Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Despicable Comma: AKA the Regret of the English Major

Once upon a time there was a young college student who indulged herself in all the grand luxuries: 6+ hours of sleep, an extra 15 minutes to shovel food down her mouth, and perhaps, if she was lucky, an hour a month to socialize. It was a grand life. There were no frogs or princes, but the young college student didn't complain; she wasn't much into making out with frogs anyway.

Then. One grey, cold afternoon, the wicked witch of West Campus assigned this young college student the dreaded style sheet. As soon as this wicked witch passed out the assignment sheet, trees shuddered in the background. A part of every English major's soul died that day. In fact, the style sheet was so ferocious, so evil, the young college student froze up and died simply after setting eyes on it.
*                             *                               *                          *                     *                *            *

Okay, so maybe I'm still alive and kicking, but my sanity sure isn't. For those of you who don't know (which is anyone who wants to still have a life), a style sheet is basically a longggg list of grammar and style rules for a certain article. Basically, you have to choose an article from a major magazine, mark every instance of punctuation/stylistic differences, find a rule in the Chicago Manual of Style that defends this punctuation, then record the rule/a million examples in a 20+ page project of doom. This one assignment in one class has basically turned into a full time job. And here's the kicker: I'm trying so hard to care, but I really don't. I'm so passionate about my indifference to comma rules, that it's kind of ruling out the point of indifference.

Since when did commas have to dress themselves up like they're going to tea with the Queen? What happened to all the happy, free-spirited commas who were all "hey man, I think we've gotta slow down and take a breath, care to alert the reader?" No, now commas have to take a stand and say "we're used for introductory adverbial phrase, but sucks to be you, you have to look up what an introductory adverbial phrase is, and oh by the way, we only do this on Tuesdays."

No one wants a tedious comma. Let the commas roam free, people!

Then we get to capitalization rules, and oh boy is that a trip. Not only do you have to find every instance of capitalization (ever notice how random capitalization just appears in the middle of a run-in quote just because it feels like it?), but you have to find the instances where something could be capitalized, but isn't. Like here's the word "heaven," all innocently lowercase, not causing any hooplah, and suddenly it gets a capitalization rule because maybe someone somewhere thinks it should be capitalized, but the Chicago Manual is all "haha, you may think you know capitalization, but 'heaven' remains lowercased because I said so!"

You know it's tyranny when lowercase words start popping up in capitalization rules.

I've had it up to here with style sheets. You can't see "here," but it's somewhere where capitalized cuss words are free to use all the commas and italics they want. They can even throw in some double explanation points if they want!! It's a free country!!!!

What's the rule for four exclamation points, I ask you? You don't think you're so smart now, do you Mr. Chicago Manual?

It's gotten to the point where every time I read something, I forget that I'm reading for content, and start frantically looking for commas and semicolons and dashes (oh my). Highlighters start flying about willy-nilly and commas attack me with their ferocious claws. These commas are double trouble: ferocious and pretentious. If we're not careful, commas will start attacking us in our sleep.

Except, oh wait, I don't have time to sleep, because I'M TOO BUSY WORKING ON THIS STYLE SHEET!

Even the name itself is deceiving. You think "oh it's one sheet, how bad can it be?" Well, when the sheets start multiplying and having little baby comma rules, it can get pretty damn horrible.

If you see dancing in the streets, you'll know I've finally handed in my style sheet and stopped caring about punctuation altogether.

How comforting it is to know I've found the right major.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Middle Lessons: Some Revelations from the Halfway Point to Graduation

As I'm a little over halfway through my collegiate career (gulp), I've reflected on both personal and academic life lessons that (hopefully?) mean something, and that I can take with me through my post-graduate life. I haven't had the most traditional of college experiences, but looking back on past journal entries, blogs, and memories, I realize that even throughout my mundane "eat, sleep, homework" days, I was constantly experiencing some sort of change, usually for the better, except for that whole black hair thing. I'm not saying that college makes you a completely changed person, but, at the very least, it's made me more reflective on what lessons I'm gaining from the craziness that is Penn State.

1) Bring a stuffed animal.
Okay, so it doesn't have to be a stuffed animal, but bring something from home that's comforting, but your freshman-year-self declares yourself too old for. It's tempting to start fresh with a hip, ever so grownup dorm, but it's just nice to know that if you're lonely or want something fluffy to sleep with, the option is there. I've bonded with my pillow pet Ernest for two years now, and he's heard some pretty dark secrets. Not that I talk to inanimate objects, noooo.
He hasn't failed me yet.
2) Feminists can wear sparkly eye makeup too.
So I'm not gonna get into a full-fledged feminism argument here, but basically I've realized that up until college, I resisted labeling myself as a feminist because I didn't want to cut my hair short or get rid of glittery eyeliner. It took a little while, but after taking a women's studies class and hearing my classmates' views on feminism, I realized that it's much more broad than hating men and becoming lesbians. I essentially realized that I could *gasp* do things that extended past wearing pointy shoes and low-cut dresses. It's a strange feeling, liberation.

3) Your best friend will be your saving grace many times.
While it's great to expand your horizons and make new friends and be social and shit, don't underestimate the power of a best friend. I've been fortunate enough to have lived with my best friend for three years of college, and while we've certainly had spats about the horrible odor that comes from my shoes roommate issues, it's comforting to have someone who has known you for nine years nearby. There's a level of understanding you just don't instantaneously get with a new friend. I don't know what I do without someone who doesn't bat an eye at my random meowing or screaming "I HATE STYLE SHEETS!", much less join in on the insane eccentric behavior.

3) Dating doesn't necessarily mean a relationship.
Okay, so I haven't exactly put this one into practice, but observing, dare I say it, grownup relationships has made me realize just how absurd the "he said, she said"s of high school are. Looking back, I cringe that I thought it was perfectly normal to be with my high school boyfriend before even going out on a date. This isn't so much a college rule as it is a growing up rule. It's fine, expected even, to explore your horizons without committing yourself to labels before you can even say "hey, wanna grab some dinner?" It takes the pressure off simply talking and getting to know someone.

4) Force yourself to do something.
Not in a dangerous way, just in an...adventurous way. When else can you do something a little risky and claim it as "part of the growing experience"? It can be tempting to fall into the trap of complacency, especially for me, as I'm college-ing in my hometown. But some of my craziest, most impulsive moments have turned out to be the best ones. Backpacking with a bunch of fellow freshmen probably isn't something I would have signed up to do if I weren't trying to build my character (or something), but there's something about being smelly and scared and tired together that makes freshmen bonding more memorable. And as for impulsive moment number two, that tattoo incident, my wallet may be angry at me, but I feel a lot more badass. There's so many times where I've wished I could be that person who pulls things off, but sometimes you have to stop wishing and realize you can be that person, tattoos or no tattoos.

5) It's okay to stop self reflecting.
This has quite possibly been the hardest lesson for me to learn. Since kindergarten, when other kids were playing in the sandbox and catching each others' "cooties," I was all "I wonder how I've matured and progressed today?" It's all fine and good to be self aware and all, but once that self-awareness gets in the way of letting go and enjoying yourself, that's when you have to realize it's okay to turn your brain off. The world won't come crashing down if you don't have your next twenty years planned. Yes, I realize that I'm reflecting on self-reflection, but hey, no one changed twenty year old habits in a day, did they? 

I'm sure that I'll discover plenty more life lessons in the next year and a half, but as of now, the most important life lesson I've gained from college is that you shouldn't take yourself so seriously. And that one should never underestimate the importance of coffee, of course.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Caffeinated Bliss: Why Coffee is the Best Meditation

I'm the first to admit it: I suck at meditation. Two meditation retreats later, and sitting down with my thoughts seems like the worst punishment in the world. I'll sit down for like, ten minutes, become uncomfortably aware that my legs refuse to stay still for more than two seconds, wish I was more meditative and spiritual, convince myself that there's something wrong with me because I'm not meditative and spiritual, wonder if buying long, floral skirts would somehow make meditation more meaningful, and decide that I'm too poor to buy said skirts, and resolve to work a hundred million hours a week.

But lately, as my thoughts have been swarming around my head like a bee that just won't go away, I've noticed that I'm accidentally meditating over my cup of coffee. Before you wave me off as a hippie-dippie chick and decide that I need more sleep, let me explain. It's not like I'm chanting over my coffee beans and waiting for the enlightened coffee to touch my lips and make me just. so. yogic. But, in the loosest sense of the word, meditation allows you to be in the present moment, not letting your mental chatter get in the way of just experiencing life.

Coffee is my only daily routine. It's comfortingly ritualistic to pour the grounds into the filter, to watch the water flow into my mug, to let it cascade into my coffee maker. I hear the sounds of the coffee brewing, and for a few minutes, everything is okay. For the fifteen minutes with my mug, I know I won't be distracted by "what-if"s, "why did I"s, or "I should"s. I'm simply letting the bitter flavor, mixed with the sickly sweet peppermint mocha creamer (this is what living away from home does to you) pool over my tongue.

I'm comforted that I know this meditation will not happen indefinitely. I can go back to my anxious, worried self after the last gulp.

Everything is stiller, more ready to be observed rather than conquered. Sitting at the kitchen table, I see everything as background, like that song that's playing on the radio that you kind of know, but don't strain your ears to listen to.

For fifteen minutes of coffee, everything is more simple. Everything is okay.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

YouTube Scandal: My Thoughts on Alex Day

So for those of you that don't know, in late February/early March, a slew of women came out and said that various well-known YouTubers had sexually assaulted, manipulated, or raped them. It started with a Tumblr post from a young girl who said that Tom Milsom, a British vlogger/musician, raped her, and it spiraled into accusations about Luke Conard, Alex Day, and, most recently, Sam Pepper.

Below are a couple posts/articles regarding these issues:

YouTube Gazette (Tom Milsom)

Kristina Horner (on Alex Day and Luke Conard)

Charlie McDonnell (on Alex Day)

On Luke Conard

Because I had more closely followed Alex Day before the scandal broke out, I was upset that he had treated girls so poorly. I realized that when romance came into play he was manipulative, always needed to get his way, and was selfish. Having experienced the same kind of manipulation in a past relationship, I know that it feels really shitty and awful and I admire and respect these women for coming out and telling their stories. I want to make it very clear that in this blog, I am not defending Alex Day's personal choices.

While disdain towards Alex Day is going strong, why is it that Tom Milsom and Luke Conard, however, the ones who did rape women, who did force women into awful, horrifying situations, quickly fell off the radar? Alex Day is still arguably the face of the scandal--he is still the one receiving a large portion of the blame. If I hadn't done some serious digging online, I probably wouldn't have even found the allegations against Tom Milsom.  Yes, Alex Day messed up. He admitted to messing up. But being a crappy boyfriend is not a crime. It is not rape. It should not end your career.

Before you egg my house, allow me to explain.

Alex Day has recently posted a video explaining his side to the story, and while not all of the comments are negative, the amount of "you're disgusting"s and "get off the internet"s still shocked me. The video, while it could have gone into further detail about the specific accusations, seemed well thought out:

I'm not saying that Alex Day is the model of a perfect human being, and he certainly has a lot of growing and maturing to do, but Alex Day's job title is not "role model extraordinaire." He creates content that is meant to entertain an audience. Yes, it can be easier to blur the lines between personal life and entertainment because vlogging is about one's life, but that does not mean we should expect to know the whole of these vloggers' stories. If we only allowed ourselves to be entertained by upstanding citizens, we'd get bored pretty damn quickly.

If Alex Day had broken the law, it would be a completely different story. But there seems to be this expectation that all shitty boyfriends have to get off the internet immediately. We can still enjoy his content while still knowing that he is not someone that we'd date or get coffee with.

From what I've observed, being on YouTube results in a level of scrutiny that seems more personal than being a "regular" celebrity. We see snippits of people's lives, and then we jump in with the judgment and advice, assuming we have the whole situation figured out. It's like having 100,000 friends all telling you that you messed up, all telling you to handle the situation in a million different ways.

Alex Day began his YouTube career fairly young, and I think we can all agree that a teenage boy is rarely a model citizen. But it's important to note that Alex Day never told his viewers that he was a good person, or that we should follow his example. He got his fame by making snarky comments about Twilight. He didn't offer us his entire life story. He made funny videos on YouTube. And, unfortunately, oftentimes the funniest people are the most troubled.

If I knew Alex Day personally, and if I knew more of the story, then I would offer advice to him about getting help and re-evaluating the way he treats women. But I don't. I can't offer judgment about a situation and a person I only know bits and pieces about. As a viewer, I find the I have two options: I can either continue to watch Alex Day's content and realize the distinction between entertainment and real life situations, or I can stop watching his content. Either choice is fine.

I know this was a bit of a rant, and I realize this is not a popular opinion to take, but it's just something I wanted to say.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

99 Problems, and Socks are One

So I was listening to Jay-Z's "99 Problems" and I was all, you know what, Jay-Z, we have a lot in common. Besides the differences in background, attire, and musical interests, we're basically the same person. I mean, I too have at least 99 problems, and a "bitch" is also not included in that list. In fact, bitches are so far from my problem list, I should make a sequel to the song called "care to have some tea, bitches, you've been lovely and haven't caused a single issue for me."

I smell a top-chart single.


That song got me thinking, well, if Jay-Z and I have the same not-problems, what exactly are our 99 problems?

And thus, my 99 problems list was born:

1) I cannot for the life of me find any matching socks. I'm pretty sure my dryer eats them as a bedtime snack or something. Or it could be that ever since the beginning of time, I've gone to bed with two socks on and emerged from bed with only one. I'm sure there's a pile of socks collecting dust in my sheets right now.

2) My last name is apparently incomprehensible. Hyphenations freak people the fuck out. Am I married? Divorced? A creature from Mars? The world will never know.

3) This.
4) I have so many pints of Ben & Jerry's in my freezer, I end up getting overwhelmed and having no idea what to choose. Is it a Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz kind of night, or should I just pile all the flavors on my head and drown my sorrows in a giant lump of caramel, peppermint, and calories?
5) Similarly, I have such an addiction to Bath & Body Works fragrance, that it's starting to not be able to fit on my dresser. I know smelling great is good and all, but at some point I start to smell like a weird mix of forest and chocolate and my skin doesn't even know what to think.
6) There will never be enough coffee in the world.
7) Justin Timberlake took my sexy, and he refuses to bring it back.
8) Ke$ha took all my glitter.
9) I'm twenty-one years old and I still desperately want to be covered in glitter.
10) I'm torn between loving sorostitute lipstick and not wanting to look like a sorostitute.
11) Every single shirt I wear is considered slutty, even tee-shirts with cartoons on them.
12) I love food...
13) And I want to be thin while still consuming is much food as I possibly can (see #4).
14) I get legitimately angry at people for not sharing my love of the em dash.
15) And for semicolons.
16) But when people start throwing colons in their essays, they better watch out.
17) My life is so littered with first world problems, I'm already running out of problems by #17.
18) I despise times new roman font, but I'm so trained to abide by MLA format, that I despise any other font.
19) Every time I go onto Youtube, I convince myself I will only watch one video and then do my homework.
20) I'm such a liar.
21) I'm still on a search for my alcohol not to taste like alcohol.
22) I despise it when people use parentheses, then I go on my blog and realize every post is littered with the very punctuation that I hate.
23) I hate my laugh, so when I try not to laugh, I end up thinking about dead puppies, which ends up making me laugh so hard that I snort.
24) I scold myself every day for laughing at the thought of dead puppies.
25) My feet are morally opposed to shoes.
26) I am a person who wants to experience nature without, y'know, actually experiencing nature.
27) I seem like an idiot who can't use scissors #lefthandedprobs
28) When I go on movie dates, I say things at the like "it's an educational experience in the inner workings of a strip club."
29) So then I don't get many dates.
30) I hate cooking (see #12).
31) I'm morally opposed to pens (see #27).
32) I'm quite possibly the only person in my twenties who still laughs at inappropriate poop jokes and "that's what she said" jokes.
33) I still get weirded out by saying I'm a person in my twenties.
34) I'm still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts.
35) Today I told my roommate that I wish I was Voldemort because he doesn't have to deal with things like runny noses.
36) Whenever I speak French to people, I end up spitting on them.
37) Whenever I speak French to people, I end up getting that "are you even speaking words?" look.
38) I wish being a writer involved not so much writing, but sitting around and thinking important thoughts and dictating words at people.
39) I tell people I'm an English major, and I instantly get a look of pity.
40) Or the whole "oh, so you want to be a teacher then?"
41) So apparently I'm turning into my parents.
42) It's more and more common for celebrities to be younger than me.
43) I think I just spotted a wrinkle on my face.
44) Oh shit.
45) I hate laundry so much, that I will actually buy new underwear, just so I don't have to do laundry.
46) Speaking of laundry...
47) Who has time to separate their whites and darks anymore? Not me, that's who.
48) My conversations with other humans are 20% my own original thought and 80% Eddie Izzard skits.
49) Every time someone has a birthday, I do Eddie Izzard's "cake or death" bit, and people think I've literally gone insane.
50) I'm in college, so I've literally gone insane.
51) I'm constantly in the struggle between being a hippie and hating Kumbucha, kale, and tea.
52) I tell people I meditate, but really I just sit there and think about not thinking.
53) I hate making plans with people, not because I hate people, but because I then force myself to show up to our designated hangout two hours early, and then I sit there and freak out about how late they'll be.
54) Online shopping is a thing.
55) My savings account is not a thing.
56) My entire paycheck goes to my workplace #peoplewholovecheese
57) My body forces me to dance in public places whenever there's music.
58) For some unknown reason, my friends pretend they don't know me in public places.
59) I'm OCD about not being too OCD.
60) I want to rule the world someday...
61) ...But I hate telling people what to do.
62) My entire train of thought during a yoga class is "if you keep me in this position for two more seconds, we'll have a problem."
63) I deny being a "typical girl"...
64) But I love Rom-Coms.
65) And pink.
66) And flowers.
67) I'm torn between thinking this love for rom-coms and pink and flowers is the patriarchy at work, or I'm just a walking cliché.
68) I have and always will be confused and intrigued by the invention of a spork.
69) I still laugh hysterically at this number.
70) I refuse to admit that Stars Hallow and Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are not real.
71) I have such an awful memory, that I write things that I've heard from a TV show/book/friend and think that I'm such a creative genius who came up with everything on my own.
72) I'm an English major who hates reading Shakespeare.
73) I have a desperate need to name everything I own "Alphonso."
74) The last time I named something Alphonso, I crashed it into cars and became $1000 in debt.
75) I spend so much time with my best friend, that we end up saying the exact same things at the exact same time.
76) People then assume me and said friend are the same person, and are utterly shocked when they don't see us together.
77) If I consciously think about breathing, I forget how to breathe.
78) I have kept a journal since 6th grade, so it will forever be documented that I said things like "cheetahlicious" and "gurrrrrrl power" (non-ironically, might I add).
79) I love the feeling after a Jillian Michaels workout, but I'm so terrified of her, that I feel like she's gonna leap out of my TV screen and tackle me.
80) I quite possibly consider my pillow pet a legitimate friend.
81) #foreveralone.
82) I'm a French minor, but every day I forget how to say certain numbers, letters, days of the week, etc. I mean, the literal translation in French for "ninety" is "four twenties and ten." What even is that?!??
83) I despise people who make lists on the internet.
84) I read far too many Thought Catalog articles to stay away from lists on the internet.
85) I want to look like a badass while still letting people know I'm not actually a badass.
86) Which is fine for me, since my body rejects anything badass (alcohol, hair dye, tattoos).
87) I once had a baby tooth that refused to grow up.
88) So now I have a $2000 fake tooth and I'm not even thirty yet.
89) I both want children and hate children, simply because their fingers are ALWAYS STICKY.
90) I'm at this weird place where people my age are getting married and I'm just like "I'm sixteen, what of it, pass the crayons please."
91) People tell me I should have grown out of my incessant need for dessert by now.
92) If I haven't had two desserts a day, something feels incomplete.
93) I am both inspired by Jess from New Girl, and horrified that I basically am her.
94) I'm still confused by what's fun about college parties.
95) Maybe it's because I'm a junior and I've never been to a college party.
96) I am forever cursed by being an introvert and extrovert at the same time.
97) Even if I realize I'm too old for glitter and stop wearing it, it still follows me wherever I go.
98) I can't hug people because I always get foundation on their shirts.
99) I am both ashamed and proud that I have become that person who makes Buzzfeed-esque lists on the internet.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cringe-Worthy Moments: The Profile Pic Edition

So as I've been suffering through this dreaded illness cold that's been going around Penn State, I've had some time to indulge in the ultimate millennial generation activity, and stalk myself on Facebook. For the most part, I discovered that my teenage self really enjoyed telling others when I couldn't think of a good status (what?) and how bored I was all the time, but once I got to the profile pictures, I couldn't just help but show the world what I doofus I truly was. The funny thing is that I thought I was sooooo cool posting selfies of my shaved eyebrows (my fifteen year old self didn't know how to use tweezers, apparently), duck face and all. Why, old Kira, whyyy did you ever think duck face was a good idea?

But I digress. Here, folks, are the best of my humiliating reminders that I had no shred of dignity as a teenager, as well as no shred of eyebrow hair:

Selfie, part one of a million: So this picture doesn't seem TOO awful at first glance, except for the fact that I look slightly drugged. My hair hasn't exploded yet, and I've almost succeeded in hiding my bra strap. The sad thing, however, is that selfies hadn't been invented yet. I was so narcissistic, that I was all "hey, what's a good way to spend my time? Oh, I know! Taking a million pictures of my face!"

I'm just thankful that Snapchat wasn't a thing yet.

Hey guys, look, I'm a writer! Can't you tell by this envelope with illegible writing on it? The envelope, in case you were wondering, was full a poorly written Monk/Psych script that I was sure would turn me into the world's youngest/most famous script writer in all the land. This is also a sad reminder that my body has decided to cease aging since I was fifteen.

 This is not my cat. This is not a cat that I know. I think I just google searched "cats," and was all "hey, that's a cute cat, and for some reason, it totally represents my face!" I mean, this cat and I had the same adolescent "you're stupid" look down, but seriously. Never met this cat.

Okay. What? First of all, it looks like the devil has infected my soul here. Either that, or I just got out of the mental hospital and was all "haha, joke's on you, I'm still crazy!" And now we've reached the sad eyebrow stage. Apparently after taking a million and five selfies, the second best way to spend my time was to pluck my eyebrows off.

Let's not even talk about the thing on my head. Is that paper? Why is it a hat? Why? Did the devil in my eyes make me do it?
There are so many questions I have for my sixteen year old self. This is the kind of picture you see of yourself on Facebook and immediately untag yourself in. I took it to the next level and made it my profile picture.

I'm sooo artsy. Look, I'm even looking morosely in another direction to show that I'm thinking of important, artistic things.

This picture was taken, like, yesterday. I don't wanna talk about it.

This is when I first discovered the joys of technology. I so desperately wanted a twin, that I decided to make my own--my own twin with bad hair and all. Honestly, I think I was just trying to procrastinate doing homework (some things never change), but didn't I know that the correct way to do that was by looking at cat gifs on Buzzfeed?

Can you guess whose feet these are? I'll give you a hint: they're not mine. Like, if you saw that this was someone's profile picture, you would come to the (sane) conclusion that this person practiced ballet, and was good enough to dance en pointe. Nope, not me. The last time I practiced ballet was in like 1999, before crineg-worthy profile pictures could even happen (thank goodness). Maybe I just wanted the world to think I was successful while I wrote bad scripts and looked at Google images of cats.


Seriously, teenage self, flat iron. Invest in one, so you don't scare children and birds stop flying in your head.

I'm almost at a loss for words for this picture. This is when I was convinced I was going to be a supermodel, and every great model's story begins by getting her jeans horrifically dirty on a pile of wood. I think I was trying to look sexy or something, but I'm probably just thinking "this is so annoying, my knees are shoved into a log." The saddest part is that I asked for these photo shoots.

Spoiler alert: I never turned into a world famous script writer, or a world famous model. Who's surprised?

This photo makes me cringe for two reasons: 1) I remember having to spend $300 to get my hair from gothic black to the same blond it used to be, and 2) I was trying so hard to convince myself that I was such a mountain woman, and so in tune with nature, but I believe at this moment, I was bemoaning the severe lack of all things glittery. And chocolatey. And my calves hurt, because I just hiked up a mountain, and until that point, my exercise routine had consisted of walking five steps to purchase a milkshake.

I'm almost certain these aren't the last of my embarrassing photos, but I'll let my parents cover those. At least I've stopped trying to be cool and have just accepted the fact that, eyebrows or not, my photos will always reflect my inner doofus.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Parentheses are my Arch Nemeses and other English Major Problems

So, like a true English major, I have strong feelings about grammar. And when I say strong feelings, I don't mean that there's one type of punctuation that I'm comfortable with, that's vanilla enough not to shock anyone, and that I could use for a typical essay. I mean I rant to anyone and everyone about how sexy the semicolon is, how em dashes will make the world a better place, and that people who get overly colon-happy better watch out.

But while I have fond memories of my first correct semicolon, and how proud my father was by my em dash-filled essays, not every grammatical run-in is quite so pleasant. Ever since the beginning of my copy editing class, I have gotten angrier and angrier at elementary grammar. It's gotten to the point where if I'm reading something mediocre, I have to stop and take a moment to breathe, or books will start flying and I'll be screaming bloody murder.

There are a few points of grammar that I have particular qualms with, the first being parentheses. I am a strong believer that in a college essay IN TEXT CITATIONS ARE THE ONLY PLACES I SHOULD SEE PARENTHESES. Parentheses that don't serve this purpose make me sick--they're lazy. Why not just walk around with a sign on your forehead that reads "hey, btw, I forgot to add this piece of information, so I'm just gonna stick it in here, among some other unsuspecting words"?? The worst part about parentheses is that when used in this horrifyingly elementary manner, they usually contain information that no one cares about. For instance, if I see "I was talking with Tina (who is my best friend), and she told me that the meeting was on Tuesday," is my life better for knowing that Tina was your best friend? Ignoring the fact that there are so many ways to edit this sentence for length, let's look at the context of this parenthetical statement. Would the meeting be on Wednesday if Tina was not your best friend? Would you not talk to anyone about meetings? No? Okay good, get rid of the parentheses and nobody gets hurt.

The only thing that could infuriate me more than parentheses is passive voice. Passive voice is akin to riding on a roller coaster until you throw up, rather than just riding it once and having a nice time with your friend Tina. The only reason to use this infuriating style is if you're trying to avoid blame. And really, rather than trying to say "the cookies were eaten," why don't you get off your word processor and tell your dad you messed up and ate the cookies, and everything will be fine.

I understand that to the untrained eye, passive voice seems sophisticated and fancy, and that all the job offers will leap out at you if you say "the work was accomplished by utilizing the knowledge that was given to me," but really it just makes you seem like a pretentious asshat who doesn't know about this lovely little word called "I."

Speaking of pretentious asshats who utilize things, I cannot stand the word "utilize." While my other English major friend and I have gotten into plenty of debates about this, I still stand by my belief that you can use just about anything that you utilize. The word utilize is like that obnoxious kid in class that yells out all the answers and smells like parental pressure. In 99.999999% of all cases in which I see this dastardly word, I don't think "smart person." I think "lalalala I know how to use a thesaurus, go me!"

Oh well. If someone flashes a series of em dashes at me, I'll forget everything and become the cheerful English major again. Or something.