Category Archives: Wimmen and Men and like det


[Caveat lector: This is a small and rubbery slice of a large and tender topic. If you can’t courteously and thoughtfully stay on my topic, I totally understand — it’s a toughie — but I am invoking the Gitcher Own Damn Blog Rule in advance. ]

So:  lately I have seen a lot of women exhorting men to STOP if the woman you are pursuing is sending mixed signals, because it’s monstrous to be with someone who is checked out of her body and not care, and if she is scared and sad, it’s not okay to have sex with her.

On the face, I get it: pay attention to those mixed signals.  If things aren’t full speed ahead, don’t go there.  Some say, at this point, “It’s not fun or worthwhile for either of you,” some say, “that’s where rape begins — not with lack of consent, but lack of wholehearted consent.”

I hesitate to disagree as loudly and firmly as I would like, since I already feel alienated from young feminists and would like to strengthen those ties rather than weaken them.  But there are so many reasons I disagree with that line of thinking, or that it invalidates my own experiences.

1. Don’t Interpret Me.  Let Me Do That.

Telling a guy not to take me at face value, but to interpret me and think he knows better than I do, is insulting as hell.  Don’t train men to patronize us, please; there is too much of that already.

2. Don’t Expect Me To Be Of One Mind About ANYTHING

I was sexually abused as a child.  There was physical and emotional abuse in the same milieu.  In order to parse out my feelings and where I stood, to derive a sense of body ownership and control, to learn to enjoy sex and move independently of my trauma, I went through a long period of having sex with people I did not have relationships with, some of whom I barely knew.  It wasn’t always easy, fun, or pleasant, but it was always profound, important, educational — I learned from it and took it to heart.  The regrets and pangs and bittersweet moments were all learning opportunities.  Mostly it was a blast, to be honest.  What I learned could only have had the value it did in the context of broad experience and taking risks, choosing to have some dodgy sexual experiences (or having some sexual interactions with a higher ambivalence quotient) simply to have them.  For science, yes; but also to follow my inner demons down their rabbit hole, to test out the stuff they whispered in my ear.  I had to do it for myself.  But any dude going into that experience with me, had he listened to the modern feminist chorus, would have run screaming, and I would not have had those chances to work out my ya-yas, would not have had those chances to experience loving generosity with near strangers who may still have fond recall of a grinning girl, glad to be grabbed, with or without the shadow behind her eyes.

3. Don’t Ask Me To Hide My Ambivalence & Mixed Feelings

Having to hide how I really feel in order to meet your excruciating consent standard isn’t just ironic, it’s absurd.

But there is also the fact that getting-to-know-you sex can be deliciously thrilling due to emotional exposure — honest needs and vulnerabilities, showing and trusting, being trusted with someone else’s raw fears and needs, feeling protected and protective, feeling that collaborative joy, or even feeling the delicate sense of exposure and discovery — including some fear / sadness / ambivalence, some acknowledgment of the same in the other person.  Just because you are a raging horndog doesn’t mean you run free from all shame, sadness, guilt, whatever.  But saying DON’T DO IT IF IT’S NOT FREE OF THOSE UNSIGHTLY EMOTIONS is to deny any sex that isn’t flawlessly perfect between flawlessly perfect people.  Which I am not, will never be, and do not wish to be.  Honest intimacy must admit imperfection.

You might think Barbie and Ken in their pink plastic Hilton represent the acme of human decadence, but the real juju comes from humping on a pile of our collective emotional baggage, and keeping each other safe as we go.

4.  Let Me Own My Mistakes; Don’t Take Consent Out Of My Hands By Making It All On Him

There is a profound difference between being raped and making a decision you regret:  consent.  If I go into sex with doubts and misgivings, and end up having regrets, I learn from that and act accordingly.  If I am taught that my dance of ambivalence ended in regret and that equals rape, then consent is out of my hands, and HE should have known better (known me better than I know myself!) and I have no agency.  Unless you are perfect, freedom means making mistakes and living with the results.

I know we all feel we *have* to be perfect — some quadrants of feminism (not my own, obviously) demand perfection, and that’s a pretty raw place — but I would argue that’s a holdover from the madonna-whore/pedestal-gutter dichotomy and should be discontinued.

5. This All Changes In Relationships

My many one-night stands were lovely.  No emotional demands, but some lovely emotional dividends; sincere effort; cheerful greed; and better or worse manners, noted and forgotten, with no lasting impact other than pleasant memories.  Consent in brief clashes is great collaboration, like splitting a bottle with the next table in a restaurant.  Consent in ongoing monogamous relationships has multiple layers.  There is the assumption that, because we are monogamous, we only have each other as a sexual outlet and must always or almost always say yes.  That if we say yes, it must be to everything.  That if I have reservations, you must feel their burden, or at least care about the burden I feel.  That sex has to happen with a certain frequency Or Else We Fail As A Couple.  On and on.

This topic is uncomfortable to me, and I don’t particularly want to talk about it.  But the fact is, I had a boyfriend in and after college who made me cry at least once per day, usually when we were having sex, which we did every day.  He later figured out he had a personality disorder that made him abusive and controlling, especially in sexual contexts, but that didn’t help when we were together.  He was also a serial cheater. But when I hear women exhorting men to stop pushing for sex if you see her struggling with guilt / shame / fear / sadness under the superficial acquiescence, I would rephrase it as a plea for empathy, as well as practical advice:

You Might Not Want To Make Her Hate Sex With You.


House Rules: Morning

  1.  Who gets up first makes the coffee.
  2. Who gets up last makes the bed.
  3. Exceptions:  if your other feels crummy or ill or had a bad day or hard night before, don’t ask — just do both.  No complaints.  This is caring for each other.
  4. Exceptions:  if you feel languid and enjoyably indifferent — ON OCCASION — to the social compact of bed-making, the other party can make the bed this once without shouting a bitch-storm.  After all, that person would be doing both if that person were living alone.
  5. Keeping in mind Rule 4:  some folks (such as yours truly) get antsy if the bed goes too long unmade, while others feel the rule has been appropriately observed if the bed gets made (a) before we leave the house, (b) before noon, or (c) during the clean-up-and-face-the-day process, whenever that might be.  If I can’t handle the bedmaker’s timeline for performance, I need to make the bed (without bitching) to soothe myself.
  6. Do not make the coffee until there is a reasonable expectation of wakefulness on the part of all parties, or someone will be punished for healthy sleep with old java.
  7. Exception:  what time is it?  If there is no arrangement to let the person sleep no later than X-hour, let the person sleep, and if the hour grows late, make coffee.  Make half the usual amount, if you need to, but the social compact is not designed to force you to live a caffeine-free existence while someone gets beauty sleep.
  8. Puttering vs. non-puttering (verbal and physical).  Respect each other.  If you jump out of bed like a nervous gazelle and need to get all your chores done before breakfast, that’s fine, but can you use earbuds?  If you live with someone whose waking process involves a time-lapse of human evolution, chances are good that Alley Oop doesn’t want “Walking On Sunshine” bouncing off his mental tentacle and won’t for some time.   But slow risers need to respect the early birds, the cheerful risers, the hard-working springbok pinballing around the house, for lo, they are the bitches who get shit done and have the rest of the day to chill.  Why make chores last longer than they have to?  If you’re that slow to wake, maybe stay in bed.  Chances are good that you will wake to a clean house, a special breakfast, a fun plan for the day, and something nice in the slow-cooker for later.
  9. And coffee.
  10. And all you have to do is make the damn bed.

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.



The PC Movement

There is a great if horrifying post on elder rape today over at the Daily Beast, and as always, there are horrifying comments.  Like that judge in Arizona who found a cop guilty of sexual assault, but chided the victim for having gone to a bar (“if you hadn’t been there, it never would have happened”) and said that she hoped the victim “learned something from all this,” there are a large number of commenters who are loudly disagreeing with the statement that “rape isn’t about sex, it’s about violence.”

Jaw on the floor, I read comment after comment saying that this statement is untrue, that it’s just “feminist dogma”, that it’s not rape if it’s not violent and forcible, that sometimes, yeah, it IS about sex.

Doesn’t that make you wonder about the “dating history” of a person who would say such a thing?

And then the inevitable bitching and moaning about the PC movement.

Well, guess what, sports fans?  We never would have needed a PC movement if it hadn’t been for ignorant jerks who might loudly vaunt Good Old-Fashioned Family Values, but behave and speak in a thoroughly ungentlemanly fashion, denigrating people for their differences and choosing rapists over their victims.

So every time a feminist irks you, keep in mind that the dittoheads of the world are to blame.

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On abortion, especially in cases of rape, incest, etc.

“Horrid circumstances” have nothing to do with whether or not abortion is acceptable. Nor does the inherent idea that the mother must have done everything in her power to avoid pregnancy.

The left don’t feel comfortable discussing the boundaries of ethical abortion too much, since the right uses that boundary to argue that all abortion is wrong. Even so, there are those on the right who admit that there are times when abortion seems inarguably appropriate — and therefore abortion isn’t 100% immoral.

But the “horrid circumstances” rule only clouds the issue. Whether abortion is always okay (within ethical limits such as viability) or it’s always murder (just like a two-day late period is a miscarriage) (sorry, but those folks are idiots) — that determination has nothing to do with the circumstances of the origination of the pregnancy.

Folks, get over yourselves! Read some books (the kinds with facts, not shouting) and keep in mind that if it’s not your body, it’s not your business. Let the law reflect it.


Since the Democrats have dropped the word “rare” from their classic abortion litany (“it should be safe, legal, and rare”) some folks, even Eleanor Clift, are wondering if the Dems have gone too far.  In her Daily Beast piece this morning, she said the Dems might be unwisely pushing the envelope.  You already have the base; why alienate the centrists?

I love Eleanor (gee-I-think-you’re-swell-anor), but is she kidding?

The GOP have pushed abortion/contraception issues out of the stratosphere, with personhood bills for lentil-sized blobs, trying to lay murder charges on women who miscarry, and even dating pregnancy to the previous period — essentially making you pregnant before you might have even had sex.

After all that, nothing the Democrats do to defend a woman’s right to control her own body can be called “pushing the envelope.”

The idea of forcing a woman to remain pregnant against her will is not compatible with a free society.  We’re not incubators who have no ownership of our bodies, nor slaves who can be bred like livestock.

And babies are not punishment for having sex.  The anti-science of the Right, which as a party plank in many states wants to deny high schoolers education in reproductive biology (as well as many other critical scientific ideas which don’t align with their misguided religious beliefs, which they are free to have but not smart to have), cannot have it both ways.

You can’t bullshit people using pseudo-scientific language that a teensy blob of human cookie dough has rights that supersede those of the grown woman — or immature girl — who houses it.  You cannot deny high schoolers the facts about their own bodies, prevent them from obtaining condoms and the Pill, and then punish them for not having blindly obeyed you in your insistence that abstinence is the only acceptable form of birth control.

Be honest, Texas Republicans.    A lot of your women had pregnancy scares.  A good number of them had abortions, back when it was legal and unobstructed, and thanked God for it.  A lot of your men abandoned the women they knocked up.  And a lot of folks got married young, with white shotguns on both sides.  Don’t lie to yourselves about what teens do.  Don’t hypocritically deny your young people rights you exercised.

And don’t try to assuage your own guilt about having had premarital sex, out-of-wedlock babies, or even abortions by “saving” young people from making the mistakes you made.  Grow up, little britches.  Accommodate reality rather than pretending that married women, religious women, and people who used birth control don’t get abortions.  Or need them.

You know darned well that Plan B and early-term abortions are not murdering babies.  All you are doing is cultivating a wedge issue in people who might vote for the other team if they took their eyes off the non-government problem of unwanted pregnancy and glanced for a moment at the real problems of the economy and unemployment.  These are complicated issues on which good folk disagree.  How bright of you to take away people’s facts, and whip up their emotions, on an issue that solves none of the real problems America is facing — and which her government might solve.

But thinking about the economy instead of teensy little baby bones might lead folks to vote for the other team, and you can’t have that, now, can you ? 

And hey, not that you care, but forcing a woman to bear a child she doesn’t want, or can’t afford, puts another real person into the world.  A little kid you insisted be brought into the world, which you have denied food, medicine, and shelter.

As Helen Lovejoy said, “Won’t someone *please* think of the children?”  The Republicans sure as hell are not.

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New perfume, old memories.

One of my vices is scent. I love to smell things and taste them. My lovely husband has been exasperated by my habit of wanting to share it all, too, no matter how bad. “This smells awful! Here, smell it!” (Same goes for food. “This tastes vile! Here, try it!”)  Other girls present would, of course, sniff or taste, so they could either agree (“God, you’re right, that’s disgusting!”) or disagree (“No, you know, it’s not that bad.  Don’t think of it as gym sock-y, think of it as Roquefort compatible.”)  The pleasure of analysis and sharing opinions and sniffing and tasting is not the exclusive domain of the female, but the only people I’ve known who relished the smells of gasoline, nail polish remover, or a wee touch of skunk were women.

Perhaps this is a survival trait for the sex historically more likely to prepare food (is that ergot in the grain?), treat wounds (is that gas gangrene?), and care for the young (does the baby need changing?) — especially from days when we didn’t have refrigerators, microscopes, or sterilizers — but here in the modern era, it’s mostly just a rich sense for enjoyment.  And it evokes strong memories.

Backstory:  a few weeks ago, I won an auction on eBay for a limited edition fragrance from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a bottle of Sugar Cookie (“The Devil’s Bakesale”), mostly for the benefit of the aforementioned husband, who is mad for sweet vanilla.  (Sadly, it’s more snickerdoodly than sugar cookie-ish, and while I love the cinnamon aspect, it just reminds him of a loathsome ex’s habit of chewing Big Red gum to cover her loathsome smoking.)  But the seller graciously included two delicious samples from another purveyor of fine stinkum called Possets.  The website seemed legit and the perfumer well-credentialed, so I ordered a sample pack.  But after a two days of wearing one of the samples I already had, called Cadmium Red, I turned around and ordered a whole bottle.

Aside:  the Possets theme is closer to the medieval, which is more my milieu than the gothic, which BPAL utterly owns.  And which I enjoy.  But the BPAL ad copy is richly evocative and sensual, the Possets blurbs are…not so much.  I don’t know if it’s because the Très Riches Heures (truly Gothic, ironically) is more arid fare than the Cthulu Mythos, or just that BPAL footsteps are giant, but I wanted to offer my services.  I would have, if I had had any meaningful experience or was qualified in any way to do so.  All I knew was that this fragrance that I loved, and its cool name, were not captured by phrases describing car finishes, nail polish, and high concepts.  Those things don’t smell anything like this wonderful fragrance.

To me, it smells like my happiest memories of the 80s.  It takes me right back.

Specifically to the back seat of my friend Danny’s car. He never uttered a romantic peep my way, but seemed to enjoy having a friend-girl who deeply dug music, cars, and performance audio. Danny didn’t just install car stereos for a living, he made his own custom speakers, and would drive around with me in the back seat.  It being the 80s, he drove a souped up red Firebird with a white leather interior. It being the 80s, I was always made up like a peacock, with tight skirt, long nails, and nylons, high black heels and big blonde hair,  tousled, teased, and golden. I’d sit right in the middle of the back seat, close my eyes, and let the music pound through me.  Country roads, long after midnight, are the darkest places in the world, but the white leather seats gathered moonlight and glowed.

Danny would eventually loop back, and we would stop for coffee and a baked apple dumpling at the 24 hour diner on the outskirts of town. Afterward, I’d sit in the front seat on the way home, buzzing with caffeine and spiced honey, cozy in the warm white leather, but tingling.  Even summer nights that far north are cool, and the breeze from the open window pulled a low-grade electrical current through my skin.  We never talked much on the final leg of the trip, but we smiled a lot.  Danny’s hair was as white as those leather seats, but his eyes were the truest blue.

I feel obliged to salute Danny, after all these years, and blow him a kiss across the decades.  He died later that year, while I was back at university.  He was working under his car in the back yard, and it slipped off the jack and crushed him.  His only sister had died a few years earlier.  I had known her in school, everyone had.  She had been the star in every play, choir soloist, debate captain when I was on the speech team.  I remember her well.  Debbie went to Georgetown on a scholarship, and died in a car accident on a cloverleaf exit in D.C.  She was dark-haired, with high coloring, and very vivacious; really the complete opposite of Danny, who was quiet, pale, and strong.  But they both had those cornflower blue eyes.  And I will never forget how beautiful I felt with Danny, in our 80s finery, his rich red sports car, and my youth.

Maybe the Possets ad was right after all.

The Chambered Nautilus and Rush Limbaugh

I’ve had a hard time coming out of my shell lately.  Like some of my friends (three that are known to me, but there could be more who cope the same way I do, by self-quarantine), I have been Having Emotions lately.  Hormones?  It’s possible.  At least two of us are in menstrual lockstep.  Sunspots / storms / wrath of Helios?  Who knows.  It might just be Churchill’s black dog.  But poor sleep, bad dreams, nameless dread, and hot-and-cold-running tears are tiresome.  Instead of getting up with Honey to pack his lunch and make him a protein shake and see him to the door (as one does when one is unemployed), I slept.  And he let me.  Dear man.

Which brings me to El Rushbo.

No need to harp on his latest misbehavior, which is egregious; or the damned poor reasoning behind being both anti-contraception AND anti-choice; or the many other differences in our opinions, which are well known to all my friends, family, and passersby within range of my cracked contralto.

What is filtering down to me right now is that Rush and his ilk are widening the rift between men and women.  Whether or not you agree with his politics, Rush is deliberately leading his male viewers to a place in which women are evil.   He may well be leading his female listeners to that same vantage point, even if they only cheer as the men fling shit on the all the women who don’t agree; but in his world, there are sides to take, and they are taking the side of men.

I don’t want to take sides.  I like men.  Aside from my primarily hetero inclinations, I have often gotten along better with men than with women.  Women are wonderful, but the main brands of BS laid on them often make me uncomfortable — they are traits too familiar, too painful, to easy to reacquire after painstaking effort to subvert.  The brands of BS inculcated in growing boys are utterly different from the misery I shared with the ladies, and so are easier for me to identify, acknowledge, dismiss, soothe, get along with at need, and even help undo.  Being able to offer understanding and acceptance, despite the minefields planted in a guy’s youth, is wonderful.  Guys who can do that for women are treasures as rare as the hair of a dragon.

Men and women have wonders to offer each other.  Healing.  Support, without taint of comparison, competition, or judgment.

Straight or gay or traveller, someone who is fundamentally dissimilar to you has the welcome advantage of not having been held to the same BS standards.  Even if we know the friend understands the problem from afar, there will be no mortification by your failure to fit the shared mold that a same-sex friend might have.  This is only one example of the many great collaborations between men and women.  It doesn’t matter if they are gay or straight, and they don’t have to be lovers, or coworkers, or even close friends.

But they do have to be on the same side.  I hate to see antagonism between the sexes.  The accidental misery that occurs when a good surface match turns into a hellish couplehood is bad enough, and the compound misery of closet assholes and crypto-swine (female and male alike) are more than sufficient roadblocks to joy.  Why make things worse?  Shakespeare needed Iago as a device in a play.  Who in hell tries to be Iago in real life?

I’ve known a few firestarters, and they are despicable.  Rush is no different to me.  Men and women have a lot of obstacles in their path.  Why make things harder?   Can a man really experience a joyful union with someone he either views as evil (by virtue of her strengths!) or good, but only if she pours herself into the Stepford mold, and trims away the rest?  Can a woman love a man, any man or all men, if she can only do it from a small pigeonhole, and only if she is not herself?  They grow to fear and resent the other sex, dismissing them altogether, through their own experiences, aggravated by loudmouths who are bent on dividing the sexes.  It’s horrible.  How can that benefit women OR men?

We rely on each other to some extent.  All men are brothers, as are we your sisters.  How can we help each other be our best selves?

Here is some Oliver Wendell Holmes:

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

— and back I go, to my shell.

Forgiveness, and the wanting of it

Another angle on the matter of forgiveness:  craving it for yourself, and why I have mixed feelings about absolution.

When I was a skinny young blonde thang, I had a cruel streak where boys were concerned.  The goal at the top of my mind was to make them happy, make them feel strong and confident.  Even if they didn’t care for me or what I was shaking, I figure that it’s like leaving the campground in better shape than you found it.  I was already seeing the effects of boys who had been treated poorly by girls in junior high turning into cruel woman-haters by high school.  It occurred to me that boosting male morale wherever I found it would be a benefit to girls everywhere, and might add lusters to my own Boy Scout badge.

My favorite guys to shower with admiration were geeks, and those who looked like geeks.  Wisecracking boys with big brains and scrawny bods.  The admiration was honest.  There was nothing like an “A” in Physics to carbonate my hormones — and I had been out with a few gorgeous meatheads who never had had to cultivate what might be euphemized as a large hat size.  So it was a natural inclination on my part, but I did try to go out of my way to pay attention to the overlooked guys who seemed as if they had something going on.  Not many had received direct gazes and slow smiles from skinny blondes who didn’t need help with their homework, and some of them stood a little taller after getting a grace note from a pretty girl.  I tried to pick only good guys who didn’t have the permanent resentful sulk some perpetually underrated people developed.

So whence the cruel streak?  It was because I used to be a plain Jane in ugly clothes with a few extra pounds and an earnest, doormat demeanor.  All guys ignored me, even the geeky ones.  But between junior high and high school, I determined that I would make my last few years before college memorable and enjoyable.  So I lost 15 pounds, which I definitely need to lose, plus another 15 that I couldn’t really afford.  I asked my mom’s cousin, a hairdresser, to bleach my hair and perm it large.  For the first time ever, I spent my birthday money on something other than books:  clothes, makeup, jewelry, and perfume.  And I cultivated self-control, in action and reaction, with a constant awareness of how I would be perceived.

I had the best teachers:  Bette Davis, Rosalind Russell, Myrna Loy, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn.  Not to mention Dorothy Parker, S.J. Perelman, Jack Benny, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Groucho Marx.  Always look good, always play to the room, be able to seduce or dismiss with a glance, and never let them see you sweat.  Smile.  Be a glad girl, as Pollyanna was, and everyone will be glad to be around you.  Be self-deprecating, and take nothing too seriously.  On and on.

It wasn’t fake, not really; it was all the me I wanted to be, and trusted myself to become.  And I was.  But it was such a severely bowdlerized version of me, edited for content and compressed for time, that I became unconsciously bitter and eventually very lonely.  I wasn’t accepted for who I was, so I edited myself, and became accepted — but not for me; only for That Girl.  So fuck alla y’all.  You don’t have time for the chubby girl with the mouse-brown hair and the blitzwits?  I’ll be a skinny blonde who perpetually laughs.  I will try to love on the male versions of myself before the change, and eventually despise them for not having liked me when I was one of them.

This occasionally led to making dates with more than one boy at once, and requiring them both to hang out in my dressing room (a spare bedroom with a vanity and extra seating) while I swanned around in my paisley bathrobe, making frothy conversation with both of them while I got ready, each of them wondering which one would get to go out with me.  Sometimes a girlfriend would help with this, and each guy would be thinking the other was going to be paired with the friend for a double date.  Sometimes, the friend and I would double team a single guy, which led him down the wrong path, for which crime we would torment him even more.  On and on.

Eventually I decided it was hogwash, unfair, that I had to grow up and be a man, if you will.  It was a hard year for a lot of reasons, and being a decent person required masterful effort sometimes.  But I didn’t want to be a fritterhead for the rest of my life; I wanted to be a mensch.  During my junior year of college, I came downstairs in my p.j.’s and sat at the breakfast table with a bunch of my roommates and their friends.  I realized that I was wearing a nightgown my high school sweetheart (who became my college albatross) bought for another girl while he was cheating on me with her — it was too small for the Other Woman and non-returnable, so he gave it to me; naturally I didn’t know the backstory at the time I received the lovely and expensive gift, but there I was, wearing it, at a table where he and she both were guests.  Also present were my live-in boyfriend and the girl he was cheating on me with, who was pretending to be my best buddy while he was goosing her under the table.  Across from me was the sweet but spoiled roommate who referred to me as a slut behind my back, but was always coming on to me when no one was around…and his girlfriend, who also thought I was a slut, and thought I was at high risk for poaching her boyfriend.  A skinny Irish girl with five years of field hockey can throw an icy glare, let me tell you.

So, no shit, there I was, the turd in the punchbowl, not speaking to anyone, ignoring the sly glances, ignoring my cereal as it sogged in front of me.  I thought:  maybe this is karma.  Maybe this is payback for the boys I hurt in high school.  Maybe I’m free of that debt now and can move along blithely in my life, unburdened by my foolishness.

And then I realized that’s bullshit.  The guys I hurt really did suffer, and I hope they got over it quickly (or just wrote it off like a sunburn) — but I’m going to have to live with the burden that I hurt someone, on purpose, who did not deserve it — which is pretty fucking low.  Guilt is part of the cost.

Likewise, the people who hurt me weren’t jolly angels who just happened to be agents of karma; they were flaming assholes.

My (low) self-esteem from that score was only elevated over a long period of time, and through long dint of effort to treat everyone fairly, and to be as kind as possible.  Not snarking, not jumping into fights with both feet, not letting my temper rise, not lying to or cheating on anyone, and a lot of other things that didn’t come naturally at first, let’s put it that way.  It’s what I have to do to live with myself after hurting people.  I am now a better person than the fucked-up unit who decided to be the life of the party instead of an emo shoegazer.

But if I had just said, tra-la!  Karmic payoff!  I’ll be good from now on, but I no longer need to worry about what I’ve done!  Sorry, boys, you understand, right? — I would have been a schmuck.

Two assholes don’t make it karma.

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