Shamed Into Silence: The Story of a Loud Nose-Blower

Dear Modern-Day Society,

I’m writing to propose the creation of safe spaces for loud nose-blowers.

As loud nose-blowers, we are the ostracized majority. Despite making up the masses of society, we live in a world that prefers individuals who blow their noses softy and quietly. We are safest only in our own homes to blow as we please. Stick with me here. Outside our homes, we are forced to silence ourselves. We muffle the sounds of allergens and illness, and for whom? For the untrustworthy, soft-blowing minority. I’m writing to share my outrage, and I sincerely hope that together, we can take a stand.

I’ve always been an audible, but well-controlled, nose-blower. When it’s time to clear my nasal passages, I trust my nose’s instincts, and act accordingly. I don’t hold back. I do not mean to offend with the sound it produces, it just comes. I have come to expect this sound, as I associate it with a job well done. If I’m to blow my nose and produce no noise at all, I know there’s more work to do. This is all simply the natural physiological by-product of my body and I getting to know one another these past thirty years. When the nose knows, I oblige.

Now, keeping this context in mind, it should be no wonder that I do not trust soft nose-blowers. There’s something about making an occasionally violent act appear dainty that just rubs me the wrong way. If you are quietly blowing your nose-just a quick sniff into a tissue-how can you possibly be certain you’re done? Don’t you ever feel compelled to try, just a little bit harder, to produce contents of value? It is my suspicion that these people are, in general, under-performers. They set themselves up to complete tasks, and abandon them part way through.

I want to be clear by saying that I’m not suggesting we all try to blow our noses in loud and shrill ways. You all know the people who sneeze at such unbelievably high decibels, it’s impossible to believe the sound is not grossly exaggerated. Those people are over-compensating for something, and we won’t be discussing them here. What I’m simply suggesting is that we, as a society, collectively join together to create a world in which loud nose-blowers are not shamed into silence. If we stand together-if we organize-we might be able to send a real message.

If you are part of the loud nose-blowing majority, but have felt shamed or humiliated into blowing your nose softly and quietly in the corner of a conference room and then, when asked if you’re finished, sheepishly replied, “Yes, that’ll be all…” if you are one of those people, I urge you to be in touch. Together, we can let it be known that no one controls our bodies but us! This is a nose’s (nonviolent) call to arms: it’s time to act!




How to Achieve Life Fulfillment with Ten Simple Steps and a One Time Only Fee of $9.99

Ten Steps to Fewer Steps

Ever wondered how to put less effort into everything you do?

Follow these Ten Simple Steps to reduce the steps you take in your life by up to 50%. Once you’ve read through these ten simple steps, you will be THREE steps closer to living the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Confused? Don’t be. There is no time like now to start over.

Step #1: Set a low bar.

People may encourage you to set a high bar. They (bosses, mothers, distant relatives) may even demand such. What I’m suggesting is that you advocate for the exact opposite. Tell everyone you know that you refuse to surrender to their societal norms, and introduce them to the low bar that is your new normal. While they may appear puzzled at first, you will convince them by being unwaveringly consistent. Insist that they accept your poor taste and subpar standards. Before long, they will come around to the idea that a low bar is, in fact, better than no bar at all.

Step #2: Do more with less.

Ever come across scintillating snapshots of people having what appears to be so much fun? If you’ve ever come across such photos and thought to yourself “If only this could be me!” I challenge you to think again. Why? Because the pictures are entirely contrived. How do I know? Simple.  According to highly reputable studies, “No one does anything worthwhile anymore. Ever.” (True Story, 2015). Remind yourself that anything resembling cool is actually a superficial sort of construction, staged merely to stroke someone’s swaggering, social media-reinforced ego. When you find yourself bemoaning your unremarkable existence, remind yourself that at least your mediocrity is authentic. You are the average real deal.

Step #3: Downsize, two steps at a time.

The final trick to succeeding in life with fewer steps is to downsize your belongings. In this step, I’m suggesting you go above and beyond your seasonal spring-clean. With step #3, I’m asking that you take everything you own, and place it into a pile in the center of your living room (office/bedroom will also suffice). Once your belongings are assembled, begin removing things from the pile, one at a time, until you are left with only three things. Use these three things to help guide you in figuring out life steps 4-10.

Now, wondering what to do with the rest of your things? If unbroken and/or tolerably useable, consider donating the remainder of your items to your neighbor (or any person who has not yet gotten a hold of these simple life steps). At this point, it’s likely that such a person still believes that things-big, small, shiny and dull-are the key to happiness. Exploit this person’s knowledge deficit by gifting him/her your “treasures” (read: junk), pat yourself on the back and take a deep breath. You have started anew.

UP NEXT: For a small, one-time payment of $4.99, you can gain immediate online access to my new book, “Five Ways To Become Rich and Skinny Overnight By Eating Only Cookie Dough Scented Scones.”



Why Not Being Liked On Facebook Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’re Hated In Real Life.

In a recent study conducted by the Department of Psychological Affairs, it was determined that the amount of Facebook likes one receives in a day is inversely correlated to one’s real-life likability.

The study polled 3,000 Facebook users- all from varying socioeconomic statuses, ethnic and religious backgrounds– and found that the more popular the users were online, the more they were disliked in the real world.

Susan Sullivan of Plainview, New Hampshire, found this news particularly uplifting, as she has been liked a total of two times since opening her Facebook account some six years ago. “In all the years that I’ve had Facebook, I’ve been liked only twice. And those likes were mine.” She said that despite posting on a near regular basis things which she deemed ‘of cultural or intellectual interest,’ she never received any feedback. This lack of positive reinforcement began to take a toll on her a couple months back, as she noticed her self-esteem plummeting. She was considering therapy just days before the Department’s article was released.

“I feel such relief now, knowing that my popularity is not based on Facebook acceptance. It has opened up a world of opportunities for me, and I now feel so transformed. My self-worth is immeasurable!”

Unfortunately, the news comes as a deep blow to others. After reading the article, Kylie Devoe of Long Beach, California went into hiding. A tall, beautiful blonde known for her vivaciousness and voluptuousness, Kylie was never a stranger to Facebook likes. In fact, Kylie said that on average, she receives 112 likes for every single Facebook post.

When asked what her posts typically consist of, Kylie said she likes to share “whatever comes to mind,” namely, pictures of babies, boobs and small animals. Her popularity was so evident online, she was never given a reason to suspect that in the real world, people had a different perception of her.

As it turns out, in real life, people find Kylie to be terrible. When her colleagues/neighbors/former roommates/best friend/Mother were interviewed for this article, the consensus among them was astounding. “Kylie is the worst,” quoted Kylie’s Mother. “She is seriously terrible,” she went on to say.

After learning that Kylie was disliked in real life, Kylie has gone silent. She still posts on Facebook , but she no longer makes conversation in real life. When we contacted her for further comment, she refused to answer our calls.

Since having published the article, the Department of Psychological Affairs has seen an outcry of both support and condemnation from readers. While the disliked Facebookers are able to celebrate their victory as having ‘made it’ in the real world, popular Facebook ‘celebrities’ are crying about this highly publicized blow to their ego.

Volunteering Could Save Your Life. It Could Also Kill You.

My Near Death Experience With An Environmentalist.

The novelty is no longer. It now feels like old news.

The kangaroos, once affectionately nicknamed ’roos,’ are now strictly referred to as pests. And scoundrels.

The flies, having once sailed through the air like careful whispers, have since morphed into horrible and irritating insects. May the entire species of fly be eradicated at once!

I want to find joy in playing with barbed wire, but I simply can’t. I beg myself to look at the bright side-  appreciate the experience for experience sake– but my adult mind refuses to be tricked by child-like coercion. My task for the afternoon is two-fold: remove rusty staples from termite-infested posts, and then roll up sheets of barbed wire into something that resembles the world’s most treacherous sleeping bag. No matter how you spin it, today is going to suck.

I find that when I’m most eager for a day’s end, my eye keeps a close watch on the time. We’re given permission to break for lunch around 1:00 PM, but I couldn’t be less excited to eat. I’ve packed myself a fried egg and iceberg sandwich for lunch, along with a side of expired string cheese. I didn’t buy the groceries, but you can be sure I’m going to have a word with whomever did.

I’m surprised by the slight shift in my attitude post-lunch. I’m feeling mildly refreshed! The group and I head back to the worksite, and I begin free-styling about bush fires (a very real threat in Australia, to be clear). I’m mid-verse when I spot what appears to be a slithering black hose near my left foot.

My mind races back to outback orientation, to the time when I was taught the importance of staying clam in emergency situations. I think about this lesson, but when I open my  mouth to say ‘nobody move,’ I accidentally scream instead.

“Snake!!!” I yell, my voice piercing through the park.

The group looks over at me, startled. Suddenly, not one but seven girls are screaming and running for their lives.

Rick, our conservation leader (and resident wildlife expert) sees us frantically losing our shit, and pleads with us to calm down.

“Ladies!” Rick yells, “Please. Nobody move. Everybody keep your voices down. The snake is frightened of you, so you just need to keep still and he’ll go away.”

We calm down a bit, and tiptoe away for the cheeky bugger. I provide particularly helpful commentary by noting that the snake was ‘really huge’ and ‘seriously so close to my leg.’ Rick tells us that what we just spotted was a red-bellied black snake, one of Australia’s most poisonous.

“Hooray!” I shout, as I walk timidly back to the barbed wire. This day might actually be my last.

To Declare, Or Not To Declare: A Customs Conundrum

This is a true story about one girl’s heroic attempt to save a banana from the Australian government.

Herded like duty-free cattle through a queue, we await the frown-faced customs official who will decide our fate. Grant us permission to explore the beauty of the outback, dive the splendorous Great Barrier Reef, road trip along the west coast, or…send us back to where we came from.

As I weave my way through roped off corridors, the fear within me intensifies. I’m scared of the upcoming interrogation. I’m nervous for the questions I’ll be asked, and for those I’m unable to answer. I fear that they’ll search my bag’s contents, and discover the ripened truth that lies inside.  I’m terrified they’ll find my banana.

I cannot bear to face the consequences! What if after such a tiresome journey, I am turned back and sent away? I contemplate the conversation in my head. Consider just how I’ll choose to defend my potassium-rich produce. I want to promise that the fresh fruit will not taint Australia- that it remains untouched by chemicals and/or terrorist threats- but I’m uncertain that my words will truly be heard or trusted. After all, just look at me. I’m a backpacker, disheveled in appearance and overdue for a shower. I can’t be trusted.

Finally, it’s my turn. I approach the customs counter, trying my best to keep composed. Eyes darting between my passport photo and me, the official keeps a close watch- she’s desperate for discrepancies. For a moment, she stares silently at my photo, doubting that twenty-year-old “college” me could be the same girl who stands before her now. After a few minutes, she confirms the facts. She concludes that while I’m slightly less hippie than the days of yore, my eyes are still hazel, and I haven’t grown an inch. She believes that I’m me! Excellent. I might be safe after all.  

She begins scanning the back of my customs form. For each good that is listed, I’ve declared a bold and emphatic no. She reaches the bottom of the form, and a check in the wrong box catches her eye. Honestly and foolishly, I’ve declared a single good.

“What fruit are you declaring?” she asks, intrigued.

“One banana,” I stammer, “Just one.”

I don’t know why I’ve quantified the banana. In doing so, I appear all the more devious. She is concerned not with the amount of bananas I harbor, but with banana-harboring, itself.

“Anything else?” she asks, eyeing my tattered backpack.

I ponder this question. If I tell someone a partial truth, does that make me an honest person?

It’s true that I have a banana in my bag, but that’s not exactly the full story. Actually, I have an assortment of goodies, including (but not limited to): two granola bars, one bag of grapes, and half a kilo of dried fruits and nuts.

In everyday life, food items would not embarrass me. Ordinarily, such on-the-go healthy eats are commendable, but here- in this peculiar customs world-such items are criminal. Next time, should I consider chips?!

“Ma’am?” she asks, interrupting my train of thought, “Do you have anything else you’d like to declare?”

I take a deep breath and shriek, “I said just one banana!!”

She gives me a look that resembles that of a disappointed parent, and proceeds to stamp my form. I. Am. Cleared.

At this point, one might suspect that I’m celebrating. I should be high-fiving myself for not spending twenty bucks at the airport on “survival snacks,” but instead, I’m left feeling uneasy. My partial truth feels like a downright lie, and I contemplate my being a terrible person.

I spend the next ninety seconds sulking in a corner of cry. I shed some tears before remembering something that cheers me up- I have snacks! Oblivious to my place and proximity to the customs queue, I pull out my bag of undeclared deliciousness, and munch away furiously and excitedly. Mmm. That’s better.


Just Another Pool Party


A short story by Katelyn ‘Smaps’ Ransom 

One by one, they arranged themselves in slippery, single-file lines. Bathing suits clung tight to body parts and body parts clung buoyantly to suits. It was an afternoon of All Things Summer. Cold, tasteless beers- refreshing in the way a bucket of ice would be, were it poured over one’s head on a 98 degree day– fat, brown sausages and imperfectly sliced, seedless watermelon sat atop plastic tablecloths which sat, even higher, atop plastic tabletops. Girls tapped their feet while sipping from Solo cup straws, and boys laughed loudly as other boys farted in the food line. 

Soon enough, it would be time for the pool! Chlorine was doing its job, tasting and smelling like the perfect, turquoise disinfectant. The belligerents made their way to the diving board and launched themselves into mid-air cannonballs, landing with hard splashes- kabam! whish! kerplunk!- into the deep end below. Todd, the guy with the biggest and loudest cannonball, winked upon surfacing- water streaming off his rock-hard body the way water streams off rocks, in generalLisa- the small blonde and recipient of Todd’s wink- blushed, turned a crimson red which resembled, quite identically, the red of her polka dot bikini. Todd dutifully noted his effect and sauntered over to Lisa, scooping her up in his palm and into the backyard woods. Just before Todd disappeared, he turned back towards the pool, in search for his friends. Making eye contact with G., his best friend and The Coolest Guy Ever, he yelled, “If I’m not out by tomorrow…don’t send help! I’m gettin’ lucky!” which prompted Todd, G., and every other boy at the pool to hoot and holler and laugh and high-five. 

Now, no summertime pool party is complete without games. Bring out the noodles and balls and “LET THE GAMES BEGIN!” shouted Donald, host-Steve’s Father. With determined obedience, every party-goer smiled and stretched in one tremendous unison. Boys ran to one end of the grass while girls ran to another. Once the genders were separated, (Strip) Red Rover would commence. Thirty minutes later. Everyone’s clothes were removed during the lightening round of Strip Red Rover, and they were all put into a pile in the middle of the lawn. Or, at least that’s what the party-goers thought…

“Where’s my shit?” cried Sam, as she scoured the premises. “Yeah, mine’s gone, too!” shouted Mike, whose white ass shone like a glow stick in a cave. Five minutes passed, and soon everyone realized that their clothes were amiss. So, too, was Amos.

Party-goers turned, one by one, towards the pool, where all eyes fell upon Amos and his antics. Amos was never invited to the party, but as usual, he found a way to mooch a ride and show up. He had thrown everyone’s clothes into the pool, along with a pocketful of green food coloring, and was dancing in the nude near the shallow end. 

“Suckers!” shouted Amos, “You thought you could…” Amos’s voice trailed off, as he was kicked in the face by Todd, who had returned from the woods, some moments ago…


This concludes your edition of ‘Party Foul’. 

Dumpster Dive this Holiday Season!

A short story about a guy named Charlie. We all know his type.

Charlie doesn’t really work a whole lot. Which probably explains why he’s always flat broke.

He’s the kind of guy who, after being invited to a pot luck, only brings  ‘a bowl full of poems’ because he wasn’t paid on time and the cost of gas has really gone up these days but ‘Hey! Check it out, people! Hand written poems!’

It’s not that people, in general, hate Charlie. It’s just that he frustrates them. Particularly Mike, whom happens to be the host of this particular pot luck. Mike’s almost always flustered about something, so in a way, him being flustered with Charlie is just a sign of Mike staying true to character. This time, though, Mike isn’t the only one to find Charlie’s antics irksome.

Denise is also annoyed. She doesn’t care about him not bringing food because, unlike the rest of the carnivorous crowd, she’s notorious for craving the finer, more inedible things in life. Like written romance, for example. She dreams of having a Rhett Butler sweep her off a make-believe O’Hara estate. That kind of thing. Point is, if Charlie could have pleased anyone at the party, it would’ve been Denise. But even Denise was not impressed, because Denise did not consider the ‘bowl full of poems’ to be poems at all, but rather haikus. Denise’s libido is only responsive to lengthy literature, so Charlie’s seventeen syllable haikus were, simply put, insufficient.

Charlie means well, though, I gotta give him that. He had every intention of dumpster diving before the big event, in hopes of scoring something remarkable. It might sound crazy, but this actually worked for him at his neighbor’s Christmas party last year. (Or almost did.) He showed up with a hand crafted ceramic serving tray, filled to the brim with bite size ham and cheese roll-ups. People were incredibly impressed with the display, including the aging/dying Mrs. Winthrop, who rarely has a positive thing to say about anyone, or anything.

“That tray is magnificent!” she proclaimed to Charlie, who immediately determined that he was being mocked. Mrs. Winthrop doesn’t compliment. Everybody knows that.

“Really, the detail is stunning!” she remarked, “Where did you get it?”

Well, in the dollar bin at Salvation Army, but Charlie thought better of admitting that to the old hag.

“Oh, um, my cousin brought it back from Japan. ‘An antique,’ he told me. He met the artist’s grandaugther over there, who brought him to the studio. It’s a real one of a kind,” Charlie replied, in between generous swigs of port wine.

“I’ll say,” Mrs. Winthrop said, continuing to stare at the tray. She hadn’t even looked at Charlie since  noting the tray and its contents. He wondered if she’d be just as content having the conversation with the tray, itself, and if he should leave the room altogether.

“And what about these precious sandwiches?” she asked, her breath nearly melting the cheese. “Mind if I give one a try?”

“By all means,” said Charlie, “Help yourself.” Charlie couldn’t believe that he was actually having a conversation with this woman. The Neighborhood Witch, as she was commonly referred to. The last time he had spoken with her must have been three years ago, when he accidentally knocked over her trash can while skateboarding down the sidewalk. She ran out of her house faster than he’d ever seen anyone with a cane run, and she was screaming at the top of her lungs, using more profanity than his Dad after too much scotch. Charlie hadn’t spoken to Mrs. Winthrop since that incident. Not until now.

Charlie watched as Mrs. Winthrop bit into the ham first, then the cheese, then a bite which looked to have it all. He scanned the tray to make sure all dumpster debris had been removed. He was usually quite careful to do so, to clean up in a way that left no trace, but he immediately regretted not being as thorough as he could have been. After all, had he known Mrs. Winthrop would be among the first to sample his dish, he might have prepared differently.

No evidence of dumpster debris remained, however. The roll-ups looked fresh and delicious, much as they would have looked on the shelves, where they undoubtedly had been some hours earlier. Charlie could never understand why good food went to waste. Why seemingly perfect, mold-free food ended up in the trash. It really pissed him off, this habit of people’s, and he considered this to be one of the greatest and most contagious plagues of the Western world.

In any case, this pot luck was not the venue to discuss food politics. Or was it? Charlie began to think. ‘What place could be more appropriate for such a discussion than a bring-your-own-dinner, dinner party? This place is perfect!’  At that moment, he decided to let it all out. To let the cats out of the bags and remove the secrets from their shelves.

“Mrs. Winthrop,” Charlie said to her, as she wiped the crumbs from roll-up number three off her mouth. “I’d like to talk to you about something.”

“Yes?” She replied, ham dangling from her chin. “What is it?”

“Well, it’s about what you’re eating,” Charlie confessed. “I think we should discuss where it really comes from.”

Mrs. Winthrop took one look at Charlie and began to remove the cheese, slowly and carefully, from her mouth. As she pulled on the cheese, some ham began to escape, too, and within seconds the entire roll-up (no longer rolled-up, but soggy and flattened) collapsed in her palm.

“What in the bloody hell have you done to these?” Mrs. Winthrop shouted, her voice piercing the ears of all those around her.

“Well,” said Charlie, “I didn’t do anything, you see, but…” and was cut off by Mrs. Winthrop, who grabbed her purse and her cane, and made for the door.

He tried to stop her, but as previously noted, this woman was not your average old woman with a cane. She was fast. Despite his best attempts, he wasn’t able to catch up to her.

Charlie stopped right as the door was slammed shut in his face. Mrs. Winthrop had escaped the party, leaving behind only the echo of her shrill voice and the stench of Old Witch perfume. Charlie turned back around, hoping to head back into the party unnoticed, but it was too late. Everyone was staring.

“Charlie, man,” Dwayne, the Official Christmas Party Host said, “I don’t know what happened back there, but I think maybe it’s time you leave.” Charlie thought he was kidding, but Dwayne’s expression was humorless.

“Dude, really?” Charlie said, confused. “Old Mrs. Winthrop was about to go ape-shit on me, and you’re telling me to get out?”

“Now, Charlie,” Dwayne replied, sternly. He hadn’t wanted Charlie over in the first place, so this was a good of time as any to kick Charlie out.

“Fine, man. Relax.” Charlie said, picking up his things. “I’m outta here.”

Charlie walked back down the hallway towards the front door. “I want my tray back!” He yelled, once he had reached the entryway. ‘No way in hell Dwayne’s keeping my tray,’ he thought.

He closed the door behind him and stepped into the cold of the night. Initially disappointed to leave early, Charlie soon realized that he was better off alone. He was happy to spend the rest of his evening walking the streets, speaking only to his shadow. ‘Dwayne and his fucking Christmas party’, Charlie thought. ‘Next time, they can keep the dumpster debris. I’m not picking off a thing.’

The T-Shirt Guru

All I Ever Wanted to Know, I Learned from a T-Shirt.

A guy standing outside the bus window has a shirt which reads ‘Roaming Endlessly’. Should I interpret this message as significant in any way? Is it meant to stir me up? Make me think…certain things?

I can’t help but consider the implications of the text. Perhaps it’s no small coincidence that He (wearer of shirt) is standing outside this particular bus station, directly in line with my window’s view. A part of me believes that this shirt-spotting is meant to reinforce my quest. To encourage further traveling by affixing appropriately timed/placed labels to everyday apparel.

I get excited by the shirt’s uplifting possibilities, but then catch myself feeling weary. Suddenly, my inner pessimist begins to question all that is hopeful. Maybe the shirt’s message is meant to induce internal doubt in the heart of the roamer (ie: me). There’s no sign that this guy thinks highly upon Roaming Endlessly. Perhaps he knows something that I don’t, like Roaming Endlessly May Cause Hypertension or CancerDo Sparingly.

I become increasingly nervous as I consider the implications that this man-this total stranger- is all the wiser. Without further hesitation, I decide that he needs to turn around. The back of his shirt might reveal a moral to the front’s story, and I’m anxious for my curiosity to be relieved.

“Sir!” I yell out the bus window.

Five gentlemen turn around to look at me. Turns out, they all go by Sir. 

“You!” I yell out again, “In the blue shirt! Please turn around, and quick! Before my bus leaves! I’m in search for The Truth, and I have a feeling it lies somewhere between your shoulder blades, perhaps just above your tailbone! If you could just turn towards the wall, I could get a better idea…”

My voice trails off- people all around are starting to stare. What began as a conversation between myself and five Sir’s has quickly transformed to a one-sided monologue. It becomes evident that no one at this bus station speaks English. Clearer, still, that I’m the only one concerned with The Truth.

The bus pulls out of the station and I sink low into my seat. People are speaking in hushed whispers all around me. I presume my behavior to be the main topic of conversation. Crazy, weird, talks-to-herself, erratic white woman…what did she want with that man, anyhow?

I’m disappointed that I was unable to discover the rest of the shirt’s contents, but alas, I interpret the shirt-spotting as a sign. I am meant to let the Truth Seeking continue! Too bad my flight home leaves tomorrow…

Ethnic Chic

…Case of the Indigenous Skinny Jean…

Any woman who has traveled to more conservative parts of the world knows the importance of covering up. In some societies, it’s simply not acceptable to rock the spandex-tight, cleavage-popped look that Western women are notorious for. I’m generalizing, try not to be too sensitive. ‘Covering up’ can mean different things to different people, but in countries like India and Nepal, covering one’s shoulders and legs is considered to be the socially accepted minimum.

It’s taken me a few visits to understand, but I’m now able to wear clothes that feel comfortable and appropriate. I throw a shawl or scarf over bare shoulders, and always wear something knee-length. Such dress doesn’t feel oppressively hot in the heat, and doesn’t elicit unwanted stares from curious (to be polite) local men.

My interpretation of local rules and expectations is, of course, my own opinion. Plenty of other women interpret the social norms in totally different ways. And it is this point-the matter of ‘norm interpretations’-of which I wish to delve further.

I would like to bring to your attention two examples of women whom interpret social norms and expectations in their own unique ways.  (Note* These characters are not fictionalized, and are based upon a real life spotting, some moments ago.)

Example One: The I Don’t Give a Shit Type

Let’s call her Debbie Diva.

This woman packs an identical wardrobe in her suitcase, no matter where in the world she visits. She arrives in Nepal fully equipped with her favorite skinny jeans, a leather purse and suspiciously matched accessories. This outfit, alone, causes a stir. To put icing on the cake (akin to putting the word Juicy on one’s rear), she’s showing skin. A lot of it. It’s not just her shoulders which attract attention, but her chest. Her tank top is low, and it takes everything in me to resist from grabbing her shirt and yanking it up high. Turtleneck-style.

In the states, her look would go unnoticed. It’s somewhat stylish, and indeed is representative of something not unfamiliar to the majority of us. But to wear such a thing here, in a village in Nepal…well that is just entirely uncool.

Example Two: The Going Native Type               

Let’s call her Indigenous Irene.

In example two, I wish to highlight a character that lies on the opposite end of the spectrum. This is the girl whom, immediately after getting off the plane, takes to the streets in search for the most ethnic garb imaginable. She interprets the ‘dress modestly’ mantra in such a way that, when purchasing pants, she opts for one outrageously large pair. The insides of the pants are baggy enough to fit a friend, perhaps even two. She buys multiple head scarves, wrapping them around her body, repeatedly, until it’s all but impossible to discern where one body part begins and another ends. She makes profane that which is most sacred, by having one of Nepal’s holiest symbols tattooed on her foot (a most unholy of place, according to Hinduism). In her attempts to go local, she has totally and absolutely failed.

What Would Smaps Wear? (bracelets available upon request)

Want my advice? Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Don’t stop bathing. Accessorize, if you wish, but don’t try too hard to embody that which you don’t understand. Lastly, and most importantly, just be you!

(Note: if you typically dress in a way that leaves little to the imagination, the aforementioned advice does not apply to you. In such a case, don’t be you. Be someone else. At least while you’re abroad. And then maybe at home, too.) 

Thanks for tuning in to another session of World Briefings, brought to you by Smaps Randall.


Why Packing is a Pain (and other insights)

The following is a fictional story, submitted by Smaps Randall, about life as we pack it. The story is far too long, and having acknowledged this, she seeks your forgiveness.
Le Beginning:
My floor looks like a bohemian bomb went off. As usual, I’m finding myself struggling to pack appropriately. Just how much to pack? The lighter, the better. But, of course! That’s always the advice given and, unmistakably, it’s the best dang advice. But who really cares about ‘good’ advice? I mean, if I wanted good advice, I would have subscribed to Do It Right the First Time Around magazine, and ‘liked’ Good Advice on Facebook.  I have never considered doing either of these things, nor will I.

Why restrict one’s self to a light-weight pack full of mere essentials, when you could so easily opt to include a bunch of shit you maybe/might/eh be able to use? Seriously, I don’t get it.

Perhaps the point has been driven home. (Or has it?) I’m not so much a light packer. To be honest, it’s not because I’m fundamentally averse to the pack-light mantra. Okay, maybe a little. Rather, it’s that I have a difficult time ‘saying no’ to things with potential. The list of hypothetical, ‘maybe’ scenarios one can conjure up in their head- with regards to traveling abroad- is overwhelming, and I’m just not certain that packing light is really the way to go.

A tale from this morning, as it relates to packing:

I woke up this morning and thought to myself, “I’m going to downsize today. Today is a day for Packing Light. Operation Pack Light- you’re on!”  I said a few more things like this but, if I were to wager a guess, I’d bet you get the gist by now. I got out of bed and took a look at my floor. I couldn’t find it. I realized this was going to be more work than I had thought, and decided it was best to not waste any time. I kicked a bunch of crap to the corner of my room and made space for what would become the designated Discard Pile. Expert tip: It helps to use a real DISCARD-card from one of your childhood board games, as such will more easily delineate discard territory. I was immediately pleased with myself to see just how much space (a lot!) I was willing to sacrifice to the Gods of Neglected Shit. After a few pats on the back and a foot massage (bad sprain from last week’s tetherball tourney-more on that later), I began sorting through my things. The minutes quickly turned to hours, and the process began to feel as though it were an exercise in mental organization. Therapy, at no cost! My selection was narrowing down and before I knew it, the size of the discard pile was twice as large as my Most Wanted pile.

After nearly three hours of sorting, I had reached an end. In fact, it turned out to be a rather confusing culmination, but this I did not yet know. I was just about to celebrate the success of Operation Pack Light when my Mom walked into the room.

“What are you doing?” she asked, looking around.

“I’m packing!” I proclaimed, excitedly. “Well, unpacking and then repacking,” I continued. “See, I had too much stuff before, so I thought it would be best to downsize, for once and for all.”

“Looks like you did a pretty good job,” she said, sounding sarcastic. “That’s the stuff you’re getting rid of?” she asked, pointing to the discard pile.

“Yep,” I replied. “Not bad, huh?”

“Not bad,” she answered, “But if you don’t mind me asking, what are you bringing?  Surely you’re not leaving empty-handed?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, turning around. “I’m bringing…” At that moment, my voice trailed off, as I realized, upon facing the stacks of things, that the Most Wanted pile was no longer. Somehow, in the process of attaining mental clarity and physical expansion, I had managed to get rid of everything. Not a single item remained in the to-be-packed pile, leaving me with a heaping mound of Discarded Junk.

“Unbelievable!” I shouted. “There was stuff there, like, minutes ago! I don’t know what happened!” And I seriously didn’t. Or, I guess I did, but I was shocked that the Operation, at once so impressive in its success, had become reminiscent of my eighth grade basketball days- in other words, an epic failure.

“Maybe you should think about starting over,” my Mom said, grinning.

She walked out of the room and left me, dejected and morose, on my bedroom floor. ‘What the hell am I going to do now?’ I thought to myself. I had an enormous pile of things deemed unworthy for the upcoming trip, and had absolutely nothing to show for my initial, purported victory.

At that point, I decided the best thing I could do, the only thing I could do, was go shopping. After all, I was out of things!

I grabbed my purse, ran down the stairs and out the door. As I got into my car, I faintly heard the sound of my Mom calling after me, but it was too late to turn around. I was on a mission- the second mission of the day, mind you-and as such, I was determined to focus solely on the challenge at hand. Replace all previously discarded trip items with better, more useful shit.

-Four hours later-

After a major win at the mall, I returned home, my spirits now revived. I called out to my Mom from the driveway to ask for a hand with the unloading. I had already begun removing bags from the trunk when she came outside.

“Woah,” my Mom said, inspecting my car’s backseat. “Is all that for the trip?”

I turned to face her, totally peeved. “Dude, Mom, it’s not that much,” I replied. “Can you just give me a hand or what?”

“Yeah, sure,” she said, “Obviously. I only say that because, well, it looks like you have over a dozen bags here and, you’re supposedly trying to fit this all into one backpack…”

She looked over at me and, immediately detecting my annoyance, decided not to take the conversation any further.

“These are things I need, Mom,” I told her, “so if you could just help me bring it in the house, I’d really appreciate it.”

“You got it,” she muttered, lifting one of the heavier bags onto her shoulders.

We made it into the house after three back-and-forth trips to the car. “Impressively efficient!” I boasted to my Mom, somehow hoping to convince her that she had just been part of something really brilliant.

“Whatever you say,” she replied. “I’ve got some things to do downstairs. Can you handle the rest of the packing bit?”

“Yeah, of course,” I replied. “Thanks for your help, by the way.”

She nodded at me and smiled before proceeding to head downstairs. Just like that, it was back to square one. Me and the Stuff. Myself, and a dozen-ish shopping bags, filled to the brim with ‘Necessities’. This time around, I felt confident in my abilities to pack, unattended.

Some six or so hours later, and the ‘moral’ of the story:

I won’t bore you with details of the afternoon re-pack session, suffice it to say that I arrived at two major revelations. The first one being that, sometimes, things are easier the second time around. Go ahead, write that one down.

The second revelation was that, when preparing for a trip overseas, it’s not about how light you pack, but how right you pack. File that away somewhere. Which is precisely the reason I decided to revise the Operation’s formerly disclosed name-Operation Pack Light-to something more accurate. Something to the tune of…Operation Pack Right! Exclamation point is necessary to convey packer’s enthusiasm. Omit it, and others may not understand just how excited you really were at the time of packing.

Now, a lot of you are probably thinking, ‘Enough already! Tell us what you decided to pack!’ If you’re thinking that, you’re right on, because that’s exactly what I’m about to do. Kind of. I’m going to spare you the list, as it’s somewhat extensive, but rest assured, I’m now fully equipped with the most waterproof/fireproof/bulletproof- and all around shit proof– gear you can possibly imagine. If you were to run into me on the street, adorned with all my new things, you wouldn’t recognize me. I tried everything on (all together) in front of a full length mirror, and was quite proud of my intimidating exterior. Like the love child of a beastly, indestructible gear-head and a relaxed, backpacking hippie, I exude a ‘Don’t Mess With Me, Please’ attitude…like no other.

Why did I choose to go this route? To foolproof my overseas existence? Because the world is full of dirt, dust and flaming knives, and one ought to be prepared accordingly.

Packin’ light…
It just aint right!