Senior Thesis: A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Rated “S&M” for Mature

*This is my Bachelor’s thesis, which I used to not only complete my first degree but as writing examples to get into graduate school.*

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Rated “S&M” for Mature

Shakespeare seldom paints a happy picture when it comes to romance, and his conception of love can seem slight and superficial throughout his work. Young lovers commit suicide in hopes of staying together eternally; relationships either end in triumph or dismally. Instead of portraying characters who embody true love and sweetness, he creates some characters who feature certain dark, base, and overall sadomasochistic qualities. One critic notes “It has long been a critical commonplace that Shakespearean comedy works to restrain libidinal impulses by directing them into stable and productive ‘normal’ marital unions” (Sanchez 501). However, Shakespeare’s marital unions are far from normal; he takes these unsatisfying notions of love and forces them into traditional marriages.

Note that this is all done through immaculate discipline and art form. If his plays seemed to truly step out of line on the surface, Shakespeare would have been in trouble with the law and the censors of the time. So he masks these baser notions of love in comedic moments or through conversations between characters that only the utmost observant audience would truly understand. Most of the time, these characters display both a sadist and a masochistic role at different times throughout their play. The couples in the comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, estimated to have been written between 1595 and 1596, exhibit these characteristics, but this essay will exclusively focus on Hermia and Helena’s relationship and Oberon and Titania’s.

Through the discussion with Shakespearean scholarship, I hope to encourage readers to relook at Shakespeare’s plays, dissect the dialogue between characters, and become conscious of what each says in regards to sexual tension. Shakespeare was not encouraging people to take up a BDSM relationship with their neighbor or attend sex clubs in New York, mostly because those ideas did not even exist yet. He is also not mocking these baser notions of love as degrading. Instead, he showcases that there are other sides to love and the classic idealistic notion of it, as cultivated by the infamous Petrarch, is false. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare provides a warning for the audience and those potentially in love. He says that Petrarch’s love for Laura is not the only version of love possible and our love should not be solely based upon that. Instead, everyone’s love is different; it could be sappy and require posting poorly-written poems to the trees in a forest like a classic Petrarchan, or it can be darker and more desperate as shown in this play. The main point of his argument throughout this play is that these relationships–Hermia and Helena’s homosocial bond and Oberon and Titania’s marriage–are happy ones. To the surface reader, this seems unrealistic; why would anyone tolerate constant arguing, cheating partners, and insults? But what Shakespeare showcases is how some relationships function and, furthermore, need to function to stay afloat. Not all relationships are the same and we must accept this before getting into a lifelong partnership in marriage.

To begin I will provide a basic, traditional reading the play for summary purposes. The two young female friends in the play, Hermia, and Helena were inseparable as they grew up together, which resulted in their confiding in each other. However, once the women reach adulthood, they find love in someone other than their best friend. Hermia finds love in a forbidden man, Lysander, and this love goes against her father’s wishes for her to marry Demetrius, who is a more suitable man by her father’s standards. This does, however, prove to be fortunate for her childhood friend, seeing as Helena would like Demetrius for herself. Helena aches over Demetrius, believing that Hermia doesn’t deserve him. Hermia has Lysander to love and, therefore, has no need for Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander flee to the forest in an attempt to run away from Hermia’s Father, Egeus. Helena and Demetrius run after them. The forest is not only a place full of secrets and mischief but is also inhabited by cunning fairies. Oberon and Titania may be the king and queen of the woods and fairyland, but they do not live in peace and cannot rule a kingdom together. Between ordering the fairies to place pansy juice, or the pollen from the pansy flower found in the forest,  in the eyes of Lysander and Demetrius to make them love the wrong girl, this couple fight constantly because of their adulterous history and present. Meanwhile, the men have, thanks to the pansy juice, stopped fawning over Hermia and have turned their attention to Helena. Questioning who truly is in love with whom readers begin to feel exasperated as Shakespeare turns everything on its head. Thankfully, by the end of the play, everything is right: Hermia and Lysander are to be betrothed, along with Helena and Demetrius at Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding. The pansy juice is removed from Lysander’s eyes, having fallen back in love with Hermia, and the play comes to a close with true love winning.

This is a very classical and traditional reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, yet it leaves many unanswered questions and confusing thoughts: does Demetrius truly love Helena or does the pansy juice remain in his eyes? What about the king and queen of fairyland and their love triangle with Bottom? Who gains custody of the small Indian changeling boy? This is why there are many other ways to read Shakespeare’s plays, and I will apply an untraditional read of the play. The pairings in this play, mainly Helena and Hermia and Oberon and Titania, can be seen as exhibiting sadomasochistic tendencies. The traditional read as previously showcased leaves out the very interesting behaviors the characters display that is deemed unfit for a healthy relationship. Helena and Hermia, best friends since childhood, take turns being the dominator and the submissive when it comes to their relationship. Hermia, characterized by Helena herself as being petite, willingly creates vicious arguments with Helena so that Helena will, in turn, call her short. Oberon and Titania both mock and torment the other, constantly bringing up past indecencies in order to throw it in the other’s face. These relationships cannot possibly be happy ones; they leave the masochist feeling dejected and hurt, and the sadist feeling privileged and power hungry–only to then be flipped again. This play surely cannot exhibit true love when the couples who seem to have the best love are constantly hurting the other.

Both of the above readings of this play are valid. The traditional read sets the scene for the reader, allowing him to grasp the plotline and characters, but it still leaves much omitted. The untraditional sadomasochistic read allows the audience to place the play in a seedier light. Simply put, why are the characters acting in these crazy terms towards each other? This essay aims to answer that question. Hermia and Helena, as well as Oberon and Titania, switch being the sadist and the masochist as is evident in their dialogue and actions. But they are doing these awful deeds to their partner because it is healthy. Shakespeare creates this comedy to provide a warning for a newlywed young couple and those in attendance: love is a constantly developing emotion and will never settle on one aspect, and couples need to be aware of this change so they can accept the change instead of fighting it. More importantly, sadist and masochistic qualities are natural and can lead to a happy, balanced relationship when performed correctly.

Sadomasochism as a Lens for Interpreting Literature

The term “sadomasochism” and even the words “sadism” and “masochism” would not have been used during Shakespeare’s time, nor would they have been used to describe the character of his plays simply because they were not created yet. Breaking down the compound of sadomasochism, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “masochism” as “the urge to derive pleasure, esp. sexual gratification, from one’s own pain or humiliation; the pursuit of such pleasure”; and “sadism” as “enthusiasm for inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others” or “a psychological disorder characterized by sexual fantasies, urges, or behavior involving the subjection of another person to pain, humiliation, bondage, etc.” In layman’s terms, the sadist is the dominator whereas the masochist is the dominated or the submissive. The Mastery of Submission furthers this definition by stating “sexual masochism” is defined as producing sexual excitement by being bound, humiliated, beaten, or otherwise made to suffer (Noyes 16). Commonly known as S&M this sexual sadomasochism, I believe, is the pop culture form of sadomasochism that most are aware of today, as seen in different movies and television shows, boutiques in metropolitan and liberal cities such as Amsterdam or San Francisco.

The begin, a literary definition of sadomasochism is necessary for understanding its role in literature. According to Lynn Chancer’s book, Sadomasochism in Everyday Life, sadomasochism is referred to as a “common social relationship based on power and powerlessness, dominance and subordination” between two people (3). To be termed as such, the relationship must meet four requirements: extreme dependence; an established ritual; sadomasochistic tendencies; and consequences for when the submissive, or the masochist, violates their role. The first quality, extreme dependence, is where both individuals in the relationship, regardless of who is the sadist or the masochist, feel a strong need for physical, but, most importantly, mental connection with the other. The second criteria is that the relationship has its own repetitive ritual so the individuals have structured contact. Thirdly, the sadomasochistic tendencies are not static, but instead dialectic and constantly changing (3). Finally, and most importantly, the masochist in the relationship must “face severe consequences” if she challenges the power of the sadist (5). Chancer acknowledges that she is giving an overview of sadomasochism as a term and is not discussing the different dynamics that might stem from it such as S&M.

The definitions assume a negative connotation for the individuals who participate in such acts of indecency. Many everyday relationships convey some of the same hierarchy necessary to function, such as student to teacher, or employee to employer, and these relationships are seen as healthy and positive. Chancer argues at the beginning of her piece that “We are living in a sadomasochistic society in that it bombards us with experiences of domination and subordination far more regularly” than one can imagine (2). What these definitions are missing is the idea of balance. By engaging in the hierarchy of sadomasochism, those individuals are accepting the balance of opposites, dominance and subordination in order to function.

Using the above descriptions of sadomasochism helps us to understand different plotlines in literature and certainly in Early Modern literature. These Early Modern writers were concerned with their writing passing through the censors, who prevented offensive materials from getting published, and in doing so, Shakespeare as a prime example adapted to utilizing many layers in his works for the audience to unfold. On the surface level, the work seems inoffensive which allows it pass by the censor, but on a less literal level, the baser notions are hidden. In this play, the surface reading as discussed above allowed it to pass the censor, Shakespeare’s true message and warning come out on a deeper level. As Sanchez asserts, “The imaginative worlds of literature give us access to some of the early modern cultural fantasies that cannot be documented by the period’s moral, legal, or medical discourses” (494). Sadomasochism, or at least the act of it, was not available for discussion, and yet literature like A Midsummer Night’s Dream showcases its attributes before the word even developed.

Furthermore, one cannot discuss sadomasochism without touching on the erotic. Scholar Jason Gleckman argues: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream offers a concise imaginary history of the erotic” (Gleckman 25). The erotic played a large role in the Early Modern literature even though it was a taboo subject. Writing was the only place where people could engage in erotic knowledge and discussion since it was confusing and unpleasant in actual conversation. At this time as well, England was bouncing back and forth between the Catholic and Anglican religions, each having their own ideas about the erotic: “On the one hand, as part of their vehement promotion of married life, Protestants allowed increased space for the erotic impulse within marriage” (Gleckman 27). Sex was clearly not allowed outside of marriage, and even more not allowed between two of the same sex, but even after marriage, sex was never examined in the Catholic faith. However, the Protestants viewed sex as a beautiful gift from God supposed to bring pleasure, but only within marriage. Shakespeare, like many others, had to be careful what he portrayed in his plays as to not get him in trouble with the law, so he channels the erotic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the usual direction of the monogamous marriage that awaits many of the characters in the play.

Continuing further with the erotic, Shakespeare toys with the notion of flipping gender roles by suggesting in his work, particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that “the men…are more childish, impressionable and less psychologically and emotionally developed, whilst the women are more rational, constant, and civilized and wield reason more effectively than men” (Schumann 43). This superimposes “the idea of a linked domination of women and nature by men” in relation to classic marriage (43). Traditionally, women are supposed to submit and then men are to dominate the marriages; sex and the erotic are used only for procreation and even then it is not for pleasure, but simply necessary for marriage. However, “Shakespeare undermines, rather than reinforces the patriarchal social structures” (43) in the marriages and coupling that take place in this play. The women in most cases are the dominating party, not the men.

That this is not a new, modern concept that is being read into Shakespearean works. Instead, renowned Shakespearean scholar, Doctor Carolyn Brown inspects the chronological use of psychoanalytic and other theories in regards to Shakespeare’s work. One of her discoveries is that of the audience’s “pleasure in projected suffering such as that portrayed in violent Renaissance literature” (Brown 104). Suffering and violence were popular and appeared on stage, much the same as people today enjoy violent video games, movies, tv shows, and more. There is something inherently intriguing about watching forms of suffering. When watching a sadomasochistic play, the audience can thrive on the animalistic tendencies that come with watching bad behavior, but it also allows for a  space to reevaluate their own relationships.

Hermia and Helena’s Sadomasochist Relationship

In the case of relationships, having an idealized bond can be boring and tends to imply that someone is not being truly honest. Relationships are in a constant state of ebb and flow; they are forever changing dynamics as each day progresses, and it requires time and courage to keep a cohesive and mutually exclusive balance between two people. When it comes to the two young female lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hermia and Helena, “successful rivalry extinguishes desire, whereas failure exasperates it” (Brown 89). Each annoys the desires of the other to the fullest extent by partaking in their unconscious sadomasochistic tendencies. Hermia plays the sadistic role more often than the masochistic role in their relationship. Her goal is to torment Helena, ultimately enticing her more. For example, she explains to Helena that she is fleeing with Lysander:

And in the wood, where often you and I

Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie,

Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,

There my Lysander and myself shall meet,

And thence from Athens turn away our eyes,

To seek new friends and stranger companies.

Farewell, sweet playfellow. (Shakespeare 1.1.214-220)

She deliberately points out to Helena that she and Lysander are meeting where she and Helena often met as children, as playmates, and spent hours together. This place in the woods is undoubtedly special to Helena, and Hermia flaunts the fact that she is taking someone else to their sacred hideout. Even referring to Lysander as hers, Hermia boasts that Helena has been replaced, which is made even clearer when she says that she will seek new friends and different companies. Sealing the speech with “playfellow” (1.1.220) connotes that Helena was simply a childhood friend, nothing more than that, which adds insult to Helena’s already crushed self-esteem. Scholar Melissa Sanchez’ article, “‘Use Me But As Your Spaniel’: Feminism, Queer Theory, And Early Modern Sexualities” focuses on the erotic and power dynamic in Hermia and Helena’s relationship. Sanchez suggests that “[When Helena] accuses Hermia of betraying a closeness that made them ‘Like to a double cherry, seeming parted / But yet a union in partition’ (3.2.209-10), critics have almost invariable contrasted the serene equality and gentle reciprocity of female bonds with the violence and domination of heterotic unions” (402). By moving forward and breaking their bond, Hermia activated the dominator and submissive qualities in their relationship. Helena’s lifelong best friend is abandoning her for a man, running away to their special place that once was emotionally charged for both of them, and furthermore, doesn’t really care about their adult relationship at all. Best of all, Hermia understands exactly what she is doing to Helena. She consciously acts this way to hurt Helena, knowing that Helena is going to become upset and come after her, so perhaps Hermia wants Helena to chase after her. This is how their relationship is.

Helena does follow after her friend. She masks her journey after Hermia by telling Demetrius, another of Hermia’s suitors, to ensure Hermia and Lysander will not depart from Athens. By concealing her true reasons for going into the forest, Helena makes it seem as if Demetrius pursues after Hermia instead of herself, in order to keep her true feelings at bay. Helena’s chasing after Hermia would look curious and scandalous to the people of Athens, but her desperately following Demetrius, because he has more reason to follow the girl he is supposed to wed, somehow looks more acceptable. Helena needs an excuse for getting into the woods, and perhaps she believes Demetrius will successfully stop Hermia from leaving with Lysander. Therefore she will not have to get Hermia to stay in Athens with her. Following after Hermia will hurt Helena because she cannot express her love for Hermia herself, and yet this pain is what she desires: “herein mean I to enrich my pain” (Shakespeare 1.1.250). Helena is the masochist in their relationship and extremely hurtful to herself. Furthermore, Helena is more masochistic by her following Demetrius into the magical woods after informing him of Hermia and Lysander’s plan to escape:

And even for that do I love you the more.

I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,

The more you beat me, I will fawn you.

Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,

Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,

Unworthy as I am, to follow you.

What worser place can I beg in your love–

And yet a place of high respect with me–

Than to be used as you use your dog? (2.1.202-210)

Demetrius is not excited about Helena accompanying him into the woods. He does not want her following him anymore, but she explains to him that the more he tries to dispose of her, the more she is going to fawn over him. This is an excellent example of the shocking masochistic qualities Helena displays. The more Demetrius hates her, the more she wants his love. She believes that being used as his dog would be getting his respect.

However, perhaps Helena refers to the relationship between her and Hermia, instead of Demetrius’ hatred towards her. When she pauses over “I am your spaniel” and then inserts Demetrius’ name, the reader sees that she momentarily forgot the façade of true love for him. Sanchez argues that Helena’s conversations with both Demetrius and Hermia can be seen as similar, but most importantly “[Helena fantasizes] herself as helpless subordinate to both Hermia and Demetrius register[ing] the same perverse, masochistic drives” (Sanchez 504). It is hard to imagine Helena being a delicate character after seeing her attraction to pain. She is extremely masochistic and demands to be treated so poorly so that the audience believes that Demetrius and Hermia are simply being mean to her when in reality she is begging for this treatment. Moreover, “Helena’s exchanges with Demetrius and Hermia reveal that women’s unapologetically perverse desires–whether for women or for men–can threaten ideals of proper, ‘normal’ sexuality” (506). However, this does not occur to Helena. She simply is a product of the relationship she has with Hermia, which is by definition an aggressive one as shown by their language towards each other, and yet they both unconsciously desire this aggression. Helena wants to be used like a dog by Hermia, not by Demetrius, nor by anyone else, and, in turn, the girls switch roles once Hermia lets Helena belittle her.

Helena becomes the sadist as Hermia invites her to torment her, in turn becoming the masochist herself. When Lysander has the pansy juice in his eyes, he falls in love with Helena and tosses Hermia aside, causing the two girls to fight. Hermia, however, seems to forget about being upset with Lysander and simply yells at Helena for the sake of it. Instead of arguing about the relationship problem at hand, they get into a fight about each other’s heights: Helena calls Hermia “low” and Hermia calls Helena a “maypole,” something that seems so trivial and yet extremely specific as if the two have used those terms before when harassing each other. (Shakespeare 3.2.296). Their argument is passionate, and their insults are harsh, so much so that Hermia even goes as far as to desire to inflict physical pain on her friend: “I am not yet so low / But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes” (3.2.297-98). Their teasing transforms into physical violence towards each other and therefore more intimate. Such passion, enough to drive one to harm her friend out of sheer frustration, shows the power and connection between the two girls. If she did not truly care about Helena, she would not allow herself to become so worked up over something as trivial as an insult about her height, but Hermia, though physically smaller, has the worse temper of the two, as displayed here: “Helena’s childhood memories of oneness with Hermia are not so much displaced as complicated by her repeated accounts of her friend’s violent temper” (Sanchez 503). As previously mentioned, Helena is upset that her dear friend replaced her and seemingly tossed their shared memories away.

Both girls know how to annoy the other, which “evokes a fantasy of a perfect harmony” (503) since the two of them take turns being the sadist and the masochist in the relationship. Furthermore, the two would be friends forever, at least that is what Helena observed at their young age, but lives change and as the two matured, their sadomasochistic tendencies flourished. According to Sanchez, “It is hard to see how Helena or Hermia could ever have become interested in anyone but the other–or why any woman would willingly abandon such ‘sisters vows’ and ‘childhood innocence’” (503). If Hermia had never broken their unspoken vows to provoke Helena, then Helena would not have experienced the same urge to demand justice from Hermia or follow her into the woods and the play would not be the same. Thus, as the book Shakespeare’s Philosophy of Love written by scholar Herman Horne suggests, Helena berates love for its power to transform baseness into dignity; Helena tries to stay dignified by berating love in the only way she knows how (46). Many proverbs Shakespeare came up with himself, such as “love is blind” and “all’s fair in love and war” claim to be lofty, and yet Helena’s jaundiced views are rationalized by the loss of her lover to another.

Titania and Oberon’s Marriage Rated “M” for Mature

The constant teasing between Hermia and Helena foreshadows the relationship between an already-married couple in the play. Like the two young girls, this couple eroticizes their own submission and domination. Traditionally, as Rieger points out, “Men dominate women in the comedy, and women not only accept this domination, they eroticize it” (78). As already shown, Hermia and Helena, clearly both women, both eroticize their domination, and this can be seen in the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. These two enjoy manipulating each other and disagreeing on small and large things. At the beginning of the play, the two argue about the strange weather that is occurring because of their fighting and magical powers: “Therefore the winds, piping us in vain, / As in revenge, have sucked up from the sea / Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land, / Hath every pelting river made so proud” (Shakespeare 2.1.88-91). Titania describes the dismal scene of raging storms over Athens; she fears for the humans with their “drowned field” and their land filled with mud, whereas Oberon does not care at all about the mortals. Instead, he seemingly brushes off Titania’s fears and changes the subject (2.1.96 & 98). Shakespearean scholar Angela Schumann argues that here Titania is a nobler character than Oberon, which in some cases I would consider to be true as well. However, in the first scene with the married couple, the audience can already see that they do not agree on everything. Perhaps Titania knows that Oberon will dismiss her fears, and so she produces that long monologue to make herself seem nobler and better as to enrage Oberon.

Titania’s nobleness is further explored when the audience sees the king and queen arguing over the possession of the changeling Indian boy. Schumann’s piece suggests:

Titania is a more complex and mature character than Oberon. She wants the Indian boy out of love for his mother, “for her sake do I rear up the boy” (2.1.136). Conversely, “jealous oberon” (2.1.24) who…suffers from a case of wounded male pride, only wants the boy as an exotic trinket…and out of jealousy for taking Titania’s attention away from him: “am I not thy lord?” (2.1.63). (Schumann 48)

Titania raises the Indian changeling boy as her own because of what she claims as a duty to the boy’s mother: “But she, being mortal, of that boy did die; / And for her sake do I rear up her boy, / And for her sake I will not part with him” (Shakespeare 2.1.135-37). This is a touching story and quite noble of Titania to take her late friend’s child and make sure he has a safe and happy home, but considering Titania and Oberon’s constant bickering, the reader is unsure if she says this to make herself seem noble or to hurt Oberon, something Schumann’s piece fails to mention. I believe that Titania is no more noble than Oberon; she is fantastic at seeming to be the nobler to the reader by taking in the changeling Indian boy and raising him, by sticking with Oberon while he puts the pansy juice in his eyes, and more. However, much like with Helena and Hermia, she knows how to irritate Oberon and seeks to antagonize him just as much as he does her.

One way she seeks to irritate Oberon is to speak of the countless nights she and the Indian boy’s mother spent together, a time when she was clearly away from Oberon and more importantly, building a stronger relationship with someone else as seen by: “Full often hath she gossip’d by my side” (2.1.125). This sounds similar to Hermia’s speech mentioned previously about making a deeper connection to someone other than Helena. The audience isn’t really sure why Oberon wants the Indian boy, so it is safe to assume that Oberon simply wants the Indian boy because Titania has him, and Titania flaunts her relationship with him in Oberon’s face. This isn’t the first game the two have played against each other. In one of the first scenes with the king and the queen of the fairies, the audience is introduced to the adulterous relationship the two have:

Titania: But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,

Your buskined mistress and your warrior love,

To Theseus must be wedded, and you come

To give their bed joy and porperity.

Oberon: How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,

Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,

Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?” (2.1.70-76)

Both parties involved have had romantic and sexual affairs with the mortal king and queen of Athens, Theseus and Hippolyta, showcasing that the two love berating each other, as seen above; they want to have these bickering fights where they throw affairs and games in each other’s face. This is how their relationship functions, showcasing that this version of love, though seedier, actually puts the two in harmony, like Hermia and Helena, and provides a perfect relationship for them.

As seen above, Titania plays the sadist quite well in her marriage. Yet much like Helena and Hermia, she and Oberon switch between being the sadist and the masochist. Oberon definitely turns around and desires to be the masochist at times as well. When the pansy flower juice enters the play, Oberon wants to meddle with all relationships and assigns his faithful servant Puck to fix the Athenian lovers, Demetrius and Helena’s, broken and one-sided relationship. He messes up, however, as the audience sees and instead puts the juice in Lysander’s eyes causing him to fall in love with Helena. Oberon, while fixing the dilemma his servant created, becomes more devious. He decides to put the flower’s juice in his wife’s eyes to: “make her full of hateful fantasies” (2.2.257-258). He humiliates his wife by making her see, and ultimately fall in love with, something hideous.

Not only does he want to humiliate her, but more importantly he wants to humiliate himself by setting up his own cuckolding. Rieger’s article discusses the idea of Oberon cuckolding himself. He points out the scholarly work dismisses the notion of realized cuckolding and instead, he suggests that Oberon uses “erotic desire as a weapon to humiliate his rebellious wife and enforce her submission. He does this in order to reassert his position at the head of his family and, by extension, the state as embodied in the fairy kingdom” (70). In order to restore the calm in their relationship, Oberon openly sets up his wife to have sexual relations with another man as to humiliate the two of them, and in doing so, Oberon regains control and the upper hand in his and Titania’s power dynamics. The audience watches Oberon’s plan unfold:

What thou seest when thou dost wake,

Do it for thy true love take;

Love and languish for his sake.

Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,

Pard, or boar with bristled hair,

In thy eye that shall appear

When thou wak’st, it is thy dear.

Wake when some vile thing is near. (Shakspeare 2.2.27-34)

Titania could wake up and see Theseus or one of the lovers or even her king, but Oberon wants her to be even more humiliated than that; he wants to see his wife fall in love with a wild animal, crossing the line into bestiality. Moreover, Lisa Walters’ article, “Oberon And Masculinity In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” suggests that “Titania’s refusal to obey Oberon is the action of a rebellious and unruly wife against her husband’s authority. Hence, in his drugging of Titania, Oberon parallels Theseus…restoration of order comes about by causing ‘injuries’ to female queens” (157). However, what Walters fails to mention is why Oberon does what he does. By craving the humiliation and setting up his own cuckolding, Oberon wants to embarrass himself. This is his wife gallivanting with a half-man half-donkey, doting and possibly engaging in sexual moments with this creature. If other people were to see Titania’s actions, they would turn to Oberon and question why he is not controlling his wife. Even worse, they could turn to him in pity because ultimately Oberon sets up his own cuckolding. He watches his wife take Bottom into her “bower,” basically her private bedchamber (Shakespeare 3.1.197). This is what Oberon wants. He could potentially give Titania the antidote for the pansy juice spell, ultimately stopping his wife from committing such a gross and adulterous crime against him, but he does not.

Shakespeare takes Oberon’s humiliation and masochistic drive further by representing Oberon and Titania’s relationship as the only happy marriage. Oberon’s use of erotic desire is a form of control; true love comes from harm: “The erotic economies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are predicated upon gendered dominance and submission, upon…love won by the doing of injuries” (Rieger 71). The idealistic relationships, the ones that are supposed to be based on true love, are actually false, either from the pansy juice, as seen in Helena and Demetrius’ relationship because Demetrius still has the juice in his eyes at the end of the play when they are married, or from selfish reasons with Theseus and Hippolyta’s relationship being forced because Hippolyta was raped by Theseus resulting in her having to marry him. Even Hermia and Lysander’s relationship is not sacred: Hermia seems to use Lysander only to annoy her father, but perhaps even to escape the fate of an arranged marriage. She quite possibly does not truly love Lysander; and Lysander most likely only wants to have sexual relations because he is a young man, and when they are finally alone, his advances are obvious: “One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth” (2.2.42).

There are no “ideal” relationships in this play; instead, the characters show realistic emotions of being in love: the angry, passionate, scheming and violent kind of love. Oberon and Titania, on the other hand, are actually compatible. They are both scheming and violent. They both play games and tease the other; everything is in sync and equal. This is how Shakespeare shows a happy relationship and has this be the only couple that has been married and together for as long as they have. The two are immortal and, therefore, have a long time to spend together, and if they didn’t actually enjoy the treatment they get from their partner, then they could have ended things long ago. But instead, the king and queen stay together and continue their harsh, teasing relationship.

Shakespeare’s Insight into Holy Matrimony

There is a commonplace assumption among Shakespeare scholars regarding the origins of this play. Like most of Shakespeare’s plays, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where and when they were written and for what purpose–the world does not even know who Shakespeare was, let alone how his plays came to flourish. But in regards to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the scholars mostly agree, as Charles Lyon’s work discusses, that this play would have been “written for a court wedding” (22). Horne’s piece provides further proof of the epithalamium by mentioning those assumed to be in attendance, such as: “Sir Thomas Heneage and Mary, Countess of Southampton; Edward Russell, Earl of Bedford, and Lucy Harrington,” as well as “It is possible…that Queen Elizabeth would herself grace the occasion by her presence” (Horne 42-43). Shakespeare would have known if the queen was going to be in attendance because someone would have made sure his play would be proper enough. This does not prevent Shakespeare, however, from creating a play that on the surface appears pure enough for the queen and full of love for a wedding and yet still exhibits sexual baseness, gritty relationships, and mockery towards love at first sight.

So what is it that Shakespeare is trying to accomplish by submitting the wedding party and potentially the queen to a technically sadomasochistic play? All of Shakespeare’s work possesses an underlying message to the audiences who watch it. In the case of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare provides a warning about true love and most importantly, how love changes in a marriage. First, as Maurice Charney’s book Shakespeare on Love & Lust points out this play mocks the notion of “love at first sight,” which is also a Petrarchan ideal (9). Love is supposed to enter through the eyes, and it is essentially spontaneous, irresistible, and absolute (9). But Shakespeare ridicules this idea by having his characters control who they see and, by proxy, fall in love with at first sight, with the use of pansy juice. As previously mentioned, Oberon controls Titania’s newest love interest is putting the juice from a certain flower in her eyes, and then whomever she sees first, she falls madly and deeply in love with the person. Shakespeare muddles with the way we perceive love at first sight. It is not as romantic as it might seem but instead can be tortuous, unwanted, and in Titania’s case, demeaning.

The warning extends to the notion of “happily ever after.” The bride and groom of the wedding, and the guests attending, all have a preconceived notion of how love works in a relationship. They used the common definition of love, derived by Petrarch, as being an idealistic and god-like experience, almost something intangible. Soon-to-be-brides were pure and innocent, emulating goddesses, and their love was going to allow their groom to transcend this earthly realm and bring him closer to God. This puts immense pressure on the bride, for she must live up to that unnatural standard and form of love which does not allow for any experimentation with sadomasochism, baseness, or anything the bride might be interested in outside of what is considered the norm. This pressure makes each bride equal to the next, which we know women are not all equal; Shakespeare believes that “Inequality is the natural order of ‘true love’” (Rieger 73). Shakespeare disagrees with the Petrarchan notion of love as described here by C. H. Herford’s work:

Love is a passion, kindling heart, brain and senses alike in natural and happy proportions; ardent but not sensual, tender but not sentimental, pure but not ascetic, moral but not puritanic, joyous but not frivolous, mirthful and witty but not cynical. His lovers look forward to marriage as a matter of course, and they neither anticipate its rights no return their affections elsewhere. (18)

Shakespeare sees love as an ever-changing, amorphous ideal that alters as it grows and matures. Regier even suggests that for love and a couple “to exist in harmony, one party must be dominated and one party must submit” (74). So not only does love change throughout a relationship, but the only way it will continue to exist is not through this idealized version of love, but rather a perfect harmony that includes these unspeakables. Described here are the common binaries that situate themselves inside the notion of love, and Shakespeare took these and made sure that his lovers and couples remained in the balance. All of his created relationships, those romantic and not, can be described as such and if they seem to be too pure or tipping the scale one way, this is used in a mocking manner to showcase how this is not the idea Instead, the balance is necessary here; idealness is irrational and unattainable.

Today’s Notion of Modern Romance

What has sadomasochism defined by Shakespeare taught his audiences? The thought of people willfully submitting themselves to degradation can leave many unsettled, especially when it comes to women craving this treatment: “There is a real difficulty in accepting the female characters’ masochism, their cheerfulness embracing of degradation. It flies in the face of all contemporary, twentieth and twenty-first-century notions of equality and appropriate gender relations” (Rieger 79). Today we are extremely politically correct when it comes to women’s rights and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but there has to be a moment where we can talk about female sexual desires, not just those of males. Rieger further points out that  “This masochistic acceptance and even embracing of humiliation can leave contemporary audiences, and critics, unsatisfied” (78). And to some extent, this is true; there is still uncertainty in accepting that lovers can actually enjoy and crave this sexual humiliation. Our conception of love has come incredibly far since Shakespeare’s Early Modern era. The term “BDSM” and the ever-increasing pornography industry would have been unheard of concepts to Shakespeare and his audiences, but the notions behind them would have been understood. Many of us look down at anything later than the Romantic period as being unrealistic towards the modern notion of love; people in this period “courted” and “wrote love letters” and “dated” without the use of an app. However, as this essay has pointed out, those in the Renaissance and Early Modern times were not too far off when it came to sexual transgression and more “modern” ways of looking at love.

The cornerstone of all modern forms of love now is inclusion, from the acceptance of interracial couples in the later twentieth century to legal marriage rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, being passed in the United States government in 2015. The smaller scale events matter as well, such as gay pride parades, and the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco where BDSM and leather clothing is somewhat mandatory, to online communities for people with different tastes personally and sexually. Of course, we cannot forget the pornography industry which has over 22,820,000 searches a month according to a Business Outsider article from 2011, and categories for all forms of fetishes and desires ranging from innocent, such as the classic foot fetish, to more extreme notions of sex (Dunn). All of this leads to an unspoken inclusion noting that sex can be for everyone; if there is something weird or out of the status quo that you might like in the bedroom, you can find it on the Internet.

The point is that in today’s technologically advanced era, porn, and, therefore sex becomes a more widely accepted and understood medium for simple pleasure. There are porn communities, sex clubs, forums, erotic literature and more all saying the same thing: Sex is for everyone. And there is something powerful in owning one’s sexuality, even if it seems to stray from the social norm, and I like to think that in the twenty-first century, society is more embracing of that. There are focus groups and clubs dedicated to those with different sexual preferences. The notions of domination and submission are showcased in movies and pop culture, with Fifty Shades of Grey being an international bestseller. We, as a world, are becoming more aware of different “tastes” in the bedroom and therefore less and less afraid of them thanks to the advances starting in Shakespeare’s time. “Shakespeare so clings to the ideal that it appears in almost all of his plays. He objects to criticism that ‘overemphasize[s] the unresolved and the problematic’ in the problem comedies and suggests that although those plays do not support idealization, their final message is positive” (Brown 52). And one can see that now that there is sexual liberation among couples, there is more happiness by far, which is exactly what Shakespeare was hinting at.

Shakespeare stresses that these couples are not unhappy, “The course of true love never did run smooth” which is the most important factor (Shakespeare 1.1.134). Oberon and Titania are equals in their relationship, as contrasted with Theseus and Hippolyta where Theseus holds all the power. Helena and Hermia, on the other hand, are a great example of the honeymoon phase in a relationship, where they are passionate and angry in one scene, and then loving and forgiving in the next. These two couples are just the start of the relationship dynamics in this play, but they are the prime examples. Ultimately, the two relationships can only function with their own dysfunctionalities; without the arguments and the fighting, their relationship would not be the same; there wouldn’t be any passion and it would cease to exist. Each and every individual relationship has its own equation for how it works, whether it be with some light bondage or through a more traditional sense. Either way, we cannot judge those whose love is not like our own; to them, it is the ideal. However, if reading this has caused any distaste, then please note that:

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumber’d here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend:

if you pardon, we will mend:

And, as I am an honest Puck,

If we have unearned luck

Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,

We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call;

So, good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends,

And Robin shall restore amends.

(Shakespeare 5.1.413-428)

Works Cited

Brown, Carolyn. Shakespeare and Psychoanalytic Theory. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.

Chancer, Lynn S. Sadomasochism in Everyday Life: The Dynamics of Power and Powerlessness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1992. Print.

Charney, Maurice. Shakespeare on Love & Lust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Print.

Dunn, Alec. “Top Google Searches – What Do People Search For?” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 21 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.

Gleckman, Jason. “‘I Know A Bank.’: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Fairies, And The Erotic History Of England.” Shakespeare 10.1 (2014): 23-45. Scopus. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Herford, C. H. Shakespeare’s Treatment of Love and Marriage: And Other Essays. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1921. Print.

Horne, Herman Harrell. Shakespeare’s Philosophy of Love. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton, 1945. Print.

“Masochism, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 26 April 2016.

Noyes, John K. The Mastery of Submission: Inventions of Masochism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997. Print.

Rieger, Gabriel. “‘I Woo’d Thee With My Sword, / And Won Thy Love Doing Thee Injuries’: The Erotic Economies Of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Upstart Crow (2009): 70. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

“Sadism, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 26 April 2016.

Sanchez, M.E. “Use Me But As Your Spaniel”: Feminism, Queer Theory, And Early Modern Sexualities.” Pmla 127.3 (2012): 493-511. Scopus. Web. 13 Feb. 2016

Schumann, Angela. “‘But As A Form In Wax’: An Ecofeminist Reading Of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Colloquy: Text Theory Critique 30 (2015): 42-60. Humanities Source. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ed. Wolfgang Clemen. 2nd ed. New York: Signet Classics, 1986. Print.

Walters, Lisa. “Oberon And Masculinity In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal Of Short Articles, Notes, And Reviews 26.3 (2013): 157-160. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

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Refocus: 2018 Book List

From the wise words of Lily and Val (a crafting, calligraphy, all things pretty website and store; which is where this awesome “refocus” design is from!), 2018 is the time to refocus. At the perfect existential age of 23, a current Master’s seeking grad student, a kinda-sorta New York resident, it might appear that I have things together–but we all know me, and I don’t. For starters, why do I let things I love (i.e. reading and reviewing) fall by the wayside? Let’s stop that, future Shelby. Some goals for this new year include some of the cliche things (like eat better! Note, Z and I got Dominos delivered yesterday–what a great way to start the new year, eh?), but more importantly, they include book-related things.

 

 

 

This year, I want to read one book a week (total 52 books in 2018) that are non-academic, meaning they are not required reading for classes. I also want to post to my bookstagram three or so times a week, as well as posting one review (at least!) a week here.

I want to include my list of 52 books here so you guys can see what I’m up to and give me more suggestions on what to read. Currently, my list is at 40 something. I’m planning on leaving the last 10 or so open instead of planning those away this early in the year.

*A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Pendragon #9 by DJ McHale
Pendragon #10 by DJ McHale
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas
Assassins Blade by Sarah J Maas
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
WinterSong by S. Jae-Jones
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Before She Ignites by  Jodi Meadows
Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
The Breathless by Tara Goedjen 
Select by Marit Weisenberg
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra
The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell 
*The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
*Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
*Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Starborn by Lucy Hounsom
*Everless by Sara Holland
The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
A Million Junes by Emily Henry
*Women of Will by Tina Packer
Private Lives of the Tudors by Tracy Borman
Elizabeth by John Guy
Furyborn by Claire Legrand
*A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas
Wicked like Wildfire by Lana Popovic
School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Starflight by Melissa Landers
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
*Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Hot Cop by Laurelin Paige
RoomHate by Penelope Ward

If you made it this far down, congrats! The books marked with an asterisk are the ones I’m most excited about and will probably be reading first–this list isn’t in any particular order and as you can see, there’s a healthy mixing of genres and authors. Naturally, there are many YA (my favorite) but there is a sprinkling of non-fiction as well as classics and, of course, some erotica at the end (which will probably be read in the summertime).

Some other book things I’m looking forward to sticking to are: the MLA 2018 New York Convention happening this weekend; BookCon in NY in the summer; finishing my novel by December 31st (fingers crossed, people); reading for my upcoming six Master’s courses this year–as well as picking a mentor and applying to PhD programs come summertime.

So let’s all pray to the book gods that I am capable of keeping up with this resolution–it is, after all, time to refocus.

Firsts of 2017

It’s been a while (since October) that I posted regularly, so I wanted to inform my minuscule readers what I’ve been reading and up to while on hiatus. Mostly, I was too depressed to actually write, but I was still reading. My goal here is to compile a list of books that I read in the first few months that meant something to me. Now, I’ve certainly read books that have made me cry or made me go “what did I just read?” but these books are the first books of the year that I’ve read that made me cry or made me go “whaaaat?” So without further adieu, let’s get started.

2017’s Firsts


First Book I Bought for an Actual Reason: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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Disclaimer: the pink/white pills are joint medication for my cat; the purple round ones are children’s chewable ibuprofen; the two prescription bottles are obviously that–prescriptions written for me. This is a commentary on Carrie Fisher’s love of drugs, especially her own.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Published by Blue Rider Press on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Biography, Diary, History
Pages: 272
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

I’m not crying, you’re crying. I knew that when this book came out that I had to own it. It was over Christmas break, I was back home in Chicago while my cat and boyfriend were in our little cottage in central PA when we heard the news. Princess Leia has passed away. I didn’t grow up with Star Wars (I was stereotypically given dolls and not science things), but I knew of the impact these movies have had on future movies to come, Hollywood itself, and nerds of every age. I only saw the movies for the first time about two years ago, all in the rightful order of 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3 and then 7 and 3.5 when they came out respectively. I cried at the end of 7, The Force Awakens, because, though I didn’t see them as a child, I was already deeply attached to the characters and the harrowing story.

When Carrie Fisher died, I didn’t know what to think. She was older and clearly didn’t take the best care of herself, but she was an idol–is an idol–and will continue to be not only for fans in metal bikinis everywhere, but for those with mental illness that she made feel more normal with her hilarity towards her own problems. I didn’t even know much about her seminars and discussions, mostly because I don’t have bipolar disorder, but I know that she influenced many outside of the Star Wars franchise. Long story short, I had to have her book. I knew her also as an hilarious actor outside of the franchise–starring in 30 Rock as a crazy cat-less lady and the equally real and hilarious British show Catastrophe. I watched her with admiration as someone who accomplished so much in her life, while struggling with her own problems of stardom, mental health, unrequited love, etc.

I will continue collecting her works–I didn’t know she wrote so much, why did she have to leave us!–and forever remember her as fantastic woman.


First WTF is Happening Book: The Graces by Laura Eve

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The Graces by Laura Eve
Published by Harry N. Abrams on September 6th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Thriller, Romance, Friendship
Pages: 352
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Has anyone read this book????? Can someone explain to me this book??? Laura Eve, you have done it. I have a literature degree and have been trained, for more than four years if we’re counting my excessive literature classes in high school, as well as getting my Master’s in literature starting in August and yet, you have stumped me. So thank you. Thank you, Laura Eve for completely and utterly confusing me.

I thought I had it all figured this out while reading this book, and yet once I got to that last chapter, everything I thought I knew went flying out the window. And it was so refreshing! I love young adult books, they’re my favorite genre–so much so that I write in this genre–and yet sometimes I can figure out the entire story during the first couple of chapters. And this is nice, don’t get me wrong, I can then just focus on the characters, love stories, familial ties, etc. and not have to worry about using my brain too much. But not with Eve’s ridiculous and outstanding tale.

Also, I can’t even disclose any of my confusion because it would give away the entire story, and I wouldn’t want to do that because the twist is so intense, so heart-stopping, that it would be an injustice as a book-lover to spoil. Please read this book if you have ever thought what it would be like to meet real-life witches, people you have read about in books and searched the internet for, and are desperate to be a part of that life. I can imagine Harry Potter lovers relating with River and her desperate need to know more about the Grace family. Who doesn’t want to be best friends with witches?

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE HALF OF IT! If you enjoy murder mystery, surprise twists with characters, forbidden love and desperate lust, then read The Graces; it will do you well.

A close second for this category is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.


First Book I Cried In: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout

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The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, Family, Mental Health
Pages: 480
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

This book is beautiful. It does seem a little long in the beginning, and since it’s almost 500 pages long, it can seem like it’s dragging. But do not lose hope because the more you read, the more you discover. Armentrout carefully and artfully discloses only certain information at a time, never giving away too much, always keeping you on the edge of your seat. I fell in love with the characters–feeling so much for them that when the time is right I am going to consider adoption myself. I wanted to go into the book and hug Mallory and Rider each (even though the name Rider isn’t my favorite name for the character, but that’s just how it is).

Mallory and Rider’s relationship is so complicated and heartbreaking, but also extremely uplifting and hopeful. Rider’s unconditional love for Mallory, both as her boyfriend but mostly as her best friend, is so endearing and real. Of course he wants, needs, to protect her from the horrible things she’s seen, but he’s also there to watch her grow into the fully functioning and courageous woman she becomes.

Definitely a must read for those wanting a good cry, to feel something in their chest as they near the end of the story, and the aggressive need to keep reading.


First Book I Wanted to Like, but Didn’t: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, History
Pages: 512
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Okay, I didn’t hate this book, that is much too dramatic. In fact, it’s quite silly and hilarious, making the reader laugh out loud. However, the main factor that I disliked was the constant intervention from the narrators. I’ve done my fair share of studying when it comes to the British monarch and while I hadn’t heard of all the characters, I did have a pretty good grasp on who was who. I would be reading, though, and suddenly the narrators would intervene to tell me that what I’m reading isn’t true. Well…duh. Someone didn’t actually have a horrible curse–that isn’t really a curse–that turns them into a horse every day break. That would just be ridiculous of me to think that was real. I love the idea of the authors taking over a story that we don’t know much of, and turning into something lovely, but the constant interruptions are a little jarring.

That being said, I did enjoy the adventure. This is an easy read, so though it’s a long 500 pages, it is a fast read. I didn’t need to fuss over it (other than it being heavy!). The characters, Jane and G are adorable and hilarious, but part of me (spoiler!) wanted Jane to end up with Edward! I know that there is an incest-problem there, but as the narrators dutifully point out, this was very common back then. And something about Edward and Jane seemed real. On the other hand, G and Jane are quite fitting for each other too–how G constantly teases Jane, calling her “love” even when they haven’t discussed their relationship other than their pure hatred for each other. I think this book would have been better if there weren’t so many interruptions from the writers–simply let the story be and you can either disclaim in the prologue or epilogue that none of it was real–as well as getting more in-depth with the characters. I wanted to feel something when reading about them, other than just laughing and enjoying my time. I want to worry about them, fear for them, love them.


First Book with a Love Story that Won Me Over: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Family, Suspense
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

So even though I’ve given this book the title of winning me over with the love story, I actually don’t know if I’m going to read the sequel, mostly because I can’t take any more heartbreak between the main characters. Now I’m not the biggest science fiction buff, so it took me a little while to get into the whole “Firebird”, multi-demnsional travel, but I was able to get through it and I’m so glad that I did because Marguerite and the Russian Paul’s love is indescribable. I constantly go back to how I felt, my heart racing, sweating palms as I frantically read to make sure they made it out of the snow storm alright and into each other’s arms.

I don’t know if what I feel for this dimension’s Paul, for my own, or for both of them. I can’t tell the difference any longer, and in the moment, I don’t care…

“Paul,” I murmur, “call me by my name.”

“You know I cannot.”

“Just once”…

And we are lost. I’m the one who breaks the last rule, the final taboo–the one who kisses him. But then he surrenders. He holds nothing back. We tangle together, kissing desperately, clutching at the few clothes we still wear, hardly able to breathe or think or do anything other than those ourselves in each other (194-95).

I could go on, pretty much quoting this entire scene between Paul and Marguerite because I get butterflies in my stomach, rising up my throat, threatening to escape, but I won’t; I’ll let the beauty stay in the book. I don’t know how Gray does it, but I feel so enchanted with the characters and storyline. There is a sense of urgency, the rushing that Marguerite, Paul, and Theo feel trying to catch each other and get to the right dimension, that manifests in the reader, as if we are a part of the race.


First Collection: The Entire Works of William Shakespeare by Modern Library

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From left to right: The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of The Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, Henry IV Part 2, Macbeth, Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3, Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry IV Part 1, Titus Andronicus & Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Hamlet, King John & Henry VIII, Othello, The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Sonnets and Other Poems; King Lear, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Richard II

 

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that Shakespeare is my true passion. I wrote my 30-page senior thesis on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and am now going to attend St. John’s University in New York for my Master’s and then Ph.D in literature with an emphasis in the Early Modern Period, or Shakespeare’s time. The collection I just bought is published by Modern Library and edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.

There are many editions of Shakespeare’s work published; I have many different copies of the same play (particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet) as well as the entire collection in one book by Oxford. However, I saw these editions on Instagram and fell in love. It took me so long to find them, but when I did, I knew I had to get them. They are not only beautiful covers, the editions themselves (footnotes, introductory information, etc.) are spot on. This is something I look for as a scholar and the main scene I double check is Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Most editions will print “etc.” on line 40, but this edition does print the “open arse” that is usually left out. A winner for sure!

I don’t normally buy collections, partly because trilogy, sagas, etc. don’t all come out at the same time unless you’re reading a collection that has been out for a while. My boyfriend buys many comic book collections (like March written by Congressman John Lewis), but I don’t have many completed collection, except for now! These plays will serve me well once I start school again this fall. Wish me luck!

Dear My New Best Friends,

Dear Jenny Lawson, Ruby Elliot, and Allie Brosh,

Dear award-winning authors,

Dear you crazy women,

Dear my new best friends,

I’m assuming you’ve heard this many, many, many times over (I’m hoping it doesn’t get old), but I want to thank each of you for the work you have done. To some, your work might seem like fun books with drawings and crazy taxidermy stories, and while this is totally true, your books have been so much more to me. I honestly don’t even know where to begin this review–and let’s be honest, this is hardly a review at this point but more like word-vomit colored with fancy sprinkles and googly eyes. All five books get five stars and if you don’t like that, you can leave. This is my website after all. If I must nitpick, I would give Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson five out of five stars and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened also by Lawson four-and-a-half stars simply because that’s how much I love Furiously Happy. So you get five stars! And you get five stars! Everyone gets five staaarrrsss!

But seriously, I am in awe of all of you. I think I might be in love with all three of you at the same time. Can we have a sleepover?

Did that come off as too creepy? I’m sure at a Barnes and Noble signing, you guys have heard worse–like someone’s comment about how your hair smells and you wonder how he knows. Or someone on meth asks you to a steak dinner with a note reading: Attn. pretty lady behind the counter. Wait…these things happened to me, not you. Anyways, dear god do not ever change. Please, for the love of humanity, keep writing, drawing, living your beautiful lives so nobodies like me, who frantically type up raves that no one will read, have something to do with their boring, depression-ridden lives.

You all speak to me–individually and together. We are having a conversation together, whether you intended for it or not.

Positive conversations between women are crucial today and by displaying all sides of yourselves, you three women (and I’m sure many more) are having a conversation with each reader, letting them know that everything they are feeling from mental illness to motherhood, from husbands/boyfriend/girlfriends to family issues and work issues, we are not the only ones. These feelings, emotions, dark and light thoughts are happening to women all around the globe. By publishing these stories, these non-fiction tales, Lawson, Brosh, and Elliot are letting me know that what I am experiencing right now, in this very moment, might be both horrible and hilarious, or the worst and the best. Because you all talk about these issues as everyday problems, and yet still a crucial part of you, you are normalizing issues that society has hushed. No experience from a woman is allowed to be discredited or silenced any longer.

With the changing of hands in our government, the repealing of Obamacare and the lack of care for mental health patients, I am scared that my drugs that keep me stable enough to live each day will no longer by supported by my insurance. I’m scared that those like me, that have problem waking up in the morning because of something dark sitting on their chest, will not receive the help that they, that we, need. Depression and anxiety might seem commonplace on the internet, it is still misunderstand or not wildly accepted as a real thing. Many do not understand, and choose to not understand because these illnesses do not affect them the way they affect us, and this scares me. However, thanks to you guys, you have made these illnesses even more commonplace and easier to explain. I can show RubyEtc.’s pictures or Brosh’s drawings to my boyfriend, so he can grasp what I’m feeling when words escape me. I can color in and hang a picture drawn by Lawson’s beautiful hand in a heavy-traffic space in my house, so I can see it every day and feel “normal.”

Like you, like many women, I struggle with my mental illnesses. In fact, I feel as if saying this is so commonplace that my readers will be like “Yeah, so? We all do. You’re not special in saying that you have mental heal issues.” However, it is so easy to feel alone in our own minds. Sure, logically I know I’m not the only one with depression, anxiety about time, etc. but since most of the people I surround myself with do not experience these crippling issues, I can feel more alone. You guys take that feeling away. I am not alone thanks to your books. I am normal thanks to your books.

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Order in which I read, starting on the left.

So to Ruby Elliot:

Thank you for putting pictures to my thoughts and feelings. In the beginning stages of my mental illness, I didn’t even know I had problems–I just thought I had temper tantrums, anger management problems, and tons of emotions because I was always crying. Once I started therapy and began putting names to the feelings, I felt much better. And you have done that again. If someone asks me how I’m feeling, I can just show them your book. Pictures are so much easier to digest and interpret. In our busy lives, sitting and reading an entire self-help book is unlikely (okay but I do this anyways), but being able to flip through your book to a dog-eared page and remember that you felt this way strong enough to draw it out for me to ponder on is remarkable. Here are some pictures (that I took myself) of your pictures that perfectly describe me (please excuse potato quality and my nail polish):

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To Allie Brosh:

I had one of my least favorite English professors recommend your book. He is a condescending arse-hole and actually got fired from my school. Now I’m assuming this has NOTHING do to with your book and more to do with the fact that no one likes him. However, once I started reading Elliot’s book and had read one of Lawson’s, everyone began asking me if I had heard of or read Hyperbole and a Half. I was always brought back to that classroom with my teacher saying he had found myself in your book (so condescendingly might I add) and I wanted to smack him. But trust me. I get it now. Sure he’s a prick, this letter isn’t about him, but goodness Ms. Brosh, I think I peed my pants while reading your book (I wouldn’t be surprised if many strangers tell you that). Not only this, but even though I’ve been on medication for four years now and have seemed to grasp my own problems as far as mental illness goes, you still have shed new light on what I once was feeling and what I still am currently feeling.

The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief…But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there’s a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck…Which leads to horrible, soul-decaying boredom (124-25).

I feel like when I start therapy again once I move, I could simply bring in chapters from your book and say “This. Diagnose this, and you’ve diagnosed me.” On top of the mental illness similarities, you just totally understand the other weird shit that I feel:

It feels unfair when the other things in the world refuse to be governed by my justice system. [Brosh goes on to draw a panel about falling in love with an otter in a magazine, and then wondering why the otter has betrayed her by not being real and in front of her] (276-77).

Why do we feel this way? I don’t know, but thank you for pointing out a thing I do that I really didn’t even know that I did until you pointed it out.

Finally, to the mastermind Jenny Lawson:

Where do I even begin? You were my first; my first for a lot of things. Furiously Happy was not only the first book I bought that you wrote, it was the first “mental illness is a topic in this book” book that I bought, and I’m pretty sure it was the first book that made me laugh so freaking hard I wanted to throw up. Jenny,–I can call you Jenny, right?–I want to be like how you are to your own mental health issues. I know that that is kind of a shitty and fucked up thing to say, knowing your history with self-harm and just general issues, but seriously. You not only put to words feelings and emotions that leave me speechless and that I cannot describe to the lesser, normal people, but you then take it a step further and depict the ways that you are actually living with it. Your stories, particularly all those in Furiously Happy, have made me want to be a better person towards the issues that battle each other inside my cranium. You are so proud of yourself and the work you’ve accomplished–being a famous blogger, bestselling author, loving mother and wife, taxidermy animal collector–all while struggling with these non-curable problems. And you’ve done it so hilariously and real. I cannot thank you enough for being the type of person who is so true to herself and just also happens to have crippling mental problems and doesn’t use them as a crutch for her life.

I’m pretty sure I’ve dogeared my entire copy of Furiously Happy, so much so I can’t even find an appropriate passage to turn into a block quote here because I’m pretty sure I can’t insert the entire text–must be some sort of law. All I know is that throughout Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened I was laughing so hard I was peeing and my boyfriend was wondering if I was going to make it out alive (uhh the pooping story in LPTNH??), I was nodding my head in complete and utter agreement with other tales, and for once in my life, dreaming about visiting Texas. And though I haven’t had the chance to fully go through You Are Here, I know while it might not be as hilarious as your tears-in-the-eyes stories you tell, it will only further complete my collection of your work.

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These are the things that I need to get through the day.

Take One Drop of Pretty, and Call Me in the Morning

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wow. just, wow. I cannot get over this book. I am totally blown away by how unassuming Clark’s book is, resting neatly on the shelf in barns and noble where I purchased it, only to completely mind-fuck me with each page turn.

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The Regulars by Georgia Clark
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Feminism, Friendship, Romance, Beauty
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

★★★★★

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Picture that episode of Sherlock where the victims of an unknown cause of death are to choose from two pills: one will kill you, the other lets you live. Now, The Regulars is certainly not that dramatic, but the choice of poison is still there. Would you drink a drop of Pretty, a powerful “drug” that once swallowed, turns the user into their most perfect, beautiful, “pretty” self.

Three friends, roommates Evie Selby and Krista Kumar, along with Willow Hendrickson, have been friends since their college days. Naturally living in NYC as three, young, talented, but unrecognized women can be difficult and bills need to be paid. Evie works at Salty, a magazine that seems loosely based on our world’s Cosmo. She is a lowly editor (wait, I want that job), but has dreams of writing big league stories on real women’s issues. Krista is a law-school dropout turned aspiring actress. She cannot seem to catch an acting break though and owes Evie quite a few dollars in bills. Finally, there’s Willow, who actually needs no help financially seeing as her father is a famous movie producer. She, instead, needs help finding her own, personal path of art without the help, and support, of her father.

When Krista is approached by an old classmate, whom she doesn’t recognize, and given a strange purple vial containing a liquid called “Pretty” the three girl’s lives will change. Pretty turns each user into their truest, best, most popular and overall prettiest self. It sheds pounds, gray hairs, unwanted overly large noses, and more. It changes hair color, length and texture, eye color, removes blemishes and even tattoos. It truly creates a person who is worthy of fashion magazines and prom queen titles.

Each woman takes Pretty for a different reason and therefore create their alter-egos. Krista becomes Lenka Penka, a beautiful aspiring actress who needs a new agent and new movie. Evie becomes Chloe Fontaine, a new face for Salty‘s new live show Extra Salty where Evie hopes to influence people politically. And Willow turns into Caroline for the simple reason of trying it. She later develops a method to her madness in using Caroline as a model in her photographs.

Love interests bloom, careers expand, and overall good things happen to those that are pretty, all while the three aren’t really themselves. So why bother going back? Why not have it all? The brains and personality of a Regular but the look and taste of a Pretty? Who’s even stopping them? They are young and hungry women, eager to make a name for themselves in the big city and they have a secret potion that is going to get them there.

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Take this fanart  “There’s no such thing as ugly”; I understand the message they are trying to send–a classic case of “everyone and everything is beautiful” and while they’re not wrong in wanting to believe that, Clark’s characters echo through my mind.

In a rational world, a hopeful world, there wouldn’t be anything described as ugly, but on a realistic level, there are many, many things holding that description and it doesn’t even have to be women! Certain Lularoe legging patterns, the world’s ugliest dog [okay, but all dogs are cute, right?], insects, deep-sea creatures, those toaster cars, the lovely and inevitable acne, and the list continues. It is horrendous that “ugly” is commonly used to describe people or features of a person whether it be their hair or their personality. So instead of writing another tale about women’s bodies through rose-colored glasses, Clark writes about the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly.

If you are interested in a refreshing tale that will completely take you by surprise, then I suggest you picking up this pink book. Sitting perfectly on the shelf, just like a little jar of Pretty, it screams simple but edgy, it has something to say and boy does Clark say it.

Evie’s, or should I say Chloe’s, makeup artist at Extra Salty, Marcello, asks the question Clark poses:

“Does that annoy you?” Marcello asked, dotting Evie’s skin with foundation. “The fact you’re not in charge of how you look?” (page 256)

Aren’t we all a little annoyed that we can painstakingly work on profiles, lip proportions, chin jut outs on a Sim character, but not on ourselves? Of course, we are! We’re realists! Someone is always going to want bigger boobs, less bushy eyebrows, curlier hair, and the opposites to go with those. So, of course, we’re mad that with a snap of fingers, our face is rid of acne, age spots, dark spots, scars, wrinkles, and anything else women are told is ugly. But of course, we can’t do that. There is no magic pill, serum, or drink; this isn’t Wonderland and we aren’t Alice. We are real and our “ugly” features are real too; they are a part of us. And when we take those away, are we really us anymore?

Evie doesn’t seem to think so when she becomes Chloe Fontaine for the first time, but she brushes it away quickly:

The most unusual inclusions were two subtractions: first, she no longer needed glasses…And second, her tattoo was gone. This struck her as odd: she was fond of her tat, but the ink had spread over the years and was sun-faded. By comparison, the space where it used to be on her forearm resembled pristine carved marble (page 94).

Two vital parts of her are missing: first, her glasses, a necessary accessory that she had been wearing since 10 years old, and then her tattoo, a permanent piece of art that she chose to get for some reason at some point, was now missing. Sure these are minor, and in a way, we have the availability to rid ourselves of poor eyesight (contacts, laser eye surgery) and bad tattoos (tattoo removal i.e. a saw), but Evie didn’t necessarily see either of those features as ugly but the Pretty did and in order for her to become her perfect self, she must be rid of anything ugly–including things that made her feel pretty at one point.

I myself have 5 tattoos, all that have deep meaning to me. The reader doesn’t know what Evie’s tattoo is, but it begs the question of whether or not tattoos are “pretty” enough to be included in someone’s Pretty form. Clearly, Evie’s wasn’t.


Moving on from Evie, Willow/Caroline is probably my favorite character in the story. Although Evie seems to dominate Clark’s world, Willow, to me, seems the most relatable. Evie is a pronounced feminist and woman-rioter. She has short hair, is a blogger, and denounces her Cosmopolitain-like magazine. Krista, on the other hand, is extremely bubbly and overall annoying. She only thinks of herself when taking the Pretty (well, I suppose all three women only think of themselves when taking the Pretty…) and doesn’t seem to want to do any good with it. Finally, there’s Willow, who although she doesn’t use her new beauty for good, per se, the reader watches as Pretty completely shuts her down–a normal reaction I presume to such an addictive and overwhelming drug.

She notes spot on that by becoming Caroline, this alter-ego of herself, she isn’t Willow anymore. It doesn’t bother her that she is no longer the daughter or friend or girlfriend people in her life care for because now she can feel like a “normal” person in the world; her anxiety and depression don’t cripple her on a daily basis–she can create a person who doesn’t have any mental illness at all and this is exactly what she does.

There was something about being Caroline that was so incredibly freeing. Caroline didn’t carry herself with an invisible shield. Sometimes Willow felt like she was always conducting two conversations with the world: the one that was spoken out loud, and the one she carried with her, inside her head. Caroline wasn’t like that. Caroline didn’t hide her body. Caroline didn’t double-check her statements to make sure they sounded smart. Caroline knew how to flirt. Caroline was liberated (page 202-03).

Willow as Caroline, of course, makes mistakes–all of the girls do. She does stupid things, ranging from completely ignoring her two best friends for days on end to flirting with her own boyfriend as a different person. All of this is in the name of art, though. Her photography is what separates her from her father’s Hollywood movies and her friends “adult” careers. She finds peace in her photography, so imagine the inner peace she gets from being Caroline and taking pictures? This all spirals out of control, obviously, and Caroline starts to take over. Who are the girls now without their alter-egos? What if they decide to never be their old selfs again?

“And I know you think makeup sets an unrealistic standard and yadda yadda yadda, but the way I see it, I’m just helping people bring out their inner goddess. I can’t make you beautiful, Chloe. I can just help you see, with a little color here and a little color there, that you are already beautiful” (page 257).

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Being Regular wasn’t enough though for the three women and others in New York who are taking Pretty. Though Marcello’s words resonate with all of us, and Evie when he tells her this, their beauty standards are still impeccably high. Once Evie and Krista transform into Chloe and Lenka respectively for the second time, they notice that some features are not as elegant or brilliant as before from their first transformation. Krista/Lenka’s eyes are not as sea-green and Evie/Chloe’s chin juts out a little more than she remembered. Is this the beginning of the Pretty becoming the Regular? If taken so many times, what is to say that the Pretty version completely takes over the Regular version and suddenly the Pretty is actually the Regular version? We are always going to find faults with our faces, bodies, hair. I have days where I feel completely and utterly badass–strutting myself down the streets, feeling unstoppable. But the next day, a simple 16 hours later or so, another woman can feel the same way–strutting down the sidewalk past me–and totally shatter my self-esteem. Why doesn’t my winged eyeliner look that great? Are those honey-colored highlights? I should try that! She worked it so much better than me today, I’m a failure. These feelings flipflop, interchanging and always coming as a surprise. That woman, though, that made me question myself, was probably questioning herself just the other day too. She must have seen another woman online, in a magazine or person, who seemed to have it all and broke her self-confidence in one blink.

We are so hard on ourselves. A war wages before our eyes when we look in the mirror.

Taking Pretty opened up Evie, Krista, and Willow’s eyes and certainly the readers. I did not enter this book expecting such harsh, but at the same time optimistic commentary on women’s bodies in today’s world. Clark’s story is fresh and honest, it is not a simple remedy tale–in fact, indirectly she recommends taking a little dose of Pretty. Without knowing what our most perfect, most pretty self looks like–and thus the disaster that follows with that–how are we to appreciate our true selves?

At first, Evie felt self-conscious of the way her stomach bulged over the satin hot pants’ tiny waistband, the way her arms seemed heavy and thick in the sleeveless gold top. But none of the other early risers even gave her a second look. Not because she didn’t matter, Evie realized. Because in New York, everything was permissible. No one cared what you wore, how you looked. Only you cared about those things.

Her body was back. And she felt good about it (page 363-65).

 

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Another Rant About Women’s Bodies

[Disclaimer: this is totally not a book review, just a little social piece I thought I’d share]

The new hit comedy, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, started another craze for me. Ever the fan of beautiful Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick as well as sexy Zac Efron, seeing their movie was a must. Little did I know it would upset my stomach–not like the way some Tosh.0 episodes do, but in a much more unexpected way.

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As a budding 22 year old with too many plans for my future that I don’t know which one to pick, to say that I am “in shape” would be a disappointing understatement. Sucking it in is really the only ab exercise I do these days. So unless you count pudgy hourglass as a shape, then I am not in it. I have large breasts and a decently sized booty to match. My legs don’t go on for days, but are average and my arms could be more toned but eh. What remains is the centerfold of every woman: the stomach–I’m envisioning here the sound of canned screaming as if from a drive in movie back in the fifties when The Blob came at the screen. At times and at the right angle, I’m a size 8 to the passerby. Other times I’m so large i look five months pregnant (spoiler: I have gotten seats on the bus before by sticking out my gut and cradling it like any good unwed young mother would).

While hilariously well-written and starring an A+ cast, I walked out of the movie, tossing my empty giant-sized cherry limeade slushie in the trash, with whiplash about my own body. I wanted to love every aspect of it, but i couldn’t look Plaza and Kendrick in the face, only their one-eyed, rock hard midsections. I can’t blame them, and I don’t. They didn’t know this feeling of utter self-hatred would arise from their glorious on screen performance, and in fact both girls are so cool that if they had known, they probably would have stopped production, or at the least gained ten pounds in just their stomachs for me. However, their movie started a new body craze for me.

“I’m gonna work out” I told myself on the drive home in the rain. I can get washboard abs like they do (I can’t), I can get toned thighs and arms like they have (I can’t do that either). But I was on a mission. Soon I was thinking are diet pills really that bad? How easy it would be to get skinny by just swallowing a pill a day! I would love that! I began downloading workout apps on my phone and dreaming about running in the morning. However, I always hit snooze.

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Though they gave me reason to hate myself a little, Plaza and Kendrick couldn’t give me the one thing I really need: motivation. Furthermore, I got mixed signals. Cosmopolitan’s August covergirl, model Ashley Graham, talks about how amazing it is to model and still be a normal woman–that is a regular, average, size which is somehow deemed “plus-sized” in the business. For once in a long time, the queen of women’s magazine seemed to be edging towards accepting women as they are; what a game changer! Graham plowed through her interview with chic confidence and inspiration for every woman with a waist size thats double digits. She is awesome, to put it simply. She the Cosmo interviewer about her troubling past (all models seem to have it) and how she eventually found body peace: “A tireless body activist, [Graham is] never not preaching that beauty is beyond size.” The article features pictures of Graham’s sexy body at parties, on the runway, with husband and so on and it ends with Graham’s last tidbit of self-wisdom: “Everybody’s going to have an opinion. As long as I’m healthy and I feel good, that’s what matters.”

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This isn’t the only #BiggerGirlsMatter article the August issue of Cosmopolitan printed. Before Graham’s interview, Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s six-page piece “Stop the Absanity” sits nestled in at page 116. Here Brodesser-Akner assess the origin of our obsession with the midsection from Tamilee Webb’s Abs of Steel video became a hit in 1991 to today where “a rock-hard belly is the ultimate signifier of hotness and hard work” (121). If this is true, then I am neither of the these things. Now wait a second, I always considered myself at least one of those things! Hard-worker. I’m a hard-worker and my boyfriend calls me hot, so that has to count for something?

“This is a body part that is historically was hard, associated with men, and soft, associated with women. Now we, the women, just want our bellies hard. We want the softness eradicated like it was never there” (122).

So what is a girl to think? On one side, there’s Plaza and Kendrick along with every other female celebrity in LA with their thigh-gaps, and then Cosmopolitan features a bigger model and an anti-ab declaration. What side am I supposed to be on? Obviously the bigger side (both literally in weight and in population) because that’s where I fit. However, the fact that Graham is covered up on her cover and how her interview really only deals with her being bigger as the only reason for her success, it’s already sending mixed signals. I want to applaud Cosmopolitan for at least putting in some effort, but what’s stopping Cosmopolitan from featuring what they deem a “normal-sized” girl on cover of the September issue? I guarantee that they will because bigger girls, unless their last name is Kardashian, they do not get featured very often.

I suppose by now you’re wondering “Where is she going with this rant?” and honestly, I do not know. I suppose that’s the sad part. Every day I wake up with a different feeling about my body. Some days it looks killer and I’m the hottest chick around and some days I want to burn all my clothing, start eating only water (if I chew it, then I’m burning calories right?), and question why my boyfriend finds me attractive. The constant media whiplash of “Butts are Totally In Right Now” to “Women were supposed to be soft!” and also “You need to be skinny–end of story” certainly doesn’t help either. I truly think that the only way to find some body peace is to literally try everything and then push out anything that doesn’t work.

If your boyfriend thinks you look great and you love eating mac and cheese, then why stop? Does eating it make you feel good? Sure it does! It’s freaking cheese! I ain’t giving any of that up. Maybe I’ll stop eating bread with every meal, but I am not giving up gluten because Miley Cyrus said so. Candy is my kryptonite and I probably have dessert after 6 out of 7 dinners a week. Who cares? I need to learn to be happy with that regime because I know that anything different would make me unhappy. Watching my boyfriend get to have a milkshake while I have a kale smoothie for dessert? Kill me now.

So to the Aubrey Plazas and the Ashley Grahams alike, I salute you. You’ve found a way to be healthy, sexy, confident, sexy, beautiful, sexy and, most importantly, happy. One day I’ll get there. Let me just research 21 Day Fix while eating frozen yogurt first.

Check out two of my earlier reviews!

since i have just about caught up to the books that i’ve already read and therefore require reviews, i’m not writing a review today but instead will catch you all up on what’s going on my life regarding books.

first of all, i want to draw your attention to two other sites that i have written reviews for. one is for my good friend Hippolyta and her beautiful website, mode and the like. i wrote a review for her on the book Furiously Happy by jenny lawson. a fantastically blunt and hilarious piece about what it is like living with dramatic mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more. lawson does not sugar coat anything when it comes to the difficult topics.

another review i did for a different website is about my favorite topics: sex and shakespeare. conveniently titled Sex with Shakespeare, jillian keenan explores not only her sexual life including BDSM practices and more, but also analyzes how shakespeare’s characters could be interpreted as portraying similar tendencies. i wrote this review for my boyfriend’s website, mixtake press. 

i figured two additional reviews, though written a little while ago, could count for the one i do a day. so please go check those out, helping my two friends websites as well.

and finally, i just got a job at barns and noble! so it’s safe to say that i am totally working in a book sanctuary where i get a pretty nice employee discount towards all things book, cafe, and other related. my entire paycheck is going to be spent on books for this website just so you know!

stay tuned for reviews on A Court of Thorns and Roses as well as a weird review / rave about the Pendragon series from our childhood.

thanks for reading!