Friday Five: Sum

  1. Who stands out among people you met in 2012? Everyone from the Amanda Palmer Lovefest–basically a big group of people that started talking online during Amanda Palmer’s internet Kickstarter countdown that are super cool, right in the middle of the year’s biggest shitstorm for me. You have no idea how much it meant to have total strangers connecting over music and being a sort of support system for each other. And all my awesome coworkers, even though I’ve switched shifts and don’t get to hang out with them anymore.
  2. What new interest did you discover in 2012? Yoga!
  3. In what way was 2012 better than 2011? 2012 was more tumultuous by far, but I think in the end, the decisions I’ve made as a result will be to my benefit–and that’s exactly why I made them. So 2012 was mostly painful and upsetting. I got hurt–bad. I cried a lot. But I’ve removed the people who caused it and even though it’s been difficult, I’m a better person for it.
  4. What small, symbolic item might serve as a good souvenir for 2012? The bag full of seashells from the Delaware beaches. It serves as a reminder of one of 2012’s highest highs.
  5. Many years from now, what song, when you hear it on the radio, will remind you most of 2012? Probably “Gangnam Style.” It’s not the year’s best song, but it has the most memories tied to it between being such a phenomenon and making appearances at Stephanie’s wedding and such. Amanda Palmer’s “Do It with a Rockstar” will be another big one, along with most of Theatre Is Evil, especially the other songs she released in advance–“Want It Back” and “Trout Heart Replica.” Because like with the Kickstarter party on the internet, the songs came out right when I needed a morale boost. I remember listening to almost all of them through State College with Paul when I visited and just kind of losing myself in their words–I think Palmer is one of our generation’s greatest songwriters–as well as their sheer aggression. Music (as well as writing) has always been my great healer.

Yo, Dudes, Cut the Shit: Pt. 2

We stopped at Charlie Murdoch’s for Stephanie’s bachelorette party, a dueling piano bar. I loved it, by the way–the heckling is foul but hilarious without being mean, and the bands are awesome. I could’ve stayed and watched the bands all night, probably, but alas, we went downstairs for dancing.

Bar culture often gets weird. Usually, I have a good time and love it, but men have this tendency to cross the line and think they’re allowed to or they’re entitled to a woman. We’ve been through this–you’re not.

For privacy’s sake, even though this is by far not the worst male encounter I’ve ever witnessed, experienced, or heard tell of, I won’t say who was involved.

But she was dancing. She looked hot, I have to say, in tight, bright leggings and studded heels. Men like these things, understandably. And one such man decided to come right up behind her, right up against her, grinding and pretty intensely groping her legs. I mean, as I recall, hands running all up and down thighs. The kind of touching I prefer only Paul to do. The kind of touching Steve tried to a lesser extent that contributed significantly to our severed friendship.

She looked uncomfortable. To be fair, he couldn’t see her face, so he had no way of knowing this. But he could hear her repeatedly saying, “I don’t like this.” I know he could hear her because could hear her, and I was farther away.

He obviously didn’t care. And this is the main problem–dudes, when a girl is obviously uncomfortable with the way you’re interacting with her, you need to stop. She’s not playing hard to get. She’s not being a tease. She’s not secretly asking for it. She may freeze up and be unsure of what to do, but if she’s saying she doesn’t like what’s happening, you respect that. That’s Gentleman 101.

He wasn’t listening and she obviously was uncomfortable but didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to bitch him out for disrespecting people and boundaries, so I did the passive-aggressive thing–I grabbed her arm and forcibly pulled her away from him. Fortunately and somewhat miraculously, he got that hint and left.

Some other guy a few hours later in a different bar didn’t.

He started a little more innocently, at least, telling Tessa how gorgeous she is (this is an accepted consensus among every human that has seen Tessa). And then he gradually got more belligerent, rude, and a bit odd, honestly. He goes from complimenting her to telling us he’s gay but thinks she’s gorgeous to trying to convince her to make out, no matter how many times she denied him, and insisting it was totally okay because he was gay.

Men using homosexuality as justification for the way they treat women is increasingly common, both in stories of gay men inappropriately touching women and saying they didn’t think the women would mind because they were gay or, what I suspect this gay was doing, pretending to be gay in the hopes that women will for some reason feel more inclined to get sexual. If a woman doesn’t want to do something with a guy, she doesn’t want to do something with a guy. Sexual orientation isn’t gonna change that.

 

Every time we thought we’d lost him, he’d show back up again. This peaked when we went to leave and he followed us out of the bar.

I’m not sure if men understand how terrifying it is to be followed like that. When I was about 12 or 13, my mom noticed a man watching me closely and following me in a Walmart. It was scary then and even in a group on a busy street with cops everywhere, being followed out of a bar is scary now. Men can be threatened, harassed, assaulted, and raped, but these things are rare. Men don’t live with these threats quite the same way that women do. How many times have you been lectured by a parent about staying in a group, being aware of your surroundings, not leaving a drink unattended, or making sure someone knows where you are?

He followed us out of the bar, down the street, and held us up, moving from complimenting Tessa to addressing each of the rest of us, complimenting us or trying to sort of pin us down, telling us all about how he perceived us.

He didn’t leave until Stephanie yelled at him to leave. He got a little huffy and stormed off, but at least he left. In the end he may have been harmless, but we had no way of knowing that. Again, boundaries. He’d been turned down and ignored, and when we ready to leave for the night, we couldn’t. We were followed, and we had no idea what he might do to get what he wanted.

That’s the key there, dudes, even for you lovely well-behaved gentlemen (you do exist, I know, just keep fighting the good fight!)–maybe sometimes, you think the flirting or the persistence is harmless or effective or attractive or whatever. Maybe you think women overreact and freak out easily, and maybe sometimes we do, but you have to consider why. It’s because most of us have already experienced that refusals can be ignored. Most of us have already experienced some physical, sexual contact against our will. Most of us have already dealt with a man who feels he’s entitled to our bodies by virtue of having a penis. Most of us have been followed out of bars. Most of us just don’t know how far you’ll go to get what you want.

Top 5 on Friday: Christmas

Top 5 things you want for Christmas this year…musical or otherwise…

1. A record player, including potentially a digital turntable.
2. A gift certificate for concert tickets.
3. Anything Frankie Valli or Jersey Boys.
4. Pretty much any Erasure I don’t already own.
5. Good Christmas music, mostly B.E. Taylor, Annie Lenox, & Sufjan Stevens.

Friday Five: It's Not the End of the World

  1. What’s something gross you’ve seen or tasted recently? I think I got a bean sprout or something in my pad thai. I’m not sure, but I know there’s something that I try to avoid in my Vietnamese food that I think tastes really gross.
  2. What movie this holiday season are you most looking forward to? Les Miserables. I know very little about the musical, but I’m excited and prepared to cry. Maybe even throw up.
  3. What makes one photographer better or worse than any other? Creativity and finding new ways to show the same old things, although sometimes all you need for a good picture is just a gorgeous shot. When living subjects are involved, it’s knowing how to style & pose them or paying attention to get an awesome candid shot, meaning persistence is probably another good thing to have. And if there are people in themed shoots involved, it’s not doing something ridiculous or racist or intentionally offensive just for the sake of doing so.
  4. What specific, annual part of this season most makes you feel all the positive feelings again? I’m actually a sucker for Christmas, and I’m the only person I know that doesn’t get cynical & cranky about the holidays & doesn’t think that being an adult has ruined the fun of it. I love buying people presents & giving them things. When my money allows me, I like to spoil my loved ones. Getting things and being spoiled is fun, too. And I love Christmas carols and the actual Christmas Carol, including and especially the Muppet one.
  5. What are your thoughts on eggnog? I think I tried it once & liked it, but I’m also one of the few people I know that doesn’t totally adore it.

Friday Five

  1. How self-conscious do you get when someone’s pointing a camera at you? Not terrible but I don’t feel awesome, either. Mostly, I’m either with really pretty people or worrying about how full my face is. I just want a nice, sleek jawline, you guys!
  2. What was the last meal you took a photo of? I think probably everyone’s food and dessert of Hofbrauhaus. I usually only take pictures if it’s a huge feast or looks really cool. Or is sushi. I have a sushi obsession.
  3. When were you last bitten or stung by something? Probably over the summer by mosquitoes, though I’m not sure if the thing on my arm a few days ago was a bug bite or a pimple.
  4. What’s something people miss most when they move away from your area? Most people who leave Fayette County are glad to do so. In some ways, I think they do miss the rural setting and the insanity because as weird and frustrating as things get, it’s an interesting place, for better or worse. As for Pittsburgh, I think people miss the food, the skyline, and the people. Pittsburgh has a lot of fans.
  5. On long day-trips, do you prefer to be the driver or passenger? Why? Passenger. I spent lots of weekends driving to and from State College, plus my commute to and from work used to be over an hour, plus I still drive an hour to and from Paul’s/my parents’ at least once a week, so I’m pretty much over long car rides. I prefer to sit back and enjoy them now. And I have the back of an 80-year-old, so an hour or so in and my back aches and my ass is tired of sitting.

This Will Probably Mostly Be a Rehashing

Sometimes, when the world is really chaotic, sick, and sad, my mom says, “If I was your age with the way things are right now, I’d seriously consider not having kids.”

I’ve always understood her point, but as I get older and as things get even more chaotic, sick, and sad, I find myself weighing that as an option, more heavily with each scary, hateful act, each shooting. Right now, I don’t want to bring a child into the world where they’ll have to face such extreme acts of violence, perhaps be a victim of one, or even worse, perhaps be the perpetrator. Because no amount of good parent can fix a disturbed, evil individual.

At the core, evil is responsible for today’s school shooting. I understand evil as best as anyone can. It’s here, and it always will be. People will always hurt each other.

Evil may be the problem, but it doesn’t have to be an excuse. The shooter–and every other shooter we’ve seen–may be evil, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act.

Guns play a role–a huge one. One of my favorite Eddie Izzard quotes is “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people–but the gun helps.” A sweeping ban on guns isn’t the answer, and we may never have a good, appropriate, effective answer and certainly never will have one that pleases everyone, but something has to be done. People aren’t pushing for gun-control laws because they inherently dislike guns–they’re pushing for them because people keep getting killed and other people keep nearly ignoring it for the sake of a freedom. At this point, lives are more important than your right to own high-powered assault weapons.

The arguments are ridiculous. “Rape is illegal and people still get raped,” someone said on Twitter. But rape never killed 20-some kindergardeners within seconds, minutes at best. Others say had the teachers been armed, fewer people might’ve died. How is this a solution? How can we really look at a horrible mass murder and say that rather than try to prevent it with laws, regulation, education, and mental-health services we should instead arm teachers so they can shoot back if they have to? What’s next, arming the children?

We shouldn’t have to arm our teachers–or anyone–to prevent mass murder. We should actually prevent mass murder. 

After the Aurora shooting, I predicted that nothing would happen, nothing would change, and we’d see another mass shooting within six months. And here I sit, writing another post about gun control, and thinking once again that nothing will happen, nothing will change, and I’ll lay out all these points again. See you in six months.

Yo, Dudes, Cut the Shit: A Tale in Many Parts (Or Why I Don't Want Your Bod. Really.)

This was supposed to be a simple post about bar creepers, and then I realized that I wasn’t blogging when I experienced some epic male douchery that y’all need to hear about. Seriously.

Old followers (I’m mostly lookin’ at you, scrivener) may remember my friend Steve. We met in middle school. He was cool. We got along well and had great conversations. Over the years, Steve turned into a compulsive liar, then a huge asshole. That’s the really short version.

Steve was my first kiss–late for me at 16, and I knew he’d already made moves on basically all of my other female friends. We were a close group who we talked about boys, so one night when someone said, “You guys, Steve tried to kiss me,” almost everyone had similar stories. We knew better than to trust him and that he obviously wanted ass. Steve never learned this lesson, and it was probably his downfall.

The kiss was terrible. I probably did blog about that–my brother and I went over to swim with Steve and his brother Nick, I somehow ended up in Steve’s room, he teasingly got off my clothes so I was in my bikini, then I somehow ended up against the wall in his closet being kissed. Now, I haven’t kissed very many people. I’ve kissed Steve, Stephanie’s brother Steve, and Paul, plus a few games of spin the bottle that involve some people’s ex-boyfriends, some people’s current boyfriends, and my friend Tessa. Circumstantially and skill-wise, Steve was the worst. It was a total mess. I had saliva all over my face and wasn’t exactly thrilled with the encounter or a willing participant, but I also didn’t stop him.

Some time later, we were having one of our awesome conversations when it turned to that kiss. “I could’ve gotten you to go farther,” he said. “No, you couldn’t have,” I said. But he insisted. RED FLAG. It made him sound arrogant, for one, and for another had some implications that really scared me.

He became notorious for that kind of persistence, if you want to call it that, with me and others. I heard a rumor about him in a car with a girl that very nearly escalated to rape. He always dated really young, naive girls–including one that was warned by my friend Bianca but didn’t listen, instead insisting Bianca was jealous and wanted Steve–whose parents always hated him, resulting in restraining orders more than once. He always claimed they were undeserved and the parents were crazy.

Once he was hanging out with my brother and texted me from the bathroom more or less asking me to go blow him. When I refused, he said, “Come on, you’re in college,” as if that made me willing to just suck all the dicks. For the record, I hate oral. I didn’t leave my seat in the living room until he left the bathroom, lest he hear me and think I was complying or tried to accost me (again) or something.

A year or so later, he messaged me while high and was like, “Hey, you’re single. I’m single. Why don’t we get together?” Nope.

The best of them all came the summer before my senior year of college, the same summer Paul and I met and started our romance. In fact, this happened a week before he asked me out.

Brandon was supposed to ship off to train with the military (he ended up being overweight, despite some weirdness where a bigger guy was able to go). We threw him an American-themed going-away party. I thought about telling him not to invite Steve but decided against it. It was his party, so I let him invite who he wanted. After the party, I believe I told him Steve was never to come to any of our social functions again.

Everything was awesome at first. It was one of our most successful themes, too, I suspect because it was easy–you could either just dress patriotic or come as a historical or classic figure. I was Rosie the Riveter, Brandon was Bruce Springsteen, friends came as everything from soldiers to Amelia Earheart. We played 40 Hands and called it 40 Hands Across America.

At some point–though I don’t think I found out until the next day–Steve started hitting on Terra. Right in front of then-rebound-boyfriend and old friend Shawn.

But all parties must end. Meri went almost catatonic (hilarious story about that–she lost 40 Hands, I left her on the couch with a glass of water, came back to find her waking up with a fresh 40, no one knows how it got there) and Nolan went to bed, leaving me in charge of everyone else and turning the shed lights off and everything.

Some stragglers falling asleep on couches, so Steve and I were the last ones standing. We had one of our long-lost awesome conversations. I figured we’d talk until he decided to sleep. I didn’t want to leave him out there awake and unsupervised. I guess I didn’t trust him.

At first, he was whining about our friend Rachael. I think in old blogs she was called Rachael Buddy to differentiate between her and another friend Rachael. Basically, he wanted all up on her, she wasn’t having it, and I remember him saying some things about the situation that seemed off to me and made me think, “I need to ask Rachael if this is true.” Spoiler alert: I did and it wasn’t.

At some point, he moved really close to me and was touching me a bit affectionately. I wasn’t really into it, but I figured, “It’s late and we’ve both been drinking. I’ll deal for now. He’ll probably quit and go to sleep.”

The whole time, I was thinking of not-yet-boyfriend-but-serious-crush Paul and was like, “Man, if he was the one doing this, I’d be totally down with that. Why, Lord, must you make it be Steve instead!?”

So then Steve sort of lunges at me and tries to kiss me. In a move reserved for embarrassing romance-movie moments, I turned my head and told him no just as he made the move, giving him nothing but my cheek. COCK BLOCKED.

He scooted a little closer and started slowly and gently stroking my thigh. Not much later, he lunged at me again, to the same results. This time after my refusal, he whimpered and put his head on my shoulder, like I was supposed to feel bad for him because he doesn’t accept the word “No,” or like I didn’t figure out he’d just spend the moments stroking my thigh to warm me up to kissing him. Then he went on about how hard it is to get a girl to like him. Nevermind he’d been a disrespectful, creepy, arrogant douchebag on a regular basis for four or five years.

I went inside the house shortly thereafter. I was sure that otherwise, I’d wake up pregnant with a dick in my mouth. It was one of only two or three times I’ve ever really, consciously been afraid of what a man might do to me, and here’s the saddest part about that–I’m lucky. Lucky that not only did nothing happen but lucky that I’ve only experienced it once or twice. It’s a sick world we live in when only worrying you might get raped a few times means you’re lucky.

He said some other dumb shit, too, most notably that he was pretending to be more drunk than he really was because he thought it would help his chances.

The next day, when I was fully sober and all the implications and everything fully hit me, I was furious. Completely livid. I couldn’t even have a conversation with the dude without him trying to make out with me, even after I told him I wasn’t interested–like I had many times before. On top of that, given everything I knew, including things he told me himself before he tried to kiss me, I knew he wasn’t interested in me. He was interested in what he could get from me. He was using me for sex, or for as much physical pleasure as he could get–which, as he told me when we were teenagers, was anything he wanted.

A week later, Paul and I went to the movies together with some of his friends, plus Brandon and Jacob. I was still pissed. Jacob wanted to know what happened, so as Brandon drove us all back, I told the story–while this guy I wanted to date was listening.

I was very careful not to sound like I hated all men or something, both so he wouldn’t be put off of going out again and because it wasn’t true. I didn’t hate men. I still don’t hate men. I probably never will hate men. Men aren’t the problem. Gentlemen do exist. Some lucky friends and I have managed to find some. They’re not perfect. They’ve been insensitive and harsh and clueless and have accidentally hurt feelings, made us cry. But they’ve respected us. They’ve listened when we’ve said no. They’ve respected our wishes, our boundaries, and our bodies.

This is titled to be addressing men, but the main points here aren’t lessons all men need to learn–plenty are already aware, although reinforcing them doesn’t hurt. Bottom lines: no means no, all people deserve respect, and women’s bodies aren’t your playthings that you get to have whenever you want. You’re not entitled to us, and we don’t like when you act like you are, especially if we know we as people mean nothing to you.