The smallest drop of pre-Christmas can get you immaculate pregnant so always wear your rugelachs

Wherein we feature two basketball hoops, 70 quail eggs, Edith, “ten years ago”, and &etc.

PRESENTLY (h/t B-Potts) we are seated in the dining room, surrounded by the aroma of natural gas (well, okay, that gross stuff they use to scent it) and the windows open. There is a terrible grinding sound coming from the floor below me, but I am promised that the washing machine will be working by tonight, which is a fucking Xmas miracle in December. The cats and Horace are looking at me murderously, but Edith is chewing on a tendon that is almost as long than she is, with the attitude, “Tro lolo, it has always been this way and so I suppose it will always be.”

Puppies, like Earth girls, are easy.

I’m on vacation. Yah-TAH. I have no plans except to get out of town to Portland at some point soon. I’m enjoying hiding in my house when there is not banging noises. I think I like almost anything that changes my perspective some, which this remodel is doing. It has renewed my enthusiasm about having access to my very own personal washer and dryer that is accessible at any time day or night. That is really fucking special, isn’t it? How fortunate.

There have been small trials along the way, mostly under the column of capitalism fails. My contractor and I got our wires crossed and I ordered a tub and then he ordered a tub. Two tubs were hurtling towards my house from Kentucky. What a waste! My tub, which as it turns out was the wrong tub, had a bunch of fixtures I needed to fish out from under it, which involved cutting it off its pallet. I was afraid to have the tub come all the way to my house, thinking it would be a major fiasco to find strapping equipment to restrap it, and that it would take up too much room, since the non-Elco half of the garage is filled with things like dodgy dirt piles and tools.

So I decided the most efficient thing would be to drive to the shipping company that received the tub. They were amenable to this and were nice men to boot. One helped me undo the tub, fish the shower and sink fixtures out, and restrap it. I offered to pay for the materials but they waved me away. It was pretty cool to go out to a freight company in Woodinville. I need to find a job where I can hang out all kinds of places where no one wants me, like the laundromat and freight companies. I really wish I would have brought my camera. The office/dispatch area reminded me of some blue collar jobs I had in the way back before college. My back hurt just looking at the “YOU MUST BE COMPLETELY OFF DUTY FOR YOUR BREAKS” sign. I did get a sneak peek of the chrome lion footies as they will look on the correct tub and HOOBOY TACKY SHINY BONER AHOY.

The medicine chest arrived and when I brought it into the house I could hear the contents tinkling merrily–the mirrors were totally shattered. Also I have bought entirely too much tile, because I measured the basement before the plumber showed up and changed the design. The day they cut the cement floor open, many spaghetti poodles as well as other brik-a-brak jumped to their deaths off the shelf, gouging my toilet seat on the way down. There was something I’d never seen before that was original to the house–an electrical lock that opened the garage door, which was the entrance I was using for the workers. This lock is broken now. It’s these little things that I didn’t foresee happening that are adding to costs and are just kind of generally a bummer. It will be worth it when it’s done, though, and I am sitting in a giant vat of hot water reading a Lawrence Block novel.

I put the tile together last weekend to make sure I liked it and the design. This will be, basically, what the shower looks like when it’s done. If you cock your head to the left 90 degrees you will see what the vanity backsplash is meant to look like. Everything else is chrome and white.

This lighting is terrible, but let me assure you it’s a light green and black–Daltile “Mint Ice.” I decided to dance with the one what brung me and make the basement look like the upstairs. So, darker border tile, a “sizzle” tile and BINGO. It’s surprisingly hard to walk into a modern local tile store and get your mittens on boring 50s tile. HA.

Speaking of trashy writing like vintage Lawrence Block–I have written another short story, but unlike the one this spring which turned into a novella (whoops) and the one after that in the summer that turned into a novel (double whoops) this is an ACTUAL SHORT STORY. It’s about a woman who splits in two. I’m going to submit it to a few “exposure” (free) journals and see what happens after New Years. So that is a good thing that came out of my laundromatting.

I have been doing very little cooking, since my water is unpredictably off or on, and almost no entertaining. I did pickle a bunch of quail eggs on a whim, so these should be delicious in about three weeks. I used the last of my long pepper from my Victorian year. As well as allspice and mustard seed, so they will be Victorian goodness.

On one of my last days of work I decided to take the Elco out. It’s only coming out about weekly now, since it does not run as well in the cold, and as the former owner told me, “If the roads are icy and the back is empty, the rear can catch up with the front of the car and kill you.” Oh, okay. Good times. It’s rarely icy here, though, and the sunrises have been glorious lately. I think this car was made to be in Seattle now, really. Anyway I was driving it home and the volt gauge for the battery started jerking around.

“Nooooooo!” I melodrama-ed, which is my reaction every single time it’s not running perfectly. I ran home and played internet mechanic until I found out it was probably one of five things, all likely to do with the alternator. “What is an alternator,” I wondered to myself. I have made a vow to learn how cars go and so far I am doing okay with a lot of help. I gave P. the rundown of my findings and he volunteered to take a look. In previous lives before library school he was a tractor mechanic and a fishing boat mechanic, and what is an El Camino if not the bastard child of a boat and a tractor?

I added the weekly big gulp of oil and he looked from the other side. “Loose wire,” he said. I was so happy! I need to get a grip. (Not going to happen.)

As a finale to the 2013 part of the school year, Strudel performed in the holiday concert. She is in choir now, so she got to participate in almost every number done by each grade. Franny and I came to the school early so we could drop Strudel off with her music gang and we took a seat with a cherry view on the world’s most uncomfortable bleachers. There is not enough legroom for adults so all the parents end up sitting sideways and twisted for every event in the gym.

LO AND BEHOLD who should enter and make a beeline for where we were sitting but Loudmouth Nemesis Dad, who I have not seen since Halloween, thank fuck. Wait, what is someone who is like a baby nemesis who you only remember exists when you see them? A nemesette.

This jackwagon sat behind us and started making loud declarations about how busy they were and how stressed out his wife was. He has the loudest, most booming voice that can cut through, well, a gym full of parents and their excited children. “Well there’s the tree fundraiser,” he foghorned. “And my wife is busy with the wine fundraiser. She has to collect 35 more bottles! She is totally overwhelmed! And then we’re driving to Idaho for two weeks to visit my wife’s family…”

“Do you want to move?” I asked Franny.

“So much,” she said.

Our new seats were farther away on the other side and involved a very unpicturesque view of a basketball hoop. It was PERFECT.

SO. Let’s talk about TEN YEARS AGO. I am all over the place today, and I cannot even be arsed to use chapter headings or anything.

ANYWAYS. Look, Ma, I left my husband.

Am I different at 36 than I was at 26 with a three-year-old and totally freaked out? Yeah, I suppose I am. I’ve learned a lot, but sometimes I feel like the things I’ve learned about I will not have to go through again. Like, uh…tech contracting, maybe? I know how to do it, but I may never have to call on that special skill set again. I think I’m better at life in general. I learned how to go through a terrible divorce with years of custody fallout shit. Probably won’t do that again, because I know how to detangle myself from things now, as well as not getting with people who are rill bad for me.

This is what I, personally, would do differently, if my 36-year-old self was standing behind that little baby 26-year-old graduate student (ha).

1. Document all violence, big and little. I should have taken a picture of where his fist went through the wall, and when he put the doorknob of my new apartment through the wall. I should have called the cops when he was smashing the backyard. I should have called the cops and documented when he assaulted me after our separation, because then I might not have had to deal with the humiliation of the commissioner telling me in court that I “looked like I could take him.”

2. I should have kicked him out of our shared home. This, along with the documentation of violence, may have put me in a different standing for custody. I was operating from a place of personal ethics–it was not my house (his father owned it), so I felt like I had no right to stay. I’m sure my ex-FiL wouldn’t have minded, and if I’d daylighted the violence outside of court they might not have given him money. Hard to say now.

3. I should not have bothered trying to be friendly. This was a person I could barely talk to before I told him I was leaving him, so there was no point trying to chat with him after. I don’t think it hurt anything, per se, it was mostly just a waste of time and a headache. Cordiality and basic communication is different than friendly.

4. This is so small I hesitate to even mention it, but I left way too many things behind. Once the dust settles and you heal up emotionally, there was a lot of stuff I missed. Art I bought in Mexico, other dishes and appliances I’d had for years. I had to trade him a brand new Mark Bittman cookbook just to get the basic bitch Betty Crocker thing I taught myself to cook with, that I am emotionally attached to. Of course all the lovely Mexican art has been chucked now, but it was important that he keep it all at the time.

What would any of this have changed? Again, hard to say. You are rolling the dice when you set foot in family court. I’d like to think we could have avoided those two loooong years of 50/50 custody, as well as his bullshit claims that we should go back to 50/50 time when I filed for child support. But he moved away and his attention wandered eventually, so she has one room and a home base in the end. Would I do it again? Of course, in a heartbeat, and I would do it even more poorly if necessary. Things like my calavera last supper and my dignity lives on in my memory, at least. Merry Fuckmas.

Lust, Actually

Caitlin Flanagan, whom I am coming to believe is a bit of a froot loop, or at least has a moderate case of fogey-dom, has landed in my mailbox again courtesy of the Atlantic. This month she is writing about how teenage girls “endure” hookup culture.

In approaching this article we first need to consider the fact that her perspective is heteronormative and her examples of wholesome teen culture are, well, stuff white people like. In short, she makes assumptions that teenage girls are sexually-oriented toward teenage boys and are under the thrall of girly pop culture romance baloney.

Further, Flanagan doesn’t really define hookup culture, which, fair enough, it’s been in the lexicon for a few years now and people generally know what it means. She does kind of talk around the idea of hookup culture, and an example that she gives is of a solo young woman participating in a locker room gang bang, which some people might consider a varsity-level “hookup” at any age.

So whether girls are either burned by hookup culture, or, like the plucky heroine of a Victorian-era romance novel, they manage to avoid some faceless boy skeeting in their eye through a combination of spunk (def. 1) and luck, they yearn towards romantic impossibilities. She cites the example of the High School Musical franchise and the music of Taylor Swift as where young girls are taking their cues about romance from. Girls want boyfriends, she claims. Girls want to be loved and they want a happy ending. I wonder if Flanagan is too old to remember that teenagers can identify bullshit pop culture constructs? Is it not possible that this treacly pap is being engineered to appeal to the parents of these girls, to assuage some of the pearl clutchery engendered by a media that tells them that their daughters are getting DPed by the lacrosse team?

Flanagan compares the youth of today to the previous generation. A girl is “taught by her peer culture that hookups are what stolen, spin-the-bottle kisses were to girls a quarter century ago. She is a little girl; she is a person as wise in the ways of sexual expression as an old woman.” O RLY, Flanagan. If you want to pull pop culture as a reflection of society, a quarter of a century ago Fast Times at Ridgemont High portrayed a 15-year-old girl having an abortion, and I don’t think the character got knocked up from playing spin-the-bottle, and I don’t think you can shove 1985 (or the 70s, or the 60s) into the same weird platonic-ideal youth culture box as people have done with the postwar period in the US.

Can anyone else see the giant elephant in the corner of this pile of malformed claims? Where are teenage boys in all this? They mostly exist in this article to deny love, and to use teenage girls as their sexual playthings. Do teenage boys not desire love and stable  and healthy relationships? Let’s say for a moment that all teenage boys do seek to take advantage of girls. Flanagan writes about all this exploitation as something that is kind of just magically “happening” to girls, which seems a little rape-culturey to me.

Then there is this, her closing paragraph: “There might seem something wan, even pitiable, about all these young girls pining for boyfriends instead of hookups. But the wishes of girls, you have to remember, have always been among the most powerful motivators in the lives of young men. They still are.” What is this, I don’t even. Did you suddenly hit your word limit, Flanagan? At the very least, this seems to contradict all her business about girls following the desires of boys, typified by statements like, “Is it any wonder that so many girls are binge-drinking and reporting, quite candidly, that this kind of drinking is a necessary part of their preparation for sexual activity?”

I should say that Flanagan’s viewpoint is not as blinkered as the points I’ve pulled out here. She does make some decent points about the very real contradictory expectations that adults (who are inured to these contradictions)  impose on the young, especially in regards to sexuality.

My biggest sticking point is that Flanagan portrays teenage girls as resigned participants in some kind of sexual vacuum (boys exist only to deny them love and to fuck them unpleasantly, and then run), having no apparent agency or sexual desires of their own. Again and again popular culture wants to portray the teenage girl as the innocent or the victim, or completely over the line as in her example of the slattern in the novel she cites in her article:

In Testimony, the sex party occurs at the fictional Avery Academy; Shreve imagines Siena, the girl at the center of the event, as a grifter, eager to exploit her new status as victim so that she can write a killer college essay about it, or perhaps even appear on Oprah.

Just like real humans, teenaged girls can like romance AND they can like fucking. They can enjoy these things together or separately. Ultimately, Flanagan’s article is yet another pointless rehash of myths and half-truths about teenage culture.

Personal Space and Being a Lady

[Trigger warning–something I don’t usually include at the beginning of my posts since my whole blog is a trigger for some people.]

AHEM. Hey remember me? NO? Fuck off! Just kidding. I love you, even though the thing you got me for my birthday broke 45 minutes after I opened it and I know you took a second piece of cake before everyone even had one.

SO. What I really want to say! The other day I read this article and it really grabbed me: Schrodinger’s Rapist: or a Guy’s Guide to Approaching Strange women without Being Maced. That’s a mouthful, eh?

In a nutshell, the author, Phaedra Starling, claims that women, to varying degrees, constantly assess their personal risk of harm when confronted with men in daily life. This is everywhere–on the street, in the workplace, on the first few dates and even with men you have known for years if things go south suddenly. It’s not a new idea in the realm of feminist thought and discussion, but I think it’s worthwhile in the sense that the Starling takes a really matter-of-fact, non-hostile tone without cajoling or pandering. I feel like it’s the best possible way to present this idea to men who are genuinely good guys. A chance to say, hey, this thing that you may not be aware of–women’s fear of men–is real and takes up a significant part of women’s daily lives and energy. It would be great if articles like this were published in men’s magazines, wouldn’t it? AH HA HA HA HA, oh, I think I just hurt myself there.

The article is a good and essential read for a lot of people, men and women alike. Here is a snippet that gets at the essence of the problem:

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

I shared this article with a couple of men in my life–men I consider to be allies of feminism and pretty aware and cool guys. Men who would not stand by if they saw or heard women being slagged or hurt in cases where they could not defend themselves. Men who are aware that there are inequalities, and try to act in ways in their daily lives that move men and women closer to being equals.

“What do you think about this article?” I asked, in what I hoped was a neutral tone of voice that said, “There is no carrot for the ‘right’ answer.”

“I think it sounds pretty extreme, like an overreaction,” one of the men said. “But I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman,” he hastened to add.

I paused for a moment and tried to think if there were any women I knew who didn’t think in these terms to varying degrees, and this friend characterized the thesis of this article “extreme” and an “overreaction.” This extremely unscientific survey confirmed what I suspected, which is that these sorts of articles and discussions are absolutely critical.

It also made me think about how I live my own life, especially since having children. Before I had children, I didn’t pull any punches. If a man talked to me and I was uninterested I would ignore him or tell him to leave me alone, either neutrally or harshly, depending on my mood and the situation. Having children put a chink in that armor, and instilled more fear of strange men in me. If I acted in ways that come naturally to me to curtail unwanted conversations with strange men, which is coolly or with hostility, would the situation escalate? Could I risk some man getting angry with me because I wasn’t cooperating and watch the consequences unfold in front of or possibly to my children? Better to smile and play along.

This bleeds over to my life when I am without my children, too, which is, of course, when most men make unwelcome advances toward me. In the past, when I was only responsible for myself, I would tell men off if I indicated I was disinterested and the situation escalated. If things got ugly, it often ended in me being called a “fucking bitch” or a “cunt” or something equally charming. Now I feel I have an obligation to my girls to make it home in one piece, and so I nod and smile at whatever inanity/sexism/grossness is tossed my way.

Thinking of these compromises I make on a daily basis made me also think about the concept of rape culture, and of an excellent article I read by Melissa McEwan on Shakesville recently on the topic.

As the title of the piece promises (Rape Culture 101), McEwan provides the reader with a good background in different aspects of rape culture. Among many other great points she addresses what I think of as the perception/behavior problem.

Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

[Links from this passage omitted but available at original post.]

(As an aside I should say that I am aware that I am a participant in rape culture, to some extent, and I actively educate my daughters in the tenets of it. This is something I have been considering writing about in the near future.)

So I have been thinking about this a lot since reading the Schrodinger’s Rapist article. Do I give my energy to being pleasing and compliant to the wishes of strange men who actively pursue conversations and interactions with me that I don’t want to have? Or do I go back to resisting: unsmiling, ignoring, intolerant, which is another sort of energy drain?

I walked out of my building, which is smack in the center of downtown, with a half-formed resolution in my head: for a month I would try the old way. I would not dial things up to defcon 1 the minute a man said “hello,” but if I didn’t want to talk, I would not. Something that is important to know about my typical demeanor is that I walk fast, avoid eye contact, and have giant can-style headphones that block everything out except the most annoying leafblowers. I am not sending the message that I am available for casual conversation.

I approached the corner and immediately there was a man standing next to me, trying to get my attention. I deliberately turned my head away, waiting for the light to change. A couple of times I turned my head forward, and saw him in the corner of my eye attempting to get my attention to speak to me again. I looked at him and watched him take a breath to speak and turned away again. He attempted to speak to me, even after this. This made me think of a passage from Starling’s article:

Women are communicating all the time. Learn to understand and respect women’s communication to you.

You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.


So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

Did this man on the corner scream at me, pinch me, light my hair on fire? No. What he decided was to try to initiate conversation with me four times, after I deliberately and pointedly ignored him, with my body language and with my headphones.

There are exceptions to every situation, of course, but when the light changed and I walked away, I realized that women DON’T do this. Women do not interrupt people wearing headphones unless they need something. I pick a woman to interrupt, and I see other women at places like bus stops do the same. If a woman interrupts me, there is a good chance that she needs directions, the time, change for a dollar. If a man interrupts me, nine times out of ten it’s to say he likes my hair color. That’s nice; I don’t care.

Starling is right: if you behave like this, “your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone.” Put another way, a man engaging in these behaviors is not treating a woman like an equal. Would this man make four attempts to pay a compliment to a man on a corner who was also keeping to himself? If I had to guess I would say no.

So here I am, resolved to “reclaim my space,” as one of my friends said. I am letting this little experiment run at least through the end of the month. I will let you know how things shake out.

Uppity Womens

Hey Team,

Just a quick note to say that one of my internets BFFs, whatladder, started a message board on current events, general discussions, etc, as they relate to feminism and Lady Issues. We are kind of tentatively hoping it will fill the void left by Twisty Faster’s message board, RIP. I don’t think it will be the same, but I think there is a desire and need there.

It is called Uppity Women, and please join us. I’ll be there, I needs my BBS fix. Unsurprisingly, I am Assmitten there, which I have been since what, ’03 now? You know what they say, always an Assmitten, never an Assglove.

Brigid Keely, Dorrie, Changepaluda, and MORE, I am looking at you. (Serious eyebrows.)