thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘cheryl strayed’

The Top 5 Things I Learned from Pop Culture in 2012

In books, music videos, Television on December 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Sarah T.

1. Acclimate yourself to rejection as soon as possible.

That way, the fear of getting turned down never prevents you from doing anything. Accomplishing this is easy. Just start asking for what you want, and people will start telling you no. It works for everything: job applications, dating, carbon tax proposals, writing pitches, conferences, ordering very popular dishes at too-busy restaurants. The great trick of rejection is that it’s not so bad. The way your skin grows calluses to protect the parts of you that work the hardest, the word no helps you build vast reserves of Leslie Knope-ism–the bright eyed, bulldozer-ish determination to follow through on every good idea.

Sometimes you’ll decide you need to find a different way to reach the same goal. Sleazeball councilmember trying to sandbag your dog park? Fill his backyard with puppies. Behind in the polls? Don’t go negative; beat your opponent by contrasting his words with your own. Sometimes you still won’t get what you want, which by the alchemy of enduring rebuff just becomes more fuel for your fire. And sometimes your efforts will pay off, in which case the only thing to do is to take in the win the way Leslie Knope would. “I just said let’s get to work,” she tells her co-workers moments after a victory. “How else do people enjoy things?”

2. There will always be someone shinier than you.

Someone more famous and successful. More blonde. More likely to be invited to sing at President Obama’s inaugural ball. Say your brand of talent doesn’t have quite that same sparkly blockbuster razmatazz. The best thing in the world to do, should you find yourself in a position similar to Solange Knowles, is to not even try to be like Beyonce. Instead, she’s quietly and impossibly cool, edgy and offbeat in her bright orange zoot suits, crooning in a crowded shuttle bus her sister would probably never ride. From Solange’s gorgeous cloud of natural hair to the easy way she dives into the pool fully clothed, “Losing You” showed the world how comfortable she was in her own skin. Of course her music made a splash this year: When you act like yourself, the right people find you. And those who don’t miss out on one sweet dance party.

Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming “Wild” with Cheryl Strayed

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Sarah T.

Cheryl Strayed’s new memoir Wild tells two stories. The first is about the devastating losses, including her mother’s death from cancer at just 45, that lead her to pound through the mountains, deserts, and woods of the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. The second story is about what happens while she’s on the PCT: the people she meets, the books she reads and burns to lighten her load, the foxes and bears and bygone toenails, the backpack she calls Monster, the small gifts of goose feathers and river-cooled Bud Lights that are her talismans along the way. Those gifts don’t protect her, but she doesn’t need protection. The worst has already happened. They’re just reminders of how generous the world can be.

As a 26-year-old woman by herself on the PCT, Strayed stands out from the crowd–both on the trail and on the bookshelves. American literature is replete with stories of men small against the wilderness: “To Build a Fire” and Into the Wild and 127 Hours and Huck Finn and Walden (sort of, Thoreau had some help) and countless more. These stories tend to center on some combination of two narratives: men discover their true, elemental selves by entering into nature and/or test their strength and hubris against snowstorms, avalanches, and other natural events humans experience as disasters.

Wild refuses either of these tropes, insisting on slow self-knowledge and ordinary–though no less frightening–dangers. There are no avalanches; there’s not even a climax that would be easy to identify. Instead Strayed contends with broken water tanks, a moose that charges and disappears, and a stranger with a threatening leer.

Hunger is her most constant worry: surviving off supplies and $20 bills she’s mailed herself along the way, she’s always ravenous. Daily she fantasizes about cheeseburgers, Snapple lemonades, and Caesar salads. These foods are so quintessentially American that it’s hard not to see them as a metaphor for the safe, loving life that began to shatter when her mother died. As she sets out on the trail, her best friend and parent is gone; her formerly close family has scattered. She’s divorced the man she still loves and left her college degree unfinished.

The momentum of her hike prevents Strayed from sinking further into grief. When she begins she doesn’t know exactly why she’s on the PCT. But as she walks, it becomes clear that she’s found a way to make her outer circumstances match her inner ones. As the last name she adopted after her divorce implies, she’s become painfully unmoored in the wake of so much loss. But on the PCT all the hikers are searchers in some way, and on the days – and there are many — when she encounters no one, she’s as wild as the trail. Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 961 other followers