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08 Oct 01:02

My Introduction To Rape Culture

by Charlie Glickman

I remember exactly when I first understood what “rape culture” meant.

I was nineteen and a sophomore in college. I was talking with a woman I knew about gender and sexual politics, and I just wasn’t getting it. She was describing what it was like for her to move through the world as a woman, to be constantly under sexual surveillance, to always be worried about whether some guy would harass or attack her, to never know if she could walk down the street without getting cat called. This was pretty foreign to me, because I’d never seen any of this happening.

Partly, that was because I’d never really fit in with most other boys and I didn’t understand how the performance of masculinity encourages boys and men to compete with each other to demonstrate their manhood. I simply didn’t play those games. But more than that, it was because men don’t do the same things when they see a woman with a man. I had no idea that women’s experiences walking down the street were so different when I wasn’t there.

So my friend gave me a challenge that changed my life. She offered to walk down the street on a weekend night and allow me to walk behind her so I could see what happened. I took her up on it and the next Friday night, out we went. She was dressed in pretty standard “going out” clothes and we headed out to the strip of stores, bars, and restaurants that most college campuses seem to have within walking distance. I stayed about twenty feet behind her- close enough to observe without seeming like we were together. And I was shocked at what I saw.

Individual guys whispered or made comments about her as she passed them. They’d ask her where she was going or simply turn and stare at her ass. Groups of guys were worse, though. I could see them checking her out and talking to each other about her body and appearance. A few times, one guy in a group would say something and the rest of them would laugh while staring at her. And twice, one guy said something, followed by another guy escalating either the volume or the message, with another dude chiming in. I could see them all competing with each other to be the most macho, not caring that their games were at the cost of my friend’s feelings of safety.

It was an eye-opening experience for me. It was the first glimpse I got at the crap that women have to put up with, simply for moving through the world. I started paying attention to it more and thought about how I would feel if I couldn’t go anywhere in public without having to think about getting harassed, how I would feel if I couldn’t feel safe walking down the street. If a picture is worth a thousand words, getting to see this for myself was worth so much more.

Over time, I came to see that I needed to do more about this than simply not participate in it myself. In my workshops on sexuality, masculinity, and gender, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and backgrounds about these topics. And one pattern that consistently shows up is that there are a lot of cisgender men who act like this without realizing the impact it has. Many of them are so surrounded by the Act Like a Man Box that they see it as totally normal. Some of them would like to break out of it, but they don’t know how and don’t have the support to do it. And a lot of them are scared to change because other people will attack and shame them back into the box. It’s not just men who reinforce this prison.

I also started to understand the connections between street harassment and sexual assault. One of the common threads is the belief that one person’s desires for sex, sexual attention, or validation as a man outweighs another person’s autonomy, safety, and consent. Another is that very few folks are actually teaching boys and young men about respect. Most of the conversations that I’ve seen center on shaming them without giving them the skills they need to navigate relationships. What if we could actually talk with boys about how to ask for sex, or ways to flirt without being creepy? I know some parents who are doing this, but the “boys will be boys” attitude is still common. Just as most people shy away from talking with girls about these issues out of discomfort with addressing adolescent female sexuality, we also avoid looking at adolescent male sexuality with any clarity. So is it any surprise that people grow up confused about relationships? Is it all that shocking that many of my coaching clients struggle with these same issues as adults?

I’m deeply grateful to my friend for showing me what rape culture is about. For helping me understand that the world she moved through was so different from the one I moved through. For making it possible for me to take my first steps towards understanding what she and other women deal with every day. If you’re a cisgender man, I really encourage you to ask a friend if she’d be willing to do this experiment with you. Trust me. It’ll change your life.

The post, My Introduction To Rape Culture, is from Charlie Glickman's website.
04 Oct 12:17

The Shutdown Hits Home by James Roush

by James Roush

Really? I mean, this was your last straw? That the website was down? Don't even get me started about your feelings on the WWII memorial....

Friends, in his own opinion, ProfessorRoush has done an exceptional job at Garden Musings, avoiding any mention of politics here over the now 3+ years I’ve blogged. Only those who know my tendency to rant over seemingly minute issues can fathom what a struggle that has been, but I’m going to make an exception today. The dam has broken. The Rubicon has been crossed. The …. oh, you know what I mean.

Last night, I was at a Riley County Extension Board meeting and the local horticultural agent reported that he and the ag agent had recently seen a new “weed,” Tragia sp. and had visited the plant experts at K-State to identify it. Now, Tragia, also known as NoseBurn, is not new, since two species have been reported in Kansas, but it’s fairly rare and I hadn’t seen it before either. In fact, it’s not described at, my go-to Kansas native plant site. So I pulled out my iPhone and went to, where, to my surprise, I received the following message:


My Fellow Gardeners, that is way beyond absolutely ridiculous. This is the ultimate evidence that the bureaucrats are playing games. I’m in a fortunate place in my life, not old enough for social security or medicare, not directly dependent on the federal government for income, and not planning any trips presently to a national park. So I’ve been personally unaffected by the “Shutdown” and as long as the military and senior citizens get paid, I have enough of a libertarian streak that I’m happy for a respite from government. I was a little aggravated yesterday over the news of closing of the WWII memorial; I mean, the place is for walking around—do we have to barricade it off? But to shut down a running informational website? I understand that the information may not be immediately updated, but I’m sure that I can manage without the absolute latest information on a botanical specimen. I suppose someone might offer the feeble explanation that no one is around to make sure Server #2115 doesn’t overheat and subsequently burn down Washington, but the USDA plant database isn’t the only thing on those servers and I suspect that computer technicians in charge of running servers are on the “critical” list of personnel anyway.

Recognize that I’m not pointing a specific finger here. Blame the Democratic senators or blame the Tea Party, but they are all representing the people who elected them, and we got what we asked for, stalemate, which is almost as good as not having a government. Shutting the USDA plant database down, however, is nothing but a political ploy. A pox on both their Houses.

The Shutdown Hits Home originally appeared on Garden Rant on October 4, 2013.

19 Sep 19:18

Unpaid Emotional Labor

by Charlie Glickman

Incredibly well written from the male perspective.
The facebook post reads:
"Driver today told me "Your fare depends on how much you smile." 'Jokingly' threatened to charge me extra for staring out the window or trying to use the commute time to catch up on work rather than try to entertain him, the person I was paying for a service.

Instead of relaxing and knocking out some emails, I was stressed out, feeling like I was doing unpaid companion work I hadn't been expecting to do for an undisclosed amount that would be decided - after completion - by my customer, who was monitoring and actively critiquing my facial expressions.

I sometimes underestimate the emotional labor women and people read as female are expected to perform for free. Of course, people are rarely as up front about it as my driver today was."

The amazing Sabrina Morgan posted this on Facebook today:

I don’t think there’s any doubt that had this driver’s passenger been a man, he’d never have dared to pull something like that. But there’s more to this that needs to be unpacked. It’s disturbingly common for men try to get women to smile for them. I get how annoying that is and I agree with Sabrina that it’s unpaid emotional labor. I think that more men need to look at why it happens so often.

I’ll admit that this is something that I used to do sometimes. I used to have real difficulties bearing witness to women’s discomfort, whether it was real or simply my perception of it. Knowing what I do now (and not in any way considering this an excuse), I can see that what was motivating me was the story in my head about what women’s discomfort meant. It had a lot to do with my family of origin and it wasn’t until I took a good look at that and did the work that I needed to do that I stopped wanting to “fix” women’s bad moods. For what it’s worth, I never did that to strangers. And I’d mostly stopped actually trying to get women to smile before I got my shit together, because I’d been told how obnoxious it was. But it wasn’t until I’d healed that part of me that I stopped wanting to do it.

This is a perfect example of a man asking or expecting women to coddle his emotional issues because he sees his comfort as more valuable than their labor. It’s one of the many costs of the Act Like a Man Box, the difficulty many men have with managing their own emotions, and the expectation that women will do it for them. I didn’t know how to lean into my discomfort and do the healing work that I needed to do. Instead, I tried to reduce my discomfort by controlling the trigger. In this case, that was trying to get women to stop expressing their negative feelings, even when they had nothing to do with me and despite the fact that they had every right to their emotions and their expressions.

Of course, this is hardly the only reason men do this. There’s also the fact that women are supposed to constantly be on display for men’s visual pleasure. This is sexual labor that women are expected to perform. Women are expected to be eye candy for any random dude who sees them walking down the street, and that’s ridiculous.

Women are also supposed to be accommodating and to set their own needs aside, even to a total stranger. This is another kind of emotional labor that women are expected to perform, and while the motivation may be different than the desire to not feel discomfort when we see women who seem unhappy, the way that men demand it looks pretty much the same. The impact of this is huge. A lot of men expect their desires to be more important than a woman’s needs, and that is the definition of privilege.

I’ve always found it really curious that most men, when confronted about this, will fall back on claiming that they just wanted to compliment her. They don’t see that trying to make someone smile is an attempt to control her. And while they usually deny any sexual component to their actions, I can’t help but notice how much more often it happens to women that these guys find attractive. If the frequency and tone of your compliments correlates with how attractive you think someone is, you don’t get to pretend that there’s nothing sexual about your motivations, whether you actually want to have sex with her or not. Expecting women you think are attractive to perform femininity for you is one of the many sexist microagressions that reinforce gender inequities. Stop it. You’re making the world a worse place.

And then there’s this specific situation, in which a man threatened reprisals for non-compliance. He extorted sexual and emotional labor because he could. He might have thought that he was being funny, without any intention of following through. But that’s like someone who’s big and muscular “joking” that he’s going to punch me in the face. My ability to protect myself is less than his ability to follow through on his “joke, ” and I don’t know if he’s actually going to do it. It’s a violation of trust that makes it harder for me to move through the world feeling safe. And what this driver did to Sabrina (and, I assume, does to other people) was much the same. She had to choose between compliance, confrontation, or the risk of retaliation.

That’s the deeper problem with this kind of thing. Whether the motivation is harassment, a desire for sexual validation by getting a woman to smile, or to avoid one’s own uneasiness with women’s discomfort, it’s all about controlling women. And when women don’t comply with that, they run the risk of reprisals. Women already walk through the world worrying about their safety from men, and there’s no way to know who’s going to lash out. This driver might have had no intention of following through on his threat, but how could she have known that?

So here’s my suggestion for any men who feel the urge to get a woman to smile for them. Stop and ask yourself if you would do the same thing if you were engaging with a man. If that person is your close friend and you want to help them out, then perhaps your answer is yes. Though I expect that in those situations, you’d probably ask them what was going on instead of demanding that they pretend that things are OK. If you’re training someone at work and part of their job is to smile to customers, or if you’re a photographer, then yes, telling someone to smile is a reasonable thing to do and it has nothing to do with the gender of the person.

But if you wouldn’t do it to a man, then stop it. It doesn’t matter what your motivations are. Stop it. Figure out why you expect women to perform unpaid emotional labor for you. Figure out what’s prompting you to try to control women’s emotions and behaviors and faces. Figure out why you think that’s ok. And then do what you need to do to change that about yourself so that you can be a better man. Do what you need to do to make the world a safer place. Because if you’re not making yourself part of the solution, you’re part of the problem and we don’t need that. Stop it.

Update: Stop Telling Women To Smile is an awesome art project by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh about street harassment. Check out the Kickstarter page and her video below.

The post, Unpaid Emotional Labor, is from Charlie Glickman's website.
25 Sep 14:58

Kerli’s Mirror Mirror – Hunicorn Dreams Photoshoot

by Lillyxandra

NSFW but pretty...

We are so in love with Kerli’s Photoshoot we had to reblog it!

“When I put on my magickal horn, I transcend to a realm of fantasy. A koi pond appears where my bed ends and the flappings of butterfly wings reveal stories and mysteries from other dimensions.

Shot by Brian Ziff aka Vespertine<3″ – Kerli

Horn: Firefly Path

Dress: Forever 21

Stockings: BonBon Lingerie

Shoes: Forever 21

Pink eyeshadow: Lime Crime

02 Oct 17:50

Wait, But What?

by wileyreading

I want to scream all these things at every person who ever calls people my age "lazy", or thinks that there is something wrong with simply wanting to have a life that makes you HAPPY.

Side note: You DO NOT have to have a "serious" mental illness to think perhaps talking to someone might be a good idea.

So this dumb opinion piece on what’s wrong with my generation happened. Pretty much all articles that make sweeping generalizations about anybody are flawed at the heart. This is no exception. Most I can write off as just another denizen of the internet weighing in with their special snowflake opinion, but this one was actually getting re-posted. A lot. By my Facebook friends.  So I thought it might be important to point out why this is not, in fact, real life, and is, in fact, utterly insulting.

Let’s take a look at this guy’s argument, point by point.

  1. Wait But Why Dude: “Lucy is part of Generation Y, the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s. She’s also part of a yuppie culture that makes up a large portion of Gen Y…I have a term for yuppies in the Gen Y age group—I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs. A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.”

Actual Twenty-Something Who Lives In Real Life:  

  • Nice job picking a racial/ethnic slur as your cutesy acronym.

2. WBWD: “Before we talk more about Lucy, let’s quickly figure out if you, the reader, are a Gen Y Protagonist & Special Yuppie.  The Gen Y part is easy—you have to have been born sometime between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s (there are various opinions on the exact range of time, but this is the most common).  As for the Protagonist & Special Yuppie part, let’s lay out some guidelines.  You’re probably a GYPSY if:

  • You went to sleep-away summer camp during your youth.
  • You’ve won a number of meaningless awards.
  • You studied abroad during college.
  • You, after graduating college, considered (or will consider) big, famous cities like New York, San Francisco, LA, or DC, or small, fancy cities like Boulder or Santa Barbara as the only acceptable places to move (i.e. you feel like too special of a person to move to somewhere like Cleveland).
  • You have disdain for a restaurant like The Olive Garden or Red Lobster.
  • You need to have an iPhone and wouldn’t consider an Android phone.
  • Foodie is a word you’ve ever called yourself or anyone else.
  •  You’ve been to a therapist without any severe mental illness.
  • You have started your own business or have plans to do so.
  •  You regularly talk or think about your passions.
  • You’ve ever had a blog.  Shit.”

I am doing this right now.


  • Omg THANK YOU, internet dude! I’ve always wanted to know if I am a yuppie!
  • How many of these bullet points, exactly, do you have to accumulate before knowing you’re a yuppie? Is it ok that I didn’t study abroad? Does it count if I only ironically refer to myself as a foodie? TELL ME, OH WISE YUPPIE ARBITER.
  • What if I considered the cities you mentioned because I am a homosexual and they’re the only places where I don’t have to wait for a twice yearly “ladies’ night” to hang out with the two lesbians and solitary bisexual chick in town? Or did you not realize that it sucks to be totally isolated from people who understand you/want to date you?
  • ESPECIAL LOL for thinking being an entrepreneur makes you a yuppie. Is the beeper king a yuppie? What about Good Ole Tom?
  • My favorite, though, is “You regularly think or talk about your passions.” You regularly think or talk about your passions. I’m sorry, WHAT? Are there people who DON’T do this? Is there like a contingent of salt-of-the-earth Amurricans who ONLY talk about things they DON’T care about?

3. WBWD: “Now that you know where you fit into all this, let’s get back to Lucy. Lucy’s enjoying her GYPSY life, and she’s very pleased to be Lucy.  Only issue is this one thing: Lucy’s kind of unhappy. To get to the bottom of why, we need to define what makes someone happy or unhappy in the first place.  It comes down to a simple formula:

Happiness = Expectations – Reality

It’s pretty straightforward—when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.”


    • If Lucy’s enjoying her life, and happy to be herself, why is she unhappy? If she is unhappy, it’s probably because outside factors are influencing her state of mind. Seriously, think this through. If you like your life, and you like yourself, but you’re unhappy, isn’t the rational assumption that something that is not your life or yourself is making you unhappy? Like, maybe Lucy’s crushing student loan debt is worrying her. Or her aging, stressed out parents calling her every day worrying that they won’t have enough money to live on once they retire? Or maybe it’s that she gets cat-called every day on her way home! Or maybe she’s worried about her friends who are struggling to find work. Or maybe her landlord won’t fix anything in her house, goes out of the country for long periods of time without warning, and refuses to give her a copy of the lease. Or maybe all of those things. Even relatively privileged people have debt and families and shitty landlords and lots of grinding problems that are beyond their control.
    • That is a really stupid definition of happiness. I can think of about a million better ones. Let’s try a few.

Happiness = Security + Opportunity for Personal Growth

Happiness = Knowing What You Want + Having the Resources to Pursue It

Happiness = Being Loved + Doing Meaningful Work

4. WBWD: Tl;dr: “The Great Generation,” Lucy’s grandparents, were obsessed with economic success. They raised the “Boomers,” Lucy’s parents, to pursue “good” jobs/careers (illustrated in this article by a green lawn.) The economy was great until about the time that “Lucy” went to high school/college. Lucy’s parents thought the economy would be great forever! They said “Lucy, go to school. College will get you a good job. Don’t worry about your major. Don’t worry about your debt.” This left GYPSYs feeling tremendously hopeful about their careers, to the point where their parents’ goals of a green lawn of secure prosperity didn’t really do it for them.  A GYPSY-worthy lawn has flowers.”


      • This is a dumb metaphor.
      • If your parents tell you that you’re going to have a decent career if you go to college, and you believe them, that makes you an entitled yuppie? I don’t follow.

5. WBWD:  “The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security.  The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY.  Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.  Cal Newport points out that “follow your passion” is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google’s Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time.  The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase “a secure career” has gone out of style, just as the phrase “a fulfilling career” has gotten hot.


      • Are we seriously nostalgic for the American Dream of the fifties right now? The American Dream was “Buy stuff you can’t afford on credit so your wife will look more impressive than the other wives in your racist rape-den of a suburban neighborhood!”  FUN FOR EVERYONE!
      • “Follow your passion” is a trite phrase, but it’s not bad career advice, if you don’t take it super literally—which most people above age five manage not to do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to make money doing something that makes you happy.
      • Is he actually arguing that getting a secure job (which doesn’t even exist the way it did in decades past thanks to extremely anti-union, pro-“business” legislation) that bores you is better than spending the 40 hrs a week most people have to work to feed themselves doing something mildly interesting?
      • Passion and security are not mutually exclusive. I’m a bookkeeper. It is not wildly exciting work. But I’m working for an organization that works on education reform, something I’m immensely interested in. I’m not passionately fulfilled by paying bills, but I’m not compromising. I work for an organization I believe in, and I have a job that’s reasonably secure.

6. WBWD:  “But something else is happening too.  While the career goals of Gen Y as a whole have become much more particular and ambitious, Lucy has been given a second message throughout her childhood as well: You’re special!”


      • Yes, telling your children they’re nothing out of the ordinary and should never strive to lift their heads above the crowd is an excellent parenting technique.

7. WBWD: “This would probably be a good time to bring in our second fact about GYPSYs: GYPSYs Are Delusional. “Sure,” Lucy has been taught, “everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.”  So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better—A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn. “


      • I am exactly the same as everyone else! There is no reason for me to try to achieve greatness or pursue a unique life path, because I might become “unhappy,” thereby forcing some middle-aged blogger to write a whiny piece about me illustrated with MS Paint drawings! Let me soothe him by getting a “secure” job and buying an Android phone.

8. WBWD: “A second GYPSY delusion comes into play once the GYPSY enters the job market.  While Lucy’s parents’ expectation was that many years of hard work would eventually lead to a great career, Lucy considers a great career an obvious given for someone as exceptional as she, and for her it’s just a matter of time and choosing which way to go.  Her pre-workforce expectations look something like this: [graph of quickly peaking “career path”] Unfortunately, the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they’re actually quite hard.  Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build—even the ones with no flowers or unicorns on them—and even the most successful people are rarely doing anything that great in their early or mid-20s.”


      • I will throttle the next person who tells me I have to work for my career. I have to work to PAY THE BILLS, motherfucker! It is insanely difficult to get hired in my city, even having graduated from an IVY with HIGH HONORS, for an ADMIN POSITION. And my city has one of the highest employment rates in the country right now. I don’t know any people my age who are not viscerally cognizant of the fact that a shiny career is not going to get handed to them on a silver platter.
      • I think what you meant to say is: A very tiny proportion of 20-somethings believe success will be handed to them, but the rest of us are frustrated that the economy tanked just as we were graduating with thousands of dollars in student debt, and no one wants to hire our overqualified, desperate asses no matter how many “entry level” positions we apply to!

9. WBWD: “Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and GYPSY expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has ”unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” and “an inflated view of oneself.”  He says that “a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.” For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, “Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?”  He says that “if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the ‘why,’ there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They’ve been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief.”


      • Yes, the entire generation is resistant to criticism. That seems like a solid claim.
      • LOL yes, PLEASE DO ask interviewees if they “consider themselves superior.” Please also ask them if they have affiliations with the Aryan Brotherhood. Please film this and send it to me so I can DIE LAUGHING while these poor kids sit there going “Why the fuck would anyone in their right mind ask me a question like that?”
      • This dude, and apparently Mr. New Hampshire Research as well, really seems to think there is an army of clueless narcissistic airheads wandering around just ITCHING to tell potential employers how superior they are to the lesser humans. I would like to watch a television show about this, please. Unscripted.

10. WBWD: “GYPSYs are TAUNTED. Sure, some people from Lucy’s parents’ high school or college classes ended up more successful than her parents did.  And while they may have heard about some of it from time to time through the grapevine, for the most part they didn’t really know what was going on in too many other peoples’ careers. Lucy, on the other hand, finds herself constantly taunted by a modern phenomenon: Facebook Image Crafting. Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation.  This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery.”


      • THE DANGERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA: Is your tween sexting? Is your twenty-something crying because her boyfriend’s sister has a better-organized Pinterest than she does? MORE AFTER THESE MESSAGES.
      • He has a sort-of point in that people do polish their online images. We’ve all felt kind of glum from time to time because someone seems like they’re having more fun than us on Facebook. But for the most part, envy or frustration is not based in fantasy, it’s based in reality. When I hear that my friend has scored a coveted journalism position, I’m not jealous because she LOOKS happier/more successful than I am, I’m jealous because she IS.

TL;DR: This guy is kind of racist, super patronizing, doesn’t understand what a yuppie is, and has a lot of really stupid thoughts about what is “wrong” with a group of people who probably don’t exist in real life, and if they do, they’re quite a small portion of the population. So, if you read this and found yourself nodding along, you should probably make some middle-class/poor friends. Then you can read this to them and when they stop laughing while staring into your eyes and stabbing a teddy bear with a butter knife, maybe y’all can go get some Fro-Yo. You know, another thing “our generation” just can’t get enough of.

(image credit:

Filed under: Class, Humor
25 Sep 14:18

Video shows the Gardens of Greenbelt, Maryland in ’39 and ’13 by Susan Harris

by Susan Harris

So cool!

Click here to view the embedded video.

Put something online; you never know where it’ll lead.  In this case, a reader of this very blog discovered the “Less Lawn, More Life” garden tour I organized in Greenbelt, Maryland, where our reader once lived.  So she attended and created this fabulous video of the tour!  It includes short clips of Greenbelt gardens in 1939, soon after the town was built by the Roosevelt administration, followed by scenes from the tour.  Not only is this a great memory of a tour enjoyed by over 100 people (no way to know exactly) and the 15 garden on it, but something the town can use to attract visitors and home-buyers.  Many thanks to Marcia Van Horn!

OH!  And Washington Gardener Magazine editor Kathy Jentz also attended and created this photo album of the tour, so thanks to Kathy, too.

Video shows the Gardens of Greenbelt, Maryland in ’39 and ’13 originally appeared on Garden Rant on September 25, 2013.

26 Aug 17:30

A Look at 'Iron Lady' Tomato

by Jon Traunfeld

Definitely putting this variety on my list for next year!

A few GIEI bloggers and gardeners have commented on 'Iron Lady' F1 Hybrid released this year by Cornell University (in partnership with North Carolina State University), and sold through High Mowing Seeds. This cultivar is a big step forward in the battle against tomato diseases. It has resistance to late blight, Septoria leaf spot, Fusarium wilt, and Verticillium wilt, AND tolerance to early blight.

I grew four plants at the Home and Garden Information Center and one at home. It's a determinate cultivar that makes vigorous top growth and sets fruit in tight clusters over a relatively long period. I did not keep track of planting and harvesting dates. The description claims 75 days to maturity (from transplanting). It seemed slow to ripen but produced  nice firm, smooth fruits (4-6 ounces).


There was a lot of Septoria leaf spot in home gardens this year and 'Iron Lady' came through unscathed. We did have some minor early blight infection (see photo above) that did not affect growth, fruit cover, or yield.

Sure, there are tomatoes with better texture and flavor but this level of disease resistance is unmatched! Can't wait to test the other hybrids coming out of this breeding program.

27 Sep 15:00

She Said, She Said: Advice About Nails and Aisle-Walking

by Nicole and Mallory

THIS THIS THIS for the breaking-physical-habits thing.

beautiful-girl-has-relaxed-in-coffee-1352610-mPrevious installments of The Toast’s newly-renamed (thanks, Adrienne!) advice column from two disparate and imperfect persons can be found here. Last time: Job Dilemmas.

Okay, so I know we’re all disgusting meat bags, and that’s cool, but I am hoping for some advice on being slightly less disgusting. In the past few years, since I graduated college, I’ve developed the gross habit of basically gnawing on my cuticles/the whole area around my nails. I’ve never been a nail biter, but I guess this is similar. Even if there isn’t anything loose to bite, I pick at it til there is. At this point I barely even realize I’m doing it. My fingers look awful, it can’t possibly be sanitary, everything is unpleasant about it. How do I stop??? Painting my nails doesn’t work; they’re usually painted anyway and it doesn’t deter me. Help!

Nicole: I do this too. I cannot help you. (strokes your face with ragged cuticles)

Mallory: Oh! This is actually something I can be vaguely helpful with. My dad (hi, dad!) used to do the exact same thing for years, and he’s not a disgusting meatbag at all. It’s definitely not good for you (have you ever had an infected cuticle? It’s pretty rough, my friend), but the good news is that the answer to your problem is not just “buy that stuff that makes your nails taste bad” or “I don’t know, try harder.” There’s a whole field of psychological study around how to effectively and permanently change unconscious habits (habit reversal training), and there are some nifty tricks you can learn to break the unconscious cue-and-response system.

Basically the idea is that every habit starts off with a sometimes-unconscious cue (emotional, external, whatever), followed by whatever behavior you’re looking to break, then the emotional or physical reward (Goddd, yesss, I ripped off that long strip of skin by my thumb, it feels so good, let’s do it again forever). You’re not gross, you just have an effectively trained brain. You don’t have to try to change or get rid of the cue or the reward; you just have to become consciously aware of them and then find ways to change the routine.

Here’s an example:

The psychologist knew that changing Mandy’s nail biting habit required inserting a new routine into her life. “What do you feel right before you bring your hand up to your mouth to bite your nails?” he asked her.

“There’s a little bit of tension in my fingers,” Mandy said. “It hurts a little bit here, at the edge of the nail. Sometimes I’ll run my thumb along, looking for hangnails, and when I feel something catch, I’ll bring it up to my mouth then. I’ll go finger by finger, biting all the rough edges. Once I start, it feels like I have to do all of them.”

Asking patients to describe what triggers their habitual behavior is called awareness training, and it’s the first step in habit reversal training. The tension that Mandy felt in her nails cued her nail biting habit.

“Most people’s habits have occurred for so long they don’t pay attention to what causes it anymore,” said Brad Dufrene, who treated Mandy. “I’ve had stutterers come in, and I’ll ask them which words or situations trigger their stuttering, and they won’t know because they stopped noticing so long ago.”

Next, the therapist asked Mandy to describe why she bit her nails. At first, she had trouble coming up with reasons. As they talked, though, it became clearer that she bit when she was bored. The therapist put her in some typical situations, such as watching television and doing homework, and she started nibbling. When she had worked through all of the nails, she felt a brief sense of completeness, she said. That was the habit’s reward: a physical stimulation she had come to crave.

At the end of their first session, the therapist sent Mandy home with an assignment: Carry around an index card, and each time you feel the cue — a tension in your fingertips — make a checkmark on the card.

She came back a week later with 28 checks. She was, by that point, acutely aware of the sensations that preceded her habit. She knew how many times it occurred during class or while watching television.

This might not be the exact case for you, obviously. You might bite your nails when you feel nervous or scared or upset or ____. The key is to start paying close attention to what feels like an automatic, knee-jerk response, until you can start figuring out whatever circumstance or feeling sets the need to chew off in your brain. Then comes the next step:

Then the therapist taught Mandy what is known as a “competing response.” Whenever she felt that tension in her fingertips, he told her, she should immediately put her hands in her pockets or under her legs, or grip a pencil or something else that made it impossible to put her fingers in her mouth. Then Mandy was to search for something that would provide a quick physical stimulation — such as rubbing her arm or rapping her knuckles on a desk — anything that would produce a physical response. It was the Golden Rule: The cues and rewards stayed the same. Only the routine changed.

They practiced in the therapist’s office for about half and hour and Mandy was sent home with a new assignment: Continue with the index card, but make a check when you feel the tension in your fingertips and a hash mark when you successfully override the habit.

A week later, Mandy had bitten her nails only three times and had used the competing response seven times. She rewarded herself with a manicure, but kept using the note cards.

After a month, the nail biting habit was gone. The competing routines had become automatic. One habit had replaced another.

For what it’s worth, this is exactly the technique that my dad used and it’s worked for the last year. As long as I can remember, my dad has always had chewed-up nails and fraying cuticles, and now they look like anybody else’s. Normal hands! I have no idea how long it took him or how much time he spends thinking about it now, but I do know that it’s been a long-term and effective change for him, so take heart. Keep us posted if this is something you decide to do, by the way! I want to hear if it works out.

If my adored grandad is still alive, I kinda want him to walk me down the aisle. But I love my dad and also he might get pissed at being passed over? And my mom will get pissed if I don’t include my stepdad, whom I love too (though I don’t imagine he personally would care either way.) So, what to do? Have three men walk me down the aisle, relay-race style? Or walk my own damn self down the aisle, because Patriarchy and I don’t need to be passed like a hot potato from the control of one man to another? ADVISE PLEASE.

Mallory: What I really want is for the three of them to crowd-surf you down the aisle until your husband can reach out for you and hoist you above his head for the duration of the vows, but I realize that might be difficult to choreograph this late in the wedding-planning game, particularly if your grandfather is elderly.

It sounds to me like the “walk my own damn self down the aisle” isn’t really an option you want to take, just a criticism you know could hypothetically be lobbed at you and that you’d prefer to anticipate. But if you would prefer to walk down the aisle alone, and you’re only worrying about which man to choose to walk with you because you feel like you have to, just saunter down by your lonesome. It’s, what, a twenty-second walk? You’ll be swell; you’ll be great.

That said, if you would find it meaningful to have a member of your immediate family join you for the toddle to the altar, invite as many gentlemen you like. If all three of them linked arms and walked with you, it would be like the Wizard of Oz, which is a gay classic, and that’s sort of like subverting the patriarchy if you close your eyes almost all the way and tilt your head a little.

Nicole: OH, I’ve got this one! I have this bizarre, bizarre aversion to any kind of ritualistic daddy-daughter stuff, which, happily, my dad shares, so we have always eaten burgers and talked about books and life and stuff and enjoyed each other’s company in perfect contentment without paranoia that aisle-walking or first-dancing would ever come to pass. But this is a real issue* for wedding-havers that is only more of an issue every year, and my personal suggestion would be to just embrace the zoo. Let the whole horde walk down the aisle/beach/botanical garden path with you together, if they aren’t in the habit of getting into fights. Or have your future spouse walk with you. I’ve always liked the Jewish tradition of both the bride and the other bride walking in with each of their parents, which might distract from THIS LADY HAS SO MANY PARENTAL FIGURES. And, obviously, just do exactly what you want to do, because “your wedding is really about your family” is a crock of shit, they had their fucking chance. Your dad is not giving out favours to Luca Brasi. Not making waves may be the thing that will ultimately make you happiest, but that’s for you to figure out. I bless your union.

*Obviously there are realer issues, like overthrowing the patriarchy, but you might as well do something that works and is satisfying and meaningful to you.

The post She Said, She Said: Advice About Nails and Aisle-Walking appeared first on The Toast.

20 Sep 12:24

Games shown at the Seattle Indies Expo

by megan

I need more indie games in my life!

Earlier this month I went to the Seattle Indies Exhibition. It’s a gathering of independent game designers who are showing off their upcoming projects and it happens during PAX. It’s free and separate from PAX so you don’t need a pass to get in. These are the games that caught my eye:

The Bridge by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild. This started as a computer science student project and was further developed into a really interesting game. This is a logic puzzle game in which you can manipulate the position of the building as well as reverse the game in time as often as you’d like. It’s challenging and amazing and difficult to explain (go check out the trailer). The graphics are hand drawn in black and white and are stunning. Available now, Steam (Windows).

Tengami by Nyamyam. I’d love to tell you I played this game but I could only observe because it was the game that way always mobbed. It’s an adventure game set among Japanese fairy tails and involves pop-up book surprises. It was gorgeous and I must have it. In development, iOS, PC, Mac and Wii U.

Shaman by High Iron Studios. When I approached this table I was greeted by a man saying I was his target audience, Shaman is designed to appeal to girls because it has no violence. (I kept quiet about my character’s level in Borderlands 2. Not that I don’t appreciate a good non-violent game, mind you.) This game combines gorgeous comic books layout and graphics with exploration and gathering. You forge shields using a recipe like interface when you have the right components, then confront and attempt to cure a shaman that has been possessed. The recipes involve the elements of traditional Chinese medicine. This game wasn’t ready to play but there was a trailer showing while I talked with the game designer. The game will be released in six episodes starting later this year, PC.

Energy Hook by Happion Laboratories. This game is a little bit Spiderman with swinging physics and the city scape reminded me of Mirror’s Edge. You have a jetpack that gives your character some height and you can attach an Energy Hook to buildings and swing and jump. It’s a lot of fun. And I’m not just saying that because Jamie Fristrom let me sample the gameplay while wearing his Occulus Rift. You can currently do a post-Kickstarter to get Alpha access. Windows, Mac and Linux.

Festival of Magic by Snowcastle Games. I didn’t get a chance to play this but I was taken by the bright and appealing 3D graphics. This game is described as “adventure role-playing game in which the players must fight and farm their way to glory”. There is exploration, puzzle solving, combining materials for ammo and spells. This all sounded good but it sounded better when I found out this game uses turn-based combat. I’ll definitely be checking this out. Beta launch later this year. Nintendo Wii U, PC and Mac.

Buddy & Me by Sunbreak Games. This is a sidescrolling platformer and runner that is meant for kids and it’s called “an endless adventure about friendship”. Your character escapes into a dream where he’s joined by a large flying creature I was completely taken by the beautiful hand drawn graphics. If your character falls he’s lifted back onto the screen by some helpful little birds and the game continues, so there is little frustration involved. I might get this game for myself. Should be available soon. Android and iOS, mobile and tablet.

Redshift by Belief Engine. This is a timed escape game. Each go has a randomly generated map and countdown clock, between 3 and 5 minutes if I remember correctly. You need to run through the halls (of a nuclear power plant? I cannot remember!) to find three control panels. Your way is blocked by locked doors and fires, which you can pass by collecting objects. I am normally stressed out by countdowns but found this game engaging and fun. It’s not out yet but I’m keeping an eye out for it’s release. Android and iOS.

Go Plague Monkey! Go! by Sparsevector. This was a funny game where you play a plague infected money who must attack as many people as possible to spread the disease while avoiding police, CDC doctors and dogs. You collect power ups and have a random, open world to run around in. The graphics were cartoonish in a charming way and the game was hilarious to watch. Release later this year. Xbox Live Indie Games and Windows PC.

21 Aug 10:01

fuckaspunk: brokenbalder: Brokenbalder: Some Know Your Rights...




Some Know Your Rights materials I made. Hopefully find them helpful. :)

Very useful!

17 Sep 18:34

It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

by Jenny the bloggess

Sometime the good stuff is as simple as a stuffed fake bear head.

This week Victor took me to a shop to find a lamp for the bedroom but they were all too expensive.  Like, they had an $8,000 crystal chandelier in the shape of a leaping, life-sized, cavorting pony.  True story.  I wanted to take a picture but Victor thought it would be too weird for me to say, “Hey, can I take a picture of your shiny pony?” so instead I stayed quiet until about 10 seconds later when I saw an enormous bear’s head on the wall and I screamed ,”HOLY SHIT THERE’S A BEAR” and then I think probably Victor realized that he just can’t take me out in public in general.

Several clerks (and shoppers) looked up in a rather annoyed way, which is sort of rude because 1) if there really was a bear in the shop they would probably be grateful for my warning and 2) THERE REALLY WAS A BEAR IN THE STORE.  Victor pointed out that it was just the head of a bear, but I countered that the head was technically the most dangerous part of the bear and then he argued that bear paws are just as painful, but I pointed out that no part of the bear is deadly if his head has come off, and then we just agreed to disagree because we were attracting more attention.

Then a salesman came over and I was all, “HOW MUCH IS IT FOR THE BEAR?” but I was trying not to sound too eager because even though the head was dusty and mostly shoved behind a vent it was still pretty bad-ass and I didn’t want to let them know that I was too interested because that’s how they get you. The saleman looked confused for a second and then laughed awkwardly, and then said “Oh.  You’re serious” and was like, “I am deadly serious, sir” and he said he’d ask his manager.

The manager came over to make sure that I wasn’t just fucking with him and I said, “Before we go any further, I just want to point out that this bear is literally 75% off.  I mean, unless you have the body of the headless bear in the back, in which case I might be interested in purchasing it too” and then he wandered off in a bit of a daze.  Victor shook his head and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, but in his defense it’s possible it was because he was looking at the pony chandelier because that shit was fucking dazzling.  Then the salesman came back saying, “We would be so…so thrilled to let you have it for $75″ and I shouted “SOLD!” and then I was a little offended on Beartrums behalf because why were they so happy to get rid of him?  Clearly I was saving him from people who did not appreciate him and probably didn’t even realize his name was Beartrum.  This was a damn rescue.  Plus, when they climbed up on the ladder to get him down I realized that Beartrum’s head was three times the size of a normal bears and the whole thing was made of fiberglass and fake fur so no one even had to die to make him, unless it was a lot of stuffed animals from a scarlet fever ward, which would explain why they were in such a hurry to get rid of him.   Then they really quickly wrapped him up because I think they just wanted us to leave.  This is exactly why I often get really good service and also why I recommend not taking your medication during days when you have to buy a car or a bedroom set.

Victor drug the giant box of bear to the car while muttering that I was unstable, and I agreed with him, but I don’t think you have to be crazy to realize that paying 2 bucks per pound of bad-ass bear is a goddamn bargain.  I tried to go online to find a similar bear head to prove that I’d made a fantastic buy, but when I searched “Big Bear Head” it gave me a San Diego craigslist ad entitled “Big Bear needs some quick head now” and then I just decided to never go on the internet again.

I got Beartrum Higglebottom home (“Beartrum” was just a given and I think “Higglebottom” is nice because it sort of implies that his non-existent bottom had once been wiggly and positive) and I decided to take some of those fancy unwrapping picture sets like you see on sophisticated techy blogs, but when I downloaded the first one I noticed that Ferris Mewler was doing something weird in the back.

I don't... Wait. Is he doing yoga? Is that the Sun Salutation?

And so then I was like “Enhance….Enhance….Enhance” until finally it was big enough that I could see that Ferris was hiding his head in his genitals.  Or something.  I’m not sure.  All I know is that he’s way more flexible than I am and he seems to be showing off.  Victor says he’s probably just hiding his head in shame so that other neighborhood cats won’t recognize him on my blog and make fun of him.  I can’t but help to think that this is not going to help his case:

You're only hurting yourself, Ferris.

Then I opened the box a little more and you could see Beartrum’s enormous smile, as if he was saying, “YOU ARE MY VERY BEST FRIEND EVER AND NOTHING WILL EVER TEAR US APART.”

That bear was totally fucking right.

Then I asked Victor to walk around holding Beartrum up at various places in my office so that I could figure out the best place to hang him, but I was actually just taking pictures of Victor wearing a bear and then he heard me giggling and was all “WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?  ARE YOU RECORDING THIS?

I totally was.

Then he put Beartrum down and walked away muttering under his breath.  I figured I needed to even the score for the sake of my marriage so I yelled at Victor to come to the front yard and when he got there I was wearing Beartrum’s face and singing “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” in a deep, creepy, slow-motion voice on the yard.

It's like if a bear was doing dub-step. In a dress. On the yard.

That’s when Hailey’s school bus pulled up and I waved at her, and the bus driver seemed sort of disturbed, but probably only because I looked so realistic that she wasn’t sure if it was safe to leave Hailey there with me.  Victor agreed, but not for actual bear-related reasons.  Hailey, however, thought Beartrum was totally bad-ass, and that’s when I decided that from now on I’d only hang out with eight-year-olds, because they still understand the whimsical joy of silliness, and they’re too young to call the authorities on you.

Victor, on the other hand, demanded that I get in the house and stop waving at our neighbors because “WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO THINK?” and I immediately dismissed him, but then I thought, “Oh my God, they probably think we’re furries.”  Then I started to explain what a furry was to Victor and he was like, “STOP TALKING ALREADY” because apparently education is not important to him.

Then Victor told me to put Beartrum away, but I told him I needed a few days to figure out where he fit best.

There were more options than you'd expect.

Victor:  NO.  Just…no.

me:  But he looks so happy.  And it’s the guest bedroom so it’s hardly ever used and when we have family spend the night they’ll have company.  I tucked him in like a burrito baby.  LOOK HOW HAPPY HE LOOKS.

Victor:  Try again.

I attempted another option:


me:  Rowr-rowr-rowr.

Victor:  What?



me:  He likes to wander at night.  I think he might have narcolepsy.

I briefly considered poking his head through the hedges just to freak people out, but Victor said I couldn’t because I might cause an accident because people weren’t prepared for that much awesomeness.  (He didn’t say that last part out loud, but I’m pretty sure it was implied.)

In the end, I left Beartrum on the floor of my office until I find the perfect spot.  The cats fucking love him.

"Maybe if we cover his eyes he can't eat us."

The good news though is that I think I’ve finally found my new profile pic.

Everyone wins.

28 Jul 09:00


by mark

I don’t own a desktop computer, so I do all my typing on my laptop. The keyboard is great, except for one major flaw: the position of the touchpad. It is very easy to accidentally brush the touch pad with the palm of my hand or my wrist as I type, causing my mouse cursor to move to a random part of the screen. This is annoying and can cause typos.

I can awkwardly hold my wrists in the air as I type, but this is uncomfortable. I can disable the touchpad, but then I have to remember to turn it back on every time I need to click. Enter TouchFreeze.

TouchFreeze is a simple utility that disables your touch pad whenever you are typing. As soon as you stop typing, the touchpad turns back on. It is complete automatic. Although TouchFreeze does need to run the background at all times, it is very lightweight and won’t slow your computer. I have been using TouchFreeze for about a year, and I love it. It is a simple, elegant solution for a simple problem.

-- Sylvia Richardson

Free (donations accepted), Windows only.

11 Sep 09:00

Snowball Debt Reduction Calculator Spreadsheet

by mark

During law school I had unfortunately accumulated a decent amount of credit card debt. This calculator helped me to pay down all my credit card debt in a short time.

The snowball method helps users pay down multiple credit cards in a way that minimizes the interest payments. It asks for details including interest rates, minimum payments, and any special rate sunsets and then asks how much you can afford to pay to each card. The spreadsheet will then give you the amount to pay to each card each month as well as showing you a graph forecasting the slowly diminishing interest payment you will be making each month.

I’m surprised its not already up here! (Pro-tip: this debt-reduction method, in conjunction with a negotiating session or three with the the banks holding your largest, highest interest rate cards, can save you a lot of money.)

-- Aric Bright

Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator

27 Aug 17:40

Video Game Would Make Players Navigate Abortion Access in Texas

by Laura Beck

Choice: Texas is an interactive fiction game that allows users to attempt to get an abortion in the state. As you might've guessed via your womanly intuition/following the coverage of the insanity in Texas, it ain't easy to be a woman in the Lone Star State these days.



21 Aug 03:31

Open thread: Favorite sci fi / fantasy by women

by katejowrites

NPR’s top 100 science fiction and fantasy book included only 15 by women. Here they are, my new reading list. Correct me if I missed anything!*

1. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
2. Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
3. Anne McCaffrey – Dragonflight
4. Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Mists of Avalon
5. Ursula K. LeGuin – The Left Hand of Darkness
6. Lois McMaster Bujold – Shards of Honor
7. Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
8. Robin Hobb – Assassin’s Apprentice
9. Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife
10. Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel’s Dart
11. Ursula K. LeGuin – The Dispossessed
12. Mary Stewart – The Crystal Cave
13. Diana Gabaldon – Outlander
14. Robin McKinley – Sunshine

15.Connie Willis – Doomsday Book

I haven’t done the calculations, but I suspect the numbers are similarly dismal for books written by authors of color, featuring female main characters, or featuring main characters of color. This list was a result of reader voting, and it has some sad things to say about awareness of and access to female-written speculative fiction. I’d like to combat that with y’all today, by sharing our favorite sci fi and fantasy novels written by women. Bonus points for female main characters, and POC, queer, or differently abled authors and main characters!

Speculative sausage fest.

Speculative sausage fest.

Lady Bee started us off months ago with her Ode to Cimorene, the main character of much-beloved Dealing with Dragons (and subsequent series) by Patricia C. Wrede.

I’d like to kick off this particular open thread with a recommendation of a book I just finished reading: Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. Written in 1993, it depicts a moving-toward-distopian near-future in 2024, in which a young woman must shape a community and fight for safety in a changing world. It was a page turner! You know those books that keep you awake reading for later into the night than you should? And then when you wake up the first thing you do is pick the book back up? Parable of the Sower is one of those. The main character, Lauren Olamina, is very intelligent, balances strength and empathy, has a unique perspective on religion, and navigates sexism and racism in an already-dangerous world in a way that is just so compelling. So compelling. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Parable of the Talents.

So, what about you? What science fiction and fantasy novels with women authors do you recommend?

Filed under: Book Review, Media Tagged: fantasy, female authors, octavia butler, parable of the sower, science fiction
19 Aug 15:00

How to maintain relationships with difficult family members

by Maggie A

How do you deal with that damn brother you love, but who's SUPER difficult to have a relationship with?

How do you deal with that damn brother you love, but who's SUPER difficult to have a relationship with?

About once a month for the past few years I get a call at 2 o'clock in the morning from my brother. Most of the time I don't even notice the call because I leave my phone in the kitchen when I go to bed (partially because at one point these calls were so frequent that it was a big sleep interruption). He's an alcoholic, he's wildly unpredictable (because of his drinking), he's difficult, and I love him.

"Difficult" can cover all manner of things from substance abuse, untreated mental illness or just general jerk-itude (although to my knowledge jerk-itude is untreatable). There is no shortage of ways for your family to be difficult.

My brother's wild antics and hell raising have always made for some great stories. I was telling one of these tales a few weeks ago to a group of good friends and an acquaintance. The acquaintance scolded me, and explained exactly how to fix him — get him into a rehab, get him counseling, schedule an intervention, or cut him out of your life. Apparently it's very common for people who know nothing about you to give you advice (or so my friends with kids tell me). So I ignored her.

It's not the first time I've gotten this advice and it probably won't be the last. My little brother will be 23 this year he's had issues with alcohol, drugs, and just general defiance since he was 12 or 13. He has said horrible things to me, to my husband, and to my mother on different occasions. He has shown up to holidays drunk and late and a bunch of other stuff too (I try not to keep track). No matter what he does he's still my brother and I love him and I decided I'm not going to cut him out of my life (unless he cheats at Monopoly — then I'll never speak to him again).

Now that you know where I'm coming from I'm going to give you my advice for dealing with a difficult sibling or family member you want to keep in your life.

Know your limits

Set parameters for contact, make them clear, and make them something you can live with. I won't drive anywhere in the car with my brother if he's been drinking at all — but he knows why and he knows the deal. If he calls me for a ride that's the first question I ask him.

How strictly you set the parameters will probably determine how often you see the person. If you aren't comfortable with how much you're seeing them you might have to adjust your parameters. I know I won't see my little bro very often (maybe at all) if I refuse to see him when he's been drinking, so that's not my rule. I'll hang out with him, have dinner and if he gets rude or ugly I leave. As for those late night calls — I answer if I'm already up and if I see it the next day I return the call.

Know that you can't fix them

They are who they are (right now) and no amount of forcing, cajoling, arguing, or blackmailing is going to change that. People will tell you that you can force them into rehab or AA meetings by cutting off contact with them (cutting off contact is usually the consequence set up in an intervention). It might work, I've never done an intervention or threatened this because I know I'm not going to follow through. What I do know is that most rehab options are voluntary because people don't get clean and sober because someone else makes them. It's something they have to decide themselves and something they have to work at. You can't help them until they want to be helped (it's trite but true).

Let them know you love them

One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I think my middle brother (who had very similar substance abuse problems) might have died thinking I didn't love him. That he should quit drinking and get his shit together was the thesis to almost every conversation we had. So I don't end a conversation with my baby bro without telling him. I haven't given up my right as a big sister to attempt to boss him into another lifestyle, I've just accepted that he probably won't listen and let him know I still love him when he doesn't.

Don't be an enabler

I have been called an "enabler" by some for not refusing to cut my brother off. I disagree. If I were buying him booze or drugs I would definitely be enabling and encouraging his self-destructive behavior, but I don't do those things. I'll buy him dinner or groceries from time to time, and I still buy him birthday and Christmas gifts. I think these are things an older sister who had a "normal" brother would do from time to time for her baby bro just starting out in the world. But this, like many things, is a matter of degrees and you have to decide what you're comfortable with.

Even though my brother has issues and I am almost constantly worried for him I still love him. His addiction is going to take a lot of things from him. One day (hopefully) he's going to wake up and wonder what happened to his twenties and as he gets older I think his future self is really going to regret some of the decisions he's made. But I'm going to work hard to not be one of the things that this takes from him. And it's worth it when I get a call at the wonderfully reasonable hour of 10 in the morning from a sober little bro asking for a ride to mom's house for a family dinner.

I want to make it clear that I'm not suggesting that anyone stay in an abusive (physically or emotionally) relationship. If my relationship with my brother took a turn in that direction I'd make the drastic changes necessary to protect myself.

So let's hear it with your advice. REMINDER: We're not here to bitch about our family members or compare horror stories — we're here to share survival tips for dealing with the drama.

Recent Comments

  • Stacey Rose: Totally agree with how you handle it. There is a time and a place for those conversations… We have family … [Link]
  • Frog: That's some good stuff, beck - do what you can, when you can, & hope for peace down the road. … [Link]
  • Frog: wendy, you're amazing. Thanks for posting!! We all have our faults, & it's never easy to admit them. … [Link]
  • JB: Also if you haven't yet check out She has 2 or 3(I forget) internationally adopted teenagers with attachment issues and … [Link]
  • SamanthaB: Thank you for this. My baby brother (he just turned 24; I'm 32) has struggled with serious drug addiction and … [Link]

+ 51 more! Join the discussion

24 Jul 05:00

How To: Make Your Own [Healthy] DIY Sports Drinks


for John!

Make Your Own Electrolyte Energy Drink via Everyday Roots []

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14 Aug 17:00

No, I'm not marrying my best friend (her husband may take issue)

by Sara

Excellent points on this, and has a lot to do with how I feel about those relationships where folks are joined at the hip. Favorite part: The other thing is that he and I are very much our own people. We're not "two peas in a pod" or "two halves of a whole." We are frequently found no where near each other geographically, we have hobbies that the other is completely not into, and it's not unusual for me to say "no idea" if someone asks me where he is. I know he's alive and will be home tonight, that's all I feel like I need to know. "

Sorry, Cathy's Classic Aisle Runner. I'm marrying my fiance, not my best friend.

Sorry, Cathy's Classic Aisle Runner. I'm marrying my fiance, not my best friend.

Since we've gotten engaged, a couple of people have mentioned things about "marrying your best friend." As in "Oh, isn't it great that you get to be with your best friend forever?" I don't correct them, because I feel like it isn't worth the argument, but it's something that strikes me as odd.

Let me be clear, if you are a person who feels that they will be marrying/have married their best friend, that's great! You do you, whatever makes you happy. But I'm a little weirded out how this seems to be the assumption now. Even when you look at all merchandise — all the cards and t-shirts and tote bags and aisle runners — the wedding industry seems to think that if you're marrying someone they must be your best friend, and that's just… odd to me. Obviously some people are marrying their best friend, but surely not everyone?

People never assumed this stuff when my fiancé was just a boyfriend. We were living together, running a house together, and everyone assumed that at some point we'd get married, but no one said anything about "living with your best friend." Admittedly the people saying this aren't people who know me super-well, but I just don't understand that leap.

My fiancé isn't my best friend. He's pretty great, but we weren't really friends before we dated, and my actual best friend has known me for almost twice as long as he has. She's the one who will tell me that sweater makes me look like a crazy cat lady, whereas my fiancé thinks I'm gorgeous in whatever I wear. (Not that that is a bad thing.) It's just sort of, two sides to the same coin. And, for our situation, I feel like for him to try and be both my partner and my best friend would be counterproductive. There's nothing major that my fiancé knows about me that my bestie doesn't, and vice versa. It's not the information that's different, it's the way it's processed…

My bestie can give me insight into problems that my fiancé can't, necessarily, because he's too close to the situation, and she can give me perspective. If he leaves his socks on the living room floor and my knee-jerk reaction is to freak out, I know that twenty years from now we're not going to point to the great sock-on-the-floor incident of 2013 as the low point in our relationship. But does it still tweak my nerves? Sure. In situations like that I can go to my best friend and say "Ugh, he left his socks on the floor again," and she'll just shake her head and say "Oh I know, my husband does that and it irritates me too." And then everyone wins. I feel vindicated because I'm not crazy, my fiancé isn't left going "WTF" because I went all She-Hulk over a pair of socks, and maybe later I go to him and mention it in a calm and rational way — or maybe not.

The point is my best friend is an outlet for this little stuff, sort of a staging area, if you will, for some of my feelings. It's not that my fiancé and I don't talk about our problems — he's a marriage therapist, do you really think he'd let me get away with that?! — it's just that sometimes I need to get my thoughts in order before I bring them up to him. And sometimes once I say something out loud it sounds so stupid that I'm able to just let it go, or realize that I may have been misunderstanding something.

The other thing is that he and I are very much our own people. We're not "two peas in a pod" or "two halves of a whole." We are frequently found no where near each other geographically, we have hobbies that the other is completely not into, and it's not unusual for me to say "no idea" if someone asks me where he is. I know he's alive and will be home tonight, that's all I feel like I need to know.

In general I reject the idea (we both do) that to be in a relationship or to be married means we have to be joined at the hip 110% of the time. Not that I'm like that with my best friend either, but it goes along with the theme that people seem to think that once you get married, suddenly this one person should be absolutely everything to you. I have lots of important people in my life — I consider it a blessing that I have so very many people I love who are important to me, and I, personally, have no interest in having all of those roles condensed into one person.

So yeah, my fiancé and I are a team — we make our house run as a team, we sometimes plan parties as a team, we make sure we have enough cash to pay bills as a team, and eventually, we'll parent as a team. He's my "significant other," he's "the dude I'm in love with," and he's a pretty boss roommate and life-mate, but he's not my "best friend" and I doubt he ever will be.

Recent Comments

  • Jessi: LOVE this post, and feel exactly the same way. I had even been sort of wondering "is it BAD that ... [Link]
  • Laura S: My husband considers me his best friend, but I don't consider him mine. People are always weirded out when I ... [Link]
  • No One Special: I don't even have a "best friend" really. I would have to say that my fiance is my "favorite human" ... [Link]
  • Jennifer: I do have to say that I am in TOTAL agreement with this. :) [Link]
  • Laura: That really is such a great point. I never thought about what was most important to me in a ... [Link]

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15 Aug 15:00

You are your own shareholders: How quarterly meetings strengthen our relationship

by Jodi Frisby

This is a delightful idea!

Have sex twice per week: The minutes from our first quarter marriage meeting!

Have sex twice per week: The minutes from our first quarter marriage meeting!

My husband and I recently celebrated three months of marriage. The perfect way for a programmer with a mind for finance and an accountant to augment the occasion was, of course, a quarterly meeting.

There was an agenda and minutes, practical discussion with open and honest communication, and recognition for achievements.

It may sound crazy, but this is our first step in always making our marriage a priority. Here's how quarterly meetings foster open and honest communication while strengthening our relationship…

"No agenda, no attenda."

Agendas are imperative to successful meetings. Not only does it guarantee you won't forget to discuss any important topics, but it gives an end time. Meetings that go on in perpetuity are THE WORST and you want this meeting to be fun, for the most part, and productive.

A week prior is a good time to start drawing it up: For casual meetings agendas can remain open for additional items right up until the moment you have to print them.

Make a S.M.A.R.T. goal

The most important action item in our case was goal setting. When setting goals it is important that they be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive. For two people who consider listening to the NPR Planet Money podcast together a relationship building exercise, it was very easy for us to come up with quantifiable goals. For our purposes, we brainstormed three ideas then selected one for implementation:

  1. Have sex X number of times per week
  2. Go out of town for a weekend getaway, just the two of us
  3. Go out in public and have fun once a week

Because it is winter in Ohio and it is easy enough for us to default to homebodies, three was the clear winner. Item three is indeed specific, attainable since we have the means, measurable and realistic since there is a number involved (once per week), and has the built-in time-sensitive deadline of a quarter. Now for the next three months, one night per week, instead of sitting on the couch watching M*A*S*H we will be going out and doing stuff. What about the particulars? How do we implement? How much we can spend? What the other person does not want to do under any circumstances, etc. We will both keep open minds and give it a chance — it's just a three month commitment.

At the next quarterly meeting we will discuss what went wrong and right and if we want to implement this going forward. I would like to add that we are also free to have sex X number of times per week or go away for a weekend; we will just not measure it. All in favor say "aye." The motion carries.

All the business

Moving on to new business: wait. Old business comes first. It may not be as fun to talk about as shiny new goals, but that's partnership. The old business for our meeting consisted of the detritus of wedding planning. Some thank you cards remain and we set a goal to write two per day until they're done. As was mentioned with goal setting, a deadline is important. Yea, as long as everyone who gave a present gets a thank you it's okay, but what are your standards? Our standards are: we just want it done. Now let's move on to new business!

New business can be all new stuff that may happen until you die, but it's good to start with the upcoming quarter. What is happening in the next three months that affects your relationship? Our parents were a "new business" topic at our meeting: one is having surgery and the rest live in different places. Who can we visit this quarter? Does anyone need anything from us?

The one unifying characteristic to our entire meeting was this: Relationships First. The work being done on our house was irrelevant to this meeting. Focus centered on our relationship to each other then on the relationships with those who we love. Not everything got turned into an action item either. As with most meetings, some discussion was tabled for later in the week (we wanted to mull over which goal we wanted to set) and some was tabled for the next quarter's meeting. But how did we know this?


Something else that makes setting goals more effective: write them down. My husband was note taker and will be issuing minutes. (As an example: Our first quarter minutes can be found here.) We made a lot of decisions about a lot of things and we don't want to forget those. You can use the minutes to put reminders on your calendar or just do it the old fashioned way and stick it on the fridge. Just so long as you have a regular reminder of how important your relationship is to each other and that you are both making an effort to grow together.

All this being said, use your best judgment. What you discuss at your meeting, how and when you conduct them and everything in between is your business. You are not a publicly traded enterprise. I came to terms with marriage while I was engaged as follows: the state defines marriage mostly by how it ends, either through death or divorce. We get to decide what the existing, the living parts of marriage mean to us. We make the rules. You make your rules too. You are your own shareholders. Now go make some Action Items.

Recent Comments

  • Ana: I love this idea! I shared it with my husband, and it was an easy sell. We started ... [Link]
  • enigma: I like this idea too, but actually more for the non-emotional stuff that we usually drag out forever because we're ... [Link]
  • Jodi Frisby: Agreed! I'm impressed that you do it monthly, though it follows Agile Methodology (which we took a bit of inspiration ... [Link]
  • Jodi Frisby: I don't think I've ever found an emotional situation that I couldn't Spock my way out of. [Link]
  • Jodi Frisby: Thank you! I love this style of communication because it takes some of the emotion out of things. If there ... [Link]

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01 Aug 11:30

Elisabeth: There Are Shoes in the Dining Room, If Your Feet Are Cold.

by Elisabeth

by Elisabeth Snell, Writing Intern

K and I are eight weeks out from getting married, and there is something to do every night. We get home after work and have these rapid-fire conversations about whether you picked up the rubber lobster stamp and who is researching the morning-after brunch plans and please don’t forget the roast chicken for Jane, who is deathly allergic to crustaceans and will probably spend our entire wedding in bubble wrap. (I just had to stop writing this so I could write a note about the roast chicken for Jane.)

Eight infinitesimal weeks to get all this stuff done, eight weeks till we stand up and sign a wedding license in front of just about every person we know and love. Is my frenzied tone coming across? Because I am panicking, and not just about the gluten-free options, and boy oh boy, is our house fun these days.

I started crying on the way home from meeting with our clambake caterers the other night. (God, I hate sidewalk crying, but not as much as subway crying!) “We should have gone to City Hall like I WANTED,” I sniffed. “If we went to City Hall, it wouldn’t even be thirty seconds later that you’d be sad that your people weren’t there,” K said reasonably. Of course she is right, of course, but what if she’s not?

I suspect that this is normal, that everyone who is already on the other side of marriage has felt this way at one point or another during wedding planning. But what the hell do I know? A well-meaning friend said to me that I should enjoy every moment of wedding planning, even the hard ones! Because they’re all part of the two of us working on the most important decision we’ll make in our lives.

I almost choked on my tiny artisanal slider when he said it, because first of all, that’s the kind of thing that someone only says when they are not currently in the situation that the other is in, and then I felt so instantly guilty for not savoring every tender argument about our wedding website header. Like I single-handedly just let down all of the Corinthians who are patient and kind and not easily angered. I was already feeling a little baffled and isolated, when over the course of a month, I started hearing about one unhappy relationship after another. There was a week straight where I heard about people having relationship problems almost every day.

One night in the middle of all of this, K came home and cheerfully stepped out of her shoes in the dining room. She started shedding her clothes and casting them aside while talking over her shoulder on her way into the kitchen. This is nothing new. This is what she does every night. Usually I appreciate how hunky, albeit faintly ridiculous, she looks cooking dinner in socks and briefs. Not so, not so that night. Instead I remained sitting at the table, staring at her shoes. “There are going to be shoes in my dining room for the rest of my life,” I thought. And I couldn’t stop! Every tiny and not-so-tiny annoyance loomed large, and my lobster stamp worries were quickly eclipsed by an insidious terror that we were making a mistake by getting married, that we’re too different, that we’re not the right match.

So I did what I usually do about big, hard, scary things: I decided that it was better to silently process them on my own until I calmed down a little, in the hopes that they’d go away. I’m thirty-four, so that’s what, about thirty-two years of making decisions about communication and my emotions, and has this approach ever worked? Never.

A week or so later, we were headed home from work, and somewhere between Fort Greene and Flatbush, we started talking about the folks we know having problems or getting divorced. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, couldn’t stand talking around the lump of fear and worry lodged in my stomach somewhere. “K,” I confessed, “what if that happens to us. What if we’re making a mistake?” Then I waited for everything to splinter apart, since I’d finally said it out loud. Except all that happened is that K said SHE’D BEEN WONDERING THE SAME THING.

We talked all the way home, and my relief was so palpable that I felt instantly exhausted. Why haven’t we been talking about this stuff, with our friends and with each other, thus making the stuff so much harder when it finally bubbles up? So I’m formally announcing what my partner already knows—I’m going to marry her in eight weeks, and I’m damn nervous about it, and even though things are so much better since we talked about it, I’m still nervous.

But I’m going to stay the course, because K and I are on the Same Team. This is one of the core, articulated tenets of our relationship, one that became very clear when we started discussing the possibility of marriage. When we disagree, when we’re trying to figure out where to move after NYC, when we buy groceries and check the ingredients for rogue gluten, we articulate and embody that we are united. We have each other’s backs, and agree to support one another, in spite of when it’s hard and especially when it’s hard.

We are not a couple that immediately agrees on much, so it’s not really enough to just put this statement out there. It requires active involvement and is easy to forget, especially in the middle of an argument. There might be times where we love each other but cannot figure out how to like each other, and there even might be times we forget that we love each and wonder why the hell we agreed to this commitment. But, because we’re on the same team, we’ve agreed to stick around through the difficult stuff because we believe that the work is worth it.

When the wedding is all over, I want to remember the good stuff, while not ignoring the fact that wedding planning was really hard for us. How happy K looked when she brought home her suit, how much I loved picking out a fascinator with dear friends before we drank all of the margaritas in the East Village. How crisp and clear and cold it was that night on Cortelyou when I realized I was ready to marry K, and how I walked home simultaneously sobered and elated, and didn’t tell anyone, not even K, because I wanted just a few more moments before everything changed.

Photo by APW Sponsor Kara Schultz

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    05 Aug 11:30

    Get Hitched, Get Fired, Get Moving

    by meg

    One of the reasons getting engaged was so scary for me was because I bought into the prominent cultural narrative that adventure ends after marriage. It’s why I spent so much of the early parts of my marriage staying out too late in New York and drinking Red Bull Vodkas while playing Rock Band with people I was only sort of friends with instead of spending time with my husband. However, since getting married, I’ve discovered that my partnership is the very thing that makes me more adventurous, not only for the stability it provides while I chase my dreams, but also for the responsibility I feel to Michael to be my best, most fulfilled self. Today, Julia brings us the post that would have single-handedly swept away any of my pre-marriage jitters if it had been written any time before 2009. Take it away Julia.


    by Julia

    In June my man and I got hitched. In July I got fired. In August, I will start five months of traveling through East Africa and Southeast Asia—alone.

    While I tramp through Kenya, Tanzania, India, Vietnam, and half a dozen other countries, my brand-new husband will be staying at home in NYC, where he is still gainfully employed.

    We married as two overachieving, workaholic New Yorkers. My best friend’s wedding toast even included a joke about my love of spreadsheets. But only a month later, without warning and completely against my will, I became an unemployed housewife.

    Twenty minutes after getting canned, I had this conversation with myself:

    “Self,” I said, “do you want to be an unemployed housewife?”

    “No,” I replied. “I’m bad at doing the dishes and I’m bored already.”

    “Okay. How about traveling to all the places you’ve always wanted to go? How do you feel about that?”

    “That’s much better.”

    So after being an unemployed housewife for all of twenty minutes, I pulled up Google Docs and started planning my new life as an International Vagabond.

    Inside my head, I felt something like this:

    • Shell-shocked that I got fired, bitter because I didn’t see it coming, and guilty that I screwed up.
    • Jumping-out-of-my-skin excited at this opportunity to travel around the world.
    • Useless, because I have been earning my own money since I was a fourteen-year-old babysitter, I got a damn Ivy League degree, and then I worked and networked and worked some more to a job that I thought was my dream job, and suddenly now I am no longer a contributing member of society.
    • Liberated, because I have been working every single day of my life since I was fourteen years old and now I get to take a self-appointed break.
    • Sad that my husband still has a job and can’t join me on my travels.
    • Grateful that my husband still has a job and we have substantial savings, so we don’t have to worry about finances even with me out of work.
    • Very grateful that we will be separated by choice, and not by a military deployment or family illness or any other substantially more difficult circumstance that thousands of people have to handle every day.
    • Immensely grateful for a relationship that bends and stretches to accommodate one of us voyaging for half a year, on the other side of the world, with only intermittent internet access. A man that says, “Yes, of course! Go!” when I tell him about my plans for this adventure, a man who never doubts for a moment that I will get my career back on track when I return. So, so immensely grateful.

    “Self,” I said, “this will be okay. Your husband will be here. You will put your career back together. It will be okay, probably even better than before.”

    And as an extremely independent gal, this shocked me, but I think it’s my marriage that makes it okay. There’s something about being married, knowing that I have a home to come back to and not just an apartment—something about that frees me up, gives me courage and confidence. I can go do my thing, and he will be here, and it’s okay.

    Our wedding vows began like this: “I promise to share my life with you, while giving you the space to live your own life.”

    When I said those words during our ceremony, I envisioned weekend or even weeklong trips apart, alone or with friends. Lazy Sundays lying in bed reading the news on our respective laptops, poking each other when we find something particularly interesting to share. Me roaming through art museums, which bores him to tears, and him heading off to play poker, which does the same to me.

    But this is on a whole new level. We’ll be literally and figuratively thousands of miles apart.

    And yet, I have absolutely zero fear. I’m not afraid of crippling loneliness or homesickness on the road (though that may well happen). I’m not afraid of the shiny new crop of twenty-two-year-old girls that descend on New York each fall (though if any of you flirt with my man, you will regret it). I’m not afraid that we’ll be spending the first months of our marriage on different continents. I’m not afraid of malaria, Delhi belly, hijackings, propeller planes, getting lost in countries where I don’t speak the language, my stalled career.

    I’m not afraid because I know I have our shared life together. Even if my life is somewhat in a shambles and I need to run around the world to put it back together, it’s okay.

    I will take chicken buses through Tanzania, visit NGOs in Nepal, sleep on the spare couch of a generous friend’s friend who is only an email address to me but who will become my friend. My husband will go about his daily routine in our apartment, feed our cats in the morning, walk to work on the route that we used to walk together, and hang out with our friends on the weekends. He will gleefully throw his underwear on the floor, play as much poker as he wants to, and sleep on whichever side of our bed he fancies—even diagonally like a starfish.

    We will miss each other terribly and Skype. We’ll be grateful for the chance to create great stories apart so that we can share them with each other. We’ll be living our lives apart so that we can share them together.

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      04 Aug 02:27

      Beating the Same Old Drum

      by Damsel in this Dress
              It is ALWAYS of interest to me how people interact at festivals and conventions. It's good to understand that I actually GREW up my whole life doing craft type shows. My mom is an incredible artist, and did the cutesy tole-painting on wood that was the pinnacle of 90's craft shows! *SEE PICTURE BELOW FOR EXAMPLE* Ah,  how WELL I remember my dad using the band-saw to cut all manner of shapes out of pine, and my mom spending countless hours meticulously painting, cleaning brushes, letting dry, and basically being more talented than all of the other painters out there.
             I remember her packing all of her wares into rubbermaid containers and driving all manner of locations to do the craft shows with my equally talented aunt. Even as a kid, growing up in an incredibly poor family of eight kids (thus everything was too expensive), I was always startled at how LITTLE she charged for things that took her hours to do. On the flip side, I would wander around to the hundreds of other booths at the shows and feel outraged at how exorbitant prices seemed to be clinging to every little price tag! Even now, I can still hear my mom's voice in my head, "Boo, we can't afford that. Besides, we could just make that ourselves!"
               Years later, I have talked to my mom (who now works the booths alongside me, in a beautiful, ironic circle of life) about this. She told me something the other day that I had never heard before. She explained that, at one of the craft shows, she kept seeing this lady who made adorable little fimo clay animals (like the ones below) and though she adored them, she didn't ever feel that she could afford them. If I remember correctly, this lady was charging something around $10-$25, depending on the intricacies of the little guys. Mom said that she decided one day that she REALLY would just "go home and make them herself." She bought a pile of clay, pulled up her best memories and  mental sketches (this was in the day before people would just snap a picture with their cell phone. Some artists and crafters are very offended by this. In my booth, I welcome it. Sure, guys, try it yourself. ), and then went to work sculpting, poking and prodding. After hours, she had one single animal done that WASN'T completely wrong and ugly....this coming from someone who, once again, is very talented. She proudly put it into the oven and baked it. When she pulled it out and let it cool, its head fell off and there were tiny cracks all over his body. Hmm....

            I've heard vendors talking to each other, absolutely LIVID at all of the rude things that customers and patrons say to them. Most recently, a friend of mine who makes these gloriously full, vivacious steampunk bustles had a customer standing there turning the piece over, snapping pictures with her cell phone, and examining every detail. She turned to my friend and said, "How did you do this part? I am going to go home and make one of these, and I can't figure out how you did this."   Now, I know exactly what was happening in both brains. 
      My friend: "You dirty #$#^* F-ing !@^&%. How DARE you??? Of course I'm not going to tell you! I do this for a living, and put my heart and soul into this!!!! The reason you don't understand how I did something is because I've developed the talents and skills to do it, because of my blood, sweat, and tears put into this technique over years of frustrating mistakes and failures!" 

      The Lady: "This is really amazing how this woman has done this! I'm really impressed with this work and it must have taken her years to figure out how to do this properly. I really can't afford this, but I bet with some effort, I could make my  own. I wonder if she'll be kind enough to tell me how it's done, so I don't have to go through the painful learning process."

              I know this, because I came from the family who couldn't afford anything. I heard the "we'll make it at home line" on a constant basis. That was really just my mom's way of saying, "Holy crap, I don't even know how we're going to afford milk for the family this week, let alone buy you a freaking little clay animal!"  I appreciate my mom not guilt-tripping and criticizing me for wanting fripperies. I find myself getting really frustrated with my own kids, for wanting the normal, well-packaged and marketed things that every single kid wants at the store.  My mother is much more graceful and patient than I am, alas!

              Anyway, back to the different points of view. I'm ashamed to say that I don't always take a moment to imagine what the person looking at my items might be thinking.  If any of you have ever met me, you know very well that I am not a traditional salesperson in a booth. It bores me to tears, and I don't want to ever come off like someone who is so desperate for money that they'll resort to any slimy sales tactic.  Plus, I believe that if you  have a good product, it sells itself, and when it doesn't, someone truly PASSIONATE about the product can help educate and encourage a sale, as long as they don't awkwardly push it. With that being said, I'm also woefully unprofessional. Some of you may remember the shameful tale of me throwing a gourmet breadstick at a woman's head when she said something I thought was horrifyingly rude. I shouldn't have made the story so funny, and I know that I got some comments on the blog from people who seemed to think that there wasn't a punishment harsh enough for my unprofessional attitude. *sigh* The people commenting had a good point. It was completely INSANE to throw something at a customer's head. I should be like everyone else, and rant, rave, and moan in the comfort of my own home, after I was away from where the woman could hear me. But, I guess there's the strange "double standard"...or at least that's how I would imagine vendors view the phenomenon. We can't be rude and point out that someone is being ignorant and offensive....because that would be RUDE to THEM.   Well, friends, like it or not. It's true. As the business owner, employee, crafter, artist, customer service personnel, sign-holder, and any MANNER of worker, it IS better for your company to sit back and take the abuse. I'm still not good at it. Let me demonstrate with the story below. 

               It's a sweltering hot day, and I'm at a renaissance festival where I've driven 16 hours, taken 8 hours JUST to set up my booth, and I'm beyond exhausted. Running on very little sleep, I was standing in the back of my booth, or rather, leaning on our sales podium, eating a granola bar, and feeling sorry for myself in the un-prognosticated 100 degree weather. The show hadn't even officially started, and I was taking a few quite moments to collect my thoughts, breathe deeply, and remember what the goal of my company is-to try my hardest to make women fall in love with their bodies again!  In walked the very first family of the day, and with them was a slouchy, sneering, pubescent teenage kid. He walked over to the corset rack, pulled up one of the tags, and said, in a sarcastic, disrespectful tone, "What??? A hundred dollars for THIS? That's f-ing stupid! Who would even pay that??"  
              I did the only thing I knew how to do. I picked up a long metal coiled spring that we had been using to hold part of our tent together, and I chucked it at his head, trying to knock off his side-cocked, flat-brimmed baseball cap. I didn't knock his hat off. Also, the metal spring didn't hit him. I'm a terrible shot. There's a reason that, in gym, when we had to split up in teams and get picked by team captains, it ALWAYS came down to me and the stinky kid...and he usually got picked before me.   Anyhow, the current "stinky" kid looked up at me in surprise, muttered a few profanities, and walked off. 

               Do you know what it is? There is a deep human yearning in all of us to be appreciated and understood.  I was just exhibiting my immature need for the exact same thing that this kid needed from the people around HIM! He was trying to figure out the world around him, wanted to feel cool and "better" than these odd people dressing up at this festival that he clearly didn't want to attend. Had I been the best version of myself, I could have said something like, "Hey, I really like your pants. How do you get them to stay on while wearing the waistband that low? Absolutely fascinating!"  (I really have always wondered this...however, reading this sentence out loud makes me sound sarcastic, which can still be biting and mean. I HONESTLY was impressed by the gravity-defying behavior of his jeans.)

              When people say things that I consider "rude", I ought to think of all of the wretched, ignorant things I've said, even sometimes within earshot of the people it could hurt the most. Obviously, we can't all go through life with a constant filter on our brains and mouths, because ANYTHING can offend ANYONE if they wanted to be offended badly enough.  However, endeavoring to keep your words and thoughts full of praise, gratitude, and kindness cannot be a bad goal! Any old fool can be nice to the people who are nice to them, but it takes a really incredible soul to show kindness and warmth to someone who has deeply hurt them. 

              After all, perhaps the customer who is in my booth telling her daughter "No, you cannot get this corset! It is  WAY TOO expensive" is really just a woman with a huge family, struggling to make ends meet. She most likely desperately, fervently wishes that she COULD give her daughter all of the fineries that she's been denied.  And maybe that freckly faced little 8-year-old, annoyed by the unfairness of the world and how poverty of her parents, will TRULY "go home and make it herself" one day.  There is a reason why I have my own company making fine things. I've wanted beautiful, feminine, historical clothing since I can remember.  Granted, the pain and suffering of learning the process of creation and running a business  hasn't been easy, which is why I GLADLY purchase costume pieces, jewelry, hats, tights, and accessories from people who are clearly doing it better than me. I also am able to acknowledge that I truly don't have the time or skills that these people possess, though I wish I did.   But, it's only because of the generosity of my amazing customers that I'm vaguely able to afford anything.  The rich experiences I get from this profession have blessed my life in countless ways. Those blessings are certainly something that I could never EVER "go home and make myself."
      31 Jul 17:00

      A poly wedding: My decision to marry my boyfriend while I'm legally married to my husband

      by Angi Becker Stevens

      Love that this website will post articles like this!

      Photo by Megan Finley

      Photo by Megan Finley

      When my boyfriend first mentioned the possibility of getting married someday, I was taken by surprise.

      "Sure, I'd marry you if it was legal," I told him. And he asked me: "Who cares if it's legal?"

      We're polyamorous, and I've been legally married to my other partner for over a decade. But in spite of my longstanding support of same-sex couples who choose to marry even without legal recognition, and my deeply held belief that the state has no real business defining personal relationships in the first place, I had somehow never really considered that we were free to get married, too, regardless of whether or not the law would ever recognize it.

      Once I began to seriously entertain the idea, it was a short leap to start daydreaming about the wedding. But as someone who's committed to challenging cultural norms, I was extremely hesitant to simply indulge those fantasies. I wanted to understand why I wanted a wedding, and to know I was doing it — if I did it at all — for the right reasons.

      My boyfriend and I were already committed to sharing our lives together, building a family. Did I really need some kind of ceremony to solidify that? Would I just be buying in to social expectations, trying to make my non-traditional relationship appear more "normal" by getting married just like everyone else? Were my wedding fantasies still just a lingering product of all those fairy tales I had thought I'd rejected when I walked away from monogamy?

      I thought long and hard about all of these things. But when I decided that I did want to go ahead with planning our wedding, it wasn't because I decided my motivations were somehow free of all social conditioning. It was because I finally realized that didn't really matter.

      At the end of the day, I want to have a wedding for the same reasons I imagine most people want to have them, and for the same reasons I wanted my first wedding…

      At the end of the day, I want to have a wedding for the same reasons I imagine most people want to have them, and for the same reasons I wanted my first wedding: to bring the people I care about together to celebrate a love and a commitment that already exist, to stand in front of my friends and family and declare that I love this person and he loves me and we intend to stick together for the long haul.

      And yes, in this world where I constantly feel that this wonderful, healthy, happy relationship is seen as less real and less meaningful than monogamous ones, there is a part of me that wants the cultural validation of marriage, of declaring that this love is as real as any other. I used to worry that this part of my motivation was somehow inauthentic, as if I would be using my wedding to prove something. But I've since realized that this desire for validation is actually very human, something I should let myself off the hook for.

      Instead of thinking of it as a kind of "giving in" to social constructs, I've come to feel that there's something wonderfully defiant about standing up and saying that neither the state or society can dictate whether or not we are fully committed to one another.

      Of course, we're not naïve to the fact that many people will refuse to see our wedding (and our relationship) as "real" no matter what we do. And no matter how much we dislike that reality, we accept it. Ultimately, we're doing this for ourselves, not for anyone else. But if there's a little part of both of us who want to make some kind of statement, I'm okay with that. And if there's a little part of me that is still a little girl who wants to believe in fairy tales, I'm okay with that too.

      Some people think that non-monogamy itself is unromantic, but I think my happily ever after just looks a little different than most. In fighting for relationships like mine to be recognized and accepted, I don't have any interest in un-romanticizing anything. I'm all for believing in true love, making commitments, declaring that love and commitment before the world. Rather than asking people to abandon old notions of love and commitment and family and romance, I'm far more interested in fighting for an expanded definition of what those things mean. I believe that we can take the old traditions and infuse them with whatever meaning we choose, as long as we are conscious and intentional about doing so.

      Next summer, I'm going to marry an amazing man, who I am absolutely certain I want to spend my life with. I'm not sure how many people we can expect to show up, but I know that we will be surrounded by the friends and family who truly support us. And that, to me, is what weddings are really about.

      UPDATE: Click here for Angi's husband's perspective on the wedding.

      REMINDER: On the Offbeat Empire, we support all consensual loving relationship structures. If you can't discuss polyamory respectfully, please do not comment. Comments that don't adhere to our comment policy will be removed.

      Recent Comments

      • Meg: A few weeks ago, I made a partially-transparent box to hover over the corner of my computer screen which reads ... [Link]
      • Ariel: Great article! (As always, offbeatlings: avoid the comments on posts like that. Trust me.) [Link]
      • Kirsten: Hey, Angi! I read your article on Salon this evening. It was wonderful! {Everyone else, here it ... [Link]
      • Anie: Tell me more about third parent adoption!?! [Link]
      • Anie: Eh, I can think of plenty of mono people who have gone on long rants about swearing off dating, or ... [Link]

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      30 Jul 18:00

      Hello Flo's Adorable Tampon Ad Is Cute and Funny, Free of White Yoga Pants

      by Ali
      "For these campers, I was their Joan of Arc. It's like, I'm Joan, and their vag is the ark."
      29 Jul 17:00

      Dear Bridal Industry, we need to talk about "looking pretty" on our wedding day

      by Aurora

      Love all of this, but she rocked one of my favorite quotes, and the ending line chills me: "Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female."

      Sexy & Suttle

      I dare you to tell me my visible tattoos and stretched lobes "look less-than-bridal."

      Dear Bridal Industry,

      I will not allow myself to become caught up in your ideals of what a bride "should" look like. I will not become sucked into your standards of beauty, ones that are different from my own. I will not let you dictate to me what pretty is, and isn't.

      Speaking of which, here are more things I refuse to do…

      I will not let you tell me what to wear, how to fix my hair, or how I should do my make-up.

      I will not spend nights in tears because I am not "beautiful enough," or "thin enough" for you.

      I will not go on a crash diet.

      I will not refrain from getting my septum pierced for fear that you will tell me it makes me look less-than-bridal.

      I will not try to hide my stretched lobes, or cover my tattoo.

      I will not be ashamed of my lopsided breasts.

      I am me. I look fine just the way I am, and I will not let you tell me otherwise.

      When our wedding takes place, I will be fully present, and I will do so on my terms — not yours. When I fix my hair, it will look lovely to me and my fiancée, and we won't care if it doesn't look lovely to you. When I apply my makeup, I will gingerly avoid my multiple nose piercings so as not to irritate them, and I will love the way they look. When I put on my wedding dress, I will say to myself, "Self, you are pretty fucking hot, and you rock this dress." When I look down at my tattoo, I will remember that I have chosen to adorn my body with badass artwork that has meaning to me, instead of trying to conceal it shamefully.

      When our wedding takes place, my fiancée will be fully present, and she will do so on her terms — not yours. She will fix her kinky hair the way she always does, and I will think it looks even more perfect than it normally does, even though she won't do anything different. When she smiles at me as we see each other for the first time that day, I will love the adorable gap in her teeth that makes her smile unique, just like I always do. When she puts on her suit, she will look beautiful and sexy and gorgeous and all the words that are only supposed to apply to someone wearing a wedding dress. When I walk down the aisle and see her in her Cho'Gath hat, I will smile because she was brave enough to partially cosplay at our wedding.

      In some ways, my fiancée and I will fit into your bridal mold. But in many other important ways, we will not. And even though not everyone may think we paint the picture of beautiful, blushing brides, we will resist the pressure to be anything that we are not.

      More important than that, we will love the way we look, and we will rock our own individual styles. We will be proud of who we are, and we will not feel less beautiful for it. Most of all, we will not shyly ask, tails between our legs, "Do you think I would look less pretty if…"

      You see, Bridal Industry, we do not owe it to you to be pretty. We do not owe it to anyone.

      Our mantra, instead, will be this quote borrowed from Erin McKean:

      You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female."

      On my wedding day, I will be beautiful in my own way, and so will my fiancée, and we won't owe you a damned thing.

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      • Jabby: This is awesome. Congratulations to you and your love. This is inspiring as I plan my day. Alot of our ... [Link]
      • kristophine: Man, it's only been a little while that same-sex marriage has been legal in my state, and it still makes ... [Link]
      • Ashley V: I think it's awful that our society puts so very much emphasis on this horribly perceived idea of "conventional beauty" ... [Link]
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      30 Jul 15:00

      Dog gone: Coping with grief after the death of a dog-child

      by Michele Kraft

      offbeatLokiIt's been the best and worst year of my life, starting when I got married to the most wonderful person I know. Then my husband and I packed up our respective dogs and moved from Wisconsin to Maryland; I returned to school after a 14-year hiatus, which led to the realization that many of my classmates were young enough to be my children.

      Having no children of my own, nor friends or siblings with children, I seemed to have forgotten I was aging. There was no physical reminder growing up before my eyes. I have dogs, not children. Puppies become adult dogs, but they never tell you that you "aren't cool anymore," or have friends with parents who look ancient until you find out you share the same birth year.

      While riding all of these challenging but mostly happy waves off the coast of my midlife crisis, I got a cancer diagnosis, and had to quit the now beloved program with the now beloved kids at school, and then, while recovering from cancer treatment, my dog was diagnosed with cancer, too. He died.

      Loki was as much like a son to me as a dog could be. He was smart, inquisitive, and expressive; legendary for his comedic behavior with our Wisconsin friends. A Great Dane/Labrador mutt, he was human-sized and happy; he taught me a lot about love and how to get it by putting it out there. The loss of his presence is almost a presence itself, a phantom hole everywhere our tiny family goes.

      It feels like a betrayal to consider the next dog, though I know there will be a next dog; I would have 50 dogs if there were enough hours in the day — if I had enough energy to give to that many relationships.

      Eager, but ashamed, I was hoping to find some kind of timeline for adoption amongst my virtual and actual friends — a permission of sorts which would remove some burden of decision-making. It's so much easier when someone else tells me what I ought to be thinking — my reaction of agreement or disgust is at least a place to start.

      It crossed my mind, a few weeks after Loki died, that I could march down to the SPCA and stroll back home with a new love. My former psychologist wasn't going to find out and frantically call me to suggest a meeting, and Loki was not going to appear, as if I am Macbeth, and go all Banquo's ghost on me.

      I was not ready yet. But I went to the SPCA anyway, just to see what would happen, and felt worse, now bearing the burden of all the dogs I couldn't bring myself to take on.

      I was surprised to learn that many people get a new dog immediately after the death of their old dog, sometimes on the same day their pet dies. Others are quickly given a new puppy by friends or family members who cannot stand by and idly wait for their beloved to get through their grief and return to normal. I understand the sentiment on the surface, the desire for a rapid recovery, the return of love, a warm, wiggly source of reassurance that life doesn't suck.

      But as anyone who has dated someone who is recently single will tell you, the rebound is awful for the one being rebounded upon. The same must be true for pets, and worse, the new dog cannot possibly know how dear departed Spot used to manage his affairs, nor mount much defense of himself as he falls short of unnamed, monumental expectations. At least we humans choose to put ourselves into the perilous rebound; and better yet, we can leave when we've had enough of being seen through the haunted fun-house mirror of loss.

      As Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed. states in her article, How Soon Should You Get a New Pet?:

      The time to obtain a new pet is when you have worked through your grief sufficiently to be confident that you can look forward to new relationships, rather than backward at your loss.

      As much as part of me wanted to rise above it, my eyes were still trained on my rear-view mirror, or, as my Freudian typing skills insist, my tear-view mirror.

      We need to grieve, and, according to Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D, the Founder and Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, our culture, and, I would add, ourselves, would rather we skip it.

      Mourning in our culture isn't always easy. Normal thoughts and feelings connected to loss are typically seen as unnecessary and even shameful… I have learned that if we are to heal we cannot skirt the outside edges of our grief. Instead, we must journey all through it… Part of your self-identity comes from the relationships you have with other people. When someone with whom you have a relationship dies, your self-identity, or the way you see yourself, naturally changes.

      Awareness of this change in my self-identity has settled in, and for me, the sorrow is not only about grieving the loss of my dog, but all of the losses of the past year: moving away from all that was familiar, my perception of my youth, my belief that I can beat any obstacle by just trying hard enough. Some battles cannot be won.

      My dog, my big furry friend, was in many respects an avatar, an embodiment of everything I loved best about myself from a time when I was the happiest I had ever been. Moving onward in my life, even for its intended and still expected happy outcome, also means the loss of all that once was, including, it seems, my Loki.

      And yet. A new dog! A new life to invest in, a new dialog to open, oh yes, a new vicarious living partner. Loki was abandoned and starved before I got him, frightened to death, cringing at every quick move or raised voice. We worked on his self-confidence, and he bloomed before my eyes, a transformation arc I traced right along with him, through divorce and new friends, new marriage, returning to school, through it all, having a happy life. What will New Dog's story be, I wonder as I pore over the photos on, what kind of adventure am I choosing? What kind of crazy fun are we going to find together?

      When I am ready to meet New Dog, and I begrudgingly admit I will know when I'm ready, I will find him. He will come with his own particular bag of problems, because all pets do. Loki taught me his lessons by example and by needing my guidance. New Dog will provide a fresh emotional blueprint for me to understand and grow with. He will lead to me learning more about myself, the same person Loki loved, the same person who will be a New Person, too, shaped along with the New Dog, with everything we will live and learn together.

      Recent Comments

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      • Hana: When my dog Sammi died, we got a new dog pretty quickly. But no for us, for our other dog. ... [Link]
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      25 Jul 16:22

      5 Female Driven Movies

      by MissX

      I love movies. And so do most women who purchased 55% of movie tickets in 2009. But even though last year women comprised majority of the moviegoers, Hollywood has been slow on the uptake, continuing to produce movies that do not pass the Bechdel Test. If you do not know what the Bechdel test is, watch the short video below and prepare to have your mind blown (captions provided for the hearing impaired).

      For more statistics on women’s presence in literature and film check out my IWD post.

      So what’s socially aware feminist to do? Fear not, I’ve put together in no way exhaustive list of movies you can enjoy without betraying your feminist identity. Save the guilt for the pop corn (actually fuck guilt altogether, cut it out of your emotional diet).

      1. The Waitress

      The Waitress

      Jenna is a waitress stuck in an abusive marriage with no escape. Her husband controls her life: he takes all the money she makes, drops her off and picks her up from work, so he knows exactly where she is at any time. Baking pies is her main coping mechanism. But when she gets pregnant, Jenna decides her unborn child deserves a better life than this and begins planning an escape plan.

      Though it may sound depressing, the story is actually very uplifting and the film finds a very playful tone. The film manages to stay realistic without being bleak. Jenna is a delightful character, a strong woman. And did I mention Nathan Fillion plays the role of a delightfully awkward gynecologist? (Is there anything nerd girls love more than awkward Nathan Fillion? If there is, I haven’t found it.)

      2. An Education

      An Education An Education is a story of 1960′s English school girl who starts an affair with an older man. It is a coming of age story in which Jenny struggles to find her place in the world, confronts gender roles and the hypocrisy of adults, and learns the value of education.

      When Jenny meets David, a charming businessman, she is confronted with a choice. She can choose the life of domesticity, marry a rich man, quit her expensive private school and abandon dreams of going to Oxford. Once Jenny realizes that those who preached about the immense value of education are so quick to change their minds in favor of marriage, Jenny starts questioning everything she’s been told before.

      3. Lore

      Lore The film takes place in post World War II occupied Germany. Lore’s parents are Nazis and they are taken to jail, and she is left alone to take care of her siblings. As she makes the journey through the occupied Germany to her grandmother’s house in Hamburg, she is forced to face the reality of fascist atrocities.

      Lore is beautifully filmed and acted. Some scenes knock the breath right out of you. It also features a somewhat unexplored period in history, and it is really interesting to see those first post-war moments through the eyes of a child who was fed all the Nazi propaganda.

      4. Winter’s Bone

      MV5BMjA0OTM3MDMxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDY1MjI0Mw@@._V1_SX214_ Before Jennifer Lawrence entered the world of Hollywood block busters, she starred in this Sundance Film Festival award winning movie. Winter’s Bone is another coming of age story that explores extreme poverty in the rural United States.

      Jennifer Lawrence’s character Ree embarks on a quest to find her drug-dealing father in order to save her family from losing the house they live in. Ree demonstrates great courage and tenacity. The acting is great and the scenes evocative.

      5. The Heat

      The Heat The Heat is this summer’s buddy cop comedy that stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in which an “uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord” (IMDB).

      The Heat is hilarious and passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. There is not even a love interest, can you believe it? Melissa McCarthy’s character is funny but never because of her weight. The movie address sexism in a funny, but not at all preachy way, and *spoiler alert* the bad guy gets shot in the balls!

      Though some people find the war on drugs and the violation of civil rights depicted in The Heat disturbing, it is worth seeing  if you’re looking for light-hearted entertainment that isn’t 100% testosterone-dominated.


      As I was making this list, I noticed that all of the characters in these movies are cis straight white women. I’ve only listed movies that I have seen. It’s obvious to me that I need to branch out of my comfort zone and watch some movies that feature POCs, LGBQT characters, and people with disabilities. In the comment section please recommend some movies I can start with and I promise that the next list I write will be more inclusive.

      Meanwhile enjoy these stories of women’s empowerment!

      16 Jul 11:30

      Feminism And The “New Domesticity”

      by Rachel

      by Rachel Wilkerson, APW Writing Intern

      The Laundry Goddess is so Hot Right Now

      The domestic arts are hot right now, or so the trend section of every major media outlet would have you believe. There have been numerous articles in the past year about young women’s newfound desire to take part in traditionally feminine activities like baking, gardening, and sewing. The authors’ discomfort with the idea of rich white women spending time in the kitchen or at home with their children is palpable; each article has a tone of skepticism at best, and clear disgust at worst. Pinterest is always mentioned, as are the subjects’ tattoos. The articles always suggest (either subtly or outright) that these activities and the women who enjoy them are anti-feminist.

      Imagine a young mother who stays home with her young daughter, who was breast-fed and cloth-diapered. Her husband is a creative professional and wears glasses and a fedora. When she’s not cooking, taking her daughter out to explore the city, or doing craft projects with her, she’s sewing all her daughter’s clothes and taking tons of photos of her in their pretty Chicago apartment. She used to work in an upscale children’s boutique, but now she has a side business making children’s clothes and accessories and selling them to wealthy moms in the suburbs of Chicago. You’re probably imagining a white woman with great hair taking loads of Instagram photos of her daughter and posting them on her requisite blog. And if you’re like many journalists, bloggers, and consumers of internet culture, you’re likely rolling your eyes at this woman who fills her time with such privileged endeavors.

      But the woman I just described is not, in fact, a lifestyle blogger; she is my mother, and what I just described was our life in the late 1980s. To help you really picture her, I’ll add this: she was a lifelong tomboy who begged my grandma for years to let her cut her hair short. When the passage of Title IX allowed girls to play Little League with the boys in her hometown (there was no separate baseball or softball league for girls), she was the only girl in the entire city to play with the boys. Though she stayed home with me while my father worked as an actor in Chicago, she eventually began raising me on her own while attending school to earn her degree in education. She sewed my clothes when it was less expensive than buying them.

      In the summer of 2011, she built my brother a rocket ship loft bed (after he outgrew the train bed with a working light she built him when he was a toddler). In the summer of 2012, she built a pirate ship deck off the back of her house all by herself. Well, actually, she did it with the help of my grandmother. My grandmother, who cross-stitches, sews, and cooks. Who did all the house cleaning and earned the nickname “the laundry goddess” when I was younger because she could always get the stains out of our clothes. My grandmother, who was first in her class at nursing school, who raised her three kids alone after her divorce in the early 1970s (and her fourth on her own in the 80s), who, at seventy-one years old, still works sixty hours a week.

      I grew up believing that the domestic arts are important, special, and valuable. I’d always been incredibly proud of all of my mom and grandma’s talents, and felt proud of myself whenever I could follow in their footsteps. Until recently, that is, when I learned that taking after the women in my family or emulating the things my mom did during a happy time in our lives (and then having the gall to put photos of these activities on the internet) makes me a hipster. A hipster who also happens to be setting the feminist movement back fifty years.

      Women’s Work as Radical Work

      Last fall, I read Radical Homemakers, a book by Shannon Hayes that puts forth a feminist philosophy I don’t think most of us learned in our women’s studies classes. At the risk of overly simplifying the message, here’s a brief overview: Hayes argues that instead of relying on a man, modern women now rely on The Man—that is, to be independent from our male partners, we have become dependent on our employers who we know do not always have our best interests at heart. And in our pursuit of financial independence, we must rely on cheap convenience products that are bad for our health and the environment, and that are often made by low-wage workers. According to the book, radical homemakers

      “… are not the brand of feminists seeking security through economic independence…. In most cases, they view ‘economic independence’ as an imaginary condition; if a wife, say, is reliant upon her husband’s paycheck, he, in turn, is dependent upon the vicissitudes or even the whims of his employer. They are both vulnerable if their life skills are limited to what they can do for a paycheck. They are more stable if the paycheck is only a small percentage of the livelihood, and life skills, increased self-reliance, community, and family networks supply the rest…. These homemakers have evolved a more sophisticated view of what constitutes an economy and they have surrendered a false sense of independence to embrace genuine interdependence.

      “… It is only natural that many feminists, working in the context of a power struggle between the sexes, suggest that the only way to achieve equality is to exit the home. The trouble is, however, that everyone still needs a home… the power struggle that is alleviated when both husband and wife become working professionals is merely transferred to someone lower on the social ladder.

      “For there to be true social egalitarianism, then the work of keeping a home must be valued for its contribution of the welfare to all.”

      Radical Homemakers really does value the work of creating a home. It argues that we dismiss what has historically been considered “women’s work” as unimportant because of its association with women (and, perhaps more important, its association with poor women and women of color) when in reality, mastering the domestic arts actually has a lot of value on a personal, community, and large social and political level. The book isn’t arguing that women stay home to keep perfectly clean houses, organize playgroups for their kids, and make baby food from scratch while their husbands go off to work; it’s pushing families to become units of production (raising/growing/making their own food, sewing their own clothes, trading skills and homemade goods with other families, etc.) instead of units of consumption.

      Consider that most of us buy our bread rather than making it making it ourselves. It would probably be cheaper and healthier to make it ourselves, so why don’t we? Because we don’t have time. Why don’t we have time? Because we have to go to work. Why do we have to go to work? Because we need to pay for our homes and cars. Why do we need two cars per family? So we can go to work. To pay for our bread. And all the other things we need to buy to offset the fact that we’re working so much and don’t have time to produce anything for ourselves. Radical Homemakers argues that we should spend more time making our own bread so we don’t have to work in terrible conditions so that we can pay someone else (who is also working in terrible conditions) to do it for us.

      Radical homemakers care deeply about social justice, the environment, their health, and about many of the seriously broken parts of our culture and economy. So why does the dominant portrayal of them tend to make them out to be smug, clueless, and regressive?

      Hipster Housewives or Women Getting it Done?

      It’s impossible to discuss the neo-homesteading movement without discussing how it has been affected by the internet, and by the lifestyle bloggers who make the domestic arts the main focus of their blogs. As they document their days sewing crafts to sell on Etsy, growing vegetables, and homeschooling their children, they become the most visible proponents of this return to a DIY-heavy, simple life.

      In a 2012 article for Bitch Magazine, “Better Homes and Bloggers,” Holly Hilgenberg wrote:

      “For many, blogging is a relatively easy, low-cost way to share personal anecdotes and explore interests in an accessible medium… At the same time, there is something a bit uncanny about the genre. Click through enough of them and you’ll start wondering: How is it possible that so many women and their toddlers spent their Saturdays in blanket forts made from vintage quilts found at a swap meet? And does the world really need more Instagram shots of early-morning trips to the flower market? One may get the impression that the Stepford Wives have swapped their pastel sun hats and starched blouses for sewing-machine tattoos and Rachel Comey shoes. The pastels; soft-focus and color-saturated photo filters; optimistic, sunny tone; and tendency to address readers as ‘sweeties,’ ‘darlings,’ and other diminutives characterize many of the most visible lifestyle blogs. Coupled with the focus on domesticity and the home, bloggers start to resemble a contemporary, superwoman version of a stereotypical 1950s housewife. These women don’t just maintain squeaky-clean, camera-ready homes and adorable families, they also run independent businesses, wear perfect outfits, rock exquisitely styled hair—and find the time to blog about it.”

      Rather than celebrating the fact that the most visible bloggers who are doing this also happen to be making a living doing so, thus getting paid for “women’s work” (something early feminists fought for), the authors instead dismiss “women’s work” and “women’s interests” as fluffy and unimportant. These articles always use white, middle-class women with children as the example of this new type of homemaker, and the authors (who are typically white, middle-class women with children) subtly hint that what they are doing is silly or just the latest trendy thing to do.  The argument ”if taking care of your home is so important, then why aren’t men doing it?” is often used, which simply sends the message that if men aren’t doing something, then it’s not a smart, worthwhile endeavor. When these women are casually dismissed with the pejorative “hipster”—which is really just another word for “poser,” an accusation that makes most people bristle—the clear message is that they don’t really know themselves or care about what they are doing. They couldn’t possibly be growing their own food because they care about their health, or leaving the workforce because it can be exhausting and unfriendly to anyone who wants to have a life outside of  her job. They must be doing it to be the “little wife” for their husbands, to get attention, or to “win” the competition between women.

      The Bitch article and others like it makes the argument that these blogs support both a return to traditional femininity for all women and omit the realities of everyday life—dirty dishes, marital spats—in a way that makes the women reading feel insecure. Women reading are inclined to compare their lives to these bloggers’, and then feel inadequate when they don’t measure up. As Katie J.M. Baker wrote on Jezebel:

      “I’d love to have home-brined pickles in my fridge, paper-mache globes dangling from my ceiling, and plants everywhere—but instead I have an old jar of martini olives (can olives go bad?), a lamp from Target, and dried-out flowers that have been sitting in a vase on my bookshelf for a month (thanks to a mixture of being lazy and thinking they look kind of cool). When I look at photos of beautifully-designed abodes, I beat myself up for, say, taking a month to order curtains online and another three weeks to actually put them up… as lame as it may sound, I can’t browse through more than a few ‘pins’ without wondering why I suck so much at being a ‘real woman.’”

      If these women are skilled at anything, the argument goes, it’s the art of making other women feel bad about themselves. I do wonder if there would be so much pushback against these bloggers if they weren’t so pretty, so happy, so… popular. When a single, non-white, non-straight, or non-conventionally attractive woman cooks a Texas sheet cake for a loved one’s birthday and then blogs about it, we don’t think twice about gender roles. But when she does it for her man with her blond hair tucked out of her way in a top-knot? Well, then, she’s hurting the sisterhood.

      So the question then becomes: why are we blaming the women who are doing something they enjoy (and, in many cases, are earning a living from it) instead of questioning why, exactly, one woman’s desire to make her own pickles is immediately taken as some sort of attack against the women who buy their pickles from the grocery store? That we perceive it as an attack on our own life choices is simply us buying into the false idea that anything a woman does is for others’ pleasure and not her own. And even though (unfortunately) mocking the girls we perceive as being too popular is nothing new, it’s possible we’re getting so caught up in our own insecurity that we’re missing a budding feminist movement. Perhaps our learned-in-middle-school instinct for taking down any girl that looks like she’s gotten too popular, is causing us to dismiss a group of successful women entrepreneurs.

      I’m not saying I never get a case of the “whomp whomps” when spending too much time on Pinterest, but when that happens, it’s something I need to take up with my therapist, not the women whose homes are so damn photogenic.

      Homeward Bound

      This isn’t to say that there aren’t parts of this celebration of the domestic arts that aren’t problematic. In her new book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, writer Emily Matchar explores the neo-homsteading movement in depth. She unpacks everything from the realities of earning money selling your wares on Etsy, to the way the neo-homesteading movement brings together evangelicals and crunchy liberals. While I don’t agree with all of her arguments, she takes a balanced and informed approach to a complex topic.

      Matchar argues that, for the most part, women getting more into the domestic arts as part of a focus on social justice or is not a bad thing. “New domesticity is, at its heart, a cry against a society that’s not working,” she writes. “A society that doesn’t offer safe enough food, accessible health care, a reasonable level of environmental protections, any sort of rights for working parents… New Domesticity comes out of a deep desire to change the world.” But, she writes, attempting to change the world through individual solutions rather than collective political effort is a problem.

      “Gardening and making your own soap and home-birthing your babies are fine, but these are inherently limited actions. If we want to see genuine food safety, if we want to see sustainable products, if we want to see a better women’s health system, and if we want these things for everyone, not just the privileged few with the time and education to DIY it, then we need large social changes.

      “This is not to say that many DIYers aren’t fighting for social change—many are. But the overall attitude of ‘Screw the government, I’m going to grow my own food and shop at the farmers market’ is still dishearteningly common against the kind of educated progressives who might otherwise be the best advocates for large-scale social change.

      “…But unless you genuinely believe we’re going to return to the days of yeoman faring, the workplace is here to stay… If women cut back on their ambitions en masses, institutional change will never happen and the glass ceiling will lower. We need to be there to demand equal pay, mandatory maternity leave, more humane hours.”

      And while she’s correct, I do wonder why we are so quick to call out women whose choices don’t make the world a better place for all women. (The recent backlash against Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer for her decision to end the company’s telecommuting policy comes to mind.) I think most feminists struggle when they are inclined to make a choice that is one of those constantly derided by Big White Feminism; I know I do. Not every choice is a feminist choice, but when someone takes my pride in my ability to frost a cake like a champ as some sort of evidence that all women just want to stay home and raise babies, it occurs to me that this has more to do with that person’s assumptions than my cake decorating skills.

      Still, I agree with Matchar’s call to make the movement toward domesticity inclusive rather than exclusive. We can fight for change by going to the farmers market… and by advocating for changes to food policy that would make healthy, fresh food more widely available. We can sell our crafts on Etsy for extra cash…and not lose sight of the fact that a financial safety net is still crucial to survival in today’s world. We can, and I think many of us already do.

      But in the meantime, we have to stop perpetuating the idea that “women’s work” is silly and inherently oppressive, and the idea that anyone who says she enjoys it is just pretending to like it in an effort to put other women down and get herself a husband. When we’re snarking on women for their love of baking, sewing, or gardening, we can apply the same test I apply to chores: Would it bother us so much if she were doing this for her mother? Will this skill help her survive the zombie apocalypse? Well okay then.

      Being a housewife actually never crossed my mind when I was younger, because, unlike me, all of the housewives I ever saw were thin, white, well-off, and conventionally attractive. Anyone who thinks that I’m cooking to please Eric is quite mistaken; when I cook, it’s because I am hungry. I love my frilly aprons and KitchenAid stand mixer because they are reminders of the things my kick-ass feminist family members taught me to do for myself. They are not symbols of a secret desire to stay home and raise babies, but reminders of my mom’s and grandma’s lessons to stay strong and raise hell.

      Photos from Rachel’s personal collection.

        17 Jul 14:30

        Why are lesbians so biphobic?

        by Luz Delfondo

        Biphobia in the lesbian community manifests itself in many different ways. Bi women call themselves “queer” or “gay” even when they feel that “bisexual” describes them better, because they’ll be more accepted that way. Lesbians refuse to date bi women. Bi women find their sexualities under constant scrutiny by their fellow queer women. There’s a lot more, too, which you should read about in Lucy’s post.

        What I’d like to do in this post is explore some of the reasons why I think some lesbians are biphobic, beyond simple prejudice and fear of the Other.  Note that I’m a lesbian myself, but I have had bi women as romantic and sexual partners, and I am appalled by the way my bi friends and lovers have been treated by my fellow lesbians. I hope that if we understand the root causes behind these harmful attitudes, we can work to change them.

        1) Defensiveness and fear about sexual fluidity.

        Our society demands that women be attracted to men. Adrienne Rich famously called this “compulsory heterosexuality.” However, there are some insecure straight people who are less threatened by bisexual women than by lesbians, because at least they’re still attracted to men, and obviously bi women end up with men in the end, because why would they choose anything else?

        This is total bullshit, of course, but it does result in a lot of straight people pressuring lesbians into behaving or identifying as bisexual. I have faced this attitude approximately 327 times. “Are you sure you’re not bi?” these straight people (usually men) say. “Have you tried it with a guy? Women are sexually fluid, after all. You might find a guy you like.” I’ve heard this crap so many times that I don’t respond to it gently or calmly. I say, “NO. I am absolutely not interested in men, period.”

        It’s not hard to imagine how this defensiveness might end up shifting from its appropriate target (straight people who think they know your sexuality better than you do) to people who are not at fault: bi women. There’s resentment, because bi women don’t experience this constant pressure to be sexually interested in men – they already are. But that doesn’t mean that bi women don’t face other kinds of awful shit from straight people, some of which lesbians don’t have to deal with.

        I think another source of fear around sexual fluidity among lesbians is this fear that we may end up attracted to men someday. This happens sometimes. I know bi women who previously identified as lesbian but found later that they liked men too. That’s totally fine, of course. But I know that if that were to happen to me, I would face a metric ton of “I told you so’s” from every single smug straight person who insisted that I should be attracted to men. On some level, it would feel like those straight people were right about me, and that would be intolerable. That’s not true, of course. The problem isn’t that I’ve been told that I should be bi, but that anyone’s ever felt they had the right to tell me what my sexuality ought to be. Even if I were to identify as bi, those straight people would be wrong, and they would probably find some other aspect of my sexuality to criticize anyway.

        I’m sure I’m not the only lesbian who’s thought about this. The idea that we might be sexually fluid and eventually identify as bi is scary, and some lesbians take this out on bi women, even though again it’s not their fault.

        2) Internalized feelings of inadequacy.

        This applies particularly to why lesbians are sometimes irrationally afraid that their bi partners will cheat on them with men. Part of this fear comes from the perception of bisexuals in general as sexually insatiable and incapable of fidelity. This false notion is damaging to bisexuals and their romantic partners. But it doesn’t explain the particular fear of being left for a man.

        I think this comes from the false idea that sex with men is somehow deeper, more intimate, and more satisfying than sex with women (as I’ve discussed in this post). Even the word “sex” itself in common parlance refers to penetrative intercourse involving a penis. This sex act is perceived as the pinnacle of all sexual activity. This discourse about the primacy of sex with men comes from the same place as the belief that lesbians can be “cured” by the magical powers of the penis. It is unimaginable in our culture that a woman might have the option of sex with a man and sex with a woman and choose the latter over the former.

        On some level, lesbians can believe that about ourselves too. If our partners are attracted to men, it can be hard for us to be certain, deep down in our bones, that we are good enough to satisfy them – so of course we have to be on the lookout for bi women leaving us for men.

        But we don’t have to be afraid. We are good enough. If a bi woman chose to be with you, then trust in her choice. She wants you, and she will respect the monogamy of your relationship if that’s what you want.

        This whole attitude of the primacy of sex with men also contributes to the perception that bi women looking for women as partners are doing so either to get attention from men or so they can have a threesome with their boyfriends. Again, it can be hard for us to believe that women can want sex with women for its own sake when men are an option.

        I’m less equipped to speak to this, but I think internalized feelings of inadequacy about pleasing women sexually contribute to internalized biphobia as well. I’ve heard bi women who have more sexual experience with men than women express insecurity about their ability to please other women. Again, there’s a fear that they can’t be truly satisfying to other women. Unfortunately, this internalization of negative ideas is common to all marginalized groups, and can be one of the hardest forms of oppression to root out.

        3) Femmephobia.

        There’s an association in the lesbian community between femme expression and bisexuality. If you present someone with a butch woman and a femme woman and ask which one is lesbian and which one is bi, they’ll probably say the butch woman is lesbian and the femme woman is bi, because femininity is associated with attraction to men.

        This is bullshit, of course. There are butch and femme people of all genders and sexual orientations. Still, the association exists, and there’s a lot of stigma, undue scrutiny, and hatred directed toward femme people of all genders and sexual identities. This hatred stems fundamentally from misogyny. Fear and hatred of women transfers over to feminine expression, no matter who happens to present it, and in the lesbian community in particular femmes are often viewed as “less queer” or “less radical” because of their gender expression. I think that femmephobia and biphobia are bound up in one another in the lesbian community.

        In conclusion…

        You may have noticed something about all the observations I’ve made about the reasons for biphobia: they all come down to heteropatriarchy, the toxic structure of power maintained by misogyny and homophobia. That’s what’s so insidious about heteropatriarchy. It sows all these terrible ideas about gender and sexuality that we all grow up with and internalize, and these ideas turn us against one another when we ought to unite as queer women to fight the system that oppresses us all.

        17 Jul 08:01

        Job Search Red Flags & Due Diligence

        by JenniferP

        So excellent for anyone wanting to change jobs, or looking for a new job.

        Recently I was searching through old email (for my mom’s blueberry torte recipe, if you must know) and I came across a bunch of old Listserv posts I wrote for a group of professional women in Chicago. One of the members had a corporate background and was interviewing at a non-profit and wanted to know things to keep in mind. Apparently I had many Thoughts about this topic. There is a ton of advice out there on how to do well at a job interview, but not so much advice for job seekers about using the interview to suss out whether this is the right employer for you.

        Before we start, I want to set the frame a little bit.

        1) Sometimes you have to take a job that you know will be a bad fit because you would prefer eating to not eating. Never, and I mean never, feel like you have to defend or justify that choice. However, for purposes of this post, I am assuming that a given job seeker has options and can choose to work at given a place or not. I realize that there is substantial privilege in that assumption. Mostly, if you have to take a given job,  please know that we aren’t trying to add a victim-blamey “but you should have known it would be terrible!” on top.

        2) There are crappy work environments & crappy bosses. But in this discussion, please do not denigrate any job title or function. Do not use the words “a monkey could do this job.” Are easy jobs necessarily terrible ones? Chances are, someone here does that job. Chances are, I’ve done that job. Chances are someone here would be grateful to get that job. One person’s boring is another person’s stable. We really have to get past the classist capitalist bullshit that assigns people value based on what they do, but as a society we are not there yet, so you referring to x job as crappy sends a message to a person that does that job that they are crappy.

        3) Your job may contain some of the red flags listed here and still be perfectly fine. We all have a wish list vs. reality. Please, please, please do not feel like you have to argue that x is ok for you, therefore it shouldn’t be on the list. Some red flags, or a certain volume of them, are warnings, but at first they are just information and a reminder to remain skeptical and not invest until you know the full picture. Seeing one Ayn Rand book on a new date’s shelf won’t necessarily make you flee, but it will make you look harder at the bookcase to make sure it doesn’t contain every edition of every Ayn Rand book before you touch any part of yourself to any of their parts.

        4) My professional background includes work at non-profit organizations (both big foundations and scrappy agencies, as well as 9+ years in academia), private corporations (government contractors, manufacturing, finance, health care, media). I’ve had a few long-term multi-year positions, especially during the first five years out of undergrad, and I’ve also worked short-term & temporary gigs for many, many companies and almost every size & type of office. I’ve worked in offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Warsaw, Bucharest, Prague, and Kiev. I’ve done some project management, budgeting, corporate communications, public relations, proposal writing, office administration, reception, tech support, light finance, training, human resources, recruiting, and database management. I’ve also waited tables and done telephone sales & tech support.

        This is to say, I have walked into an office or a job for the very first time many, many times. I’ve had to look around and take quick stock of personalities and environment and learn the ropes, and only through much trial and error, I have developed a pretty good nose for sources of possible dysfunction and trouble ahead.

        First thing to keep in mind when interviewing: They are auditioning for you, too. It’s easy to feel like a supplicant and see this only as a one-way audition. You are trying to get them to want you. Employers feed this narrative. It’s definitely easier & cheaper for them if everyone sees them as the ones with all the power, and in the crappy economy of the past few years they have had substantial power. But just like with dating, you want to put your best foot forward, but you are also looking for a situation that fits you. Be enthusiastic as you want to be (or need to pretend to be to elicit an offer), but remain skeptical and watchful. Hiring people and getting them up to speed is expensive and annoying for companies. When looking at a giant stack of resumes, potential interviewers are not carefully weighing every facet of your experiences and looking for ways you might be a good fit. They want to make the pile smaller, so they are looking to weed people out as quickly as possible. However, once they are inviting people from the small pile for interviews, they are most likely looking for reasons *to* hire. Keep this in mind, it gives you power.

        So. You apply for a position and the company arranges an interview. We are assuming that the work is something you are qualified for and want to do, and the overall level of compensation and schedule is in the ballpark of what you are looking for. Now we are become spies, sifting and absorbing information about whether we actually want to work at this place.

        Preliminary questions: Was it easy to schedule something with them? Were they polite on the phone? Did they give you an idea of what to expect? I once had a place call me to schedule and then cancel an interview four times. Then they called again to reschedule. I said “Sorry, I can’t rework my schedule again. Good luck filling the position!” If you don’t respect my time & can’t stick to a schedule for a one hour meeting when you’re trying to recruit me, what can I expect on the job? I once asked the Human Resources person scheduling an interview “Can you give me an idea of who I will be meeting with that day?” While names would have been good, even an idea of positions & # of people (Big boss? Interview by committee? Just HR for a pre-screen?) would have helped me prepare. She acted like I was asking for precious trade secrets, said snottily “We don’t give out that information,” and hung up the phone. Uh, okaaaaay? I went on the interview, which was ultimately fine, but I gleaned something about the icy & rigid corporate culture of the place from the initial exchange.

        Once you’ve scheduled something, read the company website and learn about what they say they do and how they say things are going. Also read: Any recent media coverage. Google the people in charge and see what’s going on with them. Recent hires? Recent departures? Definitely dig around for some financial information and make sure you have an idea of how the place is funded and their overall financial health. Is how the company presents itself congruent with what you find out from other sources? If the place is dependent on state or grant-funding, what does the security & future of that funding look like?

        This kind of due diligence will give you so much information, including:

        • What personalities are involved? Look at their social media activity if you can find it. Don’t stalk them or follow them if you weren’t already or feel like you have to read every Tweet, but, is the overall picture that emerges a good one? Do you know people or have interests in common? Is their username Wh1tePr1de666 and do their tweets contain a lot of un-ironic uses of “misandry?” There’s a weird etiquette thing where everyone pretends that they aren’t looking at this stuff, but they’ll almost certainly be Googling you. Google or Bing! them right back.
        • What opportunities and challenges is the company facing right now? You can shine in an interview if you can talk about your work in context of their bigger goals. “I see you are looking to expand into x market. Have you thought about engaging y & z as sponsors?”
        • Oh, they have many legal challenges & PR problems going on? Interesting.
        • It gives you information on how to negotiate salary. An expanding business with an influx of venture capital or a new grant will be more willing to give you the top of the range. A business that just laid off staff or whose grant is expiring at the end of the year will be much more conservative.
        • What’s their website like? Is it well-designed, informative & navigable? I once turned down a position for a job with a small marketing firm because a) they claimed to specialize in every. single. industry. even though it was just one lady running it and b) she couldn’t even hire good designers or write good copy for her own site, so, what the hell would the marketing materials be like?

        Ok, let’s talk physical plant. Once you’re at the building, if the place has a parking lot, check out the other cars. Were they purchased in the last decade? Are they well-maintained cars that look like they are driven by well-paid happy people who can afford things like auto maintenance and car washes? No? You see only ancient, rusted heaps held together by duct tape and CLINTON/GORE ’92 bumper stickers? Interesting.

        One possible takeaway: Ask for as much money up front as you can possibly get, because you are never getting a raise.

        Look at the building itself & the grounds outside. Is everything maintained? Clean? Accessible? Climate-controlled? Pay attention to your gut reaction. The inside and office itself might be fine, but if the sight of the place instantly depresses you, it’s worth noting.

        Once you’re inside the office, I want you to look at three things. Ready?

        1) What are people’s computers like?

        Are they ancient dusty beige hulks? Are there 10 million tangled cables coming out of them? Does the receptionist try to print out an application for you and spend 10 minutes cursing at the screen and apologizing? IS THIS A FLOPPY DRIVE I SEE BEFORE ME?

        True story: I once worked for a small women’s non-profit as the office manager. We hired a development assistant to raise money at a salary of $32,000/year. Her computer was so old and slow that it would not interface with our network printer. The executive director was super-cheap about supplies, and would neither buy a new computer, a better version of a used computer, nor a $80 local printer that would connect to the existing computer. Part of this woman’s job was to create fundraising materials for mailings. You know, that might need to be printed at some point. Anytime she wanted to print something she had to email it to someone else to be printed out, which took forever, because her computer was too slow to do anything. She quit in tears of frustration after less than one month. Dollars raised = ZERO. So glad we saved that $80!

        2) How are people dressed?

        Dress codes vary so widely, and individuals also vary in their presentation, so this is more of a vibe thing than specifics, but what you are looking for is an idea of the overall dress code and culture and where & how you fit into it. Does it feel super-conformist and stiff, like you just stepped into Camazotz? Also, is there some indication that people can afford to buy a new pair of shoes and get a haircut every once in a while? It’s kind of like the cars in the parking lot – not something that directly affects you or is telling in itself, but it is an immediately visible factor that gives you a sense of how people are paid & treated & how they feel about work.

        3) What is the overall vibe? 

        Are you getting popcorn lung from the breakroom microwave? Do people have giant piles of unkempt papers on their desks? (1 = a messy eccentric, 2-3 = a few messy eccentrics, everyone = there is too much work to do here and nothing is ever resolved or filed). Is it clean, safe, maintained? Does the lighting remind you of a David Fincher movie? If you had to sum the place up in one word, would that word be “dystopian?”

        What does the place sound like? What is the energy level like? How do people interact with each other? I like a busy space with some bustle to it. I don’t like a tomb. I don’t like listening to yelling. I don’t like feeling like there is barely held in tension. I will notice if everyone is sighing, or everyone is clenched and tense. I will notice if it smells like weed, cigarette stench left over from the 1970s, or fear. I will notice if conservative talk radio is on in the background. I will notice if every sentence people say starts with “Sorry,…” or if everyone is just a little too happy to see me, like the dinner party scene in 28 Days Later. I really didn’t enjoy it when an interviewer with a filthy office, full of papers and plates with crumbs on, balled up my coat and put it on the floor under his chair because there was no place to hang it, and I decided that a man who could not summon a closet or a coat rack probably couldn’t be the boss of me about anything.

        I know a lot of worthy places are strapped for funds, but working for a great cause will not offset the daily damage that a shitty computer, a messy, poorly-maintained environment, and completely demoralized coworkers will wreak on your morale. You’re not in love yet, this is just the first date, so please don’t discount your gut if it’s telling you that this place doesn’t feel good. Do not assume that you will be able to change dodgy things for the better after you start working there. Change happens, but it happens slow.

        As for the actual interview, Ask A Manager has a ton of advice on searching for jobs and interviewing for jobs on her site, so I am not going to recap all of that here. I am going to tell you about THE job interview question that has given me the most insight about what I’m stepping into.

        The question:

        “Is this a newly created position or will I be taking over for someone?”

        Newly created? You can ask them about their rationale for creating it, how they envision it working. “It sounds like this was created to fulfill a short-term need and clear some backlog, so may I ask how you see this evolving as x project ends?” “If someone does this job very successfully for several years, what kind of opportunity for advancement is possible?” or “What is the time-frame for advancement, if any?“, etc.

        You’ll find out loads of stuff.

        • Oh, the boss has all these grandiose visions that aren’t in the actual job description? Good to know.
        • Oh, you’ll be reporting to 8 different people who all have different ideas of what this job is? Good to know.
        • Oh, this is a dead-end mish-mosh of a bunch of unrelated low-priority tasks that piled up when they laid off three people? GOOD TO KNOW.

        Will you be stepping into someone’s shoes? Cool. Where are they now?

        • Still with the company – “Would it be possible for me to meet them at some point during the interview process and get a picture of the day-to-day?” You will find out the real scoop of things. Bonus, if this person meets and likes you, they will advocate in your favor.
        • Fired, you say? – “Wow, that must have been very awkward, though it sounds like you have a strong idea of what you don’t want going forward. Would you be comfortable telling me how your priorities for the position have changed since that event, or any mistakes or pitfalls I should watch out for?
        • Left for another position? – Note to self, research who, what & where. Might give insight into what growth opportunities are out there later, or maybe we know someone in common who can make an introduction.

        Almost every interviewer will ask you why you left or are leaving your current job. They are looking both for facts (are they consistent?) and attitudes. Do you go all weird when you talk about it? Do you spend 40 minutes kvetching about every unfair & incompetent thing your old boss did and get very worked up and angry? Are there inconsistencies? Are all of your stories about how nothing is your fault? If you answer this confidently & consistently, it will set their mind at ease. If not, it is a red flag for them about you.

        By asking where this job came from and about who used to have it, you are doing the same thing. Does the story hint at some giant drama that dare not be named? Does your potential new boss seem fair, thoughtful, and forthcoming when s/he describes what went down? If the person left for a better opportunity, does the boss seem supportive & reasonable, or does it become a lecture about disloyalty? Someone who can’t or won’t answer simple questions like these either hasn’t thought about it enough to be your boss or is doing some weird power play.

        If you do get to talk to the person who used to have the job, listen carefully to what they say and what they don’t say. A person who had a good experience working with the boss will be very forthcoming, the same way a reference who really liked working with you will be forthcoming when the company calls to check on you. A person who had a bad experience will be cagey and vague. If you’re asking “What was the best thing about working for so-and-so?” and getting answers like “uh….The schedule…. I guess” the person is telling you without telling you, “I would cheerfully burn it to the ground.” Just because they hated it doesn’t mean you’ll hate it, but like the other red flags, it’s information.

        One more from my NO!-files: If you ever hear a potential new boss talk about how “We’re all like one big family here!” or “We like to think of ourselves as a family!” in an interview, my recommendation is to run far, far away. In my experience that means:

        • We have no structure or policies, it’s all just the CEO’s feelings and whims!
        • He (it’s often a “he”) sees himself as everyone’s dad. Stand by to be patronized!
        • We like to say thank you with flair & mandatory “fun!” outings instead of with money.
        • Speaking of money, we don’t use that to motivate you. We use guilt. Just think of the people who would be happy to have this job! And think of all the people we are helping! And think of how your long hours for little pay are helping me, your CEO-Dad, be more profitable! Don’t you want me to have a boat? But we’re a faaaaaaaamily!
        • The Venn diagram of “we are like a family!” businesses and “we will call with complex questions every single day of your vacation” businesses are a series of concentric circles.

        Obviously this post is non-comprehensive, so tell us: What red flags and bad experiences have you run into during job searching? That unpaid “social media internship” that’s 40+hours/week? The dude who, per Twitter, told @Shinobi42 “I like to hire women because they’ll put up with my shit?” The interviewer that seems to have an office, but really just has his studio apartment with only the bed for sitting? (Recommendation: FLEE AT ONCE.)

        Finally, in addition to Ask A Manager I would also recommend Work Made For Hire, Katie Lane’s site targeted to freelancers & creatives. It is excellent. Scripts galore.