Elegy

Yearn not for this wasting bed, with our fervent prayers and savage tears;
The comfort radiating from your gentle kisses
in time of tortured angst and sure despair
were sweet enough to warm us forever.

Fear not the wasted breaths of this hard world;
The laughter you inspired in determined anger
at the world for being red when we think green
was merry enough to keep us glad forever.

Curse not the wretched disease, wretched up and out when it is spoken;
The tender arms that enveloped us in unerring protection
With truth of mercy and mercy of love
Were long enough to hold us forever.

Fear not for the hands
hot with grief and
cold with terror;
They will follow you soon enough
and more gladly still
if it were
this same night.

Go forth in death, as in birth, into the light
And remark on the other side the joys you found
That never were expected.

Wail

Never any time to
Betray the fate of…
Opine to…
Plead mercy from…
Close up and slip away…

This raptured beast grows closer,
Closer still with ears of shutters
And hands of malice.

Suffering, remonstrances, guilt
Of a thousand years fly to me
Now as I pant, grasp, and fade.

This revilement, this condemnation,
Drives through my piety, my innocence
With ceaseless, throbbing horror.

My soul throws its trappings more with each plunge
Like the steady tick of the chronometer
Pounding over my head.

How I have longed for this fetter;
How I have escaped my chaos;
How aptly have I thrown their purpose;

Never more, never again
I go back to life, to before,
Collapse back to jarring sleep… to no time…

So here’s the thing about doing what you love…

I’m sitting here in a puddle of self-pitying insecurity. I have been bouncing from site to site like a demented flea, looking for validation any place I can find it. Eventually I’ll break out the beer and find it there.

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(*you’re)

I keep hearing from big, successful people that if you want to break the shackles of your nine-to-five prison and make a living at what you love, then Just Do It. It’s that simple, and that hard. Your dreams won’t magically fall into your lap. If that were true, Keanu Reeves would have been too busy to make any movies lo these past ten years (wink, wink). You have to just take the first step, and then the next and the next and the next and then boy, you’re really doing it! Look at you living your dream!

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There is no end of general advice just like this, because specific (read: helpful) advice is not applicable to a wide range of people, and therefore not in the purview of a public figure to dole out. Just do the thing you love, but make sure it’s for the right reasons – not for fame or success or accolades. I’m looking specifically at you, Chris Hardwick, you childless menace of my expectations. I listen to your podcast, and you give this advice constantly. Granted, I know your heart is in the right place, but there are a few considerations that make my perspective a little different. So to make this easy on myself, I’ll just pretend like I’m telling this directly to your smug face. I’m sorry, that was mean. You have a nice face; it’s very affable.

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So here’s the thing. I am doing the thing. But I’m not doing it very well. The thing in question is a podcast with my bestie, and also I’m trying to write whenever I can because it’s my passion. The problem is… no one really cares. At least in the sense of general public attention. And we never expected to have a super successful podcast and be famous, nor did I expect to suddenly be the next David Wong. But darn it, it would be nice to know people enjoy what we put out there. And I just don’t know how to get people to pay attention. The solution to which… the general advice is to just do the thing harder.

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Now here’s the sitch. I have a family, a house, a dog, friends. All these entities require my attention. I also need to sleep, and I need to spend quality time with my kids and my husband, and sometimes those are separate activities (wink, wink). I have household logistics to be planned, delegated, and executed. There are dishes and laundry and school projects and doctor appointments and frantic library book returns and unexpected medical emergencies, and oh yeah I HAVE A FULL TIME JOB ON TOP OF ALL THIS. I’m not saying that people with kids just don’t understand, BUT YOU JUST DON’T FREAKING UNDERSTAND. Even if you DO have kids one day, you’re (I assume) at least moderately wealthy. So you have this additional layer of cushion under your sense of agency, knowing that you can hire a nanny from time to time, or even permanently, if you need one. Or someone to drive the kids to and from school and other activities. I don’t have that kind of scratch, so it all comes out of my time-pocket. And honestly, in my downtime, I am e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d and sometimes (most of the time) I succumb to it.

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Being a parent takes away a part of who you were. It replaces that with something beautiful, but also something very sad. You’re not the independent adult you used to be. Your hobbies drop off, your interests change, your inspirations wither from disuse, your inner monologue gets mean. It doesn’t have to be permanent – goddammit I hope it’s not permanent. I’m at the place now where my kids aren’t quite so little any more and maybe I have a little more space in my brain. Now it’s my task to figure out how to break apart what I’ve become and push into those cracks some of the pieces of what I used to be. I know I’m not going to be the same as I was before, and I don’t want to be. Not exactly. But trying to remake yourself after years of systematic squashing of your selfish side – the part of you that just goes after what it wants – is daunting, exhausting, and terrifying. I have to get to know myself again. That’s not something that can be solved with a weekend of meditation and yoga. I’ve been splintered into two pieces – the parent and the person. They don’t fit together very well, so I have to sand down and spot weld both pieces, but where? How? HOW?

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If it was just me and my husband, I could work part time and really throw myself into writing until I had established enough success (hopefully?) to do it full time, and with great and joyful abandon. But that doesn’t fly with kids who need room to grow, and decent food to eat, and glasses, and who outgrow their clothes constantly. So I have to keep my full time job, and devote a lot of my free time to my kids’ quality of life. Where is the advice for people like me, who need more than four hours of sleep at night and have to be present for the family while they’re awake, and who will go bat-shit crazy if they don’t get to actually sit down and eat their lunch during the work day? HMMMM?

<interruption: I had to stop typing for a moment because my four-year-old, who is supposed to be sleeping, came to tell me that he thinks a human is sleeping under his bed. His words. There’s a lot to unpack there, so that will have to be for another time>

I guess I just keep plugging along and hope that what I do manage to produce gives me enough validation to feel proud of myself. But… nobody is really listening. Here’s what no one ever addresses in a way that’s satisfactory. How in the ever-loving fuck do you get any social media engagement? I mean really! HOW. IN. THE. EVER-LOVING. FUCK. There’s this “if you tweet it, they will come” mentality, but… NO. It doesn’t work like that. Unless I’m just really bad at it. All the advice is “engage with your followers!” HOW DO I GET THEM. “Have a great product and people will find you!” NO THEY WON’T. People just don’t give a fuck about anything. And you know what? I’m doing all this without the benefit of any kind of budget to speak of, and with no background whatsoever in entertainment. YOU SIR, have been working in the industry since the 90’s. So even if you weren’t Tom Cruise famous, you had connections with people who know entertainment – you had a good scaffolding in your brain of knowledge of how these things work. I don’t have a bunch of famous friends I can interview that will create a self promoting machine. I haven’t the faintest idea what strategies to use, what will get people’s attention, what channels there are to go about promoting things. How do I promote things? Tweet to my 12 followers?? I tell my friends, but there’s this funny thing that happens. I don’t know if it’s specific to non-entertainment industry friendships or not, but it’s what I’ve observed to be true. People are really supportive with their words, and much less so with their actions. So you hear things like “Oh my gawwwd, you guys are so funny, you should have a podcast or a show or something! You guys should make videos!” Then you make the podcast, and suddenly no one has the time to hit the goddamn “share” button or even take the time to listen. That’s what happens. So this thing of “just tell all your friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and yay exponents!” is predicated on faulty logic. I don’t run with a community of independent artists that are used to supporting each other in this way. No shade to my friends, they’re fantastic people. It’s just human nature, I think.

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*breaks out the beer*

Now all this time I’ve been bitching, here’s what I know to be true. For our podcast, we have been at it almost a year. So it’s still a little early to be bitter about it. And we love it very much – someone will have to pry the microphone out of our cold, dead hands before we give it up. And I’m sure we’ve made, and are making mistakes. I know about some of them. We haven’t got the best equipment, or even the space or the time for a dedicated podcast area that we can make acoustically appropriate, but in the interest of just doing the thing… we just do the thing. For my writing, I know I don’t have enough content out there. But see above – how am I supposed to make time for this, with everything else I have to do? It’s discouraging, and it makes the thing I love feel like an exercise in futility, because I love writing, but I don’t do it for myself. I want other people to enjoy it, and I want to know they enjoy it. It will make me HAPPY.

*chugs*

So in conclusion, I know what the problems are on a surface level. But it’s not as easy as just do the thing. I would love to hear from anyone who reads this what tactics and strategies they’ve had success with, either for getting their stuff out there in way that’s not just screaming into the void, or for keeping their spirits buoyed when you’re in a whiny bitch mood like I am now.

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By the way, if you’ve gotten here, THANK YOU for reading! 😀

*guzzles*

The Cold War, Explained Through a Sandbox

(expounded from a post on The Neverending Story)

The Cold War (like all wars, really) is all very complicated, so if you just imagine a playground, I think we can get through it.

We’re going to jump into this pretty much ignoring Sandbox Scuffle I, when this kid named Franz got hit in the face by a dart gun and had to go home, spawning a group tantrum of epic proportions, never seen before in sandbox history. Suffice it to say that after this point, these kids had all seen scuffles before and were no innocent daisies.

So this Boris kid had previously been kinda friends with this American kid named Chad during Sandbox Scuffle II. Chad and Boris had worked together with a bunch of other kids: Nigel, Gaston, Jax, Maple, Xena, Arjun, and Hai to defeat Adolf, Giovanni, and Haruto, who were being really mean to a lot kids, especially Kunte, Abraham, Esmeralda, and Butch. A lot of other kids who wanted to help buy stay out of the fighting quietly helped as many of the bullied kids get out of harm’s way as they could, but sadly, most of the targeted kids had to be picked up by their parents, never to return to the playground. Chad, Boris, and their friends finally succeeded in banishing Adolf and his friends, though.

When Sandbox Scuffle II ended, Boris gathered his bully forces and decided that Chad was now the greatest threat because Chad was running around telling their friends from SSII that if Boris spread his friends out too far in the sandbox, Chad would help push him back. Chad and Boris weren’t really getting along before SSII, but they pushed it aside in order to get rid of Adolf and company. After he was gone, though, they remembered they weren’t friends.

The problem started because Chad and Boris couldn’t see eye to eye on how play time should work. Boris wanted everyone to have access to the exact same toys, and Chad wanted everyone to compete for a few really awesome toys, which would leave most everyone with really shitty toys. Perhaps more importantly than that, Boris wanted his friends only to say they liked broccoli even if they didn’t, but Chad was foot-stompingly adamant that kids should be able to say they didn’t like broccoli if that’s how they really felt.

Now here’s where these kids both shared great turd-like qualities: they did most of their fighting in OTHER kids’ sandboxes. Their power wheels and toy guns were all still broken from fighting with Adolf, so would try to go places where there were only a few of each other’s friends. Chad would go to Boris’s friends in other parts of the sandbox, who didn’t have as much sand to begin with, to tear down the sandcastles that Boris and the other kid were building together, and vice versa. This means that Boris and Chad didn’t get their sand castles destroyed, but those other kids far away sure did.

Meanwhile, a few kids who were sick of this shit ruining their day decided to say they were going to be friends with both Boris AND Chad, just for the sake of keeping their sandcastles in tact. So now Chad and Boris are running around being all petty and manipulative. If there are kids without clear alliances, they would try and help them with some problem they were having in order to make the kid feel loyal to them. Every now and again Boris and Chad came close to a slap fight, but nothing major.

This manipulation ended up causing more problems for all the kids, because everyone was confused all the time about who they could play with and who they were supposed to hate. One day Chad tried to take Elian’s part of the sandbox, but little know to him, Boris had been secretly trying to woo Elian to his side, and convinced him to stock up on a really terrible weapon in case Boris wanted to use it against Chad (because Elian was a lot closer to Chad’s part of the sandbox than Boris). And we all know, if someone poops the sandbox, no one can play in it anymore. Everyone got so scared, that Chad put Elian in the corner and wouldn’t play with him for the next 50 years just because he stored Boris’s poop for him.

Up to this point, Hai had been kind of hanging out with Boris, giving him tips on how he had managed to win over his own set of friends to play in a way similar to what Boris envisioned, but after this Hai felt like he was one poop away from having to go home and started spending less time with Boris. Conversely, Chad’s friends thought maybe they should do more than just wait for Chad to plan everything out for them. They started being more proactive about messing up all of Boris’s sandcastles.

For some reason, through all of this Adolf’s old turf became the line of demarcation – kids that hung out on one side, Boris claimed were his, and kids that played on the other side, Chad claimed as his. Some of these poor kids really weren’t friends with one or the other, but were stuck where they were because because they wanted to play with friends on that particular side, or else a sand castle they had been working on just happened to be in that spot. The kids on Boris’s side kept slipping away to Chad’s side however, because… well Boris was kind of a shit to everyone. Boris had a tantrum when he found out about this, and built a sand wall to keep people from leaving him. Friends that were separated by the wall were very sad about not being able to see each other.

During all this drama, in come the stomp rockets. Somehow Boris and Chad had both gotten their hands on some stomp rocket kits that Adolf hadn’t been able to figure out, and they were both hellbent on getting them assembled and into the air before the other one. There was a very small sandbox nearby, so small and far away that no one could actually pee on it, but both kids figured that landing their stomp rocket in that satellite sandbox would be a good enough way to mark it as their own and thus establish dominance. Boris got his stomp rocket assembled and airborne first, and would forever throw it in Chad’s face. But Chad ultimately got his rocket all the way to that tiny speck of sand first, and would forever throw it in Boris’s face.

Meanwhile, Chad had figured out how to get more sand into his part of the sandbox, while Boris didn’t have enough sand to go around for all of his friends, so they started talking about leaving his group. Finally Boris’s friends got sick of his shit and overthrew him by tearing down his stupid sand wall. After seeing his symbolic iron first laying in ruins, the fight went out of Boris, and he retreated to his corner to drink vodka and judge Chad forevermore.

Legend (not that you’ll need it):
Sandbox Scuffle I = World War I
Sandbox Scuffle II = World War II
Franz = Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Boris = Soviet Union
Chad = America
Nigel = England
Gaston = France
Jax = Australia
Maple = Canada
Xena = New Zealand
Arjun = India
Hai = China
Adolf = Adolf Hitler
Giovanni = Italy
Haruto = Japan
Kunte = those with African heritage
Abraham = Jews
Esmeralda = Gypsies
Butch = the Gays
Elian = Cuba
poop = the Cuban Missile Crisis
stomp rocket = the Space Race
sand wall = the Berlin Wall

How to Travel While Angry, Or Why Eminem is Your Ideal Traveling Companion

There are times in your life when you plan as much as can. Yes, I know, never count on a plan coming together. But I’m not talking about getting rained out of a picnic or having a packet of red dye find its way into the washer and explode all over your bright white yachting clothes mere hours before before you’re supposed to meet Chad for an afternoon of cutting insults masked as flirtation and judging the peasants who have to rent their yachts instead of using Daddy’s (the horror of middle class!). For those situations, you will have to find your advice elsewhere. I’m talking about travel plans hijacked by fate and circumstance. It should never be a surprise; it’s always a possibility. But nevertheless, when it happens, it creates a tornado of black rage in one’s heart.

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Consider: You arrive early at your gate and smugly drink your expensive jarred Starbucks frappuccino that you’re only pretending to like while watching the wretched, frantic souls run through the airport as though the hounds of hell are after their firstborns. This is a fun past-time, especially if you’re already bitter (no need to go into details). The heart is a great container for ire and contempt, but it tends to leak out in ugly ways.

Assured in your competence as a professional traveler, you board your plane and congratulate yourself on having an entire row to yourself and settle in to read in peace. After an uneventful flight, you mosey to a departure/arrival information board to locate the gate for your next flight, anticipating a leisurely meal and adult beverage, only to find that your connection has been canceled. Not delayed, but canceled. This can’t be, you think to yourself. I planned.

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The ire that has been bubbling industriously away in your heart begins to darken even more. You find customer service and sigh inwardly at the huge line, realizing that your prospects for being rebooked are dwindling with each person in front of you. But you  remember – you are a professional traveler. You know how this works. You call the customer service number while in you’re standing in line. The friendly ticket agent apologizes profusely (you care not) and rebooks you on a flight. In twelve hours. The heart of ire turns to solid ice, unable to maintain the heat that has so far been rising. Twelve hours, you say. Very good. Thank you very much. You manage to leave the line without a primal scream and promptly find the nearest alcohol vendor. Thus installed, you mope and contact your sibling, apologizing for now making him pick you up in the middle of night, well after you should already have begun shenanigans befitting two perpetual adolescents.

Now you’re caught up with the proper state of mind. We can commence with the coping mechanisms.

Coping Strategy #1: Find the Angriest Music on the Planet

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There are many, many ways to execute this. It doesn’t have to be a typically angry genre. You can listen to Carrie Underwood smashing up cars with a baseball bat. You can listen to Twisted Sister assert that they will no longer be taking it (the “it” is usefully vague – you can fill in the specifics with your own situation).

There are your angry standards – heavy metal is always a good choice. Slayer is adequate. You have to be careful with anything from the 90’s however; you may just end up angsty instead of angry (Nine Inch Nails is especially to be treated with caution). Punk can be a great option, though they veer toward contempt of institutionalized culture and politics. There’s the hard-to-pin-down rock/rap/funk, like Rage Against the Machine and Beastie Boys. Hard to go wrong there.

My go-to angry artist is Eminem. He may be the angriest man on the planet. While problematic (more on that later), he may be the only artist able to scare the fury in my heart into retreat. Because rest assured, no matter angry you are, Mr. Mathers is most definitely angrier. Just look at that mean mug! It’s so impressive!

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You know what the sin-eater is, right? No? Allow me to explain. In western Europe, a sin-eater was a person employed in the old-timey days to come to funerals or wakes and assure the deceased could ascend into heaven with a clean slate. This was executed by laying bread and salt around the body. The sin-eater would come and eat the bread and salt, thereby absorbing the sins of the dead person through some kind of metaphysical alchemy so common in religious ceremonies (no word on the prevalence of high blood pressure in sin-eaters).

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Sin-eaters’ reward for guaranteeing the eternal salvation of loved ones was that they were not paid well, and they generally skeeved everyone out, so you can imagine that theirs was a lonely, spartan life. You can read all about them in this great article.

Eminem, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, whatever you want to call him, is my anger-eater. Instead of coming to my funeral (although that would be badass) and eating stale bread, he comes to my darkest of hearts through the magical alchemy of internet and earbuds (it is nothing less than magic – fight me) and gnaws on the chunks of hatred thrown up from the rage volcano under my beating breast. After a few hours, my boiling heart has submitted in deference to a true master. I’m still plenty angry, mind you, but I’ve essentially just forced myself to confront the fact that whatever I’m pissed about could be exponentially worse, and that I don’t make such bad life decisions after all. Note – if you actually do make terrible life choices, don’t feel better about it. Get your shit together.

More on Em in Coping Strategy #3.

Coping Strategy #2: Amuse Thyself

On your incredibly long layover, you must find ways to amuse yourself, while at the same time avoiding the notice of TSA agents. Here you should use your judgement. Some options:

  • Create elaborate and sordid backstories for fellow airport residents. That man over there, sleeping on his suitcase? He’s been ousted by his wife who discovered he had a fetish for bloodthirsty clowns and has been frequenting the Dark Circus. That lady with a squalling baby? Her husband is an astronaut who left for space long before she became pregnant. Now he’s coming home, and she’s taken the coward’s way out and left the house with just a note on the kitchen counter saying “need milk, be home soon”. The family of four with harried parents? The kids are actually x-men recruits headed to Hogwarts. Yes, you will eventually become so tired that you’ll cross your universes.
  • Relive that Tom Hanks classic, “The Terminal”, to the best of your ability (remember – you are avoiding the TSA). Use funny accents at all times, changing them frequently. Strike up conversations with strangers that begin, “In my homeland of Segborkia…” Fall madly in love with an airport employee. The sky’s the limit (pun intended).

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  • Engage all of your social media friends by chronicling your airport adventures. This lets them know you’re miserable, which is a nice feeling. Just make sure they’re all thinking about you the whole time. It will keep you going. I have provided an example of my own effort at this strategy here. You can see my mental faculties (and hair) deteriorate hourly. Yes, I know I’m bad at Instagram. The captions are the important bit.

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  • Drink. This is to be taken with a few qualifiers. Public inebriation looks good on no one, and also may attract TSA attention so you have to make sure to pace yourself. Also, if you get righteously drunk, you may fall asleep somewhere and miss your flight. In which case you have to start this whole process over. This is not a desirable outcome. Take caution.
  • Locate and lure the animals. There are a surprising number of dogs in any given airport. You should stay away from the working dogs, as they are usually attached to TSA agents by a not-so-long leash. However, you may find a lot of passengers toting dogs or service animals. If their human seems approachable, take the opportunity to ask for some doggy petting. It can do wonders for your spirits. Be warned, however: travelers in general are crankier than the general population. You may be soundly rejected. If this happens, it’s important to remain calm. Dogs can smell embarrassment and will not react favorably. Just ask One-Eyed Dan, one of my “The Terminal” alter-egos.
  • Go shopping. I don’t mean buy some fancy chocolate or local football team gear. I mean try your best to skeeve out the airport cashiers with your selections. These people see everything, so this one is not for beginners. You might try placing hair bands, hemorrhoid cream, and dental floss on the counter, all while squirming and grimacing during the checkout process. Keep them guessing. Are you going to try to tie off a hemorrhoid in the bathroom? Who knows! It would be impolite to ask. This takes a special level of concentration, so you want to do this late enough into your layover that you’re slap-happy, but not so late that you’ve lost the will to live.

Coping Strategy #3: Lose Yourself in Needlessly Deep Thought

This one is a natural consequence of being left alone for too long. You will likely not have to put much effort in here. What follows is a 1,000% exact transcript of my stream of consciousness thoughts as a conversation with myself around the midway point of my twelve hour layover.

Now – as I said earlier, Eminem is problematic. This is true. You will hear a lot about faggots and hoes. If you are of the female persuasion, as I am, this may be a confusing experience. (I can’t speak to the homosexual reaction since I am not one, but I feel what I have to say may apply adjacently to you as well.) You will feel as though you’re not supposed to be enjoying this as much as you are. You will soothe yourself by knowing that you are not the type of woman that Em wants to take a machine gun to. You have an idea that what you’re hearing is a one-sided conversation with Mr. Shady’s unresolved feelings after a particularly bad romantic experience. Maybe, you think, he’s just brave enough to say out loud what we all think after being wronged by a lover. Who among us has not wished a slow, painful death on someone for whom we once cared? Not I, you say? LIAR. LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR.

But I’m a FEMINIST, you cry, horrified at yourself when you nod along to a lyric like “I’m back on my fuck ho’s / But a whole new hatred for blondes, but bias? / I hate all bitches the same, baby come on.” The mental calculus required at this point to be okay with what you’re hearing is challenging to say the least.

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Feminist you may be, but understand that here you have a heterosexual male artist infamous for giving zero fucks, and for him the most hurt he’s going to receive will be from women. Thus they will receive the most shade.

Which brings me to my Philosophy on Rap Guys’ Girlfriends. No props for the solid Sir Mix-A-Lot reference? Rude, Becky. Moving on, slightly miffed. The thing about fame is that the more famous you become, the fewer regular people you interact with. Those you do interact with tend to be screaming at you or shoving a phone in your face to take a picture you did not consent to. Doesn’t sound pleasant, although the pay is good. Therein lies the paradox of fame. Can you blame the famous for tending to stick together, or with “pre-vetted” humans that have somehow managed to infiltrate their circles? If you go to a party thrown by another famous person (I can only assume here…) the people there are probably safe to be around as regards their lack of propensity to charge you like a defensive lineman protecting their quarterback (which in this metaphor is their long-held fantasy of becoming your paramour – “if <famous person> could just meet me, they would see that we are soulmates”). This is not an apology for celebrities who complain about being mobbed by fans; see above, they are paid well for it. I’m just asking you to put yourself in their shoes to understand the rest of this philosophy. Although it’s probably a hypothesis. I’m leaning towards philosophy simply because I have no way of ever testing this. The point here is that famous people will stick to meeting and knowing people that go to other famous people’s parties.

On to personalities. Have you ever seen a rap guy’s music video? You would have had to search one out since MTV became a misnomer. They are filled with buxom women – curvy in the right places and skinny in the rest of the places. They have large, beautiful eyes rimmed by eyelashes stolen from giraffes. Their hair is either entirely fake, or augmented with color, textures, streaks which can be either highlights or lowlights (wtf is the difference), and is generally engineered for maximum attractiveness with ingredients harvested from asteroids. The face has been sculpted, either with a scalpel or a makeup brush, so that any pores, pimples, defect in bone structure, or stray beard hair would not hold up in a court of law under the closest scrutiny. Their clothes are revealing and flattering, though uniformly uncomfortable looking (those shoes cause bunions, ladies; enjoy it now until your feet become a Minecraft task). Any skin on display has been attended to so that is the right color and texture. No stretch marks or unsightly lumps anywhere.

This is the Cult of Desirable Objects the rap guy lives in – he seeks to have that which is coveted. The above described, we are led to believe, is the woman-person that is desirable. This woman-person however, does not exist in nature very often, if at all. Any woman-person wanting to be like this is probably going to spend more time on her appearance than on building her personality and life experiences. Again – this is a generalization. Many beautiful women are probably also really great people. But I would bet that number gets lower the harder they have to work at it.

This is a great time to point out that you can pretty much swap out genres and genders and sexual orientations here as much as you’d like. We all want to be surrounded by beautiful robot wo/men. Proof? Here’s a still from a Nicki Minaj video. Look at all the glorious flesh, and Nicki herself at the helm! (Yes, another Sir Mix-A-Lot reference. You’re welcome.)

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Now, I have no idea where these women come from or where they go when they’re not at parties or in music videos. I assume they are created on an assembly line and stored in a warehouse, to which they return periodically to charge their battery pods. It’s the only logical conclusion – I have never seen someone who looks like that out walking around in the world.

So, if you’re a rap guy and you want to have a party, what type of women would you stock it with? Janet from Poughkeepsie who works at a Rite-Aid stocking toothbrushes overnight to keep her family in Hamburger Helper, or Purrdita; an exotic blend of all the right ethnicities and master of all the female maintenance techniques mentioned above and who has stepped off the Acceptable Woman assembly line (no shade to Purrdita – you may be a perfectly nice human). Janet’s busy anyway. Feeding her kids is very important to her, and she doesn’t have anything prostitute-casual to wear regardless.

We have so far established that Purrdita is a very nice lady with no ulterior motives. BUT – imagine the hordes of other women who have been conditioned by these music videos and culture in general, those in which the rap guys are throwing cash around (and I mean that literally; who does that?? Does anyone actually do that??) and treating their entourages to only the finest life has to offer. These women look in the mirror and see that they are beautiful and shapely and skinny (try pulling that off) and think “yes, I have this earned shinily ever after” so all that’s missing is the rap guy from whom the cash shall pour forth. Sexy pursuit to follow.

Love and sex are hardly the same, and yet they remain inextricably intertwined. Gender stereotypes would have you believe that females are slave to the former, and men to the latter. I think not. I have found that men are capable of being hurt on a level much deeper than we as a society acknowledge. And some women are just as well versed in the brutality of the heart as some men are in the brutality of the body. Neither of these things is right, and each one is it’s own wicked problem that keeps getting perpetuated generation after generation. That is not a thing I feel like tackling at this point. Until the singularity exists and materialism becomes an artifact of the analog past, just accept that it exists and we’ll move on.

So – these prospective rap guys’ girlfriends use the weapons of their sex and the means of their minds to bag a rich guy. Maybe there is some mutual attraction and affection, maybe not. But for the lifestyle, it doesn’t matter (this applies generally to all famous people of all genders and sexual orientations; I just really like my Sir Mix-A-Lot reference and I’m committed to it). Heartbreak ensues. Not the usual “we couldn’t work it out” heartbreak, but heartbreak on a “you deceived me and betrayed me for nothing more than my fame and my money; is this all there is? Am I even lovable?” level. This cycle keeps perpetuating because normal people are unapproachable and to be avoided at all costs. This means that the pool of people a rap guy will meet is inordinately concentrated with assholes and gold-diggers. Thus, opinions form. Songs are written. Records are released. Feminists and homosexuals are alarmed.

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I’m not going on a rant and saying there needs to be a #notallwomen movement, I’m really just selfishly coming up with a justification so I can listen to music that is not intended to be enjoyed by someone like me; a heterosexual thirty-something white woman.

More on Slim later. What are we here for again? Oh right. Angry travelling. See how much time #3 can take up? Use it to your advantage!

Coping Strategy #4: Don’t Lose the Will to Live

This is difficult. If the three prior strategies fail you, you have to find a way to rally. Usually you’ll want to find the nearest alcohol vendor, unless that’s where you lost your will to live. These are the doldrums of layovers, where the airport ceases to be a finite, temporary structure and instead subsumes your humanity and becomes your own personal hell. Imagine – a place where you are never alone, but never with anyone, either. Where the bathrooms are plentiful, but always occupied. Where you can buy any kind of food you want, but each meal is a gamble with botulism. If you’re lucky, you’re at a larger airport where they’ve got outlets everywhere so you can charge your electronic devices. Take advantage of these. If you’re extremely lucky, you’re on a layover in Japan where they have sleep pods. No matter the cost – rent a sleep pod. Your will to live and to persevere is all you have at this point, airport resident. Do whatever it takes.

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At some point, you will either disappear into the void of Airport, or you will be placed on an airplane. Once you are ass-in-seat on that plane, you may be overcome with the most infinite joy you’ve experienced, far surpassing the birth of any children, or that time you ran out of cheese and tortilla chips at the exact same time. Be warned – this feeling is fleeting. Very, very fleeting. You’ve just been plucked from relative psychic desolation and dropped down into a cesspool of humanity. Remember when you were stretched out on the floor at an empty gate, or sitting comfortably in a bar with your stein of beer? You now are on a plane, with no leg room, no fresh air, and an unmitigated and irrational hatred of those assholes up in first class. You’ve been sat next to a frantic looking mother holding a baby under six months old, who has decided to place her five-year-old between you and her. Five-year-olds are notorious for their lack of regard for the personal bubble, or awareness of where their elbows are at any given moment.

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And then the drink trolley comes.

Coping Strategy #5: This Too Shall Pass; Be Elsewhere Until it Does

This five-year-old will spill her drink on you. This has been predetermined by the fates back when the first threads of the tapestry of the universe were woven. It’s just a matter of time. All you can do now is make sure your pockets on the that side are empty and that you have made no eye contact whatsoever with the creature’s mother so that when the inevitable comes to pass, you and the child can both ignore what has just happened and avoid talking about the matter. The benefit here is that kids are generally limited to juice and clear sodas, so while you may be sticky, you probably won’t smell too bad when you reach your final destination. If you are seated beside a belligerent drunk, I can’t promise the same.

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Now is the time you want to imagine you’re in a Nicholas Sparks movie. One where the protagonist (usually a middle-aged, middle-class woman, but just go with me here) must endure seemingly endless personal disappointment before being swept off her humdrum feet by Richard Gere. If you’re like me, you’d rather swap Richard out with someone like Dean Winchester (you heard me; I didn’t say Jensen Ackles, I said Dean Winchester), but to each her own. This is your escape fantasy, so go for broke. You want Jason Momoa’s Aquaman? All the better for when you’re flying over the ocean and there’s turbulence. The important thing here is that you keep making lemonade. Speaking of which, if you want to pretend you’re Beyonce taking a bat to every single human person who has ever contributed to the marvel of commercial flight, be my guest. Whatever gets you through.

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If you’re on a window seat, it’s pretty easy to cry at this point. Just turn and face the window. The terrifying rocking and shimmying of rough air should mask your shoulders shaking. If not, you may have to retreat to the bathroom, but that’s going to be a negotiation between asking someone to move (if you’re in the middle) or waiting in line after the portly gentleman you saw eating a meatball sub right before boarding. The individual situation should inform your decision.

Eventually you will land, and your designated mode of transportation, or friend/family member will be waiting for you. At this point, you will feel like crying again. Big, fat, ugly tears of relief. There are two ways to go about this. If you’re averse to emotional displays like I am, you will want to stifle this urge so as not to appear a weak ass bitch. You may need to pump yourself back up with a little more angry music; as much as it can calm you when you’re angry, it can also replace feelings of sadness and desperation with a little anger when needed. If you’re in tune with the full gamut of emotions (which is a healthier way to live, I fully admit) then take this opportunity to wrap your arms around your loved one (or the steering wheel of your rental car) and shove your teary, snot-leaking face right into the sensitive flesh of their neck so that they may absorb your heartache and relieve you of the burden.

You have made it, my friend. May your next journey be uneventful. In the meantime, enjoy this Aquaman:

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Oh wait…

I promised more on Eminem, didn’t I?

I didn’t set out to spend so much time on him. But he’s a fascinating figure. A true underdog story of undeniable success, but one in which the hero can’t shake the shackles of his attendant torture. Would he have seen such success if he didn’t have such a tragic backstory? Is that his muse? If he found true happiness, would he cease to be productive; cease to be his current self? Is this a standing argument for nature over nurture, or proof that the two work in concert? Who can tell. The undeniable truth is that the man has obscene talent (pun intended). He was crowned artist of the decade for the 2000’s. Let me reiterate that: Artist of the DECADE. Not year. So for as problematic as he was and is (the picture below sums it up nicely), there were a hell of a lot of people with whom his music resonated truth. We can ask all kinds of questions about why that is, but we won’t be able to answer any of them. The Slim Shady LP came out in 1999, a time when angsty, moody artists were everywhere. Rabbit was certainly not the only one with a chip on his shoulder. He may have just been more honest and relatable. He told you exactly where he came from and why he was here. He was pissed off at his parents and had a profound hatred for his time in school. What teenager wouldn’t relate, even if they didn’t have quite as bad a time as him?

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Which leads me to be believe that we’re punishing the oracle instead of the prophecy. Yes, his lyrics are not politically correct. Sure, he talks quite a bit about violence against women and homosexuals. But like all artistic mediums, there is a divide between the art and reality. Parents and censors were up in arms (who’s to say they’re not the vocal minority, though) about Eminem encouraging rage and violence in our children, but I question whether listening to a song will make you into an angry person if you had nothing to be angry about to begin with. What he did was give a voice to rage and let people know that the darks seeds that sprout in our minds don’t make us freaks – we all feel that way. I don’t believe that he intended for anyone to take to the streets and harass or harm women and gays. That may have happened as a consequence in some isolated instances, but again, the offenders had to have felt that way before Eminem found his way into a recording booth. If I listen to a bunch of country, I’m not going to have relations with my truck and force my wife into a patriarchal existence. If I listen to reggae I’m not going to grow dreads and take up weed as a recreation. If I listen to heavy metal I’m not going to start wearing leather and the blood of my enemies (I already do that, so there). I know this as truth because I listen to almost every type of music and have remained at my core the same person I always was; a genre stereotype did not sprout forth from my body when I hit the play button.

Also – if you listen to his albums (plural – this is important) as a critical analysis, you can hear the conflict and you realize that a lot of his songs are in some ways conversations he’s having with himself. He doesn’t like himself any more than you do. He’s not any happier than you are. This is the exorcism of the soul of a kid who was never wanted anywhere he went, who had to learn to use the contempt of others to fuel his own confidence, and that’s a hard place to break out of. He is the second part of Newton’s third law. He’s the opposite and equal reaction to those who push against him. As a fellow contrary, stubborn ass, I can relate to the execution, if not the sentiment. He’s not doing what he does for you or me. He’s doing it for that little kid frozen in time who’s cold, alone, and afraid.

So in conclusion, I can’t justify Mr. Mathers’ use of language of hate against women and homosexuals and pretty much everyone, but goddammit I can understand it because I feel the same way about elements and fixtures in my life. So what does that mean for me? That I’m just an asshole and shouldn’t pretend to be nice? Or that the whole world is a mess. (Another solid reference – come on, people!). Regardless, he gets me through the hard times in my life when I just want to break anything in front of my face, so for that, I thank him.

Some Thoughts on Gender Equality

Okay, so I originally wrote what follows in response to a comment made on a friend’s Facebook post. I got some positive feedback and decided to share it here. It’s mostly about Feminism. I know what you’re thinking.

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That’s a common reaction. It’s always difficult to talk about gender issues because they are so complex and intersect with so many other, equally sensitive issues. People (no matter the stance) come to the table with preconceptions and assumptions about what “the other side” is thinking. I hate having these discussions. I absolutely loathe it. They tend to get nasty pretty quickly, especially in an anonymous setting like web-land.

But, nevertheless, I wanted to share this as a non-inflammatory explanation of my point of view.

Here’s what sparked the comment. A friend posted this:

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At which time the following comments were made:

Person 1: Scared of me? Thanks, I needed a good laugh. I like being thrown into the same boat as perverts and rapists… Yay equality.

Original Poster: Better safe than sorry. A lot of us have learned that from experience.

Person 2: Statistics or it didn’t happen.

Original Poster: Statistics that historically women could never be alone because if they were they were raped, or statistics that —- is clumped in with perverts and rapists?

Person 2: I need to see empirical evidence.

Person 1: I don’t think there is a shortage of evidence that shows men rape women… no need for evidence. I think he means, pics or it didn’t happen, bad form on this subject. But while your side learned that we rape we learned you guys cry wolf and get us locked up. With the exception of 2 other females, I have yet to give rides to anywhere anyone from the opposite sex. I dated one, the other was basically my sister.

Person 2: I understand the logic behind the pic, but it’s a flawed view by a Feminist. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism. So this person claims that ALL men are bad, but that is not the case. So when I read bullshit like this, it worries me that other people will follow suit.

Person 1: This escalated unnecessarily.

Person 2: Naw man, not all men are scary. The person that tweeted this has her views mixed up.

This is a snippet, but the rest isn’t really of significance here. So, there are a couple of things here that bothered me right off the bat. 1) The stronger reaction to this post was not about the trans women at jeopardy, but that men are being stereotyped as being violent. 2) Person 2 read this as a feminist saying all men are bad and lost sight of the bigger message.

I wanted to address these issues for Person 2’s sake, but also as a way to organize my own thoughts about feminism and gender inequality, so I wrote the following in response. I hope you enjoy the read!


First of all, let me acknowledge that tone is very easy to project in written communications, so I’ll start by saying that my tone is friendly and conversational. I’m not here to be condescending or hateful. OKAY. NOW.

I feel like part of your reaction comes from perceiving this as a feminist attack against men. I hear you when you say not all men are to be feared, and I agree with you (more on that later). If we’re going to say #notallmen, then I must insist that we also say #notallfeminists. People tend to have a negative of view of anything perceived as the “feminist agenda” regardless of the actual message. This is partly because of long-lasting misconceptions about what a feminist is. To be sure, there are man-hating, dick-chopping feminazis out there that would love nothing more than to eradicate men from the face of the earth. I personally haven’t met any, but I know they exist. These are radicals. Think Westboro Baptist Church versus your average run-of-the-mill Christian. They do not represent the majority of us. I think this reputation is a hold-over from the 70’s when the movement was more radical, necessarily so, but I’m not getting into THAT at the moment. The point is, feminists as individuals are as different as individual men, individual Christians, individual homosexuals, etc. are from their respective group stereotypes. This is why labels suck. They are convenient, as humans like to categorize things, but we end up squishing a complex human being into an itty bitty framework that really doesn’t fit. Here is a wonderful video about all the different types of feminism: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/video/clips/smnty-barbie-explains-feminist-theories-video/, and also this one about stereotypes feminists face: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/video/clips/smnty-call-me-feminazi-video/. Here’s an article, too: http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2012/03/feminists_strive_to_remove_bar.html

SO- Here is what the majority of modern feminists are after: the same rights and access that men have. This applies to the workplace, educational settings, social spaces, etc. Now most people looking at this from the outside believe that women DO have access to the wider world, and more besides because they get free drinks at bars, amirite? Women can go to school for whatever they want. They can get jobs in construction for Christ’s sake! Women hold public office, and some are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Quityerbitchin. Well, let’s go back to the beginning and really think about this.

‘Merica was founded, settled, and governed by a bunch of protestant white dudes (most often men of means). Some were escaping religious oppression in England, and some were looking for land and riches and all that jazz. This, shall we say “Establishment” or patriarchy (so called because of the maleness) of our society and culture was pale and, well, male, I think we can all agree on that. They constituted the governing body, the upper class professions such as lawyers and physicians and bankers, and they alone attended universities. These dudes set a precedent that all non-white, non-Christian, non-hetero non-men people were inherently excluded from. This was just The Way Things Worked. Pretty much everywhere in the Euro-centric sphere.

This continued to be “the way of things” for a couple hundred years. Now, I think we can also all agree that people don’t like changes to the established social norm; see: Civil War, Civil Rights Movements, Women’s Liberation, Free Love, etc and so on. Yes – eventually those early, radical pioneers of feminism gained access for women to education, voting rights, working outside the home, birth control… However, just as the civil rights movement did NOT create racial equality (and still hasn’t), the various women’s lib movements over the years have not created gender equality. There are many factors to this: kids toys (Girls – bake cookies! Boys- take a rocket to the moon!), media (men doing important things, women being available for sex and childcare (obvs I’m generalizing and this is starting to change, but it’s still SO pervasive, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/women-in-the-media-female_n_2121979.html)), and there are those who won’t hire women because they feel that women are going to leave the workforce to have kids, or take lots of time off for childcare responsibilities, or won’t be able to put in long hours because they have family duties to attend to: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/a-toxic-work-world.html, and the list can go on and on.

Are other groups of people similarly stereotyped? Perhaps even men-people, like those with beards or tattoos? Yes. Absolutely. The establishment that I’ve described as creating barriers for women create the same barriers for minorities, for LGBT people, for Muslims, for immigrants, for people who like to wear green mohawks or biker vests. Anyone who is not part of the socially “normal” middle and upper class male classification starts out in life ten steps behind. Add more steps behind for every category you can add that further distances you from the patriarchy. I know that as a straight, white female I have a lot more privilege and mobility than a Muslim immigrant. Does that mean I should be satisfied with my lot? NO. One person struggling more does negate another person’s experience. It’s not an oppression contest, or at least it shouldn’t be if you’re dealing with rational, humane adults. Here’s the gist of being a feminist: Your success in this life should be not be based on meaningless characteristics, such as what’s in your pants, where you worship, or whether or not your parents raised you in abject poverty (another HUGE barrier to access to resources – for another time).

Now, let me conclude by saying that I don’t think that all rich, straight, white men are actively holding back anyone different from them, nor are they all automatically drafted into the You’ve Got It Made Club. The establishment is not so much a matter of individual people doing intentional things (though some do), it’s a machine that turns of its own accord based on the way things have always been done – it’s a Newton’s Cradle of inequality.

MOVING ON to the issue at hand. Now, what I get from this comment is that the author is directing this statement (we are afraid of you) to the type of men that are saying they’re going to go into bathrooms and kick the shit out of any trans women that go inside them, purportedly because they believe these people want to molest their daughters. Her statement is a reasonable thing to say to someone who has just declared their intent to be violent toward someone based solely on an assumption of what their intentions are. But, I get the point you’re making.

The average man is bigger and stronger than the average woman. We are aware of this. It’s pretty obvious. We don’t walk around thinking that every strange male person is considering violently raping and murdering us, BUT the thought does cross our minds when we find ourselves alone, in the dark, in a strange place, with a strange man approaching. I imagine a man might think the same thing in such a situation. I say that because men are convicted of violent crimes SO MUCH MORE than woman are. Here is an excellent article on the subject, with citations for your further study: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/men-more-violent.htm.

Evolution has gifted men with a body better designed for fighting off bears and marauding strangers than women (http://www.livestrong.com/article/355987-female-male-muscles/). Women bear and nurse children, so we’re kind of designed to be nutritious, which leaves us at the mercy of the village men for protection. This all makes sense. This is also continually pounded into our brains via, again, The Media. Watch a couple hours of Cops, or Law & Order. Dudes be bustin’ caps. We can argue, though, that it’s situational. Drug deals gone bad, bad blood between brothers or partners, shitty men who beat their wives, with the occasional rapist sprinkled in. Does this mean I should be afraid of men? Mmmm. Maybe. Most likely I should avoid drug dealers and wife beaters. Except what if I can’t? What if I live in the ghetto and am closer to violence in general? What if I have no family, no transportation, no resources to get away from a man who beats me (who didn’t start the relationship by punching me in the face and saying “wanna go out?” by the way)? I get it, I’m going off topic. It’s just another perspective to consider. A woman who has been in this situation is more likely to be afraid of Men in general. Here is some information on violence specifically against women: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/.

Here’s what’s most interesting about your reaction (to me). I have heard, and I’m sure lots of women out there have also heard their significant other saying, “Babe. It’s not you I’m worried about. I trust you. It’s THEM I’m worried about.” The THEM in question are Strange Men lurking in the night, ready to pounce on your helpless woman. This is often the reason guys give for not wanting their wives/girlfriends to go out at night with the girls to places like bars and clubs. They paint this picture of predators everywhere, waiting to spike our drinks or just club us over the head and throw us over their shoulders. I’m exaggerating a little, but I hope you see the point. If you have never said this to your lady, or even thought it, then I think that’s great and kudos to your enlightened point of view. But look – I don’t even think the point of the post was saying that women feel like all men are dangerous. All men are potentially dangerous, though, to a woman. This is evident from walking down the street and hearing catcalls, then getting called a bitch when you don’t respond. This is evident in men threatening women on the internet, usually with threats of rape: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/12/women-trolled-internet_n_6077234.html.

It’s not that we look at every man and think he’s going to commit violence against us, it’s just that We Don’t Know, and yes, you are capable of it.

Oh, one last thing. Women who lie about sexual assault are appalling human beings. No one should be sent to prison under false accusations, for any reason. It’s pretty uncommon, though. It does get a lot of attention on the news when it DOES happen (likely because we live in a culture of victim blaming and these stories let us point a big finger and say “See, there isn’t really a problem! It was all a Lie! Terrible Lie!”). This idea that most rape allegations are false is really detrimental to women who DO suffer sexual abuse, so the women that actually commit this heinous perjury are hurting everyone when they do it. I wanted to make sure I linked some facts about the struggle: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/barriers-report-sexual-assault/. Here is one by a coalition of men against violence against women: http://web.stanford.edu/group/maan/cgi-bin/?page_id=297. They’re light on citations, but they have a ‘Resources’ page with a lot of helpful links.