Sunday, February 26, 2017

Well, this hurts

That gaping-hole feeling was merely delayed; it hit me this morning, even before I started stumbling upon the reminders of the relationship: his toothbrush, his towel, the coffee maker that I don't use. And, now that I think about it, a bunch of medium-roast coffee that works best in the coffee maker rather than my prefererred French press, so I guess I'll be leaving the coffee maker out for a while. The treats he got for Gracie (I have no intention to keep giving them to her). Why does this stuff bother me more than the flowers? Why doesn't the overwhelmingness of our incompatibility blunt the pain?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Notes from an even more amicable break-up

I spent the last couple of weeks--but especially this past week--second-guessing my overwhelming sense that the relationship I was in, was doomed. The things that were not working were adding up and it was getting increasingly harder to believe that they could be overcome, even in the face of the many things that were working. On Thursday, I came home from work and cried over the realization that the relationship couldn't be saved. By Friday morning, I thought maybe I was tired and overwhelmed and should give it more time. I was too busy during the day (and evening) to give it any thought, but this morning, I didn't miss him or feel excited about seeing him tonight. When we sat down to dinner, facing each other, I undeniably felt nothing.

I couldn't believe he didn't (not) feel it to, but he did. We were walking around after dinner, and he stopped and asked me if I thought the relationship was working. He didn't think it was. I agreed. We were both sad. I was less so, because I'd gotten my sad out a couple of days ago and at this point I was mostly left with relief--that post-break-up relief of no longer having to dismiss the accumulating dealbreakers. I'd say, also, that the complete, instant closure--the lack of misunderstanding or recrimination, the absense of any need to wonder what went wrong--goes a long way toward easing the pain.

This was, interestingly, the first time my friends didn't try to talk me out of trusting my instincts. Out at trivia the other night, I enumerated the things that weren't working and said I just had a bad feeling about things. I expected my friends, who were in the throes of dating, to tell me to count my blessings, but they acknowledged that my instincts were probably onto something.

The man, on the other hand, was not as forthcoming. I'd felt for at least a week that it would be better to break it off, but that breaking it off was going to hurt. Last weekend, when I didn't hear from M. for, say, 36 hours (eventually, more than 48), I suspected something even though I knew he wasn't the ghosting kind. I started to emotionally prepare myself for our not being together, and I was mostly okay with it but it stung. To the point where, when I did hear from him latish Monday, I was relieved--even though I felt that we were just postponing the inevitable.

So here's what's interesting: I told him explicitly that I'd started to plan for not seeing him again (i.e., I'd made certain decisions around the assumption that we wouldn't be getting together on Tuesday night, as previously planned). He was shocked. He just had a lot of work, he said. Did I think things weren't going well? The way he asked implied that the very thought was absurd. He wouldn't just ghost, he assured me. I knew that, I told him, but there are levels of emotional distancing lesser to ghosting.

He wasn't feigning the shock; it just hadn't all come together for him. After I called him on it, he started wondering why he hadn't texted me all weekend. Sure, he was busy, but that hadn't ever stopped him before. [This, my friends, is a lesson in 'He's Just Not That Into You,' and I picked up on it even before he did.] This made him think about our relationship, which meant coming to the conclusion that things weren't working. It wasn't all in my head--either the dealbreakers or his distancing, even when his words tried to tell me that it was.

So we got together on Tuesday. We didn't talk about it, even though I brought it up. Being with him was more exhausting than anything else, not just because we were both tired. It felt like work. On Wednesday, I vented to my friends. On Thursday, I came home and cried. On Friday and this morning, I reverted to denial, but part of me knew the denial wasn't sustainable. This morning and early afternoon, getting together with another friend, I talked about how I just didn't think it was going to work. This evening, I saw him and I felt nothing. Later in the evening, we broke up, and I felt relief. I haven't cried, even though there's a tinge of sadness. I haven't thrown out his flowers and feel no need to. I feel no need to purge my house or electronics of signs of him. He asked if I wanted to stay friends, I demured. I believe in a clean break and don't really see the point. He said goodbye to the cat--he liked her at least as much as he liked me--and left. We parted on very good terms. I'm a little sad, but I don't feel a gaping hole in the fiber of my being.

Even the immediate, pragmatic things I'm relieved about--having the rest of this evening and tomorrow to myself; having the bed to myself; not having to go to yet another restaurant tomorrow because this guy doesn't like to eat in--are things that would've been of no comfort to me two months ago, and would be of no comfort to me now at the expense of a relationship I wanted to be in. It's time to move on when you think, oh, good, I'm not going to wake up next to him tomorrow.

I don't regret that we dated; I think we learned a lot from each other. I enjoyed getting to know him as a person. I benefitted from getting a stronger understanding of what wasn't negotiable to me, even when I tried to tell myself it wasn't a big deal. Maybe one or two of those things would've been fine, but they were adding up. I feel entirely comfortable holding onto them. I feel more comfortable than ever being who I am, and either knowing that there's someone out there who's looking for it to, and/or it's nevertheless who I am and what I need.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday ramble

I posted, to the roundup a minute ago, this very good piece about how love is not all it's cracked up to be but I actually thought I was posting this piece by Laurie Penny about the value of being single. They're both spot on. Let's start with the first--
Love is quite far down on the list of things that humans “need”—in fact, it’s not on the list at all. Humans need oxygen, water, and food, in that order. Everything else is optional (though clothes and shelter are nearly essential, depending on the climate). Humans are perfectly capable of living an entire life without love. Squirrels don’t love and they seem to be doing just fine.
But “true love,” minus the “one,” somehow persists. It exists in opposition, apparently, to fleeting love—to flings, crushes, and affairs. But really it’s just another form of social elitism: If we believe we have found true love, we are better at life than those who have not.
Which dovetails into the second:
You see, I don’t believe that my relationship constitutes a happy ending. I don’t want a “happy ending”. I don’t want an ending at all, particularly not while I’m still in my goddamn twenties—I want a long life full of work and adventure. I absolutely don’t see partnership as the end of that adventure. And I still believe that being single is the right choice for a great many young women.
Today, whatever else we are, women are still taught that we have failed if we are not loved by men. I’ve lost count of the men who seem to believe that the trump card they hold in any debate is “but you’re unattractive”. “But I wouldn’t date you.” How we feel about them doesn’t matter. Young women are meant to prioritise men’s romantic approval, and young men often struggle to imagine a world in which we might have other priorities.
Men are allowed to think of romantic love as a feeling, an experience, a gift that they expect to be given as a reward for being their awesome selves. That sounds like a great deal to me. I wouldn’t want that challenged. Women, by contrast, learn from an early age that love is work. That in order to be loved, we will need to work hard, and if we want to stay loved we will need to work harder.
The trouble is that there aren’t enough of them for all the brilliant, beautiful, fiercely compassionate women and girls out there who could really do with someone like that in their lives. Those men are like unicorns. If you meet one, that’s great. You might think you’ve met one already—I’ve often thought so—but evidence and experience suggest that a great many unicorns are, in fact, just horses with unconvincing horns. If you don’t manage to catch a real unicorn, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. 
 There was also this piece in the Post about how finding love is a fluke; the writer has no answers.

This was not the first Valentine's Day that I wasn't single, but it was the first that the man I was with insisted on celebrating--insisted that we spend the actual day (well, evening) together, though it was hardly different from any other Tuesday night, except that Deep Fried Masters wasn't on (he has cable). He got me some lovely flowers, which lit up my cubicle (did I mention that I started a "new" job--just for a year, and then I go back--and now I have a cubicle?) for a few days and are now lighting up my dining room. I walked straight from his place on Wednesday morning to work, flowers in hand, profoundly aware that this was a fluke--this year, I happened to get flowers. Later that afternoon, I overheard (such is cubicle life) someone talking about a recent breakup, and I felt for her. Breakups suck, and it's not the time to have other people's relationships shoved in your face.

Sunday roundup

Especially in warfare, values matter.

Refugees and other immigrants are emphatically not the problem.

Conservatives are not silenced. Some, apparently, are threatened by the mere existence of other people.

Selling access to the president is not normal.

Careful about distance-diagnosing people with mental illness.

You know where something is going when it starts with "I'm not a misogynist, but..."

How Czech dissidents built a resistance movement.

Der Spiegel on St. Petersburg.

Billionaires who don't want to make their kids useless.

There truly is so much value in living single.

Nobody cares about your baby to the extent you do.
[Miss Manners...] feels compelled to tell you something that will save you time and friendships in the future as a mother. Not everyone is as excited as you are about every detail of your child’s life. It’s best to know this now, before you start going on Facebook announcing baby’s first spit-up, or throwing parties for when he or she sleeps through the night.
Oh this is sooooo RM
This is a nightmare, and one reason it’s a nightmare is that you’ve already told her directly that you don’t want to hang out with her in Japan and she’s blatantly not accepting this reality. “I am going with my friend and our plans don’t include you.” “You are in no way involved in my trip.” You are not being vague! When someone refuses to engage with the reality of what you are saying when it conflicts with their own desires, that is very weird, and scary! Reasons are for reasonable people, and repeating yourself and explaining things more just gives unreasonable people the idea that stuff is negotiable.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday roundup

Well, this (screwing over veterans who cleaned up after atomic tests) is really wrong.

Yair Rosenberg on anti-semitism today.

The attack on truth isn't just about facts; it's an attempt to erode our capacity for critical thinking.

A government needs experts and specialists, not (just) "smart" people. And certainly not chaos.

Who doesn't want people like this:
“I was even looking forward to paying taxes,” Mr. Hassan said. “If you pay taxes, that means you have a job and you’re making money, right?”
Here are some great books by refugees.

Brands are just adapting the ways in which they try to exploit our insecurities.
In 2006 preface to a new edition of her feminist classic “Backlash,” Susan Faludi, who has herself been solicited “to place my feminist seal of approval on brands of blue jeans, high heels, even breast implants,” points readers back to a 1929 “Freedom March” commemorating the 19th Amendment. The protest was pulled together by the American Tobacco Company and featured cigarettes as “torches of freedom,” an idea that Virginia Slims cigarettes would replicate decades later in their ads that told young women, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Faludi notes that, “Hanes even persuaded a [National Organization for Women] official to endorse its ‘liberating’ pantyhose.”
(Ask) Polly and Carolyn urge you to accept, feel, and work through your feelings.

Oh this is so my mother, down to dishing out what she couldn't take.

Check out Mars on earth (i.e., in Ethiopia).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday roundup

Civil society must step up (and has). [Here, I am an accidental hypocrite; I have yet to make a march--always some personal issue or poor planning. But I communicate with my elected representatives and donate.]

Let the unraveling of this disastrous executive order be the beginning of the end. Not that hard when the other side is more interested in symbolism than reality:
“It’s symbolic of greater security and greater control,” Ayres said. “If he gets part of a wall built and Congress has to pay for it, the response from his supporters will be, ‘Well, we didn’t get Mexico to pay for it but at least we got the wall.’ ”
And Judd Gregg, a former Republican governor and senator from New Hampshire, said that for Trump supporters, concrete changes may be beside the point, at least initially.

“They’re more interested in the verbal jockeying and the confrontational verbal approach than the results,” he said. “So as long as he’s poking a stick in the eye of the people his constituency feels are a problem, the rest won’t matter.”
The end, also, of insulting the memories of people who have died for their country; national self-sabotage; and international cruelty.

On gaslighting.

Rebecca Traister's approach to intersectionality and the opposition movement is the most articulate I've seen:
If there was an over-representation of “nice white ladies” marching, it’s important to note that those white women were showing up for a march led by nonwhite women, in support of a radical and intersectional set of policy principles laid out by nonwhite women, carrying signs and marching in solidarity with plenty of women’s issues that do not center on white women. No, we shouldn’t give them too much credit for showing up where they should have been for years. And yes, the next steps must include white women (and men) showing up for women of color in other ways, at other demonstrations and with other actions (including not voting with an eye to their own privilege).
The Post's attempted normalization of drunk driving would be enough to turn me conservative (except it's not):
“My wife is not a criminal,” said Jimenez, calling his wife’s arrest “something that can happen to anybody.”
I can give you two examples in less than three months of times I either opted out of another drink because I was driving or didn't go somewhere spontaneously (i.e., last night's Dulles protest once I found out about it) because I'd had a drink or two. Personal responsibility, matters.

Portico on Wednesday said it had rewritten its code almost immediately after the issue was raised by Ms. Thorp, dropping the heel requirement, among others. Its old code had warned employees against such things as greasy or highly gelled hair or wearing flowers as accessories. It had also called for heel height to be two to four inches and for makeup to be “worn at all times” and “regularly reapplied,” with a minimum of lipstick, mascara and eye shadow.
A generally good column.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday roundup

Yes, things can get worse.

The dossier story is bananas.

Of course the women's march was going to be complicated, and of course (some) men were going to take issue about it not being about them.
It seems likely to me that many women have taken this march as a rare opportunity to devote no thought whatsoever to what men might, or might not, decide to do. It’s also interesting to see a relative lack of male enthusiasm interpreted as a problem that falls on women. Women have spent centuries being coerced and socialized into showing support for “men’s issues”—thus, directly to our detriment, the election of soon-to-be-President Trump.
I'm not usually a fan of Adam Gopnik's writing but when he's right he's right.

We have a whole other set of big, big problems if the POTUS is targeting businesses who won't give his family freebies and omg:
But after The Washington Post contacted the PR representative, Kelly received ominous messages from her client, who had first put her in touch with Maples’s camp. “You are messing with the president of the United States,” the Maples contact wrote her, adding that Maples was worried about her financial situation with Tiffany out of college, ending child-support payments from the president-elect. “She is used to a certain lifestyle and you don’t understand that.”
No, Cory Booker did not sell you out to Big Pharma.

From this long read on neanderthals, I appreciated this:
It was the day of the Brexit vote. After re-emerging from the cave with Finlayson, I would spend the rest of the afternoon rejiggering my travel plans in a mild panic, trying to catch a ride out of Gibraltar and into Spain that night, so that if the Spanish exacted a retaliatory border-clogging after the results were announced, I could still make my flight home from Malaga the next day. I won’t describe the scenes I saw that morning — the blankness on people’s faces at the airport, phone calls I overheard — except to say that when I woke up on Nov. 9, after our own election, I felt equipped with at least a faint frame of reference. Reality seemed heightened and a little dangerous, because for so many people, including me, it had broken away from our expectations. We had misunderstood the present in the same way archaeologists can misunderstand the past. What was possible was suddenly exposed as grossly insufficient, because, to borrow Finlayson’s metaphor, we never imagined that the few jigsaw puzzle pieces we based it on constituted such a tiny part of the whole. 
Don't take health and/or beauty advice from Gwyneth Paltrow.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

An epiphany over mom's jewelry

I had another epiphany about my family dynamics.

I was awkwardly telling someone about how my dad asked me to take my mom's awful costume jewelry. We were talking about jewelry in general, and this person didn't know anything about my mother--I only said that she was very ill, which made it al the more awkward to talk about her terrible taste in jewelry. It was fine, but in retrospect I might have said that my mother and I have very different tastes in jewelry.

Our very different tastes in jewelry very much reflect who we (each) are: my mother chose large, statement pieces, whereas I prefer subtle jewelry that enhances my overall look. I like to wear jewelry and clothes, and thought that my mother went for jewelry (and clothes) that wore her. She didn't hesitate to tell me that I had terrible taste, that my choices were insufficiently loud. In a way, my rejection of her jewelry choices then and my aversion to them now goes beyond aesthetics; it's an aversion to her tastes and to her relentless campaigns to impose her choices on me.

She was the same with food, or, I should say, we are each the same with food. I like for garlic, or any other flavor, to enhance my dish; she seemed to think that the dish should be a vehicle for garlic. She didn't hesitate, on more than one occasion, to interfere with something I was preparing by blatantly adding more garlic against my objections. Similarly, she once ripped lady fingers out of my hands and over-soaked them in coffee--she didn't think I was using enough coffee--to the point where they practically fell apart. That was how she rolled.

Thursday roundup

Poland's democracy was only skin-deep.

RIP Jeremy Stone
“With a free press,” Mr. Stone wrote recently, repeating what his father had told him, “if the government does something wrong, it will become known and the government can fix it. But if something goes wrong with a free press, the country will go straight to hell.”
And Clare Hollingworth.

This is the country I know.
It's good that the women's march has raised intersectionality as an issue (though I agree that finger-wagging isn’t best way to have that conversation), but someone please explain to me how reproductive rights are for well-off white women, as per the article:
For too long, the march organizers said, the women’s rights movement focused on issues that were important to well-off white women, such as the ability to work outside the home and attain the same high-powered positions that men do. But minority women, they said, have had different priorities. Black women who have worked their whole lives as maids might care more about the minimum wage or police brutality than about seeing a woman in the White House. Undocumented immigrant women might care about abortion rights, they said, but not nearly as much as they worry about being deported.

I care about the minimum wage and police brutality, too, but it's insulting to black women who work as maids to assume they don't care about other issues. Presumably, some of these black women have children or relatives in other career fields where equal pay matters. Similarly, who thinks "Well-off white women" have the most to lose in restricting abortion rights? Well-off women (of any race) will always find a way to get an abortion.

Much of these musings about class resonated with me. I, too, grew up among "white ethnics," though my family's circles were more diverse. I'm not sure when exactly my family went from living frugally by necessity to living frugally by choice (or at least habit).

It's always interesting to me when a letter-writer is really far off, as is this misguided women worried about her sister's kitchen reveal party. I had a party to try out my grill. So what?

Fashion is art, and by extension, a political statement.

Yeah, I wouldn't even apologize for not taking dietary advice from obese people (yes, there are obese people in my life who think they are in a position to critique my eating habits).

Sigh. I agree that we have to balance our own sanity with activism
So I don’t read the news as much as I did. I don’t go on social media as much as I used to. I’ve started to retreat inwards. I read books and walk my dog and try to ignore the dumpster fire going on outside, the smell of democracy burning.
but self-care as I define it isn't self-coddling; it's taking care of ourselves because we do everything better--activism included--when we're well. Self-care, then, means eating and sleeping well, exercising, and whatever else it takes to stay strong. It's not some fru-fru "treat yourself to a pedicure and forget don't bother calling your elected representatives."
There's no joy in starving artistry (or writerdom).

I've long written about how food informs who we are, even as it doesn't define us. I, too, couldn't date someone boring enough to prefer boring food. But this piece is terribly written; I hope her food writing is better.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday roundup

The evacuation of forced displacement from Aleppo was a crime against humanity in a series of crimes against humanity.

A correspondent looks back on her 12 years in Africa.

Repatriating kleptocratically gained assets is complicated.

Agrochemical companies try to buy scientists.

And now, the Carolyn roundup:

Eating meat makes one just as complicit in animal cruelty as growing it.

It's never too soon to talk to children about consent and boundaries. You can and should talk to kids about things, including what words mean.

This generally applies to all kinds of decisions,
Spouses are each other’s No. 1 person in day-to-day life, so neither one has any business making decisions that favor a parent without the other’s input, consent and support.
And this applies to all kinds of forgiveness and grudges:
You figure out why the apology wasn’t enough. Then you figure out what would qualify as enough. Then you ask for it — of the offender, if that’s where it needs to originate, or of yourself, if it’s a change that must come from within.
Then, fun part, you learn whether “enough” is possible.
If it turns out not to be, then you make a choice: Keep the anger, or keep the person in your life. It’s not fair to keep clinging to both.
This reminded me of RM.
The whole point of intimacy is that it’s mutual — I give freely, you give freely. The idea that you can breach anyone’s defenses by working angles till they buckle is intrusion plus delusion, not to mention an alert to them to maintain some protective distance between you.
I used to think that having plenty of money would immunize couples against having to fight about it, but I've since learned better (I may have posted this before and mused about how I see no value in living frugally for its own sake; there's a fine line between conspicuous consumption and martyrdom).

I heard echoes of my mother here. I learned years later that the others know (they don't buy her side of the story).

How to handle divisions of labor and requests for help. Pair with this piece on mutual support, which you should in turn pair with these examples of mommyjacking:
Somewhat related and very true:
I haven’t seen any situation end well where half of a couple feels (or continues to feel) entitled to use leverage against the other half.
Two tricky questions, well answered.

Spot on:
The difference is insecurity, which I don’t believe is a personality trait. It’s a fear that you won’t be okay if you don’t get exactly what you want, and frankly that’s a stressful and exhausting way to live. Life doesn’t just serve up what we want. It puts us in situations we can’t control, it introduces us to people who have their own ideas and agendas, it makes us sick or better sometimes on a whim, it subjects us all to temptations and feelings and variables we can’t predict.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


It seems so obvious now, I can't believe I didn't think of it before. I'm so on top of analyzing my own family dynamics and trying to understand how people operate, but I was largely blind to this dynamic in particular. Until today. Maybe because I'd just caught up on months' worth of Carolyn Hax columns (which I've curated for you and will blog about tomorrow); maybe it's because I bitched to Nina this morning on our New Year's walk and she said "yeah that's pretty much my family," and the event that triggered it the night before was so egregious, so obvious. I'd also bitched about it, by text, to the guy I've been dating, and he pointed out that it was part of a pattern before I did.

The dynamic: nobody in my family *listens.* That's part of why there's so much yelling: no one feels heard, because nobody listens. I've known for a while that mom didn't listen, but it's taken mom's being in the nursing home and dad's being the head of the household for me to appreciate the fact that he doesn't listen. I mean, I sort of knew that he didn't listen to mom--because she'd always yelled at him for it--and I wasn't sure I blamed him, or her. I'm not sure which is the chicken or which is the egg or which came first: mom being so bossy that one simply quits paying attention to anything she says, or dad not listening to the point where mom felt the need to go full bossy and constantly tell dad what to do. I know that I have a tendency to see dad's side of things, given what a nightmare mom was in so many ways, but that having to deal with dad as head of household has made me appreciate mom's point of view.

The data points: I've found dad to be super stubborn about low-risk, non-issue things where anyone else would just *listen.* For example, last night he wouldn't refrigerate the champagne we would bring to Nina's parents'. He said he'd stick it outside, except he didn't. But he could have just stuck it in the fridge when I suggested it and he wouldn't have had to remember to stick it outside. But my whole family has a tendency to resist when someone else tells them what to do. I can understand that for more complicated things, but not for chilling champagne and such.

More explanation: Mom loves (loved?) to boss people around. It's what she did. As you know, she liked to tell me in what order to eat the food on my plate. No decision was too personal for her not to feel like she should be the one to make it for me. When I was little, mom would make a mess of coupons and circulars--maybe even newspaper sections--on the floor. She'd go through them and just throw them on the floor. And then order me to drop what I was doing and pick them up. And I'd tell her I was in the middle of something and would pick them up when I was done, and she'd get mad that I didn't drop everything and pick them up and I'd ask her why she couldn't throw things straight into a paper bag for recycling. And the answer--which she of course did not provide--was because she enjoyed telling me what to do.

I found this unacceptable and refused to do it. Dad pretty much also just wouldn't do anything mom said, even when it made sense. Again, I don't know if dad was just always like this or if it was his resistance to mom's overbearingness.

I am not my mother--I make a point of not being my mother--and I *don't* like to boss people around. I do ask people to do things as appropriate. For example, I would ask my former roommate to clean out the crumb tray under the toaster oven and toss anything with food scraps only into the covered trash can. I would explain that these actions would help us prevent cockroaches. And I would get very, very annoyed that he didn't do these things, that he would go about as if these conversations never happened. My point: I don't tell people what to do so I can feel like the boss or so that I can hear the sound of my own voice; I tell people what to do when appropriate. When there's a good reason. And therefore, I expect people to listen. And I get angry when they don't.

I've told you about the times I've yelled at my dad--it's in instances of abject not listening, where there could have been very real consequences to not listening. The time when he wouldn't get the fuck away from the car I was parking on ice, and I was afraid I'd lose control of it. I yelled at him to get away from the car; he yelled at me to stop yelling. I yell when I feel like I really need someone to do something now; when inside voices just won't do. When I fucking mean it. So fucking do it.

Meanwhile, my dad--like my mom--responds to being told what to do by refusing to do it, no matter how much it makes sense. I don't know if it's a post-Soviet resistance to authority thing or if it's just them, but--CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS JUST HIT ME TODAY--they both respond with defiance to polite requests as well as to panicked orders. It does not cross their mind that maybe there's logic behind their request; their gut reaction is "someone is telling me what to do so I'm going to not do it."

Naturally, the response of the person doing the asking/telling is yelling.

I don't yell easily, but I yell when I feel like I'm not being listened to and--because I wouldn't be telling you what to do if I didn't have a good reason--you need to be listening. The respect issues are clearly there--not listening is a passive-aggressive way of showing disrespect--but really, I feel like something real is at stake and on a gut level, I need the other person to act on what I'm saying.

So tonight, we were not far from home on the way back from the nursing home when Nina texted to say that she'd retrieved my dad's hat from her parents' (where we celebrated New Year's last night) and had brought it to her airbnb, not far from where we were. So I said to dad, "Nina has your hat, let's go get it. Keep going straight."

At which point, dad turns left.

Dad: Getting the hat.
A.: I said go straight! Nina's that way.
Dad: Oh, that Nina. I didn't know. Why are you yelling.
A. Because you don't listen. I said go straight.
Dad: I didn't realize.
A.: But I said go straight.
Dad: You shouldn't yell at me.
A. :You should listen to me.
Dad: You shouldn't yell.
A.: You should listen.

We were both right.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thursday roundup

Venezuela is starving.

Meat production means water scarcity.

Rest in Peace, Vera Rubin. Pair her restroom story with that in Hidden Figures.

Serena Williams on fighting racism and sexism.

Those we lost were fighters, too:
In 2016, we lost artists who showed us how to be irrepressible black men, unruly women, joyful and unashamed sexual beings and tender and tough all at once. And we lost them in a year when racism crept out of the crannies to which it had been consigned and an unrepentant chauvinist was elected president of the United States while sharing a ticket with a man who has appeared to believe that homosexuality could be cured.

I've dated the very squeamish, unassertive guy:
I’m more interested, though, in the gap (or two) between your comfort level and your fiance’s. He doesn’t know you’re assertive like this? He doesn’t advocate for himself likewise? Are there other areas where you’re mismatched and/or this unaware of each other’s natures? 

There may not be too many VERY fancy dinners in your future, but his discomfort exposes something that’s consequential to your daily life together. If simple assertiveness is just how you roll, then both of you will want him to be okay with that. Not just okay — you want a life partner to embrace the qualities that are germane to who you are.

He was also, unsurprisingly, this guy:
He resents you because he doesn’t know how to express his true needs and desires the way you do. He doesn’t ask for what he wants. He watches things go badly, shakes his head from the sidelines, and blames you for it. He’s not an adult yet.

Garfield was never about humor, always about crass commercialism. And it worked.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Xmas eve roundup

Two perspectives on Allepo.

Why there's nostalgia for the Soviet Union in spite of its victims.

Evan Osnos on tyranny:
Tyranny does not begin with violence; it begins with the first gesture of collaboration. Its most enduring crime is drawing decent men and women into its siege of the truth.
Our horribly unjust justice system.

Just two excerpts from Coates' must-read "My President Was Black."
Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were dismissed by some of his critics as merely symbolic for African Americans. But there is nothing “mere” about symbols… Burning crosses do not literally raise the black poverty rate, and the Confederate flag does not directly expand the wealth gap.
Historians will spend the next century analyzing how a country with such allegedly grand democratic traditions was, so swiftly and so easily, brought to the brink of fascism. But one needn’t stretch too far to conclude that an eight-year campaign of consistent and open racism aimed at the leader of the free world helped clear the way.
Why I still haven't managed to muster compassion for Trump voters:
But the istina of the 2016 campaign is that Trump’s base was heavily dependent on racists and xenophobes, Trump basked in and stoked their anger and hatred, and all those who voted for him cast a ballot for a man they knew to be a racist, sexist xenophobe. That was an act of racism.
That and this (on the Jewish family that did skip town early because they were smeared by Fox and Breitbart).

Would we have Pizzagate had we responded to gamergate?

You--provided that you'd rather live--want a female doctor.

It's hard to undo climate rules, fortunately.

I recently had reason to revisit these two articles, which I blogged about at the time. This reminded me of the second in particular, in that... the Post wants me to feel bad for these people and I kind of do but I don't. I have trouble responding with compassion (and outrage) to the man who pushes wheelchairs at National and sometimes can't afford to get home. But "I'm a stay-at-home mom of four and can't afford xmas gifts for my kid?" Get a job. If I had four kids I couldn't afford shit either; we all make our choices. And the mom who's kid wants a Playstation? Guess what? I asked my parents for a Nintendo when I was a kid; they told me to make the money for it myself, and by the time I did, I changed my mind (and more importantly, learned that things have opportunity costs--not a bad lesson).

I do and don't hear this. I think vast differences in income can be a challenge on either side. I've not been in a serious relationship where I've vastly outearned the man--I've probably been on any number of dates where I did, but no information would have come out to broadcast that fact. I don't agree that men, generally, are turned off by ambition and outspokenness; plenty are, but who needs them? Also, her other article on 'manly men' is awful--there's a clear line between manliness and intrusiveness and disrespect for boundaries.

Everything about this screams red-flag, even as I don't doubt the benefits of nursing.

More things not to do when dating or trying to.

Dr. Nerdlove on how not to text and other dating truths:
When it comes to dating in all of its forms, there’s one universal sin: being boring... There should be substance behind your texting – something meaty that the other person can sink their conversational teeth into. It could be something crazy that’s happening or a question that prompts a conversation. You could even be texting just to flirt, because flirting is inherently fun. But if all you’re doing is just killing time, then you’re killing the attraction as well.
Rolling into the conversation cock first is a signal to others. Under the most charitable reading, you’re someone who’s so blind to social conventions and emotional intelligence that it’s amazing you’re allowed out of the house. At worst, it’s a giant neon sign that you don’t see the person you’re texting as a person. For all intents and purposes, you’re signalling that you see them as an especially elaborate sex toy and you’re hoping to jerk off inside them.
Pair with this from Ask Polly:
What you experienced is a very personal form of terrorism: Some coward (or group of cowards) resented you and your friends because you had the audacity to take up space and behave confidently while also being sexually attractive. You had more power than they could bear. They hated you for that power, and hated that you didn’t give a fuck how they felt about you.
And while we're reading Ask Polly:
I also think it’s important and smart to invite single people to so-called couples gatherings. That’s just normal, honestly, even if a world of lazy couples tends not to see it that way. Single people need to get invited to do “boring” things, too. A lot of single people love boring shit, but because they’re single, they’re forced to go out on the town a lot, sometimes much more than they actually want to. Supporting single people no matter what, embracing and including people without kids when you have kids — this is just part of being a solid friend. And not to sound harsh, but none of us know when we could end up single again. Shit happens. Defying the stupid-ass ways our culture sorts us into categories is important. The more you break those boundaries and shake things up, the better your social life will be.
To give better gifts, don't overthink it and focus on longterm utility rather than immediate reaction.

See my thread on how (for the bzillionth time) "kasha" DOES NOT mean buckwheat.

I leave you with some holiday thoughts with the extraordinary J. K. Rowling (click and read the whole thread):

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday roundup

One take on Taiwan.

Aasif Mandvi on what PEOTUS could tweet.

Should we just let the red states go to shit, since they asked for it, while preserving democracy in the states that voted to?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday roundup

Before Taiwan, there was Pakistan. And holy shit.

Sicily has a forced labor problem, particularly among migrants; don't buy olives or olive oil from there.

Can we get to a food system where food workers can afford to eat well?

The Miami Herald's obituary of Fidel Castro short history of Cuba.

Remnick on Obama.

Chait on Brooks (and the moving goal-post that was 'center').

On what didn't happen in Indiana.

What PEOTUS wants.

Is the (global) west moving away from democracy?
A fairly balanced piece on why some people have a harder time as vegans. I will note that every failed-vegan confessional I've ever seen more or less takes the form of, "I gave up animal products, then gluten, then carbs, then food, and then--what do you know--I started eating (meat) again and felt better."

Everyone loves J.K. Rowling.

This story about a doctor who wouldn't give up on kids with a rare form of cancer--and the parents who helped her succeed--will restore your faith in humanity: perseverence, ingenuity, compassion, and much more. It's worth the long read.

Fascinating think-piece on signaling.

Pair this advice from Carolyn with my numerous musings on askers and helpers.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving roundup

Signs that your democracy is under threat and why it's worth stopping. The press needs to be on the job, too. And you can help people being harassed by bigots.

Self-enrichment is something politicians do in a third-world kleptocracy.

Trump voters don't deserve the empathy of those they've screwed over. Why do rural voters get such disproportionate power? And why do the people who fought hardest for the country, get the blame for the result?
The world has never lacked for young, spoiled white people (perhaps mostly men), who grumble ungratefully at their parents (perhaps mostly moms), who’ve done the work of putting food on a Thanksgiving table, and instead return to their onanistic gaming aeries with loaves of bread (no roses) and an absolute assuredness that they know better than everyone else and that one of the great injustices of the world is the ban on them saying whatever vulgar thing they’d like to.
I couldn't spend Thanksgiving with the only Trump supporter I know.

Shrinking the federal workforce is more complicated than it may seem.

MRAs are dumb.

You, too, can (and should) pardon a turkey.

Sometimes, the obvious needs to be stated. First, Robin Givhan on dress:
Our choice of attire is a measure of our respect for those around us and our own personal dignity.
Also, exercise is good for you.
The pooled results persuasively showed that exercise, especially if it is moderately strenuous, such as brisk walking or jogging, and supervised, so that people complete the entire program, has a “large and significant effect” against depression, the authors wrote. People’s mental health tended to demonstrably improve if they were physically active.
There's no aloe in drug store "aloe."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday roundup

Ethan Coen's post-election thank-yous.

Harry Belafonte on how much we had (have) to lose.

Mercantilist "feminism" isn't really.

This love didn't manifest itself on Election Day but it's still there.

DC Metro is a mess.

Please don't be problematic, Trader Joe's.

It's okay to talk about your life

I see a thinkpiece/twitter-war pattern. I've seen it for ages, at least since Barbara Ehrenreich wrote “Nickeled and Dimed” nearly two decades ago to a bizarre backlash from the argument that, unlike the writer, some people don’t need to artificially experience poverty; they live it. But Ms. Ehrenreich acknowledges as much in her book, which was not an attempt at authentic slum tourism; it was a scientific study in whether a person could actually make ends meet on minimum wage (spoiler: one couldn't). Her book added value to a socially significant national conversation.

The same backlash emerges whenever anyone who is not actually poor writes about struggling financially. Take Neal Gabler’s very reasonable essay about being middle-class broke. He reiterates at many points that he owns the life choices that have left him broke, and that he’s among the lucky ones: he is not poor, he has a roof over his head, etc. And yet, there's a slew of responses along the lines of "why does this man think he's poor." Is there really something wrong with exploring the disconnect between what’s supposed to be a middle-class lifestyle and one's own middle-class reality? Leaving aside the very broad definition of middle-class... I continue to see “some people have it worse” as a bad reason to not write about the middle class.

Regular readers of my blog, if any, know that I write about travel, including affording travel. You’ll recall my recent musings about a dude I went on a date with, who asked me if I was “frugal.” I didn’t understand the question. Like most people, I have finite funds at my disposal. Therefore, I spend them somewhat selectively. For example, I mostly make my own food (and tea and coffee), and I don’t have cable. Those two life choices help fund my travels. Now if you love going to restaurants and getting Starbucks, I wouldn’t tell you not to. And if you don’t want to travel, I’m not here to change you. I *don’t care* what anyone else does. I’m merely making a very simple choice-consequence connection: I don’t spend money on certain things that don’t mean a lot to me so I have more money to spend on the things that do mean a lot to me. I am also well aware that I have choices about how to spend money and that many people don’t. But I’m writing about the choices and experiences available to someone like me.

Hence my bewilderment when I came across a tweetstorm over an article about a 23-year old who blogs about travel. The headline was slightly inflammatory—she travels the world to prove that anyone can do it—the article less so, and the woman herself, not at all. She’s a cancer survivor who came to appreciate that life can be short, and chooses to do the things she loves in the present. She never says or even implies that everyone should travel—there’s no judgment in the interview—but notes that people put things off, think they can’t do it. So she wants people to know that there's no time like the present, and that they have more agency than they may know to make things happen.

"But not everyone can travel and she’s judging them! There’s an implied “what’s your excuse?”" Really, where? I don’t even see it implied. Yes, of course there’s implicit privilege, but there is in everything. There’s implicit privilege in “here’s a picture of my brunch.” There’s implicit privilege in how to afford college. Does that mean everyone should stop writing about it? 

Here’s what this article isn’t, as I noted in one of my sets of tweets: It isn't Gwyneth Paltrow (“here’s how you can ape my uber-expensive lifestyle, which is better than yours and I totally think I earned it but really I was born into great wealth and connections that propelled me in spite of my mediocre talent”). It’s not the douche who dips his balls in gold and so should you.

It’s “I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow, but I still make time and save money for travel, and here’s how you can if you want.”

Her tips are not revolutionary and her MO is unappealing (unless you know you’re dying, and maybe even if you do, why spend three days to fly to Asia and back for a three-day trip?). But I have a hard time finding her blog offensive.

At happy hour the other ngiht, we found ourselves talking about Australia and Australians. And how they’re everywhere. I noted—based on what Australians themselves have told me—that there’s a national perspective of, “we live on an island, we should get out and explore.” And yet, here, we have—from the left, no less—a national perspective of “travel is douchey and talking about travel is even douchier.” 

I get it: not everyone wants to travel, and many who want to, genuinely can’t afford to. But is it one’s imperative to not write because it makes people realize what they’re not doing with their lives? I don’t respond to things in the former category—things I don’t want, like a gala wedding or luxury car—with resentment about how people are judging me for not having those things. I don’t respond to things in the latter category—things I want but can’t have, at least not now—with rage at the people who are enjoying those things in their lives. There is maybe exactly one category of article or tweet that provokes the same reaction in me that this travel piece did in some people: articles that imply that everyone should wear makeup and it’s easier than you think. There is a real social pressure for women to wear makeup and I resent having to justify my decision not to wear it. So I get that sense of “where do you get off?” I also think we can just let people enjoy things that they enjoy that we may not, and if it’s something we do want, let’s try to channel our energy toward aspiration rather than jealousy.                                         

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