Thursday, September 27, 2007


Let’s just cut through the chaff and the chatter and the bull. It’s scary to be a woman. It’s not any scarier than being anything else, but it’s still scary as hell. When you’re a woman, you’re told from the start that you are born with something that will make other people want to harm you or chase you or put you in their car or trap you in a room or put their bodies inside you when you don’t want them to. You’re told that this thing you are, whatever this is you have, means you have to be super careful. You can’t bring the wrong kind of attention to yourself so you can’t be too loud, too friendly, too smart, too dumb, too happy, too sad, too pretty, too ugly, too fat, too hot, too … anything. The desire to act against you begins outside of you but somehow you’re in charge of deflecting it.

Being a woman is scary because you begin as a girl who knows that she’s prey.

Today in the lunchroom, a coworker said that they’d found Nailah Franklin’s body in the forest preserve in Calumet. A lump formed in my throat and my coworker’s eyes teared up. The lunchroom was silent while we thought about that beautiful woman’s last moments being at the hands of some fucking violent nutbag. Someone hunted her down and then killed her.

It’s a puzzle why this case should affect me when other missing woman cases haven’t quite. Maybe because it’s a Chicago woman; maybe because she’s black like me. Or was it that, by the black community’s standard of middle class success, she did everything right and I identified with her? Or that her family and friends seemed tight and loving and worried; or that Nailah looked like I could have worked with her or been to school with her or she could have been a friend. Whatever the reason, I felt this sad discovery keener than most.

I felt it because the discovery of this nude female’s body became an emblem of all the other nude female bodies found dumped in dense forest preserves across this country. Right now I’m feeling resigned sort of anger. Resigned because violence against women is a stamp of our DNA; it’s a sad recognition that, across all cultures, ideologies or nationalities, even if men stop making war against one another, they’ll always find time to kill or rape a woman.

Anger because my lizard brain wants to make some guy pay.

How can I explain what it’s like to live with the threat of violence against you?

· It’s like thinking, when you’ve had a particularly bad, nasty, bitter fight with your lover, you should be careful for the next few days just in case he shows up at your office and tries to throw gasoline on you and set you on fire.
· It’s like going on a date and deliberately writing down the guy’s name, phone number, address (which you’ve Googled) and his email address for your friends, just in case you disappear for a few days.
· It’s like being in the middle of making out and randomly thinking, if he tries anything I’ll smash his larynx. And then wondering if you really could.
· It’s like a reflex: when you get home, you turn completely around before opening your building’s door just to make sure a guy isn’t going to bash your head in and rape you in your foyer because all you can do is remember the Chicago woman who was raped and beaten 9 years ago exactly the same way, coming home from work in the middle of the afternoon in Wrigleyville.
· It’s like looking at my 7 year old niece and imagining everything that everyone is going to try and put on her narrow, innocent shoulders; how boys who think she’s pretty might get mad if she rejects them, how older boys and men might just look at her in ways that a grown man shouldn’t be looking at a girl and want to 'break her in', how she’ll be 'fresh meat' on a college campus, and wondering what the hell you can do, short of turning her into a ninja, that can prevent any of that from happening.
· It’s like looking at almost every guy and, though unfairly, expecting someone whose first recourse upon rejection will be to fuck. you. up.

It’s like turning into a soldier stationed in a hostile desert town seeing insurgents everywhere and feeling fucking pissed off because all you want is to fucking go home and not feel so beseiged like this anymore.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


in offices across the country, around holiday time, a ritual grinds into motion - that of pulling names from a hat and buying gifts that don't exceed $20 for people you sit with for 8 hours a day. Secret Santa.

well, today i started a new office tradition: ManSanta. with the idea that it's easier to pick a guy for someone else than for ourselves, we picked names out of a hat and vowed that we would, by christmas, find a guy for our person to have a holiday cocktail with.

the rules?
take it seriously, be thoughtful and really try to find a guy for the person you picked out of a hat.

let the ManSanta games begin.
try it in your office and let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

i wrote the letter to my high school self today.
(nothing like doing your homework at the last minute.)

it went something like this:
pluck your eyebrows; boys are dumb (just kidding); accept you're a dork; stop listening to dad.

see? all better.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

father, may i?

it's no secret that i have an 'issue' with authority: dads, pastors, cops, bosses, presidents, boyfriends, bus drivers. it's all one thing: Authority. seeing the world divided into sheep and masters, i guess i'd rather not be a willing sheep.
some people think differently. some people think being a sheep is really great.

amanda marcotte has a link to a post by some waay fundamentalist sisters about the dangers of sending your christian daughters to college. her fisking is sharp and funny.

then i read from those two sisters about maturity and the role of an adult daughter still living with her parents and i had to fight down bile:

The sign of maturity isn’t that we simply “obey” our parents’ commands, but that we understand deeply what our parents’ hearts and goals are, and can anticipate and even exceed what they expect of us. A mature, adult daughter who deserves her parents’ trust most certainly isn’t the one who says, “I’m not a child anymore, Dad! I’m an adult! I’m old enough to decide for myself when to get up, and it’s not something you have authority over anymore!” (Literally, “I’m mature enough to demand my own way, and throw a tantrum and threaten to run away if I don’t get it!”) But she also isn’t the one who says, “Ok, ok, Dad, I’ll get up when you tell me to.” The mature daughter is the one that takes the initiative and says, “Dad, what time would you like me to get up? I know that spending time with your family before you leave for work is important to you, and I love that about you… so how can I help make it happen?” This is one thing that makes us different from mindless automatons with no wills of our own (which some girls seem mortally afraid of becoming.)

why does this make me spew?

because this is exactly what makes a great executive assistant (which i was for a while before i came to my senses and got the hell out.) to be the ideal assistant you have to completely evacuate your own identity; your ways, needs, sensibilities and wants are completely replaced by the routines, habits, desires and enmities of your Executive. the line separating the two of you, if the relationship works out to the Executive's advantage, begins to disappear.

your day begins by asking yourself, 'what will upset Executive this morning and what can i do to make sure that it doesn't? what will make Executive happy and what can i do to facilitate more of that happiness? who is Executive going to fire today and how can i make sure that person isn't me?'

your day is filled with wondering what Executive will want for lunch, if Executive knows how to get to the airport, if Executive can find his/her way to baggage claim without step by step directions and whether Executive will have to stand in line longer than necessary once Executive gets to the hotel. you even ponder the possibility of traveling with Executive just to make sure everything gets done the way Executive wants it.

you will be consumed with wondering if Executive noticed how long your lunch break was, if Executive will buy you a birthday gift and if Executive will notice that you supported the whole team and made that presentation happen at 10 pm while the rest of the team went home and Executive went home to Executive's spouse. the idea of taking a day off scares you; what will happen to Executive if you're home or on vacation? how will Executive accomplish anything?

you will know details of the Executive's life only a partner or family member would know and you would order the world of the Executive to cater to those details: favorite foods, allergies, likes/dislikes, anniversary dates, birthdays, number of children, second home location, social security number, credit cards, taxes, personal finances. as ideal Assistant it's your job to care for these things just like they're your own.

while the Executive is proud of the fact that 'his Susan' or 'his Ali' or 'her Cathy' runs the Executive's life for them, they are also unaware of the seething resentment and anger that will slowly build in their assistant until it's bribed away. at least, if Susan, Ali or Cathy had any sense of self-preservation, they'd be filled with resentment and anger. if they know no better they will acquiesce and sink into a gray little nothing who doesn't exist unless they have an Executive to serve.

those of us who quit being an assistant did so because we hated every single frakking minute of it; being subservient was foreign to our sense of identity and purpose. whenever we interviewed with other firms we were forced to say, honestly, 'i don't do deference very well.'

the sisters have an odd way of defining 'independence.' though they say that the virtuous daughter asks her Executive - uh, Father - what his wishes would be for her, the end result is that she obeys. the virtuous daughter's will is entirely subject to that of her patriarch. in history, we'd call that kind of social organization a fiefdom.

and that's what these two sisters are advocating: deference. service. servility. servant.

who would groom another human being to glory in that kind of personal abnegation?
and why would you say that it's what God wants?

Friday, September 14, 2007

agatha has returned: again, i share too much

technically, my fibroid has never gone away. i just liked the idea of ignoring it while pretending my low hemoglobin levels made everything a-ok. i also liked taking these neat birth control pills that would only allow me to ovulate 4 times a year. i had visions of uninterrupted sexual discourse. silly goose.

doctor's office called and now my entire holiday season (aka, the sexiest season of the year) will be a nightmare of stitches, cramps, pain medication and, uh, limited naked social interaction.

mark it, people. november 13. extraction day.

doctor's office also determined that whatever weird, thick, gloopy, bright red viscous-y period i'm on now is dangerous to my health and must be stopped, RIGHT NOW, like an Al-Qaeda operative on the lam. so they're going to give me something that will make my entire reproductive system shut down completely.

i wouldn't be so icked out if i didn't suspect that the forthcoming 'menopausal side effects' are going to make me completely insane:

hot flashes and night sweats
emotional changes such as mood swings or a change in sexual interest
sleep disturbances (insomnia)
drier skin and hair
increased growth of facial and body hair
aches and pains in the joints
palpitations (rapid, irregular heart beats)
generalised itching
vaginal changes – dryness, pain during intercourse, increased risk of infections
urinary symptoms – inability to control urination (incontinence), increased frequency of urinary infections
i'm basically going to transform into my dead, crazy mother, circa 1992, for the next two months. frakking fuck!

the west virginia attack: more commentary on the blogs

Black Woman Attacked, Sexually Assaulted, and Held Captive in West Virginia : Rachel’s Tavern

i'm going to keep an eye on this story because it is so very gross and heinous and i think it's a bizarre mark of something happening in our country.

i mentioned this story to a bunch of coworkers (and we're all progressive and feminist) and played up the whole Deliverance thing to make it a little more palatable for after-work drinks, but i think there is more to this than simple disgust with the South's Otherness.

i'll try to write more about this over the weekend, when i'm not at work.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

is this man supposed to look like an oompa loompa?

yes, i've hit the proverbial 'work wall.'
am brain dead and must go home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

bitch talks shame and i share too much

Bitch Ph.D. had a fascinating thread about shame last week.
what things are Other People telling us to be ashamed of?
folks wrote about their abortions, their class conflicts, their secret envies, their bad habits, secret dreams, their lack of ambition, their overweening ambition. it was like eavesdropping on confessions.

so here's mine, in all their tawdry, shallowness - (some) things i really feel/want yet am ashamed to feel/want on some level because i think that I Oughtn't.

i should be ashamed of...

1. wanting to be hot. like super, duper, jennifer lopez HOT. (what feminist wants to be hot? i do.)
2. not being nurturing enough toward...others. (okay, everyone.)
3. being totally indifferent toward the welfare of children - like, when people say 'think of the children' i really really don't give a shit. not in some hipster ironic way. i really don't give a shit about kids.
4. not wanting to get an affordable condo in the southside of chicago because i know i would hate every second of living down there (and not really wanting my broke down aunt to know where i live.)
5. having no debt but still not being able to pass a credit check for an apartment.
6. being hyper competitive at work and wanting to WIN all the time.
7. REALLY wanting to be hot. like, make men drop in their tracks hot. if i had a fairy godmother, i'd ask to make me hot.
8. having a cleaning lady i write instructions to in spanish.
9. obsessing over things like Real Simple, Domino, Blueprint and Lucky mags and trolling for cute clothes online. i should be ashamed i'm a capitalist piglet!
10. secretly thinking of ways to be a progressive terrorist. (really. my mind goes there. 'if it was my personal mission to rid the world of anti-choicers, racists and misogynists how would i do it? hmmm.' you think i'm kidding but i'm not.)

i should tell my life coach about this exercise.

what the FRAK is this??

Woman tortured for at least a week, officials say -

stereotypes about the south aside (did you see the photos of the people arrested?), what the hell - ??!!

between the Jena 6 thing and this craziness, i'd say the south is experiencing a serious timewarp.

Update: a little more on the story here. it seems the folks who held her prisoner had more than one brush with the law. serious banjo-picking craziness, here.

and shakesville has a rather ranty post about it over here and someone wants to know why 'hate crime' and not 'act of terrorism'? (there's also a fleshed out baltimore article that you can find on shakesville, too.)

alas, a blog has a post on it here, too.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

so the coaching thing is in its third month. our last session was less than emotionally satisfying. in fact, if i had to put a word on it 'excruciating' would be exactly right.
revisiting the past is not good for me; not because there's Trauma, but because it's just...unproductive. who cares that i was a self-conscious dork in high school who hit the books hard rather than cultivate a spirit of openness and popularity? who cares that my emotional development seems to have hit the skids at about the same time that U2 played a concert on the roof of a building downtown?

(sidenote: my roommate and i have been avoiding more packing by watching season one of Dexter. more than once, she has whispered, 'if you turn out to be a serial killer, i will be really pissed off.' she has also taken to calling me Empty Vessel.

i'm not empty, i just react to things at a much lower frequency than other people...)

but my coach thinks it's something, so my homework assignment is to write a letter to my high school self. gack. just ... gack.

about not looking back to high school - there's nothing wrong with avoiding that period of one's life. unless you were at the top of the food chain, high school was fraught with fraughtness. every day was a social test: working in groups, lunch socializing, dances, school spirit days, presentations, performances. the only thing i liked doing was hanging out with my few friends, hanging out in the journalism room and listening to Monsy tell us about being a dyke in east la. (ok, and i liked to secretly compete with josh g. boys were either unrequited crushes or academic competition. they still are.) i liked going to class and being the dark horse that eventually skewed the curve; i liked being alone.

hm. no, i guess it's more accurate to say i accepted being alone.

anyway, my point is that i RESENT having to revisit a version of myself i've deliberately erased.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

aurora becoming new battlefield for reproductive health access

Groups join growing protest of Aurora Planned Parenthood clinic --

400 folks who like fetuses more than they like women to maybe 36 pro-choicers.
what's wrong with this picture?

why are there always more of them than there are of us?
is it because we don't have as much leisure time to cross state and county lines to hold a picket sign?
is it because we all have day jobs?


throw Planned Parenthood some support.
they need all the help they can get.

the bitch has spoken: how the hell do people do this??

Bitch Ph.D.

the lovely Bitch verbalizes my every fear. the frak am i going to pull my Generation X bullshit together when everything is SO very out of my reach?

my only hope is for a flaming meteorite to land on my father and pray that he hasn't signed everything over to his church ministry.

but thank you to Bitch for letting me know that i'm not the only one.

(oh, and the housing market on the west coast is outrageous. when my sister and bro in law decided to move from their duplex condo into a house, they spent over $650k for a tiny, post-war bungalow in mar vista, right under the flight path of the santa monica airport. it's a cute little house but my kitchen, my chicago apartment kitchen, is 3 times the size of theirs; they have two bedrooms and two kids; and for what they paid, they could have bought a penthouse condo in the middle of the city with enough left over to send one kid to peyton prep. or at least a very cute prairie style bungalow in oak park.)

but, really, how do people do this?

there's a couple in my office and they've been mooning about this fabulous condo they've seen. they're both in their early 20s and both of them are probably going to ask their parents for the downpayment. lucky them and their very liquid parents.

(yeah, i'm a little bitter.)

frak, man. the time to ask my parents for a downpayment loan was when dad was still working for the lapd and about to get a big promotion - back when i was in junior high, dude.