On body dysmorphia, misogyny, body-shaming, the Silicon Valley, and being pretty: Or, why I practice yoga.

I finally got back in the yoga studio yesterday. Oddly, I did not want to go. This is very unusual for me – I am pretty dedicated to my practice and I know without qualification that no matter how I am feeling, I always feel better after I go to yoga. Still, I did not want to go.

I had not been practicing for several weeks. There are lots of reasons – there always are. For one, I got really sick in the first week of June. Like really sick. I imagine if you live in the Bay Area you got some variety of this sickness or know someone who did because it was insidious and vicious. After days of a sore throat that prevented swallowing anything, talking much at all, and sleeping soundly – all amplified by the fact that I was in the final week of instruction at school dealing with surly teenagers and oh yeah, also packing up for a major job transition – the sick morphed into some sort of monstrous hacking chest cough. “At least it was productive.”

The Pantone array of my phlegm rainbow.

And then some.

This lasted from 7 June through 17 June. I realize that this is not actually an eternity, but whatever.  In this same time I conducted final projects for around 100 students, graded said projects, deleted untold numbers of unauthorized selfies on my phone, tried to be an adult and be mad at my students for participating in the very-rapey senior streak that happens at BHS but still endorse my one student who dressed up as a giant dick as a protest statement, packed up my classroom wherein I downsized 20+ years of my “teacher life” into fewer than 10 boxes, said goodbye to some people I will really miss, was mature enough also to say goodbye to some people I will not miss at all, watched every minute of the NBA finals (okay, except for 28 minutes of Game 4, which I am certain contributed to the longevity of my illness), got my hair done and attempted to get headshots for my new job (not wildly successful), packed my bags and went to the wilds of North Idaho to visit my parents with my boyfriend.

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NBD.

While en route to Idaho I read Roxane Gay‘s new memoir, Hunger. It is an important read for a lot of reasons, but I found it especially significant as I was spiraling into my 1980s-programmed body dysmorphic mind as a consequence of the 80s (obviously) but also from being sick and a little depressed, overly tired and not being able to do the things I have convinced myself I must do in order to feel a certain way – which no matter how much I wish was not connected to how I look, is completely connected to how I (think I) look.

This is not a new problem, nor is it a particularly unique problem. One of my favorite (now former) coworkers and I have an ongoing “joke” when we get teased by our young  female students of color for having “no cakes” [a term I had to actually research via Urban Dictionary after my girls were first discussing my said lack of cakes in class while I was writing on the board] telling them that we grew up in the 80s, so no cakes is a win for us. Sometimes I have gone so far as to say – out loud – that one of my adolescent goals, in spite of Sir Mix-A-Lot, was to be a stick insect. I know this is not exactly true (in my personal chronology only) because I co-opted the expression from Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones  many years after high school, which only goes to show that my body issues are not bound by any decade. Interestingly, this year I inadvertently served as a nutrition guide for several of the young women in my class as we often found ourselves discussing how we felt hungry – or not – and how our food was influencing our energy levels in various capacities (many of them are incredible dancers… and wondered why they felt like shit after a breakfast of Hot Cheetos.) Also of note, these students are some of the most honest and authentic people I know about body reality – as well they embrace reality literally and figuratively. One of them was the one dressed as a giant dick in the streak. They get things I never even thought of at their age. They somehow escaped the neuroses that I continue to adhere to in spite of many supposedly healthier, confidence-inspiring, and therapied years later.

So, feeling shitty, literally and figuratively, and then reading Gay’s book gave me pause. In particular the articulate way she wrote about how/why women are viewed and valued in society and how maintenance of said ‘value’ is inherently dangerous spoke to me. I thought about how almost always the best compliment a person can think to give a woman is that she “looks like she has lost weight!” or that she “looks so tiny!” I thought about all those coveted compliments, and their intentional double entendre. They punctuate the times in my life I was certain I looked best. When I returned from living in the ashram in India and had stopped having my period because I had lost so much weight, I felt so proud of how everyone loved how I looked (except for A – she said I looked sick. She was probably right.) Still, I think about how my clothes fit then and I get pissed off with myself now.

At this point I decided to stop at Yoke’s north of Sandpoint to buy a bunch of fashion magazines and then go back to the parentals house and drink a ton of wine. Seems legit. I did not go to yoga. And I continued my self-care by rewarding every hike with cold beer. I was on vacation after all. And I told my boyfriend, who truly and sincerely does not have a single issue with how I look (not to be confused with having not a single issue with me, btw) that if he posted any photos of me I had better look thin. Repeatedly.

Typing that really highlights how completely annoying that must have been.

On my return to the city, I knew I would be going back to yoga. But for the first time that I can really remember, I felt uncomfortable about it – like not in shape enough to be allowed to take care of myself or something. I have heard about this phenomenon – even seen it in action, remember this peach? I know rationally it is totally fucking stupid. But there it was taking up space in my brain. And, just to be clear, I have a totally healthy build, there is nothing wrong with me. I am 5’10” and weigh between 150 and 155 pounds (I can push it to 160 easily and have been down to 140 and some change in my adult life – see the India reference above) but I really am just, you know, fine.

Plus my yoga studio is downstairs from my house, so seriously, not to cop a phrase, but just do it already.

Before I went downstairs for yoga, I caught up on some breaking news out of the Silicon Valley. For those of you who do not follow this kind of stuff, the gist of it is that it seems like finally some of the rapey, bro culture in the tech/venture capital world is getting called out with some actual consequence. This is due on large part to the investigative work of people like Sarah Lacy at Pando.com and it would be worth reading her stories about Uber (she warned us all about them years ago) and Binary Capital (the story of whose behavior inspired this worthy purchase.) I read the latest article (Binary related) and left a comment on the post expressing my surprise that people seemed to be taking umbrage with the photos in the story and not the actually rapey/gropey/assault covered in the story.

Clearly it was time to return to yoga.

As soon as I sat on my mat, I felt better. I always do and I know this. It felt safe, and positive, and welcoming. LIKE.IT.ALWAYS.DOES. I was so glad to be back in class.

When I got home I saw that someone had responded to my comment and tried to (re)explain her counterargument to me – a position I had totally understood, just disagreed with. She kept coming at me doing that thing people do who believe that if they say something over and over and over again they will get people to agree with them. This is not an effective approach with me. When she would not stop I went to her Facebook page to see who she was. She describes herself thusly: Wellness Professional. Practice Financing. Personal Health. Relationships . I am not even sure I understand what that means as a single declarative sentence. She also has an unbelievable number of public photos (odd considering this was her beef about the original post in question) of which I could have poached any. Here is one that gives you an idea.

Sally Albright: What’s she look like?
Marie: Thin. Pretty. Big tits. Your basic nightmare.

As soon as I saw her, I had an immediate reaction that maybe I should rethink my behavior in the comments because of how she looked. I am completely serious. It was this weird thing like, no matter that she could not spell (true statement) or that she was being totally patriarchally-bound (also true) and generally snotty (💯 my opinion) she suddenly mattered more, or was someone I would want to be allied with because she was hot (this seems rather objective – although this too can be misleading).

Acknowledging this reaction, I was so pissed at myself for wasting all the good intentions of a yoga class (which, for what it’s worth, was amazing, re-centering, welcoming, challenging, and generally perfect while I was there) to come up against this. I closed Facebook and turned on Law & Order SVU (as an aside with added context in this post, when I saw Roxane Gay speak last spring she talked about how she watches this show incessantly so I have accepted that this addiction of mine is okay.) Sitting there watching an episode I have probably seen ten times, the power of social media compelled me and I found myself (again) scrolling through my feed where I came across two articles (shout out to Colette for both posts). One I will only screenshot because it deserves no hits, and one I will link because it should be widely read.

The first article is by a random white guy (not a doctor) telling people they are psycho if they do not have kids. He claims to have three. I feel confident he did not birth one of them. The second is about the privilege of prettiness by Janet Mock who should need no introduction, but if she does you can go here.

These two articles present diametrically opposed ideological bookends to my earlier train(s) of thought. To be fair, random-not-a-doctor-dude was not only calling out women, (but really, who has the babies after all and what valuation is placed on those women who do/not) and let’s not forget how women’s bodies are dissected in terms of how they change (or should change) around pregnancy and childbirth (this was also “coincidentally” covered extensively in the fashion magazines I purchased to enhance my dysmorphic slide while in the wilds of Idaho. )

Janet Mock talks eloquently and effectively about the privileges that looks bequeath upon those who manage to meet the societal mark of having looks. Her take is especially valuable and addresses intersectionality with great clarity.

I sat and reread Ms. Mock’s article. I thought about Ms. Gay’s book. I revisited Ms. Lacy’s story of the women founders in Silicon Valley being groped and demeaned all the while maintaining necessary (literally prescribed, it turns out) appearances in order to get entry to the club (though not necessarily a seat at the table).  While it is not directly tied to the chitta vritti I’m currently battling, it all explains perfectly why we – I – would be so caught up in appearances, why I might freak out if I feel “fat” because I missed a yoga class, why I might rethink my “place” in taking a stand against a pretty girl (would I have felt different if she had not been traditionally attractive?)

Our appearance is often the primary currency with which we – women – are able to trade: it is a core element of my societal value.

While I was in Idaho I was talking a with a friend – a sister, really, because I have known her since she was in utero – who is now 28 (I think that puts her in a different generation than me). We were talking about how we have capitalized on people’s prejudices at various times (specifically we were speaking of fake-woke-feminists vs. blatant sexists) and it got us talking about bodies and image. She said, “Yeah, you know? I have decided that if my body works and does the things I want it to do, then I look just fine.”  I hope she really, really means this. I don’t know if I am there yet, but as they say: #goals.

I do not look the way I think I look. I know this when I see photos and I am surprised positively or negatively by the image looking back at me. This is my issue. But my concern about my value to this society – my actual self-worth – is not some internal psychosis. It is real, and it has been put on me, though it has become my cross to bear.

And this is why I went to yoga again today.

And why I will go tomorrow.

Is that truly getting at the heart of this matter?

You be the judge.

 

It is happening, and I will be in black.

I will leave my television tuned to anything but the inauguration of a man who I feel personally horrified, humiliated, and ashamed to see taking office tomorrow in Washington DC. Regardless of what anyone thinks of President Barack Obama, there is no argument that he had the intelligence, restraint, grace, (and did I mention intelligence?) and demeanor  to serve as the president of this country.

I am so sad for America and what is to come for our institutions, our human rights, our environment, and the last remaining vestiges of our social contract.

I have so much more to say about why this inaugural is feeling so oppressive and depressing. But for now all I have is Johnny Cash.

And although it will not be a tremendous shift in my general fashion sense, tomorrow and for many days after, I will be wearing black.

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

Trying to drain my swamp, and have a cookie.

It has been a struggle to form coherent and meaningful ideas in my head these days. This is my swamp – filled with Twitter hashtags, Facebook feeds, editorials, vitriol, Trump’s transition team. Perhaps, with a president elect who communicates through disingenuous and poorly formed ideas in 140 characters or less, this will be okay – perhaps an inability to effectively communicate is part of the “new normal” I keep hearing about.

Fnding time and space to allow my thoughts to try to reassemble – to find the signal in the noise as Nate Silver has always, until the 2016 Election, been able to do, remains a challenge. I considered deleting all the “social” media, but like an accident one cannot look away from, I keep returning. I feel like I am still waiting for people to see how badly they got played – are still being played – by believing that SOCIAL media is NEWS media. I am waiting for people to see that when China warns you about bad environmental policies, Germany is leery of your understanding of human rights, and Netanyahu says be better to Muslims – to say nothing of Glenn Beck announcing that we have done our nation a terrible disservice electing the likes of Donald Trump – that we have crossed into uncharted territory. This is real. This is happening.

I want to drain my swamp.

I do not even know how to have the conversations that need to be had – the ability to have discourse is gone, one look at the comments on any given news item will make this clear. When presented with unfavorable opinions and ideas, there is always some “news” we can turn to that presents our feelings and opinions as facts. And as we have seen, they are shared and repeated over and over and over until, somehow, they become truisms.

I have likened this impossible kind of conversation to dealing with a small child:

*Toddler takes cookie from cookie jar*
“Stop. You are not allowed to have cookies before dinner.”
“You never told me I could not have cookies.”
“I did, and I am telling you again. Put the cookie down.”
“Put the cookie down, you cannot have a cookie before dinner.”
“I do not have a cookie.”
“You are holding a cookie in your hand. I see the cookie right there.”
“This is not a cookie.”
“It is a cookie, and you need to put it back.”
“My friend said this is not a cookie. It is fruit and cake.”
“You cannot eat that before dinner.”
“You never said I could not have fruit and cake, you said no cookies.”
“So you know I said ‘no cookies’.”
“It doesn’t matter, this is not a cookie.”
“You may not have that before dinner.”
“But I want it! You get cookies! You get everything!”
“I am not eating the cookie.”
“But you will! You will eat my cookie and then I will get nothing!”
“I will not eat the cookie.”
*toddler completely falls to pieces screaming about the non-cookie crushing it and rendering it non existent*
“YOU STOLE MY COOKIE!”

How do you have conversation with people who look at the exact same thing as you and see something totally different? How do you avoid being so totally patronizing – as might be appropriate with the toddler in certain instances? More importantly, now that we have made conversation impossible, and the basis for determining FACTUAL information has disappeared with the ability to always find something on the INTERNET that says what you feel is factual and what you do not believe is a LW or RW media conspiracy?

What do you do when feelings become more important that facts – or completely replace them?

I had my students read this article months ago. The premise is that “a democracy is in a post-factual state when truth and evidence are replaced by robust narratives, opportune political agendas, and impracticable political promises to maximize voter support.”

In class we talked about the impact of “fake” news long before the presidential election results made the rest of the country start getting serious about it. I asked my students if they shared political stories on social media, to which they generally said yes. I asked them is they fact checked the information. They said, no – unless it looked ‘outrageous’. On getting to the point of what in the world might be outrageous in these days, we concluded that things which brought out our negative disbelief were the only things we fact checked. [A couple of them said that they considered me their fact checker, which although mildly flattering is really pretty scary if you take that to any number of logical extensions.]

In spite of the declaration that “the global risk of massive digital misinformation sits at the centre of a constellation of technological and geopolitical risks ranging from terrorism to cyberattacks and the failure of global governance,” from the WEF, no one wants to talk about the cookie in their hand. They want to talk about how they feel about the cookie, or their right to the cookie, or how your criticism of the cookie is unfair/wrong/hurtful/a conspiracy against the truth.

When feelings become more important than realities facing the world [climate change, human rights, for example], we have lost the ability to communicate.

Sitting with this frustration I came across this article [yes, the author is a white male, no, that does not invalidate it], and it provided a clearly articulated (much more than 140 characters, I’m afraid) explanation of so much of what I have been witnessing in my community, my work, the world. If there is a place on the planet that embraces, condones, and validates identity politics, it is Berkeley, California. Interestingly (and many may find, counterintuitively), as many of my intimates know, I have consistently said that Berkeley is the most racist and sexist place I have worked in my entire career. I actually don’t think those labels really accurately express what I have meant. Basically my sense has been that Berkeley is one of the least tolerant places in which I have ever spent time.

This year I have been faced with an even more extreme version of all of this, a result, I would guess, of an incredibly charged political year, but also a consequence of the notion of identity politics. I have students with whom I cannot talk about a growing variety of subjects because the subjects are unsafe for them. While I am not opposed at all to the preservation of safe spaces and acknowledging that trigger warnings are real and must be respected, I find myself constantly stuck in a tough place when I ask a student to meet an academic responsibility and they do not because said responsibility is causing them anxiety/panic/stress/ideological discomfort.

The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.

I am so frustrated by this reality.

Last year on a field trip with some of my very favorite students, we ended up at the Jewish Museum in San Francisco. The exhibition was a retrospective on Bill Graham. There was a photo of the iconic SF Mime Troupe in the exhibit. One of the players was in blackface. My students were horrified by the photo. HOW COULD THEY HAVE THIS PHOTO ON THE WALL IT IS SO RACIST OF THEM!

In my efforts to explain several things to them [1. What the SF Mime Troupe was actually about; 2. What satire is; 3. That photos of racism/ists, while uncomfortable – and by the way not at all what this was – are not in themselves racist, they are historical artifacts which document our racist history and are therefore useful tools] I realized that their sense of self was preventing them from understanding what they were looking at. And these are good kids who want to learn things and understand things. Because they were never taught the historical context of the photo, and instead have been told to focus on their personal identity at every turn of their education, their feelings were impeding them from hearing the objective details and contextual history of the photo. These feelings are not inappropriate or something to bury, but they shouldn’t preclude the ability to take in information. In my work, feelings have become so paramount that if school work or historical information gets in their way, it must be set aside.

This is where the two articles intersect. Stories have power and the moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Our identities largely give rise to our stories, and the effort to acknowledge people’s stories is real work that should not stop. The trick is remembering that they, the stories and the identities, are not mutually exclusive realities, and that their coexistence requires understanding the real facts behind all of the stories. And yes, FACTS ACTUALLY DO EXIST.

In a country as actually diverse as we are, the stories are some of the best parts – but stories are not policy. They are not data. They are not that which mandates for everyone should be built upon. [Filed under one more reason I love Joe Biden.]

The articles could come together thusly:

Because these narratives typically involve a selective use of facts and lenient dealings with matters of truth, they have given rise to symptoms of a post-factual democracy. A post-identity liberalism would also emphasize that democracy is not only about rights; it also confers duties on its citizens, such as the duties to keep informed and vote. 

Until there is a place where there are some baseline realities that can be agreed upon, I remain at a loss as to where I go from here.

Maybe the only thing to be done is to insist that a cookie may be a cookie – or it may be fruit and cake – but it is my responsibility to do the work of reading the boring details of the label and the background of the naming of things, regardless of not wanting to for whatever reason I might have… triggers or facts or bursting my bubble.

And now we are here.

When I woke up the day after the presidential election in 1980 at the ripe old age of 10, and my parents told me that Ronald Reagan would be the next president of the United States, I cried. I was sure that we were all going to die. We were entrenched in nuclear proliferation and Reagan had this weird anachronistic bone to pick with the former Soviet Union.

We did not all die – though I would argue vehemently that a huge number of people did die who should not have as a result of the Reagan presidency [see the War on Drugs and denial of medical attention to HIV/AIDS patients], and to be fair, the disasters of Reagan’s trickle down economic policies and gutting of social programs are directly related to myriad contemporary social problems in the country today.

Today we are still alive – though I would argue vehemently that a tremendous number of people feel that status to be incredibly tenuous as a result of a possible Trump presidency, and somehow Reagan has become the epitome of Republican values. A man who spurred our national debt to as-of-yet unrecoverable measure, considered a conservative. I would think it strange, but for the more recent turn of events.

I feel pretty confident that I am not going to die – literally or metaphorically – as a result of a Trump presidency. Not 100% percent, but pretty sure. But this is because I am a white, middle class, straight, CIS-woman, with an education. However, I do not feel at all confident that my friends of color are safe. Or that their children are safe. Or that my LGBTQ friends are safe. Or that their children are safe. Or that my Muslim friends are safe. Or that their children are safe. Or that my working, tax-paying undocumented friends are safe. Or that their children are safe. They are all at terrible risk of brash executive action (eventually) and rogue populist rage (currently) that has been normalized, rationalized, accepted, and therefore condoned by 26% of the eligible voting population who chose to allow a man of such little character as Donald Trump access to the presidency of this country.

Although I feel pretty confident that I am not going to die – literally or metaphorically – I have already seen how this new set of circumstances will impact what it means to be a woman in this country. Having suffered more than a year of being told that I was voting with my vagina; that I was ill-informed because of my dissent; that I was acting emotionally about something that required reason; that an incomparably more competent woman will still not be chosen over a man because she won’t smile, is not personable, is not a “10”, is too pushy/ambitious/sneaky; that my experiences are not valid – and possibly not even real – because I am playing a woman card, I am certain that I am at far greater risk for assault, abuse, disrespect, and disregard.

As a woman who was sexually assaulted in college (did you know most of my friends were assaulted and some of us did not even know that it was assault at the time, we thought it was normal? Did you know that when it happened to me my friend’s boyfriend freaked out that I might sue his fraternity because it was one of his fraternity brothers? Did you know years later this SAME person contacted my on OKCupid in Hong Kong and wanted to date me, apparently unaware that he knew me? Did you know that I chose to meet up with him – with a group of friends – to see if he would remember and he greeted me by saying I had a nice ass? Did you know that right now in 2016 not one single person would believe that I was “legitimately assaulted” by him because I never said anything at the time and that I was willing to face him again?) I already know that I am facing an uphill battle trying to explain – even to “woke” men that the kind of misogyny we are facing in this country is possibly more insidious than the racism, and that is a bold statement, but the evidence is there. When a student posts on Facebook “got totally wasted tonight and decided to walk home alone in the rain and it was such a beautiful night it made everything better” and I comment #MalePrivilege, his Berkeley raised and educated friends tell me to lighten up – it’s just a walk, and when I ask them if I could do the same, they say, sure if I wanted to risk it “like he did.”

So I wonder then, what hope I can offer the young women I work with who are not only women, but black and brown.

Today we are still alive – although I am getting killed by people on social media telling me that suddenly we are “one nation” and we need to “get along” and respect the democratic process.

Really?

Where were all you people when Obama tried to do… well, the list is too long so I will just say: appoint a Supreme Court Justice, for an example. Or how about the efforts to remove Obama based on the birther movement that was largely the creation of the now president-elect.

Yeah, I will remind you: you were not insisting people get along.

Eight years of disparaging the Obama family in ways far to gross to repeat and now #notmypresident is offending you?

Really?

Two years of “lying cunt”, “lock her up”, “shoot her for treason”, and threats of “fire and pitchforks” if your candidate did not win, and now you are trying to sound out kumbaya (I won’t hold you to spelling it, it’s a bigly word.)

The elevation of Reagan to Republican hero status makes me giggle these days. A man who inspired fear and terror in my 10-year old brain, seems different to me through the lens of history as well. Less demagogue and more Wizard of Oz, Reagan has become a work of fiction that few bother to actually study. If they did they would see that he would never have supported the kind of policies Trump is suggesting, and as Reagan’s family has made clear – he would have never endorsed a man as unhinged as Donald Trump.

When I woke up the day after the presidential election in 2016, I was shell-shocked, nearly catatonic. I could not believe that an electorate – even a numerically weakened one – would have allowed for such a coup. I did not cry, but I felt heavy. And so disappointed in myself that I did not see it coming: that I did not truly acknowledge it wasn’t  Trump who created in this country what I was seeing, he just encouraged these people to show what they have been all along – a group of people fueled by fear and dogmatic adherence to concrete understandings of a nuanced world.

We were not all dead – but little bits of me started to crack when I saw people saying “voting for Trump does not make someone a racist or a misogynist, they like his policies.” The thing is, he has no policies, and allowing someone to represent us that is truly as demeaning to human beings as Donald Trump is does make you – us – complicit.

Today I am sitting with the reality that 58% of white women voters voted for Trump. This was the group – the group I am a part of – that the pollsters never saw coming. 58% of voting women in this country hate another woman (or a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body) more than they hate a man who is facing child-rape charges, upwards of 12 sexual assault accusations, and believes that you can do as you please to women because there is nothing a quality piece of ass cannot solve.

Although I am devastated, scared, and bewildered by all of this… all I can think to say is you get the democracy you deserve. A climate denier has been appointed to the EPA transition team with the intent of dismantling the agency. A Wall Street banking savior is being floated as a chief financial advisor. The architect of the unconstitutional stop and frisk may be the next secretary of homeland security. Germany is warning us about violating human rights. China is warning us about dismantling environment protocols. When Russia starts lecturing us on the protection of civil liberties, maybe people will start to understand irony.

To the 26% I say to you, we are getting what you deserve. And because we allowed it to happen, I suppose we deserve it too.

So this just happened. For real.

My colleague mentioned an article that came out on Slate.com today that harkened back to my post of yesterday about the state of political discourse dialog general abuse rampant in the US at the moment. 

I chose to post the article as a comment, without any added commentary, to the thread that had inspired my original post. This is the article.


The following immediately ensued.









Interestingly predictably the only thing that got “B” to stop was an insult. 

Not that this kind thing needs any further explanation, but I think it is worth pointing out that the original article I posted was not about Sanders v. Clinton and was not calling for “B”‘s ‘education’ and we were told that he would only stop posting if we did because he is “stubborn.” I don’t think I need to point out too much else, I did wish there was a shovel emoji to help him dig his own hole…

This is what my (girl)friends and I are having to deal with -regardless of the candidate we support- every single day. 

This is a post about politics. But I wanted it to be about Prince.

When Prince died on April 21 of this year I was devastated. I was totally unprepared for how deeply and personally I felt the loss. I did something akin to sitting Shivah for nearly a month – all I did was listen to his music and think and reminisce and wonder. I wanted to write about how meaningful or profound or important Prince was to me, but I couldn’t do it. What had been so easy to explain about Bowie was lost on me when it came to explaining my feelings about Prince. I just sat there with his music and thought about all the ways he touched my life. It was a loss that defied any explanation for me. I loved him and I feel like he personally spoke to and for me in spite of the fact that there were things about him that I did not understand (his faith) or made me uncomfortable (consistent vague misogyny) or simply did not jive with other beliefs (LGBTQ rights to name one) to which I fiercely adhere.

Then I realized: I did not have to explain this to anyone. These are my own sentiments and opinions. They are not a result of being brainwashed, or a acting as a lemming, but a response to my own experiences and understandings of the complex world in which I exist. I can love Prince for whatever reasons I want to.

And no one considered for even a moment that they needed to explain to me how what I felt and thought and believed was wrong, and that if I could just be effectively enlightened I would understand what I thought and felt was incorrect.

Because we are talking about music.


I used to have a very dear English friend who told exceptional jokes – most of the time. On the occasion that he told a joke that I did not think was very good, I would not laugh. And every time this happened he would say to me, “Oh, you didn’t get it…” and tell me the joke again. I would say to him, “No, I got it, I just didn’t think it was funny.” And we would go around and around.

I have another friend who used to wind herself up to the point of insanity when someone would do something that she saw to be so ridiculous, infantile, or plain stupid, she could barely stand it. She was convinced that if she could just explain to them their lack of understanding (or stupidity in simpler terms) that they would change their behavior: that they would “understand.” I spent years as her sounding board and reminding her that she was the one suffering… that her need to “help” them fell on deaf ears and made her feel like a crazy person, no matter how valid her logic.

My recent experience discussing politics falls somewhere amidst these vignettes.

Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

I am deeply conflicted about the state of American politics. While this is not new, it somehow seems more urgent. I wish, like many people, that there was a perfect candidate for president, but there is not. And frankly, what kind of person would want that job? Any examination of that question certainly makes me take a second look at anyone who’d strive for such a position. That being said someone’s got to step up and do it.

As a registered Democrat I will be voting in the Democratic primaries for the nominee to be the successor to the Obama administration. I am intentionally a member of a political party and as such voting in the primaries for my party is a privilege I rightly get for being in the party. Allowing non-party members to influence the outcome of our primary is inappropriate; if you want to vote in a primary, do so for your party, or join a party – or flip flop parties – I don’t care, just don’t bitch and moan about not being able to assert influence on a group you do not want to be a part of.

I’m under no illusion that any of my choices for the nomination are devoid of faults. But I also firmly believe that it is my fundamental right to choose who I want to vote for based on what matters most deeply, internally, and inexplicably to me without owing an explanation anyone, especially strangers on the Internet.

Since this campaign kicked off on the Democratic side, I’ve been really interested in who I consider to be the two viable candidates: Clinton and Sanders. And since the Sanders campaign has gotten some legs under it I have been on the receiving end of incessant and unsolicited, patronizing behavior from his supporters. This ridiculous over-explaining has largely come from young, white, men of privilege. Don’t misunderstand, I know lots of people of color, of all ages, and gender orientations who also support Sanders, but it has been the white privileged Sanders supporters who have come at me aggressively time and again to tell me that I am: ignorant, brainwashed, confused, hypocritical, not checking my privilege, emotional, small minded, uneducated, uninformed, etc., etc.

I appreciate many of Bernie Sanders’ policies. I’m not very impressed with his position on guns or immigration, I’m not entirely convinced about his economic policy, and I am wholly unconvinced in his ability to be effective and nuanced in foreign policy, which leaves me very uncomfortable as we move further into an era of intense global interconnectedness. But this doesn’t mean I can’t see the good ideas he has, and recognize core beliefs he holds that that I also hold. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a politician who also has ideas that I hold dear. She also has a record that I find impressive, and I believe she is a deep thinker who understands that it is actually a sign of intelligence to change one’s mind if new information informs the choice, knows how to get things accomplished, and sees the importance of compromise. These are all things that have become ever more important to me as I’ve gotten older.

Still, none of these circumstances prevent me from voting for any other candidate if I choose. One of the fundamental aspects of American culture is that I am allowed to vote for who I want to and I do not owe anyone any explanation about this beyond what I am comfortable with.

I find the constant attacks on Clinton’s policy changes as flip-flopping, or catering to victory, simpleminded and defensive. The idea that she is somehow a career politician while Bernie Sanders, who has been in the senate for nearly three decades is not, is laughable. And while Sanders has voted on many things I agree with, so has Clinton. And to be honest, Sanders is the ultimate flip-flopper: he has not even been able to commit to a political party. [Interestingly this could be his undoing because by encouraging people not to join a political party he is now crying that people can’t vote for him in a political party primary. Again, at what point does it seem reasonable that nonparty member should be allowed outcome influence the outcome of party politics? I understand there’s a lot of problems a party politics but this is what we’re working with.]

Further, the risible idea that somehow Sanders can create a political revolution is shortsighted, un-researched and shallow. The fact of the matter is Obama was supposed to inspire such a revolution. But the reality is he was not able to initiate even the seeds of a revolution for two very real reasons: 1) it wasn’t his agenda; and 2) none of the would-be-revolutionaries did the job of meeting their responsibility to vote in the midterms, and so he got screwed and was unable to push anything through the resulting obstructionist Congress.

What will be different about a Sanders administration (on the outside chance that he gets into the White House)? What on earth makes anybody think that a Republican Congress that was defiantly obstructionist to Barack Obama – middle of the road by anyone’s standards – is going to accept Bernie Sanders policies? Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that I do not trust that the Sanders revolutionaries have the fortitude to stick with it and vote in the more mundane midterm and elections that are necessary and will follow. These are things I think about, deeply and seriously. Which does not mean I am asking for you to tell me how I am wrong, just that I am considering all of it.

Perhaps I have a new or overreaching respect for Machiavelli, but I’m a firm believer that you cannot affect change if you can’t get a seat at the table.

Still, in the end – these are just my beliefs. I’m interested in why people think/feel/believe the way they do, especially when it is counter to my natural inclinations, but my interest is not an invitation for a semantic deluge extolling the rights and wrongs of bloody opinions.  I fundamentally believe people are entitled to their beliefs and it’s entirely possible I won’t always understand why they think the way they do… There is not one singular truth in this complex universe.

[And as a preemptive response to criticism about not sourcing or providing evidentiary material to this post, let me reiterate that I am speaking (venting) about my right to choose, not trying to provide rationale for my choice.]

Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.

That I disagree with you (or whoever) doesn’t make me uninformed or ignorant: I GET THE JOKE. It makes me a unique human being with my own ability to formulate rational thought- although being a woman I do keep hearing that I am not rational, I’m emotional and voting only for Clinton because of some apparent vagina coalition. STILL, FOR ALL OF OUR BENEFIT, YOU CAN STOP EXPLAINING THINGS TO ME.


Prince understood all this. He understood that he could be straight, gay, not a man, not a woman, something that you never understand, fundamentally faithful, viscerally sinful, that no one could tell him what was right or wrong, or what he should think, or believe, or act upon.

Maybe that is what I loved the most about him.

Prince would have voted for whoever the hell he wanted to and he would have waved away your patronizing, didactic, dogmatic insistence that you know better with a graceful wave of the hand and an incomparable smokin’ guitar solo.

 

From Uzes to Marseille and why Frenchie hates whales

The day we left central Provence for Marseille was hot. Literally and figuratively. Frenchie and I would be traveling as a twosome from here on out and in some ways it was a big relief. I had grown weary of feeling misunderstood by both the French and the English speakers among us. The subtleties of friendship are complex, and I believe that good friendships will endure the oversights and misunderstandings that can arise, but feelings can still be hurt. And under the blistering sun of the south of France there were some hurt feelings. On our own Frenchie and I got to explore these feelings. No blood, but some sweat and tears transpired before we boarded the train. [For a moment our timing suited us both not too early or too rushed and things appeared to be running on time.]

Up and on board, we moved on out of Nimes and began the two hour journey to Marseille.

And then we stopped.

For a really long time.

Apparently, there was some mishap with the tracks and we would be waiting until it got sorted out. It was incredibly warm and there was little shelter outside, and the electrical system had been shut down so there was no air con on the train either. Things were getting sticky. Really, really sticky.

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We ended up sitting there for nearly two hours. The train employees were as hot and frustrated as anyone trying to explain what was happening. I am pretty sure no one really knew. There was a tour group from Japan who were losing their shit about the heat and kept telling everyone how hot it was and that someone must do something about the heat. That communication with the French train employees was particularly interesting. At one point hand trucks of warm bottled water were wheeled out to at least try to calm the increasingly agitated crowd. Frenchie never got out of the train, which was really impressive in some sort of medieval torture challenge sort of way. She must have been really enjoying those magazines she was reading.

When the train finally started moving again there was still no air con and we were not at speed. Ah, the perils of travel.

When we arrived in Marseille we sort of forgot all this.

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After dropping our things at our hotel, Mama Shelter (more on the hotel later), we headed out for a walk. Frenchie and I have competing senses of direction, which I always thought had to do with our totally divergent (though generally -strangely – compatible) world views. It turns out that our senses of direction are diametrically opposed because of the things we orient to: in this case, Frenchie to the tourist office; me unabashedly to the Intercontinental. In my bougie defense, it had been a long day and I was not interested in hunting down the tourist office which I suspected would be closed because France. I was very interested in cocktails.

As another vignette that will be added to my upcoming compendium How You Know You Have Become Middle Aged, the young lady at the front desk of our hotel recommended several places to us to try out for dinner and drinks in town. We enthusiastically noted them and headed out. With each place we looked at that she had suggested it became clear that they were the most expensive places in town. As a cute young thing would do when speaking to middle aged women traveling together in a way you’re not entirely sure you understand. Frenchie was not amused by this, and I get it, because the five-star life is not a very accurate way to see the world, and Fenchie does not want to be seen as that kind of traveler. And in general, I don’t either.

But after a hundred degree day and a train ride that took three times as long as it should have without ventilation, I was down to be that middle aged lady of means (or not) at the five star hotel.

Still, I was patient (ish) as we walked around checking out the marina and looking for the tourist office (it was closed). We did find out about a boat trip Frenchie wanted to take the next day, so when I subsequently insisted that we go to the highly recommended Hotel Dieu, she acquiesced. As we walked into the hotel, she looked at me and said, “This is why you always dress how you do, isn’t it?” I guess I never really thought about it, but yes, I believe being ready for anything is a good strategy, pls  you can always take it down a notch if you look too fancy. And, hey, what better place to be ready than the French Riviera?

The Hotel Dieu was originally a hospital built in 1188. The last patients left the hospital in 1993. It opened as a hotel in 2013.

How lucky for us.

In spite of her initial dismay with the reality that we would end up at the Hotel Dieu rather than somewhere more quaint (authentic?), I noticed Frenchie got over it pretty darn quick. And really, how could you not?

We would only be in Marseille for three days and two nights… and JM’s partner had given us a bunch of tips so this was really Frenchie’s show. We made plans over a glass of rosé. And then reassessed them over another glass. By the third glass we were really getting ambitious. Our plans included a boat tour of the Clanques, the MUCEM, a sunset swim, checking out the church we were staring at from the Hotel Dieu, eating bouillabaisse, and buying soap. Seemed totally doable in a couple of days. Sated in several ways, we left the lovely Hotel Dieu and headed back to our hotel.

Mama Shelter is quite a kitschy little place. It was a nice enough hotel, but the most hilarious element was the in-room camera’s that they have. Guests can take photos of themselves and then subsequent visitors can view the… well, yeah. And the headboards light up.

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We started our next day headed to the Calanques. As far as I can tell calanques is the French word for fjord. Which is clearly not an English word, but anyhow, high walled inlet. This is something Frenchie had wanted to do for some time, and I am hardly going to complain about a boat trip in the south of France. The trip would be about four hours and the only sad part was there was no disembarking or swimming and we would cruise out past the Château d’If where Edmond Dantès was imprisoned in the novel The Count of Monte Cristo and along the coast to Cassis.

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It was gorgeous and hot and geographically stunning. I would do it again by kayak given the chance, and the little towns along the coast would be fabulous places to stay if you were looking for a real getaway.

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On our return to the harbor we had lunch at an outdoor cafe and directed our energies to the MuCEM. This was a perfect choice for the heat of the day and one of those places where it is hard to decide what is more impressive, the inside or the outside. Seriously. Currently there is an exhibit on panoramic photos, so clearly, it is a place after my own heart. The building was designed by Rudy Ricciotti and is awesome. The whole time I was there I was also watching the locals swim off the side of the building which seemed somehow perfectly incongruous.

We were so glad to get to the MuCEM as a respite from the heat… but it was a fabulous museum as well, much more than we could see in a day.

On leaving the museum, we headed back through the old part of town. The streets were narrow and winding, replete with street art and soap shops. Marseille was interesting in that it had the provincial feel of other parts of the South of France, but it ale had the edginess of a port city with a dynamic and diverse population more akin to that of Paris insofar as I saw in France.

 

…to be continued…