Friday, December 31, 2010

found (paradox)

"But you want things," she said. "Once someone has a full blown eating disorder--anorexia, at least--they stop wanting things. It's all self-loathing."

It's true. Thinking back to the months when I had most trouble eating, I don't remember wanting anything except perhaps to die. I went through the motions--but I was even skipping dance classes. Then, someone came along who violently insisted I had the right to want things, at least the basic things, at least to stay alive and safe, and that was enough. It helped me un-stick myself, however painfully.

I remember the first ballet class, first day. It was horrific, hyper-extending knees, twisting ankles out of shape, trying to correct the curve of my lower spine without the muscles for it, the habitual tight warping of my shoulders gone sharp and searing. But also: a tiny teenage professor who didn't understand the limitations of my body, the dress code of (pink tights not manufactured in my size, black leotard, no warm ups) designed to rat out all rebellion from strict conformity. Also huge windows where non-dance students would pass by or stop and stare at us at will. It is difficult to express how much I hated my body in that hour. I resolved three or four times to quit in the duration of that class, but. I wanted to learn how to dance.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

a list

Someone asked me for a list of the books that have influenced me the most. I suspect he's looking for a list of books that more or less explain my philosophical and political positions--but a different list emerged. When I think of books that most influenced me, I think of Children of the Dust, which I picked up in middle school and could barely stand to finish reading. Somehow when I started it, I believed it a history. It played exactly into my parents' end-times survivalism, it complimented the gruesome but fascinating imagery of "events leading to the second coming," and it was terrifying. It may well be the source of a lifetime of nightmares about nuclear war. . . well, you know. That book, and reality.

That's influence. And why limit it to books?

When I was twelve, I'd learned repeatedly that sex was about shame, pain, coercion, more shame, and at best insanity-producing-guilt filled pleasure. I walked through the Smithsonian, saw a bronze copy of Rodin's the kiss, and it was revelation. Angels sang. Like a switch turning on the sun outside a dark cathedral, for the first time I got it--I finally understood it wasn't a lie, sex could be about love.

I read Ciardi's poetic interpretation of Dante's seventh circle and felt not quite so alone.

I saw Requiem for a Dream at a film festival, walked out alone in the middle of the night with the clear understanding that film could overwhelm my sensitivity to violence, and that this was worth being careful of.

I walked into the national gallery in London out of the gray rain, saw Van Gogh's Sunflowers against the blue wall, and understood for the first time why one travels thousands of miles to see a painting on the original canvas.

And after a summer of crying alone days and working nights--the summer of rape crisis training--David made me a scarf to help me not wear mourning. It drapes like a thneed, the color is like a sky so intense it's burning through your eyes, dashed with robin's egg--and when you touch it, it feels like kittens. Honest to God, kittens.

(Cue ________'s disturbing kitten joke here.)

Anyways, that other list is worth writing. . . but so, this.

Monday, December 27, 2010


1) I consistently want but can't find conversation and a hug at 11:30 Friday morning and 1:00 Monday morning. It's a statistically unambitious prediction, considering I almost always want a hug and very often want conversation, but still. For the loose.

2) Buying your house didn't become The American Dream (TM) until labor threatened to make progress in the 1930's, and it seemed prudent to see that every worker possible was owned by a bank. That worries me. Few of those workers were going to own their property outright while young, which I may. Still, do I want to devote half my remaining life to accumulating capital? Is that really a good idea? A better idea than paying rent, says the voice in my head.

There's no sitting out. There's no way to be a neutral player in this game. Also ftl.

Friday, December 24, 2010


1) Saw Black Swan, found it way too close to home. Frustrating, because it's the first serious ballet movie in a forever, but ballet looks like a plot device. . maybe not. Wondering whether I should see it repeatedly until it's less painful to watch, or if that would be self-destructive.

2) Finally made soup from the grain/bean mixture Adi gave me. Messy and time consuming, but filling and delicious. Cooking is. . . helpful. Deeply. I'm glad for it.

3) I'm not autistic because my executive function is high, specifically from self-awareness, learning, and memory. Not sure how I feel about this.

4) Contemplating plausibility of starting a commune in my house. Can I trust other people this much? Myself? Should I? Are my delinquent people skills are up to it?

5) Happy Midwinter, and a happy New Year. And merry Christmas. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Doing a summer on the AT within the next three years is probably a pipe dream. It's not that I couldn't do it, if I were sufficiently single minded. It's just. . . if I want to have a career writing and filming nonfiction, my immediate resources need to go into completing a major project. And making it Good.

I'm pretty OK with that. Maybe this means I'm getting better?

Problem; I tend to work in very short, focused bursts, about a week to a month at a time. Embarrassingly enough, it took me about three hours to write that blog entry on Etcoff, and I spent a good chunk of the day finishing the book and thinking about it. I lived on pastries that day--not a lot of pastries (4.5), and not even good pastries (day old grocery store ones). This wasn't driven by my formidable sweet tooth; pastries are convenient. You pick them up and you eat them, ideally without putting down your book.

I'm pretty good at eating--eating meals, composed of real, healthy food that I like, on a regular but not excessive basis--when I cook. But when I cook, I want to cook. I plan which recipes to try, carefully select ingredients, and for a few days or weeks, I live in the kitchen--chopping vegetables, fine tuning flavors, foisting results on my house mates or family members, and cleaning up between batches.

Likewise, exercise. I can sustain hours of movement every day, possibly for years, if there's some major goal I'm working towards. Half an hour a day isn't enough to capture my imagination.

I need to learn to maintain things while I'm off chasing other things.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

quality of work

You Don't Have to be Rich is a meta-analysis of which financial habits and circumstances correlate with happiness. The book has some correlation vs. causation issues, but over all contains lots of interesting information. Here, for example, is a list of the factors that predict job satisfaction:

1) Job security

2) Relative income--people like to make at least as much as their co-workers.

3) Interaction with other people, especially a "tight knit sense of community." Smaller workplaces are better.

4) A challenge that requires use of skills--not busywork

5) Clear and well-defined goals, including feedback along the way.

6) Autonomy; the ability to make one's own decisions without being challenged, especially with regards to when and how objectives are to be met. If deadlines are externally imposed, coming from a customer > colleague > boss.

7) Small freedoms, such as the ability to telecommute at times, rearrange and/or decorate workspace, and having a short commute.

8) Variety in what tasks and skills are called for, as well as the location where the work is done.

9) Use of skills which are valued, and which one has invested in

10) Level of social status one's community affords to the work.

Chatzky suggests that if your job fulfills all of these things and you still don't like it, the problem is likely that you are time-poor. . . which goes back to the work/play/rest thing. She doesn't even consider that ethical concerns/contribution to a wider economic community are related to one's working life; she explicitly states these things are beyond one's control, and I'd bet they have a substantial impact on work satisfaction for some workers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

book report + half-baked feminist theory

Survival of the Prettiest is an evolutionary psychology review of evidence on human physical attractiveness. The main point of the book is that people universally react to physical attractiveness, care about it, attribute virtue to it, and imitate it even at great resource cost. She portrays our hunger for physical attractiveness as an unstoppable force. Of greater concern to me, the benefits and detriments of appearance discrimination are unevenly distributed across gender, with women at major disadvantage.*

Men value physical attractiveness in a partner as much or more than women in every culture studied, and in most, by a wide margin. Attractive men benefit from their looks as much or more than attractive women, but unattractive women take a larger hit than men in all areas. Unattractive people of both genders face huge discrimination, larger than the benefits particularly attractive people reap. Happiness doesn't correlate to outlier attractiveness, especially for women. Appearance discrimination may be most obvious in mate selection, but has an enormous impact on social and economic success.

Below, I've summarized the actual findings on what's considered attractive, which Etcoff goes over in great length. However, there are two other findings mentioned in this book that I find extremely helpful.

First, we find people we know well to be more physically attractive, as well as finding their non-physical characteristics attractive. Second, there's some evidence that each person's notion of an attractive face comes from an averaging of all the faces they've been exposed to. This means that if photo-shopped supermodels and actresses make up a high percentage of our exposure to faces, we'll find them even more attractive than we would biologically. There also exists a contrast effect. After looking at pictures of extremely attractive women, men's desire to date average-looking women is lower than if they hadn't seen the pictures. This holds true in many circumstances; contrast effect can lower someone's satisfaction with an existing partner. Contrast effect impacts women's preferences as well, but less.

If we are interested in building communities and/or putting ourselves in situations where we are likely to be better, more ethical human beings, this has consequences. If Etcoff is right, it would reduce the inequality created by physical attractiveness if the human beauty we saw was mostly real people, in person. The structures currently in place (unprecedented in history, where we see thousands of images of genetic outliers in beauty doctored into further nonexistent perfection in order to sell us things) exaggerate our natural superficial preferences. Making our exposure an in-person experience would also allow people's less superficial traits a chance to be appreciated. It would give us a chance to be less superficial, a chance we don't get with pure image.

This might become an excuse for taking autonomy away from people "because they'll be happier if they don't have so many choices," and I don't know how to best to balance the values in play--particularly since I haven't even looked at research to weigh the quantity and quality of benefits. However, this is definitely an argument that anyone interested in gender equality should avoid images of human beauty unless there's substantial redeeming value involved.

*If it seems that I'm being excessively harsh on men here, know that I am aware of the two superficial-selection categories where men are judged infinitely more harshly than women--height and wealth. I am interested in seeing these problems solved as well.

Characteristics universally considered attractive across cultures are: clear skin, hight (although women can be penalized for hight in some cultures), a near-average body weight, symmetricalness, averageness of features, and thick healthy hair. The exceptions to the averageness-of-features rule vary by gender. Youth is considered attractive for everyone, but plays a much larger role in attractiveness for women.

For men, a face with features more masculine than average is preferred; this means facial hair, a larger jaw, and a lower for head. Faces in which these features are too exaggerated come off as threatening. Wide shoulders and generally large (but not too large, and in muscle, not fat) size everywhere but the waist is preferred. Men seem to care much more about muscles (on men) than women do, though both prefer some.

For women, full lips, big eyes, a higher forehead, a smaller chin, and shorter distance between mouth and chin are preferred. Many of the facial features that make women's faces particularly beautiful are also found in children's faces. Additionally, a waist-hip ratio between .6 and .8 is preferred, along with other details of body shape that are typically found among teenage girls and young women before they've born a child.

Beauty ideals that vary between cultures are somewhat predictable. Generally the characteristics of dominant or elite groups are beautiful; this can be seen most clearly . Characteristics that are unusual but native to the population, like blond or red hair among Europeans, are also considered beautiful. The strength of a culture's local beauty ideal is variable; currently, in the US, men's preference for a partner who is of average or below average weight surpasses preference for waist hip ratio.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Last night's involved a werewolf ripping out my left Achilles tendon with his teeth, but I figure it's time to move on.

I got around to reading a bunch of stuff related to the Janice Allred fiasco. I've been trying and trying to write on it, but the words come out skewed. Drowning in anger, I can't find the truth and I'm not interested in writing lies.

I'm triggered by authority, which is classic. Possibly the hardest part of rape crisis training was the half-day spent on AMACs, Adults Molested As Children. We AMACs are whiny and co-dependent; we sound like people I wouldn't want to know, let alone be. There's evidence we're more susceptible to abuse and sexual assault as adults; we don't look after ourselves. Makes us targets. AMACs have huge issues with trust, attachment, and authority that can render us very hard to deal with in a crisis situation. I don't remember what else they said, I was busy trying to breathe.

Church, authority, and family were mashed together for me when I was a kid. It should surprise no one that a constant chorous of "ETERNAL FAMILY FTW! And respect your father who is your God-given priesthood leader! And families are from God! And you should obey God!" would have that effect.

It's damned inconvenient. There are plenty of logical reasons to mistrust the people and institutions in charge, without having extra-strength visceral ones too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

again, plus gore

Exhausted, laying on the couch at work to rest my back, my eyes drift closed. I need to cut my head off, and friends are standing around talking and laughing, examining various office objects that I might use to accomplish the task. Someone hands me a metal ball point pen, and I slowly begin the gruesome work by stabbing it into the side of my neck, pushing it deeper, working it around and pulling it out to stab again. Someone else hands me a pocket knife, I think how this might be easier, and the sadness hits me--I startle awake and go back to pacing when I remember I don't want to die.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

not sleep

I have trouble with basements, but out of practical necessity live in one. In mine. From time to time, I find myself not wanting to sleep there, and very patient room-mates eventually find me passed out on the couch.

The nightmares tend to obvious symbolic content that grows increasingly disturbing as I wake. In the last one, a doppleganger was picking off my friends and family, starting with those I loved the most; I killed her over and over, but nothing I could do would keep them safe. Every time she died, I had to smother her till there was a sharp exoskeletal crunch and her blood would burst out all over me. It was exhausting, tracking her down and crushing her time and time again. She would re-materialize from the blood on the floor, laughing, and sprint away far faster than I could follow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


They spend a day or three in rape crisis training teaching you about long term recovery. Group therapy is the norm for sexual assault survivors, because often there are certain things a rape victim won't believe from anyone except other rape victims. "It's not your fault," for instance.

CWCIC (which also provides services for men, despite the name) runs a sixteen week closed group for sexual assault survivors. The group covers a fixed curriculum; some people will go through it more than once, but there's a specific progression that takes place. One of the counselors I didn't get along with well was telling about something they do a few weeks into group, and laughing. "We do a spa day," she said with a chuckle. "Before the funding got cut, we used to take these women out to get their nails done," she said, "and they resist the idea so hard. They refuse. They start crying. It's almost impossible for them to do anything for themselves, to take care of anything beyond their basic needs. They feel like the should give it all to everyone else." The therapist found this infantile incompetence hilarious.

In retrospect I can see a certain morbid humor, but I was staring at her completely raw, serious, wounded, incredulous, and fully experiencing the thing she was making fun of--and she looked away, reproved. I felt there was a flashing neon sign above my head screaming BROKEN! and I couldn't turn it off. After all, normal people don't fight violently back when you make them a free, legitimate offer of professional pampering. Even now the, the concept strikes me as excessive, even offensive or obscene. I can't explain why, really.

The first seven months or so of therapy succeeded in convincing me that, though perhaps no one deserves to live, at least I don't deserve it particularly less than anyone else. Probably. And there's irony. When you don't believe you deserve anything for yourself except bare bones survival, you self-maintain so poorly that your ability to contribute is greatly less.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday night


The library closed while I was in the shower. I'll be working more than 25 solitary hours in the next two days, and I've had little social interaction today; therapy was also this morning, and I feel unsteady. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I made a food plan--three days of menus, so that I'm not crushed with deciding what to eat. . and so I don't end up living on junk food I don't even like because it's in front of me and avoids the dilemma. Now I don't feel like making, or eating, the red lentil soup that's supposed to be dinner. Also, my favorite labor organizer is turning into a sociopath.

Ladies and gentlemen, I officially suck.

p.s. I eventually made the soup. It was delicious-- I'm looking forward to leftovers. For crazy folk who don't like lentils solely for textural reasons, it'll need a blender and cream. . .

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

and nonsense

I've been thinking and reading a lot lately about stuff--material objects that we own, or want to own, or don't own, or love, or feel resentful about. I think it started a long time before I picked up this book, but seeing so much interesting information about the way human beings bond with objects all in one place was something of a fire starter.

Commodity fetishism and anti-consumerism have always struck me as particularly important and interesting, too. . . I think these topics are incredibly relevant to how ordinary people live their lives. The more I read, the clearer it becomes that I want to coalesce and present in an organized way. . .

Some things that drew me in:

-according to one of the videos I just linked, only 1% of what people buy is still in use six months later.

-advertising encourages us to adopt a "what we have" identity rather than a "what we do" identity. . . but the line between our experience and our possessions is hardly a sharp one.

-a willingness to spend money on non-essential possessions keeps a lot of people far more bound up in wage slavery than they might be.

-possessions often give people a deep sense of security, which is not unreasonable. With none, we would die.

I'm working my way through the literature on compulsive hoarding, after which I'll need to read at least Adorno's critical theory, and then some analysis of what an ecologically sustainable economy/consumption level would look like. . . And I want to interweave this with personal experiments. Suppose I track everything I acquire for two or three months; how many of the objects did I use? How many did I become attached to? What did I dispose of, and how? What could I have survived without? How much more did I consume than what would be ecologically sustainable? How do possessions influence my social status, place in the community, and ability to find satisfying connections with other people? How do these objects, and the other objects I own, interact with my sense of identity?

I am answer mining, from books and life.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Sci-fi? {1}

Note: this was published o'er hastily after being jotted down around 1 am. A second version with basic edits is now below the original post, which is the italics. Please comment on the edits or suggest additional ones, if you feel at all inclined! Also. . . I've never tried sci-fi before. This is kind of fun. :)

Things are quiet on Pharmacon7 tonight, but there is still work left to do. Gregor has left the last section of this weekend's install to me, which shouldn't bother me, I guess, but what does that man do when he's on shift? Minding the station's data core is flawlessly boring, much of the time, and there's no record of disturbance in his log. Of course, that's why most of us will put up with this. It's like a deadbeat heaven.

The floor panels are heavy, so I curse the artificial gravity and make do with lifting two of them away from the grid to which they're attached. The blast of cold air pushes my hair back from my face and holds it there perfectly. Grabbing the sides of the grid-square I've just emptied, I lower myself into the chill. Attempting to make my way towards the nest--ten bundles of new cable to run along this strand--I find myself scooching gracelessly over cables, pipes, and power connectors the size of a fanboy's arm. The mounting brackets my instructions promised are conspicuously absent, I've been here for fourteen hours, and I can tell I'll be leaving them a tangled mess. No worry. Weave in, weave out, get them to the exit point and back above floor.

It isn't a hard job, but as I drag my heel over a taut raised wire that grounds the entire core, I'm sharply aware that the thin denim of my jeans (which are against dress code--thank God I didn't wear a skirt today. So much for the business casual we're required. . . or the space suits we wanted when we were kids?) wouldn't really insulate. . . not against that kind of voltage. While I'm not praying, I hope with the utmost sincerity that whoever wired these sockets had more training before I did when they were sent off on their own. In fact, it occurs to me to prefer that these aren't my handy-work. So to speak.

I slide the first floor panel back into place with a heavy snap, careful to keep my fingers free ("that's how you loose a finger!" Mike had said), and then kick dutifully at the second panel, nudging it back in line. When I finish, my ass is frozen solid and my hands smell like cabling grease that won't wash off for months. Welcome to the life.

Pharmacon7 is quiet, but there's still work left to do. Gregor left the last section of this weekend's install to me, which shouldn't bother me, I guess, but what does that man do when he's on shift? Minding the station's data core is flawlessly boring most of the time, and there's no record of disturbance in his log. Of course, that's why most of us will put up with this. It's like a deadbeat heaven.

The floor panels are heavy, so I curse the artificial gravity and make do with lifting two of them away from the grid to which they're attached. The blast of cold air pushes my hair back from my face and holds it there perfectly. Grabbing the sides of the grid-square I've just emptied, I lower myself into the chillspace. Attempting to make my way towards the nest--ten bundles of new cable to run along this strand--I scooch gracelessly over cables, coolant pipes, power connectors the size of a fanboy's arm. The mounting brackets my instructions promised are conspicuously absent, I've been here for fourteen hours, and I can tell I'll be leaving them a tangled mess. No matter. Weave in, weave out, just get them to the exit point and back above floor.

It isn't a hard job, but as I drag my heel over a taut raised wire that grounds the entire core, I'm sharply aware that the thin denim of my jeans (against dress code--thank God I didn't wear a skirt today. So much for business casual. . .) wouldn't insulate, not against that voltage. I hope with utmost sincerity that whoever wired these sockets got more training than I did before they were sent off on their own. In fact, it occurs to me to prefer that these aren't my handy-work, but on further consideration I'm pretty sure they are.

I slide the first floor panel back into place with a heavy snap, careful to keep my hands free ("that's how you loose a finger!" Mike had said), and then kick dutifully at the second panel, nudging it back in line. When I finish, my ass is frozen solid and my hands smell of cabling grease that never washes off. Welcome to the life.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


When I write in my notebooks/journals, I'm most often looking to convince myself that I have a plan, and life is going to be OK. When I blog, I am looking for attention and recognition--and generally I feel like I've gotten it simply because someone is reading. I'm guessing a dozen someones, actually, which as I've said, is gratifying.

Two unresolved things: one, I'm not sure how I feel about my own desire for attention--what kind of attention (and attention seeking) is healthy, and which isn't. . . so I need to figure that out. And two, neither of these sorts of writing is what I'm most interested in. I'm not sure yet of my best medium/s, but I want to articulate people's unspoken views in a way that resonates with them deeply. I want to incite people to attempt the impossible, a lot of people, and in so doing make it possible. Indeed, my ambitions are very low. Call me Rocinante.

I had a great conversation with one of my sisters (Patent Office Babe, we call her online, or sometimes Ivy) when she was visiting, which brought me to some conclusions about what I need to do to get to my work. I need to be a better listener, more open to the likelihood that I don't have everyone else's answers. I need to take myself far less seriously, and my work somewhat more seriously. I need to be less in love with my own words. I need practice; practice writing a lot, on a deadline, with an editor; practice composing images, practice capturing compelling moments on "film". And I need the companionship and collaboration of others who are productively working on similar projects. These things seem possible. It feels good to be working on them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

If I believed in God

I would thank him for plumbing.

There is something clean about it, even when you are covered with a soup of scum, mold, and whatever else was covering the particle-board floor of your kitchen-sink cabinet. Plumbing is elegant: water goes down. Seals must be tight, valves well adjusted. Every piece is for a reason. Ninety seconds, six diagrams, and I know how everything is supposed to fit. Zen, or flow, or something.

And it isn't just that; everyone needs plumbing. No one is going to use their kitchen sink to be a better racist. Like any privilege, plumbing stratifies people--and as with any privilege, those who have automatically, at some deep level, begin to assume that those who don't have are at fault for their own lack. . . but no one is making the argument that other human beings don't deserve

plumbing. Sanitation. Hygiene. Hot running water to envelop your skin and make you feel a little more whole.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of the feasting/genocide-commemoration, some of my sisters and I are launching a food blog. I've been having brilliant fun writing for it, and after this we'll be posting every Tuesday. Read us only if you have to eat. ;)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

good days

Because of the fact that this blog is titled "Emo Blog of Doom," and because I feel somewhat desperately that survivor (maybe 10% of the population?) experience ought not be ghettoized, I don't apologize for the dark content.

But I also want to make clear that there are good days. There are times when I don't write because I'm so depressed. There are also times that I don't write because it's boring, when everything is just ok, and I'm trying not to think too hard about the things that stress me out. And then there are actual good days. Like today. I know if I explained the events of today objectively, they would not come of as particularly happy. The vomiting*, I imagine, would particularly seem like a downer. But I am feeling happy today; I have no major deadlines hanging over me, I'm getting things done at some sort of a reasonable pace, I'm surrounded by excellent books, and there are all these things:

-My roof is done. On. All the way. FINALLY! Thank you, Dad. :) This does not, objectively, vary so much from day to day, but it is starting to feel like the house might someday come under control.

-I HAVE A PIANO!!!!! Or rather, a very serious, professional quality performance keyboard (88 weighted keys and a petal) named Sigfried. Possibly the best Christmas present I've ever gotten.** I may finally learn to play as well as I'd like; we'll see how my habit of spending time with every piano I pass by holds out now that there's one in my living room. This whole topic will probably get it's own post.

-I came up with a solution of sorts, to my body worries. I'm mostly concerned about the damage I'm likely to sustain between now and when I have a healthy relationship with food. I believe I'll get there, and I'm very dedicated. But I also know that diets don't work so well, and I don't want to be stuck with a body that makes it hard or impossible for me to do things I love. So, I've decided to up the priority of a goal that's been on my list for a decade; spend a summer on the Appalachian trail. It's a huge goal, requiring a lot of saving, a lot of planning, and a lot of training, but it is an experience I want badly and have for a long time. And it should also, incidentally, re-set my metabolism and leave me in excellent shape. I should probably pick a subsidiary training goal to start with. :)

*because I've mentioned my delightful food pathos so recently: Involuntary. I have a rule about that, no need to worry.

**it would be, unequivocally, the best Christmas present ever, if it weren't for:

-last year my best friend designed and built a bench swing for me from scratch, specifically taking into account the furniture I'm most comfortable on, and choosing details to accent the architecture of my house. It is gorgeous, and so comfortable I can fall sleep on it.

-the year before that my parents cosigned with me on a house.

Stiff competition, ja? How spoiled am I? Sigfried is amazing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food II

Sometimes therapy is vindication.

I get exhausted of eating. I get exhausted of choosing. There are breaks sometimes, but over time it's still destroying my health. I am loosing my arches. I spend time resting to relieve back pain most days, more than once a day the past few weeks. You know when you wear a big t-shirt swimming? That is how my fatness feels to me, as thought it's billowing up around me, enormous and uncontained. On bad days I wonder if I will simply eat until I die.

There are alternatives: drugs, alcohol, cutting, my old habit of constantly putting myself in dangerous situations. I've tried them all a few times, and they're all more effective than binge eating, a cleaner escape for those moments when you're afraid you can't bear another moment in your own skin. Choosing to overeat instead is about the least of evils. This is me digging my heels in, refusing to be taken all at once.

And though sometimes I've hated myself for it, I've chosen to eat too much instead of not enough very intentionally. It is easier to control. Not eating requires a certain commitment over time; it feels better, the longer you stick with it, and it's harder to break out of. That hollow feeling inside, once you've got the hang of it, is unbearably comforting. It is satisfying; it feels clean. And as much as this culture laughs at the fat girl who chooses to become more fat so that she will not be addicted to her own emptiness, I've been there enough to know. This risk is real.

None of it is sustainable, of course. I think maybe loosing the crutch of binge exercise is what's done me in, but I don't want to keep going like this. I'm tired of eating. I'm tired of being fat. I'm afraid that as time passes, this will become more of a compulsion, less of a choice.

So I asked my therapist--one of her specialties is eating disorders. And she told me I was right, right to worry about my hunger for emptiness spiraling completely out of control. She said she was worried about that too. I asked her what I should do, and she told me it won't go away until I figure out why I'm trying to kill myself, and deal with it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

food I

I am in love and hate with food.

The love is deep and satisfying. Books about gourmet cooking hold my attention as well as the most escapist fantasy novels. Feeding people I care about really well, striking that perfect comforting or enlivening chord to make their day suddenly better, is intensely pleasing. I remember great meals, the interplay of flavors and textures and aromas, in vivid detail. I believe in food as art.

Cooking for myself is a gesture of respect. It serves my long-term welfare by saving money, and by developing a skill that will make it easier and easier to feed myself inexpensively and well as time goes on. Insisting on learning to cook brilliantly for myself is also a tool for battling disordered eating.

The hate, as hatred usually is, is complicated, destructive. Sadness can take me two ways. In one direction, I start by eliminating animal foods and sticking to whole grains. Deeper in, nothing but fresh fruit and undressed salad will do. Eventually the solid fruit seems like too much trouble; eventually nothing is good enough, anything would be a defilement. This has happened to me once. It is a path I try to avoid.

The other direction starts with baked goods, muffins, cookies, pastries. As things get emotionally darker I crave meat, ground pork, sausage, cheese. I crave things I find disgusting, things I find morally wrong. For awhile, I was sick and at the same time hungry for meat in this way. Every time I closed my eyes I would see feverish images, tearing off chunks of flesh from my own arm with my teeth, feel my body moving to cannibalize itself. In the worst of this place, I will eat until I take absolutely no pleasure, continue until it causes me pain.

Monday, November 08, 2010


This week I´ve been obsessing about ¨shallow¨ things. Beauty, possessions.

Our desire for beauty, including beauty in each other, is hardwired in. We treat beautiful people better. Life is unfair. We should try to be evenhanded with each other, but we should also not expect that this will succeed in making the appearance playing field fair. . . or even close.

I´m ok with that--and I´m ok with people doing things to level the playing field. Makeup, fashion, even plastic surgery. Here are the problems I see.

1) Men desire beauty more than women do, by about 30%. This is from Survival of the Prettiest. Additionally, many beauty practices emphasize aesthetic differences between the sexes.

Accepting that artificially enhanced beauty should be the norm, we run the risk of emphasizing the non-physical differences between the sexes as well. I would be fine with that if we had the science to understand what, and how big, those differences actually are, but we don´t. What we have are hints and possibilities, and thousands of years of speculation. And when I say speculation, I mostly mean patriarchal bullshit that uses the concept of essential difference as a justification for oppression.

2) Artificially enhanced beauty takes time and money. Right now, there´s a minimum standard of beauty practices that women must engage in to send the message that they care about how they look. That minimum standard is rising. It sort of looks to me like an arms race, with a lot of horrible waste.

3) For the most part, public discourse is insipid and superficial. I think we should openly and shamelessly acknowledge that we want beauty, but put limits on what we are willing to sacrifice (or have others sacrifice) for that desire. Currently, we seem to not acknowledge it--we treat it like a dirty secret, shyly acknowledging that ¨of course I want to look my best, and be healthy¨ while de-facto we treat it as though there is nothing more important.

A culture that fails to put clear limits on what is socially acceptable to sacrifice for beauty runs the risk of that arms race going fatal--which, indeed, it has. Anorexia, with a 20% kill rate, is the most fatal mental disorder. Major plastic surgery (general anestesia always carries a risk of death) is becoming increasingly accessible and common. And of course, countless lives are wasted peace-meal--not for their own satisfaction, but merely attempting to keep up.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

And now for a spinal PSA

When I went to the hospital for my most recent back injury, the fact sheet they gave me said that one in four Americans will experience disabling back pain in their lifetime. It´s like a modern plague. Being active sometimes helps and sometimes hurts. It´s easy to re-injure yourself by being too active. Typically, without treatment there will be a series of progressively worse injuries over time.

Happily, I found a great physical therapist, and he gave me a list of ways to know you´re pushing it too hard. If your pain is behaving in these ways, take a day off, then gently get back to core strengthening exercises the day after.

1) Pain that spreads from your back to your buttocks, hips, or legs, or if the symptoms are are already having in these areas become more intense or move further down the leg.

2) Pain that steadily increases to an unacceptable level.

3) Increased pain for more than 1-2 hours following an activity that limits what you are able to do.

4) Delayed pain later that day or the next morning that limits what you are able to do.

5) Pain that increases a little bit every time you do something.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

some most important things

1) The person who sexually abused me was sadistic about it, mostly emotionally sadistic. Fear leaves less obvious marks than pain, and she used our fear in very intentional ways. This was about control. As best I remember, she preferred the unwilling. By a lot.

2) The person who sexually abused me was a child herself at the time. She is now one of my closest friends.

This was not an easy process, and obviously it isn´t always a comfortable friendship, but I think it was the most honest thing to do. I genuinely like her and enjoy her company. She is not the same person now that she was as a child. There was a long time of separation, and then I slowly came to know the person she had become as an adult.

As I write these words, that she is not the same, I wonder at them. Am I being honest? Am I hiding from myself? Am I betraying myself? Do I believe this? She´s not as different as I would sometimes like.

But she is not the same. And I believe in forgiveness; I believe in letting people become something different, if they´re desperately trying to, if they´re willing to behave differently, instead of locking them into what they were in your head. Someone who messed up before they were twelve deserves that. This, I unreservedly believe.

3) As far as I can tell, the response (or more often, lack of a response) and the cultural atmosphere in which I grew up did at least as much damage as the actual abuse. This atmosphere consisted significantly of my parents doing their best to create a gospel centered home. I alternate between being angry at God/Mormonism and wanting nothing to do with him. More later on this.

4) My parents, who I love and respect, were very negligent.

5) I am ashamed of all of the preceding items.

What makes trauma trauma is that your brain can´t quite handle it. You can´t grasp that this is actually happening to you. If it is happening to you, and it really, really isn't your fault, that means it could happen any time and it is completely out of your control.

That weigh is crushing, and frequently trauma victims will completely re-invent themselves to avoid it. I caused this, and so I must become as different as possible to stop it from happening again. It doesn´t work, of course; it can always happen again. And once you´ve accepted the adaptive premise that this is all your fault, the shame is permeating, brutal, reasonless, and nearly impossible to contain.

6) Lastly (again), in Andrea Dworkin´s words:

¨As a feminist, I carry the rape of all the women I've talked to over the past ten years personally with me. As a woman, I carry my own rape with me. Do you remember pictures that you've seen of European cities during the plague, when there were wheelbarrows that would go along and people would just pick up corpses and throw them in? Well, that is what it is like knowing about rape. Piles and piles and piles of bodies that have whole lives and human names and human faces.¨

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

balances and hesitations

I wrote a post, put it out Monday morning just after midnight, and then took it down when I woke at 8 am. Apparently I am uncertain about this.

I thought about deleting the whole blog after I published the first entry in this series.

The downsides are obvious. Privacy is classier. Other people´s privacy is also in question. Telling these kinds of stories with the utmost of honesty that you can possibly muster can be difficult and ungraceful, and it isn´t fullproof. Memory is deeply fallible. Once public one is open to reactions that can be unbelieveably harsh.

And here are my reasons for wanting to speak--to tell. I am tired of living in a society which puts survivor´s stories in a ghetto. I want freedom to talk about something that impacts me every single day without creating the assumption that this thing is all I am, and I want other survivors to have that freedom as well. Given how common sexual assault is, the fact that we consider it an event every time someone references sexual assault in their own history is an indicator of enforced silence.

I want people to talk about it, to argue about it, to have ideas of what should be done about it. I want the less usual aspects of my own situation, which have informed my world-view very deeply, to be taken into the argument; I want people to understand where I am coming from, and I want them to think it is valid. I want people to know that I am not an aberration, that despite their relative infrequency, there are many other people who have had experiences similar to mine. And we should do something about them.

The price for this uncertain reward is making my personal life a matter of public record.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I haven´t accomplished much of that

Not yet, anyway. I´ve traveled enough to know that I need it like books and air and dancing. I´ve traveled enough to know that the samosas they sell at the tube stop in London are perfect in the rain, that your breath at an airport in Singapore is heavy and wet with orchids, that Montreal in winter is beautiful grey and blue, and that Australia is just like I imagined it, except better. I´ve traveled enough to know you don´t need a map for trips in a country where you have the language and some currency--just time, an ability to enjoy it, a sense of adventure.

The boy I fell in love with was a terrible lead, but it didn´t make him less wonderful. I forgot to imagine that he wouldn´t fall in love with me, or the mess that would ensue. Hard to say if I want to let go. Wouldn´t it be worse to lose the pain, wouldn´t it be letting go of the good parts too? When I may not find them again?

I never won anything significant in ballroom, but there were moments in ballet class that I would want to live in forever if I could make them keep going. I got a rare but substantial education, mostly by reading chapters at a time and listening to interesting people talk. I won bouts with people twice my size in jujitsu. I learned enough math to see for myself that it can be beautiful, and to not be daunted by any numbers that get used regularly in the real world, even by economists. I have a house, a sort of home maybe. . . maybe. With time.

But there have been other areas of richness--and that´s what I´m after, really, richness of experience--that were not the things I dreamed about.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I think the teen years are important

because that´s when you can first start to see who you are and what you might want to do with your life. People used to ask me what I wanted, and I was a little shy of words; I wanted my life to be good. I wanted it to be rich, and full, and. . . something. I didn´t know exactly what.

I think I imagined wandering the capitals of Europe with only a backpack, staying behind a few days here and there to linger with interesting strangers, stealing naps in parks in the afternoons and crashing exhausted at a hostel in the early hours of the morning. I imagined playing my harp in the parks for strangers all over France. I imagined being the middle school teacher who performed Nirvana for class with the amp turned up, found a way to harness all that innocent idealism, and discussed the geopolitical implications of shoe choices. I imagined speaking five languages and wallowing in Dostoevsky and learning to knife fight. I imagined running, climbing, crossing India and north Africa on camel back, spending an entire summer on the Appalachian trail. I thought of joining the foreign service.

I imagined winning college ballroom competitions, falling in love with somebody smart, insightful, and kind who was also a great lead, and then teaching English with him at a tiny school in China where we´d both learn Mandarin and Tai-Chi. I imagined building a three-room, off-grid house of straw bales, with a dance studio, a huge claw footed tub, and a sleeping loft that doubled as a library. I imagined forty acres with goats and a soccer pitch, a forest and a running trail paved with soft sand where I could train barefoot every day I was home. I imagined that someday there would be at least one book, natural as hair turning gray, once I had something clear to say.

Very little of that has come true, but I have succeeded in some things. I have become only moderately unhappy, an accomplishment I refuse to be ashamed of. Even though it´s not enough.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I wrote another post, and now I can´t find it. It was about rape crisis team training. Rape crisis team training, two weeks of studying rape for several hours a day. Everyone needs a hobby?

Maybe I´ll post it later, but for now I will say this. Here is the nightmare part: After more than forty hours of intensive training on child abuse and nearly two years as a CASA, I didn't make it through rape crisis team training. For a month and a half I couldn't sleep more than a few hours at a stretch. I made plans to lay out sheets of plastic in the back yard to contain the blood splatter, and thought about buying a gun. I spent my mornings alone in the bright sunlight, crying uncontrollably and trying to keep the nausea from swallowing me whole.

Maybe it takes me, or someone similarly fucked up, to have drama associated with rape crisis training, but drama there was. I was fragile as hell, abrasive, moving my car each day after training got out so that no one could see me when I broke down immediately after class. They agreed I shouldn´t be on the team and I couldn´t argue with that, but I did want to talk about it, wanted to understand. They asked me not to talk or ask questions in training. They said I wasn´t right for the team at this time. Later they said I wasn´t right for it at all.

And here is the not-nightmare part: Rape crisis training woke me up. It made me realize how much my past was still effecting me, but it also made me realize something could be done. It made me realize that maybe, maybe my life could be different.

So the third time I seriously considered buying a gun, I put myself on check-ins with family, let them know what was going on.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Industrial strength emo, now with triggers! No, seriously. This is your trigger warning.

It gets old sometimes, to always be about becoming. I wish so desperately sometimes that I would get there, get somewhere. If you're a "joy in the journey" type, know that some journeys are not enjoyable. It's not that my life doesn't have good times in it. I've had many good times, but on the whole it hasn't been good. I mentioned the possibility of suicide in my journal almost as soon as I could write, and yesterday I found an old assignment from high school where I was supposed to make a poster about my hopes and dreams, but I only drew a tombstone.

At the time I thought it was funny; it's not a morbid tombstone, it's light and pretty, brown on a white page with flowers and grass all around. I'm not obsessed with death, just very sad. And as much as I would like to say, "it doesn't matter, I'm over it, what happened two decades ago is staying in the past," it's not. It matters every day. It's impossible to say how you would be different if you hadn't been raped and neglected when you were very young; you can only guess.

Personally, I guess that I would not be obsessed past reason with gender, feminism, and violence. I guess that I would not be afraid of people. I guess that other people wouldn't find me to be as difficult, as standoffish, as prickly. I guess that I wouldn't be overwhelmed by emotions, past the point of coping, most days. I guess that I would at least have a shot at a healthy relationship with food. I guess I wouldn't wish I had not been born; I guess I would not find both abstinence and abortion preferable to the sick feeling I get when I think that I might put a child through something like my life.

Usually when I lie, it is because I'm afraid I would not be believed if I told the truth. This is the truth. I don't know what you would think if you saw the things I lived through when I was a kid. I don't know if you would believe that it was enough to justify how much I hurt. I am afraid you will think I'm just constitutionally disposed against being able to handle life. I am afraid you'll think I'm faking. I'm afraid I am faking. Sometimes I have to startle myself with the objective facts, remind myself that this is real.

Over the next few entries, I will be telling some of my story.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

and now for something completely different

A little while ago, a friend of mine was defending the importance of play and he told me that most primates spend about a third of their day sleeping, a third working, and one third playing. This hit me hard; what would the world be like if we fully expected that humans naturally should spend one third of their lives playing? Not to implicate capitalism, but we live in a production obsessed culture. Play and rest are looked down on as things we ¨don´t have time for.¨Obviously it´s no given that we should try to be like other primates, but I can´t help feeling that this time they may have something.

I asked people what they thought of this, and got a lot of interesting responses. Hyper-busy friends stared at me exhaustedly, as though this was the least realistic suggestion they´d ever heard; I got the feeling they thought I was spoiled for considering it--except for one, who thought it was one of the most brilliant ideas he´d ever heard. One friend suggested that we can say work is mostly about productivity, while play is mostly about creativity. As I continued obsessing, the following items took shape. If we´re serious about spending a third of our lives at play:

1) Then we should think about how to make play-life satisfying just like we think about how to make work-life satisfying. A lot of people are bogged down by bad play. My friend brought up the importance of making time for play a priority because he studies procrastination, and apparently when you pretend you don´t need play, you start playing when you´re supposed to be working. This comes out to be both unsatisfying and unproductive--bad play, and not work.

2) Housework and transportation have to be counted as work. If you work 40 hours a week, that leaves about 16 hours for housework and transportation. In this case, pretending to be primates has some delightful implications for feminism; treating housework as part of the work-week (which should be the same duration for both genders) is probably essential to a feminist way of life.

3) In order for childrearing to work while maintaining a full play schedule, parents and young children need to do things together that feel like play for both of them for 56 hours of the week. Plausible? Maybe, maybe not, but it´s interesting to think about.

4) Then we have to wonder--given modern technology and productive capacity, is there any reason a person who has no disabilities should have to work more than 56 hours per week?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Like an Anarchist Baker

I saw this really awesome post over at Sociological Images and I thought it was totally worth a post here. This is what Third Way says our tax dollars are going to:

Here in Republican Utah, there are few real issues that provoke more enthusiastic approval than condemnation of excessive government spending. In the spirit of the locale, I offer (off the top of my head) the tax receipt I'd rather be getting. It's a little like the "if I were to win the lottery" game, except that it's the "if I were to reform capitalism" game. Clearly one is far less likely than the other.

1) Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid: We can't say much for ourselves as a people if we fail to care for our ill and our elderly. If someone has a suggestion for a system that will genuinely do a better job, I'm all for it.

2) Interest on the National Debt: Obviously should be eliminated over time via management.

3) Combat Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Military Personnel, and Veteran's Benefits: Cut it all, honoring current contracts until they run out, but using the labor to build infrastructure in the US instead of killing people.

4) National Parks: Hells yes.

5) Federal Highways: 50% should be put into Amtrak. Will the highways become overcrowded, ill-maintained, and impractical to use? Yes. Alternately, we could pay for all road maintenance out of fuel taxes. Sometimes it's better to make life worse sooner instead of later.

6) Health Care Research: Dunno enough about it.

7) Foreign Aid: Should go into sustainability R&D with open patent rights. If you weren't aware, currently it goes into propping up violent dictatorships in the name of "democracy."

8) Education for Low Income K-12: Of course. Also, radical school system reform.

9) Military Retirement: Pay out existing contracts, and then funds should be used to fund a new military system of mandatory-participation militias which engage in no conflicts off of American soil.

10) Pell Grants for Low Income College Students: See #8.

11) NASA: Yes, for aesthetic reasons.

12) IRS: You have to have some overhead and some tax collection if you're going to have a government at all. . .

13) Environmental Clean Up: Keep, and increase fines on polluters enough to a)give the EPA some teeth, and b)cover the increased operational costs of increased enforcement.

14) FBI: I'm proposing a society where everyone knows how to use an assault rifle, and there are no professional killers. Do you really think we'd still need it? Maybe keep half.

15) Head Start: After well over a decade, the gains made in head start still disappear by the end of elementary school. This money should go to adult literacy programs and educational resources for parents instead.

16) Public Housing: Don't know enough about it, but I want to drop it in favor of aggressive squatters rights.

17) Drug Enforcement Agency: No. All drugs should be legal. The taxes on said drugs should cover the cost of law enforcement, recreational substance education, healthcare, safe and clean public using houses, and all other costs to the public.

18) Amtrak: go trains!

19) The Smithsonian and Funding for the Arts: Keep, though it should be more democratically controlled.

20) Salaries and Benefits for Members of Congress: There are lots of different ways this could be done (all better than the current system), but off the top of my head here's one. We should create an aggressive definition of corruption and treat it as a criminal offense instead of a civil one. Then we should maintain a zero tolerance policy when enforcing it, and members of congress should have to live on the minimum wage bills they put through. We expect our school teachers to be volunteers, I don't see why we should treat politicians better.

Anyone else want to play?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Today has been a weird sort of day. Things can seem to go so well, and then I randomly fall apart. Physical therapy was good; today, almost no pain--but then.

I find myself I find myself not eating; an egg, a small potato, a cup of cocoa, this is two meals. Lapses like this are accidental. I am so tired of food, it just means that whatever there is to cook feels like so much trouble, and I want to curl up and die. For most people it wouldn't matter, but I seem to be a two year old, insufferable if I miss my snack. No one wants to talk to me, I'm mad at myself for needing, and I find myself naked between smooth sheets, comforted by cotton weave against my warm skin, crying, sleeping.

Stress: they are having trouble paying me for my writing. Paperwork, an understandable mistake. I find paperwork overwhelming, like each sheet is a ream, and if I pick it up I'll drop it, they'll all fall across the floor. The bills are multiplying, I can't quite seem to keep track. Over and over I did the math, it should add up but no one wants to fix my roof, and then there's the cost of therapy I didn't factor in. My desk literally overflows, I wonder when I was supposed to have got the skills to manage this.

And doesn't everyone of our generation have baggage? Of course. I can't explain why mine is special, please don't ask. Please. Don't tell me I'm not worth it as a friend, or if you do, do it by not calling and never writing back. You are almost perfect, your geeky awkwardness and cerebral introspection and beautiful face and flattery and kindness. You are exactly my type and I am so, so tired of hurting people. Thinking of you makes my stomach hurt. I didn't mean to let you think it was a date.

But, today, no pain; it saves me. I can stand and breathe. Two pairs of fat wool socks, soft loose warm-ups, black cotton boat-neck and white lace. I go to the computer and write; this is what it is like when my day fails. And now I will go and fix it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

last night I read Mockingjay

You don't have to know me long to learn I'm obsessed with one theme in entertainment: women's competence with violence. This, and associated themes (women's safety, gender roles, competence with violence in general, whether competence in other things can ever consistently overcome violence, violence and gender identity, violence and any identity, etc.) dominate what I watch and read. This has now been true for over a decade. I watched Catwoman, Electra, Tomb Raider, and all of Dark Angel. My favorite escapism often comes from Kim Harrison and Laurell K Hamilton, and I read the entire Fearless series* as quickly as I could get my hands on it.

That said, I hope you understand what I find most interesting about Hunger Games. First, whatever I was looking for when watching Catwoman and reading Anita Blake, Hunger Games--the first book--satisfied it completely. I didn't realize that was possible. Second, it didn't occur to me that the first book was a story about violence until some time after I'd finished reading. Despite that, this is the most bitter, broken, angry story about violence and womanhood that I've ever encountered. I think it is also somewhat true.

Much is made, in these stories, of rebellion--the defiant, reluctant, catastrophic or resigned. I see rebellion embodied in Katniss Everdeen's approach to violence. To start with, Katniss is extremely good at it, and we are not made to hate her for this fact. Opposite of almost every other story about women and violence, Katniss Everdeen's violence is squarely separate from her sexuality. In fact, though gender does play a role, her world is almost hypnotically asexual. Our heroine is tough and scarred and bitter, and believably so. And though she is feminine and pure, Katniss is not innocent, nor a victim. I wonder if such complexity is too much for this culture to process, and that's why the sexuality is withheld. An asexual Katniss harkens to Artemis. This is safer, and still unbearably refreshing.

Katniss is thin and beautiful, but these are not the things she considers to be important about herself. At certain moments, she's very comfortably feminine, but she has things to take care of that rank far higher on her own agenda than beauty or romance. Her appearance--with its surface level indicators of sexuality that don't always run deeper--is mostly of interest to those who wish to use her. Stylists are all-important, and cameras are omnipresent. Cameras make Katniss valuable. This relatively benign form of manipulation, widely accepted in our current society, is crucial to the story and has a dark underside. From the start, as she participates in the first spectacle of Hunger Games, it is her association with the cameras that forces Katniss into violence against other human beings. As the story progresses, it is ultimately the fallout of her un-sought pr power that escalates her violence and her exposure to the violence of others. . . an escalation that is paralleled by an increase in the importance of her appearance on camera.

Katniss is traumatized by her own violence, but not until the uncontrollable gore of the final story is she ashamed of it. Above all, and rightly, she rails instead against those who placed her in situations where she was forced to use it. She never stops hating it, never stops mourning it, and never stops being harmed by it, but she also never hesitates to do whatever it is that needs to be done. It isn't her only virtue, but the driving force in her life is an absolute willingness to do whatever it takes, including sacrificing her own life, to protect the people she loves. This, for once, doesn't bother me. Like her family, Gail and Peeta show us what Katniss can't have. At home in the story, they demonstrate what violence, trauma, and the experience of being constantly manipulated take even from the most capable and resilient survivors. Sometimes it can't be returned.

*young adult cookie-cutter novels. The protagonist is a beautiful but sloppy, depressed, and unfeminine-feeling girl. She has an inability to feel fear, coupled with nearly super-human fighting skills, and somehow has a reason to beat someone up about once every six seconds.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Objectification is really interesting.

In the embarrassingly recent past, I came to the realization that, in my dating life, I was not in the habit of regarding men as people. As conditioned, I saw them as fundamentally different from me, in a way that should have made them magically able (and willing?) to fix everything, have all the answers, and have much greater control of their lives than I could have of mine. Because husbands and fathers are supposed to be in charge, and you're supposed to be able to trust them with that, right?

So that's how I objectified my romantic partners, seeing only a certain role, instead of whole human beings. It can be an amazing struggle to remember just let people be what they are (which is to say, people, with doubts and struggles and just as many imperfections as you), but ultimately I find I'm way more stable when I don't go into relationships expecting other human beings to be magical.

I'm fine with some objectification, because I see some objectification as being inherent in physical sexuality. To have physical sex, it seems like, to some degree, you have to experience bodies as objects. Even if the psychological aspects are terribly important to you, there will be some moments when you're far more immediately concerned with your partner's body than with their mind, and I don't see anything wrong with that. This places me at odds with the feminists who say objectification of female bodies is always misogynistic, and I wish someone would explain their point of view to me in a way that makes sense.

Objectification is a problem when the main story a culture tells about some group describes them primarily as objects, rather than as complex, rounded, people--when it fails to say they have complex desires and preferences which ought to be respected. As a crash course, the main story most cultures tell about women is centered around the Madonna/whore dichotomy. In one way or another, this turns women into sexual objects--not sexual human beings. Unlike Madonnas and whores, sexual human beings sometimes want to have sex and sometimes don't, a concept that's proven remarkably difficult to take mainstream. Perhaps even more importantly, sexual human beings have other facets (an intellect, relationships, creativity, career, etc.) which will sometimes be more important to them than sex.

The main story US culture tells about men is about competence, success, and power. Men have a serious cultural advantage over women because this narrative includes a lot more aspects of a human being than just sexuality and care-taking. On the other hand, this advantage is not unlimited. A lot of men who want to engage in relationships as human beings (they may or may not have decided that they also want relationships with human beings) find that they are expected, among other things, to be endlessly, inhumanly competent.*

*Edward, I'm talking 'bout YOU.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dear man in the hat,

I love you. Marry me?




I found another job, one that I really, really like. In fact, it seems almost too good to be true; I work from home--nestled between the huge east and south facing windows in my living room--I research, I write articles, and I get paid enough to live on. Probably. It's difficult to emphasize the awesomeness of this enough. I love researching, and the articles I'm writing are short enough that, so far at least, I never get bored of a topic. Writing thousands of words for publication every day is exciting, because I know that even without great editing, my writing skills are going up. As an added bonus, there's a good chance that a freelancing career could grow out of this.

My only concern is that I get tired. Instead of writing anything as fast as I possibly can, I try to write things I'd want to read. I love this. It's creatively and intellectually demanding, which is fun, but at a point you need the day to be over. I haven't figured out yet exactly how to set my workload. One of the things I love the most is that I work hard at it; I love the feeling of working hard, and well, and knowing that I'm contributing something real. The particular tech sector I've been working in for the past couple of years is something of a breeding ground for complacency.

Also, I'm terrified that this is too good to be true.

As a result of the new job and a couple of other windfalls, I've had a week or two of not worrying about money--not because I was so exhausted from worrying that I just gave up, but because there was actually money in the bank to pay the bills, and more besides. Or so it appeared. I do not remember a time like this in my life. Yes, I've saved money and paid the bills on time before, but I haven't done that and also spent money on things I needed, when I needed them. Having that taste of financial security is incredibly encouraging; the level of stress it removes from your life is amazing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

going on with me

This month is my twenty-sixth birthday. Twenty-six scares me a bit; your brain wiring is pretty much set by that age. I'm scared I can never teach myself to be happy, or to have a good working life. And I'm scared because I feel like I'm going to die young, a PTSD thing, I guess.

Besides fixing up the house, my struggles over the past year or so have basically amount to this: a) making enough money to live on, b) managing chronic pain, and c) fighting serious emotional/psychological problems related to repeated trauma and childhood neglect. I started working on the psychological stuff, and ran into financial barriers; I working on improving my physical health, and ran into financial barriers; lately I've been working on my finances, with the beginnings of good success.

Unfortunately, working--especially when you're laying the groundwork for better conditions in the long run--is really time consuming, and despite the relief that came from catching up with finances, physical and emotional health have started to slide. Physically, this culminated in injuring my back, which was surprisingly not bad. I talked to a doctor who was really encouraging about long term prognosis. I got time off work to rest, and drugs that will help me rest and recover faster. The day before the injury, I bought a punch card for ballet and yoga classes, so as soon as I'm ready, I'm set to start moving again in really healthy ways. I'm dealing with things better than before.

A lot of the emotional stuff comes down to time. I need to spend more time taking care of myself, particularly journaling and the like. I might be starting therapy again in the next couple of months, which will be overwhelming and time consuming, probably. I also think I need more/different friends.

I love the friends I have, and enjoy them a lot. However, I tend to put a lot of time into most of my friendships. If she's into gaming, I'll try gaming. If she's a stay at home mom, I'll hang out and talk while she gets dishes done. I read everyone's blog. That's how I'm used to doing most friendships. I'm fine with this because I get a lot out of these friendships. I give more time, but they reciprocate with different things; a steady stream of home-made food and a place to get away from my problems when I'm stressed out, or gorgeous handmade gifts that make me feel happy and loved when I look at them, or hundreds of enthusiastic niefling hugs.

I'm now busier, and lonely for certain things. I want to be listened to by someone who is really interested, and cares what's going on with me; that's part of why I'm writing this. I want more good conversation, and a certain amount of touch. I want company sometimes when I'm doing things that are fun and enrich my own life.

But that's all. Someone asked who filled this role for me in the past, and the answer is no one. I've never been this functional before. I've never needed my own time so much, or taken care of myself so well. I've never been able to say, I just need these things, but other than that, I'm good. It's always been triage. More functional than ever before may not be fancy, but it's not a bad place to stop and celebrate.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I'm growing up--facing the needs attached to the life I want to live, and trying to take responsibility for them. Like most workers of my generation, I often have two or three jobs. I--we--try to develop a resume, while not depending too hard on one source of cash. The freedom to sell ourselves to several buyers at once is often all the autonomy we have in our working lives.

The dignity of making choices about your own life hangs on the ability to quit, and quitting means you have to have a backup. So, we either live in fear of our jobs--putting up with sexual harassment, terrible working conditions, and a profound vacuum of respect and care--or we have a backup. That's how it works. The level of shit we are forced to put up with is directly proportional to the quality of our backups, and the quality of our backups is usually not good.

For socialists, playing the patchwork-livelihood card has other complications. A first world worker in an imperialist system, I'm privileged, but am I significantly privileged among first world workers? If so, what to do about it? I managed to escape my early twenties with good credit and virtually no debt. I'm better educated than some university graduates. I have a house. I'm single and childless. Like myself, most people I know who have options can trace this back to someone else's work, usually a husband or parent. There's no obvious, effective way to share these advantages around. . . you know, other than systemic change.

Monday, August 23, 2010

R E S P E C T,

I've been reading the blog of a dear friend who suggests that sometimes you need anger to re-affirm your self-respect. This idea makes me a little sad, because I think it has something to do with the sickness in our construction of masculinity. . . but I don't think he's wrong.

Thinking about it, I realized that I haven't had a lot of trouble respecting myself in my life, though I have had a lot of trouble liking myself, and often assume everybody else will too. I used to sacrifice a lot of things for my self respect. I believed adult human-beings (including myself) were basically undeserving, and I did my utmost to behave accordingly. Now that I'm some months in to my self indulgent/taking-care-of-myself phase, I've been giving some thought to what self-respect is going to look like for me, in the future.

I still believe that self-respect is basically about integrity*--about living in accordance to that which you most deeply believe, and not being ashamed of it. And I still believe that others will inevitably respond to self-respect by returning it. It can be terrifying to believe in the value of every human life. It's an enormous demand, because so many of us are treated so poorly, so much of the time. . . but an interesting challenge to contemplate.

*a word that gives me the creeps a bit, I think because I saw it misused so much for religious propaganda in young women's. Pooh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


For the people who have been telling me since kindergarden that I think I'm all that, and for the relatives who don't read this blog because it has too many big words, I am your loss, which I'm down with. For the people I've bullshitted to, substituting a keen sense of exactly how much I can get away with for the rewards of deeper honesty, you are my loss, I am sorry.

I've been reading this book on "launching your personal brand," which is not quite as terrible as it sounds. Close. Beneath the stink of yesterday's trends is an (accidentally) insightful commentary on reputation, which is old, stolid, inevitable. The most authentic parts of you are seldom what anyone is willing to pay you for, but authenticity speaks to us, in the marketplace where we are starved for it as much as anywhere else.

I don't know when I came to the conclusion that God would strike me down with lightning if the people around me doubted for an instant that I was Smart. But at some point--maybe being forced to live with myself for long hours in the simple dark, maybe learning just how much it is that I love sunlight--I began to let it go.

I like physics, and like philosophy--even school philosophy--but not nearly enough to devote my life to either of them. I've been driven to that in an attempt to prove myself, seeking the rubber stamp, but maybe it's no good; maybe the rubber stamp will crush you. Maybe I'm worth not being crushed.

Of course I care what people think. I want them to think I'm nice, that I'm pretty, that I'm smart; I want them to think my taste is good and I'm not too weird and my breath doesn't smell bad. Commonly, I want to be the one insightful voice that resonates so deeply and so compellingly that they can't forget or disagree with me--I want to be so smart that people love me. Sometimes it works. Sort of. Strategy wise, I can't recommend it--I've heard physical beauty works better, maybe you can give me some tips.

And, of course, it's no accident people who accomplish something have often spent some time alone. And it's no accident that in letting go of some of the expectations of others, I realize I've already accomplished a lot that I care about.

Monday, August 09, 2010

this is how it works

Here is a fantastic animation which all of you should watch, even if I have already sent it to you twice. And here are some of the most interesting things it says:

For tasks which involve any sort of higher cognitive function, paying people more for them will decrease performance.

If you really want people to perform well at complex cognitive tasks, the thing to do is "pay them enough that they don't have to worry about money," and then incentivize them with autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

There's so much interesting in these few concepts that I can barely begin to unpack, but here's two things.

Escapism: From Harry Potter to Grey's Anatomy, from Pern to Stephen King to Lord of the Rings to Twilight, it seems to always offer a world where we can fantasize ourselves into lives of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Often in fantasy contexts mastery is about the main character's slow development of their unusual supernatural abilities; often in romance stories, the purpose given to the main character is simply to love and be loved.

In virtually all cases, autonomy is key; even if the characters we relate to are trapped in narrow and precarious situations, their unique abilities make their choices wider (or at least feel wider, because they are so different) than our own. If you find yourself constantly drawn to escapism (like I do), it seems like a fair bet that the characters you are reading about give you a much more satisfying sense of mastery, autonomy, and purpose than your own life.

Enoughness: I want to know what it means to pay people well enough that they don't have to worry about money. This is fantastically interesting to me, because I'm interested in human flourishing--in seeing people reach their potential--and understanding what kind of material support is needed in order for flourishing to happen seems paramount. Here's what I've come up with.

People will probably worry about money if they perceive that a lack of money is preventing them from having one or more of these things:



Medical care, including pain relief and some preventative care

Physical safety

Satisfying emotional self-expression

Opportunities for personal and professional growth; choices about livelihood. This includes needs like education, variety, and adventure.


A sense of belonging and respect in their community

Satisfying relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners and/or potential romantic partners

Opportunities for meaningful work, including the opportunity to raise children with resources they consider sufficient for the task

I have a theory that if people felt these needs were being met, necessity creep--people's rising standards of what material goods are essential to their existence--would be relatively easy to control. What do you all think?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

misdirected hate

This is the quote that makes me love Andrea Dworkin:

"It is true that we had to talk to each other. How else, after all, were we supposed to find out that each of us was not the only woman in the world not asking for it to whom rape or battery had ever happened? We couldn't read it in the newspapers, not then. We couldn't find a book about it. But you do know and now the question is what you are going to do; and so your shame and your guilt are very much beside the point. They don't matter to us at all, in any way. They're not good enough. They don't do anything.

As a feminist, I carry the rape of all the women I've talked to over the past ten years personally with me. As a woman, I carry my own rape with me. Do you remember pictures that you've seen of European cities during the plague, when there were wheelbarrows that would go along and people would just pick up corpses and throw them in? Well, that is what it is like knowing about rape. Piles and piles and piles of bodies that have whole lives and human names and human faces.

I speak for many feminists, not only myself, when I tell you that I am tired of what I know and sad beyond any words I have about what has already been done to women up to this point, now, up to 2:24 p.m. on this day, here in this place.

And I want one day of respite, one day off, one day in which no new bodies are piled up, one day in which no new agony is added to the old, and I am asking you to give it to me. And how could I ask you for less--it is so little. And how could you offer me less: it is so little. Even in wars, there are days of truce. Go and organize a truce. Stop your side for one day. I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape.

I dare you to try it. I demand that you try it. I don't mind begging you to try it. What else could you possibly be here to do? What else could this movement possibly mean? What else could matter so much?

And on that day, that day of truce, that day when not one woman is raped, we will begin the real practice of equality, because we can't begin it before that day. Before that day it means nothing because it is nothing: it is not real; it is not true. But on that day it becomes real. And then, instead of rape we will for the first time in our lives--both men and women--begin to experience freedom. If you have a conception of freedom that includes the existence of rape, you are wrong. You cannot change what you say you want to change. For myself, I want to experience just one day of real freedom before I die. I leave you here to do that for me and for the women whom you say you love."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

You don't want to call them bad things, because then the piling up would become overwhelming, and before long you would have to start thinking of your life as intolerable. Instead of "bad," you think of them as difficult; challenges, to be divided and conquered. You sort of hyperfocus and try not to notice all of them at once. This (you say, surveying the wreckage) is only difficult, I only worry about the problem that's in front of me, a mountain to be scaled, nothing more. And after that, it will be the next mountain, and the next, instead of some intolerable mess of suffocating badness, like being strangled in a sea of cooked spaghetti.

It works, most of the time. I think a lot of people do this.

Here's the dilemma; how do you do one mountain at a time when you're ADHD? Seriously. I've recently observed that I can jump into something and stay consistent, put time into it every day--for more or less three weeks, at which point my attention attempts mutiny. Problems don't seem to come in bite size chunks. . . God forbid I should need a bigger mouth?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dear Yoga,


nothing like breath to make you feel not-drowning.



Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tired, and so many things left to work on. Need to study for work stuff before I go to bed; want to goof off. Want to call a friend. Want a hug. Dishes, laundry, lawn needs mowing, haven't made any progress on the driveway for days, bloggy things I need to write, various portions of my house direly need cleaning, sleep--all of this feels pressing.

What I have done today: made a new friend, confronted my therapist, wrote in my journal, read two chapters of a trashy vampire story, slept when my back hurt, went on a long walk, thought about life, slow gentle yoga. And now this. Priorities, priorities.

But, I feel OK. This is what it's all for?

Monday, May 31, 2010

How do you say, “I'd like to finish your class, but trying not to want to kill myself seems to be a full time job?”

I wonder if I'm not doing something right, or if I'm just irreconcilably broken. Maybe that crucial part was knocked off long ago, like the rear view mirror came off that Cadillac when your teenage son backed it in too close to the mailbox. Or the time he didn't know what the fuck he was doing when he tried to rebuild the engine.

Some days I wake in the morning and my skin feels tauntingly intact. I would give anything just to be held, but my craving for someone to take a baseball bat or a knife to my back seems like a more honest version of the same desire. So I do the dishes; try not to cry, shake it off. Keep moving. Get dressed. Do something else. Fight. Remember to want to fight. Try, at least, to remember.

It's tempting to just tell her to give me a fail, leave it with everything else in the wreckage behind me. There's legitimacy here; I am trying, really, to build something new. New things need space to grow. The idea of tapping out is liberating, but also, angry and frustrating and sad. I love this work; I don't just like it. It uses me, all the intellectual muscle built up from years of reading useless crap that was never going to be any good to me if I was a physicist or a dancer. It's about taking the things I was inexorably drawn to, almost against my will, and weaving them into something useful and beautiful and real. I don't want to loose it forever.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Young wives are the leading asset of corporate power. They want the suburbs, a house, a settled life, and respectability. They want society to see that they have exchanged themselves for something of value."

-Ralph Nader

Friday, May 28, 2010

I was flipping through some old notes, and, being the lazybug that I am, thought today might be a good time for a "what did Marx actually say?" moment. Specifically, here's the ten point program he put forward in the Communist Manifesto (word for word but the emphasis is mine):

1) Abolition of property in land and the application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2) A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3) Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4) Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5) Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6) Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state.

7) Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8) Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9) Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.

10) Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

Interesting, no? Before you decide this (other than those parts that have been implemented already, which you like) is the most evil thing you ever heard, a few thoughts on interpreting it.

First, remember that it's highly contextual. This is what Marx thought would, generally, be a good political agenda for a communist party in "the most advanced countries" in the 1840's and 50's. It's extremely situational, instrumental. We encourage you to come up with a program suitable to your own context.

Second--I think this is the most important caveat of communism--remember that what we are looking for is a republic which exists for the sake of its people, particularly its most common people. Most of us in the United States have noticed that the government is no longer by or for us, so it's natural that we hesitate to engage. It's also natural that we don't want to give it any more of ourselves--our time, energy, funds--than we have to. To consider communism is to commit an egregiously assertive act of imagination. What would it be like, we ask, if our government were actually, fundamentally, for us? How could we make this happen?

Rather than being a distilled version of Marxist theory, the list is a thought-provoking historical artifact. Some items are contextual oddities; but the sections I've bolded, for instance, are the foundations of any meaningful equality of opportunity--let us all stand on the work of our own lives. And the sections italicized can be summarized: reclaim and protect a commons that can serve us all equally and well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My front yard has become weirdly important, ever since someone suggested it as a way to deal with fear. When fear is such a big part of you and your life, honor it; do the things you reasonably can to be more safe. Then after you've tried that, after you've given yourself that chance, choose the compromises you want, if you decide on the trade-off for more time and freedom.

As far as the outside of the house goes, the idea is "show no weakness"; don't look like a victim. Don't look like a target. It's become a very tiny, personal crusade. I find myself watching all the time--which houses seem like easy marks, like places where you could get away with it? Which ones don't? More tangibly, what are the details that make that difference? My goal is: just from looking, it will be clear that someone cares enough about the people in this house not to let things slide. Just from looking, it will be obvious that we who live here are well taken care of.

It's an enlightening study. Learning to do is hard, but so is learning to see, and suddenly there's the obvious connection that I've never made; to make things so clean and tidy and neat like that, to make a space that emanates strength, you have to be aware of your surroundings. You have to notice little details. It's a natural connection, so much more than just learning to bother--which is important enough on its own.

Somehow this is more important to me than everything else I should be working on. It's a slow building; half a step, stand back, consider--what can I do, with the tools I have? With the strength I have? How many more days will it take to finish weeding around the driveway? What other tools would be good for the job? Is there any way I might take that stump out by myself? Will it make a difference to sweep away that dirt, does that edge need to be straightened? Is there a solution to the weeds next to the house without buying pavers? My imagination is on walkabout; this will be a showplace, beautiful, clean, bountiful, precise, liveable. Just keep working every day, thousands of baby steps.

Stages and details of maintaining an everyday life are so new to me. What I'm probably best at, in fact, is keeping it nominally together after everything has gone to shit--and assuming that it's always going to be that way. I am scraping a different life from weeds and black clay, handful by handful.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Humans need each other; independence isn't about pretending we don't. Independence is having some measure of control over your relationships.* I imagine there are healthier and less healthy ways to go about this. Maybe healthy independence means being able to maintain a standard of how you will interact with others--how you will deal with needing and being needed--and being able to walk away from relationships that insist on violating that standard.

Of course, by definition it also must mean building relationships, of some kind--and keeping them. Because humans, we need each other.

*Credit for this insight goes to Tyrel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Maybe morning should be my blogging time; it seems to be when I'm feeling suitably melodramatic.

Today for the first time I wonder if it might have been a mistake to buy the house. Like me, it wants for so much fixing. We are both high maintenance, leaky, cracked, jerry-rigged but still beautiful, needy if we're being honest with ourselves, and I wonder if there's really room in this life for the both of us; there don't seem to be enough resources to sustain us.

For the first time I remember, I've started craving sunshine so much I can't enjoy rain. I miss the overwhelming, careless plant growth that happens everywhere back east. I'm hungry for blues and browns and greens, for ultramarine and scarlet, for distilled malachite and skies so bright you can barely see. I'm hungry for wet heat that slams into you like a wall when you walk out of the air conditioning at the airport, wide lazy rivers that are barely cool at all, and the lush, dense forest that asserts itself when water is no object--where nothing chokes out life but other life.

This is better, probably--it's a different kind of sadness than what I'm used to. The old things are still present, but this is here also--carrot, tantalizing, painful but drawing me from my rut. I hope.