an actually-not-terrible Christmas playlist

In no particular order, and with even more colorful commentary. And YouTube links because I realize most of these are… eclectic.

The Killers – “Joseph, Better You Than Me”

The Killers have been putting out a “quirky” Christmas song every year since 2005, so if you want unusual, that’s a starting point. This particular song is my favorite because of the perspective and because… well, you’ll have to listen to it, but it’s one of those things that wouldn’t have worked if anyone else had tried to do it. Just sayin’.

Pentatonix – “Carol of the Bells”

Look, as an alto this was one of my least favorite songs because the traditional alto part is basically “stand there and look pretty”, but… it’s still a beautiful song. I can’t think of any bad versions, so y’all get this one because it was the first one that came up on my itunes that had human voices. You’re welcome.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Wizards In Winter”

The song that birthed the synchronized-lights craze (as far as I’m aware). And with good reason. TSO is another act that can do no wrong in their additions to the Christmas canon, but this is the one that gave a brand-new outlet to the Clark Griswold wannabes of the world.

My Chemical Romance – “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

I have to include this cover because… it’s not good. At all. MCR was a fascinating band because Gerard Way is a creative genius who does not do things halfway. This particular cover of an overdone “modern classic” – and now I’m really curious how this even HAPPENED – has none of that brilliance. It is, however, interestingly terrible and still better than the original, so…

Katy Perry – “White Christmas”

Another one where I’d really like the origin story. Feel how you want about her, but this is a good addition to any compilation of festive background noise.

Kelly Clarkson – “Just For Now”

I’m not sure who decided this was a holiday song, or why (other than that it’s about family members who shouldn’t be in the same room). The original version, performed by Imogen Heap, is haunting and creepy-wonderful. Kelly Clarkson’s cover is… bigger. A lot bigger. In the best, most over-the-top way. And yet still sounds, if you’re not listening closely, like it just might be about happier things.

Straight No Chaser – “The 12 Days of Christmas”

What?? Something that would appear on a nicer person’s playlist?? Yeah, this is an exception because it’s that good. Look up various versions online – having at least originated as a college ensemble, their lineup has changed over the years – and prepare to be entertained.

Barenaked Ladies – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

The most well-known modern version of that song, so… again something you’ve probably heard before, but again good.

Eartha Kitt – “Santa Baby”

I mentioned in my last post that I think the original is the only good version of this song. I’m mentioning it here because the above link is video of her performing it. Definitely worth watching.

Vanessa Carlton – “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Let me put it this way – there are no brass instruments or overkill drums involved in this version. It’s delicate and not at all the normal rendition, and that’s the beauty.

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make it stop, make it stop, make it stop

Okay y’all, time for the first in a series of list posts. The usual content on Littlest Lioness (aka random musings about the utter insanity that is my love life) is gonna go on hold for a while. In its place, well… today, I present to you a horror story from having worked retail for several holiday seasons.

Christmas music is inherently annoying. Freaking FIGHT ME if you think otherwise. But not all annoyances are created equal, and in honor of that I’m doing a set of two posts. The second one, which will go up in a couple days, will be my own personal holiday playlist of lesser-known covers and eclectic awesomeness. THIS ONE, however, is the opposite. This is my hell-no list of songs that need to not be played in public places during the season, and it’s extremely biased but whatev. I have FEELINGS.

So, without further adieu, the list:

the entirety of Zooey Deschanel’s Christmas album

I just… no. Her voice is annoying and gets on my nerves. And if you have to have that on your playlist, just one or two songs will do. Not the entire album. Or… nevermind, I just checked itunes and there are actually TWO albums (and I don’t intend to rec any of her stuff, but the cover of “Meli Kalikimaka” is every bit as horrific as one would expect so um yeah). No. Not good. Go back to your corner with your tennis-ball eyes and your ukelele.

any version of “Santa Baby” apart from the original.

This one gets a disclaimer because, well, the original version is iconic. Eartha Kitt was a badass (and sidenote, can we get a bait-movie biopic of her starring Thandie Newton?? please??), and for having been originally recorded by a black woman in the early 1950s, that song is ambitious. So her version, with her impeccable diction, can stay. The hundred or so other versions?? Not so classic. Exactly how many festive odes to sexual manipulation do we really need?!

Bruce Springsteen’s rendition of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”

Can we please not?? I try to have respect for icons who’ve earned their status, and from what I’m aware (please tell me if I’m wrong), the Boss’s decades-long career is worthy. And that particular cover isn’t even that bad. The problem here is frequency. Because it’s musically interesting while still harmless and classic, that song gets played to hell and back in about every store I’ve ever been in between mid-November and Christmas. The occasional hearing, I can tolerate. Once an hour? Nah.

any rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” performed by an adult male

Creepy at best. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Even worse with a country accent, but still a bad idea without one.

“Run Run Rudolph”

This one gets points when used in movies (or as background noise when my mom and grandma and I ran through three stores in search of a cologne my dad wanted that WE DID NOT FIND – yeah, that actually happened), but I’m not sure what the point is. Or if there even is one. I’ll tolerate Kelly Clarkson’s version because it sounds like genuine FUN and she seems like one of the only current pop stars who genuinely wanted to do a holiday album, but in general this one’s just an obnoxious earworm.

“I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”

Speaking of earworms… dude, I live in Cincinnati, #teamfiona for life, but still. There is no exception version of this song. The version by A Great Big World is gonna be stuck in my head until February. Go awaaaay.

approximately thirty covers of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on the same playlist

No. Just no. It’s not even the content of the song that bugs me (that viral tumblr post explaining cultural context and how it was actually pretty progressive for when it was originally written has solved that problem). It’s the fact that everyone and their freaking cat has done a version of it, and there’s not a lot that can be done to make any particular cover different, and familiarity breeds contempt.

“Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”

Again, this is a local-girl thing. Do not remind me that everyone in my geographical region is about to forget how to freaking drive for three months, and don’t sound so damn cheerful about it either!!!

hopeless romantic

At times, I’m pretty sure this blog is just an archive of people I’ve loved and mistakes I learned from. That’s not intentional, I don’t think. More… idk.

Official explanation – therapy costs money I don’t have. Blogging is free and cathartic and occasionally gives people the opportunity to see how much they mean to me without any awkward convos and therefore fills the void perfectly.

Other official explanation – I draw from my life for my writing and my cosplaying, and I can’t recycle anything I haven’t analyzed to hell and back.

I’ve been thinking about connections and the cyclical nature of them for the last couple days, ever since I re-found someone I genuinely thought was dead. That one, I haven’t written about before because it happened at a very strange time in my life and… well, turns out he’s not dead and that door is open again.

And yes, I know my life just turned into a bad fanfic plot. AGAIN. Because if there’s one predictable thing in my existence, it’s that any romantic disaster I have tends to play like a romcom they would’ve made ten years ago.

(Sidenote – do they even MAKE big fun romcoms anymore?? I’m pretty sure they don’t, and that’s so darn annoying. I like explosions and superheroes as much as the next girl, but I also wanna watch two pretty people fall in love without the background noise of secret identities or terminal cancer.)

Seriously. I’ve been freaking out about this for three whole days ’cause wow, that was NOT the plotline I thought was gonna recur. Ooohboy.

I’m such a GIRL sometimes.

But yeah. For those of you who are wondering if I do literally anything other than pine after bad ideas and then brood about them for years after the dust settles… okay, yeah, that’s a huge part of my life. But I’m trying to turn that into something super-awesome and bigger than myself. So screw it.

(Also, this blog is gonna be WAY more fun for my future tinies to find than a journal.)

seven years

According to the “on this day” function on FB (which is so strangely addictive if only as an archive of my questionable fashion choices and that one year I tried to communicate almost exclusively in song lyrics), tomorrow marks seven years since an unexpectedly life-changing event.

I write about the person I refer to on here as Vulcan a lot because that whole mess was one of the turning points in my life. It made me realize a lot of things that wouldn’t have become apparent otherwise a bit earlier than might’ve been ideal, and my entire life changed because of that one moment seven years ago.

Okay, fine, that story spanned over the course of a year and a half. Maybe two and a half if you count the ACTUAL first time I met that boy, but I don’t because the person I wanted to chewtoy and the person who showed me unexpected kindness and caused a lot of unexpected problems… were quite different, honestly. But like all great almost-love-stories, this one had a beginning point, and this one occurred on a cold November Saturday when a boy I’d met exactly once before – and at the time, REALLY did not like based on that previous experience – suggested that I might want to do a content warning at the beginning of my interp.

Look, there were a lot of shitty experiences that came along with being midrange-conservative-Christian homeschooled through high school, but speech tournaments were not one of them. That’s the one part of my adolescence I can look back on and say was solidly GOOD. Maybe in part because the structure of the beast required a level of human decency a lot of us weren’t otherwise capable of, and the dress codes and strict scheduling prevented a lot of the behavior that otherwise went down when more than half a dozen homeschooled teenage girls were in the same space for more than ten minutes, but… whatever the causes, that activity WORKED for me. It got me out of the house and around other human beings, it gave me a valid excuse to cause a little lowkey drama without fallout (pretty sure a few moms reconsidered whether sheltering was such a good thing after watching my senior-year interp)… total win.

But again, back to that one unexpected turning point.

How the hell an 18-year-old male who’d grown up in that culture had ANY concept about content warnings, I will never know. There were a lot of questions I didn’t ask back then, when it mattered, ’cause I was too busy trying to get him to LIKE me. Or, well, assuming he did but also kinda wondering why he didn’t do anything about it. (There are still a lot of unasked questions, but people change and I’ve stopped actively wondering.)

And then a couple months later, another moment my brain goes back to when I need some kind of validation. Different competition, not a particularly good weekend for me ’cause I’d read a book over the holidays that had really screwed me up. Perfect timing on the part of one of two genuine friends I had among the three hundred or so of us… led to a near-death experience and what I realized a couple years later was my first-ever panic attack. And again, Vulcan was inhumanly chill. Calmed me down, made sure I was okay, and made sure I got safely inside before frostbite fully got through my floral fishnets. Again, no reason why someone with those origins and those brackets should’ve been THAT GOOD, and yet.

I’m realizing, as I write this, that all the people I’ve seriously fallen in love with have had that effect on me. They’ve been people who, with their very presence, can either make me melt or make me contemplate how they’d look spread out on the hood of my car. (Or both at once.) It’s pretty freaking rare that people can do that to me, but it has aftershocks that last for years. Pretty undying loyalty, for one thing.

It’s been… guh, I wanna say five years since I physically crossed paths with Vulcan. Dunno if I ever will again, or how awkward that would be. We’re still friends and occasionally talk about random stuff (I’ve accepted that one of my life’s purposes is to make sure that boy listens to decent music once in a while, and that’s a good conversation starter). My tendency to hang onto former crushes is a little weird – when I was talking to one of my female friends a couple weeks ago, I realized that like half the people I trust // go to in a crisis are guys I once thought I was gonna marry – but it works.

I mean, if nothing else… if someone ever seriously screws me over, they could end up facing down an Avengers worth of my sort-of-almost-exes. That’s pretty darn awesome.

the brave girl

Content warning – this is a post about sexual harassment, assault, and general assholery in various forms.

(I wasn’t gonna do this post – I previously thought it was way too personal and complicated – but hell, it’s almost four in the morning and I decided not to sleep ’cause a longtime friend just got engaged and I’m all feelingsy about that so… here, have another one of my open wounds.)

A couple weeks ago, we had an Incident at my work. Of the “holy freaking hell, you’re almost 40, you should REALLY know better than to say that in public!!” variety. Of the “I would’ve physically attacked said dingbat if I hadn’t had the brains to tell one of my friends about it first and said friend came up with a better solution” variety. And of the “oh lookit FLASHBACKS” variety.

See, at least this time I was an innocent bystander who could only tolerate so much assholery. That’s my normal status at work. I started at my current job a month and a half after shaving my head during a manic episode (in the middle of winter no less) and it took various coworkers a couple months to figure out I was female. Worked out great for me, in the grand scheme of things. The boy I crushed on that year had no trouble seeing my details; meanwhile, the various creeps and reptiles missed whatever chance they would’ve had to sink their teeth into a pale-as-hell and ultra-naive 20-year-old woman. I got LUCKY,  and even after my hair grew out, that’s held pretty well. I’m not the girl who gets hit on by coinflip-sober customers or entwines herself in workplace romances gone horribly wrong. So again, in this particular case of wildlife who should’ve known better, I just happened to be close enough to overhear and not in the mood for putting up with bullshit on that scale that day.

But GOD, now I think I understand why most girls aren’t brave enough to report.

I had panic attacks about it after maybe the sixth time I had to repeat the exact same incident report to yet another person who agreed that yes the situation had an obvious solution but there was still PAPERWORK and forms to file to cover tails in case someone miraculously found enough money to start a lawsuit. I think I almost drove one of my friends crazy the day I figured out that most of our coworkers had traced the incident back to me – this, somehow, was the event that showed me the limits of superhuman patience. Never mind that everyone who’s spoken to me about it has been completely on my side and several have offered their own fixes for if something like that happens around me again. It’s still a LOT to be the victim on paper. More than I signed up for.

At least this time – perhaps because of the circumstances, perhaps because of who vouched for me, I don’t freaking know – people believed me.

Flashbacks are fun. Memories of being nineteen and telling my mother about an incident that had happened half a decade earlier, a boy in a homeschool group who had some interesting personal space issues but probably hadn’t meant actual HARM, and her practically laughing and then telling me how much worse it could’ve been. Because hey, at least the boy was around my age and not related to me (that we know of), at least all he did was put his hands on my questionably-existent thirteen-year-old breasts, at least I could still claim some form of innocence. To this day, I don’t think that boy knew at that time that he was doing something WRONG, but the fact that homeschool parents as a general species don’t teach their male offspring about moderation when in the same physical space as girls is a whole other monkey. I just… at nineteen, two or three years after I even realized that the incident even WAS an incident, I should’ve known better than to expect sympathy from my mother. And yet I did, because that situation screwed me up a bit and, despite me not knowing at the time, led to suicide attempt 0.5. And yet I didn’t get any. Figures.

Hell, I got a little more of a reaction when I almost got raped by another woman during the long weekend in the psych ward about a year later. At least that one was a bit harder to blame on me.

But still, I’m not used to being LISTENED TO. I enjoy my natural immunity and don’t question it, and I usually keep my secrets close to my chest because most people do. not. get. it.

Honestly, it’s a little ironic that the first incident that publicly bestowed the title of VICTIM upon me was the first one where I was barely even involved.

I’m still processing, but at this point I feel pretty badass. As much as my job frustrates me at times, I’m proud to work in an environment where that kind of shit gets taken very seriously. (Other incidents, not my story to tell, have confirmed that the harassment policy at my particular store holds a LOT of weight.) Obviously that ought to be standard in any environment, but the world sucks and it isn’t so let me have this one. We’re a zoo, but we don’t let anybody – outsider or insider, we don’t care – prey on our girls. First time I’ve ever felt loyal to the company I work for, honestly.

And going forward, when I herd around the teenage throwaway girls who imprint on me like the awkward baby ducklings they are, I have a few new points to make. Like a former coworker’s infamous “avoid if young and female” warning speech that all the other new girls of my era (but not me because again, awkward and accidentally butch), but so much better because this one has resources and battle plans.

So. Much. Better.

phantom limb syndrome

I lost a friend over the summer. They didn’t like some of my choices, and… okay, fair, one thing in particular was an interesting decision on my part, but at least everyone else who called me out on it saw the disaster for what it was. As opposed to my former bestie, who decided that another person in my life didn’t quite check off enough diversity//oppression boxes to be tolerated.

Ah, yes, because someone who’s knowingly screwed up someone else’s marriage should TOTALLY judge other people’s choices. Good grief, even the BUBBLE would draw the line against that one!!

So, that happened a while back, and it hit me this week how much I MISS said ex-friend. Like, I don’t miss the way they only liked me when our traumas mirrored each other, or the way they expected me to be SUPER SUPPORTIVE of *their* bizarre life choices while simultaneously guilt-tripping me about my own for TOTALLY BULLSHIT REASONS (yes, my wolf friend has both a dick and a personality; no, that does NOT make him pure evil)… but I miss the good parts. I miss having someone who’d experienced the bubble the exact same way I had and who understood that some things are just impossible to explain to outsiders.

A friend of a friend posted on FB this week that she didn’t find her husband attractive until after they were married and only accepted his interest in her ’cause of how spiritual he was. Every alarm bell in my body went off when I read that, and my first thought was that my ex-friend was probably the ONLY person in my circle who’d understand why that anecdote made me want to vomit. Except… ex-friend is ex-friend for REASONS. I don’t want them back in my life. I got a lot out of that friendship, but the lowkey manipulation and guilt were probably not worth the five years I sacrificed.

And yet there’s still that empty place where they used to be. Waiting, I guess, for someone else who managed to get out of the homeschool bubble WITHOUT drifting to an extreme. And hopefully the next person, the bionic arm in my future, will be a little less hypocritical. Fingers crossed.

slip week

I was doing so good and then I slipped the last couple of days.

It’s not my fault that my fight-or-flight reaction is a little screwy and sometimes my brain genuinely thinks that playing in traffic would solve problems. I’m not even sure if that was suicidal inclination or just wanting to be in a coma for like the next month so I don’t have to deal with the emotionally-manipulative bullshit parade that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Which is… another post I may actually do at some point between now and Christmas, and a pretty important part of my emotional journey, and probably gonna be my next tattoo since it’s the off-season for my preferred expensive hobby.) Yes, Monday was a shitshow and I’m not sure how I’m gonna apologize to my wolf for this one (or if I even need to), but I didn’t DO anything.

I didn’t DO anything yesterday either, when my week got derailed ten minutes before I was supposed to get off work. Yay family emergency. Unfortunately too many of y’all know my fam in real life, and I’m not sure how we’re publicly handling this one, but there’s some chaos going on there. Not my story to tell, but still stressing me out because right now I look like the normal child and that’s a little weird.

And I didn’t DO anything today either, unless you count crying for like half an hour because yet another of my casual acquaintances is pregnant. ANOTHER ONE. That makes… idk, I wanna say right now six or seven people spamming my social media feeds with their baby bumps?? And most of them are younger than me, which is so not helping. I’m 24. I still probably have fifteen years of fertility left. But I wanna USE those years, dammit. I want to BE the one obsessing over every little detail of my imminent tiny human. Not the jealous single girl watching.

So, I guess I’ve been good. Lot of bad brain stuff but all kept safely passive-aggressive. I need to find a way to make things right with one person in particular, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying to balance out that relationship and I’m not sure it’s doable. Otherwise… yeah. It’s only Wednesday. Anything could happen.