Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Odds and Ends

I used to have visions. Strange and often disturbing images would suddenly arise in my mind. The summer after I graduated high school I would be driving along and be overtaken by the mental picture of my car wrapped around a tree, my body smashed between the car's metallic side panel and the bark. I could almost feel the scraping sensation.

Another recurring image was of my naked body hanging in a black space. My wrists were bound, the binding hung on a giant metal hook suspended from a chain. The space around my pale white body was blank, and my imagination never bothered to dream up what the chain was hanging from or where I might fall if the binding should break. It wasn't hell. It was a void. The point of the image seemed to be the feeling of being stretched to the limit, being acted upon by the opposing forces of the hook and gravity. It didn't seem to matter where I would fall. Falling wasn't the fear.

The image would just come at the oddest moments. Being plagued by the sudden onslaught of disturbing images that one cannot then let go is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have no other symptoms, but I wondered for years if I had it because the number and strength of the images was so great. I could be walking down a flight of stairs and have a flash of myself falling face first, the impact pushing my teeth up into my head. Some images were like that--describing a possible catastrophic experience that might occur while going about the mundane. Others were like the hanging--elaborate, jarring and symbolic dreams.

I have had occasion recently to visit a ghost. Actually, the only occasion I've had for such a thing was pure nosiness which I like to dress up as curiosity. It's the ghost of myself when I was in my early 20's. That's what got me thinking about all of these visions I used to have. The vision of my car wrapped around a tree was a recurring theme that specific summer because at the time I wanted to die. The image of me hanging from a hook? It's tied to a time in my life when I felt conflicted. Not mildly conflicted about which major to choose or which boy to date, but seriously conflicted about whether I wanted to follow the self-destruction all the way down or pull myself back up. Ultimately I chose to do the work--the work everyone does when they grow up, but with a little extra credit because I'd fallen so far behind on my studies. I was born with the handicap of an extra appendage of crazy. Maturing is a natural process, and most people do it almost effortlessly. They experience a few hard lessons and learn them because humans have a natural inclination to save themselves. But some people are born with a nagging feeling that they're not quite sure they're worth the saving. Some people are born with the knowledge that they probably are, but they can't escape the feeling that they might be wrong.

I don't even know what it's like to be that way anymore. While visiting the ghost, I'm struck by two very disparate emotions. I'm grateful I've gotten past all of that. I'm glad that my default setting is no longer emotional turmoil. But I also miss it. The wildness of it. The sheer exhilaration of feeling something over every single event, a single sentence uttered by another person capable of sending me into flights of rage, fancy or depression. But I suppose the biggest difference between me now and me then is that now I can miss something and know that I don't want it back. Quite a bit of my insanity was due to a need to reconcile everything. If I had a feeling, I had to act on it until the outcome was satisfactory, shove it in someone else's face until they worked it out for me, or labor over it until I exhausted myself and became paralyzed with doubt or regret. It's a hard way to live. Now nothing has a box, and everything is neater. Cleanup is simpler. Messes just don't even get made half the time. And that which I cannot reconcile in an instant I simply leave alone. Things that would've become overwhelming dramas in the past are minor skirmishes at best now. My mind went from a fist clenched tight to unfurled and occasionally half curled.

The other day I was telling my boyfriend that I'm actually kind of sad that I will soon be leaving waitressing behind. I got my dream job. This should be the last thing to lament. But after getting so many things on track, waitressing feels like the last link to my old self. An old self I purposefully changed into a new self. I feel like I want to have a funeral or something. A funeral where the eulogies would contain remembrances like, "She always ended up with her dress over her head," or, "She was always drunkenly crying at parties." I haven't done that in a long time, but waitressing represented my former life as a complete fuck up. It has represented the part of me that never wanted to take on responsibilities because I never thought I was deserving of them. No commitments. I could quit at any time. Guilt-free.

In letting go of so many made-up meanings, life means more now than it ever did. Old visions have been replaced by a new reality. And as I let her go, at least I know where I can find her if I ever want to go visit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Missing Persons

About four weeks ago I lost my phone.

To be more accurate, I woke up to discover that I'd left my phone sitting dangerously close to my fountain drink on the coffee table, and the condensation from said drink had bled all over said coffee table, enveloping my phone its destructive moisture.

That's the longer, more dramatic way of saying I lost my phone.

Apparently, when you get a new phone, your old phone has to be able to stay on in order to transfer all your old numbers into your new phone. So along with losing my phone, I'd lost all my old numbers as well. No matter. I would simply put up a notice on Facebook announcing my dilema and asking all my friends to text me their digits.

I think I've managed to get a whopping 5 of those old numbers back in the ensuing weeks.

I'm a loner by nature. If you watch me, you'll see I'm mostly observing. I tire quickly of too many people, and I usually cut out early. At the very least I'll recede into the shadows. I feel a little sad about all my lost numbers, but something stops me short when I think about reaching out directly to the few people who never responded to my mass call.

I think perhaps it's better I just let them go.

When I was a kid, I used to circle the blacktop alone at recess. I would walk around the perimeter thinking, singing songs only I could really hear, lost someplace else. I had one friend. I don't even really remember what we did together. Mostly I just remember being alone. I liked it. And I could provide the myriad reasons why I pushed myself to gather all those phone numbers and ritualistically hang on to them long after each of those relationships had simply ceased to exist in real time and space for no apparent reason, but I already did that. Years ago. With my therapist. To tell those stories now feels kind of silly.

Besides, they're the same reasons anybody does anything outside of his or her character. Shame.

I couldn't think of how to explain the shame in any way that didn't sound trite until last night while watching an episode from season one of Mad Men. In the episode, Don Draper's long lost brother shows up out of the blue wanting to rekindle the relationship they'd lost many years before. The brother, Adam, had no one left in the world. Don, wanting to shut the door on his past completely, gave Adam money instead of a relationship and asked him to never come back. I cried. I cried because Adam seemed to be a tacked-on person, a person who was floating alone through a life where no relationship ever really stuck. And I cried because I realized that for so much of my early life I felt the same way. Tacked-on. Was I a loner by nature, or was I a loner because I'd become comfortable with the fact that I received no empathy or understanding from my peers and would have to take care of myself? I don't say that with any anger, and I don't point to a lack of understanding as proof that I am somehow more complex or genius than anyone else. I was simply an anxious and inward person, and I couldn't ever seem to properly translate my insides to those on my outsides.

So I set out to surround myself with people to prove that I was okay.

Yesterday my boyfriend asked me how I knew the person to whom he was sending an e-mail inquiring about a job. I replied that I knew him through an ex and old friend. As soon as I said that old friend's name--one of the many old friends whose numbers are now gone--I felt a pang of nostalgia and loss. It would be easy enough to contact him directly through e-mail, but something stops me. While I will always think very highly of this person, we just don't have any reason to continue having a regular relationship. I feel that pang of nostalgia and loss whenever I think of any of all the people I've lost--when I pass the places I used to party with people who now seem like strangers, when I think about the days working with a team of like-minded individuals who've now been flung to the farthest corners of the country. I was at a bar where I used to work the other day having dinner when I ran into one of the old regulars. I used to sit for hours with this person and drink. We used to make plans to go to the strip club together. We had each other's phone numbers. And standing there talking to him, I couldn't even remember why.

The other day a new friend and I were talking about age. He said that growing up meant being able to recognize that life sucks and being okay with that. And in a way I think he was right. At some point we have to recognize that more ends are untied than tied, and we'll never be able to tie them all up. There are people who at different points in my life have made it clear they felt abandoned by me, but my disappearance was never an easy thing. It felt cold, but what was the alternative? A constant stream of messages implying that we should make plans to catch up soon--plans we never make, let alone keep?

I don't think I've been able to translate how all of this makes me feel properly. This piece feels messy, mostly because this situation feels messy. I think about different people as I drive through this city and see monuments to excellent evenings and lost, lazy days. I think about me when I was 18, 20, 21, 25, 27. I think about the people I knew when I was 18, 20, 21, 25, 27. I think about the feelings I had at those times in my life that will probably never be replicated--and I think about how they've been replaced with new feelings. I cannot square all of these things away, and I relish that feeling of not being able to completely put my finger on where everything goes. Almost all of the people I've lost just slipped away. There was no catalyst for an ending. There wasn't even an ending. Just a slow fade and then the screen goes dark.

Until they occasionally pop up in my Facebook feed.

I don't want to give the impression that all relationships lack permanence. There are people I just seem to keep on knowing. There are people who I seem to know in my bones. There are people I can lose track of for a few months but always know. Whenever we talk it's as if we were always right there. I suppose my messy feelings about everyone else come from a desire to keep them special. I used to fear being forgotten more than anything else in the world, and I don't want anyone I've ever cared about to feel that way.

So I guess I'll just have to always remember, at least a little bit. Even if I can't call any of them to tell them I do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Cutter

I bought the cheap razors.
I was busy passing from one place
I call home to another place I call
home, and I had no time to stop.
I took what I could find.
I am shocked—I thought I would slide
the blade smoothly across my skin
and see the blood pool up in one great tear.
Instead it makes my skin bubble
and bleed. It causes bumps
on the tender insides of my labia.
The gleaming edge turns my legs
into jaggedly hacked meat, throwaway
scraps from the butcher’s table.
Why do I buy them?
I’m sure I have time enough to find
razors that don’t scrape open older
wounds only freshly closed. Razors
with guards that leave my lips smooth,
unblemished. Blades that will make him
swoon when he slowly slips himself
inside of me. But this torturous sting,
this shame, this embarrassed, searing
lack of sense is comforting. It has been
with me since my first day.
I’m now so comfortable with slinging the blade
against myself I forget myself and
slide it from stem to stern,
slice open my sternum, lace my fingers
through my ribs like a speculum,
popping myself open, strings of thick
blood hanging between my bones
as trails of spit from a kiss.
Dirt and ash seep from my veins
until they run clean red.
The steam from the bath ritualistically
cleanses my chest cavity newly emptied.
I hardly remember the baby I killed,
and I emerge from the bath beautiful
as a woman should be.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

I just finished reading an article in The Philosopher's Magazine about the Twilight phenomenon. This book series and the movie it spawned have gained so much cultural attention from feminists that I'm tempted to go and rent the DVD right now just to experience what all the fuss is about.

But then I remember that I avoid Twilight for the same reasons I've mostly avoided Harry Potter: those tricks are for kids, and they sound like bad tricks. I say mostly avoided Harry Potter because my family seems to be hell-bent on watching all of those movies, and I got dragged along to the Prisoner of Azkaban during the holiday season of 2004.

They also once tried to make me watch Armageddon, but I chose to go drive around town listening to music and smoking cigarettes instead. Those people have the worst taste sometimes.

Anyway, the article by Bonnie Mann, an associate lecturer in philosophy at the University of Oregon, is about how she as a mother discovered her daughter's love of Twilight and subsequently lamented it. Apparently Twilight is all about a girl who is devoid of personality, attractive only for her ability to service others, and the virile young vampire who loves, protects and saves her. She goes on to say that Twilight is a stunning example of what Simone de Beauvior described as society's expectations of women in The Second Sex. That is to say, women are valued in relation to their connection with a man. He goes out to create and conquer, and the woman gets the praise for being awesome enough for such a man to love her. It's like that scene in Party Girl when Parker Posey's character Mary tells her boyfriend Nigel that he lowers her worth when he pees in the shower. She says that a woman can be seen with a man and that man raises or lowers her worth.

The idea that women's worth should be independent of the men with whom they're involved is not what I take issue with. Immediately after I read the Twilight article I read a review of the documentary film Who Does She Think She Is? in Bitch magazine. The film is about how women struggle to be both artists and mothers. Common themes between the two articles reminded me of one of my biggest problems with mainline feminist thought.

It is essentially us buying in to a cultural ideal that is faulty for everyone. It comes across as women wanting to be selfish just like men.

The quote that stood out to me in Bonnie Mann's article was at the very end. "But in her insistence on resurrecting the promise that a meaningful life comes through self-annihilation in the interests of others, comes through appending oneself to one of the special creatures who lives the adventure of life first hand, she promises our daughters the same things our mothers were promised." And, of course, what our mothers were promised was a life of self-sacrifice to a man--and that's a bad thing.

The other day, while jumping on the mini trampoline, I watched the Sex and the City movie. There's a scene I've seen a thousand times wherein the ladies are wondering if it's better to be shit on in their relationships or be all alone. Samantha says, "Is it all about the other person? Is that love?" Every time I watch this scene, I get perturbed. The implications, much like the implications in the above quote from Mann, are endless and wrong in their extremity.

Self-annihilation in the interests of others is a spiritual practice recommended by the majority of spiritual traditions for both men and women. The harm that I see in these arguments is that they follow the American cultural ideal of self-centered independence. They present harmful gender identities for both men and women. Men, we are led to believe, are just a bunch of selfish assholes who will take advantage of the weak-willed woman. Women need to be selfish just like those assholes if they're going to get anywhere in life. Being selfish is manly and, therefore, the path to success.

So, in America, our idea of success is being the best at cultivating the worst traits in ourselves.

The idea here, too, is that giving is always opening oneself up to being taken advantage of. This is only true, though, when we have skewed views of what it means to give. If you see relationships as 50-50, you're opening yourself up to "being taken advantage of" because you look at relationships as a transaction. "I'll give you this now, but I expect that later." A woman gives the man her steadfast love and support in exchange for his paycheck. All of this ignores the beautiful transformative power of giving for giving's sake. A phrase that comes to mind is, "For fun and for free." Everything I do for others I do with no strings attached. This doesn't leave me open for being taken advantage of. If anything, it alleviates the risk because I didn't have any expectations of return. And what if I'm constantly giving to a person who doesn't appreciate the receiving? Well, I always have the option to stop giving.

If another person truly appreciates what they've received, it will show in some way. And if I truly appreciate the giving, I can't be taken advantage of. When I feel as if I'm being taken advantage of, I'm being selfish. I'm abdicating my responsibility for the choices I've made. I always have the option to say I can't do something.

So, is it all about the other person? Is that love? The reason this statement is false is only the presence of the word "all." No, it's not all about the other person. But if you're keeping score and resenting all the giving you're doing, I would propose you don't know much about what it means to love someone. Love is such a tricky word. It means something different to everyone. But I believe it does not mean possession, which is really what someone is aiming at when they're more concerned with what they can get out of it than what they can put in.

And this brings me to my other problem with these statements. They make it sound as if independence and self-sacrifice are mutually exclusive. In reality, I believe you have to be a wholly independent being to truly self-sacrifice. It is something you choose to do, not something you do because you are enslaved to the idea of what you will get if you give. It is a capable person choosing to take interest in the happiness of another, not a desperate person trying to buy the security of another's interests.

I always leave these kinds of arguments from feminists wondering why they're trying so hard to turn me into the kind of person I don't want to be. I don't want to be the image of the silent housewife popping Valium to numb out and forget her complete absorption by the identity of her man, but I don't want to be reactionary and therefore become...well, what I was: a woman so afraid of being taken advantage of that she cultivated her own selfishness and self-centeredness, which only fed a growing sense of self-loathing that, in the end, was more destructive than comforting.

I mean, really--are these my only two options?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


These were all found while I was going through some things. They're from fall of 2007.

Unexpected Fall

The bugs should be dead.
It is November, and the first freeze
of the season should have killed them
off. But I am getting bitten, sitting
outside in a sweater, sweating.
One bites me on my forehead,
and I'm reminded of my loneliness.
I am a great well, and I am empty.
Do they not know it is November?
The crisply cracked leaves let me
think winter is fast approaching;
I see visions of blank black branches
marching up from under deep, smothered
lakes. But these mosquitoes show me
spring can come in autumn. What great
God am I to ask them to stop biting?
Why should I begrudge their confusion,
this ancestral longing to drink
the stuff that makes me run?
But I flip through faint voices on pages,
my makeup sliding down my neck, thinking,
"The bugs should be dead..."

Heater Cold

Here are all the stars strewn boldly on the ground—
man's desire to make his own heaven, held tightly
on anonymous mattresses and in stacks of slightly
solid moans. Singing, we're here on the backs
of each other. Weaving in and out of the concrete,
we search for soft somewhere in the metal. Why did
we build it? Fortresses, hardness to enclose those vital
organs we guild with patina so flimsy, a skeletal mass
like a viral infection. We mimic the body.
We search for the place where the feminine thigh
slides sublimely into the round of the back, obscuring
our desire with a contour of charcoal—flat masked,
as if we weren't the apple, at our core all the seeds.
Here all the beds are made hospital corners—
what would we do without the mess
of sex, the dripping proof that our insides exist?
I want you to know that my thigh slides sublimely, albeit blemished,
into the round of a back, some back like somewhere
blurring this box. Melting my skeletal mass.
Let's climb the stairs to the roof and stare out over
the meshing of stars blocking out all the sky.
Let's jump because clearly here all down is up.
Man's desire to make all heavens different, blindly forgetting
he's just one.


in the back of my head like black diamonds.
I know you. I was you.
I am you.
I have the same small crease in my forearm.
I know better than to burst the bubble of illusion
by studying your skin--
it takes precious light to make every pretty photograph,
all this faked falling down stairs.
Nights made more fabulous by memory,
or horrible disasters that weren't half bad.
How many times did I cry to forget that I'd laughed?
Sparkling ice, tinkling like giggles in the back of my throat;
they were really stones, blocking my esophagus
from sobbing, cold but not melting.
I have the same pictures.
I burned them when they developed blank.
I miss you already.
You think you're still here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Moon Reflected in a Pool

I remember the first time I stopped believing in God.

I was thirteen. I was so tired I could not think, but I had an anger welling up inside of me, pushing hard against my skin, forcing my hands into fists that wanted to punch holes in walls on their own with no will from me. I had started my first period. I felt helpless, as if something were being done through me. This something was using me. This was something I hadn't asked for.

I think that might've been the part that made me most angry. While everyone around me seemed still blissfully free, I was confined alone in my house, lying on the couch in a kind of pain I had never experienced. I placed my feet on the arm rest at one end and pushed against it as hard as I could, sending my pelvis shooting up in anguish. I hoped that flexing my muscles as hard as I could would give me some release. I screamed as loud as I could. And I felt strange. I was afraid that I would feel strange for every moment of the rest of my life.

I have never been some moon goddess, dancing around a fire each month and singing praises to my womb. I hate that thing, and I'd just as soon have them take it out of me now, even childless and only 30.

I have spent every moment since trying to expel this demon woman inside of me. At 16 I would sit in the kitchen at Thanksgiving, watching the women prepare the meal while the men sat in the living room watching football. I was a conscientious objector, refusing to participate in my own subjugation. I didn't like football, but I would not cook. Instead, I tried to convince the women around me--my mother, grandmother, aunt--to throw off their chains and go sit down, too. And what I never said--what I never told a single soul--was that my greatest fear was that I'd be just like my mother, sacrificing myself while pandering to male need, being irrationally emotional and not being taken seriously. To this day I am nothing but a horrible mess in the kitchen most of the time, and when I successfully make something I chalk it up to pure luck.

And because a girl sees her mother as the archetypal female and her father as the archetypal male, my greatest fear was that I'd be just like a woman.

I have been feeling a strange sense of shame growing in me over the last month or so. For the longest time I could not pinpoint exactly where it was coming from, but I knew that it was triggered from somewhere inside my relationship. And then the other day, driving around having a conversation in my head with myself about something I cannot even begin to explain, it hit me--I am ashamed that I am a woman. My relationship forces me more and more to bump up against this fact. I have most everyone else fooled. I say something, and someone else exclaims, "God, Nan, you're such a dude!" But here, in this place where this person sees me on so many levels, I am running out of places to hide my woman. All I've ever wanted was to be seen as completely rational, logical, like a man, and the shame grows the more I cannot escape my woman, with all her emotions and insecurities, her desires to be submissive.

And it's not even that she "desires to be submissive." That is how my politics have taught me to talk about her. This feeling does not know the word "submissive", but after years of sticking her in the closet, this is the only word I have for what this is.

I hate her so much that just typing that has made me cry those kind of violent tears that appear almost without clear explanation because they come from some original wound. He's sleeping next to me. I hope he does not wake up. More reason for shame.

For as long as I can remember I've secretly wanted to be a woman. I've wanted to be the muse instead of the writer. To be adored instead of respected. Be loved simply because of my beauty, not because of how accomplished I might be. Part of this shame is that I've never thought I would get to be a woman. I've never thought anybody would love me that much. I've always thought that I'd always have to sing for my supper. Other girls may be able to get away with being cute. I have to do tricks.

This is where all of this gets hazy for me. This is not about logical argument or politics. These are all feelings that came spilling out of me whenever whatever it was finally pierced the dark place in my mind where all these things hide. I certainly would not take back the way that I am. I certainly wouldn't argue that the portrait I've painted of gender identities are universal or encompass the sum total of the way genders are defined, either. What's funny is that the relationship that sent all of these things bubbling to the surface isn't even a picture of oppressive gender roles. That's the thing. He doesn't seem to look down on me for being a woman. I do. And what's bubbling to the surface isn't a string of philosophical thoughts. It's a string of somewhat incoherent feelings.

And I suppose that's exactly what I'm afraid of.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Chemical Change

My grandmother died when I
was eleven; an age when each event
is a lightning strike, an irreparably split tree.
Constant chemical change.
I walked through the viewing room
like a smiling spook, a specter
already dead.
Why else could I not cry?
Had I not silently passed from one form
to another and back again seamlessly
so many times by then?
At least she wouldn't wake up screaming
in the middle of the night anymore.
Not like me.
Wandering into the sanctuary on fire
from all the sunlit stained glass,
full of bodies, their chests still swelling,
I wanted to shout over their pathetic air sucking,
tear down their faces, rip up their lips.
This was not love to me--
to wish the worst for someone.
Small, fidgety in the pew next to my father,
I stared at my palms.
Balls of fists and back open again.
Not quite so transparent as I'd believed them to be.
I felt my father shake, heave, so slightly;
I realized he was crying.
So very large as to make it a discordant sight.
New enough to be perverse,
like seeing his intestines.
I looked down, averting my eyes.
My hands began to tremble,
my whole body boiling as my insides melted,
mixed, refused in a different position.
Constant chemical change.
Suddenly, my open palms
were wet.

Physical Change

When water freezes, the molecules
slow down, lose energy--
move less and less until
they stand stick still.
Fused together.
But it's only a physical change--
they were together before,
slowly flowing over rocks
or sitting pooled in a deep white
bathtub. A gang of great waves
breaking down soil, causing canyons,
looking innocent in plastic bottles.
On the stove of the sun
they speed up like helicopter propellers,
begin to levitate. Break apart.
They get high as transparency,
make hissing sounds from kettles.
Gathering, they hang in loose conglomerations,
barely touching.
When there are just enough of them,
they begin to get heavy, these fizzy
little children. They stop dancing, bead up.
These feathers of water, they fall like bricks.
It rains.
But it's only a physical change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When words need to be less like words and more like pictures...

How to Write a Love Story

I had an idea the other night
while we were laying in bed
to write a poem about the way
our fingers looked, laced together;
the way our skin looked side
by side—like the same skin,
like I couldn’t tell whose skin
was whose. A beautiful line
or two slid into my mind
as I looked at the way that we
felt each other. But I couldn’t
get up to write them down.
I can’t remember them now.

They won’t be missed.


I work in a hospital for wounded animals,
sick as a dog myself—cold, shivering fever
I feel goes undetected against bleeding fur.
I lay my hands on those weak beings,
their beating breathing bringing me
back to life. I walk with a limp unnoticed,
believed to be born out of tired dedication.
I read the illiterate mules bedtime stories
they cannot understand; they seem to smile
anyway as I read aloud of war and shame
in a docile voice. They fall asleep easily,
and I stay up all hours listening to the wheezing
of the horses in the barn; they all caught cold
in the middle of summer. I can hear them
coughing, keeping me awake whispering
prayers. “Help me, help me, help me.”--
the only words I know, the only cures I have
in my feux lab coat made of dinner napkins
I found in an old unmarked box.
“Help me, help me, help me,” I scream,
but all the sick dogs have gone deaf.

One Moment I Am

I'm wading in wanting tonight,
neck-deep, not quite drowning, in a river
of waiting. I'm wishing for nothing tonight;
sitting on the quivering fault line
between me and not me--my skin
containing a quake but lying still
as an empty bed.
I finger the sheets, brush unclear memories
as if viewed through a prism, fusing
and splintering you and me and you and me
until we are only a beige blur behind
a crystal sheet--and I cannot tell
who is here. I cannot even tell anymore
if I am here.
My face as soft and watery as a dog's belly,
fine. Not fighting.
For there is nothing here to fight.

Do This in Remembrance of Me

I tried to bury you in business,
break you down to brokenness,
make light of you, my bruises,
as if you never fell from my fingers,
breaking the blankness. I don't
want to forget what is gone from me.

I want to forget that it was ever with

But it would seem that all my spells
have been cast, have been flung far
out to sea, unfindable. They never
brought back fish in their nets;
I stood on the shoreline for years, starving,
singing so they could find me.
They must've swum somewhere else.
Must've heard some other siren.

In so doing they saved my life.

But I secretly miss them--see them strutting
on someone else's back; they must've
washed up on her shore. She must've
marveled at these big bright balloons
filled with black ink. Her fingers are
dirty, covered with the contents of my
silliest wish. I set them sailing;
they never came back. They must not
have been mine.

And I secretly wonder if I was spared.

But I found something of hers washed
up on my shore one morning; years
of waiting, invisible to even my own eyes,
forgetting that it was ever even with me.
She sent me a message. “Remember to go
where you are going. I love what you left
for me. When I am done with it, I will leave
it for someone else. And, time being what
it is—not straight like on clocks but
bendable like backs—here is something
that you left for me but I'm giving back to you.”

That's when I noticed the note had been tied
to my finger for years. It was never washed up.

I just wanted to forget that it was ever even with me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the Offensive

Warning: This post may contain offensive material.

Today, while clicking through the headlines of interest on Twitter, I came across this at Bitch Magazine's website. As one might imagine, it seemed more than a little offensive.

But getting offended raises certain questions.

About a month ago some coworkers of mine were angry because a busboy had informed them that he was offended when they said, "Goddammit." He's a baby-faced Hispanic boy who is Catholic and saving himself for marriage. They were angry that he'd taken offense. Cries of, "Lighten up!" and, "What's the big deal, dude!" rose from the service well with abandon, and everyone had a good laugh at the busboy's expense.

These same people all get very offended when he makes it clear that he's not okay with their homosexuality.

Always the antagonist, I raised a question to the girls who'd given the busboy offense: "Why is it okay for you to offend him but NOT okay for him to offend you?" This question was coming from a girl who rarely, if ever, gets offended. Even the iPhone app featured in the Bitch blog didn't really offend me, although five years ago this blog would've been about what assholes men are. Thing is, it doesn't offend me because I already know a lot of men are assholes. I've just given up and decided to get okay with that. That's the secret to not being offended: realize that what other people think has nothing to do with me and quietly go on about my business.

When I raised the question in the well, essentially I was called a stick-in-the-mud. But one of the girls, a lesbian, was given pause and responded that I was kinda right. My point was that if you're going to get offended about things, you have a responsibility to take steps to avoid giving offense whenever possible.

It's pretty much impossible to never give offense, partially because some people are offended simply by the existence of people who are not like them, even if those people keep completely to themselves.

When I was in college, my friend Joseph wore a shirt for a (death? heavy? black?) metal band featuring a nun masturbating with a crucifix. It said, "Fuck Jesus." Clever, no? Well, he wore it to Wal-Mart one evening and was asked to leave. The whole situation was hilarious because he was offended that they were offended, and he went on a rant about how the existence of Christianity was so offensive to him that he should be allowed to ask them to hide all evidence of their existence. I told him that his request would kind of put him in the same boat with the people who were offended by his shirt. And to some degree, if Christians never want to see that shirt, I suppose he's right. He should be allowed to ask them to hide all evidence of their existence.

And now it becomes obvious what a slippery slope this whole, "Don't do things that offend me," thing really is.

In reality, I think that if something offends thee, thee should cut it off. In other words, if something offends me, I should avoid it, not the other way around. And in situations where I absolutely cannot avoid it, I should let it go. Getting all, "You need to cut that offensive shit out!" is just my way of getting on a high horse of some nature and trying to make the other person feel bad.

It's always really funny to me, too, how so many people are quick to point out just how much they hate it when Christians get all judgmental and take offense but are so willing to be okay with doing the same thing. I guess it's okay to have sensibilities as long as they're not religious ones?

I think that the responsibility rests with me. It's my responsibility to both avoid situations in which I'm likely to take offense and avoid giving offense whenever I can. Not that I'm always great shakes at this. Knowing the right action and taking it are two different things. I'm notorious for dropping f-bombs at work, usually within earshot of a customer or two. But I do know that if I'm not going to be more careful about giving offense, I do not get to turn around and get all offended.

Essentially this argument revolves around the idea that the person whose behavior with which I need to be most concerned is my own. But it's most people's belief that the person with whose behavior they need to be most concerned is that asshole at the Wal-Mart in the "Fuck Jesus" shirt. Or that asshole at the Wal-Mart wearing a "God hates fags" t-shirt. Or that guy I once saw at the Kroger in Denton wearing the "Amateur gynecologist" t-shirt.

I am not arguing that we should not watch what we do and say. Far from it. I'm just commenting on how we all prefer to watch what someone else does or says and then bitch about it. But let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Wait a minute. Scratch that. We all seem to think we're each without sin, and I don't want to get caught in the crossfire.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Outraged"? More like "In"raged.

Before, after, or during this post, you should click here and read Bill's post. I'm the unnamed coworker. It's almost like being famous!

So, last night I was thinking about my response, considering my argument. Just in case you haven't yet clicked on the link and checked out what I'm responding to, I'll give you a brief break down. Bill and I were discussing the HBO documentary Outraged, which chronicles a man's journey to out closeted gay politicians who consistently vote against gay rights legislation.

I argued that this man's actions probably made for riveting documentary film-making, but they were ethically tenuous at best. Sometimes politics have the propensity to turn us all into drama queens. I should know. I used to be one of those feminists who figured having a penis was an automatic qualifier for being sexist. Talk about having an agenda.

Now, my feelings on the outing have nothing to do with what I think should be done politically. I am a woman who believes in the legalization of everything. You wanna do heroin bought with the money you got for giving a blowjob in a back alley? Go for it. Same goes for gay marriage. Not that gay marriage is anything like doing heroin with blowjob money, but my point is that my political leanings are such that I pretty much think that as long as you're not forcing anyone else to do something they're not interested in doing, you should be allowed to do whatever you want. No stealing. No murder. No rape. Otherwise, bring on the trans fats and supersize it, please. I don't think it's the government's job to save us from ourselves.

Or keep us from getting married to each other. Some people might argue that the two are one and the same.

So, at any rate, if you read Bill's post, you know that I argued that it was not ethical for this man to out these politicians. I argued that it was not ethical even though they're being hypocritical. I argued this because they may have many different motivations for both their voting records and their decisions to keep their homosexuality (or varying degrees thereof) private. Part of my argument was that, as elected officials, their duty is to vote the way the majority of their constituents would have them vote. This argument was backed up by a conversation I had with another gay friend about a Texas state senator he knows. She's a conservative elected in a majority conservative district, and she once told my friend that she disagrees with the way she votes on gay issues, and she votes that way because that was the job she was elected to do. If she voted the way she wanted in spite of her constituents, she'd be acting as if she knew better than they did how they want their community to run. And, like it or not, that's just not the way our government was designed to work.

In theory, it's a government for the people, by the people.

But on some level I felt that his decision to out these people was unethical because it just seems malicious. It almost seems downright childish. All it will really accomplish is the embarrassment, grief and emotional upheaval of a few politicians lives. It will not change much of anything else. If you believe that hurting these people puts us any closer to legalizing gay marriage, you're insane. Effectively all it will change is which politician holds their seat come next election.

You know, from a closeted gay one who votes against gay rights to a hopefully really straight one who votes against gay rights.

During my argument with Bill I posed the question, "So, if you knew your friend's boyfriend was cheating on him, would you tell him?" We both initially agreed that it would be none of our business, thus supposedly strengthening my argument. I love it when that happens. But he has since changed his position and said he would tell his friend. Well, guess what. I'm changing my position, too! And I've actually decided that question is different than whether or not it's ethical to out a politician.

I would tell my friend if his or her boyfriend or girlfriend was cheating on him or her. Man, gender inclusion really lengthens a sentence. I would not, however, tell an acquaintance. I have intimate knowledge of my friend's situation. I do not have intimate knowledge of my acquaintance's situation. Therefore, all of my acquaintance's private matters are none of my business until he or she makes them my business. Relationships rely very much on nuance.

But even if I decided to tell an acquaintance, it's still different from the political scenario. If I tell an individual that his or her boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on him or her, I've given that individual full working knowledge with which to make a choice. He or she can stay or go knowing the truth about the situation. But that is not the motivation behind outing these politicians. Odds are good that if they lied about their sexual orientation and vote against gay rights legislation, they ran on that platform--the anti-gay-rights-legislation platform. So did they lie in a political sense? Nope. They said they would do X, I voted for them because I wanted them to do X, and then they did X. Sounds like doing their job to me. Outing them doesn't give anyone a choice to do anything about anything.

Whenever one finds oneself pondering an action, it's best to ask oneself, "Is it helpful?" If the answer is, "No," then one really should reconsider said action. Even if said action will make one famous.

Outing people--any people, even politicians--against their will is just mean. It isn't high-minded. It doesn't open the floor for constructive discussion. It just hurts some people, pisses some other people off and allows some other people to shout, "Fuck yeah! Stick it to the man!" at their television sets on a Saturday night.

And I don't think any of those things are on the to-do list.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Driving Home

I remember this stretch of highway as I experienced it alone.

Now, riding along with my lover driving, it feels like a foreign place. I cannot count how many times I drove it alone, at 5 pm., 3 am., every hour by the time I was done with these places. This stretch of highway is an in-between place, a place that gets me from one place to another.

I see the Whataburger where I bought toquitos and Diet Coke, drunk and depressed, searching for something to ground me in the middle of the night. I am not able to experience that place now, but for some reason it comes back to me as a strong place. I know I experienced it as a lonely place, but it was all me. I was the one doing the driving. I was in a quiet spot between meeting people here and meeting people there. It was a space where I could meet myself.

This is how memory works—this re-feeling. I know there was the period of time during which I wanted to kill myself. Then there was the period of time when I could remember wanting to kill myself. I would be watching a movie, and suddenly someone would be hanging from a light fixture. I would be able to feel that in my body, my entire being having a reaction to something I understood so completely. It wasn't like longing. It was remembering someone who I used to be. It was empathizing with myself. Now I look at pictures of me and think, “That was during the time I couldn't stop imagining my car wrapped around a tree every time I drove.” I know those things really happened, but I cannot remember them. I look at those pictures and cannot bring to mind the way any of it felt. It's as if I'm looking at someone I know I know but cannot name.

I cannot remember her.

I'm thinking about this as we drive south on 35 from Denton to Dallas at one in the morning. I can feel that sudden memory. My body says I should be here alone. He is not supposed to be here. This is supposed to be my place. I wonder if I really want to invite him in to all these places. I want to defend my right to posses something I know I didn't want—my body has forgotten the memory of the loneliness. I suddenly miss something that I'm certain I hated at the time. I miss it as if it were freedom. This is how memory works. It brings back events and rearranges them to meet a new person. I can't really have memories, can I? I feel like I've died a couple of times, been completely destroyed once or twice. In little ways each day something is gone and something new comes in to take its place. This is how memory works.

It's a thinking about something that doesn't exist.

I remember driving this exact piece of road the night before my 24th birthday, drunk and crying about how old I was. I felt ancient. My body felt like I was on the brink of death. I was bloated and hysterical, constantly grasping at moments hoping that one might anchor me. I was ancient, and when I stuck my hand out to hold on to something, there was nothing there. This is the funny thing about memory. I remember it that way right now, but I know that I grasped a lot of things, letting them go the moment I got them. My days were like rivers that flowed over my hands, through my fingers, but never yielded any fish.

I was always conflicted about wanting a life. It's not that I wanted to die, although at times I translated it that way. It's more that I didn't want to be wrong. I didn't want to choose something and fail at it or, worse, have it fail me. I didn't want to be a fool. And then one day I woke up and realized that all of that had happened. I'd been wrong. I'd been a fool. But I still woke up. When I was 18, my mother told me that I shouldn't have sex before I got married. She told me that I might have sex and then meet another man. This other man might be the man of my dreams, but, if I'd already had sex with someone else, he might not want me. I laughed. And I've had sex with more than one man since then.

What's funny is that last night, as I made out with my lover, I kind of wished that neither of us had ever kissed anyone else. But that doesn't mean I don't love him because he did.

I miss the wildly dramatic expression of youth, the pressure on each moment. I miss the way that describing life always seemed to easily come out poetically, the hyperbole in describing such vacillating, frenzied movement. I wish that I had words like that for my life now, but I don't. I know that all of that hyperbole was born of the same place that gave birth to immense misery, to that wanting to die. I used to sleep walk a lot. I once woke up in the middle of the kitchen floor, on my knees, holding a huge knife to my stomach and shaking with sobs so deep they forced screams. I was 9. No one came. The house was too big; no one could hear me. Where did that come from? I don't know. I have cycled through cells too many times to remember on anything other than an intellectual level that it even happened. I didn't outgrow that impulse until I was almost 30.

This is no more living than that was living. It's just more of a life.

I think about all of this now, at 1 am., riding in the passenger seat while he drives. I think about who I have been. I think about who I am now. And I think I'm finally ready to admit that I like it that he's here, driving me home. It means I can be still.

It means I can sleep.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mixed Emotions

My parents didn't go to prom together.

They were dating. It was the late 60's in a small Texas town. The town was untouched by the radical politics of the age. My father waited until two weeks before prom to ask my mother to be his date. I can imagine her frustration and confusion. I can hear her wondering, “Why isn't my own boyfriend asking me to prom?” But with it being the 60's in a small Texas town, it was still a more formal time. I know my mother. She never would've asked him. She's far too traditional. I can imagine my father, too. I can imagine him assuming that his girlfriend would never accept the invitation of another man. I can imagine him simply putting it off or having a bit of a commitment issue. I can imagine him making too many assumptions. Another man asked my mother to prom before my father got around to it, and she accepted his invitation out of fear. It was the late 60's in a small Texas town. No girl wants to miss her prom, and no girl like my mother in that time and that place could go alone. I am not my mother's daughter or my father's daughter; I am a strange mixture of both. I went to my prom alone. But I went alone in the 90's in a small Texas town after having been raised in a big Texas city, and I always was a rebel.

My father spent prom night in the parking lot with his best friend, the both of them getting drunk and lying on their backs looking up at the stars.

My parents have been married for 35 years. They are perfect for each other. They are perfect for each other, but they are not perfect. The first time I heard the story about prom, I felt very sad. How wonderful would it have been that these two people, together since high school, had shared one of those pivotal teenage moments. How romantic would that have been? But I actually like their story better. It illustrates the awkwardness of life, the unknowing. Sometimes we have an idea that if things are right they will go perfectly. If they do not go a certain way, they must not be right. I'm so very glad that my parents didn't give up on each other after having things go imperfectly.

I'm so very glad that they love each other.

My father's mother was engaged to another man before she met my grandfather. He died in a plane crash in World War II. I know very little about this story because it makes my father sad. In fact, my grandmother never told my father this story; she told my mother. She came from a time when you picked yourself up and moved on with your life. She came from a time when people understood that life was something that happened to all of us. I don't doubt that she loved my grandfather, but I believe she always thought of her first fiancée as her true love.

But I don't think she ever felt sorry for herself. I also think I could believe she thought of her first fiancee as her true love because it makes a more interesting story for me.

When I was 11, my father's mother died. My father adored his mother; he was a mamma's boy. Her death crushed him, and his response was to snap shut tight. He didn't want to talk about it. He doesn't believe in depression, and to admit the way he was feeling would be to admit that he was wrong. I have trouble with not knowing things as well. My mother took it personally. She thought that if he loved her, he would tell her everything. She believes that to love someone is to have them let you crawl underneath their skin and have every part of them. I get this from her. On good days this is why I am a poet. This used to be what I hated about her until I saw it in myself. It's harder to hate someone when you see that you are them. She started drinking more; every night a box of wine. I thought that they should get a divorce because it didn't look pretty. He was making her hate everyone because he was making her hate herself. That's how I saw it when I was 11. I tell this story as if I knew that his coldness was the result of his mother's death then. I didn't. I didn't know that until I was 16 or so. I'd spent years angry at him for things I didn't even try to understand.

But, then, isn't this always why we hate anything? Paying attention is an act of love, and any time we try to pay attention to something we grow to love it in some way. It is our ignorance that keeps us angry and unable to love.

My parents never got a divorce.

A couple of summers ago, one early evening in summer, my family and I were hanging out in my parents' pool. We were making fun of each other and laughing as we usually do. We were listening to music, and my father would randomly ask us, “Who sings this?” whenever a song he believed to be obscure would come on. Sometimes he'd add, “Nan, you're not allowed to answer,” if he figured it would be a cinch for me. Sometimes he'd say it to my brother Robert. He never said it to my mother; she never knows who sings anything, although she's very familiar with the work of The Grass Roots. My father was sitting on the side of the pool, and my mother was sitting on the top step near him. At some point I looked down and noticed that they were holding hands.

A friend of mine recently chided her sister for missing their dead father. She wondered whether or not her sister really missed their father or just the idea of him. She wondered if maybe time had changed her sister's memories; their father had not really been much of a father at all. He'd made plenty of mistakes. Her sister must've rewritten history to make missing him possible. I said that it was possible that she still fully recognized their father for who he had been and still missed him. We can love and miss a person even when they are imperfect.

If we couldn't, we couldn't love or miss anyone at all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Domination's the Name of the Game

I'm crate-training my dog.

I've had my dog Baby for seven years. She's not young, but she's not old. Truth is, I have no idea how young or old she really is at all. When I adopted her, I was told she was one. A few days later the veterinarian told me she was probably closer to seven. Other than the gray that has crept into her black coat, I have nothing to suggests she's very old. Of course, the gray suggests she's certainly not young.

I remember the day I got her. My family and I had been at the State Fair of Texas all day. It was six in the evening, and we sat at a picnic table to rest for a moment. My sister and I wandered over to the SPCA booth. I'd been wanting a dog. The moment I saw her--the little poodle mutt falling asleep sitting up in the cage--I knew it would be her. I remember thinking, "She looks like she's nodding off on Valium! That's my dog!" I was drunk. So was my mother. Half-an-hour later, my mother and I had cleaned out the SPCA booth, adopting three of the four dogs they had left at the end of the day. We probably would've taken the fourth if he wasn't already in the process of being adopted.

I picked my dog because she appeared as if she were on drugs. That tells you a lot about me.

In preparation for crate-training an older dog, I did some research. You see, I'm not an all-around great dog mom. Oh, my dog thinks I'm a great dog mom, but that's because my dog gets to do pretty much whatever she wants. Everyone who knows my dog says she's spoiled. I've tried crating her before, but she's never taken to the crate. This is because I'm terrible at the training part. I mostly just put her in the crate a few times and, when she didn't like it, stopped putting her in the crate.

Thank goodness I'm not planning on ever having children.

The biggest problem with training my dog is that we don't have an alpha/beta relationship. We live side-by-side almost as equals. She recognizes in certain situations that she's better off if she defers to me. When I walk her without a leash, she stays close to me and comes when she's called. But she does this for her own safety, not because she sees me as being in charge. I know this because she enjoys alone time under the couch, and she will never come out when called unless she's good and ready.

And I allow this.

The problem with all of this is that, in order for her to be trained to do anything, she needs to see me as the boss. I have a very tenuous relationship with being the boss.

Last night my boyfriend and I had a conversation about who we consider the dominant one in our relationship. He said that he feels he's the dominant one. He supported this with the evidence that I often let him make a lot of our decisions. It's mundane stuff, really--what time we should get together to hang out, what we should eat for dinner, what movie we're going to watch. He always seems to make decisions that work for me, so why assert myself? I have nothing to assert. He asked me what I thought, and I said that I do prefer to defer to him on a lot of things.

He's never given me a reason not to.

The truth is that I see the two of us as wholly independent beings with complete freedom over our own actions. We choose to defer to each other to varying degrees at different times because that is how our partnership works. But I don't know that I'd call this dominance and submission. No one dominates me. I choose to defer. I tend to defer more often partially because I just really don't care that much about what I eat. I also tend to defer more often for the same reason that Baby stays close and comes when she's out in the wide open without the security of a leash.

He seems to choose to be conscientious when making decisions. I feel safe deferring to him. Neither of us are making a power play.

The question of who in the relationship is dominant and who is submissive is a question of power. In deferring, I don't give away my power. I still have it, and I have the right to exercise it at any point. But what I will not do is try to dominate when I exercise it. I will exercise it over myself. In reality, I'm always exercising it in recognizing that deferring is my choice. But suppose he were to do something that I found unacceptable? Suppose I wanted or needed something from him that he did not offer? I would exercise my power not by trying to dominate him into submission. I would make a request, offer a choice, and then make my own choices according to his response. I always recognize myself first and foremost as an independent, free being.

No one is the boss of me. (But that game can be fun sometimes.)

People make power plays when they are insecure. They seek to dominate out of a need for control over that which they fear losing, or they pretend to abdicate their freedom for the same reason. I don't like the idea of dominating someone I love. I may appear to get what I want, but I've destroyed something I wanted even more in the process.

I've destroyed the ability of the person I love to be the person I love.

I remember a time when I was very aggressive. Bossy. Pushy. Mean. It sprung from an anger that had grown out of a very strange idea. Somewhere along the way I'd come to believe that lots of other people were being given whatever they wanted by the people around them. The fact that I wasn't being given whatever I wanted (I cannot even fathom this thought process now, so it's hard for me to describe it in any intricate detail) proved that the people around me didn't love me. They didn't remember me. They didn't think about me. I saw myself at the mercy of other people's actions. So I was going to make them. Essentially I became a bully. I reaped a bully's rewards. People did what I wanted, but I felt even more disconnected from them than I had before.

When I recognize myself as having choice, I am free to allow others to be free. No power play is required--or even possible.

So then why am I crate training the dog?

Because that's right where the analogy falls apart. I can't give the dog a choice to stop having accidents in the house because she lacks critical thinking skills and doesn't understand English. As my boyfriend responded when I told him I wanted her to be free to experience the full expression of herself, he said, "She's expressed herself...all over your carpets!"

Besides, we're about to move in I'm deferring to him on this one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What Do You Call The Flap of Skin Around a Vagina?

I like porn.

I still remember the afternoon I discovered YouPorn. All this porn (some of it, admittedly, terrible), free and at my fingertips. I somehow lost track of three hours that day, much the same way I lost track of two hours the day I bought my vibrator.

That's right. Hours.

I just finished reading a blog post at about threesomes. It wasn't anything particularly earth-shattering. What stood out to me was the same thing that always stands out to me in anything I read in Bitch: It's all cultures fault we're oppressed. This statement makes two assumptions. One, we're still "oppressed," and, two, it's all porn's fault.

The essential argument in the Bitch blog is that porn presents what are supposedly men's sexual ideals, and this does three. One, it causes men to see women as sex objects. Two, it makes it seem okay for men to ask for stuff that is not okay. And three, it makes women feel pressured to be a certain way in order to gain the acceptance they so desperately seek. I'm totally inferring all of that, but read the argument. That's the only way one could assume porn makes things go down in the blog author's opinion. Feminists have been arguing forever about how porn contributes to the sexual oppression of women, but I think the argument hinges on some ideas that are rather anti-feminist.

First of all, men see women as sex objects! I've done a lot of reading on the subject and polled my male friends, and it's true--every time a man looks at a woman, he thinks about sex. He may not think about it for more than a second or two, he may not act on it but .9% of the time, and he may quickly move on to other thoughts after realizing the woman they were just looking at is, um, not that cute, but he's wired this way. I don't bring this up to say that it's therefore okay for a man to dehumanize a woman, but the fact remains that no matter how much he enjoys the deep, intellectual conversations he has with a woman, he's probably sneaking peeks at her tits every chance he gets. I hate to creep anyone out, but if you're a woman, odds are good many men who only saw you for a few passing moments at the post office have probably later jacked off while thinking about you.

Secondly, men can ask for whatever they damn well please. Who cares? If my man asked me right now for a threesome, I'd say, "Um...nope. What else might you like to do tonight?" Don't get me wrong--I enjoy watching threesomes in porn. But I know myself enough to know I'm just not interested in getting involved in one myself. It once almost happened in college when my best friend and I found ourselves playing strip poker with a guy I had previously dated, and we all stopped when it just started feeling...weird. If a man asks a woman to do something he saw in a porn and she's not comfortable with doing whatever it is (dressing up like his mother, for instance), she is a grown-ass adult who can say no.

Which brings me to the thirdly--and the real seat of the problem. Several people commented on the blog in question saying that it wasn't alright that porn made men think they should be able to expect threesomes out of their partners. Threesomes in porn apparently make women "feel bad" about being straight, and they also make them feel like they won't be able to please their partners if they can't get kinky. WOW. Porn doesn't ever make me feel bad unless I stumble across one of those porns that seems to involve a less-than-willing woman with a vacant, drugged-out expression. If I think the actress is not okay with what is going on (which is different than a willing actress involved consensually in a BDSM scenario), I will feel icky. But I will not feel bad about my sexual practices because of anything some stupid porn presents or something some stupid guy said. If I don't want to do something, I'm not going to do it. If my man wants to call me a prude, whine or leave, let him. If we don't see relatively eye-to-eye on these kinds of things, I think we're just a bad match. Happens all the time. But I'm not going to feel like it's some kind of relationship handicap that I can't fulfill every man's fantasy.

As previously stated, I can have a pretty good relationship with myself if push comes to shove.

Since when is it porn's fault that women need men to approve of their choices? If you take that need out of the equation--if women actually say, "I don't care what you think, buddy--you're not sticking that thing in my ass!"--then porn can't affect a woman's self-esteem on any level. Hell, porn kind of helps my self-esteem. Have you seen all the different shapes/sizes men are into? Whatever it is I've got, odds are good there's someone out there who'd be more than willing to get into it. I find it liberating. And just because it's out there doesn't mean everybody's into it, either. If you just listen to the referenced blog's argument, you'd assume that all men are hot to have a threesome. But I'm fairly certain based on a number of conversations about sex practices that my boyfriend isn't just not into them; he's against them. At least in the context of our relationship. This argument that porn puts pressure on women to perform a certain way in order to get the love they seek assumes that men are all a bunch of idiots who are that easily influenced by media and women are a bunch of insecure, dependent, needy girls who are...well, that easily influenced by media.

I think media works the other way around. As stated before, there's a porn out there for everybody. I believe that there are many different people out there with many different tastes (giving facials to girls who wear glasses has a whole series) making those porns. The porn comes from the people. It wasn't created by some porn god and dropped onto earth as some sort of moral test or manna from heaven. We made it. Therefore, if it is bad, then we are bad. Stop blaming poor porn; it didn't do anything.

But beyond that, when are feminists going to stop sitting down and crying about what it is the big bad man is doing to us and realize just how much power we actually have? As my friend Kyle used to say, "Women rule the world! They have half the money and all the pussy!" Sure, we don't want to be seen as just pussies--but, then, why are we acting like a bunch of them? Porn--and men--can only oppress me as much as I let them. Some men I've met clearly have what I would call "anti-woman tendencies." Guess what? They've had essentially zero effect on the path my life has taken. So how oppressed am I, really?

I can tell you this: I'd be really oppressed if I gave a shit what they thought. But in that instance, I'd be my own oppressor.

So, in short, if you want to have a threesome, have one. Don't? Don't. Don't watch porn if it offends thee. The other day I ran across a porn that was upsetting. Soon after it began I realized I couldn't tell if the girl was acting as if she wasn't into it or really wasn't into it, but from the look on her face I'd say it was the latter. She looked miserable. And that kind of porn is horrible because it really does dehumanize somebody. But a porn portraying any number of consenting adults doing something they enjoy isn't dehumanizing anybody.

And it's not going to make me feel bad for not having threesomes, either.

Oh, and the punch-line to the title? A woman!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Every Rose Has It's Thorn

A recession was bound to happen.

Pretty much everything I've ever really needed to know I learned in elementary school. Everything else has simply contributed to my thinking too hard about what turn out to be really simple problems. In elementary school we learned about ecosystems. An ecosystem is basically all the stuff in an environment that functions together as a unit. All the individual living and non-living things in a habitat (the environment in which these living and non-living things exist) have relationships with one another to varying degrees. Those are the basics.

I hope I didn't insult anyone's intelligence with the elementary school science recap.

As part of the lesson on ecosystems, we learned about the deer example. There is a population of deer. The deer eat plants. The deer are eaten by predators. All these things keep each other in check. Now, say something happens to the predators. The deer will continue to multiply unchecked. Eventually there will be more deer than available plant food supply. The deer will eat all the plants, and, barring any intervention on the part of the predator, the deer will begin to die from starvation. Once starved down to a dwindling number, the plants will begin to repopulate the area. Once the food supply is back, the deer will begin to multiply once again. But this is why the predator is an integral part of the ecosystem. No one likes the idea of deer being eaten, but that's because humans are insanely silly creatures with no sense.

Better a few be eaten than a whole mess of them slowly starve to death.

I should probably state up front that I got a D in economics. But logic would dictate that, just as is the case with the deer, the economy is bound to go into recession from time to time. A lot of people honestly seem to believe that the economy should always be growing or, at the very least, stabilized in such a way that they can buy stuff and be comfortable. The minute there's trouble they think, "Hey, this must be somebody's fault! We have to get to the bottom of this and make that bastard pay! Also, someone should fix this situation! Why isn't anyone fixing this situation? Someone should come up with a plan, put the plan in place, and we'll all be back to stocking up on iPhones and new cars in no time! 6 months, tops!" This is because humans are insanely silly creatures with no sense.

I may have gotten a D in economics, but it was mostly from skipping class--not a lack of critical thinking skills.

In an effort to draw the connection between the deer population situation and the economics thing, I copied this from Wikipedia's page on economics:

Thomas Robert Malthus used the idea of diminishing returns to explain low living standards. Population, he argued, tended to increase geometrically, outstripping the production of food, which increased arithmetically. The force of a rapidly growing population against a limited amount of land meant diminishing returns to labor. The result, he claimed, was chronically low wages, which prevented the standard of living for most of the population from rising above the subsistence level.

So, basically, a recession is inevitable when the human population grows beyond available resources. Since we're largely unchecked by predators (whether the predator be a wild animal or common sense), we were bound to start starving to death eventually.

Since this whole thing is an analogy, I'll stop fucking up the lessons and just get to the point.

The point here is that people have funny ideas about what should happen in life. Oh, sure, everyone will say that they understand that life can't always be perfect. But if there's anything I know to be true, it's that people's behavior always tells you more than what they say about what they really think. And all these people who say they understand that life cannot be perfect all the time promptly start looking for somebody to hang as soon as the shit hits the fan. Instead of trying to figure out what they can do as individuals to try to make the situation better and/or survive it intact, most people just start acting as if this horrible situation was somehow a surprise and a crime.

They act like victims.

Whenever I start in on this argument, I'm told that it sounds like I think people shouldn't be held accountable for their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. But before I hold anyone else accountable for his or her actions, I have to hold myself accountable for my own. People love to live high on the hog and then act shocked when the well runs dry. I know I'm mixing my metaphors there, but the fact remains that we don't get to just take and take from the ecosystem or the economy without putting anything back in.

And this brings me to the real point of this whole thing.

A recession was bound to happen. And I'm not talking about ecosystems or economics at all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Maybe the Sun Will Shine Today

I have a 4% chance of getting divorced in the next 5 years.

I found out today that two friends recently broke up. The news hit me kind of hard, as these were two friends I really thought were going to be together forever. They made it through so much, and they just seemed made for each other. I know “together forever” sounds kind of naïve, and if anyone is the first to question the viability of a match, it's me. Still, I wanted to believe it for these two. I have no idea why they broke up; I found out through Facebook when one of said friends changed her status from “in a relationship” to “single.” But the whys and wherefore's are inconsequential for the purposes of this essay. When I saw the news, it hit me in my gut. If these two are breaking up, what the hell chance do the rest of us have?

So I calculated my chance for divorce at Being unmarried, I entered information as if I were just married today. I sure hope the fact that I did this doesn't freak out my boyfriend. It's research. And it looks like the odds of my fictitious marriage making it for the long haul are pretty good. That's a relief, too, because I've always sworn I'd only do it the once.

And, no, my fictitious marriage was not coerced by a fake pregnancy. I'm not that kind of girl.

I will never forget my high school psychology teacher getting on his soap box and informing the class that the reason so many people get divorced is because they get married for all the wrong reasons. I believe the way he put it was that people date for 6 months, figure that they're in love, and get married. These people, he told us, are idiots. And I agreed. I thought people who dated in high school were idiots, and I went to high school in a small town where most of my classmates planned on marrying each other. According to the divorce calculator, if I had dated someone in high school and married the guy, my chances of divorce in the next five years would be 25%.

Thank God I waited. Um, still waiting. Or am in a fictitious marriage—which, by the way, is not the same as a sham of a marriage.

This breakup got me thinking about the whole “together forever” proposition. I've always sworn marriage is something I will only do once. I believe that I should take my time in making this decision. I believe that marriage has to be about more than being “in love”--it has to be about wanting to create a family. Not necessarily a family in the sense of father, mother and kids, but a family in the sense that these people choose to live together and stand by each other no matter what. To that end, if I get married, that's what I'm looking for and working towards. Of course, I also once swore that I would never live with a lover until said lover and I were married, and it would appear I've changed my mind. At the tender age of 30, I'm planning on moving in with my boyfriend.

I was rather hurt when I told my friends a few months ago that my boyfriend had asked me if I wanted to live together. Me, the cynic, the girl who has been known to say things like, “This is why fuck buddies are better than boyfriends!”, is finally ready to take a chance on something as insane as living together. I thought for sure my friends would all be thrilled. No such luck. I was met with a chorus of, “Don't do it!” from the mouth of virtually everyone I knew. Of course, most of these people's experience with living together consists of moving in with their significant other a mere month after the beginning of the relationship because one or the other's lease was up. I don't want to sound like an asshole, but that's something I've never done and would never do.

You know, unless I was 83 and my possibility of death calculator said 98%. At that point, what the hell?

What changed my mind? I'm willing to move in with this man because we just seem to work. I'll spare you the sappy details. There's no internet calculator for the odds of our “making it.” For a girl like myself (always willing to enter into a completely doomed union because at least I know what's going to happen, never a bride), I suppose that should be unsettling. So imagine my dismay when another couple I consider to “just work” hit the skids. Am I on a fool's errand?

And what does all this living together talk have to do with marriage? I'm sure my boyfriend would really like it if I answered that question right about now. In all honesty, I think it's simply because my generation has so successfully blurred the line between the two. So many people opt out of marriage and simply live together as if married that it's hard to tell the difference. Also, many members of my generation and generations hence say stupid shit like, "You gotta live together first so you can find out if you and the other person are compatible. You don't wanna marry the guy and then find out he doesn't put the toilet seat down or something, do you?" The whole point of marriage is to make a promise to a person and then stick with it so you can grow spiritually and emotionally, making the effort to work through that kind of petty stuff. If you're living with someone to find out whether or not he or she is a perfect specimen for marriage, you're being silly. In my mind, living together and marriage are different, but they're both to be taken extremely seriously. If I'm willing to move in with somebody, I need to be willing to try to remember every day what loving somebody really means. It means I need to be willing to try to see beyond myself, petty annoyances and PMS to remember why I committed to this thing in the first place. Hopefully part of the reason was that I wanted to try to make that person's life better than it would've been in my absence. If I'm only in it for the sharing of bills and the regular sex or until the gas runs out on the butterflies in my stomach, perhaps it's time I rethink the proposition.

But even with all my calculating of odds and hedging bets, there's always an element of chance. The element of chance doesn't negate the need for me to consciously work toward being a responsible partner in my relationship. It's not an excuse to run willy-nilly into a situation before thinking about the possible outcomes and weighing the options. Still, the element of chance means that even with all my big thinking, I may end up where I've always sworn I'd never be: sleeping on the couch in the same apartment with the person who just dumped me/got dumped by me. I know that it would be a huge “growth opportunity,” but why even set myself up for the growing in the first place?

Because I may just end up with plenty of opportunities to grow closer to this person who I think is awesome and past myself, petty annoyances and PMS by staying in this relationship. Oh, yeah. And my vanity. We all have our things we need to work on.

Besides, I may know a couple who seemed to have it all and broke up anyway, but I also know couples who've been married for years and still post really nauseating crap about how much they love each other every day on Facebook.

There may be no odds calculator for which couple we'll turn out to be, but I love him so much I'll take that chance. Besides, if it all falls apart, I still have my imaginary husband.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don't Hate the Player

When I was in high school, I declared to my mother that I would not be getting married or having children.

It's a rather bold (and typical) statement for a 16-year-old to make. Sixteen is an age at which we're each figuring out who we are (or, at least, beginning to assert our independence—it's a process that goes on every day of our lives afterward), and making such hyperbolic statements is normal. At 30 I can safely say I have no idea whether or not this statement still holds true, although I can tell you that I'm still the kind of girl who isn't necessarily chomping at the bit to get in the family way. But when I told my mother this, she had what I thought was a very strange reaction; she burst into tears and declared that I'd basically just told her that I thought her life was meaningless. Because I didn't want to get married and have children—the two things she considered the most important things she'd done with her life—I obviously thought anyone who made such a choice was an idiot. I was dumbfounded. It seemed like a rather ludicrous leap in logic to me. What I'd said had nothing to do with her in my mind. But it's a fairly common leap in logic to make. Most people do it.

Most people think that other people are judging them all of the time. And most people would be right. The question, though, is why do we care?

I was discussing this phenomenon with a friend the other night. It never ceases to amaze me just how much people feel the need to justify their choices when most choices don't need justification. The best illustration of this that I've ever encountered is the whole monogamy “debate.” I put “debate” in quotations there (although I'm not really sure why I did it the second time) because I think it's debatable as to whether or not there's really a debate over monogamy. People who don't want to be in monogamous relationships always seem to feel the need to have a highbrow intellectual argument to support their slutty horndog ways. “Mankind just isn't inherently monogamous,” they declare, as if this somehow proves that their choice is more right. But who are they proving it to? I've been in monogamous relationships; I've also fooled around with three different people in one week. I don't think I need to have an argument to justify either choice. Why? Because I choose which way I'm going to run my business, and my only responsibility is to make sure the people (or person) I'm sleeping with and I are on the same page. If I've promised monogamy, I need to be monogamous. If I haven't promised anything, then I get to get off however and with whomever I please. Neither requires that I go around telling everyone why I think it's somehow better that I've made whichever choice it is I'm making at that moment. I don't need to recruit people into being on “my side”--although, if I'm sleeping around, I guess I do need to recruit people into being on their backs. When people give me some reason for their whoring ways that incorporates man's essential nature, all I want to say is, “Who cares?” The existence of monogamous couples isn't an indictment of your lifestyle.

So why the argument? I think people feel uncomfortable with the existence of “the other side,” even if the other side is mostly an illusion. I'm currently happily monogamous, but I don't see all the sluts of this world as being on another team out to destroy the very fiber of my beliefs. I just see them as dogs out to get a bone, ya know? As long as they're not sleeping with my partner, I have no opinion on their existence whatever. They don't make me question my choice in exactly the same way that happily monogamous couples don't make me feel like a dirty whore when I'm free to sleep with whomever I choose (man, this is making me sound way sluttier than I've ever really been known to be). Basically, I don't care what anyone thinks of me when I'm getting laid on a regular basis. But, really, the monogamy argument is a symptom of a larger problem; insecurity. When it comes to religion and politics (politics especially), I believe that there's more than one way to skin a cat. I believe that more than one solution may be right depending on the specific details of the situation, and sometimes there is no real solution at all. Rarely is there one single solution—one right belief, one right action.
But (and here's the shit that's really gonna blow your mind), I think all these arguments are silly because not only is there more than one solution to this living problem we all seem to have, but there's no problem at all.

Now, I know what you're thinking. “No problem? Man, I've got problems.” I hear about people's problems all the time. “My boyfriend won't get a job.” “I'm in thousands of dollars of debt.” “I don't have six-pack abs.” “I have six-pack abs, and my diet is making me a raving lunatic bitch!” People have problems all over the place. But all of these problems are problems in perception. My mother burst into tears over her 16-year-old know-it-all daughter's declaration because she perceived it as an insult. Actually, she burst into tears because she's kind of mentally unbalanced, but she's mentally unbalanced because she perceives herself as the center of the universe. See? A problem in perception!

The bottom line is this: if you have a problem with the way someone is living his or her life and those choices don't impact you directly, you have a problem with yourself. Whenever I'm perceiving an “Us vs. Them” scenario, what I'm saying is that I feel that someone else's choices call my own into question. If I know where I stand on my personal life, what difference does it make where you stand on yours? We're all basically on the same team: a bunch of people trying not to starve to death and maybe have a good time every once in a while. All this defensiveness is either insecurity or a desperate need to kill time.

And I'm not above a desperate need to kill time. I routinely get annoyed by the tweets of people I don't even know. That's irritainment!

The Sad Reality

I've been having a strange experience lately. As a waitress and a person who frequents coffee shops alone (in other words, as a person who has occasion to overhear conversations in which I am not involved at least 75% of the time I'm awake), I've begun to notice that at least 70% of all randomly overheard conversations sound like complete nonsense. I'm not talking about not being able to get a handle on what is being discussed because I'm only hearing snippets of conversations between people I know nothing about. I'm talking about hearing a full 20 minutes of a conversation and thinking to myself, “This sounds like gobbledy gook! Are these people talking in circles? Was that last statement even a sentence, or was it just a string of words spoken with inflection?” It's a lot like the scene in Some Kind of Monster when somebody says that the band should come up with a mission statement. “Mission statement?” someone asks as if he's never heard the term before. “Mission statement,” replies whomever made the suggestion. “Mission statement?” asks the other person again (it was hard to tell who in the room full of Metallica and hangers-on was asking), still stumped. “Mission statement,” comes the reply, amazingly unfased and unfrustrated. At some point this exchange just becomes like the drone of white noise.

And that's the thing: this strange experience I've been having reminds me a lot of what it's like when I watch reality TV.

Most people I know with similar intellectual interests to my own are generally in one of two camps when it comes to television: they refuse to get cable because watching TV is a waste of time, or they watch critically-acclaimed, artsy-fartsy smarty-pants TV shows on DVD even if they have cable. They wouldn't want to chance a run-in with some sundry common sit-com or reality rif-raf while clicking through the channels to watch The Wire. Me? I am a firm believer in television programming's right to be crap. I can watch an entire season of America's Next Top Model over the course of a lazy Sunday, and the smartest thing I watch with any regularity is Law & Order if left to my own devices. My current favorite television shows are The Real Housewives of (Insert Location Here), Millionaire Matchmaker, and whatever win-the-love-of-semi-famous-has-been show is currently running on VH1. I love reality TV. What I find so funny is that so many people make the argument that reality television is terrible because it's nothing like reality. Whenever I hear this argument, my initial reaction is that it is true—reality television is not reality. But I don't think this has any bearing on whether or not reality TV is good or bad. I love sitting on the couch watching a movie and snuggling with my boyfriend on a Tuesday night, but I doubt this very real scenario makes for riveting television. Even less riveting would be me doing my laundry or reading for an hour at the local coffeeshop (where I don't really read—I just pretend to read while listening to other people have conversations that make no sense to me). The argument that we shouldn't watch reality TV because people would never act like themselves in front of a television camera holds no weight because that is exactly why it's in any way interesting. The first 4 seasons of The Real World showed 7 20-something strangers getting real; in the fifth season we saw the 7 cast members forced to work together to create a business as well. Why? Because everyone knows that the episode in season 3 when Cory went job-hunting for a whole day—and we were forced to watch her fill out applications and talk to managers—was booooo-ring. It's something we all really do at different points in our very real lives, and we all really hate it. We don't want to be reminded of it while watching television.

My recent experiences have led me to believe, though, that there may be another reason for society's love/hate relationship with reality TV. Maybe it's not so much that reality TV is nothing like reality; maybe it's that reality TV is a little too much like reality.

I can completely understand why we don't want to admit that we spend 82% of our time over-analyzing every subtle nuance of our personal lives out loud to other people, all the while doing it in a language that loses it's meaning the longer we speak it. I mean, when did everyone start saying, “You know?” at the end of every other sentence? This has to be a sign that none of us are 100% sure we're making sense.

While watching the season finale of Tough Love, a reality show about 8 women who have serious problems with men who move into a house together and work out their issues with the help of a matchmaker (Sex and the City meets the therapist's couch), it dawned on me just how similar everyone's lives are. Two of the most disparate women in the house became best friends, crying and saying things like, “Oh, I've learned so much from you!” after initially hating each others guts (been there). One of the women had to choose between the affections of two different men (I don't want to brag, but...done that). Another woman quit the show when the matchmaker wouldn't stop getting in her face about being such a slut. I've never had that exact experience (mostly because I've never been on a reality television show centering on 8 women with serious relationship problems), but, trust me—I can relate. I think what makes us so uncomfortable with reality television is that we're really afraid that these are the days of our lives. Someone may not be able to relate to the situations on Tough Love in a direct sense, but when we listen to the conversations these women have about what's going on in their dramatized lives, we can't help but relate on some level. When our conversations are repeated by a bunch of people we don't know on television, they tend to seem much more ridiculous and meaningless than when we had them in a real life scenario with our friends or ourselves.

We're left asking ourselves, “Are we really this stupid?”

Sure, most of us would like to believe that our personal dramas are deeper than that. We'd like to believe that these intensely personal experiences aren't being replicated in anyone else's life, let alone played out on television. We'd like to believe that our lives are more ground-breaking than the basic 5 possible plots. When we're watching those plots play out on a scripted sit-com or drama, it's easy to believe that our lives are more complex and less ridiculous—that stuff is fiction! But reality TV hits a little too close to home. When I found myself relating to the ladies of Tough Love, it made me realize just how comforting it is to know that all the stuff about me that I think is so fucked up is fucked up in other people, too—which, in the end, makes it seem a lot less fucked up.

So, I guess, yes—we really are this stupid! The good news is that we're pretty much all this stupid! Trust me; I've been eavesdropping on everyone, and we all sound like nonsense.

Especially whoever it was in Some Kind of Monster who didn't understand the concept of a mission statement. That guy's an idiot.

And I can relate.