October 1, 2010

Things That Matter

I feel very lucky to have grown up where I did - in a community designed to be inclusive for people from all walks of life (though whether that has been a success or not is open for discussion), but it wasn't until I reached college that I knew anyone who was (openly) gay. I never thought much about it when I started making new friends in college that there would be people who were gay or bi or lesbian. It didn't matter to me. What mattered was who these people were and who I was when I was around them. Working in theatre (and in my everyday life) I continued to meet more and more people who were LGBTQ. They were (and are) my friends and I never once cared about their sexuality. I was/am proud to know so many people who are different from me, and I truly believe that knowing them has made my life richer.

I was aware that my personal opinion - that who you love doesn't matter -  wasn't always one that was shared by others in the world. Realizing the extent to which some people felt about homosexuality didnt really hit me until the Fall of 2002, my college theatre department produced "The Laramie Project." The play, and subsequent movie,  centered around the death of Matthew Shepard, a young man (22) who was brutally beaten and left to die on a fence post in Laramie, WY.

The play affected me. Watching rehearsals nearly every day and seeing the final product hit me over and over again the amount of hatred that is out there in the world. My college community came closer when a few months later the Westboro Baptist Church came to visit my college. You may have heard of this group - they like to picket nearly everything with signs with anti-everything messages. We paraphrased a line ("hate is not a Laramie value") from the play and made t-shirts with the phrase "Hate is not a Hartford value" and a rainbow heart on them. Standing at the entrance to campus, I remember thinking that it was simply unfair for anyone to hate someone else simply because of who they were. To think that bullying could have ended the lives of people I cared about was just unfathomable.

That was 8 years ago, and we are no closer to ending hate in this world than we were back then.

I read an article a few days ago about a student at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide following an incident where his roommate broadcast Tyler's encounters with another male student via a webcam and twitter.This story is sad on so many levels, not the least of which is the fact that this is not an isolated incident.

Every day young people from across the country are teased, tormented, tortured, ridiculed, and hurt by their friends, classmates, peers, families, and strangers simply because of who they love. 

This is appalling.

We live in a country founded on the principals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I don't understand why anyone would prevent another human being from having the same opportunities that they have come to expect.

Something has to be done. It doesn't matter if you are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning your own sexuality, NO ONE deserves to feel hurt or alone or to feel that they would be better off dead.

In the last three weeks there have been more than a half-dozen suicides by young people as a result of bullying, and those are just the kids we know about. There are no doubt countless more who have contemplated or committed suicide because of how others have made them feel.

It breaks my heart.

All we can do... all anyone can do... is reach out to others and tell them that it is ok to be whoever they want to be. To love who they want to love. There are resources available out there if you're feeling lost and/or confused. Maybe by talking about it to our friends, our children, our community will stop more lives from being lost.

On her TV show recently, Ellen DeGeneres spoke out on this very topic, and it's worth the viewing.

September 2, 2010

Crab People!

I am a Maryland girl, born and raised, and every summer there is one thing that I MUST do.... eat crabs!

It's true, it's a law somewhere.

I was never a big seafood eater when I was younger... with two exceptions: shrimp and crab - both with a GENEROUS serving of this stuff:

Old Bay Seasoning in Tin - 6 oz
Mmmmm makes my mouth water thinking about it!

For those of you that have never tried it, Old Bay is the stuff that makes Maryland crabs what they are... it has a distinct taste and is far better than (in my opinion) other seafood seasoning out there. According to the website it includes spices such as celery salt,  mustard, red pepper, bay leaves, cloce, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and most importantly, paprika.

Old Bay can be found on nearly everything around here: seafood (and crab dip), popcorn, eggs, corn, french fries, potato chips, and a few restaurants use it as either ingredients in or on the rim of a Bloody Mary.

I bring up crabs because I had the opportunity this past Sunday to get some friends together for a crab feast, and a college friend is coming in to town this weekend so I am pretty sure there is more crab eating in store for me. 

I'm fortunate that a friend of mine's husband works for a seafood restaurant in Baltimore, so we were able to get the "too small to sell" crabs easily and without much hassle for the crab feast. I invited about 20 people, and about ten of us tucked in to the crabs, going through nearly 2 bushels (that's 8-10 DOZEN crabs).

Ever had a crab?

The taste is, in a word, delicious. Crabs are meaty and sweet and delicate and when steamed with a more than generous topping of Old Bay, they are perfection.

The only trick, however, is that you have to work for your food. If this is not something you are fond of, either find someone to do it for you or move on.

It is a process to open up a crab, but as you get better and better at it, you can go through a crab in under 10 minutes. Everyone has their own technique, and I highly recommend Washingtonian's "Get Cracking" guide because it has some great pictures that will make the process easier.
from wellsphere.com (even though I can tell these definitely need more seasoning!)

Here are my top 10 crab eating tips:
  1.  If you have any cuts on your hands, put a bandage on that seals all the way around. Trust me, you DO NOT want to get any old bay in to your cuts. It will burn and will impact your crab-eating time. 
  2. Don't wear a white shirt. It's a bad idea and it will ruin your shirt if you get any Old Bay on it. Stick with easily washable dark colors. 
  3. Be prepared to sit for a while. Have lots of water (or beer) handy to drink, and make sure you have a couple of rolls of paper towels handy (see tip #6). 
  4. Eat outside. Have a trashcan with a trash bag ready or two. It will stink up your house, your car, and anywhere else the crabs hang out. 
  5. Newspaper or brown craft paper. People refer to it as the "Maryland tablecloth" for a reason. It will protect (mostly) your table tops, and make clean up a snap - just roll up the paper with shells inside! 
  6. Paper Towel Tip - Get crabs out of your way faster and make room for the eatin'. pre-tear several paper towels in front of you. Open the crabs on these towels, and once you've gone through one or two, fold up the crab in the towel and just toss. Bam! Instant clean. 
  7. Mallets and knives - have both at the ready. Mallets are for claws, and the knives are for two reasons - to pry off the top shell, and to help with claw opening. Set your knife across your claw and whack the blade with the mallet. It will produce a cleaner, easier way to get to that sweet sweet crab meat. 
  8. Take off all of your rings before you start. Old Bay really does get everywhere! I have been known to wash my hands periodically while eating crabs - otherwise it gets too messy. Avoid touching your eyes for a while after eating. The seasoning could linger and it burns....
  9. Don't confuse the gills with meat! It can make you sick. Gills are gray, the meat is white. Also, some people will eat the "mustard" inside the crab. If you really want to try it, go ahead, but it's part of the crab's digestive system. 
  10. Use lemon juice when washing your hands to get rid of the stink. 
So now that you have these tips and the summer is almost over, get out there and EAT SOME CRABS!!! You'll thank me later.

I will admit, however, that I haven't always been a crab lover.

Once, when I was in elementary school, we went on a family vacation to the Outer Banks, NC. We even went to the pier and caught our own crabs for dinner. My parents steamed or boiled the crabs, and when we sat down to eat them, and I opened one up... it was a female that was pregnant. I didn't eat crabs for about 3 years after that... and even to this day, I won't eat females. It's weird enough to me that they have eyes that stare in to your soul.....

August 13, 2010

My Other Secret: Boy Bands

I love listening to music and pride myself on having very eclectic tastes. Ask any of my friends - if you take me out to a sing-along piano bar (such as my favorite: Howl at the Moon), I'm almost as likely to know the lyrics to oldies as I am to classic rock, hip hop, showtunes, pop, and even a smattering of country.

But my secret musical guilty pleasure? "Boy bands."

Why you may ask?

Well, I'm not really sure, but I think that if I go back to the days when my musical tastes were just beginning to develop, it all starts to make sense.

My parents, as I grew up, listened to two types of music - "oldies" (we're talking 1950s/early 60s) and showtunes. This is what I listened to, exclusively, for the first 11 or 12 years of my life. It was what we sang along to in the car or at home. In the 5th or 6th grade, when we had a talent show and my friends sang catchy current songs, I sang a song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

There was, however, one exception to my oldies/showtunes childhood.....
New Kids on the Block
Oh Joey McIntire...

I loved New Kids on the Block. I had the big picture book of the band, a tshirt and even had the (why were these ever popular) oversized Donnie Wahlberg button. I also dreamed about Jordan knight and Joey McIntire and owned the cassette tape with the cover pictured above. I used to know all of the words to all of the songs (ok, maybe I still know most of the lyrics to "Hangin' Tough" and "(You Got It) The Right Stuff" and, my personal favorite "Popsicle").

Eventually my NKOTB obsession faded in to the background and I started to listen to more current music. It was slow goings (at least two of the songs I remember being played at my Bat Mitzvah in 1994 were Beach Boys songs). I purchased the Columbia House "buy 12 cds for a penny" deal and started picking out my own music ( Pearl Jam, En Vogue, Green Day, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Ugly Kid Joe and some showtunes and oldies thrown in for good measure).

But then came the one true "Boy Band Era".

I was the late 1990s and if you were a teenage girl, chances are you loved a boy band. For most, alliances fell with either NSYNC or Backstreet Boys (BSB for short). 

From an outsider's perspective, the boy bands were all the same. Four or five young, (reasonably) good looking, (moderately) talented guys who came together (read: were brought together by that creepy guy in Florida) to bust out some tunes and some sick dance moves.

They were all relatively the same when it boiled down to it. Each guy had a role to play.

The Leader: 
NSYNC JC by unknown. Size 23.00 X 35.00 Art Poster Print Backstreet Boys~ Backstreet Boys Poster~ Brian~ Rare Original Poster Printed in 1999!!~ Approx 23" x 35"

The Young (Hot) One:
N' Sync ~ NSync Poster ~ Justin Timberlake ~ Rare Original Poster!!~ Approx 23" x 35"Backstreet Boys~ Backstreet Boys Poster~ Nick~ Rare Original Poster Printed in 1999!!~ Approx 23" x 35"

The Shy Guy

NSYNC Lance by unknown. Size 23.00 X 35.00 Art Poster Print on CanvasBackstreet Boys Howie Autographed Signed reprint PhotoBackstreet Boys Howie Autographed Signed reprint Photo

The Older Brother
NSYNC Joey by unknown. Size 23.00 X 35.00 Art Poster Print Backstreet Boys Kevin Richardson Music Poster Print - 24x36

The Rebel
N' Sync ~ NSync Poster ~ Chris~ Rare Original Poster Printed In 1998!!~ Approx 23" x 35"Backstreet Boys AJ McLean Music Poster Tatoos - 24x36

But their songs were innocent (sounding), the boys were dreamy, and they made you want to scream.

Sure, I think deep down we all knew that they were cheesy. The carefully manicured images, the overly-produced songs, it was all part of the show, but that didn't stop us from loving them any less. I saw NSYNC in concert TWICE. Once I paid for the ticket and sat in the nose bleed seats with my friend Kristina, and the second time I was given a free floor seat by my friends Ben and Robin who had won the tickets (I even skipped out on the second half of a double I was working at a restaurant to go). They were amazing concerts, and I remembered seeing Pink (before she got really big) when she opened for NSYNC at that first concert.

My sophomore year college roommate, Jamie, also shared my love. She was a HUGE fan of O-Town and we would have moments in our dorm that we would bust out singing some of the greatest hits of all of the boy bands.

In fact, my love for boy bands spilled over in to the realm of "fake" boy bands:

  • Did anyone else watch/love the MTV movie/tv show "2ge+her"? I was reminded of my love for this "group" recently by Jamie, and immediately went to YouTube to watch some of the videos. They produced such great hits as "You + Me = Us (I Know My Calculus)".
  • In grad school I heard about this off-Broadway musical about a fake Christian boy band Altar Boyz. I saw it once in NYC and once on tour, and both times it was amazing.
I can't help it. I have been known to rock out to some NSYNC and BSB when they come on my ipod.

I really just love boy bands. Don't Judge.

You know you had a favorite. Leave your favorite boy band or song by a boy band in the comments!

July 29, 2010

Blogger Interview: See Claudia Date

One of the things I enjoy best about Twitter is the ability to find (and follow) people you don't know who may (or may not) have interesting things to say. This past week one of my random follows tweeted about @SeeClaudiaDate. As Emily and I have recently had an extra long post about dating, it caught my eye.

Claudia is a soon-to-be 30 year old woman living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL who is attempting the monumental task of going on 30 dates in the month she turns 30.

I decided to go out on a limb and see if Claudia wouldn't mind being interviewed (via email) for our blog.  After checking us out, she agreed and now I'd like to present my interview.

Know any single guys in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area that would like to go out on a date with her? You can find her information and blog at seeclaudiadate.com!

So since this project is about going on 30 dates in the month that you turn 30, which is scarier - the dates or hitting the big 3-0?

The 30 dates are definitely scarier than turning 30, hands down. 
On one of your recent posts, you indicated that you had about a weeks worth of dates lined up so far. How have you found these guys?

Some of the guys have e-mailed me. I also set up an online dating profile to "cast a wider net". Actually, Match.com recently gave me a complimentary membership for 3 months, so if I do get any dates from there, I'll definitely give them credit.
Do you have a date on August 1st?
I do. The date is confirmed, but the actual activity is to be determined.
What happens if you meet the perfect guy early on in your quest? Would you go out with him again within the 30 days and would it count as another one of the 30 dates?
Ahh, I have gotten this question more than once and I have yet to really answer it. The truth is, if I do end up liking someone I go out with and the feeling is mutual, I think a 2nd or 3rd date would be totally acceptable. Never did I set myself up to say that I couldn't go out with the same person more than once. The only challenge I gave myself was to see if I could actually go on 30 dates in the month.
Describe what type of guy you would typically go for?

Hmm, to be honest, I've never really had a type. Looks wise, most of the guys I've gone out with have been slender to athletic. But the last guy I dated with a neuroscientist. The guy before that was a musician. Another was a teacher. I definitely want to try and keep an open mind going into these dates, since I think that's part of the social experiment.
Is there any type of guy you wouldn't want to go out with?

Hmm, someone asked me to go to their house for dinner. It doesn't necessarily break down into the type of guy that he is, but I wouldn't go out with anyone unless it was in a public setting. As far as characteristics go, I think a smoker is a no-go (assuming I know they smoke when they ask me out).
Why should someone date you? What makes you unique? What do you think you bring to the table in a relationship?

Well I think the fact that I'm doing this makes me somewhat unique and shows that I am confident and I don't take life too seriously. I actually have a plan to have someone "endorse" me as a person that's worth going out with, but I haven't followed through yet. Stay tuned.
Moving from New York to Florida is a big change in geography, climate, population density, how would you compare the dating "scene" in the two cities?

I guess I've learned that dating is hard no matter where you live. But as someone told me last night, you can't really compare the two cities. They are so different in and of themselves that I can't really compare the dating scene.
We recently had a post about bad dates - what's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on a date?

Someone else asked me this as well. I can honestly say that I've been very fortunate to date extremely great guys. Even if the date itself was a bust, there was never anything embarrassing or unfortunate that ever happened.  However, I did go on an international trip with a then boyfriend and that's when I realized I wanted to break up with him, but had to wait til we got back home.
What about the best?

The best thing that's ever happened to me on a date? This one particular guy, when we first started dating, every date was absolutely lovely. I never wanted it to end and we would just talk for hours. I miss that. I miss the excitement of a first kiss or looking forward to seeing them again. I think that's the best part of dating anyone. The excitement and longing.
What is the perfect first date outfit for you? For the guy?
Well, it really depends on the date. But for a girl, you can't really go wrong with a blouse, nice jeans, and heels. It kinda works for everything from dinner to bowling to a sports game. Might I be over or underdressed? Sure, but it's a safe outfit. For the guy, I guess the guy version of that. Maybe a button down, nice jeans, and sneakers? But I'm perfectly happy wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and converse.  
Vanilla Cupcake (photo from eatdesertfirst.com)
If you could be any flavor of cupcake, what would it be and why?
Ha! I love this question because anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE cupcakes. That said, my answer isn't very exciting. I just love a vanilla with vanilla frosting.
If "40 is the new 30", what does that mean for the old 30?
Hmm, I don't even know how to answer this question.
Are you planning any sort of celebration for your birthday other than going on 30 dates? Will you go out on a date on that day?

Remains to be seen. I know I want to celebrate my birthday but not necessarily with a date. I kinda just want to hang out with my friends that night. 
Will you tell your children or grandchildren about this when you get older?

Sure! I mean, it's on the internet, so why not.
What would you tell your 20 year old self about dating?
 Just to keep an open mind. But overall, I don't have any regrets about the last 10 years of dating.
What would you say to girls who are interested in doing something like what you're doing?
Take a leap of faith and do it!

Anything else people should know about you or your project?

Just that I'm doing this to see what happens. I'm not expecting to find "the one", but maybe I'll meet a few nice guys and make some friends. And the best case? I end up meeting someone that I like and likes me back and we'll go from there.

Well, that's the interview. Emily and I both wish Claudia the best of luck (we're crossing our fingers that everything works out correctly).

Again, Claudia's website is www.seeclaudiadate.com - so check it out!

Through Claudia's site, I've also learned about a guy in NYC who is doing this RIGHT NOW! Check him out at www.datingbrian.com (I'm especially charmed by his "interview sheets).