“its not rape if thats your woman” – asshole on Twitter

^ This is what I sat down to when I opened up my internet box the other night when I got home from work. Some days I really REALLY hate the internet. This was one of those days. A few folks I follow on Twitter were calling out this guy for making the above statement. (As they should). It offends me to no end that people a.) believe this stuff and b.) say it in public. And even on the off-chance that this was somehow either trolling or a joke taken out of context (and I doubt it based on the guy’s profile and other tweets), it’s not funny. It is so BEYOND not funny.

It is rape. Even if she’s “your woman”.

It is rape. It absolutely is. I should know. It’s happened to me. Twice.

I’m not going to go into details. Don’t ask if I could have stopped it. Don’t ask me if I saw signs beforehand. Don’t ask me if I reported it. In fact, don’t ask anything. Just listen.

I can tell you that there are few things more shattering than experiencing someone who you love and trust (or did until that point) negating your consent and violating your body.

There’s that horrible moment of having to choose whether to fight back and risk escalating the situation or to just give up and take it. I’m a small person, the chances of me winning a fight with a man who is intent on getting what he wants are slim to none. In some situations, you don’t fight back unless you are prepared to die. If you’re horribly outmatched in size and strength, and if the other person has the will to do damage, this is a reality. I have fortunately never been in a situation where I felt death was preferable. I hope I never do. But I had one moment where I sure as fuck had to think about it.

Then, after it’s all over, you have to choose whether to tell anyone. Because there is no proof. And you don’t know if people will believe you. And you like his family. And these were both people I was just dating. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for a woman who is far more trapped in a relationship than I ever was… because he owns the house. Because he makes most of the money. Because you’re married to him. Because he is the father of your children.

And beyond my two specific experiences where my lack of consent was fully ignored, I’ve had incidences with several people where I’ve had to say no more often and more forcefully than anyone should have to. They eventually listened, but not before I started seriously questioning whether they would end up taking no for an answer or not. And freaking out over what would happen if they didn’t.

Since the first time my lack of consent was ignored, my “STOP” has always been followed by a split second of fear that the other person won’t respect my wishes. That may never entirely go away. It has faded to near-nothingness as time has passed and as I accumulated a lot of really wonderful, completely respectful sexual experiences where ‘no’ and ‘stop’ were heeded immediately. But it’s still there. That “what if”. I hate it.

And I know that these experiences are far more common than anybody would like to think. The true prevalence of these moments of threatened and actual violation of non-consent within relationships is unknown. And unknowable. This report from the US estimates that 1 in 5 women in North America has been raped, with 90% of those rapes by an intimate partner or acquaintance (which can include more casual dating/relationship scenarios). If you were to include women who have ever felt threatened (overtly or implicitly) by a sexual partner (even if consent was ultimately respected), the numbers are obviously higher. But numbers aside, ANY is too many.

Sleeping in the same bed as someone gives you zero rights to their body. Marriage. Cohabitation. Sharing a bed, whether a regular occurrence or not. None of these involve women (or anybody) signing away their rights to decide what happens to their body and when. There was a time when marital rape was NOT illegal. Thankfully this is no longer true.

If she doesn’t want it, it’s rape. It’s that simple. And if you disagree with me, then there is something terribly wrong with you. And I’m terribly glad that I’m not your woman.

On being black. Or not. Do I have to choose??

I had a bit of a strange experience on my way to work a couple weeks ago. That morning, instead of my usual casual Friday jeans and sneakers, I decided to put on a dress and a pair of shoes I’d just bought (round toe! twist detail! and on sale to boot!) Walking down the street, enjoying the sunshine, minding my business. When all of a sudden a man stops to tell me:

I gotta say, black people don’t wear shoes like that, it’s not our thing.

Direct quote.

I was a bit stunned, obviously (who stops and tells someone they DON’T like what they’re wearing?) but also confused. Firstly, what kind of shoes did this guy think I was supposed to be wearing? I wasn’t aware that footwear was divided on *those* kind of colour lines. Usually when I’m in the shoe store, I’m thinking “but do I want these in red?” That’s as far as my relationship with shoes and colour goes. My sister, brilliant person that she is, later provided me with what I think would have been the perfect snarktastic response:

Pray tell, sir, where can I find the nearest appropriately racialized footwear retailer?

Secondly, shoe choices aside, I was just actually surprised at being called a black person. You see, I’ve never self-identified as black. This isn’t a label I’ve ever chosen for myself. And so few people have ever called me black. That I know of. I mean, I’m clearly not white. But beyond that, my appearance seems to be fairly ethnically ambiguous. People don’t seem to know what box to put me in. I know this because they so often ASK. “Where are you from?” “What’s your background?” All euphemisms for, “I can’t identify your colour or features and this confuses me. Please help.” (And I don’t begrudge them the question. We all like to put people into categories.)

I say I’m mixed, if I have to say anything at all. Partially, it’s because I’m a bit of a literalist. If you saw an object (a shoe, say) that was painted the same shade as my skin, “black” is not a word anybody would ever use to describe it. “Tan”? “Dark beige #4″? “Tawny cappuccino sunrise”? I don’t know, I don’t work at Benjamin Moore. “Black” seems a misnomer. I know, this probably seems like a really stupid argument. But this is how my brain works. If I’m supposed to use black to describe skin colour, it fails, in my mind, as an appropriate descriptor of me.

So perhaps I might alternatively use black as a proxy for background? For me, this is even more of an inaccurate descriptor. I was raised exclusively by my white mother. (And by exclusively, I mean financially as well as custody-wise.) We spoke her language, read stories of her culture. I’ve read all the Brothers Grimm tales in the original German. The only cousins/aunts/uncles/grandmother I’ve ever known have all been white. Family photos = white (other than me and my sister, obv).

I grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood. My suburban highschool was pretty white, from what I remember (I could go do a census of the photos in my yearbook, but I’m lazy). I have NO connection with the black side of my family. I’m not on speaking terms with my father. I know almost nothing about my (deceased) paternal grandparents. I’ve never been to Barbados (where my father is from). Labelling myself as black would almost feel to me like claiming a cultural background and a lived experience that isn’t really mine. Not mine in any direct experiential way. It just doesn’t sit quite right. Plus I sort of feel like I would be somehow discounting my Austrian side. My mother. The relatives that I do know. The grandmother that I did know and love, though she died many years ago. Again, “mixed” seems more honest.

Further, I have never felt like I was a victim of racism, not in Canada anyways. Not once that I can remember. Have I blocked stuff out? Certainly. I’m sure somebody, some time, somewhere said SOMETHING. But I honestly can’t call to mind a single incident where I felt like I was being discriminated against. I had people whisper about me while visiting small-town Austria (saying I must be adopted while I was out for lunch with mom and uncle)*. But other than that. Nothing. I realize this makes me very VERY lucky as a person of colour. I am also aware that this wouldn’t have been possible in too many places in the world. Not even everywhere in Canada. Not by a long shot.

I honestly feel like I’m neither white nor black. Both of those labels seem incorrect to me. Too dark to be white. Too light to generally be presumed to be black. I don’t mind “person of colour”. At least then I don’t have to specify the colour. One-drop rule be damned, if most other people can’t seem to put me in a convenient race box on their own, do I have to do it for them? Do I get to choose? Do I have an obligation to identify a certain way? Do I get to continue on with this privilege of getting to label myself? Or NOT label myself? Am I being selfish?

I’m not actually sure if these questions HAVE answers.  But I’m going to keep wearing whatever shoes I please.

* When I was travelling in Rwanda, I was actually labelled WHITE. People stared intently (not a lot of tourists in Rwanda). Little kids would point and say “mizungu, mizungu”. Which was definitely a new experience, but you get used to it quickly. You also get used to being overcharged by the moto-taxis for clearly being a foreigner.

Selfishly Child-Free. And Happy About It.

I’m really looking forward to NOT having my boyfriend’s babies. He is equally excited about this. In fact, whenever we see a child screaming, we’ve taken to looking at each other, excitedly whispering “NONE” to each other while shaking our fists like a 2-year old about to be handed a popsicle (the irony is not lost on me). Hell, we do that even when a passing child is being all well-behaved and cute. It’s not that we’d be terrible parents, or that we’re just not ready yet, or that we don’t like children.  We just really truly do not want to have children ourselves.

Growing up, I kind of always assumed that when I’d get to, oh, about the age I am now, my hormones would be all aflutter and I’d feel this emptiness in my womb that compelled me to reproduce. Hasn’t happened. I don’t think it’ll ever happen.* And I don’t feel bad about it. In fact, I feel like it might be a good thing to have fewer diapers in landfills. Less lost sleep by neighbours. Fewer restaurant meals interrupted by screaming and food-flinging. Less electricity and water usage (kids = mo’ laundry, mo’ dishes, mo’ baths). But then today, I come across this article that calls me (as part of a now-and-hopefully-forever child-free couple) selfish for not wanting to have children. And here I thought I was lessening my burden on the world by hanging a “Closed For Business” sign on my uterus.

Imagine a scenario where, on a Friday night, after running around like a beheaded chicken at work all week you get home, smooch the person you love, grab a glass of wine and enjoy the silence, the blissful quietude of being a committed and adoring couple — without kids.

For harried couples, it is a fantasy we might indulge in with our partner or spouse before our little darlings jolt us back to Planet Parent with their runny noses to wipe, hockey practices to get to and homework assignments to help with.

But for a significant number of Canadian couples the daydream is just another day in their no-strings and no-brats life.

No brats! Sounds good to me. No strings? Well, I still have bills to pay.

I have at various times considered the possibility of having children. Raising them in an extended family that I’d marry into (having a rather tiny family myself). But it was always this faraway thing that might happen in some nebulous future. Not once have I ever come even remotely close to being all like “Honey, I’m tossing my birth control pills, let’s make a baby!”

And the older I get, the more I enjoy my child-free life. My 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Being able to accept spontaneous invitations because I’m not scrambling to find a babysitter. The trips I get to go on because my paycheque isn’t being sunk into daycare and diapers. My body being unburdened by babyweight**. My ladybits not being stretched and contorted and torn to eject a 7 pound squirming football. (Admission: for as long as I can remember, I’ve had this absolute fear of childbirth. FEAR. If, somehow, I were to find myself with a baby inside me and needing to get out, it’s C-section all the way. Judge away, I don’t care. Don’t give me this “natural childbirth is such a beautiful thing” spiel. Don’t lecture me on non-essential surgeries. I’m not listening. And it’s my body. I’ll birth my nonexistent children however I please, thank you very much.)

People of my generation can barely afford to buy a shitty shoebox of a condo (never mind a house), and now we’re being SELFISH for not wanting to take on the financial burden of a child? (Aside: To our boomer parents, it’s your fault we can’t afford to give you grandkids***).

What will it mean, for us, as a nation? What could be lost? And what will become of those trim, fit and fat-free-yogurt loving folks when decrepitude inevitably creeps in; when they age, as we all inevitably do, and the children they chose not to have aren’t around to look after them?

Firstly, fat-free dairy sucks. Seriously. Just fucking skip the dairy if you’re going to take out the very thing that makes dairy so damn delicious. Secondly, if you’re having children so that they will take care of you as you age, then you’re even more selfish than those of us proudly child-free folks. I think I’d rather be in an old-age home being taken care of by people who get paid to be there than my children who are doing it out of guilt. And should be out making their own lives rather than taking care of mine. I suspect that the cost of my eldercare would be less than the expense of child-rearing. It’s a lot of $$ either way. I’d rather not add a heap of familial guilt on top.

I will admit the possibility that the whole article might just be satire. But then I can’t rant about it. And ranting is fun. So I’m going to assume that the piece is, as my sister puts it, ‘a shitty, misinformed, judgmental piece of “writing”‘.

So call me selfish. I can sooooooo live with that.

* Because I not a fortune-teller, and also because I am a statistican and wary of making predictions, I can’t say with 100% certainty that I will not change my mind. I’d say the odds of a change of heart are small and getting smaller all the time.

** Though I almost wish I had an excuse for the extra pounds I’ve been carrying lately. It’s all bacon and beer weight, I can’t lie.

*** I have the best mom. She has never pressured me to have babies so that she could have grandkids. Her take on it has always been on the lines of “I can’t lie, it wouldn’t suck to have some little ones to play with from time to time, but you are your own person. Have them or don’t have them. It’s your life.”

Ushering in a Season of Personal Austerity

September has always been a time of reflection for me. It is my new year. It is my birth month. It is the time to add a blanket on the bed after a summer of sweaty nights. It is the month of reacquaintance with favorite handknit sweaters, even if only in the evenings as the sun sets earlier and earlier. It is the start of a new school year, a new semester (and while I am no longer a student in a formal capacity, but with 10 years of post-secondary behind me, let’s just say I’ve had a LOT of back-to-school Septembers). I still have a ritual of going to the drugstore right around Labour Day to buy myself some new pens (Sharpie fine point pens are my fave) and the September issues of Vogue and InStyle. Because fall fashion is visual comfort food for me. Rich colours. Wool coats. Knee-high boots. Cozy sweaters.

Last September was a time of almost overwhelming optimism. I’d just come back from my first Burning Man, which left me not only with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, but also an amazing group of mostly new friends that I now consider to be among my closest. I’d spent the summer accumulating a variety of new experiences. Expanding my boundaries (while learning that some borders were just as rigid as I’d always thought). Letting go of notions that no longer served me.

This September has blown in on a different wind though. The end of August brought a visit from some familiar but unwelcome dark storms, and it’s really only been in the past week or so that my disposition has returned to its more usual blue-skied self. And instead of a renewed desire to explore, to experience, to float on the whims of the universe*, I feel a need to contract, to tighten, to slow down, to nourish, to turn inwards.

It feels like a spell of personal austerity is in order. A time to repay the self, if you will. In several senses.

1. Financial austerity: I recently cancelled a planned trip to Cuba as I need to finish paying off the excesses of summer (hello Visa balance? You are about to be history.) Time to start actually saving for things before I buy them. Like I used to. I know, crazy concept.

2. Dietary austerity – long afternoons of cocktails and bacon-laden burgers,  late-night snacks of, well, more bacon, plus much birthday cake** have left me dreading putting on my jeans in the morning. My favorite pair still fits. But barely. And right out of the dryer? It’s a struggle. Involving some strange yoga. I refuse to buy another pair in a larger size (see point 1 – I’d rather spend my money diversifying my wardrobe rather than replacing it). It’s less about vanity and more about just wanting to (literally) feel comfortable in the clothes that I already own.  I owe my body a break from the too-regular indulgences of late. And I owe it a bit more exercise. I’m never going to be one of those gym-every-day, super fitness-y people (props to those people though… I respect the dedication), but a bit more cycling, more swimming, and more yoga are definitely in order. And less bacon. But not NO bacon. Come on now.

3. Temporal austerity – Firstly, I need to start getting more sleep. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but ya. Sleep. Good. I have two jobs. I have a lot of interests. I need time for creative endeavours. I am blessed with a (seemingly ever-growing) number of amazing friends who I do like to spend face-to-face time with, because text messages aren’t enough.  I’m still trying to figure out how best to balance all of the various ways I could choose to spend the hours of each of my days. Sometimes it feels like a big game of Tetris… 8 hour sleep block… 3 hour friend hang-out block… 1 hour cooking block… 2 hour knitting/TV block… I need more lazy blocks. This whole weekend was pretty much one of those. And lo’ and behold, I woke up EARLY on Monday. Well-rested.  And had a productive day. FANCY THAT!

4. Mental austerity – I have a whole stack of books, some half-read, some not yet started, that I intend to get to. Like soon. Mostly non-fiction books about topics that I care about and would like to delve into in a deeper way. Education, sociology (I’m particularly interested in motivation and choice), pedagogy, sexuality… so many fascinating ideas to meld with my own opinions and notions about how the world works,  how brains work, and how I work. (And really, finding out how *I* work has really been the most fascinating part of the last few years.) So it’s time to focus on some of these intellectual pursuits. And maybe even take some time to write about them.

Yes, I realize that points 3) and 4) are going to be in conflict. I never said this was going to be easy. It is necessary though.

Will there be a cost to these austerity measures? Sure. I’ll miss out on events that I’m sure I’d really enjoy because I’m staying home to read. I’ll put myself to bed early, even if it means that Breaking Bad will have to wait. To my friends who will surely order a bacon cheeseburger in my presence, only to have me steal a bite before returning to whatever I ordered, I apologize in advance. (Although I already just help myself to everybody’s food. I’ll just have less decadent things to offer in return LOL.)

But when I emerge from my season of parsimony, I’m sure I’ll be renewed, nourished, energized, and ready to explore and expand again…

* I don’t mean universe as a euphemism for anything spiritual. I mean the set of experiences that go on around me through no agency of my own.

** NOT a complaint. I will never complain about birthday cake. Especially the amazingly decadent chocolate creation that my friends bought me. But there’s a reason cake is a sometimes food.

Dear evil thought monster: I reject your (false) reality and substitute my own.

So, for the first time in about a year and a half, I’ve found myself in a bit of a funk the last three weeks. I won’t quite call it a depression (as I’ve been there and this isn’t the same all-encompassing pit of darkness that turned me into a sobbing puddle of a person for longer than I’d like to admit). But it is familiar. And awfully persistent. And seems to be getting worse. And I know where this road leads.

I know exactly when it leapt out of dormancy… I got home from a wonderful (but too short) family vacation, having had the most AMAZING drive home through the Kootenays. And the near-euphoria I felt that day (Okanagan peaches! ice cream! gorgeous clouds and mountains!) burst into a fireball of anger when I plugged back into the internet, just as the whole “legitimate rape” business was tearing across the Twitterverse like wildfire. I had this whole vision of ragequitting my uterus, which in my twisted mind involved me cutting open my abdomen, ripping the damned thing out of my body and flinging it across the room, like a strange new kind of hara-kiri. (It didn’t help that I had just watched the original 1962 samurai movie Hara-Kiri the week before). That was the trigger.

And then, through my rage-goggles, it was fascinating to observe the reactions to the whole incident, on Facebook, on Twitter, on the blogs I follow, etc. And my own reactions, both to the comment in question, and the aftermath thereof. It seemed like whatever thoughts and feelings I had, somebody else had already expressed them. And more eloquently than I would have. I wrote a couple of blog posts. And then deleted them. I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly add that hadn’t already been said. A feeling of irrelevance.

It got worse when I counted and realized that I had almost a dozen nearly-finished posts that I’d written in the last 6 months. And I’d never gotten around to just hitting “Publish”. Because I never felt that they were “good enough”. Or “interesting enough”.  Or “witty enough”. A feeling of irrelevance.

It got worse during conversations with friends who are amazingly talented and doing terribly interesting and awesome and impactful things with their lives. While I feel like I’ve been stagnating for years. A feeling of irrelevance.

It got worse when I started thinking about my upcoming birthday, and how I’ve had a few birthday experiences in recent years where I feel like I could have disappeared and nobody would have noticed. No, I never tested that theory. I wasn’t willing to risk that the hypothesis might be true. Because that would confirm my feeling of irrelevance.

It doesn’t help that I’m an introvert. It doesn’t help that I’m a highly sensitive person. It doesn’t help that I’m in a field where the work is pretty  much solitary and where there is very little affirmation of relevance. Ever. (Academia rather sucks as a source of affirmation, unless you are brilliant at self-promotion, just plain brilliant, or and/or super passionate about your field – guess what, I’m none of those things!)

I know I need to make some changes in my life and find ways to create more meaning for myself. I know I need to keep connecting with the amazing people in my life who support me, celebrate my quirks and weirdnesses, and are as willing to share my pain as well as my happiness. Because I know they’d notice if I just disappeared.

But I’m also making a conscious choice to not let this thought monster get the better of me. And so here I am. Writing. For me. (And for my sister, who is obligated to read everything I write. ‘Tis the nature of our familial obligation.) I guess this is my way of giving myself permission to be relevant.

And to say to depression: you can just fuck right off.

I love you.

I’ve decided not to go on my usual anti-Valentine’s Day rant this year. It’s so easy to be a hater, so I’m going to put that aside, pour myself a nice glass of scotch and just say: I love you.

To everybody who’s made me laugh in the last year, I love you.

To all my dance friends who have taken me for a spin around the floor, I love you.

To the friends who have let me cry on their shoulders and sat with me in my moments of darkness, I love you.

To all my companions on my many and various crazy adventures in the last year, I love you.

To everyone who has listened when I asked for help, or given me a hug, or just a empathetic ear, I love you.

To those who have held a little piece of my heart if even for a short while, I love you.

To those who have seen me in my moments of craziness, and stuck by me, I love you.

To N, for continued friendship and grace in the heartache of transition, I love you.

To my mother, for embarking on new adventures of your own, I love you.

And most of all, to my inspiring, brilliant, empathetic, curious, vulnerable, funny, beautiful, brave sistertwin, I love you more than anyone can understand. I still remember the moment when I realized that even if you died, I wouldn’t have to miss you all that much because you are so much a part of me. That said, don’t go anywhere just yet. We have a whole world to take over.

And, because everything is better with music, here’s my current musical crush The Civil Wars doing a cover of one of my favorite love songs.

Tuesday Tuneage

Been in a mega programming haze at work since New Year’s. Trying to do whole new analysis with a dataset I’d never worked with for a deadline next week. Taking longer than expected. Might be a few late nights coming.

There are two things that keep me going when I have to sink myself into lines of code for hours and hours at a time: coffee and tunes. The tunes might even be more important than the caffeine. This week it’s been mostly bassy ambient-ish shoe-gazey dubstep-lite type stuff. Swarms. Star Slinger. Bonobo. Stuff like that. But usually there comes a point in the afternoon (oooo, around 3pm when my body is angling for a nap), when I need something upbeat, light, and maybe a bit silly to perk me up. This song has fit the bill most days the last two weeks.

I don’t really care for the original. But the remix? Cute, goofy, ridiculous, catchy. Almost makes me want to scour the thrift stores for my own velvet Elvis. Almost.

Alex Winston – Velvet Elvis ( Crystal Fighters Remix)