Ladies With Dense Fibrous Breasts Beware!

mammogram-machine

It looks more like a kitchen appliance.

My doctor told me that I have very “dense fibrous breasts.” Uh, excuse me, I thought, but this is a strictly professional relationship. Actually, he’s German and possibly gay, which doesn’t mean that he wasn’t interested in my breasts, but he only meant to recommend that I have yearly mammograms.

The radiologist and I agreed that while we live in a time where I can see the flutter of a butterfly in Japan from my apartment in Marina Del Rey, or rockets can have accidents in space because there’s so much traffic up there, it behooves the medical sciences to build a Mammogram machine that does not function as a female torture device.  I’m not saying that a female engineer couldn’t have conceived of a boob pancake machine for the detection of malignant lumps. I’m just saying that she probably participated in other sundry activities that blur the line between pleasure and pain.  Actually, my friend The Internet, claims that a man named Albert Saloman invented the breast panini-maker in 1966.  And, well, that was that. No need to revisit and make adjustments. I mean, we’ve only seen about 10,000 different kinds of televisions since 1966 and even my dentist’s office has gone through four different styles of chairs. God forbid if the experience of finding out whether or not you have cancerous cells could be comfortable. We might forget that being a woman means unending passive aggressive inconveniences…[RANT ENDS HERE].

So, I have been subjected to this thing TWICE.  Both times I got a call back.  It turns out that the boob pancake machine DOES NOT REALLY WORK and I needed an ultrasound, which is a lot more gentle (why don’t we just start there?). It was fine until the technicians started talking to each other and saying things like, “What is THAT DARK SPOT? GET THE DOCTOR OVER HERE NOW.”

A really good-looking doctor then studied The Dark Spot on the screen and shrugged like, “I think we’ve put her through enough” and said, “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

GIANT FUCKING SIGH.

Well, thank you Kaiser. I can’t think of a lot of ways to spend $50 that would cause that kind of anxiety, fear and depression.  It was almost as good as the Tsunami/Earthquake YouTube video festival I sat through by myself in a trance-like state last weekend. I just don’t have access to any kind of torture device machinery handy to complete the experience.

END OF SARCASTIC TONE.

Just for today, I am very grateful for my health.

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Tell Me Tina Fey, How Do You Deal With Misogynists In Comedy?

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Kittens: one way to reverse the effects of misogyny.

I said I wasn’t going to write any more blogs about being a woman in comedy. I lied. Again.  My experience last night convinced me that the majority of  female comics should consider performing exclusively at female open mics (which we need to create in greater abundance).

Last night I performed in a “show” (a bunch of comics in a basement) of primarily male comics, many of whom you would not classify as your standard Comedy Misogynist.   I had a decent set, but a terrible night.  My comedy went over, my soul felt violated.  The final blow for me came with the telling of the ubiquitous Fat Girl “Joke” by a male comic who for some reason deserves our sympathy in the trials of dating.  The Fat Girl Joke is always the same story about how said comic witnessed a “fat girl” who said or did something that doesn’t sufficiently express the level of shame and humiliation she should feel for failing to live up to society’s standards of beauty. How dare she still go out and live her life, instead of spend her nights crying at home in front of “The Bachelor” re-runs amidst tattered issues of Cosmo because guys (like the comic telling the story) would never find her SEXY?!  Would this girl care if said comic didn’t hit on her? In the story it’s assumed that all women care about the judgements of said comic who ironically cares enough to TELL A STORY ABOUT IT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.  The rest of the “joke” goes towards humiliating this woman not in attendance. The message is the same, if you’re existence doesn’t focus on becoming a physical ideal for men – particularly this comic – then you are worthless human being.

The small audience consisted of other male comics, with the exception of me and two other women. I stared at my phone. The other comics nodded their heads and laughed, even if they were tired of the bit and believed in their heart that his words were fundamentally wrong…because comics embrace FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

I’m still trying to figure out…IF THERE’S SO MUCH FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN COMEDY WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DEFEND THE FAT GIRL?

One theory is that they agree with it. Or they want to support the comic and not hurt his fragile fat-girl hating ego.  I wish I had the balls to awkwardly heckle him in the moment. But I don’t have balls. I am more closely aligned to the fat girl, or the desperate old lady, or whatever woman-hating paradigms exist for these guys to enact their freedom of speech.

I went up second.  My set was early in the night. I had planned to leave right after like any other self-involved comic, but decided to stay and watch the female comics.  I generally try to support women in comedy.  I watched a younger female comic talk about the guys that hit on her, how men sexually view her and how she acts in bed.   A lot of younger female comics who go to open mics end up with an act that sexualizes themselves.  In a more supportive context, like a female mic, sexualizing yourself might be an expression of rebellion or an assertion of independence and freedom of choice.   But in front of a group of men, especially comics, it’s the verbal equivalent of a strip tease.  Maybe young women who do this type of comedy have an authentic comedic voice somewhere deep inside or maybe they just want attention, either way the response they get from a room full of men is not exactly laughter. It’s the energy of guys getting turned on. Gross.  GROSS.

The comic after her, a man close to 50, got up and said, “I actually liked her act” as if he were referring to a five-year-old who talked about trucks for ten minutes.  Her act was genuinely funny, despite being oversexualized.  But it’s true that most stand-up comedy is terrible, and there is an argument made for a process of art that starts out as a terrible mess (if you can indulge me for a moment in classifying stand-up comedy as “art”).  But rarely do male comics openly condescend to each other.  BUT IT’S JUST US GIRLS TRYING TO TELL JOKES.

He then went on to discuss how turned on he felt by her.  *wave of nausea* So, this moment has happened in my presence, where a small intimate room suddenly gets incredibly creepy and while nobody is being openly harassed or assaulted, I feel like my feminine soul is being raped and nobody is doing anything about it. At this point, I usually leave, but I wanted to stay and see a friend.  To be fair, maybe male comics don’t notice because awareness of creepiness is not in their man-DNA-code, but in these moments I have to ask myself, like David Byrne…HOW DID I GET HERE?!

I wrote to the last female comic I saw (the last act I saw) on Facebook today and she said “If you talk about how mad you are, people freak out.”

I’m tempted to say that female comics MUST primarily attend all-girl mics if they want to develop an authentic comedic voice, free from the need to impress men.  For the same reason why girls do better at all-girls schools…Tina Fey, what would you do?

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A Little Philosophical On Ash Wednesday

I went to Ash Wednesday service tonight.   I knew I had ashes in places they aren’t supposed to be by the looks on people’s faces.   I later saw them all over my face, like a big chunk had fallen and spread around my nose.   I guess I was extra sinful this year.

The priest was clearly tired of people giving up red velvet cupcakes, or Facebook after 11:00 pm or whatever minute inessential activity that might pass as a sacrifice.  Instead, he asked everyone to just do something different for 40 days. When I was ten I gave up meat on Fridays.  Mean one day a week.  My father always took me to get pizza on Fridays and I loved Pepperoni.  Whoops.  If I give up something for 40 days, why not just give it up permanently? If I can could go without alcohol, sugar or meat for 40 days it would be gone.  They need to shorten the time, make it four days and I AM IN.

My uncle once gave up desert for lent but still ate Banana Bread because “it’s bread.”

What does the world care if I give up triple shot Americanos for 40 days? I’m thinking about giving up something that’s actually useful to society.  Like greed. Or stinginess. Or not-giving-a-shit-ness.    What if I did something kind each day for 40 days?   Wouldn’t that help the world much more.  And I don’t mean creepy kindness, like making eye contact and saying “hello.” That just stresses people out.  I’m talking about feeding meters. REAL SHIT.

Maybe give to a food bank.  Not hate on annoying people.  Not be mad at drivers or the 405 or my landlord or leaf blowers.

Just for today, I am penitent on Ash Wednesday.

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A Blog About My “Process”

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The back of this van is part of someone’s process.

So, I wrote this play. I raised money on Kickstarter, found a brilliant director, produced it, and now it’s up and running!

But that’s not what I want to write about. What I want to discuss here today is The Creative Process.* Not to sound all fancy and “I’m An Artist…IT’S WHAT I AM!”  Nothing makes my skin crawl like listening to a young white male in a dress shirt and khakis talk about his Artistic Process.  Let’s just assume all of us breathing and alive humans are artists.  I thought I needed an Ivy League degree and/or a drug addiction to be taken seriously.  BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE.

I have read many articles, books, quotes that make creativity seem like something very deep and complicated…and, (sigh)…OK…yes it’s true, I did read Robert McKee’s “STORY” (beautifully satirized in the film “Adaptation”) and I tried writing screenplays and…well, here I am.

Today I believe that all we need to write/create anything is to live…and by “live” I mean fall on your face so hard you have a permanent scar, chipped tooth, and pebbles indented in your skin.   (I remember one time in Junior High I stepped into a trashcan on my way out of a classroom and did a belly flop/stomach slide into the hallway where I landed spread eagle in front of a group of boys…It’s actually a fond memory). Yes, I’m talking about FAILURE.  You want to hear about a creative process? YOU WANT A REALLY GOOD STORY? GO AND WANT SOMETHING REALLY BAD, TRY AND THEN FAIL MISERABLY.  There. You got it.  Beginning. Middle. End.

Connecting to the obvious is harder than it seems, not because it’s hard, but because in our culture most young people aspire to some sort of casual, cool vibe…even about important or embarrassing things… It’s like, yeah, I just got fired/dumped/rejected I think I’ll go kill myself and yawn there’s a reality show on…OK, I’ll live.  A lack of expressed passion passes for depth in a lot of American culture.  (You can blame who you want but I place it on Brett Easton Ellis and maybe Buckowski and Hemingway…YEAH, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT HOW THEY’RE YOUR HEROES.)

Not to say I’m beyond any such indulgence.  I wrote some very high quality pretentious jibber jabber in college…and well, now we have THIS BLOG that I REFUSE to take down or edit because I think, in part, it keeps me humble and kind of lame.  Yes, I have typos and weird half-stories about pointless stuff and rants. Maybe I’m a saboteur or it’s more fun to just NOT be great…

But, yes, I can ALSO get fancy and showy, too.  We all revert to our default state.  I would say some of my “best” jokes are actually kind of cheap and mostly about what will guarantee get a laugh. (“My therapist says, ‘You have to kiss a lot of frogs.’  I’m like, thanks for telling me…all this time I’ve been sleeping with them!’” KABOOM!).

So, I have come up with some personal techniques I try to adhere to the following steps (for lack of a better word):

Step 1: Separate from everyone. Go live a monastic life in your head. FUCK EVERYONE ELSE. Not literally, just LET EVERYONE ELSE tell the same joke, write about the same thing…even if it’s clever (or a pun). FUCK THAT. WHAT DO I SEE? (I read this very interesting piece by an editor that proves that sometimes everyone around you can be wrong.)   And then find the courage to express what you see.

Step 2: Find The Spark.  I find that if I don’t have a sparkly feeling about an idea/joke it’s not worth my time.  But how do you find the spark? I don’t know. Do a rain dance. Make an altar. One thing that has always worked for me is a nightmare heartbreaking end of a shitty relationship.  I FEEL TERRIBLE BUT HERE COMES THE MUSE. But since I’d rather not go through that, I just lie on my couch and wait for sparks to fly in.

Step 3: Have fun.  This is The Thing. I do find sparkly ideas. But I treat them poorly.  I delete a lot of tweets, I bail on premises, I write a few scenes of a play and then say good-bye.  I often don’t trust my instincts.  I have a lot of shame issues that block me.  The only reason some things make it to the light of day is because I’M LAUGHING. IT’S FUN.  If it’s fun, I stop caring what people think. Of course this won’t work if you’re writing about the Uganadan genocide, but maybe you enjoy the PASSION of your emotion.  The point is that when I am consumed by a project I rarely concern myself with “What will THEY (my mother) think?”

Step 4: I forgot…I’ll come back to it.

Step 5: Defend your child.  People will say shit.  Here are some gems I heard about my play: “It’s not ready, yet.” “It needs work.” “It’s kind of like a sitcom.” (That one was the worst).  “Your lead character better be really HOT!” , “It’s very fluffy.” “If you want to act in it, YOU’LL HAVE REWRITE IT IN ORDER FOR IT TO MAKE SENSE WHY THE GUY WOULD LIKE YOU.” (Yes, that was said to my face)….Everyone is entitled to an opinion.  But if you birthed a project that you love, LOVE… it is what it is and it will NEVER be perfect.  Perfection doesn’t exist. Wait a second. No, perfection does exist.  It’s just that usually, I don’t care…a lot of Academy Award winning movies come from well-structured screenplays and feature quality actors…and I haven’t seen a single movie nominated for an Oscar. (I’m sure they’re all fantastic…).

When I stopped attempting to find perfection, I started to have fun. This blog is riddled with mistakes, LOTS OF CAPS, passive voice and gerunds…BUT IT WAS REALLY FUN TO WRITE.

Just for today, I have a process.

* The irony of this whole blog is that the idea of “process” is kind of a running joke in my play.  I think therapy messed me up more.

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“Changes In The Mating Strategies of White People” (Coming January 17th)

solangeplay_final-1“Changes In The Mating Strategies of White People” by Solange Castro (me) will open on January 17th at the Lounge Theatre 2 in Hollywood (6201 Santa Monica Blvd., LA, 90038).

To purchase tickets, click here.

“Changes In The Mating Strategies of White People” explores urban dating, technology, love and sex in 2013 Los Angeles.  The play is directed by Craig Anton and features Abigail Marlowe, William Nicol, Brian Cousins, Kim Estes, Gloria Charles, Brian Cousins and Sarah Underwood

(I am now – OFFICIALLY – a Theater Person.  This is very exciting.)

So come…cuz it’s gonna be awesome!

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I’m Producing The Play I Wrote

I’m producing a play so all of my extra energy (the kind I have outside of surviving in this world…driving to Trader Joe’s, putting on moisturizer, cleaning the toilet, etc.) goes into figuring out the cheapest poster prices or building my 8th Facebook promoting site….or digging through the Salvation Army for bulletin boards (GLAMOROUS).  So, I haven’t really been in the frame of mind to pontificate on the hilarity and tragedy of my boring life. Plus, my mom has been struggling with cancer and that has put all my stupid problems in perspective. I’m thinking about the next play I want to write as I have apparently become a theater person. I DID NOT INTEND FOR THIS TO HAPPEN.

But even if I could get a job in show business I don’t think I have the right kind of low self-esteem for those gigs.  I get upset by sexual harassment and am really good at making a BIG DEAL out of it.   Not good in most business world scenarios.  Hello Theater World.

Also, if I hear another joke about how young men like to masturbate and obsess about sex, I might just lose my shit.  HOW MANY JOKES CAN YOU HAVE ABOUT THIS TOPIC?  I would venture to guess – though, I can’t be sure – that in history of jokes the world has ingested LESS poop jokes since the beginning of time than jokes about the Male Teen’s Desire To Get Some Poon Tang. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN YOU THINK OF ANOTHER PREMISE.

Ok. Enough. No more rage against the male masturbating machine or cap locks in this blog.

This is a very serious post about my new serious approach to life based on a few profound realizations. 1) We are all going to die. (Sorry). 2) Expensive eye cream probably doesn’t do anything that Vaseline does. 3) Life should never be 100% gluten free. 4) I’ll always want expensive boots. 5) People are hungry so why am I worried about expensive boots?

People.  I’m tired.

Just for today, I can become a Theater Person.

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One Good Reason Why I Live In LA…

sunsetLook at this glorious sunset.  NO FILTER BITCHES.

I actually prefer the after-sunset.  Sunsets are overrated, if you ask me.  Ok, giant ball of fire, go light up another part of the world. But the afterglow, the light on the sky and clouds changes for up to an hour after the sun has set.

I have the privilege of living by the beach.  In recent years I have complained a lot about this fact.  Living in a Get Away From It All destination has it’s disadvantages.  In my experience, the behavior of people who visit the beach areas often involves a lot of yelling and drinking and treating the area like a college fraternity block party.  I sometimes want to yell out of my balcony, “WE’RE NOT ALL ON VACATION!”

sunset3Someone recently told me that some Venice residents held a protest of these “Bridge & Tunnel” people. I wouldn’t go that far.  I do understand that I do not own the beach.  And even if I could afford to buy it and put up a big “Do Not Disturb” sign on a couple of acres of land and sea, I know that would be wrong.  Because to live near the beach also means that I get to watch sunsets like these. And I wish such an experience for everyone in the world. YES I WILL USE THE WORD “MAGICAL.”

sunset2Beautiful sunsets are LA’s winter’s bounty.  Why I don’t hear songs and other praise for LA in the Winter always struck me as odd.  The air is so clear.  It’s cold (but LA cold).   And every night is just one glorious sunset after the next.

On some nights I run out to the beach with my camera and think “Why is everyone in world not watching this right now?” Then other times I’ll think, “Oh, there’s another dumb sunset.”  WHY DOES GOD MOCK THIS CRUEL WORLD?

But either way, I go out and take a picture and think about how fast the world is moving.  And then I rush home to turn on my computer and check email and Twitter.

Just for today, I love LA in the winter.

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A Funeral

“Do you want to be cremated or buried?” asked my aunt Nina during breakfast.

“I don’t know. I really haven’t thought about it…”

“Lying alone in that coffin just seems so lonely to me.”

“I don’t mind it. But please, just make sure that I’m dead.”

I was raised Catholic and so have attended many open casket funeral services.  I’m not sure about the open casket part.  But being in the ground doesn’t bother me.

Bob was really my step-grandfather, but he was married to my Grandmother for 43 years, sent me gifts and cards every birthday and holiday, and so, in the most important ways, was more of a grandfather to me than my genetic one.  He was a very sweet and wonderful man, but he was also ready to go. So while sad, the event was not tragic. It was just the family part. That’s always the hardest part.

Highlights of the funeral included my Aunt Judy’s eulogy about how I had lost a stack of programs (I had them right next to me) and a discussion about my Grandmother’s ashes.   He was a Catholic and his wife, my grandmother, a Unitarian.  She’d been cremated, but he wanted to be buried.

“We’ll just put a Spoon-Full of  Mom in his breast pocket,” suggested  Judy. She claims he agreed to this arrangement in his final hours.

“Just a spoon-full? Are you sure that’s enough?  What if it doesn’t take?  You might need at least a cup,” I suggested.

Apparently, adding someone else to the coffin – in whatever measure – costs thousands of dollars, but the mortician let it be a covert operation.

“If you want, you can take some of Mom with you…” Judy later offered.

“Are you sure she wants to be spread around like that?”

She wanted her ashes scattered, but doling her out in spoon-fulls struck me as a little extreme.  It’s made me think a burial might not be so bad. At least you’re in spot.   If you’re divvied up like left overs, where do people go to visit you?

I’m glad I wasn’t a pallbearer.  I watched as my aunts noticeably struggled.  Even my strong young cousin claimed that the coffin was really “heavy.”    It seems dangerous not to have some back up. My Grandfather served in the Coast Guard and two military officers came to perform a military ceremony. Afterwards, we all placed a rose on his casket and threw some Holy Water from a bottle marked “Holy Water.” Where do they get this stuff? Is there a factory?  I imagine an assembly line of bottles passing before a priest blessing each one. Or maybe he does one big vat at a time.  How do you ensure quality control?  I DON’T KNOW FATHER TOM THIS BATCH SEEMS A LITTLE WEAK.

Later, we went out to dinner and celebrated his life and surviving the funeral.

“It’s amazing that everyone is still here,” I said.  I know so many families who have lost people way before their time.

“I know,” said my Aunt Nina. “It’s nothing short of miraculous.”

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A Jennifer Aniston Kind Of Girl

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Check out those legs! It’s a tie.

Jennifer cut her hair. I get it. I did the same thing  after a break-up in a mid-twenties-life crisis.  I have this thing with the Angelina/Jennifer rivalry.  I really feel it.  In my bones. Sure, they are both beautiful and incredibly fortunate women.  And I don’t know the first thing about either of them in Real Life.  But my migration from Angelina-ism to Jennifer-itis marks a trajectory of life experiences that many women understand.

I always thought Angelina Jolie had incredible talent as an actress.  She blew me away in “Girl, Interrupted.”  I didn’t care if she wore a vile of blood around her neck and made odd choices in men.  She let herself make mistakes.   She stood for something real.  She was the damaged, rebel daughter, the angry sarcastic girl who just happened to be gorgeous.  I later admired her work with the United Nations.  I didn’t mind that she stole Brad out from under Jennifer. Sometimes things just happen.  Jennifer, on the other hand, seemed shallow and superficial.  She cared too much about yoga and highlights.  Brad’s attraction to Angelina proved that maybe men like women with broader interests outside themselves (all things being equal). Angelina had graduated beyond the vapid values of Hollywood.  She was a new kind of star. Jennifer remained the girl with the great hairstyle.  Competition over.

Then Angelina went and had 17 children and I thought…hmmm, not for me, but then again I can’t afford an army of nannies, vegan chefs and trainers.  Sure, she flaunts her epic love for Brad at Awards shows and wears fashionable burqas, but at least she’s doing a lot more than most celebrities.   I admired her, yes.  Identify with her? Not so much.

It’s not just that you can’t like the girl who gets the hottest guy in the world, but she no longer hit a chord of angry rebellion. She seemed to become a slightly edgier Stepford Wife. She has tons of children, adores her husband, and does a lot of volunteer work.  I do admire that she made public her decision to get a double mastectomy.   But for all practical purposes, Angelina went from rebel to the model of the conformist mother and wife. Sorry, Angelina.  I wish you the best, but you lost me at Child #17.

Meanwhile, Jennifer has endured heartbreak after heartbreak.  She falls for the Wrong Guy, lands on her face like a real human being, gets up, sort of laughs, and buys a new dress. She’s the girl I’ve been and  met a dozen times, the one who got dumped, left, abandoned for a super hot woman. The one for whom life  proves that no amount of yoga classes, highlights, or facials can prevent the inevitable pain of rejection.  The girl who will never need to flaunt a relationship because she’s faced abandonment and public humiliation head on so many times she doesn’t need to hide from her aloneness.  When I see her picture in tabloids, framed with all the speculation I’ve endured from family members – Will she get married? Will she have kids? – she seems to say, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll live. And why do you care?”  She has failed to live up to any notion that an aging woman, let alone a Hollywood star, should go out to pasture, let herself go, or self-destruct with food, alcohol or drugs.  Au contraire, she remains impressively hot.  But more importantly she smiles, laughs and seems to have fun.

Angelina got all the stuff – the family and husband – but it all sort of neutralized her, she’s no longer too dangerous.  Meanwhile, Jennifer faces the scrutiny of not doing, or even wanting – in a desperate kind of way – the things that women are still expected to aspire for.   While Angelina seems strung to conventional labels, “wife” “mother” “ambassador,” Jennifer seems to be more and more her own person.   Will she die alone?  Will she ever have kids?  It doesn’t matter. It’s going to be OK.

Rock on, Jennifer!

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But Is She HAWT?!

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Helen, you need to get to the gym.

I wrote a play called “Changes In The Mating Strategies Of White People” (opening January 17th at The Lounge Theatre…tickets available in December…please come). The play features a strong female lead, a complicated, independent woman who asks the questions facing women in our culture. But there is one question, many who have read the play want to know about this character and that is…

…IS SHE HOT?

Why is this a question?  Why do I have to deal with this? Why is this not asked about characters of great literature?  Nobody ever asks that question about male characters.

“So, is this Hamlet guy a hottie?”

“Is Lady Macbeth a MILF?”

“IS IT A SEXY BEOWULF?”

Was Helen of Troy hot? I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE IF WE SAW HER NOW WE’D BE LIKE, UH, HER FACE ISN’T REALLY SYMMETRICAL, HER LIPS ARE TOO THIN, AND I THINK I SEE SOME CELLULITE ON HER HIPS, SO EVERYONE KEEP YOUR SHIPS AT BAY.

Just for today, I’m so annoyed.

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