Sometimes it’s not about failure or success

Try new things, even if you fail. How many times have you heard that? Then, people like to follow it up with a motivational story. One of my favorites is how the Toll House cookie lady discovered chocolate chip cookies because she wanted to add candy bars to her cookies, and they ended up melting. Someone very famous whose name I can’t remember said that Edward Hopper wouldn’t be half so great an artist if he were better at painting.

An example of someone not-failing. Edward Hopper, New York Interior

An example of someone not-failing. Edward Hopper, New York Interior

But–ladies and gents, this isn’t one of those stories. This is about failing, and continuing to fail, and enjoying the hell out of it.

In a previous life (like, two weeks ago), I only pursued hobbies that I actually had some talent in, or that don’t actually require talent. Want to go toe-to-toe in Mass Effect 3 or compare Fable II achievements? You may win, but you’ll be forced to acknowledge that I’m fairly decent, too. We could also compare eyeliner techniques. Comics are easy–you don’t actually need skills other than literacy to enjoy them.

But, I had always shied away from things that require skills I just don’t have. My fingers were  too clumsy to take up knitting long-term, art was only for the artists, and my cello eventually ended up sitting next to the closet, since it doesn’t actually fit in the closet. I detest failing, so I didn’t try. I know, I know. It’s a greeting card gone wrong.

Sadly, all of the hobbies I loved most (hello, video game controller!) also made my hands hurt after awhile. I needed new hobbies, and chances were good that I wouldn’t have natural talent in them.

One day, I walked around the discount books section at Barnes and Noble and looked at the hobby section. I’ve tried calligraphy before, so I passed those up. Belly dancing was out. Learning how to give a hot stone massage was out, because I’m not nice enough to do that for other people.

Painting was on the table. I had messed around with watercolors when I was in high school (secretly, of course), and they were fun, but took a lot to set up. I really wanted something to fill an hour or two when I got home at night and was feeling lazy.

So–my choices were basically sketching, and giving knitting another go. I had a little experience in both. I took art classes in elementary school, but my teacher was constantly frustrated by my refusal to draw anything other than birds. It’s just another example of me doing the safe thing. Once I learned to sketch a cardinal, I didn’t want to try to draw a horse in case I sucked at it.

I had also dabbled in photography. Here's the obligatory flower close-up.

I had also dabbled in photography. Here’s the obligatory flower close-up.

But, let’s face it. Knitting requires patience. Ha. I don’t have that. Sketching is relatively quick. I bought the cheapest of the cheap sets, and here we are.

After a couple weeks sketching, I can officially report that I still suck at it. I’m not even sure that I’m getting better at it with practice. I think I’m pretty much stagnant. But, on the bright side, it’s hella fun!

I’ve been taking my pencil, eraser and sharpener to work to draw during lunch. Since I have a shiny new cubicle, no one has to see my terrible drawings. It’s beyond relaxing. I fancied up and bought a set of colored pencils for when I really wanted to go nuts.

Something I’ve always admired about the Victorians was their ability to have a semi-large amount of hobbies. Let’s face it–they couldn’t have all been great artists and pianists and singers, right? They had to have just gotten over it and done their best anyway. One day I might take up embroidery just to stitch that on a pillow.

Seriously–try something you’re awful at. It’ll be more fun than you think!

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E3: Now with more rape jokes!

In an absolutely brilliant move, someone on stage at the E3 conference made a joke about rape. A female player was onstage demonstrating a fighting game, and the terribly scripted dialogue was more than cringe-worthy.

“Just let it happen; it’ll be over soon.”

[EDIT: The video I embedded is broken, so check out the one on Kotaku]

I haven’t really posted about rape jokes before, but in a post-Dane-Cook-being-an-asshole world, they’ve become their own thing.

You can find years’ worth of reading on them all over the Web. These are some of the best, if you’re interested.

If you’re not, here’s a little wrap-up:

They’re often labelled as edgy and hilarious. But they’re really just tired, outdated and sad, much like the people who insist on making them.

Rape jokes aren’t okay. They’re not the equivalent of an edgy “your mom” joke. Rape, believe it or not, has victims.

Putting this drivel on stage at a huge tech conference is just another way to say that it’s for straight men only, kthxbye. It’s another way to say that we play by frat boy rules, or we don’t play at all.

I’m sick of it. I’m waiting for the day when humor is funny again, and not just the same old misogynistic refrain.

Update: Apparently the rape joke wasn’t scripted. I’m not sure that this makes it less offensive.

A really, really long name change journey

My favorite photo of us from early in our relationship.

My favorite photo of us from early in our relationship.

Three years ago (!), Zach proposed, and I was so, so happy. We started discussing Big Things almost immediately: Would we have kids, what would we teach them about religion, and who has to do the dishes?

Somewhere between a discussion of the virtues of poodles and Jack Russels, we discussed the name change.

Zach said he didn’t care, which I immensely appreciate. I believe (as a feminist, duh), that it should ultimately be something that a woman decides for herself, but if a man wants to have an opinion, that’s fine too. At the end of the day, though, it’s not his name, and not his choice. He’s awesome, so he agrees with me.

With the stress of the wedding weighing on me, along with a million other things, I just didn’t reserve enough mental space for making a decision. Suddenly, the wedding happened, and we were officially married.

The decision to change my name (or not!) was not quite so sudden. Some weekends I decide I’m going to do it, and I start gathering paperwork. Other weekends, I decided I’m not going to. Other days, still, I decided I was going to go the Beyonce route and just go by my first name.

After a little soul searching, I’ve finally, finally decided that I’m not going to officially change my name. It’s the name I first saw in print, and the name I’ve used my whole life. It’s just not the right decision for me to change that now.

If you want to call me Whitney Gibbs, I’m totally cool with that, though. I really couldn’t care less. I still LOVE “Gibbsi” as a couple name. It’s amazing, don’t ever change it. But, officially, Whitney Lee’s going to be it for me.

Much love to everyone!

Facebook privacy settings aren’t that difficult, I promise

https://i2.wp.com/i.gifeye.com/17739.gif

Maybe it’s because I’m a Millenial and I was raised on tech and over-sharing. Maybe it’s because my life is relatively dull—no illegal substances, no scandals, minimal drama. But I really can’t wrap my head around why people freak out over Facebook sharing settings.

There has to be some sort of expectation at this point that Facebook is going to sell pretty much whatever information it has about you. And really–does it even matter that Best Buy knows that you like action movies? They’re not going to raid your home with a display case of movies they’ll force you to buy. They’re just going to show you more relevant ads.

More often than not, it seems like people are just getting squicked out about their “rights” (please imagine dramatic finger quotes) to privacy instead of the actual micro-shares that are taking place. Let’s be clear: You definitely have a right to privacy. But if you put something on a social network, you’re giving up a piece of that right.

If you find yourself still questioning Facebook privacy, it’s a good thing you’re here. I have a definitive guide to understanding privacy options on Facebook:

*Don’t post it if you don’t want it seen. It doesn’t matter what your privacy settings are. If you don’t want it seen,  leave it entirely off of Facebook. This advice is repeated more often than “Don’t shoot your eye out” around Christmas (and is starting to sound just as corny), but people still don’t seem to understand. Don’t want your boss to see you bitching about that customer? Tell your friends in private. It’ll make a better story than a post anyway.

*Understand the nature of the beast. Facebook is a business, and its currency is data. When you give them something (birthday, email address, information on what products you like), they’re going to use it somehow. They’re not making their money by ad sales as much as they’re making money by knowing you. If this makes you uncomfortable, that’s okay. Stop feeding the machine.

*Craft a public image. Since we’re assuming that everything is going to be seen by everyone, go ahead and think of yourself as your own PR expert. Unpleasant things like your political opinion, that fight you had with your husband and your child’s poop don’t belong on Facebook. If you really want to create a space where you can talk about that, consider a more private application.

Hopefully that’s helpful if you’re privacy paranoid. Thoughts? Opinions?

In defense of embracing labels

gencon

Confession time: I haven’t always called myself a nerd. In high school, I would’ve called myself “studious,” and then gone back to outlining my essay comparing the treatment of women by Tolkien, Hemingway and Scott. After that, I went home to play Need For Speed on the PS2. But you know, I wasn’t a nerd or anything.

Once I got to college, I got even more into video games, and even more into traditional nerdy stuff. I still tried to be conventionally cool, but I also tried learning Elvish. Weekend consisted of epic Risk games just as often as they did of parties and shopping. I didn’t constrict myself to “being” anything.

Then, I met a lovely nerd who loves me. And, my life got even nerdier. The first time I played Dungeons and Dragons is almost as fond a memory as setting up my first dorm room. I branched out from Risk and started playing Dominion and Carcassone. The Spiel des Jahres seal (which represents the German Game of the Year) started meaning something to me.

And that, dear homies, is when I started calling myself a nerd.

It was enlightening. I allowed myself some nerdy t-shirts (but only when I felt “worthy” of a fandom), and started skipping a couple classes every month to get some more video game time in with my best friend.

Today, I’m rocking a black sweater and Batman earrings. I’m going home and reading comics in my Superman pajamas. Thursdays are  Minecraft days during lunch at work. Let’s not even talk about how many video games I manage to squeeze into a week.

The main difference when you’re not afraid to label yourself is that it’s easier to find something in common with people. Sure, they might not actually be nerds, but they may have a tabletop game obsession, or go home to play an MMO. It’s a conversation easy button, which is great when you’re not particularly conversationally adept like me. I’m grateful to everyone who takes the time to talk about their own hobbies with me. Labels also give you room to grow inside a community. Maybe you’re into hobby trains or tea, or makeup. If you embrace a community, you instantly get to experience your hobbies in a new light.

Obviously, we’re all more complex than our labels. But sometimes labels-as-shorthand can be incredibly helpful! Thoughts?

Running at scissors

I’ve been on a hair hiatus for too long. As soon as I got engaged (almost three years ago!) I put a cease on all planned haircuts. I was going to grow it out for the wedding, and pay an exorbitant amount for a really fancy hairstyle.

A year went by, and I couldn’t find a really fancy hairstyle that my hair would actually do. Fed up, I called my favorite hairstylists, my Aunt Sherry, and she performed an emergency chin-length chop the week before the wedding. Aunt Sherry’s great. She asked the same kinds of questions that I imagine tattoo artists ask drunk people who stumble into their shops (Are you sure you’ll be happy with a koi fish on your elbow? Is a chin-length cut really what you want on your wedding day?).  Mercifully, she chopped it for me.

haircut

Super excited to be rocking the short wedding haircut. And you know, to marry Zach.

After rocking the short hair at my own wedding, i kind of wanted to grow it out a bit. Mostly, I’m too lazy to go get it cut. So, it grew.

And then, I really wanted to cut it. But, I had a slew of weddings coming up, and I didn’t want brides to be limited by what I could do with my hair. Logically–they weren’t the type to care at all. But it still felt like I *should* grow it out.

And, then it got long.

And, then it got long.

A couple (?) weddings later, I was with a close friend and a few of her attendants at a salon, waiting for her to have her hair and makeup trial done. In the salon, I realized that I just missed having my hair cut. Watching a woman walk out the door, smiling and cupping her newly-shorn tresses, sealed the deal. I wanted that happy, and it could only come from a pair of scissors.

A year and a half after my last cut, I bravely stepped into Great Clips. Then, I stepped out. People apparently are willing to invest some time in waiting for a $7 haircut. I am not.

Fifteen minutes later, I bravely stepped into the JC Penny salon. I checked to make sure the cut was under $40 (we all have standards), and I signed up to see Paula.

I showed her the inspiration pic I had snapped with my tiny phone camera earlier that morning, and told her I didn’t really care, I just wanted it shorter, and I wanted some pieces to frame my face. Done.

Not the best picture, but roll with it, mmkay?

Not the best picture, but roll with it, mmkay?

I love my new cut, it’s awesome. But ever since then (and since I dyed it), I’ve been wanting to do more. Maybe I’ll color it purple and get it chopped to chin length? Or get an asymmetrical bob with pink streaks? I could be a redhead again! Or I could do spiky hair! I have a gap between weddings, so I can’t promise that I won’t sport some sort of crazy color post-May and pre-October. I’m looking forward to it!

I read an article about how to cut your own hair, and it’s not helping. I’ve been reminding myself daily (hourly, let’s be real), that I have a finite amount of hair to mess with, so I should probably leave it alone. In the meantime, I’ll be hiding the scissors around my house.

Things I Fangirl Over: Dollar store edition

Guys, seriously. Every time I go to the dollar store, I imagine writing blog posts about it.

  • “How I learned to stop paying more than $1 for dish soap”
  • “I’m never paying more than $1 for this shit again”
  • “Unicorn poop and glitter! $1!”
  • “I laugh in your general direction for paying $3 for cleaning supplies”

See? The possibilities are endless! Much like the dollar store’s awesomeness! Let’s talk about everything you can buy,  for just $1.

*Wine glasses. Perfect for those who didn’t put wine glasses on their registry. They’re also great for decorating for bachelorette parties and anything else you choose to do with glass paint and near-disposable wine glasses!

*Crackers. Yeah, I know, it’s weird. But seriously, have you ever had expensive crackers? They taste like crap. Go simple, go cheap. You won’t regret it! Plus, they come in these cute containers with swivel tops.

*Carpet deodorizer. Okay, so it’s basically scented baking soda, but it’s scented baking soda for ONE DOLLAR. Epic.

*All cleaning supplies. You think that chemical filled shit expires? Nope. No reason not to pick it up for the lovely dollar store price!

*Grooming products like hairbrushes, bobby pins and hair ties. If you have difficult hair, this might not be the best solution for you. The bobby pins aren’t quite as durable as their $3 counterparts. However, if your hair just needs to be held back (and doesn’t fight with you), they’re great!

Alas, some of us must buy our self-esteem $1 at a time.

Alas, some of us must buy our self-esteem $1 at a time.

*Salt. Fun fact: the dollar store has sea salt and regular salt in the same sized containers as your local grocery. Sometimes, it even goes on sale as a 2-for-1. The awesomeness…is overwhelming.

*Seasonal décor. I’ve come to terms with the fact that in my apartment, sometimes it’s easier to get disposable things than keep them. My inner tree-hugger cries a little, but my fear of becoming a hoarder rejoices. Whether it’s decorations or disposable seasonal plates, the dollar store has your jam.

*And speaking of jam…condiments! I only buy Simply Heinz, so not ketchup, but backup condiments like mustard, barbecue sauce, syrup, hot sauce, syrup, you name it, are all at the dollar store. Some are generic brands, others aren’t. I like to get a good mix (meaning I grab whatever they have).

*Canned foods. Seriously, it’s got to be the same as the stuff in the regular grocery store. Good enough for me!

What’s your greatest dollar store find? Have you gone recently? Do dollar store burritos make you feel icky inside?