Saturday, July 19, 2014

People Who Get Abortions

Abortion continues to be one of the most contentious issues in American politics, but I find it fascinating how it is always described in such an abstract or scientific way "pro-life" "privacy rights" "murder" "implantation" "conception". Little attention is actually given to the stories of individuals who have had an abortion, and it makes sense, who would want to publicly admit that? Let alone publicly, how about privately? Many of our mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, and friends have had abortions, but we may never know because those are the kinds of big secrets we hold very close to ourselves.

So a few facts from the Guttmacher Institute:
3 in 10 women have an abortion by age 45 (based on 2008 abortion rates)
61% of women who get an abortion already have children
37% identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic

So what does this mean?

Well, to start, a lot of women we personally know and love have had abortions. Before we go and make a sweeping proclamation about our views on the issue (regardless of what they are), keep in mind that a sizeable portion of our audience has made that choice. Right off the top of my head, I can think of 5 women I know who have had an abortion-they are friends, coworkers, and family, women of different ages, religions, education levels, and races. Out of this handful, none of them regret the choice they made to have an abortion, though of course, they regret having ended up in the situation where they had to make such a decision. The ones I have talked to at greater length about their experience admit they made mistakes to end up in the situation they did. Another woman almost had an abortion, but when the day came, she cried in the parking lot and couldn't go into the clinic, and ended up having the child and is so grateful she did.

Next, many women who have abortions are already or eventually end up becoming mothers. This really further complicates the picture of women choosing life or ending the life of children, because these women have made both choices depending on the circumstances and timing.

Religion identification doesn't appear to matter all that much. Majority of Americans consider themselves some kind of Christian, which is the case with the majority of women who have abortions. I'm sure more in depth studies about weekly church attendance rates would yield different results, but my point is that women getting abortions have the same religious identities as the rest of Americans.

Every woman has asked herself, "if I was in the situation, what would I do?"
When I was younger, I had a much more confident answer, but like so many things, as we get older, we realize life is ridiculously complicated. So what would I personally do? Despite being in the "pro-choice" camp, I just don't know. The woman crying in the parking lot of the clinic hits me hard. While I am pro-choice, I am a firm believer in responsibility and taking precautions to prevent accidental pregnancy. Much of it would have to do with the relationship I had with to the father and my current financial situation. I think though despite whatever religious beliefs or personal/political principles any of us hold, when faced with such a situation, it would be a really fucking hard one to make. The decisions we make surprise us when we are actually "in it".

Moreover, the choices we make depend so much on circumstance. Given I am 27, adoption is really not an option. Yes, of course, it is an option, but I think, what if I as a 27 year old college educated woman I wanted to carry the baby to term but not raise it, what would the world think of me? I would be abandoning my child and rejecting motherhood, and I think I would get SO many more bullets of judgement for doing that rather than having an abortion. Whereas, at 17, society at large would have understood and commended me for putting the baby up for adoption.

Two things I do know for sure: I hope to never have to make this decision to have or not have an abortion, and will do everything I can to prevent myself from ending up in that situation. I hope that if/when I do become pregnant one day, that it is a joyous discovery and I wish for the same for all women and couples.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Becoming More Granola: Ditching Tampons and Going for the Cup

Obligatory warning: This is a post about periods. If that grosses you out, stop reading.

From the onset of womanhood, I was determined to not let mother nature get me down and scoffed at any bullshit warnings about what I shouldn't do during this special time. I attended every pool party, ran many miles, and proceeded as normal with life thanks to tampons. Little did I know, there was something BETTER.

I had heard of menstrual cups in college, but I didn't actually know anyone who used one...until I found a cup belonging to my temporary roommate (that was clean BTW). At first, I was thoroughly disgusted by the notion of dumping out this icky stuff into the toilet, washing the cup in a sink, and re-inserting. It just seemed like such a dirty hippy way too enviro lifestyle choice for me, like on par with that natural deodorant without aluminum that doesn't work and leaves you smelling homeless/feral etc. However, curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to research this uber granola product further.

Yes, of course, one of the advertised features is that it is green as you are not trashing the earth and filling up land fills with 25 years of girl garbage. As a transplant from a place that just buries their trash in the desert, I'll admit it, my notions of environmentalism are still very much evolving, so this was not a selling feature for me. I read on and saw that you could wear it safely for up to 12 hours, it isn't possible to get toxic shock syndrome, and you could use the same reusable cup for 5+ years. At very best, tampons have an 8 hr lifespan, and that is under ideal circumstances. In reality, it's more like 4 hours, so you have to change them several times a day and keep replenishing your stash. It was then I realized that this hippy cup could further my mission of having periods interfere with my life as little as absolutely necessary.

I bought a "Diva Cup" (one of several available cup brands) from a natural foods store for ~$40. Like the product reviews I had read online advised, there was a learning curve to using one. It doesn't have an applicator, so you have to fold it in half and slide it up until it is correctly positioned. There is a short stem at the end of the cup that you use to remove it, but it is level with your lady bits and doesn't hang out like a tampon string. Suffice to say, inserting and removing involves a bit of deep sea exploration, and if not correctly in, you feel uncomfortable pressure and it can leak. However, I quickly enough learned how to use it and realized that it was a highly valuable purchase. I'm glad I got over my aversion to this granola/hippy product for SO many reasons:

It only has to be removed, cleaned, and re-inserted twice a day. The convenience has made traveling, outdoor activities, and everyday life have so many less hassles
Very very minimal leakage (no more need for pantiliners)
Stays in place the whole 12 hrs
More available space in suitcases, backpacks, and purses
No more drug store pit stops
Can be comfortably worn on light days--none of that uncomfortable dry feeling like with tampons
As it's safe to leave in for 12 hrs, if you are anticipating your period coming, you can insert it ahead of time and also leave it in on those awkward days when your period is starting and stopping at random intervals
Over time, the $40 cost well pays for itself
Surprisingly not messier or grosser than tampons/pads
Okay, it is good that I'm helping to preserve the earth and green forests of Western Washington
No icky trash as contents are flushed away

So dear readers, I highly recommend giving this product a try, or suggesting it to a lady in your life you care about who you'd like everyday life to be a little less cumbersome for.







Saturday, April 19, 2014

19-21

Sometimes, I just couldn't stop crying. I'd lie there on my side, and sob and shake. Eventually, it would stop. I was exhausted and forced into a near meditative state. Dammit! Why couldn't I just sleep more? But in reality, I knew I slept way too much. Twelve hours was nothing. A drop in the bucket of dreamless sleep. I'd wake up in haze. For two hours, I'd go in and out of consciousness. Sitting and standing up was a pathetically grand accomplishment. To being the day of daze of being just so tired no matter what, all the time. At least I could still think and concentrate when necessary, for a long time. It was a saving grace to be able to open a book and read and write and analyze and summarize. Besides the sleep, it was the only escape I had. Thank God, I still had my mind and could work. But I still hurt. I could try to point it out. The best I could manage was an estimation--somewhere in between my chest and gut....there somewhere.

"Take me to an operating room and slice me open! Pull out the contents of my chest to get down in there were it hurts, I swear, I swear to God it's there, I feel it all the time. It never goes away, not even a single day, a single hour."

"Crazy crazy girl, we see nothing! Stop wasting our time with this shit! We don't see a damn thing."

Emptiness hurts like a bitch. How could nothing be so awful? Absence is a nasty abscess that chips away at you every day. A flurry of activity tricks you into thinking the void isn't still there, but at night, the truth always comes out, back to haunt you. Why bother to talk about it? Nothing has changed in a long time...no change of status, nothing of note. There's no point in wasting someone else's fucking time, yet again to share the same things. Sympathy has its limits. When you know you've depleted most of their concern, it's best to shut up. Learn to live with the perpetual longing knowing full well, it's probably going to kill you.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Frank Discussions about Sex among Friends in Bars

Woman: Okay, just answer the question, don't think about it. I want to test my theory. Do you like going down on women?


Man 1: Yes, I enjoy all manner of sex, why?


Man 2: I definitely will, but I'm not super into it. Does that disappoint women?


Woman: It just seems like guys are either really into it or really not. No middle ground. I couldn't date someone that wasn't really into to. It's not even about getting off. It just makes me feel really wanted when a guy is into it.


Man 2: Don't some women not like it?


Woman: This is true. But usually has to do with self-esteem issues. Like, they are uncomfortable with their body.


Man 1: yeah, some women say that is my intimate than having sex as you're in the center of the action.


Man 2: If I go down on a woman, then I know were having sex.


Man 1: But I've never used that as a means to an end, but you're right, that usually happens.


Man 2: What do you do when a woman really isn't taking care of herself down there?

Man 1: I don't stay there long...


Man 2: Yeah, kissing them right after so they can taste it themselves.


Man 1: I've done that too. They've made some pretty bad faces.


Woman: Well, my suggestion is, if a woman ever asks you if you like giving oral, just quickly say yes if you are okay with it so she doesn't think you are selfish. And that's gross...I'd think it would be common sense to take a shower daily.

...

Man 1: What do you do when a girl gives bad head? I mean, really, what recourse do you have as a guy? It's not like you can really tell her.


Woman: You should be honest with her, but be tactful about it.


Man 2: No, I wouldn't say anything.


Man 1: Says the married guy and then the single girl!

Man 3: I'd just try to keep it positive, like say I really like it when you _______, to reinforce good behavior.


Woman: I'd want someone to tell me the truth. I'd want to do better. I give guys simple directions when they are going down on me. I don't expect them to read my mind, especially someone new. Like, lower, faster, harder... But if you do tell her, don't do it while your naked. It has to be a situation where your clothes are on. That way she'll think of it as having a good discussion as a couple versus being embarrassed.


Man 2: That's good advice.


Woman: But sometimes it doesn't work. Some people are just not sexually compatible.

Man 2: This is true.

...

Woman 1: You know what sucks, having a great afternoon masturbating, but not being able to tell anyone about it. Especially as a girl, you can't go around telling anyone how you had a great time getting off alone. When people ask how your Saturday was, you just have to say you enjoyed relaxing.


Woman 2: Oh, I totally tell my roommate, but she's cool like that.


Woman 1: You know what really did it for me? That scene in Disclosure.


Man 1: Wait, seriously? That one where Michael Douglas is getting blown?


Woman 1: Um, yes.


Man 1: But it's Michael Douglas!


Woman 1: He's a hot older guy, especially back in like 1993.


Man 1: You've got to be kidding me!


Woman 1: If you don't believe me, google "hot movie sex scenes". I'm not the only one that thinks that's a hot scene.


Woman 2: okay, I'll google "Disclosure hot sex scene"


Man 1: No, you can't put the movie title. Just google something like "hot movie sex scenes". It needs to show up on a top 10 list to count.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thank You BBC for Having Black People on TV

Yes, I am well aware that there are African Americans on US television, but rarely are they portraying the lead character in a show where a theme isn't racism or a period piece. American TV has had plenty of black friends, neighbors, and colleagues, but the principal character is hardly ever black. A friend introduced me to the dark detective show "Luther", and I was so surprised to see a black lead character, and moreover, one that was highly intelligent whose obstacles had nothing to do with the color of his skin. As I type this, I feel like an idiot for being taken aback. And yet, it's entirely logical--if you are honest with yourself--how many TV shows have you seen like this? Or movies for that matter? The closest TV comparison I can think of is Grey's Anatomy. It featured several black women and men as supporting characters who were highly intelligent doctors. I never watched all seasons, but in the 2-3 seasons I saw, the issue of race never came up with regards to their profession or who they were dating. Let's be honest, we all go to google for reassurance. I googled "issue of race and "luther" show to see if anyone else found this show remarkable. Indeed, the show's creator Neil Cross was asked in an interview how the character of Luther was written, and Cross said "Luther" wasn't written as a black or white character, and he said: “It was cast as a character, purely and simply, which is one of the aspects that attracted Idris to the role. I have no knowledge or expertise or right to try to tackle in some way the experience of being a black man in modern Britain. It would have been an act of tremendous arrogance for me to try to write – and you have to try to imagine the quote marks around the words – a black character because I don’t know what a black character is and we would have ended up with a slightly embarrassed, ignorant, middle-class, white writer’s idea of a black character, which would have been an embarrassment for everybody concerned. I suspect that there’s a dearth of decent roles for black actors because most writers are white and they try to write their idea of black and it’s an embarrassment.” As the viewer, I quickly became engrossed into the world of "Luther" and watched all 3 seasons within a week and a half, and I forgot that Deputy Chief Inspector John Luther was a black guy. He was just one hell of a fantastic male lead character, and I was on his side through and through. After I finished the show last night, I once again returned to how unique of a show it is and wondered why can't US media get their shit together and create equally fascinating and complex lead characters that feature actors of all racial backgrounds? How great would it be for our children and society to see how meaningful stories of all kinds of people can be and that their experiences are worthy of being front and center? Moreover, that it can be a movie or show that doesn't deal with slavery, segregation, or racial injustice as themes? There surely is racism in the UK, but it's never been as nasty as it is in the US. I think history does matter and the ugly sin of the past--some 200 years of chattel slavery in the American south has and continues to shape so many aspects of our society. If you think I'm making something out of nothing, all you have to do is turn on your TV and observe. I can assure you, pretty much any mattress commercial will feature a white woman and man or a black woman and man. Pretty much any black character you will see (or any character that isn't white for that matter) will be in supporting roles, often to provide comic relief. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad to be funny and make people laugh, but it's doing many minority actors a disservice to be limited to a sprinkling of clever one liners. My hope is that I look back at this blog entry 10 years from now and what I see is much different.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Truth About Welfare in America

How does welfare ACTUALLY work? I have to admit, I was pretty ignorant until I read a book this past week about welfare reform in the US this past week. The author spent several months observing case workers and clients in welfare offices in two US cities shortly after the welfare reform legislation went into effect. Prior to 1996, provided you had a low enough income and dependents, you would just collect checks from the government. The logic was that the US government was filling the role of a breadwinner male and the mothers would stay home to raise their children. Under the Clinton Administration, the program was massively changed and gave individual states far more power to make stipulations of their own. More importantly, the laws were changed to push those who needed it to go to work so that in theory recipients would eventually be self-supporting and receiving welfare would be temporary. Here are the basics: 1) No one can receive welfare for more than 5 years in their lifetime. Some states divide this time up, as in, you can only continuously be on welfare for 2 years at a time, but have a maximum of 5 years in all to receive it. Some people will be exempt from the 5 year limit, but each state has regulations surrounding this and typically only people who have severe mental health issues, or mental/physical disabilities are exempt from the time limit. 2) Children born while the recipient was already receiving welfare are not eligible for benefits. 3) You are expected to actively be searching for a job and taking life skills and/or job training classes. If you do not comply with the job search part, you can be sanctioned and have your benefits suspended for that months so that you do not receive any money. Those who cannot locate work for pay are given unpaid work to give them employment experience. 4) It's not merely getting a check---other services may be provided to help the recipient find steady employment such as money to buy a car, gas vouchers, take job related classes, vouchers for free childcare, and in some cases, reconstructive dental work. 5) The process of signing up for welfare involves a lengthy interview in which the potential recipient is asked regarding any sources of money they may have, the whereabouts of the fathers of the children, and numerous documents must be supplied--birth certificates, vaccination records, bank statements before their request for assistance can even be reviewed. Technically, everything is supposed to be documented--money made from doing hair/nails, pet sitting, random cash that may be given from the children's father or other family members. 6) Mothers must identify the father (s) of children and and provide any information to help the state locate him so that he can pay child support. If a father is found and hasn't been paying child support, majority of these dollars do not go to the child--they go to the state to reimburse the government for the welfare dollars that were paid out to the mother. Only in special circumstances which must be carefully documented will the state refrain from searching for the father and asking for child support. 7) Nearly all welfare recipients are women with children. Very few married couples or single fathers receive welfare. The complications: 1) Majority of the jobs women on welfare take do not help them actually better their situation. While on assistance, the jobs welfare recipients are likely to obtain are low wage work with little security, benefits, or hours that are compatible with caring for small children---fast food, housekeeping. I agree with the principle that welfare recipients should be expected to better themselves. However, there just isn't enough time, funding, or infrastructure in place to get these women the types of jobs they need to become self-supporting permanently. Few women manage to keep a job for a full year, and many women cycle in and out of the welfare system until their 5 year time limit hits. Obviously, some of this is poor decision making--choosing to continue to do hard drugs and party and failing to use contraception routinely resulting in further pregnancies as examples. However, part of it is being faced with a myriad of challenges---inadequate transportation, having to stay home and receive no pay to care for sick children, lacking medical insurance which results in minor illnesses growing into major issues, and not to mention massive relationship issues. Majority of the women who receive welfare have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual assault at a far higher rate than the general population. 2) Women on welfare are expected to work and staying home to raise their children isn't an option. While I personally know I could never be a housewife, I believe that every person (woman OR man for that matter) should have a choice to work full time, part time, or raise children full time. Why is it that devoting oneself to home and family is an acceptable and celebrated life choice for a woman unless she's poor? 3) Majority of women on welfare would be considered "welfare cheats"--as in, they receive money from family members, the fathers of their children, or do nails and never report this income. In principle, it sounds terrible to be accepting government assistance and not fully disclosing all sources of income, but in practice, how different is this from the rest of us? As a young person, I know tons of friends who have parents that still pay for their student loans, car insurance, or help them pay their rent. I personally have dog sat for coworkers from time to time to make extra money--I can assure you, I never reported this extra money on my taxes. Even those who are financially established receive generous gifts, like a mother and father providing their son and his wife with a down payment on a house. 4) The child support mandate actually often worsens the relationship between the father and mother/children. Many of these fathers aren't making a living wage and resent being tracked down and forced to pay money they know will not ultimately end up going to their children. Many women love their children but do not want to have anything to do with the "father" of their child. Only under rare and dire circumstances will the government refrain from contacting the father, which leaves the women and children vulnerable to further emotional and physical abuse. I understand people's frustration and resentment of having to pay for the poor decisions of others. It's true--some people make very poor decisions and continue to do so. With that said, it's so much easier to make good decisions when you've started out in a good place. Every day, I drive to work in a reliable vehicle to a job that I received in part due to my college education. I grew up in a home with 2 loving parents who ensured I went to good schools and supported me through college. I never went hungry, was abused, or worried that I wouldn't have somewhere safe to live with people who love me. At my job, I receive wage that allows me to pay all of my bills, save some, and have money to enjoy in my free time. I have good health insurance and if I am sick, I can stay home and get paid. In my case, it's easy to be self-supporting. Imagine an alternate life--what if I was raised by a single mother with a drug issue and I spent my youth rotating in and out of relatives' homes, foster care, and homeless shelters. Naturally, the kind of men I would encounter in this social circle wouldn't be ones that could support a child or have much common sense to do what was necessary to keep from having unplanned children. It would be easy to drop out of school, get pregnant, and end up on welfare myself. How does one get out of that? Say I get a job making minimum wage, but then I am fired for being late because I had to take public transit and missed my bus connection or for too many absences because my children were sick? It's true--some people do break free of this cycle and succeed, and I wholeheartedly admire them. However, it's so much easier to take care of yourself, when you grew up being taken care of. People don't make decisions in a vacuum. Yes, we can make choices--but some options become infinitely more challenging than others depending on "where" in society you are. My hope is that one day there will be better programs in place to help those who struggle truly better themselves permanently. However, that is going to require more of my (and your) money. It may be because I am young and idealistic that I accept this, but I'd be fine to forever drive a used car, live in a small apartment, and buy jeans from the thrift store if it meant that other people were given more of an opportunity to succeed. Not only that, it's my responsibility. I don't think that the realm of who I am supposed to care for begins with my family and ends with my friends. I wish other people felt that way.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

PSA---For All Straight Men Under 30: How to Seduce Women

My roommate and I have deduced from our experiences and those of other lady friends, that it takes some guys until roughly age 30 to learn how to properly have sex with women. Obviously, this isn't the case for all, but it seems that the vast majority manage to come to enlightenment by 30 (and those that haven't by then, well = lost cause). It takes a long time for the boys of this world to become men and grow out of that horny teenage boy/frat boy mentality that is so off putting to our kind, which is why many of us choose to date older men. The truth is, we'd wish you'd figure it out sooner dudes. Many of you under 30 fellows are attractive and interesting, but we have to pass on getting naked with you because we know it just isn't worth our time. Most ladies aren't going to out and out tell you these things, but I will. 1) First and foremost rule--it's not about you getting laid. It's about showing your lady friend an enjoyable experience. The moment you stop thinking like a 14 year old boy who is tired of whacking off to internet porn, the easier all of these other steps will be to follow. 2) A lady getting turned on and getting off isn't like turning on a light switch. It's like building a bonfire. It takes time. It starts out as a small flicker and grows. That means you need to be patient. Multiply the amount of time by 3 that you wish to spend making out and waiting to remove articles of clothing of said lady. 3) Handle with care. Obviously, each lady will be different, but if you are dealing with new territory, touch her gently and slowly. No grabbing or squeezing. 4) Build anticipation. Make us really want to be touched or kissed in those special places. Spend a significant amount of time touching or kissing us around them, so that when you finally reach a money spot, we're wicked excited. 5) Asking for permission is okay. If you can't clearly tell if a lady is comfortable with something, ask. The absence of a "no" doesn't mean yes. 6) If she says no, do not proceed to ask again later or move forward. Don't insult our intelligence, boundaries, or decision making process. Being pushy can range from you irritating us, insulting us, or worse yet, making us really uncomfortable. 7) Don't ask for things, give them first. If you want a lady to go down on you, go down on her first. Don't take it upon yourself to decide you've been down there for long enough--she'll let you know when it's your turn. Indeed--there is nothing hotter than a guy who approaches this situation as "what can I do for you?" Unless she's an evil bitch, 99% of womankind will be very appreciative and return the favor with great enthusiasm. 8) Don't go into these situations always expecting to get off. Women don't. 9) Actual sex is great, but so is going halfway or 3/4 of the way. Don't underestimate the fun and pleasure of messing around. Don't communicate your disappointment if things didn't get to the point where you wanted. It just makes you seem whiny and desperate. Be appreciative of what did happen. Following the above guidelines will make you the kind of guy we actually want to sleep with.