I Was A Sandy Girl

good sandy vs. bad sandy

I was a Sandy girl.  And not bad Sandy, the sultry sex kitten with big hair and red lips who sashays on screen at Grease’s end.  No, no I always preferred good Sandy, the prim goody too-shoes who was just a little too perfect.

Most girls idolized bad Sandy— her effortless, cool girl demeanor, the way she self-assuredly cocked her head and said, “Tell me about it, stud”— not me.  Though I loved her tight 50s style hot pants, her bad girl act held little allure.  To me, her heavy blue eye shadow was trashy, not sexy, and her red platforms shoes screamed uniform staple of a street walker.

bad sandy

For how much I loved Grease, I’ve always detested the end.  Even before Judith Butler and Women’s Studies 101, I possessed a profound sense that the moral of the story was backwards: Shouldn’t the person you love accept you unconditionally?  Isn’t love based on mutual respect?  Change yourself” was the disturbing message that seemed to underlie Grease’s light-hearted exterior.  Rather than finally stand up to his tough guy friends and date the “good girl,” Danny only accepts Sandy when she metamorphoses into his male fantasy of her.  For me, Sandy’s transformation from demure, prudish good girl to tantalizing male play thing always represented a kind of loss: instead of affirm her own identity, Sandy— in conventional fashion—rejects her selfhood to please a man, a major defeat for feminism.  All the hallmarks of bad Sandy— the smoky, charcoal eyes, the volumized, over-the-top tousled hair— became tragic symbols of the ways in which women found themselves wanting…and worked to modify themselves.

danny & sandy

Like Sandy, I— too— had a hard time accepting my inner good girl.  I can remember when my 7th grade science teacher Mr. Thompson would display our grades on the projector.  While most kids shuddered at having their mediocre C-s projected on the screen, I dreaded the moment my A+ would be laid out for all to see.  

“100%,” I remember Kenton, the class cool boy, saying sarcastically, “sexy.”  

In that moment, I had a devastating realization: being a good girl wasn’t attractive.  Getting good grades, earning student of the month 8 years in a row: these badges of a good girl were actually telltale signs of a dork.  Once I understood scholarly excellence and rule-following as roads to mockery instead of sources of pride, I became ashamed of my As.  I was embarrassed when the teacher doted on me in class.  Slowly, surely, I became more quiet and reserved.  My being a good girl left me alarmingly insecure with myself.

Like most good girls, I eventually rejected my straight-laced nature and experimented with being a “bad girl”: I drank and smoke profusely; I snorted coke in park bathrooms; I swore; and though I didn’t own a pair of 50s style hot pants, I revolted through the skinny jeans I wore.

By 2005, I was a completely different person.

Gone were the days of pristinely copied homework and neat hand-written notes.  If I did turn in my homework (which was rare), it was crumpled and torn.  Gone were the days of naive optimism and blind obedience.  By early high school, I was already wearing the aloof cynicism of much later adolescence.  Gone were the days of conservatism and mild manners.  Sophomore year had me listening to Led Zeppelin and cheering on my guitarist boyfriend.  Good Sandy was dead.  And I loved it…or so I thought.  

Despite the exhilaration of dispensing with social norms and experimenting with alternate lifestyles, my adolescent years as bad Sandy were a time when I felt profoundly lost.  A relentlessly driven, type-A sort of personality by nature, I felt disoriented without a set of rules.   Good Sandy wanted things: to be a cheerleader, to get good grades.  Bad Sandy had nothing to strive for.

Being a bad Sandy girl, I realized, was nothing but a negation, an anti-thesis of sorts.  Her only identity was as a converse; she was good Sandy’s opposite— no identity at all.  At the end of Grease, she feels sexy, perhaps, as she flies away with the hunky man of her dreams but she never realizes any of her own ambitions.

Today, I still harbor a secret admiration for bad Sandy girls, those women who are so liberated and carefree, who quite simply don’t give a shit but, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve accepted I’m just not one of them.  I love my planners and cardigans.


Master of None Series Finale

master of none featured image

Funny.  Real.  Heart-breaking.  All of these words describe the excellent season finale of Aziz Ansari’s superb Netflix original series “Master of None.”

From the opening credits, the episode preoccupies itself with numbers. In a comic scene, Aziz and Arnold debate what to have for lunch:

“I’m starving!” Aziz complains.

“Me, too” Arnold agrees.

“Well, what do you want?”

“How about tacos?”

The next 2 minutes trace an experience made all the more hilarious by its all-too-real familiarity: determined to find the “best” taco joint in all of New York, Aziz frantically searches Yelp reviews and looks for input on Google. 45 minutes later Aziz is exhausted from too-much-information syndrome. Overloaded with information meant to aid the process of buying, consumers are ironically paralyzed by indecision when confronted with too many possibilities. The once relatively simple task of finding a place to scarf down a taco has now-with the advent of rating sites like Yelp and Google Plus- become a kind of art. One must consider average ratings across multiple criteria, assess the validity of reviews, a complex process indeed. And what’s usually the result? Like Aziz, we find the ideal taco haven only to show up at the food truck and find it’s closed 40 minutes later.

The rest of the episode concerns itself with similar issues of indecision and regret. After Aziz attends a friend’s wedding and witnesses their blissful, seemingly perfect romance, he begins to question his compatibility with his quirky, live-in girlfriend Rachel. “If you had to rate the likelihood of us being together forever on a scale of 1-100, what would you rate us?” he interrogates Rachel.  When she responds with 70, Aziz is upset and hurt:

“70? ”  

“What?” she defends, “It’s a high number.”  

“It’s not as high as 80 the number I wrote.”

Dev & Rachel

Though from an outsider’s perspective his request is so ridiculous it borders on the absurd (after all, how can you forecast something as unpredictable as whether or not you’ll stay with someone?), his desperate need for certainty is a desire most of us can relate to. In your late 20s and early 30s, doesn’t everyone have that lingering fear that “this is it”? that the man we’ve dated for 5 years out of habit will be the man we end up with?  that the job we just “fell into” will be our career?

Quarter-life is a turbulent time riddled with anxiousness and self-doubt:

“You’re so indecisive!” Aziz’s father scolds, “You’re like the girl with the fig tree!”

“Huh?” Aziz wonders, confused.

“Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar. You need to read more…”

As Aziz strolls through an idyllic New York park pondering his life choices, images of all his potential lives flicker across the screen: a quiet, domestic life with a wife and family; a traveler’s lifestyle of excitement and adventure. Like Plath, Aziz finds himself tormented by the countless possibilities open to him and terrified he’ll choose the wrong one.

A Wonderful Future Beckoned & WInked

By forcing Rachel to assess the seriousness of their relationship, Aziz inadvertently inspires her to assess her life, ultimately leading to her decision to move to Tokyo.  “I don’t want to be like my sister,” Rachel divulges, “She always wanted to live in Paris; now she never will. I’m afraid if I don’t do this, I’m never going to.”

Though this-at first-seems like a heartbreaking, too-soon end to an adorable love story (after all, who didn’t love Aziz and Rachel?), Rachel’s decision to end the relationship and pursue a life-long dream rouses Aziz out of the immobilizing, I-have-to-do-everything-perfectly indecision that has been plaguing him all episode. In the episode’s final scene, we see Aziz on his way to what we can only assume to be a plane to Tokyo. Just when we assume Master of None is going to settle into the predictable conventions of rom-com, the show violates our expectations and surprises us:

“Have you ever been?” a round-faced Japanese woman leans over and asks Aziz.

“To Italy? No, no,” Aziz shakes his head, “this is my first time.”