at my elementary school, and he would tell me about the constellations. Instead of bedtimes stories, I was told about the solar system and how orbits worked, going so far as t act it out with a lamp and some stuffed animals. It did nothing to make me sleepy, but it’s come in handy during Jeopardy.

The problem with this was that my father has this habit of falling asleep when it’s dark. You know how a bird drops off whenever you make it dark? It’s like that.

Just hear under the narration, I could hear my parents: “Bernie. Bernie. Wake up!” “M’not sleep.” “Yes you are, you’re snoring.” I spent the rest of the day trying to convince everyone I was adopted. It didn’t work.

But back to the state fair: we made good time filling out the worksheet. By the goat-milking station, there was a tent with some bleachers in it, surrounding what looked like a boxing ring. My dad called us over and led us in and sat us down. We had no idea what was going to happen, but thirty seconds ago we just saw a goat take an epic piss, so we were just grateful to get away from that. We settled in, and waited for whatever to start.

A man brought a cow into the little boxing ring thing. I like cows. I always have. I think they’re cute. So I was totally okay with this. The man was talking about something that I wasn’t really paying attention to, because I was being an eleven-year-old and goofing off with my friends. My dad stood in the back, looking mildly interested.

Let me explains something about my dad: he grew up in a coal town in the boonies of upstate Pennsylvania. He spent his days hanging out in the woods. He learned to dress a deer by the time he was twelve. Pest control involved sitting with his dad on the porch, both with firearms. Shit doesn’t really faze him, especially nature.

The man continues talking, I continue goofing off with the other kids in my group, and my dad continues to wait quietly.

There are things I could have gone a lifetime not seeing and I would have been perfectly content. A grown man sticking his arm nearly shoulder-deep into a cow and pulling out a calf is definitely one of them.

There was lots of horrified screaming, lots of cowering behind each other and the people in front of us. The calf came into the world looking just as shocked as we were. He, however, got over it rather quickly. We did not. Mama Cow just stood there, annoyed at the entire ordeal. I don’t blame her.

When we got back to school, we explained to the teacher, in quiet, shellshocked tones, why we didn’t make it over to the fattest pig. My teacher was not mad at us in the least. Instead, he was disappointed he missed the live cow birth. My father described it to him, in detail, with us still around, effectively making us relive our trauma. My teacher said that he saw us go into the tent, but kept walking because they wanted to get to an item on the worksheet.

Annoyed that I had to not only see it live, but relive it for his benefit, I asked, “Why didn’t you just go in, then?”

My teacher, whose wife was expecting a baby at the time, replied, “Well, I didn’t hear anyone shouting for an epidural, so how was I supposed to know what was going on in there?”

Long story short, that’s how I learned what an epidural was.

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Go West, Young Woman

“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.” –Robert Warren Penn, All the King’s Men


For the longest time, I’ve said that I love Philadelphia because I fit here. It is true. I do love this city: its roughness, its polish, its dichotomy, its unity. It is a city of neighborhoods that have been stitched together to form a most beautiful quilt.

But lately, I’ve found my thoughts turned to the west coast. Not for the sun and surf, but for the possibilities it holds. The freshness of it all.

I am a writer. In my heart and in my soul and in my breath, I am a writer. Los Angeles is a town built upon the broken dreams of artists. Were I to go there, I would just be another face in the crowd. I convince myself I’m comfortable with this. But sometimes I’m not. Sometimes, I want the spotlight. It is a selfish, foolish thing to want, but it does not stop me.

I should start closer to home. Find new things. I live in a large city. There are people who are interested in what I am interested.

Philadelphia is my home, and always will be. But adventure calls. And while adventures often start at home, they do not keep you there. They pull you along new paths and push you towards new experiences. I don’t have that.

I have clung to this place and its supposedly perfect fit for so long. And I fear that I have shoehorned myself in so well that I may very well be stuck. I don’t want to be stuck. I don’t want to feel trapped. I want a chance to break out and break free.

But what if I don’t fit in out there? What if I just end up feeling more trapped? What if everything falls apart and I can’t hold it together?

And with every question and every worry, the noose grows tighter.

But maybe it would be the clean slate I dream of. Maybe I will unfurl and stretch so far that even I will be surprised by my reach.

And maybe there’s no real perfect fit for me. Maybe I just haven’t found it yet. I don’t know. And I don’t know if I’m brave enough to find out.

But maybe…

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In Which Our Hero Reunited With Her Heroes

I’ve started reading comics again. I used to read them when I was still in elementary school and hung out with boys. I wasn’t trying to be, y’know, cool or anything. I just preferred video games and Legos and acting out post-apocalyptic scenarios with my Barbies.

And SkyDancers. Because at the right angle, you could strafe someone and it was hilarious.

I hung out with boys because they liked those same things. Maybe other girls did, too, but they never said anything. They played house with their Barbies and thought video games were silly and boys had cooties. I didn’t have the patience for that. I didn’t quite comprehend why I wasn’t allowed to like those things. It all seemed perfectly harmless.

It was easy enough to ignore. I was in my home, with my friends, playing MarioKart and reading Spider-man and building towns out of paper and cardboard. My friends embraced this, challenging me to Pokemon battles and arguing over who was the best X-Man (if your answer is anyone other than Wolverine, you’re wrong). It was a pleasant little bubble, and I flourished.

I could handle having the other girls in my class talking about me behind my back. When my friends weren’t there, I would read under a tree during recess. I would ask the teacher if I could be partnered up with one of the boys

Then I went to a comic book section of the bookstore. And my bubble burst.

I usually just read whatever one of my friends brought to school or to my house. This involved a lot of X-Men and Spider-man, but with Marvel, there’s always crossover, and so I wanted to go check out some other characters I thought were cool. I tagged along with one of my friends to the comic book section.

I was looking at different things, sort of in a daze at just how much there all was. I recognized some stuff from what my dad told me he grew up on. I recognized characters from different issues, and was excited they had their own titles. I thought it was all really cool, and the more i poked around, the more excited I got.

As I got my bearings, I became aware of snickering. At me.

I realized very quickly that I had ventured into forbidden territory. I was a girl and this was boy stuff and I should get out. Their stares made it very clear. There are plenty of girl book for you to read. There’s a new Babysitter’s Club book out. Go read that. Stay away from the comics. They are boy stuff. These are not for you because you do not belong.

I bolted. I went to the young adult section and pretended to be super-interested in whatever the newest thing was. I didn’t read comics so much after that. I didn’t play my GameBoy in public. I kept the fantastic little worlds I built to myself.

I could handle the girls at school being mean to me. I wasn’t trying to be their friend, and all of the adults in my life told me that they were jealous of me because I was friends with the boys they had crushes on. I bought it, because hey, not really my problem.

But those boys… they liked the things I liked. And they rejected me for that. I was maybe eleven. I was just figuring out who I was and what I liked, and I was told that I was wrong. And I, for the first time, felt ashamed of being me.

I suppose I still am, a bit. I got back into comics through the MCU films. I finally mustered up enough courage to find a comic book store and check out a few things. I was stupidly quiet at first, darting in and out of the shop before anyone could say anything of substance to me. Gradually, I started to poke around a bit. I asked questions. Struck up conversations. And I was accepted. I wasn’t rejected, but I wasn’t lauded. I was just there. Which is exactly the reaction I wanted. I’m nothing special. I just like comic books.

A holdover from my formative days still remain. Every week, I walk into the comic book store, and I talk too much in this effort to get people to like me. Because maybe if they like me, they won’t figure out I don’t belong.

Except I know that, at least with that store, it’s totally not the case. I can ask a million questions and every single one will be answered without pretension  I know, because I’ve done it. I didn’t feel stupid. I mean, I’m still pretty sure that the guy behind the counter wants me to stop talking, but that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a girl and everything to do with the fact that I’m ridiculously awkward and don’t know how to take conversation-ending social cues.

It’s a step forward, believe it or not.


The store I go to, if you’re curious, is Brave New Worlds in Old City. It’s small, yes, but I like that about it. And they manage to cram a lot of stuff in there. Cozy. The word is “cozy.”

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