10 Free Ways To (Actually) Make America Great(er)

If you’re reading this, you’re probably beyond disappointed with the election results.

Maybe you cried on November 8, drinking so much booze you couldn’t tell by the end of the night why you were even crying in the first place. Maybe you chose to stay in bed all day on November 9, wishing you could just live there forever. Or maybe you sprang into action as soon as the results were out, calling your congress people, signing up to volunteer with local charities and letting the adrenaline of panic carry you through.

Either way, if you’re reading this, you probably also voted blue up and down the ballot, and now want to know what else you can do besides calling your senators every morning and curling up into a ball every night (okay, that last part is probably just me).

For those on a tight budget, here are 10 ways post-election to actually make America great(er)–because let’s face it, America was at its greatest right before November 8, 2016:

1.  Lobby politicians

Calling your senator about pending legislation can be effective. But do you know what’s even more effective? Meeting them at work.

Pinpoint an issue you really care about, one that your local politician of choice can actually address. Then, schedule a time to talk. Successful lobbying means coming in with specific asks and tangible goals, as well as maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the public servant in question. Make it clear that you mean to stay in touch about the issue. Show up on lobby day with a group of like-minded voters (10-12 is a solid number, but you can bring more or less) and a packet enumerating your asks and any research or articles supporting them. Keep the packet to less than 40 pages, but preferably under 20. Include contact information, and reach back out regularly.

2.  Organize

You may be strapped for cash, but there’s no reason you can’t put together a fundraiser. In Philadelphia, we raised thousands of dollars for Standing Rock through mostly grassroots efforts that consisted of dinners, house parties and well-publicized GoFundMe campaigns. A fundraiser–or food drive, or community forum–is a great way to make change.

Once again, you’ll need to assemble your crew and pick a cause. Then, work together with a local business or house of worship to pull something together. And don’t forget to publicize the event via social media, community calendars, and flyers.

3.  Educate Yourself

There are a million books that will help you better prepare for the long road ahead. My favorite is Orwell’s 1984, one of nine titles Newsweek recommends everyone read post-election. I’d also add Klein’s This Changes Everything, which details how corporate greed and political inaction caused climate change and related injustices.

Bonus points: participate in a book swap and discussion group with community members. We’re all in this together, after all.

4.  Read the news

Newspapers are funded in two ways: subscriptions, and advertisements. Prioritize reading online, and disabling any ad filters you might have. In some instances, the publications make more money when readers click the ads. So, grit your teeth and click.

5. …And make it, too

Don’t be afraid to submit op-eds, letters to the editor, and blog posts to your local news sources. If there’s an issue that hasn’t been covered, call the editor and explain what you want to see the newspaper tackle. When pitching, be specific and keep the publication’s audience in mind. And if you see an error in a story, tell the reporter. When the government stops listening, the press becomes our watchdog. Treat it kindly.

6.  Volunteer

Many of you likely do this already. If not, I’m here to remind you that there are a million causes you can support, regardless of your time constraints and skill set. For my fellow environmentalists, 350.org and Sierra Club have chapters in most major cities and are a great way to plug into solving local problems. There’s also Planned Parenthood, which is in constant need of escorts for its clinics.

If you don’t see a local charity or political campaign you’d like to get involved with, you can always start your own grassroots group. To pull this off, go back to points #1 and #2.

7.  Move your money

You might not be in a place to spend more, but you can spend better. Consider downloading apps like Buycott, which let you know which items in your shopping cart fund Monsanto, the Koch Brothers, and other negative companies. Also, if you haven’t done so already, switch your accounts from these seventeen banks to ones that didn’t fund DAPL, the recession, or unsavory politicians. 350 Philadelphia has a list of Philadelphia-based alternatives. If you’re in NYC, you can check out Amalgamated, the first major bank to divest from fossil fuels. Santander is a good (well, better) option for those who need a bank with branches in multiple cities.

8.  Talk it out

If we’ve learned anything in the past few months, it’s that members of the two major political parties are divided: they tend to be in homogenous bubbles, reading very different news sources.

That’s why, if you’re ready, now would be a good time to reach out to Republican voters and talk, share life stories and try to find common ground. If you can, organize a forum where members of both parties can chat (and if you make progress, please publicize it and let me know in the comments!).

9.  Help the Poor

In many cities and towns across America, resources like soup kitchens and homeless shelters are dispersed and poorly publicized to the populations who need them most. A few hours on Google will be enough for you to put together a list of resources for the poor that you can hand out or hang up in public places. But please, check with local shelters about how best to execute this project.

10.  Build Community

This might very well be the most important point on this whole list, which is why I saved it for last. One thing we’re learning from the sanctuary city fight is that much of our positive change will come from cities, not the country as a whole. “Micro change” will be the name of the game. And in a time when we’re told to prioritize “self care” and see friends, family members and romantic partners as disposable, we need to fight hate with love. We CANNOT afford to classify every challenging relationship as toxic. That’s why we need to:

Talk about the deep stuff with the people we care about. Cry together. Laugh together. Be there to talk loved ones through rough patches, and not pass judgment on friends who encounter more hurdles in life than others. Have an “open door” policy when a friend or family member needs a place to sleep, a warm meal, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to spend the holidays with. And be ready to support them when they’re sick, by helping with chores, babysitting, driving them to doctors and, if necessary, organizing another fundraiser to help with medical bills.

And have an “open heart” policy, too: be open to befriending lots of people, from different backgrounds. Love trumps hate, and we have yet to reach our capacity to love more.


How Liberals (Kind of) Elected Trump

This election, in many ways, reminds me of a laptop that has been overtaken by a series of viruses.

Liberals like myself didn’t cause the viruses. But we did neglect to update the software when the computer first started to malfunction, and instead of taking the computer to a repair shop, we smashed it with a hammer. This, all the day before our undergraduate thesis was due. In many ways, our inability to be proactive–and our ensuing haste–caused us to fail out of school.

Step one in enabling a Trump presidency was not taking him, an (almost) billionaire Ivy Leaguer who had nearly 70 years experience playing the system, seriously. I still remember reading articles during the primaries about lifelong democrats temporarily switching parties just so they could vote for Trump. These well-intentioned voters were under the impression that Trump was the weakest candidate. A lot of people laughed. Obviously, most of us didn’t try to “game the system” in this way, and I’m mixed about whether I even support that strategy since it’s borderline unethical. But we really did take Trump as a joke: SNL’s debate sketches always depicted Hillary resting on her laurels as Alec Baldwin’s Trump bumbled and fumbled the simplest of questions. In one of the openers, SNL cut between an interview in which Donald Trump was trying to defend his “grab the p*ssy” comment and Hillary Clinton throwing a premature celebration party.

We really, really thought this election was in the bag. And SNL, like many other artistic endeavors, was trying to reflect on society. At the time, society was putting out headlines about how Clinton’s campaign was preparing her for a landslide victory, and social media posts were assuring us that all the bad press surrounding Trump would save us from his victory.

Except that’s not how press works. In public relations, there’s a very definite hierarchy: there’s no press, which is the worst for a candidate. Then there’s bad press, neutral press and good press. If you have enough bad press, it eventually can become a good thing. This wasn’t an issue of “crisis” communications, like with Exxon Valdeez and other high-profile news stories–Donald Trump’s camp was in control almost the entire time. We were too naive to notice that he was actually targeting a very specific audience that would see his “bad” press as an urgent call to action to defend him on November 8. And we still sell him short; and if you don’t believe me, just look at all the people insisting he’ll get impeached or lose in 2020.

But step two in enabling Trump’s presidency leaves me absolutely ashamed of my own party. Step two was widespread apathy within the Democratic Party and among liberals. It’s no secret that liberals tend to be better educated. It’s also no secret that we don’t vote. Having degrees doesn’t exactly equate with knowledge, and that’s why we were schooled this election.  We can disagree with Republicans all we want, but at least they vote, and their politicians aren’t too afraid to do whatever they need to do to further the Party’s agenda. We’ve seen this with their blanket refusal to appoint any of President Obama’s SCOTUS picks. It’s unethical, it’s unlawful, but at least they get things done.

I can’t tell you how many fellow liberals have told me they’re “wasting” their vote, that it doesn’t matter whether they vote or not. Well, sure, one vote doesn’t do much in a federal election. The problem is, millions of you said the same thing and stayed home. Or you protest voted (in swing states, too!), because you couldn’t handle voting for the “lesser of two evils.”

For those who decided not to vote for the lesser of two evils, I’ve got news for you: in a country with well over 200 million voters, you can’t always get what you want. Someone’s going to be president, and by not voting or protest voting, you just put millions of lives in danger. Did you really think that thesis was going to write itself?

Voting is what holds politicians accountable, because–newsflash–it’s what keeps them in office. But as we’ve seen, the average person has a very rudimentary understanding of civics. Even the term “public servant” seems to have lost all meaning to many of us. I think back to Hillary Clinton and, for all her faults, I applaud her for changing her stances on TPP, the Keystone XL Pipeline and gay marriage. A lot of us labeled her a flip-flopper (this term is ridiculous) and a corporate shill (this is fair). But ultimately, her job was never to lead, but rather to listen to her constituents, and serve their needs. This was one area in which she was effective.


A Trump protest in Philadelphia, PA.

Which brings me to my final point: we enabled Trump because we tried to fix the Democratic Party with a sledgehammer. We all laughed, thinking the Republican party was about to meet it’s demise, and that Trump was cracking it wide open. But now we have what seems like a million grassroots movements around the country pushing back against neoliberalism on one end, and newly-anointed Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi calling forcefully for the party not to change on the other. We have people like Comedienne Sarah Silverman who invalidated people like myself who were mourning Bernie Sanders’ loss–which I’m convinced caused at least some of the protest voting. And we have people who refused to accept that Hillary Clinton was actually a well-rounded candidate, or at least a much better option than Trump and one worth voting for.

The worst part is that we had public servants who either ignored people’s cries for change, or didn’t properly communicate when they were actually listening and trying to fix the mess. But again, we voters were apathetic and often failed to hold up our end.

But my fellow liberals, and I cry to think about it, we couldn’t put our differences aside for one historic election. And for that, we’ll be paying dearly for decades.

If you think, for a minute, that your vote doesn’t count, it’s not a sign you should skip voting. Instead, it’s a sign that you need to get more involved. Whether this means volunteering to register voters, getting involved with organizations that are doing the heavy lifting, or putting your representatives on speed dial so you can tell them how to best serve you, you owe it to yourself and the country to dig in.

And please, whatever you do, don’t let Trump win 2020.


Why I’m Voting Trump (Unless My Patriarch Votes Otherwise)

“If you have a guys’ place, you have a guys place. I have a hard time letting go of that. Maybe I’m not gonna have a choice. If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce. Like, you should go maybe teach kindergarten. I think it’s a respectable position.” —Donald Trump, Jr.

The following is a satirical piece written in reaction to quotes from Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, VP Candidate Mike Pence and Donald Trump, Jr.

I’m a woman, and I’m voting Trump/Pence this election season. Now, I know what you might be thinking, and the answer is: yes, I will be changing my vote if the patriarchs of my family decide to support a different candidate.

Let me explain. I have always put family first. I feel so strongly about this position that I am ready and willing to become an incubator for families around America who, due to infertility–or being in sexless marriages because of various sexual indiscretions–are unable to have children of their own.

But it won’t be easy. I’ll be competing with women in China and Mexico who, obviously, are out to get our jobs. Even the unpaid jobs we usually relegate to college interns who are shouldering the burden of crippling debt. Obviously. So I am depending on President Trump to build that wall between the US and Mexico so that the women across the border can understand that it is American women who will be blessed with unplanned pregnancies that they must carry out to term in order to disperse children upon the suburban masses.We are going to pop out those babies the way cannons popped out cannonballs during the Revolutionary War. Even if we were raped and even if we have a reasonable desire to not risk our health or lives to carry for almost ten months and birth in substandard hospitals.

And speaking of rape, sexual harassment is a problem in the workplace. I have one thing to say to the women bitching and moaning about this: TOUGH IT OUT. The Men Folk were there first, so we must be grateful they are allowing us to relish in their light for a whole 79 cents per dollar (on average). The glass ceiling might seem unpleasant, but do you know what else is unpleasant? Being the bitch who speaks up when a man “grabs you by the pussy,” or walks into your dressing room unannounced and insists you say hello, or kisses you because he just can’t help himself.

The right thing to do, in the latter situation, is to present The Man with tic tacs.

Business women like Ivanka Trump would never let themselves fall victim to sexual harassment perpetrated by The Man. Not all of us can be successful like Ivanka Trump, but we can magically defend ourselves from sexual assault, which is totally our faults anyway. And here’s how to do it.

If The Man approaches you, whisper that you don’t want it. He’ll likely ignore you because he can’t control himself, so your next plan of action is to JUST STOP HIM. That’s it, it’s as simple as that.


All you need to do to stop a harasser in his tracks is to simply stop him. If that doesn’t work, shut up because it was your job to protect your virtue. If you struggle with this, become a kindergarten teacher. Because teaching kindergarten is the only safe position for a Bitch like you, and is not at all difficult. Not one bit, because teaching is easy. It may even inspire you to incubate more children.

In closing: we gonna use the nukes and burn the coal because WE ARE NOT CHINA’S BITCH. And we women are going to vote Trump/Pence and Make America Great Again, #MAGA. Because just like how we’re not China’s bitch, we will not be irreverent, intelligent, independent bitches who will destroy America with a vote for anyone else.

Unless our fathers/husbands give us permission. In which case, we may be bitches.







Let Them Play!

A major presidential candidate basically admits, on video, that he sexually assaults women by “grabbing them by the p*ssy,” and many of us react by saying, “pfft, that’s locker room banter!”

No, it’s not “locker room banter.” And I feel sick even writing that phrase online. But in much of American society, girls and boys are still kept separate, so how would we know? And in the places where this kind of talk and these kinds of actions get brushed aside: why is it considered acceptable?

The other day, I saw comedienne Jessica Williams perform (if you haven’t seen her on The Daily Show, please Youtube her videos; she’s hilarious). Williams had the room in stitches, but towards the end of the night, she got very real, and told us about her religious upbringing, and about the purity ritual that she and many girls–and only girls–underwent in her church community (although boys do sometimes take purity vows, to a lesser extent, it is often a much more subdued process).

I’ve heard about purity balls, in which girls dress up in ball gowns and pledge to their fathers that they will not have premarital sex. But the more I learn about these rituals that isolate us by sex, the more I’m convinced that this is heavily contributing to rape culture.

Where this story gets weird is that I’m seeing this level of isolation, to a lesser extent, in many secular communities as well. Yes, articles are written ad-nauseum about how harmful it is to not let girls play with trains and boys play with dolls. Let’s explore for a minute, as well, the concept of boy-girl parties, of “keeping the door open” when you have an opposite-sex friend in your room, of “cooties” (trust me, we don’t learn about cooties on our own), of joking around with our young daughters and friends and sisters that their new little male friend is their “boyfriend,” of having all sorts of organizations like cub and girls scouts that sort us into two distinct piles before we even fully grasp the concept of “gender” or how to build healthy relationships of all kinds. And let’s not forget about the boys- or girls-only primary schools.

And many of us are raised, isolated, until puberty when our hormones take control of our reasoning and all we have to operate on is the idea that the opposite sex is for sex, not companionship. So many of us are unable to fully recognize members of the opposite sex as whole people. I’ve had countless conversations with other (CIS heteronormative) women in college in which we admitted we could not communicate with men, we did not understand how their emotions even worked, and we were exhausted with them only seeing us as sexual objects time and time again.

Just think about it: when you do things like make your children “keep the door open,” you’re instilling in them that they need to always worry about rape if they’re in private with people of the opposite gender. And this is not only untrue, but an insulting scare tactic.

Of course, this all has very damaging effects as well for people who don’t identify with the gender binary or who are LGBTQA (just think: telling a boy and girl to keep the door open when neither of them would be attracted to each other anyway, for instance). A whole post could be written on this as well, and it fits perfectly into the rape culture schema.

So, when Donald Trump admits to grabbing women “by the p*ssy” because he’s rich and (he thinks) that allows him to do it, understandably many of us feel confused by this sentiment. Some of us can’t even condemn it because it feels normal. But if this is a normal sentiment to express in private, that makes this whole scenario even scarier.

What can we do about this systemic problem? My suggestion is: let everyone play together. Don’t isolate children into gender-specific groups or have “boy-girl parties.” Don’t put them in single-gender schools. Don’t tell them to “keep the door open,” and instead teach your kids to alert you if they feel unsafe and how to pick up on “red flags.” This would help kids learn how to effectively communicate with people of all genders and sexual orientations, and allow them to grow into well-developed individuals who can have healthy relationships.

I’m not posing this as the only solution to rape culture; it’s going to take multiple pieces, coming together, to fix a society in which Trump’s language is normalized. But if we only allow boys and girls to be together when it’s time to date, how do we expect them to see each other in any other light? And how do we expect non-binary and LGBTQA individuals to fit in?

Step 1 to fixing this problem for the next generation, therefore, is simple: put members of all genders together from the start, and let them play!

What a Single 20-Something Woman REALLY Wants for the Holidays

Despite some post-grad hiccups, I’m really grateful for a lot of things.

I’m so thankful that, while the average person only has two close confidantes, I’ve been blessed with two handfuls of invaluable friends who’ve let me crash out their places without notice, thrown me surprise birthday parties, listened to me rant and cry, and then in the blink of an eye been able to get me hysterically laughing. I know people like you are rare, so to all the friends reading this: thank you.

And I’m thankful for my small but close family, especially since I’m pretty sure my mom is one of the only five people who regularly reads this blog. Hi mom!

I’m really glad I was able to go to a top college, to take some time to travel, to find volunteer work that fulfilled me and changed my world view. Even if I get nothing else this holiday season, I feel I already have enough to get me through the year (but, um, please still get me presents).

Anyway, I normally don’t feel the need to respond defensively to narcissistic listicles, but I’m a bit appalled by the lack of humility in Lauren Martin’s list of holiday wishes in Elite DailyYes, we all have our own selfish wishes, and I’m sure at least some of her points are sarcastic. But besides throwing her mom under the bus for buying her J. Crew sweaters (at least say thank you before you complain!) and asking for someone else to call her grandma, she makes it seem like all 20-something single ladies want cheap and safe liposuction, Beyonce’s thighs, Kim K.’s ass, and the ability to eat cake without getting fat.

But what saddens me is that a lot of women might actually relate to her list. If you could ask for anything, then you must be in a lot of internal pain if half of your wish list includes surgery and changing your looks. Actually, this is one of the reasons I stopped reading a lot of “women’s health” articles–no one should have to be taken down like that on a regular basis. I steer clear of anything related to weight-loss whenever possible, instead opting for NatGeo, Washington Post and any blog with pictures of baby animals.

So for all the ladies who felt disenfranchised by that list, I offer you my own. I don’t think anyone will agree with everything here–and I encourage you to comment with more recommendations!–but I want to show people that many young, unwed women want things other than permanent eyeliner and hookups:

  1. The means to spend significant time traveling
  2. A job related to the career we eventually want
  3. For our favorite nonprofit to get a steady stream of donations
  4. To get cheap, attractive clothing that’s actually comfortable
  5. Good health!
  6. A puppy who’s potty trained
  7. Also, a pet sloth. Also potty trained
  8. An end to catcalling–I agree with Lauren on this one
  9. Enough money so our parents can comfortably retire to Boca Raton or wherever all the cool old people go nowadays. Ontario? Portland? Um, Tucson?
  10. More time and money to spend with friends
  11. To actually live in the SAME BUILDING with all our besties (slumber party, every night)
  12. More brunch. Doesn’t even have to be bottomless, like Lauren requests
  13. To finally get recognized for our talents
  14. A car with its own driver
  15. Plan B: for the bus to ALWAYS arrive right when we do, and wait for us to board
  16. A rent-free apartment in a great area. Lauren also got this one right
  17. Unlimited dance lessons for a year, in an assortment of the best styles
  18. Free snowboarding for the winter, including lessons
  19. The ability to use that free snowboarding wish without breaking an arm
  20. A summer home
  21. A dishwasher so we can cook and bake with impunity. And by dishwasher, I mean an actual person who magically gets paid a living wage to do this
  22. Actually, yes, a living wage would also be nice
  23. And maybe a chef, so someone else can cook and bake with impunity
  24. And a maid, because the modern woman isn’t always a domestic goddess. We’re so busy taking over the world that sometimes we forget to take out trash for a day…or week…
  25. The ability to take back what we say on the interwebz or email
  26. For the library to always have the exact books we want, without having to order them
  27. For Netflix to actually have movies we want to watch. It has maybe five at the moment
  28. The ability to wear PJs into the office, everyday
  29. A portable phone charger, because the newer batteries seem to die within two hours
  30. A shiny new bike. Some things never get old
  31. For it to be socially acceptable to play and be childish
  32. Also, for it to be socially acceptable for women to burp and fart. Men can do it!
  33. Ok, one “thirsty” one: for the nice, attractive guy to actually be straight AND single
  34. One good turn deserves another: to be able to meet that guy offline
  35. Ok, ok, and also for that guy not to be a horn dog
  36. …And to be really good at killing bugs and mice
  37. An electric guitar/keyboard/bass. Because we’re badass.
  38. For the nerds: for Congress to ACTUALLY pass a woman-friendly bill
  39. To never again encounter a stale or subpar slice of cake
  40. To have a generous stranger pay off our student loans
  41. For that generous stranger to reappear and sponsor our grad degree
  42. Actually, free tuition. If Germany can do it, so can we
  43. To have software that can translate other languages in real time
  44. To finally catch ’em all. Pokemon!
  45. To be a more persuasive speaker and writer
  46. A sled and a good hill (mom, if you’re still reading, can I have this?)
  47. To have a kick-ass soundtrack play during our most dramatic moments
  48. For delicious food to be on the table at every meal
  49. And to be able to share that food with the local homeless people
  50. To ALWAYS be the party
  51. And finally, to spend the holidays with all our favorite people, every year

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading my long list!

We Choose To Grow Up

I remember walking into a toy museum a couple years ago, excited to see historical dolls, prehistoric clay figurines and obscure international games. But the ticket clerk simply looked me up and down, confused, and asked if I had a child with me.

“No,” I replied, equally puzzled. “Is this museum not appropriate for adults?”

He bashfully smiled in apology and replied that the museum was appropriate for all our inner children. So with that, I put plastic slippers over my shoes and entered upon something unexpected: a life-sized toy box.

This was in no way an educational museum. There were stuffed animals to play with, mazes, even a slide. Admittedly, I felt quite out of place. But, this little misadventure reminded me of an important concept that we often forget about we grow older: play.

“Age is but a state of mind.”

–Says anyone hoping to find their very own May/December romance. We have all kinds of ways of labeling people who try to defy their chronological ages. Of course, we have cougars and cradle-robbers, people with “Peter Pan” Syndrome and, my personal “favorite” sexist stereotype–the idea that men are all children.

But should we really be so proud to lose our youthful innocence and positivity, our playful spirits and boundless imaginations?

As a 23 year old, I find the concept of “adulthood” eluding. Technically, I’m still adolescent until I turn 25, but the ladies in my age group have already decided that “playtime” no longer means sitting on the floor to bead necklaces, shooting hoops or playing silly pranks on our friends. No, playtime now somehow means putting on stilettos, drinking, and either finding a man or keeping our current men engaged. Or worse: we’ve forgotten that playtime was ever even a concept, and instead lose ourselves to Netflix and big lazy plates of spaghetti with half-cooked sauce.

Understandably, we don’t have as much free time as we used to, what with jobs and errands and paying bills. We get tired. We get cranky. We get into relationships and get so wrapped up with the intrinsic drama of maturation that we forget to keep up with our friends.

The average British 22 year old has 1,000 Facebook friends. Meanwhile, the average person of any age has only two close confidantes.

I’ve heard from countless people that I should expect to grow apart from my friends as we start having families and moving to other cities. And it’s apparently much harder to make new friends post-school. Unlike when you’re five and you can ask someone in the school yard to be your best friend–and find that it works–we ask people to be our “friends” on Facebook and rarely talk to them again. How depressing.

We become introverted. We turn to our computers and phones, to our tablets. We dress for fashion, not for ease of movement. This isolation, along with the lack of exercise that comes from taking part in such activities as playing catch and rollerskating, starts to take a toll on our health.

Find and cultivate your inner child!

Well, that’s easier said than done. We’re no longer each others’ playmates. When we were children, I’m sure we all dreamed of using our grownup independence and money to buy all the toys, to install slides and pools in our houses, to play with all the kids in the neighborhood until well past midnight. And, well, we’re kind of doing that–we stay out well past midnight at clubs and bars, or watching TV, although we generally don’t play nice with most of the other kids. Our “toys” are our cell phones and leather boots (does anyone remember a time when getting clothes for birthdays was a grand insult?). And pfft, who has the money to get a pool nowadays?

Kid Laura would be so disappointed at the lack of booboo-inducing activities.

Ultimately, we choose to grow up. The pros are that we can cook whatever we want, do whatever we want after work, and only invite our favorite people to our birthday parties–mom can no longer make us invite everyone in class. We need to mature in the end, because otherwise society would cease to function.

But no one said we needed to stop playing and being silly and being creative. No one told us to stop cultivating our friendships and to become afraid of our dreams. No, we’ve done this to ourselves. And it’s not fun.

OPINION: Why We Don’t Care About Nature

Somehow, in our collective pursuit of material success and economic stability, our infatuation with glitz and city life, and our desire for creature comforts, the term “nature boy” has become a bit of an insult.

I’m kind of a unicorn environmentalist in that, although I will fight tooth and nail against such issues as fracking and oil dependence, I am the worst outdoorsy person out there. I still can’t ride a bike, for instance. I’m still often afraid to swim at the deep end of the pool. And I’ve never been camping (in fact, it’s doubtful I’d even know how to camp).

It has also occurred to me that if I one day decided to change this, very few of my friends or even acquaintances would be able, or even want, to join me in becoming an outdoorswoman. You could blame this on the fact that I live in Philly, but this excuse falls flat as soon as you realize that Pennsylvania is chalk full of state forests and parks, with hiking trails galore. Not to mention we’re only about two hours from some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the area, in the Poconos.

So why are we so violently turning our backs on nature?

A pristine park. Don't you want to be here?

A pristine park. Don’t you want to be here?

Surely, it has nothing to do with the myriad health benefits of playing outside, including weight reduction and better vision. Similarly, I’m sure it’s completely unrelated to the mental and emotional benefits of being out in nature, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms.

One issue that I see–besides the obvious obsession with attention-sucking electronics–is the commodification of what should be a birthright. Many outdoor activities now require so much money that those without expendable incomes find themselves excluded. For instance, skiing and snowboarding are probably some of the most expensive activities you can take on. Even at a local, small ski resort, it can often cost $100 for one day of skiing or snowboarding, including rentals, a pass and a group lesson.

Then we have bikes that can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Sure, you might eventually make back that money on gas and bus savings, but you need to have that much money saved up, and you need to be ready to pay that again if and when your bike breaks.

Then there’s the question of equipment. We have megaliths like Patagonia and REI that, although producers of superior products, are too expensive for your average Joe. Even activities like hiking start to get pricey when you have to buy the gear, including proper hiking boots that you can really only use for hiking, and possibly special moisture wicking layers and jackets.

And then if you’re a city kid like myself, you’ll also have to pay for lessons on how to do all these things–because, trust me, even something as simple as hiking can be daunting to us.

You could argue that if we spent less money on electronics, we might have the funds for these activities. Well, maybe, although a season ski pass can cost about as much as a new iPhone. But then you also have to consider how we’ve all been successfully babied into believing that nature is scary.

Rittenhouse Neighborhood

This is where most of us live (more or less).

For the first time in history, more than half of us live in cities. This means that we can’t POSSIBLY step outside without bug spray, because, OMIGOSH BUGS! And we can’t hike or snowboard in normal shirts. Nope. We need MOISTURE WICKING SMART TECHNOLOGY SUPER DURABLE SUN PROTECTIVE FABRIC because otherwise we…could get slightly damp.

I also have a personal belief that many of us have forgotten how to dress for the weather. For instance, most women I know just cannot be talked into wearing baseball caps or any kind of hat during the summer because of hat hair. And then they have to deal with both sunburn and dehydration. Similarly, we seem to have forgotten the importance of layering and wearing long underwear in the winter. OF COURSE YOU’RE GOING TO HATE WINTER if you have only a thin layer of fabric between your legs and 30 degree winds.

So let’s put this all together: you’re a middle class chap with little expendable income, and maybe the few things you splurge on occasionally are video games, cable, and a phone upgrade. You like the idea of doing outside sports, but at the end of the day, you’re exhausted and have no idea what or how to do outdoorsy things. You can’t ski, you’re swimming skills are okay at best, and you’re really rusty at riding a bike, which you figure you can’t really afford right now anyway. TV has told you that you should be able to hike and mountain bike like an expert as soon as you get outside because THIS IS NATURE, DAMMIT. But you’ll still get very sick, even if you are rugged, if you happen to get bit by a mosquito or forget your moisture-wicking fabrics.


Me after snowboarding. One of the ONLY times in which I was standing upright

Me after snowboarding. One of the ONLY times in which I was standing upright

So we continue to embrace our creature comforts: Netflix, Louis Vouton bags, warm showers. We enjoy nature from afar, in TV shows and movies. And meanwhile, things like deforestation and mountaintop removal will mean little to us, and we’ll find ourselves faced with these unknown demons who might disappear with adequate sunlight and fresh air.