So an interesting thing happened on my Facebook page the other day. I posted a link to something and a contrarian man who I'll call Brett commented in reply. That's not the interesting part. Brett loves to post argumentative comments on my page and does so fairly often. He will post the occasional comment of agreement or support too, but arguments are more the norm. And while in part, this is just his personality, there seems to be something more complicated going on under the surface of these argumentative gestures, which are often left on posts that have to do with women's rights and violence against women. I think, for some men, any mention of the patriarchy can hit a nerve, and certainly, my posts on these subjects seem to elicit the most response. Furthermore, contrarian comments are generally condescendingly worded and oddly presumptuous, left by a the sort of man who favours a didactic style, though his opinions tend to be based on anecdotes rather than facts. In Brett's case, I don't even think he's aware of it. He's not a bad guy. But I've been losing patience with his combative nature for awhile.
So, last week, I posted a link to an issue I was interested in, with a one-line header that expressed my feeling: I was disappointed with the thing that was happening. Big whoop.
His contribution was this: The situation was inevitable and simple, he said. My disappointment was naïve, he implied. Sigh.
So what bothered me? His assumptions. Firstly, he assumed, seemingly-instinctively, that his opinion was better and more intelligent than mine. Secondly, he assumed that I had not done even the most basic level of research on the subject. And finally, he assumed that his voice was both welcome and invited. I think he did all this without even knowing he was doing it. Like I said, he's not a bad guy. Nonetheless, I'm not the only person who noticed the implications of what he said.
I responded. I usually ignore this sort of thing, but I guess I'd had enough. I explained why his initial comment was overly simplistic, shared some more complex factors that I felt his comment had ignored, and then told him his perspective sounded like mansplaining.
That was my mistake ... using the word "mansplaining." It was as though the word emitted a high-pitched whistle that only a certain kind of man could hear. It alerted them to danger, a siren wailing "Feminazi with opinions has ATTACKED our bro! We must ORGANIZE!" And so they did.
Brett said he was insulted and disappeared from the conversation, but his bros -- a small group of men who had nothing to do with the initial interaction and who, in fact, never comment on my page or interact with me online in any meaningful way -- rose out of the Facebook woodwork to come to his defence. One said he was worried about me. Another posted a link to the first result in a simple Google search in order to prove that I was wrong, and another -- an especially obnoxious man who I've always been nice to over the years, but never actually liked -- told me I should put tinfoil up to keep out "bad" opinions. (I have no idea why he put the word bad in quotation marks, since he wasn't quoting me.) Then, when I told him to fuck off, he implied that I was a bitch. I don't think he meant it misogynistically. I'm sure he implies that everyone he disagrees with is a bitch. Definitely. To clarify, I pushed him to actually say the word, but he refused several times, pretending he hadn't said anything at all. All bluster, no bravery. Not at all surprising.
Just chillin' in our tinfoil hats, keeping out the "bad" opinions. From the movie Signs.
So just to recap: For having an educated opinion and stating it, I was being called a crrraaaaaazy bitch. Just another nut with a vagina. Was this fun? No. It was not. Did I fall apart about it? No, I didn't. But I did talk back, because I'm tired of big, pushy loudmouths implying that I'm stupid or crazy for thinking what I think. I turned their crap back on them, not unlike a particularly-foul mirror.
To Brett, I said nothing. Like I said, he had disappeared.
The man who was concerned is a close friend -- the only real friend who got involved -- and so to him, I talked. Ultimately, I felt good about our interaction. While he's not used to me being assertive, he understood where I was coming from. Plus, he had the decency to contact me privately, instead of posting a little attack on the actual thread. As it turns out, he's a friend, rather than a bro. Good on him.
As for the man who sent the simple link, I deleted his comment. He responded that it would be okay for us to discuss the issue in private, via DM. I admit, even this felt presumptuous and entitled. Why is it assumed that he's owed a conversation? He's little more than an acquaintance and I didn't think I needed his approval to have a valid opinion. Nonetheless, his messages were respectful and politely worded, so I engaged with him a bit, even though I didn't think it was his place to get involved. And it was fine. Unnecessary, but fine.
[Edited to add: the man who sent the simple link, who pretended to have a civil conversation on this subject, has since blocked me. I assume, in solidarity with his blocked bro. But I'm the angry, unreasonable one in this scenario. Okay. Lol.]
As for the charming individual who implied that I was a crazy bitch, well. I'd already told him to fuck off, so I simply blocked him and told him he wouldn't be missed. It wan't a hard decision. The man's always been an idiot. (More on that later.)
So, it would seem that this little gang was dealt with tidily. Or ... was it?
I wish. Alas, the last man chose not to give up. Let's call him Gob, shall we? Gob, the man who told me I was a crazy bitch, continued to behave shamefully. Having been blocked from Facebook, he chose to send me (and others) a series of emails that a kind person could only categorize as stupid and obnoxious. Here's one of his earlier gems, from a time when he was still weakly-feigning politeness. I think he's trying to say ... Label bad! Libertarian good! Except when Gob make good label is smart! Rar! Something like that. It's a screen shot. Click to enlarge.
What can I say? This is a man who, when we were students, lifted a small, not-well-liked boy by the back of the shirt and the scruff of the neck and threw him from a room. I witnessed this charming bit of abuse. The story was told and retold, to the sounds of much laughter and merriment, because, of course, the boy who was tossed was odd and unpopular, and therefore deserved what he got. That is the mindset of most teens and I admit, I laughed along with everyone else. I was eighteen and stupid. But even at the time, in the back of my mind I was thinking We're laughing because a big guy physically assaulted a little guy. That's why we're laughing. I'm not the hero in this story, I did nothing and I am ashamed. But I think this tale helps to explain the personality of Gob.
In response to his email, above, I sent back a caustic little note of my own, in which I both pointed out the complete strangeness of his message, spawned as it was from a conversation he seemed to have imagined. I told him he was either confused or lying, and made fun of his atrocious spelling. We all make typos, I said, which is true. I've made some in this very post, but really ... considering the fact that he was being so condescending, I think so many errors are little much.
I didn't take the high road, but I did keep responding, and I'm pretty proud of that choice. To every one of his comments, to me or about me, I replied. And as long as he keeps writing, I will keep doing so. That is, until I can't be bothered anymore. That's my choice, not his. I read a piece by the awesome Lindy West once called Don't Ignore the Trolls. Feed Them Until They Explode.
and I consider myself to be taking her advice.
My point is this: Any woman who spends even a moderate amount of time discussing political and social justice-related issues on the internet knows that the web isn't a safe space for women.
I post a fair bit of political stuff on my Facebook page. That space, reserved for people I've approved as "friends" is my only online forum that is particularly controversial. (And honestly, not even very controversial -- I post plenty of silly jokes and amusing animal pictures, just like everyone else.) Nonetheless, I have a few particular areas of interest:
1) Race and Racism (specifically in regards to mixed-race issues)
2) Body Politics (specifically Size-Acceptance and Fat-Activism)
3) Gender Politics (specifically Feminism)
These are, not surprisingly, the political areas that have affected me most directly. I'm a woman (duh), I'm mixed-race (double-duh), and I am in recovery from an Eating Disorder (ED) and have been both fat and thin (if you read this blog, another duh). I have other, related interests, which include anti-capitalism, class issues, and poverty, but they are more peripheral than my main stuff. Anyway, all of this is simply to give you an idea of the sorts of things I post. None of them are all that radical, really, but most of them have a tendency to trigger certain insecurities in people, especially privileged people, and all of them tend to bring on argumentative comments from men. It's a sad fact that you can't really talk about sexism or racism or any major bigotry without offending people who think you're blaming them. Mention racism and some (SOME not all!) white people think you're criticizing them, for example. Talk about feminism and some (SOME!) men think "Hey! I'm a nice guy! You're attacking me!" These people feel angry, as if you're saying that systemic, institutionalized issues are their personal responsibility, when they're not. No one I know right now is a racist, but many people I know accidentally and unthinkingly have racist and biased ideas subtly influencing their ideas. Consider the fact that many people think names like Shaniqua are "ghetto." That's an inherently racist ideas, and it's just one of many that lots of people subscribe to without thinking. My point is that most of us are complicit to some extent, in every arena of inequality. Including me! That's okay! It's not our fault per se, but it's something that needs to be talked about, something that needs to be faced if it's ever going to change. That's why I talk about this stuff online when I can, to my friends, in the relatively safe space known as my private Facebook page, though as I said, I'm finding that bringing up these subjects can be dangerous. My story above was not about physical, major danger, but about the small things, the everyday things that are at very bottom of the same scale. Real danger is reserved, for the most part, for people who are much more important than me.
Consider Lindy West, the Jezebel writer -- my absolute current favourite online scribe. She wrote a couple of pieces awhile back that contained what amounted to a very mild critique of rape jokes in the sphere of stand-up comedy (for example, categorizing a joke about how a woman in an audience should be gang raped because she didn't find a particular comic's jokes to be as amusing as he did as not cool) and all hell broke loose. She received a deluge of rape threats, comments about how she was too fat and ugly to be raped, comments about wanting to rape her with a traffic cone, comments about how she should kill herself, etc. It was, for any reasonable person watching, both shocking and disgusting in a very visceral way. The word "cunt" was practically impossible to avoid, a clear favourite insult (next to fat and ugly, of course). It was metaphorically unbelievable and soberingly true -- a woman with an opinion had better beware. The internet and it's trolls were coming.
And then there's local Anita Sarkeesian. If you've never heard of her, let me sum up her story: In 2012, Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter project to fund the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series -- a project born of her academic background. She raised plenty of money, but she also drew the ire of a legion of misogynist trolls. According to her Wikipedia entry, she was e-mailed images of herself being raped by video game characters, her personal social media accounts were attacked (hacking attempts and the like), and even her Wikipedia entry was doctored, "vandalized with images of sex acts" according to the page as it currently exists. But, as they say in the world of late-night infomercials, that's not all! My favourite fun-fact in Sarkeesian's story is that one hater hated her enough to create a video game allowing angry male users (or anyone who felt like it) to "beat up Anita Sarkeesian." The premise was simple. Misogynists the world over could click on a stolen photo of Sarkeesian's face and watch while it transformed into a battered, bloody, bruised mess. These men wanted to put Sarkeesian in the hospital because they didn't like her ideas, but being weak and impotent, they decided to pretend to do so from the safety of their own manky basements instead -- a brave and not-at-all pathetic choice.
Sorry for the blurry image. It's the best quality I could find.
So, yeah. If you're a political woman, the internet is often a dangerous place. That's the simple part. But there's more to this story.
I do not think that I am at all like Lindy West or Anita Sarkeesian. Both of those women are major figures, important voices, both online and in the wider world, and not just because they're feminists. I'm a nobody -- a regular woman making no real political impact, just puttering along and trying to live my life. And that's fine. In fact, it's important, because big stories like the ones I just mentioned aren't all that common unless you're a major feminist figure. Much more common are stories of the sort of bullying and silencing that go on every day on the Facebook pages, the Twitter accounts and the web pages (etc.) of regular women like me. It's almost imperceptible, we're all so used to it, but if you're at all political, I'm sure you know what I'm speaking about -- the attempts to educate, to correct, to shame, to categorize us as crazy and imply that we are "bitches" to be dismissed -- in the form of comments from men who think their voices are always welcome, always wanted, always right. These are the sort of men who commonly take up the most space they can in the world, opening their legs wide on public transit, for example, interrupting with their booming voices when women are speaking, making little puppet mouths with their respective hands and saying "shhhhhht!" when they don't like what you're saying. And not as a joke.
Again, not ALL men are like this, of course -- Nathan
is a good example of that, as are all of the men in my immediate-circle -- and many men are only partially like this, or like this only once in awhile, but there are a lot of men who are like this all the time, out there in the world. Legions of them.
At least, that has been my experience. It's only recently that I've noticed the many ways in which everyday sexism affects my online life, and though I'm not sure this is something that happens to every woman who behaves like me on the internet, I have a sneaking suspicion that my experience is not so much an exception as it is the norm.
Remember yesterday when I posted all those flower photos
? I took some other photos around the neighbourhood too. Uglier photos. Darker photos. Here are those photos.
A tree against the sky, heavily messed with in Photoshop.
Some leaves I arranged on the sidewalk.
A foamy puddle on the street.
Yellow leaves in the gutter.
A cool vintage bike.
A crack in the sidewalk.
Horse chestnuts! As you can see, I gathered many. Possible craft to come.
And finally, a hideous Halloween decoration honouring Frankenstein's monster.
Happy Fall, my friends.
Went for a walk. Took some pictures of flowers. Let me know if I've got the names wrong.
A couple of bees enjoying a susan or sunflower.
Salvia, I think.
American mountain ash.
Another yellow daisy.
Last of the summer pansies.
Another bee on a susan/sunflower?
A black eyed susan, or conedisk sunflower, dying, sadly.
Some kind of wild mint, maybe? Possibly a variety of creeping jenny?
Coreopsis rosea, being enjoyed by a bee.
Let me preface this by saying that this blog is far from my best work. That's what happens with a rant. Okay, here we go.
This is my cell phone.
I take a lot of shit about this phone. People laugh at it. They roll their eyes. They are frustrated when I don't answer, frustrated that they can't get hold of me at the exact moment they want to.
I bought it in 2007, right after I moved back to Toronto from Vancouver. At the time, it was the cheapest model available. It works and I pay about $15 or less a month to operate it. Battery life remains good. I can receive texts, though I prefer not to, and send them, though I prefer not to. Half the time, the phone is dead, mostly because I often forget that I own it, sometimes for weeks at a time. I still check my voicemail, and not just to make the icon go away.
And you know what's great about it? You don't decide when you get to talk to me. I decide. If I like you, I do my best to accommodate you, especially when it's important, because that's what communication is -- it's about more than one person. But in the end, I decide what works for me and how much and how often I'm willing to listen. It's a good system, fundamentally similar to your own (which is using your phone the way you want, for what you want). Our systems don't always mesh, but so what? Curmudgeons: We're just like you!
, for his part, doesn't even have
a cell phone. So take the crap I receive and multiply it by a million for him.
As a unit, we get more pressure about our cell phone choices than we do about having a baby. And that's saying a lot.
Is it really such a big deal? I know I'm "trapped" in 2003. I like it here! 2003 was a great time for the cell phone. Why does it bother people so much? Is it so strange/wrong that I like focusing on the person or people I'm with when I'm with them, as opposed to focusing on my phone, looking ahead for something better? And likewise, is it wrong to prefer people who focus on me? Is it wrong to be irritated by last-minute "Oops! I'm going to be 45 mins late!" texts that arrive with no explanation? Wrong to want to have a conversation with someone who looks at my face rather than at his phone? When I'm with someone or doing something, that's what I'm doing. I'm busy. I'll get in touch with you another time, when I'm not busy. Why would anyone have a problem with that? I. Do. Not. Get. It. Maybe I'm 4000 years old at heart, but I don't get it.
I also don't get this brand-new community of earnest people who are just (finally) realizing they need to cut back on the cell phone use. There are so many articles about it, so many videos, each one more tiresome than the last. All this earnest fucking realization garbage, about something that is obvious and simple if you use an ounce of common sense ... it's ridiculous.
Here's one called The amazing discovery I made when my phone died
. (Amazing? Really?)
Here's a mini movie everyone was obsessing over about a month ago called I forgot my phone
. (Gag me.)
And here's everybody's favourite comedian Louis C.K. talking mostly about what I'm talking about in this much-less-funny blog. (And I LIKE Louis C.K. Everybody likes Louis C.K. There's nothing wrong with this bit, really. He's funny and he's right. He's so very "on-trend" -- that's the bit I find tiresome. The fact that this "realization" that should be obvious is even a trend to begin with.)
Articles about easing up on the smart phone usage are becoming like articles about "millennials." Enough, already. Guess what? Ten years ago, you didn't have a smart phone. What you've just "realized" about it isn't an "amazing discovery," it's a recent memory.
Once upon a time, I had a smart phone. I had to. For work. I checked it constantly. I rolled over in the morning and pulled it off my nightstand to check it, before I could even see straight. And then I realized how shitty that was, and how awful the constant checking made me feel, the way it activated my anxiety and bruised my soul, so I stopped. First I stopped checking so much, even though I had to keep the phone for work, and then eventually, I left the job and the phone behind.
If you think you use your smart phone too much, stop. Cut back. Be a grown up and do you. Take care of yourself. And move on with the understanding that you are not a trailblazer. You are not even a person who is particularly interesting. You're certainly not a hero.
The truth is, I love technology. I use technology! I have kept up with the social networks I like (such as Twitter), and this very blog, but I don't chain myself to them. I use Facebook even though I stopped enjoying it years ago, mostly because I think it's important for my work. And like I said, I text. On occasion. When I have to. I don't answer every call I receive, or every text. But that's not because I don't have a smart phone. It's because I DON'T WANT TO.
And can we also just talk for a second about email? Email, I'm all for. I love email. If you can't get me via text, why not email me? All the people who have smart phones have email on those phones, and yet, they don't want to email. Even though I like email. Even though emailing is the very best way to get in touch with me and to ensure a response. What's THAT about? Effective communication is about meeting in the middle, isn't it? ISN'T IT?
In my opinion, email is really just an improvement to something that already worked. It's practically exactly the same as a handwritten note or letter, but instant and free. I got behind email in 1995 and stayed here. Email helped me fall in love every single time it happened. It helped to solidify my closest, longest friendships. Email is great, and yet suddenly, it's not enough.
And to be fair, I think texting might be similar for some people -- just an even more distilled type of email. For some people. For many people, at least in my experience, it's an enabler of idiocy, ruining attention spans, destroying communication skills, making people even less empathetic and understanding, and even more stupid, detached, and selfish than they already were. And I don't like it. And I'm not going to start using it. Not now, or in the foreseeable future. Maybe eventually, if the climate surrounding how it's used changes and/or if I have to, but not right now. And y'all* or just going to have to ... as the kids say.
P.S. Thank god for Nathan. If I had to date in this text-obsessed climate, I don't know how I would stand it. Instead, I got in just under the wire, and hitched myself to man who is possibly even more curmudgeonly than I am. At least while the world is going crazy with the phones, we have each other.
* Not YOU you. If I like you and we're friends and you send me a text on occasion, understand that I'm not talking about you.
When September rolls around, I always think about "back-to-school." Usually, I blog about it. Last year I wrote something about clothes -- that first-day outfit. The year before that, it was about the weather -- the sudden crispness in the air. The year before that, I think I wrote something about change, and all the different places where I've lived.
I've always thought that Labour Day was an unescapable emotional trigger. That every year, it would activate something in me through some strange combination of sense and muscle memory. I would feel that back-to-school rush, that prickling motivation to start something new, that remembered-desire to change everything about myself and start fresh, just in time for the "new year."
But this year, I don't.
It's odd. All the old starters are here. I can hear the kids out at recess after months of silence, there's more traffic on the road, the light seems weaker and all the humidity is gone. It's almost chilly. And still, it doesn't feel like "back-to-school." It feels like any other day. And I'm not sure I like it.
I feel outside of something that seems to be happening to everyone else and it's making me a little sad. Is back-to-school gone forever? Will it come back? Maybe if we had children? Never?
I have been feeling a bit old, this summer. Not OLD old, but older. Somewhat bereft of possibility. I keep thinking about what I was like in my early twenties, when I was "just starting out" as they say. It's not that those days feel like they were such a long time ago. (They don't -- they feel recent. Disturbingly recent.) It's just that my realm of possibility has gotten so much smaller since, the borders closing in. At certain moments in our lives (if we're relatively lucky, and I have been) almost all paths are open. You can imagine yourself being almost anything, if only you could make a choice. Astronaut?* It's possible. Given the right education, it's possible! Or rather, it was possible.
There are two schools of thought on this. Nathan, bless him, thinks I'm being too negative. (Compared to him, I'm always being too negative.) Other people have told me that almost everything remains possible with the right amount of will power. They say, "You can still be anything you want to be. You just have to be willing to take a leap! Ask! Believe! Receive!" (Barf.) And then there are those who think that the opposite is true, that with every day that passes, every choice we make limits our future choices, until our respective paths are, if not definite, then very predictable.
I don't know what I think. Both things are true to an extent. I suppose if I really wanted to, I could change my life, begin again. I mean, I've done it before. (But that was because I had to. If you don't have a choice in the matter, reinvention is a very different thing.) At the same time, it's certainly no longer possible for me to be many things. MOST things. I mean, really. Astronaut? It's never going to happen (even if I wanted it to).
At this point, I'm guessing that I'm never going to go back to school. Not ever. I think that part of my life is over. Maybe that's why I'm a little sad today, I'm not sure.
Sometimes I feel like I wasted a lot of my 20s, that I missed out on doing what I should have been doing because I was focussed on something dumb. I don't know ... It's impossible to know how things might have been different. Maybe they wouldn't have been different.
When I started my MA, I was 27, and I remember asking a prof I was friendly with if he thought I was too old to begin grad school. He said no, that he thought I was fine, but he also added that if I had been a bit older, say 30, he would have cautioned me. By 30, he said, he wouldn't advise it. AND THAT WAS SIX YEARS AGO. So I think about that and I think, "Oh well. Another door closed. I guess I'll never get a PHD." I don't even WANT a fucking PHD, I just feel a little sad about not really being allowed to get one, you know?
I think I'm rambling. Anyway, that's this year's back-to-school post in the bag. Maybe nothing's changed at all.
*I don't actually want to be an astronaut. That's just an example. Jeeze.
I know it's not my regular day to write, but something just happened that I had to vent about so as not to explode.
I was just at the press preview for the Ai Weiwei According to What? Exhibit that is about to open at the AGO. No problem there. I write less than I used to, but I still work now and again and I've been to a bazillion press events before. They're usually no big deal. You get your snacks, you get your drinks, you get your quotes. You make awkward small talk with other journalists (who all seem to hate each other) and then you go home and churn out your piece. Easy.
Only, these days, I'm not working for a big-time, well-known outlet. I'm working for a website. And it's not a website a lot of people have heard of. And I'm using a pseudonym because I want some extra distance. As a result, I've become a nobody. In this particular instance, this was made clear by the fact that instead of being allowed a regular 5 minute interview with the person I'd come to see, I was lumped into a 5 minute "group interview" with a pack of junior mint bloggers each of whom looked to be about 20 years old. At most.
But okay, fine. I'm not a snob. Or, I don't want to be a snob, so in to the group I went. And then I spent the next 5 minutes listening to these fucking children ask stupid/inane questions that the interviewee -- Mami Kataoka, the original curator of the show -- tried her best to answer kindly and in good faith (bless her).
Here are just a couple of questions the baby journos asked:
1. How is the show being received in North America so far?
The answer to this question should have been: "Have you heard of the Internet? Want to try using it?" But like I said, Mami was a sweetheart so she actually tried to answer.
2. How do most people feel the first time they see the art?
What? How is someone supposed to answer this? Are we all supposed to be mind readers? This question doesn't even make sense. Mami, very reasonably, answered "Well, how did you feel?"
It only got worse from there. AND as a result, I wasn't able to ask any of my actual questions. I can still write the piece, so that's not a big deal, but seriously. SERIOUSLY, you guys. I am depressed. I am now lumped in with these people. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE I AM NOW LUMPED IN WITH.
I love journalism, you guys. I really do. I don't wish I was dead at all.
P.S. The highlight of the day was actually this creep shot I snapped of Jeanne Beker, who I've worked with before, but who clearly didn't recognize me. Because I am a nobody.
Sorry Jeanne. This is not a flattering photo. That's what I get for being a creep.
Ah, blogging. It's a bit of a problem. I mean, as you know, I like it. If I didn't, I wouldn't keep doing it, but at the same time, it has a tendency to rile people, even when I don't mean it to.
In part, this is my fault. I write personal stuff and I often mention people I know, but rarely do I name anyone. As a result, everyone thinks I'm writing about them. People say, "I read your blog post. Were you talking about me?" Or they say "I wish you wouldn't write about me." Some of these people even email their friends to say things like, "Look what that bitch Jen wrote about me." And they're always wrong. Always! People who think I'm writing about them are always wrong.
Sorry, but they are. YOU are. (And no offence, because I love you, but you need to work on getting over yourself.)
Re: This Blog -- It is not / was not / never will be about you.
I really don't write about anyone in my day to day life. That's just a fact. I rag on my family sometimes, sure, and sometimes I will mention a friend by name. If that's you, hurray! I like you! If I'm writing about anyone/anything else, it's probably about someone or something that happened a long time ago (though I might make it seem recent) or about someone who is NOT in my life and who I know for a fact does not read the blog.
Maybe this is a normal human failing. I know I do this myself -- I assume things are about me when they're not. It's sort of egomaniacal and sort of lame and mostly about anxiety, but we all need to work on quitting that shit. I'll work on thinking things aren't about me and you work on thinking things aren't about you. Because they're not. Relax, please. (And if you're someone who mistakenly decided I'd written about you and who subsequently forwarded part of my blog to anyone along with a note calling me a not-very-nice name, you were wrong and please stop doing that. You know who you are...)
To the rest of you: Hi! Thanks for not being crazy!
Well, one of my exes finally "settled down" and decided to have a baby. I heard awhile ago that they were trying and now it seems the plan has taken root. IN HER WOMB. Literally. Sort of.
We're not in touch or anything, but this is the information age. It's almost impossible to stay out of the loop, even when you'd like to.
Oddly, upon presenting this news, the first question posed to me is usually "Are you okay?" Is it just me, or is this a weird question? I mean, it's been ages, yo. A dog's age. A donkey's years. A month of Sundays. I'm over it. Or if that sounds hard to believe (and maybe it should, since I rarely get over anything), let's say I'm "used to it." It's not as if this is some sort of bombshell. I've been spared this particular indignity before, certainly, but I knew it was coming. Married people in their thirties usually have children. It's to be expected. Frankly, considering what I remember of my ex's hatred of condoms (and incidentally, his odd refusal to get screened for STDs/STIs???), I expected it a lot sooner. At the very least, I'm sure there was at least one pregnancy scare in their past, followed by sharp relief. "No babies no babies no babies" what a oft-repeated motto of that former man of mine.
So what's the true truth here? I can't say I felt nothing. While I'm not particularly surprised, not at all disappointed, and for once not jealous (I'm often a very jealous person, that's just my nature), I did feel a little something. A small tummy-twinge, a little flood of adrenaline. And then I took stock. I thought: So, it's happened. Finally. There it is. How do I feel? Am I okay? And the answer is yes. I am. I am okay.
The stuff that happened years ago is the stuff that actually hurt. It was all such a surprise, even after years of unhappiness in the actual relationship. The lies, the realization that everyone had known but me, hearing that they'd purchased property together so quickly it felt immediate, hearing that I was being painted as a bitter friend-stealer and manipulator, liar/bitch. That is the stuff that kept me up at night. Those were the pieces of news that burned away in my belly. For awhile afterward, I had a recurring dream about being eviscerated. Someone would slice me open (or sometimes, I'd slice myself open), and my entrails would spill out, along with a gush of blood. I'd catch them in my hands, all hot and slippery. I had this dream literally hundreds of times, but I don't have it anymore. Haven't for years. I suppose what I felt, when hearing this news for the first time at least, was just an echo of that.
It's true what they say: time heals. It's not a comforting thing to hear when you're in the middle of feeling something because waiting seems passive, so out of your control. I know that what I wanted when my hurt was still a sucking wound was to DO something about it. I wanted a bit of revenge, or at the very least, I wanted to force myself to forget, to get over it, to feel better. I wanted to stop having that fucking dream. I successfully distracted myself with other things
, and while that helped a bit, it didn't actually heal. It was a bit like what I used to do when I was a kid to keep from crying -- I'd make a fist and dig my fingernails into my palm -- a handy diversion. Feel this, not that.
I didn't want to hear that it was going to take time, that to feel better, I would have to be patient. I hated that. And now, oddly, I am one of those well-meaning assholes who says things like "Give it time." Now that I know it's true, and that there's little else we can do, I can't seem to help it. (If I've ever said it to you, I'm sorry. I know it's annoying.)
So time heals and in addition, things change. I think I've mentioned before my first boyfriend, who I once hated with the burning passion of a thousand suns*, is a close friend. Of course, we dated 18 years ago, so that's part of it. We were teens, so things felt very fraught at the time, but in the grand scheme of adult feelings, my angst about that situation now seems a bit silly and overwrought. And besides all that, he's changed. I've changed too. Of course we have. We're grown up now. And since 2002, when my now-expecting ex and I got together, I've changed again. Don't get me wrong -- this is a different situation and I've accepted that apologies will never be made. Furthermore, I don't want
to be friends in this case, and it is my sincere hope that I never see the man again, but nonetheless, things DO change.
And of couse, I'm married now myself. People told me that this -- being in a happy relationship of my own -- would be the thing that would help the most, but it hasn't really been like that. We've been together for five years and my partner is lovely and kind and our relationship is calming and secure, basically the opposite off all my previous relationships, but that's our
thing. It doesn't really have any bearing on what came before. Being happy doesn't make me a winner. It doesn't mean I won. And neither does their pregnancy, marriage, home-buying, cohabitating, or secret fucking mean that they won. I guess I used to think it did, and that's why I had all those dreams and felt so hurt and sad about the whole thing.
Now, I'm no saint and I'm not at the "I wish you guys well!" phase, if such a phase even exists for a person like me. I have my mean little moments. I feel small jolts of petty happiness when I hear about even the most minor karmic comeuppances, as well as things like weight gain and hair loss. In practice, I'm usually pretty nice, but I harbour that sort of darkness in my heart like everyone else does, even those who won't admit it. At the same time, this baby doesn't break my heart the way it would have six or so years ago.
So to answer your question, I really AM okay. And actually, I'm sorry for what I said before. It wasn't a weird question at all, and I'm glad you asked. After all, I didn't know if I would be.
Thanks time. You passed, just as you were supposed to.
*Ha ha. Shakespeare/10 Things I Hate About You reference, twisted.
Psst. Who liked my Buffy-reference headline? It was great wasn't it? "The flaying of Warren Mears? Truly inspired. That was water cooler vengeance. Lloyd has a sketch of it on his wall." Oh Buffy, how I miss you.
Well well well. It's official. Today I turn 33. Sometimes I find celebrating my birthday to be difficult. I mean, it's not like I've accomplished anything. People say "congratulations" to me and I think "For what? Staying alive? Hooray, I'm still alive. Yay me." I'm the same when someone compliments my hair or teeth. I'm always like, "Thanks! I grew 'em myself!" It's not like I worked for any of this. I'm just lucky. I don't mean to be snarky. Maybe I'm just not great at being the centre of attention.
Anyway, it's also the site's birthday. It's 8. If this site is like a baby then I'd say it's been a neglected one. Oh well, with any luck, I'll do better with an actual human.
Speaking of which, the old ladies can't stop bugging me about popping one out. Last month, I was hideously ill (see my last blog post) and my mother decided I was hiding a pregnancy. Everyone is so fucking eager. It's annoying, of course, and often rude (I mean, would YOU make obnoxiously loud assumptions on the state of someone's reproductive health in public*? No? Oh, you must be a normal person not addled by lust for a grandchild.) I try to ignore it while comforting myself by mentioning our interest in adoption. It's fun to watch their little faces crumble. Maybe that's mean. I dunno. I think it's no meaner than harassing me about having a baby, frankly. The aged need to mind their own damn beeswax.
ANYWAY. Nothing much is new, blog friends. For vague reasons (Bad for the environment! Too much electricity! Wanna feel superior to everyone!) Nate and I have never caved in to having air conditioning before, going so far as to lend our window unit (provided by our sweetheart of a landlord) to a neighbour a couple of years ago, but our resolve has faltered. I spent all of yesterday with a humidity migraine. Couldn't take it anymore. The window unit is now rattling away in our bedroom. God bless technology, I say.
I'm getting old, but at least I'm doing so in comfort.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.
Here, I share with you a Hoops and Yoyo video of the sort I used to send people before I learned that ecards were gross. YOU GUYS! IT'S HOOPS AND YOYO.
I am officially the worst.
*P.S. I initially wrote "pubic" here by accident. Thanks to Ivan for catching the mistake.
P.P.S. I actually like e-cards. :)
I'm so ill, you guys. Hideously ill. Have been for about a week or so. At first, it wasn't so bad, and then (particularly Thursday and Friday) it was unspeakably horrible, and then just horrible and now just kinda icky.
It's just a cold and I know I may be overstating it, but it's been really depressing.
Several days ago, I lost my sense of smell (and consequently, taste), which was fine at first. It was sort of nice not to have to smell anything. Every breath was a pleasure, regardless of when I'd last managed to shower.
The novelty's kind of worn off now, though. Not being able to smell anything has started to freak me out.
It's my own fault. I did a dumb thing -- one of the dumbest things -- and Googled my no-smell symptoms and the very first thing I found was an article about a lady who had a cold, lost her sense of smell/taste, and IT NEVER CAME BACK.
Never. Never ever! It's ages later -- years and years -- and she still can't smell a damn thing.
This. Is. Terrifying.
And, okay, I know it probably won't happen to me, but it could. IT COULD. And that freaks me right the fuck out.
Several years ago, when I was busy recovering from a bit fat emotional trauma and trying to learn how to "date," I went on a couple with a guy who had no sense of smell. Born that way. Other than wanting to go for sushi (because of the texture) he acted like it was a minor thing. He told a bunch of funny stories about what that meant in terms of his day to day life, and about how he rated food as a consequence, and blah blah blah. He was a nice guy, but I didn't think that much about it. In retrospect, I've come to realize that I'm a terrible person, because don't think I sympathized at all, and the fact of the matter is this: not being able to smell/taste stuff is awful. It's really awful!
Everything tastes the same. It tastes like nothing. Like mush. Like mush, sitting in your mouth, waiting to slide down your throat into your stomach and through your intestines and then out the back door. Ice cream? Tastes just like hamburger. Chocolate bar? Tastes exactly like spinach. Different texture, same taste. Essentially. I can tell when something is salty or sour, and a very sweet thing tastes a bit different from a not-sweet thing, but just a bit. EVERYTHING TASTES THE SAME! God, it's depressing.
Now, because of my (ahem) little problem, I'm kind of supposed to eat all the time. (Well, not really ALL the time, but a lot. Like, as often and as much as a regular person. Having been a weirdo about food before, it just feels like all the time.) I'm not supposed to skip meals, I'm not supposed to "forget" to eat while I'm working. I'm supposed to eat. Regularly. Heartily. And right now, everything tastes like cardboard mush.
During the first couple of days of not being able to taste anything, I tried to compensate by ordering my favourite little bits of take-out food and stocking up on junk. (I'm SUPPOSED to eat junk food. I'm supposed to eat it when I want it and then not freak out about it afterwards. You know, like a normal person.) It didn't work. At first, I ate the junk because I didn't want to waste any of my favourites, but really, I've come to think that when it all tastes the same, THERE IS NO POINT.
So whatever. I can't taste anything for now. It'll be fine.Except, I'm really worried that it's going to be like this forever.
I've always been crazy. You know this. And crazy in this way in particular. For example, I find myself suffering from the hiccoughs quite a lot (it's something to do with my weird anxiety-induced bouts of breath-holding). And every time, EVERY TIME I get them, I think, "Oh no... what if they never go away? What if I become one of those people who has hiccoughs for the rest of her life and I have to take medication, but the medication will only mean hiccoughing a little less, like once every couple of minutes instead of once every fifteen seconds. Oh god. What if that's what happens? WHAT IF IT HAPPENS TO ME?" I'm sure I read somewhere that it's possible. I think I saw a story about it in a magazine when I was a teenager.
This is the kind of loon I am.
My sense of smell is going to come back, right? Like, in a few days? Please oh please cross your fingers. I know I'm already a really lucky person and that I probably deserve more crap than I get, but send me a little good luck anyway.
And try not to judge me. I know I'm ridiculous and I judge myself pretty harshly already.