November Update

Hi hi. We're all barely surviving this month and self-promotion always feels ugly, especially now, but I'd still like to share some things I've worked on this month with you all, if you don't mind. Maybe you can connect with some of them. Maybe some will get your mind off things at least for the moment. Maybe you just want to read, goddammit. Whatever your reasons, here they are:

My second bi-monthly article is up on Razorcake now. I get pretty personal about loss and how I deal with grief. It was as cathartic as it was hard to write. Same goes for reading it, at least for me. I hope maybe it can resonate at least a little with a few people out there.

I've also been contributing quite a lot to #AmReading.com, a website covering literary news, bookish events, and literature-inspired listicles. I've had a lot of fun writing for them and getting the opportunity to immerse myself in literary news, something I haven't kept a keen eye on in quite a while. Here are a few of the articles I tackled:

All this writing has gotten me in the spirit to do even more writing. I was beating myself up for a while, thinking of all the unfinished stories and pieces I've worked on and my want to do more but a lack of desire to actually get moving. Writing is the best inspiration to write, as odd as that may sound, so I'd like to believe that I can now kick myself into overdrive and put pen to paper more often. Here's hoping! 

Signing off and wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! 

Jamie

October Update

Wow, ok so I've been failing miserably at this whole keeping my blog updated regularly thing. Not a surprise, I'm usually terrible at that. I find it much easier to lie in a vegetative state on my couch, internally screaming at myself to move to an upright position and write something--ANYTHING, DAMMIT--and then not writing anything but mentally punishing myself until I fall angrily asleep in an uncomfortable position on my couch. 

BUT MAYBE THAT WILL CHANGE RIGHT NOW!

Since my last update, I've actually started a bi-monthly webcolumn for Razorcake! It's about the topic I write about the best--my own weird brain! Check out the first article here.

(If you're wondering, I'm updating this as I'm currently procrastinating writing the second article right now.)

The Razorcake stuff gets pretty heavy, so I had to counter that some way. I've started writing humor pieces on my Medium account. They're mainly just for me, but hopefully you'll find them funny too.

Here's one where I get very political. Here's one where I try to give some romance advice. And this one I just published--the first of a series where I share my health and wellness routines.

Now, I'm going to attempt to finally finish a short story (one of a larger series) that I've been working on FOREVER. I'd like to get it done this week so I can submit it to a writing contest, so wish me luck!

Love you all!

Jamie

 

The Victim Sex

Lately it’s been hard to look at feeds on my social media, as I’m sure it has been for most women. The Stanford Rape case is a hot button issue and word of it has spread everywhere, every time I log into any account on the internet. As much as I hate seeing that privileged P.O.S. (and his parents’) faces on my screen, it’s a story that I’m glad is getting as much coverage—and subsequent outrage—as it has.

But as much as it’s generating conversation, the truth of the matter is, it is just that: a hot button issue. In three to six months we’ll see a think-piece or two over how Turner’s life has been post-jail time, how much he’s “matured,” how well he’s doing at being back in society, coping with the fact that he’ll never swim competitively again, but “giving back to society” by spreading the word about the dangers of drinking, as if alcohol is a magic potion that overtakes all of your body and sense and forces you to commit unspeakable crimes that can ruin your life—if you’re a man, of course. If you’re a women well, then, whatever happens to you is your own damn fault and having to live with the fact that someone violated you in vilest and most and horrendous of ways and took away one of your greatest possessions: your goddamn sense of autonomy, is a blip on the radar compared to a man not getting to put on a pair of goggles and backstroke in a large pool in his expensive university.

And that’s still a worse punishment than what 97% of rapists have seen. And the trial itself is the closest thing to “justice” that most women will ever see

What it comes down to is that there is no room for justice for women. We live in a world where our presumptive GOP nominee—someone who might very well be President—has encouraged a continued language and culture of misogyny that’s only going to escalate when it gets closer to election time, especially when his presumptive running mate is going to be a woman. And while Hillary may not be my nominee of choice or even one that I’d really want to vote for, the amount of women-bashing that’s going to commence once the race heats up is already making me sick to my stomach.

And sometimes it’s not just from men.

On my way home from work a few weeks ago I heard a piece on NPR’s All Things Considered, about GOP women who refuse to stand behind Trump. But the end of the piece shifted to women who will. One, in particular, being Carol Taber, who is the founder and president of Family Security Matters, a movement focused on giving “Americans like us the tools to become involved citizens and powerful defenders of our homes, our families, and our communities.” While it’s clear why Taber would support Trump, she was asked how she feels in regards to the statements he’s made about women. She had this to say:

“Men will be men. We may overhear what they have to say about women, and it may be offensive to some women who have sort of a victim mentality, but the way I look at it is, I don’t feel victimized by men; it just doesn’t offend me.”

To summarize that mindset: the only terrorists allowed in America are the ones that are already here.

Because everyone should be equipped with the tools to “keep their homes, families and countries safe” but women shouldn’t be afforded that safety from men—just stop thinking of yourself as a victim and you’ll be fine, nothing can ever bother you!

Women are supposed to be the weaker sex, yet have a thicker skin both metaphorically and figuratively. We need to let ignorant comments brush off our shoulders. We need to let actual body parts enter wherever they feel like it whenever they feel like it no matter what state of mind we’re in. Just be tough, stop thinking you’re a victim. Stop acting like you’re a victim.

Just stop being a victim.

But, if there is a victim then there must be a perpetrator. And if it’s women who tend to be predisposed to having a “victim mindset,” then the role of the perpetrators is pretty clear.

But it’s fine. Because “men will be men” and “boys will be boys.”

(To be clear, that should actually be corrected to “white men will be white men and white boys will be white boys.”)

Every day there’s another story in the news about yet another young girl who was kicked out of prom for the length of her skirt because “boys will be boys.”

Every time a young woman gets raped we ask what she was wearing and what she drank and how she acted because “men will be men.”

So, if we’re so ready to establish that men and boys are, by nature, predators who simply can’t be taught that women and children are not simply in existence to fulfill their sexual pleasures whenever they want—then why do we allow it? We don’t want predatory animals to wander into our backyards and we don’t want terrorists to enter our country, but we don’t mind men who, according to some, just have it in their genetic coding to assault and rape and kill whenever they damn well please, getting away without consequence time and time again?

I have friends who have spoken about learning to build up tolerances to roofies because it’s happened so damn often that they can recognize the signs early on. Friends who have gone out to a club just wanting to dance but, instead, ending up walking home crying, trying to piece their night and their outfits back together because everything became a blur but one thing was certain and all of the blurry parts of the night are the exact same reasons that there’s nothing they can do about the certain event.

I’m scared for them. I’m scared for me. I’m scared for every girl and woman who walks into the world just trying to live but having to constantly be hyper-aware of her surroundings. Because if anything happens, chances are, there won’t be much that can be done about it. Because we’re just victims. And the men in charge want to keep it that way. 

Because it’s all about ownership. Our country was built on a pride in what men own, and sadly little has changed since those days.

In an SNL Weekend Update segment from 2012 Nasim Pedrad, portraying Arianna Huffington, made a hilarious joke about the VP Debate, saying that, “If men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be like a Starbucks. There would be two in every block and four in every airport, and the morning after pill would come in different flavors like sea salt and cool ranch.” Why is this so hilarious? Because it’s true. It’s not about pro-life or pro-choice, it never is. It’s about pro-women or against. It’s about not wanting a woman to have autonomy over her own body. It’s about “punishment.” It’s not about religion. It’s not about anything other than control. It’s the same force that wants to keep trans people out of their preferred bathrooms to “protect our women and children,” but to keep convicted rapists and sex offenders in the same schools and on the same streets as them. It’s about protecting CIS, white men at all costs.

But I guess I only think all of this because of my “victim mindset,” right? And I guess waking up in a hospital being informed that you’ve been raped and having to face your attacker in court to find out that punishment for his actions is going to be too hard for him to deal with is just a part of the “victim mindset,” too, right? And every woman who’s been raped or assaulted who will go to the “proper” authorities to just never have her kit tested and to live with the pain of all of it for the rest of her life while her attacker gets to roam free is just giving in to her “victim mindset” and that any woman who’s trusted a man enough to form a relationship with him just to ignore any form of consent and every woman who has been told she can’t have certain jobs and can’t get a certain amount of pay and can’t wear a certain item of clothing or can’t make her own decisions about her body or where she can pee or walk or talk or think are all just acting like victims, too.

Then fine, I guess maybe we are all victims. And, as victims, we should get the proper protection, treatment and compensation, just like anyone else (who’s white, male and of a higher socioeconomic status) would.

I think it’s about fucking time we started making good on that “and justice for all” line.

From the Vault: Fiction Prompt 2/16/13 – Take A Turn

Write a story of 1,000 words from a main character’s perspective about the moment his or her life took a significant turn. Keep the description about the moment sparse, focusing on what happened versus how it happened. For an example, read Denis Johnson’s short story “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.”  Poetry & Writers.

 

Architectural Digest

“Don’t you know that he’s gay?” Mallory’s words struck me like lightning, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant.

“S-so…” I managed to stutter.

“Gay—you know what that means don’t you?”

I guess my blank stare answered for me.

“He only likes men. Like, loves men. He’ll only fall in love with another man. That’s what gay means—when a man loves a man,” Mallory stated, matter-of-factly.  She was so worldly, she had learned so much more in her twelve years than I had in my seven.

“B-but… but he’s married… to a lady… how can that be?” I felt not only saddened, but betrayed. How could he be in love with a man if he was in a caring and affectionate relationship—not just a relationship, a MARRIAGE—to Carol?

“Jeez, Louise! It’s only a TV show! They’re not married in real life. Just on TV. You know that TV’s not real life…right?!” Mallory was getting impatient with me. Suddenly I felt so small, so much younger than my cousin.  Even though I was aware of our age difference, she always felt like my peer. Someone I could confide in and know that I wouldn’t be judged. Someone who could teach me things without talking down to me or making me feel like an inferior being. But now, they playing field didn’t seem so level any more. I felt like nothing more than a stupid, little child.

“Like, did you think it was on now? It takes place in the ‘70s. It’s not the ‘70s. Jeez, don’t you know ANYTHING?”  Her words got more and more biting and with each syllable it felt like a jagged knife being pushed slowly into my heart.

“…I know…” I managed to whisper sheepishly.

But I didn’t. I didn’t know anything. And in that moment, I became aware of the vast amount of nothing that I knew. A few minutes ago we were engaging in our normal summer routine. Every Wednesday afternoon my cousin would come over while her mom went to work and we’d watch TV together, then we would go to the park with my mother, come back for lunch, and then watch some more TV. When Aunt Karen got home from her job at the daycare center, she’d pick up Mallory. This happened every Wednesday now that stuff was different in Mallory’s house. These were all things I knew, they were all certainties.

I also knew that every day at 1:35 pm The Brady Bunch was on TBS. This was something I could count on. Mallory and I sat on the floor in my living room with the lights off to keep cool. “If we sit on the floor we’ll be cooler since the AC’s broken—I learned that in science class this year!” I informed Mallory. She just shrugged and plopped herself down on the floor next to me. She became infatuated with picking the polish off her nails while I remained infatuated with the person I thought—no, KNEW—was the man I would marry someday.

There was just something about Mike Brady; so tall, so handsome. He wore groovy threads, had the best perm I’d ever seen and was just the perfect husband and father. I knew it was wrong to fall in love with a married man—that’s something I learned in Bible studies—but I couldn’t help it. Part of me wished I could be adopted into the Brady family, but I wasn’t sure if I would be a daughter or a wife.

“People in the ‘70s dressed so badly,” Mallory stated, disinterested in the drama unfolding before us. Will the ever decide on the right wallpaper for their bedroom? “Clothes today are so much better. And ugh, look at their hair.” I liked their hair, but I guess I was wrong. “But I mean Greg’s still kinda cute,” she added.

“I like Mike Brady,” I blurted out. I didn’t mean to say it, but I automatically felt so much cooler and more grown up for having done so. “He’s really cute.” I looked to Mallory for some kind of response, but she just kept playing with her nails. “I’d like to marry him someday,” I meant it.

Mallory finally looked up and stared at me, wide-eyed. I thought I had said something that impressed her—until she started laughing, that is.  “Don’t you know that he’s gay?” I didn’t know what “gay,” was or why it meant I couldn’t love Mike Brady. The rest of the episode ended in a blur, and I never did find out what wallpaper they finally chose.

“Hey, Louise, are you going to watch Beverly Hills 90210 later?” Mallory asked me after the show was over. I shook my head “no.” I wasn’t allowed to watch that show—I was too young, there would be too much I wouldn’t understand. “Lame. Dylan’s such a cutie. I’d marry him someday,” Mallory said proudly. I guess Dylan wasn’t gay.

Mallory and I didn’t really talk for the rest of the day. I was just too ashamed. But before she left I figured it was as good a time as any to ask her that one last thing I didn’t understand, but wanted to know anyway, “Mallory, why doesn’t your dad live with you anymore?”

“Cuz him and mom are getting a divorce.” She said, taking a sip of her Hi-C Ecto Cooler. I supposed that “divorce” meant that two people who are in love stop falling in love. I’d heard that once on TV, but I still didn’t really understand it. Was Mallory’s dad gay? How does someone just stop loving their wife and daughter? It seemed like something Mike Brady would never do. But I guess I was wrong about that, too. I wanted to ask her more, but I held back. The only thing I really understood that day was to never ask a question you don’t really want the answer to.

Check out my feminist mixtape!

If you know me, you may know that one of my greatest joys in life is making mix tapes (well, at very least mix CDs). There's something cathartic about piecing together a puzzle of songs that hit the mood or theme I want, and making sure they flow together in that perfect way. Naturally, 8tracks is my go-to site for streaming music online. So, when I saw that Bitch Magazine does "bitchtapes," fan-curated women-posi mixes using 8tracks, I was stoked. And now I'm pretty damn excited to present my first mixtape for Bitch Media. These are a bunch of songs I've been dancing along to by myself for the past few weeks. Now you can join me!

From the Vault: Creative Non-Fiction Prompt 1/8/15–Mastery

This prompt was posted on Poets & Writers the 8th, but I only just saw it and would like to tackle it.

It’s been said that the difference between a master and a beginner is that, “the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Whether it’s brewing coffee exactly the way you like it, or earning your black belt in a martial art, learning something new takes focus and dedication. Think about something you have mastered and write about the process you underwent to add this new skill to your repertoire. 

Sometimes I feel as though my life is just a series of scattered non-events. Ideas that seemed great in theory but never even made it past the second or third attempt, let alone in practice. Hobbies and talents that never came to fruition–a messy room filled with collage materials, ukuleles, roller skates, unfilled notebooks and piles upon piles of unread books and comics. I get discouraged when I look at the mess, but it’s much easier to throw something else on top of it then to stab away at it, like a team of cleaning specialists on an episode of Hoarders. Like those, my mess of unfinished work means something to me, too, all hobbies and ideas I swear I’ll one day make a reality, before the mice settle in and the cats eat away at my bones.

I don’t like to consider myself someone who gives up easily. I’d rather not think of myself as lazy, but sometimes when our brains work in hyper-speed it’s hard for our bodies to catch up. I think of all the projects I’d like to begin, and my mind begins to race just looking forward to all the possibilities–then the anxiety and paranoia sets in, making the fantasies seem much more worthwhile than the actual projects. This isn’t to say I don’t care about these tasks I’ve laid before myself–perhaps it’s instead the extreme opposite.

When I stare at the wonderful array of greens, blues, pinks and purples of yarn, all tangled up around two needles that were angrily thrown to the floor after what seemed like my millionth attempt at learning a basic continental stitch, I find it hard to believe I’ve ever had the ability to teach myself a new skill. I was one of the last in my Kindergarten class to learn how to tie my shoes, I couldn’t go in a pool over two feet deep without swimmies until I was 9, I couldn’t blow a bubble or whistle until I was 10 years old. And, the one that still stings the most… I never learned how to ride a bike,

Sure, I could ride a bike with training wheels, but the minute I was left to balance on the lone two wheels the fear of tipping over was so crippling I wouldn’t dare move more than a few inches. After a few failed tries and the growing impatience of my mother and grandmother, I ditched the notion of ever mastering a two-wheeler and just prayed that none of my friends would ever invite me out on any bike riding play dates. Eventually, scooters became more popular and I was able to deftly tackle that new trend in hopes that the want or need for bikes would be long gone. While that was obviously not the case, I still managed to evade ever needing to sit atop the hard, uncomfortable seat of a bicycle for the next 15 years, save for gym equipment.

Between the ages of 16 and 25 I discovered myself falling victim again to those feelings of mobile inadequacy I faced in my younger years. While almost everyone around me got their licenses before college, I was still trailing behind, hitching rides whenever I could or waiting out in the damp, cold weather for the train or bus. “You need to get your license, it’s incredibly important for a woman to know how to drive,” well-meaning adults would tell me, making me feel incompetent not only in my driving abilities, but also as a member of the female sex. (Later, upon finding out that Tina Fey does not drive, conversations in media and society would shift, making the choice to not drive an empowering one instead of playing into a subservient role.) It wasn’t that I didn’t want to drive, I just was scared to. Not scared to drive or even to try, just scared to fail again.

My senior year of high school I took my first road test on a blistery, snowy day after the first large snowfall of the season–a few months after successfully completing school-provided Driver’s Ed. I failed, fairly miserably, and my mood was in conjunction with that miserableness for the rest of the day. Having to admit to everyone I knew–especially all my already-driving friends–about my failure was almost worse than not having a license. I took some time before starting up some more driving lessons (another round of payments from my mother), before embarking on my second road test a year later at the same driving test area. Again, a day just after a mighty snowfall. Again, a miserable failure. This time, I didn’t tell anyone and just let my inadequacy eat away at myself from within, being constantly reminded of how I couldn’t pass not once, but twice, every time someone would remind me of how hapless I was that I couldn’t drive or that I couldn’t afford to live away from my family (of whom I also tried to be an active member of in terms of helping out with things people outside our four walls wouldn’t know about). And so I continued the role of the fiercely co-dependent, incompetent damsel in distress that everyone assumed of me–though that wasn’t my ideal situation.

Finally, a few months after my 25th birthday, while working full time and feeling like too much of a burden on family and those close to me, I decided to face my demons and try–just once more–for that elusive laminated card. I sat through the excruciatingly painful 5+ hours of DMV hell to retake my permit exam, and later, on a spring day, signed myself up for driving lessons (all paid for on my own), and then, for the next 5+ months I went for weekly driving lessons. I never mentioned my past failures to my teacher and just hoped he’d never have to know (he never did), and endured his lessons which were extremely helpful and, without his tutelage, I would not have had the confidence to even think about taking the much-maligned road test again, but were also extremely uncomfortable and unsettling, as with every lesson his remarks would be come more and more intrusive and offensive and his hand would slide higher and higher up my thigh and I felt stuck as a woman who was treated as less than such for not driving, but also having to endure being made into an object of unwanted desire, a patriarchal wet dream of which I wanted to be no part.

And then–on a cool fall late afternoon, same spot as the two times before, I took my driver’s test for what I already deemed would be my final time.

I passed.

Part of it was confidence, part of it was fear of being stuck taking more classes with said teacher, afraid of what liberties he would take next. In embarking on this journey again I got what I had worked hard for, but also lost a sense of self in my inability to speak out about situation. Two months later I bought my own car (and months later another car after an unfortunate hit-and-run) and got my own insurance (without the help the teacher kept promising me, yet putting off in favor of more “lessons”) and just got out on my own. The freedom of having a car was twofold–the usual sense it brings and freedom from having a near panic attack on a weekly basis trying to prep myself for whatever disgusting thing the person who held the key to my freedom would try next.

But I did it. I mastered what I thought would be impossible for me and he–nor anyone with their sly comments or suggestions about my life–could take that away from me. Third time was a charm, and in succeeding it reminded me that just sticking with something until the end can be worth it–but it also taught me that keeping my mouth shut and just accepting typical authoritative structures is no way of life. And now I feel as though I have the ability to smash any of those ideals instead of being subservient to them–or mow them over with my car that I purchased on my own.

Now, looking back to those piles of unconquered dreams and ideas, I realize that if I could weather the storm of the dreaded road test and all of the unforeseen roadblocks that came with it, I can too conquer these–once I acknowledge that the biggest bump in the road is myself. Only I hold the key to my own destiny and, even if I fail, trying again is always an option. Who knows? Maybe now that I’ve conquered an automobile, maybe the ever-dreaded bicycle will be next.

Maybe.

 

From the Vault is a series of posts from my personal blog that I've liked enough to share here. This post was originally written on this day last year.