Greetings and salutations, Rookies! This month’s theme is Power. You know, like money. Or fame. Or…that Kanye West song? Dammit, today is May first and I don’t even know. What is POWER? From whencehence does one’s POWER cometh, eth? Let us take a walk to the mountains, each one topped with a wise old person with a beard, and find out.
“Oh, sweetie! We can help you!” I am warmly welcomed once I’ve climbed mountain #1 by four young women named Charlotte, Miranda, Samantha, and Carrie. They seem happy and powerful to me. They have nice shoes and healthy hair and the two kick out in opposite directions whenever they laugh and drink their Cosmopolitans. (The magazine. Like, they stuff copies of the magazine Cosmopolitan into martini glasses and slurp the paper.)
“What is the meaning of POWER?” I beg.
“Babies!” cries Charlotte.
“The study of law!” suggests Miranda, throwing a gavel into the air and letting it land somewhere on the ground below.
“The female reproductive system!” slurps Samantha, throwing an ovary up into the air and letting it land somewhere on the ground below.
Carrie doesn’t respond. Instead, she rises, pours pig’s blood on herself, and starts looking at us all very intensely. The mountain begins to slowly crumble beneath our butts. This is sad to me because they have nice chairs, and my butt had gotten really comfy.
“Ugh, she always does this!” cries Charlotte. “What a silly gal, I heart her so much!” On that last word, her voice cracks for the 28th time in that sentence, and her head bursts into flames.
Samantha is trying to down the last of the Cosmopolitans, and Miranda has already evaporated into a handful of orange dust. I begin to run down the mountain before I, too, become a floating aura of what may or may not be female empowerment. But first I must get my answer. “Carrie! Wait! So the meaning of Power is revenge?” But it seems to be too late. She is now levitating into the heavens, as a woman who calls herself Sarah Jessica Parker appears out of nowhere and booms in a narrator’s voice so that all below can hear, “That night, we learned something special about power. Something something poop something. At least we will always have each other! Shoes!!!!!”
That was no help. I climb mountain #2, to find four other young women sitting against a picture-day backdrop with a New York City skyline painted on it. They tell me their names are Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshana. “Do you know what Power means?” I ask. They shake their heads and look sad. “Maybe we will find out in season two,” Hannah says. “Oh my god, you got renewed for a second season?” I ask. “Yes,” she answers. I do a happy little jig, and am so thrilled that I don’t even realize that I’ve fallen off the mountain completely.
At the top of mountain #3 is a college-age Tina Fey with a couple guys from her school. They tell me the name of this here spot is Old Rag Mountain, and Tina whispers in my ear that she climbed it because she thought she would get with one of the dudes, with no luck.*
“That sucks and I’m sorry,” I say. “But do you know the meaning of Power?”
“Not now, no. But one day, I will grow up and write Mean Girls and create 30 Rock and be Tina Fey, and then I will be the biggest badass ever, and have lots of power.”
“And what will it all MEEEEEEEEEAN?” I need to know, and I’m tired, and my butt still hurts.
“Technically, it will be granted to me by other people. I will show that I deserve it, however, by first finding power within myself.”
“That’s deep,” I say.
“I know,” says Tina Fey. “Will you be my best friend?”
“I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time. I need to go find power within myself,” I say, “or something.” Tina Fey is very sad that we are not friends. Poor Tina Fey.
Thinking about what Tina Fey said, I kneel by a pond down on ground level and stare into my reflection. I furrow my brow and adjust my jawline so that I look as if I could be a politician, or an actor playing a politician, or the politician character’s right-hand dog/best friend. But what stares back at me is not 2008-era Kevin Bacon, or a beagle with surprisingly strong comic timing. It is the “Blister in the Sun” scene from My So-Called Life. The American Beauty scene from Freaks and Geeks. The “Dancing on My Own” scene from Girls. Holy shit, private bedroom-dancing scenes are the best kind of scene EVER. I go home, put on some Madonna, and jam out by myself.
In all seriousness though, and without sounding like, LET’S TALK ABOUT MY STORY OF PERSONAL TRIUMPH—yesterday I was having a shitty day in what felt like a series of many shitty weeks. After the inevitable bathroom-stall sobfest/pity party, I spent my next class writing instead of taking notes. As I was venting, I ended up demanding to know why I was letting dumb things bother me and make me feel bad, and insisting on being tired of it and getting over it, and it slowly became a kind of personal manifesto, and then on the way to my next class I thought of that scene from Girls and how when Hannah is throwing her own pity party, she could have listened to sad acoustic music, but chose ROBYN instead. So I put “Dancing on My Own” on my iPod and felt like I was GLIDING through the halls and kind of smiled to myself on accident before I realized I looked mildly disturbed and then I just kept smiling anyway. And I felt way better, and OK with myself, and with most things.
What’s nice about the kind of power you create for yourself when you’re able to change the way you feel about a situation instead of waiting for the situation to change for you is that you can’t ever get nostalgic for that feeling, the feeling of having power over how you decide to deal with something. You can’t ever miss it the way you miss the happiness that comes from nice memories of concerts or summer or vacations or times with friends or whatever, because it’s really just you being you. Once you reach that mindset, you can always come back to it. And knowing that made me feel like the most powerful, in-control-of-my-life-so-eff-y’all person since Some Evil Dictator Person.
Different outlets work for different people, and I personally was happy that pure thinking and writing got me there. This month, we’re gonna talk about inner-power-searchers of all kinds, but the ones from the ’80s especially, when there were SO MANY GOOD ONES. Not just Madonna, but, like, I think John Hughes made coming to terms with your own weaknesses and really owning them and turning them into personal power a somewhat radical act. Leeann is also writing about a few good-lookin’ subcultures of the time who will inspire your pants off. Then we have lots of ’80s angst-dwellers like Morrissey, who always makes me feel like I can listen to depresso lyrics set to a somewhat upbeat tune and in that way kind of accept feelings of angst and anxiousness. Power is also a weird, scary, funny part of high school politics, so get ready for HEATHERS REFERENCES GALORE.
I really hope you like all of it. Plus, omg, SCHOOL IS ALMOST OVER, so we have all the more reason to bounce around to Culture Club as we write about prom.
* If you get this reference to Tina Fey’s essay in her book Bossypants, consider yourself a member of the culturally elite. P.S. THIS FOOTNOTE IS A REFERENCE TOO AND I AM META.