Saturday, September 3, 2016

To the Man Who Called Me Stupid

Hello, James. Remember me? I'm the woman on Facebook you recently called out as being stupid when I refused to continue responding to your childish, ignorant, sexist bullshit. But you probably still can't place me because I'm willing to bet good money I'm not the only woman you've insulted in your life.

I know your kind, James. You are, unfortunately, not a unique breed. You feel threatened by women, thwarted by them, maligned by them. You feel inferior, and your inferiority complex manifests itself into what I'm sure you believe is scathing social commentary on Facebook and (probably) a vast number of other sites. You spread your thinly-veiled sexism with the disclaimer that, “Hey, I used to counsel rape victims! I can't be sexist! You're just a man hater!”

I've seen your kind before, James. Small, petty men who believe the world owes them something because they deigned to give something of themselves to women and, gods above, women took something away from them. “They're not allowed to do that!” says James. “I've given so much, it's my turn!

Here's the thing, James; we don't take turns. No one is given a turn. No one hands out turns. Life is random happenstance that is influenced by your attitude and your choices. If you choose to be a prick, it's safe to say what happens to you will be befitting of that choice.

I know you're a sexist, James. I know it because you showed it. And no, I don't normally go around calling people sexist. Believe me or don't, those who know me know I'm pretty easygoing about that kind of thing. I don't enjoy slapping negative labels on people. And I haven't gotten into a full-blown angry debate with someone online in a good, long while. Mostly because I think it's pointless. And it usually is. The person you're debating with is usually ignorant, stubborn, and just as self-righteous as they claim you're being, and they're not going to get your point, much less concede to it, so why bother?

But you, James, you flipped my bitch switch. Was it because you wandered onto a thread about the ridiculously lenient sentence of a convicted rapist and started tossing your dick about, decrying the rampant misandry in family law? Yes, that was part of it. Was it because you claimed “liberal men like you” are turning away from women's issues because women obviously don't care about men? That was another part. Was it because you claimed that women are to blame for the fact that you don't get to see your kids more than you do? Oh, yes, believe me, that was a big part of it.

But you know what the biggest irritant was? The fact that you could so flippantly toss that shit out there like a hand grenade in church, then claim you're not sexist. The fact that you believe your own bullshit, James, is what concerns me. Because conviction is the heaviest ingredient in zealotry. You actually believe you're not sexist, James, and that is what pissed me off.

Even more troubling is the fact that you don't seem very knowledgeable about the world outside of your own sphere. Which isn't surprising, but you did an awful lot of generalizing (and admitted to it, so don't be shy about it now) for a man who's only experienced the court procedures in one district. Now, I'm not claiming to have a lot of experience with family court, but I have been the spectator for three separate family court cases, each one in a different state, each one with different outcomes. The first involved my husband (boyfriend at the time). There was no custody to hash out, just child support, and that happened with very little input on my husband's part. The only thing about that case that irks me to this day is that my husband was required to pay the entire Medicaid bill as if he were the only one responsible for the pregnancy. That is certainly sexist, James, so on that, you and I can agree.

The second instance involved a man I knew in Florida who fought tooth and nail for years against his ex-wife for custody of their two sons. Granted, I only saw his side of it, but he's a decent guy and a great father, and eventually, he was able to maintain primary custody. But not before going to considerable expense (and being brought damn near to the brink of insanity) before it was over.

The third instance involved a female relative of mine who'd left her physically and emotionally abusive husband only to lose custody of all three of her kids to him because she was planning to move to another state. The judge didn't want to “uproot the children”. Giving them to a man who was a rapist with boderline personality disorder was apparently better than removing them from Kentucky. This left them to be raised by a man who frequently used them as pawns against their mother. A man who called their mother a slut and a whore. A man who'd hit their mother in front of them. A man who had a history of sexually abusing others, one that was admitted to by his own mother in court.

The results? The oldest boy, now 23, has a strained relationship with his mother because of the years he was indoctrinated with lies about his mother's promiscuity and her unwillingness to get custody back when she returned to Kentucky. This was false, of course, as she tried at regular intervals to regain custody to no avail. Even when one of the boys was struck by his father's second wife and told his guidance counselor of the incident, nothing was done.

The second oldest, another boy, is now 22. While his relationship with his mother seems a little less strained, he's still in the awkward position of being pitted between one parent and another. His father still regularly maligns their mother, and what do you say to a parent who acts less mature than you?

The youngest child, a girl, is 18 now. We'll call her “R”, to avoid confusion. “R” finally got away from her father last year when her mother (whom we'll call “A” for this story) decided to move back to Michigan to be closer to family, and since the father only had about five more months to use “R” to control “A”, he conceded to “R's” request to move with her mother. “R” hates her father. Not just dislikes or disrespects, actively hates, with a loathing I'm not sure even I can comprehend. And while I don't often subscribe to hatred because I feel it's a wasted emotion, I can't even slightly blame her for it. Her father used her her entire life to hurt her mother. He never cared about his daughter, as evidenced by the fact that he never spent time with her and frequently called her names. He only cared about the damage he could do to “A”, and the control he exercised over them both.

If you want an idea of what this man is like, consider this: after moving to Michigan, “R's” father was still supposed to pay child support until “R” graduated from high school, that deadline being set at May of this year. In September or October of last year, however, “A” received a letter from the father's lawyer stating that the father refused to pay the final few thousand he would owe up to that deadline, and his reason for doing so was that “A” had removed “R” from the state without the father's knowledge or approval. This was a blatant lie, however, and “A” had documented proof that she'd been in contact with “R's” father about the move, and had provided him with their address before they'd even set foot in the state. When “A” sent this proof back to the father's lawyer, the matter was quickly dropped and a check for the remaining child support balance arrived.

A week or so ago, “R” received word from one of her brothers that their father had told him he'd taken pity on “A” and not dragged her to court over it. This is just one of many (far, far too many) insane stories from the man who was given custody by a court that didn't seem to give a single, solitary fuck about the welfare of the children involved.

That's what one district of the Kentucky family court did for a family I'm close to, James. The emotional scars on the kids and their mother are still raw in places, even after nearly twenty years. It doesn't help that, up until recently, their ties to the man who loved making everyone's lives a living hell couldn't be cut.

So can you maybe see where I was coming from, James? Why your blatant attempts to blame all the womenses for your problems set me on edge a little bit? Could you maybe try and see things from another person's perspective, not the perspective of the entitled white male who feels like if he's not getting everything he wants, he's somehow being cheated by the weaker sex?

I understand it's difficult to not spend time with your kids. I get what a hardship that must be as I have a child of my own, and if at any point someone had tried keeping him from me, things would not have gone well for them. I see that fathers are sometimes tossed aside and that mothers are occasionally given too much credit simply because they're viewed as the defacto nurturers when there are some women who don't have a nurturing bone in their bodies.

But I also remember that when my grandfather left my grandmother in the late 1950s, he took all three of their children with him, and there wasn't a damn thing my grandmother could do about it. I remember that she spent time in a mental institution because of it.

And then I take a look at whiny little piss-ants like yourself and I wonder about your claims. I wonder about your wife's reasons for not offering you more time with your kids. Because I've gotta tell ya, James, your attitude does not recommend you as someone I'd want my son emulating. I know there are women out there who gleefully announce they won't let their baby daddies have any access to their kids while happily cashing those support checks every month. But I also know there are ignorant men out there who beat their chests and claim to be something they're not. In your case, James, it's you claiming you're not something that you so clearly are. A sexist and an entitled prick. You happily and zealously tossed out generalizing comments about women, how we feel, what we think, how we behave. You accused every single one of us of not caring about the rights of fathers. Do you want to know where I stand on that issue, James?

Fuck it, I don't care what you want, I'm going to tell you, anyway. I despise family court for general, innocuous family drama bullshit. As far as I'm concerned, when two people divorce, they should be able to behave like adults, set aside their petty grievances, and do what's right for their children. Of course, there are always going to be people like the father I mentioned above, or the mother of the boys in Florida (who by all accounts was an irresponsible, neglectful parent), and those are the people family court should be reserved for.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where adults don't often behave like rational, mature beings (you're proof of that if ever it was needed, James), so family court is a necessary evil. Does family court sometimes get it wrong? Yes, undoubtedly. Does someone occasionally get hurt? Yes. I'll let you in on a little secret, though, James: when it comes down to a fight in family court, the outcome is always wrong and always right. It just depends on which table you're sitting at. When parents fight over their children like scraps at a table during famine, forcing the court to choose between them, one of those parents is going to walk away feeling like they've been cheated. And guess what else, James? Family court legislation wasn't written by evil femmebots from the planet ManHater. It was drafted by men and women, those with families and without, and it is interpreted and administered by both, as well.

Yes, really.

I have to say, though, your bravado is pretty impressive. You strolled onto a thread about leniency in a sexual assault case, looked around, maybe chuckled to yourself a little, then took a big, fat shit on the subject. Did you think you'd get a warm reception, James? Did you think anyone in that particular comment thread would agree with you? When you implied that you'd care more about a rapist's lenient sentence if the evil FemiNazis hadn't taken your kids from you, did you really think that would garner sympathy?

I can't imagine having such confidence; that my wildly off-topic and inflammatory comment would garner respect and validation seems absurd. So I can only assume that you did what you did expressly with the intent of pissing people off. And you succeeded! 

Bravo, James, you succeeded at something. Does it feel good? Does it feel good to know that you got a few women to go all “PMS” on you? That we became “difficult” and “combative” to try and educate your dumb ass on the meaning of sexism? Was your ego stroked calling us ignorant and crazy and hypocritical? Did you bolster your own views by pointing at us and shouting, “See?! See??? You all hate me because I have a penis!”? Did mansplaining the feminist movement to me get your manly juices flowing? When one of us pointed out that you were perhaps not a good choice to raise children given your attitude toward women and sexual assault, you claimed she was advocating for the complete removal of your children from your life, asserting a view that hadn't been expressed by anyone. You then went on to say that she was tossing hatred at men.

She wasn't tossing hatred at men, James. She was tossing hatred at you. You specifically. Because you are not all men, James, and thank Christ for that. You're a fair-sized portion of men, sure, but you're not all. It might surprise you to know that a fair amount of men you might want to consider broskis would be appalled at your attitude and your statements. I know quite a few of them. You said, "Keep labeling and dismissing men like me and see how far you get". 

You're damn right I'll keep labeling and dismissing men like you, James. You're a self-righteous, condescending, entitled, sexist prick, and I've been dismissing those like you all my life. So far, things have been great. I have a husband who isn't a self-righteous, condescending, entitled, sexist prick, and we've successfully raised a son who isn't a self-righteous, condescending, entitled, sexist prick. So your rather bumbling attempt at a threat vaguely promising dire repercussions if I refuse to bow to the manliest of the manly is rather laughable.

You said women lose allies like you when you're thwarted. You're under the assumption that we want allies like you, James. An ally whose loyalty is conditional on whether or not we bend over backwards for him? No, thank you.

At one point, you said “women don't care” about the plight of fathers in family court. I corrected you and asserted that I, for one, do care. What was your response, James? Do you remember? I do. You had the bloody cheek to ask me, "If you care so much, why hasn't anything changed?"

Really, James? Here, just let me get out my “Fix This Bullshit” wand and wave it in your general direction.


Do you know who has the power to fix things in your backyard, James? You fucking do. If you care so much about your plight and the plight of other wronged fathers the world-over, why don't you stop making sexist comments on Facebook and fucking do something about it?

But that's not your style, is it, James? After all, if you decided to take this shit seriously instead of just being an irritating social media troll, you might have to climb down off that cross of yours and put in some actual effort. And while your kids might mean a lot to you, taking time out of your busy martyrdom just isn't in the cards right now, is it?

Our final exchange will always hold a special place in my heart, James. When you went on your final tirade about how all the family court laws in your province were obvs written by women, and how your FEMALE lawyer (yes, you had to CAPS "lawyer" because everyone knows you can't be a sexist pig if you've got a female lawyer) told you that the laws were sexist and you were going to get screwed...

At that point, I'd just had it, James. I'd had enough of your bullshit. So I just commented back, "Okay, James."

After which you politely told me to piss off and said that clearly, I am "not the brightest crayon in the box". Yes. Clearly I am the dumbest of the dumbs because I don't understand your exceptional brilliance. A man whose reading comprehension topped out somewhere in middle school, who doesn't grasp the subtleties of the English language but asserts that anyone who opposes him has "no idea", who tries to hide behind decent men, and believes his entire province is run like the Amazonian planet in Futurama. Clearly, you are my intellectual superior.

But what the hell do I know, James? I'm just a dumb broad.

Oh, and P.S.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Here's to the First

I don't really know why you came into my life when you did. Or why you ever left it. But I know you helped me through a great deal. My relationship with you was one of childlike trust and friendship. And lust. We lusted after one another in a way two teenagers have no business lusting. It was intense, it was that kind of lust that will sweep you off your feet if you're not careful. And we certainly weren't. Had we been able to see each other on a regular basis, I'd have lost my virginity to you in record time. I wanted to that one time we were able to see each other, and given the opportunity, I'm certain it would have happened. Then where would we have been? I often wonder how differently things would have turned out had we slept together that fateful weekend in February of '98. You were a boy with raging hormones, I was a girl with raging hormones, and we felt so alone except for each other. We were all we had as far as we were concerned. And then you went away. That was what nearly killed me. I realize this now, after all these years of burying the hurt and the sense of betrayal. It was why I grew to resent you. Why I chose to hate you; I was tired of being left. My brother left, my sister kept leaving, my parents and brothers had turned their backs on me....and then, you were gone, too. It was just easier to start pushing everyone away. To leave them before they could leave me. I pushed you, and you clung harder. I pushed again, and you became belligerent....but when I pushed that final time, you gave up and walked away. Left me, the way I knew you would.

You see, I didn't know what else to do. I loved you so much it hurt. It physically hurt. Sometimes I would sit and think about how I couldn't see you and this gnawing pain would open up in the pit of my stomach. When faced with the force of such an obsessive love, what is a 16-year-old girl with abandonment issues supposed to do? I was flailing, crying out for help. I began acting as if I'd gone through a breakup after you left. I cut all my hair off, lost weight, started getting into more and more trouble. And no one saw it. Not my friends, not my family, and certainly not the object of every desire I'd ever had, the one guy who I thought saw me clear to the bone, the one who was supposed to be there for me through everything and anything. He saw nothing at all. Nothing regarding the truth, anyway. He saw his girlfriend not being the docile, easily manageable girlfriend anymore. She wasn't staying at home, waiting by the phone for his call. She was out meeting people and making him angry and confused and jealous and insecure. It became all about you, didn't it? If I was acting out, it hurt you, and it became about that. Never mind that the hurt I was facing was the reason I was acting out in the first place. I'm not sure if our breakup was inevitable. I suppose asking that question now, after 16 years of no communication, is rather silly, but I can't help but wonder if there was any way to salvage what we had. There were plenty of things I did wrong. I know that now. Hell, I knew it then, I just didn't know how to do anything right. I loved you, but I also hated you, and I didn't want to lose you, but I didn't want to be with you anymore, either. Hurting you was the last thing I ever wanted to do, but I knew it was inevitable...but I also thought maybe I could salvage it. I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. I wanted a boyfriend I could have, all the time, and a boyfriend who was you, waiting and hoping and wishing and loving me from afar. It's selfish, yes, but I didn't know how else to express it. I wanted it all. I wanted you, all the time, and I knew I couldn't have that, and that knowledge made me crazy. I also irrationally thought that if I acted badly enough, I could force your hand and make you come see me. I knew it was irrational and unfair, which was why I never told you, but I couldn't help feeling it. It was a compulsion I was incapable of checking. You were 20 years old, capable of going anywhere and doing anything. I was going on 17, stuck in Michigan for at least another year, and then what? After 12 months of loving and hating and hurting and crying and being crazy...move to you and live where? I saw no move on your part to begin making a future for us. I didn't know what you wanted, only that you wanted me to continue being the obedient, accessible long-distance girlfriend that I'd been since I was an innocent, naïve 15-year-old girl with serious self-esteem issues. I changed. I was changing, and you either couldn't see it or didn't want to. I wasn't that same naïve 15-year-old girl anymore. I was approaching womanhood, with its endless mires of hopes and frustrations and entanglements. You still reacted to me as if I were that child you met in a chat room in 1996, and seeing me reacting differently probably just confused the hell out of you. I wish I could go back and counsel you. I wish I could let your younger self know that it wasn't your fault. You didn't know how to react because you didn't know what you were reacting to. And that's OK. Maybe all relationships that begin like ours did are fated to end because of changes that can't be adjusted to. Maybe, in the end, all young love is hopeless.

But you did do me some good. I want you to know that. For all the shit we went through, all the shit we put ourselves and each other and our families through; I think we learned a lot from each other. At least, I know I learned a lot from you, and I hope that you learned at least something from me. And I hope that that something is more than just “some bitches be crazy”. Because I'm not really all that crazy. Everyone is to an extent, sure, but it breaks my heart whenever I think you might still hold me in disdain for the things I said and did when I was a crazed adolescent. I was a mess. I know that. I think on some level I knew it then, I just couldn't recognize it. I was depressed after you broke up with me. I was hurt. But more so, I was angry. I don't know why, really, just that the anger began long before we split and wasn't your fault. And as much as it hurt to lose you, I also felt a sense of freedom. Freedom, however, rarely comes with a full sense of security. I was scared shitless. But to hide the hurt and the fear, I buried it. All of it. I convinced myself that I was better off, I put on a brave (and disdainful) face, talked shit about you, told my friends I didn't care, rolled my eyes a lot, but tried to talk as little about it as possible. I buried my shame over the failure that was us in trouble, sex, some drugs and alcohol here and there. In a few ways, I went even crazier. Got into fights, flirted with everyone, and began a mission to screw as many guys as humanly possible. I figured if all guys were going to use me, I was going to use them first. I know, such a cliché, right? Hey, in my defense, I was 17. There's nothing quite like the teenage brain; all the urges of an adult with the impulse control of an inebriated chimp. Toss in some depression and anxiety issues and you have the ingredients for the cocktail that was me in the latter half of 1998. I fucked up. And I fucked people over. I was selfish and cruel and uncaring. I was an island unto myself, beholden to no one, answering only to me.

And then came him. The one who saved me from what would probably have been the single biggest mistake of my life. I know you didn't care for him. Jealousy is a bitch and all. But really, he's one of the best people I've ever known in my life, and he came along exactly when I needed him. And he saved me. I know there are people out there who will tell me to give myself more credit, that I would have saved myself eventually, but those people don't know what it looked like inside my head at that time. I truly didn't give a single fuck about myself or my future. Just He made me see that I was worth something. I invited him in, the way I did with everyone, then pushed him away. And the strangest thing happened. When I pushed, he didn't budge. He didn't get closer, he didn't back away, he just stood there. So just imagine for a moment, me at 17, on a tear and determined to use and toss as many people as humanly possible, standing there with this confounded look on my face because this guy, this stupid, truck-driving prick who obviously can't see how fucking worthless I am, won't fucking go away when I make it clear that's what I want. I've asked him about this in the years since and he always says he didn't know what he was doing; he just knew he wanted to be with me. I realize now that he managed to gain my trust the same way you would a wild animal; by sitting near. Not so close as to be threatening, but not so far away that I could misinterpret his intentions. I fucked up with him, too. Don't for a single second think I didn't. I fucked up and hurt him and it was bad, but you know what? He didn't write me off and leave me. He didn't identify my shortcoming as some kind of indicator of who I was as a person. On some level, even though he didn't realize it, he knew I just needed time and care. And he gave me plenty of both.

So here I am, still with that obstinate son of a bitch who saved me from a lot of stupid mistakes, and I look back and realize that yeah, I love him more than I've ever loved anyone in my life. But I also still love you. I always will. There's that tiny piece of me that will always belong to the relationship we had in our youth. The sarcastic, idealistic girl who met the older indie boy in a chat room and fell head over heels. But idealistic girls grow up, and we realize that relationships have to be built on more than love. Because there's so much more to being a team than just having a fascination with each other, be it physically or emotionally. You have to be able to communicate, you have to trust that your partner will always strive to do what's best, not just for themselves, but also for you. And there has to be a shared confidence that you'll be there for each other even if one of you loses your mind for a while. We never had that. We talked, but I don't think we ever really communicated. I think I was too intimidated by the fact that you were older and more worldly than I to really open up about what was going on in the darker parts of my head. And I always felt that, deep down, there were parts of yourself you were keeping hidden from me, too.

Do you want to know what you taught me? I can give you this much. You taught me that I'm worth something, even when I feel like I'm not. You taught me to love my flaws, because you loved them, and I had unfailing trust in your taste. You taught me to look at things differently. When we'd have conversations about religion or philosophy and I'd make a statement of feeling, you'd ask why I felt that way. In truth, I believe you were the one who started me on the long path of self-actualization. I love to examine my motives. If not for you constantly asking me why, I may not have ever learned to love it. You taught me to appreciate the things about me that were good, and to forgive the things about me that weren't. And you were more patient with me than most. Up until the end. 

You also taught me that the perfect guy for me isn't necessarily the guy with the same taste in music or books or movies. You taught me that the perfect guy for me is one who can love me and nurture me and not walk away. The one who encourages me to try new things, then tells me I'm perfect even if I suck at them. The one who plays with my hair even when he's tired because he knows I need it. The one who stood by me when my panic attacks turned me into a pseudo-hermit.

When all's said and done, I feel unbelievably lucky to have loved and been loved by two of the greatest men I'll ever know. You were both right for me in so many ways, and wrong in some others, but it's the wrong ways that do the telling. I bear you no ill will whatsoever for the things that went on in our shared past, and I hope you eventually found it in yourself to forgive me for the pain I caused. You deserve that peace. I don't blame you for walking away. It's what I would have done. Being with you taught me that sometimes sharing traits isn't beneficial.

Thank you for teaching me these things, first boyfriend, first kiss, first love. Thank you for showing me what I needed....even if what I needed ended up not being you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I Read, Therefore I'm Literate.

As some of you well know, I read a lot of books. Over the past few years, I've read over 300. My Goodreads Read shelf contains 750 titles, and that's not counting the books I've read this month. A decent portion of the books I've read over the last two years were the result of self-publishing. With the advent of electronic readers and books, it's never been easier to realize your dream of becoming a bona fide author. It's not always a good idea to put your lack of expertise in the area of writing on display for the world to see, however. Sometimes it's downright painful for the reader. There are stylistic problems, of course, but the more basic issues tend to be in the area of basic grammar and story structure. Some people are just bad at writing, and I'm confused about some of the things they do. Hopefully someone reading this can help me figure out just what in the holy hell is going on with creative writing these days.

1. Why are so many modern authors asking me questions during the story? 

It's happened to me  a lot:

"I got a whiff of his soap...or was it his aftershave?"

"She smelled like flowers...or was it fruit?"

"What did he want from me?"

"Where did he get that idea?"

"I had to poop....or was it pee?"

I have no problem with rhetorical questions in literature. Those are, after all, used to make a point. Or when the narrator is asking you a question in order to answer it for you. That makes sense. An open-ended question left dangling does not. Just fucking say he smelled good, all right? Because sometimes guys do. I don't care if it's his soap, his aftershave, or the tacos he ate for lunch. If he smells good, he smells good. There's no need to extensively ruminate on the origins of someone's smell. We don't care!

2. Why are some of the sexual euphemisms in romance/erotica books so fucking weird?

I remember sneaking peeks at my mom's Harlequin romances when I was young, and once coming across the phrase "love kernel" in place of "clitoris". Now, I was a fairly oversexed adolescent and enjoyed the naughty parts in those books, but that phrase confused and nauseated me. I didn't think it could get any weirder.

I was so wrong.

" he gave her a deep soul kiss from below."

"She slipped down on him, the sword in the scabbard..."

"...the taste of him filling her mouth like a Starburst candy full of hot honey."

"Her quim was salty, tasting of mushrooms and earthen pleasures."

OK, stop. Just stop right there. Quim? Mushrooms? Earthen pleasures? Do you mean dirt?! Just...why?

3. Why do people keep using words incorrectly?

Irony. Literally. Good words. Both highly overused and misused on such a scale as to make me hate them both. And I'm a word lover.

"I laughed and realized ironically it was the second time I laughed in one day."

Nothing ironic about that. Nothing at all.

There are, of course, other words that have been used incorrectly. E.L. James, for example, believes she knows what euphemisms and non-sequiturs are when she apparently has no clue whatsoever. But 'irony' and 'literally' are being destroyed. We need to stop the abuse, people. Stop saying things are ironic. Odds are, if you say it 100 times in a given week, in 98 of those instances it won't apply. And 'literally' should only be used if there's a chance someone could be thinking you're speaking figuratively. It can confuse the hell out of people otherwise. For instance, say you're telling someone about how totes mad your mom got about you putting a dent in her Subaru Forester and you tell your friends she "literally blew up". That might scare them. And if they like your mom, it will probably make them terribly sad.

I think the worst thing about the abuse of the word 'literally' is that even if it's used correctly, it sounds stupid if the person using it is talking about something that couldn't possibly be taken as a figurative statement. Say your toddler just shit in the toilet for the first time, and you say, "She literally pooped in the toilet!"

4. Why are some authors not reading what they write?

This might sound like a silly question, but it's happening. I see it happening. When two people in a conversation aren't making sense, that tells me the author wasn't fucking paying attention.

Guy: "Who knew the aloof law student had such a sense of humor?"

Girl: "I appear aloof to you?"  This is always my first impression to people. Yet, I couldn't help but feel  a little hurt. I felt different with him.

Guy: "I said appear."


5. Why is there such a discrepancy when it comes to proper comma usage?

I've seen both instances. I've seen the run-on sentences that could be edited, condensed, and separated with a comma to make a complex sentence of acceptable length. I've seen the lists that have no commas. And I've, seen sentences, where the author, felt inclined to use, commas at every, fucking, turn. Where the hell is this coming from? Surely there aren't that many shitty English instructors out there. Are these "writers" even reading books before trying their hand at their own?

The world of self publishing is both a wonderful and a horrible thing. I've been subjected to so much mediocre horse shit that it's amazing I don't have a raging case of equine pink eye. It's bolstered my self confidence, sure, but it also lowers my estimation of other people. And my estimation wasn't real high to begin with. Ah well, at least I know there will always be something to laugh at.

If you're feeling up to it, be a pal and share some of your own unsightly literary horror stories in the comments. I'm always up for a good laugh.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Double Standards: A Picture Book

Name: Justin Bieber
DOB: 3/1/94 (19)
Profession: Pop singer
Love life: Has been romantically linked to Selena Gomez, Jacque Pyles, and Jordan Ozuna.
Lyrics: "Hey, what's the situation, whoa?
I'm just tryna make a little conversation,
Why the hesitation, whoa?
Tell me what your name is? 
For your information,

Don't get me wrong
You know you're right,
Don't be so cold,
We could be fire
Tomorrow we'll go,
Let's start tonight
You know what it's all about"

Private life: Accused of assaulting a 12-year-old at a laser tag arena (later cleared); locked one of the producers of CSI in a closet and put his fist through a cake on the set; multiple traffic stops and violations; moons his fans; is photographed surrounded by sizzurp and blunts; threatened and attacked a photographer; abandons a pet monkey; apparently has bodyguards that destroy personal property and grope young women; spits on a neighbor and threatens to kill him; is caught with a small amount of weed; reportedly makes houseguests sign a waiver warning of potentially hazardous activities that should not be engaged in unless you're in good health, and warning that sharing the details of your stay will result in a hefty penalty; repeatedly disrespects fans by showing up late to concerts; pees into a restaurant mop bucket; spits on fans.

Public verdict: He's a "brat" and an "asshole", but no one really cares. I mean, it's just Justin Bieber. Boys will be boys and all that. 

Name: Taylor Swift
DOB: 12/13/89 (23)
Profession: Singer
Love life: Has been romantically linked to Joe Jonas, Lucas Till, Taylor Lautner, Cory Monteith, Eddie Redmayne, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Mayer, Harry Styles, and Connor Kennedy.
Lyrics: "She's an actress/ but she's better known for the things she does on the mattress."
Appears to enjoy slut shamingfurthering the ridiculous stereotypes of mother, maiden, and whore, and publicly airing out grievances against exes.
Public verdict: One of America's Sweethearts and a wonderful role model for young women.

Name: Miley Cyrus 
DOB: 11/23/92 (20)
Profession: Actress and Singer
Love life: Has been romantically linked to Liam Hemsworth.
Lyrics: "It's our party we can do what we want/ It's our party we can say what we want/ It's our party we can love who we want/ We can kiss who we want/ We can screw who we want/ To my homegirls here with the big butt/ Shaking it like we at a strip club/ Remember only God can judge ya/ Forget the haters 'cause somebody loves ya/ And everyone in line in the bathroom/ Trying to get a line in the bathroom/ We all so turnt up here/ Gettin' turnt up yeah yeah"

Performs at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards scantily dressed, gyrating, and sticking her tongue out.
Public verdict: She's a whore, a slut, a butch bimbo, trashy, classless, a horrible role model for young women, a Jezebel, a hoe, the "devil's granddaughter". I'm pretty sure I actually saw someone refer to her as a "whore of Babylon". Classic shit.

My Facebook News Feed blew the fuck up with negative reactions to Miley's performance on Sunday, causing me to wonder why people don't have anything better to do but complain about a girl who isn't really doing anything groundbreaking. Madonna popped MTV's controversy cherry in 1984 with her performance of "Like a Virgin", and a bevy of female pop stars have since lined up to follow suit. Hell, I haven't heard/seen anyone saying a single fucking word about Lady Gaga's performance attire...

Now, if it were limited to critique on the performance itself, I wouldn't have a problem. I have a problem with the personal attacks leveled against a young woman who's done absolutely nothing wrong. She has no moral obligation to your children. You are supposed to be raising them, not a celebrity. You bear the responsibility for how they turn out, not society. Stop showing your kids that unmitigated hatred and judgment are perfectly acceptable. Stop letting them see their parents frothing with rage over the actions of a young woman who has absolutely no power in your lives except that which you give her. Oh, and take a moment to think back to your own 20-year-old self. Odds are you weren't a paragon of virtue, either. I recently read a blog which was an "open letter" to Ms. Cyrus, and while I commend the compassion with which the piece was written, I couldn't help but wonder why the author (and thousands of others) have chosen to single Ms. Cyrus out. If you're going to hem and haw about a celebrity's supposed obligation to moral decency, why is the tide of indignation more often than not narrowed down to only a few celebrities? Why aren't we deriding Justin Bieber for being a despicable human being? Why aren't Taylor Swift's anti-feminist lyrics causing a drop in her album sales? Why is Lady Gaga even famous? Why aren't male celebrities who objectify women being scorned by parents for sending the wrong message to children? Why is the obligation for moral decency placed on the shoulders of young women? Everyone wants to talk about how Miley rubbed her ass on Robin Thicke's lap junk, but no one wants to talk about about Robin Thicke, a 36-year-old husband and father, pressing his lap junk against Miley's ass. 

Good job, America.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Slut Shaming is the New Black

This is why I have to take vacations from social media.

"That is your opinion."

No, it's an actual fact. You don't have the right to talk shit about someone. 

"If she is going to put it all out there in public...she is giving me the right to say she's nasty."

OHH! Oh, I totally get it now! She's asking for it. Right? Good job employing the same psychotic justification rapists use.

Definition of LIBEL

a : a written statement in which a plaintiff in certain courts sets forth the cause of action or the relief sought
b archaic : a handbill especially attacking or defaming someone
a : a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression
(1) : a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt 
(2) :defamation of a person by written or representational means(3) : the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures (4) : the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel

"See, I can use big words, too, and pretend to understand what you mean by 'subjective'. Now let me be a horrible person in peace."

I love reading through this and watching the escalation of personally affronted feelings from the main poster and her puke green friend. Everything I said, every valid point I made, was shot down as nothing more than my "opinion", and my intentions were twisted up like a pretzel until the one girl honestly believed my actions were spurned by my love of Miley Cyrus. They weren't. I'm trying to wake women up. Stop attacking each other. Stop being catty assholes to each other. And stop trying to tell everyone that the reason you call a girl out for "dressing and acting like a slut" is because you think it's gross. We all know it's because you're jealous. You secretly wish you had the brass lips to dress and act like that every once in a while, and don't try to deny it; if you don't like velour track suits, do you personally attack the women wearing them? If you don't like appearing in plays, do you call the drama girls names? 

I am so tired of idiots. But it appears I'm surrounded.

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." - H.G. Wells

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Women have a much better time than men in this world. There are far more things forbidden to them." ~ Oscar Wilde

For those who maybe don't know, I'm a feminist. Though, I'm not sure feminist is the correct term. I'm more a humanist. I do, however, find myself more indignant on behalf of my own sex than I do the opposite, and sadly, I'm often driven to that indignation by my own sex. And that, dear reader, is exactly what I'm going to write about today; female misogyny.

I recently saw a post on Facebook that one of my friends had "liked". It was one of those topical pages, and the guy running it made me think of one of those crazy dudes who walks down the street talking to himself and violently swinging his arms at imaginary flies. In the status, he left a link to the new Miley Cyrus video for her song, "We Can't Stop". His thoughts were pretty warped. He started off by saying something along the lines of, "Miley Cyrus or Manly or whatever the hell that butch bimbo who won't shut her mouth's name is...." then proceeded to go off about how Ms. Cyrus is a drug addict and a slut and a bad example for children. Needless to say, the entire thing made me a bit livid, and reading the ensuing comments from other well-wishers only cemented in my mind how truly cruel and ignorant some people can be. Nearly every comment was some kind of insult, the most offensive ones calling her a slut, a whore, a crackhead, a tramp and, bizarrely enough, Satan's granddaughter. This vitriol was brought about by the assertion that Ms. Cyrus' behavior makes her an unfit role model for young girls.

I want you to stop and really think about that for a moment; these people, these supposed adults, many of whom I'm sure have children of their own, are calling a young woman they've never met derogatory names and claiming she is the bad example to children.

It's almost enough to make you laugh, and it would probably be quite funny were it not so tragically sad.

Now, I saw that my friend had liked this status, but I decided to leave it alone. She is a Christian with strong beliefs of her own, and we'd engaged in spirited but respectful debates about religion before. I genuinely thought she was a good person, and respected her attitude toward life even if our beliefs were vastly different. She was what I would consider a liberal Christian, one who believes homosexuals deserve equal rights. I ignored the religious posts and just enjoyed occasionally seeing her take on an issue.

Today, however, things took a turn. As I was browsing through my Newsfeed, I came to her latest update:

"Just watch Miley's new video..... Yes Miley only God can judge you but that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. Wow she's just Britney'd her self. All the Disney Girl's go ho."

Just for the record, I don't normally enjoy arguing with people. I like a good debate almost as much as I enjoy pie (and I fucking love pie), but trying to combat ignorance like this is draining to me, and I like to avoid it whenever possible. I don't like internet fights. But when it comes to certain topics, I find myself unable to keep from voicing my opinions. This behavior is abhorrent to me, and I don't feel those who participate in it should be given free reign to do so without any fear of recrimination. What follows is a word-for-word recounting of the conversation (my comments in black, the friend's in red):

"I disagree. Within reason, she CAN do anything she wants. I don't understand how judging her is anyone else's business."

"I'm saying that if you say no one but God can judge you then she better understand God doesn't agree with her behavior and she claims to be Christian then she should know what shes doing is wrong. The whole song is about doing drugs, sex, and basically living like you have n one to answer to. So she's either given up her blief system or she's a hypocrit."

"She's 20. It might sound like a cop out, but the human brain doesn't complete development until the age of 25. I think back to the world (way) I felt and thought when I was 20 and it's like looking at a completely different person. I'm honestly having a hard time figuring out why so many people seem so bothered by what she's doing and saying. Is it hurting you in some way? If people spent a little more time worrying about what's on their own doorstep and a little less time worrying about what's on everyone else's, the world would be a much more peaceful place. 

Wasn't it Christ who advised compassion, understanding, and acceptance? Seems to me there's enough hypocrisy to go around."

"As a Christian we're supposed to advise her of her wrong doin in a loving way. Not encourage her to be continuing to do what she is. She's a supposed Role Model and I doubt if you had a daughter instead of a son you'd want her listening and watch Miley's behavior."

"Oh, so being snotty and calling her names is advising her in a loving way?

I'm sorry, her "wrong doing"? You've decided she's behaving the wrong way, so she deserves your censure?

Don't presume to know my parenting, K___. Drugs and sex do not bother me. I've allowed my son to swear for most of his life, and I'm fully aware that he may experiment with drugs when he's older. I'm not going to condone the behavior, but as his parent, the most I can hope to do is guide him in the way I think appropriate and hope I've provided him with the tools necessary to make the right decision for him. I'm also fully aware that he's going to make mistakes in early adulthood. It is not my job to judge him. If I had a daughter instead of a son, I would hope that I'd provided her with the tools to respect herself enough to make better decisions than Ms. Cyrus has. Would I allow her to watch the music videos? Yes. I don't agree with censorship in any form. The only people who are worried about their daughters following in Cyrus' footsteps might be worried with good reason; children don't seek guidance from outside sources if they have it at home."

"Miley will never hear me. Saying she's gone Ho is what seems to be what hollywood does to all the young women. turning them into sex objects. If I was out doing drugs, sleeping around, etc and then calling my self a Christian I'd be a hypocrite. You'd no doubt think that too. I'm just tired of people saying only God can judge me and living like there isn't one. If you don't believe in God don't make such statementam lets just agree to disagree."

"Just because someone will never hear your judgments doesn't mean you're not a bad person for spewing them. Slut shaming is reprehensible, particularly when it's other women doing the shaming. You may think it's OK to talk about someone behind their back, but I do not. Bullying is bullying whether you're face to face with your victim or on the other side of the continent.

If Hollywood turned Miley into what she is, wouldn't that mean she's no longer responsible for her actions, thus making your criticisms of her moot points? She's either a willful, hypocritical ho or a victim of the Hollywood machine. 

No, actually, I wouldn't think someone was a hypocrite if they considered themselves a Christian while having premarital sex and doing g drugs. Just a difference in our beliefs, but I'd appreciate it if you'd stop assuming how I would react in a given situation. Plenty of people I know believe in god while living their lives in ways that are not traditionally "Christian". This does not make them bad people. If you truly believe the hateful rhetoric you're spewing, I wonder how it is you can defend homosexual Christians. 

I don't understand how she's living like there is no god. Just because she's not living the way you think she should live? You should be grateful that arrogance, hypocrisy, presumption, and self-righteousness aren't deadly sins. Because you'd definitely be right down in the muck with the rest of us."

"And I'm removing you from my friends list now. Not because we have different beliefs, but because I once thought you were above this kind of childish, petty behavior."

So there you have it. The conversation that put me in a pretty volatile mood for the rest of the day. This is my most recent run in with female misogyny, but it is definitely not the only time I've witnessed it. We all see it on a daily basis, as a matter of fact. The entire world is populated by women who are perpetuating misogyny in some form or other. This article from the Irish Times actually spells out a few of the myriad ways we women are hurting ourselves and our own cause by adhering to some bullshit societal standard of feminine worth. If you break it down into its base components, many feel that women are put on this earth to look good, make babies, sleep with only one man our entire lives, cook, and clean. Yet even within those confines, we're regularly demeaned and devalued, often by each other. Women are supposed to look good, but women who do look good are often insulted and ostracized by other women due to nothing more than jealousy and insecurity. When I watch that Miley Cyrus video, I think two things; 1) She's pretty and 2) This song bites. When other women watch the video and come back with statements about Ms. Cyrus' promiscuity, I come to a single conclusion regarding their motives; jealousy. If Ms. Cyrus wearing semi-revealing clothing and gyrating on a couch means she's a slut and we should all call her out on it, why aren't there women throwing hissy fits about the film Magic Mike? Why aren't we calling Channing Tatum is a promiscuous whoreson and demanding he set a better example for our children? Why is there a societal pressure for moral guidance placed on the shoulders of young females and only young females? Why aren't young men held to the same standards?

The answer is as simple as it is chilling; saying that a young female celebrity is a "role model" who should behave accordingly is nothing more than a cover for rampant female insecurity. Women don't like being upstaged by younger, more attractive models. They say a young woman should behave because they know that a young woman showing off the goods will attract men, and those in the righteously indignant camp are instinctively afraid they will lose their own hunter/protector to one of those young women who has no problem displaying what she's got. Thus begins the uprising of vitriolic vomit on social networking sites, blogs, in emails, text, phone calls, etc. calling the young woman a slut, a whore, a bimbo, a tramp, a floozy....because if they shame her enough, she might feel chastised enough to quit, and then they'll feel secure again. Until the next slut comes along and the cycle begins anew.

When a man slut shames it is for control. Men began the practice of slut shaming in order to control women and their bodies. If they made us feel bad for enjoying sex, we would be less likely to seek it out, thus protecting their status as the only male in the vicinity who has regular access to that particular vagina. Women also slut shame out of a sense of control, but not to have access to a particular vagina. When Woman A slut shames Woman B, it is Woman A's attempt at making Woman B's vagina inaccessible to other men. The motives differ slightly, but the goal is always the same; make a woman feel ashamed of her sexuality so she won't use it.

Interestingly enough, there is also an element of insecurity when it comes to men who slut shame.The man I mentioned at the beginning of this piece is probably sexually attracted to Ms. Cyrus when he thinks he shouldn't be. He questions his own manhood and lashes out at Ms. Cyrus because he has a small dick or can't get it up or whatever. When viewing the motives for slut shaming side by side, it comes as a bit of a shock to those who haven't previously considered it. Men and women slut shame for the same reasons; insecurity and control (and a desire for control itself stems from insecurity). We harp on men who use such language against women, yet we employ the exact same tactics for the exact same reason. How have we, as women, not only allowed this to come to pass, but also failed in any attempt to put an end to it? I've been attempting to do my part, mostly by expressing opinions on sites like this one, but I'm not sure it will ever be enough. The behavior is passed down from one generation to the next, and it seems there will always be females who are all too willing to allow it to continue. Case in point: a couple of years ago on Facebook (yes, again), a young cousin of mine (still in high school) went off on a rather spiteful diatribe about some "slut" she "hated". It was a nasty, hateful message. Now, I have no idea if the girl it was aimed at was a good person, but that's hardly the point. I made it clear to young D that I was disappointed in her because girls slut shaming each other is not OK in my book. To me, any woman who participates in slut shaming comes across looking far worse than the one being shamed. After I made this statement, there was silence on the post for a time. Then, out of fucking nowhere, her boyfriend pops up and comments, with derisive snark, something like, "Yeah, OK" with an arrow pointing up to my comment. And then? Then a few little girls joined in and giggled with him about it. "Oh, look at us, we can make fun of our own sex right along with you, you manly man! We're so silly and you're so superior and funny! Tell us how to live!"

Teenagers, however, are one story. Adults are another matter entirely. Adults are supposed to know better. We are, at some point, supposed to grow up and start behaving like thinking, rational creatures. So why is it that thought and reason and basic self-awareness are so deplorably absent? Why am I witnessing grown men and women who behave no better (and sometimes far worse) than their children? And why is it so goddamn difficult for otherwise intelligent, thinking individuals to stop and comprehend the idea that they just might be wrong?

I won't go into the religious argument against Ms. Cyrus' behavior, mostly because the religious argument stems from the moral, and the moral stems from the place I've already dissected. Sex is not immoral. Sex is a positive, healthy part of life and necessary for the survival of our species. The fact that there are still people who seek to make it something else tells me we've not come far at all as a species.

As for drugs....well, the last time I checked, there weren't any passages in the Bible, old or new testament, which say anything about the dropping of acid, popping of E, smoking of pot, snorting of cocaine, or shooting of heroine. I know that the "your body is a temple unto God" bit could form a basis for a theological argument against drug use. But seeing as how this particular drug argument came from a woman who is both overweight and tattooed, I feel any attempts by her to deride someone else's bodily self-abuse would fail spectacularly. I mean, you can't get much more hypocritical than that. Or maybe somebody can....

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." ~ H.G. Wells

Friday, August 2, 2013

"But we wouldn't get too far, two strangers in the dark"

 I'll be 32 in 11 days and while I keep hearing you settle down with age, my restlessness has only continued to intensify. I feel stuck and moody and complacent and irritable and happy and sometimes right. Or wrong. I know I don't make much sense, but this is how it sounds in my own head, so you're getting some unfiltered thoughts. I probably shouldn't write any stream of consciousness stuff. I fear we'd be here a while...and that we'd all be extremely bored.

I'll be getting another tattoo soon. I won't say what it is, but it is going to be far more unique than my first. It will be my husband's birthday present to me. I have, of course, considered how that money could be spent differently. A new lens, perhaps. But I've been dreaming of this particular tattoo since before I even got my first one, so I should probably take advantage of this opportunity and just get it done. It will be a tribute to my son.

Speaking of my son, he'll be 14 in a little over a month and a half, and don't think I have any idea where the time went. One moment he was an adorable, infuriating toddler who cussed better than most adults I know, then he was a...well, I still think he's a cute kid. He's also still infuriating. But he often smells, his voice is deeper, and he's nearly as tall as me.

He still cusses like a champ, though.

This month marks four years since we moved in with my parents. It's been an interesting ride. Charlotte is comfortable in that way your hometown will always be comfortable, but I'd be lying if I said I like it. I don't. Not even slightly. This town just continues to dry up, and it's all I can do to keep from setting something on fire in the middle of main street just to stir up some excitement. It's becoming quite a meth center, too, so there are people with blackened teeth walking around to complement their already stinky bodies and lack of clean and/or adequate clothing. The local "newspaper" is nothing but advertisements for local businesses and is run by a bunch of smarmy, incompetent fuckwipes who wouldn't know decent writing if George Orwell jammed his hands up their asses and used them as puppets. Even our chain stores suck. The city council is populated by a team of old fashioned geriatrics who refuse to do anything to rejuvenate the area. Photography has been my escape these last few years, but I've found myself less inclined to pick up my camera because I feel like if I go out and take one more goddamn picture of Charlotte, my head will explode. It's like living inside a black hole. Is it any surprise, then, that even my parents want out? So they're looking into buying a bigger house in Lansing. The idea has been batted around before, but it's picked up steam recently. I think we have the proposed "city tax" to thank for that. Upon hearing that news, my mom looked like she was going to murder someone. Her exact words were, "If I'm going to pay a city tax, I'm going to live somewhere where I get something for it."

So here's to hoping we ring in the new year in Lansing instead of Charkansas.

I've been fixating again. Years ago, I knew a boy. How many women can say that? How many women can say that that boy was special? I know many of you can relate. I've been trying to find that boy again. For years. I even wrote him a letter back at the end of 2010. There were a lot of things left unsaid, so I tried to cover those things and more in my letter. I have no idea if he got it. I have no idea where he even is. How does someone go this long without an internet presence? It's baffling. I know he's out there. Being left in limbo is making me a bit crazy because I am, if nothing else, a person who must have answers and resolutions. There are no answers to be had on this road, and I fear there will never be a resolution. Instead, I will spend the rest of my life periodically obsessing over it. When I get into this mood, I always picture someone walking aimlessly around a deserted beach, having no idea where they're going or what they're supposed to be doing. That's me, alone and adrift inside my own head, my own ridiculous moods and musings and ponderings causing a discontent that makes me want to scream with how unfair it is that someone could have that much of a hold on me after 15 fucking years. I kind of hate him for it. I just wish he knew that. Doubtless he would find it amusing on some level. The bastard.

I'll leave you with some of my latest shots. They're from the Fourth, and yeah, I know that was nearly a month ago, but cut me some slack. My son killed my computer and it had to be rebuilt. I just got Photoshop and all my plugins installed a couple of nights ago and have been editing ever since. Anyway, I was experimenting with fireworks shots. There's a method now of twisting the focus to create abstract shots. It's really quite cool, but I didn't employ quite the same technique. You're supposed to begin out of focus and then dial the focus in before closing the shutter, but I worked in the opposite direction, opting to throw the entire image out of focus before closing the shutter. I got some shots that, while not revolutionary, I wouldn't mind hanging up for the color.