In Defense of Jane

30 Sep

If you have been within earshot of my brazen voice in the past ten years, you are probably keenly aware of my love for Jane Austen. My colleagues in graduate school are not an exception to this rule, and as a result she has been the topic of many lively debates within the walls of the writing center. As with any riveting discourse, there are individuals who are partial to my opinion as devoted Austen fans, and others who respectfully descent.

Unfortunately I have realized that, whenever someone chooses to think of Jane Austen as anything less than a revolutionary author, my initial response is to stare in utter disbelief, and squeak out the words, “but….you’re….you’re WRONG!” This reaction is usually followed by a string of sassy, poorly constructed language that is not in the least bit constructive. At best it leaves my opponents feeling confused and slightly put-off.

Thus, I have ventured to write a brief (I promise, I will try to make it brief) retort to the commonly held view of Austen-haters that her novels are narrow-minded, singular, and devoid of any worthwhile social commentary.

Ill-informed readers believe that her novels are simply about love and marriage, and serve as a 19th century prequel to the Twilight Series.  I cannot blame them for that, as Jane Austen has become somewhat of a pop culture phenomenon, and I’ll admit that I don’t watch the Pride and Prejudice BBC mini-series without repeating the scene of Colin Firth in the bathtub over and over again.

That being said, I firmly believe that the subject of “love and marriage” in Austen’s novels was simply a tool she used to veil her radical social views so that they could be read by a wider audience.  Austen herself, in a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1813, voiced her concern that Pride and Prejudice was too “light, bright, and sparkling,” and that her readers would perhaps miss her larger point.—and miss it, they did.

As informed readers of the 21st century, though, we don’t have to miss her larger point. It is clear to me, and many other well-known critics and devoted fans, that her novels are an in-depth study of social interactions—a study that, quite literally, can be as life changing to ones’ worldview as it was to mine.

I know that many anti-Austenians will see the word “worldview” and wince. I was prepared for this. The greatest argument I have heard against Austen’s merit is the fact that she wrote about a narrow, extremely privileged section of society. I couldn’t agree more. What I disagree with is the idea that we should expect her, as a middle-class, privileged woman, to do anything else except write about the privileged segment of society she lived in; she had no experiences that exposed her to any other way of life.

Frankly, any kind of commentary on her part in reference to the underprivileged in society would be insulting and inaccurate.

Should Jane Austen have made an effort to better understand “how the other half lives?” Perhaps—but as a woman in the 1800s, walking through dark London alleyways was generally frowned upon, and would have damaged her family’s reputation immensely. Some might argue, still, that she should have done so regardless—in that case, I would direct them to her many novels which describe, in detail, the lack of decision women of that time period had over any aspect of their existence.

Jane wrote about what she knew, and that is all that should be expected of any author. I can honestly say that her ability to analyze, in thrilling detail, the ways in which various personalities respond to significant events in their life, has made me a more open-minded and forgiving person. Through Austen’s words I have seen the pitfalls of my own inflated confidence in being able to judge others accurately, and for that, I am grateful.

I am thankful to live in a time where I can read a variety of books, written by authors from all walks of life, and grow from their stories. I just hope that Jane Austen will never be faulted simply because of the section of society she chose to write about, for she writes about it in the voice of a forward thinking 19th century female, which is a voice that deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated.

The Next Chapter

10 Apr

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” -Randy Pausch

One of the best (and worst) things about me is that I share my life with everyone. I’m an open book to the extreme–more like a frightening pop-up than an enjoyable novel at times.

Thus, it is no secret to anyone on social media that my dream was to be in Chicago attending DePaul University.

I had it all planned.

I would get the ONE assistantship they offered by virtue of the fact that I wanted it more than anyone else, I would get a part-time job as a barista, I would live with my best friend, and my boyfriend would live conveniently down the street in a reasonably priced pet-friendly studio apartment.

But that didn’t happen.

Someone else got it. That someone else could have been more qualified than me–I’ll allow that–but they sure as hell didn’t want it more.

I was upset–but more than anything, I was hurt.

& suddenly Chicago living expenses, job uncertainty, and student loans appeared in my head as cartoonish images of money flying out windows and bankers laughing manically.

Before I knew it, I was in a car on the way to Louisville–the trip that was supposed to be “just in case.” The trip that was really “for my dad’s sake” was suddenly the only other option I had. A dose of reality hit me like cough medicine to a four year old’s stomach–unwelcome and slightly nauseating.

As my dad and I pulled into the hotel in Louisville (roughly 24 hours after hearing back from DePaul), I decided to do something I never did before:

I decided to let go of the anger, frustration, and FEAR I was feeling and make a conscious effort to give this unexpected opportunity a chance.

I decided to listen, and big things started happening.

Each professor not only seemed interested in me and my career aspirations, but they each made a conscious effort to make me feel at home knowing that I would be coming to Louisville knowing no one. Each graduate student treated their peers with RESPECT and class discussions seemed more like a conversation rather than the clash of egos one might expect. The class I sat in on almost made me cry when the teacher emphasized the importance of an English degree in the world, not just in academia.  However, my favorite moment had to be this:

Sometime during the day, a twenty dollar bill fell out of my pocket. I noticed when I got back to my hotel, and thought “Ha! One strike against Louisville–lost twenty bucks.”

It just so happens that someone who I told my name to saw it happen, figured out that I was visiting the English program, and dropped the money off in the graduate office.

In envelope.

Sealed.

With my name on it.

Spelled correctly.

… When something like that happens, it’s difficult to ignore.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

I don’t believe losing DePaul happened just to make me sad.

I believe that God (or whatever name you give to the force that guides the universe) knew exactly what He was doing by not letting me get what I initially wanted–and I believe I feel so at peace with this decision because I finally LISTENED and didn’t fight the direction in which I was being pulled. At every turn, my doubts were addressed and proven wrong…right down to that twenty dollar bill.

But I don’t think I would have noticed its significance if I had still been stuck on what DIDN’T work out instead of opening my eyes to what was.

I’ll admit that I will still miss the idea of being in Chicago–but I will visit often, and I am so thankful to those who have reassured me that geographic distance will not stop them from making a trip to come see me (Kentucky Derby, anyone?) (Seriously though.) (I’ll make lemonade.) (We’ll wear big hats.) 

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”–I feel about ten years older now that this is all said and done, but that just brings me one step closer to being the wisest and sassiest of grandmothers. ;)

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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Five Things I Learned In College

1 Jan

Let me begin by apologizing for my lack of posts–I tried to convince myself that it would be okay if I didn’t graduate as long as my blog was regularly updated, but I never quite succeeded.

However, now that it’s over and I have had time to reflect on things other than grades, writing samples, and personal statements, I am realizing how much I learned in college that I had to discover for myself–things I wish someone would have told me in advance.

That being said, even if someone told me these things in advance, I don’t know if 18-year-old Carly would have listened.

So here are 5 Things I Learned in College that you will probably forget I said, but that I will say anyway–

1) Unless you are a social wizard, the first year will probably suck. 

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. Anyone who tries to tell me that their first year was a breeze can go purchase a tall cone shaped hat with silver stars on it and sit atop a large throne where they can teach the rest of us how to live our lives.

The first year is lonely. You think you’re going to get there and have lots of new friends to hang out with, but you will end up taking sad mirror pictures of yourself in your bathroom like I did–

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For some reason it never occurred to me that building friendships takes time– I assumed that college was a place where you meet your life-long friends at orientation and instantly start dating the attractive guy in your Psych 100 class, but thats not how it goes. You’re thrown into this strange place where you feel uncomfortable and awkward and no one knows who you are or what you stand for– so you have to earn respect, invest time in the right people, and try not to kill your roommates.

It’s difficult.

You’re going to call your parents a lot more than you thought you would. You will probably cry in the shower so no one knows about it. You will probably tell everyone back home that you’re having the time of your life. That’s okay. That is normal.

And it will get better.

One night you might find yourself building a giant snowman outside your dorm with a face made of fruit with some bros who live across the hall, and you will start to feel a lot better about things.

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2. Don’t be “above” making a complete fool out of yourself

In order to distract myself from how socially awkward I was actually feeling, I started to throw myself full-throttle into the ridiculous activities you’re forced to attend in college. For example, the BHN olympics. This was an event where RAs competed against one another doing activities that require no athletic skill whatsoever.

Did I have to lose my voice cheering my team on? Did I have to take the Scrabble tournament so seriously? Did I need write BHN in giant letters on my face with eyeliner? Nope. But I did it. And I had a blast– and it was a hell of a lot more fun than it would have been if I thought I was too cool for it.

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That trend continued, like when I helped build a ‘party bus’….

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and became a glow person….

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All silly. All worth it.

3. Do something for others. 

Real talk: my college experience would have meant nothing if it had been all about me.

It’s easy to get caught up in typical college problems, like, where’s my room key? Will that gentlemen with the broad shoulders in my English class catch me staring at him again? Whose job is it to clean up vomit in the stairway?

But there is a life beyond college; a life where bad things happen to great people, where students get depressed, and kids don’t get to be kids because they are sick.

As an RA I had the opportunity to help my residents through their first year of college by sharing with them how much I struggled through it, in the hopes that I would make their transition a little easier.

Whether I actually achieved that or not is up to them to determine– but it made me feel like I had a purpose.

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Buckeyethon allowed me to change the lives of children through fundraising, hair-cutting, and morale-boosting, but, most importantly, it allowed me to realize that there is more to life than the problems I was personally facing.

I was able to stop defining myself by what wasn’t going right in my life, and instead define myself by what I was doing to help the lives of others.

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Both of these experiences gave me infinitely more back than I put in.

4. Do something for your soul

I hope that every single person has a moment in college where they hear or do something in class that sparks their soul– but in order for that to happen, you have to listen for it.

I experienced that moment during my Rhetoric class when my professor said this:

“I like to think of myself as a boxing instructor– I give people the skills they need to defend themselves against a world that’s always trying to beat them with persuasion.”

And just like that, I knew that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m meant to give others the skills they need to defend themselves against people who are trying to manipulate them. I’m meant to encourage them to write and speak their minds so they can drown out everyone else who’s trying to persuade them differently. I found my purpose because I went to class and I listened.

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This brings me to my final bit of advice–

5. Jiminy Cricket was right.

“Always let your conscience be your guide.” The corniest phrase ever uttered, and much easier said than done– but as much as people will try to convince you that college is about ignoring your Jiminy Cricket, the opposite is true.

If you find yourself doing things you aren’t comfortable with, surrounded by people who think it’s funny– you’ve got to reanalyze.

What’s right for me might not be what’s right for you. As many of you know, I don’t like to drink, mainly because I look this cool when I do–

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but just because intoxication makes me uncomfortable doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. Just because I, or anyone else, tell you that something is good or bad doesn’t mean it is– you know what the right decision is for yourself. That knowledge is always there. Don’t ignore it.

5b. (This may mean you will lose some friends)

Warning- People will de-friend you on Facebook if you do what I said above. People will make up nasty lies about how you live your life just like they did in high school and junior high, regardless of what you’re actually doing.

People will always judge you.

Luckily, you also get to judge yourself, and if you like what you see, screw ‘em.

5c. But that will allow you to meet the right kind of people.

Even though it took four years, I eliminated most of the crappy people around me, and ended up with:

- People who, when they see a painting and you say ‘let’s reenact it,’ are totally down. (Also people whose responsibility it is to clean up vomit in the stairway. Those are my people).

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- People who will tell you to stop studying for finals in order to make a Facebook album that spreads Christmas cheer.

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- People who devote their time and energy FTK (For The Kids).

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- People who don’t judge you for wearing a scarf when it is clearly too warm outside.

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- A person who loves you even though you were a jerk at first.

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- And old friends who picked up the phone when you were crying pretty much every day that first year of college.

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Happy New Year to all, and thanks for reading :)

Love,

Carly

Virgins and Whores

4 Oct

Snooki “rolling around in the sauce” (her words) with random men? Image

Accurate depiction of people who are sexually active.

Couple that hasn’t quite mastered the art of the butterfly-kiss? Image

Accurate depiction of people who remain virgins until marriage.

Disagree?

I’m glad to hear it.

We live in a time where discussions about sex are commonplace–this is good, because it enables people to speak out about the need for consent, how to reduce the spread of STIs, etc. I’m all about it. Besides, no one wants to go back to the Victorian era where they covered up the legs of a piano because they were considered “too scandalous. ” People weren’t generally happy back then.

However, l feel as though the conversation is only being talked about in two extremes–the “You should  have as many sexual partners as possible” extreme, and the “If you have sex before you are married, pack your bags because you just bought a one-way ticket to hell” extreme.

There is a middle ground.

What inspired this post was an article I read written by a Christian man who decided to remain a virgin until he was married. I know, shocking. He brought up some great points about how this decision brought him and his wife closer together in their faith and in trust, and I was pleased to hear that he was offering a point of view that is not often talked about in mainstream media.

Until he said this…

“Do [your wedding] the right way.  If you’re young and wondering whether you should wait, [or] whether you should just give in, and become a live-in harlot/mimbo …”

Wow. Excuse me, sir. That comment didn’t sound very Christ-like.

It’s comments like these that lead people to believe that virgins are either socially-inept Steve-Carrell characters, or judgmental religious zealots.

He explained later in the article that his bitterness stemmed from the fact that, “People laughed, scoffed and poked fun at [my wife and I], the young, celibate, naive Christian couple.” While this doesn’t validate his inappropriate comment, I’m not surprised that he experienced such adversity in regards to his choice to remain celibate.

As our society becomes more accepting of sex outside of marriage, the concept of being “closed-minded” if you don’t conform to that lifestyle seems to follow, and I don’t think that’s right. I also don’t think its right for  to condemn other people (like the gentleman did above) based on their personal choices. It sounds exhausting, really.

It is my  belief that God (or whatever higher power is running this show) is not concerned with how much sex I am or am not having. I don’t think we’re going to high five if I “do my wedding the right way,” and I don’t think I’m going to get a lecture if I “do it the wrong way.”I think we’re going to talk about how I treated other people, and whether or not I had a positive effect while I was here.

Having sex doesn’t make you a “whore” or a “player” any more than not having sex makes you a conservative extremist, and I wish people (and television shows) would stop making those judgements.

I often think of life in terms of how I will raise my future children in it– and for a 21 year old, I acknowledge that that’s a little weird– but honestly, what am I going to tell my son or daughter about the “right” way to express their sexuality? I don’t really have the answer– and I don’t think anyone really does.

All I know is that I want my future children to take ownership of and responsibility for the choices they make, and realize that those decisions don’t give them the right to condemn those who disagree.

It’s okay to have sex… but it’s also okay to be a virgin.

Cue collective gasp.

Love,

Carly

Total Request Post

26 Sep

Writers block happened, so I asked people what they wanted to read. These were the responses.

Maggie Dziubek- “I want a story. Write a Moth story.” (as in one that would be broadcast on the Moth podcast)

This is the story of how I met Marty.

Martin Daniel Hess was a Resident Advisor on the 2nd floor of Haverfield House in the 2009-2010 school year. I was a resident on the 3rd floor of Haverfield House that same year. Marty was NOT my RA. Don’t get it twisted.

The first time Marty ever crossed my mind was when I was walking on 2nd floor visiting my friend (and current roommate) Renee. I saw the name ‘Marty’ on his door and thought “That’s an interesting name.”

I did not think about Marty again for another 6 months.

Marty, in addition to being an RA, was an Office Assistant. I was also hired on as an OA in October of that year. He claims that he was at every single OA meeting that I attended. I do not remember this.

We had one Office Assistant shift together from 11 PM to 7 AM. Marty walked into the Haverfield lobby, X-box in hand. He looked at me, said “hey” and sat down in front of the TV and stayed there for the entire shift. Around 3 AM he fell asleep. Straight up, controller in hand, out like a light. I stared in disbelief and thought, Should I wake him up? If so, how? Do I nudge him? Do I throw something at his head? I guess he doesn’t need to be awake…but….rude. Totally rude.

He stayed asleep for the next two hours. I stared at the back of his head in anger during that time. At around 5 AM he woke up, and continued playing his video game, without acknowledging what had just occurred. We parted ways at 7 AM, without saying anything.

I did not speak to Marty again for yet another 6 months.

The next time I saw Marty, he was working the front desk when I was beginning my first year as a Resident Advisor. I saw him and thought “That was the guy who fell asleep on my OA shift.” and I decided to talk to him, partially because I talk to everyone, and partially because I was curious as to whether or not there was more to him than sleep deprivation.

There was.

Romantic? No. Poetic? Hardly. But I like it. It’s real.

——

Dom Tartaglia- “I’d like to read about Denzel Washington. Yes, Denzel Washington.”

Swag. Denzel Washington is swag at its finest.

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What sets Denzel Washington apart is his sophistication. Not only is he a beautiful physical specimen, but he has this aura about him that screams, “not only do I do my taxes, but I never miss my daughter’s soccer games.”He has a cool factor that comes from an internal confidence that can’t even be described. Women want him. Men want to be him. Denzel Washington.

Matthew Durst- “the usefulness of an awesomely american name like yours”

I am a daughter of the American Revolution on both sides of my family tree. For generations upon generations, caucasian folks have been getting together and eventually it has resulted in the creation of me- Carly Johnson. No one has ever mispronounced my name. Rarely is it misspelled. But let me tell you–dinner reservations under “Johnson” are impossible to make. I’ve often longed for a more exotic last name, a more fascinating lineage than ‘…we’ve been here awhile’ but hey, you win some, you lose some. But mostly win–because I can join the DARs in…whatever it is they do.

Alex Alberti- “cbus culture… maybe a week in short north with a different business review every day. I feel like there’d be alot to write about with that.”

A Week in the Short North- Day 1.

If you’re going to the Short North, you’re going to want to hit up the Candle Lab. It’s locally owned, and a fabulous place to let your creative energies run free. They have roughly 100 scents available to create your own candle–I personally have created my favorite scent, “bonfire” by mixing the campfire scent, cedar wood scent, and gin scent (yes, they have a gin scent). They have all kinds of plant and flower scents, even weather scents (Rain. Say what?) as well as familiar home scents like sugar cookie and fresh laundry. If you’re looking for a great place to spend an afternoon, create a unique gift, and be introduced to the fine art of candle making–the Candle Lab is where you want to be.

Catie Destatte- “advice on how to not fail out of college by spending too much time on facebook.”

I cannot tell you, as I have not yet graduated, and therefore still might fail out of college by spending too much time on Facebook. I will come back to this question on December 16th :)

Emmanuel Dzotsi- “tea…it’s a good season for tea.”

“Tea is like a hug in a cup.” I didn’t make that up…someone else said it…and they are absolutely right. As everyone knows I’m more of a coffee girl, but there’s something about tea thats so soothing and un-abrasive, which is perfect for those cold winter nights when you pick up a book and just want to be reassured that everything is going to be okay. The best loose-leaf tea I’ve ever had comes from Tea Haus in Ann Arbor–they have one specific flavor called “Winter Magic” that tastes like you feel when you see Christmas lights twinkling outside of your window. I strive to be more like tea (relaxed, consoling) and less like an espresso shot (bold, abrasive) in my everyday life.

Marty Hess- “I also want to read a post about Denzel Washington.”

Denzel has nothing on Marty Hess.

And just when I thought I had nothing to say…

Love,

Carly

I Have a Thing for Nice Guys

4 Sep

“Oh, I could never date him–he’s too nice.”

I hear women say this on a regular basis, and it frustrates me to no end.

When I hear the word “nice” I think “someone who treats others well,” so it has always baffled me why women feel the need to proclaim that being “nice” is an undesirable characteristic.

Before I climb onto my soapbox, I should mention that some women define “too nice” as a man who does not question them–a push-over if you will. I agree that a relationship where both individuals don’t challenge each other would be sorely lacking.

However, many women actually do mean “nice” in the traditional sense–and when men hear it spoken of as a negative trait, they start to get confused.

Allow me to demonstrate–

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I’m pausing my rant for a second so you can appreciate how long it took me to create that graph.

-

Back to rant.

We need to do something about this cycle, because I’m tired of it. I’m tired of seeing men I love and admire get down on themselves because they think that being a gentleman won’t get them a date. I’m tired of hearing women sell themselves short, and seeing them EXPECT douche-baggary instead of demanding respect. I wish I could travel to every high school around the nation and talk to every single person about healthy relationships–but I can’t.

So how do we fix this?

I think we (meaning me, and whoever is reading this), should start the conversation– Next time you hear someone talking about how they don’t want a “nice guy,” ask them why. If they mean they don’t want someone with a weak personality, tell them to say that instead of “nice.” If they actually mean “someone who treats me well,” then tell them that they deserve better. There is a quotation I read once that I will never forget, and it said “we accept the love we think we deserve.” If you see someone in your life who is putting up with someone who doesn’t treat them exceptionally–talk to them about it, and remind them of all the nice guys that are still around.

To the men out there who are resisting the urge to turn into a Pauly D/ George Wickham, I applaud you. I promise there are women out there who are ready to be worthy of you.

Until then, be on the look out for the “Team Nice Guy” hashtag/ eventual t-shirts that I’ll be promoting.

Spread the word.

-Carly

What Women Could Do If We Stopped Being Awful to Each Other

24 Aug

One evening when I was in sixth grade, one of my best friends called me up and said –

“I called every boy in school, and none of them want to take you to the carnival because you’re not pretty.”

This incident resulted in years of insecurity (not to mention an irrational distaste of anything carnival-related). I couldn’t understand why my “friend” would intentionally hurt me.

Unfortunately, Junior High was a big learning curve, and I came to expect catty behavior as the norm, hoping that it would pass when I got older.

But it hasn’t.

Women are STILL manipulating each other– it isn’t as overt as claiming that they “called every boy in school” anymore, but it’s arguably worse . I’ve seen women openly flirt with their “best friend’s” significant other, and claim they “had no idea” they were doing it. I have seen women in the workplace try to “get ahead” by hitting on married men, and throwing their fellow female co-workers under the bus. To this I say-

You are grown-ass women. Get it together.

I understand that this world is hard for a women, especially when we are fighting every day to be paid as much as our male counterparts–it’s enough to make anyone irritable–but I cannot for the life of me understand how some women believe that being “competitive” and being an awful person go hand in hand.

The root of the problem has to be priorities. I feel like some women believe that collecting male admirers or getting to the top of the corporate ladder will finally make them happy, so they will stop at nothing to get there, but here’s the deal–

These women who are viciously trying to get what they want are going to end up with good-looking but vapid and emotionally inaccessible husbands, and a group of girl friends who are constantly trying to sabotage each other’s casseroles.

On the flip side, I’ve met women who are genuinely kind and support their friends and co-workers–but they tend to go unnoticed when the Regina Georges in their lives try to steal their fire. To those women I say–Hang in there. Once the manipulative women have mid-life (or even quarter-life) crises wondering what they’re living for, the good girls will come out on top. It might take two months…it might take ten years…but it will happen.

It is entirely possible that no one wanted to take me to the carnival because I was not attractive–who is in the sixth grade?–but my biggest mistake was letting a woman of lesser character get me down.

Think of what women could do if we didn’t let the evil step-sisters of society influence us–if we simply ignored them they’d lose their power and who knows? Maybe we could all move ahead together instead of tearing each other down along the way.

Cue music…

-Carly

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