Monthly Archives: August 2012

I Sense That You Have Ballads to Write…Or Something…

Back when I was about 18 and just starting college, I came home for a dinner party kind of thing at my parents’ house.  In attendance was a couple, we’ll call them Bob and Debbie, that my parents had befriended during their EST days.  At that point in time, their relationship with my parents had faded to almost nothing, so I was surprised to see them there.  I hadn’t seen them in many years.

These people had been frequent characters in my childhood memory, not only because they were around relatively a lot, but also because I watched my parents’ lose adoration of them.  Bob and Debbie lost their luster, much like the New Age.  Of course, I should point out that I am remembering this through the eyes of at 5 year old, but my assessment is probably pretty correct.  In short, my parents abandoned EST when they found out that the movement, in general, was a crap shoot and they didn’t really have patience for Bob and Debbie when they realized that Bob and Debbie were also full of crap.

My parents raised me to be a critical thinker, especially when it came to people.  Never mistake my ability to put up with people’s crap as an inability to identify people’s crap.

That last part makes me sound like that scene in Jurassic Park when the one paleontologist goes digging through a giant pile of triceratops droppings, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not that graphic, ok (and I totally spared you the picture of triceratops crap that I found online).  I just mean that I’m fairly sure that one of my main sources of misery as a kid (and as an adult) was that I knew so many people who were full of it and refused to call them out on it.

Over the years, I heard a lot of mockery of Bob and Debbie.  As a little kid, I didn’t really get it.  I think what it came down to was that they behaved as though they were incredibly enlightened individuals, but in reality they were both a mess.  They were each facing years’ worth of unrequited dreams and trying to pay the mortgage and raise an emotionally troubled son just like every other jackass.  Of course, this is, to me, the New Age movement in a nutshell.  It has never seemed any better than any other religion to me.  You replace the word God with the word Universe.  You put your faith in it just the same.  Sure, there’s more of a focus on personal responsibility, self-control, all that.  But it still seemed to defer to doing all this in the hopes of receiving gold stars from the Universe when you successfully didn’t throw a chair across the room in a fit of anger.

Honestly, I grew up thinking sometimes that my parents were a little harsh when it came to Bob and Debbie.  I mean, they tried to do things that they wanted to do.  In the end, I think it was because they projected an air of superiority for the things they were interested in and instead of coming across as interesting, they just came across as pretentious.

So they disappeared for a while and when I was 18 I came to a party at my parents’ house and there they were.  They looked about the same.  They weren’t acting any differently.  It was almost as though no time had passed.  The only difference was that I was 18 instead of 8 and I had truly begun to come into my own as a person.  Suddenly I found myself forming my own opinions about these people based on my own personal experience with them and it was both depressing and hilarious.

I found myself in a conversation with Bob.  He asked me what I was doing in school.  I told him that I was studying chemistry and he says, “Oh.  OK.  Well, you know what you should do then?” “What, Bob?” “You should solve nuclear fusion.”

I looked at him and blinked a few times.  I will give him points for not asking me to make him some LSD or something.  That’s usually what people say when I tell them I’m a chemist.  He was kickin’ it Old School™ by saying a close equivalent to, “You say you’re a chemist, ey?  What say you and me go blow up Japan?”  Yes, yes.  I know.  Those were physicists, but most people don’t know the difference.  The nuclear fusion thing was a similar faux pas.

“Solve nuclear fusion?  Oh, well, let me go get a couple of cocktail napkins and I’ll jot down a few of my ideas for you!”  I figured giving in to his demands would be easy…if I had a genie or something.

“I’m just saying, that’s where it’s at.  If you could solve that, then the education would be worth it.”

“Well, Bob, that would be nuclear physics and I’m a first year chemistry student, so I’ll get back to you after I get acids and bases all figured out.”

The rest of the conversation was similar in that he would ask me about something I was interested in and then proceed to tell me what I should actually be interested in and doing.  It reminds me of the conversation between Fry and Leela in one of the greatest episodes of Futurama ever:

Fry – What have you always wanted to do more than anything else?
Leela – *sigh* To meet my real parents…
Fry – Whatever. The correct answer is “to be a super hero”.

At some point we got onto the subject of music.  I informed him that I play the guitar.  Now, at that point I had not written a song yet.  Well, I think I had written one but I didn’t really like it.  I had put a couple of Peter’s poems to music by then but was even more critical of my own words then than I am now.  So, I tell Bob that I like playing Neil Young songs and he says, “Ok.  Well, what you need to do right now is record an album.”

“Um…well, I would if I had any songs that I have written.”

“Well, write some!  Now!  Before it’s too late!”

“I’m fairly certain I’m not going to die in the next couple of days. Look, Bob, I’m not going to write anything if I have nothing to say.  Songs written by people who have nothing of consequence to say make for terrible albums.”

“So what?” he said. “You’ve got to record.  NOW.”

“But whatever I would record NOW would be horrifically mediocre.”

“So?”

“Why would I want recorded evidence of my extreme mediocrity?”

“You might DIE!”

“I WILL in fact die.  Why would I want my legacy to be a string of mediocre ballads about being a teenager or something?”

It went on like this until I found out that he had recently recorded an album.  He brought copies for everyone and made us listen to it.  When the first track started, his wife said, “Oh god.  Again, Bob?”

The album was, as I expected, completely mediocre and uninspiring.  After they left I thought about this a lot.  On one hand, it was hilarious.  On the other hand, it was so very sad because I know that this guy paid out the ass to produce this thing that no one cared about.  To him it was this thing that he did before he died and to everyone else it was boring noise.  Could I fault him for fulfilling a dream of his?  Of course not.  But I am left wondering why it was such a dream of his when he had absolutely nothing of exciting to offer the public.

I was reminded of all this recently as I sat in the attic of Peter’s lovely house recording one of 90 little takes that comprised my electric guitar part for one of our newer songs.  Peter and I have been writing and playing together for 4-5 years (officially) and as we continue on this huge project of recording our first real, fully tracked, studio album I see that we have achieved something brilliant.  We are far from mediocre.  It took me a long while to realize this.  Much like a kid who is short for most of hir formative years who suddenly gets a growth spurt, never quite understanding that zie’s not short anymore, Peter and I used to be quite mediocre musically.  Our friends supported us because they were our friends…and often I feared we were subjecting them to our music, rather than entertaining them.  I still have a hard time understanding that this isn’t the case anymore.  Sure, most of our fan base are our friends, but I think they actually like to come listen to us play.  I think they actually find us entertaining and really worth listening to.  Our friends know the words to our older songs.

At a rehearsal recently, I found myself somehow distanced from the rest of the band.  I was listening to everyone but myself and I found myself thinking, “Wow, this band is awesome.”  I spoke to myself as though I wasn’t part of it.  It was a moment of slight objectiveness wherein I could hear how great a band Arcati Crisis is and then I remembered that I get to front it often.  I looked over at Peter and thought about how we’ve known each other for 17 years and have managed to get here.  No, we aren’t making any money and we don’t have a lot of notoriety, but it is a legacy that I am proud to have etched on my past and present.  I think about that conversation with Bob and I am happy to say that I didn’t just write some songs to say that I had done it.  I wrote some songs because I had songs to write.  If I were die suddenly, I would at least have those songs to leave behind and by listening to them you would get a pretty wonderful idea of who I am.

There’s often discussion about how atheists are depressing, defeatist misanthropes who just want to crap on everyone else’s good time.  People equate saying that there is no God, nor is there magic in the world with “Nothing is beautiful and nothing moves me”.  Well, I wholeheartedly disagree.  I am struck so often by the beauty that is life and that I can appreciate it for its beauty, nothing more nothing less.  When you have one life to live, when you are simply living for yourself and the people you love, simple things like recording truly high quality music with your best friend is really all you need.

So, in the end, Bob was kind of right.  You’ve got to do what you love before it’s too late.  Sure, Bob is kind of an idiot and rather abrasive in that he tells everyone what they should be doing all the time (and thinks that nuclear fusion is just one of those things you think about and figure out), but he did something he had always wanted to do.  Many people can’t say that and go to their grave never having accomplished even a mediocre version of their biggest dreams.  I mocked him back them.  Heck, I mocked him here right now, but ultimately he played a pretty big part in inspiring me to keep at it once I did, in fact, have a song to write.

Don’t get me wrong.  He’s still pretty full of crap.  But we can often find one undigested kernel of truth in even the biggest piles of crap if we don’t mind getting our hands dirty.

Wow.  I really just wrote that.  That might be the worst version of “every cloud has a silver lining” that I could have possibly come up with.  And yet, I’m somehow not deleting it.  Well, I guess with all this talk of legacies, I gotta do what I gotta do.  I yam what I yam.

Close up on a partially opened can of spinach.

*Blackout*

Wherein I Equate Six Flags Great Adventure to the Underworld

I just put up a long diatribe about Six Flags Great Adventure on my other blog and thought that y’all might be amused by it.  Here’s a little to “wet your whistle”:

On Thursday, Wes, Jessie, and I went to Six Flags Great Adventure.  It had been years since Wes and I had been there.  The previous time was about 9 years ago when Wes managed to steal me away from my boyfriend at the time by wowing me with his Whack-a-Mole prowess (that’s another hilarious story for another day).  I had remembered that Six Flags is kind of awful for various reasons. The only reasons I really remembered were things like “lousy food”.  But I thought it would be fun to go because I do, in fact, like roller coasters and Six Flags is certainly the place to go for roller coasters.  I am partial to the wooden ones and Nitro myself.
After spending the day at Six Flags I can say that if someone wanted proof of Satan’s existence, Six Flags Great Adventure is it.
I remember seeing the movie “Bedazzled” for the first time (the one from the 60’s starring Dudley Moore).  I thought that the depiction of Satan was the most realistic.  The concept was that Satan just ran around annoying people and slowly driving them mad by doing things like committing random acts of mischief and fulfilling gross misinterpretations of people’s wishes.  It was perfect.  He wasn’t evil really…just an asshole.  This is Six Flags in a nutshell.

Falling Off Walls, Walking on Eggshells

My sense of community has never been strong.  It’s just not the way I was raised.  Growing up, I liked just off of South Street in Philadelphia.  It’s a business district with a lot of bars.  Sure, I lived on a little side street and seemingly other people lived there too, but it wasn’t particularly common to socialize with the people who lived there.  We didn’t have a typical neighborhood experience.  Maybe it’s because we lived in a tourist area…maybe it’s a symptom of living in a big city, but we just didn’t have a desire to particularly know our neighbors.  It wouldn’t be until I was in my teens that we even knew the names of people living near us (before that we only knew the names of their dogs…).  My family was very social with each other (my parents were my best friends and I rarely liked spending time with my peers more than spending time with them).  We were loners.  We didn’t have close family friends.  My parents were part of the New Age movement when I was very young and they had a couple friends from that, but as their attachment to EST faded, so did the friendships.  We weren’t religious in any other way so there was no expectation of a church/synagogue community either.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately.  It is seemingly something that many atheists think about because many people were not raised in an atheist environment and came to it over time.  Before becoming atheists, many of them went to church and I have often heard that this community is the thing that is most missed about leaving religion.

I understand this logically.  It is calming to be amongst like-minded thinkers.  Institutions make easy places to meet people.  It was hard to remember how to make friends when I wasn’t in any kind of school anymore.  You make friends at the places you have to go.  I imagine church is like this for kids.  Your parents make you go.  Everyone is there for the same thing.  You make friends with people in the same situation.

But I have never been comfortable in “communities”.  When I was in school, I had friends and such (I was quite social, actually) but I never particularly felt like I belonged anywhere.  This has not particularly changed now.

I have spoken about my general feeling of being an “other” lately.  Now that my home is filled to capacity with people who I love, 4 cats, a dog, and considerably more Star Trek merchandise than I ever expected to have, I feel a general sense that this is my community…but really, this is my family and I see that nothing has changed since I was a kid.  The people with whom I share my home are the people I feel most “normal” around and it is easy to get comfortable with that and not want to seek out more people in the world when there are so many people who will disappoint.

There are frequent atheist meetups and polyamory meetups and I have had a very difficult time being remotely interested in attending either one.  Granted I’ve had very limited experience with either one, but my experiences up to this point have not particularly inspiring.

I have been to two local atheist meetups (the same one).  The first time I was subjected to the social awkwardness of having the audacity to be female and show up at one of these things.  I was a new person at a pretty small meetup and most people couldn’t even bring themselves to make eye contact with me, let alone introduce themselves or say “Hi”.  I was ignored until I decided to be assertive.  Before that I had to listen to one dude’s tales of hitting on chicks at the bar.  The second time I went, I talked to people more, but there was a lot of Christian bashing…which I find counter productive when you’re out in a public space that is pleasant enough to host you…especially when the jokes aren’t even funny.  I think about going back here and again, but my motivation is mostly to be a female presence, an ambassador of sorts, and sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it to expend the energy to be that person.

I’ve only been to a couple of polyamory meetups (other than a BBQ with several friends where everyone was polyamorous so we didn’t have to explain it or particularly talk about it) and my feeling about them is similar in that I feel the need to be some kind of ambassador.  Often the people that come to them are new to it and are looking for information.  We talk about jealousy and time management and rules.  I get worn out quickly because, well, I blog about this stuff too.  There have been days where it feels like it’s all I talk about.  I want to be approachable about it.  I want people to ask questions and all that, but I also just want to live my life.  Sometimes I want to just give people a copy of The Ethical Slut and a business card with Polyskeptic.com on it and tell them to do their research.  Also, I rarely feel like I belong at these things because not only is “the way I do polyamory” or the “way I communicate and have relationships friend or otherwise” seemingly difficult for many to grasp, but I also don’t see anything spiritual or cosmic about it in the least.  I am not a member of the New Age.  I am just challenging social convention because this is the way I want to live my life.

But why does all this make me so angry?  Why is my instinct to just pull away and give up on being out in the world?  Why is telling people about life and being a person others can reach out to so terrifying?  Why does thinking about it bring me to tears sometimes?  My answer to all of this has always been that other people aren’t worth it and that being more alone is easier and better.

Well, here’s the thing: I can cite all kinds of reasons why I feel uncomfortable in communities that define themselves by a Granfalloon, but ultimately the underlying issue is my insecurity and my anxiety.  I still feel the need to be two different people: The Great Ambassador (who is perfect, always happy and rational, and is a pristine example of the “movement”) and, well, me (who is pretty good but far from perfect, unhappy often, full of anxiety that is difficult to control).  I don’t go to meetups if I feel incapable of people The Great Ambassador.  I don’t want people to meet me any other way because I fear that seeing all the cracks will make people question my choices.  I’m afraid that if I’m not at my best strangers will think poorly of me.  It’s all the same as it ever was.  Granted, I have met a few people who have given me some moments of regret for going to a meetup and have made me want to give up on meeting new people, but I also had to remember that the last time I was feeling like this was right around when we met Shaun and Ginny and that turned out pretty fucking good.

I have been crazy for weeks, and only after a brief reprieve of a few weeks here and there.  I struggle with anxiety and low level depression daily.  In the last several weeks each day has been a struggle to keep it together.  I can do it.  I can control myself.  Circumstance certainly can be stressful and there has been a lot going on (what with people moving in, me going through the entire house in an effort to get it organized, and trying to change the slob part of me for good).  I have been trying to pay attention to my diet (I have been caffeine-free for a month!) and my water intake and sleep to try and keep myself in the best condition possible.  But, well, I finally have given into the fact that I need professional help.

So, I made an appointment to go see a therapist and probably a psychiatrist after that because  I am starting to think that this is more chemical than circumstantial. I need someone outside to help me figure out what’s going on.  I have made wonderful changes and am miles ahead of where I was years ago, but I am expending a ridiculous amount of energy to remain stable and I’m tired.  I get enough sleep but I’m tired all the time and I think it might be because I’m trying too hard to be OK on my own.  I have been scared of therapy because, while I don’t judge other people badly at all for doing the same, I have convinced myself that I am strong enough to do this alone and that giving in to this is failure.  And maybe I can do this on my own, but is it worth it if I’m just crazed all the time trying to be strong?  I have to ask for help and I have to do it without shame.  It’s time to reach out.  I have been afraid of potential medication because I’m afraid of losing the parts of me that I like, but I have to remind myself that if this is the path required that this medication will be like anything else.  You have to find the one that works for you and trust that the people that love you will be patient and help you through the searching process.  I did it for birth control.  I can do it for this.

Since I can’t apparently stay quiet in the blogosphere about everything going on with me, I will likely be chronicling this process here, because like polyamory and atheism, mental illness is a real thing in the world that needs multiple voices and I realize that at this point I really don’t care who knows about it.  I wrote an email to someone close to me last year asking them to seek out therapy and I was responded to with scorn and the declaration that they would never ever go to therapy or try antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.  Well, that’s fine, I guess, but I am not special in seeking out help like this and I am not better than anyone for having avoided the option for this long.  And sure, I might be weak sometimes but that’s why we ask for help.  Why do I ask for help lifting a 200 lb weight but expect myself to be some kind of emotional juggernaut?  I’m tired of being tired.

Yesterday I had to leave a supermarket because I had a minor meltdown about money AND the general idiocy of people in markets on a Sunday.  There was a point where I almost picked up a cantaloupe and threw it.  There was another point where I nearly started screaming at people in an aisle.  I can control myself, but it’s time to figure out how to really get a handle on this.  And then maybe I can get excited about being out in the world again, about being public in real non-internet places.

Three Parents?

The UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recently approved a controversial fertility treatment requiring three genetic parents:

scientists are hoping to see it used as a therapy to eliminate rare mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondria function as powerpacks that can be found in virtually every human cell, and just like the nucleus, they also contain DNA. Unfortunately, inherited defects in this mitochondrial DNA affects approximately 1 in 5,000 births, leading to severe or even fatal results.

Researchers speculate that a way to overcome this problem is to take two eggs, one from the mother and one from a donor. The nucleus of the donor egg is removed, leaving the mitochondria intact and replaced by the mother’s nucleus. The resulting embryo has properly functioning mitochondria from the donor — resulting in a potentially healthy baby, albeit one with three parents.

This research is in its infancy, and right now is only meant to be used to prevent mitochondrial disease, but it’s not hard to see how further research in this area would be of great interest to poly parents. Using this procedure, the resulting baby would have only .1% of its genetic material from the donor parent, but even so, having just a bit of a child’s genetic material be from them could mean the world to some parents.

Predictably, the procedure is already getting pushback from natural-law advocates:

“Just as Frankenstein’s creation was produced by sticking together bits from many different bodies, it seems that there is no grotesquerie, no violation of the norms of nature or human culture at which scientists and their bioethical helpers will balk.

“The proposed techniques are both unnecessary, and highly dangerous in the medium term, since they set a precedent for allowing the creation of genetically modified designer babies.”

He argued that such techniques would affect many generations and crossed “what is normally considered the most important ethical line in the prevention of a new eugenics” and this was “precisely how slippery slopes get created”.

The fact that arguments like this are taken seriously is the likely reason why we won’t see this sort of procedure available to three-parent households in anything resembling the near future. Still, as a member of a poly V, and one which intends on raising children together, this is certainly an interesting development.

My Bigger House

This morning I got in the car, plugged my phone into the speakers and blasted Mama Cass singing “Make Your Own Kind of Music”.  Mama Cass is one of my female vocal role models.  Granted, she’s nowhere near Grace Slick, Janis or Heart, but she’s there.  I heard “Make Your Own Kind of Music” for the first time on “Lost” when Desmond was introduced.

Shut up about spoilers.  I’m not even going to talk about how that show ended.  Bullshit.  Listen, if you must watch it, watch the first couple of seasons and then stop.  OK?  I warned you.

Anyway, I love “Make Your Own Kind of Music” because it has that classic late 60’s pop sound that I love and it has a message I can get behind as your friendly neighborhood weirdo.

Make your own kind of music.
Sing your own special song.
Make your own kind of music,
Even if nobody else sings along.

My dad always thought that my theme song should be Linda Ronstadt’s “Different Drum”.  It has its moments, but “Make Your Own Kind of Music” applies to every part of my life thus far.  Plus, it’s really fun to belt out in the car.

So, picture the scene of this morning if you will: I get in the car, I crank the volume up to 30 and as the opening piano and guitar comes in, I sway.  Yes, I sway and put a stupid look on my face…like this stupid look:

Then I start singing at the top of my lungs (while paying careful attention to vocal support, of course.  I don’t need Peter throwing things at my when I show up for overdubbing on Wednesday and say, “Oh, sorry…I can’t sing…Mama Cass.”).  I would assume anyone looking in the car would have assumed I was taking my final ascent into Muppetdom.  Perhaps they are right.

The other day, a coworker changed the picture he had on his desktop to this photo of him in Jamaica.  He was smashed in between two huge drag queens.  He asked everyone if they found it offensive.  I walked over and said, “Eh, that just looks like what my life outside of the lab looks like.”  Everyone laughed and probably believed that there was some truth to it, but I always wonder how much truth they think there is.  I wander around at work with everyone thinking that I’m “original” and a little bit strange, but they never really know how strange.

When I talk about Shaun, Ginny, or Jessie, I call them simply my friends.  This, of course, is not a false statement but by cutting it off there I am lying by omission.  I can’t seem to bring myself to be open about it, mainly because I don’t really think it’s any of their business, and possibly because I don’t want to have to talk about it everyday.  There are times when I have come very close to telling people everything because I think it’s a stupid burden to carry.  But this is my job, not my family, not anything except where I contribute intelligence and skill in exchange for money and benefits.  It is enough that they know that I have a husband.  That they can understand and we don’t have to talk about it.

I suppose it might be silly to say on a blog devoted to subjects such as polyamory and atheism, but I get burned out on these topics often.  I don’t talk about atheism much because I am rather uneducated about it.  I know that I do not believe in gods or any kind of spirituality.  This is the rational conclusion we must reach with the evidence at hand. I don’t really have a lot to say about it other than that most of the time.  I talk a lot about polyamory because my relationships are pretty much the biggest thing in my life.  Because I am living this way and building up experience points, I feel like I can speak intelligently about the subject.  I like to present myself as a person living this way successfully and happily.  I want to be inspiring and informative.

But it is still my life and I find that explaining why this works for us for the umpteenth time begins to take its toll.  Sure, it’s easier when people are being accepting.  For instance, the five of us were at a wedding the other day where after a while we mentioned the fact that we were polyamorous to the strangers we were sitting with and one of them said, “Yeah, that’s pretty obvious!”  It was refreshing to not have to explain what it is.  He didn’t even follow it up with any qualifiers like “Well, that’s cool if it works for you…but I could never do it” or anything.  So yes, that’s easier.  It’s harder when you find yourself still having to explain yourself to loved ones or to strangers and dealing with all the confusion and sometimes venom it causes.  It is not fun to be the cultural liason for lifestyle all the time.  It is exhausting and there’s only so many ways I can explain why jealousy sucks and how you shouldn’t think it’s a requisite of a committed relationship or any of the other things that people don’t want to understand because it might say something is imperfect in their views of relationships.  Being adversarial is hard for me.  It takes a lot of energy and resilience.  I run out periodically.  It takes such a toll on me that I have been waiting forever to write this particular post because how much can I wax poetic about poly before someone throws something at my face?  But whatever.  This is my life.  It is amazing.  Hate it if you want to, but it is amazing nonetheless.

Shaun and Ginny moved their office desks and computers to the house this past weekend and both of them consider home to be wherever their computers are…so my home is their home.  This is something I have hoped would happen for a while and I am still in a general state of shock about it.  Yesterday morning, Wes and I went to a diner and got home around 9:30am to find Shaun and Ginny both up and clicking away at their computers.  I was surprised by it, and then realized that it was one of the best things I’ve gotten to see in my own house recently.  It has been an interesting and sometimes tumultuous year.  The fact that this is happening will seem like a dream for quite a while I think, but it’s a good dream that stays with me throughout the day.

The main concern people have expressed to Wes and me is “Is the house big enough for 5 adults???”  Well, seemingly the answer is yes, especially if I gut the place for clutter.  I have been driving myself batty for the last several weeks going through things and getting rid of everything except what I really want, which as it turns out is not nearly as much as I thought it was.  The house is transforming into something rather impressive.  Shaun inspires me to do these things, to be neater, to take care of the house more responsibly (mainly because if I don’t, he will first and I can’t let him take all the credit now can I?).  Also, I’d like him to stick around for a while so I don’t want to push him out with piles of useless crap.  I’ve been working ridiculously hard on these things and there’s more to do, and though it is stressful and exhausting for me, it is worth every amount of effort to make the house so much more comfortable for everyone.

My house has gotten bigger.  I didn’t really think it was possible, but it is completely filled with amazing people almost all of the time.  As I have mentioned often when I speak of having Jessie as part of our home, there have been moments of profound perfection in our house since she arrived.  I thought of all the years before that I have been doing it so wrong.  I used to want everyone to go away.  I used to be terrified to share my space and not know when people were leaving because when there were people around I couldn’t be myself.  But now I am the same person alone as I am with people, but even stranger, I am better with these people around.  And now I feel like I actually have it all because I have all the people around me who make me so much better than I am on my own.  And yes, I am still insecure and flawed and all those nasty things that I fight constantly, and I wonder what I did to deserve all of this…

And then I tell myself to shut the hell up and enjoy it, dagnabbit.

Soon, the epic house cleaning/organizing will be over and we will just have to maintain it and fall into a sublime sense of comfort and normalcy in an existence that many would deem bizarre and undesirable.  I suppose it might be bizarre, but it doesn’t seem that way when I’m at home.  It feels like this is exactly how my life should be and how lucky am I to be living exactly the life that I should be living.  I suppose it seems undesirable to some, but I couldn’t ask for anything more than this.  Despite the fact that none of us has decided to procreate as of yet, we have ourselves a delightful family, a family of our choosing and I hope that this is the beginning of a life time of awesomeness and calm.

I sat down with Wes this morning for a cup of decaf and then finished up some dishes before I left for work.  Shaun came downstairs and I nearly passed out to see him out of bed before 8am but there he was.  I kissed them both goodbye, grabbed my grown-up sippy cup full of water and went out to the car to drive to work and listen to some Mama Cass and think about how wonderful it is to be weird.

Then, when the song was over…I put on some Journey.  Whatever, shut up.  Everyone secretly likes at least one Journey song.

It’s true!

One More for the List

A couple of days ago, JT Eberhard wrote a post about the five best atheists. His nominations:

1. PZ Myers
2. Greta Christina
3. Hemant Mehta
4. Dave Silverman
5. Matt Dillahunty

All good choices, but he left out one of my favorite bloggers and activists:

JT Eberhard

Unapologetic, brave, honest, and compassionate, JT Eberhard is everything that we could hope for from the next generation of activists. If you meet him at an event, he’s one of the warmest, most sincere people you’ll ever meet. And if you can’t find him, just send him a tweet at @jteberhard and he’ll let you know where to meet up. Aside from his hobby of eviscerating theist arguments, JT donates spends countless hours of his time to working for the Secular Student Alliance, fighting for the rights of students to grow up in an environment that doesn’t make them feel ostracized for being atheists. Call him a role model. Call him humanity’s best chance in a zombie apocalypse. Call him a friend. Just don’t call him a hero.

Not My Sexual Revolution

Deborah Anapol is one of the founders of the polyamory movement. Her contributions to the movement cannot be overstated. She is the cofounder of Loving More magazine, and the author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits. She works tirelessly to promote acceptance of my lifestyle, and she is a truly valuable ally to have.

That said, I need to express my disagreement with her recent article in Psychology Today, where she argues that the sexual revolution has, after tallying up a remarkable number of achievements, stalled:

The architects of the Sexual Revolution intended to unleash the evolutionary energies of sex and love in service of human liberation. Instead, attempts at sexual r/evolution have been repeatedly sidetracked, hijacked, and eventually derailed by a combination of greed, lust, and immaturity. Sex and love are potent forces which can easily spiral out of control. While change always stirs fear in those who cling to the security of the familiar, the absence of a strong spiritual foundation at the heart of the sexual revolution aroused legitimate concerns for many. Ultimately, the lack of integrity in the movement for sexual freedom has prevented the unfolding of its full potential for transforming society. Furthermore, its failure to focus on the ecological consequences of colonizing our planet in the same way we have colonized our own bodies and genitals, has drastically curtailed its relevance.

She seems to be tracing the problems with our sexuality to two causes: (1) the lack of spirituality in the movement, and (2) the failure to merge the sexual revolution movement with the environmental movement.

The nicest term I can come up with for this is “bullshit.” Anapol does not define what she means by “spirituality,” so she may mean something different, but she’s writing in Psychology Today, which is a mainstream publication. The mainstream understanding of spirituality refers to religion. Religion, as will be obvious to most readers of this blog, is the main force holding back further progression of the sexual revolution. The fear of sex in our society is intrinsically linked to Christian values, which completely saturate American society. Furthermore, holding sex as “sacred,” as Anapol suggests, only encourages people to be as irrational about sex as they are about prayer. The way to move the sexual revolution forward is to encourage sober-minded rationalism about sex. That means more thinking rationally, less holding things sacred.

Secondly, I don’t see what sexual issues and environmental issues have to do with each other, except that right-wingers hate them both. Anapol seems to be arguing that respect for women’s bodies and respect for the Earth come from the same place. That idea has no rational basis. “Mother Earth” is not a real person. The rational basis for environmentalism is selfish. We need the environment. Destroying the environment is bad for us. Respecting women’s bodies is not about selfish goals. It’s about recognizing that all people deserve a minimum amount of respect and decency. There are selfish reasons to respect women’s bodies as well, but that doesn’t seem to be Anapol’s connection.

Also, I don’t really agree that the sexual revolution has stalled. Our society is becoming more comfortable about sex every day. Gay marriage is legal in six states, with many more expected in the near future, and polls show that it’s supported by a majority of Americans. Every major city has a kink scene. High-profile people are standing up for non-monogamy. No-fault divorce has largely put an end to the legal consequences of adultery. Comprehensive sex education is now available with a few clicks of a mouse. Pornography is now available for almost any sexual interest imaginable. Websites like Fetlife has created communities where nobody is shamed for their sexual desires. We still have a long way to go, but I think we’re on the right track. Change is happening. But, like all big changes, it’s happening slowly. I don’t know what Anapol thinks has gone so wrong.

Funny, She Doesn’t Look Druish…

I remember sitting in a movie theater years and years ago watching Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and being wildly amused by all the racial stereotyping being used as “character development”.  Clearly Lucas thought he could get away with it because they were aliens, people…but you can’t really get away with it when it’s so freaking obvious.  Just ask Michael Bay about his ridiculous ice cream truck Transformers.

It started with the Trade Federation representatives who were clearly Asian.  I mean, they looked like fish, but they didn’t look like Admiral Ackbar…instead, they were oddly reminiscent of catfish or coy.  And then they spoke with a bad Asian accent.

Then there were the Jamaicans…I mean, whatever the fuck Jar Jar was.

And then there was the hook nosed blue flying trader/slave owning alien Jew.  Obviously.

I admit fully that I laughed a lot about this, as I generally do when anyone says anything or does anything anti-Semitic these days.  It’s generally how I feel when anyone says anything against Russians or Communists.  I find it absurd that anyone still has anything to say about Jews or Communists.  It seems out of place in the world today, so I can’t help but assume that people are saying these things ironically/sarcastically as an homage to shit-tacular times past.  So when the Blue Jew appeared on screen and bartered for Ani’s freedom I said, “Holy crap…they made the shady business monster Jewish…FOR REAL? AMAZING.”

Obviously, racism and other -isms never go away.  People are raised with idiocy and it prevails through generations.  So, of course there is still rampant antisemitism.  And even when it’s not necessarily antisemitism, the stereotypes prevail.

Take Mitt Romney.  Please.

Rim shot.

Anyway, take Mitt Romney.  He goes to Palestine and pisses off all the Palestinians (like only a great Presidential hopeful should do) by saying,

“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the “hand of providence.”

The Palestinians were outraged because these were thinly shrouded racist remarks about them.  I would agree with that assessment, but what struck me so much about this story was how Mitt got up in front of a bunch of Jews and said, “You’re successful because you’re good with money” and that they were God’s chosen people or something.

I admit that laughed out loud at this whole thing.  I got this image of Mitt preparing for his trip and choosing to read “How to be a Jewish Mother” as his primary source of research.  I will always find this hilarious because I can’t believe that these stereotypes are still relevant.

Several years ago the owners of a company I was working for were Jewish.  It was a father and son duo and I suppose I would characterize the father as someone who would have fit right in with my Jewish relatives.  I will point out that Wes’ Uncle Bob also would have fit right in and he was quite Catholic.  I think the stereotype is more generational rather than religiously cultural.  Anyway, this guy I worked with came into my office and said the following to my office mate, “Did you hear what the Jew did?”  Neither of us knew he was talking about.  “Who?” my office mate asked.  “The Jew…” We both looked puzzled.  Then he clarified that he was talking about our president and I looked at him, cracked up for a second and then said, “The Jew? Really?  What is this, 1945?  You’re kidding, right?  Are you about to make a penny pincher joke?  Because that would be classic.”  He left without another word.  I still find this funnier than I find it offensive because it just seemed so archaic!

Anyway, back to Romney.  After he insulted Palestine by saying that they were culturally inferior to Jews, he then went on to say something about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, which is true according to Isrealis, but not according to the rest of the world…especially not to the Palestinians.  No matter what you think about this particular conflict, it should be obvious that a dude trying to become President of the United States should probably know things about international affairs.

I think this is going to be a hysterical election…during the times in between when it’s terrifying I guess.  Romney is a jackass, but I haven’t repressed the memory of Bush yet.

Why Being Nice Means Nothing

Go read this article:

“God damn it, you’ve got to be nice” sounds porous and gutless next to Kurt Vonnegut’s “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” And it reveals the inherent deceit of nice. If you’re “being nice” to someone, you’re not being honest. You’re humoring a person you don’t want to be with and I don’t think I can trust you. Especially when you’re flattering a person one minute and talking shit about that same person when they leave the room. But if you’re “being kind” to someone, you are legitimately trying to understand where another person is coming from and you are willing to change your mind. You are also willing to persuade the person who is so determined to hate.

I’m not interested in being nice. I’m interested in being kind. I’m interested in having conversations with people who have the confidence to walk down a two-way street built on respect.

My thoughts exactly.

It’s Chick-Fil-A Day! Family Values! …Wait

A friend of mine has recently gotten herself into a bit of an internet kerfuffle by stating that when you eat Chick-Fil-A, not because of their delicious fried goodness, but because they hate the gays and you support that and then subsequently post on your favorite social networking site that you feel this way, you are being hurtful to those who do not adhere to Chick-Fil-A’s vision of proper family values.  She asked not that people stop eating their chicken.  She didn’t even ask them to stop spewing bigoted shit on their page.  She just asked that she be blocked from seeing such messages because it makes her want to puke and cleaning that up several times a day is just too much of a burden (paraphrase).

Because it’s the internet and people love to miss the point and subsequently get pissed off and (unfortunately) vocal about their misplaced pissed-offedness, a bunch of people read her statements as “You are an asshole for eating Chick-Fil-A, you bigoted sons of beetches.”

She’s being pretty nice about it, repeating over and over again that this is not what she’s saying.  She has repeated over and over that these people can feel free to go gorge themselves on  all the chicken they want, but that if you support their politics and blab about it online where she can see it (and you KNOW she can see it), that’s hurtful.  The response has generally been, “So what if I like chicken?  You can’t tell me what to eat! What am I supposed to do, not eat Chick-Fil-A just because they’re a bunch of douchebags?”  Her response has been to repeat herself and likely bang her head against a wall.

I have a different answer to all of this though.  Look, people, you are being assholes if you say that you support gay marriage and equal rights for the LGBTQ community but don’t support it enough to stop giving money to a company that is openly working against these things.  Sure, you can eat whatever you want.  No one is saying that you’re not allowed to eat Chick-Fil-A.  But, as with all controversial decisions and actions, you don’t get to eat it guilt-free.  I mean, you can not feel guilty about it, but if you DO feel guilt about it because someone points out what giving money to a particular company means, that’s not really the pointer-outer’s fault.  It is because you have a conscience and it is at odds with the deliciousness of the fried chicken.

This is a central theme to life on Planet Earth.

No, not being at odds with fried chicken.  Having to negotiate between getting what you want and the effects on everything else when you get it.

I am an omnivore.  I eat meat.  I eat meat because I really like it.  Chicken and beef are delicious to me.  I am also too cheap/often too broke to buy cage-free chicken or grass-fed beef.  Do I feel superior because I eat animals?  No, not particularly.  I just acknowledge that I am prioritizing my love of meat over the politics/moral realities of eating it.  Yes, by purchasing and consuming standard animal products, I am supporting factory farming. I am part of the demand.  It all comes down to how important this is to me.  Like I said, priorities.  At present the guilt over the plight that these animals have does not outweigh my desire to eat them.  And yeah, that pushes me a little more towards the asshole side of the spectrum.

Every day we prioritize our “wants” and “shoulds”.  When we reward ourselves with the food we want, with saving money, with taking part in all the conveniences of modern American life, you make choices.  Some people deny themselves these things to take the “moral high ground”.  They are also often full of shit, so just because they do something that appears to be “good” doesn’t necessarily mean that their motivations are “good” or “well informed”.  Other people don’t deny themselves any of these things because the issues connected to these choices don’t really matter to them.  Not every cause is important to every person.  The rest of us are somewhere in between.  A lot of people, I think, are aware of the social/political/moral effect that their choices may have and they weigh their desires against those implications and decide which is more important to them.

What strikes me as kind of hilarious about this entire Chick-Fil-A debacle is that it’s a bunch of people screaming that they will NOT BE DETERRED FROM THEIR CHICKEN, DAGNABBIT!  I guess we should add “Denial of Delicious Chicken to the General Public” to the “Gay Agenda”, right?  I just don’t understand why it has to be Chick-Fil-A.  There are lots of places to get fried chicken that have not (yet) made their anti-gay stance plain.  Then again, none of them are paragons of Moral Awesomeness either.  I mean, look at KFC.  The rumors about that place alone are hilarious.  “They changed their name to KFC because it would be a lie to have ‘Chicken’ in the name…because they’re not selling chicken ZOMG!” or “They genetically engineer chickens to be beakless”.  But their advertising campaigns often seem a little racist to me (that might be white guilt saying that, I don’t know…but the advertisements always seemed off to me).  As for Crown, who knows.  Maybe they have a sordid origin story where the first things fried at Crown were a pair of royal testicles or something. (Note: There is no evidence to support this outlandish claim, though as an American I am forced to assume its founders are terrorists).  Clearly the answer is that we should all invest in our own deep fryers.  That’s American independence right there.

*Shudder* This just reminds me of how I used to visit friends at their apartment and one of the housemates was frying something every time I went over there.  The kitchen seemed to be bathed in a thin film of grease and the dude was always shirtless, standing in front of the fryer.  “Do you want some wings?” “No, thanks…”

In the end, this is all fast food.  None of it is good for you and it would probably make the most sense to cut it all out of your diet for health reasons before political ones, but again, these are choices we make.  This is how vices work.  Indulging one here and there isn’t inherently terrible, but recall that we are not isolated.  Our actions have consequences, both positive and negative.  When you eat a Chick-Fil-A sandwich you are satisfying a vice (fatty, bad for you food) and it also has political batshittery attached to it too.  You’re consuming something that’s not only bad for your body but something that helps support a company with ideas that are bad for society as a whole.

So, yes, eat it if you really want to, but don’t be surprised if someone thinks that this pushes you more to the asshole side of the spectrum, especially if your response is something like, “I just want to eat my chicken in peace.  I don’t want to care about what it MEANS!”  No one is telling you that you MUST CARE, but if you care enough to get mad about being called out on it, then that’s on you.

As for the reading comprehension failure here and on the internet in general, well, that’s a whole other post. Oy.