Body Hair and the Horrible Machine

 

First of all, fuck shaving.

I have very sensitive skin, and I’m prone to outbreaks of eczema. Shaving makes it much, much worse. For the past year, I’ve had these stubborn little patches of eczema on my armpits and inner thighs that just won’t go away. Moisturizing ointment and steroid cream help, but each time I shave, they come back, itchier and redder than before. It’s razor burn, turned up to eleven.

Because of this, I began to research other methods of hair removal and eventually bought an epilator. For those of you who don’t know, an epilator is a handheld machine, about the size of an electric shaver, but instead of razor blades it has spinning rows of tweezers to pluck out hair.

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I affectionately call it the Horrible Machine.

 

It hurts. A lot.

When you use tweezers, the hair is gently pulled out of your skin, one at a time, at your leisure. With an epilator, large chunks of hair are grabbed at the same time and yanked out, over and over again as the rows of tweezers spin.

It’s terrifying. If you look the Horrible Machine in the eye, the spinning tweezers look like rows of gnashing teeth that are just itching to rip your soul apart.

Still, the hair doesn’t grow back for about a week and when it does, it’s thinner and softer and comes out easier. It also doesn’t give me spontaneous, fiery eczema. Despite the pain, it was good idea.

The Horrible Machine worked so well, I decided to try it on my pubic hair.

It turns out that down there is really sensitive. It was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever done to myself, and that’s including the time I burned letters into my leg with a knife and a lighter when I was seventeen (angry teenagers do dumb things, you guys).

It still worked, in that the my skin stayed smooth for a relatively long time, but the pain wasn’t worth it. After a month of trying, I gave up.

Still, it seemed like the best solution for the rest of my body hair. After months of experimenting, I duct-taped the remaining shreds of my soul back together and accepted the Horrible Machine into my life.

But why do I put myself through all this pain? No matter what, in order to remove my body hair, I have to painfully rip it out by the roots, zap it with expensive lasers that might cause permanent damage, or give myself perpetual eczema and never take care of my skin properly.

Meanwhile, a man can have his glorious tufts of armpit hair poking out of his shirt holes every time he scratches his nose.

Fuck that.

If I were lost in the wilderness for more than ten days, I guarantee you that, upon being rescued, I would have a uni-brow, a mustache, and armpit, leg, and pubic hair that would impress a Sasquatch enthusiast.

Sexy. I know.

You know what? There is nothing wrong with my armpit hair. If given the chance, my own tufts of armpit hair would just as glorious as any man’s. Yes, I did receive the standard body image issues that seem to come from growing up in Western culture, but I’m over it now. I happen to like my body, and growing hair is just one of the many things my body is good at doing.

Why do I have to remove my body hair just because I also have a vagina?

The Horrible Machine is a shaky compromise. It’s painful and time-consuming and it sprays hair everywhere, but I only have to use it a few times a month.

And when I don’t feel like having my hair violently ripped out by the roots, everyone can just deal with my armpit hair.

 

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Dammit, Jim! This is a grammar lesson, not a spelling lesson.

On my last day of the CELTA course, I had to teach a grammar lesson.

So far, I’d had a hard time with teaching grammar. I think that might come from my own dislike of it. As a language learner, I hated grammar lessons. Memorizing formulas and filling out worksheets never stuck with me, and I had been traumatized by a Spanish teacher in high school who made us do worksheets every day and nothing else (someone stole the giant Mexican flag from her classroom and wore it as a cape during the school year. Stealing is wrong, but I still giggled when I found out). I always preferred to be immersed in the language and figure out the rules on my own as I went along. I’ve always thought that grammar isn’t terribly important when learning a language, as long as you can get the meaning across.

Apparently that’s not how Cambridge wants English to be taught. My blasé attitude toward grammar did not help me when I had to teach it.

It also didn’t help me sell it to the students. I learned the hard way that if you spend the lesson thinking, “This is stupid. Why am I doing this. I hate this,” they’ll know. You guys, students can read minds.

My solution was to pretend to be a different teacher. A teacher who was good at teaching grammar. Specifically, I pretended to be one of my classmates, who had given some phenomenal grammar lessons throughout the course.

We weren’t required to observe each other teaching during the last week, so I had a lot more time to prepare for my lesson. I spent hours researching and planning how I was going to explain the grammar, trying to make my lesson as structured and interactive as possible. On the day of my lesson, I found an empty classroom and spent about an hour rehearsing how I would get the students to figure out the answers and practicing how I would write it out on the board.

All that preparation, while probably unrealistic for a full-time teacher, made a HUGE difference for me. I felt confident and in control, and I was able to have fun with the material. I actually liked the topic I was teaching, and so did the students.

About halfway through the lesson, a student tried to ask me a question, but struggled with a word that he wasn’t sure about. I said the word for him and he nodded, but still had trouble pronouncing it. He asked if I could write the word out so he could see it.

As I was writing the word on the board, I realized that I wasn’t exactly sure how to spell it. Had I ever seen this word written before? I paused, added another L, erased it with my fingertips, thought, added the L again, and then stood back to admire my handiwork. There, on the board for the entire class, was the word:

Privilledge

I looked at it and thought, “Well, that doesn’t look right.” As I wondered how I was going to fix it, I could hear the scratching noise of the student writing it down. I threw myself at the board to cover the word, using my body to protect him from my atrocious spelling. I turned my head to look over my shoulder at the student, screeching, “Don’t write that! I wrote it wrong!”

I snatched up the eraser and frantically tried to erase the offending word. This was the eraser that we had all been using for our lessons during the month-long CELTA course and no one had time to clean it, which meant the eraser was coated with dry erase residue. As such, I didn’t erase the word so much as I smeared the letters around and turned the white board purple.

“This isn’t a word that comes up a lot,” I said, casually trying to erase the smears with my hand. The smears didn’t go away, but my hand was now purple. “We need to move on now, but I’ll get the correct spelling for you before class is over.”

I was very pleased with how the rest of the lesson went. All my preparation had paid off, at least with the grammar. But as we moved through the lesson, I completely forgot about my promise. If I had been left to my own devices, my student would still be wondering about that mysterious word. Fortunately, one of my friends was in the room observing. At the very end of the lesson, he caught my eye and discreetly showed me the word he had written down for me:

privilege

He doesn’t own a smart phone, so I can only assume that he’s just better at English than I am. If this were a dramatic movie about my struggles as an English teacher, I would have thrown my arms around him and wept tears of joy and gratitude. Instead, I whispered, “Thank you!” and wrote the word on the board.

Later, my instructor pointed out that there was a dictionary on the table the entire time. He said it would have been perfectly fine to stop and look up the word. “But you still went back to it at the end, so it wasn’t a problem,” he added. This made me think it would have been a problem if my friend hadn’t come to my rescue. Thanks, buddy. =)

One of my lessons that week was about the future and technology. As I was looking for material to use, images of Patrick Stewart kept popping up. Since he apparently really wanted to be a part of my lesson, here is the image I used:

star_trek_05

Image via acidcow.com
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The Girl I Want to Push

Good news, people in my computer! I passed the CELTA course! I learned a lot, but it’s going to take a while for me to recover from it.

About a week ago, I noticed a mysterious folder on my desktop labeled Mooo. When I looked inside I found a bunch of things I had written a few years ago when I was still living on campus at my university. Since the writing department of my brain is currently out of commission , here is a bit of wisdom from a 23-year-old hedgehog.

***

There’s this girl that I always see on campus. I think she lives in the same area that I do, because I always see her when I’m walking to or from my apartment. I don’t know her name. I’ve never spoken to her. I don’t think we’ve ever made eye contact.

But I really want to push her.

She dresses very well. Every time I see her, she’s always wearing spiffy clothes and high heels that make it sound like she’s being followed by a horse. She never carries a backpack. Instead, I think she puts all of her things for school in a really big, expensive looking purse. Her hair is always done and her nails are immaculate.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Plenty of people, not just women, are very concerned with their appearance and always try to look their best when they go out in public. Some of them even pull it off. That isn’t what bothers me about her.

What bothers me is her face.

It’s a normal looking face, I suppose. All of the parts seem to be in the right place and it’s more or less symmetrical. There is nothing aesthetically wrong with it. What gets to me is that, in all of the times I’ve seen her in the past year, she always looks upset. She never looks happy or tranquil or pensive and I’ve never seen her with headphones on. No, she always looks like something is bothering her.

To me, this seems counterproductive. What’s the point in dressing so flashy if you’re going to act so hostile? Do you want people to approach you or not? From what I’ve seen, people who normally dress like this want attention, so they try to appear friendly and easygoing. That’s not the case with this girl.

Another thing: I suspect that she doesn’t know how to walk in heels. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this. I personally hate walking in heels and whenever I wear them, I have this fear of slipping and falling to my death or breaking an ankle. In short, heels suck. In the past two semesters, I’ve never seen this girl not wearing heels. And not just any heels. Stilettos.

For those of you who don’t know, stilettos are really hard to walk in because the heel is so pointy. There’s practically nothing to help you balance. This girl, apparently, does not have good balance. When she walks, she wobbles from side to side and, from her posture, it looks like she’s struggling to stay upright. Sometimes she looks downright terrified that she’s going to fall.

I could be wrong, though. She might just think that swaying her hips is sexy. Do men find that attractive? I can understand that, but I think she’s doing it wrong. More than anything, it just looks like she’s trying not to fall over. Is she trying to appeal to people with a fetish for not falling down and being upset about it?

All of this seems wrong to me, somehow. Seeing her makes me feel uneasy, as if she’s a very well-dressed void ship.

Crap.

Crap.

Image via The Doctor Who Site

Why is she so upset all the time? If heels make her uncomfortable, why does she insist on wearing them? Is she real?

All of these questions, especially the last one, make me want to push her over and scream, “What’s wrong with your face?!” I feel like it’s the right thing to do. Maybe I’m supposed to help her somehow. Maybe if I push her it’ll help her get over her fear of falling and she can move on with her life. Why else would I have this strong desire to knock her over?

 

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Fuck My Lesson Plans: a Lesson on Giving a Bad Grammar Lesson

About a week and a half into the teacher training program, I made an important discovery:

I was exhausted.

I’d already taught three lessons at this point. Each day I’d had to teach (and most of the other days, too), I’d gotten about 3 hours of sleep because I’d spent the previous night working on and obsessing over my lesson plans.

All three lessons went pretty well, thanks to my obsessive over-preparedness, but I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep this up for long.

So when I noticed that it was only halfway through the week and I already felt like I’d been run over by a Lastwagen, I decided on a different strategy:

Fuck my lesson plans.

It made for a lovely night. Instead of spending hours reading the textbook and writing out everything I might possibly need to explain, I told myself, “Whatever, I’ll just wing it.” I made dinner, I went for a walk, I watched some terrible anime on YouTube, and I talked to my manwich on Skype. There may also have been a few shots of whiskey here and there.

This is not how a good teacher prepares a grammar lesson.

The next day was a caffeine-fueled shitstorm. I was so panicked that I was using every break between classes to make copies and throw together some kind of explanation for the poor students who expected to learn something from me that afternoon.

All things considered, the lesson didn’t actually go that bad. Somehow I managed to get things done, so they might have been fooled into thinking that I am a competent teacher. The problem was, I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to explain the grammar. I didn’t have any good examples to give them when they didn’t understand, so when they inevitably didn’t understand, the only thing I felt like I could do was correct them and move on. Almost everything I said was completely unscripted.

I had been so stressed out all day that it was something of a shock to my system to have to be calm and in control for the students. The moments when the students were working on their handouts were the worst. I walked around the room and helped students if they needed it, but after I’d made my rounds I had to sit quietly at my desk and wait until they were done.

It was a lot like being in time-out.

I was so relieved when the lesson was over. When the students walked out of the room, the first thought in my mind was, “Well, that was shit. It’s the weekend now! Woohoo!”

After my lesson, one of my classmates showed me a blind contour drawing she had made while I was teaching:

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The Joys of Confusing the Crap Out of Your Students

People keep asking me why I came to Berlin, so here goes. The condensed version.

Ultimately, I want to be a translator. I want to be in Germany long enough to have a good command of the language. Apparently, it’s hard to find enough clients to make a living when you first start out as a translator, so my plan is to get licensed to teach English. With that, hopefully I’ll be able to find some sort of job and not get kicked out of the country.

Why Berlin specifically?

I loved it when I came here three years ago. Also, the school is in Berlin. But mostly, I like it here.

Priorities.

It’s a British school called the Berlin School of English. It’s primarily a language school for people who want to learn English, but they also have a teacher training program which, so far, has been amazing.

Yes, it’s true. I’m going to a school where teachers are teaching me how to teach in a school.

I’m also one of two Americans in the program. There are a few people from other countries, but most of my classmates and teachers are from England. That means I’m hearing nothing but British English all day, Monday through Friday. I’ve decided to study them so I can replicate their accent when I go home.

I taught my first lesson on the third day of the program. I was extremely nervous. I probably got two hours of sleep and all day I kept going over and over my lesson plans, to the point where I wasn’t even seeing the paper when I read them. When it was time for me to teach, this is what happened:

I stood up in front of the board and said, “Da jia hao! Wo men xian zai shuo han yu!” I then drew this on the board.

Chinese

I turned back to the class and said, “Ni men hui shuo yi diar zhong wen?” Then I waited for them to answer.

Silence.

All of my students stared at me with wide, horrified eyes. The sheer “What the fuck is happening” was deafening.

I will treasure this memory forever.

After a few beats of silence, I smiled and said, “Just kidding. I just had to make sure you’re paying attention.” Then I began the lesson.

A classmate told me afterword that I seemed completely in control and comfortable in front of the class. That meant a lot to me, because I was actually terrified. I was scared that I would play my little prank, and the teacher observing me would be appalled. I was scared that during the feedback session, she would glare at me and say, “What the hell were you thinking?”

I did it anyway because I thought it was funny.

Again, priorities.

I wasn’t just afraid of the reaction to my joke. I was also scared that I wouldn’t be able to explain things well or that the students would get bored or that they wouldn’t want to talk and the room would be completely silent as they looked at me and expected something intelligent to happen.

None of that happened. I felt good about the lesson afterword, and my teacher and classmates all had very positive things to say about the way I handled the class. I’m so glad I chose to do this. I feel like, once this program is over, I just might make it as a not-terrible foreign language teacher.

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Execution Hedgehog is Back

It’s true. I’ve been in Berlin for almost three days now, and even though I felt like I was falling apart on my first day, things are going great so far.

Here’s an update on what’s been happening in my life up to now:

-I finished college. Yippee.

-I took a break from school and worked full time. I like where I worked, but I really don’t feel like doing data entry until I die. Also, there’s apparently not much you can do in the Southwest with a degree in German and no relevant job experience. I mean, writing all those papers gave me a good typing speed, which is why I got the data entry job, but it wasn’t exactly what I was picturing when I took out all those student loans.

-I have a boyfriend. We met last year volunteering at a comic convention and it’s been rainbows and unicorns and purple Zakus ever since. Sieg Zeon.

Mr. Purple Checkpoint Charlie

So what am I doing here? For the next month, I’ll be getting certified to teach English as a foreign language, but after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll find a job as an English teacher, maybe I’ll work as a freelance translator, maybe someone will pay me to walk their dog, or maybe I’ll be a prostitute until I pay off my student loans.

I have no idea what’s going to happen, is what I’m saying.

 

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Execution Hedgehog, Time Traveler

The flight back home from Shanghai was one of the most disorienting flights I’ve ever been on. I like to stay up all night right before I travel so I’ll be able to sleep on the plane, but this time my plan backfired. My flight was delayed by three hours, so I was stuck in the Shanghai airport, fighting to stay awake (this actually isn’t the first time this has happened. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I am a stubborn child).

I ended up watching the Conjuring on my laptop to pass the time. Jumping and screaming in terror is much better than falling asleep and missing your flight. I highly recommend watching scary movies during layovers.

Anyways, my flight from Shanghai to Chicago left at around 8:30 pm on a Thursday evening. Every twenty minutes or so I would open the window shutter to look outside at the ocean and the stars. At night near the mainland you can see the lights of all the fishing boats and everything else is so dark that they might as well be their own constellations. Flying over Japan at night was especially beautiful because I could see all the lights from the islands and the pathways that connect them in the water. That, on top of it being a cloudless night, meant that I had ample reason to be constantly looking out the window.

Also, there was complementary wine on this flight, which means that I wasn’t just looking out the window because I was bored; I was (drunkenly) blasting my eyeballs with beauty from the sky every time I opened the window shade.

I don’t know why I didn’t just leave the shade up. I think all the drunk people in my head decided that we couldn’t handle the intensity of that view for more than a few minutes at a time. In any case, every ten or fifteen minutes I would take off my headphones, raise the window shade, gape in awe at the sky and ocean, and then close the shade and go back to the squid documentary I was watching.

Eventually I got sleepy, so I closed my eyes and dozed off. I don’t know how long I was asleep, but when I woke up, the first thing I wanted to do was look out the window. Drunk and bleary-eyed, I lifted the shade, expecting to see more stars. Instead, I was hit in the face by a blinding shaft of light and I threw my hands up over my face as I squinted at the window in confusion. Why was the sun out? We left Shanghai at almost 9 o’clock at night.

It was actually a very beautiful sunrise. The sun was just coming up and the light was reflecting off the ocean. The clouds were streaked with red and the ocean was a shimmering gold surface that stretched into the distance as far as I could see. A sane, sober person might have taken a moment to appreciate the beauty of it all, but since I was neither of those things, I mumbled, “Well, that’s confusing,” and then slammed the shade down and went back to sleep.

The next time I woke up, I slowly lifted the shade and peeked under it, expecting to be blinded again. I think we were still over the ocean, but the sun had already gone down and it was dark again, except for a faint blue glow on the horizon. I had no idea what to make of this. I had gone from pitch darkness to sunrise to sunset in about 8 or 9 hours.

Flying is weird.

Finally, the plane landed in Chicago at 8:17 PM on a Thursday night. The same Thursday night that I had left Shanghai on at just after 8:30. I remember wanting to run up and down the aisles screaming, “It worked! It worked!” but people were pulling their luggage out of the overhead bins, so instead I sat there quietly and contemplated. Now that I was a time traveler, what did I want to do with the extra 13 minutes I had been given?

It doesn’t really matter what I wanted to do with those extra 13 minutes, because I ended up using them to wait for enough people to get out so I could reach my luggage.

In the end, it took about a thousand dollars and fifteen hours for me to travel 13 minutes back in time. During those extra 13 minutes, I was poor and cramped and a little grumpy.

Time travel really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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