I Never Thought It’d Happen to Me(me)

Meme? Like, Mim? Or is it like Meh-Meh? Oh, I know! Me-me! Hmm, meme? Like theme? Okay sure, I’ll write an article about that.

The above was my reaction when I was asked to write about memes for a Columbia journal my sophomore year. You can look up the article if you’d like. I honestly don’t have the wherewithal and self-confidence to revisit it. I promise it’s not good. Actually, don’t look it up. I don’t want you losing faith in me.

Okay, now that you’re back from BETRAYING MY TRUST, I want to explain how my appreciation and understanding of memes has completely changed. They’re a huge part of my life, now. I only recently stopped scrolling through multiple Instagram humor accounts before bed because I have a complete lack of self-control and was starting to stay up really late because of it. I always laugh at the jokes and pass them on ad nauseam, but I never really think about the people – and hand puppets – captured in those pictures and screenshots. Were they chosen at random? Were the pictures posed for? I honestly didn’t care… until it happened to me.

So, peep this: I wake up one summer day ready to face a completely empty schedule. I know to most people this sounds like the dream. It’s summer and you have nothing at all to do! You should be rejoicing, Karen! Well – I wasn’t. I have a very obsessive personality that requires I be constantly busy or being made to feel useful. Three task-free weeks between school and work were hell for me. Let’s just say I wasn’t in a great place.

I logged into Twitter. I passed through a few memes – it all comes full circle – and landed on a tweet from @OfficialJaden – Jaden Smith:

Jaden smith tweet

I GROANED. I thought about my annoyance with the proclivity of individuals – namely men – to call women “females.” I remembered in that instance how I recently schooled one of my cousins on the discrepancy. “You wouldn’t call guys ‘males.’ It reduces us to nothing more than a set of privates. I’m more than just a vagina, right, cuz?” He grimaced because I’d mentioned my vagina, but said he thought he understood. I remembered that small victory and took it upon myself to be a warrior for justice once more.

I hit reply on the tweet and typed:

Karen tweet

I immediately got push back. A guy asked me why I couldn’t just take the compliment. I considered ignoring the response, but I thought about some of my favorite internet savvy writers and creators. @Chescaleigh (Franchesca Ramsey) wouldn’t back down, neither would @HeavenRants (Heben Nigatu) @EveEwing or @AmandaSeales… one would assume.

I responded, using a helpful Buzzfeed article written by Heben and Tracy Clayton as my main reasoning. My internet assailant did not take kindly to my use of Buzzfeed as a source. Suffice it to say, he didn’t agree with my grievances.

 The hate started flooding in, and a few hours after my original tweet. It happened. I became a meme.

Versace tweet

I thought, “but I’m not… I can’t be… I’m not annoying, am I?” The whole point of a meme is to define something with an image that can’t or might not necessarily be so easily defined with just words. This unseen person – whose account has since been deleted mind you – had defined me.

The meme got TONS of likes and comments and sent a horde of people flooding over to my original tweet to say both mean and nice things – but mostly mean things. At the time of my publishing this article, my original tweet has 136,822 impressions and 52,290 engagements. Keep in mind that before this I only had 70 Twitter followers. I mostly used Twitter to say dumb things like:

karen regular tweet1

karen regular tweet 2

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Clearly, I was speaking to the void and suddenly I had people going through my page and commenting on old stuff with:

karen lbj tweet

lbj reply 1

karen lbj reply 2

It’s like people were just trying to find some “gold” that would get them as many retweets and interactions as @VersaceSilk got before. It was sickening. I learned how to turn off notifications for that specific post, but that wasn’t enough. I turned off notifications for Twitter completely… but that wasn’t’ enough. I still couldn’t help logging in to see what people were saying about me. Things like:

rude reply 1

rude reply 2

rude reply 3

rude reply 4

That last one struck fear in me and made me delete the Twitter app completely. Then it showed up on Facebook. @FuckJerry had reposted it. I thanked God my Twitter name was a silly spelling of my name and not close enough that random people could make the connection to my actual Facebook page. Then it showed up on Instagram. @BeigeCardigan, @FuckJerry’s “sister” account, posted it with a caption telling me to “sit down.” Some girl tagged me in a comment saying she’d “found me” on Instagram. “IT’S THE SAME HANDLE, GIRLFRIEND!! YOU AIN’T NO SUPERSLEUTH!” Is what I wanted to respond, but I was scared there’d be more pushback. I made my Instagram account private and curled up under my covers.

My friends seemed to find out one by one. Matt called me – “Karen, you’re famous!” He encouraged me to capitalize on this. To let this launch me into fame. He said I’d have to become a feminazi online to keep it up. “But I don’t wanna be a feminazi. I just want to express my opinion every once in a while and not be demonized for it.” My writer’s group friends from Columbia told me they’d all reported @FuckJerry for reposting it. This was way before reports of how reporting doesn’t actually work for black women, but it was no use anyway. It was everywhere. I couldn’t run from it.

The first two days were incredibly hard. I pretended to be okay and laugh it off, but I cried… a lot. By the third day, I had people defending me wholeheartedly when I just wanted it to all disappear.

The last place it showed up was Reddit. A friend with whom I went to camp in middle school called me. “Hey Karen did you know…” “Yes, Ryan. I know.” He helped me laugh about it. He told me he’d make fun of me for a while for it, but he knew that was just my brand of sarcasm. He knew it didn’t read like I’d have actually said it.

And that’s just it. I listened to a podcast recently that talked about how with text-based platforms, there emerges this certain level of intimacy that feels violated when questioned. Our words are unavoidably close to who we are and when they’re misconstrued, we’re at a huge loss to regain control of what we “meant” or “intended.”

Thankfully, the buzz subsided. In fact, exactly a week later, I was able to log in to my social media accounts and not see anything concerning the meme. It was a huge relief.

Now, every once in a while, someone online will bring it up. A new, burgeoning humor account will repost the meme in hopes of getting the same kind of acclaim. There’s nothing creative or nuanced about their approach. It’s just a cruel, uninspired rehashing. People will tag me in it thinking they’re the first to do so or hoping I’ll go off. They aren’t, and I won’t.

Initially, part of me wished I’d been more straightforward. I thought, “if only I’d been clearer about what I meant, maybe people would have been more inclined to hear me out.” I had to stop that destructive thinking. No one should have to cater their dissent to the understanding of their oppressors. I know, I know. “Dissent” and “oppressors” feel like big words for something that seems so small, but it’s not small! Calling a woman a female reduces her to nothing more than an animal or an object strictly defined by her genitalia. On the one hand, it doesn’t make sense. “Female” is an adjective. On the other hand, this is dangerous for multiple reasons. For one thing, this nomenclature completely erases transwomen and lumps gender nonconforming individuals into a basket they didn’t ask for. This kind of thinking can also inevitably lead to physical and verbal violence and the continued oppression and belittling of an entire subsection of the human race.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still drop it low in da club to all the misogynistic bangers from the 90’s, 2000 and beyond (and before, I see you “Tootsie Roll”) but I don’t deny that the language used in these songs is reductive and incendiary. It’s a tough line to tread – being a woman who considers herself “woke” but who also wants to participate in many of the facets of daily life and pop culture. There’s a lot to juggle. Way more than I could address in one article. Nevertheless, I’ve decided I can personally choose small battles day by day.

 

I have about 100 more followers on Twitter now. I know. I’m killing it. And I know most are there waiting for me to say something else they consider dumb or “meme-able,” but that’s okay.  Not everyone is going to like you and not everyone is going to understand you. But if you’re smart, you’ll spend more time listening to the people who love you and do understand you.

Either way, the moral of the story is – if you’re gonna come for Jaden Smith, be prepared to face a little push back :).

– @Ckharyn

 

127 Minutes

By Karen Joseph

Have you seen that movie 127 Hours? Yeah, me neither BUT I saw the trailer, so I got the gist. White man walks among the rocks. The rocks rebel against him and all he’s done to harm Mother Earth. White man cuts off arm as penance to Mother Earth.

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Like I said. I got the ~*gist*~.

 

Don’t worry, I’m not here to give you three sentence versions of blockbuster movies. I’m here to talk about my own 127 Hours… and by 127 hours, I mean what felt like 127 hours but was probably closer to 127 minutes.

 

Fade in on me standing in line at Sugarfish with a guy from Tinder I’d only just met in person. Sugarfish is what you could call a “bougie light” sushi restaurant. Its website explains it serves traditional sushi of the highest quality and its prices reflect that promise. Nevertheless, you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it. They’ll be fine with one leg and a finger(tip). Okay lame jokes stop now.

 

Anywho! I’m looking him over. He’s… okay. This was only my second time going out with a guy I’d met on an app. The first guy was H. O. T. hot on paper. He was literally tall, dark and handsome. He played basketball in high school and could certainly pass for a young Denzel. My mom would have been so proud (she loves Denzel). Yet… get ready for this… he pronounced the “L” in salmon. I MEAN, REALLY? We had nothing to talk about, and I basically ran out of that restaurant after. I’d gone for brawn over brains, and I suffered for it.

 

Suffice it to say, I realized I needed to go a different route if I really intended to find love and/or free food. Gorp (names have been changed to protect me from an awkward “did you write about me on the internet” text) was nice. Gorp was smart. Gorp knew everything about movies and music. Our texting before the date had been nonstop. The interesting kind of nonstop, not the “wyd?” “nothing. u?” kind of nonstop.

 

So what’s the catch? Physically, Gorp was on the heavier side. He honestly wasn’t someone who would – as Missy would say – make you do a double take. But like I said before, I was trying to do something different. Take a walk on the wild side.

 

This was my first time at Sugarfish, so he encouraged me to get one of the bigger meals for variety. Sushi always fills me up quickly, so I struggled to scarf down the Trust Me Lite (three pieces of sushi, one piece of sashimi, a hand roll and edamame). Meanwhile, Gorp threw down on the Trust Me (twice the sushi, twice the handrolls), and made sure I knew that on a good day, he could destroy the Nozawa Trust Me (add three more pieces of sushi and a “daily special” to the Trust Me). The boy could eat.

 

When the meal was almost done, he looked over at me with puppy dog eyes and asked what I wanted to do now. He could drop me home… or I could go to his place and listen to that Logic album we were talking about. Gorp promised he had really nice speakers.

 

I don’t know if it was the raw fish or the smell of salt water wafting over from the Marina, but I said, “I could listen to some Logic, right now.”

 

I texted at least four friends on the way there to send them my location (shootout to Khalid). I was super new to LA at the time, so I had no idea where I was. On the way up, the elevator got stuck for a couple minutes. I don’t listen when God sends me clear messages, so I still followed him into his apartment.

 

We sat on the couch, and the album began. I stared straight in front of me like there was some visual component that went with it. Eventually, Gorp asked if he could kiss me. Consent is sexy but like… chemistry is even sexier. To make it plain – I wasn’t feeling it.

 

So I said, “yeah… after this next song” and prayed we had a Bohemian Rhapsody-esque ballad on our hands.

 

We did not.

 

The song faded out – as songs tend to do – and he went for it. I mean, he REALLY went for it. The only way I could describe it is that I was concerned he’d lost something in my mouth and the fate of the human race itself depended on his ability to find it with his tongue. You ever shove your hand into your bag to frantically look for your keys? Yeah. It was like that.

 

The kissing was bad, so of course when he asked if I wanted to move over to the bed to “watch some Netflix” I said no, because I’m a sane adult who’s skilled at articulating what she wants and doesn’t want…

 

Nope. You have me confused for someone else. I said yes. We relocated. His wifi was conveniently acting up, so we had no choice but to go at it again – horizontal this time.

 

He lay on top of me. Now, remember when I said Gorp was on the heavier side? I’m not exaggerating when I say I could barely breathe. I took short breaths and assessed the situation. I’d found myself between a rock and a hard place (his dick). I was like James Franco’s character in 127 Hours, and it was time for me to decide which body part had to go if I intended to survive. Seeing as he was on top of me, I considered a life without a torso. My face and head are cute enough, so I had no doubt this severed version of me could survive on her own.

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I snapped out of this headless fantasy when Gorp started grabbing at my breasts. I almost felt bad for him. I was wearing a strapless bra, so he was getting more industrial strength padded fabric than boob. He kept lifting my shirt. I kept sliding it down. He kept guiding my hand toward his crotch. I kept sliding it up.

 

After what felt like 127 minutes (there’s it is) I mustered up all the strength I had left, lifted my metaphorical knife and cut the hookup short. I sat up and asked him to take me home. I was an adult about it and texted him the next day to say I didn’t think things were going to work out.

 

JK.

 

I responded less and less frequently to his texts until he got the message. (Lolz)

 

I never said I was a role model. I just said I had a funny story to tell. Wait… did I not say that either? Dang, my bad. I’ll start off more clearly next time.


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karen