My Writer’s Notebook: a Summer Brennan Essay Camp Write-Along School for Ants
day five a few days late, but look i mostly completed a writing challenge!
This should have been written and posted on Friday but I’m trying this thing where I treat myself like a human, instead of expecting robotic perfection. If you’ve been reading along I want to say thank you for spending time reading the most random writing, and apologies for the many typos. I’m writing this intro after having written my five things essay, before posting it, and I think I’ve convinced myself that I should be proud of finishing this essay camp. The next step, as Summer laid out in her day five post, is to write a proper essay and this is my declaration / manifestation that I will have my essay completed by Friday at midnight, Central European Time, as she suggests. (She actually wrote “local time” but I’m a comedian and using Central European Time is called a call-back and it is intended to make you laugh. Did you laugh?)
Ok, my final, day five, five things essay for My Writer’s Notebook: a Summer Brennan Essay Camp Write-Along School for Ants inspired by Summer Brennan and Derek Zoolander.
Sometimes I wish I had never moved. That I still lived in my childhood bedroom with all the little things people call unimportant built up around me. I was subscribed to Vogue magazine for a few years. I received a giant magazine every month and I read it cover to cover, and where are those magazines now? They were more real than anything I’ve ever been paid to write. The September issues had to be sent in paper envelopes sometimes, to protect the fashion and wisdom printed on its glossy, thick pages. Where are they? Where are the Cosmopolitans I started buying in high school because that is what girls did, like how we didn’t eat anything and wore padded bras so we could look like the models and movie stars inside. I was washing my hands before starting this essay and I was wondering about challenges like this writing “camp”, like Instagram yoga challenges. Were challenges like this a thing before we were all editors-in-chief of our glossy Instagram feeds? Did we “challenge” ourselves like this before we had an easy and socially profitable way of demonstrating how gorgeous we look while doing it? And then I remembered those Cosmos stacked up in my bedroom, and I remember seeing calendars. A calendar for getting over a break-up, a calendar for loosing 10 pounds before even thinking about a swimsuit or sunshine. My first home fitness attempts — that is, if you don’t count the several summers I spent choreographing my own dances to my favourite music — were when I pulled out some pilates-style exercises from a glossy mag. It must have been a Cosmo or a Self because I would never have defiled my sacred text, Vogue, like that. Fuck, from my 2023 37-year-old lady perspective I would call buying and reading those magazines while your frontal lobe is still developing a “challenge”. Can You Consume Popular Media “For” Women Without Feeling Like The Worst Version Of “Woman” In The History Of Humanity? No, actually. I failed that challenge.
Ok, I have something truly controversial to say: The best demographic of men I have experienced in my life as a weird little wanderer are Czech men. And this is not because I am married to one. And any other Czech men reading this should not feel smug about my declaration (because I know who does your laundry and it has never been you). The bar for being an ok man is under the cement basement floor in the house that is human interaction. That you clear this bar only makes you better than other men. That being said, here are two highly generalised things I’ve noticed that Czech men do that make them not-a-complete-drain on society:
they help people in public. When I lived in Prague many, most, trams were not accessible for anyone who couldn’t navigate extremely tall stairs up into the vehicle. On some of the older models my own knees were nearly 90 degree angles when taking the steps. So if you’re an older person with limited mobility, or a younger person with limited mobility, or a mom with a baby in a pram, unless someone helps you on and off the tram you are not getting on or off that tram. I was shocked the first time I saw some random dude literally jump up to help a mom lift her pram onto the tram. The first time I saw my husband do that all my internal organs melted in heart-shaped goo. Even now I am fighting the urge to heap more praise on Czech men for this simple action that, frankly, everyone in the fucking world should do as non-asshole members of society. (Now that I am thinking of it, why don’t Czech women do this? Carrying the front of the pram up the tram steps does not take manly muscles. Because I never saw a woman do it, and because I couldn’t communicate quickly that I was helping and not baby-snatching, I didn’t help moms with prams. What I did was go to war with bus and tram drivers shutting the doors while people with limited mobility were trying to get on or off.)
they fix things. If I had to make a quick and dirty comparison I’d say that American men love to talk about fixing things while Czech men shut the fuck up and just fix shit. It can be dangerous to express a problem or a wish in front of a Czech man because he won’t ask for clarification before taking care of it / you. In my first year living in Prague I told one student who I was friendly with that I missed going to the movies. It sounds insane now but I didn’t have my own laptop then, I didn’t have a smart phone, and I had no clue how to go to the movies and see a film that wasn’t dubbed into Czech. The next time I saw him he gave me two vouchers for a movie theatre in the centre of the city. It was not a sneaky date invite. He didn’t want to go with me at all. I know this because I thought he was asking me out and did my best to sort out this confusion delicately. He was just fixing my problem. Another time I mentioned, very very off-handedly, that I needed to replace a lightbulb in my flat and the yoga teacher who heard me took me to the nearest lighting store after class to find the bulb I needed. When I was eating a lot of apples for lunch my own husband, without asking, bought me an apple slicer. Before you think I’m making shit up to make my Czech husband sound cool I also heard this same sentiment, that Czech men just quietly fix things, from a high-level executive at a major multi-national corporation when he was comparing his Czech and German employees.
I remember when I learned that Vogue editions produced in different European locals had bare lady breasts in them I thought, breathlessly — yes you can think a thought in a whisper — “that must be culture.” And then the first time I was on a Prague metro and saw breasts in a regular newspaper being used to sell something totally unrelated to boobs I thought, angrily, “fucking misogynists.”
Can my number 2 count as more than two since it has two bullet points?
the photo I used as my header is by Cristian Salinas Cisternas: https://www.pexels.com/photo/tram-road-6477347/
i really should have been listing photo credit this whole time.