Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Captive Performer

Scene: I am in a car with a guy to whom I have not yet out myself.  I was discussing my recent wage debacle with him and he suggested that I simply quit since I don’t have any kids and Wes makes good money.

There were a lot of things sort of silly about this suggestion, mainly because of the massive assumptions that he was making about what I spend my money on.  In his (and many people’s worlds, I think) kids are the only reason not to be reckless. Otherwise, screw it.  Throw caution to the wind and backpack in Europe for a year surviving on baguettes and river water, just like you’ve always wanted.  One year I had the opportunity to work in Germany as an ink chemist for a very, very low wage.  When I was considering how I would do this and not be miserable, I thought I would just go be a street musician, specializing in singing Vietnam War era anti-war/government songs, since this was just around the time of Shock and Awe.

But instead, I chose to take a job at the time that would pay me in a week what the job in Germany would pay me in a month, and would set me up better for the career I currently have.  Yes, I am an odd bird in many ways, but I am also pretty practical in things like this.

So this guy tells me that I should just quit since I have nothing to stop me.  I took this opportunity to tell him that Wes and I have a mortgage, two cars to pay off, credit card debt, student loan debt, bills…and, well, I am polyamorous and live with 3 additional people.

The guy’s reaction was large, boisterous and embarrassing.

“WHAAAAAAAT?!? And what, you’re all having sex together or something??? WHAT ARE YOU DOOOOING?!? JESUS!”

I have been told a few times to be patient with people because my life style is weird and it takes people some getting used to.  I get that and I try to be patient, but honestly, I’m relatively over that now.  I can take people thinking it’s odd and having questions, but I do not have to put up with shaming behavior.  This initial reaction and things he subsequently said made me feel shame, like a slut (in the bad way), and stupid.

Of course, these feelings didn’t last long, since I know better.  I told him that his reaction wasn’t helpful and he told me that it was controlling to say that he shouldn’t react a certain way.  I laughed at him and said simply that his reaction makes me not want to talk to him about it because I didn’t feel respected. He said,

“What, do you want me to say ‘Oh Gina, that’s so beautiful!’ Fuck that, I’m not going to say that.”

“No,” I said, “But if you want to ask me extremely personal questions, you could be less of an asshole about it.”

We continued to talk and he told me sordid tales of his past, where he had affairs all the time in NYC while his ex-wife was home and unaware.  People like to tell me these stories of infidelity when I come out as poly.  I’m never sure why since all I have to say about it is, “Yep, that’s unethical and not what I’m doing.”  He told me story after story and my response to each was, “Well, yeah, that should have destroyed your marriage because you were lying and not respecting your relationship.”  He agreed and then said something about how he wants one person to be his and only his, but knows that he also wants other people.  I looked at him and said something to the effect of “Cool story, bro”.

When I come out to people about my relationship style, I’m actually not doing it to judge or convert you.  A common topic of discussion in the family is how I personally don’t thrive on being an ambassador of polyamory.  I’m generally approachable, I realize, but if I’m at a meetup or something, I will answer questions about my personal life and how I deal with it, but I don’t get off on it.  Wes and Jessie have told me that I should just send people to them, which I will definitely do when I can.  Generally though, I don’t really care about what relationship style you have or think you are somehow a jackass for being monogamous UNLESS you try to shame me or claim superiority over me for (a) having ovaries enough to be honest about the way I live and (b) for being capable of happiness and joy in a non-traditional (and fucking awesome) life.  I say this really for the sake of people who might try to shame me or act better than me because while I am not in the business of converting, I can certainly point out to these people the flaws in their assumptions…and can do it somewhat relentlessly if I am so inclined.

In March, the family went to Atlanta for Atlanta Poly Weekend and it was absolutely wonderful.  It was wonderful for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was that it was a whole bunch of poly people talking about navigating life and, while poly was an underlying theme…it wasn’t really about that.  Everyone’s life was pretty standard and “normal”, with the exception of the structure of their relationships.  All of the panels I went to discussed things that would be important regardless of one or four partners.  Relationship skills extend beyond our romantic partnerships out into our friendships, our extended families, and our lives at work.  What I’m saying is, it’s really not weird to not only be OK with this but to prefer it.  It is not strange for it to work. I accept that it is not the traditional thing and I accept that because it is nontraditional, I might get reactions that I don’t like…but I don’t have to respect and coddle those reactions.

I agreed to talk to the guy when he wanted to ask more questions, but I felt slimy and uncomfortable the whole time.  Something about the way he was made me feel like more of a specimen than I usually do…more like an exhibit at the Museum of Relationship Oddities and also Slut Bags or something.  But I answered the questions because he asked and I don’t generally refuse to reveal these things about myself.  This gross feeling lingered and I thought about how someone else could have asked those questions from a place of respect and I wouldn’t have felt gross at all.  See, my relationships are my life…they are the most important thing to me.  The fact that some people reduce them to nothing but sex is hurtful and offensive to me.  These are my people.  These are my life partners.  And no, I am not sleeping with all of them.  Weird that more than a spouse can be deeply important to a person.

FYI.

What I learned from that was that I don’t need to talk to everyone about myself just because they have ears and just because they ask.  I understand wanting some things private a little better now.  I still don’t care for the most part, but I think I will assess how safe I feel with someone before giving them the ammunition to hurt me.

When he dropped me off at my house after a long day, I jumped out of the car and walked proudly up the driveway into the house where my family was and, as it has been many times before, my home felt like the sweetest home in the world.

Cars are Annoying and Other Interesting Insights into Human Culture

One thing I will say about women’s liberation is that it makes mundane accomplishments seem like monumental achievements.  Case in point, yesterday I got all “dolled up” for work and walked out to my car.  I sat down in the driver’s seat, started the car, and winced at the ridiculously high volume of the radio…again.  I turned it down, noticed that my “low air in the tires” light was on, and thought, “eh, fine, I’ll just pump up the jam down the road…tire…pump up the tire.  There are no jams to be pumped at this early hour of the day, good sir!”

I, of course, was saying that to myself in a hoity toity British accent and all was fun and games until I drove approximately 5 feet and, as my car lurched and thumped forward I thought, “Well, shit.  Something ain’t right.”

This was said in an offensive Southern accent.

I stepped out of the car and inspected the tires, only to find that one was completely flat.

“Fuck.” I said, out loud, in my own voice with no accent adulteration.  I walked upstairs and announced to Wes that I had a flat tire.  He said something like, “Bummer. Do you have a spare tire?”

I had no idea.  I had not yet had to deal with this kind of thing with the Fit.  So I went outside again and found that I did in fact have a donut.  Impressively, I was happier about that discovery than whether or not I had a delicious donut, though I was starting to think that I would need a donut of the delicious variety soon since drinking wine at 9am is a faux pas or something…unless you’re in France…or unless it’s Sunday brunch.  I’m pretty sure if I were to take a glass of wine and stir it with a celery stalk, it would be the next big acceptable brunch booze option.

Anyway, I had a donut tire and I had a non-complete-bottom-of-the-line hydraulic jack.  Wes appeared next to me and helped me figure out where to put the jack and then said, “Well, I have to go to work! Have fun!”

He drove off in his convertible and I stood there staring at the jack, having already raised the car, realizing that I didn’t know how to get it back down again.  Meanwhile, it was humid and the fresh morning dew was fucking everywhere, so it was time to change costumes.

Jessie, Shaun and Ginny were asleep.  I changed from my spiffy “I’m a god damn professional” outfit into an “eh, fuck it” outfit.  It consisted of ripped, dirty jeans, and t-shirt with a mushroom cloud and scientists fist pumping behind the word SCIENCE! And my hair hastily pulled back into a ponytail.  I stomped out of the house already frustrated (mostly because of the humidity, because I am a northern wuss) and proceeded to sit down in the grass and try to read the (1 page) manual to the jack to figure out how to operate it.  I read the page again and again and started talking to myself about how this didn’t make any sense.  “Yes, I see the release valve, ok?!? BUT HOW DO I TURN IT?!? What handle?!? I HATE YOU!”

Well, it is 2013 and when in doubt, ask Google. After blowing past several links that said things like, “Once you are done with the car in its raised position, simply lower it,” I found something that made sense and I went, “OooooooooooOOOoooH” and managed the first part of this great enigma.

Then I tried to loosen the lug nuts with the tire iron I had…only to find that the tire iron was not the right size.  Luckily for me, there was another car I could drive to go get a new one…but I didn’t do this until I had already exhausted various insufficient and inappropriate tools from the workbench.  Wes’ suggestion was to hit the ratchet I had with a hammer.  Not ready to regress into “Home Habilis Learns to Use Tools” existence, I went with the “drag my ass to Pepboys” plan instead.

I came home with an impressive looking lug wrench and, after thinking that I had gotten the wrong size (only to find that every one of the 4 fittings on there was different), I got the lug nuts loose with my massive strength.

Also with a great deal of help from the concept of leverage.  Simple machines make work easier.  I wish I also had required a pulley and an inclined plane, because then this would be an even MORE exciting post!

Long story longer, I managed to get the donut on and I cheered for myself, and pat myself on the hip where I have a gold star tattoo for situations just like this.  I didn’t even bother to wash my hands or face.  I just got in the car and decided to take the risk of getting down the street to the auto repair place.  Obviously, as I sputtered down the road at a relative snail’s pace with my blinkers on (envisioning the donut suddenly flying off the car due to my shoddy installation job), I was loudly singing the theme to Indiana Jones.

Obviously.

I made it there alive and without any impressive several car pile ups, and surprised the people working there when they realized that I had changed the tire myself.  I was probably just projecting that they were impressed.  The one guy asked if I had done it myself after seeing my dirty hands and the fingerprints on my face.  “You know you can go wash your hands in the sink over there…” Yup, totally awe struck.  I know.  I know it had nothing to do with the fact that I looked like I dropped the car off by jumping out of it while it was moving or anything.

So yes, I changed a tire by myself and was proud about it and also knew that had I told some people the story, they would have been like “Why didn’t Wes do it for you?” Some people did say “Why don’t you go wake up, Shaun?”

Here’s the thing: I accept that statistically, men are overall stronger physically than women.  I know that sometimes it just makes more sense to get a dude to carry heavy things for me because it’s not going to take as much of a toll on them BUT I also think that being able to change a tire is something that every able-bodied should know how to do and, given the proper tools, should be able to do.  When I was younger, I wanted to prove something all the time and proclaim that I didn’t need help.  I still do that, but I am learning to assess when I really need help and when I’m just being lazy.  In the case of the tire, Wes had to get to work and I wasn’t going to ask him to do this for me when I was perfectly capable of doing it (especially since I was at home when I discovered it).  I wasn’t going to go wake Shaun up a few hours earlier than he normally would be up unless there was no option. On Facebook I answered the question of “wake up Shaun” with, “I ultimately was happy to have done it myself.  Women are strong like bull.”

I mention this only because of the implied Russian accent needed to say that sentence properly.

I was jokingly calling this whole thing an Adventure in Women’s Lib, and perhaps it was in the way that the whole day was a lot about gender equality and saying fuck you to gender roles.  I changed a tire on my own and refused to be a damsel in distress (even though I was frustrated as all get out).  Then I walked with Shaun to go pick up a pizza I ordered and he explained to me why he thought the Nietzsche book he was reading was brilliant and unique (then he read a passage to the dog later…she was patient, but confused).  Then Wes came home and made dinner while I sat on the porch with a crossword puzzle and a glass of wine.

Then more friends of ours came over and we sat in the hot tub for hours, drinking way too much for a Tuesday night.

Life is mundane and absurd and amazing.  I like to look at this more as People’s Lib rather than Women’s Lib because at our house, no one really follows any kind of normal definitions.  And I call it quite the privilege.

Gina Wars: Return of the…Um…Not Jedi, but Something Equally Cool.

*THUD! A girl you recognize has appeared before you, accompanied by a loud crash.*

Oh, hi, Polyskeptic readers! It’s me, that other writer who gets a blurb on the bio page.

*Our narrator has fallen out of nowhere and is having a bit of trouble getting up.  She looks around and notices that she is being watched by the entire internet and resolves to get her ass up.  She dusts off her shoulders and notices that she’s getting old as she bends down to pick up her glasses from the ground. She turns to face…the internet…fixes her hair a bit, though she knows that it doesn’t really make a difference.  It’s hard to get rid of that “I just fell off of something” look.  A smile curls across her face.*

Good to see you’re still here.  Thank goodness Shaun, Ginny and Wes decided that writing was a good idea because yeesh.  I have been at a complete loss for words over the last several months!

I know, you are shocked and I don’t blame you, but honestly, had I been writing all this time, I likely would have been doing a whole lot of whining and no one actually likes reading that crap.  If it makes you feel any better, I also wasn’t particularly updating my Facebook page! I KNOW! Sacrilege.  But again, had I been less disciplined about that, I would have possibly put up a bunch of vague “Oh I’m so disappointed in…people…and I am so…upset…and stuff…” kind of statuses, prompting people to send me eHugs and while I would possibly appreciate the sentiment, it wouldn’t have really helped.  What I’m saying is ranting to Facebook is only acceptable to me if I can be hilarious while doing it.  I used to illustrate the ups and downs of my day with appropriate YouTube videos, but alas I cannot access them at work anymore.

So, where have I been?  What have I been doing?  Well, to put it simply, I have been engaged in an epic battle for equal pay at my job.  The story itself is boring at this point.  The important thing is that I started this debacle in January and just today got final written proof of my victory.  Yes, 6 months of fighting.

Now, firstly, I say that it was epic because it felt that way to me…but part of the frustration I was experiencing was that it wasn’t particularly epic to anyone who could make important decisions.  What happened was several months of me arguing and fighting by proxy at the powers that be and getting odd responses that, in some ways, amounted to “well, yeah, I know she’s been here a long time and is important and stuff, but is she really that great?  I mean, what does she DO?”  I internalized a lot of that and it started to seriously take its toll on me.

Secondly, when I say “equal pay”, I’m not referencing a gender inequality thing. At least, I was never able to fully buy that any of this was related to that.  I suppose the case could be made, but I really don’t think so.  The crux of this whole thing was that I wanted to stop limping along to getting my market value.  I wanted to stop having to scream about this every couple of years. I wanted it done so that I could stop fighting and just work…and I didn’t think that was a ridiculous thing to ask for.

It is, however, rare to manage what I have managed, and based on the fact that I felt like I was getting the crap beat out of me often during the process, I can certainly see why.  But I won, damn it, and now I can get back into doing what I’m good at and feeling balanced and calmer. And I know that I am valued enough to keep me happy, at market value…and that’s pretty excellent.

This was an important experience though for a whole host of reasons, the biggest being that I needed to show myself that I could fight for me like this.  I was relatively convinced that I was going to lose and almost gave up a few times, but my family wouldn’t let me.  I would come home and tell them the latest piece of the saga and they would echo my initial reactions and I wouldn’t feel so nuts anymore…but it was hard, because in the end I was the only one who could do anything.

The experience also reminded me how much depression lies and how hard it is to separate yourself from it even when you know what it is and what is causing it.  I felt very lucky to be medicated, because I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without Zoloft honestly.  I still had days where I was having to go to the bathroom at work to cry and I wasn’t able to leave it all at work when I went home.  I was sensitive and insecure.  The stress was wreaking havoc on my mind and body.  It got to the point where I was convinced not only that I was unintelligent and worthless, but also that I was ugly and completely unsexy.  I could barely look at myself in the mirror some days.  And I knew that it was an illusion, that I was looking at myself and thinking about myself with an ugly, terrible filter, but I couldn’t remove the haze.  Finally, I ended up with strep throat and antibiotics waged war on my innards and my thoughts too and I came into work after Memorial Day weekend completely fed up with the entire process.  And finally, after all of that, I got the first good news I needed: a reasonable proposal of compensation and a promise that it was being discussed and that decisions would be official soon.

It took several days for this to sink in.  Even when I got the official word, I was still in disbelief and I was still fighting off residual negativity (this is why primal scream therapy would not work for me at all.  Allow rage and negativity forward leaves burn that takes a long time to heal), BUT I could feel the haze lifting finally.

So I’m back.  I feel like writing again and I have things to say and I don’t have this general feeling that nothing matters and that no one cares.  I missed my own passion and gusto and not caring about whether I looked like an airbrushed magazine mutant.  I was aware of all these seemingly ridiculous notions, and being aware that they are ridiculous served as a light at the end of the tunnel.  “You know this is circumstantial and chemical.  This is not eternal.  This is a down in a life of ups and downs.”  And now I have burlesque shows to write about and the hilarity of family life at the Polyskeptic compound.  I am stronger now than I was before…or at least, have a bit of a sense of humor about it.  That’s pretty much the same thing, right?

Sexism and Transphobia in Doctor Who

I love Doctor Who (the show. I have mixed feelings about the character). I think it’s an excellent show, particularly New Who. We all love Doctor Who. I look ridiculously forward to new episodes. At its best, Doctor Who presents masterful storytelling and character development that could be a model to television shows everywhere. I’m currently producing a freaking Doctor Who themed burlesque show I love it so much.

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I also love that Doctor Who introduced the character Jack Harkness – one of the first openly bisexual characters in mainstream TV, and with an overwhelming sexuality that was a welcome contrast to the relative asexuality of the Doctor. It showed that the BBC is not afraid to piss off a few haters in order to create compelling characters and deal with adult topics.

However, something that’s always bother me about the show is the sexist undertones. The Doctor, through 11 regenerations, is always male, is always the smartest person in the room, and generally has a pretty young female companion (who often has a crush on him) who wanders off, gets into trouble, and need the Great Man to come rescue her. There are some exceptions (and companions often end up saving the Doctor, but never by being smarter than him), but largely the pattern holds. Even the current season was disappointing in that regard. It opened with Oswin, another pretty young woman. But this time, she was an intellectual equal of the Doctor. That lasted for one episode. When she was reintroduced midseason, her character had no memory of the resourceful genius from the first episode, and was back in the classic hapless woman companion role. 

Against that backdrop, we now have this:

After bookies William Hill revealed that the new Doctor Who to replace Matt Smith when he leaves at Christmas was odds on 8/1 to be a female, bosses at the BBC have come out to rule this out as an option.

According to The Daily Star newspaper, bosses at the BBC have ruled out a female Doctor, which Sue Perkins and Miranda Hart were both being linked to also, as they feel that it would cause upset amongst its younger viewers, and awkward conversations about sex changes with their parents.

Confirming this decision, Russell T Davies explained to the publication how this mega change would never be allowed because it is “a family show”, adding:

“While I think kids will not have a problem with a female Doctor, I think fathers will have a problem with it.

“That’s because they will then imagine they will have to describe sex changes to their children.” 

So much fail.* Before we even GET to the transphobia, what the fuck is Davies even talking about? He thinks kids will understand that during a regeneration, a time lord’s height, weight, hair, face, arms, legs, torso, feet, and entire personality can change, but if their genitalia changes, then IT WILL BE TOO CONFUSING!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!

But obviously, the REAL problem is that if having a female Doctor might lead parents to discussion the existence of trans* people with their children, that’s a GOOD thing! Just like Jack Harkness helped confirm the existence of bisexuals, a female Doctor could help confirm the existence of trans* people. 

And let’s not neglect to point out the sexist assumption that it’s fathers who will be having this conversation. Because mothers couldn’t possibly. How uncouth.

This is extra disappointing because personally, I would love to see a female Doctor. Flipping the gender roles that have pervaded the show in the past would go a long way toward undoing some of the sexism that it’s perpetuated in the past. I would love to see how various alien races react to a hyper-intelligent woman who battles the forces of destruction with her mind and wit (and sonic screwdriver). I would love to see a woman be just as giddy, juvenile, reckless, dramatic, arrogant, playful, condescending, and ultimately lovable as David Tenant or Matt Smith. 

Also, Katie McGrath would be an awesome Doctor. Just sayin, BBC.

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* to be fair, Davies is no longer affiliated with the show, but he was the lead writer from 2005-2010, and is still affiliated with the BBC.