Coasting the Beizer

You know that moment when you’re going up a roller coaster, heading towards the first drop?

slow-motion-rollercoaster

Your heart’s in your throat and your pulse beats with each click of the track. You can’t help but try and look down even before you know you can see. You’re ready for the rush, ready for the fall and the anticipation rises. Your hands grip the handle as you test the limits of the harness and restraints.

It’s fantastic isn’t it?

The emotion.

The vibration.

The palpitating stillness. Like everything is moving in slow motion.

My family went on a mini vacation this past weekend to an amusement park. Ending the holidays with a bang. Or a plunge – whichever you prefer.

My mother had some time off (which she never does) and we took advantage of it.

By “we,” I mean my father and sister.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m generally a hardcore roller coaster aficionado. Drops, twists, turns, – strap me in and I’m good to go! I just…wasn’t really feeling up to it this time around. Of course, I went anyway. If my mother managed to get away from her writing desk for even one minute, I was not going to be the one to spoil it.

My mother is usually very busy, mostly because she’s got two very time consuming jobs. In fact, I’m not entirely sure my mother would know what to do with free time if she had any. She’s a magazine and freelance editor and part time journalist for various professional journals and newspapers. The basic rules of grammar and the effective use of pronouns and adjectives were my lullabies. Along with the importance of ethics in the workplace.

…This could be the reason why I can never sit through a normal English class without humming random tunes to School House Rock.

In any case, to celebrate the end of winter break we went with tradition. The tradition of families everywhere with kids on vacation to go to an amusement park, spend the day gorging on junk food, attempting to beat rigged games and going on as many head twisting rides as possible until you’re no longer sure if it’s the world spinning or just you.

The sugar high alone is usually worth it.

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Normally, I’d invite Angie to come along. She likes roller coasters and amusement parks as much as I do. Not to mention we have this awesome game we play where we each insert math terms randomly in our sentences in front of strangers. We are loud enough for them to overhear us and have absolutely no clue what we’re saying. Like we’re speaking a foreign language with English words. It’s even funnier when you get someone who does understand math lingo because sometimes those people are even more confused than others. They’re the ones that usually “discreetly” turn towards us to make sure they’re hearing things right. For some reason, people can get confused when you use terms according to their mathematical definitions instead of their common English ones.

What’s the difference between zero people in a line segment and no people in an infinite line that’s so straight it wraps around three posts or a garbage? I’ll tell you, the amount of time it takes to get on a ride, that’s what!

Usually that’s how it goes.

This time I didn’t invite Angie, and no it was not because of Dan. Entirely. I actually haven’t seen much of her this winter break. I mean, we spoke on the phone a bit. Kind of. She told me her plans, invited me along, I turned her down – stuff like that. I wasn’t feeling very social and anyway it’s not like I’m her only friend, she’s got plenty of other friends to hang out with. And if I had invited her along then I would have had to pay some kind of attention to her. Socialize a bit or something and really, like I said, I wasn’t so much in the mood for that. When it’s just my family it’s easier to fade into the background because they all have such strong personalities. They won’t always notice if I’m more quiet than usual. It’s better that way because then they have a good time and I don’t rain on their parade. Nobody likes being around a noticeable wet blanket.

Honestly I’m not always so antisocial. No, seriously I’m not. But…everyone’s got those times when they just don’t feel up to doing those things they usually like doing. School is starting soon and I’m going to have to deal with classes and tests and papers and people and teachers so the fact that I just wanted to lay low for a bit is totally normal. Y’know, get my bearings again.

And I did end up having a pretty good time. With all the cacophony of sounds, the bleeding together of the many different strains of park music mixed in with the screams of endorphin happy riders and the high pitched whines and yells of children and babies – with all that commotion on the outside, it’s easier to ignore the noise on the inside.

The only time things quiet down a little is when you’re strapped in and on the incline. Backs to the hard plastic, sun in your eyes and gradually, steeply, heading up. It happens quickly enough to satisfy a generation of instant gratification and slowly enough to give you time to think. Or panic. Depends who you are.

For me, it was while on the incline of one of the last roller coasters of the day that I really started to think.

Roller coasters are giant life-size beizer curves.

Basically.

The rise and fall can be various heights and lengths. They can be steep or shallow. Long or short. Kind of like life. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down and sometimes you can’t even tell if you’re up or down. There are twists and turns and sudden drops and then occasionally, it can all come to a sudden, screeching halt.

The most pivotal moments are right at the end of the climb. Right before you drop, when you can see the ground so far below you and you’ve no choice but to fall forward. Too far over the edge to pull up and nothing you can grab to hold you back, no one you can call to save you.

rollercoaster drop

The craziest thoughts can pop into my head at times like these. Silly roller coaster ideas probably brought on by an excessive indulgence in sugar and endorphins. Many times all I’m thinking of is the rush and the wind and the anticipation. And then there are those other times when I think of the strange things…like wondering what would happen if the train suddenly fell off the track. How secure are these things anyway? What if on the way up, it fell back down? Would we all survive? Would we die?

At least I wouldn’t have to deal with school anymore.

…Would it really be so bad?

But those are only momentary thoughts. A few seconds later and I’m back to reality with the ground rushing towards me, the wind pulling at me and I’m going so far and fast it’s like I’m flying. It feels like exhilaration in its primal form.

Classes begin soon, I’m going to be seeing everyone all over again. I’ll have to find that empty spot on the puzzle board and hope I’m the missing piece. The eternal struggle of a preteen trying to fit in – even when you feel like your curves and edges are in all the wrong places. Hopefully the exhilaration I felt on those coasters will pull me forward and will create points on a curve that guide my path and get me through.

Here’s to a new year and new points. New curves and new drops and new risings.

Here’s to a solution to those seemingly unsolvable equations.

Here’s to beginnings and endings.

Here’s to another turn on the wildest ride of all. Let’s hope the train doesn’t fall of the tracks.

 

Resolutely Yours,

Manny

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Familial Functions

Guess what?

Really, guess!

You’ll never get it.

It’s shocking. World breaking.

…..

Give up yet?

I’ll tell you.

You’ll never believe it:

The.

World.

Didn’t.

End.

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But y’know, that could be a good thing. Now I can return focus back to my totally awesome and completely drama free, regular life. I am after all home with family thanks to winter break so…family bonding of some kind is the expected thing to do right? Yay! More time to spend awkwardly fumbling with words and actions while trying to present a solidly stable front for my family and especially, for my younger sister.

That’s right my younger sister –  Daisy, the integer.

My perfectly wonderful younger sister.

It should be a song!

Maybe it would go something like…..Dayseh, my baybeh, you drive me crayzeh! With a little bouncy tune I think it’d make a very catchy jingle.

I should know – I used to sing it around my sister all the time. Back before I knew my singing was a certifiable form of torture. In fact, I even caught my mother humming it to herself once. If getting three random lines stuck circulating in someone’s brain does not a catchy jingle make, then you’ve clearly never seen a Kit Kat bar commercial.

The only reason I stopped was because Daisy started singing it herself. Like a theme song.

There’s something less than appealing in someone taking a song you’ve created to…not necessarily mock them, but using the prerogative of elder siblings everywhere to…play with them a little, and liking it so much they use it for themselves.

This, is Daisy. In a nutshell. Where other younger siblings would be mad, get upset, go running to the parents – normal reactions, Daisy will enjoy it. She takes looking up to your elder sibling to a whole new level. Which is wonderful and fulfilling and obviously puts absolutely no pressure on that older sibling to remain on the pedestal which she’s been placed.

For as long as I can remember Daisy has looked up to me.

She’s confided in me – her school project might possibly get a ‘B’ instead of an ‘A’ and what should she tell Mom and Dad?
She’s asked me for help – what should she do about that kid in her class who always sits by themselves? Would it be rude to start talking to them?
She’s looked up to me – it is her goal to be one of the six people in a special advanced math class by 7th grade, just like me. Except why stop with math? She’s in all the gifted classes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do love her and I’m insanely proud of her. It’s just…how do I explain exactly what it is to live with perfection?

When Daisy was in second grade she was struggling more than usual to keep up her perfect grades. Mostly because she was involved in every possible extra curricular thing you could be involved in for a second grader. It was almost as though she couldn’t be still for one second – she had to have her fingers in everything. In our school we have weekly meetings with a guidance counselor so when the guidance counselor saw what Daisy was doing, put it together with Daisy’s normal over-achieving state, she immediately contacted my parents. It turns out Daisy has ADHD.

You might think this would mean perfect Daisy isn’t so perfect anymore, right? Wrong. Even her imperfections are like a Euler Formula – you take all these little pieces that you’d think are totally unrelated like complex and strange numbers and ordinary fundamental ones, put them together and somehow you end up with the simplest and most beautiful result.

So what happens? Apparently the degree of ADHD Daisy had wasn’t substantial enough for her to require medication, provided she was able to create certain controls for herself. Discipline. Concentration tactics. Behavioral modifications. Things a normal second grader usually uses medication to do. Daisy wanted her parents and her older sister to be proud of her, so she did her absolute best to work with her ADHD.

Daisy has never gone on medication. She is still getting perfect grades. She is still in all of her gifted classes. And with all that she is and everything she’s done, she still looks up to me as her role model.

No pressure.

So lessee, the world didn’t end, it’s winter break and now I get to spend lots more time with family.

…I’m already tired.

– Manny

Apocalyptic Propositions – 12.21.12

So supposedly tomorrow, (Dec 21), is the apocalypse.

That’s right. The big, bad world is coming to an end tomorrow.

At 11:11.

Approximately.

Nuclear Explosion

Boom!

If correct, that means my last day of school before winter break will be delightedly interrupted by a rain of hellfire and brimstone. A giant nuclear explosion. An invasion of evil zombies!

Whenever there’s an apocalypse there are always evil zombies following behind it you know. At least according to pop culture – which as we all know, is never wrong.

Although I do have a question for those Mayans. Why Dec 21 exactly? I mean I guess if you want to reverse the number 12 and call that a supernatural phenomenon that’s one thing. Personally, I think it would have made more sense for it to end on Dec 12 at 12:12. Or  better yet, on November 11, 2011 at 11:11. The latter at least would have the correct time and the added benefit of ending on a day of all one’s.

I’m going to utterly ignore the fact that somewhere in the world it’s already Dec 21st.

I’m also going to ignore the many, many scholars who say the Mayans themselves would have disdained any apocalyptic interpretations.

In fact, I am going to pretend I’m like the one of the many people in my class who keep trying to convince the teachers that midterms are unnecessary because the end of the world will take care of any need for grades and report cards.

nuclear holocaust cartoons, nuclear holocaust cartoon, nuclear holocaust picture, nuclear holocaust pictures, nuclear holocaust image, nuclear holocaust images, nuclear holocaust illustration, nuclear holocaust illustrations

I’m not so sure an apocalypse would be such a terrible thing. I’d much rather focus on the end of the world then midterms, friends, boys, winter break and The Future. Things are much simpler when there’s no tomorrow to worry about.

No more worrying about Angie and her ridiculous boy (read: Dan) obsession.

No more worrying about Daisy (read: Barry) and her all-consuming need for perfection subsequently resulting in feelings of inadequacy for all those associated with her.

No more worrying about family dynamics – how exactly each numerical value somehow finds its place within the set and what to do with the one number that doesn’t.

No more of the meaningless urge to “fit in” that all teens contend with – some more so than others.

No more of any of that, just a nice long sleep to look forward to.

Sleep is fantastic.

In your sleep you don’t get hurt, your feelings are dulled and reality is allowed to be put off indefinitely – or for as long as the subconscious has a hold on you. If I could, I’d probably sleep 24/7.

Balancing free time during winter break between sleep, family and friends is something that’s always difficult to deal with. More so recently for some reason. Maybe it has something to do with hormone control? Although that applies more to other girls my age – less so myself, I think.

It’s weird because normally winter break is something everyone looks forward to. Time to socialize and hang out with friends!

And yet…I’m not so sure that’s me anymore. To be completely honest, I’m just so tired I’d probably rather sleep than have more time dedicated to social interaction.

Whatever – I’m sure that’s completely normal for most 7th graders.

I’m totally just projecting because of my recent disagreement with Angie. Totally.

So…

The end of the world, huh?

What a shame.

Sweet dreams to all,

Manny

M is for Monomial – Take II

Newsflash: The world be a much simpler place if described through mathematics. The only confusion with math is when there’s an unsolvable equation and even then, we usually just name it something like Riemann and offer lots of money for someone to try to find the solution.

richie-rich

Boys, especially would make a lot more sense. My mom likes to compare men to a different planet than women. She says it’s based on a book about Mars or something. I’m not really sure why men would be from Mars other than it’s a great alliteration (see? I was totally paying attention Mrs. Holland). I mean, I guess I could see men as Martians in their very alien mannerisms and speech, quite another species…but why Mars specifically? What about the moon? Men could be from the moon – it also starts with an ‘m.’

And then women, which planet exactly are women supposed to be from? Mercury? Jupiter? I’d say Venus and Uranus but I can just imagine what would come out of my classmate’s mouths with those two.

I’d rather think of it in math terms. Men are like monomials.
They think simply (sneakers = cool).
They express themselves simply (yo, yo, your sneakers are awesome man).
They act simply (changing sneakers every day = cool).
They dress simply (sneakers are supposed to be toxic colors now apparently).
The things men think, like and do, are all usually related e.g. sneakers.

Men are simple.

Like monomials.

$120 toxic sneakers = cool

Women on the other hand, I would compare to polynomials. We are multi-taskers.
We are able to worry about our hair (Long is in, short is out).
Worry about our clothing (Oh my God, you mean your hemline actually covers your butt?).
We can even separate clothing into different categories! (If you don’t look like a hooker, your heels are simply not high enough).
We can manage to worry about all that while also worrying about school, boys, jewelry, boys, periods and oh yes, boys.

7th grade party outfit

The higher the heels, the shorter the skirt, the more skin showing – the better!

And just why is it exactly, that boys have to keep popping up?  It doesn’t make sense to me how a single, simple term could determine the outcome of an expression! I do not understand this fascination. I do not understand the underlining relationship. There is some kind of missing connection between x and y that does not allow this concept to intercept for me!

Just why exactly is Angie still so totally obsessed with Dan even though he’s a short, nerdy, sneaker obsessed, thinks stating the obvious is cool, standard monomial boy?

Boys are just so very, very immature. Especially seventh grade boys! I mean hello, they consider burping the alphabet to be the equivalent of speaking a foreign language!  I’m not sure they understand sentences that begin or end with words other than the ones completely relevant to them – like sneakers. And video games. And television. And sports. Oh, and girls. Of course, girls.

And what is it with that fixation of theirs anyway huh? Because it’s not just all girls. They have to be a certain type. Like the perfect selection of height, weight, hair length and, obviously, money. So if a girl is just a little, teeny bit taller than them, clearly they’re not worth it. And it’s not always a girl’s fault she’s 6’0 by 7th grade but does that matter? Noooo. It’s like they believe girls purposely choose their genetic material.

I wish Angie could see that. Dan is one of them and she completely misses it. She doesn’t even realize what he is. You think they change when they get older? They don’t. I still get the catcalls on the street from those idiot bums who think it’s okay to sweet talk the 12-year-old girl whose a little taller than average. Breaking bulletin – it’s creepy. Just ’cause a girl looks older, it doesn’t mean she is older and it certainly doesn’t mean she’s interested in older pervy guys.

I know Angie will realize it soon, but I wish she’d realize it sooner. Dan is no good for her. He hasn’t noticed her yet and he’s unlikely to notice her anytime in the near future because he can’t think past the color on his feet. She should stop fixating on him and focus on what’s really important. Like the one friend she’s treating as a lost remainder.

I thought our friendship meant more than that to her.

I thought I meant more than that to her.

…Now I wonder.

Undividedly Yours,

Manny

M is for Monomial – Take I

Angie has gone insane.

No, literally.

Somehow between last week and this week she has lost whatever sense she once possessed. Her brain, that beautiful, logical instrument that once thought formulas were a game and surds were the stuff of life, has deteriorated to some kind of boy-crazy pre-hormonal driven grayish ooze.

It all started with a boy.

Let’s call him Dan.

Dan is one of the six students in our advanced math (algebra I) class. He sits in the front. All the way in the front. Yes, Dan is one of those.

Dan is also apparently the perfect specimen of “manliness and generosity and gorgeousness and cuteness and ohmigod he’s got dimples and wavy hair and I can feel our brainwaves connecting on some kind of spiritual, spatial level.”

Clearly this is Angie’s personal, slightly biased, opinion. Not the rest of the world’s. Or mine.

To Angie, Dan looks like this:

Angie’s Dan.

To me (and probably the rest of the non-pre-hormonal-boy-crazy world), he looks like this:

Real Dan.

Real Dan.

Not that there’s anything wrong with looking like this, I mean who doesn’t love Minkus?

It’s just…was there some sort of memo I missed? A cheat sheet maybe?

Something that would explain the sudden transition from thinking of boys as mostly immature, slightly gawky 6th graders, to thinking of them as 7th grade gorgeous hotties who can connect to our spatial brainwaves? When exactly did this switch happen? And where was I?

Maybe I was sleeping. I could have been sleeping.

Either way, Angie has decided that Dan is the love of her life. He’s the greatest thing since TiVo. Does it matter she’s never spoken two words to him in the 6 years he’s been in our grade? No. Does it matter that his head doesn’t really reach my shoulders? No.

….of course the last could bother me more than her.

And I’m not jealous. I’m not!

I mean, it’s not like my best friend is leaving me just because of a boy she’s crushing on. She’s not. And it’s totally not such a big deal that we no longer think exactly alike. Or that we’re not practically twins anymore. Or that the time we used to spend making our own pirate themed logic puzzles, she now spends mooning over Dan.

Really, the fact that her focus is no longer completely on our friendship does not bother me. At all. Not even a little. I totally support her and I’m going to be there for her the entire time she’s crushing on Dan. And, you know, when she finally gets over Dan or finds out he’s not interested, I’ll be there to pick up the pieces and help her get back to her normal, creative, math crazy self.

Because she is going to get over it. It’s not serious. No way anything’s going to come of this. Angie’s not leaving me. We’re two halves of the same whole! She wouldn’t throw that away for a boy. She wouldn’t do that to me.

Angie’s not like that.

I know it.

…..I think.

– Manny

Equivocally i

Daisy likes to think she’s an integer.

But it’s not entirely her fault – she gets it from our parents. They like to think they’re integers too. In fact according to them, my whole family is made up of integers.

So there you have it. My family is a perfect collection of integers.

Yeah, right.

The fact of the matter is we’re not integers. As much as my younger sister and my parents would deny it, the truth is we’re real numbers; nothing more or less. Of course they can’t admit to this because that would allow the possibility of the irrational and really how can a family be perfect unless they’re completely rational?

Integers may include both positive and negative characteristics but without the irrational, we’d be missing that part which makes us human. Makes us fallible.

My family likes to pretend they’re perfect. I’m the perfect elder sister with an adoring younger sister. I look out for my younger sister who can always come to me. My two parents have a perfect marriage and they are both honors graduates of their respective graduate studies. We live in a perfect two-story house with a two car garage and a pool. Perfection.

I hate it. Perfection, that is.

I’m not really sure why anyone would want to be a perfect number. If anything, I’d rather be imaginary. In an imaginary universe maybe I could fix all the things that don’t make sense to me in this one.  In my imaginary universe for instance, my sister’s name would be Barry instead of Daisy. My favorite doll as a child was named Barry and by giving my sister the same name it would naturally allow me to transfer over those feelings of love and attachment that I had to my childhood doll to my younger sister, as well as a give me a companion who could empathize with me about our lack of gender specific names.

I would leave math alone though, in this universe of mine. Math makes sense to me. Life, doesn’t. If I could only quantify life in the same way I can solve an algebraic equation then maybe I wouldn’t feel so much like the only constant in a realm of coefficients and variables.

My best friend Angie is a little different. She might be a variable (like all creative types), but she really gets me. Like I get math, she gets me. We have beautiful symmetry –  the same person in two different bodies.

…Aside from a small height difference.

…And a slight name difference.

…And possibly the fact that we come from two different family backgrounds.

Really, aside from all that we’re practically twins! Kind of.

Angie also sees the world as in imperfect place, made for imperfect people. She’s creative. She is all for “Power to the Surds! Power to the complicated and unsimplified!” Her words, not mine. Angie doesn’t believe anybody can be perfect. Then again, she hasn’t really gotten to know my younger sister Daisy all that well.

Maybe my family’s focus on perfection has gotten to me in a way. As much as they strive towards it, I find myself moving away from it. Or maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe there really is no facade of perfection for them, and this is an idea of my creation, that I must apply some demeaning factor to them or I am unable to compensate for my own inadequacies.

This is why I prefer my imaginary universe. Everything there is logical. Almost all equations are solvable by the simple addition of the i. That is what I would be. The i. Then maybe after solving the equations of others, I’d finally be able to find the answers to my own expressions.

Angie sometimes thinks I’m melodramatic.

I like to think of myself as factorially factual.

At the very least, I am:

Unequivocally yours,

Manny

Thankless

A very long time ago some Indians got together with some Pilgrims and they broke bread. Or corn. Or whatever it is they decided to eat. As if I actually pay attention in any class that doesn’t involve numbers.

Anyway so the natives shared food with the starving invaders thus saving their lives and paving the way for future persecution and the almost complete eradication of a culture. At least that’s how I understood it. I could be wrong – like I said, I’m not much interested in classes that don’t have much to do with numbers.

Regardless of how we get there, the moral of the story is that today is a day of thanks. In keeping with that I think I’ll give some thanks for a few things in my life.

Thanks mom for giving me a name like Manny. Even though I’m a girl. It’s really helped me fit in well all these years.

And dad, thanks for your tall genes. It was fantastic for my social life to be the same height as my teachers in second grade. But don’t worry, it’s gotten better over the years. Now that I’m in 7th grade some of the guys in my class actually reach my shoulders. Ish.

Education system. Thank you. Thank you so much for giving me such passionate teachers. I’ve always wanted to know the many ways this country and I were going to die when so and so became president.

Thank you television for showing me that it’s okay to be snarky, cynical and sarcastic. It’s really helped me make lasting friendships over the years.

Thank you department stores for making sure I remember what season it is. All the lovely songs and decorations have really made me realize how significant a holiday Thanksgiving is.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to go gather around the mass slaughtered poultry with my family and friends. There’s nothing like overeating in a country with an obesity problem to really show how much you’re thankful for your health.

Well. Maybe I’m not so thankful after all.

Thanklessly yours,

Manny