Saturday, December 31, 2011

Big Big Love

So it's Big Big Love time! The book is "a sex and relationships guide for people of size (and those who love them)"; Hanne Blank is the author. I really liked it, even though a lot of it didn't apply to me personally. I'm what's awkwardly known as an "inbetweenie" i.e., I am somewhere between thin and fat. A lot of the book, of course, is targeted towards people who are larger than myself. But, most of us have loved ones of varied sizes, and if you want to be an ally to all of them, it's important to know some of the issues your fat peeps may contend with.

Certain sections might seem skim-worthy if you're not actually having sex. Some of it also seems a wee bit basic...I would assume that if you're going to pick up this book, you probably know that fat people don't all smell bad or are desperate (there's a section debunking common fat myths). But, I could be wrong about that. Here are my favorite parts/parts I found the most interesting:
  • Section on asexuality! It's well-done, it includes quotes from asexuals ourselves, and it's included in a chapter with all the other sexual orientations. YEAH!
  • What Hanne says are her two main take-aways: "Stop putting your life on hold" (until you're thin...or anything else, really) and "Don't expect love and sex to heal your entire life" (pgs 26 & 27).
  • A discussion of weight distribution/shape, and how this affects perceptions of someone's sexuality and gender. For instance, a pear-shaped man is quoted as saying that people just assume he's gay because his shape is traditionally considered "womanly". Apparently, apple-shaped women (that's me, I guess) "may feel like they are sexually invisible" (36). You know...I think there's some truth to that. I do have breasts, but I don't have much in the way of hips, butt, or thighs. When I was slightly heavier, I had no defined waist. I am rarely approached by anyone in a sexual manner. From hourglass-shaped asexual women, I hear different stories.
  • Good stuff about body image and acceptance. Hanne suggests this exercise: "Try finding something to compliment in every fat person you see (72)". (You don't have to say the compliment out loud unless you want to.) I can tell you, this kind of exercise really works, and it can improve your whole mood for the day. We can often be really judgmental of other people's appearances, sometimes without even realizing it ("she's wearing that?"). To change that casual criticism into something positive can be a powerful thing to do for ourselves, even (especially) if the other person doesn't know what the heck we're thinking.
  • Responses to rude comments about size. This one amused me the most: "Why am I so fat? Because every time I fuck your mom, she bakes me a pie." Of course, it hinges on someone yelling, "Why are you so fat?", but in the event that it'll be ready. (More comeback ideas...and I want all her clothes.)
Happy 2012, folks! My resolution will be to not end posts with bullet points.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Here to say I'm not here

I'm taking a brief holiday break, but I do have Big Big Love on hold for me at the library. I'd heard of the book before, but Mary convinced me to read it with her video of appreciation. I'd also been taking a hiatus from sexuality books, but I guess we can only be kept apart for so long. Whether or not you're religious, I know this can be a stressful time of year. So, I want to wish everyone a peaceful December.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Understanding + Resistant Aesthetics

Here's an interesting essay: Dress to Kill, Fight to Win, by Dean Spade. Somehow he manages to tie together both fashion and trans surgery in a fairly short piece. It ends with a question:

"Why would we want to do things that don’t require explanation, that are obvious, impervious to critique because no one even notices we’re doing them?"

Well, to fit in, of course. I've always had such a strong desire to be understood and to avoid misunderstanding. Confusing people on purpose is something that hasn't really occurred to me. Although...I like the idea of it. Don't get me wrong, understanding is an incredible thing. But it isn't always going to happen, and it's heartening to know that there might be some value in the alternative.

Spade also talks about "resistant aesthetics", which I think is a helpful term. I do want to resist, through my appearance, the sexual and gender norms of our culture. But I don't think anyone is going to figure this out just by looking at me. For women and those read as such, dressing "entirely outside of the sexual dimension" is virtually impossible. (Either we're sexy...or the absence of sexy.) I recently read a post called "Femme Visibility". The writer says that "femme presentations are often done to queer the idea of women as objects of men’s desire. It can be done to parody traditional ideas of women’s gender roles and dress." While these femmes are coming from a place of aesthetic resistance, they're often not perceived as queer or transgressive by society at large. I can relate to that dissonance, because I keep trying to dress outside of sexuality and gender. Spade seems to maintain that there's importance to these efforts, as imperfect as they may be. In some ways, my style does require explanation, even though it isn't unusual enough to draw much questioning.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things Asexual Like: Tea

Silly post ahoy!

So, is tea an asexual stereotype yet? Damn, I hope so. The more posts I do in this series, the more I see that the stuff we like is interrelated. Like, it just makes sense that an anglophilic, teetotaling dandy would be drinking a lot of tea. I've done a bunch of these posts now, and I feel like an archetypal person is actually starting to emerge; one who was not premeditated by me at all (but seems to resemble...a large proportion of the Transyadas--rock on folks, much respect). This stereotypical asexual, if ze even exists, has no relation to what the haters say we are. And, I dig that.

So, if you drink tea, what kind do you like? I'll basically drink anything. I even like yerba mate although I kinda think it tastes like dirt (aka, "earthy"). Can I PLEASE have a lifetime supply of these:

[Image: Bottle of Guayaki Yerba Mate]

I used to say rooibos was my favorite, but I was disappointed one too many times by rooibos that was too weak, despite steeping it for a super-long time. Tea has got to be strong, that's all I ask. Oh, and chai...always, chai.

Anyway, tea made it onto my self-care list for a reason. There's just something about it that puts me into relaxation mode. As a child/teen, I used to only drink it when I was sick, but then I spent a few months working in a London office where I was constantly being handed tea. I started to enjoy it and kept drinking it when I got home--although not in such large quantities, or with "three sugars" (which was apparently a large number, but what did I know?).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alone Together

"Oppression is depressing."--Miriam Greenspan

A while back, I read the book A New Approach to Women and Therapy by Miriam Greenspan, who I think is pretty brilliant. It was published in 1983, so parts feel dated now. But, other elements are still relevant, sometimes scarily so. Recently I rediscovered the book on my shelf, and remembered that at least one section of the book was very relevant to stuff I've blogged about. It dealt with gendered ideas of "aloneness". Of course asexuals don't have a monopoly on "dying alone!"-type worries, but it's an idea that tends to be foisted on us, whether or not it's a personal concern. (Warning: Gender binary ahead.)

Greenspan gives two scenarios. In the first, she's sitting at a bar talking with a female friend. Two men approach them and comment that they are out alone. When Greenspan responds that they aren't alone, but with each other, the men assume that they're lesbians. In the second scenario, a woman is sitting by herself at a sidewalk cafe, reading a book. A man approaches and asks her if she's waiting for someone. Greenspan writes that this women is "perceived in relation to an absent other (214, emphasis hers)."

She claims that "Women in relation to other women are both culturally understood and actually perceived as being alone...Women internalize this social definition; in the company of women and children, we often experience ourselves as alone. Only with a man are we not alone (213-14)". Of course, she mentions the disparity in the images of bachelors vs. spinsters. My own mental associations support her point: When I think of the images that come to mind around the word "bachelor", I envision a man who is active, surrounded by women, male friends, or activities. On the other hand, I agree with Greenspan that "spinster" brings to mind a woman sitting alone in a dusty attic. She writes that "the very word [spinster] evokes black spiders in a corner weaving webs for no one...Solitude is a male virtue, a female affliction (213)".

(For another example of the above, see the unsolicited issue of Women's Health magazine that arrived at my house. In an advice column, a woman asks how she can get her boyfriend to respect her wishes for alone time. The response is something like, "Point to your stack of Glee DVDs and say it's your version of the fantasy football draft." This is problematic on more levels than you probably have patience to read about, but here, female aloneness finds legitimacy through stereotypically male terms, and it's assumed that men can only understand a woman's desire for solitude through a "male" analogy.)

In my own experience, I've seen this "alone together" concept borne out again and again. I find that often when women are talking with supportive groups of people, that's exactly the time when they're most likely to bring up how alone they feel. When someone of any gender says "I'm so alone" in a group, I know they're referring to their desire for a romantic relationship. But I think it's significant that general aloneness is mentioned, rather than the lack of a specific relationship.

Men can also feel alone without women, especially older or more isolated men who have internalized the idea that emotional intimacy is only appropriate or possible within a romantic relationship. But, I would agree with Greenspan that a man alone at a cafe table is still sending a very different social message than a woman. Over the years, I've blogged about the many social messages that I've internalized. This, oddly enough, isn't one of them. I've felt disrespected and marginalized for my lack of "a man", but never lonely for this reason. When someone assumes that I'm waiting for a man, it jolts me out of my own imaginary world where my gender is secondary to my personhood. Since childhood, I related to our gendered-male ideas about solitude: "But a man alone is a great artist, or a brave adventurer, a mind unshackled by convention, a free spirit (213)". This is no more inherently male than the color blue, but it's coded as male anyway.

Greenspan goes on to explore the concept of "ego boundaries" as they relate to gender. Basically, it's hard to have a strong sense of self if one is always waiting for an "absent other" to show up. Weaker ego boundaries can indeed have advantages, but they're devalued in this culture. Even though I don't feel like I'm waiting, I still wonder how much of my anxiety over external approval and disapproval relates to my gendered experiences.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Yes! This sort of relates to my last post.

It's not frequent, but I do experience aesthetic attraction. I can find people "sexy", although my definition of this might be different than that of other people's. I have no desire to even interact with "sexy" people, let alone actually sex them up. I just note their attractiveness and move on. Aesthetic attraction always makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable, but it never happened enough for me to figure out why that was. So recently, when I noticed an especially good-looking person, I tried to capture the moment. Sitting with my nonsexual attraction, I just felt sad. My exact thought was: "I'm incomplete". I know, it's melodramatic, but sometimes my mind goes there.

For sure, it's another incident of internalized asexohating, but I also wanted to talk about the tropes underlying this specific thought pattern.

The thing is, I had landed right into a cultural theme that I believe is damaging to everyone: The idea of sex (and sexualized romance) as completion. That's why we have all these baseball metaphors for sex. It's the end goal of attraction. It ties in with the magic night trope, in which "scoring" at the end makes the night a success. By finding a person sexy and nothing more, I'm messing with the script, and the idea of sex as "consummation" or "sealing the deal". But I don't think there's much about sexuality that's actually so neat and linear. We like stories, and there is no story in my random aesthetic attraction. I try to make one up, about my incompleteness, but it isn't true.

For me, part of dealing with internalized asexohating is not only having pride in being asexual, but in being able to frankly admit the aspects of being asexual that are frustrating. And most importantly, why they're frustrating. The answer never turns out to be "because asexuals are somehow inferior". As for my aesthetic attraction, I feel like it defies logic. Whether it's some innate sense of logic or a cultural sense (or whether these can even be separated), I don't know. But the truth is, a lot about sexual orientation doesn't make sense. And we do have a very limited cultural view of what is "logical" when it comes to orientation and attraction.

Random aesthetic attraction: my silent protest against the baseball model of sexuality. (*wink wink*)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Asexuals are awesome! *hides*

How many posts have I read from asexuals seeking advice? Probably not a million, but definitely more than a thousand. A lot of answers to these advice-seekers repeat themselves, understandably. The most common might be, "We can't tell you if you're asexual or not". But I also frequently hear, "That person is not your friend". You know, the friend who keeps saying you're not really asexual and then tries to get you to have sex with them. There are plenty of others where friends are just rude about asexuality, not listening, and not appearing to care about that fact.

Are these people really terrible friends? I don't know...even in a friendship that's good overall, people can make some pretty big mistakes. But I'm guessing that with some of these asexuals, their interactions follow a pattern that I've identified in some of my own interactions. Someone says something hurtful about asexuality. You, the asexual, tell them how it ain't so. The person doesn't apologize or seem to understand why they were wrong. You feel bad. Yes...YOU feel bad. Because maybe it was your own fault for bringing asexuality up in the first place. Maybe you didn't express yourself well, or do a good enough job at educating. Maybe it's understandable that they wouldn't believe you, seeing as you've had sex, or were assaulted, or you write erotic stories.

I don't think this is just a self-esteem issue, but internalized asexohating. We have no official word for this, but I think it's one of the bigger issues that asexuals face. Even if we feel positive about our asexuality, the onus is always on the asexual to prove ourselves. It sort of reminds me of my experience being bullied in school. Although I wasn't directly blamed, the onus was always entirely on me to resolve the bullying. That I was incapable of doing this only made me feel worse, and more like I deserved the abuse I was getting. People tell us our orientation is too confusing or unusual to bother with understanding. It's not hard to start believing that they may be right, and that there is some inherent problem with the "difficulty" of asexuality and therefore, with us. I maintain that even if you can't prove yourself, that's no reason to beat yourself up.

The thing is, most of us have been receiving negative messages about asexuality our entire lives. I still receive them daily from our culture...and this is on top of all the other negative messages I receive for other "undesirable" aspects of my identity. I don't think that neutral statements, like the fact that we exist, can overcome the barrage of negative statements that we face. But, a lot of asexuals feel vaguely embarrassed and awkward about pride. Why should we be proud of something we can't control? As a group, we're terrified as appearing "superior". But if someone truly understood asexuality, could they honestly say that asexuals feel superior to the rest of the population? Without understanding, "you think you're so superior!" becomes a meaningless insult, like "repressed" or "frigid". And with understanding, I don't think anyone could make that claim. (This is basically what happened with the "demisexuals are slut-shamers!" thing. Most of the people saying that seemed to have little understanding of either demisexuality or slut-shaming.)

In writing this post, I read a bunch of information about internalized homophobia. As a means of coping with it, I heard two pieces of advice repeated: Acknowledge that internalized homophobia exists, and be as out as possible. The gay community is well aware that coming out can be fraught with danger, but still encourages its members to be out. They also seem to talk much more about the benefits of coming out, especially the benefits to the individual. On the other hand, in the asexual community, I get the feeling that there's no pressure to be's something that's seen as a completely personal choice. I don't know if this is good or bad, since there seem to be benefits and drawbacks to each way of thinking. But it's interesting.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I was thinking...maybe part of how we choose to identify has to do with which people are asking the questions that we most want the answers to.

*see the comments for further explanation!*

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What I'm doing for AAW...

It's Asexual Awareness Week, and sadly, my screening of the (A)sexual film didn't work out. So I decided to observe the week by posting a different asexual-related meme (Asexual Cake, Sexually Oblivious Sherlock, etc) every day on my Facebook wall, along with some explanation of how it relates to asexuality. I believe in the adage, "If they're laughing, they're listening." So, is this raising awareness?

I really don't know.

Is it annoying people?


Is it fun?

YES. I'm trying to follow my own advice, which is to do visibility projects that you love. And I do love memes.

With a number of friends, I'm pretty sure they know I'm asexual, but not completely sure. I was hoping that posting every day about asexuality would put more people into the "completely sure" category, although at this point it's hard to tell. But, I've only gotten positive reactions so far, and that's encouraging.

I'm pretty preoccupied (oh God, I hate puns) by the Occupy stuff right now, so this is all you get at the moment...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

And this relates to Spanx how?

An asexy friend clued me in to the fact that in her performance If You Will, Janeane Garofalo talks about being asexual. Of course, you know me, so I had to check it out (you can see it on DVD). And indeed, she refers to herself as asexual, partially as an attempt to dispel rumors that she's a lesbian. Garofalo says that she's been with her boyfriend for 10 years, and while they used to have sex, they no longer do. She also refers to herself as celibate, and claims that it allows her more free time to get things done (groan, I don't like this stereotype!). Actually, she plays into other stereotypes of asexuals, wondering if her lack of sexual interest was influenced by a religious Irish grandmother.

[Image: Janeane Garofalo performing If You Will]

But, some of us really do ask ourselves those kinds of questions. Garofalo doesn't seem at ease with her asexuality; it's as if she's working through it over the duration of the performance, but never reaching a conclusion. In short, she doubts, which a lot of us can identify with...wondering if we're broken, repressed, late bloomers, etc. She tells the audience that asexuality isn't a fear of intimacy, but a lack of interest. Still, she worries about being seen as cold and uncaring. This is one stereotype she tries to dispel, by bringing out a collage of puppy photos that she made. And, she may not have sex, but she does know a lot about mens' heels, their alleged dryness being a subject of much consternation to her.

You know how people say that earlier stand-up, like Lenny Bruce, just isn't funny anymore to a modern audience? Well...that's basically how all stand-up is to me. I'll find a couple of things funny maybe, but have no idea how the audience can be laughing at everything. That said, reviews of If You Will did seem mixed. I have to agree with the reviewer on Netflix who wrote: "This is dramady. Or a dark confessional with strong artistic merit but a bit of a downer. If you are expecting comedy you might be disappointed." So while I didn't laugh much, I did admire the way that Garofalo was open about her doubts. She doesn't simplify or try not to contradict herself, but just keeps talking, as if she and the audience have been friends for a while.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Aging Androgynously

"When will my reflection show who I am inside?" --Mulan. Yeah.

*Edited to add: Since I submitted this post to the gender-themed Carnival of Aces round, I just wanted to clarify what my "thesis" was supposed to be: That those of us who don't quite fit the gender binary may have a harder time being read as adults in our culture, feeling like adults, or both. I don't think I made that as clear as I could have, what with all my complaining about looking young. Hee hee.*

Recently, I was at a community meeting where I was one of very few people younger than my parents' age. An older man approached me and asked me which school I went to. I said I didn't go to school. He asked, "Why, you didn't like it?" And I said no, I'd graduated. I get this all the time--"Are you in school?" It has been confirmed that I do have some kind of "academic look" about me. But I also get "What grade are you in?", implying that I'm in high school or younger, when I'm actually 27*. If you complain about looking young, you'll probably be told how lucky you are. But I didn't feel very lucky when, after making an important work presentation, I was met with "Isn't she cute?" (I am, as Dave Barry would say, not making this up.)

Approaching 30, I want to be taken seriously. But I worry that I'll go from oddly twee directly into "old". Will I ever get to be seen as just an adult, not a kid or a senior citizen? Do I have to start dressing like the editor of French Vogue? I have to constantly hear that marriage, children, and house-buying are indicators of adulthood, which has made me defensive about being viewed as a child or teen. Now with America's economic problems, the media is always saying how younger people are "putting off adulthood" because we can't afford houses and families. People, adulthood is not something you afford. It's not a Louis Vuitton bag. It's something you earned because you survived this far, and that can't be taken from you, even if you're sitting broke in a roadside ditch. I am an adult, but it's like no one knows it unless they look at my birth certificate. There are myriad ways to be an adult, just like there are myriad gender identities.

A couple of days ago, I was skimming through The Drag King Book. I came across the story of a FTM drag king who started taking testosterone. He said that the hormones were the only way that he could be viewed as an adult man. Otherwise, he would perpetually be a boy. I could kind of relate. Because on the one hand, I resent it when people infantalize me based on looks, gender, sexuality, or lack of traditional life achievements. But on the other hand, I feel like I'm forever a girl, waiting to grow into some mysterious gender that I can intuitively understand. There's this idea that we grow into our genders, that from children, we become men or women. But I feel like, if anything, I'm growing out of the gender that I used to take for granted.

Browsing a clothing store on another recent day, I decided that rather than look "sexy and feminine", as the show
What Not to Wear would favor, I wanted to look "weird and androgynous". Okay, maybe not weird. I actually want to look cool and stylish. But androgyny seems to have the same connotations with youth as asexuality. Before puberty, everyone is "asexual" and androgynous to an extent. Most people didn't remain as such after puberty, but a few of us did. To be seen as an adult, do we have to "pick a side"? Maybe, but as I work on this post, I'm beginning not to care anymore. It's aggravating when people's comments play into my own insecurities, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me. I mean, this is what 27 looks like, whether that surprises people or not.

[Image: Photo of Ily, wearing a large pink bow and talking to a stuffed pineapple sitting on her shoulder.]

*A tangent on "looking like a student" (but still, gender related):

I told my mom that I'd look up the definition of "mansplaining" for her. On this post, I came across a comment by MissPrism that went like this:

" know, once or twice I have indeed heard a man say "I look young, so people assume I'm a student," but the VAST majority of the time it's a woman. Something's up with that: surely a similar proportion of men should look young for their age as women do? Thinking a young-looking woman must be a student isn't an excuse for mansplaining, it's part of it. Mansplainers assume a woman is as junior, and therefore clueless (the conflation of these two is of course hugely problematic in itself), as he can possibly construe her to be, while men are given the benefit of the doubt and assumed to be experienced and knowledgeable until proven otherwise."

While I don't think men are always necessarily given the benefit of the doubt (in other comments it's mentioned that men may mansplain to other men they perceive as "less manly"), it never occurred to me that people read as female might be told "you look like a student" more often than people read as male.
It could also be possible that more women really do look young, due to social pressures to maintain a more youthful appearance. It's definitely an intriguing question. Maybe I'll ask my pineapple about it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Romantic Comedies = Sci Fi

"I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible. They’re all participating in a similar level of fakey razzle-dazzle, and I enjoy every second of it."
--Mindy Kaling, here.

I don't think I love them quite as much as she does, but I enjoy them sometimes and feel the same way in terms of them being sci-fi. When I was a kid, I loved reading fantasy novels. I'm not as into them anymore, but I've always had an strong fascination with world-building, which has stayed with me. I'm always intrigued by how more "reality-based" genres, such as romantic comedies, world-build in a fantasy-like way.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stormy Weather

In my last post, Jessica commented, "Acknowledging my needs/loves as real does not mean I can always fulfill them." So, this is the brainstorm I promised, which is targeted towards solutions for that dilemma, one that I share. I'm not saying "you should do these things" because I don't even know if they're good ideas. Maybe I should go through and delete the weird/bad ones, but I felt like just leaving the list as it tumbled from my brain.
  1. Honoring my feelings =/= obsession. Sometimes I feel almost obligated to obsess over things, although it's a very uncomfortable feeling. Not to beat myself up for obsessing, or take it to mean my desire is some form of psychosis, but to calmly divert myself to another activity.
  2. There's this idiom, "the whole enchilada". Maybe small or partial enchiladas are okay, too? Like hanging out somewhere I kind of like, more often than I do now. Small goals aren't unimportant.
  3. Talk about it, which is what I'm trying to do here. Or put it into a creative outlet. This is sooo #4 of me, but unfulfilled desires can be excellent fodder for creativity.
  4. No emotional terrorism. Stop blaming myself. "Overcoming" is not a moral obligation.
  5. Are fantasies frivolous? Maybe not. At the least, they can tell us important things about ourselves.
  6. Acknowledge the social issues standing in your way. For instance, it's hard to acquire my longed-for career with the economy being what it is. Careful though, this one may place you in a constant state of impotent rage! (TM)
  7. I want a list to have 10 things. It doesn't have 10 things. Don't freak out!
In other news, the Carnival of Aces is still trucking! Check out the latest installment, on the theme of gender.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Looking for love in places.

It's hard for me to talk about love without talking about place.

Even so, aside from my short obsession with Colorado as a 10-year-old, I never knew where I wanted to live "when I grew up". As a kid, I moved a lot. As an adult, I don't want to move much more. All I knew was that it was essential to live somewhere I loved. Not just liked, but truly loved. A place that gave me the same feeling as reading a great poem or listening to hip-hop for the first time. The same exhilaration as seeing the peaks of Colorado or jumping off a London bus. The same swell of warmth that I'd feel for a human loved one.

Of course, this is a tall order. Many places are just not lovable, unless you love Wal-Marts, parking lots, highway interchanges, strip malls, and subdivisions. (More on that topic here.)

Perhaps I've just traded one unrealistic standard for yet another. First husband, then career, and now place. I'm really knocking them down--will there be anywhere left for my fantasy life to turn? But...I can't be the only person who has a lot of experience minimizing and questioning my feelings. (Sciatrix writes about some similar issues here.) One common example is something like, "well, this is just a platonic or nonsexual relationship, so why am I so sad/pissed off/thrilled/confused about it?" It may be especially relevant to asexuals, but I think most people have felt this way at some point.

I minimize things that I'm not sure are possible. Like my desire to be married. I have no desire anymore to be legally married. But I do want some kind of life partner(s), be they romantic, platonic, or queerplatonic. For so long, I felt this was silly somehow. Because I didn't need any kind of partner and besides, once I got one, who knows if I would still want one? Anyway, it was hard for me to care about my own desire, as strange as that may sound. More reasons why I've minimized my love of place:
  • Large disconnect between my current state and my desired state.
  • Overwhelm with the task at hand.
  • Poor planning and decision-making ability.
  • Lack of financial resources.
  • Social messaging.
  • Comparing myself to other people.
For the past several years, I've gone back and forth. Sometimes I try to honor the importance of place, and sometimes I treat it like a dangerous delusion. I'm starting to feel like I need to pick one, for the sake of my sanity. It's true: I don't understand some of my desires. They seem strange, inconvenient, and illogical. That's life as a hyper-rational, hyper-emotional person. In order to love myself, do I have to treat my love as real? It would make sense. If I thought it was very important to marry a man who I was deeply in love with, would I treat that as a delusion? Okay, maybe I would, but most people would see it as completely normal. Maybe it's not fair to treat myself any differently.

While I want to try to stop minimizing my desires, I don't want to feel totally bereft if I never have these things. My question becomes, how do I "synthesize" these desires? Like, how do I honor them and work towards achieving them while at the same time, deal with the feelings involved with not having them yet? In some ways, I've already been doing this, but I think there are others things I could incorporate. My brainstorm on this is going to be the next post.

/Psychology nerd.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dykes to Watch Out For

"...I've never intended my cartoons to be only for dykes. Yes, they're about dykes. So? Surely if I could sit through a Bruce Willis movie, Joe Blow could read a lesbian comic strip."
--Alison Bechdel

This is slightly random, but has anyone read Dykes to Watch Out For? Yesterday I picked up Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life Forms to Watch Out For, which I believe is the last book in the series. Usually that would make a book unbearably confusing, but all the characters are explained in the beginning so it's not too hard to follow. I would've read it all in one sitting, but I had to go somewhere. While I was out, I just kept thinking, "I want to go home and finish the book!" Although the comics are amusing, I think I liked the political aspect the most. It isn't preachy, but it's there. I can't remember ever reading a work of fiction that dealt with the issues around coping as a leftist in America and all the inevitable disappointment and frustration that it brings. Okay, that was a long sentence. There are also other layers, like the characters' attempts to reconcile their radical queer identities with the fact that "Best Lesbian Erotica is now sold at 7-11" and many in their group are marrying and having kids.

[Image: Comic panel depicting, among other things, one drag king asking another for a tampon.]

I also loved the density of the comic panels themselves. You can see what's on the character's shelves, such as St. John's wort and "Tom's of Finland curry-flavored" toothpaste, as well as the headlines of the newspapers they read ("Disease will be eradicated! Static cling banished!"). While the comic is often hailed as being very true to life, is there really any enclave where everyone works at a non-profit, college, or feminist bookstore? (Although, the bookstore is in danger thanks to "".) It seems like no matter how much the characters are doing to live out their values, it's never enough. For instance, Mo wonders why she's going to a class rather than "doing non-violent direct action!". It seems funny on the page, but I've wondered the same type of thing. There's an interesting tension between the insularity of the characters' progressive friend group and the current events they can't ignore.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taken the survey yet?

I know this announcement is kinda delayed, but hey, maybe I can reach a few more people?

Asexual Awareness Week (which is October 23-29) is doing a survey to get better demographics of the asexual community. Check it out! They need at least 500 responses to be scientifically representative. I thought it was quite good...when it was over I went, "Darn, that's it?" but then again, I adore taking surveys. Allies, we love you, but this one is only for ace-spectrum people (asexuals, gray-asexuals, demisexuals...)

Also, help AAW raise money by buying merchandise. They want to raise $1000, half for screening copies of the movie (A)sexual and half to do an online advertising campaign.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Room With A View

"For all his culture, Cecil was an ascetic at heart, and nothing in his love became him like the leaving of it."
--My favorite quote from A Room With A View, E.M. Forster, pg. 204

This book is from 1908. It may be a classic, but if it was written today and not by E.M. Forster, it would surely be the fluffiest of chick lit. Sometimes I wonder where ideas come from--say, that we have one true soulmate who will understand us completely, or that a woman in a story will usually end up marrying the first man she interacts with, or that spinsters will always hold out some measure of romantic hope deep in their stony bosoms. (Yes, there will be spoilers here, but there were actually spoilers printed on the back of my copy of this book. You know what will happen from the first few pages anyway.) Do these types of ideas come from A Room With a View? Probably not, but it seems like every idea of the modern romantic comedy is also represented therein.

I thought I would love this book because I tend to love comedies of manners. And I liked the writing style; it could be very clever and quotable. But after spending 27 years absorbing romantic storylines, the plot itself was very predictable. It even involved one of the pop culture tropes that bugs me the most--characters for whom we're not just supposed to believe a strong attraction, but that they're going to spend the rest of their lives together because they exchanged one meaningful glance. Like, this is what happens:

--Lucy and George are tourists, previously unknown to one another, staying at the same hotel in Florence. They happen to both be at the scene of a murder that takes place there.
--Lucy faints at the sight, and George helps her.
--Then, George throws Lucy's photographs into the river because there is blood on them.
--They share a companionable silence.
--They are madly in love with each other (although Lucy tries to ignore her feelings for a while).

There seems to be something missing here. When George throws away the pictures, Lucy imbues it with a ton of meaning: He is unconventional, truthful, humble, and a host of other traits. And we don't even know why George is quite so taken with Lucy. From their first short exchange, Lucy is able to feel that she knows George completely. Although they've spoken maybe five times ever (and kissed twice), never ONCE does Lucy mention that she wants to know George better, or vice versa. So, after one singular incident that lasted a matter of minutes, these two people knew each other intimately. As a reader, I got the feeling that they would never discover anything new about each other that they didn't already know. Is that even possible?

We're also supposed to believe that a lasting relationship can spring, fully formed, from a few romantic moments. But even with my limited experience, I don't think life is like that. Of course, lasting relationships can contain romance or begin with romance, but one doesn't necessarily beget the other. Maybe things were different back then...young men and women didn't have as many opportunities to encounter each other, and there was more pressure to choose someone. Perhaps on some level, Lucy was choosing to love George, although this was in no way implied by the book. George is portrayed as her unavoidable fate. As crotchety as it makes me sound, I can't "just enjoy the fantasy". I'm too frustrated by the fact that a lot of people feel bad about themselves when these kinds of events don't become their realities. Even I've felt bad about it at times, although I know that I'd probably be pissed off if someone threw my bloody photos in the river without asking.

I felt like this book was a strange blend of two different attitudes. On the one hand, Forster has the ability to dissect social norms with a scalpel. He shows no mercy in describing the futility of tourists who are trying to recreate home in a foreign land (be sure to pack enough digestive bread!). But at the same time, the concept of a soulmate remains unquestioned. Contrast this to The Age of Innocence, which I felt had a more subtle and complex treatment of romantic ideals vs. convention.

(Also, while he's celibate and not necessarily asexual, when I read the following, I felt that I could sort of relate to Mr. Beebe's character in that moment, on some personal ace level. Since I couldn't really relate to anyone in the book, I'll take what I can get:

Mr. Beebe followed. Lucy still sat at the piano with her hands over the keys. She was glad, but he had expected greater gladness. Her mother bent over her. Freddy, to whom she had been singing, reclined on the floor with his head against her, and an unlit pipe between his lips. Oddly enough, the group was beautiful. Mr. Beebe, who loved the art of the past, was reminded of a favourite theme, the Santa Conversazione, in which people who care for one another are painted chatting together about noble things--a theme neither sensual nor sensational, and therefore ignored by the art of to-day. Why should Lucy want either to marry or to travel when she had such friends at home? (221) )

Still, I might watch one of the film adaptations.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dancing to Vaguely Depressing Music

My intermittent self-love series continues...I don't like to feel like I'm saying corny things (uhh, because I'm such a hardcore badass? Not really, my knuckle tattoo is fake after all), but it's kind of inevitable here.

To reference bell hooks yet again, care isn't the same as love, but it can be an important part of love. I feel like self-care might be like daily weight-lifting for your self-love muscles. I wanted to write about self-care in this post, but it's become such a prevalent concept that it probably deserves its own. I was going to write in detail about the theory and definition of self-care...about its relation to activism and how the concept is gendered in out culture, but maybe I should take my own medicine and jump to the part that amuses me most: Lists. Yes, self-care seems to have manifested largely in list form, and some people's lists are indeed large. (Here's an example of a long list of one person's self-care ideas.) Usually when I read about self-care though, I am overwhelmed by activities that don't appeal to me in the slightest. Such as bubble baths. I literally have not taken a bath in 15 years (although yes, I do attempt to shower regularly). Just thinking about having pruney hands...shudder!

We all know that I love making lists, so of course I wanted to make one of self-care activities. Although if I'm at the point where I have to pull out a list to figure out how to take care of myself, shit must be getting real. At those times, I am likely to get overwhelmed by a list of any great length. So I decided to cap my list at ten items, but only the most powerful strategies would make it on there. They had to be easy and accessible. So here's my list so far, with explanations of why I chose the things I did. It's definitely one of those documents that's going to change over time, based on what does and doesn't end up working.
  1. Dance to music, especially vaguely depressing music. (You don't have to be Martha Graham here; any movement really is sufficient, but I find that just listening isn't enough to lift my mood. This is really the best strategy I know.)
  2. Make a list of 10 good things about yourself. (If you're feeling down on yourself, it might take you a really long time to think of 10's normal, don't get discouraged. I've always found this exercise to be worthwhile.)
  3. Go near water or somewhere in nature. If that's too much work, just step outside. (When I'm in nature, it's the time when I don't worry about being "productive", and when I feel like I'm doing exactly what I should be doing without second-guessing myself. But just being outside the house can be a substitute for "real" nature. Sun helps.)
  4. Cook a balanced meal with plenty of veggies. (For me, the best self-care activities are those that absorb most of my focus, which cooking does, and challenge me a little bit, but not enough to be truly frustrating. I find that when I'm feeling anxious, I sometimes put off eating for too long, or eat mostly carbs.)
  5. Ride my bicycle. (Whenever I get on my bike, I think, "Why don't I do this more often?" Riding at night is especially soothing to me.)
  6. Drink tea. (Is there something relaxing IN tea or is it just the act of drinking it?)
  7. Pet a cat. (Speaks for itself.)
  8. Make a drawing. (For the longest time, my premier drawing theme has been repetitive words in different fonts and configurations, kind of like you'd imagine a strange serial killer doing. But, it's always been a good way to vent.)
  9. Have a conversation with someone. (For me, e-mails don't count here. It's got to be a real-time conversation.)
  10. Leave nice notes for yourself to find later. (I guess this is more of a maintenance thing. Truth be told, I haven't done it much yet, but I'm trying to find ways to motivate myself positively rather than beating myself up. This could be one way to help me accomplish that.)
So, has anyone made a self-care list? What was on it? And did it help you?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things Asexuals Like: Dandyism

I'm in the mood for a not-so-serious post, and maybe this one is cheating. After all, dandyism seems like a subset of androgyny, which I've already covered. But, do I care? These have always been my favorite posts, and it's high time for more. It's hard to define what exactly a dandy is, whether it's a way of life or only a dress sense. It has a long history in various cultures and I can't possibly do it justice in one post. Just think of Oscar Wilde, though, and I think we'll be on a similar page. Modern dandyism seems to have something to do with aestheticism, gentility, and elegance. People who want to be known for their good taste, manners, wit, and general panache. While in real life, I'm often in jeans and a t-shirt, in my mind I'm like this:

[Image: Woman in a fedora, bright-blue jacket, tie, vest, and yellow loafers. Image from here.]

Or perhaps this:

[Image: Black-and-white vintage images of dandy-esque women in menswear ensembles. From here.]

Although it in no way relates to my daily presentation, at heart I am a dandrogyne, a term which was coined here on the TransYada forums. Dandies would probably prefer to hang out in Victorian-style conservatories, parks, libraries, tea shops, speakeasies, vintage clothing stores, and quaint or unique urban or rural areas not yet beset by Wal-Marts and Starbucks. They would probably not prefer sports bars, 7-11s, rodeos, subdivisions, or shopping malls. There seems to be something very Victorian-era about dandies; I must admit to loving a lot of their aesthetics but hating a lot of their attitudes (see my crush on certain Merchant-Ivory films for evidence of this). Also, there is something very romantic about it, in a Romantic-poets sense, rather than an attraction sense.

Now, I don't think dandyism is relevant to all asexuals, but I feel like there is a strong dandy current in our community. It would not be out of place. In this post, I wrote about some ways in which my personal style could be considered an asexual presentation. On some style blogs that I read, people fear the word "costumey" as a description for their outfits. But I have long been drawn to costumey styles, perhaps because the emphasis is on the wearer's clothing rather than their sexualized body, and because those styles break or mock the norms of gender presentation. I like looking at dandies, but I wouldn't consider them sexy at all. I'm just impressed by the way they put an outfit together--their use of clothing as an art form. Although to dandies, what isn't an art form?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This one won't end in a wedding.

(This post is for the "media" installment of Carnival of Aces).

I'm having some serious writer's block right now. Not just on this blog (maybe it's some kind of 4-year curse), but on the godforsaken NaNoWriMo novel that I'm editing (or more accurately, completely rewriting). I wanted to talk about how attempting to write a novel taught me more about the media than reading hundreds of novels, but I feel like my head is full of pudding. Anyway, I thought I would push on anyway, with the warning that I may not be able to fully explore all my thoughts. Oww, my pudding.

Back in November, when I was doing NaNo, I promised that I'd tell you all how it went, and I don't think I ever did. Well, I won, which means that I wrote a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in a month. I always liked some things about chick lit, but thought it was missing something, like a story that I could really relate to from a personal level. So I decided to write a chick lit novel about an asexual. She would not have an awesome job, she would not live in the hippest neighborhood, and she would not have stereotyped friends. But it would be a coming-of-age story focused on a young urban woman where everything basically works out in the end. No one dies or anything.

So here I am, working on Draft 2, trying to do an "alternative" take on a very clichéd genre. And sometimes I feel like by attempting that, I've set myself up for failure. I finally know why writers are always doing "meet cutes" in books and movies: Because it's extremely difficult to get two specific people who don't know each other to connect in the real world. For instance, I want my protagonist, Annie, to meet another person who can help her in her quest. So far, in various iterations, they're met at a bar, a wedding, and after Annie reads about him in the newspaper and looks up his e-mail. All of these scenarios have felt forced to me.

I also learned why movies end with weddings and why romance is inserted into plots that don't need it. I was once told by a wise playwriting professor that in my play, something awful needed to happen to my protagonist before the final redemption. In an analysis of Confessions of a Shopaholic (okay, that sounds funny), there are two awful events in the book. The first one is that Becky, the protagonist, is asked by her love interest to help him pick out a suitcase, but she later discovers that the suitcase is for his girlfriend. In a vacuum, this event might seem awkward or embarrassing. We're supposed to read it as awful because it dashes her romantic hopes (for the moment). When you have a crush on someone (and I'm reaching here, because I last had a crush in 2004), little things can seem significant, which can lead to emotional ups and downs. Without these ups and downs, there is no plot.

I feel like plotting my novel is just about finding news ways to make things harder for Annie, which she will struggle to overcome. Again, it feels forced because real life isn't necessarily laid out like a story. Sometimes you need to create drama where there might otherwise be none, and marriage is one thing that can do this. The TV show Once and Again, which I've been watching recently (thanks Owen!) is a prime example of this. It's a big event that marks time in people's lives. Everyone can agree that your wedding day is important, so readers/viewers can be on the same page (hurr, hurr) plotwise. Even if we're not marriage-oriented people, we've known them. But in the case of Annie, I feel like I'm starting from scratch when I try to show readers what's important to her and why. Once I leave the usual chick lit script, I have to work much harder to make the crucial events in Annie's life seem crucial to a reader.

Like everyone else, I want more asexual characters. That's why I put one (and maybe one more) in my novel. But it's been extremely difficult to place her in a compelling plot, even though there are some interesting and unique things about Annie and her circumstances. Yeah, plot has never been my strong point, but maybe there's a reason why there has never been an asexual chick lit heroine: It's very confusing to do. Sometimes I think about screenwriters wrangling their twisty plots and wondering if I could ever do the same. I don't know if their reluctance to explore lesser-known sexualities means they're truly disinterested in those sexualities, or if they just don't want to spend the time constructing a new world where everyone can agree that asexuals fit. As I wrote in my review of Animythical Tales, a story compilation by an asexual writer, "I'd had no idea how much, as a reader, I'd relied upon, and expected, sex and sexualized romance to move a story along."

So I don't want to rely on it as a writer either, but I can understand why people are tempted to.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pies of Love: They're Back!

From the book All About Love, again by bell hooks (thanks Autumn!):

When we see love as the will to nurture one's own or another's spiritual growth, revealed through acts of care, respect, knowing, and assuming responsibility, the foundation of all love in our life is the same. There is no special love exclusively reserved for romantic partners. Genuine love is the foundation of our engagement with ourselves, with family, with friends, with partners, with everyone we choose to love. While we will necessarily behave differently depending on the nature of the relationship, or have varying degrees of commitment, the values that inform our behavior, when rooted in a love ethic, are always the same for any interaction. (pg. 136)

Reading this passage was jarring to me. I had long seen love as a "pie" which had different "pieces": Platonic love, romantic love, sexual love, etc. This was comforting to me because I felt that if I couldn't have the sexual and romantic pieces, there were still others. However, bell hooks seems to view love as one pie with different toppings: Love topped with romance, topped with sex, topped with a parent's nurturing. When I thought about it, hooks' conception started to make more sense to me than my own had done. And, anyone can have the whole pie. So, do you agree with any of these pies, or are you eating a different baked good altogether?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Giants of Indiepop: "Pristine Christine"

Because it wouldn't be this blog without my valiant attempts to somehow relate random songs I like to asexuality. Will this one, released in 1987 by the Sea Urchins, ever get old? I doubt it. This probably speaks to the conservative nature of today's popular music, at least in the genres I'm familiar with. (For a long time, I felt this impotent regret over the fact that I was never present at the birth of a new musical movement...and if I think about it, it's still pretty sad. I wonder if it'll ever happen, especially to someone who might be in their 30's or 40's by the time it does.)

At any rate, those little surf-rock flourishes get me every time.

"But you don't react like me--oh!"

Could Christine just be a misunderstood asexual?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Self-Love for the Overly Literal

The self-lovestravaganza continues! <3

We're often told to "love yourself" (usually, after we have changed everything "wrong" about us, but that's beyond the scope of this post). Even when people are saying to "love yourself" with the best of intentions, it's always been unclear to me what is actually meant by this. Slightly more specific is "be your own best friend", but I feel like even this needs to be broken down further.

I've known about the concept "be your own best friend" for years now, and I've intermittently resolved to put it into practice. It sounds so appealing, but I can't say it's made any headway in changing my everyday life. What actual behaviors would fall under "being your own best friend" anyway? I take it to mean that, when you're feeling down, you'd think about what you might do for a friend in the same circumstances. For instance, you would probably not berate the person further. You'd probably listen to their concerns. Maybe you'd try to cheer them up by baking them cookies, taking them dancing, having them pet a llama, etc. If your best friend was bored or lonely, you'd probably try to make them laugh or tell them that you were there for them.

But for me, what's rewarding about many activities is the fact that I'm doing them with another person. When I'm with a friend, I'm often able to forget about my troubles for a while, because I'm focusing on interacting with the other person rather than on my own worries. Of course, "being your own best friend" isn't a substitute for having a best friend who's another person, but I can find myself comparing solitary activities to social ones. While I can enjoy some things done alone, I would usually enjoy them even more with good company.

It can be especially hard to be your own best friend in personal crisis situations, or times when you're stuck in repetitive behaviors. Your other-person friend, because they're not going through the same thing at the same time, may be better able to take decisive action or give objective feedback than you are. There's also the fact that not everyone has had the experience of a loving friend. A lot of people are socially isolated or are in dysfunctional relationships. Some people have few social needs, making it unclear how a "best friend" metaphor would even benefit them.

At least in my own experience, "being your own best friend" isn't just something that happens one day and then maintains itself over a lifetime. Instead, it seems to be a constant battle between my inner friend and my inner critic. Sometimes my friend wins and sometimes she doesn't. But if I criticize myself for being a bad self-friend, then that's a step even further back.

And the truth is, sometimes I don't know how to help a troubled friend, even as I feel empathy for them and deeply want to help. I want to be the kind of person who quickly jumps into action to help someone, be it myself or someone else. But too often, I find myself mired in analysis of the situation. How can my "inner friend" truly help me when she shares all of my limitations?

As usual, I'm ending on a question (meep!). I'd be interested to know what you all think about the "be your own best friend" concept. Has it been useful to you? Is there another way of conceptualizing it that I'm just missing?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


"Pictures from your post-[alma mater] life are ok too! This would be a great way for your former classmates to see what you have been up to: weddings, babies, cool trips, etc."

--E-mail from the college I went to, soliciting photos for the 5-year reunion

Sociologists keep telling us that Americans have fewer social connections than ever before. But we still seem to love reunions: For school, for work, for camp, for family, for our ill-fated sojourn on the space shuttle. Of course, high school and college reunions are the throbbing heart of all of them. For me, my 5-year college reunion is in the fall. And I can't say that I want to go, due in part to my crippling propensity to compare myself to other people. But my early-20's discovery of asexuality makes reunions thornier still. If the last time I saw someone was over five years ago, then they probably don't know I'm asexual. In the past five years, I have not gotten married, had a good job, had a child, or traveled extensively. In my mind, many of the important things that I've done relate to asexuality...which I have vowed not to bring up for the first time in a group of people. (I've tried it in the past, but there always seems to be one ignorant person in the group who is super-loud about their disapproval, making it unusually difficult for anyone else in the group to accept what I'm saying.)

There always seems to be some new thing...

Friday, July 22, 2011

The HAP Travels

My first post on the Hobbit Acceptance project has been featured here as a guest post on Cynosure. It's part of a series called HAIRevolution, which is still accepting submissions. Check Cynosure out; there are a lot of posts dealing with varying aspects of self-love and acceptance, which is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. (And if you came here from over there, welcome! Unfamiliar with the exciting world of asexuality? Check this out.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Camp Victory, How Wonderful You Are"

You can consider this "Only the Good Die Young" Part II.

I didn't think I'd like Huge. It's about kids at fat camp, after all, and aired on ABC Family, which is not known for its realistic and nuanced depictions of teen life. But a glowing review by Lauren finally persuaded me to watch the show, a year after it originally aired.

People, this show is so good, it will just break your heart that it was killed after only ten episodes. It isn't perfect, but it's better than 99.9% of the teen dramas that have been brought back for multiple seasons. Although discussions of weight tend to quickly devolve into harsh and judgmental territory, this show actually manages to portray fat people without moralizing. Being fat may have brought these kids together, but their fat does not define them. There was a strange episode about an "authentic Native American spirit quest", where I couldn't tell if cultural appropriation was being satirized or just occurring thoughtlessly. It was a puzzling inclusion for a show that seemed to be trying its best to be sensitive about a wide range of topics.

For me, I know a show is good when my favorite character is ever-shifting. I was going, "Oh, Wil is totally my,,, Alastair...". It means the characters are multi-dimensional and have emotional depth. Characters of all genders (and I can actually say that and have it make sense here, because Alastair may be genderqueer in some way) have inner lives that go beyond checking out hot people or trying to get laid.

And yes, there is an asexual, aromantic minor character, a camp counselor named Poppy. She's not a sociopath or a misanthrope! There is, however, one word that does describe her:

She's incredibly dorky, perhaps verging on derpy. But she means well, is very warm and friendly, and obviously cares a lot about her campers. And she plays ukulele!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Meetup this weekend!

Meetup on Sunday, July 17th! I actually can't go...WHAT?! But you should go. If you're not in the area, why haven't you perfected your teleportation yet?

And because I can, have some suit porn. Don't worry, it's safe for work, especially if you work at a place that sells suits.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Not Having a "Career"... Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack.

If you thought my stomach hair-related angst was overly ain't seen nothing yet. A continuation of this post. Which is, frighteningly, from July 2008.

***Trigger: Depression***

[Video: "Musikbyrån Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack" by Pelle Carlberg]

You know those problems that just won't die? Maybe they're a life strategy or mental framework that just isn't helping you anymore. You've identified the issue long ago. It makes you feel bad, and you want to change. But you don't know how to change. And in a world that enables your pain, you don't know any other way to feel.

Well, I still have the same issue that I did in 2008. I feel like there's a hole in my life where a career should be. I keep telling myself, "I can be happy with or without a career", but after my career as "a student" ended, I was never quite the same person again. Sure, I had some jobs, but they didn't give me that sense of purpose that I craved. After college graduation, my mental health and functioning were completely shot to hell in a matter of weeks. Only years later did I read about the extreme emotional turmoil that can afflict autistic spectrum folks who are unprepared for these transitions (although I'm sure there are neurotypicals who've been through the same thing). I felt like after college, I died. That the "real me"--the optimistic, motivated person I used to be-- was frozen in a vault somewhere, waiting for a time when society could make some better use of people like myself.

It weirds me out that there is an amalgam to my experience--the person who feels empty without a mate--and yet the advice geared at these people barely goes a millimeter into what could be a very deep wound. They're told, "don't give up hope, you'll find someone", which leaves them even more bereft if they never do. In American culture, we're supposed to beat ourselves up for "falling behind". As adults, we're supposed to be the dictatorial parent, spanking our own damn selves for failing to "measure up". It's normal to look at Facebook (oh, the humanity) and see all the people getting married, having kids, buying houses, attaining prestigious careers...and to think that without these things, we are inferior, even if beyond the goalposts are things that some of us never wanted in the first place.

Although I am a radical, and have little good to say about most aspects of our mainstream American culture, it has just as much a hold on me as anyone else. Maybe the pressures even affect me all the more, because damaging cultural tropes were able to jump in and fill the hole that "student" left in my identity. The hole was quickly filled with a lot of self-hatred that it has, and will, take me years to overcome.

Self-love (and no, I don't mean it that way) is relatively easy when everything is going well and according to plan. But it's most needed when it's the hardest to conjure up: When the obstacles seem endless and the rewards few. When "he", whatever he is, is nowhere in sight, and might never be showing up at all. The answer is not to bemoan the fact that people have become doctors and lawyers in the same time that I've been doing "nothing", i.e, a bunch of sometimes-important things that our culture couldn't care less about. The answer must surely be to fill that emptiness with love (hi, ms. hooks)--the self-generated kind, since the space is too large for anyone else to fill for me.

It might be telling that I've written much more about romantic love--something I have never experienced--than self-love, which is something I desperately needed to cultivate, like yesterday, in order to have any chance at a happy life. As a culture, we know what romantic love looks like, and I would venture to say that we don't know what self-love looks like. If I can find that out, it may not be a husband, a career, or a house, but it would be something of great value. Whether people care about it on Facebook, or not.

Now, let's be soothed by the dulcet tones of Scandinavian indiepop.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hobbit Acceptance Project: Conundrums

I had no idea what kind of response I would get on the first HAP post, but it was fantastic. I so appreciated your support, encouragement, and commiseration. Much love.

Things I've learned since I have started, strangely enough, to think about body hair:
  • Because so many people of all genders remove or conceal their hair, no one knows what "normal" is. The internet is full of women asking, "Is it normal to have hair on my feet/chest/stomach/face/back?" And I don't have a clue. Nor do I have any idea what is "normal" for my ethnicity. There seems to be some agreement that Mediterranean and Eastern European peoples are especially hairy (I am a mix of both), but what does that even mean? (Aside from the fact that what's "sexy" on our heads is repulsive on our bodies.) When people know that they're "normal", it's much easier to not worry as much about whatever the issue may be. With the case of body hair, we never get that relief.

  • It's easier to show leg hair than armpit hair. I think this is probably because we're more used to seeing leg hair--mostly on men, but still. At least in my area, men with hairy legs wear shorts most places. However, men with hairy armpits only show them in the most casual settings--the gym, for instance, or the beach. American culture doesn't tend to have positive associations with men in sleeveless shirts. Uhh, the phrase 'wifebeater' comes to mind.

  • Which leads to my conundrum. Women can show their armpits whenever, wherever, in even the most formal occasions. But the expectation, of course, is that the armpits are hairless. In the centuries before women started shaving, female clothes were much less revealing. Do I shave to wear some clothes (perhaps more fancy or formal ones) and not others? Do I change the types of things that I wear? Or do I proceed as usual with my wardrobe, unshaven? I haven't yet answered these questions for myself.
At any rate, the HAP continues apace. I continue to wear my rolled-up jeans, shorts, and even wore a skirt one day. I did wear a sleeveless shirt on two occasions, but no one really saw me on those days. No evidence yet than anyone has particularly noticed or cared about any of these things, although I still feel apprehensive that I'm going to get rude comments. Maybe I should try to change my thinking and make it my goal to get rude comments. Then if I get them, I could feel vindicated rather than diminished. I have always shied away from making people uncomfortable, but sometimes it's impossible to make a statement, whether social or artistic, without doing that. Although if no one ever says anything...that would be perfectly fine!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Who's asexy? You're asexy!"

Because I'm still recovering from the weekend, I wanted to write something short about Pride. But what? I love haiku, so...

Bright sun, big balloons.
Matching shirts find agreement,
pride and openness.

(If you're in this picture and don't want me to post it, please let me know and I will remove it.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Placing the blame where it belongs

Although I kept complaining about how vague it was, I found Communion extremely thought-provoking, providing even more blog fodder than I originally anticipated...

In our chat, I talked with Fellmama about "passively accepting", but not loving, my body. I wanted to talk about the reasons why I hadn't loved my body, because they seem fairly different from the reasons I hear from a lot of women who aren't asexual. I didn't think I was too fat. I didn't care about being seen as sexy, sexually desirable, or feminine. If someone failed to love me, I knew that my resoundingly average body was probably not to blame. If it was, then that person is a sillyhead. I know that people of all shapes and sizes are able to find and keep friends and romantic partners. Before I knew I was asexual, I thought my looks were to blame for my never dating. But I let go of this idea when over the years, I saw people of every possible physical description get dates. Yeah, there are some things about my body I would change, but they didn't exactly keep me up at night.

What bothered me, though, is that our culture is constantly sexualizing and gendering my body. As I mentioned to Fellmama, appreciation of female bodies is almost always in a sexual context. I disagree with the gender binary, and I hate gender roles. And yet people will slap these on me, due to my female body. But the thing matter how I looked, people would try to place me in a gender box. Even with people who look very androgynous, the general response is rarely, "Oh! An androgyne", but "Is that a boy or a girl?" While bell hooks makes no mention whatsoever of nonbinary people, she did lead me to this realization: I don't want to change my body, but how my body is seen. I want people to approach my body without the preconceived notions of gender. But if the world isn't ready, then that isn't the fault of my body.

(Locals, don't forget! Pride parade is this weekend, and you can get more details here.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Road to Assault

***Trigger warning for sexual assault/rape***

"Yeah, go back to your cabin and shoot yourself, that way nobody'll get hurt."

--Bob Hope to Dorothy Lamour, "Road to Rio"

Yesterday, I saw the movie "Road to Rio" which was the top-grossing film of 1947. At the end of the movie, Bob Hope gets Dorothy Lamour to marry him by using hypnosis. Considering that Hope (and his buddy, Bing Crosby) had been trying to seduce Lamour for the entire film, I thought that sexual assault was heavily implied here. A hypnotized person can't possibly consent, can they? But we're supposed to go, "Ho ho, how funny!" (It's interesting to note that in "Road to Rio", women and their charms are seen as a constant, severe danger to Hope and Crosby. "Dames" need to be toughly subdued before they get a chance to wreak havoc on the mens' lives. The fact that Hope and Crosby are unable to--and please forgive my crudeness--keep their dicks in their pants is not seen as an issue.)

Anyway, fast forward to recent years. "Road to Rio" would probably not be written. Of course, the 40's were just more sexist times...right? However, today, we're expected to laugh at a man being raped (not to mention having his bodily integrity violated in countless other ways). Stuff like this has led some people to believe that feminism has gone too far, and now women are holding privilege over men. But I don't think these folks are aware of why we are supposed to find male rape funny. I think it's for the same reason that we're supposed to find men in dresses funny--being raped is feminizing, and therefore embarrassing. At the same time, men are so sex-crazed that being raped (at least, by a woman) is not a big deal to them emotionally. There are a few assumptions here:

  1. Rape is a "woman thing".

  2. Rape as a "woman thing" is totally mundane.

  3. "Women things" are demoralizing.

  4. Rape can be enjoyable*.

  5. All men want sex all the time. If you don't, you're not manly.

So yes, I believe that bell hooks was very much correct. Patriarchy does hurt everyone. In a truly post-feminist world, Jonah Hill's friends in Get Him to the Greek wouldn't have laughed off his rape experience. He could have admitted that yeah, there were times when he didn't want sex, and the other men wouldn't have mocked him for that. And we, the audience, wouldn't be expected to laugh, either.

*There is also the misunderstanding that if a situation arouses someone, then they're enjoying it. People can be physically aroused during rape. I seem to remember that in the film "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead", this fact is one reason why a male rape victim commits suicide.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Communion Conversation (Part 2)

bell hooks (no caps on purpose) wants more feminists to talk about love. Fellmama and I tried to oblige, but we ended up conversing about a lot of different topics, including body image, dating younger men, and Otter Pops. Please check out Part 1 of our discussion on bell hooks' Communion here at The Feminist Book Project. This is the second part! (If anyone knows how to do spoilers on tell.)

Ily: Well, I get the feeling that men in general don't like me, but that's another story.

Fellmama: Let's talk about that, because it sounds interesting. Why do you feel that men don't like you?

Ily: Women are usually friendly towards me, but men tend to ignore me for the most part. Like in a mixed gender group of people, I'll end up talking to women 95% of the time, because they're the ones who want to talk to me (or so it seems). I know some men like me, but I haven't been able to have a close male friend since elementary school.

Fellmama: Huh. I wonder, and this is just speculation, so feel free to sit on me. Do you think they sense your lack of sexual interest and interpret that as lack of holistic interest?

Ily: No, because the same holds true for gay and asexual men. Granted, there are many more out asexual women than men.

Fellmama: But, and this is linking back to bell hooks: How many men are emotionally able to separate sexual interest from other kinds, regardless of personal sexuality?

Ily: I really don't know, but there could be some truth in that.

Fellmama: Not that women are necessarily able to do this as well, but in our culture women are socialized to show non-romantic interest in people a lot more thoroughly. For example, my boyfriend has a friend, Mark. (I will use his name because this is a positive example and whatnot) And he's really ~interested~ in people. He'll ask them what they do, why they study what they study, what they think of global warming . . . weird stuff, even and he's genuinely waiting for the answer. It doesn't come across as sexual or weird, just friendly.

Ily: In my experience this is extremely rare for men.

Fellmama: EXACTLY! It is SO BIZARRE FOR A DUDE. It's like he's a trained 50s housewife. I find it surprising every. single. time. I interact with Mark, because it's just not what I expect from a man.

Ily: But it's like...I don't want to associate with people who can't or won't listen to me.

Fellmama: Agreed. And this leads back to the problem of finding men for feminist women. Do we just pretend they're listening? Or do we demand more? hooks actually phrases it that way, doesn't she . . .

Ily: Like hooks says, it's hard because we worry that if we demand more, the men will just go off and find a woman who doesn't make those demands. I saw some parallels with the asexual community actually, because women far outnumber men.

Fellmama: Ah yes, here it is: "Women are afraid to hear patriarchal men speak their thoughts and feelings when what they reveal expresses a reality vastly different from how we imagined them to be." (171)

Ily: I liked that a lot. Because a lot of time, we're led to believe that if men would just talk about their feelings, it would solve everything.

Fellmama: And so in the asexual community I'd bet there's even more pressure to conform if you find a male partner."Why do you have to be so picky? He's asexual, isn't that enough?"

Ily: Yeah. I've never heard of an asexual couple breaking up.

Fellmama: That part really resonated with me, as well. Because as a het woman in a relationship with a man, I'm simultaneously afraid of what I'd get if I saw what he was really thinking and anxious that he embrace feminism and progressivism. So it's a constant struggle between the temptation to take the lid off in hopes of growth and the weariness of having to do Feminism 101 again and again and AGAIN.

Ily: Theme of this book: No easy answers. (Isn't that the theme of every book on feminism?)

Fellmama: Guh, seriously. Someday, I'm going to publish a book called "Easy Answers"

Ily: I'd read it. (I want to make sure we have enough time to talk about the body image section, btw)

Fellmama: And the contents will just be simple math and history questions. oh oh yes very much so. anyway, body image omg I <3 bell hooks

Ily: Because I know we're both into the fat acceptance movement.

Fellmama: If for no other reason than she is all "you can't be a feminist mom and tell your daughter she looks fat, WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY"

Ily: It was interesting because she said, "Passively accepting your body isn't enough" and I was like, "Damn, I passively accept my body".

Fellmama: I think what she meant there (and again with the vague), is similar to what she said of women who "give up". Just because you've given up trying to mold yourself into patriarchal forms doesn't mean you love yourself.

Ily: Well, I agreed with her, although (again with the vague) she doesn't say how we're supposed to love our bodies in spite of all the messages to the contrary.

Fellmama: So you have to reach actively for some form of bodily love, even if that love means not shaving your legs. And furthermore I think [hooks] falls a bit into the trap many fat acceptance [FA] advocates and feminists are wallowing in which is: she talks a lot about how many women come to make peace with their bodies in midlife, but she avoids that many women come to that peace through ~sustained sexual relationships~. Speaking personally, the FA train is a lot easier to ride once you've been validated as sexually attractive, even if only once.

Ily: That is my struggle. No one is going to affirm my body, let alone affirm it in a nonsexual manner.

Fellmama: I think I've reached a point in my life where I don't need a dude to validate me. I affirm your body in a nonsexual manner! Well, I could if I were there in person.

Ily: Thanks! :) I'm smiling IRL. It's sort of like the tree falling in the forest. [ie, is my body lovable if no one ever sees it?]

Fellmama: But as I was saying, I think a lot of women in middle age get to that point and think "you know, I AM hot, lots of guys want/ed to do me."And while that is a path to self-acceptance . . . how, as you say, does someone who's asexual get to that point? Or even how does someone sexual get to that point without a lot of pain and suffering?And how do we teach children, who shouldn't BE sexualized, not to hate themselves before they even hit puberty?

Ily: I've been trying to actively love my body for 3 days now, I'll let you know how it goes.

Fellmama: My advice, if you want it? Look at yourself in the mirror, and instead of focusing immediately on your ONE HEINOUS FLAW, focus on something you wouldn't normally, like your ears or your nose. It really, really helps, me anyway. When I look at myself in the mirror, it takes an act of will not to look at my tummy blubber, but if I sort of cross my eyes and just glance back, I see what other people see, which is not the Beluga Queen of the Northern Seas, interestingly.

Ily: I read a blog comment once from a fat woman that was something like, "when I look at a photo of another fat woman, the first thing I see is her smile". For me, there is definitely some kind of gender and sexuality component tied up in my body acceptance, more so than just my appearance. It's definitely complicated.

Fellmama: Yes, I see this all the time working clothing retail. There are all sorts of rituals and hedges around our bodies,and we're supposed to propitiate the Fat Gods by performing the ritual.

Ily: I don't want to be seen as a "woman" before a "person", but I'm trying to blame sexism and not my body. What is the ritual? Like going, "Urrr, I'm so fat"?

Fellmama: Oh geez, so many to choose from: "I need a new bra--I'm having a baby!"

"I need a new bra--I just had/am nursing a baby!"

"I need a new bra--I've lost [Large Number] pounds!"

Ily: Ahhh, I getcha.

Fellmama: You can't just gain some weight, you have to have an Excuse. And if you've lost weight, you can't leave it your own damn personal business.

Ily: Is this the, "OMG I LOST 5 POUNDS!" people?

Fellmama: To give them credit, the clientele at my fat lady store laughs at the 5 pounds people. Given that most of us can lose 5 pounds by sneezing, it's not considered a "significant" weight loss. I would say that the least amount of weight I've heard bragged about is 30 pounds, but dear lord Jesus, it is SO BORING.

Ily: Yeah, that's a fair amount. It's extremely boring. In my sewing class, there are a bunch
of "midlife" women who talk about weight a lot.

Fellmama: Yes, my knitting group is the same way. Let us make a pact, you and me. When we are old, not only will we wear purple with a red hat that doesn't go, we will not talk nonstop about our weights as if that is all that mattered ever.

Ily: Yes :) I think we're already past that, go us! We cannot unsee what we have seen.

Fellmama: I bet bell hooks doesn't approve of it either. If only because I'm pretty sure she'd rather talk about love.

Ily: Ha, yeah, she would.

Fellmama: But I think a lot of feminists have made this argument: There are many more important things to talk about. Not only is diet talk boring, it distracts us from meaningful conversation, and, dare I say it, genuine human connection? I don't know about you, but when the knitting ladies go off about the diet stuff, I sit there in awkward silence.

Ily: Yes, because it immediately sets up a competition. As do I [sit there in awkward silence].

Fellmama: I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings,but I honestly don't give a shit. And furthermore, I feel attacked for refusing to conform. I don't diet, I won't diet, and while I don't care who knows it, I don't talk about it because it is BORING.

Ily: It could also be so triggering for someone with an eating disorder. And they don't know I don't have one!

Fellmama: I KNOW RIGHT "I lost ten thousand pounds on the Dr. Oz Seaweed cleanse, but you there the recovering anorexic, don't listen to me! You're beautiful as you are!"

Ily: Don't 1 in 8 women have an eating disorder? That's a lot.

Fellmama: I don't know the numbers offhand, but that certainly sounds plausible.

Ily: (Although I'm sure people, when looking at me, would think I couldn't possibly have an ED...because there is the ED= thin myth)

Fellmama: I've also heard convincing arguments that every woman in US culture has disordered eating or has engaged in it.

Ily: I could believe that.

Fellmama: To which I say, amen, because while I may not be full-blown disordered, I have DEFINITELY engaged in disordered eating. Especially as an adolescent, surprise surprise.

Ily: It seems "natural" to be a little weird about food (like, for women in our culture). So it's hard to know what is actually disordered.

Fellmama: Truth. But there's, I don't care for steak, and then there's, I don't eat red meat because it is too fattening and if I get fat no one will love me.

Ily: Yeah, intent matters.

Fellmama: And again, I've noticed it's not all right to dislike food without a ~reason~. You can't simply say "I don't eat shrimp". You have to pretend to be kosher or vegan or a recovering fisherman or some shit to get people off your back.

Ily: Tell me about it. WHY DON'T YOU EAT MEAT TELL ME NOW!

Fellmama: I was going to say, surely you, as a vegan, have some insight here.

Ily: it's just bizarre because there are a limited amount of reasons for someone to become vegan, surely educated people will know them [at least where I live--a vegan-heavy area], and yet people still insist on asking.

Fellmama: I think I would go with "I don't eat meat because my entire family was killed in a tragic cowjacking gone wrong" but again, this isn't something I face on a daily basis.

Ily: I have said that I own stock in Gardenburger.

Fellmama: Frankly, as long as someone's reason for veganism or whatever isn't "so I can be self-righteous about YOU," I don't care why.

Ily: I think some people ask because they WANT me to be self-righteous towards them, so that they can feel superior to me. FOOD IS WEIRD. But really, where do feminist men hang out? (I just had to come back to this!) How do we meet them?

Fellmama: I . . . don't, I guess?

Ily: It was funny because hooks was all, "They are out there! Just date younger men!”

Fellmama: I guess she's talking about like . . . my boyfriend.

Ily: Your boyfriend is younger?

Fellmama: No, he's just about my age ,but he'd definitely be younger than bell hooks!

Ily: bell hooks is a cougar, no way around that.

Fellmama: That is my new facebook status SO FAST. But anyway, when I go to knit night or hang out at the yarn store, I'm around a lot of middle-aged women. And I listen to them talk and a lot of their achievements are like "I got my husband to do his OWN laundry! I do my own and the kids', but he does his own!"And I'm like . . . "this is the best you can do, seriously?" TI and I do laundry together, in common.

Ily: Ahh, I see where you're going.

Fellmama: if anything, he's better about it than I am, at least in terms of the "not letting it sit in the basket for days". And like chore equality, we do roughly the same amount of housework and we cook dinner together, or take turns. And my other housemates who are a couple do this, too and so do my housemate and his girlfriend who doesn't live here, at least when it comes to stuff like cooking. So she's definitely got a point in terms of LIVED gender equality. Like, my boss at the yarn store, she stayed home with her children, the youngest of whom is fifteen.

Ily: I do feel like men our age do more around the house.

Fellmama: and when her older kid went off to college, she was like "okay, no more staying at home for me!"so they bought the yarn store and whatnot. but like, she still cooks dinner ~every~ night except for Saturdays, when she's at the store.

Ily: Second Shift, yeah.

Fellmama: And then, if she doesn't like put it in the crockpot, she won't have dinner at home. Yes, very much so. And in a way it's more than second shift, it's a fundamental difference in worldview. In TI's worldview, if I'm working all day and he happens to be home, he should feed me, whereas if I'm at home, I should feed him. I honestly don't think gender enters his mind there at all.

Ily: That's probably an improvement over most men bell hooks' age.

Fellmama: Definitely. My dad only learned to cook out of self-defense when my mom went back to work (although you will note, he actually did it, and did it well, rather than whining or eating out every night). TI cooks very well, and he knows how to clean stuff, and, most importantly to my mind, he doesn't view it as ~someone else's JOB~ to do these things for him.

Ily: Good!

Fellmama: So I see a lot of hope there. And something that makes me even more hopeful is that we never actually had to discuss anyof this. We naturally fell into a pattern that more or less works and actually IS egalitarian, it didn't have to be negotiated or anything.

Ily: I wonder how common that is.

Fellmama: I'm not sure, I should conduct a survey. At any rate, anything else to say about bell hooks?

Ily: Not much, although I think a lot of what she says about "powerful women" is just a response to whatever people have said about her personally over the years.

Fellmama: I agree to a certain extent. I will say, though, I felt like I got a lot more personal pushback as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated discipline (classics) than I do as a woman working retail. So part of it might simply be that as I'm already viewed as powerless on a class/gender basis, and in a job where everyone else is a woman anyway, I'm not seeing the kind of abuse hooks is talking about.

Ily: I guess I feel like there aren't really that many powerful women out there.

Fellmama: That's true as well, although look at the horrific stuff women perceived as powerful are subjected to. Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Angelina Jolie.

Ily: Well, maybe that [my comment that there are few powerful women] isn't so. It's hard to really know what "powerful" means in this context.

Fellmama: That is a very good point. "Powerful" in terms of sexual agency? In terms of politics? Or just "powerful" in terms of "not willing to be pushed around"?

Ily: Sorry, person hassling me...I am sitting in "her chair"[in the public library].

Fellmama: Oh dear, well, you must move at ONCE or the aliens will probably reduce you to cinders.

Ily: Yeah, I tried to ignore her and she moved to the other side of the room.

[At this point, the conversation wandered apace from bell hooks.]