katharine promotes herself: flashback


Maybe you’ve forgotten or maybe you’re new to me, but some time ago (let’s call it two years) I made a book with words in it. It came from a blogging project. It did not become an international internet sensation. Not everything can, you know. The internet and the human attention span are finite.

30 Failures by Age 30 is still available, despite my now being…some years over 30 (let’s call it two years). But maybe you know someone who is turning 30 or experiencing some other age-related life crisis and you would like to purchase a novelty book to make them feel better about themselves. 30 Failures by Age 30 will do the trick! It won’t solve the problem. My book offers no solutions, no nifty tips for feeling less like an unsuccessful, underachieving slob. The best it can offer is a few chuckles and a sense of relief that there’s at least one other person who didn’t meet society’s standards.

There’s a book trailer for the book. I’ve since mastered the hula hoop but still terrible at drawing on myself with magic marker. And I won’t be asked to perform at the local go-go dancing establishment.

The digital edition is also available to download from iTunes bookstore, Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords for the remarkably low price of $1.99. For the purposes of gift-giving and bookshelf-filling, 30 Failures by Age 30 comes in a convenient slim paperback edition for $7.95, exclusively at Amazon.com.

The original list of 30 failures was created in 2009. In 2011, after publishing the book, I came up with a list of even more failures! I am really good at not doing things and/or doing things terribly. What’s the German word for feeling simultaneously good and bad about oneself?

If you’re throwing a 30th birthday, you can download these Bingo cards for an instant party game. The prize is probably booze and self-loathing but maybe you can find some gag gifts and doodads from the Oriental Trading catalog.

…I don’t think my self-promotion skills have improved either, you guys. Should I put that on the list for the sequel?

katharine’s promotional round-up

As you know, I make lots of things. Sometimes I sell those things. Sometimes I give those things away. Right now I’m doing all of that.

Last month I finally started participating on Goodreads. To celebrate, I’m offering 4 print copies of 30 Failures by Age 30 in a Goodreads giveaway. The contest is open to residents of US, CA, and GB and runs through March 16.

In December, I loaded Robot of Leisure onto Apple iBooks. A few weeks ago, iTunes started offering vendors a handful of promotional codes for review use. I am giving away promo codes for Robot of Leisure 1-4 (ebook only). (Small print: This is valid only for the Apple iBooks store for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch devices running iOS 4.2 and higher.) If you email me directly with a solemn promise to rate the Robot of Leisure books in the iBooks store (and on Goodreads, if possible), I will email the promo codes for all four Robot of Leisure volumes. Quantities are limited and this offer is only open for another two weeks-ish. (You only have to claim them within these two weeks, not read them.)

Already got copies of all or some of my books? Now’s the time to share your review/rating/opinion of them. If you’ve got a Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, or iTunes account, please visit my book listings and leave a rating. Obviously I hope it’s a good rating, but I’m more interested in getting honest reactions. As a creative person without a stage, most interactions with audience/consumers ends at the exchange of goods. I rarely get an update of how my “babies” have fared in the scary real world.

And just in case you missed it, I’ve been toiling away on Robot of Leisure: Boris 366—a daily series of Boris in dressed up in all manners of costumes and headgear for your amusement. Here’s what you missed in January:

katharine sells some stuff

It’s holiday shopping time! Groan all you want about the trees and the Santas and the whole “too soon”-ness of it all. But is it really too soon to start thinking about the gift-giving season? Is it too soon for late-night Etsy searches for awesome presents for the people you love? Is it too soon to place those orders to ensure that you’ll receive said awesome presents in time for wrapping? Do you really want to wait until the week before your gift-giving occasion only to wind up with another basket of apple-berry lotions that your loved one will never ever use?

Allow me to be of service. As you may be all too well aware, I’ve published some books. Some of them are funny. Some of them are picture books of robots doing things you’re not quite sure you understand.

Are you aware that I’ve made other, non-book things? Behold!

I’ve got an Etsy store full of monsters right now! I’ll be loading it up with other fanciful items from my growing pile of handmade objects. Visit Peppermint Robot Surprise to adopt your very own monster plushie.

Robot of Leisure fans can visit the official Etsy shop for holiday cards and this limited edition book bundle. Again, more goodies to be added throughout the month.

What do you mean, “What books?”?!

I’ve solved all your holiday shopping woes! And you didn’t have to endure endless Christmas crooning or crazy Black Friday line-ups. Hooray! If you’ll excuse me, I need to go shower off this shameless self-promotion grime. Ooh, apple-berry exfoliating soap!

30 Failures by Age 30 update

You might remember a little project I undertook a couple of years ago about still being socially awkward at the old age of 30. Well, I went and I book-ified it for you. Now it’s available all over the internet in digital format and at ye olde Amazon in paperback.  Don’t you want to see how it looks all polished up? Wouldn’t you like to admire my typesetting abilities? How can you resist?!

To celebrate, I made a video for you. (Okay, I made the video two and a half months ago and I’m just now posting it here. I did post it everywhere else on the internet, so I don’t know how you missed it.)

Get all the pertinent information about purchasing and downloading from the pertinent information page.

I’ve exported all the original 30 Failures to its own blog. You can still read it all for free online. And then feel free to comment on the entries, do all the link/ping-backs, write a review on your own blog or at Amazon/Smashwords/iBooks, etc. Every little bit helps spread the word to deliver this to the eyes of every lady who’s ever been made to feel like a freak for not fitting in or standing out quite enough.

Failure #30: Be truly selfless

Is it possible to be truly selfless in the 21st century? Are you able to donate more than your wealth, to give your time and yourself to causes outside of your personal needs and desires? I’m not. I am guilty of selfish behavior and complete obliviousness to the needs of others. I walk around town plugged into my handheld entertainment device, dodging the shapeless masses walking toward me. I quickly avoid eye contact with people more disheveled than myself. Did someone fall down? I’m already half a block away.

I have a reputation amongst my closest acquaintances for being misanthropic. It is true that I detest the current state of the human race, but I didn’t choose misanthropy. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide it would be great fun to hate people. It was a gradual decline. A result of years of ridicule and rejection, giving of my love and treasures with no reciprocation, no appreciation, and no acknowledgment. If I seem bitter, it’s not without reason. Some days it feels like the human race gave up on me long before I gave up on it.

I am third generation misanthrope. My maternal grandfather once wrote a letter to my mother encouraging her to dumb down, that people would not appreciate her for being smart and definitely wouldn’t appreciate free thought. My mother passed this wisdom to me, fat lot of good it did. Given the choice between kowtowing to popular opinion or lifelong unpopularity, I’d much rather be left alone with my thoughts. Thinking is a delightful hobby. Thoughts can lead to ideas and imagination can lead to innovation. That’s how we got some of the most brilliant theories and inventions in the world. Sadly, a lot of people are afraid of thinking and thinkers. And those people will try to beat the intellectuals—physically or psychologically—into submission, shame them for being different, push them off the swings and kick rocks at their glasses.

Why should I be selfless? What’s my motivation?

I like doing nice things for people. When I worked in a video store, I liked helping customers find obscure movies. I don’t mind sharing my design resources with fellow designers. I take delight in offering up my pop culture knowledge, however weird or potentially shameful, when my boyfriend can’t remember an actor’s name. I draw the line at lending things. There’s no easy way to ask someone to return your copy of Steve Martin’s The Underpants without getting into nasty awkwardness. Just say goodbye to The Underpants.

I’ve fallen into the trap, you see. Despite all my attempts to cast off the stereotypes bestowed on me, here I am, lumping All People into the category of Mean People. Once again, the minority (although, I think I’m being kind when I say “minority”) of bad seeds ruin it for everyone. Not everyone is horribly insensitive and self-absorbed. Some people are kind. They are generous with their time and their love. They carve out time from their busy schedules to volunteer for causes close to their hearts. They make the effort to help those in need. Then there are people in need. Needy People. They get the worst rap of all. The underprivileged are painted as people to pity, dirty and helpless and perhaps malnourished. But there are varying levels of need and people who require assistance aren’t always looking for a free ride. Sometimes they just need a jump.

When I needed routine check ups for my hearing impairment, the best we could afford was the local crippled children’s clinic. Back then, all the disabilities were lumped together. There we were in the waiting room, me with my little hearing loss and toddlers with cerebral palsy and all the disabilities in between. As far as the government was concerned, we were all crippled. I sat in the waiting room and watched the other kids. Most times, I was the healthiest looking in the bunch. Some of these children would need assistance for life. They probably didn’t intend to grow up into Independent City Girls. Did I pursue independence more fiercely in their honor? No. I scurried as far away as possible because I didn’t want to be a cause. I didn’t want to be crippled. I didn’t want to be—as my mother so lovingly called me—the next Helen Keller.

If I were a better person, I would turn my failures into opportunities. I’d look for ways to contribute to society, filling in niches and luring fellow misanthropes from their caves. I could organize a field trip to a strip club for childfree non-drivers or an overnight camp for friendless introverts. I’d encourage impatient unemployed atheists to work on their penmanship. The possibilities are limitless. The possibilities require strength and dedication I don’t yet possess. It’s still easier to avoid human interaction than to invest myself and risk further rejection and remorse.

Is it possible for me to be truly selfless in the 21st century? I don’t know. I’ll try.

Failure #29: Leave North America

To be a truly fascinating person, it seems, one must have come from Somewhere or gone Somewhere. Books are far more interesting when the writers have traveled to distant lands to learn important life lessons. The life lessons picked up after hours in a Best Buy parking lot, while valid and pertinent, are not so easily romanticized. Sunsets viewed from the window of TGI Friday’s are not as breathtaking as when viewed from the balcony of a hotel in Greece. Or so I assume. I’ve never been to Greece. Or anywhere else east of the Atlantic Ocean. I am not yet a fascinating person.

I could bemoan my lack of a jetsetting lifestyle. I could whine about not having the opportunity to take class trips abroad. I could shake a fist at my mother for not getting involved in a foreign exchange student program. Instead I’ll remind you (and myself) that international travel is not a given. Traveling overseas is still a privilege, a luxury afforded to those with expense accounts and independent wealth. It just seems a more tangible dream thanks to globalization, modern air travel and credit cards. It’s easy to forget that some people have never ventured farther than the neighbouring town.

Vacations should be fun and relaxing. I’ve seen brochures with blissed out people, scantily clad and frolicking about in glee. What the vacation brochures should show are late night scrambles to find empty motel rooms on a questionable stretch of interstate and hordes of cranky American tourists queued up for theme park rides. Family vacations were not the norm amongst the working class in Alabama. It was a big deal for the land-locked to visit the beaches in Fairhope or Gulf Shores. Extended families would load up a convoy for north Florida and squish into motel rooms, Spring Break-style. With no extended family to speak of, my mother and I were unable to put our CB radio slang to use. Through some of her work friends, my mother discovered the joy of cruising and we were soon international travelers.

I have been to the Bahamas five times. Now you’re wondering why I love the Bahamas so much that I would go there five times. I don’t. I haven’t found anything to love about the Bahamas. No offense to the tourism board and their attempts to make their country appealing to visitors. Granted, I have not been to the ritzier parts of the islands. My experience has been limited to Nassau’s Centreville, where the cruise ship passengers are dumped off and left to seek out parasailing and moped rentals. My travel companions could not be persuaded to explore the island beyond the dinky souvenir shops as we eked by the hair braiding pavilion. The desperate aggression that the islanders resort to for tourist dollars is sad and a little off-putting. I have been to the Bahamas so many times because those cruises were often cheaper and the right length of time to be trapped in the middle of open waters with cranky family members.

As a moderately intelligent, liberal, white American, I carry some guilt over not immersing myself in some form of international culture. I still haven’t learned a second language. I stuff my homemade quesadillas with pineapple and coconut. I put ketchup on my Kraft Dinner. I spend my toonies at Timmy’s for iced capps and double doubles. Wait a second…could Canada be considered a foreign culture?

To make up for my lack of exposure to true ethnic diversity, I now live in a cultural mosaic. Toronto is a prime example of what would happen if Epcot’s World Showcase were applied to the real world. Condensed cultures from various countries are contained to neighbourhoods throughout the city. We’ve got Little Italy, Greektown, Koreatown, and two Chinatowns. And none of them are in geographical relation to their national counterparts. Americans complain about Spanish infiltrating their conversational air space. In Toronto, dozens of accents and languages filter through the air. If you don’t like the language, walk five blocks and it’ll be something different.

With so many countries represented in Toronto, I’m hard-pressed to find reasons to travel abroad. I suppose I’d like to see the Irish countryside in person. From what I’ve seen in calendars, there are lots of kitty cat faces to smoosh in Greece. But does the beauty outweigh the inconvenience of the actual traveling? Just to take a two-hour flight from Toronto to Atlanta means getting to the airport two hours in advance, thanks to terrorism and threat-level orange. I would need to stay in a foreign country at least three weeks to make up for all the stress of travel. I would also require a wealthy benefactor and lively companion to fund the trip and make sure I didn’t get abducted by swarthy men in dark glasses who feast on the flesh of pale friendless ladies. Since I don’t anticipate the acquisition of a wealthy benefactor in the near future, I will settle for bubble tea, saganaki, and poutine while wandering the streets of my favourite city.

Failure #28: Perform in public

I could have been a performer but I never had the bosoms. I never had the bosoms to give me the confidence to go up before a live audience and amuse them with a performance. As it is, I lack the stage presence necessary to capture and retain the attentions of an audience.

For years, I worked to cultivate some kind of proficiency in the performing arts. I tried dance, music, and theatre to no avail. The absence of busty substances further eliminated a number of performance-related vocations such as Go-Go Dancer, Magician’s Assistant and Sexy Mime. My dreams of writhing about silently on stage were shattered. I managed to become a writer instead.

My interest in performing was limited to narrating stuffed animal plays and playing Tape Recorder DJ. My family liked for me to sing songs in my Fuddian English style. To say I had ambitions for stage and screen would have been quite an untruth. Despite all my creativity, I am still just a frog in a box. When confronted with an audience participation bit with Beauregard (the janitor Muppet) at a live action Muppet show, I pulled my itchy skirt *fwoop* over my head. I would do this again later during my first visit to the Adventurers Club.

At the height of the original Dirty Dancing craze, I had the opportunity to take dance lessons. Thank you for asking, but no, I did not have the time of my life. We were chubby little girls in leotards mastering the step ball change and pas de bourrée to the tune of Taylor Dane. I don’t think any of us were Rockettes-bound. My mother couldn’t afford the costumes for the annual recital, which was only disappointing to the sliver of ego that imagined I’d be discovered on the stage of some high school gymnasium in Alabama. The instructor choreographed the numbers for the recital and shuffled me off into a corner so I could clomp and twirl about for the duration of the class.

In junior high, we were offered the option of either taking home economics or joining the school band. I was completely uninterested in domestic matters. Independent City Girls don’t worry about running a household and learning practical life lessons. If they did, chick lit novels would be much shorter. So I joined the band. The stupid school band with a stupid limit to the number of students who could be percussionists and saxophonists. Because everybody wants to be Mr. Black and every kid wants to be a drummer. I say, unhook your minds Junior High Band Instructors. Invent a new sound for the South and be the first all-drum-and-saxophone band in the region. Alas, we conformed and I picked a clarinet that I named Norman. Norman and I spent our off-hours learning television themes and making sounds that only experimental musicians could appreciate. There were recitals that I’m sure I was obligated play in. Clarinets generally had three parts. Two kids would be first, four on second, and twelve on third. Guess who was on third. Norman and I went through the motions but we weren’t really invested in contributing to Angels We Have Heard On High and the Batman motion picture theme.

Norman and I parted ways and I threw myself into my writing. I was on track to be a Serious Journalist and dedicated myself to my high school newspaper. With diploma in one hand and squashed dreams in the other, I went on to university as a theatre major. My new dream was to become a playwright. And I was…for two ghastly one-act plays…that received ghastly one-time performances. The tech booth was visible to the audience for the one-act I had video recorded for posterity. I can be seen in the video cringing and wincing through most of the show, the mortification completely deafened me to audience reaction. My acting class forced me on stage for a recital of monologues to be performed in front of my mother and everyone else’s family (Performing for family is a bit like changing in the communal locker room. Does it count as “public”?). I performed a monologue from Electra, in which I accuse my mother of murdering my father. Obviously this is not the part of the story where I describe my newfound love of the stage and the pleasure of interpreting text for audience enjoyment.

In my one stage performance I wasn’t terribly nervous. I didn’t suffer from stage fright. I just became overly aware of the voice emanating from my mouth. It was…wrong somehow. Four years of speech therapy and a lifetime of television viewing rendered me without that signature Southern accent. My voice can be accurately described as monotone Valley girl. I hadn’t paid much attention to my voice; I was preoccupied with my physical appearance. My internal monologist sounds drastically different from the sounds that trip and stumble out of my voice box. This voice was not an elegant one. No audience would ever be captivated by it. My vocal chords do not produce tones that are velvety or silky or any other audible fabric that people might want to roll around on naked. I could have been a performer with an awful voice if I’d had the body for it. Writers can have any sort of body or voice and it doesn’t matter at all.

Except…does it matter? Video might have killed the radio star, but what will finally kill the writer? Will it be the book tour, wherein writers are coerced to read aloud passages from their latest tome? When writers are encouraged to record podcasts of their books and articles for the non-readers, will once cherished scribes be dismissed for having a funny voice? Perhaps I can track down Norman and together we can perform interpretive squeaks of these essays, a Peter and the Wolf for the modern age. Yes, this will make for a very interesting Fringe show. Ribbit.

Failure #27: Own property

When I was a kid, the attributes of a well-adjusted Grown Up seemed clear. Grown Ups were married, they had children and full-time jobs, and they owned houses. Grown Ups had the middle class comfort that was the standard to which we aspired. It wasn’t the American Dream, it was the American Expectation. Even I, with my affinity for defying expectations, assumed that I would one day assimilate and become a Grown Up. Then I grew up.

Middle class comfort is as attainable a goal as becoming a fairy tale princess for those living in lower class squalor. While other little girls imagined living in prim Colonial-style houses with white picket fences, I imagined finally having my own bedroom and not sharing a bed with my mother. My only architectural concern was whether there were four walls and a door that could be properly slammed. When I did fantasize about The Future and a place for my stuff, I never considered a proper house. I had loft ambitions—exposed bricks and beams, giant windows, four walls and a door. In The Future, I was going to be an Independent City Girl living in a sexy apartment. Well, at least I got the City part down.

Just as I was not blessed with the Business Savvy gene, the Home Owner gene is also missing from my DNA. My parents were not avid home owners. My mother was a serial renter and my father had the charming habit of purchasing houses and then putting the deeds into his lady friends’ name. Both parental units were terrified of having property attached to their own names, living in constant fear that everything they owned could be snatched away without warning. Whether this fear was a symptom of their divorce or of being born in the Silent Generation or just being lower class Caucasians prone to fits of general fuck-uppery, I’ll never know for certain.

My mother was in the real estate research business. At the request of banks or other lending corporations, it was her job to track the history of ownership for residential properties. I spent many afternoons and summers accompanying her on adventures through the local court house, digging up relevant information on homeowners and their properties. Oh, the information that’s accessible to anyone who’s being paid to ask for it would have privacy advocates reeling! We flipped through thousands of files on Johnsons, Williams, and Smiths and their residential history. We learned where the Johnsons got divorced, which Williams had the most tax liens, how many times the Smiths refinanced their mortgage. I didn’t wholly understand the information I was gathering, but I did enjoy the blue glow of the microfiche. Our research could turn up pages of deeds and mortgages and foreclosures just on one property. Seeing the kind of legal drama that can unfold in home buying—even without HGTV’s quick cuts and tension-building edits—didn’t instill great consumer confidence in the real estate industry.

I’ve been content as a renter. Many people make a lot of noise about how renting is just throwing money away or paying someone else’s mortgage. I like renting when it means someone else is responsible for the outdoorsy bits and structural maintenance. It’s nice to have someone to blame when the house breaks. Home ownership is a major purchase and a huge responsibility. One could even argue that it’s bigger than marriage. Unless you’re a house-flipper or just trying to get a leg up on that property ladder, the house you buy is presumably the house you’ll live in for a substantial chunk of your life. So, it’s not enough to fall in love with a house (unless it’s portable), there’s the neighbourhood to consider…the city, the country. Well, at least I got the country part down.

Things have changed since I was a kid. Expectations have shifted. Thanks to the invention of the Quarterlife Crisis, we can defer adulthood along with college loans. No one really expects new 30-year-olds to own much of anything. The middle class is not as comfortable as it was a few years ago. It looks like we need new social norms by which to measure our failures and successes. I am master of my own web domain…that counts for something, right?

Failure #26: Defend myself

I have a black belt in repression. I have mastered the art of turning the other cheek. I took all of those sticks and stones and built a fortress in honor of the great comeback spirit of Nyah Nyah.

Look, I hate fighting. Confrontations require a lot of effort, what with the yelling and the maintaining the anger level to sustain the argument. I’ve found that it’s easier to let the other person express their dismay, nod empathetically, and move on. Then I can watch television in peace. Despite years of teasing and unpleasant encounters, I am a relatively non-confrontational, cool-headed person—perhaps to a fault. I have a temper that I am uncomfortable with unleashing, so I prefer to remain disengaged from arguments, regardless of whether I am right or my own level of anger. Oh, and I never learned how to fight properly.

It’s become cliché now to say I had a bad childhood. Everyone had a crummy childhood. No one was happy and everyone was misunderstood. I’ll say I had an unfortunate childhood. Before I enrolled in grade school, I was a cute little kid who sat a little too close to the television and made up adorable words like “HeeHee World” for Disney World and “fayfay” for horsey. Once I entered first grade, I was suddenly the love child of Mr. Magoo and Elmer Fudd. In a perpetual state of squinting, I would have conversations with hat wacks and walk into wabbit holes. Within six months or so, we learned that I couldn’t see, hear or talk vewwy well. And from that point on, everyone would accuse me of it all being an elaborate wuse, er, ruse.

My mother went into protective mode. She lobbied to get me into the special education classes, but I was not mentally-challenged (contrary to what my maternal grandmother liked to tell her friends) nor did I have a learning disability. She attached a black elastic sports strap to my delicate pink plastic glasses, so that I wouldn’t lose them. She went to my teachers to explain all of the conditions for special treatment I would require in their classrooms. I didn’t stand a chance.

At the time, I didn’t understand that kids will look for anything to tease each other about. It’s the kid way. I had no experience with real children, just the JW-programmed kidbots and sitcom kids. So when kids started picking at me about my eyesight and the way I pronounced words and my noisy corduroy pants, I took it to heart. I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to point out their flaws in an unkind manner as well. As I saw it, they were right. These were things that were wrong with me. “But why-y-y-y?” I would whine to my mother. “Why are they picking on me-e-e-e-e-e all the time?” She advised me to ignore them. “Drive your own desk” was her favorite response to any issue I had with other children. No one taught me to be assertive and stand up to the bullies. All the adults said, “Tell a teacher. Go to a grown-up if someone’s being mean to you.”

My approach to dealing with bullies was three-fold. My first plan of defense was to cry. “That’ll show ’em,” I thought. “They’ll make fun of me and I’ll just burst into tears. Then they’ll feel so bad and leave me alone.” If that didn’t work, I’d shout “Leave me alone!” and squint at them. When that didn’t work, then I’d go to a teacher and tell her that the brats on the playground kept kicking rocks in my face. Ha. Ha. Ha.

The grown-ups fought my battles for me. The teachers were well aware of both my disabilities and took care to set me out in the hall while they lectured the whole class about picking on people with disabilities. In those moments, I wished I’d been in the special ed class. Those kids were nice to each other. The class was small, so the teacher could give equal attention to the students. They held hands whenever they left the classroom. But they probably didn’t watch Bosom Buddies, so I still wouldn’t have anyone to talk to.

My sister, armed with a scowl and good intentions, would escort me up to my school and dare other kids to mess with me. She’d hiss empty threats at the bully du jour. This usually resulted with further taunts about my being a crybaby who needed her adult sister to defend her. There were no wabbit holes big enough to hide me. One time, one of my bullies reported my sister and the authorities were called in. Then it was back to my three-fold plan.

It’s easy in hindsight to pull a Cyrano and rattle off fabulous witty comebacks to childhood teases. However, it wasn’t all verbal teasing. Some kids treated me like an interactive science exhibit. Despite my glasses’ strap, kids still wanted to take my glasses to see if they were real. “Can you really not see without your glasses?”
“Let’s take her glasses and make her try to read something far away.”
When it got around that I had a hearing impairment, it was all “Let me whisper something to you. Psstpsstpsst.” And “Can you read lips? What am I saying now?” followed by silent, flaccid mouth flapping. Some kids were desperately jealous that I was getting special attention and wanted to prove I was making it all up. I just put my head down and waited for something shiny to come along and distract them. If I’d wanted special treatment, I probably would’ve come up with something that didn’t make me look (and sound) like a total dweeb. Maybe a mysterious fainting illness that would allow me to take naps.

At the beginning of sixth grade, we managed to secure a deal through the local crippled children’s clinic for me to finally get hearing aids. After years of going back to the clinic every two months for testing, they determined my hearing wasn’t improving and I needed to try the devices. I was excited to be able to finally hears sounds I’d never heard. And then I got to school. After my first spelling test with my new ear jewelry—and being one of the only three kids in class to ace it—some little boy who’d never acknowledged my existence before announced to the entire class that the answers to the test had been transmitted to me via the hearing aids. Back in the box went the hearing aids. I took them out again when we moved later in the school year. It was a new school and a chance to start over. But it only brought more nasty children saying nasty things. I found that a rumor was circulating that I had AIDS. Back in the box went the hearing aids and back to the clinic went the box.

By the time I got to junior high, I was a pathological mess. Convinced that people were going to make fun of me no matter what, I just gave up.  I stopped brushing my hair. I rarely changed clothes. People would ask me things and I would make up complicated untruths.  I stopped trying at school, just exerting the minimum amount of effort to prevent outright failing. It was easier to feign disinterest in academics than to get all the teachers involved and deal with more grown-up pity in addition to the teasing. My mother and I had decided I was old enough to deal with my teachers myself and there were too many of them for her to meet with to explain that I was damaged goods. My smells and bad attitude kept everyone a safe distance away.

High school offered another chance at reinvention. I was old enough for contact lenses and could finally pretend that I was physically normal. Instead of teasing me over things I couldn’t help, people could tease me about my Daffy Duck sock collection. Ultimately, I ignored my disabilities and repressed the childhood pain instead of finding a way to embrace and fully overcome my disabilities while raising awareness. I should have found a way to be assertive and inform people about hearing loss and encourage them to be more sensitive to the issue. At the time, it was more important to me to be a (very silly) person than a cause.

Insults are like styrofoam—they might be intended for one-time use but they don’t break down easily and aren’t easily absorbed into the emotional landfill. I’m trying to shrink my emotional carbon footprint by limiting the amount of bile and unnecessary cruelty I release into the world. Sometimes that means I don’t get to win a fight. It might mean I don’t get the chance to defend myself against unfair accusations. It’s okay. I’ve got four cheeks.

Failure #25: Visit a strip club

Once again, being the expert mind-reader that I am, I know what you’re thinking:

1. “Silly Katharine, ladies don’t go to strip clubs.”
2. “How is this a ‘failure’?”
3. “Is Katharine going to reveal a whole bunch of freaky sexual fetishes that I probably shouldn’t read while I’m at work?”
4. “I know where I’m taking Katharine for her birthday.”

How much of what you look at on the internet is honestly safe for work? Especially when your company probably frowns upon you spending any time on the internet while you’re on their time (and computers). Also, your boss is standing behind you right now.

I’m sorry that I won’t be able to titillate you with ribald tales of near encounters with professional nude dancers. In fact, to my conscious knowledge, I have had zero encounters with dancers in any state of undress. What happens in my unconscious state stays in my unconscious state. To further disappoint you, I have no fascinating stories of how I’ve managed to avoid nudie bars. I do have some theories, though, if you’re interested.

The obvious theory as to why I have never visited a strip club is simply unavailability. Assuming, of course, that it is naked gentlemen I’d like to see wriggling about and not naked ladies. Gender inequality still reigns in the sex industry as even in the 21st century, strip clubs catering to women are rarities. In Alabama, male strip clubs must not exist at all. Surely, if there was one in the 1990s, my sexually-curious gal pals and I would’ve sought this out, procured fake IDs and gone on an adventure. Y’know, for “research purposes.” Instead we were left with the notion that if you want to see a naked boy, you just ask him to take off his clothes. Occasionally, the Chippendales tour would roll into town. My sister went to one of their shows once and returned home with a souvenir thong and a photo of a dancer. I was fascinated…until I saw the dancer’s picture—a greasy orange man with a blonde mullet and sleazy grin.

Which brings me to my next theory: I do not like the same boys that other girls like. Or possibly more accurate is that I do not like the boys the sex industry expects women to like. Hairless, oiled-up beefcakes have no arousing impact on me except arousing the desire to go to Boston Market for some rotisserie chicken. But then I want to come home and watch my Boston Legal DVDs and giggle over Alan Shore-Denny Crane sleepovers. While other girls may be content to swoon over men who spend more time at the gym than the library, I prefer my men a little more endowed upstairs. I prefer substance over style, brains over brawn, and wit over width. Sadly, if girls like me want to see nude clever, intelligent men we have to settle for archival photos of naked Monty Python on Tumblr. Or just ask our clever, intelligent boyfriends. It would not be the same experience as watching a professional pelvic-gyrator because smart men don’t wear shiny underpants.

Everything I know about strip clubs was learned from television and movies. No one ever looks happy in a gentlemen’s club. The dancers are disengaged with fixed, vacant stares. The men are borderline creepy and lewd. It all seems like some puritanical attempt to dissuade people from visiting such places. But I’m curious to find out if strip clubs really are as depressing as the buildings seem in daylight. My mother and I took many roads trips to Florida and would see all of the We Bare All billboards dotted along I-75. I was always a little intrigued to go to the Risque Cafe and see if it warranted all the signage. My mother would just giggle and keep driving. But imagine the kind of story I would have of my mother and I going to a strip club, seated amongst sweating truckers and shifty-eyed locals. What gems would I have from the woman who—while I was purchasing some new pants—once turned to me as the cash register rang up my trousers as ‘Active Bottoms’ and exclaimed “No, no!” Apparently bottoms should remain inert. Dirty jokes abound.

Surprisingly, none of my heterosexual boyfriends insisted on taking me to a nudie bar. There were discussions. Jokes were made. I never entirely rejected the idea. But we never even ventured into a strip club parking lot. Nerdy boys talk a very good game of how they only like “real girls” and are put off by silicone and latex undergarments. It’s just as well they never took me. I would only mock and judge. While at a karaoke bar, I spent most of the evening mocking the graphics and font choices. Analysis of a dancer’s song and costume choices does not make for sexy times.

Do we even need strip clubs anymore? Who needs to risk embarrassment at exotic dance clubs when we’ve got the internet? Through the magic of technology, anyone can do a Google image search for their scantily clad gender of choice and have plenty of objects to ogle without a midnight trip to the bank machine. I suppose some things must be experienced in the flesh.

Will curiosity eventually get the better of me? Will I muster up the courage to experience an exotic establishment and risk being viewed as a lady pervert? Probably not. More likely is that I will find a documentary exposing all the worst bits of stripping and the dangers of exotic dancing and post a mildly outraged Facebook status about it afterward. And then inadvertently look at more pictures of naked Eric Idle (Seriously, was he contractually obligated to strip regularly? Did he need to remind people that he was not a lady? How does this account for Splitting Heirs?). Look out, your boss is back!