Snarkeling

Just beneath the surface of normal


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This Idea is CLAIMED, Y’all

Seems like all my best material goes to Facebook because they’re clever responses to other people, and it seems in some ways like a horrible waste of material since I’m sort of trying to cultivate a readership over here.  For now, I know most of you on Facebook so it’s kind of a rehash for you. Sorry about that. But for those who are sifting through my archives someday, I present:

1) If my last name were Khan I would totally get a PhD just so I could make people sing “Dr Khan let me rock you, let me rock you Dr Khan.” Because I’m the sort of person who makes expensive life-changing decisions for the sake of 30 year old song punnery. Let it never be said I lack conviction.

2) Someone on Facebook posted a picture of a legless off-brand Barbie and asked for tips.

legless

In retrospect, she might have just been looking for help reattaching the legs.

My advice was to go buy off-brand dinosaurs (not that there are brand-name dinosaurs or anything), rip off their legs, and reattach them to the doll to make a Barbiesaurus. Or maybe a Centaurbie? I’m still working that out. And frankly, it could work with lots of animals, not just dinosaurs, so I should probably go for something generic. Do centaurs HAVE to be half-horse, or is it more focused on the “half” part?

Anyway, I searched the Internet for a picture to show how to do it….AND IT HASN’T BEEN DONE YET. For once in my life (well, maybe twice) I think I have come up with something actually original. Only this time it might catch on.

Now I have to go home and buy a barbie and a dinosaur and take pictures before someone else tries to steal it as their own. I’m posting it here before I do that so that I can prove that I thought of it first, because that’s the sort of thing you need when you’re in a copyright dispute over plastic toy chimeras. I’m also going to print this and mail it to myself, though I’ve never been entirely clear why that’s important. Except then I’d have to get stamps. And actually mail it. I can’t even get cards I’ve already filled out into the mail, though, so I’m probably being optimistic. Regardless, it’s mine, so move along. You’ll have to find other random things to smoosh together to claim as your own.

But so: updates to come when surgery is complete.


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It’s Not Plagiarism If You Cite It, or What I’m Reading Now

I spend a lot of time every week reading articles and essays. I read them on the train, I read them in the office when things get slow or there are too many interruptions to get any kind of work done, I read them while I’m waiting for something to finish cooking at night. I read a lot of really excellent work, and then I ruminate on it, and I incorporate it into my life.

If I’m going to write a lot more, I think it would be a fun weekly feature to share what I’ve read this week that got me thinking, and maybe comment on it or whatever, and get a whole blog post out of stuff other people did, which is kind of cheating, but I don’t actually give a fuck.

Without further ado, here’s my first edition.

1. Chuck Wendig doesn’t give a fuck about your pre-rejection excuses for not writing:

Pre-rejection is bullshit.

It’s a control thing, a power trip, a grotesquely pessimistic fantasy. I know, you’re saying, uhh, it’s not a fantasy, weirdo — except, au contraire, panda bear, it is a fantasy. It’s much easier to reject ourselves than it is to weather the crotch-kicks delivered by someone else. You could far easier slide a knife across your open palm than let someone else do it — it’s so much better when we control the pain that’s sure to come. It’s comforting, easy, lazy even to just get that rejection out of the way now rather than later.

Okay, first of all, I have never heard the phrase “au contraire, panda bear” but I am stealing it forever. This essay was worth it for that alone.

The most adorable disagreement ever.

Second of all, I am compulsively guilty of this thing, “pre-rejecting”, which sounds kind of like literary bulimia except without the life-threatening (usually. See: tortured writers). I can’t even tell you how many unfinished pieces are in my drafts folder because I deemed them not funny enough…or my anxiety was on overdrive in all directions that day…or who the hell am I to talk about how to be a good parent because I only have one incredibly easy kid half of the time? I think about that last topic especially, as I watch her and her high school friends struggle to have their own identities against the will of parents who think they can still control who their kids become this late in the game. But anyway, what this guy’s essay really gets to is how terrifying it is to be vulnerable sometimes. The silly, ego-based posts are easy because entertainment is my public form of safety; when everyone’s laughing, nobody’s criticizing. But what makes good writing good is vulnerability (well, and planning, but you can still make a wonderful plan that falls flat because the writer takes no risks). So maybe when I find myself stuck I should be asking myself where I’m avoiding vulnerability.

That’s certainly the real cause of the last few months’ silence.

2. I didn’t even watch the Grammys and I have zero skin in the Beyonce’ vs. Beck game (beyond my revulsion at the truly stunning displays of covert sexism and racism that ensued), but this made my whole last week:

I would SO pay to see them perform this live.


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The Zen of Fucklessness

Some things are just so simple and so abrupt that they change your life.

Like this, only actually important. Not that Obama isn’t important. I’m talking about the not-really life changing effects of vegetable juice. If you never see me again, it’s because I was detained for conflating the president and V8 because of bad grammar. And this is why education is important, people.

My V8 moment was The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck and if you have not yet read it, please go do so now. We’ll wait…

Welcome back!

Aside from having seriously the very best cover photo for an article ever, Mr. Manson basically discusses how giving too many fucks holds us back. Giving a fuck about being different is the cause of the majority of our anxiety. Giving a fuck about things not meeting our expectations is the cause of 99.9% of our irritations. Giving a fuck is the oil leak of our emotional engines. Not to say that there are not times when fucks are important to give, just that if we don’t pay attention they tend to explode everywhere and leave stains on our lives and our peace. –Except maybe not explode? I’m trying to extend the oil metaphor but I don’t really understand engines, so now it seems like I’m talking about a different sort of explosion, IFyaknowwhatimean. So you know what? Let’s just make this a Mad Libs moment: “It’s just that they tend to ____(verb)________ everywhere and leave ____(plural noun)____ on our lives and our peace.” — Whatever just happened there is on you, weirdo (but hopefully you picked something hilarious and didn’t give a single fuck about it seeming weird).

But see? Like half my blogging is essentially giving a fuck about you as an imaginary judge! What will I even write about if it’s not what a ridiculous wreck I am? (Answer: how much fun it is to be a ridiculous wreck who gives no fucks!)

So about 2 weeks ago, I saw that essay and suddenly my entire life popped into focus like one of those magic eye posters supposedly did back in the 90’s (admit it, you never managed to see a picture either). I have lived a like a giant snail, leaving trails of casually discarded fucks wherever I go (OMG, you can’t combine this metaphor with ANY-damn-thing without it turning dirty! Don’t lie, you know you laughed too). I was miserable. I hated the easiest job on the planet, I hated everything except being at home crocheting in bed. I may have been a little depressed.

Rather like the ocean is a little damp. Or Chernobyl was a little radiation problem. *shrug*

It’s funny how you have to get really sick of yourself before you’re ready to do something different. Like, it’s not as if stuff like journaling, meditation, and reflexology from fabulously wise friends wasn’t always there. I was just too attached to my suffering – too busy hemorrhaging fucks about my job, and tiny slights from random strangers, and how I imagined I’d rather my life looked – to pull it together and do them. But you know what? Suffering is really, really boring. And I have absolutely no aptitude for enduring boring things. If it was my aversion to suffering that made me miserable in the first place, it would be my aversion to suffering that would make it stop. So I started doing those things that were available to me, like journaling and meditation and leaning on friends (who seem to actually not mind, surprisingly enough).

And then, by the grace of the great tentacled god Facebook, my teacher appeared in the form of this Philosophy of Fucklessness, and I declared unto the world “Today I shall hoard my fucks and give them, like expensive truffles, only to those who are worth it.”

At the end of the day I still had every. last. one. of my fucks. And I was unusually productive. AND I got my sense of humor back, because not giving a fuck is ridiculously entertaining, because nothing is personal, and nothing is really about you. And suddenly I could see how everyone was just oozing fucks everywhere, and I was all “holy shit, is that what I’m like? That is NO way to live!”

Which is how I became an annoying evangelist for not giving a fuck. Everyone I know who has a problem now, I’m like, “why do you even give a fuck about that?! You do you!” Which may have something to do with why suddenly nobody wants my advice. But seriously, you guys, I can’t even begin to tell you how free this is. I feel like goddamn Neo walking through a matrix rain of fucks.

Acting? Pfft! Zero fucks given, bitches.

It’s not as if this is a new idea. The Greek philosophy of Stoicism is, at it’s core, all about not giving a fuck. No less than the philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius said, “Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together…” which translates into modern English as, “though people around me may positively weep fucks, I shall (with the utmost compassion) give no fucks which are not mine to give.”

And eastern philosophy is chock-full of non-attachment, because how the hell else do you survive wave after wave of invading empires and indifferent bureaucracies? The Tao Te Ching says “Fame or Self: Which matters more? Self or Wealth: Which is more precious? Gain or Loss: Which is more painful? He who is attached to things will suffer much. He who saves will suffer heavy loss. A contented man is rarely disappointed. He who knows when to stop does not find himself in trouble. He will stay forever safe,” which MARK MY WORDS means “seriously, quit giving a fuck – it’s completely awesome! Except occasionally when it isn’t, but don’t give a fuck about that either and you’ll be fine.”

“Shh! See that fuck over there? Don’t pick it up. Just. Leave it. Laugh at my brick cape & playing-card shoes all you want, but I still think they are the bomb-diggity because I ain’t pickin’ it up neither.” – Lao Tzu

So here’s what happened when I stopped giving a fuck: I had more energy and got more done, because giving a fuck all day long is exhausting. I started dancing better, because I didn’t give a fuck how I looked to anyone else. I started working on my novel again because I don’t give a fuck if it’s perfect, I give a fuck about writing and about making some progress. My anxiety levels dropped, and I became a better partner because I wasn’t paralyzed from fear of judgment so I was more able to speak my mind in a strong but loving way. And wonder of wonders, I suddenly felt like blogging again.

My therapist has been trying to get me to understand how much I give my power away for the past 2 years. If he had just come out and said, “why do you even give a fuck about what all these people think?” way back when we started, I’d be able to shoot lightning bolts from my fingers by now. Thanks a lot, Steve. These fingers are *boring!*

There’s only one problem I see with my new philosophy: people are seriously disconcerted by the word “fuck”. Like I know a lot of people who won’t even say it. And I did sort of find my chest collapsing when I tried to explain it to my dad. But you know what? I adore my dad, but that’s his fuck to give, not mine. It’s no longer never been my job to anticipate everyone’s discomfort and cut it off at the pass. I am not the emotional catcher in the damn rye. If people want to send their fucks running over the cliff, I can only ask if they’re sure about that.


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Oh…kay.

So the Bloggess introduced me to a thing where you type in your first name and “meme” into image search and see what you get. Hers were kinda weird, I’ll grant her that. But I’m named after an ancient civilization recently credited with the 2012 apocalypse (aka cosmic December 31st, where you flip the fucking calendar and start over). So I was pretty much gonna win this one anyway. Not that we’re competing. Not that I’d win in a competition with her anyway on anything other than creepy name memes, and I can’t really take credit for that one since I didn’t name myself. Though all the inexplicable rape-themed ones cross a line and we’re not going there. But anyway, for your amusement:

Hey, whatever you want me to be doin’. This is going very well so far.

Truly a question for the ages. Or at least since I learned to talk. My first nickname was “motormouth” to absolutely no one’s surprise.

Holy fuck! Okay, I’ll tell you anything! Just please, put this bag on your head. Okay, ANOTHER bag. I think this is the working definition of torture.

Really? REALLY? Sigh. Also, we all know what masturbating looks like, you don’t need to back it up with the hand signal. Wait, is that what Ryan up there is doing outside the frame? Dammit!

Don’t worry your majesty. I don’t think you actually have to do anything Boromir says. Use whatever floats your boat. Unless it’s me. (please don’t let it be me!)

Actually this one’s spot on. Except I never read the paper.

This one sounds like me, too. Especially if Boromir up there is serious.

Well. That was a fun 20 minutes! Share your best!


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Well This is Embarrassing

I’m so bored today that I’ve actually run out of internet.

After a few obsessive refreshes of Facebook and Pinterest, I kind of started to remember that I have a blog. A blog that I haven’t posted to since July. Sorry about that. To be fair, in part it was because I’ve lost three people since then – two to suicide (please, please talk to someone if you’re considering it) and one to a really aggressive cancer, and there’s just no way to talk clearly about any of that with a whole lot of humor. It’s sad and it hurts and that’s really time consuming. Though sometime soon I do want to tell you about Ann, who taught me how to die with joy and grace even when cancer is eating you alive.

In other excuse news, my kid is now a senior in high school. This means lots of test prep and college applications and hand wringing about the future and endless, endless reviewing of essays, which I’ve actually enjoyed because it’s a wonderful insight into her sense of herself (also because I’d love to see her start her own blog). As long as I don’t think about the giant empty-nest cliff looming in front of me in June, I can really just enjoy the fruits of my labor. My offspring is ready to leave the nest. She’s self-sufficient, intelligent, funny, both curious and skeptical, and is probably going to end up UN Secretary General or something someday. She’s more emotionally developed than I was at twice her age, and has none of the traumas or struggles that stunt so many young people, so just going to school and focusing isn’t the colossal effort it was when I was seventeen. She doesn’t really need my boundaries anymore; she’s learned to set her own for herself, and most of the time she does it well. She knows who she is and what she needs. It’s awesome. And terrifying because somehow it’s almost over and that seemed impossible this time seventeen years ago. Mostly I’m reminded of when she was born and I just looked at her and marveled over what we’d made. I’m doing that a lot again these days, but with the added bonus of all that she’s made of herself in the time between.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out what the hell happened to me last spring, because the only answer I got was “well, all of your tests came back normal so there must be nothing wrong with you”. The muscles in my legs still get sore and tired way too easily. I finally saw an integrative doctor in September who ran five thousand dollars worth of blood tests. Want to know what that looks like?

I didn't even get any cookies and juice

I suspect my doctor is a vampire and I actually provided shooters for some kind of party.

As long as she was draining me of blood, she also decided to suck all of the joy out of my life by removing all the food from my diet in the name of “allergy elimination”. No gluten, corn, soy, eggs, dairy, red meat, pork, sugar, chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol, y’all. If you’re keeping score at home, that means I’m pretty much eating veggies, beans, rice, and chicken. And I’m doing all my cooking myself. And I can’t have ketchup. Or hot sauce. Or mayonnaise. Or anything else with vinegar in it, because white vinegar is made from corn or wheat. Or chocolate – did I mention I can’t have chocolate? As you can imagine, this has deadened my soul.

On one hand, the eczema on my face cleared up and I’ve lost a few pounds and I made it through Halloween without eating a single piece of candy for the first time in my entire life. On the other hand, I got excited today because I get to reintroduce soy and see what happens and I got all swoony over drinking soy milk. Which may be the single saddest sentence I’ve ever uttered. Well, except maybe “I’ve learned to like carob,” or “I’m figuring out how to make decent non-dairy cheeses.” Also, “sweet Jesus do I miss caffeine.”

It’s like I’ve been caught up in the world’s most irritating eating disorder, wherein I have to obsess over everything that goes into my mouth, and be that asshole in the restaurant that asks, “does this have any gluten, corn, soy, or dairy in it?” and get treated to the perfectly legitimate “why did you even come here? Just make your freak food at home and leave me alone” eyebrow.

foiled again

The chef says it’s dairy and gluten free, ma’am.

But it takes so much time to cook all this special crap for myself (not to mention the hundreds of dollars in special ingredients like vanilla extract that hasn’t been made in corn liquor and truckloads of raw cashews to substitute for all things creamy) that I had to give up a budding gym habit that was actually working to dedicate more time to food prep. For the first week I had recurring nightmares about discovering taboo ingredients in my food and having to start all over and go even longer without my vices. And this is why you don’t give obsessive people highly-restricted diets to follow unsupervised.

There comes a point, though, when the restrictions cease to make sense, when you’re looking at the yeses and nos and ranting noisily about how absurd it is to be allowed highly processed, high-fructose agave nectar, but not honey or maple syrup, and everyone in the house is giving you the side-eye because you seriously need to learn to pick your battles, that maybe it’s time to admit that you could stand to chill the fuck out. Which you could do very easily with a nice glass of wine that you’re not supposed to have, but instead you have to be distracted and grumbly and get all excited about the potential re-integration of soy, and so what do you have left? Deep breathing?

And this is what I’ve been sparing you for the past five months. You’re welcome.


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Updated: First Church of Unwomen

Since you can evidently only have liberty if you’re a religious group and/or a corporation, I have decided that it’s time to form a legal church corporation – The First Church of Unwomen* – that protects the rights of all who believe in the five commandments (because that was all I could think of and because teacher training said 5 rules are easy to remember and should be enough if you word them properly), which have been delivered from the mythical land of common sense:

1) Autonomy. Thou shalt have complete, unquestioning autonomy over thine own body. What others do unto their bodies is none of thy business, including whether someone should gain or lose weight, be wearing that outfit, etc. Because it makes no fucking sense that I should have a right to enough autonomy over my body to have an abortion but not to wear that bikini, sayeth our corporate charter or something.

2) Respect. Thou shalt respect other people’s choices and beliefs right up until they start limiting yours or someone else’s. At which point thou shalt throw down thy glove and take none of it.

3) Wine for breakfast. Or not, if you don’t go for that sort of thing. You can put it in a smoothie with kale if it makes you feel better. Or have a beer float if that’s more the cut of your jib. Or cake. But thou shalt obey thine own internal compass, not the shallow cultural ideas of what’s appropriate to consume at what time of day. See Commandment 5.

4) Shamelessness. Thou shalt not hate thy body, neither for its lacking nor for its amplitude. Hate leads to shame, which leads fear, which leads to trying to control other people’s ideas about things. See Commandment 1. Or Dune. Whatever gets you there.

5) Shouldlessness. Beware the unholy power of should. The only shoulds you should believe in are the ones on this list, which give people more actual freedom, as in “artists of all kinds should be paid fairly for their work” or, “if you want to, you should totally have a wine smoothie for breakfast.”

If you want to add more commandments, the comments are yours to abuse. But they have to be in line with the original 5, and are only canon for those to whom they appeal, for as long as they might appeal, but otherwise five shall be the number of commandments – not six, nor four, excepting that thou then continue to five. Ten is right out – it’s so last millennium.

The point is that it’s against our religious beliefs to deny ourselves autonomy over our own bodies, so that we can sue for corporate and religious protection and win, since being human beings with supposed civil rights doesn’t seem to be adequate anymore.

*Unwomen is not a reference to the United Nations organization (though it could be, and I welcome their matronage), but rather a reference to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (which you seriously need to read if you haven’t because it’s fucking prescient). Unwomen are sterile women, widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, and politically dissident women: all women who are incapable of social integration within the Republic’s strict gender divisions. I don’t see why men can’t also be unwomen as long as they follow the 5 Commandments – which are really just strong suggestions that boil down to what the Prophet Wil Wheaton spake unto the gamers at PAX: “Don’t Be A Dick.”

Cool?

 

UPDATE: it would seem that all you have to do to form a church is to say it is one, and therefore so it is. We have to decide what our members should be called, though (feminist is already taken. unwomanist? that sounds sort of anti-woman. help!). Also, on our high holy days (um, Alice Paul’s birthday maybe?) we should can wear the sacred raiment of whatever the hell we feel like, and commune over wine smoothies. I just have to fill out some paperwork to receive official 501(c)(3) status, which would allow our followers to give charitable donations, which we could totally give to women’s empowerment causes, or whateverall else you think we should, so long as it’s legal.

There is such a thing as taking a schtick too far. I don’t think this is one of those times (though I’m probably not a very good judge of that). But sometimes you just have to go all Colbert on a situation.

UPDATE #2: Go look at these great illustrations of women being in charge of their own bodies. Carol Rossetti is officially our first Saint. Here’s one I love:

And lo, this shall be our bible. It’s illustrated so it’s easier to read. Also, Whitney: I highly recommend the wine smoothie.

 


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The Inter-Gender Understanding Award

1. There should be an award for this. Even a Nobel Prize category would do.

2. It should be mine. Here’s why:

Wait – first let me explain: I hate to get dressed by myself. Almost every morning I come out of the bedroom with some version of “this cardigan……or this one?” and Jim explains his preference along with a surprisingly thoughtful analysis and only rare criticism regarding the sheer quantity of cardigans in my closet. Getting dressed without feedback was one of the more heinous aspects of his former job, which sent him on the road every other week (though I have to admit, the stillness of the bedclothes didn’t suck).

Back in the earlier stages of our relationship, he would come back with the usual “both are fine” or “how the hell am I supposed to know?” just like every guy on every comedy thing that ever portrayed men as clueless, unobservant, and afraid of women’s anger (basically all of them). Not to be deterred from avoiding making my own decisions, In one of my more inspired moments I retorted with, “What do you even mean? Men are pros at looking at girls and deciding whether they look hot. Just look at them both and decide which one makes me look hotter.” Since then he’s come back with amazingly helpful things like, “having that top cut off there visually interrupts the flow, which makes you look shorter and rounder. Do you have a cropped one in a lighter color?” or “yeah, that one really emphasizes your curves.” It’s like having a fashion-conscious girlfriend who also likes to lift heavy, grubby things and have sex with you. I’m pretty sure that alone is the trifecta of marital satisfaction.

I’m not sure I understand what this has to do with marriage, but I’m told it’s a good thing. I would have used a slots reference, but I don’t really understand that either. Also “slots” sounds way more lewd. Not that riding horses doesn’t. I guess the moral here is that when it’s me talking, it’s pretty hard to find a metaphor that isn’t racy. Get it? Racy? Yeah, I went there.

Now, for the ultimate triumph: Every single day I also  ask Jim to help me decide between 2 pair of shoes. This morning he didn’t like either option, so I tried on two more, neither of which satisfied him either. So I trudged back upstairs and pulled out yet another pair, which (because we were running late) were blessedly deemed close enough, “but it would be better if they had a little bit of greenish tinge to them. You should look for some.”

A woman does not see an opportunity like this but once or twice in a lifetime. I seized my moment:

“NOW you see why women have so many shoes.”

A look of wonderment flashed across his face. “I…oh my God, I actually do. Every outfit has a mood and a style and you need a variety for whatever you put together! Not to mention the comfort factor on different days.”

I don't even know what this means.

He also talks about feelings.

I cannot possibly describe the thrill that rushed through me at this revelation. My only regret is that there were no other witnesses to this landmark moment in male-female diplomacy.

Of course, he then went on to sing a verse from the song of his people, a rambling ballad called “I’m So Glad I’m a Guy”. This particular one went something like this:

When I get dressed in the morning, I say, “which shoes should I wear?”
The answer is almost always black.

I can wear them day after day and no one cares.
I just have to make sure that my belt is also black.
Same pants, same shirt – just different colors here and there.
But the shoes never change. I’m so glad I’m a guy.

Although to be fair, it is a far less grating stanza than the one about menstruation.

 

As part of my acceptance speech I would like to thank you, dear readers, for celebrating the triumph of this historic day with me.

If you need me before the ceremony, I’ll be searching for comfortable brown wedges with a slightly greenish tinge without so much of a trace of guilt.

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