Team Taylor

Ok, so I am Team Taylor all the way (we know this about me), and I’ve never seen her perform live so I don’t really know what I’m talking about, and, quite frankly, fashion isn’t exactly my purview, but why is it that TayTay always seems to sport either a high waisted, longline bikini from the 1950s, OR some sparkly number she raided from a figure skater’s costume closet?  The photo links to Taylor’s Instagram (that’s where I swiped this pic from), check out her on stage wardrobe for yourself.

Also: the pic of her and Mary J. Blige is incredibly sweet.

Toilet Talk

This might sound strange, but I would love to have a clear tank on my toilet.  Simple devices they may be, toilets have been one of the biggest annoyances in my life.  We’ve all been there, am I right?  You’ve just dropped a deuce and the toilet isn’t flushing properly, and it isn’t even your house.  Panic sets in, you close the lid, remove all the knickknacks from the back of the toilet, take off the cover and start poking around like you’re Bob frickin Vila.  If you’re lucky it’s just that the chain came unattached from the handle and you’re up to your elbow in tank water, manually lifting the plug and hooking the chain back on.  Worst case scenario it’s the other end and you need a plunger.  More often than not, in houses it’s the former.  Your panic whooshes down with your piss and feces and you vacate the toilet feeling light and breezy.

I’ve lived in a lot of pretty rundown places where maintenance is either difficult or not a priority.  Because of that I’ve encountered a number of toilet problems and therefore have become proficient at plunging a toilet, jerry-rigging a flush handle, and holding down the handle until the tank empties completely.  I can’t help thinking there’d be fewer plumbing issues if toilet tanks were see through.  Not the bowl, the tank full of clean water with the spout and that balloon thingy that senses when the tank is full.  If it were see through we’d know the tank had emptied and that we can release the handle.  We’ve all been there, right?  Standing, awkwardly bent over, holding the handle like a boob because we’re not sure if it’s done flushing or not (this is assuming you close the lid when you flush like you should).  A clear tank would eliminate this anxiety.

So I looked it up: “toilet with a clear tank”.  And this is what I found:

Not what I was expecting.

In 2006 AquaOne presented the Fish ‘n Flush aquarium toilet tank.  No worries, the fish aren’t in the tank, there is a separate compartment that houses the fish.  The aquarium merely gives the illusion there are goldfish in your toilet.  The tank holds about 2.2 gallons while the aquarium holds 2.5 and can house pretty much anything except coral.  (Don’t you dare put any fucking coral in there.)  As long as it fits, it flies… er, swims.  And the kit came with everything one might need except water and fish.  Oh, and it glows in the nighttime due to strategically placed LED lights.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) this product is no longer available.  Although these people might still have some.  It’s hard to tell.  But don’t go looking at fishnflush.com, that domain is now owned by a guy who writes software code.

After perusing the aquarium option, I found this promotional video for a related product:

Closer to what I meant.  Although, I have zero interest in decorating my toilet tank.  That’s just weird.

Neither do I want a tank that is also an aquarium.  But I still believe a nice, clear, plexiglass toilet tank would make life easier and remind users to hold down the handle until the tank empties.  One day.  A girl can dream.

Happy National Friendship Day: A Tribute

In the past two months I have written two short stories about a single woman looking for love.  One, specifically; the other, well, she sort of finds love by accident.  (Well, she meets a couple of dudes, we don’t know that she loves either of them.)  Neither of these stories would accomplish the wretchedly simple job of passing the Bechdel Test, a test I find important, but not as important as representing “real” women, whatever that means (see my post about Thor v The Avengers).  But neither story is about female relationships (although one could analyze the female relationships in the first story).  I tend to write about what I’m currently going through and my mind was heavily on my own hetero-romantic relationships while I was writing them.  Because those are in a constant state of flux.  I didn’t write about my female relationships because my female relationships are solid.

Today is National Friendship Day, or some such nonsense, and it’s got me thinking about my most significant friendships.  Weirdly, or not so weirdly, the older I get the more important my female friendships are to me.  I still love my boys and my life would be sad without them, but it’s my girls, if ‘importance’ were a scale, who are the most important.  There are specific women from various points in my life who have greatly impacted me and continue to be my friends despite my wildly narcissistic and transient lifestyle.  And, the beauty of these women is that they are all different.

My oldest friend is someone who has always been supportive of me.  We met in the third grade in violin class and I have valued her opinion and her esteem and her friendship very highly ever since.  We had a small period of separation in college, but managed to reconnect afterwards and are still very close.  A very confident woman, she is also confidence-inspiring.  I never feel more encouraged, more empowered, than after I speak with her.  She took me clothes shopping for a “professional” outfit when I was temping, she sends me information on writing retreats and contests, she buys me dinner a couple times a year, and a birthday present even when I want to ignore my own birthday.  Always so career driven, she has served as an inspiration in my own professional life, making me believe I can forge ahead with the notion that I am a writer and might actually get paid one day to write.  I was happy to be a part of her wedding party when she asked.  She and her husband are one of the coolest couples I’ve ever met and have never, even inadvertently, made me feel badly about being single.  Their daughter is five months old and I know they are going to be excellent parents because they’ve been practicing on me for years now.  Every time I visit with them they feed me, give me career advice, and counsel me on my most recent romantic disaster.  When their kid is a teenager they’d be wise to remember how they’ve advised me over the years.

In high school I met my Best Friend (technically, all these women are my “best friend”, after all, like Mindy Lahiri says “best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier”, but this one is my Best Friend).  My Best Friend is a funny woman.  She’s very analytical, enjoys making lists, and loves setting “life goals” — she was the only teenager I knew with a five-year-plan.  We met in a church youth group when we were sixteen and have been friends from the moment she introduced herself to me.  I don’t really know what drew us together initially, but a desire for a certain sort of connection kept us together.  Best Friend is a friend with whom I can discuss Important Topics.  From the time we were juniors in high school, she has been the friend with whom I discuss books, articles, philosophy, current events, the political impact of music, education, careers, travel, and religious matters.  We rarely talk about boys, men, love, or sex.  It was never a subject either of us brought up in high school and we rarely bring it up now.  Only occasionally have those subjects arisen, and mostly when she’d first met her now-husband and wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  Our friendship not only passes, but defines the Bechdel Test.  Which is odd for a Best Friend relationship, one might think, in stories it’s always the best friend who the protagonist goes to for sex or love advice.  It’s an entire category of movie character, usually played by Judy Greer or Jeremy Piven.  But our friendship has never been of that sort.  In high school it was sort of a relief, because there were plenty of other girls who were happy to talk about those topics ad nauseam and nothing else.

College.  So many significant things happened to me in college.  One, I learned that I am smart.  Highly intelligent, even.  Not like Mensa intelligent, not like best-friend-from-college smart, but of above average intelligence.  I also learned how to drink alcohol, kiss boys, and to travel independently.  Sophomore year I met previously mentioned best-friend-from-college at our tiny college, in our even tinier English department.  Originally an equine major, she moved to the dark side after taking a seminar on Tolkien freshman year.  She and I wound up in almost all the same classes Sophomore year, including a Theater History class where, I feel, we really bonded.  Self-centered moron I am, I didn’t realize how close our friendship was until after the opening performance of Fahrenheit 451 when she ran up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me how well I’d done.  Starting then our friendship deepened significantly.  We were travel buddies during our semester abroad, she was there the first time I got really drunk, the first time I got really hung up on a dude, the first time I went home with a guy.  And I was there for her when she underwent similar foolishness.  We saw each other be incredibly silly about men, and make unbelievably wise decisions about our education and work.  We are each other’s favorite theater-going friend and she is still one of the first people I will talk to about dating woes.  All the things that brought us together in college — literature, theater, writing — are still our favorite topics.  She is lovely, generous, and supportive.  I see her the least of the four women I’m writing about today and, therefore, I miss her the most.  But I am always incredibly proud of her.

The friend I’ve seen the most lately is technically my boss.  We work for a seasonal outdoor education program where staff live all together on site, and recently I’ve shared a house with my direct supervisor.  We started working together in the spring of 2014, before that we knew each other a little, mostly by sight.  That first spring we worked together, however, our knowledge of one another turned from knowing a little about each other, to knowing everything about one another.  Staff relations that season were a little tense and few came to our house (even though that’s where the food is).  The Boss and I found ourselves, many nights and weekends, the only two hanging out.  A fun, friendly, chatty woman she and I quickly opened up to each other about a whole many things.  I used to lament that I didn’t have any Sex and the City friends, no group of women with which to discuss life, dating, and sex over brunch.  Suddenly, amongst other things, I had this: a woman I regard highly to whom I could unburden myself when feeling emotional, or frustrated about anything (not just men or sex).  She is a friend who would drink whisky with me when I broke up with someone and get excited with me when I met someone new.  The twelve months I was 29 turned out to be a particularly trying twelve months.  I was getting down about all the bummed out things that happened, sure nothing good happened that year.  But then I remembered the new friendship I’d developed with my housemate and colleague.  If there has ever been a bright spot, it has been her.  I am certain I would not have struggled through certain things as well as I did if it weren’t for her friendship.  I am happy she is there when I need her and I am more than happy to be there when she needs me.

The Girl Scout Law commands that one tries her best to “be a sister to every Girl Scout”.  Growing up with three older sisters, Girl Scout sisters, and, once I started school, a number of girl friends, I’ve always felt that line applies to all girls, all women, I chance to meet.  Sometimes those relationships don’t last, but others remain strong even when far apart.  That isn’t to say the latter is “better”, or “more real” than the former.  As Cher Horowitz says “all my friends [are] really good in different ways.”  I love all my friends for those things that make them good.  These four women, in particular, are friends whom I am exceptionally lucky to have because my life would be significantly different without them.

Things I Really Like:

  • Rainy days, when I don’t have to go anywhere
  • Coffee, always
  • Taylor Swift’s latest album
  • Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh
  • Snuggling
  • Comic book movies, esp Marvel
  • Pirates, Ninjas, Witches, Robots
  • 19th Century European Literature, primarily British
  • Colorful flowers
  • Baking sweets for others
  • Writing
  • Mysteries of most descriptions: books, movies, TV shows
  • Ocean beaches
  • Being silly
  • Kittens
  • Reading really captivating books
  • Loving; Being in love
  • Vodka, Honey Whiskey, Red Wine
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Bringing joy to other people
  • Experimenting
  • Jane Austen

Hate, Racism, Using Me to Kill Black People: Things I Won’t Accept

It has come to my attention that Dylann Roof, that little prick who shot up a church in Charleston, is using me as his justification for his crimes.  He’s using me, my sisters, and our maidenheads like some antebellum, Jim Crow era rationalization to burn Rosewood to the ground.  This is some Emperor Palpatine-level bullshit.  I do not need some hyped up jerkface to protect me from squat.

I did not grow up with many black kids.  There were a few handfulls of black families in my town, but for the most part our diversity was comprised of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Haitians, and Dominicans.  Lots of Caribbean influence, lots of Central American.  Some Black.  Since leaving high school, I’ve met a wider field of people: I’ve met British, I’ve met Greeks, I’ve met Swedes, I’ve met Chinese.  I’ve met Muslims, I’ve met Jews, I’ve met Rastas.  I’ve met criminals, and I’ve met upstanding citizens.  I’ve met farm-boys, and inner-city ballers.  I’ve met friendly New Zealanders, and douchey Australians.  I’ve met black girls who can’t stop touching my hair, and Ghanaian pastors who invite me to visit their churches.  I’ve met vegan lesbians, and queer Persians, and trans men.  I’m only thirty and I’ve had thousands of students and dozens of roommates from a great many walks of life.  I have had many friends, people who will be my friends for life, and those who were well-needed friends for the time being.  No friendship is superior or inferior to any other.  I love all of my friends.  My friends get to know me and understand who I am.  They have my back if I ever need them to, and I theirs.

Recently, I went on a pseudo-blind date with a man I met on the Internet.  My friend D—- encouraged me to go out with him and not to worry because he’d be there watching if I needed him.  I laughed and told him I wouldn’t need him (and I didn’t) but his offering to be there just in case was appreciated.  I can hold my own with a man.  I know how to handle myself.  There was a time when I didn’t.  There was a time, when I was younger, when I didn’t know how to advocate for myself with men.  I was inexperienced and unused to people trying to take advantage of me, and I found myself in an uncomfortable situation.  He didn’t ask me if he could touch me.  He didn’t ask me if he could do things to me.  I was wise enough to push him away, and he was kind enough to stop, but the damage was done.  I felt dirty and violated.  By a white, mid-western boy.

In my experience, which isn’t singular or unique, I’ve been fucked over by white men.  Almost exclusively.  Black men, in my experience, have always had my back.  I don’t feel as though I need any protection from Black Men.  I don’t feel that I need any protection from White Men, for that matter.  Same goes for Asian Men and American Indians and Caribbean Men.  My vagina isn’t a thing I need a man to worry about.  Women (all women) do not need a man to stand up and, on behalf of us all, make any decisions about our well-being.  We most especially don’t need a man to murder anyone on our behalf.  I will not take on that responsibility.

Far too often Women have been the justification for horrible acts.  Not any specific woman, but Women, in general.  As if we’re all in constant danger and we need the Menfolk to eliminate that danger so we can feel safe.  Quite frankly, I feel less safe with a man who thinks that is a reasonable argument.  It is as twisted as the man who shot women on his college campus because other women wouldn’t have sex with him.  Women are not some abstract concept that can be invoked as a rallying cry.  We’re not “Democracy”, or “Freedom”, or “God”, or other terrible reasons to justify killing other people: we are people.  We are individuals.  We each have a unique point of view and our own opinions.  If Dylann Roof had asked a woman if she felt unsafe from the “threat of Black Men” he would have known better than to use Women as one of his reasons for shooting innocent people.  Rather than invoking the concept of Women (alongside the notion that Black People have “taken over” the country), he should have just stood behind his unreasonable hatred.  It’s no better a reason, but it’s honest.

I refuse to be someone’s rallying cry.  I refuse to be someone’s concept.  I am a white woman, I am not a White Woman.  You may not capitalize those words and do horrendous things because of me.  I love all of my friends.  I love all people.  I do not accept the burden of Dylann Roof’s crimes.  His unchecked hate led him to shoot people, not my sisters, my mother, my nieces, or my friends, and certainly not me.  Do not use me as your excuse to kill black people.

My prayers are with the Charleston community today.  My love for them abounds.  I pray to God to give them strength and compassion.  I also pray that people everywhere stop seeing women as a concept, stop using us for their own purposes, and start seeing women as people.  So many times I’ve read the questions: why do we focus on race?  And, Why do we need feminism?  Because, my dear, there are those out there who still don’t see us.

A Story of Natural Consequences

dock

A little ways to the left of the dock above is a deep channel dug years ago for irrigation purposes.  Whoever was digging it gave up and now it’s just a deep, muddy ditch.  This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that the program I work for regularly brings students into that marsh.  Which isn’t actually a big deal: typically, our students listen to us when we tell them not to go into the mud because they’ll sink in up to their waists.  Typically they hear these instructions and heed our advice.  Typically.

Last week, the final week of our program for the school year, we had a school from the Boston inner city area.  With urban schools, my main objective is to get the kids out into nature, to try to get them to connect with something, anything, in the outdoors.  Now Boston isn’t New York in terms of nature, but my goal remains the same.  This is mud, those are trees, bug spray goes on you not the insects.

Regardless of where a school is from my rules are simple: we stay together, we have fun and learn something, don’t get hurt.  This last school had a little trouble with the rules.  None of the students got hurt, but half were having trouble with the “have fun and learn something” rule (“it’s so cold!”, “there are so many bugs!”, “I’m gonna get wet!”), while the other half was disregarding the “stay together” rule.

Tuesday, we’re in the marsh, about four girls have informed me they have to pee (these muffins are not prepared to go in the trees), I am attempting to get us as close to an actual bathroom as possible.  This is proving difficult as the kids not into the exploration are dragging their feet, and the kids who are into finding animals in the marsh keep finding really cool crabs and asking questions about the various species, and I’m really pumped to stop and examine and answer their questions.  However, slowly, but surely, we are getting closer and closer to the dock above (which is a short walk to the dining hall and, therefore, toilets) but we are still on the far side of the channel.

And I don’t realize that I’m not going to be able to get up ahead of them to warn them about the mud.

There I am, standing in the marsh, looking around to make sure all students are moving with the group, while staying away from the osprey nest on the point, when I turn back around to see, up ahead, K—-, a small, fifth grade boy in a clear plastic poncho, jump off the marsh, into the channel, and run/crawl up the far bank back onto the marsh.  I yell to them to stay where they are as the rest of the students and I make our way to the channel.  Miraculously all the students come gather around.  Mostly due to other kids yelling “K—- LOST HIS SHOE!  K—- LOST HIS SHOE!  MISS BECKA, K—- LOST HIS SHOE!”

K—- had, indeed, lost one of his shoes.

Very calmly, to the gathered students, I tell them that I am now going to tell them the story of the girl who jumped in the channel.  She didn’t listen to me, got ahead of me, much like K—- did, jumped in the channel and sank up to her waist in the mud.  She was lucky, however, I told my students.  Unlike another student who lost his boot in the mud.  When his teacher reached in to get it out, she pulled out a boot, sure; but not that kid’s boot.  A different boot.  K—-‘s shoe is gone.  K—-‘s shoe is no more.  There is no shoe.  It’s gone, baby; gone.

And I couldn’t be mad at him.  Couldn’t yell at him.  I couldn’t give him a warning or a strike for running ahead.  The boy lost his shoe in the mud.  Forever.  I wasn’t about to jump in there and try to retrieve it, especially after the kid told me he had another pair in the cabin.  I did tell his teacher when we got back, however.  He agreed with me: Natural Consequences.  Now the kid knows if he jumps in the mud again: he might lose his shoes.

This child is destined to lose shoes, though; I’m convinced.  The next day, that same student almost lost his sandal to the ocean.  Another kid fished it out with a crabbing net.

“Coffee Stains”, an artist’s statement

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My submission for this year’s Sketchbook Project with the Brooklyn Art Library: “Coffee Stains”.

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The following is my Artist’s Statement as written on the Sketchbook Project website:

My lifestyle causes me to move every few months.  Sometimes I’m returning somewhere familiar, sometimes I’m lucky enough to stay with friends and family, sometimes I go somewhere completely new.  Everywhere I go: I drink coffee.  When I chose the “Wanderer” theme I had the idea to chronicle my travels through drawings of cups of coffee in each location.  Then, I couldn’t find my sketchbook.

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On my travels went, though, and I found myself outside Portland, OR for two months, wherein I inadvertently found myself making what I called the “coffeehouse tour of Portland”.  I visited a different coffeehouse nearly every visit into the city, I sat there with my drink and wrote, or drew, and soaked in the culture of the coffeehouse.  At each establishment I took pictures and posted them to Facebook.

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I believe in “coffeehouse culture”, that it is good for a community.  It doesn’t have to be a coffeehouse, it could be a tea-house, or a bar, or a bookstore.  I believe every community ought to have a place where people can visit, and pass the time, preferably with caffeine.  The places I have enjoyed living the most have all had something like this.  In Cazenovia, NY it was a coffeeshop, in Canterbury, England it was a pub, in Andover, CT it was a Chinese restaurant, and in Wakefield, RI it is a bar.  In each of these places I would feel as comfortable reading a book as I would talking to a stranger.

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When I returned to New England and found my sketchbook, I was glad I took so many hipsterish pictures.  I was able to draw some of my favorite Portland coffeehouses.  The idea to actually use coffee to paint stemmed from meeting a man in Seattle who uses a coffee/bleach solution to make tee shirts, and a blog about a woman who uses coffee in lieu of watercolors.  Using actual coffee to paint drawings of coffee was too meta to pass up.  I also used tea and hot cocoa mix, don’t be alarmed if the book smells like chocolate.  

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So much of my life can be counted in cups of coffee, as can, I think, many other’s; it is so ubiquitous that we rarely think about the coffee itself, where it comes from, how it’s made, which method we prefer.  How a region feels about their coffee or tea and how they make it is an interesting reflection of both the culture and the individual.  Is it a quick Dunkins drive-thru, or are the beans ground with each cupful?  What time of day is it drunk?  Cream?  Sugar?  Black?

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I am fascinated by coffee.  I love learning about new ways to make it.  I love watching experts make coffee.  I love talking with a friend over a steaming cup.  I believe coffee, and tea, have the power to bring people together if we let it.  So if we ever meet, show me how you make yours and I’ll tell you how I make mine.  <3 <3 <3

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Perspective is a funny thing: Mo’ne Davis shows Good Sportsmanship.

Huff Post Women picked up an article, written by a man, condemning the dude who used Twitter to call Mo’ne Davis a “slut”.  The writer commends Davis for being gracious enough to forgive the dude and speak up on his behalf.  But even though she’s forgiven him, the writer cannot.

I agree with the writer, it’s sad how often a child is the bigger person, forgiving an adult for their wrongs.  My hope is that anyone who thought it might be ok to call a 13 year old girl a “slut [or to make jokes that sexualize little girls (Seth MacFarlane)] will rethink their point of view when said thirteen year old girl comes forward and says, ‘You did wrong, dude, but “everyone makes mistakes”; I’m going to forgive you.’  And then help you get reinstated on your sports team.

“Lolita” photo from Styling Dutchman

This girl did not have to respond to that dude.  She could have responded with hate and condemnation.  But she responded with love and compassion.  She took the high road.  She showed Good Sportsmanship.

The writer of the article agrees, Davis acted appropriately, but is still outraged a) (and rightly so) that she was even in this situation and b) that her reaction (and everyone’s praise of her actions) is some sort of Uncle Tom nonsense.  He cites her forgiveness as another example of a black person “turning the other cheek” for a white person’s foolish mistakes.  Ah, perspective!  I saw it as yet another female “turning the other cheek” for a male’s boneheaded comments.  That is my perspective.  Way too often I’ve heard my young, male coworkers make comments about our female students dress, calling them “skanks” for wearing spaghetti strap tanks and using crude hyperbole to say “her shorts are too short”.

Women of all races, ages, and colors are expected to simply “accept” comments about their appearance, dress, and body whether it makes them uncomfortable or not.  Once, in a bar, I wore my father’s old naval shirt complete with patches and our name stenciled across the front.  A man I did not know, upon hearing the shirt’s history, commented “Wow, he must have been barrel-chested in his youth!”  I turned away, done with him.  He thought my reaction was extreme and tried to assure me it was a joke.  I said, “Yeah, I know; I’m not talking to you.”  There is possibly a version of this story out there where he is the innocent party and I am a stuck-up bitch.  I will not, however, apologize for not talking to what was probably a perfectly normal dude who happened to make a creepy comment.  This bonehead who called Mo’ne Davis a “slut” is probably a normal dude.  Normal Dudes don’t realize what they think are acceptable comments aren’t until someone tells them, and even then they don’t always get it.

Mo’ne Davis; photo via Black Celeb Kids

I think Mo’ne Davis is genuinely classy.  She is an inspiring young person.  But I also agree with the writer of the article, whether it’s institutionalized racism, or institutionalized sexism no one should be automatically expected to forgive and forget.  It is those that do who are truly exceptional.