Category Archives: Grousing

Check Yourself

Facebook has been too appalling lately.  I miss the sense of experience shared with distant friends, and I miss the news feeds and humor — but the humans are getting me down.  A guy who is friends with most of my friends came out as having unmanageable depression and asked for recommendations for therapists in his area.  Most of the reply posts are his actual friends giving him shit for being a crybaby wuss, for being self-indulgent, for whining.  I only saw his post because one of my actual friends made a snide post about depression being a fashionable bandwagon he’s missing out on.

 

Is it wrong for a mental health professional to beat the crap out of someone?  Answer: yes, because the friend in question has recognized his own severe depression and has chosen to eschew treatment on the grounds that “I’ve got a perfect wife, a big house, and a job that compensates me handsomely.  I have no grounds to bitch.”  My friend worships strength and has bought into all its fallacies.  In the past year, he moved away from all his friends, to a town he hates, and has chosen to stay with his infertile wife instead of moving toward a nameless other who could make his dream of having bio-kids come true.   He’s an asshole of the first water and my heart breaks for him.  He has a sharp intellect but only slightly more self-awareness than a collie pup.

 

The Book of Faces is also delivering horrible statements from women I love.  White girls spewing out stuff they don’t realize is racist AF.  Bernie fans coughing up a whole bunch of misogyny on Hillary (along with the offensive BS about voting for her simply because she has a vagina.)  Gay friends making outright yucky comments about trans folk. On and on it goes, and where it stops, I’ll never know, because I’m on a intermittent Facebook fast.  When I get tagged I do glance at it briefly, and then I have to leave before I choke on my own vomit.

 

Part of this is the idiotic pseudo-therapeutic “Purple Clover”-type posts.  These are mostly motivational blurbs designed to keep us (especially women) kicking ass and loving life and not letting the bad stuff get us down.  A lot of them are fun and nicely cheesy, along the lines of “Don’t Sweat The Petty Stuff, Just Pet The Sweaty Stuff.”  Fine and dandy.  But there is a regular thread of nastiness, whose effects can be seen in the waxy buildup of thumb-sucking in the comments.

 

“Share This If You No Longer Tolerate Bullshit” is a relevant example, since the commenters mostly sound like high-maintenance bitches who have zero tolerance for the foibles of others, but expect others to cater to their BS.  You don’t get to have zero bullshit tolerance and then post, “If They Can’t Handle You At Your Britney They Don’t Deserve Your Beyonce.”  If you can get past the hypocrisy, then wade through the entitlement, there is the booby prize of negatively comparing Britney to Beyonce — and likening yourself to either — especially after the posts about “Don’t Compare Me To Others — There Is Only One ‘Me’ And I’m Perfect At It.” Ugly comparisons are common:  “In A World Of Kardiashians, Be An Audrey.”  Oh, fuck you.  The list of why that’s inappropriate is too long to unpack.  And do you really think Audrey Hepburn would be pleased to have her likeness used to sneer at people who might be tacky, but who are essentially harmless?

 

(Side note:  please stop using “classy” unironically.  If you mean gracious, gallant, generous, genuine, or good, say so.  If you mean tasteful, discreet, responsible, refined, or luxurious, say so. “Classy” is a term used to describe “broads” from Jersey to Vegas who “dress real nice and don’t act too slutty.”   It’s a term owned by the Real Housewives of Wherethefuckever and people who don’t understand why the rest of us howl at Ron Burgundy.)

 

Also irksome are all the people, the throngs of deeply butt-hurt people, on FB or Pinterest or even Etsy, who go into great detail describing the behavior of their exes, behavior well within the normal limits for your garden variety asshole, and then building up this mountain of (what they believe is) evidence for that ex having a clinical disorder:  he’s an abusive narcissist.  He’s a sociopath.  He’s a psychopath. On and on.  I’m not saying it’s likely or unlikely, possible or impossible.  I’m saying that untrained non-clinicians (problem one) trying to diagnose (problem two) people with whom they have a personal relationship (problem three) for the purposes of justifying their perception of self as “Horribly Victimized” rather than self as “Having Been Rudely Treated By Someone Who Seemed Cool” (problem four) or even asking themselves why they have such horrible taste in partners (problems five through eighty-seven) is itself an indication that the Horrible Victim has a problem unrelated to the ex.

 

Stitch it on a sampler:  CHECK YOURSELF.  That doesn’t mean “feast on self-doubt”, “second guess all your choices”, or “indulge in midnight reviews of mistakes and wonder if you’ll ever get your shit together.”  It means TEST YOUR LOGIC, against reality and perception.  It means IDENTIFY YOUR MOTIVATION, with honesty — and even if you can’t overcome your fears and self-rationalizations and defense mechanisms, you can learn to spot them and figure out why you need them — without despising yourself for that need.  It certainly means TEST YOUR VALUES, and if you don’t really know what your values are, you need to work on that before you make any judgments whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

A Bad Day

Tuesday was the anniversary of Grandma dying.  It was a hard day for me, but it’s the worst day of the year for Mom.  I called home with the determination to be calm, soothing, cheerful, and untouched by her dangerous tendency to pick fights when she is feeling vulnerable.
Sure enough, Sister was there, and doubtless she had put in hard time supporting Mom all day to that point, and it’s a very hard day for her, too.  But in the cause of “let’s support Mom by egging on her worst tendencies”, Sister told a story (this is all on speakerphone, which I hate) about a gay cowboy who was a judge on America’s Next Top Model who was from home.  She and Grandma used to “see that little fruit selling his shirts”, etc.
At this point, Mom laughs at the language and they both pause, waiting for me to jump in with what I’m thinking, which is JESUS FUCK, you people, I love you and you know I’m not just PC, I’m bisexual, and it really hurts my feelings when you pull shit like that. I know you’re quoting Grandma, but there’s a reason you’re telling this particular story, at this particular time.
But I know that if I say anything, it will incite them to Drama — a chance to be horrified that I would be so ridiculously hypersensitive, deeply offended that I would accuse them of bigotry, and artificially enraged that I would take Grandma’s name in vain over taking exception at her favorite slur for gay men.  “Grandma loved gay men!  You know that!”
The real purpose is to provoke a catharsis, to put the burden on me to provide them the opportunity to vent their feelings, which we desperately need and which we are culturally prohibited from expressing assertively.  No feels, please; we’re Norwegian farmers.
And finally, it would give them a path to follow for future carefully engineered interactions:  them bringing up or referring to homosexuality using ponderously artificial non-offensive language to cater to my perceived hypersensitivity, with or without complaint (“I don’t know if I’m saying that correctly”, “– or whatever those people are insisting we call them these days”, “But I’m sure you’ll inform me immediately if I’m not doing exactly what those people would prefer”, etc., etc.)  I always ignore this and move on, and then they bitch about it together behind my back.
This process provides an opportunity for them to bond by excluding someone else, and this time around, the outsider happens to be me.  I’ve been included in this process many times over the years, on both ends, and as an observer.  It’s common in our passive-aggressive, non-assertive, “Minnesota Nice” community.  I know it well.  It’s one of the reasons I moved away.
I live far enough away and see them so infrequently that I’m now a safe target rather than a safe confidant.  I wasn’t a target for a long time, because they knew it would just keep me away longer, and because I would, without fanfare, take a vacation from our communication until I could do so with a clear mind and a whole heart.  I am a sufficiently terrible correspondent under normal circumstances that this is not necessarily taken as the cold shoulder.  I go without writing people I would love to be in touch with as well as the ones I kind of can’t stand, so there is no way to be sure.
Then Mom goes into a story about Jim Nabors being treated for liver cancer at the hospital where she used to work, at the beginning of the AIDS awareness period, and sowing all these shitty comments about how “THEY” kept thinking it was “prejudicial” for us to use masks to clean their meal trays,  “prejudicial” to make them use disposable silverware, “prejudicial” not to go in their rooms without face shields and gowns.  “I mean, how in the world could anyone think it would be prejudicial not to want to catch AIDS?”
And since it is what it is, I flatly said, “Because that’s not how you catch AIDS.  HIV can’t be transmitted that way.”  We both had to repeat the interaction twice, verbatim.  Mom couldn’t find a way to pick a fight and eventually headed back to her point, gamely but lamely tying it to the “brush with celebrities” topic that got them talking about gays in bigoted ways, and I got back on track with my mission:  giving Mom supportive attention on her hardest day of the year.
I said I missed home, and snow, and everyone — all true — and that I wished I could bring Honey home on the train — he’s never been on a train — and see the beautiful countryside.  Mom jumped on this, hard, and with great feeling.  She said that would be wonderful and she’d pay and oh please oh please and I said I would try to get time off and we’ll see.  This went on for some time.  I didn’t give her a fight, and I’m glad, but I feel terrible for making her miss me, and especially terrible for throwing a possible visit out there when I felt so hurt by her and Sister’s ugly words.  I wasn’t trying to turn the tables.
And all day I felt sick with grief because any time I spend there will be too long, and not enough.  My guts are churning to think about going there, and churning about the heartbreak of leaving.
I hate posting fresh blood.  But oh my aching spleen, oh my bile-flooded heart.
I’m going to go overeat, perchance to sleep, and pray that Friday follows Thursday.

Spleenvent

One of my favorite patients died recently and I’m feeling raw. Lots of things are getting under my skin lately and I would rather vent them here than put a lot of hot sauce on my conversations with people I love. I’m sure I irritate the bejaysus out of them too, and I’m grateful that they don’t try to shame, shun, or change me – so by venting here, I’m returning the favor. Besides, this is a well-traveled road that I just need to revisit. Once I’ve stomped up and down a few times, and visited my Shrieking Tree, I will return, refreshed, to society.

Begone from me ye demons:

COWORKER:

The new cube-neighbor at work who keeps getting enraged by any critical comment I make about our government-agency employer. When I say something like, “It bothers me that I’ve been here nearly two years and I still don’t know who our safety officer is and haven’t had a fire drill,” she gets the bit in her teeth and is furious when she can’t change my mind. Badgering me with irrelevancies such as how they did it in her previous cube farm does not even address my problem, much less refute my complaint that training here is terrible. Even if she had the right answer, hearing it from a peer, at this late date, does not change my contempt for the lack of safety and orientation given new employees. Then my lack of change based on her input infuriates her. I don’t get fuffed but I don’t give in, and she digs herself a fit and falls into it. This has happened about once per week since she moved in and it’s exhausting.

WALLOWING:

Speaking of narcissistic rage, I’m FED fucking UP with people who wallow in ersatz righteous anger. They post things that are disgusting in order to feed their judgmental righteousness – and I am not talking about real-world news that should properly generate action or motivation to change. I am talking about made-up anecdotes about ancient disabled veterans being denied restaurant discounts by snotty managers who Never Even Served Their Country, LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU AGREE!!!! Or cute little kids who say the perfect thing to turn the tables on the evil librul teacher trying to force the THEORY of evolution on her innocent classmates. Or, god help me, the social justice warriors, who not only disgust the people they are trying to “protect”, but who give the right wing nutjobs an excuse to hate civil progress even more. At least the Left tries to rein in their idiots. The Right just keeps making their extremist idiots leaders.

SPEAKING LIKE A CHILD:

Also hateful: being told by a manager at work that my direct use of language is intimidating. I can’t be sorry for something I worked hard to achieve. Growing up with the passive-aggressive, self-effacing “Minnesota Nice” was crippling. I am diplomatic in my speech, and the content is not the problem – I asked for clarification on this. But because I no longer couch all my statements in passive corkscrew ways, because I don’t upholster my ideas in fluff such as, “well, I don’t know, I mean, maybe, but then again, and I could be wrong – well, I probably AM wrong, just tell me what you think – it seems that we might do a leeetle bit better by trying an ever-so-slightly different approach….” Apparently it’s not cool to say, “Hey, what do you guys think about X? Here’s why I think it might work.” Would she voice this complaint to a male worker? I just can’t picture it.

It also seems incredibly disrespectful of the audience.  It assumes that the person being communicated with has a childish ego, one so frail that any difference of opinion is painful, offensive, and a personal attack.  Unless any difference is couched as lovingly as a kiss, it’s intolerable.  Courtesy and tact are critical, but driving ten miles out of town so you can surprise someone by coming at things from a different direction assumes the  person is Joffrey Fucking Baratheon or that spoiled-witless prince from the Aerie.

AGAIN WITH THE SELFIES:

Another thing that’s getting under my skin: relentless self-promotion. I have no problem with giving oneself a pat on the back in public. Share those victories! I am not talking about celebration of things done. Run three miles?  Way to go!  Make some cookies? Go You! Lose a few pounds, get a raise, sell a painting?  Tell the world and let’s all cheer, hooray!  I love the folks who share, even trivial stuff, because it lets me feel in touch with their world — the highs, the lows, the creamy middles, the sacred and the mundane.

What irritates me is the endless – constant – chronic bragging from those who are a 24-hour channel called How Awesome I Am.  NB: these are not the folks who frequently post Hey I Did The Thing, which is looking for motivation and support and self-accountability.  It is not the same as the people who continually post and repost My Boobs, My Ass, My Nails, My Immaculate Coif, My Flawless Toilette.  As I have mentioned, I have some lovable friends that post so many selfies, especially of their derrieres, that I imagine the same results if you gave a camera to a baboon at the zoo. Hey! My Butt! Check It Out! My Butt! SOME BUTT, HUH! BUTT!BUTT!BUTT! Jesus, people. What would Freud say?  Also, I’ve seen your cooch more than your gynecologist, and we’re not even dating.  It’s not so interesting, perhaps, as you think.

MORE SHITTY COWORKERS:

The work performance of others is not my business or my problem.  I know this.  But when I see people come in an hour late, take a two hour lunch, fuck around on their devices and surf the web and do laps of the cubicles to schmooze and have loud, long, non-work phone calls…and leave early…after slapping out some work that is incomplete, incorrect, and filled with typos…it makes me homicidal. I just despise them, is all.  This shit would never fly in a non-public-sector job without major family connections to the owner, and then, hey, it’s their money!  Working for the government, however, means it’s MY money.  As a coworker I try to mind my own business, but as a taxpayer, I want to fire some of these lazy-assed bitches.

SINCE I’M RANTING:  LIKE, SHARE, REPOST!

Self-serving crap. Whether it’s religionists posting smugly about that terrible person who prayed for the tornado to move down the road (demanding God kill her neighbors instead, I guess) or the anti-theists posting rabidly about the Gospel of Barnabas PROVING that Christ was never crucified (using one piece of fanfic to disprove another, I guess), it’s all terrible. The sole purpose is to make an insecure person feel a little safer. For that reason, I suppose, I shouldn’t worry about it, but the things that we used to read about in the paper at lunch, tell our friends over drinks, and forget about the next day, now go on record and get passed to morons worldwide via the Web. Put something in writing (ahem) and it becomes a historical document.

LAST FOR NOW:  AWKWARD SOCIAL SITUATIONS

We have friends that we adore. We planned to stay with them next weekend. They just let us know they will be hosting a completely foul human at the same time. That person is much admired, has substantial social rank, and is much loved by many. That person, when we met, spoke at length in a way that denigrated the poor. Another person and I both mentioned that we grew up poor, and tried to temper the conversation in a different direction, but no dice; this person instead went on at length, adding bonus slurs to the exposition about Untermenschen.  I could not share my weekend with this person and backed out of the plans.  I suspect that my vague excuses will make me look like a churl, but I didn’t want to say, “You know the story.  Have a blast.  But I’m not going to break bread with someone who has referred to me as ‘trailer trash’.”

(For the record, anyone who thinks there is no difference between hard working, bill-paying farmers and shiftless, improvident sister-fornicators living in filth…simply because they both live in trailer homes and lack educational attainment…can’t see past her own resume.  Replace the praying farmers in Millet’s L’Angelus with screamers from Jerry Springer and you’ll get the picture.  That said, the chain-smoking wig-rippers are as human, and should be accorded the same respect as anyone else — but for all we’re equal, we’re not the same.  The respect I require for myself I would expect for all.)

(Next time:  On How To Cultivate Empathy For Privileged Idiots, And Why To Try.)

More Bitching About Things That Don’t Matter

They really don’t matter.  But bitch-bitch-bitching provides a minor release of tension brought on by bigger things which are likewise unchangeable, but are unable to be relieved.  I nitpick the small things to survive the real problems.  Anyone who wants to bitch about my bitching is free to take to her own blog and paint the town red.

SLEEPING:  Jesus, Honey, the sheets!  No wonder I sleep like an innocent rock and you fidget like a whore in church.  When you are composing yourself for slumber, make sure the sheets / blankets / whatever is on top of you is evenly distributed over your surface mass.  If this sounds like ridiculous focus on trivialities, keep in mind the alternative:  when you have a huge pile of laundry on top of you, it creates excess warmth in some areas, light coverage in others, and breezy gaps where your body least expects them.  Even the differences in weight confuse your senses and put them on the alert.  This is the same principle applied to sauteeing vegetables:  regular knife cuts allow uniform distribution of heat and even cooking.  It’s the same damned thing.

COMPASSION:  I’m a social worker.  I do not want to hear from shitty social workers who say things such as, “Oh, I know what they want to hear on the test, and it’s bullshit!  You just have to tell them what they want to hear and do your own thing anyway.  That twelve year old girl who is sleeping with that 25 year old guy down the block?  You don’t need to earn her trust.  You just need to tell that little slut to go do her homework.”  I am ashamed of people who think this ass-hattery is professionally appropriate “tough love”.  Some ways teenish girls act out when it comes to control issues:  shoplifting; starving themselves; sex.  Yeah, I’m sure she’s not getting enough judgment at home.

JUDGMENT:  my boundaries are weird because my SW values are real and my personal history is real, too.  I am stridently anti-IPV/DV, but I saw my grandmother goad my (drunk) grandfather mercilessly on enough occasions to make me wonder if she wasn’t doing it to feel even more self-righteous when, after an hour of being screamed at and put down, he hit her.  He was in the wrong all the way, no question — but she was not stupid and her actions seemed deliberate.  Even though she was the wage earner, she felt powerless because her father, whom she adored, died when she was a young teenager.  She never believed a man would stay.  Are we all trapped, or what?

TRAPPED:  getting over the death of the old friend’s husband has been wracking me.  A part of me is laying low and thinking Hey, at least this is some sort of stress inoculation for when some other friend’s spouse dies…but that’s no good either.  For now, it’s just the DEATH reaction — eat too much, drink too much, sleep too little, worry about the unlikely disaster with fresh energy due to the highly unlikely having happened to him.  To Them.  So better to race to the grave, which I dug with my teeth, because that is a certain outcome.  And death is the one thing we all have in common; the one thing that awaits the healthy and unhealthy, the rich and the poor, the stupid and smart, the prudent and foolish.  Living healthy might buy me some time, but it doesn’t get me off the hook.

ON THE HOOK WITH MORE JUDGY JUDGY:  I would never say this to my friends, for the main reason that anyone’s opinion other than your own doesn’t matter two hoots in a thunderstorm.  But I still feel lip-curling disdain and sickness at the tum when I see certain things, and I get to condemn them here (or generally holler WhatTheFuck?! to the high heavens) because It’s My Goddamn Blog After All.  That caveat in mind:  a friend…not a real friend, but a Lovely Associate In A Different Town, one I could feel really close to given opportunity but am staunchly in favor of as a human, has done one of the things that makes me gnash my teeth. After her joyous union to the person of her dreams, her partner, her soulmate:  she changed her name to hyphenate hers to theirs…and he didn’t change his name at all.

I get ladies who take their husbands’ names, absolutely, but hyphenation puts me on alert to see if both spouses made the change.  When the answer is no, I get really bitch-snarly.  There are a lot of reasons to cater to tradition and take your husband’s name:  sentimentality, superstition, enjoyment of tradition itself, convenience in dealing with insurance, schools, property ownership, hospital care, banks, and inheritance.  There are very strong reasons to keep your birth name, your so-called maiden name:  a woman is not a man’s property, and her birth name should not be erased.  The marriage of two individuals shouldn’t require each to change…

…or it should require both to change.  And therein lies the itch.  The reasons to hyphenate a birth name with a partner’s name are very good.  It shows partnership, equality, commitment of both parties.  And when a woman hyphenates and her husband does not, I get the strong message that she wants an equal partner…and he is not as committed.  Or perhaps he is a weak suck who thinks “men don’t change their names when they get married!” or even the classic pathological Butthurt that she didn’t take his name (as a Real Wife™ would do). To give the anonymous guy credit:  for all I know, he argued that she should not change her name at all, but she insisted. I am not holding the husband accountable for the wife’s decision.  I’m just saying that it sucks, that’s all.  “I’m joining with you!  I’m taking your name even if I’m keeping my own, too!  And you’re…letting me do it!  Without making any changes of your own!  This will be a 100% equal partnership, I’m SURE of it!”  Sigh.  Cool, old chum; do your thing.  I will try to keep my blush, my cringe, and my snarl to myself.

LAST: vaguebooking.  ENOUGH of that shit.  We all think non sequiturs all day long.  If you feel the need to publish those random phrases, those symbols without referents, you are either pathologically needy or secretly invested in punishing those friends not catering to your passive-aggressive demands for attention.  The most generous response to vaguebooking is to ignore it and move on; any related response is begging for more information, and that is codependency of the purest ray serene.  The least generous but still non-negative response is to reply with another non sequitur, just as mysterious — after all, it matches the post — but it can be taken as a hostile act by the person who thought a post saying “THANKS A LOT UNIVERSE I REALLY NEEDED THAT RIGHT NOW” would be appropriate to share with friends rather than keep private.

And I do understand that some people are helped by vaguebooking, by throwing things out to the ether in a way visible to all but pointed at none.  I get it; I do.  But this is where I share my irks, and it irks me.  As we say at social work happy hour:

“I am a therapist.  I am not YOUR therapist.”

(We’re usually saying it to each other.)

Tagged

Pinterest Commenters: Yeesh

The most repinned post on any of my Pinterest boards is an infographic on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It’s also the one with the most comment-conversations by far.  Normally I don’t engage in comment battles — if I have something I absolutely must contribute, I usually shut off notifications of further comments — but when it’s my post (my board, my thought, my backyard) I will keep ploughing ahead.  I also reserve the right to have the last word, under the Get Your Own Damned Blog ruling of 2002 (cf. Twisty Faster).

A summary of interactions:

1.  “Other people have the right not to want gay marriage”:  yes, and they are free to express that opinion.  My adding that it should include the explicit right never to marry seemed to heal the breach.  Verdict:  fist bumps.

2.  Random frothing from a lady who conflated the declaration with “not working for what you get” and determining that it’s “BS” because the US Constitution only guarantees the PURSUIT of happiness, not free abortions, and PS you probly are for gun control: explaining the difference between the US and the UN, that the US Constitution doesn’t apply worldwide, that I am pro-gun, and that thinking a blob of cells should have more rights than the woman pumping them full of blood, etc., etc.  (When their rebuttals are limited to 500 characters, anti-choice folks don’t get to indulge their rant-over-facts technique to end conversations and pretend they won the argument.)  Verdict: random frother tires of presenting balloons for my pin; bails.

3.  Anti-PC snark stating that if you can’t be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., then there is no freedom of speech:  sorry, wrong number, since you have the freedom to be as bigoted as you want, but free speech doesn’t imply freedom from repercussion.  Everyone is free to have an opinion; whining because your opinion is disgusting doesn’t take away your right to speak it.  Verdict:  sincere offer to explain why it is logical to be intolerant of intolerance and still be tolerant was met with silence.  (I hope she works out the math and comes back; I was looking forward to that.)

4.  Crypto-pseudo-Libertarian coyly asserting that it can’t be a “right” if it places a burden upon others: delicious fun spanking the monkey ass of someone who cherishes license more than liberty and thinks public health is an unnecessary luxury that poor folks don’t deserve.  No inherent rights?  I agree!  It’s shorthand for the idea that no one person or group inherently deserves less respect or fair treatment than any other individual or group.  No burden upon others?  Easy!  The word “burden” can mean any responsibility, no matter how slight, as well as mean a problematic responsibility that exhausts resources.  A main purpose of society is to do useful things the individual can’t; putting a slight burden on everyone for a significantly useful common purpose (roads, schools, and — whisper it — public health) is not the oppressive type of burden but an obligation that does good for all and harm to none — like a “Good Sam” road rule.  Verdict:   NOT TODAY, SATAN!

5.  Fastidiously polite Saudi man thinks that democracy isn’t All That, that Westerners have a distorted notion of royalty, that a king who owns a country should not have to bend to the will of the people any more than a shop owner should consult the factory schlubs on how to run his business; and that people who have different ways should just be left alone because “they are happy the way they are”.  Agreed that democracy has major problems and that the US has “No More Kings” printed on its DNA from its history with England (and secretly longs to indulge its shameful urge to adore royalty in filial piety).  That said, a nation is its people, unownable, and it is shameful and unjust to govern without consent of the governed.  PS:  “leave them alone, they are happy the way they are” has been used to justify non-interference with all manner of abuse, from domestic violence (“she’d leave if she didn’t like it; it’s not our business to interfere”) to slavery (“look at how happy they were back then, with all their meals and things provided”), so use that idea with care here in the West.  Verdict:  royal subject still thinks kings are awesome if they treat their people well yet does not mind that kings are not obliged to be awesome.

What next, seriously?  I did not expect one do-gooder infographic to inspire so much resistance.  How many Americans think individual freedoms are actually a horrible idea and highly suspect?  I get the Saudi guy, who is a paragon of intersectional privilege, but garden variety poor Americans?  To paraphrase Professor Kirke, what ARE they teaching in schools these days?

Also for the record (Facebook Edition)

I am damned tired of:

Vaguebooking.  Do you want attention or don’t you?  Do you have something to say or not?  This coy bullshit is not clickbait, it’s hate-bait.

Anti-posters.  Pissing all over stuff other people enjoy and hold dear, when that stuff does no direct harm or is not in your personal path, is the mark of a low person.  Feel free to voice your negative-as-hell opinions of Valentine’s Day, religious faith, people who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, or what have you, but maybe save it until people are not in the thick of their happy moment.  It is your right to be churlish, but it shouldn’t be a goal.

Competitive righteousness.  How dare people get upset about stray pets / ebola / whatever when VETERANS (children / stray pets / whatever) are DYING EVERY DAY?  — Look, folks, it’s not a race.  All those things are bad.  People do as much as they can, when they can, for whatever touches their hearts.  It is not unjust or immoral for people not to sit down and rank all the misery in the sick, sad world so they can save it.  You do your part.  Fire up folks for your cause all day.  But don’t piss on people for not having a fit about exactly what you want and when you want it.  Jesus.

Relentless self promotion.  Yeah, it’s still driving me nuts.  Friends with charities and Kickstarters and GoFundMes and all that, sure, fine; I can do it or not.  But boy howdy am I tired of seeing certain folks’ non-stop – – – non – fucking – stop – – – stream of Check Out My Awesome Self.  Looking at your own ass in the mirror all day long and posting about it is what a baboon would do if you gave her a smartphone.  That is a lovely hiney, for sure, but I already got the first hundred memos and more are not needed.  I don’t mind blocking you but I feel guilty ignoring what is so clearly a cry for help.

Relentless bitching.  Again, really non-stop.  And it’s so often bitching about other people.  This is particularly poignant for the folks who spend all day on FB snarling and hissing and then add regular entries about how they can’t find love.  So often the answer is right there in front of you.  Maybe if you weren’t busy staring at your own tush you could see it.

 

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Since noon Friday, thanks to my plague-bearing peers who “can’t miss any more work”, I have had a nasty-mean cold rolling over me.  My throat/neck hasn’t hurt this much since I had mumps at age 29, and no drugs have been able to tame the sweats, chills, head pain, body aches, sinus flares, and swelling in my glands and canals.  Normally I go years without catching the crud in a major way, but I am at a new job with a large population of transient patients and norovirus and megalo-tons of stress and coworkers with little ones and things.  The extremely high stress is just a carnival barker handing out free tickets for disease to invade my bod with impunity but it makes a big difference, I think.

When I moved into this new apartment a few months ago, I decided that no pantry = no excess food.  This plan fails when illness joins the party.  Takeout and delivery has been an ungodly expense offering no nutritional support to fight the sickness and enough sodium to wreak havoc on my systolic.  This no-backup food plan will change as soon as I can crawl out from under this blanket and death march my way to the store.  Saltines, canned soup, frozen vegetables, a backup shaker of Vitamin C…heaven is  where you find it.  Oh, and OTC cold meds that aren’t from the Crimean War.  Those would be lovely too.

And tomorrow I have to go to work.  Jesus god no.  But missing work on a Monday is a major red flag here, and I’m still in my probationary period, and I am hating life.  (Self-care: we are required to preach it but we are constrained not to practice it.)  Weird life preserver:  working for the gubmint means I get Tuesday off to recover.  Hooray?  The balance is that, as a gubmint employee, I will also have to haul my ashes to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  ARE YOU SHITTING ME, GUBMINT?

Break it down:

1.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, in terms of personal preference, but it’s also always been my #1 work holiday since it creates a natural four-day weekend.  Historically, this has made up for being denied days off around so-called “family” holidays because I’m usually one of the only people without children or grandchildren.  Fine, okay — but don’t deny me my goddamn Thanksgiving!

2.  Black Friday?  NO WAY.  I do not don a cute matching mitten-and-hat set to hit the malls and enjoy the crush of humanity taking advantage of retail specials.  Those people (my close family and friends among them) are nuts.  Rage-inducing noise levels, gropers, long lines at Starbucks, rude bitches throwing elbows in the sweater department, young parents using strollers as war chariots?  This is hell on earth.  I like to stay home, nosh on leftovers, sip coffee, and rinse work agita out of my system by reading and napping and pretending the office will be closed for a month.  That snowed-in, bacon-for-breakfast feeling.  But this year I’ll be dodging crazed drivers on their way to Early Bird Sales and hating a day at the office sandwiched between days off.  I know that hospitals and hotels never close, but I bet the patients are tired of me, too.  We could all use a break from each other.

3.  But I’m so very tired generally.  NaNoWriMo has fizzled (got off to a marvelous start, but was derailed by two days crying after discharging a very old person who was heartbroken to be kicked out of The Only Home, bargaining like an eight-year old whose parents are getting a divorce).  I need to clean.  Honey does a lot but if there is something only I care about, then only I can be expected to do it.  Most disappointingly, my diet has fizzled (stress at work: check, low-carb food delivery: no check), and I know the only cure is to get back on the horse.  But the horse is, like, 19 hands high and my short little legs match my T-Rex arms and can’t I just cut myself some slack for once?  I don’t want to *be* slack, I just want not to hate myself for failure.  I know the difference between guilt and shame, and this is hundred-proof shame, straight no chaser.

4.  The diet also fizzled because my morale took a gut punch.  Mom sent me some very cute, very expensive outfits that are waaay too small for me.  The conversation we had about it was really painful.  She was pissed that I was fat, she was pissed that I wasn’t thrilled to get a bunch of clothes I couldn’t wear, she was pissed that I had nowhere to wear them (I wear jeans and tennies in the workplace that involves bodily fluids and physical aggression; I wear shorts and Keds in real life.  I no longer have a life suited to good woolens and delicate blouses and ballet flats); she was pissed that I wasn’t butt-kissingly grateful that she spent a ton of money on clothes that don’t fit my bod or my life even though (a) she knew better and (b) I have been begging her SINCE JUNIOR HIGH not to buy clothes for me. Unlike her, I am a hard size to fit, and I *hate* exchanging clothes; this is a conversation we have had for more than three decades.  She was pissed, full stop, and wanted to fight.  I denied her that pleasure as well.  But I did not relent and change heart and tell her what she wanted to hear.

Which may have been what prompted her to take it to the next level.  She started telling me about how I desperately need a style change and a haircut and so on.  She said that she talked about it with my sister quite a bit.  One recent conversation was about what hair style would suit me, really be good for me.  The answer they came up with? The local weather girl.

I thought this might be interesting, but then I looked her up.  And was floored.  Is this a joke?  She wears one of those bland, lifeless, Sunday-school-teacher style-free cuts that harried young moms get when they give up on looking good.  Lank, limp, lame — it’s an insult to say that ANYONE should wear her hair that way.  It’s like suggesting a brown paper bag over your head as step toward much-needed beautification.  But honestly, step back for a minute.  Sitting around and dissecting the style of someone who is not in the room and then advising her on it?  That is some grade-A Mean Girls shit right there.

Besides, I don’t have money to spend on self-0rnamentation, period.  Even when I was earning a lot more money, I wasn’t spending it on that stuff.  It seemed like a huge waste to blow a couple hundred bucks a month on cosmetic resurfacing when it could go to things like books or gin or rent or retirement.  I used to, but that was a looong time ago, when I still had a quality stylist who would cut, color, and perm my hair for the cost of materials and I used to go dancing every weekend and needed something to wear. My sister has fake hair, teeth, nails, and boobs, and comes home from her long and challenging job to run on the treadmill so she can look good in tight clothes.  I am cool with her doing that and loudly proclaim that she needs no one’s validation to make those choices.  But that’s not the life for me.  It was when I was young, and still craving male approval, still hustling for female envy, still desperate for influence over the men who had so much power over me, and was still cultivating an eating disorder so that I could have control over at least one goddamned part of my life.

It’s true:  I miss looking good in cute clothes.  I miss getting approval for my looks.  And it’s true that I get snarly about being overlooked and put down for my current weight and appearance.  But is catering to shallow people really the answer to my self-esteem issues?  Uhhh, no, not really.  No one’s gaze (‘cept maybe my honey’s) should matter to me, I think, and it really hasn’t for a long time.  But was I ever gutted to hear about my mom and my sis trying to salvage That Ugly Trainwreck, me.

 

More shock: a teenager has snapped again.

Guys, I can’t even.  I *can’t*.

When I was a teenager, there was, for want of a better word, an epidemic of suicides at my high school.  Oh, the shock!  Those poor young people, their whole lives ahead of them!  On and on, the weeping and wailing…with the dark pioneer countryfolk suspicion all around that anyone who can’t handle the cocoon of high school would never have lasted in The Real World where Life is Real Hard.

(The rural identity where I am from, at the place where the northern plains meet the northern Rockies, can be simplified to “the cowards never started and the weak died along the way”.  A lot of adults felt sadness but no pity for kids that weak, because they remember that, at the same age, they were about to be shipped off to Vietnam or Korea or France or Belgium — folks where I’m from live a long piece — or that they were about to spend long war years scratching it alone with little ones.  What in hell makes people give up before the real battle begins?)

Well, I was in high school, and I knew.  I could have told them, but they didn’t ask. And it was before the internet, so my voice went as far as my journal and my loved ones.  Lest ye forget:

Small children have to face small challenges successfully or they will not be prepared for the larger challenges they will face as larger children.  Mastery of those small things will give them confidence to tackle bigger things.  If they are not afforded small challenges, their stunted problem solving abilities will sabotage their ability to care for themselves as adults.

If they do not learn to tolerate distress when they are little, they will not be able to tolerate distress when they are big.  And they will have more powerful expressions of that intolerable distress.

When I was a kid, I learned how to build a fire, manage a fire, extinguish a fire, and what to do if the fire went out of control.  My next sibling was taught that matches are dangerous and never to touch them.  Who is safer?  Who is more confident?  Who is better protected from this hazard and better prepared to face it?  The kid who has been guided, taught, supervised, and exposed to consequences.

Well, guess what?  Social situations are no different.  Anyone who thinks kids don’t need manners doesn’t understand that, among other things, good manners give a kid tools to maintain poise and self-mastery when in uncertain social waters.  Train your kids, test your kids, support your kids. Don’t shield them from awkward or challenging situations, or from difference in peers, or from threats.  Better a kid should face those challenges under a loving wing as a little one than after age 12 or so, when peers have more weight than parents.

I am sad for those quiet kids who grew up in the deep country who couldn’t handle switching from a school of ten kids in eight grades to a three-year county high school with 1500 kids.  I am sad for the Queen Bees of the country schools who turned into little fish in a large pond.  I am sad for kids like me, who turned to voracious overachievers in the struggle to stay afloat, tying our personal value to grades.  Because we were the kids who punished ourselves by not eating for three days when there was an A- paper instead of an A; we were the kids who begged for plastic surgery at age 14; we were the kids who kept the car running in the garage when the folks were at the Elks for the evening and never woke up the next day.  We matter just as much as the kid who took a gun to school.  But if that kid had stayed home and simply taken himself out, the act would have been too common to care.

Venn Diagram: Sluts and Feminists and Feminist Sluts

Separate intro problem for contrast:  powerful women who think “feminist” is a dirty word. 

On one hand, we have the Susan Sarandon / Madonna contingent who like Wendy Wasserstein’s preference for the term “humanist” instead of “feminist”.  This term sounds more inclusive, is ungendered, and is congruent with my own feminism, which is against all oppression, not only the oppression of women.  While I respect their choice, it has the flavor of white privilege and echoes the problem of being “color blind” to race.  “I don’t see people as having color” = “I don’t have to acknowledge the problems faced by people of color”.  “Rather than fighting against women’s problems, I fight against humanity’s problems” seems to equal, “Women and girls face no special problems in this world,” — a laughable fiction.  The more empowering non-feminist feminist term might be Alice Walker’s identification as a womanist.

Weak tea, ladies.

On the other hand, we have conservatives such as Michele Bachmann and Michelle Gellar, who are happy to have privileges hard-won by self-identified feminists (college degrees, the right to vote, the right to equal opportunity employment, etc.,) but would never stand with the women who fought for their rights.  “OOH ICKY, heck no, I would never call myself a feminist!  It’s so pushy and aggressive and doesn’t acknowledge the importance of men”, usually in God’s Plan.  (These women are my sisters but lordy, they are trapped in their thinking.)  The “lite” version are people like Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry, who don’t seem to know anything about feminism.  Believing women can be strong and still wanting to play traditional gender roles in their personal relationships have zero-nil-nit-swabo-nada-nothing to do with feminism, but someone apparently told them they couldn’t be feminists and let their dates buy them dinner.

To quote Handy from “The Tick”: READ A BOOK!

(On that mythical third hand, the gripping hand, the stunted mental tentacle, we have people such as Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative party monster who worked hard to kill the Equal Rights Amendment — how unAmerican to want civil equality! — and is kept hidden in the GOP attic because she is two things the party hates in women:  smart and ugly.  Fox Republic likes women who are pretty and stupid.  While Mrs. Schlafly is a roaring hypocrite, being an educated divorcee who has had an abortion who fights to keep other women from having the opportunities she enjoyed, she is not stupid.  Evil, yes; stupid, no.)

Look at all the people who are not feminists!

Who DOES identify as feminist?  (And perhaps should not?)

Certain dudes.  I live in the Pacific Northwest, which is home to a lot of passive aggression hiding behind non-confrontation and masquerading as good manners.  There are a lot of guys here who seem sweet and friendly and positive and supportive and nurturing, but only because they have been socialized to appear that way.  In relationships, they are sneering, demanding, angry, resentful babies when faced with the most minimal life demands, but in public, they are sleek and smooth and good little boys.  Oh, these middle class folks and their love of appearances!  Part of this is calling themselves feminists. They might be the dudes of random hygiene and baby dreds, or they might be the neckties at Tektronix who smoke dope on the weekends.  Either way, when you scratch their feminism, you get “hey, I never said we were monogamous just because we’ve lived together for six years; you’re a feminist, you shouldn’t be trying to chain me down”, and a wife who also works full time but does almost all the chores, childcare, and shopping.  Her last name is hyphenated; his is not.

Certain women.  As tepid as the Katy Perrys and Kelly Clarksons, but just this side of the divide.  “Well, sure, I’m a feminist.  I mean, I guess.  I wouldn’t NOT be a feminist.  But I do shave my legs and wear makeup and stuff.  And I’m straight (not that there is anything wrong with NOT being straight).  And my husband, he’s a feminist too, at least he calls himself one.  But, yeah, my husband always drives and stuff.  He gets carsick if he’s not the driver, which I get, because that happens to me too.”  She’s married to the guy at Tektronix.  And she feels in control of her life because she chose to knuckle under.  Real strength lies in flexibility, right?  It’s the sort of flexibility that allows her to cleave unto her husband’s interests (the beer she does not like, the sports she never played, the hobby she tries hard to share) but not mind, not really, that he has never made an effort to see what she sees in the things that thrill her.  Her early married life involves convincing herself she’s not a doormat and that her husband’s boots aren’t that muddy, anyway.  Common life paths:  being traded in for a younger model when the paterfamilias hits man-o-pause; slowly growing a spine and holding her own (so long as she doesn’t leave Nice Village, because that would mean giving up her Nice House and moving to Divorcetown); and/or eroding into a conservative out of isolation from youth and fear of change.

(Aside:  aging so often leads to an unhealthy preoccupation with self, really a tunnel vision focusing on self, that people celebrate as “finally becoming independent” and “taking control of my life” and all kinds of other self-petting BS.  A lifetime of social skills are slowly replaced by selfishness and a demanding nature and an I’m-too-old-to-give-a-shit-you-can’t-make-me attitude.  It is possible to cultivate wisdom, patience, grace, and a generous heart; I’m not saying these folks aren’t out there.  But the voice of the zeitgeist for the next generations is one of a petty egomaniac.)

Yeah, but what about the sluts?  You promised us sluts!

And sluts you shall have, my pretties.  But first, let me say that the word “slut” is used here as a social type and should not be construed as an insult.  Mentally substitute “Bad Girl” or “Libertine” or whatever, so long as there is an implication of visibility, aggressive sexuality, and extroversion in non-mainstream ways.  This is not a meaningful identifier.  As a label, it’s about as value-descriptive as a sticker that says HI MY NAME IS:_____.

Since you don’t know me, let me add that I have nothing against wild styles, wild behavior, or any degree of promiscuity.  I know you can sleep with a passel of folks and still be as sacred in your person as the Virgin Mary, still be as sweet and good-hearted as Snow White.  Nor do I have anything against women who dress and comport themselves like two-peso whores, strictly because those whores can be wonderful people too, and clothes themselves do not possess, impart, or deny morality.   You can have a dirty mind and work your body like a rubber ball and still have a solid-gold character (as explained in the Song of Saint Rizzo, the Book of Grease, Act IV).

What is in your underwear, and what you do with it, does not make you a person of moral refinement OR moral depravity.  Period. This is part of my feminism: that virginity is a social construct, that most moral codes are keys to the commodification of women and girls, that the double standard for men works against both men and women, and that men are also deeply harmed by patriarcho-religious BS.  We’re all victims here.  That said:  the problems of men and women are not equal.  Men have more physical power and more socioeconomic power.  While males are more prone to stunted emotional expression and a twisted sense of entitlement, females are more prone to being victims of violence, loss of franchise, physical disfigurement, and other, harsher penalties.

One of those penalties is for sexual freedom.  The main argument for mutilating the genitals of girls at puberty, in the many countries where it occurs, is to deprive females of sexual pleasure.  Whether that pleasure is undeserved, or makes them rival men, or whatever, the ultimate problem is that it is a threat to the social dominance of men.  It keeps women “pure” (a purity that men don’t seem to need), whether that is to make them good mothers, to atone for the sin of Eve, or to keep them submissive to the proper authority of men and worthy of wifehood.  Consider issues of clothing modesty, social judgment, the blaming of rape victims by other women, and other typical problems in Western culture.  American government traditions were begun by Puritans in the northeast, and eventually our nation’s capitol was raised in this center.  Those values were adopted wholesale and passed down through law and culture.  And they stink.

Burlesque artists, dominatrices, sex workers, strippers, “artist’s models”, and feminism.

The goods at last!  Recently an article by Lizzie Crocker at The Daily Beast presented Karley Sciortino as a case and asked if she was the new face of feminism.  Karley Sciortino has a blog called “Slutever”, which involves sexually provocative activities and sly commentary; she is not my concern here.  My concern is the question: is she the new face of feminism?  The answer is an easy “no”, for me.  My comment on the post:

“Being free to behave as you wish is the result of feminism, not an act in support of it, in my opinion.  There are many types of feminism.  Mine has very little in common with hers — so little that it’s impossible to compare them.  But the word still has some meaning, and calling yourself a feminist when you encourage the worst problem women face doesn’t work.  I fully support her right to express herself and present herself as she wishes.  But is it a specifically feminist act to cater to the oppressor?  Not so much, no.

“It’s true that my wave of feminists tends to see sexually aggressive / open females as heading back to the pedestal/gutter binary we fought to destroy.  Her generation is free to behave in a hypersexual way, but honestly, women have always been free to do that because men were in power, and men enjoyed it.  Men still are and men still do and still keep women in the binary cage because of it.  It’s challenging to support behavior that feeds the beast, you know?”

I have had friends in all the categories of the section header, and most of them consider themselves feminists.  Dressing provocatively, twerking and twirling, selling your services — all that and more — do not prevent you from wanting or deserving social equality.  And I fully acknowledge that no feminist has to conform to my wave of feminism, which was (sometimes stupidly) preoccupied with gaining the respect of the oppressor.  (It’s not stupid when you are convincing those in power to share it; that’s being smart for the cause.) Part of that respect involved continuing to conform to a the Modern Puritan Establishment standard, for some people; burning bras, but wearing turtlenecks, even if what we wanted was to go barechested in the summer heat, as men do.  And for others, it meant taking advantage of new-won sexual freedom by engaging in more sex than we really wanted, or with people we didn’t really like, to exert our power to do so — it’s hard to say “no” when you’ve only just won the right to say “yes” — but we had yet to learn that we had the power to say “no”, too.  It was a hard time if you were not a libertine, but a good time if you were ready to fight for your rights.

You can march to the White House in glitter paint and pasties, but if you are not marching, you are not the face of feminism.  The new generation does not have a goddamned clue what it was like to have to wear skirts to work, get sent home for not wearing a slip or pantyhose, lose custody of children for dating after a divorce, be refused the right to divorce without proof of infidelity, or have no legal recourse after blatant sexual harassment on the job, and a thousand other atrocities.  That’s part of what allows them to think feminism is a dirty word.  But while feminism has earned women the freedom to dress as they will and not bow to the desire to earn the pseudo-respect of Decent People™, it’s not a feminist act to conform to the expectations mainstream society has for Sluts while asking for nothing better.

Most of the body workers I know either live solely in society’s gutter or they maintain rigorous separation of identities so that they don’t lose their day jobs.  Living in the closet is not a feminist act.  But feminism one day might get you out of the closet.  Stripping, strutting, and selling it are fine.  But they aren’t feminist acts.  If you’d like to merge your worlds, work for social justice.  Take a stand and come out of the slut closet.  But do not assume that showing the world your cooch is a blow for justice.  It might make you feel in control of your body, and that is a wonderful thing.  But is it knocking down stereotypes, opening doors to insight, helping mainstream society learn (or demanding that they acknowledge) that women have value beyond what they keep in their panties?  No.  It is not.

 

 

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye, Debating Young Earth Creationism versus Evolution

There is a huge mistake debating this topic:  it implies that there are two equally valid sides.  It implies that there is a debate that can elevate understanding.  We need to fight back against the Michele Bachmanns of the world, and the Texas textbook conspirators, but we must not proceed from the position that there are two sides here.  There is science, and there are fairy tales.

Let me add that I respect the right of any individual to believe as he will.  If you have a deep inner conviction that there are ghosts or gods or gnomes in the garden, I will defend your right to do so.  But you don’t get to teach it in schools or dismiss the work of scholars based on your feelings.  (NB:  vintage, poorly edited fanfic such as the Bible is not valid support for those feelings.)

The nub of the gist:  there is no point debating faith versus science because there is no overlap.  Faith is of the heart and science is of the brain.  If you fall in love with the meth addict who runs the Tilt-O-Whirl and bring him home to your folks, they will say he’s dangerous because he uses hard drugs and is just passing through town.  You will scream that they don’t know him like you know him, and that it doesn’t matter anyway because you luuuuurve him.

And you would both be right.  But either way, in six months you’re going to be living in a van and pumping gas until the baby comes, because chances are good you don’t believe in contraception or abortion, and your parents endorse those opinions but won’t keep a sinner under their roof.