I see that fantasy authors are still doing their damndest to gross me out. I never thought I'd say this, but I would have preferred vomit.

Cut for YECCCH )
The other day I had a conversation which reminded me of the enormous differences between the world I live in, and the world most men I know do. In particular, there are several statements which I have heard frequently and which I never want to hear again.

Before I explain why I hate these statements so much and why people shouldn’t make them, please note this disclaimer: I am only speaking for myself. In particular, women who are of color, not American, visibly disabled, old, poor, transgender, lesbian, and/or fall into many other categories to which I do not belong, may have vastly different experiences. I do not intend to speak for them (or for all women who do match my demographics, for that matter.) Please do not take this post to apply or be intended to apply to all women everywhere.

That being said, I do know that some women do feel similarly. So if you’re a man, please consider the possibility that some other women might not want to hear this stuff either.

Second disclaimer: If you, my male reader, agree with what I’m saying and furthermore do your part to educate other men you know, then you are not the men I’m writing about. Carry on with your good work.

Obnoxious statement # 1: “Some guy harassed you/threatened you/cat-called you/insulted you/otherwise menaced you? Why didn’t you just punch him/slap him/kick him in the balls/use your martial arts to beat the hell out of him?”

Why this is obnoxious: There’s so much that’s wrong and insulting and clueless about this question that I have to break it up to respond to it.

“Some guy harassed you/threatened you/cat-called you/insulted you/otherwise menaced you?"

There’s nothing wrong with this part. I’m pulling it out to note that what follows displays the speaker’s failure to take those events seriously. Men often do not realize that threatening and harassing women may be the prelude to stalking, raping, murdering, or otherwise seriously harming women. They perceive it as a minor, harmless annoyance. Women, who tend to know that men who beat, rape, or murder women usually start with a smaller act of aggression, often perceive such events as potentially life-threatening.

Men often find it hard or even impossible to believe that women’s perception of danger is neither cowardly nor irrational. If I could wave a magic wand and change one perception, that would be it, because all else flows from that.

"Why didn’t you…" = “In a situation which was stressful, unexpected, and dangerous, you did something wrong. (I would have done better.) You were a coward. (I would have been a bad-ass hero.) You failed. (I would have succeeded.)”

It is inappropriate, presumptuous, and rude to second-guess the actions of a person in a potentially dangerous situation for which you were not present. They did what they had to do, and you can’t know that you would have done better.

Men who say “Why didn’t you…?” imply that the situation was not dangerous in the first place, and the woman is silly and irrational and cowardly and overreacting. I suggest you not assume that. Is it really so hard to believe that the woman who trusts you enough to tell you about a painful incident is a rational person with accurate perceptions?

“Why didn’t you just punch him/slap him/kick him in the balls/use your martial arts to beat the hell out of him?”

Let me tell you why!

If you believe that the situation was not potentially dangerous, this is merely a stupid suggestion to commit the crime of assault and battery, for which there may not have been legal provocation and for which the woman could acquire a criminal record, at the very least.

If you do believe that the situation was potentially dangerous, then you’re making the much stupider suggestion to escalate a state of potential violence into actual violence – to start a chain of events which could end with the woman getting arrested, seriously injured, or killed. (Possibly by the police. It happens. Especially if she’s a woman of color.)

To start at the beginning, it is unwise to slap or otherwise deliver a blow meant as an insult or punishment. All that does is instantly escalate the confrontation. (I’m not saying that I’ve never done this. I have. It’s still not a good idea.) Now you’re in a fight and the other guy, undamaged by your first blow, is likely to strike back. Possibly with a previously-concealed weapon.

To avoid that situation, you’d have to make your first blow be the one that ends the fight. But it’s quite difficult to take someone out with one blow. (I’m not counting knock-downs, which are comparatively easy but which don’t inherently end the confrontation.) If people have their adrenaline going or have fought before, a hard punch to the face – hard enough to split their lip or give them a black eye or bloody nose – won’t stop them. I could go on in a geeky manner about harder punches and blows to other parts of the body, but the short version is that you can hit people pretty hard without stopping them, and if you do stop them, you’ve probably really hurt them.

I have seen a number of real fights and also a number of sparring accidents, and I have only once seen someone literally dropped to the ground with one blow and be unable to get up afterward. It was a sparring accident, and it was a kick that cracked three ribs. I also know of a couple real-life instances in which a martial artist did drop a real-life attacker with a single blow. In all of those, the attacker had broken bones or died. It’s very hard to take someone out with the first strike without seriously harming them.

(I know that there are many martial arts which specialize in non-violent techniques, that boxers specialize in knock-outs, that you may merely mean to distract the attacker for long enough to run, etc. Rather than get into a long martial arts geek-out, I will merely say that I haven’t studied one of those styles, and that if you’re speaking to a woman who has, she still had good reasons for not wanting to start a fight.)

If the woman is fighting for her life, then seriously harming her opponent is the idea. But does she really want to enter a fight for her life if she could avoid it? I wouldn’t. In any case, it’s way out of line to criticize someone for not deliberately risking her life.

I don’t mean that women shouldn’t physically defend themselves. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But there’s something enormously wrong with telling a woman who successfully managed a confrontation without resorting to violence that she should have escalated it and so risked her own life.

ObNote: Obviously, none of this applies if the woman senses that avoiding violence is not an option, or the man strikes first or is clearly about to. Please don’t take this to mean that I think the onus for avoiding violence is or should be on the woman! But in the scenario I’m discussing, the woman did walk away without it getting to that point. I am only trying to explain why her actions in that particular case shouldn’t be criticized or nitpicked.

Obnoxious statement # 2 (upon hearing of the many precautions women take to try to avoid being harassed, raped, or murdered, or even upon hearing what thoughts go through women’s minds as they evaluate the level of danger of a situation): “You shouldn’t let fear rule your life.”

Why this is obnoxious: It’s calling her a neurotic, delusional coward. It’s implying that she’s irrational and wrong, that there really isn’t any danger, and that taking precautions or evaluating the danger of a situation means she’s terrified. The next guy who tells me this is going to hear it from me when I see him buckling his seatbelt.

Obnoxious statement # 3: “Why didn’t you call the cops?”

Why this is obnoxious: Victim-blaming and second-guessing. If she didn’t call the cops, she probably had a good reason not to. Maybe the guy was already gone. Maybe the guy was a pillar of the community and untouchable. Maybe the woman would lose her job. Maybe she had good reason to not trust the cops to take action, or not to blame her. (Especially if she’s poor, of color, not a citizen of the country, or otherwise not in a privileged group.) Maybe the last time she called the cops, they laughed at her.

If you genuinely want to know the answer, try framing it so it’s less accusatory, like, “Is calling the police an option, or would that not be a good idea?”

Obnoxious statement # 4: "Some people are wolves, and some are sheep."

Why this is obnoxious: Way to dehumanize both men and women, justify the violence of men against women by suggesting that men have to commit violence against women in order to survive, and brag about being a predator while calling women prey! It's biologically and metaphorically inaccurate, creepy, sexist, and gross.

Obnoxious statement # 5: “So, you’re saying that if you wanted to, you could fight off an attacker? Could you take me?”

Why this is obnoxious: The first question isn’t horrible by itself, though it becomes insulting if it’s said in a dubious or mocking tone. It’s also a little clueless, since the answer depends on so many unknown factors.

The second question is extremely creepy given the first question. It’s also like asking, “Have you stopped picking pockets?” There’s no good answer. If you equivocate, you look like a poseur. If you say yes, you’ve just accepted a challenge. Don’t ask this question, to women or men.

The best response I’ve found, by the way, is to shine a spotlight on the obnoxiousness of the question by replying, “Why do you ask? Were you planning to do something to me?”

Since these sorts of posts tend to attract commenters who don’t know me, a few notes and ground rules for discussion:

1. Though trolls and blatantly off-topic comments will be deleted, I don’t heavily moderate. If I don’t reply to a comment, that does not mean I agree with it.

2. The following topics will be considered blatantly off-topic: false accusations by women, and the rape of men by women.

Also, please don’t reference the sexist (or egalitarian) practices of countries that you haven’t ever lived in. Stick to topics that you actually know something about.

3. Victim-blaming will get a thread frozen but not deleted, so the stupidity will be stopped but remain visible for all eternity. This includes blaming me for getting asked these questions. I do not live in a snow globe, and I do not choose my male relatives, co-workers, classmates, partners of friends, gym members, guests at other people’s parties, neighbors, etc.
Normally I hate it when authors self-promote by discussing how bad someone else’s book is and how much better theirs is. But it’s impossible for me to discuss Elizabeth Gilbert’s obnoxious memoir without at least mentioning my own (much better!) one, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit In India, as they have some notable similarities and when I describe mine, people keep asking me if I’ve read hers. ("Oh, your book is about how you became a cynical atheist after growing up surrounded by crazy American hippies on an ashram in India? In that case, you will love this other book about how an American woman learns the meaning of life and finds enlightenment, self-worth, and joy on a beautiful peaceful ashram in India!")

Obviously, my own miserable ashram childhood contributed to my detestation of Eat Pray Love. (To be fair, Gilbert’s ashram, which is not mine, sounds well-run and sensible, if you’re into that kind of thing.) So I'm making that disclosure, but honestly, there are many other reasons to detest Eat Pray Love.

But since I cannot type the name of my own memoir without some wistful hope that readers will be inspired to seek it out and purchase ten additional copies to give as gifts to their loved ones, I cannot even disclaim any intention of self-promotion. Given that, all I can do is apologize in advance.

Sorry!

Gilbert is a rich white American writer undergoing a painful divorce when she becomes suicidally depressed, finds God while collapsed in a puddle of tears on her bathroom floor, and obtains a hefty book advance to live abroad for a year and write about it. She decides to explore pleasure in Rome, spirituality in an unnamed Indian ashram (spiritual center), and balance in Bali.

In Rome she eats lots of excellent food and banishes depression with sheer force of will and grace of God. In India she has amazing spiritual experiences via meditation and introspection, including getting zapped by an inner blue light. (The ashram section, unsurprisingly considering that it mostly takes place inside Gilbert’s head as she attempts to empty her mind of thought, is narcissistic and boring.) In Bali she hangs out with two traditional healers, raises money to help one of them buy a house, and finds True Love with a sexy, confident, passionate, loving, sophisticated, and generally perfect Brazilian man who is just like her, only older, male, and did I mention perfect?

I finally forced myself to read this book, which from other people’s recommendations (“She goes to an ashram and has amazing spiritual experiences! You’ll love it!”) I felt sure I’d hate, because I want to get into travel writing and I wanted to see what made this particular travel book a bestseller. The answer, once I finished it (with increasing hatred of the smug, self-absorbed, self-righteous Gilbert), was clear:

1. Wish-fulfillment. Who wouldn’t want to be paid to spend a year abroad, going wherever you want and doing whatever you want? I sure would! Moreover, she gets over her awful divorce, breaks her cycle of bad romantic relationships via True Love, does a substantial good deed, finds spiritual peace and fulfillment, and eats the world’s best pizza. And then comes home and publishes a best-seller.

2. It tells a certain cadre of readers— middle to upper class Americans with vaguely New Agey leanings— exactly what they already believe is true: that enlightenment can be found in India, that personal fulfillment is a profound and meaningful goal, that all things natural and Asian are superior to all things manufactured and Western, that charity is satisfying and worth doing but you have to be kind but firm with your poor Third World recipients or they’ll rip you off, and that if you try hard and navel-gaze and seek spirituality in exotic foreign lands you’ll be rewarded with everything you’ve ever dreamed of, right down to a fairy-tale romance.

3. Gilbert is a pretty good travel writer in the few parts when she’s looking outward rather than inward. Portions of the book are well-written and funny. (Those portions are concentrated in the first third.)

I find it difficult to separate my loathing of the book from my loathing of Gilbert from my memories of people and attitudes I loathed at the ashram where I spent my childhood. Her attitude about antidepressants (“I really needed them, but you peasants who lack my superior contempt of them shouldn’t be allowed to get them as easily as I did”) mirrors an attitude about India that I often got from Westerners at the ashram, and which oozes from every page of Gilbert’s memoir: “I need my Western medicine and appliances and education and opportunities, but you’re actually lucky not to have them because that stuff sucks, really, and anyway you have herbs and yoga which is so much better. Bye-bye! I had a great spiritual experience in your beautiful country which I will treasure forever as I relax in my New York penthouse.”

I’m not saying that herbs and yoga are worthless, or that Westerners should be banned from having spiritual experiences in Asia. It’s the self-centeredness, entitlement, lack of perspective, and lack of empathy for the actual occupants of the country which bothers me.

Gilbert does show kindness and compassion when she raises money to buy a Balinese woman and her family a house. But I wish she’d sat down and had a discussion with the woman about what she wanted, and what she would like Gilbert to do to help—and that, when the deal got rocky, Gilbert had sat down again and discussed both of their concerns instead of bullying the woman for her own good. Openness can go wrong, and high-handed condescension can produce good results. But the latter is not how you deal with people whom you consider your equals.

In short: hated it, hated it, hated it. Hated her. Hated her perfect Brazilian boyfriend. Even hated her guru, and she doesn't even appear in the book except as a perfectly enlightened and compassionate gaze via a photograph. In conclusion: hated it. Buy my book instead!
From that book that I finally got around to reading for research purposes (research question: "Why is this book such a huge bestseller?") and which everyone but me loves to bits, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. Context: During a harrowing divorce, Gilbert becomes depressed. She tries endless "natural remedies," but seeks the care of a psychiatrist after she attempts suicide.

I do know these drugs made my misery feel less catastrophic. So I'm grateful for that. But I'm still deeply ambivalent about mood-altering medication. I'm awed by their power, but concerned by their prevalence. I think they need to be prescribed and used with much more restraint in this country, and never without the parallel treatment of psychological counseling. Medicating the symptom of any illness without exploring its root cause is just a classically Western hare-brained way to think that anyone could ever truly get better. Those pills might have saved my life, but they did so only in conjunction with about twenty other efforts I was making simultaneously during the same period to rescue myself, and I hope to never take such drugs again.

There are so many selfish, condescending, and hare-brained statements in that one little paragraph that I need to pull it apart to address each one.

But I'm still deeply ambivalent about mood-altering medication. I'm awed by their power, but concerned by their prevalence. I think they need to be prescribed and used with much more restraint in this country

In the year 2020, approximately 1.53 million people will die from suicide based on current trends and according to WHO estimates. Ten to 20 times more people will attempt suicide worldwide (2). This represents on average one death every 20 seconds and one attempt every 1-2 seconds.

It is, of course, possible for a medication to be over-prescribed in some cases and under-prescribed in others. But considering that, according to WHO, "Suicide is among the 10 leading causes of death for all ages in most of the countries for which information is available. In some countries, it is among the top three causes of death for people aged 15-34 years," I'm going to say that under-prescription is the bigger problem-- a problem which attitudes like Gilbert's foster.

I think they need to be prescribed and used with much more restraint in this country

How callous, priveleged, arrogant, selfish, and smug can you get?! So meds are okay for her, because she had a real problem and didn't take them until she was at the point of suicide and has moral qualms about their use, but all those other ignorant peons who gobble them like candy need to have their access restricted?!

That is one of the most despicable statements and sentiments I've come across in quite some time.

and never without the parallel treatment of psychological counseling.

I agree with that, actually.

ETA: Oops, missed the "never;" I think counseling should always be offered, but should not be mandatory. If nothing else, the experience of having a mental illness for a long period of time will usually give you dysfunctional thinking patterns and ways of relating to people that counseling will help address. But if your problem is being completely addressed by meds and you're doing fine, no, you probably don't need counseling if you don't want it.

Medicating the symptom of any illness without exploring its root cause is just a classically Western hare-brained way to think that anyone could ever truly get better.

1. In many cases of mental illness, the "root cause" is either known as a biological and/or genetic problem and so doesn't really need to be "explored" in the sense of discovering its root cause (like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) or the patient is so ill that she will not benefit from such exploration until medication has kicked her into a higher-functioning mode.

Also, some forms of talk therapy are specifically about the present and not root causes -- and those forms are statistically more effective for some disorders than classic "root cause" therapy. (ie, cognitive-behavioral therapy vs. psychoanalysis for depression.)

2. What a stupid statement!

"Medicating the symptom of a broken leg by setting it without exploring its root cause is just a classically Western hare-brained way to think that anyone could ever truly get better."

"Medicating the symptom of the bubonic plague with antibiotics without exploring its root cause is just a classically Western hare-brained way to think that anyone could ever truly get better."

"Medicating the symptom of a cataract with surgery without exploring its root cause is just a classically Western hare-brained way to think that anyone could ever truly get better."

3. Gilbert's Asia-philia blinds her to the reality of actual Asian medicine, which is not necessarily as holistic as she thinks. She should read Atul Gawande's Better for an excellent portrayal of actual doctors in India doing brilliant work under extremely difficult conditions.

Those pills might have saved my life, but they did so only in conjunction with about twenty other efforts I was making simultaneously during the same period to rescue myself,

I am absolutely not against doing whatever might help. All the same, the plural of anecdote is not data.

and I hope to never take such drugs again.

Well, I hope you DO!

I can't believe I'm wishing such ill on anyone, whatever sort of scumbag they are... but this book was a huge bestseller, people are influenced by what they read, and so Gilbert's screed may be indirectly responsible for someone committing suicide because they were trying to make sure they waited to use them as long as she did -- and she waited till it was down to her, a knife, and a worried friend. What if some reader doesn't have a worried friend?

What a loathesome and damaging thing to write.

Here is a three-part essay on my experience with depression.

Here is a three-part essay on my experience with post-traumatic stress disorder.
rachelmanija: (Little but fierce)
( Apr. 24th, 2008 01:16 pm)
As a result of [livejournal.com profile] theferrett's smarmy, sexist, creepy description and advocacy of what was apparently, to at least some of the female participants, a fun experiment in sexuality and touch, I have read multiple comments and heard in person from a LOT of female fans that they will never or never again attend a convention, lest they be sexually harassed or subject to an atmosphere of misogynist hostility.

I like conventions: certain conventions, in moderation. It makes me sad to see that a venue that is already male-dominated will now become even more male-dominated, when I would like to see more women get involved and so make it more friendly to women.

But I also can't dismiss their concerns, or promise them that nothing will happen. For one thing, people are already posting to the Dragon Con comm under the assumption that now that public button-enabled sexual harrassment has been described and advocated, it will happen as a matter of course. For another, sexual harassment has occurred at cons way before this particular incident.

Conventions are not more sexist than the outside world, but neither are they less so. The world is incredibly sexist. All women are subject to misogynist taunts and harassment, and frequently have no recourse. This goes double if they are a member of any other oppressed or disrespected group: old women, young girls, women of color, lesbians, transsexuals, disabled women, immigrants, sex workers, the poor.

On a side note, it baffles me how fandom and cons seem quite happy to discriminate on every basis except that of personality. If you are a member of any generally-oppressed group, that's your problem. But if you are a fucking asshole, people will come out of the woodwork to say stuff like, "Oh, that's just Harlan/the ferrett being Harlan/the ferrett, don't mind him."

That is not OK.

I have probably experienced less random harassment than many women, and yet I have had my breasts groped twice (once before I hit puberty), been threatened with rape, murder, and sexual mutilation (in high school; the teacher I reported it to wouldn't even let me change my seat to get away the boy who was threatening me), a hostile atmosphere at work, public cat-calls, and men exposing themselves to me.

This is why many women feel that for groping strangers to be truly consensual, it must be kept in a labeled room and not in a public place. There's enough of that going on outside and non-consensually already.

However, I am not going to stop going to cons, nor am I going to stop wearing corsets and other attire which scumbags like [livejournal.com profile] theferrett think mean I won't mind being asked for a grope. I assure you, I will mind. Also, I will call security and the police. However, for the benefit of the socially impaired, that does not mean that you may not look. Looking is fine. Compliments are fine. Polite requests for photographs are fine. Touching and requests for sexual access are not fine.

But I hope that what will come out of this is a movement to make cons more safe and fun for everyone except those who want to grope freely in public spaces, sorry guys; room parties only. One is that we press conventions and the venues that host them to create and enforce sexual harassment policies. The other is the brilliant plan invented by [livejournal.com profile] vito_excalibur, Back Up: Women Defending Women. Yes, there is a gentleman's auxiliary.

Project Back Up

I intend to wear my Back Up badge to A-Kon and every other con I go to in the future. If you need assistance of any kind, I pledge to help you out as you wish and to the best of my ability.
So, apparently a scumbag named [livejournal.com profile] theferrett and some other people at a con had an impromptu grope party. I gather they enjoyed it. Which is fine, though I do think they should have gotten a room. But now he is attempting to make his gropefest into a con meme, in which women wear color-coded button to indicate whether they may asked to be groped or not. Context and outrage all over my f-list, including [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink, [livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes, [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu, etc.

I have no objection to clearly labeled private grope parties. But I enjoy cons, and tempting as the prospect is to get the chance to try out my martial arts in a real-life situation, I think the desire of women to not enter a public grope zone pre-empts my desire to kick the asses of sexual harassers, or [livejournal.com profile] theferrett's desire to cop a lot of feels.

Therefore, if I hear that this button scheme is likely to go on at any con I would like to attend, I will contact the management for the hotel in which it takes place, inform them of it, point out the danger of sexual harassment lawsuits, and further inform them that if they do not get the con organizers to ban the buttons from public spaces at the con, and someone gropes me, I will sue the hotel and call the police. And that I will also encourage anyone else who is groped without their consent to sue the hotel and call the police.

I suggest that those of us who feel that grope parties be limited to spaces where all participants want to participate do the same.

ETA: If this is truly consensual, why all the objection to keeping it in a labeled room? Why, after the first spontaneous incident, must it continue to be public? What is so valuable about public groping that justifies profoundly offending and frightening people who don't want to be exposed to it?

Note: If you're thinking of comaparing this to "why must gay people kiss in public?" here's my answer: 1. I am not offended by gay people doing anything that wouldn't offend me if straight people did it. 2. There is a value in bringing down homophobia which justifies offending people who are offended by gay people doing stuff that wouldn't offend them if straight people did it. The whole argument is a non-starter, so don't even bother.
rachelmanija: (Naked and dripping wet)
( Nov. 18th, 2007 06:59 pm)
1. Last night I set some lamb chops on fire. They were good anyway.

2. I am attending a pro-striking writers rally on Tuesday. My friend who previously set me up with married guy, naked-woman-on-shirt guy, stood-me-up guy, negative-sexual-chemistry guy, never-called-me-guy, and guy who wanted to leap out of plane without a parachute (wait... could his name have been... something like "Heero?"), assures me that a fantastic single guy will be there. I think that even if one of those attributes is true, the other won't be. Also, don't know how I could possibly find him when there will be thousands of marchers and I don't know what he looks like.

I think I won't wear my corset.

Cut for insect.

Read more... )
In retrospect, there is something odd about OK Cupid. The only man I ever corresponded with at length, but never met because his emails gave me the impression that he would show up for the first date with a single red rose and begin discussing "our relationship" as it had progressed via email, later dated my very good friend Mehera, who also met him via OK Cupid. He showed up for their first date with a single red rose, and began discussing their relationship as it had progressed via email.

Also through OK Cupid, Mehera briefly dated a guy whom I had dated in grad school.

Will, the divorce lawyer, was indeed quite cute and intelligent, although it quickly became apparent that we moved in very different circles. For instance, he had never heard that there was a genre called "fantasy," and was quite confused when I described a book as such. "Isn't that like saying that it's in the genre 'plot?'" he asked. "I mean, all books that aren't true are fantasy, right?"

No, he was not kidding. It was quite difficult to explain that from the ground up, as it were. "Well, you know how Spiderman has these special powers? And in real life, people don't really have them, but it's still set more or less in the real world? OK, that's fantasy. Well, technically, it's science fiction, because they have a scientific explanation... I mean, it's not real science, but they call it science, not magic. If it was called magic, that would be fantasy."

Anyway, I did have an enjoyable evening, and like I said he was quite cute, though I was not feeling any particular mad urges to pounce and kiss. But perhaps that could develop, I thought. I'd be willing to try it out, anyway. But as I suspected the lack of mad urges was possibly mutual, I decided to wait and see what he did at the end of the date. Which was a two-second hug and pat on shoulder. And I suspect that's the last I've heard from Will the divorce lawyer.

But while we were in a bar in Silverlake, I mentioned that I had recently been the foreperson on a jury trial.

"As a lawyer," I said, "If the defendant goes by two names, shouldn't you establish that right away? We spent two whole days thinking that Jesse Lopez and Socorro Lopez were two diff--"

"Wait," said Will. "You're not making up those names, right? Socorro aka Jesse Lopez? What was the trial about?"

"He was running a chop shop," I said. "Out of a tow yard."

"Not Classic Tow?"

"Yeah! Did you hear about it?"

"I'm suing him!" said Will. "On my own behalf-- the only time I've ever done that. He illegally towed my car, then he held it hostage and extorted $350 dollars to get it back! So he was running a chop shop too? Good God! That must be the most evil towing company ever!"

I said, "This is the most bizarre coincidence ever."

I wonder, if I ever get on OK Cupid again, if I'll end up dating some long-lost childhood friend, or the assistant of some agent who once rejected my book.
I went to Brentano's to look for Saiyuki # 8, which they didn't have, and then became transfixed by Toni Bentley's butt-fuck memoir, The Surrender, about how she found God up her ass. I'm serious.

"I came to know God experientially, from being fucked in the ass—over and over and over again."

"I want to die with him in my ass"

It's... well... a pretty good read, I have to say, although I wish I knew exactly how much of the humor was intentional. A lot of it reads like Mad Libs entries where all the inserted words and phrases involve ass: "True happiness can be found... in the ass." "Love is... taking it up the ass." "The last taboo is... ass." "I never got over my childhood until I explored the joy of... ass" "My training as a ballerina prepared me for... ass."

Then I heard the sound of clapping. I went to see what was going on, and saw an author standing by a table of books, with a small audience. I went closer to see who it was, thinking that if it wasn't anyone I'd heard of, I'd check her out anyway because hey, she's on tour and some day that'll be me and maybe her book would be really cool and something I'd want to read and then I'd buy it and make her happy and justify this leg of her tour.

When I got close enough to read the sign, which advertised "Barbara DeAngelis: author of How Did I Get Here? : Finding Your Way to Renewed Hope and Happiness When Life and Love Take Unexpected Turns and
Are You the One for Me?: Knowing Who's Right and Avoiding Who's Wrong
," three things happened:

1. I realized that I knew who the author was, and that I'd flipped through some of her books before, and that I'd found them insipid, cliched, and unquestioning of defunct gender roles.

2. A woman in the audience said, quite loudly, "There's a seat here in the front!"

3. Barbara DeAngelis said, "Come on in, there's a seat right here."

Since, after all, some day it would be me up there... I pretended that I had intended to attend the thing, and obediently sat down.

Barbara DeAngelis proceeded to talk for forty minutes without break. She used words like "authenticity," "healing," "wholeness," and "transformative." She referred to Native American vision quests. She asked all of us who had had an experience we didn't expect to have happen to us occur in the last year to raise our hands. She said that we thought we'd had a good day when things like our job, our family, and our friends were all doing well, and a bad day when bad things happened to those things that we cared about, but we should have a good day because of what's inside of us, not because of outside events-- that if we were dying, we'd say it was a good day just because we were alive, so we should always say it's a good day because we're alive. She said that we don't have mid-life crises, we have mid-life opportunities for change.

I didn't want to be horribly rude and walk out, especially from my first row seat, so I amused myself by imagining how Toni Bentley would have written DeAngelis' books: How Did I Get Up Your Ass? : Finding Your Way to Renewed Hope and Happiness in the Ass When Life and Love Take Unexpected Turns into Ass and Are You the One for My Ass?: Knowing Who's Right for Your Ass and Avoiding Who's Wrong for Your Ass.

Barbara DeAngelis informed us that she had built a career out of total honesty and straightforwardness, and yet she realized that there were parts of herself that she had been hiding from the world, and so she decided that in order to be a truly authentic person, she would have to come out of the closet and reveal those significant aspects of herself that she'd been holding back out of fear.

Ass, I thought. Ass, ass, ass! Please tell us that authenticity lies in ass!.

"My psychic talents," she said. "My great work as a spiritual healer and counselor. I have helped so many people, I have so much compassion, and I wish to share that... Now... With all of you."

She looked into all our eyes, dramatically, one by one. I sat there until it went to question and answers, then I ostentatiously checked my watch, mimed "Eeek, it's late!" and fled. Even so, I'm sure she thought I was an ass.
The other night I went to Shabbat dinner at a friend's place, and two of the guests were the couple who had set me up with the infamous Jake. So I had to explain what had gone down with Jake. Figuring I might as well tell the truth but at least attempt to be tactful, I explained that we had nothing in common, that he spent the entire time discussing boats, and then there was that whole squish thing.

"Jake is a bit of a daredevil," remarked Jake's Friend # 1. "He's broken more bones than anyone I've ever known. Last year he broke his face-- got hit by a spinnaker."

"What's that?" I asked.

"A boat part," she said. "But you know, he's a great guy. So enterprising. Just the other day, he was telling me about his plan to start an aromatherapy yogic workshop."
First off, what I initially wrote was perfectly true: Jake seemed like a nice guy, I had a reasonably enjoyable evening, and it really was the least painful first date I've ever been on. (Ten minutes into a typical first date, I realize that loathe and detest the person sitting across from me.)

So I wasn't going to post about what really happened, just in case I did end up going out with him again and it turned out that the peculiarities of the first date were a total fluke and he was actually the man of my dreams. But even a few days worth of the passage of time wears away the first blush of "He didn't seem like a bedwetter, pathological liar, or Rush Limbaugh fan! Yay!" Also, I obtained some information which threw an even harsher light on a certain memorable moment.

So here, cut for length but trust me, you really want to read this one-- here is the true story of my date with Jake. the True Story of my Date with Jake )
The one with the liver-eating guy who could squeeze into your house through the vents?

This morning while I was in the shower, a movement caught my eye. I glanced at the windowsill, no more than three inches from my shoulder.

A TENTACLE was squeezing through the tiny crack between the closed window and the wall. A boneless red thing with a hideous blind snout, pulsating and writhing and pushing itself through.

At first I thought it was a centipede, but as I stood, frozen in horror, watching it invade my home, I saw that it was an earthworm. (More than four feet up from the ground!) When the whole thing emerged, I swept it into a box and dumped it in the garden.

I got dressed first.
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