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Galentine's Day

So, Valentine’s Day is shaping up to be my favorite holiday. As a board certified single girl, Valentine’s Day could very easily become a day in which I face my own inadequacy or a day of inescapable hell. Thankfully, it was neither. Last year, my Valentine’s Day consisted of me eating chocolate cake and taking a hot bubble bath and if anything, I did nothing but double down on that energy this year. 

“…packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things.”

The day started as any good day should: with me being productive. I woke up and went to my restorative yoga session for my psychology class, as I do every Friday. At the end of class, my professor said “Happy Valentine’s day! How’s everybody feeling?” to which I jokingly replied, “Single.” Everybody laughed and my professor assured me that Valentine’s Day is about having more than just a date for the day, but I was already way ahead of her. Anyone who has studied the teachings of the prophet Lizzo knows: 

True love ain’t something you can buy yourself/ true love finally happens when you’re by yourself/ so if you’re by yourself then go and buy yourself/ another round from the bottle on the higher shelf.” 

Words to live by. 

You see this place on Valentine’s Day. What are you going to do, not go in it?

It was in that spirit that I donned a ruby-red Valentine’s Day dress, white knee-high boots, a matching white leather jacket, and a white overcoat, and planned a perfect day for myself. I wanted to celebrate Galentine’s Day, where I hang out with, and subsequently spoil, my gal pals, most likely by taking them to my favorite coffee shop and bakery in town. Valentine’s Day is about love, and friendship is, of course, one of the best kinds of love. 

Unfortunately, my three friends had their own plans going on, (one was swamped with school work, one had class and one was in Los Angeles) so I exercised a different type of Valentine’s Day love: self love. I did everything all by myself.  As if more than an hour of yoga wasn’t productive enough, I went into town and registered to vote, making me eligible to cast my vote for the Democratic nominee in the upcoming New York primary. (Sleep tight America). 

Then, with that big dick energy fueling my every move, I pranced into Bronxville in my white go-go boots. For those of you who have never been to Bronxville, just know that it is a clean and cozy affluent nook of the north east. 

I started first at “Slave to the Grind,” the greatest coffee shop I have ever been to, and had their insanely divine chai tea. I worked my way down the street, dipping into every store and swiping my card in almost every one. I went into a bookstore, a shoe store, a candy store, a papyrus store, a florist shop, and a bakery. It did not take me long to buy $80 worth of jewelry for myself although if you’re looking for me to express any regret then you’ll be disappointed. 

A succulent for a gal pal

I pressed on to the florist across the street and bought some gifts for my funny galentines. I bought them miniature plants; the idea being flowers for significant others and plants for significant friends, and unlike a long-stemmed rose with baby breath, their potted Echeveria succulent will last for as long as they let them; not unlike our friendship. 

As a final Galentine’s Day treat for myself, I stopped by “Topps Bakery,” another one of my favorite Bronxville landmarks and bought myself some of their black and white cookies, cleverly dyed to be black and pink for Valentine’s Day. With my arms draped in shopping bags, I strutted into campus, feeling like the epitome of the phrase “living my best life.” I dropped my stuff off at my dorm and began watching “To all the Boys: p.s. I love you,” since I was obsessed with the original. The sequel had all the things I loved about the original like it’s aerial shots and quirky soundtracks, as well as of course, the escapism of a wholesome teen romance. 

That night, my friend Anahat and I attended a party on campus that was so Sarah Lawrence that it was actually a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. According to them sex/valentine’s day= planned parenthood. Since it was all going to a good cause, we both paid our fair share and partied hard. The whole place was so jammed packed that it felt like a mosh pit. We were all being pressed up against each other’s bodies and being jostled around so much that it honestly is the closest I have ever come to sex on Valentine’s Day. Afterwards, Anahat and I kicked it with some others of New York’s finest college students. Girls from Barnard, Columbia, and Pratt had come for the party and stuck around with us afterwards. 

These didn’t make it longer than a day

Overall, I loved every part of my Valentine’s Day and although it put a dent in my bank account, my shopping spree felt amazing. There’s something about having disposable income and putting it towards whatever you want that just feels right, like when you open up your closet and put together a flawless outfit just for yourself. It’ll give you some newfound zeal. 

But Valentine’s Day did get me thinking about why I don’t treat myself like this on all the other 364 days of the year. Granted, I’d probably be broke if I shopped til I dropped on your average day, but going into town and buying myself some immaculate chai tea? That seems doable and I won’t have to break the bank trying.

Love always,

The Tragic Queen

Double, double toil and trouble

I just saw an all female “Macbeth” in the city at Hunter College, and can honestly say that a female Macbeth being a distressed human disaster is the most relatable thing I will probably ever see. 

This version of Macbeth, cleverly titled “Mac Beth,” features an all-female cast of school girls reenacting the bard’s play throughout their daily lives. I didn’t know that I needed to see Lady Macbeth throw a bunch of tampons into the air whilst denouncing her femininity, but that was exactly what I needed to see. Water poured down onto the stage as they brewed their potion, getting everybody soaking wet, and I was having fun living vicariously through them as they galavanted in the pouring rain. Overall, the whole play had me wanting to brew some potions, cast some spells, start a few wars, and topple the patriarchy. In other words, it was a quality theatre experience.    

The play had been adapted and directed by award-winning playwright and director Erica Schmidt. In Schmidt’s version, the Scottish play has been abridged, excising all fight scenes except one; a bold move seeing as how Macbeth has a reputation for having the highest death count. Despite using the original English, this version flips the script in many ways. Although it is established that no man of woman born can harm Macbeth, and that MacDuff and MacDuff alone fit this description, it ends up being the weird sisters who slice Macbeth up, drown her in a pond, behead her, and then take a selfie with her severed head. The reason for this change was because the school girls in this production were well aware of the fact that they were just acting out the play Macbeth and not legitimately living it. It wasn’t until the end, when the weird sisters took it too far, that they murdered someone for real.

The stage is set

Oddly enough, this sociopathic look at reckless teenage girls, didn’t feel too far-fetched. In recent years, there has been a growing trope in YA films where teenage girls are secretly murderous and their actions are framed as being necessary for surviving adolescence and, above all, high school. Their violent actions come about due to their pent up anger towards a patriarchal society and how they’re not allowed to express their feelings in a constructive way. 

While this theme of conniving teenage girls could date back to “The Crucible,” it also can be observed more recently in “Jawbreaker,” “Heathers,” “The Craft,” and “Jennifer’s Body.” These films fit the stereotype that men are violent just for the sake of being violent, whereas women are more methodical with their cruelty. “Macbeth,” with its lofty assertions about masculinity makes it the perfect choice for an all-female cast to deconstruct attitudes towards women. I wholeheartedly approve of aggressively feminine works of art.  

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Cast photo

The Painted Canvas

Over winter break I took part in a painting class in my hometown Valdosta, entitled “The Painted Canvas.” It was being held at our local art gallery and my former place of employment “The Turner Center.” I love that place and attended an art show there the week prior. The art show was stellar, with several local artists showcasing their works for the town to see. 

The painted canvas

The painting class was held in a vacant building across the street. Easels were laid out in a row up front, cups of water were placed in front of us for different functions, and hair dryers were at the ready in case we needed to dry a canvas. I was the youngest by far, since I will not be eligible for retirement anytime soon, and learned some valuable lessons that I would otherwise not have learned in my younger and more formative years, particularly when it comes to motherhood and alcohol. As it turns out, red wine is good for your heart and you should drink as much of it as you can in the aftermath of a heart attack. At least one woman there had previously had a heart attack, and knew what she was talking about. The more you know!

Baby steps

One woman was also pondering the reasons why she would have one paint brush in her mouth, one in her left hand, and one in her right hand that was actually doing the painting. The woman teaching the class said that it was because when you’re at home you’re used to multi-tasking. You’re beating one kid for their behavior, berating your other kid for raising hell, and folding all of the clothes in your house all at once. Multi-tasking.

More importantly from this seminar, I learned that the actual artist rarely likes their own artwork. We were all much harder critics towards ourselves than anybody else was, despite the fact that everybody’s looked fabulous. Starting over and over again until my painting had ten layers of paint on it and was starched and ironed to perfection was inevitable. 

It was surprisingly peaceful to paint my flower for four hours, even in the moments when it was frustrating. Staring so intensely at the contrasting colors made my head spin and I had to step back to see how it looked. I started by lathering the canvas in dark green paint and then free-handed my flower with a red colored pencil. Blending paint while still maintaining the finer details was trickier than I thought. 

The finished product

I applied a few layers of paint and felt like Amy in “Little Women,” making me suddenly wish that I was painting and doing yoga all across the world. 

The finished product was a resplendent concoction of vibrant colors and, given its size and subject matter, I’m sure it will make a solid bathroom painting; the kind that you would set on the back of a toilet in a half-bath. According to my teacher, my flower was impressionistic with a leaning towards abstract and therefore, completely “New York” of me.

The class gave me a newfound zeal for painting and has me wanting to harken back to my old-school days of starting a new art project on a whim. Even though my dorm room is too cramped for full-fledged art projects, a girl can still dream. 

Raquel goes to the grocery store

Winter break is upon me and I have over a month off, a fact I plan to exploit in everything I do. I got into South Georgia five days before Christmas and then two days after Christmas I went to my grandparents’ house In Virginia for New Year’s. Now, in the new year and the new decade, I am back in my hometown of Valdosta, where I sleep in as late as I want while my parents go to work.

I’ve spent the break watching “Russian Doll” on Netflix because I love watching dysfunctional-woman shows, where the main character is a thirty-something year old wild, debaucherous woman who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, and sleeps around like she’s at Woodstock. “Fleabag” and “Russian Doll” make me want to chainsmoke, playfully ruin people’s lives, be the family black sheep, and have a dark past. 

Instead of doing any of those things, I have been running hot bubble baths, lighting my Freddie Mercury candle, and playing Billy Joel in the bathtub. In other words, I’ve been spending my winter break partying like a 35 year old woman who has just sent her kids to her parent’s house for the weekend. I have to take advantage of the bathtub I have while I am here in Valdosta, because I don’t trust the one in my communal dorm up at college. I could bleach that bathtub before using it and still get HPV. 

Normally, I listen to Prince in the bathtub so that I can feel like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” but now I’m going through a serious Billy Joel kick. I’m also going through a Britney Spears phase, but I’m just going to pretend like I’m not.  

Instead of sitting around all day listening to “Uptown Girl” on repeat and watching shows about women who don’t have their lives together, I decided to cook dinner for my family. The idea was to cook dinner using a recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook “Cravings”, the only cookbook a gen-z-er can name with any certainty. It seemed like the perfect way to be productive while still relaxing. Cooking recreationally is a constructive and enjoyable task. Cooking because you have to is just a monotonous chore. 

The plan was to cook a well-balanced meal, that consisted of zero vegetables, and was just steak tips and pasta. The first thing that went wrong was the fact that I could not find the shopping carts. I went straight to where they were, saw that they weren’t there, thought I was in the “Twilight Zone,” and then found them a few feet away. I had to turn around an entire corner to find them. Ridiculous. You move away and they move everything. The next thing that went wrong was that I realized that I left my grocery list at home. I filled it out the night before and consulted with my mother to make sure that we already owned ingredients such as salt and butter. As it turns out, we did. 

First, I went around to the meat section and asked a woman who did not work there, which one was the New York Strip. She found it for me and I explained to her that I was cooking dinner for my family that night and only acting like I knew what I was doing. I trotted over to the dairy section and asked a woman who actually did work there where the creamy, not crumbled, bleu cheese was and where the block, not grated, parmesan cheese was. She said that if those were anywhere, then they’d be in the other dairy section, on the other side of the store. I went to that dairy section and asked another person who worked there where the cheese was. In the pasta aisle, held up a package of pasta and asked a random guy, who also didn’t work there, if he thought that there were 12 ounces of linguine in there. He pointed out to me the fact that the box said it had 16 ounces in it. 

Then I tried to find the bacon, which was the biggest dumpster fire of the day. I lurked around the seafood counter, the one place I shouldn’t have been due to my potent seafood allergy, and I asked the man operating it where the bacon was. He pointed further on down from where I was standing. I scanned the area for longer than I am proud of, and still didn’t find it. 

Then I bumped into some of my old friends from high school, who helped me find it, but it was pre-cooked Jimmy Dean bacon and I did not know how to say that I was looking for something else. I gave up and went to the vegetable aisle, where I bothered yet another man who did not work there by asking him, and I quote, “so which of these green things is the arugula?” He told me that that was probably in the salad aisle right beside us, and he tried to help me look.

It wasn’t there so I asked a person who worked there who straight up said “I don’t work in this section.” I then strolled over to a different section, where I creepily maneuvered behind a different guy who worked there, and debated whether or not I should stop and ask him a question; the first ounce of restraint I displayed all day. When I did finally ask the question, I probably could not have come up with a weirder way to do it. I held up the bacon box and then I held up the packaged steak.

I said, “Can I get bacon that is packaged more like this (the steak) than like this? (the bacon).” Raw. The word I was looking for was raw. He pointed me to the same direction that I was in the last time. I also asked him if he knew where the baby arugula was. He had no idea what that was. I went back to the bacon section, where I met the girl who told me where the cheese was in the beginning, and she asked me, “Did you find what you were looking for.” I said, “Yes but now I am looking for the bacon.” That was when she reached out in front of her, grabbed the bacon, and handed it to me. I had been staring at it the whole time.

I left after that with a store-bought cake and no arugula, because who needs vegetables anyway? There is absolutely no way that those employees didn’t all talk mad shit about me. I could honestly hear just one of them saying, “Hey did you see that girl in the leather jacket who looked about eighteen and acted like she had never been in a grocery store before? She doesn’t have her life together.”

It’s true that I could have bought the six things that I got in under an hour had I just looked at the signs and read the labels on the food, but I prefer to go straight to the experts. It’s like how men don’t want to ask for directions because they insist that they know where they’re going. If you just asked for directions in the first place, then you’d get where you’re going faster. In the end I went home and made my pasta and steak, both of which blew my family away. Then, as we ate, we watched You’ve Got Mail for the hundredth time. It was all a rare fleeting moment of productivity from yours truly.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

New Year, Same Me

You are getting no New Year’s resolutions from me. I intend to remain the same foul-mouthed, awkward, anti-social, self-oriented perfectionist that you have all come to know and love. But in the spirit of New Years, I would like to reintroduce myself. 

I am sensitive and dramatic so I cry shamelessly at everything. This could be because I am a cancer. Alternative theories could be that I am just sensitive and dramatic. I like chai tea and chocolate cake donuts. I am pretty sure I have hypoglycemia and I don’t handle it well, due to my copious consumption of all things sugar. I have often regarded myself as a work in progress, so I might as well work on this as well. I consider myself to be a writer, first and foremost, and then a painter, a recreational swimmer, an occasional baker, a decent reader, a one-time gardener, a die-hard recycler, and your basic movie fanatic. 

I have zero sense of direction and the most dramatic motion sickness of anybody I know. My math skills are nonexistent. Every year it was a battle to work my math grade up to a C and then charm my grade up to a B. I still count on my fingers but that’s only because I am more concerned with getting the answer right, than I am with my pride. I live and breathe the feminist agenda, which was not always a popular hill to die on at my high school, since feminism is often associated with bra-burning and unkempt underarms. My favorite type of cars are soft-top Jeeps of the Wrangler stick-shift variety, due to my possessing only that type of car.  

I believe that German Shepherds are the best sentient beings and I regard them as nothing less than the greatest of God’s creation. They are smart, strong, beautiful, social, playful, and protective; making them better than most humans. For some reason I can’t explain, “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay is my favorite song. “Vienna” by Billy Joel has to be a close second. I am a modern woman with modern tastes. My favorite one-woman show is Fleabag. My favorite stand-up comic is John Mulaney. My favorite talk show host is Graham Norton. My favorite musician is Lizzo and my favorite musical is Hamilton. I am a testament to my generation and its greatness. 

My first words were “chocolate milk” so I have had my priorities straight since the beginning. Like most people going to a hippie-liberal college, in order to learn how to write, I always speak the truth. I am striving to be more rebellious than straight-laced, not that it is usually a conscious decision. My goals in life consist of me being a great writer and then taking my money and opening a Women’s Crisis Center.

I have my work cut out for me. 

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel 

Ice Skating at Bryant Park

My friend Anahat and me skating at Bryant Park

Right before I left town for the holiday break, my friend Anahat and I ventured into the city to go ice skating at Bryant park. We were hoping that it’d get us in the holiday spirit. For those who haven’t been, every Christmas season, you can go shopping at a Christmas village and ice skating at the rink. All of the vendors sell their products in glass houses, the type of buildings you conjure up when you hear that proverb about throwing stones. 

We began our evening by milling around the shopping village. I’m always interested to see what vendors deem worthy to sell at a place where you can literally sell anything. There was the usual jewelry, New York-themed paintings, leather-bound objects, wood carvings, pottery, and a whole smattering of others. There were also food vendors serving us up our dinner of $9 dumplings. After soul-crushing line after soul-crushing line, we finally made it onto the ice. I didn’t fall down once, but that is only because I didn’t move very fast. Lifting or moving my feet wasn’t exactly my forte. I had pegged Anahat as the clumsiest person I knew but she practically glided across the ice in comparison to my comically terrible ice skating. 

My ice skating didn’t remain terrible. Eventually, I managed to speed up and maneuver my way around the rink. The blades were so thin and offered such little support that it felt like an evening in heels, but it was the good kind of pain, where you feel like you exhausted yourself in the name of fun.  

I kept looking down at my feet, but every now and then I would look up. There was something beautiful about the synchronized blur of people shuffling across the ice. I had never seen such organized chaos before. There were couples clinging to one another and others stopping for a photo. Expert ice skaters were weaving in and out of the crowd, whizzing past me just to flex.

The Christmas tree was nothing more than a dotted blur that gleamed imprecisely in my impaired vision, but was still, nonetheless, a beautiful and all-important tree. The best part was when I looked straight up at the skyscrapers at just the right moment. As you come around the curve, just past the Christmas tree, and look up just for a second, you catch a glimpse of the skyscrapers. Then you have to look down again before you bump into someone. If you look up at just the right moment, you can see the Empire State Building. Ice skating with a view.

Christmas carols seamlessly blended into the best hits of the 80s. I could barely skate in general, much less in sync to “Thriller.” My favorite part of the evening was when I was clutching onto the railing and passed by a trio of drunk girls. The first one said to me, “That looks hard. Is it?”

“Yeah, it’s hard.”

“Are you from here?”

“No.”

“Where are you from?”

“Bronxville.”

“You’re from the Bronx? Like Jlo?”

“No, I’m not Jenny from the block.”

“You look like Jlo.” 

“…thank you.”

I moved on, towards her friends who were moderately less drunk and laughing their asses off at their friend. 

“You’re friend is fun,” I told them. 

As I moved along, I am pretty sure that she asked me if I knew JLo.

Happy Holidays!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Night at the Opera

Recently, I had been given the most delicious offer that I could imagine; an offer that played right into my desire to do thrilling, cosmopolitan things. My Italian class was taken to go and see “Madame Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera. 

I was excited, not only because I was going to see a high-end work of art, but also because this sounded more like the sultry beginning to a romantic-suspense novel, in which an eighteen year old girl goes to the opera and it changes her life. I showed up ready to feel cultured as hell. I was going for chic, fashionable; trying to be one of those interesting New York women who makes people turn their heads so fast that they get whiplash. Using professor youtube as my guide, I put my hair in a bun and mentally-prepared myself for when my updo would fall through. After squeezing myself into a dress that I can only fit into if I force it over my head and not my hips, I jammed my feet into a sassy pair of bows-on-toes, super-high heels that would have made Carrie Bradshaw weep tears of joy. I have had the dress since the sixth grade, which might explain why it was cutting off circulation in my armpit. 

The Metropolitan Opera

My class and I experienced “Madame Butterfly” and I petition that we change the title of the opera to “men are trash,” since that is the overarching message. For those of you who don’t know, the opera is about a teenage Japanese geisha girl who marries an American soldier, only to have him leave her. She marries him for love, because she is a wonderstruck child who still believes in such concepts, whereas he marries her mostly because it was fashionable. Everybody insists that he has left her for good but she is in denial due to her naivety, despite the fact that he has been gone for three years. When the soldier’s friend, the counselor, tries to explain to her that their marriage is no more, she exposes the fact that she has a child. Her husband comes back and she is excited because she thinks that her husband is finally returning to her, but in reality he is bringing his new wife in order to collect their child. The woman is devastated and, in proper opera fashion, she kills herself.

Blush-pink rose petals being showered down on opera singers, may have been the most resplendent aesthetic I have ever seen, and made every unmarried person in the audience plan their wedding. Above the stage was a large mirror that showed the audience what was going on behind all of the set pieces and created a bold reflection whenever there was an elaborate costume. The opera singers hit such high notes that it didn’t sound like human voices anymore. My limited Italian came in handy, but I was also guided by the subtitles on the backs of the chairs in front of me. 

Chandeliers inside the theater

I obsessed over every aspect of that night, but one of my favorite parts of any posh night is the dressing up part. I was proud of the sleek look that I put together, even though it did not take long to fall apart. Later that night, once I was no longer around anybody who had seen me prior to, I really let myself go and a girl from my writing class saw me walking barefoot through a cold parking lot, wearing only one earring, and appropriately asked me “ya, good?” I was definitely fine, but was craving that post-outing decompress, where you let your hair down and put on sweatpants after an eventful night. Back in my room, surrounded by some much-appreciated warmth that I had been deprived of when walking around in a short dress and heels, I scrubbed off all of my makeup and unwound. 

Molto bene!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel