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A lot of people know the It’s A Wonderful Life story by now; how it was a box office bomb in the 40s and then, due to a clerical issue, the copyright wasn’t renewed in 1974. The cable networks could pick it up for pennies, showing it over and over whenever they had a gap in the holiday schedule to fill, turning it into a beloved Christmas movie over the decades, which is why it airs every year around the holidays.

The Nightmare Before Christmas was my It’s A Wonderful Life growing up. Released in 1993, it has held its own within the holiday genre for twenty-seven years. I remember every year without fail, after trick or treating through the neighborhood, while counting my loot in the living room as my parents hosted their adults-only after party, the stop-motion movie would be playing on every age-appropriate channel to distract me and the other kids. Telling the story of Jack Skellington, a skeleton hot shot from Halloweentown who’s grown tired of repeating the same holiday year after year and becomes enchanted and then obsessed with Christmas, Nightmare offered something entirely new to the world. A little too creepy for Christmas, and a little too feel-good for Halloween, and altogether too weird for Disney, it was entirely and originally itself. …


The Way We Work Now

The airline industry’s new safety protocols are merely a placebo to encourage people to fly again

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Photo illustration. Photo: Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua/Getty Images

A morning ritual is a difficult thing to keep up when the world as you know it is falling apart — especially when you work in the airline industry.

I woke up this morning in a hotel, which I typically do three mornings out of the week. I did yoga for 15 minutes, something I’m trying to do more regularly. I made my iced coffee. I took my medication and followed my skin care routine. I put on my uniform and my airline-issued face mask. …


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by monicore on pexels

I: How did this happen? You must have seen that the wire was barbed

F: I was hungry. And there are berries beyond the fence

I: But now you’re snared. Your leg is cut down to the bone. You’ve cut your mouth open too, trying to bite through the wire

F: What’s a little blood and bone? We all come down to it in the end

I: Was it worth it?

F: You must be young, yet. What’s worth got to do with living? If you’re hungry, you hunt. If something goes wrong, bite through it. You’ve got teeth for a reason, don’t you? …


Unlearning the impulse to stereotype is a difficult, life-long project.

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Steve Johnson on Pexels

Recently, when discussing how best to go about helping my teenaged cousin unlearn the prejudices taught to him by his parents, my mother told me “You’re a good example for your sexual persuasion, because you aren’t too in-your-face about it.”

This is something I hear from straight people a lot, when discussing the LGBT community and our values. I hear a lot about those, too; “family values” and, specifically, how they and people like me cannot coexist. As if LGBT people don’t have families and values of our own. As if we don’t consistently step in and uphold those values when our biological families fall short. Values like unconditional love and acceptance and support and equality. But even though LGBT people, individual and communal alike, are just as vocal about all of these things which we hold dear, they never seem to make it to the cis-heterosexual conversations regarding us and our personhoods. To them we are, first and foremost, deviant to their sexual and gender norms. …


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Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels

When I first heard about gratitude journals, I was newly eighteen and homeless.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been homeless, but the experience can put a damper on the whole “let’s talk about what we’re all thankful for” thing. It didn’t help that I’d first heard about it in the context of a neighbor’s very overwhelming church, which had recommended each member of their congregation keep a journal where they thanked God for various things everyday. I was not interested in thanking God for anything, let alone designating one of my beloved, unused journals to the process. I could list all the things I was ungrateful for. …


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Nicolas Postiglioni on Pexels

Sometime in the muggiest autumn Bavaria has seen in years, I throw myself onto an active train track. My friends are shouting my name in worry. The Polizei are shouting in German. I have been drinking, but I am not drunk. I am eighteen. I am laughing. The scene is exactly as I’ve described, but it’s not what you’re thinking — at least, not in my mind.

“There was a shoe,” I explain, still laughing, after I’ve been pulled back up on the platform just as the train comes into sight. I hold the shoe in my hands; a single plain, black high heel. I don’t know where it came from, or what happened to the person who left it there. …


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by Dark Indigo on pexels

The young woman checks her reflection in the mirror. The shadows under her eyes have grown longer. The shadow over her shoulder has grown teeth.

“I can make those go away,” says the imp. “The lines around your mouth, too, your crooked teeth. I can make you so beautiful that it will break strangers’ hearts, just to see you.”

“No thank you,” says the young woman. “I don’t mind them so much.” She is too tired to fight the imp off. She has been tired for a while. She’ll probably be tired for a while, yet.

“Liar,” says the imp, curling up against her back to sulk. …


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At fourteen, I befriended a lesbian — her name was Emma, and she was older, wearing her sexuality more comfortably and close to the skin. At her best friend’s birthday party, after Homecoming, I crawled into bed with her. This was not my first time sleeping next to a girl, but it was the first time I did anything about it. My attraction to women, at this stage, was still a loose and indefinable thing. …


This Is Us

I come from a long line of mothers abusing daughters

A black and white photo of two ghostly girls sitting on an antique couch with a creepy doll next to them.
A black and white photo of two ghostly girls sitting on an antique couch with a creepy doll next to them.
Photo: EricVega/Getty Images

When I call my mother on Mother’s Day, we make mild conversation for 30 minutes. She asks about my job. I ask about the ducks. She complains about my father. We withdraw from the conversation as soon as good manners allow. This is, believe it or not, the healthiest our relationship has ever been. This is a victory, and it was hard-won.

My mother refused to give up her maiden name when she married. I have only ever known her as a conservative Irish Catholic woman, but by all accounts, she was a real wild card in her youth. I’ve seen the pictures of her bleached hair with red tips molded into liberty spikes all over her head. I’ve seen pictures of her in a leather jacket outside a theater, preparing for a live showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’ve seen her tattoos, faded and aging alongside the rest of her. …


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It’s a funny thing. I’ve got these friends, right? And we all love each other without saying we love each other. We love each other like boa constrictors love a rat. We love each other like rose vines love an ankle. We love each other meanly, with a little too much teeth, scraping the bone because we don’t want to waste fresh meat.

And I’ve got this dream, recurring-like. Damn thing won’t leave me alone. And in the dream, I’m there, and so are all the rest — Milo and Joey and Hannes and Will. And we aren’t mean with each other at all. We treat each other real gentle, like you treat a baby or a stray dog. Coaxing, maybe, scared to press too hard. Holding, cradling us like eggshells, afraid we might just break apart. And dream-me really eats it up, all that softness. Like I’m starving for it. …

About

Joan Tierney

Writer of all sorts of things, but mostly the Dream subgenre. Professional traveler. Lesbian. Home cook. Philly.

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