April #DGAF 2017

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about blogging, following the rules, trying to control my content, trying to paint a particular picture of what and who I am.

Why? I don’t know now.

The rules say 500 words. The rules say you gotta do a picture. The rules say keep it approachable. The rules say certain times of day. The rules say tagging, metadata, SEO. Keep a schedule. Don’t post too much. Don’t post too little. LOTS OF WHITE SPACE PEOPLE CAN’T PAY ATTENTION!

The rules are a nag. They are useless to me.

A few months back, I turned 36. So for a few days, I posted on Facebook & Instagram with the tag #DGAFage36.

Here’s an example from Facebook, Nov 2, 2016:

I get real big anxiety about peeing in cups, peeing outdoors, and peeing in portajohns. I have since I was little. When I was pregnant, my biggest worry on a regular basis was whether I’d be able to, and if I could, whether I’d hit or miss. #DGAFage36

At this moment, on Feb 21, 2017, I am a mess. I went from starting the birth year feeling very empowered and content and hopeful to losing my way, spectacularly.

I need to retrieve my confidence. I am afraid in ways that I wasn’t afraid 10 years ago. And not the normal, getting-to-know-my-own-mortality shit, either. Some days, I’m afraid to go out into the world.

I have a few strong, powerful, good women in my life who have helped me realize that I need to DO SOMETHING. So since I still have 2 weeks until I can get into therapy, I’m starting here. With a public declaration that I am actively working to retether. And that part of this work is not giving a f*ck.

This is accountability. This is practice.

So henceforth, this blog won’t be about anything specific or focused, not that it really ever has been. But I used to try.

Trying is good at work, when there is a thing, person, or cause to keep you moored. When trying as part of a team means something in a defined structure.

But in my life, I’m discovering that trying is inextricable from people pleasing, and it will drive me bananas–trying toward my own slave-driver, neurotic standards, or what I guess about others’ standards, or the internet’s copious, contradictory advice about itself, is a surer way to land at the bottom of whatever abyss I’m approaching.

Today, I want to write about writing about whatever the f*ck I want.

Tomorrow, it might be something else, like how much I’m enjoying Anthony Bourdain’s old CNN show Parts Unknown on Netflix. Or how much it makes me want to stab myself when people compare me to Lena Dunham. Or nothing at all.

Or maybe I will never write about either of those things. I don’t have to, you know. And I #DGAF.

Comment if you want. But no pressure. Not closing w/ a question to drive engagement. Not following dem rules. #DGAFage36

Way Cool Women Doing Way Cool Things

We'll Call This Shameless Self-Promotion
We’ll call this shameless self-promotion

During these last lazy days of summer, spend some of your afternoon spinning around in your desk chair looking at these lovely lady entrepreneurs of the interwebs. Some of these would be fantastic bookmarks for holiday gifts.

Goddess Leslie Hall

Leslie Hall is one of my new feminist heroes. Her YouTube channel is a treasure. And if you want to buy some things she made, you can just visit her website.

Vegan Soap

A very strange woman I know recently got serious about selling some of this spectacular soap she and her people make. Check it out.

An annoying vegan told me they might be doing gift packs + wrapping for Xmas at very, very reasonable prices.

Whale Snotbot

So, if you like whales, and I totally do, this thing is happening. It’s a newly funded kickstarter an acquaintance of mine ran to make researching whales a) easier, and b) less stressful for whales by COLLECTING THEIR MUCOUS. USING ROBOTS. Huzzah! Girl Power!

Lady Lucy’s Madness

I really love knowing creative people. Mad Lucy makes the most excellent accessories I have ever seen using doll parts, clay, sequins, eyeballs, and all manner of other fantastic things. Visit her Etsy store for more info.

Sojourn of a Hungry Soul

Laurie Cannady’s memoir is beautiful and powerful and astonishing. I’ll be introducing her at her book launch in November, at Lock Haven University where she teaches. Reserve your copy on Amazon or at etruscanpress.org.

Sometimes, A Gal’s Just Gotta Rage

from Flickr user Thoth, God of Knowledge
from Flickr user Thoth, God of Knowledge

By now you’ve heard about the SCOTUS  Hobby Lobby decision.

SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of The United States, but during the past few days, I’ve been rather startled by the acronym’s similarity to the word SCROTUM.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, here are some links:

They Want More

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is THA BOMB

Hillary’s pissed.

Corporations are people but women are not

What the actual *profanity* *PROFANITY* PROFANITY AT INCREASING VOLUME!!!!!

Then, Jon Stewart quoted Hillary saying The Bible is the most influential book of her life. Honest to god, I can’t believe the transparency of the pandering. What the hell, Hills? Are you strident or not? I say the answer is not.

Maybe she went on to describe the ways in which The Bible has been bastardized by Christian rhetoric. Maybe she means the parts where Jesus is an all-around good dude who had positive ideas about how to be a human in the world. But what is more likely? Her team of Election Manipulators have encouraged her to say shit like that so as not to fully alienate the Religious Right (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days).

It pissed me off.

Other things that pissed me off?

Hobby lobby has no trouble paying for viagra. Sort of like Medicaid has no trouble paying for Penis Pumps.

Nigerian school girls are still missing.

There have been 74 school shootings in the last two years and Gun Lobbyists are still bastardizing the second amendment to “protect” a regular citizen’s “right” to bear arms.

Sexual abuse and assault is still rampant in our culture.

Which, as a mother of a female child, TERRIFIES ME. I’m scared to leave her out of my sight when not in our home. I’m scared some mentally ill person she goes to school with will decide this fall is the fall to tote a little firearm to school and rain bullets.

I’m pissed that I have to worry about that.

I’m angry at how powerless myself and all the other people in the whole country who are worth less than several million dollars are.

I’m angry that the Clintons have the gall to declare themselves broke-ass after their stint in the White House.

And today I’m really fucking sad because a kid I grew up around (our grandmas were BFFs), went to school with, who had loads of friends and was a genius at fixing cars, killed himself.

He killed himself because his dad shot his mom when he was 4. He was there. He killed himself because of domestic violence. He killed himself because of somebody else’s mental illness and gun violence.

I am so wound up today that, after I couldn’t locate my previously existing Yoga DVD, I went to Target and bought two. I did about 50 minutes worth of cardio Yoga and Yoga for stress relief and I feel reasonably calm now. For the rest of the afternoon, I am going to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love, and I am going to try to figure out how to move to space in between frustrated crying jags.

Hopefully I will be refreshed and calm enough to lead tonight’s writing workshop.

What do you all do when you’re full of rage? Am I the only grownup who gets enraged to the point of distraction?

 

 

 

#YesAllWomen: How The Interwebs Blew My Mind + Cracked Me Open w/ Rage

screen shot of quick Twitter Search
screen shot of quick Twitter Search

I’m sure you’ve heard all about Elliot Rodger and his misogynist manifesto followed by an array of violence where seven people + Rodger lost their lives.

In case you didn’t, here’s a recap.

I’m not glad Rodger is dead. I feel badly for his parents. I think the whole thing is awful and probably, in its rawest most elemental parts, not even Rodger’s fault. I feel awful that I live in a world that would foster an Elliot Rodger and his manifesto. I feel yucky that not enough people (including therapists and police) Rodger reached out to in his time of misogyny said, “Dudebro. Chill. Someday, you’ll have sex and it’ll be great. For now, concentrate on being smart and kind. Let me help you. PS, women are awesome + smart people just like you, not property, merchandize, or beasts to be tamed.”

Honest to god, I didn’t get the #YesAllWomen thing the first time I heard it. I was like, wait, what? Yes All Women What? What single experience could possibly read across cultures for all women? Clearly I was not spending (any) time on Twitter.

Then, a dude explained it to me.

Then, OH BOY DID I GET IT.

I began to pay attention in my own life. I wait tables for money in a brew pub. I love my job. I love people. I typically have a great time at work. But sometimes, way more often than it seems I notice, I act to protect myself. This behavior is ROTE. Most of us don’t even think about it, we just act. To be nice. To be ladylike.

Unfortunately, a lot of us are still casualties of bad socializing or psychosis or whatever other code name  for misogyny is applicable to the male rage that ends so many women.

Anecdote: I waited on a table of a big family. A sweet older woman grabbed my arm and read my tattoo. She looked at me quizzically. She said, “You don’t look like a feminist. You look cute.” #YesAllWomen

At the brew pub, I waited on a pair of old guys visiting from a big city. One of them, after most of their second pitcher of beer and about three hours of bossing me around (read, taking up a table through the dinner rush), told my tits that he’d treat me like a queen if I ever visited his city.

Instead of saying what I wanted to say, which is “Stuff it, Perv.” I mustered a phony laugh and a “Sure!”  from my reserve of phony laughs and crazy-agreeable lady speak. Jack ass didn’t even tip 20%.

I asked myself why I did that.

I did it because of fear. Because I was scared that if I told the old guy to go fuck himself, he would wait for me and do something mean and shitty or just stalkery and frightening to me after work.

I started to pay attention to my feelings around men I don’t know all the time: when I’m running, if I’m alone somewhere, if I’m picking up my kid at school, if I’m walking across a parking lot.

I realized, unconsciously, I give all strange men, regardless of their race or age, a wide berth. Yesterday, I was at the park running and there was an old guy sunbathing with his newspaper. I was a little frightened of him because I couldn’t reckon out why the heck he would be hanging out at the park with half his clothes off, reclining like it’s his fucking living room. He coulda been the sweetest dude on the planet, but the alternative was too horrifying to attempt to find out. #YesAllWomen.

In fact, I might even be a little more tentative around white guys because frankly, they have way, way, way less of a reason to strive to understand what it is to be marginalized in any way. Hence, #NotAllMen, a knee-jerk response to the twitter explosion of #YesAllWomen.

Which brings up two things. 1) my personal belief that if we are going to end sexism, racism, and all other bigotry, we must accept that we are complicit and begin to see ourselves as part of the problem (that means, stop saying, “but I’m not a racist,” because it’s just not true); then act, moving forward with empathy, with a conscious desire to change our thinking, our emotional responses, and our unconscious and intentional reactions to the subjects of our bigotry. Here’s a humbling appeal from a woman of color to us white women who do not always provide the empathy we demand. And 2) some men, those who would doubtless put themselves in the #NotAll category, do not see this problem for a number of reasons, but the two main ones are lack of empathy + lack of visibility. Here, give this a think.

Anecdote: YESTERDAY, I drove in my car past a very beautiful young woman who was wearing a pair of short black shorts and a sheer tank top with a black bra underneath. My first thought was, “she looks great, I love her outfit.” My second thought was, “But is she trying to get raped?” My third thought was “Ohmigod I can’t believe I just thought that bullshit. Followed by a long self-hating lecture I’ll spare you all from outlining how she can wear whatever she wants and she is powerful and beautiful it is not her job to act to circumvent rape and rape is not a result of women wearing awesome outfits and so on. WE ARE ALL PART OF THE PROBLEM.

And as a counterpoint to lack of empathy? Of awareness? Some men, young men even, are starting to notice and want to help to affect change. Here’s an appeal for more empathy, for all people to be feminists. Let’s all try to be more like that writer’s son. Like that writer for raising a son who can look at himself unflinchingly and honestly.

I’ve been crabby this week. Short with the people I love + generally feeling full of rage. I have these periods occasionally. Ones where, when I learn things about myself and the world around me, I am pissed off. I don’t think this huge social problem is all that’s making me grumpy: I’m at a transitional period in my life + I’m sorting through stuff in my mind that I don’t always understand until I talk it over with my therapist.

And here’s the bullshit thing about my crabbiness: I’m pretty fucking privileged. I get to feel crabby on nice furniture in a house that has plenty of space and always food in the fridge. The ridiculous and horrifying things that have happened to me at men’s hands are pretty minimal compared to what other women have experienced. I know that where I work, there are at least a dozen people who would have my back if some stalkery nonsense happened. I happen to be heterosexual and white, so I live with a nice, tall white dude which is a fine asset. I have a baller education and the freedom to get more, which is also a huge, huge privilege.

I guess the thing that makes me mad is that it matters I’m white and heterosexual. I just don’t understand why it can’t be the same for all humans, regardless. I mean, I can explain why, I can regurgitate the things I have learned (in college, not in my conservative upbringing), I can even sort of understand the fear that makes some of the bad stuff happen.

But here’s the part that I don’t get: We live in a culture where we can use a device that has enough advanced tech in it, it can tell when it’s laying on a table, in a purse, or check your pulse. It can teach you anything you can ask it about. Why the hell can’t we get our shit together to teach our children, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that differentness is not a cause for oppression. Differentness doesn’t mean that another person’s experience is invalid. All humans have experiences that exist even if we can’t see or understand them. And differentness is a thing to be honored and experienced and edified by. All of us with the same opportunities, working together to make the world awesome? If I could snap my fingers and make one thing happen, I would eliminate hate. We would be so powerful and so. much. happier.

And I’m not the only one trying to make sense of this, weighing in on the Blogosphere. I hope I’m not the only one who’s working hard to abolish her revolting racist, sexist, classist, ageist, internal garbage with which I’ve been acculturated.

One brave journalist spent 8 hours in the chat room Roger Elliot frequented. Another woman tried to make sense of it by writing about her own experiences.

And for some vaguely related historical tidbits, read about the sadly departed Maya Angelou’s history as a sex worker and how uncomfortable book people–the people whom I would wish to be least narrow about acceptable behavior, sexuality, ideas from women–are with her stint as a prostitute. Or about how the Christians are trying to stop Harvey Milk’s Forever Stamp legacy. Because, y’know, he was gay and stuff, and as Westboro Baptist is so fond of reminding us, “God Hates Fags.”

GAAAAHHHHAHAHAAHA!

Scream in the comments if you want. Tell me which link you liked best. Share your #YesAllWomen story. Or tell me how I can be a better ally if you are part of a group my straight, white brethren are so fond of oppressing.

Follow Me Down the Rabbit Hole

from Flickr user Smath.
from Flickr user Smath.

This morning, I got knocked on the chest by equal parts nostalgia, outrage, and WTFship. It was the sort of morning where spending an hour on Facebook made me feel like a more informed citizen and reminded me how big the world is. Sometimes, facebook is good like that.

First, let’s talk two icons from my childhood/pre-early teen years: Monica Lewinsky writes about her affair with Clinton + Rob Lowe’s moving essay about sending his older son off to college.

Two sentences from the tiny amount that’s available from the Lewinsky piece without subscribing to Vanity Fair really got my feminist hackles up. 1) Lewinsky saying she regrets it, but that it was consensual. Fine, fine. BUT WHY DOES SHE HAVE TO SAY IT?? If it were a male intern + a female president, we’d be way angry at the female president and talking about what a stud the intern was. I don’t remember a single person saying “shame on President Clinton.” I remember lots and lots of people slut shaming a very young female intern. 2) Lewinsky says she heard Mrs. Clinton blamed herself for the affair because she was “being emotionally distant.” Women blaming themselves for the bad behavior of men (and men blaming women for the bad behavior of men) is a huge part of the reason I need feminism. <– Rage, Nostalgia, WTF?

The Lowe essay? I wept. Just read it. <— WTF. And a little bit of nostalgia.

And then, THIS BULLSHIT. A whiny white boy from Princeton “checking” his privilege. This is thematically relevant because I was young + dumb and clueless (even if I was intellectually apt, as he clearly is) like this kid around the same time Lewinsky + Lowe were pretty omnipresent in the news/entertainment/network TV world. I also would’ve once pulled a stunt such as this: misunderstanding the entire point + then using my stunning awareness of multiple meanings of words to take “check your privilege” to mean “examine the history of your privilege, then act like an indignant asshole” I am sure I also participated in slut shaming Lewinsky at the time. I am ashamed. <— WTF + nostalgia over being young and stupid once, too.

And then the lovely open letter followup from a saner, more reasonable, less Fox-News-Informed voice. <— relief.

And this video, while clever and entertaining, filled me with rage. Ignore the year-ago date and spend 1.5 minutes of your time. I watched it with Child leaning over my shoulder, and she asked me “what is that all about?” While I was explaining it to her, saying it out loud with words that I made with my vocal cords and tongue and teeth, I got so. Friggin. Angry. <— WTF.

Anybody else refreshingly enraged by Facebook rabbit holes recently?

Holding the Disk At Bay: The Power of Clear(er) Self-Perception

From Flickr user Dani P.L.
From Flickr user Dani P.L.

The current working title of my memoir is I Am Coming In From the Other Side: This is Me Finding My Way.

While drafting, which took place over a couple of years, starting in mid 2011, I had to get into sticky, uncomfortable places with myself. I had to think hard and look hard about choices I’ve made and why I’ve made them and whether or not I’m proud of those choices. I had to take a hard, honest look at interactions I’ve had with other people and figure out what was really going on.

I had to think about my parents, a lot.

There were moments of triumph and pride and breakthrough, yes.

But there were also dark moments of crippling self-scrutiny, self-pity, and clear, sharp anger with myself, with situations I put myself in, frustration with myself at all the things I couldn’t possibly have known.

There were moments during the drafting that I felt clearer than I’ve ever felt.

But then, after, about a third of the way through the fifth or sixth round of substantive revisions, and at a fortuitous break in my generally high levels of productivity, I felt like the clarity shattered around me. Like I was standing inside a light bulb that someone BBed.

I understood, beyond intellectually, the titular metaphor in Plath’s The Bell Jar.

I understood the impulse to end it all.

Those two things scared the shit out of me.

I spent too much time on TV and not enough on writing or being a connected mother and partner. I wept what felt like constantly. I couldn’t even think about myself, but I worried about myself unrelentingly. It was like being numb but in deep, un-feelable pain at the same time.

So I started going to therapy, which was a thing I’d been thinking about doing for a years.

I now feel  like I’d been fingering the edges of this great disk of anxiety that was just kind of hanging out inside me, barely holding it at bay while it influenced me in ways I didn’t recognize and couldn’t understand.

I have only just begun to untangle this with my counselor.

But I have reinhabited myself; my self-comfort, self-confidence has started to return. My focus on the important day-to-day stuff sharpens with startling ease and quickness. I found my way into my MFA paper. I have begun to learn how to recognize and stop specious feelings of guilt. I have started to practice, at my counselor’s urging, really looking at what’s happening when I have a stress response or when I get a big feeling, so I understand triggers and can use them for good instead of evil.

Nothing in my life is different except for my understanding of what’s going on in my body. I needed help to figure it out.

I also needed the honest desire to do so.

I feel powerful and alive and hopeful in ways I have not for some time. Getting these back are like re-encountering old, dear friends with whom everything is easy and good.

So you’ll be able to imagine the empathy I felt when watching this documentary trailer: The Brainwashing of my Dad. I wish I could give money to the Kickstarter Campaign, but I missed it.

My dad experienced a similar thing ten years after Jen Senko’s dad. I cannot WAIT to watch that movie, to look at the locus of my dad’s strident, wrong-headed politics, to have affirmation that the religious right (or whatever its most current name is–T-baggers?) are intellectually irresponsible.

The ideological, philosophical, and religious differences between me and my parents, and my personal, persistent inability to shove myself into a box that would please them, are really the root of my desire to write  a memoir at all.

And even though it has been hard and intense, I’m really glad I had the freedom to do it, I’m really glad for the lessons about myself I’ve learned in the process, and I am wildly grateful that I live in a time where even poor people can get health insurance and afford to go to counseling.

RAGE AGAINST THE PENIS PUMPS!

From Flickr User ChadMageria
From Flickr User ChadMageria

Samantha Bee did a spot on The Daily Show about Medicare funding penis pumps. Now, I know the spin is outrageous, and sometimes rhetorical, and meant for entertainment, but usually there’s truth to what they report on The Daily Show.

I thought, I can’t believe it. Sometimes dear Sam Bee goes over the top.

So I googled.

Lo and behold: The Atlantic, CBS, NBC, hell, even fucking Fox News corroborated. But only in the context of the government paying an average of $360 per pump. I googled that, too. There were a number of fine, fancy, multi-speed models for well under $100.

Then I cried. For like an hour. Big sobs. For people who are born one sex, but identify as another, whose choice to do so is suspect. For anybody who was not born into favorable class, race, ethnicity, sex. For my sweet girl, who has to grow up in this world full of asinine, inexcusable double standards like this one.

I cried for the shot abortion doctors, for myself and other women who’ve paid thousands of dollars for birth control, for young, poor, or sick women whose access to reproductive choice is constantly under attack by the very same population who need a medicare funded penis pump. By the very same population who called Sandra Fluke a harlot for advocating for the women’s health issues related to birth control.

By the very same population who would not consider gender reassignment a viable option for government funding, or other-gendered people to be a part of this conversation at all.

Look, It’s not about the penis pump. It isn’t.

I identify as a sex positive feminist, that is, I am a feminist who likes sex and thinks people should have it if they want to, whatever kind they choose, and does not, in general, view it as another conquering act by men, but instead a mutually enjoyable pastime, when between consenting adults.

Of course, I know that makes me a slut.

But let’s be for real. Penis pumps and birth control (including abortion) are not perfectly analogous. First, do penis pumps ever prevent life-threatening medical events? Do penis pumps ever prevent men from living in constant pain and/or extreme bleeding? Are penis pumps ever a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia (and therefore its own set of separate life risks)? These are honest, not rhetorical questions. We’ll get to the rhetorical part later.

So why is there no debate about government funding for penis pumps (only noting the fact that medicare is over paying), but there’s constant debate about government funding birth control, abortion, sexual reassignment surgery, etc.

Penis pumps do fall safely on the spectrum of reproductive choice, for whatever reason a man wants or needs one (recreation, medical inability to achieve an erection, curiosity), the ability to get and maintain an erection, a healthy, normal part of the male sexual experience, is a reproductive choice. To ejaculate or not to ejaculate?: That is the question.

Why the hell is nobody picketing the penis pump clinic? Unnecessary ejaculation (that is, sex for pleasure) is interpreted by both orthodox Judiasm and Catholicism as sinful. Where are the lines of Catholics outside the VA clinic? Why has nobody ever anywhere written a sign that says, “GOD SAYS NO PUMPS!” and “PENIS PUMPS ARE MURDER!”

Let me be absolutely clear, I have no issue with government funded penis pumps, as long as government funding things that make it easier for men to enjoy their sexuality are treated with the same scrutiny as those that enable women, transgender people, and homosexuals to do the same.

Here are two recent pieces of news: From the National Women’s Law Center discussing the state-level overreach into reproductive choice; And a piece in Rolling Stone about the stealth war on abortion. You can read as much as you want about that, just google “laws preventing women’s access to reproductive choice.”

So now, in the case of the government funded penis pump; I’d like to use some of the rhetorical devices that have been developed by enterprising conservatives for discussing non male, nonwhite, non cis-gender, use of, pursuit of reproductive choice, enjoy:

Men who can’t get erections do not deserve access to penis pumps because they’re being naturally selected against.

God hates men who need penis pumps.

If a man really, really wants an erection, the penis has a way of just getting it up.

An inability to get an erection must be God’s punishment for bad sexual choices in a man’s past.

If a man is being raped, his body has a way of shutting that whole thing down so he can’t maintain an erection. What if these penis pumps, that act against God’s will, are appropriated by rapists?!

If a man can’t get an erection, it’s because God doesn’t want him to.

Penis pumps are unnatural, an abomination, a cosmetic device. A man should have other ways to derive sexual enjoyment than via his penis.

A man does not deserve a penis pump because his inability to get an erection is not a life-threatening condition.

A man does not deserve the choice whether to get an erection, wanting to get an erection when he can’t makes him a slut. A gigolo. A person of low moral standards.

I know! Let’s make a law: if a man wants a penis pump, he should have to endure a probe ultrasound (into his urethra), without local anesthetic, narrated by his doctor, to ensure there is actually a medical problem that warrants one.

Can you think of any others?