Before this week, my only experience with skateboarding was its superficial but memorable mention in Avril Lavigne’s cult classic masterpiece “Sk8er Boy.” Even though skateboards have been a present fixture in my life, underneath friend’s feet and in shop windows, I never let myself think that skating was a possibility for me, for whatever made-up reason that plagued my subconscious. I was always too girly; too afraid; too nerdy. As I grew up and my insecurities faded away (this casual clause makes that process seem a lot more nonchalant and simple than it actually was), these ridiculous societally-fueled excuses finally seemed as silly as they truly are.
I am generally an un-athletic individual, with a range of hobbies that all involve some form of sitting, lying down, or being indoors. I am not competitive, and I find the environment of camaraderie to be exhausting, so school sports teams and gym classes were never my thing (though, I must admit, I freaking love Zumba, but that’s another post altogether). So, from my Unaffiliated perspective, skateboarding seemed like the perfect activity for me: it’s independent, involves a cute accessory and adorable stickers, and it has the opportunity for obsessive, borderline unhealthy perfectionism and mastery. I couldn’t wait!
But there was still one thing holding me back. I am deeply, stupidly afraid of my teeth falling out. It is the subject of most of my nightmares. I can’t watch shows or movies where characters get banged in the teeth. The sight of chips in teeth or a loose tooth horrifies me to my core. I am fully aware of how ridiculous this is. I have been so afraid of this my whole life that, when I was young and didn’t understand that dentist’s were there to keep your teeth in and not pull them out, I was kicked out of my family’s dental practice due to violent behavior and had to go to the special pediatric dentist for troubled youth (I’m not ashamed to say that I still go to him for every check-up).
With this profoundly ingrained fear forced into the farthest recesses of my mind, I borrowed a skateboard from a friend to test the waters first. (He had recently experienced a massive wipeout- very discouraging- and didn’t want to see his skateboard for a little while.) He grasped my shoulders as I stepped onto the board (my idea, not his). I hopped off immediately. It was a surprisingly wiggly experience, like standing on Jell-O. My mind was racing, envisioning every possible scenario in which I could ruin my incisors. But I got on it again. And again.
It didn’t take very long to be comfortable on the board. I found my balance, and soon my really dumb but embarrassingly real phobia was just a whisper. I’ve fallen. I’ve pulled muscles. I’ve gotten nervous texts from my mother to please, please wear a helmet and wrist guards.
Yesterday, I bought my very own skateboard. Picking out all of the little pieces for it was a dream-come-true scenario (what can I say, I’m detail-oriented!). Granted, I didn’t know what most of the things I was picking out were for (trucks? bearing? king pin? what?), but I fully plan on learning what every last thing does and how and why. I totally have an obsessive personality. But I’d rather be obsessed over how to do an ollie than obsessed over how much it would cost to get dentures.
Happy arriving like a hair in someone's soup.
They erupt in groups of twos and threes, like a reimagining of the teenaged girl’s bathroom buddy system for substances that irritate air passages. One could count the seconds between their occurrences as though between a flash of lightning and a crack of thunder. While this method proves to be more of a distraction than a measurement of distance, both distraction and distance are necessary.
The listener knows that a cough can be either purposeful or involuntary, and yet each of my roommate’s oral excretions emit the mocking complacence of a bully who targets weakness with uncanny precision. It is a challenge to differentiate the cough from the cougher, and the impulse to give in to irrational hatred for the cougher is pressing indeed, but one must have patience.
The night is a symphony of several singular and variegated cough movements, though they lack musicality. Each cough contains layers of sounds that have never before been documented together. A foot stomping into a glass casserole dish full of hot, squishy lasagna; a baby bird choking on its pre-masticated food; a car colliding with a gigantic Jell-O mold of another car. If nothing else, my roommate must get credit for the incredible variety and scope she expresses.
The sense of randomness is perhaps the coughing’s most striking feature, as it creates tangible, nerve-wracking, psychological anticipation. The coughing will seem to have ceased, though the listener clenches and tenses in anticipation of the next blow, until finally, when the listener has at last begun to feel relief and gratitude for the ending cacophony, there is a sudden explosion of loud and wet eruptions. One might call to mind a study in which one group of mice were given a morsel of food whenever a bell was rung, a second group every other time a bell was rung, and the third group randomly. When the experimenters stopped offering morsels at the ring of the bell, the first and second groups realized this quickly; the third group never stopped expecting food. When my roommate coughs all throughout the night, the listener is the third group of mice. It’s teeth-gratingly suspenseful, and provides further proof that soundtracks are vital to making or breaking the mood of gripping dread in cinema and day-to-day life alike.
Though a gross disgrace to the coughing of the pneumonic plague, my roommate’s coughing sounds virulent enough that the transmission of whatever disease she’s carrying from her respiratory system to mine wouldn’t require fleas to act as vectors. In fact, the cough itself seems just as likely to coagulate, sprout wings, and land on an open wound on my bare arm as I am to ingest an abnormally folded protein from the infected spinal cord fluid of a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. With each speck of infected saliva that releases joyously into the shared air, as a horde of sperm swim eagerly to their egg or as Charlotte’s aeronaut spider babies float away into the warm wind, a new urgency is applied to the common phrase “I’m sick to death of her.”
You know what I worry about in public bathrooms? Unattended children crawling under the stall door and watching me pee. There have been times where I was stricken immobile with anxiety, perched on disposable toilet seat covers, in anticipation of grubby fingers grasping the underside of the stall door as though in a horror movie. And yet, I have never tried to pass legislation to ease the effects of this misconduct. (Crazy, right? It’s like I don’t even care about my own country and the people that inhabit it.)
But not everyone is as passive as I am. This March, the General Assembly of North Carolina and Governor Pat McCrory took action to alleviate their bathroom insecurities, calling lawmakers to Raleigh for a special session. (Cue Church Lady: “Isn’t that special.”) House Bill 2 (HB2) actually reverses a previous Charlotte ordinance that banned discrimination against individuals who identify as LGBT. So not only does this bill get rid of what seems like an exceptionally reasonable ordinance, it also prevents any local governments from filing their own non-discrimination regulations, dictates that students in public schools use only the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and, in a completely unrelated, random act, prevents cities from enacting minimum wages higher than the state’s.
I think that they just threw that last one in there to make this piece of legislation seem like an actual piece of political, economic policy because otherwise, this bill is like the “Kool Kids Klub” memo that the bullies in my 5th grade class made to keep kids who didn’t wear Abercrombie from wanting to talk to them. (This is a very real and problematic thing that happened in my youth.)
I clearly already have opinions on this matter, but, wanting to be truly Unaffiliated, I resolved to check my biases (are they still considered biases when they support basic human rights?) at the door and fully investigate the situation.
My first step in this investigation was reading the bill itself. It turns out HB2 is just a catchy working title, so check out the bill’s even catchier true name: “An Act to Provide for Single-Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations.” You have to give the North Carolina General Assembly credit for bill titles that just roll off the tongue.
The “Act to Provide for Single-Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations” (I just can’t stop saying it!) then defines a few key phrases, the most relevant of which is, perhaps, biological sex: “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.” Okay, so biological sex is basically one’s sexual anatomy. I think I’ve heard of that before. But what about the definition of gender, North Carolina General Assembly? Or gender identity? How can we talk about these things without including the whole story?
And furthermore, the changing of one’s birth certificate is not a simple task. There are endless scenarios in which someone might not have the correct biological sex indicated on their birth certificate. Besides, who carries their birth certificates around?
This is not the last transgression in HB2. With this incomplete foundation, the bill continues to stumble along in complete ignorance. Here’s the proverbial meat and potatoes: “in no event shall that accommodation result in the local boards of education allowing a student to use a multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility designated under subsection (b) of this section for a sex other than the student's biological sex.”
I have a bill to file, too, North Carolina General Assembly. It’s titled “An Act to Provide for Acts That Actually Make Sense and Don't Persecute People Based on Petty Prejudice and Discrimination and to Create Child Barriers at the Bottom of Stall Doors to Prevent Them from Peeking.” It may not sound as catchy as yours, but it’s a hell of a lot less ridiculous.
There’s something about confetti that makes having ruined your life seem okay. It’s a release of that pesky “call of the void” feeling without needing to take any radical measures. Knocking all of the cereal boxes off of the shelf at your local grocery store, throwing large pieces of furniture off of high balconies, and screaming at the top of your lungs into stranger’s faces may not be socially acceptable, but throwing hundreds of colorful squares into the air is!