The Fear Girls

Category: Growing Up

Virgin Mary on the Dash

sophia_bicon By Sophia Rowland
I am not religious. My parents came from Catholic families, but it didn’t stick for them so no religion was ever pushed onto me. Certainly at times I have been interested in religion from scholarly perspectives, but that’s about it. I wouldn’t call myself an all out atheist – I just don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. Perhaps this is why my friends think my relationship with the Virgin Mary statue on my dashboard is funny…

My car is a 20+ year-old Lexus. It came with a ‘coexist’ bumper sticker and a statue of the Virgin Mary on the dashboard. When I first got the car, I was pretty decided they both had to go. But then when the guys at the car wash asked if I wanted to take off the bumper sticker, I was filled with guilt. The same guilt I encounter when I occasionally ‘almost’ unsubscribe from Obama’s emails. ‘Come on, is coexist such a bad message?’ I found my inner dialogue saying ‘Of course not!’ And so the sticker stayed.

Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary is about 2.5 inches high, earthquake puttied on, and looks like the previous owner burnt a cigarette on her once. It would be so easy to just pull her off and stick her in a box headed for the Goodwill… Yet, there is something about VM that is kind of like the ‘coexist’ bumper sticker. It isn’t the same kind of statement that a statue of Jesus-on-the-cross or some other controversial religious image… it is just Mary. And Mary was pretty chill. Maybe we can even go out on a limb and call her an early feminist. Yeah that’s right, Mary was pretty feminist in a ‘mother-to-all’ kind of way.

Mostly I think the statue has magic bruja (witch) power. Which is hard enough to say out loud but a little harder to admit to the internet. But seriously… First of all, I do NOT get parking tickets. I have not pushed this theory, but there have been several times where I have accidentally parked my car on my street without putting the parking pass in my car – and no ticket. I have also even seen other cars ticked around my car when I should have been ticked too. No one wants to mess with the Virgin Mary/Coexist combo pack. So what’s the explanation to all this? Clearly Parking enforcement must think I’m a peace loving old lady and they take mercy on the car…. Or the statue is looking out for me. You know, either one.

My Almost Family

By Zoe Claster

The other day my father and I were going through old VHS tapes that had been piling up in our living room. Most of what we found was old episodes of Roseanne and Becker back when my dad actually cared about watching every single episode of just about anything that came on television. But among the re-runs and award shows from the early 90’s, we’d occasionally find some old home videos from my childhood.

One video my dad showed me was from before I was born–when my mom and dad were still married and my mom was pregnant with my brother, Max. My grandmother had recently sent them an 80’s equivalent of a camcorder that you had to strap onto your body in order to use. She had sent it to them with they intention that they could send her videos of the baby and the house and whatnot. So they made some videos and they creatively called them the “Bob and Kathy” shows, which were essentially my dad and very-pregnant mom being a silly married couple.

As I watched this, I knew that this footage was and always would be incredibly important to me, mainly because I was about two-years-old when my parents got divorced and so I never got to see what they were like as an actual couple. What I didn’t realize, nor was I relatively prepared for, was how much of an emotional impact it would have on me. And during the moment, I couldn’t understand why this footage was suddenly making be sob uncontrollably.

I later realized that I had gotten so upset because, in a way, I was watching the family that almost was and never would be. Here I was– 16 years having grown up with a single Mother and a single Father, never having experienced what it’s like to live with “Mom and Dad” together under one roof, always hearing stories but never fathoming the mere notion of my parents actually living together, let alone willingly, happily, and in love–seeing them start out as the beginning of a real, honest-to-goodness family.

To know that there was a time when my parents were together and happy. Happy and madly in love. To know that there was a time when my dad was young and thin and full of life and optimism. That there was a time when my mom’s laugh was warm and bright, when their marriage wasn’t thought of as such a joke. When my uncle, Scott, was alive and healthy with not a bit of cancer in sight. When my grandmother had the ability to have an interesting and worthwhile intellectual conversations… A time when there was real promise for a “family”– a family that I never got to experience. A family that pretty much fell apart before I was even born.

And to suddenly come back to the present, 22 years later, and know that their marriage would eventually fall apart, that my dad would end up older and heavier and all around bitter about his life, that my mom would re-marry but never really have that warm laugh that she once had, that my uncle and grandmother would pass away too soon, and that our “family” would be nothing but a sad nostalgic reminder of what could have been–just makes me fall apart.

This is not to say that I don’t feel more than grateful to actually have a mother and father that are still alive and well and are not hookers or crack dealers or something seemingly awful and disturbing. Living in a time where 60% of the country’s population has divorced parents, it isn’t terribly unusual to be in my situation and it’s hard to feel terribly sympathetic. Most people just say, “Well at least your parents are still alive!”

I’m not saying that I wish I had parents. I have them, I love them dearly, and I know I shouldn’t complain. But I feel as though I have missed out on a very crucial part of the “family” experience.

My father once told me about a survey that his boss sent him as an anti-social attempt to “connect” with his fellow co-workers. One of the questions that the survey asked was, “Who do you miss the most right now?” My father told me that of all the people that he’s lost this year, including my grandmother in 2005 and Scott this past year, the people that he really misses the most are the kids that my brother Max and I once were and never will be. At the time I thought this was silly because Max and I were still alive where as he would never be able to see Nana and Scott ever again.

It didn’t make sense to me until I watched the home video of my parents and realized what he meant. It is true that Max and I are still alive, but we will never be those cute and adorable little people that we once were. Those kids are still inside us, in a way, but we’ll never say silly things like, “Boo boo” and go on and on about what we learned in school. We’ll never be those little portable bundles of cuteness.

The people that I miss the most are the “Mom & Dad” that I never got to know and never got to grow up with. I feel like, in a way, those people died sometime before I was born, and I miss them terribly.

Back when my Uncle was still alive, I asked him what my parents were like when they were together. I remember that he thought about it carefully for a moment before saying, “They laughed a lot. They were really funny together.” I remember thinking how baffling that was, simply because even seeing them in the same room together just seemed bizarre. But having seen that video, I really understood what he meant. And in some way, it’s nice to know that they started out in a good place, even though I never got to see the “Bob and Kathy show” live.

At it stands right now, my family is and has been broken for some time. Our numbers have gotten smaller as people have died and holidays seem more and more depressing and upsetting than anything else. However, I maintain that we are slowly on the mend. And that with time, like most things, it will get better. Like most children of divorce, it feels like the family dynamic that we often crave is simply unrealistic in this day and age. It’s hard not to feel jaded about the future of romantic pursuits because, if they couldn’t make it work, how do I even stand a chance? Let alone have children to suffer the consequences if it doesn’t work out. Needless to say, it is a crippling concept for those of us who don’t have the hope and encouragement of their parents’ relationship to fall back on. Still, I maintain optimistic with the hope that I will someday find someone that I can trust—to have kids with, to be happy with, to rebuild a family and hopefully have home videos of my own that maybe won’t upset my children as much as they upset me. That’s the idea anyway, isn’t it?

The Hobbit Sized Hole in My Heart

 By Caitlin Clarkson

 While I would probably describe myself as a geek if asked, I don’t know if I can quite say what I’m a geek for. When I was younger, that was such an easy question; Sailor Moon, Pokemon, the Dear America series (and by extension, The Royal Diaries), and above all, The Lord of the Rings.

I used to be a major Lord of the Rings nerd. We’re talking writing names on sticky notes and charting out whole Elven family trees on my wall major. The books and movies were introduced to me at the perfect point, when I was twelve and making that strange transition from life as a kid to life as a teenager. The Lord of the Rings (or LotR) drastically changed my life. I bonded with new friends over it, perhaps building friendships through related interests for the very first time. I pored over my concept art book and was inspired to take drawing seriously (for the record, I now have a degree in illustration). The books were the first my dad could, as one reader to another, recommend and share. As a kid, I listened to him read from The Hobbit night after night; looking back, I’m not surprised he took me to the movies and brought the books to my attention.

So when my dad texted me the other day, asking if I was seeing a midnight screening of The Hobbit, I was almost embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t even thought about it. Was I going to? It depended, what was my work schedule for the next day? Was it playing anywhere nearby? How much was it going to cost? 3D movies ain’t cheap. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I very excited?

Well, there was one thing I was excited for- only a few feet away from work, this popped up.


What could it mean?! A quick Google search told me it was going to be a display of props from the film. Okay, that sounded pretty cool. I kept an eye on the spot, waiting to see what awesome stuff the would put in there. The One Ring? Of course. Sting? Why wouldn’t they? Thranduil’s crown? If I was lucky! My imagination reeled, overwhelmed by the possibilities. I quickly found myself watching the trailer in anticipation and seeking out production photos to get an idea of what I might be seeing.

After days and days of waiting, I made it to the exhibit. And to tell the truth… I was underwhelmed. There weren’t props, but recreations of different objects, mostly jewelry (all of which, conveniently, are available for purchase). But I was taken back to flipping through my concept art book, squinting because the pages were so close, trying to see every little detail. And sure, Thranduil’s crown wasn’t included, but Galadriel’s brooch sure was beautiful. I made a mental note to look into midnight showings again, and to maybe put The Hobbit on my Kindle.

I ran into a coworker while I was there, and he skeptically asked me what I thought of the whole thing.

“You know… I think it’s pretty exciting, actually.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

 By: Sophia Rowland

I’ve spent the last few days in a 20 year-old boy’s apartment. Beer pong, 4 roommates, chili-lime burgers and the waft of not-quite-clean floors. I’m up in Santa Cruz and I’m having a lovely time with my boyfriend and his friends. There is a slight age gap between he and I, 3 years. It is the kind of gap that doesn’t mean much, but at times is noticeable. I’m 23 and I graduated college a year and a half ago, which means I’ve already lived beer pong, 4 roommates and not-so-clean-everything. It is always nice to visit here, but at the end of the day, it is not my college experience anymore. Lingering in the back of my mind is that remembrance of the anticipation, disappointment and emptiness that seems to be plaguing almost everyone post-college.


When The Hunger Games came out in theaters, I saw it a couple of times. On one occasion, I took my mother. Post-apocalyptic movies really bother her, I’ve noticed. I remember thinking it was weird how put-off both my parents were by Pixar’s Wall-E. Something about hit too close to home, they said. My mother liked The Hunger Games but she was quiet after the movie. Finally she said; “Is that how you feel?” I didn’t understand, so she pressed forward. “Is that how you kids feel? That my generation and the one before left this mess for you to deal with?”
She was talking about the social and economic state our country and world is in. And yes, I think she was right – The Hunger Games in some way does represent how our generation feels. From the take over of reality television, to fondness of brutal spectacle – it hits close to home. But I think mostly, now that I’m out of college, I’m really starting to understand what a mess the economy is.
Since graduating college I’ve worked as a sale associate, an assistant script writer, and an au pair for a special needs child. At least, that is what my resume says. Translation: I’ve worked as a minion for a department store, got some extra work from my dad, and was a glorified babysitter. Yikes. Twelve thousand dollars in student loans and a BA in creative writing sure don’t buy you much.

I don’t think I appreciated college much when I was in it. When I graduated, I declared to my parents I needed a “break” and a “reward” for graduating. Where was my all expense paid trip to Europe? My new car? They laughed. “We’re well off and wealthy in all the beautiful sense of the word – but we don’t have the money to buy you a car or send you on vacation. Wake up! You just had a 4 year vacation – it was called college. Welcome to the real world.”

Now I laugh when my friends who have just graduated make the same demands I did. Their parents laugh too and tell them the same thing my folks told me. College was a real privilege.

But what do we do now? Where do we go? What do we pursue? Internships that pay nothing for free labor? Sales associates and glorified babysitters? I wish I had some all knowing answer or something to make this reflection less bleak-sounding. But I don’t…

Well, maybe I do. My first goal out of college was to start a blog, and low and behold, you are looking at it. I also wanted to create a good group of friends and fellow artists back home in Los Angeles which I am proud to say can also check off my list. I may not be as far along in my ‘career’ as I expected to be by now, and I may not be any further in a year, but I’m certainly pecking away, and trying not to get too disheartened by the whole ordeal. After all, I’m only 23.

Big-Girl Pants

 By Chloe Crossman

I grew up in a house that was never silent. My parents, two brothers, big sister and I squished together between its walls as we played musical bedrooms, trying to accommodate the constantly changing problems of four children of different ages and genders sharing rooms as we charged headfirst into our various, turbulent developmental stages. “Alone” was not a word I used with much frequency, aside from expressing my desire for peace and quiet. There was no small amount of fighting, and here and there we shed tears and the occasional bit of blood, but we loved one another and we made the chaos work. Needless to say, I moved out as soon as I was of age. I spent a few years hopping between apartments and boyfriends until I found myself living in a particularly gross and crowded series of houses with a particularly bad boyfriend and his largely awful group of friends, of which there were many. It was not until I got to be 24 that I finally moved into this small, clean, sweet-smelling little apartment with my best friend. We have separate bedrooms, separate schedules, and she has a boyfriend and I do not. All of this is new to me, and for the first time in my life I sometimes come home to an empty house.

When we first moved in, I thought I knew what lonely felt like. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I really found the definition. Lonely is sitting on top of my suitcase at a train station in London, five thousand miles away from home, hungry, tired and without a tuppence to rub together. Lonely is the feeling of walking the streets of Paris, completely cut off from verbal communication for lack of speaking the language. Lonely is perching atop a barstool in Edinburgh, Scotland, sipping at a glass of whiskey and almost welcoming the sleazy advances of strangers, if only for conversation. And despite the moments of sadness and panic that can accompany this feeling, lonely turned out to be an amazing and refreshing experience.

As a graduation present for dragging myself to the finish line at the California College of the Arts last year, my parents rewarded me with the most incredible and unexpected gift: a two week vacation to Europe, all by my little, lonesome self. I was thrilled, overjoyed, grateful, and completely scared out of my mind at the prospect. I had traveled before, but never alone, and never to any location where I didn’t have a constant translator if I needed one. I would be heading to France first, followed by a brief layover in England, then a week in Scotland, and finally heading back to Paris for a connecting flight home. The thought of all of those trains, planes and Metro rides had me shaking, mostly with excitement but not without a great deal of serious trepidation. When I was a little girl and I approached some new, scary horizon, my mother would tell me, “Okay, honey, it’s time to put on your big-girl pants and just do this.” So put them on I did, and away I went.

I arrived in Paris after 16 hours of travel, the beginning of which was spent with a miserable hangover and a stressful farewell breakfast with my parents at which my mother succeeded in panicking more than I was. I somehow navigated the enormous airport and found the terminal for my train to Rennes, boarded it, and collapsed into a ball in my seat. Two stops along the way, a man approached me and, in rapid-fire French, began pointing at me and my seat and then back to his own ticket. “I’m so sorry,” I said, “I don’t speak French.” He switched to English, reluctantly, and explained that I was, apparently, sitting in his seat. He got the the conductor, people stared, the two of them examined my ticket and passport. It turned out my ticket had been booked for the previous day, so I shelled out €60 for a new seat in first class (all that was available) and rode in peace to the train station in Rennes.

I cannot put into words how grateful I was to see my friend, Hayley, waiting for me at the platform. For the past five years or so, Hayley has been living in France, and this was the impetus for my decision to go there, despite being completely ignorant of the language and culture. To top it off, she just gave birth a few months ago to a gorgeous little baby girl, whom I was dying to meet. So we hugged, hopped on a bus, and headed to her hometown of Bruz, where I spent the first leg of my trip. When we arrived at her house, I was ready to collapse, but I kept it together long enough to hold this tiny, little, new human being that up until then had yet to really feel like a reality to me. It was incredible. In my arms was this bundle of cloth and flesh and tiny appendages, with features that were unmistakably Hayley’s. I should mention here that Hayley and I both have hippie mothers, and our hippie mothers took a hippie, prenatal swim class way back in 1986 when they were pregnant with us. That is how long I’ve known her. We’ve pooped our pants next to each other, thrown tantrums, had crushes on boys, had our hearts broken, had our first hangovers, went through unimaginably awkward teenage phases, moved out of our parents’ houses, and now she’s a mother. It was something else, and I thought about all of the years that had passed since our mothers first held us in their arms as I looked over baby Annabelle’s sleeping face.

My days in Bruz were lovely, though it took awhile for me to adjust to the crying schedule of a newborn. We spent our time taking walks, playing with Annabelle, eating yummy home-cooked food that her husband, Jeff, made for us, and going to bed at a reasonable hour (something I rarely do at home). We took a day trip into Rennes to eat galettes, drink fizzy fruit drinks, and catch up, realizing that it had been almost ten years since the two of us had been able to spend so much one-on-one time together. I talked about my life back in California, working at the tattoo shop, my endlessly difficult love life, and nights out at bars and art galleries. Hayley talked about being a wife and mother, about trying to make ends meet, about breast pumps and diapers and Annabelle’s love of pooping and farting. On my third day, I experience this firsthand: as I held her in my lap, that tiny, angelic face looked up at me and smiled as I felt a rumble. She was gleeful for having pooped, and I loved her for it. When it came time for me to journey on, I was sad to leave, and I felt a sharp twinge of homesickness as I waved goodbye to Hayley and her family, and boarded my train to Paris.

Paris is incredible. Everywhere one turns, there’s something worth looking at. I stayed near the Bastille, which turned out to be perfect for me as there were a ton of vintage shops, bars, and fun stores all around. My hotel was very close to the Seine, which I used as an easy landmark to follow everyday when I walked to various points of interest. The Metro system also proved to be incredibly easy to navigate, which is good, because Parisians are incredibly, unapologetically rude. There is an overwhelming attitude among the locals that if you are not from Paris, you are a hillbilly, even if your French is perfect (mine is non-existent), or even if you know more or less where you’re going but just needed a point in the right direction (I had no idea where I was half the time). By day one to the end of day three I was longing for simple conversation, and for human contact, but I kept myself fairly well distracted by visiting as many cultural points as possible. The most amazing thing I saw while in Paris, by the way, was the Catacombs, where the bits and pieces of roughly six million human skeletons make up the walls of a series of underground tunnels. And it’s hard to explain, but there was something magical about walking for miles in an enormous city, surrounded by people, and not knowing anyone, and not knowing what anyone was saying. I sat on the Metro, watching the sights of Paris flash by, and let myself drown in the ambient noise of conversations in French that could have been about anything but became nothing more than the lilting sounds of a foreign and beautiful tongue. At night, however, in my hotel room, all alone, I missed hearing my roommate come home late from the bar, I missed hearing the beep of my cell phone as it received a text message, and I was beginning to seriously miss human contact. I was lonely. I would’ve paid for a hug if I knew how to ask for one.

The morning that I left Paris to head to the United Kingdom, something went horribly awry. By some miscommunication between my credit card company and my hotel, the room had not been prepaid. It was 5 ᴀᴍ, Paris time, which made getting ahold of a human being in the United States impossible, so I was forced to put all €680 on my debit card, effectively wiping out all of the money in my bank account, spending money included. As I hauled my heavy suitcase down the dark morning streets of Paris to the train station, I cried silently to myself, knowing it would be at least 48 hours before I could have money wired to me in Scotland. I heard my mom in my head saying “Big-girl pants, honey, time to put on the big-girl pants.”

My day in London was awful. All you really need to know about it was that I spent the majority of my time there in the back of a seedy cafe, sneaking bites of food off of plates left behind by strangers, drinking cup after cup of crappy coffee, and smoking an endless chain of rolled cigarettes. By the time I dragged myself into the hotel lobby in Edinburgh, it had been nearly 30 hours since I’d had a proper meal, and my lungs felt as though I’d been inhaling sand. In the morning I started anew. I found a Starbucks up the street and managed to get in contact with my mom, who wired me money, and while I waited for it to come through, I walked around the city. It just so happened that I was there for the last weekend of the Fringe Festival, one of the world’s largest art, music, and general entertainment festivals. All around me were mimes, street musicians, comedians, dancers, and puppeteers. My funds came through just in time to go have a pint, which turned into many as I caught the last bit of a comedy show.

The next night I went on the ghost tour, which took us into the Edinburgh vaults. Rest assured, these are not a happy place. I have never in my life felt as uncomfortable as I did in there. When I got out, it was dark and I was in need of whiskey, so I headed back to the pub I had been to the night before in the hopes of seeing something funny and lighthearted. Boy did I ever. The pub in question was a place called The Banshee’s Labyrinth, touted as being the most haunted bar in all of Scotland, where I happened upon a room in which a man was singing funny songs with his guitar. His name was Paul B. Edwards, and he was just what I needed. At the end of his stellar show, he was kind enough to give me a copy of his CD and even treat me to a delicious cocktail known as the “Ghostbuster,” which is kind of like a White Russian’s naughty uncle. I sincerely urge any and all of you to check him out on Youtube. After his show, he directed me to go sit in on another performer, The Monkey Poet, who was doing a show that consisted of hilariously lewd poetry and strikingly smart political commentary. It was also magnificent, he is also very easy to find on Youtube, and I highly recommend that you do.

By the time I started on my long, long trip home, I was incredibly, overwhelmingly lonely. I wanted nothing more than to get back to my little apartment and surround myself with people I knew. I missed my family, I missed my friends, I missed my co-workers, I even kind of missed the crazy people on Telegraph Avenue that try to bum cigarettes off of me every day. When my plane touched down in San Francisco and I turned my cell phone on for the first time in over two weeks, I was not even annoyed at the number of drama-laden text messages that filled my inbox, or the emails from my student loan services. On the drive home, I was almost relieved to see the billboards for immense McDonalds burgers and crummy sitcoms. I need some amount of this chaos to feel normal, and I felt starved for it. It was not until my friends began asking about my trip that I felt a longing to be away again. I recounted everything, the good and the bad, and wished that they all could have been there with me. I’ve been home for nearly a month now, and the novelty of being back has lost some of its luster. But I will return to Europe, maybe this time with a friend or two, so that the next time, when I have to put on my Big-Girl Pants, I won’t have to go it alone.