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18 Dec 15:45

Avoid canine cabin fever with these winter dog walking tips

by Offbeat Editors
Kristen

Keep those pups safe this winter!

winterdogwalking

It's wintertime where I live. In case you're like me, and you are trying to avoid canine cabin fever for as long as possible, here are some tips to make sure your pup is happy and healthy during the winter walking season.

1. Paw protection

Dog paws are not impervious barriers to winter cold, chemicals, and other nuisances. Snowmelt chemicals can cause paw irritation and toxicity if the dog licks their paws, and cold sidewalks can cause chaffing and cracking. Dog paw protection is a must for winter walks…

For my dogs, high quality boots were a necessity. I like the Grip Trex by Ruffwear (and am currently trying out the Summit Trex model to see if it keeps snow out of the boot better). I've also read many positive reviews for the Muttluk's All Weather or Fleece-lined dog boots. Yes, $40-70 bucks is a lot to spend on dog boots but they are a worthy investment. I've put my dog's Grip Trex boots through three winter seasons and besides protecting my pups' paws flawlessly, they still look brand new. Cheaper alternatives aren't going to do the job and probably won't last as long.

Dog boots tip #1: You've really got to get the right size so the boots don't come off easily but are still comfortable. Measure your dog's feet according to the manufacturer's instructions several times to ensure accuracy. And definitely check out the seller's return/exchange policy before purchasing in case you need a different size anyway!

Dog boots tip #2: As with any new pet accessory or device, you have to introduce boots slowly and positively. Not many pups are going to be overly thrilled about having boots on for the first time in their lives, but (in my experience) they forget about their footwear disdain when they discover how much more comfortable they are outdoors.

While you're introducing your dog to the wonderful world of dog boots (or if your dog just really isn't going for shoes), there are several things you can do to keep your pup's paws as comfortable as possible in the meantime!

  • First, trim the fur between your dog's paw pads. This will keep the fur from matting and clumping around snow, ice and snowmelt chemicals.
  • Next, use a paw salve like Musher's Secret Pet Paw Protection Wax or petroleum jelly to moisturize and minimally protect your pup's paws from the element.
  • Finally, thoroughly wipe your dog's paws with a washcloth after every outside excursions, being sure to get in between the paw pads.

2. Coat protection

Depending on how cold it gets where you live, or if you have a short-haired, elderly, young, or ill dog, a dog coat is also a great investment. There are some pretty hardcore coats on the market from brands like Ruffwear or Hurtta that will set you back $40-90 and some less impervious dog sweaters from other retailers like Target or Petco for about $20. A wet coat isn't going to do your pup much good, so if your area experiences severe weather during the winter, opt for a more expensive, waterproof winter coat. If you're just combating the cold and can avoid rain/snow/sleet all of the time, a cheaper dog sweater might cut it.

Cold, dry winter air is as rough on your dog's skin as it is on your skin! Ask your vet if an omega-3 supplement could help keep your dog's skin moisturized and healthy during the winter months (and beyond!). Lastly, it's a good idea to wipe off your dog's legs and underbelly after walks just like paws. You may even want to bring a towel with you during walks to remove snowmelt products or snow/ice from your dog's coat and feet immediately.

3. Keep your dog on leash with a harness

Although hazards for off-leash dogs exist in abundance year-round, winter poses some particular risks for un- or under-supervised dogs. Toxic substances like snowmelt chemicals and antifreeze abound, and if your dog is zooming around off leash, you may not notice her gulp some rock salt or take a lick of an antifreeze spill. Chucks of ice, asphalt liberated from the street by snow plows and sticks are also items your pup shouldn't ingest but might if left to her own devices. So play it safe and keep your dog on leash.

Clipping a leash to a neck collar is not an optimal way to walk your dog at any time of year because it puts strain on the dog's neck, leading to breathing problems and eye issues as the result of increased intracranial pressure. It's also, like, the least efficient way to control your dog's position in space, which can really be an issue in winter when ground conditions aren't ideal. Opt for a front-clip harness like the Easy Walk harness and carry a small bag of dog kibble with your to keep your pup by your side during distracting events.

4. Keep it short

No amount of gear and preparation will wholly protect your pup from winter hazards, so keep walks short by breaking your usual walking time into two or three shorter components that are spaced out over the day. Monitor your dog for signs of real discomfort, frost bite or hypothermia. Frostbitten skin will most common occur on extremities like the ears, tails and toes and can look pale or red, painful or numb, and swollen. If your dog is exhibiting shallow breathing or disorientation, get your dog inside immediately and check for a slow pulse — these are all signs of hypothermia and your dog should be taken to a vet ASAP.

What are YOUR suggestions for walking in a winter wonderland… with your pup?

16 Dec 17:30

Bitter Greens

by Mindy Hung
Kristen

So many things in this piece

When I was seven years old, my grandparents began a squatter’s garden over empty city land.

They had already dug up our entire backyard and planted it with Asian vegetables. They killed the lawn and my mother’s flower patch. They razed my sandbox. Wearing wide straw hats, and smocks sewn together from fabric scraps, they tore up the land from our back steps up to our tall white fence, littering it with tarps, planks of scavenged wood, and plastic containers to collect rainwater.

It wasn’t a likable garden. Our neighbors in this white, lower-middle class suburb in Winnipeg, Canada built high fences, but the barriers couldn’t keep the smell out. At night, my grandfather buried fertilizer peelings, eggshells, and coffee grounds; he didn’t wait for it to break down, he just put it all straight into the ground. Our yard smelled like trash. It looked like trash. It seemed a surefire way to attract rats. Except if there were rats, my grandfather would have mentioned them; the only thing he liked better than eating things was killing things. He liked to watch nature documentaries to speculate on how each animal might taste.

Worse yet than the smell, though, were the vegetables that grew in that garden. The pat tsoi, spoon vegetable, Chinese celery, and heaping piles of mustardy greens that my grandparents tended ended up on our table every night in fibrous, tangled piles, uncompromisingly bitter. The recognizable vegetables—zucchini, pumpkin—didn’t turn into pies or cakes. The pumpkin was boiled in huge chunks, skin still on, to be gnawed on. The zucchini grew huge. Bigger zucchini fed more people but they were chalky and full of seeds. My mother wrapped them in newspaper and kept them in the basement.

What I really would have liked them to plant were well-ordered rows of white-people vegetables: potatoes, carrots, or lettuce, neatly hoed with a seed-packet marker at the end of each sprouting. I wouldn’t have minded a curly wall of pea tendrils, some peas.

That was not what the garden yielded.

Read more Bitter Greens at The Toast.

11 Dec 00:19

winter beauty tips for the slovenly and unkempt.

by samantha
head. when i was a kid, my "lipstick" was a reddish-brown eye pencil my mother, who dyed her hair fire engine red every four weeks without fail, used to draw on the eyebrows that had fallen out never to return when she was pregnant. i would trace my lips with the pencil and fill them in as much as i could without wearing it down so much that she would notice, then dab a little vaseline on to make it shiny. i would also pat some of her heavily perfumed oil of olay cream on my cheeks and eyelids because listen, i'm motherfucking luxurious, b.

i'm not going to go into a whole thing about how growing up poor turns you into a ravenous, insatiable hoarder of nice things once you get enough money for an apartment and the occasional double cheeseburger. BUT IT'S TRUE. my very first paycheck was probably 70% rent and 30% mac lipglass. winter is a rough time of year to try and be cute. maybe if you live in malibu it's possible for you? but those of us in the heartland just resign to bundling up and dragging our chapped lips and ashy hands out to olive garden  for some fancy spaghetti every once in a while until the tundra thaws out enough to put an open-toed shoe on. when it's balls cold outside this is how we dress: warm tights, socks, giant boots, pants, base layer shirt, thin sweater over that, gross outside hoodie over that, puffy warm coat that is too hot to even put on in your steamy, radiator-heated apartment, hat, scarf, mitts: it's like wearing a motherfucking space suit in real life. i'm surprised anyone can stand upright while trying to get the bus to work. so i'm not gonna be worried about getting my lipstick right when the avalanche i gotta walk through will just rinse the shit off my face. but i do have to keep a job.

i have Very Specific Hair. which is not to say that my hair is more moody and petulant than anyone else’s, it’s just the kind of hair that when bitches on the train is like, “girl, what do you use!?” i gotta sigh and be all, “HOW MUCH TIME YOU GOT.” so, if you are a yeasty little beast and have gross, scaly seborrhea crawling from under your bangs down into your unruly eyebrows, i rotate jason tea tree shampoo on my barefoot chai recycling plastic bottle days and head and shoulders dry scalp care with almond oil on my mcdonald’s drive thru styrofoam hummer days. and once a week i wide tooth comb some 99 cent suave conditioner through my hair to get the big knots out? ugh i’m lying. once a month, maybe. i have read all of the curly hair blogs about co-washing and sulphate-free shampoos and conditioners and i tried all that shit but i am scaly and itchy and FUCK THAT. last week i did my yearly under the bathroom sink purge, and found no fewer than 827 bottles of styling creams and 592 tubes of various curl-defining gels. and this is the part of caring for natural hair that becomes a giant toilet into which you flush all of your disposable income: THE SEARCH FOR A STYLING PRODUCT THAT IS JUST A TINY BIT BETTER THAN THE ONE YOU'RE ALREADY USING. because even if you've found a good one, and your curls are lengthened yet defined yet supple yet not crunchy, you are never fully convinced that you are using the very best product you could be. it is the curly hair curse, this neverending quest to find the one product that does everything your hair needs just a little bit better than every fucking thing else. the one product i have stayed married to despite several fleeting affairs (miss jessies! mixed chicks! aveda pomade!) is paul mitchell the conditioner. it's frothy blue elixir from the gods, and if you've seen my hair in real life YOU ALREADY KNOW. also, you can use the shit as body lotion. quit playing.

because i'm your elderly abuelita i use pond's cold cream and moisturizer pretty much every goddamned morning in the winter, because they make your skin feel like gorgeous fried chicken. i wipe the cucumber cold cream all over, dangerously shave my lip hairs in the dark, then wipe it all off with a warm washcloth and slather on the moisture. then i dance around for a minute because you for real cannot let your face touch your shirt with that greasy shit on it. but trust me: after you fight through the congested commuter train out into the throng of hot dads in their biker shorts and clicky shoes blocking the condiment island at starbucks before finally stumbling ten minutes late into work your skin will be the goddamned wave. no ashy spots, so bleeding cracks, just glistening, supple babybutt skin.

i'm going to spend as little time as possible dwelling on the sickness i have when it comes to lipsticks and blushes. in my defense, i do not wear: eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, bronzer, highlighter, luminizer, concealer, face powder, primer, false eyelashes, or liquid foundation. so i promise i will not bore you to death with any of those. yes, i probably have $300 in yves saint laurent lip stains but THEY ARE THE BEST AND I NEED THEM. see also: 1 occ matte lip tar. my jam shades: anime, nylon, hoochie, rollergirl; messy as shit but worth it if you like neon pink lips, except you have to use a brush so ugh. 2 bite beauty high pigment pencil. my jam shades: pomegranate, grapevine, violet; super bright and creamy! i like my shit bone dry, though, so i gotta have 2a bite beauty cashmere lip cream. my jam shades: moscato, sancerre, rioja, port; good color payoff, starts out liquid and dries to a powder finish that doesn't move never ever. THE BIG DOGS: i probably have tried every 3 mac matte lipstick ever produced, and they are almost the perfect ratio of vivid to dry. my jam shades: ruby woo, flat out fabulous, all fired up, dangerous. but the best of the best of the best, my #1 lover, is 4 NARS velvet matte lip pencil. it's bright as shit and dry as fuck and if you see me on the street please know that i have more dragon girl pencils on my person than i do dollars and/or credit cards and/or money in general. like i said, it's a sickness. send help.

shoulders. i’m not going to talk to you about drinking water. i fucking hate that shit, when all you wanna do is read about a bitch’s skincare routine and she’s all, “i just drink eight glasses of water a day and sleep eight hours a night and tee hee lots of sunscreen.” FUCK YOU, BITCH. i could drink 37 glasses of water before lunch and still wake up the next morning with cystic period chin and a nose sprinkled liberally with blackheads. to achieve my picture perfect complexion i rely heavily on three crucial elements: 1 daily exfoliation 2 organic coconut oil and 3 motherfucking instagram. and mac studio fix in C6 if i am feeling like a person who tries. i am supremely lazy. and usually i am already in my pajamas with some incense lit and my night wine, ten pages into whatever i most recently added on goodreads before i remember that i wore a pound and a half of blush to work that day. so i keep a pack of alba good and clean towelettes by the bed because i hate ruining my pillowcases and these have a smooth side and a rough, nubbly side because i’m one of those idiots that feels like if it doesn’t sting or scrape or catch fire then it’s not really working. i keep several exfoliating cleansers in the shower: philosophy microdelivery peel, lush dark angels, and my broke shit: st. ives blackhead clearing green tea scrub. yeah i know they never  go the fuck away, and if you are not a sufferer of the blackhead wrath go kiss your mother on the mouth, because this shit is a nightmare. it’s like the curly hair thing: you already know that what you’re already doing is probably as good as it’s going to goddamned get, yet strolling through the aisles at target you can just hear the new products calling out to you from the shelves, all of the pore strips and the clay masques and the extraction tools. and i get it, man. i’ll be all the way in the cheese section and hear that new motions leave-in calling my name and then before you can say "economy sized box of oreos" i am in the hair aisle contemplating spending $137 on the newest pudding/elixir/lotion/creme to turn these dusty slave knots into silky ringlets. and why do we believe them, these disingenuous candy-colored tubs and tubes!? because that's the real american dream, that if you just work hard and pray, someone will invent a non-sticky gel that stretches a curl and doesn't flake by two in the afternoon.

knees. i'm not going to talk to you about eating better, either. the best skin i have ever had was when i was living on a steady diet of half-thawed toaster strudels and packets of lipton rice mix with approximately 4000mg of sodium apiece; i've had three bushels of kale since monday and my shit is as dull and dry as all of these orangey red leaves strewn all over the sidewalk. COME ON, VITAMINS. i don't fuck with body scrubs because i haven't gotten any handicapped bars installed in my shower yet and i haven't yet tried one that doesn't turn my bathtub into an oil slick. but i would take a cheese grater to my backside if i could. IT MAKES ME FEEL SO CLEAN. so, i improvise. i stand on the bath mat and lather up with bliss hot salt scrub and then rinse off my individual parts without playing slip and slide in the goddamn shower. my broke shit: yes to coconut polishing body scrub. smells like you're in hawaii, which is fine because it's the closest i'll ever get to the beach.

have you ever wondered why there are so many goddamned kinds of lotion? i've decided it's because none of them really works. i'm a sucker for scientific drawings of microscopic lotion drops piercing six layers of epidermis as much as the next guy, but i have never been not ashy after using regular-ass jergens in the dead of winter. i switched to oils a couple years ago, and basically i look like a motherfucking ten year old. my friend michelle uses organic coconut oil, so now my ass uses organic coconut oil. i buy big jars of kelapo from amazon (sorry factory workers) and i use it all over. added benefit: if you have a disgusting scalp, coconut oil will hook you up. and i am the fucking grossest, i'm talking flaky eyebrows and a constellation of grody dermatitis stretched along my hairline, and a dab every morning has cured me. i also use neutrogena sesame formula and regular johnson's baby oil. shaving is for jerks but sometimes i do it, and barbasol soothing aloe costs maybe fourteen cents and lasts forever. angie gave me some lush charity pot lotion which i keep on my desk along with a container of their lemony flutter cuticle butter because sometimes i'll be writing and look down at my hands and get grossed the fuck out at my lack of self care.

toes. I FUCKING LOVE INFOMERCIALS. i'm not sure if it's the delirium caused by being awake at two in the morning or if the promise of a product that is too good to be true is just too goddamned hard to resist, but if a man with big white teeth makes me a promise for $29.99 plus shipping who am i not to believe his claim? i've tried: several snuggies, a nutribullet, a pair of pajama jeans, proactiv, oxiclean, and the slap chop. I REGRET NOTHING. my most recent bleary-eyed infomercial purchase? the amope pedi perfect. it's pretty much a rolling scraper with a motor, and it is by far the best beauty tool i have ever purchased. and i bought that cindy crawford skincare! in less than a minute it ground my callouses to dust and left my gross december feet super smooth. i'm going to level with you: come wintertime, i really let a lot of shit go. i'm not peeling off nine layers of waterproof clothing to contort myself in a goddamn pedicure chair for twenty minutes, i'm really not. but if this marg can last until april it will be nice to not rip holes in my socks with my razor sharp heels. it sells itself. ask your mom for one for christmas.

i don't paint my fingers or toes regularly because shiftless, but i do enjoy purchasing nail polish. look, whatever keeps me from walking out into traffic, okay? my fave kinds are marc jacobs and deborah lippman and rescue beauty lounge. i use $5 scented frankincense and musk oils from the african dude on my block (along with clumps of black soap and tubs of raw shea butter), but sometimes i order fancy ones from the long winter soap company to switch it up. perfume makes me sneeze, but beauty is suffering and i keep a bottle of jo malone french lime blossom around anyway and as soon as i get paid i am treating myself to some tom ford black orchid. I'VE BEEN SO GOOD, SANTA. umm i am a certifiable maniac for blush, not kidding, and my absolute favorite is cha cha tint by benefit. i love a bright orange cheek and i wear that shit every fucking day. don't be scared, babies. GIVE IN TO THE MANGO FACE. if i ever go out at night which (come on i am almost thirty-five i don't fucking go anywhere ever) is rare i use mac powder blush. my jam shades: frankly scarlet, modern mandarin, and dollymix. like i said, i don't fuck around. crazy doll cheeks all the goddamn time. try it so we can be on some grey gardens shit together.

so now that you know i basically sit in my apartment writing jokes with lipstick on while watching family feud, holler at me if there's some new shit i need to know about. also: please note that this is why a bitch doesn't have any savings before you yell at me about my fancy taste and irresponsible choices. also also: i don't have life insurance, but i do have a backup plan in case i ever get fired and have to survive on lipstick from the grocery store. best cheap gloss: maybelline color elixir is really so fucking good. best cheap matte: maybelline color sensational creamy matte is almost good enough to compete with my boyfriend nars. best HELLA CHEAP stain: nyx soft matte lip cream is six motherfucking dollars. also also also: i swear to god i am going to open a savings account. i might have a new car's worth of beauty products in my work bag right now. ugh, god. just remember that i used to use a dollar store eye pencil as pretend makeup, okay? i've earned these sumptuous ruby red lips.
08 Dec 13:11

A (Sort Of) Gift Guide

by megan
Kristen

YES! For alternate gift guides!

I love gift guides but, honestly, I find myself using them most often for the sources they draw from so please allow me to just go ahead and tell you about the spots I’m using for ideas this year:

Kickstarter at MoMA – That neat stuff that was on Kickstarter but you might have since lost track of? Here it is! Also see: the whole gifts section. (I’ve been eyeing that Bubble Necklace for a few years now. Not a hint. Ok, yes, it’s a hint.)

Good Gift Games at The Morning News – An annual curated list of tabletop games by Matthew Baldwin and one of those things I look forward to every year. I know the guy in person and can vouch that all these games have been well tested over rounds of beer with good people at good pubs. I’m going to throw my support on the Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game and also call up a past game that is a most-played in my house: Forbidden Island.

Cool Tools: Mark’s Picks and Under $10 – Have somebody on your list who is a Maker or very practical or just plain hard to shop for? Cool Tools will have a suggestion for that one thing that they might not already know about. Among the most well received gifts to family that I’ve given have come from past Cool Tools recommendations including a craft assistant setup for a model-making family member and guitar tuning devices for my part-time rock star husband. (If said giftee just likes knowing about neat things they might love the Cool Tools book, which I fully admit to becoming engrossed in myself, it’s huge like a coffee table book and packed with information like a catalog.)

Brit+Co Shop – Among the many awesome things in this shop I’m particularly in love with the Gold Leaf Valet Kit with Lovely Indeed, the customizable wood burnt Cheese Board with Design*Sponge and the wooden Pop-Out Ornament Cards. See also: the whole Tech (Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote for an iPhone!) and Merrymaking Color Block Muddler!) selections. Full disclosure and blatant self promotion: this winter I have my own collaboration with Brit+Co for a set of mini gingerbread house mug topper cookie cutters which, as of me typing this, should be back in stock to purchase on Friday 12/12/14. Update: The DIY Kits have sold out, thanks to everybody who purchased one!

What are your favorite sources for the difficult to shop for?

21 Nov 23:30

Holy Crap Tamora Pierce Showed Up: The Mary Sue’s Favorite Comments Of The Week

by Sam Maggs
Kristen

Sharing because now that TAMORA PIERCE has talked about her top favorite books ever, I must read them!

hires

No big deal, just a huge YA author and one of my personal idols showed up in the TMS comments section this week. But first; your brilliance!

Once we learned we were able to edit that horrible Barbie book ourselves, commenters wanted to photoshop it to improve it. Forget pillow fights; Ciella to the rescue!

hammer

After the Barbie writer responding (not excellently) to the backlash against her book, Lady Commentariat was all: “run c://digging_myself_in_deeper/foot_in_mouth.exe”

In response to the Barbie Facebook page’s official apology, Russell Jones suggested: “Next up: The Barbie I Can Be A Brand Content Specialist Book.”

After the Rosetta went to sleep, Kris Smith and brainmist re-wrote a song just for the tiny machine (and also now no one can say that I have an anti-Kris Smith For Favorite Comments agenda Kris Smith).

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.38.20 PM

Speaking with WWE Wrestler Mike Foley about his new movie I Am Santa Claus, Munich Marvel felt very passionately about Foley’s feels. “Ah, no, if anybody should enjoy Chritmas it’s Mick Foley! He loves Christmas… no seriously, he loves it. If he wasn’t married to his wife, it would be something like a Thanos/Death situation except with Mick and Christmas.”

When discussing problematic movie The DUFF, SnappyTron has some words for their past self:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.35.37 PM

Finally, earlier this week I wrote a piece about Tamora Pierce and then Tamora Pierce showed up and was all over the comment sectionI feel like we have been blessed by a YA angel.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.49.21 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.49.03 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.48.51 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.48.38 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.45.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 5.44.51 PM

So mote it be.

(image by Minuiko)

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25 Nov 16:58

Compassion is painful. That’s how you know it’s working.

by thebloggess

I’m sad about last night for a lot of reasons.  And if you are human, and allow yourself to be so, then you probably are too.  Maybe it’s the verdict that upset you, or the destruction afterwards, or the long and difficult path that has led us here and has shown us we have so much further to go before we get to the place where we want to be…a place where kindness and compassion and vulnerability are the things which can be lauded and seen and encouraged and felt.  Or maybe, like me, you’re upset about all of those things and you feel too defeated to want to care anymore.

But if you’re like me, you can’t switch those emotions off.  It’s so much easier to turn those feelings of vulnerability and hurt into a shield of rage.  Rage feels powerful and strong.  It feels good.  And rage is important.  But not at the cost of compassion.  If, like me, today you woke up weary and wanting to become numb, or turn away, or lash out angrily at everyone involved then I feel you.  But I encourage you to keep compassion at the forefront.  Remember humanity.  Remember that your words and actions make a difference.  Remember that the majority of us are so much better than the worse things we see in the news, and that so many of us are leading a quiet revolution to be kind, and compassionate, and to listen to the hurt, and amplify the things that will make a positive difference in our world.  It’s a quiet revolution that will never be covered on CNN.  It’s a movement of people who redirect anger to kindness.  Who listen even when it’s painful.  Who take the hurt of others on ourselves and feel it so that we can become better people.  Who wade into horrible online threads and inject compassion and reason because we know that it can become contagious if done the right way.  Who hope that reason and empathy will somehow lead to a place which is safer for our children and grandchildren.

Yesterday someone sent me this photo and it’s stayed with me, and it helped.  If you’re like me, maybe it’ll help you too.

hope

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? ~ Henry David Thoreau

I don’t usually write about serious things like this because I think of this blog as a place for us to get away from the crazy bullshit of the world.  A place to laugh and heal and be ridiculous.  But sometimes healing comes in different ways and I need to write this so I can let go of some of this angst and refocus on what positive things I can do next.  Like donating to the Ferguson Library, which has served as a quiet sanctuary for so many children and adults.

Tomorrow we’ll be back to ridiculous cat pictures and possibly a story about an alligator in my toilet.  And tomorrow we’ll still feel compassion for the people who are struggling, and will continue to do our best to enact positive changes in our own ways.

I hope to God both of those things are true.

06 Nov 21:10

Relaxing puzzle games for tablets

by megan
Kristen

For sweet and pretty games

These are the games for iPad that I find particularly relaxing and keep around to replay after enough time has passed that I’ve forgotten how to solve most levels.

Monument Valley
This is a stunningly beautiful and simple game that plays with Escher style geometry and has a slightly spooky story. For iOS, Google Play and Kindle Fire.

Doggins
This is a short and exceedingly sweet game about what a dog dreams about. An especially stylish version of a point and click style adventure. For iOS, Google Play and Kindle Fire.

Find the Line
In this game you slide a few lines until they compose a picture and watching the lines dance through their patterns, which work as hints, is beautiful and mesmerizing. One downside: while the game is free the distributor has put video ads between each level and you cannot pay to make the ads go away. Bummer. Just in iOS.

Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake
A cartoonish and funny puzzle game with a surprising amount of levels. I thoroughly loved this game and the levels are satisfyingly tricky while the story is well developed. For iOS, Google Play, Amazon Apps and Steam.

See also the previously mentioned: Tiny Thief and Little Inferno.

17 Oct 15:00

5 reasons why living in a trailer park is awesome

by Jill Smith
Kristen

Tiny house! If only DC had trailer parks

Photo courtesy of Redfin.com

Photo courtesy of Redfin.com

The past few months my fiancé and I have spent a lot of time discussing our living arrangements for after the wedding day. We currently live in a trailer park and at first it never crossed our mind to stay here any longer than necessary.

We looked at buying a house, or moving into a condo; but both of those options left us with little cash to travel and so they were ruled out.

We looked into renting an apartment but the majority of places would not take in our furry babies, and so they were ruled out.

And after several discussions we made the intentional decision to stay in our trailer park, and we are SO STOKED.

The problem is that most people can't get over the fact that we are "living in a trailer." So I would like to, on behalf of all proud trailer park residents, set the record straight on this super-awesome alternative living space…

1. Love tiny houses?

A trailer is basically a tiny house that is pre-built. There's no need to spend months planning and designing — it's already done.

2. No shared walls

We did spend some time in an apartment in the past, and I'm not sure if I can handle sharing walls again. We can finally play our music a little bit louder, we can have a few more people over for our monopoly tournaments, and we don't have to worry about disturbing our neighbors.

3. We have a yard

Our very own yard that allows us to plant our own veggies, gives us space to enjoy the outdoors, and a place for our dogs to have their own space.

4. Affordability

We are currently paying less than half of what we used to pay for our apartment, for twice the square footage! (Did I mention we also get a yard?)

5. Amenities?!

For two people just starting out in the world, there are not a whole lot of bonuses out there. But in our trailer we have skylights, hardwood floors, in-unit washer and dryer, dishwasher, tentacle bathtub (yes, we did steal the tentacle bathtub idea from Offbeat Home — actually most of our décor ideas) and a whole lot more that I never imagined we could afford.

Our trailer is exactly what I always wanted my home to be — it is cozy, comfortable, cost-efficient, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, with a kick-ass kitchen, and our neighbors are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

I love my trailer, and my trailer park life. So can we please move on from the stigma and start looking at all the awesome bonuses of this offbeat living space?

Who else rocks a trailer home? What are your favorite things about your trailer park life?

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11 Sep 09:00

GoodRx.com

by mark

I recently needed to fill a particularly expensive prescription. The first pharmacy I visited, a big box retailer with a reputation for low prescription drug prices, quoted a price of $800.

A few moments later, I found the exact same prescription from a pharmacy just down the road for less than $300.

The market for prescription drugs in the US is ridiculously inefficient. Fortunately, companies like GoodRx.com are creating tools that can help you find the best prices online, making true price comparison fast and efficient.

GoodRx works by pulling in price feeds from most of the top pharmacy chains in the US, allowing you to search and sort by drug, delivery form, dosage, count, and pharmacy type. It’s trivial to compare prices for brand name vs. generic, and the website automatically sorts the results by price.

If you create an account on GoodRx.com, you can save searches for later reference, which is handy. Prices change daily, so it’s worth re-checking prices before refilling your prescriptions.

Once you find the best option, you can print out a “discount card” that contains GoodRx’s Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) information, so the pharmacist can find the GoodRx quoted price. (They’ll also mail you a card for your wallet if you request one.) Every time you fill a prescription using GoodRx’s group information, they make money via referral fees, so the service itself is free to use.

Out of curiosity, I had the pharmacy quote prices using the GoodRx rate vs. my major health insurance company’s negotiated group rate. GoodRx won by $150.

A quick search on GoodRx.com saved me over $500 in less than a minute. If you live in the US and need to fill a prescription, search here first.

– Josh Kaufman

GoodRx.com
Free

-- Josh Kaufman

GoodRx.com

24 Sep 09:00

Texas Fireframe Fireplace Grate

by mark
Kristen

Super neat "must have" if we have a fireplace some day!

The Texas Fireframe is the best way to burn ordinary logs in your ordinary fireplace (that is, no pellets, no gas, no installation, no electric fans) and not have most of the heat go up the chimney. Going by the catchphrase/slogan, “The Physicist’s Fire,” this improvement on the fireplace grate permits an arrangement of the logs that forces the heat into the room. In fact, I can put my hand into the fireplace over the fire and hold it there for thirty seconds or more, but I have to lean in from the side, because the heat coming into the room is so intense that I can’t stand directly in front of the fireplace.

Unfortunately for the manufacturer, this thing — made of cold steel — lasts practically forever. In fact, I’ve used the first and only Texas Fireframe I ever bought for over thirty years. Still works as well as it did the first winter I had it.

Check out the diagram of how it works at the website, and you’ll probably have an “Of course!” reaction. It’s definitely a cool tool.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 3.12.16 PM

-- Bob Leedom

Texas Fireframe
$95 to $215

Available from Texas Fireframe

19 Sep 12:00

What are some fictional books that feature realistic and healthy couples?

by Megan Finley
Kristen

Excellent resources and very timely

Untitled

Thanks to danielle for uploading this photo to our Offbeat Home Flickr pool

What are some fictional books to read about happy marriages? Stories that are fun and good to read, and also feature realistic and healthy couples.

The only one i can think of is The Time Traveler's Wife, which is slightly weird in the beginning.

-Artemis

We've talked about reading non-fiction books about marriage, and we've talked about reading non-religious books about marriage, so now let's talk about reading fiction books about marriage!

Here are some suggestions before I open it up to the Homies…

My hopeless romantic guy friend suggested, "Try something by Mike Gayle or Lisa Jewell. They always seem to write about couples who work it all out."

In Offbeat Bride's collaborative recommended reading list for books about marriage and relationships, there were two novels:

Your turn, Homies! What are some good books that feature realistic and healthy couples?

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03 Sep 12:00

The Grow Lights We Like

by Meg Muckenhoupt
Kristen

Shared for all my green thumbs out there!

hydrofarm

After more than 50 hours of research and interviews with five experts—including one who designed plant lighting for Antarctica and the moon—I can say that the Hydrofarm FLT24 2-Ft/4-Tube T5 Commercial System with Bulbs ($92) is economical, is low-maintenance, runs cool in small spaces, and provides bright light for stout plants. It’s the one we would buy if we were starting seeds indoors.

29 Aug 12:00

Keep your fantasy hair color looking vibrant forever with oVertone

by Megan Finley
Kristen

For all the fun hair color lovers out there!

Megan's purple hair that faded way too fast. Photo by Sirens Salon.

Megan's purple hair that faded way too fast. Photo by Sirens Salon.

True story: At the beginning of August I dyed my hair this really pretty lavender, by mid August — even with adding my hair color to my conditioner — it was faded beyond all color recognition. Strangers went from saying "I love your hair!" to "So, what color was your hair?" So depressing.

That is why I'm beyond stoked that oVertone is our newest sponsor, because it's is a line of vegan color depositing conditioners that keeps your fantasy hair color looking vibrant and beautiful. Their mission: to end hair fading for good.

oVertone vegan color depositing conditioner

oVertone was created by Maegan and Liora, who put their brightly-colored heads together and concocted a product that both of them had always wanted — a conditioner that would heal hair between dye jobs and keep it looking as bright on day 60 as it did on day one. As they put it, "We want to be bold, AND look the part 24/7, no matter how long ago our last salon trip happened." oVertone is an end to cold showers and a reintroduction to heat styling. It's a way to keep your hair healthy and colorful every day, no matter how often you shampoo.

But how is that possible!?…

overtone keeps your hair color vibrant

oVertone has eighteen different color combinations and two types of conditioner — a daily conditioner and a weekly treatment — to meet your fantasy hair needs. They offer red, orange, pink, blue, purple, and teal conditioners in three different intensity levels: Pastel, Vibrant, and Extreme.

Simply swap out the conditioner you're using, replace with oVertone, and you have an easy solution to keep things colorful. You can even mix the conditioners together to create your own custom shades! The best part: there's literally nothing in oVertone that can damage your hair, so you can apply as often as you need to!

Katy went from light blonde to surface-of-the-sun hot pink with just oVertone.

Katy went from light blonde to surface-of-the-sun hot pink with just oVertone.

So why is oVertone better than the common "cut dye with conditioner" method?

For starters, oVertone packs a much stronger punch. Their conditioners will actually deposit much more color than a diluted dye mix. Additionally, their pigments deposit faster (imagine a three minute color processing time) and are way less messy (no mixing yourself). To top it off, they are completely non-damaging — while mixing your conditioner with dye can actually negate the effects of the conditioner, oVertone conditioners are all-healing all the time.

DSC_0867

Besides saving your hair, oVertone wants to save the world and save you some money

Besides keeping our communities bright and bold, it's important to us as business owners to give back. We use as many organic and recyclable materials as possible (both conditioners are 70% organic), and we're also working on creating our Give Back initiative, which will allow clients the option to add a dollar onto their order for one of four featured non profits.

We're also committed to showing a wide range of people on our website — racial, body, age, gender, and ability diversity are a top priority for us.

OFFBEAT DISCOUNT:
From now until September 12, 2014 Offbeat Homies can save 15% off their orders. Use promo code OFFBEAT at checkout.

overtone color conditioner for colored hair

oVertone is for everyone who loves to express themselves with their favorite color hair — for those who have been wanting to test the waters, and those who have been bold for years! Bonus points for hair-inspired Fraggle Rock videos.

Check out oVertone and get your hands on the secret weapon that will keep your hair Fraggle Rock-ing long after your last salon visit.

This business has paid a fee to be listed on Offbeat Home because they feel their products and services are in-line with our philosophies and needs … and we agree. Here's more info about how advertising works on Offbeat Home.

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  • Liora: HOT FREAKING DIGGITY. Now that's what we like to hear! So glad it worked out so nicely for … [Link]
  • Rebecca: Y'all. My bottle of oVertone in Extreme Pink came today…IT IS TOTALLY THE BEST THING EVER. I was purposely waiting to … [Link]
  • Liora: Well once you go back to bold you know where to find us, now! :) [Link]

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18 Aug 15:00

I am racist, and so are you: Recognizing and addressing racism in yourself

by Rachel Shadoan
Kristen

Very important to address this head on.

This post is aimed at white folk, because our position of privilege allows us to benefit from, rather than be oppressed by, institutional racism.

Team Racists T-shirt from Zazzle.

Team Racists T-shirt from Zazzle.

Here's the deal. Racism isn't just guys in white robes and Paula Deen shouting racial slurs. Racism is subtle, racism is insidious, and American culture is so deeply steeped in it that it's impossible to grow up in the US and not be racist.

It's a kind of brainwashing: a set of default configuration files that come with the culture. It's a filter, built up from birth, that alters our perception of the world. (Literally — racial bias makes people see weapons that aren't there.) Racism isn't just conscious actions; it's judgements that happen so fast that we may not even be aware of them. Even people who are horrified by the idea of racism see through this lens, have this default programming. Even you. Even me.

Especially me.

How do I know that I'm racist?

Once, while living alone, I heard a noise that I took to be someone attempting to break in to my house. Instead of transforming into the valkyrie I'd always imagined I'd be in such a situation, I proceeded to have the kind of reaction I usually reserve for brown recluse spiders. Which is to say, I hid and called my boyfriend to come rescue me. When he arrived, finding the only other occupant of my house to be my wildly overactive imagination, he asked me, "What were you so afraid of?"

Unbidden, the image of a tall, young black man popped into my head. I don't remember what I told him, but I doubt it was "young black men".

Several years later, I'm walking home from the train. A black man I pass tries to get my attention, and I ignore him, as is my policy when approached by male strangers. He tries to get my attention again. Heart pounding, I turn to acknowledge him. He asks me for directions to the library, which I of course give him. I walk home with adrenaline surging through my veins and shame churning in my stomach.

Several years later, I'm walking across the street. It's the middle of sunny afternoon at a busy intersection near my apartment. Three tall, broad, black men in baggy tees and baseball caps, walk past me in the opposite direction. They don't look at me, approach me, or interact with me in any way. And yet, I realized suddenly, I felt a flush of fear as they passed.

I don't know what it was about this third interaction that made me recognize my racism for what it was. Perhaps it was because I'd been reading a lot of feminist writings about race and racism. Perhaps the third time was simply the charm. Perhaps it was how utterly and completely inculpable those three guys were in my rush of fear. They hadn't even acknowledged my existence, and here I was, pulse spiking because I'd fucking walked past them.

"Hang on, though, Rachel." I can hear you now…

"Just because you're afraid of black male strangers doesn't mean you're racist. Have you considered that your fear of black men is justified?"

Why yes, I have considered that. It would be awfully convenient, after all. But according to the Criminal Victimization Tables released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics [pdf], white people, who comprise 72% of the population of the US, commit 69% of the violent crime against white people, whereas black people, who comprise 13% of the population, commit 13% of the violent crime against white people. Not only does this mean that I am much more likely to be victimized by a white person than a black person, it also suggests that violent offenders who victimize white people are uniformly distributed across races. So, given this knowledge, why am I not more afraid of white men? Why is it that my brain conjures images of black men to embody my fears?

Upon recognizing my fear for what it was — racism — all I could think was, "Oh my god, Rachel, how fucking cliche is that? You're the lily white blonde girl, afraid of black men. What, were you born on the set of King Kong?"

No, I was born in America. American media and mythos have been peddling the idea of violent and aggressive black people since the beginning of their enslavement at our hands hundreds of years ago; the fear we feel is a tool that has been leveraged to oppress, profit from, and destroy black bodies. The fear persists. Duncan (1976, PDF here) found that when performing the exact same action, black men are perceived as more violent than white men. Sagar and Schofield (1980, Google cache of PDF here) found that both white and black sixth graders rate actions as more mean and threatening when the person taking the action is black. Madriz (1997, PDF here) found that women of a variety of socio-economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds had similar perceptions of criminals — they feared victimization by black and latino men. The research goes on and on — Americans are afraid of black people, especially black men. [Ed. note: these tweets on the topic of White Fear are well worth reading.] This fear, the legacy of hundreds of years of subjugation and racism, is part of our cultural heritage just like hot dogs and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

However, unlike Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this fear kills people.

Mike Brown. Renisha McBride. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. These are only a handful of the hundreds of people killed each year because of white people's fear. Because of fear like mine. Because of racism like mine.

The media will tell you that those people asked for it. They weren't properly respectful. They were thugs or drunks or in some way unacceptable (as though that gives us license to murder them?!). We must recognize that as bullshit. They're soothing, irrelevant, lies that we white people tell ourselves to avoid naming our fears for what they are — racism. We would rather slander the dead than admit to ourselves that our irrational fears are rooted deeply in this country's history of enslaving, oppressing, and murdering black people. It is easier to cling to any justification of our fear, even the flimsiest, most transparent justifications, than it is to probe how our own fears contributed to their murder.

We cannot continue to take the easy way out. This cannot be allowed to continue. People are dying, because white people have not stepped up to the plate and addressed the racism that has wormed its tendrils through our souls.

It is our turn at bat.

"I dunno, Rach. Maybe you're racist, but I'm certainly not."

"I'm not afraid of black men, for instance."

Maybe you aren't afraid of black men, but that example is only the most relevant and easily described way in which I have found my racism to manifest. There are a myriad of other areas in which our racism colors our perception, all requiring hard thinking and serious mindfulness to identify. Mine was so subtle it took years to even notice it.

So are you really sure you harbor no racism? How much time have you spent thinking about and examining your possible biases? How much do you listen to and learn about the experiences of black people from black people themselves? How often do you read about racism and structural inequality? Just how sure are you that you have somehow, miraculously, been able to avoid soaking up the racism that American culture is swimming in?

Look, I'm not here to condemn you. Condemning you, after all, would condemn me as well. I'm here to tell you that it's not us against the racists. We're not fighting a battle with the Paula Deens of the world. If only it were that simple, that cut and dried. The battle is instead us against racism, and that racism resides in each of us. This war begins within.

On the bright side, that means we have the home court advantage. How do we get started, though?

First, we read. Hundreds of people, brighter and more well-studied than I am, have been writing about these things for years. For longer than I've been alive. I'll put a bunch of links at the bottom of this post to give you a good place to start.

Second, we must interrogate our discomfort. Reading will be hard. You will learn things you do not want to know. You will read things that make you want to lash out in your own defense, to shout, "Not all white people! Certainly not me!" Don't shout that. Especially don't shout that at a black person who is telling you about their lived experiences. If you absolutely cannot restrain yourself, and you must proclaim your innocence to someone, you can send me an email. I will say comforting and soothing things about how this is a necessary step on your journey to getting a passing grade in Decent Human Being, and how I expect you to suck it the hell up because as I said earlier PEOPLE ARE DYING and that's more important than either your feelings or mine. This is going to be uncomfortable. It will make you feel sick to your stomach. It will make your heart ache. It will make your scalp tingle and your blood pound in your ears and you will want so desperately to stop and go back to the time when you existed, oblivious, in a blissful bubble of white privilege and YOU MUST KEEP GOING ANYWAY. Your temporary discomfort is a small price when weighed against the lives of millions of people. Sit with your discomfort. Befriend your discomfort. Let your discomfort guide you — where there is discomfort, there is likely unexamined bias. When you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why. "Why does that make me uncomfortable? What is it about that that makes me feel this way? What are the beliefs that I hold that are conflicting with what I am reading?" You will survive your discomfort — black children do not survive being gunned down by cops.

Third, we must cultivate a perspective of belief. As I said, racism is a filter through which we view everything, whether we want to or not. It's like being born wearing tinted glasses — certain colors are filtered out of our perception. The filter of our racism creates makes it very difficult to see the racism at first. We must be trained to see it by the people who experience it more directly. So as you're reading, and making friends with your discomfort, remember: if someone tells you that some event is because of racism, believe them. It may be a long time before you're able to see racism with clarity. Until that point, it is an entirely reasonable default position to believe the people who have been observing it longer. You are not objective in this regard; you must proactively correct for your own cognitive bias.

Fourth, we must be gentle with ourselves. We accomplish nothing by doing more violence to our pysches than our system has already done. You and I are not bad people because our position of privilege allows us to benefit from, rather than be oppressed by, institutional racism. We are just people, products of a racist culture that we didn't choose but got stuck with anyway. It is, however, our responsibility, our ethical obligation, to address our own racism. We cannot change a racist system — a system that oppresses and brutalizes black people and other people of color — without first changing ourselves.

Finally, we must realize that the battle with our racism will never be over. You don't just wake up one morning and say, "I guess I'm done being racist!" Over time, we'll improve, of course. We'll succeed in building new mental pathways that overwrite parts of our racist programming. But we will struggle. We will grapple with pernicious racist beliefs so ingrained that our minds have carved canyons down those planes of thought. It will frustrate us, how quickly our brains find the racist answer, like marbles rolling to a low spot in the floor. And when we succeed in levelling that floor, we'll find new pockets of racism that we didn't even know existed. We will never win — but we must press on in the struggle.

I know you can do this.

I know we can do this.

I know we can do this, because we must do this.


Articles to Read:

Publications to Read:

Books to Read:

Scholarly Research:

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13 Aug 18:00

In Which I Endorse an Online Community Other Than Our Own

by Nicole Cliffe
Kristen

Nice to read about more places where people tell other people (especially women!) not to take shit from people.

144
As a Person With Child[ren] who is, for some reason, often the only person with child[ren] you know, I am frequently asked “are there sites/forums for moms or soon-to-be moms that aren’t total garbage?” “No,” I usually say. “They are all garbage.”

(Sidebar: there are many, many wonderful writers who are moms who write about being moms, and conversations about parenting are valid and deserve space in the public discourse, share your favourites in the comments! I just find that sites occupied by many writers devoted ENTIRELY to talking about parenting are almost always garbage, and parenting/pregnancy forums are hellscapes devoted to metaphorical-dick-measuring and the dissemination of medically-unsound information.)

I will not, today, talk about the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the Mothering.com forums. I am here to praise a good place, not to bury a bad one. I’ll be back for you, though, Mothering.com. Watch yourself.

I am here to talk about the DWIL Nation forum, on Babycenter. Because it’s great.

*

What’s DWIL? DWIL is an acronym for “Dealing With the Inlaws,” often extended to “Dealing With the Inlaws and Family of Origin.” DWIL is an oasis of REAL TALK in a sea of generic Babycenter forums about generic baby-related stuff. DWIL is where the women on your birth board (your birth board is the month you are due, so, for example, I am linked to Oct. 2011 and Dec. 2014 and will be forever) send you when you post about a real clusterfuck going down with your mother-in-law, who was a total angel until you had a baby but now she’s a FREAK, and they think it’s time to escalate.

(Sidebar 2: I don’t even HAVE a mother-in-law. She’s dead. I understand that she was a lovely person. My other in-laws are delights, except for [REDACTED WHO DOESN'T EVEN INTERNET.] I just enjoy reading about other people’s drama while trying to nurse or while reclining on a divan, and I’m guessing you do too.)

It is a forum with strict guidelines and warnings for posters. It is not for wusses. Your post WILL be automatically cut-and-pasted in case you get offended by REAL TALK and decide to delete it. It is an ADVICE BOARD. “Not a vent board,” as they say. This is because you’ll get newbies who show up, describe a situation they are just whining about and have no interest in fixing, and then say “I was just venting, I don’t need advice” when people are all “girl, you need to shut this down and take control of your business.” TAKE IT ELSEWHERE. These women are here to TELL YOU WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR SITUATION.

Why Is DWIL the Best? 

1. Well, first of all, and let’s put this out here right away: people have horrible relatives who do nutty shit, and it’s super-fun to read about it. I’ve seen people with mother-in-laws who ordered lactation drugs from Canada so they could breastfeed their grandchildren. I’ve seen people with fathers-in-law who get deeply offended they are not welcome in the birthing suite and burst into floods of manipulative tears. I’ve seen baptism tantrums and lawn tantrums and stolen Thanksgiving leftovers and demands to name your kid after a dead relative you hated and unwanted, unexpected wheelchair ramps being installed on the side of your house and all manner of fuckery. And seriously un-funny shit too, (not that these other things aren’t serious), but stuff like “my husband was abused by his parents and now they don’t understand why we don’t let them babysit.” And there are people dealing with people who are clearly mentally ill, and need real help establishing boundaries and disconnecting from situations that are deeply toxic for them and their kids. You’re going to hear “crazy” and “psychotic” tossed around a lot, this is not a forum that is deeply steeped in awareness about ableism, so we’re clear. Know where you’re headed!

2. The advice is good. Oh, don’t get me wrong. You often have to tone it down for reality. The women on here have dealt with such dysfunction and disrespect that they have hair-trigger settings for going nuclear, and, as a Canadian, I would literally never be able to pull off half this badassery. But what I LOVE is the message of self-respect and empowerment that shows up.

“Your husband is allowing them to treat you like garbage. Tell him to get off his mom’s fucking tit and back you up.”

“Say ‘that won’t work for me.’ Say it again. If they keep ignoring you, get your Tupperware of pasta salad, pack your kids, and go home.”

Something I’ve picked up, personally (I think it comes out of Al-Anon, but has really taken root at DWIL) is the acronym JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain) as in “you need to stop JADEing with this lady and just say ‘no.’” You can use that in your LIFE. You don’t need to JADE if it’s your own damn business.

It’s…pretty feminist, really! And the RADICAL notion that you don’t have to take shit from people just because they’re related to you knocks a lot of women on their asses. The women of this board will tell you if you’re the problem. Sometimes it’s you, after all. “We live with my husband’s parents so I can afford to stay home with the kids and they are always up in our business.” I BET THEY ARE.

Fix it. Read this book. Get a better therapist. Block that person from Facebook. Leave. Ask for what you want, demand what you need. You’re the mom. We’ve been there. I live in Tulsa, I can help you. 

3. It’s a wildly diverse group of women (and some dudes, to be fair.) Ethnically, culturally, religious-y, it’s a QUILT of women who have people trying to FUCK UP THEIR SHIT, and they have radically different notions of good parenting. And that turns out not to matter a whole bunch at all. I’ve seen moms who want their in-laws to stop trying to get them to circ their sons backed up by moms who would NEVER consider not circ’ing, because NO ONE IS THERE TO DEBATE YOUR CHOICES, they are there to help you stand up for your rights as a parent to make those choices. Your kid, your rules.

Do you worry that sharing DWIL is going to ruin DWIL?

No, I don’t really think that boundary-stomping inlaws read The Toast, honestly. And it’s a public forum, it’s out there in the world. But don’t prove me wrong, kids.

Read more In Which I Endorse an Online Community Other Than Our Own at The Toast.

07 Aug 14:00

Women Who Are Not Having A Great Time In Western Art History

by Mallory Ortberg
Kristen

Basically the best thing I have seen in forever.

nogon4

you ok?
what?
idk
you’re lying down and you look mad
no im having a great time babe
do you want to go home or something
why would i want to go home
when im having such a great time here
watching you talk to your friends
and watching you drink with your friends
and watching you have a great time with all of your friends that i dont know

nogon17

christ
you can be such an asshole sometimes

nogon1

ahhhh i dont think i should
oh my god just tell us or don’t
jesus
don’t make us beg you to tell us the story

nogon2

no don’t stop now
we’re both so fascinated

nogon5

fine well okay
i’m tired too
i get tired too, okay?
so maybe fucking i’ll just lay down on this marble too, see how you like that
maybe you should carry me home, because i’m more tired than you
there’s more of me to get tired, so i’m more tired than you are, so i’m going to sleep now

nogon5

honestly there is like
not a great way to say this
but i sort of figured that more of you were going to die in childhood
or like
in childbirth or something
like you would die while i was in childbirth
nothing personal i just didnt think there were still going to be so many of you here at this point in my life

nogon6

hooray
no definitely
definitely keep all trying to grab me and get my attention at the same time
yeah just whisper all at once, i’ll figure out what you’re saying afterwards

nogon9

i don’t like you

nogon10

do we really all have to be here for this
oh good question
i don’t know
what’s the only checkers rule that we have in this house
dad
please
WHAT’S THE ONLY CHECKERS RULE THAT WE HAVE IN THIS HOUSE
the checkers rule is that we all have t–
THE ONLY CHECKERS RULE IS THAT WHEN I WANT TO PLAY CHECKERS EVERYBODY PLAYS CHECKERS

nogon11

are you up
what
get up
yes
im already up
no you’re not
yes i am
im not like
leaping around
but im still up
okay well
get up
okay well
i fucking am up, so

nogon12

no get up though

nogon14

wake uppp
im awake
i was already awake

nogon16

i cannot pretend to listen to all of you right now
so one of you is going to have to decide if they actually have something important to say
and the rest of you will just have to GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF MY NECK

nogon15

ugh
yes
im cominnng
im getting up
im basically already up

Read more Women Who Are Not Having A Great Time In Western Art History at The Toast.

12 Aug 16:30

Making Photo Books with Blurb

by Meg Keene
Kristen

Just in case you need to print your digital photos...

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical WeddingMaking Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

By nature, I’m something of an archivist. When I was little, I would spend hours in our garage, going through old family pictures. I wanted to know what life was like, back when my grandmother was a little girl. When I got older, I made albums. My high school albums are a sight to see (and boy am I glad I went all out with them). They have the sticky pages, and are adorned with little notes written in marker, cut out of printer paper. After college my album making trailed off, and didn’t pick up again till we could afford a nice camera and started doing some serious travel after we got married. The decade I stopped making albums was, not unrelatedly, the decade that everything went digital. Those years were recorded in the new novelty album of social networks. My photos were posted to Friendster or MySpace or Flickr, and were then left there, as the Internet world migrated on.

In the last trimester of my pregnancy, I developed a very particular form of nesting. Convinced I’d never have time to do a project ever again (false, by the way), I realized that now was the time to print and organize the pictures of David’s and my first eight years of couple-hood, along with other random photos of my early twenties. Surely, someday my unborn child would want to know what his parents looked like in their twenties! So I set out to track down those digital pictures, and print them. It was good I was already on medically related maternity leave and had time to kill, because collecting those photos was a full time job, and nearly drove me around the bend. It turned out that a lot of those files I’d saved to digital albums were only saved as low-resolution files, and without the originals, the best I could get was a small pixelated snapshot. Other files were corrupt, or had been lost on tiny flash drives in one cardboard box or another. And still other photos had been taken on the first cell phone cameras, and I had no way to pull the (teeny tiny) photos off those dead phones. I finally pulled together an album, but my memories from the first age of digital will forever be pixelated and incomplete.

I vowed to do better.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

When Blurb offered us a chance to play with their services and create some photo albums, I jumped at it. I made four photo books, in an array of sizes and styles. One was of our wedding photos, one was my maternity and newborn sessions with (the amazing) Christina Richards, one was a family session we’d done with (the awesome) Jamie Street Photography (also of Rad + In Love), and one was simply my cell phone pictures. Here is what I learned.

1. Blurb’s software is… just better. Because I now have a goal of documenting, I’ve made photo books on a few different platforms in the past year. I normally get sucked into any place that promotes beautiful and minimal designs (which is a little silly, since obviously you can use just about any book-designing software to create something minimal; it’s maximal that’s hard). I’d come to terms with the fact that book building software was all terrible and clunky, and I had to just deal with it. Not so. (Whoopsy, hours of my life that are now gone.) Turns out you can use Blurb’s software to do just about anything you want (including beautiful and minimal, if that’s your jam), and the platform is the real deal.

Blurb offers a few different book-designing programs. The two geared towards non-pros are Bookify (their online platform) and Booksmart (a program that you download and use offline). I used Bookify for all of my books because I was aiming for the simplest possible way to do things. I wasn’t looking for fancy layouts (or even text), and I wanted to move fast so I could design a lot of books. Even though Bookify is, in theory, the most stripped down of their programs, it was everything I needed. In other programs I’ve used, you can’t re-arrange pages, add pages, or even change the style of the book you’re working on. That means if you realize you’ve made an error on page 30 of a 150-page book, you’re going to be fixing it for 120 pages (cough, Meg, cough). With Blurb, you can rearrange every page, you can change colors and styles, you can make copies of your book and create multiple edits. Blurb offers platforms that work for super amateurs (me), to professionals, and all of their tools are serious business.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

2. Blurb’s Print And Paper Quality were shockingly good. Let’s rewind to the fact that I’ve made books with a lot of Blurb’s competitors in recent years. In doing this, I’d decided that affordably printed books were just always going to have sub-optimal photo quality. The two problems I’d encountered were really cheap paper (like, you touched it and it bent a little. So much for fifty years from now), and color that was just off. (When my baby was born he was pink, not slightly grey, but thank you for playing.) Because Blurb gave me the chance to make more than one book, I made sure to try out lots of kinds of paper, and lots of book and cover styles. I have a few things to report:

  • If you want to keep your book a long time, splurging on good paper is worth it. (Note: when I made a wedding album for my parents, I didn’t splurge on paper, because it wasn’t meant to last fifty years.) I loved both the matte and glossy high quality paper options. When I used the matte paper in a large book, with full bleed photos, it created an art book effect that I loved. When I used the glossy photo paper, I got a more photographic feel.
  • The different book sizes work well for different things. I used the larger sized books for things that felt momentous—wedding photos, newborn photos. I used smaller sized books for family photo sessions, and the smallest books for Instagram photos. The variation in size gave a nice variation in sense of importance, which I liked.
  • The huge books with tons of photos are shockingly affordable, and stunning. The wedding album I made cost $192. I was shocked by how good the quality was… and how big the book was. Years ago we made an expensive wedding album in a coffee table book style. The one problem is we’ll never put it on the coffee table, because replacing it would cost more than a grand. This book, on the other hand looks like a massive and beautiful coffee table tome, and is going to go exactly there (as soon as the toddler stops hurling everything he sees to the floor). At $192, I can risk a wine stain or two, in the service of perpetual enjoyment.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

3. We take photos all day, and do nothing with them. I recently saw an article about a comparison of surveillance video that a restaurant did to try to figure out why the turnover time in their restaurant had jumped from an hour and five minutes to an hour and fifty-five minutes between 2004 and 2014. The not too surprising answer was cell phones. Everyone was checking their phones, and taking pictures of their food and taking more pictures of their food, and asking for their now cold food to be warmed up. Instead of, you know, eating. We’re all taking pictures of every last damn thing, and posting them to Instagram (so we can get our dopamine hit of likes) or maybe texting them to someone. And then… nothing. Since I’m pretty sure we’re not going to peruse our Instagram feeds in our old age (nor will any possible descendants) maybe we need to stop and take a moment to think about what we’re taking photos for. We should think about what we’re trying to remember. (Our… last meal?) And then, you know, maybe we should print the photos that matter.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

4. Blurb has Instagram books. And Facebook books too. It turns out, Blurb offers Instagram books, and even Facebook timeline books that you can create with a click of a button. PROBLEM SOLVED. Well, problem solved if you put all your best pictures on Instagram or Facebook, which I certainly don’t. Still, a one click Instagram book seemed like a great way to organize my cell phone chock full of baby pictures, so I wasn’t going to pass it up.

Here is what I did. First, I backed up my cell phone. Then I sorted through it to try to delete unneeded pictures. I was flabbergasted at the amount of visual garbage there was cluttering up my phone and my life. Four shots of a cup of tea I had four months ago? Great. So I deleted about a thousand photos. Then, I opened a private Instagram account, where I could upload whatever I wanted, not worry about privacy concerns, and not flood anybody’s feed. Then, in the click of a button, I uploaded those photos into a Blurb book, and had them auto populate the pages. It’s almost embarrassing how much better it feels knowing that all those little moments will be in print. I feel like my shoulders can relax a little bit, and I don’t have to have that niggling worry in the back of my head. I didn’t want my baby’s childhood to be eaten by our obsession with digital, and now it won’t be. (And I’m going to keep using that private account to make more books.)

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

5. It’s never too late to make a wedding album. As I mentioned, a few years ago, I made an expensive archival wedding album. I’m really glad I did, but I remember the process as being painstaking, not even a little bit fun. If I was paying a four-figure amount for this album, you better believe it was going to be perfect. I spent months picking the very best pictures of the wedding, and then laying them out thoughtfully. It’s a really nice album, but I never want to have to spend the time making an album like that again (and hopefully I won’t have to).

Because our five-year anniversary was this weekend, I decided that I wanted to make a Blurb album of all of our wedding outtakes. My goal with this album was the opposite of my goal with the first album. Instead of creating an official record, where every family member was represented equally, and only the very best photos were used, this time I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to look at all of the photos I’d forgotten were taken. I wanted to put as many photos into the album as I wanted. Last time I kept reminding myself, “No one wants to see hundreds and hundreds of pictures of your wedding day.” This time, my motto was IDGAF. I was making this book for David and myself, and I didn’t care how many photos were in it, or if the family portraits made it in at all. I wasn’t planning to show this off to every family member, or the world. This was just a cool way to remember our wedding, five years later.

Guess what? The album is the most fun ever. Of course, right? It turns out those photos that weren’t artistically flawless or significant seeming, captured moments and emotions I’d forgotten. Being freed from the expense of creating something important and archival let me remember what it felt like to get married, and why we did it. Highly recommended.

Plus, only five years later, some of those wedding photos stored on my computer have been corrupted. While I’m sure they’re not too far-gone to save, let this be a reminder to you that digital files are not forever.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

6. Everyday matters. The world tells us that our wedding is The Big Day, and everything that comes after is just an after thought. The world is obviously bonkers. But even knowing that, we painstakingly document our wedding… and then forget to even print photos of our everyday. Putting together these albums, I was reminded that our wedding pictures (even the outtakes… particularly the outtakes) captured how I felt in a fleeting moment. And in the same way, pictures of our everyday capture moments I want to hold on to forever. I want to remember what it was like to be heavily pregnant, or to have a tiny newborn, or to have a chubby nine month old, or to wear cool shoes at a huge work conference. And I want people in the future (my kids, my grandkids, honorary god children, who even knows…) to be able to get a sense of what my life was like. Not through Instagram, but through paper. I’m glad I have Blurb books to stack on my shelf, to contain my everyday moments.

Making Photo Books with Blurb | A Practical Wedding

This post was sponsored by Blurb. APWers get 20% off your Blurb order when you use the code PRACTICAL at checkout!* Thanks BLURB for helping make the APW mission possible!

*Offer valid through September 15, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). Valid for first time customers purchasing printed books only. No minimum purchase required. 20% discount is applied toward your product total with a maximum discount of $75 off. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

The post Making Photo Books with Blurb appeared first on A Practical Wedding: Blog Ideas for the Modern Wedding, Plus Marriage.

22 Jul 15:00

How I learned to care less about my family and more about myself

by Amy Stewart

Sometimes caring about yourself means taking time for banana smoothies. (Photo is not the author. By: essieCC BY 2.0)

My morning routine is very much the same every morning, which becomes aggravating at times because I'm the only person awake to do it. I'm typically up at 5 AM, when I proceed to feed all of the animals, take the dogs out for a walk, shower, pack my daughter's lunch, wake her up, make her breakfast, and maybe finish a couple of smaller tasks that didn't get completed the night before, like putting away folded laundry or cleaning the smelly litter boxes. I do this every morning, weekends included.

If you noticed, nothing in that routine was about me with the exception of un-stinking myself — but that's really for the pleasure of other people, as I consider showers to be a real waste of time on most days. My morning routine revolves entirely around my family. Most days I don't bother eating breakfast, or making lunch for myself to take to work, because I am too focused on taking care of everyone else.

While putting everyone before me can be considered a commendable trait, there is a part of me that realizes that there is a real issue with never allowing myself the opportunity to be important.

I almost start to develop a bit of a resentment towards my family. Why does he get to sit on the internet for hours at a time? Why does she get to play on her DS and I can't? It's obviously not their faults, they do their best. But they are lucky in that there is a balance for them between caring for themselves and caring for others, and they are awesome because they can both do it flawlessly and without any effort. I, on the other hand, cannot.

This was brought very vividly to the surface a few months ago when I decided to commit to shaving off some extra weight. I decided to try going mostly raw to boost my health. What kept me from taking the plunge, however, was the sheer amount of time that would be involved every morning making food. I'd have to make smoothies for myself, and pack my lunches. I'd have to commit to working out every day. How the hell was I going to have the time to do all of this, when I barely had the time to take care of all that other crap in my day?

This was when I realized that I had a problem far bigger than the 20 pounds I wanted to shake off. When had I become the lowest common denominator in my own life? Where had the switch occurred?

Here I was, wanting to get healthy, but feeling as though I wouldn't have the time to do it. The time, of course, being the five minutes it would take to throw some ice and bananas in a blender in the morning and maybe 30 minutes total in exercise time. It seemed unbalanced to me that litter boxes and dishes and dog food had suddenly become more important than my own health and happiness. I needed to restore balance, and the only way that I could do that was if I started caring less about my family and more about myself.

It may sound terrible and selfish, but it's the only way that my experience could be explained. I needed to learn that my health and happiness didn't necessarily have to come first, but it had to come to a very close second in the grand scheme of things. I had to be selfish for just a moment and remind myself that I am important, that I am worth the time spent trying to make myself happy. I needed to learn to stop feeling guilty if I was sort of happy that my kid wanted to spend the entire evening outside with her friends. I needed to learn to ask for help, because as I said, my family is awesome, and they will almost always be happy to stop doing what they are doing for a moment to do something that I politely asked them to do.

About a month ago, I woke up at my usual time and reminded myself that I was worth it. I fed the animals and made a big banana smoothie for breakfast. I then took the dogs for a 45 minute walk, getting in my exercise while doing something that I had to do anyway. I came home, showered, packed my lunch, and woke my daughter up. When I told her she'd be packing her own lunches from this point forward, she was actually pretty happy about it. I texted the hubs when he woke up and asked if he would do the dishes from the night before. The litter boxes could wait until I got home. My daughter's bed time went from 9PM to 8PM, because I need a little downtime at night and an early bedtime. And between 8PM and when I went to bed at 10, I started working on a novel I hadn't touched in months and mindlessly surfed the internet.

I felt great. And I realized that caring more about myself didn't implode the house, or kill my family, or send swarms of locusts through the neighborhood. It felt pretty damn good to consider myself important again.

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21 Jul 22:25

Women Who are Ambivalent about Women Against Women Against Feminism

by thebloggess
Kristen

So many way to love The Bloggess.

So...yeah.  Right now there’s a lot of talk about a tumblr called WomenAgainstFeminism.  It’s just pictures of some women holding up handwritten signs entitled “I don’t need feminism because...”  Some of the reasons they give for not needing feminism almost seem like a parody (“How the fuck am I suppose to open jars and lift heavy things without my husband?”) and some (“I don’t need to grow out my body hair to prove I’m equal to men”) just make me wonder where in the world they got their definition of feminism.

At first I considered starting my own “I Don’t Need _____ Because” tumblr with people holding equally baffling signs.  Signs like:

I don’t need books because YOU KNOW WHO WROTE BOOKS?  HITLER.  HITLER WROTE A BOOK.  NO THANK YOU, NAZIS.

I don’t need money BECAUSE I HAVE A CHECKBOOK, ASSHOLE.

I don’t need air because LOTS OF IT IS FARTS.  I’M NOT BREATHING FARTS.  YOU BREATHE FARTS.

But then I remembered that I’m too lazy to make a tumblr and that this whole thing was a bit ridiculous. Here’s the thing:  Do you think men and women should have equal rights politically, socially and economically?  Then you’re probably a feminist.  There are a million tiny aspects of this to break off into and I get it.  It’s complicated.  There’s not just one type of feminist, just as there’s not just one type of Christian or Muslim, or man or woman.  Hell, there’s not even just one type of shark.  Some are non-threatening and friendly.  Some get sucked up into tornadoes and viciously chew off people’s faces until that guy from 90210 stops the weather with bombs.  (Spoiler alert.)    The point is that sharks, much like feminists, are awesome, and beneficial, and the world would be a worse place without them.  Plus, they’re incredibly entertaining and even if you sometimes think they’re dicks for eating cute seals you still yell “HOLYSHITLOOKATTHAT!” when Shark Week comes on.  I think this is a bad analogy.  Lemme try again.

Feminists are like bees.  They are adorable and fuzzy but people run away from them because they don’t understand that they just want to make things good.  We’d be fucked without bees.  Seriously.  And yes, some bees are assholes and maybe one killed your great-uncle and there are some that you give the side-eye to when they start acting crazy but eventually you realize that you have to take the good bees with the bad bees and maybe just be picky about what honey you choose to eat.  Eat the raw honey, by the way.  It’s way healthier.  That last part isn’t part of the analogy.  It’s just good advice from my great-grandfather (beekeeper).  Also, like bees, feminists secrete a non-edible wax and are easily distracted by smoke.

I’ve lost my point.

Wait, no.  I’ve got it again.

Feminism is inherently good.  It’s not even close to perfect and still needs lots of work and sometimes it gets all fucked up and backward and awful but that doesn’t mean it’s not still worth fighting for.  Now go back and replace “Feminism” with “The human race”.  It works, right?.  That’s because feminists are made of human.  Men and women.  In fact, one of my favorite feminists is Sir Patrick Stewart.

Patrick Stewart, feminist. His mother made 3 pounds 10 shillings for working a forty hour week in a weaving shed. She was also an abuse victim and he’s an anti-domestic violence advocate.

Patrick Stewart, feminist. His mother made 3 pounds 10 shillings for working a forty hour week in a weaving shed. She was also an abuse victim and he’s an anti-domestic violence advocate.  More at the bottom.

I’m not saying you can’t choose to not be a feminist but know what you’re choosing.  Don’t make a decision about a group based on the most radical beliefs of a group.  Don’t get defensive if you get deeper and are exposed to difficult ideas about intersectionality and race and gender and colonialism and patriarchy and male liberation.  Just listen.  Some of it will make sense.  Some of it won’t.  Some of it will later when you’re a different person.  Some of it you’ll change your mind about throughout your life and the world will change too.  Some of it is bullshit.  Some of it is truth.  All of it is worth listening to.

And now you get to decide.  Are you a feminist?  Yes?  No?  Well, don’t worry because tomorrow you get to choose again.  And that keeps happening every day for the rest of your life.

As for me, I am a feminist (among so, so many other things).  I believe in equality and I think we still have work to do.  I’m thankful to the men and women who worked to give me the freedom and rights I have today and I am proud to be a part of a movement that I hope will make the world better and safer for my daughter (and for the men and women she’ll share that world with).  I’m happy we’ve come so far and I’m glad that we’re becoming more aware of feminist issues that don’t just focus on straight, white women, even though confronting those issues is sometimes painful. And I’m happy that the womenagainstfeminism tumblr exists.  Because even though I disagree with most of them I’m glad that those women have a platform on which to speak, and also because if we know what the arguments or misperceptions are against feminism then we can better address them.  Or agree with them.  Or ignore them.  Or discuss them with our sons and daughters so they can make informed decisions for themselves.  It’s up to you.

We’re all equally deserving to express our opinion.  After all, that’s what feminism is all about.*

*Or maybe not.  I got kinda confused after the shark analogy went sideways.

08 Jul 15:00

Making babies the lesbian way, and why it might be good for your straight marriage baby-making

by Kristin Ireland
Kristen

Interesting....

I am not a doctor, midwife, or in any way trained on matters of fertility whatsoever. So please don't take anything you read here as definitive. Check out the book mentioned below, and talk to your own health care providers.

First things first, I should be very clear that lesbians (and trans men) get pregnant in a variety of ways. They might have sex with someone who has sperm or use anonymous/known donor sperm via a sperm donor clinic. They might use fertility treatments, including but not limited to IVF. And that's not even touching on the options of surrogacy, and adoption, and children created in prior relationships. Others, like me, use a known donor to donate fresh sperm and do at home inseminations. But "Making babies (one of the) lesbian way(s)" is sort of a weird title for a post.

So, anyway, where am I going with this? I have a friend. I'm going to call her Khaleesi because I just read that there are now more babies named Khaleesi than Betsy or Nadine in the US  and that totally blows my mind. But that's not her real name. She doesn't want her sex life broadcasted on the internet. I know, weird right?

So, a little while ago, Khaleesi sends me a message asking for specific details regarding our artichoke jar inseminations. This throws me off-guard as I know that she is happily married to a cisgender man. But sometimes people send me messages asking for information for their sister, coworker, hairdresser's cousin's BFF, etc. So I give her my standard reply with a few specifics and point her to The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth, which was basically my bible during my trying to conceive process.

A few days later she sends me a long response thanking me for the information and tells me that she and her husband have been trying to get pregnant, without success, for 10 months now. They have two more months to try to conceive "naturally" before their doctor will give them a referral to a fertility clinic. And in the meantime their marriage is really suffering. Sex has become a chore and they are both frustrated, grumpy, and on-edge.

Khaleesi is taking her temperature each morning in an attempt to predict her most fertile period. This is called charting your basal body temperature and it's awesome for seeing patterns overtime to predict when one is going to ovulate (in addition to identifying some cycle issues that may be impairing fertility). But, in general, it tells you when you have ovulated rather than when you are about to ovulate so there is still some guess work to be done. And Khaleesi and Khal Drogo (also not his name but, hey, I figured I'd go with the Game of Thrones theme) are sick of the guessing game. Khal Drogo is really frustrated with the scheduled sex-on-demand that their attempts at baby-making are producing. And both of them were longing for the days when sex was spontaneous and fun.

To make matters worse, their work schedules don't line-up. She often gets home from work when he is sleeping and sometimes he needs to leave for work before she is awake. So, not only are they having sex that neither of them is enjoying, at least one of them is missing precious sleep to do it.

Enter: making babies the lesbian way.

After my detailed explanation of how to insert "donated" sperm, Khaleesi and Khal Drogo now have a system in place that is working much better for both of them.  During their fertile window Khal Drogo gently nudges Khaleesi awake, and hands her a jar of fresh sperm and then heads out to work. She inseminates herself and then falls easily back to sleep.

"This is seriously life changing." She admitted to me recently. "We do this really wacky thing now where we have sex WHEN WE FEEL LIKE IT and it feels like so much pressure has been lifted off of our shoulders. There's no more fake moaning to try and speed him up so that I can get back to sleep before I'm totally awake. Lesbians have the best ideas. God, make sure you change my name if you write about this."

Of course, I am not saying that using this method of insemination is going to increase a straight couple's chances of getting pregnant. But if you are frustrated with your current attempts, and open to trying something new, this might help to take a bit of the pressure off. The general understanding is that inseminations done with fresh donor sperm are about as likely to result in pregnancy as heterosexual intercourse.

Curious about how to do it yourself? Keep reading….

What you will need (other than your bodies):

  • A jar, bowl, or something with a lid to catch the sperm
  • A needle-less syringe (most jokes about lesbian conception involve a turkey baster but a needle-less syringe is actually easier to use). The best size to use is 3-cc or 5-cc.

What to do:
Make sure the jar you are using is clean and dry. Encourage your partner to take his time producing the sperm. The more turned on he is the greater the volume of ejaculation will be. Decide how you want to do the hand-off. Is it less awkward if he leaves it on the counter for you? There's no right or wrong way as long as the sperm stays warm. Some people also think that sperm can be a bit sensitive to air and light so tell him to put the lid on the jar and dim the lights when he is done. When we did our inseminations, Tracy took the jar of sperm from Andy and then kept it warm in her sports bra until we were ready to inseminate.

I haven't been able to find a definitive amount of time that fresh sperm is "good" for. In The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth, Stephanie Brill suggests one hour (p.288) but other sources have said thirty minutes, ninety minutes, and even up to 24 hours. I am no expert so I can't give a solid answer.

Make sure the cap is off your syringe, that there is no needle in it, and that you have pushed all the air out. Put the tip of the syringe in the sperm and pull the plunger part back, so that the sperm is pulled up into the body of the syringe. Lie on your back and insert the syringe deep inside your vagina. Slowly push the plunger part so that the sperm enters your vagina. When you are done, slowly pull the syringe out. Doing this slowly will help the sperm to not fall out.

At this point you would do all the things that you would regularly do after intercourse. Some women like to lie with their hips up for twenty minutes. Others like to spend a few minutes on their back, stomach, and each side to help the sperm move around and find the cervix.

And that, my friends, is it.

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29 Jun 14:27

Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

by elodieunderglass
Kristen

So, so important. I need to read this once a week.

Image: a cheerful orange blob monster is chatting to a friend using a speech bubble containing a question mark and exclamation mark. The friend is a grumpy grey blob monster who looks away expressing grumpiness. Its speech bubble contains a grey scribble.

Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.

I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice  for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)

So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our discussion of the Low Mood Cycle. It’s a concept described in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I thought it would be useful to share.

I am not a mental health professional (more caveats on that at the end). But I felt that if these resources had been usefully presented for free on the Internet – especially during times where taking a train and a bus and a taxi to get to a day-long course seemed like organizing a picnic on Venus – it could have helped me that little bit sooner. Maybe it will help others.

 

What is this Low Mood?

Moods are curious things. We instinctively know what they are (“I’m in a bad mood! I’m in a good mood!”) and how they affect our behavior (“I should never respond to Internet comments unless I’m in a good mood.”) We recognize that we really don’t like to be in Bad Moods or Sad Moods, while much of our free time is spent in pursuing Good Moods. We know intuitively that odd things seem to affect our mood, sometimes apparently out of all proportion  - “A bus driver was mean to me, and while I know that it’s not really significant, it’s ruined my whole day.”

We can spend weeks or months or years in a poor mood, which doesn’t seem quite bad enough for us to call it a mental health problem, or a reason to seek professional help. It’s a funny thing – we don’t really trust our moods as valid emotional states – and really, something as transient and odd as a “mood” doesn’t seem like something that can be treated or cured.

But remember how terrible you feel when you’re in a Low Mood? If we’re creative people, we may explain away the apparent drought in our creativity by saying “I’m just not in the mood to write/paint/draw,” while secretly panicking because what if we’ve lost our creativity? If we’re performative people – people who work in food service, retail, performance art, or another field where you need to project happiness and serenity to do your job – then expressing a Happy Mood when you’re in a Low Mood can feel like operating the most exhausting puppet show ever. It’s really hard to “just do you” when you just don’t feel like it.

Everyone feels like this – it is a natural thing, with underlying logic to it. Here is a diagram of a Mood Cycle, a self-perpetuating hamster wheel which literally every human deals with:

Image: a drawing of a cycle demonstrating Thought, Behavior and Outcome. These three events relate to one another.

Thoughts influence behavior, which influences outcome, which in turn feeds back into your thoughts.

If you’re in a bad place, this is one way that the cycle of badness continues to percolate in your head. And we’ve all been there – we’ve all seen how Low Mood affects your health, productivity, relationships, creative output, and mental outlook. Which is to say: A good deal of your life.

Image: A worried grey blob monster is examining its thoughts, which cycle from Thought to Behavior to Outcome and feed back into Thought. It starts with the thought, "I am a bad person because I never do anything!", which results in the Behavior "So I have no motivation to do anything," which results in an Outcome of "I don't do anything."or if you’re me, it’s a bit more like

Image: Elodie's process is a cycle from "fucking hell" to "fuck this" to "fuck it," garnished with a lot of "nope."

 

If you’re in situations that encourage the Low Mood Cycle – certain types of relationships, jobs and living situations are basically designed to put you into this Cycle and keep you there – it becomes almost impossible to see beyond your current mood. It becomes hard to remember those times where you were really bright and motivated and funny, and you wanted to see your friends and go places and do new things, and you were completing all kinds of projects and doing good exercise and engaging with your life. And remembering those times can be kind of worse, because you’re like “I was that person? How?”

Image: a grumpy grey blob monster is thinking about itself when it was a happy pink blob monster.

“I can’t believe I had a pink phase. It must have looked really stupid.”

Here’s how one facet of the creative process can look when it’s fed into the Low Mood Cycle:

Untitled

Image: This cycle moves from “I never complete anything. I feel awful – I keep failing at completing stuff.” to “I won’t start any new stuff.” to “I never do anything and I never finish anything” and back again.

Which is pretty familiar to everyone. Thought feeds into Behavior which feeds into Outcome, creating a pattern that strangles your creative attempts in the womb.

 

Much Behavior! Such Motivate!

So how do we stop the Low Mood Cycle? We push on any part of it we can, but it’s quite effective to push on Behavior. Specifically, it’s called “behavioral activation” – go forth and complete a task.

If you are stuck in a small and transient Low Mood Cycle and your dirty environment is feeding into that, you break the cycle by getting up and washing the dishes. Of course you don’t want to. Of course this is the last thing you want to do when you’re in a Low Mood. But completing a specific task breaks the cycle.

Untitled3

Image: Here the thought-behavior-outcome cycle is broken at Behavior. A new arrow comes off it, leading to a new event, marked “Behavioral Activation.”

 

For extra points, you can break down the Stuff You Do into three categories:

  • routine stuff (getting up, grooming, eating, taking anti-baby pills)
  • necessary stuff (paying bills, doing chores, completing work tasks)
  • pleasurable stuff.

Image: The phrase "Behavioral Activation" with rose-colored sprinkles around it. Behavioral Activation is broken down farther into three categories: Routine stuff, necessary stuff, and pleasurable stuff. If you aren’t doing enough of one behavioral category, completing tasks in another category will prove refreshing and motivating. If you’re so bogged down in work, stress and lethargy that you’ve neglected your beauty routine, then set yourself the task of cleaning up your eyebrows.

Image: A blobby grey monster is holding a pair of tweezers and making a sexy face at them? I'm sorry, I'm so bad at writing these, this doesn't even make any sense.

because you’s worth it.

At this point in the course, the therapists who were teaching it looked at each other sadly and Mentioned The Housework. When you get home, and you’ve been drained and picked at and worked hard, and your mood is Low, and there is the Housework, the last fucking thing you want to do on this earth is the Housework, because obviously the thing you need to pick you up is Pudding. And it is not Housework Time: it is time to eat pudding. But – the therapists stressed this carefully, aware that they were blowing our minds – if you do the Housework first, then you can still eat the pudding. And it will be the Pudding of Getting Shit Done. And you’ll feel better! They promised this, while the entire room of people looked at them with deep suspicion.

Image: Some grey blob monsters in various shades are looking suspicious and slightly outraged.

“This sounds like a trap.”

 

“Motivation comes after action,” the course leaders said a few times, so that we really got it. The idea is to get yourself into a nice cycle of self-esteem and self-reinforcement, starting with small things:

 

Image: A new cycle that starts with "I'm going to do this thing." The next step is "Hurray, I have done the thing!" concluded with "I am so good at doing things," which returns to the first step.

Many people find that doing things for others cheers them up – giving a flower to a strange child, complimenting someone in the market, or making people laugh give them those good, accomplished, connected feelings.

Many people find that they already do too much stuff for others. These people may get more benefit from doing stuff for themselves – breaking a low mood induced by spending all their energy on others by practicing self-care.

Some activation tasks, which may or may not work for you:

  • Unfuck a very small portion of your habitat
  • Write the email to the loved one
  • Make the to-do list and admire it
  • SEND the email to the loved one
  • pick out the new shoes you need online and buy them
  • wash out the bowls that the pets eat from or live in
  • wash out the bowls that you eat from or live in?!
  • wash the thing you’ve been meaning to wash
  • take everything out of your Sock Collection and give all the lonely socks some sock friends and fold them up together like “heck yeah, I’m shipping these two socks. NOW KISS”
  • open the envelope that doesn’t look like a good envelope
  • argh ARGH it’s a bill why is mail
  • pAY THE BILL YES GOOD JOB
Image: A grey blob monster is holding an envelope at paw's length, staring at it with shock and horror.

YOU’RE SO GOOD AT MAIL

Then a nice thing to do might be to head over to the Friends of Captain Awkward Forum, go to the forum marked “Success Stories,” and share your winningness with the community. If you don’t want to make a whole post, the generous Rose Fox started a thread called “How Were You Awesome Today?” that would greatly benefit from your contributions! Because you are great and the things you do are great.

 

Do Only Doable Things

For 100% best effects, it’s recommended that you pick small, realistic things to do, with a starting point and an ending point, that don’t cost much money or sustained physical effort. If you decide to break out of the Low Mood Cycle with some vague and worthy goal – like “Today I will no longer be sad! I will write a novel and run five miles!” then that’s probably not going to happen, and then you’ll be more sad. If you are a person whose resting energy levels are quite low, then don’t say “I will cheer myself up by CLEANING THE WHOLE HOUSE FOREVER.” It just trips a switch back into feeling bad:

Image: A cycle that starts off with the phrase "I will do the thing." Unfortunately, it then feeds into a cycle where the next phrase is "I can't do the thing. It's too big and hard." The next step is "I didn't do the thing." The step after that is "I'm crap at doing things."

 

Here is how the brilliant, lovely and eternally helpful Quisty put it:

A useful exercise to employ can be to ask yourself, “on a scale from 1-10 where 1 is impossible and 10 is ‘it’s more automatic than breathing’ how sure am I can do this thing? Once you hit on something that scores you 8 or higher, do that.

How useful this is depends on how amenable you are to scales. Also don’t be afraid to adjust your scale if it turns out that your Low Mood has yours all fucked up. They need calibrating sometimes.

Don’t write a novel. Write 500 words of crap in your journal. Don’t renovate the house. Do a nice thing for the fish.

Image: A grey blob monster is over-enthusiastically holding up a square fish tank. The fish looks ambivalent about this. The picture is badly drawn. I'm so sorry about this. I'm so sorry about all of this.

“AND ON THIS DAY, I WILL GIVE THE FISH A WALK AND A BATH.”

The clever and compassionate Kellis also reminded me that many of us, particularly those socialized as ladyfolk, feel pressure to take on Huge Projects while pretending that it’s No Big Thing. Kellis reminds us:

when in doubt, pick a smaller thing.

Say No to People Who Contribute Fruit Flies

What if you’re pretty confident in your own self, but you find that there are certain people in your life who slap down or minimize your achievements?

If you’re in a situation where people deliberately foster and perpetuate the Low Mood Cycle on you, the solution is:

  • get the hell out
  • get the hell out
  • hi-ho-the-dairy-oh
  • get the hell out of there

And if you can’t do that because of REASONS (and of course there are REASONS, I recognize that):

  • think of some solutions
  • there are definitely some solutions
  • hi-ho-the-dairy-oh
  • get the hell out of there

Because that is a thing that abusive people do for REASONS of their own: shutting off the part of your brain that deals in motivations, solutions, action plans and goals is a great way to keep you dependent on them. The Low Mood Cycle basically flicks that reward-switch off, making you a smaller person. It’s hard to program yourself out of it. But it’s even harder if you’re trying to round up and trap and defeat and kill all of those little fruit-fly voices in your head, while your partner or your mother or your boss is moving placidly around the kitchen of your brain, planting rotten bananas.

I’m Basically Okay, It’s Just That There’s So Many Assholes

THIS IS A COMMON PROBLEM.

What about when small things – like the mean bus driver, or the microaggressions, or even a friend on the street who appears to not acknowledge you – affect your mood? Obviously there are Reasons for you to be affected by this; nobody is denying the Reasons. But how are we going to feel about that? Note, of course, that you can feel whatever feelings you like, however you want to feel them.

A good way to regain your place at the center of your personal universe is to acknowledge why this is affecting your mood, and to reason with yourself about it.

In the case of the friend apparently cutting you dead – it is a very reasonable thing in my book to assume that this is because they have always secretly hated you. This could bring you down a lot, making you irritable and occupying your thoughts for the rest of the day. It could even affect your relationship with that friend, as you begin to resent them for not noticing you. But stop. Think about it. What are some more practical reasons why your friend might not see you on the street?

  • They didn’t see you.
  • They had headphones/sunglasses on and didn’t notice you.
  • They didn’t recognize you.
  • Their thoughts were occupied with something else.
  • You know them from a specific circumstance that they don’t want acknowledged in public.
  • They are trying to avoid someone you were with.
  • They had a migraine and were trying to avoid everything.
  • It wasn’t your friend at all, just someone who resembled them.

These are much better thoughts to work with than immediately jumping to the conclusion that you are no longer friends. What are some things you could do to feel even better about it?

  • Stop and call out the name of the friend, seeing if they respond.
  • Call or text the friend – ask them if they’re all right.
  • Decide to move on.

Re-aligning your Thoughts is an important part of fixing your Mood. It’s smaller than Behavior, but sometimes harder. Your negative, self-hating, gloomily triumphant thoughts are really invested in being in your head – like weeds or viruses. To fulfill their evolutionary prerogative, they want to breed and infect most of your mental landscape. But they generally aren’t correct, and don’t come from a complete picture of reality.

Image: An illustration of the cycle again. Thought leads to Behavior leads to Outcome leads to Thought. I think I put this here because I was feeling insecure.

The key thing to remember here is that you, yourself, are indeed Basically Okay. It’s just these uncontrollable other assholes that are the problem.

If you find yourself particularly affected by anxiety about other people’s perceptions of you, one thing that may help is keeping a Folder of Excellence. Keep nice things that other people have said about you there. Keep photos of yourself that you like. Keep your love letters, and records of texts you’ve gotten from cuties, and nice things people have said about your work, and silly birthday cards from your best-beloved ones. I am frequently totally convinced that I am unlikeable, untalented, useless, and hated by all who know me; nothing silences my panic spirals like Evidence Against Them.

And if you’d like a few more nice things said about you to add to your Folder, we can arrange that too.

 

But I Can’t Because of Thing

At this point in the course, the other attendees were getting restless and needed to Explain.  They had some problems with all of this and wanted to be excused. As we were quite a diverse group, there was a great diversity of Reasons, as predictable as if they had been reading from a script. Women in real jewelry shrilled and men with dirty shirts snarled, and the woman who’d said she led a Christian choir rang out like a great bell. “I can’t do this because I’m in a wheelchair.” “I can’t do this because I have no time.” “I can’t do this because I’m too tired.” “I can’t because I’m too poor.” “And my father won’t let me leave the house.”

“Okay,” the ladies teaching the course said peaceably.

Everyone waited expectantly for the Magic Solution, for the acknowledgement of the justifications, for the big Doctor’s Note excusing them from this assignment. The ladies looked serene and wrote all the Reasons on their big flip pad.

“I mean,” said the beautiful brown lady in the sharp suit who was writing the Reasons down. “It’s not like we’re assigning you homework.”

“It’s not like you’re supposed to impress us,” said the beautiful fat white lady in the vintage tea dress, who was flipping the pages. “Or anybody else.”

“You said that we could break the Low Mood Cycle by getting a haircut!” said the lady with no hair in a tone of great betrayal. “I have no hair!

“Okay,” said the lady in the suit, as if she had stepped down from a stained glass window.

“Don’t get a haircut,” said the lady in the tea dress kindly.

The lady with no hair said “But what should I do?” She dropped her question like a stone, like a trump card, like a heavy weight, a challenge: who dared to pick her burden up again? Her need was alarming. Everyone thought Oh goodness, what am I doing here, when this lady is here who has no hair? Is it because she is dying? If she is dying, what good will any of this do? How can I come here wanting help, with my little anxieties and crying jags, and sit next to the Lady Who Has No Hair? Her pure, raw need sucked all of the noise from the little room, and people stilled and stared at one another, until the young woman whose hot-pink nails matched her hot-pink hijab and hot-pink Converse rolled her eyes and called across the room “Do your nails.”

“Oh!” said the lady with no hair, and looked at her nails with some surprise. Then she looked at the young woman’s hot pink nails, which appeared to glow, with the gleam of growing greed.

“You could play games on your computer,” said the woman with a voice like a bell.

“Oh?” said the lady with no hair doubtfully.

“They’re not like they used to be, with all that shootin, tellin boys to steal cars,” said the woman with a voice like a bell. “There are nice games now – gardenin games.”

The ladies who ran the course wrote this down too. They wrote everything down, and then stared at it lovingly, so that we stared at it too, as if it had suddenly been transmuted into truth because it was written down.

Because breaking the Low Mood Cycle? Here’s what it’s NOT about:

  • productivity
  • making money
  • being a good role model
  • impressing others
  • “improving” yourself (where the benchmarks for “improvement” are placed by society to make 99% of people feel bad)
  • acquiring skills or moods to function better in a capitalist environment
  • doing stuff to appeal to others
  • making yourself easier to be around for others

Here’s what it’s supposed to be about:

  • doing you
  • getting good at doing you
  • remembering what it feels like to be good at doing you
  • reclaiming yourself and the things that you love
  • feeling proud of yourself, not disappointed by yourself
  • recovering your mood
  • getting rid of a hollow feeling
  • recovering that lost-feeling Thing that you need and love about yourself

The Caveats

I’m not an expert. Captain Awkwarddotcom generally recommends professional therapy. This is not a cure for deep depression, or indeed for anything at all – this is just some diagrams and metaphors that explain the Low Mood Cycle, how it can sap your creativity and motivation, and how to go about ending it.

Think Yourself Happy/Cook Yourself Happy/Unfuck Your Habitat for Emotional Fulfillment suggestions are just not going to fucking cut it in a lot of situations, and that’s okay too! We’re just talking about that state that we all get into of wanting to be the Life of the Party but having only enough energy to be the Housepet of the Party.

Image: An annoyed grey blob monster with cat ears, a tail and a suspicious expression. It's basically an angry-looking bread loaf.

“I’m going to stalk dramatically through the center of the conversation and then disappear. Don’t touch me.”

 

And Then The Lights Like Stars

So long story short: none of this helped with my current habit of ragefainting during driving lessons, which was what I had originally gone to the doctor for. Knowing about the Low Mood Cycle and battling your fruit-fly thoughts can only take you so far. But here’s where it took me.

The lights shone in my face and the invisible audience behind the glare were clapping and laughing and sending back these golden sparks of we like you, we think you are a funny lady. And there was the high, that high of being imperfect, but doing okay stuff, putting it out there, seeing it well-received.

Sometimes when you do you, people like it. And you’re like yes, wait a minute, that’s true – that’s who I am. I’m not a particularly sad person. I just have sad parts.

That’s worth breaking out of any Low Mood Cycle for.

We are all grey sometimes, but under the lights, we are really bright and great – and we are inherently, wonderfully worthy.

Image: A happy-looking sun-colored blob monster that is glowing! Hurray! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

“I have perfect eyebrows, and many people like me because of my beautiful soul!”

Go forth, Awkward Army, and know that you have inherently beautiful souls that other people like an awful lot.


21 May 12:05

"COMPLIMENTS THAT AREN’T ABOUT PHYSICAL APPEARANCE 1) You’re empowering. 2) I like your voice. 3)..."

“COMPLIMENTS THAT AREN’T ABOUT PHYSICAL APPEARANCE

1) You’re empowering.
2) I like your voice.
3) You’re strong.
4) I think your ideas/beliefs matter.
5) I’m so happy you exist.
6) More people should be listening to what you have to say.
7) You’re a very warm hearted person.
8) It’s nice seeing such kindness.
9) You’re very down to earth.
10) You have a beautiful soul.
11) You inspire me to become a better person.
12) Our conversations bring me a lot of joy.
13) It’s good to see someone care so much.
14) You’re so understanding.
15) You matter a lot to me.
16) You’re important even if you don’t think so.
17) You’re intelligent.
18) Your passion is contagious.
19) Your confidence is refreshing.
20) You restore my faith in humanity.
21) You’re great at being creative.
22) You’re so talented at ____.
23) I don’t get tired of you the way I get tired of other people.
24) You have great taste in ___.
25) I’m happy I stayed alive long enough to meet you.
26) I wish more people were like you.
27) You’re so good at loving people.”

- 3:29 p.m. feel free to add to this!  (via expresswithsilence)

28) the way you articulate yourself is so refreshing
29) you have that “brighten-up-a-room” effect
30) you’re just really good to be around
31) you foster my growth
32) you’re really good at dancing!
33) i can share silence with you

(via carlosofthecosmos)
06 Jun 18:36

Notes From A Boner

by JenniferP
Kristen

So, so excellent.

I wrote this to maybe read at last night’s (EPIC!) Story Club, but the name-draw for open mic slots did not go my way. Still, I didn’t want it to go to waste. So here, without ado (and without comments enabled , b/c it’s a performance piece, not a discussion piece) you go.

Notes From A Boner

They pop up from time to time on Facebook. Time-stamp 3 AM, from an old friend I used to mess around with in college. “Hey, what’s new? I was just thinking about you.”

I bet you were, buddy!

Sometimes they show up in the film class that I teach. I play a clip from Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, to show how color temperature isn’t just a technical thing and you can manipulate it to create mood. “What did you see? What do you think?,” I ask the students.

Every time I do this, a freshman boy says something like “She’s sooooo hot” or better yet, “She used to be so hot,” referring to Jennifer Lopez, who frankly kills it in this role. The girls and gay boys don’t say anything about The Clooney, and I quickly change the topic to “What did you think ABOUT THE LIGHTING” while delivering my best over-the glasses disapproving mom look. The one that says “It is I, Queen Femicunt¹, First of her Name, Khaleesi of the Bitchrealms and the Isles of No Funnington.” I want that boner to slink away and think about what it did. But its presence still lingers. Every clip I show, I now have to think about from the point of view of a taunting, persistent boner.“You’re teaching cinema, I see. Did you know that nearly everything ever created in this medium was designed to make ME happy on some level? Muahahahahaha!

Sometimes the notes from boners get delivered on the street, or on the eL. “Smile!” “You should smile more!” “Hey baby, where’s that smile?” and if I don’t smile, or I smile like this (using two middle fingers to hold up the corners of my mouth),“Bitch!” “Fat bitch” “Ugly bitch” Here I was, walking around, grocery shopping, registering to vote, minding my business. I didn’t know I was making the boners sad. Fortunately The Committee for Boner Rescue and Repair was on the case to educate me. I imagine their letterhead, with Notes from a Boner! Stamped! at the top, ready to deliver humbling memos to grateful citizens everywhere.

Sometimes I write back back to the boners. Like, when I tried to sell my bike on Craigslist, and a guy sent me a dick pic from hisrealname@wherehereallyworks.com. Not wanting that boner to go to waste, I shared it with humanresources@wherehereallyworks.com. Boners are spontaneous. They live in the moment. They don’t always think things through.

Or, you know how sites like LinkedIn will try to get you to plug in your whole email address book when you sign up? Yeah, never do that. Because if you do, every single person you’ve ever emailed in your life will get a request to “connect” on LinkedIn. Like me, that girl you hooked up with one time six years ago. And if I get that request, I will write you recommendations. “Not a leader, but takes direction well.” “A workmanlike and thorough attention to detail.” “Extremely dedicated to his work! Goes above and beyond to close the deal!” That last one was for the guy who tried to sell me his TV the next morning while I was looking for my bra underneath it. “Do you like it? Come by Best Buy later, I can totally hook you up.

When I wrote the rec, he wrote back “Thank you!” and still displays it on his profile.

I’m thinking (hoping?) he has no memory of who I am.

Boners and I have had a pretty great relationship, at times. When I first met one in the wild, my high school boyfriend and I were pretending to watch David Lynch’s Dune. He’d just taken off my shirt AND my bra, the first time anyone had done that, and suddenly suddenly this boner, felt up gingerly through a pair of acid-washed overall jorts, was giving me a LOT of information like HELLO, YOU ARE GREAT, MAYBE THE GREATEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WHO HAS EVER LIVED LET’S STAY LIKE THIS FOREVER. It was a level of approval I was not used to. A mutual appreciation society I was happy to join.

I joined up for real in college. So many boners! So many that seemed to like…me! Some that were attached to people who also liked me (which is by far the best place to get one’s boner-supply), though figuring that out was pretty confusing for a while. Like, clearly your boner likes me more than it has ever liked anyone, how is that not translating into true and lasting love? Maybe if we just try that again it will work and you will become addicted to me, Jennifer, the human, and we can also talk about books and go to museums and fall asleep together holding hands? No? Maybe again? Once more time? Let’s check, just to be sure. The dick is not directly connected to the heart, you say? Okay. I get it. Are you really, REALLY sure, though?

Or sometimes the opposite could be true: We could like alllllll the same books and stay up all night talking and dancing and being kindred spirits like in Anne of Green Gables but the boner would be totally silent on the matter. Reluctant. Shy. Gay as (movie version) Gilbert Blythe.

Nowadays things are much less confusing, at least in my personal life. I’ve achieved Boner Congruence, where my favorite boner is attached to my favorite person, and that’s that. Or it should be. But I feel like I can’t escape from boners and their stupid bonepinions². In my class. On my commute. Being merrily stroked in my general direction on the corner outside The Green Mill. And in every. freaking. internet discussion, there they are. Fucking boners. Women can be discussing literally any topic, and dudes will come interrupt to tell us how it makes boners feel. Sometimes they want to reassure us, like, when we talk about being fat as a feminist issue, or the constrictions of conventional beauty standards, they chime into say “But I like bigger girls.” Well thanks, Internet Stranger-boner! That totally makes up for every bad thing women have ever experienced at the hands of the patriarchy, which definitely for sure does not include you. Other times women will be talking about particle physics or literature or their very responsible jobs, like, running the world and stuff, and the boners feel left out and confused, so they just say completely inane stuff. As if “I would/would not do her” is the one true standard on earth.

Sometimes the boners want to warn us, as in “Maybe that HitlerBieber³-looking dude out in California wouldn’t have shot so many people if some chick had just touched his boner. Guys get so lonely, you really don’t understand what it’s like.

Are you fucking serious, boner-owners? There is not a disapproving mom look IN THE UNIVERSE that is withering enough for this. Imagine being That Girl for a moment, the heroine who sacrifices herself so that others might live, delivering the sad lifesaving handy to the twisted boy with the guns in his murder van. Buffy the Boner-slayer. The Chosen One. Do you think it stops there? Do you think she gets to walk out of that van, out of that relationship, alive? Best case scenario she just postpones it for a little while, and then when the shooting starts, it starts with her.

I guess what I’m saying is that I need the boners to shut the hell up for a while. PEOPLE can speak, just, try to go like a month without letting your boner chime in to offer its thoughts on whether someone is sufficiently hot. Please. I beg you. Because everything that made boners lovable – your enthusiasm, your vulnerability, your indomitable spirit – is now just making me tired. Put the letterhead away. Stop telling me what I can do with my face, with my body, with my attention, with my time. Stop poking yourselves into every conversation, nook, and cranny. DEFINITELY take a seat during all future elections or serious discussions of grownup things that actually affect the way we live our lives. Come out singly, one by one, with your tiny invisible boner-hands in an attitude of surrender, when and only when you’re specifically invited to contribute. Until then, go sit in the corner and think about what you did.

_________________________________________________

1 Credit: Cliff Pervocracy

2 An opinion that hijacks a conversation (or a person’s day) to offer inane and irrelevant commentary on appearance and sexual attractiveness. For example, catcalls, every article ever about a woman politician that discusses her clothes and hair, this science reporter’s “fan” mail. I imagine, whenever I encounter these, that the speaker or writer has delivered the comment a piece of paper with “Notes From A Boner” stamped proudly at the top.

3 Credit: Robin “Miss Conduct” Abrahams


17 May 00:44

genicecream: that-darn-hyena: skully-pens: cosmicremix: tordl...

Kristen

All the delightful giggles at this one.



genicecream:

that-darn-hyena:

skully-pens:

cosmicremix:

tordles:

thingsthatsuckass:

marcovicci:

ah yes. my gender is blue with pink leg

so this is killing me cause my mind immediately thought.

and this is why im not allowed to be part of actual serious discussions.

i DONT UNDERSTAND THIS AT ALL I KEEP IMAGINING 

image

image

I feel particularly close to this one:

THIS POST GET’S MORE FUCKIN HILARIOUS EVERY TIME I SEE IT!

I made a thing aswell.

So scandalous~

hello friends

14 May 15:00

Do you even lift, Ladybro? How lifting weights taught me to love my body

by kellbot
Kristen

Yes, please.

Being a bro is not about smiling, it's about looking hard. Like my biceps.

Being a bro is not about smiling, it's about looking hard. Like my biceps.

"How much can you bench?"

This is the question I get almost unfailingly when I tell people I lift weights. I started lifting three months ago, when I hit a wall with my workout routine and was just generally feeling shitty about myself. In that time I've gotten a lot stronger but along the way something surprising happened: my relationship with my body totally changed even though my appearance stayed pretty much the same.

Ok, it's not completely the same, because look at these guns. That's right, if the lighting is just so and I flex really hard, you can see that I have something resembling a bicep. And on the topic of epic gains: I think you should know that I have moved up to bench pressing the heavier of the two empty bars available to me. I am, in a word, crushing it.

I didn't expect to love lifting weights. When I was preparing for my first aerial silks performance I quickly realized I didn't have the stamina to survive five minutes in the air. On the recommendation of a friend I booked an appointment with a personal trainer who has biceps the size of my head. At our first session he asked "OK, what are you currently doing for triceps?" and I stood there blinking at him in silence before asking where my triceps were.

Having located my triceps, we came up with a weight lifting routine to dovetail my silks training. I learned how to bench, squat, deadlift, and just generally manhandle lumps of iron. Admittedly small lumps of iron. I felt silly picking up the five pound dumbbells at my gym. Do you even lift, ladybro? And as I eyed around the room looking for people snickering at me I realized that no one cared. Most people at the gym are too busy with their own workout, or taking gym selfies, to care what I'm doing.

A manual of free gymnastic and dumb-bell exercises; for the school-room and the parlor (1864)

The girl in this this 1864 illustration knows where it's at.

When I pick up a dumbbell I'm battling one of the greatest forces on earth: gravity. As I get stronger I get so excited about what my body can do that I've stopped agonizing over what it looks like. My thunder thighs are home to the biggest and strongest muscles in my body. Does my post-baby gut stick out a bit? Must be because of all these big damned muscles in the way. My relationship with food improved; I no longer see food as the enemy or something I must vanquish in an effort to make myself take up less space. Food is fuel for this incredible machine I will use to lift all the things.

I didn't expect to end up here, but I'm so glad I did. I make fun of brotastic gym culture, but I also understand it now. Squeezing out one more rep or adding 5 more pounds to a lift is so immensely and immediately satisfying. My body is capable of so much more than just looking pretty, and I love all the stuff I can do more easily now that I'm stronger. Pull ups? Check. Push ups? Check. Opening my own jars? Oh hell yeah.

Want to try it yourself? Here are some good places to start:

  • NerdFitness.com: I love this site because it is extremely positive towards women who want to lift, and quickly dispenses with garbage ideas like "lifting heavy will make you bulky." It also has one of the least-awful exercise forums on the 'net.
  • Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe: If you want to get your nerd on, this book has a practical approach to the science of lifting and plenty of diagrams. The website also has some great resources.
  • Jefit Exercise Database: This is the most comprehensive exercise database I've found, and is great for finding things that work with the equipment you've got (or don't got).

Finding a personal trainer
Some people feel more comfortable having someone show them the ropes. Many gyms offer personal training, but make sure you check out the trainer's credentials before signing up for an appointment. A trainer should support you in reaching your goals, not make you feel stupid, weak, or bully you in any way. The two largest professional associations, ACE and IDEA both offer databases of certified trainers in your area.

Do we have any other weight lifting Homies in the house? What have you gained from lifting? How much can you bench?

Recent Comments

  • Chrissie: I had no idea trainers like you existed! I would definitely prefer your style, firstly I have a few health … [Link]
  • QoB: Love that site, but it's not updated often enough :) I also recommend Go Kaleo. [Link]
  • kellbot: It's really different for everyone, depending on where you start from, what else you're doing health/fitnesswise, what your goals are, … [Link]
  • not a weakling, damnit: One of the more gratifying times in my exercise life was when my husband gave ME the jar to open. … [Link]
  • Leah: I want to get into lifting again (I try it off and on) since it's supposed to be good and … [Link]

+ 53 more! Join the discussion

08 May 15:54

Adventures in non-normative normativity.

by Robin Marie
Kristen

YES. THIS!

In a few months, I am about to do something incredibly, horrifically normative. I am going to get married.

But of course, why “horrifically” normative? I don’t, actually, think getting married is any kind of horrific – but, it is undeniably normative. Yet my ironic use of the term points to my consciousness, as a feminist, leftist, and “egghead,” about how this news has been received by those around me. Put simply, I’ve received the standard responses from either side of the cultural divide – the elation that seems to surround the spectacle of a woman “settling down” and, the shock of those who thought I would never do it.

But first to the more standard responses, as they are likely more familiar to many of us. The first thing that struck me about telling people that I am engaged was how often I was greeted with empathic “congratulations!,” delivered with such excitement that you would have thought, had you just started eavesdropping, that I had won a Pulitzer Prize. In fact, I don’t recall so many people congratulating me with such animation for anything I’ve ever done before – and I have a PhD, so, it’s not like I don’t have an accomplishment worthy of comparing it to. Interestingly, though, most people seem aware of the oddness of this fact, because I’ve often responded to these congratulations honestly by smiling and saying, “Thank you!, all of this attention is making me feel like I accomplished something really difficult” – and this almost always gets a big laugh. (Or perhaps they are laughing because they are thinking, “I know!, right? So hard to find a good man willing to get hitched before we’re all shriveled up shrews”?)

The especially funny thing about this is how you get this response from people you don’t even know. I’ve now had two conversations with two separate bank tellers about where I am getting married, whether or not I have a dress, when is the date, etc – it seems like they not only feel compelled to extend this small talk into a more substantial discussion, but they genuinely enjoy doing so. Knowing that this random person they’ve never met is getting married soon well, it just brightens their day!

Which, like the heart-felt congrats, leaves me cocking my head and maybe giggling to myself a bit, but it doesn’t bother me too much; because quite frankly, I’m happy to take the attention, even if I think our society’s sheer joy at the thought of a wedding is problematic for all the obvious historical (read: patriarchal) reasons. And then that, of course, is where the question comes in of whether or not any self-conscious feminist should participate in any of this.

I’ll be honest. I have no misgivings about getting married and very little about having a wedding on top of it. This is primarily because the way I’ve always thought about weddings – or at least certainly my wedding – is that it is an opportunity to throw a huge party, wear an absolutely amazing dress, and have everyone talk about how great my partner and I are. This, to me, sounds awesome. If being a good feminist means passing this up – and how many feminists really make such an argument, anyway? – then I am not a good feminist.

Yet my attraction to having a wedding is not merely about having a good time or feeling fabulous; it is also about ritual, and ritual, I think, is something most human beings derive a great amount of meaning from. Not everyone – and there is nothing wrong with you if the effect falls flat – but a lot of us. I look forward to being able to share with my friends and family, through a ceremony designed by me and my partner, what that relationship means to us and why we have decided to commit to one another. The impact such ritual can have on us sometimes creeps up on us, I think; I remember walking the walkway towards the stage during my college graduation while beautiful bagpipes played and, much to my surprise, tearing up – although, honestly, that might have just been the bagpipes, because they are crazy powerful like that! But in any case, I did learn that I can definitely enjoy me the psychological, almost Jungian satisfaction of a good ritual.

Finally, of course, you get to tweak what the actual ceremony and party look like quite a lot. Not only are my partner and I doing a goy/Jewish hybrid of a ceremony, but we’re cutting out a decent amount, such as a cake, an announcement of our entrance to the reception, physical invitations, throwing the bouquet, doing that obscene thing with the bride’s undergarment, and I’m walking down with both my mother and my father, because really, they both equally raised me, right?, and that sort of cancels out the creepy implication that my Dad has the power to “give me away” to my next male overlord. In this way you can make whatever your wedding looks like in line with what you think a ritual ought to highlight and celebrate.

But then of course there are things we’re retaining despite my knowledge of their less-than-stellar symbolic origins; I am, for example, wearing white. I have no good reason for this; I just want to wear a white dress, damnit. Can’t help it. What can I say, the superstition in which you grow up…

IMG_6758

Passage from G.E. Lessing; this hangs out on my fridge. (Usually it makes me think of more substantial things like the Protestant work ethic but hey it works here too.)

And interestingly, the response from others that has stood out to me – other than the startling elation – is the surprise I’ve received from several others. Some of these people know me well, and others more casually, but the basic reply is the same: I never thought you would get married! This is interesting because, I’ve always wanted to get married, actually. I’ve never doubted I would try to do so, should I find a good partner. I love the idea of a partnership, of commitment, and of mutually shared sacrifice in the pursuit of that commitment. I’ve been in substantial partnerships and I’ve been single, and while both certainly have their positives, I much prefer life when I am sharing it, and myself, with one other person. That’s just what works for me.

But because I’m known to some as snarky, opinionated, eccentric and political, many assumed that I would never do such a thing. As even my own sister put it, “I’m so excited about this, especially because I never thought you would ever get married.”

“That’s funny,” I replied, “Because I’ve always wanted to get married. Yet no one ever thought to ask me if I did.”

Yet it does not offend me that my sister and others guessed wrong, because I can see why they would make such an assumption. But it does intrigue me. We all, of course, make assumptions about one another, even if we try not to; but how often could we get a richer idea of what it means to be a feminist, an activist, a leftist, a Christian, a Muslim, an atheist, or insert-any-identity-here, if we simply started with asking people what their relationships are with certain ideas or practices? What kind of creative mishmash of traditional, non-traditional, normative and non-normative arrangements are out there, some already lived realities and others as yet only inchoate or yearning dreams? To think of these possibilities, as I imagine my own little monument to myself and my partner, excites me. It seems, quite frankly, like the point of liberation – for it is simply the freedom to build the life that feels most like yourself.


Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: pop culture, weddings
22 Apr 19:39

Ashol-Pan, The 13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress

by Jen
Kristen

YESSSS EAGLE HUNTRESS!

Jessica G. sent me a cool story from BBC News: For possibly the first time in 2,000 years, a 13-year old girl named Ashol-Pan has been apprenticed in Mongolia to hunt with Golden Eagles:


WHOAH.


Ashol-Pan is part of the Kazakhs of the Altai mountain range in western Mongolia, the only people today to hunt using Golden Eagles. BBC photographer Asher Svidensky spent time with 6 of their apprentice falconers, and described Ashol-Pan as being "more comfortable" and "more powerful" with the eagles than her male counterparts.

Awww yeah. Care to join me in a little standing-and-cheering, my friends?

[standing] WOOTWOOOOT!!

Ahem.


Head over to the original BBC article to read more, and to see more amazing photos like this:


Now, who else is inspired to write a whole YA series based on Ashol-Pan? And/or cosplay as her? Just me?
15 Apr 15:05

A Feminist Love Story

by Kate
Kristen

All the feels, all the time.

Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

Disney love hardly requires that you know each other! How romantic!

“There’s no positive feminist alternative to the Disney model of romance,” an old friend told me late one night.

As is not unusual in conversations with me, the topic of feminism had come up, and I’d asked him whether he thought gender roles were a good thing. He responded by sharing a story of his own heartbreak: a relationship that ended after moving in together and falling into a pattern of contentious discussions about who should be responsible for which chore.

My friend seemed to be implying that gender roles make things easier, that the feminist model of each couple negotiating for themselves was more work. “We spent all our time in negotiations about living together, instead of just enjoying living together.”

I pointed out that it was more work for him to talk about it, but probably less work for her because the continuing inequality in household chore breakdowns means that, statistically speaking, women who don’t specifically negotiate otherwise tend to end up with an unfairly large chore burden. And of course, relying on gender roles for divvying up household chores only works for couples with one man and one woman.

Nevertheless, I think there was value in my friend’s observation about a feminist alternative to the typical romance narrative. It was a revelation to me, perhaps because I live in a bit of a feminist bubble: I think there is a feminist story of love, and perhaps we just have to do a better job of spreading it.

What do I mean when I talk about a feminist love story? I don’t mean a specific fairy tale, although those are nice too.

click the photo for a link to the book on Amazon

Ok, so this isn’t exactly a love story, but “The Paper Bag Princess” may be the greatest fairy tale ever written. Give copies to all the young people in your lives, please!

As a fancy grad student, I’ve recently been studying “narrative theory”- the idea that all of life is understood through stories: stories we tell about ourselves and stories hear about the world and try to fit our lives into. In this sense, a “love story” is a cultural narrative about what love is and how it happens. Our mainstream love story includes elements like being about a man and a woman, the man making the first move, a diamond ring engagement, marriage, children. Our mainstream story says the woman does the laundry and the man mows the lawn. It says you own a home in the suburbs, and stay together until you’re adorable old people. It says that when you find “The One” or “True Love” everything can be perfect, and you live happily ever after. It’s reinforced in commercials, books, politicians’ speeches, TV shows, religious congregations, classrooms, and our conversations with each other, just like so many other stories we have about life.

If love is a big part of life, and if romantic gender relations are a big part of feminism, then we have a big stake in changing the mainstream story.

Before I talk to you about the feminist love story, I have a confession to make: I think the mainstream story is crap. It makes our relationships worse and our lives more difficult. It’s not romantic; it’s stupid.

Do you remember back in 2003 when the Postal Service released “Such Great Heights” and it was everywhere? The first few times I heard it, I misheard the chorus. The song actually says:

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they’ll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now, but we’ll stay

The portion of this I managed to catch in the background of friends’ radios was “Everything looks perfect from far away / Come down now.” I found the message difficult to understand at first, because without those last three words, it contradicted everything I was told was romantic. If you’re on such great heights with someone, why would you ask them to come down to earth?

As I thought about the meaning of the line, however, I grew attached to the beauty of what it suggested: “Sure, our idealized images of each other seem perfect,” it seemed to say, “but I don’t want to love an idealized image of you. I want to love the real you, here in the real world.” Perfect things aren’t real; if you love an imagined perfect version of someone, you’re losing the opportunity to love the actual human standing next to you. The fairy tale “happily ever after” isn’t real because life doesn’t stop happening. Listening to what I thought the lyric was made me understand I don’t want my love for someone to exist outside of my life; I want that love to happen in it, even with all the ordinary and non-magical moments that entails.

…Then I realized that the end of the chorus existed, and I was sad that my beautiful contradiction to the mainstream love story was actually just another reinforcement of it. I still can’t hear the song without being reminded of that disappointment.

“Perfect” is a problem, because it’s not about action. If you expect something to be perfect, to magically fit together all on its own, then when it’s not perfect, it’s a failure. This “perfect” problem is one of the ways the major ways the mainstream love story hurts relationships. It’s no coincidence that the same culture that created the “happily ever after” trope also created every trope perpetuated by The Lockhorns.

Lockhorns comic strip

So romantic! Seriously, there are comics just like this that have been published every day since 1968. Leroy! Loretta! You are so unhappy. :(

The “perfect” problem shows up when studying math- Several studies found that students either thought of intelligence as an “entity” trait (just part of who they were) or an “incremental” trait (something they could work to improve). Guess which group learned more? Yup, the latter.

If we expect something to be magically perfect, then when it falls short we think it’s failed and stop trying. But when we understand that the good things we have are (at least partially) thanks to the effort we put into them, then we’ll keep putting effort in when things get bad.

It may seem like I’ve just spent this whole post badmouthing romance, but I’m really just badmouthing the mainstream story of romance. I enthusiastically and sappily believe in the beauty and romance of the alternative story.

As I see it, those talks about chores that my friend found so frustrating aren’t really work. I know a conversation about dishes doesn’t seem romantic, but when the reason you’re talking about them is that you’ve chosen to share a home together, to share meals together, that’s beautiful. Maybe it takes effort, but it’s effort I’m happy to put in.

And the feminist model allows for relationships that aren't one man and one woman, like Raven and AzMarie

And the feminist model allows for relationships that aren’t one man and one woman, like Raven and AzMarie. Who’s gonna do the dishes now, Patriarchy?

 But it’s not just the gendered breakdown of chores that feminism refuses to assume; it’s things like how wedding engagements work, how childcare will happen, or whether you’ll have children–not to mention the acknowledgement that monogamy isn’t the only relationship model. We get to negotiate each of those for ourselves as well. All those negotiations require conversation.

There’s a lot to love about love, but some of the closest, most romantic moments are those conversations. They can be quiet, cuddly, sweet, difficult, funny. They’re intimate because they’re vulnerable. They’re bonding moments because they’re when we reveal ourselves to each other and talk not about what we’re expected to want but what we, as individuals and in relation to each other, actually want from this thing we’re creating together.

couple-in-bed-15And that’s really the crux of it: we’re creating something new and totally ours, together. That’s the feminist love story. Feminist relationships don’t expect you to fall into two neat cookie cutters or gender roles. They don’t even expect you to mostly fit (though it’s fine if you could).

It’s like the mainstream story is the most boring baking project: man contributes items A, B, and C. Woman puts in items X, Y, and Z. They only ever combine in that way and they only ever make that one recipe. Forever. No matter who you are. No wonder the Lockhorns were so unhappy.

The feminist love story, though, is about baking something entirely improvisational, from scratch–a new recipe that creates the delicious result of the ingredients specific to the two of you at this particular time in your lives. Sure, it involves a little more communication, but in the end you’ll never have that same boring mandated recipe of the mainstream model; you have this beautiful, colorful, complicated, bright, soft, amazingly unique, love-filled life that’s just yours, and just right. Because when it’s not right, you can fix it. Together.

 

 


Filed under: Communication, Gender Roles, Relationships Tagged: cinderella, disney, housework, lockhorns, love, narrative
08 Apr 15:57

Not a real post, but still awesome

by thebloggess
Kristen

Freaky man...

Hi.  This isn’t a real post but I’m posting it anyway and so I think that makes it a real post.  Unless you’re epileptic, in which case you need to leave now.  It’s for your own good.  Come back tomorrow when I write about something less likely to make you fall down.

Okay, see the video above?  Open it to full screen and stare at the center of the video for the full minute that it plays.  Then immediately look at your hand.  Then bring your friends over to watch it and when it ends say “Never mind the video.  What is wrong with your hand?”  Then back away and tell them that’s exactly what people’s hands look like right before they morph into a werewolf.  

Or not.  Just a suggestion.

27 Jan 15:30

Use your words!

by Jan DeVry
Kristen

Yup.

Valentines’ Day is coming up, and because of a fantastic quirk of scheduling I’ll be spending it with basically everyone I’m currently dating, at Dark Odyssey: Winter Fire (link NSFW). This is not everyone’s idea of a great Valentine’s Day, I know. My sweeties may have other priorities that night, be it a new crush, an out-of-town lover returned for the weekend, or a longtime primary partner. But I am very much looking forward to being the center of a big cuddly loving poly group and seeing what deeper connections the weekend brings me.

That’s how I do polyamory, or poly for short, but there are a million different ways. Judging by the media interest, poly is trendy right now. I believe that poly might be right for a lot of people who had either never heard of it before, or didn’t believe that it was something that they could actually create in their own lives – until they saw that other people were successfully doing it. That’s the way it was for me, at least. I still remember the day I read in the Savage Love archives that ethical non-monogamy was fairly common, I could find other people who also identified that way, and that if someone flipped out, they probably weren’t a good person for me to date anyway.

Most poly people, I imagine, have an experience of monogamy that left a bad taste in their mouths. I see my friends’ relationships continually hamstrung by things that would never be an issue in mine because of polyamory (“How do I know where this is going?!” Um… ask?) They find monogamous dating hard, and can’t imagine why I would want MORE of it; I find poly dating easy, because I’m surrounded by attractive, feminist friends with good communication skills. It’s tempting for polys to conclude that poly is inherently better than monogamy. But I think there are actually two things going on here. There’s the sex, and then there’s the communication.

The standard cultural narrative at the time I hit puberty was that you could not talk about your feelings with the person you had them for, because terrible things would happen. Instead, you had to engineer elaborate scenarios to impress your beloved so that they would decide they were in love with you, make a grand declaration, kiss, and roll the credits. Or there would be a breakup where you never told your beloved what they meant to you. Or they would randomly leave you for someone else and you’d have no idea why. Perhaps this was just the way teenagers approached relationships, but it was reinforced by the media, by our lack of a road map from our parents, by the little dramas played out by our slightly older peers.

Bo, Lauren, and Dyson, the central should-be-a-goddamn-V of Lost Girl.

Bo, I love you, but this “I’m monogamous!” script the Lost Girl producers insist on is getting old.

When I found poly, I found an excuse to talk. I could no longer follow the script of silence. The first few times I asked the important questions (“Would you like to make out?” “I want to continue to see other people, are you cool with that?” “What were the results of your last STI test?”) they were hard, but I immediately noticed a huge improvement in the amount of power I felt I had in the relationship. And I eventually found that, the more experienced someone was with poly, the more willing they were to use their words as well, and the more fulfilling the relationship was. I thought I would regret cutting monogamous people out of my dating pool, but I quickly started to find their inability or refusal to use their words unattractive. The whole question of how many people we wanted to have sex with, respectively, seemed like a secondary issue.

Polys don’t have a monopoly on communication abilities, of course. Slowly my monogamous friends are outgrowing their fear of talking about feelings, and discovering concepts like “Continue to ‘date’ your partner even after you’ve committed to them!” and “Have your own friends and hobbies!” and “You deserve a fulfilling sex life!” They’re having conversations about whether monogamy is actually important to them — sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Whether or not those conversations are prompted by the increasing visibility of poly people or just by the fact that the silence script is an untenable way to run an adult relationship, this feels new and improved.

Apparently there are also poly people who attempt to recreate the script, just with more people. There’s this idea that you need lots of “rules” to make poly work – as though you only need to have one hard conversation, then conduct the relationship forevermore based on where the other person’s comfort zone was then. You write a new script; it’s less silent, but it’s still a script, substituting for ongoing communication. That kind of poly never appealed to me, because again, the sex with lots of people was a sideshow to the brave and honest communication that I found in the poly community.

It's taken the media quite a few tries to get poly right, probably because good poly doesn't make for good drama.

It’s taken the media quite a few tries to get poly right, probably because good poly doesn’t make for good drama.

I suppose maybe if our culture had had a different script, my boot camp in adult relationship negotiation wouldn’t have come through the lens of ethical non-monogamy. I probably would have ended up poly anyway, because I just don’t value monogamy and that would have come up in any honest conversation. But the pull of the script is strong. People have spent their whole lives feeling like they don’t really know their partner, or couldn’t trust them not to cheat, or had only one shot at love. I’d like to believe that poly’s surge in popularity helped make it cool to negotiate with your romantic partner, no matter how many of them you have.


Filed under: Communication, Relationships Tagged: polyamory