In which our heroine gives long overdue respect to Alex Mack.

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Hello all! I wrote this for another blog but not sure when or if it will ever be posted, so I’m going to share it here as well. Prepare yourselves for a nostalgiaquake:

Women in your mid-20s to 30s: take a moment & think back to your youth. Go back to the days when your biggest stress in life was getting stuck on a particularly difficult level of Super Mario 3 & when Nickelodeon ruled your world. Name the TV character you thought was the coolest person on earth. The girl you would have killed to be best friends with. Who was that fully rad chick you admired more than anyone else on TV?

If you answered Clarissa, you’re wrong & you made my heart sad. The correct answer is Alex Mack.

The Secret Life of Alex Mack is possibly the most underrated series Nickelodeon produced in the 90s. Ask any mid-late 20 something to list their favorite SNICK lineup shows & you may not hear about Alex until they hit around the 5-7 range. But, for my money, Alex Mack was maybe the most meaningful live action show Nickelodeon ever made.

Now, I already hear the sounds of derision coming from all corners of the internet. “ALEX MACK?!? Have you forgotten about the gem that is The Adventures of Pete & Pete? The hell is wrong with you, lady?!?”

Calm down, yall. Take some cleansing breaths to avoid hyperventilation & allow me to explain.

As anyone woman will tell you, being an adolescent girl is hard. I’m not saying adolescence is a walk in the park for either gender, but age 11 to 17 is a particularly horrific time for ladies. One minute you’re climbing trees & rolling down hills without the first neurotic thought about your awesome, agile little girl body. Next thing you know, your body is leading a revolt against you, charging towards womanhood well before you’re ready for it. You’re the ugliest you’ve ever been and probably ever will be. You concoct crazy nonsense anxieties about how fat your knees are & what ugly toes you have & why can’t your fingers be just a little bit skinnier, is that so much to ask?

Let’s not even get into the things that go on with your lady waterworks. There are no words for how weird THAT experience is the first time it occurs.

Oh & your brain is all hormone addled making you simultaneously hate everything & love everything all at once. Not only are you ugly, you’re a full blown crazy person.

All these factors come together to make you feel completely stuck in a weird ass body that can’t make up it’s mind about who it wants to be from day to day. And you’re completely powerless to change it. Best thing you can do is pray that 18 comes quickly & that you make it there unscathed. In this God awful mess lies the genius of Alex Mack.

Alex was a teenage girl caught smack in the middle of the unpleasant phase of life that is puberty. First day of junior high, she’s minding her own business, walking home from school when she comes thisclose to being squished by a truck. In the process, she gets covered in the chemical goop the truck was hauling. Now, for your average teenage girl, nearly getting hit by a truck would just be another traumatic experience en route to adulthood. She’d go to therapy & move on. But for our girl, the accident is just the first of many potentially traumatic experiences.

You see, ALEX GETS SUPERPOWERS. Telekinesis! Electricity in her fingers! The ability to melt into liquid & ooze into hard to reach places! While she looks the same 90% of the time, the chemical exposure makes Alex a full blown mutant. Not only a mutant, but a mutant with woefully unpredictable abilities. If Alex got freaked out, her skin would start glowing. Her ability to control her powers went hand in hand with her ability to deal with her emotions. She was a little teenage Incredible Hulk-esque girl, minus the green skinned crazy strength & with the addition of bib overalls & cool hats. So now, in the midst of all the terrors biology is generally subjecting her to, the GC-161 officially made her a circus freak.

That freakiness is precisely what made Alex Mack so great. Did she hide away in her bedroom for the rest of her life, lamenting that she never got to go to the spring dance because she was a chemically mutated freak? Hell no! With the help of her sister & closest pals, she set out on a mission to get answers. She learned to use her powers to help her get information about the chemical she was exposed to & the company behind it. All the while dealing with the standard issue problems for girls her age, like boys & school & the bizarro stuff going on with her body. If that doesn’t make her a role model for tiny feminists everywhere, I don’t begin to know what would.

Alex Mack was meaningful because she stood for something much deeper than most TV shows directed at preteens during that time. Watching her go on adventures as a completely kickass teenage mutant chick somehow made my own adolescence more tolerable. I mean, I may have had braces & chubby knees, but at least I didn’t glow when I was nervous. I was nervous ALL THE TIME. That would have been a nightmare! Alex Mack ultimately taught me that no matter how awkward I may feel, I can always use the things that make me feel awkward to my advantage. My weirdness is my greatest asset because it’s what makes me unique & powerful. To an odd little girl in the midst of a puberty tsunami, that lesson meant the world.

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In which our heroine gets groped in public, Chapter I: Runaway Bride in da Club

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People touch me. Frequently.

I’m not talking about people I know touching me. I’m just talking about people. Random, don’t know them from Adam PEOPLE. The public at large, for reasons that are beyond my comprehension, feel very entitled to touch me.

And I’m also not talking about putting an arm around me or giving me a friendly hug. I’m talking about TOUCHING me with pervy intent. And typically doing so without even an introduction or buying me a drink or saying “I like your face, let’s make out”…they just roll up out of the clear blue & get all handsy. It’s been a persistent problem for me since I hit puberty & it’s gotten worse & worse over time. I’m over it. Consider this me putting all of the planet earth on notice (that’s how the internet works, right?). Enough is enough. I want the following funny & awkward (fawkward?) tales of woe to be the last of this icky garbage, you hear me? This post is part one of a 3 part series outlining how intense this problem has been in my life thus far.

So gather round children! Enjoy one of the greatest hits from my lifetime of being publicly molested by randos!

Chapter 1:
The Runaway Bride -or – You Can Find me in “Da Club”.

I LOVE HALLOWEEN. Love it. It’s my favorite holiday. I’ve dressed up
as something almost every year of my life & college was no different. My senior year of college, the only fraternity I liked put on a Halloween party at the one nightclub near my college. I thought “Halloween, Sig Taus, AND dancing?! Yes please!” I was all over it.

But I was wrong. Oh so very wrong.

You see, when I say nightclub, you’re probably imagining something very different from the reality of this place. Julians was a bar with a dance floor in one room, a DJ, & mirrors on some of the walls. That’s it. Oh, and it was on a street well known for hookers & drug dealers. (Classy joint, no?)

Also, I’d never been to a club at this point. I’d barely even been to a bar.
Me & my 21 year old “I aint never rode a plane” naïveté thought going to the club was like going to a bar that just happened to have more room for dancing. I didn’t know yet that, in many ways, the club is much more closely related to the meat market than the local pub.

But, since I was young & simple, I was just super excited about Halloween without care one about how creepy this place might be. I threw together the cheapest, quickest costume I could think of & went on my way.

Now, the costume I chose was cute, but in no way was it slutty. It wasn’t even particularly sexy or attractive. I went as a runaway bride – white dress, veil, running shoes, sweatbands. Easy peasy & a cheap joke…best I could do at the time. But based on the dance floor exchange I had with a gentleman (word used liberally & with heavy sarcasm), you’d think I’d walked up in there looking like a stripper.

So picture it! Little 21 year old blondie Allison (used to be blonde…I know, its shocking) dancing away in my little costume, minding my own business, having a good time, when suddenly, a wild sketchy townie man appears! Not only appears, but stands himself directly in my bubble of personal space.

Now, I don’t do the whole MTV grind thing when I dance with people. It weirds me out. I’m more of a two-stepper. So when this man put himself all up in my space, I did what anyone else would do…I immediately froze in place & stared at him blankly. Cause I’m smooth like that. Instead of taking this as a screaming signal of “DO NOT WANT”, he said “What? Cant I get a dance on your wedding night?”

Ok, 1. Obviously not my wedding night, jack. Your line is bad & you should feel bad. And 2. No, you cannot “get a dance”. You could have asked me to dance a minute ago, but instead you just jumped all up in my bubble & seemed surprised by my lack of response. See, I’m a lady, not a stripper – you can’t expect me to grind on you just because you walk up & invade my personal space.

That’s all what I would have said to him had I not still been frozen. At the time freezing solid was my only defense mechanism against creepy, so I was committed to it. I continued staring at him & maybe mumbled “…err um…no”. Again, this should have told old dude something & should be the end of the story, but alas, it is not.

The man then, as either a hail mary or sign of truly profound social ignorance, put his arm around my waist, pulled me against him, and stuck his tongue in my ear. After which he let me go & looked at me like all proud like “Now about that dance I wanted…”

He stuck. His tongue. In my ear.

MY. EAR.

That man is lucky I was 21 & simple then, not 29 & jaded like I am now. Otherwise, he may not have survived the encounter.

I immediately wished I was Alex Mack & could just melt into goop & ooze away. That’d teach him to be gross. “Last time I did that, bitch just melted into the floor! Not doing that again.” But I couldn’t. So instead, I ran away.

Seriously. I just dipped. Off the dance floor, out the door, & back to the apartment without a second look. So ended the first & only time I went to “da club”.

Thanks again, creep! Way to ruin my fun.

In which our heroine is grateful & unafraid.

Dearest readers,

My intention for this blog is to not always be so serious & focused on the numerous ailments of humanity. My intention is actually to be as funny as possible, although you wouldn’t know it by the last few posts. I started it to make people laugh. But lately, a lot of things have happened that have had me thinking about the world we’re living in, and none of the conclusions I come to are really very funny. I promise, loads of fun things are in the works. But for right now, I have other things on my chest & they’ve got to come off. I appreciate you following me along in my madness & giving even the most cursory glance at the things I have to say.

In the summer of 2006, I moved to Blacksburg, Virginia. In late August, I was driving home from my first day of graduate school at Radford University when my older sister called to tell me that we had an escaped convict on the loose. Go home, lock the door, don’t talk to strangers…she told me all that good stuff your older sister is supposed to tell you when she’s afraid. The next morning, that convict shot & killed a police officer on Virginia Tech’s campus before ultimately being caught. It was a very sad day for the community, but also something that at the time I just accepted as a reality. Being a police officer is a dangerous job that, sadly, costs many brave & honorable people their lives. It’s horrible & a tragedy, but it happens. So goes life outside the West Virginia hills, I supposed. After a few weeks, community had it’s period of mourning & moved on. I didn’t think much of it beyond that.

I didn’t think much of it because I assumed that was the last bad thing that I’d be seeing during my time in this lovely town. Sadly, I was very wrong.

8 months later, on the morning of April 16, 2007, I was sleeping on my sister’s couch after undergoing an invasive biopsy. I’d gone in for a routine exam the month before & my doctor saw some worrisome tissue changes. Those changes could be nothing at all, just my body being weird, or they could be signs of cancer. And if they were cancerous changes, they appeared to have been progressing for some time (translation: we probably didn’t catch it early & cancer has a head start on eating me alive). Needless to say, I was a wreck. A quivering, neurotic mess of a human being. I was doomed at 23. The long life of unbridled joy that up until that point I’d felt so entitled to just got cancelled by the big C & I was as pissed off at that as I had been in my whole life. After the biopsy, I took a handful of the prescription narcotics randomly hanging out in my sisters cabinets (because fuck you DEA, I AM DYING & you’re not the boss of me) & passed out until the early afternoon.

When I came to, Virginia Tech was on CNN. While I was out sleep-moping, 32 people had been gunned down by a man none of them knew. The deadliest mass shooting in American history happened 20 minutes from the house I’d been sleeping in all morning. The horror that came over me in that moment is something I’ve always failed to properly articulate. It was the most wounded feeling of vulnerability & terror I’ve ever experienced. I thank God it passed into numbness quickly.

I went to the candlelight vigil days later. I cried a lot. I heard the stories of the exceptional lives we lost that day for no reason at all & was nauseated by the waste. I also heard the man that murdered these people spew his special blend of crazy, bile, & hatefulness on the world from beyond the grave. I vowed to never say his name, because I refused to give him another second of airplay. I thanked God neither my sister or brother in law had been on campus that morning. And in the midst of all this weeping & wailing, I learned the most valuable lesson of my life thus far:

Life gives no guarantees.

I had no right to curl up in defeat that morning because I MIGHT have cancer. I also MIGHT get hit by a bus, or blown up in a terrorist attack, or shot up by a crazy person. Or I might live to be 102 & have lots of fun & babies & die a happy, beloved old lady in my sleep. Who the hell knows? No one promised me a long, painless journey through life just because I’m Allison Ball & I’m a special little snowflake. The adolescent narcissism that still had a grip on my brain made that junk up & convinced me it was the truth. The real truth is that I will be on this planet precisely as long as I am meant to be & then I will die, be it in a blaze or a whimper. And this same process will happen equally to every person I love & every person I hate. Life will get us all in the end. We have no right to expect anything different.

Morbid & revolting, yes? It gets better, I promise. Just stick with me.

The silver lining of realizing that I’m actually not an invincible, eternal super-goddess turned out to be the development of a very powerful type of fearlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dead inside. Things absolutely scare me. But, as soon as I got it through my thick head that life doesn’t owe me anything, my day to day happiness became entirely my choice & my responsibility. I could continue moping & withering away because of how angry I am at all the things that have happened to me and how afraid I am of all the things that could happen to me in the future. Or I could get up, put on some mascara, & carpe the living hell out of every diem I have left. I chose the latter & continue to choose it every morning when my feet hit the floor.

I learned to embrace life on its terms instead of having a temper tantrum when it doesn’t meet my expectations. Even though life hasn’t been a full time picnic over the past few years, I’m ok with it. Better than ok, I’m just happy as hell to still be here. I’m alive. I’m healthy. The cancer I nearly quit life over never came to be. I have a warm bed & food in the fridge. I’m surrounded by amazing friends & family who love me very much. What can I really complain about? Ultimately, the terror I felt when I thought my own life was being unfairly cut short compounded with the horror the April 16th shooting inflicted on my community taught me a very hard, painful lesson in gratitude. And that gratitude has given me a great deal of freedom.

I’m not sure why I’m putting this out on the internet. I’m not really even sure what my point is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am hopeful that even with all the evils in the world, we as a people do not give in to fear & despair. We can’t let the actions of cowardly people convince us that all is lost & that all the light has been snuffed out of the world. Because it just isn’t true.

In Boston right now, there are many people who have been senselessly hurt by bombs some sinister being decided to put at the end of a marathon. BUT in the very same city, there are doctors, nurses, policemen, & firemen who have made taking care of those hurt people & keeping them safe their JOBS. They’re picking up the pieces in the aftermath of this mess & doing it entirely by choice. That’s not nothing. Far from nothing, that’s actually wonderful. We still have heroes. We still have good people who love complete strangers like family just because it’s the right thing to do. We can’t give up & give in to the blackness. On the contrary, we have to whatever we can to fight it.