Someone very famous once said that in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. I feel as though today I've been gipped since I only get to stand up here for about thirty seconds.
That phrase, ladies and gentlemen, was the perfectly sculpted sentence that kept running through my head as though on a treadmill. As soon as I entered the less-than-adequate Duncan Theatre, the backdrop for our harrowing tale, it occurred to me that in case of emergency I had to have something extraordinary to say.
That was all that came to me.
I kept running it through my head, working out every noun, verb, and preposition. I switched it up, changed it around, made sure that it was phenomenal. Perfect. Quotable, at best.
According to an e-mail by the Palm Beach County film & television commission, I would need something quotable for when I stood up, hopped on stage, and accepted my part of a $2,000 check for the Palm Beach Film Festival's Audience Award.
I never needed it.
We arrived at the Duncan Theatre around 9:45, ten minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start. Instead, we stood in the blistering South Florida heat for just under and hour. A glorified red carpet was rolled out, partially just to make the event seem more official and partially because organizers believed this event really was official. It descended the theatre stairs with a majestic grace, slowly fluttering off into concrete and cement towards the end. That tail piece of velvet glory, perfectly trimmed and hemmed, was protected by velvet ropes and official-looking guards. A woman with a blue-tooth headset and a clipboard patrolled avidly, occasionally muttering something to herself and checking The List. It was the first time I had ever seen such a thing, a red ribbon of hope, promise and fame, and I suddenly felt filled with such an overpowering love of my industry. Film, it seemed, had regained its glory. It wasn't just child's play anymore as my major had made it seem, but instead it was something sparkling. Glistening. Crystalized and bubbly. Film was a perfected art, pioneered by artisans and 16mm cowboys. It was more than just a camera, a story-board, and an apathetic gaggle of kids. It was art again.
I stumbled towards the velvet ropes, noting the folks crowded around it. A local arts and culture newspaper columnist scratched down notes on a flip-pad. A band of media junkies waved around cameras and recorded the procession. I felt like a kid in a candy store, finally being recognized for my blood, sweat and tears. Finally getting more gratification that a pat on the back and an entry into the school's all too disappointing showcase could never give me. This, I realized, was the big leagues. Even though it wasn't. This was glory in miniature, and it was heavenly sweet. I imagined huge screens and flashing lights. I pictured cotton candy pink dresses and camera flashes so bright and loud that they sizzled like champagne. I pictured the American Dream. The Hollywood, the Tribeca, the Cannes. I saw in my mind the magic of film, the joy of viewing a labor of love in tux and gown. The thrill of standing ovations.
I clutched the thick velvet ropes and waved over the clipboard-carrying mumbler. She did not look amused. "Excuse me," I said in hushed, eloquent tones, "Are the nominees on The List as well or only announced winners?" I tried my hardest to sound polite, official. Like I wasn't wearing jeans and Converse below my button-up.
She looked at me as though I had an absorbed twin protruding from my skull.
"Hold on," She snapped, taking a step back and pushing the Bluetooth further into her ear. She took a step forward again in a semi-professional tango, as though I could now speak. "Now what did you say?" I stared in awe, if only for a second, then repeated myself. "What's your name?" I told her my name. She ran a finger down The List, tapping impatiently on the bottom. "You're not on it." "Are you sure? It may be under my director's name." "Your director?" "I'm the editor." "The editor?" "Yes, you smarmy bitch." Was what I wanted to say. Instead, I said "Yes." And I gave my director's name. Another impatient run down The List. Another fit of morse code practice, this time louder. "She's not on here either." I said thank you and walked away.
I watched in horror as the sorriest excuses for human beings propelled themselves past the Gate Keeper and down the red carpet.
One kid was known for bumming a mentally unstable vocal major in the back of a movie theatre. Flash, down he went. One had a festering heroin problem, still left unchecked. Flash, down she went. One had her head completely shaved after being baker acted by her parents. Flash, down she went.
That local columnist? She snatched almost all of them up, engaging in polite yet too distant to hear conversation, making occasional notes on that notorious notepad. The news crew filmed the entire event, personally interviewing most of the teenaged bloodsuckers sashaying towards the theatre. They were ushered up the stairs and past a pair of shimmering glass doors, shaded from the horrible Florida sun.
Meanwhile, I sat on the curb. And I waited.
Forty five minutes later we were allowed in, pushed into straight lines as though we were animals to the slaughter, which some of us were, and then quickly shoved into seats. The show started semi-promply, engaging the audience with local out-of-work actors and semi-important commissioners we had never heard of. They all emphasized the same point: As film students and enthusiasts, it was our responsibility to go out into the world and make the best movies we could. About Florida.
"You have to make a name for us!" One yelped, holding up the television and motion picture handbook for the state of Florida. "You must go to college and make a name for yourself, and then one day you must return and give back. It is your responsibility to give back to this state."
After shenanigans and hijinks alike, the time finally came for my category. The Audience Award. Fourteen films were picked, a mere number considering the two hundred entries, and it was up to the public to decide who deserved the honor.
Upon hearing that my terrible little picture, that awful and embarrassing movie that I had the pleasure of editing for two months thanks to hundreds and hundreds of "I don't like that"'s from my director, upon hearing that it was selected as one of the fourteen, I had to pose the question "Are you sure?"
But they were. And so I did everything in my power to make it happen. I put up signs around school proclaiming "Vote for Stairway to Heaven!", only to have them later vandalized with a blatant "Vote for Satori!" (A competitor) scribbled across them all. I spread the word both around town and online. I worked harder promoting the damn thing than I actually did working on it, I think. I even skipped class and ran around campus to get my absent crew excused absences for this sparkling event. And it all came down to this.
I sat next to my director, hands clenched tight, feet tapping nervously. The announcers stood on stage, prattling on about this and that, while I sat in the back row shivering in my seat. The excitement was jolting me down to my bones. This was it.
I don't think I would have been nearly as excited if I hadn't have received an e-mail the previous Thursday proclaiming that we were in the lead and scheduled for a win. Nevertheless, my boyfriend ad I corralled in a slew of additional votes. Just to be safe.
I clenched the arm-rests.
Someone very famous once said that in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. I feel as though today I've been gipped since I only get to stand up here for about thirty seconds.
"And the winner is..."
I couldn't help but stop for a minute. Before the winner was even announced, I knew that something simply was not right.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. The douchebags that vandalized all of my signs had cheated the system! Those sixth-placers had duped the online form to double their votes, thereby crowning them reigning champions! They paraded onstage, accepted their trophy and subsequent prize-money, and cheerily thanked all those who voted for them.
I had the sudden urge to run on stage and deck all four of them like Whack-a-Moles.
But I remained in my seat. I calmly ushered myself outside with the rest of the crowd when the ceremony was over. I got back on the bus. And I went back to school.
This, I realized, was the real glitz and glamor. This was what it was all about. It wasn't about talent. It wasn't about stardom. It was never about champagne and starlight, and it certainly wasn't about a heart-racing bone-shaking love for what you're doing. It wasn't about being fair. It was about being ingenuitive.
So, ladies and gentlemen, give them a round of applause and a check for two grand.
Hello hello again, ladies and gents. I'm back and recovered from the horror that is flying back into West Palm Beach. I spent most of the two and a half hour flight watching the Food Network whilst squeezed between two people who, to this very moment, I'm still not sure if they were dead or just very, very elderly.
Anyhow, I've come back to find lots of exciting news waiting in my inbox (I know. I don't check my e-mail when I go on trips. I'm such a slave to the outdoors.) so I figured I should share it with all you fine folks before I crack back down and start churning out articles again.
The director of Palm Beach's film & television committee sent out an e-mail to those who voted (so some of you might already know), and as of right now Stairway to Heaven is in first place in the Palm Beach Film Festival's Student Showcase. The second placer is extremely close though, a measly .6% away from us, so I need all of your last minute votes to secure victory! Voting ends on Monday the 14th at 4:00 pm, so please circulate the link to anyone you know! C'mon folks, you guys send chain-mail like people actually appreciate it, so send this on!
And although technically I'm not supposed to be telling anyone this yet since formal acceptance letters haven't gone out, I've discovered through the glorious inner-workings of my confidential art school that, after auditioning earlier this year for a transfer into the Visual Arts major, I've been accepted.
Basically, after being shat on by most of the teachers in the Communications department, I threw my arms in the air and signed up for a transfer late last year. I'm sure it seems like an all-too-nominal feat to get accepted to the school you're already attending, but in order to get accepted as a Junior you have to have a next to perfect score during the audition.
I know, I know. Hold your applause.
So, ladies and gents, everyone's favorite foul-mouthed teen will be returning next year not as a film student but as, you guessed it, an art student. Expect some very interesting articles.
My darling clementines, Spring Break is upon the children of South Florida! (To quote a kid leaving my last class of the day, "Shit! Shit! I wish I had papers to throw in the air! Spring Break! Shit!")
Yes, ladies and gents, this is a time of no-frills thrills and teenaged independence. We'll be running wild in your streets, fine citizens, crashing cars and shouting profanity and generally making a mess of our respective counties until the school-bell rings again on April 13th.
Well, most of us.
My spring break will be spent making a mess not of my hometown, even though I'm almost positive it could use the casualties, but instead of that glorious city that a lot of you lovelies call home: New York. I'm flying in tomorrow morning and staying with my boyfriend (a local) in Brooklyn for the first four days of the break, so if any of you fine ladies and gents living in the general vicinity want to grab lunch and talk gossip, just drop me a line. My e-mail address is readily available on the front page.
In the meantime, bon voyage, clementines. I'll be sure to bring you back a toy.
What would we do without our mistakes? Not the minute hassles that life hurls at you like a kid with a water-balloon, not the "Oh no, I left the gas on," kind of klutzery, but those eerily unwavering mistakes made in haste. The kind that leave you laying in bed in the middle of the night, eyes fixed on the ceiling, cringing every time you think of that huge social blister you popped. The kind that, upon grazing your mind in public, you have to leave the room if only for a moment just to deck yourself in the face. No, these kinds of hysterics are never mentioned again after they happen which, in essence, is a very good thing, for if they were you'd surely stroke-out on the spot and fall face-first on the floor, dead as a doornail.
But really, where would we be without such lingering insecurities? We'd be perfect human beings, dismissing every other tiny mistake and living a carefree worry-free guilt-free life. We'd be the happiest creatures in this milky little galaxy. And that is simply not right.
We're worriers, fellow human beings. We're cringers and screamers and kickers and criers. We're meant to get so angry that we kick over trash cans and yell at stray cats. We're meant to be ridiculous in our actions, and even more-so in our atoning. If we weren't, who would be the entertainment of the universe? When's the last time you saw a bunny rabbit make the kind of social blunders that we do? When's the last time you sat back and watched a wild rabbit accidently call the cute girl waiting ahead of him for her Double Mocha Frappucino at Starbucks "Sir"? The simple answer, ladies and gentlemen, is that you haven't. Because bunnies have enough tact to avoid these sorts of situations. In fact, I bet you've never even seen a rabbit doing anything even remotely close to being considered awkward. I bet the closest thing you've seen to a slow-witted rabbit is its dyed foot hanging from a keychain at convenience stores nationwide.
Clearly bunnies are much smarter than us, because we do not avoid these kinds of situations. Sure, we don't have our feet attached to keychains either (not yet, at least), but we're the fumblers in this universe. We're the ones who drop the ball, both socially and literally, and stand there center-stage with our tail between our legs thinking, "Well, I figured it was about time to move to a different state anyway."
But I think that's what makes us way cooler than rabbits could ever be. We mess up. We're imperfect, and damn crazy. We out crazy rabbits, which is a pretty daunting task to anyone who's seen Watership Down, and it's something to be proud of. We are the pee-colored snowflakes of this world, ruining all that is naturally beautiful and being too oblivious to notice it, and really what's better than that? What's better than making mistakes, because mistakes leave room for not just improvement but also more mistakes. That, ladies and gents, is the thrill of being human. Nothing, not genocide or atomic warfare or metal music, can take that away from us.
We get to be the klutzes of the universe for another day and the world spins madly on. Bunnies and all.
It's almost expected as a female that once you begin to glide into your teenaged years, you pick up lifelong interests in certain subjects. In the fifties I'm sure it was child-rearing, cleaning, and simple culinary skills, but for the modern teenaged girl we're expected to be perky, a permanent optimist, with a fascination for fashion, makeup, and gossip of all kinds. Sure, most girls can get away with just wearing lip-gloss and only smiling politely when peers gossip about this and that, but fashion -- fashion is another animal altogether.
The teenaged girl is expected to be glamorous yet subtle, aesthetic yet simple, we are told to be carved out of marble and wood simultaneously by magazines and television and newspapers and parents.
When I was first strolling into my teenaged years, hands in my pockets, I found myself garbed in the stoic's uniform of jeans and a t-shirt. Fashion to me was splurging on a dress from Anthropologie or wearing flats instead of sneakers. I was a simple creature, and quite frankly my grandmother hated it.
"You're a young lady now," She would say, dragging me by the arm into our local mall. "You need some nicer clothes. Clothes that boys would like. You're almost thirteen, M. Don't you think about how boys see you?"
And sure, I did. I thought about how all the boys I knew were closer to me than their parents, friends, and even girlfriends. I thought about how I've had some of the best conversations I've ever had with those "cursed" with a Y-chromosome. About how those "cute little inferiors" that girls were always cooing about were much more than just empty-headed skaters and computer geeks. Boys, I knew, didn't need another pair of tits paraded in front of their face to really open up to a person. They just needed someone to relate to. Someone who would be happy slinging mud and watching gory movies. Granted, it was this kind of tomboyish relationship with guys that lost me the chance to actually date early on, much to my grandmother's disappointment, but I was happy. And I had a phonebook filled with some of the funniest people I've ever met. Life was good.
Yet by age thirteen, I was thrown into shopping malls and told to go wild. "Buy whatever you want!" My grandmother would say, sipping on a Diet Coke. "We're going school shopping and grandma loves you!" And I didn't doubt it, but she simply didn't understand. She, like many other mothers and mothers' mothers, thought of all teenaged girls as the same paper dolls. She thought we all reveled in magazine subscriptions and Shirley Temples.
We would stroll by Abercrombies and American Eagles, my grandmother pressing her face against the window and shouting back at me, "Don't you want to go in here? Everything looks really cute," but I was happy using my grandmothers generosity to buy video games and new jeans. Occasionally, just to make her feel a bit more accomplished, I'd buy a lacy tank top or a new pair of shoes, but generally speaking I almost always left with very few bags under my arms.
It visibly disappointed her, and I knew deep down she always wished for a chubby cheeked half-baby-half-adult to take shopping and share lipstick shades with. I was never that girl, and even now that I've semi-embraced clothing as something more than just fabric coverings, I still find kids with credit cards and cell-phones frightening creatures. (I didn't get my first cell phone until I was fourteen. Now, two year olds are chewing on Virgin Go phones.)
Granted, I'm not denouncing fashion as something completely bogus. Sure, I'll never understand why people actually buy clothing from runway collections and I firmly believe that a two hundred dollar price tag on a little black dress is only there to fluff the designers ego, but at the same time fashion holds something particularly sacred to teenaged girls. Clothes have the ability to make a girl feel welcome in her own body. No boy or car or golden brick could ever do that, but clothes, these simple pieces of sewn cloth, can. And I think that's why girls are stereotyped as mandatory fashionistas. Clothes have the ability to make girls feel comfortable, contented, as though catnip were weaved into every strand of thread. It's soothing to be able to wear something ridiculous and different and subsequently turn yourself into someone new. No, clothes don't define a person, but good clothes do. Certain clothes are meant for certain people, and when those particulars find that perfect dress or button-up shirt, they're turned into someone completely new. They could be drowning in debt and mourning a lost love, but with the right pair of shoes a girl can be at her happiest. That is the power that clothing holds.
And I think what most people fail to realize is that it's not the clothes that make them happy, it's all in themselves. The clothes really are just cloth and stitch, but put the right girl in the right dress and she'll see herself as a movie starlet. All girls are Grecian goddesses and Christian saints inside, all they need is the power to shed their skin and let her out. And for most girls that golden key is to see herself as beautiful.
So to every thirteen year old me out there, it's not all magazine covers and cosmetic ads in that great big fashion world. It's not about being a sample size or buying the It-brand of the day. It's about being beautiful. Having fun. It's about finding yourself and discovering that favorite dress that turns you into Mae West when worn. Fashion is about being able to change clothes and become someone else, a rock star or a millionaire or a fairy queen or a jetsetter. But more importantly, it's about being able to take off that extra personality by the end of the day and settle down in that one perfect outfit that turns you back into the most beautiful you can be: you.
In my observations as a teenaged spy for the outside world, I've noticed many a strange thing. Teenagers, it seems, are in fact strange and foreign beings that live by their own social conventions and hierarchies. They are outsiders from the rest of society, which I suppose explains why hundreds of thousands of fights are fought between teen and adult daily. True, they're both players in the same game, but each one is playing by different rules. Clashes are simply expected.
In terms of everything else, though, teenagers are just like little adults only with little capacity for conversation.
Yet over the past few weeks, I've noticed something strange. Something I'm surprised has never occurred to me before, but now that it's here, it seems very, very real.
The rules of romance in the teenaged world are shifting. Love used to be a thrill; quick glances during Chemistry, notes passed in the lunch line. Sure, a date was as expected as a cell phone by the rest of the teen scene, but at the same time it was exciting, a wild chase from first period all the way to seventh. Romance was sharing a stolen rum & coke at a ska show. Love was painting pictures of each other on pieces of rotting wood and hanging them above your bed. Teenagers experienced love in its most basic, primitive form, and no adult can ever dispute that.
But now, love is something different.
Granted, teenaged romances haven't exactly had a long-standing history of longevity, but relationships seem to be getting shorter, faster, to the point. Love is not movie stars and rock songs anymore. Girls aren't the daydreamers, the picket-fencers, the lovers of upholstered upholstery and 2.5 kids. Love in the eyes of a sixteen year old girl used to be sparkling soda-pop showers and the ground opening up beneath their feet. Love was epic and new. It was top ten songs on the radio and kissing under the blacklight. Now, love is a temporary tattoo.
Love in the teenaged world is a boomerang of gossip and kissing both girls and boys in the school's willow tree. It's about always riding shotgun and never having both feet on the ground. Love is about lip-gloss stains on lapels and making out to the Plain White T's. And it will never be about caring for a person ever again.
Amidst this mess of algebra and infidelity emerges a new brand of teenagers unlike anything you've ever seen. Teens that will crash cars just to be the center of attention and break hearts under the stinging syringe of stiletto heels.
These are the new romantics.
These teens believe solely in prom dates and arm-candy and follow the Carrie Bradshaw perspective of sex, lies, and a damn good story to tell. The new romantics believe in reconciling through others, a playground she-said-he-said for the high school era, and they will always date the undateable just to say that they climbed that mountain and stuck that tiny tropical umbrella into the top. The new romantics are children of excess. They're slam-dancers, they're flirters, they'll sing your praises one minute and as soon as they've finished they'll shank you in the neck. They are fierce, flawed, and fabulous. They are teenagers, god-dammit, and nothing can hold them back.
And this is what makes them great.
No other branch of American society could ever get away with such vulgarity, yet the new romantics can bat their eyelashes and not only get away with it but also get a free drink and a new Myspace friend. I truly believe that this is what makes such teenagers so misunderstood: they simplify things to the lowest common denominator. And adults don't like that. If a problem arises, the new romantics will look at you blankly and say "Well, we'll have to fix it." And they will. Grown ups like the complicated, the complex, the impossible. Even if they really can't handle it, at least it makes them feel like real, live adults instead of just twelve year olds struggling to walk in size nine shoes.
Adults forget to step back from their formica desks and button-up shirts and see the world for what it really is. They ignore what the new romantics shake like a martini tumbler every night. Adults forget about fun. Sure, if they wanted to have fun they could always go see a Jim Carrey movie or go drinking with co-workers at the local Chili's, but what about real fun? Limitless, worry-free fun? New romantic kind of fun?
Ladies and gentlemen of the work world, listen up, because you only get one shot at life and being irresponsible is the best part of this hundred years we get on Earth. Go out into the world, folks, not as parents and siblings and employees of the month, but as prom queens and high-rollers and class presidents and jocks. Go out as the kid voted Most Likely to Start a Revolution. Go out as surfers by day and poets by night. Go out into this great big world, ladies and gentlemen, taking a cue from your local Angela Hayes and Jeff Spicoli, and leave the house not as grown-ups or adults, but as new romantics.
I am a little girl afraid of change and in love with song. I like pug dogs and magic tricks and optimism and warm weather. I like to play dress up and read books and when I grow up I want to be a witch who lives alone and frightens strangers with my mystery because they just can't understand. In the meantime I am content to be a witchling.
This is my diary, my journal, my daily log. It's my way to connect because I am not very good at connecting and I am very afraid that one day I will forget all of the beautiful things that happen every day because there are so many and it's hard to get old and forget.
I hope that you can understand, whoever you are, that this isn't for you. But then again maybe it is.