Monday, January 28, 2008

ha! Baron Harkonnen shot first, actually

86% Geek

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

This is a body, my body, the easy miracle
I wear out like a dress, a flowered skin.
I tore the breast right out, boiling
to touch, for you to see me slip the dress
and walk naked. This is my illustrated body,
where I meet you.

This is a body, my body, my acid tongue
begging you to fix my racing head to the stump,
to the body, to the bed. Stop reminding
me of the laundry list, the broken car,
the paperwork. This is a body, my body,
my last stand.

This is a body, my body, my yawning thighs
gape and close, muscle and fat semaphore.
Can you see me now? Am I everything
you thought I'd be? It ain't always sex,
when I need you. This is a body, my body,
my too-full home.

This is a body, my body, pin and needle
spiders over my scalp, and I am here.
Here and here and here, baby, because
this is the other side of pleasure
and I am one drum spraying a red filigree
under your hand. This is a body
my body, and I hear the faltering footstep,
the jump and drag song of decay.

I am empty, and the melody only fades.

Monday, January 21, 2008

a recipe for gumbo and jambalaya

For one gallon of Gumbo:

for the roux:

one dutch oven, copper bottomed or iron pot (displaces heat evenly)
3/4 cup butter (or other solid shortening)
3/4 cup flour (it may take a little more)
a sturdy, heat-resistant spoon (this will burn a wooden spoon)
water to most of a gallon (if going on to gumbo)
a whisk (if going on to gumbo)

If you are planning to store this (it can be stored for a few days), you can stop at this point, as long as you insure that the roux is no longer on any kind of heat, including the residual heat in the pan. If you are planning to store, pull it off the heat immediately after it's done coloring and out of the pot completely.

directions for roux:

Melt butter in pan, stirring constantly until it is liquid. Stir in flour to make a paste of the consistency of glue but not quite rubber cement. Stirring constantly, keep over high to med high heat and brown. This will take a long time and will quite suddenly change colors from off-white to brown. Scape it up and keep it moving until it is the color of 80% cocoa chocolate, but not black or burnt. Get as close to black as possible without burning. Takes approximately twelve minutes, but this depends on your pan and stove. Pull off heat immediately if storing; if going on to gumbo, add water and slowly stir/whisk out to a thin soup.

for the gumbo:

2 loops smoked sausage
a bunch green onions
3 cans crab
1 lb shrimp, shelled or 2 cans miniature shrimp
tabasco/flaked red pepper
garlic powder to taste
salt to taste
gumbo water
cooked rice or saltines

Bring gumbo water to a boil. Chop sausage into small chunks and put sausage, shrimp and crab into gumbo water. Season with salt, garlic powder and red pepper or other spices for heat. If the shrimp is raw, this will take forty-five minutes. If not, boil until sausage is cooked through (about twenty minutes). Approximately five minutes from finished, add chopped green onions. Serve with tabasco, saltines or cooked rice.

Like most gumbo recipes, this was intended to be served with just about any meat as the flavor. As long as one of the meats is smoked, it will do fine.

for approximately six cups of Jambalaya:

red (tomato) roux:

1/2 cups butter
1/2 cup flour (or slightly more)
2 large cans tomato paste
2 large cans tomato sauce (or 4 small ones)
one dutch oven, copper bottomed or iron pot (displaces heat evenly)
at least six cups of water (if going on and not storing)
a whisk (if going on and not storing)

I've never stored this and suspect it has the same shelf life as the brown roux above. Store in fridge and use promptly.

Melt butter in pan, stirring constantly until it is liquid. Stir in flour to make a paste of the consistency of glue but not quite rubber cement. Stirring constantly, add tomato paste. Will be thick and virulently red. Stir over heat for a few minutes until paste gets a little darker (red delicious apple), then whisk in tomato sauce. Whisk in water to make a total of six cups, plus a little more (I am making this in a desert environment.)

for Jambalaya:

2 loops smoked sausage
2 bell peppers, any color
1 can chipotles in ancho sauce (can find in Spanish section of any grocery store)
optionally, a few raw jalapenos (the chipotle and ancho sauce will make it hot, this will make it painful and the flaked red and tabasco is for people who are fire-proofing their tonsils)
1 large yellow onion (not white; purple is okay but yellow is best)
3 cups rice
red roux water
dutch oven (must be able to bake in oven) and lid or foil to cover top
2 large cans diced tomatoes or 2 lbs diced fresh
4 large cloves garlic or garlic powder to taste
salt to taste
flaked red pepper/tabasco
1 T fat/butter/shortening

Can add seafood, but must add a smoked meat, like sausage. I like kielbasa.

Preheat oven to 350. Dice sausage, peppers, onion, garlic and chipotle. Set chipotle and garlic aside. Saute sausage, peppers, onion, then add to red roux water. Bring water to boil. Add chiptole, ancho sauce in can, tomatoes and diced garlic or garlic powder to water. Pour in rice. Remove from heat, cover pan and bake until rice is soft, or 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning on bottom.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope these are helpful.

Do not ever use liquid smoke. It's some nasty-ass stuff.

A Journal of Disorganized Thoughts, part one

Almost eleven years. That's how long I've been in school. Since fall of 97, after the birth of my second child. I could trace it in the electronic devices I've carried. Walkman to cell phone, then a bulky portable CD player, a much smaller cell phone and finally an exorbitantly expensive MP3 player, something I got myself for the long walks to school, back before the baby. I was walking up to three miles (mostly uphill in that neighborhood) to get to school, and since I frequently could not afford to eat, until I got the job at the kitchen, I often had not eaten and could not until I made the walk home (much worse than the walk there) and sat just inside my door, after I got it open, shaking and waiting for the dizziness to pass so I could boil an egg. The MP3 player came out of my loans, which were otherwise budgeted to the penny. I walked a lot and kept breaking the CD players. They we so easy to break.

I had to explain what a Walkman was to the girls. I threw in an explanation for the old 'party line' telephones.

Do you know what it's like to deal with persistent thoughts? Even when you know it's not your fault that you have them? Like how you're going to fail. I have that one all the time. My inner pessimist is actually about 5'6", and goes for walks in the evenings to sneer at passers-by.

A woman who was never my friend, but whom I trusted, told me that I make excuses for everything. That I never take personal responsibility. If that were true, I'd have beaten my children to death by now. I've had much to worry about. Mom never beat us until she broke us, but she did pick up whatever was handy and flail away, screaming at us to be still. I picked her up, once, when I was twelve. I've always been a big girl and she is quite petite. She bit me. Then she told my dad to administer the spankings, she'd call him at work, not that she never just picked something up and went to town. So we got a spanking from my father and a little extra, just in case or as the mood hit her. I could have been her. I try not to be and it takes as much as I can spare, everyday. Not hitting people when they annoy me is much easier than it was when I began to be a parent (I spent a lot of time walking away to cool of. I loathed being needed. Now it just makes me uncomfortable.) I just have to watch the desire to withdraw.

I fear being at home the way I have been. I cannot make good associations with the idea of being a housewife. It scares me. Everyday I spend home, I live in fear of passing a mirror and seeing her wandering through the house, a wooden spoon in hand, looking for me or screaming, throwing herself from chair to chair as if they were the thick posts of wharf anchors, screaming at me about the black tide she lived in, how it was rising.

God, why am I here? I think about that a lot. Why am I still here? Most of the people I knew from high school are dead, in jail, or miserable and married in some tiny town. I got an email from one, the other day. She's at least bi-sexual, if not queer, (questioning something that we had no name for) like me, and she wanted me to know how much she loved me when we were friends. I told her I wish she had told me. We have so much in common. I remember sitting in her bedroom, watching her, whipping myself with an unfolded wire hangar. Why, she said. Because it hurts, I said. Because that is all there is and I must make myself used to it. She watched me then out of the corner of her eyes. We listened to Skid Row. I wanted to be hard. I wanted to be empty.

I used to fear a descent into memory. I spent all day trying my hardest not to think, because it would only get punished by someone, and trying hard not to remember. To blend. Once that was all I ever wanted. To never be asked anything hard. I like first meetings for that reason. You can talk very little and no one knows you enough to ask the questions that keep bubbling up. My grandmother made gumbo, looked just like brackish swamp water. She'd put whole eggs in it and boil them. Ever so often, one of them would roll up, flashing a quick white curve, and fall back down. It was all gumbo in there, which is funnier if you know that gumbo is leftover meat soup. (As in, look at the package I found in the back of the freezer. That look like meat to you? You boil rice, I'll make a roux. Tabasco or Frank's will send anything down, mostly by making it impossible to taste from the heat.)

It's my story, and it's the only story I've got. I can and have wrote fiction that has no biography in it. None that I could find. But the stories keep bubbling up all over and they're good stories. They're interesting. And I can finally talk about some of this stuff. I wish that they didn't get such a bad reaction. I'd enjoy reading them if they came up in workshop. I wish we got more stories like this. I'd feel oddly as if I were watching a friend.

One of the members of my dissertation committee gave me a copy of Trash, by Dorothy Allison. I can only read a story and a half, two at the most, before I have to go be ill. It wasn't like that for me, exactly. But it was enough like it for me to be torn between wanting to meet her and thank her or curse her. It's like but not like. I know what I'm looking at.

If all goes as planned, I'll have a MFA this fall. And yet my publications will be minimal. I haven't been sending anything out. I mostly make my own revisions, but I am not satisfied that the critique I'm getting helps. And I'm afraid that no one wants to hear my stories. And I'm afraid someone wants to hear them. You get used to shutting the hell up. It's my fault for not sending them.

This has been a window into my gray matter, which is apparently doing some boiling. I will follow it with a recipe for gumbo.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the terrible price of desire

Well, this is either going to be right on or waaaaay off. Here goes.

The boyfriend and I were talking about sex, cause it's one of my favorite topics and I hope he's telling me the truth when he says that it's his. I got to thinking (and I am sometimes quite philosophical about sex, because I'm always looking for more ways to work it into discussions), thinking about desire and the way that women experience and bear desire.

For the record, I have struggled my whole life with a society that, to my mind, tried to deny me my desire or erase it somehow. And not just because I fancy girls. (Also for the record, I fancy boys, the occasional dildo [improvised and machine made], ropes, beating instruments, knives and my hands.) I was told that any woman too interested in sex invited rape, and was unnatural and sick. In other words, could expect to be punished for her transgressive behavior by a society united in their knowledge that the desire and the woman should be stomped out.

You know, for the good of all or something like it.

It always seemed to me that a kind of endless, wakeful desire was far more natural to women than the bizarre frigid, infertile slut thing that I was always seeing on the TV I watched at friend's houses and hearing about in conversation. I mean, who owned desire and why, I thought (at thirteen, actually). Why was female desire so important that it must be channeled and contained. (I am aware that there are books on this, but I hadn't heard of anything like it in my Southern Baptist, boycotting TV childhood.) What was I supposed to be?

Mostly, I tried to figure out whose fault it was.

*squick warning. You have been warned. And how often do I do that?*

The question of who owns what started early for me. I think I was nine or ten. My father, who is an engineer, at the time working for a major defense contractor, moved us to Okinawa to work at Kadena. Like most good Baptists, they immediately sought out a church, cause if you don't go to church at least once a week, you're going to go straight to hell. God takes attendance. In any case, the pastor (who is unmemorable to me in any way) had a teenaged son, who, for the hell of it, we'll call George. George took a special shine to my brother and I. We spent a lot of time hanging out, which my parents found gratifying, because his father was the pastor.

My parents are something of social climbers.

In any case, George played with us, babysat us, was around almost constantly. I don't remember how he looked very well, just that he was a wrestling fan and was forever getting me into some kind of complicated hold that involved a lot of groping. This was, of course, before the tits, so he was groping a flat chest. There's always been an ass there, even when there wasn't hips, so that was padded. This becomes relevant in a moment.

As a mother, I can tell you any teenage boy who is constantly wrestling and offering to babysit my kids would make me a little nervous. The boy in question was sixteen at the time, I think. I would not have permitted that.

George liked to get me in a particularly complicated position in which I was bent double with my face pressed to the carpet (or matting) and rub himself on me. Not so much my little brother, thank god. He happened to do this one time when his parents were over at our house, visiting with my family. I left the room afterwards and wandered into the front room, where the adults were. As an adult, I wonder if he stained my skirt. I don't remember there being anything on the pinafore. I interrupted, something I was not supposed to do, since children were to be seen and not heard, and told everyone about George's new game, 'cause it seemed a little odd to me.

My dad beat ten kinds of holy hell into me for being a lying slut.

In any case, reflecting at thirteen and later as an adult on that experience, the question of who owned my desire became important. I'm not the kind of person that can deal well with frigidity or abstinence. I go a bit the other way, actually. I love and need to feel, at first in an unhealthy way. Took me awhile to stop being there for whomever grabbed first or hardest. There were other incidences like this while I was growing up, and I was told both explicitly and implicitly that I did not own my body and that it was exchangeable for status and, even at birth, promised elsewhere (to a deity who would cede it to a husband, whose enjoyment of it would be more important than my own, anyway.) I was the custodian of two small breasts, a bodacious booty (if I do say so myself), a body prone to muscle making and casual strength (which has served me well) and an overwhelming curiosity. (Also not a terribly bad mind, as it turned out. If anyone has a Who's Who for US high schools from 92-93, I am in that baby for my freshman year, tail end of the Cs. There are only three of us with the same last name, and I'm the only one with an NEDT award. I also have a civics and DFYIT award, which I just rediscovered. Boy were they barking up the wrong tree [since junior high.] I used to 'take the edge off' a lot. Daily. I'm too old for it, now. Gets expensive.)

Is it any wonder I set out to enjoy it any way I could, though it took me a considerable amount of time to be able to own my own enjoyment instead of looking for someone to own it for me, albeit someone I hoped would be interested in my enjoyment, too. (A proviso-- when you are accustomed to thinking of yourself as a kind of vagina with leasing rights, you learn to have a sexual reaction to things that are not extraordinarily foreplay oriented.) I suppose this makes me a bit of a sick fuck. Hold your sympathy. If I don't feel sorry for me, I am not interested in your sympathy, either. Especially if it keeps you from listening to me.

The question of who owns desire is important precisely because when a woman goes about putting her metaphoric brakes down, there is a lot of resistance, mostly in the form of making it costly for her. In my observation, this is irrespective of whether her circumstances are like mine or whether her life has been peachy; it is no easy task to start refusing to participate in a culture that tells her (and has conditioned her to believe) that her desire must be evoked from outside her by a man who has a key. (You know, the penis fixes all. I like a good fuck, but fixes everything? Only if the penis has maaagic powers. I've had fucks that made me forget things that stressed me, but never a fuck that made everything perfect. And I like to think of myself as a fuck connoisseur.) Moreover, when she tries to insure that she owns her own sexual desire and expression, the same system that assures women that they don't own the evocation of their sexual desire goes into overload assuring her that she has no right to say no or that no is not effective in terms of deterrent. I have seen an amazing amount of mainstream movies that have female characters whose 'no' is only meant to be powered through, since it wasn't really no so much as 'show me you're serious about it' (because all women want out of a man is strength. Bah, I want the ability to listen, some mileage and personal competence. Also a pony, if Santa is listening.)

This uses a very natural experience, desire, against the woman who is only trying to figure out why it's hers, yet she is not supposed to be able to summon it on her own. (Which is, coincidentally, why so many women don't know how to say what they want or expect men to know. They literally don't know or understand that they can have it for themselves and chose with whom to share desire. As a side note to my side note, it takes a 'drying out' period to sort this shit out, in which I had to abstain and figure out what was mine. The answer was everything from hair down and all the associated mental properties and functions.) What happens is the woman is threatened with a withdrawal of outlets for her desire, as well as a complete lack of social modeling and support for her efforts to control herself, which is both short-sighted and the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot (unless you don't care if the other person is having fun, in which case you should be fucking a pocket pussy, not a partner.)

More desire = more fun and possibly more frequent sex.

Using desire this way is terrible, attaching a price that can vary from a woman's life to her ability to be considered worthy of bodily integrity (something that is a moot point in a society that hands the keys of desire elsewhere. It's an empty threat, in some ways. What is the threat, extra violence on top of what is already being offered? Like your broken bones in the left or right leg?) My objection is not to women as sexual creatures, a fact that I am both proud to affirm and fond of. My objection is that the sexuality which feels so good, that is so comforting and interesting and fun and soothing and exciting cannot be any of those things when it is doled out by someone else. I play with BDSM and love it, but play time is a granting, not a taking. Even when it's styled to be a taking (that would be why the word 'play' is so apt.) It beggars the mind to think of how casting desire outside the body tears out the very core of women, turning them against themselves. To place desire outside the body is to mutilate oneself and parcel it out. Women are mutilated by a system that takes our sexual selves away from us and this cannot be allowed to stand.

It's my goddamn desire and I'm keeping it; expression, thought and all. Sharing, yes. Not sharing also okay. The damage can be deciphered and undone. With patience and an unflinching willingness to keep looking.

coping mechanisms

Alright, fess up. Everybody's got them. Some people eat when they get upset. Some people drink when they get upset. Some people do drugs when they get upset. Self-medication, while not a formal category of coping mechanism in the Freudian sense, acts as a defacto one in everyday life. And one we tend to enjoy more than, say, denial.

I've been thinking about sanity a lot over the last few days. I am aware that I am now and have always been qualified for some serious meds. I'm not interested. I've got this far (and it's further than one might think) on will power, an evil sense of humor and sheer stubbornness. And there are times when I'm even proud of it. I am invaluably grateful to my parents for insisting, all the way through my childhood and on into my adulthood (as of two weeks ago with the thyroid comment in the sHuckabee post), that I was, in fact, insane and would never go anywhere or do anything. We had family therapy a while back and they had no problem telling the therapist, me and anyone who wandered past. In a genteel way for strangers and bluntly to the therapist and I. They are sure something's wrong with me, since I'm all liberal and stuff.

Living them down has been difficult, but deeply satisfying, even though being a liberal is, to their mind, at least marginal proof I'm not all there.

I'll take a victory where I can find it.

In any case, coping with stress situations tends, at least with me, to fall into small, medium and large categories. I find that no matter the size of the stressor, I do best to get on it promptly in terms of stress management, or it gets worse (sometimes by creating an aggregate; this and this and this, as opposed to just one thing.) I class them that way based on what effect they have on me, not based on what kind of stressors they're supposed to be, though I pay attention to what they're supposed to do, because I tend to suppress my feelings until I feel calm enough to deal with them (thanks to a very stressful life, I tend to try to wait to sort things out until the 'danger' has passed, whether that's the stressful situation or the violence of the emotion I'm experiencing.)

The small category is made up of things like being late to class (which I hate doing, but it happens), being unable to find my keys; you know, little naggy, persistent things. Sometimes, I don't even need to do anything about it but sigh. When those kinds of things need addressing, I usually have a cup of coffee, listen to a mood-appropriate song, give a quick dance around the house, think about sex (aka go to my happy place) or slay something on a video game.

The medium category is tricky. It's stuff that's not quite nasty enough to qualify for a full-on 'get me outta here', but not that far off. Things like a bad workshop critique, feeling fat or unattractive, realizing I forgot homework at home (which really bothers me) or one of those weirdness index moments. Those get much worse quickly if they aren't discharged. For those, I do physical things. But very, very carefully. I have a bit of a sadistic and masochistic streak, so if I chose to workout, say, in response to being aggravated, if I am not careful, I will work out until I rip my calf muscles or until I pull something. Sometimes I won't feel it until an hour or more after I finish working out. I try, if I am nearing the large(r) category of frustration, to be very, very careful not to drink, hang out in the kitchen, top anyone or workout more than a preset amount of time.

The large category doesn't happen all that often, but it requires me to be very, very careful. I think I am not alone in being able to notice my reactions are not what they should be and being super cautious. If I know I'm in that category, I will not drink, smoke, eat more than a small, preset portion, work out and I will refuse to talk (because I got a mean mouth) to people more than I have to. But mostly, I refuse to engage in anything that has the potential for self-abuse or the abuse of others. There are times when this has made me somewhat less than social (to put it lightly), but I know what kinds of things I am capable of, and there's no excuse for taking it out on someone who has not enthusiastically consented to whatever I'm doing (but it's bad form and being a bad person to let my devastation out on someone, even if they consent.) A few times in my life (and only a few is good, considering my history), I've asked someone to keep an eye on me, but I can usually police me, which I prefer.

I suppose this has to do with sanity because coping strategies are how we maintain sanity (by which I mean the social strictures necessary for everyone to get along, to some degree.) If anyone feels like fessing up, how do you handle things?

goddamn double posts

I accidentally double posted yesterday, for which I am quite sorry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

moments from the weirdness index

Anyone else out there (and statistically speaking, there's bound to be at least one) have that moment when they realize just how fucking weird they are? You know, when you're not even trying.

Case in point: casual conversations about firsts. For the sake of a hypothetical (and definitely not anything that has ever happened to me, you know, often or anything), let us say that you are involved in a group of idly chatting women, and the subject of first kiss comes up and everyone starts telling stories. You know that your first kiss story is liable to cause consternation and/or disgust and/or pity, so you spend the first story told by one of the other women mentally editing the contents of your first kiss story in order to both be considerate of others and to hide your own weirdness factor, which you are fully aware exceeds the group limit. You run through your revised story looking inconsistencies during the second story told.

You aren't exactly lying, you're just doing everyone a favor and not exhibiting the differences between you. Sometimes false consensus is all you've got.

The woman just before you in the circle tells her story, which contains in it a boy backing her into a wall to forcibly kiss her. Ah, you think. Well, at least there's one other person here who didn't have a first kiss that involved a saccharine Rockwell moment. So you tell the real story, eager even, because it's nice to be able to tell and because you think 'hey, I'm not alone.'

Yeah, about that...

So, half way through the story, which involves a much, much older boy on a school bus and being forced to sit in his lap afterward to get your hair petted, you realize that every single woman in the group, including the woman you thought you had a lot in common with, is staring at you with dawning horror. Right about the time you describe sitting in his lap like some kind of a performing animal (at which he has been chuckling; you're fresh back from England and he thinks your accent [and the school uniforms that you're still wearing because it saves money] is hi-larious.) Your legs are short enough to dangle and bounce with the bus wheels, as you babble away at him. In the resulting silence, you realize that once again you have failed the weirdness index test, disguised as a bonding moment. You can't do what you want to, and walk off, because now you are both angry and embarrassed; angry that once again, no one told you the normie group rules (and of course they won't; they don't even know there are any, they fit so well.) And how many times are you going to flunk this kind of test? You're embarrassed because you do have to look these women in the eye afterwards and now they are all going to be thinking of you in terms of that school bus moment. No matter how many times you've been wrong, you automatically assume everyone has a moment like that and in one hot moment, you have once again been reminded that you are, you know, weird.

Not that I've ever been standing there trying to graceful cover how furious I am because I actually was trying to fit in and couldn't help myself. There's only one thing to do at moments like that.

Make the story worse. I got worse ones. And I HATE that pitying expression.

on a lighter note

I took a personality test awhile back for shits and giggles, and found out that I am an INTJ, along with 5 percent of the population. Anyone else out there an INTJ or INTP?

art imitates life

I'm going to write this down before I forget it again. A dream reminded me. In the dream, I'm holding my infant son as his father ferrys his belongings out the door. He didn't tell me until the movers came. In my dream I am standing in the door, holding our son and demanding that he stay, because if he leaves, I cannot pay the rent. In my dream our friends and my parents are there, telling me that they're sure I'll find the money and to stop worrying. It is the 29th of the month.

This has happened in real life.

Not with this boyfriend, but the one before, five years ago. After months of getting to know me, he moved in (partially because after going to school, working at a gas station, and having two toddlers, I could not afford to pay the rent, so we worked out a trade.) I made that deal women make a lot, in which they trade company, cooking and sex for help. Yes, it's still happening. I know we've killed sexism, made the genders equal in pay and all, but it still happens. Did I love him (which ends up being the justification for said arrangement)? No, but we were basically sexually compatable and he was not terribly bad (at the time), so I made the arrangement I'd been taught to make.

I didn't want to be on welfare, because that would be shaming.

So he moved in. And we argued. And argued, and argued, and argued. I went to pick up my girls after work, near the end of the month. I want to say it was the 19th or so, something like April. The drive back was pleasant enough. I had the windows rolled down slightly for the 45 mph air conditioning which was the only air I was gonna get out of that car. When I got back, his car was gone, which in and of itself didn't bother me. He was probably out running errands or something. We walked up the stairs to the apartment, the girls and I, slowly, because that's the only way you're getting anywhere upstairs with a four year old and a six year old. I was due to grocery shop, and was going to drop off something at the apartment before going to Smith's.

I remember turning the key distinctly, that the adobe walls had a chunk missing by the right side of the door, on the bottom. The door itself was an innocuous beige, and the frame was heavily, though not recently, scarred. The scars were filled with paint. My youngest child was on my hip. The door opened. The TV was gone.

It took me looking through the bedroom to be sure. I called him. He told me that he was under too much stress, and that I nagged at him. I reminded him that the rent was due. He told me it wasn't his problem and hung up on me. I put my hands on the kitchen counter and leaned my head down flat on the linoleum counter tops, which were cold, and recited to myself the contents of the kitchen cabinets, which came down to a can of beans, a small bag of rice and a can of hominy, and the refrigerator, which came down to some milk, a few eggs and the condiments everyone has.

I get in trouble for writing about these kinds of things in workshop. My characters don't do emotionally what they're supposed to. I want to laugh at the kids, teacher included, who read my stories. Who has time to cry? I didn't want the girls to see me, then they'd have been upset, and despite mounting evidence to the contrary, I wanted them to have a happy childhood. I told the girls that the TV was being repaired, if I remember correctly.

And the other students look at me during critiques. I want to scream, 'I took shit out because I knew you wouldn't believe it. You keep telling me no one's life is like this. Well here I am, motherfuckers. Here I am. This is my life. All you have had to do is read.'

I took the yellow pages out of a cabinet and called all the shelters in town. Some of them wanted several days notice, one of them wanted me to go work for them, if I wanted food. The only one that could do it in the next 24-48 hours was the Storehouse on Broadway. I went the next morning with my youngest, pawning my oldest off on my parents, and stood in line at five-thirty am, coincidentally when I'm writing this, with a long line of people in the pre-dawn cold waiting for the heavy iron door to open. I made a steady stream of chatter at her, trying to amuse her, and held her, shifting her from hip to hip when the arm threatened to give out. The Storehouse is first come, first serve, and fortunately for us, we were only the twentieth people in line. I had her baby bag with me. The people ahead of me were surprisingly cheery, talking and stomping their feet to keep warm. When they opened the doors at seven, we filed in.

The Storehouse is a large, cavernous building made from a single room. When you get into it, the area has been divided into little boxes, the first of which, to the left, is full of toys and a line of heavy desks. The kids play, the parents answer questions and surrender their driver's license or id. The Storehouse employees keep a record of you, like most shelters, to insure you won't defraud them of their supplies. The line behind me had stretched out forever, and I was anxious to get the interview over as fast as possible so that we could get back into line. They made me recount the story of how I came to this and ask pointed little questions to insure that I am, in fact, telling the truth about the state my life is in. Out of the corner of my eye, the line snaked forward with people who've been there before and don't have to be so throughly vetted. I received my chit and my daughter received a book. I still have it. It's a Xerox self-publish called Dorrie and the Witch Doctor. She was being such a good girl. Everyone commented on it as the line shuffled forward again. I sang to her quietly. I could tell she was going to be upset soon. We were both hungry. I hadn't eaten since I found out that the grocery money needed to be applied to the rent. It had only been something like sixteen hours, which is nothing. I craved coffee and cigarettes, not that I was going to take up smoking again. It's an expensive habit. On the right, we passed tables with mounds of clothing, which we did not need. One of the room-like boxes, the furthest on the left, was a 'grocery store', or a small maze with shelves and a short bank of standing freezers. The chit I had been given stated which items I could take, and I presented it to the man walking me through the maze to insure I didn't stuff anything into the baby bag or my coat. One tub of Kroger's brand peanut butter, one loaf of expired wheat bread, one can of green beans, one can of tomatoes, one bag of pinto beans, one jar of Smuthers, one box of government issue milk, one bag of Land O Lakes stir fry and one pound of ground beef. I froze, walking into the maze, and could not grab anything. I was deeply ashamed and afraid of how little it turned out to be. The man escorting me clicked his tongue with disgust and put the items in the basket for me, towing us to the 'register,' where they double checked the items against a list and let me totter out the door. I put my daughter into the car seat and tucked the bags in around her. I found out when I got home that they were mostly expired, not that it mattered. We ate them anyway.

I can't sleep when my dreams bring these memories back to me. My best friend had an apartment right across the street from the Storehouse, within a short walk of downtown. We were within spitting distance the last time we went drinking, and I didn't remember even though we stood right next to it, staggering drunk, until, in this last dream, I was standing with a baby on my hip, begging the current boyfriend not to leave. I can't sleep when I remember these things. There are times when I want to send these stories to workshop, to stomp in and stare dead-eyed at the kids in the program while they discuss whether or not anything like that ever happens anymore. I get complaints about how dark my stories are, how they are self-indulgent and how the reader may not forgive me for having to read it.

I always want to laugh. Read them? Yeah. Put the story down. I'll take more life out of it next time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

men, childbearing and feminism

Maybe men shouldn't read this.

My son is sitting in my lap, sleepy blue eyes blinking up at me. His oldest sister is passed out on my bed with her best friend, with whom she spent last night. My youngest is reading manga on the floor. The boyfriend, my son's father, is out playing croquet in a city park. I am writing an overdue paper that I got an extension on for my 19th century lit class. I've been trying to get done for a month. I've had to restart three times now, because it's all I can do to formulate thoughts; I get interrupted a lot. My son is better now, but he had health problems for awhile requiring a stay in the NICU and they were talking a second surgery in November. Both daughters are having full on sibling rivalry about his arrival, including lots of competition and, in one case a few weeks ago, a fist fight in the bathroom.

It's times like this that I hate knowing about feminism, hate even thinking about it.

If I suggested to the boyfriend that I could use some help here, because while I'm not traditionally working, I am finishing a Master's, and thinking deep(ish) thoughts is both necessary and difficult to do with a house full of people, he would stay home.

Of course, he'd be unhappy about it. As he told me, walking out of the door, it's not like he goes out much. I felt very whiny when I told him I don't mind that he gets out, which I don't. I do mind that I am stuck here, that I haven't left the house in weeks, that I couldn't leave him to babysit this many kids anyway (you have to be pretty versed with kids to be left alone with three preadolescents and a baby. And, frankly, I'm not comfortable leaving a guy home with this many kids. Call me sexist, if you like.) I mind that, despite all this blogging, it was all I could do to finish my classes last semester and that I am going into my dissertation, an intense period of writing, scared to death that it will be all I can do to produce a few pages. I normally write something like ten pages a week.

I mind because I feel like my mother. My mother who used to drag herself around the house, collapsing on chairs or locking herself in her room, screaming and crying about how she fucking hated to be a woman. I used to cling to the white-washed walls in the hall outside her bedroom door as I listened to her beg god to make her anything else, dead would be fine. We took cross-country drives where she bitched all the way home about how much she hated taking care of us, having had us. She was not happy until, a few years back, they removed her uterus and ovaries. The next time I saw her, she was like a woman transcended; eyes alight and glowing, hair clean and she stood up straight, looking me in the eye. Since then, she's been kinder, though she still criticizes me and my lifestyle frequently. She knows what ambition gets women.

What is it Madam Reisz says in the Awakening? I'll paraphrase it with 'you must have strong wings. There is nothing more depressing than the women limping back with their crushed wings.'

I wish my mother would do something for herself. She won't let me do anything for her, nor could I offer. What's between us is ugly at best and I am not eager to be tortured again.

As a feminist, I can look back on her depression and my own malaise and dissect it in terms of obligations, oppression and isolation; or myself and my brother, the expectations of family and the sheer amount of traveling overseas we did when I was tiny, respectively. (I think there's something even nastier in the family history, but I don't know for certain.) My mother did have outside contacts, as do I. My mother was the local president for the Right to Life chapter of Hunt County (in Texas), a frequent choir leader, conductor and arranger for churches (she left a BA program in music to work and support my father through school, getting her MRS instead) and student body Treasurer in college. (As an amusing side-note, I was not allowed to watch horror movies, but knew what aborted fetus looked like since I was ten.) My mother wrote constantly and painted, filling several filing boxes in the garage with a meticulously researched sci-fi trilogy she will never publish and paintings that, while not museum quality, were excellent portraiture. She sold a few. She had ambition.

So do I. I burn with it. I've never met anyone who burns like I do, who cannot sleep and grinds their teeth, making patterns of the bumps on the ceiling. I will. I will make something of myself.

Perhaps my mother burned, too.

Ambition is one of the reasons I've gotten even this far.

My son's asleep in the other room. The girls are sprawled out, shoes and all, on my bed. God, they're so pretty. Is there anything as beautiful as a sleeping child? My girls are so eager to grow up. They frighten me.

This is the best boyfriend I've ever had, better even than a lot of the girlfriends I've had, at least the ones I've introduced to my children. And yet, here I am, angry beyond words.

I have worked my ass off. Bootstraps? I didn't have any when I started. I was couch surfing when I got pregnant with my first child. Her father was an engineer something like thirteen years older than me, not that he cared for either the age difference or the baby. I was seventeen. He was thirty, as old as I am now. I cannot imagine being interested in a child, though I suppose I would not, after a year of being homeless, be what might traditionally be thought of as a child. I was staying at my grandmother's, but since she kicked me out promptly after the birth, it's clear to me that my arrangement with her was temporary, at best.

I have three children, each birth filling me with as much sorrow as joy, though more for the girls than the boys; I know what's waiting for them. I wouldn't give my children up for the world, because loving them has been both instructive and redeeming (I learned to love them before I learned to love me) but each child has resulted in at least two years of delay on my education. When my oldest was born, I was told my unmarried state would ruin her life and her chances (for a good marriage and therefore happiness.) When my middle child, also a girl, was born, I was told that my desire to go to school was going to result in her being badly socialized or deficient.

I was being a bad mother. I went anyway.

With this baby, people at school ask me how I do it. Ha. What else is there to do?

As a feminist, my knowledge only serves to remind me just how repressive some of these things are. Even though I know better, I still expect to be my children's only caregiver, to provide their support and to be home with them as much as I can, for fear of what might happen if I was not. I expect that their fathers will be useless, and that I will always be taking up the slack, and working, and going to school, and everything to everyone until I cannot take it any more, and then I will do it again. I've had as many as three jobs at a time while I've been going to school. God, sometimes I think I'm made of some kind of metal, the way I just keep trying. Keep going. Always and forever, keep going because you cannot afford to fail.

It's another form of woman as sacrifice, but it's an effective trap, because I'll die before I abandon them. Nobody has to shoot you down, all they have to do is refuse to help you. And wait.

In the feminist theory class I took last spring, one of the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, single, childless and very keen young things bemoaned the rejection of feminism by the working class women and single mothers she had been researching for her end of semester project. Why, she wanted to know. Why would any woman reject feminism?

I held my tongue and I shouldn't have. I'm not sure I could have been polite.

This is the best person I've ever dated. If I had to blame my attraction to the childless on something, I might blame it on the fact that I've been taking care of someone since I can remember; standing in for my once small brother and getting my ass royally kicked by our parents when we were kids, caring for other homeless friends, even just in a transitory way by shoplifting to feed the starving ones. I've had children around since just after my eighteenth birthday. I envy them, sometimes. I have no idea what it's like to be a kid, or to be alone. One of these damn days, I'm gonna be old, everyone will leave and I'm going on a permanent vacation.

This is the best person I've ever dated, and I'm no doormat (trust me), but here I am, trying to concentrate, to finish that last paper. He is the nicest man I've ever met, and he walked out the door, thinking we were equal in responsibility because he works during the day and does one baby feeding in the morning and (if he feels like it, or if I insist) one at night. No one I've ever dated has done even that much. I feel like giving him a standing applause, and then I am ashamed that I would be impressed with so little. Feminism reminds me of privilege, of why I am ambitious and what ambition means. Feminism gives me hope for another future, another time when I will not struggle to do what anyone should get to do, to make something of myself. More importantly, feminism reminds me to work a little harder at it for my girls. I have armed them as best I can against our rape culture, our oppression, which has only made them 'troublesome', and after all this, I can only hope. Feminism reminds me to notice the small indicators in speech that attempt to keep me at home the way my mother stayed home (god preserve me from what she did to my brother and I, god grant I continue to be kind), though the boyfriend does not mean to use them. He does not think of himself that way. Feminism makes me feel like someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder, like two women in this body that is big enough for neither. It makes me feel insane because I know, I know, I know better. But this is a rock and that is a hard place and I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Friday, January 11, 2008

a Southern white woman tries to puzzle out her own racism

I'm not sure if it's okay if I permalink my blog, but I should link the post that got me thinking.

Let me state, in advance, that I know I have a problem. I also know I'm about to get it wrong. Quite likely the whole time. For anything and anyone I offend by being the racist I know I am, I will apologize, because no one deserves to be written off for things that have nothing to do with them and are based on an attribute that is nothing they should have to compensate for, which is my understanding of racism; it's a bunch of stuff that the individual has nothing to do with which are tied to the color of their skin, something that they should not have to compensate for. If, in the process of reading this, you become troubled, feel free to let me have it. Maybe I'll learn something.

I am writing about this not to cause pain in anyone, but because if you do not examine your beliefs and background, if you ignore the things you have been taught, you are doomed, to a great degree, to relive them. And it's not like refusing to talk about racism makes it magically disappear. Silence does nothing to give us remission from our national cancers.

To talk about this, I feel like I must establish my credentials: I was born in Louisiana in the 70s, something that will set off a certain expectation for some of you and not others. My family is very Southern, from fairly exclusively Louisiana and Mississippi, and has been there a long time, to hear my mother tell it. I was shocked to discover that one of my mother's aunts, who we visited when I was a child, lived in a plantation house. I asked when I was 10 what the rundown shotgun house just to the left of the house was and was told in was 'domestic servants' quarters. I'm sure you know what I found out about it, later. My mother is proud of her Southern heritage, and taught me that the KKK were a land-owners and gentleman's club that was the equivalent of the neighborhood watch (which is only remotely correct, while missing the point, if you're a white, upper to middle class neighborhood member who complies in all ways to the neighborhood expectations.) My grandmother, who was one of the only relatives to ever want to see my brother and I, sat me down at 16 and told me that all black people were descended from monkeys (based on that whole skull argument), something she had learned in the highest level of education she had received, high school. Take for granted that I know most, if not all, of the Southern racial slurs from that period, 'genteel' or vulgar, that can be applied to black people. Also take for granted the dating talk that I wonder how many people also received about what I will and will not be breeding or associating with.

Even writing this, I feel both saddened and small, in the sense that I feel stupid, petty and unworthy. However, no matter how I do or do not feel, if I am anything moral, I am compelled to try and be less of an asshole. I hope that the buck, family wise, stops here.

Discrimination is an odd beast. It is my observation that people who do not suffer it frequently do not care because they do not see it. This means that the reason I care about this should be articulated. I expect that this post will be troublesome. If you are reading and you know what I'm doing wrong, please (if you want to), tell me. I will go out on a limb and say that the reason I care is that I see something similar between myself and the people who have been the target of the family ire. These are the ways: I have been snubbed and I can only imagine how much more that snubbing is for a person of color. My family rejects me and I them, so I have been motivated to examine the things they have taught me. I am, to some degree, queer, and having been exposed to things like a waitress refusing to serve me when I was cross dressed and out with a girl, men I've worked with telling me that good dick would convert me or being angry that I looked at the same girl they did/bugging me about watching, stares and name-calling based on my appearance or the 'unnaturally masculine' quality of my actions. I have been summarily shut out of churches and bible studies because women should be silent and meek and kicked out of my daughter's principle's office because I objected to her calling the police (my bumper stickers made the other parents uncomfortable. She told them the occupant of the car was a peeping perv. For some reason I objected to that, can't imagine why.) I have seen people lock their car doors and shying away/keeping the kids away from me as I passed in my punk days, also when I was homeless.

How much more, then, for people of color? I am white, female and relatively good looking. I do not carry my non-conformity in the very shade of my skin. In fact, my skin makes things a little easier for me. How much more of this behavior would I get were I black and female, Hispanic and female, Japanese and female, Chinese and female, Filipina, Latina, Chicana, anything else? How can I stop myself from letting something slip out of my lips that makes things that much worse? How can I stop the flow of assumptions, sometimes assumptions I do not even catch until later, from making someone else feel invisible? I think if I can be aware of myself, I will be that much more effective stopping it outside myself.

The quick answer is merciless self-examination. It's difficult at best to examine yourself in a merciless fashion. I know it's impossible to search yourself in an objective way, but my job, as I see it, is to get as close as I can and not slack. I must know myself, must get to the rotten root of every assumption I make in the hope that I will get better and be fair to the people around me.

I have to do something about it, as well. To some degree, because I am a writer, I must write about the process. I hope, if I have something productive to say about the process, that I will offer a way to see things to other white women. Who knows?

I began, as I think a lot of white girls do, by trying to date across race lines, which only turned out poorly, because it's equally as unfair to make someone 'the token date' as it is to refuse to talk to them or to call them names because of their race. Dating someone does not make you challenge your assumptions. Sometimes it makes you quite complacent in them. (As in, 'see, here's proof that I'm okay. I'm one of the good guys. Love me!' As in objectifying, yet again, another human being.)

I think I have to talk about it, to find a community willing to put up with my shit or to read things that challenge me. In other words, to be active about being less of a racist. It is very important, I think, to challenge myself or be challenged on the subject; it makes me think. I am deeply sorry to any community I have troubled in the process and any community I continue to trouble. I hope I earn (as in I hope that I keep trying in ways that are legitimately fruitful so that I'm not acting like I've already got there just because someone takes pity on me) some forbearance or are granted some out of the good of someone's heart. It's likely to be the good of someone's heart. Often. Not that it means I should stop trying.

I think I have to challenge people, as well. Not because I'm enlightened or some shit like that, but because the process requires someone to say 'none of that shit, here.' This is the single most problematic thing to do, for me. The humor I have been instructed to react in is deeply racist, sexist and otherwise problematic. Despite knowing this, my first reaction is still to laugh. Yes, I'm definitely not enlightened. The only thing I can think to do about that is to examine what I'm really laughing at and to tell people what the assumption the punch line is based on. I'm sure this is why I'm occasionally thought to be humorless, which is funny, because I laugh a lot, mostly laugh at myself. I'm sure this is self-absorbed navel-gazing (a theme, here; me, me, me) in nature, but I know laughing at myself is less likely to cause trouble.

Challenging people is also difficult for me because I fear being wrong. This will seem funny if you've read my other posts, but this is the single area I'm timid in, because I just know I'm getting it wrong but I'm not always sure how. I hate not knowing. This should not stop me, but it occasionally does. You'd think I'd be used to my foot in my mouth, and I can shrug it off on most things, but I am so very complicit here that I'm afraid to speak. I fucking well am going to talk anyway when something flies by that I recognize, because if I am wrong, at least the subject is not invisible around me and maybe someone will call my shit to the carpet. (To anyone who has ever called my shit to the carpet, thank you for bothering and I am striving to be more graceful about the process.)

Thank you for reading this far on what is quite likely a troublesome post. I think that's it for now, though I hold the hope that I will be that much less evil next week, next month, next year. I don't think I'll ever be 'perfect', because the insidious nature of racism is such that it must be combated every day of my life, or I will fall back into it, because the racism I recognize is designed to appeal to me. I benefit from it, after all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

20 things I've done to make my life a little saner

1. given in to the siren call of used bookstores. 3 books for $10? *has warm glow*

2. refuse to step on scales. don't have any anymore, don't want any.

3. watch/do at least one thing a day that I think is funny.

4. remind myself how far I've come.

5. practice being honest about my feelings.

6. have a daily cup of coffee, too sweet and milky. coffee is comfort food.

7. treat myself to a good beer. A little good beer is comfort food, too.

8. read something I've written that I'm proud of and edit it.

9. sex or a good wank. Seriously.

10. dance around, singing loud, mood appropriate songs. There are times when only Ice Cube will do.

11. work out while watching a good movie. Nothing special, just a little sweat.

12. shop at thrift stores, not new stores. I fit better in older, broken-in clothes and I like them better. I actually found an old black happi coat a few months ago.

13. talk to someone who I think understands me.

14. when necessary, flame a sexist. It's oddly soothing to get to do something decisive that I feel is clearly motivated and necessary. Goal!

15. write about my feelings.

16. build my dream castles. I like to justify this by calling it planning, but sometimes it's good to just imagine decorating the castle I'll never own outside my imagination.

17. tell someone a story, sometimes a funny one. If I can make someone laugh, I usually feel better.

18. practice one random act of being kind (holding the door open for someone, buying someone lunch, etc.)

19. play games. Live games are fine, video games are fine, something that's distracting and competitive is very stress relieving.

20. read. Terry Pratchett is always good for a smile.

I forgot to mention it

in the previous post, but the 'you need a man to do for ya' meme is the cleaner cut cousin of the 'if you were getting laid better, you would a nicer woman.' I'll resist the urge to discuss my sex life in detail here and say that I get out just fine on a regular basis and while it does relax me, it has never made me want to buy pearls and a frilly apron. I'm no good at nice, though I occasionally manage polite.

What I will say is that it is another example of the trapping women experience when they buck any system. If you make anyone uncomfortable, it's because there's something deficient about you.

Oddly enough, it quickly becomes a discussion, explicit or implicit, of whether or not you've had recent, quality penis.

When the meme is implicit and I recognize it, I try to defuse it with pointing out that competencies are not penis based, other than peeing standing up. I've had the practice, but I'm not quite as good at aiming as I'd like to think most guys are (although, having cleaned work restrooms, I'm not so sure.)

When the meme is explicit, I amuse myself by telling the speaker I do, indeed, have penis at home. Several, in fact, with a matching halter that I can remove when I don't want to deal with having something awkwardly hanging off me. I have no inherent problem with penii, they can be quite fun, I just think that if the penis is supposed to fix things, I should get to draw the speaker's attention to the drawbacks thereof.

Sometimes I twitch my foot when I'm talking about it.

bitter women and academia

This last semester I took a class on 19th century women's lit. It was late in the evening, and I am fond of the professor for being an old roue and for sharing my aversion to daylight.

We were collectively talking about the Awakening, I believe, and the punishment that the novel's author extends to a female character for the desire she experiences but does not control. I forget how it came up, but one of the women in class made an off-hand remark about men, shrugged at the professor's discomfort, and attributed it to her divorce. The student in question is not my favorite person by any means, but I felt compelled to agree with the point, that Edna's character bears a disproportionate quantity of the responsibility for her sexuality in a highly negative way. And since I've been divorced, perhaps we could blame that, too.

I was not the only woman to chime in. I cracked a joke about interpretation.

The professor blinked, looked at me and said that there were an awful lot of bitter women in the room. I told him we should have a party.

We're such bitter bitches, you know?

The first student said she'd bring her papers. The woman in the back said she'd bring her hospital records. I decided not to say what popped into my head.

I'll bring my daughter's rape kit.

If there's anything I will never forgive, it'll be whomever the hell told everyone about it, just after I got into the department here. One of my professors, whom I had never met before at that point, gave her condolences to me in front of four people at the beginning of the semester party, who all (of course) wanted to discuss it and give their condolences, too. Because what I wanted after making it into college here was to discuss my ex-husband and that legal case. I tried to shrug it off because of the crowd involved, but I seriously thought about kicking her ass and working my way up the food chain.

In any case, back to the bitter bitches.

It was a little community building to hear that many women in the program with nasty divorces or experiences behind them. After all, academia is one of the places we're all supposed to default to being men who, you know, never bring their lives into the classroom with them and always have the impartial view. Emotions have no place in the playground of the mind, you know? Yes, well, I never came to class shell-shocked from being questioned by a detective or, in one case, after being there for my daughter's molestation exam, after trying for the umpteenth million time to figure out where I went wrong or endlessly prank-called all night by my ex's brothers and friends (yes, I turned the phone off after a few times.) Never.

And you know what? I chose to write about it, too. Might as well, since it was apparently already public knowledge. Moreover, there's bound to be some other woman out there with the same problems. That went over well. I'm soooo bitter, sooooo messed up for bringing something like that into the classroom space. I should be writing about something a little less problematic. Of course, I don't have anything else to write about right now, so I guess I should stop writing.

We're encouraged, as nasty, bitter women, to be solitary creatures, ruined for normal relationships and told we are the perpetual crows on the edges of the gender battlefields. There are certainly times when I feel as if that were true. I feel like some kind of carrion eating scavenger or someone carrying a battle axe. Of course, I get to forget it sometimes, too. I can only conclude from the sheer volume of women in the room who, just for a second, acknowledged nasty divorces, that we are well represented in academia. Possibly because, as the meme goes, if you don't have a man to do for ya....


I know it's the you-aren't-complete-without-one bullshit. Unfortunately, it gets cited as if it is the only cause for going to college. When you don't have a partner but do have an obligation to provide, you have to do something with yourself that has a reasonable expectation of increasing that ability so that you can get by on your own, irrespective of men, women and wtf-ever. Or you could be going for yourself. Whichever.

That 'if there's no man to do for ya' meme has a very powerful effect on our culture, and I often find myself wondering how my fellow 'bitter bitches' approach the accrual of social and (hopefully) earning power that is getting a degree. In my impression of the academic experience, we have to face the meme. If we speak up, it's because we're bitter or we think we're macho. (I may never stop thinking about that incident. I kicked him out of bed after that statement and the talk that followed, but was polite enough to offer him coffee, since we had both just been stinking drunk/hungover. He declined and gtfo. I'm crazy, you know.) One of the guys I know told me that the MFA program I had just gotten into was one more step on the way to my becoming a (crazy) cat lady. I told him I thought my cat was better company than most of the men I've dated.

The funny thing there is that I know the relationships between men and women do not have to be antagonistic, not that I've ever seen it (I've got hopes for this one), but he didn't. We both laughed for different reasons.

Ha, ha, ha.

Part of the MFA comps here is the articulation of why you chose to go to college and what you think you'll be doing there in the first place/have done (both in the entrance letter and in the comps.) I get the impression, coming into the process, that I'm not supposed to say things like, 'because I have obligations to provide for my children, because I want to be economically independent, because this is a socially viable proof that my relatives were wrong about where women belong, because I have things I want to share and because this appeals to me.' It'd be okay if it was all about my brains, which is certainly a part of it, but there are other concerns. I think the assumption here goes that lucre is dirty and proof (I conjecture on the discussions I've been involved in or overheard in classes) that women just don't understand the (pure) purpose of academia.

Maybe I'm a silly, bitter bitch, but I think I can have both the brains and the money. And I am damn well going to write about what I have to write about without apologizing that I make reviewers nervous.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

give anyone enough slack and they'll probably

hang themselves, but you knew that.

The thing about being conditioned to think a certain way is that the earlier and more you were conditioned, the harder it is to uproot those roots (because they're fucking everywhere.)

Sexism is one of those things, for me. I have said in earlier posts that I was taught to be a good little girl. Let's be blunt. I was taught that I was destined to be property, and that the only way to be right and therefore enjoy the protection of my family and society was to shut my yap, pretend to be dumb, and find a good, godly man to manipulate (a message I always thought was oddly contradictory.) When I turned eighteen, my parents took me to church with them so that they could try to find someone to give me to and therefore negate any remaining responsibility to me by handing me off, not that they thought any man was dumb enough to have me. Yes, they told me so. I was a single mother by then.

Any other path and it was within my family's rights and privileges to abandon me and in the privileges of men to beat or rape me to make their point. Yes, this was explicit as well as implicit, though I doubt my mother remembers telling me it. She tends to forget all the relationship advice she gave me, growing up.

Only good little girls get the protection of society, and only pretty little girls who are also good get love. I had a fine, Southern education in that sense. It is my perception that there is great implied violence in the Southern and sexist way of life.

Smile and look pretty, or else.

It has been a long, hard road out of it, and I'm not done yet. By the time I hit puberty, I wanted to be a man so bad I could taste it. I figured that if I had a cock, at least I had a fighting chance. I wanted out of my targeted skin. It has taken me until only about five years ago and two female children to really begin to get comfortable in my shape, which I had spent my entire childhood learning was useless for anything but manipulation and being on the bottom, something that forced my personality against biology, as I understood it. My last girlfriend, for whom I cross-dressed, said I was the most neatly divided person she'd ever dated, nearly perfectly male and female but not androgynous. Put me in male clothes, give me a goatee and I swagger, she said. Put me in a skirt and I sway.

All this means is that I am uber-sensitive to sexism, though it has taken me forever to try and not win by being the biggest pig. Unfortunately for me, I get pigs.

Feminism has been a difficult discipline for me to accept. I am susceptible, for many of the reasons listed above and more, to a separatist doctrine, though I strive to be fair. I am equally susceptible to the more insidious brands of misogyny, which I will uproot in myself if it's the last fucking thing I do.

I tend to specifically buy the idea that you must viciously compete to get ahead, and that a macho type toughness is a necessary component of success. I honestly cannot picture a world without that competition, nor a language unsteeped in violence and power dynamics. I buy the competition because I have seen the competition, not because I like all of it, though I do love a good argument.

I know anecdotal evidence is not considered strong evidence, a claim I'm going to bypass by simply saying that stuff happens all the time without there being a consensus on why it happened and what happened, so all I can give anyone is my impression, as faithfully as I can manage.

The classes on feminism that I have attended have, thus far, upheld the idea that the reform necessary to give women equal rights is a reform that would refuse to treat power, meaning that the question of power would no longer be one that individual or language have to deal with, which I call bullshit on. Both men and women are interested (and should be) in power and authority. There's nothing inherently masculine about power, just as there's nothing inherently feminine about nuturing. When I have asked or talked about competition, with a view toward reform, I was told that it was 'masculine' and faulty (which I have no beef with; the system we love under is demonstrably designed to fuck women over and therefore faulty) and that I'm obviously no feminist, since I'm even questioning this precept, which enrages me.

Intellectually, I know that insisting that women out-man the men is both cruel to women (having been in several situations to compete with macho men, I know how horribly draining it is to have to try and be perfect while under fire, albeit perfectly whatever the competition is rooted in) and only perpetuates the system of sexism. When set up overwhelmingly to fail, women 'fail' (frequently in a fractional way or because the rules have been changed) and then confirm the stereotype the man who set up the competition was seeking to confirm. I also know that women cannot remain in that environment without taking severe personal damage, not because they're weak, but because there is nothing that unites a group of men better than having a clear enemy, which a woman who is willing to compete embodies.

Emotionally, I find the idea of 'you earn your way' attractive, even when I recognize the fallacy in it (the competition is rigged), because I have worked so damn hard getting anywhere, and to insist that the work I have done is suspect because it is not the right kind or because of the admittedly macho underpinning of it makes me feel kinda invalidated. I expect it from men. They don't have any reason to care and don't tend to have any understanding of the things they're engaged in. (Condescending, but I except more out of women because they are the target of so many messages about inferiority and are better positioned to intrinsically understand the vicious nature of it.) Yeah, the system is rigged. Yeah, I have some issues there. None of this has stopped me from stepping into domestic disputes because the cops didn't show/showed an hour later, from shielding women at work, from volunteering to watch people's kids and from jumping the fuck down some guy's throat for being a pig. I am a thorough jumper of throats, but not usually an unethical one. And let's not even talk here about working on the self or what I have gone through to openly write about sexism.

I am really, really uncomfortable with the idea that women don't have to compete, because I think they compete with one another even when there's no men present to 'arbitrate' the competition by being the standard to which we are societally encouraged to apply. As such, Hillary pushes my buttons. Not just because she is the target of the same kind of vicious smear campaigns I know by heart, but also because she seems to know that competition is shitty, but it is the nature of the beast and must be dealt with (sometimes by being a bigger bitch than the next guy; by being more decisive, faster on the draw, first to take advantage of a misstep and last to leave the field. All these qualities only leave you open to more cruelty, but then, women never get out of anything intact.) To some degree, I understand her change of mind on Iraq and the war, though I deplore it and on health care, though it makes me want to give her a good shake.

Come on, Hill, you know better.

I think that if she won, in general, we might see her doing things that we like, because sometimes women have to do an end-run to get there and change things from the top. Bush has gone about proving you can do so for nearly eight years now. I've done some managing of men, and they insist you be the biggest fucking dog in the room to get there. If you want to change anything, you have to outmaneuver everyone getting there and ram it down their throats, not because you're one of them, but because they won't take a carrot from you. That might mean they liked where they were, and the apparent man union rules prohibit such.

Who knows, I may have just hung myself. I think I gave myself enough rope.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

trying very hard not to sing in the rain

Immediately after the birth of my son, I had the surgeons perform a tubal, something I've been begging MDs to allow since I was 21. I asked repeatedly for a long time and was turned down because 'I'd have regretted it.' Looking at my son, I'm glad he's here, but being condescended to by ObGyns in terms of reproductive choices for years was not pleasant.

In any case, I went back in a few months later to get the final test results on the bits they pulled out. I am the only person I've ever met who had their tubes cut out and showed to them (see what happens when they dope you sideways? you ask to see strange things). The tests concluded that yes, I am sterilized.

It was all I could do not to go singing out of the hospital. I did, however, skip all the way to the parking garage grinning like a fool, bemused boyfriend in tow. The final I attended that evening was greatly ameliorated by the fact that I'd been to the vet to get tutored (sorry, old joke about the difference between dogs and cats.) Riding back in the car, I tried to explain my glee, which struck the boyfriend as a little ghoulish. I was rocking back and forward, punching the air and singing, 'I can't get pregnant any more, w00t!' I seriously contemplated sticking my head out the window to sing it at passing cars.

I suppose, if I had to break it down, it was the removal of the fear. Staring at a pregnancy test is a benchmark in every sexually active woman's life, along with the resulting panic and prayer (even if it's just a generalized 'please, no.') Even women who are married and not averse to being pregnant are not necessarily thrilled with the idea. Pacing the bathroom, crying, nausea, bargaining with god, the devil or whomever shows up; I'm free, goddamn it. I'll never have to see the lines again, never have to go through my body changing and the looks I get or the rearranging of my whole life because I cannot be sure that I'll get any help, should I chose to have the baby. I've been married, (ick) church-going and had a full time job and not received any support from my youngest daughter's father, to whom I was married, because babies weren't his problem.

Isn't the conservative, religious promise that if you're a very good girl, they'll stop punishing you by refusing to help? If you do everything you're supposed to, then you could earn the help of your partner, who doesn't have to help you unless you're behaving. I was taught that and a pretty face were insurance that you would be treated well.

My mother wonders why I ran screaming from the house as soon as I could and continue to be such a troublesome woman. Before anyone gets snarky, I'm told I've got a nice enough face and a relatively trim figure. Now if I would only get a girdle and a skirt, I could be putting ground glass into meatloaf and drinking daily in as little as a week.

In my experience, men are neither obliged nor likely to help with the children they father. Not having to worry again, to watch a child perform first steps, first words, alone because her father, in the other room, was too busy amusing himself to bother to care; all these things are off my future plate.

My oldest child's father actually brought a picture of his 'real family' to the hearing in which he surrendered all his parental rights and showed it to her. I don't give a shit whether or not he felt trapped by the pregnancy. Since he never spent any time with her, his feelings on the subject are moot.

The boy's father, whom I love hoping that he'll behave but am never sure of, thanks to experience, either will or will not comply. Either way, after my son grows up, never again. I'm not sure I could take the loneliness again. I've never had a more lonely moment than trying to beg my youngest daughter's father to care that she was taking her first steps. He told me not to bother him unless she said daddy and was very angry that her first word was mommy.

The burden just is not the same for men as women. Even after all the deadbeat dad legislation and commercial campaigns on responsibility, men still do not have to be there or give a shit. I think that we, as a nation, have come to expect men to do little.

Look at how hard we applaud men for doing a portion of what the child's mother does every fucking day (and works, too.)

Later that night, I lay awake for awhile thinking about my new sterility, still ecstatic from the knowledge that I'd never have to see a pregnancy test again. It's not just the ability to have sex anytime, anywhere (w00t), without the specter of pregnancy. It's not just being exempt from the long, lonely process of watching the child grow and watching society (which has changed considerably in the thirty years I've been around) still snub the children of single mothers and the single mothers for 'not being good enough to keep their man/relationship,' which I am still hearing about.

It's not being utterly beholden to that system of oppression. I'm out, goddamn it. No one can drag me back into that fear and grief, into the discomfort and risk of pregnancy. I'm done.

My body is mine and will stay mine until I fucking well die.

Monday, January 7, 2008

sHuckabee's gob factor

sHuckabee (aw, shucks, guys) has a certain kind of appeal. Sort of. Because of his gob, both the gob he can't seem to shut (it's like watching a wreck; you know you shouldn't look for parts on the road, but you do anyway) and his 'good old boy' factor. I am not terribly surprised by his appeal, not necessarily because of his theology degree (which has the appeal, to me, of roadkill sushi), but because of his use of the common folks approach.

I have *pokes index finger into air* a theory: the influx of technology is creating a divided population, polarized at a basic level by the desire to retain a certain kind of privacy and simplicity and the ability to commit certain kinds of abstractions. The conversion of things like record keeping, literacy and communication to primarily digital forms changes the parameters for privacy and literacy such that acts of communication are increasingly nuanced and multipartite. Communication comes, of necessity, across different cultures (and therefore styles of interpretation) and multiple channels in terms of method (auditory, word and image), requiring digital communicators to be technological generalists to be effective. Digital communication requires communicators who are a little graphic designer, a little artist, a little writer, fairly well-read and at least marginally witty. Formal styles of discourse, legacy of paper literacy, were originally intended to bridge the gap between cultures (and attempt to compensate for unintended gaffs) are neither efficient in terms of net communication (though appreciated, if anyone feels like commenting) nor adapted to net and digital culture. For starters, formal styles are a bit... wordy.

And it uses language, now that we can rub cultures across the planet, that is associated with enforcing status quo, which is why it tends to make certain groups of people more comfortable than others.

Privacy is utterly changed in a digital environment. Since computers are being used to store personal information, they are basically collections of everything from thoughts to social security numbers and bank passwords. This condensation of information only makes people nervous (no one likes to be reminded they can be broken down into a pile of data), and since very few people can afford to either have a separate computer for storage, not be online or do all their personal business in person, a problem in a period where the local customer service is being outsourced overseas, this creates a situation in which anonymity is difficult at best and reserved for specialists or people who can afford their services. I know enough to run several anonymizers, when I like, but I am not convinced that my knowledge is complete or common.

These kinds of factors create the generalized anxiety that gob appeal is so attractive to, in a population that feels outstripped, generally manipulated and longs for a feeling of competency. Of course, the rosy past they're pining for doesn't really exist (life has never been a terribly simple place), and staking your desire to be competent on an imaginary time that you need to get back to has the rosy effect of making you feel more competent by proxy (you'd have really fit in, back then; any inability to cope with now is not your fault, you were born in the wrong time) and creating tremendous apathy and easily diverted motivation; what can you do to change your anxiety can very quickly become a sort of generalized fondness for 'stand-up' guys who promise to simplify things.

*cough* Bush *cough*

I find myself not so much surprised as much as a little annoyed and somewhat resigned by the fact that sHuckabee got the Iowa primary and the amount of momentum he seems to be currently enjoying. After Bush's manipulation of the gob (and god) factor, with resulting fall out, you'd think some of these voters would think back on that campaign and be wary of the gob approach, but the pervasive intrusion of technology creates a constant, low level buzz of anxiety to be taken advantage of by those kinds of appeals. (As well as the 9/11, terrorist-- pronounced tourist-- appeals, which are beginning, thank god, to wear thin.)

I suppose that the history of politics is as much the history of fear as it is of the decisions groups of people make (a few at a time or many.) And the gob factor here is completely a fear based argument. Because of that, when I go to analyze politics, even the politics of (I lurve you!) Kucinich, which are remarkably free, rhetoric wise, of the kinds of fear I see in some of the other campaigns, I still look first for the fear. I think this is sadly becoming a very valid way to examine the political system here in the US; sad because it is not a productive kind of fear. Gob factor appeal is not based on long term planning, it's based on reductive and dangerously exclusive thinking. Productive appeals to fear have a much stronger emphasis on the future.

To make all this a little funnier, my ultra-conservative mother just dropped by. Unable to resist the siren call of someone else's writing, she read the first few paragraphs, then stopped to remind me that the thyroid problems running in my father's side of the family cause disordered thoughts and the prescription for it was really cheap, ahem. I mean, criticizing sHuckabee means my thoughts are obviously disordered.

one piece of paper and $45,000 in debt later

If everything goes according to plan (dear whomever the hell is up there, please let me get it the hell over with), I will be expelled from school clutching an embossed, overpriced piece of paper this fall. I have hated a good two-thirds of the graduate school experience, so I'm thrilled senseless to get the fuck out of there, but as soon as I gtfo, I have a problem.

What am I going to do with myself?

Obviously, get a real job. With some kind of suit. I hear, to the limited extent I discuss this with people, that the feeling of utter inadequacy is common to graduates.

I am not entirely sure I am grown-up enough to feel comfy in a monkey suit, behaving myself and otherwise acting the normie. *hyperventilates into paper sack* Actually, I shouldn't sweat the normie bits; there is no monkey suit on the planet capable of fooling a selection committee into thinking that I would make a bland member of a working team. I'm doing good to tone it down enough to hold a conversation and only minimally make the person I'm talking to uncomfortable. I've been joking with people for years that what I really need to do for a living is clear rooms. Seriously, I can clear a room in thirty seconds. With a joke. It has been hell not bursting into dead baby jokes when I'm nervous on campus. And not aiming random innuendo at people has been murder. I tend to default to innuendo when I'm feeling paranoid, since it does such an excellent job of deflecting attention.

The professional jobs available to me tend to fall into the 'enforcing the standardization of creativity' or 'enabling bad writing' categories, both of which I can do but am uncomfortable with some of the ramifications of. There is a difference between helping hone the writing and passing really bad writing because you are not authorized to change anything but the grammar, constrained by the author's need to RanDomlY cApitAliZe or italicize for emotional effect and your own need to get paid for your work, or ending up telling people what to write. I would like to think that I can fix most of those concerns with diligence, but my experiences thus far in both the world of publishing and teaching have been troublesome. As an editor, I dislike being authorized to only address things like capitalization (I'd prefer global editing, but you have to do an awful lot of copy editing first), and I cannot work the newspaper hours anymore (I have done both editing and production, which tended to be late night/early morning until it is finished. I miss the clear short-term deadlines, though.) Workshops are good, if nothing else, for learning to tolerate all kinds of different writing, so I can tolerate much in terms of subject matter (though there are a few subjects I am short as hell on, whether I mean to be or not.)

My dissertation director will tactfully tell me, when the subject comes up, that I do not suffer fools lightly, nor well. I spend a lot of time biting the inside of my cheeks and I still manage to have something to say, even if just in tone.

In terms of regulating creativity, I think there is a fine line between helping and treating your students like idiots if they disagree with you. I wonder about that, about my ability to be more graceful. I have tutored everything from kids in elementary reading at least two grade levels under their own to some of the immigrants I've worked with who could not afford English courses. Up until the last year of teaching single lessons in graduate school, I would have said I did alright. At least the feedback I've had from the people I've tutored/creative writing workshops I've put together suggests that I do well.

My fellow students do not think so.

I am split on the subject. On the one hand, I am less concerned with students who can afford to go to grad school than I am students who are struggling to go to compulsory school or are too poor to afford an education. Because of this, I don't do the things I would for a community class, where I assume that anyone I'm helping has limited access to the information I have or no access. I assume that graduate students both have access to the same kinds of information and are willing to think about it, and it angers me when they refuse to think about it or to do the reading. I have left classes shaking with rage because I bothered to do all the readings and write the papers and came eager to discuss the subject and sat in a class where no one talked but the professor, who begged the silent students to respond. (I did not get into school because it was easy or even expected of me. Quite the opposite, in my case.)

rant/ It's a fucking privilege to get to go to grad school and one that's costing me, at least, out the fucking nose. There are any number of people who cannot afford to go, whom no one expects to succeed at anything or who have been habitually instructed that they are not the right type for that education. Anyone (and there are many such anyones) who drifts into grad school should go get a life, instead. /rant

On the other hand, and I think this is true anywhere, you have to wonder, when you have chronic problems, what you've been doing wrong. I've concluded that I have an attitude problem.

Bet you're not surprised, if you've read more than one post.

I would like to teach, specifically high risk populations, because the level of education offered in poor urban or rural neighborhoods, or to severely abused children is demonstrably deficient. I'm not going to bother to cite. This is easy to verify with Google. I think I am uniquely situated to understand the everyday needs of those populations. The question, as I am currently able to articulate it, is whether or not my... strong personality will allow me to take jobs with that kind of structure. I have to figure something out. I have people to support.

The jury is still out.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

things I should have thought more about before I said them # 2,456

This is a tough one. The last girlfriend I had was, among other things, performing sex acts for money with men. Because I have the background that I have with prostitution and with sex work in general, I really thought I'd be okay with it.

So I volunteered to run the cameras and to provide supervision as the domme. I still have the CDs, in fact.

It turns out I either have a hidden puritanical streak or there was something in the relationship I still haven't processed well enough, because it bothered me. We went, on a road trip, to LA to film porn (and being on the set of even a small porn production is an interesting experience) and it bothered me less than watching her perform sex acts in a small setting, even though I liked the guy. (He was the single most respectful john I've ever met.) There was something about watching her scream (even though I knew she was more performing than enjoying, though she did make him adjust to engender a better time for her. I knew that the arched back and the noise, the moaning and the way she smiled were all services, and the extent that she enjoyed them was deeply mitigated by the fact that, while they had known each other for five years, they had a financial relationship that could not, no matter how friendly, help but commodify to some degree, even though the the conditions were as good as they could have gotten and I understood them, there was some part of me that was troubled by what I was seeing.

I have issues, in a general sense, with my own queerness, which did not help. As much as I love relationships with women (and apparently over half my best friends growing up did too; damn it, I could have been getting laid for a long time back with women who I cared deeply for), the fact that it is an intensely dangerous experience troubles me. We do not live in a culture that allows lesbianity without some cost; it attracts attention to love the woman you love, and that attention can be lethal when it is not belittling, exploitative or abusive.

Add being a professional domme, going to men's hotel rooms with a giant duffel of sex toys dressed to the sinister nines, and you have a recipe for my paranoia going off like a demolition derby with police cars.

I began to wonder if she always remembered to put our personal toys elsewhere, to wonder if she ever thought of me while she was doing what she was doing, or of them when we slept together. The body remembers, as I know very, very well. The separation between what is a transaction and what is an exchange is a fine line. And I'm enough of a putz to wonder if she was faking it for me.

Yes, I'm a putz. I know I'm a putz.

I don't think I was ready to see her do that. I don't think I was ready to have our relationship be the subject of porn (which it was. We did some photo shoots that would have curled your hair, dear reader.) But mostly, I could not shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen. Our profession, while the least physically invasive example of sex work I can think of (at least for me, but I am a sadist and prefer to beat and not to be beaten, and there was never enough money to make me fuck for it), is still a profession that receives less support and more degradation and punishment than any other profession I can think of. I have had a life which has rewarded my paranoia and viciousness with my continued survival. Every night we went out to a bar, or walked hand in hand, or entered a hotel lobby dressed like the sinister equivalent of a gangster and moll (I wore the suit), the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I was genuinely afraid for us.

Chalk it up to my damage, if you like.

But I should definitely have thought longer before volunteering to be the camera girl/domme for my own girlfriend. I have some serious trust issues, but I wanted her to be safe. She would find this condescending, I think, but you never know what the fuck is out there.

First unambigious sign right butt cheek.

The first post I wrote was on economics. I skated around the weakening of the dollar, wrote some on the purchasing power and the meaning of irresponsible outsourcing and speculated on the importance of the inflationary signs.

Now, according to Mark Meadows at Tempus Consulting in Washington, we have stagflation.

What the shit is stagflation, you ask? It's when an economist tries to conflate two very alarming terms in order to make them seem, you know, cutesy. Stagnation is the first word being combined, in this case, the stagnation of manufacturing and business growth (read 'down-sizing, ahoy!') and the inflation of cost. If you don't know what that means for you, the first post covers in detail the inflation I've been suffering, as a model. You also might think Great Depression. The cost of everything goes up, and earning power goes down. Since we have outsourced everything from food (let's not even talk about the safety issues when your food's been to more countries than you have, and not been inspected in any of them very closely); we've outsourced clothing, growing at a phenomenal rate. In 2005, the share of the Chinese in our manufacturing there grew 46% in the first five months of the year. I'm going to do everyone a favor and skip the lecture on oil.

I picked food and clothing for the very specific reason that you need both to live, even should you happen to be lucky enough to still own your house. (I'm not even going to rehash what I had to say about the credit bubble. I hope you can hear me grinding my teeth from where you're sitting.) Let's pretend that the US does begin doing more of its own manufacturing; the travel costs on the lifestyles we're living (look at the 'Made in' stickers on your stuff, the stuff that has it) are going to rise, in a classic inflationary move, and the cost will be deflected onto the consumer, 'cause the company sure as shit is not going to swallow the cost. So the cost of food will go up, as well as the cost of gas, causing the middle-class and lower to continue to tighten their belts and begin to give up on luxury activities like going to the movies, or out to eat. Some people are, of course, going to keep doing it until they lose their home or whatever they might be wagering on (bloody stupid stock market; gambling should not be the model for responsible economic growth, no matter how pretty it looks).

The service industry has already taken a hit with their holiday sales, so the idea that this is just going to hurt a little is as equally ironic now as it was the last time I sat for three hours getting my lower back tattooed over my kidneys. Remember, this is the hysterically profit-hungry environment that (and I'm sorry, but the BLS only has statistics for the first three quarters of 2004) laid off 1,079,148 workers due to outsourcing. Outsourcing is basically better profits somewhere else. Unfortunately, the survey is anonymous for the companies, or I'd be gleefully cursing at someone stupid, right now.

Here's where I put on my tin foil lined prognostication cap: What happens when the service industry gets hit heavily?

Well, layoffs. Of course, this is a projection, but it's a projection made on the idea that the service industry is staffed with jobs that are highly outsource-able, can be done by computer, are becoming obsolete with the rise of PC shopping and communication, and are classed as tertiary sector economics. Here's an interesting fact (the truth is up for debate.) Tertiary sector activities are sometimes considered wealth using, not producing, and as such, more liable for downsizing due to outsourcing. Of course, this is from Friedman, and as such is trash advice. Unfortunately, it's popular trash advice. David Friedman's father, Milton Friedman, is the father of the Chicago School of Economics. Read The Shock Doctrine and look at Katrina if you'd like to get a good feel for the economics that father-son duo advocate.

I guess the high unemployment rates will do us some good, but if the service industry starts experiencing unemployment, it turns an entire group of workers who both do not have other skills and are not being reasonably offered the chance to get those skills, creating a class whose shot at finding work is.... minimal, to say the least.

The manufacturing jobs from the original BBC article are Secondary sector jobs, which Friedman tends to class as wealth producing (because the goods produced are owned by a class that is situated to sell them and manipulate the money more directly.) The drop could be more, but the fact that investment managers (creative money re-distributors) have broken down to call it the first definitive sign of recession (or stagflation, or whatever the hell label meant to keep everyone spending away as long as possible) is indicative of a long winter, if you know what I mean.

My advice is the same here as it would be to my neighbors, cause we are some poor bastards: trade, hoard and create community. Because the poor are who saddles the blame and cost of these kinds of things.