Sunday, July 27, 2014

A VHS Tape??!!!

For the first time ever, I watched "The Ring" this weekend. Lame of me for not seeing it 10 years or so ago! The most striking feature of this film, however, is that it is centered around a VHS tape and land line phone calls.

You know, like the kind with actual film that has to be re-winded or is it rewound? I don't even know what the right verb and ending is because I'm talking about such ancient technology.

"No fucking way!" You say.

"Yes, way!" I insist.

In terms of life expectancy for an American female, I know that I am surely considered "young". However, as my 10 year high school reunion is looming closer and closer and 30 isn't so far away, I'm not longer the "youngest". It's a startling realization. What world did I grow up in?

Well, let's start with this-I always remember a world with computers, but as I grew up, they played an even greater role in my every day life.

I had all the phone numbers of my friends and family members memorized because I didn't have a cell phone until junior year of high school..and...drum roll....I had more than one phone book in which I hand wrote phone numbers down. Fun fact-I've had the same cell phone number since I was 16. If you are feeling nostalgic, pull out your yearbook high school friends and give me a buzz.

Calling people on a land line...what an adventure! You never knew who was going to answer--my friend, their sibling, their parent, or...the answering machine! If it was a boy I liked, the pressure was on. Those heart pounding moments as the phone rang and I wondered what would be the outcome:

They answer (best case scenario)
Their parent answers (unfortunate, but ok because parents tend to be reliable message givers)
Their sibling (surely a toss up if my latest crush would ever know I called)
The answering machine (should I leave I message? Oh crap, try to act as normal and casual as possible. What if I don't leave a message, and try to call back later? But...they might have caller ID, and I'll be completely up shit creek if said cute boy knows I called his house 5 times one summer afternoon and I run the risk of becoming an epic creeper.)

Other fun phone scenarios:
Exceptionally lucky kids had their very OWN phone line. This made you extra cool and added some security and minimized awkwardness when cute members of the opposite sex dialed you.

Three Way calling! Oh the number of hours I spent on the phone with not one, but two, or three of my favorite gal pals when we were under 16. The seriousness of the topic didn't matter, it was the fact that we could all dial in and talk and listen at the same time. A dream scenario for chatty 14 yr old girls.

The busy signal due to dial up internet. An unfortunate interruption in land line calls. You wanted to talk to your best bud for at least 30 more minutes, and her sibling or parent had to use AOL. Dammit!

Having to ask to use the phone at public places if you didn't have change for a pay phone. Being a child of the 90s and earlier was about being resourceful!

Having to call or write letters for summer break updates. There was no Facebook news feed, so picking up that land line was the only way to find out the latest on your school buds.

Other fun technology scenarios: some kids did have access to Napster. I did not, so whenever a fave song came on the radio, I'd tape it on my 3-in-1 radio/cd player/tape player boom box. The result was that I could rewind and listen to this great song over and over again instead of having to wait for it to come on. Somewhere in my child hood bedroom, there is a great mix tape of Michelle Branch, Train, U2, and Blink 182.

Going to the video store to pick a movie. My family's go-to was Video Tyme, a Henderson, NV classic. Nothing like browsing those aisles or calling (on the land line of course), to see if a copy is finally free of the latest release you've just got to see. And the sticker on every tape that reminded us all "be kind, please rewind".

Finally getting a cell phone, that was just for calling. In 2003, there was no internet on my phone. There was no texting....I literally would just dial and leave people messages and they would do the same.

Scheduling life around TV. How bizarre to think I used to be home at a certain time to watch a TV show...or that I would watch commercials. Nuts!!

I'll leave you with my technological timeline for funsies:

1992: I use a computer at school for the first time to write short stories
1995: AOL commercials galore
1995-1997: The rad mac years at school. Playing The Oregon trail, coloring on Kid Pix, and doing assignments on Clarisworks.
1997: I got an email address and used the internet for the first time ever. It's a special pilot program at my elementary school. My classmates and I can also do group chat in the computer lab.
1998: My family got a computer so I could type up school assignments
2001: My mom got a cell phone
2001: I got a portable CD player for the first time
2003: My brother and I get cell phones
2004: I get a permanent personal email address for the first time ever via Yahoo.
2004: My family gets the internet--yeah...we were WAY late here, but at least we skipped over dial up and got cable internet from the get go
2004: I submit college applications partially via the internet. Things like transcripts and recommendation letters are sent via snail mail
2004: I get a text message from a friend for the first time ever.
2005: Aol instant messenger becomes my after school hobby. I also got my own computer with internet to use in my bedroom. I send friends lots of emails, and learn how to send emails with attachments.
2005: I got a lap top
2006: First I-Pod. 5,000 songs on one little device!!!
2007: Acquaintances start to get smart phones
2007: I send the first text message of my life
2009: I get really into WIFI and facebook as a way of life, I uninstall AOL instant messenger, because with Facebook, what's the point?
Jan 2012: I finally get a smart phone (yeah...late to this party too!)







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.