Monday, January 15, 2018

On Aziz Ansari (Y'all Were Dying to know My Take, Right?)

This is going to be a super quick one because it is 9:00 pm which is bourbon and The Crown time. But I find the various hot takes about Aziz Ansari are spinning around through my brain and I feel compelled to add my two cents (because that's just what this debate is missing: another middle-aged white lady's opinion!).

When I first read the Babe article, my first inclination was to go "oh, come on! We've all been there, honey." And that's how rape culture works - we're all bred in an environment where male desire is coddled and privileged while female comfort is left standing outside the window, in the snow, tentatively waving like "can I come in for a second? Or is that too much of a bother? I'll just stand here a while longer." We're all steeped in "oh, he just did what men do" and "she needs to learn to manage the situation and her reaction to it."

That's not right. Right?

And then later I read another hot take all about how we're RUINING AZIZ ANSARI'S CAREER! And I was, "um, it's been two days. Are we really sure we're ready to bury Aziz Ansari's career? After two days?"

I read a tweet today by a twitterer called Wikipedia Brown (come on! is that the best twitter handle ever, or what?) in which she used the word "unlearning." We all have a lot to unlearn about the way sex and sexual politics and gender relations go.

I'll start: there are degrees of #MeToo. There's rape, there's gross abuse of power, there's groping and masturbating at, there's unsolicited dick pics, and, yeah, there's privileging your own orgasm over her comfort. Men have to unlearn their right to behave this way and women have to unlearn their inclination to accept it. I'm pretty proud of Grace for telling him the next day how he made her feel. When I was 22, I'd just have been ashamed of myself for going to his apartment without the expectation of having sex in exactly the way he wanted to.

I have a lot to unlearn.

Next: I'm not gonna avoid season three of Master of None. I looooooove Master of None. I think Aziz Ansari is brilliant and hilarious and thoughtful and, basically, a decent person who needs to unlearn some shit. In other words, I'm not studying on exiling Aziz Ansari off to the island of misfit men.

But I'm also not mad at the idea that he's going to have to spend an uncomfortable few days thinking about his sexual expectation and his behavior. My fondest hope from #MeToo, is, well, that there will be a lot less rape. That's really number one on the list. But right up there too, I hope that the men of the world (many of whom, I'm sure, are guilty of exactly Ansari's behavior) will spend some time thinking about the times they may have made a woman feel unsafe and violated and learn to start doing what women do all the fucking time: pay attention to how the person they're with is reacting and feeling.

It's not that hard. Women really do it all the time.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Quick Lil Bloggity

I'm doing a little work as I watch the Letterman Obama interview on Netflix. Sigh.

I liked President Barack Obama. This is no hagiography; dude made big mistakes. But at the very least, you got the feeling that he cared. That he set his rather substantial intellect to every task and gave a shit about the effects of the decisions he made.

It's tragic to have gone from someone so clearly thoughtful as president to someone so clearly thoughtless; to have gone from someone with clear moral compass, to someone clearly amoral; to have gone from someone brilliant to someone so fucking stupid.

But an even more baseline tragedy of having gone from Obama to Trump is the vision. Obama's vision of American exceptionalism hews equally pragmatic and optimistic. The promise of America, in Obama's worldview, is to continually strive to be more perfect. Not perfect (because that's impossible) but more perfect. Obama thinks we as a nation can keep getting better.

And the way that happens is by opening America up to the people who've been historically excluded from it - people of color, LGBTQA people, disabled people, women, etc.

So we bounced from a leader with a worldview of pragmatic optimism, who believed in the generosity and expansiveness of American culture to a leader who recklessly longs for the day when he and people just exactly like him were the only people America was for.

But, you know what? Fuck that. Fuck Donald Trump and his ugly racist, misogynist worldview. In a word:

First things first, we're all gonna get on the phone on Monday and call our MoC and tell them DREAMers get to stay. If you're lucky enough to be repped by a Dem, tell them "no continuing budget resolution without protection for DREAMers." If you're repped by a Republican tell them that if the government shuts down because they couldn't come to an agreement on keeping the DREAMers here, you'll hold them responsible and not the dems.

Why? Because those 800,000 Americans make America better.

Next things next, we're gonna do everything we can to rid Congress of the blight of Republicanism. That is no longer a functioning party. They are all of them, every single one, enabling the Racist-in-Chief and his doddery, reckless path to recreate an America that was terrible for the majority of people who lived in it.

Every last one of us is gonna walk out of the voting booth in November just like this:

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Resolutin' 2018 Style

As has been stated here in the past, I believe in resolutions. I resolve all the time. I believe the primary purpose of life is to keep doing better, to keep challenging yourself to do more - despite the human propensity to fuck up. I'm not super great at it (I'm pudgier than I'd like to be, I drink more than I ought to, and I only kept up my volunteer work for half the year)  - but I resolved to cook more last year, and I did. I resolved to stay involved, and I did. I resolved to stay mad, and, hoo boy! I did!

So for 2018, I'm gonna keep on keeping on with what I'd planned on for 2017, but here are a couple of addenda:

Lean Into Optimism

I cannot recommend enough that you all join the Crooked Media nation. These guy have saved my sanity so many times throughout the year. They're smart, funny, and explain things in a way that makes sense, keeps you motivated and is always 100% bullshit-free.

Back in July (before Ralph Northam had won Virginia, before Doug Jones had won Alabama), Jon Lovett tweeted this:

And I was all:

I get how "everything is terrible and we're all gonna die" can be a defense mechanism. But I can never understand how anyone who lives like this gets anything done. When I read that we're on the verge of WWIII or that our institutions are doomed to failure under the oligarchic assault of President Pussygrabber and the establishment GOP fuckwits that enable him I want to put a rubber nipple onto a bottle of bourbon and crawl under the bed with a stuffed animal and a soft blanket.  

But when I see how engaged and involved everyone is, when I think about the victories we've had and remember those literal millions of folks taking to the street for the Women's March? Well, that makes me all:

Optimism gets shit done. Not blind faith that everything will work out. I mean, if you're a praying person, I think you should go right on praying; but this atheist is churched enough to know that Jesus would tell you also you need to get to work. Believing that I have some control over my life and my country gives me the energy I need to carry on the fight. I know this isn't for everyone. I know that I'm built for it in a way that others might not be. But the nihilistic fuckwits on the right are counting on us to give up. I'm not gonna. We're gonna beat those motherfuckers with a blue wave in 2018 the likes of which has not been seen.

But only if we work real hard to make it happen.

For a little extra inspiration, follow Barack Obama's twitter - it might make you sad to think of how hard we've fallen. But he's posting stories of people fighting the good fight and I want to be one of them!


Look, it can't be all American politics all the time. Self-care, bitches. Self-care. I am an intermittent stretcher. But I am also middle-aged and I want to bring this body into old age with some mobility and flexibility and control. So I'm going to keep going to the gym, keep standing up at my desk and add a 5 minute daily stretch routine to the mix. I am taking suggestions. Do you have any? Also, I'm thinking about implementing a twice daily 90 second plank to my work day. Anyone want to do this with me and keep me honest? Come on, let's be embarrassed at the office together! I know I work from home, but the dogs will look at me funny. 

Love all of youse!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Hooray for all the Girl Stuff

I stayed up last night until 2:30 a.m. in the morning. I know 2:30 a.m. in the morning is redundant, but I am using redundancy for emphasis because I cannot remember the last time I was up so late! And why, you might be asking, was I up so late? Was it existential-dread-induced insomnia that so many are suffering from?  It was not. As yet, I am an excellent sleeper and would likely take gold if that were ever to become an Olympic event. Which it should.

I stayed up so late because I started (finally) watching One Mississippi on Amazon and I could not stop. One Mississippi is so wonderful, you guys. I had to stay up to see it through because I was entirely charmed, enraptured, entertained and moved.

Earlier that lazy day after Thanksgiving I was trying to think of what I wanted to watch. The Friday after Thanksgiving is built for binging something on Netflix in sweatpants while eating leftovers. This is as the Pilgrims intended.

I tried with Netflix's Mindhunter, which came highly recommended by a friend with good taste. In the opening scene, a man in the throes of a profound psychotic break literally blows his own head off, following which a hostage negotiator is tortured by his failure to stop the suicide. It looked really good! But, you know what? It was a guy show. And I'm just not in the headspace for guy stuff these days.

There's nothing wrong with guy things! All my life I've liked guy things - Mel Brooks, Monty Python, things written from a male point-of-view, for masculine sensibilities. I adore Monty Python and Mel Brooks (but have always thought that Madeline Kahn was the best part of any of his movies (probably because she was)).

And, since this blog has turned so confessional of late, I might as well admit that I probably got into adoring all these guy things because I wanted guys to think I was cool. In the 80s and 90s, there was no quicker way to Cool Girl than being a cute girl who quoted Blazing Saddles. But confess a passion for, say, Madonna or Bridget Jones Diary, and you were just another silly girl. And Madonna was great! Bridget Jones' Diary was great!

These days. the landscape is chockablock with stories told by women and for women. One Mississippi and Better Things are a couple of examples of shows that can make me howl with a laugh one second and then make my eyes fill up a second later (side note: fuck Louis C.K. and fuck him for getting any credit for either of those shows). I can't wait for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to come out on Amazon next week (!!!!!!) and Crazy Ex Girlfriend is fucking genius.

This is a shitty year. But at least, finally, there are women's voices out there making art, telling our stories and telling them so well. But even better, and maybe the best part of this terrible year: if some guy thinks you're a silly girl because you like to fall asleep to Gilmore Girls or you've already made your way through G.L.O.W. twice? Eh, who cares. You're too busy watching Call the Midwife to care about impressing some dumbass who liked Batman vs Superman more than Wonder Woman.

At long last the presumed universality, or, at least, supremacy of the male point-of-view is going away. And to that, we can all give a hearty:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Some Things I Will Tell You

My own sins:

When I was 25, a Chicago Congressman was found having a sexual relationship with a 16 year old girl. I said, "Oh, she is 16 going on 45" and brushed it off. If you'd suggested that my surmise was maybe racist (after all I didn't know that girl at all), I'd have said, "But Mel Reynolds is black!" and remained totally unconcerned with one of the more toxic ways of racism informs rape culture: Black girls are treated as grown, sexualized women when they are still children.

I used to tell this joke: "What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?" "Nothing she hasn't already been told twice!"


How about all the times I questioned some girl's motives? Assumed she was a slut? Assumed she was taking unfair advantage of her own attractiveness?

How about all the times I assumed the man had more credibility? Assumed his authority as sacrosanct and hers was poached?

How about the sins done to me?

The first time I got cat-called I was 11 and I felt so ashamed to have let myself be seen outside in shorts. There was the time I was walking to school (7th or 8th grade) and the man gestured to me from a car, asking for directions, and then showed me his gross hard penis under his flabby belly and I felt like an idiot for walking over there.

What about all the times men wondered within my earshot about the color of my pubic hair, and I felt like a cheat for having dyed my hair blonde?

How about all the times a boy told me I was being cruel for saying no, and I believed I was cruel. Worse - how about the hands holding my head down and it never occurred to me that I was allowed to spit or bite or punch. How about when I really didn't want to but it wasn't rape because that only happens when it's a stranger and you haven't had anything to drink.

The men yelling at me from cars, looming over me to in line to make sure I knew they were stronger. Being a woman is being scared a lot of the time. Or, maybe, it was?

Look, it was all fucked up. I have said this many times, but it bears repeating: I am knocking at fucking 50 and it's just now occurring to me that assault and harassment aren't just the cost of doing business as a woman. My failure to recognize this doesn't make me a doe-eyed victim. Or it doesn't make me just a victim; I am also a huge fucking super complicit dumbass as I have been game for making other women feel bad for the way they are women.

It's all tied up and mired in a rape culture that we're just now, finally, having a reckoning for and, lord, it is a painful reckoning. Still, as we pick through the gross, slimy, toxic icks beneath the rape culture rock we've turned over, I can't help but insist that we find a way to be OK with admitting that some things are worse than others. We just have to. Because if we can't, we are going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and that baby has potential to grow up as, like, Channing Tatum or Terry Crews or some other stalwart, shining excellent example of doing man well.

It is worse to groom and stalk a 14 year old than it is to grab an ass at a State Fair. It's not NBD to grab an ass at a State Fair. It's gross and disgusting and these things need to be brought to light. The ass-grabber should feel embarrassed and ashamed and he should apologize and he should fucking mean it.

But it's not as bad as grooming and assaulting a 14 year old.

Especially when the ass grabber is all "I am ashamed and you should investigate me" and the child molester is all "LIBRUL CONSPIRACY!"

Especially when the ass grabber will continue to advocate on behalf of women and use his legislative might to make sure we retain control over our own bodies and the child molester will say "Jesus wants me to put all the Muslims in prison."

Ideally, we could rid ourselves of all the ass grabbers; of all the people who've trucked in the notion that women's bodies are public property or that male hegemony is the natural order. But, the problem with that is that I think we're talking about getting rid of about 70% of the people who were born before 2000.

We're just going to have to learn to stop separating people into Good and Bad (Millennials, I don't shit on you guys a lot, but you are TERRIBLE about that). We're going to have to be better about saying "He is bad but also he does good and so let's call him on the bad and keep him honest about doing good" or "He is bad and wants more power to be worse so let's not give him that power."

To wit: Joe Biden will stare at your boobs. That's bad. He blocked Anita Hill from a fair hearing and gave us Justice Pubic Hair on a Coke Can. That's worse. He is a Catholic man who is staunchly pro-choice. That's good. He wrote and agitated for the Violence Against Women Act, which he got passed. That's better. Everything I just wrote in this paragraph is true. And we have got to see all of it.

Also, at the risk of being totally cliche: vote for women. More women in government. Women, especially women of color, at higher and higher and the highest positions in government. Men, I'm not throwing you out - but you haven't been exactly kicking moral ass over the past few hundred years.

Step aside.

And, Jaysus, stop grabbing ass! It's not yours!

It's so sad how long it took so many of us to realize that.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

I'm So Tired, but I Just ...

I knew this would happen. I took three days off around the weekend to burn up some PTO and then, despite a truly lackluster effort, failed to get the eff out of town as I had intended.  As expected during this stayfree minibreak (holla if you get the ref!), I have spent my time on a crushing series of household tasks and now most of my body hurts and it's 7:45 pm on a Saturday and I am ready for bed! Note to self: next time, get the eff out of town. Prepare to wear makeup and the cute shoes and step out for a nice meal in some suburb or something where the Shit That Needs Doing can't get done because I am not there.

That said, despite this weariness (which has roughly quadrupled due to the note-taking on how very many household tasks remain to be done), I've had this thing on my mind for the past few days and so I am fighting through this wave of fatigue and Taking To My Blog like the damn she-ro I am.

So, two things happened a year ago. A brilliant, highly qualified, passionate woman with clearly articulated plans on how she would aid and improve the lives of her fellow Americans lost an election. Excuse me; that should have read "lost" an election. A dumb, racist, sexist narcissist with zero qualifications for the job, a ridiculous combover and an obvious deeply realized sociopathy won it. Excuse me; that is to say "won" it.

Sometime following that, a bunch of powerful men started falling from grace due to their sexual crimes, ranging from rape to harassment to general piggishness, coming to light.

I believe (as likely do very many wannabe think piecers like me) that the former begat the latter.

Because, here's the thing: this election queered the deal that we women have tacitly agreed to for lo what is basically the sum total of This American Experience. We'll tolerate a lot of your shit, men. We'll agree that your discomfort at being called out for your piggishness is more uncomfortable than being subjected to it. But you have got to, menfolks, stand a little bit back as we progress. You have got to agree that it's OK for your daughters to get a skosh closer to equality than their mothers.

And then that goddamn abortion of an election happened and American women were like:

and then:

And that's when the powerful pigs began falling from the lofty positions, which they'd assumed after coasting by on all the privileges masculinity affords.


While I was overjoyed at seeing the Weiners and Weinsteins crumble down, a little part of me still pitied the piggish pigs (if not the harassers and the rapists). The men who've been feathering their fragile egos with awkward smiles following inappropriate flirtations. The pig who might not be aware of that deal we women made. Sure, he hasn't questioned it too deeply. But on some level he knows that while some philosophers might tell you that the unexamined life isn't worth living, there's a fellow out there named Oedipus that is all:

And they carried blithely on.

Earlier this week, a friend told me about hanging out at a hotel bar where some 50 year old man in the pickle business was talking to some 30 year old woman in the pickle business (this is a real thing that happened) while making jokes about showing her his pickle.

I thought, shit, that old dinosaur of a pig probably has no idea that he is gross and inappropriate and stupid and is either making the woman on the other end of his skeevy jokes roll her eyes or feel like she has to double-bolt her hotel room door that night. Pity his vanishing relevance in the culture.

But then I thought, wait! He doesn't give a shit about how she feels, only about how she makes him feel. In my clever (stolen, I think, but I can't remember from whom) Oedipus reference above, Jocasta is left out of the equation all together. Why am I defaulting to worrying about his feelings while assuming hers count less, hurt less, are less?

And with that insight, any pity I might have felt for his disappearing relevance was gone and all I thought was, you know, Pickle Man:

I don't really enjoy other people's pain (except maybe Weiner and Weinstein because fuck those fucking fuckers). But we women really do need to liberate ourselves from the entrenched, abiding feeling that female discomfort matters less than male and tell men to cut the shit when they act like that. The way the world is going (finally!) he might actually hear it.

And if he doesn't?

Monday, October 30, 2017

I Fear Silence... Can I Get a Grade on this Assignment?

Circa 1996, I was having a conversation with my dear old friend, Val, in which I said totally matter of factly, "I fear silence." And I do, dear reader. I cannot tolerate a lull in conversation. What is certainly a workaday banality for most of all the other people in the world is, to me, as though someone is pounding a nail into my head with a violent hammer of awkward silence.

And so, over the course of 40ish years, I've mastered the art of conversation. You understand, of course, that by "mastered", I mean "capable of filling the briefest conversational lull with desperate, panicked chit chat."

I am far more exhausted by this than exhausting.

I think.

Tonight I had a work dinner with some folks I don't know who work for the company that acquired us and I had hoped to be professionally impressive. I wore lipstick, for Christ's sake! I put product into my hair! As I walked in to the restaurant, I noticed that everyone was sitting around the table in unbearable silence, which was probably only because they stopped the conversation as I walked in to greet me and had been chatting comfortably up until then. But I couldn't risk it! I had to start GABBING AT EVERYONE!!!

Chat chat "and how did you end up in this town?" chat chat "how old are your kids?" chat chat "what a dreadful commute" chat chat chatterly chat chat chat chattity chat chat chat fucking chat.

I have no idea if the folks I work with are glad to have me around because I'll bear more than my fair share of the conversational load or if they are thinking "dear god, would she just shut the everloving fuck up?!"

Maybe both?

If I weren't so terrified of awkward silence, then I could sit there and take the temperature of the dinner table. But then it would be quiet and everyone would be looking around and, dear god, why don't we all just put a goddamn bullet in our heads! SOMEONE HAS TO TALK NOW!!!

I'm so tired.

Did I talk too much tonight?

By the way, I'm great in text. Why can't we all just text?