Tuesday, January 17, 2006

American Cheese Girl

One of the strangest things I've ever been called is the "American cheese girl." I could almost understand if it had been a French person or other foreigner who called me this, but in fact I was called this by a fellow American girl, though perhaps a slightly less cheesy one than me.

When I was at Rutgers, a bunch of the girl grad students used to go out to a restaurant once a week for a ladies' breakfast so that we could discuss politics, economics, and gossip without the boy grad students annoying us. I'm not kidding about the topics here, by the way -- a typical breakfast would start on politics (usually leftist vs. rightist approaches to dealing with poverty), and then move on to a bunch of racy stories about everyone's respective boyfriends and girlfriends.

During breakfast one day -- I don't remember how the subject came up -- we were talking about people who take on a "goth" persona. A lot of you may see goth teenagers as kind of social outcasts. When I was in high school, however, I was more in the Star Trek crowd, which I think by any reasonable standard is a group that is socially cast out a few leagues father than even the goths. So of course I had looked up to the goths as being "cool kids" and I told my breakfast friends that I had always thought it might be interesting to join them.

My friends immediately laughed at this and told me that there's no way I could ever be goth -- I'm just way too cheerful for that. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but it was possible that they were right. Then my one friend said she always pictured me as being more like a drum majorette. I wasn't sure whether to take that as an insult or a compliment, but if nothing else this image really astonished me. I had always assumed people saw me as being "that strange girl who's always wandering around talking to herself instead of talking to other humans." It struck me then that there was some social advantage to being surrounded by other math nerds since comparatively I might come off as friendly, outgoing, and even normal.

Then I made the whole thing worse when the waitress asked me what kind of cheese I wanted on my omlette and I responded "American." Now that I've been living in France for a while, I know that the correct answer for what cheese to order on an omlette is "gruyère," but since this breakfast took place back before I had started learning French, I got the fun of having my even-more- math-nerdly- than-me girlfriends call me the drum majorette American cheese girl.

Still, despite how obviously unqualified I am to be goth, I've always been curious about the whole goth thing, and I kind of wanted to better understand the goth perspective. I figured the best way to start would be to read a vampire novel, and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire seemed to be the natural choice.

The beginning part of the novel was great, but as the story progressed, I found I couldn't relate to it. Call me old-fashioned, but even using my best suspension of disbelief, I just couldn't find anything remotely romantic or poignant about being a monster that goes out and kills random people every night. I got about halfway through the book and started compulsively checking the end to make sure it was really only 350 pages -- it seemed like about 800.

Then near the end when the author started blatantly eroticizing the murderous blood-sucking -- having the vampires go after a naked woman with "pouty lips," etc. -- there was no way I could escape a sense of absolute revulsion.

For those who -- unlike me -- are okay with the killing people part but not the nudity, you're in luck. It turns out that there's actually an LDS author who has written a popular vampire novel. I learned about this by reading my favorite blog A Motley Vision. (This is the same blog I recently had some amusing interactions with.)

Anyway, the LDS vampire novel author gave the blogger a pretty straight-forward interview. The one thing in it that jumped out at me was when the author said that her publisher had asked her to add some "premarital sex" and she refused to on the grounds that she's opposed to that sort of thing.

Ummmm... Okaaaaaaaaaay...

So let me get this straight. Killing innocent people by sucking out all their blood is fine and dandy just so long as nobody is -- gasp! -- having sex!

Now, I know LDS culture well enough to know that I shouldn't be surprised by this sort of attitude. But seriously, statements like that one make me feel like a visit to Mormondom is a little like being on a Star Trek episode where we're exploring Bizarro World.

Which goes to show that in the great nerdly divide of Trekkie vs. goth, I can't change which side I naturally fall on.

Published in the Utah Valley Monitor January 05, 2006.


Anonymous said...

You should know that the vampire in Twilight tries to be a "good" vampire -- living without drinking people's blood, and there is very little action/violence in the books, so this series doesn't really support your violence-in-LDS-culture statement. :-)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Anonymous!!!

I don't mean to imply that LDS culture supports violence, and I'm mostly kidding about Twilight here -- actually, I've heard a lot of good things about it. I've thought about picking up Twilight, and I might at some point.

On the other hand, reading Interview with a Vampire kind of put me off of the whole idea of vampires because it was soooooo boring. The first few chapters were great, but it kind of dropped off after that. That's nice that the vampires in Twilight try to live without drinking blood (which was also true of one of the characters in Interview), but I have to admit that I don't find this whole romantically-tragic fate of needing to kill people to live to be particularly interesting.