Other Stuff I Wrote for Fun 

On Turning 21

I used to really love birthdays. Well, I used to really love my birthday. Let’s be real—other people’s birthdays are fun when you can get a good party out of it, but past that, you really only care about your own. Unless you hate attention, or like to pretend that you are the kind of person who hates attention.

Last year I had my first terrible birthday. For starters, it was on Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday where you literally are not allowed to eat and you have to repent for all of your sins. I was three weeks into my four months of living in Prague, and went to the Chabad in the Old Town to observe the holiday. For the service, I had to sit in the way, way back behind a tall, wooden gate. This is because I am a woman. I had to squint through the bars in order to make out the rabbi, who went so quickly through the whole thing that I genuinely couldn’t tell if he was speaking in Czech, Hebrew, or both.

The highlight of my day was coming home between classes, stripping off my turtleneck sweater and jean skirt, and falling asleep in my favorite bra. I woke up 45 minutes later and sat up in bed, rosy-cheeked and doe-eyed, and, for 20 minutes, ate sour gummy candy from a paper bag that my friend Emily had given me that morning. As the Jewish people say when something is blessed, baruch hashem.

I got home from the service that night and sobbed.

I’ve been secretly counting down to my birthday this year because I know that it cannot possibly be worse than the year prior. I’ve been waiting for this day because it would prove me wrong—birthdays are great, after all. I know it.

At midnight, I turn 21. For the last week, this has felt very, very weird.

The best and most commonly given advice to a birthday girl is to “not set your expectations too high.” That way, when you don’t have that much fun at your party, you wake up to see it’s raining, or the boy you wanted to kiss didn’t lean in when you wanted him to, you won’t feel the disappointing sink of your metaphorical candles being blown out by someone else.

The weird thing about turning 21 is that the American government has automatically instilled an expectation that I cannot ignore. Obviously, this is the expectation that, starting at 12am, I can legally drink alcohol.

I have been counting down to 12am all day. This makes no sense. I don’t have any wild plans for midnight (maybe a dive bar, nothing crazy) and, to disappoint you all, I actually have enjoyed a glass of wine or two before, so this will not be the first.

This is what counting down to turning 21 unexpectedly feels like: Cinderella watching the clock. New Year’s Eve. Checking to see if you got into the college of your dreams on December 12th at 5pm. Taking a pregnancy test. Waiting to hear the results of a presidential election. Getting ready to leave the nail salon because your toes will soon be dry. Getting out of class. Standing in front of a microwave.

It doesn’t feel like something amazing is going to happen. It feels strange to know that at a time I am already aware of, something about me is going to change. And the worst part of it all is that’s it’s not a big deal, but, because we are human, we feel things anyway.

I told my mom that I wasn’t in the mood for a birthday. Her response was this: “Hannah, you’ve always been sensitive to time.”

Maybe it’s weird because I remember turning 20, sort of sweaty in my bra and underwear, getting sugar in my sheets, writing a similar essay at this time one year ago, so vividly. I hated turning 20 so much. I hated that I was done with 19.

In that essay, I lamented a then-anxiety of mine: Is everyone else freaking out as much as I am? Also this: My one and only life goal was to write a book before I turned 20, because I thought there was something romantic and alluring about it, and I didn’t do it.

A very full year has passed. I have lived in Prague, and Providence, and New York City. I have aged immensely, though my fashion sense has perhaps regressed to that of a six-year-old in 1993. I have experienced so many people and things. I don’t remember the last time I thought about everyone freaking out, or lack thereof. I started writing a book.

This morning I told my roommates who also serve as my best friends that I was feeling weird and reflective, which I guess is a thing I now do on the day before my birthday. On my 12th birthday, I had a full-blown panic attack just as my mom brought out the cake. I ran out to the deck and hyperventilated for an hour and a half. I am terrified that this is going to happen to me tomorrow.

Incidentally, that birthday also fell on Yom Kippur, so maybe that’s just god’s way of saying “fuck you.” I mean, that would be shitty of him, but you never know.

I think I don’t want to have a birthday because I don’t need one. I don’t need a day about me. Maybe I don’t want a day where I have to think about me. Everything is good every other day. I really like every day.

Do you know what I also like? Hoppy beer. Also pumpkin beer. And Chardonnay. If we run into each other tonight, drinks on me.

This post can also be found on TheFYD.com


The Taylor Swift Situation is Freaking Me Out

Two nights ago, I was in bed at 11:25pm when Jonathan Cheban’s Instagram so generously encouraged me to watch Kim Kardashian’s Snapstory – a habit I, coincidentally, had recently dropped. You know when you’re watching a video of something terrible, and it takes you a solid four seconds to realize what you’re watching, and then you freak out? Well, that was me in my un-air conditioned apartment, sweating for reasons more than one.

As “jack,” someone with a cool Tumblr, has put it, this is “the wildest pop culture beef this decade… (and it all happened in the space of a few hours !).” Kim released the videos; Taylor made an Instagram statement; Selena tried to get involved, and epically failed; Katy Perry giggled from the sidelines; Chloe Grace Moretz, in an awfully public attempt to earn her spot in the #squad, takes Taylor’s side; and Justin Bieber, who is really fucking stoned I think, tries to put peace back into the world.

There are certain “facts” that draw us to justifiable conclusions like “let’s all hate Taylor Swift”: In Taylor’s Instagram statement this morning, she claimed her issue was that Kanye never made it clear she would be referred to as a “bitch; yet in her Grammy speech, she explicitly stated she was upset by the fact that someone else took responsibility for her fame. Further: Taylor called this “character assassination,” which raises questions of whether we have, or curate, characters for that we must maintain. And what about the fact that Taylor has racked up an extra few million for all the times we listened to “Dear John” on repeat, ceaselessly hoping to discover new evidence that the song was, in fact, about John Mayer? She assassinated many characters. You might know some of them. Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner (#tbt).

Emily Nussbaum said it brilliantly on Twitter: “She didn’t explain what actually happened & her speech feels very different now.”

The closest thing we’ve ever seen to this is the last third of Mean Girls, where Cady Heron tells Janice Ian for the millionth time that Regina George, sans hair, would look like a British man. Then, lover boy Aaron Samuels turns on her and she's basically uninvited to the spring fling. For some reason, I am consistently and oddly satisfied with the new tornado that becomes Cady’s life, over and over again.  

Taylor Swift is Cady Heron, and Kanye West is Regina George in a back brace.

I have never met Taylor Swift, and I have no reason to feel threatened by her. I think it’s safe to say we will never date. Furthermore, though I am neither tall, beautiful, nor famous enough to be in her #squad, I am potentially white and average enough to have been the “red-headed Abigail” she croons about in “Fifteen.” If anything, young white women like me are the closest thing Taylor might ever have to an ally.

But I hate her. And maybe I hate her because she is wrong, and maybe that is enough. The thing, though, is that because of social media, we will never know if she is actually wrong. At this point, there are probably more conspiracy theories involving Taylor Swift than there are regarding JFK or, like, the Illuminati. We will never know what real conversations Taylor and Kim and Kanye are having – unless Kim Snapstories them, of course. We will never know what bombs are carefully planned and scheduled to drop and which ones arrive in Taylor Swift’s inbox just as shockingly as they do in ours.

It scares me that we don’t know the motive or the end goal; that we don’t really know or understand what Taylor wants from us. We’re all dying to uncover the truths of Taylor Swift more than we are the truths of the military coup in Turkey, and isn’t that kind of crazy?

The ripple effects of this event are multifold; it is the beginning of the end of Taylor Swift. Maybe it isn’t quite Taylor’s Sinéad O’Conor pope-ripping moment, but it’s the closest she’s come. It’s sensory overload. It’s Kim Kardashian, who is famous for being a person, affecting the way I view her often-misogynistic musical genius of a husband in a relatively good way. It’s holding all celebrities more accountable for speaking out – Selena Gomez, over Twitter, encouraged the media to focus on more important things, when neither she nor Swift are yet to comment about the horrific murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. 

So, as a feminist, as a die-hard Kanye fan, as someone who knows how to play a handful of Taylor Swift songs on acoustic guitar, and as someone very much glued to the holy trinity of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, what am I supposed to think? I think I hate hating Taylor Swift, because I wish I didn’t care at all.

This post can also be found on TheFYD.com