Rejected.

pre-ps: remember those proto-youtube ‘Rejected’ videos? “My spoon is too big!!”

(Wow, 2002.)
But the real point of this post is NOT absurdist cartoons from my early college years.

You see, I recently got rejected. By a writing contest. Timothy McSweeney is just not that into me. Of course, he’s not the first self-important hipster in recent memory to decide he could do without me…

*Insert Jon-Stewart-style camera-mugging tie-adjustment.* 

Point is: I entered the McSweeney’s column contest about a month ago — which is a victory in itself, considering I found out about it just a week before, and I turned in my submission entire hours before the deadline.

There aren’t a lot of specific requirements — just the four questions below — and an original, quirky idea that’s smart & strange enough to suit the tastes of McS’s lit-hip readership. Seemed doable.

And even though I wasn’t selected, I’m still pretty proud of my attempt. Maybe I’ll just turn this into a column on my own. Then it could be the rejected idea that keeps on giving…

Enjoy:

A brief description of the proposed column:

My column is about breakups. I’ve been dumped three years in a row, all within a month of my birthday. (Beginning to wonder if it is in fact not them, but me. I write in order to figure it out.)

I was in my car the other day when Bryan Adams’ “Please Forgive Me” shuffled on my iPod. As I belted along, playing air drums on my steering wheel, I thought about how the breakup song genre can be broken down into a much more nuanced taxonomy. All heartbreak anthems are not created equal, and I like the idea of exploring that. You turn to different tunes for the different stages of heartbreak: anger, denial, driving by his apartment at 3:00 a.m., finger-wagging and moving-on, etc.

The prescription idea came later, and it seemed a natural fit, because music is such potent self-medication. And pharmaceutical ads are such fun to lampoon. Then I thought about expanding the concept to other typical post-breakup activities. And here we go. Ex-Rx.

One full example column:

Ex-Rx: Bryan Adams, “Please Forgive Me”

No one denies the pain you’re going through, and self-medicating with this early-90s adult contemporary hit is an acceptable coping mechanism according to the American Psychological Association(‘s message boards). Bryan Adams songs give your broken heart a healthy boost, including warm thoughts of Kevin Costner’s glory years and vague memories of the disco-ball darkness of roller skating rinks.

Use only as directed.

Active ingredients:
Nostalgia
Weepy Guitar
Power Bridge

Side Effects:
Using Bryan Adams could result in spontaneous displays of emotion in karaoke bars or karaoke-like behavior within your motor vehicle. The use of alcoholic beverages intensifies these symptoms. If you are prone to episodes of air guitar, do not use Bryan Adams while operating heavy machinery. Heightened sense of romantic heroism will usually pass within a 24-hour period. Resist the urge to contact your ex until at least 24 hours have passed. *If you’re feeling lonely, don’t*…post the YouTube video on your Facebook wall after 12:00 a.m., as feelings of post-post remorse may occur.

Brief descriptions of three additional installments of your column:

Future columns would examine more songs and their corresponding moods: Jeff Buckley’s “Lover You Should’ve Come Over”, Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable”, Fleming & John’s “Ugly Girl”, Sam Cooke’s…pretty much anything. The format would most likely remain close to the original, but maybe new sections evolve: a doctor’s testimony, diagnostic quiz, holistic self-care, etc.

And I imagine the concept easily expanding to cover other post-breakup activities, alternating between music and other topics, like: binge shopping, martinis, Nora Ephron films, rebound sex, joining a gym (or book club), etc.

A short biographical note:

Hi. My name is Sarah Jenkins. I just turned 29, and I’m a writer from Springfield, Mo. (Hometown of Brad Pitt and Bob “have your pets spayed or neutered” Barker; home state of Jon Hamm and Todd “shut that whole thing down” Akin. Yes, we’re known for our beautiful men and a natural concern for reproductive issues.)

Other things you might like to know: I play the accordion, I ran the Chicago marathon, I have a cat named Jenksie, I do improv comedy, and sometimes people tell me I remind them of Tina Fey. And then I kiss them full on the mouth.

My major relationships have been with men who have dark hair and wear glasses, physically resembling both myself and my middle school science teacher. Probably not a coincidence.

:::

So that’s a thing. You’re invited to reject me, too. Everybody’s doing it. But fair warning: I’m probably going to blog about it.

Please forgive me, I know not what I do…

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Me, Myself & Jenksie Cat

Warning: This post contains a few “oh snap!”s and at least one “oh no she didn’t!!” Proceed at your own risk…

An open letter to every boy who ever broke my heart.
(yes. this is happening.)

Dearest ex-dearest(s):

If you think this post is about you, it probably is. (But also really, really isn’t.)

This letter began as musings that tossed around in my head while I was running tonight. I think about you sometimes when I run…and I’m sorry to admit these thoughts are not always nice. Maybe because running is one of the times in life when I like myself the most…

Still, I got a little sad with each doo-wop song that shuffled on my iPod, and so I started to get a little pissed off. (This pissed-ness aided, no doubt, by the one-two punch that is Beyoncé & The Raconteurs, also on regular earbud rotation.) While jogging along to finger-wagging pop songs about Moving On and Being Okay About It, I thought about how I’ve spent years of my life waiting for some boy to like me back (or like me’front… it’s an old joke. still love it).

And where has all this waiting gotten me? Back to the same old place… just me, myself, and my cat.

It’s been almost two months since the most recent breakup. And tonight was maybe the first night since then that I’ve felt 100% content to be alone. Sure, I’m okay about it most of the time. But tonight — this little night that I spent here all by my lonesome — was a night I wouldn’t trade for time with you or any other boy. (Besides, you know, the standard Jon Hamm / Adam Scott / Gene Kelly fantasy list.)
And I mean that. For once. 100%.

This feeling is kind of a novelty. This “happy to be alone” feeling. And it’s growing on me. Tonight I played piano, cooked super good vegetarian food, went running in perfect weather, watched The Daily Show. Things I enjoy, but often put off when we were together, so that I could spend time with you.

How many nights has my piano sat neglected in the corner, serving as nothing more than a perching-place for the cat? It’s too bad, because when I take the time to practice, I’m actually pretty good. When my hands and mind and heart and ears are all in…we make beautiful music together.
Music makes me feel smart. And creative. And powerful. And happy.

And I am those things. Without you.

So why am I writing all this? Well, mostly for my own good. And for the enjoyment of anyone I know who’s also had their heart stomped on by someone who promised they weren’t going anywhere… (Because remember, this both is and is really, really not about you.)

But it’s also for you. I sincerely hope that you read this.
In fact, there are a lot of things I hope for you…

I do hope that you end up happy.
I hope you learn to love someone else as much as you love yourself.
I hope someday you finally learn the difference between “your” and “you’re.” (And, no, you’re not the only one… But, really. Just. Figure it out.)
I also hope that the next time you find yourself beside whatever leggy 22-year-old you’re currently passing time with, you pause for just a second to think about these legs. (These legs. Remember them?)

doublemint.

These legs have walked in Paris, Rome, your bedroom.
They ran a marathon.
They’ve put toes in the ocean on both sides of the world.
They’ve stood onstage (in heels) while I made hundreds of people laugh.
They still look goooood in them jeans.
And, as of tonight, these legs are no longer afraid to walk away from you.*

*Cue Beyoncé-finger-wag.

So, dearest ex-dearest, as the list of boys who thought I was worth leaving behind keeps getting longer, the list of reasons why you’ll regret it grows, too.

(I might regret writing this in the morning. But probably not. I’ve always thought it’s best to be honest. That’s yet another way in which we’ll have to agree to disagree.)

Have a good night,
sj

What cats & heartbreak have taught me so far

This is a story about a girl and a cat. (and some other things…)

I wrote a post about Kitler last August (and holy shit is it more apropos than I remembered…seriously, go read it. It’s short). Kitler is the stray cat I started feeding last year, and he’s stayed in my life, off and on, since then. Every time I think he might be gone for good, there he is when I open the door. As if nothing has changed.

And I feed him, just the same.

In that post last year, I used his lack of trust and my unreciprocated affection as a metaphor for my love life. I give and give and give (cat food), and though he’s slowly warmed up to me, he still won’t let himself fully connect (by receiving kitty snuggles).

That sounds about right.

///

Tonight as I was leaving my house to walk to the park — the one safe place I could think of to clear my head — there he was on the porch. After another long absence and presumed tragic ending. He looked skinnier than usual but meowed like he was happy to see me. (Allow me to give the cat some emotions. I need him to have emotions right now.) But when I carried the scoop of food outside, he hissed at me. (This is not typical Kitler behavior anymore.) On closer inspection, I noticed he looked a little dirty, and he was walking with a little limp. Somebody hurt Kitler.

This was too much, universe. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

…Because I’m helpless. The little guy won’t let me touch him when he’s well, so there’s no way I can manage to take him to the vet. He’s not even technically my cat… so I just have to stand there and watch him be hurt.

…And also because that’s how it goes sometimes. People you love get hurt and there’s nothing you can do about it. (Sometimes the “people you love” is you.)

But I’m letting this moment with Kitler teach me an important lesson. I think he’s been hurt by a lot of people in his rough little kitty life. After a whole year he trusts me — but not much. Not enough to let me close.

I see how life can get that way. (For people. I do still relate to people, cat lady conspiracy theorists.)

You trust and you love, and then you get burned sometimes. (This might even happen three birthdays in a row, for example.) After that kind of hope and heartbreak, you might want to completely self-protect. Close off. Shun affection. Put up walls. Harden your heart and never believe there’s someone who could truly care for you again.

(Right?)

But I’m not going to let myself believe that. Whether or not I ever get my own Nora Ephron ending (speaking of sad news this week, you guys…), I know that I deserve to be cared for.

I may be the sort of cat who’s a little roughed up in places, who’s not quite as trusting as she used to be. And sometimes I hiss at life — even at the people I love. But I’m not ready to close myself off. Not yet.

I know I can still care for Kitler even though I can’t fix him. And I certainly don’t have to end up like him.

Besides, I don’t think they make you change your status from “and ready to mingle” to “and ready to die alone” until at least birthday #30. (And it’s longer than that, I’ve heard, in cat-years.)