The Hitchhiker’s Hail

In the last seven years, I’ve had eight nine different addresses (I almost forgot England). Those seven years have seen me moving out of my parent’s house for the first time, living in six different dorm rooms, moving to England, moving back to the States, getting my first real apartment, and then moving to grad school. I consider myself to be decent at moving, good at packing, and great at upacking. I have moved into and out of my parents’ house so many times that I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I’ve permanently left.

When I first traveled from Cleveland, Ohio to Washington, DC for college, my dad had a pick-up truck and we used every square inch of the truck bed despite the fact that I was moving into a shared dorm room. I’d like to say I’ve really learned to pare down my belongings, but in reality all I’ve done is leave more and more items behind.

My proudest move is probably the first one I made completely alone, when I got on a plane to England to study abroad for a semester. Against all odds, I packed my life into one suitcase and travelled across the Atlantic. My plan had been to fly into Gatwick and take a train to Brighton, but that was ruined pretty immediately. A broken plane and Amazing Race-style sprint through O’Hare later, I ended up flying into Heathrow, taking a bus to Gatwick (panicked that I would not be able to figure out how to get to Brighton without my carefully laid out plan or a cell phone), and then taking the train to Brighton. Look, in the end I managed, but that’s not the point. My point, I guess, is that it was the first time I’d really had to navigate traveling alone.

I moved again last month, and the move was probably more daunting than my first trans-Atlantic flight, customs, and finding my dorm room at the University of Sussex. The one thing that made this move seem do-able, however, was that my dad was my co-pilot. We packed up my Honda Element as full as we could (leaving behind, among other things: all of my furniture, 95% of my books and DVDs, and my favorite pair of earrings) and hit the road.

For five days we drove cross-country so that I could move to Los Angeles.

I never wanted to live in LA. Despite my deep, abiding love for television and the quiet, burning part of myself that wanted to work on television shows, I never really considered making the move. LA has sunshine, and earthquakes, and it’s in the Pacific Time Zone. All of those things are anathema to me. But as I finished an undergraduate degree that I didn’t really know how to use, and worked in my first adult job, and went to grad school, the thought of working in television never left. It became louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore that, out of everything, that’s what I wanted the most. More than living in the same apartment building as my friends, and being in the same time-zone as my parents, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I gave it a chance.

So my parents, my wonderful, supportive parents helped me pack up the car and my dad drove across the country with me. We took our time, stopping so that we could play in Arches National Park and visit the Grand Canyon. I think both of us had been a little apprehensive about spending so much time alone with one another, no buffer of any kind between us, but it only brought us closer. We shared beers at breweries in the mid-west, and had a pillow fight in Arizona. We took pictures and watched shitty movies in the hotel room, and forced each other to eat salads. At the end of the trip, he even agreed that my choice of superpower (which he’d mocked mercilessly months ago) to be able to stop shedding was pretty worthwhile after all.

There were parts of the trip that were trying, sure. Like trying not to hit that elk as we left the Grand Canyon. Or the moment that I almost ran out of gas in the middle of Kansas because I was too absorbed by an episode of Keepin’ It 1600. Our musical choices are at odds, so striking the compromise of his jazz in the morning, my alt. rock in the afternoon was necessary early on. After so long in the car, our backs and knees hurt, we were probably always at least a little bit dehydrated, but we made it.

I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In fact, I want more road trips. A few summers ago my mom and I packed up and drove around Michigan for a few days, which had been a great bonding experience, despite the near-constant rain. This move was stressful, but certainly less than I had anticipated, because I had my dad by my side. I hope that next year my brother comes to visit and we can go on a trip of our own, maybe to Yosemite.

I hope my future is filled with road trips. I want them with my friends, hours of fighting over music and putting up with each other’s podcasts. I want nights camped out on the roof of my car looking at the stars with my loved ones as I try not to cry from the beauty of the moment. I want to get lost in a foreign country and not care for the awe of the landscape. I think spending hours alone in a car, while risky, is ultimately good for relationships.

The post script of this post, if anything, is that I live in LA now. But what was really important was the journey.

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I Wish This Dress Had Pockets

Almost every time I’ve been forced into a dress, I’ve thought, “I wish this dress had pockets – where am I going to stash my lipstick, my Kindle, and a pen and some paper?” My life is not one that requires me to wear a dress with any frequency, a fact for which I am quite grateful, but dresses are still a topic I can’t help but want to explore. I seem them online, on people, in pictures, and envy them. Each dress has so much personality and can convey personality, sometimes more so than any other article of clothing. I find dresses interesting because, in the right picture, or moment, or memory, they convey glimpses of growing up, becoming a woman, and the events that shaped me on my way to adulthood.

Not only is wishing for a dress to have pockets a universal desire in the dress-wearing community, but the act of dressing up itself is a visible marker for adulthood. The chance to change from frilly frocks to sleek evening gowns provides a sense of maturity the way few other clothing items can. Sometimes it’s hard to bear leaving some markers of childhood behind, and the ability to stash trinkets and distractions like a phone or a book into my pocket provides that. I’ve had an admittedly fraught relationship with dresses, starting from when I was a tomboy who would rather play tackle football with my brother than take a dance class. However, as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate the difference between feminism and femininity. Now, years later, I can wear a dress and feel comfortable because donning a dress doesn’t mean committing to being any one kind of woman.

Feeling comfortable in my own skin is a recurring theme for me, and expressing myself through my clothing choices is the most obvious way to process that battle. I’ve never desired to look like a model or have clothes that were in-season, but I’ve wanted to dress to express myself. It’s taken a lot of introspection to understand what image I want to project to the world because appearance is so often tied to identity. I carry this struggle with me as I write—how characters perceive themselves, how the world may perceive them, and how they act to change or enforce those beliefs.

At times I’ve struggled to figure out the image I want to project into the world. I grew up playing with the boys on my street, making mischief. I grew up dreading wearing dresses for fear of being mocked by my friends and hating that it was more difficult to run and play. So many milestone events in my life have been ones for which I’ve been forced into a dress, even when I wasn’t comfortable. Doing things, being put in situations that aren’t comfortable, is relatable, even if wearing dresses isn’t.

When I dig deep inside myself to question why I spent my adolescence hating dresses so fervently, I come up with a few answers: because they made me feel like an imposter; because I worried that they wouldn’t flatter me (either physically or personality-wise); because I wanted to run or flop on the couch with my legs spread without a thought to modesty; because I hated the way my legs chafed together on hot, sticky summer days. Now, with the ability to purchase my own wardrobe, armed with a stick of deodorant (will cure that chafing like whoa, trust me), I’m glad that I have fought this battle. I wouldn’t be nearly as self-aware if I hadn’t ever had to stop and consider this dilemma I faced for every milestone in life.

This struggle led me to pause and ask myself, “Why do I hate this?” A question I’ve found that will offer insight, no matter the topic. So yes, I do wish this dress had pockets, but my purse can hold more stuff, anyway.

Livin’ That Pączki Life

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I’m Polish. Well, I’m a plurality Polish. Somewhere, saved in the notes app on my phone, is a detailed breakdown of my specific European heritage. My cousin, a hobbyist genealogist, did the breakdown for me at the same Polish festival pictured above.

Most of the time, I don’t think about my Polish heritage. It’s only when I hear a particularly good joke about the Old Polish Navy, or when the sun’s reflection is blindingly white against my pasty, pasty skin. I think about it when I pound Bud Lights at the Family Reunion (hosted, of course, at a Polish festival), and when my family makes gołąbki every Christmas. I always felt distanced from my heritage, though; Polish was never a language I heard spoken.

For someone who was raised Catholic in the South, I don’t think about religion too much, either. When my family moved to Ohio (closer to both of my parents’ families in Michigan and New York), we also moved away from religion. My brother and I stopped attending Sunday School, we didn’t quite fit at our new church, and I never went to PSR on Monday afternoons. (My dad asked, once, if I wanted to go to PSR. I said yes, because that’s what all the cool kids from my middle school did on Monday afternoons. Then he explained that they were all learning more about Catholicism so that they could be confirmed. I think my response was somewhere along the lines of, “Never mind, hard pass.”)

One of the things that baffled me about the new church we would be attending was how casual it was. In Alabama, you dressed up for mass. Dresses for girls and women, slacks and button-downs for men. The first Sunday morning that my dad and I entered the church in Ohio, I was surprised to see jeans and pullovers. It felt too casual to be Catholic. I can also admit I was majorly peeved to find that you could dress so comfortably to hang out with God. Had I known this sooner, I sure wouldn’t have worn so many dresses in my youth. It’s been 15 years and I’m still bitter about the lime green dress with royal blue and purple beaded flowers I wore to Easter Mass circa 2001.

A few times in my youth my Catholicism and Polish heritage intersected. Most notably when my grandfather would tell me about the church he attended in Western New York. He was from a small town, small enough that late into his life the Polish and Irish churches in town didn’t have enough parishioners to justify having two Catholic churches. They ended up merging, and I accompanied my father and grandfather (despite a litany of protests) to the last Catholic service of my life save for funerals. It was a Christmas Eve mass and I remember being a little disappointed that the service wasn’t delivered in a foreign language, like some of the services I knew my grandfather had attended in the past. I also remember hearing an amateur guitar player in the balcony, a noticeable difference from the organ music of my youth. I looked up and thought, “Dave Rygalski, is that you?”

Both facets of my heritage intersect in February, with Fat Tuesday, when Lent and Easter are right around the corner. Growing up Lent meant giving up something I liked (usually something specific so that I knew I would be able to manage) and no meat on Fridays. There was no Catholic guilt in my young life like the guilt of accidentally eating a bologna sandwich on a Friday during Lent. Fridays were for PB&Js and fried fish. And then one year I found out about paczki.

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Could I necessarily explain why I am so in love with pączki? No, probably not. Can I enumerate what, exactly, differentiates a pączki from a donut? Not really! But it’s a part of my culture I can understand. Pączki are made in Polish households before Lent, to use up all the lard, sugar, and eggs in the house before Lent began and those foods were forbidden. So Fat Tuesday is married to Pączki Day, and it’s mainly celebrated in the Great Lakes region. Which explains why I didn’t know about it until I was older, living in Cleveland, and visiting family in Michigan. 

Living in Washington, DC was a wonderful cultural experience, but it sucked around Fat Tuesday because there were no pączki available. At least no that I could find. And believe me, I looked. DC is not a city with a lot of bakeries or Eastern European culture. Or, if it is, I didn’t know where to find it when I was living there. But now I’m spending Fat Tuesday in Syracuse, New York and when I found a box of pączki at the grocery store on Saturday, I did a little dance. I shouted with joy. I dug through the selection until I found a flavor I wanted (I went with the raspberry filled with a white icing). And then I went back today, actual Fat Tuesday, only to find they were sold out. I guess I shouldn’t have told so many of my friends about the awesome pączki opportunity.

Who knows if I’ll find myself eating pączki this time next year? I’m just grateful that this year I did, and that it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my heritage.

Birthday Anxiety

I actually made realistic New Year’s Resolutions this year, and one of them was to blog at least once every month. Technically, I have. I’ve posted many, many times this month to Off Color TV, but not here. And when I made the resolution, it was with this blog in mind, so here we go.

I recently had a birthday. It wasn’t a seminal birthday, I didn’t hit a milestone, it didn’t feel like a big deal. The biggest change, really, is that there will no longer be a Taylor Swift anthem with which to associate.

But the whole week or two leading up to my birthday made me incredibly anxious, anyway. I had to really sit down and think about why, but I think, eventually, I came up with the reason. I’m terrible at making decisions. Rather, I’m terrible at making a decision if it could affect another person in any way, shape, or form. Like, never ask me where we should go to dinner.

I’ve never really been a person who celebrated their birthday. I think I’ve had two actual birthday parties in my life? Maybe three. And I think there are a few reasons why. One is that I’m a pretty low-key person. I can talk and talk, but I don’t really love being the center of attention. When my friend texted me to ask what my plans were for my birthday I said that I wasn’t sure because I don’t know how to celebrate myself. It took an hour for the truth of that statement to sink in. I really don’t. I don’t know how to really splurge on myself. I don’t want for that much and anything too big seems excessive. I don’t know how to ask for a birthday party because I don’t want to put other people out. I don’t want to be an inconvenience.

Which is… a thing I have. I don’t know. I’m insecure and have low self-worth sometimes. It happens. And it’s dumb because I have so many friends that would be willing to celebrate with me that that’s almost an inconvenience in and of itself. What a hard life, right? God, I hate even complaining because I’m so lucky to have all of these friends but there’s too many friend groups and no good way for them all to mix and I’m coming back from a brutal bout of illness that I’m 90% is mono and I’m just tired.

I don’t want to make a decision.

In the end, I didn’t really. That same friend that texted me about my plans took the reins. She asked me what I wanted (margaritas, maybe Mexican food), and picked a restaurant, gathered the troops and led the charge. It was just what I needed.

In the end, I had a pretty great birthday. I got to see a ton of my friends, including a few who happened to be in town for the long weekend. I got to go to some delicious meals, laugh a lot, watch Studio 60, and my friends gave me some thoughtful gifts (I now own ALL of the fox stuff, you guys. It’s wonderful). And then work was cancelled due to snow, extending the already-long weekend.

Just because my birthday and the weekend went well didn’t erase my anxiety surrounding my birthday, or planning parties in general. In those situations, I’d rather be someone’s second in command, helping them make decisions and execute plans, than having to hold the mantle alone. But a lot of my anxiety was assuaged simply because I had people to share my birthday with. It was realizing that a lot of the anxiety I was feeling came down to me not wanting to be alone, not wanting to think that people wouldn’t want to spend time with me. And I am so, so grateful that they all took time out from their lives for me. That’s what really made the day special.

Epistolary, Minus the Novel

I cannot, in good conscious, call myself a ditz. I can, however, use many synonyms thereof: scatterbrained, silly, foolish, brainless, capricious, etc. Because I did a thing. Not quite bad enough to be called stupid or negligent, but kind of dumb. Let’s take it back to the beginning.

Maybe it started when I learned to communicate with the world. But that couldn’t be it because I was a painfully shy little girl. (Don’t worry, that didn’t last long. Though my disdain for strangers hasn’t at all diminished.) Or perhaps it was when I learned to read and write in 1995? No, it must have been much later. Surely, it was 2001 when my mother got a job at the local library. Maybe it was an on-going thing, my grandmother faithfully writing me letters throughout my childhood, fostering my love of correspondence. Which explains why, after I stopped writing to my friend sophomore year of college, I have ever since have wanted a new pen pal. Whatever it was, the result is this:

Kristen moved to Portland. One of my best friends moved 3000 miles away and while that was painful, I was happy for her. It was exciting! And I saw an opportunity. I finally had someone I could write letters to again! So a couple weeks ago, I started doing just that. I pestered her and pestered her until she gave me her new address and I started writing letters.

Let me just say, I’m not the best letter-writer. There are a combination of factors: I kind of insist on writing in cursive, I’m not very punctual, and, well, to be honest, there’s not much going on in my life worth writing about. But letters have a kind of magic to them – there’s a reason #4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrrey was filled with scores upon scores of letters instead of the Dursley’s house phone ringing off the hook. There’s something inherently personal about letter writing. They prove that more thought and care has been taken than any other form of communication I can think of. (Except perhaps semaphore. That takes some serious commitment.) Letters are tangible; they have a life to them. They are keepsakes and memories. And it’s a lot more fun to mail your friend weird cut-out news articles than it is to forward it to them via a bit.ly on twitter. Trust me.

[I once mailed my friend Anne a care package that included, among other things, a news clipping about a bear that, after sniffing peanut butter on the steering wheel of a car, got trapped in the drivers seat and rode the car into a ravine. A shallow ravine. More of a ditch, really. Or maybe it drove into a tree? Either way: the bear got into a car accident whilst in the car.]

So, when I have time to kill or when I have something to say, I sit down and write Kristen a letter. I did so a fortnight ago while waiting for a friend so that we could get dinner after work. I sat myself down in a Starbucks, pulled out a pilfered legal pad, and wrote. And when it was time to meet my friend, I absentmindedly tucked the letter into my purse and carried on with my night.

Which would have been fine. It would have been fine except for the fact that I tucked the letter beneath the cover of the book in my purse. The book that was already woefully overdue from the library.

See, here’s the thing. My mother works at the local library back home. Which is great for any number of reasons. For me, it means my library requests are delivered directly to me. It is a library where books can be renewed ad infinitum. And a library at which, for a beautiful decade, I never, ever had to worry about late fees. Which means that I absolutely got into the habit of not worrying about late fees.

So a fortnight ago I had Amanda drop me off at the library, for no other reason than we had possession of her mother’s car that day. I went inside with no other agenda than to return my woefully overdue books, pay my fine, and pick up whatever it was I had on the holdshelf. (A really good haul, actually: Season 1, volume 1 of Everwood; Mo’ Meta Blues by Questlove; The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.) And then I scurried home to hang out with friends. I put it out of my mind, content to watch the perfect double-feature of Bring It On and Pitch Perfect before muting the Bama vs. LSU game and watching a whopping 2.5 hours of Brotherhood 2.0 on my laptop.

Out of sight, out of mind I guess. Which is why it took a day for me to realize that, d’oh!, I had absolutely slipped Kristen’s letter into one of the books that I had returned to the library. But our library is closed on Sundays, so it was a waiting game. But then it was closed on Monday as well, for Veteran’s Day. I would have been bothered, except for the fact that the library being closed meant there was no way the book I had left the letter in had been checked out or shipped off to another patron or branch.

So, Tuesday after work I marched myself to the library and made a beeline to the stacks, intent on emerging victorious, Kristen’s letter safe in my clutches. But when I got to the shelf, the copy of the book (The Age of Miracles, which I didn’t get more than 20 pages into) I picked up didn’t have my letter. It did, however, have a reminder for some woman’s (I’m assuming it was a woman’s) OB/GYN appointment. I slipped it back on the shelf and went up to the circulation desk.

The guy working was the most helpful. Every other time I’ve been into the library I’ve had an elderly woman helping me, but this time it was a middle-aged dude. I explained my predicament, and told him how the book was from this branch but not currently on the shelf and he dug around in the back and FOUND IT. He returned with the letter. I thanked him profusely and may have done a happy dance. I left with a smile and a few more DVDs.

So today, at long last, Kristen’s letter was mailed. It’s already been through quite the adventure. I hope it has a good transcontinental journey as well.

On Visiting Home

A few weeks ago I went home for the first time as an adult – you know, a real person who has graduated from college, signed a lease on an apartment, and holds down a full-time job to which one must commute.  It was the first time I traveled back to the Cleveland area that wasn’t just a school break or for a short visit while I spent the summer in DC. It was the first time I took an honest to God vacation from a job. And it was different. Here’s how:

When your dad pulls into the driveway of the house that you’ve spent the last 12 years of your life calling home – the house you went through puberty in, the house in which you introduced your parents to your first boyfriend, the bedroom that, for the first time, you got to decorate as completely your own, with your closet full of Beanie Babies and Molly, your American Girl Doll, and your high school cap and gown – you realize that you don’t necessarily think of it that way anymore, as home. The people you love, your family, still reside there, but somehow it’s not quite the same.

The inside is different, too. Everything feels like it’s been moved three inches to the left. You know that episode of Full House where DJ and Stephanie accidentally put a hole in the wall of Danny’s room and they move the furniture to cover it? I feel like Danny when he gets home and tries to toss his coat on the chair but it falls on the floor instead. That niggling feeling that something’s just not quite right. It’s the handles of the shower and how they turn in the opposite direction of the ones in your new apartment. It’s that all the doorknobs feel smaller; the toilet feels a little lower. The painting you did in 4th grade art that used to hang in the downstairs bathroom has been replaced by a concert poster from a show your dad and brother went to when you were away at school. It’s the free food and the well-stocked fridge with the balanced meals that you’re actually happy are balanced.

It’s the struggle between being so overwhelmingly happy to see your parents again, to know that they’re alive and there – ready to hug you at any time – to needing your space. You suddenly seem to realize – even though, let’s be honest, you’ve seen it coming for years – that your parents’ ideologies aren’t the exact same as yours; you hear comments you don’t remember your parents making before. You grew up thinking your parents were so liberal and super progressive and you’re starting to realize that they aren’t, necessarily. It’s not as though they’re suddenly ultra-conservative, it’s just that the hyper-liberal college you went to has maybe shaped your ideology more than your parents have. There’s the moment in the middle of the golf course where your brother almost makes you cry out of frustration because he doesn’t understand that rape culture is a thing you actually think and care about so he makes dumb comments and insulting jokes and says it’s okay because it’s ‘art’ and ‘comedy’. Slowly but surely, you start to recognize the excuses you’ve been making for him all these years, and somehow you still don’t abruptly stop. You do stop talking about politics with him.

And outside of your house you realize that you don’t really belong to these people anymore. At least, not in the way you used to. Your life isn’t ruled by the 6×1 mile patch of ground that make up your hometown. You’ve grown. You’ve lived in a big city, you’ve spent a few months abroad, your experiences and perspective aren’t nearly as limited as they were when you lived here full-time.

There aren’t really any contacts in your phone from your hometown that you feel comfortable calling up to hang out. (Because for some reason being back in your hometown makes you act like you’re in high school all over again, when you would call all of your friends to plan to see each other.) Or, if there are one or two you wouldn’t mind seeing again – they’re no longer spending time in your town. You try to process the crippling feeling that the next time you see them might be their wedding or your high school reunion. So instead of calling or texting everyone you used to be friends with, a long time ago (and not wanting to deal with the boy you used to be friends with and had a crush on but know will ignore you), you agree to hang out with your older brother and his friends. You let him goad you into it even though you could be staying home, watching Silver Linings Playbook with your parents. So you get in the car. You climb the stairs to the apartment complex you didn’t know existed until last summer, and play with the friendly dog, and beat your brother’s friend at Injustice and wonder where his wife is while you’re sipping on Diet Pepsi, getting contact high from the bowl they’re passing back and forth, and wondering, ‘when did this become my life?’. And when you’re brother wants to leave and says, ‘come to this party, my friends want to see you’ you shrug and say okay, because you kind of want to see them, too. But when you finally get there it’s nothing like you imagined – it’s not like the parties you’re used to. There’s a girl stumbling drunk between the six other people present. A guy you vaguely know industriously made a bong out of an apple. You abjectly realize you’re not having fun. You take the keys and go home alone, fervently hoping you remember which streets to take because you never did know this are quite as well as you could have.

By the time your dad has finished packing up the car to drive you the seven hours down to the place you’ve started to call home – the place where you surround yourself with friends that you think one day, maybe, you might consider family, to your own space that exists hundreds of miles away from your parent’s house – you realize you didn’t even accomplish anything on your ‘vacation’. A few days of shopping without having to pay for anything; a carload of furniture your parents weren’t using; some home-cooked meals; a lot of hugs and ‘I love you’s said between yourself and your parents. But does it really mean anything? In the four days you were home you never once went somewhere new, aside from that hole-in-the-wall Mexican place. You didn’t do anything special for your mom’s birthday or belated for Father’s Day. In the end, it was a chance to hug your parents, to answer the question of what your brother and his friends do when they hang out, but not much more than not having to get up early and go into the office for a few days.

As the car pulls away from the house, you realize you don’t miss it as much as you thought you might. The talk of turning your bedroom into a guest room stings a little, but you know you’ll always have somewhere to sleep; a place to return to. You feel bad for the clutter you left strewn over your bedroom floor even though you’ve done so nearly every time you’ve visited home. You feel a little worse than usual, though, because you don’t know when the next time you’ll return to might be.

When you arrive at your apartment, everything you felt at home is still there, flopping around inside you. But it’s fuzzier, more distant. You still miss your family, the house, the friends you left behind and grew apart from. Every once in a while you’ll idly think about what you could have done differently when you were growing up in that perfectly suburban town and decide it’s really not worth the energy, because you like where you are now. You’re trying to learn  to like who you are and find comfort in friends more often than you turn to your family. It’s a process. It’s strange and sometimes unsettling but at the end of the day when you’re tired and trying not to think anymore, the thought creeps in that maybe the feeling you can’t always identify is pride – you’re proud of yourself for doing what you always swore you’d do: you left. You’re not ‘stuck’, anyway. You have options. Maybe just remind yourself to take a breath and try to remember that every once in a while. You’ll appreciate it.

Blanket Fort Manifesto

On those hot, blustery days where the heat index tops out at 108 and you’re stuck in a dorm room, chilled to the bone thanks to the cranky thermostat you’re afraid to turn up in case you’ll never feel cool again, you need something to do. And it doesn’t matter that it’s Harry Potter Weekend, because that happens at least once a month and, besides, you can stream those movies online any damn time you want. What you can’t do any time is build a blanket fort. That requires a significant surplus of free time, an amenable roommate, and a damn good reason to not set foot outdoors for at least a few hours.

I firmly believe that you’re never too old for a blanket fort. What is a better well of childhood nostalgia? The only thing better about building blanket forts at 21 instead of 8 is that now your juice boxes can be alcoholic. But of course a blanket fort, like every good compound, needs a set of rules to operate by. With no further ado, the Blanket Fort Manifesto:

1)    On Construction:

  1. Exterior

i.     Though called a blanket fort, the actual materials used to construct the fortress can include: blankets, comforters, sheets, quilts, and throws. Pillows are acceptable, but should be limited to increasing comfort of in-fort activities (see section 3). And remember, a successful fort is one that blocks most, but not necessarily all, ambient light from outside of your citadel.

ii.     Be smart when deciding on where to place your fort. If possible, it should be in the living room. However, if you are living in a dorm room, that might be impossible. If able, you should place your fort in the same room as a television. Then again, we live in the age of streaming video, so this isn’t really as necessary as it was a decade ago. You can just fire up your laptop and pull up your Netflix Instant. But don’t be that guy. You’re in it for the nostalgia, right? Hunker down with some of your favorite Disney movies. Your neck cramps won’t last forever.

iii.     A blanket fort need not be a free-standing structure. Acceptable supports include, but are not limited to: couches, beds, chairs, desks, and dressers.

iv.     Under no circumstances are you to use tape, glue, yarn, thread, clips, etc. to fasten blankets together. You’re better than that.

2.  Interior

i.     Comfort is the name of the game. Sleeping bags, couch cushions, and pillows can all be considered fair game.

ii.     Proper lighting is important. As you don’t want a lot of ambient light filtering through your blankets and into the interior of your fort (that would show shoddy craftsmanship), you may find yourself wanting to see once you’re inside. As good at setting an atmosphere as candles can be, they’re fire hazards. Act accordingly. Battery powered lanterns, strategically placed flashlights, or that Yule log youtube video are excellent alternatives.

3.  Location

i.     Blanket forts are most successful when built as an excuse to stay indoors. Periods of excessive heat or cold are perfect reasons. Doesn’t the thought of cozying up inside a blanket fort in the wake of a thunderstorm/blizzard/heat wave sound fantastic?

2)    On the admission policy

  1. Be exclusive. You want your fort to be the coolest place you’ve ever imagined. Those daydreams you had of tree houses way back in the sixth grade? Well unless you’re the coolest parent ever, you probably don’t have one waiting in your future. This is your chance, buddy! Go crazy. It should be a privilege, nay an honor, to be invited into your fort. Invite visitors accordingly.
  2. Listen, this is your fort, your sanctuary. It’s a given that it will have limited square-footage that will rival the studio apartment you’re barely able to afford. Ergo, you can be as picky as you want. No boys allowed? Fine. No girls allowed? Okay then. No redheads? I don’t know who in their right mind would make that call, but sure, if that’s how you feel.

3)    Acceptable In-Fort Activities

  1. Marathon movies and television shows. It’s absolutely a great idea.
  2. Cuddle. Admit it, a blanket fort is a small, cozy, dare I say intimate space. Chances are you can’t fit more than two people inside without resorting to close human contact regardless. It’s nice to cuddle with a good friend or significant other. But listen, you’re not a little kid anymore so if you want to make out in your blanket fort, go for it. Who’s going to stop you?
  3. Tell stories. Share your favorite misadventures, wait until 2am and make up scary ghost stories, reminisce about the recent past, and enrapture your friends with those wacky urban legends only people from your lost-on-the-map hometown have ever heard of.
  4. Play videogames. Scavenge your old Gameboy and pop in that Pokémon Blue you’ve been meaning to beat for a decade now. Set up the N64, crack a beer, and play Mario Kart. Let your boyfriend teach you how to play that first-person shooter you’ve never heard of before.
  5. Read. What a novel idea. Crack open a well-loved book or break the spine of a new one. Utilize your local library, or borrow a dog-eared, marked-up beater from a friend. Trudge your way through a classic or breeze through an easy-read. It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up a piece of literature you never actually got around to reading in high school English or that new Fug Girls book (which is great, btw), the point is you’re reading. I can’t endorse this activity enough.

4)    Deconstruction

  1. Set a time limit for your fort. Preferably no longer than 48. The fact that you only have so long to enjoy it makes your haven all the more magical. Nothing good lasts forever, right? Besides, if properly constructed, your fort is taking up a significant portion of your living space. You’ll probably be too tired come Monday morning to want to take precious time navigating your way around it while trying not to be late for work.