Constructive critici–NO!

I don’t take criticism about my writing very well.  I’d go so far as to say I take it worse than anyone else ever.  The only time I take it well is if I’ve read something the critiquer has written and liked it.  Then I trust their opinion, and am desperately seeking their approval, so I’ll do anything they tell me to do.  Kill it with fire?  Definitely, you’re so right, sorry.  Sorry I wrote that.

Second google image result for "sheepish."

If you asked me in person how I feet about “constructive criticism” in general, I’d lie and tell you, “Oh, I love constructive criticism, how else do you ever get better?”  But deep down, I’m saying, “There is rarely such thing as ‘constructive’ criticism. And shut up, because I hate it.”
The point is, for the first time ever, someone openly told me that they do not enjoy reading this blog.

First google image result for "constructive criticism." To sum it up, I live for the buns, and loathe the meat--I would like that written on the effigy that will one day be erected in my honor for my contributions to both gluttony and pessimism.

Because of the moderate to extreme unsuccess that is Bumblekee.com–despite my constantly telling people the URL and talking myself up–I have only received lots of “LOL!” and “funny, gurl!” remarks from all four of you lovely and beloved readers, all of whom I know personally (special thanks to my mom, second only in fandom to Rebecca LaChance).  So when someone didn’t like it, I was not only blindsided, but self-righteously pissed.

I went out for drinks with a person who I used to spend a lot of time with, but a number of months ago, we decided to stop spending time together because we’re at complete odds on just about every important and unimportant topic two human beings can discuss.  It seemed like we had mutually made this unspoken decision that it would be cool to see each other again, enough time had passed since our last brawl, etc.

We were both gravely mistaken.

I’m going to call this person Spike, because I’ve been re-watching all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and our relationship is a lot like theirs, minus the more gruesome murder attempts. I’m not going to call myself Buffy, because I do not wish to blaspheme.  Our catch-up conversation went like this:

Less dramatic reenactment.

Spike: How’s business?
Keely: Business? I’m working lots of small jobs and trying to get other writing jobs.  I started a blog.  You should read it.  It’s the only kind of productive thing I’ve done since we talked last.
Spike: I’ll never read it.
Keely: What? Why?
Spike: I’m just trying to be honest with you, I don’t read blogs.
Keely: I don’t either, but I just try to write funny stuff on my blog.  It isn’t serious, or about cooking.  Here. [pulls out iPhone] Read some of it, you’ll chuckle.

[Spike reads some of it, chuckles once, and halfheartedly smiles a couple times.]

Keely: Funny right?
Spike: Yeah, it’s alright. I mean, why does it matter?
Keely: What?
Spike: Well, I was reading it, and I thought, like, why write this?
Keely: Uhh…I don’t know, because it’s funny?
Spike: Yeah, but what does it mean?
Keely: What do you mean, ‘what does it mean?’
Spike: It seems pointless, it doesn’t seem very ‘you.’
Keely: …what? It is so ‘me.’
Spike: I had almost this exact conversation with someone else today.
Keely: So then why is the problem with my writing? Maybe the problem is with you.
Spike: No, it’s you. It seems like you’re putting on airs, like you’re trying to be “funny Keely,” but you’re already funny.
Keely: Do you want me to write something I could submit to Time? On world hunger?
Spike: No.  Why don’t you write about yourself?
Keely: I write about myself all the time, it’s all I write about!  Look, I think you should read more.
Spike: I’m really not going to.
Keely: WHY NOT?
Spike: Because it isn’t ‘you,’ and I think maybe  the reason–nevermind.
Keely: No. Say it.
Spike: Forget it.
Keely: You say it.
Spike: I really shouldn’t.
Keely: JUST SAY IT.
Spike: Maybe it’s the reason you haven’t been getting writing jobs.

[Silence. Keely tries to begin subtly chugging her drink so that she can run outside and punch everyone on 7th Avenue. Spike reaches out to rub Keely’s arm in a kind of “sorry” gesture.]

Keely: Don’t. Touch. Me.
Spike: GOD, why can’t you just take a little constructive criticism?
Keely: Oh, I love constructive criticism, how else do you ever get better?!
Spike: Then why is this such a big deal?  I do whole write-ups for my friend, and he’s one of the best writers I’ve ever met.
Keely: I don’t want a write-up from you.
Spike: You can’t take even the slightest criticism.
Keely: No, I can, I just don’t want your constructive criticism.
Spike: I know that.
Keely: I put a lot of work into that writing.
Spike: And you’re proud of it?
Keely: Yeah. I am.
Spike: Then why don’t you want to make it better?  I care about you, I want to see you succeed.
Keely: It’s fine how it is.
Spike: I have the worst taste in women.  I go for these women who don’t care about my opinions, or actions–
Keely: Then why are you talking?
Spike: I DON’T KNOW–look, when I was in an acting class, my scene partner told me during an exercise, “Wow, you’re so full of shit.”  And my immediate reaction was, “What? No I’m not!”
Keely: OH, so you’re saying I’m full of shit?
Spike: No–well, you are. But that isn’t what I’m saying.
Keely: THAT’S WHAT YOU JUST FUCKING SAID.
Spike: LISTEN! He was right! I put on this facade, because I’m afraid of rejection; because I’m attractive and charming and charismatic–
Keely: Dear GOD, and I’m the conceited one?
Spike: I’m not conceited, all of that is just true. I am.  Anyway, I went on a couple of really awful dates.
Keely: Really nice segue.
Spike: Oh! I smoke now.
Keely: Disgusting. Why?
Spike: I always wanted to.
Keely: That’s fucking stupid. [Enter waitress] Can we have our separate checks, please?

We spent the time between asking for the check and walking out the door talking about a couple of disaster dates he went on, how cold it had gotten, etc.

On my walk home, I kept muttering made-up obscenities under my breath, because no derogatory term that existed was bad enough.  For some reason, this person who I didn’t even know that well anymore had gotten my goat.  My goat was had, it was practically his goat now.  I felt like, for the first time in a while, maybe I wasn’t actually a very good writer.  The only people who I let read my stuff are people who care about me, and about my feelings.  Spike doesn’t really care about my feelings most of the time–maybe he was a microcosm of what anyone who didn’t know me and read my writing would think.

I needed an ego boost, but I knew my mom was already asleep.  I texted my friend, “YOU LIKE MY BLOG, RIGHT?’ to which she dutifully responded, “yes.”  I didn’t text anyone else, I already begged for my friends’ approval of my writing too much–way too much.
So I did something desperate; something humiliating and degrading; something that I’d like to blame almost entirely on my recently rejuvenated Buffy fanaticism.

I went to a New York City psychic, and paid her to read my palm.

My fated psychic spoke with a strong Brooklyn accent, a la My Cousin Vinny.  I could hear her many children screaming up the stairs, but for some reason, I decided that she had to know what she was doing, because in Ghost, Whoopi Goldberg thought she was a scam psychic, but then discovered that she really could connect to the mystic otherworld.  This woman looked nothing like Whoopi Goldberg, but I figured, maybe she’ll feel like because I’m paying her, she has to say nice things.  So, I held out my hand.

“You’re a kind and giving person, you have an open heart.”
Goddamn right I am.

“You’ll die of natural causes at a very old age.  I see you living a very long life without disease.”
Great.  I’ll outlive the bastard.

“7 years ago you was devastated by something.”
Bad grammar–that was, what? 2005? Well, 2004 since the New Year just happened–shit, I’m missing what she’s saying.

“This was a draining year for you, three months ago you was spiritually damaged.” 
Bad grammar–what was I doing in October? Or does she mean November? Does January count as one of the three months?–shit, I’m missing what she’s saying.

“In March, something for both your career and love life will happen that will have you happily set for the next five years. But it’s not going to happen unless you figure out what’s poisoning your spirit, your soul, and all your interactions with other people.”
…what?

“If you don’t mind me saying, you’re depressed, you have some kind of spiritual blockage that’s preventing you from happiness.”
Oh my God.

 

“You’re like a pretty building, smiling on the outside, but inside there’s nothing.  Not even floors.”
You can cry at home.

“But I can help you.  There’s a ritual I can perform, and it will pinpoint what you’ve been through since birth until the present.”
OK, LET’S DO IT.

I don’t charge you for my services, it’s $95.00 for the two large candles. [Indicates a Roman pillar-sized candle] They act as guiding lights, to guide me through your spirit.  You should let me perform this on you tonight, honey, because if you don’t mind me saying, you’re just going to keep trying to run away from your problems.  But the problem is inside you.  Think about it, I’m not going anywhere, I’m not losing anything, but you–you’re losing bigger and better things everyday.”

I was absolutely going to fork over $95.00, and would have, if my mind hadn’t suddenly screamed, “FACEPALM, IDIOT!” and snapped me out of the mysterious otherworld.  I was fully aware that I was still going to cry the entire way home (it’s a 2-minute walk) and then some more in the privacy of between my couch cushions, but come on.
Why did I care, at all, about Spike’s opinion? He dated Drusilla for
hundreds of years, and  Drusilla was a known lunatic who killed the adorable Kendra in Season 3!  Spike spent most of his time either trying to kill Buffy, smoking, painting his fingernails, or peroxiding his hair.  His opinion should have, at most, miffed me.  It should not have driven me to consider spending $95.00 on supplies to build a new aqueduct.
Plus, he probably had a point (buried under the layers of patronization and newly tarred lungs).  He was abrasive and unfeeling and rude with his criticism, but I should have taken his criticism more gracefully.  I should have thanked him, or told him I was sensitive about my writing and we had better change the subject, or just accepted that he didn’t want to read my blog instead of forcing him to.
Or, I should have flipped the table over, given him the finger, and strutted out of the bar.  But probably not, cause those tables were pretty solid.

Worst of all, why had I put any stake in the awful screenplay that is Ghost?

Wisconsin sour.

My God! Is that a still from Avatar?

No, but you’re not far off.
It’s Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is, in many ways, very similar to Pandora.  I can say that with authority because I’ve recently been to both states–one the actual state, the other, a state of mind.  I’ll let you guess which is which.

Look at Jake’s face.  He is absolutely about to sneeze.

The Native Wisconsinites are not all that different from the Na’vi.  They are often larger (because of their broad-shouldered Nordic ancestors, and the readily available cheese curds), and blue (from the cold).  Geographically, Wisconsin also has lots of trees, bodies of water in varying sizes, and a whole bunch of Eywa blessing seeds floating around in the air.  I know this because I spent 85% of my time there on Benadryl.

Wisconsin is rad even the dead of Winter.  Lake Superior looks like a frozen ocean right out of that middle school science book chapter about Pangea and the Ice Age and woolly mammoths.  Socially, it’s considered deeply impolite for you to not wave at a pedestrian or driver (depending on which you happen to be at the time), and you’re constantly being fed.  You can take free samples in the grocery without judgment–so long as you say thank you–and there are no lines in the impeccably clean public bathrooms.

Public restroom at the local Country Market grocery store.

And the cheese, oh the cheese! Smoked apple cheddar, havarti, the aforementioned cheese curds, chèvre (go ahead and laugh as I look down my nose at you), chocolate cheese–I JEST NOT!
Chocolate cheese.

Wisconsin seemed to me the perfect place to rest my world weary, 13-month-post-college head.  I’d learn how to build a fire and ice fish within a year.  By year two, I’d be genuinely enjoying upscale beers.  Year three would see me riding snowmobiles and building my own ice fishing shack for hardcore, all-day ice fishing on Lake Superior (or as I’d come to call her, Ol’ Reliable).
By blessed year three, I’d be able to stomach the low-grade beers with the best of them, and would do so with relish.  People would begin referring to me as “Salt o’ the Earth” instead of Keely, or, perhaps, simply as “Beulah.”  I would take on a year-round maternal glow, and my fingers would joyfully fatten.

It would take me considerably longer to understand, and then enjoy, football.
Alright, maybe it’d be unfair to expect too much of Wisconsin.

I used one of those “What Will I Look Like in Ten Years if I Move to Wisconsin” sites (my Disney Princess turned out way butcher).

And the alcohol, so cheap!  So cheap, and so very unfortunately the sole reason I cannot move to Wisconsin.
This is a whiskey sour:

I know that this is a whiskey sour because, 1) Google told me so, and 2) I’ve ingested roughly a thousand of them in my lifetime.  Like I said before–alright well, I didn’t say it outright.  I don’t like beer.  It’s safe to say that I straight-up dislike beer.  I’m not into drinking carbonated bread, but whatever (literally!) floats your boat.  What floats my boat is the kind of alcoholic drink that, ideally, tastes like one (or all) of the following

1) a milkshake
2) an Easy-Bake Oven cake
3) sugar
4) a fruit roll-up
5) pie

I’m vain enough to not want to look like a total pansy every time I go to a bar, and a whiskey sour is one of those drinks that sounds pretty badass, and tastes like a delicious combination of #3 and #4.  When I order it, it sounds like I’m telling the bartender, “Gimme whiskey–but wait.  That isn’t enough.  I need something that I’m gonna hate drinking even more than just straight alcohol, because I’m just that emotionally weathered.  You make that whiskey sour, too.”  Or, maybe it just sounds more like, “Got any expired milk? No? Fine, then just gimme some rancid whiskey.”

The point is, whiskey sours are “my drink.”  Bond has the martini, Shirley Temple has the Shirley Temple, and I have the whiskey sour.  I enjoy drinking it, and it gets me real tipsy real fast.  Win/win.

So we go to the Wisconsin bars, where there is free popcorn and peanuts–I’m not kidding.  “Alright, New Home!” says I, “Time for a drank!” And so I order a–yep!–whiskey sour.  I take a sip and realize that I am definitely drinking a whiskey and ginger ale, but whatever, this will not be my last drink of the night. So I chug that and order another.
Another whiskey and ginger ale.  Another guy joins our party and orders a whiskey sour–he knows my secrets.  “WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?” I yell at him from across the table, because James Taylor is playing, not loudly, but James Taylor really knows how to ruin a conversation.  Best to cut him out of the equation entirely.  “Uhh, a whiskey sour,” says The Guy Who Isn’t James Taylor’s Disembodied Voice.  So I grab his drink and take a sip.  Whiskey and ginger.  I tell him so.  He claims that he’s had a lot of whiskey sours and that this must just be really weak sour mix.  He has obviously never battled a a fruit roll-up addiction.  He is not to be trusted.

We leave that bar and move onto the next.  Fine, maybe the bartender was out of sour mix.  Maybe he was new and didn’t know how to make a whiskey sour.  NOPE!  Next bar, can I have a whiskey sour?  Thank you for the whiskey and ginger.

You crafty bastard.

However, this barmaid was smarter than her barman counterpart.  She poured me a large glass of whiskey, with a a subtle hint of ginger ale.

Later in the evening (fifteen minutes later), totally soused, I told her that she had given me a nice pour, to which she responded, “Didn’t pour it special or nothing.  Way I always pour it.”  For a moment of mental abstraction I wanted to grab her by the overalls that she wasn’t wearing, get all up in her Midwest grill, and say through gritted teeth, “I know what’s going on, with you all.  You all and the whiskey sours.  I’m not some hayseed like you, Beulah. I got out. I see things for what they are now.  Also, when I said ‘nice pour,’ earlier I wasn’t hitting on you.”

I know that earlier I was “Beulah,” but in my vengeance dream, she was.  (It’s my story, let it go, Freud is a thing.)  Then I’d gently set her back down–yes, I had lifted her off the ground in my anger–slam back the rest of my drink, tip my hat to her, murmur a final “nice pour,” and exit through the rustic swinging doors.

The third bar we went to didn’t even bother with pretense.  The barman there shamelessly served me something I’d only ever heard of in stories about child alcoholics’ birthday parties: a whiskey and Mountain Dew.
Mountain Dew.  The drink my brother has nicknamed “The Devil’s Piss,” the soda that is not soda at all, but sugar and food coloring! And, now, alcohol!  I took a sip of my third Wisconsin Sour–i.e. any alcoholic drink ordered within Wisconsin that is not a Whiskey Sour–and couldn’t believe it.  Whiskey mixed with my all-time favorite soda!  Delicious.

I should learn to be less forceful when it comes to my alcohol choices.

(Just to clear the air, I’m not sure if there is any Nordic ancestry associated with Wisconsin. Wisconsinites genuinely seem to be a broad-shouldered people, and I associate that physical trait with vikings, who were possibly Nordic, sometimes.)