It’s Not Only Women-Men Do It Too

Here are 2 comments on a recent Huffington Post article of mine, Don’t Pity Me Because I Don’t Have Kidsin which I wrote about how people have a hard time understanding my “childfree” life:

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-a woman

and

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-a man

And while I can proudly report that I told both those people (very nicely) that I thought they were wrong–that it wasn’t just women who judged people without kids–I also have a confession. The piece in question was originally a blog post of mine called Why You Should Stop Feeling Sorry For Meand that blog post of mine was originally called Why WOMEN Should Stop Feeling Sorry For Me. 

So yeah, until recently, I also bought into the idea that it’s really just women who have problems with childless people. I wrote the piece in October, and before I published it I read it to my best friend for feedback (read: for her to tell me that I’m a literary genius and the piece was perfect). But she couldn’t get past the sentence: “And women have a hard time understanding that.” We talked for a while and she made some good points, namely that women are probably only more likely to voice their opinion on the matter, not necessarily more likely to have it in the first place.268149208_d51dec08deI changed the title of my post but wasn’t entirely convinced until a few months later, when something else happened.

I posted a hilarious meme that said “The best part of kids is that I am not responsible for any of them.” I know, right? Told you it was hilarious. Also happens to be true–despite the fact that I love (some) kids, I don’t have any myself because I’m not ready to give up the freedom that one loses upon procreation. And someone said this:

Such a sad, sad commentary by someone who has never experienced the pure joy and love a child brings to the heart and soul of one who IS responsible for them.

I’d only been on Facebook for a short while at the time, and wasn’t able to let trolls’ comments slide off my back with the same ease that I am now. (Ha.) It made me so angry that I took to Facebook to write the one and only rant that I’ve ever posted. And let me tell you, it was a pretty good one. I said that it most certainly was not a sad commentary, that a woman doesn’t need kids to be fulfilled, that blah blah blah, insert feminist rant here. And I could totally feel both men and women near and far giving me a feminist salute as they liked and commented and shared my post. I was basically saving civilization in general, and feminism in particular.

But here’s what was interesting. Everyone assumed that the comment was made by a woman. It wasn’t.

I wasn’t trying to trick anyone, it just never occurred to me to mention that it was actually a closed-minded man who said what he did about my “sad” commentary. (Unsurprisingly, he had a lot of hunting pictures up on his page–a lot of standing triumphantly over enormous dead animals, his eyes glistening with pride that he was able to outsmart an animal and then turn a weapon on it.)

So my question is–why? Why are we (myself included) so quick to assume that it’s only women who care about the status of women’s wombs? The idea of a happy marriage with 2.5 happy children is the great American Dream, is it not? Isn’t it a societal standard that both men and women designate as the arbiter of what’s important and what isn’t?

I don’t have any definitive answers, but I do know that these questions merit some serious thought. As women, I think we’re especially hard on other women. Both of those comments portray women as catty and competitive, but there’s something much more aggressive–almost vitriolic–about the woman’s comment. There was a resentment there–that I was part of a group of people who were consciously trying to perpetuate a notion that I knew to be false. That I was afraid to tell the ugly truth about who women really are.

A friend told me that he did think women care more than men about who has kids, and when I asked him why, he couldn’t cite any specific examples. Just a general feeling. We have been trained to think certain things about each gender, and then to attribute those differences to “nature.” And if we really want things to change, we need to start examining those ideas and questioning where they have actually come from.

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Ground Control to Major Tom: Must We Grieve So Publicly?

 

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David Bowie’s death a few weeks ago unsettled me—not the death itself, but the phenomenon that followed it. Initially, as my social media feeds filled with pictures and quotes and song links, I was uncomfortable and annoyed. Then I started to feel like a sociopath—the world was letting out this great, collective gasp in mournful unison.

Why wasn’t I?

It’s not like I didn’t try. I put up a few different elegiac Bowie pictures, but took them down soon after. It just felt icky. The fact was, I wasn’t grieving. Sad? Sure. But not grieving. And so it felt like I was trying to co-opt his death and make it mine in a way that it wasn’t. I was using this awful thing (though there are things way more tragic than the death of a 69 year-old man who lived an incredibly full and exciting life) to get…well what was I trying to get? Attention, I guess. Isn’t that always the point of a social media post? Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, posting something on social media is us waving our arms back and forth, trying to signal to people that we need some attention. Look over here. This is where I am. This is what I’m doing. This is how I’m grieving. Continue reading

Polishing the Pearl: Why Can’t We Talk About Female Masturbation?

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“When I’m good, I’m very good, and when I’m bad, I’m better.” -Mae West

Jerking off. Whacking off. Whippin the bishop. Spanking the monkey, walking the dog, shucking the corn. Beating it, badgering the witness, jerkin the gherkin, bashing the candle, beating the meat, choking the chicken. And those are just the ones I could think of offhand—the lists I found on the internet are endless (and often disturbing, in case you’re wondering). One site boasted a list of 1,000 different ways to refer to a man playing 5 on 1.

But when I tried to come up with euphemisms for female masturbation—nothing but crickets. I literally could not come up with a single one on my own, and the longest list I could find was about 80 entries, 95% of which I’d never heard of. (My favorite one was “impeaching bush,” while the most offensive was “polishing a bald man in a canoe.” Why would I be polishing a bald man when I’m buffing by myself?)

So why the discrepancy? Why are we at such a loss for words when it comes to women touching themselves, but for men there are literally thousands of terms at their fingertips? (See what I did there?) Why is it that we’ve made it so easy for men to articulate themselves when it comes to sex, and so difficult for women? Continue reading

Trying To Be Present (Right After I Check Facebook & Twitter)

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Inside my head.
Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch. -James Baldwin

Here’s why I’m a lunatic. Last week I was writing in my journal—wrestling with questions about being present in my life, wondering if blogging was actually making me a worse writer by making me less here. And here’s what was going on in my head:

Actually this might make a good blog post, all about the tension between blogging and my “real” writing—wait, a post like that would never go viral, needs to be something sexier—maybe something political? Hillary’s a hot topic, maybe I should write about her—but am I smart enough to write about politics, informed enough? Maybe another vagina post, vaginas are really hot right now—maybe I’ll go get my vagina steamed and write about that…

When your search history includes “Where can I get my vagina steamed in New Jersey,” it’s time to step away from the computer and do some thinking.  Continue reading

Cleansing My Body Image: Why I’ll Never Juice Again

 

 

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I’ve been aware of my body ever since I grew boobs and an ass: its measurements, its image, its power. I can’t help it. It’s been made abundantly clear to me that as a woman, it’s part of my net worth and will affect how successfully I make my way through the world. It should be lean but not without curves, sculpted but not too bulky. And thin. Above all else, it should be thin.

But now it seems that skinny is no longer enough—now you have to make it to those 00 jeans cleanly. You have to meditate on your third shakra in order to find your inner goddess while you honor your light by sitting in chair pose next to your composting machine while eating gluten-free gluten. Or something.

And guess what? Marketers are on to us. They realize that while the goal is essentially the same, the vehicle to get thin has gone green. So that despite the fact that I’m an absolute ogre and ridiculously dramatic when I’m hungry, last month I decided that a juice cleanse was the way to go for me. Because, well…cleanse! It’s right there in the title, dummy. This wouldn’t be the same thing as grapefruits or cabbage soup—this would purify me, rid me of all those nasty toxins that my “dirty” living has deposited in me. And obviously I’d spend enough money to ensure maximum health benefits, and upgrade to the package that includes wafer vitamins and vegetable pills. I mean, I’m not an animal.

What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading

Sum of My Pieces

***I’ve been thinking back to where it all started for me and this little blog. Y’know, all the way back to October (when I was still doing the e.e. cummings thing). Thanks to everyone who has read and supported me, especially those who’ve reached out to tell me when something resonated with them. For a writer just starting out, you can’t know how much it helps to know that my words are landing somewhere. Happy New Year everyone.***

-charles bukowski
-charles bukowski

the other day, my blonde-haired blue-eyed 7 year-old charge looked at me and said, “what do you wanna be when you…” and there he stopped, an impish grin forming across his sun-splashed summer face. he knew i was already a grown-up, but he also understood that being a nanny isn’t a response to the question of what you want to be when you grow up. babysitting is something you do, not something you are. and though he didn’t want to offend me, he did want an answer to his question. he thought about it for a moment and then said, “well, besides this, what do you want to be when you grow up? i wanna be an engineer—so i can make roller coasters.”

my answer is a little more complicated. i’m still not entirely sure. Continue reading

13 Things I Learned From Facebook in 3 Months

11076788946_2ab83d617cIt’s been three months since I’ve kamikazied my way into the world of social media, and I have to say, I’m coming to understand it in a way that’s making it surprisingly enjoyable.

Nah, just fucking with you. It’s all still totally absurd and anxiety-producing, and it has me worried about the survival of mankind as a whole. But it hasn’t been all bad. Here’s what I’ve learned: Continue reading

Call an Ambulance: My Man Has the Sniffles

my boyfriend last weekend.
My sick boyfriend.

Last weekend my boyfriend came down with a wicked case of Ebola. Wait, that doesn’t seem right—I feel like I would’ve heard about a Jersey outbreak or I’d remember being forced into quarantine. But if it wasn’t Ebola, then what was it that made him too weak to move as he neared his end and repeatedly reminded me how very gravely ill he was?

Oh that’s right—I remember now. A cold. That’s what my boyfriend had. Case of the sniffles.

And it got me thinking, mainly about how men are usually such pussies when they’re sick, while women seem to able to power through. (Leave me alone about using that word in this context. I’m not a sexist. I think women are the shit. I’ve given up a lot of vices over the years, and I’m not giving up pussy too. Ok that came out wrong but you know what I mean.) Maybe it’s because women spend almost a quarter of their adult lives in a crampy, hormonal hell in which our bodies are hijacked (yeah, I’m playing the period card), or maybe evolutionarily women have had to be the stronger sex in order to give birth. Maybe it’s because throughout the centuries of male privilege, women have had no choice but to suck that shit up and make him his turkey pot-pie anyway. Continue reading

Some Notes on Letting Go

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When I was 8, I saw a pair of white gloves in a toy store that sang to my soul. They were long and satin and gorgeous, and I knew immediately that my life would never be complete without them. So when my mother said no and dragged me from the store, my mission was clear: make her life a living hell. I begged and I whined and I sulked, and it soon became clear to my mom that she could either buy me the damn gloves or live the rest of her life being tortured by a freckled pain in her ass. She chose wisely.

Every night I’d put the gloves on very carefully—pulling them slowly up past my elbows—and I’d slip into my black mary janes that made the most satisfying clicking sound on the tiles of my bathroom floor. I’d spend long swaths of time click-clacking around that bathroom with those beautiful satin gloves on, and I felt positively fucking regal. The fact that the bathroom was so small that I could only take a step or two in any direction, and that I was in my pajamas so I looked like I’d just fled the “special” ward of a hospital, stepping back and forth in place and gesturing wildly with my gloved hands—well that never occurred to me. It all just felt so right.

 

That memory has been hovering over me lately, as I’ve been going through one of those cliched “hard times” over the past few months. It’s made me realize 2 things: 1) My inclination towards madness once I decide I want something is nothing new. And 2) What if I was willing to be a bit more like that little idiot, tapping back and forth in front of a bathroom mirror for no other reason than the fact that it made me happy? Ok the second one isn’t so much a realization as a question, but whatever.

I didn’t want those gloves to impress anyone—shit, I didn’t even care if anyone ever saw me in them. I wanted them because for whatever childish reason, they tapped into some part of me that felt true. I wasn’t looking to post them or like them, I didn’t want to pin or poke or tweet or twat them, nor was I trying to further a career or fill some gaping emotional void. I just wanted them for the sake of having them—to feel the satin over my forearms and touch the sink through the fabric and complement all those fancy sounds that my shoes were making. Whatever that experience amounted to—feeling like a princess, feeling important and sophisticated and charming—it was both a means and an end.

And it makes me sad that I don’t think that way anymore.

As an adult, things are different. I’m tethered to responsibilities that I didn’t have as a kid.  Not just physical and financial demands (though those are certainly substantial), but ones of personhood and meaning-making—the questions that no one can answer but me. Am i living the life I want to live? What does that even look like?  Am i running out of time?  Could I be doing more?  What terrifies me and excites me and holds me back and lets me go?  Which things do I find beautiful?  Terrible?  Necessary?  Irrelevant?

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me, trying to be an adult.

If youth is about having the space for those questions to marinate unarticulated, growing up is something a lot less passive. It’s an active pursuit, and it takes muscle and persistence and the willingness to reach for answers despite knowing that even if you find them, they’ll only lead to more questions.

The problem is that when I stop reaching for answers—when I become complacent or lazy or paralyzed by fear—that’s when I am the furthest away from that little girl in the bathroom. Because then instead of questions, all I can hear is one resounding, demented answer: RESULTS!  Results are what will make meaning for me, and the pursuit of those results will take the place of seeking answers to those important questions.

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Inside my head.

If I get published, I will feel worthy.  If this post reaches X amount of people, then what I’ve written matters. If I have a man who loves me then I’m ok. If I make X amount of money, then I have X amount of value. If I achieve X, then the fear that I am not enough will go away.  If I can fix that relationship, then I am lovable. If this person likes me, then I’m obviously the shit. 

It’s not always as conscious and idiotic as some of those, but you get the point.

And the point is basically this: once I’ve decided what the results of something should look like before that something has even started, I’m screwed. Because what inevitably happens is that I start clinging to that pre-ordained image of what it will all look like—and I grip that motherfucker until my knuckles are white and my palms ache and I can barely breathe. And then I’ve placed myself in a world consumed with fear and guaranteed to disappoint. Because here’s the truth of it: clinging will always fail me in the end. The tighter I clutch something, the less hold I have on it. That’s the great paradox, right? It’s only when you stop caring about what comes next does what comes next end up being so beautiful.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to try to be more like that little insane-asylum escapee—the girl marching in place to the beat of her own clicking heels as she adjusts the satin gloves that she’s pulled up over her Scooby Doo pajamas.

photo credit: Joyful via photopin (license)
photo credit: Inner fears via photopin (license)

(in)gratitude

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make me good god, but not yet. -st. augustine

i’ll be honest–my creative juices weren’t really flowing this week. i started and abandoned several pieces that i thought might make good blog posts.  as the week wore on and i was becoming more and more frustrated, i was also being inundated with more and more displays of gratitude on social media.  it’s that time of year.

gratitude. ugh.

it’s not that i don’t think gratitude is important or that i’m not grateful for a lot of things.  i do and i am.  i suppose ultimately i think of gratitude the same way i think of humility and coolness—if you’re talking about it, you ain’t got it. look’it me, look’it me! look at how grateful i am? aren’t you grateful you know such a grateful person?? Continue reading