Yeah Alright So What
The Year in Which I Finally Accomplished Reading My First Whole Book Since College
As an aspiring full-time journalist in college I was faced with a choice once I'd declared my writing specialization major — pick what genre speaks to you. Once upon a time, I'd written fiction, actually completing one novel in high school (not that I ever sought to get it published). However, by the time I got to the place in my college years where I was taking mostly classes within my major, I'd been writing in journalistic fashion for about four or five years already. People's real-life, raw stories fascinated me. So, I dove into my first class in creative nonfiction with fervor, only to find out the main person I'd have to write about was myself. At that point I'd done some introspective writing via my original blog (on brighteyesphotos.weebly.com), but this class wanted me to go deeper than I had deemed myself comfortable with before. My first piece explored my childhood education in love and sarcasm through personal anecdotes interspersed with excerpts from Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." Obviously included were several quotes from the 15th century sass queen Beatrice (as played by Emma Thompson in my favorite movie adaptation of the play), such as that in where she confides in Prince Don that she will not marry until "men are made of some other metal than earth." It was funny and still received a high mark, but my second piece entitled "One and Done," which explored motherhood from the lens of my relationship with my own mom (my Lorelei), my then very current fear of not being able to have a child, my odd lifelong vision of somehow ending up a single mom and more. It was revealing — and not just because it included anecdotes of my mother cracking a joke in the room during my first pap smear. Yeah — you could say we're freakishly close. And, no. You don't get to know what her joke was until a later Blonde Bond post. Let's just say it involves the word "tampon," and if you're a guy who turns a bright shade of crimson at the very mention of menstruation (and somehow ended up on a website called Millennial Pink — again, bud?) you may want to go back to your Sports Illustrated or He-Man Monthly. Anyway, it forced me to do a lot of self-examination (examination that was a different kind of intrusive than that aforementioned pap smear), and for some reason, I didn't run screaming. Plus, it made me even more curious about the stories other people were sharing about themselves. This fairly long, somewhat tangential story has been an introduction to my real purpose today: to recommend Courtenay Hameister's book, "Okay Fine Whatever: The Year I Went from Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things." My mother — though she has yet to read it herself — recommended the book to me a few months after my breakup with Mr. Undecided. I think it was sometime in between when I was wallowing in crippling grief and my reemergence into singlehood with no-holds-bar badassery (and in heels), but I blissfully can't remember. The idea of the book intrigued me. It follows a year-long project undertaken by Hameister to combat her generalized anxiety disorder and push herself out of her comfort zone. It was an added nerd bonus that Hameister happens to be a Portland-based former host-turned-producer of "Live Wire!"
Hameister's was a voice I didn't know I needed, but once I encountered knew I wanted more of. Ironically, I cracked the spine of "OFW" around the same time S was using the reasoning of "do it for the blog" to convince me to join Tinder. Hameister's initial "mini adventures," as she describes them, entail mental challenges like floating in a sensory deprivation tank. But, by chapter three, she was putting herself really out there, explaining how she'd been a 34-year-old virgin and delving into a series of dating-related "mini adventures," at the same time I was venturing into my own. (Mine weren’t nearly as bold hers, but still impactful). She details her first relationship, exploration of polygamy and her own self-realizations along the way — and I was obsessed with it — until my workload hit warp speed again, as it's prone to do, and I set the book aside for a while. However, that didn't keep her jokes and stories about creating an Excel spreadsheet with which to rate her individual suitors from remaining present somewhere in the back of my mind as I went on my seven or so first dates over the course of four months. What also wasn't lost on me was the unplanned irony of when I picked up and put down the book. I don't know how, but each new chapter crazily spoke to not only my life overall, but my life in that moment in time. I was reading "Adventures in Dating I" when first embarking upon taking my dating from online conversations to real-life dates. Her feelings about casual dating damn near, if not did, mirror my own. At one point she writes: "... I'm so tired. It's exhausting trying to appear charming for this many hours a week," in a text to a guy she'd dubbed the Ethical Slut. "I know," he replied. "Dating is exhausting. But if you can find one or two people you enjoy going out with, bringing home, and then sending away so you can get some work done, then that's success."
Several chapters (and their titles) just plain brought a good laugh to my day even if not so applicable to my current situation. Like "A Brazilian in Portland: Wherein I Discover a Border I'd Rather Not Cross Again" or "Casa Diablo: In Which a Stripper's Vagina and a Blind Chihuahua Cause Me to Send a Monumental Text," though even those contained nuggets of very relatable experiences. For example, the section called "A Sample Inner Monologue I Generally Have During the Act of Sexual Intercourse" says "Now my stomach looks bad. I'll go back to position one, and I’ll just deal with my shitty thighs. I could straddle him, maybe? But then I'll have eight chins when I look down, and my belly will look doughy and I'll have to hold my boobs." This section reminded me of something I might have once thought during sex, but that was before I had dated a guy who said things like "I think you look hella good naked. So there you go. 😘" during a text conversation about weight and past insecurities. In about December I'd taken an unplanned "OFW" break and decided to try being exclusive with a guy I’d been talking to and dating since October. But he was flighty, so that lasted about a hot second. A few days after we broke up I started reading (with great zeal, mind you) "Adventures in Dating II" and returned to casual dating via Tinder — at least for about two weeks. Then I met Drummer Boy. So, while book Hameister ("OFW" was written about past experiences) explored her sexual preferences and different types of coupling, I began getting to know a sweet-yet-sarcastic guy — the best kind — and learning how much my past dating experiences have affected how I approach new relationships and just how I feel about expressing myself in them. It wasn't going out on a date with my polyamorous lover to a sex club on fetish night, but it was an adventure. Throughout the entirety of "OFW," Hameister displays the best purposes and possibilities presented by the creative nonfiction genre. Regardless of if you suffer from anxiety and/or are fascinated by social (especially romantic) interactions, "OFW" is a perfect balance of humor and sincere episodes of human emotion and perspective. Though "OFW" is most assuredly my brand of entertainment, I do believe it can appeal to and inspire many people who are, contrastingly, perfectly sane. Who couldn't relate to the line “Relationships are all fun and games until someone pees her pants or likes John Denver,” or better yet, “I think falling in love is half attraction to the best parts of someone and half gratitude for that person's ability to forgive the worst parts of you”? The best way to find out if you could relate would be to read “OFW.” Trust me, it's worth it, even if it makes you laugh so hard you pee your pants.