Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday rant

I noted in my last post that my creepy date of a couple of weeks ago reminded me a lot of RM. He didn't creep me out because I associated him with RM; he creeped me out because he behaved like RM. Creepy is as creepy does. And creepy people audition ambiguous behaviors to see what they can get away with, so if you do call them out on it, they (like RM) fall back on "oh, I'm just clueless and bumbling, I had no idea that would make you uncomfortable."

That said, once you've identified a borderline/ambiguous behavior as part of a more nefarious pattern, you're instantly wary. This is analagous to an important concept in diversity circles: your intentions may be good or neutral, but what you don't know understand is, through the other person's lens, what you're doing is old. Street harassment, or telling a woman to smile (the two are not mutually exclusive), hits a nerve. Asking an Asian or Latina where she's "really" from hits a nerve. Infringing on boundaries not only hits a nerve but sets off a red flag. I've seen this kind of thing before; I know where it's going and I don't like it.

Quick Tuesday roundup

Environmental racism: pollution from factory farms disproportionately affects poor and minority communities.

Crosswords need to do better.

On addiction (and heartbreak).

Parents brawl to get the money shot of their kids' graduating from kindergarten.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday roundup

Meet the women on the all-refugee Olympic team.

In politics, it pays to talk like a ten-year old. Although invoking the rhetoric of these two is an insult ot ten-year olds. Please read that horrible 'make America white again' screed--it's an amazing train wreck.

I can't get enough of these Scottish responses to Trump and these responses to Brexit. Check out this Chrome extension while you're at it.

I thought about subscribing to the Times but mom hair.

Mexican women protest harassment and American men don't take well to #nowomanever.

I used to cut dudes slack for awkwardness but I've learned that it's usually creepiness in disguise (or an excuse for creepiness). That dude I went out with a couple of weeks ago reminded me a lot of RM, and I'm now sure that a lot of RM's cluelessness was feigned so that he could fall back on an 'I'm such a nice guy, I was just confused' excuse (which he did several times).

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thought experiment

Here's a twist on my thought experiment from last week: when is it worth putting up with someone's logistical shortcomings that are no fault of his own? The practical consequences of the shortcomings remain--you're still stuck putting in extra work and cleaning up the mess--but there's, say, a medical excuse. Thus far this question has been an academic one for me; logistical issues were hardly the only thing keeping me from the men I've dated who suffered from them. But would logistical issues be enough to sink an otherwise worthwhile relationship? And does it matter if those issues are not the person's fault?

An aside: I came downstairs the other morning to have to clean up a bunch of cat poop and cat vomit. The former pissed me off more, because it was deliberate and gratuitous, even though it was very easy to clean up. I thought 'this has got to stop.' I want the vomit to stop, too--that's a huge pain to clean up--and Gracie's on prescription boring food for now. I'd never consider abandoning an animal because she's sick, but for a split-second, the poop made me angry enough to wonder whether it was worth keeping her around. But this isn't about Gracie, whom I'm definitely going to keep, as much as she angers me sometimes. This is about an incredibly weird date I went on the other night.

I went out with this dude the other night who is (allegedly) dyslexic. He was so strange and his dyslexia was so exaggerated that I wondered whether he was making it up to hide something. He implied that he was a native English speaker in spite of his accent-- he told me he'd gotten his accent from the teachers in the international schools all over the world--but I know how accents work; I have studied linguistics and foreign language acquisition academically, and that is not how accents work. So I had to wonder whether the dyslexia, which he mentioned repeatedly, was a deception measure to explain away any indications of his not being a native English speaker.

I'll spare you most of the details and share only the weirdest ones. I'd already regretted agreeing to meet this man the day before our date, but thought how bad could it be. He sent me this super-douchey text, and at the time it didn't register quite how douchey it was (I was walking). He'd asked what I was doing later, and I said I was looking forward to getting back to my book.

Dude: What book? 
Me: 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami). Do you know it? 
Dude: I am; but have not read it yet 
Dude (5 minutes later): I do study Quantum theoretical physics and Chaos/string critical mass and events. It's fun once you learn how to roll with it :)

WTF? At the time, I thought, that's not what the book is about at all (maybe I wasn't far enough in, but now I am, and his comment is neither here nor there). More importantly, that doesn't impress me. I'm Russian; assholes who are good at math are a dime a dozen in my world. But that text--douchiness/condescension apart--doesn't even make sense. "Chaos/string critical mass and events" is not a thing. Even if you try to parse it, none of it makes sense. I'm pretty sure that string theory is very widely discredited at this point, and if he "studied" it, he would know that.  

He texted me the day we were to meet up to ask if I'd like to have dinner as well as going for a walk. I emphatically did not. First of all, I hate dinner dates (early on). You could be sitting across from someone for a very long time with nothing to talk about. It's so much less awkward to be doing something (like walking). I didn't tell him that, though; I told him something else that was true: my week was full of restaurant get-togethers, and I didn't want to add another one. I was getting restauranted-out. I added that, if he wanted to, we could meet later so he'd have time to eat first. But he showed up even earlier than we'd agreed.

Things were already weird--I already wanted to escape--by the time this next thing happened.

Dude: You said you liked Vietnamese food. Are there any Vietnamese restaurants around here?
A.: There's one just up the street.
Dude: You don't say! What would you say if we went there?
A.: Um... I mean, I won't be eating, but if you're very hungry you could get some takeout.
Dude: Okay, then. Lead the way. I didn't really understand what you said about being restauranted out.
[I reiterated what I'd said about being restauranted out.]
Dude: Oh. So what do you do when you're restauranted out like that?
A.: I make my own food [like a normal person. What the fuck do you think I do?]

This really reminded me of RM.

So we go to the restaurant, and instead of ordering takeout, he sits down. In retrospect, I should have said "if this is what we're doing, I'm leaving." But I didn't.

He asks me if there's anything vegetarian on the menu. I point out that there is.

Dude: But it says 'chicken.'
A.: That's fake chicken.

Eventually, his food comes.

Dude: This looks like real chicken.
A.: It is real chicken.
Dude: You said it was fake chicken.
A.: No, [asshole,] I said there was fake chicken on the menu.

Dude: This is so much food. I didn't realize it would come with noodles.

It was under the 'vermicelli' category of the menu.

This conversation was infuriating, but how much shit could I give him for it if he was legitimately dyslexic? I don't know. But I do know that it didn't mitigate the annoyingness of the situation. I knew that even if I'd wanted to, I couldn't date a man who didn't pay attention to details--even if he had dyslexia to blame for it.

Luckily, I was so livid and creeped out by the whole situation that the cause of his other issue was moot; finding myself in a restaurant with him even though that's exactly where I didn't want to be, after I'd made that clear, was a 'Gift of Fear' scenario. He finished eating, we walked back to where he was parked, and I got the f* away from him.

Quick Saturday roundup

I could have told you this, but science and Carolyn say it better: it's not helpful to hound one's child about weight.

A parent’s comments on a daughter’s weight can have repercussions for years afterward, contributing to a young woman’s chronic dissatisfaction with her body – even if she is not overweight.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Brian Wansink, a professor and the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, characterized the parents’ critical comments as having a “scarring influence.”

No child — no being — deserves such cruelty.
The adult thing for you to do now is to recognize once and for all that your mother is too . . . something — cruel, blind, stunted, angry? — to be trusted with your emotional health and that you have to protect it, nurture it, care for it yourself.
I don't want to pile on with regard to a very unhelpful response to the alligator snatching, but I want to make a point I meant to make (and maybe did) when the Harambe incident happened. And I want to make this point outside the context of race and double standards--which I know was the context (together with the issue of 'compassion fatique')--of the original tweet. My point is to be made from the perspective of someone who is constantly complaining about toddlers and their parents--toddler misbehavior, parental entitlement, unwillingness to set limits, indifference to the damage the kids can do. For example, I was at the library last Saturday and there was a kid riding around in a small tricycle. I was very close to telling him and his dad that if he were to roll over my foot, I wouldn't be the only one in tears. So you know where I stand on parents needing to watch their fucking kids.

But neither of these cases--Harambe or the alligator--was an issue of parental negligence. One was an issue of kids will wander off and you can't keep an eye on them ever single second, and the other was an issue of shit happens. Let's not blame the parents for either of these. Let's save parental blame for the parents who, for example, in some way place firearms where their kids can access them. That's parental negligence.

Also, no one is defending the offending tweet--in context or out of context. It was a super shitty thing to say. And the fact that people tweet worst things--death threats, personal attacks, images of gas chambers--isn't really the point for someone whose tweets don't fit in that category (though that point is directed toward the people who called it the worst tweet ever with no sense of perspective, since they don't get the hatred that women, POC, etc. regularly do). The lesson is that Twitter is a public forum and not the best place for stream-of-consciousness, when that stream can go horribly wrong. You can't have it both ways--i.e., Justine Sacco deserves eternal scorn and this woman doesn't--when both have apologized and seen the error of their tweets. Let's all take less pleasure in other people's downfall.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

First-world problems

Camille and I sat in Jacinta and Rosendo's kitchen, separately thinking the same thought--the only thought one could possibly think under the circumstances--as we watched them make our dinner: "let me never again complain about being overworked." They were making dinner entirely by hand--not a single gadget or tool--after having farmed all day. Jacinta and Maruja (the guide) quickly sliced potatoes by hand more thinly than I could have with any machine or tool. The Guinea pigs on the ground squealed and fought over bean poles.

I remember that night so clearly, and probably always will. The walk to their home from the potato fields was breathtakingly beautiful: mountains surrounding fields of lima beans, barley, and multicolor quinoa. At night, as we walked past the animals chilling in the 'yard', the stars were stunning.

I thought about them a lot this week--and my pledge from that night--as I ran my washing machine and dishwasher over and over and over again. By first-world standards, it was an exhausting week: I discovered signs of pests on the cat and on some furniture, so I washed all the sheets and furniture covers out of precaution (and sprayed the furniture, and medicated the cat). Mine is a small washing machine; my mattress pad alone made a full load. I'm now running my fourth or fifth load this week. Also, we had our picnic at work, for which I marinate and transport a quantity of vegetables that uses all of the glassware and plasticware in my house. That's a lot of loading and unloading the dishwasher.

I've washed clothes by hand over a washboard (when I was in Nicaragua), and it sucked and I sucked at it. I've certainly lived without a dishwasher, and I've certainly had more punishing and less flexible work schedules and commutes. So even by first-world standards, "I'm so tired, I had to run the washing machine and dishwasher multiple times and had the ample vacation time to leave work early to do it," doesn't inspire any self-pity. But I'm still tired.

Driving is the other thing I did a lot of this week, and it's not my favorite thing to do. The morning after our dinner in the village, Camille and I were whisked off to the start of the Inca trail and Maruja would take a series of buses for more than two hours to get back to Cusco. During the hike, I was generally mindful around the guide about not flaunting our lifestyles in his face, but at one point--and we were both aware of how it sounded--Camille and I broke into a conversation about what a nightmare it is to get in and out of the parking lot at Total Wine. It came about in a very reasonable way: he asked about South American food in the US and I told him about the Bolivian markets in the area and added that there was a big pan-Latin market right by Camille (but I never go there because the area is a traffic nightmare). It's a nightmare that our guides could only dream of, compared to their reality is closer to standing-room-only buses.

I thought about our friends in Peru as I grudgingly got in my car yesterday for my two car errands, both of which could only be done on a Saturday and were better done first thing in the morning (this was the first Saturday morning since I've been back that I could do them). I went to get mulch from the city mulch lot and drive to shirlington for an emissions inspection. It took an hour but I sat in the dog park and read 1Q84 and thought about how insanely upper-middle class everyone around me looked. Where were these people in the Schwab survey, I wondered? Did these dogs know how good they had it, compared to their scroungy brethren in Peru?

I hope I always think of them--our friends in Peru--not as a shaming mechanism on myself nor as forced gratitude; I don't need that because I come by it honestly. I care about them. I still think of Veronica, the girl at the lunch counter at the market where I'd have  lunch sometimes in Nicaragua. She must be nearing 30 now. I hope she's doing well.

Sunday roundup

Nothing to post about the Orlando shooting, because what can you say.

A Vietnamese fishing town suffers from underregulation and deference to industry.

Trump on California's drought.

This whole Brock family (and their friends) is amazing... at not understanding ownership and responsibility. We've already heard from the "20 minutes of action" dad--but do read John Pavlovitz's response to him--and let's go to the grandparents:
Brock is the only person being held accountable for the actions of other irresponsible adults.

and the mom, who doesn't even feel like decorating anymore:
"Why him? Why HIM? WHY? WHY?’
Um because he raped a woman. What about that do you not understand? He's the one who had agency in this crime.

I wanted to write more about some of the reactions to Hillary Clinton's nomination, but I'm out of steam, so I'll defer to Sam Bee for now. You don't have to like her or agree with her politics to roll your eyes at dudes on Twitter (and IRL) saying 'I don't see what the big deal is.'

Best headline ever?

The placebo effect is real.

Some parents are not okay with their kids' swim instructor showing any skin.

Dating SUCKS.

Red-pillers are confused about women, but so are many marketers.

Dr. Nerdlove on healing after heartbreak.

Carolyn says it all (though a letter-writer helps):
[The secret is] knowing the difference between an argument and a fight. Arguing involves strong disagreement. After all, Mark Twain said that if two people agree about everything, one of them isn’t necessary. The intent is resolution. Fighting involves nastiness, name-calling, button-pushing. The intent is victory.
[Carolyn]: Excellent, thanks. Even “arguing” (strong disagreement) doesn’t have to involve “arguing” (raised voices). Not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional raised voices. There’s just no required level of conflict to qualify a relationship as good or healthy. It’s the transparency, not the volume, that counts.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Thursday ramble

I was thinking more about (emotional) safety. The first time I heard the word 'safety' used in that sense was at a professional training session on managing conflict. It pertained to the first step in having a difficult conversation: make it safe. It made intuitive sense, but it's hard to pinpoint what safe means in that context. In my last ramble, it meant going into a conversation trusting that you'd be listened to and heard--that you wouldn't be judged and that your words wouldn't be used against you.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Saturday ramble

You've heard me go on and on and on about gifts--how graciousness is generally good, but sometimes problematic. Sometimes=when the gift is inappropriate, not when you merely dislike it. It can be inappropriate because it is too intense, intimate, or expensive in proportion to one's relationship with the giver, (and/)or it could be inappropriate because of overt intent or hidden undertones--whether it's an expectation of quid pro quo, or an attempt to influence the recipient in an unwanted way. It could be a combination of all of the above. I've received gifts from men that are inappropriate because they were given after I explicitly told these men to stop giving me gifts, and in those cases I mustered the courage to overcome the expectation of graciousness. My mother, in her more functional days, often tried to push gifts on me--clothes, furniture--that I did not want or have room for, and they were inappropriate because there was an element of control: she, not I, would decide what I wore and how I furnished my house. And how much money would be spent on those things. Oh, the pushback when I bought a new suit for a job interview, when I could have gone to Goodwill! And--just as when I mentioned in passing that I was getting a (paid) haircut--who did I think I was? I was, am someone who, unlike my mother, leaves the house and interacts with people professionally and socially, and has a lot of hair. I invest in a decent haircut, or I have to deal with my hair every day. My well-meaning friend (WMF) once said something similar: "I would never spend that much money on a haircut." 

But I digress. I'm here (partly) because my WMF just gave me, not for the first time, some thrift-shop finds that were a bit small for her. Now, I have no problem with thift shops; I shop at them myself. And I had no problem the first time she did this, but now that it's becoming a habit, I want to discourage it (and I think my lack of graciousness may have done the trick). I don't want her to buy stuff thinking that if it's too small, she can just give it to me. I don't want to deal with it. I don't want or need other people to buy me clothes. Clothes are a personal thing--they have to work for you, as I often told my mother as she tried to convince that whatever item of clothing she was pushing on me was very in-style. It doesn't matter if something is the trendiest thing ever; if it doesn't fit your body or your personality, don't wear it.

As with mom's gifts of furniture, these were items I was unwilling to pretend I wanted. I didn't want WMF asking after them (i.e., was I wearing them) and I certainly didn't have room for them in my closets and drawers. We eventually got to 'okay, well then give them back to Goodwill,' but not before WMF tried to convince me that this cardigan would look perfect over a black dress. Because I'm a terrible person, I bitched to two mutual friends about having to fight off these gifts. Both not only agreed that the items were unattractive and not me, but appreciated my frustration with WMF, even as she meant well. I told Camille about WMF's over-a-dress idea.

A.: The whole reason I wear dresses is so I don't have to match clothes. I don't want to wear anything over my dresses. I want to put on a single thing and go.
Camille: You sure do. [Shaking her head.] She doesn't know you very well at all.

Quick Saturday roundup

A judge gave a rapist a very light sentence so as not to impact his life, because it's not like there's a victim in all this. See more 'boys will be boys' BS here.
Feminism doesn't care about your make-up. And men, also, agonize over grooming and such:
An equitable division of labor isn't quantified linearly.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wednesday roundup

There goes the Turkish model.

How to write about Russia without sounding like an ignorant ass.

Being close to individual people of an ethnic group doesn't preclude you from hatred against that ethnic group.

NYC ice cream truckers don't f* around.

Alpha and beta males are not a thing.

Some words are already adverbs.

A podcast about letting go and facing reality.