Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Odd convergence of memory and current events

Just this week I was re-telling an awful story from my teenage years. This story involved a young man who had been my friend since I was ten years old (or maybe younger). He's now a very public figure, but until this morning, I was ignorant of just how infamous he has become. He is Adam Bellow, the son of the author Saul Bellow, and the editor of Sarah Palin's new book (or as some consider it, his book.) Putting the embarrassment of my ignorance aside, I find this new revelation to be funny. My last encounter with my childhood friend was an exercise in this once young woman's awakening to the cruelty of sexist men, and finding he is one of Palin's supporters seemed more than fitting. Reading his telling of his "conversion" to conservatism this morning also woke me up to how far I've traveled from my roots, roots steeped in a New York Jewish assumed liberalism, intellectualism, and presumption of financial success. My parents had neither status, degrees, or money, but we did live surrounded by all three, and were surrounded by those who had not only those, but Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, wings with their names on it in museums, and chauffeurs (naturally). The chauffeurs were often the more interesting of the bunch, but I digress.

Adam and I were buddies in playing the cello at a young age. He was better than I, but of course; he was the golden boy. He moved to Manhattan while my family stayed on Long Island. Visits were memorable, especially a birthday party that coincided with a solar eclipse. Later, we were both rebellious young tweens, good and quiet kids to our parents, but early party kids. By high school, we had lost touch.

When I was in my first year of college in Manhattan, I was thrilled when I heard from him out of the blue. He was in the city; we should get together. I hadn't seen him since I was in junior high school, but he was someone whom I thought of as a potential lifelong friend. I was thrilled to finally hear from him again. I never once thought of this as a "date" - we had been buddies, nearly partners in crime. But no, once I opened the door to this now young man, I knew things had changed. His face showed it with no reservations. Like other privileged rich boys before him that I'd been set up on blind dates with, I could see his disappointment writ large upon his face. I was a dog in his eyes. Still, he deigned to go with me to Max's Kansas City. By the end of the night, four things had happened: 1. In spite of my status as the spurned ugly female, we had fun talking. 2. He was left without a word after he had found the hottie that he presumably bedded that night. 3. He passed me a joint that contained angel dust. 4. I almost killed my room mate after running home during the near-psychosis that PCP induces.

That night, so long ago, was a pivotal moment in my life. I vowed to never smoke pot again, which was probably a good thing, though no big deal. But I was deeply hurt by my old friend's lack of courtesy (a nice way of putting it). His issues with being the son of a famous philanderer and even more esteemed writer had finally taken hold of his personality, in my eyes. It saddened me. He was such a smart and fun youngster. That person was gone. Why this affected me so is hard to understand, even now. His rejection, however, felt more than a personal thing between us; it was a signal to me that my inclusion in the society of the privileged, though always tenuous, was over. I was excluded by not being gorgeous in the eyes of the hetero alpha male, and my belief in my own intellectual and creative capacities wasn't great enough to make up for my lack in the arena of sexual allure. After three days of PCP-induced psychosis, I woke up to my new status as an outsider.

And now Adam is a figure of great interest, influence, and controversy. He has finally received the kind of attention he craved as the son of a famous person. If it was someone else, I'd say "good for him." In this case, I wonder if he got what he deserved, and I don't mean that with any good will. I was going to say that I'm sorry for that, but I promised I'd end the apologies. But still, I'm sorry to see that this old friend has become a person whom I'd hate to even sit down and have a short meal with. But that'd be no loss to him; in his world, even a bite of bagel between old friends means nothing.*

Image note: I played 3rd cello (the worst) to Adam's 2nd. I have no recollection of who was sitting in the 1st chair. This is the piece of music that drove my playing. I remember happy times as Adam and I played the cello in my family's apartment. Bach may have been great, but we listened to rock and roll, though I can't for the life of me remember what.

Addendum: I had more once pulled down all my nasty posts about Sarah Palin. I wonder, as I re-read this (I did, after all, write it at 4:00am), and wonder if it falls into the same category as that which I had once pulled. I had vowed to not speak ill of others. I appear to be doing that, aren't I? And that which I put an asterisk next to - * - why would I imagine such a thing of this man? Sounds like the proverbial sour grapes. Yet, I'm letting it stand. No more self-censorship, even if it means seeing how I've broken my Buddhist vows. I won't be going to hell for it, and I've started to believe it's better to air this stuff. Don't want anyone to think I'm some sort of saint (I doubt I was in any danger of that). Speaking of which, there's a new feature on Facebook that allows people to answer strange questions about one. It's awful! One person answered three this way: 1. Is Julie a pervert? No. 2. Does Julie break the speed limit? Yes. 3. Would Julie sell you out for $1000? Yes. She was wrong on two counts, but we never knew each other that well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

End of the year shopping

Every year I manage to forget about buying a new datebook until there's only a few unwanted leftovers laying about. I thought that this year I'd be fine, since it isn't 2010 yet, but no, the sales have already started, and today's pickings were slim. I thought I found a nice, small weekly planner, but discovered it is hard to write in because the spiral binding is too big. I'll manage. Maybe I'll stop noticing this after a few weeks, or a few months at most. Maybe I won't, but hey, the way I've been experiencing the passage of time lately, it'll soon be time for a new 2011 planner. Next year, perhaps, I'll buy one in November. Not likely, but I can dream. Maybe I should put that in the date book (written poorly).

This year's selection of post-holiday discount perfume was non-existent. There was nothing at TJ Maxx. I don't mean there was nothing I'd like to buy - there was nothing on sale. Usually, there are piles of beaten up perfume boxes. It's possible that they were already sold, but last year there was lots of it still hanging about right through February (I do remember). I shouldn't whine, actually, for the goods they had displayed, even at a deeper discount, held no interest for me. They were the same scents they had last year: Sarah Jessica Parker's Covet, Juicy Couture, whatever else I had so little interest in that I can't remember. I do rather like Covet, but I snagged at bottle for five bucks last year.

You'll probably be surprised to discover that I do enjoy shopping, up to a point. I enjoy finding a good bargain. I truly enjoy buying new bedding. Nothing is nicer than new white sheets. This year I purchased some amazing 450 count cotton sateen sheets at a local discount store and they are heavenly. They were also less expensive than buying yardage, so I bought a few colored flat sheets to sew into summer bathrobes.

I had originally titled this entry "the disappointments of shopping", but I realized that was dead wrong. No big deal that today I met with no fantastic finds and the dregs of yearly planners. And why is it that one can't find plain cotton turtlenecks in the dead of winter? Is it already time for summer clothing? I feel like I'm beginning to sound like Andy Rooney, so I should consider shooting myself.

No one bought me a gun for Christmas, so don't worry.

I grew up shopping a lot with my mother. She adored bargain hunting. When I was young, I did not. She and I would argue about the relative merits of buying a pile of acrylic sweaters versus one high-quality wool one. My love of wool was something she didn't understand. She also preferred quantity over quantity any day of the week. When she passed away, I discovered she had over 50 pairs of white sneakers in her closet. The number was much higher than 50, but since my memory is failing me, I don't want to claim knowledge of the magic number. It was a bit of a shock. I can't for the life of me imagine her motivations. An Imelda Marcos variety of shoes I can understand, sure, but a closet-full of white sneakers is a mystery that will never be solved (unless some reader has the same compulsion and can explain it).

This post has been derailed by my sudden ambivalence about claiming to find shopping a disappointment. Sometimes it surely can be fun. Of course, there's the fact that money is a problem, my dislike of dressing rooms, long lines, crowds, the "weather" in the stores, and the fact that I always become outrageously tired, no matter how short a time I spend shopping. I like little shops, but they're expensive. Here in Maine, I had loved the small Goodwill stores, but now even they've become huge stand-alone buildings with overly bright lights.

Still, a good bargain is a pleasure, as is a comfortable pair of shoes, clean crisp sheets, fresh towels, and a new bottle of perfume. Shame me all you want - I am a materialist. There are far worse out there than I, so I will not apologize (my no-apology 2010 resolution is already in effect). There it is.

What was the best bargain of the past year? Believe it or not, some really fine Jasmine Green tea at 99 cents for 50 bags, all in a nice round tin. There was also a Fossil chain-link watch that I snapped up for three bucks. Every time I wear that watch, I feel as if I stole it.

Photo note: I googled "Middle Neck Road, Great Neck" for a photograph of where I shopped when I was growing up. This is not an older photo, judging from the cars. Yet, here are two of the many shoe shops that were in Great Neck. This town was crazy for shoes. So was I, and I spent many hours drawing pictures of them as a child, including making dioramas of imaginary shoe stores. Someone should have told me that this was a legitimate job to have as an adult instead of judging my odd interest as somewhat quirky and cute. Alas, more fodder for the remorse of adulthood. Not really. Well, maybe.

Addendum: It occurs to me that a disturbing amount of blog entries in the last year have been about disappointing purchases. The Ikea mattress debacle garnered the most comments for one entry (and I wish folks would cease and desist!) My quick note that a bra designer may have been a sadist caused a flurry of e-mails, a new bra, and an invitation for a private fitting.

By the way, I had made an early resolution at the beginning of this month to stop wearing a bra, or at least one with underwires. After a lifetime of pain, I quit. I've started wearing boy's compression undershirts after tossing a few old sports bras in the trash. Today, I did get a new sports bra that seems promising, but I wonder if next week I'll be kvetching about it. Wonder of wonders! I've just realized I'm real kvetch. Is this something that will change in 2010? I come from a long line of New Yawk kvetchers; I've got complaining in my genetic code, so, nah, I doubt it.

And darn, I should have burnt those bras. It would have been fun, and just so retro. But considering what they're made of, I bet they'd stink.

One last apology before my resolution to stop being an apologist

I never do make New Year's resolutions, actually. But, if I did, here's what they'd be: Stop being an apologist. Embrace my disdain for American "culture" without becoming embittered. Protest loudly, hopefully without the stridency that turns people off. Do more. Make more. Reject the constraints of a society that tries to enforce normalcy. Finally accept myself for my slippery personality. Finally accept my disabilities while embracing my strengths. Work harder for myself and others. Listen to my inner voice, which is usually "right" and not do what's "sensible", which is usually wrong (at least for me). Speak up for those who can't. Do not live out of fear. Listen more carefully to others.

Did I forget what my last apology is? Hmmm. Oh yes - it's this: Sorry to all of you who come to this blog expecting only interesting tidbits about perfume, crafts, rural life, and nothing "lurid" or angry. There's anger in me. As much as I see the good in everyone (and I do), I have been trying to sublimate the part of me that sees just how much this so-called society hurts many. Assimilate or be punished! I do not live in an urban ghetto of acceptance of all people. If I did, it would be fairly safe to be as I am and say and do what I want. Folks who live in places like I do keep their mouths shut and their lives a secret, for the most part, or have assimilated to the point of being "acceptable enough." To those who don't, my apologies for generalizing, and my congratulations to you.

As part of the "last apology" (though I'm sure I'll make what the 12-steppers call "a slip"), here's a perfume story for y'all:

Way back in the early summer, I popped into Marshall's to check out their often interesting sale table. On it was a bottle of Annick Goutal's Neroli and two bottles of Armani Prive Eau de Jade. They were both $22 bucks. I was basically broke during this time and I figured if it wasn't under twelve dollars, I'd pass. One bottle of the Armani was open and I surreptitiously sprayed a bit on my wrist. Then I got in the car and started driving home.

I loved the smell. I kept bringing my hand up to my nose. I have a predisposition to thinking anything Armani is junk, so I found it hard to believe how much I was enjoying the scent. After driving for about ten minutes, I considered turning around and going back to buy a bottle. I did not. It seemed silly. By the time I got home, unfortunately, I was in love with the scent. So, I called Marshall's up and asked them to reserve a bottle for me. Unfortunately, exactly one half hour after I left, they marked down everything on the sale table to ten bucks and all the perfume was gone (except for the Elizabeth Taylor dreck).

The next morning, I called every Marshalls and TJ Maxx in the state. I kid you not. I'm always looking for a scent that truly intoxicates me and I had done so. I needed it. Yeah, I know it's a type of compulsion. I have plenty of nice perfume. But if you're reading this, you probably know what I'm talking about. I really needed that juice.

Hey, others have much worse habits. In fact, in retrospect, I realize I spent far less on my compulsions than the average beer drinker or cigarette smoker. Ten to twenty bucks a week on fiber and perfume is not much. But I digress.

I googled the Armani Prive Eau de Jade and found many a bad review of the stuff, with comments galore, saying how much many folks absolutely love it. It's a fairly straightforward scent: "A citrus-aromatic scent with notes of bergamot, spices, bourbon vanilla and Tunisian neroli." It feels to me like a strong traditional men's cologne but with more heft.

The kicker of knowing that I could have gotten two bottles for ten bucks a pop if I had loitered in the store is finding out that this stuff is listed for $185 and discounted for about $140. That's out of my league. Pleas for in on MUA produced nothing. Ebay disappointed, as usual. I thought of all the folks who had scooped it up at Marshalls across the country and were now selling it for over a hundred bucks on the aforementioned Ebay and wanted to kick myself and kick myself hard. I also wanted the Goutal Neroli. As ubiquitous as neroli is, I love the stuff, and if I can find anything that is good with neroli in it, I want it. Ah, well, one can't have everything. As for fragrances, there's many I want to get my grubby little hands on that I can't: Nasomatto China White, Neil Morris' Spectral Violet (and many of his vault scents), various Lutens (all the overpriced ones, of course), the new Artisans, a bottle of Chanel Les Exclusifs Cologne. And these are just off the top of my head. I've stopped paying much attention to the perfume blogs, for the most part. The "stage one" symptoms of perfume addiction were relatively benign and easy to satisfy. Freebies and little samples were all welcome. Everything was new and interesting. Now, everything I want is harder to find. The swaps I'm offered on the boards are never met with anything interesting. No, I don't want to swap my Lutens for your Victoria's Secret perfume. And no one has any Ginestet Le Boise, another perfume I adore. How many little vials of it can I procure? I yell at myself in my head: use up what you have! Well, I will.

This short story has become quite long. Anyway, for my birthday, I decided I must get myself some of the Armani. Of all the scents on my lust list, I figured it would be the easiest to find at an affordable price, and it turned out I was correct. I finally got lucky on Ebay where I usually am not. There happened to be three auctions ending in the same hour for the stuff, and one of them was for a refill (which doesn't have the lovely jade stone on top). Sure, I'd love that nice box with the stone, but since I keep my fragrances in the boxes, why should I covet that? I bid $25.01 and called it a day, figuring I'd be outbid and that'd be the end of it. Much to my surprise, I wasn't, as the stoned-topped boxes wound up being sold for close to retail. People want the flourishes, don't they? Good for them, and good for me.

To top off the pleasure, the seller sent it to me priority mail and I got it a day after my birthday. Thank you, whoever you are. I've been wearing it every day since. I can't help myself. I passed it by for Christmas and wore Goutal's Myrrh Ardente instead. Oddly, my once-loved Encens Flamboyant has lost its charms and the Myrrh scent has crept up on me. Okay, add that to the list. My sample vial has enough for one more dose (oh, I mean application).

And so, that brings my perfume update to a close. I hope it softens the new harshness of my blog. Hey, that's me. Soft, hard, nice, cruel, forgiving, angry, understanding, intolerant. We're all made up of contradictions. Some find it intolerable in others and in themselves. Some are blind to the parts of their personality that don't "fit" with their sense of self. I hope, at least, that I'm not completely blind to my faults. I know I can be a bore, that I'm not attentive enough, that I'm both oversensitive and insensitive at the same time (which can be truly confusing), and that I can be overly needy. Need more resolutions? I'm working on it. I think we're all capable of change, even up to the day we die. Most people harden like arteries by the time they hit the grand old age of 30. I am grateful that I did not, and never plan to.

Enough about me. What are your grand plans for the teenage years of the 21st century? I hope this adolescent period will bring about great changes that adolescence usually elicits, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm right.

Photo note: Self-explanatory, I should hope.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The societal tea of romance that we're steeped in

On Christmas day, I watched and listened as a ten-year-old girl sang and danced along to a karaoke game. The list of songs was "for girls", each one of them a disastrous bit of romantic absurdity. If girls believe that this is what they'll be getting from the boys (or from other girls, for that matter), they are in for a sad awakening. Who is going to tell them that "I've waited my whole life to have this night with you?" The only people who talk this way are players, what I used to call sweet-talkers when I was young, and those guys are certainly not going to perform any of the other rituals of romance that we are taught to expect. The strong hand that cups the soft cheek, the hard shoulder to cry on, the soft words of tenderness, the man who "went to Jared!", the proclamations of love made on bended knee, ex-lovers who have sudden changes of heart and board planes in a hurry, their minds suddenly clear with passion and purpose, the surprises, the aha-moment apologies, the strong but silent types who cry out from rooftops their love, or yell up from the street for all the world to hear, flowers that appear at one's lousy nine-to-five job, hookers redeemed by johns who see them as they really are, Cinderella. . .I could go on for hours without end with the nonsense we're shown, even if we're not even watching. It's impossible to not hear it and see it - all the romance, the promises of romance, the stuff of romance, and then, the inevitable yearning for it, even if we reject it as nonsense. We're steeped in it from so young an age, it's impossible not to become infected with this yearning. We deserve this type of love and if we don't get it, it's because we're not good enough, or not pretty enough, or are cynical and cheating ourselves out of the possibility. Either way, we lose. We all know life is not like it is in the movies, or in books, or in pop songs. Yet, still, maybe. . .If only it was as simple as Santa Claus. Losing our belief in this fairly harmless character is not a huge blow. We never really thought he existed. It was just the make believe of childhood. But romance? Even if we know it's not really like the movies and songs, and even as we scoff at the commercials for this year's model of the banal diamond necklace that speaks of love, we are still taken in. A part of us believes forever. Some become quite bitter. Others resigned. A few, not. Again, who wins? The movie makers and the jewelry stores. I dunno.

Image note: Oh, how I didn't want to put this image up! I made a deal with myself that I'd google the word "romance" and post the top image result. Here it is: married, white (but tanned), heterosexual (of course), the pampered woman with perfect nails who holds a flower, the perfectly attentive man who wants her more than she wants him (she stares out on the scenery, but he is intoxicated by her, and her alone). It's an ad, of course. He's whisked her away to a tropical paradise. . .

In the meantime. . .

So much to write about. . .disbelief that we're entering the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. . .too much to do. . .the as yet only in-my-head writing of two (or possibly three) knitting books and their associated projects. . .a million yards of imagined yarn, still unspun. . .the continued unleashing of previously unvoiced and repressed thoughts about society and some of it's malcontents. . .perfume, which has gone unmentioned for some time. . .even music, which I write about infrequently. Too much, so much. Ach. Life is too short. So is one day, and when one is still in their pajamas at 3:25 in the afternoon, as I am now (gasp!), how can one even think of keeping up at all? This state is not exactly normal, I assure you. I stayed up until 5:00am or perhaps later and now I'm paying for it in swollen joints and simple exhaustion.

In the meantime, I'm reading a lot. I recommend Michael Warner's "The Trouble with Normal." For an interesting article he wrote about growing up Pentecostal, go here and scroll down.

Photo note: I searched for an image of a woman on a fainting couch and stumbled upon this. The photoshopped-in person is former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman. Since I hardly identify with the uber-female flapper in the original photo, it seemed fitting, all personal references to the individual Norm Coleman aside. I doubt we'd have much in common (but hey, who knows?)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The beginning of a long story (and hopefully, dialogue)


Preface I: Yeah, yeah, so I said I wouldn't post for a while. But, I'm still home, and some thoughts have been spinning around in my head for weeks that I need to start putting words to, slowly, and with difficulty.

Preface II: These forthcoming posts will not be PG, and may be offensive to some. Shall I put up a warning? This is the warning for this post. In future, I'll come up with something, perhaps the mark of shame: "XXX"

Preface III: Perhaps this is only this; my life story, the personal, hidden part.

Preface IV: Something has happened. I'm tired of keeping quiet about anything. Life is too short.

Years back, the first time Maine rubbed up against the ridiculous notion of allowing people to vote to decide whether some people had the same rights as others, as if anyone has the right to do so, one activist said to me in passing "I just don't understand what we're doing wrong." She wasn't asking me, I knew nothing, but in that moment I understood something true - the only people who spoke about "gay sex" in public were those who despised it, at least among the gay people I knew at the time up here in Maine. I said to my friend, "We've got to start talking about sex." She looked aghast. Truth is, I doubt this person was having sex. Her identity was that of a lesbian, but she wasn't a person who had sex with women. She was attracted to women, not attracted to men (I presume), and sex wasn't the issue. Identity was all. She wanted her identity to be accepted, as we all do, I suppose.

Yet, though lesbian sex is not as despised a gay male sex (indeed, hetereo men seem to adore it), how many times have any of us heard the comment "ewww!" when the subject of non-heterosexual sex acts arise? Identity? Fine. Sex. Yuch.* Let's not talk about it.

But I did. When in the laundromat, I overheard a woman I know talking about the "unnaturalness" of gay male sex. She worried that her children, exposed to teachers who performed such loathsome acts, might come to think that they were okay. I knew her well enough, so I asked her if she ever gave her husband a blowjob. She was the kind of woman who wouldn't have minded me asking; it wasn't done for effect. Her answer, "Yeah, sure. He loves it." "You ever take it up the ass?", I asked as a follow-up. She giggled, looked down at her feet. "Well, a few times."

"Y'know", I said to her, "You're having gay sex. Can't make babies that way."

Later that day, she came up to me and said she was thinking of talking to her pastor. Seriously. She suddenly woke up to reality. This didn't make her any more accepting of gay people, oh no, she was now worried about her own sinfulness. Perfect. Get people thinking of what they're doing. We are all not so different.

But, I'm about to contradict that statement.

The thing that's been bugging me for years is that the acceptance of "non-normative" identities are based on the idea that regardless of the identity, we're all the same; we're all "normal." We all want the same things. The truth is, we're not, and we don't. What the hell is "normal" anyway? Normal is this: family, children, 9-5 jobs, "The American Way of Life." Be sexy, hate sex, feel shame, act like a lady, a real man, assimilate, act white but have pride in your heritage, don't be too smart, be well, act respectable, and keep your unrespectable acts a secret.

So, what about me? What's my gripe? I'm not normal. That's not my identity, but it's true. Those sweet ads for gay marriage here in Maine rankled me. Happy families with kids, picnics in the park, parents who are accepting, the wholesomeness of it all. It's fine to be wholesome, but it bothers me - you're okay as long as you are normal. You are fine and you will be accepted as long as you are wholesome. I'm sorry Mainers didn't think gay people who are super-duper wholesome aren't wholesome enough, but folks, straight people are as "unwholesome" as anyone else.

I just lost my train of thought, inserted a sentence. I know this post is all over the map. I'm not going to do a damned thing about it. Here's the thing: I don't fit into a box, have looked around for one but never found one with my name on it. That's fine by me, but as the years of my life pile up behind me, just as society seems more accepting, it also seems more repressive to everyone with it's insane and seemingly endless obsessions regarding sin, redemption, the falling of heroes found out to be revelers in shameful indulgences (hedonism, oh my!), their apologies, our judgments. And still, folks who aren't accepted want in. Why in hell would anyone want in on this mess?

Yes, we all deserve equal rights. Let's just get that said and over and done with. Now, let's move on.

I used to love gay culture. Now, it's not something I understand, if there's a "gay culture" at all (but I live in the hinterlands, so what do I know?). Coming of age, I hung out in the sleaziest bars. It was only in the company of drag queens, bald-headed butch women, men who had sex with men, and the perverse of all stripes that I felt "normal." What was I? Beats me. At school, I was called a dyke, a queer, a weirdo. I had no idea why. I wasn't a tomboy. I loved playing with Barbies, clothes, makeup, all that "girly stuff", but in retrospect, I didn't like it the way girls did. In high heels, make-up, and a skirt, I was in drag. I played a role, had a laugh. The next day I'd be wearing the usual; boots, jeans, leather jacket. But, it was only clothing. Only clothing. So what?

My identity made no sense to me but I didn't think anything of it. Since I could remember, all my friends were gay. I wondered if I was, didn't seem to be. But I knew how to flirt with girls and not boys, the girls liked me, the boys were scared. I got beat up on the street by men a few times. I didn't even live in Nebraska. I lived in New York City. Walking down a street one night with my arm tattoo showing (yes, once it was unacceptable), some tough boys in a car barked insults at me. The next thing I knew I was waking up from unconsciousness right there on 6th avenue, a few blocks from where the more female than me tranny whores plied their trade at night. My companion, a self-professed sissy-boy, said he was relieved they hadn't popped him in the face. I looked so harmless. It was completely bewildering.

I've been gay-bashed a few other times, other reasons, other places. I've been mistaken for being a boy, by gay men and young girls alike, and one time while mowing my lawn in a tight white t-shirt (what guy has 36D boobs?). I've been yelled at by lesbians for being a cunt tease. I was once accosted in a bathroom stall by an actual supermodel (yeah, I'm crowing) and I've been called ugly by men supposedly near and dear to me (and plenty of hetero men who are neither). I've been shamed for being perverse, tried to embrace the identity of "perv", shoved it aside. I'm been asked, over and over, what my identity is. I used to think I was a gay man trapped in a woman's body; that seemed to fit. Recently, when asked, I said "I've just sexual, or not, depending on what's going on in my life." That's not the answer that was wanted. This person wanted to know how to fix me, identify me, quickly sum me up, understand me without knowing me. Hey, that's okay. This is a fast society, and if one doesn't get over the feeling that "no one understands me" by one's late 20's, one is doomed (but in truth, don't we all wish it were so?).

I'm starting to think that the truth is that most people, of all identities, want this about sex (and any other messy things that involve actual body parts): "don't ask and don't tell." Yes, the dreaded ask and don't tell is really okay with everyone when it comes to what people actually do, and not only how they present themselves to others. You shalt not gross out other people with reality! Identity? Fine and dandy. If we claim the mantle of normalcy, of good ol' polite society, we can be free, come out, be accepted. Otherwise, shut up.

To be continued (and, oh my, that's what I leave you all with for Christmas). . .

Image notes: The argument boiled down to media acceptability. "Queer as Folk" vs "The Other" And no, I've never seen "Queer As Folk", so please don't nitpick my choice of television show. The point is simply the imagery.

*And how is it that all of us, when first taught how babies are really made, exclaim disgust, count up how many kids ours parents had, and figure that's how many times they did it? Is this a "natural reaction?" I think not. Our society is sex-negative, and shaming in the extreme, and we are versed in this way before we even have a clue about anything. Children, in our society, are shamed quickly as to what's "down there."

Addendum: I think it's useful to understand that some of these thoughts have been prompted by the fact that for the last couple of years, as I've come to be seen by others as a "quiet middle-aged woman" and not the gender-fluid, heavily tattooed oddball who everyone wonders about (the role I seemed to play in small-town Maine for nearly fifteen years), I realized I felt uncomfortable. So, does that mean I have an identity? But if identity is unshackled from the sexual, and is what or whom one loves, then right now, I guess I'm just a fiber-queer. Is that acceptable? Shall I get start a lobby group? Sorry, I can't help digressing into silliness. It is the season to make merry, isn't it?

Merry, Happy, etc.

Whatever you are celebrating, enjoy yourself. If you're not celebrating anything, enjoy yourself. I wish I had gifts to send all of you (and yes, that includes those of you I don't know). I can think of a few things I'd love to gift every single person in this world (and no, that's not snark - it's a good thought). Can you?

In the meantime, I'm not even together enough to have gifts for all of those I do know. But hopefully, it's okay. The overcommercialization and obligatory nature of this season has been observed on to death, so I'm not going to add to it today. I rather like the lights, and the extra-niceness, even if it comes with a lot of other baggage that I said I wasn't going to go into.

So, a merry and happy Winter to you all!

Why can't I get a decent haircut?, Pt. II

I looked at the back of my head one last time before I went to sleep last night and wondered if it was possible that the woman who took the clipper to the back of my head did her damage on purpose. I tend to trust everyone is doing the best they can, which includes thinking that no one is being malicious. Obviously, I haven't watched enough reality-TV shows in my life. But, when I look at the mess on the back of my head and realize it started by a flick of the wrist on the part of the beauty salon's manager, I just have to wonder. The woman is so conservative in her appearance (see #9 above for similar style, only much larger all over, and without any irony), and perhaps I overlooked the idea that someone was trying to make my holiday season less jolly on purpose. For all I know, she assumes all women with very short hair are lesbians and she's out to make 'em miserable. I forget how hateful people can be. So, I'm glad I gave the other woman a tip, even though that place didn't deserve a penny, for she needed to be a genius to figure out a way to correct things. She was as bewildered as I was as to why this woman took a clippers and shaved straight across the back of my head (and not perfectly straight at that) about an inch above the base of my earlobes.

So, I was only coming on here to respond to a comment left at the last post, which reminded me of many bad haircuts I've had before. Oh dear. I'm suddenly singing "To all the bad haircuts I've had before" with a Julio Iglesias voice (in my head, of course). I'm always amazed at the songs I've got stored in this brain of mine.

And there are many memories of tips that shouldn't have been given, times I shouldn't have paid, haircuts that were so terrible I went home and shaved my entire head (something I wouldn't mind doing right now, but the front looks quite nice, so I won't), very few memories of anything nice surrounding hair-cutting (and if I think of anything, I'll post it, I promise).

One time I went to get my hair cut when I was feeling quite down. Some people call this a bad hair day, but let's be honest, it's usually an I feel bad about myself day. This was nearly twenty years ago, but I remember it well. I didn't feel like looking in the mirror for twenty minutes, so I asked not to, and trusted that this been-there-forever-everyone-loves-it salon would do a good job of just giving me a nice "pixie" haircut. When the woman spun me around to look in the mirror, it looked like she had cut my hair with a blindfold tied around her eyes. I honestly can't remember what it looked like now. The shock must have given me some aesthetic amnesia (this is pure hyperbole, of course). Anyway, I went over to the library to pick up some books and bumped into two people who asked "What happened to your hair?" It was that bad. I pulled a hat over my head, went home, and promptly called the salon. I wanted to complain to the manager.

This time, I swore, I wouldn't take it in silence. I would complain heartily! With phone in hand, I demanded to speak to the manager or owner, but she wasn't in. "She'll call you back", said the unknown person, who added, "Could you tell me who cut your hair this morning?" Ah. I had forgotten her name. "Who was working here?" I asked. There was a pause on the line. "Oh. Only the store's owner was here this morning", said the girl (which is what they all call themselves in beauty salons, either that or "gal", and "the ladies" (which I've only heard used amongst the dreaded women of a certain age or those who are on the flaming side).

I could hear myself gulp. Now, I had planned out exactly what I would say when I called. I'd demand a haircut from the store owner, who simply had to be competent. Now I was confronted with not only the fallacy of my logic, but the fact that if I did complain, I'd be confronting someone with their ineptitude and my opinion about it. Y'know what I did? Nothing. Well, no, I shaved my head and it felt good. I do love running my palms over a nice even pate of freshly buzz-cut stubble.

Maybe this is why sometimes depressed women shave their heads. They feel like getting just getting a nice haircut to perk themselves up. Getting a nice haircut seems to be a lot less simple than it should be.

Did I even mention that before the bad haircut that was supposed to be a correction to the previous bad haircut, I had had my ear slipped lightly with a scissors, had water forced into my ear at full force, my clothes drenched to the point where they needed to be put in the salon's dryer for over an hour, was left in semi-wet pants and my undershirt under that awful drape, was lied to about what a demi-color would do to my hair, and had my hair dyed a fairly bright raspberry and had to have them correct it? I am not making this up. The woman who did all this had her leg wrapped in bandages; I assumed she probably had taken too many painkillers or something, due to her listlessness (and outrageous incompetence - "Oops, are you bleeding?!". So, that's my excuse for going back to the same place for help a few days later. Well, that and not wanting to spend any more money. . .

Lordy lordy lord (as some people might say). All this about haircuts? Yep.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why can't I get a decent haircut?

I needed a simple trim. That's all. Now, I've got a perfectly good haircut in front and a mangy disaster in the back. Looks like a six-year-old tried to use a trimmer on the back of my head. It's mangy looking - just in time for holiday photographs!

I don't understand it. I just can't seem to get a decent haircut. Yeah, I have thin hair, but it's not that thin. I have a few cowlicks, but that's not uncommon. Yet, every time I get a lousy haircut, those things are the explanations for the little disaster that ensues.

The mistake I made this time is going back to the place where I got the lousy haircut last week and asking them to fix it. I used to scold my tattoo customers for doing the same thing with their bad tattoos - "What made you think that the person who did a bad job the first time would do a better job the second?" It seemed obvious it wasn't a good idea. But, I did ask for another person to fix it. That person struggled with the first bad job. Then, she asked for a more experienced person to come help out. That person shaved off my natural hairline, much to to the horror of both of us. Then, she didn't know what to do. I sat in that chair for 45 minutes while three different people tried, in vain, to rectify a few seconds of reckless buzz-cutting. Then, I felt obligated to give the struggling stylist a tip for all her struggles, even though I'm thinking I should wear a scarf for a few weeks.

At least it wasn't a tattoo. This is only hair, and it'll grow back. Now, I just have to hope that people don't take photographs of me from the back or side, and psych myself up for the ribbing I might get about "what the hell happened back there?"

Y'know, all I wanted was a neat back and sides. That's it. Is that so hard? I used to go to a barber instead of a beauty salon, and I always got a great haircut. The barbers I know are all gone. I think it's time to find a new one. I'm plainly sick of paying for a "woman's haircut" when I think I might have been able to do it myself with just as bad results.

And yes, I'm allowing myself to be pissy, a second day in a row. Happy Holidays!

Photo note: This beautiful woman has entire website devoted to her struggles with baldness. I was bald for a few years, had almost no hair for at least a decade, and dealt with other people's unwanted comments constantly. My father thought a woman without hair was an "affront." The bible says a woman's hair is her crowning glory. It doesn't belong to her, though. It is for her husband, and her husband alone. Orthodox Jewish women wear wigs,hats, and scarves so that only their husbands will see their hair. There's many traditions for women covering up, and it's too big a topic for an addendum to this post. Some other day perhaps. But really, it's absurd how much not having hair, for a woman, is a subversion of the male gaze, and can literally cause strangers to do things like insult or even harm one physically.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Diagnoses and chronic illness

I don't know why I was being private about this. I have been quite self-disclosing on this blog. On Friday, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. After a lifetime of chronic joint pain that waxes and wanes, bouts with all sorts of unexplained and mysterious ailments and illnesses, I have finally been diagnosed with something. And this time, as opposed to other times, it all makes sense. There is no doubt.

Though it's not a fun diagnosis, it's a progressive disease after all, it's something of a relief to have a name and an explanation for what's "wrong with me." Not knowing has been maddening. Of course, especially since I'm a woman, my health issues have been seen by many as hysterical, crazy, exaggerated, non-existent, cover stories for wanting painkillers, hypochondria, plays for attention, a symptom of borderline personality disorder, manifestations of repressed sexual abuse, you name it (and I haven't named it all).

Unfortunately, a lifetime of being told all of the above becomes internalized, and so it is with some relief that I finally know that it isn't all in my head. Quite frankly, it's been hard to understand why I have ever thought it was all in my head when I walked with a cane at the age of 18, wake up some mornings with my hands swollen up or am unable to sit up without support for nearly an hour, have one foot with nerve damage, one eye with a blind spot from an optic nerve hemorrhage, have seen x-rays of deteriorated joints in my neck, back, knees, hands, and feet. . .the list goes on (and on).

Yes, sometimes I get upset, sometimes I cry, sometimes I feel hopeless. Most of the time I do not. Most of the time I enjoy myself more than I think the average person does. Some of the time I am depressed. And I have been extremely depressed, and yes, hospitalized for it.

Y'know, waking up in screaming pain out of the blue is pretty hard on a person. Knowing that it's real and not being able to do a damned thing about it is frustrating, especially when I want to jump out of bed and get to work. In an odd way, just being crazy just might be easier. If I was "just crazy", it could go away! Some days I can't do some very simple things, and not knowing how long that will last is scary. People who know me are numb to being all that sympathetic, it's tiring for them, and I can understand that, even if it doesn't feel good. I'm not saying this to complain; I'm just saying how it is.

Why am I writing this? It's not just for me. It's for all the people who have chronic health problems. Most of us try very hard to be cheerful, uncomplaining, and stoic.

I used to have a good friend, who passed away, who was much sicker than I. Everyone thought she was so happy-go-lucky, upbeat, a near perfect picture of a sick person who "acted normal." She suffered greatly, and in silence. When we got together, we'd have a great time. We'd play dumb card games, and complain at length, sometimes for hours. We knew it was good to complain, and we'd laugh as we did so, something that others could not understand. We also knew complaining meant very little but relieved a lot and annoyed other people quite a bit. She was better at keeping her mouth shut amongst the healthy than I am. She had also learned to only ask for help from other "non-healthy" people and professionals. Doing so was hard on her, and I don't think anyone knew that. She had a lot of fear, and that was another thing most people did not know.

A big thing that contributed to her death, if not the thing, was not knowing whether a new symptom meant anything or not, and not wanting to yet again inconvenience anyone. She thought she might need to go to the hospital, but the person she asked didn't really want to go just then, so she waited, thinking "perhaps" it wasn't such a big deal. That night, she died. At her funeral, this was never mentioned. In fact, I'm not sure anyone has talked about this out in the open. I'm writing it now, because I've always been sad and angry about what happened, and because I understand it so very well. She couldn't get there on her own. She second-guessed that anything unusual was happening. She figured she probably feel better in the morning, and if not, go to the doctor. She didn't make it. This is the truth, the unspoken truth, about my friend's death. She didn't have to die that night.

It's interesting how chronically ill people have to be so perfectly well-behaved about their problems to be acceptable to the well. The epithet "he never complained" is considered a big compliment. Many of those people who "never complained" did a hell of a lot of complaining, but to strangers. And even those who are complainers, like myself, don't complain most of the time. Those time, other people figure we're fine when we simply are not. The days I enjoyed kayaking this summer? Every single time I went out, I struggled with pain. Did I enjoy myself? Absolutely.

I'm glad I have a diagnosis now, but in the end, it isn't going to change things all that much. I'll still have to deal with my health problems, and the truth is I'm pretty good at dealing with them. And sometimes I'm not. Just like anyone. So, tonight, I've had my say. I'm not sure what my point was, but I got some stuff off my chest. I'm sure there will be some sort of fallout from this, but fuck it. And yeah, I cursed. It's a rarity on this blog, isn't it?

Image note: One option is to turn being ill into performance art, a la (R.I.P) Bob Flanagan. But, his pain journals reveal that he suffered more than his public persona let on.

And lastly, just to be clear, I am not suffering. I am "just" allowing myself to be honest, which in this arena, I think I have been holding back from doing fully. And still, I am holding back some. . .

Another fun disaster

I don't know why I'm awake. Earlier today, at work, I was so tired, I tripped over something (twice) and fell down. Here it is, at 10:09pm, and I'm blogging.

Ah well. There's just not enough time in the day to do everything. I'm keenly aware, more to the point, that there's not enough time in an entire life to do everything. I probably will crash and burn sometime, though it sure felt like it was this afternoon, when I was bleary-eyed and falling to the floor. Second winds sure are something!

I just finished another fun disaster of a handspun (above). It's a thick and thin coiled yarn. It's simply a mess; completely overspun. If I take the skein off the niddy-noddy (that wooden object it's on, for those of you who don't know the lingo), it curls up up itself to the point of reducing in size by about half. Is it usable? Probably, for yet another funky hat or bag. "Funky" is an aesthetic that's great for problematic fiber.

I must remind myself that I'm learning. I may know how to spin perfect looking fine fibers, but as far as "art yarn" goes, I'm a rank beginner. I learned a lot spinning this skein. I didn't quite understand the principle of it until I was about a yard away from finishing it up. Truth is, I've never even seen this type of yarn in person. I've only seen photographs (and they are lovely). I do wonder, in spite of the loveliness of a good thick and thin coiled yarn - what is it good for? I mean, what can one actually knit from it? It seems as if it's best use is a decorative wall hanging. Nonetheless, I am fascinated by the structure of it and want to be able to spin a good skein (or 100) of the stuff.

By the way, I'm not obsessed with purple, green, and yellow. I just happened to get some very inexpensive halfway decent fiber that was dyed those colors. I've now used them up. Phew! Now I can move on to some new colors. The stuff is not soft, either. I'm glad to see the end of it, but grateful that it gave itself quite willingly to cheap practice without guilt. I'm saving the good stuff for when I know what I'm doing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unsuccesful, but fun

I overworked and overthought this skein of yarn in an attempt to push my limits. But hey, it was a great learning experience.

I suspect that even though I think it's unsuccessful, it would knit up into an interesting object, maybe a funky bag. It's not soft; the wool I used was a matted bunch of fat singles that I combed out. I spun a wool/silk thread into one ply of the yarn, which was a mistake. For one thing, it was green, and the yarn was already green enough (the flash brings out the other colors too well). To make up for that, I tied the purple raw silk into the whole thing at intervals. That was a lot of work, and put my new wheel to the test.

I'm going to pull back some and not aim for the most out-there yarns quite just yet. I also want to make softer yarn, though some of the materials I'm working with defy me to do so. I love a challenge. More to come!

And since I've posted this on Facebook, I'll put it here, too: There will be prizes for anyone who comes up with a great suggestion for the name of my yarn biz (though you may be thinking "how could she even be thinking of selling already?!") Well, I thrive on having goals. FYI: Contenders so far are: Muttonhead Yarns, Scenic Turnout (which could encompass anything I make), and Effyarn.

I'm lousy at naming things and I need your help

The above is self-explanatory. But, for the sake of interest, here's how bad I am at naming things: I've opened dictionaries at random and used name generators on line to name pets. My parents made fun of my pet-naming prowess. Suggestions for orange cats were "Peachy" or simply "Orange." Tabbys? "Tabby." I didn't name my sheep, 'cause I didn't want to think of them as pets (though one sheep was called "Muttonhead" due to it's uselessness).

So, I need your help. I'm planning on putting up a website that features my new handspun yarns. Every name I can come up with is awful. Here's some keywords that might be useful: handspun, art, upcycle, recycle, Freedom (where I live), fiber, fun, one of a kind (important one, that), Maine, color, play. I thought of Freedom Oaks as a name (oak being "one of a kind") but that sounds like a housing development. See? I'm really bad at naming things. I wish the letter "F" wasn't so loaded or I'd call it Fyarn, for Freedom, Fun, and Fiber. There is already a JKnits company. Hey, maybe Fyarn isn't bad. Oh, I need help!

I also am planning on self-publishing my lace workshop as a book. I've thought of "Holey Knit!" A book called "Lace Knitting: A Workshop" was published 30 years ago. Keywords for this one are swatch, lace, learning, fun, knitting, workshop in a book. . .you get the idea. What will the book look like? It will be a small, spiral-bound book with a photo of a swatch on the left page, and a chart with both typeface and written notes (so it looks like a fun knitter's notebook) on the right page. Maybe "Lace Knitter's Notebook" is a good name?

Thanks for your help!

Photo note: Websafe sent me this scan of my fingerless mitt. It's got more accurate colors than the photo I took. I'm going to be ripping out the thumb section because I don't like the striping, nor do I like the bind-off. That, too, will go. Sheesh! I've got too many projects in the works. Spinning, book-making, knitting, trying to keep the woodstove going, and I'm still in my pajamas at 1:14 in the afternoon. I bought them yesterday and they are too cozy to take off, but still. Why did I tell you that? It's too much information, and an embarrassment to boot.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

And the results are in


My friend Websafe showed me how to scan three dimensional objects. So, here are my first two skeins of upcycled/recycled handspun. The khaki and grey one is from the fibers in the previous post. Afterwards, I made the purple skein, but I was so tired by then that I forgot to take a photo.

How is upcycling different than recycling? Hmmm. I suppose recycling is using something that would otherwise be thrown out. I did that by using fiber bits from the ends of knitted objects and combing them out. Upcycling is using materials that would otherwise be used for different things. There is some white silk in the purple yarn that was from a perfectly good skein of plain white silk. I un-spun it, combed the heck out of it with a dog comb, and put bits of it into the purple fiber. The purple fiber is from pieces of slightly felted roving that I combed out, so I suppose it is upcycled, too. There's a bit of sari silk in there. Is that recycled or upcycled? I have no idea.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fiber frenzy

I love fiber. No, I love fiber. I just spun up and knit some intentionally lumpy, bumpy, and possibly even ugly yarn and I adored every second of it. The feel of the stuff in my hands, the colors, (may I say the feel of it in my hands a second time?), the feel of the stuff in my hands, the smell (if there's any), the transformation of almost nothing into something, the rhythm of treadling a spinning wheel and the rhythm of knitting. . .ach! No words can do justice to the pleasure I derive from fiber-related activities.

I've heard painters speak of paint this way. I am a good painter, but I've never loved the smell of paint, or turpentine, or the feel of a brush in my hands, or charcoal on my fingers. All the good artists I know love the tools and the materials they use, but even as I am facile, even accomplished, as an artist, I've never loved any of it the way I love fiber.

I'm a re-born spinner. I was an expert almost twenty years ago, an expert in the ways of spinning on old wheels, and spinning in old ways. This was not very creative. I loved doing it, but there was no thrill of discovery. There was satisfaction; spinning flax into perfect thread that I'd weave on an 19th century loom was wonderful. But, no, there was no exhilaration.

Back then, I eschewed the "art yarns." I saw them as technically sloppy and useless. I had no use for color for many years of my life.

Now, what's above is not crazy colorful (though I'm working on many things that are). The reason I'm posting this image is that just that this pillow top full of fluff made me very happy. It started out as a piece of garbage-y felting wool which could have easily been thrown away. I pulled it apart with a dog comb and discovered that it was as soft as a cloud. I'll spin up a little bit of yarn with it and present it another day. I also liked the photograph; it looks like there's haze in the air. I used a finger to block some of the flash and that is the result.

Did I mention how much I love fiber?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crafty days

What have I been up to? First, half of a pair of fingerless mitts (and the back half of my cat):

Next, a long sampler for my (unfortunately canceled)lace knitting class. Here's the pointy end:

Here's the non-pointy end, where the stitches are fairly simple:

And, lastly, here's the entire thing, which you can see in detail (only slightly blurry) if you click on it:

The purpose of this knitting is not aesthetic. It is for learning. It is what any lace knitter would have done before books were readily accessible to all. Knitting this was so much fun, even for an old-hand like me. I remembered how exciting I find creating holes in knitting! With this sampler of only 12 different patterns, there's enough information for a lifetime of making up patterns. Some of the samplers that are still in existence from the late 19th century are nearly 20 feet in length. I could have kept on going, but I've got other things to do.

I also spun up three bobbins of slubby thick and thin yarn, which needs to be dyed, and then plied with another yarn in order to be presentable.

I almost forgot that I made over 100 yo-yos to sew onto an old Army bag which has gorgeous weathered leather buckles and whatnot on it. How will it come out? I don't know. It's an adventure, so stay tuned.

I thought I hadn't been that creative or busy, since I've not been feeling well. This shows how one's perceptions can be completely inaccurate.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Your breasts do not belong to you

If you'd like breasts that are, say, size 36DD (such as Pamela Anderson, above), you can just pull out a credit card, plunk some cash on a counter, take a deep breath of whatever it is they knock you out with, and voila - you can now get yerself into Juggs magazine or whatever big-boobed fantasy you want. Pamela may not actually have boobs big enough for a rag like that one, so if you want more than she's got (which would not be unreasonable according to our society), you can ask for bigger. Now, on the other hand, if you would like a flat chest and you were born a woman, you need to see a psychiatrist at least three times to determine that you have gender identity disorder. It's not enough to say "I'd prefer to have small breasts or no breasts, thank you very much." No, you have to be a man-trapped-in-a-woman's-body. Otherwise, you are quite obviously crazy.

I was surprised to learn this.

I thought the right to choose was only about abortion. How foolish of me.

I've wanted breast reduction surgery ever since I knew it was possible. I spoke to a doctor about when I was in my 20's and he said I had a bra size that "every woman wants." That was the end of the discussion, especially since he was chuckling out loud at the foolishness of my not seeing how good I had it.

Being skinny helped matters throughout the years, but the only way I can maintain skinniness is by not eating, and that's a strategy that I haven't been able to tolerate for many years now. I like food. Anorexia wasn't very much fun.

But, as usual, I'm getting off track.

I'm appalled by the notion that one has to be analyzed by so-called experts in order to modify one's body to one's own liking. I can understand being alarmed by someone who would like to cut off one of their legs (and there are such people), but given the fact that 1 in 100 women in America elect to enlarge their breasts (yep, that's right) with such freedom (and encouragement, I might add), I see the "fact" that not wanting to be big-breasted (or breasted at all) is considered a pathological state as evidence that womens' breasts are not really ours. They belong to the public sphere. They belong to the tyranny of what heterosexual men deem normal and right. The only "normal" reason for not liking one's boobs is that one is not really a woman. Normal woman want D-cup breasts and if they don't, they should seek therapy.

I know I'm not going to get a lobby group behind this issue. It's not as important as the right to choose to end a pregnancy. But, it does tell me that feminism, while coming a long way, still has a long way to go, and unfortunately, hasn't many people left who are pissed off enough to care to carry any torches.

As to photo of Ms. Anderson, I wonder how many of you think she looks "normal."

Y'know, I may find her "abnormal" looking, but I allow her the right to look any way she wants. I'm sick of the emphasis on normalizing everything and everyone. People also have the right to be "abnormal", strange, eccentric, different, and not like the proverbial girl or boy next door.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reality check

How many more people will have to die as a consequence of 9/11? In the name of 3000, revenge must be exacted.

I wondered out loud to a friend this evening, after the President's speech, on how many people have died since 9/11 because they didn't have adequate health care. I couldn't get that answer quickly, but in 2008 alone, it is estimated that 2,266 U.S. military veterans under the age of 65 died because they lacked health insurance. Here more here.

When will we get our priorities straight?

Blood boiling over post (the beginning of a long series, I suspect)

Caveat: To anyone offended by foul language, do not read this. I started to self-censor, but quit. Sometimes cursing is necessary.

I just watched a few minutes of the Victoria's Secret "Fashion" Show on tv. It made me almost physically ill. Dick asked "What are they selling?" I answered "the stuff that's on the commercials." My first answer, unspoken, was that they were selling sex, but I realized that sex was only the come-on.

How many girls and women are made miserable by these beauty standards and the presentation of females who are, quite frankly, freaks of nature (and plastic surgery)? How normal is it to be nearly six feet tall and have a body that looks pre-pubescent everywhere except the bustline? I know I once had some statistics about the answer to that question on this blog somewhere. . .

Watching these girls (and yes, they are girls) prance, strut, wiggle their asses and blow kisses to the audience (and who the hell is in the audience?), teeter on eight inch heels, pull their tops off to reveal their ooh-so-secret bras, act as if they have some great power (as if). . .sheesh, I'm all worked up with anger. No, really, I'm not joking. I'm enraged.

I also think of my father, who loves these spectacles. This is what he think women should look like. If he were with me, he'd be poking me in the ribs as if I was a co-conspirator and telling me how much every man truly wants that.

Last week I mentioned to someone how my father told me I better cultivate an interesting personality because I wasn't an attractive female. At the age of 14 or so, I believed him. Now I see one of the few photographs of me as a young woman and see that I was actually quite beautiful. Here's what I thought: I'm so ugly I can't look people in the eye. I wish I could wear a bag over my head. I wish I could have surgery. The only reason anyone is attracted to me is that men will screw anything with a pulse. And, thankfully, I also occasionally thought "fuck you."

On this show tonight, they showed girls who had competed to become a Victoria's Secret model. They went to a kind of boot camp. One man examined a girl's ass like he was looking at cattle. "What do you like about your body?" he asked her. She said she basically liked everything. Now, that's unusual in our society. He grinned and said she was in for a rude awakening. It wasn't good enough. We saw her sweat it out in the boot camp, practically crying, as he yelled "I can't feel it!" He inspected her ass again to see if it looked any better. I have no idea what he was looking for. Perhaps humiliation was all he wanted from this poor girl who deigned to have some self-esteem.

I'm sure it's a rush to be so gorgeous and feel so powerful at such a young age as these models. I feel sad for them thinking of how it will feel when they become faded and they no longer hold the male gaze. Girls do hold enormous power over men when they are young. Even I, a girl supposedly too ugly to do so, enjoyed playing with that power when I was young even as I also hated it. I hated talking to men who stared at my breasts instead of looking me in the eye. I hated the catcalls on the street. But when they stopped, I must admit I felt a sense of loss, and then I felt ashamed of myself for feeling that.

You'd think, perhaps, that I hated the idea of sexual attraction from what I'm writing. No, I do not. Of course we are attracted to each other. Staring at beauty is no crime. So, as is my way, this post is confused. What bothers me is the incredibly small and nearly unattainable beauty standard, which I've railed against over and over and over again.

And to be clear, I'm not even against pornography. Again, what bothers me is illustrated by this incident: Once, I was dating a man who had a big stack of Penthouse magazines in his bedroom. I told him I disliked them. He thought that was ridiculous. How could I dislike them? I was so sex-positive. I threw a bunch on the bed and opened them at random. "See how they all look alike?" I said. Oh no. He didn't see that. He countered with the fact that some of them were black, Asian, Latino, had black hair, blonde hair. . .they were diverse! No. They were not. They all had the same bodies. They could be the same woman, photoshopped (and it would save Penthouse a lot of money if they did that). "So, you're against soft-core porn?" he asked. The answer was no. I would have preferred that he had hard-core porn. At least there, for some reason, there is more diversity. The lesbian magazine "On Our Backs" has had women of all shapes, sizes, and ages (and hair styles) having real fun and being truly sexual, not just "sexy."*

I could rant all night, but I'll stop here. There's been a lot on my mind recently, too much to reign in. My lack of posts has been because of that, not because I've run out of ideas. I just don't know how to pull it all together. To hell with my muddled thinking. I shall post in spite of it.

Image note: Ardhanarishvara-the unity of Shakti and Shiva, male and female energy.

Gorgeous. Poor Ardhanari would be ashamed to have a body like that in this society.

*I've been informed that the print magazine is no longer being published, but the example still stands. Sad to hear it's over and done with.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Dick and I were in Providence for the weekend. On Saturday night, after eating perhaps the best salad I've ever had*, I headed back to the hotel room to relax. I'd strolled around the small city for over six hours in the pouring rain and just wanted to knit.

I also wanted to watch cable TV, since we only get three stations here at home. I was looking forward to something on the food or travel channel, but no, the upscale hotel may have had a robe (but not one for each of us), but it only had the basic cable stations. I could have watched porn for who-knows-how-much, but frankly, knitting and porn just don't go together.

Nonetheless, I still had an urge to watch television, and so I surfed for a bit until I stumbled upon a show that was both truly revolting and highly thought provoking - "Lockup." This show is supposedly a "documentary" on MSNBC (see the webpage). Yes, it does document life in America's roughest prisons, but its style is more like "Cops" than anything of substance. Apparently, Americans get a kick out of watching "extractions", the often violent removal of an uncooperative inmate from their cell.

The show was interesting to be sure. A visit to Alaska's maximum security prison was of particular note. The level of prisoner violence there is markedly less than average. After watching three episodes of this show back-to-back, I could see why Spring Creek was different. A good deal of thought was put into more than punishment at this penitentiary. Inmates under 23 are separated from the general population and they can attend high school full time. The guards seem almost laid back; they don't see the inmates as "animals", nor do they treat them that way, and so, of course, violence is lessened.

Why is it that the obvious is overlooked? How can anyone think that it's sensible to put violent and/or mentally ill people in small cells and hold them there without anything to do for 23 hours a day? Unfortunately, our society cares much more for revenge and punishment than rehabilitation. Rehabilitation, to many people, seems like a reward. Many years back, a study showed that education was the single most useful tool to prevent recidivism. Of course it is. Otherwise, incarceration is only a breeding ground for resentment, rage, making new criminal contacts and learning new criminal skills. But no, more education for inmates didn't get a lot of people excited. The only excited people were the ones who yelled loudly about the need to punish people for their crimes. One point I agreed with - that there could be incentive in going to jail for the poor. But, for me, this brought up a few good points that my bleeding liberal heart pounced on. In jail, one gets "three hots and a cot", health care, and possibly some education. Why shouldn't all of these things be rights for all citizens?

Well, with our insane incarceration rate going up all the time, maybe it will be. As of year-end 2007, a record 7.2 million people were behind bars, on probation, or on parole, with 2.3 million of those actually incarcerated. Is this our fallback health care plan? Ah, America. . .the country of incredibly mixed-up priorities.

So, this is what I'm thinking about right now. It's better than going back to sleep, which I've been fighting with wanting to do since I woke up. My depression is still going strong, but without much emotion. It's certainly odd. I have no real desire to do anything. I have an interesting spinning project on my mind and when I was in Providence I was planning it while walking in the rain. Yet, the spinning wheel sits idle. I suppose that being a semi-passive observer or reader is about my speed, and thank goodness that it's semi-passive. I watch, read, analyze, and (sometimes) write. When visiting Rhode Island School of Design, I scribbled some notes for an entry about drawing vs. photography, but I can't find them. So, in spite of wanting to pull the covers over my head and sleep, my mind is pretty lively. Maybe, just
maybe, I'm not depressed. Maybe I just need sleep. It's certainly a possibility.

*What an all-over-the-map post, to say the least. Here's what I ate: House cured duck breast, served over fresh arugula with Bosc pears, steamed red and gold beets, and tossed in a honey horseradish-vinaigrette, garnished with pecorino cheese and toasted pignoli nuts. It made me want to go out and find an inspiring cookbook.

Photo note: In contrast, here's some prison food. I'm sorry I'm subjecting you to it, whatever it is. I can see how this could set off some people, though if one is homeless, it might look like manna from heaven. How lucky I am that I was able to eat at Providence's Parkside Rotisserie.

Ketchup vs. mustard

Malcolm Gladwell's new book, "What the Dog Saw", is a collection of previously published articles from the New Yorker. I'm looking forward to reading it. I like Gladwell. He's been described as a dilettante (both negatively and positively), and says he's interested in pretty much everything. I like his writing, enjoy reading about him, and am mildly jealous. Mr. Gladwell is successful and I am a tremendous underachiever. I'm sure he'd have something to say about why that is. Well, he did, actually, in his last book "Outliers", but I haven't gotten around to reading that yet.

Enough prefacing. I hear one of the chapters in the new book is about why there are so many varieties of mustard while ketchup is just ketchup. For some reason, the question of ketchup vs. mustard variety captures my imagination. Let's see if I come up with anything resembling what Gladwell did (and without a lick of research).

First let me say that I don't like ketchup. I did when I was a young child. I have strong memories of eating hot dogs with ketchup on them. For some reason, a number of these memories involve eating in the restaurant at the Museum of Natural History. There's nothing more to it than that - no memory of dripping ketchup on my clothes or teasing, no, just eating a hot dog with ketchup on it. That's all.

Oddly, I do remember thinking that eating a hot dog with ketchup was the stuff of a kid's diet. Adults ate their frankfurters with mustard and sometimes sauerkraut. At some point, I did, too. I left the ketchup in the dustbin of childhood. This may have coincided with the opening of the Zum Zum restaurants in New York, where they served all sorts of wursts besides the ubiquitious American hot dog, had buns flecked with caraway seeds, and delicious German potato salad. They did not serve ketchup.

I associate ketchup with childhood, bad taste, bad-for-you food, and the sad announcement made during the Reagan administration that ketchup could be considered a daily vegetable serving for the poor (and that's another sort of bad taste).

Besides putting ketchup on a hot dog, what else is it for? French fries and eggs. The idea of putting ketchup on eggs makes me slightly nauseated. For whatever reason, when I picture it, I also picture a cigarette butt on the same plate and bleary mornings in diners after staying up all night. No wonder there's some nausea involved. As to the french fries, I developed a penchant for eating them with mayonnaise a long time ago, a truly artery hardening habit, but one that I find much tastier than that wretched ketchup.

I really do not like ketchup. It's too red. It's too sweet. It doesn't taste like anything real.

When I think of mustard, I imagine many possibilities. Ketchup? The iconic Heinz bottle pops immediately to mind. That glass bottle is a wonderful piece of design, good enough to put on a kitchen table for no other reason than decoration. The other image that arises is one of a young child in a high chair, bib and face smeared with catsup.

There's the problem (besides the too red stuff lacking in real taste). Catsup is for little kids.

I'm sure many a good chef has come up with excellent catsup. Good advertising, high-end packaging and positioning could probably send catsup sales soaring. Now that Gladwell has written about it, unless he's proven that it's impossible to break through decades of the stuff having a bad rap, someone out there will probably now come up with gourmet catsup and lots of it.

Image note: Warhol's 1964 "sculpture."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's gotten boring

The word "boring" on a blog entitled "everything is interesting"?


What's boring is depression. I'm in a mild depression. After a lifetime of depression both mild and extreme, this depression thing has become a terrible bore. Not only is it boring to me, but it's boring to others. It saps the life out of things, as everyone knows. Isn't that one of the definitions of depression?

I've had little enthusiasm for this blog and it shows. I have had enthusiasm for knitting, and so I'm making all sorts of projects, as both working in the yarn shop and knitting itself seems to be safe from my blah frame of mind. I have a strong feeling that if I was working in the shop every day I'd be feeling fine. There's nothing like being surrounded by wool and people asking me to help them with their knitting to make me feel better.

I really wish I owned my own yarn shop, but it's an expensive endeavor. I crunched the numbers a few weeks ago and I was surprised at just how expensive an undertaking it is, so as much as I'd love to envision my own little shop (and it's a lovely vision), it's just not possible. I've been thinking about it a lot, nonetheless, and I've come to think of it as "buying a life."

Ah well. I can't buy myself a new life at this moment, so I'm stuck with some free-floating malaise. And even though I've dealt with this problem all my life, I still think I can (and should) talk myself out of it and pull myself up by the proverbial bootstraps. Cognitive behavioral therapy aside, it really doesn't work.

What works is being engaged by life. So, for now, I'm burying myself in knitting, watching documentaries, and reading some truly lousy mysteries. I took a Robin Cook medical mystery out of the library the other day and am quite amazed at how bad the writing is. The guy uses exclamation points! That's fine for blogging, but in a novel? C'mon, if you're a novelist, you should be able to convey emphasis in a conversation by writing it, not relying on the exclamation mark. Next thing you know, there's be an OMG in his next novel. OMG! The patient has an tumor created by an evil medical cabal! WTF?!

There: I feel a tad better from writing a bit of silliness. Maybe I should forgo the documentaries about health care and the Holocaust and watch comedies instead. Good idea.

Image note: John Cleese from the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. For a list of silly walks in comedy, go here.

Two recommendations and a small bit of thought

Last night I watched "Forgiving Dr. Mengele." Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz (and Dr. Mengele's experiments) says she is a free human being because she has forgiven. Some survivors are incredulous, others angry, but she is adamant that it is the only way one can survive after such trauma; without forgiveness, one can never be free. She separates forgiving from forgetting. Of course, she says, how can one forget?

Ms. Kor doesn't articulate her reasoning that well, and I can't articulate for her why I sense she is absolutely right.

One person I know said that when he stopped hating homosexuals he felt as if a burden was lifted off his back.

I also watched Frontline's "Sick Around the World", which I think every conservative in America should be forced to watch. This film analyzes the health care systems of Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland, and the U.K. At the end of each segment, the question is asked "Does anyone in your country go bankrupt because of health care bills?" The answer is always "no", along with incredulity that any modern nation could allow this to happen to any of its citizens.

The American health care non-system is a disgrace to our supposed sense of being a moral nation. I don't understand why the most "morally-minded" of our citizens are so firmly against any kind of national health care. Other countries are mystified by Americans' attitudes on this. I am, too.

There are so many lies out there. For one, we do not have the world's best health care. Fears of waiting forever if there's national health are unfounded and unsupported by wait times in other countries. And, as it stands now, it is generally unusual to be able to see a doctor in a timely fashion unless one is deathly ill.

The only area in which America's non-system stands above other countries is in elective surgery. Why don't we come out and call it what it is: cosmetic surgery. Should we really be proud of that?

I now see that there is actually something tying together these two seemingly disparate films. One involves an evil individual. The other, health care in America, may be about an evil health care system. One always hesitates to use the word "evil." We generally reserve it for such figures as Dr. Mengele, but what else can we call a system in which children go without basic health care, families are destroyed because of illness, the rich have all the access they want, and in this dominant superpower called America, the poor basically are thought to deserve what they get. Do mentally ill people deserve to be homeless? Do children deserve to die because their parents don't have money? If thinking that only by merit and money people deserve to have proper health care and a roof over their heads isn't a type of evil, I don't know what is.

Painting note: Edvard Munch "The Sick Child" 1907

Monday, November 9, 2009


Lately I've been craving sweets. That's unusual for me.

I overslept this morning and had to run out of the house to make it to an appointment. After the appointment, I did a big grocery shopping. I was hungry, for I hadn't had my morning oatmeal. There was a Dunkin Donuts right there in the supermarket and I got a decaf french vanilla iced coffee. I noticed for the first time that the shopping cart had a built-in cup holder. Whee! I didn't buy a donut, but as I was passing the market's cupcake and muffin section, I saw there were carrot muffins, "New England Morning Carrot Muffins" to be exact. So, I got one. It had been filled with what I mistakenly thought was sweetened cream cheese. Oh, not so. It was filled with sugar icing. I used the plastic bag I put it in to try and scoop out most of the icing, but I wasn't all that successful. The muffin, I have to admit, was quite good. It would have been better without all that awful icing, and it would have been excellent if it had sweetened cream cheese, but what was I expecting from a supermarket? It wasn't Whole Foods. It was a regular market.

Nonetheless, I devoured it. My newly acquired sweet tooth was sated. It's been four hours since I had my sweet drink and sweet muffin and I still feel like crap. I'm edgy. I feel certain that it has made my back ache worse. And was it worth it? I couldn't tell you, for I ate it without much thought or relish. It was mindless eating, the kind places like Dunkin Donuts really like people to do. If one stopped to think about eating a box of donut holes or a 20-ounce cup of coffee, they'd be in trouble. Those items really do affect the way people feel, but hey, America runs on Dunkin, right? Being edgy is the American Way.

Photo note: This is supposedly a pile of sugar beets.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Are we losing our collective minds?

A man shot 6 people in Orlando today, killing one. Yesterday's death toll at Fort Hood is high - is it up to ten yet? In the days before, police dug up 10 dead bodies at a man's house in Cleveland. And, I'm sure there are many other murders that happened recently that didn't make the national news. Here in Maine, a man attempted to kill his mother, killed his father, dissappeared for a few days and then showed up a truck stop, where he had a cup of coffee. When the police arrested him, he asked that they allow him to pay for his drink.

Since Columbine, now ten years ago, people have been asking "what's going on in America?" We were asking that question before then, when there was a rash of disgruntled employee murders, which spawned the expression "going postal."

I do think we've lost our collective minds, but this country was forged in violence, and we also celebrate it at the same time we let out our collective gasps of horror, so I'm not surprised when these things happen. We love our mass murderers. Last year, Newsweek had a cover story about mass murderers that had a two-page graphic spread where we could see the body count of all the famous killers. Each dead person was nameless - just an icon somewhat like the ones we see for men's bathrooms. I could imagine a would-be nutjob wanting to beat the record.

Then there's the television shows. Every night one can watch a show about killing. I'm not immune, even as I ask myself "why am I watching this?" On Criminal Minds this week, we learned about enucleators, people who gauge the eyes from their victims. There's enough of them to warrant its own term. This episode was the stuff of parody. Who thinks up these things? Let's see - there's a young boy who lives with his father and leaves school after the 4th grade when the mother died. Dad's a taxidermist. Mom had retinosa pigmentosa (an eye disease that causes blindness). Boy loves hunting. Dad dies and boy tries to do taxidermy but he's no good at eyes, so he goes out and kills people to get "good ones." Wow - those writers sure know how to come up with a plot!

Okay, I know this seems like it's beside the point, but I don't think it is. It screams of desperation to find a new reason for murder, a hunger for understanding that's misplaced (and displaces) real analysis. Well, that's entertainment. How many motives and scenarios can one come up with?

The truth about murderers is that, for the most part, their motivations are fairly mundane - not the stuff of mystery - abusive backgrounds, mental illness, triggers in the environment that cause an unraveling of control.Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of "evil."

All this aside, I do think Americans are in a strange emotional place. Anger and resentment are high. Folks like Limbaugh and Beck are fueling those fires. Unemployment, which I suspect (as do folks who know) is much higher than what is reported. The endless wars are taking their toll on those in the military and their loved ones. The future doesn't look so rosy. When someone "snaps", even as we may profess shock, we can also understand why.

I have no conclusion. I'm only ruminating. It's a gray and gloomy day. We've had our first snow and it doesn't look pretty. The big tree branch that holds our main bird feeder fell down and is sitting in the wet snow looking sad. I'm wondering where I can hang it up. My house needs a good cleaning. No, don't worry, I'm not going to snap and go kill someone because I'm overwhelmed by chores that need doing and a lack of work, but it does make me think of people who do.

Painting note: Octave Tassaert "An Unfortunate Family" 1852