The message and the messenger

I've been thinking about those "I Love Cincinnati" bumper stickers lately. You've probably seen them around, and you might have seen blog posts about them as well.

The stickers started popping up out of nowhere earlier this year, and of course I wanted one, because I also love Cincinnati! I really do! And whenever I saw a sticker on someone's car, I felt like that person and I were in a secret club, a sort of fraternity of Cincinnati lovers. "Yeah," I would think, "that guy and I know what's up!"

But a few months ago, I learned that the stickers come from Crossroads Community Church, and suddenly that was all I could see about them.

It's not just that the messenger became strongly associated with the message; it's that the messenger traded places with the message. So when I see an "I Love Cincinnati" bumper sticker, I no longer think, "That's nice - that person really loves this community! So do I! Hugs for everyone!" Instead, I think, "Ah, that's from Crossroads."

And so it turns out that the secret club I thought I was in is something else entirely.

And I have absolutely nothing against Crossroads (did you know they offer nice coffee and free yoga classes to everyone, including non-members? That is pretty great of them!), but I no longer want a sticker, because I feel like the sticker would broadcast an affiliation between myself and Crossroads that doesn't actually exist. Like, maybe I would be in the grocery store parking lot, loading up my weekly purchase of 800 cans of diced tomatoes, and some stranger would walk by and say, "Hey, Crossroads!" And then I would have to explain myself.

It's a little bit like when someone compliments me on the T-shirt I got at a Sufjan Stevens show, which says, "Come On Feel the Illinoise!" Whenever that happens, I have to figure out whether they're responding to the message (silly puns on state names) or the messenger (ethereal indie-folksters).

Is there anything else like that out there?


My coming out story (kind of)

EDIT 11/2/17: I've been thinking about this old post of mine.

When I wrote it, I was attempting to make a point about being a vocal ally, and trying to get the attention of other straight folks by using an attention-grabbing headline. Eight years later, I think the title of this post comes off as pretty insensitive to the fact that of course this is not my story, but the story of someone who experienced actual strife from grappling with their identity. I'm not deleting the post, because it's what I wrote and I'm not trying to erase that. But I did want to come back here and point out that framing this as my story was probably not cool. Sorry about that. I will try to do better.


Years ago, back when I was just knee-high to a Bachelor of Arts degree, I came home from college for the weekend. On that Sunday morning, I went to church, and after the service a boy I knew from youth group came up to me. He asked me if I remembered a debate we'd had on a retreat in high school - something about whether gay people can have faith.

I didn't remember that conversation, but I knew what I must have said: something along the lines of, "OF COURSE you can be gay and still have your faith, because you're still a person, and it's just a part of who you are - not a sin, not a turning away from God." Apparently, this boy had taken the opposite view.

So I don't remember the original conversation, but I remember that day in the church, when this boy, who had always been sullen and awkward and now looked happy and confident, like he finally belonged in the world, smiled at me and said, "Well, you were right." And he came out to me, there in the church aisle.

Today is National Coming Out Day, and not being gay doesn't mean you can't "come out" as an ally. You might not find out until later how much it means to someone.


Lies my Greek mythology book told me

I have this idea that at some point I'll start blogging some of the excellent sci-fi novels I've been reading for my summer (OK, now well into fall) self-assignment, but first, I want to talk about a book I recently took time out to reread. It's a book I adored as a child.

(Have you ever done that? It's kind of amazing, isn't it - how much books can change between your decades-old remembrance and your adult rereading. I can't wait until one of these tiny late-Gen Y-ers goes back and reads the Harry Potter series a decade later.)

Anyway, the book I just finished reading is D'Aualaires' Book of Greek Myths, and it basically forms the foundation for everything I know about Greek mythology. It contains a huge variety of myths, all gorgeously illustrated.

(I remember trying to sketch the illustrations from the book myself and producing a fair imitation of Artemis. The book, incidentally, was passed to me and my sister by our mother; we later came across an old sketch pad of hers that included an excellent rendition of Helen of Troy.)

It is hard to overstate how much this lovely book shaped my young mind. Years ago, the original book was flung across a room by my sister, which tore it apart; recently, hearing how much I had loved it, she bought me another copy - so I got to read it again.

And since it's a book intended for children, there are parts that are really, really funny now. The story of the Minotaur is probably my favorite example:

But Queen Pasiphaƫ was so taken by the beauty of the bull that she persuaded the king to let it live. She admired the bull so much that she ordered Daedalus to construct a hollow wooden cow, so she could hide inside it and enjoy the beauty of the bull at close range.

And the illustration is of Pasiphaƫ sitting inside the wooden cow, peeking over the top of it and just looking at the nice bull. Hello, nice bull! How are you? And then, it's so weird how Poseidon is all mad and makes her miraculously pregnant with the half-man-half-bull monster somehow!

Also, this hand-waving of Zeus and his many affairs is pretty funny:

Zeus loved Hera dearly, but he was also fond of rocky Greece. He often sneaked down to earth in disguise to marry mortal girls. The more wives he had, the more children he would have, and all the better for Greece! All his children would inherit some of his greatness and become great heroes and rulers.

AWESOME. Fellas, definitely try this line (do not try this line) the next time your lady catches you stepping out on her. "I love you, sweetie, I do - but if we ever want this nation to prosper, it simply must be populated with my offspring!"

But the book is still a fantastic read. Here are a few more observations from this time around:

- My favorite story is still that of Melampus, the hero who could talk to animals. He gets his power in repayment for a good deed, and unlike so many Greek heroes, he never experiences that whole hubris/fall from grace thing. (He totally overcharges a king for saving his daughters from madness, though. Wikipedia suggests the women were dangerous, but the D'Aualaires describe them as more embarrassing than anything else; all they do in the book is run around mooing and shouting, "We are cows! We are cows!" So I guess we could chalk that up to Melampus taking advantage of the king's pride.)

- My other favorite story as a kid, the tale of Selene and Endymion, is just creepy now. If it happened today, Endymion would write a tell-all book, Roofied by the Moon.

- People remember Heracles' immense strength, but I had forgotten how clever he is. Over the course of his 12 labors, he had to figure out how to kill any number of strange beasts that revived in unusual ways, he figured out how to use water power to do one of his tasks for him, he understood the implications of capturing one of Artemis' sacred hinds and never loses patience while pursuing the creature, and he tricks a Titan. He basically never screws up - all the trouble in his life comes from jealous interlopers.

- The story of Jason and the Argonauts is like the Real World/Road Rules All-Star Reunion Challenge of Greek myths. Everyone is there. Sure, Heracles is there! Two winged children of the wind, why not? Oh, and Orpheus is there too! ... I know I said he was torn apart by Menaeds, but that was later on!

Anyway, if you would like a beautifully illustrated, squeaky-clean retelling of a ton of Greek myths, this is your book. I'm so happy I have a copy again - thank you, Katie!

(All images come from this site.)


The new gig

Well, that wasn't so bad.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably know that after two months of unemployment, I got a new job! I've been there for three weeks now. My title is either Creative Writer or Copywriter - but the gist is, I'm the new Girl Who Writes Things What Needs Writin'.

My new employer is a local company called Pure Romance. If you're not from Cincinnati, you might not know much about Pure Romance - they're in the business of home parties, like Pampered Chef or Sil-whatsit, but they sell a line of products that some people would describe as "relationship aids." (Actually, some people would prefer not to talk about them at all, thank you very much.) Massage oils, lubricants, bedroom accessories - "those" parties, as a consultant might tell you. (It's a popular phrase among consultants, and it's easy to see why: It allows discussion of the subject without any potentially disquieting words, and it feels conspiratorial. You want to be invited to one of "those" parties.)

The response to my new employer has pretty much fallen into two categories: "Oh? ... Oh. Whoa." or "That is awesome!" As you can imagine, I fall into the second camp. I can't wait to use it as a small-talk point at a party.

So far, it's interesting work. Each Pure Romance consultant basically runs her own franchise - everyone buys the standard product line from corporate, but they can choose to offer additional discounts or incentives for hosting a party. There are also optional marketing materials, like postcards and brochures, that can be purchased. So that means that I might write a postcard intended to be sent to Pure Romance customers, and then I could turn around and write a business article about how the postcard could be beneficial to a consultant's business.

(So the work is interesting, but probably not as interesting as some people imagine.)

The new office building:

The new desk:

"Usually reserved and task-oriented ..."

Kelly Hudson
View my personality report

Hey, it's another one of those personality tests! This one is the DISC Assessment, and it seems like it gave me an accurate result: C/I, Cautious/Inspiring.

As a C/I, I like facts, details, and interacting with others. I also enjoy "witty humor," and my value to a team is as a "deep thinker and able communicator."

Anyone else ever taken this test?