16 Weeks.

Thursday morning was the first time I put on a pair of jeans and thought, “Oh God, no.” I thought that overnight, I’d totally outgrown all of my normal person clothing. Luckily, Thursday morning was just a particularly giant day, and I am still happily shoving myself into pre-pregnancy pants four days later. I have the incredible good fortune of owning a ton of baggy sweaters (for once in my life, I can thank the Gap for only selling shapeless sacks), and these are definitely helping keep me in my old clothes. If anyone was able to take a close look at what was happening at my waistband, I would probably never leave my house.

I think last year, I mentioned that I was venturing into Total Mess territory before my trip home in September, because I was too cheap to buy new clothes right before I went to back to the US, where everything costs half as much money. I am currently battling this same desire to spend as little money as possible. I have this delusion that if I can just make it five more weeks, I can buy a whole new maternity wardrobe in California for the price of one pair of maternity leggings here. In the meantime, I am just going to charge ahead, wearing various increasingly uncomfortable skinny jeans with oversize pillowcases as tops.

On a related, but even more embarrassing, note, I’ve started the requisite collection of belly photos. I’ve been taking photos occasionally and sending them to Fertile Myrtle, who is the only person in the world who cares (so therefore I am inspired to share them on the internet). I made the artistic decision to expose my belly in these photos, mostly because I would like to remember what my skin looked like when it wasn’t covered in stretch marks.

I would like to state for the record that I have very mixed feelings about bare belly pictures. On one hand, I find them a bit weird and invasive on social media. Like, does everyone I know need to see what my fat, bloated midsection looks like? On the other, I have an obsession with keeping track of things, which was basically the point of this blog in the first place, so they are happening and I am posting them (but only here. Sorry, high school acquaintance. You’ll have to get your disembodied torso photos from someone else.).

photo 1That week 6 photo was taken in my Birmingham hotel room the night I discovered I was pregnant. I had no ass. The week 14 picture was taken the day I crossed over into the second trimester, when I felt particularly enormous. I had no ass then either.

photo 2I took the week 16 photo right before I put the pair of jeans on that made me instantly nervous. I was admittedly totally pushing my stomach out and showing off in this photo. When it’s not insanely uncomfortable, it’s totally amazing to be what is essentially the most bloated you’ve ever been and to just be able to own it. I AM HUGE AND IT IS IMPORTANT. LOOK AT THESE PICTURES OF IT ALL. As ever, I still had no ass.

Most of the time, during the day, I hover right around that 14 week size. At night, after I’ve eaten and once my body is officially done with the day, I can look upwards of 1,000 years pregnant. So basically, my pregnancy experience has been a Groundhog’s Day of Thanksgiving Day for weeks. Each morning begins with the expectation that by evening, I will feel disgusting and sick, and that prophecy is fulfilled, every day. It’s exactly Thanksgiving, except with a little less pie.

I’ve also starting experiencing round ligament pain, which is effectively the fruitless screaming of the muscles attaching my pelvis to my torso. The other night, while lying in bed, I sneezed and then felt like my guts were exploding from my abdomen. Today, sitting at my desk, walking around, and stretching were all triggers. Basically, having muscles and being awake are both risk factors for shooting pains these days.

Finally, at the risk of sounding really vain, I am attempting not to gain a ton of weight and am therefore trying hard not to eat any differently than I would normally. I’ve read that you only need to increase your daily caloric intake by 300 more calories – in the third trimester. However, the important exception to not changing my eating habits is that I am trying to eat better than I usually do. As a vegetarian, I am eating more green, iron-rich vegetables and 100% more dairy. My appetite has been increasing in the last few weeks, so I’m trying to carry good snacks like cashews and blueberries, so I don’t feel like I’m just pumping my avocado-sized child full of mint chip ice cream and Frosted Flakes. (Full disclosure: I sometimes do that. And also, as I wrote this, I was eating a personal-sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.)

I’m not frightened by the idea of being bigger, because that will happen (hopefully on a small scale) regardless. I’m also obviously not restricting my eating in any way. I’ve never been someone who denied myself food and I’m certainly not doing that, especially now, when I am finally interested in food again after my pitiful Dry Toast December. I’m simply trying to reign in any intense weight gain because it’s not healthy (I’ve had my nose buried in articles about maternal obesity and adverse birth outcomes for weeks), and because I like my clothes and would like to fit into them again at some point.

And also because: stretchmarks.

Priorities.

Second Trimester.

Today marks the start of the the fourteenth week of this pregnancy, which means I am officially into the second trimester. Right on cue, as the first semester ended, I shook off the cloud of exhaustion and hazy thinking that kept me in bed for the entire month of December and have rejoined the land of the living, doing really impressive things like “the dishes,” “walking to work,” and “being upright for more than twenty minutes a day.” Right now, my PhD requires a ton of thinking, strategizing, and article reading, and I was very concerned two weeks ago, when peeling myself out of my jammies to take a shower seemed an insurmountable task. It’s nice to have my brain back. I guess I should enjoy this brief reprieve, because according to my (many) pregnancy apps, I’ve got a good 14 weeks before things get rough again.

So, I’m feeling much better, despite the fact that I am edging ever closer to not being able to wear to my favorite jeans anymore. Luckily, it’s winter and I can hide the fact that I’m busting out of my pants under lots of giant sweaters.

Now that I am briefly normalizing, you’d think I might not worry as much. If you thought that, you’d be mistaken (and I’d assume you were new around here). Do you want to know what the most terrifying thing about being pregnant is?

EVERYTHING.

I’ve only known for about two months, and I’ve already had enough emotional breakdowns to last for years. Apparently, perpetually being on high alert is something that never goes away. It’s from now to always. (Yay!) To paraphrase something Fertile Myrtle told me as I panicked by myself in a Cardiff hotel room (after I’d known for three days, but was still trapped on my work trip), “you spend your entire pregnancy hoping that your child will be born, and then the rest of their lives wishing you could have them back inside you.”

Because, I’m learning, making a person is a tremendously stressful journey into the unknown, where any myriad of things could go wrong. According to every parent I have ever spoken to ever, this is only amplifies when your child is born, because then it’s not just your body that you have to side-eye and worry about constantly – it’s everything in the whole world for the rest of your life. It is all out to get your child and you just have to accept that.

UGH.

In our family mythology, my mother is known for being an over-reactive hypochondriac who never let me touch the ground or eat dirt or walk barefoot in parks (because: germs, parasites, and used hypodermic needles). My brothers and I were made to wear water shoes (the kind with thick, grippy soles designed for hiking in rivers) into the ocean on beach days until we were teenagers. My grandparents and great aunts would tell, and continue to tell, stories of my mom’s seemingly incomprehensible desire to keep me, the first-born, and later my two brothers, hermetically sealed against the terrors of the world. SHE IS SO NUTTY, they would all say.

When I was 14 and wearing too-small, bright pink water booties to the beach, I wanted to tear her apart.

As an adult woman currently pregnant with my own child, I am buying stock in water booties. And helmets. And vaccines.

That is, assuming I make it through the next six months of panic and actually have the opportunity to raise the first baby in a bubble.

It’s A…Human!

On Monday January 12th, the one year anniversary of my move to England, I had my first ultrasound, which was firm confirmation that another huge life-changing event is on the horizon.

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IT’S A BABY.

I’m getting my health care through the NHS, so I have the benefit of not needing to pay for private insurance, which, as a US citizen, is a little bit like living in opposite land. However, because I’m not paying for the health care, the experience has been different than what it might have been if I were in the states. For example, I met with both a general practitioner and a midwife before the 12-week scan I had on Monday, and neither of those medical professionals confirmed the pregnancy (through urine or blood). I also wasn’t offered an early ultrasound (at around 8 weeks), like I might have been in I was back in California. So, for the first three months, until I saw the little babe kicking around on the ultrasound screen this week, I could have basically been making the entire thing up like a hysterical crazy person and no one would have been the wiser, myself included.

As a notoriously high-strung individual, it was really strange for me to have very little medical intervention during a time when all I wanted was as much reassurance as possible. Thankfully, I have my midwife’s cell phone number – that poor woman probably hates me.

As I understand it, because there is very little that can be done in the first three months of pregnancy, the ethos here is to just let it happen. It’s all very c’est la vie.

That was very, very difficult for me.

Additionally, the NHS keeps sending me totally vague and absolutely terrifying text messages as my various blood test results are received by my doctor’s office. Nothing says peace of mind like getting a text at 4:55pm that reads, “Your test results are now available. Contact your GP as soon as possible.” So fun trying to frantically contact a health center administrator in the last five minutes before the office closes. Fortunately, as of now, all results are normal.

In England, prenatal care – and often, birth itself – is managed by full trained, highly educated midwives, not OB/GYNs. I think this is excellent, because in theory, it should cut down on the amount of unnecessary intervention suggested to women as they prepare to have babies. That being said, the strangest thing that’s happened thus far occurred during my “booking in” appointment, the first time I met my midwife. We went through family ancestries and histories, I told her my height and weight, she took my blood pressure, and then after this extensive testing, she deemed me “low-risk” and advised me to have my baby at home.

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WHAT.

As an American, this casual suggestion was similar to hearing a nurse tell me that I look pretty competent so I should just handle the stitches myself. For years, I’ve harbored some obnoxious ideas about how medicalized pregnancy and birth can be in the United States, so I absolutely appreciate living in a place that treats this like a natural process, and not a terrible disease. However, having a midwife use 30 minutes of conversation to determine that I wouldn’t need any medical help was a teensy bit surprising, even for a liberal granola nutcase like me.

Luckily, the options are basically endless here, so as of now, I’ve decided to use a birth center inside a hospital, staffed with only midwives, but an elevator ride away from some serious surgeons, just in case. I’ve read that for a home birth to be truly effective as an experience (and also, I guess, as a way of getting an 8 pound human being out of your body), you have to be relaxed. I, queen of the tightly wound, would not fare well with a potentially life-threatening situation intentionally scheduled away from a hospital.

Luckily, I am slightly less anxious now, as I’ve got four photos of our tiny martial artist and I know it exists. However, now that I know this is for real, I am ramping up tons of anxiety about making sure I don’t screw it up.

I’m such a well-adjusted human being. It’s just amazing.

Surprise!

Inspired by the comments and emails I’ve received from people telling me that their lives would be empty, wasted shells if I were to stop blogging, I’ve decided to be brave and stick around. Thank you all for your kind words. I had no idea this blog gave all your lives so much meaning. (In all seriousness: thanks for the encouragement!)

The following is both a dramatic recreation of why I’ve been absent and a sign of things to come. I’ve struggled a lot with whether or not to publicize this, because it’s hard, fast proof that I am moving into a vastly different life than I ever could have imagined for myself when I started this blog two and a half years ago. However, I really do loving blogging, I love this space and the people I’ve connected with, and if I were to not share this, I might as well give up on writing here altogether. So, here goes:

On November 7th 2014, I left home for a four-week work trip around the UK. I was touring with an exhibition I’d spent the previous several months curating research for, and so I packed a month’s worth of underwear into a suitcase, said goodbye to my boyfriend, and flew out of Southampton. I was exhausted.

On November 16th 2014, I stayed up working until 3am and woke up five hours later with a vicious head cold, which was both terrible timing, because I was deep into my UK tour, and really surprising, because I hadn’t been sick for over a year. I was exhausted.

For dinner on November 27th 2014, nearly three weeks into my UK odyssey, I ate a “jacket potato,” which was basically a baked potato covered in Heinz baked beans and is essentially a totally justified way for me to eat as many carbs as possible in one sitting.

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Vomit.

 

Then I stayed up until midnight in my Birmingham hotel room and Skyped with my entire family for Thanksgiving – the first I’d ever missed. Seeing everyone (and the amazing Southern California weather and all the food) was both really wonderful and also super sad, and I ended up balled up in my rented bed, sobbing like a maniac. (I had the decency to end the Skype conversation first.) I was so emotional. I was exhausted.

On November 28th 2014, 24 hours after devouring my jacket potato, I glanced at the photo I’d taken and almost threw up. No exaggeration. A food I’d gleefully forked into my face on Thursday had become totally repulsive to me on Friday. Given my sudden, intense food aversions, my ever-present fatigue, my recent crippling head cold, and the fact that I had grown out of my bra, I figured something might be up. Feeling a little suspicious, and in an effort to shut up my boyfriend and Fertile Myrtle, who are both saints who tolerate nonstop text messages about my various (real and imagined) ailments, I took a cheap pregnancy test in my hotel bathroom. I left the test and went to eat an apple, content that the result would be exactly what every pregnancy test result had been for all the years I have frantically taken pregnancy tests.

Despite the symptoms that encouraged me to invest in some £3.85 pregnancy tests, I knew with absolute certainty that they were a waste of money. The tests always had been and always would be, because my insides were made of sourdough bread and dust. So, as you might imagine, I had a complete emotional breakdown when I went back into the bathroom and found this:

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And then later, this:

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On Black Friday, 5,000 miles away from my family, alone in Birmingham, England after being on the road for three weeks, in a hotel room that shared a very thin wall with my boss’s room, knowing there was still a full week before I could see my boyfriend again, I found myself holding a positive pregnancy test for the first time. The insanity of the situation was not lost on me. The Universe is nothing if not consistent.

Right this minute, I am thirteen weeks pregnant. I AM PREGNANT. I am pregnant and living in England and starting a PhD.

Never a dull moment.

Going Private?

I haven’t posted anything in a long time, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I have a pretty impressive list of unpublished drafts hidden away. The reason I haven’t hit “publish” on any of them is that there have been a lot of really insane developments in my life lately, and I’ve been doing some soul searching about how comfortable I am broadcasting them into the universe. No one is more shocked about this than I am, as I used to live for the validation that came from having people like my ridiculous ramblings and post comments about them. I think, just at a basic level, these developments are so huge and personal and so very deeply mine that it’s strange to imagine opening them up for discussion with (and perhaps even judgment from) a wide audience I can’t control.

On the other hand, I do so desperately want to keep a record of this time and I would like to have the silly (and sometimes profound) feedback I used to get from the people who read this online piece of self-serving nonsense.

I’ve kept a lot of blogs in my Millennial life and I have never in all those incarnations begged readers or followers for comments. I’ve never shamed people who loved to lurk into becoming participants, and I’m not going to do that now. However, I would like, just this one time, to ask that if you read this (or used to read this, back when it was interesting), and if you want to continue to read this, that you let me know, only because I don’t want to devastate huge swaths of the internet by making this blog private.

Additionally, I’d feel really guilty for shutting down a blog that provides Googlers of the world with search term goldmines like “worst looking girl” or “yo betta shut yo ass up.”

Basically, do I stay or do I go?

The Wrap, Bill Cosby, & Everyone Is Still The Worst.

About ten thousand years ago, when I was just out of college and struggling to find my niche in LA, I worked a lot of jobs in the backyard offices of wealthy, important people. (Apparently, that is a thing.) One of these people was Sharon Waxman, entertainment journalist, who, at the time, had just published her book Loot, and was starting to conceptualize The Wrap, now a fairly large entertainment site. I was hired on as an assistant, and spent a lot of my time organizing business lunch receipts for expense reports. Sometimes, I think that if I were more enterprising (or less totally terrified of Sharon – or, let’s face it, interested in entertainment journalism AT ALL), I might have been able swing a small job on the fledgling Wrap, which I could have parlayed into a nice writing career in Los Angeles, where I might have one day hired a 21-year-old idiot to shuffle receipt paper around in accordion folders.

Alas, I was not that enterprising or that interested in entertainment journalism (I was an anthropologist!), and I was pretty goddamn terrified of Sharon Waxman, so instead, what happened is that I worked for her in her home office for a few months over a summer and then got another job and started my MA and got married and then hated everything for a long time and then went to Ireland and finished my MA and got divorced and moved to the UK.

To each their own, I suppose.

Anyway, there are still sometimes when I see The Wrap mentioned on other sites and blogs and it reminds of the time when I really could have made it happen. (Real talk: there was no way in hell I was ever going to get hired as a writer for that website. I blew that on my very first day, when I expressed more interest in the subject of Loot, which was about the acquisition of historical art from around the world, than in the process of writing that kind of book.)

Today, however, on Jezebel, my favorite internet rant watering hole, I saw The Wrap mentioned for a reason that made me think less of what a networking failure I am, and more about how terribly gross people can be.

Over the weekend, The Wrap published an op-ed that was originally titled, “The Rape of Bill Cosby.” The first few paragraphs of the op-ed, written by Richard Stellar, are:

Bill Cosby raped me.

Now that I have your attention, consider this: the allegations of sexual misadventure and impropriety that have pummeled the Cos over the last few weeks is not the issue. The issue is the scurrilous environment where media outlets and journalists lie in wait, like aging corpulent prostitutes, their hair dyed flame red and their nails like elongated daggers — waiting to blow any John who dares to topple those who may be kings. It’s once again an example of the TMZ-isation of journalism.

The prized real estate that is the first screen view of news websites, or the much vied for leading news story content on the evening news has been hijacked for reports of the latest Cosby detractor, while issues like Ferguson, IS, immigration reform, and 46 abducted students in Mexico receive a momentary lapse of attention. Our focus shifts when a celebrity falls, and like extras in “Walking Dead,” our direction sharply turns, and our attention shifts to the exposed flesh of the fallen, and we grunt and drool, waiting to feast.

The concept of justice is disregarded. The statute of limitations is ignored. The recollections of events that happened as long as fifty years ago are dredged up by aging actresses who have one eye on the CNN camera, and the other on a book or reality show deal. If the statute of limitations was as long as the 15 minutes of fame that these lost souls are trying to recapture, then our prisons would be as vacant as the Holiday Inn in Acapulco (you probably have no idea what that means because you’re not used to real news). Thankfully, the statute of limitations was written to avoid exactly what this blog is about. There is no legitimacy to justice if there is no real evidence, and evidence has a way of vanishing as memories dim with the marching of time. A DNA swab on most of Cosby’s detractors if done today would most likely come up exceedingly dry.

I’m not saying that what these woman claim happened, didn’t happen. I get it — Cos was the campfire that parents would sit at with their children, and chuckle at his homespun humor and life lessons. When we all retreated back to our tents with our tummys full of S’mores and toasted marshmallows, Cos was back in his tent, banging the camp counselor after doping her with quaaludes. Yes, that could well have happened, and once those women realized the violation that they endured at the hands of Cosby, then they should have reported it then — not a generation later.

This piece has a lot of issues, including but not limited to: opening with “Bill Cosby raped me” only to immediately state that the very serious and very numerous rape allegations are “not the issue”; referring to Bill Cosby as “the Cos,” which makes this sound like it was written by Zack Morris in 1992; being super sensitive to the issue of rape by comparing it to “the Cos…banging the camp counselor after doping her with quaaludes”; and finally, shaming the alleged victims by saying that if they were truly victims worthy of our concern, they wouldn’t have waited to report (which willfully ignores all the myriad reasons rape victims don’t report these crimes, most specifically those reasons relating to power, wealth, and fame).

Taken as a whole, Stellar’s post is a poorly written piece of absolute shit – and as someone who occasionally sits down with my laptop to fire off poorly written pieces of shit that I then post to the internet, I am a veritable expert in this field.

However, all its many, many problems aside, the most entirely disgusting thing about that op-ed is the last line of the fourth paragraph:

A DNA SWAB ON MOST OF COSBY’S DETRACTORS IF DONE TODAY WOULD MOST LIKELY COME UP EXCEEDINGLY DRY.

A DNA SWAB ON MOST OF COSBY’S DETRACTORS IF DONE TODAY WOULD MOST LIKELY COME UP EXCEEDINGLY DRY.

(Repetition and emphasis mine).

Because, you know, the best way to approach your argument condemning the media’s willingness to jump at any grim story, rocketing any old fame hound into celebrity, is to mock the age and dryness of the vaginas of alleged rape victims.

What a totally respectable, really professional piece of work, Richard Stellar. Super impressed.

This is what Sharon Waxman had to say about the ensuing shitstorm associated with the publication of Stellar’s descent into madness:

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I’m all for free speech too, but you can’t write (or edit or host or publish) misogynistic, victim-blaming, total idiocy and dress it up as some fancy, reasoned, thoughtful indictment of the media. As part of his apology tour, Richard Stellar updated his original post, changing the title and adding, “As Sharon Waxman so eloquently defended me — the purpose of the blog was to bring damnation down on the media.”

Hey, guess what, Richard Stellar? If that was the purpose of your post, you are a terrible writer.

If this is the kind of atrocious bullshit that is considered a “legit contrarian view” on The Wrap, I can happily put away my regrets about blowing my big break and content myself with not being associated with this kind of garbage.

 

On Being Pathetic & Growing Up

I missed my ten-year high school reunion this year, because it was held over the summer, precisely one month before I flew home for a two-week vacation (a breakdown of that is coming, I promise). I was a little sad to miss it, because it’s such a milestone, but in today’s world, I can keep up with those I want to talk to and spy on those I don’t want to talk to pretty easily, so the night I missed the reunion, I just ate a bunch of cookies and spent some time on Facebook.

However, the idea of a high school (or college) reunion speaks to me. Long, long ago, I was an oppressively awkward, totally self-conscious, acne-ridden teenager, surrounded by people I thought were better looking, more hilarious, more intelligent, and destined for bigger, better things. Every person I knew had qualities I felt I didn’t possess, and every day, I walked the gauntlet, recognizing only good things in others and only terrible things in myself. (Look, I know how that sounds, and I would have edited it so that it wasn’t so pathetic, but you all know about my horrible divorce, so I figure things have been worse around here.) As a teenager and young adult, I was too convinced that I was ugly or incompetent to really take any chances, so I ended up being a small, judgmental, self-satisfied little Puritan weirdo, who longed for the freedom other young people had. (I was basically the worst.)

Now that I am a (more) fully-formed adult, with life experience practically bursting out of me, it would have been nice to see people from ten years ago, because I am cool now. Yes, I said it. I AM COOL. Deal with it.

There are a lot of people I knew who were fabulous. However, in hindsight, I don’t feel like I ever had real relationships with them, because I was always so concerned with what they were thinking of me that I couldn’t ever be truly present. One of these people was a guy who lived on my dorm floor my second year, a guy for whom I harbored a year-long, painfully obvious obsession.

He was tall and great looking and funny and effortlessly cool and looked at people in the way you only read about in books – he made every person he spoke to feel like they were the only person in the world. Now, as a grizzled, jaded, 28-year-old monster, I would say that he is just a very proficient active listener, but then, when I was 19 and a living, breathing sad-face emoticon, the fact that this glowing, gorgeous specimen of male youth ever looked at me with such intensity (much less that he did it every time we spoke) was just beyond me. I could not get enough.

I adored him and was eventually heartbroken by him, as he had relationships with other people and then moved out of the country and then I never saw him again.

You know, the usual.

As it turns out, this person is now also living in England, and last week, we met up for the first time in eight years. We shared a bottle of wine and went out in London and basically tried to jam the discussion of nearly a decade of life experience into a few hours. It was really wonderful.

One hundred years ago, when we were undergraduates, we often had long, wandering conversations about music, relationships, and life, during which I would mostly just smile and nod, because what did I know about relationships or life? I would talk about things in the abstract or discuss things I always wanted to do or experience, but never had. Last week, when we saw each other again, we had the same kind of conversation – hours long, punctuated by gross jokes and references to our personal neuroses – but I could offer actual advice, real, true, hard-won universal truths about what it means to be a person in the world, because I’ve done it. I’ve opened myself up to things and done really well and have also failed spectacularly and have lived to tell the tales in dark, loud comedy clubs in England on Tuesday nights (which, by the by, are places I never thought I’d ever be).

I have lived, the good stuff and the bad, and seeing this old friend was an incredible barometer upon which I could measure my personal growth. I am both hugely different and totally the same. I have always been funny, smart, cool, interesting, worthy of being looked at like I’m the only person in the world.

The difference is: now I know.

The Love Vitamin.

Hello there! Look whose stupid mug is on the home page of the new TheLoveVitamin.com webpage!

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CAN YOU SEE ME UP THERE? If you are suffering from hormonal acne, I highly recommend The Love Vitamin. (I said so right there on the website!) I stumbled across it one day when frantically looking for natural ways to clear my cystic acne, and it literally changed the way I’d thought about acne for my entire adult life. I’m getting zero kick backs from promoting the site, other than the joy of being super impressed with having my dumb face featured on it. And because I am the opposite of a paid Love Vitamin employee, I can tell you with sincerity that I got all the information I used to change my skin through the free blog posts on the site. I didn’t pay for any e-books or enroll in any online classes or groups. The free resources on the website are fabulous, so if you’re dealing with aggravating, persistent acne, go to there immediately!

Privacy, Rape Culture, and Being Female.

Last week, I told a male friend about a time recently when I was followed for three blocks by a man whistling and commenting on my body. I’d left my house on a whim because I wanted a small bag of almonds and some chocolate. A pleasant trip that should have taken ten minutes ended up taking over a half hour and enraging me, because this guy followed me into the store and hung around creeping on me while I ignored him until he went away.

My friend asked me why I didn’t say anything to him. “Just tell him to fuck off!” is a refrain I hear a lot when I tell dudes about experiences like this. This makes it clear that dudes, no matter how well meaning or adorable or kind or progressive or honest or lovely, have basically no idea what it’s like to be a woman in the world.

I didn’t say anything to him because I’d said nothing to this person to begin with and never made eye contact with him and kept my head down for 30 minutes and did not acknowledge him once, and yet he walked a few paces behind me for blocks and then stood near me making gross noises for an obscenely long time.

Obviously, he gave no shits how I was feeling about the situation. This had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with what he thought he could get away with. He committed to making me uncomfortable for his personal gain. That is gross and unsettling.

At the most basic level, I don’t respond to men who catcall me on the street because when I’m just outside existing in my own life, I don’t want to talk to some stranger about how he feels about my ass. Engaging with a toolbag  really cuts into my doing anything else really.

At a more serious level, I don’t respond to catcallers because I don’t know them.  I am annoyed by the idea of engaging with a stranger. I am scared of confronting a stranger. In general, these people are taller and heavier than me and could, for all I know, be total psychopaths. They have already proven that they can’t read (or that they will gleefully ignore) social cues. I’m just on my way for chocolate. I’m not willing to find out what other social mores he might be ready to dismiss. His ego may be so bruised that he might punch me in the face, which is what happened to Mary Brandon when she told a man at a festival to stop grabbing her ass.

Sadly, in terms of sexual violence against women, dealing with someone just yelling something at you as you go for a run or licking their lips as you walk by, which is uncomfortable, upsetting, and unnerving bullshit, is actually the best case scenario.

We could have our personal computers hacked and all our private photos stolen and shared all over the internet, only to be told that we were to blame for having taken those photos in the first place. This is the logical equivalent of my taking your laptop out of your computer bag and saying it is mine now, because you had the audacity to put it somewhere I could reach it.

We could be raped by our friends or by strangers, not be taken seriously by our college or by the police, and then make huge, intelligent, thoughtful statements about this, only to have people tell us that “regret sex is not rape” or that by speaking out, we are “attention whores” or are using “rape as self-promotion.”

We could be assaulted and nearly beaten to death, only to be told we deserved it because of our relationship status or our chosen profession.

The simple truth is that women are victims of huge invasions of privacy all the time, every day of our lives. These invasions are not always physical and they are not always devastating, but they are there, lurking, always.

In addition, the responsibility for these attacks always falls on us. If I am harassed (or grabbed or beaten or raped) and I do not say anything, it is my fault because I did not vocalize my distress. If I am harassed (or grabbed or beaten or raped) while I am out at night while wearing a skirt or having a vagina, it is my fault because I was asking for it (or, in the case of the stolen celebrity photos, the fault lies with the women for having something worth stealing). If I am harassed (or grabbed or beaten or raped) and I say something and the situation escalates (as it did for Mary Brandon), it is my fault because I should not have provoked him.

If it’s not already painfully obvious, women are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

I once had an argument about this catch-22 of sexual violence facing women with a man who told me that all this focus on violence against women is unfair, because men are also victims of violence. Okay, guy. Sure. Men are often victims of war and aggression and physical violence. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re talking about. We can talk about sexual violence against women (and men) without talking physical violence against men, in much the same way we can ask people to donate to cancer research without also asking them to recycle. It is possible to seek justice for one group without minimizing or negating the suffering of another group. In fact, the only people I know who actually do that are people like you.

There is an enormous difference between saying that you don’t see something and denying its existence. In the first case, you are admitting that you are privileged enough not to experience something 50% of the population of the world faces, in varying degrees, every day. In the second, you are proving that you are a moron who takes breaks from reality.

Rape culture is a thing, people. There are men who feel entitled to look at nude photos of women without their consent, to yell uncomfortable and obscene things at women who are simply taking their bodies out of their houses, and to touch, grab, and all too often, sexually assault women against their will. This happens.

Arguing against this, calling it “feminist propaganda,” or, worst of all, extolling it as your personal right because you have a penis that likes things makes you at best an idiot and at worst a violator of the human rights of the women around you.

 

Existential Crises.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been having super deep thoughts about the world. In fact, I’ve been wrestling with some mighty big questions about life.

Things like:

1) How many shortbread cookies are acceptable for breakfast? (4.)

2) How many breakfast shortbread cookies is too many breakfast shortbread cookies? (5.)

3) Should I wash my hair this morning? (No.)

4) If I only wore these socks for an hour last night, can I wear them again today? (Yes.)

5) If I’m allergic to the aluminum in my deodorant, and I am, and the natural stuff is disgusting, which it is, is it okay for me to just not wear deodorant? (Yes.)

6) I’ve stumbled across photographic evidence that I’ve had the same tube of lip gloss for two years. Is it safe for me to keep using it? (Yes.)

7) How often? (Every day.)

8) I need new socks/underwear/shirts/sweaters, but I’m going to the US in a few weeks and everything will be much cheaper there. Is it alright for me to look like a total mess for months before I leave? (Yes. Obviously.)

9) Do I have to wait until lunch time to eat the food I brought to work? (No. Helllllllo, 10 am burrito!)

10) I keep spilling saucy foods on my sheets. Does this mean I have to stop eating dinner in bed? (No. Just buy new sheets.)