The Philosophy of Frankenweenie

Everyone knows the names of the great philosophers in life.  Aristotle believed in doing good for goodness’ sake.  Socrates held virtue above all other human characteristics.  Nietzsche thought that people were driven by achievement.  And Tim Burton argues that reality and the impossible walk a fine line.

My name is Jessica and I believe in Tim Burton.

I have been a Burtonite since I was a child with such greats as Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, and what seems to be everyone’s favorite these days, The Nightmare Before Christmas frequently playing in the VCR.  Granted, it wasn’t until high school that I discovered that all of my favorite movies were from the mind of a dark and twisted genius who grew up lonely in the suburbs of Burbank, California.  In college, my world became immersed with reading his autobiography (now in a rereleased extended version) and learning everything I could about my favorite filmmaker.

So when I learned that Frankenweenie was to be remade from a live-action short film into a feature-length stop-motion animated tale, I was happier than a goth kid at a Marilyn Manson concert.

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This Isn’t Goodbye, But It Kind Of Is

As Mentor Spotlight Week comes to an end, I’m sure some of you are wondering why and how this particular theme came to be on Defining Wonderland.  It’s kind of an unusual choice and one I know I’ve certainly never seen before.  Showcasing the Fonz was an easy decision to make as I knew it would be a nice way to honor my mentor and share with the Wonderlings some of his insights into this crazy thing we call life.

Since the Fonz is the kind of person who has a story for everything (and I do mean everything), it is only right to end the week with the story of why I decided to start the week in the first place.

This Harry Potter quote just seemed right.

For the last five years, the Fonz has been a geographic bachelor, renting a self-proclaimed crappy apartment near work during the week and going home to his wife and sons, who live several hours away, on the weekends.  It’s a tough life of sacrifices, missing back-to-school nights and tucking children into bed, and he is not the only one in the organization who surrenders precious family time in order to support loved ones.  So, when the Fonz told me a few weeks ago that he had accepted a position closer to home where he wouldn’t need a separate place to live, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised.

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How I Became A Mento

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Mentor Spotlight Week!

Inspired by my awesome mentor in all things, this week I will be sharing with you Wonderlings some of the Fonz’s obsessions, his words of wisdom, and maybe even a post from the man himself.  I hope you all enjoy the first themed week of Defining Wonderland.

But before we begin with Mentor Spotlight Week, let me tell you about the beginning of our mentorship.

When I started at my job four years ago, the Fonz was one of the people I had to check in with.  Being escorted from office to office and meeting with dozens of new people, I don’t remember our first encounter.  I guess it’s good that he at least didn’t make a bad first impression.

The Most Interesting Mentor in the World.

My desk was situated outside of the business director’s office and the Fonz, being another manager, would frequently meet with the business director.  Over time, our small pleasantries turned into sarcastic conversations about anything and everything.  This was a man who not only got my sick sense of humor, but had one even more twisted than my own.  Also, he could keep up on the pop culture references with an impressive knowledge of movies, music, and television shows.  He thinks he’s the white Shaft for crying out loud!  After a lengthy conversation about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I suggested that he show up at the building Halloween party dressed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter.  Luckily, he didn’t take me up on my suggestion.  That would have just been wrong.  So, so wrong.

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Be A Less Crappy Friend

I am the first to admit that I can be a crappy friend.  However, I think that part of my problem is that I cannot accept when friends behave in ways that I deem crappy.  Behold, three tips to be less crappy.

Don’t keep people waiting.

My wonderful mentor once told me that “people who keep others waiting make it clear that their time is much more important than anyone else’s.”  I agree with this statement to a certain degree.  I don’t believe that people run on perfect inner clocks and are never tardy to appointments.  However, I find it increasingly rude when the same people are consistently running late.

I have a friend who cannot arrive at a place on time if her life depended on it.  Every time we hang out, I am guaranteed to wait, often in the cold, for at least twenty minutes before she shows up.  She almost always pushes back plans to a later time and will still show up late.  One time, I took her out for dinner to celebrate her birthday. Not only did she keep me waiting for over two hours after she insisted she was on her way, but then she dashed off to meet her boyfriend before I could even buy her dessert.  It’s so completely frustrating because she is fully aware of the problem so I feel like it would be pointless to say anything.  I have read in magazines that it is useful to turn the tables and keep this particular type of friend waiting so she will understand how annoying it is.  I have tried this tactic, leaving my place at the time when I should be arriving at the agreed upon location, but it’s no use; I will still be kept waiting.

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Friendship: The Art Of Failure

Seems like I'm always the one keeping a distance.

I am a horrible friend.

Yes, it’s true.  When it comes to friendships, I suck.  I am stubborn, temperamental, and have an excruciating time accepting people for who they are if who they are differs from who I expect them to be.  I walk away from people when I no longer feel that they are a part of my life’s story.  It’s not easy to be my friend and I must admit, it is my own damn fault.

When it comes to ending friendships, I am a complete chicken.  I hate confrontation and I just end up disappearing from people’s lives, like a phantom.  I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who wonder where I went or what they did or didn’t do to make me go poof in the night, but I just don’t have the balls to tell them.  When a switch flips in my head that makes me see a person a certain way, it’s impossible for me to flip it back.  Believe me, I’ve tried. Continue reading

Rethinking Stranger Danger

If any of you out there had a protective mother like I did, you were taught from a very early age not to talk to people you didn’t know.  Those people were called strangers and they were very, very bad.

As the only child of a single mother, I was well-versed in what to say when someone I didn’t know came up to me and said, “Come here, little girl” (NO!) or “I work with your mommy and she asked me to pick you up from school today” (What’s the password?).  We spent hours role-playing and I’m pretty sure that I would have passed any of those hidden camera investigations Dateline produces about stranger danger.

Case in point: a story from my childhood.  Granted, I should forewarn you that I don’t remember this at all, but the story has been told many times over the years and I can attest that, in all likelihood, it did happen as it’s written.

Around the age of four or five, I went to the bank with my mom.  She had finished up and we were heading toward the exit, a rambunctious me skipping a little ahead.  When I reached the door, an older woman politely held the door open for me and uttered those famous last words: “Come here, little girl.”

That was all it took.

I stopped dead in my tracks, looked up at her, and yelled, “NO!” just my mom and I had rehearsed dozens of times before.  I ran back to my mother and took her by the hand quite proud of the way I had handled the situation.  Afterall, she could have snatched me right then and there.

My mother, on the other hand, was horrified.  I guess her frequent warnings had stuck with me and now she was paying the humiliating price for it.

It was well into high school that I felt comfortable speaking with new people and that was mainly because I worked as a waitress and had to speak to them on a daily basis.  Despite the fact that most folks I know would classify me as a “people person,” I still have a hard time meeting others in a social setting.  Maybe deep down in my psyche, I’m still worried about being kidnapped.

I’m envious of guys like Hawkeye who, quite literally, makes friends wherever he goes.  Then again, maybe I could do the same.

In the last week, I have been contacted by several people I don’t know.  Strangers, if you will.  They have come in various forms: a bullied girl I once reached out to online, another who found my lack of inspiration inspirational, men seeking my affections in the world of online dating, and still others who I knew of, but did not know personally.  And I have learned something from these vastly different characters.  Each of them I might never met in “real life,” but if I hadn’t had the interactions I have had, my life would be missing something.

The thing is, even people you don’t know can have a positive impact on your life.  I am so glad to have shared even the briefest of sentences with these men and women.  I have been flattered, thanked, intrigued, encouraged, amused, and last but certainly not least, inspired.

You see, as I grew from a child into an adult, I learned that not all strangers are bad.  Some are welcome additions to our lives, while others are simply there to add a little color to our stories.  I once spent an unforgettable night exploring Las Vegas with an Irishman who stumbled into me at Planet Hollywood.  Would my life had been better if I had decided to walk away as he tried to converse with me?  I don’t know, but I do know I had an incredible evening seeing the Strip through the eyes of someone from another country.

While it may have once been pivotal to our safety, speaking to someone new does not necessarily mean you will be abducted from your parents and wind up a cautionary tale.  It can introduce you to wonderful experiences, ideas, and personalities that you may not have had the chance if someone didn’t make the first move to strike up a conversation.

Though I would hardly recommend throwing caution to the wind and encourage my readers to forget common sense and speak to everyone that comes their way, I would say that there is something amazing when strangers become friends.

After all, we were all strangers to each other once.

The Spouse Factor

I am a single gal and I have male friends who are married.  It has only recently occurred to me that this may make me the anti-Christ in the eyes of their beloveds.

A co-worker (who is strictly someone I work with and is no way a person I hang out with socially—we don’t even go to lunch together) had mentioned that he had gotten into a fight with his wife after she had seen an instant message conversation between the two of us.  She demanded to know who I was, how close we sit at work, and the extent of our “work friendship.”  He insisted that he had nothing to hide and I can back him up on that.  I told him that I was willing to speak with his wife if that would make her more comfortable.  He didn’t go for it saying he would get into more hot water for telling me what happened.

I opened up said chat and tried to put myself in the wife’s shoes.  Having never met me, I can possibly see why she is upset.  Though there was no flirting in our exchange, I did give him a handful of crap—as I usually do—and answered all of his questions in a very flippant and sarcastic manner.  Since I have never met her, she could have taken my “you’re dumb” as “I want you.”

The fact is, while said co-worker is mildly attractive, he has a wife, a kid, and works with me.  All of which are on my list of non-negotiables.  On top of which, he’s immature and a little on the arrogant side.  In other words, I have no interest in him whatsoever.  He’s not someone I would want to hang out with socially and he reminds me a lot of my brother, Zack.  Neither of which are attractive to me.

Last week, I went hiking with another male friend.  We usually don’t hang out together without one of our other friends being with us, but since everyone else was either working or couldn’t be depended on, he wanted a buddy to accompany him on a hike.  I had no reason to say no and since the location of the trail was five minutes away from me, I told him I’d go.

We spent most of the time talking about our friends, work, or sharing the horror stories of my dating life.  He gave me some great advice and I tried to give him some to keep the peace at home and maintain his friendships.  For the most part, I think the only reason I was invited is because he misses his best male buddy.  Ever since this guy began dating his girlfriend, his friends have essentially been dropped and I’m sure my hiking partner is feeling the brunt of the exodus.  He’s trying to fill the position of a hiking/lunch/chat buddy that has been left by his friend’s absence.

I asked if he had mentioned to his wife that he was hiking with me and he said that she knew he was hiking, but couldn’t remember if he had mentioned whether or not I was coming.

I found this odd.

While my friend’s wife and are aren’t the best of friends, I have made a point to try to get to know her and she has come over to my place for movie night.  Hell, I’ve house-sat for them before.  There would be no reason for him not to tell her that we were hanging out.

I had told my mom what had happened with both of my guy friends and she was concerned.  She told me I shouldn’t play with fire or get involved.  Part of me was shocked.  How could she possibly think I was playing with fire?  I didn’t initiate the instant messages nor do I go out of my way to talk to this guy at work.  I didn’t encourage him not to tell his wife that we went hiking.  Why is this my problem?

And then she got to talking.

She explained to me that once upon a time before my conception, she was friends with a married man.  After one particular evening at a party where absolutely nothing inappropriate happened, his wife stopped talking to her and eventually, her friendship fell apart as a result of his wife’s disapproval.  She told me that regardless of how innocent my relationships with any of these men were, I wouldn’t want to be the case of someone’s marriage collapsing.

I do think she has some valid points, but part of me wants to just continue to be myself and have my friendships.  To me, that’s all these guys are and they’re not even high up on my list of friends.  I wouldn’t call either one of them if I was stranded somewhere and I’m fairly certain that if we didn’t work together, I would never hear from these guys ever again.

I wonder if I was dating someone any of this would matter.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a single, independent woman in my 20’s that is potentially so frightening that wives get upset at the mere mention of my being in a 100-foot radius of their husbands.

I guess until I find myself a man I’m just a woman of questionable morals.

Pondering The Penis Pals

Today I was watching Friends with Benefits and it reminded me of how much I miss having a close male friend.  Sure, the movie is about what happens when two friends end up becoming casual sex partners and inevitably fall for each other, but beneath all the romantic comedy bullshit, it is a film about friendship.

And the age-old question: can men and women really be friends?

I have always found myself with guy friends for a few simple reasons: they are less catty than women, they almost always want to do things that I wouldn’t have thought of and usually end up enjoying, and I don’t worry about them judging me as much as I would women.  I can be myself and have a great time.  Friendships with guys are easy and fun.  Who wouldn’t want to have one as a pal?

When I was a kid, my best friend was a guy named Rickie.  We were both the new kids in school and outcasts to the core.  I had crooked teeth and thick glasses, he had one continuous eyebrow and gangly limbs.  I rocked out to Bon Jovi, he discoed to Cher (yes, he is gay and I’m pretty sure I knew before he did).  The teacher loved both of us and we grew to love each other.  I don’t remember how our friendship began, but it has been one that has lasted through the years despite our cosmological differences.  We were an astrological pair doomed for hostility; he is a Gemini, while I am a Taurus.  Rickie and I had countless fights and more than one period where we didn’t speak to one another—we jokingly refer to them as our divorces—but we always came back together as if nothing ever happened.  I defended him to our bigoted peers and he comforted me when my grandma died.  Our bond has resulted in the longest friendship I have ever had.  After nearly two decades, we can pick up right where we left off even if we haven’t seen each other for years.  Rickie is the definition of a true friend.

After college, I reunited with another guy friend.  George and I had gone to the same middle school, but we didn’t become friends until high school when I was dating one of his friends.  We remained pals after he went off to the Air Force and I went to college.  After I graduated, we both found ourselves back in our home county and began to hang out.  Unlike my pairing with Rickie, George and I were a great match (he was a Cancer and shared the same birthday with my mom—coincidentally one month to the day after Rickie’s birthday).  We had an easy friendship except for his complete lack of confidence and extreme sensitivity.  We had a nice few years together until he confessed his love for me, the second time over the course of our friendship.  He had been placed in the friend zone long ago and I was never attracted to him.  Unfortunately after that, things got weird between us.  He became super clingy and depressed and I longed for space and grew drained from always having to boost his mood.  I eventually had to walk away from the friendship because I just couldn’t deal with the co-dependency anymore.

Then there’s Hawkeye.  We met in grad school and have remained buddies.  I would best describe our friendship as uncomplicated, distant, and convenient.  He’s a nice guy, but not one that I particularly feel very close to.  It probably has something to do with the fact that I rarely see the guy sober and when I do, he seems completely consumed with himself.  Wow, that makes him sound like such a douche.  He’s really not, but for a guy who’s pushing 40, still doesn’t exactly have his shit together, and is on a first name basis with every bartender in a 30-mile radius, it’s not a wonder why he’s single.

A few months ago, I thought I had found a new male close friend (the term “best friend” seems a little juvenile to me).  Fez and I hung out a lot and enjoyed fun activities together.  I was so excited to have another guy in my life to go out with: try new restaurants, check out the latest film, attend parties.  Then he had to go and ruin it when he kissed me.  One kiss turned to many and many turned to rejection.  Sure, we tried—and I guess are still trying—to be friends even though I find it hard to look at him as the goofy, naïve guy I once did.  Now, I can’t believe anything he says and how can a friendship survive when one doesn’t trust the other?

So, I find myself without a close male friend these days and I’m starting to wonder if men and women can really ever be friends.

The older I get, the more difficult I think it is especially when someone is involved in a relationship.  How do you explain to your significant other the reason you’re friends with someone of the opposite sex without them feeling like you are leaving them out?  Can men and women really be friends without someone falling for the other?

I guess male-female friendships really aren’t as easy as I thought.

Keep Your Lies To Yourself

We’ve all been told from grade school that lying is wrong and we shouldn’t do it, but as we grow older lying becomes so common.  From the simple, “That haircut is adorable!” to the more complex and devastating “I love you,” lies are a part of being an adult.

Or are they?  Are we not reverting back to our adolescence before we knew the difference between right and wrong or do we just accept that making up stories is a part of life?

I believe everyone deserves the courtesy of the truth and I strive to be honest.  Unfortunately, I am not always the most tactful person.  I have blurted out my honest opinion when avoiding the question would have been the nicer option.  Sometimes, I just can’t help it.

The truth can hit you like a slap in the face, but the sting of a lie lingers long after the initial shock is gone.  When the realization that you have been lied to sets it, everything changes.  You question everything.  Analyze each moment.  Doubt the truth.  Hell, you doubt yourself.

A friend of mine recently posted something on Facebook that got me thinking. It said, “You know the only thing that’s worse than being lied to is knowing you weren’t good enough for the truth.”

Why would an intelligent and creative person believe that they were the one who was not good enough?

The fact of the matter is, people are good enough for the truth; liars are not good enough people to be honest.  Sure, they hide behind the veil of “I just didn’t want to hurt you” because they know that the truth is not something you want to hear.  And the closer the person is to you, the more the lie hurts.

I had the unfortunate experience of discovering someone had lied to me.  It was humiliating.  I feltfeel like a complete idiot.  Especially because I should have fucking known better.

I had been spending a lot of time with this guy.  Things were great.  We had some fun weekends of hanging out and just being ourselves.  It helped that we had known each other for years so there was none of that awkward getting-to-know-you period.  He introduced me to his hobbies, I introduced him to my friends.  We just were and it was nice.

I wasn’t entirely sure what was going.  When he started kissing me and acting like he wanted something more from our friendship, I allowed my feelings to develop and slowly took the wall down though the boundaries remained.  Thank goodness for intuition!

I thought something was potentially developing though I knew that I was breaking a few of my own personal dating rules, but for the first time in a long while, I threw caution to the wind and decided to just see where things went.

Things went nowhere.

Weeks into our whatever-you-call-it, I received a text message announcing that I was his best friend, but that he was just not ready for a relationship.

Oh, hell no!  No “friend” of mine is going to handle things like that through a text message.  For the first time in my life, I demanded to know what the hell happened.  And I wanted an explanation in person.

Over a lunch I could barely stomach, he told me a variety of things: “I’m not ready for a relationship,” “I don’t want to ruin our friendship,” and “I don’t want to have to choose between my hobbies and a relationship” (not that I was asking him to).

I called bullshit.

I told him that these were all excuses, that he had used me, and that all I needed was a “I’m just not that into you.”  Jeez, is that so hard?!  I’m totally fine with someone telling me that they are not interested in me romantically.  It’s clear and it’s something I can accept.  Shelling out an “I just want to be friends for now” implies hope that something could develop later.  He insisted that he was just not ready for a relationship with anyone, that I shouldn’t look at it as him using me, and that he gave me reasons, not excuses, as to why he didn’t want to pursue a relationship with me.

I accepted that he was not ready to be in a relationship.  Ok, I guess we would try this “friend” thing again.  Things would be a little strange—I do not stay friends with people I was romantically involved with—but I would try to make it work.  We had kept things private between us, so I guess his rejection would be private too.  After all, no reason to further prove that he wasn’t ready for a relationship and that I had been completely embarrassed to think he was capable of one.

A month later, he was in a relationship.

To say that I was upset is an understatement.  Though I am completely glad that he rejected me because I know a relationship with him would not have been successful at all, I am still pissed that he didn’t have the balls to just tell me that he was interested in someone else.  If I was his best friend, didn’t I deserve the truth?

After you have been lied to, you have a hard time looking at a person the same way.  I feel duped, like I never really knew the kind of person that he was/is.  Even now, I have a hard time looking at him.  When I receive a text message, I have no desire to respond.  When he comments on Facebook, I roll my eyes.  I have grown apathetic to someone I once considered a friend and no longer feel like I can trust him.

The aftermath of a lie lasts longer the pain of the truth.  Everything changes and nothing will ever be the same.  No amount of “I’m sorry” will ever make things right.  Trust is broken.  Friendships are tested.

Give people the courtesy of the truth.  Be honest.