Walmartians, Meet Targetians (aka: Subculture Expectations)


*Tries again*


Now if my hunch is correct, every single one of you who grew up here in the United States just mentally responded to that call with one unified voice. POLO! The rest of you are scratching your heads, wondering why the heck we’re going on about an explorer.

Okay now, let’s play a game of hide-and-seek. Ready? One-two-three…


Most of you fellow Americans, if I were to ask you to describe a 4th of July picnic, you’d probably spit back a list that included foods like watermelon, potato salad, barbecue chicken, and hot dogs. And a scoop or two of Aunt Millie’s homemade strawberry ice cream, for the hard core folk. We all know the words to the Happy Birthday Song. We know that we place a right hand over our hearts to salute the flag. And we know that if a group of 4ft. tall monsters knock on our door and say the magic words, “Trick or Treat!” We’d better drop a piece of candy in their bags. This is our shared culture.

Every nation has its own sets of standards and nuances shared by pretty much everyone else within that mainstream culture. They recite the lines and lyrics from their own pop media, observe holidays and traditions, and share group ideals and values that mark them as a people. In that way, we belong to our fellow citizens, streaks of gold running along the same vein.

But somewhere along the way, that straight track of homogeneity starts to branch off in multiple directions. These subculture tracks can be due to a lot of common factors — ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, region. In fact, just yesterday, I took a little day trip to the beach, which is what most Californians do when they want to get away, or relax, or think, or seek inspiration, or chase seagulls for a few hours. And afterwards, I ate the most Californian dinner possible — spicy fish tacos. With mangos. Not quite mainstream American culture, but as common here as opioid addiction is in the middle states. (Too much?)

Being immersed in a subculture that is not your own can be a very uncomfortable thing. You can be the most skilled classical ballet dancer in your studio. But when you venture into the world of hip hop dancers, your pointe shoes and pirouettes won’t help you to fit in.

The other day, I locked my comfort zone in the car and boldly entered a place that is like another planet to me. Walmart. Yes, the good-ol’ All-American retail store. I was in search of some inexpensive household items, and that is the store to save money on such things. However, it was with great trepidation that I wandered inside. Before you count me out as a middle-class snob, let me share a little history. Once, years ago, when I was minding my own business in a Walmart, I happened to catch a fellow shopper glaring at me. I mean, throwing sharp daggers with her eyes. I was taken aback. Clearly, I had committed some unknown faux-pas while strolling behind my shopping cart. I gave the woman an uncomfortable half-smile, then quickly got out of there.

Now, if that had been an isolated incident, I could have tolerated it just fine. A misinterpretation. Or maybe she was having a bad day. Who knows? But a few months later, the same thing occurred. A couple of women in a different Walmart gave me the stink eye. I was mystified. Was I pushing my cart too fast or slow? Had I inadvertently snagged the last box of Cheerios before they could get it? Were they somehow offended by my mom jeans and plain t-shirt? Clearly, there must be some rules or customs, some unspoken alien language shared among the Walmartian people which I don’t know. I felt like Elle Woods, dressed as a Playboy bunny at a conservative non-costume party. Or maybe it was the other way around.

So now, whenever I must mingle among the Walmartians, I am very, very careful. I make no eye contact. If an aisle is crowded, I go around the long way. I make my purchase quickly and get out of there. Now maybe that isn’t quite the right way to handle it. Maybe the best way to understand a subculture group is to spend some time among them. Study their ways. Learn their rules. Maybe I could learn the correct expression to wear on my face to ward off the stink-eye of the Walmartian women. Maybe I could invite a Walmartian into my Targetian world as a cultural exchange. We could browse the latest in home decor and kitchen accessories while sipping pumpkin spice chai lattes from the Target Starbucks.

Or maybe the answer doesn’t neccessarily lie in either immersing oneself in the subcultures of others, or by expecting others to adapt to our own. Maybe the thing that merges the tracks is to focus on our similarities. When we all show up at the same 4th of July picnic together, no one is thinking about whether you’re wearing Walmart jeans or a Target sundress. We just show up, and eat watermelon and ice cream. We come from different regions. We may have different accents, or different religious customs, or different cultural expectations for behavior. But if someone calls out, “MARCO!” We’re all going to answer back in the same voice.


Not-So-Average (aka: Bra-Shopping Woes)

I finally broke down and did it. It was something so hard to do, that I kept putting it off. But today, I decided that I could not wait any longer. It was time to face my fears and jump in with both feet. So, I did it.

I bought a bra.

so many brassieres for other peopleYes, yes, I know. You are probably frowning right about now, and wondering how on earth shopping for a brassiere can be such a difficult task. In that case, you probably belong in one of three categories:

  1. You’re a dude.
  2. You are so flat-chested that bras are optional.
  3. You have an average-sized bust

The world of women’s fashion was created for the average female bust size. It’s true. All those cute, sexy Victoria’s Secret Miracle push-up bras? No miracles there for me. And those Target and JCPenney racks (pardon the term) full of adorable, lacy things in every color of the rainbow? Nope, can’t wear those either. Oh, how I long to be able to walk into any lingerie department and find a dozen $30 bras to try on – ooh, maybe even with matching panties! But alas, it is only an unattainable dream. bra shopping sucks

Truth: If your cup size is somewhere in the B-D range, and your band size is 34 or higher, the world of lingerie is your oyster. You are the gem of Bali, Playtex, and Vanity Fair. You could probably breeze through the bra section and happily spend less than $50 for a couple of those foamy padded things I now see filling the underwear section of every store. Even “normal-sized” overweight or full-figured women can find a delightful and affordable selection.

Truth: We *ahem* bustier women, and/or we women who learned our true bra sizes, thanks to Oprah, have a tougher time of it. Especially those of us who not only have a rather large cup size (let’s say more than a DD), but paired with a rather small band size (let’s say smaller than 32). Yes, we do exist. No, I did not achieve this type of figure by surgery (nor do I judge the women who have). But to buy something as simple and necessary as a well-fitting bra is CRAZY HARD TO DO! Not to mention expensive. But once we find a bra that actually might work for us, we are willing to pay almost any amount of money.

Truth: Most well-fitting bras for large cup, small band-size women cost somewhere between $50-$80. I am not even exaggerating. Oh – and most of those bras are made in the U.K. Because apparently, here in the U.S., all women with large breasts are overweight. Or nonexistent.

Truth: Getting properly fitted for a bra is an embarrassing experience. Especially for those of us who are shy about our bodies. But knowing and wearing the correct bra size can make a huge difference in our appearance and comfort. Plus, it’s totally free.

bras are a difficult fittips on finding the right bra

But anyway, I bought a new bra. A $63.83 new bra. From on online shop somewhere on the other side of the world. So yay. For the moment, I can relax, and hope that it will fit. And I will   try very hard not to think about the swimsuits that have begun to appear in the department stores .

Being Weird (in a Culture of Sameness)

He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.

Albert Einstein

Imagine a world in which there is no racism, sexism, or conflict over religion. Now, imagine a world in which those things do not exist, because everyone is exactly the same. Sound like a theme for a dystopian novel? That’s because it is. The idea of sameness, a perfectly homogenous society, has been repeated in so many utopian and dystopian novels, that the novels as a group have begun to reflect their own theme. Sameness.   Swimming against the tide

We shudder to think of it. Because on the surface, we pride ourselves in being members of an enlightened culture, living in a time when our differences no longer divide us. A culture in which people can differ in appearance, in philosophy, in politics, and in socioeconomic class, and yet still coexist in harmony.

Or do we?

In a neighborhood where every house is painted a safe, neutral shade of tan, beige, or taupe, we cringe to see when a homeowner chooses to paint his home blue. What a crazy neighbor, we say. Doesn’t he know that his house is supposed to match the others? In a community where men wear their hair short and trim, and women wear it long, we are taken aback to come across the opposite. Oh, the woman with short hair must be a lesbian, we decide. And the man is probably a redneck, or perhaps a poor artist. And a family who owns a pet pig instead of the usual dog or cat or parakeet? How odd!

We shun what we cannot classify. We make fun of that which we do not understand. We alienate those who do not agree with the majority.

I am weird. At least, that is what people tell me. I have been told this so often throughout my life, that now I wear it as a label, even offering a warning to the people who dare to grow too friendly – “You should know right off that I’m weird. You know, just in case you only like ‘normal’ people.” I say it jokingly, in a better-to-laugh-at-yourself-than-let-words-hurt-you kind of way, but the truth is, the label still kind of hurts. Rudyard Kipling Conformity

And I have always wondered, what is it about me that people find so unusual? I certainly don’t go out of my way to appear different. I don’t dye my hair zany colors, or boast tattoos. I don’t have an intense or boisterous personality. I’m pretty sure that I have a healthy sense of humor, and can usually hold up my end of a conversation (as long as the conversation is not about celebrity gossip, golf, or reality TV scandals). But still, somehow, I am weird. Is it because of my classification of INTJ on the Briggs-Meyer personality scale (0.8% of all females in the population)? Is it my I.Q. score that makes me different? Is it because I am comfortable being alone? Because I enjoy alternative rock music, learning different languages, and geeky computer technology? Or the way I like to quietly take in the world, then reflect it back through stories and poetry?

non conformist

Whatever it is about me, it makes me weird. It means that other people do not know how to classify or relate to me. And so, in their discomfort, they slap on a hurtful label and cluster in their homogenous groups, where everyone gets along, because everyone is the same. They listen to the same music, eat the same foods, and share the same philosophies, or religion, or politics. “Want to join us?” they say. “Then you must become like us.”

We must be the same. It is the only way to achieve perfect harmony. Ironic, isn’t it?

Button Up! (aka: Conventional Wisdom is Not Always Wise)

cold cold cold“Button up!” millions of parents across the US will say as their children head out into the chilly November air. “Don’t forget your jacket.”

And many obedient children will pull on a jacket or sweater, even if, in fact, they feel perfectly warm without one, and run off to play. But a few kids will stare back at their parents, eyes wide with curiosity, and ask, “Why?”

Why indeed? Why do we tell children that they must wear a jacket, whether they feel cold or not? The old-school, authoritarian parents will frown at the defiance of the questioning child, and respond, “Because I said so. Now do it!” Other parents may shrug and respond, “So that you don’t catch a cold. Everyone knows that. It is conventional wisdom.” And so, the child obeys. He buttons up his sweater and leaves his curiosity behind, and then one day, gives the exact same response to his own children.

I was not that child. I was the child who continued to stare back at my parents. “How can I catch a cold from not wearing my jacket?” I asked. “A cold comes from catching a virus. Not from being cold.” I was correct, of course, however, my reward for pointing out scientific fact over obedience of so-called conventional wisdom was a good old-fashioned spanking. And so, I learned that in some cultures, blind obedience to authority is much more highly valued than intellect, curiosity, or progressive thinking.  truth or myth

It is not possible to escape conventional wisdom altogether. It is a large part of any culture for people to hold onto ideas that sound wise, or have continued throughout the ages, despite a lack of empirical evidence to support them. Kind of like truthiness. And for those of us who tend to be progressive, out-of-the-box thinkers, arguing against ideas of conventional wisdom is about as useful as trying to convince a crowd of people in a steakhouse to go vegetarian.

And so I keep my head down, button up, and say nothing. After all, no matter how much research I have done to prove how right my argument is, I will always be wrong. You know what they say…majority rules. Argumentum ad populum. Everyone says so; therefore, it must be true.



  • Eating sugary foods will make kids hyper.
  • Kids who don’t get spanked turn into spoiled brats.
  • You have to wait an hour after eating before swimming or you’ll get cramps and drown.
  • People with Asian ancestry are superior in math.
  • Eating foods rich in vitamin C will make your cold go away faster
  • Humpty Dumpty was an egg.
  • The Earth is flat.
  • The sun revolves around the earth


God bless you, Mark Twain.

God bless you, Mark Twain.

My Geektastic Life (aka: Why I am Not a Nerd)

Nerd AlertFor starters, I am not a nerd. Got it? Yes, okay, so I used to compete on a forensics speech and debate team in college. And yes, I have read the Harry Potter series seven times and even have my own homemade quidditch robes. And fine, I was once captain of my school spelling bee team, and it was my (sadly unfulfilled) dream to attend the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But that does not make me a nerd! Revenge of the Nerds Tri-Lambs

Look, I have nothing against nerds. I am not a geek-a-phobe. I have known some very nice and interesting nerds in my life. Like back in middle school I was closet-friends with this guy named Michael. He dressed like Steve Urkel and I swear he probably grew up to join the Tri-Lambs. I couldn’t be seen with him around campus, of course, but he and I were the only ones in the computer club (and probably the whole school) who knew how to operate the Apple IIe. When no one was looking, he and I had a great time playing Summer Games and Karateka (Omg, Karateka was the best!).

But I can’t possibly be a nerd. For starters:

  1. I have never attended a Con. That is like a serious prerequisite to being a real, live nerd.


  1. I do not read comic books. Okay fine, I used to read Archie and Betty & Veronica. But that doesn’t really count.


  1. I have loved computers since before they were cool. So doesn’t that make me less of a computer geek and more of a techie hipster?


  1. I do not own Alienware or any type of badass gaming computer. (But I do have plans to build one soon, so maybe I should earse this one from the list)


  1. I am physically coordinated. I play soccer. I dance. I am athletic. I even like to watch sports. So I’m pretty sure the nerds wouldn’t even let me into their club for this reason alone.


  1. I am way too hot to be a nerd. ‘Nuff said.

Sexy Nerd

So you see, that proves it. I may geek out about GPUs and geocaching, I may be the Queen of Scrabble, and I may just happen to work in the IT industry, but you’d better think twice before slapping that Nerd bumper sticker on my back, or else the next virus you catch may just be on your PC.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Haha…see? Sense of humor and everything. I’d make a terrible nerd. Evolution of the Geek


Why Don’t I Know How to Make Friends? (aka: Adult Friendships)

Shy adult can't make friends(Okay, a brief pause from poetry appreciation to address this confusing and overwhelming topic of friendship).

Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? Okay, well, maybe it isn’t hard for most adults. Maybe many adults make acquaintances and friends easily, thanks to adept social skills, more outgoing personalities, etc. And certainly for many adults, it is less devastating when friendships end, because it is not so difficult to move on to the next friendship. I wish that I knew how to be that way.

But here I am, 38 years old and feeling once again like the misfit kid on the school playground, reading a book instead of playing tetherball – not because I don’t love to play tetherball, but because no one has invited me. Or because I asked to join the game and was told, no way, not you. So what do you do? You sit on the bench and read a book, and pretend that that is what you really wanted to do all along. You watch the other kids run and laugh and play together, and you study them, trying to absorb their happiness and companionship as your own. You listen to their conversations, trying to figure out the “right” way to talk and the “right” way to be, so that you will be accepted.

Because we all just want to be accepted.

So I decided to ask Google. “Google, how do adults make friends?” Well, Google had all kinds of ideas.

  1. Join a Club

Okay, great idea. After all, in the past, I made friends by being part of college Christian clubs and young married couple church clubs and new mommy clubs. And so I have been attending (almost) monthly Meetups for around a year for people learning Spanish. Unfortunately, the faces often change and many of the people are retired seniors. Recently, I joined a group for single parents. My kids and I attended one event. I had a lot of fun, thanks to my kids. But after the initial introductions, most of the other adults engaged in conversation while I hung back, observing and listening, not sure how to break into the other people’s conversations. (Blame it on extreme shyness. I hate being shy).

  1. Invite a co-worker out for lunch or drinks

This would be so great if I had that kind of job. The truth is, I work in isolation in a cubicle jungle, surrounded by empty cubicles. I get most of my job assignments via email and often go days without saying much more than hello and goodbye to my supervisor. Not conducive to one’s social life.

  1. Plan a party and invite all of your acquaintances

The last time I threw a party was four years ago, during the last World Cup. I invited more than a dozen people. Three came (not counting children). It is very hard to throw a party when you don’t know people well, and very disappointing when no one shows up.

  1. Ask your friends for recommendations

Hahaha! Good one.

  1. Seek out friends of friends

This makes so much sense, as friends of friends may also share your common interests. But practically speaking, this doesn’t work when you don’t already have friends.

  1. Take a class

As a college student, I take many classes. But most of these are online, and the others are mostly filled with teens and young adults.

  1. Join an adult recreational sports league

I have been playing recreational indoor soccer for a few years. I love it, and it is a great stress release. But my teammates and I never get past the acquaintance, small-talk stage. Maybe we just lack that certain vibe, who knows?


Some of the advice I’ve read online is simply ridiculous. For example, on the site, written for loners like me, the authors give the advice that other people prefer those whom they perceive to be social. Therefore, it is better to pretend as though you have other friends. It is also better to pretend that you are interested in those things which other people are interested in, to make yourself appear to be more like them. In other words, fake it. Is this really how other people build friendships, based on insincerity? No thanks.

The Help Guide had this suggestion:

Attachment and relationships

How you bonded with a parent or caretaker as an infant will determine how you relate to others as an adult. Those who experienced confusing emotional communications during infancy often grow into adults who have difficulty understanding their own emotions and the feelings of others. This limits your ability to build or maintain successful friendships. Read Attachment & Adult Relationships.

Of course, I followed the link and read all about attachment – a topic which I studied intensely my first time through university as a Child Development major. And yes, I recognize within myself my own insecure attachment issues, which probably continue to make it difficult to form meaningful attachments, or to detach from them once I have bonded with others. It also explains why I feel so mistrustful of other people, and fear a bandonment, and have trouble reading social cues, and blah, blah, blah. But knowing and knowing what to do about it are two separate issues.

So thanks, Google, but I am now back to square one, stuck in a constant loop of loneliness. And so I retreat to my cave, where I will bury my nose in a book, occasionally looking up to observe the rest of the world, and try to absorb the contentment they must feel from being so connected and accepted. And I will tell the world and tell myself (because it is less painful to convince myself), that this is all I really need.


how to make friends


How to Be a Grownup 101 (aka: 38-Going-On-8)

Twenty minutes away from my house, there is a large, high-end shopping mall. From time to time, I enjoy shopping there. I stroll leisurely through the mall, admiring the architecture and design, and visiting a number of familiar, “regular-folk” shops, like Yankee Candle and JCPenney. But there are also a number of shops in that mall that I avoid completely. Designer shops, filled with name brand clothes and accessories that probably fill the closets of celebrities and have price tags higher than the total of all my personal assets.shops better from the outside

Now I know – it’s a free country. I have just as much right as anyone to browse the racks in high-end shops. But anytime I have dared to cross the threshold into such places, I am overwhelmed with the sudden urge to tiptoe, and the paranoid suspicion that the salespeople are keeping their eyes on me, the black woman with the Target store wardrobe. I am hyper-aware that I do not belong there, that my worn-out Sears flats should not be stepping across their plush carpeting. And so, I avoid these shops, limiting my browsing to a quick glance at the window displays as I rush past.

It is not only shops in the mall that produce the sensation that I am a foreign visitor in a land which I do not understand. There are several types of places that I generally avoid – not for lack of curiosity, but due to insecurity and cluelessness. Bars, for example. I have never once been to a bar. For starters, I would not even know what to do if I were to go to a bar. On television and in books, people just walk right up to a bartender and order some type of drink. They don’t, like, study a menu or anything. So how do people know what drinks even exist, or how much they cost? Does the rest of the adult world take a crash course in How to Order Drinks 101? I guess I missed that class. Secondly, I have never been to a bar, because (again, my learning is entirely based on television and books), it seems like people pretty much only go to bars because they are shopping for a one-night-stand partner. Not only am I not even remotely interested in such a thing, but the very idea of being surveyed that way gives me the urge to run away screaming. Nope, no bars. bars are for grownups not me

Another thing that other adults seem to enjoy doing is going out to casinos. I am amazed by the way people discuss weekends in Reno, or Vegas, or the Indian casinos, with as much excitement as kids discussing a trip to Disneyland. I have only ever been in a casino three times – mostly just hurrying through on my way upstairs to the Circus Circus acrobatics shows. Though once, I boldly wasted $5.00 on slot machines (and won nothing), and felt no excitement – nothing but the realization that I just threw away $5.00 and didn’t even get a video game out of it. I wandered around a little afterward; feeling completely overwhelmed by the blinking, flashing, buzzing machines, and the excited shouts of people as they handed over their money and watched the dealers do whatever it is the dealers do. Clearly, they all learned how to play those games in How to Gamble, 101. I missed that class, too. They Make it Look Fun but I dont even know what they are doing

little girl playing dressupIt isn’t just that I feel out-of-place and clueless in high-end shops, bars and casinos. It is also that I feel like a little girl navigating a world that belongs to grownups. I am 38, going on 8 years old. I have the right to enter a shop, a casino, or a bar, but any minute, someone will come along and point to the door. “Goodbye, little girl. Come back when you are older and more experienced and know how to do what the rest of us already know how to do.”

Sometimes I feel utterly clueless about parts of the grownup world.

Sometimes I feel utterly clueless about parts of the grownup world.

Headbanging and Combat Boots (aka My Love for Rock Music)

My first love for music was not awakened by rock. In fact, my family pretty much never listened to rock music, and pretty much thought I was a freak for enjoying that style of music so much. I grew up in a household full of sisters who regularly blasted the albums of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and lots of 1970s funk bands from the family stereo. My first love for music began then, as I learned how to dance The Rock, The Cowgirl, and the Hustle in my living room. (This, of course, was eventually replaced by The Snake, The Cabbage Patch, The Pac Man, The Robocop, The Running Man, The Roger Rabbit, and the Electric Slide, though I digress).

1990s grunge footwear

I loved my combat boots. In the 90s, I pretty much wore them with everything – even dresses.

Guns N Roses

Guns N Roses

But at some point in the middle of the 80s, probably about the time that Push It and My Adidas took over the airwaves, my love for music began to shift onto its own course. Yes, yes, I will admit to crushing on teen pop, like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, and I never gave up my love for Madonna. But starting in 8th grade, I began to fall hard for the long-haired hard rockers like Poison, Bon Jovi, and Europe. Next thing you know, I was turning toward the less effeminate “true” hard rock ways of Aerosmith and Guns n’ Roses. And by the middle of 9th grade, I was a hard-core, black t-shirt wearing, authentic metal rocker wanna-be. I wrote METALLICA, the right way, on binders, on my locker, and on my razor-slashed blue jeans (because that just proved how cool you were). I watched Headbanger’s Ball on MTV and banged my head to the rhythms of Megadeth, Slayer, and Ozzy Osbourne.


The RIGHT way to write “Metallica.”

So what made me renounce my Rocker ways? Two things. First of all, when I refused to say cuss words and drink blue Kool-aide laced with whiskey at Heather the Stoner Queen’s house one afternoon, she turned against me and told everyone everywhere that I was nothing but a poser. Ouch! There went my reputation. Then, I became a Christian and made it my personal mission to tell all the rockers how evil and satanic their music was. After that, every rocker in my high school avoided me as if I had announced that I was now a New Kids on the Block fan.

Eventually, I returned to rock music. But a I matured, so did my tastes. I learned to love different types of rock – the progressive sounds of The Cure and Depeche Mode and  the groundbreaking classic rock of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and The Eagles. When the 90’s grunge rock scene appeared, I traded in my death metal t-shirts for flannel shirts and combat boots and sipped espresso to the tunes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. These days, I am more likely to sip earl grey tea while relaxing to smooth jazz or nuevo flamenco music. But I am still a rocker at heart. Though I have long since given up the combat boots, and headbanging now gives me a headache, I can’t resist the occasional urge to turn on Bohemian Rhapsody, strum my air guitar, and rock out in my living room.

Dancing Alone Among the Boxes


Pretty little boxes lined in pretty little rows

painted blue and gold and cotton candy pink.

Perfect little boxes where the women drink thir tea

and chat about the weather while the children play.

And the sun shines, and the rain falls

and the music plays on.


But the girl sits outside, for there is no box for her

and she gazes at the perfect, pretty rows.

She drinks her tea alone, and she talks about the weather

(though no one hears but her imaginary friend).

And the sun shines, and the rain falls

and the music plays on.


How she longs to be inside, to live within those walls

of blue and gold and cotton candy pink.

But no one invites her in, no, no one invites her in

though she dances among the rows

and the sun shines, and the rain falls

and the music plays on.