A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From heart-rending to gut-splitting (sometimes you gotta laugh, you know?) from informative to insightful to sometimes just downright weird and creepy, here’s a snippet of recent items that have been reported on or journaled about with regard to death, dying, and matters of mortality.
A new mix of lullabies and volcanos and the divining of sounds made by cracks in the ice; the eerie creaking shriek as they form, the moan of the wind scouring over them, the ghostly sobs of those who met their end within the fracture.
But mostly, you know, ambient/electronic. Not trying to oversell it.
Það er margt sem myrkrið veit,
– minn er hugur þungur.
Oft ég svarta sandinn leit
svíða grænan engireit.
Í jöklinum hljóða dauðadjúpar sprungur.
There is much that darkness knows, my thoughts are heavy.
Often I watched the black sand burning green meadows.
On the glacier cry deadly-deep ice-cracks.
If you enjoyed this little Icelandic lullaby, then you will find more here. I never thought I’d have comfort blog posts that I’d revisit and spend so much time with over the years, but if I had to pick one, this would definitely be it.
If you caught my dream-post the other day, then the theme of this ensemble may make some amount of sense to you. As much as such things, can, I suppose. Anyway, I don’t feel the need to explain myself–those who know, know!
And to all the nitpicky fashionistas and history-buffs who might have complaints about Edwardian authenticity or who may critique anachronistic eras intermingling, my reply is this: go be that bothersome, pedantic know-it-all somewhere else, please. It’s called dream couture honey, look it up!
In any case, I was just looking for an excuse to build an outfit around that amazing silk bat scarf. You can find the individual details below, but quite honestly, a lot of this stuff is going to be sold out or long gone, because I went waaa-aaay back in the archival hinterlands of my virtual closet for many of the elements included here. I think that’s okay, though– much like the production of PG Wodehouse’s Dracula, this accompanying costume is part of an imaginary dream world, as well.
I must have been thinking of Daft Punk when I came up with the title for this blog post. The end of an era. Dang. But the following thoughts have absolutely nothing to do with the legendary Parisian dance music duo, so enough of that.
I’ve been in a cake-making mood, lately. I don’t even really like cake, although I do have preferences (and none of them are chocolate because apparently, I am some sort of perverse contrarian weirdo.) I don’t want to make a cake every day, but I decided I was going to make a sort of cake-a-month challenge. And you may laugh at my reasons.
I don’t want to eat cake. I want a visual document of a cake I made. I just want to take pictures of my cakes.
Flipping through my grandmother’s Betty Crocker cookbook was one of my favorite past times when I spent weekends visiting my grandparent’s home as a child growing up in our tiny Ohio town. I would park myself in an old armchair with a stack of them on my lap and flip through the pages, tracing the photographs with my small fingers, dreaming of making these delicious desserts myself.
Often times on those weekends, my grandmother would bake a pie* and I would “help” by rolling shapes out of the leftover crust, sprinkling them with sparkling sugar, and baking them up in the still-hot oven, after the pie had finished its time there. I was always rather disappointed that my creations looked absolutely nothing like the colorful confections in the pages of those books that had inspired me so.
*Speaking of pie, I found this image yesterday and I have been cackling about it for the past 24 hours.
As I grew older, I never completely lost my love for cookbooks but found myself more frequently drawn to food blogs on the internet, where I had begun to find recipes to experiment with. When I created my own blog (not this one, but its very distant cousin) back in 2002, one of my biggest inspirations and motivations was to one day feature delectable images on my website that rivaled the beauty of those that had captured my imagination. This, as it turns out, was no easy feat for a person with no eye for design and no photography skills or training. I mean…that’s a lot of work. And not necessarily work I was interested in investing in what is basically just a personal blog.
I eventually came to the conclusion that I was going to have to learn something if I wanted to improve my cake pictures. And while I won’t pretend I put a lot of effort into it, I did watch a class on Skillshare that I do think was pretty helpful and I think I’ve actually leveled up a tiny bit! I’ve shared pictures willy-nilly throughout this post, and none of them are in any sort of order, chronological or otherwise–but I think you can spot the few that I did post-video classroom.
Now please remember, I am coming at the subject from someone who knows next to nothing, so obviously if you’ve got some of these skills under your belt already, then there’s probably not much insight to be had here. I watched Olena Hassell’s course on photography, composition, and styling but there are probably free videos on YouTube that may share similar tips, tricks, and techniques. It was actually a YouTube video that convinced me to pay money for Skillshare, ha! I am too easily influenced.
I’ve obviously got quite a ways to go, and I’ll probably never get there, where ever “there” is. That’s fine. I think I have reached a point where some of these photos are exactly as good as the photos on those cooking blogs of yore that I was so enthralled with. But that’s just my opinion, and even if they’re nowhere even close, I am pretty excited to continue trying my hand at it and sharing beautiful photos of cakes, while fobbing off on someone else the actual cakes themselves, for purposes of digestive disposal.
I read something once, I forget who said it or where I saw it, but it was something to the effect of that the peculiar thing about recurring dreams is that, no matter how many times you dream these same things, they always take you by surprise.
This is somewhat true for me. I have a handful of recurring dreams but in the moment of the dream, it feels like the first time it’s ever happened. And yet it also feels inevitable. This is the part where I tell you about my dreams. This is the part when I learn what camp you fall into (I have observed that there there are only two, this is very black and white and no middle ground): you will yawn and your eyes will glaze over and the bounce rate of my site will rise precipitously, or you will dig in and commit, no matter how boring and mundane my nocturnal reports turn out to be. I fall into the latter category. I will listen to anyone’s dream despite how ridiculous and nonsensical they might be, even if they are so tedious and tiresome that they are actually putting me to sleep. Dreams are fascinating.
My main five recurring dreams, however, are pretty boring, so I won’t go into them at length… but I am very curious about other people’s recurring dreams. Research has shown that there are common dream themes; do yours fall into any of these categories? Are they similar to mine? Are they quite different? Are they dull affairs or are these things you dream frequently full of adventure?
At least once I week I will dream:
-That I am still working at my high school fast-food restaurant job, and have been doing so on and off for years. I haven’t checked the schedule recently, so I show up for a shift on the off-chance that I am supposed to be there. At some point during the dream, I realize I haven’t collected a paycheck in many years.
-That I am simultaneously paying rent on two apartments. I had somehow rented out another, completely forgetting that I was already living somewhere else. This frequently involves a side dream in which I panic, suddenly remembering a pet who hasn’t been fed for a while, but I can’t recall which place they are living in.
-That I have to move back to New Jersey, for some reason. When I was younger, I dreamed that I had to move back to Ohio. Basically, I am moving back to a place I don’t have any ties to anymore.
-My sisters are visiting and messing up my house, and I am getting very frustrated and upset.
-This last one is not a frequently recurring dream, but it does happen from time to time, and it is always, 100% the harbinger of a nightmare. I will walk into a dark room, flip the light switch…and nothing. The light does not come on, and although the scenario after that point is always different, the broken light switch is always a signifier that the situation is about to go to hell. I have gotten very good at waking myself at this point, as soon as I realize the room did not light up! Also, I have realized that I tend to have this sort of dream when I am overly warm at night. I now keep a fan on no matter what the time of year, I tend to wear airy pajamas, and I don’t bundle myself too tightly in my blankets. It’s been years since I’ve had a really awful bad dream, and I attribute that to learning how to pull myself out of it and keeping myself cool at night.
Dreamed that Nicholas Cage and I were zombie scientists working on a serum to slow our rate of decay and after a hard-won breakthrough, he screams “take that in your lumpy face, CAROLE!”
I have taken to sharing my more interesting dreams over on Twitter over the last few years. The one above I tweeted about just last month, but good lord, I’ve got 140 character dream diaries going back almost a decade over there. Before that, I used to share them on Tumblr but someone was rude to me about it once, and I got super butthurt and gave it up. Twitter is much better at ignoring me, and I am OK with that! Here are a few for your enjoyment, puzzlement, or just for you to ponder “good lord, what is WRONG with her?”
-“Last night I dreamed I attended a production of ‘P.G. Wodehouse’s Dracula.’ “
-“Last night I dreamed I was aboard a warship that was actually just a jaunty ferris wheel that had become unmoored and was floating aggressively across the sea.”
-“Dreamed of ascending a never-ending spiral staircase in a grotty old pawn shop/museum in order to view a murderbone exhibit. Bones of murderers? Bones used for murder? I woke up, so we will never know.”
-“Dreamed that Han Solo gave me a cb radio and a pair of track pants. I never saw him again.”
-“Also dreamed I sat in as an observer at auditions for a show called America’s Next Top Witch. The potentials looked like Rock of Love contestants, only spookier and I’m not sure how this is possible, but also sluttier. I could tell it was going to be an incredible show.”
-“Dreamed of a much-coveted bangle but I could only buy it in two colors: poison or live snake.”
-“Last night I dreamed that I contracted the legal services of Hooker, Hooker, Corncob, and Charles.”
-“Dreamed I flung myself through the window of my high-rise suite, thinking, “wow, it would be cool to float through the creepy midnight clouds like the vampire gang in The Lost Boys”. And it was way super cool.”
-“Last night I dreamed of thwarted attempts at peeing in a massive gravy boat. 9/10 of my dreams are me trying to take a wee; it’s a wonder I am not a chronic bed-wetter.”
-“I dreamed three things: spiders as big as coconuts; my mother’s last grocery list; a heart pricked thrice and baked with raisins.”
In yesterday’s post, I referred in a vague sort of way to having done something that scared me and that I had been dreading. But it was also something that would provide a valuable opportunity to not only step out of my comfort zone and have this new-to-me experience, but also to make a connection with a wondrous kindred spirit…both of which are good things to try for, so I agreed to do it.
This thing I am referring to also happens to be something I swore I would never do (which is another thing I have recently written about!)
I am, of course, talking about my first time ever being a guest on someone’s podcast.
I swore this was a thing I would not do, not because I have a problem with podcasts or those who create them! No, my problem is with me, my shyness, and my inability to carry a conversation. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I might stumble and falter with my words and look foolish…and I especially didn’t want to make the person trying to converse with me look foolish, either! When it comes right down to it, this is the main reason I write: I have a terrible time articulating my thoughts verbally. They just make more sense on the page.
The Red Transmissions podcast aims to document the work, behind-the-scenes moments and creative process of the characters in their network, and explore why artists, activists, and “worldthreaders” do what they do, how they do it, and hear about the inner workings of their projects. I was so very honored to talk with Red Transmissions host –and remarkably fascinating human in her own right!– Elizabeth Torres this past Saturday about all manner of things, from my upbringing in a weird household full of art and spirits and new-age wonderments, my history and experiences with writing and online curation, and what goes into writing and promoting a book during a pandemic.
When it came down to it, I wasn’t as terrified as I thought I might be. Elizabeth was so patient with me; soothing my jangled nerves and wrangling my rambling chatter! I’m afraid that the worst did happen… there was an instance or two where she asked me something and my mind went completely blank and I froze and stuttered and stumbled. But when the world didn’t come crashing to an end that second and she prompted me with an additional question or shepherded me along with another line of thought, and the conversation moved on. I wish I could be totally cool and tell you that it all went swimmingly and I was amazing and flawless, but I think you know me too well for that, ha!
I shared a press-type photo that was shot by my brother-in-law around this time last year for the purposes of this podcast and its corresponding article for the Red Door Magazine this summer, but since that time, as I’ve shared here before, I’ve chopped all that hair off. Here’s a photo of me post-recording, feeling empowered and exhausted and cultivating the 1996-97 dELiA*s catalog hair I’ve always dreamed of.
I cringe thinking about my early existence up until about my mid-20s or so, and all of the people I left hanging, all of the promises broken, all of the things I said I’d do and then…didn’t do.
You know how you often see those memes or webcomics about how you’re all ready for bed after a long, hard day; you’re tired, you’re exhausted, your head hits heavy on the pillow and then BAM. Your eyes pop open with a startle and a shudder because you’re suddenly bombarded with the excruciating memory of that really humiliating thing you did or that embarrassing thing that happened to you when you were in the seventh grade? My personal version of this scenario is being suddenly reminded of all the people I’ve let down, that time I didn’t make a deadline after I swore I timeliness, that afternoon I flaked out and didn’t meet someone, somewhere, when I agreed that I would.
In retrospect… I did these things a lot.
In looking back on myself with a kinder gaze, I know why I did this, and it often had to do with situations that required boundaries and advocating for myself. I was always trying to please everyone or avoid conflict and in doing so, I frequently ended up overextending myself. It’s possible that at that time in my life I wasn’t self-aware enough to realize that while something sounded good at the moment, I was never going to follow through with the plan. And most often, I just flaked out of a situation because I was scared and anxious about it.
If I needed extra time, I should have asked for it. If I didn’t want to do something, I should have spoken up. If something seemed scary, it would have been helpful for me to explain it to the person whose request I was acquiescing to, so that they could have the opportunity to support me. Or at least so they knew that even though I agreed to do something, it was going to be a struggle for me!
I still feel guilty these many years later about that time I told my sister that I would meet her on campus to sign up for classes, and then I just… never showed up. I didn’t intend on taking any classes that semester and I was too scared to tell her — so I just did the easy thing at the time, which was telling her, “yeah sure, see you there” instead of “hey, I think you need to know I’m not planning on going to school right now.” What was easier for me at that moment was definitely not easier for me down the road, when I had to make up my excuses about not showing up that day, and then continue lying for the next few months about the classes I wasn’t taking.
I suppose this is on my mind because yesterday I did a thing I had been dreading terribly. I had agreed to do it because I knew it would probably be a good experience that would benefit me in the long run, and so there was really no question about whether or not I was actually going through with it. I said I would, so I did. And this is because as I have gotten older, I have been able to look outside myself and beyond my fears to finally see it from the other person’s perspective: they asked something of me, and I said yes. They are depending on me for whatever it was that I agreed to. They are trusting me to uphold my end of the bargain. And whatever temporary relief I would feel from backing out would definitely not be worth knowing that this person’s experience with me left a sour taste in their mouth, and not only would they probably not want to work with me again, who knows what they might have to say about me to other people?
Having spent the majority of my youth being the person most likely to flake out on a friend or family member, it is extremely important to me now to feel that I am someone reliable and trustworthy. That I can be depended upon to hold up my end of the bargain.
…AND WOW. I am reading back over all of this right now and it sounds SO self-righteous and sanctimonious, so please listen:
-I understand that last-minute issues and emergencies come up and plans fall through.
-I understand that my chronically ill friends are frustratingly challenged when it comes to making and keeping plans. I am definitely writing from a place of privilege and relatively decent health here and I recognize this.
-I understand that everyone is at a different place in their life’s path, and we are all just doing the best we can.
I guess what I am getting at is this. Sometimes I write things here about my experiences so that other people can connect with and perhaps gain something from them. I don’t think that’s what blog entry is for. This is not advice for you. And if you are reading this and thinking this is about you, it is not. I promise. This is about me recognizing something good about myself and celebrating and sharing. I used to be a certain way, and now I am not, and I am incredibly proud of myself for that. And of course, I screw up. I still hate to tell people no. I still have to extend deadlines or postpone a phone call or possibly disappoint someone when I can’t be as timely as I like. I’m not perfect.
For example, in the last few years, I tried to be part of a thing that entailed doing something on a fairly regular basis that made me terribly anxious and uncomfortable. I gave it my best, more than once, and I found that I just couldn’t. It was awful and I hated it. Instead of continuing to RSVP and then make excuses as to why I couldn’t attend, I finally spoke up and explained that this was a thing I could not do.
And you know what? It was fine. Because those few moments of vulnerability and an embarrassing confession were so much less painful than doing a thing that made me so unhappy, and now I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Another example is when I asked a certain organization whether or not they would be interested in doing an interview with me. When they agreed, I told them I would have a Q&A over to them in a month or two. Which because I had overextended myself, turned into two or three months. I reached out and apologized for the delay and asked if they were still interested. They replied that they were and that I should just feel free to get to it whenever I got to it and that would be fine. Well, it took a whole damn year, but I finally did send them that Q&A. I tried to do what I said I would do, but when I couldn’t do it in a timely way, I communicated and kept in touch as best as I could about it to make them aware of the timeline.
So as a human person, despite the strides I’ve made, sure, I still screw up. But I realized when I’d bitten off more than I could chew, comfort-wise, and I handled it. I recognized that my timing was quite far off from what I had anticipated, but I still wanted to make the thing work so I handled that too. Imperfectly, but these too, are things I am proud of.
I did stress that writing all of this was more for me than it was for you, BUT, if you are someone who is looking to make some improvements on your personal reliability, this is what I can tell you:
-If you could turn back time, do not agree to those plans. But you can’t, so future-you needs to remember that if you don’t want to do something, don’t say you’ll do it. But present-you had probably better do it, because you said you would.
-But seriously, the next time you’re called on to do something, really take a moment to ask yourself whether you have the bandwidth to make good on the promise. Declining now is far better than breaking your word later.
-If you have to cancel plans, do it NOW. Do not wait. Did you wait? OK WELL DO IT NOW. But especially do not wait until the last minute.
-By that same token, if you are running late, let your friend know. It’s a text that takes like two seconds. It’s polite. Don’t just show up twenty minutes late, like it’s no big deal. People’s time is worth something. Even your friend’s time. Especially your friend’s time. When you show up late with no explanation and without having notified them, you are basically saying “you? I shit on your time!”
-Are you a young junior baby employee? Maybe you haven’t been in the workforce very long and you don’t have much experience with keeping your boss or your manager happy? A good thing to remember is that if you are going to be late, even a few minutes late–call and let someone in your office/store/restaurant/whatever know about it. If you are not going to be at work, don’t just not show up. You have to inform someone so that they know what’s going on with you and they can plan a shift or a schedule accordingly. I worked with many college interns a few years ago, and there was nothing worse than when my boss asked me “hey, where’s so-n-so today?” And I had to tell him that I had no idea, they were scheduled and they didn’t show up, and they didn’t even call about it. That made ME look bad. So try and look at it from that point of view. Your showing up late or shrugging off your shift might not just reflect poorly on you. It’s affecting other people, too.
-Plan, I mean really plan for your deadlines. If that means parceling them out in small chunks or time blocks on your google calendar, complete with notifications, do that. Put your appointments and meetings in your calendar or your planner or your phone. Don’t expect yourself to remember everything you’ve got going on. You can’t. So write it down and keep it handy. If you are disorganized and forgetful, that can translate as dismissive and inconsiderate.
-Ask for help. I don’t know what this might mean for you, but for me, this might mean asking a family member to remind me at least 24 hours before we’re scheduled to have a Skype call. Or I will ask my partner for extra support, encouragement, and ultimately lots of tough love if needed, because maybe I have agreed to do something really scary but that I know will benefit my personal growth… and also I know I will want to talk myself out of it, every step of the way. You might require different kinds of help with your different situations. It’s worth making a list of where you might run into trouble, who it is that may be able to assist you, and what it is exactly that they could do.
At the end of the day, I am still the person who is happiest when plans are canceled. My sister and I– the same one I stood up in the registrar’s office– have in the past paid for concert tickets many months in advance (and this is more than once, mind you) and then looked at one another on the evening of the event, each already knowing what the other is thinking. We just don’t be the one who has to say it out loud. “Do you REALLY want to go to this thing tonight?” “No! Do YOU?” “OH THANK GOD, LET’S JUST STAY HOME.”
In the canny words of comedian John Mulaney, who was not talking about this blog, but rather a comedy special:
“I appreciate you coming to a thing because you didn’t have to, and it’s really easy not to go to things. It is so much easier not to do things than to do them, that you would do anything is totally remarkable. Percentage-wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them. And so much fun not to do them, especially when you are supposed to do them. In terms of, like, instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin. It is an amazing feeling. Such instant joy.”
It’s definitely easier not to do things. But if you cancel on me, I am probably not going to be mad at you. I understand where you’re coming from, and I get it. But I hope you know I am super easy to talk to and if you didn’t want to do it in the first place, you totally could have told me! And hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you, too. That I don’t want to go to your thing. That way when I don’t show up, you weren’t even expecting me! And as long as you call me if you’re running late, we’re never gonna have a problem.
Sometimes I get a little down on myself for not being an absolute expert on the things I love or enjoy. Like how dare I profess an adoration for fragrances if I haven’t studied under master perfumers, traveled around the world sniffing varieties of rare volatile oils, and begun to create my own blends and open up shop to sell them! Who do I think I am to say that I thoroughly enjoy the practice of knitting if I haven’t been educated in textiles and fashion, if I haven’t apprenticed with a craftsperson, if I haven’t begun to draw up my own patterns and publish a book of them? Can I even mention my love of cooking if I didn’t attend some sort of culinary institution, if I didn’t train with a celebrity chef or appear in a great bake-off, if I don’t have a professional series of videos on the internet documenting my homecookery?
I find delight in too many things to devote that amount of time to any one of them, and honestly, I don’t know that I love any of them enough to dedicate my entire existence to them. I have a great amount of respect and admiration for those who have found that one thing, or who are willing and able to put in the work to become some sort of next-level guru. But it’s not me. It might never be me.
I think these fears massively play into my anxiety and depression with regard to social media comparisons. I see people being wildly successful in their chosen field or craft, the thing that (I assume) they’ve devoted their lives to, and I start feeling badly about myself, lesser-than, for not excelling in similar ways. But wait. Stop. Step back a moment. Why am I feeling badly about a thing I know I don’t want for myself anyway? I already know I don’t possess that devotion or dedication or discipline to pursue any of my interests to that degree! There is nothing to compare, here. These people and I are on totally different paths, with different priorities and goals. What they are doing is wonderful and I wish every single one of them all the success that they deserve. But their journey is not mine. Somewhere along the way I’ve gotten things twisted and confused and made them more complicated than they ever had to be.
All of these thoughts whizzing round-and-round in my head made me think of this thing that my friend Flannery shared, and which I relate to in an intensely comfortable way. I don’t want to be the best and smartest at a thing! But…do I? No, that’s work I don’t want to do! Still…if we could be THE BEST…?!
Ok, but no. It’s all too much work and I’ve got too many other things I want to at least know a few things about! I don’t have the time or the inclination to know everything! Even so, realizing all of this, I sometimes question myself. Like…who am I to even offer an opinion about a thing, if I don’t have the scholarship and academic background and rigorous study and training to back it up? I guess it’s times like these that I must remind myself of this piece of wisdom from goofball alchemist and artist Tyler Thrasher, which I have re-shared from his Instagram, above in the featured image for this post. Take a moment to scroll up and read it aloud, or to go straight to his Instagram and read it there. He continues this line of thought in his caption for the image:
“Have no shame in multiple hobbies and interests. The world is vast and there’s room for it all.”
I was extraordinarily privileged to interview Tyler for Haute Macabre about his art practice and philosophies back in 2017; I love all of the artists who take a moment to answer my questions, but this Q&A has a special place in my heart. Tyler is so damn smart and savvy and talented–but also, just…fun. So much fun! And something he shared, which sums up his work and his art and everything he puts out into the world, is in this statement.
“I think curiosity and experimentation are just vital for being human.”
I don’t know who needs to hear this (I mean, me for sure) but: you really don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to choose, you can be multiple things in life, and having many interests is not a curse–you are a creature of curiosity and it’s part of being human.
I may never be a fragrance guru, a champion knitter, a captain of cakes. And I don’t even want to be! There’s so much else to do and see and know and be! I like to think I am leading a creatively complex life whatever my skill levels, even if they plateau and never improve, even if I abandon that particular interest for something else entirely. And you, too! Let’s just love what we love and not be dicks about it–not to others, and especially to ourselves.
I am the eldest of three sisters. Sometimes my friends assume that I am the youngest. I don’t know if that’s because my other sisters seem more accomplished than I am, or maybe I just act like a baby. Who knows? But it was I who was born first amongst this weird trio of siblings. We’re two years apart each. More or less. And at different points in our lives, we’ve probably felt closer to one sister over the other, and that’s a thing that is always in flux. I don’t know how they might feel about it, but I know these things happen and it’s okay. Some of us have more in common with another sister, and that’s fine, too. And this, too, is eternally subject to change.
One thing that I think we can all agree on at the current moment, is our mutual obsession with a particular set of dolls that we owned when we were very young. I say “owned” but that never feels quite right, does it, when you’re a kid and you’re not allowed to play with or even touch the item that supposedly belongs to you? Anyway, we’re all in our 40s now and these childhood fascinations came up as a topic of conversation when a few weeks ago we were chatting online and one of us mentioned our long-ago memory of these dolls, and asked if each of us also had a recollection of them
Well, of course, I do; I’ve probably thought about that doll every day of my life and continue to do so this very moment. I was utterly obsessed with her. She sat atop a chest of drawers, so high at the time I could barely reach the bottom of her skirts. She wore a frothy periwinkle lace frock (my sisters insist it was lilac but I know what I know!) and a ruffled bonnet and a knot of opalescent pearls around her throat. Our middle sister, whose room I shared at the time, had a similar doll that stood next to mine. Hers was chestnut-haired, where mine was frosty blonde, and hers swanned about in a deep burgundy dress whose tiers were crowned with cream-colored ruffles.
Our baby sister slept down the hall from us at that point in time, so her doll lived out of reach on her own chest of drawers, in her own room. We gradually came to agree that hers was a bit of an outlier; comparable in face and figure, but as she was a sassy cowgirl in suede and braids, her attire lacked the refinement and glamour of the other two. In retrospect, she was no less charming, but I think at the time my sister harbored a fair bit of resentment about being stuck with the doll who was, in the eyes of a sensitive little girl, not as good or beautiful as her two older sister’s dolls. I think they were all three lovely, but I get where she’s coming from.
I should mention, though you’ve probably guessed it: we’ve not seen these dolls in years. We have no idea what happened to them, although I suspect they were sold at a garage sale when my family moved from Ohio down to FL in 1985. Independently of each other the night of our doll discussion/debate, we each performed midnight acts of searchery and sleuthery, and we all arrived at the same conclusion. These vintage mysteries with their lavish Victorian/Grand Ole Opry style costumes, silky wigs, and haunting eyes were Bradley Dolls.
There doesn’t seem to be an official site for these gals but most of my reading points to the Bradley line of dolls being manufactured in Japan and Korea for the American market from the mid-50s until the early 80s; Artmark’ or ‘Treasure Dolls’ are two other brand names they were released under. The dresses are often elegant period pieces, with big hoop skirts and plenty of lacy frills, although their catalogs included a variety of themes and styles, including a few ‘mod’ ones that are noted as being the most elusive and most sought after. Some versions of the dolls had large, eyes, reminiscent of manga or anime characters, and the odd feature of strange, nightmarishly contorted fingers. Ours, thankfully, had the garden variety hands
Thus far both of my sisters have been able to identify the dolls that belonged to them. Middle sister has already located and purchased one to cherish anew, but baby sister, and I quote, still thinks her was “stupid and ugly”. Poor Cowgirl Mandy!
Search as I may, I can’t seem to track down my icy blue beauty. She was one of the fanciest things I had ever seen at 7 years old, and her influence has loomed large over my style and preferences throughout my life, inspiring and informing my yearnings over time. However much I grow and change, there’s always going to be the heavily-lashed, unwavering gaze of that exquisite doll, urging, Sarah, let’s be fancy. Let’s be fancy forever.
Heeding her impeccable advice, I think it’s time I too found a replacement. Sadly, it is looking as though I might never be able to find the original doll, but if it’s possible, I may have found one that I love just as much. I may be clearing a spot on my chest of drawers as we speak. And this time, I’ll even be tall enough to reach up out touch her dress, feel the folds of lace, fondle her pearl buttons. And best of all, she’ll really be mine. Not just “sit on a shelf to look at and never touch,” but well and truly mine!
Getting older is the pits but I guess at least we can finally play with our toys.
I can be an awful hater sometimes. I can admit to this! I’ll just react to something on a gut-level with no logic or real reason to back it up. Especially when it comes to a New Thing that everyone else seems to love. I don’t know if I am just a contrarian or if I think that if everyone seems to be into something then it’s probably a dumbed-down thing that was created to appeal to everyone, which is a big turn-off for me. That makes me sound a bit snobby, and I guess that would be true on some level.
The most recent New Thing I have been hating on is TikTok. Which ok grandma, yeah I know. It’s not actually all that new. But I’ve hated it since the moment I saw the stupid things that people were sharing from the app, and that hatred has only grown in intensity over the last year or so. This is unfortunate for me, because typically if there is a new social media platform, I want in on it. But not TikTok! Man, that place is obnoxious. And what’s worse, all of these TikToks are being shared in the other places I frequent. I can’t go to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram without someone’s viral TikTok nonsense screeching in my face. Make it stop!
But. Here’s the thing. In doing a bit more soul searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the platform itself I hate. It’s actually sort of a neat concept, isn’t it? Short videos to inform or inspire you, where you could learn something new or interesting, and of course, connect with the people creating and sharing these things. I think where the execution falls short for me are the things that I have seen people sharing, which overwhelmingly are these horrifyingly cringey lip-synch videos or, even worse, people pranking each other. I don’t consider myself a humorless person (I happen to think I am hilarious!) but I do not, nor have I ever, understood the appeal of or the humor in pranking people. UGH. Pranks are mean and bad, and you shouldn’t do them. This VICE article agrees with me, by the way, and I love this sentiment:
“Ultimately, pranks ignore the fundamental truth that living can be hard, and most people are trying to do their best.”
Pranks and bad lip-synching aside, in giving my TikTok hostility some more thought, I considered an idea which is something I apply to any occasion, whenever I can. Which is basically this: ok, so, this thing has got a lot of sucky aspects; how can I make it better? Or not exactly better, per se. Who am I to assume that my participation can better a thing? But I guess, rather… but how can I make it what I want it to be? How can I contribute to it being the thing I want to see in the world?
And the answer, is, of course: to be part of it. Participate. Contribute.
I often say “I will NEVER do X/Y/Z thing…but I reserve the right to change my mind about it at any time!” Yes, I can be stubborn with my annoying, irrational hatred of a thing (see also: Taylor Swift’s cardigan…still haven’t changed my mind on that one) but I can also reassess, re-evaluate, and realign my perspective. I can say, ok, I was wrong! Everyone else was right! Or maybe just that one other person was right! But here’s me, saying that I probably was not right. And I can learn and change and maybe be just an Intense Disliker, if not a Hater. Here’s me, now on TikTok. And many thanks to Susan Jamison and Gooby Herms over on Facebook, for the encouragement and account name inspiration!
At first, I didn’t really know what to do with it, but I think I’ve worked it out for now: 10-second perfume reviews! Is this the sort of thing everyone wants to see? Probably not. To which I say: make your own thing, then! Or watch some stupid pranks. Whatever.
Are you over on TikTok? What do you watch? Are there people knitting or cooking or doing 30-second book reviews or sharing gardening tips or reading poetry or teaching about gothic tropes in contemporary fiction and comics (and if that last one is a “no”, I see a niche that needs filling and I know just the person to do it, although I think they’d hate the idea, ha!) Tell me all! Except for the dumb stuff! Still don’t want to know about that.