Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Top pick

I like to think of baby names in my spare time. I don't know why. But I thought of a gem today: Ophelia Amelia. You heard me. That's what I'm naming my baby girl in seven years. And when I'm angry, it will be impossible to call her both names without sounding completely stupid.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thoughts are hard

Which is why I began two blogposts since the last one and scrapped them midway through. But I'm feeling the need to write something. So I'm cheating and using a modified prompt from One Minute Writer. The prompt is to write about a memorable summer activity you enjoyed as a child, but I decided to reminisce about a summer activity that I did not enjoy. I know, I'm so subversive sometimes.

My mom had a loosely-enforced summertime rule regarding the wearing of innertubes, swimmies, and the like in the pool: You have to wear them until you pass swim lessons. I say "loosely-enforced" because, like most of her rules, I could generally whine and wheedle my way out of them (don't judge my mom. You don't know the piercing hell that was/is my tantrum voice). However, it would seem a rule such as this--one designed for safety--wouldn't be up for compromise. But, dear reader, let me tell you: Had she actually enforced it, I would have been wearing my red rubber innertube-swimsuit until I moved out of the house. I never learned to swim.

It's not that I'm afraid of water. On the contrary, I always look forward to pool excursions. It's that I am supremely unathletic. My body simply refuses to move the way it should. Water gets up my nose, no matter how hard I try to blow out underwater. Diving inevitably ends in bellyflops. A simple freestyle stroke turns to a doggie paddle, and a float always ends in a sink. As recently as last summer friends tried to get me to execute a successful float on my back. I was relaxed, head back, arms out, and my legs still refused to remain horizontal. I'm very dense, you see. I can't tread water in the same way that other people can, either. The only way I can stay afloat in one place is by kicking as fast as I can like I'm riding a unicycle, while simulataneously sweeping my arms. If I try to do it slowly, the sea eats me.

Oh, and I still hold my nose when I go underwater. GOD HELP YOU if you dunk me before I have a chance to pinch my nostrils shut.

I can't recall the order in which I was signed up for swim lessons, but I do recall at least three separate summers in which my mom attempted to instill aquatic knowledge in my young mind. There was Mr. Doug, a large hairy man with a bushy mustache. I believe his swim lessons were in his home pool, but I could be wrong. We have a home movie of this debacle. I'm blissfully doggie paddling along in arm swimmies, a giant styrofoam q-tip under my armpits for extra support. I laugh and splash, and make silly jokes with Mr. Doug. Then Mr. Doug takes away my q-tip, THAT MONSTER. I flail and cry, my head dipping underwater and begging for mercy. After a good ten minutes of watching me sputter and die, Mr. Doug finally gives up and deposits me, still clinging to his hairy chest, on the side of the pool. There I curl up into an angry ball, betrayed.

I don't remember the second swim lessons at all, except that a pretty blonde lady (maybe a teen, who knows) taught it. Also, a failure, because that led to the final swim lesson at a local country club. I think I was about 8 or 9 by that time, and had to be placed with some younger kids. That probably didn't encourage me to take the lessons very seriously, and I recall mostly splashing around and ignoring the instructor. One day we had a CPR lesson, and instead of getting to be in the pool we had to sit on the side and watch demonstration after demonstration. I remember being hot, and thinking I can go into the water if I make it look like an accident. So I slipped off the side into the deep end and let myself sink to the bottom. Then, I kicked my way back up to the top, expecting the instructor to yell at me. Instead, she praised me for knowing how to get back up, and I was pleased that my deception was successful. THAT is what I learned from those lessons.

I'm pretty sure that because I disliked swim lessons so much as a child, and was so awful to my instructors, it's my cosmic fate that someday I'll be the sole survivor of a plane crash only to land in the middle of a small, relatively shallow lake/river/pond/swimmin' hole, and that I will drown right then and there with onlookers lamenting "if only she learned to swim." Or that one day I will have a child that I take to the beach, and he will get caught in a rip tide, and I will only be able to shout helplessly from the beach, "I'M SORRY JOHNNY. MOMMY HAS TO HOLD HER NOSE IN THE WATER AND SHE CAN'T REACH YOU WITH ONLY ONE ARM, NOW CAN SHE?"

Even worse: My mother will show up one day and demand I wear my swimmies again. She would.


This infant is actually rescuing me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I am the Elmer Fudd of real estate

All week we've been out there: Silently stalking our prey. Meeting strangers on corners, following them into buildings. What we seek is the most dangerous game: Man Orca whales Apartments.

Actually, I'm beginning to think murder/whale slaughter might be easier than this. We have pretty specific requirements: At least one bedroom, a space big enough to fit the junk that's in our current apartment, a dishwasher, in-building laundry. As it turns out, these are steep requests of any neighborhood outside of our current residence. I've lost count of how many apartments we've looked at, because they all blur into one blob that looks like this:

Broker: Okay, I have a great place to show you. You guys will love it.
Me: Does it have a dishwasher?
Broker: Oh yeah, all these units have them.
*arrive at each unit. Discover that NO UNIT HAS A DISHWASHER, let alone a functional kitchen*
Broker: Oh, that's weird, I could have sworn there was a dishwasher. Let's look at the next one, you'll really love this one.
Me: Is there laundry in the building?
Broker: Oh yeah, all these units have them...

Repeat, ad nauseum. Each unit we've looked at is either way too old, in terrible shape, has zero kitchen cabinet space, has no dishwasher, no laundry in the building, dead children in the closet, or is out of our price range.

So we'll see a couple more tomorrow. There was one unit that was a maybe...the deal is that it has an identical unit that is getting renovated, but we can't see it for at least another week or so. The unrenovated twin wasn't something I would take, but if the renovations are what the broker describes, I would want to be inside of that. *Snicker*

One unit was laid out in the coolest way ever, but the flooring in the bedroom was that kind of tiling you see in a McDonald's, and the kitchen was minus a dishwasher. If the Mickey D's tiling hadn't been there I might have compromised on the magical washing box, but two strikes is two too many. The apartment was set up so that you entered the bedroom, which was a level below the rest of the apartment, from a spiraly staircase in the floor of the living room. Like a treehouse! Or a secret spy fortress of solitude! A layout in which I can pretend to be a superhero is the only way in which you will pry a dishwasher from my cold, dishpan hands.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How's that gentrification going?

Edit: This has been cross-posted at the always-thoughtful Stuff White People Do blog. If you haven't already, give the rest of Macon D's posts a looksee.

This might be TMI for an anonymous blog, but I live in Harlem. When we moved to New York, we had a weekend to find our place, and this was the second building we looked at. It was in our price range, on Manhattan, and in a great location relative to Boyfriend's work and (where we presumed) I was going to school at the time. The building was brand new, gorgeous, and just right for us. So we moved to Harlem.

At the time, I didn't think twice about it. My knowledge of New York City and its neighborhoods was pretty limited, and although I associated Harlem with its large African-American population, I knew little of this thing called "gentrification." That's a term that New Yorkers (and I'm sure residents in other cities) throw around pretty often. I didn't even hear it for the first time until we had been here for about two weeks. I can't remember where I heard the term or in what context, but something prompted me to look it up (Wikipedia, natch).

Gentrification is, as Wikipedia defines it, the change in an urban area associated with the movement of more affluent individuals into a lower-class area. Let's not forget that class is hopelessly entangled with race as well, and so in places like Harlem the more honest definition of "gentrification" would be: When rich, white individuals move into a poor, black and/or Hispanic neighborhood. For the city and the affluent people who move to lower-class areas, gentrification is a real boon. It produces more revenue for the city in terms of higher property taxes, changes the character of neighborhoods, and can reduce neighborhood crime rates. The City of New York would like to see Harlem and places like it gentrified. In fact, I believe my building was part of the city's conscious effort to do just that: The city auctioned off "postage stamp" lots for a bargain price of $1 million. My landlord bought one of these properties, and on it she constructed the building in which I sit typing this.

Unfortunately, it turns out those benefits for the city come at a cost. A human one. Higher property taxes mean the current neighborhood residents can't afford their homes anymore. Higher rents on gentrified properties drive up rents of surrounding buildings, and landlords force out their tenants with inflated rents. People who have lived in these neighborhoods for generations suddenly have to find somewhere else to live. People become homeless. And when I say that gentrification changes the "character" of the neighborhood, what that usually means is that it makes the neighborhood "whiter." Suddenly, a neighborhood in which residents have spent years socializing and bonding on their stoops and on the sidewalk is antagonized by white residents who don't understand the culture and make noise complaints. Instead of small, locally-run shops, a couple of Starbucks and Duane Reades move in. Although the wealthy white people who now occupy the neighborhood (and run the government) may see these things as an advantage, they are decidedly not beneficial to the already disenfranchised residents.

When I finally took the time to do some reading about gentrification, I was astounded and saddened at my own ignorance. I didn't know about it when we moved, and I was ashamed to be part of the problem. Correction: I am still ashamed that I am part of that problem. What I saw when we moved was a beautiful apartment in our price range, in a good location, that was well below what landlords in other areas were charging for units that weren't even as nice. We aren't "rich," and so we jumped on the find. But although we aren't rich, we're obviously better off than many of the other residents in Harlem, particularly those who live in the housing projects beside us and across the street. We're especially better off than those who stand in line for the food pantry every Sunday at the church on the other side of us. Oh, and did I mention that we're automatically more privileged in this society than every minority resident in Harlem simply by virtue of the fact that we're white?

So yeah, I feel pretty fucking bad about moving to this neighborhood. And it's not because it's "dangerous" or because residents harass us in some way. To the contrary, in the nearly-year that we've lived here no one has bothered or hassled us in any way that we haven't encountered in other city neighborhoods; I regularly stumble home drunk at 2 am feeling no more danger than I would stumbling home elsewhere at 2 am; and I've never lived someplace where the neighbors have been friendlier. I feel bad that the very act of signing a lease in this neighborhood poses a serious threat to the future of Harlem and its residents. I feel bad that the neighbors who are so friendly might be forced out in ten years' time, and that Harlem will soon become indistinguishable from Park Slope. I feel bad that it's my fault.

Maybe it's because I grew up without much money myself and have faced class discrimination that I empathize with the people whom gentrification adversely affects, but I thought any city resident would be able to see what a problem this is. I guess not, because this week a rich, white professional asked me, in cheerful and optimistic way, "So, how's gentrification going up there?" This is not the first time someone has asked me this question, and it is certainly not the first time someone has asked it as though they were inquiring whether my open, festering sore had healed nicely.

When asked in such a manner, that question boils down to this: "So, how's the forced evacuation of blacks and Hispanics going? And the poor in general? You've driven them out as well? Excellent."

I'm never sure how to answer that question. I try to be diplomatic and polite (something along the lines of "fine" and switching the subject usually works), but maybe I ought to be more direct about my feelings on the subject. What would I say? "Yes, depriving poor minorities of their homes and businesses is going swimmingly. I certainly love waking up each morning and thinking: What can I do today that will squelch the local culture into a bland, white mass?"

We were ignorant when we moved, but we know better now. We would like to move and not be part of this problem anymore, but I will admit that it is difficult, because we fall into what you would call New York's middle class (if it had one). We're somewhere between affording Harlem and affording Chelsea, but there isn't much in the way of accomodating that. We're recent college grads and it will take time before we are able to afford a place in an affluent neighborhood. But there's the rub: I can defend why we, and other gentrifiers choose these neighborhoods on the grounds that high prices elsewhere have driven us out; however, I can't defend doing the same thing to an even more disadvantaged group, especially when we have cause to believe we will eventually possess the earning power to move to those affluent areas that we can't afford now. Many residents of this neighborhood won't ever have that opportunity, and all we're doing is destroying the only place they have so we can have a temporary foothold on our way up.

So yes, we are looking for a new place at the end of this lease, in a different neighborhood. The shitty economy may work in our favor this time, as dropping rents may make those neighborhoods more accessible to us. I can't guarantee that we'll be able to find a place, and I genuinely enjoy our current apartment. But it would sadden me to be part of this problem for much longer, especially now that I know about it. That said, I realize that nothing is going to stop gentrification: What the local government wants, the local government gets. And really, nothing can change the fact that we've already contributed to the problem. But if we move, at least I can finally sleep at night knowing I'm no longer helping the government further disenfranchise the poor. And maybe the next time someone asks me the dreaded gentrification question, I can tell them how I really feel about it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I can't believe this problem even exists

Facebook used to be so nice. It was open exclusively to college students. You needed a valid college email address to register. Preteens didn't use it to post sexy, semi-nude pictures of themselves. Older relatives didn't join and judge your drunken photos. Your boyfriend's aunt didn't use it to stalk you.

Oh, Facebook. If only you had retained your integrity, I might not be in this mess.

A few days ago Miss California said a nasty, disgusting thing at the Miss USA pageant. I happened to see it just as I was switching off a movie (because I will not voluntarily watch pageants). In case you missed it, here it is again:


Don't you love a supposed role-model spewing hate speech? So, I post a status update to my Facebook about how shitty this is. I get multiple comments in agreement. Then, to my surprise, I receive one more comment. From my uncle. From my racist, sexist, homophobic, Rush Limbaugh-loving, Bush-fucking uncle.

This uncle has always been an instigator. From the time that I was little, he has always made comments at family gatherings that have struck me as...inappropriate. Although he has always been kind to me, as I have gotten older I have felt less and less respect for him as a person. He has made it clear that the various "jokes" he cracks about blacks, gays, and women thinly mask his true feelings.

Anyway, back to the Facebook status. I won't paste or address everything he said here, but he made several statements that specifically bother me. I want to use this post to organize my thoughts on them.

On the other hand, I cheered when I heard [what Miss California said]. To each his or her own. People should have the right to say what they want and when they want. Political correctness is bullshit!"

I love the glaring hypocrisy of a statement like this. How can a person claim "to each his or her own" when their "own" involves actively denying the "own" of others? Furthermore, Miss California DOES have the right to say what she wants, no matter how horrible it is. No one arrested her, or stopped her from answering the question, or hauled her off the stage. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE CAN'T VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE WITH HER. Dissent is NOT a form of limiting another person's speech. The audience has just as much a right to boo, criticize, send angry letters, etc., to Miss California as Miss California has to say hateful things.

I also have trouble wrapping my head around the anti-political correctness mentality that has gripped conservatives. They seem to think that all political correctness "goes too far" or is unneccessary. Let's get one thing straight: The purpose of political correctness is to RESPECT people. It is not to silence you, but to ensure you understand that it is hurtful to say certain things to certain people. Refraining from calling someone a "fag" is political correctness. Calling someone "black" or "African-American" instead of "colored" or "negro" is political correctness. Disenfranchised communities ask that you use this language because the hope is that reformed language makes you see them as EQUALS. If we can use language to denigrate and "otherize" groups of people, then we can use it to empower and equalize. Refusing to acknowledge the power of political correctness is to refuse to acknowledge the struggle of the disenfranchised to be seen as humans. It is NOT "bullshit," and it doesn't hurt anyone to practice it. But it does hurt when people refuse to practice it.

"and did Prop 8 lose by one vote, I don't think so"

This comment was a response to a comment in which I said that Miss California's opinion contributed to the denial of equal rights for millions of people (presuming that Miss California participated in the Prop 8 vote). Of course Miss California's vote wasn't the single determining factor in the outcome of Prop 8. However, it's highly fallacious reasoning to claim that her vote somehow doesn't count. Attittudes like Miss USA's are a part that constitutes the whole of the anti-gay conservative population. By participating in a state vote, she ACTIVELY helped build that population. By dismissing her hateful opinions and the impact those opinions have on other people via her participation in this democracy (including the people she elects to represent her in state and federal government), my uncle is dismissing the impact that every individual has on our government. If he's going to make statements like this, then I would expect him to not vote in any elections himself, by virtue of the claim that his single vote will not impact the outcome of the election.

As far as role models go, who gives a shit how Miss America, any pro athlete or any of those Hollywood idiots like Alec Baldwin or Sean Penn think. They all make a lot of money and think all of a sudden because they are famous that they need to tell us how to live our lives because it is the way they see it. Fuck em all.

Well, I can't argue with the fact that no one should care what a vapid pageant participant thinks about politics. However, Miss USA's SOLE REASON FOR EXISTENCE is to serve as a role-model. She is unlike Alec Baldwin or Sean Penn because, although some people might think actors and actresses should set a good example, they are not SPECIFICALLY labled as role-models. Every part of the Miss USA pageant showcases what a positive example the contestant sets. She is supposed to be clean, pretty, well-spoken, talented, thoughtful, feminine, etc. What she should NOT be is a homophobe. Furthermore, while an actor might "think...they need to tell us how to live our lives," the contest REQUIRES the contestants to answer questions on politics and current events; their opinions are not unsolicited, as an actor's might be. The pageant WANTS you to care what Miss USA thinks.

I don't care what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their house. It is none of my business. However, when people start protesting and telling ME that I am wrong or I am a racist or a homophobe, then they just drew a line in the sand.

Oh, jesus. Here it is, right here. Let's go slowly. My uncle is correct: It IS none of his business what two consenting adults do in their home. Based on this statement, he is not a homophobe. However, as soon as he begins supporting the politicians and legislation that deny people rights BASED OFF WHAT THEY DO IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR HOMES, he is making it his business. And that is what homophobia is. I know, it's a confusing word, this "homophobia": The "phobia" part would lead you to believe it refers to a "fear" of homosexuality, rather than a prejudice against it. Let me clear it up for you: Although I agree that the word is a misnomer, it is generally accepted that it indicates prejudice against homosexuals, which may or may not include fear. You can "love the sinner, hate the sin" all you want, but the INSTANT you decide to support legislation that TREATS HOMOSEXUALS DIFFFERNTLY FROM HETEROSEXUALS, you are showing PREJUDICE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS.

What I think is most interesting about people like my uncle is that they will say racist, sexist, and homophobic things until the cows come home, but they lose their minds when someone labels those statements as racist, sexist, or homophobic. Do they only define racism as participating in a lynching? Or sexism as wifebeating? I think it's too easy for people to forget that these "isms" encompass a wide variety of behaviors and opinions, ranging from the classic extreme examples I just mentioned to the subtle injustices of daily life. For instance, falsely assuming that all gay men love interior decorating. Or making comments about shitty female drivers when a woman happens to cut you off in traffic. Or prefacing a story about a person by describing their non-white race, when their race has nothing to do with the story. These things all fall under the "ism" category of behaviors, and the more you do them, the more of an "ist" you are. The sooner people understand that these "small" actions and thoughts make as much of an impact as the extreme, after-school-special type of stuff, the better off we'll all be.

"XXX said "She's a Cunt" on the comments above. Is that not "Cheering" from his side? Don't like what you hear so you resort to name calling?
Obama won the election for President. I don't like him, didn't vote for him but he is my president. Unlike XXX, I don't refer to him as a fucking nigger. I sure as shit don't like his policies."

This is the comment that got my uncle placed on limited profile, as well as a frank private message from me. I also deleted the comment, because I won't have the n-word bandied about my wall. My sister felt that it was hypocritical of me to delete my uncle's comment, and not XXX's; however, I simply do not place XXX's use of "cunt" on the same plane as my uncle's use of the n-word. In the first place, XXX made his comment in passing, not as part of an attempt at high-end discourse or argument. Secondly, I'm not even sure what point my uncle is trying to make here: This comment came in response to one that a friend made, stating that the acceptance of homophobia is "nothing to cheer for" (itself a reference to my uncle's first comment). My friend's comment did not state that no one should cheer for who they support. Therefore, I would allow XXX his right to "cheer" for "his side" by calling Miss USA a cunt (and frankly, I'm not particularly bothered by that word). If my uncle is trying to state that resorting to name-calling is immature, then I would agree with him (and I am in no way saying that XXX is making the most intelligent statement ever. But to be fair, that was NEVER his intent). But here is the kicker: I have PERSONALLY heard my uncle call Obama the n-word. He uses that word ALL THE TIME. So actually, I know his argument to be a lie, and to have him openly use those words on my wall when they weren't actually relevant to the argument is unfathomable. I believe he was looking for an excuse to use the n-word in this argument, despite its irrelevancy: He loves shock-value.

After this comment, I apologized to my friends who had seen it, and promptly sent him a private message. In this message, I told him that I didn't want that word on my wall, especially not from him. I also told him that his years of bigotry have always bothered me, and now I find it especially bothersome that he is transgressing the confines of family gatherings and exposing my friends, co-workers, and other family to his hateful views. I asked him to seriously re-evaluate his needless resentment to non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-straight people and the impact of his feelings on his family members. I also told him, point-blank, that he is an embarassment to me. I do not regret anything that I said.

His return message was a mix of backhanded apologies ("I'm sorry you feel that way") and typical conservative self-victimization ("What I do have a problem with is the attitude that I and other conservatives have to put up with because we believe what we believe."). The victimization is my favorite part, because it so blatantly ignores the fact that what they believe TRULY victimizes others (in the form of discriminatory laws, hate crimes, schoolyard bullying, etc.), while what the non-conservative view believes in DOES NOTHING TO VICTIMIZE CONSERVATIVES (For example, allowing gay marriage doesn't force conservatives to marry gays, or end the practice of heterosexual marriage).

He ended the message with a totally awesome example of bad logic: "BTW, as you may or may not know, I was raised in a Jewish neighborhood and the high school was 85% jewish. I have jewish friends and I have black friends and acquaintences. " Does he not realize how cliched this statement is? "I have black friends so I can't be a racist." Just because someone has friends and acquaintences in the group which they are trying to marginalize does not make their prejudiced opinions okay. It's a weak attempt at justifying opinions he knows to be bigoted. Also, why does growing up in a Jewish neighborhood have anything to do with validating the credibility of his opinions about gay marriage? Obviously, he is attempting to convince me that he is a man of the world, with a veritable rainbow of friends and acquaintances; however, the classic "I have a (insert minority)" defense is specious reasoning at best (I wonder what his oodles of black friends would think if they heard him talk like I have?)

By the way, I punched my boyfriend in the face for burning the roast, but I have male friends, so I wasn't wrong. So, you know, there's that.

The end of this is that I didn't give my uncle the dignity of responding to his last message. Arguing with him is such a logical clusterfuck, anyway; it's really impossible to make him see reason. Have I severed yet another family tie (albeit this time within my own family. I told Boyfriend that I did it so we would be even)? Frankly, I don't really care all that much. While I believe that it's possible to disagree on political issues and still remain friendly, some political issues enter a territory that severely alter my perception of you as a human being. Disagreements over how to treat other members of the human race do not fall under the category of public transit fare-hike disagreements. Instead, they speak volumes about the sort of person you are, and whether or not you truly support equality for all humans. In the end, if you can look me in the eye and tell me that you think we should value some people less than others based on their skin color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or any other intrinsic factor, then I would prefer to limit my association with you. Even if you are my uncle. I have tolerated harmful opinions for the sake of peace for too long; This country will make no social progress if we do not call out our friends and family for their discriminatory actions.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

100th Blog Post Extravaganza

I have actually had the follow-through to complete 100 blog posts! Hooray! I've been putting this post off because I wanted to have something really good to say, but blogging hasn't been my main focus recently and I haven't had a ton of time to, you know, think. About stuff. And junk.

Frankly, I consider this lapse in blogging somewhat of a success for me, because it means that I'm doing things in real life. I started this blog during a time when I was fighting an ultimately losing battle for my graduate school funding, had moved to a new city with no friends (save Boyfriend), and was too broke to do anything. I was depressed and smelly, insomnia plagued me for months, and I couldn't bring myself to leave the sofa. This blog served as a good diversion from wishing for swift death 24-7, and I'm pleased that today I can say that it no longer serves the same purpose. Instead, I'm interested in using this as a medium to keep my brain from turning to mush. As lame as it sounds, I really liked writing papers in college, and I wish I still had someone to assign me a 10 page paper on the rising prevalence of autism diagnoses. I miss having regular brain stimulation, and I'm sure as hell not getting it from my job. So this helps.



Now that I've lived in New York for nearly ten months, am gainfully employed, have friends, and smell better, I don't feel as compelled to spend as much time on the internet (after work, that is). The weather is nice, and even though I enjoy working on forming a sofa-crater in the shape of my body, sometimes it's nice to get out, too. In the last week I went on a nine-mile day climb, saw a fashion show, visited my sister in D.C., and took a wine-and-painting class. So even though I enjoy the chance to write on this blog, and I enjoy the challenge of gaining and communicating with readers, I find that I have other things to enjoy as well. Like this jar of Nutella that I'm about to bust open.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's been awhile

It's been sort of crazy, between a couple people quitting at work and training new ones, and multiple trips to the D.C. area this month (related to my sister's wedding), and so there hasn't been much time for blogging. But, there are things to blog about!

For starters, there's that really cool thing that Vermont and Iowa did. You know, with the gays and the marriage and so on. Seriously, I did not see that coming, and it just restored my faith in humanity that much. From what I hear, Gov. Paterson is planning to send a bill to legislature to legalize same-sex marriage in New York; unfortunately, it seems like his timing is off and he's doing it for all the wrong reasons (read: dipping popularity in the polls). That said, I don't really care what his motivation is, I just want to see it pass.

I've also been trying to do more in my spare time than sit around in my underwear and scratch myself. On Sunday, we're joining a group for a 9-mile day hike in the Hudson Valley, which I am BEYOND excited about. Sometimes I just really feel the need to run around outside and scramble up a bunch of rocks. I also have a 5-day vacation starting today, so I'm at least trying to not spend every second of it on the sofa. I slept in late today, met Boyfriend for lunch, bought a new bra (this is no small feat. I have bras custom-made for me at this little shop in midtown. Buying a bra takes about an hour and a half of being measured and fussed over by a middle-aged woman, all while my tits hang out for the entire shop to see. If I wasn't a genetic mutant with 30-F/30-DD/30-E boobs, depending on the brand, I would not have to endure this), and took a stroll in Central Park. I spent about an hour on a park bench reading and watching the nannies with their kids. Bliss.

Um, I'm getting a little fat. That's not the right word, Boyfriend would disapprove, but...out of shape? Shapeless? I don't know what in-shape is supposed to look like on me, but I'm not it. I reluctantly returned to the gym a three days ago, and I think it will be another five before I can go back again. Ouch.

I paused in a pet shop to hold a puppy on my way home. This was foolish. Now I ache to press that soft, warm bundle of love to my chest again. My rabbit is not a cuddler, and I need a cuddler. Unfortunately, the reason we opted for a rabbit in the first place is that we do not have the time for a dog. But damn, I wanted to take that little puppy home with me. Side note: Although the bun is not a cuddler, he is a world-class champ at waking us at 6 am. If we stack the pillows beside the bed, he is able to leap and frolic his way into our bed. He then proceeds to snuffle our faces, lick our foreheads, eat our hair, and head-butt us (but ever-so-gently) until we acquiesce and feed him. Sometimes, after we feed him, he comes back and eats our hair just for fun. Although Boyfriend and I agree that this is disruptive and annoying, we also agree that it's too fucking cute to stop stacking the pillows. Also, it's a better alarm clock than the actual alarm clock. And fuzzy, too!

End non-sequitors.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Ceilings and Elevators


Reader and fellow blogger Lucy invited my commentary on someone's recent blog post regarding "glass ceilings." The entry is brief, and the author concludes that "There is nothing stopping a person from moving up in the ranks...except for the person him(or her)self."

I suppose that I shouldn't be too shocked that the author feels this way; however, I can't help but feel...disappointed that the concept of the glass ceiling is lost on this woman. The concept of glass ceilings and elevators (I'll get to what these terms mean in a moment) are not particularly new, and because of this I have taken for granted that all women are able to understand the role that these concepts play in their lives and the lives of all women. I do not know if that author will read this blog, but I'd like to offer a deeper understanding of these concepts for anyone who struggles with their existence.

The term "glass ceiling" refers to, as the blogger stated, an unofficial barrier to advancement in the workplace. It is "glass" because it does not exist in any obvious capacity: There is no "No Girls Allowed" clause in the company handbook; nor is there any official policy that overtly prohibits women and minorities from rising in the ranks. We have "equal opportunity" statements on our employment applications, as well as government policies like Title IX. By all accounts, it does not appear to exist. But like the windows in my home that trick wayward birds into smashing their little bird skulls, the ceiling remains in place.

If you squint your eyes and crane your neck just so, you can still see the light reflecting off the glass:

The wage gap between men and women, especially in the upper tail of the wage distribution, is a large part of the glass ceiling. Currently, American women make 70 cents for every dollar that men make. Although this gap has closed over recent decades, it remains significantly large and persists across professions and education levels. This means that when scientists compare men and women, within the same profession, with the same amount of experience and qualifications for that profession, women receive less pay than men. Blatant pay discrimination such as this can go undetected for years, because we are taught that it is impolite to ask your colleagues what they make. Pay is considered private; therefore, women get the shaft and often have no hard evidence to make their case.

Wage gaps also occur when employers make judgments on the expected value, productivity, or reliability of employees. What this means is that it is not uncommon to find employers promoting men over women because they hold pre-conceived notions about how well women work. For example: As a woman, Kathy will become too emotional in business confrontations. Better go with Ross or Fred; they won't cry over firing someone. Get it? As people, employers often have unenlightened notions about how women act and how men act. Even if the fictional Kathy is completely capable of making decisions, firing employees, and dealing with conflict, her employer may assume that she can't BECAUSE SHE HAS A VAGINA. The female is then excluded from the 'male' job, and left with depressed wages.

Another theory for discriminatory promotion is that employers view the jobs that females hold as "less easily promoted." This means that employers may be reluctant to invest training in women in order to promote them. Employers may feel this way for any number of reasons, but commonly they feel that women are less worthy of investment because of their expected domestic roles. Let me break that down for you: We aren't training Becca for the role of regional manager, because she just got married and will probably have a baby soon, and will take maternity leave. Because our society is geared to think of the women as the sole domestic provider, women are likely to be passed over because of expected familial duties; whereas a man's marriage and paternity are rarely-to-never considered.

Other barriers make up the glass ceiling in addition to the wage gap. Sexual harassment, for instance, isn't going anywhere. Workplaces in which women are belittled or made to feel inferior because of sexual harassment are not conducive to promoting women or hiring them for top roles. Let's not forget about general perceptions of female to male performance. Numerous studies have found that traits in which we view as positive for males we view as negative for females (sum this up as if a man is assertive, he is seen as effective; however, an assertive woman is a "bitch" or "shrew.") Sexist stereotypes like these, which are embedded in our social hierarchy, often prevent women from reaching the upper eschelons of the workplace.

As if a hulking wage gap, sexual harassment and sexual stereotyping wasn't enough, women often must contend with barriers involving family and domestic life, while men do not. This is a very rich and complicated topic, but can be easily understood when you understand that society places overwhelming domestic responsibility on women, but almost none on men. We are given the expectation of caring for the homes and children, as well as other family issues, and as a result we take jobs with fewer hours and flexible schedules. These jobs offer less pay, less room for advancement, and less prestige. As long as society asks more of women in the home than it does of men, we remain stagnant.

All of these theories deal in the present; however, I have my own theory that the glass ceiling begins in childhood. From an early age, women are encouraged to achieve less than men. We give little girls kitchen sets and "pregnancy Barbie" dolls, but we give little boys Erector sets and chem sets and other mechanical things that help them learn and grow. We see that our daughters excel at math and we assume they will be teachers when they grow up; but our boys who excel in math will surely be engineers. The difference in treatment is often subtle, but the way we raise our children has as much impact on their future earning potential as do sexist workplace attitudes.

I'm also quite fascinated by the concept of the "glass elevator," which I think might be easier to see than the glass ceiling. By "glass elevator" I am referring to a phenonmenon in which men in female-dominated occupations experience various advantages that women in those occupations do not. So, in contrast to the glass ceiling, in which women suffer in male-dominated occupations, men in female-dominated jobs will enjoy advantages in hiring practices, rapport-building with male supervisors, and promotional tracking. The best example of this concept is the teaching profession, particularly elementary school. The primary-school teaching occupation is heavily female dominated; depsite this, elementary school principals and administrators are overwhelmingly male. Research shows that men who enter the profession as elementary school teachers are often "fast-tracked" to more prestigious and higher-paying adminstrative positions, while women who have equal or better qualifications remain. I know that this concept is not outdated, because I did a research paper on it last year in which I took the 2006 annual averages of employed persons by detailed occupation and sex from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and compared them using prestige scores from the Hollingshead Four-Factor Index of Social Status. My results very much supported the hypothesis that current labor data reveals male-favored occupational prestige inequities in occupational domains containing two or more heavily female-dominated occupations.

The topics of ceilings and elevators have spawned oodles of academic papers and studies, and in this post my goal is to simply touch on some of the main fruits of that research...I couldn't possible cover all of it in one post. I can only assume that ignorance of this research, and possibly personal anecdotal evidence, leads people like our blogger friend to assume that nothing stands in the way of female success. Trust me when I say that we aren't simply whining: These barriers to advancement are VERY real and felt by MANY women. Our society has not yet evolved to offer women truly equal opportunities in the workplace; although outwardly it might seem that we can achieve anything, in reality we face many obstacles that men never will. Many of these obstacles are so deeply ingrained in our society that I question whether we can ever completely overcome them.

If the author of that blog post feels that no one has stood in her way in her career advancement, then good for her. She's apparently found something that millions of us, myself included, struggle for daily. However, I think it's good for everyone to keep in mind that simply because they have not personally experienced limitations, that experience does NOT generalize to the rest of the population. We have not "shattered" the ceiling; there may be cracks, but trust me when I say that it is still far too thick to fall apart.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dooce, old people, and shitty jobs

I'm gonna cram a couple of things into this post. Let's do it in list form today, okay? I'll even use bullets, because I am all about efficiency.

  • I met Dooce!! That would be Heather Armstrong, the genius behind the most popular personal blog on the interwebikins (I am drinking wine). Armstrong's book, It Sucked and Then I Cried, came out on Wednesday and she held a reading/signing at a Barnes and Noble in Chelsea (or is that considered TriBeCa? I never know neighborhood boundaries. Sometimes I tell people that I live in Chicago, because I just don't know anymore). Her book is a simultaneously hilarious and provocative memoir that chronicles the events surrounding the birth of her first daughter; most notably, it covers Armstrong's severe post-partum depression and mental breakdown. It is fascinating and honest, and I can't put it down. Also, her reading was great...Boyfriend especially liked it, as he finds reading actual words to be tiresome and laborious, and much prefers to have someone else read things to him:



video


  • My 85-year old grandmother totally learned how to send email today. We moved her into an assisted-living home a few months ago, and she had hinted that she was taking classes at the home but that the specific class was a surprise. Turns out, it was some sort of computer class, because I got an email from her this morning. I can't even say how much this made my day. She sent the email to all of the grandchildren, so we all promptly g-chatted each other to gush about how completely awesomesauce our grandmother is.
  • The great email could not have come at a better time, as I spent this morning embroiled in a bitter battle over my vacation time. I work on a grant-funded project for a University, and apparently my boss feels like this gives him license to deny me University vacation time whenever he wants (It's a federal grant, so according to him we should only take federal holidays). Sorry, buddy, but if I was hired by the UNIVERSITY and told at the UNIVERSITY HR orientation that I am entitled to UNIVERSITY STAFF HOLIDAYS than I want my 3 days off for Easter, goddammit (you can't deny me my Zombie Jesus Day, no matter how godless I am). I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I've always had a lot of trouble controlling my temper and tongue, so it took EVERY OUNCE OF STRENGTH TO TEMPER MY HOMICIDAL URGES as my boss insisted that we attend work those three days. My jaw was clenched; I could feel my face warm as blood surged in my cheeks and forehead; my eyes turned to sharp, piercing, three-foot daggers. I have been told that my "mad face" is terrifying: This must be true, because I'll be damned if I didn't win this battle. The official "compromise" is that I get the promised vacations until the end of the fiscal year (which is like, in June), and then we follow a modified vacation schedule. Trust me, if I had other options, I'd be outta there faster than the RoadRunner. You don't tell a working-class girl that she doesn't get her days off. If I thought it would be possible to unionize my occupation at my place of employment, I'd fight that fight in a heartbeat.
Anyway, that last bullet explains why I'm halfway through a bottle of cheap wine right now. I am the queen of bad choices.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"That's so Gay" PSA

Oh, cheesy television PSAs. They're generally anti-drug these days, and the latest batch is ridiculously sexist and inaccurate (I'm thinking specifically of the "slut shaming" anti-marijuana PSA in which the girl realizes that scandalous pictures taken while high have been texted to the whole school. A: Marijuana doesn't work that way. B: Slut shaming is stupid). There's also that annoying "Optimism: Pass it on" PSA where the kid playing baseball alone strikes himself out and decides he's the greatest pitcher in the world. Alright kid: I can't help but notice that you're playing baseball all alone. That's pretty sad. Couple that with the fact that you genuinely suck at hitting the ball, and you should want to kill yourself.

Generally, I think everything would be better without these PSAs. The anti-drug ones are exaggerated and misleading; The other ones make my brain hurt. But today, I was watching Degrassi: The Next Generation (shut up) and a new type of PSA came on:



How awesome is that? A PSA for sensitivity towards gays! A PSA that actually says something on a topic that matters! (Sorry, but the 'war on drugs' is unnecessary and detracts from real problems. It isn't deserving of a bajillion PSAs).

Apparently there's a whole series of them, but I haven't seen them until now. Hilary Duff is in one (I suspect that she's struggling to stay relevant, but good for her anyway):


But my favorite by far is this one that Wanda Sykes did, not just because Wanda Sykes is super saucy and hilarious but also because she is ACTUALLY gay:


I, too, went through a phrase of calling stupid or bad things "gay," until I thought more about it. It's easy to say things like that when you hear other people say it daily (specifically as a teenager). I find it incredibly insensitive and annoying to hear now, though, especially when it comes from people who I think should know better. Gay people have to endure enough stigmatization in this country; let's not make it worse by using language to associate them with all things negative. It's not just a "saying," it's deliberately derogatory language. It hurts, and it perpetuates the association between "bad" and "gay" in the minds of those who use it and hear it.

Knock it off.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

But lifting the beer can to my lips IS exercise


About a month ago Boyfriend had a perfect storm of optimism and self-loathing that culminated in a gym membership. He only bought one membership, but it has an unlimited guest pass that is intended for me. I've gone a whopping three times, finding each excursion both physically and mentally painful. Ten minutes ago, Boyfriend left for the gym without me. I'm pretty sure that I won't be coaxed into joining him anytime soon.

I've never liked exercise of any kind. As my sister so kindly pointed out, I spend a lot of time harping on the importance of exercise and physical movement for women and girls, but no time practicing this advice in my personal life. I'll clarify: What I believe in is the opportunity for women and girls to be as physically active as men and boys; what I don't believe in is that I, personally, must drag my cottage-cheese ass on an elliptical as I cry on the inside. I never derived any pleasure from sports or exercise as others seemed to. At 5, I spent every single pee-wee soccer practice crying on the sidelines and begging to go home; At 7, I quit tennis camp after a little boy schooled me on the court and then teased me for it; At 11, I prematurely left basketball camp when I realized that none of the other girls would talk to me; At 13, I came in last at the first cross-country running practice and never returned; At 15, I almost got into fisticuffs with a much larger girl at softball and decided that softball wasn't for me.

What DID love was horseback riding. At 17, I had to quit my lessons so I could keep working my crappy job and earn money for the move to college. I haven't been on horseback since, nor have I found a suitable replacement.

I think the fact that I was gangly and naturally uncoordinated had much to do with my hatred of sports; coupled with the fact that my parents didn't really place any sort of emphasis on them and cared more about my schoolwork. Also, it seemed like every other kid who was into sports wasn't into me...I was weird or a goody-two-shoes or talked too much or cracked jokes that no one understood. The sports kids were not my kind. My kind liked to run and climb, but not in any sort of organized fashion. My kind liked to talk on the sidelines at gym class; not because we feared sweat or messing up our hair but because we just wanted a time-out from all the work and competition.

I refuse to feel guilt over this. This is how I am. I'm not overweight and I don't have bad cholesterol and I only get winded from walking stairs sometimes. Until those things change, I refuse to waste minutes of my precious life wishing for swift death on a treadmill.

Anyways, I'm 22. I can do what I want. I'm making a blueberry cobbler for dessert tonight and nyah nyah nyah nyah.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vote!


I'm not sure if I've adequately expressed my feelings on this topic before, but I really love bacon. Basically, bacon gives me a super-boner.

In this vein, I entered the Three Degrees of Bacon contest at Bacon Nation, which I found through the always-endearing Bacon Unwrapped blog. The challenge was to link any food to bacon with three steps or less. I linked sheep testicles to bacon (how do I know this? Let's just say that there are many things in life that I wish I could unlearn). Anyhoodle, I'm a finalist! Vote for me here so that I can add a sweet raw bacon weave cardholder to my collection of bacon salt, bacon toothpicks, and bacon thong.


Bacon thong pending.

Update:
I totally won! Thanks, guys!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama: Aw, yeah!

My favoritist president ever announced that he will sign an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. This council will ensure that federal agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and their families. That sound you hear is my reproductive organs cheering. Here is what he had to say on it:



My two favorite parts (although the whole speech was spot-on):

"When a job doesn't offer family leave, that also hurts men who want to care for a new baby or an ailing parent"--Do I smell reform of the Family and Medical Leave Act?!?!
"When there's no affordable childcare, that hurts children who wind up in second-rate care or spending afternoons alone in front of the television set." Universal daycare? I can haz universal daycare?!

I can't believe we have a president that actually gives a shit about women. Incidentally, we used to have a council just like this...until Bush disbanded it in 2001, along with a council on racial issues. This surprises exactly no one.

Valerie Jarrett will chair the council, a super-duper smarty pants who grew up in Iran, got her BA in psychology (a woman after my own heart) from Stanford, and a JD from University of Michigan Law School. She is currently a Senior Advisor to Obama.

Best part of the speech is the end: "Alright, so I'm gonna go sign this thing. Thank you very much." Man, that guy gets. shit. done.

Monday, March 9, 2009

At least I didn't have any cavities

As someone with a vested interest in the scientific method, I would LOVE to know what studies have been done on the topic of sexism in the medical profession. I'm not talking glass-ceiling/glass-elevator stuff; I'm thinking more specifically about sexist attitudes/entitlement among male medical professionals. I bring this up not only because of my prior experience with male medical professionals (and that guy wasn't the only one who behaved inappropriately in that office), but also because of what happened to me at the dentist today.

I haven't been to the dentist in about two years (you can imagine how psyched I was to finally get the layers of barnacles scraped off my teeth), so I was a new patient to this particular dentist. Therefore, keep in mind that the following things he said to me/in my presence were all things that he was saying to a total stranger. He ACTUALLY said these things to me.

  • "Rhianna and Beyonce kind of look alike. Well, Rhianna has the black eye, I guess!"
  • "I'm going to guess some things about your boyfriend, and you tell me if I'm right, okay? At night, you put your clothes neatly in the hamper, and he leaves his over the floor. You drink nice diet sodas and drinks and he drinks straight from the milk carton (me: No...he puts his clothes in the hamper and I don't drink diet drinks of any kind, and I'm the one who drinks from the milk carton). No? Really? He's gay!"
  • "Before I got married my idols were Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi...After I got married my idol was OJ Simpson!"
  • "Hey girlie!"
So...first he started with a joke about domestic abuse, then he attempted to insult my boyfriend because he *gasp* is a neat person, then he sandwiched that comment with ANOTHER domestic abuse joke, and then he topped it off by addressing me with a diminutive name when I returned later for my forgotten insurance card.

I will, obviously, not return to that dentist (on top of this, he was also quite rough with my teeth). Now, I know that this sort of sexual discrimination--the "trivial" stuff, as opposed to the more obvious sexual harassment/pay discrimination, etc--is something we encounter everyday, regardless of occupation. It's on the street when a stranger tells you to smile; it's at work when your boss calls you "sweetheart." But I can't help but notice that it's very, very pervasive among male medical professionals. EVERY male doctor I worked with at my old job seemed to be either patronizingly paternalistic or an alpha-male chauvinist. Nearly all called me "sweetie" or another diminutive on a regular basis (and my status as the youngest has nothing to do with this...a male of the same age in the same job would not be the office sweetheart). Many seemed to think that they could say things to me that were profoundly unprofessional, and which they would not say to a male employee. And now, I have this dentist, acting in much the same way.

If my anecdotal evidence were scientifically examined in a study comparing rates of daily discriminatory behavior across professions (I think I'm forming a thesis idea...), would it hold true that something within the medical profession produces or promotes these undesirable actions and words?

Perhaps, given their status in a male-dominated field that undervalues women, male doctors feel more entitled to behave this way than men in other fields. Perhaps they can say these things to the new patient or front-desk girl, because she will find their brazenness "charming." She won't say anything or even think to be offended, because in this world of men in serious lab coats and women in puppy-dog-printed scrubs, the men are untouchable. The fact that women in domestic abuse situations are "stupid" to the point of being hilarious; that young women enjoy being your "girlie" or "sweetheart"; that men are MEN who don't pick up after themselves and women are ladies who watch their figures with diet drinks for the benefit of the men...are these the symptoms of a profession that remains one of the great microcosms for greater societal gender inequities? What is happening between high school and med school that produces these behaviors among our pediatricians, dentists, and obstetricians?

More importantly, how can we stop it?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Uber Nerd post


We're pretty nerdy in this household, in case you haven't garnered that from my postings. For instance, we have a desktop computer with not one, but two monitors (I thought it was excessive at first too, but now I don't know how people do without them). There are also no fewer than three laptops (five, if you count the ones we sometimes bring home from work), one picture of Yoda, an old shell NES, a Family Guy-StarWars wall calendar, and a pink stuffed Domo (don't know what Domo are? Perhaps you might recognize them from this classic viral picture). We like our games. Admittedly, Boyfriend likes games a bit more than I, but I've got my weaknesses.

Case in point: I have been dying--DYING--to play three particular games in the last few weeks. All are totally inaccessible.

  • Kid's Typing: This is a weird one, I know. But it came with our very first computer, a Compaq Presario that ran Windows 95. Sloooooowly. This game was the shit, though. It taught typing with the help of a character called Spooky the Ghost. The game took place in a house that Spooky haunted. You started the game in the attic of the home, learning basics like home keys with Spooky. Then, you would go into the individual rooms to "test" yourself. The cool thing was, your typing was synched with something fun in the room...like in the Baby's room, the toy xylophone would play classical music; the quality of the music would vary with how quickly and accurately you typed. I didn't really learn to type well with this game...what finally taught me how to type well was AIM instant messenger (I'm sure that's the case with a lot of people in my generation). I bet I would KICK ASS at Kid's Typing now, though (63 words per minute with 97% accuracy!)
  • The 11th Hour: My sister bought this game, but I may have played it more than her. I remember that the graphics were like nothing I had ever seen (I wonder what they would look like to me now). I think the game ran off of DOS. It was essentially a mystery game. You were trapped in a haunted mansion, trying to find your missing girlfriend. You had to solve a bunch of logic puzzles, and find your way through oodles of secret passageways. We had one of those cheat books. The puzzles were mostly too hard for me to figure out on my own, so I remember that I used the cheat book all the way until the last puzzle...but the fucking book didn't give an answer to the last puzzle! So I never beat the game. Also, I think there were some steamy video scenes...
  • Sims 3: The third installment of the highly-addictive Sims series was supposed to come out in February. I used a gift card to pre-order it on Amazon...and then the release date got pushed back to June. I really wanted to piss away my winter playing that game. I briefly considered installing Sims 2 on my laptop (it's currently on an old laptop), but I decided it would only heighten my longing for the new version.
The first two games I cannot have without finding and purchasing via Ebay...and I think that's BULLSHIT. There ought to be a statute of limitations on PC game copyrights. If software is nearly 15 years old, I want to be able to play that shit online FOR FREE. It's not like they're selling anymore, anyway. Some seller on Ebay wanted 25 bucks for Kid's Typing! Fuhgeddaboudit.

Anyone else got any warm fuzzy memories of old computer games?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I still said "No"

Sexual harassment...Or, as my father would say, "Her ass meant nothing to me!" Oh, dad...

Jezebel did a post a few days ago that I really wanted to address here, because I have a lot to say about it. The post concerned an article on AOL (does AOL still exist? Jesus, they gotta be hanging on by a thread) that advises women to not report sexual harassment. The AOL article's reasoning was that HR will immediately question your credibility, rather than work with you. Furthermore, the article reasons that the reporting process can be long and painful, and that you'll most likely be left awkwardly working with your harasser until you quit.

Naturally, the good Jezzies disagree, as do I. They also raise other issues, such as the tendency for outsiders to sympathize with the "nice" men who seem so wrongfully accused.

This topic is really close to me, because in my freshman year of college I had to endure the process of reporting a sexual harassment. At the time, I was working as a bitch for a medical office (Copy these articles! Then sit around and smile at the doctors as they enter the room! Now file!). I was all naive and fresh-faced, straight off the farm and adjusting to a moderately-sized city (now I'm old and haggard and jaded in a gigantic city). One doctor in particular was fairly young, and had just earned a promotion. I'm a bit flirtatious by nature (I call it "sassy," but whatever) and we often spoke and joked around. Because he had been promoted, he was moving to a new office. He asked me one day if perhaps I could do some filing and organizing in it, since he didn't have time. Since my day was already fairly packed and I could not earn overtime, he said he would be happy to pay me out of his own pocket if I stayed late to do the work.

Looking back, and I'm sure to all you savvy readers out there, this request should have set off alarm bells and I should have declined. But like I said, farm-girl. I hadn't yet acquired the finely-honed creeper senses that I have today.

So I stayed to do the work. I would say this is about the time he started coming on to me. At first it was the regular stuff: TMI about his personal life, comments about how cute/skinny I was, asking me about my boyfriend, etc. I think I sensed what he was about, but I felt awkward and rude about shutting him down, so I kept up with all the friendly banter. After all, he was paying me. He was in charge. What was I gonna do? So I kept staying after work with him.

Eventually, I guess he started feeling like this was really going somewhere for him. He started removing his wedding ring when he was around me. One day, I was typing up some labels, and he came behind me and started massaging my shoulders. (WARNING: This paragraph is going to start as a bad HR training video and move into bad soft-core porn territory). I sort of froze and wasn't sure what to do or say. He took my silence as an affirmation, I guess. He was talking this whole time; I'm not sure what, exactly, but it was along the lines of "I really like you." He moved his hands down to my waist, then under and up my shirt. He was grabbing my breasts and kissing the top of my head, whispering things into my ear. And I just froze. The fuck? I mean, I had been sexually harassed before. But not to this degree. And all I could think of was I had NO IDEA what to say or do. I didn't want to have sex with him. I had a boyfriend at the time, and I wasn't interested in cheating on him. And I wasn't particularly attracted to this guy, either. But it almost felt rude to say no. I felt like I had led him on, and it was my fault he was behaving this way. I thought he would be mad if I said no.

But I DID say "no." I regained myself after a moment and pulled his hands away. I told him I had a boyfriend, and I didn't want to do this. He PLEADED for me to have sex with him. No one has to know! I still said "No."

For the next few months, he persisted. He grabbed my ass when no one was looking. He bought me Grey Goose for my birthday (Okay: He asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said Grey Goose. Can you blame a girl? I wasn't that stupid). He invited me to take shots with him in his office (not with the Grey Goose. This was a separate occasion). He told me that I was sexy over and over and over again.

When he did these things, I was not as firm as I should have been. I should have been colder. I shouldn't have giggled and smiled awkwardly. But that's how we're conditioned to react to men who behave that way. How many times has someone told you to "Smile, sweetie" and you bashfully flash a grin and laugh? We're supposed to be charming. We're supposed to WANT attention from men. So even though I was really uncomfortable with it, at most I would quietly say "stop" or nothing at all, but SMILE or LAUGH.

It was stupid of me. I was young. I know better now. I am a STONE COLD BITCH now, don't you worry.

Eventually I decided that I REALLY had enough. One day I was on a ladder putting books away, when he came up from behind and grabbed my ass. I wheeled around and whacked him with a medical textbook this thick. In the FACE. He laid off for a few days, but then he started again. At this point, I was getting mean. He would grab me and I would turn and shout "STOP" so that everyone in earshot would look. He would make a shushing motion and slink away.

But he would always start up again. I knew that he wouldn't stop on his own. I had to make a report. I walked into my boss' office one day with the door open:

"Alex, can I ask you something? Can we do something about men touching me in this office?"

Alex, thankfully, was great about the whole thing. He was super sympathetic, since he had been similarly harassed by a woman at his last job (Guess she couldn't pick up that he was gay?) But here's how it went down: I had to type up a report, detailing EVERYTHING that happened. Then, I had to give one copy to Alex, and another to the fucking Chair of the department. Then, they had to call in my harasser and speak with him about the accusations. Then paperwork had to be processed. By the end of it all, every secretary in that place had to have known what happened. Although no one said anything to my face.

At one point, Alex asked me what I wanted to happen to my harasser. I knew going into it that he would get a slap on the wrist; it's not like they were going to fire the guy. Basically, the first harassment report is a warning...even if the victim has already warned the harasser multiple times. It's looked at as a mistake. "Oh look, buddy. We all know the front-desk girl is cute...you just can't touch her anymore. Sure, we all make that mistake! Ha, women. They don't know what they want, I'm sure she was hard to read. Okay, back to work for you!"

So the harasser gets a mulligan. He gets embarrassed. I get embarrassed. But then...we have to work together. We get stuck in the elevator together. I still have to file for the guy. Where does that leave me?

It leaves me searching for new jobs at 2 AM, that's where. He gets a smack on the hand that everyone forgets about in six months. And I get to find a new job.

So in a way, I can see where the AOL article is coming from. The process IS long, and VERY humiliating. You are subject to scrutiny and criticism (Although I was lucky; in my case, no one asked me to "prove" anything. I'm sure if I wanted to take it further than a report, things would have been different). Everyone has to know that you "let" the guy get to second, you skank. Then, you still have to work with the harasser, and it sucks. And because it sucks, you eventually leave. So that begs the big question: Is it better, given all this, to NOT report that harassment?

NO.

Ladies, REPORT THAT SHIT. You know what I got for my troubles? I got that asshole EMBARRASSED AS HELL. He was HUMILIATED. For as embarrassed as I was, at least I didn't have to go talk about the time I molested the front desk girl to my superiors. Boy, was he ashamed. I tend to believe that people like my harasser will always be repeat offenders; but you know, if that humiliating experience at least stopped him from soliciting my replacement, then it was worth it. Really. And at the very least, I'm happy to say that he did not ask me to have sex with him for the rest of my tenure. If my goal was to get him to stop grabbing my ass and asking me to fuck him, then MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. He could barely look me in the eye.

I realize that my case was...lucky, to say the least. My superiors were sensitive. If anyone thought that I was a liar or a whore (and I believe many of them did; my harasser was one of those "nice" men that you would never suspect), they had the good sense to keep it to themselves. My harasser wasn't violent or vengeful, and didn't threaten or intimidate me for reporting him. I realize that this happens to some women, and those situations are terrible. Some women don't have the luxury of finding a new job; I was lucky in this area as well, since I was able to secure a paid internship with a few months of the incident and quit the old one.

I can't make judgments on women who, for reasons that I was lucky enough to avoid, choose to NOT report their harassment. It must be terrible to know that you can't find another job (or REALLY don't want to leave the old one), that your harasser may retaliate, or that your superiors and coworkers might blame or scorn you. What I can say is that sometimes, you gotta sacrifice. I knew when I made the report that it would be uncomfortable, and I knew that I would have to leave sooner rather than later. But knowing that everyone finally knew...that I had made a public declaration that THIS MAN IS BEHAVING INAPPROPRIATELY...I felt vindicated. It didn't matter whether people believed me or liked me. I knew what the truth was, and I had done everything in my power to stop him from violating me again, and from violating other girls. Contrary to appearances, I now had the upper hand: if he still felt the need to harass either myself or someone else in the future, here is all the documentation that it happened before. And maybe the next time he does it, he'll finally get what's coming to him.

I want to encourage everyone who gets sexually harassed, who is made to feel inferior or objectified or violated, to SAY SOMETHING. Do not let them get away with it. And if anyone gets in your way; if anyone makes it hard for you to make your case, THROW A FUCKING TANTRUM UNTIL YOU SILENCE THEM ALL. Don't let your employer handle your case inappropriately; take it higher. Don't let your co-workers make judgments: Tell them they don't know shit. Don't let your harasser threaten you: Tell your bosses or the police about that too, because then he's REALLY fucked. Don't let them make you quit if you don't want to: Stay and make it as uncomfortable for him as it is for you. Don't think that you encouraged it or led him on, and therefore don't have a case: You said no, and that's what you meant. Please. You can have power in this, I promise.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day!

Yes, it's quite snowy here today. Key difference between Boyfriend and myself: While I awoke at 7 am (a good 40 minutes earlier than usual), giddy to find out if work was canceled, Boyfriend woke at his normal time and proceeded to get ready without a thought as to whether or not he might have the day off. Had I not received the cancellation notice immediately, you can bet your ass I would have spent the next hour fervently trying to call back, rather than accepting it and moving on. So even though I got a summons for jury duty on Saturday, I think it's pretty clear who the real adult is in this household.

So this jury duty thing. Anyone ever get one of these before? Got any good stories about it? I used to think that I wouldn't be comfortable serving on a jury. I didn't want to be responsible for making judgements on strangers that could alter their lives. I didn't want to be manipulated by sly lawyers or faulty eye-witnesses. But as I stood there holding the summons in my hand, all I could think of was, "Hey, I get a day off work for this! And maybe more than one day! AND THERE COULD BE FREE LUNCH."

So you can see that my standards are really quite low these days. In fact, I like to imagine that it will be just like that Simpson's episode where Homer gets jury duty:


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Comments not working?

So I've heard via email from two people that the word verification may not be in working order. For now, I've turned it off, so if anyone still has difficulties, please email me at rectoryentrance@gmail.com.

I also noticed that, from my work computer, the header-banner thingy is not visible (although it works on both of my home computers). Can anyone else not see the banner, or perhaps have an explanation for it? It really is a fine, tasteful banner, and should absolutely be displayed for everyone, including young schoolchildren, to see.

Update: Turning off the word verification still does not help some, so for the time being I have switched to the pop-up comments window. Holla' at me if that still doesn't work for you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Really? You guys care?

I just got back home from a concert. I'm pretty drunk, thanks for asking. I'm sitting here trying to settle my stomach with an Eggo Blueberry Waffle (I LOVE FROZEN BREAKFAST FOODS) and to kill time, I check my Google Analytics.

Turns out, you guys REALLY like hearing about that time I met Elijah Wood in a bar. Cuz my damn stats shot WAY THE FUCK UP after that post. Well, I'm here to share that nerdgasm with you all. Welcome, new readers. If you like Elijah Wood, I can promise that you'll like my musings on child beauty pageants, Disney, and poop.

Come for Elijah. Stay for the poop jokes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A president you can be proud of

The president's speech tonight was inspiring. It felt so much different from Bush's addresses. I feel like with Bush, all I heard was rhetoric and patriotic phrases, with no real meat. If Bush's speeches were a salad with a nice dressing, Obama's speech was a fucking turducken with bacon on the side.

I found out that I am getting a tax cut on April 1. I learned that people who have lost their jobs (my mother potentially included in that group) will get extended unemployment benefits and health care. I learned that we won't just throw this money to the wind and cover our eyes to where it ends up (like some bailouts I could mention). I found out that our new government is making a lending fund to provide the auto, education, and small business loans that have ground to a halt. I learned that banks will receive assistance, but will be held accountable for where that money goes. I learned that we would have health care reform by the end of the year, and that the government wants the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. And I learned that this education would be made affordable. I learned that our government wants to remove the troops from Iraq, and raise pay for soldiers.

You know what I would learn from Bush's speeches? I would learn that there wasn't really an economic crisis, that the Iraqis pose a threat to our national security, and that terrorists lurk around every corner. I would learn that the wealthy individuals and corporations in this country deserved more federal support than the middle and lower class. I would learn that I didn't need to know where my tax money went.

On a side note, what a totally awesome nod to his wife in the beginning of his speech. I'm pretty sure she mouthed "I love you" to him. Commence swooning.

Outside of political news, I've been out quite a bit lately and subsequently have been too exhausted/drunk/hungover to blog. But I do have stories. I went to a bar with a friend that's in the style of a speakeasy. You make reservations at 3 pm the day of, and when you get there, the door is located in a secret door in a phone booth inside of a hot dog shop. It was small and cozy, and had not even 30 seats. The prices were right, and you could chow down on hot dogs from the adjoining shop (avocado and sour cream hot dog!).

Then, last night I went out to help a friend celebrate a visiting friend's birthday. We were in a small dive bar that we frequent, and who should walk in but Elijah Wood! After much giggling and nervousness, I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder:

"Are you Elijah Wood?"
"Yes."
"My name is Phoebe, and it is a pleasure to meet you." (firm handshake)
"It's a pleasure to meet you too."

Then we asked him for a picture, and he happily obliged. Whadda guy. He even put his arm around me for the picture! SQUEAL!!! And I don't care what anyone says: Elijah Wood is ADORABLE. His eyes are so blue....he gives me a nerdgasm. I can't say as much for the entourage that was with him, though (that's right, hobbits apparently have entourages). They were all scowly and possessive. Pretty high and mighty for a group that's only hanging around the guy for status.

Then we left him alone, and proceeded to have a damn good time.
Below is the picture. Blog-safe, of course ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

VD: Valentine's Day or Venereal Disease? Maybe both.



Valentine's Day gives me mixed feelings, because on one hand I know that it's a stupid corporate holiday that means nothing at all; and on the other hand, I like attention from my boyfriend. So every year I sort of struggle with how we acknowledge the holiday without being stupid and going over the top. Or too lame and cliched. We could not acknowledge it at all, and show how cool and progressive we are, but then I would be a little sad because I want to make up for all those years in high school when other girls got flowers in their locker and candy-grams in homeroom, but I was flat-chested and awkward and got a card from my mom instead (at least my mom choo-choo-chooses me).

For our first Valentine's, I tried to cook a whole ham for Boyfriend. I also tried to make cornbread stuffing, which required placing a cast-iron skillet in the oven. After I took the skillet out of the oven and put it on the stove to cool, I turned away, and then turned back to grab it. I have the attention span of an infant, so in that time span I forgot that I had just removed the skillet from a 400 degree stove. I grabbed it with my bare hand, and spent the rest of the night in unbearable pain. I thought I would be scarred for life (I wasn't, but I swear it was the worst pain of my life). So that dinner was interspersed with many, many tears.

Our second Valentine's was during our long-distance period, and fell on a weekday, so we couldn't see each other. I had a flower arrangement sent to his office, complete with a teddy bear. Yes, he was ribbed mercilessly. But he liked the flowers, and wasn't ashamed to admit it.
I don't care if you have a penis or a vagina; it's still nice to receive flowers. Also, for as much as his co-workers teased him, they were all woefully single and therefore fucking jealous.

This year, I decided to let Boyfriend take the reins. I even sort of forgot that it was coming up:

Boyfriend: What are we doing tomorrow?
Me: Tomorrow? We're cleaning. My sister is visiting, remember?
Boyfriend: No, I mean, it's Valentine's Day.
Me: Oh! Um. We're still cleaning...

So boyfriend woke up way early and went shopping, and made me Surf 'n Turf! Filet Mignon and lobster, mashed potatoes and asparagus. Then he brought me Max Brenner chocolates, and a lovely Merlot. We consumed our totally fucking awesome meal while watching season 3 of Weeds. All of these things caused me to pee my pants in excitement, and because he's so awesome, Boyfriend didn't mind mopping up the puddle.

Also, we took a little walk over to the animal shelter and played with the bunnies. SQUEAL!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just one of those weeks

Just one of those weeks where:

  • Your shoes get stolen
  • Your boss complains about the direction of staples
  • You notice that your headaches occur daily
  • Your pet bunny refuses to cuddle
  • You can't find appropriate replacement boots
  • The pantry is devoid of edibles
  • The idea of doing small things feels like trudging through a sandstorm
  • The future seems bleak and devoid of promise.
On the flip side, it IS 30 Rock Thursday. Liz Lemon + Don Draper 4 eva.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Honestly, who steals a shoe?

My apartment building is set up in such a way that there are only two apartments on each floor, and the elevators open directly into a "private" hallway for each apartment (one in front, one in back). This hallway is more or less unsecured, and can be accessed from both the elevator and the stairwell. When we moved in, our landlord assured us that eventually the elevator could only access our floor by swiping a card, and of course that the stairwell door would have locks installed (the building was new when we moved in).

Fast forward 7 months. The fire department demanded that our landlord remove the locks on the stairwell doors (they also serve as the only fire escape), and of course we have not received the card-swipe elevator (although, without a lock on the stairwell door, what's the point?). Anyway, we still keep stuff in the hallway, like a shoe rack (I don't like shoes in my apartment, especially after tramping around the subway), a coat rack, and a storage closet (containing junk like wrapping paper and sports equipment and artificial Christmas trees). Our apartment is short on closet space, so everyone in the building uses their hallway as storage space.

This morning, as I always do, I paused in the hallway to put on my shoes. Normally I wear boots to keep my legs warm and my feet dry, but the weather has been nice lately, and I thought I might opt for my Skechers sneakers. As I pulled on my sneakers, I paused. Something seemed amiss. I stared hard at the shoe rack. Where...where are my boots?

Someone stole two pairs of my boots. Right out of my fucking hallway. MY hallway. Not a communal hallway. I had two pairs of black, size 7.5 Nine West boots that I recently spent FOREVER finding and purchasing (on sale, mind you! I'm not made of money). They were my only warm, suitable-for-wet-weather shoes. Hell, they're my only nice shoes. I'm notorious for picking out less-than-dressy footwear. Who steals shoes???

I only keep the boots in the hallway; they're too big for my makeshift-Ikea closet. They don't ever come inside. My other shoes were intact; Boyfriend's nice leather shoes (which were far more expensive than mine) remained. The coat rack was untouched, as was the storage closet (as far as I can tell. Honestly, if they took something out of there, I might not miss it). They just. took. my fucking. boots.

My landlord thinks it's a particular neighbor, who hasn't paid rent in nine months. I'm not sure if I'm ready to point fingers (I really like the guy), but I would like to ask him and other neighbors if they noticed anything. We have a security camera in the front hallway to the building, so she promised to check the tape and see if somebody either left carrying my boots or if someone entered the building who does not belong. I've also been frantically checking Ebay all day to see if my boots get posted. So far, no dice.

In the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes. Total, the boots probably cost me $150, which is a lot of money to me; But it's still not much considering how much worse other people get ripped off (Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, anyone?). But mostly I'm feeling angry and insecure. Why pick on me? Why leave me with chilly and wet feet? Is it someone in my building? Should I distrust my neighbors? If it was someone who doesn't live in my building, will they come back? Will it be worse the next time? Did they try to enter my apartment? Is there something more important missing that I haven't realized yet?

In the meanwhile, I'm putting out an APB for my missing, size 7.5 Nine West babies:

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