Greatest Hits

Right after I had the little human, I took to watching a WHOLE lot of the series “LOST.” There is an episode late in Season Three of this twisted series entitled “Greatest Making a list, checking it twice ... via Chud.comHits” and no, this blog post is not a review of this particular episode (which, if you’re wondering, yes, is a good one.) Not that you should care, but in this episode a character dies and he knows beforehand when and how he’s going to die. In preparation for this, he reflects on his life and proceeds to jot down his life’s greatest hits – i.e. best or most memorable moments – on a piece of paper so that this little scrap can later be given to his lady love upon his death.

The idea has motivated me to think back on my greatest hits thus far. Leaving aside the morbid reasons behind the tv character’s motivation, I find it interesting to sit back and reflect on moments when I’ve felt particularly happy or fulfilled. Peaks that irrevocably warrant bookmarks between my chapters of life. In doing so, it helps me to step back and take a look from afar at the type of life I’ve lived so far. Has it been a life jam-packed with friends? With travel? With partying? With family? With walks-of-shame I’d rather forget? (Thankfully, no on that last one.)

Greatest hits imply the best of the best, but by no means am I implying that the moments in my life that are anointed as “great” are far and away the most mind blowing experiences out there. They don’t include daredevil feats like skydiving or once-in-a-lifetime moments like, say, chanting with the Dalai Lama (does he chant?). In fact, you might not think they’re all that impressive but that’s not the point of this. We all have greatest hits in our lives – moments we recall such nostalgia and even happiness, that you just happily place a mental bookmark so as to make your way back to that memory whenever the going gets tough. I can’t tell you where my greatest hits start and I certainly can’t tell you where they end … they vary in time and space but have the common denominator of being emblematic of a moment in time that I wouldn’t mind landing in via the DeLorean from “Back to the Future.”

Even as it was happening, I knew buying our bed was an important step. I took this picture during the actual purchase!

For instance, for some reason one of the best moments in my life that stands out time and time again is, ridiculously enough, when I first moved in with G and we ventured out to buy our bed. When you think about it, it’s got to be one of the most basic of things – shopping for a necessity such as a mattress. Who cares, right? Except it was so symbolic in my life. I had never before lived with a guy, let alone gone through the process of furnishing our home together. I had just arrived in Chile and was sublimely happy to be reunited with my fiancee after months and months of trying to hold together a relationship long distance. And there we were, giddy, in love, and starting our life together from scratch.

Then I take a moment and think back to grade school … Catholic school, to be exact … and for some reason sitting in church singing “Immaculate Mary” always registers in my mind as a happy moment in time. As an adult I wonder why, but if I remember what it was like as a kid, all I can remember is … FUN. I know, it makes no sense, but for me, school was a good time and singing in church meant we weren’t in class and back then, any time we weren’t in class was fun. Things were just that simple back then.

Girls gone road trippin’!

Road trips with friends obviously make it onto my greatest hits – there were many in my young adulthood: road trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe … even Lake Havasu in Arizona (THAT was long ass car ride, let me tell you). The road in front of you, the wind in your hair (or face), some groovy tunes and some good conversation sprinkled with cackles of laughter, typical of girls when they get together. What did we talk about anyway? What did we listen to? How did we find enough topics of conversation or enough music to cover 6-10 whole hours of riding in a car with three other people? Maybe we were bitching out Kate Winslet’s character, Rose, in Titanic, for not hauling her huge butt over so as to create enough room on the floating door for Jack (in all seriousness, he could have survived if she’d only moved over!) However it was that we passed our time riding along in our automobile, my memories of road trips morph into one memory for me and it reminds me of a time when I literally left “all cares behind.”

Other greats…:

The exact, precise moment when G proposed – on a catamaran, in the middle of the ocean between Cancun and Isla Mujeres…sun, ceviche, a bottle of wine and some bling.

Said balcony before we moved in.

I also remember our first apartment ever when I first moved to Chile and I recall the balcony with great nostalgia. (Hear me out.) The view was great but moreover, the countless times we bbq’d some chicken and shared a bottle of wine on that balcony, during the hot summer nights. Those moments were by far even greater. Our apartment now is  bigger but I’d argue that it’s hardly better. Something about that small balcony, with eternal sunlight that just always takes me back to moments when G and I just took a breather in the presence of the view.

The first time I ever held Obi. Even then I knew that this dog, for better or for worse, would be like my first-born child. And even after actually having a child (a human one, that is) I still feel that Obi is my eldest – my baby boy and little tub of love.  The day I ever have to look at our little family without him in it, will be the day a small piece of me dies. He’s almost three years old and weighs close to 52 pounds, but the first time I held him, I knew this little bundle of fur was going to teach me a thing or two about patience and unconditional love for a beloved pet.

Licensing Show 2008. You know how I feel about my past life in licensing. I adore my

Actual pic from “after hours” during LS 2008. My future husband was dating another woman back then.

current job and company but if ever I was given a chance to return to licensing, a quick “hell yeah” would resonate loud and resonate proud. Licensing Show was where I was first exposed to international business – sales and negotiations across geographic boundaries. By the time my very last Licensing Show rolled around (2008), I had the game down pat. I knew the who, what and where and I finally felt as though I was actually GOOD at something… was I good at negotiating? Sure, though certainly not the strongest. Was I good at schmoozing? Maybe. But certainly not the most charming. I have fond memories of each Licensing Show I was fortunate enough to work, but why is LS 2008 marked as “the best” in my book? Two reasons: 1) it was the last time it was held in NYC and there are few places better than NYC and 2) it was where I ran into the man who would be my future husband.

I’d also go back in time in a heartbeat to my best friend Jen’s apartment, circa 2004-5 and relive the moments in her living room where we’d pretend to be Las Vegas sleazy lounge singers, doing our best rendition of John Elton’s “Daniel” for our audience of one.

I now know that one of my all-time most empowering moments in life occurred when I was in preschool. I stepped in dog poop and my ever-so-gracious preschool teacher told me I had to take care of the situation myself (I was 4 and it was the 80s. No way would that fly nowadays). I realize now that even then I had amazing powers of persuasion because SOMEHOW I was able to convince a little friend I had been playing with when this dastardly thing occurred to take responsibility for my dog pooped shoe and actually clean it out for me! I convinced her that I’d do the same for her – only her shoe was poop-free – and the little dumb ass BOUGHT IT.  To this day I fondly recall the image of that poor little girl washing my shoe in the sink while I happily picked at her spotless shoe. I know it’s mean, but as an adult, I look back at my young self and proudly conclude that I was a born smooth-talker. I’ve had far more empowering moments, but this one, this one was my first and every time I think of it, I smile (ok, I smirk, but still).

Mini me and me, just this week.

And finally … I know that one of my greatest hits moments in life is right now. Right now that my little human is six-months old and I work part time so that I’m home with her every afternoon by 2:30 pm. Right now that she recognizes me, smiles when I walk into the room, cackles when I kiss her tummy and talks back to me in her own little language. Right now that I feel happy, having passed the PPD – the darkest moment lived  (thus far) – and am working out, feel stronger, and look better than I have since giving birth (according to me, myself and I). In short, I feel good and I’m enjoying the little bundle of belly fat that I call little human. The dark times have passed and I’ve moved on to this: looking at her and mumbling “thank you, thank you, thank God for you” a-la the Bette Midler movie “Beaches.” I’ve reached gargantuan level cheesy-mom proportions. And hey – that’s ok! (If you tell anyone, I’ll be on you like white on rice.)

So there you have it, my good people. A smorgasbord of greatest hits in the life of me. Oh, but there is so much more! The time I worked out overlooking Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The time my friend Jen and I ventured out in NYC, looking for its “seedy underbelly.” The time I was snowed in in NYC after Toy Fair (at the time it felt detrimental but at the end of the day there’s no such thing as too much time spent in the Big Apple.) Exploring the Louvre alone … Taking the train into San Francisco for work everyday … happy hours at wine bars with friends after work … Giants games, whether they won or lost … bouncing in the water like a buoy in Surin Beach, Phuket … the time I visited Chile in the summer of 2001 and spent two fabulous weeks in Totoralillo with my cousins … singing in the church choir when I was in fifth grade … the end of the day, in bed, next to hubby, watching “That 70s Show,” “Arrested Development,” or  “Sex in the City” before drifting into delicious sleep.

At any moment in time these memories, and countless others, serve as reminders that, thank God, I’ve had a good life thus far. Greatest hits I’m happy to play over and over again.

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Time warp

Ever since I moved to Chile in July 2009, I’ve entered a time warp. I kind of feel a little like Han Solo when he was frozen in carbon. Or for the younger generation of readers, like Austin Powers when he was cryogenically frozen for 30 years.

Our dearest Han, hung on a wall after being frozen. Via Star Wars Wiki

The point being that once I left San Francisco, it seems I just placed a bookmark where I left off so as to return at some point in the future and catch up on what’s been going on since I left. For instance, since I left the U.S., several things have occurred that I simply have no idea about, almost as if they came out of nowhere. Examples:

– Nicki Minaj – who is this and what does she do? Why do we care? Can someone give me a 90s or early 2000s equivalent, please? Also, please shed some light on why she looks that way.

– Tim Tebow – Ok, I get that he’s a football player and that this concept of “tebowing” was apparently brought to light because of him but…. no, wait, I beg to differ. Haven’t football players been getting down on one knee to thank God for that touchdown for like, EVER?? Again, what the hell? Why is he a big deal?

– Wikileaks – is it just me or is it eerily similar to Deep Throat and those involved in ultimately bringing down the Nixon administration? Whistle blowers or am I wrong?

– Leslie Nielsen DIED??!!!!!! Surely you can’t be serious. I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.

– Glee – what is it and why was it so popular? Is it still popular? Is it like High School Musical, which is like Kids Incorporated which is like FAME?


And don’t even get me started on social media!! Facebook Timeline, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest – seriously I feel like my mom. All she wants in life is for someone to bring back her classic Motorola flip phone. What’s even more bothersome is that via osmosis I used to at least get some of the things that now completely blow my mind. How did this happen?? Did I spend too much time trying to figure out what’s going on in Chile that I lost sight of other details? Or is it that I simply stopped being around and associating with people who used to shed some light on all these mysterious things?

You know how we sit back and wonder at times when our dear old grandparents just stopped getting it? Well, apparently it happens at 35-ish!!!!

This brings me to the main topic at hand – this handy little site I stumbled upon just recently called Timehop. Now perhaps this is something all of you knew about since June of 2010 or something, but given all I’ve just laid out for you, it’s a big deal that I even know about this site AND FURTHER, found out about it on my own, so cut me some slack!

For the 2-odd people out there who may not know what it is, let me explain (bursting with pride and smugness, mind you, at the fact that I am explaining to YOU something I knew first! A-ha!!) – Timehop is a service that you subscribe to which taps into any social media account you may have and goes back one year in time to see what your status updates were on that particular site. Depending on how many social media outlets you register, Timehop taps them, compiles the info and sends you a daily email with the information. Hence, your own personal time capsule. I’m thinking it’s something that Facebook is trying to do with said Timeline but via Timehop, the info just appears in your inbox so you don’t have to do ANY searching or investigating. Viola! A time capsule for the lazy and unmotivated.

Let’s take a looksie, shall we?

The first Timehop email I got after subscribing was on April 11th of this year, which means that the email contained tweets and FB status updates from April 11, 2011. I didn’t recall at the time, but apparently a year ago I was flying out to NYC for work. Below, some snippets:

Via my Gmail Inbox

Apparently on April 11th I was catching the flight out to NYC and was, not to mention, a little bitter about the fact that I wasn’t traveling in Business.

The following day, April 12th, I received my info from a year earlier:

Via my Gmail Inbox

Obvi that a year ago on April 12th I was sublimely happy because 1) I was in NYC in 2) my fave – rainy weather, about to 3) hang out with good friends, in the meantime 4) going to the best place on Earth – TARGET then 5) eating and drinking to my little heart’s content, finally followed by sweet dreams in a 6) posh NYC hotel . I mean, if I didn’t just describe YOUR perfect day too then something’s wrong with you.

Of course, not all emails bring me back to a clear and precise moment in time. For example, the email from this morning with information from exactly a year ago:

Via my Gmail Inbox

Someone had their panties in a bunch…

Anyway, since coming across this site I should really get on updating my Twitter and Facebook feeds more often. Being that I’m DAYS from giving birth, you’d think I’d want to chronicle this experience a bit more (aside from SOME blog posts you may have taken a gander at, I’ve done NO chronicling.) My point being is that I really, really like this little site I stumbled across earlier this month. Like, a lot. On the one hand I’m patting myself on the back for finding SOMETHING on my own that seems cool (even if this has come and gone and I’m way behind the trend. So be it!) On the other hand, I find it very cool that there is now a service that will facilitate reminders of a moment in time from my past. And the best thing of all is that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t ALREADY do (i.e. update Twitter and FB whenever I deem necessary).

And for those of you out there that are tech wizards, ahead-of-the-curve hipsters, trend-setters and just basically IN THE KNOW, please consider providing a public service (to me) and filling me in on things that will steer me more towards “cool mom” as opposed to antiquated grandma (which is the direction I’m apparently heading towards at the age of 35! Ack!) After all, think about how sad it is that I just discovered Adele in November of 2011 … not only that, specifically “Rolling in the Deep.”

I mean… c’mon!!! Toss me a frickin’ bone here. I’m at the mercy of your wealth of knowledge and only this will differentiate me from lifelong “cool mom” or lifelong “lame mom.” What’s it gonna be?

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Hello world!

“Hello world” is the automatic heading WordPress gives you as an example title of your first post. I’ve decided to keep it, knowing, of course, that we can’t call this my first blog post.

Self-imposed description of the blog I once offered.

In some ways we can and in some ways we can’t. As some of you know, I once had a blog devoted mostly to 1) leaving my life in California,  2) adapting to my new life in Chile and 3) living with my then-fiance (now husband). I liked that blog and it was a necessary part of my life as I learned to navigate this bad ass world called Chile. It also helped me meet many a new people, namely bloggers and online social folk like me. Then I had an existential crisis and decided there was NO WAY I could continue to have that blog when all of a sudden, a million months had gone by and I was no longer a newbie here.

So … I decided to start a new blog which, in my head, allowed me to write about ANYTHING. One that would allow me to deviate from writing about life in Chile, culture in Chile, people in Chile, food in Chile, XYZ and 1,2,3 in Chile. I didn’t WANT to write about Chile and everything “wrong” with this country. I was over writing a blog JUST about that. As a result of this crisis, I started a new blog. I wanted it to give me the freedom to be as “sassy” or as bland as I wanted to be. I switched over to another blog host, decked out a blog page and got to writing about whatever the hell I wanted.

And I did do that for a bit … really, a b.i.t.

Then all of a sudden I felt pressured to write something CLEVE

R each and every time. I went from pressure to write about new experiences and observations pertaining to Chile, to pressure about writing  mind-blowing, life altering anecdoes and any knock-down, drag out experiences that only I could serve. Um yeah, except my life is not that exciting. My top-3 things to write about continued to focus on hating Chile, hating my neighbors or loving my dog and his smooshy face.

I need an hour or so with this one.

Hardly sassy and hardly enough material to carry on an entire blog.

The fact of the matter remained, however, that not a day went by that I didn’t want to write. Just sit and write. I used to have diaries and those are fine and dandy, of course, but in this technology obsessed world I live in, typing takes less out of me than the whole pen-to-paper bit. I’m here again because that overwhelming desire to write, even if for myself, won.

A below-the-radar blog that suits me just fine. Kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears. Whereas I’m G-funk-meister herself and the blogs are the bears. This one is juuuuust right.

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25 Random Things

In March 2009, I was tagged in one of those Facebook Notes entitled “25 Random Things.” I thought it was pretty cool and so I did one myself and tagged 25 friends with whom I wanted to share my own version of the list. Over a year later (tonight), since I happen to be the biggest of winners (take a gander at my previous blog entry to understand my history of uncool), I decided to clean up my Facebook page a little and once again came across my list. I’m both pleased and surprised at how true all points continue to ring, despite the time, distance and life that has marched on in the past 17 months since I first wrote them.

And so I thought I’d put them on my blog, share them with you and personally marinate in 25 random thoughts that continue to describe me and/or how I see the world around me. [Note that in this blog version, I did add a few clarifications below as noted in brackets … ]

25 random things by Andrea Gonzalez on Friday, March 13, 2009 at 1:55am

1. 95% of people either bore me to tears or annoy me. If you’re tagged, you fall within the 5% that I actually dig and feel bring some measure to this world. Nicely done.

2. I have an obsession with purses.

3. Of all my travels, by far the best food I’ve ever eaten has been in Tokyo.

4. I loathe the Dirty 30…my SF peeps, you KNOW WHAT I MEAN. [Bus line that runs through Downtown and Chinatown in San Francisco.]

5. I really enjoy making cupcakes. I even have a secret method. Truly, they are amazing. I might open a shop called Dre’s Cupcakes (per Lauren’s suggestion).

6. I hate The Gap. I kind of want to throw eggs at it. It baffles me when foreigners obsess over that dumb ass store.

7. I like 80s glam rock bands… Poison, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi…you get the picture. I’m pretty sure these bands make up half my iTunes playlist.

8. US Weekly is THE BEST MAGAZINE EVER. And Time. I like that one too.

9. I never leave the house without makeup. That’s just all kinds of not ok.

10. I believe my boyfriend has the best facial profile ever. If you see him, ask him to turn his head – you’ll totally agree me. [Still 100% true except that this said boyfriend is now my husband.]

11. I find that watching Back to the Future over and over again is quite therapeutic.

12. I think porn is really funny.

13. In college I was known as the “grandma” among my friends. Actually this might still be the case, I’m not sure. They’ve gotten a lot nicer about pointing out my “Golden Girls” ways…

14. I sleep with socks on every night (per point #13)

15. I’m obsessed with Shiloh Jolie Pitt.

16. Anything romantic makes me want to laugh out loud…like setting the mood with rose petals and David Gray. Nothing is funnier than people trying too hard.

17. When I’m ready to retire, instead of knitting or playing with grandkids, I want a Harley so I can go ride with my husband. Seriously.

18. I’m getting married in a short wedding dress and red heels. [I didn’t end up doing this but looking back, I should have totally stuck to this idea.]

19. I hate mainstream anything. If everyone is doing it, I want nothing to do with it. Peace out. [This holds true EXCEPT when we’re talking social media.]

20. I’m obsessed with Mexican food, drinks, people… and beaches. Mexico might be close to the most perfect place on Earth.

21. I’ve kept a diary since I was 7 years old. I had some MAJOR problems back then. Grade school is a dog-eat-dog world…especially that one time my best friend stole my Hello Kitty pencil case. Biiiiitch.

22. I’m supposed to wear glasses everyday but I never do (have you seen me with them on? No. I rest my case.)

23. I can watch movies over and over again and never get bored. When I watch Back to the Future, I’m always stressed out that Marty won’t make it back in time!! [Continues to get me every time.]

24. A glass of white wine with my boyfriend is my ideal way to end a day. [Again, my then-boyfriend is now my husband.]

25. My youngest nephew’s name is Guillermo (we call him Memo sometimes) but I decided it would be funny to just call him Juanito. And will you believe that the six year old actually calls me Juanita back?? We’re totally related.

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The Brady Bunch only exists without exes

I don’t consider myself to be a stepmom in any sort of way, even though I guess that yeah, the fact of the matter IS that I’m technically a stepmom, given that my husband has children from his previous marriage. But the whole idea behind the term “stepmom” is so cliché, I get nauseous at the mere thought of it. Just thinking of the typical image of the woman who has no children of her own, all of a sudden trying to be a mom, just makes me think of Baroness Schraeder playing ball with the Von Trapp kids (yes, one more of the million references to the movie “The Sound of Music” – so sue me.)

I won’t get into detailed specifics of the dynamics between my husband and his ex, nor will I get into exact specifics of my role either. Suffice it to say that the mother of my husband’s kids (also known as “b*tch face” in my small circle of me, myself and I) is equatable to a fascist dictator (according to me) and even if she isn’t physically with us on the weekends the kids do spend time in our home, trust me, she’s nevertheless omnipresent.

In the beginning of this journey, I was rather accepting of the separation and distinction made between their mom, their dad, them and me. G lived a separate life, according to me back then, when they were around. While he made plans with them with hope of including me, I always politely declined, hiding behind the excuse “no, no, this is YOUR time with them.” Literally there would be weekends when we’d barely see each other and barely had conversations. A combination of demanding kids and impatient Wife #2 didn’t make for easily accessible family time for G. Back then, the ex was more of a b*tch face than I can honesty say she is now – mostly due to the fact that she apparently has a significant other to now love/torture and has withdrawn from loving/torturing my husband – so it was much easier to draw a clear line between “that’s you guys” and this is me. In correlated events, as the fascist mother of the kids has (presumably) been diverted by the sweet smell of love with someone else, she’s become less of a presence in our home with the kids here and less of a bother and anchor around the neck when the kids aren’t here.

As time marched on, as love blossomed for b.f., and as I spent more time with the kids, I got past seeing them as the “offspring” of a “mad love affair” between my husband and his ex. (The reality is that the term “mad” applies but not “love” nor does “affair”) and began seeing them as just them. Two kids with their own personalities. I remove the thought of their mom from our time spent together because it angers me to see how she holds the noose above their heads and how she must be so invasive, that the kids think twice about any move they make with me. It’s a little more seamless now but nonetheless apparent and it’s just sickening to think that a mother is that controlling. And to circle back to my first thought, this is the main reason I don’t feel like I’m a stepmom. The iron hand of the law has far reaches into the minds of its subjects and as such, there is no room for a third party to: 1) educate or offer insight 2) offer alternate thinking 3) lead by example. There is only room for a third party to offer fun. When I choose and when circumstances allow for it, that’s all I’m really, truly a part of – something fun (whether that be introducing them to Beyonce and Black Eyed Peas, introducing them to Monopoly, playing Wii or watching – you guessed it – “The Sound of Music.”)

Unfortunately there are times, like today, when I’m reminded how in reality, there IS a clear line dividing us. Sadly, when that division is apparent, I’m the cheese that stands alone. For some reason or another, the kids’ school doesn’t do their dieciocho celebrations in September when all the other schools do them. They do them in October. Specifically today. In traditional fashion, by class, kids dance typical Chilean dances in full costume for the parents of the entire student body. G, accompanied by his mother, took his kids and I’m of course, left behind. It’s an unspoken rule that shouts from the top of the Andes Mountains: I’m not to be involved or included in these types of things. It doesn’t help that the kids’ mom is actually a teacher at the school they attend but I’m pretty sure that even if she didn’t work there, I’d still have to stay behind the invisible line that divides “his family” from “our family.” I don’t think it will ever change. In fact, a close friend of mine who married into a similar situation finally stood her ground when the youngest of her husband’s sons graduated HIGH SCHOOL! From the time she met his son at the age of 6, she’d missed every single school event, every single performance, every important soccer game. Clearly forced to watch from behind the line. I give her props for standing her ground on his high school graduation. As she clearly stated “Si no le gusta que este, mala suerte.” (If she doesn’t like that I’m here, too bad.)

At what point does it really, truly become a blended family, I wonder? It’s obviously not when the stepmom decides and it could very well be difficult for the kids in between to decide. Does that only leave the option for the first marriage to decide? Can we discuss how unfair that sounds for the now-wife? Then I wonder if it’s about the ex-wife deciding because she happens to hold the reins. Or does the husband decide that it’s ok to include his wife, opting to literally show the ex that she can go straight to hell if she disagrees? I’m at a loss.

G argues that I wouldn’t want to go to their show anyway. True, I’d find it boring as most kid shows are to me. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be cute or, at the very least, entertaining to see their pint-sized selves dance typical Chilean dances. However it’s not an option for me either way. Which is the reason I’m sitting on this side of the dividing line, writing a blog, waiting for my dog’s trainer to arrive.

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When one movie sparked an existential crisis

Have any of you seen the movie “She’s Having a Baby?” It’s a random John Hughes movie that in typical JH style, speaks eloquent words of wisdom on coming of age. Except this coming of age movie is more about the coming of age into full-fledged, real adulthood, with marriage, mortgages, careers and babies, as opposed to his typical teenage passage à l’âge adulte films like “Sixteen Candles” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The reviews I took a gander at speak of this film as being an “essay” by John Hughes and his most “serious” film ever.”

Yeah it’s serious but very typical John Hughes and as usual, there were certain parts of the movie that again spoke to me and reminded me just how relatable the main character’s sentiments are to my own. It’s a crossfire between emotion and finding (or maintaining) your true self. Last night as I was watching it, G sleeping next to me, two particular ideas from the following quote resonated with me:

“Why couldn’t I accept who I was, what I was and where I was? Why couldn’t I be like everyone else who rode the train? Were they mindless, anonymous drones, following the scent of money to a senseless, forgotten end or were they the bearers of some great secret that allowed them to rejoice in this life that I was so unwilling to embrace?”

It’s been quite difficult for me to adjust to living here in Chile and accept what my life now looks like compared to what it looked like when I was back home. What’s been most difficult has been the uncertainty about my future, especially my career. I have this familiar paranoia that continues to walk around with me in that I can’t decide if my inability to adjust is something about ME or if the circumstances I willingly chose to be a part of are making it difficult to progress.

Only two ideas from the lines above are ones that make me think:

1) are the women I know who have also made the leap to this strange land actually bearers of some kind of wisdom and secret that makes life here better and positive, a revelation I’ve yet to stumble across?

2) why am I so unwilling to embrace this life, what it looks like now and who I am as I live it?

What is it that I see in other women here that makes me think my reality is so grossly different from theirs? In fact, I’ve spoken to many of them who have told me that they too had a difficult time adjusting to living in Chile at first, and when they hear me complain or see me wanting to bang my head against the wall over the idiosyncrasy of the Chilean culture, I know I’m generally preaching to the choir. There’s nothing I’m currently going through, or have gone through in the last 14 months, that they have not also experienced and ultimately accepted or overcome. In fact, even this past Friday as we were all out celebrating a Gringa friend’s birthday, I was sitting there talking to the birthday girl and she said to me, “Do you ever look around and think ‘wait, what am I doing here? How and when did I end up living in Chile?'” Um, yes, that notions sounds vaguely familiar to me. But it got me thinking: she, like other gringa friends, have been here much longer than I have, yet for the most part, if not completely, they live happy lives here. But even so, just as my friend made me realize with her rhetorical question, they too must stop every once and a while and think, “how did I get here?”

The devil’s advocate in me (or the pessimistic, masochistic side of me – your choice) then remembers that most of the women I’m friends with here aren’t really, truly here for the long-term. Eventually, as their plans unfold, they’ll make their way back home, husbands in tow. They’ll carry with them the adventure they had of living in another country, surviving and excelling in said country (in this case, Chile of course) and all the bad memories and experiences of adapting will become examples, anecdotes or memories of how living abroad shaped their current and/or future plans and selves. I compare that to my reality and realize, I don’t have that luxury. I made the decision to leave everything I’ve ever known, everything that ever meant anything to me, every last memory and experience I was ever a part of, and start my life literally ALL OVER AGAIN, in a foreign country. And the thing is, there is no going back. At least, not in a way that I would willingly choose.

And in my head I wonder, over and over again, would Chile seem so difficult if I knew that at some point down the line, I’d be back home again, better than ever because I’d be with my husband, the person I adore most in this world? I don’t have the answer, nor can I pretend to know what it’s like for others…but from this perspective I think that would be an important secret to embracing life in a different country. I don’t know what it’s like for my friends here, what it’s been like or what other people experience here and I’m not saying that what I write here is the truth. Really, it’s just a thought.

As for point #2 above, I began to really, truly analyze: what makes my life so uncomfortable here that I am so far removed from accepting who I am and where I am now that I live here? I still can’t put a name on it but I can describe it as this: I feel like I’m redoing the period of my life post-college graduation, when I had no idea where I was going, what would become of me or why it seemed that my peers had their sh*t together and I didn’t. In short, I feel like I’m experiencing my quarter-life crisis all over again, meanwhile I’m actually heading into my mid-30s! Wikipedia lists a variety of characteristics of this social and cultural phenomenon we know as the quarter-life crisis and you can see them all here. However in my case, I can call out the following as relevant:

* confronting their own mortality [i.e. realizing that I’m not getting any younger and I have a list of accomplishments that seem to just be sitting there, not transforming themselves into reality.]
* insecurity regarding the fact that their actions are meaningless [This might have more to do with a certain quest I’m on that so far, has proved fruitless. Also, school.]
* insecurity regarding present accomplishments
* disappointment with one’s job
* nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life [except in my case it’s the life I left back in California]
* tendency to hold stronger opinions [fighting the power here really makes me quite obnoxious. And it’s not like I’m happy with being that way.]
* loss of closeness to high school and college friends [missing one of my good friend’s wedding this past weekend and not even KNOWING my best friend’s boyfriend = sucks.]
* financially-rooted stress [as I’ve gotten older, I have more financial responsibilities and I’m still not at the point of being able to save for, say, a home? Plus school and the final wedding payments have killed me in the last few months.]
* desire to have children [or the simple to desire to be at a place in my life where it’s a viable and intelligent option to start a family. Guess who’s not getting any younger?]
* a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than oneself
* frustration with social skills [it’s not that I’m awkward – I don’t think – but I do tend to have my weirdo moments in everyday Chilean encounters.]

I remember feeling many of these things and more, immediately after college. Then my career and life began to take shape and one by one, these sentiments became irrelevant. Of course, 10 points were replaced by ONE HUGE point, that being: “Waaaaaaaaaa! I want someone to love!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I’ll never find THE ONE!” And the like. Now I have the latter fantastically filled but upon moving to Chile, all of the points above made their way back into my life (como Pedro por su casa) at a time when I had completely forgotten ever feeling that way at all! Of course I wouldn’t trade what I have in my personal life right now – the fulfillment I have with the person I’ve chosen to live my life with and the relationship we have together – for more time in California, not in a million years. I accept Round 2 of the quarter-life crisis because I figure, I survived it once before (and alone at that). After all, now, I should be better equipped to give all the points above a good kick in the b*lls anyway. At some point soon, I’ll have hurdled it all and I’ll look back, wave goodbye and say “thanks for playing.”

…Geez. Had I known that my seemingly innocent choice over which DVD to watch prior to falling asleep last night would spark such an existential crisis (and consequently, a ridiculously long blog post) I would have opted for “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” instead …

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Chile, 100 years ago

I love the magazine inserts that come in the weekend editions of “El Mercurio” (Chile’s primary newspaper). I rather enjoy reading them and finding out about all things related to the Chilean culture and the happenings in Santiago itself.

This past Saturday’s edition of “Sabado” Magazine. A Bicentennial special.

I grew up learning the in’s and out’s of American History: the wars we fought in, the important figures that helped shape our country, the geography, the movements and the changes we encountered and the obstacles we overcame to arrive where we are today, whether good or bad. So when I moved to Chile last year, I realized that I arrived with very limited knowledge of why Chile is the Chile it is today, who was involved, which historical dates were the most important and who played a role in shaping society. Of course I know who Pinochet was, who Allende was … but what did Pratt do? Is he the naval hero or is it Bernardo O’Higgins? And mind you, the only reason I even know the names Pratt and O’Higgins is because every city in Chile has streets named after these two so I gather, they must be important, right? There are holidays that randomly come around and G will have the day off from work and I ask “To what do I owe the pleasure?” and the response will be the likes of “El combate naval de Iquique.” (Iquique’s – city in northern Chile – naval combat.) Oh. Right. That.

Apparently baby’s got a lot to learn about her new home.

Which is why I was particularly happy that this past “Sabado” magazine was a special on the Bicentennial and as such, many fun and interesting historical “datos” (or facts / information) were featured. My personal favorite from last weekend’s issue: “Chile Puertas Adentro: Como han cambiado nuestras costumbres.” (Chile behind closed doors: how our customs have changed.) The article gave a very top-line but interesting look at how family life has changed, what tendencies have been left behind and which ones still remain intact in Chilean family life.

The article first begins with stating what we know of Chile today: 60% of families consist of both a mother and a father and 27% of families are single-parent; the woman not only works outside the home but makes up 50% of the Chilean workforce. We read that there are now more divorces than marriages, that Chilean women begin to have children at about age 30 (give or take) and the average woman will not have more than 2 children. Further, it is now a viable option to just have one child.

From here, the article takes us back 100 years to what the family life was like at the turn of the century. The most fundamental difference between families then and families now is that the men and women of the last century did not typically marry for love. Rather, they married to procreate (how romantic.) Couples were introduced and were pressured to marry based on family preferences (either personal or professional) and this led to the majority of husbands turning outside the marriage for sexual satisfaction and even love. As an outsider, I still see a little of this in Chile in that many, many couples I know have been together for 5,6,7 or more years BEFORE ACTUALLY GETTING MARRIED. Then they seem to get married because it’s the logical next step. Yeah, I gather that they must love one another but after 7 years together, at some point there must be way more family and societal pressure to marry than there is heart-wrenching, burning desire to do so. Nowadays I wouldn’t go as far as to say that men opt to cheat since I’ll take the information regarding growing divorce of evidence that greener pastures will be pursued sans infidelity. Plus, in the more elite circles of Chile, I am willing to bet that little has changed with regards to family preferences and who a man or woman chooses to marry. If they come to say it doesn’t ever matter … I call LIAR!

The article then moves on to talk about where the family spent the majority of their time. Since central heating systems are still lacking in Chile, and chimneys weren’t introduced until the 1930s, the majority of Chileans used “braseros” to heat their homes at the turn of the century. I had to look up what a traditional brasero looked like and this is what I found:

Typically coal was burned (indoors) to provide heat. Hi, intoxication!

These were used across all social classes and the primary consequence of this less-than-cozy apparatus is that it forced the family to spend the majority of their time together in one room of the house. The article then states that family members would wear coats to move about other areas of the house … which got me thinking that it doesn’t seem to me that that’s changed much nowadays. I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to see coals warming the homes of the average Chilean but I’m fairly certain that no matter the social class, the lack of heating in Chile forces everyone to walk around the house looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man…

…or Randy from the movie “A Christmas Story” …

What have you.

Santiago, with a population of about 544,000 people back then, was a considerably smaller city than it is now. Hence, people either walked from Point A to Point B or rode around in horse drawn carriages. The men worked, went home for lunch, took a nap and then went out to work again. Mind you, this concept of closing for lunch is still relevant outside Santiago and it’s like you’ve been in the DeLorean and have been shuttled back in time when you encounter a sign that tells you the store will reopen at 3 pm. Happy hour seems to still be around since back in the day the men would go to their “club” after work (whether it be La Union, Club Hipico, a Mason club, firefighters club, etc) and to quote Kate from Titanic, I imagine they were also inclined to “congratulate themselves on being masters of the universe.” Woman had their little get togethers as well and after a long day of duties at home, would invite other women over and partake in a little gin rummy and conversation. It sounds to me like they may have also dipped into their husband’s wine and may have gone crazy showing one another their ankles. Call me crazy.

Other interesting tidbits about the article include:

  • Children did not eat at the same table with their parents until they reached puberty. Since this term wasn’t coined until later, those that had reached it were identified as those who no longer wore “short pants.” I guess young boys wore shorter slacks back then … the article doesn’t mention anything pertaining to females (as I’m sure they didn’t go around wearing long or short pants, ever) but I gather once the girl began menstruating, she too got the privilege to eat with the adults. Though how embarrassing. You arrive at the table and not only does your brother know what’s up with your body but so does your dad! Ewww.
  • The term “mama” actually came about from the elite’s use of wet nurses back in the day (taking from the verb “mamar” which means “to nurse or feed.”) The name and idea of a “nana” is actually as recent as 30 years ago and has gained popularity as the times have changed and more women pursue interests and goals outside their home.
  • Back then 98% of Chileans claimed to be Catholic, with at least 50% of them being practicing Catholics. Now, observing Catholics make up 7% of the population.

The article concludes stating the one thing that hasn’t changed at all in the last 100 hundred years here in Chile: women continue to be the ones responsible for “keeping” the home and that “domestic co-responsibility” is something that continues to be non-existent in the majority of Chilean households. This despite the fact that women now work outside the home and like I said, make up at least 50% of the country’s work force …

Thinking, thinking, thinking ….Hmmm … why does that sound so familiar …?

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Red Asphalt is missing in Chile

When I was 15 and in high school, I was required to take one semester of driver’s education as part of the basic curriculum of all students. This practice is all but gone in many schools across the U.S. but during the 70s and well into the early 90s when I was in high school, the course was alive and well. We all looked forward to this semester our sophomore year because it was the first step we embarked on towards the freedom that a California state Driver’s License offered us.

Part of the excitement of Driver’s Ed was the mystery that surrounded the infamous “Red Asphalt.” Red Asphalt is a series of instructional driver’s education videos produced by the California Highway Patrol. And to put it bluntly, all it did was feature gruesome scenes of bloody accidents, most of which were caused by drunk or speeding drivers (or both). Before Driver’s Ed, we’d only heard about the film, which supposedly featured bodies cut in half, strewn on lawns, cars a wrangled mess of metal with blood splattered on the windshields and seats … and all we had to frame our own reactions of the film, were those reactions of students older than us. Some were overly dramatic and claimed to have had to walk out of class; others were sadistic and took it all in gladly. In either case, it was the talk of the school whenever the sophomore class had seen the film that particular week.

Below is an 8 minute clip of the original Red Asphalt, though I can’t recall if this was the one we saw in 1992/1993. I doubt it, but even if we had a more updated version, what they would have updated would be the statistics… the general idea of the video is nicely conveyed in this short clip, should you wish to take a gander.

So not only did we have a semester’s worth of learning California driving laws, but this was mixed in with curriculum focused on scaring the living sh*t out of us by outlining every possible factor that could result in a deadly accident the minute we stepped foot behind the driver’s wheel. I’m not condoning nor am I criticizing this tactic, I’m simply stating how it was presented to the general student population at our school, and from what I hear, how it was presented in general in the State of California.

Further to this semester of education and scare tactics, our school also hosted “Drunk Driving Awareness Week” once a year. This involved assemblies where we’d hear first hand about how real people were affected one way or another by drunk driving, movies featuring images of drunk driving accidents and also included what was left of a car on our school’s front lawn. This was an actual car that had been involved in an alcohol related collision, mangled doors, shattered windshields, dried blood – the whole nine yards – on our front lawn so that every day for a week, we saw it on our way into the building. I have memory of the cars looking something like this every year:

Perhaps not this exactly, but similar enough that I recall thinking “How did anyone survive that?”

And so, if it isn’t already obvious to you, my conclusion about all this is that, in the early 90s at least, California CLEARLY favored educating teenagers about the rules of the road while at the same time, scaring us into never wanting to step into a car either as a driver or a passenger for the remainder of our lives. And at least with this teenager, fear tactics work their “magic” in such a way, that I’m like one of those dogs who wears those collars that send electrical charges through them whenever they bark.

As we got older, the messages surrounding driving under the influence continued. They evolved into more sophisticated messages of the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” nature and stopped featuring gross, bloody scenes that bordered on resembling bad Hollywood movie types. The bottom line being that in California, we were constantly fed, via the formal education system or the media, messages that it was simply NOT OK to drink and drive. Even if one had done it, that person carried with them the GUILT learned through all of the above, because it’s embedded in our brains that no matter how you slice it, it’s.just.plain. wrong. And trust me, I’ve seen that guilt scare the few people I know who have driven drunk into NEVER doing it again. Those are the happy cabby people (i.e. they take taxis left and right a la Paris Hilton post jail stint).

THEREFORE, dear blog reader, you can simply IMAGINE my disgust at the seemingly culturally accepted tendency in Chile to drive regardless of the number of drinks one has consumed. I’m not talking about evidence on the news (which, believe it or not, shows bloodier scenes than in the U.S.!) but occasions I’ve witnessed FIRST HAND of this acceptance. The “no he’s fine, he hasn’t had a drink in an hour and I just gave him a cup of coffee.” Or “no she’s fine, she lives just about five blocks from here, and I asked her to call us when she gets home.” And I’ve experienced FIRST HAND being in the car with someone DRIVING who has whipped out a can of beer to drink it while driving (that time, I made him stop the car, I got out and told my two cousins who were in the back seat, after refusing to get out with me, peace out. Baby don’t play that game.) The shadiest part about that story is that the guy driving is a DETECTIVE for the Investigations arm of the Law Enforcement here in Chile. Nice, right?

No one wants to be the “mala onda weon” who tells an inebriated – or even buzzed – friend that maybe he shouldn’t be driving. AND no one wants to be the “mala onda galla” who tells her friends she’s only having two drinks because she has to drive home. That would be met with immediate looks resembling “WTF is wrong with you? Did you have a lobotomy, is that it?” If someone WERE to stick to their guns and not drink or continue to drink (and be responsible, at that!) I’m certain the general public would immediately disregard him/her as someone cool and fun. And God forbid promoting the idea of designated drivers here in Chile. Not once in my personal experience have I ever been to any social gathering here where someone merely stated “Nah, I’m good. I’m the DD tonight.” Unless that person was a pregnant or nursing woman, everyone drinks and there is simply no limit.

Anyhoo, what’s the moral of my story today? Nothing really. I can only do so much to change perceptions, which is limited to those directly around me, and even then, I can only influence so much. I’m not condoning scaring teenagers in Chile from getting behind the wheel because as it is, a good lot of them never learn to drive and when they do, it’s later on in life. Nor am I saying that California had it right because God knows I’ve witnessed those same Californians doing some stupid, stupid things related to drinking and driving. I’m not sure that in general, those scare tactics used in my high school even worked. Yeah, they worked on me for the most part but that’s because my mother’s M.O. as I was growing up was the use of scare tactics. Thus it’s the sure way to discipline me. The whole notion of “If you do/don’t do ABC, then XYZ will happen (to you).” Gets me every time!

Plus, can I also attribute all this “awareness” to the fact that California as a state is all about making us aware? Aware of the effects, aware of the surroundings, aware of the aftermath, aware of the consequences. We’re an aware bunch in CA, or at least, our government aims for that. Does that mean Chileans are, in comparison, unaware? No. I think they’re a very aware bunch as well … it’s just that they’re quick to forgive or turn a blind eye to something they are aware is bad.

THIS is the biggest issue I have with the culture right now.

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Some perceptions & women’s roles in Chile

I’m a stranger in a strange land and because of this, I spend a lot of time learning and observing my new home (well, relatively new since pretty soon it will be a year since I arrived in this narrow land.)

Of particular interest to me is the role of women and perceptions of women’s roles here. Heavy, I know but I’m guessing it’s due in part to my own generalizations of women, men and traditions apparent here that can’t be sawed apart, no matter the force applied. Of course I consulted my friend Google and found a very interesting article from ReVista, The Harvard Review of Latin America on the contradictions apparent in women’s lives here in Chile. The very first sentence of this article made me want to pack up my bags and leave the country immediately … it reads:

“Seven out of every ten Chileans (69%) believe that “Having a job is fine, but what most women really want is a house and children,” according to a July 2003 study by the Santiago-based Centro de Estudios Públicos.” In my usual P.I. way, I decided to go straight to the source and actually review this study conducted by the CEP, Centro de Estudios Públicos or in English, Center of Public Studies. The CEP is basically a type of think tank and they perform various kinds of studies on behavior, society and culture in Chile. It has several publications and the one I consulted was Estudios Públicos, (Public Studies) which is a quarterly journal containing essays, studies and commentaries by academics and specialists in various fields of study.

And yes, I found that this study, conducted in December 2002, truly does demonstrate the ideological chasms that exist regarding the subject of women and the workplace, not only between groups of people but within the same person!

The majority 40.7% of those questioned in a survey about Women and the Work Place are relatively CLOSED to the subject of a woman working outside the home and only 12.3% are completely open to the fact. And the thing is, these numbers are pretty evenly divided between men’s opinions and women’s. Interestingly enough, those that are open to the topic of women working outside the home are between the ages of 18-24 BUT what’s MORE interesting is that the second most supportive group are 55 and older! I attribute this to the moms and dads that age who themselves put kids through college and are eager to see them succeed in the workplace.

Here’s the picture on the following question: “Taking into account all the good and the bad, family life is negatively affected when the woman works full time.”

Do you see that big red line? That’s Chile! That’s the majority of people agreeing with this statement! The bottom five, those who agree the least, are the U.S., England, Sweden, (East) Germany and Canada.

Here’s a picture with the opposite lay out …

Except the question associated with the graph above is the following: “A woman who works can establish as much of a solid and profound relationship with her kids as a woman who doesn’t work.” And as you can see, Chile agrees with this statement the least. THE LEAST! Am I in the Twilight Zone, people??!!

Sigh. I might be.

This study goes on for 42 pages and if you’re interested in seeing it in all its gory detail, you can download it here. It’s presented as a Power Point so it’s fabulously easy to read. Not all of it is horrible, but it’s insightful and quite a demonstration on the conflicting views that Chileans have on various topics regarding women and her role in the Chilean society.

Another topic, independent of this study (though I’m sure it’s covered within a study done by the CEP), is that of maternity leave in Chile and how women are perceived as a result of it. President Piñera has created the Women, Work and Maternity Commission which is made up of men and women tasked with providing recommendations on the following: should Chile allow for longer maternity leaves or should Chile allow for all women the right to maternity leave?

The answer, to me, is obvious. All women should have the right to maternity leave, NOT JUST the 50% who have long-term contracts with their employers. As it stands, women who have temporary contracts or who work seasonal jobs, don’t share the same benefits and they can easily be fired once their government backed 18 week maternity leave is up. On the other hand, women who have long-term contracts are protected for ONE YEAR after their maternity leave, in which these women cannot be fired from their on-going, full contract jobs. This discrepancy is ridiculous with obvious favoritism towards those fortunate to have a long-term contract.

Here’s what works against women in Chile: Employers are complaining of the numerous costs associated with hiring women of childbearing age (i.e. me, you, many women I know). Examples of such costs include not being able to fire women during maternity leave (that whole year), the need to hire replacements when women abuse medical leaves to care for ill infants, and the loss of productivity for the one hour daily the women are given to feed their children under two years. Can I just toss that last one in the garbage since I can’t imagine that a company loses all that much in one hour. But those first two are certainly actively putting up walls around any advancement women may have in the workplace. Why would an employer hire a woman when it’s far less risky to hire a man – he’s only allowed 5 days maternity leave and will be back at work in no time. Because the government pays for the woman’s salary during her maternity leave, the option of working from home isn’t really an option. I guess the government wants you suckling your baby or something. Or vice versa. And I’m sorry, I’ve heard firsthand of how women DO abuse the maternity leave bit and literally FLAUNT their immunity in their boss’s faces. Despicable on all fronts but especially for women’s strides in the workplace. I wish such women would just quit their jobs like they truly want to and allow the rest of us to work our way up the corporate ladder.

THERE MUST BE room for women like me to move their way up in Chile and allow for perception of women in leadership roles to shift. In a perfect world, the women who want to be at home, full time with their kids, would have the ability to do so. Because in that perfect world, the roles and corporate positions that those women merely take up for the sake of taking up, would be freed for women who are career oriented and ready to dedicate their time to the company.

And perhaps THEN there wouldn’t be any room for men and women alike to judge women as incapable of excelling in one role or another. We’d be give a break and allowed to excel in whatever we put our efforts in…

Call me crazy.

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"Clueless" and its effect on my communication skills

I’m about to go off on a tangent with this blog entry and whenever I’m inclined to feel bad about not discussing topics pertaining to Chile, I’m quick to forgive myself as I’d like to draw the reader’s attention to the “Welcome” section of my page. I pretty much included a clause that allows me to write about irrelevant topics. Therefore, I feel satisfied in having warned the reader and ready to dive into my tangent. [Will that disclaimer look good on court transcripts?]

Watching the movie “Clueless” really makes me miss a moment in time when my friends and I basically adopted the language of the movie and injected it into our everyday dialogue, whenever we could and with whomever we could. The movie came out in 1995, when my friends and I were either juniors or seniors in high school (I myself was a senior and incidentally, I went to high school with the lead actress in the movie, Alicia Silverstone) but I don’t recall quoting it to a pulp until about 3-5 years after its release. The screenplay was written by Amy Heckerling (of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” fame), a woman who has a pretty outstanding talent for writing about young adults. I say this because, in my opinion, a marker of said talent is when your writing jumps off the screen and into everyday life as was the case with me and my group of friends AND with subsequent women I met in walks of life thereafter.

All right, so what’s my point here? Basically a simple walk down memory lane: recalling certain lines of the movie and when we applied them to our everyday lives. A simple trip that I’ll enjoy taking you, the reader, on with me.

The most obvious one being the use of the word “Whatever.” We all remember Ambular doing her little whatever sign during her debate with Cher (which I’ll get to in a second, by the way.) If not, here’s a looksie for reference:

Maybe “whatever” was something kids said in the 70s and 80s but if that’s the case, I’m willing to argue that the tone of the word was much more “I’m high” rather than “I’m super annoyed with you.” I picked it up in the 90s with the latter pitch and of course, it took us by storm and every other word out of our mouths was “whatever.” Oh, you don’t have nonfat milk? Whatever. You’re charging me for returning the movie I rented five minutes after it was due? Whatever. My car ran out of gas and I am now in a ditch at the side of the road? Whatever. Though now my “Whatever” has since evolved into a tone that sounds more like “I’m bored” or “you bore me” more than it does annoyance as it did in the original debut. Hmmm, incidentally I wonder if this sounds similar to the “I’m high” Whatever from the 70s…

Moving on.

The debate between Amber and Cher during (duh) Debate Class is a really key piece when analyzing the way this movie altered my communication with peers and the world around me. In this scene, the debate is about allowing Haitians to find refuge in the U.S. and what that would mean to America’s resources. When Amber’s character can’t figure out what the hell Cher said in her debate, the following dialogue develops in response to her teacher, Mr. Hall’s, request for a rebuttal.

Mr. Hall: …. Uh, Amber, reply?
Amber: Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party.
Cher: Hellooooo?! It was his fiftieth birthday!
Amber: [while doing “W” hand motion] Whatever!…. If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine.

Working a little out of order, I’d like to share that I use this version of “hello” on a regular, if not daily, basis. It either means “Helllooooo (you’re a total moron)” or it means “Hellooooo (I know you and I love you but you’re having a complete and total brain fart right now and I need to draw your attention to it before this conversation goes any further.)” This movie’s debate scene really does contain some gems (or so we thought when we adopted their language.)
Now, with – Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party – the possibilities are limitless, really. Say someone asks you a question that’s loaded, or asks you a question that has 20 possible answers … this quote totally applies. In fact, I used this just the other day when I was telling a friend of mine that someone had asked me when I thought I’d be ready to have kids. Seriously, Mr. Hall, how CAN I answer that? Who the hell knows?? Is anyone really, truly ready to have kids?
I use – If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine. – when someone doesn’t come through on what was promised. For instance,I was promised that we’d get the mock ups of our wedding THANK YOU cards by last week and I certainly did not get them…therefore I’m delayed in sending them out to our guests and those who got us wedding gifts. Do you see how this accurately applies to such a situation? It can also apply when someone doesn’t verbally give you the correct facts for any given situation, such as driving directions, steps through bureaucracy and so on.

There’s also:

“I have insight, Mr. Hall” – Travis Birkenstock says this in reply to Mr. Hall’s question on “futher insight.” I use it whenever I have a piece of information to share or when someone has asked my opinion on something.

“Suddenly a dark cloud settled over first period …”
– Cher says this when she discovers she got a C in Debate … I say this whenever things have taken a turn for the worse or when something unexpected happens. For instance, putting on a shirt only to later realize that it was dirty from the start! (Always an annoying realization and worthy of stating that a dark cloud has settled over first period.)

“Fluke accident during a routine liposuction” – Cher states this when describing how her mother passed away. I say “fluke accident” whenever I’ve f*cked up in a ridiculous manner.

“I so need lessons from you on being cool…tell me that part about Kenny G again.”
– Cher says this while making fun of her former stepbrother/future boyfriend. I say this whenever someone is trying to be better than me but failing miserably. As is the case with women who have mullet haircuts. I digress.

“Here’s the 4-1-1” – Dionne says this to Cher when giving her the scoop on their teacher, Mr. Hall. 4-1-1 is the three-digit phone number you dial in the U.S. for “Information” on phone numbers, addresses and other details about businesses. One calls “Information” when they want to know the number to the Italian Restaurant in ABC City. Therefore the use of “4-1-1” in daily life is pretty self explanatory.

“He earns minor duckets at a thankless job.” – Dionne says this to Cher about Mr. Hall. Since my friends and I started using these phrases right about when we graduated from college, it was pretty applicable to our own situations at the time, earning minor duckets at thankless jobs.

“I was surfing the crimson wave. I had to haul ass to the ladies’.” – Cher says this to Mr. Hall in defense of an alleged tardy to class. I use “I had to haul ass to the ladies'” generally speaking when I have to get somewhere STAT. Anywhere, mind you. Not just the bathroom. And just to clarify, the crimson wave has NOTHING to do with my use of the quote. Just so that’s clear.

“That doesn’t make any sense. I’d have to get off the freeway, I hate that.” – Elton says this to Cher when arguing about who will take who home after the Val party. I say “I hate that” when … I highly dislike or hate something. True, the three words are generic, but in my mind, TRUST ME, I’m giving mad props (or snaps as we’re talking about Clueless here) to the movie.

“I-a not a Mexican!” – Cher’s housekeeper yells this at her when Cher tells her that she doesn’t speak “Mexican” (as opposed to Spanish.) Since the housekeeper is from El Salvador, obviously she flips out. I just used to say this all the time because several times I was met with blank stares when I told people I was from Chile. It was as if being Latin was equal to being Mexican. In fact, my friends used to say this to me all the time, thinking they were being funny.

“That was way harsh, Tai.”
– Cher says this to her new friend, Tai, when Tai says something really mean to her. It’s applicable in real life in similar situations. Not that it necessarily needs to be used when a PERSON is mean, but in general when any given situation is plain whack. It can be shortened to “way harsh Tai.” A crowd favorite.

It’s crazy to think how certain movies affect individuals. I wonder how many movies have affected entire generations! But I don’t think it’s unheard of. I am willing to bet that everyone has a movie or two that really speaks his/her language. Or whose language they understand so well, said language is adopted. This was the case for me with Clueless… though some phrases I’ve dropped, there are many I continue to use. Further, there were terms in the movie I outright refused to adopt as well! “Betty,” or “I’m outtie (perhaps Audi like the car, who knows!) and “As if,” among others.

Had I studied linguistics as opposed to Communications in college, this would have been a really interesting thesis … but I digress. I have to haul ass to the ladies.

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