Scrapbooking is one of those things I love to hate. I think it’s because I know people from high school who do it, and most of the people I went to high school with can be characterized as such: Scrapbooking is on my list of All Things Lame, along with writing New Kids on the Block fan fiction or collecting stuffed teddy bears. I refuse even to pick up a pair of craft shears because they’ll set me on a slippery slope to The Morass of Lameness, and before I know it I’m wearing a jumper with teapots all over it and singing in a church choir. And I have cankles (an important detail which takes the whole scenario from merely “disturbing” to “downright chilling”).
I’m about to tell you something shocking, so sit down. Here goes: I have been suppressing an urge to scrapbook. I used to scrapbook. Before it was an industry. Yes, I was something of a basic bitch back in the day. In college, I spent my summers on my bedroom floor, surrounded by markers, stickers, and photo corners, carefully placing that year’s photos and mementos in an old-fashioned scrapbook. To my twenty-year-old self, scrapbook design was the pinnacle of artistic expression. Looking back, arranging the scraps of my life into some kind of meaningful order was probably one way I coped with debilitating anxiety. Still, it’s pretty lame. Turn to page 5, and you’ll find my dean’s list certificate and a photo of my roommate dancing with a stuffed Kermit the Frog, accented with panda stickers and floating in a sea of polka dots. Archival-quality proof of a college career that was sadly devoid of booze and dick.
Once into my twenties, I gave up scrapbooking. I never got into Stampin’ It Up or Cuttin’ It Up or whatever that shit is called. But every once in a while, I feel a teeny bit tempted, especially in the summers when I get bored. G. relentlessly teases me about it. When he saw me using iPhoto to make Jack’s baby book, he pointed out, “Isn’t that a lot like scrapbooking?”
“Shut up,” I replied, pissed that he called me on it.
Here’s another secret: I actually like Olive Garden. When you’re there, you’re family. Everything there might not be great, but dammit, I’ve had tiramisu in Italy and I think their tiramisu is the bomb. What’s more, I can only describe their salad dressing as “motherfucking zesty.” My hipsterdouche ex always decried their salad because it contains iceberg lettuce, which apparently offends hipsters with its banality. Because of this, he would only eat at Olive Garden ironically, the way he wore plaid pants and drank out of a Ronald Reagan mug.
I get it, Hipsterdouche: Olive Garden is pedestrian. Unlike the people targeted in the above tweet, I know that there is world of better, more authentic cuisine out there, and I still enjoy Olive Garden. But I’m very selective about the contexts in which I will admit to liking it. I shouldn’t worry what people think, but I do. I need to set myself apart from the people I grew up with, to prove I’m not like them. To others? To myself? Who knows. Regardless, it’s easier to make fun of Olive Garden than it is to say outright, “I’m terrified of ignorance, conformity, anti-intellectualism, and religion! Please join me in condemning everything that might possibly be associated with those abstractions, no matter how tangentially related! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” <– insane laugh
“Terrified” is the key word. When I said the picture of my hypothetical cankled self in a patterned jumper singing in a church choir was “downright chilling,” in a way I wasn’t exaggerating. There is a real fear in embracing things that are totally alien to you—or even scarier, what is already inside you that you want to deny.
And what we’re afraid of, we hate. We mask our fear with hostility.
Last weekend we had an aged toy poodle named Toby stay at our house. We hoped he’d become friends with our Newfoundland, but whenever our Newfie got close, Toby would growl, baring his pointy yellow teeth in a menacing snarl that made him look like the poodle version of the Cryptkeeper. Why? Because he was scared. He was in survival mode, trying to look tough and stare down the threat. That’s my relationship with scrapbooking and Olive Garden. They’re completely innocent, but I still feel like I need to keep them at bay, just so they know who’s boss.
How it’s different: neither scrapbooking nor eating at Olive Garden threatens my physical existence. (I don’t know of anyone who has perished in a scrapbooking accident, although I can imagine something grisly involving one of those personal paper cutters. As for Olive Garden, breadstick fragment lodged in windpipe? Public shooting by deranged iceberg-lettuce-hating hipster?) What they threaten is my sense of self. When I reject them, the only thing I’m defending is my ego. Ever the failed Buddhist, I’m still struggling to experience moments and things as they are without judgement, still hung up on my identity. I care so much about how I appear to others that sometimes I have to see myself through other people’s eyes before I know who I am.
Sometimes I even need to look at my Facebook profile to know who I am.
Read that statement again so you can absorb how fucked up it is.
Sometimes I need to look at my Facebook profile to know who I am.
Whenever you find yourself growling and baring your teeth, I’d advise figuring out what it is you’re really afraid of. Then you can say something like, “I am more than this lettuce” or “This heart-shaped craft punch doesn’t define me.”
Writing this post has been a real breakthrough in my spiritual development. To celebrate, I’m gonna order a Tour of Italy, take pictures and document everything on brightly-colored card stock.