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The New Year’s Newsletter

What an eventful year!

On campus there was Fall Fest, Battle of the Bands, Hill House trick-or-treating, and Holiday music. Off campus there was the ballet with Anahat, Club Elsewhere with Bella and Eli, the ballet again but this time with Sig, the MoMA with Valentina, the Strand with Chiara and Tyler, and Rockefeller Plaza with myself (but I love a bit of me-time). This year I saw the Nutcracker, a Cupcakke concert, the 100th anniversary of Chanel Number Five, Mamhoud Hamadani’s exhibit, Serenade at Lincoln Center, the Christian Dior exhibit, and the play “Fairycakes” in Greenwich village. There were a few stops in between at Halalal Guys, Blondies, and Magnolia’s Bakery for food. It was an idyllic New York City picture show and yet I am still going to top it in the year to come. 

I was masked, vaxxed, and distanced for all of the above. I started the year off with COVID, because I really know how to bring in the new year. There was an attempted coup d’etat at my nation’s capitol, a presidential election that came straight out of hell, but had a happy ending, and several protests across the country. I endured a second year of a global pandemic, in which I worked multiple jobs and attended college. Throughout all of this, I somehow managed to make great grades, new friends, and some reasonably good choices. The one thing I celebrated this New Year was the fact that I made it through all of this and did not do half bad for myself. 

You might know my policy on New Year’s resolutions: don’t do them. New Year’s resolutions focus on what’s wrong with you and not what’s right and I’m delightful, so what’s to change? Also, from a psychological standpoint, a person cannot just change their behavior, they must first change their beliefs, which is why declaring what you’re going to change about yourself seldom works. 

Nonetheless, every year my mind tends to wander towards things that I could change about myself and my lifestyle and I suppose you could call those things resolutions. A few obvious ones come to mind: learning how the New York subway system works, replacing all of my screen time with time spent reading books, and maybe going on an actual date- COVID permitting. 

My aunt told me about a friend of hers who picks up a new skill every year instead of fulfilling certain resolutions and then working on it weekly. One year she said that she wanted to become proficient at baking, so every week she baked something new. One year she decided that she wanted to professionally learn how to make cocktails, so every week she concocted a new cocktail. By the end of every year, she had picked up a new skill. 

Try as I may, I can’t come up with a weekly vocation to devote my time to, aside from attempting to read a book a week, which my school work won’t seem to let me do. I’m not yet twenty-one so the cocktail one is out. Groceries are expensive on a college girl budget so I won’t be baking weekly either. 

The Brooklyn Museum of Art

There is nothing that I would like to be good at by the end of the year, except for maybe having written a novel, but who doesn’t want to do that? 

Strand books

New Year’s Day came, which I spent doing only positive things that I like and eating food that I don’t like. 

inside the MoMA. I was a year full of art. What could be better?

If ever there was a day to be superstitious, it’s New Year’s Day. I jinx nothing on New Year’s Day. I am hesitant to even wish people a “Happy New Year,” since we’ve jinxed it the past two years in a row. 

STARRY NIGHT BY VAN GOGH

Even though I was alone with my family and drinking Prosecco, I sat overly-dressed in my living room on New Year’s Eve, because I cannot bring in the New Year without looking my best. Superstition dictates that I shouldn’t sweep on New Year’s Day since it is bad luck. I take it a step further by not doing anything on New Year’s Day that I wouldn’t want to do throughout the year. Instead, I only do the things that I would like to keep up throughout the year. I consider it to be setting a precedent. Ideally, if I do everything right on New Year’s Day, then I’m on the right track for the remaining 364 days. So on New Year’s Day, the plan was to read, paint, and write while avoiding TV and social media. In the end, I started a new book, watched the news, and went for a walk. 

Our selfie with Kahlo

I combine my Yukoslavian heritage with my Southern roots by eating special foods on New Year’s Day. It’s considered good luck in the south to eat collard greens in order to bring on wealth, rice so that you might never experience hunger in the new year, and black eyed peas for good luck. In Croatia, on New Year’s Day, they eat an animal that ruts forward, so that you might only look forward, and not backwards, in the new year. So, my mother makes pork. It was for these reasons that on New Year’s day, the menu consisted of pork, collared greens, black eyed peas, and rice, very little of which I like, but they should yield money, luck, and plenty of food, which I happen to really like. 

I will let you know whether or not the food is working its magic and if I truly do get to be well-fed, well-paid, and lucky throughout the year, but in the meantime I am wishing everyone else an equally appealing new year that is filled with those wonderful things as well. 

Happy New Year! We all could use it. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

All the Books I Read in 2021

Lately, I decided to read more books as part of my unofficial New Year’s resolutions. This past year, I was determined to consistently read throughout the year and ended up reading thirteen books, which takes work when you’re a full time student. Most importantly, I feel like I got something out of each of these works, by reading on a wide range of topics. I accumulated this eclectic collection of novels by being open to recommendations and reading books for my classes. The results were an amalgamation of finding new favorites and discovering books that were just meant to be shelved. 

Here are the books that I read throughout 2021 and the thoughts that I had on each of them (feel free to disagree)…

“The Body” by Stephen King– This book more likely classifies as a novella since it was under 200 pages. This novel makes every aspiring writer in the world feel understood. King gets right at the heart of growing up and being a writer as a child, coming up with clever stories to amuse your friends with and feeling like you have a way of seeing the world that makes the world have trouble seeing you. King is such a prolific writer, that I was almost surprised that he could be so profound as well. This story had boys showing emotion and much discussion of bullying. King tackles the subject of bullying often and it is not difficult to see why. I am amazed that anyone could endure 1950s bullying and come out without PTSD.

“The Fran Lebowitz Reader” by Fran Lebowitz- Fran Lebowitz is currently considered to be New York’s greatest New Yorker and she probably will be until she dies. “The Fran Lebowitz Reader” is a compilation of her essays on life, revolving around life in New York City. Since my cousin Olivia is living in the city for college (congrats btw Olivia), I decided to get her a copy of this book: a guide book to New York written by one of its greatest New Yorkers. Since it is a bit unusual to gift someone a book that you yourself haven’t read, I decided to give it a read before I gave it to her. It’s clever, witty, what the brits would call “cheeky,” and very 1970s. I recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about visiting New York, or just wants a good chuckle.

The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho– I kicked the year off with “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. We had to read it for class because it was one girl’s favorite book of all time, so I had high hopes for it, but I ended up being disappointed in a way that I have never really been with a book before. The whole story reads like a fable in which nothing seems to happen normally and people talk by philosophizing, rather than how they speak in real life. The main theme of the story, which jumps out at you without any subtlety or tact, was the pursuit of one’s dreams. In fact, the whole story was allegorical about the inner conflict of pursuing those dreams. The book just wasn’t for me, but it made for an interesting analysis in class. 

A pretty picture of me with a pretty book

The Summer I turned Pretty” by Jenny Han– In Nora Ephron’s film “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan’s character at one point says, “So much of what I see reminds me of something I’ve read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?” That line resonated with me in a strange way when I read this novel. When I read “The Summer I Turned Pretty” by Jenny Han, I was expecting a kitchy YA book that was simple to read and no longer relevant to my life. It did have simple sentences and an easy to follow plotline, but I was shocked to find that one of the virtues of reading a book that takes place in high school, once you’ve already graduated, is that for once I was reading a book that reminded me of my life and not the other way around. I felt like I experienced much of what this girl was feeling: being the only girl at a reunion of family friends and always being treated like some guy’s younger sister, but eventually making your own way and doing your own thing. Bizarrely, this simple novel gave me much to think about.

“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan- Since I was nearing Valentine’s Day and am a firm believer in “Galentine’s Day,” I decided that I was going to read a book that depicted female friendship well. I knew that my reading would slow down once my second semester started, because school work would take precedence, but it ended up taking me a month to finish this novel- going from Galentine’s Day to just before International Women’s Day. The book was very slow moving at the start, to the point where it made me question why it was so highly-regarded. Then out of nowhere, it suddenly got good. I think that the main problem was that the story is told from multiple different perspectives, instead of one steady plotline, like I’m used to. My mother suggested that perhaps I was too young to understand the novel, like how some people are too young to understand why Stanely Kowalski does what he does in Streetcar or why Gatsby takes the fall for Daisy in “The Great Gatsby.” Some books require a decent amount of living in order to understand the motivations of the characters and I simply did not have that. I’ll revisit this novel when I’m older and can give it the respect it deserves. 

“Conversations With Friends” by Sally Rooney- I decided to read “Conversations with Friends” by Sally Rooney because I thought it was a capital “R” romance novel. As it turns out it has much to do with friendship (I suppose the title should have told me that) and in particular, female friendships. I also wanted to read this book so that I could give Sally Rooney another chance. I’d previously read, “Normal People,” which was by her as well, but it was not one of my favorite novels, to put it mildly. 

This novel was much better than I thought it was going to be. Parts of it were fairly relatable, starting with how the narrator observes every shift in the room and reads into what it all means. The character, being a joyless, college communist and a supposed artist felt very real to me, even though when you’re in the arts you have to be all in and she’s barely even dangling her feet in the water. Also, I’ve noticed that in her two novels, her characters just casually happen to be extremely good at writing (because, sure, that’s how it works). The characters were extremely passive, making the novel lethargic at times. I understood none of the character’s motivations, despite it being narrated by the main character. The ending was anticlimactic, aside from when she fainted in a church. There were themes of familial strife, religion, infidelity, and love, but I felt as though they were touched on more than explored. Overall, it was a pretty good sort of novel that did not leave me wanting my money back.

Amazon.com: Social Creature: A Novel: 9780385543521: Burton, Tara Isabella:  Books

“Social Creature” by Tara Isabella Burton- This is a story about the messy friendship between two women in New York City, trying to live up their twenties. The girls have the type of New York City experiences that you think you’re going to have as soon as you move there. They go to wild parties that are far less vanilla than those featured on “Sex and the City,” but this isn’t a girlhood adventure story about two girls living it up in Manhattan. One of the girls has to die, which means that one of the girls has to deserve it. The story gets candid about networking with pseudo-intellectuals in the humanities, having to maintain soul-wrenching jobs to afford your life, and entitled friends who demand all of your free time because they don’t understand that you need to work.

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Iain Rand- It was written in simple sentences. Fragments. And it began sentences with transitional words like “but” and “and.” Existential. But nothing I haven’t thought of before. It had a weird ending that didn’t make any sense. One of the redeeming qualities of the novel was how short it was and the way that it didn’t linger. Overall, I didn’t hate it, so that’s something, I suppose. 

“Again but Better” by Christine Riccio- A never-been-kissed twenty-year-old, who doesn’t socialize, but reads excessively, realizes that she hasn’t made enough friends or hung out with enough people at her New York college, so as she enters her junior year she studies abroad in literature and writing. She also runs a blog, speaks Italian, has a financial advisor for a father, and is trying to write the next great American novel, and I’d just like to know why the author stole my life story. I read this book when I was about to enter my junior year, having also felt like I could have gone out to more events and taken more advantage of my New York City setting. The dialogue misses a few beats, but ultimately captures relationships at that age. The ending was a forcibly happy one in which the protagonist gets her cake and eats it too. 

“Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” by Grace Paley- This collection of short stories was written by Grace Paley, a short story writer who reinvented the American short story, was perhaps one of the greatest activists this country has ever had, and turned the Sarah Lawrence writing program into what it is today (so I owe her a great debt). She is now deceased, because, naturally, if she is a praiseworthy female writer, she will not likely get her praise until she is already dead. Her writing is sharp and poignant, made extra impressive by its brevity. 

“Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth- I was told that there are three things that you should never talk about with someone you have just met, or at a dinner party, and those three things are sex, politics, and religion. It is therefore fitting that my first introduction to Philip Roth came through a story of a sexually-neurotic, politically-savvy, Jewish Atheist. Aside from the fact that this rule leaves little else to talk about other than things you’d talk about with your coworkers at a water cooler, it does point out certain taboos in our society, and this novel acts as though it’s never heard of the word “taboo.” Roth, who is known to some as a self-absorbed writer, wrote with a confidence and clarity befitting of the subject matter. Controversial in its grotesqueness, the novel redeems itself by its uncomfortable relatability, which speaks to all of the ugly feelings humans have inside of them. However, there were some scenes that I felt were too disturbing and took things too far. It was perhaps not the type of book that I would have chosen for myself, but I enjoyed reading as part of my Modern Jewish Literature class. 

“Beautiful World Where Are You” by Sally Rooney- Sometimes, I get the sense that Rooney does a sort of dull Jane Austen routine. Much like Austen, Rooney tells the same story over and over again with slight variations on the plot. Austen wrote about classism in English society and feminism with a dash of lower case “R” romance, since there was little else to talk about. Rooney writes about the interconnectivity of people’s lives in which each character is filled with a textbook liberal agenda and is less interesting than I find myself and my friends. 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens-  For Christmas, I decided to close the year out by reading “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, having bought it a year in advance in anticipation of this. As the story goes, Dickens was presenting at a place called the Athenaeum of Manchester, a Learning Annex of its time, which was one of the few places rich and poor people could intermingle. Because it was Christmastime, Dickens was thinking about the Christian ideals of goodwill and charity and how that was what was lacking in English society at the time. So, he wrote “A Christmas Carol” in response to the gap between the rich and the poor and the setting of Christmastime. I thought that I would love it because “It’s A Wonderful Life” is my favorite film of all time and both stories deal with an ethereal being descending on a miserable man at Christmas to show him the impact his life has had on others by showing him a number of different realities (was that a thesis or what?). I found the story to be extremely heartwarming. I felt sorry for and fell in love with Ebeenezer Scrooge. 

My top three books for the year were:

“Social Creature” Tara Isabella Burton

“The Body” By Stephen King

“Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” by Grace Paley

That concludes my book list for 2021. This year, I intend to read even more books that I love. You’ll be sure to know how that turns out. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Getting my Royal Portrait Made

Every year, at the end of the year, I have a friend of mine do a photoshoot with me. By every year, I mean that I started doing this last year, but this is an every year type of thing. 

Lauren Pyrzenski takes the photos. You may recognize that name from the caption on my homepage that frequently says “photos by Lauren Pyrzenski.” 

Sigh

I make a playlist, I do a wardrobe change, we set out all across my house, I slide her some cash, and then we call it a day. I take these pictures to include them on my holiday card, which was sent out well after all of the holidays have happened, and to post them here on my blog. Since I am a tragic queen, and these pictures get taken once a year, I call these pictures “getting my royal portrait made.” 

Me, reading my favorite novel

My family members stopped finding this funny after the one millionth time I said it, so I am saying it here in the hopes of getting some extrinsic validation.  

A reminder that books are my passion, as evidenced here by me standing in front of a bunch of books

Here is last year’s card:

Stunning, right? Not me, Lauren’s photography. I needed to keep that energy up this year. 

For my first outfit I donned my statement earrings, blue top, bell bottoms, and high heeled boots. I was going for a chic, 70s goddess for the first round of photos– hence the bell bottoms. That, plus the cascade of yarn-like hair, made the 70s look unbeatable.

We snapped photos all throughout my yard before I put on my glitzy, black and white, sequined dress that I also wore on the eve of Christmas Eve. 

This picture is great, but that’s way too much sexiness for a holiday card

I tried to get a picture of my cat, but she was acting like a bitch that day so I only got this one in which she looks great and I do not. 

There also is the obligatory floor pic, in which I show off the crazy tiles in my parent’s foyer by laying on them in a dress that matches. 

Last year’s floor picture:

This year’s:

For the back of my card, I chose a picture of myself at a frozen quarry that I went to last January, when it was 9 degrees in Boston. 

I decided to get some shots of myself in my art studio (it’s actually the family pool house, but whatever) even though this work might not be good enough to be showcased on any card.

Disclaimer: The piece of artwork with the crashing waves behind me is not my own! Everything else behind me is, however.
It’s a work in progress
Some silliness caught on camera
Even more silliness caught on camera

Why do I do this? 

Lauren taking a picture of me
Me taking a picture of Lauren taking a picture of me

The pictures came out fabulously. I showed them to my mother and she gushed all over them. I can not express how much I appreciate Lauren for doing this for me every year. It might seem small and frivolous but I love the confidence boost that it gives me. I look exactly the way I want to. I experience the feeling of control that it gives me to look how I want and to wear what I want. Now, I have great photos of me laying around my house, ready to be used whenever I get the chance. 

Applying some makeup

You should try it. Everyone should. Photoshoots all around. 

A pic of my brother and me

This was this year’s card:

Perhaps in the future, I should consider smiling for the picture. The “Happy Holidays” message would probably come across a bit better if I smiled when I said it. Oh well. I’m leaving something to look forward to for next year.

Here’s a bit of a smile in the meantime

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Making my Spirits Bright

I spent the last few days of the semester sitting in the Barb until late at night, becoming genuinely confused as to how I was working non-stop for weeks, getting little to no sleep, and still having so much work to do. I was still finishing work at my parents’ house well into my winter break, writing and rewriting my two fifteen page essays for my Modern Jewish Literature class and Psychology of the Creative Process class, hoping beyond hope that I was still making sense even when it felt like I was operating on a limited number of brain cells.  

After everyone else went home, I had to finish up my RA responsibilities, which I am fairly certain I did not do properly, and then hung around LaGuardia for several hours, trying to finish writing the psychology paper on barely any sleep. I then tore into town on two wheels a couple of days before Christmas, where I blundered around trying to finish up some last minute shopping that nearly decimated my bank account. 

I’ve spent the season listening to the Christmas songs that I swear I don’t like but actually kind of do (cough, cough All I want for Christmas is you cough, cough, Last Christmas) and watching all of the Christmas episodes of The West Wing. I want to do a set number of things at Christmastime: wrap all of my gifts in purple, drink Brandy Alexanders, read “A Christmas Carol,” and watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” on repeat. I ask for very little, aside from the ridiculous amount of gifts that I expect to see under the Christmas tree. 

Purple

I did all of this in an attempt to make my spirits bright and not break my spirits. At this point, I was going to need to inject the holiday cheer directly into my bloodstream if anybody still expected me to be merry and bright. I should have been jolly and filled with mirth. Instead, I was bitter and cranky and in dire need of sleep. 

So here is a full and exhaustive list of all of the things that I attempted to do in the name of my own peace and prosperity: 

The Decking of the Halls 

I replaced my spider web condom door with a blue seasonal door that had white paper snowflakes that I made myself. It was a tasteful arrangement of condoms stuck to white paper snowflakes, surrounded by bits of snow beneath the same condom-centric poem that I had above it previously. Being my mother’s daughter, I refused to waste any paper but it was a colossal waste of my time to find new uses for the remaining scraps of paper. I took the silk dams that the school gave me and formed a wreath in the hallway that promptly fell off the wall. Consider the halls decked. 

Ninjabread men

My friend Alyssa and I made “ninjabread men,” gingerbread men striking combat poses, which did in fact get me in the holiday spirit, because, honestly, how could that not? Since we did not have a blender or a whisk, we made the dough with a fork. We then were expected to roll the dough on a lightly floured surface that I mistakenly covered with piles of flour. This resulted in mostly clumps of dust that tasted like pure flour instead of the human-shaped cookies on the side of the box. They mostly fell apart in the oven and the two that didn’t got slathered in vanilla icing and flecked with hard candy balls that were made of pure sugar. Most importantly, however, we had loads of fun making it. Why is it that making disastrous food can sometimes be more fun than making food well?

Holiday music fest

Throughout the week, I had to walk past groups of my peers while they were singing Christmas songs obnoxiously loudly and intentionally poorly and thinking that it made them all comedians. So you can imagine my relief when I went to an event where people could actually sing holiday songs. The event was called “Holiday Music Social with Julian Day, Josiah Levon + friends” and was brilliantly performed and impressively emceed. There was “Santa Baby,” “River” by Joni Mitchell, “Last Christmas,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer,” and “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” performed with the gender roles reversed. The whole thing lasted about two hours that fell in the middle of conference week and at the end of a day that I had spent worshiping at the altar of my school assignments. Alyssa performed and since my friend has a liquid-gold-voice, it made for a well-spent two hours of my life, providing me with a welcome distraction for the first time in weeks. 

The Nutcracker

I overdressed for a matinee of the New York City ballet’s Nutcracker at Lincoln Center with Sig. This resulted in a fabulous time, despite the blistered feet, in yet another example of what we could maybe call, “Raquel doll moments.” Raquelle is Barbie’s brunette friend, and although it’s spelled differently, I sometimes succumb to the fabulous nature of a well-tailored, stylish doll that teaches little girls about femininity and fashion. The ballet was excellent and worth every penny despite falling directly in the middle of my conference week, because I did not think an ounce of it through when I bought the tickets months in advance. 

A Christmas Carol

On December 19th, my first day back in town, my only plan for the day was to crack open “A Christmas Carol” and read it for the first time since it was published on that day 178 years ago. Instead, I had a last minute assignment to turn in and did not end up cracking the book open until after midnight. 

(Bah Humbug!)

This is as ugly as I’m willing to go in terms of sweaters
“Merry Christmas you old buildings and loans!”

Christmas Eve Eve

Twas the night of Christmas eve eve and I found myself going to an event where I could quite simply eat a buffet, drink a cosmopolitan, and then go home. Per my usual, I overdressed, wearing an outfit that looked more like New Year’s Eve than Christmas Eve Eve. The outfit consisted of a big black coat, a sequined black and white dress, glitter earrings, white glitter eyeshadow, and hair that I had curled earlier that day. Meanwhile, my grandmother showed up half-blind, having just had eye surgery, and still looking fabulous.

Exhibit A, your honor

Christmas Eve

For the first time in a year we could have people over to our house on Christmas Eve, so we did. I spent the evening acting like the duchess of my household, with the same dangling sparkling earrings, a dark green dress, and a plaid dark green cape from my great grandmother, Stella. I made Brandy Alexanders with nutmeg and cinnamon sticks, which aren’t just pretty, but are actually quite tasty, I discovered. Frozen Brandy Alexanders are like classy, alcoholic milkshakes. That, plus the cinnamon and sugar-rimmed mimosas I made throughout the night, became the fastest ways to make my spirit bright. Mission accomplished. 

Overall, it was a great holiday season. I narrowly avoided getting COVID, which puts me a step above where I was last year (Good times). Now, as I’m bringing the curtain down on 2021, I hope to maintain these well-lit spirits and lack of COVID into the New Year. 

Wish me luck in that endeavor. 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Blasé at the Ballet: An Outing to See The Nutcracker

I woke up one morning and put on an evening gown. That’s how you know that it’s going to be a good day. It was a pale pink, satin, spaghetti-strapped, form-fitting evening gown with a large leg slit up the thigh, that I hadn’t yet worn out of the house. It’s the dress that makes me look the most like a Bond girl and I paired it with the coat that makes me most look like Cruella De Ville.

Please don’t ask me why my mirror looks like that. It came like that.

I promised myself that after being locked in doors for so long, away from my beloved New York City, that I would spend every opportunity I could traipsing around the city. At Christmastime, there is no shortage of high-brow things that I could do and wanted to do in the city. There’s seeing the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall, the Juilliard String Quartet play at the Philharmonic, Yo-Yo Ma play the cello on a Christmas tour, and a Lincoln Center production of the Nutcracker, all of which would be ridiculously expensive.

The outfit prep

I decided on going to the Nutcracker with a friend. When I told people what I was doing I said that I was “going to see the ballet for a matinee today,” as if it wasn’t all already poetic enough. Sig, my friend and fellow RA, accompanied me, since I thought that he would appreciate it the most. Sig is interested in form and the ideas of masculinity and femininity and how they are both at play, no matter what, during ballet. 

I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille”

We set off that morning, getting breakfast bagels while waiting for the train. We made it to Lincoln Center, which in itself already looks like a palace for music. A few minutes before the curtain, we took our seats in an upper balcony that was so steep that I was afraid of tipping forward and landing in the floor seats. It would break the spirits of anyone with a solid fear of heights.

Sig was also ready for his close up

I’d seen many local productions of the Nutcracker in Valdosta and my father, back in his hey-day, played Drosselmeyer at the Valdosta Dance Arts. I wasn’t sure if I could still be surprised by the show anymore. The ballet was gorgeous. I became swept up in the drama, the discipline, and the way that the music swelled. There’s something about the exaggeration and the scale of, not just ballet, but a show like this. I enjoyed everything about the performance, from the perfect set pieces to the scattered applause from the audience when they weren’t sure when to clap. 

The second performance I got to see that day was of all the adorable children who were twirling in the hallways outside of the auditorium during the intermission, inspired by the ballerinas on stage. Tchikavosky would have been proud. They were all wearing classic Christmas outfits consisting of green and red plaid dresses, hair ribbons, and white stockings that awoke something biological in me that said, “well maybe having just one child won’t hurt me.” Of course, had just one of those kids been snot-nosed and sticky-fingered and crying in the concessions line instead of twirling cutely in the aisles then I instead would have felt the urge to tie my fallopians into a square knot and cauterize them. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.  

The second half of the show blew Sig and me away. Between the flawless music, glittery outfits, and all around poise, the whole performance was absolutely stunning. I always loved the eccentricity of the show– the chaotic fever dream quality of what Clara experiences at night with the dancing mice and sugar plum fairies. The final sequence, in which the sugar plum fairy danced with the prince, demonstrated outstanding human balancing capabilities with every fluid movement made on pointe, making for money well spent.

“Blondies,” a sports bar I attended as a child, was our next stop. At the time, they were listed as the seventh best wing place in the city, but I had the second best wings in the city and they weren’t as good as these. My aunt took me on a field trip to find the best wings in the city when I was a kid because hot wings were, and still are, my favorite food. 

So, I sat there, in my pink satin Bond-girl dress after the ballet, with the entire bodice of my dress padded with napkins, and inhaled about ten mild, bleu-cheese-drenched chicken wings. Sig and I fit in so well at the sports bar, him in his eye makeup and me in my evening gown, discussing human psychology, creationist stories, Charles Dickens, and the collective works of Aristotle and Plato. Then there was, of course, our discussion of the ballet, which also, clearly, endeared us to our fellow patrons. 

Not a drop on me

For some last minute Christmas shopping before we headed home for break, Sig and I descended on The Strand. If it were up to me, this is how I would spend all of my days. If money wasn’t a thing and neither was school work, I would spend my time being as blasé as possible. I would still be engaged with the things that I care about, because the things that I care about, I care about enormously, but everything else could be replaced with me sitting with my feet up, watching ballet, eating hot wings, and perusing the bookshelves at the Strand.

The day we chose to do this also happened to be Santa con, a day in which people travel into the city dressed as Santa Claus and do bar crawls. Who says that Americans don’t have culture? Nothing has ever made me laugh harder than a bunch of clearly drunk people dressed like Santa Claus swarming the city and moving in herds. I laugh but at the same time, I sincerely hope that these people don’t vote. It gets pretty messy pretty quickly, which is almost hard to believe. 

There was a lot packed into our trip into the city: the Nutcracker, Blondies, the Strand, and Santa con, all of which came right at the heels of an already busy and eventful semester and year. The Nutcracker was a much needed break and send-off to the year before I go back to my parents’ house for the remainder of the holiday season. 

Happy Holidays!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Christian Dior and David Gerson

Since my last excursion ended with an experience with Chanel and Kate Spade, it was only fitting that Christian Dior was next. Around mid-November, I got a chance to go to the Brooklyn Museum to see the Christain Dior exhibit, making it my first trip to the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibit, entitled, “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams,” was being featured for a limited time only and contained the best works to showcase Christian Dior’s legacy. After hauling ass to get to the Brooklyn Museum on time, I met up with David Gersen, a personal friend of my mother and father’s from their college days, known for being fabulous and fun. Having followed him on Facebook for years now and hearing my mother talk about him ad nauseum, I felt as though I knew him already by the time we met up at the museum. Walking through the Christian Dior exhibit was like walking through my dream closet. There’s something so satisfying about well-cut, form-fitting dresses, almost all of which I would have worn. 

I found it interesting to learn about the different ideas that informed Dior’s work, such as his belief in the idea of American friendliness not being a myth, the culture of the time, and the softness of western style, amalgamating in dresses that celebrated femininity in their time. There were floor to ceiling shelves of stark white outfits, mannequins covered in head to toe black, and vibrant bursts of color lining the walls. 

Dior’s life was short but his hold over the fashion industry continues to this day. He spent his limited time designing dresses that communicate a love for life and a love for women. He made dresses that were so bold you would expect the dresses to wear the women and not the other way around, yet instead of being swallowed up by the fabric the women were molded into the dresses, almost like it was fated. I loved the glamor of it all. There was something inspiring about it, the way that you could stand a few feet away from a dress that he hand-stitched and feel the commitment he made to it. 

After strolling through the exhibit, David and I had lunch in the Brooklyn Museum’s restaurant where he promptly spilled the tea on what my parents were like in college. Apparently, my parents were quite the fun, talented, and creative individuals back during their college years, not unlike how I would like to be viewed now during mine. 

Following our outing to the museum, we headed to Greenwich Village to attend one of the final performances of a new play. “Fairycakes,” was a comedy about fairies from various stories and was kind of like if they made “Into the Woods” with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was hilarious and fun. There was rhyming, beautiful costumes, and actors doubling as other characters. The plot was complicated and entertaining, making it just the right show for me after not having seen any theater in so long. 

I am not sure how to sum up my love for good fashion and style. I’m not even fully sure where it comes from, because I’ve never given it any thought. In high school, I wrote an extended essay about the changes in women’s fashion in the 20th century being indicative of their increasingly active roles in society in a bid for my international baccalaureate diploma. Basically, I was exploring how we went from corsets in 1919 to Calvin Kleins in 1990. 

I was amazed by how the whole event managed to be a visual paradise without being an assault to the senses and how the exhibit made me feel like I would look as fabulous as Marilyn Monroe when wearing a black velvet dress with a bow in the back.

I was utterly charmed by David and his extensive knowledge of theater and art. We had a wonderful day in the city together. I cannot wait to go back to the Brooklyn Museum and to see more shows when I’m back in New York, and until we meet again: Love you, David!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Chanel on Ice

Chanel No. 5– providing women with the perfect thing to sleep in for one hundred years, almost to the day. As the story goes, Coco Chanel no longer wanted perfumes that smelled like flowers, and when asked what she wanted the perfume to smell like, answered, “like a woman.” Ever since that day, Chanel No. 5 has been synonymous with femininity. 

In honor of the much beloved scent turning 100, Chanel kicked it old school with a big, splashy party at Rockefeller Plaza. There would be ice skating, photo booths, and places to sample perfume, all in the name of celebrating the world’s most iconic perfume. The weeklong celebration ended on Friday November 12th and since the 100th anniversary of Chanel perfume will only come around once in my lifetime, it felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Unable to stir up any interest or availability amongst my friends, I went it alone. 

It was my first solo New York City outing this year, which was as exciting as it was nerve-wracking. I found my way out of Grand Central Station all on my own, making myself proud by walking into the street and expertly throwing my arm into the air to hail a taxi. 

Even though I’d come to pay tribute to Chanel, I first went to pay tribute to Kate Spade by strutting into the Kate Spade store at Rockefeller Plaza. About an hour later, I strutted out of the Kate Spade store with a gift for someone and a big red handbag that the sales woman said perfectly matched my coat. It’s all part of this routine I do where I dote on myself like the loving boyfriend that I am.

Hello beautiful

I always buy clothes and accessories from consignment stores and I never get caught up in buying outfits simply because they’re from luxury brands- just because you wear name brands doesn’t mean you know how to dress- but Kate Spade is where I make the exception. Their bags are all solid colors, devoid of patterns and gaudy logos, and they are not outrageously expensive.  

Kate Spade makes my favorite purses. Chanel makes my favorite perfume. The whole event was a match made in style heaven. I had my picture taken, sampled some perfume, and watched some expert figure skating as part of a surprise performance. While waiting for my skate time, I walked over to Magnolia Bakery, a New York City landmark made famous by “Sex and the City,” and got two cupcakes. For dinner I had Halal guys, another New York City destination.  

I had a wonderful time skating, clutching the railing and shuffling on the ice, but never once slipping. It was not yet cold, so I was not miserable on the ice. I had my head turned the other way at just the wrong time and narrowly missed witnessing my first ever marriage proposal, where a man got on one knee in the middle of the skating rink and successfully proposed to his girlfriend. Figure skaters came out for a quick performance on the ice and then we resumed our skating. 

This guy

Between the perfume, Kate Spade, and the ice skating, it was all like being in my own version of the Garden of Eden. It was a day of indulgence in which I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it, without waiting for others. There, I had a confluence of my favorite things. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Where art thou?

Valentina invited me to hang out with her in the city over the weekend so that we could go to her friend’s art event. It sounded like heaven so I said yes. 

We made our way through a cordoned off street that was hosting a festival, though neither of us could tell you what was being celebrated. When we arrived, we met up with Daniella, another Sarah Lawrence student. 

The idea for the art event was that each floor had a set number of artists on it and that you went into the room that interested you most. We started with Mahmoud Hamadani, an Iranian artist and personal friend of Valentina’s whose black ink paintings reminded me of Pollock’s drip paintings. They are beautifully simplistic and lacking that sense of chaos that comes easily to jet-black abstract paintings. 

An example of his work

From there, we visited Katinka Mann, a woman in her 90s, who was easily the most modern artist there. She explained to us the roundness of her shapes and how that symbolizes what we so often see in nature. After discussing former Sarah Lawrence professor Joseph Campbell and the way that he could articulate a thought on paper better than anyone else we knew, we moved on to other artists in the building. 

Almost every artist seemed to be operating in a different medium. There was crochet, sculptures, pottery, videography, and a few paintings that you could only tell were paintings when you walked straight up to them. 

It was around this time that I discovered the tarot card reader who was promoting their boss’s recently designed tarot card deck. I could be fleeing a country and I would still be able to locate the nearest tarot card reader. This time I asked about the trajectory of my education. I am on the cusp of a rebirth apparently. I need balance and strength but I must look to teamwork for all of these things. My pursuit may even be something charitable. I cannot wait to see how that takes shape. 

Afterwards, we hung out at Valentina’s apartment in the city and went for Dim Sum on Restaurant Row in Hell’s Kitchen. The whole thing was as amazing as it sounds. A quick little excursion into the city to view beautiful art and eat incredible food is my idea of a good time.

On the cusp of a rebirth,

Raquel

Halloweekend

For all of this year’s flaws, this year’s Halloween fell on a weekend, making for a weekend full of festivities. It was a “Halloweekend,” if you will. The fall weather was so crisp it made me want to break into my president’s backyard and play croquet again. I bought pumpkins. I bought materials for pumpkin spice cookies that I never made. My suitemates pasted spider stickers all throughout the apartment and I hung up some cobwebs and fake spiders, plus a “trick-or-treating” doormat. 

In order to finish decorating for Halloween, I purchased a full-sized skeleton to put in my suite and after picking it up from my post office and hauling it back to my school, I got to work sticking candy bars in its ribs. There I was: a girl, listening to the Corpse Bride Soundtrack, while carrying her life-sized skeleton down the street. I then proceeded to fill it with candy. Now it sits in a chair in the kitchen and scares the shit out of me when I go into the kitchen at night. 

Halloween was in full effect. 

That Thursday, I began my “Halloweekend” early by watching my school’s production of Bull in a China Shop, a new play about the true story of Mount Holyoke’s first female president. It contains themes of feminism and lesbianism in the 19th century. It had a glittery set, wonderful acting, and some doses of comedy. I enjoyed it, is the point. 

For some more theatre, I went to Sarah Lawrence’s annual production of Rocky Horror Picture Show the next night. The cast acted out the show in front of us while the film was being projected behind them as part of a beloved SLC tradition. Having missed it my Freshman year, I vowed to watch it the next, which obviously did not pan out, so this year I was determined to go. Unfortunately, everybody else was determined to go. The entire school turned out to see it with people filling up the lobby and then lining the street down to the intersection to see the show. Let me just emphasize that no sporting event this school has ever put on has come even remotely close to that kind of turnout. 

My friends and I were huddled together under umbrellas as it poured down rain and the street lights flickered, setting the mood for our dark and stormy night. When we were eventually let in everyone was squeezed into chairs or squished along the back wall, making it so that people had to be turned away and they had to promise to put on another performance. If it was your first ever “Rocky Horror experience,” as it was for me, you were marked on your way inside with a red lipstick “V” on your forehead and had to play a round of freeze dance in the middle of the room until you were among the finalists. 

From there, it was a typical production of Rocky Horror with everyone getting up and dancing and shouting at the screen. Many of the scenes in the film, in particular the sex scenes, have an undercurrent of coercion but, since the show’s main theme is sexual liberation, the school decided to honor the film in the spirit with which it was intended. All of the sex scenes were edited out with dance numbers from Glee, we were encouraged to shout the word “daddy” anytime they said the word “master,” due to its connotations to slavery, and, when acted out, the whip that Frank-n-Furter uses is replaced with a nerf gun. The nerf gun however was not loaded because guns are also bad. It ended up being a glorious night of loud music, one-liners, and perverted outfits with a red, glittery “V” lipsticked to my forehead the whole time. 

The next day, being the day before Halloween, I hung out with friends. I always pick out my Halloween costume about two years in advance. There are few things that I take as seriously. My Halloween costume was (drum roll, please) Gloria Steinem. Throughout the day I was Gloria Steinem in street clothes. At night, I was Gloria Steinem undercover at the playboy mansion, about to fuck up Hugh Hefner’s day. 

It was a versatile costume.

Gloria Steinem, Cruella De Vil, and a mermaid

The party was us sitting around, listening to music, while eating candy and junk food. Hill House put on our Halloween trick-or-treat event on the actual day of Halloween and I donned my Gloria costume once again. I was in full costume and had my skeleton beside me to hand out candy in. For once our RA event had a good turnout. It was a Halloween miracle. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Fall Fest

No matter how many times I listened to “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire or wore my knee-length wool socks, the weather wouldn’t get any cooler during September. I’m starting to think that that’s not how it works.

There’s something magical about fall. It’ll make you want to stay in bed all day, re-reading Harry Potter books and watching Nora Ephron films. For food there’s lemon poppyseed muffins, hot apple cider in a pumpkin-shaped mug, and a cauldron full of Fireball on Halloween night. My fall wardrobe is usually my favorite: knee-high socks, black tights, sweaters, and scarves. 

One month is not enough time to get into the Halloween spirit, so I had to start putting out my Halloween decorations in September. I did this by putting up my Halloween-themed mask signs, putting out my “trick or treat” doormat, and by creating and taping some spooky, scary bats throughout my Halloween hallway. Donna Reed has nothing on my homemaking abilities. 

As an RA, I am encouraged to provide condoms for my floor, which I organized as my condom-spider-web-door. I have to replenish it quite often. Good for my residents. 

In case you are wondering what the sign at the top of the door says, it says:

A message from your RA:

“Don’t let your affection cause an infection, put some protection on that erection.”

-Anonymous

*please check expiration dates before using

I set all of my Halloween decorations up and then waited for everyone else to do the same. I wanted oversized pumpkins, crunchy, fiery leaves, and spooky films. I was impatient for them. 

Then, lo and behold, on the last day of September, I felt it: 

A palpable chill in the air. 

Fall is upon us! 

Cue Earth, Wind, and Fire!

For my first RA event of the year, on said last day of September, Bella and I put on a “Free Britney, Free Cookies event.” You may otherwise refer to it as “toxic cookies.” It was a cookie decorating contest with Britney Spears playing in the background in order to celebrate her recent freedom. We had a terrific turnout. I was dressed in proper “Baby One More Time” attire, so, naturally, it was the one day it was cold. 

I was given a blanket

The very next day, I was fully in the throes of my Friday afternoon, buying an overpriced latte at a local coffee shop and a kitschy new millennial book from a local bookstore. I received a tarot card reading from my fellow RA Casey. Since few students show up at RA events, and since I promised myself that I will always get a tarot card reading whenever I encounter one, I was at her service.

I always ask for a reading on a different aspect of my life each time. Last time I asked about my love life- yikes– so this time I asked about my career. I didn’t ask about my career the first time around because I always knew that it would be fabulous, but I wouldn’t mind having it confirmed.

Son of Pentacles 

I will be committed and dedicated to my craft, perhaps at the expense of my other relationships in life, but I already knew that when it came to my writing career. I will give everything to it and it will give everything back to me, which is what I like to hear. All in all, the future looks bright. 

It’s bright out in that fall weather
That’s better!

A few hours later, I screened “Addams Family Values,” to kick off the first of October, as my RA consent event. Morticia and Gomez have a pretty grand (consensual) romance, making it the only family values that you’ll ever need. Unfortunately, only one person came, which is to be expected with RA events. Afterwards, at a far more well-attended event, I went to a rock concert at the amphitheatre, where I third wheeled left, right, and center.

People were sitting on the large stone walls, laying down the aisles, and standing directly in front of the bands. If this were an indoor event the whole thing would have been a fire hazard. We were treated to some Sarah Lawrence talent, the bands “Remove the Balloon” and Moxie,” which we responded to with a mild mosh pit that was Sarah Lawrence’s attempt at a rave. 

The very next day was Fall Fest, my school’s cottage core themed fall celebration. There was a polaroid station, a book swap, an essential oil making station, a stuffed animal stuffing station, and a buffet, all with crisp weather and blankets set out on the lawn to enjoy it.

I spent time with Alexis and Anahat, meeting a few new people, while drinking apple cider and eating tiny pies. The event lasted for hours and made for a relaxing fall day, not counting my being ambushed by an overzealous dog who ate the rest of my pie. 

It’s developing…
It’s developed! (I love polaroids)

Fall had officially begun and other people, not just me, could enjoy that infectious Halloween feeling.

Happy fall, yall!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel