Sunday, February 14, 2010


Today is Valentine’s Day and since I may or may not be behind on my posting, I figured I might as well add to the V-Day prattle.

As a young woman, everything around me tells me I should either spend the day romantically with my (non-existent) boyfriend, or lamenting the fact that I do not have said boyfriend. Valentine’s Day – someone, somewhere is telling us – is important. Care. Care a lot.

Well, as I may have mentioned, I don’t have a boyfriend. And yes, sometimes this makes me bitter and frustrated and all those other fun emotions that come with being 20 and single and, possibly, identifying as a heterosexual woman at a women’s college. I suppose I went through a phase at some point where I refused to wear red on Valentine’s Day and really played up the angst, but at this point in my life, I don’t really care. I guess I’m mildly angsty about the single thing, but really, truly, hating Valentine’s Day with every fiber of my being just takes too much work. Yes, it’s completely commercialized and some of the glittery pink heart things are just a little too garish, but people like it, so who am I to interfere?

Keeping all of this in mind, I can’t help but think about the what-if’s. What if I did have a boyfriend this Valentine’s Day? Honestly, I’m not sure much would change. Don’t get me wrong – I love my chocolates and flowers as much as the next gal, and under normal circumstances I probably would expect something Valentine-y from the boyfriend, but I’m not sure I’d really go for all the sappy romantic Valentine’s Day stuff. I think it might feel contrived. Like some bizarre mixture of ‘OK, this is what we’re supposed to do’ and trying way, way too hard. Of course, this is all just speculation.

And then there’s the other meaning of V-Day – one that I think Bryn Mawr has really embraced, not only with the annual production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, but also with the continued support of the V-Day cause. took all the Valentine’s hubbub and ran with it to bring the issue of violence against women to the forefront of our minds. The organization reminds us that there are women across the globe who have other things to worry about besides the perfect dress for the dinner-date or the lack of said dinner-date. Valentine’s Day may be commercialized to hell and beyond, but when it comes down to it, it’s only a day. Come February 15, everything goes back to normal, the chalky candies and garish singing teddy bears get marked down to 50% off, and we go back to being people and not “single” or “in-a-relationship.” But V-Day lives on. It doesn’t get as much attention afterwards since it does play off the Valentine’s hype, but the feeling is still there. The flowers wilt, but we continue to fight to make the world a better place, not just for women, but for everyone.

So I got a lot more in-depth and serious and philosophical and whatnot than I thought I would there. I guess that’s a good thing…?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I have returned to The Mawr. Due to the snowpocalypse(!) I was stuck in DC for an extra day and, as a result, missed all of my Monday classes (sorry about that…). Having finished watching Matilda and doing arts and crafts, I now sit here with my cup of peppermint tea, ready to regale you with tales of my harrowing adventures…

And by “adventures” I clearly mean “sitting inside being amused by the panic.”

Seriously though, the panic, especially in my hometown, whenever it snows, is truly ridiculous. It’s just semi-frozen water, people. Yes, there’s a lot of it. Yes, it makes things slippery, but the human race managed to live through an ice age. You’d think we’d be able to deal with some snow. The really unfortunate thing though, is that apparently we can’t. Despite extensive planning and positioning, a lot slipped through the cracks. To be honest, it really was a shitshow.

Which, I guess, brings us to my weekend, although it isn’t a particularly fitting transition…

My weekend was really pretty boring and yet simultaneously quite bizarre. Friday was doctor’s appointment/blood test/prepare for insanity day, Saturday was homework/find out I’m even more anemic/for the first time be glad I have the joints of an octogenarian and can’t shovel/veg day, and Sunday was sophisticated Superbowl/more homework/arts and crafts day.

…I was going to try to expand on just how bizarre this weekend was for me, but words fail me. I guess it really was one of those “you had to be there” moments, just extended for an entire weekend.

My delay in returning to campus was kind of good in a way. I mean, it sucks that I missed my classes and now I’m all paranoid that I missed really important material that will ultimately make or break my grade in the class, but on the other hand I got to give my aunt a tour of campus and we had Peace a Pizza and Hope’s Cookies and she saw my closet of a room and life slowed down without coming to a complete halt like I feel it does during breaks.

I’m supposed to “take it easy.” Doctor’s orders. Sleep. Easier said than done. I guess I’m already disobeying. Well, I had my green leafy vegetables at dinner tonight and I’ll be taking all my pills and vitamins and supplements and whatnot, so it’s not like I’m rebelling. I’m just being a college student. A busy college student. With tons of reading and a little bit of a procrastination habit…. And a little bit of a Farmville addiction…. Don’t judge me.

Well I am almost done with my peppermint tea and I believe I have run out of things about which to blather on for now, so this is where I leave you with another saying from my mini-fridge: my foot is like a dream come true.

~Ellery Baxendale

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How coherent are we talking here?

“Readers often conceive of autobiographical narrators as telling unified stories of their lives, as creating or discovering coherent selves. But both the unified story and the coherent self are myths of identity. For there is no coherent ‘self’ that predates stories about identity, about ‘who’ one is” (Smith and Watson 47).

The longer I look at this, the more I agree and the less I understand. Does that make sense? Probably not. My mind is constantly going off in multiple directions. Which is possibly what Smith and Watson are trying to get at. Nothing, when it comes to the self, is ever that clear.

So this “myth of identity” thing. That seems pretty accurate. Whether or not we really choose to think about it this way, our identities are formed just as much by who we are as by who we are not – the fact that I am not every other person on this Earth in some minute way must contribute to me being who I am. Right? Well maybe, but I’m not sure that’s my argument.

In terms of this ‘unified story’ business, it kind of does have to be a myth. Can any of us look back on our lives and see everything clearly, chronologically, without that haze of uncertainty about what happened when and with whom and whether or not that one conversation was actually a dream? Beyond that, our lives don’t just move in one straight line. They’re interwoven with the stories of others. People filter in and out of our lives (and the other way around), and while all this makes life more interesting, it makes presenting an entirely unified story of one’s life pretty damn difficult.

And now my favorite part. The ‘coherent self.’ I haven’t the faintest idea what, exactly a coherent self is. I’m fairly certain that I do not have one. Or that it is hiding. Or something. When I think ‘self,’ (at least pertaining to myself) I do not think coherent. We are constantly changing creatures. We become different selves in different situations and with different people. As college students, we can even add another layer by claiming that we’re using this time to “find” ourselves. As previously mentioned, I don’t really know what a coherent self is, but I get the impression that it would involve some level of certainty and stability. That isn’t life. That isn’t identity. Who you are is constantly changing because everything around you is constantly changing. Not everything is relative, but to a certain extent I think identity has to be. Especially if you’re going to try and share your story with others. I can’t tell my story without having some idea of who I am, but an organized schema of my mind and self in relation to my experiences is just not going to happen.

And so I leave you with this rambling drivel that hopefully answers the prompt at least satisfactorily. Identity is a can of worms I find myself opening quite often. Maybe I’m used to it? I no longer shrink back in horror. Sometimes I don’t even sigh. I think I’m beginning to enjoy identity, but sometimes it is just plain exhausting.

And on that note…

Monday, February 1, 2010

A post by any other name would be received as sweet(ly)

Moving right along with musings on identity, I’ve decided to take a nom de plume. Or pseudonym. Or pen-name. I think it depends on how pretentious I’m feeling. I’m not entirely sure why. I think I kind of just like the idea. Or perhaps I have delusions of grandeur that people will stumble upon my blog and it will become the next new exciting thing. And then, of course, I wouldn’t be able to reveal my real name. I’m really just staying a step ahead.

Or maybe it’s because I never get to have fun names. I never really had any nicknames that stuck. My family has strange near-bastardizations of my name with which they affectionately call me on occasion, but I’m not sure that really counts.

And a pen-name feels so literary. Especially as a woman, there’s a history to it. By using a nom de plume am I forging a connection with the great female writers who came before me? Probably not. I’m not so sure George Eliot would find my blog particularly enlightening. There’s no societal reason for me to feel the need to hide my “true” identity. Unless of course this is it and the identity associated with my name is false. How’s that for turning things around? At BMC one of the favorite sayings is “sexuality is fluid,” but maybe identity is where the real fluidity comes in.

As previously mentioned, I am quite possibly the most indecisive person to traipse across this earth. So I made up my mind to have a pen-name. Great. Now what’s it going to be? And there’s the dilemma. Turns out though, I didn’t have to resort to baby-naming books. The internet is an amazing thing. Not only are there pseudonym generators, there are “preposterous pen-name generators.” As previously mentioned, names have a lot of sway over me. In addition to finding a combination that I feel suits my pseudonym needs, I found some of the most preposterous pen-names ever. I don’t know where they came from, I don’t know if people use them in earnest, but I spent a great deal of time examining these pen-names and I must say: some of them are truly preposterous.

But could you really take a person with this name seriously? And would your perception of them (through their writing, of course) be different depending on your knowledge of the name’s status as a nom de plume? Do you gain or lose respect for Citronella Ellis Trystmaker if you know that she chose that name and not that her parents were really just unfortunately cruel? If Tansy Luxotica Bixworth just got stuck with great aunt Tansy and dear old cousin Luxotica’s name-related legacy, will we give her the benefit of the doubt?

Names can have a great impact upon perception, both of ourselves and others, but that generally isn’t very fair, is it? I mean, we don’t get to pick them, and yet whether or not a name “suits” someone is kind of a big deal. I just searched “baby names” in Amazon and got back 23,413 book results. 23, 413! Objectively speaking, how different can each of those results be? There are only so many names out there. Of course, with the latest celebrity craze of giving children ridiculous names, the number is going up.

And names do cycle in and out of popularity. There will always be Lauras and Bens, but it might be a while before we have a bunch of little kindergarten-aged Ingrids and Harolds running around.

At some point I really was going to expound upon the use of pen-names by women writing during times in which it was not socially acceptable, but I somehow seem to have lost my way. I have stumbled about the township of names for long enough to end up still within the city limits, but quite far on the opposite side of the tracks from whence I started.

I don’t know how this pseudonym thing will work out, but I’ll try some things once.

In conclusion I think it only fitting to leave you with some other preposterous pen-names generated by my newly discovered procrastination tool:

Our Lady Bonbons, Princess Breathless Croissant, Bruschetta Catalonia Pantysmock, Breme Buttress Rowling, Bird Dragondeer le Monde, Helena Barbarella Papier, Petulance Butterworth Brantonworth, Beatrice Mimi Breastwhistle, Ondine T. Bordello, Priscilla Velour Madhattington, the list goes on and on.

One day I will contrive of a farewell suitable enough to precede my new nom de plume. Until that day, farewell my friends, and remember to “always have a fabulous rabbit.”

~Ellery Baxendale