Bran/d

I had never seen them in any movies when they first became a couple, which was the point of it, really; it was almost a shock to see Brad Pitt’s face in Fight Club, in Ocean’s Eleven, years later when my world had opened up to the age-inappropriate. It was almost a shock to find out he was an actor – that she was an actress – that these words, movie star, were not markers of caste or superiority but descriptions for a job that people did. That they were paid to perform labor I could touch, see, consume.

It is a fact of childhood that the world is populated by two sorts of people. The first sort is the real: your parents, your siblings, your neighbors, your babysitter, your teachers, the dogs you see on the street. The second sort is the unreal: the monsters under the bed, your Barbie dolls, the cowboys and pirates you’ll be when you grow up, Harry Potter, Robin Hood, historical figures like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln who you can play-pretend as. The celebrities in the magazines you see at the supermarket.

This second sort are not false, not even quite imaginary. You can see them, speak to them, go on adventures with them. But you also know, instinctively and deeply, that you do not need to treat them like they are real. They are gone once you stop looking at them. There’s a flatness to them, an animation, a brightness that the real ones can’t summon. They are not there for their own sake; their stories are for you. You can put them back in the box when you’re done.

One tries to avoid the realization, for example, that one’s parents are people. It’s unavoidably unpleasant. No matter how wonderful the two people that raised you are – and many of them are very wonderful – it is awful to suddenly know that they too were born, grew up, thought and felt and think and feel.

It is often simultaneous with the realization that one’s parents are not perfect. But it is not synonymous, and this distinction is important: knowing that one’s parents have made mistakes is not the same as knowing that one’s parents are humans, that even their good qualities are human qualities, that they see each other as people and not as natural phenomena.

It is an unspeakably rich realization – all the more so for the fact that it comes shortly before one realizes that everyone is a person, that everyone has the same depth of feeling as oneself, that everyone has a distinct voice and a unique personality and a compelling story and a set of habits and quirks reflected in no other person. There is a more-ness to the world, afterwards.

But there is a less-ness, as well; and it is a lessening of that brightness, of that flatness, of that glamor and gleam and coloring and background soundtrack. It is a realization that all of one’s stories about other people are, in the end, imaginary. That eventually all of the painted sets in the Hollywood of the mind will be taken down, and the credits will roll, and the actors will be sitting in front of you, a little smaller than you imagined they would be.

I had never seen either of them in any movies, and that is the point of it, in the end. They had no jobs; they had no lives. They existed in magazine spreads for me, static, like a mosquito frozen in amber.

They were very beautiful there.

It’s the First Week of School and I Make Great Life Decisions

I genuinely thought I had my class schedule worked out this year, I really did.

Unfortunately for me (okay, okay, fortunately for me) NYU professor Jay Rosen — who you may have heard of as a well-known media critic and writer in his own right — is teaching a class in the Journalism department this year called “The Future of the New York Times.” It’s hard to explain how ridiculously, ridiculously cool this is. Professor Rosen is incredibly well-respected in his field — he was one of the first people to understand and support the wave of citizen journalism that’s taken off over the past decade, and he’s an advisor at First Look Media.

What’s more, it looks like the class will be more than your usual college seminar: students only get in after sending the professor an email explaining their background in the field and why they would be a good contributor to the group, the class itself will have a “public-facing component” so that people not in it can follow along, and the final class will be at the Times itself — and the NYT’s publisher and CEO have expressed an interest in attending. Immediately after Professor Rosen tweeted an announcement of the class, an NYT editor replied, “Can I audit?”, and an NYT columnist said he wished he could take the class.

I mean, who am I not to grab opportunities from under the noses of New York Times staffers.

Except, uh, requirements for graduation. Those are a thing, apparently.

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It is Designed to Break Your Heart

The sky’s black, a dull and flat color like a clean chalkboard. The air’s cold, and the wind is damp. The fog is hovering around the edges of the stadium, glittering gold in the fluorescent lights, rolling down across the third deck and drifting across the biting green of the grass below.

I’m not in my usual seat. I’m leaning against a brown brick wall, an orange scrap of dishcloth in one hand and an oversized lemonade in the other. There’s a beat-up hat on my head; my hair is long. It’ll be another year and a half before I decide to cut it. It’ll be longer before I learn how to smile for pictures properly. I am fifteen years old.

My mother is next to me, her face lit up with joy, and my brother is next to her; I’m wearing his jersey, white and too-big, which I’ve stolen from his room. We don’t know this yet, but he’ll never get it back, not really; it’ll drift slowly into my room, and then my closet, and then at long last my suitcase, the night I zip it up for the last time and carry the thing down the stairs of the house to where my father is waiting to drive me to the airport.

By that time, my brother will be long gone.

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A Room of Our Own

The thing is, it’s not just the nudes.

It’s not just the pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, splashed across my screen when I clicked her name on my Twitter sidebar to find out what the hell was going on, splashed across everyone’s screen without her permission, without her consent. It’s not just the men who stole them, on the run from the FBI, loudly and confusedly contesting that they’ve done nothing wrong, not really. It’s not just the nickname– “the Fappening”, a joke, a way to laugh about the whole thing, a reminder of what the theft of the photos was ultimately about.

It’s not just Anita Sarkeesian– though it is Anita Sarkeesian, in a much bigger way than it is Jennifer Lawrence. It’s Anita Sarkeesian receiving daily death threats, being driven out of her house because of how serious they had become, it’s Anita Sarkeesian’s being harassed and bullied and going through things no one should have to go through just because she’d said sexism is real. It’s Kelly Weill, too, who I wrote about a couple weeks ago, a girl my age who I might know– who I might be– getting gory, sexual pictures, and yes, death threats, because she’d written an article about a damn Facebook page–

Look: let me tell you what it was like to grow up on the Internet.

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On Beyond Stir-Fry!

I’m back at NYU at last! and very, very ready to start the school year. I’m taking the first classes in my Media, Culture and Communications major this year, and I’m starting to figure out what on Earth I want to do with the thing– where it can take me, what I can build with it.

I’ve also– miracle of miracles– got a kitchen, something very much missing from my life last year. Which back then didn’t really matter, as I was on the meal plan, but these days I’m entirely in control of my own diet. I’ve downloaded a cookbook off the Internet, which features such exciting recipes as Whole Wheat Jalapeño Cheddar Scones, Broiled Eggplant Salad, Vegetable Jambalaya, and Peach Coffee Cake. We’ll see if any of those work out, as my cooking skills are dubious at best and today’s attempt at Caramelized Onions and Cheddar on Toast tasted mostly and inexplicably like salt, but hey, I’ve always got twelve packs of ramen on top of the fridge if the whole “being a real healthy human adult” thing doesn’t work out. (The caramelized onions may have tasted pretty bad, by the way, but good god they smelled delicious.)

My newfound kitchen comes with its own host of problems, though, and not all of them have to do with whether or not the food tastes good.

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When I Grow Up

I mean, the other Great Revelation of Adulthood is that you are more or less not going to get it right.

You are going to fuck it up. You are not going to get to do half of the things you wanted to do. You are going to find yourself barreling down a completely unexpected path, and it is not going to look like anything you imagined, and it is going to be your job to figure out how to love it anyway.

Which isn’t to say that there is no way to, you know, control your life. You have responsibility. You make the decisions. If you screw it up, you’re the one who screwed it up; if you make yourself happy, you’re the one who brought that happiness in. You’re the captain of this ship, and you point it whichever way you want it to turn.

But—

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Minor Existential Crises 101

College is definitely a time for transition, and I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. People say childhood is the time when you have no responsibilities, when you get to play around and explore your identity, but that’s not really true at all. With all the pressure in high school to get into a good university, I haven’t really had a chance to explore what I like until now.

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