Monday, October 31, 2005


Happy Halloween. Technically, it’s still All Hallow’s Eve Eve here, but by the time I finish this post, the witching, ghouling, Power Rangering hour will have arrived. Enjoy...and don’t take apples from strangers.

Compared to vampires and werewolves, adult fears are a little mundane, aren’t they? I’m afraid I won’t get to Starbucks before my 9 a.m. Research Methods class. Also slightly anxious about defining and explaining “internalization of ethnic identity.” Not exactly haunted house material.

No matter -- I’ve never been much for the blood-drenched, pointy fanged or translucent. Freddy Kreuger never scritch-scritched into my childhood dreams. After lights out, the bedpost was still a bedpost, and beneath the bed were...socks? If my parents had let me watch horror films as a child, I like to think I wouldn’t have been terribly bothered. Redrum. Hmmm. Is that Scrabble-acceptable?

Know what movie contributed most to my occasional kid-insomnia? Follow That Bird. Obviously, Children’s Television Workshop paid little attention to the separation-anxiety-prone subset of their viewership when they put together this flick. First, Big Bird wanders off Sesame Street. Maria, Luis, Snuffy, Mr. Hooper...gone. Then, he lands in the middle of a strange town, and he’s forced to hitchhike back to his nest. If I ever contemplated leaving my driveway before seeing Follow That Bird, the image of yellow feathers crammed in a semi sufficiently dissuaded me.

No costume parties for me today, but I caught two shindigs over the weekend, in Honesdale. Gallant would have stayed in Charlottesville to perfect a journal review assignment, but Goofus needed to dress in pirate gear and watch pirate movies (Friday night), then eat unseemly amounts of candy corn with Mary, Paul, and Joelle (Saturday night). Candy corn: Goofus. Boxed raisins: Gallant.

A grown Gallant probably wouldn’t celebrate this holiday at all. Gallant knows when to call it quits with Halloween. When you’re old enough to buy a Kit-Kat at CVS, you’re too old to request one in the guise of the Incredible Hulk.

I came mask-to-face with this unspoken rule at age eleven (sixth grade?), while trick-or-treating with Wodora Stapp.

Some mothers believe that Halloween etiquette sets certain candy-grubbing boundaries: if you don’t live within fifteen miles of the neighborhood, don‘t go begging for Tootsie Rolls there. Wodora’s mother did not subscribe to this nonsense. It took a good twenty minutes of travel in Mrs. Stapp’s minivan, but at 5 p.m. we idled within the high-fructose confines of the Regency Park subdivision.

Regency Park unfolded in endless blocks of identical two-story homes, most with station wagons out front, playground equipment in the back. Wodora and I stood before these houses like visitors to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. You could almost hear the Oopma Loompas chanting from behind a Foreman grill.

I don’t remember what costume I wore that year. In the past, I’d been a good witch; an Indian (Native American, as my Goan roommate at Wellesley quickly pointed out); a clown, twice. This may have been the year for Cats. My introduction to musical theater came early -- Mom and Dad had season tickets to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, and Cats played there at least twice (though I suppose no one in Middle Tennessee will admit to attendance).

In the spirit of Webber, I wasn’t your standard painted-whiskers, synthetic-tailed feline. I trekked Regency Park in a short fake mink, tall black boots, evening gown and stockings. Jellico cats, come one, come all!

Regency Park wasn’t quite ready. At our third or fourth two-story, Wodora and I chirped “trick or treat!” but the candy bowl remained on the opposite side of the threshold. Wodora and I waited. Mrs. Stapp revved her van. The RP mom eyed my boots and tasteful black agate jewelry. She said: “Aren’t you a little old for Halloween?”

Until this moment, I’d never considered being “too old” for anything, really. I didn’t suggest playing Barbies in certain company, but the impulse was more sympathetic than remorseful -- if you want to try on lip gloss instead of crowning a new Barbie Miss America, well, you’re the guest.

RP mom didn’t deny us two Dum Dums apiece. She had made her point. Shamed two prepubescent girls on a chilly night in a strange part of town. We didn’t stop our door-to-door, but I only faked disappointment when Mrs. Stapp suggested hot chocolate and The Parent Trap. We wouldn’t return to Regency Park next year. I didn’t put away the glitter facepaint and cakey eye-pencils, but I stayed on my own street, where the Eakers and the Wises and the Sebens knew T.S. Elliot and were generous with Reese’s Cups.

It’s hard for me to smile upon the Grinch who stole Halloween. Wodora and I weren’t too old...please. We were still in elementary school.

But even if we’d been driving Mrs. Stapp’s van instead of counting our loot in the backseat, I‘d think the scorn was unnecessary. There’s the usual “Halloween comes but once a year” argument, but beyond that - why deny anyone the right to pretend? Once childhood is over, the “faking” loses its charm. Fake IDs, fake marriages, know. Past the age of 12, imagination becomes more obligatory than magical.

Except on Halloween.

Today you can be a pirate or a dinosaur or a Smurf, and no one will suggest therapy. It’s okay to play. So, I hope you will. Trick or treat.

Monday, October 17, 2005

It's a Win-Win Situation

Not only are the beer pongers statistically happier, apparently they're trendier:

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Gimme a "V"

It's coincidental that I received those two semi-anonymous lashings below -- the topic of my next post was going to be how tired of myself I am. Seriously. I've now been in Charlottesville for a month, and the social interactions count is at 3 or 4. At least one of those exchanges was between me and Lizzie the Crab. Like me, Lizzie lives de facto alone. Dave's ascended at last, and the other shells were never inhabited to begin with.

I, too, have the appearance of roommates: I share a kitchen and living room with two medical students and a biochem graddie. Their shells are filled with books containing phenylketonuria, and acesulfame potassium and other Diet Coke-can words I can't pronounce. And their shells are usually abandoned, in favor of the medical library. How 'bout another game of Solitaire, Lizzie...

So, I'd like to fritter my mornings at Central Perk, exchanging sugar packets and witticisms with hip quarterlifers. But I suspect they've paired off: Ross-Rachel, Monica-Chandler. Either I must find Paul Rudd or get an eponymous TV show. If you're weary of "Jesseanna: the Blog," just wait for "Jesseanna: the Series."

This all sounds a little self-piteous, doesn't it? I wasn't going for that effect. Truth is, I pity my parents and devoted long-distance friends, who must listen to me whine about crammed syllabi and impenetrable social circles. Well, now I sound self-deprecating. Damn. It's hard to escape the "self" on a blog, isn't it?

Even without the occasional anonymous flaming, I'm paying for my ego-tripping. Last week's Well Being seminar focused on the essentials of achieving happiness. Two words: don't blog. Our guest lecturer read from two chapters of his book, The Happiness Hypothesis. Here's the important equation: H = S + C + V. Happiness equals your "set point" (genetic predisposition), plus conditions of your life, plus voluntary activities. And you thought you needed a guru to figure this out.

I'd say my "set point" for happiness is pretty high. It doesn't take much to stir my endorphins -- drinking a C2 Coke will do it, or hearing "Dyer Maker" on the radio. My life conditions are good, too. I'm in an air-conditioned apartment with two packs of Morningstar meat-free chicken in the freezer.

It's the "V" that's bringing me down.

In my free time, I blog. Well, I also watch "Martha Stewart: Apprentice," but for now we'll say blogging is more condemnable. By definition, blogging is selfish. It's a solitary activity, based on introspection. Self, and....self. The Happiness Hypothesis says, "You're in trouble, pal." If you want satisfaction (Rolling Stones-brand or otherwise), you must leave the laptop. To paraphrase further, quality and quantity of interpersonal relationships is the single most important predictor of happiness. Apparently, numerous studies show that, on average, men aren't happier than women; African Americans aren't happier than Whites; the rich and famous aren't happier than the middle class (though it's key to have food, shelter, etc.). Yet, people with social ties are happier than loners; extroverts are happier than introverts.

As it follows, Friday-night beer pongers are happier than Friday-night bloggers. Bottoms up.

The actual blogging isn't as damaging as the act of self-consideration. In another positive psychology study (Lyubomirsky and Ross, if you're interested), participants were classified as "happy" or "unhappy," based on the Subjective Happiness Scale. They were then asked to rate 10 fancy desserts and choose their top 4. Later, a researcher informed them that they'd get to pick between their second-rated or third-rated dessert. Not ideal, but, hey, it's free shortcake. Before taking out their forks, participants had to rate the desserts a second time -- and before this re-rating, they were asked to focus on their "feelings and personal characteristics" or on "neutral images, objects, and geographical scenes."

In other words, they were divided into bloggers and non-bloggers.

You might know the outcome. When forced to think about themselves, the "happy" bunch derogated the desserts they were missing, thereby matching behavior previously shown by "unhappy" individuals. The study concludes: "It is not surprising that even happy individuals induced to reflect about themselves and their emotions may begin to ponder the implications of their decisions."

Happy bloggers better quit while they're smiling.

Unfortunately, I just can't stop. Not yet. Execrable as it is, blogging -- or, writing -- brings me "flow." I got the word "flow" from Psychology 101. Mihalyi may have heard of him? He said "flow" is the je ne sais quoi of hobby enjoyment. It's the natural high you get from engaging in a challenging-yet-achievable activity. In the words of The Happiness Hypothesis, "The keys to flow are: there's a clear challenge that fully engages your attention; you have the skills to meet the challenge; and you get immediate feedback about how you are doing." Sometimes, the feedback is, "You suck." So it goes.

I'm posting this on a Saturday morning. The birds are chirping. The beer pongers are sleeping in. I'm going to Starbucks for my daily journal article-reading and Frappucino slurping. Ross and Rachel won't greet me there, but I'm happy, anyway. Dessert, anyone?

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Honky Tonk Woman....What Was Her Name?

Did you see the excitement?,1,17532,00.html?fdnews

Everyone jokes about how old the Stones are, but clearly they still dominate. You don’t get bomb scares at Wayne Newton concerts. Nothing says “star power” like a little threat of mass destruction.

I was close enough to the concert to get blown away, had there been an explosive. But I wasn’t at the concert. Tickets sold out long before I got here, and I’m in deep study mode, anyway -- Developmental Psychopathology midterm on Tuesday. You think you can’t get no satisfaction?

No, last night I listened to James Taylor and cried into my DSM-IV. Around 10:30 I drifted off, only to awake at 2 or 3 a.m. Hello, afterparties. Hello, UFB (Unidentified Frat Boy) yelling “BEER PONG! BEER PONG!” over and over. What is beer pong? I know “bong,” but not “pong.” Kids today. Sheesh. I think Mick would agree.

I have to admit, I don’t know that many Stones numbers. “Satisfaction,” of course, and “Brown Sugar” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” “Angie” is great, too. If I were named Angie, I’d probably listen to more Stones. There’s nothing cooler than hearing your name in a cool song. (I know I just used the word “cool” twice...sorry. After reading studies with titles such as “The Moderator-Mediator Variable Distinction in Social Psychological Research,” I’ve decided vocabulary in general is overrated.)

If I couldn’t be named Angie, I’d gladly go with “Julia” (Beatles), “Lola“ (the Kinks), even “Roxanne.” I don’t have to put on the red light or sell my body to the night.

Elvis Costello has “Allison” and “Veronica.” Eric Clapton has “Layla.” Ike and Tina (or CCR) have “Proud Mary.” Who has Jesse? Rick Springfield. “Hey, your name is in that song, ‘Jesse’s Girl.’” Yeah, that’s right. “Only I guess that song is about a guy. Heh. Or a lesbian.”

You think this isn’t real dialogue? Damnit, Janet -- wrong.

What the pick-up artists of the world fail to remember is that “Jesse’s Girl” isn’t the only “Jesse” song. Not long after Rick quit coveting his friend’s girlfriend, Joshua Kadison delivered some gender-appropriate “Jesse” lyrics. “Jesse, paint your picture / ‘Bout how it’s gonna be / Jesse, you can always / Sell any dream to me.” Joshua’s “Jesse” is a lot feistier than Rick’s buddy. She’s taking the cat, Moses; she’s moving to a “trailer by the sea.” Joshua might dismiss her as a dreamer, but he’ll come around when the cabana boys start delivering tequila shots.

Despite the one-liner awkwardness Rick has caused me, I applaud him for writing a song with a guy’s name in the title. Boys just don’t get set to music that often. When they do, it’s less romantic and more eerie (Eminem “Stan,” Dusty Springfield “Ode to Billy Joe”). A “trailer by the sea” isn’t the Ritz, but...psychosis and bridge-jumping? I’ll take the double-wide.

I heard that the Stones rented three floors of the local Doubletree while they were here. By now, they’ve taken their complimentary chocolate chip cookies and gone north. The bomb hoaxer and I have been left behind, like Father Mackenzie and Eleanor Rigby, darning socks and memorizing pathology until the next band rolls through. Any idea where Kadison’s playing?