Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday roundup

A nuclear apocalypse would (eventually) bring about a world much more lush than the one in "Mad Max: Fury Road."

You'll totally believe what happened to Dr. Emily Grossman when she spoke out against misogyny.

I get that the Times is reporting on a trend rather than endorsing it, but this article turns my stomach (and I'm the proud owner of a flat iron myself). I'd like to tell these girls that, there will come a time when you don't want to look like everyone else, when you'll be glad about what makes you unique and makes you stand out in a sea of basic.

Also, you don't need industrial-grade underwear.

Kennedy's opinion got single people wrong. Rebecca Traister points out,
But that the invitation comes with a note that amplifies marriage’s power to diminish everything and everyone that remains on its outside is deflating. It feels like that door opened quickly and then slammed hard in the face of all those Americans whose numbers are growing every day and who live, love, work, earn, and have sex, children, friendships, and full lives outside of marriage.
Remnick on the last ten days.

Gail Collins on the Supreme Court.

Here's the White House in rainbow and front pages from every state in the country.

CNN has outdone itself with the ISIS dildo flag.

This window collage is amazing.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Notes from a militant vegan

Some of you don't know that I'm a militant vegan, in the only sense of the term that makes sense: I'm a vegan who's about to talk to you about military matters. If there's a way of eating that's militant, it's one that supports the factory farming system. But I digress.

I didn't grow up--or even go to grad school--thinking I'd come out militant, but I did. I thought about whether I was betraying my values, but I concluded that as long as militancy exists, I need to understand it and work on it from the inside. And weeks like these, where bullshit proliferates, I'm very glad to know and to be able to explain exactly why it's bullshit.

When I read the comment about nuclear material expiring, I shared it with my colleagues, who all had the same reaction--along the lines of wtf, that makes no sense whatsoever. One colleague noted that the statement was "designed to alarm the uninformed." And these issues are not merely philosophical; they can lead to misguided legislation and policy. For example:
During NDAA Senate floor debate last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blocked an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that would have prevented the Obama Administration from moving forward with its April-announced plan to accelerate dismantlement of retired nuclear weapons by 20 percent.
First of all, our disarmament is not unilateral, and defunding dismantlement operations is not going to change dismantlement policy decisions; it will only make it harder to actually modernize the stockpile (not to mention, incur costs). When the decision was made to accelerate dismantlement of the retired W 76-0 warhead, the Navy avoided spending $190 million to construct a new storage facility.

But lets talk about whether the nuclear arsenal works: In 1995, the President established an annual stockpile assessment to help ensure that the nation’s nuclear weapons remain safe and reliable without underground nuclear testing (we've observed a moratorium on underground nuclear testing since 1992.) The directors of the national laboratories and the Commander of STRATCOM each complete an annual nuclear weapons stockpile assessment report. To this end, the Department of Energy (through its labs) conducts a variety of nonnuclear tests that evaluate the condition, safety, and reliability of stockpiled weapons. Each year, the stockpile has been deemed safe, secure, and reliable.

For more on the overall future of arms control and why it matters, see this.

Quick Friday roundup

Listen to the president's eulogy for Rev. Pinckney.

Get angry about Yulin, but also about factory farming everywhere else. You can make a difference by eating less meat. And no, I don't mean 'fewer' like this guy:

Go ahead, eat grains.

Don't be this mommyjacker or these traveling parents. Do take inspiration in how far we've come.

If you're upset about this week's verdicts and have threatened to move to Canada, let's think about this.

Bristol Palin's hypocrisy speaks for itself; we needn't shame her.

I wish this weren't the Onion.

This is about heels and skinny jeans, but it applies to style in general:
If you associate high heels with power, as a lot of people do, is it worth it to you to maybe have discomfort for a certain amount of the day if it then makes you feel more powerful? Helps you, say, give a presentation or conduct a negotiation? I think a lot of people would say that trade-off is fair in the same way that men will wear suits even on hot days. Because that’s their power uniform.
Anaesthesiologist comes to pay for trashing a patient.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The importance of listening

This was previously part of the roundup, but there was too much I wanted to comment on, and it got out of control, so it's getting its own post. Note: the two linked posts and associated excerpts are based on (hetero)sexual relationships, but they're relevant to all relationships--even transactional ones. The Dr. Nerdlove excerpt echoes something I wrote about RM: I couldn't understand why was finding mysteries about things with direct answers. His unwavering conviction in his own narrative blocked out any actual information provided to him, even as he verbally sought answers. The next piece invoked RM as well: as much as the consequences of RM's declining to listen infuriated me, the very fact that he blatantly declined to listen scared the shit out of me. I could give you many, many 'mom' examples of the same, where whatever mom did by not listening was frustrating, but what truly galled me was that she did it after I distinctly told her not to. There was that Hax column I linked to not too long ago, about the MIL who didn't understand why her DIL was so upset about being disregarded. [I may update this post with links to those at another time, but right now my computer is being painfully slow.]

Here's a low-salience, transactional example of how true the 'red flag' thing is: I even blogged about this at the time, and I still remember it years later. I was in the market for an energy audit and I'd called or emailed around for some estimates. One provider called me at a bad time--I had a minute before I had to leave my desk for a meeting--but I picked up not knowing who it would be, and promptly told him that I'd call him back because I had to go. But he kept talking. He insisted that I hear him out. Which convinced me that I wanted nothing to do with him.

I also have an example similar to the one in the second linked post. I told a guy who asked me out on a second date that I had mixed feelings after the first and felt that he'd come on too strong, but said give me a few days because I wasn't feeling well (was recovering from a cold) and might be up for seeing him again. So he started emailing me with self-absorbed, creepy messages. Which told me definitively that my instinct was spot-on.

***
Dr. Nerdlove's piece on being a good man gets into the importance of listening:
Many of the problems women have with men revolve around the ways men don’t respect women’s perspectives or experiences – even when understanding and respecting them would benefit us. By not respecting them enough to listen – really listen – we end up shutting down avenues of communication that would otherwise make things easier on everybody.  We assume that we know what women really want from men and get angry about it, even when women protest that no, that’s not what they want at all.
That piece links to Phaedra Starling's "Schrodinger's Rapist" piece, which I'd missed until now. Many important ideas, including first and foremost the idea that our safety is more important than your feelings,
To begin with, you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%... Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.
but she also talks about how not listening is a red flag:
If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.
Because a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.
So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.
For women, who are watching you very closely to determine how much of a threat you are, this is an important piece of data.

Tuesday roundup

Europe's refugee tragedy.

Dr. Danielle Lee's poignant post on Charleston, and Claudia Rankine's.

There's no doubt that the confederate flag is a racist symbol, by design. It's not a difficult concept.

Needless to say, Trump slandered Mexicans.

"Humane" certifications on animal products are meaningless.


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch unapologetically slut-shames a possible rape victim.


When you have to admit that Tim Hunt was right.

Women's apologies are often rhetorical, but men don't interpret them as such.

Kids suffer when parents micromanage their lives.

Another reason I've never given to the Red Cross--apart from the deception and mismanagement--is that it's just not the best use of your donation. I do sometimes deviate from the concept in that article--for example, I give to local organizations, even though they'll probably survive if I don't (and save fewer lives per dollar than international ones, to which I also give).

My organization is fastidious about fact-checking, and I've come to appreciate how important it is.

People across the political spectrum generally approve of soft nudges, unless they're manipulative.

This is why you don't tell a vegetarian to go somewhere because there's surely salad. Good news, though: Moscow is becoming increasingly vegan-friendly.

Marketers love the word 'quantum,' but it doesn't mean what they think it means.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Advice

I took some time yesterday to catch up on my favorite advice columns. Here's Carolyn's take about being interested without being nosy. I do ask "follow-up questions" of close friends but don't often report the answers to my mother when she asks.
Related: how to talk about your health (or other issues) without being overbearing.

On people who deny/dismiss your needs:
The problem is not your arthritis, but instead that your boyfriend is dismissing your experience as invalid because he personally doesn’t share it.
So it’s another day in the life of this column: a problem about _____ that isn’t about _____ at all, and an answer that I can’t supply for you, as much as I’d like to. You have to decide for yourself whether his refusal to accommodate your needs is a bad enough commentary on him as a human being for you to break up.
See the Dr. Nerdlove column I linked to earlier this week on communication, which talks about making sure you're arguing over the right thing. Also over at Dr. Nerdlove: how you know when it's abuse and how to set boundaries:
At best, you have a codependent relationship – one partner needing constant control and validation while giving up any personal responsibility and the other trying to shoulder the entire burden of both parties as well as take blame for any faults as an exchange for having the relationship.
And why lack of boundaries isn't pure martyrdom (it can be manipulation):


The other frequent cause for poor boundaries is an unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions. Taking a stand – saying that you will not tolerate or put up with certain attitudes or behavior – means being willing to accept the responsibility of making that choice and thus shouldering the consequences. This can be intimidating, especially when you’re not the most secure person to begin with. A major reason why I put up with being treated so badly in my relationships was because I was conflict averse; I didn’t have a strong foundation to work from and dreaded any fight for fear of causing more drama which would inevitably be my fault and lead to further fights down the line. As a result, I became the sort of person who was very good at finding excuses for why things had gone wrong – it wasn’t my fault, it was out of my hands.
Why you shouldn't let things go until they get really bad:
One of the most common signs of a predatory, abusive personality is the testing of boundaries: trying to push someone further and further out of their comfort zone, using a cycle of rewards and punishments in order to manipulate someone into being willing to knuckle under. 
And more on manipulation (from the nice-guy perspective):
Here’s the deal: it’s one thing if you’re willingly making a sacrifice for someone because you care about them and you want to make them happy. It’s another entirely when you’re being made to feel like you have no choice or when you’re only agreeing to because you’re afraid of the potential fallout if you refuse. Would you be willing to try something a little out of your comfort zone with your lover because you want to make them happy? That’s good. That’s a part of of being an active partner in a relationship. It’s another matter entirely if you’re only willing to do something you don’t want to do because you feel that to not do so would materially affect your relationship. Do you feel that you’re constantly giving in to unreasonable demands for the sake of your relationship with someone? That’s a sign that you may have an issue with poor boundaries. I had a girlfriend who insisted on talking to me on the phone for hours at a time every day, no matter what. If I didn’t clear out my schedule for her, she would make my life miserable until I begged her forgiveness. She had trust issues, she would tell me, so it was on me to reassure her every day that things were just fine. And I would give in because I didn’t want to deal with the drama if I said “No.”

Saturday morning

I set myself up for failure this morning, but it ended up being okay. Unlike dad, I believe in identifying and minimizing triggering events. One way for me to do that is to get up much earlier than mom and get my morning routine out of the way before she gets out of bed. Otherwise, she talks to me throughout my morning routine--whatever combination of exercise and paper-reading that is--and demands that I drop everything to go listen to the birds. Every time. Yesterday I engaged with her as long as I could (which was up until she started gossiping about the neighbors) and she still snapped, first because my phone rang and I dared try to answer it, and then when I asked her to give me a minute. Mom has never, ever been responsive to "give me a minute," in any way. She takes any form of "not now," no matter how politely communicated or justified, as a challenge to get her two cents in. So I knew that if I wanted to do yoga in peace this morning, I'd have to get my @$$ out of bed long before she did.

Except I didn't. I stayed up watching the first Hobbit movie. Mom's need to talk through and/or narrate movies is one of the things that has not gotten less annoying because she now has a medical excuse, but it was nonetheless mostly okay. But last night fit into the typical adventure in watching TV with my parents:

Dad: Why is it still muted, are we still on commercials?
A.: No, the hobbit and his dwarf companions are making commercial mac 'n' cheese.

Mom: It's too quiet, I can't hear anything.
A.: Because you're talking.
Mom: The screen is too small.
A.: You have a massive TV.

Anyway, I woke up early but couldn't bring myself to get out of bed. Mom talked to me as I finished reading the paper--mostly to tell me that she wouldn't miss me when I left and that I didn't mean anything to her--and continued as I started to do yoga, but then she quieted down. She didn't critique my poses or stand behind my downward-dog to note that my ass was huge.

Over breakfast, she pointed out that my stomach was huge a few times, and as I vacuumed she told me to visit more.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday afternoon/evening

More door-slamming and yelling, followed by some calling me fat ("look at her stomach!").

Before we went for a walk, she had me look up cat-adoption shelters (again). I've been urging my parents to adopt a cat for a while, but I've also insisted that they declutter the house first. It's just not safe for an animal. There's too much crap all over the place. Nevertheless, I found a local shelter and scrolled through the pictures. I noted that they only allow you to adopt kittens in pairs, because they do better that way, but mom wasn't having it.

Mom: Why??
A.: They find that kittens do better in pairs.
Mom: I don't understand.
A.: Kittens have a lot of energy and demand a lot of attention, and some people can't handle them and take them back. If there are two of them, they give each other some attention and take some of that energy out on each other.
Mom: I've had kittens that are fine.
A.: Well, that's been their experience.
Mom: I don't agree with it.
Dad: That's their policy; it's not up for negotiation.

Later

Mom: How can we trick them?
A.: You could just adopt an adult cat.
Mom: You can adopt one of those?
A.: Yup.
Mom: But not kittens?
A.: No, those come in pairs.
Mom: Huh.
A.: I got Gracie as an adult (she was 4.5).
Mom: But she's dumb.
A.: That has nothing to do with the age at which I got her.
Mom: [Our late cat] was super-smart.
A.: You're not looking for a cat that will do your taxes.
Mom: I disagree with their policy.
A.: Disagree away.
Mom: Look at your stomach!

The screaming continues

There was some quiet seething and now we're back to violent fits and screaming. And name-calling. She's accusing dad of having emptied out all of her drawers. She came downstairs--he and I were just having coffee (the coffee I brought back from Cambodia, which is quite good)--and started yelling at us both about how she didn't want to see or hear either of us.

Mom: I've done all the work! Everything was always done so that it was better for you! Now I don't even have anywhere to sit!
Dad: Where are you trying to sit?
Mom: Shut up! I don't want to hear your voice!

[Pause]

Mom: What happened to all the things in my drawers?
Dad: Let's go look.
Mom: Shut up! I'm not talking to you.

And so on.

Some people just never learned relationship skills

Mom's back to slamming doors. Earlier, she told dad (who was in the kitchen) that he'd have to visit me if he wanted to see me again, because she didn't want me in the house. Then she came into the living room and said the same to me, adding that she had to maintain the little self-esteem she had left (mom is not one to appreciate irony). I left for the kitchen, where dad said "don't worry; check back with her in a few hours. Or, buy her another vacuum."

Later, dad went upstairs. The phone rang and both picked up on different phones. For the second time this week, mom screamed over the recorded message (the first was a reminder for a doctor's appointment; the second was a prescription-pickup message) and dad couldn't hear it. Mom's habit of screaming into the phone is another one that precedes her illness. As does her resistance to doing otherwise when asked, and freely dishing out what she won't take. See, mom's resistance to such requests--it's not even criticism--is all the more ironic because she so freely craps on everyone else, and tells them not to be so sensitive.

In order to coexist with other people, you have to be able to talk about your needs and listen when someone else says you're not meeting his or hers, without getting defensive. In relationships especially, you need to be able to discuss difficult things. I'll re-link to and excerpt from a Dr. Nerdlove column on communication:
Another thing I see people do that inadvertently shuts down communication between couples: they try to be too “safe”. They avoid controversial topics. They “agree to disagree” whenever a subject becomes too heated. They try to put out verbal fires before they even start. It’s a noble idea, one that arises out of the best of intentions: minimizing conflict in a relationship. The idea is that the fewer arguments you have in a relationship, the better (or more mature or what-have-you) the relationship is.
I’m not going to lie: as soon as somebody tells me that they never fight or stop fights before they happen, I mentally start the countdown clock to their incredibly ugly break-up. As good as it is to handle things calmly and maturely, trying to squash any possible disagreements or friction can actually end up making things worse in the long run. When the goal becomes avoiding the fight or heading the conflict off at the pass, then often very little actually gets resolved; it becomes a matter of prizing the calm surface and ignoring the currents raging underneath. This is, in many ways, the opposite of communication. You may be talking, but you’re shutting down a dialogue that you may well need to be having.
Think of it like forest fires. As dangerous as they are, some fires are actually necessary for the forest’s ecology; they’re critical for habitat renewal and prevent the buildup of flammable debris. By focusing on wildfire suppression, you actually end up making things worse, not only preventing revitalization of the region but increasing the risk of larger, far more dangerous fires that can destroy an area beyond repair.
It also means creating an environment where someone feels comfortable expressing those needs with the expectation of being heard and respected.
Treating your partner’s desires or concerns as something unimportant – or worse, just stupid – is a great way to gut-shoot a relationship; it may not die immediately, but you’ve definitely set it on the path to a long, slow and torturous ending. Diminishing someone’s insecurities, telling someone they’re being childish or stupid or that they don’t have a right to feel the way they do is an indication of how you feel about them as a person.
***
As I was putting this post together, mom came back in the room and sat on the other couch.

Mom: I don't want to see you. Do you hear me? I hope you understand: I don't want to see you. You have a father, but he can visit you. I don't want to see you. It costs me too much.

Friday morning roundup

Don't teach your kids that racism is over. And make sure you teach them that white people can be terrorists, too.

I don't know about the first half of this piece in The Economist, but this resonates:
The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity. The rhythms of grief and outrage that accompany them become—for those not directly affected by tragedy—ritualised and then blend into the background noise. That normalisation makes it ever less likely that America's political system will groan into action to take steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.
Gates on Clementa Pinckney

South African people tried to hold Omar Hassan al-Bashir accountable when their government would not.

Body-shaming challenges are getting dumber.

Friday morning

I've always hated it when mom insisted on talking to me while I was trying to read the paper, but this is something I'm trying to get over in consideration of her illness. Even if what she's saying is confused and repetitive. The content is not the point.

She'd been rambling on for a good half-hour when my phone rang. I got up to get it.

Mom: Fine! I won't talk to you at all!
A.: Mom, my phone is ringing.
Mom: Oh, okay.

The "Fine! I won't talk to you at all" is becoming a tic, like "you've put on weight" and "you're nothing to me."

Now she's onto gossiping about the neighbors again. Do I have to listen to that?

Mom: She dropped out of school to take care of the baby.
A.: You've told me this.
Mom: Should I stop talking?
A.: About this? Yes.
Mom: I think I should just stop talking to you in general.

I did my best to take one for the team to keep mom in a decent mood, but I'm really done with the neighbors' out-of-wedlock births.

Mom: Your visit brings me no joy whatsoever, so feel free to visit less often.
A.: I will.

***
Mom is not unlike an MRA, or RM. She only responds to boundaries, poorly. Her fit last night was not only like Arizona, but also like so many I remember throughout my childhood. I won't go so far as to say that she enjoys terrorizing her family, but she doesn't have a healthier way for engaging with us. "I did all this work and you're inconsiderate and you ruined it all"--the gist of what she screamed for hours at my dad last night before the party--is just. what. she. does. Of course she doesn't understand the effect it has on people now, but she never has. And because she wouldn't know how to communicate her grievances constructively were they legitimate--the tool of "when you move my things, it makes it more difficult for me to find them" is not one she'd choose even if it were shared with her--she receives any such communication offensively. Just like RM couldn't understand "it's not personal but I don't want to engage in a conversation with you right now" until it became personal because he didn't understand it, mom doesn't understand "I'm on the phone" or "I'm reading the paper, let's have this conversation later." She never has (as I mentioned, I didn't even bother trying it now). Because she takes it personally, she responds by insisting on my attention, and things escalate.

I guess I can work on my patience, but I have my limits. I really don't want to fucking hear about the neighbors again. Enough is enough.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pre-party drama

Mom is continuing--for over an hour now--to throw fits, slam things, accuse dad of moving stuff, call him names. Whether or not dad is there. He came downstairs at one point, where I am, to get ready himself.

Dad: It's the disease.
A.: Is it? She pulled this $hit before. Remember Arizona?
Dad: I'll never forget Arizona.
A.: This is just what she does.

Then, another hour or so of fits, violent name-calling from upstairs.

She pretty much pulls this kind of thing when it's time to celebrate anyone else in whatever way. It's her best friend's birthday, but she's going to crap on him because she feels like it. She did this at both of my graduations. It's just what she does.

***
Mom eventually settled down and got dressed, just in time. She actually behaved herself at and enjoyed the party. As a bonus, I was seated separately (with Nina's niece, nephew, and brother-in-law, all of whom I hung out with at the wedding week, and a few other people--the most English-competent of the guests, for the BIL's benefit). I've known the niece and nephew (and other, absent nephew) since they were tiny (I'd noted at the wedding week that I'd diapered all of them), but being around them didn't make me feel old. It made me feel better about the future of humanity.

Change what you don't have to accept

Another thing is, dad doesn't listen.

I'm sure I've complained here before about the walk, and I'm pretty sure I've even made the point that the walk is a microcosm of dad's willingness to mitigate's mom's issues.

My parents live a short drive from a lovely trail on the river. I used to run there, back in the day, and it's still my favorite walk. For whatever reason, dad likes to park at an entrance to the trail that's just by a major, nasty intersection. I suppose we've always done this, but traffic has gotten heavier, and mom's gotten worse at crossing streets. I hate crossing any street with mom, but this is a particularly bad situation. Mom won't cross at the crosswalk; it's not in her DNA. So she pretty much has to jay-walk on a busy street.

So dad's driving to the trail, and I suggest that we drive farther down where there's a parking lot on the same side of the street as the trail.

Dad: We always park here.
A.: And it's always a nightmare to cross the street. If we park in the lot, we don't have to cross the street. And you know how much fun it is to cross the street with mom.
Dad: She crosses here just fine.

He parks across the street. A car stops and let them cross. On the way back, I try to get mom to cross at the crosswalk; she doesn't. We walk a bit farther down, toward the car. Mom keeps trying to step into the street, where there's a steady stream of cars, but dad doesn't let her. Dad's frustrated. Finally the traffic lets up a bit but not entirely, and we all manage to cross the street.

A.: See, wasn't that fun?
Dad: You win.
A.: Next time you'll park at the parking lot?
Dad: Next time I'll park at the parking lot.

There didn't need to be a this time. And that's the case with many things. Some mom situations are unavoidable, but others are quite avoidable. But dad doesn't think about how to avoid them.


***
Today is Nina's dad's birthday, and he's having a big party (that Nina's in town for). This is a large part of why I'm here. Dad has been fussing about how we need enough time to get mom ready, because she takes ages to get ready (especially now that all her clothes are piled up on a couch).

A.: Do you know what you're going to wear tonight?
Mom: I'm going like this.
A.: To the party??
Mom: Why not?
A.: Because you're wearing shorts and a tank top.
Mom: So?
A.: So it's your best friend's birthday.
Mom: People dress however they want.
A.: What people?
Mom: I don't have to listen to you! I'll go however I want.
A.: Okay, suit yourself.
Mom: As if I'm going to dress up! How do you expect me to dress?
A.: As if you respect the man whose birthday it is.
Mom: What are you wearing?
A.: A dress.
Mom: Okay, I'll think about it.

***
Now she's throwing a loud screaming fit accusing dad of having moved all of her stuff. She threatened not to go to the party. Dad just left the area. She's still screaming and slamming doors. Dad said this is her first angry fit in a week or so, which is rarer than usual.

Thursday roundup

Jelani Cobb on Charleston. And an older Rebecca Traister piece for historical context. Also: this would be a great time to take down that flag.

MRSA, brought to you by animal agriculture.

Blow on Dolezal.

Men are doing their own body-policing (as women have done for ages):
But who is doing the fetishising? Not women. In 2000, The American Journal of Psychiatry published a telling experiment led by Pope at Harvard. College-aged men in Austria, France and the US were asked to choose both their ideal male body and the body they believed women preferred. In all three countries, men picked an ideal on average 28 lb (12.7 kg) more muscular than their own – and they believed that women wanted a male body 30 lb (13.6 kg) more muscular. The men consistently overestimated the appeal of brawn, while women, when asked, preferred an ‘ordinary’ body without the added muscle.

Thursday morning

Mom, as I dyed her hair: How many husbands have I had?
A.: Two.
Mom: Just two? Well, there were other men in between. Did I ever tell you why I left the fir: st?
A.: Because he was lazy.
Mom: He was exceptionally lazy. But he was caring. He took good care of me when I wasn't feeling well. 

Mom: I think your hair is too dark.
A.: [Shrug.]
Mom: Why is your hair so dark?
A.: Because it is.
Mom: But you dye it.
A.: Just to cover the gray; it doesn't make it darker.

Later, I went out to the backyard to hose the henna out of my hair. Mom came out in her towel to talk to me, Dad tried to coax her back in the house to get dressed. I told her I couldn't hear her with the water beating down on my head, but she kept talking. Only when I finished, she followed me back in.

Mom: I think you should meet the neighbors.
A.: I've met the neighbors.
Mom: When?
A.: When I lived here.
Mom: That was then. They have adorable babies now. You'll take one look at them and want one of your own.
A.: I guarantee that I won't. I see plenty of adorable babies.
Mom: Sure you will. God said go forth and multiply. You owe it to your parents and to the Jewish people. [Pause.] You should visit more often.

"Your belly is huge" (updated)

Mom reaches for my stomach.

Mom: Your belly is huge!
[to dad:] Look at that belly!
[to me:] It's time for you to go on a fast.

She reaches for my stomach again, shakes her head.

***
I was coming down the stairs as mom was going up.

Mom: Wow, you've really put on weight.
A.: Good.
Mom: There's nothing good about it.

Mom's now okay with having given birth to me

It was a rough morning. Mom got angry that I didn't hop-to the minute she called for me to go see the roses and hear the birds. Mom has always loved demanding that everyone drop everything and run to her the minute she has something to say or show, and because I previously made a point of fighting this bad habit--my gut instinct is to fight--lowering my resistance to it because she's sick is one of those adjustments I've struggled to make. So I said 'just a minute' and mom started slamming doors and telling me not to bother ever talking to her again. She mostly calmed down by breakfast, and then, after much dilly-dallying, we got her ready to leave the house for some errands. Dad had a doctor's appointment early in the afternoon and I was getting together with a friend around the same time, so we had to get going--but we leveraged the time restriction to our advantage because mom could be convinced not to linger in each store.

The problem with stores is, mom loses it every time she sees a small child and starts telling me I'm useless because I don't have a small child. This happened at Trader Joe's, and it happened again at OSJL. I usually go out of my way to keep mom out of OSJL because it's a great place to stock up on random things one does not need, and my parents' house is cluttered with random things one does not need. And mom, in her state, has gotten into the habit of taking things down from walls, off of shelves, and out of closets. So the floors and furniture are covered in stuff.

But I'm really sick(ened) by all the dust in my parents' house. When I vacuumed my own house before I left, I thought, my parents really need a good vacuum cleaner like mine. I'd offered it to them before but dad thought it was too heavy for mom, and she'd inevitably try to use it. But things were so bad that I insisted, and I'd seen my vacuum at OSJL and insisted we get one.

So she sees a toddler at OSJL and keeps going on about how cute and smart it is, and about how she wants one. I ignore her. She says, "why I gave birth to you is beyond me," Dad and I leave her to walk the aisles, and go look for a vacuum. Dad balks at first because it's refurbished, so who knows if it'll work, but I point out that we can return it if it doesn't. He's skeptical, but yields. We get it and head back, and mom bitches the whole time and continues to quote the toddler and tell me to go forth and multiply.

I can't wait to set up the vacuum, so we do it first thing. Dad freaks out every time he sees a piece missing. It's actually a newer model than mine (retractable cord and floor settings!) but we set it up and I start vacuuming. I fill an entire canister just in the living room. To put that in perspective, I'm not sure I've filled the equivalent of a canister in my own house--and I have a cat--since I've had my vacuum cleaner. I fill another canister on the stairs, and another upstairs. And I could barely get anywhere upstairs, because there's crap all over the floor in every room. Both parents are in awe.

Mom stops regretting having given birth to me and starts telling me I should visit more often. She said she didn't even know that there were vacuum cleaners that worked so well (she has a dozen broken, weak ones throughout the house and had previously insisted that they were good enough). The carpets are a different, more vibrant color. Everyone's happy. I try to leverage the new-found appreciation for cleanliness by talking my parents into getting rid of or at least organizing the crap all over the floors and furniture. They don't disagree. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Still looking out for the shrubbery

A Russian friend was among the people I texted yesterday. She was the only one who wasn't shocked; her response was more of an eye-roll. I guess there were two Russian friends, the second being Nina, but she knows mom well so she wasn't shocked at all. As always, she was loving and supportive.

A recurring question/comment was that mom didn't mean it, that it was the Alzheimer's talking. But, while there's much that I attribute to the Alzheimer's, the abortion comment was deliberately said (which is not to say that she meant it). In other words, she didn't mean it--she didn't mean that she would have aborted me had she known how I'd turn out so she could try again for someone better--but she nevertheless said it on purpose, in full cognizance.

Here's how it works: mom craves a reaction out of me, and I'm very, very good at ignoring the things she says, so she'll get more and more inflammatory in an attempt to get to me. That's largely what happened a few years ago, when we ended up not speaking for many months. Her words are calculated to be hurtful. This is not to say that she calculates correctly: she intends to get through to me by tearing me down, but she merely distances me from her.

Wednesday morning roundup

Run far, far away from someone who constantly criticizes you and accuses you of being too sensitive.

This week in MRA logic makes your head hurt. [Technical note: the government does not pay farmers not to grow crops; the government merely pays farmers regardless of whether they grow crops, and that farm program is mostly going away; however, other programs that can disincentivize production will remain.]

Good thing Arlington is a shit-hole made up of strip malls and highways, so I wouldn't want to live there anyway.

Oh, no--I love Teese! I'll have to stock up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dispatch from Boston

Mom, over dinner: Had I known you'd turn out the way you did, I'd have gotten an abortion.

A.: [hysterical laughter.]

Mom: Seriously: I'd have held out for the next one.

Tuesday roundup

Argentinian women have had it with violent machismo.

Can the Indian government yoga away the gay?

Right-wing extremists are a real threat (wild as the ideology appears, I have a friend who actually subscribes to it).

Some things can and should be medicated; libido is not one of them, no matter how many "feminists" the pharmaceutical industry coopts.

Before you jump into an online (or IRL) conversation about marginilization, read this.

Michael Eisen on why Tim Hunt's mistake wasn't so harmless or innocent:

When I am thinking about what happened here, I am not thinking about how Twitter hordes brought down a good man because he had a bad day. I am instead thinking about what it says to the women in that room in Kashmir that this leading man of science – who it was clear everybody at the meeting revered – had listened to their stories and absorbed nothing. It is unconscionable that, barely a month after listening to a women moved to tears as she recounted a sexual assault from a senior colleague and how hard it was for her to regain her career, Hunt would choose to mock women in science as teary love interests. 
Another great response here.

Keep your antsy kid out of nice restaurants.

Dudes: we ladies love it when you take initiative and plan things. It's irresistable.

The gif at the bottom of the story says it all.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday roundup

Bombs aren't cars.

When it comes to organics, what's in a certification?

Food is cultural and thus prone to appropriation, but as with everything else cultural, when is borrowing and adapting, appropriation?

Just don't pretend to be black.

Do we really want to live in a society with guns in our faces?

It's unclear where 'bro with no ho' came from.

Turns out, women are distracting to men.

I expect (some) dudes to not only hate on women, but interpret nudity--including artistic nudity--as narcissism, but I wrongly expect better from women.

This Reductress post on telling women not to smile is everything.

OMG baby chameleon.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thursday roundup

Putin supports fascism abroad while crying fascism at home.

Another surprise: industry buys violence and intimidation, tries to deny it.

You can oppose the occupation and still think BDS is a bad idea.

There's not much wrong with Jeb Bush's foreign policy prescriptions, except that they're the status quo. But look here for more sound foreign policy principles.

Dementia is devastating.

Legalisation is defunding violence in Mexico.

Pills won't really help you sleep.

Communicating without jargon doesn't mean dumbing down the content; (smart) people in one field don't necessarily know the codes of another. And need we remind ourselves: even Nobelists say some pretty dumb shit.

Don't let all the (justified) fuss over Tim Hunt, detract from the amazing backlash to Narendra Modi's "despite being a woman" comment.

Readers react (not well) to the student-loan op-ed. See also Dr. Rubidium's advice, storified.

Sometimes learning environments (i.e., colleges) should be uncomfortable.

Another great response to Burkett:
Womanhood is not an exclusive club. So many people are in it, and we are all so very different from one another. We shouldn’t imagine any of us hold the keys to womanhood. Yes, trans women have some different lived experiences than cis women—though fewer than one might expect. The trans women I have gotten to know share my struggles to overcome internalized sexism, and constantly confront the kind of suspicion of the feminine that trans theorist Julia Serano describes in her book Whipping Girl (required reading, truly). They face employment discrimination at rates even higher than cis women. It’s hard to imagine a trans woman who doesn’t know what it feels like to walk down the street and be afraid for her safety because of her gender. I bet I have a lot more “womanhood” experiences in common with my trans women friends than I do with the Queen of England, who has certainly never worried about birth control, gotten her period on the subway, or scraped by on half a man’s salary. Surely her brain has also been shaped by her experiences, which are very different than mine. Are we going to revoke her womanhood, too?

and another
What Burkett got right was that there is no static, inherent way of being female; there is no "female brain" that is wildly different from the "male brain," and the many things we attach to being a woman are social, cultural, and external. There's nothing biologically female about being wrapped in a pink blanket as a baby, or wearing nail polish, or having long hair, or being sensitive or emotionally competent or good with children; there's nothing inherently or biologically male about being wrapped in a blue blanket as a baby or being good at math or behaving aggressively or wearing pants or refusing to cry.
and
From Burkett's vantage point, Caitlyn Jenner's adoption of some of those cultural extras that we tack onto womanhood — long hair, sex-object poses, cosmetics, kindness, people-pleasing — set back the work of feminists, who have fought so long and hard to expand the idea of what a woman is. After all, if becoming a woman takes little more than breast implants and high heels — if the desire for those things comes from a "female brain" — then maybe feminism was wrong all along... But the fact that Jenner also adopts the cultural extras doesn't make her a feminist failure; it makes her human...
...And she's trying to look like a woman in a world that has only known her as a man, in a family that took the standards for female beauty to insane levels with the Kardashian brand of giant fake eyelashes, enormous breasts and butts squeezed from either end of a corseted waist, contoured cheekbones painted on with Dali-level precision (not to mention surrealism). The requirements one must meet to be seen as a glamorous, beautiful women in 2015 are onerous, oppressive, and remarkably high. That is unfair. It harms women as a group.
But expecting one single woman, especially one in a period of public vulnerability, to change that? That's a big burden to place on Jenner's shoulders.
...
That a group of women suffer the kind of violence and discrimination heaped on trans women should of course make transgender rights a feminist issue... And yet those rights, and the language we use to normalize the trans experience, have to coexist with centuries of female oppression rooted at least partly in women's reproductive capacities and in the physical body that gets assigned female at birth. A woman can still be a woman without breasts, without ovaries, without a uterus, or without a vagina, but it so often is those very organs that have been used to justify subordinating us. That cannot be stripped out of the feminist conversation. When we talk about the politics of contraception and abortion rights, that's not gender-neutral — abortion remains politically contentious precisely because conservative traditionalists are uncomfortable with female freedom and shifting gender roles; they understand that giving women control over reproduction helps to elevate women as a class, and affords us a wider set of opportunities and greater social mobility (that's true even though not every woman avails herself of contraception or an abortion, and it's true even if a small number of people who avail themselves of contraception or abortions aren't women).
...
To take women out of that equation — to say that because some men get pregnant or have abortions it's insensitive and marginalizing to talk about abortion as a women's rights issue — does kneecap feminism as a political movement. But part of the feminist politicking is realizing that while women are oppressed as a class, there is no singular "female experience."
...Part of the work is to push ideological boundaries, to listen to each other with respect even if that doesn't translate into agreement, and to face injustice head-on while building the foundations of a kinder, more flexible, more expansive society.
That isn't what makes us women, but it should be what makes us feminists.
Also on the loaded topic of "extras" like make-up: I wear none on dates (unless I'm already wearing lipstick, as I do sometimes). But even with lipstick, I tend not to; I remember one guy thought it was about him.

Why we balk at the age gap in films.

Communication in a relationship is sooo important but it can be a challenge.

Well, you've made it through all that; here are some sweet animal pictures.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday ramble: part II

Last weekend I went for a long walk with some friends, one of whom was in from out of town. They not-quite complained about their husbands--specifically, about how they have to spell everything out for them in step-by-step instructions for the household to function smoothly in their absence. In response, I shared my recent thoughts on dating, with regard to being very wary of men who'd be just another child for you to take care of. When is that fine, if they have redeeming qualities? The friends knew of my travails with the last bf, which so scarred me and taught me to beware the man-child.

They did think I was overreacting to bathroom guy's inability to check a menu, and I acknowledged that it would have been less of an issue had I actually wanted to go out with him (see: bed, crackers): I didn't want to go out with him, so his tactical errors made it easier--gave me a pretext--not to. So what do I do after my date this afternoon with a guy who did nothing wrong (and there was Nothing Wrong with him)?

Sunday ramble: part I

I found myself trying to figure out when mom became insufferable. Ironically, this came out of my decision to make every effort to think positively of her, to focus on her warmth, even as it's been increasingly replaced with bitterness. The more immediate trigger for the question was riding past Dyke Marsh this morning, even though I ride past it nearly once a week. I think it's because the Post ran a thing about best walks in the area, and that was one of them, and that reminded me of the time I took my parents there. It was just after I'd finished grad school more than ten years ago, and they'd come down to see my new digs (the rented ones). So I took them out to Dyke Marsh, and mom complained about it the whole time. Actually, she periodically broke from complaining about it to peck at me for having a soldier's stride and lacking femininity and delicacy. And that kind of thing pretty much characterized the last decade of our interactions. It only got worse, and it's pretty much all I remember when I think of the last ten years in mom.

Sunday roundup

Because of the nature of the apparel industry, even companies that genuinely try to maintain fair labor practices end up struggling with their supply chains.

Vox's very balanced explainer on Palin, Duggar, and Dunham.

Don't default on your student loans; take Dr. Rubidium's advice (expand on the thread). All that said, there's truth in this:
Moneyed stumbles never seem to have much consequence. Tax fraud, insider trading, almost criminal nepotism — these won’t knock you off the straight and narrow. But if you’re poor and miss a child-support payment, or if you’re middle class and default on your student loans, then God help you.
But I have little sympathy for the prior paragraphs, because I have made life and career choices based on the fact that I (still) have student loans. 

Guess what? Animal products are terrible for the planet! T-e-r-r-i-b-l-e. And you absolutely don't need them, even though society insists otherwise. No wonder vegans get the freak treatment; we're awfully threatening to the idea that plant-based eating is feasible and healthy.

Why the alpha-male concept is literally misguided.

There is so much wrong with this transphobic drivel that I almost don't want to link to it, but let's discuss. Here's an excellent rebuttal of the race analogy. As for everything else, I don't know where to start, in part because she mangles valid points (that Laverne Cox made in her post, which I linked to in my previous post). No, womanhood isn't defined by nail polish (but it is also not defined by anatomy). True, trans women had perhaps benefitted from male privilege and had been protected from the indignations women face, but who the f* cares; those indignations, also, neither define women or hit us all evenly. Haven't you heard (mostly young) women talk about how feminism is a crock because they've never experienced any sexism? Are they not women? Yes, women's colleges face challenges in officially incorporating trans women into their way of saying things, while still centering women, but they're savvy and they'll find a way. While still centering women.

On a related note: nobody's auditing your choices in personal care; feminism has better things to do than police your use of lipstick.
 
That said, I couldn't find anything to be offended about in Vernon's "I like being thin" piece; I identify with most of it, minus the part about other people caring. But especially about how the best part is not having to care.

I don't understand--rather, I don't want to understand--why people are hating on Serena Williams.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday roundup

This times one thousand, except I would disagree that there's nothing specifically wrong with the Times article in question. The article is sloppy in its terminology and makes conclusions out of context. See also this.

Here's one of the best analyses I've seen on the NPT RevCon.

Also: our primary concern isn't keeping Saudi Arabia happy.

Holy shit, Russia's professional trolls:
Despite his unpleasant disposition, Ass had a half-dozen or so fans who regularly liked and commented on his posts. These fans shared some unusual characteristics. Their Facebook accounts had all been created in the summer of 2014. They all appeared to be well-dressed young men and women who lived in large American cities, yet they seemed to have no real-life friends.

One of her assignments had been to write an essay from the point of view of an average American woman. “I live in such developed society, so that people have practically ceased to walk on foot,” she wrote.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Red Cross is not the best organization for your donations. Pair with this piece about picking battles about supporting organizations you're not thrilled about for the sake of keeping the peace.

This Vox piece has been criticized, but the argument is in line with what Amanda Marcotte's comments on Kipnis

John Oliver is really making a difference, just as North Carolina passed possibly the worst ag-gag law ever.

GMOs may be good for some things, but RoundUp readiness especially emphatically does not reduce pesticide usage.
Almonds are not the problem.  

Laverne Cox wrote the absolute best thing you should read about Caitlyn Jenner:
I love working a photo shoot and creating inspiring images for my fans, for the world and above all for myself. But I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them. Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities. The love and devotion she has for her family and that they have for her. Her courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly. These things are beyond beautiful to me. A year ago when my Time magazine cover came out I saw posts from many trans folks saying that I am “drop dead gorgeous” and that that doesn’t represent most trans people...
...Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we shouldn’t have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves . It is important to note that these standards are also infomed by race, class and ability among other intersections. I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people. No one or two or three trans people can. This is why we need diverse media representations of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities...
...Most trans folks don’t have the privileges Caitlyn and I have now have. It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to healthcare, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people. We must lift up the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of color who are poor and working class.
But these are also worth a read. I'm not even linking to The New Republic take, which contradicts the first link here. Some people don't understand that there's a difference between being objectified and owning your sexuality.

By now, you've heard about the terrible Science advice, which has since been pulled.
I'm actually somewhat on the side of the woman who posted this, minus the slut-shaming, of course. Just as women shouldn't be subject to unwanted attention and crass comments from men, the same goes the other way.
 To counter all the bad advice going around, here's some great advice from Dan Savage:
Those of us who are sex positive shouldn’t run around acting like there are no potential downsides or negative consequences to sex and sexual expression. But that’s often what gets in the way: Fear that’s been blown out of all proportion to the actual risks. Sex is the only adult pleasurable pursuit—the only natural human function—that people argue has to be 100 percent safe, or you shouldn’t do it. That’s not a standard we apply to driving or dinner or flying or bungee jumping. Nothing is 100 percent safe, including sex. And people have a right to calculated (mitigated, hopefully) risks. But the corrective can’t be that all sex is awesome, and sex never hurt anybody.
Okay so I'm not the only woman out there who hates having to single-handedly keep the conversation going on dates.

This 92-year old marathoner is uber-inspiring.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday roundup

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's family kidnapping horror story doesn't speak well for the Nigerian government.

Europe doesn't see Ukrainians as refugees.

Respecting our veterans means promoting policies that actually help rather than hurt them.

Charles Blow reiterates that, while the Duggars are hypocrites, the crime is against the victims.

The other side of Laura Kipnis' Title IX saga.

Maybe think before upending someone's life and career with silly charges?

Science took down this terrible advice and replaced it with an editor's note.

Science journalism rewards sensationalism rather than truth.

On science and religion.

Man photographs, tries to shame a nursing mother through social media.

Reminder: you don't have to have an opinion about everything; you don't have to air your opinion about everything. If you do, find the right forum for it (eg. your own blog).

I forgot about this: Comcast renames a customer, 'asshole.'

Aziz Ansari on how not to text women.

Consumption is not the answer; wearing 'feminist' on your ass is just wearing 'feminist' on your ass. Pair with Jennifer Weiner's piece on simultaneously eschewing and buying into the system. On a personal note, I'm nonplussed by the view that not wearing make-up is "brave."

Not-so-humble brag: I speak a decent chunk of this.

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