That Magic Moment…

When someone who was an instrumental but woefully blind part of building a culture around you that was hostile to consent, tore you down, engaged in months of willful microaggression, bullying, misdirection, and gaslighting publicly admits, “I was the one who did that, so stop holding my knowing, willing partner and accomplice accountable for the other things they’ve done!”  It’s like someone lit a fire in my heart, y’all.  If nothing else has come out of this sh*tstorm, it’s that I am now more convinced than ever that my final egress from that household was timely as F*CK.

I always suspected that it was a group effort.  It always felt like a group effort.  I never felt safe communicating my needs to any of my former polycule.  They were always met by uninvited sharing, or attempts to salvage relationships instead of, you know, the people in them.  Me, notably.  But others, as well.

What people don’t understand about #abuseinpoly is that it’s not an event, a lot of the time.  It’s a campaign.  It’s a campaign to gradually shift meaning and vocabulary for a person subtly over time, so that they will learn to accept they can’t make their own meaning, don’t trust their own instincts, won’t protect their own interests.  They’ll put “family first”. They’ll assimilate to the One True Path to loving more.

I’ve been asked to put some thoughts together about what, in my own experience, in retrospect, could serve as an early warning sign that one has entered a manipulative relationship dynamic, and how to test that hypothesis early enough that one can escape and avoid unnecessary harm.  I think a lot of it is related my recent talk on Carnalcopia regarding #boundaries but has some new content as well.  For example:

Here are some red flags, though this list is not exhaustive — I’m more spitballing:

If someone requires (not just requests, though requesting is just impolite) reasons you don’t desire them sexually;

If it is presented that there is only one correct path to the kind of relationship you’re in;

If shaming the uninitiated or differently minded is a habitual occurrence;

If disagreement is not tolerated;

If there is a power differential that is being wielded irresponsibly (this can be income/financial, experience in kink/alternative relationship structure, social connection, or other resources), and worse yet, if it is not being acknowledged;

If you suspect covert needs are operative;

If you keep being asked to re-define your terms be they boundaries or actual relationship vocabulary;

If your values are regularly interrogated;

If you are routinely shamed for your feelings;

If contact takes place at a frequency (high or low) that you’ve expressed is stressful for you, and your boundary is rejected as an affront to closeness or intimacy;

If the signal (actions, behavior) to noise (verbal/written message) ratio does not approach or approximate 1;

If someone habitually sets verbal goals for their relationship with you but does not develop or show interest in an actual plan for action;

If expressing harm, hurt, or damage is met with argument instead of problem-solving;

If you find yourself afraid, frequently, even when your partner or partners are not around, of judgment or recrimination;

If the exchange of emotional energy and unpaid emotional labor seems to consistently rest on your shoulders;

If there is regular misdirection of control (this can take many forms, and is its own post — disordered thinking with regard to food, finances, employment, resources, motivation, emotional state, or intellectual positions — these are all indicators that your para/metamours may not have the freedom to act autonomously and they may feel monitored, judged, or contingent on their abilities to meet expectations);

If you normally hold a neutral to high estimation of your worth, yet with New Partner/s, you feel you are not able to internalize their verbal expressions of love or admiration;

If doing things, discussing things, or having conflict are not taking place on shared and mutually agreed upon terms;

I could go on for days.  I missed so many signs along the way.  One of the things that’s so scary is that it doesn’t make sense when it’s happening.  You’re trained, along the way to simply adapt to fluctuating expectations and dogma.  You become accustomed to the idea that disappointing someone else is far, far worse than voicing your needs.  You realize, gradually, that your needs are irrelevant.  You find that voicing them is met with argumentation, rhetoric, dismissal, misdirection.  You begin to believe that you’re crazy and undeserving of real love or affection, because the Noise (verbal/written expression) so completely drowns out the Signal (action/behavior).

“This person values consent and reciprocity so vocally — what have I done not to deserve these things?”
“This person requires total and extemporaneous honesty of me, and won’t give me time to consider my feelings; but regularly hides things from me.”
“This person’s partner shares my communications with my partner, even when it does not serve our relationship to do so.”
“This person waits until I have consumed alcohol to bring up difficult topics or voice complaints.”
“I drink more than I usually do when I am with this person, and I don’t like how it makes me feel.”

My wake-up call was, “I dread seeing this person I love,” and “I want to flush my phone down the toilet.”
These road signs get lost in the lovebombing.  The regular verbal message about HOW IMPORTANT AND IRREPLACEABLE YOU ARE.  The naming of relationships to give them special, but imaginary status: Queer platonic primary partner, Emotional primary, Best Friend, Sister, Family.  Especially for people who have been denied love, or made to feel contingent in the past… it’s a siren song.  It works.  You go all in, chasing the signal through the noise, ignoring evidence, drowning out counter-narrative.

I want to show people how to see it.  How to stop.

That Magic Moment…

An Open Letter to xoJane

Dear xoJane:

I think this is it, for us.  I wish I could say that it’s not you, it’s me; but that would be a lie deployed to spare your feelings.  I don’t do that anymore, so you’ll be getting the unvarnished truth.

When we first met, there was a lot about you I just didn’t see.  In the last few months, though, I’ve come to see how mercenary you are.  You present yourself as a fun, real-life forum for women* (and occasionally men*) to share their experiences, tricks for how to get around in the world, and enjoy a good dose of humor.  That content comes from your writers, but you select what gets run, what gets publicized, and what happens next.

And what happens next, is this: Sometimes, nothing.  The articles run, they get some comments.  Some of them are amazing, insightful, and lead to productive and healthy dialogue.  There’s usually some girl in the thread who’s like, “Ew you wore what for that picture” and the rest of us peer over our glasses at her and click our tongues in disapproval.  But sometimes, you run pieces that you know quite well are going to provoke more of a response.  Sometimes, that response is threatening, abusive, or dangerous. Articles about rape, abuse, discrimination, and harassment seem to have picked up some additional unintended cargo lately.  When women* speak about fear or anger lately, they’ve been met with dismissal, condescension, harassment, shame, doxxing, and death threats.

It is my belief that you, xoJane, have a responsibility to the women* who provide your tougher content.  You need moderators.  You need a base-line set of expectations for how people behave when they walk into the party you’re hosting.  You need some standards for how people treat the amazing, incredible, brave women* who write for you, justifying your existence and generating your clickable content, and therefore, revenue.  Giving women* a voice isn’t a gift — we already have voices.  What you provide is a venue for conversation, like a hostess.  But attending your parties is a lot like showing up with a few bottles of wine and your party shoes on, to find out that this house is full of strangers, and a couple of your besties (Hey Esprit de L’Escalier!) and the hostess has left the building.  And there’s someone top decking her toilet in the upstairs bathroom.  Someone may, or may not, be dismantling the garbage disposal.  Some dude just took my wine, drank it all, and brandished a bottle at me, calling me names.  Calling the women with whom I claim solidarity against things like gendered violence, institutional violence, racism, and a culture that is hostile to consent and self-determination, names.  Treating them like things.  Treating them like unloved children.

I think that they, that we, deserve more.  For the fifty bucks you throw at a writer for original content, we deserve your support when we do things like, disclose our status as assault and abuse survivors, and find the courage to write about that.  Not too long ago, it was stated to me in very man-splain-y terms that writing about my assault in a public forum constituted an invitation to be criticized and abused further.  By not providing your writers with support and artful comment moderation, it seems like tacitly, you agree.  At the very least, you don’t object.  And moreover, you profit from it.  Those outrage-shares, those rage-clicks, those comments.  They generate revenue for you.  Yes, we can flag inappropriate comments.  But nowhere on xoJane.com is there a clearly stated policy for what counts, for you, as inappropriate.

I just spent a large portion of two days trying to ad hoc moderate several of your recent offerings.  Keeping an eye out for people disclosing their status as survivors, trying to curtail abusive victim blaming and revictimization.  Trying to be an educator and a champion for the people at your party who are still trying to find their voices, and speak their truths.  And I noticed: I don’t ever feel the need to do that for the other sites for whom I’ve written.  Because those sites Back Our Play.  They’re here for US.  They have teams of moderators, and robust policies governing the conversations they host.  They make explicit their expectations for people at their parties.  They demand better of their readership, and challenge their readers to voice concern, critique, and counter-argument with civility and decorum.

I stopped going to parties like yours when I was nineteen.  I don’t know why I stayed so long at this one.  I keep trying to do your dishes, refill glasses, take out the garbage, and call cabs for the drunk assh*les who can’t seem to stop wrecking everyone’s good time.  And I’m not even doing it for you.  I’m doing it for us.  Because we’re all at this party where we expected to be challenged and  exchange ideas, to be heard, and to listen, and you’re nowhere to be found.

It feels awful, and I’m not going to do it anymore.  I feel sad, because I’ll miss the pockets of awesome people.  It’s just that no one’s company is worth feeling like you’ve thrown my brothers* and sisters* to the wolves.  I trust them.  I trust them to run if the wolves get too fierce, too dangerous.  I trust them to know what is best for them, and to seek support in the appropriate places.  I have to trust them, because I cannot protect them all the time forever.  Because as much as I want to be able to do that, I can’t do it at my own expense.  And it’s pretty clear you’re not going to do it.

So you know.  Don’t call me or anything, okay?

Best,
RD

An Open Letter to xoJane

It’s been at least five minutes since I’ve posted about food, right?

So, I’m sick.  It started with a sore throat about a week ago, then when that resolved, turned into a wicked case of laryngitis.  My voice is returning slowly, but I’ve had headaches, a lot of fatigue, and an annoying cough.  I also may have hacked up a small alien larva this morning.  Gross.

Thus, I spent my evening making garlic soup.  I should use this post as a reminder to myself to freeze some and put it by, for the next time someone is ill… if I don’t eat it all.

I recommend this soup highly, not because of woo about garlic.  Most of its antimicrobial properties disappear when you cook it.  This soup will, however, help clear out gunk that is living in your upper respiratory system, comfort you like a fluffy blanket and a hug, and is guaranteed to resolve a headache and give you some energy when you’re dragging all the butts and feeling like garbage.  It’s also lovely for helping to break a fever.  I almost always have all the ingredients on hand, which is another big help.  So, make some of this, and put it by for the next time you or someone you love has a case of the yuck.

Ingredients:
4-5 heads — yes, heads — of garlic

3-4 onions, diced (I only quarter mine, so that T can pick them out, but its better if you dice them)

2T of butter

1 Quart of poultry stock — ideally, use bone broth, but sometimes, you gotta make do with the boxed stuff, like I did this evening.

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme.

A container of shiitake mushrooms

1T lemongrass paste — always have this on hand, it’s brilliant.

A decent sized nugget of ginger, peeled and minced.

Hot hungarian paprika or Cayenne pepper to taste (I’m a bit heavy handed with it, so I use about 3/4 of a tablespoon.

A few tablespoons of olive or coconut oil, whichever you prefer.

Salt of your choosing.  Black pepper (fresh cracked is always best).

A fresh lemon or lime.

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350.

Have yourself some tea, or a nice glass of wine.  You’ve had a long day, probably went to work feeling lousy, and you should do what you can to enjoy the process of doing something nice for yourself.

Cut the tops off of the garlic heads.  Try to make sure each clove is exposed.  Don’t peel them.  Coat the heads in your oil of choice, sprinkle with a little salt, and wrap them in foil.  When the oven is done heating, put them in for about 45-50 minutes.

While those are roasting, do yourself a favor, and prepare your mise en place.  There’s a fancy french way to say everything in the kitchen, and that means cutting up and separating your ingredients in advance, or “putting them in their place”.  Dice your onions, mince that ginger, take the lemongrass paste out of the fridge, and gather your other ingredients.  Once everything is set out nicely, admire your work.  Mise en place can help calm your mind, and imposes order on a chaotic universe.  Enjoy the order.  And your wine or tea.

When the oven timer dings for your garlic, take it out of the oven, and carefully unwrap it, and place it in a dish or bowl to cool.  When the heads are cool enough to handle with your hands, squeeze from the base of the garlic and pinch toward the top.  The cloves should squeeze out either whole, or in a paste.  Either outcome is fine.  Let that all sit in a dish.

Warm up a medium to large saucepan at medium-high.  Brown your butter just a bit.  When it starts to foam, place your onions, ginger, and mushrooms in the pan.  Let that all cook until the onions are translucent and the edges are just starting to brown.  On my gas stove, this takes about 6 minutes.

Add the thyme to the mix.  When it becomes fragrant, add the whole quart of stock,  and all the garlic.  Bring that glorious mess up to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to a very gentle simmer.

Cover, and let that do magical things for around 20 to 30 minutes.  Go finish up that wine or tea.  Pet a cat, or watch something you love on Netflix (I watch Twin Peaks when I don’t feel well).

When the timer goes off, uncover your soup, and add the lemongrass paste, some fresh cracked pepper, a pinch of salt, and a can of coconut milk.  stir, and when it seems happy and integrated, kill the heat.

Ladle yourself a nice generous portion, and finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to taste.

I’d note here that you can add other ingredients to this that work very well.  Asparagus and bok choy have both been welcome additions in the past, but don’t force yourself to make a special trip out.

If you’ve got a terrible cough, you can add a touch of honey to this to finish it to soothe that awful mess, or just enjoy it with some rooibos tea.

Make sure you drink a glass of water when you’re done, because that’s important when you don’t feel well.

Go ahead, have a second bowl.  You’ll feel better, I promise.

 

It’s been at least five minutes since I’ve posted about food, right?

Your Wardrobe is Your Friend. That’s Only Sort of Just a Metaphor

For my gorgeous “Punky”  —

In the last year, I’ve lost a net of forty-five pounds.  People have lots to say about that, sometimes.  I’m sort of uninterested in most of that dialogue, because I was pretty happy with my body and how it works, looks, and moves before and after that change.  While I wasn’t really focused on changing my body, I did change a lot of my habits and also the emotional backdrop of my life, and I think the body change is a consequence of that, combined with the fact that I have eliminated a major allergen/irritant from my food choices and my guts are healing and functioning better.

So gross medical crap and weird body discussions aside, one of the things that this big change has necessitated is some major adjustments to my wardrobe.  Yes, I’m going to talk about clothes.  With enthusiasm.  If that’s not your thing, I’ll get you next post with something more your speed.  It’s cool.  You don’t have to love everything I love.  Have a cuppa and go look at baby marmosets or something.

I’m going to skip a lot of the over-arching commentary I have on Issues with Women’s Clothes for a hot second, because frankly, this post would be of Epic Length if I went there.  Instead, I’m going to stick with talking about clothes the way I talk about friends.  Friends, in the general sense — not my friends individually or specifically.

I’m an introvert. We’ve discussed this.  You’re aware.  Hi.  Part of that introversion means that I curate my friend circle pretty ruthlessly.  I’m the same with my closet.  My general rule for closet cleaning (I’m available, if you need help with that) and clothes purging is this:

Step One: Put the thing on your body.  Preferably with other things with which you typically wear it.

Step Two: Is it comfortable?  Does it button/zip?  Can you sit down in it?  Can you move your arms? If No, pitch it.  If Yes, proceed to Step Three.

Step Three: Is it wearable?  Is it free of stains, holes, tears, missing buttons?  If No, pitch it.  If Yes, proceed to Step Four.

Step Four: Look in the mirror.  Is your immediate reaction something along the lines of, “Oh hell yeah”?  If No, pitch it.  If Yes, proceed to Step Five.

Step Five: Do you like it?  This step also includes things like, will you actually in real life wear it?  Does it have at least two or three other playmates in your closet?  Can you layer it, or is it a one season item?  Do you look forward to putting it on your body and wearing it in public?  If these are mostly either positive answers, or answers like, “I’d wear this more if I had a ____ to go with it,” where _____ is a broad category of item like “cardigan” or “pencil skirt” then keep it.  If it’s something mega specific like “purple and green striped blazer from Anthropologie that ran last season and is on eBay for $400” pull an Elsa and Let it Go.

[Step Five is why I only own one pair of jeans.  I don’t wear them.  Every once in a while, you need a pair of jeans, sure.  I wear jeans maybe, MAYBE once a month, even in the winter.  In the winter, it is mostly to put over long johns so I can shovel snow.  Don’t get me wrong!  There’s not anything wrong with jeans.  They’re comfortable, I look great, you can wear them year ’round, they go with everything… jeans are great.  They’re just not a strong part of my personal style, and I’m okay with that. I’m just not a denim girl. Plus, jeans take up hella bureau space and I hate that.  I also don’t own any shorts, unless you count a pair of compression shorts for dance classes, which I don’t because they’re not clothes I can actually wear on the street without getting arrested, probably.]

Just as I curate my social group using specific, pragmatic criteria (that’s another blog post, though) I keep a tidy, smokin’ hot wardrobe by being as unsentimental, decisive, and parsimonious as I can.  If a piece of clothing doesn’t jive with the other stuff I wear (more on that in a second), or fails to make me look or feel awesome?  It goes.  Period.

Okay, exception: I have a tee shirt from Tori Amos’ Dew Drop Inn ’97 Tour, and that is literally the only article of clothing I own that is worn out, super comfortable, and is three sizes too big for me.  I wear it with yoga pants for dance class and cleaning days and I will never, ever get rid of it because that concert was amazing and Ears with Feet for lyfe, y’all.  We all have that tee shirt, and we all have that friend.  To be fair, I also don’t own a lot of tee shirts.  It’s like, that one, one from PM Press, a True Blood tee-shirt from 2010, and a black one featuring Death from Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel, because of course I have that, and one with an octopus on it that my friend Michelle gave me because I like octopodes.  Again.  Nothing wrong with tee-shirts!  I just don’t wear a ton of them.

Part of the reason I’m this unforgiving with clothes that get to live with me is I’ve moved A LOT, and moving clothes is The Total Worst Augh.  I try to keep my wardrobe under the following limitations: excluding undergarments, 3 dresser drawers; fewer than fifteen hangers (with allowance for skirts to double up on pinch hangers), one winter coat, one rain/spring/fall coat, and fewer than 5 pairs of shoes, not including a pair of athletic shoes and a pair of snow boots because Mid-Atlantic Region.  Ideally, that’s my whole wardrobe for all seasons.  That rarely obtains, because sweaters can be bulky, and everyone has that hoodie they love (I do), etc.  However, I hate having too many clothes, because too many clothes means too much d*mn laundry which is the only thing worse than having to move with too many clothes.  It’s a maintenance bandwidth issue (just like it is in social circles).

The other reason I’m unforgiving with clothes that get to live with me is that I’ve developed a very distinctive way of looking, dressing, and presenting myself to the world.  I worked on that, because it’s something I like, I love looking and feeling like my best self, and it also helps me curtail spending money on clothes and shoes I have to store, launder, and move twice annually it feels like periodically, to my annoyance and chagrin.

Another way I limit the number of clothes I permit myself to possess is that everything in my wardrobe needs to play nicely.  I build my wardrobe the way I used to build Magic: the Gathering decks: by color.  This means that if you look in my closet, you will see only shades of the following colors: white, black/grey, brown, purple, pink, burgandy, and navy.  That’s it. Those are the colors of clothes I purchase.

That probably sounds insane, but hear me out.  Since I don’t wear trousers often, and jeans even less so, I rely on layering basics.  To stay under my self-imposed limit, every article of clothing needs to be relevant for at least three seasons, and in at least two or three outfits.  The secret to that is to make sure you can put that burgundy blazer with a pair of burgundy tights, to pair with that lilac sleeveless dress, the black cowl neck sweater and pencil skirt, and those navy skinny trousers and white button-up blouse.  As long as your pairings are purposeful and mindful, you feel put together and polished. Plus, those are the colors I like wearing.

I am also like this with my social group, which sounds weird.  I don’t like single-task relationships.  I prefer rich relationships that span interests, values, and virtues to someone I can connect with over, I dunno, Twin Peaks, and nothing else.  Having limited time and energy (maintenance bandwidth) to devote to people, I like social interactions that run the gamut of laughter/goofiness, emotional connection, deep abiding care, and reliable support.  I have a pretty specific range of needs and desires, and like when I am close to people who can speak to an amalgamation of those needs and desires, and for whom I may do the same.  I don’t pursue relationships (or clothing purchases) that are not purposeful and mindful in this way.  Friendships don’t just blossom for me, I select them.  Mine are diverse, varied, rich, and personal — I value and love my friends, deeply.

So, to draw a parallel, the Keep/Purge decision tree is comparable to what I consider basic requirements to associate with me.  This includes things like, does it fit/do you advocate for gender equality; does it look good/do you know how to love people well; is it comfortable/do you respect boundaries, and so forth.  The aesthetic decision tree is comparable to a sliding scale of shared and diverse values and skills between my friends and I: the things we share in common, and the things that make us different but well suited for one another.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is twofold: first, I need to clean out my closet and dresser, like whoa, and have been investing (about $50 a paycheck) in filling out my wardrobe in a purposeful fashion (get it?!).  Modcloth’s been a huge help with that; second, a friend of mine recently discussed with me her desire to fully and explicitly develop criteria for herself regarding dating partners.  I think the parallels are strong because lookit: life, time, and closet space are all limited things, and we all have a particular vision of the kind of life (or style) we want to achieve.  We all have really different needs (I don’t need a lot of knocking around clothes, some people do!, I don’t need bras, some people do or like them!) and should address those needs as valid.

We should also interrogate our tastes.  I’d always wanted to be that girl who gets up early and does something cute to her hair.  Reality: HAVE YOU MET ME I AM NOT THAT GIRL, and that’s okay.  I throw it in a french braid, or run a brush through it and go, most days.  The thing is, I felt this pressure to be a certain kind of woman who did certain kinds of things and that pressure was not coming from inside of me.  This is obvious because I was not willing to do the work to be that sort of woman.  I wanted to HAVE ALWAYS BEEN that girl, because that’s how women “should” be.  Or whatever.  What even.  We’re the same way with our desires.  There’s this pressure to have “a lot” of friends and a busy social calendar to be seen as sociable and successful.  There’s this pressure to pursue romantic relationships with people who meet criteria that have nothing to do with what helps us to flourish.  There’s this pressure to look really good in empire waist dresses, because that’s what’s on the rack.  There’s this expectation to wear jeans when you prefer wool tights and dresses. These pressures and “shoulds” can be especially intense for women who are whip smart, ambitious, successful, accomplished, educated, etc.  Some of them come from our families of origin, from movies or books or magazines, from our well-meaning friends, or from the culture and geography in which we find ourselves.

But really, the shoulds we ought concern ourselves with are the ones that we already know best, but sometime need to excavate from the avalanche of cultural concerns.  For this friend of mine, we’ve talked a bit and  I have my suspicions.  I suspect she needs someone who deeply (and independently) values and advocates for consent, bodily autonomy, and gender equality; someone who acts as a grounding point for her electrifying presence and energy; someone who values her ferocity and her gentleness in equal measure and has the strength to help her temper their raw edges…  These are not needs you can find talked about “on the rack”  — you have to go looking for these tweeds and suedes and velvets off the beaten path.  If you clear the closet of the stuff other people keep telling you to wear, you make room for the things you really want.

And that is what I want most for you, Punky.  *clinks champagne glass, and tosses a pair of red wool tights your way*

Your Wardrobe is Your Friend. That’s Only Sort of Just a Metaphor

Supper Club Co-Operative

So an idea I’ve been kicking around a lot, as we start to think about our mid-Winter move to Philadelphia is a Supper Club Co-Operative.  We have so many friends in Philadelphia, it’s ridiculous.  It’s one of the reasons we have decided to move — we’d be there every night of the week for one thing or another, if it didn’t involve driving home at 11PM or later.  Tom and I fully plan to join a CSA at the beginning of the season, and if I can find one that does meat or dairy in addition to produce, more’s the better for us. One of the ways I plan to get through the period where both Tom and I are both moving toward different careers, is to make as much nutritious amazing food in big batches as I can.  This means hacking a few gadgets, probably purchasing a small chest freezer, and investing in a few tools for the kitchen to make life a bit easier.  A DIY sous vide machine is high on my list of priorities.  Hacking one yourself costs about $75, and gives you the capacity to use a wide variety of water-filled vessels.  Buying one costs, legit, almost $400 and you’re stuck with the countertop size you have.  A sous vide machine gives you the capacity to pump out a lot of perfectly cooked protein at a fraction of the time you can do it on the stove or the grill. I’ve also been considering a stovetop smoker, but that’s mostly my tastebuds talking.  A pressure cooker might be on my list, for similar reasons to the sous vide — working around my shortcomings as a kitchen manager, mostly; but also an acknowledgment that our food choices aren’t conducive to emergency meals like spaghetti.  Most of the stuff we eat requires more preparation than “boil water, wait ten minutes, strain, add something from a jar, consume.”  I think, with the right tools I can get to managing to make sure we have a stocked fridge, plenty of produce, and some emergency stores set up for nights when we don’t feel well, or weeks when we’re broke or busy.  Some of the staples that belong in my fridge take 24 hours to make.  Some, like Kvass, take longer.

We have a lot of people in our soon-to-be-neighborhood, many of whom are excellent, talented, and creative.  I’d like to share my work and experience with them, but I’m no Gatsby.  I’m not currently in a position to do the sorts of things I want to do without reaping a benefit in return — even if it’s pet sitting on weekends we’re away, or picking up a CSA share so I can relax (with wine) after work, or a bottle of homemade wine, or storage in someone else’s basement for carboys of my mead to age.  I’m trying to come up with trades and barters that make sense — a chance to share the things we have, and we all do well and enjoy (and would be doing otherwise) with people in exchange for things we might need.  I know what my contributions are likely to be — food, primarily, since it’s already one of my goals.

I think there’s a lot to be said for mindful community building.  There’s also something to be said for sending out a text on Monday that says, “Hey I have treats for everyone, come on over,” knowing that the text on Wednesday, “Huginn is sick, can he get a ride to the vet while I’m at work?” will be met with: YOU BET.  Communities of reciprocity are something I work hard to build in my life, and enrich the world in which we live.  I’d like my next home to be a node in a much larger network of people who set out to do things for each other.  I don’t know who among my friends in the metro area will be interested in participating, or what the other things I might have to offer could be.  But it’s on my mind a lot.  The fact that I have talented friends further outside the city who might also benefit and be totally down with reciprocity is also encouraging.   A monthly gathering at our new place where we bring the things we have to offer, socialize, and block out time to connect sounds like another way for me to work around one of my shortcomings: scheduling time for people I love (including myself).

So yeah!  If you’re reading this, and this sounds like a community project you’d like to offer to and gain from, I’d love to hear from you.  What would you want?  What would you provide?  What are the things you love doing, and what are things you can’t stand or don’t have the time or resources to do, but need?

Supper Club Co-Operative

Panning for Gold in a Sea of… Mixed Bag

After an awful eventful morning at the Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles, wherein I wept but did still manage to get permanent tags on Kimber (my 97 Subaru Legacy), and a yesterday evening wherein I also wept finding out that the shop that was working on my Saab put it in storage and wants to charge me per day (still hyperventilating), I just got really hopeful, excellent news and I am here to share it with all y’all:

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I pitched an article series to xoJane about my experiences as a suicide intervention counselor.  Today, as I left the DMV, I received this email:

Hi, and thank you for submitting to xoJane!

We like you! And we would like to publish your story. Let’s start with  one overarching IHTM on the topic of being a suicide intervention counselor and see how the response is. If people seem interested and want more, we can discuss the other, more in depth topics.
Can you send (or re-send) us the piece, some original art to run with it, a bio picture, and a bio for your author page? You can download our submission guidelines [redacted]. Please try to adhere to these guidelines and please read the photography guidelines carefully. 
If you would like to remain anonymous please do not send a bio or bio image and try to make sure there are no defining characteristics in any of the images you send us. When can you have this all to me? We can pay you $50 for your article. I will send you a contract as soon as you confirm your due date.
Thanks!
[Redacted]
This feels like a big deal.  No one has ever really offered to pay me money for my thoughts or words before now, and it happened on my first pitch, on a pretty heavy and serious topic — that feels really encouraging!  An ongoing engagement writing for xoJane.com (and a few other publications I won’t name here because I’d like to remain anonymous for personal reasons) would already make a big difference in my digital footprint (because career change!), and the financial impact is non-trivial, especially with the other changes I’m trying to implement.  Also, I love writing and it feels really amazing that someone wants me to do a thing I really love and treats it like it matters!
I’m really excited, and I promise to keep you all up to date on my publication dates.  (: ❤
Panning for Gold in a Sea of… Mixed Bag

Le sigh.

I have now written and deleted three versions of the same post, because I have too much to say, and a lot of it feels like negative content with no real firm place to land.  It’s complicated because I know it is coming from a place of vigilance about a collection of people who are so full of sh*t that it’s actually harmful  proliferating rhetoric and ideology that is both incorrect and damaging in both the abstract/community sense and in the personal/individual crazy-making way with that individual being, you know, me.

I think I’m going to focus on a topic I’ve touched on before: the use of ambiguity in language as a form of narrative control.

I’m collecting my thoughts about that, and also giving my emotions a chance to calm the f*ck down because guys, today has been a DAY.  But I want to sort of leave myself a note so I can get at the material floating in my brain pain in a cogent way once the waters go still again, and I can hear my truest voice.

I studied philosophy for a long time.  There are people who have less than encouraging or positive things to say about my discipline, or devoting one’s life in some manner to revering it.  However, it taught me a number of skills and values I would never sacrifice for anything — probably even a debt-free existence.  Probably.  Good thing no one is putting that option on offer, I guess.  One of the things that rigorous philosophical study teaches you is to pay very close attention to words.  Precision in language is always something that I have valued, because I adore both clarity and Poïesis.  I consider language use to be both utilitarian and also as bildung — that is, as self formation through creative efforts.  In fact, that reminds me: one of the things philosophers will do is borrow words that map onto very precise meanings and concepts, using them persistently to make fine distinctions through a sort of sedimentation process in the canon of their works and conversations.  Goodman and my personal intellectual hero, Richard Rorty were both excellent at this, and I admire their work tremendously because they illustrate on a small scale how changing the words we use and the precision with which we use them can affect social and ideological change.  The TL;DR on that is: the words we use matter, and have ethical force.

As a result, I have a low threshold of tolerance for people using words in a sloppy way, and an even lower one for people using words that carry ethical import in such a way that they deliberately take advantage of colloquial ambiguity to either excuse their own behavior or get the things they want from people.  Doing so can read as revolutionary to the less precise.  An oft cited example is Ayn Rand’s supposed reclamation of the word “selfish”.  Specious equivocation  and the deliberate manhandling of the ambiguity of a word (this is sometimes called amphibology) in colloquial use  can form a nexus of narrative control through verbal sleight of hand, especially within communities where the written word is backed up by things like cults of personality (often with a blind eye turned away from practical enactment of character over time).  A less pedantic way of stating all of that is that there are people in communities whose proliferation of rhetoric is valued in lieu of how they actually behave.  Some of those people use language and precision in ways that benefit that community.  Some people use the venue of a virtual audience to garner things like support and admiration, and still others have a specific personal agenda.  Others still are engaged in some combination of those three or other acts.

I was until recently acquainted with one such person, and the verbal sleight of hand in which that person engages is … troubling.  In fairness, I should probably disengage from expending mental and emotional effort reading this person’s writing, but hyper-vigilance is a thing, y’all.  This is a person who has hurt me and also people for whom I care, and has engaged in horrifying smear campaigns, responsibility sloughing, victim-blaming, and you know, blackmail.  There are other things about which I’m not at liberty to share, because they are not mine, that make me taste bile.  Part of me remains a bit morbid about all that, and I know that part of me is waiting for the next shoe on this monstrous beast with so many feet to drop.  I think that response is to be expected, given the content of Galactic Collision 2014; but I might be hanging on to that vigilance longer than it will serve me or the others with whom I’m frothing at the mouth to protect, shelter, and phalanx, should it be necessary.

Perhaps I can take some of that protective energy and dismantle the tools and tricks that disguise people who intend to hurt.  Perhaps by picking apart the gears that make that sort of rhetoric function, I can discover new ways to discern when toxic people are in our midst.  I want there to be some concrete lessons here, and I aim to find them.

Le sigh.