The ol’ switcheroo

“Bear down on it,” he ordered. I was naked and collared, on my hands and knees at the foot of the four-poster bed, around the leg of which he’d used a thigh harness to strap a large, purple phallus at the exact height required for my impalement.

Just kidding. I’m not telling that story yet. I have things I want to say, but the people I want to share these thoughts with are the ones would only get this far into my essay hoping for more of that story.

I’m talking about the people who put up walls and tune out when certain words are uttered. They respond to words like “privilege” and “patriarchy” like I do to words like “prayer” and “God.”

Those are words that make me uncomfortable. They’re the words that expose the bias I have against all organized religion and religious people that’s similar to the bias our current administration has against people who are Muslim or brown in general.

Religious people frighten me because of the atrocious things done in the name of religion throughout humanity’s history. But, I remind myself that #notall religious people are power-hungry, hypocritical, selfish, and hate-filled people. That’s what separates me from this administration and its followers: I wouldn’t kick all religious people out of my country – but I admit that I sometimes fantasize about what this world might be like if nobody had ever invented religion.

So, here I want to share my thoughts on so many of the subjects that would include words like “privilege” and “patriarchy” and “equality” and “marginalized” and “personal agency” and “women,” and I know that the people I want to reach have already bailed.

They don’t want to be made to feel guilty.

But that’s the thing. I’ve found in my own life that digging in at the things that inspire icky feelings like guilt or resentment has been the first step in my moving past those feelings. Similar to how it works in the final stage of mourning, it’s acceptance. Those of us who cling to the #NotAll when we’re feeling lumped in with a group that does bad things need to lean into the discomfort of being seen as #OneOf and make a conscious choice to listen to those who have been affected.

That’s it. Just listen. Don’t argue. Don’t #NotAll. Just hear out the people whose words bring up those yucky feelings and try to empathize. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask the question – respectfully. And if they don’t want to answer it?

Then keep making an effort to listen. Go in search of the answers by others who have already shared their truths with the world. All the answers are out there.

Eventually you might discover that there have been some instances in which you didn’t do all you could to help their cause because it was easier for you not to, and that the only person that’s making you feel guilty is you.

All guilt ever did for me was two things: 1) make me feel resentful, and 2) make me react defensively.

But after I decided to confront that discomfort and take ownership over my part in these things, the guilty feelings started to erode. You don’t have to take the blame for the continued existence of all the isms and the phobias: just recognize the areas where you have inherited an advantage and accepted it without question. Once you do that, you might find yourself able to let go of the guilt and start taking action to help our shared society move past this.

Listen – not everyone’s gonna welcome you as an ally. You just have to do your best to be the best version of a human being you can be. But don’t cut corners – if you are able to tune out the injustices of the world, that’s evidence of your privilege. If you choose to tune it out, then that’s when you are part of the problem.

This from someone who tuned it all out in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death because she couldn’t handle negative information. I recognized my privilege. I know why I did it. I would counsel someone struggling with that degree of trauma to do the same.

But not everybody can. There are people whose lives and livelihoods are constantly under siege and have been for a long, long time. They don’t have the privilege of tuning out injustice, because it is part of their daily lives.

So I won’t tune it out. Not anymore. Not because I feel guilty, but because I feel it’s right.

That’s not the same as disconnecting for a night and focusing on the things that bring me joy for a few hours. That’s self-care. Deciding that I’m just not going to think about, talk about, or pay attention to politics at all, or go pretend I’m still ignorant of the issues facing marginalized groups? That’s tuning it out.

The people who have read this far already grasp this. As soon as this post was not about the time I was ordered on all fours to be fucked from behind by my bedpost while my lover knelt before me and jackhammered his lust into my hungry and willing mouth, the ones I wanted to reach had already tuned out.

But those of you who stuck it out this far, at least get to know how that story ended 🙂

Good Girls Revolt (quietly?)

I spent the day yesterday watching the one season of “Good Girls Revolt,” an Amazon original that had sneaked under my radar when it was released a few years ago. It’s historical fiction based on the real-life 1970 lawsuit filed against Newsweek by 46 of their female staff for gender discrimination.

Only 10 episodes. Worth the watch when you have some time.

Anyway, as happens in most cases when there’s a female-driven ensemble cast, I find myself relating to pieces of each of them. And, as I’m pretty sure I’ve written before, I know this happens because characters in stories tend to be one-dimensional for a purpose, whereas real-life people can be unpredictable and have fluctuating wants/needs and personalities from day to day.

So, as much as I’d like to say I related best to the free-loving, fiercely intelligent, and sexually liberated redhead Patty, or the shy, stammering (until she gains some confidence) but passionate Cindy – I really felt kinship with the privileged, sexually and socially repressed, daddy’s girl Jane, played by Anna Camp.

It’s a character Anna Camp plays well…it’s similar to her role in Pitch Perfect, only set in the late 1960s and with far less puking.

There’s a scene in the last episode (spoilers) where she confronts her wealthy, privileged father and tells him she no longer wants to take money from him to support a lifestyle beyond her means.

He responds by trying to instill fear, “I won’t let you go live in an unsafe place” and then disregarding her ambition, “Okay fine, i’ll see you Thursday when you run out of money,” and then anger and projection, “What the hell do you mean you hired a lawyer to sue your employer – are you on drugs?”

Eventually he plays the hurt daddy card – the last possible card in the deck: “If you don’t need my money then you don’t need me. You don’t need anybody.”

Tearfully, she says she does need him, and somehow without saying it, she expresses that what she needs from him is love, emotional support, and to feel that he believes in her ability to achieve her ambitions.

And that’s where the break happened between this fictional character and my own experience. Because my dad didn’t respond to the tears, nor to the anger that followed. He still treats me like a first-class daughter, and a second-class human being. What’s more remarkable is how he still responds with pleasant surprise any time I show that I’m capable at anything.

What that’s caused is a break between the phi you all see here and the phi that is presented to my family. The part that sucks the most? I’m so proud of my accomplishments in this world, and they’re something I can’t share with them no matter what. They will never get to see what I believe are the best parts of me.

This morning, a friend of mine on facebook posted a status update lamenting that, when asked by a friend what she’s been up to, she felt she had to “self-edit more than half her life.” Because, since the election, she’s become a vocal activist, forming secret groups to help in the resistance, attending rallies and protests, informing herself, and contacting her representatives every single day.

“I am so much more than just a woman who goes to yoga, tennis and mahj, but some people just don’t want to or can’t know that. How long can any of us maintain this kind of charade….,” she asked.

And I wanted to respond, “Years.”

These things that drive us, that make us feel alive and give us purpose – these are the things we want to share with the world, and no-one more than those who mean the most to us. They are also the things that we feel we have to hide from those very same people because they won’t understand, and will belittle, ostracize, and reject us because it goes against their status-quo.

For the Anna Camp character to risk losing her father’s love was heartbreaking for me. There was a time when I believed my dad would respond the way hers did – eventually realizing that his daughter is a person who he helped raised to be capable of more than marriage and baby-producing.

But my dad didn’t make that jump. And I don’t think he will.

And so I hide the best part of me from him, because …

…because I don’t want to stop loving him.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Thoughts on the TV show)

I started watching it for the humor and the silly musical numbers. No, wait…I started watching it because of her. Rachel Bloom. I’d become aware of her last summer watching an episode of Lip Sync Battles, and felt drawn to her persona.

It’s not often I look at someone and think I see a physical resemblance, so when I do, I start to wonder if I’m imagining it, and then I maybe start semi-obsessively trying to find out more about them.

Which, if you’ve watched the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” you’ll recognize as a patently “Rebecca Bunch” move.

So I started watching it for her, but then I realized it was a silly comedy/musical romance story and I started watching it for that. Because I love silly comedy/musical romances.

I mean, I was absolutely hooked the moment I heard the “Sexy Getting Ready Song.”

But something else was going on, and I didn’t realize it at first. I don’t think I realized it until I was well into season 1, and I didn’t REALLY REALLY get it until I started following the lead/writer/producer Rachel Bloom on twitter.

I think her brain works like mine, but she does with music and comedy what I try to do with essays.

Because, yeah, it was some time during season 1 that I kinda realized the series actually featured a fairly diverse cast of characters in terms of race, sexuality, and size.

And I also realized that none of those characteristics actually defined the characters.

Then the crazy stuff she says – the tangents she goes off on with regards to feminism and the patriarchy and consent and slut shaming and …

…she’s my HERO.

Except she’s also a deeply troubled person with severe, untreated mental disorders. Only, she’s likable and kind of the heroine in her own story. Which makes her a bit of a narcissist. But a cute one, who sings and dances. And c’mon, I mean, it’s just a comedy…

…only it’s covering very serious topics more deeply, thoroughly, and honestly than most depictions I’ve seen in storytelling of any kind.

I knew I wanted to put into words how I felt about this show all day (I started binge watching season 2 on Netflix last night when my plans were rained out by the storm).

But there was so much. I wanted to use words like “rogue” and “subversive” to describe how this sneaky little comedy grabs hold of the heart of some very uncomfortable topics and sort of forces you to sit with them a while. The comedy and musical interludes serve to disarm you, but then..there those feelings are.

I keep confronting my own predispositions and preconceptions about people through these very silly, almost superficial characters that obfuscate the depth of their interactions with one another, as well as the show’s interaction with the viewer.

I swear I’m not high as I type this. I almost wish I were. I bet I’d get even more out of it.

Anyway, as I was saying – I wanted to write about how this show was making me feel because I thought that most people who watch it would stay on the surface and not get that deeper meaning, but then I read a few other blogs out there about the show and realized I am definitely not alone.

Also, the other bloggers were way more clear about the point I wanted to make.

When I was in elementary school I used to walk around the baseball diamond by myself singing songs I’d make up on the fly about things going on in my life. I wish I could tell you that habit ended as I got older, but I still do it. I’m often led by my emotions and my idealistic outlook on life in general. I don’t want to say I’m a big “schemer” but I definitely see and pursue opportunities that benefit my wants, just not to the point of sabotaging others around me. Oh, and a season 2 episode where Rebecca goes to visit her family at a bar-mitzvah? Yeah, that WHOLE episode hit really close to home.

Over these past few years, I’ve learned to confront my privilege and recognize some deep-seated tendencies toward codependent relationship and external validation. I’ve done a lot of introspection and I’ve learned to harness my empathy as a tool to help me help others, and not manipulate them. And, with the family thing, I learned how to cope with my semi-narcissistic family who value appearances over character.

The difference between myself and Rebecca Bunch is that I did the work to confront those issues and overcome them. That’s it.

That’s all that separates me from that crazy character.

Well, also she dresses better than I do…

…but I may start Single White Femaling the shit out of her outfits.

You’re probably not that weird

I had this idea about what college would be like, and it had very little to do with actual class time. In fact, I didn’t really have a sense of the academic point of college until after I dropped out first semester.

‘Cause the movies all showed a constant stream of parties, dating, and socializing, or…in the case of Buffy: Vampire Slaying.

I mean, when did she have time for class?

I was not prepared by the TV and Film industry for the truth of college. I was not prepared to discover that during your freshman year, there are only 7am classes available AND they’re all in boring subjects that have nothing to do with your major. Also, I didn’t really understand the point of declaring a major.

So when I got to college I just felt so weird.. I was definitely some form of outsider. Didn’t help that I was one of the few Jewish kids at a Catholic college. I was also one of the only sexually active people in my dorm, and definitely the only one with with a background in kink.

I kind of “owned” my weirdness. I took pride in being unique in a sea of cookie-cutter folk and broadcast it to set myself apart. Eventually, I fell in with the misfits: the gay guy, the Lebanese exchange student, the Mexican immigrant on academic scholarship, and that awkward nerdy guy who couldn’t talk to women unless he was drunk.

And trust me, in this very whitewashed, private catholic university, we were definitely the misfits. Not because of who we were, but because we were constantly broadcasting our truth, whether intentionally like I was, or by the way they looked, the way my friends did.

I regularly see people talk about being shy, cautious, introverted, or awkward as though they are the only ones who suffer from this malady.

But…they’re not. I know more people who characterize themselves as having social anxiety than those who would call themselves outgoing and/or extroverted.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think we have a skewed vision of what “normal” people are like. There is no such thing as “normal.”

This is not a huge revelation. I’m not the first person to put those words together. But, today I was having a conversation with someone who described himself as “overly cautious,” and upon explaining what he meant – I didn’t think there was anything “overly” about his level of cautiousness.

It got me to thinking that people are frequently ascribing what is “normal” to some …idealization of what they see in the media, whether it’s TV and film, or social.

That’s not “normal.” By and large, you aren’t getting the full picture of a person unless you’re really getting to know them.

On film and TV, they have scripts. They have that witty quippy response to an antagonist that gets a good laugh, and they don’t do that thing where three days later they think of the perfect comeback and beat their head against the wall that they didn’t think of it sooner.

And on social media? People are showing you what they want you to see in them. If you’re intuitive, you see beneath that surface. When a relationship starts, there’s all the back and forth lovey-dovey writing on each other’s walls and posting love missives of their love for each other.

Months go by and they never post about a fight, or that recurring argument. You don’t often see the post on their wall admonishing their partner for leaving the cap off the toothpaste again.

They keep that negative stuff to themselves – they want project the airbrushed version of their relationship, ’cause it’s perfect.

Until it’s not. And then….

Well then they want you to take their side, so they start posting all the angry retaliatory blogs about how HORRIBLE this person was and why you should hate them. They post pictures of themselves out on dates and looking fine ’cause they want to project an image that they have MOVED ON.

And that’s all it is. Projecting an image. It’s not real. None of it is real.

Not until you really get to know someone.

So, to measure oneself up against an image? Well, it’s the same thing we tell people who look in fashion magazines and feel badly about themselves…

Don’t.

You’re probably not as weird as you think you are.

If there were someone out there who fully represented the concept of “normal” in real life, they’d be the weird one, I think.

Children of Sacrifice

I was listening to the West Wing Weekly podcast on my way to work this morning, as I do. In episode 2.13, they speak with Don Baer, former White House Communications Director in the real-life Clinton White House.

He quotes a line from a speech he wrote for President Bill Clinton, given at the US National Cemetery in Normandy, France on the anniversary of D-Day in 1994. “We are the children of your sacrifice,” he says, referring to the generation that had fought in World War II.

It was a pretty powerful statement. It showed the acknowledgment of an “easier” life and appreciation for the generation that had a very hard life in order to give their children a chance at a better one.

I’m thinking of who it is in charge right now in this country. It’s those “children of sacrifice.”

I read something a while back – a blog about the Baby Boomer generation. For all that’s said about Millenials, the blog makes a good point that it’s actually the Baby Boomer generation that behaves with so much entitlement. I wondered about the connection – from being the children of sacrifice to sacrificing their own children’s futures for their own comfort.

Do they seem to care that their children and grandchildren are paying into the system that supports them in their retirement, while they gut the coffers so there won’t be anything left to take care of us?

Do they seem to care that the actions of this Republican administration in denying the existence of climate change so they can go back to dumping toxins into our water and dismantling environmental protections that will keep this planet able to continue sustaining human life for generations yet to be born?

Do they seem to care about starting fights with and essentially poisoning our reputation, not just in countries that pose current threats, but …hey, even pissing off our allies for a good tweet-sized sound bite?

I say this as the daughter of a man in his late 60s, who said the nomination of a completely unqualified woman to the position of Secretary of Education wouldn’t affect him because his kids were grown, and his grandchildren would always be able to afford private schools.

Oh, father. Your privilege is showing, and it’s ugly.

Same man who recently shared a memory on Facebook of the day he decided to help out a friend who’d opened a restaurant by volunteering as a server in the dining room. “Menial” work, he called it.

Yeah, ’cause spending the last 20 years of your pre-retirement career in a comfortable office with a private executive bathroom planning your next two week vacation was very skilled labor.

I keep wanting to tell him, “I don’t know how, but you raised me better than that.”

All across this country there are stories like mine. The rifts between families that were torn open during this last election cycle, that are being further unraveled under the regime of this cruel, unprofessional, and divisive administration.

They don’t get it, either. They don’t get why their kids are so opposite. Why don’t we behave? Why are we such “whiny crybabies” and “snowflakes?” Why cant we take a joke?

But we look to our own grandparents’ generation…one that is being put in homes, and silenced as they enter their own end-of-life phase. I seem to have much more in common in terms of fundamental values regarding humankind with them than I do with the “if it doesn’t affect me personally, it doesn’t matter” stance of my parents’ generation.

I go back to thinking about that quote. “We are the children of your sacrifice.”

Updated for 2017, I think our speech to our own parents would be: “We are the spawn of your entitlement.”

But mostly we just talk about the weather, if we talk at all.

What’s next?

He’d been driving at least an hour to get to my house. He’d told me before he left that he’d want a shower upon arrival, so I responded that I’d wait to take mine with him. He also usually wanted a drink, and sometimes a smoke. And at some point, we were going to have to eat.

And fuck.

“What would you like to do first?” I asked, after kissing him hello

“Pee.” He answered.

“Okay,” I answered, smiling and stepping aside so he could move past me and toward the bathroom.

When he emerged, I was waiting for him in the living room. I inched closer to him, staring into the deep blue pools of his eyes. “What would you like to do second?”

What started as a soft kiss quickly escalated. His hands were everywhere: around my throat, in my hair, clawing at my breasts and thighs. I gave him what I could, and what I couldn’t he took from me.

I paused to catch my breath. “I still need a shower,” I whispered. He chuckled, “So you’re saying you’re a dirty whore, right now.”

He spun me around and held me tightly against him with his forearm across my chest. “Yes, Sir,” I answered.

Then I was bent over a chair, my skirt hiked up. I could hear zippers and rustling. When I looked down on the floor I saw his shadow cast from the lights behind him. He’d undressed. He was walking toward me, carrying something.

I feel the first strike of the belt across my ass.

By the fifth or sixth they were making me jump.

He’s fucking me. My god, it feels amazing, but my leg is cramping up. I try to shake it out, but my calf is seizing. I tell him so.

He drags me by the hair up to the bed.

I’ve come more times than I can count. We’ve reached the point where I’ve stopped asking for permission to come and I’m growling at him, “I want it. It’s mine. I want it, now!”

I explode. I can feel him starting to twitch. He surprises me. In a flash, he’s pulled out, flung the condom off and he’s coming on me. A drop lands directly in my mouth, the rest on my neck, chest, and belly.

It takes a few minutes to regain coherent speech.

“What do you want to do third?” I ask.

Thoughts on “morality”

Last night I went to the movies with a 69 year old activist, feminist woman whom I met through my local Democratic club. She’s been protesting since the 1960s, her son served on active duty in the Army in Iraq,  and she’d suggested we go see Loving at the cheap theater near her house.

I didn’t know anything about this movie. Not the premise, not the actors, nothing. The only thing she said was that it had something to do with civil rights.

The story centers on the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginian couple who’s marriage successfully defeated the ban on interracial marriage in the Supreme Court in 1967.

As the final credits were rolling on screen, she asked me if I realized how recent that was. “It was around the time I graduated high school,” she told me. That’s when it sunk in, the recency of this “history.”

I was born in 1978. I’m no math wizard, but that’s ….that’s 11 years from 1967.

Eleven years before I was born, it was illegal for people to marry people they loved because they were different.

And now, not really all that many years later, we’ve barely achieved the legal freedom for people to marry people they love because they’re exactly the same – and the current administration seems pretty comfortable with taking those rights away.

People say we’ve come so far, but …no, we really haven’t, have we?

It’s interesting to me that the country is so focused on one religion right now. Muslims – it seems like either you’re buying into the vilification of a fundamentally peaceful religion or you’re forming a protest line to protect their right to pray.

You hear the people screaming that it doesn’t belong in public, but those same people scream that prayer and the teaching of creationism should be enforced in schools.

Meanwhile, it’s a so-called “Christian” that blows up a Mosque in Canada. I’m pretty sure it’s not Muslims that are painting swastikas and calling in bomb threats on Jewish centers in my own state.

You can easily find factual data that tell a story about violence caused in the name of Christianity vs violence caused in the name of Islam or any other religion and…well, both historically and more recently, the data does not reflect the rhetoric of our current government.

Yet, I don’t believe religious people of any kind are inherently evil. I know many, many good people who are very religious Christians, Muslims, and Jews. There are those who might disagree with me on certain issues, but overall – they are kind, generous, loving people who care about others.

But most of the best people I’ve known are also atheist or agnostic.

I’ve been questioning the concept of “morality” for a while. Why is it that people feel like they need religion to enforce their own morality? I’m not convinced the people who established the “morality” of a religion were even all that moral to begin with.

The thing about stoning women and selling your daughters? Yeah, I don’t buy it.

It’s not to say that they got it all wrong. There’s that whole thing about loving your neighbor, but I didn’t ever see the version of the Bible that had the footnote excluding neighbors that are darker in complexion than you are.

It’s the same way that I see laws sometimes. Before Loving vs. Virginia, there was a law that said a black woman could not be married to a white man – and the basis for this law? According to the movie “God didn’t intend for the races to mix, that’s why he put them all on separate continents.”

The lapse in logic in this argument blows me away.

I mean, I think it’s bullshit, but let’s accept the premise that God intended for all the races to stay in their corners of the world…

Do the white people realize that they’re the ones that started mixing shit up? Nobody invited them to cross the ocean and settle in the New World. Nobody invited them to kidnap Africans and bring them there to do all the heavy lifting, either.

But God is gonna frown on interracial couples, but not the people who put them together in the first place?

Nah, “manifest destiny,” they claim. There’s a destiny decreed by God that Americans will spread their moral virtue on the world. That’s what bothers me. When you have people putting words in God’s mouth for personal gain.

It’s never really about God when it’s about power. Certainly not when the party seeking power is uplifted mostly when another party is downtrodden.

This is why I don’t practice any religion and why I adamantly believe that religion is frequently a toxin to morality rather than its arbiter.

Frequently, I said. Not always.

But there I am, one of the people standing between an administration and their religious-based targets.

This is not about how things affect me. Most of the causes I passionately fight for do not affect me. I am not lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, or asexual. I am not a person of color. I was born here. I am gainfully employed, financially comfortable, am in good overall health and get health insurance through my employer with or without the ACA. I’m definitely not Muslim, nor am I Native American. Nobody wants to bulldoze my home to put in pipeline. For that matter, I own my home and nobody has been trying to lay claim on it despite the paperwork that says it’s mine. When I’m hungry, I eat, and when I’m thirsty, clean water is available straight from the faucet. I can afford birth control and I’ve never been pregnant, and at my age – am unlikely to become so without medical intervention. I am never misgendered and nobody ever questions which public restroom I can use. In fact, there have been times I’ve even used the men’s restroom when the women’s line was so long, and nobody batted an eye.

And yet you’ll see me out there fighting for all of the people who cannot claim any of those privileges. What drives me isn’t only what benefits me. I am driven by own sense of what is right and wrong – my on-board moral compass that thinks critically and independently of a highly-flawed ancient text written by the highly flawed race of humanity – whether you are talking about the Bible that hates on gays or the Constitution that allowed for slavery before it was amended.

Maybe someone wants to make the argument that my sense of morality comes from God the way they attribute people’s talents to a higher power. I’m fine with that. It doesn’t affect me.

And I would fight for your right to think it has something to do with God, even if I don’t.

Because it’s not about me, specifically. It’s about freedom.

And that’s about us all.