Monday, April 29, 2013

so much ladybusiness

I've definitely had encounters with PUAs (or guys who would have liked to be PUAs but didn't have the patience to read all the material), but none that were particularly memorable. I've also read countless articles and blog posts about how men (or women) can attract women (or men). Of course, these magazines and websites contain NO information for how women can attract women, or how men can attract men, because they're all the same species, so they don't need the cheat codes.

Or, you know, men and women (and everything in between) are all human beings, and you should attract them by talking to them and getting to know them and treating them with respect and showing them your own attractive qualities. If that's too complicated for you, there's a two-step program outlined at the end of this post.

This wins the internet.

I've been learning a lot lately about fat acceptance. I'm still hesitant about buying into the entire concept, but i do agree with one thing for sure: shame doesn't help anyone. Fat people are not intrinsically more stupid or self-deluded than any other people on the face of the earth. Which means that most of them probably already know that they are fat. Shame just makes them feel ashamed. How about if instead, we talk about the beauty and magic of being human and alive, give people the information they need about how to (safely and naturally) change their shape if they want to, and let everyone make their own choices? And also wear whatever clothes make you happy?

I'm known for my biting sarcasm. I forget sometimes that it's called "biting" because it hurts, and that even the word "sarcasm" itself means "to cut the flesh". It's good to keep that in mind, especially when i'm trying to be funny in print.

"Men get turned on by tits? Yeah, and I get turned on by pecs. I've learned not to make my arousal someone else's problem, and I think most men can do the same -- the ones who can't are already harassing women anyway. More importantly, I should have the right to take my chances. If your concern is safety, I think we should make it illegal to assault a topless woman." (emphasis mine) I really haven't spent that much time thinking about breastfeeding, except to decide that i'll do it with my kids if possible. And i'll do it in public, and you can go fuck yourself. But once they start teething, it's all over.
And if you want to make a different choice with your kids, more power to you. If you are listening to expert advice, paying attention to your child's needs and desires, and working to promote the health and well-being of your family, then i don't care if you're feeding it with your tits, a hired nurse's tits, a plastic bottle, or soy milk from a recycled hemp breast replacement.
But that bolded section above? That's the problem with "modesty" rules. Your arousal is not my problem. You are an adult. Figure out how to deal with it and stop telling me that my breasts are inherently dirty and sinful and bad just because they make you tingly in your swimsuit area.

Sometimes i get in fights with people about evolution. I don't mean to. I just can't help it when people start talking about six-day creation. I came to terms with both my faith and science a long time ago by figuring out two things: God is a poet and teaches us in metaphors, and God is not bound by time (which, after all, is totally and completely relative). My six days might be God's six tenths of a second, or six million years, or six and a half days. And i don't think that a belief in evolution in any way reduces my belief in God's awesome creative power and involvement in the running of the universe. "In other words, every end is a beginning. The world wasn't created and left to decay; it's still being created."

This wins the feminist internet.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

guilty pleasures: music

I listen to lots of different kinds of music. Classic rock, indie rock, pop rock, pop, worship, classical, singer-songwriter, folk rock -- okay. Maybe i listen to lots of different kinds of rock. Also show tunes.

I like to think that i have pretty discerning taste. I don't like country, i don't like Justin Beiber or Ke$ha, i like lyrical jazz but elevator music does nothing for me, i don't like "boy bands", i grew up on Billy Joel and The Beach Boys and Styx, the first CD i bought with my own money was Avril Lavig -- um. I was thirteen, okay?

And there are some things i like that other people think are terrible, but that i think have redeeming qualities. Like, i really love Amy Grant, especially the super corny 80s love songs (Ev'ry heartbeat bears your name/Loud and clear they stake my claim, yeah/My red blood runs true blue/And every heartbeat belongs to you!). It's catchy, you can sing along without straining your vocal cords, the love is pure and happy rather than desperate and clingy or pathetic and stalkerish *coughcoughTaylorSwiftcoughcough*, and there's the nostalgic association of turning up the volume on the cassette player as loud as it would go while we cleaned the kitchen.

But there are some things i like that are unabashedly terrible. I won't even try to pretend that there are hidden redeeming qualities in these: they are bad, awful, terrible songs, and i love them for that.

1. Girls & Boys, Good Charlotte
Girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money
Boys will laugh at girls when they're not funny
And these girls like these boys like these boys like these girls
The girls with the bodies like boys with Ferraris
Girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money

Are there girls who are shallow and selfish and only want something material out of their relationship? Sure. Are there boys who are shallow and selfish and only want something material out of their relationship? Sure. Is there a lot of nonsense in the lyrics for the sake of rhyme and/or meter? Absolutely. But this song is just so FUN!

2. If We Were A Movie, Miley Cyrus
If we were a movie
You'd be the right guy
And I'd be the best friend
That you'd fall in love with
In the end, we'd be laughing
Watching the sunset
Fade to black, show the names
Play that happy song

Yeah, the chorus is really just a summary of All The Chick Flicks. And the verses aren't much better. The whole thing could have been summed up in a snarky, longing, 140-character tweet that would not necessitate hearing Miley's voice. I guess you'll never know/That I should win/An Oscar for this scene I'm in. It hurts so good.

3. Keep Your Hands To Yourself, The Georgia Satellites
I got a little change in my pocket, goin' ching-a-ling-a-ling
Wanna call you on the telephone baby, give you a ring
But each time we talk, I get the same old thing
Always "No huggy, no kissy, until I get a wedding ring."
My honey, my baby, don't put my love up on no shelf
She said, "Don't give me no lines, and keep your hands to yourself!"

Not nearly as classy or high-quality or enduring as Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young", this song nevertheless has the same message and is awfully catchy. And anyone who's ever been to any kind of abstinence rally/meeting/Sunday School lesson/conversation with your parents will find the lady's side of the conversation awfully familiar. That's when she told me some story 'bout free milk and a cow. Also, i think her repeated line (Don't give me no lines, and keep your hands to yourself!) is pretty kick-ass.

4. I Like Cows, Johnny Socko
I like cows
But not to eat them
I like cows
I like to greet them
Cows are fun
You shouldn't put them on a hamburger bun
Or on the grill of your car
Or on the grill in your back yard
I like cows.

The lyrics only get more absurd from there, and the vocal performance is overwhelmingly bad. It's almost to bad too even be entertaining. The pinnacle of the whole performance is toward the end of the song, when Johnny gets more and more amped up until he is screaming, over and over, "I! Like! Cows! I like them! I! Like! Cows! I like them!" I don't even like listening to this song to laugh at it. I mostly just like knowing that it exists and i could theoretically access it if i wanted to.

5. Sorry For Freaking Out On The Phone Last Night, The Mr. T. Experience

Guess what the first line of the song is. No, go ahead and guess. Did you guess that it was Sorry for freaking out on the phone last night? Yeah. It is. As with Johnny Socko, i just like knowing that this song (and band! The Mr. T. Experience!) exists.

6. The entire REO Speedwagon Christmas album, Not So Silent Night: The First Noel, Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Little Drummer Boy, The White Snows of Winter, Angels We Have Heard On High, Children Go Where I Send Thee, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Joy to the World. It's surreal and terrible and i play it every Christmas. In my office. I'm generous that way.

Monday, April 22, 2013

sharing is caring

On October 8 2011, i was cleaning my room. It was a Saturday, and my boyfriend was rehearsing on campus. He was planning to come over during the afternoon break for . . . Well, for some afternoon delight. I was cleaning my room and watching the West Wing; i like to have the TV on in the background while i work. I put on a DVD of a show i've seen a million times and i grade papers, or write papers, or cook, or clean. And this particular episode was 'In Excelsis Deo'. When my sister called to say that Adam had been blown up, it didn't really make sense to me right away. My roommate walked by as i was hanging up the phone. Sensing that something was wrong, she asked what was going on.
"My brother was just blown up," i said. And i laughed a little: isn't it ridiculous? My brother, getting blown up? Isn't that the silliest thing you've ever heard? Big things hit me slowly.
It wasn't until half an hour or so later when John came into the room that it really sank in. I began to tell him what had happened, and i began to cry. He took me in his arms and sat on the edge of the bed and held me. And then the funeral scene in the episode began.
"Sobbing" is not the word for what i did then. "Bawling" is closer the mark, but still doesn't quite hit it. You have to use old, outdated vocabulary to come close to my reaction to that funeral scene: keening, lamenting, wailing. John jumped up and turned off the TV.
A year and a half later, after my brother completed the Boston marathon, after the marathon was the focus of a terrorist attack, after i was stranded in Boston and then in Revere, trying to get back home, after i finally got home and then went to work all day, Mark Oshiro posted his review of 'In Excelsis Deo'. Everything comes full circle.

Those who have experienced mental illness first-hand will probably see flashes of themselves in this post. Those who have not experienced it themselves but have seen it in a loved one might find this interesting. Those who have no experience, either first- or second-hand, with mental illness are first of all either lying or deluded, and second of all should still read this for the writing.

Sometimes, commercials are just plain dumb. And sometimes, they're a little bit worse than dumb.

But this almost makes up for it.

I fell in love with Kate Inglis' writing last year in a way i haven't fallen for words in a long time, in a way where i want to kill her so her talent can stop eclipsing mine and i want to sit at her feet and learn from her and i want to be her pen pal and friend and i want to write something that will impress her and i want to quit writing so there's no chance of overshadowing her brilliance and i want to quit everything and just read her words, all of them, even her journals and shopping lists and birthday cards. And here, she marries words with images and rekindles that first flame. She doesn't post often these days, but the posts are well worth waiting for.

And the brilliant and lovely Hayley Campbell posts a second collection of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Not to be confused with Men Call Me Things, though i'd argue that they are related, Hayley's transcripts of actual conversations is hilarious and terrifying and acidic and very very typical.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Psalm 29-65

Psalm 60:1-2
O God, You have cast us off;
You have broken us down;
You have been displeased;
Oh, restore us again!
You have made the earth tremble;
You have broken it;
Heal its breaches, for it is shaking.

There's nothing like reading the Psalms during a manhunt for the terrorists who attacked your city. The really crazy thing is remembering that, not only were the Jews subject to this kind of violence and oppression thousands of years ago, but they still live with these realities every day. And so do lots of other people, all over the globe. It isn't only Boston that has been terrorized this week. It isn't only West, Texas. It isn't only Korea, or Israel, or anywhere. The whole earth trembles. The whole world is broken.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A day late and a dollar short. Actually, lots of dollars short. I am short pretty much all of the dollars.

Once again, Rachel Held Evans' blog is featured, but this time it's this guest post about re-configuring our arguments about homosexuality in the church. I happen to really enjoy reading and hearing arguments that are simply presented, not supported or condemned. I like it when someone has the intellectual integrity to say, "Here is a way of thinking," without feeling the need to let you know how they feel about it. It gives me more room to make up my own mind. Anyway, if that's not your thing, you can skip this one, but i enjoyed it.

I'm a sucker for the romance and mystery of abandoned places, and these photos are so particularly dream-like and artistic that i could easily spend all day looking at them and imagining their stories. Also, there are very few of these places that i would be unwilling to visit, or even live in.

Okay, so i have never seen an episode of Dr. Who. I know, i know, the authorities are coming by later today to revoke my Nerd Card. Anyway, the point is that this post still made sense to and resonated with me. Our personal beliefs and convictions are very important, and it is possible for two people who believe different things to both be right, but the fact that you believe a thing does not make you correct. Your convictions can be based on prejudice, misunderstanding, or even habit. Be willing to be wrong.

I've also not read any of the Game of Thrones books or seen any of the show. I'm the worst nerd ever. The only way i can redeem myself at this point is to attend some kind of comics convention, and i'm just not willing to go that far. But for missing out on George R. R. Martin i can redeem myself a little, because of this post. One tiny excerpt of awesomeness:
"Cersei is evil, eeeeeevil. How do we know she's evil? She's consensually fucking more than one dude, OBVS. Also, she's saying things like "that time you betrothed me to a guy when I was a kid, and then I had to sleep with him even though I didn't want to? That was basically rape" and "nobody has any problems if a DUDE sleeps around, but when I do it's somehow the most damning evidence against my character" and "given the patriarchal slant of our society, sometimes I wish I was a guy!" So, just to be clear: The only female character who consistently levies an institutional critique of sexism in these books? Evil. Eeeeeevilllllllll! You surprised?"

Oh hey, another Rachel Held Evans post! I, also, do not witness on airplanes! I do not witness on Amtrak trains! I do not witness in the park! I do not witness in the dark! I do not like green eggs and ham! Because unsolicited talking about your personal beliefs honestly makes me feel creepy and overbearing and terrible, and i know that i personally would never be won over by such tactics, so i'll have to find some other way of sharing the Gospel! Like maybe by taking care of the least of these and loving my neighbors and all the other stuff that Jesus told us to do!

Last week, someone asked me what Mansplaining was. This post is a really beautiful example of Mansplaining; in fact, it is an example of a man Mansplaining feminism to a woman who writes about feminism professionally. This excerpt is pure gold:
". . . Professor Feminism . . . frames it as a discussion of whether I believe 'men can discuss sexism.' . . . I pointed out that these commenters were men, and hinted as politely as possible at the sexist, Mansplaining dynamic, by asking them if they could 'see a theme.' Apparently, Professor Feminism is not Professor Good At Picking Up Hints, however, because now he thinks I am saying that men should NEVER be allowed to discuss feminism AT ALL, and of course if men can't criticize feminists, what's the point of reading feminists, or attempting to understand feminists?


"Actually, at this point, I'm pretty confident that Professor Feminism is not Professor Understands Sarcasm, either, so I'll spell it out: The point of listening to women and feminists is to listen to women and feminists. Because if you listen to them, you might start to understand certain basic points, such as: women do not automatically have to accept you as an expert, particularly not when the subject under discussion (sexism!) is something you've never experienced first-hand. Women do not have to make you 'comfortable' and 'welcome' in every single conversation. Women do not have to permit you to enter their political movements, their self-created spaces, their personal space, their bodies, or anything else that belongs to them; you, as a man, are not entitled to women's attention, praise, affection, respect, or company, just because you want it. And when a woman says 'no', you respect that this particular woman said 'no', and you stop. You don't make excuses, you don't explain why you should be able to get what you want, you don't throw a tantrum, you don't call that woman names: You just stop what you are doing. Because she said 'no'."

So, i have super mixed feelings about Mad Men. On the one hand, the writing is superb, and i can enjoy just about anything if it is well written. On the other hand, there's lots of sexism and racism and homophobia and classism and all kinds of other terrible -isms. On the other hand, that stuff is meant to be illustrative of Things That Are Wrong In Society, and how we think we're so enlightened and progressive, but really the only thing that's changed in fifty years is the outfits. On the other hand, just because the show is meant as a subtle critique of Bad Things doesn't mean that everyone who watches it and loves it gets that, and many viewers watch the show and long for the days when you could smoke inside, drink at work before noon, and rape as many secretaries as you wanted to. On the other hand, just because some people misinterpret a work doesn't mean that the work is bad. On the other hand, if lots of people misinterpret a work, maybe it's not very well done. On the other hand, Christina Hendricks is mad sexy. So, yeah. I have mixed feelings.
And funny story: my boyfriend and i recently had a fight about Mad Men and how art can be destructive if misunderstood, and if lots of people are misunderstanding your art, maybe it's not very good art? If the story isn't clear to everyone, maybe it's not a story worth telling? And i tend to think that, while all of these things are good points, Mad Men is subtle enough to work its way under your skin and slowly build itself into a healthier worldview for you, just the way that everything else in culture slowly indoctrinates you to be a shitty person.
Example: lots of movies, TV shows, books, poems, paintings, etc., depict rape. Overwhelmingly, rape scenes are portrayed from the male point of view, and are often highly eroticized. So we get this idea that rape is hot, and that girls don't really mind that much when you do it to them. In Mad Men, on the other hand, one of the most famous rape scenes (often referred to as a "rape" scene, because people don't understand rape very well) is from the victim's point of view. Joan's fiance pins her down, holds her hands, and drags up her dress. She fights at first, but then gives up. The camera travels to her face, her eyes carefully blank: this is happening to her, and there is now no turning back. Then the camera actually captures her literal point of view: the scene ends with a shot of the floor, couch, and coffee table that Joan is looking at as she is being raped. "Normal" rape scenes make rape seem sexy, and sometimes even funny and not really rape. This rape scene shows the victim actually being violated. It's sad that i have to spell it out that clearly, but again: people don't understand rape very well.
Anyway. This post is a good example of my mixed feelings. And it starts with a photo of Christina Hendricks, so, two reasons to read it.

This post is what made me start reading Tiger Beatdown. It beautifully articulates a lot of things that make me uncomfortable about Occupy, hipsters, and a lot of other things that Kids These Days are up to.

This is my new favorite fairy tale.

And speaking of Mansplaining, here's another great example.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

You know what's weird? It's weird when you're in Boston, where you've been dozens of times in the last six years, and you've just watched your little brother cross the finish line on a handcycle, and you and your cousin and her boyfriend are finishing up lunch, and then your boyfriend calls to see if you're okay.
"Yeah, i'm fine. Why?"
"There was an explosion close to where you are. A couple of explosions. Stay away from the trains."

And then it's weird when the trains are all shut down and you can't get back home. It's weird when you're looking at news pictures of devastation and destruction in exactly the spot where you were just two hours before, and you think, "Thank God all the amputees got out of there before the explosions triggered their PTSD," and then your mom is texting you, saying, "Get a cab. I'll pay for it." but you can't find a cab, so you take the Silver Line to the airport. And then it's weird when you realize that the airport is probably a horrifically unsafe place to be, but so is the place where you were, and anyway what choice do you have? Walk the eight miles to your apartment? It's weird when you get to the airport and take the Blue Line to Beachmont, and then your cousin's grandmother picks you up, and then you and the grandparents and Agelseb and her boyfriend all stay in Revere over night. It's weird when you're seeing the devastation of your own city on the news. It's weird when you wake up the next morning to a text from your dad saying that the FBI searched an apartment in Revere because they got a lead on the person behind the terrorist attack. It's weird when your brain puts two and two together and you realize that you were just two blocks away from a terrorist attack as it was happening. It's weird when you have to call your boss to say that you can't come in, because the of the explosions.

It's weird. For a long time, it's not terrifying or upsetting or sad or anything like that. It's weird, and it's stressful, and it's annoying, and it's uncomfortable, and it's inconvenient. It's weird to drain your cell phone battery calling people to tell them that you are alive and to make sure that they are. It's weird.

Today, i have a major event at work that i'm sort of co-running. Actually, i'm kind of running the whole thing. So it's weird to get back home at 8:45 in the morning, change your clothes, and run straight to campus to start setting up slide shows and posters and making frantic phone calls. It's weird and anxiety-producing and super stressful. It's weird to look at the gorgeous LBD and pearls you had picked out for today, so that you would be appropriately polished and professional when you are running a major campus event, and then reach for an old t-shirt, jeans, and your rattiest sneakers, because you haven't even showered yet and you forgot to change your underwear and you'll be running around for the next eight and a half hours so why bother? It's weird to spend the day eating trail mix because you're too nauseous to eat real food and you don't want to pass out. It's weird to see your Facebook news feed filled with information about this thing that almost happened to you. It's weird to sit quietly in the back of the auditorium while someone lectures about using GPS signals to predict earthquakes and totally ignore the lecture to read Dorothy Parker, because it's Dorothy Parker and you love her and all you want to do is read and relax, and then you remember that you almost got blown up yesterday and you just keep breathing.

I've been hit with tiny waves of realization from time to time. Mostly, i've been weirded out. Yesterday, i was mostly stressed about normal tiny annoyances ("The Red Line isn't running! Check the Orange Line. Oh, they're only going to Forest Hills. Where the fuck is Forest Hills? Whatever, it's the wrong direction. Can we get a cab? I haven't seen any cabs in hours. Wait, does this bus go to the airport? Agh, i have to pee!"). Last night and this morning, i was anxious to the point of nausea and insomnia because of this huge event today and all of the things i still needed to do for it. Every now and then, i get sad or scared or anxious about the attack, but mostly i've been wrapped up in other things. Mostly, it's just been weird.

And it's going to be weird next year, when the marathon comes around again and everyone gets nervous. It's going to be weird in fifteen or twenty years when my kids learn about this in school and their teachers give them an assignment to interview their parents and i tell them how close i was, i pull up a map to show them where i watched the race (right next to the finish line) and the P. F. Chang's where i was during the actual explosions. It's going to be weird when we find out who was behind this and watch the bloodthirst take over.

It's going to be a weird time for all of us, for a very long time. But life is weird, and wine is good. Give lots of love to your friends and family. Pray, or meditate, or think happy thoughts, or do whatever it is you do in times like this. Keep eating and drinking, even if you're nauseous and/or distracted, because the last thing your loved ones need right now is for you to pass out from dehydration or malnutrition (says the girl who has yet to eat an actual meal today). Sleep. Take a shower. Give someone a back rub. Snuggle. Watch a happy movie (i like Bringing Up Baby). Sleep and eat and love some more. Things are always going to be weird, so just keep breathing and you'll get through.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Job 34-42, Psalms 1-28

Job 35:6-8
If you sin, what do you accomplish against Him?
Or, if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to Him?
If you are righteous, what do you give Him?
Or what does He receive from your hand?
Your wickedness affects a man such as you,
And your righteousness a son of man.

Sometimes, i hear people (especially high school and college students) agonizing over Doing the Will of God. They don't want to choose the wrong college, or the wrong major, or the wrong elective, or the wrong sandwich topping. Even the smallest action can ripple outwards to change the whole trajectory of history, and whatever you do, do it for the glory of God, so if i have pickles instead of banana peppers, World War III might happen, or the Rapture or something. And everyone i love will go to Hell. It's a natural and logical progression.

It's also crazy and heartbreaking and wrong.

Does God care about everything you do, even down to what you put on your sandwich? Yes. Is He so powerless that He can't do whatever He wants in your life regardless of where you go to college or who your roommate is or which of your family members you've "witnessed" to? No. Look at Jonah: he deliberately did the opposite of what God wanted, multiple times, and God's will was still accomplished.

This doesn't mean we can do whatever we want and trust God to pick up the slack. But it does mean that we can stop panicking about every choice we make. Think about it, pray about it, ask for advice from others, and then do something. You can always change your major, transfer to another school, have pickles AND banana peppers. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that your sin is more powerful than God's will. There is nothing you can do that can derail what God wants.

Job 40:8
Would you indeed annul My judgment?
Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?

I'm going to paraphrase a story from a source i can't remember: A man had a dream that he visited Heaven and met God. He said to God, "There is one question I have always wanted to ask You. How can You look at the world, and see all of the poverty and disease and cruelty and suffering that we go through every day, and not do anything about it?" And God said, "Funny, I was about to ask you the same thing."

Sometimes when we talk about the Will of God, we're copping out. We pray for the people of Haiti, who were already in pretty bad shape before the earthquake, and we trust that God will take care of them. How many of us send money, or supplies, or go to rebuild houses? How many doctors go to tend to the sick? How many wealthy people make donations to relief funds? Sure, some people gave lots of time and money and energy immediately after the earthquake, but things were shitty before and they're shitty now, and we've all moved on. We do this in lots of situations, every day, all over the world. A very small percentage of people actually get involved in the beginning, and a very small percentage of those stay involved until things are actually better. Instead of waiting for a disaster to be brought to our attention so that we can donate a week's worth of latte money right away, we should be looking for opportunities to donate, to volunteer, to support, to rebuild. Goodwill is always looking for volunteers. Soup kitchens always need donations. Not sure where to find people in need? Walk around a city in the evening. Go to the park. Look for homeless people settling down for the night. I know people always feel weird about giving money (what if they use it to buy alcohol?! Horrors!), and i personally never carry cash, but you can buy a cheeseburger or a cup of soup or maybe some coffee and bring a cold, hungry person some dinner. I've seen college students literally give the coats from their backs, because they might be cold on the way back home, but they're going back home; they'll survive. I've spent a lot of time this semester talking about all the times and ways that God is not very nice to us, from neglect to actual mistreatment, but the fact that God doesn't always help us in the way we think we should be helped does not excuse us from the responsibility of helping one another.

Psalm 4:4
Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.

I'm about to get all pop-psychology touchy-feely for a minute. I think that we should spend less time worrying about controlling our emotions or making sure that our emotions are appropriate and just allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling.

It's not always appropriate to give way to your emotions entirely. Say you're teaching a class, right, and say that you're gay, and say that your students don't know this, and say that one of your students makes a rude and terrible homophobic remark. Your immediate reaction, your immediate emotion, might be to scream and shout and cry and swear at the kid. You will get fired, and the kid probably won't learn anything. In the moment, you should gently and politely and firmly explain that that kind of remark is intolerant and rude and you won't allow it in your classroom. You may even be able to have a "teachable moment", and take some time to open up a class discussion about homophobia and LGBTQI issues and appropriate ways for us to all interact with one another. But when you go home at the end of the day, you should scream and shout and cry and swear. You should go for a long, hard run. You should beat up a punching bag. You should play the piano. You should do whatever you need to do to work through that anger and hurt. Let yourself be angry. Let yourself be hurt. Let your feelings work themselves out on their own time. But don't ever make the mistake of thinking that your feelings aren't important and can be ignored. They can't. If you don't take care of them now, they'll fester and explode out at an even less appropriate time.

Let yourself feel whatever it is you're feeling, and don't feel guilty about it, but don't sin. Don't let your feelings be an excuse for bad behavior (like yelling at a student who may not have known that that was an offensive term).

Christians somehow have honed in on all of the verses about cheerfulness and joy and gladness, and have ignored all the verses like this one, and have inferred that the greater your faith, the bigger your smile. We have somehow come away with the impression that Christians are only allowed to access "positive" emotions, and that the rest of them are inappropriate. I think that, regardless of religious orientation, healthy people allow themselves access to a full range of emotions, and focus on working through their feelings and channeling them into productive avenues, rather than trying to shut down the ones we don't like.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Emily Angelou? Maya Dickinson? Emilya Dickelou? Mayily Angeson?

A few nights ago, my boyfriend and i were getting ready for bed, and he asked me to tell him a story. He does that from time to time, and it never goes well; i'm not good at spontaneous story-telling, and anyway i mostly write non-narrative poems, so it's completely out of my wheelhouse. So i always ask him what kind of story he wants, and he always says, "I don't know; you're the writer," and then i tell him that i don't do that kind of writing, and then he whines, and then i snuggle him to sleep.

But the most recent time, when i asked him what kind of story he wanted, he said, "One that would make a lot of money."
I laughed. "If i had a story that would make a lot of money, don't you think i would have sold it by now?"
"No, because you write poetry," he countered.

Ignoring the irony embodied in his own words, i had a flashback to senior year. In our senior seminar class, we had an assignment designed to make us seriously consider our career prospects as English majors. (Hint: they are not bright.) Those of us on the Creative Writing track had to research the market, look at publishing houses and magazines and journals and calls for submissions and find out what was profitable, what our demographic was, what our chances were for success. There were four graduating English seniors that year: two Literary Analysis, one Creative Writing (fiction), and one Creative Writing (poetry). The fiction writer was writing a Christian teen romance novel which will almost certainly sell. I thought it was okay: fluffy beach fiction with structurally sound but stylistically flat writing. But that hasn't gotten in anyone else's way, so she has a good shot. Anyway, when it was my turn to talk about success in the poetry field, the professor called in some other experts.

So we sat there, me and Beach Fiction and the two Literary Analysts, and Benji and McCann (published poets, both), and KP, and we talked about what it means to be a successful poet.
"Emily Dickinson never published anything in her life," McCann pointed out.
"And Maya Angelou made a million dollars last year because she sold out to work for Hallmark," Benji added.

Then there was a debate about Maya Angelou, and whether her more popular, money-making poetry was as good as her earlier work, and whether any of it was as good as Emily Dickinson's work, and whether either of them would be read in another fifty or a hundred years, and does success as a poet mean that you get published and are famous in your own time, or that you're still read after your death, or both? Or what if you never get the recognition you deserve, but you're still talented and you feel good about your body of work? What does it mean to be a successful poet?

I've been looking at submission calls again lately and getting depressed. It's hard and scary and heartbreaking and awkward and forward to just send people your poems and ask to get them published. And what's the upside? You get published and then you have to start sending things out again? You get a ten dollar check and a free magazine and you can't tell anyone about it because the poem they picked is the one where you yell at your mom or the one about the time you had to buy Plan B? You get published and then some other random publication actually asks you for work and then you have to find something that's polished and ready to go? And then you've published all of your stuff and then you have to write more? And what if you only had ten good poems in you and then you've sent them all out and then you're faced with the inevitable truth that you suck, that that part of your life is over, that you'll spend the rest of your life showing visitors the laminated magazine page with your poem on it and serving people coffee? You send out a submission packet and promptly die of embarrassment and anxiety?

Still, my workshop requires me to turn things in every week for review. And when i'm applying for English teacher jobs, it looks good if i have some publishing credits on my résumé. And knowing is better than not knowing. And even ten bucks is better than nothing. And who knows? Maybe i'll be some kind of Maya Angelou/Emily Dickinson crossover: an introverted white lady who doesn't title her poems and makes some money off of them while she's still alive. Okay, so i guess that's less of a Maya Angelou/Emily Dickinson crossover and more of a Profitable Emily Dickinson, but whatever.

Monday, April 8, 2013

this is what i do at work all day

I think Neil Gaiman tweeted this link to old people wearing vegetation? I don't really remember where i found it. Anyway, it's awesome. I keep looking at these portraits and wondering what exactly the photographer said to these octogenarians to convince them that putting rutabaga on their heads was a good idea and worthy of art. The last picture is my favorite:

Rachel Held Evans, always a model of compassion, patience, gentleness, and deeply insightful writing, wraps up her Lenten project of turning her hate mail into art.

"What I learned turning my hate mail into origami is that we're meant to remake this world together. We're meant to hurt together, heal together, forgive together, and create together . . . 
And in a sense, even the people who continue to hate me and call me names are a part of this beautiful process. Their words, carelessly spoken, spent the last 40 days in my home -- getting creased and folded, worked over, brushed aside to make room for dinner, stepped on by a toddler, read by my sister, stained with coffee, shoved into a closet when guests arrive, blacked out, thrown away, turned into poems, and folded into sailboats and cranes and pigeons that now sit smiling at me from my office window . . . 
Something tells me we would all be a bit slower to speak if we knew just how long it takes to work those ugly, heavy words into something beautiful, something that can float or fly away."

Sarah Bessey, another incredible model of grace and strength and beauty and incredible writing, has basically summed up half of her blog in this post. (But you should still read her blog, because the writing makes it worthwhile.)

"This is the thing I believe about the Kingdom of God: it's for all of us. It's for the powerful and weak, it's for men and women, it's for the outliers and the insiders. It's for all of us. And so there is no neat and safe and tidy box; instead there is the wild and untamed and glorious riches of Christ Jesus, there is Deborah and Davod, there is Junia and Paul, there is Martha and Lazarus, Esther and Sarah, and there is you and there is me . . .
People cloak it in spiritual language. But don't be deceived: anything that steals the very essence of God's calling on you, God's shalom, God's justice, God's way of life and living as a warrior, as a prophetess, as a mother, as a teacher, whatever-your-vocation-or-calling as a woman after God's own heart, is a liar. There is a big difference between choosing silence and being silenced . . .
There is room for all of us in this story of Jesus. The Kingdom of God isn't created by fear or shame or narrow name-calling or false binaries. The Kingdom of God is created in the rising up, in the singing of the song, in the battle of the every day justice, in the daily mundane gorgeousness of servanthood and leadership, regardless of gender."

My friend is developing a new game. For those of you familiar with Cards Against Humanity, it's like that. For those of you familiar with Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity is like the black sheep version of that. Anyway, this game is what would happen if a bunch of youth pastors who got too old and/or jaded to keep youth pastoring got drunk on Irish coffee, played Cards Against Humanity, and then someone pulled out a Bible and starting gluing pages onto the cards. Except the cards are professionally made. Sign up on the website to get an email when the game is released.

This is another old archive post, but anyone who has ever heard the term "rape culture" and been confused, or heard the term and scoffed, or hasn't heard the term at all, should read it. It's a great primer for learning about the way we protect rapists and blame victims, and why that's a bad thing (you wouldn't think we'd need to explain why that's a bad thing, but apparently we do). This post is kind of in the middle of the story, but it still has enough information for you to figure out what's going on. I'd quote favorite passages, but that would end up being way too long. Just read it.

Google honored an incredible woman last week with one of the most beautiful Google Doodles i've ever seen. I was also really pleased to see that the article focused on her work and its importance, and not on, say, her famous beef pot roast recipe or how good she was at raising babies or something, which articles about important women tend to do.

So here's another Tiger Beatdown archive post. I'll stop sharing them when they stop being amazing. Also, Joan is one of my favorite names and i'd love to give it to my daughter one day.

"And I don't know if I believe in Jesus, but I believe in Joan of Arc . . . I believe that we're human beings, and that the range of human possibility includes Joan of Arc.
Here's a list of things that Joan is the patron saint of, issues on which it is decreed Joan shall have your back: "Captives, France, martyrs, opponents of Church authorities, people ridiculed for their piety, prisoners, rape victims." And soldiers, particularly female ones . . .
And Joan was found not-evil, at the retrial, but she wasn't declared a saint until 1920. The year after American women got the right to vote. Meaning we couldn't take her name until after feminism had won one of its biggest victories. That's another reason I believe in Joan, more than anything: She opened the door, very politely waited for us to walk through, and then came in and took her rightful place."

Two words: infomercial gifs.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

terrible twos

Hey, so, also: my second anniversary of blogging happened two weeks ago. Woops.

Most popular post: still never settle.

Biggest referring URL is from Frank Viola; biggest referring site is Google. No idea what the difference is between referring URL and referring site.

People have found the blog by googling both "never settle tattoo" and "never settle tattoos". And also "gold body paint", which presumably led them to this.

Russian readership remains strong. As of today, i have had 1,998 visitors from Russia in the last two years, second only to the US's 4,707. Third place is the UK at 269.

Also, my brother is competing in the Boston marathon this year on a hand cycle, my roommates are still terrible but may be leaving soon (which is good for my peace of mind but bad for my blog material), my boyfriend and i are resisting my family's "suggestions" that we get engaged already and having lots of adventures with eating fresh doughnuts and riding trains and snuggling and visiting aquariums and deciding in advance how we will mess up our hypothetical future children. (Most recent idea? Teach them that certain random words are profane ["Jimmy! Never say 'wagon'! Where did you learn that word?! Go to your room!"] but teach them how to use actual swear words really, really well.) God and i are making up, but i'm still mad at a lot of "Christians". But it's a righteous anger, so it's fine. I'm working harder on getting my life together: eating well, getting and staying in shape, making doctor's appointments, budgeting my money, etc. Results vary. I'm getting comments now, which is weird and new, and people are following me on Twitter. In fact, the Bloggess is following me on Twitter, and when you add that to the heartfelt email exchange we had back in November of 2011, we're basically best friends. It's okay to be jealous. In fact, it's encouraged. Also, Neil Gaiman once responded to one of my tweets, and Honest Toddler sometimes favorites my replies to his/her tweets, AND Joshua Malina followed me after i paid him to. The fast lane: i am living in it.

If i had champagne, i'd drink it, but instead i'll celebrate with maple whiskey and root beer, A Game for Good Christians, and maybe some organic cheesy cracker things. Or nachos. Here's to year three!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Esther 3-10, Job 1-33

Job is one of my favorite books, and has been for many years. The poetry in the middle section is so great, and the poetry when God shows up is absolutely transcendent (which only makes sense, since He's God and all).

My Bible study took a pretty in-depth look at Job, but did so in only two weeks, so we left a lot out; there's a lot to be said about this book. People always say that the Bible speaks to you in new ways every time you read it. This may be slightly heretical, but that's never stopped me before, so here goes: i'm not sure that that's true of the whole Bible. I don't know how many new things you can discover when you're reading the same genealogy for the sixth time. I'm not sure that there are many great spiritual insights tucked into the measurements of the Temple.

But Job always has something new, at least for me. When i read it in different seasons of my life, when i come back to it after some significant experience, when i revisit a passage in a new translation, i notice something new.

This year, i noticed three passages.

Job 13:20-21
"Only two things do not do to me,
Then I will not hide myself from You:
Withdraw Your hand far from me,
And let not the dread of You make me afraid." (NKJV, emphasis mine)

I want that last line tattooed on my skin forever. "Let not the dread of You make me afraid." I read this verse in multiple translations to make sure i was getting the right message. (There's still room for interpretation, but i'm pretty confident in my understanding.) We talk sometimes about fearing God. Some denominations talk more about this than others; earlier generations talked more about it than we do now. "Fear", in this sense, doesn't mean, like, nightmarish terror of the thing under the bed. It means an awed respect for something or someone much greater and more powerful than you, something or someone who is so far beyond your comprehension that you can never hope to meet its level, and yet this thing, this person, is reaching out to you; you were in awe of it when it was on a far-off mountaintop but when it reaches out to take your hand? it's more dreadful and awesome than you could ever imagine. It's the terror of falling in love, really in love, and realizing how much power this other person has to hurt you, and also trusting them completely to keep you safe. It's entering the lavish throne room of a king and seeing him in his great throne, towering over you, with the divine right to control your life, and then seeing him smile at you.

I fear God, but i am not afraid of Him.

In Bible study one week, we talked about the difference between trusting God and trusting in God. Trusting God means being certain that He will never allow anything bad to happen to you. Trusting in God means that you know that bad things will happen to you, but that God is still God throughout, and that His will will be done in the end, trusting that His will is ultimately a good thing, even if it necessitates your death and pain and suffering. This is what Job learned: his life and health and happiness were subject to God's whims, but God is still God. God still loved him. God kept His hand on him. God was dreadful, but Job was not afraid of Him.

Job 16:1-5
Then Job answered and said:
"I have heard many such things;
Miserable comforters are you all!
Shall words of wind have an end?
Or what provokes you that you answer?
I also could speak as you do,
If your soul were in my soul's place.
I could heap up words against you,
And shake my head at you;
But I would strengthen you with my mouth,
And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief."

Job 32:3
Also against his (Elihu's) three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.

We do this all. the. time. We blame the victim, because if whatever bad thing happened is somehow the victim's fault, than we can just do the opposite of whatever they did or didn't do, and then nothing bad will ever happen to us. We give condemnation to people who are hurting, instead of comfort, or we offer a weak comfort like, "His ways are higher than ours! We don't know what the Hell He is doing! Just shut up, lie back, and take it!" Job's friends could not find an answer, they could not find a sin that he had committed, and yet they persisted in telling him that he must have sinned in some way. That his kids must have sinned in some way. That somewhere, somehow, someone messed up and called down the Wrath of the Almighty on their heads. Of course, those of us in the audience know that no one did anything wrong. And when we're not in the audience, when we're on the stage, it can be hard to keep everything in perspective. It's important to remember, therefore, the lesson of Job's friends: comfort comes before condemnation, and condemnation only comes after proof. Relieve the hurting of their grief, and refrain from insisting that everyone who has ever had something bad happen to them must have asked for it in some way.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Martha Sabbath

Sometimes i take a Martha Sabbath.

Usually i'm Mary. I like to worship in community. I like to hear other ideas, other voices. I like my thoughts and feelings to be confirmed, and i like my thoughts and feelings to be challenged. I like to sing, to pray, to listen. I know that these things are important, and i feel that i need them.

But sometimes i'm Martha.

Sometimes, when i wake up on a Sunday morning, i just don't feel like going to church. Sometimes, the thought of putting on clothes and doing something with my hair and driving all the way to church and talking to people (talking to people! so many people! why do you talk to me?! leave me alone! i'm trying to worship and you're totally harshing my mellow!) is completely overwhelming. Sometimes, it feels like more of a chore than a joyful and necessary and longed-for part of spiritual life.

Yes, i know that we have to do these things. In a relationship, sometimes you have to do things you wouldn't otherwise be inclined to do. You have to go to a concert for a band you don't care for, because your significant other loves them and you want to be with that person when they are so happy. You have to go to family Thanksgiving so that your relatives can find out how you're doing and comment on your life. You have to get up early to make lunches for your kids before school. You have to go to church and talk to people and sing and sit still and pray. The practice of these things does build a bond (and i could lecture on the psychology of that, but i won't) between you and the object(s) of your affection. When it comes to spiritual disciplines, the bond is multifaceted: between you and God, between you and your pastor, between you and the other people on the worship team or in your Sunday school class or the other greeters or what have you. You are a part of their spiritual lives too, and it is your Christian duty to be there for the sake of their worship, just as it is their duty to be there for you. It builds community and love, it assists in spiritual growth, it fosters connection and learning and worship. Going to the same church every week is a good thing.

You know what's also a good thing? Sleeping in. Spending the day in PJs. Taking time to clean the kitchen for your roommates, or to cook lunch for your houseguests, or to shave your legs for your boyfriend, or to organize your desk for yourself.

Sometimes, you need to worship Jesus by caring for yourself and for others. Sometimes, you need to worship Jesus by bleaching the shelves in the fridge, or reorganizing the Tupperware, or sleeping for just one more hour.

Sometimes worship is the blending of voices raised to the Lord. Sometimes worship is snuggling with a cat and then washing a sinkful of dishes.

Mary worship is the norm, and that's as it should be. But never be afraid to take a Martha Sabbath.

Monday, April 1, 2013

[something clever]

I love doing research. Love, love, love it. I love reading new things, encountering new ideas, watching debates unfold on paper over decades and centuries as new scholars and critics attempt to shed light on old themes and ideas. I love to see the constancy of opinion on some things, and the ever-shifting disagreements on others.

I hate citing my research. Footnotes and in-text citations are so fussy, and bibliographies are annoying, and making sure that you put the quotation marks in exactly right makes me want to die. I'd rather just hand you a list (formatted any damn way i please) of everything i read while writing this paper and let you do your own research.

So, in the tradition of many great bloggers, i feel that the time has come to provide you with a weekly bibliography. I read a lot of things online, and these things often inform and influence my thoughts, directly and indirectly. Also, a lot of the stuff i post is going to be old stuff from way back in some other blogger's archives. I'm not timely.

1. I've been learning a lot lately about fat-shaming and fat-acceptance and the pros and cons of both. Basically, it can be boiled down to this: fat-shaming is good because it encourages people to control themselves and change bad habits and become healthier. Fat-shaming is bad because standards of health and beauty are arbitrary and subjective, and being more attractive than someone else in no way makes you a better person or more deserving of good things in life. Fat-acceptance is bad because sometimes being overweight is really unhealthy and is entirely due to poor choices in your life and if you don't change your ways you will die. Fat-acceptance is good because not all fat people are that way from their own bad choices, and not all fat people are unhealthy (and not all thin people are healthy) and anyway regardless of your attractiveness to other people or your physical health you should be happy and feel comfortable in your own skin.

So i found this gallery of photos. You can watch in a slideshow, but if you look at them one by one you can see what their BMI is. It is shocking. There are rail-thin people who look seriously ill who are classified as "normal weight". There are gloriously curvy people with amazing figures classified as "a pound or two shy of obese". There are people who look happier and healthier and sexier than me who are "dangerously overweight". The point is, BMI is bullshit. (Check out the "overweight" triathlete and the "morbidly obese" Wonder Woman).

2. "Should gay marriage be legal?" Ginsburg continued. "Yes. Done. Case closed. Goodbye. Christ, were we seriously scheduled to spend the next few months debating this?" 

All over the country, states are voting to legalize gay marriage, or voting to remove bans on gay marriage, or otherwise ending bigotry. On my own tiny, conservative Christian college campus, we recently approved an LGBT organization. Some day, our children or grandchildren will be in history class and will learn about the LGBTQI fight for civil rights, and will say, "I don't understand. Why did people object to this?" I can't wait for the day that all LGBTQI organizations are dissolved, because there is no longer a need for them. I mean, think about it: how ludicrous would it be to start a heterosexual/cisgender club on a college campus? Why would anyone even need that? There's no point; the world belongs to us. Some day, LGBTQI clubs and organizations will be just as unnecessary as straight/cis ones.

3. I, too, have a debilitating fear of the phone and a job that requires me to make and answer calls pretty frequently, so this piece by Julianne "Boobs Radley" Smolinsky touched my soul like a call from the Holy Spirit. True story: once, when ordering Chinese food, i forgot my phone number and had to ask my roommate what it was. If i thought i could get away with it, i'd copy and paste the whole thing here and pretend i wrote it, and it wouldn't even technically be a lie, because it was pretty much lifted straight from my brain anyway. But instead, i'll just quote some tidbits and then order some spring rolls online.

"Nobody was more delighted by the advent of online food ordering than I was, because calling a restaurant used to fill me with a singular dread. I have a bizarre  middle child's terror of being inconvenient to other people, so asking for something like "dressing on the side" had all the magnitude of requesting, say, a kidney, even in my deferential sexy baby timbre.
 . . . I think the fact that I still fear the phone is an issue of control -- you don't have the degree of planning you do when having a conversation via email or text message. After I write something out, I have the option to edit or delete it. Even when calling was still the preferred method to get in touch with someone, I'd often write a script on a piece of paper if I was nervous enough about the subject to be discussed.
. . . I've encountered similar problems in my personal life. I had a brief non-relationship with a guy last year who kept asking if he could call me, just to talk. I was repelled. Call to talk about what? Is there something you can't say in a series of text messages that I can respond to in a way carefully calibrated to demonstrate my exceptional cleverness? You know who calls people just to talk? The Long Island Serial Killer."

4. I've been in a season of doubt recently. Well, not doubt precisely, but definitely asking questions and testing boundaries and trying to find my footing. And Rachel Held Evans, the Queen of Christian Doubters, wrote this prose-poem of a post that hit me where i live.

"Or it will pull you farther out to sea like rip tide,

Or hold your head under as you drown --"

5. Hey, look! More body-image stuff!

". . . it was so apparent to me that my looking beautiful, or sexy, or whatever, was an important component of the event. It was a feature. My appearance was part of the entertainment, and no matter what I did, if I went along with the cultural prescription by getting dolled up, I was going to be rewarded with oos and aahs."