Feminist Rant: What makes a “good girl,” exactly?

WARNING:  This was written in a stream-of-consciousness sort of style, so I didn’t do a lot of editing.  It is a rant, after all.  If you are offended, feel free to let me know why in the comments.  Otherwise, suck it…and yes, I am aware of the patriarchal context of that expression.  It’s just fun to say.  SUCK IT!

 

It’s a concept I keep coming across, of all places, on the radio.  First there was the Robin Thick song, which I’ll admit I danced to in the car before (and slightly inebriated at a wedding after) really listening to words.  It’s got a kick-ass beat that kind of overpowers all the creepy rapist language.  Then there’s this new song that sounds like Bruno Mars, but I’m too distractible at present to look it up.  I don’t really want to draw more attention to it anyway, but mostly I’m just too lazy.

Both songs are centered on the idea of the desirability of a “good girl.”

But this begs the question, what exactly do you mean by that?  The answer is ambiguous at best.

And THAT got me asking, what about me?  Am I a “good girl”?

In the quite serious, fundamental Christian circles in which I was raised the answer would be no, for a couple of simple reasons:  1) I am not married and have had sex (with TWO partners over my decade of single-adulthood, scandalous!).  2)  I am not a Christian.  That pretty much puts me down for “Where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?” right off the bat.

In more secular circles, however, I have to explain to wide-eyed onlookers WHY my “number” is so low (I’m highly introverted and require emotional intimacy as well as physical, in case you were wondering).  I’ve had friends call me a prude for admitting that I don’t watch porn because it makes me uncomfortable or for hiding my eyes at the occasional, random drunken spurt of nudism amongst my peers.  From that perspective, I’m looking more “good girl” by the minute.

But I swear.  A LOT.  I laugh at crude jokes, and I laugh loudly.  I don’t wear makeup 90% of the time, and my wardrobe tends to be dictated by my own tastes rather than what anyone in the fashion industry has to say about it.  I read Tolkien and Jim Butcher and Jaqueline Carey and Nick Hornby and Jane Austen and whoever else I feel like reading.  I often enjoy a good shoot ‘em up and blow up all the things action movie just as much as a heart-felt romance.

I’ve always known myself to be unconventional, but does that mean I am no longer “good”?

My conclusion on all this self-reflection is that the very idea of a “good girl” is flawed.  Not surprising in a society like ours, where women are held to a ridiculous and impossible standard of beauty, that we are also held to ridiculous and impossible standards of behavior.  We are to be “good”, but not too good.  And like most things in our culture, it all boils down to SEX.

I don’t mean to sound like an angry über feminist here, but I kind of AM an angry über feminist on this particular subject.  I feel like my sex life is my own goddamn business and the business of my partner if I currently have one.  If you ask me about it, I’ll probably tell you; I’m not terribly bashful about it anymore.  But that doesn’t mean that you get to judge me based on whatever standards you hold yourself to.

I’m all for believing whatever you want to believe, but one of my biggest problems with the Christian mindset, so far as my own experience with Christians goes, is the whole idea of “sexual purity” and the emphasis with which the blame for any lack thereof is placed on women.  I to this day remember a lesson in youth group, one of the few times we actually talked about sex, in which we were told the average teenage boy thinks about sex every three seconds.  The guys then got to go around listing off things “girls do” in ordinary, everyday situations that made them think of sex.  The list went on and on, ranging from crossing their legs at the knee to the way a seatbelt in a car rests between a girl’s breasts.  It was one of my first real feminist moments, because I remember pointing out that they were making it sound like the blame was all on us girls; that the guys weren’t responsible for what they did or didn’t do with regard to those thoughts.  Either way, I shouldn’t have to have been self-conscious for the rest of my adolescence while buckling my seat belt (which I was, thanks to that) because I happened to lack a Y chromosome.

This point was skirted over, and the guys were dutifully reminded that they needed to take responsibility for their actions (probably just to shut me up).  But in the end, there was still that “boys will be boys” mentality ever present in our patriarchal society.  Apparently men are hardwired to put their dicks into any unsuspecting hole, and it’s a woman’s job to make sure that hole is not one of hers.

And when we as women fail to maintain that “untouched flower” status, the fundamentalist Christian society makes us feel guilty about it.  And because so much of our society is based in Christian morality, society as a whole devalues us for it, knocking us down a peg for our indiscretion.

The truth is, women have just as much sex drive as men—or just as little, depending on the individual.  Because I never once masturbated until I was in college, I didn’t know that my own libido was as impressive as some of my male peers…maybe that’s why I was so high-strung all those years.  I didn’t equate the physical feelings I was having to sexual desire, and as such I was fancying myself in love with just about every guy who paid me the least bit of attention.  Really, I was just sexually attracted to them, but I had no meter for telling the difference between that and true emotional attachment until I was already into my adulthood.  Part of that was the way I was raised, part of it was my own naivety, but a lot of it was the shame and guilt instilled in me for even so much as THINKING about sex.  Like most ex-Christians of my acquaintance, I struggled for a long time with my enjoyment of sex, and it took me several years to get past those deep-set feelings of shame and guilt.

I didn’t really mean to turn this into a Christianity-bash, and that is never by any means my intention.  I know there are Christians who are fantastic people just as there are agnostics and atheists that are total jerk-wads about it.  But you have to keep in mind that this is where I’m coming from—most of my ideas about sexuality were formed in that fundamentalist, virgin-until-you’re-married mindset, and it took me a long time to rewire my brain with regard to sex.

My point is, human sexuality is a perfectly natural thing.  No matter how you want to look at it, we’re mammals, therefore we are animals.  And animals mate.  Sometimes indiscriminately.  Sometimes for life.  Sometimes with only one partner at a time, sometimes with multiple partners—separately or simultaneously.  And so long as everyone in the homo sapien sapiens crowd is a consenting adult, it doesn’t really matter what you do.  That was the whole idea, as I see it, of the free love movement.

Apparently, our secular society is all about free love for the guys—men are praised for their “conquests” and shamed for still being a “virgin” at insert-an-age-here.  But in the words of one of my favorite DVDs on my shelf, Easy A, as a girl “people hear you had sex once, and BAM!  You’re a bimbo.”  In some cases this makes a female of our species MORE desirable:  who wants a stuffy little prude of a virgin who doesn’t know what she’s doing?  But as learned from said excellent film, the more a girl “gets around”, the more she is seen as trashy, dirty, and UNdesirable.

And then there’s this whole idea of a “good girl” that still has me puzzled.  It’s like society wants women to walk a fine line between librarian by day and sex kitten by night—“a lady in the streets but a freak in the bed,” if you will—but won’t define the parameters.  How many is too many?  How few are too few?  Does foreplay-only count, or are we talking strictly intercourse?  Is penetration an issue?  Is a girl no longer a “virgin” if she’s been penetrated with a dildo or a vibrator, or even her own fingers?

But the more important questions have little to do with defining what society expects of us, and rather ask WHY they have such idiotic and fickle expectations of women in the first place.  Why does it matter how many people I have or haven’t slept with?  Why is that any of your business?  If you’re my potential partner, why would a high number bother you so long as I’ve been safe about it, have been tested for STDs, and see a gynecologist once a year to make sure everything down there is okay?  If you’re not my potential partner, why do you care anyway?

Why would I be more desirable with a lower “number”?

Is it because you like deflowering and jading young things?  You know who else likes that?  Pedophiles.  And we put them in jail.

The whole idea of a “number” is absurd anyway.  Yeah, I’ve had full-on sexual intercourse with two people ever, but that doesn’t mean I’ve only done it twice.  Both were in a consistent relationship with me at the time, one for more than a year and a half.  I’ve most definitely had sex more times than someone with twenty times my “number” who’s had mostly one-night-stands.

And you know what?  That doesn’t make me any less valuable than a virgin.  In fact, it doesn’t make me any less or any more valuable as a person, no matter how you look at it.

When you base whether or not someone is considered “good” on whether or not they’ve had a penis in their vagina, you reduce that person to an orifice, to nothing but a sexual object existing for the pleasure of men.  And we wonder why rape culture is so prevalent that people can deny its very existence because they’re so entrenched in the language they don’t even see it.  When society places all the responsibility (and thus all the guilt and shame and blame) on a woman for her “purity”, it’s that much easier to say she was asking for it, she shouldn’t have had so much to drink, she shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt, she shouldn’t have, she shouldn’t have, she shouldn’t have.  A woman is expected to be a lady, a saint, and once you get her into bed, an animal.

But guys are just allowed to be guys.  And until the day when girls are just allowed to be girls, I will stand with the über feminists.

 

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100th Post!

I’m on drugs again!  Well, it’s prednisone, our old friend.  Because of the trek to see my family for Thanksgiving, and the rising number of allergy-inducing evergreen trees surrounding me, my allergies flared up quite heinously—my throat and ears hurt so bad on the way back from my dad’s, I thought I was getting sick.  Soon as I got back to good ol’ Houston, that got traded in for a daily headache that starts at the base of my skull and works its way up the back of my head if I don’t keep throwing Tylenol at it.  It’s all accompanied by an endless fount from my nose, a still scratchy throat, and the occasional cough.  So at my ENT surgery follow-up on Monday, my ENT could barely get the tiny vacuum up my nose.  (I sneezed in his face the last time; it was awesome.)  He also had a hell of a time getting the scope up there to take a look.  I was so inflamed from the allergies, he put me on a full course of prednisone to clear it up.  His one question, “So, have you been able to breath okay despite the allergies?” was surprising met with a, “Yes, yes I have.”  Sinus surgery, for the win!

Anyway, today is my first day, which means there is currently 60 milligrams of the oh-so-fun steroid floating around in my veins and steadily turning me into an ADHD three year old.

Dance class is gonna be FUN tonight!

Anyway anyway, I was bouncing around the internet trying to entertain myself whilst eating my lunch today, and I looked at my blog dashboard.  I was astonished to see “99 posts” staring back at me.  99!  I have reached that pivotal point in blogging, that point I don’t think I have ever before reached, in which my posts will begin to exceed the double digits.  Crazy.

I thought for about a minute and a half of talking about something serious instead of just patting myself on the back, but my ability to be serious right now is slightly inhibited by the fact that I’M ON DRUGS, MOTHERFUCKERS!  So, I’m just going to pat myself on the back for thinking of enough inane, unrelated babble to fill up 100 posts and exceed 100 followers, and also for the ability to type semi-coherently while high on corticosteroids.

HAPPY 100 POSTS TO ME!  I’M ON DRUGS!

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Gluten Free Cooking for Dummies

I started putting this together to send to my family before Turkey Day next week, and then I realized a (relatively) short, easy guide to cooking for someone with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease is not something I can remember seeing on the internet.  In all my research, most of what I’ve found has been geared toward the gluten-free eater themselves.  Some is highly clinical research findings.  Most is recipes for gluten-free versions of “normal” dishes.  But there’s not a lot out there that can spell it out quickly and efficiently for a gluten eater who has to cook for a gluten-free eater.

Thus, I give you, internet, the simple 5-step guide below.  You’re welcome.

 

Gluten Free Cooking for Dummies

A.K.A., How to Feed Your Amanda

A simple guide to preparing food for your gluten-free loved one

 

Gluten allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities are a serious matter for gluten-free eaters.  One wrong move can result in terrible consequences, from being sick for a few days to long-term medical complications to severe allergic reactions and trips to the hospital.  Often times, though, a gluten-free existence can be a complete mystery to those who’ve never dealt with such serious food allergies or intolerances before.  Having a loved one, friend, or child with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease can seem daunting at first—with all the information out there, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Hopefully, that’s where this guide will come in.  I’ve taken my 3+ years of experience and tons of research to combine them into a short, easy guideline for finding and preparing safe, gluten-free dishes for your gluten-free eater.

 

1.        Know What Gluten Is and Where It Hides

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, so it’s pretty obvious that anything made from wheat, barley, or rye is a no-no.  But wheat and barley are used very heavily in food manufacturing and find their way into things you would never suspect:  ice cream, margarine, salad dressing, or even lemonade.  One of the trickiest parts of feeding someone with a gluten allergy or intolerance is knowing where and how those sneaky little glutens can hide in otherwise seemingly harmless foods.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Wheat – Since wheat is one of the eight most common allergens, manufactures are required to list it on the ingredients, either within the ingredient list or at the bottom in bold.  This is the easiest way to see that something is immediately off limits.
  • Processed in a Facility/on Equipment that Uses Wheat – These words or any variation of them make the product potentially unsafe for someone with a gluten intolerance.  If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can contact the manufacturer to find out if and how they try to avoid cross-contamination.  Otherwise, your best bet is to assume the food is unsafe for your gluten-free eater.
  • Unknown Ingredients – Chances are if you can’t pronounce it, your gluten-free eater probably shouldn’t eat it anyway.  Many chemical compounds created in the food industry are generally deemed safe for consumption, but these mystery ingredients can sometimes be made from a grain containing gluten with no hint to its origins on the packaging.  So if there are things on the ingredient list that draw a complete blank for you, it’s safest to assume you shouldn’t consider that product gluten free.  Some key words to look for:
    • Malt, Maltodextrin, or Dextrin
    • Hydrogenated or Partially-hydrogenated Oils
    • Natural and/or Artificial Flavors
    • Any unpronounceable chemicals
    • Modified Starches or Modified Food Starch
    •  Caramel Coloring or other food colorings
  • Low Fat or Fat-Free – Most things that have had some of the fat content removed have chemicals added to make it taste as good as the full-fat version (FYI, this does not apply to low-fat or skim milk, or cheeses made from low-fat or skim mild so long as they don’t have any additional ingredients).  If something is naturally low in fat or fat-free, that’s fine, but be sure to double check all the ingredients on generally fatty desserts or snacks that have had their fat content reduced.
  • Certified Gluten Free – The FDA just passed a requirement that in order to be labeled gluten free a product must be tested and certified first.  However, this requirement has yet to go into full effect.  Many products currently on the shelves may be labeled as simply “gluten free”, but have not actually been tested.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the product is NOT safe, but you should review the ingredient list just to be sure.  Sometimes if there is only a little bit of gluten in something (we’re talking parts-per-million here), it can still be labeled gluten free under the old system.  The only way to tell that something is for sure, positive, 100% safe for your gluten-free eater is to either read the ingredients or see a label on it that says it has been certified gluten free.  On the other hand, just because a food is not labeled or certified gluten free doesn’t necessarily make it unsafe, so long as your review the ingredients carefully.

 

2.        Keep the Ingredient List

A gluten-free eater needs to be aware of every little thing they are putting into their bodies.  If you made the potato salad yesterday and threw out the empty mayonnaise jar, your gluten-free eater cannot be sure the ingredients you used were safe.  Unless you have verified before-hand that the ingredients you’ve used are in fact gluten free, keep the packaging or jot down the ingredient list before you discard it.

If you’re following a recipe, have it handy so your gluten-free eater can review it before the meal.  If you’ve made any changes or additions, be sure to write them on the recipe—even the spices you’ve used.  If it turns out well (or terrible), you’ll want to remember them when you make it again anyway!

 

3.        Keep It Natural

The safest foods for your gluten-free eater are foods in their unprocessed, most natural state. When in doubt, go for fresh fruits and vegetables (preferable organic to avoid nasty pesticides), simple gluten free grains like rice or quinoa, raw organic or all-natural meats (after you cook them, of course), and organic dairy products.  Organic options are usually more expensive, but the mainstream options can often have hidden sources of gluten, added hormones, and nasty chemicals.

Note:  Don’t be fooled by the “Natural” food movement, as these products can still be heavily processed, or “Natural Flavors”, which could be anything from the natural world—even a ground up rock—that tastes like the flavor the manufacturer is looking for.  Not necessarily something you want to put in your mouth.  Plus, the manufacturer doesn’t have to release what it actually is.

Here’s a list of foods that are perfectly safe for your gluten-free eater:

  • Meats
    • Vegetarian fed natural or organic poultry
    • Natural or organic pork
    • Most fresh fish (wild caught is best)
    • Grass-fed or grain-fed natural or organic beef, lamb or other red meats
  • Organic milk or dairy products (read the ingredients just to be safe)
    • Whole, skim, 1% or 2% organic milk
    • Cheeses made from organic milk with no additional colorings
    • Real butter (margarine is generally NOT gluten free)
  • Starches
    • Potatoes
    • Rice
    • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Nuts (if we’re talking about me specifically, all nuts EXCEPT PEANUTS)
  • Any fresh fruit or vegetable

 

4.        Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when an ingredient or dish that is safe comes in contact with something that is not safe.  This goes for all types of allergies, including gluten.  If you open a tub of butter, scoop some out with a knife, spread that knife over a piece of gluten-containing bread, and put the knife back into the butter you have now contaminated the butter with gluten particles.  Some people with gluten allergies or sensitivities can react to even the tiniest gluten exposure, so those two or three crumbs of bread could be enough to make your gluten-free eater very sick.

Cross-contamination is the other tricky part of feeding someone with a gluten intolerance or allergy, but it can be avoided with several simple steps.

  • Cook in/on separate equipment – if you cook for your gluten-free eater on a regular basis, you may want to consider purchasing a separate set of cookware to use for their meals.  If you only cook for them occasionally, make sure your cookware is thoroughly cleaned before-hand and gluten-free dishes are not prepared in the same areas or on the same surfaces as unsafe foods.
  • Use specific utensils for specific dishes – In domestic cooking, it is easy to absentmindedly taste or stir more than one dish with the same spoon, but this could make a dish unsafe for your gluten-free eater.  Keep track of which utensils you use for each gluten free dish, and do not use them for anything else.  If you have decorative serving utensils, assign designated utensils for each dish so it is easily identifiable which utensil goes with which dish, and two dishes never come in contact with the same utensil.
  • Make safe foods easily identifiable – Keep foods that are safe for your gluten-free eater in a separate area, group them together at one end of the table/counter, and/or create labels for each gluten free dish.  This will help your gluten-free eater keep track of what they can and cannot eat, as well as avoiding spill-over from other dishes or accidental contamination.
  • Instruct your other guests on safe practices – This is, in my opinion, the most important step to keep your gluten-free eater safe.  Let your other guests know that you have someone with a food allergy, and tell them the steps to avoid cross-contamination.  Insist that dips be scooped out with the serving utensil and put onto a plate rather than directly dipping into them with potentially unsafe chips or crackers.  The same goes for condiments:  have guests put it on their plates with the serving utensil and spread it on the bread/roll/etc. with their own knife (make it a rule:  if it touches the bread, it DOES NOT go back in the jar).  Have your guests dress their own salads instead of tossing the salad with dressing already added, as many salad dressings are not gluten free.  Remind everyone to use the designated serving utensil for each dish.
  • If something is contaminated, notify your gluten-free eater immediately!  Remove any labeling identifying it as safe and/or remove it from the group of safe foods.  Accidents happen; we all make mistakes.  Your gluten-free eater will generally be understanding of the mistake and thankful that you notified them—it’s much better to be forgive for making something inedible than for accidentally making them ill!

 

5.       When in Doubt, ASK!

If your gluten-free eater is an adult, they are generally the person who knows best what they can and cannot eat.  (If they’re a child, refer to their parents.)  If you’re uncertain about something, just ask them.  They most likely know whether the food or ingredient in question is safe.

That being said:

5.1.  Do Your Research First

Try not to let your first question to your gluten-free eater be “So, what CAN you eat?”  Incessantly bombarding them with “Can you eat this?” is not a good way to go, either.

These types of questions imply that you haven’t done any of your own research.  There are tons of online resources—from blogs to recipe sites to online communities and forums—for gluten free recipes.   For those who are not internet-savvy, there are plenty of books on the market (my go-to is Gluten Free, Hassle Free by Marlisa Brown).  These tools are available for anyone—not just gluten-free eaters themselves—and make the mystery of cooking for someone with a gluten allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity a little easier to understand.  If you’re unsure of where to start, ask your gluten-free eater for some recommendations.  Trust me, they will be grateful you took the time to learn about the challenges they face and ways to properly and safely care for them.

Not doing your research, however, puts the entire burden of safe food preparation solely on your gluten-free eater.  This can be incredibly stressful for them, especially around the holidays when parties and family gatherings provide endless opportunities to be “glutened.”  A gluten-free eater has to be vigilant every day of their lives when it comes to food.  From shopping for groceries to having dinner at home with friends to going out to a restaurant, their life is already full of questions and concerns for their own safety.  Doing your research ahead of time so you can prepare them a safe, delicious meal will not only keep your gluten-free eater from getting sick and/or having a serious, possibly life-threatening allergic reaction, it will lessen this burden they carry every day.

Instead of “What can you eat?” or “Can you eat this?”, try some of the following questions when you need clarification from your gluten-free eater:

  • “It says it has (random unknown ingredient) in it.  Is that okay, or should I use something else?”
  • “I’m planning on making/buying this; is there a specific brand I should look for?”
  • “You like (particular food), right?  Is that always safe, or should I look for something specific in the ingredients/a specific kind?”
  • “It says gluten free on the package, but not certified gluten free.  Do you want me to give you the ingredients list just to make sure?”

Don’t be surprised if your gluten-free eater is full of questions for you, too.  Like I said, the gluten-free eater usually knows best what they can and cannot have, and they need to know everything they are putting into their bodies.  It’s not that they don’t trust you to feed them safely or want to steal your secret family recipes—they just want to be absolutely certain the food they’re consuming is safe.

 

If any of you gluten-free eaters out there have any additional suggestions or best practices, let me know!

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Surgery update: I survived

It has now been six days since my sinus surgery, and I’m doing pretty good, considering.  I’m back at work, though still a bit tired and unaccustomed to sitting fully upright for this long.  I can consistently breathe through one nostril, though it keeps switching from one nostril to the other with very brief spurts of airflow through both sides.  While unable to “blow” my nose, I can gently blow air through it to create a similar though drawn-out and sputtering effect—I actually just spent the last five minutes or so doing that.  I have rinsed my sinuses 14 times so far, a process I will never ever enjoy, with less and less blood coming out every time.  I sneezed yesterday—twice—and it was the most pain I had felt all week.  I have a fantastic bruise on my wrist from the IV; it’s mostly yellow and green with a few bits of brownish purple.

I even bled from my eyeballs once or twice in the hours directly following surgery.  Ren called me a sad vampire.  It was epic.

Aside from the gauze taped under my nose, it looked pretty much like this.

I do not, however, have an additional funny anesthesia story to share with you.  I was strangely lucid on the drugs before and after the night-night time.  Really the only funny thing I said was a minute or two before they took me back:  “I think the drugs are working.  The room just got all…squiggly.”

I was not terribly funny on the Vicodin, either.  Ren just said I had this pathetic puppy face.  I also don’t think I laughed once from Wednesday morning to Saturday evening, simply because I was too tired to do anything but read a chapter or two at a time of Sense & Sensibility (for like the billionth time) or watch Dr. Who from the beginning of the new series to about four episodes into season 4.

My first follow-up with the ENT is on Wednesday, when I will find out if I am healed enough to go back to dance or if I need to sit out another week.  Since sitting fully upright is still a bit of a drain, I’m guessing he won’t clear me for physical activity unless there’s drastic improvement the next couple of days.

Anyway, that is my update, in case you wanted to know how I’m doing.  

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Anesthesia is Fun

My sinus surgery is in less than 24 hours now.  Considering how much I’ve been very slightly freaking out about it for the last week—I’ve met this man TWICE and I’m going to let him put me under and cut things out of my FACE—now I have this odd sense of calm.  Like the calm before the storm, I suppose.  Or I’ve just given in to the idea that it’s actually going to happen.

So in the spirit of this calm-before-the-Amanda-completely-and-totally-freaks-the-fuck-out, I thought I’d share my previous surgical experiences—especially my experiences with anesthesia.  They’re pretty funny, if I do say so myself.

Surgery 1:  Tonsillectomy

I had tonsillitis about six times in my first semester of college.  I was still seeing my pediatrician at the time, and he recommended me to my first ENT, who recommended we cut those little buggers out.  So I went home two days early for Thanksgiving, my mom took me to the hospital, and the nurse took three tries to get the IV into my roly-poly wrist vein.   The nurse also put these weird legwarmers on me that were kind of wooly on the inside and silver on the outside; they looked like loose space-age hooker boots.

About five minutes after the anesthesiologist had put the loopy-juice into my IV, I started squirming around in that hospital bed like a little kid in church clothes.  My mom asked me what I was doing, and I responded in a slurred voice, “These leg thingies are itchy!”  I wouldn’t hold still, so finally the nurse came back, removed the itchy space socks, and instead wrapped my legs in a gloriously heated blanket.

As things got all warm and cozy and fuzzy, I started to giggle.  Like, hysterically, uncontrollably giggle.  Mom asked me what was so funny, and I replied through laughter and tears, “I don’t know!”

Eventually, the giggles faded, the doctor came to get me, and the last thing I remember is someone sticking a bunch of sticky monitoring thing-a-bobs to my skin beneath my hospital gown and the nurse putting the mask over my face and telling me to count to ten.  I think I made it to about three.

When I woke up in the recovery room, I could see a clock over me.  About fifteen minutes went by when I blinked, and then the doctor was at my side asking how I was (they did a procedure that was sorta new at the time:  they froze the tissue and then cut it off instead of cutting and cauterizing, so I could still talk like an eighty year old man with smoker’s cough).  “I’m okay,” I croaked.

The bastard laughed at me.

Surgery 2:  Cutting Out My Wisdom Teeth

This was not long after; I think it was either Christmas break or spring break of the same year of college.  My parents had spent a bunch of money straightening my teeth in high school, so my orthodontist recommended cutting out my wisdom teeth before they could grow in and screw it all up.  So again I gave up precious time off from school to let someone cut things out of my mouth.  This was an oral surgery center, so instead of stripping down to a hospital gown and climbing into a bed I got to keep on my comfy pj’s and lay down on a reclined dentist’s chair.

The nurse came in to do the IV, but instead of going for the veins in my hand or wrist like the tonsillectomy, she put the IV in the one place that hurts on me more than anywhere else on my entire body:  the crook of my elbow.  I have terrible veins in the crook of my elbow; for someone whose skin is a shade or two shy of completely transparent, people have the most difficult time finding that goddamn vein.  I would rather have every single one of my fingers pricked and drained of blood than have someone stick a needle in the crook of my elbow:  that’s how much it hurts.  But despite my protests, that’s the vein they said they needed to use.

So I braced myself, trying to remember to breathe as she slid the evil metal bit into my personal pain center, and my eyes started tearing up.  In fact, I was still crying ten minutes later when the surgeon came in.  Apparently if I’m upset before anesthesia, I will continue to be upset when it kicks in.  He asked me what was wrong, and in the middle of me explaining to him that the nurse chose the most painful place on me to put the IV, I passed out.

When I woke up, I was STILL crying.  Forget the pain in my mouth from him cutting out my two wisdom teeth (I only had two:  one was on the top on one side, and the other on the bottom on the opposite side; way to be asymmetrical, face).  My arm really fucking HURT.  Tears were still streaming down my face as they walked me to the recovery room, where they sat me in an armchair and put a blanket over my legs (seriously, what is with the blankets and legwarmers?).  The nurse asked me what was wrong, and I told her all about how my arm hurt from the IV.

Her response:  “That’s the needle we use on babies.”

Here I am, crying in pain/anesthesia hangover, and she’s INSULTING ME.  This made me cry even harder, as you can imagine.  The completely insensitive nurse then told me that I needed to stop crying because they wouldn’t let my mom come get me until I stopped.  She said that was because they didn’t want my mom to think something was wrong, but I still suspect that that nurse was just a bitch who liked to make vulnerable, drugged up people cry.  Because I STILL wouldn’t stop crying, they eventually went to get my mom.  Mom asked me what was wrong, and I replied through tears and slurred speech, “The nurse was mean to me, and she called me a baby, and my arm hurts from the needle!”

This was one of those times I was really thankful to have an overbearing, overprotective mother.  I don’t remember what she said, but she gave that nurse a tongue lashing like no other.  Vindicated, my tears began to subside as I looked smugly at the freshly berated nurse, and Mom walked me to the car.

If my history has anything to say about it, Chelsea is in for a treat when she takes me to surgery tomorrow.  It should make picking me up at 5am totally worth it.

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The October Mating Dance, from the Eyes of the Anthropological Observer

In case you were not aware, it is mating season amongst the homo sapiens sapiens of the Northern Hemisphere.  At least I’m led by observation to believe this.  This is the time of year when people keep pairing off in overwhelming numbers:  it happened in high school, in college, and even so far in my adulthood.  Maybe it’s the new lower temperatures, reminding us of the warmth a mate could add to our beds.  Relationships form, marriage proposals are made, and love accompanies the fresh biting chill in the air.  As my friend Leslie pointed out, “Fall is for falling in love!”

And yet again, I feel a little like the kid picked last for dodge ball.

Looking back at my own minimal dating history, I realized this morning that both serious relationships I’ve been in started in October.  I’m sure this is mere coincidence…mostly.  But that’s two Octobers out of about fifteen years of interest in the opposite sex.  The other thirteen have been spent watching couples new and established cuddling and cooing and planning matching Halloween costumes, ever the anthropologist, observing but not participating.

Usually my oddly optimistic cynicism kicks in, inspiring me simultaneously to remind myself my time will come and to make pretend vomit noises at all the happy couples.  I proclaim myself to be above all the lovely-dovey mush, dissuading myself of the envy I feel.  I try to focus on the positive:  I can come up with my own last-minute obscure costuming ideas for our culture’s version of Samhein, not having to coordinate with anyone or end up stuck in the back half of a horse trailing behind some guy all night.  I can spend all that time my friends are spending with their significant others cleaning my apartment or catching up on projects or writing or choreographing.  Who’s got time for a fellow with all this stuff to do?

And yet, there is always that part of me that can’t quite quiet the envy.  If it gets cold in the middle of the night, I have to get up and get an extra blanket or turn on the heat instead of curling up to a warm body on the other side of the bed.  If I ever do actually get around to going as Zoe from Firefly for Halloween, will anyone get it without a Captain Mal by my side? (I’m a pasty white girl, after all; it’s never going to be entirely obvious.)  I may be able to open the jars and dispose of the bugs on my own (not lizards, though; I have to get Ren for those); I may be okay alone, but times like this it sure seems like it might be nice to be part of a pair.

In the show the dance company is doing right now, my character is…how do I put this nicely?  Liberal?  A free spirit?  Let’s just say she gets around.  There are times in the show where I have to flirt with the musicians, and one of the other girls in the company commented last night on how good I am at it.  I responded with a laugh, “Yeah, if only I could do that in real life.”  She told me I should, but I don’t think she understood me.  I can’t do that in my real life because it’s acting.  It’s fake.  It’s not me; it’s not who I am.  It’s easy for me in the show because I’m just playing; if I tried that in my day-to-day existence it wouldn’t work the same.  I’m too sincere of a person, and it just feels like lying.

So how do I, a shy and reticent woman of character, attract a mate?  I know about three single guys right now.  One of them is the crush who has a crush on one of my friends.  Another is kind of an asshole.  The third is shortly moving away.  As I discovered a couple of years ago, online dating is not an effective method for me; I can’t tell until I meet someone in person whether I will be attracted to them at all, no matter how accurate their profile pictures may be.  In this fast-paced world of social media and ever increasing online interaction, a shy person who takes time and face-to-face interaction to get to know someone feels inevitably left behind.

Sorry.  It seems Prozac makes me highly introspective and analytical.  This is only my second round of the two-week stints I’m supposed to take for my PMDD, so I’m still learning how it affects me.  I meant for this to be a lot lighter than it ended up…think of a joke, Amanda, think of a joke…

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A Feminist Encounter

I got checked out by a student in the hallway today…again.  But this time was markedly different:  it was by a girl.  I am by no means implying that there’s anything wrong with being checked out by a female of the non-heteronormative persuasion.  I am actually pretty sure this girl was straight.  This was quite definitely a “checking out the competition” situation.

It was her expression that gave it away.  From the furrow of her brow to the disdainful purse of her lips as she blatantly looked me up and down, suspicion and distrust oozed from this girl.  I felt incredibly objectified—my worth reduced to her opinion of my aesthetic—but at the same time it saddened me.

I recently liked Everyday Feminism on the book of faces, and it’s led me to some very interesting information.  While I’ve considered myself a feminist for several years now, the articles and posts and images they share have made me realize we still have a long way to go.  It may be immensely better for me than it was for my bra-burning fore-mothers, and better still than the suffragettes had it in the early 1900s.  But that doesn’t mean hurray we got our feminism and we’re done.  Women still don’t get paid as much as men; in my state it’s something like eighty cents on the dollar.  There is still huge debate over whether or not government and religious politics belong in our vaginas.  The number of domestic violence and rape cases still rampant in this world is sickening.

And that’s all because in many ways, being a woman is still considered a lesser state.  We are stuck in a world where our genitalia and one chromosome immediately categorize us into gender norms and stereotypes that have been forced on us throughout the history of civilization.  Women can and have run countries, fought wars, called the shots, and done it all as well as (if not better than, in some cases) men.  But the patriarchy continues to tell us we’re delicate, in need of protection—essentially weak.  And more importantly, we believe them.

I’m not saying men and women are exactly alike; there are obvious biological differences.  But that’s all it is—biology.  Even studies that say our brain chemistry is different or that our minds work in different ways, it’s still all biology.  We’re all people, and we should all be treated like people.

But this culture, like most cultures before it, emphasizes a woman’s need for a man in her life.  I’m as much to blame as anyone else; the other day I couldn’t get a jar opened and wished I knew a big burly man to come do it for me.  Eventually the craftiness of a female friend helped me find a way to open it myself, but my first thought was, “God, if only I had a guy around here!”  It’s ingrained in us from day one:  we need men to do things for us, to open the jars and lift the heavy things and save us from the bugs and the critters and our loneliness.  A man who doesn’t marry is a bachelor; a single, aging woman is a spinster.  A woman who takes pride in her sexuality is a slut; a man who does the same is just being a guy.

The worst thing, though, the absolute worst is that we as women are taught to see each other as competition.  If we want to get a good “catch”, we’ll have to be the prettiest and dress the nicest and have the best hair.  And all that does is lead us to look at each other with envy and prejudice.  If I’m not as pretty as her, she’ll get all the good guys and I’ll be stuck with nobody.  It leads to low self-esteem, strained friendships, and jealousy.  Instead of letting feminism bring us together, teaching us we’re all beautiful and wonderful just as we are regardless of the patriarchy’s antiquated views on aesthetics and gender norms, we call each other sluts and whores and spend thousands on new noses and bigger boobs and obsess over our body fat content and compare ourselves to every other woman we meet on the street.

Or in the hallway at a college.  That’s what made me really sad this morning, when that girl looked me over from the size of my boobs and my waist to the knock-off Chucks on my feet.  That calculating look in her eyes, assessing and evaluating me—and probably herself compared to me.  A part of me wanted to say, “Bitch, don’t look at me like that!”  Another wanted to hug her and tell her she was perfect just as she is, no matter how I or anyone else looks in comparison.

In my ambivalence, I just let her walk by.

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