No, I’m not going to smile.

Today, I was harassed and catcalled twice by men on the street while on my college campus. While this isn’t the first time this has happened to me (unfortunately), today was different in a few ways. First, both occurrences happened before 1pm in broad daylight. Second, it happened two separate times in a relatively short time span. Third, these incidents were much more severe and frightening than previous experiences I’ve had.

Going to school on an urban campus, it’s almost to be expected that things like this would happen. But just because it’s a normal occurrence, doesn’t mean it’s ok. All of my female friends here can tell at least one story about being made uncomfortable while walking up the street due to catcalling or harassment. I’ve had my fair share of “Hello Beautiful” and “Where are you going in such a hurry” over my years here, and I usually just stare straight ahead and keep walking. It unsettles me, but I power through and try to look ahead. But today I got angry.

Today I was working move-out on campus, and I was harassed twice, once specifically while I was working.

This morning, after finishing a shift and starting a 30 minute break, I was walking to Dunkin Donuts when two men passed me and said “Oh hey beautiful… damn look at you! Smile for us. C’mon, smile for us!!” While I usually look away, today I glared back at them as I continued to walk past. The men stopped and turned around shouting after me, “That’s not a smile, where’s the smile! C’mon just smile for us. Where’s that beautiful smile.” They didn’t stop yelling until I rounded the corner and was out of sight. I was practically running. 

While catcalling usually makes me feel pretty gross, this specific instance completely unnerved me. While men who catcall in the first place tend to be pretty aggressive, these guys literally stopped walking to yell at me as I walked away just because I didn’t do what they wanted. It seemed like a scene out of a movie, but in the worst possible way. I’m not a confrontational person, so I’d never yell back at them or say any of the things in my head out loud. I wish I was that type of person. Instead, I just stormed away feeling angry, upset and a little anxious.

When I started working again at around noon, I was still thinking about what had happened earlier, because I was genuinely still upset.

About 45 minutes into my next shift, a guy approached me and the two other girls I was working with. He very clearly seemed “off,” and I’m almost certain he was drunk at 1pm on a Thursday.

We were assigned as “Street Monitors,” so we helped direct parents who were picking up their kids into street parking and made sure the traffic kept moving. This meant we were posted on the sidewalk outside of one of the residence halls for the entirety of our shift.

This man approached us and started asking us if it was move-out. He asked it over and over again because none of us wanted to answer him. If he looked around, it was very clearly move-out. We all just silently nodded and tried to look away to get him to leave, because it was obvious he wasn’t a student or a parent. We were hoping he’d pick up on the body language and lack of communication, but he didn’t leave.

Instead, he moved closer, leaving very little space between us and him, and talked to us inches from our faces, trying to get us to engage. One of the girls had a Bernie Sanders button on her jacket and he started to go on a rant about politics, trying to get us involved in the conversation even though all of us were clearly uncomfortable.

Then he noticed our nametag stickers that we had on and he started addressing us by name, making it very difficult to ignore him. I’d never been in a situation where the person harassing me knew any more information than what I looked like, but it made the experience much more unsettling when he knew such personal details. Because we were posted outside and wearing a nametag for our job, the girls and I were stuck in an uncomfortable situation, left to find a way out.

He tried to ask about our relationship situations, whether or not we had boyfriends; he commented our eyes and our general appearance. At one point  one of the girls tried to tell him we were working, in an attempt to get him to leave, but all he said was “You are? I don’t see you doing anything.” 

At one point, I remember grimacing, and the guy pointed it out. He mimicked the face I had made and laughed. “What are you making that face for,” he asked.

Eventually one of us was able to slip away and contact someone in our building, who came out and was able to make him leave, even though he went slowly. He hit on her as he slowly retreated because the person who came out of our building to help was also a woman. Before she came to the rescue he was lingering around us for about 15 minutes. The Campus Police were notified and an officer got him off of campus, but he said he couldn’t really do much besides intimidate him away because the guy technically hadn’t broken any laws. He hadn’t made any verbal threats, as if his lingering presence wasn’t threatening enough. I was glad that he was gone, but that really didn’t make me feel any better about what happened.

Honestly, in almost all situations, I’m happy to be a girl. I think women are amazing and powerful and inspirational, and I am motivated by the amazing ladies in my life every day. But this is a situation where I often wish I wasn’t a girl, because this is almost exclusively a female problem. Of course there are always exceptions, and I don’t mean to ostracize anyone who doesn’t fit this description, but as I’ve said before, all of my female friends have experienced something like this. I don’t know of any of my guy friends who have.

I’ve never understood catcalling because I don’t understand what the expected outcome is supposed to be. All it does is make women angry, upset, uncomfortable and afraid. No good can come of it. When I started going to school in the city, my parents gave me a little pepper spray to use for emergencies. Most of the time I think I’ll never have to use it, but days like today make me glad I have it, just in case.

It’s not fair that this is something we have to deal with when we’re just trying to live our lives and exist. This morning, I was on my way to get a coffee for myself and my friends. This afternoon, I was literally working. I was dressed way down because I was working all day, and both instances happened in broad daylight. I’m not saying that this kind of behavior is okay ever, under any circumstances, but I was shocked that it happened twice in one day and in these specific situations.

I feel like I was punished today just for existing as a woman in the city. I should be able to go about my day in peace without having to constantly survey my surroundings and look over my shoulder, but that’s just not the case and I think that’s sad.

Today, I’m angry. And I’m sure I’ll be angry again.

Boy Bands & Fandom: Let The Girls Love Things In Peace

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It’s just me, you’re boy band loving blogger.

In the social media/One Direction era, conversations about fan mania have shifted. While there remains the unwelcoming ideology that boy band fandom is uncool, unhealthy, excessive, and something for only young women to enjoy (and if you are not a young women and enjoying it, something must be diagnosably wrong with you), the people within it are dedicated to writing their own stories.” 

After having it bookmarked on my laptop for two days, I finally got around to reading an article called  Truly, Madly Deeply: The Relationship Between Fandom & Mental Health, written by Fuse TV’s Maria Sherman. The article was something that immediately caught my interest, due to my own history of boy band love and the discovery of communities that form around it. The quote I pulled from the article above largely sums up my experience.

The article discusses hysteria, lisztomania, and Beatlemania as a historical framework to move the conversation toward where we’re at with today’s teens and the bands they love. The one thing that these instances have in common throughout the years is the devaluation of the music, the bands, and the fandom that these girls are excited over. As it says above, there is an “unwelcoming ideology that boy band fandom is uncool, unhealthy, excessive, and something for only young women to enjoy.” From the way I see it, there has always been a patronizing, condescending tone taken toward young women who find themselves a part of one of these fandoms. And I don’t think that’s fair.

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We forced a Nick Jonas photo bomb. I may look calm but I was freaking out inside.

 

As a former Jonas Brothers fan, a One Direction fan, and a 5 Seconds of Summer fan, I’ve seen a lot of online communities form around bands, and I’ve seen what the fans can do. Anyone who thinks these fandoms are silly, unintelligent or uncool are so completely off-base it’s laughable.

When One Direction fans were irritated that fan-favorite song, “No Control,” was never made a single for radio-play, they took matters into their own hands and made it one. They called into radio stations, created social media campaigns, and gained so much traction that top radio stations all around the world actually started playing it. They created the No Control Project and organized themselves across the globe to ensure that it didn’t fail. How many groups of people can you think of that could actually pull that off? I honestly can’t think of any other situation.

Locally, fans collaborate on projects too. Last summer on 5SOS’s tour date in Massachusetts, multiple fans made and distributed orange hearts to the majority of the arena to hold up during a particular song at the concert. The same thing happened at the One Direction show in September, except with “Happy Birthday Niall” signs, and they were distributed to most of Gillette Stadium. Being present at both of those shows and seeing these girls’ work come to life is absolutely incredible.

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When I first discovered the Jonas Brothers, I was 12. When I first discovered One Direction, I was 16. In both cases, I was dealing with all of that fun adolescent stuff that everyone unfortunately has to go through. For me, and for a lot of other girls out there, these bands and these fandoms were an escape. The bands were easy to love, and they arrived at a time I needed them.

My sophomore year of college, I wrote a research paper about boy bands for my gender studies class. One thing I really remember from my writing was the fact that part of the reason boy bands are so successful is because they give the girls an outlet to express desire at an awkward age. They’re ideal because they’re distant from you. You can love them boundlessly, but the chances of you ever meeting your favorite boy band are slim, so it’s “safe.” They’re also ideal because they’re saying what you want to hear, and are most likely better groomed and better mannered than the boys in your real life. I’m going to just keep it simple and say that I think this was definitely true for me.

And more importantly than the band itself, especially in the One Direction era, the thing I found so compelling about being a fan was the online community. For many years, Tumblr became a go-to place for me, because it made you feel like you were a part of something. These girls support each other, compliment each other and become friends online through this common bond of loving the same band. I’ll be honest and say I had a pretty intense One Direction Tumblr at one point, and I had more followers on that blog than any other social platform I’ve ever used. I don’t really see how this is any different than dudes loving their favorite football team or online communities based around video games, but for some reason it’s the teenage girls who are portrayed in the “hysterical,” irrational light.

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Sometimes you see 1D’s drummer at Panera and would hate yourself if you didn’t ask for a pic.

 

It’s something that has always made me feel uncomfortable, and a little embarrassed, as I went through high school years loving boy bands. I felt like I couldn’t share too much with my peers because I was afraid of judgement, which looking back on just makes me sad. The music you like and the communities you choose to participate in do not dictate your maturity level or your intelligence. I’ve consistently been at the top of my class, in high school and college, and I’ve been in the boy band world for 7 or 8 years now. If anything, I’d argue that participating in these fandoms can make you a better person. And if someone wants to make fun of you for something as trivial as your music taste, is that someone you want to hang out with anyways?

I’m 20 years old now, and I don’t think I love boy bands for the same reasons I used to. I don’t feel that same need to belong to the community as I did when I was a teenager. I feel like I have a better understanding of myself, and participate in different communities in different ways now. Don’t get me wrong here, I still look at the Tumblr blogs to read up on what the fans are saying- I just don’t actively participate anymore, and I think that just comes along with getting older.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving boy bands, because I know what they can give people during some of the strangest transitional times of their lives. Plus, boy band music is some of the best pop music out there, and I will fight anyone on this point if you try to disagree. I’ll never stop having full-blown dance parties to “No Control,” and I’ll probably never stop finding Harry Styles to be one of the most beautiful men on this planet (Harry, if you stumble across this I am available). And if One Direction goes on a reunion tour 20 years from now, you know I’ll be there (hopefully) in the front row. Because, once you’re part of the fandom, you never really leave.

So, let’s all stop shaming girls for liking things, and stop pretending that you don’t like those things too. It’s ok to like a boy band. It’s 2016, people.

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Please read the rest of Maria Sherman’s article, because it was a great read! I only expanded on one tiny bit of info presented in her writing and there’s so many other interesting things she discusses. You can read the full piece here.

 

My Last Undergrad Marathon Monday

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Ever since I transferred schools to Emerson, Marathon Monday has always been one of my favorite days of spring semester. Not only do we get the day off, but I am filled with an unstoppable pride as a native New Englander and college student in Boston. The Boston Marathon, in my opinion, brings out the best in this city.

And since I’m graduating in December, this was my last Marathon as an undergraduate college student. The fact that I could be anywhere this time next year is sad, because that means I might not be going to the Marathon again for a while.

Today, however, was a perfect day. Upper 60’s & sunny. And I got to see the Marathon from a whole new perspective. Since my dorms have always been in downtown Boston, we’ve always just walked up Boylston and Newbury Street to get to the Marathon finish line. Now that I’m in Brookline, I got to see other parts of the Marathon.

Since we had to take the T to get into the city, my Marathon Monday was already significantly different than past years. But even more importantly, the Marathon ran all along the route of our T ride. Our stop was right at the sign telling the runners they’d reached mile 23, and there were crowds lining the barriers– not as many people as the finish line boasts at Copley Square, but more like the turnout of a parade in a large New England town- a lot of families, a lot of kids. It was interesting to see the Marathon through the eyes of a smaller community.

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And since the T ran along Beacon Street, where the runners also were, we got to watch competitors all along their route until our train went underground at Kenmore. At the time we were heading into the city, it was the wheelchair and handcycle competitors who were alongside us, and it was so inspiring to see. I never usually made it to the finish line to see those people finish the race, and I was blown away watching them fly down the road alongside our train car.

Another first: we actually made it to the finish line in time to see both the women and men elite runners come in, along with the crowning of the winners. Since I had work later in the day, I was forced to go into the city earlier if I wanted to go to the Marathon. But I’m glad it worked out that way because I got a completely different experience.

We did stay long enough to start to see non-elite runners come in as well (although I would say they’re still technically elite for finishing a marathon as fast as they did). I was super happy about this because as cool as the elite runners are, I’m more interested in cheering on the “regular” people who competed in the race. It’s such a huge accomplishment and I’m so inspired by people who train year round in order to compete in the event.

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And, no Boston holiday would be complete without a trip to Dunkin, where I got a special blue and yellow frosted donut in honor of the Boston Marathon. It felt a little weird to eat a donut in celebration of such a prestigious athletic event, but it definitely didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

 

While it is very sad this was my last Marathon Monday as a college student, I will 100% look back on these days fondly. My heart is still swelling with pride over those runners and this city that hosted them.

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I left the Marathon and headed back to campus walking alongside runners wearing their medals. I was completely awestruck by them, especially seeing that they’re just normal people who happened to also run 26.2 miles today. And I continue to be awestruck of them now as I write this. I said today that these runners made me want to start running more, but we’ll see if I can drag myself out of bed in the morning. I’m not as motivated to workout as they are.

I’m so thankful for my college experience and everything this city has given me. But more than anything, no matter where I am next Marathon Monday, I’m just really happy and proud to call myself a Bostonian. #BostonStrong

The new Avett Brothers album can’t come soon enough

I’ve come to the realization lately that The Avett Brothers may just be my favorite band.

According to my iTunes Library, I am currently in possession of 12 of their albums, and 143 of their songs. I’m listening to them more now than I have in the 7 years I’ve been a fan, and I feel like I’m just now really appreciating how talented they are. I’m also fairly certain this is the third time I’m writing about them this year, but I just have a lot to say– so you get to read about them again. Lucky!

Between a mix LPs, EPs, and Live Albums, The Avett Brothers have put out 17 releases to date. One would think that is more than enough music to fill a fan’s music library to satisfaction. But, it’s not enough for me and fortunately not enough for The Avett Brothers either. Their newest album, True Sadness, is set to come out on June 24th and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

The band has been playing some of the new songs from the album ahead of the release date at their live shows, and I am not disappointed in what I’ve heard so far. In fact, I’m probably the most excited for this album release out of all releases that I know are coming up.

The first song I heard, “Ain’t No Man,” was sent to me in an email from my dad, who is also the person who introduced me to The Avett Brothers in the first place. I get pretty fan-girly about musicians, but I really think he’s the biggest Avett Brothers fangirl there is. He always knows what’s going on with them, so I was psyched to get his email. What I’m trying to say here is thanks, dad, for sending the song along. Also for the introduction to the band 7 years ago.

love “Ain’t No Man.” I actually think I like it better than any song off of the last Avett Brother’s LP, Magpie and the Dandelion (2013).It has a funky bass line, the lyrics are good, and I love how the audience gets into it and claps along in this video. It’s so stripped down and simple, but so catchy and exciting at the same time.  I have listened to this at least once a day since it was first sent to me and that is not an exaggeration. They also performed this song at SXSW, so it seems like it’s being used as a lead single to promote the album (I’m not sure about this, but if so– GOOD CHOICE).

Another song they’ve been performing is “True Sadness,” which is also the title of the album. I really like this song as well, especially lyrically, but I still prefer “Ain’t No Man” to it. There’s something about that bass line and clapping in “Ain’t No Man” that I just can’t get over. I’m a little obsessed. Can you tell?

I often have defaulted to The Avett Brothers in the summertime because for some reason I associate them with warm weather, so it is very exciting (and seems fitting) that they would put out some new jams for me right in prime summer music time. We’re a little over two months out from the album release and I am already counting down the days (there’s 70).

 

Paris Creperie, Coolidge Corner

So, today I went on another breakfast adventure. This time, it was to Paris Creperie in Coolidge Corner. This place is right off the Coolidge Corner T-stop, across from the bookstore and right before the movie theater.

Having been to Coolidge Corner many times on errands, I have walked past this restaurant repeatedly without ever paying close attention to it. In the back of my mind, I knew it was there but I have never tried it in the 8 months I’ve lived in Brookline. It was one of those things I’ve wanted to do, but never got around to.

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Today, on a mission for some breakfast, I finally got around to getting a nice crepe. Since it was a weekday morning, we didn’t think it would be too crowded in the restaurant, but we were very wrong. The restaurant itself is small and has limited seating, so it was completely full when we walked in. Luckily, while we were waiting in line to order (the restaurant works similarly to a Panera Bread), some people got up and we were able to snag a table.

There were so many options of sweet or savory crepes that it took me longer than usual to decide what I wanted. Ultimately, I went for the French Toast Crepe, which was a cinnamon infused crepe with eggs, maple syrup and powdered sugar. You also got a choice of adding strawberries, blueberries or bananas to this crepe. I added fresh strawberries to mine, which only made it better! It was the perfect amount of sweetness for me, especially because I love cinnamon, and was a it huge portion (even though I still ate the whole thing). I definitely wasn’t hungry for the rest of the afternoon.

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But beyond the just crepes, this place has Nutella drinks. Nutella Hot Chocolate, Nutella Mint Hot Chocolate, Nutella Frozen Hot Chocolate, Nutella Lattes… And I’m going to be honest here, I’m not even the biggest Nutella fan, but I was excited about all of these options and obviously had to try one.

I opted for the Nutella Latte, because it was breakfast and I wanted the caffeine.  It was honestly one of the best lattes I have ever had, definitely superior to any Starbucks latte I have ever ordered. Just thinking about it now makes me want to go back and get another one. It came in a cute, big Paris Creperie mug and had a design on top of the foam made from cocoa powder. I was a little bitter about the fact that the design was a snowflake in April, even though it was unfortunately very fitting, but the fact that it had a design at all made me excited. I just think there’s something about a nice looking latte that makes it taste even better.

And while my crepe was very good, I think was more excited about this latte. I mean, just look at  how perfect it is!

I think I will definitely come back here in the future, but I’m sure it’s impossible to find a table on the weekends, so I may have to keep it as a weekday treat. There were so many different kinds of crepes that I would love to try, and hopefully I’ll be able to taste all of them at some point. However, one thing’s for sure: I will always be ordering a Nutella latte.

 

Vance Joy at House of Blues Boston

Last night I was able to attend Vance Joy’s “Fire and the Flood Tour” at the House of Blues in Boston. It was the last night of his North American tour and I just felt so fortunate to have been there!

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In the past year and half or so I’ve seen Vance Joy 3 other times. Once at a free show at Copley Square, once when he opened for Taylor Swift, and once when he performed at the free Mix 104.1 Mixfest. I knew that he was an incredible performer and that I loved his album, so I was in for a good night.

The entire show was so, so good (despite multiple tall boys standing directly in front of me throughout the concert-but that could be another post within itself). Vance Joy is one of my favorite musicians right now and I was just generally excited to be there. I love his style of music, his voice, his lyrics– and he’s not exactly difficult to look at either (he’s beautiful).

One of my favorite parts of the night was when he sang “Straight Into Your Arms.” It’s one of my top 3 songs by him, but it was put out on a re-release of his album so I thought that there was no way he’d perform it. I was so surprised and happy when he did!

Also, “Riptide” and “Fire and the Flood” were amazing because of the vibe they created in the room. The crowd was pretty excited throughout the whole show, but these two songs in particular were amazing since it seemed like every single person was singing along. I love it when an artist can step back from the microphone and you hear the entire room belting out the lyrics. It’s such a magical thing.

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I also got to see Jamie Lawson last night, a singer-songwriter who is signed to Ed Sheeran’s record label. His song “Wasn’t Expecting That” has gotten some radio play and I was so excited to when he was announced as the opener. I have listened to his entire album, and really like it, but his voice is 10x better live than it is recorded (in my opinion). I was so impressed by him, I enjoyed his set almost as much as Vance’s.

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Jamie also stood by the merch stand to talk to people after the show. We got a picture with him and he was so sweet. If you aren’t familiar with him, definitely check him out!

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In general, it was a great way to spend a Friday night. Concerts are literally my favorite way to spend my time, and I hadn’t been to one in months. I love living in the city because it provides so many opportunities to see the artists I adore. Another good thing: it’s probably the last time I’ll have to get those  black “under 21” Sharpie X’s on the back my hands at the House of Blues. 21 is less than 2 months away!