Is There a Right Way to Argue?

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Stubbornness. I’m right, you’re wrong. You lose, I win. The classic draw between two; a never-ending battle to the death. We’re all familiar with this game, and though we play it more when we’re young, it never fully goes away. Take a look at the political climate we’re facing right now. These are adults we’re watching on our screens. Adults. It’s weeks like this, when I get into two big arguments with two big loves in my life, that I ask myself a very simple question: Why?

Why is it so hard to see someone else’s side in the heat of the moment? When that timer sets off in the depth of your stomach as a warning that a bomb’s about to blow, it’s as if nothing said by the opposing side matters. Your point and the feelings attached to it are worth watching someone burn over. Sure, sometimes you are absolutely right and the person opposing you is so wrong that you’d rather vomit than to hear the rest of their testimony. Arguments come to mind like,

“How could you do this to me?”

“I didn’t baby, I promise. It’s not what it looks like,” he retaliates while the person he’s cheated on you with is still naked in your bed.

This didn’t happen to me thankfully, but it does happen! While those black and white arguments exist, I’m interested in the ones where there are layers of hypocrisy coming from both sides. What if the lines are blurry? Times like calling someone inconsiderate for doing something that hurt you so bad in the moment only to realize later that you’ve done about five inconsiderate things to them that same day. It’s that good ol’ smack in the face that makes your eyes go back to normal after a blind rage. When you realize you’ve just been lecturing someone you love about how they have to be better and, yet, you still have plenty of work cut out for you too.

Why, even when we know there’s validity to someone else’s side, would we rather swim in acid than calmly hear them out? What is it about detaching from the thirst to be right that makes us temporarily inhumane? Although I pride myself on being a kind person, I’ve lost myself to this need to win many times. Call me a fire sign or a child brought up in a house where arguments were frequent affairs. Either way, I’ve been in the business of arguing long enough to understand that there are better ways to communicate even one’s strongest feelings. Ways that involve less screaming, less name-calling, and more empathy. There’s no victory in winning an argument if you had to say the worst things you could possibly say to your loved ones to get there. You can’t take back those words once they’re shot into the ether, and the psychological damage can last a lifetime. I think many of us know this all too well.

Arguments are a part of life, often even a healthy way for people to better understand one another if handled well. In romantic relationships, arguments can shed light on two separate people’s deeper and more intimate qualities – ultimately allowing the couple to get to know each other better and to discover if they’re a good match or not. Arguments can also help people become more open-minded, especially if it takes a lot of retaliation from someone else for them to accept their own close-mindedness. We tend to learn more about ourselves through this process and, while this can be eye-opening, I think we still have a lot of work to do. I’d like to see people listening more, a trait we desperately need more of in our nation – understanding that people are brought up differently, chock-full of their own demons and experiences, and that to argue is to first accept this and proceed with grace.

Think about the most recent argument in your life. How did you handle it? Were you able to empathize and listen? If so, how did that shape the argument in the end? Maybe you discovered something deeper about the person opposing you. Maybe you learned more about yourself. That’s kind of the beauty of human interaction and debate, isn’t it? We might come into an argument with our fists clenched and our tongues warmed up to verbally sting our opposer, but, if we’re able to listen, we might just as easily leave with insight into someone else’s story. This, my friends, is the secret to tolerance and acceptance. If we can’t achieve this, we’ll definitely win more arguments, but we’ll also get further from one another and the truth in the process.

Film Review: Eighth Grade

I’m no film expert or critic. I’m not exactly in the position to preach anything about the cinematic experience, about what makes something artistically “good” or “bad” – although I’ve done that before and will most likely do it again (refer to my Stealing Beauty movie review from many moons ago). Instead of trying to get all the right words out, I’d rather delve into how Bo Burnham’s directing debut actually gave me an anxiety attack, #triggered me, if you will. Please spare me the eye-rolls and hear me out.

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The film centers around Kayla Day, a present-day insecure, stuttering, social media- addicted, and unavoidably lovable eighth grader walking through her last week of middle school. The subdued fire inside her that she fights to make seen is one of the many personality traits I connected to from the beginning, recalling all the time I also spent alone trying to enhance my personality and prepare for the performance of everyday life. The embarrassment and disappointment Kayla feels when class superlatives are announced and she’s labeled “Most Quiet” strikes a harsh chord for anyone who’s ever been deeply misunderstood. I remember being told that I was “mysterious” in high school. I remember feeling like I was easy to forget in contrast to the look-at-me personalities who dominated the stage at all times with ease. Like Kayla, I wanted the attention too, and knew I could own it when the timing was right – but anxiety forced me into a shell. In the confines of my room, on stage during dance recitals, in front of the camera when no one was looking, and in the safe embrace of my journals, I came alive.

Kayla’s overwhelming urge to be seen and liked, the to-do lists and talking points written on sticky notes throughout her bedroom and bathroom, the YouTube Channel used as an outlet to transform into her “better” and more confident self, poignantly shed light on all the ways people with anxiety incessantly try to improve, even from as early a stage as puberty. The powerful reality of this portrayal is truly a testament to Elsie Fisher’s acting chops. She fully embodies the sense of urgency and desperation throughout, which makes the viewer impatient for her moment in the sun too.

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I shed one tear of many when Kayla courageously chooses to sing karaoke in front of her classmates instead of bail from a pool party hosted by a fellow and more popular eighth grader. This particular character’s lack of empathy, and her blinding desire to be cool shoved me into memories I had blocked out for many years. All of a sudden, I was reminded of every time I had been inhumanely judged and treated like less for being myself. For instance, that time in eighth grade one of my earliest friends from elementary school refused to sign my yearbook in front of two of the “coolest” guys in middle school because, at that point, she had grown too popular to be seen acknowledging me. I was “weird” and she was “normal”. That was that. I swallowed my pride and walked away. I believe that was the day I realized what it meant to be a sociopath, blatantly devoid of empathy, and that I would always be different (Is that too harsh an insult for a thirteen-year-old girl? Oh well!). With that being said, I was blown away by Kayla’s ability to stand up and sing in front of her judgmental classmates, even though she knew they could eat her alive. Miraculously, we watch as her classmates actually smile along and get hypnotized by her enigmatic light for that one song – the first of many moments when she lets herself be seen. The scene is truly a testament to the power of conquering your fears, a skill we develop and reap the benefits from at any age.

As the movie plays out, we watch Kayla develop her own version of confidence. She finds a way to finally talk to her crush during a school shooting emergency drill, meets up with her new high school friends at the mall, and eventually speaks up for herself when one of the high school boys forces himself on her. Though it takes her a while to say ‘no’ to him, the self-assuredness in her voice when she does is enough for him to stop. It’s a heartbreaking moment in the movie to watch, because anyone who suffers from anxiety empathizes with the mental juggling she has to get through all at once: wanting to appease this older guy, fearing for her social life that he’ll talk shit about her to the new friends she desperately wants to keep, and, most important of all, the part of her that is deeply uncomfortable and wants to tell him to back off. The fact that this scene is drawn out for so long conveys the reality and horror of what can unfold when you’re battling with too many inner voices at the same time. I’ve been there, and I know countless others have too.

Eventually, after all of this, we get to a scene where Kayla and her dad burn a shoebox full of memories she had saved in the 6th grade for her 8th grade self. This is the moment that triggered my own anxiety in such a way that had me crying and unsettled for a couple of hours after we left the theater. As Kayla burns her past belongings, a symbolic act of self-destruction in which she burns away her past and a lot of her present self in the process, she asks her dad if he is ever saddened by her existence. His reaction, his desperate need to nurture a deeply embedded sense of insignificance, is perfect.

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He reminds Kayla that everything she had accomplished, all of the genuine kindness and creativity inside her, was hers alone – traits he watched her develop in awe without his guidance. Regardless of how little she saw in herself, he would always be her biggest fan. This hit me hard. I often looked for this reassurance in my parents growing up too. I carried the guilt of feeling like a disappointment, like if I could just be better, if I could just be more extraordinary, everyone in my life would be happier. It often plagues me that so many people carry the weight of this pain, a version of self-criticism that can lead to more pressing mental health issues down the line. As I left the theater, I realized that I was still a version of my middle school self: insecure, afraid, and full of guilt at times. It made me realize that we never stop evolving and that’s why Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade stands the test of time. It’s about being human, wanting to be seen, and fighting the good fight.

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A Guy and a Gal in Galway (Part 1)

A vibrant tale about a couples’ first adventure abroad in a city where the Guinness flows like water and the locals are as friendly as the sheep

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On May 2nd 2018, my boyfriend, Richard, and I embarked on our first adventure abroad together to Galway, Ireland. Where my anxious brain might’ve expected drunken arguments in unfamiliar streets, battles over what to do, various fits of rage and hair-pulling, I was gifted instead the insurmountable joy of splitting a once in a lifetime adventure with my best friend who not only supported me through a new experience, but made it explode with beauty.

Galway is colorful, hip, teaming with music around every nook and cranny (there are infinite nooks), and rich with traces of medieval architecture that blend seamlessly with the various modern additions to the city. It’s a successful combo of old and new, just as enjoyable for the longtime locals as it is for the overwhelming college population who are lucky enough to frequent some of the most beautiful pubs, cafes, and restaurants I’ve ever seen.

Seven days is nowhere near long enough to take in an entire city, but dammit, we tried! From taking a ferry to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mór, and racing through the winding streets surrounded by walls of stone and infinite green pastures to sharing pints with new local friends at a hole-in-the-wall craft beer pub called The Salt House – we wanted to make our experience as diverse as possible.

From day one, Rich and I were blown away by the kindness of the locals. With luggage in-hand, we got lost on our way to the Airbnb. Though it wasn’t funny to us then, we were able to laugh later about the fact that our airbnb host said the place would be about a twenty-minute walking distance from the center of town. Nope. It was closer to an hour. As such, we ended up in a suburban street behind one of the shopping centers in the city when, in full-blown desperation, we realized our phones were dead so we couldn’t even call a taxi. Eventually we were able to ask a woman leaving her apartment across the street if she could point us in the right direction. In a thick accent that made us more excited that it should have, she not only pointed us to the street we were looking for but offered to hail us cab as well. This was the general behavior of everyone in town who was willing to answer our questions. During another mishap, a lovely couple offered us a ride after we missed our bus, treating us as if we were longtime friends. They called the bus company for us and, sure enough, it came back. Not only were they incredibly accommodating, they were pretty badass too. Only a little younger than my grandparents, we had caught them in the middle of heading back to a nearby pub to retrieve their car.

“Sounds like you had yourselves a good night,” I joked.

“That’s every night,” they responded.

Flash forward to Rich and I exclaiming the Gaelic version of “cheers”, “Sláinte!” (pronounced slawn-cha) while clinking pint glasses with new friends from Galway at The Salt House, a craft beer dive bar we kept returning to after this night in particular. The couple who left their car at a pub came to mind as Rich and I too found ourselves fully immersed in the Galway daze, losing track of time and space in good company. Hours flew by discussing everything from whether or not we were watching the same TV shows on Netflix to the current political climate in both countries. Though we couldn’t miss the hundreds of “Vote Yes” and “Vote No” signs all over the city, we had not been informed about the historic referendum on abortion that had all of Ireland in a tizzy. Locals were and still are nervously anticipating a drastic change in their constitution, allowing women to have safe abortions in Ireland, if the majority of the votes turn out in favor of repealing the current law. Tucked away in our American bubble, we were shocked to discover this and it was a topic of conversation that came up more than once throughout our trip. It’s crazy to think, if the law is indeed repealed, that Rich and I were there before history had been made. It’s amazing how easy it is to be removed from the rest of the world, but it’s even more amazing how quickly we empathize when the issue is suddenly in front of us.

I don’t remember how long we stayed to chat with our new friends or how many rounds of beer were ordered, but I do remember Rich doing an Irish accent upon request and getting a round of applause. Point is, we were in the thick of it, just like we wanted. When it was time to go, we all exchanged Facebook info and planned to meet again. They invited us to a referendum repeal party on a boat.

Rich and I looked at each other, both with smiles that were waiting to burst all over our faces, looking like we were holding in a secret. We were thrilled but didn’t want to seem too uncool, too eager. We waited until we were alone outside to kiss and explode with excitement at how intoxicating the entire night had been, that we had found ourselves in this new place and formed real connections, that we were experiencing this adventure together. Running on a mutual high from the bar was one of the highlights of the trip for me, feeling deeply connected to him and to the moment – and the best part is, it was only the beginning.

To read the final installment of my Galway adventure, click here!

Don’t forget to check out The Irish Times for additional information on the abortion referendum too.