terribleturnip: (Goat)
We all know that someone, maybe multiple someones. The "I'm a drama free zone" people. The "I had to quit "whatever" because of the drama. I can't be friends with this person because they're such a drama queen. If you hang out at Renaissance Faires, maybe you've seen the pins: "Drama-free Zone" or some variation on that. (Of course, if you hang out at Renaissance Faire, by definition a multi acre site occupied by actors and wanna-be actors and then declare yourself a drama free zone...you're sort of betting against the odds, there.)

You on facebook? if you're lucky, this hasn't happened to you. If you're normal, then you've had a "friend" announce that they're DONE, they can't handle it, they're leaving Facebook (or insert social media of your choice). Or, they can no longer be friends with/be in the same space, even look at someone else because that person is nothing but drama.

Here's the thing. When you wear that pin? When you publicly shut someone out of your life, when you declare that you DON'T DO DRAMA?

You're actually being a drama queen. You are FLOUNCING. See, you could just not tolerate drama, you could not have someone as a friend, you could just block their posts. And not tell anyone. That's actually just being an adult. Making a point, making a scene...um, that's actually being dramatic.

I mean, what is drama? It's having an audience. You can't do drama on your own. You need someone to see it. You need to involve someone, ideally someone not intimately or naturally involved. That's drama.

So, when you decide that someone in your life is creating unnecessary drama and you just stop seeing them, stop replying to them, stop inviting them, just gently and effectively cut them out of your life (because I'm all about setting effective personal boundaries) but are still polite and coolly cordial when you run into them in a social setting, that's actually just being an adult.

Dude, I get it. You want a clean break, you want people to know that you...wait, no, now you're looking for an audience. And that, my friend, is the very definition of drama.

Adult means doing the right thing and not caring whether someone sees you do it, because you're doing the right thing. Look, everyone needs some affirmation from time to time, but good heavens, try and be self-sufficient when it comes to maintaining your personal comfort zone. And when it comes to leaving behind people who create drama, that is a perfect time to be self-sufficient. Don't be like the very people you're trying to cut out!

I have zero drama in my being life - despite managing a renaissance faire, despite being surrounded by lovely people who have just a bit too much of a flair for the dramatic. How do I manage it?

Well, for starters, don't feed it. When people come to you with drama, just refuse to hear it. Smile, hold your hand up flat in front of them (oh, poppets, you cannot underestimate the power of the gesture. Smile, but hold up the stop sign, do the wave off...make the pfft noise, the rolling of the eyes, the shrug of the shoulders) and then tell them you just don't want to hear it, you just don't care. I don't want to hear it.

It's remarkably effective. Making it clear that you don't give a rat's patoot. They want sympathy, they want you to care, too! Just don't. Refuse the agitation. There are a times when people deserve sympathy and empathy -- ask yourself "is this really the time?" I pretty much always answer "no". And yet, the people I adore still seem to love me. So, seriously, try this.

Also, you have another tool, if you're more extroverted and assertive. Solve their problem. Hard, fast. They start to describe the issue...and you just jump in with "Well this is what you need to do." There may be sputtering. Don't let it distract you. Push your solution (delete their e-mails, stop taking their phone calls, move on, tell them how you feel, give less fucks, whatever it is, demand a hard stop). Smiling. You know what drama queens hate? Solutions. Because it ends the drama. Because they either need to do it, or stop bitching about it. Right? When you've told them how they should fix it, and they don't and then they want to talk to you about it... ask "did you do the thing?" and they're going to say "No, Reasons" and you're doing to hold up the stop hand again and say "do the thing and then we'll talk, otherwise, I got shit to do." I wield this like a boss.

Oh, Poppets, it's game over, then. You've effectively become a drama non-conductive zone. They get no affirmation, only instruction. Oh, drama queens HATE that. Solutions and non receptiveness are the drama killers.

You don't want it? Then don't feed it. Smile, stop hand, solution. They're not bad people. Just bad habits. Help them to be better, help yourself to be happier.
terribleturnip: (Goat)
Yep, it's that time again, hearts and flowers and chocolates, oh my!

Did I leave out the pissing and moaning about how it's all commercial bullshit designed to make single people feel like losers? Yeah, that's going to happen, too.

I originally titled this "Tough Love Day" because that's what I like to dispense, especially around this holiday, but I thought I would reach deep inside my compassion pouch (which is narrow, hard to get into) although, as usual, it was empty, so I had to justify "Love Yourself" on a technicality, which is that I'm dispensing the Tough Love in advance of February 14th.

Which means you've got a couple of days to get your shit together and act like a fully functioning adult.

Here's the thing: You are an adult now. You are responsible for your own joy.

"But Valentine's Day is just a reminder that everyone else has someone to celebrate with and I don't!" "Everyone else is happy and I'm not!"

And some of you are going to make a point of "today I'm going to protest by celebrating singlehood!" While I applaud you celebrating your singlehood...I urge you to restrain your desire to shit all over someone else's holiday. That's like me declaring "fuck all of these women getting cards and dinner and gifts for being a mother, I'm going to celebrate my malfunctioning ovaries and useless raisins of eggs!" By the way, you might think that the "so THERE!" is silent on that, but it's not, we can totally hear it. Try not to be a third grader, okay? Let everyone else enjoy their holiday and stop trying to make a damn point. You celebrate your Egg Raisins on some other day -- THAT'S cool. Rule #44: By all means, celebrate your thing, but don't shit on someone else's celebration when you do it.

Maybe you've never been in a relationship or maybe your past relationships were nothing but heavenly until they abruptly came crashing down around your ears like Trump University. But, newsflash, some of those people going out to dinner, getting cards, flowers, chocolates, jewelry are not necessarily happy. Some of them sort of wish that the person sending them would die in a fire. Some of the people sending them sort of wish that the person they're sending it to would drown in their bath. So console yourself with that.

You wish you were getting chocolates and flowers? You're an adult now. Treat yourself to chocolates/flowers that are just a little bit above what you think you should spend on them. Why the hell shouldn't you have them? You are indeed loveable. I have flowers delivered to my office every year. (Yes, I have three partners. But apparently, my "type" is brainy, balding and complete rubbish at gift giving.) And I know that if I want a thing, I should make the thing happen. I get them delivered because it's a treat to not have to go buy them and then drag them into the office. And yep, I get some fancy chocolates because it's the one time of year where I can have them completely guiltfree. I'm celebrating my overall loveableness and man oh man my loveableness deserves me some fine chocolates and my body image can just shut the hell up for a couple of days.

And let's stop making this a "shower the chick with gifts" holiday. Think it feels weird to send your guy flowers or chocolates? Okay, it's not, that's actually just you being weird. But my guys are getting bacon this Valentine's Day, so feel free to break with tradition in more than one way.

Aromantic? Single and an orphan? Don't have anyone to send anything to? Shame on you. You do so. Now's a great time to thank a friend, a mentor, someone who's supported you over the past year. You don't have to make it a Valentine's Day thing, but since V-Day's happening whether you like it or not, use it as a positive force to remind you that there are people in your life who deserve a little love back from you. Just send them a funny card, a heartfelt thank you card, a felt heart in a card, whatever.

Look, I feel you, single people who really want to be a in a relationship. Despite having a veritable wallow of loving partners right now, I've been there. But here's the thing: if you don't love yourself, if you can't find some measure of peace and fulfillment within yourself without being reflected in the mirror of someone else's eyes...you're not likely to find it in a relationship. A relationship should amplify your happiness because you're putting two happy fulfilled people together. Otherwise, you've got two half empty shell people looking for someone else to fill their shell with happiness. Which means that not only will you be struggling to fill your own happy/fulfilled, you're going to have be constantly draining some to fulfill your partner's happy/fulfilled bucket. You're still going to wind up half empty at some point if you expect someone else to drain off their happiness to fill your emptiness.

Fill yourself. Buy chocolates, send yourself flowers, treat yourself to an expensive steak, have a lovely bottle of wine, dress up and go to the theater, stay in a fancy hotel with a spa, shower love on other people in your life. Go out to dinner with a friend -- and don't celebrate your singlehood...celebrate your friendship. Celebrate being a loveable person who might want someone else in their life, but is pretty damn okay all on their own.
terribleturnip: (Goat)
It somehow feels so self-indulgent and even wrong to write about anything that isn't "WTF is going on in this country" but sadly I think this is going to be going on for a while and I gotta pace myself.

So, indulgently, while my country was going to hell in a handbasket, I spent yesterday preparing for a Burn's Night Dinner. My ex-husband and his wife host one every year and it's such a joy to show up at someone else's house, with them having done all of the work. I don't get off scot-free (ha, see what I did there?) as I've been going for 9 years now and am generally on the hook for making dessert and with the exception of one year, been asked to give the Lassie's Reply.

There's a long history of celebrating Robert Burn's birthday with a very traditional, formulaic dinner. Generally speaking, there's whisky and poetry reading and haggis and speechifying and toasting. We say the Grace he wrote before we eat, we pipe in (or in our cases, since no one plays bagpipes, we all do a very, very bad imitation of piping) the haggis as it comes out to the table, then read Burns' Address to a Haggis before serving it, we randomly read Burn's poems during dinner, each toasted from one of the 7 or 8 bottles of whisky on the table, there's a Toast to the Lassies - a speech written by one of the male attendees, that is a gentle roasting of the ladies, referencing Burn's body of work. And then the Lassie's Reply, which is me. When I say speech, or technically toast, you need to understand that we're talking about a good 8-12 minutes long, so it does require some prep. The Lassie's reply is not as gentle as the men's toast to the women and meant to be bawdier and meaner, before circling back to why men are wonderful and toastworthy.

I have to admit that I'm fond of recycling material from one year to the next - pulling bits from several previous speeches. After all, it'd been a year and lots of whisky so who would know...except a lot of the other folks have been coming for years as well, so it really was time to start fresh and write some more original stuff.

So, here, in its entirety, is this year's Lassie's Reply. There was definitely some more ad libbing and a couple of other bits that played off the Toast to the Lasses but there was also a lot of whisky going on, so that material's sort of lost.

This year, for the first time, I really had a hard time trying to write this. I’d be fine and then I’d come across a reference to Burns standing up for women’s rights

"While Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things, the fate of empires and the fall of kings.
While quacks of state must each produce his plan, and even children lisp the Rights of Man.
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, The Rights of Women merit some attention"

and I’d think “fuck me, it’s been 200 years how is this still a thing?”. But let’s not talk politics, for I’ve had whisky and I’m already feeling a bit fractious.

Luckily for you guys, I’m a New England WASP so I will channel my fury into humor. There may be more swearing.

So, my neighbor works for the Smithsonian and she was giving me a tour of their storage facility out in Suitland and she was showing me all sorts of cool stuff, freezers full of decomposing dolphins, closets full of elephant tusks, drawers full of whale penises. Did you know that the blue whale’s penis is ten feet long, a foot in diameter? At least when it’s not all dried up in a drawer. I can’t even make a joke about that. It’s that amazing. Anyway, we were moving into the storage area for hominids and on one shelf there were two brains in two jars. One was smaller and sort of tired looking, the other was big and plump and shiny. My feminist ire fired up when I saw that the shrunken one was female and the bigger one was labelled male. Kerry put her hand on my shoulder and said “hey, let’s face it, only one of them got used a lot in its lifetime.”

But back to Rabbie Burns who wrote “Mither Nature, her prentice hand she tried on man and then she made the lasses.” And we know that Rabbie loved the lasses. I know that most of you, certainly those who’ve been here before, are familiar with the list of women with whom we know that he had relationships, never mind all of the possible ones we just don’t have evidence for. So I ask you to think on this: Rabbie Burns on Tinder.

He wrote:
To see her is to love her,
And love but her for ever;
For Nature made her what she is,
And never made anither!

Seriously, that Dude NEVER swiped left. "Never made anither"Rabbie, darling, c’mon Nature made a lot. And you tried out as many as you could. You yourself wrote, "The sweetest hours that e’er I spend are spent among the lassies". And there was definitely an “s” on the end of lassies. If Burns had been born during the time of Tinder, I have no doubt he’d be wearing a wrist brace from all of the swiping right.

Although with 13 children in 11 years, and well over 700 poems, essays and songs, Burns could be one of the few men throughout history that could successfully multitask.

Now I’d already be fond of Burns because he gives us an excuse to get together once a year and have fun and he gets some of you men into kilts, which is always nice eye candy. But in addition to writing poems in honor of all sorts of women, he wrote a poem in honor of food. And not just fabulous food, which is easy, but to Haggis, of all things.

Hey, when is a man like a Haggis? After a Burns dinner when he’s a stuffed paunch reeking of whisky. Raise your hand if you were worried I was going to reference the stabbing it with a knife and it was going to be all “Trenching your gushing entrails bright”.

Speaking of which, I don’t understand why some people think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. The place that houses knives and fire.

But back to Burns and his women. I say I’m fond of him, but probably more fond of him because he’s dead and I’m not dating him. Although, who knows, maybe all of his women knew about the others and was okay with it. After all, he wrote:

Let not Woman e’er complain of inconstancy in love;
Let not woman e’er complain – fickle Man is apt to rove.
Look abroad through Nature’s range, Nature’s might law is change…
Mark the winds and mark the skies, oceans ebb and oceans flow
Sun and Moon but set to rise, round and round the seasons go
Why ask then of Silly Man to oppose great nature’s plan
We be constant while we can.

Oooh, I can’t help it, it’s nature’s way!

Yeah, that sort of makes me feel stabby again. But wait, let’s talk about nature for a minute, Rabbie. I mean, you’ve got black widow spiders where the female regularly eats the male after copulation. Heck, most spiders worth this way, although some male spiders are smart enough to bring a little packet of food, tide her over, keep her from being hangry. (Valentine’s Day is coming, gentlemen, so if you haven’t ordered your mate a packet of lovely chocolates, word to the wise, be a smart little spiderboy)

And praying mantis. Once they’re done...sometimes not even finished...munch, she’ll just eat his head while his poor little body keeps going. Although actually, true fact, they only do that if they’re being observed by a human, and rarely in the wild. Can you imagine, a mantis says to her partner “oooh, there’s that damn peeping tom entomologist again. I have an idea, this is going to be great, he’s totally going to freak out, let’s just start doing it and then I’m going to...oh, just roll with it, it’s going to be hysterical, I can’t wait to see the look on his face.”

Even Octopus females will often eat a couple of the male’s arms, sometimes just dragging the poor dude off to her cave like a female Blackbeard.

Komodo dragons don’t even need a male, they can fertilize their own damn eggs, thank you very much.

Topi antelope only come into heat one day a year and on that day, the female becomes extremely aggressive and spend 24 hours hounding all of the males in the area into exhaustion.

Female anglerfish are much bigger than the males which are just inches long. The male finds a female, attaches himself to her body and then just atrophies until all that’s left are his sex organs hanging off her that she uses whenever she wants fertilized eggs.

Sorry, clearly I’m enjoying this too much. And poor Rabbie didn’t have the benefit of Animal Planet and the internet, otherwise he never would have leaned that hard on Nature’s Plan.

Look, the man was a fine poet. “I never had the least thought or inclination of turning poet until I got heartily in love. Then rhyme and song became the spontaneous language of my heart.”

We may not be poets at this table, but we know love. And tonight we honor a man who gave us such wonderful words, and toast to the men in our lives who have brought so much love into our hearts. To Burns and the laddies!
terribleturnip: (Goat)
So, in the aftermath of the election, there are going to be a lot of really upset people; people who are concerned that they're embarking on four years of hell, in danger of losing everything that they consider the best of the United States.

And if you're on the winning side, you probably think they're idiots. If you're on the losing side, you probably think the people who voted for the winning candidate are idiots.

Here's the thing though: most of them really aren't.

The other day I was listening to the radio and one of the on-air personalities (I'm old enough to still think of them as DJ's, although that's something completely different...remember that, children, when I'm in the Home and trying to communicate through the curtains of dementia) was talking about how that morning, one of her dogs got loose while on her morning walk and ran out into traffic. And there she was, freaking out on the side of the road, trying to figure out how to get the dog back, how to get the traffic to stop, while still maintaining control of the other dog.

And a bunch of people, about ten, she said, on their way to work, stopped their cars, got out, stopped traffic, corralled her dog and got the animal safely back to her. By the time she'd fixed the dog's collar and gathered her wits about her, everyone had gotten back into their cars and driven off. You know, they had places to go and had done their Good Samaritan bit and were on their way.

Now, I can guarantee you that some of those people were Clinton supporters. Some of them were Trump supporters. (There's a possibility that there was a Johnson or Stein supporter as well, but let's not stretch statistics too far on this one.) And maybe they all had different motivations -- cared about the young woman freaking out on the side of the road, cared about the dog, were worried that the damn dog would cause an accident and foul up traffic -- but they were all motivated to help make the world just a little bit better.

I just did our big Halloween event, where the houses on our street decorate and host thousands of trick or treaters. Every house spends money, time and effort on decorations, spends about $150-$200 on candy to give away. And I can guarantee you that some of them are Clinton supporters, some Trump supporters, and yes, in this case, I'm not stretching statistics, there's at least one Stein supporter. But on the days leading up to Halloween, that night, the next day cleaning up...each of them pitched in to make the world just a little bit better for a bunch of kids and their parents.

Each of us fears that we'll lose something that we value in this election - rights, a way of life, freedoms, progress, whatever. And you think the other person is completely wrongheaded about it. I get that.

But let's remember to separate the IDEAS from the PERSON. Politics aside, you may well have a lot of things in common...your humanity and your desire to have a better world. Understand that fear does indeed make us stupid -- that it's easy for wrongheaded, stupid ideas to lodge in a brain. That social media, regular media are all doing their best to froth up that fear...make us more stupid...corral us into us and them, making each of us feel victimized...making us gullible and accepting of bullshit. And if you think only the OTHER side believes some bullshit...if you think only the other side is capable of believing some stupid shit...well, I hate to tell you this, but you're wrong. And you KNOW that, deep in the cockles of your wrinkled little brain.

Critical thinking is all well and good on a frictionless surface...sitting around the table, glass of bourbon in your hand, free of fear (wait, that might just be me, the bourbon, fine, imagine your own damn prop) with plenty of breathing room and headspace.

But it's a hell of a lot harder when you're scared and when people are pumping out all sorts of lies and fake news and you've now defriended or been defriended by people who believe differently from you, so you just hear the same bullshit over and over again, surrounded by people who agree with you, search engines now editing your information to help support your current beliefs even more, rarely showing you the opposite viewpoint, a whole goddamn cycle of supporting and perpetuating the ideas you already have.

::Deep breath::

Now, I get it -- you want to, and you have a certain right to, protect yourself from people who are dangerous to you, hurtful to you. I'm aware that in this case, I'm rocking some serious privilege -- white, middle-aged, tough and to a certain extent, a little bit inurement to misogyny. And there are indeed awful people on both sides of this particular fence...and over there, standing in the Johnson/Stein/Write-In/Whateveruselessprotestyou'remaking paddock. And yes, someone who's motivated by hate? Expletive them. Belligerent assholes? I'll do what I can, but you shouldn't feel badly about distancing yourself.

But remember that a lot of THEM are very, very much like you -- just wanting it all to be better. Heck, if it weren't for social media, you probably would have spent the rest of your life being friends with them and might not ever have noticed that they had some ideas diametrically opposed to your own. And you can be all "oh, man, I never knew that person was such a raging asshole" now that you've seen their twitter/facebook posts. Although you could be thinking "huh, we've been friends for years and worked on all sorts of stuff together but NOW I HATE THEM." Newsflash: That last one? You're thinking that? You might be a belligerent asshole yourself.

You want to get those wrong-headed ideas out of their head? Calling them an idiot is not going to do it. Separate ideas from the person; they're not necessarily the same thing. Recognize their humanity, figure out what you do have in common, try working side by side on less contentious things...you're far more likely to get them to move to your side of the fence than if you just build that fence higher and cover it with barbed wire.

Or you could shove them all away, let them be surrounded by people who think just like them, a social circle filled with people who hold the exact same stupid ideas/beliefs and they can spend the next four years reinforcing all of the bullshit and we can go through this again.
terribleturnip: (Goat)
I organize a neighborhood event for Halloween -- we shut down the street to car traffic, decorate all of the houses on the block, host about 3,000 trick or treaters and people who just show up for the scene or to show off their own costumes. We collect some donations, which pay for some of the streetwide decorations/supplies, and have some stock decor that people can borrow, but really, each house funds its own display, buys its own candy, works really hard to set up something cool, so we can host a three hour party for 3,000 strangers.

It's a lot of work, but the looks on the faces of the kids and visitors usually makes it seem worth it. (I say usually, because by about 3pm on Halloween, having been up and decorating since 5am, I often have a crisis of conscience and think that I'm an idiot who should develop a hobby that involves more sitting around. But that passes. It always does.)

We've gotten a vanload of kids who live in an inner city neighborhood, who've never trick or treated because their own neighborhood isn't safe and think that our street must be what Disneyland is like. We've had foreign exchange students who reported at the end of their stay that this event was the thing that most represented the United States to them -- only here would people, on their own, with no government or social program, with their own money, just do something like this for the enjoyment of others. (I don't know that that's true, necessarily, but it's a nice compliment.)

People say to me all of the time, oh, I wish my neighborhood was that social and united. Look, I can't take credit for starting it -- the event was going on when I moved here, I just sort of got involved and then wandered into being in charge. (I've said in the past that like Tyrion Lannister "I drink and I know things"...which is true, but MORE true is "I drink and I make things happen") When I moved in, we had to buy 400 pieces of candy per house. We're now up to 2,000. I have a tendency to escalate things. And I'll take credit for keeping it alive through some rough patches when people wanted to cancel or bail -- 9/11, a local sniper attack, random rounds of apathy.

But here's the thing:
There is always a thing )
terribleturnip: (Goat)
Here, let me give you another way to be a happier person.

Be gracious.

Yep, that's it. I don't mean "practicing gratitude" as it's often referred to -- where you consciously think about the good things in your life, the things you're grateful for. I mean, okay, that's not at all a bad thing. But it's pretty expletive self-centered. I'd prefer you think about the good things that are in the WORLD, like just being glad that things like chimney swifts and olunguito and grimpteuthis exist. But, okay, baby steps, and if you're mired in all of the things in your life that are going to hell in a moldy handbasket, conscious recognition of what's NOT in that handbasket can be helpful. So, you go do that. And then come back, because I've got some wisdom to deliver.

Read on, my darlings )
terribleturnip: (Goat)
Let's talk about how you treat your vegetables. Side dishes in general, but vegetable side dishes in particular.

Go ahead, take me to a restaurant that serves up giant horsecarrots and zucchini slices, cut on the bias like that's going to help, barely blanched or practically raw with a random grill mark on them, with a little bit of salt and pepper. I won't make a scene because I'm genetically predisposed to not making scenes in restaurants, but there will be heated muttering and moues of disgust.

Note: I'm fine with raw vegetables. Really. I will just eat a bowlful of cherry tomatoes, or snap peas and be happy as a clam. But a lot of people are confusing "al dente" with "not bothering to cook" and it's pissing me off.

I will be less disappointed with a restaurant that does something lovely with the veg, but then buries it underneath the protein treating it as just another flavor note to complement the protein. Then again, composed dishes always irritate me. I like to taste each component on its own and then in different combinations. I will allow that that's a personal quirk, but still...

Show the vegetable some love! Let it shine! Elevate it!

If I were enough of a masochist to start my own restaurant, the menu would be composed of vegetables and sides. I'd suggest some combos, but you could mix and match as you please, or have them all as small plates. There would be a couple of protein choices, but they'd all just be high quality, very simply prepared, so that they could complement all of the sides. Because seriously, it's not that hard to cook a good steak if you start with a good piece of beef and then don't fuck it up. But to make people swoon over broccoli or zucchini? That's what I'm proud of.
Here's how )
terribleturnip: (Goat)
Hey, you want to be happier person?

I have some hints. Hard to believe, especially if you know me, that a misanthropic curmudgeon like me could possibly be happy, much less school other people in happiness. But seriously, I totally can.

Despite my growly attitude, I find things that make me deliriously happy every day. And I wallow in those like a a pig in mud. Although to be fair, a pig would actually prefer a fly free environment and clean bedding. But let's not get distracted by animal husbandry.

Hey, there are plenty of people who have it way worse than I do. Playing "whose got more troubles" it is a pointless exercise. Of course someone's got it worse. However, let me assure you that the fact that the guy on the other side of the emergency room has two broken arms does not actually make your broken arm any less trouble. So, yes, I am armpit deep in misery and woes and obstacles and the only saving grace of working and volunteering so hard is that I only have so much time to wallow and feel sorry for myself.

So, whatever. But all of the shit I'm struggling with, and more, plus a personality that is basically irritated at the very existence of humanity, I'm still actually a very happy person.

Because you know that work I put into everything else? I also put that into the happy making as well.

It doesn't come naturally to some of us, my friend. Oh, some people are just naturally happy. Fuckers. That is not me. Maybe it's not you. You should feel okay about that, but seriously, you might have to work it, just like me. I've got more than three hints, but since I honed my merchandising skills working at Conran's Habitat, it's three or five, always. And I don't have time for five today.
Come inside, poppets... )

#1.
Create a happy place. A safe place, a sanctuary. My thing is my deck. Which honestly, is a shithole. Seriously, I'm afraid to powerwash it because I think the mold and dirt are the only things that are keeping the whole thing from collapsing. But I've filled it with planters that have colors and textures that make me happy. I've a plant that makes flowers that look like vampire bat faces, a jasmine whose scent makes me swoon, a baby olive tree because I think olive leaves are stunningly beautiful. A fig tree so that I can occasionally steal a fig from the wasps and squirrels. All sorts of plants that feed the birds, bees and butterflies. I can sit there and just be intrinsically happy because colors/textures and fufilling needs are things that make me happy.

I kept feeling inadequate about the crappy deck, which is attached to the crappy addition and bordered by the rusty chain link fence, all of which need to be dealt with, until I had an acquaintance over one evening and she said "Oh, you'e created a beautiful little sanctuary here." It helped me see beyond the work that needed to be done, the warping picnic table...that I should feel happy and proud of what I created, even it it wasn't perfect.

Hey, you could be into gaming -- and you've got a corner of a room or a room and you create the perfect setup. What do you want to see, what do you want to be surrounded with. Your roomate, spouse, SO does NOT have to like your stuff. If that Frazetta poster rocks your world, than save up, use a coupon, go get it framed and hang it in your space. If a cozy bedroom to retreat to, to read in bed, nap, whatever, then yeah, what are the colors and texture that make you happy -- dark colors, sunny colors, splurge on a pillow or new sheets. Stop worrying about all of the other things that need to be done/fixed and have at least one corner that makes you happy. Personally, everytime I see Stubb's Whistejacket painting, I'm gobsmacked. So I found a good reproduction, saved my spare change and am nearly ready to throw down some doss to get it framed. And I'll hang it in my bedroom where I can see it before I got to bed and when I wake up, because every time i look at it, I'm happy.

Make a happy space and then give yourself permission to enjoy it -even if you have to set a bloody alarm and commit to just 15 minutes of enjoyment.

#2.
When they say slow down and stop to smell the roses...that's actually brilliant advice. Although don't be me, lose your balance and fall into the damn rose bush. This is why I try to grow things that don't have teeth. But seriously. You get caught up in the big stuff and forget that there's little beautiful, enjoyable stuff all of the time. This afternoon I looked up and the clouds were so white and fluffy, the sky so blue, the air so clear that it was breathtaking. And yeah, of course I had something "better" to do. But just sitting there and looking at it, making a point to enjoy it? That's a NEEDFUL thing. Find a small thing that you find pleasure in and indulge it -- a special tea, a vase of cut flowers, find a mug for your coffee that's a beautiful glaze or shape. Your life might suck right now in myriad ways. But look at that coffee mug...someone poured their heart and soul into making it, the depth of color is amazing and it's in your hand. Worry about the rest of the stuff later. For now, look what you've got. Look at that mug, isn't it fabulous? Look at the intricacies of that bunch of lilies. Isn't it cool that flowers like that exist? You've got art hanging on your wall, when was the last time you sat and really looked at?

Stop thinking that achieving the big goal is the thing that will make you happy. If you don't learn to appreciate the little gifts, if you can't ring joy out of those...the big accomplishment probably won't make you happy either.

#3.
Here's a harder one: Take joy in other people's joy.

Now, I'm not talking about taking joy in making other people happy. If you're not already doing that already, you may be an asshole. Maybe you are, but you're phoning it in. Step up your game, my friend. You don't have to be a joy vampire like I am (hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] thatliardiego for introducing me to that term) but seriously, you need to pay that shit forward. But now I'm talking about someone else's joy that you had no part in.

Okay, so it's definitely human nature to judge. That's why reality television is so popular -- you can watch those people doing a thing, being horrible, or being a screw up or being dumb and feel better about yourself. My take-away from the Real Housewives series (I will admit to having watched three different episodes) is that well, okay, they might have more money than I do, and they may look better than I do, but I'm clearly a nicer person, plus my face still moves because it's not all jacked up with Botox.

But seriously, how superior do you need to feel on a daily basis? Try and kick that addiction. The other day I was at the gas station and a older man got out of the car behind me and he had on these crazy floral print shorts. And by crazy, I don't mean fun crazy. I mean like the kind of floral pattern you'd see on your grandmother's couch maybe, chintz or something. And the cut was...I dunno, they really didn't look like men's shorts. And there was my brain, starting to all knot up in judgment, dude, those look a little ridiculous. And then I thought "you know what, he got up this morning and decided to wear those shorts. He LIKED the way they look." And then I thought, why the fuck not? You rock those shorts, sir! Good for you for doing what you want. And you know what - I felt a great sense of relief, followed by the happy. It made me smile all day.

It's a natural reaction to push away the thing we don't understand, to diminish or ridicule. The music, the fashion - pretty much anything kids are doing some geezer disapproves of. "It's all utter crap...in MY day we had real music." Oh, seriously, is your memory that bad? Because when you were a teenager that music that you now treasure, yeah, your elders thought was crap. You think walking around with your pants hanging down around your butt is dumb? Go page through some old magazines, my friend, because I don't know that kids today have a corner on dumb trends.

Here's the thing: You don't have to like it yourself in order to appreciate that it other people do. If it's making someone else happy, quit raining on their parade. It's THEIR thing, not yours -- take joy in their joy. I used to think that fan fiction was sort of dumb - like, how could you be so obsessed, move on, get a life, you know those are imaginary characters, right? But here's the thing: when I got to know people who were into it, I found that they were creating beautiful works of art, and poetry, and fiction. (And some utter crap, to be honest -- but you know what? They felt inspired and were creating a thing. WHO THE FUCK AM I TO JUDGE?

Look I haven't lost all of my curmudgeonhood -- I will still judge your bad decisions, your bad choices, your stupid attitudes. And sometime I have to judge someone's performance. But ask yourself, if criticism, or sneering or belittling starts to rise in you -- am I tearing this person down to make me feel superior? Does whatever they're doing affect me or harm someone else? Are they happy in this thing? Happier than I am?

Then maybe I should just take joy in their joy.
terribleturnip: (percy)
So, there comes that moment in every online dating exchange, when you've exchanged enough semi-awkward social pleasantries via the dating app and now it's time for the next step: running away from the computer and swearing off dating forever.

Wait, no. That's sort of what I'd LIKE to do...but then I calculate the odds of me just running into someone that's going to fit my criteria (available, not a recovering alcoholic, not allergic to cats, willing to date a smart 50 something woman who leans a bit on the fierce side of her personality, enjoys the company of women, oh, and poly.) are extremely slim. It's happened once...I'd be an idiot to not try to stack the odds a bit.

No, what I mean is: THE EXCHANGING OF PHONE NUMBERS.

I tend to like to leave that as step three, right after arranging a meet-up. Then comes the phone number -- as a logistical tool, really. The "running late" or "here, left hand corner of the bar" thing.

But I've come to realize that I'm letting my personal feelings about phones drive that. I'm getting better at using my phone for all sorts of things...but still, I'm wont to leave it at work or at home by mistake. I'm pretty sure no one under the age of 40 ever does that. And most of my generational cohort doesn't either. But I've also hated phones...so it's been an uphill climb developing a facility for texting, and actual chatty conversations...well, let's just say I can do that if I know someone really well.

Anyway, so I'm trying to not be so resistant -- I mean, sometimes the guy will suggest moving off the app into e-mail, which is great, totally my medium. But more and more, it's hey, here's my phone number, what's yours.

So, in the interest of embracing the 21st century, and once I've gotten a pretty good feel for whether the guy's likely to be sane, serious, and safe, I take a deep breath and type out my phone number.

No, I'm not worried about phone stalking or harrassing...I'm pretty good at shutting that stuff down. You're talking to someone who unleashes the fury of a thousand suns on people who are rude to waitstaff or retail workers.

No, a much more mundane reason. So, I'm taking a break from work and chatting with a work friend who lives vicariously through my dating, now that she's safe on the other side. And I tell her that I've been e-mailing back and forth with this guy, seems pretty cool, but now we've exchanged phone numbers. And some pleasantries via text. So far so good.

And while we're talking, he sends a text. And I have the phone on vibrate, and my internal comedian just can't play it cool and has to go for the overreaction. Which shouldn't be funny anymore...but hey, when y'all stop laughing at it, I'll stop doing it.

"So, what'd he say?" she says.

"I dunno. I'm sort of afraid to open it".

"Why not?" she says, clearly forgetting her until just-last-year dating experiences.

"It's a picture" I say.

"Oh, God" she says.

"I know, right?"

"C'mon, open it up" she says.

"What if it's a dick pic? I'll be so disappointed. As long as I don't open it, I won't be disappointed."

"Promise you'll show it to me if it's a dick pic!"

"Do you really want to see it?" I ask.

"No, not really. Well yes, but then I'll regret it."

"Okay, let's do it." And then we both lean over the phone as it loads, softly chanting "don't be a dick pic, don't be a dick pic, don't be a dick pic".

Thankfully, in this case, it was not. A lovely innocent picture, actually. For which I was grateful.

Because here's the thing. I haven't even met YOU yet, much less your private parts. Even your less than private parts (that's me giving you the side-eye again, Ab-Guy). Hey, maybe we'll get to know each other and then maybe I'll be fond enough of those parts that I might like an occasional reminder. But not until then.

For now, you send that crap and I'm deleting you so fast, I might chip a nail. And what you just did? Clearly telegraphed that you have a poor understanding of women and even poorer understanding of consent.

Not to mention, we're totally going to make fun of it. Seriously.
terribleturnip: (percy)
I've spent my whole life managing people. I'm really, really good at it. (And modest, too. Ha, no, who the hell am I kidding? I mean, I can't walk through a room without getting a bruise or knocking something over, but I do have my strengths. Mastering gravity is not one of them. Mastering people, a little more so.)

Anyway, here's the great sadness: I was a mediocre manager for most of my career. No, wait, I've worked for a lot of really shitty managers, and I'm excluding the actual sociopaths from that list, so let's call me above average, let's give me that. But that's really it.

The problem, the reason why we have so many shitty managers, the reason why your boss may well be the very thing that keeps you from maximum performance, is that our corporate culture takes someone who's good at doing a thing, then calls them manager and puts them in charge of other people who are doing the thing. As though managing people doing the thing is the same as doing the thing. Newsflash, poppets, it is most decidedly NOT. Oh, you have insight into the work that your subordinates are doing, but calling you a manager and expected that you'll suddenly know how to manage is well, asinine.

I mean, for pity's sake. You're familiar with ducks, right? Swim around in the pond, quack, lay eggs, eat breadbits, waddle. So, if I decide one day to call you a duck, you're ready, right? No, of course, not. There's no way you're going to be good at being a duck. You probably don't even have a corkscrew penis or vagina for starters. Wait, you didn't know that about ducks?

See what I mean? Calling you a duck, or a manager, does NOT suddenly gift you with all of the stuff you need to know to be a good duck or a good manager. And that makes me really mad. Because you're being set up to fail. And there is no excuse for that beyond that's the way we've always done it, we don't have time to do it righ,t and all of the other lame-ass excuses that lead to fucknutty poor performance.

So, is there really one "trick" to being a good manager? Christ on a cracker, do you actually think I'm going to clickbait you like that? No, not a trick. But a philosophy. One that will put you yards ahead of your colleagues. Also, make you seem like much less of a prick as a manager.

Here's the thing: start addressing behavior, not the person. While I will admit that there are certainly some bad people, on the whole, honestly, mostly people are good, want to be good...they just behave badly sometimes. And the big, ginormous mistake most managers do is to take aim at the essence of someone's being. When really all they want is to fix behavior.

Want to get the best out of your employees? Stop attacking them. Oh, go ahead and deny it -- but when you say "you need to be on time" or "you need to clean that up" or "you need to get that report to me as soon as possible" -- what you are saying to that person is "there is something wrong with you that you need to correct, something sub par".

So here it is, drum roll...Just try saying "I need you to" instead of "you need to". Sounds small?...insignificant...mote-like...a gnat on the ass of the universe? Well, no offense, but you're fucking wrong about that. It's huge.

Because when you say "you need to be on time" there is an undercurrent. A message that either the person screwed up or is just a screw up in general. It's actually a personal attack. A micro aggression, if you will. But we are soooo used to it that we barely hear it. Until someone changes it around...and that manager becomes the person that you actually tolerate, if not enjoy, working for.

Because when you say "I need you to be on time" (Or the team needs you to be on time, or we need you to be on time) what you're telling them is "here is a thing to fix, a thing to solve". There's nothing wrong with you as a human being, just a behavior or a thing you need to do. It's a tiny, tiny thing, this language change, it really is -- at least in the saying of it. But it can have a profound effect on the person you direct it at.

Seriously, try it. "I need that report from you by Friday. Is that possible?" Here's what happens: you've given them a chance to be hero. To help you. You've told them that they have a chance to be, if not a hero, at least the one who saves your bacon. Everyone wants to help save their boss's bacon.

Or, go ahead, tell them "Get that report done by Friday." Or "you need to get that report done by Friday" Or any of the other douchebaggy things that managers say to you. That make you feel like you're in trouble, on the verge of screwing up, the thing that is keeping your company or boss from being successful. Oh, you'll probably do it. But you're likely going to feel resentful.

Seriously, just try it "I need you to"...

Because that not only effects the person you're talking to, but also you. It makes you realize that your job is not just telling people what to do. Your job as a manager is to accomplish a thing -- run a profitable business, deliver projects on time, solve problems for clients. And the people who work for you? They are the resources that will help you accomplish that thing. They are your resources, my friend...not your fucking flunkies.
terribleturnip: (percy)
When people find out that I’m poly, the first thing they ask is “oh, I could never do that, I’d be too jealous, no way.”
Ha! Who am I kidding! The first thing they say is “I don’t even know what that means.” And then as I tell them, a look of horror, disgust or curiosity comes over their faces.

So, the first thing a curious person asks about/mentions is jealousy. The rest of them make a funny face and in the future get twitchy whenever I mention the words boyfriend, girlfriend or partner. (Right now some of you are going "wait, what?" We'll wait for you.)

Ask any poly person and if they’ve been at it for any length of time, they’re going to have advice or strategies for dealing with jealousy. Ask ME about anything and I have advice and strategies for dealing with it, so pull out your Surprise Faces, children, because I’ve got this covered.

“I’m monogamous, so I don’t need to read any further” you may be thinking. (Again with the kidding…you’ll totally keep reading because I might invent a new phrase you want to steal, teach you a new vocabulary word or otherwise enrich your life that 15 minutes of pawing through Facebook will NEVER do.) Personally, I think there are some nuggets here for you on working through things, thinking your way through them and developing a stronger self. I may be biased. But seriously, you will.

Y'all, this is going to be long; I've put a lot of brain against it. Read more... )
terribleturnip: (chef)
So today is the first time in nearly 10 years that I haven't been at the Maryland Renaissance Faire, where I have been support for a pirate band. (Which meant setting up and maintaining a green room for the bands playing on a tavern stage that from the outside looked like a pirate encampment and gave the performers someplace to hang out, store instruments and personal belongings. Also providing food, beverage, first aid, anger management, mediation, negotiation, babysitting, consolation, advice, hugs, advice, etc. Also, providing for the audience, a costumed character that would tell them where the bands were playing, when, where the toilets were, the vendor that sold the thing, where the exit was, etc.)

It was hard. The setting up before the season started, but also the shopping each week for supplies, schlepping everything out there, a nearly twelve hour day, plus some additional shopping each morning...then schlepping everything home, washing, cleaning, rinse and repeat for 9 weekends in a row. That's nine weekends of working seven days a week. And boy, that took a toll.

And O! The needy people! The drama! The fans who could chew the ears off a field of corn. The sheer weight of being surrounded all day by people who might genuinely need your help as well as people who, it sometimes felt, really wanted a bit of your soul to take home and put on their autograph shelf. People that I enjoyed seeing but there were so MANY. The sadness I would sometimes feel when meeting someone for whom these nine weekends were their only social outlet, the only time they felt accepted and part of a social group, which made me mad as hell at the rest of society.

And the weather. Hot as balls, with the humidity that the mid-Atlantic delivers so well, and you in your fine renaissance era fashion...you know, back when England was having a mini-ice age, in your boots and wool hat and multiple layers, all drenched with so much sweat that sometimes the dye would bleed out and you'd have an imprint of your costume left on you at the end of the day. Or so dusty that you'd blow your nose at the end of the day and realize you'd smuggled out your own plot of land. Or so wet and muddy that your boots would get pulled off your feet. What happens at the Renaissance Faire when it rains, people would ask me. You get wet. Super soggy, weighed down by wet cloaks and wet socks. And cold. Trying to haul around instruments and keep your cloak from falling off or getting caught under someone else's boots.

On the other hand, there were lovely days -- perfect temperature, or just chilly enough to need gloves or a light cloak and a hot beverage. There was a sense of camaraderie and belonging that's uncommon in today's society. All of us doing this weird, fun thing. Making special moments for people who'd never been to a renaissance faire before and were near stunned that you can have fun without technology. That an in person performance is so much more powerful, entertaining and enthralling than seeing something on a screen. Making personal connections. I've described it as the best bar in the world -- you can grab a mug of something, see shows, do some shopping, see friends, or just hang out and watch the panoply go by. You like people watching? There is no better place for that.

And the long hours, the hardships? For starters, it makes everything else you do the rest of the year seem easy. There is kinship born of hardships, friendships that last way beyond those nine weekends. Jokes that are sidesplittingly funny only because you've spent the last nine hours being rained on. The fatalism that comes from knowing that there's a possible tornado headed your way and you're in the middle of a field filled with pointy objects and no shelter to be had. Plus there's an audience waiting to be entertained. That sanguine will stay with you and make the rest of the year's fears dim.

But the band broke up and the green room's been disbanded. So, I will miss it. I will need to figure out a new way of enjoying it when I go back in a week or two as a patron. I'm not sure what the fun will look like then -- I'm a person who feels best, most comfortable, when I have a job to do. A responsibility. Just having fun without having made it, shaped it, been responsible for some aspect of it...is not really in my nature. But I'll try.

I've mourned a bit...but am also keenly aware that I got to sleep in today. I didn't have to spend the week frantically shopping, packing, setting up. I won't be exhausted tonight, or Sunday night. It's going to be 91 degrees out there today and I'll be riding around in an air conditioned car, going to air conditioned places, in shorts and a t-shirt. My favorite distillery is issuing a special batch today and I get to go. I also get to go to the farmer's market -- during prime apple season! That's new. I'll be able to go to faire and come home when I want to, or not go on Sundays if I don't want to. I'll be able to take weekends off and do the things that other people do in the fall. (I'm not sure what that is yet...but I seem to remember being sad at missing things that other people got to do. Which is sort of the story of my life.) Knowing me, I'm going to suck up all of the extra time making props for Halloween.

So, off I go, onto this new adventure of sort of being a normal person! Studiously ignoring the fact that for 11 weeks in the spring I'm bound to the Virginia Renaissance Faire.
terribleturnip: (willow)
It amuses me that certain people use "social justice warrior" as an insult. By god, yes, I will take up a mother-expletive spear if that's what it takes to make sure that people don't get discriminated against for bullexpletive reasons, like their gender, lack thereof, skin color, religion, disabilities, etc. If I had a motherexpletive elephant army, I'd roust them too. If you think that wanting life to be as fair as possible for everyone is something to be ridiculed, then I'm really not interested in your opinion of me or my character.

Personally, I think there's way too much ridicule going on, in general. But that's a whole 'nother post! (And warning...I'm feeling very fierce right now, so from here on, there be actual expletives.

I wanted to riff off a friend's social media post in which he was upset that people who'd termed themselves feminists were body shaming someone else, leading him to wonder whether feminism was only to benefit those that feminists liked. And in this case, he was right to be upset, absolutely. But to me, the important thing to remember is that those people were not practicing feminism...they were being assholes.

And we are all assholes from time to time. And for some people, it's not just time to time. Hell, there are Muslims who are assholes, there are Christians that are assholes, there are atheists that are assholes. (Looking at you, ISIS, Westboro Baptist Church, and you MRA/MGTOW godless).

Here's the thing: no group is without its assholes. (Even the Buddhists are plagued with monks dealing drugs, living lavish lifestyles. Even the BUDDHISTS, people. Which means there's no hope for the rest of us.) But you need to differentiate -- I mean, some people are just down to the core, down to the bone, going to be assholes the rest of their lives. The sociopath gene brush hit them too hard, they were indoctrinated in assholery in their youth and don't have the mental capacity to work themselves out of it. They are so filled with fear, so soaked in feelings of inadequacy, they can't help but compulsively create outgroups on which they can project their fears.

(Hey, if right now, you're thinking I'm talking politics, I'm really not. If you've been a little hypnotized by biased media on either side, then I think I can see how you might assume that. But trust me, there are liberal assholes and conservative assholes, republican assholes, democrat assholes, libertarian assholes, green party assholes, anarchist assholes and communist assholes. If you read that and thought I just reaffirmed your belief that the other group is full of assholes...you're probably one of the assholes in your group, actually. I sort of wanted to mimic Jeff Foxworthy there with "you might be an asshole if.... But that's too equivocal, my friend. Pretty sure you're an asshole.)

Anyway. We ALL can be assholes from time to time. And about certain things. And even if you think of yourself as pretty socially conscious, don't ever, ever doubt that you've got shit to work on. I hung on for the longest time to using the word "retarded". I grew up with it as a term of general contempt -- "that's pretty retarded". Also grew up with "gay" as a pejorative term -- when something was not like other things, not approved by the microcosm of middle school society, it was "gay". I'm not a hundred percent sure we even knew what "gay" was.

But then I got older and some of my friends came out of the closet and gay had meaning and it was pretty fucking rude to keep using as a pejorative. But for some reason, retarded hung on in my vocabulary, I'm ashamed to say. In my head, I'd rationalized that I only used it to refer to people who were born with full capabilities but then refused to use them. That they earned a special kind of contempt for which I reserved that word. That I'd NEVER use that term to refer to people who were differently abled. And I wish I could point to a Saul on the road to Damascus moment when the curtain was lifted and...it just occurred to me one day that it didn't fucking matter how CONVENIENT that word was...it was hurtful. That simply by using it, I could make someone feel awful, sad or hurt. Someone who already, quite frankly, had the deck stacked a bit against them.

And it was just stupid, lazy and meanspirited of me to keep using it. Why not just use a different word and hurt only the people I meant to hurt? Idiot, box of rocks, the brains god gave beets, moron, twatwaffle, etc. Now, some of these are terms that used to be actually used in diagnosing/categorizing differently abled people and I'm ready to abandon them if it seems to be bothering anyone -- but language is fabulously flexible through history, so what was a hurtful term then or a hurtful term now, can gain or lose power over time, and within a societal context.

Because that's what makes you not an asshole anymore -- the ability to see that you're being hurtful, feel shame, and correct yourself going forward. Now, you will still have moments of assholery left in you, absolutely! Simply by virtue of being born a specific gender, skin color, being raised or keeping a certain faith, by being tall or short or redheaded or...our primitive brains are driven to create outgroups, to fear what's different, to want to be solid with those that are like us. Thankfully most people have the cognitive ability to understand that there's great value in diversity, that it's not helpful or fair to discriminate, to hurt others. To correct their own behavior when it's pointed out to them -- instead of countering with "you're too sensitive" or the dreaded "I was only joking" (because you weren't. You get that right? You really weren't. You were, at best, being careless and thoughtless).

Don't get me wrong -- some people ARE too sensitive. Some people WILL take offense at anything. It can be very hard, when you're trying to be an ally to an outgroup, to hear that you're screwing up. That you're mansplaining, for example. And you know what, there ARE people who are using that phrase poorly, who are throwing it around like beads at Mardi Gras. But. It's also a thing. And if you're male, you probably have no idea how often it happens. How hurtful and frustrating it is. So, how do you know when you're being called out and it's justified?

First, start in your own head -- call yourself on it. Do you think the other person could possibly be right? If you have any kind of doubt about it, they're right. No? Okay, next is to look at the person who's calling you on it. If you know them, do they usually blow things out of proportion? If not, they're right. If so, get more data. Talk to them about it more, think about it yourself more, check with other people if you have a friendbase in that given outgroup. When in doubt, assume they're right. That's usually the case. If you're going to err...assuming you were being an asshole is the way to err, my friend.

I don't know if a week goes by without me saying something and then thinking "ah, that was sort of a dickish thing to say" and then, if I can, apologizing. It's easy to get carried away, with a group of female workfriends and say something that's sort of misandrist. There are people who think that women cope with so much misogyny that it's okay to exercise a little payback. Nope, you're then just being an asshole.

In case you were thinking I must be this politically correct, careful and thoughtful speaker, let me assure you, I am not. But I try to reserve being offensive for when I'm around people who will call me on it if I'm failing to punch upwards, if I'm crossing a line that becomes hurtful, if I'm wielding my privilege instead of ridiculing it. And that's a work in progress at best.

Brace yourself to be rejected. If you think being an ally is all warm fuzzies and never being called on your shit, you are WRONG. And sometimes you get called on shit you didn't deserve. I once passed a black man on my street, walking his dog and I gave him a great big smile and he said "You're only smiling at me because I'm black.". Actually, I was smiling at him because I'd been having a great day and he was a good-looking guy walking this beautiful brindle dog and I love brindles. Now your immediate reaction might want to be "fuck you, I was just being happy and nice". But that's where you have to stop yourself. You want to be an ally? You have to remember that this other person likely gets shit on all of the time. Sure it sucks to be generalized - but if you stack the number of times your life has sucked because someone made an assumption about you against the number of times that other person's life has sucked because someone made an assumption about them? Your pile is paltry in comparison. (That's privilege, by the way.) And if you've got privilege, you've got to cut other people some slack. It's highly likely that that poor man DOES get smiled at all the time by privileged white women who are thinking "oh, I'm going to smile at this man, look how enlightened I am" or "maybe if I smile he won't hurt me" or some other bullshit he's got to catch.

You want to be an ally, you gotta take some bruises. it's the least you can do. It doesn't mean you get to be mad because the other person wasn't grateful enough that you were making an effort. You check that thought -- they don't owe you ANYTHING. If you think they should be grateful that you're making an effort to be an ally...you might just be an asshole.
terribleturnip: (willow)
Have you seen Ghostbusters yet? Do it. Actually, I don't care if you watch it or not. If you can fit it in your budget, buy a damn ticket and go do something else, I don't care.

Here's the thing: we can talk about elections and politics all we want. And yes, they're important, and they shape the world we live in. But you know what else does? Where you put your dollars. When you buy the thing, you make it worthwhile for someone to keep making things like that. I buy local produce at my farmers market because I want to live in a place where farming is still a thing. If a local farmer can't make money, they're going to pack it up, sell the farm and do something more lucrative. I don't buy organic because I think it's better for me (except for strawberries...I don't know if you've noticed, but conventional strawberries don't get moldy in your refrigerator anymore...they just shrivel up and dehydrate. So, yeah, I'll pay double for organic to cut back on my fungicide intake). I buy organic (and humane, cage-free, grassfed, etc.) because if it's profitable, they'll keep doing it.

Oh, the Simply Enjoy jams at Giant/Stop & Shop are the bomb? I'm going to tell everyone I know about them, in the hopes that this will continue to be a line of products. Polar Seltzer's seasonal flavors? Yes, I proselytize and also buy cartloads of them. I'm going to do my best to drive demand for the things I like so that I can continue to get them.

I kickstart stuff because I think it should exist -- Gaming figurines of women dressed realistically as you would for an adventure -- not in boob armor and high heeled boots? YES. I haven't gamed in years, but by god, the girls starting to play D&D and Pathfinder and all of those other games should be able to have them. I also probably didn't need a feathered, fully articulated dinosaur figure, but yes, it should exist for all of those dino-crazy kids growing up now. I had to grow up with the image of lumbering, static stiff dinos -- so, yeah, maybe I needed the figure...

(Please note, I understand that I'm also exercising the privilege of having disposable income. Not everyone can do that. But I'm fortunate, finally, at this stage in my life to have a little extra...and also to have relatively cheap hobbies and obsessions. If you have a houseful of mouths to feed, you need to take care of that first, before you worry about someone else making a living.)

So, yeah, that's why Ghostbusters. The reboot, the one that a bunch of whiny manchildren downvoted and trashed before it even came out, trying to discourage people from going to see it because...sight unseen, it sucked because not only was it a reboot, but, gasp! also featured women. A bunch of them. Not making sandwiches or pining for a real man to sweep them off their feet but like, actually doing stuff.

Is it a great movie? No. It's fun. I was entertained for two hours. I lusted after Holtzman and after Kevin. It wasn't really until later that I realized: it wasn't just a bunch of women doing stuff. It was a bunch of MIDDLE AGED women. For two hours, they didn't talk about romantic relationships...they didn't fight over a guy...they had genuine friendships...they ate pizza and no one complained about calories or fitting into an article of clothing or dieting. They did superhero stuff in clothes that weren't skin tight, didn't involve cleavage or high heels.

I'm a 50+ year old woman and I have NEVER seen this before. NEVER. Not a single movie could possibly tick off all of those boxes. NOT ONE. In my entire lifetime. It sort of makes me tear up -- both pretty expletive outraged that it's taken this long and pretty excited for the girls and boys who saw this movie and (hopefully) will grow up thinking this is normal.

Don't get me wrong, I've got issues with it -- I'm sort of mad that once again, the role for the black woman was the sassy, undereducated, non-professional. I mean, it's an awesome character and I loved the way Jones played it and she did wind up being a strong and equal partner...but seriously, if we're blowing away paradigms, that would have been a good one to throw in the trash as well.

And, I've got mixed emotions about Kevin, and the reverse sexism of making him a dumb blonde. Those two things are problematic for me. But still -- progress, moving toward a world where women can have roles similar to what men get, hopefully without invoking reverse sexism, and featuring people of color in the same kinds of roles that white people get. I'll take progress - but I'm staring at you, Hollywood, squinting, tapping my foot and expecting you to do continue to do better.

But, they spent a ton of money making this movie and they're not going to recoup it. I think, I hope, that Hollywood realizes that it was stupid budgeting and keeps going. They're working on Ocean's 8, a reboot with all women, which would be awesome. Maybe some day they'll just do an original film with an ensemble cast of mostly women.

In the meantime, though, go see the movie. Buy a ticket and give it to someone who can't afford to go themselves or just as a treat. Buy the merchandise from the movie. Donate it this Christmas to a toy drive or drop it off at a battered women's shelter or homeless shelter so the kids have good role model toys to play with.

Send a message: WE WANT MORE OF THIS.
terribleturnip: (Goat)
Seriously, I sometimes feel as if I'm the only one in my social circle...which is pretty darn big...who has a library card anymore. Or at least the only one who uses it.

When I say to a co-worker, oh, on our way to lunch do you mind if we swing by the library so I can return my books, they look at me as if to say "oh, old woman are you telling your before-time stories again, of faxes and punch cards and libraries?"

Yeah, books, I read them. More than many people -- about 50 - 55 a year (thank you, Goodreads, for that helpful stat). And I have friends who read; most of them less than I do, but still. And they're all "oh, I have my Kindle" or "oh, I like to buy books because it takes me so long to read them" or "I can't be bothered to go to the library" or "wait, what, you can just go in and borrow books?".

Oh, children, I still remember the day I got my first library card in First Grade. It was enormously empowering. Taking home that stack of picture books brings an involuntary smile to my face just remembering it. As if finally, I was a fully participating member of society. And that smell! The musty smell of opportunity -- of more knowledge than I could possibly consume -- although I'd come close, in our small town library, also remembering the day that the children's librarian took my mother aside and said "No, really, she really has read all of them. I know she's really young and we can supervise her choices, but we really need to let her into the adult section."

(In case you think I was some kind of reading machine -- let's all remember that I didn't have many friends when I was younger and decades away from developing the social skills that now make me fun at parties. I had PLENTY of time to read.)

Sadly, most libraries don't smell of old, musty books anymore...the card catalog is no more. But on the other hand, oh my goodness, what a wonderful resource your library is still!

Oh, you like to buy your books -- yeah, me too. But at 50 plus books a year, even if I could get them all for $10...that's $500. And not all of them are going to be worth paying for. And then, you have to store them or give them away or...it's a responsibility you don't need to bear. Just take them back to the library. And get more. Let them store them for you. And pass them along. And recycle them, when it's time.

Did you know -- you can probably get online, get into your library's catalog, find a book you were looking for, reserve it if it's out already or...oh, it's not in your local branch? They will transfer it in for you. Boom.

Oh, but you'll never get them back in time and then the fines, how much are the fines? Yeah, so in my county, you can take them out for 3 weeks at a time. And then they send you an e-mail when they're due. And you can renew online -- several times, if no one's waiting for the book. You can take over two months to read that book. And you'll get a reminder of when you have to bring them back. And you can probably bring them back to any library in your county.

Oh, but your Kindle is so much more...yeah, yeah, I use my Kindle as well. Although it makes me sad that when I enjoy a book but now I can't lend it to you. But still, an e-reader is convenient as all get out. Surprise! Your library probably also loans out e-books. Oh, you only have time to listen to books in the car? You know where this going, right? Yes, my toadlings, they'll hook you up with audiobooks. (Free...it's all expletive free.)

Your computer died, your internet or electricity's down? They'll let you get online there. You'd like to host a monthly (insert hobby/interest) gathering to discuss the thing, but don't want to have it or strangers in your house? They've got space you can use.

And then the information! There are people sitting at a desk, waiting for you to call...like Google but with a brain that won't serve you up twelve resources that are actually all of the same thing. People who will help you find stuff; people who are better at it than you are, likely. And online resources -- libraries often have insane amounts of online resources that are pre-vetted for you and are free. I'm using Rosetta Stone to brush up on my French -- FREE, my tender bitches, with my library card.

Now your library may not have all this much (my county is one of the most expensive to live in, tax-wise, which sucks in many ways, but we do have some boss resources)...but even the library in my hometown of only 5,000 people has got most of this stuff -- and discount passes to area attractions, which is a pretty cool feature. So, if you haven't been there, or even if you do have a library card and you just show up to get books, I'm guessing that you have NO IDEA what's available. Seriously, your tax dollars are paying for all of this cool stuff and you're not using it. That's like paying for cable every month and not turning your television on. Go to your local library's website...check it out!
terribleturnip: (Goat)
I do most of my grocery shopping at a particular store because they have handheld scanners so that I can scan each item as I take it off the shelf, put in the bag or box and then just use the register to pay as I leave. I was so happy when they put self-checkout in - finally bags packed the way I want them! No conversation, no silently fuming because I told them the code for English peas is 4674, but they don't believe me, so I have to endure watching them scroll through the PLU list. And then watch them ring them up as snow peas.

But the problem with self-checkout is that not everyone's good at it. And it's painful to be behind someone who's using the checkout for the first time. Who has no idea how multi-directional scanners work, no idea that the PLU code is often right there on the sticker, doesn't know that bananas are 4011, red bell peppers 4088, scallions 4068. I mean, okay, as a personal chef I went to the grocery store every single day, so I was pretty damn good at a quick checkout. And, there were plenty of times where I'd just tell the person struggling "hey, why don't you go down there and bag your stuff, I'll scan it for you. No, seriously, it's in my best interest to get you the hell out of my way, happy to do it."

But the handheld scanners? Frabjous Joy! No more having to wait behind people who don't know what they're doing...or decide that now, with eight people in line behind them, that they're going to teach their five year old how to scan groceries.

But the move now is to have us use our phones to scan the items. And to that I say "Expletive you, I will go back to waiting in line for a human to do it for me." I am NOT installing an app on my phone that gives the godforsaken grocery store access to my GPS data. Because now they want to track where I go in there store, where I spend time and what do I get in return? Nothing. The grocery store gets data, saves money by not having to have handhelds, fewer cashiers and I get...a drained battery, a broken phone (seriously, I drop those scanners all of the time...at least they're bulky and will get caught in the cart. You know that I will have an uncanny ability to drop my phone squarely between the wires of the cart directly to the floor) even more smudges, even more wasted time as I realize that my phone has timed out and now I'm holding a package of raw chicken in one hand and have to now do my password before I can scan, and having been in the grocery industry, not a lot of trust that you'll stop accessing my GPS when I leave the store.

Ignoring the possibly injury to my phone and myself (as I frantically try to catch said phone as it's flipping down into the refrigerator case right toward a sludgy pile of spilled milk), you may ask why I'm balking at sharing that data. After all, Google can pretty much access all of my stuff, all of the time, right? I bought right into that. And expletive Zuckerberg's all up in my business as well. But I'm going to say no to Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods, whomever?

Damn skippy! Because Faceborg makes it easy for me to stay in touch with relatives and friends, do event invites, share pictures and "socialize". (And also, to know which of my friends hold some views I find abhorrent, making it easier to avoid those topics at parties and bars.) And Google...Google will find my phone for me. Show me on a map where I left it, make it ring for five minutes so I can find it. By just typing "find my phone" in the search bar. For that alone, I am willing to open up all my data. It's WORTH it.

But Amazon, Yelp, Open Table, yada yada, want me to review the thing? What am I getting? Nothing? Then screw you, I'm not providing content for free. (For the record, if you do reviews for Amazon, you may well be contacted by companies that want you to look at similar products, and you may even qualify for Amazon's program...but I don't want random stuff for free. I want the thing I want for free or less. I serve on a review panel for a clothing company and they send me a $25 thank you coupon every year for answering a couple of surveys. Now that's worth it.)

"Can you answer this question about a product you bought?" Seriously, Amazon, that's consulting and I charge hourly for that. How about you offer to knock a few points off my Prime membership and then I'd be happy to. Until then? Screw you, I just PAID you for the thing, I'm not going to now work for you for free!

That's the thing we all need to keep in mind -- your data, your privacy: they're WORTH something to someone else. They're going to monetize it. So, don't give it away for free - unless you're getting something that makes it worthwhile giving up. Make those expletives work for it!
terribleturnip: (Goat)
Oh, nothing like a long weekend spent with my parents, brother and his family to get me thinking about genetics, nature and nurture!

Growing up, my brother and I couldn't escape our family resemblance -- my parents were active participants in our small town, and my brother and I looked enough alike, and enough like our father, that there was no flying under the radar. Although if you look at pictures, while you'll say that we look more like my father than we do our mother...we don't necessarily look like the spitting image of our Dad. Yet people always said we did. I think it's because I do look a lot like him -- I've got the LastNameRedacted squinty eyed smirk, that's for certain. My brother looks a bit more like my mother, getting the tall gene, damn him, but still looks enough like me, and apparently acts enough like me that people in town would say "oh, look, there's one of the LastNameRedacted kids".

I was the brainy, bookworm one, the born safety patrol and nerdish to the bone. My brother was the social one, always surrounded by a gang of friends, always the center of attention, the entertaining one. Except. When I think about it, he was the one always organizing the thing - whether it was a trip to the beach, or finding a group of friends who thought it was fun to show up at our house and do my brother's chores for him. And when I meet up again with people I haven't seen since high school, they always talk about how funny I was. (Okay, and also opinionated and bossy) I don't remember being funny, at all. But apparently I was. I also thought of myself as being on the fringe of the social circle, but then remember that "the fun" was always happening at my house. That I was usually the one driving the car to "the thing".
Read more... )
It's funny how we remember things but then if you really look and analyze, it can actually be quite a bit different -- like taking off Instagram filters.

Now, I said we looked like my father mostly, and phenotype (how your body looks) is definitely mostly genetic. But when it comes to behavior, my mother got her hand in, that's for sure. There are things my brother and I say, things we do - hosting the thing, running the thing, a lifetime of being relentlessly social (Mom) and then regretting it (Dad). The thing I never noticed, though...

Our attitude to be sick. Here, my brother, my mother, myself...we might as well be identical twins. Oh, you can call it nurture all you want -- and we were raised to believe that when you were sick, if you had a fever, you should lay down until it was over, eating saltines, chicken broth and flat gingerale. Some aspirin to help with the fever. I think we got over illnesses quickly because we got hungry and craved carbonation. Anything else? Here's an aspirin, now go walk it off. We were raised to be tough, raised to keep going. Which all three of us do, sometimes to our detriment. (I will confess that I'm not sure I really believe that, but that's what people keep telling me.)

But I also think there's a strong genetic component there, as well. After all, it's a bit uncanny to hear the things you've said to other people, the very thoughts in your head "lying down and taking it easy doesn't seem to shorten any illness I've ever had, it just wastes time I could have been using to do something else" or "It goes away in two weeks whether I see a doctor or not, why bother" and "If you give in to it, it just gets worse"...to hear those same words coming out of both my mother and my brother was uncanny.

I mean, it's not like we've ever really talked about being sick before and had time to cement each other's beliefs. Another family characteristic: we don't talk about illness, it's inherently boring. But here I was, up visiting my mother who was recovering from pneumonia, something unknown and a ten day hospital stay under her belt, finally back home, and my brother, in the middle of a bout of bronchitis. And we set off this crazy daisy chain: I'd tell my brother to not be ridiculous, he should stay home and rest and he'd say he was fine and I'd tell my mother that she should go rest, take it easy, put that oxygen tube back on and she'd say Oh, I'm fine. And then the next day, they'd both be exhausted and weary, each of them telling me that the OTHER one shouldn't have overdone it like that, completely oblivious to what they'd done to themselves and me hollering "What the hell is wrong with the two of you, you BOTH need to rest and take it easy, why won't anyone in this family just slow down and take care of themselves?"

At which point, The Consort looks at me, raising his incredibly expressive eyebrows and says "Now you know what it feels like to be me."

At the time, I was only able to sputter, helplessly. Now, after thinking on it...nah, no revelation here. It's in our genes. If I give in against whatever this mystery bullexpletive thing that's wrong with me, that makes it hurt just to move, just to exist, if I lay down when it tells me I need to just lay down, expletive it, it wins. I've already scaled back what I try to accomplish in a day - THAT'S ENOUGH. That's all it's getting.

Sigh. At least The Consort has got my father and sister-in-law to commiserate with.
terribleturnip: (Goat)
There comes that moment in every person's life, as they age, when they realize that they really ARE old, and try as they might, there will be no more surfing the edge of culture and technology. That their attempts to catch up, stay current, stay hip, stay fluent are, well, better than not trying at all, but not going to be effective. That the best you can hope for is to not be completely in the dark. Your role now, when it comes to culture and technology is to be that old person that says "hmm, I don't understand, can you explain it/show me how?"

Which is ten thousand times better than some of your peers who are just rejecting new ideas, new forms of communication, new language, new fashion, new technology out of hand because the new stuff is different. I mean, I've pledged to myself that before I reject or criticize something that "the kids" are doing/into, I'll make sure it's because I have a really good reason, not because it's new, different or something I don't think you should be doing because in my day...

(For the record: pants hanging off your ass is just stupid. It's uncomfortable to have your crotch between your knees, plus also bears. How the hell can you run from a bear if your pants are like that? Also, Twitter. Expletive that. I don't have a 140 character story in me. Twitter all you want, but I'm okay with never really being able to parse out the hashtag thing. And nose rings. I just...I find them ugly. I mean, if you like the way you look in them, fine, go for it, but I'm always going to make that little eye-squinting, mouth-tightening thing when I first see you. If you ask me, I'll tell you nope, I don't think it's a good look for you...or anyone. But only if you ask me. Otherwise...not my body, not my business.)

But here was my watershed "I'm now a geezer moment". When I read this: "The eggplant and peach emoji are standard code for racy thoughts these days..." Wait, what?

I thought "okay, from here forward in texts and other communication that use emoji, I will always be evidently a geezer, trying and failing to keep up. I mean I was already getting confused with the little emoji that -- to me -- looks like it's happy and loving with its little pink cheeks and happy smile.

Until I used it and someone said "Oh, you don't have to be embarrassed." Oh, that's the embarrased emoji? And now I'm trying to remember who the hell I've sent the eggplant and peach emoji to. Here, I'm all happy fruits of the season and they're all OMG, is she hitting on me?

Doomed, I'm doomed.

At least I'm already comfortable wearing the "rock the awkward" mantle. I guess I should stop considering that a special use garment and just plan on putting that on every day from here on out.

Fleeting

Apr. 1st, 2016 07:12 pm
terribleturnip: (Goat)
I work really hard to cultivate and enjoy fleeting pleasures. I'm fairly vigilant about buying produce when it's in season. I just don't eat apples in the summer. Stuff myself with peas in the springtime, eat citrus in the winter. Sure, I bend the rules from time to time, but asparagus is for spring, butternut squash for winter. When they're in season, I practically poison myself with blueberries.

Oh. sure, some of it comes from wanting to support local, some of it from knowing that produce tends to taste better when it's in season and hasn't had to get a plan and go through customs to get to me.

But that all may well be rationalization.

Truth is, I get a lot of joy from temporary pleasures. They demand that you throw yourself all in, submerge yourself -- because they're by nature ephemeral. It's a constant reminder to stop and smell the roses. Or, in this case, the viburnum. I have two, and they're both blooming now, which means my yard smells heavenly. They'll only last two weeks at best. (I can't go on vacation then, that's when the viburnum bloom!)

A few weeks ago, it was the crocus, then the forsythia, soon will be the lemony smell and complicated blooms of the iris. Right now, the pink of the burgeoning grape leaves entertwined with the new pale green of the clematis vines is stunning.

I'm stealing a precious few moments before the rain starts, sitting out on the deck, unseasonably warm, thus leading up to an imminent thunderstorm -- but oh, what a joy to be out here enjoying all of this beauty, knowing that tomorrow will be cold and rainy.

Sure, part of me wants it to be like this all of the time. I dread the upcoming DC metro area humidity and heat. But it forces me to get out today, right now, and revel in the moment. To stop, take time, and enjoy.

If I lived someplace where it was pleasant all of the time, if I had enough money and devil-may-care to have what I wanted imported to me year round...I don't know that I'd have the discipline to force myself to take time to enjoy the fleeting things. I fear I would become complacent - oh, it's San Diego, of course it's lovely, it's almost always lovely! And ten years later I would have put off so much because...oh, tomorrow will be nice too.

I'm a curmudgeon, a misanthrope, I'm a burster of balloons, a rainer on parades, the person who always thinks of what could go wrong, a planner for the worse eventuality.

And yet - I'm a very happy person. I can ignore a fuckton of evidence that tells me why I should be unhappy: my job, my bank account, my moneypit of a house, my health. Bloody hell, it's a wonder I can get out of bed in the morning.

Except...there are so many small joys...so many crocuses, so many brand new pea plants poking up out of the ground, the fizzy, funky taste of the cider you hunted down, the hours you spend with a partner/lover that are never as much as you want, the approaching tang and damp and lightning flash of that storm that's going to send you inside, but Not. Just. Yet.

If you weighed it on the scale that we seem to measure things on -- the scale of commerce --it wouldn't amount to much. But it can be the world, my friend, the world. Train yourself to embrace it. It could save you.

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